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Gunman Kills 3 Students, Injures 5 At Michigan State University; Police: Shooter Had Note Threatening NJ Schools; Killer Pled Guilty To Firearm Charge In 2019; Police: Tip Led Officers To Michigan State University Killer; Nikki Haley Announces Run For President; Nikki Haley Announces Presidential Bid; White House: Leading Theory Is Objects Could Be "Benign" Balloons. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired February 14, 2023 - 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. The gunman forever scar students at Michigan State University killing three, putting five more in a fight to stay alive. Police, Reddit a college tip with helping them find the man who spread terror across that campus.

Plus, Republican Nikki Haley jumps in, the former South Carolina governor launches a 2024 presidential run with a video tracing her biography and declaring herself the choice for a new generation of leadership or challenge. Convincing GOP primary voters former president you know who, to be consigned to the party's past.


NIKKI HALEY (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You should know this about me. I don't put up with bullies. And when you kick back, it hurts them more, if you're wearing heels. I'm Nikki Haley and I'm running for president.


KING: And today and all senators briefing up at the Capitol, as the White House says if believes, three UFOs that shut down this weekend. We're not spiking. Up first for us though, rage and reckoning in Michigan that after a mass shooter, leaves the killers imprint on a large college campus. Three are dead, five more wounded critically after a gunman hunted students in two buildings at Michigan State. All of the casualties are students. The doctors trying to keep them alive, exhausted and emotional.


DR. DENNY MARTIN, E.W. SPARROW HOSPITAL INTERIM PRESIDENT: Can't forget, we had general surgeons, cardiothoracic surgeons, neurosurgeons. I didn't get a lot of sleep last night. So many people that just came in. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Throughout the morning some new details about the ongoing, CSI calls of shots fired came in a little before 8:30 last night. Police swarmed within minutes, followed by a flood of more panic calls. Students spent hours locked down without knowing if their friends were dead or alive and without knowing if the shooter might soon walk through their door.

Today, police putting a name to the haunting images of a suspect 43- year-old Anthony McRae. Motive though is murky. The shooter police say never attended, never taught and never worked at the school. Let's get straight to CNN's Shimon Prokupecz for the latest details. Shimon, what are we learning?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. And it appears he is from that area, John. So, that's a significant clue for authorities, you know, perhaps he may have been to the area before. Because when you look at the surveillance photo that police released, and then some of the information that they've been released and how he went from one campus or one building to the other building. There was some indication perhaps that he knew where he was going.

The other significant information we're just learning from police there in Michigan State is that they have recovered a note, a note they believe that was written by the shooter, which will hopefully for them shed some light perhaps on what happened here, perhaps describing some grievances that he may have had some concerns that he may have had.

But again, you know, the motive here remains a mystery, you know, policing this morning, they're not any closer to knowing why he targeted this school. But this note certainly is going to be important for authorities as they work through motive and try to learn more about this gunman.

What they have been doing, John, though, is that if they've been talking to family members, and others who know this gunman, who know that shooter. And it sounds like from their information, from the families that certainly this was a troubled individual, a family member describing him as sort of secluded kind of to himself.

There was some trouble after his mother died, according to his father. So, it sounds like for authorities, at least they're learning more about the shooter here. And at some point, maybe and we may not know ultimately what the motive is here, but certainly, you know, we hope to hear more from authorities.

Other thing very important here, obviously, for the victims, that community and what they're going through, all of the victims here students of the school, the three dead and five that remain in the hospital. And you could just see the emotion from the doctors, you know, who see all sorts of trauma, see all sorts of issues, to sort of give that kind of emotional statement and to talk about it in that way, it just tells you the effect this is having on the community. KING: Without a doubt. Shimon Prokupecz appreciate the live reporting to kick us off. Let's get some expertise now from two law enforcement experts, the former Deputy Director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, and the former homeland security official Juliette Kayyem. Andy McCabe, you listen to Shimon go through what we know so far and there's a lot we don't know.


But here, Anthony Dwayne McCray, in 2019, arrested charged with a felony for carrying a concealed weapon. He pleaded to a lesser charge and misdemeanor and once his probation was up, his probation ended in May 2021. So, he had a gun charge on his record, May 2021 probation evolves. Then you hear his sister calling him isolated, his father calling them evil angry after his mother died.

Why does the system - why is the system still unable to connect this piece of information with this piece of information and say this man should not have a gun?

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR, FBI: Sure. So, it comes down, John, to those regulations that are enshrined in the Brady Act of 1993. That sets the parameters for how background checks are done for gun purchases. Michigan is one of most states that relies on the FBI to conduct those background checks.

In this case, on the facts that we know from the reporting about this man, the arrest for felony gun possession, had they convicted him of felony gun possession might have prevented him from ever legally purchasing a firearm again. It looks like they pled that charge down to a misdemeanor, and a misdemeanor conviction is not enough to prohibit you from buying a firearm.

It looks like, there was a term in his probation that he was not allowed to have guns while he was on probation. But as you mentioned, he completed that term of probation. So essentially, after that date, he could as mentally disturbed as he might have been as angry and, you know, rage filled as he might have been, he could walk into any federally licensed firearms dealer and purchase another gun.

KING: And Juliette, you, Andy and I have had this conversation far too many times, both in your work in government and your work in the private sector, you have worked on hardening the sights on improving security on places that mass shooters targets. Let's just listen to one of the many survivors here. Listen to the fear.


DOMINIK MOLOTKY, SURVIVED MSU SHOOTING: Right when that first gunshot went off, I booked it to the far corner of the class. I was sitting right next to the door where he came in, literally one of the first two seats he came in. And I thank God my fire fighter response kicked in, because I booked it to the far side of the class and duck down and he came in and shot three to four times in and our classroom.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Often we're having this conversation about elementary schools or high schools. This is a college campus, 50,000 students, 5700 faculty, 5200-acre campus. What can and obviously in this case, what can't you do to make it safer?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. I mean, you're basically going to have some level of vulnerability, you're not going to be able to make these colleges and universities safe because - honestly you don't want them safe. The kids they live, they hang out outside, they go to concerts, there's theaters or sports, there's classrooms themselves. What colleges and universities are doing are they're trying to fortify places where people congregate, whether it's a classroom or a dorm situation.

But you're always going to have vulnerabilities just given the size of this. And this university obviously has main streets going through it, it has bicycles, it has - it's a mini city. And that's the challenge at this stage. And we will learn whether there were vulnerabilities that could have been closed by the university that may have minimized the harm.

But someone held that someone determined to get into one of these will likely be able to get into one of one of these buildings. And that is a challenge. I don't mean to be pessimistic about it. But what that means is then what we have to do is work on what the response capacity can be. And I think you saw a pretty, sort of near perfect response in terms of the surge of resources.

I did think with kids, you know, this is generation lockdown. K through 12, they are now in college and it's following them. I mean, that's what we gave these kids right, and that's the tragedy of this. These are the kids that grew up post columbine.

KING: And to that point, I stick with your Juliette for a second. If you go through the timeline first report shots 8:30, a suspect description tweeted at 9:59. Photos put out by the university, police at 11:18 suspect located and died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound 1135. So, to your point generation locked down, they put out a photograph and they get a tip pretty quick. So, it's sounds demented to say this, they did the best they could under horrific circumstances.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: They did the best. That's right. And so, your standards in my world are can we make it less bad. And I think the university really did their pre planning with the locals and then the state and then we saw federal assets come in seemed perfect. I want to pick up on one important point that we often don't talk about is communication.

What I was monitoring it in real time, they are doing everything you would want to do which is get to the students, tell them what to do, get to the faculty and then colleges and universities. You know, these are kids still and get to the parents, and telling the parents do not come to campus because, you know, it's a danger zone so to speak. All of that is so important in that timeline that we saw, right? How short it was, was because everyone knew what to do. [12:10:00]

KING: So, Andy McCabe, as you're trying now to answer the question why, to get to a motive. The police on campus say no connection, didn't go to school there, didn't teach there, didn't work there. But did as Shimon noted, have a note in his pocket apparently threatening some schools in New Jersey. How do you try to piece together? Why, why this gunman decided to go to this campus late in the evening and open fire?

MCCABE: John, we do this investigation really only for that reason. There's no one to charge here. And he's dead. He's not going to jail. But people have a desperate need to know why, why this place? Why these victims? Why this night? And so, what the investigators would do, so go back or execute search warrants at his residence, maybe in his vehicles. They'll look in all of his electronics devices. They'll course through if he's ever used social media. See what sorts of things he's posted or said or light.

They'll look at all of his writings, so try to interview family members and friends and work associates all to answer that question of why? Well, maybe we'll get an answer or maybe we won't. The other question we should be asking is how, how does this happen? How does it happen 60 or so times this year alone?

And the answer is because we have 120 guns in this country for every 100 people. We have more than double the number of the second most gun-soaked country on Earth, which is Yemen, not someplace I think we should be comparing ourselves to.

Every lawful gun owner in this country of which I am one, I carried a gun every day for 21 years on the job. I own a firearm, every lawful gun owners should be standing up and saying enough is enough. We need actually effective laws, actually effective background checks, and we've got to do something about this tidal wave of violence, or we just keep sending our kids to school and hoping that come home on shot.

KING: That's an excellent point. Andrew McCabe, grateful for your insights. Juliette Kayyem as well. Someday we'll have a pleasant conversation. But before we go to break, just to Andy's point, just show this map. Mass shootings in February. 67 mass shootings in less than two months this year, that is just this month. We are halfway through a little more than halfway through the month of February that is just this month to Andy's point. Everybody, regardless of your views on guns, to think about this. Think about this.

Up next, Donald Trump has his first official primary opponent, the former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, is running for president.


HALEY: The Washington establishment has failed us over and over and over again. It's time for a new generation of leadership.




KING: A major announcement today from Nikki Haley. The 2024, excuse me, Republican presidential field has its second candidate and its first woman.


HALEY: The socialist left sees an opportunity to rewrite history. China and Russia are on the march. They all think we can be bullied, kicked around. You should know this about me. I don't put up with bullies. And when you kick back, it hurts them more, if you're wearing heels. I'm Nikki Haley and I'm running for president.


KING: Tomorrow the former South Carolina governor and Ambassador to the United Nations holds a kickoff rally in Charleston. Then two other key early voting states, Iowa and New Hampshire later this week. Joining us now to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Dana Bash, CNN's Jeremy Diamond, and Tia Mitchell of the Atlanta Journal- Constitution.

So, Donald Trump has his first declared opponent. He was the only until today, the only declared candidate for president. The question is, if we roll back the tape pre-Trump, you can make the case for OK, here's Nikki Haley. She's interesting. She's a governor of South Carolina. In the post Trump Republican Party, what's the lane?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I was actually in South Carolina pre-Trump when then Governor Nikki Haley endorsed Marco Rubio, and she stood on the stage with Marco Rubio and Tim Scott and said, this is what the new Republican Party should look like. That was before she became Donald Trump's U.N. ambassador and kind of went back and forth many times when it comes to supporting or not supporting him.

And that was one of the things that was most fascinating about her video, by the way, we could spend like an hour talking about it and dissecting it because it was very intentional, a lot of points she wanted to make. But when you talk to people who are preparing to thinking about running against Donald Trump, which is what it is right now.

There seems to be a dividing line between those who are willing to say, we are in an aggressive full-throated way, we have to move on beyond this man, Donald Trump and those who are kind of dancing around it. And I'm already hearing for some who are in the first camp saying, you know, OK, she talks about the heels, which is a great memorable line. She talks about bullies, which is another memorable line, but neglects to talk about her former boss, who could easily be put in that category. KING: In fact, she kind of lumps him in, not just Donald Trump, she says other Republican presidential candidates have failed a critical test.


HALEY: Republicans have lost the popular vote in seven out of the last eight presidential elections. That has to change. It's time for a new generation of leadership to rediscover fiscal responsibility, secure our border and strengthen our country, our pride, and our purpose.


KING: It seemed to me to be a, if you're for Trump or DeSantis for that matter, if you're for a Trumpy candidate, think again, right? Is that the point she's trying to make there, to try to shake the Republican primary voter think again?

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION: I think she's saying that but what is she giving them as a true kind of contrast to Trump or DeSantis because she's still talking about woke-ism and the radical left and criticizing the 16-19 project. These are all the same type of talking points you'll hear from a Trump or a DeSantis.


So, you know, the Dana's point, she's talking around the edges, not really saying the thing on, and I don't know if that's going to resonate if she truly wants to present herself as an alternative to these other candidates.

KING: It's a great question. Does she run as Governor Nikki Haley or Ambassador Nikki Haley meaning, the Trump ambassador Nikki Haley, because it just looked at the bio card. It's impressive. She's 51 years old. She's trying to make a point, Joe Biden is 80, plus Donald Trump would be 80 or 79. When he runs here.

51 years old, first generation American was U.N. ambassador, first woman South Carolina governor. She served two terms. She led the removal of the confederate flag from the South Carolina State House, that after a horrific shooting at a black church. Governor Nikki Haley would be an interesting Republican, Trump Ambassador Nikki Haley, where's the lane?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And if you look at this video, it's very clear that she plans on running as Governor Nikki Haley, at least primarily right. The entire video focuses on her time as governor, what she was able to do in the state from an economic perspective. How she handled the fallout of that Charleston, devastating Charleston shooting.

I think the only thing we see in that video, in terms of the U.N. ambassador is maybe a picture or a video of her in that role at the United Nations. But I think the bigger question in terms of how she actually approaches this is, we've seen too many of these Republicans kind of criticize Trump obliquely, but not actually want to do it directly. And she clearly seems to fall in that lane so far.

And when you look at her statements over just the last year, I mean, from January 16, or insurrection, saying that, you know, the Trump let us down. We shouldn't have followed him. We shouldn't follow him again. To then saying, that she would not run if he ran and that she would support him to now running herself, you know, it's not really clear where Nikki Haley actually stands. And that is going to be something that she has to focus on is how she defined herself to these Republican products.

KING: And this if you're watching at home saying, why don't you care about what Trump said about or Pompeo said about her or somebody else said about her. This is her announcement, and we're going to treat all candidates equally. On their announcement day, we focus on who they are and what they want to do, and then we'll have plenty of time for this. But one of the key points she made here, does she talked about, she talks about being the daughter of immigrants in a state like South Carolina and she says to find her life.


HALEY (voiceover): The railroad tracks divided the town by race. I was the proud daughter of Indian immigrants, not black, not white. I was different. But my mom would always say your job is not to focus on the differences, but the similarities.


KING: Again, it's you know, that part of her biography is compelling. Will she choose? Or will she tried to be all things to all slices of the Republican primary because if she's a general election candidate, her argument and her team argues, we can get back a lot of the suburban women who just cannot vote for Trump. We can get back independents who are looking for fiscal conservatives, maybe are prolife on abortion, but don't want somebody hitting them in the head with it was really?

BASH: Well, like you were saying, it's not where she's going right now, which it gets in a lot of ways is understandable, because that's not the electorate she's trying to appeal to its Republicans. The part right after what you played in the video, she talks about the need to not talk about the differences so much and talk about similarities when it comes to race and other parts of America. She has an image of AOC looking angry, and she has another image of an African American woman.

I thought that was absolutely fascinating because she is a woman of color. And she's trying to show that she's with the Republicans when it comes to the culture wars and everything that Ron DeSantis and you know, you name it have been talking about when it comes to trying to exploit the differences on ethnicity and race as opposed to bringing them together.

KING: And so, here's the question, I can't answer. If you go back to earlier in our days, pre-Trump days, she's a candidate who is very good in small group settings like this, meaning she could have great appeal in Iowa. Then her state, South Carolina is third in the process. So, you can see it in the old map and calendar. Does that world still exist?

MITCHELL: I think I don't know if that world still exists, especially the way she's presenting herself. She's not saying the thing head on. Even her own question. She faces questions because her parents are immigrants from far-right Republicans. How does she plan on winning up Republican primary, talking to the same people that she's trying to cater to that might be skeptical already of her.

KING: That's a great point on announcement day, you get to have a video to win the nomination. You got to stand on a debate stage and hash it out. That'll be the fascinating part as this campaign plays out. Up next for us, Senators wrapping up a classified, briefing up on Capitol Hill. The White House now providing some new details, some on those unidentified objects shot down over the weekend.



KING: New information this morning, the U.S. intelligence communities leading explanation now for the three airborne objects shot down over North America in the past week, is that they could be balloons or devices used for benign purposes. That message from a top White House official is the furthest, the administration has gone in trying to explain the three objects shot down over the weekend.

The administration though says it cannot yet say that for sure, cannot say for sure they were all benign. That because they need to analyze the debris and all three were shot down in places difficult to reach. The administration also offering a briefing today to all senators, and most who attended emerged calmer than they enter. Though they still said, there are many unanswered questions.

Our CNN national security analyst Carrie Cordero joins the conversation. So, let's start there.