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Inside Politics

Gunman Kills 8, Wounds 7 At Outlet Mall In Allen, Tx; Source: Shooter Removed From U.S. Military Over Mental Health Concerns; Tx Gov Cautions To No "Jump To Conclusions" About Shooting Motive; Eight Dead After Car Plows Into Group Outside Texas Migrant Shelter; Driver In Brownsville Local With "Extensive Rap Sheet"; Now: Closing Arguments In Civil Rape Trial Against Trump; Two Deadlines Loom For Immigration & Debt; Tomorrow: Biden, Congressional Leaders Meet On Debt Limit. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired May 08, 2023 - 12:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Thank you all so much for joining us. This is CNN News Central. Inside Politics starts down.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. Brutal impact, the Range Rover bulldozers a crowd of migrants killing at least eight. Just moments ago, authorities identifying the driver signposting his criminal history and unveiling eight manslaughter charges against him.

Plus, so much blood. Horror stories from first responders to a mass shooting in Allen, Texas. As investigators now examine the gunman's obsession with neo-Nazi beliefs. And outlier or a warning. New polling shows America is deeply unhappy with President Biden including Democrats, as the president confronts this week, crisis on the border and on Capitol Hill.

Up first for us though, Texas families measuring loss, and police mulling over motive after a mass shooter blast his way through an outlet mall, taking eight innocent lives.

On top of gunfire there, screams of where to run, sounds we are now, all much too used to hearing. Allen, Texas now the latest American city afflicted by a mushrooming gun epidemic, the mass shooting unfolding with breakneck speed.

You can see here the moment the 33-year-old shooter stepped out of his car. The minutes that followed said shoppers scattering behind cars, hiding inside supply closets as the gunman stalked victims. The gun captured in this image an AR-15 style weapon. The shooter witnesses say also wore a tactical vest stuffed with magazines full of ammunition. The chaos turned bystanders by Steven Spainhouer into first responders.


STEVEN SPAINHOUER, HELPED ALLEN, TEXAS SHOOTING VICTIMS: She was not able to be saved. I couldn't save the second guy. The third guy actually expired while I was trying to do chest compressions. The child came out from under, what I believe was the mother might have been a relative.

I don't know how the relation is. But we started to wander around asking for help saying, mom, mom, mama, mama. So, I just scooped the child up and took them about 15 feet away, so he or she couldn't see what was going on. There was so much blood on the child I couldn't tell the sex


KING: Today police drilling down on the motive, top of their minds of Right Wing Death Squad insignia worn by the gunman and an extensive social media presence that includes scores of posts married to neo- Nazi and white supremacist ideologies.

Let's get straight to the scenes, CNN's Josh Campbell is there. And Josh, you're doing some new reporting as well. What can you tell us about this shooter?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. We're learning more about this shooters' background. A law enforcement source tells me that he had previously served in the U.S. military for a brief period of time but was removed from the military over concerns about mental health issues.

Now CNN has reached out to the Pentagon for comment on the dates of service, which branch she was in. But again, new details there about this suspects' background of course, we know that he had also previously served as a security guard underwent weapons training. So that's all important as we look at this person who had this arsenal of weapons that he brought here to this mall and open fire on innocent people.

Now, we have not yet heard many details at all from police here that are running the investigation. In fact, the Texas Department of Public Safety, which is the lead here as part of a pattern we've seen in previous incidents. They tend to hold most information close to the vest, even though the community is demanding answers.

Nevertheless, we have been working our sources and are learning a lot about this suspect to include a possible motive. A law enforcement source tells me that authorities are looking into whether the suspect was motivated by right-wing extremism and that's for two key reasons.

First, after he was shot dead by a police officer in the middle of this mass attack, authorities examined his body, and on his chest found an insignia bearing the letters RWDS, which the source tells me authorities believe stands for Right Wing Death Squad. This is the same type of insignia that we've seen many extremist groups across the United States over the past few years. Their members wearing it protests and rallies.

Second, I'm also told by a source that law enforcement has uncovered an extensive social media presence by this suspect to include posts that the shooter made online regarding white supremacy, regarding neo- Nazi. So again, they don't have -- they haven't zeroed in on a specific motive, but it is becoming clear where this investigation is leading.


Finally, it's worth pointing out, John, that thus far of course, the major focus we always have is on the victims. Two of those victims have been identified. We are waiting for authorities to release information on the additional six, and of course even as his community grieves the loss of eight members here of this community, several others still in hospital, still recovering from those gunshot wounds and will likely be in recovery for some period of time, John?

KING: Josh Campbell, appreciate the reporting from the scene. And as you're absolutely right, the attention on -- focused on the two victims that I've identified so far. And we will get more information in the days ahead. Without a doubt, Josh, thank you.

Let's get some insights and perspective now from the former FBI Assistant Director Chris Swecker, and the former Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson.

Mr. Swecker to you first. So, you just heard Josh Campbell go through what we know, social media posting, neo-Nazi other white supremacist, the violent ideologies discharged from the military some kind of a mental health issue there. Is there any way to in advance connect these dots are in America where you have the gun laws being what they are? Is it just we only find this out after a tragedy like this yet again?

CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR THE CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIVE DIVISION: Yes, John. I maintain them in almost all of these mass shootings. There are red flags. I call it flashing red. People notice things. In fact, the military notice something and they apparently from that report, he was released from the military for mental reasons. Yet they train them on a weapon and then they send them out into the general public, and he gets a security guard job.

So, I'm all for these red flag laws, very strict ones. It at least gives you a tool or an avenue to intervene. And it's not, you know, it's not a permanent ban from weapon -- possessing weapons, it's a ban until you can get better.

The other thing is, I think we need to fix the background check system NICS's broken, the National Background Check System is instant check system is broken, and it needs to be fixed. And I can -- we don't have enough time here to go into all the reasons why it's broken.

And then, honestly, as a conservative, I still say that and I side with the IACP, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, certain shoulder weapons, semi-automatic weapons, extended magazines, armor piercing, weapon loads need to be rigorous, you need a rigorous background check. And some of them should be outright banned.

KING: I appreciate your identifying yourself as a conservative as you say that because I think that if we're going to have this conversation, I don't have any -- I'm not smart enough to know what the end should be. But I think we need to have this conversation and people need to come forward of all political persuasions say, let's get into a room and talk about these things.

To that point, Captain Johnson, you have another AR-15 style rifle being used. We've had this conversation too many times. As Chris Swecker notes, you have these social media postings, you have this patch, Right Wing Death Squad.

Again, we find these things out after the fact. Are there better ways? And does this depend on? Is it state? Is it a federal? Is it a local question, to try to get the dots connected beforehand, or to get people to raise those red flags?

CAPT. RON JOHNSON, MISSOURI STATE HIGHWAY PATROL: You know, I think we do have red flag issues here and there as a parent, but I think it's a federal issue. I think we have to be consistent. I think we have to have something that blankets our nation in a safe -- in a safer way. I think when we leave it up to everyone else, we'll see how some states are better than others.

And so, I think the federal government is going to have to get in here and do something because these things become commonplace in our country. And there are red flags. And we just have to make sure that we're utilizing those and understanding those in a better way about mental illness and some of the other things that we see here.

KING: And so, let's both -- let's all listen. This is the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, who understandably says, we're early in the investigation, but I wanted to listen this and we're talking the other side.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): I know that there are a lot of, let's say early stories about the shooter out there. What I could tell from talking to the investigators yesterday, and that is people should not jump to conclusions because there's a lot of conflicting information about him. Let the investigators work through the guy's background.


KING: And so, Chris Swecker, again to that point. The governor says mental health issues here, obviously so. You have raised questions about whether someone should be able to walk around with an AR-15 style rifle with so many guns -- so many bullets in a magazine.

I guess my question is, how do you get good-minded people in a room to have the conversation about all of those things that everybody's supposed to default, right? Some people say, oh, it's too many guns. Some people say there's just a mental health crisis. How can we have a conversation?

SWECKER: Yes, John. I mean, I spent 24 years in the FBI. I had responsibility for all the criminal investigations. And at that time, that included domestic terrorism. And I will tell you, there are right wing extremists and there are left wing extremists, and people get there whenever we have these conversations, you know, reasonable minds can differ on some issues.

But there are some -- I think there's common ground. I think the red flag laws are a common ground. I think fixing the NICS system is common ground. I think that looking hard at weapons that are only for killing people, should be on the table in terms of rigorous background. And I think there are just some people that shouldn't possess a gun again, back to the red flags law.


But I would point out I mean, we had someone run. We had a tragic incident in Brownsville that didn't involve a gun. It's still -- it's a mass casualty event. We have to address the people as much as anything else.

KING: Chris Swecker, Captain Johnson, appreciate your time. Gentlemen, I so will continue this conversation throughout the week and sadly, it's probably a safe bet, we'll have another one of these in addition in the days ahead as well. 202 mass shootings so far in America here on the eighth of May, so far this year. Gentlemen, thank you.

Last hour, as Chris Swecker just noted, there was a tragedy in Brownsville, Texas authorities leveling manslaughter charges now against the driver who plowed into and murdered eight people. The victims include migrants from Venezuela. Police giving a dramatic run through of what happened Sunday in Brownsville, Texas and detailing the drivers long, very long criminal rap sheets.

CNN's Nick Valencia is live for us right there in Brownsville. Nick, tell us what we've learned and it's quite troubling?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is quite troubling, John. Brownsville Police Department identifying the suspect in this case as one George Alvarez, who was distinctly known to him a long, long criminal history, which includes things like possession of marijuana, burglary, assault on family members as well as driving under the influence.

He's being charged with eight counts of manslaughter as well as 10 counts of aggravated assault. 18 people injured altogether with eight of those fatally injured. We understand that the investigation has taken, you know, a variety of scenarios, John.

They are looking at whether or not this could have been a malfunction of the car at the press conference. They did say it appeared that the driver ran through a red light and then appeared to lose control. But I asked a follow up question to the police chief here asking him, how were you able to rule out that this was not intentional? And he said at this point, the investigation cannot rule that out.

So that is another scenario that they're looking into. They are looking into also whether or not he was intoxicated. We understand that they've taken blood work from Mr. Alvarez and sent that to the Texas Department of Public Safety crime lab to figure out if he was impaired.

And earlier I spoke to some eyewitnesses who despite what investigators are saying, have no doubt in their mind that this was intentional. Cesar Romero, he's a Venezuelan national. He says some of those killed were his friends. Some of them had just arrived in the United States the day before. He said the driver got out of the car, tried to take off running. He says, no matter what police are saying he believes that this was done on purpose. John?

KING: Valencia on the ground for us in Brownsville. Nick, appreciate that important reporting. We know you'll stay on top of this one too as we fall yet another tragedy. Up next. We go live outside the Manhattan courtroom. Closing arguments underway today, right now on the civil battery defamation trial against Donald Trump.




KING: Right now, closing arguments underway in E. Jean Carroll's battery and defamation trial against Donald Trump. The jury expects to start its deliberations tomorrow after hearing from 11 witnesses including, the writer herself. The former president, however, opted not to testify instead. You can see it there George did see clips of his video deposition from last year, fielding questions from Carroll's attorney.

Let's go straight live to CNN's Kara Scannell outside the courthouse in New York City. Kara, walk us through one of the big revelations today.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, so closing argument is underway. E. Jean Carroll's attorney started off because her attorney Roberta Kaplan went about 90 minutes. And she told the jury that, you know, in this courtroom -- in this U.S. justice system, no one is above the law, not even a former president telling them that their job, today was to see that justice was done.

And so, Carroll's attorney pointed out that Trump didn't bother in her words to show up for this trial and saying that Donald Trump's own words, those words that they heard from the video deposition actually helped her case. They argued that Trump had, you know, mistaken E. Jean Carroll for his former wife Marla Maples in the deposition, being showed a photo of them.

And also pointing to the Access Hollywood tape, which they replayed again before the jury, you know, saying overlaying what Trump said on that tape. I just kiss women when I see them. With E. Jean Carroll's allegations of being raped in Bergdorf Goodman department store saying that, he would let her into the dressing room and just kissed her.

Trump saying that, you know, he just grabs women, detailing how Trump then raped E. Jean Carroll, and Trump saying that stars get away with it, unfortunately or fortunately, and then saying that he himself is a star.

So, she told the jury to focus on that, to focus on the allegations brought by the two other women who testified in this case, saying that that is Trump's MO to assault women in semi-public places. And then when they go public about it, to deny and to attack them.

You know, they also (Inaudible) so said that, you know, if they really wanted to know who was telling the truth in this case, that they should listen to Trump's own words going back again to that Access Hollywood tape saying that, this is what he really meant when he said it when he thought it was a private conversation on the Access Hollywood bus, not something that he was asked to say in a video deposition now.

So, saying that if they think that anyone in this case is lying is Donald Trump. And to believe Trump's version of events, they argued, you'd have to believe that every single other witness in this case was lying, John?

KING: And to that point, Kara, let's play a bit of the deposition because again to people at home, I apologize. He's a Donald Trump words, not my words. But he has said repeatedly that E. Jean Carroll is quote, not his type. To undermine in that deposition, the lawyers requesting him, and they got him caught him saying this.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: I don't even know who the woman. Let's see, I don't know who is Marla.

ROBERTA KAPLAN, E. JEAN CARROLL ATTORNEY: You say Marla is in this photo?

TRUMP: That's Marla, yes. That's my wife

KAPLAN: Which woman are you pointing to now?

TRUMP: Here.

KAPLAN: The person you've just pointed to is E. Jean Carroll.



KING: There is that. There is also again he said, he doesn't know. He never met her and there was a photo introduced from a party at the 1980s. Again, if you just saw this photo OK, one encounter at a party maybe you forget that, but then you have that moment in the deposition. And yet, despite all that that Trump's lawyers decided to not call him or he did not want to come in as a witness, decided they would just take their chance to what they have to sway to jurors. Is that math, right?

SCANNELL: So, it's a jury of six men and three women. And in court to get a verdict in this case, it has to be unanimous. So, they need to persuade just one or two people that Carroll's allegations here are wrong. So that there is not a unanimous verdict. It's the burden of proof is on Carroll's team. So, they're the ones that have to prove this case.

But the burden of proof here because it is a civil case is much lower than a criminal case is just, you know, by the preponderance of evidence. So, if you believe it more than 50 percent, then the jury could find in Carroll's favor. John?

KING: Kara Scannell, appreciate the updates throughout, especially today as we get near the end of this trial. Kara, thank you. Up next for us. The president's big week of major policy challenges. A big meeting on the debt limit at the White House and the threat of a big surge at the U.S.-Mexico border. This, as some brand-new polling suggests Americans have major doubts. The president is up for the job.




KING: President Biden facing two big policy challenges this week, at a time of rising doubts about his job performance Thursday, Title 42 that pandemic era immigration rule expires. Officials bracing for a surge of migrants at the southern border. And tomorrow, congressional leaders come to the White House to discuss raising the country's borrowing limits.

We are three weeks away from when the Treasury Department says the government will start to have trouble paying its bills. All of this is and perhaps the weakest point of the Biden presidency, a Washington Post-ABC poll found his job approval at just 36 percent. That's down six points since February.

Joining me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Jeremy Diamond, Seung Min Kim of the Associated Press, and CNN's Eva McKend. Policy first, the tough politics for the president in a moment tomorrow. He brings the entire congressional leadership but it's really about speaker McCarthy, the Republican House Speaker to the White House.

The idea is in three weeks or so, we bump up against the debt limit. Either the government gets the authority, Congress has to pass that to borrow more money, or the United States defaults and the U.S. economy perhaps the global economy go into great turmoil.

Over the weekend, if you're looking for somebody to say, OK, we have a big meeting, we're about to budge, not.


REP. JODEY ARRINGTON, (R-TX): We've lifted the debt ceiling. In our proposal, we'll pay our bills and protect the good faith and credit of the United States. But we're not going to give any politician including the president a blank check to continue to bankrupt the country.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES, (D-NY): They didn't produce a budget. What they did was produced a ransom note. That is what the default on America Act is.


KING: Any reason to believe that whether it's the president or the speaker would have to come from one of them too. They have a new idea, or are we just going to stare at each other until we get to the end of the month?

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: There is a lot of staring at least for tomorrow. Because keep in mind, this is actually the first meeting of these four leaders in their current positions. And certainly, the first meeting to really talk in depth about the debt limit issue. So, kind of going back to the playbook of previous crises. That first meeting is really all about posturing.

We know what their positions are. But they're going to make that clear face to face. And the real work, if there is real work to be done, you know, starts in the coming days. But no one knows what that solution will look like. This appears to me just having covered this a similar battle 12 years ago. This does seem a little bit more dire than it was then because there are -- there is kind of no sort of intersecting kind of area between the two sides.

And I think someone who could have been a really reliable negotiating partner this time around, which is Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell. He's making it clear kind of in any way possible that he is on team McCarthy here, and that he is supportive of whatever the speaker does.

KING: Right. That was a giant development in recent days when you have 43, I believe is the number of the 50 Senate, and 49 Senate Republicans signing on to a note saying, you've got no clean debt limit with these spending cuts with it. That essentially, McConnell has had consistently negotiate with the speaker, but now he's essentially saying, I got my guys in line too.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL REPORTER: Right. You're sort of on your own here. I'm not going to help Democrats out with this. What we're seeing, though, is the White House tried to take this argument to the American public. They know that Republicans are not moving here. And I think that, in my conversations with House Republicans, it seems like there's just sort of this deep resentment, especially amongst the right flank for the so-called as they characterize it as the administrative state.

So, you know, these arguments from Secretary Yellen, for instance, warning about calamity and catastrophe. I'm just not so sure that they're moved by this. So, it seems like and what Democrats are telling President Biden is take this to the American public say that this translates to Americans not receiving their social security payments to federal employees potentially getting late paycheck. KING: There are some House Republicans who say, it's not true, right, that there would not be a calamity. I don't know that we want to get there and figure out who's right on that question. The experts seem to think there would be. Let's add in policy challenge number two.

Tuesday, the meeting at the White House about the debt. Thursday, the pandemic essentially emergency is expiring. And with that goes Title 42. The Trump era policy that says, you can turn people away, even if they're seeking asylum. It used to be you could come into the United States until you had your court hearing, now you can turn them away.

There's expected about 7,500 people now about a day and counted at the border. They expect that could go to 10, could go to 12,000, could go higher. Kyrsten Sinema, now the independent senator from Arizona says, the administration is doing some things but not enough.