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Inside Politics

Police Release Body-Cam Video Of Shooting; Former Teammate: Shooter Sent Message Minutes Before Rampage; GOP Rep: AR-15 Ban Just "Politics" & "Emotions"; CNN: Trump Keeping Tabs On GOP Probes Through Back-Channels; Trump Claims Legal Challenges "New Way Of Cheating On Elections"; Biden: "Congress Has To Act" On Guns; CNN: 16 Shootings At K-12 Schools This Year; Expert: AR-15 Style Weapons Create "Explosion" In The Body. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired March 28, 2023 - 12:00   ET



ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm Abby Phillip in for John King in Washington. 14 minutes of calculated and planned terror. New police body camera footage shows us a room by room hunt for a school shooter. And now brand-new CNN reporting on how Donald Trump is keeping tabs on the Republicans who want to drag the Manhattan D.A. before Congress. And the former president says, law enforcement investigations equal election interference.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I don't know whether it helps or hurts. I can tell you in my opinion, it's a new way of cheating on elections. It's called election interference. They can't beat you that way, they're going to do this kind of stuff.


PHILLIP: Plus, a CNN digs into the archives that uncovered Senator Joe Biden, siding with Republicans on Social Security and Medicare. But first our breaking news. Nashville police releasing body warn camera video from inside the Covenant school shooting. Now this tape shows officers as they are racing to stop this rampage.

We do have to warn you that much of this footage is incredibly difficult to watch. But this video comes from the body cameras of two of the officers and it shows the very moment that cops breached the school doors, their guns drawn, they clear each classroom and only a few minutes later, you can see and hear the officers running toward the violent pops of gunshots. Then a shootout, and again I want to warn you this is extremely disturbing.


PHILLIP: What you do not see there is what happens moments later police shooting and killing the shooter, but not before the attacker had killed three children and three adults at that private Christian school. I want to go straight to CNN's legal law enforcement analyst and former Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe who is joining us now.

Andrew, when I look at that video, it is heart pounding to watch the full thing because you know how it ends. But you also see in that video, a picture of law enforcement moving quickly, expeditiously through the school and meticulously checking and getting to the shooter pretty quickly. What do you see?

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR, FBI: Well, that's exactly right, Abby. What you see is exactly what you'd hope to see in an incredibly intense terrifying situation like that. And I think heart pounding is the right description. That's certainly what happens when you're involved in a critical incident as a law enforcement officer.

You see these well organized, courageous young men going, rushing to the sound of the gunfire. They are clearly checking rooms as they go. They're kind of, you see other officers conducting like checking and safety activity along the sides of the hallway.

And you see the largest most capable weapons, the assault weapons that our police officers are armed with these days, being pushed to the front so that you have the most capable weapons and the most protection likely to engage with the shooter first. So, it's tactically very sound but incredibly intense video to watch.

PHILLIP: And sadly, as you watch it, you also know it is still too late to save the lives of six individuals. Andrew, standby for us. I do want to bring an Amara Walker, who was in Nashville, Tennessee, on the ground there for us. Amara, what has been the reaction there to this newly released body camera video?

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Well, some of the people - most of the folks I spoke with haven't seen the video yet. I did speak with the vice mayor who did see the video and he was just beside himself. What stuck out to me and to the vice mayor of Nashville Jim Shulman was in the first frame of video.


When they enter the school, you see a line of backpacks and little jackets hanging there along the wall. So of course, you're realizing, oh my goodness, there are children trapped inside this building. Look, people are devastated. This is a community that's been shattered by this shooting rampage. But I think it's so commendable.

When you look at this video, what you see are these officers as Andrew McCabe was saying running towards the fire, the gunfire that they are hearing. This is from the bodycam of two of the police officers who are expected to get all five-bodycam footage because as you know, five police officers responded to the scene on Monday.

The two officers' bodycam video that you're looking at, Rex Engelbert, he is the one who fires the first shots at the shooter when they encounter the shooter on the second floor of the school. And then you see, Michael Collazo, the other officer who approaches the suspect, and appears to shoot the suspect a few more times, apparently with a handgun, and then you hear him say suspect down, suspect down.

Of course, they save the day, at the end of all this. But what we have today is a community that is just angry, they're mourning, they're still asking a lot of questions. They want to know why. What was the motive? And of course, you know, why does this continue to happen?

PHILLIP: Yes. It is incredibly heartbreaking. And as you pointed out, in the first few frames of the video, what you're seeing is an elementary school. You've got penguins on the wall, kids in there. And that's all that you can think of as you're watching that.

Andrew, I want to come back to you because we're now getting to the point of this, where we're trying to figure out why this happened? Why this individual targeted the school? And we have a little bit more information.

We now know about this Instagram message that was sent to someone who the shooter had gone to school with many years earlier. The message said, one day this will make more sense. I've left behind more than enough evidence, but something bad is about to happen.

And I want you to just take a quick listen to Averianna Patton, that former classmate as she describes what was - it was like to receive that kind of message from the shooter.


AVERIANNA PATTON, FORMER TEAMMATE OF NASHVILLE SHOOTER: 9:57 I received the message from her. And it's, you know, Hale sent a screenshot to my dad, and he instructed me to call the suicide prevention helpline. And then at 10:13, I called the Nashville Davidson County Sheriff's Office. And then at 10:14, I called the Nashville's non-emergency line. And then at 3:29, is when they said that they were - they came to my home to speak with me.


PHILLIP: We hear so much about, you know, see something, say something, if you see someone in crisis, try to get them, you know, get law enforcement to them. She tried to do that, but it may have been too late, Andrew?

MCCABE: Yes. Crucially important, Abby, for anyone who is around someone who they think is in this kind of trouble to bring that to the attention of authorities, law enforcement and mental health assistance. But what we're seeing here is even in this situation where that happens, literally minutes before this terrible attack takes place, it's just too late.

And that is the same situation with this incredible law enforcement response, right, courageous, well-organized prompt, but yet they are still behind the shooter. These efforts that we take are all reactionary, they are reacting to the disaster that's taking place. They're all behind the lives that are already lost once that shooter is on the property doing that killing. PHILLIP: I want to ask you one more thing. Just take a listen to, this is Congressman Byron Donalds, responding to just the raising of this issue of the type of weapon that the shooter had an AR-15. Listen?


REP. BYRON DONALDS, (R-FL): If you're going to talk about the AR-15, you're talking politics now. Let's not get into politics. Or let's not get into emotion because emotion feels good, but emotion doesn't solve problems.


PHILLIP: Andrew, from a law enforcement perspective, in Uvalde, it almost seemed that the officers were afraid to go in because the gunman was so heavily armed. And here they weren't hesitant, but the weaponry that was used against them was so powerful. What is your response from a law enforcement perspective?

MCCABE: Well, I mean, all due respect to the congressman. I mean that that response is ridiculous. It's not politics. We're talking about the web - the incredible military grade lethality that shooters are bringing literally to our schools repeatedly every year. This is not about politics, it's about life and death in America.


And the fact that we send our kids to school now reasonably thinking that they might get shot there someday by a gunman toting AR-15 or something else. The fact is that we are awash in guns in this country and that simple fact makes all kinds of issues that we struggle with worse.

The fact that we have mass shootings, the fact that we have higher violent crime rates here than anywhere else, the fact that people kill themselves with firearms in the United States at an alarmingly high rate, higher than anyplace else, any other comparatively developed country. So, at some point, we need to address the issue that connects all these problems, and that is, that it's very, very easy for anyone to get heavily armed quickly in this country.

PHILLIP: All right, Andrew McCabe, Amara Walker, both of you thank you very much. And President Biden just spoke about this Nashville shooting and we will bring that to you in just a few minutes. Stay with us.



PHILLIP: And just in the president of the United States answering CNN's questions about the Nashville school shooting. President Biden says that he can't do anything except plead with Congress to act and that he's done everything within his executive authority on the issue of guns. We'll play some of that sound for you very soon. But first on to new CNN reporting, about just how plugged in Donald Trump is to the House GOP. He and his allies are using back channels to try to keep in touch with Republicans on key committees, including the ones putting pressure on the Manhattan D.A. who's leading that hush money probe in New York.

Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is on the oversight panel. She's telling CNN, that she keeps Trump up to date on quote, everything that we're doing, adding, he seems very plugged in at all times. Sometimes I'm shocked at how he knows all of these things.

Joining me now to discuss all of this is Laura Barron-Lopez of PBS NewsHour, CNN's Alayna Treene, Francesca Chambers of USA Today, and CNN's Melanie Zanona. So, this incredible reporting really just shows the degree to which there is an almost daily level of communication here between the former president and members of Congress on Capitol Hill who are blocking and tackling forum day-by-day.

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: No, there is regular communications happening between Donald Trump himself directly with a lot of these members who are on these key committees, as well as his top advisors. And sometimes the chairman and their councils themselves are reporting looks at really the constant communication back and forth, wanting to make sure that the former president is up to date on what they're doing, on the pace of substance of these investigations as well as, at times even exerting pressure.

We know that Trump attorney Joe Tacopina sent a letter to Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, last month, urging the committee to dig deeper into the Manhattan district attorney's investigation of Donald Trump, and looking at what he said was a potential abuse of power. And that's just one example---

PHILLIP: And that lo and behold, they did.

TREENE: They did, exactly. And so, that's just one example of what these communications are yielding.

PHILLIP: Yes. And I just want to show some of the names here of the people who are a part of these sort of, I mean, I don't know if you could call it a backchannel, backchannel, backchannel. Elise Stefanik, the House GOP Conference Chair. That's probably as close to the top as you could get in the House right now. Boris Epshteyn, who is a former White House aide to Trump who's now at aide, coordinating a lot of his legal issues. And Brian Jack, who is an adviser to the speaker, Kevin McCarthy.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes. Elise Stefanik, she's the third ranking House Republican. And part of the strategy here is obviously playing defense for Trump, right? We've seen them use their gavels to protect their presidential nominee, one of their presidential nominees. But there are also political benefits and personal upsides for these members.

As Elise Stefanik knows very well, she emerged as one of the top defenders of Donald Trump during his first impeachment. And what happened, she raised her profile, she became a fundraising powerhouse. And they decided to use her to replace Liz Cheney in leadership. And so, these members have seen the benefits to going out currying favor with the foreign president. And I think this shows he still has sway, at least in the House Republican conference.

PHILLIP: He's also doling out praise for the people who he thinks are doing a good job. Just listened to him, just this past weekend.


TRUMP: I don't know whether it helps or hurts. I can tell you in my opinion, it's a new way of cheating on elections. People are pleading with the prosecutor. Don't do it. Don't do it. It's wrong. Even Democrats, even people that traditionally are not exactly my fans are saying, don't do it because I didn't do anything wrong.


FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: Now picking up on where you left off there, I mean, Marjorie Taylor Greene, when she was able to say that she was on the phone with Donald Trump, and he's giving her directives, more or less was able to increase her power within the Republican Party. I think that's a really good example of that.

With respect to Abby, to what the former president United States just said, what I have heard from Republicans and Democrats, is that from a political perspective, that when you're looking at these cases and potential indictments and charges that could be brought against the former president, that there are some cases that they just view as stronger than others.

For instance, the Georgia case where he is on the call, that was recorded. They see as a stronger case, potentially, and they're worried that he's going to be able to effectively muddy the waters politically on some of these other cases to fuel his argument that that they're not legitimate.

PHILLIP: I mean, let's be honest, he would be doing this, no matter what the case, right?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: Yes, he would be. he would be. In the pattern here with the House GOP is that they are deciding that they want to help Trump in his effort to discredit the district attorney in Manhattan, to also discredit any investigation into January 6. We've seen them launch their own investigations into the January 6 select committee, and also target the Justice Department for their ongoing investigations into the president including Mar-a-Lago.


So, the House GOP is very much still connected with Trump, and they are not distancing themselves from him at all, despite all that talk after 2022 and the result of that was midterms about whether or not Republicans were going to break from the former president. ZANONA: We should also point out, it's not just the investigations they're pursuing, it's the investigations they're not pursuing. They in fact dropped investigations into Trump's personal finances. There's a whole litany of things that they could be investigated that they decided not to as it pertains to former president and his children.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, it's pretty transparent that this is about trying to protect Trump from these investigations and not waiting for the investigations themselves to actually play out. But everybody standby for us. Just moments ago, the president, President Biden answering shattered questions about that shooting in Nashville, and a sobering stat that should worry parents everywhere. That's next.




PHILLIP: And just minutes ago, the president of the United States talking to reporters about the Nashville school shooting. CNN's MJ Lee is over at the White House. MJ, you just asked President Biden about this. What did he say?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Abby. I just spoke with President Biden before he boarded Marine One, to ask him where he believes action on guns can come from. And he made pretty clear in his response that he believes the responsibility and the burden lies with Congress. Now, here's what he said.


JOE BIDEN, 46TH U.S. PRESIDENT: I have gone the full extent of my executive authority, to do on my own anything about guns. The Congress has to act. The majority of the American people think having assault weapons is bizarre.


LEE: And obviously, yesterday, we saw such a familiar chain of events. Within hours of finding out about the shooting at a school in Nashville, the president immediately called on Congress to once again enact an assault weapons ban. And obviously, this is somebody who is very clear on the political math being so difficult to get this done.

But there are two things that he has consistently pointed out. And one is that, there was an assault weapons ban in place, once in this country that expired in 2004. And second, the president has also said that after the Uvalde shooting to that so many people said, there was no possibility of getting anything on guns. But ultimately, we did see Congress for the first time in a bipartisan way, pass something on gun safety for the first time in a number of decades.

Abby, I also did ask him whether he would consider traveling to Nashville, he wouldn't answer the question, but did point out that this wouldn't be the first time that he has had to make a trip like that to console a grieving community. Abby?

PHILLIP: Sadly, it is not the first time, and certainly not even the first time out of school. MJ Lee, thank you very much for that. And the deadly mass shooting at the Covenant school in Nashville was the 16th shooting at a K through 12 school in the United States just this year.

And this is an unbelievable statistic, guns were the leading cause of death for kids in 2020. More American kids died from guns in that year that in car crashes and that number is only going up. So, joining me now on this is Dr. Megan Ranney. She's a professor of Emergency Medicine at the Deputy Dean of Public Health at Brown University.

Dr. Ranney, we've had to talk about this too many times. But what is striking to me in this shooting, this incident is that there were six people injured, six people shot, six people killed in this attack. What does that tell you as a physician?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, PROFESSOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE: So, Abby, I have been an emergency physician for almost 20 years. And I will say that the lethality of weapons and of bullets is increasing. We are seeing higher velocity bullets, more large capacity magazines than before.

And that is most likely why these six - of these six people, none of them survived. Of course, there could also be other factors at play being shot at close range. But ultimately, it's the number of the bullets that hit your body, where they hit, and the damage done to your organs - bullets.

PHILLIP: Exact. To that exact point, CNN's Josh Campbell did speak with some researchers at Wayne State University about what it is like specifically to be shot by an AR-15 style weapon. Just watch this video.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (VOICE OVER): An aftermath photo of the handgun rounds shows a relatively straight line through the tissue, exiting the other side, but not so with the round from an AR-15.

CYNTHIA BIR, PROFESSOR, WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY: UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It basically goes into the body and creates an explosion inside the body.


PHILLIP: An explosion inside of the body. As an emergency room physician, what do you see when people come in with those kinds of injuries?

DR. RANNEY: So, I want to highlight that we don't know in the emergency department whether someone has been shot by an AR-15 or by a handgun. And thank God, in Rhode Island we have not had one of these public mass shootings in decades.

But what we see when you are shot by a high velocity bullet, one that does tumble like that is we see shredding of organs. It becomes nearly impossible to stop the bleeding or to save the patient, and worse of course is when someone is hit multiple times. I may be able to stomp one wound, but when there are five or 10, it becomes nearly impossible to save them.

PHILLIP: I want to end where we began, which is that this is the lead and cause of death for children in the United States and you called it a public health crisis.