Return to Transcripts main page

AT THIS HOUR

New Details on Texas Church Gunman; Democrats Win Big in Virginia; Trump Had CIA Director Look into DNC Hack Conspiracy Theory; CBO: GOP Pushback on Tax Bill. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired November 8, 2017 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:32:03] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, we're getting some stunning firsthand accounts of Sunday's church massacre from one of the people who survived. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSEANNE SOLIS, CHURCH SHOOTING SURVIVOR: He was going through the aisles all around, with his -- with his -- it wasn't a handgun, it was a pistol or a -- he was looking all around and shooting at everybody, just going through the rows, shooting at everybody. I just saw his feet. So I didn't haven't want to move. I knew that was going to be my last day to live. I did not even want to look at his -- you know, I was hiding under the bench. I did not want to breathe, look, nothing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Unbelievable. This, of course, as we're learning that the gunman escaped from a mental health facility back in 2012.

And Vice President Mike Pence, he's going to be heading to Texas today to meet with survivors and attend a prayer vigil for the victims. And of course, be with their families, as well.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher is live from Sutherland Springs, Texas, with much more on all of this.

Dianne, what can you tell us about this escape? The killer was still in the Air Force?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Kate, this happened a couple months after the Air Force had charged him with assaulting his then wife and infant stepson. According to a police report kind of detailing this escape from the mental health facility in New Mexico, he had also recently threatened his military commanders and attempted to sneak guns on to the Air Force base. They described him as, quote, "suffering from a mental health disorder," and said that he could pose a danger to himself and others around him. Now, the local authorities there were able to find him at a bus stop. They took him in without any sort of incident.

But this is just another situation that sort of illustrates the series of red flags in his past, Kate. We're looking at things that go all the way back to his high school records that show this troubled life. Animal cruelty charges. He's been investigated before, but not charged with sexual assault. And of course, those assault charges, which were pretty harrowing when we learned the details of his ex-wife and his infant son. Now, authorities have been looking at his online footprint, talking to people who knew him, who said that he had been posting much darker and angrier things online. They say, according to investigators, that he seemed obsessed with mass shootings and violence.

But Kate, the key is trying to get into his cell phone. At this point, the FBI says they have a warrant. The phone is at Quantico, but they can't get into it because of encryption technology. So we're looking at the same thing we've seen in other past high-profile mass- shooting cases. They can't get into it. But that's the key for them right now, figuring out exactly what was going through his mind leading up to this.

BOLDUAN: The same problem they ran into after San Bernardino. They eventually were able to get in, but now they're up against it right now.

Dianne, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Let's discuss more about this with -- let me bring in Democratic Congressman Donald McEachin of Virginia.

Thanks so much for coming in.

[11:34:57] REP. DONALD MCEACHIN, (D), VIRGINIA: Thank you for having me. And let me first say that our hearts and prayers are not only with the victims in Las Vegas, but also the victims in Texas. I can't imagine anything more honorable than praying to your god and having someone interrupt that with gun violence. So our hearts and our prayers go out to them.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

One of the elements of all of this, as we've been -- as folks have been trying to learn how this happened and more about this shooter, is that the Air Force did not report his domestic violence conviction, did not report that to the national database that would have prevented him from getting a gun. In the Senate now, John Cornyn, number-two Republican, he's looking to put together a measure to improve reporting to the background check system, to make sure this doesn't happen again. In the House, though, Speaker Ryan, he says that no new measures are needed president that t, that the laws currently on the books just need to be enforced, because he shouldn't have been able to get a gun. Which is it?

MCEACHIN: I think the Senator is wrong, and I think from my assessment, I am not convinced that the Air Force nor its sister services actually have a charge of domestic violence like we do in civil court or civilian court. They sort of lump it all under assault and if it's not clear to the person or the clerk that's putting into the database which type of assault it is, which it can easily be misunderstood or lost in that sort of a scenario, that's how these things happen. So I think we need to go into the military's Code of Uniform Justice and actually have a domestic violence charge.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you a little bit more kind of about the military's response to this. The V.A. secretary, he was asked about this shooter in an interview today. Here's what he said about him. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID SHULKIN, VETERANS AFFAIRS SECRETARY: I do not consider him a veteran. I consider him a criminal. And, frankly, people who have worn the uniform don't want to be associated with people like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: And Secretary Shulkin says the V.A. has nothing to do with this. But someone dropped the ball. Should people at the Pentagon lose their jobs over this?

MCEACHIN: I think we should have more of an investigation before we say, heads should roll at the Pentagon. I'm not prepared to answer that question today. But I will say this, that I would hope that we would also have mental services available for folks, whether they're discharged honorably or dishonorably. If folks need mental health treatment, they need to get it, they need to be in a secure facility while they're getting that. So I'm not sure where the secretary is coming from with that comment. It's not in context for me. But it's too early to say whether heads should roll at the Pentagon or not.

BOLDUAN: Definitely more investigation, though.

Let me ask you, though, on a very different topic, but -- a very different topic, but an important one today, as you, of course, are from Virginia, a big night in your state of Virginia. Big Democratic wins. A Democratic wave, pretty much, crashed through. What do you think was behind the wins last night?

MCEACHIN: Well, you know, we did a lot of things right last night. We had a terrific ticket and Ralph Northam, Justin Fairfax, and Mark Erring (ph). We ran more candidates for the House of Delegates than we've ever had before. I think we had 88 candidates in the field. It's a 100-member chamber. I think that's twice as many as we've ever run before. So we decided to compete everywhere. And the results showed. We spoke to people about issues. But also, we can't forget the Trump effect. You know, Donald Trump continues to be the gift that keeps on giving. A lot of people came out, because they were shocked at what happened at last November. And they were determined not to let it happen again in Virginia. Last night, Virginia decided to reject hate, to reject divisiveness, and affirm inclusiveness. I'm so proud of my commonwealth.

BOLDUAN: You told "Politico" last night after the wins, "We're beginning to win the House of Representatives." I mean, maybe that was just in the heat of the moment, but that seems a pretty bold claim one year out from the midterm. Do you still stand by that today?

MCEACHIN: I still say when 2019 comes, the Democrats will be in charge of the House of representatives. We have -- the same things we see happening, the dccc has spoken to more candidates in this cycle than it has in the last two cycles. The energy is there. The pent-up frustration with the Trump administration is there. All the same ingredients that we saw play out last night in Virginia, from having good candidates, from fielding candidates across the board in all sorts of different districts will play out in 2018. So you heard it here first.

BOLDUAN: All right. Congressman, we'll have you on and keep the tape. Appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

MCEACHIN: Thank you.

[11:39:43] BOLDUAN: Coming up for us still, a highly unusual request by any president: Send the head of the CIA to meet a former NSA conspiracy theorist who says the DNC e-mail hack was an inside job. A new report. You'll want to hear it. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: The CIA director sitting down with a known conspiracy theorist. Sounds like a spy novel, right. Well, that is what happened, it appears. According to sources, Mike Pompeo sat down with a former NSA whistleblower who believes the DNC e-mail hack in the election was an inside job, despite, of course, the assessment by the entire intelligence apparatus in this country, including the CIA, which Mike Pompeo is director of. How did this happen? And why?

CNN chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[11:44:47] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESONDENT (voice-over): Multiple sources tell CNN that CIA director Mike Pompeo met at the president's urging with one of the principle deniers of Russian interference in the U.S. election. As first reported by "The Intercept," Pompeo met October 24th with William Binney, a former National Security Agency employee, who has theorized that the theft and release of thousands of Democratic National Committee e-mails was actually an inside job, carried out not by Russia, but a DNC employee.

Binney tells CNN that Pompeo began the meeting, which lasted an hour, by saying, quote, "The president told me I should talk to you."

Regarding the meeting, the CIA refused to comment. But it said that Director Pompeo, quote, "Stands by and has always stood by the January 2017 intelligence community assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election."

The president himself has repeatedly questioned Russia's involvement, both during the campaign --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She's saying Russia, Russia, Russia.

SCIUTTO: -- and since his election, as well.

TRUMP: If you don't catch a hacker, OK, in the act, it's very hard to say who did the hacking. With that being said, I'll go along with Russia. Could have been China. Could have been a lot of different groups.

SCIUTTO: In October, Director Pompeo prompted a clarification from the CIA when he said in a speech that the U.S. intelligence community determined that Russian meddling in the 2016 election did not affect its outcome.

MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: The intelligence community's assessment is that the Russian meddling that took place did not affect the outcome of the election.

SCIUTTO: Soon after the speech, the CIA issued a statement saying, quote, "The intelligence assessment with regard to Russian election meddling has not changed and the director did not intend to suggest that it had."

Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: Our thanks to Jim.

Joining me now to discuss, CNN legal and national security analyst, Asha Rangappa, a former FBI special agent.

Asha, great to see you.

What do you make of this?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, with I think we need to go back to the intelligence assessment in January and understand the significance of that. That report, which concluded that Russian meddling and hacking happened was issued by three agencies, the FBI, the CIA, and the NSA. These agencies do different things. NSA does signals intelligence, CIA does human intelligence, the FBI does counterintelligence within the United States and the idea here is the promote some friendly competition among these agencies before they come to conclusions. And part of their job is actually to poke holes in each other' other's intelligence and for what they come up with. For them to unanimously agree that this happened is highly significant. This is not something that would be done lightly. It would not be done physical all of their different kinds of intelligence weren't corroborated. So, I think we need to use that as a starting point before we go to, these conspiracy theories that are refuting that assessment.

BOLDUAN: Well, and, on the most basic level, I'm sure heads of agencies take a lot of meetings, of course, they do. And some of them, courtesy meetings, and some of them, because the president says, please do this. But does it pose a problem for Mike Pompeo, amongst his rank and file, his own people, when the meeting that he took is directly questioning the assessment of his own people? RANGAPPA: Yes, in this instance, there are several problems with

this. Kate, one of the basic premises of producing intelligence is that it needs to be unbiased. You produce what -- you say what you see, regardless of what policymakers or people above you want to see. And they can make -- they can take action based on it however they want. But your job is to produce an unbiased report. And we saw some of the consequences of not doing that under George W. Bush with the WMD in Iraq where that got politicized. So in this case, Kate, where the president has a vested interest in basically not establishing a tie between Russia and the hacking. You know, I think that in this case, Pompeo should have respectfully said, you know, I need to consult with my own agency and make that decision of whether to look into this further, independently of this request.

BOLDUAN: And that does not seem to be what happened, at least this time.

Great to see you, Asha. Thank you so much.

RANGAPPA: Thanks, Kate.

[11:49:15] BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, the Republican tax bill. Where do things stand? Well, one place is not sitting well with some Republicans. Why some now worry the current plan could now do what it said it would not, raise taxes on the middle class. We'll get to it in one second.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: There's breaking news. The Congressional Budget Office, the independent, nonpartisan scorekeeper of all things congressional, all new legislation, has bad news right now on the GOP tax bill. In a letter just released, saying the current plan the Republicans put forward would increase deficits by more than they thought.

Let's get to the details. Sunlen Serfaty is joining me with more.

Hey, there, Sunlen.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kate. This letter just out by the Congressional Budget Office. They say the tax bill as it stands right now would add $1.7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade. This number is so important because Republicans, they had to hit the target of $1.5 trillion in this tax bill to be able to pass it through something we've been talking about known as reconciliation, being able to pass it in their budget with only Republican votes. So that's significant. That's important.

Certainly, another stumbling block ahead especially because you have a lot of budget hawks you here on Capitol Hill who are nervous about the additions to the deficit and certainly this make them even more nervous going forward. Today up here on Capitol Hill, the House ways and means committee continue working through their markup of their bill and certainly leadership is trying to project some confidence. They say they're moving in the right direction. But there are considerable sticking points still left on the table. They're going through the nitty gritty sticking points over, as always, the elimination of a state and local tax deduction, excise taxes, so- called pass-throughs for businesses and corporations, a lot of issues still on the table. That, over in the House. Now over here on the Senate side, they're working on their own bill. The finance committee is set to debut that bill tomorrow. They'll begin marking up their bill next week. A lot of things have to come together to make these bills go forward. But as of now, leadership certainly is projecting some confidence.

[11:55:51] BOLDUAN: Some confidence but this is no headline that any Republican wants to see especially if they're a deficit hawk that their plan will add more to the deficit than they planned. Have you seen any reaction from any of the leaders to the number?

SURFATY: No reaction just yet. This number did come out in the last few minutes before we went on air. Certainly, we know in the moments and hours ahead up here on the Hill, we'll certainly be getting that reaction.

BOLDUAN: Senate Republicans especially, this was a big -- the deficit number is a big issue for them. Let's see where this goes and how this moves it.

Great to see you, Sunlen. I appreciate it.

We're following breaking news ahead, including this, a blue wave energizing Democrats giving some Republicans second thoughts. We're going to have much more on the big wins last night. What do they mean for the 2018 midterms? Is a wave coming or can Republicans make up ground in a year? A lot to discuss. Coming up.