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Anger, Frustration Erupts at Uvalde School Board Meeting; GOP Candidate Brandishes Gun, Urges the Hunting of RINOs in Ad; Bipartisan Proposal to Overhaul Electoral Vote Counting Process. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired June 21, 2022 - 07:00   ET




ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This surveillance picture shows officers standing in the school's hallway with rifles and a ballistic shield with a time stamp of 19 minutes after officials say the gunman entered the school.

TON PLOHETSKI, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN: It shows in the minds of at least some investigators reviewing what happened that day is that authority has adequate fire power and adequate protective equipment, 58 minutes passed from the time we see these officers in that video, in that screen grab, to when they ultimately breach that classroom.

R. FLORES: Just 12 minutes before at 11:40, Uvalde School District Chief Pete Arrendondo called the Uvalde Police Department from inside the school asking for help. According to a transcript, Arrendondo says, it's an emergency right now. We have him in the room. He's got an AR-15. He's shot a lot. They need to be outside the building prepared because we don't have firepower right now. It's all pistols.

After reviewing body camera footage, The Statesman writes, Arrendondo was trying to find keys to open the classroom's doors even though officials say they do not believe officers had tried to open either door. The Texas Tribune reports, officers held their positions outside the adjoining classrooms as the gunman fired at least three more times. The Tribune released a surveillance picture, it says it's from 12:04 P.M. that shows multiple officers with at least two ballistic shields. Police would not enter the classroom for another 46 minutes.

In transcripts reviewed by The Tribune, officers were growing impatient. One agent asks, are there still kids in the classroom? To which another agent answers, it is unknown at this time. The agent replies, you all don't know if there're kids in there? If there're kids in there, we need to go in there. The other agent responds, whoever is in charge will determine that.

STATE SEN. ROLAND GUTIERREZ (D-TX): All of those officers are trained in an active shooter situation. And from the very beginning, even the ones that didn't have the ballistic shields, they should have just gone in. That's what their protocol suggests. Children were left in a room, scared to death, calling 911 and yet no one went in.

R. FLORES: The --


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. In just a moment, we are going to speak to Jose Flores Sr., the father of Jose Flores Jr., a ten-year- old who was killed in the shooting. We're going to ask that father what it's like now to see these images which raised so many questions about the length of time it took for officers to try to breach that classroom door.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: A leading contender for the Republican Senate nomination in Missouri, Eric Greitens, releasing a controversial campaign ad urging his supporters to hunt RINOs, an acronym for Republicans in name only.

The video shows Greitens accompanied by other men dressed in military gear barging into a home guns raised, and it ends with Greitens saying, quote, get a RINO hunting permit, there's no bagging limit, no tagging limit and it doesn't expire until we save our country.

Now, Facebook has removed this ad.

Joining us now is Republican Missouri Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden who says he contacted law enforcement hours after that video was released. Sir, thank you so much for being with us.

Can you tell us why you decided to contact law enforcement?

STATE SEN. CALEB ROWDEN (R-MO): Well, yes, good to be with you. You know, former Governor Greitens had been in a custody dispute in my home county of Boone County, and he may be there even this week. He's been accused of abusing his wife and abusing his kids. There are folks even in Boone County, my hometown, where these court proceedings are happening. They don't feel safe. I think this is an ongoing record and ongoing pattern of just being mentally unstable. And this is just another in a long line of issues that the former governor has had.

And so we wanted to make sure that we were serious about it. Some of the other rhetoric we got from other folks, his followers, we thought it was completely out of bounds and, clearly, he is leading the charge. And so we wanted to take this serious and so we made those calls.

KEILAR: You are worried he's a danger to others?

ROWDEN: Well, I mean, I think he's in the middle of his custody dispute with his ex-wife regarding potentially abusing her, potentially abusing his kids. You know, I think that there's any number of things that can come from that. And I think it's a serious thing for us to take seriously. We're talking about a guy who's trying to represent Missouri in the United States Senate. You know, this guy just has a pattern and a record of not putting anyone else first other than himself. And so, I think this is just meant to be a stunt. But I think Missourians are smarter than this and hopefully they'll send him packing in August.

KEILAR: Leader Rowden, I am curious, do you worry that this really will put public officials, an ad like this, that it could put them at danger, that it could inspire violence against them?


ROWDEN: Well, I mean, I think you have to think about, first of all, the ad, which was ludicrous and crass and was way out of bounds. And then you have the response from people who follow the disgraced former governor. And so, you know, he clearly can't control what those folks are going to do.

I mean, you have to keep in mind, this guy, he came into office and, you know, had a lot of success, potentially in front of him. All he had to do is govern in a way and not do some of these things that he did ended up tying women in a basement and be accused of some many different things. He calls people RINOs. He was a Democrat. He literally drove to Colorado to watch Obama be nominated in 2008. He was in serious talks to run against Senator Blunt as a Democrat, serious talks to run against Congressman Luetkemeyer as a Democrat, would have run as a Democrat for governor in 2016 were it not for the fact that Missouri was turning red.

And so this guy doesn't have a moral compass. He has no moral center. And so I think we should take anything that he says seriously and I certainly don't think he's fit to hold public office.

KEILAR: Is he fit to have access to a weapon? Should he have access to a weapon?

ROWDEN: I mean, I think that's a matter for the court. Clearly, we have laws that govern those things. I certainly think that as we sit here right now being in the middle of this custody dispute and these accusations being now public of him potentially abusing his wife, abusing kids, I mean, I think those are serious accusations.

And so you have to let the court process play out. But it is clear that this guy is unfit to hold office. He has disgraced the people of Missouri, the state of Missouri. And for anybody who's looking at this race, there are plenty of other good, conservative candidates in the race, frankly, who aren't crazy, right?

And so, there's the personal reality of the ongoing issues with his family that I think, you know, those should be taken seriously. But there's the political reality. Missouri should be governed by a reasonable commonsense conservative and hopefully we can do that in August.

KEILAR: Majority Leader Rowden, we appreciate your time this morning. Thank you for being with us on New Day.

ROWDEN: You bet.

BERMAN: Joining us now, Michael Smerconish, CNN Political Commentator and Host of CNN's Smerconish.

Michael hard truth here, is Eric Greitens getting everything he wants out of this?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Probably he is. Do you remember Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets, go so crazy someplace else because we're all stocked up here? Those are the sentiments you're not hearing among individuals trying to reach the base of the GOP these days. Because to answer your question, John, he's probably a fundraising magnet, I bet he's raising a lot of money based on this ad, which is obviously appalling, and, wow, how the mighty have fallen.

I remember Eric Greitens about a decade ago coming into my radio studio. He had written a book the subtitle of which was The Education of a Humanitarian. He was so impressive. This was a guy who had served his country, someone that you thought also understood the need to not only be strong but to be a humanist and a humanitarian. And my audience was enthralled with him. So was I.

That's not an Eric Greitens that puts out an ad like we're talking about right now. And, sadly, he might be rewarded because elections today are all about passion and driving the base and not persuasion. No one is seeking to convince people who wouldn't typically be inclined to vote for someone of the other party to do that, and I think that's the big picture.

KEILAR: Yes. And Joe Walsh was on and he said it's not a matter of might, he said he will be rewarded. I think that's completely what we should expect here.

What do you think Republican leaders should do, Michael, especially you mentioned ten years ago? Ten years ago, Todd Akin was getting ostracized for saying something about rape and abortion, which almost, n a way, what he said pales in comparison to this ad. What do you think Republican leaders should do with this?

SMERCONISH: They ought to condemn it, Brianna, and they ought to be prepared to throw the long ball, to play the long game, not to worry about the immediate election but to make a determination as to what's in the best interest long-term of the party and of the nation.

Look, I tie this all together with what's going on relative to January 6 and how former Vice President Mike Pence is speaking, but he's speaking through Greg Jacob and he's speaking through Marc Short and he's not speaking directly. Why isn't he speaking directly? His was the life imperiled on January 6th. It's because he's afraid of the very people that Eric Greitens is trying to reach.


Pence wants the nomination, wants to run for president but recognize that he can only get there if the sort of people who will look fondly on that Greitens appeal would be for him. Otherwise, Pence would be testifying, that's my point. BERMAN: Yes. On Greitens, though, just walk us through how this works. Because Greitens puts the ad up, say Mitch McConnell comes out and says this is despicable, then Greitens comes out and says, what, says, don't let Mitch McConnell tell you how to vote in Missouri, right?

SMERCONISH: Right. I mean, yes, and similar to something that you were also making reference to, which is the social media reaction. Because probably the best thing that can happen for Greitens is that he gets shunned by Facebook and he gets shunned by Instagram. Because then he can rail against big tech and throw Mitch McConnell in there, right? It's all the institutional factors who are now against me. That plays well with the base also.

So, it's very difficult to see exactly how you punish him unless voters recognize, hey, this has gone way too far. Really, go sell crazy someplace else because we're all stocked up here.

BERMAN: Michael Smerconish, as always, thank you for the Jack Nicholson quotes, very helpful.

SMERCONISH: See you guys.

BERMAN: All right. We do get major developments overnight from Uvalde, Texas. The Austin American-Statesman released this photo. They obtained this photo. If you look closely at that, what you can see is you can see a police officer inside the building with a ballistic shield. And, again, if you look closely there are two others with rifles. This picture was time stamped at 11:52 A.M., 19 minutes after the shooter first entered the school, but a full 58 minutes before law enforcement ultimately breached the classroom door and took out the shooter. We have not seen an image like this before.

Joining me now is Jose Flores Sr. His ten-year-old son, Jose Flores Jr., was one of the victims killed in the Uvalde shooting. Jose, thank you for being with us.

I can't imagine how hard it is for you to see these images as they're released for the very first time. But tell me what you think when you look at that picture.

JOSE FLORES SR., FATHER OF UVALDE SCHOOL SHOOTING VICTIM, JOSE FLORES JR.: I mean, it's -- I feel anger. I mean, that's not right. I mean, cowards, they let our kids down, let them in there scared and crying and they abandoned them, just like one of the teachers said in his interview, policemen abandoned the kids in his class as soon as they heard gunshots.

They're supposed to be, I mean, trained professionals, bulletproof vests, heavy automatic weapons in their cars. I don't understand the reason why they stood back that long from them to go back in. I mean, somebody has to pay for it. Somebody had fought for our kids' lives being taken.

I mean, the chief, they still haven't fired him. He's still in office. Something has to be done. Police officers that were there, two of them, I don't know, they haven't fought. Uvalde P.D., they haven't fought for it for our kids' lives taken away, just standing back a whole hour, leaving aside with that gunman, it's not right. It's cowardly stuff, man.

BERMAN: We haven't seen the ballistic shield before, certainly not at 11:52. We hadn't seen the long rifles, certainly not at 11:52. What does it tell you that they were there for 58 minutes?

J. FLORES: Yes, and that's not right, because they're lying to the public, saying they didn't have the right equipment. That's what they were waiting for. And that's when they stood back because they didn't have the right equipment and a lot of dumb excuses, you know? And it's slowly showing their error, and that's what they're trying to cover up because it was their error.

I mean, hopefully, it all comes out and somebody pays for it because they took our kids' lives. We got to pay for the rest of our lives seeing our kids not here anymore. I got to wake up in the morning and not have my son come to me because of their error. It's not right.

BERMAN: I also want to note that your son, Jose Jr., he wanted to be a police officer.



BERMAN: how hard has it been for you to get answers?

J. FLORES: I mean, they're not saying anything at all. They're not -- telling us nothing. They're just excuses. They're trying to cover up their tracks. They're trying to get -- getting lawyers or something, to represent Uvalde County, for them not to get evidence, not giving any other information. So, I mean, they haven't really said anything much.

And every time they have meetings in the city, they don't let anybody in. So, how are you supposed to get answers? They just let the officers in or whoever is having a meeting in there. They don't let no cameraman, they don't let us in. They kicked us out, like the one from yesterday. I wasn't there but I heard about it.

BERMAN: What do they say to you? What do they say to you when you try to get answers?

J. FLORES: No, I'm not really worried about it because, I mean, it's all going to come out soon, and it's coming out because it's their mistake, somebody's mistakes always come out. So, I mean, they're coming out slowly. So, I'm just -- within time, it all comes out.

I mean, I don't have time to be looking around. I'm just -- I'm trying to get through it one day at a time. My son not being here is more important than worry about other stuff.

BERMAN: Tell us how you are getting through the days right now. J. FLORES: I mean, I'm going back to work, distract the mind, keep busy. Because, I mean, I had my son since he was ten, all day, every day, he was with me. And now, for ten years, he was living, now I don't. So, I got to get used to not having him being home. It's kind of hard but I got to do it for my other kids. I got more kids. So, i can't let them see me down.

BERMAN: I'm sure they know you are there for them and I'm also sure that they are there for you. What do you want to see happen in the coming days and weeks?

J. FLORES: I mean, action. Somebody has to pay for this. I mean, that chief is still on duty. I mean, that's a joke. That's like laughing on our faces, still having him in there after he has 21 lives under him for his nonsense actions. And then the officers, I mean, they were just following orders but I'm pretty sure one of those officers had kids, a child in that room. If he were to not took that order, he would've still went in there.

But, I mean, I want to just see somebody -- somebody's error was made there and they've got to pay for that error because we're paying it for the rest of our lives, not seeing our kids go on, you know, graduate, be a father, you know, like you don't get to see that from them.

BERMAN: When you say you want them to pay, pay how?

J. FLORES: I mean, somebody's -- he has 21 lives under his -- under him. So, I mean, murder charges, 21 murder charges, counts, like something, go to jail, like you name it. We got to pay for the rest of our lives not seeing our kids, like that's not right just for his simple error. That's not right, like just he was just seeing at as a simple error. No. It's like big-time error, like 21 lives, in prison time for his life, something, not just being fired, because this is a laugh in our face just firing him. He needs do his life (INAUDIBLE). That's not right.

BERMAN: Jose, before we let you go, can you just tell us about your son, what kind of kid he was?

J. FLORES: Yes. He was always a happy kid, man, like smiling all the time. I mean, he loved being outdoors. He loved playing baseball, video games. He liked to be adventurous. He would pick certain random stuff up from the floor, little rocks, sticks, like he was adventurous. He's just a happy kid to be around. He was a good big brother.


I mean, he hated school so much. I mean, I wish I did not send him to school that day but I was trying to get him to learn because he wanted to be a policeman. So, I was on him to be good grades, be in school every day. And school he hated so much, thinking he was safe at the school, and this is what happened, right, you know?

BERMAN: Jose, again, we're so sorry. He should be on summer vacation with you right now.


BERMAN: I know he is in your thoughts, he is in your prayers and always will be.

Jose Flores Sr., thank you for being with us. Know that we are thinking about you.

J. FLORES: Yes, sir. Thank you.

BERMAN: We'll be back in just a moment.



KEILAR: The January 6th committee hearings are highlighting the importance of then-Vice President Mike Pence's refusal to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election despite pressure from Donald Trump and his supporters to do so. They argued that Pence had the right to reject or replace state electors because of what is stipulated in the Electoral Count Act of 1887.

Of course, almost nobody outside of Trump world agrees with that analysis, including Mike Pence himself. But now, a group of bipartisan senators is working to make reforms to Electoral Count Act to avoid the possibility of future confusion and chaos.

So, joining me now to talk about this is CNN Anchor and Correspondent Audie Cornish. What have we heard so far in these hearings and what issues have been highlighted?

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Well, first, I want to say that there are so many things people are talking about in terms what can be done, in terms accountability, right? Will the Justice Department could X, Y and Z? That's out of the hands of lawmakers. What's in their hands are legislative fixes. And that's what we're hearing about now that the hearings have brought into relief.

So, you mentioned a couple, the idea of alternate state electors. Who can improve that? Who can challenge it? What is the role of the vice president? These are the things that the hearings have brought into relief as being vulnerable potentially to manipulation, to legal questioning, and that's what they have been outlining so far.

KEILAR: And what could lawmakers actually do here?

CORNISH: Well, first, I want to say that people are not talking about abolishing the Electoral College. I know there was a lot of op-ed kind of writing about that a long time ago. There is now a focus on the Electoral College Count Act and reforming that, clarifying these ambiguities.

And to Susan Collins and Joe Manchin, both senators are leading this charge. Joe Manchin, obviously a Democrat, Susan Collins, a Republican, she was writing just a few weeks back in an op-ed that, you know, this is not a situation where you want to have heroisism (ph). This is where you want clarity. And you should not have to rely on, say, the fidelity of any given person in office to make sure that the peaceful transfer of power happens without issue.

Some of the things they're looking at, putting money and grant funds into protect election officials at the state level who may be taking on a lot of threats. We've seen that in the last election cycle. Also, again, making clarification on the vice president's role, making it clear that its ceremonial opening, counting, certifying, not challenging, delaying, sending it back, any of that stuff that was kind of sort of tossed around during the crisis with the former vice president. And also making some rules for how states should deal with their electoral slate.

At the time, I know you and other people, we're all reporters, we're hearing, are there alternate electors? Are those fake electors? Are they real electors? This is all the stuff that could have been settled. And the voters have done their part. They went to the ballot box. They jumped through every hoop legislatively that's been put in their way. And then it gets to Congress and it's like mishegoss. So, I think they want to say, let's put some clarity and let's underscore some of the key parts.

KEILAR: Is there -- for this bipartisan group of senators, are they facing obstacles as they're trying to clear this up?

CORNISH: Anything bipartisan faces an obstacle in this current environment in Washington, as we hear gun control, that sort of thing. In this case, it's a question of will there be a contingent of people, let's say Democrats or progressives, who say, hey, remember all that voting rights stuff that we asked for and things to create national guidelines at the state level for voting laws? Maybe some of that should be in here too. You have people like Susan Collins saying, oh, I don't want to re-litigate these past bits of legislation that were not successful. Let's keep this narrow and focused.

You also have the ticking clock in the House itself. If you reach midterms when some of these recommendations might land and you don't pass anything, are you really going to count on House Republican contingent or a speaker McCarthy to put in these reforms? A lot of people think that is probably not going to not put you on the path to making changes.

KEILAR: Yes, that may be a safe bet. Audie, thank you so much, I really appreciate, Audie Cornish.

CORNISH: Thank you for having me.

KEILAR: Next, we'll be joined by the family of a U.S. Marine veteran who has been detained in Venezuela for nearly two years now, their urgent plea to President Biden.

BERMAN: The U.S surgeon general joins New Day as vaccines for the nation's youngest begin to out.


And late night host Stephen Colbert addressing the arrest of members of his production team while they were filming.