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State of the Union
Interview with Dan Pfeiffer; Interview with Rand Paul
Aired January 26, 2014 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: The president's moment and terrorist threats to the winter Olympics.
CROWLEY (voice-over): Today, in a critical year for policy, politics and legacy, Barack Obama needs a change-up.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm looking forward to working with Democrats and Republicans.
CROWLEY: Somehow, we don't think so. This Tuesday, the president's state of the union speech. A workable agenda or a campaign playlist? We talk to white House senior adviser, Dan Pfeiffer.
And, oops, they did it again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You must all be very conscious of tone and choice of words when we communicate.
CROWLEY: In search of women and minority voters, the linguistically challenged grand old party plots its own course for 2014 and beyond. Republican senator, Rand Paul, joins us with his view of the state of the union, his party, and the 2016 presidential race.
Then, if last year was the most unproductive Congress ever, raise your hand if you think this year will be any different. The art of the doable with two members of the House leadership, Democrat Steny Hoyer and Republican Tom Cole.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It only takes one suicide bomber to get in to cause a real problem.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would not go and I don't think I would send my family.
CROWLEY: Russia's Olympic-sized security questions grow. We talk with their man in Washington, Ambassador Sergee Kislyak.
This is STATE OF THE UNION.
CROWLEY (on-camera): Good morning from Washington. I'm Candy Crowley. Two days before President Obama heads to Capitol Hill for his state of the union address, new polling underscores the tough environment he faces in the second year of his second term.
Joining me now, Dan Pfeiffer. He is senior adviser to President Obama. Dan, let me start out with the new ABC/"Washington Post" poll which found the president's approval rating at 46 percent. Half the country disapproved of how the president is handling his job. CNN had a poll of polls taken before this one which was lower at about 43 percent. What does he -- it seems to me that's the first thing he needs to do is change the public's opinion before he can move forward on anything.
PFEIFFER: Well, look, I think the public ended 2013 very frustrated. We had had a shutdown, a near default and the problems with the healthcare.com website. I think all of us in Washington, the president included, need to do what we can to restore trust in the people. That's what the president is going to begin on Tuesday night, when he was going to do was lay out a series of concrete, real, practical proposals on how we restore opportunity for all Americans.
He's going to do that by looking for ways to work with Congress where he can but act on his own where he can.
CROWLEY: Well, the thing is, and I know that trust, even before he became president, Candidate Barack Obama talked a lot about people not trusting their government and how impossible it was to get anything done when Americans look and think, no, they're never going to do that. So isn't sort of restoring that item number one on the agenda?
PFEIFFER: I think we need to ensure the American people that we can get something done, either through Congress or on our own because what they want are answers. Now, they're out there working hard, building their businesses, showing up to work every day, playing by the rules, and they expect the same from Washington. The president was to lead in that direction.
CROWLEY: With numbers like that, how can he have any more success this year than he had last year? I want to show you some of the proposals that were in the president's 2013 speech last year that have gone nowhere, increasing the minimum wage, expanding access to preschool, immigration reform, gun control legislation. None of that has happened because the year took control of the agenda.
Some of itself inflicted, lot of it from the outside. Why can't the president get anything more done with less of an approval rating than he had at the beginning of 2013?
PFEIFFER: Well, I'd say a couple things. First, our hope is to build on the progress of the -- the bipartisan budget agreement that was passed in the fall. It's unrealistic for any president to expect the Congress, the opposite party, to rubber stamp the agenda. It's unrealistic for us to expect -- for Congress to expect that the president will sign their agenda, but let's find areas where we can work together.
Now, in some of these areas like preschool, we've made some progress. The budget deals has some money, allows us to start that initiative. On guns, we put in place more than two dozen executive actions to try to address --
CROWLEY: Are all these things in his speech this year? Is this a re-push?
PFEIFFER: He's going to continue pushing for those things. You're going to hear new things. But you're also going to hear from his is this is supposed to be a year of action. So, he is going to walk in every way he can with his pen and his phone to try to move the ball forward.
CROWLEY: And there's always that sort of -- it's kind of a threat -- hey, Congress, work with me or I can do a lot of stuff administratively.
PFEIFFER: Well, I don't think it's confrontational. It's let's find areas to work together. There were some items right before Congress we can do together, passing immigration reform, extending unemployment benefits for 1.6 million Americans, patent reform, innovation act -- motivation our economy, the farm bill. There are things they can get done.
But we're not -- the president can't -- is not going to tell the American people that he's going to wait for Congress. He's going to move forward in areas like job training, education, manufacturing, on his own to try to restore opportunity for American families.
CROWLEY: And how do you do some of that on your own? Have you identified specific presidential prerogatives that you are willing to --
CROWLEY: As in?
PFEIFFER: Stay tuned for Tuesday night, but the president views the power of his presidency in two areas. His pen, which is executive orders, also the phone where he can do is he can pick up the phone, bring together American citizens, businesses to commit on key issues. One example would be we had a college opportunity summit a few weeks ago with over 100 college presidents came in to commit to expand access to college for hundreds of thousands of Americans.
CROWLEY: It's a bully pulpit --
PFEIFFER: Absolutely. We do that in big ways and some small ways.
CROWLEY: Something he could have done all along and has done in some --
PFEIFFER: Yes. And we're putting an extra emphasis on it in 2014.
CROWLEY: And I imagine, we're going to hear a lot about the middle class, a lot about what you all have been calling income inequality. Can you explain to me what that is? Because income inequality I think to some people is like, we're going to take some income here and we're going to put it over here. Is that the phraseology you actually want?
PFEIFFER: I think, you know, sometimes there's a tendency in this town to boil complicated things down to overly simple solutions. What the president has talked about throughout his entire career and all the seven years I've worked for him is the problem of shrinking opportunity for the middle class and for those (inaudible) joined it. That comes from the growing gap inequality between the wealthy and the less so, declining economic mobility, globalization, changes in technology. So, what he's going to talk about in this speech is how we deal with the problem, restore opportunity for all Americans.
CROWLEY: And let me focus in on that gap that you all have talked about it a lot. There was a 2013 poll -- 2013 study out of University of California Berkeley which found that in the years between 2009 and 2012, those beginning recovery years in the Obama administration, the top one percent of wage earners in the U.S. captured 95 percent of the income gains in those three years and that, again, during the recovery.
So, 95 percent of the top one percent, so that's increasing -- so far, it would seem to me that policies of the Obama administration have increased that gap.
PFEIFFER: This has been a trajectory that the country's been on for a very long time. This president has taken several key steps to try to slow that trend and reverse it. Passing the Affordable Care Act which will do as much to deal with inequality in this country so millions of Americans aren't one bankruptcy -- one illness away from bankruptcy.
The big fight we had over the fiscal cliff a couple years ago where for the first time in a very long time the president would get Republicans to raise taxes on the wealthy and protect tax cuts with middle class, to make our tax system more progressive, more fair, so they did more to reward work as opposed to wealth.
CROWLEY: It's kind of hard to argue about, OK, we've really got to do something when the first three years of the Obama administration actually increase that gap. That's sort of my point.
PFEIFFER: No. I think the president will lay out several steps on how we can deal with restoring opportunity for all Americans. The minimum wage that we talked about last year would do more to lift millions of Americans out of poverty. More good jobs, more skills for workers. There's a lot we can do. These are things that have had bipartisan support in the past.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you something that's coming out now, about immigration and how the House wants to approach it. We know they want to approach it with separate bills as opposed to one big comprehensive bill. One of those that seems to be emerging has to do with those who are undocumented in this country where Republicans would propose those who came here as children, who did not have anything to do with the planning of that, would be given a pathway to citizenship.
Others would be given a pathway to legality, to legal status. Is that OK with the White House? Is that something you could work with?
PFEIFFER: Well, here's what I think. The president's been very clear about his approach that includes a path to citizenship. He supported the Senate bill that passed. He's --
PFEIFFER: -- is that let's see what the House puts forward. I think that this is progress for the Republican Party if they're going to move forward. Let's see what they have and see if we can get together and make some real progress on an issue that's been stuck for way too long.
CROWLEY: So, you at least would talk about it.
PFEIFFER: Let's see what they put forward.
CROWLEY: OK. Dan Pfeiffer, senior adviser at the White House, have a good Tuesday night.
PFEIFFER: Thank you, Candy.
CROWLEY: Appreciate it.
For the second year in a row, my next guest will be giving his own response to the state of the union address, though, not the official one.
Joining me now, Senator Rand Paul. He is a Republican from Kentucky, much talked about, much in the news guy these days. Senator Paul, thanks so much for joining us.
I want to start off on something that Dan Pfeiffer said to me, kind of repeatedly and the White House has said over the past couple of weeks, and it's the idea of the president saying I want to work with Congress, but I do have a pen and a phone and I can do lots of things with the executive and administrative tools that are before me. When you hear the president talk about that, what does it say to you?
PAUL: It sounds vaguely like a threat and I think it also has a certain amount of arrogance in the sense that one of the fundamental principles of our country were the checks and balances that it wasn't supposed to be easy to pass legislation. You had to debate and convince people.
PAUL: And so, there's a lot of things the president's not allowed to do. President's not allowed to write legislation.
He's not allowed to amend legislation. He's not allowed to initiate war. And he's not allowed to tell us when we're in recess and when we're not. I think the Supreme Court is going to rebuke him on the recess question and there still are some questions, whether or not he can amend Obamacare on his own or whether he should come to us.
He says, oh, well, it's hard to get Congress to do anything. Well, yes, welcome to the real world. It's hard to convince people to get legislation through. It takes consensus. But that's what he needs to be doing is building consensus and not taking his pen and creating law.
CROWLEY: Well, for instance, when Congress would not pass the Dream Act which aloud young children who were brought to this country illegally by their parents to stay in this country, he did that by administrative directive. He has done some things around existing gun control to try to kind of tighten things up.
He's done some things around climate change and climate control, particularly, when it comes to some of the carbon emissions. So, that's all perfectly legal, is it not?
PAUL: Well, yes and no. I mean, there's debate on some of those issues. What I would say is that the problem in Washington is, we need to find a way to compromise, but many people think, oh, you just need to split the difference on everything and that's compromise. To me, compromise is you need to narrow the issue until you get to an amount of the issue that you agree on.
So on immigration, maybe half of immigration reform, 80 percent of Congress agrees to. But to my mind, the Democrats are saying they want everything, citizenship, everything they can get, all at once or nothing whereas I think there's an in between where we could find work visas for a lot of the people that are here and normalize their existence as long as we do it and it's dependent on border security, there's a lot of things we can do, but the question is do we have to have everything the Democrats want or are they willing to go part way?
CROWLEY: Just listening to Dan Pfeifer, and now to you, it says to me that this year, as we all know, is a midterm election year. It's the third of the Senate, all of the house up for election or at least the seats there. The fact is it doesn't sound like much big is going to get done this year. PAUL: Well, actually, I'm a favor of trying to do something with the small things that we agree on. And I tell audiences all the time, if I'm in an audience that's half Republican and half Democrat, I say, look, we don't agree on every issue, but if we agree on three or four out of 10, why don't we thought it pass those?
One thing we could do and I've asked the president this directly, I think we can let companies, U.S. companies bring profit home from overseas, tax it at five percent, put that money into the infrastructure, and I think everybody wins. You lower tax rate, you get more tax revenue, and you're able to build infrastructure. That's a win, win, win situation.
And it's a narrow focus. It's not overall tax reform, but when you narrow focus like that I think we could agree to things and get them done.
CROWLEY: I wonder if you can fill in this blank for me. I know you'll be giving your own state of the union response but give us a preview and fill in the blank. The state of this union is --
PAUL: Struggling, you know, stagnant, wanting to be better, you know, wanting more jobs.
CROWLEY: And is it doable that you all can get together this year? Just again, people sort of look at the field and say, big things are not going to happen. You may get your little things but you don't see anything big this year toward that.
PAUL: Well, we kind of fundamentally disagree on how you'd actually create jobs. The president thinks that you collect money from the rest of the country, bring it to Washington, and then we re- pass it out. That creates jobs. Well, what he misunderstands is that nine out of 10 businesses fail, so nine out of 10 times, he's going to give it to the wrong people. He gave $500 million to one of the richest men in the country to build solar panels and we lost that money.
I would give the money back to those who earned it in the form of tax reductions, and then I think it wouldn't be us choosing who the winners are. The marker place, the consumer picks the winners, and it'd be much more likely to create jobs that way.
CROWLEY: You have filed suit against National Security Agency basically aimed at that big metadata program where they collect information on phone calls made here in the U.S. and into the U.S. Have you gotten any democrats or any Republicans, for that matter, to join you in that suit?
PAUL: There are several Democrats who I talk with on a routine basis about trying to reform the NSA. I don't know if any of them are ready to be on the lawsuit yet. But on legislation, I am on legislation with Senator Wyden and Udall and Blumenthal to try to reform the FISA courts, to try to reform the NSA, to try to end some of this collection of records. But our court case will be historic because it will be the first time that a class action suit over 350,000 people are saying you can't have my phone records if the warrant doesn't have my name on it and it doesn't specify what you want them for and it doesn't accuse me of some kind of crime with probable cause.
This is an incredibly important debate over the fourth amendment. And so, I think our lawsuit will have great ramifications and I think it will make it to the Supreme Court.
CROWLEY: Your party this week again had sort of a fluff-up over a somewhat taken out of context remark, but nonetheless, it was attributed certainly to Mike Huckabee who I know you know and he said that Democrats were treating women like uncle sugar, like they couldn't control their own libido. It caused a stir.
He said it was out of context. Reince Priebus then said, listen, we got to watch our words and our tone as we try to bring in minorities and women to the Republican Party. Do you think it's a matter of words and tone?
PAUL: Somewhat. And I think also a lot of the debates we have in Washington and public generally are dumbed down, they're characterized, and we get to the point where we're talking about stuff and throwing stuff back in forth and we are never getting to the truth. You know, the whole thing of the war on women. I sort of laughingly say, yes, there might have been, but the women are winning it.
I've seen the women in my family and how well they're doing. My niece is in Cornell Vet School and 85 percent of the people in vet school right now are women. Over half of the young people in medical school and dental school are women. Law school, the same way. I think women are doing very well and I'm proud of how well we've come and how far we've come and I think that some of the victimology and all this other stuff is trumped up.
We don't get to any good policy by, you know, playing some sort of charade that somehow one party doesn't care about women or one party is not in favor of women advancing or other people advancing.
CROWLEY: I want to ask you, there's been a bit of a dust-up over some remarks you made this week which seem to suggest there was a way the government might halt aid to single women who receive government poverty funds if they keep having children. Can you explain to me what you meant?
PAUL: Actually, I said kind of the opposite. I said a lot of times government can't do anything about this but the number one cause in our country -- and I don't think you can debate this -- of poverty is having kids before you're married.
PAUL: But I tell people over and over again, I can't make you get married. I can't do anything about that. But what I would say is that we shouldn't just give up.
The community, ministers, pastors, parents, grandparents, we need to be saying -- and this is maybe one of the most important things we ought to be saying that doesn't have a specific policy prescription -- but we need to be telling our kids that poverty is linked to having children before you're married and the institution of marriage is incredibly important, not just as a religious institution, but as an economic institution.
CROWLEY: So, you did not suggest that women who continue to have children that are receiving poverty aid --
PAUL: I didn't come up with -- it's kind of tricky to say exactly what I did say. I didn't come up with a policy prescription. I would say I mused about what are we going to do and does government have a role in it. And I mostly concluded by saying it's a community, it's a religious, it's a personal problem, but it is a problem and I mused about how you'd have a government policy but I actually came down saying it would be very difficult to have a government policy.
But many people have thought about this. It's just a matter of how you would institute a government policy that didn't create incentives to have more children. And, it's not that I'm against children. I come from a large family and I think we all -- you know, it's wonderful. But it needs to -- in the right context, it can lead to a great life. But in the wrong context, it really is -- can be a burden for those who aren't yet married.
CROWLEY: Senator Rand Paul, thanks so much for your time this morning.
PAUL: Thank you.
CROWLEY: CNN's coverage of the president's state of the union address on Tuesday starts at 7:00 p.m.
But when we return, safety fears for tourists and athletes at the Sochi Olympics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We have had conversations with the Russian government on protection of our citizens. Of course, if we need to extract our citizens, we will have appropriate arrangements with the Russians.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Next, an exclusive interview with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. on how his country is preparing for the --
CROWLEY: Joining me now, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak. Thank you so much for being here, Mr. Ambassador.
SERGEY KISLYAK, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Thank you for having me, Candy.
CROWLEY: Just straight up, the question is that these Olympics are going to take place, full speed ahead, in Sochi, which essentially is right next door toward to a war zone. Was it a mistake to choose that spot?
KISLYAK: It wasn't for several reasons. One, Sochi is as safe as the rest of Russia. Secondly, Sochi is pretty unique a place in terms of its geographic, climate, and very uniqueness in Sochi being kind of resort area on the warm sea and you can also do downhill skiing. So, it's wonderful place for Olympics, first. Secondly, it's not close to war zone. There is no war zone in Russia.
CROWLEY: Well, it is certainly close where a lot of terrorist activity takes place as recently as last week and the week before. That was my -- not an official war zone, you're right --
KISLYAK: I will tell you that the phenomenon of terrorism is global in nature. So, wherever you are, you might become a target of a terrorist. But, we do not take it lightly so we have good planning. We have excellent specialists who I have working on it. We have put up pretty strong team that is working to deny terrorists any chance of success. And I am absolutely sure that we are going to succeed. Us (ph) is going to succeed.
CROWLEY: And let me show you a recent poll, this is from Quinnipiac University. It's of Americans and they were asked about the likelihood of a terrorist attack at Sochi. Half of Americans thought it was very or somewhat likely that there would be a terrorist attack in Sochi. Your words of reassurance are?
KISLYAK: First of all, this is something that is going to happen in Russia. Absolute majority of people who will be at Olympics are Russians and they are pretty comfortable to go there and they know the country. They know the situation. That is the most important thing. I would tell you that out of 70 plus percent of tickets already sold to the Olympics, 78 plus percent of the tickets were sold in Russia.
CROWLEY: You're not worried about empty seats from overseas.
KISLYAK: Not exactly. Because even today, you cannot buy a ticket for most popular sports. You cannot buy ticket for opening ceremony, for the closure, for important hockey team games, and also for number of other sports. So, we are pretty comfortable and there will be two weeks to go before that so there will be many more.
CROWLEY: So, what we -- from what we have been told by a lot of intelligence officials here, as well as some members of Congress who are saying it out loud, the U.S. feels that there has not been enough of an intelligence exchange between the Russia and the U.S. over matters that the U.S. feels it could be helpful in sort of dissecting threats of that kind of thing. Why has that happened?
KISLYAK: It hasn't happened.
CROWLEY: You don't think that's so?
KISLYAK: I don't believe so, because I know that the cooperation is pretty good. I know that --
CROWLEY: Is it good enough?
KISLYAK: It's good enough. And you need to remember, it's Olympic Games that are being held in Russia. And we have pretty solid capabilities to deal with it on our own. We certainly rely on a lot of cooperation with the others, including the United States, and I'm rather comfortable about the quality of this cooperation.
And also, what I hear from specialists, not people who are judging from outside, they're pretty comfortable with the level of cooperation that they are getting from Russian law enforcement. Moreover, they are saying themselves, even in public. CROWLEY: And yet, when one U.S. official tells us that they learned about the threat that the so-called black widow or one or two of them had gotten into the Sochi perimeter, gotten past the Sochi perimeter, but they learned that from TV rather than from any exchange of information with the Russians. It just sounds like there's some tension there.
KISLYAK: I don't see any tension. I didn't feel any tension, first. Secondly, I'm not sure that they can confirm the risk of a threat of the kind you are talking about. There was a report of some notice that were given circulated as a kind of look-out information. It doesn't necessarily mean that there is an immediate threat.
CROWLEY: OK. Let me just try to clarify --
KISLYAK: Which is very normal precaution thing for law enforcement to do.
CROWLEY: Right. So, the thing that was interpreted as a black widow terrorist having penetrated the perimeter around Sochi, into Sochi itself, was not a "they're there." It was a watch for because these people might be there? It just came across quite differently.
KISLYAK: Well, I'm not working in law enforcement. So, had I worked in law enforcement, so I wouldn't be able to give you all the information that people have. But I'm telling you that all the matters that I've been taking in Sochi are good enough in order to ensure that there will be joyful, peaceful, and Successful Olympic games.
CROWLEY: Do you think that U.S.-Russian tensions over Iran, over Syria, over Mr. Snowden, over a number of things have in any way hampered cooperation toward making this the Olympics that you envision?
KISLYAK: Two points. One, I do not believe that we have tensions over Iran. We have different points of view how to best organize the process of coming to a political solution to the issue. But those are technical differences and we have enjoyed pretty good cooperation on these issues. And we work in six-plus-one format together, as one entity, which I believe is pretty unique and pretty good because that helps negotiating a solution.
Secondly on Syria, with all the differences that we have, we also have a lot in common. It's an understanding that any solution to the crisis need to be filed on political track. And as Mr. Lavrov and Mr. Kerry who are working hard to bring about the peace conference that we had seen.
So, having said so, I would suggest that there is no impact of alleged differences between us or alleged tension -- there are differences, but there are no tensions because of this processes that could affect our cooperation on Sochi.
CROWLEY: And so, just one final word here to let you put a period on this, your message to Americans is that you believe these Olympics will be safe and happy and carry on as Olympics have.
KISLYAK: It's not only that I believe. I'm absolutely certain because we are doing everything that is needed in order to make sure it's going to be safe and it will be as safe as any other Olympics that can be held currently in the world.
CROWLEY: Thank you so much, Mr. Ambassador.
KISLYAK: Thank you.
CROWLEY: Appreciate your time with us today.
KISLYAK: Thank you very much.
CROWLEY: When we return, Congress has a full plate this year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) MINORITY LEADER: We should be here passing unemployment insurance for starters. But working on all of the other issues like voting rights, immigration, and raising the minimum wage, a farm bill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Yes. But how much of that is really possible? We'll find out next with leaders, Steny Hoyer and Tom Cole, plus, CNN's Dana Bash.
CROWLEY: Joining me around the table, Congressman Steny Hoyer, House Minority Whip and second in command to Nancy Pelosi, and Congressman Tom Cole, Deputy Whip for the Republican conference, and our Dana Bash, CNN's chief congressional correspondent. Just a warning to all that we are awaiting a news conference out of Columbia, Maryland where there was a tragic mall shooting yesterday. Police (ph) with some more information so we may have to abruptly stop and they then hopefully come back.
I want to talk to you about -- first of all, there was a recent Gallup poll, this will not surprise you, that asked registered voters if their member of Congress deserved re-election. 46 percent said yes. So half of all folks who will go to the polls this November think that their member probably should not be re-elected. What have you done wrong?
HOYER: Well, I think we haven't done much. We've been pretty dysfunctional. I think Tom would agree with that. We haven't been able to come to consensus on a lot of issues and I think the American public are disgusted with us so it is no surprise that they discretely think that their member of Congress must not be doing the right thing either. Although that is somewhat unusual where they think that Congress is doing something bad. But their member of Congress is pretty good. So we'll see.
CROWLEY: That's usually the case.
COLE: Not surprising we'll have a little disagreement here. I would argue the Senate has been dysfunctional. I think the House has actually moved quite a bit of legislation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: One of the things that I think that we're seeing now -- the young woman who introduces the folks. So we want to go -- let's go to Columbia and see what news we can find out of this news conference.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE). We'll take as many questions as we can and share with you what we know and then try to give you additional updates throughout the day. At HCPDNews on Twitter as the day progresses, we'll continue to post any updates that we have. County executive Ken Ulman. KEN ULMAN, HOWARD COUNTY EXECUTIVE: Thank you all for coming out this morning. Couple announcements. First of all, I want to thank Chief McMahon and our team here in Howard County, our law enforcement family for the wonderful work, the bravery, the heroism that we saw yesterday. We have identified the shooter and the chief will be giving that information and the specifics of the investigation that went throughout the night last night and is ongoing this morning. I want to, again, thank our men and women in law enforcement.
We train for these things. We provide them the resources to do their jobs. But training is different than responding to an active shooter incident. And what I saw yesterday really made me incredibly proud of the men and women who risk their lives to keep the rest of us safe. Within two minutes they were here at the mall and rushing in to the scene. Obviously a terrible, tragic, sad, scary day for our community and our hearts and prayers and thoughts go out to the victims and their families. And to their loved ones. But I also saw a lot of things yesterday that made me incredibly proud to be county executive here in Howard County.
I saw story after story of people grabbing children and loved ones and taking them to back rooms of stores and locking the doors and huddling together and people just showing compassion and support for their fellow citizen, complete strangers. And so out of these moments of tragedy, you know, we look for a silver lining. And the one thing I would ask is that everybody take a moment today, whether that is while you're worshipping or a private moment with your family or by yourself and let's rededicate ourselves to doing what we can to make this world a little bit of a better place. You know, there's a lot of things in this world we can't control. We can have a discussion after we know more about the shooter and the motive and there will be plenty of time for a broader public policy discussion about what happened here. But the one thing we can do is, you know, we can hug our loved ones and we can rededicate ourselves to, you know, making the world a better place. Do something nice for someone. We're better than this. And we have an incredibly strong, resilient, wonderful community in Howard County and we're going to start -- we're going to show that -- continue to show that every day. I also want to thank the Columbia Mall and management at General Growth for their partnership and working together with us. They will be open at least on Tuesday and they're working hard to see if they can be open earlier than that. And there will be more updates later today about the mall schedule and also the schedule regarding -- the chief will give some information about the process leading up to reopening the mall. So again, thank you for being here and I want to again bring up our chief of police, Bill McMahon, who was here on the scene right away and is working on a couple of hours' sleep, but led a wonderful, dedicated, brave group of men and women over the last 24 hours or so. Thank you.
CHIEF BILL MCMAHON, HOWARD COUNTRY POLICE CHIEF: Thank you, Mr. Executive. And thank you all for your patience. We know you have a tremendous number of questions and obvious interest in this case. And frankly, in many ways they are the same questions that we have. I'm going to do my best to answer as many of them as I can. Right from the beginning.
But before I get into that, let me again just thank our community. You know the mall is a very important part of this community. It's more than just an economic entity. It really is kind of the main street for Columbia and one of the things Howard County's known for. So we know the impact when we have the mall shutdown. We know what kind of impact that has not just economically but kind of psychologically. So we appreciate the support and patience we're getting from our community and we deal with this.
And I certainly thank you all for being patient with us as we try to get your questions answered so that we can provide answers to our communities. So again, thank you. And obviously the men and women of the police department, as the county executive has pointed out. But it is not just the Howard County Police Department. We had a tremendous amount of assistance and continue to have that assistance from a variety of agencies -- local, state, federal. And as the executive pointed out, this is what we train for and that training has paid off in many, many ways with this incident.
So what can I update you on (ph)? Since the last -- since the last time we spoke we have been very, very busy. We've been very, very busy overnight accomplishing a number of things. Let me run those by you. First of all, I'm going to identify our shooter as Darion, D-A-R-I-O-N, Marcus, M-A-R-C-U-S, Aguilar, A-G-U-I-L-A-R. He's 19 years old and he lives at 4704 Hollywood Road in College Park.
It took us a while to identify him. As you know, we were concerned about when the initial officers came upon him seeing a lot of ammunition on him. We were concerned about whether he had booby- trapped himself. Although his body was not booby-trapped, those concerned certainly were borne out and I'll talk about that in a minute. But it took us a while to identify him. We were able to use some technology, some robots from other agencies, we were able to get his identification and then we had to verify that, and then obviously wanted to make notification to his family.
So Darion Marcus Aguilar is the shooter. We do not have any -- we've have not been able to identify any type of relationship at this point between him and either of our victims. We can't establish that there is one, we have not been able to establish that there is not one. That is an open question. We know that is an important piece of information our community is interested in. But we just don't know that. We are working to find that out now.
We do know that one of our victims also lived in College Park. We don't know if there is any connection there or that's merely coincidental. Again, we're working hard to determine that. Once we can establish if there is any relationship or not, that will certainly help us to identify the next big question which is why this happened. So we just don't have the answers to those questions at this point. Please bear in mind, we're about 22 hours since this happened. So we've gotten a lot accomplished but we still have some unanswered questions and we're working on those.
We did serve a search warrant to that address late last night, early this morning. Recovered evidence, including ammunition. We see his computers. Some documents, things that we will be going through over the next hours and days. The weapon used in the shooting was a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun. At this point, again early on, it appears it was purchased in Montgomery County in December. We're still kind of running down some of the details on that purchase.
We did announce last night that we had come across in the store a backpack that contained explosives or IEDs. These were homemade devices consisting of flash powder and household items. So they were not very sophisticated. With the help of our colleagues with the FBI, state fire marshal, we were able to render those devices safe which allowed us to then proceed with the rest of the investigation.
As you know, because of those found devices that we were able to render safe, we did have concerns about did he leave anything else in the mall. And standard protocol for shootings like this is to make sure that that is safe. So we tried to alleviate those concerns in two ways. Number one is through the great coordination by a number of agencies throughout the region, we had almost 20 explosive detection canine teams in the mall. They divided them all up into areas. That is a very tedious and very time consuming process.
They were able to go through all common areas of the mall. They were able to go through all the stores and we did not find any indication of any more explosive devices. While that was taking place with working with mall officials, we were reviewing videotape, surveillance tape from the mall. We were able to find our shooter. He was dropped off at mall by a cab at about 10:15 on the upper level by the carousel, if you're familiar with the mall. He had very limited movement from that time within the mall.
Again he was again dropped off around 10:15. The reports of the shooting come in around 11:15. We know he went downstairs, and then we saw him come back upstairs and that's when the shooting began. So he had a very limited -- we're very confident that he had a very limited amount of movement in the mall from the time he got there at 10:15 to the time the shooting took place at 11:15. There was between six to eight shots fired, and we're still working to determine exactly where all those shots went. Obviously we have two victims, deceased, the shooter is deceased. We also have the mall patron who was downstairs in the eatery, kind of under where the store is where the shooting took place that had a shotgun wound to the foot. So we are still trying to determine how that happened.
In terms of the crime scene, after we were able to render the building safe and secure and we had our concerns alleviated about any more explosive devices, we already got our crime scene technicians in and with the (INAUDIBLE) of the medical examiner. We're able to finish our crime scene investigation. We wrapped that up around 2:00 this morning and we were able to turn the interior of the mall back over to the Columbia Mall officials so they could start the process of what it takes to reopen the mall.
Our work with the mall will continue on working this case. We'll continue obviously. We want to find out why this occurred. We want to find out if there is any relationship between the shooter and our victims. The mall, as the exec mentioned, is closed today. The mall will open no later than Tuesday but they are working very, very diligently to get that -- get this mall opened earlier than that. And ourselves and the mall will be providing some more detail as those decisions are made.
Couple important things that are taking place today that our public will be interested in. Again, put yourself in the picture of being at the Columbia Mall on a Saturday morning when the shooting takes place. Lots of people left, they dropped what they had. They sheltered in place. For people that left personal items in the common areas of the mall -- not the stores yet but in the common areas of the mall, they will have the opportunity to pick that property up between 12:00 and 5:00 today at 30 Corporate Center, the PNC building, right over there. And the number -- the Columbia Mall has established a hotline for people interested in that. That is 410-730-3302. So again, this is for customers of the mall who left belongings in the common area of the mall.
For tenants of the mall, the business owners of the mall, you should be expecting to receive some type of communication from mall management later this morning about when you will be able to get in to your stores to begin addressing the needs that you have in your stores. We are also working at both of those opportunities when people come back in, we're working to have grief counselors on site. We know this is a traumatic and dramatic event in people's -- people's lives and for those that witnessed some of this or didn't witness it but were still involved at the mall when this happened, again, it can be pretty traumatic.
MCMAHON: And so we are working to have some initial grief services, grief counseling services available as people come in to pick up their property. And again, later in the day as we start letting tenants in.
When the mall does reopen, we will ensure that we have a strong police presence here so that people feel comfortable and safe shopping here. Again, we understand as I said before, the Columbia Mall is a very unique place in the county. It's not just an economic institution. It's really a place of community. So we understand that. And so we are working closely with the mall officials to allow them to reopen as quickly as we can. So that's all the new information I have to share. I will take a few questions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chief, what more - what more can you tell us about the shooter? (INAUDIBLE).
MCMAHON: Yes. We're still tracking all that down. He's a 19- year-old young man, lived in College Park. To this point we don't see any type of significant record that would cause us concern to lead us to wonder why this might have happened. I don't know if he's a student or not.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did his parents say he showed any signs of violence?
MCMAHON: I don't know that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chief, how far -
MCMAHON: I'm sorry?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE).
MCMAHON: Those were the explosive devices we found in the backpack. So we had that concern when we originally found the shooter. He still had a lot of ammunition on his person. We were concerned he might have a booby trap there. He did not have any booby traps on him, but we did uncover this backpack, and once we found one we have an obligation to make sure there's not more. That's why we took our time to make sure it was searched (ph) and it was safe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How were you able to identify the (INAUDIBLE)? MCMAHON: Pardon me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the video how did (INAUDIBLE)?
MCMAHON: It's not clear at this point and we're still reviewing that to determine that. He did have a backpack. As I mentioned he came with (ph) a (ph) backpack (ph) and that's what (INAUDIBLE) -- well, there's many different types of shotguns.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do (ph) you know who purchase the gun in Montgomery County (INAUDIBLE)?
MCMAHON: He did. It's my understanding right now is that he purchased it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How were you able to identify him?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- the backpack on him or at the house?
MCMAHON: I'm sorry?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE).
MCMAHON: Not that I'm aware of (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was there identification on the body? How were you able to identify him?
MCMAHON: There was, but we needed to identify that. We did that through some other means.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chief, how close did the shooter live near the female victim in College Park?
MCMAHON: I'm not sure the exact location. I've just been told that, you know, they're both in College Park.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he live alone or was he a college student?
MCMAHON: To my understanding is he lived with at least his mother.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was there an altercation before the shooting or did the suspect walk in shooting?
MCMAHON: That's the -- we're still trying to determine that. And again we're only 22 hours into this. We still have a lot of work to do, a lot of interviews to do. You know, two families are grieving the loss of their loved ones in this. We're being respectful of that. We need to reinterview family members and really establish if there's any connection or what really triggered this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know how he concealed the weapon? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did the employees recognize (INAUDIBLE)? What was he wearing?
MCMAHON: I don't know what he was wearing specifically.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)?
MCMAHON: It didn't seem to be anything that would cause any concern when he walked in. Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did employees (ph) recognize him?
MCMAHON: I'm not aware of that. No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chief, can you give us an idea how many witnesses (INAUDIBLE) in the store at the time or directly outside that saw this directly and what (INAUDIBLE)?
MCMAHON: I don't have a good feel for that. It's a fairly small store and contained -- there are a number of witnesses we're talking to. That's all the information I have for that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chief, do you know if he has a criminal record?
MCMAHON: I don't know that he does. No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chief, do you know how many people -
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- measures taken in light of the shooting? Will there be additional security measures taken?
MCMAHON: We will be here, as we have been, until this incident is resolved and we can reopen the mall. Once the mall reopens, we will ensure that we're supporting mall security in their efforts to make sure this is a safe place. I can't answer any questions about any enhanced security measures by the mall itself.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chief, how many people have (INAUDIBLE) so far (INAUDIBLE)?
MCMAHON: I don't know those answers. Detectives are working. They're doing this. We're doing this. So there's a lot of unanswered questions. I appreciate those. I appreciate your time and your patience. As Sherri said, stay tuned to our Twitter account and our Facebook account, and we will update you as quickly as we can as we get more information. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there another press conference?
CROWLEY: OK. That were two officials from Howard County. It is outside Washington, D.C. There was a shooting at a mall. The Columbia Mall, as a matter of fact, in Howard County yesterday. Two young people who worked in the store were killed. And the shooter killed himself. So three dead and one wounded with a shotgun blast to the foot. Still don't know exactly the motive of this shooter. We do know he was 19-year-old Darion Aguilar, who in fact lived in nearby Montgomery County in Silver Spring. I want to bring in our Erin McPike right now to take to her. Erin, it seems to me that there are in fact more questions that we have than were answered today.
ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, that's right. And to recap just a little bit, the police chief said that the victim -- or excuse me, the shooter is Darion Marcus Aguilar. He's a 19-year- old shooter from -- or excuse me, a 19-year-old from College Park. That was the shooter. They cannot verify whether or not he had a relationship with either of the victims or whether or not the victims had a relationship. They worked together at the same store. But none of that is very clear. No motive yet. What they did say is obviously they found a lot of ammunition with the shooter. Also some homemade explosive devices. So it's unclear whether it was a very targeted event or if it could have been a much bigger event, Candy.
CROWLEY: So Erin, next in this obviously is to try to find the motivation. It does seem that they move fairly quickly in Howard County to gather whatever information they could and the mall may be in operation soon. So this is something, obviously they got a lot of widespread praise for authorities in Howard County for the quickness of their reaction.
MCPIKE: They did. And I spoke with the Howard County executive Ken Ulman a couple of times yesterday. And that's what he kept saying. Some law enforcement officials were able to get to the scene within 90 seconds, but a lot of them showed up within two minutes. But they did say they will have a larger security presence when they reopen. They may reopen as early as Tuesday, but it could be even earlier than that and they'll probably make that determination later today or Monday morning.
CROWLEY: What do we know about the shotgun and where it was purchased?
MCPIKE: We do know that it was purchased just in December. So not long ago. The shooter himself purchased the shotgun. They said it was a 12-gauge shotgun. But he didn't give much more detail than that because people are trying to wonder how he got it into the mall, how he had it concealed. And one of the things the police chief said was, shotguns come in lots of different lengths.
CROWLEY: Right. And you can break them down and put them back together as well. And how did the shooter get to the mall? He lived, what, maybe 10 miles I'm told from the mall. So how did he get there? Is there a car? Have they gone through his residence?
MCPIKE: They did go through his residence last night. They said he took a taxi. He got to the mall around 10:15. So he was there for about an hour before the shooting started. They did say that his movement within the mall was very limited. But they thoroughly searched the mall until about 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. this morning and have since turned back the mall over to officials at the mall itself. So the search was concluded because he was there for about an hour and took a taxi to the mall yesterday.
CROWLEY: And what of the proximity apparently that at least one of the victims, the female victim, had with the alleged shooter, and that is that they both lived in College Park? Is there any - do we have any idea --
MCPIKE: They both lived - they both lived in College Park. That is what the police chief said. What he does not know is how close together they lived. Now, the female victim, the 21-year-old, Brianna Benlolo, as we know, was an employee of that store. She also had a 2- year-old child. But we do not know what the relationship may have been between the 19-year-old shooter and that 21-year-old victim and the 25-year-old victim. That's why we have all these questions and the investigation is still ongoing to determine what kind of relationship they could have had. But yes, the shooter and the female victim did live in College Park. They just don't know how close together they were.
CROWLEY: Right. Haven't established a connection yet. Thank you so much, Erin McPike in Columbia, Maryland for us today. Stay tuned to CNN throughout the day for the latest on the deadly mall shooting in Columbia, Maryland.
Fareed Zakaria, "GPS," is next for our viewers here in the United States.