Return to Transcripts main page

The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Urgent Manhunt Underway After Gunman Kills 18 In Maine; Florida Cargo Flights Arranged By DeSantis Carried Drones And Body Armor For Israel; Ron DeSantis Talks 2024 Race With Kaitlan. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired October 26, 2023 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Just moments ago, we identified another victim, bowling alley manager, Tommy Conrad. He was 34-years-old. He's survived by his 9-year-old daughter. His family confirming the sad news, to CNN affiliate, WMTW.

The news continues. THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS starts now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- for the property's in question, that they executed those search warrants. So, it was a very active scene. Police left earlier. They came back, and heard the demands, from Maine State Police, saying Robert --

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE SOURCE. I'm Kaitlan Collins.

And tonight, we have just been watching a dramatic scene play out, at the home of the suspected gunman, in Maine, who I should note is considered armed and dangerous and still on the run, tonight.

For hours, law enforcement surrounded, what is the last known address, of 40-year-old Robert Card. It's the second time that they have been at his house, today. And we have seen some local law enforcement leaving the home, this evening. But there is still some activity that we are monitoring.

The alleged gunman, in last night's shooting that killed 18, and injured more than a dozen people, is still at large, tonight.

And we're going through these updates. The devastated city of Lewiston, Maine is still locked down, businesses are closed. People are understandably terrified.

I want to get straight to CNN's Brian Todd, who is in Bowdoin, Maine, has been covering all of this, as we've seen just this swarm of activity happening, outside this address, tonight.

Brian, I mean, I believe we just saw some of these forces, who were there, leaving. What do we know, right now?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Kaitlan. It seems that in the last couple of minutes, right before you came on, the final law enforcement vehicles that were there seem to have pulled out. They just kind of screamed right past us here. I'd say there were three or four of them.

But just moments before that, there were about seven law enforcement vehicles, that had pulled out. They had kept a vehicle, basically right in front of the house, with a spotlight, trained on the house. Right behind me here now is complete darkness.

So, we do get an indication now, just from the physical eye on the ground that we're seeing that law enforcement has left the area.

But this has been quite a tense scene, I can say, over the last two hours. They had been here earlier today. They had used flash-bangs, as they approached the house, seemingly, in an effort to possibly shock anybody, who might be in the house that we're told that is standard procedure. We're not sure exactly what they did, at the house, at that time. But then, they all left.

Then, at about 7 PM Eastern Time, roughly two hours ago, a lot of law enforcement assets, just flooded back into this area, very quickly. They set up a perimeter around it.

They had air assets, like drones, helicopters, and other things. They had canine teams out here. They had a lot of tactical, hot -- heavily- armored vehicles hear. They surrounded the house. They trained a spotlight on the house. They had flashing lights all around.

And then, we started to observe some dialog. It was one-way dialog. It was a law enforcement officer, on a bullhorn, with a spotlight on the house, talking to whoever might be in the house.

Now, since then, we've gotten indications that it was unknown, whether he was in the house or not. And the fact that they just all have left, I would say, likely indicates that he was not in the house.

But at that time, they did not know whether he was in the house or not. So, they started to give commands like, "Please come out with your hands up," "Come out with nothing in your hands," "Come to the front of the house and follow our instructions," "Come to the front of a truck," there was seemingly a truck in the driveway there, "and follow our instructions."

They even made kind of almost personal appeals, to whoever might be in there, saying, "We know this could be intimidating for you. We don't want anyone else to get hurt." So, that led us to believe that "Wow, they might have actually pinned him down in the house."

But the more this kind of played out, Kaitlan, and the more information that we got, from our colleagues, working their sources, was this was pretty much due diligence, that they just had to kind of use these maneuvers, for everyone's safety, and to make sure that he actually was not there.

And at the beginning of that whole sequence, at about 7 PM Eastern Time, we had our camera lights on, like we do now. And law enforcement personnel came right up to us, and said, "Turn those cameras off right now. This is creating a danger for law enforcement."


TODD: So, we kind of waited for the last two hours, in darkness, but filming that scene, that you saw behind me.

COLLINS: Brian, do we know what made them come back to the house, if they were already there, earlier today?

TODD: We don't know exactly, Kaitlan. But they did say that the, you know, again, they're executing warrants. They're doing their due diligence.

They may have not had a particular warrant, for something, that they needed, and then came back, or they may have very well gotten a tip from someone, or they -- that we do it -- we did find out from sources that there was something about what was going on, at the house, that gave them an indication that something or someone might be there. Now, that obviously he's very vague.


But they've come out, and obviously, just encased, this house, for the last two hours, to make sure that that was not the case. And they have just pulled out. It's completely dark and quiet. So, it seems that they're satisfied.

COLLINS: Brian Todd, I know you'll continue to keep an eye, on things there.

I also want to go to John Berman, who is in Lewiston, tonight, outside of Schemengees Bar & Grille. That is, of course, one of the spots, where these shootings occurred, just a little over 24 hours ago.

I mean, John Berman, as we are seeing all of this action, happen, at this last known address, of the suspected shooter here, I mean, that doesn't mean things are over. We are told that there are searches happening in other places. What are you seeing, in Lewiston, tonight?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, there absolutely are searches going on, in other places.

Just to situate you, I am in Lewiston. This is where the second of the two shootings took place, outside Schemengees Bar. It's about 10 minutes away, from here, that the first shooting took place, at the bowling alley.

You can see there, on the map, Lewiston is where I am. Lisbon is where the shooter's car was found by a boat launch. And just south of Lisbon, on that map, is where Brian Todd is, in Bowdoin. It's about 15 miles from here.

And this whole area, from Lewiston, to Bowdoin, and then a little bit south and a little bit north of that is basically under lockdown, right now. There have been these shelter-in-place orders that have been extended through the night, where people have been told to secure their homes, to secure their cars. And I've got to tell you, everything is pretty much shut down. You drive by the strip malls here. They're all closed. Starbucks, it's closed. McDonald's, it's closed. Everyone is by and large, obeying the orders, to let the authorities do their searches, and go where they need to go, to get things done.

We're told about 350 law enforcement personnel are engaged in these searches. Obviously, on the ground there, in Bowdoin, where Brian Todd just was, but they're also doing it from the air. We've seen helicopters zooming by all day, and the Coast Guard involved as well.

Why the Coast Guard? Because as we said, the suspect's car was found by a boat launch, on the Androscoggin River. So, there is some concern that maybe he tried to get out, escape by water, on one of the rivers here. And the ocean's not far from here, either, Kaitlan. You've got Boothbay Harbor. You've got Portland, not far from here.

So, there're all different kinds of avenues of possible escape, even though the greatest amount of activity we've seen, in some ways, is right where they would have started to begin with last night, at the last known residence, of this suspected shooter, Robert Card.


COLLINS: Yes, who is still somehow evading authorities.

John Berman, we'll check back in with you, if you get any updates, in this hour.

I want to go down to CNN's Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst, John Miller; and Katherine Schweit, who is a former senior FBI official, who created and ran the Bureau's Active Shooter Program, after the massacre that happened at Sandy Hook.

I'm so grateful to have both of you, here tonight.

John, I want to start with you. Because as we're looking, the Police clearly going back to what is the last known address, of the suspected shooter? They were already there twice, today.

I mean, did they really think that this is someone, who would return back to his home, which is obviously a place that the Police are going to go, after they find out who this guy is?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Kaitlan, it was a question that they couldn't eliminate, with a positive answer, which is they weren't able to say, "We can say 100 percent, that from the time of the shooting till now, he hasn't been in there."

So, they had to take the tactical position, going in that "We're going to do a dynamic entry, as if he is in there. And as soon as we clear the house, then we're going to let the search team come and execute the search warrant."

The problem was that a certain piece of technology, that they were using, began to detect movement, in the house, or one of the outbuildings that caused the Incident Commander to say, "Full stop. We have to change posture. And now, we have to do this as a surrounding call-out, till we figure out what that movement is."

Now, you're talking to a guy, whose radiation detection boats, in the NYPD, sometimes detected a shipment, of granite, on a cargo ship, as being radiation. Technology is advanced. But it's not infallible.

And I think what we saw here, tonight, was given the suspect's prior actions, allegedly, given the weaponry that he is familiar with, and possessed, they really had to change posture, and go back, on the assumption that they might have him, in the house, and treat it that way.

COLLINS: Yes, it seems to me that they don't think that. We don't know for sure, obviously.

And Katherine, as we're seeing all of this play out, I mean, as you watch this, what does law enforcement do next? Here we are, 24 hours in. We were covering this breaking story, last night. He's still at large. So, what happens now?

KATHERINE SCHWEIT, FORMER FBI SENIOR OFFICIAL: Yes, I think that sometimes, it's easy for us, when we watch television and movies, to see an investigation as linear. But it really isn't.


The warrants are being executed all over the locations, where this individual might have had contact, where a warrant could be obtained. But tips are coming in. And law enforcement has to follow all of those tips. And they -- you follow it, as John said, you follow it till the end, until the answer is no.

So, until they're confident about every tip that comes in, even it could have been, in some situation, somebody got a call, "I thought I saw something at the house," as random as that is, maybe to others, to law enforcement, it's like, "OK, well, we got to go check it out."

So, that's what law enforcement is doing now, as they continue to isolate. And they can't search that house, for evidence of a crime, which they would be able to get a warrant to do, until they're confident that they might -- might not be confronted with somebody, who's armed.

COLLINS: Yes. And John, as we wait to see, what they could potentially glean from that, what they could get from that home? I mean, we are learning more about this shooter's -- the suspected shooter's background.

I mean, you're hearing from sources that he previously reported mental health issues, hearing voices. He threatened to shoot up a National Guard base, in the State. He spent two weeks, in a medical facility, over this summer.

Have you learned more about just the suspect himself? MILLER: He's been in the Army Reserves, for 20 years, coming on in 2002. But he was never deployed in combat, even though there were troops, in Afghanistan, there were reservists in Iraq, in Syria.

His specialty, was petroleum delivery, and logistics, which is making sure that you get the gas, that runs the trucks, that runs the Jeeps, that runs the Humvees, and you get it to the right people, at the training areas, and you get it to the right people, to ship it, where it needs to go.

But on the other hand, in his private life, he had a number of weapons that were the same, as the weapons that he had trained on, in his eight-week combat course, in the Army Reserves. And he was known to his friends as an expert marksman, a hunter, a fisherman.

So, he would have been literally and figuratively, right at home, in Lewiston, Maine, where you've got a suburban city, but also lots of woods, lakes, rivers, and so on.

COLLINS: Yes. Well --

MILLER: Go ahead.

COLLINS: I mean, given that experience, I mean, because that's fascinating, given where they found his car, parked near this boating area.

And so Katherine, when you're looking at this, and you're trying to analyze this, what John just laid out, that he has Military training, that he has experience, as a firearms trainer, that we know, he is a fisherman, so he knows how to operate a boat. I mean, how do all of those three factors complicate this search, for the authorities, tonight?

SCHWEIT: He's in his own backyard. I think that's what it tells us. He's in his own backyard. And we're coming into his backyard, to try to find him, in a game or hide-and-seek.

He knows what he's looking for, and where he's going to go. And he has a plan. And law enforcement has to follow those trails wherever they can find them, until he makes a decision to stop. So, if he keeps going, that's just what we're facing.

And, I think, for these kinds of shooters, a very, very small number of these types of shooters, these active shooters, go on the lam, most, a 30 percent to 40 percent of them kill themselves, or have Police officers kill themselves -- kill them, and they are just very suicidal.

So, many of them stop as soon as they're done with their action, and they just give up. They put their hands up. We saw that in Aurora. We saw that in Aurora theater, so many other locations. They just give up.

So, when somebody leaves in this direction, and he's gone, our average age of one of these shooters is 35. So, he's fitting right into the profile of which -- it's not really a profile, right, but right into the average of what we think of as somebody, who has mental challenges, is a troubled person, they're going on a trajectory that's bad. And then, they have access to weapons.


SCHWEIT: It's a bad combination.

COLLINS: It's, I mean, it's dangerous for the public, of course, who's living in this fear, tonight.

Katherine Schweit, John Miller, we'll check back in with you as we are monitoring this, keeping a very close eye on it. Thank you both.

Obviously, as all of this is breaking out, we are seeing several presidential candidates, weighing in, on the mass shooting, just the latest here in the United States. That includes my next guest, the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, who is here, in studio, in just a moment.



COLLINS: And tonight, we are continuing to monitor the Police activity that is still underway, in Maine, tonight, as that manhunt is going on, for the shooting suspect, Robert Card. We're going to bring you the updates, as we have them.

Here in Washington, you saw today, President Biden, ordering White House flags, lowered to half-staff, as a mark of respect, for the 18 victims so far.

On that note, I want to turn to someone, who is running to be in the White House, Florida governor, and 2024 Republican presidential candidate, Ron DeSantis, here live, for his first interview, on THE SOURCE.

Thank you, Governor, for being here.

On this tragic shooting that has happened, in Maine, you put out a statement, earlier today, saying "While the facts are still coming in, this could be another example of a failure of our nation's mental health system."

Do you believe that a Red Flag Law, like the one, in your State, would have prevented this?

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), 2024 REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. But I think we have mental health adjudications, where if you are adjudicated, and you're committed, then you're somebody that would potentially be out of circulation.

I mean, I think he obviously was a well-trained individual. There were these flags, when he was training. He did go to the hospital. I think the question is, is why wasn't he committed beyond that? We'll probably figure out, going forward.

But clearly, this is a guy, that's very dangerous, because he's got the training. And then, he seems to have had a breakdown.

COLLINS: Yes. But if the Red Flag -- why do you not think the Red Flag Law, a Red Flag Law, like the one that's in Florida, that we have seen been used, multiple times, effective here?

DESANTIS: Because he already had firearms. He's a well-trained individual. I think the idea that he was just out probably -- I think these are things that he probably had. So, in this case, I'm not sure.


I think an involuntary commitment, though, would have kept him, off the street. And I think that would have probably done the trick.

COLLINS: But if he had these concerns, over the summer, I mean, he was saying that he was hearing voices. We don't know if it was voluntary or involuntary. We just know that he did go to a facility, a medical facility, for about two weeks.

I mean, you look at the Red Flag Law, in your State. That is something that it was passed before you were Governor. But when you were running, you said that you would have vetoed that.

Do you not think it's been effective, in your State?

DESANTIS: But that's a different situation than a mental health. So, we've always had, and I've always -- if you're not mentally competent, to own a firearm, that's something different than Red Flag.

What Red Flag is, is people would go in, and say, "You may be a danger." So, you could have someone lodge a complaint. Different States do it different way, oftentimes, with not adequate due process. But I would say that's different from the mental health.

I think most people agree that if you're not mentally competent? With rights come responsibilities, and exercising the rights means you have the mental competency.

COLLINS: But isn't it --

DESANTIS: So, I don't think it's an issue with Red Flag. I think Red Flag has been abused, because people can just lodge a complaint. Sometimes, they'll take somebody's firearms.

And here's the thing. It's not even Second Amendment, as much as the Fifth Amendment due process issue. Can you take someone's property, without having an adjudication? So, I think it's different.

I don't think it would have mattered. In this case, I do think a commitment -- an involuntary commitment would have done the trick.

COLLINS: I think there were questions about whether it would have been a factor here. Obviously, we're still learning more about this. But I mean, this is a law that you have in your State. Does it work in Florida?

DESANTIS: Well, in this, in a situation, like this, it would not be --

COLLINS: But does the Red Flag --

DESANTIS: -- not be --

COLLINS: Just generally, does it work in the State of Florida, though?

DESANTIS: It was not something that I supported, because I was concerned about the due process rights of individuals. Now, our crime rate's at a 50-year low. I don't think it's because of that.

I think it's because that we've supported law enforcement. We have strong laws, to hold criminals accountable, and put them off the street. So, I'd say if you look at why is Florida's crime declining, whilst going up, in places, like California? I think it's probably more for our overall approach than that.

COLLINS: If you don't think it's effective, in Florida, you don't think it's contributing to those lower rates? Why is it still in place? Why don't you move to repeal it?

DESANTIS: Because --

COLLINS: I mean, you've got a Republican supermajority.

DESANTIS: Because the Republicans passed it, in the legislature, before I was governor. I mean, they --

COLLINS: But you could still ask them --

DESANTIS: -- they all voted --

COLLINS: -- to repeal it?

DESANTIS: Well, right. But they all voted on it. I was a candidate that time. There was different restrictions that I thought violated the Constitution. So, I said I would have vetoed the bill. It passed overwhelmingly. And there's not an appetite, amongst them, to reverse their votes, basically, and what they did just a few years ago.

COLLINS: Has any event -- since being Governor, changed your opinion, on how effective it is? I mean, there is a Polk County Sheriff, Grady Judd, who you are very familiar with. He's a conservative. He's a supporter of yours. He thinks these Red Flag Laws, in Florida, are actually very effective. Is he wrong?

DESANTIS: I think -- I think you have different perspectives on that. I mean, I think Grady and some of the other sheriffs like it. I think some others have said that it's not something that's effective.

But Grady, understand, he's a big supporter of the Second Amendment. So, he is not using that in a way to try to fringe people's rights. He's following due process. And he's going about it in a way that does respect that. I think you see how some of these things get put in other States. And it's more of just an end run, around the Second Amendment, because they just don't like the underlying right, to begin with.

COLLINS: So, point-blank, though, do you think that Red Flag Laws are effective, generally?

DESANTIS: I don't think there's been data to suggest the Red Flag Laws have been effective. I mean, I -- I don't think.

COLLINS: Even in Florida?

DESANTIS: I mean, I think, it's anecdotal, when people say this or that. But I think what's ultimately effective is holding people accountable, either through mental adjudication, if they're crazy, or convicting them, when they're committing crimes.

I mean, a lot of the people that commit crimes, I mean, obviously, a shooting like this, catastrophic, a lot of people. The typical crimes that are being committed, where one or two people may get killed? They don't get as much press.

But it's almost always somebody, who's been in the justice system, multiple times. And then, they finally commit a really serious offence. So, identifying those feet, and holding them accountable, when they're committing crimes, that is the way you reduce the crime rate.

COLLINS: So, it's safe to say a President DeSantis would not sign any kind of national Red Flag Law, into law?

DESANTIS: No, no, I don't think that'd be appropriate at all.

COLLINS: So, what is -- if you're President, tonight, and you're the one lowering those flags, to half-staff, at the White House, what's your --

DESANTIS: Well we're going to do, we --

COLLINS: -- what's your solution to fix what happened?

DESANTIS: Well two things. I think, the mental health issue, in our country, part of it is we do need more institutionalization. There are some people, who are dangerous to society. A lot of them get put back on the streets, that will require more resources. But I think that that's appropriate. And it's not -- this is obviously a very serious.

There's other crimes. You talk to people, in jail, sheriffs. A lot of the people that end up in the justice system have mental problems. And so, we've not done a good job with that.

Now, on the other side, on the crime, we're going to hold people accountable. If you commit a gun crime, you're going to go away, for a long time. If you're committing -- if some of these prosecutors, in these Blue States are letting people out?

COLLINS: But this guy had no previous history --

DESANTIS: We are going --

COLLINS: -- with any kind of gun crimes that we've seen.


DESANTIS: Yes. But if you look at most of the crimes, that are committed, in this country, it's people that have been in the justice system, before, and have gotten a slap on the wrist. That's happening all over this country.

And we will hold people accountable.

COLLINS: But about this situation, specifically, what would you do? I mean, he had no prior criminal background.

DESANTIS: But he had a mental -- he got referred to a mental hospital. So, we're going to -- well we're going to --

COLLINS: So, if it's not a Red Flag Law, which there is not one, in Maine?

DESANTIS: Well we're -- we're going to -- we're going to --

COLLINS: What's the mechanism, for taking the guns away, from someone, who says that he's hearing voices, and is threatening to shoot something up?

DESANTIS: The mental is not about the Red Flag. When people are adjudicated, if there's a commitment, mentally, then that is something that means, "OK, you have to have responsibility to exercise rights." It's not the same thing as a Red Flag.

COLLINS: But the Red Flag is for, if there's troubling behavior, if someone's saying that they're hearing voices, you know, they have guns, you could -- I mean, that is what the Red Flag Law in Florida does. And they can go to a law enforcement choice.

DESANTIS: Not quite that. But, I think, when you're talking about the mental?

COLLINS: It is --

DESANTIS: You got to be serious about, OK, recognizing warning signs. You have to have systems in place. And we actually do a pretty good job with this, in Florida, where you see that, because we've had situations, in the past, where you take this stuff seriously. And you don't just --

COLLINS: But you have a Red Flag Law.

DESANTIS: That's not -- that's not what it is. It's for, like in schools, if you have somebody, that's making threats, we take those very seriously. And I think what happens, in these cases, is you see that there were a lot of warning signs, and people didn't act on them. So, you have to act on them.

COLLINS: People did act on them, at least.

DESANTIS: And that's --

COLLINS: That's why he went, for two weeks, to a medical facility, because the other reservists with him reported that he was having issues and threatening to shoot up the base.

DESANTIS: OK. And then what happened, right? Did they follow through? Was there anything more?

COLLINS: That's why my question is if the Red Flag Law would be helpful here. And you're saying you don't think it would.

You've mentioned mental health resources. We hear a lot of that from Republicans, after a mass shooting. But what specifically would you do, if you're President, with that funding? What's the program? How much money is it? What does that actually look like?

DESANTIS: I don't want to have more facilities, for involuntary commitment. I think that we used to do higher levels of involuntary commitment. The pendulum swung a lot to the other direction. I'm not saying, it needs to go all the way back where it was.

But I do think that we need to recognize that there are some people, whose behavior is a danger to community, and danger to society, that right now are getting put back on the street. And I'd want there to be a mechanism to do that. I think realistically, you have to have the resources, in place, and the facilities in place, to do that.

COLLINS: So, instead of taking someone's guns away, you think putting someone, in an institution, is the solution, to what we saw happen, in Maine? Is that right?

DESANTIS: If he was institutionalized, he would not have been able to commit this offense, a 100 percent. I mean, that goes without saying.

If somebody's back on the street, then they can always hurt somebody.

COLLINS: You put --

DESANTIS: And it doesn't mean that you just have, you know, it's not like, be what? You take one firearm, like they can't get others? Or they can't use other things to be able to harm people? When people are this, then they can do a lot of damage, especially someone like that that has Military training.

COLLINS: Yes. I just think some people would raise questions about, you know, you're talking about his rights, if you take guns away, but if he's being institutionalized.

But I want to talk about --

DESANTIS: Well no but that -- but there's a process for that, too. I'm not saying you don't have a process for that. I'm not saying you just snap your finger, and do that. We have a long history.

COLLINS: Well, of course, there needs to be a process for that.

DESANTIS: Well, we have had a long history, in this country, of handling mental health, in different ways. I think now we've gone a little bit more liberal. I think you see all that affecting a lot of problems that we have in society. And so, but that, if he had been involuntarily committed, then, clearly, this would not have happened. You can't say that with anything else.

COLLINS: Well, I think people would say, is that the solution? Or is it something with restricting gun ownership?

But I want to talk about Israel, because --

DESANTIS: But you can't though. If you have been adjudicated mentally, you are not able, in this country, to purchase a firearm.

COLLINS: I understand. That is the federal --


COLLINS: -- that is the federal law.

Is there any gun restriction that you would sign into place, if you're a President, any law restricting gun ownership?

DESANTIS: Restricting Second Amendment rights? I'm going to uphold the Constitution.

COLLINS: Just asking if there's anything.

On Israel, though, as I mentioned, there are two cargo planes that you had set up that took that -- your office has said today, taking supplies, to Israel, drones, helmets, other things, for first responders to be using.

If you were President, tonight? As President Biden is doing sending about 900 U.S. Forces, to the Middle East, a lot of firepower, that we've seen in the area? Do you think that is the right step? Do you agree with him?

DESANTIS: So, I think the most important thing is to stand with Israel, both publicly and privately, and back their ability, to wipe Hamas out, go to the hilt, uproot the tunnels, do everything they need to do, so this never happens, again. That's the most important thing. And I think that's pretty much what they want.

Now, I don't think it's necessarily America's fight. I think we should support Israel. How we get involved? Now, clearly, we have an interest with the hostages that are there, some of whom are American. And I would work with Israel, to be able to recover those folks.

And I'm not sure what Biden's using those people for. I do know he's got people in Iraq and Syria, who are being targeted by Iran. They're kind of just sitting ducks. I'm not sure that that's the best policy either.

COLLINS: So, what's the best policy? Removing troops from Syria, or ordering a U.S. Military response to that?


DESANTIS: Well, I think, what's the rationale for them? I would only have them there, if there was a clear American interest involved. I don't know that Biden's articulated --

COLLINS: Do you believe that there is one?

DESANTIS: I don't know that Biden's articulated that.

But let me just say this as President?

COLLINS: But, I mean --

DESANTIS: If somebody harms a U.S. service member, harm one hair on their head, they will have hell to pay, if I'm President. We're not going to let people take potshots, at our Military members. Iran should know that. Anybody should know that. We are going to defend our people.

COLLINS: And that would be a U.S. Military response?

DESANTIS: It means we will defend our people, and we will do what we need to do, to say, "You don't mess with American troops."

COLLINS: Governor Ron DeSantis, stick around. We have a few more questions, for you, on Israel.

We're going to take a quick break, and be right back, after a quick moment.


COLLINS: And Florida governor, and 2024 Republican presidential candidate, Ron DeSantis, is back here with me.

We were just talking about Israel, and the flights that you have arranged, for getting Americans, out of Israel, something that was obviously a huge issue, in the early days of this war.

If you were President, what would your plan be, to get the hundreds of Americans, who are in Gaza out?

DESANTIS: Well, you have to marshal assets that we have. A lot of this stuff would be clandestine. You got to work with the Israeli government to coordinate, to see what you can do.

But those hostage rescue efforts are, those are very sensitive things. Those are very high-risk maneuvers. But clearly, when we have Americans that are being held, by a terrorist group, we would marshal resources, to be able to rescue them. COLLINS: But not even just the hostages. I'm talking about the hundreds of American citizens, who were in Gaza and, of course, they can't get out now. Egypt is not letting anyone out. Israel, of course, is not letting anyone out of Gaza.


What would you do to get those Americans, who were living in a warzone, now?

DESANTIS: Yes. No, I mean, obviously, I would want to help, just like we helped in Florida. There were Americans that were stuck in Israel. They couldn't get out. We ended up bringing almost 700, home. We're all Americans. And most of them were Floridians. And we -- but we didn't do only Floridians. We understood that there's others that needed.

But I think the interesting thing about what I saw, because we've greeted the first flight, that we brought back 271 people.


DESANTIS: 91 children. So, you literally, you're having families come out, with their dog, their kids. And then, they're very happy to see, my wife and I, when we greeted them.

But one of the ladies told me, she pointed her 6-year-old daughter, she said, her -- and they're from Florida. Daughter just kept saying, "Mommy, I don't want to hear the rockets. I don't want to hear the rockets. I want Florida. I want Florida." So, we were able to get that done.

COLLINS: But what would you do, to get the Americans, out of Gaza, though?

DESANTIS: Well, I would give them transport, if -- but, I need to -- I would need to know the intelligence.

COLLINS: But you have to talk to the other governments, there. I mean, what would that look like?

DESANTIS: I would need to know the intelligence. I would need to know the battlefield. I would need to know all that information.

But I would definitely let it be known to Hamas that harming Americans is very high risk for them. And that they should -- they should cough them up.

COLLINS: Everything we've just talked about, what you would do, if you were in office, and a mass shooting happened? What you would do, if you were in office, and what happened in Israel has happened? None of that is necessarily matters if you don't become the Republican nominee, if you don't go against Joe Biden, in the race for the White House.

You obviously are so far behind Trump in the polls. Obviously, there are multiple polls showing that. You've criticized him, on what he said about Benjamin Netanyahu. You've criticized him on abortion. But you never talk about Trump himself.

What do you make of Trump's character?

DESANTIS: Well, look, I mean, at the end of the day, to me, I'm about results. And I'm about outcomes.

I mean, Donald Trump's well-documented the different things in that regard. For me, it's who's going to be able to deliver the results. I'll be able to do that, as the President. Now, he did some things, I'll give him credit for. But he also promised things that he didn't deliver.

So, the question is, is moving forward, how do you actually get America on the right track? How do we reverse this decline? And I think we need a new leader, someone that can serve eight years, two four-year terms, and someone that's going to be ready, on day one, to really be energetic, have some vitality, and some vigor, and get the job done.

COLLINS: But that's not answering the question, about his character.

DESANTIS: Because it's not a concern.

COLLINS: What do you make of Donald Trump's character?

DESANTIS: It's not a concern of mine. I mean, I think --

COLLINS: Why is it not a concern?

DESANTIS: I think --

COLLINS: You're running against him, because you clearly believe that you should be President over him.

DESANTIS: Well, that's because I think I'd be a better President than he is. But, I mean, I don't need to take potshots, I mean, at his character. I mean, some people like to do that.

COLLINS: It's not a potshot.

DESANTIS: I focus on why --

COLLINS: The character of a President matters. Does it not?

DESANTIS: -- why I would be a better President?

And I think the reasons are, is because I have a demonstrated record of delivering on 100 percent of my promises, like I did in Florida. I'll be focused. I'll be disciplined. I'm not going to be distracted. It's not going to be about my issues. It will be about the American people's issues, day after day.

And we have, the prices are too high. The interest rates are too high. The border's wide open. Our Military's not strong enough. We have crime in the cities, big bureaucracy run amok. We have all these problems. We need to solve them. Not talk about them, not sloganeer about them.

COLLINS: But why is that message not resonating with Republican voters?

DESANTIS: I think it -- I think it is. When you get on the ground? In Iowa, for example, so, there's 99 counties. The tradition is to do all 99. They call it the "Full Grassley." I've done 83 of the 99.

A lot of these rural counties, there'll be counties, where there'll maybe a few thousand people. We'll get 100 people, to show up, at an event. You shake the hands. You answer the questions. That's not something you'll necessarily are going to see in polling. That's something that comes out, when people make their decisions to caucus.

So, we're doing it the right way. I'm going to be the only candidate that does all 99 counties. We've just started similar, in New Hampshire, on there, on Tuesday. I was with Governor Sununu. We did seven different events, Town Halls, house parties, retail stops. That's what you got to do. You got to show up.

COLLINS: But you --

DESANTIS: Donald Trump's not willing to show up. He's missing in action right now. He doesn't show up. When he does show up, he reads off the teleprompter, for 50 minutes. And then, he gets back on the plane, and goes home.

As voters are more keyed in, as we get closer to the holidays, you're not going to be able to get away, with not putting in the work. So, we're going to put in the work, and we're going to get the job done.

COLLINS: Well, right now, he is getting away with what you say is not putting in the work. I mean, he's leading the polls.

DESANTIS: Yes, but that's because he's the most famous person, running, a 100 percent name ID. He's the person people know.

When you actually drill down, in these early States, clearly, he's got some that will vote for him no matter what. But there's a lot more that aren't going to vote for him, in the primary. Then, you got a lot of voters, who they liked his policies, they like a lot about him. But they are willing to vote for somebody else. So, it's incumbent, upon a guy, like me, go out and make the case.

I'll tell you, we were, in South Carolina, last week, did a bunch of rallies, shaking hands, after. Every other person said to me, "You flipped me." Now, I didn't ask them what that -- who they flipped. But I'm pretty much sure that they flipped from Trump to me. So, that's what you have to do, for the next three months.


COLLINS: Are you moderating the way that you're running, because you seem to be running to the right of Donald Trump, initially, signing that six-week abortion ban, signing that permitless concealed carry, you were making sure you finished your legislative session, in Florida, before.

DESANTIS: Yes, but constitutional carry is --

COLLINS: Now, you're talking about going for the voters, who don't like Trump.

DESANTIS: -- that's like a majority of the States have that. That's a normal, mainstream Second Amendment position.

COLLINS: No, but, to the --

DESANTIS: So, but I think --

COLLINS: You're deflecting. The point in and of itself is that --

DESANTIS: -- I think -- I think the thing is --

COLLINS: -- you were initially running to the right, and it seems like you're moderating. Is that the case?

DESANTIS: I don't think I've changed. I think I am what I am. I think I'll run the same now, like I will, next November.

But here's the thing. I'm more reliable, on policy, than Donald Trump. And Republican voters, I think, are starting to see that. And we'll show that. I've delivered more, on American First principles, than anybody, in the country, and not just this most recent legislative session, all through my time, as governor. So, we'll see that.

But here's the thing, I think, is true. I have shown an ability to be bold, to do big things, but then to actually win Independent voters.

In Florida, we won by a million and a half votes. I mean, we won Independents by 18 percent. Donald Trump would not be able to do that. And we need somebody that's going to be able to win the election, very important that you get that done.

COLLINS: And you don't think Donald Trump can beat Joe Biden?

DESANTIS: I don't. I mean, I think that -- I think that --

COLLINS: Would you endorse him, if he is the nominee?

DESANTIS: Well I've already said that. I signed the pledge. I'm supporting a Republican nominee.

COLLINS: Yes. But do you think it's real?

DESANTIS: Well, for me, it is. I mean, I think, when you sign something? I know some people don't do that. But when I agreed to participate, in debates? I knew what that meant. I knew whoever comes out of that process.

But here's the thing. I'm not just going to take my ball and go home. I'm going to do, follow the process, respect the people's will. I think, ultimately, they'll make the judgment that I'm the best foot forward. And I think we'll get it done. But look, at the end of the day, I'm not going to just cry in the corner.

I mean, I think Biden needs to be defeated, and I think a Republican needs to do it.

COLLINS: OK. So, that's a yes.

Governor Ron DeSantis, thank you, for your time, tonight. Thank you for joining us, for the first time, here on THE SOURCE.

DESANTIS: Thank you.

COLLINS: And of course, in just a moment, we'll go back to the ground, in Maine. That massive manhunt is still underway, after those two mass shootings that happened, last night, in two locations, in Maine.

There's been a lot of activity, tonight. We'll give you an update, in just a moment.



COLLINS: Police, in Maine, have spent hours, tonight, focused on the suspect's home. It is his last-known address. And tonight, for the second time, officers have been at this house, today.

It's cautious step-by-step movements that we have been watching, all day, trying to figure out -- as they are trying to figure out where this suspect is, more than 24 hours after he allegedly, we believe, committed two mass shootings.

The scenes in towns, across southern Maine, have been swarmed, with federal and local officers, combing the streets, from the Coast Guard, to the FBI, law enforcement agencies, both big and small, are throwing all of their resources, at this massive manhunt, tonight.

They're looking for the man, who destroyed the sense of safety, in Lewiston, Maine, and the surrounding communities. 18 people went out, for a night of bowling, cornhole, or just for dinner. But now, will never come home. Of the 13 others, who were shot, we are told that eight remain, in the hospital, tonight.

These communities, of course, are being gripped by terror, more than 24 hours later. Everyone is being told to stay inside their homes, to lock their doors, as Police are hunting for a 40-year-old Army Reservist.

I'm joined now by CNN's Brian Todd, who is in Bowdoin, Maine, as we checked in with him, at the beginning of the hour.

Brian, you have been watching this, all play out, tonight. What do we know about where Police are focusing their efforts, and how that changes, now that it's dark outside? TODD: Well, Kaitlan, what I can tell you is, in the last few minutes, a law enforcement officer came up to our position, here, and advised us that basically this is no longer a scene, indicating that law enforcement has pretty much extracted itself, from the scene.

And we witnessed that. We witnessed several vehicles leaving here a short time ago. It is complete darkness now behind me, as you can see, at the home of Robert Card.

But we can tell you that for the last two and a half to three hours, it certainly was the scene. They had converged with pretty, I would say -- I would say, some serious force, to the house.

A lot of law enforcement vehicles, personnel, air assets, canine teams, they had fanned out actually, in a field, next to the house, as well. They trained a spotlight on the house. They operated their drones, and their spotlight, to try to figure out if something or someone was inside the house.

And then, they started a one-way dialog. A law enforcement officer, on a bullhorn, started to call out to whoever may have been in the house, to say, "Come out with your hands up. Come out with nothing in your hands. Follow our instructions."

They said that they didn't want anybody else to get hurt. And they even kind of spoke to anyone in there, who may have been in there, on a personal level, saying, "We understand this could be intimidating for you."

But most indications we have now are that the suspect may really not have been in the house. The law enforcement officials, here in Maine, have told us that this is kind of due diligence, that they had to exercise here that it was unknown, whether anyone was in the house, at the time or not. But this is what they had to do.

So, they did converge on this, for the second time, today, I should say. They were here, earlier today, and came in with flash-bangs, to rush the house, and then extracted again. So, I think they were trying to, of course, determine whether anyone or anything was inside. And they spent quite a lot of time here.

So, for a while there, we thought it was almost a standoff developing, Kaitlan. But it appears they were really just being extremely careful, in their movements, around that house, with a spotlight and a bullhorn.

COLLINS: Yes. And it also just shows you how much they are, still very much having this manhunt, underway, even tonight.

Brian Todd, on the ground, we'll continue to check back in with you, as you see updates.

Much more, on this manhunt, the inside, as they are shooting -- and are looking into the profile, of this suspected shooter, and what that could tell them, as this stuff (ph) goes on.

We'll be back, in just a moment.



COLLINS: Back to the manhunt, in Maine, tonight. This is for the suspect, in last night's double mass shooting, that killed 18 people, and injured more than a dozen.

Joining me now is retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent, and CNN's Law Enforcement Contributor, Steve Moore.

Steve, I'm so glad you're here, tonight.

Because the fact that this suspect --


COLLINS: -- has been on the run, for more than 24 hours, now? I mean, as time goes on, how much more difficult, does this search get, for the suspected shooter?

MOORE: Well, it gets exponentially larger, because, as the search area goes out, as the possibility of his location, gets larger and larger and larger, it becomes much more than you have the manpower to cover. And you have to change tactics, and get into a kind of a different type of fugitive investigation.

COLLINS: And so, given that, I mean, it's not even just that they're searching a heavily-wooded area, at night, right now. I mean, they're also using the Coast Guard is involved with this, because we do know that he is a fisherman, that his car was found near a boating area. I mean, what layer does that add to this search?

MOORE: This complicates it, like nothing else. And what you have to do here, is instead of saying, we're going to now look for finding him, physically, putting eyes on him, you have to start looking at other ways.


Contacts, friends, you trace phones, it's all these things, all the electronics, all the new technology, that will lead you closer to him, with the addition of the old-fashioned stuff, finding people, and telling them, who know him, "We need information," and having people, on the street, saying, "We saw somebody."

COLLINS: And given that, John Miller was reporting earlier that the locations seem to have a kind of a through line, that this suspect had broken up, with his girlfriend, recently, that some of the places that he went to, the bowling alley, the restaurant, were places that either they had gone, or that he believed she may be.

I mean, how are they using those potential clues, to track where he could be now? MOORE: I think what they're doing is, obviously, I think the bowling alley, as John said, and the bar, probably were haunts of his, and haunts of his friends.

What I would be doing if I were working this case is going to other places, where his friends said he hung out, and looking at those. I'd want to know if he cased the place, if he was there, looking at it, well beforehand. It's that way you can guide your investigation, where he might be next.

COLLINS: Yes, questions about what the planning could be here.

Steve Moore, as we continue to follow this, we'll check back in with you. Thank you so much.


COLLINS: Thank you all so much, for joining us, in this very busy hour.

"CNN NEWSNIGHT" with Abby Phillip, starts, right after a quick break.