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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Interview with Orlando Gunman's Father; Trump Meeting with NRA on Keeping Guns from Those on Watch List, No-fly List; Lindsey Graham Blast Donald Trump; "People" Talks to Grieving Families. Aired 11:30a- 12p ET

Aired June 15, 2016 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00:] DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: They were the ones, they say, who informed the widow in the condominium behind me early Sunday morning that her husband was involved in this attack. They would only say they notified her, she was at the condominium that morning when that news broke. They wouldn't give any more details -- John?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Drew Griffin for us. Thank you very much.

Again, the news there, the father saying the son had not been to Afghanistan and didn't believe that he had much connection to that country where his parents hailed from.

Joining me to discuss the latest, CNN national security analyst, Juliette Kayyem; and Art Roderick, CNN law enforcement analyst and former assistant director of the U.S. Marshal's Office.

Juliette, over the last 20 minutes, we've had new information. Pamela Brown reporting there was a phone call made to some kind of friend during the attack. Jim Sciutto reporting there was a phone call made to a television station during the attack. The witness that I just had, the survivor, Orlando Torres, told me he recorded everything that went on his cell phone. The FBI has his cell phone now. Presumably, the FBI has a good sense of exactly what was said during that event inside. What does this tell you?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's starting to make that three-hour lag make sense to me. Remember the first day we were like why did they wait so long. He was on the known. They knew he was on the phone. If he's talking, he's not killing. Remember their situational awareness at the moment, the police that night, is different from what we know now. They didn't know if there was a second person. They didn't know if there was any bomb, detonation devices --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: There was at the Pulse, Orlando Torres said there were people there.

KAYYEM: The fact that there were all these phone calls makes sense in the sense that he's talking, therefore he's not killing. We'll understand the tick tock of that night and why the police wait and what were they thinking. It's starting to make sense in terms of what he was doing for those hours.

BERMAN: Art, you have an interesting perspective. There's been focus the last 24 hours about this guy's psychology. Who he was, was he gay, had he been in gay chat rooms, had he been going to this bar before? The answer may be yes. We may know now or never know. The tactics he used inside the nightclub, you say you've been looking at them, and they're pure is. They're pure textbook how you carry out a terrorist attack.

ART RODERICK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: That's absolutely correct. And when you try to remove the emotion which you really can't in this case, but when you step back and look at the weapons he used, look at how he used the tactics inside the facility, the phone calls to the press, the 911 phone calls, we saw in the past 48 hours the terrorist attack in France that went ahead and stabbed the police commissioner and his girlfriend to death, and he posted that on social media.

We're seeing almost the same tactics. If you look on the jihadist websites, at "Aspire" magazine, it outlines all these things you have to do, Semiautomatic AR-15, AR-47-type weapons. If you listen to the police chief who was just 300 feet away, his interview that was done earlier, he said you could hear the rhythmic shooting like he was on his job shooting people. It was almost like bang, bang, bang, bang. He was going right down the line, which is typical terrorist tactics.

BERMAN: Juliette?

KAYYEM: I mean, this is why all this confusion and multiple motivations, why people aren't also talking about the -- we have to concentrate on the accessibility of weapons for warfare.

It was interesting, one of your reporters interviewed a group that was there, and they asked are you interested in this investigation? The person said I don't care why he did it. I think in some ways we have to resolve ourselves that there might be multiple motivations, and we have to focus on the means. How do people walk into a bar and kill that many people that fast? That's why the discussion is a lot about guns right now.

BERMAN: And where can you stop it along the way --

KAYYEM: Right.

BERMAN: -- even if there are guns?

KAYYEM: Right.

BERMAN: Juliette Kayyem, Art Roderick, thank you very much for being with us.

A lot of new information to digest here, Kate, and a lot of discussion around the country now particularly among politician.

We'll go back to you in New York. [11:34:14] BOLDUAN: Absolutely, John.

We'll get back to John in a few minutes.

What John is talking about, what's become a familiar scene right now playing out in Atlanta, protests outside Donald Trump's event, which is set to begin minutes from now. We're monitoring that.

Also this, a top Republican Senator blasting Trump for doubling down on that Muslim ban in the aftermath of the attack in Florida, and also for suggesting that President Obama has ulterior motives with regard to his response if terror attacks. He's not the only Republican pushing back. Senator Lindsey Graham joins us, live.

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BOLDUAN: We'll get you back to the ground in Orlando in a moment as the investigation spot horrific shooting continues.

In the aftermath of the Orlando shooting, a short time ago, a strong and maybe surprising message from Donald Trump. Him tweeting this, that he will be "meeting with the NRA about banning people on the terror watch list or no-fly list from buying guns." We are looking for more details of what exactly Donald Trump is calling for. But it could potentially put him at odds with much of the Republican Party on the issue of gun control.

Let's get to that and more with CNN's chief political correspondent, Dana Bash. She's here with me.

Great to see you.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You, too.

What are you hearing? What's the reaction so for to Donald Trump's tweet on this?

[11:39:51] BASH: For the most part, Republicans, his fellow Republicans, are not with him on this. If this here really is supporting the idea of completely banning people on the no-fly list and terror watch list from getting guns because for the most part, Republicans on Capitol Hill, even some Democrats, say they think that, number one, that flies in the face of the Second Amendment. Number two, that these watch lists are really unreliable. They're not exactly sure --

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: Yeah, that people are accidentally put on the watch list. That's the reason they're supporting other legislation by Senator John Cornyn and so forth.

However, the fact that he is taking a position that sort of you would think a lot of Independents look at and say this might seem like a no brainer, why would you think about gibing people who could potentially be terrorists a gun, sort of looking -- it looks like he's trying to reach out to them on an issue that -- where he could have common ground.

BOLDUAN: Much more to come. We're trying to get clarification.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Exactly right.

At the same time, there's interesting new polls that just came out. One putting Hillary Clinton ahead in the match-up by 12 points. And this shows they both have big favorability problems, but Trump seems to have bigger favorability problems.

BASH: That's right. Let's start with that. Look, 70 percent unfavorable. That's -- that's almost as bad as it gets, as we've seen. For seven in ten people who are answering the survey to say that they don't think well. Hillary Clinton at 55 percent is also under water. That's not something to be proud of. So this is kind of bad news for both of them.

But I think the other something thing, in the first poll you talked about, the overall horse race. It is early, we could put all the caveats --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: We do.

BASH: But 12 points is rather large for Hillary Clinton now.

The other thing I think is interesting and maybe worth just noting is Gary Johnson, the Libertarian, is at 9 percent. If he somehow gets that up to 15 percent, he could be on the debate stage in the presidential debates, which could change the dynamic and not make it a head-to-head race.

But the other thing is, deeper inside these polls, the deficit that Donald Trump has with blacks, 94 percent say unfavorable, Hispanics, 89 percent. Then kind of the reverse for Hillary Clinton, 68 percent of whites think of her unfavorably. So, so stark when it comes to the ethnic make-up of this country and how they view these candidates.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Dana, great to see you. Thank you.

BASH: You, too.

BOLDUAN: So Democrats and Republicans alike speaking out, denouncing Donald Trump's reaction to the mass shooting in Orlando, from his repeated call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, to suggesting that President Obama has ulterior motives with regard to how he reacts to terrorism and terrorist acts.

One of Trump's most strident Republican critics is Senator Lindsey Graham, and he is joining me right now from Washington.

Senator, thank you so much for joining me.

A lot to get to. Really do appreciate your time.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: On this latest tweet though, real quick, I want to just get your reaction. When Donald Trump says he's going to sit down to meet with the NRA to talk about keeping people who are on terror watch lists from buying guns, do you agree?

GRAHAM: Yes, absolutely. I think it's very smart. I'm a pretty hawkish guy when it comes to defending the nation. If gun control could protect the nation from radical Islamic attack, there would be no Paris, there'd be no Brussels, so this idea that gun control will make us safe, I don't buy, but let's look at the issue of no-fly list and terrorist watch list. I really do believe most Americans feel that if you can't get on a plane because you're such a risk, you probably shouldn't have a gun. I think Mr. Trump is smart to see if we can sit down and find a way forward that will allow people to be denied a gun but also the chance to say, the government got it wrong when it came to me being a terrorist. I think that is the sweet spot. I would encourage Mr. Trump to stay on this path. I talked to Diane Feinstein today. I think there's a way that we can protect the Second Amendment rights of people who've been wrongfully accused of being a terrorist, and at the same time, make sure that people we don't want to have guns, that they don't get them, at least through the legal process.

BOLDUAN: That's fascinating. And Diane Feinstein, as you mentioned, she's pushing legislation, has been. I'll be very interested to see how those conversations go. An important note, though --

(CROSSTALK)

GRAHAM: Time will tell.

BOLDUAN: We love that line, Senator. An important note as we move on, though, is the FBI director says, though, that this man, this killer, he was taken off the watch list in March 2014, so he wasn't even on a watch list, so this legislation that you're talking about that could be discussed would not necessarily have helped in this regard.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: That's not a hit on you, that's just some clarification.

[11:45:07] GRAHAM: Well, we actually talked about that. If he had been under investigation by the FBI for suspected terrorism ties within the last five years that might be something you could put in the legislation. I don't know where this thing will wind up, but consider me -- one, I own an AR-15. I don't -- the idea that you're going to ban assault weapons in America to keep us safe from radical Islam is ridiculous given the way they want to kill us. They use bombs, they use planes, they use guns, they use knives, but we'll have a reasonable discussion about the terrorist watch list and the no-fly list, but the real reason we're getting attacked and the real reason radical Islam is running wild is that President Obama has allowed the capability to defend this nation to deteriorate to the FBI director. You're going to have less agents in 2017 than you did in 2013. The budget problems for the FBI are enormous, and why was this case file closed? What do you have to do to stay on the terrorist watch list? What are the criteria to close a file? To me, I want to know the answer to that question.

BOLDUAN: Important question. Senator, what is -- you don't mince words with regard to anything, especially Donald Trump. What's your reaction to how Donald Trump responded? His speech and subsequent comments following the massacre in Orlando?

GRAHAM: He missed an opportunity to reset the race. This race will tighten up. Hillary Clinton's call for gun control proves to me she has no idea that the systems to protect us have deteriorated on Obama's watch and need to be replenished. We need more money for the FBI, more agents, more capability in the Department of Defense -- when we detain somebody, we need to interrogate them, not read them their Miranda Rights. But Mr. Trump went down the wrong path about banning all Muslims. Again, that won't work. We need partners in the faith. This man was born in Queens, New York, so it wasn't an immigration problem. This is not a gun control problem, it's not an immigration problem, this is about systems to protect us from radical Islam, to keep the war over there, and when Mr. Trump suggests that the President has some ulterior motives, that's way over the top. It is so inappropriate, and it doesn't help. So Mr. Trump may get back on track if he'll talk about a way to deal with the gun issue responsibly, and if he could talk about rebuilding capabilities that had been lost under Obama's watch.

BOLDUAN: Senator, though, from what you've heard from Donald Trump since this horrific attack, does it make you more or less comfortable having him as commander-in-chief?

GRAHAM: I just think it was a missed opportunity. I've been very clear about my problems with Mr. Trump, and Secretary Clinton. I know CNN likes to talk about Trump, but let me tell you, what is Clinton going to do different than Obama? ISIL is a direct result of poor policy choices by President Obama. We're turning the war --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: The reason I'm asking, though, Senator, is there is a list of Republicans who came out to condemn the way Donald Trump reacted, from Paul Ryan to Reid Ribble, on down, Republicans condemning, and you are included in that.

GRAHAM: They should have. Yes.

BOLDUAN: When you're faced with a terror attack and you're a presidential candidate, it can be a clarifying moment in what your vision is and how you respond in times of national tragedy. When you heard -- he responded poorly?

GRAHAM: I think Clinton responded poorly. BOLDUAN: Both of them responded poorly?

GRAHAM: I think Obama's speech yesterday made me want to throw up. It was a lecture about radical Islam -- I've been to Iraq and Afghanistan 37 times. I've used the term radical Islam over and over because that's what we're fighting. The people in the region like me and trust me. They know that I want to be a good partner. I want to partner with people in the faith to destroy radical Islam. Fellow Muslims are our best allies, so that's when Trump declares war on the faith, he has no idea what he's doing. When President Obama says, we can't say the obvious, well he has no idea what he's doing. So I'm really disappointed in all three. I wish we had a political Mulligan when it came to picking a president. We don't.

BOLDUAN: Well Senator, you don't. President Obama called the rhetoric -- Donald Trump's rhetoric after this attack, he called it dangerous. Do you think Donald Trump's rhetoric is dangerous?

GRAHAM: Yes, parts of it are. I think it's very dangerous to declare war on the entire faith. It makes it hard to partner people with faith. The biggest victims -- please.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Here's the thing, though, Senator, you've had conversations -- I know, but -- no, this is a serious question. You've had a phone call with him. You were on last time, and when we talked, you had a phone call with him, and you said that he asked good questions of foreign policy things. He asked you, he was leaning to you to ask questions regarding foreign policy. It doesn't seem like his foreign policy views have changed since that conversation. Do you believe that they have?

[11:49:49] GRAHAM: I don't see any evidence of it. I think to suggest after Orlando that the solution to the Orlando terrorist attack is to ban all Muslims makes no sense to me, because you need partners in the faith, and this man was an American citizen, born in Queens. When Secretary Clinton calls, we need more gun control, no. You know what we need? We need a policy to follow people who are tied to radical Islam and not close the file. And when President Obama says, the reason I don't say radical Islam, it helps the enemy, that's garbage. At the end of the day, we need a strategy of more capability in the hands of the FBI and the Department of Defense to keep the war over there. We need a surveillance program that's constitutional, that meets the needs of the time. We need to be at war, not fighting a crime, and our ability to defend this nation has deteriorated. If I were Trump, I would make a list of things that have happened on Obama's watch that make us less safe, missed opportunities, rather than talk about banning all Muslims, which makes absolutely no sense to me.

BOLDUAN: No secret that you disagree with President Obama's tact against ISIS. No secret that you also disagree with Hillary Clinton's response in pushing more gun control in response to this attack. When it comes to Donald Trump, do you think -- what you've heard from him, does it make you more or less comfortable, or nothing, with the possibility of having him as your commander-in-chief --

GRAHAM: I think the way he's handled this has made me more unnerved. I'm more unnerved the way -- after Orlando, I'm unnerved to hear that Donald Trump talks about a Muslim ban as the way to solve the problem when he clearly doesn't understand how to win this war. I don't think President Obama understands how to win this war, and apparently Secretary Clinton doesn't either, in my view, but back to the guy in the Republican Party, I'm trying to be as honest with you as I know how. I think his temperament, his judgment, his policy choices are not going to make us safe. I think it makes it worse. I don't see Hillary Clinton suggesting anything new. The reason ISIL is on a rampage and the reason they came about anyway was because of poor policy choices by President Obama. We deteriorated our ability to defend ourselves, we turned the war into a crime, and I think Mr. Trump would serve himself well if he could sit down with the NRA and other people to find a way to deal with the no-fly list, the terrorist watch list, and come up with a compromise on the gun issue. That would show that he's capable of working with other people, that he does see a problem, so I applaud him for suggesting that we make and find a solution here. That would be encouraging if he would do that.

BOLDUAN: Senator, it's always wonderful to have your take. We'll see if Donald Trump reaches out to you again to get your guidance and advice on how to address these huge foreign policy concerns.

GRAHAM: I'm sure there's a tweet in the making as we talk.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: One tweet away from friendship or enemies. We will see.

Senator, thank you so much.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

All right, let's talk much more about this and everything involving the reaction to the massacre in Orlando with former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, as well as a former Republican presidential candidate, of course; and Barry Bennett, a Trump supporter and a Republican consultant.

Always an interesting and enlightening conversation with Senator Graham. He is always very candid.

Governor, I want your take when he said when it comes down to what he's heard with the Orlando attack, Lindsey Graham doesn't agree with how Barack Obama or Hillary against is. When it comes to Donald Trump's reaction, he said he's more unnerved than ever. What is your reaction?

TIM PAWLENTY, (R), FORMER MINNESOTA GOVERNOR & FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do think it was a missed opportunity, in some respects, but let's keep in mind, I'm not for banning all Muslims coming into the country. But we do need to pay more attention with respect to immigration policies, immigration emanating from places where there's disproportionate amount of terrorism and terrorism concerns. That's how it should be expressed, not a ban on all Muslims.

BOLDUAN: Barry, your reaction to Donald Trump coming out and saying he'll sit down with the NRA with a way to keep terrorists out on the terror watch list, the no-fly list. Lindsey Graham says he thinks there might be path forward. What do you think?

BARRY BENNETT, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT & DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think it has to do with the quality of the list. Lindsey Graham is correct that our capabilities have really deteriorated over the last eight years. And we have a list, but I don't think anybody, even law enforcement, would tell you the list is very good.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: So do you think you support that Donald Trump wants to keep people on the list from getting guns?

BENNETT: Well, think if we've got some really solid bad guys, of course. We don't want them to have guns. The problem, the list is way too broad. It's errant. There's lots of examples of people on it for no good reason. By mistake, usually. And we've got to do a better job. We have to understand why these people radicalize and how they get the information to radicalize. And then we need to understand systems on how it is when we're giving visas to people, how it is we can wee out the ones likely to be radicalized or are radicalized. We have no ability to do any of this and that's the scary part.

BOLDUAN: Governor, I recall last time on the show, you said Donald Trump needs improvements. About a month ago, the last time you came on. You said he's got to be a better candidate and behavior has to improve. What you have seen, are you looking at a better candidate right now?

[11:55:14] PAWLENTY: I know he's made efforts to reach out to various stake holders and gain more perspective, gain more knowledge on issues. So at least directionally, that's hopeful. But I think, as Senator Graham said, he did not respond to this crisis in a way I think would have been helpful to his campaign and helpful to the nation.

BOLDUAN: You said you're going to support the eventual nominee. That's him. Do you still support him?

PAWLENTY: That's my plan. I do so with reservations, but I do support the nominee and I plan to do so.

BOLDUAN: Thank you both very much. Sorry, we're tight on time with everything happening in Orlando.

Barry, Governor, thank you very much.

Let's get back to Orlando. John Berman is there -- John? BERMAN: Thank you so much, Kate.

Behind me, obviously, is the Pulse nightclub, still a crime scene. That is the site where 49 people were gunned down. That means there are 49 grieving families at this moment.

I'm joined by Steve Helling, a writer for "People" magazine.

"People" has done a remarkable thing. You've gone out and talked to all 49 families. First of all, thank you for that, because I think it's so important to put the focus on and focus on the people lost right behind us. If there's one unifying message to send, what is it?

STEVE HELLING, WRITER, PEOPLE MAGAZINE: We see a lot of strength and resolve with them. They've been through something horrible, and yet they're unbroken, they want their loved ones' lives to have meant something. Whatever this means and whatever happens in the future, they want them to be remembered. They want -- they don't want them to be forgotten or something that was swept under the rug. They think this is so important their names are out there.

BERMAN: One of the things so troubling and awful about this, and there are so many, is this is a club that was gay-friendly, and gay bars, gay clubs, is places where young gay men and women can go and feel safe, not feel judged. Feel like they can be comfortable in who they are and to be attacked in that place, horrifying. I wonder if the parents had any insight there.

HELLING: They did, actually. A lot of them said this was a place that their loved ones had gone alive. It was their happy place and for this to come and happen there on their turf was just horrifying to everybody.

BERMAN: What about the investigation itself? How much are they focused on the killer here?

HELLING: You know, obviously, they're still looking for the killer and whether the killer acted alone. All of that type of thing. But, you know, one thing that we did as "People" is not going to really give the killer a platform.

BERMAN: Good for you.

HELLING: It was the time to talk about the victims, what they'd gone through, and who they were, and what their hopes and dreams and all of that was.

BERMAN: 49 people loved by 49 families. And good for you to speak to all 49 families.

Steve, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

HELLING: Thank you.

BERMAN: Moments from now, we're expecting a news conference not far from here at Walt Disney World on that little boy, the 2-year-old, who was dragged into the water by an alligator. We'll take you there the minute it happens. Stay with us.

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