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Police Chief: Parents Don't Think More Weapons In Home; Police: Shooter Legally Bought 7 Guns Despite "Emotional Disorder"; Police Chief: Law Enforcement Not Contacted About Emotional Issues; Police: Attack Was Pre-Planned, Shooter Had Detailed Maps; Chief: Parents Didn't Believe There Were More Weapons In Home; Pence Noncommittal On If He Will Appeal Order To Testify; Pence: "I Have Nothing To Hide," Will "Obey The Law"; FMR Trump WH Aides Recounted "Heated" Call With Pence. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired March 29, 2023 - 12:00   ET



ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm Abby Phillip in for John King in Washington. Still no motive. Minutes ago, on CNN Nashville's police chief shares some new details about the shooter who murdered six people. Plus, the special counsel investigating Donald Trump wins a courtroom fight to force Mike Pence to go under oath. And Chris Christie---


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: I have written and spoken extensively about that day, and we'll evaluate the best way forward and make our intentions known in the days. I have nothing to hide. I believe we did our duty under the constitution on January 6.


PHILLIP: Chris Christie says, never again to Donald Trump and tells New Hampshire voters that he's the one who can go toe to toe with the former president.


CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: You better have somebody on that stage who can do to him what I did to Marco. You have to be fearless, because he will come back and right at you.


PHILLIP: But up first, we have new information on the Nashville shooting straight from the police chief himself. Moments ago, right here on CNN, Chief John Drake running through what we know and what we don't about the shooter's motive. The attackers' guns and that the shooter was never committed to an institution.

Law enforcement was never contacted about an emotional disorder that the shooter was being treated for, and the police say they are still studying a 60-page notebook that was filled with writings. Also, police believed that the shooters parents did not know that there were more weapons in the home.

So, let's get straight to Nashville where CNN's Carlos Suarez is. Carlos, we are learning a lot more about the contours of the investigation. What more are we learning right now about what prompted this shooting?

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, Abby, we got a sense from the chief of police of just how much work they are still trying to get done few days after this shooting. As you mentioned, we now know that according to the chief of police here in Nashville, detectives' investigators, they are still taking a look at this notebook with writings and statements inside of them.

The chief of police has said it is possibly 60 pages in length. They are still trying to go through that to get a better sense of exactly why this shooter may have decided to carry out this act. The chief of police also said that there is no indication right now that there was ever a problem with the shooter, when that shooter was a student at this school.

On the emotional disorder treatment that the shooter was receiving treatment on, the chief of police said. And as you mentioned, the shooter was never committed to an institution, at least according to the police department and law enforcement. They were unaware of this treatment of the emotional disorder that this 28-year-old shooter was undergoing.

The chief of police was also asked whether detectives believe that the shooters' parents really did not know that the shooter had seven guns at the home. The chief said that detectives talked to the parents and that they believe the parents did not know that the shooter owned this many weapons.

Of the seven guns that were legally purchased. Three of them were used at the school shooting. Two of them were removed from the house on Monday after a search warrant was executed. The family and the police department believes that one other gun was sold. And that seventh and final gun that was legally purchased right now, Abby, is still missing.

PHILLIP: All right, Carlos Suarez, thank you for all of that. And joining me now is former secret service agent and CNN law enforcement analyst Jonathan Wackrow. Jonathan, I want to start with you on this issue of the weapons that we just spoke to the Nashville police chief about the parents clearly knew that weapons were a major factor here, but they thought that they had dealt with it.

The question for you from a law enforcement perspective is that when you have this confluence of potentially mentally ill person and a weapon. What should individuals do in that circumstance to bring law enforcement into the equation?


JONATHAN WACKROW, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: Well listen, it goes back to when we talked about like, the emotional issues that this suspect had. You know, we've heard of this emotional breakdown. We've heard of the emotional care that they were under. We don't know if that was directly by a doctor.

But when it comes down to, you know, the weapons and people who are in distress, your family members are key here, they're the key element. If they feel that the individual is at risk for hurting themselves or others, they really should be reaching out to authorities to say, I have a concern and we have weapons, right?

And then let your professional practitioners come in and help adjudicate that matter, right? You need to trust but verify. The family felt that there was a concern with this individual having a weapon and encouraged her to sell the weapon, right? So, we took care of one weapon, but now we didn't realize that there were so many more.

Again, we have to understand how behavior along a continuum is progressing. And we have to get - have early intervention, right? This was a red flag, the fact that there was emotional distress and firearms necessitated the family to take more aggressive action to get. But we see this time and time again, where we're not taking that appropriate action, because people may feel hesitant to escalate to authorities.

But the chief just said in an interview in the last hour, had they had known that this individual had suicidal ideations or thoughts of suicide, they would have done something. But law enforcement has to be informed that there is something to act upon to be able to help the individual, the family and the community at large.

PHILLIP: And we should remember here, we're talking about a 28-year- old individual, someone who is an adult. And it's not clear to what extent these parents would have had visibility even into this person's medical care. But I do want to talk about the writings here because that's another topic that that Chief Drake spoke about.

There's been a lot of transparency in this case. The body warn cameras have been released. A lot of information has been released, but the writings and the contours of what was in there, they are still going through it. What are the considerations right now for them as they are looking at these documents? What was written, what was planned and deciding what to release?

WACKROW: Well, listen. There is items of evidentiary value that they're looking in there. I mean, while the act was an individual act, we don't know how this individual associated with others. Is there anyone else connected to this? There's there anyone else that influenced this horrific act by this individual.

So again, the investigators are taking their time. They need to get this right. And I appreciate the fact that they're holding back a little bit of information now to get to the right motive. But we talked about communication, whether it's the writings or the social media, the messages that were sent out, just prior to the attack, that's what we call concerning communications.

And the data shows that mass attackers and a majority of the times telegraph, what they are going to do in that concerning communication. And again, we see this model time and time again. And those are the red flags again, that, you know, in addition to mental and behavioral health red flags, it's these concerning communications that we have to be really aware of, what were those writings.

I am sure that this is not the first time that this individual wrote some sort of, you know, we're referring to - the police referring to as the manifesto, expressing what their ideas are in their intent, potentially to cause harm. We have to get ahead of that. And again, stop it before those writings actually become action.

PHILLIP: All right, Jonathan Wackrow, thank you very much for all of that. And with us now is Abene Clayton, the lead reporter on the Guns and Lies in America project joining us now. Abene, we are talking about this issue of guns being in the hands of someone who would commit a violent crime like this. I want to play for you what Chief Drake said about those weapons in the last hour.


CHIEF JOHN DRAKE, NASHVILLE POLICE: They feel very strongly that they did not know they had more weapons in the house. In fact, as she left to commit this horrendous act, she left with what we were told was a red bag. The mom confronted her about what was in a bag and she just kind of played it off.

Hey, you know, you're just being mom, everything's OK. Something to that nature, no quote on that. But, and so, she left with this bag. She never looked inside. I firmly believe from what the detectives said that the parents felt like there was one weapon in the house, and she sold it, and she didn't have any more.



PHILLIP: This is I'm sure for you, not an unfamiliar sequence of events here. What's your reaction to what he had to say there?

ABENE CLAYTON, LEAD REPORTER, GUNS AND LIES IN AMERICA PROJECT, THE GUARDIAN: It is just really, I think drives home not only the need for these, you know, red flag laws emergency risk protection orders, whatever you want to call them to exist, but also for them to be implemented. It just feels like a missed opportunity for further investigation that didn't necessarily have to cause, you know, undue distress to this parent who feels like they may be the only thing, you know, standing between a mass homicide, and it not happening.

I think that there needed to be room and resources for this family to reach out to law enforcement to find a way to petition a judge. So, that law enforcement could do what they do and go into the home and really ensure for a fact that if there was a firearm that it was sold. But unfortunately, we see that that didn't happen, and it doesn't sound like. Tennessee has the infrastructure for that sort of thing to happen. PHILLIP: And Tennessee does not have a red law - red flag law on the books. And if you look at this map here, only 19 states do, including the District of Columbia, few of them, very few of them are what we, you know, would call red states.

Because of the red flag laws themselves have become kind of politically polarizing here where some people say there are privacy concerns. But you know, what are people to do in places where there are not red flag laws. If they have concerns about someone who might have access to weapons that might be a danger to themselves or others?

CLAYTON: That is a really difficult question that's going to vary from state to state, and also comes down to the willingness of local law enforcement, sheriffs and judges to take these sort of things seriously, you know, to see beyond sort of the partisan concerns about the Second Amendment being violated and realize that not only in cases of mass shootings, but also in, you know, domestic violence.

So many people and families are killed because they know there's a gun in the home. They know this person may be volatile and a risk to themselves or others, and they just don't know what to do. So, you know, unfortunately, that's not an answer that I have for viewers who may be in a place where red flag laws don't exist.

It's really something that state lawmakers need to be held accountable for creating. And as I mentioned, local sheriffs, judges, and district attorneys need to be able to teach people about and implement in a thorough way.

PHILLIP: Yes. Last year, there was a bipartisan, Safer Communities Act bill that was passed after the Uvalde shooting. It would have expanded background checks for buyers under 21, required authorities to check for mental health records for people who are under the age of 21 and gave resources to states to implement red flag laws. But it is striking that none of those things it seems to my - I would have applied here. What do you see?

CLAYTON: I think that is fair to say, when it comes to red flag laws, we've seen that there. Unfortunately, I keep saying, there's only as good as their implementation. Just to go back a few months, we saw the shooter in Colorado Springs, there were red flags all over the place. And the state did have a red flag law.

But as we know, because of partisanship and politics, the county where the individual was from declared themselves a sanctuary state. And there are hundreds, if not over thousands of these types of places in the U.S. where local sheriffs have said, we are not going to implement any gun restrictions from red flag laws to background checks, they have declared that they're not going to enforce it.

So, when I am asked about policy, like the things that came out of the bipartisan, Safer Communities Act, I really just go back to - are they being taken seriously, by the people who are really supposed to hold the line to not only make sure families have somewhere to go, families, teachers, whoever is, you know, legally allowed to petition or raise the red flag, not only to make sure they know that this exists, but also feel comfortable and safe to know that if they do report something, that we're not going to have this honor system, which we know doesn't always work and doesn't always ensure that guns are out of the home.

So, I think the things put forth in the Safer Communities Act certainly serve to show where the Biden Administration stands, but if they're not put in place by the people who are responsible for decreasing violence, since it happens, so locally, they're really only as good as a statement on where we know the president stands, which is very obviously anti-gun violence.


PHILLIP: And it has seemed that in recent years, there are always people who seem to get around some of these laws that come up. Abene Clayton, thank you very much for all of that. And up next for us, we heard from Mike Pence today in Iowa, after a judge ruled that he must testify before a grand jury about what went down ahead of January 6. But the question is, will he appeal that's after the break?


PHILLIP: Former Vice President Mike Pence is back in Iowa today, and he just addressed a federal ruling that he must testify about his conversations with Donald Trump.


PENCE: I am pleased that the judge recognized the constitution speech and protection clause applies to my work as vice president. I have nothing to hide. At the end of the day, will obey the law, but right now, we're evaluating what (Inaudible)



PHILLIP: So, ruling is still under seal, but the testimony could cover what happened leading up to the deadly January 6 insurrection. And as you just heard Pence was non-committal on an appeal. Let's discuss with CNN's senior justice correspondent Evan Perez, and former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams. Evan, the language, the tone of what Mike Pence just said, it's in stark contrast to this. This is what he said on February 15.


PENCE: I'm going to fight the Biden DOJ subpoena for me to appear before the grand jury, because I believe it's unconstitutional and it's unprecedented.


PHILLIP: What changed?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I think, you're pointing to the right thing here that the former vice president had a very strident tone before, and today, he is certainly praising a judge and his ruling. And that doesn't sound like somebody who is planning to appeal and fight further, right? Again, we don't know what the former vice president is going to do with his lawyers in the next couple of days in deciding what to do.

But what you're hearing there is the sound of a man who believes he got, you know, at least a recognition, right, of the fact that he's president a Senate. So therefore, he does have some speech or debate protections under the constitution. But he is going to comply with what the Justice Department or what this judge is saying, which is that he must answer these questions.

And these are important questions that talk about - that will discuss or reveal really, really what he and Donald Trump were talking about the pressure campaign that was going on, that was building between December and January. And especially, those key days, right before January 6, there are things that only Mike Pence and Donald Trump know, and that the former vice president can now tell prosecutors and the grand jury about it.

PHILLIP: Which is why Donald Trump is as much a part of this as Mike Pence is. His spokesperson put out a statement yesterday saying, there is no factual or legal basis or substance to any case against President Trump, pretty broad statement there. But Elliot, talked to us about what are the carve outs here? The speech and debate part of this would protect what and what would he be compelled to testify that?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, there's a lot of gray area in that, Abby, and there's going to be, and I think this isn't the last legal ruling that we've seen in this because of how complicated these issues are. Now, look, the speech or debate clause of the constitution protects, the words that are said on the floor of the House or House of Representatives or the United States Senate, by senators, members of Congress or the vice president acting in his or her capacity as the president of the Senate.

Now, some of the actions leading up to January 6 might fall into a gray area of was this Mike Pence preparing to certify votes or was this Mike Pence the candidate or Mike Pence the vice president United States. Speaking to the president about matters that really don't touch on his congressional role. So, it's going to be a little bit confusing, but anything preparing to sit in the role, to sit in the chair and bang that gavel will be protected a lot well.

PHILLIP: Here's just a reminder of what was said in the January 6 hearings about what the relationship between Trump and Pence in this time around January 6.


ERIC HERSCHMANN, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: At some point, it started off as a calmer tone and everything and then became heated.

IVANKA TRUMP, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: The conversation was pretty heated.

NICHOLAS LUNA, FORMER ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP (voiceover): I remember hearing the word wimp. Like being you're not tough enough to make the call. Do you remember what she said, her father called?



PHILLIP: But it's striking that while that is salacious and got a lot of headlines, what the special counsel wants to know is about the crimes. So, what would Mike Pence know about that?

WILLIAMS: And even those things like wimp and the salacious stuff might be evidence of crimes, if they were threats, or in some way masked the former president's knowledge that he lost the election or touched on the president's intention to obstruct or interfere or impede acts of Congress. These are all things touching on obstruction of justice, or conspiracy or threats that the former president might be investigated.

PHILLIP: And big picture, Evan, this has actually coming in a string of wins for the special counsel and these cases against Trump. Tell us about that?

PEREZ: Right. Trump keeps losing because he keeps claiming that this is protected by executive privilege. It is not repeatedly judges have said. And what you're seeing is an investigation that's accelerating. The special counsel is making sure that people come in, when their dates are coming in, they're not pushing things back.

What it gives us the impression of is that they're trying to get to a decision on whether there are charges here that are maybe coming against people who are involved in the pressure campaign, or maybe the person who was at the center of that pressure campaign himself, former president.


PHILLIP: And it cannot be said enough that the courts are basically saying here, there's no blanket protection and they're doing it very quickly according to our reporters a dozen wins for Jack Smith in recent weeks. Thank you both for coming in for us. And tomorrow, the former vice president will talk to our own Wolf Blitzer in Primetime, that is Thursday at 9 pm eastern time right here on CNN.

And coming up next for us. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says that he will never support the former president again. That's a stark contrast for the man who wants stood beside him side by side with Donald Trump.