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Interview with Congressman Ron DeSantis of Florida; Congressional Ballgame Goes on Despite Attack; House GOP Whip Scalise Critically Injured in Ambush; Former Alexandria Mayor Spoke with Ambush Gunman. Aired 6:30-7a ET
Aired June 15, 2017 - 06:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[06:30:01] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: So, this gunman who targeted Republican lawmakers, approached two of them before opening fire. He asked them both the same question. Congressman Ron DeSantis was one of those lawmakers and he's going to join us live, next.
CUOMO: So, just moments before a Virginia ballpark turned into basically a killing field, two congressmen say that they were approached by the gunman who asked them whether Republicans or Democrats were on that field. Leading to an obvious are conclusion that, that gunman was there looking for Republican lawmakers.
Joining us now is one of those two congressmen, Ron DeSantis of Florida.
Ron, thank God you're OK.
[06:35:00] REP. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Thank you.
CUOMO: And it looks like at this point, not to be overly optimistic, but it looks like Scalise and Mika and the officers should be OK. Maybe a longer road than expected for Scalise, but everybody is looking for his return.
So that's the good news in a terrible situation. But now that your emotions have been able to calm down a little bit, how sure are you that the man you talked to before the shooting was in fact this guy now that you've seen pictures of him and had time to process?
DESANTIS: Yes, it was him. Jeff Duncan and I were actually fielding ground balls on the left side of the infield which would have put us right in the line of fire, but we wanted to get on the road a little early, try to beat the traffic back to Capitol Hill. Steve Scalise was playing second base. I was throwing him double play. We were turning double plays ten minutes before he shot. Just crazy.
But -- so we went to the car and this gentleman approached us. He asked whether it was Republicans or Democrats. It was a little bit strange encounter just because we were out there in the morning. There aren't a lot of people that really cared what's going on out there. It's something I thought about it for half a second, then we kind of went.
But then as soon as we got the news, Jeff and I both said we have to report this guy. We didn't know if it was the same guy. But then once the photos came out, Jeff, me and then Jeff staffer who was driving the vehicle, we all degreed that's the guy that came up to our car.
So, it's strange because had we stayed on the field, obviously, we would have been in the line of fire. And that's a close call. But then he was point-blank right by Jeff in the passenger's seat. I don't know if he was armed with his pistol. I didn't see a rifle. I only saw him from the chest up.
But to see that individual and then once you hear that there are shots, once you hear people are getting shot at, to say that was the guy, you know, I don't think I still have fully processed that yet.
CUOMO: Yes. I mean, look, these are frightening possibilities that you got to wrestle with. I'm sorry for that. But end of the day, you left at the right time. You're OK. It looks like everybody is going to be OK. We hope that that's true.
But what do you take away from this? You know, we keep hearing from everybody on the field that nothing will be the same. What does that mean to you, that phrase?
DESANTIS: Well, just immediately, though, the fact that Scalise was there, he travels with the securities detail because he is a member of the leadership. So, the Capitol police officers really saved the day. I think you could have had 10, 15 people killed had there not been --
CUOMO: Could have been terrible if there's nobody there.
DESANTIS: Oh, yes.
CUOMO: If you didn't have those men who and -- men and women who were willing to take on the fire. God forbid. Who knows what would have happened. But luckily they were there.
DESANTIS: Yes. So, just give them credit. They do a really good job across the board and these are folks that ran to the fire and neutralized this individual which no doubt saved lives.
And so, you know, beyond that, I mean, we'll have to see. Obviously, the signs of this individual have been troubling. I mean, just the fact that he asked us for party affiliation, that in and of itself didn't mean that that was the reason, but then you see some of the other stuff, you wonder, why would he -- did he come to Alexandria, you know, a month or two ago? Why -- how did he find out about the baseball field, did he know -- he clearly knew they were congressmen by his question to us, you know, where good he get that information? Who else was he in contact with?
So, I think there's a lot of questions with about this individual specifically that a lot of us would like answers to. And then just thinking about some things beyond that, when you're in your district, how you handle security. I mean, I had someone call my office that was glad this happened and wanted the president to be next.
So, in the past, I would say that's a kook, don't even worry about it. But now, I mean, you know --
CUOMO: Right. You've got a little bit more sensitive. There's no question about it. And you're going to have to start thinking differently about security, maybe not on an every day basis, but when there are groups of you together, maybe that's just recognition of what our world is about right now.
And on that point, you know, you did have some beautiful moment yesterday in response to this, whether it was the Democrats praying on their practice field when they heard about what was happening for you, Paul Ryan really just picking the right tone and the right points to remind everybody about who we are and what we're about even in Washington in moments of policy conflict, the president echoing that.
What do you want to see come out of this?
DESANTIS: Well, one, immediately I think is have a good game tonight. We already raised $650,000 for charity. I think now with this unfortunate incident, it shined a light, we may be able to raise a lot more that helps --
CUOMO: And remind people where the money goes.
DESANTIS: It helps under privileged youth here in Washington, D.C. and, you know, we've raised millions of dollars over the years, I'd like to raise a million tonight. I think that that would be great.
CUOMO: Where should people go to donate?
DESANTIS: Go to the congressional -- if you Google congressional baseball game, there is a website. We would love to have support. So, that's kind of immediate.
And then just broadly, I just -- I think that, you know, having political differences, there's nothing wrong with that. We've had that since the founding of the republic. Fight it out in the public square, have passionate debate.
[06:40:00] But just because you view government a little different than I do, that's not a reason for me to, you know, want you dead or think that you are a horrible person. So, I think we can get the political debate can be tough, robust, but not as personal. I think we'd probably all be better off.
CUOMO: Good advice to be sure. Ron DeSantis, as you know, you are always welcome on NEW DAY to talk about what matters. You will be tested, but it will be fair. And thank God you'll be able to do it, even after yesterday.
So, good luck in the game tonight. I hope you raise a ton of money and I hope you get on base every time.
DESANTIS: Thanks a lot. I appreciate it. CUOMO: All right. You'd be well.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So, Chris, Republicans and Democrats are showing unity of message. They are saying that the baseball game must go despite the attack. So, we will preview what that game is going to look like, next.
CAMEROTA: Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are speaking in one voice today, saying play ball. The annual congressional charity baseball game will go on tonight as scheduled.
And CNN's Boris Sanchez is live at Nationals Park in Washington with a preview.
[06:45:03] What's the mood, Boris?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Alisyn.
It is, believe it or not, a festive mood here. This is a tradition that goes back to 1909 and it's a really special one in part because it bridges gaps between the two parties. It forces them together to have fun for a good cause. There were questions yesterday as to whether or not this game would even be played.
But House Speaker Paul Ryan came out and said that Steve Scalise would want them to be out here, to play ball. And so, they will play the game. Unfortunately, Scalise will not be here to be part of the game that his colleagues tell us that he loves so much. But apparently, he will have the opportunity to watch from his hospital room.
Now, yesterday, the managers of both clubs, Mike Doyle and Joe Barton, took them out to dinner in part to talk about how to bridge the divide between the two parties, and to reflect on their friend Steve. Representative Barton actually got emotional talking to PBS about the support that he's received from his colleagues across the aisle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOE BARTON (R), TEXS: Everybody is supportive because, we are -- we have an R or D by our name, but our title -- our title is United States representative. And I'm very proud to be a member of the Congress and I'm proud to serve with people like Mike Doyle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Now, it goes without saying, Chris, that security at the event will be expanded. There is expected to be a heavy police presence here. I should mention the record historically for the game is tied between the Democrats and Republicans, 39-39-1. And we've heard repeatedly that no matter who wins today, it is important to remember that we're all on the same team -- Chris. COUMO: That's a given. I know that there is competition between the
lawmakers, but there will be no losers on that field tonight, to be sure. And, hopefully, they raise more money than ever.
Boris, thank you very much. Appreciate the reporting from you this morning.
So, the gunman is a big focus, certainly for investigators, but also beyond about what this man represents and why he would have ever thought of doing something like this.
The city of Alexandria's former mayor says he talked to the gunman not once, but often in the weeks leading up to the attack. Where did this happen, why did this happen, what was the mayor's read on this man? Next.
[06:51:42] CAMEROTA: House GOP Whip Steve Scalise is still in critical condition this morning after being shot at that Virginia baseball field.
So, CNN's Randi Kaye has more now on the history of Steve Scalise.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Representative Steve Scalise was doing what he loved when he was shot, playing baseball.
REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA), MAJORITY WHIP: Feeling really good. We're defending the title and we're bringing it, we're coming with hungry attitude. We're competitive people by nature and when you get to go out on a major league ballpark and play a kid's game, there is nothing like it.
KAYE: That was the Republican congressman last week. He is well- known for his love of the game, posting this on Twitter a couple years back as he prepared for that year's big congressional showdown.
Scalise represents the first congressional district of Louisiana. He was elected to the House back in 2008, replacing Bobby Jindal who ran for governor. He later won a tough battle in 2012 to be served as chairman of the most conservative block of Republicans known as the Republican Study Committee.
In 2014 after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary, Scalise jumped into the race. But during that campaign, questions were raised about a speech he gave to a group led by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke back in 2002. Scalise told reporters, I detest any kind of hate group. For anyone to suggest that I was involved with a group like that is insulting and ludicrous.
He went on to be elected House majority whip, making him the third most powerful Republican in the House.
(on camera): Congressman Steve Scalise is a staunch conservative, and advocate of fiscal discipline, lower taxes and a robust national defense. He supported legislation that would establish English as the official language of the United States and that would defund Planned Parenthood. He's also worked to protect constitutional rights like freedom of speech.
(voice-over): Scalise has often railed against Obamacare.
SCALISE: I think you're going to see a proud vote today on the floor by a bunch of members to go and rescue people from the failures of Obamacare.
KAYE: He's even tangled with Al Gore over the cap and trade energy tax and in 2010 after the BP oil spill off the coast of his home state, Steve Scalise was quick to take on the White House.
SCALISE: Where is the president? Does he not understand the magnitude of what is probably the worst environmental disaster in the country? And then we get mixed messages from various cabinet secretaries who come down and they say, looks like they are satisfied with the coordination going on.
KAYE: He is a loyal supporter of President Donald Trump who even recorded a birthday message for Scalise's daughter, Madison.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Madison, happy birthday. Just listen to this man, he's a powerful, powerful man. We love him.
SCALISE: Listen to the president, Madison. Happy birthday.
KAYE: Before joining Congress, Scalise graduated in Louisiana State University and worked as computer systems engineer. He and his wife, Jennifer, have two children.
And despite his willingness to tackle tough issues, Congressman Steve Scalise never shies away from having some good old Louisiana style fun.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
CAMEROTA: And we are learning more about the gunman who opened fire on that baseball practice.
[06:55:04] The former mayor of Alexandria, Virginia, Bill Euille, says he saw the shooter almost every morning for the last month and a half and often spoke with him.
And joining us now is Bill Euille.
Mr. Euille, thank you very much for being here.
BILL EUILLE, FORMER MAYOR OF ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA: Glad to be with you. CAMEROTA: So, I know that you worked out virtually every morning at
the YMCA. That's adjacent to that baseball field, and you would see this man on his laptop there at the YMCA.
Tell us about your interactions and your impressions of him.
EUILLE: Well, I first interacted with him about a month and a half ago. And after I finished my workout, I'd come upstairs and get a cup of coffee, sit at a table, look at my iPhone. And as members and citizens were coming in and out, they would recognize me and say, good morning, Mr. Mayor, how are you doing, and so forth.
And then one would ask -- some would ask to sit and chat and talk about some issues, and then a couple of days later, he approached me and said, hey, are you really the mayor of Alexandria? And I said, yes. And so, we had greetings.
And a few days later, he even asked me, he said, you know the area, where is a good place to go and eat breakfast and lunch, and I identified some spots for him. And then a couple of days later, he then said, hey, you know, I'm looking for a job, you know anybody hiring? And I said, what kind of work do you do, and he said construction and I said I'm in construction and he further identified that he did home inspections.
And I said, well, I don't know anybody in that field, but I, you know, go on the city's website and see what we may have in the enforcement officer and I'll keep my eyes and ears open for you. And I came across a job opening for a safety inspector and I texted him -- excuse me, I called back to the Y and I said, hey, the gentleman that sits there in the laptop, is he still available? And they said, yes. So he got on the phone and I told him about the job.
And then, you know, he was just -- I described him as someone that was very calm, that was sane, didn't -- wasn't -- didn't seem depressed or disturbed about anything.
CAMEROTA: That's interesting.
EUILLE: He never discussed politics with me, but he --
CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about that.
EUILLE: He mostly just spoke to me and the manager at the Y. I'm sorry?
CAMEROTA: So, you didn't detect any -- you didn't detect any mental health issues. Did he ever share his political leanings, and that he apparently had a big beef with Republicans?
EUILLE: No, he didn't. The TV was always on right there in the lobby and, you know, everybody would stop and observe whatever was the news of the morning. And, you know, then some members would sit and have conversation and talk about politics, they talk about Congress, they talk about the White House. But he never participated. He just sat there like I'd describe him as
a loner and, you know, just -- but a normal person. And no one that I would believe would have done what he did, what took place yesterday morning.
CAMEROTA: I know that one time you in the locker room saw you his gym bag open and that gave you a sense that something was not quite right.
CAMEROTA: What did you see in there?
EUILLE: Well, two things. One, when he first weeks earlier when he first asked for places to go to eat and I said, oh, well, we've got a lot of restaurants in old town and, you know, go here, there. And then he said, well, I want something within walking distance. So, that I concluded then maybe he didn't have transportation.
I found out that he did have a vehicle because that's -- when he finished his workout in the morning or whatever he was doing, he would take his gym bag out and then could back with his laptop and set up and sit down.
But one day last week, I noticed when he was in the shower area, his gym bag, which was a big bag, was wide open and I happened to just look over and I could see that, you know, it looked like he was living out of the bag because he had clothing and books and everything. And which people don't normally carry around with them in the Y just to come to the gym every day.
And so, I said, well, maybe he's living at the homeless shelter, maybe he's -- wherever he is. But then, you know, like I said, other than that, nothing really suspicious.
CAMEROTA: Nothing jumped out at you. Well, Mr. Mayor, thank you for sharing your impressions of him. I mean, it just adds to this, you know, endlessly complicated pattern of how do you ever detect when somebody is on the precipice of something and how do you detect be when they have mental health issues. And it's very, very complicated.
Former Mayor Euille, thank you. Thank you very much for being with us.
EUILLE: I was going to say, absolutely. Yes, thank you.
CAMEROTA: Thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM" is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shots being fired. And there are people running. Victims involved.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the members yelled he has a gun and that's when all started running. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Steve Scalise was a sitting duck. Everyone was basically a sitting duck.
TRUMP: He's a patriot and he's a fighter. He will recover from this assault.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER O THE HOUSE: We are united in our shock. We are united in our anguish.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), VERMONT: I am sickened by this despicable act. And I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms.