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CNN NEWSROOM

WAPO: Grand Jury Convened to Consider Whether to Indict Trump; Police: Eight Fatalities, Suspect Dead in San Jose Shooting; Author Dave Cullen Discusses Mass Shootings, Gun Reform; FAA Says 1,900 Reports of Mask Mandate Violations, TSA Reports Assaults on TSA & Flight Crew Employees. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired May 26, 2021 - 14:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: A new twist in the investigation into Donald Trump's finances. Two sources tell "The Washington Post" that the Manhattan district attorney has convened a special grand jury to look into the Trump Organization.

Trump responded with his go-to claim that he's the target of a, quote, "witch-hunt."

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: The D.A. Cy Vance has been doing a criminal investigation of Trump's businesses and his business practices before his presidency. And he obtained eight years of the former president's tax records.

For about two years, his office has been looking into whether Trump's family business has been misleading insurers and lenders about the value of some of his properties.

The reporter who helped break this story says the special grand jury will sit for six months and meet three days per week.

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SHAYNA JACOBS, REPORTER OF FEDERAL COURTS, "THE WASHINGTON POST": My understanding is they have begun the process of putting witnesses in front of the panel.

I don't believe that's been going on for very long. I believe it's a relatively recent development. But certainly things are going under way.

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BLACKWELL: CNN legal analyst, Elie Honig, is a former state and federal prosecutor.

Elie, thank you for being with us. It's reached this point to convening a special grand jury. What does

it say about the state and the position in which this investigation is now?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This is what you would naturally expect to see, Victor, if the prosecution's case was coming along sort of in the normal course.

[14:35:02]

It says -- it tells me that prosecutors are ready to enter the beginning of the end game here.

They want a grand jury in place to really do two things. One, to investigate. They have subpoena power. That's crucial. That means they can compel certain witnesses to come forward and testify or to produce evidence.

The other thing a grand jury can do is to issue an indictment.

It's very different than a trial jury. A trial jury, you have 12 jurors. Of course, they have to be unanimous in order to convict. And the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. That's the highest burden of proof in our system.

A grand jury has 23 members. You only need 12 of them in order to vote to issue an indictment. And the burden of proof is probable cause, which is much, much lower than beyond a reasonable doubt.

CAMEROTA: Elie, help us understand this from the other side. If Cy Vance has been looking into this for more than two years, wouldn't we know about some smoking gun by now? Wouldn't he already have charged somebody with something?

HONIG: I share those exact same questions, Alisyn. As far as we know here in the public, outside the walls of the D.A.'s office, I've not seen something and you look at that and say, well, there you go, he's guilty, he has to be charged.

It's possible the D.A. has that. But I wouldn't assume so.

If you look at the evidence, we know they have. OK, they have Michael Cohen. He's able to give some flavor about how things work in the Trump Organization.

But he's not able to point to one specific thing and say, right there, Donald Trump ordered me to commit a fraud or authorized a fraud.

We know --

(CROSSTALK)

CAMEROTA: Hold on, Elie. I thought --

(CROSSTALK)

HONIG: -- don't know what's in them.

CAMEROTA: Just a second. I thought that Michael Cohen did give some specificity when he testified during a congressional hearing that he did say that Trump had been inflating or deflating his real estate holdings, depending on if it was to a bank or on his taxes.

Isn't that specific enough?

HONIG: Yes, that's exactly what Michel Cohen said. What he's not able to do is say, on this transaction, relating to this specific property, Donald Trump instructed me or instructed Allen Weisselberg or somebody else to inflate that value.

So he gave us the big picture there. He told us, this is the practice of the place. But that's not enough.

You need specific proof that Donald Trump himself ordered it or authorized it and knew about it. And then you need to tie it to a specific property.

So Michael Cohen is a helpful witness but he's not a smoking-gun witness.

BLACKWELL: So this special grand jury is now convened to look into the Trump Organization but this is a family business essentially.

So what is the breadth of the subpoena power? Could one of the sons or Ivanka Trump be questioned about her brother, her father, their siblings? How does that work?

HONIG: So prosecutors have very broad subpoena power through the grand jury. However, two things.

First of all, prosecutors rarely send a subpoena to somebody they see as a target, somebody who is the subject of an investigation who is fairly likely to be charged.

So for that reason, I wouldn't expect to see a subpoena served on Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr or Ivanka Trump.

The other thing is anyone who receives a subpoena can avoid testifying by invoking the Fifth, the right against self-incrimination.

So if a person can say, I may be under investigation here, I may say something that can incriminate me, they can take the Fifth and avoid testifying.

The chess match then goes over to prosecutors who can say, OK, but if they want, but, OK, we can immunize you. Meaning, we're not going to use your testimony against you but now you have to testify. There's a strategic back and forth there.

CAMEROTA: Quickly, Elie, it sounds like we will know something within six months.

HONIG: It certainly seems like that, given that's the length of the grand jury. They could extend it. But also given the impending end of Cy Vance's term as D.A., I think that's likely, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Elie Honig, thank you as always. Really appreciate the information.

HONIG: Thanks.

CAMEROTA: OK, we have new details about this mass shooting in San Jose, California, the latest mass shooting in America. We're going to talk to the author of "Columbine." Why even, after all this time, believe it or not, he says he's still hopeful about gun reform.

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BLACKWELL: All right, more now on the breaking news in San Jose, California. We have just learned that Attorney General Merrick Garland has been briefed on the mass shooting that killed eight people there.

This was at the VTA, the Valley Transit Authority, the light rail yard.

The shooter is also dead. He has not been identified. We do know the person was a VTA employee.

The county says they have set up a facility at the Red Cross to provide counseling services and resources to witnesses and families.

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KASEY HALCON, DIRECTOR, VICTIM SERVICES, SANTA CLARA COUNTY D.A.'S OFFICE: We do have victims and family members president inside the county building. We are assisting them right now.

They've been trickling in. I would say we have between 50 and 75 people right now that we're assisting.

It's very important to let you know that County Behavioral Health has been activated early on, just like victim services. And we have therapists here, licensed clinicians, who are meeting with those families.

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CAMEROTA: Let's bring in someone who has heard those words far too many times. That's Dave Cullen. He's the author of "Columbine" and "Parkland, The Birth of a Movement."

Dave, you and I have talked about mass shootings more times than I can remember. I have covered mass shootings since Columbine. Twenty-two years, I've been covering them.

There have been 15 mass shootings since Friday, since just Friday in this country. When you say that you careen today between anger and numb, I know

exactly what you mean. I don't know how to get out of this cycle.

DAVE CULLEN, AUTHOR: Yes, I don't either. Sometimes I feel guilty about the numbness. Except I just - my brain won't let me go there and feel sometimes. Because once I open that door, it goes all the way.

And I feel bad saying that when I know there are victims, there are survivors of all of these shootings, and it's obviously much, much worse than you or me. But still it is what it is.

[14:45:04]

And, yes, I'm back -- I'm at anger at the moment just like watching this. I'm like, you know.

But to tell you the truth, at this point, I don't know about you, my anger is mostly at the politicians, who still have not done anything, as the overwhelming numbers of the public demanding this stuff and just not having the courage to just do it.

BLACKWELL: Dave, why are you still optimistic that something will get done then?

CULLEN: (INAUDIBLE) -- Parkland. But also, you know, it's -- I read a piece by Gabby Giffords in "Vanity Fair" last fall that was really eye opening.

The reason I wanted to do it, caused me to research more, is we're in such a different place.

When you consider about five years ago, the NRA was a juggernaut that never lost. They had decades of rolling up victories. And not only that but they didn't even have to fight.

Everyone was so intimidated and didn't even fight. Even Democrats were cowering. There was barely a Democrat in the country since 2000, when Al Gore lost, who would even run on this or, you know, propose a bill or anything.

Our side -- now it's my side. I didn't used to take sides, but now we have to do something. The side for doing something good had left the battlefield.

The NRA was alone on the battlefield and just winning everything.

When you consider where we are now, where the NRA is literally in bankruptcy court, filing for bankruptcy, and the last two election cycles was beaten badly.

We're a long way from victory but we're also a hell of a lot further than defeat, where the primary opponent is a shadow of years ago.

And that's because the ground beneath their feet hasn't changed.

There's a famous tweet -- I call it the Hodge (ph) doctrine because some guy named Hodge -- that says something like, you know, if a bunch of dead children, meaning Sandy Hook, little kids, couldn't change this, something like that's the death nell of this.

That's exactly wrong. That was the birth of the modern movement.

There's two major groups fighting for this right now. Every time with Moms Demand Action and Giffords' group.

Both of those were created in response so Sandy Hook. Neither one existed. So we had nothing. There was remnants of the Brady campaign, but a very small minor groups left. We had nothing.

In those -- what is it, eight years since then? A formidable army has taken the field and a strategy and is winning and beating the NRA.

So in the short term, I'm very pessimistic. But for the long term, maybe intermediate term, we're getting there.

But I'm still pissed off as hell that we're not doing it, but, yes.

BLACKWELL: We are still waiting to hear from President Biden, any reaction from the White House.

And legislators. We heard from Rho Khanna, who represents part of that state -- I don't know if this is specifically in his district -- that there needs to be some movement on gun laws in this country.

We'll see if more come out and have something to say.

Dave Cullen, thanks so much for being part of the conversation.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Dave.

CULLEN: Thanks for having me on.

BLACKWELL: Breaking news coverage continues in San Jose, California, with that investigation that's now taking place at several scenes. We know that San Jose P.D. is investigating a fire as well to determine if there's a connection to this. This was at the shooter's home.

We'll get you the latest we know, after the break.

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[14:53:12]

BLACKWELL: As we approach Memorial Day weekend, airports across the country are expecting the highest number of travelers since the start of the pandemic.

The CDC says at least half of all American adults have been fully vaccinated. But the federal mask mandate for air travel is still in place.

CAMEROTA: The FAA says it's received 1,900 reports of passengers violating that mandate. And the Department of Homeland Security says there have been more than 60 incidents involving TSA employees and flight crews being physically assaulted.

CNN aviation correspondent, Pete Muntean, is live at Reagan National Airport.

Pete, this has become such a big problem. We've seen videos on flights that the TSA and FAA are actually having a meeting about it momentarily?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's because people can't follow this transportation-wide mask mandate.

The TSA is still requiring masks on planes, trains, buses, boats, and also here in terminals to make sure people follow that rule.

You know, it's so serious that the TSA has now investigated 1,300 cases of those violating that rule. And it's 60 TSA workers have been assaulted by passengers. So it's a really serious problem.

The FAA, the Federal Aviation Administration, also taking this seriously as well. It says there have been 2,500 cases of unruly passengers since its zero-tolerance policy went into effect in January. And 1,900 of those cases have to do with masks.

And the federal government taking this so seriously, it's actually fining passengers. Twenty-two fines have been announced by the FAA.

The most serious, the most recent ones, $15,000 in fines. So, very high.

And the federal government says now is not the -- the federal government says now is not the time that people should be acting out, especially as we go into this busy summer travel season.

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CAMEROTA: Yes, no kidding.

Pete Muntean, thank you very much for that reporting.

CAMEROTA: We have more breaking news coverage from San Jose for you. There have been multiple injuries and multiple fatalities. What we're learning about the people who were killed, next.

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