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Nine Killed in Mass Shooting at Rail Maintenance Yard; Senate Expected to Vote on January 6 Commission Bill; Biden to Intel Agencies: Report on COVID Origins in 90 Day; Doctors' Groups Lead Push to Cancel Tokyo Games; Lukashenko Claims "Ill-Wishers" Attacking Belarus; Investigations of Atrocities in Tigray Region. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 27, 2021 - 04:00   ET



KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR: Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta welcome to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and around the world, I'm Kim Brunhuber. Ahead on CNN NEWSROOM --


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D) CALIFORNIA: What the hell is going on in the United States of America? What the hell is wrong with us? And when are we going to come to grips with this?


BRUNHUBER: Families and community members mourn the victims of another mass shooting in America. We're learning more about those killed and the suspect who worked alongside them.

Calls to cancel the Olympics grow louder, another prominent group of doctors in Japan are echoing the message.

And this time in the fight between oil giants and climate activists, saving planet earth wins.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BRUNHUBER: Our top story this hour is a tragically familiar one, a deadly mass shooting in the United States. Just moments ago we learned that a ninth victim has died. This time it was in San Jose, California, Silicon Valley's largest city. It was the 232nd mass shooting in the U.S. this year.

Maintenance workers at a commuter rail facility were getting the fleet ready on Wednesday morning when one of their co-workers opened fire. Police say the gunman took his own life as officers arrived. Nine people were killed. The mayor said all of the victims worked with the gunman and knew him well. A memorial event is planned for Thursday night.

Now, about the same time firefighters were being called to a two-alarm fire at the house believed to belong to the gunman. No one was inside but it was badly damaged and left uninhabitable. After the shooting, the gunman's ex-wife who hadn't spoken with him in more than a decade talked to a local news outlet. She said when they were married he often complained about his bosses and co-workers and seemed to resent his job. We get more on this tragic event from CNN's Josh Campbell in San Jose.


JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): An early morning massacre.

DEP. RUSSELL DAVIS, SANTA CLARA SHERIFF'S OFFICE: We have eight victims that are pronounced deceased from today's incident from gunshot wounds. We also have one suspect who is deceased as well.

CAMPBELL (voice over): Shots rang out around 6:30 a.m. at this sprawling San Jose maintenance yard where commuter rail vehicles were being dispatched in service for the workday. A law enforcement source tells CNN the lone suspect identified as Sam Cassidy was an employee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was seen at that location working before the shooting. It's clear the victims and all the colleagues there knew the shooter well.

CAMPBELL (voice over): According to the sheriff, Cassidy continued shooting even as police arrived.

SHERIFF LAURIE SMITH, SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: I know for sure that when the suspect knew the law enforcement was there, he took his own life. Our deputies were right there at that time.

CAMPBELL (voice over): The Sheriff's office says more deadly plans were potentially laid out in advance.

DAVIS: We received information that there are explosive devices that are located inside the building.

CAMPBELL (voice over): Multiple law enforcement agencies including the bomb squad are on the scene, beginning what is likely to be a lengthy and extensive investigation.

GLENN HENDRICKS, PRESIDENT, SANTA CLARA VALLEY TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY: We're so sorry this event happened. We are there for you.

CAMPBELL (voice over): The head of the Valley Transportation Authority emotional as he tried to comfort the surviving staff.

HENDRICKS: VTA is a family. People in the organization know everyone. This is a terrible tragedy.

CAMPBELL (voice over): Just eight miles away, a neighbor took this video of the suspect's home, billowing with smoke in a suspicious blaze. Firefighters responded to the scene at 6:36 a.m. just two minutes after the first calls from the shooting at the rail yard came in. Investigators are now on site at both locations searching for answers. While California's Governor has more questions of his own.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D) CALIFORNIA: What the hell is going on in the United States of America? What the hell is wrong with us?

CAMPBELL: And the grim task continues here at the scene of this latest mass shooting in the United States. Local, state law enforcement as well as special agents from the ATF and FBI are here behind me processing that scene. We're also told that they are at the residence of the shooter trying to glean any evidence to get to that motive and try to understand why he came here on Wednesday and engaged in this attack.

Josh Campbell, CNN, San Jose, California.


BRUNHUBER: The White House lowered the U.S. flag to half-staff to mourn the victims. It was the fifth time since taking office that President Joe Biden has ordered the flags lowered after a mass shooting. And the president had a blunt message for Congress saying the country has had enough.


He said once again, I urge Congress to take immediate action and heed the call of the American people, including the vast majority of gun owners to help end this epidemic of gun violence in America.

On Capitol Hill Republican Senators are about to face a last minute push to support the creation of a January 6th commission. It will come from the mother of Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick who died after the insurrection there. Sources say Gladys Sicknick will meet at least 15 Republicans Thursday to make the case they should vote for the commission that would investigate the insurrection.

In a statement Sicknick said, I suggest that all Congressmen, 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.

CNN has reached out to all 50 Senate Republicans to confirm their plans. Some of them including minority leader Mitch McConnell reportedly offered Sicknick only a meeting with their staffers. Even though the insurrection threatened to put U.S. democracy at risk, the bill to get to the bottom of it faces a huge political roadblock. CNN's Manu Raju reports.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Senate Republicans are poised to filibuster the bill to create a commission to investigate the attack that occurred on January 6 in this building, in the U.S. Capitol, because of their concerns that in their view this would be a political investigation. That's what you're hearing over and over again. Their larger concern is that this would essentially undercut their

message heading into the 2022 midterms when they are trying to take back the House and the Senate. Some of them saying that very openly, even Mitch McConnell the Republican leader, says that his concern is that Democrats want to relitigate Donald Trump and not focus on the issues before the country, domestic issues, spending, infrastructure, the economy. That is the big argument that Republicans are making about why they will ultimately plan to block this commission going forward.

Now, there are some Republicans who are willing to move ahead, one of them Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican, who told me that if Republicans do block this on Thursday, then they will look like they are trying to hide the truth from getting out to the American public. Some other Republicans, including Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins plan to vote to open debate but they need ten Republican Senators to break ranks and right now the math just simply is not there unless something changes dramatically.

Now one thing that has changed over the last day, the mother of the fallen police officer Brian Sicknick, her name is Gladys Sicknick, she has requested meetings with all 50 Republican Senators urging them to vote for this commission. Warning that blocking it would be in her view, quote, a slap in the face of all the police officers who braved fought and defended this building on January 6. But that is still unlikely to convince enough Republicans to break ranks.

One of them Mike Braun who plans to meet with Gladys Sicknick told me that that's not going to change his vote at the end of the day, he believes this commission is unnecessary. So expect the political fight to continue. Expect Democrats to lead the investigation once Republicans do block this come Thursday despite what everyone experienced here, this outside commission almost certainly doesn't appear like it's going to happen.

Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.


BRUNHUBER: The U.S. president is ordering intelligence agencies to ramp up efforts to figure out where the coronavirus came from and he is expecting a report in 90 days. His administration is under pressure to get answers after new reporting from CNN and other news outlets indicates it's possible the virus escaped from a Chinese laboratory. The U.S. intelligence report also found several researchers at China's Institute of Virology were hospitalized in November 2019, which adds to the mystery. Kaitlan Collins has details.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden now calling on the U.S. intelligence community to intensify its investigation into the origin of COVID-19.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRINCIPAL DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: This is incredibly important. COLLINS (voice-over): Biden demanding a firmer answer within 90 days after officials narrowed in on two likely scenarios, it passed from animals to humans, or was the result of a lab accident.

JEAN-PIERRE: That could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion.

COLLINS (voice-over): The president has quote, specific questions for China, and told intelligence agencies to keep Congress fully apprised.

The directive is a sharp turn for more officials stood earlier this week when pressed on whether the U.S. should lead an investigation.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What we can't do and what I would caution anyone doing is leaping ahead of an actual international process. We don't have enough data and information to jump to a conclusion.

COLLINS (voice-over): Federal health officials renewed calls for further investigation after the World Health Organization faced criticism for initially dismissing the possibility that it came from a lab.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH DIRECTOR: It is certainly possible that other options might have occurred including a possible lab leak.


We just don't have evidence to be able to say what that likelihood is.

COLLINS (voice-over): One of Biden's top COVID-19 advisors was harshly critical of the W.H.O.'s investigation with China.

ANDY SLAVITT, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS ADVISER: We need a completely transparent process from China. We need the W.H.O. to assist in that matter. We don't feel like we have that now.

COLLINS: Biden is also taking a shot at his predecessor, saying, the failure to get our inspectors on the ground in those early months will always hamper any investigation.

The new directive comes after sources told CNN that Biden's team shut down a State Department effort led by former Secretary Pompeo to prove coronavirus had originated in a Chinese lab.

MIKE POMPEO, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I am confident that we will find that the evidence that we have seen today that's consistent with a lab leak. And I'm convinced that's what we'll see.

COLLINS: And the State Department is disputing the semantics of that story saying they did not shut down that investigation, it simply came to an end earlier this year. But I think the bottom line to take away from President Biden's directive today is they do believe there could be some credibility to that theory that COVID-19 did come from a lab, a lab accident potentially, and that's what he wants the intelligence community to find out within the next three months. Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.


BRUNHUBER: Meanwhile, China is slamming the lab leak theories, calling them smear campaigns. CNN's Steven Jiang reports from Beijing.

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: The Chinese government has been saying for days that these latest allegations from Washington are just another sign of a U.S. led smear campaign against China. Now their current line of argument is China has done all it can in terms of helping the World Health Organization in its origin tracing effort, now it's time to investigate other countries, especially pointing a finger at the U.S., but without providing any concrete evidence.

So that partly explains their growing frustration or even anger at anyone who demands or suggests further investigations in Wuhan in China because their own line of arguments or counterattacks is simply not resonating with much of the rest of the world. Now, the fact is a growing number of experts and scientists are saying based on the evidence they have seen so far they simply cannot rule out the lab leak theory.

But they are also not ruling out other scenarios including the zoonotic jump that's been considered most likely by a W.H.O. team that did go into the Wuhan lab early this year. Now, these scientists are saying these thing were not incompatible with each other. It's not an either/or question. But what they have problem with is that the W.H.O. team that went to the Wuhan lab said it was extremely unlikely the virus was leaked from the lab based on a conversation with the staff, not based on direct access to raw complete Chinese data and samples.

That's why the W.H.O.'s finding has not been very convincing to a growing number of experts and officials from around the world who are now calling on Beijing to provide unfettered access to all of this data to independent experts. But of course given how politicized this issue has become on both sides of the Pacific it's just increasingly unlikely if not outright impossible for the Chinese government to agree to do so. And for them of course it's not only a sovereignty issue, it's probably also a loss of face issue. Not to mention this is increasingly a domestic political issue given the narrative they've been feeding their domestic audience including increasing over the top rhetoric against the U.S.

Steven Jiang, CNN, Beijing.


BRUNHUBER: A surge of COVID cases in Japan is forcing the government to consider extending a state of emergency. That's just the latest threat to the summer Olympics. The games are scheduled to start in 57 days and union officials who represent doctors in Japan are repeating their call for the games to be canceled.

CNN's Blake Essig is live this hour in Tokyo. So how important is the opinion of that doctors union? Does it carry much weight or is it -- it's significance more that it's just, you know, the straightest straw in a pile that seems to be growing heavier and heavier by the day?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, all of the above, Kim. I think it's very important, though. The fact that a doctors union in Japan has once again called for the Olympic Games to be canceled because of an ongoing global pandemic should matter. And while the union only represents a small number of doctors, about 130, the fact that they're speaking out in a country where that rarely happens is significant.

They say holding an Olympics in Japan would be irresponsible for the athletes and can pose a great threat to the people of Japan. They also warned of a virus -- of virus variants that could be brought into Japan saying that if that happens that the games could be the target of criticism for the next 100 years to come.

Now, at this point COVID-19 cases across the country remain high, fueled by the U.K. variant. In fact, the number of severe cases once again set a new record on Wednesday. As a result the hospital bed capacity in many areas is either near or beyond capacity.


And leaders in Tokyo and several other prefectures are calling for a second extension of the current state of the emergency order that is supposed to end at the end of this month. Now under the state of emergency order the government is asking bars and restaurants to close by 8:00 a.m. and not serve alcohol. They're also asking residents to avoid travel and work from home if possible.

To this point the state of emergency which started at the end of April has had little impact on slowing the spread of the virus. Despite all that, Olympic organizers remain confident in the anti-virus measures that they have put in place, saying for months that the games will go ahead this summer safely and on schedule, even if a state of emergency order is in place. And while Dr. Michael Osterholm an infectious disease expert is willing to give the games a chance. He says the current plan in place isn't good enough.


DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT: And there's virtually been no planning for how are we going to move people in buses or putting three people to a hotel room or where do they eat and what kind of respiratory protection do they have? In fact, they noted each country should bring their own face masks. But I think the approach they're taking right now is virtually a dangerous one.


ESSIG (on camera): A possible extension of the state of emergency order is expected to be announced tomorrow for nine prefectures including Tokyo and could last until June 20th. Now Kim, if that does happen that's just a month before the Olympic Games are set to begin.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, unbelievable. All right, thanks so much, Blake Essig in Tokyo. European Union foreign ministers discuss their next step as they mount

a strong response to Belarus's forced landing of a commercial plane and arrest of a dissident journalist.

And the U.S. president is speaking out about the latest atrocities in Ethiopia's war torn Tigray region. That's just ahead. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: EU foreign ministers are meeting in Portugal where the response to the forced landing of a Ryanair plane in Belarus will be high on the agenda. EU leaders have been quick to criticize the flight diversion that led to the arrest of passenger and dissident journalist, Roman Protasevich. Also today the international Civil Aviation Organization will hold an urgent meeting on the matter. It says what happened goes against the agreements that govern the airline industries. But the growing international backlash and outrage over the incident hasn't shaken Belarusian President Lukashenko who's still defiant.


ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO, BELARUS PRESIDENT (through translator): As we predicted our ill-wishers both outside and inside the country have changed their methods of attack attacking the Belarusian state. They have crossed a lot of red lines and transgressed the limits of common sense and common morality.


BRUNHUBER: CNN's Fred Pleitgen joins us now from Berlin. So Fred, the pressure is growing, what's the latest?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The pressure certainly is growing on Alexander Lukashenko. But certainly at this point in time he shows absolutely no will to back down in any way, shape or form. And of course, one of the reasons for that is that he still does have the full backing of the Kremlin, of Vladimir Putin.

It was quite interesting to hear yesterday, Kim, that Russian politicians, many of them, came out and said that they believe that all the explanations that they were hearing from Belarus were, quote, reasonable. All this coming as Alexander Lukashenko after that speech in Parliament he was saying a lot of things that seemed to contradict some of the first information that was coming out of Belarus. He said the alleged bomb threat that made the Belarusian authorities launch that aircraft and force that Ryanair jet to land, that it came from Switzerland.

And before that they had said it came from Hamas. Hamas had denied that. The Swiss also denied that the bomb threat came from their country as well. He also said that several other airports had refused to allow that jet to land, namely Warsaw and Vilnius, in Lithuanian. The Polish authorities told us they have absolutely no information of a plane wanting to land. So a lot of the things there don't seem to add up and that seems to be one of the reasons why the European Union is not buying any of the explanations that are coming there from Belarus.

As you mentioned today the EU foreign ministers are meeting, certainly that's going to be on the top of the agenda. You can already see some of the measures taking hold. There was one Belavia flight where you can all say, the poor passengers who were on that flight it took off from Minsk airport, was supposed to fly to Barcelona but then had to do circles over Belarus for about two hours before returning back to Minsk. Certainly, no fun for the motion who were on that flight.

And also a reflection of how things are going currently in air travel in Belarus and over Belarus. Also the Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, she told the EU Parliament's foreign relations committee that the EU as she believes needs to take a tougher line against Alexander Lukashenko. Listen in to what she had to say.


SVETLANA TIKHANOVSKAYA, BELARUS OPPOSITION LEADER: Now I call on the European Parliament to make sure that the reaction of the international community is not limited to the Ryanair flight incident. Their response must address the situation in Belarus in its entirety or we will all face situations in the future as Lukashenko is turning my country into a North Korea of Europe -- nontransparent, unpredictable and dangerous.


PLEITGEN (on camera): There you have it. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya saying that Alexander Lukashenko is turning Belarus into North Korea, as she puts it. There are some who are calling for new import bans by the European Union of some goods from Belarus, but the bottom line right now is still Roman Protasevich, that journalist who was arrested, still no closer to being released -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: All right, thanks so much. Fred Pleitgen in Berlin.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has left Jordan wrapping up his Middle East tour. The trip aimed to shore up the ceasefire that ended 11 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas militants.


Blinken met with King Abdullah in Amman who welcomed the U.S. plan to reopen its consulate in Jerusalem to help Americans outreach to the Palestinians.

Meanwhile, the U.N. Human Rights Council is holding a special session at Pakistan's request. Muslim countries are calling for an investigation into possible war crimes and human rights violations before and during the recent conflict.

The U.S. president is calling for a ceasefire in Ethiopia's Tigray region as well as full access for humanitarian aid. Joe Biden released a statement saying, I am deeply concerned by the escalating violence and the hardening of regional and ethnic divisions in multiple parts of Ethiopia. The large scale human rights abuses taking place in Tigray including widespread sexual violence are unacceptable and must end.

The U.S. recently imposed financial sanctions and visa restrictions on Ethiopian and Eritrean officials. That as reports of new atrocities emerge. Witnesses tell CNN that in camps for those who were forced from their homes hundreds of young men have been rounded up by soldiers reportedly shouting we will see if America will save you now. CNN has investigated a wide range of atrocities being committed in the Tigray region. Here is just some of a report from the reporting on the story.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Sudan Ethiopia border the last leg in the journey to safety. In the first weeks of the conflict thousands of refugees from Ethiopia's Tigray region crossed daily. Now the figures are dwindling day by day. Those that do make it here come bearing scars and testimony.

This is Zeray Gabrgeorgis, he says he fled the city of Shiraro, near the Ethiopia, Eritrea border. He says the Eritrean soldiers beat them with machine guns, lay them on the ground and put weapons in their mouths. He said that if you showed fear they would kill you. But if you were brave you escaped with your life and the scars on your back.

Fayouri arrived in Sudan with a newborn. Heavily pregnant when Shiraro was attacked by the Ethiopian army. Fayouri fled through back routes giving birth in a field. She tells us only she and her mother-in-law made it to safety.


BRUNHUBER: That was CNN's Nima Elbagir reporting.

Still to come, Donald Trump left the White House more than four months ago but he didn't leave his legal troubles behind. We will have new details on those intensifying investigations.

Plus the British Prime Minister is lambasted by his former ally. Why his former adviser says the U.K. could have saved thousands of lives. We are back after a short break. Stay with us.