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Dem Senator Leading Gun Talks Meets With Biden At White House; GOP Signals Opposition To Raising Age To Buy Semi-Automatic Weapons; Murphy: "No Artificial Deadlines" For Gun Reform Talks; Son Of Buffalo Massacre Victim Testifies At Senate Hearing; Cornyn Playing Pivotal Role In Negotiations Over Gun Reforms; Uvalde Teacher: "They Will Not Die In Vain"; DHS Warning: More Volatile Threats Likely This Summer; Proud Boys Members Charged With Seditious Conspiracy Over 1/6. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired June 07, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. A new bulletin from the United States government. The summer in the midterms, the government says may bring a wave of domestic extremist violence targeting our democracy. The warning comes with the country still reeling with anger and pain from the massacre in Uvalde. listed here. It's heartbreaking, a Texas teacher who lost every one of his students.


ARNULFO REYES, ROBB ELEMENTARY FOURTH GRADE TEACHER: I lost 11 that day. And I went to my parents and said, I'm sorry. I tried my best, what I was told to do. Please don't be angry with me.


KING: Plus, new charges from the Biden justice department. The Proud Boys' top leaders face 10 counts, including seditious conspiracy for allegedly directing the storming of the U.S. Capitol back on January 6. And California today, test the shifting politics of crime and prices. San Francisco voters decide whether to recall a liberal prosecutor and a Republican turned Democrat billionaire, hopes a tougher on crime message gives him a shot to be the next mayor of Los Angeles.

First for us though, an important White House meeting as gun reform talks enter a critical stage. This morning, the Democratic senator running point on gun reform negotiations. Chris Murphy was up at the White House. Murphy just now telling reporters, there are no artificial timelines to get a deal done. And he says, President Biden is giving him space to broker a pact with Senate Republicans. But already what is possible seems more and more narrow.

Republicans say, one democratic idea for example, raising the legal buying age to 21 for semi-automatic weapons is unlikely to get enough Republican support. Today, Senator Murphy says Democrats should not settle.


SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): The Senate needs to act now. The Senate can't wait any longer. And so, we are this week extending a hand of partnership to our Republican colleagues. But we are not going to settle for a piece of legislation that just checks the box. We are only going to move forward with a piece of legislation that saves lives.


KING: Straight up to Capitol Hill and our chief correspondent Manu Raju. Manu, he says, Senator Murphy says Democrats won't settle, but define settle.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Look, they're only talking about a narrow set of changes. Certainly not as far as what many Democrats have liked. Democrats want to restrict access to those semi-automatic rifles, at least raise the age to 21 to purchase them, or if not outright ban them altogether. But the ban is not even part of the talks. And also raising the age is also not part of the talks.

What they are looking at is allowing background checks to look at juvenile records, for instance of people between the ages of 18 to 20. That is part of the issue that they are still sorting out. But when they're talking to Republicans today, they've made clear that a ban of assault weapons is not on the table. And some of them defended the need for AR-15s.


SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): In my state, they use them to shoot prairie dogs, and you know, other types of varmints. And so, I think that there are legitimate reasons why people would want to have them. And I think the challenge you have already is that there are literally millions of them available in this country.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): You're talking about a constitutional right to keep and bear arms. People who are law abiding citizens are in good mental health and aren't a threat to the public. And so, I think focusing on concerns about mental health, and on people with criminal background records, is an obvious area where I think we can work together.


RAJU: So those issues include putting baseline standards, or incentivizing states to enact those so-called red flag laws. And so essentially giving authorities the right to take away firearms from individuals who are deemed a risk and overwhelms dealing with mental health provisions providing more money for that, as well as school security.

But still a lot of questions, John, including how much this would cause, whether Republicans will insist on spending cuts to offset that price tag and critically? Whether there'll be enough Republican support to overcome a filibuster, 60 votes needed in the U.S. Senate, 10 Republicans, 50 Democrats, can they get there.

And John, and talking to some conservatives, they are pushing back on the idea of those baseline standards for red flag laws today, including Senator Josh Hawley, who just told me moments ago, he could not support legislation like that. So, the briefings will continue. Their meeting today behind closed doors among the broader conferences, and then the negotiations to see whether they can get a deal and see whether that deal can pass the Senate.


KING: And Manu, when Senator Murphy, before we go, when Murphy says, no artificial timelines. Is that backing away from the idea that many began the week saying, it should happen this week. Are they walking away from that?

RAJU: It's going to be very hard to get a deal by the end of this week, potentially a framework agreement, but certainly not to the point where they can actually have legislative tax and certainly nowhere near actually having votes, John.

So, I think the most ambitious hope for these negotiators is to be close to a deal, closing in on a deal, but actually getting to a place where they can actually have the legislative debts. That's probably going to slip into next week.

So, the question for Chuck Schumer, the majority leader will be when he pushes these negotiators to finish the talks or whether they tried to move to set down some showdown votes that they know will fail or whether they allow these bipartisan talks to continue. That's going to be the test of the Democratic leadership. But can the Republicans get there with the Democrats? Still an open question.

KING: Manu Raju, live on Capitol Hill. Manu, thank you. Let's bring the conversation in the room. With me to share their reporting and their insights. CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Zolan Kanno-Youngs at The New York Times, and Leigh Ann Caldwell of The Washington Post.

I want to get back to the Hill in a minute that dynamic, but the president United States deciding to call Senator Murphy down this morning or Senator Murphy deciding, I don't know who called whom. But the president, the conversation for few days on last Friday, the president said, well, my staff is dealing with these negotiations. What convinced the president maybe he should get involved?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is the first sign of his direct involvement. He's had some calls with Democratic lawmakers, of course, his staff has been on the phone with them, basically nonstop. But the White House advertising that he is meeting with one of the key Democratic senators who was involved in the core group of those that are talking about this, not even the expanded group does show that they feel that they're trying to show that there's been progress here. I think a lot of it likely has to do with if they do end up pushing that deadline. They feel that going down and having one of the key Democrats meet face to face with President Biden to tell him, where they are in these stages. Because as he told my colleague, Jeremy Diamond at the White House, he feels that they are in a critical stage of these negotiations.

That's why he's going to meet with President Biden and the White House putting that out there publicly, does show they're trying to show that there is something happening here because it does raise big questions about what Schumer does with this timeline that he had set for the end of this week.

KING: And whether people at home like it or not, or understand it, you know, this town is busted in some ways, and Republicans whose votes the Democrats need to pass anything in the center, probably not going to listen to President Biden. So, the question is, will they listen to the people directly impacted? This is Garnell Whitfield. His mom was killed at the top supermarket in Buffalo. He came to Congress today and essentially said, please.


GARNELL WHITFIELD, MOTHER KILLED IN BUFFALO SHOOTING: I ask every one of you to imagine, the faces of your mothers, as you look at mine, and ask yourself, is there nothing we can do? My mother's life mattered. My mother's life mattered. And your actions here today would tell us how much it matters to you.


KING: You can't watch and listen to that without just feeling the emotion go through your body. And he obviously is so impacted directly. We have the Uvalde teacher, Mr. Reyes, at the top of the program. And yet, in Washington, the conversation seems to be the same conversation we've had after almost every one of these mass shootings is, we'll have some emotion, the clock will run and that much will get done.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, let's remember, we thought that there was going to be momentum, much of the public thought there would be momentum and push for changes after Sandy Hook, right. And you had similar emotional testimonies at that point. Now you do have a situation where you have these rapid succession of mass shootings, Buffalo, Uvalde, including shootings that we don't talk about as much over the weekend as well in major cities throughout the United States.

But so far, when you look at the negotiations on the Hill, as well as - as soon as Majority Leader McConnell, excuse me, Senator Mitch McConnell, pretty much tapped John Cornyn to be involved in these negotiations. You knew that thus far, pretty much they're going to be pushing for incremental change. And looking at Senator Murphy's comments, you can see that he's open to that.

KING: And so, Senator Roy Blunt, you know, well from covering the Hill, a veteran, Republican, somebody who if there's going to be a deal, it's going to be part of the conversation, somebody McConnell trust. He says this to POLITICO. There's a desire to find a place where you can find 60 members willing to do something. But I think the something is the hard part. That's the part about Washington that drives America crazy Democrat or Republican.

You write this morning, in your morning note this morning about, you know, what modest things can be done. And one of the proposals was to raise the age to 21, from 18 to 21 to buy a semiotic weapon. The possible compromise is a two or three-week waiting period, and perhaps looking at the juvenile records of younger people.

Another thing is some people talked early on about expanding background checks. You write this morning, a lot of lawmakers, Republicans are saying no, we're not going to expand, maybe we can improve existing laws. What does that mean?

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, THE EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, and that's the big question. We don't yet know what that means. I asked Senator Cornyn yesterday, who as we all know has been out in front of these negotiations for Republicans. If we're not going to go as far as mentioned to me and you're going to not do nothing, you're going to do something.

What is there in between that? And they argue, there's a lot in between that perhaps addressing the Federal Firearms Licensees and who is able to receive that, maybe there should be some background checks there, going into juveniles' background checks when an 18-year-old wants to buy a weapon.


But the reality is, is that what Senator Cornyn did yesterday, he was very out front. He gave interviews. He was on the Senate floor. And he set expectations very clearly. This is not going to be a sweeping overhaul of gun laws, this is going to be very narrow, very incremental changes on improving current law, if any agreement is going to get done. And that is what we should start to expect.

COLLINS: And I think one thing to think about when you hear what they're talking about realistically, and what President Biden laid out in that primetime speech that he gave, is the White House knew they are not going to get what the president listed out. But they wanted to kind of put a marker in the sand of where they stood, where the president was, what his viewpoints are and what they should look like.

Knowing that maybe it would end up being much more conservative, much more, less restrictive changes to the laws that they saw. They know though inside the White House, that that's not what they're going to get. But they wanted to say, here's where we are. So then if Republicans say OK, well, we did not go this far, given to what President Biden laid out in his speech, then they believe that creates that space for negotiation, so they've been talking about.

KING: Well watch, as it plays out again, that word Senator Murphy seems to suggest in Manu's reporting that this is going to be a slower process than maybe we thought as we began the week up. Next for us, an emotional call to action from a heartbroken teacher who survived the Uvalde school massacre.


REYES: The only thing that I know is that I will not let these children and my co-workers die in vain. I will not - I will go anywhere to the end of the world, to not let my students die in vain. They didn't deserve this. Nobody in this world deserves this kind of pain.





KING: A quite sober new warning today from the Department of Homeland Security, a bulletin to law enforcement outlining potential threats of violence this summer and through the midterm election season. CNN's Whitney Wild is tracking this developing story. Whitney, what do we know?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, this is for law enforcement. It is for mental health workers. It is for community members. It is for the general public. And it lays out these many stark warnings about threats becoming much more volatile in the United States this summer, and through the midterm election season.

The abortion ruling is a major concern for intelligence officials who knows that people who advocate for and those who advocate against abortion rights have on public forums encourage violence. Here's the challenge as law enforcement assesses this threat landscape. And this is what the memo makes clear.

Incidents in Buffalo and Uvalde, and other cases show that motivators don't necessarily fit into defined categories of terrorism. This bulletin is specifically about terrorism. And it shows that it comes from within the U.S. So, as law enforcement assesses where this all lands, it is important to note that sometimes it's a blend of ideology, sometimes it's personal grievances, sometimes it's both of those combined.

And what current and our former officials point out is that whatever the motivator often the pattern of behavior before a mass incident is similar. And so, John, the hope here is that local police and others like as I mentioned, mental health providers will use this information to recognize a threat in the works and then use it to help them advocate for intervention before a crime happens.

One part of the bulletin reads. Threat actors have recently mobilized to violence due to factors such as personal grievances, reactions to current events, and adherence to violent extremist ideologies, including racially or ethnically motivated or anti-government/anti- authority violent extremism. This is the sixth time since January 6, 2021, that DHS has issued this terrorism bulletin, that makes very clear that the terrorism threat comes from within the United States.

John, a year and a half ago, before that event ever happened, these advisories focused on terrorism that originated from foreign groups or people with beyond the U.S. who were seeking to use foreign influence to inspire radicalism here in the United States. And again, it's just a stark warning that right now, we are in this heightened threat environment that really hasn't changed that much since January 6, 2021.

Again, this new advisory saying that that risk, still centers somewhat on the elections. That's still a big risk here. And as we move forward, that is the information law enforcement is working with certainly a heightened environment. And the message here to the general public is remain vigilant.

Because John, one thing I've heard from, you know, law enforcement who really understands this landscape well, is it they're very concerned after COVID, that there was this calming that people were in their homes and they became less vigilant. So, they have to be vigilant, they have to report concerning behavior immediately.

KING: And Wild, we appreciate, tracking quite sober story. We'll track it throughout the summer, of course, thank you to Whitney. Today, a harrowing and simply heartbreaking account from Uvalde teacher who was chatting with the students about the coming end of the school year when the shooter stormed in.


REYES: I was gathering them under the table and told them to act like they were going to asleep is about the time when I turned around and saw him standing there.



KING: All 11 students inside an awful race class were murdered. Reyes says, he played dead for 77 minutes until law enforcement took the gunman down. CNN's Rosa Flores is live in Uvalde. With more, Rosa.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, let me take you through those details because we did learn a lot from our rule for Reyes. He is a teacher at Robb Elementary School. He spoke with ABC News. And he takes us through the chain of events what happened. He says that on this day, he was in his classroom with 11 of his students.

It's towards the end of the school year. So, they were watching a movie. This was right after an honorable awards ceremony. And then, he says that there are gunshots. So, the children of course, turn to the teacher, asking what that is. Reyes says that he doesn't know exactly what's going on. But he asked the students to go under a table and play like they were sleeping. At that point, this teacher turns around and he says that the shooter is right there, and that the shooter fires at him. This teacher is still in the hospital. He was shot in the arm, his lungs and his back. And he said that at that point, he could not move, and he saw that the shooter turned the gun on his students. Take a listen.


REYES: One of the students from the next-door classroom, will say officer, we're in here, we're in here, but they had already left, and then he got up from my - behind my desk. And he walked over there, and he shouted there again. I get more angry because you have a bulletproof vest, I had nothing. I had nothing. You're supposed to protect and serve. There is no excuse for their actions. And I will never forgive them.


FLORES: And John, that teacher played dead, he says for 77 minutes, surrounded by his students. John?

KING: Incredibly sad, incredibly riveting, but just incredibly sad. Rosa Flores, thank you so much. Up next for us. The Proud Boys in January 6, five members of that extremist group have been indicted now by the justice department. And a filmmaker who was with them at the Capitol be one of the witnesses when the January 6 hearings begin Thursday night.




KING: Five members of the Proud Boys, including the organization's leader are now facing the most aggressive charges yet in the justice department investigation of January 6. An indictment released Monday charges the five with seditious conspiracy.

That far right group will also get attention at Thursday's primetime January 6 committee hearing. The witnesses include a documentary filmmaker who was with the Proud Boys outside the Capitol, and also will include a Capitol police officer who was injured in the attack.

CNN's Ryan Nobles joins our conversation. And let's start there and let's try to connect the two. In the sense that you have the justice department investigation. There is an investigation in Georgia. There are some other investigations going on. The January 6 committee is trying to get the country's attention to tell a story. To what degree does the role of the Proud Boys involved?

And we just show again, the leader and the four other members charged with seditious conspiracy, a very serious federal offense, but conspiracy is also key to the committee. They are trying to make the case of the American people. This did not happen by accident. This was not a crowd of people who suddenly got out of hand that this was - at least pieces of it were planned.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's really about connecting the dots. John, right? So, it's not easy, but it's a simpler task to figure out who actually broke into that the Capitol that day. Who assaulted police officers? There is videotape evidence of that. That's a pretty clear crime. The question is, can you make the case that they were either compelled to do so or were actually ordered to do so by someone higher up the chain?

And so, I think what you're going to see the committee do on Thursday night is present the baseline argument that the Proud Boys, these far- right wing groups, were very involved in a conspiracy that took place before January 6, that wasn't just an organic thing that happened on that day. They were actually had plans in the works to breach the Capitol on that day.

And then if they didn't do that, where they asked to do that by someone further up the chain, maybe someone like Roger Stone. Was Roger Stone, then talking to someone in the Trump campaign or the former president himself.

And so, Nick Quested, who is the documentarian, who we've reported that is going to testify on Thursday night is key to all of this, because he was embedded with the Proud Boys. He was with them, not just on January 6, but in the days leading up to it.

The committee considers him a firsthand fact witness, someone that essentially served on as a fly on the wall as these right-wing groups were plotting their activity on January 6. This is all about that premeditation, making the case that this wasn't just something that happened out of the blue, it was planned for some time and with a perp.

KING: And so, one of the challenges and the committee faces the very same challenge as the justice department. Whether we're talking about former President Trump, whether we're talking about White House insiders, whether we're talking about some Republican members of Congress who refuse to cooperate or do either we're talking about the Proud Boys or anybody else is matching what they have said publicly to what the documents and other evidence prove they may have done differently privately in the case of Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys. Here is what he told the documentarian. This was in February 2021, so weeks after the storming of the Capitol.


ENRIQUE TARRIO, PROUD BOYS LEADER: There is eight members of the Proud Boys that decided to go in. I think that was a mistake to go in. But they're paying it like as we coordinated to go into the Capitol previously and that's untrue.