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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Trump in South Korea; Authorities Investigate Texas Mass Shooting; Trump's Approval Rating at Lowest Point in CNN Polling. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired November 6, 2017 - 4:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: A scene of indescribable carnage in the church.
THE LEAD starts right now.
Twenty are wounded and 26 are dead, an infant among those killed. Today, police are trying to find out why a man with a domestic violence conviction who should have never been allowed to get a gun committed a massacre in a small-town church.
Breaking news: brand-new polls coming out this hour on THE LEAD telling us what America thinks of President Trump at this point and the Russia investigation.
Plus, President Trump soon touching down in South Korea, after issuing a new warning to the nuclear North that the era of strategic patience is over.
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We're going to start with the national lead and new details unfolding from yet another horrific mass shooting in this country, this one the deadliest in the modern history of the state of Texas and at a church, of all places, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, about 30 miles east of San Antonio.
The FBI spent the day meticulously combing through the scene, where 26 people were murdered yesterday, 20 others injured, 10 of them remaining in critical condition.
Today, we learned that the deceased range in age from just 17 months old to 77 years, a painful loss for a small tight-knit community.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERRI POMEROY, MOTHER OF VICTIM: Most of our church family is gone, and the few of us that are left behind lost tragically yesterday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Authorities are also releasing chilling details about the killer, how he dressed in all black, wore a ballistic vest and a mask, how he spent some time in the church during his killing spree, and then left the church and was pursued by two good samaritans.
We are also learning this entire ordeal might stem from a dispute the killer had his with in-laws. His mother-in-law, what normally attended the church, received threatening text messages from him before the shooting, but she was not there this morning. This massacre now stands as one of the five deadliest in modern American history, along with the Las Vegas massacre just five weeks ago.
CNN's Ed Lavandera joins me now at the scene in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
Authorities say there is video inside the church. Do we have any idea what it might show?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This was a church service that was routinely recorded week after week.
And authorities here say that they have secured video footage from inside the sanctuary that shows the attack and the rampage erupting inside of that building. And we also spoke with one man who witnessed it all unfold from just feet away.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Here in the quiet countryside of Sutherland Springs, Texas, nearly 4 percent of the town's population was killed inside this small church on Sunday.
POMEROY: We laughed together, we cried together, and we worshipped together.
LAVANDERA: When a gunman opened fire during the service, more than two dozen members of the church also died together. Many were children, the youngest just 17 months old.
FRED CURNOW, WITNESS: It was a literally what your horror movies are made of. They brought a girl out, a little girl out in a -- I'm sorry. She was just covered in blood.
LAVANDERA: Fred Curnow lives directly across the street, less than 100 feet from the church. He says he saw the gunman begin his rampage outdoors, firing into the sides of the building.
CURNOW: You're in pews, you're in line. So going to the side, he's shooting straight through there, he knows he's doing some harm.
LAVANDERA: Curnow says the killer unloaded several rounds, then appeared to retrieve more ammunition from his car behind heading inside.
CURNOW: Looked like he grabbed just like an arm load of something. He popped another one in and started firing into the door.
LAVANDERA: Twenty-six-ear-old Devin Patrick Kelley came armed through three guns and donned a ballistic vest and a skeleton mask to carry out his attack. FREEMAN MARTIN, REGIONAL DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY:
There was a domestic situation going on within this family.
LAVANDERA: Kelley's mother-in-law attended the church. And while she was not here during the massacre, she had received a message from the gunman that morning, according to law enforcement.
MARTIN: We know that he had made -- threatening texts from him.
LAVANDERA: Kelley's SUV may hold even more evidence. He used it to flee the scene after being shot in the driver's seat by good samaritan Steve Willeford, who ran to help barefoot.
CURNOW: The window on the driver's side came out. I mean, it shattered. And it's pretty blurry, but I was sure I saw some blood.
LAVANDERA: Police say Kelley made a final phone call soon after.
MARTIN: The suspect used his cell phone to notify his father that he had been shot and didn't think he was going to make it.
LAVANDERA: Right behind him at more than 90 miles per hour, Stephen Willeford and Johnny Langendorff gave chase for more than 10 minutes before the suspect crashed the car.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was do you everything necessary to make sure that this guy stopped.
LAVANDERA: Police say the gunman shot himself inside his SUV. We now know he was a water park security guard over the summer and served in the Air Force. In 2012, a military court charged him with assaulting his spouse and child and resulted in a 12-month confinement and a bad conduct discharge from the military.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Until we can get all of the documentation, we will not have a determination on if this individual was prohibited from possessing or purchasing firearms.
LAVANDERA: A law enforcement official does tell CNN that no disqualifying information turned up in Kelley's records when he bought the assault-style rifle. As for what led him to this, the pastor of the church says he has no answers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't understand. But I know my God does.
LAVANDERA: And, Jake, what people like Fred Curnow say is really what sticks with them moments after the shooting stopped and everyone had fled the scene, he actually tried to retrieve a cell phone for a survivor that as inside the sanctuary. He looked inside the church and he said the images that he saw is just something that he is struggling to deal with. There was also a young girl that walked out across the street who came
out of that church, blood-drenched hair, sat on their porch as they waited for first-responders to arrive there and offer her treatment. He says the images of those young kids inside that sanctuary is what will stick with him forever -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Ed Lavandera, thank you so much.
Let's bring in my panel of law enforcement experts.
Thanks, one and all, for being here. I appreciate it.
I want to play something that Governor Abbott of Texas said on CNN this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: Devin Kelley sought to get a license to carry a gun in the state of Texas, but the state of Texas denied him the ability to get a gun. So, how was it that he was able to get a gun? By all the facts that we seem to know, he was not supposed to have access to a gun, so how did this happen?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now, this is what we know about Devin Kelley, the shooter. He was convicted in a military court of domestic violence against his wife and his daughter. He was sentenced to a year in military prison. One presumes this should have been passed on to the background check database in theory, but it doesn't appear to.
James, let me start with you. How did he get denied for a right to carry license theoretically, but still was able to purchase a gun legally?
JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Two separate things, Jake. And I think what the governor was trying to explain that, I think some things got muddled there.
First of all, purchasing a weapon, that is a separate item. To purchase and own a weapon, there is a clear distinction between a concealed carry and an open carry.
TAPPER: James, I'm sorry. I'm going to interrupt you. We're going to come back, but we're going to go to the hospital right now.
They're having a live press conference.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
DR. BRIAN EASTRIDGE, UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: We had four children, five adults. One of the children died.
We currently have three adults and three children remaining in the hospitals and their conditions range from serious to very critical. We actually had a couple of adults and a child that was, as I already
discussed, died in the hospital. I should also mention that this is not just University Hospital. Our hospital is part of a bigger trauma system. And part of that system actually includes the San Antonio Military Medical Center, Brooke Army Medical Center. It is also the other adult level one trauma center in the city.
Brooke Army Medical Center I believe saw eight patients and operated on four patients. So, again, this collaboration is richly supported by the community and actually it's really the foundation of the trauma system.
In one sense, the timing of the incident sort of played into our response. Yesterday, we happened to be having our annual -- or our normal credentialing review by the American College of Surgeons verification review team.
And so it just happened that we had seven trauma surgeons here when we got the first call about the mass casualty event, the active shooter., which is great, except a trauma surgeon without this and without all of the staff is really just a set of hands. We're pretty useless.
So how did this all come about? So, the -- I have to say that, you know, we in South Texas are the beneficiaries of an extremely sophisticated trauma system that is basically the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council for Trauma, or STRAC.
STRAC was generated by the leadership of University Hospital, the trauma surgeons at University Hospital, the trauma surgeons at Brooke Army Medical Center and then Wilford Hall over the past 20 years. It's a strong, robust system, and, again, I said it's one of the most sophisticated regional trauma systems in the country.
We have been training for situations like this ever since they started happening.
But, of course, we hoped we'd never have to use any of those skills.
When we first got the call yesterday morning, again, we had a number of trauma surgeons, so from a trauma surgical standpoint, we were ready. But we have received these calls many times before, because on our state of readiness, we will always get an early warning and sometimes we are called off because they are false alarms or it turned out to be nothing.
Well, this obviously generated...
TAPPER: This is Dr. Brian Eastridge from a local hospital there.
We're going to continue to monitor the press conference and if there is any news there, we will let you know.
But let's go back to the question I was asking before. James Gagliano, the question is, of course, the shooter, he had a problem with the law. He was sentenced to a year in military prison for domestic violence. He was somehow able to buy a gun, although theoretically one would think he wouldn't be allowed to, although the state did step in and say he couldn't get a right to carry permit.
Explain to us what you think might be going on here.
So, Jake, the database that people would check to find out whether or not somebody is allowed to purchase a gun is called the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. It's NICS, the acronym for short.
And what happens is this. Anybody that has been convicted of a felony, who has renounced their U.S. citizenship, has been committed to a sanitarium, or in this instance has been committed of a misdemeanor where violence is attached, like in a domestic abuse sense, would be precluded from buying a weapon.
In this instance, the shooter received a court-martial and he got a bad conduct discharge, which is just slightly less onerous than a dishonorable discharge, for putting his hands on his wife and his child. He served one year in the brig and then was discharged from the military with that bad conduct discharge.
He was able to purchase a weapon because, again, it didn't fit the exact parameters of the restrictions. Now, whether or not he was able to get a concealed carry permit, as the governor points out, he was not allowed to do that, which is a good thing. That's the first firewall.
And in Texas, he actually broke the law because without a concealed carry permit, you can not open carry a weapon in the state of Texas. I just want to make those kinds of distinctions there, so your viewers understand what law was broken there and why there seems to be a disconnect between the UCMJ and the military, their adjudication system, and what we have on tap in NICS.
TAPPER: Asha, your response? It does seem to a lot of people watching that that criminal conviction for domestic violence should have precluded him from buying a legal gun and there must have been some sort of breakdown.
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: That's right. There seems to be some leaks in the system.
And I would illustrate it this way. There is something called the Lautenberg Amendment. This was passed in 1996, which prevents anyone, as James said, convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence crime from buying a gun.
Now, the military does comply with the Lautenberg Amendment, and this individual was discharged with a bad conduct discharge vs. a dishonorable discharge. Apparently, that should not have mattered. It really should have moved over. We're not sure why it didn't.
I will add one more thing, though, Jake, which is that the background check system, the federal law that requires it, applies to federally licensed firearms dealers. At the point of sale with any licensed federal firearms dealer, that check would have to be conducted.
However, in private transfers, that check is not necessarily required. Some states require it and some states don't. Texas is a state that does not require a background check at -- you know, in the secondary market basically. They can. They can proactively do it, but they don't have to.
And about 40 percent of gun transfers happen through private dealers. So that is another place where this kind of leak can occur, where someone who may not be able to purchase a gun legally can still obtain a weapon if there aren't additional state protections preventing them from doing so.
TAPPER: Spider Marks, I want you to take a listen to something President Trump said when talking about this horrific incident.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that mental health is your problem here. This was a -- very based on preliminarily reports, a very deranged individual. A lot of problems over a long period of time. We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries, but this isn't a guns situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: One thing that's interesting is, though, for individuals who have been kicked out of the military, they are denied mental health benefits or any benefits through the VA.
[16:15:00] There is a move among some quarters to try to change that, saying, look, people exactly -- like this are exactly the kind of people who need help. What do you think?
MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, the issue in this case, Jake, is that this individual truly -- we probably could go back to his enlistment and we probably could make a determination he probably should not have been allowed to enlist to begin with. But that's going back in time trying to do a little bit of evaluation.
However, he was accused of a crime that was not determined to have any type of a mental status associated with it. He was a wife abuser, he was a child abuser.
TAPPER: Meaning he didn't do that because he had emotional problems, he did that because he was a bad guy.
MARKS: He was a bad guy --
MARKS: -- making some absolutely stupid decisions, shouldn't have been in uniform and the military said, you know, we need to get rid of you and we need to punish you for the long term.
So, a bad conduct discharge is going to deny you all host of your benefits that you would have had. I think it's fair to say that anybody who picks up a gun is shooting at somebody with intent to do harm in this particular case, to provoke that type of incident, clearly, has got a mental disorder. I would also go a step further, I would say access to weapons.
I think this is probably a classic example of the secondary market. He has available -- it's available to him to pick up any type of weapon he wants and he's got an intent to use it. And we've got to be able to get our arms around that.
TAPPER: James, I'm wondering what you think of this because obviously sometimes there is a thin line between somebody who is considered a bad violent person, but not necessarily somebody with mental problems and somebody who has mental problems as part of their -- of their lack character and it's difficult for society to assess what steps to take.
JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Jake, to the generals and to Asha's point regarding the secondary market, you want to hear something that is absolutely baffling is this, there are a number of states in this country that do not require a citizen to report a lost or stolen firearm. Let that sink in for a second.
So, a firearm falls into the hands of a bad guy and you're not compelled to report it to the police, so we can't track that down. We know there is somewhere between 270 million and 310 million weapons in this country. Almost one for nearly every man, woman and child, and for not to be a law on the books that requires a citizen, compels them to report that, it is insane.
After each of these events, we always search for some type of legislative action that might have made a difference. Might it have made a difference in this case? Maybe, maybe not, but down the road the next time we have an incident like this where weapons were stolen or lost or to Asha and the general's point sold on the secondary market and we have no record of that, we're going to come back here again, Jake, and have the exact same conversation.
TAPPER: Asha, I wonder if one of the issues here we don't talk about enough as a society is domestic violence. This is hardly the first time that somebody involved in one of these horrific shootouts was in the middle of a domestic dispute.
We know that outside a different church in California, the same day, Sunday, a man shot and killed his estranged wife and her boyfriend. In September in Texas, a man broke into his ex-wife's house during a football watch party, opened fire, killing eight people. Omar Mateen, the Pulse Nightclub shooter also accused of beating his wife.
Asha, do we as a society focus enough on this? ASHA RANGAPPA, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: We don't. And the
relationship between domestic violence and these kinds of shootings is very -- there is a huge correlation. So, let me throw a few more statistics out at you. In the mass shootings that have occurred from 2009 to 2016, and by mass shooting this is a shooting that resulted in the death of four or more people, 54 percent of those involved the shooting of an intimate partner or a family member.
So, that's over half involved some aspect of domestic violence. And in half of those cases, there was prior evidence of violent activity or a restraining order or a protective order of some kind. So, the signs were there.
So, Jake, I completely agree with you that the relationship between domestic violence and gun violence needs to be explored. We do have laws on the books like the Lautenberg Amendment, but as my colleagues have pointed out, there are loopholes that prevent that from being enforced fully and I think that until we really address all of those issues head-on, as James said, we are going to continue to have this conversation over and over again.
TAPPER: All right. Thanks, one and all. Appreciate it. An important conversation.
We're just moments away from releasing the results of a brand-new CNN poll on President Trump's approval rating. It's an unprecedented number. We'll share it with you next. Stay with us.
[16:24:02] TAPPER: We have some breaking news in our politics lead now. We have brand-new CNN polls giving a look into the American people's perceptions of the Trump presidency, at this point in his presidency. Showing his approval rating is at a historic low, both for this president and for any president at this point in his presidency.
CNN's John King is at the magic wall for us.
John, take us through the numbers.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, let's look at the headline number you just mentioned. This is an all-time low for President Trump in your polling.
We're late in his first year in office, 36 percent of Americans, only 36 percent of Americans approve of the job he is doing as president. The president won't like that as he travels in Asia. Nearly six in 10 Americans disapprove of the president's performance in his job, stunningly bad numbers for the president.
There is a bit of a partisan breakdown, as with all things Trump, if you will. Ninety-two percent of Democrats disapprove of the job this president is doing, 86 percent of Republicans approve. He has lost the middle of the electorate. Nearly six in 10 independents say they disapprove. Only 32 percent of independents approve. And look at this, 92 percent of Democrats disapprove, 86 percent of Republicans approve.
[16:25:00] The one silver lining, if you will, Jake, the president could say he's maintained his support among Republicans.
But here is something to keep an eye on, a bit of a crack, if you will, in the Trump base. Remember back a year ago, when he won this historic victory, white non-college-educated voters were key to the Trump coalition. In our new polling, it shows a drop, 59 percent of those voters, white, non-college educated, approved of the president's job performance just after inauguration day. That in our new poll, Jake, down to 46 percent. A 13-point drop over the last nine months. That's the troubling sign for the president.
TAPPER: John, how does this compare with previous presidents?
KING: He's in the tank when you look at other presidents. I'll show you some numbers right here. Just his -- here is the president. Again, he started at 44 percent just after inauguration day. He's down now to 36 -- a new low in our polling.
Let's add in George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton in our polling here so we don't overwhelm you with lines, he is well below all of them at this point in his first year. Bill Clinton at one point dropped down pretty low but had recovered by now.
And this is Clinton, Obama and George W. Bush, this is the spike after the 9/11 attacks for George W. Bush. We could go all the way back to Dwight Eisenhower in this graphic, Jake. Donald Trump is well below, historically unpopular president at this point in his first year in office.
TAPPER: All right. John King, stick around. We're going to have more polls in just a minute on President Trump and the Russia investigation.
But I want to bring in my political panel right now to dissect these numbers.
David Urban, who ran the commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the Trump campaign in 2016. Why do you think the approval ratings are so low?
DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Because of news like this all day long, right? Talking about how the approval rating, it's a self- fulfilling prophecy.
I will tell you this, Jake, that if I had to rely on polling numbers, I wouldn't have gone to work one day in the campaign because the numbers were terrible the entire race and yet somehow magically we still came out on top. So, I don't put a whole lot of credence in numbers, you know? I think they are what they are.
I wouldn't like coach with polls -- like Coach Saban said about "A.P." poll, where he's looking. He's like I'm not worried about numbers. I'm going to worry about showing up for work every day.
TAPPER: Chairman Rogers, this does have an effect one would say -- one would think when it comes to the president's ability to get Congress to support his legislation. He has tax reform on deck right now. He's really looking for a big victory there. So are Republicans on Congress.
Might this hurt him or might this actually hurt as a way for Republicans to say we really need to climb out of this hole?
MIKE ROGERS (R), FORMER CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, I think the poll numbers is not what is not allowing him to get along with Congress. I think his fingers at 4:00 a.m. in the morning on that Twitter machine does more harm than anything.
Again, I think he can salvage this. He needs to go back and have a plan to work with Congress. This one, I'm with you today, I'm not with you tomorrow, I'm with you today. I'll negotiate today, I won't negotiate tomorrow.
He needs to end all of that. And I think the biggest worry I think for the Republicans in 2018 are watching this rise of independents in that poll. You can see a steady number where independents are starting to sow doubt.
And that's what will hurt Republicans in 2018 more than anything I saw in the poll.
ROGER: It's not done. It's a snapshot in time. He has plenty of time to get out of this, but, you know, he -- I think he would take this as an opportunity to change the way he's dealing, both with Congress and maybe even the public.
TAPPER: The very partisan breakdowns, Democrats 5 percent approve, 92 percent disapprove. Republicans, 86 percent approve, 8 percent disapprove. It's the independents as you note, 32 percent approve, 59 percent disapprove.
And yet, Symone, do you think the Democratic Party and the Democratic officials are capitalizing on this opportunity?
SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know what, I don't think so as much as we probably can. But I think that's why this budget fight coming up at the end of the year is really important because Democrats now have all the leverage. Republicans do not have enough votes in Congress to pass this on their own.
That means they're going to have to come to Democrats and when they come to Democrats, Democrats need to ask for a litany of things. They might ask for five and they might get three. But we have to understand that we have the upper hand here.
I just want to note for David, the polls probably didn't matter, OK, when y'all were running for president last year, but it matters right now. Republicans in Congress are not going to along to get along with President Trump if they know it's not popular with the folks at home, because they want to get elected. The people at home are watching and have yet to see any substantial wins for them.
URBAN: We still see here, Symone, 87 percent of Republicans, the base, Republican voters, 87 percent, that's pretty good numbers. We're not wandering around the wilderness like your party is trying to find a voice. We've got a voice.
SANDERS: We've got a voice.
URBAN: Oh, yes. I don't know if you've got a voice. You've got a couple of voices.
SANDERS: Are you saying that President Trump is the voice for the totality of the Republican Party?
URBAN: I think right now --
URBAN: Listen, I'm just saying that that's -- we're going to talk about it tomorrow. I think Chairman Rogers makes the good point that that's, you know, the House and Senate realize they need to work together to get something done. Everybody rises or falls with this tax plan. It's not just the president. The House and Senate rise or fall as well.
They're all linked together. They've got to do it together. I think your point is well-taken, Symone. The election is going to have some impact tomorrow. We'll see what happens. Not a great deal, but we'll see.
TAPPER: Let's talk about that race tomorrow because it is important. The governor's race in Virginia very, very competitive.
And Trump loyalist Corey Stewart, there is the candidates right now. Trump loyalist Corey Stewart, he lost the Republican nomination to Ed Gillespie.