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Congressman, Several Others Wounded in Gunman's Attack; Lawmakers Unify after GOP Ballfield Attack; Washington Post: Mueller Investigating Trump for Possible Obstruction of Justice. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired June 15, 2017 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms.
[07:00:07] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are reporting there is this expansion of the investigation to include obstruction.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: This is exactly what James Comey had in mind.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This innuendo of investigation of a sitting president that no one can seem to confirm, I think, is very dangerous for our republic.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY.
We begin with two major stories on Capitol Hill. First, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise is in critical condition after that gunman ambushed a group of congressional Republicans while practicing for a charity baseball game. The FBI now investigated the gunman's criminal past and his online anti-Trump ramblings.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump and congressional leaders calling for unity after this senseless attack. Tonight's charity baseball game is going to go on as scheduled.
Meantime, "The Washington Post" is reporting that Special Counsel Bob Mueller is investigating President Trump for possible obstruction of justice. Any tone of conciliation ends right there. The president tweeting this morning, saying that, "This is a phony collusion with the Russian story. They found zero proof. So now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice."
We have it all covered. Let's begin with CNN's Alex Marquardt, live in Alexandria, Virginia, with more -- Alex.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. That's right. This immediately became a federal investigation, because it was members of Congress who were targeted. The FBI is taking a lead with support from other agencies, as well as local law enforcement.
Now, we are learning more about the attacker, James Hodgkinson from Belleville, Illinois, particularly about his past brushes with the law. We now know that, in 2006, he was arrested on multiple charges, including two counts of domestic battery, aggravated discharge of a firearm, and criminal damage to a car.
Then earlier this year, the police recalled when Hodgkinson was firing into a tree with a shotgun. That was in March, which is the same month that law enforcement is now saying he drove from Illinois to here in Alexandria, Virginia.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): The chilling sound of a barrage of gunfire captured in this cell phone video.
MARQUARDT: Sixty-six-year-old James Hodgkinson, an ardent critic of President Trump, unleashing a hail of bullets on Republican lawmakers who were practicing on the eve of a charity baseball game. The Congressman targeted on the field scrambling to take cover.
REP. RODNEY DAVIS (R), ILLINOIS: Somebody on the field yelling, "Run, he's got a gun." I ran into the dugout, like most people on the field.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via phone): Units arrived to 400 East and Monroe. Shots being fired, and there are people running. Possibly victims involved.
MARQUARDT: The lone gunman, who was armed with a rifle and .9 mm handgun, exchanging fire with Capitol Police officers who were there to protect the House majority whip, Steve Scalise. Local police joining in the ten-minute firefight to take down the attacker.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via phone): We have one in custody, one shooter. There's also a victim down in the baseball field.
MARQUARDT: Scalise was on second base when he was shot in his left hip.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: 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.
MARQUARDT: Four others also wounded in the attack. Witnesses now praising the heroic actions of law enforcement in preventing further casualties.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw at least two of them go towards the shooter. They were putting their lives directly in the line of fire.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was the Capitol Police that saved us all.
MARQUARDT: Authorities say the gunman drove from Illinois to Virginia in March and had been living out of a white cargo van, spending much of his time at this YMCA, adjacent to the ball field, where he was seen the morning of the ambush.
REP. JEFF DUNCAN (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: He asked me if this team was the Republican or Democrat team practicing. I responded that it was the Republican team practicing, and he proceeded to shoot Republicans. Take that for what it's worth.
MARQUARDT: The attacker's online posts show a hatred of President Trump and Republicans. Hodgkinson writing on Facebook in March, "Trump is a traitor. Trump has destroyed our democracy. It's time to destroy Trump and company."
A month earlier, "Republicans are the Taliban of the USA." A family member of the attacker telling "The New York Times" saying he came to Washington in recent weeks to protest Trump.
The gunman also liked a political cartoon suggesting that Congressman Scalise should be fired, although it's unclear if Scalise was specifically targeted in the attack.
MARQUARDT: Those Capitol Police officers are being hailed as heroes this morning for preventing what many are calling a potential massacre. We know that Special Agent Crystal Griner, who was shot in the ankle, is still in the hospital. We're told she's in good condition. The other agent, David Bailey, was lightly wounded. He has been released. If they had not been there to protect Congressman Scalise, this could have been much, much worse -- Chris, Alisyn.
[07:05:11] CUOMO: No question about that, Alex. We have to keep calling out that if it weren't for Griner and Bailey, who knows what would have happened there?
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise still in critical condition, hours of surgery he had, and it looks like he's facing a lot more. Last night, President Trump and the first lady visited Scalise in a Washington hospital. The president sat by Scalise's bedside, we're told, spoke with his family and tweeted that "Congressman Scalise is in very tough shape, but a real fighter."
CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us now with more on his condition. Bullet to the pelvis. That's what we knew yesterday. He was dragging himself away, but a lot of that was adrenaline. He spoke to his wife, then what?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And they called him stable at the time. They said he was in good spirits. You saw some of that video.
What sounds like happened, he had a transport at that point from the field to the hospital, five to 10 minutes by helicopter. By the time he arrived at the hospital, he was in critical condition. Not critical and stable, just critical condition.
So clearly, there was a significant deterioration, if you will, during that -- just even over that few minutes time period. It sounds like it was significant blood loss, obviously. Went into the operating room, was in the operating room for several hours. Went back to the operating room again to try and control blooding and was still in critical condition.
So you know, a hip injury, and people think how serious could that be? They can be pretty serious, as evidenced here. You get an idea of fracture all these bones, injured internal organs in the abdomen and then, of course, caused that severe bleeding.
CAMEROTA: Even when I saw him on the stretcher being taken away yesterday, it looked -- it looked, I mean, obviously, to the lay person, that it was worse than what his colleagues were saying. So it must have been adrenaline that was getting him through those initial moments and shock, of course, that keep you functioning. And now, where do you think this leaves us?
GUPTA: Well, the -- there's always priorities. There's very clear priorities in trauma care. You want to make sure someone's airway is open. The breathing is OK. Then there's circulation. They're bleeding. And that's going to be sort of the primary concern. And it's going to involve sort of a two-pronged approach. You want to go in there and stop what is bleeding. And that may involve going back and forth to the operating room and replacing whatever blood has been lost. Blood transfusions, of which he has already received some throughout the day.
You know, these types of injuries, because they're talking about a rifle injury, a high-velocity munition, it causes significant, you know, blast injury to that part of the body. It's going to involve even several operations after you address these most immediate concerns.
So you know, as you guys have talked about, I think people say that he's expected to do well ultimately. But it's going to be a long road. I think make no mistake in terms of how long before he can bear weight and any idea of getting out of the hospital for some time.
CAMEROTA: He's not out of the woods yet. Sanjay, thank you for all of that information.
All right. So the president and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle were calling for unity in the wake of that violent attack.
CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is live on Capitol Hill with more. What's everyone saying this morning, Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.
It is eerily quiet here. It was this time yesterday morning that the news was breaking about the shooting, and at that time, you could see the expression on the faces of lawmakers in the hallways change as they became shocked, expressed fear and frustration and confusion. I was with Democratic senators Al Franken and Kamala Harris when they
were poised to talk about the Russia investigation and the hyper- partisan climate around. They got the news and, upon hearing the news, immediately dropped everything and went to a prayer breakfast. And that really was demonstrative of and reflective of what the whole day was here as hearings and votes were canceled and, again, replaced with calls of unity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are strongest when we are unified and when we work together for the common good.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We are united in our shock. We are united in our anguish. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.
REP. NANY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: To my colleagues, you can hear me say something you've never heard me say before. I identify myself with the remarks of the speaker.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: And one of the ways that they say that they're going to try to at least lower the temperature, the toxic rhetoric out of political discussion and debate here is to make sure that they are resilient and unified. And part of that is making sure that that game continues; it goes on, the charity baseball game, tonight -- Chris.
CUOMO: All right, Suzanne.
So you have what's bringing them together, and then our other top story is what is taking them apart? "The Washington Post" reporting that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating President Trump for possible obstruction of justice.
[07:10:04] CNN's Athena Jones live at the White House with more. And we remember James Comey, the fired FBI director, saying in his testimony, "Yes, you know, I'm sure that Mueller is going to look at obstruction." He was right.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Chris.
According to this report, Comey was right. And this is exactly the sort of headline that President Trump has been trying so hard to avoid. You'll remember it was just last week that he and his legal team were saying that he had been completely and totally vindicated, pointing to Comey's testimony that he had told the president three times that he was not personally being investigated. This was while Comey was still in charge of the FBI, which is now over a month ago.
According to this latest report, all of that has changed, and that is a very big deal.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JONES (voice-over): A bombshell development in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. "The Washington Post" reporting that Mueller is now investigating President Trump for possible obstruction of justice. The president's firing of FBI director James Comey propelling the expansion of the probe.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, "You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story."
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: There's no doubt that it's a fair judgment, it's my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation.
JONES: This development coming after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein suggested Tuesday the special counsel may be looking into Comey's firing.
ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I can assure you that, if Director Mueller believes that that is relevant to his investigation, he has full authority to investigate that and to make any appropriate findings.
JONES: Sources tell CNN, Mueller is planning to interview several of the nation's top intelligence chiefs, including director of national intelligence Dan Coats; NSA Director Mike Rogers; and Rogers' former deputy, Richard Ledgett. Sources say Ledgett wrote a memo, documenting a conversation in which President Trump reportedly urged Rogers to encourage the FBI to lift the cloud of the Russia investigation.
Neither Rogers nor Coats would discuss their conversations with the president in a Senate hearing last week.
SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Why are you not answering our questions?
MIKE ROGERS, NSA DIRECTOR: I feel it is inappropriate.
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I'm not sure I have a legal basis.
JONES: Although Coats did make this comment about his three-plus-year career as head of the NSA.
COAST: I've never felt pressure to intervene or interfere in any way with shaping intelligence in the political way or in relationship to the ongoing investigation.
JONES: President Trump's personal attorney, in a statement last night, did not deny that the president is under investigation. Instead focusing on leakers, writing, "The FBI leak of information regarding the president is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal."
This statement is identical to a bullet list of talking points issued by the Republican Party obtained by CNN. President Trump has already expressed his willingness to talk to Mueller. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you be willing to speak under oath to give
your version of those events?
TRUMP: One hundred percent.
JONES: Now, we'll see if and when that sit-down with the special counsel ever takes place.
Meanwhile, in addition to interviews Mueller is set to have with top intelligence chiefs, he met yesterday with the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, and Mark Warner to talk about the congressional investigations and the special counsel's own probe. Signs that these separate but overlapping investigations are ramping up -- Alisyn, Chris.
CAMEROTA: OK, Athena. Thank you very much.
So President Trump is blasting the special counsel's widening of the investigation. He tweeted just moments ago. He said, quote, that "They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story. Found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice."
Let's bring in our panel. We have host of CNN's "SMERCONISH," Michael Smerconish; and CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan. Gentlemen, great to have you here.
So Michael, that's not the unity message that many were hoping for this morning. And I think it raises the question of whether or not there can be a Russia investigation simultaneous with an attempt at political unity from Democrats and Republicans, or if those things are completely mutually exclusive, as the president's tweet seems to suggest.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: I think that you are right to focus the issue that way. Yesterday's shooting was horrific. It comes amidst this poisonous political climate that's been building for years. And it's important to rein in bad behavior among politicians, among talking heads, a whole host of folks.
But at the same time, not to conflate behavior that's over the top from a partisan standpoint with a legitimate investigation. And I think this is a legitimate investigation. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that Mueller would be derelict in his duty if he weren't looking at this as potentially obstruction of justice, given the following.
[07:15:13] The fact that the president sought a loyalty oath from the FBI director. That he then asked him to let go of the Flynn investigation, that he then fired him and that he then boasted to the Russians that he had relieved pressure. I don't know how Mueller couldn't look at those criteria in determining if he'd run afoul of obstruction of justice statutes. CUOMO: All right. So the language, though, is carefully chosen,
Counselor Callan, which is possible obstruction of justice. Trump bashing the investigation is the wrong thing to do. It's legitimate. It's a special counsel. His own guy picked the special counsel. It should be allowed to play out. It's all politics. But legally, not easy to get a president for obstruction of justice in this context, is it?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No. It's extraordinarily difficult. Because you have to be able to establish that the president had a corrupt purpose in terminating the FBI director.
CUOMO: Which he is allowed to do, and he could cancel the probe whenever he wants.
CALLAN: Absolutely. And the president also has the right as the head -- he's really the head of the Justice Department as president and the head of the FBI as president. He has the right to say, "This is a waste of money. There's nothing here. This is not a legitimate inquiry into criminal behavior."
And that's the kind of defense I think that he would mount if he were impeached on a charge like obstruction of justice. Because remember, he also cannot criminally be charged with obstruction of justice. He could only be impeached. The other thing...
CUOMO: Explain to people why, by the way.
CALLAN: Well, the president is immune from criminal prosecution while he's president of the United States. Now, if he were impeached and removed by Congress, which he has the right to do, then he could be prosecuted.
The other thing I wanted to mention that I think is kind of being lost in the shuffle here is that Mueller's decision to start by interviewing these intelligence chiefs is totally logical, even if he's not investigating obstruction of justice.
After all, the whole investigation has to do with did Trump campaign operatives communicate with the Russians and collude in an illegal way? Well, who might know about that better than the intelligence chiefs? I mean, if I'm running the FBI, I've got a whole bunch of reasons that I want to talk to them right at the beginning of my investigation.
CAMEROTA: And can they invoke executive privilege? Or if it is in an investigation, is that null and void, because you're trying to get to the truth of this probe?
CALLAN: They can invoke executive privilege. But the history with the courts has been this. The courts will only allow you to keep that executive privilege if you've made the prosecutors made a good-faith effort to get the information elsewhere, and this is the only place he can get it. If this is the only place he can get a criminal probe, they'll take the executive privilege away, and they will have to testify. CUOMO: Michael, to your -- to your point earlier about can you have
unity or not, based on what they said, I think to use Callan's word, what's getting conflated here is the investigation into what Russia did, how they did it, why they did it, and how to stop it should be completely bipartisan. The president has made a practice and now many of his surrogates of conflating that investigation with any potential collusion or now obstruction issues. That's the problem, isn't it?
SMERCONISH: Chris, I think that's a great point. And when I entertain telephone calls on my radio program from people who think this is all fake news and bogus, the question that I ask is to say, "Does it bother you if the Russians may have played a role in the election of our president?"
And I think that's the $64,000 question. How could someone not say, "Yes, hell, yes, that bothers me." And yet, some stammer just to cross that precipice. I mean, I think that's the critical issue. And then what flows from it is whether the probe of that investigation was obstructed.
And look, I agree with everything that Paul said. I would just say, Paul, that the evidence of the president's intent might be asking the vice president and the attorney general to leave the room before he, according to Comey, leans on him to let go of the Flynn probe. And the reason that you ask the intel chiefs what they know of this situation is because if, in fact, they say, "The White House leaned on us to try to get the FBI to quell this probe," then that is a Watergate apples to apples comparison.
CAMEROTA: Michael, let's just engage in a little role reversal here and look at it from the president's point of view to try to engender some understanding on this morning of unity. And so he obviously is angry and frustrated that this continues. I mean, he thinks that he has done nothing wrong. He believes that no one on his staff has done anything wrong.
So he -- every day he wakes up to new threads and new leaks and new articles. So what should he do? Stay quiet about that frustration?
[07:20:05] SMERCONISH: So you're right. Let's be fair to the president. What's his take on this? I imagine his take on this is to say, "I was elected to do a job to restore jobs to the middle class, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. This thing is bogus. There's nothing to it. Nobody colluded. I didn't try and obstruct justice. When I said what I said to Comey, can you let it go, I was saying that because you know what? Flynn is a good guy. Flynn wore the uniform of this country. I think that Flynn has been wronged in the process and has suffered enough. Now let me get back to bringing jobs to middle-class Americans." Sure, that's the president's posture.
CUOMO: Yes, but the problem is, Paul, and you know, if you were advising him as counsel, don't disrespect the institution. You know don't -- that's part of the leak stuff is about. You know, when they want to spread leaks all over the place. Nothing leaks like this White House does. Let me tell you.
That would be your advice. Right? Stick to your being upset that you did nothing wrong. Don't disparage the process.
CALLAN: You're absolutely right about this. And the thing that's astounded me. I mean, here's a guy who came in from -- as an outsider. Got elected as president. He's got great political instincts, you would think.
The first thing he does after getting elected is he goes to war with his law enforcement structure and his intelligence structure. Now those are the two parts of government that have the ability to torpedo a president quietly and effectively.
And so by attacking them, I guess it would be -- my analogy would be this. It would be like being in the real-estate business and attacking the building department when you want to build the Trump Tower. No, you don't do that. Not a great idea if you want to build a tower. And if he wants to execute on policy promises, that was potentially a fatal move to attack the intelligence and the law enforcement people.
CAMEROTA: Gentlemen, thank you very much for all of this perspective.
So up next, we're talking to a close friend of House GOP Whip Steve Scalise. The latest on his condition and how the Congressman's family is coping, next.
[07:25:18] CAMEROTA: House GOP Whip Steve Scalise is in critical condition this morning after being shot in an ambush yesterday in Virginia.
So let's bring in one of the Congressman's close friends, former Louisiana Congressman Bob Livingston. He used to represent the very district that is now represented by Scalise.
Good morning, Congressman.
BOB LIVINGSTON, FORMER LOUISIANA CONGRESSMAN: Good morning, Alisyn. Good to be here with you.
CAMEROTA: Nice to have you here. We appreciate you being here during this very trying time. Have you had any opportunity to speak to Steve Scalise since this happened?
LIVINGSTON: Well, I'm afraid Steve is in ICU and not speaking to too many people right now. I hope he had a chance to chat with the president who, I thought, was just terrific to go by and sit with him last night.
No, but I've spoken with one of our very close mutual friends, who is there at the hospital as we speak with Steve's wife, Jennifer. And I can tell you that Steve's condition is very, very serious. I hope that the nation is praying for him and his family and for all of the victims of that tragic incident yesterday.
Frankly, it could have been a hell of a lot worse if it hadn't been for those wonderful police. But it is what it is, and Steve is recovering. And we -- we pray that he'll be back in Congress in not too long a time.
CAMEROTA: Absolutely. And what did your mutual friend share with you? Because the impression is that Congressman Scalise's condition deteriorated once he got to the hospital.
LIVINGSTON: Well, I know that yesterday he went through two operations, and he's expected to have at least one to multiple operations subsequently. I can't say how bad it is, but they are saying that they're hopeful that he's going to make it through this. But it's not easy.
He was hit by a high-powered bullet by a rifle held by a total whacko. But that guy was trying to conduct a political assassination of Republicans. It could as easily have been a whacko going after Democrats, but in this case, it was Republicans. And Steve was the prime target, apparently.
I think it's tragic that this stuff has to happen these days. But it's the political intensity. The -- today it's the anti-Trump fervor that inspires people in social media, in Hollywood, in Shakespearean plays and so-called comedians who hold up bloody heads of the president. And I think that, unfortunately, the weak-minded of us in our society take signals like that, then think that they can go ahead with a horrific incident, and innocent people are hurt. That's what happened yesterday. Innocent people were hurt. These are our public servants. And all I can say is it's just terrific that it wasn't worse than it is.
CAMEROTA: And so you know, Congressman, now both sides are calling for unity. Both sides are calling to sort of tamp down the overheated political rhetoric. Some people are skeptical that that can happen. But there are tipping points. And if this is the tipping point, what has to happen? How do people begin to change now what's this climate?
LIVINGSTON: Well, I think we saw the beginning. I thought the president's speech to the American people yesterday was good. I thought Speaker Ryan and majority leader -- or Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi came together with a terrific message.
I think people have to stop and think that, when you start being so vitriolic and stop being rational, you're really violating the intent of our Constitution. Our Constitution demands that people come together and discuss and disagree peaceably and to compromise. And unfortunately, the word "compromise" has been obliterated from the right or the left in the last few years. And I really think that it's got to get better or this country has bad times ahead.
CAMEROTA: Congressman, do you know if Steve Scalise was able to speak to President Trump when he visited last night?
LIVINGSTON: Honestly, I don't know. I wasn't there, and I can't tell you.
I want to say this about Steve. He was a state representative in Louisiana. He was a state senator. He was almost going to run for Congress about 14 years ago, and he stepped aside when the then-Rhodes Scholar Bobby Jindal wanted to -- had run an unsuccessful race for governor and then ran for Congress. Later became governor.
I was in Congress for 22 years. I left 18 years ago. I've been succeed by a Rhodes Scholar governor and a Rhodes Scholar senator. And Steve Scalise is the No. 3 guy in the House of Representatives. Steve Scalise is the best politician of all of us. He's a great politician. He's a wonderfully happy guy who loves his job, loves his family --