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Bipartisan Gun Talks Intensify, GOP Concerns Remain Key Obstacle; Takeaways From Primaries in Seven States Ahead of Midterms; Uvalde Native McConaughey Delivers Emotional Plea on Guns. Aired 7- 7:30a ET

Aired June 08, 2022 - 07:00   ET




GRANT HILL, NBA ON TNT COMMENTATOR: And I think it's interesting. Boston has been so up and down but good and tough and really resilient throughout these playoffs. You know Jason Tatum, a Duke guy, I'm a big fan of his. It will be interesting.

I still think Golden State, the experience, the institutional knowledge, I think when it's all said and done, I think they've been the favorite, they will win it. But I will say this, I've been wrong before.

BERMAN: Grant Hill, it's a terrific book, Game, a very revealing, as I said, and heartfelt book. Congratulations on that and congratulations for all of your success.

HILL: Thank you, I appreciate it.

BERMAN: Great to have you here.

New Day continues right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to viewers here in the U.S. and around the world, it is Wednesday, June 8th.

CNN has learned the most prominent Republican in the Senate supports raising the minimum age to buy a semiautomatic weapon like an AR-15 from 18 to 21. Mitch McConnell has said that in private, we are told, but he won't say it in public, and it is not likely to be part of any agreement on gun safety as talks heat up between Democrats and Republicans.

BERMAN: Republican Senator Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming said two weeks ago that she doubted that any plan to curb violence would be welcome in her very pro-gun state. Now, though, she's signaling an openness to finding legislative solutions because her office has been flooded with calls from constituents demanding an end to mass shootings.

KEILAR: Let's bring in CNN's Pamela Brown about some of the latest reporting that we're hearing on these negotiations and where this discussion goes from here. What are you learning, Pam?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR AND SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: So, I'm learning, me and my colleague, Manu Raju, have learned that the senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, has privately expressed to allies and to colleagues on Capitol Hill that he would be open to raising the age limit to 21 in buying semiautomatic rifle.

Now, his office says that he has not specifically advocated for anything, but he has specifically said that that would be something he would be open to because, as you well know in the Uvalde shooting and in the Buffalo shooting, these are both 18 year olds who were able to buy semiautomatic rifles and unleash on the shooting.

So, this is something that he has said he could be open to, but the reality remains that it's unlikely to be in the final package because the majority of Republicans are not supporting this.

Here is what Mitch McConnell said when asked about this issue on Capitol Hill.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): It won't surprise you to know that I'm not going to sit here and try to negotiate the deal with all of you guys. We're waiting to see if we can get an outcome that directly relates to the problem that brought this issue to the fore and I hope that we will have one sooner rather than later.


BROWN: Now, as you know, Brianna, he has tapped the Texas senator, John Cornyn, to lead the talks on guns and Senator Cornyn has repeatedly said that he does not believe that raising the age limit for semiautomatic rifles will be in the final package.

But it is interesting to note that while the minority leader isn't saying it publicly, privately he is expressing openness to that.

KEILAR: It is really interesting. He does not tend to go out on a limb where other Republicans are not. We know that about him. But it is, nonetheless, very interesting to learn that.

It's also interesting to watch some of the movement here and some of the indicators of how things may have changed a little bit, like Wyoming Senator Cynthia Lummis, who is a staunch conservative, and initially said she didn't think that there was really any wiggle room for change here, but then she's gotten this flood of calls from her constituents who are demanding it.

BROWN: It is really fascinating. Look, this is a senator who has touted that she has got A-plus rating consistently from the NRA. Wyoming, as you well know, is a pro-gun state. And she is saying that since the shooting in Uvalde and in Buffalo and the other shootings that her office has been flooded with phone calls from constituents saying basically do something to prevent mass shootings, do something. And so she has changed her tune. Initially, after the Uvalde shooting, she said that she didn't think that expanding background checks would be something that -- you know, that she would support in her state of Wyoming. Now, as you well know, as a part of the package that they are looking, as it does expand background checks for looking at juvenile records for people under the age of 21 to buy a semiautomatic rifle. That is under consideration right now. Also, federal incentives for red flag laws in states.

So, it's interesting that she is changing her tune on this and now seems open, has a fresh openness to some of these proposals that she wasn't right after the shooting because her office has been flooded with these calls.

KEILAR: Yes. What's clear is Republicans aren't going to do something without political cover, and it's voters who can give that to them. So, we will see if they feel they have that.


Pamela, thank you so much, great reporting.

BROWN: Thank you.

KEILAR: You can catch Pamela's show, of course, on Saturday and Sunday evenings here on CNN.

In a moment, we're going to speak with Dr. Sanjay Gupta on his powerful new op-ed about guns and the effects of assault-style weapons, what they do to the human body.

BERMAN: All right. This morning, we have the results from several key races as voters head to the polls in seven states yesterday. And as these races begin to take shape, we start to get a glimpse of what might lie ahead for the November midterms.

I want to bring in CNN Political Director David Chalian. David, I know you were up late or early, as they say, an important, very important results coming from California. Let's start in San Francisco, a recall there.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. I know this may seem like a local race, John, but I think the recall race for the San Francisco district attorney and the L.A. mayor's race get to a broader Democratic Party conversation about how the party is positioning itself on crime and trying to deal with being tagged as soft on crime by their opponents.

Take a look what happened in San Francisco. Should the district attorney, Chesa Boudin there, be recalled? Yes. The San Francisco D.A. is out of his job, voters have recalled him and not by a slim margin, 60 percent yes, 40 percent no.

Go look at that L.A. mayor's race, where the issue of crime and homelessness has been central to the campaign. Progressive Congresswoman Karen Bass was the front runner for much of this race. Rick Caruso, the billionaire Republican turned Democrat real estate developer who has made cleaning up L.A. and getting the crime rate down a key part of his campaign, they are headed for a November general election in California. You know, everybody runs in one primary ballot and the top two finishers advance to a general election. Nobody got over that 50 percent threshold. So, Caruso versus Bass will take place in November.

BERMAN: Before we move on, though, David, put that in perspective, why San Francisco and L.A. might be important, particularly for Democrats in the midterms

CHALIAN: Because, well, first of all, these are blue cities, right? So, Democrats are trying to learn lessons from where the electorate is right now. We know overall there is a discontent in the American electorate right now. There is certainly concern about inflation, gas prices but also this issue of crime.

This is why you saw Joe Biden in the state of the union address make sure to say fund the police, not defund the police. That's an overhang concern from 2020 when Democrats lost some seats, John, that they thought they should win in the battle for the House and they want to avoid those mistakes again and the electorate is telling them this is, even in these blue areas, a really important issue for politician to focus on.

BERMAN: It is important to watch going forward, right?

Montana now will have two House seats and there were some very interesting Republican primaries, especially one there, David.

CHALIAN: Well, yes. Ryan Zinke, you remember him, he's a former member of Congress turned interior secretary in the Trump administration, a scandal-plagued interior secretary. He left that job amid a cloud of scandal. He's seeking to go back to Congress. And as you noted, Montana now has two congressional districts after the decennial census. He is hanging on to a very slim lead in this primary, this is still too close to call. We're waiting for more votes to come in. 89 percent of the vote is in, John, Ryan Zinke slightly ahead here, maybe in a position to return to Congress.

BERMAN: All right. Get some coffee, go back to counting. David Chalian, great to see you this morning.

CHALIAN: You too.

KEILAR: All right. So, we do have some new CNN reporting shedding light on how Democrats are feeling regarding Attorney General Merrick Garland's investigation into Donald Trump's role in the January 6 insurrection. Two dozen leading Democrats in Washington and across the country telling CNN that Garland may have missed his moment to bring criminal charges against top Trump administration officials before it gets caught up in the 2024 presidential campaign.

With us now, CNN Senior Reporter Isaac-Edward Dovere and CNN Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Isaac, it sounds like they're really fretting here. ISAAC-EDWARD DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: There is a lot of panic and it is getting increased by the day here, in part because the calendar is ticking away, in part because you saw last week decisions not to prosecute two former Trump aides for contempt of Congress related to the January 6 committee and in part because Donald Trump seems like he is getting ready to at least make a lot of noise about running again.

And if the feeling is that the prosecution is against him, look like they are just part of a campaign against him, then Democrats feel like it will be undermined. One Democrat, David Cicilline, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said to me, there are a lot of people who feel like Donald Trump just gets away with everything, he is going to get away with it again and we can't let that happen.

KEILAR: What do you think about this?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I think Isaac is exactly right in his story about this concern and I think Merrick Garland does not care.


I think this is the kind of attorney general he is, he is conducting this investigation the way he would if these were not political people. He is someone who just does not want to see the Justice Department making any sorts of decisions based on politics, based on the political calendar. And if that winds up being a problem, too bad.

KEILAR: Can he overcorrect, though? Could he be overcorrecting in this?

TOOBIN: He certainly could but that's not something he's going to worry about. I mean, this is just who he is. And I've done my own reporting with him, I've talked to others, I've known and followed his career for a long time. He is just someone who says, we are going to do a criminal investigation the way we do a criminal investigation, and let the political chips fall where it may.

Now, the one area where it may actually help Democrats, if that's the right word, is that he would not be afraid to do an indictment during the political season because he's just going to proceed as the calendar and the investigation dictates, not the political calendar dictates.

KEILAR: That's interesting. I wonder if that factors into the understanding of Democrats. Do you think?

DOVERE: Somewhat, it's, as Jeff said, the solace that some of them have here. But in the Justice Department, there is the sense that this is -- there are five-year statutes of limitations on the riot, right? That means that all through January 2026, prosecutions could be happening. But that if it's going to happen in a way that doesn't become Donald Trump feeding it into the narrative of people are trying to get me, they tried to get me and they missed, which is another thing to be worried about here. It's all of this, it's just in this abnormal moment trying to figure out where the norms are. TOOBIN: Again, if there is a possible silver lining for all of this, is that if, ultimately, Garland's Justice Department does bring charges against senior White House officials under President Trump, it will be a lot tougher to make the argument, he is just a political hack out to get Donald Trump because he has frustrated Democrats so much so far.

KEILAR: But then what does a 2024 run look like or a consideration for a run if this gets pushed closer to that timeline?

DOVERE: Well, look, some of the political thinking out there is that one thing that might be pushing Donald Trump to run is the idea that it would undermine any prosecutions against him related to January 6 but also related to any other things that might be out there, whether it's what's going on in New York with the attorney general or in Georgia with the case there about the push to get the secretary of state to maybe change votes.

And that is all part of this too. It's this very strange time that we are living in and Merrick Garland trying to be the norm-keeper, the person devoted to the law as he sees what he needs to do and not think about these things, but it's just impossible to not have it factor in

TOOBIN: And remember, too, that Georgia prosecution is under the control of the district attorney in Atlanta, not under the Justice Department at all. So, the political calculations there might be very different.

KEILAR: Isaac and Jeffrey, thank you to both of you for the conversation. Berman?

BERMAN: So, a stark warning from the Department of Homeland Security, threats in the U.S. could become even more volatile this year and soon fueled by election year misinformation and potential violence surrounding an upcoming Supreme Court ruling on abortion rights.

Joining me now, former Homeland Security Secretary under President Obama Jeh Johnson. He is currently a partner at Paul, Weiss. Secretary, thank you so much for being with us.

This DHS bulletin does warn of the possibility of violence, talks about, you know, copycats from Uvalde and other mass shootings, talks about disinformation or surrounding elections, talks about domestic extremists acting up before the midterms and then possible violence around the Supreme Court decision. How serious do you see this?

JEH JOHNSON, FORMER SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: A bulletin is a lot to digest, as you just implied. Let me try to read between the lines here because I used to write these when I was secretary of homeland security.

So, DHS is giving us the general threat picture, the threat environment, it is then saying this is what we, DHS and the FBI, are doing about it, and this is what you the public can do. This statement talks about the more traditional foreign-inspired acts of potential terrorism, it talks about upcoming events and it talks about mass shootings, personal grievances. That encompasses Uvalde, it encompasses Buffalo. So, there is a lot to digest.

The common thread through all of this is a warning to the public to be aware of the potential for other mass shooting events. You're correct, sometimes there are copycat acts of violence inspired by what someone sees happen some other place a week or two before.

Notably, the statement does not discourage the public from going to public gatherings, like July 4th events, which I think is very helpful and useful, but it says be aware, be safe and if you see something, say something.


BERMAN: It's very interesting what it says and what it doesn't say both very important. Just so people know, you have got the bulletin literally in front of you and have dissected it with your pen breaking it down to understand what it's saying. So, I think that's very helpful.

Along these lines, you were talking about the shooting in Uvalde, 19 children killed there. You wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post which touches on a subject that I think is increasingly under discussion, which is should the public see the awful images of the effects of these shootings, the awful images of dead children? Where do you come down on that?

JOHNSON: We need a game-changer in this debate. I worry that the discussions going on in Congress right now will go the way that these discussions often go. I thought that after Sandy Hook, there would be change. I thought that after Parkland, there would be change. I worry that the opponents of change will win out again. We need a game changer.

As you know, pictures say 1,000 words and there are some images that words cannot adequately describe or convey. Images, pictures, videos have changed the course of history in this country and elsewhere. Think about the images from the Vietnam War. Think about the George Floyd video. Think about the images from the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

I do not have -- and I say this in the op-ed, I do not have the moral standing to urge a parent to display images of their dead child. I do know this, why should a child who survived that incident, who was an eyewitness to that incident, who will have to bear the grief of witnessing that incident for the rest of her life be subject to this, but lawmakers, who through their action or inaction, fail to bring about more gun safety in this country, why are they spared? Why are the constituents that elect them spared?

And so we need a game changer. We need some way to bring the public closer to how tragic these shootings are, how awful these shootings are, and images throughout history have most often done that.

BERMAN: Emmett Till, it's almost as if you're saying if you don't see it, you can't face it. JOHNSON: If you don't see it you can't face it, as I said in the op- ed. We need an Emmett Till moment, in my view. And I'm surprised when I say that. The number of people, multiple generations, white and black in this country understand exactly what that means.

BERMAN: And I will note that there have been parents of children killed in mass shootings who have been part of these discussions. I've heard some come down and say they just couldn't do it. Ultimately, they could not do it. But it is something that they are thinking about to change things.

I want to ask you one last question, this about the Secret Service. The Washington Post was first to report and CNN matched it yesterday on January 6, when former President Trump said he was going to march to the Capitol, the Secret Service started making frantic phone calls to see if they could help him, could make that happen. Ultimately, they decided they couldn't and they had been working for a few weeks to see if they could get him to march for the Capitol because he was pushing for it. What does that tell you, in general?

JOHNSON: So, as secretary of DHS, I used to be the oversight for the Secret Service, I was also a Secret Service protectee, so I know the Secret Service. It is a can-do government agency if you give them advanced notice of what it is you'd like to do.

This was never going to work, putting the president of the United States in a -- in a crowd of unscanned people who may or may not be armed, who have been whipped up by the rhetoric of that rally was just never going to work. And somebody obviously said, Mr. President, we can't do this, and that was the right call.

BERMAN: Secretary Jeh Johnson, great discussion, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

BERMAN: Ahead, a son of Uvalde, Texas, Actor Matthew McConaughey pleading with Congress to take action on gun safety.


MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, ACTOR AND UVALDE, TEXAS NATIVE: These are the same green Converse on her feet that turned out to be the only clear evidence that could identify her after the shooting. How about that?


BERMAN: Plus, more than 2,000 migrants heading towards the United States from Southern Mexico. A presidential adviser will join us to discuss.

KEILAR: And a warning from target that could signal a rough road ahead for retailers.




KEILAR: This morning, the House Oversight Committee will hold a hearing on gun violence. Among those testifying, a fourth grade student at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, who survived last month's school massacre and Uvalde's only pediatrician who treated victims.

At Tuesday's White House press briefing, Actor and Uvalde Native Matthew McConaughey spoke about the effects that assault-style weapons have on the human body.


MCCONAUGHEY: These bodies were very different, they needed much more than makeup to be presentable. They needed extensive restoration. Why? Due to the exceptionally large exit wounds of an AR-15 rifle. Most of the bodies so mutilated that only DNA tests or a green Converse, could identify them. Many children were left not only dead but hollow.


KEILAR: Joining us now to discuss this CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

And, Sanjay, you have a new essay that's really about this. It's about the impact of AR-15 style weapons on the human body. And you talk about how your professor at med school taught about the impact of different firearms on the human body using watermelons. What did you learn?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This was some 30 years ago and it was pretty an indelible experience, I think, for most of us med students who, on the last day of this particular lecture, took us to a gun range with handguns and rifles and basically fired at watermelon sitting on top of barrels to give us an idea of exactly the difference between these different firearms.

And it was something that really, you know, I think stuck with all of us, much in the way that showing black lungs really makes you never want to smoke. You looked at a handgun, you saw that watermelon have an entrance wound and an exit wound like Matthew was just talking about, with a handgun. The wounds were about the same size. You could see the beveling of the skin on the entrance wound inward and beveling outward on the exit wound but a linear sort of bullet-sized trajectory.

With an AR-15 or rifle in that case, you saw an entrance wound that may have been similar size but you saw an exit wound that was much bigger. But inside the watermelon, when we opened up that watermelon, we basically saw that it had been cored out. There was so much energy that was actually transferred inside the watermelon that it just sort of shredded all the tissue inside. That's what happens.

You just saw the difference in force there, foot-pounds of force, between a handgun, the velocity and the energy coming out of that versus a rifle is very different. And people have a misconception often that, again, many people who study these types of things understand but the munition itself is often smaller than one of these AR-15 style rifles, larger in a handgun, it is all about the velocity. And that velocity creates so much different energy within the body and that causes these types of injuries that Matthew and everyone else has been talking about.

BERMAN: And, Sanjay, you also talk about your time reporting and even operating in Iraq. What did you learn there?

GUPTA: Well, you know, it was interesting. When I was over there and when I was finishing med school, there was a ban on these types of -- these types of AR-15-type weapons in the United States. So, we weren't seeing a lot of these in hospitals. So, the first time I saw these types of injuries on an actual body, not a watermelon was over in Iraq and, I mean, it was -- it was, again, just this indelible thing.

Mark Biello, who's the cameraman and I, there were things that still very hard to talk about. But when you see a weapon, a firearm like that that can blow a limb completely off a body or in the beginning when these patients would come in, we weren't sure if they had been shot or if they had been a victim of an IED or grenade explosion or something. That's how challenging it was sometimes.

And then coming back to the states, you know, in the mid part of, you know, last decade and starting to see these types of injuries in my home city, that was -- that was quite stunning.

KEILAR: I mean, that's why when Berman was talking to the head of trauma surgery out of San Antonio, she's talking about major tissue loss, right, from what she was dealing with.

I wonder is there good data when it comes to deaths from gun violence, Sanjay, so that we can really drill down on this?

GUPTA: This is an interesting point, Brianna. There's better data now, but, you know, people who study this understand that there's something known as the Dickey Amendment that was passed in 1996, 25, 26 years ago.


And, basically, that amendment made it really hard to collect this sort of data if they said that, look, that data was going to be used in any way to advocate for gun control.