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Senator Calls For Air Force Probe After Texas Attack; Trump: Extreme Vetting On Guns Would Not Stop Shootings; Healing In Texas; Governor's Race Tests Trumps Political Strength. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired November 7, 2017 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: It has been proven in Connecticut, my state, where we've reduced serious crime as a result of the strong measures that have been introduced by background checks -- a ban on assault weapons such as were used in this horrific massacre in Texas.

And we know, also, that more guns are not the solution. And I defer to my law enforcement colleagues, the professionals who look with great disdain on the idea that arming everyone is going to be a way to stop crime. In fact, it failed to stop these 26 tragic deaths in Texas.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: We already own half the world's population of privately owned weapons -- the United States does -- and we have 25 times the gun violence rate of other countries.

Let's quickly shift topics.

The Russia investigation, Carter Page. This didn't just happen yesterday but it's getting momentum right now. How significant do you believe Carter Page is, and why?

BLUMENTHAL: Carter Page is significant as part of the mosaic. He is another piece in the developing picture, along with George Papadopoulos and Paul Manafort, of these continuous contacts during the Trump campaign with the Russians.

The trips to Moscow, the conversations with the Russian Foreign Ministry that George Papadopoulos has acknowledged. These kinds of repeated contacts, offers of help, dirt from the Russians to George Papadopoulos, offers of e-mails, trips to Russia to meet with high- ranking officials all combine to form a picture.

None itself, alone, fully persuasive or powerful, but what's developing is a mosaic of potential collusion that the special counsel will be pursuing. And I would anticipate we can expect more convictions and more indictments.

CUOMO: Well, contact is one thing, coordination quite another. That would be the criminal mandate for the special counsel. Let's see if he has the proof.

Senator, thank you very much. Appreciate your take on the show, as always -- Alisyn.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.


President Trump says it's too soon to talk about gun violence, so what's the solution? We ask a Republican senator on the Senate Armed Services Committee, next.


[07:36:25] CAMEROTA: Now, to an update on the Texas church massacre.

During a news conference in South Korea today, a reporter asked President Trump if he would support extreme vetting for buying a gun.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, you're bringing up a situation that probably shouldn't be discussed too much right now. We could let a little time go by, but it's OK if you feel that that's an appropriate question even though we're in the heart of South Korea. I will certainly answer your question.

If you did what you're suggesting there would have been no difference three days ago.


CAMEROTA: Two of the five deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history have taken place in just the last five weeks. So what's the solution?

Let's discuss it with Republican Senator David Perdue of Georgia. Senator, great to have you here in the studio --


CAMEROTA: -- with me.

Do you agree with the president that it's too soon to talk about gun violence?

PERDUE: Well, it's never too soon to deal with a tragedy. This is another tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families in Texas like they did in Nevada and earlier events. But we want some answers.

I agree with Sen. McCain. I think we ought to find out in the military what happened in the Air Force that that information was not fed into the database? So there are things that we do need to know and learn from this.

CAMEROTA: Well, sure. But guess what? It wasn't just that information that wasn't available for the gun sellers. This guy -- this gunman was also charged in 2013, after he had left

the military, with animal cruelty. His neighbors watched him punch, and kick, and throw a dog.

Why isn't that registering somewhere that he had a violent past? Something's wrong with the system.

PERDUE: Well, it is. This is an individual that -- the system, as we see it today -- the current laws backing up the Second Amendment precluded this individual from having a weapon. Now, something --

CAMEROTA: But it didn't work.

PERDUE: It didn't work in this case and we've got to find out why.

CAMEROTA: So, I mean, as you watch these things happen what do you think the solution is?

PERDUE: Well, first of all, we need to enforce the law, obviously. Here's a breakdown in our system.

But beyond that, I think we have to, as a society, get to the bigger issues and that is are there -- you know, what are the things driving this sort of emotion?

When there's a domestic -- you heard the statistics just a little -- a bit ago from Sen. Blumenthal about the number of women who die as a result of domestic violence. This is bigger than domestic violence so there's so many questions we've got to answer.

We've got to make a change here and we've to make a difference so that these things stop happening.

CAMEROTA: In February, President Trump signed a bill into law that made it easier for people with mental instability to have access to guns. Why do that?

PERDUE: Well, I'm not so sure that that's exactly the outcome but I think --

CAMEROTA: Yes. There were -- President Obama, after Newtown, had made it harder for people who were on Social Security and couldn't manage their own finances because of some mental disability not to have access to guns. President Trump just reversed that.

PERDUE: Well, what we've got to do here, Alisyn, is we've got to get to the root cause of this. But also, we've got find out how the current laws aren't working. I mean, we saw this case here. We've also seen other incidents.

I was involved in the Charleston -- after that terrible tragedy down there and I --

CAMEROTA: That church massacre.

PERDUE: Yes, that church massacre -- that massacre. And I can tell you that what's happening in communities like

Charleston, and Augusta, and other places is a model. Those are models for us to learn from.

CAMEROTA: What did Charleston do to fix it?

PERDUE: Well, what Charleston did -- Charleston, basically, had a community that was already together and they bonded together. Can you imagine in Charleston that night being more inflammatory? I mean, -- and those people of all color and all backgrounds came together because they've been working on it for years.

CAMEROTA: Yes, look, we see this. We see humanity after the fact. It would be nice to see this before the fact.

[07:40:03] One last thing on this, bump stocks. Remember all the outcry about bump stocks after Las Vegas? What's Congress doing about that?

PERDUE: Well, Sen. Feinstein has a bill. It's being -- it's going through the process right now in Judiciary, as I understand it, and we'll see how that goes.

Frankly, I didn't know much about bump stocks until this --

CAMEROTA: No one did.

PERDUE: -- all happened. So this is one where we need to get to the answers.

This is one where we have current law that it's very difficult to have a chain-fed automatic weapon. And so, by law, we preclude most people from having an automatic weapon.

CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about the president in Asia. He has toned down the rhetoric. You heard him -- a much more subdued tone, not insulting Kim Jong Un.

Do you think that this is -- that's helpful?

PERDUE: Well, first of all, this is a president that's engaging with the rest of the world after eight years of disengagement.

I was very excited when President Xi was the first head of state to come to the United States. I'm also very excited this president, in his first year, is going to China.

He's developing a consensus of support out there with regard to North Korea and opening doors for a non-kinetic solution to this thing. I mean, we've got to find a way to get through here.

CAMEROTA: Do you support a direct talk between the U.S. and North Korea?

PERDUE: Absolutely. I think the president's even intimated, both publicly and privately, that that would be in the cards. You know, I'm convinced though that this is in the best interest of China and the United States to get together and find a common solution.

And I'm also excited that the president is intimating that he wants to talk to Putin about this as well because I think Russia plays a major part in this episode as well.

CAMEROTA: OK. Senator David Perdue, thanks so much for coming in to talk --

PERDUE: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: -- about all of the news of the day.

Let's get back to Chris in New York.

CUOMO: All right.

So he once served as the associate pastor at the Texas church targeted by a killer. Now he's helping the community heal. He's talking about the mishap that may have saved his daughter's life, next.


[07:45:31] CUOMO: Sutherland Springs, Texas is a small town. You have maybe 500-600 people who live there.

So if you look at the numbers of people who were just directly victimized in that church, you have almost 10 percent of the population. When those 26 people were murdered, when those other 20 or more were injured it was a huge toll on that community and now, the entire country.

Our next guest once served as the associate pastor at that Baptist church. His daughter still worships there. In fact, she might have been there Sunday except for a flat tire that morning.

Joining us now is Pastor Mark Collins. Thank you, sir, for joining us this morning.


CUOMO: Well, you are the man of God and how do you deal with the heady question of why those children, those 26 people lost their lives, but a flat tire probably spared your daughter? How do you make sense of this type of evil in the house of God?

COLLINS: Well, Chris, on this side of the veil I don't know if we can ever make sense of all of this except there was a darkened heart by the circumstances of his life and it drove him to do such a heinous act that -- we'll never explain it.

And, Frank and I have spent most of the afternoon and most of the evening visiting with the families and thinking we were going to go and encourage them. And yet, they encouraged us, you know. We're going to get through this as a family -- as a church family.

And it was just so incredible, so uplifting to just talk to these people that have literally lost everything, many of them.

CUOMO: Well --

COLLINS: One of the folks of the family that lost -- no, go ahead. I'm sorry, go ahead.

CUOMO: No, no. I'm saying that I want you to tell me more about that.

And just to let the audience know, when you say Frank you're talking about Pastor Frank Pomeroy, of course, the pastor of this church where the attack happened. He wasn't there with his wife but he lost his 14-year-old daughter and you're helping him now deal with his congregation and his own loss, so please continue.

Tell us what you're hearing from the families.

COLLINS: You know, their hearts are pouring out for each other.

Like I said, one of -- the family that lost the most, they lost nine family members. That couple, I saw them yesterday. They spent the whole day going around and encouraging the others that were still in the hospital.

I just can't imagine that kind of courage and the focus, not on themselves but on other people, is truly inspiring to me.

I talked to first responders. He said he walked into the church and sort of -- of course, you can imagine the scene there. It's probably inimaginable (sic).

But he said I looked up and on the second pew was one of the parishioners shot five times in the lower extremities and abdominal area and he had his hands in the air just praising God and giving God glory. How can you do that unless you're really focused not on this world but on the next world?

And that's the kind of folks that are here fighting for their lives, many of them, so keep them lifted up.

CUOMO: What do you do to get through the days to come? Right now, people are still in shock. You're going to have a lot of people to put to rest in that town, some of them as young as five years of age. How do you handle that?

COLLINS: You know, I think the moment that we put a face to it and Devin Kelley was the -- was the instrument that perpetrated these events. And it was amazing to actually hear some of those that have been shot praying for his family and their loss. But I think the moment we put a face to it, I say God is where he wants us. And it wasn't Devin Kelley that perpetrated these things on his own. He was driven to do that. We don't know why. Our hearts go out to his family and the loss that they must be shouldering right now.

And there's a lot of victims here and it's like darkness, and darkness came into light that Sunday morning and took out a lot of wonderful people that we loved dearly. They were family, they weren't parishioners.

CUOMO: Well, comfort is so needed there right now. We saw it firsthand. So, thank you.

We know you live up the road a piece but as you were saying, your daughter is a congregant there. And thank you for the help that you're doing in that community. It needs it now more than ever and we'll keep attention on that town and its recovery.

[07:50:08] COLLINS: All right, thank you and God bless you.

CUOMO: Be well, sir -- Alisyn.


I'm here in Washington, D.C. It is Election Day in the U.S. again and all eyes on the governor's race in Virginia, including the president's watchful eye. Why? That's next.


CAMEROTA: It's Election Day in America. Several key states could reveal how Americans feel one year after President Trump's win. The tightest race is for governor of Virginia and the president is tweeting about that one this morning.

So, CNN's Ryan Nobles has more. Hi, Ryan.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, good morning from Richmond, Virginia.

And, Donald Trump did not win the presidential election here in Virginia last year but that has not stopped him from weighing in on this race for governor. In fact, this morning, he's already tweeted several times about this race in support of the Republican Ed Gillespie, and attacking the Democrat, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam.

[07:55:08] Now, Democrats should have the advantage in this race for governor but polls show a very tight race. And if Ed Gillespie were able to pull it off his election victory could serve as a model for Republicans running in the Trump era all across the country.


NOBLES (voice-over): In what is likely the most important political contest of 2017, the final stage of the race for governor of Virginia has turned into a political slugfest.


NOBLES: Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie have spent the last 48 hours crisscrossing the commonwealth --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have my support.

ED GILLESPIE (R), CANDIDATE, GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA: Thanks, again for everything you're doing. Appreciate it.

NOBLES: -- while on televisions across Virginia hard-hitting ads dominate the airwaves.

TELEVISION AD: Ralph Northam's policies are dangerous.

NOBLES: The race could offer an early glimpse into the mood of the American voter as it relates to the Trump presidency, and his impact on this contest is undeniable.

NORTHAM: I think a lot of people are watching and they're looking at Virginia to see what direction we go in, so we do expect a good turnout on November the seventh.

NOBLES: Trump has used his powerful Twitter feed to fire off several endorsements for Gillespie, a former aide to George W. Bush.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Folks, you name it, Ed Gillespie's on the right side of every issue.

NOBLES: Gillespie has campaigned with Trump's vice president, Mike Pence, and brought in mainstream Republicans like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, but he never appeared with the president.

He did tell CNN that he's proud to have his support.

GILLESPIE: I think the fact is obviously, his supporters here are supporting me and I appreciate that very much, and I'll take all the help I can get.

NOBLES: But while Gillespie's not fully embracing Trump, he's not been afraid to leverage the culture war championed by the president, touting his support to keep Confederate monuments in place --

GILLESPIE: I'm for keeping them up and he's for taking them down, and that's a big difference in November.

NOBLES: -- and accusing Northam of supporting sanctuary cities, of which there are none in Virginia, and connecting it to a rise in the MS-13 gang --

TELEVISION AD: Yet, Ralph Northam voted in favor of sanctuary cities that let dangerous illegal immigrants back on the street, increasing the threat of MS-13.

NOBLES: -- an ad former President Obama hammered during a rally with Northam. BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What he's really trying to deliver is fear.

NOBLES: Northam understands opposition to the president is central and building enthusiastic support from his party's base. During this hotly contested Democratic primary, Northam described Mr. Trump as a quote "narcissistic maniac."

But now, during the general election, Northam is running ads promising this.

NORTHAM: So if Donald Trump is helping Virginia, I'll work with him.

NOBLES (on camera): Would you work with someone if they called you a narcissistic maniac?

NORTHAM: You know, well, you know, I stand by what I said. Again, if there are areas that we can work on, like building up the military, I'm going to be there and do what's in the best interest of Virginia.

NOBLES (voice-over): There's not much room for nuance when it comes to President Trump and it is Gillespie that's been forced to walk a careful line.

NOBLES (on camera): Are you concerned at all, though, about some of the things he's said and the way that he's behaved as president?

GILLESPIE: Well, you know, I'm focused on our policies. Virginians that I'm talking to in a governor's race in an off-off election year very focused on Virginia and what do we need to do here in our commonwealth to create more opportunities for our young people.


NOBLES: Two thousand nine was the last time that Republicans won a statewide race here in Virginia and they're hopeful they can turn that tide here tonight.

Polls are already open in Virginia. The weather is much colder and rain is expected throughout the commonwealth later in the day. That could depress turnout and if history is any indication, a low turnout would benefit the Republican candidate -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK. It's a nail-biter there, Ryan. Thank you very much.

So we're following a lot of news this morning. Let's get right to it.


TRUMP: The United States stands prepared to defend itself and its allies if need be.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Could this be the time when North Korea decides to send that strong message while President Trump is here in the region?

TRUMP: It is unacceptable that nations would help to arm and finance this increasingly dangerous regime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He did call on leaders around the world to step up and help confront this nuclear regime.

CHRISTOPHER COMBS, SPECIAL AGENT, FBI SAN ANTONIO DIVISION: I can tell you that the scene in there is horrific. There's not even a word to describe it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have somebody with a history of violence and that history was never really addressed.

STEPHEN WILLEFORD, SHOT AND CHASED TEXAS GUNMAN: Every time I heard a shot I knew that that probably represented a life. I was scared to death.

TRUMP: If this man didn't have a gun or rifle you'd be talking about a much worse situation.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your new day. It is Tuesday, November seventh, 8:00 in the east.

President Trump says the U.S. is quote "making progress" on North Korea, calling on Kim Jong Un to come to the table and make a deal. The president toning down his heated rhetoric during a news conference in South Korea but still vowing to use military force against the North if necessary.

CUOMO: The president also facing more questions about the Texas church massacre. He claimed that extreme vetting for gun ownership would not have prevented the attack and that hundreds more may have died if not for a good samaritan with a gun.