Return to Transcripts main page


Grand Jury Convened to Consider Whether to Indict Trump; President Biden Orders Investigation Into Origins of COVID-19; Will Republicans Block Bipartisan Insurrection Commission?; Eight People Killed in San Jose Mass Shooting. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 26, 2021 - 15:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: And thank you for staying with us. I'm Victor Blackwell.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: And I'm Alisyn Camerota.

We do have breaking news out of San Jose. Eight people are dead and multiple workers are injured after a shooter opened fire at a VTA rail yard earlier this morning. The shooter, who we have learned was a VTA employee, is also dead.

And according to the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office, a bomb squad is on the scene.


RUSSELL DAVIS, SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA, DEPUTY SHERIFF: We received information that there are explosive devices located inside the building.

With that being said, we activated our bomb squad, which is currently out on scene and trying to determine -- pretty much, we're trying to clear out every room and every crevice of that building to ensure that the public safety is rest assured if we open up that building later on in the near future.


BLACKWELL: President Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland, we know that they are watching this one very closely.

Also watching it, CNN's Dan Simon. He's there in San Jose.

Dan, what more do you know, if anything, about these possible explosives?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Alisyn and Victor. This is a person who obviously came to the rail yard heavily armed, not only with a gun and lots of ammunition. Perhaps he had more than one firearm. We just don't know, but also arriving here early this morning with explosives.

We know that authorities are currently investigating the scene, actively collecting evidence. This is going to take them some days, obviously, to complete this investigation. This is somebody who was apparently known to the employees, this happening at the beginning of a work shift.

Apparently, they work in 24-hour shifts, but this happening at the beginning of a day. And according to one employee I spoke with, it would not be uncommon for employees at the beginning of their day to be huddled around, having some sort of impromptu meeting to get their instructions for any particular day.

But that apparently is when the shots rang out, and, as we know, nine people dead, including the shooter -- Victor and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Dan, tell us about this community in San Jose. What have you learned, being there?

SIMON: Well, this is the first time anything, of course, like this has happened to this particular rail yard, where you have seen a shooting with multiple casualties, multiple injuries, multiple fatalities.

Right now, where I am, I'm in front of a resource center. This is a reunification center that has been set up by the county specifically to deal with this mass shooting, where you have employees arriving to meet up with their loved ones. They're also receiving counseling inside.

I just spoke to the DA a short time ago. They are the ones who are setting this up. There are some -- somewhere between 50 and 75 employees in the center right now, some of whom are actually talking to counselors.

And just to give you a sense in terms of the breadth of what's going on in this community, Alisyn, there was actually a fire that broke out apparently not too far away from where we are that is somehow wrapped up in this investigation. It could be the home of the shooter where there was a fire.

What prompted that fire? What started it? We don't know. We don't know the motive of this particular shooter. But he was an employee there and somebody obviously known to the employees.

BLACKWELL: All right, Dan Simon there for us in San Jose.

Dan, thank you very much.

Let's bring in now CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem and CNN law enforcement analyst Commissioner Charles Ramsey.

Juliette, let me start with you.

You know, we're now at a point where you can't say this is the first time at a transportation hub or a large business or in California. We have been covering these for so many years and so often.

What I think stands out here is the potential preparation, the fire at the home, the potential for explosives, an employee. What do you see here when you look at what we know right now?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, so that's exactly how I was thinking about it too.

We seem to have three distinct moments in a horrible, horrible day. And there may be more. We simply don't know now. You have a fire that seems to be linked to the mass killing, which is obviously also linked to explosive attacks on either the building or the infrastructure.

So, this is -- right, this is the Valley Transportation Authority. This is running the lines for California, which would have had a tremendous impact if it had been successful. So, we're going to have to figure out how all of those things loop together.


You're exactly right. Nothing is new. I was thinking this is the first time I'm on your new show. And then I was like, but the same topic, right? I mean, in other words, we are just seeing these mass killings, because we define now mass killing, CNN does, as four or more dead.

And so we're now -- at this stage, we're at 231 mass killings in 146 days this year. So this is a familiar sight. This one is different, in terms of the different pieces, which goes to, I think, both familiarity with the area -- he probably has some connection to it -- and then, of course, his sort of motivation about why he would want to do it.

CAMEROTA: Commissioner, we learned from the deputy sheriff that police arrived while shots were still being fired. And they entered the building. And they attempted rescues.

I mean, obviously, that's just, I would imagine, one of the worst-case scenarios that you ever get as a police officer--


CAMEROTA: -- to have to respond to some sort of mass shooting.

And so now we're six hours after that horror, almost. What's happening inside there? What are police doing in there now?

RAMSEY: Well, they're processing the scene right now.

I would imagine they will probably use the FBI crime scene team -- I mean, it's the one that is one of the best and most experienced -- to process the scene. It's going to take time. That's a pretty large building. I don't know the extent of the scene inside and whether or not there's

anything outside. But they're going to hold it for as long as they need to, and thoroughly process the scene. And that's what they're doing now, I would imagine, or at least preparing to do.

If there are explosive devices or suspected explosive devices, they're trying to clear that first. But the second step would be to start processing the scene.

BLACKWELL: Juliette, you mentioned something that I think is an interesting perspective, I want to pull that thread a bit, is not just could this possibly be an attack aimed at co-workers, aimed at people, but this is the transit authority.


BLACKWELL: This is a part of infrastructure.

And from a national security perspective, you see that as a lead that should be followed. Talk more about that.

KAYYEM: Exactly.

So, look, we don't know who it is, but when a place is chosen that is not your sort of typical mass gathering place, say, a concert or a mall, but is sort of off the beaten track, so to speak, and a place where there's lots of employees -- so think about the FedEx shooting that we had a while back -- you would look to a familiarity with the -- the perpetrator knowing the facility, maybe having a vendetta against the bosses or knowing an employee.

This -- if you're combining the--


BLACKWELL: And we also know he was an employee, though.



KAYYEM: OK, So, I had missed that.

So, if he is an employee or had just recently gotten fired, he knows how the systems work, so, in other words, the critical infrastructure, the movement of things. We have now -- this is now something that we have to look at, because we have to protect that infrastructure.

If he had been successful, remember, this is a central holding area, right? This is the center of the dispatch. So, anything that happens to there, you're going to bring down a critical -- a major critical infrastructure site.

So, this is where, in some ways, the mass shootings aren't enough for some of these people. They just -- they have to seemingly ratchet up more. So, I'm very curious about both the sophistication and the likelihood of the IED going off.

I just want to say one thing. The most important thing, of course -- and Chief Ramsey consistently says this -- is family notification and unification. I mean, we are -- we're talking -- there's people who probably don't know yet.

So, we need to just always remember that that is the primary focus at this stage.

CAMEROTA: Oh, it's so true.


CAMEROTA: And I can't stop thinking about the tragedy of, you hear something on the news, or the phone chain lights up somehow, and you just run to the scene.

And we heard even the officials there say -- one official say: I have a good friend from grade school who works in here, and I don't know where he is right now. I don't know his status.

And, in fact, Chief, the officials couldn't tell us how many people have been injured or how many people were taken to the hospital. And they warned us that the numbers are very fluid. Even the numbers of dead, they basically were saying, are going to be fluid.


CAMEROTA: How long until we find out some of those answers?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, they apparently have some wounded.

And until those people are stable in a hospital, you're not going to know. I mean, we don't know the extent of injuries. We know you have eight fatalities, but anyone who was shot potentially could die, depending on the severity of the gunshot wound.

So, apparently, there are more people that were injured seriously. And some of those injuries may not have been from gunshots. When people start running and trying to get out of the way, there are -- other injuries can occur as well.

I think, in a future press conference, we will start to get a little more in terms of exactly what's going on, how many wounded, how many dead, all those kinds of things, the kind of weapon that the individual had. Were those explosive devices or were they not? Those kinds of things.


And Juliette is right. And I skipped over that, which I shouldn't have. And that is family notification, obviously, is a big part of that.


RAMSEY: But they -- usually, you have a separate group of people that are actually responsible for doing that part of it.

Inside the building right now, what they're doing is clearing it, make sure that any device is rendered safe, and then start to process the scene.

CAMEROTA: Just horrible to think about.

Juliette Kayyem, Charles Ramsey, thank you, as always, for all the information.

RAMSEY: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Of course, we're staying on all of this breaking news. We will bring you any developments out of San Jose.

And we're also following some breaking news on Capitol Hill ahead of this Senate vote on whether to form a January 6 commission. The mother of the Capitol Hill police officer -- the Capitol Police officer, I should say, who died after the riot, is asking to meet with Republican lawmakers before they vote.

BLACKWELL: And President Biden is responding to criticism that he's not doing enough to get to the bottom of the origin of the coronavirus, COVID-19.

CAMEROTA: And a grand jury convening to decide whether any indictments should come out of the investigation into the Trump Organization.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



CAMEROTA: A crucial vote tomorrow in the Senate.

Lawmakers will decide whether to move forward with that bipartisan bill to create an independent commission to study the deadly Capitol insurrection.

BLACKWELL: Minority Leader Mitch McConnell opposes a January 6 commission. Most Republicans also oppose.

CNN's Manu Raju is live on Capitol Hill.

Manu, the mother of the Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died in the days following the insurrection, we're hearing from her. What is she saying? What does she want?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, she's actually going to be on Capitol Hill tomorrow, along with Brian Sicknick's girlfriend, will be here, and has requested meetings with all 50 Republican senators to try to make the case for a January 6 commission and explain her loss that everybody here saw in the aftermath of January 6. This Capitol paused and mourned the loss of Brian Sicknick. And she's going to explain it very visceral terms her view why this commission is needed. She says this, according to a letter that we have seen, a statement from her.

She says: "Not having a January 6 commission to look into exactly what occurred is a slap in the faces of all the officers who did their jobs that day. Because of what they did, the people in the building were able to go home that evening and be with their families. Brian and many other officers ended up in the hospital. I suggest that all congressmen and senators who are against this bill visit my son's grave in Arlington National Cemetery and, while there, think about what their hurtful decisions will do to those officers who will be there for them."

Now, I have spoken to a number of Republican senators about this and how this could impact their thinking here. One of them, Senator Mike Braun of Indiana, he said he'd be willing to meet with Brian Sicknick's mom, but he said he would not change his view in opposition to this commission.

In large part, Republicans say this commission is not needed. They argue it's duplicative. They say very bluntly they're concerned that this could be used to hurt them politically come 2022, given it would undoubtedly look at Donald Trump's role in all of this, as well as the role of some Republicans.

So they'd rather move on, focus on other issues and not focus on this investigation, which is one big reason why Mitch McConnell has been saying publicly and privately why he -- Republicans should not go along with this and why we're expecting tomorrow's vote to fail.

They would need 10 Republican senators to break ranks. Only a handful are suggesting that they may actually vote for this. Not even the ones who voted to convict Donald Trump are on board with this at the moment.

But one Republican senator who is planning to vote yes and did vote to convict Trump twice told me it would reflect -- quote -- "not well" on the Republican Party if they were to block this. He said the perception would be that they are trying to cover up the truth. He said he doesn't agree with that perception, but he said that's how the public will ultimately view it -- guys.

BLACKWELL: All right, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

We will see what comes out of those meetings. Thanks so much.

President Biden is now calling on the intelligence community to investigate the origins of COVID-19. It gives them 90 days to explore their leading theories, especially when it comes to that laboratory in Wuhan, China.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci just told the Senate committee that there is no timeline to get those questions answered.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Has there ever been a pandemic that we know of that started in a laboratory somewhere?



GRAHAM: At what point in time would it become more likely it came from the lab if we don't find intermediate animal host? How much longer?

FAUCI: I don't think we can give a time element on that, Senator, for the simple reason we still have not yet confirmed what the host is from Ebola.

We know that Ebola jumps from an animal reservoir to human. And it's been many years now since the original Ebola outbreaks, and we haven't yet nailed that down.

GRAHAM: But we believe that Ebola did not come from a lab?





CAMEROTA: CNN's Phil Mattingly is following this for us.

So, Phil, tell us what President Biden wants to do to try to get the answer. And it sounds like he's moving away from just relying on the WHO?



So, look, the reality right now for the administration is, despite the intelligence community looking into this issue for more than a year, they are no closer to having a definitive answer.

Now, the intelligence community, according to the president's statement today, has coalesced around two different possibilities, the possibility of an accident in a lab or, as Dr. Fauci was just talking about, the possibility of transferring from an animal to a human.

But they have not come up with a definitive conclusion. And that has led President Biden to order the intelligence community to start a new effort.

He says in a statement today: "I have now asked the intelligence community to redouble their efforts, to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion and to report back to me in 90 days. As part of that report, I have asked for areas of further inquiry that may be required, including specific questions for China."

Now, Alisyn, you can hit at a key point. Why this is so interesting is, White House officials publicly have repeatedly said the way to do this is through an international effort, through the WHO, which China has not been cooperating with.

So, I asked Karine Jean-Pierre, the principal deputy press secretary, what changed? Take a listen.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRINCIPAL DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: We have been pretty vocal with WHO these past several months.

And so this is just a continuation of what the president has been focused on. We're going to see what happens this -- these next 90 days. As I -- we just read out, it was inconclusive. So we need to get to the bottom of this.

MATTINGLY: Is the president concerned that the I.C. does not have enough visibility, even if they're redoubling their efforts into what actually -- is there a collection problem here?

JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I think this is going to be the process, right? They have 90 days to kind of get a deeper look on this. And then we will have a better sense, a better sense of where to take this next.


MATTINGLY: And, guys, I think that's the big outstanding question right now.

What's going to change over the course of 90 days? Clearly, China has not been as forthcoming as the U.S. and the international community would like it to be. And, also, it has been very clear over the course of the year that, if the intelligence community, through 12, 13, 14 months, wasn't able to come down to a definitive conclusion on things, what's going to change in their collection or how they're reading intelligence over the course of the next 90 days?

Still, it is very clear the administration is putting a whole new effort into this, redoubling that effort, still supporting the WHO investigation, still wanting and asking for more answers from China, but very clearly putting pressure on the intelligence community to come up with a better answer than they have had in terms of the origins up to this point, guys.

CAMEROTA: Yes. And we need to talk to some of those researchers who got sick back long before China was saying what was happening in Wuhan.

Phil, thank you very much for that report. OK, so next: Twenty-three people selected at random will determine

whether Donald Trump faces any criminal charges in the investigation into the Trump Organization. That's next.



BLACKWELL: Pushing forward on the breaking news, the shooter has just been identified in that mass shooting in San Jose, killed eight people.

A law enforcement source confirms to CNN that his name is Sam Cassidy. We'd already learned from today's press briefings that he is dead, that he was a VTA employee. We will bring you more as we get new information there from San Jose.

And now to new reporting from "The Washington Post" that the Manhattan DA is convening a special grand jury to look into the Trump Organization and whether the former president should be indicted.

Former President Trump, without specifically mentioning the grand jury, is again using -- you know the two words I'm about to say, witch-hunt. He claims that that's what's going on here.

CAMEROTA: So, for about two years, the DA, Cy Vance, has been investigating whether the Trump Organization has been misleading insurers and lenders about the value of some of his properties.

Let's bring in our experts.

We have Harry Litman, a former top official at the Justice Department and served as a U.S. attorney in Pennsylvania. And Michael D'Antonio is a Trump biographer who just penned this CNN op-ed that you can read called "The Man Who Could Determine Trump's Fate."

Before we get to that, let me start with Harry.

So, Harry, this is not just any old grand jury. This is a special grand jury. And that is -- from what we know about it, it's selected randomly from the public. It meets three days a week for six months. It operates in secret. It has subpoena power.

What -- how is this different than just any old ordinary grand jury? And what does it tell you about where the investigation is?


So, this is going to be a long slog. It's the kind of grand jury you convene. You always have 23 people. They always have subpoena power. And there have been grand juries in this investigation for these two years.

But this is the kind of grand jury you convene when you want to present evidence, a rolling narrative, over a period of time and then eventually ask for charges. And I think, as Michael puts it, the man who could determine Trump's fate, Allen Weisselberg, will be at the center of these things.

If they go on a long time, there's a kind of esprit among them. They take turns buying donuts. It becomes this long slog eventually culminating in a request for a return of charges on somebody.

And Weisselberg is the center of that speculation for now, for a number of reasons.

BLACKWELL: So, Michael, talk about that.