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San Jose Railyard Shooting; Former Capitol Police Comment about Congress; Judge Says Election Lies Could Inspire more Violence; GOP Unveils Infrastructure Counteroffer; Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) is Interviewed about an Infrastructure Bill. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired May 27, 2021 - 09:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And CNN's coverage will continue right now with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Thursday morning to you. I'm Jim Scioto.


This morning, we wake up to nine of our fellow Americans murdered in yet another mass shooting in America. Yesterday, as many of you may have been cooking breakfast for your kids, commuting to work, walking your dog, these are the nine people, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, who became just the latest victims of gun violence in America. The nine people that you see listed on the screen with their ages were going to work at a San Jose light railyard and never returned home to their loved ones.

SCIUTTO: What a mix of people. Different backgrounds. So familiar. I don't know what to call it. It -- call it a tragedy, but it's almost a daily tragedy in this country. In no way is this an anomaly. It's become normal.

In just the past week, 26 people have been killed in at least 17 mass shootings. Seventeen in one week. Murdered. Americans murdered.

CNN's Josh Campbell is in San Jose.

Josh, you and I, our colleagues, everyone across the country has read about these kinds of things so frequently. We've covered them before. Tell us what you learned today about these victims.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, just the latest mass shooting in America. This is becoming normalized. And here we are yet again.

We're outside this crime scene near the railyard where the shooting happened yesterday. We're learning about those victims. Their ages ranging from 29 to 63 years old. They included employees here of this railyard who actually worked with the shooter, we're told. We're told that he actually knew them. Now, I spoke just a short time ago with the sheriff who talked about

that grim process of going through and trying to identify those victims.

Take a listen.


SHERIFF LAURIE SMITH, SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: Our fingerprint team went into the scene, fingerprinted the victims, even though they were wearing ID tags from their employer. We were able to get fingerprints and run them through the systems and do positive identifications before the family was notified.

And it was just heartbreaking when I was there with the families and they were being notified. It was heartbreaking. Some sheriff's office employee families were affected. And it's just a tragedy. And my heart goes out to everyone.


CAMPBELL: Now, as the sheriff mentioned there, as these investigators are trying to put the pieces together here about what transpired, we're learning that members of the sheriff's department had family members that were impacted by this shooting as well. Just a truly tragic incident happening here that remains under investigation.

HARLOW: And to that investigation, Josh, what more did the sheriff tell you about the gunman?

CAMPBELL: Well, we're learning new information from that interview. Some new information that was gleaned. She mentioned that the suspect had two handguns on him, as well as 11 magazines. So two semiautomatic pistols but a lot of ammunition that he brought here and conducted that mass shooting.

She also said something that is allowing us to understand why we saw the bomb squad here yesterday and some of those bomb-sniffing canines. She said that as investigators went through this property, inside the suspect's locker -- remember, he worked here -- they found precursors to explosives in his locker. Now, she didn't know if it was a fully constructed device but some type of bomb-making ingredients. They also found that same kind of materiel and ammunition over at his house.

She also mentioned, that in her view, that the suspect could have rigged some kind of timer at his house. We know that a fire erupted at his residence around the same time of the shooting. Again, the sheriff saying that this could have been the sophisticated device that allowed that fire to start while he was actually conducting this attack.

A lot of unanswered questions to include the motive, but we are learning new information about the shooter.

HARLOW: Josh Campbell on the scene in San Jose, thank you.

CAMPBELL: Yes. HARLOW: For the reporting and for honoring the victims.


SCIUTTO: And, fact is, he didn't need a bomb, right?

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: He had two semiautomatic handguns and 11 magazines.

HARLOW: Right. Right.

SCIUTTO: And killed nine people.

HARLOW: That's right. Yes.

SCIUTTO: The Senate is set to vote today on whether to establish a January 6th commission to investigate the attack on the Capitol. Remember, a bipartisan proposal for a bipartisan commission. And yet we're likely to see a filibustered today. That by Republican senators.

Ahead of that vote, the mother of fallen U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, pictured there, who died the day after the insurrection, is now meeting with Republican senators trying to move them.


HARLOW: That's right. Gladys Sicknick just spoke to Senator Mitt Romney about this vote. And here's what she said moments ago about possibly swaying Republican senators to support the commission.


GLADYS SICKNICK, MOTHER OF U.S. CAPITOL OFFICER BRIAN SICKNICK: I hope so. I hope so. And Brian had a work ethic like second to none. And he was just there for -- for our country and for these guys. And he just was doing his job. And he got caught up in it. And it's very sad.


SCIUTTO: Remember, many others were injured that day. You remember the videos.

Her comments come, comments of a mother, after she wrote a letter to those Republican senators laying out why she thinks the commission is the right way forward. Here is part of what she wrote about her son. He and his fellow officers fought for hours and hours against those animals who were trying to take over the Capitol Building and our democracy as we know it. While they were fighting, congressman and senators were locking themselves inside their offices. According to some who were barricaded in their offices said it looked like tourists walking through the Capitol. Really? Sadly, Brian passed away and many officers were badly hurt.

HARLOW: She goes on to write, not having a January 6th commission to look into exactly what occurred is a slap in the face of all of the officers who did their jobs that day. 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 going forward.

Some of Officer Sicknick's fellow Capitol Police officers shared those views expressed by his mother. This morning, we have new reporting on their fractured relationship with members of Congress and their anger at Republican efforts -- some Republican efforts to whitewash the insurrection.

SCIUTTO: Remember, that comments from a sitting Republican congressman saying those rioters looked like tourists.

As one officer who recently left the department put it, they think we're like servants. I would rather work outside in the heat or the cold. I would rather have to deal with people overdosing on drugs than deal with members' staff.

That's a remarkable view from inside the U.S. Capitol Police, the people charged with protecting the Capitol and the people who work there.

CNN law enforcement correspondent Whitney Wild joins us now with details.

Whitney, you uncovered deep levels of frustration among rank and file officers who had hoped for reform. What else do they tell you?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, my colleagues, Kristen Wilson (ph) and Jeremy Herb (ph) and I spent quite a bit of time talking to these officers to get a sense of how they feel. And I think there were -- there were some big issues and there were some sort of granular issues that we explored.

And so, on the macro level, there is a sense among some of these officers that they feel like they've been turned into a political football, they've been caught up in the partisan infighting over the January 6th commission bill, over the security supplemental, and there was I think the feeling toward the opposition to the commission is particularly offensive to some of these officers because they felt like, in the aftermath of January 6th, everyone was on the same page. Everybody was going to make an effort, a real effort, to get real answers. And now that seems farther and farther from their grasp.

One officer saying he felt like he was tricked. He felt like he was duped because he thought that they were actually going to make meaningful efforts to find out what happened. And now it seems like that won't happen.

On another level, in this, again, macro conversation, they feel like there was also an opportunity to make meaningful change to the department and they are still frustrated, they're worried that the building remains not secured. They are upset that some fixes still haven't been made. And they feel like the chance to have a meaningful reform for the department is growing farther and farther away.

On some of the granular levels, a lot of these officers said prior to January 6th -- and this is true across the aisle, not unique to one party -- that there are some members who are simply dismissive of them, that they feel like they have blended in to the building, to the security apparatus, and that members and staff on both sides of the aisle are just -- they're just not nice. They are dismissive. They don't respect their authority. So that was one sentiment we heard.

However, there are moments of outrage where members bring -- you know, they've -- they've gone to roll call to express their gratitude. They, you know, they're -- they're grateful, but some of those efforts feel hollow, Jim and Poppy, when, in the end, these -- this commission and the security supplemental seem so far away.

Poppy. Jim.

HARLOW: Whitney Wild, thank you for all of that reporting on both levels. Really important.

Well, this morning, the big lie could have more severe and potentially deadly consequences. This stark warning coming from a federal judge who says the, quote, steady drumbeat of former President Trump's lies that the election was stolen could continue to inspire his supporters to take up arms.


SCIUTTO: This as officials say right-wing media, Republicans and, of course, Trump himself, are still stoking the grievances, the lies that led to that deadly insurrection.

CNN's Jessica Schneider is in Washington with more.

Jessica, really just a blistering critique, condemnation of the continuing, right, propaganda around all this. What more did Judge Amy Berman Jackson say?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so this was a warning and it was part of a 26-page opinion from Judge Amy Berman Jackson. She's a long-time federal judge. She's quite outspoken. And she said quite starkly this time that the public could still be endangered if some of these Capitol riot defendants were released from jail because she says the exact lies that brought them to Washington on January 6th and inspired them to attack the Capitol are still being repeated by, of course, former President Trump and even some major news organizations, she said.

So, Judge Amy Berman Jackson writing this last night, saying, the steady drumbeat that inspired defendant to take up arms has not faded away. Six months later, the canard that the election was stolen is being repeated daily on major news outlets and from the corridors of power in state and federal government, not to mention in the near- daily fulminations of the former president.

Now, as part of this opinion, she ultimately decided to keep that defendant in the case, Cleveland Meredith, in jail because she said that he still posed a danger to the public. But really here, judges have been warning for weeks and months now that this continued push of the big lie may actually be keeping alive some of the grassroots anger that led to the Capitol attack in the first place.

We heard from D.C. Federal Judge Emmett Sullivan in April. He talked about how he was concerned that the dissatisfaction over the election for some Americans still hadn't dissipated. We've also heard from Judge Paul Freedman, also here in D.C., he wrote about how one of the defendants who drove cross-country with guns before allegedly assaulting police at the Capitol, he says that he idolized Trump and actually believed those lies about the election fraud.

So, Jim and Poppy, this is an ongoing concern for judges. We're seeing in their opinions, they talk about the people who carried out the attack on the Capitol because they are still appearing in these courtrooms and because of the danger they still present, according to these judges, many of them are being kept behind bars because of that danger that they still present and because of the lies that they still believe, guys.


HARLOW: Words and a warning that carry so much weight.

Jessica Schneider, thank you very much.

SCIUTTO: Still to come this hour, Republican senators have just announced their infrastructure counterproposal. We're going to have the details, next.

HARLOW: Also, air travel seeing a post-pandemic boom. The CEO of Delta Air Lines will join us exclusively to talk about just exactly what they're anticipating.

And this, the Biden administration now ordering a 90-day investigation into the origins of COVID-19 and the results could have explosive implications around the globe.

Stay with us.



HARLOW: This morning, a move just now to find the middle ground, maybe, on infrastructure. A group of Republican senators have just made their counter-counteroffer to President Biden after the White House dropped its counter to $1.7 trillion.

SCIUTTO: The Republican counterproposal stands at $928 billion, but that's really just one of the issues, the size of this. The other big issue is how you pay for it.


SCIUTTO: On that issue, there are big gaps.

Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill.

All right, $928 billion, not far off. I mean even Biden talked about going to like a trillion dollars on this. But really the key distance here still seems to be on how you pay for it.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. And I think that one thing you should be watching from this press conference is how Republican lawmakers were rolling out their counterproposal. One thing that you really heard here is they are trying to create some distance between what they think that the president would be willing to support. They're under the impression that in the Oval Office he was clear that he would be willing to support something around a trillion dollars.

Meanwhile, of course, we know that the White House's proposal last week they unveiled was $1.7 trillion. So that's quite a big spread there. So you're starting to see Republicans trying to see whether or not the president is going to be willing to come to the table or whether or not they believe that some of the staff is really controlling these negotiations.

Now, I want to get into some of the numbers here.

$928 billion is the top line that they laid out this morning. But, like you said, the pay-fors remain a big sticking point.

Here's what Shelley Moore Capito said about coming to that $928 billion number.


SEN. SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO (R-WV): What we are looking at today is $928 billion package over eight years. It sticks to the core infrastructure features that we talked to initially. It's a serious effort to try to reach a bipartisan agreement.


FOX: Two important pieces here, of course. They are talking about core infrastructure. That's roads, bridges, highways. Those are the kinds of items that they want to focus on. Of course, that's a little different than where the president and the White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill have been. It's also worth noting that John Barrasso, one of the Republican negotiators, said that one of the ways they plan to pay for this is essentially either user fees on electric vehicles in coordination with unspent COVID relief money that went to state and local governments. If you remember, that was a key sticking point, one of the reasons Republicans didn't support that last COVID relief package. They have been arguing for a while that state and local communities got far too much money.


FOX: That's going to be a big sticking point for Democrats. They're not going to want to pull back that money.



SCIUTTO: Just -- so to be clear, so user fees for electric vehicles but no rise in the gas tax, right, which has traditionally been used to pay for infrastructure improvements?

FOX: Well, they're talking about also potentially some kind of piece of the gas tax thing here. And I think that one of the things to keep in mind is this press conference is still ongoing.


FOX: So they're still talking about the ways that they plan to pay for this, Jim and Poppy.


HARLOW: Lauren, thanks.

SCIUTTO: Well, joining me now to discuss this and a heck of a lot more, Democratic Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.

Senator, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

SEN. BOB CASEY (D-PA): Hey, Jim, good to be with you. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: So I know it's early because this was released just moments ago, but the top -- the headlines are here, $928 billion. So close to a figure that the president had said he'd be willing to do. But the pay-fors seem to be the big gap here, right?

I mean so use unused COVID stimulus money but also charge electric vehicle drivers I think per mile driven is a way to pay for this. I mean are those pay-fors a nonstarter, in your view?

CASEY: Well, they're certainly a nonstarter for me. We'll see what the president and his team do when they evaluate it and we'll see what other senators say.

But, look, I think we're getting to the point where it's obvious now, and I've been very patient, and I think a lot of Democrats have been. The president has been patient. It's obvious that the pay-fors the critical infrastructure, roads and bridges and broadband, water systems, we've got -- we've got great needs in Pennsylvania. And this is a party which will not increase the corporate rate at all for these new multinationals. They got more than a trillion and a half in the 2017 tax bill and if we -- if we increase the corporate rate like the president said from 21 to 28, that yields $740 billion. That's (INAUDIBLE). That alone would be a significant down payment. But they don't seem to be too willing to do that.

SCIUTTO: The trouble is, as you know, that even some of your Democratic colleagues, Joe Manchin among them, not automatics on raising that corporate tax rate.

I do wonder, though, do you believe that President Biden has given too much time at this point to finding a bipartisan agreement? Do you still think there's hope here or, in your view, is it time to move on to reconciliation?

CASEY: I think we're getting to that point, Jim. It's an old expression, fish or cut bait. And I think we're getting to that moment.

But, look, I think the president's done really good work here to engage Republican senators over and over again. But I do think that we're getting to the last chapter of this.

Now, the last chapter could result in an agreement, but it could also result in no agreement. But the key here is, we've got to get to the next set of agenda items, like funding of home and community based services, funding (INAUDIBLE) -- funding universal pre-kindergarten education, two years of community college, so many other infrastructure needs that families need to get to work every day.

SCIUTTO: All right, sometime in the next 24 hours, GOP senators are going to filibuster what was a bipartisan agreement for a bipartisan commission to investigate January 6th. Now it's still possible you find ten Republican votes, but all of our reporting seems to be it's not going to get there.

Why? Why did this happen when many of your GOP colleagues expressed support for exactly this kind of commission in the weeks after January 6th? Do they not want the truth here? Are they afraid about the political damage?

CASEY: Well, Jim, I think it's as simple as this. You've got an entire political party in Washington, not across the country but in Washington, that are still genuflecting to Donald Trump. As simple as that. And they don't want to do anything that offends him. And it's an insult to the country. It's an insult to our democracy, our national security.

What would -- what would be the event that would cause them to have a bipartisan commission? What if the -- what if the terrorists who came into the Capitol were able to actually get to Vice President Pence and kill him? That was their intention. Were to kill a member of Congress. Would that be enough? Would it be -- would -- is there something else that would get them there? It just makes no sense. But it's a continual effort to genuflect to one man instead of the rule of law.

SCIUTTO: I do want to ask you about another event that's become so familiar in this country, and that is a mass shooting. Yesterday we had nine people killed in San Jose, California, as you know, and one of dozens of mass shootings just in the last several weeks here.

Democrats have majorities in the House, in the Senate and they have the White House. They haven't had that for years. What are you going to do about it? I mean are Democrats going to use that rare confluence of politics to pass legislation, perhaps over a filibuster, or just let this slide once again?

CASEY: Well, one thing, Jim, look, we're going to do -- what we've tried to do now since 2013, the last time we really had a fulsome debate and votes.


And at that time I guess it was three votes on taking common sense steps to reduce gun violence. These eight years we've had no real robust debate and no votes. I'm in favor of having votes, even if it's not certain the outcome, because we have to make evident and manifest to the American people what is blocking, for example, a battleground check bill supported by 90 percent of the American people.

So I think that's going to be the next step to put it right in front of people. Have a big debate and vote. That's what we should be doing.

SCIUTTO: I do want to ask you, before we go, about the origins of COVID. There's been a notable move in the debate and the discussion over this in the last couple of weeks towards at least an open mind to the possibility that China lied about this and that more investigation is necessary to see if this leaked from a lab. It didn't come from a market there as China had claimed early on.

Based on what you have seen, the information you've seen, and I know it's too early for conclusions, but based on the information you've seen, do you believe it's possible, likely, that China lied about the origins of this?

CASEY: I think that's always a possibility when you're dealing with the Chinese Communist Party. That's who we're dealing with here. It's not simply a nation, number one.

Number two is, we need to -- we need to know more. I think the president's right to enlist the help of our intelligence services to do that. I'm on the Intel Committee and I think that's a wise choice.

We've got to get to the bottom of it, just like we should get to the bottom of what happened on January the 6th.

SCIUTTO: Understood. We will keep watching it.

Senator Bob Casey, always good to have you on the program.

CASEY: Thanks, Jim.

HARLOW: Well, still ahead, a new CNN analysis shows a spike in vaccinations after the CDC announced new mask guidance. We'll explain ahead.