Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Fourth Grader Who Survived Uvalde Massacre Testifies To Congress; Emotional Testimony From Gun Violence Victims Captivates Congress; Attorney General Garland Announces Team To Review Uvalde Police Response; Garland: Uvalde Mayor Requested DOJ Review Of Police Response; DOJ Names Team To Review Uvalde Police Response; 1/6 Cmte Holds First Public Hearing Tomorrow In Prime Time; 1/6 Cmte Invites Fmr Acting A.G. Rosen To Testify. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired June 08, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello everybody, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your time with us. It is an important and an emotional day here in the nation's capital, important because any moment now the attorney general Merrick Garland will announce a team of investigators.

Their mission, figure out why law enforcement so dramatically mishandled the Uvalde massacre, ignoring 911 calls from inside the classroom, where the shooter killed 19 children and waiting more than an hour for backup before breaching that room. Emotional because today Congress heard directly from parents who lost a child at Robb Elementary, and from a little girl who survived after smearing herself with the blood of a dead classmate and playing dead.


MIAH CERRILLO, FOURTH GRADE WHO SURVIVED UVALDE MASSACRE: He saw my teacher and told her goodnight (Ph) shot her in the head, and then he shot some of my classmates. I thought he was going to come back to the room, so I grabbed the blood and put it all over me.


KING: As we wait for the attorney general, let's get straight up to CNN's Lauren Fox up at the Capitol. Lauren is listening to that young girl, listening to the parents. It is heart wrenching. A question is what will Congress make of it or do after hearing it?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, John, I was talking to lawmakers who are coming out of this hearing just a couple of minutes ago. And one of the things you heard from them is they have never, never seen on Capitol Hill this close to a tragedy, the kind of testimony that we heard today that coming, of course, from a fourth grader who was in one of the classrooms, where her classmates were killed, where her teacher was shot.

That is the kind of emotional testimony that Democrats including the chairwoman, said she hoped would change the hearts and minds of her Republican colleagues. We also heard very riveting and heartbreaking testimony from the parents of Lexi Rubio. This is what her mother Kimberly said about her last moments with her daughter.


KIMBERLY RUBIO, DAUGHTER LEXI KILLED IN UVALDE MASSACRE: We promised to get her ice cream that evening. We told her we loved her, and we would pick her up after school. I can still select my daughter at that school and that decision will haunt me for the rest of my life. Somewhere out there. There is a mom listening to our testimony, thinking I can't even imagine their pain. Not knowing that our reality will one day be hers, unless we act now.


FOX: And she called directly for something like an assault-weapons ban for limiting the size of magazines. Of course, we know that the negotiations in the Senate, they are going to go much smaller than what she's asking for. Instead, there is not going to be an assault weapons ban in the U.S. Senate and said they are moving forward with a proposal to incentivize states to pass red flag laws.

They're trying to negotiate more school safety away to include juvenile records, when someone between the ages of 18 and 21 goes in for a background check to buy a weapon like an AR-15. All of that is on the table. But the kinds of sweeping gun reforms that we heard parents pleading with members to pass today, those are not on the table, John?

KING: Not on the table, Lauren Fox, and just interesting, I can't find the right word for it because the testimony was so emotional. But this testimony in the House where the House Democrats know whatever they pass has almost zero chance of passing in the Senate. In the Senate, they're not doing this in a public way like this. They're not reaching out to hear from those affected. They're having private closed-door negotiations, right?

FOX: Yes, that's exactly right. In fact, I just talked to Brian Higgins, who is a Democrat from the state of New York. Who said he always gets nervous when senators are negotiating because he knows it is not going to go as far as what he was hoping because they need 10 Republicans and likely more than that to give other Republicans cover to pass any measures on gun reform, John?

KING: Lauren Fox, live on Capitol Hill on an emotional day. Thank you, Lauran. And again, we're waiting for the attorney general of the United States as we do. Let's bring it in the room, with me to share their reporting and their insights, USA Today's Francesca Chambers, Jonathan Martin with The New York Times, NPR's Claudia Grisales, and CNN legal analyst Elliot Williams.

I want to listen to more again. What we're waiting, we have had too many to count mass shootings in the United States this year, Buffalo and Uvalde are right with us in terms of the past couple of weeks. And so, the job of the United States Congress is to represent the American people. Today just listen to more of this emotional testimony from those most affected in Uvalde and in Buffalo.



MIGUEL CERRILLO, DAUGHTER SURVIVED UVALDE MASSACRE: I come because I could have lost my baby girl. She is not the same little girl that I used to play with in ground and do everything because she was daddy's little girl.

ZENETA EVERHART, MOTHER OF BUFFALO SHOOTING VICTIM: To the lawmakers who feel that we do not need stricter gun laws, let me paint a picture for you. My son Zaire has a hole in the right side of his neck, two on his back and another on his left leg, caused by an exploding bullet from an AR-15.

ROY GUERRERO, UVALDE PEDIATRICIAN: What I did find was something no prayer, whatever we leave. Two children whose bodies had been pulverized by bullets fired at them decapitated, whose flesh had been ripped apart, that the only clue ads or identities was a blood spider cartoon close to clean to them.


KING: Claudia, you cover the Hill. It is hard not to be moved by these firsthand accounts if the young girl, parents, the doctor, parents, siblings of those affected, but in the Congress in terms of moving and changing very modest changes, if any, that's the current prognosis, right?

CLAUDIA GRISALES, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, NPR: Right, exactly. It is actually pretty remarkable that senators have gotten this far to say maybe we can reach some sort of a deal as narrow as it is, in response to these recent shootings. I was on the ground in Uvalde last week, and it is these kinds of heart wrenching stories that you hear over and over again the families in agony.

For example, the Rubio family, sitting in hours for agony, not knowing if Lexi made it. And so, it's terrifying. It's very traumatizing. And this is part of the message that is finally getting through to senators to at least reach some sort of narrow deal.

KING: And so, here's something in the context of that. You heard that mother said, she ran barefoot a mile back to the school, just looking for a daughter. They went to the hospital. They went to the convention center. They had some one of the family members drove to San Antonio to go to hospital, then she runs back to the school.

And so, you ask the Congress, what are you going to do? What are you going to do? And this CNN reporting jumps out. This is about the Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell has privately expressed an openness for raising the age to 21 for purchasing semi- automatic rifles. According to a person familiar with the matter. McConnell has publicly refused to say where he stands on raising the age. But Jonathan, you know, Senator McConnell very well. It's a tough one for the leader because it is risky. And an often a leader says despite their personal opinion, they don't want to get out ahead of the majority of their conference. But after something we have lived through in the last few weeks, and we've been through here before, isn't it the job sometimes? Isn't it the job sometimes for the leader to get out ahead?

JONATHAN MARTIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, and with them, this is a recurring theme now with Senator McConnell going back to President Trump's assent within the GOP. And obviously, here we are, once again. And the question is, is he going to try to sort of lead the party to a certain place that he believes is tomorrow phrase, he likes to use the best outcome.

Or is he going to base to take the temperature and sort of not get beyond where the bulk of his members are, and posture has largely been the ladder. And I think when it comes to raising the age, as you put there on the screen, I think he'll probably sort of defer to his members.

KING: Jonathan, I'm sorry. I need to interrupt to take you to the Justice Department, the Attorney General United States.


MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Two weeks ago, at Rob Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and unspeakable act of mass violence, took the lives of 19 children and two of their teachers. I know I speak for all of us, and I think I speak for everyone in the country, and saying our hearts are broken by what happened in Uvalde. There is nothing that we can do that can undo the pain borne both by the survivors' families of the victims, and the community and the country.

But the independence and transparency and expertise of the Justice Department can go a long way toward assessing what happened in Uvalde with respect to the law enforcement response and to giving guidance for the future. And that's what we're here for today.

The Justice Department is undertaking a critical incident review of the law enforcement response that day at the request of Uvalde mayor, the review will be comprehensive. It will be a transparent and it will be independent. We will be assessing what happened that day. We will be doing site visits at the school.

We will be conducting interviews, an extremely wide variety of stakeholders, witnesses, families, law enforcement, government officials, school officials, and we will be reviewing the resources that were made available in the aftermath. The review will culminate in a final report, which will include our findings and recommendations and it will be made public.


The department's cop's office is leading the review. Our director Rob Chapman and our Senior Counselor Shanetta Cutlar will be leading the team. And now I will be happy to introduce to you, the team who will be doing the investigation. Chief Rick Braziel, who served as chief of the Sacramento police department and lead investigator on a number of critical incident reviews.

Deputy Chief Gene Deisinger, who served as deputy chief of police and director of threat management for Virginia Tech, where he was recruited following the mass shooting there in 2007. Deputy Chief Frank Fernandez is a former chief of police and police practices expert for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division since 2008.

Albert Guarnieri who is on the screen, who is joining us remotely. He is currently served with the FBI as a unit chief of the violence reduction unit in the office of partner engagement. He oversees the FBI's program that has trained over 110,000 law enforcement officers in active shooter preparation and response.

Major Mark Lomax served for over 27 years with the Pennsylvania state police, led national efforts to strengthen law enforcement tactical response as a executive director for the National tactical Officers Association, and as a manager of the IACP center for police leadership and training.

Laura McElroy, who is also joining us remotely. He's a communication strategist who has worked as a civilian police executive dedicated to bridging the gap between officers and the communities they serve. Sheriff John Mina led the Orlando police department through the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in 2016.

Dr. April Naturale is a traumatic stress specialist who led one of the World Trade Center Health Programs outreach and education programs and was the architect of the behavioral health response to the Boston Marathon bombing. Finally, Chief Kristen Ziman led the Aurora police department through the mass shooting at a movie theater in 2012.

As I said nothing that these folks can do, can undo the terrible tragedy that occurred. And that we are just heartbroken about. But we can assess what happened and we can make recommendations for the future. I would also say that as we conduct this review, the Justice Department stands ready to participate to support the bipartisan gun safety negotiations that are going on in Congress right now in any way that's possible.

I think now we'll take a few questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, given the misstatements, how concerned are you about the lack of transparency so far down in Uvalde? And will this review have the tools it needs in case people decide that they do not cooperate?

GARLAND: So, as they said, we've been invited by the mayor. We have been promised, assured and welcomed with respect to cooperation by every level of law enforcement, state federal and local. And we will participate in that vein, but we don't expect any problems.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Major Attorney General, on the topic of gun violence, a man was arrested earlier this morning outside the home of justice department, right out of Maryland, with a gun and a knife ready to be farmed to justice. What is your reaction?

GARLAND: This kind of behavior, it's obviously - it's behavior that we will not tolerate, threats of violence and actual violence against the justice is, of course strike at the heart of our democracy, and we will do everything we can to prevent them and to hold people who do them accountable. For that reason, last month, I accelerated the protection of all the justices, residences 24/7.

Also last month, I met with the marshal of the court. I convened a meeting with her, as well as with the deputy director of the FBI, with the director of the marshal service, and with our own prosecutors to ensure every degree of protection available as possible. Just yesterday, I met with Judge Salas and Judge Sullivan, the judicial security committee of the judicial conference, and assured them of our complete support for their efforts with respect to traditional security.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General, when will this group be on the ground in Uvalde and there's been some indication that some of these officials, including the school police chief, have been somewhat uncooperative with the investigations that are already proceeding. What is the process for this team to gather information from people who may not cooperate in investigations? And is there any kind of compulsory process?


GARLAND: So, the team is already working, and they will be on the ground as necessary, but they have already begun their work. And as I said, we expect voluntary cooperation from everybody at every level and we have been promised that cooperation.


GARLAND: So, this is not a criminal investigation. This is an after- action critical incident review, which we have done in the past, which we did in San Bernardino, and which was done in the Pulse nightclub. This is not a criminal review.


GARLAND: Thank you.


KING: And the Attorney General of the United States, they're discussing a new team. He has put together to make an assessment of just what went wrong in Uvalde, Texas, 19 young children, two teachers shot dead in that school. Police were outside the classroom for quite some time. The Attorney General, excuse me, Merrick Garland, saying his team of law enforcement experts, communications experts, trauma experts, will get to the bottom of what happened to assess, what happened and make recommendations about the future.

Let's bring in our CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider. Jessica, it's an impressive team when you hear the Attorney General go through the depth of their experience. What should we look for here?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Attorney General, John, saying that this team is already on the ground. They're already at work here. And he says moving forward, there'll be conducting extensive interviews with victims, with family members, with law enforcement.

And when the Attorney General was questioned about cooperation here because of the questions surrounding the police response, the Attorney General assured the American public that they will be welcomed, this review team will be welcomed, and they will be working hand in hand with law enforcement.

We've already seen the mayor in Uvalde express displeasure earlier this week about the lack of transparency coming from law enforcement. Who knows that that's any indication as to what's to come here for this critical incident review? But the Attorney General seemed optimistic that they will get cooperation from law enforcement on the ground. It is a notable team.

They have assembled experts in many different areas, including law enforcement also, victim response, even media response here. Notably, this critical incident review what's happened in the past, John, we saw it with the Pulse nightclub shooting, also with the San Bernardino shooting. With the Pulse nightclub shooting, it was the chief of police of Orlando at the time who requested the after-action review.

And notably, he is part of this panel of experts that will be convened to do this critical incident review as it pertains to Uvalde. So, a lot of work left for this team to do. They're just getting started. But the Attorney General says, they will proceed forcefully and with cooperation from the people law enforcement on the ground there. John?

KING: Jessica Schneider, reporting on the big announcement, the Attorney General. Jessica, thank you. Let's bring it to our conversation. The former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, and Elliot Williams is still with us at well. Commissioner, if you could stand by just for one second, because Elliot gives you Justice Department experience.

I just want you to lay out for the people watching at home. What this means and what it doesn't mean? The Attorney General was very clear. It's not a criminal investigation. This is not about accountability. If there are accountability questions, this is about fact finding and recommendation.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: And it's a guidance for the future. Also, in these four or five minutes, John, he said twice, the mayor asked us to be here. And it's an important point to make. Because the question is how much is the Uvalde police department going to cooperate here? And that's an open question. If you notice, the Attorney General didn't quite answer when asked, how can you compel people to participate? Are you going to be able to issue subpoenas and so on?

So, you know, the devils in the details at the end of the day, hopefully, the community will get behind this. It is great that the mayor asked that this isn't the Feds swooping in from Washington. But at the end of the day, what really matters is how much those folks on the ground are going to cooperate with the Justice Department.

KING: So, Commissioner, then help us from your experience. Number one, on the sensitivities of its fellow law enforcement, largely there are some other experts here as well, but essentially, fellow chiefs going down with their own experience to ask the questions. What are the sensitivities of that of putting people on the hot seat, going back through what happened and addressing candidly?

We've talked in the past about some of the mistakes that we believe were clearly made here. How does that process play out? And what happens if somebody - as to Elliot's point, what happens if somebody says, I've got nothing else to say, but you know, they have information?

ED DAVIS, FORMER BOSTON POLICE COMMISSIONER: These are all very complicated issues, John. I can tell you that the most important thing here is that coming out of the darkest day in law enforcement in the United States, we have to make sure this does not happen again. So, that needs to be the sort of direction that this investigation takes.

This is a formidable team, mostly of local experts, which is going to help in the acceptance by the people in Uvalde, especially the law enforcement officials there. They have a wide range of experts from across the country that have been involved in these incidents before.


So, appealing to the professionalism and to that driving need to make sure that this does not happen, and lessons learned will be instructed across the country. You really have to appeal to the goodwill of the people involved here.

Now, there may be people there that have real vulnerabilities that will eventually get legal counsel and not cooperate. I wouldn't be surprised if that happened in one or two cases. But I think overall, the mayor wants it in clearly this profession - our profession is screaming out for answers here.

KING: And before we move on to that point, Elliot, the Attorney General said, he expects, and it's been promised voluntary cooperation from everybody involved. If say the school police chief decides, no, can you subpoena him?

WILLIAMS: Yes. There's a process, you know, he would go to court and ultimately ask to compel. That's you don't ever want to get there. They do not want, and this is why he's stressed so many times that this is a voluntary process for the good of the community. But at the end of the day, the Justice Department can seek that process. They just don't want too.

KING: Elliot Williams and Commissioner Davis, grateful for your time. Up next for us, some brand-new details about who will testify the January 6 primetime hearings. And we're learning that committee will soon get more emails from a former Trump attorney.



KING: A win for the January 6 committee just as it prepares for a primetime hearing to outline its findings. A judge now ordering Trump Attorney John Eastman to hand over more emails, detailing efforts to steal the 2020 election. The judge says one of those emails could be seen, could be seen as evidence of a crime proof.

The plan to block certification of the electoral college count was "fully formed and actionable" a full month before Trump loyalists stormed the Capitol. Once it became clear to them that then Vice President Mike Pence would not do Trump's bidding.

Thursday's hearing is designed to lay out different pieces of what the lawmakers involved say, was a multi-pronged conspiracy. One witness is a filmmaker, who was outside the Capitol with members of the extremist group Proud Boys that day. And the committee also wants former top Trump justice department officials to detail how the president, then president pressured them to overturn the election results.

Our reporters are back with us. One of the big questions is, number one, it's important for the committee to fill in the historical record. But number two, when will people watch? And will people change their minds?

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: And Democrats say that their goal and having it in primetime is to try to get those viewers, get those eyes. But John, there is a lot of sensitivity among Democrats also, for this not to be viewed as something that is intentionally political. That's not the kind of division they say that they're trying to drive.

But at the end of the day, there is a reason why they wanted to have this at this point, not close to the election because they also don't want that to be viewed as political. And there's not a lot of unanimity, John, in the view of whether or not there should be prosecution so close to the election, and what the cutoff time for some of those for Trump and his allies are.

KING: And the committee has been impressive in what we've learned so far in their work. The question is that the committee says, there's a lot new we're going to learn. We do know, we will have the documentarian there who was outside with the Proud Boys that day. Caroline Edwards is a Capitol police officer who suffered a brain injury when the mob stormed the Capitol.

We also know that potential witnesses include the former acting attorney general, one of his deputies and the White House counsel Pat Cipollone. Three gentlemen there on your screen, who know a lot about the pressure they were getting from Donald Trump to find a way to keep him in power. The question is, again, those are not Democrats. Those are not liberals. Those are Trump appointees. Will they change minds? If they say yes, this was a corrupt enterprise. MARTIN: In fact, the person that you just put on your screen there, Pat Cipollone, Trump's counsel, got a phone call in the afternoon of January 6, as Alex Burns and I report in our book, This Will Not Pass. Lindsey Graham says to Pat Cipollone, if you don't tell Trump to tell these people to get that eff out of the Capitol, we're going to call for the 25th amendment.

That's how serious and how alarmed Republicans, John, were that day that people like Cipollone were fielding those kinds of calls. And so yes, people like Pat Cipollone, Jeffrey Rosen, the acting AG, they were in the room, if you will, on the line in those hours. And they're going to have first-hand accounts of what was going on, but within the White House with President Trump and what was happening in Capitol Hill, because they were getting phone calls, just like the one Lindsey Graham made him that we have in our book.

KING: And so, the committee is still working right up to these hearings. And you're going to have two weeks of hearings, the beginning of the end in primetime. This decision about John Eastman. John Eastman was the Trump lawyer who was trying to come up with some way to block certification electoral college, among other things.

The judge says this, the emails indicate that Mr. Eastman and Trump's plan to disrupt the joint session was fully formed and actionable as early as December 07, 2020. Meaning they were looking at every option they could have, including trying to get Mike Pence or members of Congress to somehow disrupt the proceedings. So, Joe Biden's win was not certified.

How significant is that? As the committee tries to lay out, this was not a crowd of people who came to hear Donald Trump, who went up to the Capitol because they're mad and then somehow puff, they ended up storming the building. The committee is trying to prove that this was part of a plan that essentially began election night, when it became clear Joe Biden was winning.

GRISALES: Right. We're going to get a preview tomorrow night and to this wide ranging conspiracy, if you will, that the Republican vice chair Liz Cheney has hinted to that all of these pieces are connected, and no, it wasn't poof that day it happened but for weeks and months leading up to it, Trump his inner circle, his family witness this pressure campaign to try and overturn these results and pull Biden's election When out of there.