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Man Kills Nine Coworkers at Rail Yard in 17th Mass Shooting this Week; Senate Republicans Expected to Block Vote on January 6 Commission; Biden's Call for COVID Origin Probe Splits U.S. and China. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired May 27, 2021 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: In the meantime, Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello on this Thursday. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thanks so much for being with us.

Major headlines breaking this afternoon, the bipartisan January 6th commission will face a vote today, as a stunning contrast plays out behind the scenes, Senator Mitch McConnell rallying Republicans to spike it as the mother of fallen Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick personally meets with some GOP senators and has a message about the ones opposing the commission.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Are you concerned about losing ten Republicans on the January 6th vote? Do you think that would happen?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Well, we'll have the vote today.

RAJU: Are you lobbying your members to vote against it?

MCCONNELL: Yes. I've made my position pretty clearly.

GLADYS SICKNICK, MOTHER OF FALLEN USCP OFFICER BRIAN SICKNICK: This was to uphold the Constitution and right now I don't think they're doing it.


CABRERA: As you saw there, McConnell would not respond when our Manu Raju asked if he was meeting with Officer Sicknick's mother, Gladys.

Meantime, as this bitter partisan fight plays out, a rare point of agreement emerges in Congress about the investigations into the origins of COVID-19. This hour, I'll ask House Majority Whip Congressman Jim Clyburn about that crucial issue.

But, first, the latest and the fast-moving investigation into yesterday's horrific mass shooting in San Jose, California. It left nine innocent people dead. There were no survivors. Every single person who was shot died. And we are learning it could have been even worse.

CNN's Josh Campbell just talked to the county sheriff. Josh, what did you learn?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, hello to you, Ana. The sheriff tells me a little more about this suspect and what actually transpired here yesterday morning after he arrived on the scene of this rail yard. We're told that he went into one building, opened fire and then moved to a second building. As you mentioned, a total of nine of his co-workers shot dead.

Now, we're also learning from the sheriff some additional information about the weaponry that was used. We'll show you what we know. The suspect, according to the sheriff, had two semiautomatic handguns as well as 11 magazines, a significant amount of ammunition that he brought here to this scene.

Now, we're also learning from the sheriff why we saw the bomb squad out here yesterday. She told me that, as they were searching this facility, in the suspect's locker, they found what she described as precursors to explosives, explosive ingredients, both here as well as at the suspect's home to include additional ammunition as well.

Now, as we speak authorities are behind me processing the scene of the crime, they're also at the suspect's home, local state law enforcement as well as special agents from the ATF and the FBI. We know that as this shooting was taking place, a fire also erupted there at the suspect's home. Authorities are trying to investigate that to determine whether this was an effort to try to destroy evidence, all that remains under investigation, Ana.

CABRERA: And, Josh, I know we're learning a lot more about the man and who he was prior to this shooting. Can you lay that out for us?

CAMPBELL: That's right. He worked here. So authorities are interviewing his colleagues, again, trying to glean, were there any indicators in the lead-up to this that he may have conducted this attack. But our affiliates have also spoken with his former girlfriend as well as his ex-wife, who said that he had a pattern of abusive behavior, as well as speaking ill about his employees. So this is being treated right now as a workplace violence incident.

But the sheriff told me the motive is not yet -- has not yet been discovered. They are executing search warrants at the residence, on the suspect's vehicles. She told me that they are executing search warrants on his communication devices, again, to try to get as much information as they to try to come up with some assessment, what was the motive behind this mass shooting that occurred here, again, just a gruesome scene here yesterday, the 17th mass shooting, Ana, in the past week.

CABRERA: In just a week, the 17th mass shooting. That is hard to really comprehend. Josh Campbell, thank you for your reporting. For more on this, let's bring in CNN National Security Analyst Juliette Kayyem. And, Juliette, multiple guns, there were precursor elements for explosive devices. Apparently, this man set his house on fire. How does all of this information now change the scope of this investigation?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, the investigation will have multiple sites now, obviously, and also a determination of whether there were any accomplices or anyone who may have known along the way.

The sheriff's office is clear they think this was just one suspect, but the detonation, it appears, if you look at the timing that he is shooting when the fire goes off, suggests some sophistication with explosives.


Also the materials that are found at the train yard, precursors to explosive devices can be a lot of things, so they're being vague. And there can be a lot of things in a rail yard that look like they're precursors to explosive devices. So we have to see.

I think what I have started -- what you're starting to see in some of these cases is, you know, we often talk about copycats. I'm not sure what the right term is, but we are sort of having a ratcheting up factor, that the shooting is not enough, that there has to be either booby traps for first responders or multiple places, as we saw in Atlanta, that these guys with these histories are just ratcheting up the mass shooting and the mass violence.

CABRERA: I physically cringe when you say that, thinking about this. The shooting we also have learned happened as employees from the midnight shift and the day shift overlapped and one witness says the shooter appeared to be targeting individuals, that he walked by other people, let other people live. What does all that indicate?

KAYYEM: Right. So, two things here, so, first of all, the important point that you made, which is no one survives these attacks, we're learning about the weaponry, but as you and I have often discussed, the emergency response was really, really fast, but the problem with the amount of weaponry people have is there's just no ability to survive it.

I think the other issue that I'm interested in, and I was trying to text with Josh, who's reporting has been a terrific, is do we have a sense of why those people were chosen? Are they all one race? Are they all of one area? Are they all -- you know, are there more women than men, statistically? Because we know that he had gender issues or anything that can help us distinguish who's whom? So I really want to look at this sort of ethnic and background of the victims as well to determine.

You know, this was a man filled with hate. He had guns, lots of people knew it, but this was the targeted kill. And I should just say, none of these are a surprise anymore. I mean, 24 hours later, and it's like, you know, the guy is dropping bread crumbs, you know, along the way, saying I'm about to do this.

CABRERA: It's horrific. And you talk about the weaponry and how, you know, no one survived. We've learned he had two semiautomatic weapons, 11 magazines that were on him.

KAYYEM: Right, I mean, can I -- and let's try to end with some good news, or just at least -- I mean, I think the difference that you're seeing now is there's much more organized political force to counter the NRA, and distinguish that even from even five or six years ago, that a number of these instances has generated very, very effective political response.

The NRA, for people like me who are following it is bankrupt, it's corrupt, it has foreign influences and is likely to lose lots of court cases in the near future. So while it's very frustrating that the person public is of one mind, really, one mind when it comes to a lot of these in terms of gun control, and, importantly, so are the police. I mean, this is the tragedy.

I mean, you know, this is like --

CABRERA: Juliette, but that's what I don't understand, Juliette. And you talk about the weakening of the NRA seemingly because of all of the things you just laid out and yet you aren't seeing any movement when it comes to votes from members of Congress, specifically Republicans. I mean, you point out that the American people that law enforcement are all saying, we support increased background checks, for example, and they can't even get that passed.

KAYYEM: I think that's -- I mean, first of all, look at it though from the local and state level. So, this is where it kind of does remind me of climate change, that nothing is happening on the federal level until you get the right government in, and -- or the right leadership in. But you see lots of activity at the state and local level, you see people coming forward who you wouldn't expect, like the police -- like police. I should say the new head of the ATF, if he gets confirmed is really good on this issue, the way he talks about guns, he knows guns, about what regulations can and should not do, because he's also an advocate for gun ownership, if it's responsible.

So, you know, we are at a, you know, pivot point in some ways. It does look very familiar to climate change, where it takes just longer, much longer for the American public's will to be reflected in politics. I have to believe that because I'm sitting here for the 100th time in a row, you know, with you.

CABRERA: I know, exactly.

KAYYEM: I mean, it's just -- I was looking my text with Josh, it's literally like every mass shooting over the last several days.

CABRERA: I know, Juliette. I mean, it's just the question of how many more people need to die before there is action. I appreciate you being with us and thank you for sharing your expertise and insights on this.

To Capitol Hill now, where Senate Republicans are expected to block a bill that would create a commission to investigate the January 6th Capitol insurrection.


That attack left five people dead, and about 140 police officers injured.

Now, the mother of officer Brian Sicknick, who died after the insurrection, is on Capitol Hill today imploring GOP lawmakers to get behind this investigation in the commission.


REPORTER: Do you think you can change minds today?

SICKNICK: I hope so. I hope so. And Brian had a work ethic like second to none, and he was just there 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.

REPORTER: Does it anger you, Mrs. Sicknick, to hear senators who do not support this commission? And what emotions do you feel when you're confronted with that?

SICKNICK: This is why I'm here today. Usually, I'm stay in the background and I just couldn't -- I couldn't stay quiet anymore.


CABRERA: What a strong woman. In a statement obtained by CNN, Gladys Sicknick also told lawmakers that, quote, not having a January 6th commission to look into exactly what occurred is a slap in the faces of all the officers who did their jobs that day.

CNN's Ryan Nobles joins us from Capitol Hill. And, Ryan, we're told a couple of officers, including one who was severely injured that day, they have also been meeting with Republican senators, and yet, you're learning Mitch McConnell is applying pressure on his conference to vote against the commission?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It seems that all this lobbying by the victims of that day on January 6th is really falling on deaf ears and the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, who made his position clear after the House passed this bill on a bipartisan vote, that he was not going to support the measure, and he was also going to encourage his fellow members of the Republican conference not to vote for it. And that lobbying continues right up until the vote happens as we expect it later this afternoon.

You know, it doesn't really come as a surprise. Republicans have been very firm in their belief that this has become a political exercise, that Democrats are just pushing for this commission so they can use it to hammer Republicans in the 2022 midterms, that despite the fact that the commission is designed to take the politics out of this conversation, move it into an independent forum with non-elected leaders. Still Republicans seem very, very insistent they do not want to see this move forward. It would require ten Republicans to break ranks and vote for this in order for it to move ahead, that it just doesn't seem at this point that there are ten Republican votes to make that happen, Ana. Only three Republicans at this point have said that they are going to vote yes to move the bill forward. That's not nearly enough. And it seems as though this bill is going to die sometime later this afternoon, Ana.

CABRERA: Brian, you touched on this, and we did put up the graphic. But for those maybe listening to us and not watching us right now, lay out what the parameters are that have been established already by the House, by the negotiations between a Republican and a Democrat, that really was designed to make this non-political.

NOBLES: Yes. And I think sometimes this gets lost in this conversation, Ana, that Democrats really gave a number of concessions in order to make this commission happen. Originally, there wasn't going to be equal representation from Republicans and Democrats. It will now, if it were to go forward, five Republicans, five Democrats appointed to this commission. They would have equal subpoena power. This process is designed to wrap up by the end of the year so that it would not move into the 2022 midterm calendar. But that's still not enough for Republicans.

And we should also point out, Ana, Republican Senator Susan Collins from Maine, she's actually imploring her Republican colleagues, if you have a problem with this, let's make some changes. She's circulated a memo that would also have to do with the staffing of this commission, making sure that that would also be equal representation from Republicans and Democrats and she even suggested that they should wrap up the process 30 days earlier. So far, her offer to try and make these concessions also falling on deaf ears, Republicans not even interested. They're just going to vote no.

CABRERA: Ryan Nobles, thank you.

So, as we draw closer to this vote on the January 6th commission, frustration and anger is building among Capitol Police officers who protected lawmakers that day. CNN spoke to more than a dozen current and former officers. And as far as how they're treated by members of Congress, one who just left the department told us, quote, they think we're servants.

This is all part of our Law Enforcement Correspondent Whitney Wild's reporting today. So, Whitney, what more have you learned? What more are you hearing from these officers?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, my colleagues, Kristin Wilson and Jeremy Herb and I have been reporting this, and we are trying to figure out what is the sentiment, what is the feeling among these officers, again, speaking with more than a dozen.

And our sense was that before January 6th, they had experienced this relationship with members and staff where they felt like they were dismissed. They had been somehow blended into the apparatus of the Hill, the security that was more like a column, or a fence, than an actual human being.


And the expectation was that after January 6th, when they proved their dedication through blood, sweat, many tears, the loss of their colleagues, dozens of people injured, that that would change, that there would be a renewed respect for their professional careers that are dedicated to their own protection, again, from the members and from the staff.

And what we are finding from speaking with these officers is that necessarily hasn't -- that hasn't necessarily happened. There was a brief time following the riot where the relationship was warmer, it was more grateful. But for some members, as time passes, they have fallen into these old habits of the way that they just treat these officers like they are there to serve them, not secure them.

One officer we spoke with said that he was very upset about the way that this political game is playing out on the Hill, specifically frustrated that the commission is not going anywhere. He told CNN that on the night that -- on January 6th, once they reconvened, I kind of got lulled, he said. I got fooled. I listened to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's words the same night when they reconvened. I bought into it. I thought, wow, we are really going to get some answers.

Ana, there was a feeling that they had been duped. At the time, they believed everyone was on the same page, that this commission would go through, or something like it would go through, that there would be a real meaningful search for answers, and now that seems so far away, Ana.

CABRERA: Whitney Wild, thank you for your reporting.

So, if Republicans wash this commission, is that the end of it?

Plus, more on a very different investigation, this one into the COVID- 19's origins. President Biden wants answers within 90 days, but there's one giant obstacle, China.

And I'm all about good news with this virus, so we just got two very positive pieces of information on immunity. That's just ahead. Stay with us. You're live in the CNN Newsroom.



CABRERA: We are watching the Senate right now where Republicans are expected to filibuster a bill that would create a commission to investigate the January 6th Capitol riot. And House Majority Whip Congressman James Clyburn is here with me now.

Congressman, we reported Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is not just asking Republicans to vote against the commission, he is pushing them, he is calling in personal favors to pressure them to vote against it. What is your reaction to this?

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): I think it's a shame. The fact is the country is deserving of knowing exactly what led up to January 6th, who were involved and what we need to do to make sure this never happens again.

And I think that we have gone on now for several days, Chairman Bennie Thompson and Ranking Member Katko have worked very hard to reach a bipartisan approach to this. Nancy Pelosi signed off on it, and everybody thought that with the kind of interventions that had been made, recommendations, suggested by the minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, all of this has been incorporated. And what is -- what are they afraid of?

CABRERA: What do you think?

CLYBURN: You know, when you allow things to fester and don't get to the bottom of it, chances are the end result is going to be bad. That's why I'm headed out to Tulsa this weekend, because 100 years ago, things that festered, that were not true, got out of hand, 300 lives were lost in the worst race massacre in the history of the country took place. That's the kind of stuff that happens when you don't have good information that everybody can be supportive of.

CABRERA: So, you believe if this commission does not take place, the truth will not come out, and there will be more violence?

CLYBURN: I think that if this does not happen, Nancy Pelosi, as speaker of the House, should move forward, either empower certain committees to do it or create a select committee, as she did with the coronavirus, to get to the bottom of it.

CABRERA: But won't Republicans then be able to say this was all what the Democrats did? Won't that be an opportunity for them to just use it politically to their liking?

CLYBURN: Oh, yes, no question about that. That seems to be what they want. They want to politicize this. We're trying to get beyond politics. I think all you've got to do is look at the work of Thompson and Katko, they did great work. And they are acting in a very non- partisan, meaningful way to try to be of assistance to the people of this country.

I think that Mitch McConnell and others are trying to force a political process into play. Everybody else seems to be trying to get above it.

CABRERA: Congressman Clyburn, stay with us because I want to talk to you about police reform and COVID.


First, I want to bring in CNN's Nick Paton Walsh on the growing political storm over how and where COVID-19 originated in China. And, Nick, China is now rejecting President Biden's new call for intelligence agencies to really they're intensify their investigations into the source of this virus, whether it potentially started as a lab leak. What is China saying?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: China, as usual, very strident in its rejections, saying that the U.S. does not care about facts and truth at all, and that it's interested not in serious scientific origin tracing but to use the pandemic to engage in stigmatization and political manipulation, shifting blame.

Now, the lab leak really rests, Ana, in short, on extraordinary coincidence that happened in the town of Wuhan, where most people think the virus began. That's not only at the center of China's virus research, it's also a place where just in the first week of December when the virus began, that Wuhan's CDC moved a laboratory, which some people thought might have caused disruption. Maybe you might speculate a lab leak.

And also too, this final piece of investigation that people working at a key virology laboratory in Wuhan, three of them got sick and needed hospitalization. We don't know what they were sick from but these three extraordinary coincidences keep recurring in people's minds, suggesting something may be amiss in Wuhan. But, as the year has passed, there has not been extra evidence pointing towards Wuhan as being a source of a lab leak.

And, in fact, the broad preponderance of all scientific research suggests this may have gone from a bat to what's called an intermediary animal that was infected and then from the animal to human. And this could have taken years, possibly.

The problem really is China's lack of transparency, even with a WHO investigation it agreed to cooperate with, means many are asking questions to how much extra they know. In fact, and even WHO investigators are asking for blood samples, raw data, things they can dig into to get more answers. The more the WHO have been looking, the more they seem to bring the timeline forward, possibly, towards November of 2019.

But this next three months of introspection, I fear, is going to lead to a lot more trading of blame, but maybe not an extraordinary new piece of evidence that gives us the answer we all need, where did this come from so we can stop it from happening again. Ana?

CABRERA: Nick Paton Walsh, thank you for that update.

So, as far as the investigations moving forward, let's bring back Congressman James Clyburn, because you serve as the coronavirus crisis select committee, and House Minority Whip, just this week, Steve Scalise, called on you to open an investigation, your committee, into the pandemic's origins. What are you going to do?

CLYBURN: Well, I'm going to do what I think is the proper thing to do, and that is to follow the lead of this president who is calling upon the Intelligence Community to do the kind of work that they are equipped to do. They are trying to get to the bottom of exactly what caused this, and what we can do to prevent it from happening again.

And I'm going -- some people are looking for theater. I'm not looking for theater here. I'm not trying to create headlines. We would like to make some headway. And I would say to my good friend, the minority whip, let's just support this administration, have one investigation happening with the resources of the White House, the Intelligence Community, and our subcommittee that we are currently working with.

We've got a responsibility to deal with disbursements. Is the money being spent efficiently, effectively and equitably? The origins don't matter to us. What really matters is the expenditure that we're -- all the expenditures we're making.

So I would say to my friend, Mr. Scalise, let's just let the proper people do the work.

CABRERA: Let me ask you, before I let you go, about police reform and so-called qualified immunity, which currently shields officers from civil lawsuits. I know you've been asked about this recently, but I want to get clarity on exactly where you stand today. Because several Republican senators are saying, doing anything to qualified immunity is a non-starter for them.

You've signaled in the past you believe some police reform is better than nothing at all. So, yes or no, should qualified immunity be taken off the table?

CLYBURN: No, I don't think so. Remember what I said at the outset. Qualified, according to Black's Law Dictionary, which I have looked up, says partial, qualified means partial. It does not mean absolute.