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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Georgia Congressman Barry Loudermilk; Congress Reacts to Baseball Field Shooting; Washington Post: Mueller Investigating Trump for Obstruction of Justice. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired June 14, 2017 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Others are hospitalized and the nation's capital is in shock.
Frustrated and furious. We are learning more tonight about the shooter, his arrest record and his rants against President Trump and Republicans. This hour, I will talk to man who's been in regular contact with the gunman in recent weeks.
Securing Congress. This shooting is raising urgent new questions about the safety of America's elected officials. Should they have more protection during these divisive and dangerous times?
And play ball. The annual congressional baseball game will go on as planned, as members of both parties come together in a moment of sorrow and rare unity.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We are following breaking news on what appears to be a deliberate and politically motivated shooting attack on Republican members of Congress, the heavily armed gunman opening fire this morning on a Republican lawmakers and staffers as they practiced for a charity baseball game in a quiet neighborhood just outside Washington, D.C., the barrage of gunfire captured on video.
Tonight, the House majority whip, Steve Scalise, the third highest ranking House Republican, is in critical condition. The FBI clarifying a short while ago that three other people were shot, two others suffered secondary injuries. Witnesses describe a very chaotic scene, with people jumping into dugouts and over fences to dodge bullets.
The gunman was shot by police and later died. Capitol Police were on the scene to protect Scalia. And without them, some lawmakers say this would have been a massacre.
The shooter has been identified as 66-year-old James Hodgkinson, who came to Northern Virginia from Illinois in March. His social media postings are filled with anti-Trump and anti-Republican rants. One lawmaker says Hodgkinson approached him just before the shooting and asked if Republicans or Democrats were on the ball field.
Tonight, President Trump is urging unity and prayers for the shooting victims. Congressional leaders of both parties are echoing that sentiment, setting aside their partisan rancor.
The speaker, Paul Ryan, saying an attack on one member of Congress is an attack on all members of Congress.
This hour, I'll talk with Congressman Barry Loudermilk. He was at the ball field this morning. He escaped the gunfire. And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.
First, let's to go our senior national correspondent, Alexander Marquardt.
Alex, we're learning new details about the shooting from police tonight. Update our viewers.
ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: We are, Wolf. That's right.
This is very much an active crime scene. What you're seeing right here behind is a mix of local and federal law enforcement officers, that baseball diamond just about two blocks away. Now, because it was members of Congress who were targeted, this is now a federal investigation being led by the FBI.
A special agent named Tim Slater just moments ago right here, he briefed reporters, updating the situation. For the first time, they named the attacker as James Hodgkinson. They're handing out flyers asking the public for help, specifically in figuring out his motives, his acquaintances and his previous whereabouts.
As you mentioned, they have also revised the number of people who were shot down to four, including the attacker, who was shot and killed. Otherwise, there was Congressman Scalise, staffer Zack Barth, lobbyist Matt Mika, and Capitol Hill officer Crystal Griner.
Now, I should also mention that the local police chief said that when his officers arrived here, they walked into what they called a combat situation. This is how that attack unfolded.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): The gunshots heard on this eyewitness video rang out from behind the third base dugout. This shaky cell phone video capturing the moment that witnesses say the shooter, 66-year-old James Hodgkinson, opened fire shortly after 7:00 a.m. as the Republican congressional baseball team, including 22 members of Congress, was holding a practice.
REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA: And I hear the big blam, and I thought it was a car backfiring at first, until I see the rifle barrel, and a white male taking careful aim at congressmen, staffers, whoever he could get a hold of.
MARQUARDT: The House majority whip, Representative Steve Scalise, was near second base. He was one of the first struck in the hip.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: There was gunfire all around. Some have estimated 50-some shots. I think that's an understatement. It seemed to be a lot more than that. But for 10 minutes or so, we were trying to decide whether we could leave or take the injured.
MARQUARDT: At 7:09, the first 911 call came in to Alexandria police.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have still got shots being fired.
MARQUARDT: Units arrived on the scene within just three minutes, joining the firefight already under way between Hodgkinson and the three Capitol Police officers assigned to protect Scalise.
BROOKS: I was able to hide behind the batting cage, make it to the dugout, take off my belt, because one of our staffers was wounded. He was bleeding from his calf. Take off the belt. Myself and another person put the belt as an tourniquet onto his leg.
MARQUARDT: Members of Congress and others poured into the first base dugout as the gunfight raged.
REP. CHUCK FLEISCHMANN (R), TENNESSEE: I got up and I ran and I dove into the dugout on the first base side where there were several people in there.
QUESTION: It was a pile of you, basically, right?
FLEISCHMANN: Absolutely. We were all trying to get to cover.
MARQUARDT: Police officers firing pistols managed to take down Hodgkinson, who was armed with a long rifle.
REP. JOE BARTON (R), TEXAS: The shooter was not on the field and never got on the field. He stayed behind the third base dugout and came around behind home plate, got behind the utility shed and then darted out in front of the utility shed, and that's when he got shot.
MARQUARDT: First-responders quickly arriving on the scene where the players had been tending to the wounded, including Scalise, who had crawled into the outfield.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: I could see Steve Scalise out into the field. He dragged himself, after he was shot from near second base, about 10 or 15 yards into the field, just to be, I think, a little further away from the gunman. But he was laying motionless out there. And so I wanted to get to him. But there were still shots going overhead from both sides.
And so finally when we heard that the shooter was down, I just ran low out to Steve and started putting pressure on the wound.
MARQUARDT: A total of four victims shot, Congressman Scalise, lobbyist Matt Mika, Hill staffer Zack Barth, and Capitol Police officer Crystal Griner, the most critical airlifted from the scene, as the remaining members of Congress huddled nearby.
Police say the gunman is dead as members come to grips with what they witnessed.
REP. RODNEY DAVIS (R), ILLINOIS: We have got to end this. We have got to stop it, because I watched my friend and fellow member, Steve Scalise, laying motionless on the field, wondering if he was going to be OK. That is a picture I will never forget.
MARQUARDT: Now, this could have been a lot worse. Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky who was taking batting practice at the time called this a killing field.
But because those three officers were there and were able to return fire, they were able to take out Hodgkinson and prevent what Rand called a massacre -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Alexander Marquardt on the scene for us, thank you very much.
Tonight, investigators are digging into the gunman's personal and political history, as they work to confirm a motive and what others might have known about this attack.
Our justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, is with us right now.
Jessica, what are you learning?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the FBI said the gunman has actually been in Alexandria since March living out of his car.
And several people tell us he has been staking out the shooting scene itself for weeks. The shooter was seen using his laptop in the lobby of a nearby YWCA and he even frequented a nearby bar at least a half- dozen times.
People who saw him say he stood out for his gruff demeanor and unfriendly attitude. And now the FBI is looking to other people to get more details.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Investigators are piecing together a profile of 66-year-old James Hodgkinson and they're turning to his social media pages and criminal record.
Hodgkinson used his Facebook page as a platform to voice his hate for conservatives and the president. He called Republicans stupid, wrote that party hated Americans and is full of smoke and mirrors.
And in March, he linked to a Change.org petition with the post: "Trump is a traitor. It's time to destroy Trump and company." On Facebook in 2015, Hodgkinson posted a cartoon about Congressman Steve Scalise, the lawmaker he shot this morning, commenting, "Here is a Republican that should lose his job, but they gave him a raise."
Hodgkinson primarily using Facebook to express his sharp disdain for Hillary Clinton and to promote progressive politics. His profile picture showcased Bernie Sanders, Senator Sanders denouncing Hodgkinson's actions amid word that he had volunteered for Sanders' presidential campaign.
There are no campaign records of his involvement, though, according to Sanders' staff.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: I am sickened by this despicable act. And let me be as clear as I can be. Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society.
SCHNEIDER: But Hodgkinson seemed to shift his support to Green Party candidate Jill Stein in September, his hatred for Hillary Clinton intensifying, Hodgkinson even sharing anti-Clinton stories from the Russian state media outlet R.T.
He also reportedly belonged to some anti-Republican groups, including one called Terminate the Republican Party, according to the local paper, "The Belleville News Democrat."
Hodgkinson repeatedly wrote letters to the editor in 2010 through 2012 denouncing Republican policies and expressing concern about the unemployment rate and taxes.
Hodgkinson was arrested for battery in April 2006 for allegedly attacking his girlfriend. The charges were dismissed a month later.
Hodgkinson also had other minor run-ins with the law dating back to 1992, when he was arrested for drunk driving. He was fired from his job as independent contractor in 2003 for -- quote -- "unacceptable behavior."
Investigators found a vehicle on-scene they believe belonged to Hodgkinson and used that to confirm his identity. ATF is now tracking two weapons, a rifle and handgun.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know where he's at? Do you know where he's at?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's behind home plate.
SCHNEIDER: Congressman Ron DeSantis said the gunman approached the car he left practice in with Representative Jeff Duncan. DeSantis said the man he later recognized as Hodgkinson asked if Democrats or Republicans were playing, but the congressman didn't think much of it initially.
REP. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: It had, I think, a little bias, not enough that I thought he was going to go commit acts of violence. But it was just -- it was a little abrasive. I kind of thought to myself, I was like, now, that's strange, but it was strange enough that as soon as the news hit, Jeff and I both had the same thought.
SCHNEIDER: And we learned the gunman called and e-mailed his Republican congressman, Mike Bost of Illinois, 10 times since last June.
Congressman Bost tells CNN there were no red flags and the shooter sounded like many other constituents who called to complain. But in one e-mail, Hodgkinson did write to Congressman Bost -- quote -- "If you vote this way, we will remember you" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Sounds like a threat to me.
All right, thanks very much for that, Jessica Schneider.
President Trump spoke out about the shooting not long after it happened, calling for prayers and unity.
Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, any more reaction from the White House?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's been a very quiet day here at the White House, Wolf, with the exception of those comments from President Trump.
The president has been checking in on Congressman Steve Scalise's condition throughout the day. We're told he and Vice President Pence canceled their scheduled events for the day to keep tabs on the victims of the mass shooting in Alexandria
We heard from a very different President Trump earlier today. The president did not engage in any kind of divisive rhetoric after the shooting. He sounded a unifying theme instead, reminding Americans that people serving the nation here in Washington are doing so because they love their country. Here's more of what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Congressman Scalise is a friend and a very good friend. He's a patriot. And he's a fighter.
He will recover from this assault. And, Steve, I want you to know that you have the prayers, not only of the entire city behind you, but of an entire nation and, frankly, the entire world.
America is praying for you and America is praying for all of the victims of this entire shooting. We may have our differences, but we do well in times like these to remember that everyone who serves in our nation's capital is here because, above all, they love our country. We can all agree that we are blessed to be Americans, that our
children deserve to grow up in a nation of safety and peace, and that we are strongest when we are unified and when we work together for the common good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now, we should point out some of the president's top surrogates, like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, have been blaming hostile rhetoric on the left for today's shooting, but the president does not appear to be listening to those voices. He did not echo those remarks earlier today.
And there was some talk, Wolf, of the president perhaps attending tomorrow night's congressional baseball game that is still on the schedule, but the White House says that is not happening at this point because of security concerns. They just don't want to take any chances, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, that game scheduled for National Parks here in Washington. All right, thanks very much, Jim Acosta.
Let's talk to Congressman Barry Loudermilk, who experienced that horrifying scene this morning. He was there. He's an eyewitness.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
Before I ask you any questions, I would like to you give a better sense of what those terrified lawmakers, including yourself, experienced as gunshots rang out over and over and over again.
Our viewers are anxious to experience this, to hear these -- to hear this as well. Listen to this extended portion of the cell phone video that was taken by a witness.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get down!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know where he's at? Do you know where he's at?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's behind home plate. He's behind home plate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I assume people have been calling 911 already.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They better be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Just a portion of that video and that audio. We are here with Georgia Republican Congressman Barry Loudermilk.
You were there at the scene.
First of all, Congressman, how are you doing?
REP. BARRY LOUDERMILK (R), GEORGIA: You know, it is a surreal moment when you wake up in the morning just to go to baseball practice and you end up being shot at and targeted.
But I'm doing well. This is a time we start just counting our blessings, praying for those that were injured, and spend a little bit of time with the family. But I'm doing well.
BLITZER: When you heard those gunshots again just now, what went through your mind?
LOUDERMILK: It just took me right back to the moment.
I was up at home plate about to bat when the first shot rang out. Instinctively, I knew it was a gunshot. I recognized the report. I turned to my right. The gunshot came from over the left side.
I turned and looked at Scalise's detail. That was going to tell me -- what they were doing would tell me, is this just something going on or random incident? They were exiting the vehicle with concerned looks on their face.
At that point, two more shots rang out. One of our members hollered, he has a gun. And that's when everybody started exited the field.
As I was leaving the field, a shot hit the ground next to me. One hit the fence as I was leaving. And I went around the outside of the field and got behind a wooden building about 10 feet from the Capitol Police officers and their vehicle.
And that's when Matt Mika was shot in the chest. It was about 10 feet from me. And we were -- I never could see the shooter, but the individual that was there with me, he kept an eye on it, and found out a little while ago that three of the shots actually hit within two feet of where we are, one just above my head into the side of the building.
We were blessed that we were not shot, but it's, you know, a vulnerable feeling to be targeted. He was truly targeting us without any way of fighting back. And I can tell you, if it wasn't for the two Capitol Police officers engaged in that firefight, we would be talking about a lot of former members of Congress today.
BLITZER: Yes. When you speak about the detail, you mean that Capitol Hill police detail that accompanies the number three Republican leader in the House of Representatives.
So, just elaborate a little bit. If they had not been there, what could you guys have done?
LOUDERMILK: Oh, it was -- if they were not there, I believe that the shooter would have gone over to the first base side. That's the only entrance and exit to the field.
He probably chose third base. The gate was locked, so he couldn't come on the field, but because that was away from where the security detail was. Had he been on the first base side, and nobody to take him out, he would he have had us basically in a cage and just had a free fire.
But they showed exemplary bravery and courage, even after being shot. And the first officer shot, it was about 10 feet from me. She went down. She was immobilized. Every time that myself and the other individual with me tried to get over to Matt to help him or help her, he would turn the gunfire on us.
But the other officer, realizing what was going on, he actually went into the parking lot and drew fire away from us and engaged the gunman with a rifle and his handgun and to the point where he actually was injured too, but he stayed into the fight.
BLITZER: How did the police take down the shooter?
LOUDERMILK: Apparently, Wolf, he was still firing with his rifle when two Alexandria police officers arrived. Immediately, he turned fire on them, missed them, hit a car over on the street.
They called for backup, repositioned themselves. I believe he ran out of ammo for his rifle that point. I repositioned myself behind the tree where I could get a better vantage point to actually see where he was. I wanted to see where the shooter was to know where to position myself.
I was trying to get up to help the officer, try to help Matt Mika. When I moved behind this oak tree, I saw him walk around the other side of the concrete utility building he was using to shelter himself.
At this point, he was holding a handgun. He didn't have a rifle with him anymore. He pointed the handgun at the officer. The officer told him to drop the weapon. He fired a couple of rounds at the officer.
And that's when the officer fired and shot him. I saw him fall. At that point, those of us who were waiting to help were able to get to the victims and try to help them.
BLITZER: You say you were sheltering right near Matt Mika, the director of government relations at Tyson Foods, the former congressional staffer who loves baseball, loves going to these games. Describe his condition. How did he seem to you?
LOUDERMILK: He was very critical. I could see him. I could he had been shot in the chest. He was seriously bleeding.
Every time we tried to get over to help him -- and, of course, the police officers were engaged. He was probably about four feet from the SUV that the detail was in, but they could not render any aid because of the intensity of the gunfire. Myself and another individual tried to advance on a couple of
occasions, and we just -- we were in the line of fire. As soon as we would come out around the building, we were exposed.
So I knelt down and just -- I talked to him while he was laying there, just encouragement. Hang in there, Matt. The gunman, as I found out just a little while ago, took a couple other shots that went under the SUV and Matt took a shot in the arm while he was laying there. If he had not hit that -- got shot in the arm, that would have directly come over to where we were.
And as soon as I was able to get over to Matt, I could see he was very seriously wounded. He had lost a lot of blood. I knelt down. I put my hand on his head and I prayed for him.
As soon as I did that, I got the medical kit out of the back of the SUV, went around to the officer who was laying there. She was shot in the ankle, but I could tell she was not near as critical as Matt. But by the time I got the medical kit and got over to Matt, the EMTs were now running up on the scene.
So, I took the medical kit out on the field to where Scalise was and handed it to Brad Wenstrup, member of Congress who is also a medical doctor.
BLITZER: And Matt Mika, we're told, he is still in critical condition over at George Washington University Hospital.
Was he conscious when you dealt with him?
LOUDERMILK: Yes. He was still conscious. He had lost a lot of blood. He was fading pretty quickly, it appeared, but he was still conscious.
He wasn't talking. He had a clear chest wound. I did not see the bullet wound in his arm. I found out about that later. But Speaker Ryan called me about an hour ago. He said, I just want let you know Matt Ryan is going to be -- or Matt Mika is going to be OK.
The bullet missed his heart, just clipped a lung. And it's going to be a long recovery for him, but he is going to survive. Steve Scalise, I believe, from what I'm hearing, he is still in critical condition, but I think everybody is going to be OK from this.
BLITZER: When you ran out to Steve Scalise, what was he like?
LOUDERMILK: By the time I got out to Steve, I didn't even know that he had been hit because how we were pinned down by the gunfire, until it was over with. Somebody told me he was hit.
He laid on the field during the entire encounter. Probably the shooter thought he had killed Scalise, so he never took any more shots over that way, because he was going after us. After he shot into the field, he repositioned himself over into the area to get a line of fire on where we were at. So we had left the field. When I got over to Scalise, he had -- you
could tell he was -- he had lost a lot of blood. But he had some good friends with him. And Brad Wenstrup did a tremendous job putting pressure trying to stop the bleeding. And all of them were evacuated out of there within a few minutes.
BLITZER: Yes, it could have been so, so much worse.
So, Congressman, I want you to stay with us. We have more on the breaking news. Let's take a quick break. We will be right back.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news.
Representative Steve Scalise, the third highest ranking member of the House Republican leadership, is in critical condition after a gunman opened fire on a baseball practice field just outside Washington, D.C. Three other people were also shot.
The gunman was mortally wounded in a shoot-out with Capitol Hill police officers who were part of the congressman's security detail. Within the past hour, the FBI identified the attacker as 66-year-old James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois. He had been in the Alexandria, Virginia, area since March, was living actually out of his car.
Right now, we are joined by someone who spoke multiple times with the gunman. That would be Bill Euille, the former mayor of Alexandria, where the shooting happened.
Mayor, thanks very much for joining us.
And, as I mentioned, you spoke with this shooter, Hodgkinson, on several occasions over the past month. And so describe those conversations.
BILL EUILLE, FORMER MAYOR OF ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA: Wolf, I'm a 20- year member of the local YMCA. And I live in the neighborhood and I work out at the Y Monday through Fridays between 7:30 -- 7:15 to 7:30, I arrive.
And more than a month-and-a-half ago, I met this gentleman at the Y. He normally -- when I arrived, he would usually be sitting at a table with his coffee and a laptop.
But after a couple of days -- it wasn't until after a couple of days when folks, members of the Y would see me sitting, relaxing after my workout, and then they would say, "Hey, Mr. Mayor, how you doing? We love you, we miss you and so forth." And others would say, "Hey, I have a question. Can you help me?" And then a day after that he then approached me and said, "Hey, are you really the mayor?" And I said, yes. So we introduced ourselves to each other. And from that day forward, after I'd do my workout, finish my workout,
rather, around 8:45 I'd go upstairs, get my coffee, sit down. He usually is at a table next to me, always on his laptop. And then he would only converse with me if he had a question. He wanted to know things like, "Hey, where are places in Alexandria to go have breakfast? Where is a good place to go have lunch?" And I would tell him.
And initially, when I would describe places in Old Town, he'd say, "No, I need something in walking distance." So I concluded in my own mind that he didn't have transportation.
Then a few days later, he would ask me about job opportunities. "Hey, I'm here just briefly, but I'm looking for a job. Do you know anybody hiring?"
And I said, "What kind of work?" He said construction. And I said, "Well, I do construction. And what kind of work?"
And he said, "I'm a housing inspector."
And I said, "Oh, OK. I said let me, you know, go on the city's website, see what we may have, and I'll keep my eyes and ears open for something."
And then, later on it was, "Hey, what's going on in the city for the long weekend?"
I said, "Look at the city's website."
But through all of these exchanges, you know, I never noticed anything unique about him, other than the fact that he was a loner. Obviously, I worry about somebody that sits, spends hours at a YMCA on their laptop and not working. And so I would even offer him suggestions. I'd say, "Hey, I know somebody is hiring. I said, you know, I'll send you the e-mail link and you make contact with them."
But more recently, you know, I noticed in the locker room, while he was in the shower area, and I'm getting dressed, that his gym bag was wide open. This was one day last week. And I'm saying to myself, wow, this seems like somebody that, you know, not a typical "Y" person. You come in with your gym bag and you just have a change of clothes for that day. Seemed like all of his personal possessions were in his gym bag, including some books and so forth.
And but that was only -- I kept it to myself, never said anything about it. And then -- but he would -- every morning at the "Y," he would just, his routine was clockwork. Like clockwork. You knew he was going to be sitting there at a certain time.
BLITZER: Did he ever...
EUILLE: He was going to be in his...
BLITZER: Did he ever -- excuse me for interrupting, Mayor. Did he ever discuss politics with you? EUILLE: Strangely, oddly enough, he never discussed politics with me.
But you know, there was always a lot of political conversations going on, because there's a couple of flat-screen TVs when you walk into the main entrance of the lobby of the "Y." I'm a politician, he knew that, of course. And one of the staffers, two staff members there, we would always get and have conversation about the news of the day and so forth. And he would just, like, sit there. Only occasionally he would offer an opinion. But he would never expound on it. He would just say, "I agree" or "I disagree." And that was it. So I really -- personally for me, I never got to talk politics with him.
And then he would ask me about places to go for happy hour in the area. And I would tell him go here, there, everywhere. But I concluded, until I learned who he was today, that this was a person that seemed very calm. Very, you know, no mental health issues or anything like that. He was very respective and spoke very well. And just, you know, just a normal person.
And as I've said to press all day, if I were to choose between two people, which one of these two persons would have done what happened today, he would not have been on my radar at all. Because he did not demonstrate the ability to do what he did.
BLITZER: You were clearly shocked when you discovered that this guy opened fire on all these Republican members of Congress?
EUILLE: Totally shocked. And you know, I learned later in the day that he had been inquiring about the team, who was this team playing ball in the wee hours at early morning at 6 a.m. And of course, if he had asked me, I would have told him it was a congressional baseball team. They have practiced and played here over the past several years. And then I understand he inquired about, well, are they Democrats or Republicans? To me that wouldn't have mattered. It's just a baseball team. And then, obviously, he had some reason or rational for doing what he did.
But again, I would have never suspected that he would have done what he did. Simply because he didn't demonstrate any of those tendencies to go out and cause harm.
And I was actually on my way to the "Y" this morning when I first got text messages at my normal time and folks were asking, inquiring about, "Am I OK?" And I said, why are they worried if I'm OK. So I immediately grab my iPhone to see, check in on city emergency e-mails, and learned there was an active shooting incident in the area of the "Y."
[18:35:13] And so I called the "Y," and I said, "Hey, I'm on my way there. What's going on?"
They said, "You need to stay away. We're in lockdown." And they said "There's a shooting incident going on -- that has happened outside."
So I worked my way, anyway, to the area of the "Y" within a block. And I stayed for two years, observing what was going down. It wasn't until about noon when I got a text message, before seeing the individual's picture from one of the staffers at the "Y," whom this gentleman had daily routine conversations with, in addition to myself. And said, "Hey, you and I know the shooter."
And I -- rather than texting, I called him. I said, "Hey, what are you talking about?"
He said, "This is the guy that always sits here on his laptop."
I said, "Oh, my God. Really? I'm stunned." And then I -- just as I said, "I'm stunned," then I looked at the television and saw his picture flash. And I said, "That's the guy."
EUILLE: So -- but most, most sad. And, you know, we should be about the business now of kindness and love and over hatred. And you know, most unfortunate myself as a politician that this happened and we just -- hopefully, this will also get Congress to be a little bit more seriously concerned about gun rights. Or not so much gun rights but...
BLITZER: I'm sure there's going to be a discussion on that. Did he ever talk about President Trump?
EUILLE: If he did, not around me. You know, as like always on television, there's always, more recently, there's always something about the president this, the president that. And then all the Senate hearings with Comey and Sessions and yes.
So initial reaction from most of us is, "Hey, you know, we've got to move on. We've got to really be working to move, get -- do business of the country. The White House needs to stop -- the president needs to stop tweeting."
And he would just simply, you know, sit there or he would just, you know, comment and say, "I agree." He never really, you know, stood up and said, you know, "Those damn Republicans" or this or that. So at least not in front of me. And I spend two hours every day at the "Y."
BLITZER: Well, it's a very, very suspicious. That "Y" is right next to that ball field. Obviously, they're going to be trying to investigate whether he was staking -- staking that out, because that's where the Republican members of Congress would practice in the morning.
We've got to take another quick break. Mayor Euille of Alexandria, the former mayor of Alexandria, thanks so much for joining us.
EUILLE: Glad to be here.
BLITZER: All right. Thank you very much. We'll take another quick break. More on the breaking news right after this.
[18:42:23] BLITZER: Our breaking news, a gunman opened fire on a Republican congressional baseball practice today, wounding the No. 3 House Republican congressman, Steve Scalise, along with a congressional staffer, a lobbyist, a Capitol Police officer. The gunman was fatally wounded by police.
I want to show our viewers now some very chilling video captured by an eyewitness just as the shooting unfolded. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get down!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get down!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Awful, indeed. Let's bring in our analysts, our specialists.
Evan Perez. Give us the latest on what investigators are saying about this shooting.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, at this point, the FBI is circulating that seeking information poster that we saw earlier in the press conference. One of the things here that they want to do is try to put together a picture of this man's, this shooter's last couple of months. He's obviously, according to the FBI, been in the Alexandria area now for a couple of months, since March. And apparently, living out of his van and essentially using the YMCA as his base, the YMCA which is right next to this baseball field.
So we don't know -- and at this point, the FBI is not saying -- whether they know whether he has been planning this for a while, whether this is something that he just figured out that he wanted to do in the last couple of days.
We know that the FBI has been looking at his social media footprint, looking at his electronics, his e-mail, anything like that to see whether or not he has been planning this for a while. According to the Facebook posts we've already seen, some of the social media, it's clear that he had antipathy towards the Republican Party. He was -- as Bernie Sanders, former -- the senator, Bernie Sanders, has already said, worked as volunteer in his campaign during the 2016 election and had a lot of very strong criticisms of President Donald Trump as well as Steve Scalise, the congressman who was injured there at second base today.
So all of that is going to be put together in a picture by the FBI to try to determine how long he's been thinking about this. Clearly, there was some antipathy, some political motivation here for this shooting. BLITZER: Yes. He's been here in the D.C. area, what, for a couple
months since March.
BLITZER: That's what you're hearing?
PEREZ: Since March, correct.
BLITZER: Yes, and March 22, he posted this. He said, "Trump is a traitor. Trump has destroyed our democracy. It's time to destroy Trump and company.
The use of the word "destroy", that can be seen as a direct threat against the president of the United States.
PEREZ: And it's interesting because over a period of months now, we are hearing from his -- the congressman, Mike Bost, in southern Illinois, said that his office received ten different communications from him, calls, e-mails and so on. None of them reached to a level where they called authorities to report it. He was essentially disagreeing with the congressman's votes and his positions on various issues, including health care and so on.
So, again, clearly, nothing that he has done in the past few months, past year, any of these Facebook posts, really rose to a level that would have drawn the attention of the capitol police as a threat.
BLITZER: Phil Mudd, in addition to working for the CIA, you also worked for the FBI. What would you be doing right now if you were involved in this investigation?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: By the time we walked into FBI headquarters tomorrow morning for the morning brief, there's a mountain of information. You got to keep cool and methodical, money, travel, communication, friends and family, associates, what I'm looking at on his laptop is not only who he emailed because they're going to get a visit tonight.
I want a cell phone to know who he texted. I want that pattern of texting to see if it changed over time. I want to know what he Googled to see if he was Googling this location. I want to know what he bought that ammo to see if that suggested an immediacy of action, in other words, if he bought that ammo last week, that's going to give me an indication of mindset. I want to know whether his language changed over time. I want the toxicology test from the hospital to determine what his state of mind was.
When they walk in tomorrow morning for a 7:30 a.m. brief, roughly where they're going to talk about this, that stuff is already going to be flowing in. And people who know him are going to already be interviewed tonight, Wolf. A mountain of information.
BLITZER: Chief Ramsey used to be the police chief here in Washington, also the police commissioner in Philadelphia. Tell us what you think they are doing right now to figure out what happened. Learn from this horrific situation to try to make sure it doesn't happen again.
CHARLES RAMSEY, FORMER WASHINGTON DC POLICE CHIEF: Well, as far as the Capitol police go, they're going to be looking at all their security protocols to see whether or not there's anything they need do to tighten those protocols. Obviously, today's incident, they are very fortunate that Congressman Scalise was there because of his position. That called for members of the dignitary protective detail to be there as well.
Had they not been there, there's no telling what we'd be talking about here today. So, whenever you have a gathering of congressmen, staffers and so forth, the need to have some security, whether it's provided by the capitol police, to local police, state police or what have you, but they are certainly going to look at their protocols.
BLITZER: You know, Rebecca Berg, it's already becoming a political football of sorts, let me play this clip. This is former House speaker, Newt Gingrich.
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NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: You've had an increasing intensity of hostility on the left. Look, I talk to college student regularly who say to me, if they openly are for Trump, they get threatened. I've had college student say they were threatened with getting beaten up. Some of them get death threats.
They had -- the intensity on the left is very real. Whether it is somebody holding up -- a so-called comedian holding up the president's head in blood or it's right here in New York City, a play that shows that president being assassinated or it's Democratic leaning national politicians who are so angry they have to use vulgarity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: His reaction clearly very different than the current speaker of the House, Paul Ryan.
REBECCA BERG, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Very different. And very different, Wolf, just a stark contrast to what I heard on Capitol Hill from all sort of Republicans and Democrats, really across the board. There was this echo of Speaker Ryan's call for unity. He said on the floor today that if you attack one of us, you attack all of us. That was really consistent with what I heard across Capitol Hill today.
For purposes of my reporting, I was primarily talking to Republicans. And I didn't hear from any Republican today who tried to score political point or sow divisions like Newt Gingrich did in that interview. What I heard from Republicans today was just a broad concern for political rhetoric in our society right now, a concern for the erosion of civility.
I spoke with plenty of members today who worry about going back to their town halls in their districts, where they get yelled at by their constituents, they can't have a conversation about policy because there is so much anger and actually Congressman Barton, the coach for the Republican team, said that he felt like members were not treated like humans anymore.
So, really, no, you did not see people trying to score political points on Capitol Hill today.
[18:50:01] We don't know how long that will last.
BERG: But at least, for today, there really was a show of unity.
BLITZER: Everybody, hold on one second. I want everybody to stand by. There's more information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.
I need to take a quick break. We'll be right back.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We'll have much more on our shooting coverage coming up in a few moments. But there's other urgent breaking news we're following right now.
[18:55:04] "The Washington Post" is now reporting that the special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating President Trump for possible obstruction of justice, a major story in "The Washington Post".
Evan Perez, you're still with us. "Washington Post" saying the special counsel investigation interviewing as early as this week, three top intelligence officials as part of this investigation. What are you hearing?
PEREZ: Right. The irony here being, Wolf, that one of the reasons why Donald Trump fired James Comey as FBI director was because James Comey wouldn't go out and say that he wasn't under investigation. In so doing, he has now essentially made Bob Mueller, the new special counsel investigate the president for obstruction of justice, for interfering in this investigation.
According to "The Post" story, and all the signs have been there really, because of all the signs from Rod Rosenstein and other people testifying the last few days that the FBI and special counsel would be looking at the issue. So, we heard from James Comey that he essentially wanted the special counsel to investigate the president because he believed now that why he was fired was because of the Russia investigation. The president himself has now said that publicly.
So, Bob Mueller, the special counsel, is going to interview Rick Ledgett, the former deputy director of the National Security Agency, Mike Rogers, the top officials at the National Security Agency, as well as Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence. According to "The Washington Post", those people are going to be providing voluntary interviews about their own interactions with the president. Again, that's going to dovetail with what we heard from James Comey in his own testimony about efforts to try to impede or change the investigation of Mike Flynn, the fired national security advisor.
BLITZER: Phil Mudd, you know Robert Mueller, the special counsel. "The Washington Post" is saying this is the most significant sign yet that the allegation of obstruction of justice is being seriously examined and they source five people briefed on these latest requests.
What's your reaction?
MUDD: You had to do this. No choice. If you think it's appropriate, as I do, that the FBI should open an investigation because they have facts, not supposition but facts that suggest that there was engagement with the Russians, that they need to look at. We don't know if it was illegal, but facts that show engagement with the Russians that was suspicious.
Then you have to say if someone tried to prevent you from conducting a legitimate federal investigation, you have to look at them, too. There are going to be political allegations in Washington tomorrow that this is Whitewater, this is an expansion -- that's the Clinton investigation that eventually led to Monica Lewinsky, that's an expansion of Director Mueller's mandate.
I served with him four and a half years. He has to investigate whether someone tried to prevent the Russian case from proceeding. It's like mom and apple pie. He had no choice.
BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Rebecca Berg. Mark Corallo, the spokesman for Marc Kasowitz, he's the private outside attorney retained by the president, said in a statement to CNN, I'm quoting now, the FBI leak of information regarding the president is outrageous, inexcusable, and illegal. That statement coming in from the attorney representing the president.
What's going to be the reaction up on Capitol Hill to this -- this is a bombshell?
BERG: Well, it is a bombshell, but that being said, I don't think there's going to be a ton of surprise on Capitol Hill, Wolf, for the reasons that Evan said. It was all but obvious that this was going to be the next step in this investigation. Comey had already testified that he turned over his memos to Mueller and certainly Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, when they were questioning Jeff Sessions, most of their questions were oriented toward this idea of obstruction of justice. They could all smell in the water on this.
BLITZER: Evan, as you remember, James Comey when he testified, said on three occasions he confirmed he told the president he was not under investigation but now according to this report in "The Washington Post," the president is under investigation, not for collusion but for obstruction of justice.
PEREZ: One thing, I know Mark Corallo very well. I don't think he knows exactly where this story came from so his acquisition that it came from the FBI as an FBI leak, I think, is going above and beyond what he actually knows.
But, yes, you're right about that, Wolf. This is something that obviously the president was trying to get Comey to say, I'm not under investigation. But now, by his own actions he's essentially forced Bob Mueller to have to investigate the president.
So, now, that is no longer true. The president is under their investigation. I think the signs are already there. Rod Rosenstein when he testified yesterday, he said one reason he couldn't answer some of the questions because he expected that Bob Mueller was going to be investigating this.
BLITZER: Headline in "The Washington Post" is that the special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating President Trump for possible obstruction of justice. Much more on that coming up.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks very much for watching.
Our breaking news coverage begins right now with "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT".