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Firefighters Search For More Victims; Gunman Targets U.S. Congressmen; 1-2a ET
Aired June 15, 2017 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[01:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN NEWSROOM ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.
AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT, AND ANCHOR: Ahead this hour, at least a dozen people are dead after a London apartment tower is engulfed in flames. And authorities fear even more victims could still be trapped inside.
VAUSE: Plus, a Republican leader in the U.S. Congress remains in a critical condition; one of four people shot by a lone gunman. The early morning shooting on a baseball field appears to be politically motivated.
WALKER: Hello, everyone and thank you for joining us. I'm Amara Walker.
VAUSE: I'm John Vause, great to have you with us for the second hour of NEWSROOM L.A. We'll start with the aftermath of the investigation into the deadly apartment fire in West London. Right now, officials have confirmed that at least 12 people were killed, dozens more injured.
WALKER: Our colleague, Max Foster, is on the scene right now, where authorities say the death toll is all but certain to rise. Max?
MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, AND ANCHOR: Amara, there are so many questions about this horrific fire. Right now, too soon to say what caused Grenfell Tower to go up in flames early on Wednesday morning, and we don't know how many people are still missing either. Firefighters are still searching for victims; many may have been asleep when the fire broke out. One of the biggest issues, for investigators, is just how quickly the fire spread. Residents say they've raised concerns about fire safety for years now, and the recent renovations to the building exterior will be a big focus. Prime Minister, Theresa May, promising a full investigation. She says, if there are any lessons to be learned, they will be. Now, witnesses, some of whom were inside the building as the fire grew, described a chaotic scene.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I took my daughter, and I just run to the stairs. As soon as I run out, I saw already the fire all on one side. And inside we didn't know what's going on because nothing came inside. No alarm, no water, nothing. You know, like, it was very shocking. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I ran back into my dressing gown to grab my little
girl. So, I ran into my dressing gown, got my girlfriend up, and ran downstairs and on the ground floor we went out, and then looks up and gives, literally, how we got out. Half of the block was ablaze by the time we got down and it was just spreading like wildfire.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And by the time we got out, which is about like five - less than five minutes, half of the building was on fire. And then when we rushed down before the police and everybody got near us, we could see people waving, and people screaming from the windows.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can still see deadly frying, which you see the other side now has been caught on fire, which where we saw the people there. And we will try to figure out why they haven't left anyway. But then, from where I was standing, all I could hear was screams, help, get me out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I'm not going to sit here and suffocate or burn to death.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I jumped in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I felt where all the authorities were at the bottom. They just assumed, you know, someone would catch or someone would be there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: Well, London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, joins fire officials here at the site. He promised, authorities would address residents' concerns on how the fire started and spread so quickly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SADIQ KHAN, LONDON MAYOR: There genuine concerns, reasonable concerns that have been raised through the course of the night. And it's really important that these questions are answered. I'll be demanding answers. And I can reassure you that I'll be ensuring with independence and relation to the resource we need. We're going to make sure that lessons are learned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: And the former London Mayor told CNN, it's tragic no one seemed to listen when the residents of Grenfell Tower said they didn't feel safe. We've heard there was a lack of a functioning sprinkler system, problems with alarms, and questions raised about where the new padding on the building fed the flames. Now, the government is promising a full investigation. Our Hannah Vaughan Jones, reports.
HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, AND ANCHOR: Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, is a woman under considerable pressure today. She took some time to come out and actually speak publicly about the horror, the tragedy that had occurred in West London in the early hours of the morning. When she did actually speak on camera, she described it as an appalling tragedy, as she was praising the emergency services and the fantastic spirit of London in terms of the community and how they gathered around, trying to get to the victims and get aid to them as well.
What did happen this afternoon, here in the corridors of Whitehall is that there was a sort of government coming together if you like. A cross-party meeting, which was chaired by Theresa May's Policing in Fire Minister, Nick Hurd. After that meeting, he said the aim was now to reassure the public, also to support the emergency services, making sure that they have everything they need going forward as well. But reassuring the public is the main thing from central government today, particularly because not only the people who have been living immediately around that tower block in West London, but also the many thousands of other people across the country who also live in similar tower blocks, now worrying for their own safety whilst living in these sorts of buildings. There are now calls for a public inquiry. Whether that will happen is a matter that Theresa May, the Prime Minister says, is for another day.
[01:05:41] THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Once the scene in secured, once the recovery is complete, then an investigation will take place into the cause of the fire, and if there are any lessons to be learned. But until then, our focus must be on ensuring that the emergency services have what they need to continue with their harrowing work, and that help and support are being provided to all those who have suffered as a result of this tragedy.
JONES: Theresa May saying where there are lessons to be learned, there will be an action that will be taken. She herself has said is a woman under considerable pressure at the moment. Why? Well, because she has another disaster, national disaster on her hands as people try to come to terms with what happened at the Grenfell Tower in the early morning hours. But also, because she's a Prime Minister without a government right now, still no information as yet on any deal that the Conservative Party has done with the DUP, the Democratic Unionist Party, in Northern Ireland. And of course, we don't know when that government might actually be formed when the legislative agenda for a government might be put forward. That happens when the Queen comes to parliament to deliver her speech. We don't know when that's going to happen. But Theresa May will be hoping she gets a deal soon and the public awaits that information. Hannah Vaughan Jones, CNN, Downing Street.
FOSTER: Well, here around Grenfell Tower, it's the pretty tight London Community: neighbors opening their hearts and doors to survivors. Many of them have nothing left but the clothes on their backs. Nina dos Santos brings us their story.
NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN INTERNATION CORRESPONDENT: Across parts of West London, community centers like this one, less than half a mile away from the Grenfell Tower have been opening up their doors to offer people what shelter they can, as well as the basic essentials they'll need for their first night outside of their homes. Members of the community have been arriving right throughout the course of the day in large numbers, well into the night offering water, food, clothing, anything that people may well need. And they've also been offering accommodation in their own homes as well. Across buildings like this, you'll see message boards with people putting their phone number down saying, "I have a spare room for you to borrow for today, for as long as you may need it." And that's offering some small comfort to those who've been so badly affected by this terrible tragedy. Nina dos Santos, CNN, West London.
FOSTER: Well, if you want to find out how you can help those affected by the London fire, do head out to Impact Your World Web page: cnn.com/impact, and you can get involved there. There's been a huge amount of support, actually. There was a point, guys, when one of the centers had to turn things away that were being brought into people because so much was coming in.
VAUSE: Yes, it's moments like this when people actually have this chance to come together.
WALKER: You see the best in people.
VAUSE: Yes, after some of the worst that London has been through recently. Max, thank you, we will get back to you. We'll have more now on the London fire. There are so many unanswered questions right now. So, Robert Rowe is here with us, he's a Fire Investigator and President of Pyrocop Inc. Robert, thank you for coming back. Why is it taking so long to get an exact death toll in this fire? What is the process here for investigators?
ROBERT ROWE, PYROCOP INC. PRESIDENT AND FIRE INVESTIGATOR: Well, first, you have to take into consideration the safety of all the rescuers. I mean, this building is obviously critically damaged. So, they're going to have to take their time going in and methodically going through each individual unit. They're going to have to be searching, to the best of their ability, with the amount of damage that's there. They going to have to dig through quite a bit of debris. It's going to be a lot.
VAUSE: And actually, identifying people who may have lost their lives in the debris; that seems like a very difficult job.
ROWE: It will be. And I'm sure they'll be working with their local medical examiner, and trying to make that determination.
VAUSE: OK, the death toll everyone is saying is likely to be a lot higher. And one of the reasons for this high death toll seems to be, that there were a lot of failures with the building: no sprinkler system, even though it wasn't required to have one, and the fire alarms didn't seem work. But crucially it seems that buildings like this are designed that the fire should not spread beyond an apartment, or certainly not quickly like what happened here. ROWE: That's correct. Buildings are typically constructed to be
compartmentalized through rated corridors, rated doors that hold fire back, and isolate areas such as the individual apartment buildings, or apartment units to keep the tenant safe.
[01:10:17] VAUSE: So, when a building works and it does contain the fire to an apartment, or maybe two apartments, that's when the advice to stay put or shelter in place actually comes into effect, right? That's when it does work.
ROWE: That is correct.
VAUSE: But in this case, it seems that it did not because the fire spread so quickly.
ROWE: Not only that, but there was a lot of confusion as well as far as what to do. Even though there are signs, sometimes people will act upon themselves to try to make their own rescue.
VAUSE: The other point to the whole stay - you know, or shelter in place and stay put, they also say if you feel threatened, get out. I mean, it's not an order, you have to stay there.
ROWE: Well, it's a natural instinct.
VAUSE: OK. Again, if you look at the design plans for the tower, we're told that the fire began on the second floor of the tower, and the cause could have been anything. There are a lot of theories out there, maybe an exploding fridge, it could be faulty wiring, maybe a gas explosion. Out of all of the theories out there, how will investigators actually work out what happened? How will they, sort of, find where it started? And from there, how will they sort of pinpoint the exact cause here?
ROWE: Fire investigations are typically performed in a methodical approach. They're supposed to take - the investigators are supposed to take the time to go through each and every portion of the building and look at the areas of the heaviest burning, as compared to the lightest areas of burning. Once they determine an area of origin, then they'll focus in on the point of origin and causational factors. And there are several that they'll have to look at and to rule out. It's a rule-out process.
VAUSE: So, what would you - where would you start, if you're looking at this?
ROWE: In this particular building, you know, the fire, the way I have looked at it, it appears that it started around the first, second floor, in or around the exterior of the building. I would look at that area first. I would then enter the building and try to determine based on the amount of damage, exact or at least the area of origin. And then focus down on the point of origin.
VAUSE: Will they be able to actually get a cause for the fire, what caused it?
ROWE: It may be very difficult. In some cases, fires are ruled as undetermined.
VAUSE: One point and we touched on this when we were talking yesterday, when the fire was raging, and we were getting a lot of complaints from residents saying that firefighters, they didn't act fast enough, they didn't go into the building, they didn't respond to this, were very slow to act. In the moment, in the circumstance, that sort of I guess seems to be - I guess, you know, understandable observation, but it doesn't seem to be a fair criticism, though, does it?
ROWE: When you're a firefighter and you're faced with a tremendous amount of chaos, as these firefighters were encountered with, there's a lot going on in their heads. There's a lot of activity that is - they're preparing for. They have to plan their investigation out or their firefighting operation out. And they have to think of their own safety as well. So, taking in the panic, and the chaos, and the welfare of their open firefighters, there's a lot of-
VAUSE: Because they essentially had to call like 200 firefighters to tackle this blaze, right?
ROWE: My understanding, yes. And that's a lot of personnel on the ground. There was a lot of work to do, and you know, hats off to them for doing what they did.
VAUSE: And very quickly, if they did go in too soon, not being prepared, the results of that can be worse than standing back, obviously.
ROWE: When you become your own safety issue that can really cause a problem.
VAUSE: Part of the problem, not the solution.
VAUSE: Robert, thanks.
ROWE: Thank you. Appreciate it.
WALKER: A U.S. Congressman is in critical condition after a gunman opened fire at a baseball practice field; an update on Steve Scalise's condition just ahead.
[01:14:12] VAUSE: Three times, former FBI Director James Comey told President Trump he was not personally under investigation. But now, that might not be the case; details in a moment.
[01:16:31] WALKER: A top Republican in the U.S. Congress is in critical condition after he and three other people were shot while playing baseball. A Washington area hospital said Steve Scalise suffered organ damage and will need more surgery.
VAUSE: The gunman was shot dead by police. More details now from Brian Todd.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The gunfire captured on cellphone video by an eyewitness seemingly came out of nowhere. Aimed at members of Congress and their staffs.
MO BROOKS, U.S. HOUSE REPUBLICAN: I hear the big blam. 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 ahold of.
TODD: Witnesses say the gunman identified as 66-year-old James Hodgkinson appeared to be lying in wait with a long gun behind a dugout at this YMCA baseball field. On the field, Republican representatives practicing for tomorrow's bipartisan baseball game.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of a sudden there were multiple gunshots being fired.
TODD: It was just after 7:00 a.m., and Congressman Rodney Davis was at bat.
REP. RODNEY DAVIS (R), ILLINOIS: I ran into the dugout like most people on the field.
TODD: Steve Scalise, the third-ranking House Republican was the first victim. He was in the infield.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: He dragged himself after he was shot from near second base, about 10 or 15 yards, into the field. I think to be a little further away from the gunman. He was lying motionless out there. I wanted to get to him but there were still shots going overhead from both sides. And so finally, when we heard the shooter was down, I just ran low out to Steve and started putting pressure on the wound.
TODD: A staffer was also hit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was gutsy. He was saying it wasn't bad at all. There was a hole in his leg.
TODD: Capitol Police officers assigned as a protective detail to Scalise because of his leadership position returned fire.
REP. JOE BARTON (R), TEXAS: I saw at least two of them go towards the shooter. They were putting their lives directly in the line of fire.
FLAKE: Two of his details were shot. One African-American gentleman shot in the leg. And I believe he's the one that brought the shooter down. He ran around for quite a while with a leg wound.
TODD: Witnesses are crediting the bravery of the officers with saving countless lives.
MARTY LAVOR, EYEWITNESS: It was the Capitol Police that saved us all. If it wasn't for the capital police, I would assume that everybody would have been killed this morning.
TODD: A total of four victims were shot including Congressman Scalise, lobbyist Matt Mika, staffer Zack Barth, and Capitol Police Crystal Griner.
DAVIS: I saw Steve Scalise lay motionless on the field wondering if he was going to be OK. That is a picture I will never forget.
TODD: The hail of gunfire evident in bullet holes as far away as the YMCA building, as well as cars parked on the other side, as investigators try to find a motive. Two members of Congress are pointing to a conversation they had with the shooter earlier this morning in a parking lot.
REP. JEFF DUNCAN (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: He asked me if this team was the Republican or Democrat team practicing. I responded it was the Republican team practicing, and he proceeds to shoot Republicans. Take that for what it's worth.
TODD: Law enforcement officials say James Hodgkinson had been in the Alexandria, Virginia, area since March living in his vehicle. He had been seen several times around the area of the baseball field and at the local YMCA right next to the field. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.
[01:20:21] WALKER: President Trump said Congressman Scalise is in tough shape but he is a real fighter. The [resident and First Lady Melania visited Scalise's family at the hospital.
VAUSE: The President embraced the role of and empathizer in chief, calling for unity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALKER: All right. Let's bring in former FBI Special Agent, Bobby Chacon to talk more about this. Thanks so much for joining us. First off, just tell us about your assessment of this, the motivations of the suspect, the planning that went into this, and the timing and the location of this attack.
BOBBY CHACON, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Well, his motivations I think are clear based on his history. I think this was a politically motivated attack. The comments he made to one of the Congressmen in the parking lot whether they were Republican or Democrat. The planning is a different matter for me. I'm anxious to see what they come up with as far as, you know, was he planning this out or was this an attack of opportunity? As we know, he was living right there at the -- maybe in the parking lot in that vehicle. Maybe he read in the local paper that they would be practicing that day there. And he thought that this was a good opportunity to carry out an attack. Maybe he was planning another attack and this happened to be, you know, come up, and he thought this would be a better opportunity. so I think that over the next couple of days, I would be interested to see what the investigators come up with as far as what his plan is, or whether he had a different plan, and that's going to be something to watch.
WALKER: Bobby, do you think there were some warning signs that should have been picked up on? I just want to talk about some of the Facebook posts that Hodgkinson had posted regarding political statements. They were very anti-Trump, anti-Republican. One thing he said on Facebook, quote, "Trump is a traitor, Trump has destroyed our democracy. It's time to destroy Trump and company." Was this a missed opportunity?
CHACON: Well, you know, in retrospect when you look at it, you would think it might be. But it would be interesting to know if you could somehow search those words and how many people have said those types of things on Facebook, or any other social media for the last six or eight weeks or whatever. I'm sure there are a significant number of people. I think the rhetoric has gotten so heightened now, I think when you have people holding up a severed bloody head of the President on national television, I think that's a level we've never seen before. I think the depth that it's gone through; we have high schoolteachers mocking the President's assassination in the classrooms. You have college professors saying Republicans should be lined up and shot. So I think that how pervasive it's gotten, I think that on the face of it, it might look like something was missed. But quite frankly, it's happening so often, every day now, I don't know how anybody could -- the Secret Service or anybody else could keep up with this kind of thing.
WALKER: What are investigators looking into right now?
CHACON: Right now they're looking at, I think, to see if he had any other associates, people of like mind. Now because his words have meaning to us, when yesterday they may not have, now we'll look at, you know, does he have good friends, does he have associates that he's been complaining with, or talking with online, maybe some of them have the same kind of sentiment. Now you can put meaning to their words because you have meaning to his words.
WALKER: How do we protect the Congress people? Obviously, there's a heightened sense of security, or there is increased security on Capitol Hill out of an abundance of caution. Congressmen go back home frequently to hold town halls, and recently the town halls have been getting really tense. Can we protect Congress people?
CHACON: In a free democracy, I think it's impossible to have a hundred percent security like that. I think a raucous town hall meeting is a sign of a healthy political debate. The thing is, it can't go to this extent. This wasn't a town hall. But I think they should continue to go. I think it will be up to the individual. I think when you have some of these, it may mean more screening to the town halls, you may have to RSVP to the town hall and get cleared. After the Gabrielle Gifford's attempted assassination, there was talk, will all Congressmen be targeted. We saw things calm down after that. We didn't see further attacks after that. Hopefully, that will be the case here. This is a single deranged individual, and hopefully, we won't have a repeat of it.
[01:25:14] WALKER: Yes. But of course, the question is, does the shooting inflame more of the political tensions that lay open wide as the political divisions, and the hate that we're seeing in this country. Let's focus a little bit on the Capitol Police response. Because if it weren't for Steve Scalise being there, he obviously has a security detail with him.
WALKER: At all times. If he wasn't there, the Capitol Police wouldn't have been there and the response wouldn't have been so quick, and it could have been much worse because they engaged in a shootout with this gunman.
CHACON: I think Rand Paul said there would have been 20 people dead, members of Congress. I think that absolutely these guys are heroes. They took incoming fire. They didn't have much cover, from what I understand. The gunman took cover behind a concrete dugout. And they were in the open. And even after taking fire, they still advanced on the gunman as they were taking fire. They're both wounded. They're advancing on a gunman who is shooting at them and they take him out. I think enough can't be said about their actions.
WALKER: It's incredible. They were both wounded and still going after the gunman. They truly are the heroes in this. Regarding Capitol Police, especially for our audience around of the world, what can you tell us about Capitol Police and the training that they get? Is it similar to what FBI would get?
CHACON: It's similar to what Washington Metropolitan Police would get, or large urban police force gets, and they may even train with Washington metro, I don't know that. But some of the smaller departments will train with the larger departments in their area. So I think they get very good training as Washington, D.C., Metro is a very good department. They're dealing with a lot of big city crime. And I think the Capitol Police obviously have a lot of experience in this type of thing. So I think they did an incredible job.
WALKER: They did a remarkable job. Bobby Chacon, thank you very much.
CHACON: Thank you.
VAUSE: With that, we will take a short break. When we come back on NEWSROOM L.A., survivors from the London high-rise fire now trying to rebuild their lives with more than just a little help from some new friends.
VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles, I'm John Vause.
WALKER: And I'm Amara Walker. The headlines this hour, a Washington hospital says U.S. Congressman Steve Scalise will need more surgery after he was shot and wounded during a practice baseball game. Three other people were also shot and a food industry lobbyist is in critical condition. Police killed the gunman, 66-year-old James Hodgkinson. The FBI said his Facebook page was filled with anti-Trump posts.
VAUSE: The fire which tore through a London high-rise has claimed a dozen lives and authorities believe the death toll is most certain to rise. It's unclear how many remain missing. 18 are in critical care. The fire engulfed the 24-story high-rise while many residents were asleep. The cause is still under investigation.
With that, we'll go now to our colleague, Max Foster, live in London.
Max, clearly, one of the issues here is how this fire started but also, taking care of the people who now have essentially nowhere to live.
MAX FOSTER, CNN LONDON CORRESPONDENT: They're going to start rebuilding their lives. Huge amount of support yesterday. Homes being opened, and lots of food coming in, and clothes coming in for people. But now they've got to actually move forward. When you consider in the tower block, a lot of people were in social housing, and there's a huge, very long queue, you can wait for years to get on the list for social housing. They now have to find new social housing for hundreds of people. It's a huge challenge for the local authorities here.
The building is still smoldering just 24 hours -- just over 24 hours since the fire took hold.
We spoke to many witnesses and residents of the high-rise. They've been recounting their terrifying experiences.
Erin McLaughlin has some of their stories for you.
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A massive fire in West London had caught hold in a 24-story tower block that housed hundreds of people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard shouting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's getting bigger and bigger. What's going on here? I go to the front door. I see this fireball. I open the door, see what's going on. The neighbors are running out. People are screaming there's a fire. People are screaming, get out of the block, get out of the block. Half of the block was ablaze by the time it got done. And it was spreading like wildfire. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As soon as I run out, I see already the fire all on one side. Inside, we didn't know what's going on. Because nothing came inside. No water, no nothing. It was very shocking.
MCLAUGHLIN: 40 fire engines and 200 firefighters battled through the night to bring the blaze under control. Firefighters say they had never experienced anything like it.
UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: I have never seen a fire of this nature before. It's a completely unprecedented nature. It will call for further investigation quite clearly.
SEDIQ KHAN, LONDON MAYOR: This is extremely depressing and devastating. Again, I say my thoughts and prayers, as I'm sure the thoughts and prayers of the entire country are with the family and friends of those in the building, affected by this tragic and horrific fire.
MCLAUGHLIN: Witnesses described the chaos.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just horrific. It's so awful to see. I'm watching people at the windows, waving, and shouting for help and screaming. And then just see them engulf in smoke. And not knowing whether they were going to be safe or not. Or be able to get out. It was just horrible to see. Sad. We felt completely helpless. We just couldn't do anything.
MCLAUGHLIN: As politicians expressed their sorrow, families were evacuated to local community centers. Scores of people are being treated in hospitals across London. Many of them still in critical condition.
The fire is now under control. But the fear is that the death toll will continue to rise.
Erin McLaughlin, CNN, London.
FOSTER: Well, the London councilor, Benezir Beshari (ph), lives here in the shadows of Grenfell Tower. She told Clarissa Ward she still hears the screams of those who were trapped in the inferno.
BENEZIR BESHARI (ph), LONDON COUNSELOR: I'm not just a counselor. I'm also an evacuee. With my children as well. I live a stone's throw from the tower. We were awakened by screams of people trying to get out of this block.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATINAL CORRSEPONDENT: Are you still with us, Benezir (ph)? I'm sure it's been an incredibly emotional day. I hate to tax you. Are you still with us?
BESHARI (ph): Yes. People are obviously very upset. And everybody's concerned. People did raise concerns for years, for the safety of the tower, before they refurbished it. And while they were refurbishing it, they raised concerns. It seems they weren't listening. The counsel was not listening to people.
[01:35:20] WARD: And where are the people, the residents of the building? Do you understand now where they've been taken, where they will be able to stay, not only in the short-term, but in the long term?
BESHARI (ph): I wouldn't be able to answer that, because I've left the area with my family to safety. And I can't go back to my home. But from what I can see, from the people I've spoken to, there are many community centers open. So people can go to Westway, and the centers are open, many churches around the area. The community is coming together to help. That's the community we live in. We are very united. We're from all races and all religions.
WARD: And tell us, have you heard from your friends and neighbors? Are they ok? Dupe? Do you know?
BESHARI (ph): There's one I have not heard from. In fact, three people I've not heard from yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: Well, we still haven't got the full name of the list of the missing. We don't know how many missing people there are. As time goes on, of course, there's more and more concern about where they are, and whether or not they are still in the building somehow.
It's still smoldering. The rescue operation does continue. They don't expect to find obviously many more people alive. Today is about those survivors trying to piece their lives together.
But also big questions, Amara and John, about fire regulation in the building and how fire authorities can respond to these occasions in large tower blocks. We have them in cities around the world, of course. People are very concerned about living on the top floors if they don't have the regulations in place.
VAUSE: Absolutely, Max. Thank you.
WALKER: Next on NEWSROOM L.A., the federal investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election takes a dramatic turn that now puts it squarely in the Oval Office.
WALKER: The third-ranking Republican in the U.S. House is in critical condition after being shot by a rifleman during a baseball practice.
VAUSE: Congressman Steve Scalise suffered major injuries to his internal organs. Doctors have already operated once on him. They say more surgery will be need.
CNN's Phil Mattingly has our report.
[01:39:49] PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, investigators are digging into the past of this 66-year-old man, James Hodgkinson, combing through a trove of social media post that paint the picture of a politically active individual infuriated with Donald Trump and the Republican Party.
In public Facebook postings he called Republicans, "stupid," wrote that the party "hated Americans and is full of smoke and mirrors." And said President Trump, quote, "has destroyed our democracy. It's time to destroy Trump and company".
He also liked a political cartoon suggesting Congressman Steve Scalise should be fired.
And three years of impassioned letters to the editor of his local paper, including one that concluded, "I've never said life sucks, only the policies of Republicans."
Hodgkinson's Facebook photo, an image of Uncle Sam transposed with the face of Senator Bernie Sanders.
Sanders, the former Democratic presidential candidate, taking to the Senate floor Wednesday to saying Hodgkinson may have volunteered for his campaign and condemned his actions.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I), VERMONT & FORMER DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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, and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms.
MATTINGLY: Hodgkinson started his own home inspection company in 1994, only to quit the job on New Year's Eve of last year, according to a Facebook post. He was fired in 2003 as an independent contractor from the St. Clair Intergovernmental Grants Department for, quote, "unacceptable behavior," according to the St. Clair county board chairman, Mark Kern (ph). While Kern (ph) wouldn't elaborate on the behavior itself, he noted that Hodgkinson returned in 2012 to ask for reinstatement. It would not have been granted, Kern (ph) said.
A public records search reveals several run-ins with the law, including a 2006 arrest on battery causing bodily harm. A police report described Hodgkinson as allegedly punching a friend of his daughter's in the face, firing off a gun, then dragging his daughter from a house by her hair and prying her out of a car by cutting her seat belt with a pocketknife. The charge was later dismissed.
Law enforcement sources tell CNN they are tracing two guns, an SKS rifle and .9-millimeter handgun, as part of the investigation, one of which the FBI has now taken the lead.
TIMOTHY SLATER, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Law enforcement has reason to believe that the shooter has been in Alexandria, Virginia, area since March of this year. MATTINGLY: While back home, a stunned friend tried to defend a
UNIDENTIFIED FRIEND OF HODKINSON: I just want to let people know that he wasn't evil, that he was, I guess, tired of some of the politics that are going on.
MATTINGLY (on camera): Despite the posts, despite the protests and letters to the editor, Secret Service said he was not on their radar. It's one of those issues that is raising a lot of questions how it could have actually gotten to this point.
One other point to add. Here on Capitol Hill, Congressman Mike Vause, the home congressman for Hodgkinson, said his office had received 10 contacts from the individual leading up to this point. They said it was nothing out of the ordinary. Certainly, registering opposition. The congressman saying there was no red flags. Perhaps why the reason up to this point nobody thought it could get to this point. Still, raising a lot of questions about what triggered this action that was so stunning in Washington.
Phil Mattingly, CNN, Capitol Hill.
VAUSE: The president and first lady visited the hospital where Scalise is being treated. We were told Mr. Trump sat by Scalise's bed and spoke with the family.
WALKER: The president also met with the U.S. capitol police officer who was shot in the attack.
Earlier, Mr. Trump spoke about the tragedy, and the need for Americans to come together during a crisis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We may have our differences, but we do well in times like these to remember that everyone who serves in our nation's capitol 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)
VAUSE: With us here now in Los Angeles, CNN political commentator and talk radio host, Mo Kelly; and CNN political commentator and Republican strategist, John Thomas.
You know, John, I watched the president today after the shooting. And I kept thinking, what could have been if only he'd kept that tone, get that measured message, which he did today, how different his presidency may have been, you know, at this point. JOHN THOMAS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Certainly, the Donald Trump
we saw today, I hope continues. But I don't think Trump is to blame here. The most shocking thing that hit me today was that the way the media's framing the shooter's rhetoric is that it's anti-Trump --
VAUSE: I'm not blaming Trump for the shooting.
THOMAS: No, no, no. And I know that. But I think you were insinuating if Trump were more calm and controlled --
VAUSE: His presidency may be more successful.
THOMAS: I would argue that --
[01:45:15] THOMAS: Here's the thing. The rhetoric is being framed by the shooter's anti-Trump rhetoric. When in actuality it's anti- Democratic Party rhetoric. And that's the concerning thing to me. If I had read this guy's Facebook post, I would say --
WALKER: But how important is the president's rhetoric and his tone in times like this, Mo?
MO KELLY, CNN POLTIICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think we can be honest and say, it's the Democratic Party's rhetoric, when we saw what happened on the campaign trail. Punch him in the face, get him out of here, throw him out. We did not arrive here overnight. This is another benchmark. We have Newtown, Columbine, Gabrielle Giffords and here. This has been brewing for the better part of 20 years, and here we are.
VAUSE: Maybe we should all stop for a moment and listen to the guys who are actually shot at, you know? The managers of the baseball team. The two managers of the Republicans and Democratic baseball teams, had a news conference. Listen to a short clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE DOYLE, (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I just suggested to Joe that we would like to host the entire Republican team down at the Democratic club. Probably some of them have never stepped foot in that building.
SEN. JOE BARTON, (R), TEXAS: I've been in it one time.
DOYLE: Get to know each other a little bit better.
Joe, I'm hoping that your guys, most of them, their schedules allow them to attend.
We look forward to the baseball game tomorrow and continuing this great tradition.
BARTON: I'm going to bring my food taster, but we will be there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: OK. I guess, you know, everyone's asking, is this going to be a turning point in the way we all talk to each other and the way we listen to each other, or will it be another one of those moments that -
VAUSE: Thank you -- Gabrielle Giffords, where we all just sort of move on and forget about it?
KELLY: If we can't get it together after Newtown, or come to a consensus about gun control, when it's the right time or wrong time to do it, it's not going to happen. If we couldn't maintain our unity after 9/11, it's not going to happen.
But I think we're missing the larger issue that we have been on this road for quite some time. We can back up the bus, but we have to be willing on all sides to do it. It's not just a Democrat or Republican issue, it's America, we're wrapped in this gun culture, and we really dislike each other.
WALKER: Let's focus on the rare show of unity that we're seeing. It's not often that we see this. You have the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, and minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, also on the same page about calling on the same message of unity. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We are being tested right now. I ask each of you to join me to resolve, to come together, to lift each other up, and to show the country, to show the world that we are one House, the people's House.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: But we do have our differences. And so I pray, my prayer is that we can resolve our differences in a way that furthers the preamble to the constitution, takes us closer to E Pluribus Unum.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALKER: There will have to be a lot of praying to resolve the differences. This is only going to inflame the division we've seen for the last several months.
THOMAS: You're right. There's a couple of things in play. Today's events hit close to home for these members of Congress. I think it is a sincere emotional moment. Second, it's smart politics to behave like they are in the moment.
But we see it in Virginia and elsewhere, the gun control debate. Everybody's taking their sides. Look, this unity, I'd like to think it could last, but it won't. I'd be surprised if by the end of the week.
VAUSE: I'll be surprised by the end of the day. The "Washington Post" report, the obstruction of justice, special counsel, Robert Mueller, now apparently looking into an obstruction of justice case against the president.
The "Washington Post" broke the story. We spoke to one of the reporters who is part of the bylines. Here's what she said.
UNIDENTIFIED WASHINGTON POST REPORTER: We heard the FBI director testify before the Hill that the president was not under investigation. He testified that he told the president three times he wasn't under investigation. But what changed was after the firing of James Comey, and Trump said it was because of the Russia investigation, the FBI began to examine, investigate the president for obstruction of justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALKER: While you cannot underestimate what it's like to be living under investigation, day in, day out, especially if you are this president who already has a short fuse and is sensitive to these things.
[01:50:00] KELLY: If you've done anything, which is I'll say sloppy in nature, it makes it very difficult to go back and clean up your mess. We know what the special investigation, we don't know where it's going to go. It might go into the financials. It's going to be friends and people in the administration. And so Donald Trump has not demonstrated as president that he is very disciplined.
So he may compound the issue beyond what has already happened. This would be a product of his own doing. He may complicate things even further if he continues to tweet.
WALKER: The product of his own doing.
KELLY: Absolutely, with campaigns, and elected officials, we say do not harm, don't make unforced errors. This is one of those cases where what he was griping about, the fact that he wasn't under investigation, is now the problem.
VAUSE: FBI Director James Comey, or former FBI Director James Comey, he laid out the obstruction of justice case last week when he testified before the Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BURR, (R-NC), CHAIRMAN, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Do you sense that the president was trying to obstruct justice or just seek for a way for Mike Flynn to save face given he had already been fired?
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: General Flynn, at that point in time, was in legal jeopardy. There was an open FBI criminal investigation of his statements in connection with the Russian contacts, and the contacts themselves. So that was my assessment at the time.
I don't think it's for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was an effort to obstruct. I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning. But that's a conclusion I'm sure the special counsel will work towards.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: John, according to "The Post," Mueller's team has been looking for any evidence of financial crimes of Trump associates. This investigation seems to be growing faster than Godzilla hit by lightning walking through a nuclear waste dump.
THOMAS: It is. That's the concern with any special counsel, is to find something. And the original task of a special counsel, at least the allegation of Democrats, was that Trump is this Manchurian candidate for Vladimir Putin, when it appears that's not the case. They have to find something. And it might have been the cover-up. It might have been sloppy wording from Trump. But it will get stretched on. Every day something like this happens, I see tax reforms slipping through the Republicans' fingers. It will derail their agenda on bigger things.
WALKER: So many distractions.
Speaking of the president causing his own problems, John, do you think the president is going to still consider firing, letting go of the special counsel, and exacerbate this issue even further? Because that could be used against him as an attempt at obstruction of justice.
THOMAS: I can't speak to what the president will do, but I can say it would be incredibly stupid of him to do that. Because at this point, the special counsel, you've got to let them do what they're going to do. If you do fire them, you're giving the opposition just fuel, no matter what happens.
KELLY: Five months in, five months in, and the whole legislative agenda may be out the window. That's where we are.
VAUSE: This week was supposed to be workplace reform?
VAUSE: I may not know Gabby Giffords --
VAUSE: Thanks, guys.
WALKER: Thank you.
VAUSE: Next on NEWSROOM L.A., a city standing together. Londoners are supporting each other after a deadly high-rise fire.
[01:55:02] VAUSE: Tough times right now in West London. Many there are grieving those they've lost in this Grenfell Tower fire. Many others seeing everything they owned go up in flames.
WALKER: As always, Londoners come together even at the most horrific times. Some stories now from a city that may be down, but it's not out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole block was engulfed in flames. It was just a horrendous sight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We haven't got no house. It's start from scratch again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of people have come together. We'll get through this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was just going quickly. It was just up in minutes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I could hear people screaming, help me, my baby, help me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By the time we came down, the whole building was covered in fire. I was just so shocked.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of my friends, he says, they lost everything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jewelry in there, money in there, you know, phones. They didn't pick anything up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was shocked. Everyone is just angry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't know what they're going to do about the actual building. But as far as the people go, we'll get through this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone's out trying to lend a hand. Everyone's out trying to support everyone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The sirens have been on since the early hours. You see a lot of people helping out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shock is the main feeling. And we need to try and help.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are lots of people coming with blankets, water.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want to help volunteer, make the food, and, you know, unpacking the things that people donated. So I feel like I'm helping in some way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of people come together. This is what London is about, we've all come together to look after each other.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It takes a tragedy like this to show the humanity in people. And it's just hard.
WALKER: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Amara Walker
VAUSE: I'm John Vause.
Stay with us. A lot more news after a very short break.
[02:00:55] VAUSE: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles.
WALKER: At this hour --