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Church Shooter Investigations; FBI Has Suspect's Phone; Survivors In Critical Condition; Trump Shifts Tone; Protests in Seoul; Page on Russia Trip; Sessions to Testify. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired November 7, 2017 - 13:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington, 6:00 p.m. in London, 8:00 p.m. in Jerusalem. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.

We're following breaking news. Up first, the pastor of the Texas church, where 26 people were massacred, knew the gunman and had a very bad feeling about him, that according to the local sheriff.

He told our own Brian Todd that Devin Patrick Kelley attended activities at the First Baptist Church in Southerland Springs, Texas several times and the pastor was concerned.


JOE TACKITT, SHERIFF, WILSON COUNTY, TEXAS: The pastor did know the man.


TACKITT: He did know him. He did not want him at his church.

TODD: Why not?

TACKITT: He said because he just thought that he was not a good person to be around.

TODD: Is there anything specific you can say about what he said regarding that?

TACKITT: No. He just said he didn't think he was a good person and he just didn't want him around his church. But he said, how do I run him away from my church?


BLITZER: Let's bring Brian Todd in. Brian, you're there. You're joining us from his hometown, the gunman's hometown. The pastor, whose daughter was among those killed, didn't want Kelley around. We just heard --

TODD: Yes.

BLITZER: -- the sheriff tell you. What more have you learned from the sheriff about why Kelley may have targeted this particular church?

TODD: Right, Wolf, that sheriff of Wilson County, Joe Tackitt, told me investigators believe he may have targeted his mother-in-law by going into that church. He may have wanted to target his mother-in- law by wanting to go into that church on that day.

We do know, from authorities, that the mother-in-law was not at the church at the time of the shooting. We know that she attended that church on occasion but that she was not there at the time of the shooting.

But Sheriff Joe Tackitt telling me that investigators believe that he may, may have wanted to target his mother-in-law when he went into the church that day.

Also, Wolf, we have come here to New Braunfels, Texas, Comal County. The sheriff department right behind me just gave us some new information. They say that in June of 2013, this suspect, Devin Kelley, was investigated for a sexual assault. He was not charged in that case.

The sheriff's office will not name the victim in the case but he was investigated for sexual assault. That case is still open but he was not charged in the case. The sheriff telling us that the case stalled probably because the suspect Kelley moved out of the state.

We have information to indicate he was in Colorado sometime in 2014 where there was another case involving cruelty to an animal. So, that does make sense, as far as the time line.

Also, Wolf, we have obtained documents from Comal County. Here, again, this is the home county where the suspect lived. Documents from the courts here saying that, in 2014, law enforcement was called to Kelley's house. Because a friend of Kelley's girlfriend had told law enforcement -- had called them and said that she, the friend, had been receiving texts from Kelley's girlfriend saying that her boyfriend was abusing her.

According to this caller who talked to police, the girlfriend, who was identified as Danielle Shields, that is the wife of the shooter, at the time of the church shooting on Sunday. The girlfriend at the time, Danielle Shields, told her friend, in Texas, according to these documents, that her arms were red and he (INAUDIBLE.)

But when authorities got to the Kelley home to investigate, these texts and what she had told her friend, they were told there was no trouble and that it was all teenage drama. That's according to documents that we have found -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, good work. Brian Todd on the scene for us in Texas. Thank you very much.

Joining us now to discuss this, Sam Rabadi. He's former ATF special agent in charge. Sam, the FBI has -- they have the cell phone of this killer, but they can't get into the cell phone, at least not yet. This is a big problem. SAM RABADI, FORMER SPECIAL AGENT, ATF: It's a big problem for law

enforcement. And we're really seeing that evident over the last couple of years as we are at these crime scenes, these horrific crime scenes.

And we're just so desperate to try to get information at the potential motive. If there are any other coconspirators involved.

And it just -- the encryption piece to the cell phones really hampers law enforcement's efforts to try to get that critical information.

BLITZER: But will they get into the cell phone and see, you know, the social media, what he was doing there, who he was e-mailing, texting?

RABADI: Yes. It depends on the type of cell phone that they have. And what kind of software is on it. They're going to make every effort. But it is a very, very difficult process for law enforcement to get into these phones.

BLITZER: Yes. If they want to complete a thorough investigation, they obviously have to get into that cell phone and check to see what he was doing in there.

[13:05:03] RABADI: Absolutely.

BLITZER: There were some stunning red flags, as you know, Sam, that -- concerning this gunman that apparently didn't -- that clearly didn't prevent him from going ahead and committing this massacre.

Investigators say he had a history of domestic and animal abuse. He was also the subject of an investigation, you just heard from Brian Todd, sexual assault and rape. No charges were filed. He was given a bad conduct discharge from the U.S. Air Force.

All of this, years before the shooting. The Air Force failed to relay that vital information to the FBI, put him in the database. So, the fact that he had spent a year in a -- at a -- at a military brig, in a prison for what he did to that little stepson of his and what he did to his wife.

You're reaction. How do you explain the fact that he was still able, after all of that, to go out and, apparently legally, purchase an assault-type weapon and other guns?

RABADI: Well, I'll tell you, Wolf, I mean, first and foremost, it breaks my heart every time we have to sit here like this and talk about this particular tragic incident and how the shooter came upon getting the gun. What fell through the cracks? What kind of loopholes or work arounds exist in the current federal law?

Keep in mind that there are literally thousands upon thousands of firearms transactions that occur every month. Millions of records that exist in the NCIC system. Just the sheer volume of information that has to go from the variety of agencies into NCIC to the FBI, that every time a gun purchase is made that they have to access. Unfortunately, at times, stuff is going to fall through the cracks. In this particular instance -- and I don't know every detail. But the nature of his discharge did not qualify as a prohibitive factor thereby preventing him from purchasing the firearm. That would be dishonorable discharge. There are some other nuances in the law.

But as we've discussed before, when you get into federal firearms laws, there are so many technical aspects to it that, unfortunately at times like this, whether it's -- it could be a mental illness issue. Again --

BLITZER: The Air Force acknowledges they may have made a major mistake in not notifying the FBI about his criminal behavior.

RABADI: No, certainly. And, believe me, I'm not justifying it. I just think it's more, in terms of the interpretation whether something like that could have been submitted to the NCIC, because, again, it didn't fall under the definition of a dishonorable discharge.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a serious problem. They've got to fix this. They've got to go back and scrub who else may fit that template, if you will.

RABADI: Absolutely.

BLITZER: And go ahead and make sure it doesn't happen again. Sam Rabadi, thanks very much for joining us.

RABADI: Thank you.

BLITZER: Twenty people were injured in that Texas church massacre. Ten of them are still in the hospital. Four of them being treated at University Hospital in San Antonio, only about a half hour away.

Leni Kirkman, the Senior Vice President for Strategic Communications and Patient Relations, she's joining us now.

Lenny, thanks very much for what you and the entire staff over there are doing.

First of all, give us an update on the conditions of the four patients still undergoing treatment.

LENI KIRKMAN, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS AND PATIENT RELATIONS, UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: Yes. We have four patients, as you mentioned. We have two adults and two children.

All of them are still in trauma intensive care units. The children are in critical condition and the adults have been upgraded to serious condition.

BLITZER: How difficult has it been dealing with such a horrific tragedy and clearly a very close-knit community?

KIRKMAN: Absolutely. So, San Antonio is about 30 miles away from that community. But south Texas, as a whole, looks at itself as one big community. And, certainly, there are people here who live in that community, who have family in that community.

I've been in this position here at the hospital for 17 years. And, by far, this has been the absolute worst situation that I've ever had to help manage. It's just been horrific.

BLITZER: So many of the 26 people that were murdered were children, including a 17-month-old little child. How tough is it for you and your staff to cope with all of that, emotionally?

KIRKMAN: As I said, we've not had anything, to this scale, ever. I've talked to a lot of the members of the trauma team. I was here on Sunday as the patients started to come in.

And, first of all, I have to commend them for their professionalism. They responded to this with amazing precision. And they train for this. And it went off, really, without a hitch.

But, at the Same time, we're human beings. Many of us are parents. And Sunday night, I think, you know, as the adrenalin wears off, you begin to crack a little bit.

And so, we've done some things. We call it code lavender here in the hospital, where we're providing support, not only to the families and the patients, but also to all of the staff members and physicians that are helping to care for the patients.

[13:10:06] BLITZER: Yes.

KIRKMAN: So, that's ongoing in the hospital yesterday and today. Yes.

BLITZER: Because you've got to worry about that. And so, it's good that you do have the resources for the folks, the people at the hospital, among others, to deal with the emotional trauma that they're clearly going through.

The four patients that you still have --

KIRKMAN: Yes, it's interesting.

BLITZER: -- the four patients that you still have, are they in critical condition? Are they stable? Are they going to eventually going to be able to go home?

KIRKMAN: We sure hope so. The two children that we have remain in critical condition. They're receiving, you know, excellent care and, you know, just consistent monitoring and procedures, as needed.

The adults have been upgraded to serious condition. So, there's more optimism on those cased. But we're -- everybody's doing everything possible to assure that all four of these patients get to go home.

BLITZER: I hope so. We're praying for all of them.

Leni Kirkman, thanks very much for joining us.

KIRKMAN: My pleasure. I wish it was under better circumstances.

BLITZER: I wish it was under better circumstances, too.

We're also hearing, for the first time, from that brave man who shot and chased off the church gunman. Stephen Willeford is being hailed as a hero but insists he is not. Willeford says he was just doing what needed to be done.


STEPHEN WILLEFORD: I grabbed a handful of ammunition and started loading my magazine. I ran outside. I didn't even take time to put my shoes on.

I noticed an SUV, a gray SUV, sitting across from the church -- or in front of the church, across the street from my neighbor's house with the driver's side door open. In the middle of the street. And I didn't know it at the time but the engine was running.

And I'm trying to survey the situation, not knowing what's going on. And then, I saw a man in a black tactical helmet with a sun -- with a dark shaded helmet on. And, obviously, looked to me like it was bullet-proof vest. And he had a pistol in his hand and we exchanged gunfire.

It's the people in that church, they're friends of mine and family. And every time I heard a shot, I knew that that probably represented a life. I was scared to death. I was. I was scared for me and I was scared for every one of them. And I was scared for my own that just lived less than a block away.

I'm no hero. I am not. I think, my god, my lord protected me and gave me the skills to do what needed to be done. And I just wish I could have gotten there faster. But I didn't know. I didn't know what was happening.


BLITZER: Amazing man, indeed. Thank you for that.

Just ahead, an emotional new account from those who knew this family that lost eight loved ones, three generations lost in a matter of seconds.

Plus, from rocket man to let's make a deal. President Trump shifting his tone on North Korea, just ahead of a major speech tonight with very high stakes' implication. CNN is on both sides of the demilitarized zone.

And explosive testimony by one of the president's campaign advisers, who Carter Page now admits to meeting. And his answer on what advice he gave the then candidate, now president.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [13:18:06] BLITZER: President Trump arriving in South Korea today. He's getting ready for a major speech to the South Korean National Assembly later this evening. Ahead of that, we're already seeing a shift in tone from the president. There have been no taunts aimed at the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, no threats of war. While North Korea says it's watching President Trump's visit closely and vowing to bolster what it calls its nuclear sword of justice.

CNN is the only American network on both sides of the Korean border right now. Our White House correspondent Sara Murray is standing by in Seoul with the president. Will Ripley is in Pyongyang.

Will, what are you hearing from the North Koreans?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, North Korean officials here in Pyongyang told me they will be listening very closely to President Trump's speech in South Korea in the coming hours, a major speech. The administration has been hinting that they may announce a decision about whether to put North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, a list that they were taken off almost ten years ago during negotiations at that time over North Korea's nuclear program. We know how that turned out. North Korea now has a bigger nuclear arsenal than ever and more advanced missile capabilities than ever. But they feel they are not quite there yet when it comes to rounding off their nuclear program, in their words, and they are vowing to conduct more tests at a time of their choosing. The question, will that time be during President Trump's trip here in Asia and, of course, how would the Trump administration respond to that?

We did heard a more conciliatory tone from President Trump in South Korea. The North Koreans acknowledge that words do matter with President Trump indicating a willingness to sit down for negotiations.

However, the North Korean are also looking at the actions of the United States. There were naval drills happening between the U.S., South Korea and Australia and even larger drills set to kick off in the coming days in the Pacific involving three U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups. A major show of force by the United States that North Korea says only encouraging them to showcase their own nuclear strength, to send, in their words, a clear message to the Trump administration after negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea have broken down.

[13:20:10] North Koreans not ruling out talks all together, but they do say that they feel they need to prove to the Trump administration that they have an effective nuclear deterrent and they say their nukes are here to stay, whereas the United States wants full denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Something that is really a non-starter for government officials here in Pyongyang. Wolf, they say their nukes are here to stay.

BLITZER: Will Ripley reporting for us. Will, thanks very much for that report. Will is in Pyongyang, North Korea.

After saying the time for strategic patience with North Korea is over, President Trump then pivoted his message this morning saying North Korea should come to the table and make a deal. And he then offered this assessment.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll be meeting with the various generals (INAUDIBLE) and the various generals about the situation in North Korea. And I think we have a lot of good answers for you over a period of time and ultimately it will all work out. Because it always works out. Has to work out.


BLITZER: Let's go to our White House correspondent Sara Murray. She's traveling with the president in Seoul right now.

So, Sara, what do we expect to hear from the president's major speech later tonight?

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're told the president is going to put the conflict with North Korea in a historical context and, of course, talk up the importance of the alliance between the U.S. and South Korea, in addition to calling on China, to calling on Russia, to put more pressure on North Korea to further isolate this nuclear nation.

But these are the messages the president has been driving essentially since he took office. I think what people are really going to be watching for is the tone. Are we going to see the kind of tone that we've gotten from President Trump stateside where he's lobbying nicknames at Kim Jong-un and talking about fire and fury, or will we see something similar to what we saw from the president here in Seoul, where he's offering a rosier take on diplomatic efforts and making it clear that he sort of sees a military option as a last resort.

BLITZER: Sara, there were some anti-Trump protests in Seoul, where you are right now. What were they protesting?

MURRAY: There were some protests and they were -- protesters were chanting things like "no Trump, no war." Look, there is anxiety here in South Korea about the rhetoric that we have heard from President Trump. The people here are the neighbors to North Korea. So any decision the U.S. makes, particularly a military decision, would have a direct impact on their lives. That is an unease, an uncertainty that certainly analysts have said is very palpable in this region. I think that's what we saw from the protesters today.

BLITZER: Sara Murray in Seoul for us. Sara, thanks very much. We'll, of course, have live coverage of the president's speech later tonight here on CNN.

Meanwhile, a Democratic lawmaker walking out of a moment of silence on the House of Representatives' floor out of protest over guns. I'll speak live with the congressman who represents the church's district about this and more, what he's been told about the investigation. Stand by. Plus, he always raises eyebrows when he speaks, but one of the president's former campaign advisers now giving explosive new testimony about who knew what involving his own Russian contacts during the Trump campaign.


[13:27:28] BLITZER: We're learning some potentially very significant details in the Russia investigation involving former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. A transcript from his six plus hour testimony before the House Intelligence Committee has been released. It exposes some revealing details about Page's trip to Russia last summer during the presidential campaign.

CNN's crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz is joining us now.

Shimon, you've gone through all that testimony. What did you learn?


So Carter Page has previously said his trip to Russia during the campaign was a personal trip and that he didn't meet with Russian officials. But we are now learning quite a different story from what -- based on his testimony. Page, who was invited to speak in Russia after joining the Trump campaign, now says that during that trip he met with Russia's deputy prime minister and that he e-mailed Trump campaign officials wanting to relay information from that meeting.

Page also testified that he told several Trump campaign officials that he was going on the trip and was asking them for permission and advice according to him. He e-mailed he says Hope Hicks, Corey Lewandowski and J.D. Gordon, who's a national -- who was a national security adviser to the campaign.

Now, Gordon tells CNN he doesn't remember the e-mail from Page and Lewandowski reportedly said Page shouldn't represent the campaign while in Russia. And also, interestingly, Page floated the idea of then candidate Trump taking a trip to Russia. Now, this is the second person on the campaign who had access to senior members of the campaign suggesting Donald Trump should go to Russia.

We should note that Page told the committee that he was interviewed by the FBI, which is investigating Russian collusion. And he was interviewed, he says, at least six times.

Now, Wolf, no matter how anyone views this, we now have at least two people who had access to the highest levels of the campaign admitting to talking to Russians who, as we now know, were trying to influence the campaign.

BLITZER: Very significant developments indeed.

Shimon, thank you very much. Shimon Prokupecz reporting.

Meantime, the attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions, is back in the hot seat. The attorney general will appear for an oversight hearing next week in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The appearance follows a host of new revelations about his knowledge of contact between the Trump campaign and Russia.

[13:30:01] Here with us right now, our chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, all of the general general's past denials will certainly come up. How does he go about trying to clean this up?