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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Obama, Biden to Meet with Orlando Victim Families, 1st Responders; Icy Relationship between Obama, Florida Governor; New Evidence Shooter Posted Online; Shooter's Wife May Face Charges; Shooter Wanted to Kill Since Elementary School; Daughter of Gun Violence Victims Pleads for Better Laws; Senate Filibuster Wins Promise for Gun Control Votes; CIA Chief Warns of "Western Fighters" Attacking in U.S.; Orlando Medical Examiner: "Looked Like They All Just Laid Down"; Orlando Survivor's Emotional Scars Will Never Go Away. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired June 16, 2016 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:17] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman, live in Orlando. Kate is off today.
We have a lot going on here on the ground in Orlando and in the investigation.
President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, they are due to arrive here shortly. They will meet with the families of those murdered at the Pulse nightclub, also with survivors and first responders, many of whom work here at the Orlando Regional Medical Center right behind me.
In the investigation, we do have brand new information, information that the shooter suggested he wanted to commit mass murder as far back as elementary school. A former classmate says he threatened to take a gun to school and kill everyone.
Also, new evidence that the killer paused during his rampage, paused to post on Facebook.
His wife is now the focus of the investigation or a focus of the investigation. Her conflicting statements to authorities about what she knew is now part of a grand jury investigation. She could face charges connected to the killings.
All this, as lawmakers hold a news conference right now on gun reform. We should know soon if an almost 15-hour filibuster that went way into the wee hours of the morning, if it might lead to a vote on new laws to keep guns out of the hands of anyone on terror watch lists.
Like we said, a lot going on. A lot of new angles.
I want to begin right here with Boris Sanchez on the president's trip.
Boris, what are we expecting?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. The president will be meeting with survivors and the families of the victims of the shooting at 1:30 today. It will be a closed door meeting. The White House has said it is going to be an emotional trip for the president. It's a trip he's had to make several times before, to Charleston, to San Bernardino, and to Newtown, Connecticut. The White House said it will be a comforting and supporting trip not only to the people of Orlando, but also to the LGBT community as well. He's expected not to give live remarks but they will be pre-taped and released later. The president is a symbol of the country and so it's a message of solidarity that will be given to those who need it most.
The other interesting thing is the backdrop. Not only Senator Chris Murphy's 15-hour filibuster on gun control but also the icy relationship between the president and Florida Governor Rick Scott. Yesterday, Rick Scott came out and said the president hadn't called to offer condolences since the shooting on Sunday. Eventually, we found out that last night the president did call Governor Rick Scott. He didn't offer a public thank you to the president, instead, we found out, because it appeared on a public schedule that was released of what the governor did yesterday. So despite the fact he's going to meet him at the tarmac, there's an awkward kind of relationship between them. Hopefully, that stays far in the background and doesn't affect what the president is actually intending to do here in Orlando, which is giving the city the first step toward closure that it so desperately needs.
BERMAN: Hopefully, indeed. Politics doesn't need to be a part of much of this, to say the least.
The White House made clear one of the things he wants to do is to talk to survivors. The people who survived that massacre, they're going through so much right now. Many of them tell us they haven't slept. They're dealing with issues of survivor guilt, and the White House says the president wants to reach out to these folks.
SANCHEZ: It's difficult to put into words what we saw that Sunday morning. I'll never forget watching someone who had just walked out of the club, his shorts were covered in blood and he had a 1,000-yard stare. How do you move forward from that kind of chaos and trauma? And having the president come here again is a symbol of the country showing solidarity, showing the country is behind those who were affected by the shooting. It's a major step in hopefully some day having closure and having opened another chapter not only for all those that were affected but for the entire city as well.
BERMAN: Boris, thanks so much. Look forward to seeing the president's arrival and your reporting.
We want to talk now about the investigation. Several new pieces of information, including evidence that the killer posted online, on Facebook, during the rampage.
CNN justice correspondent, Evan Perez, joins us with the details on that.
Evan, what are you learning? EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: We're talking about Facebook posts not only in the weeks leading up to this attack but also during the attack that the killer apparently made. This is now in the hands of investigators.
And Senator Ron Johnson, the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, has now written a letter to Facebook to learn more about the accounts that this killer had, the type of activity that he had on his -- the type of posting that he did on his accounts on Facebook.
I won't get really too much into his postings, simply because he doesn't deserve to have more emphasis put on his ideas. But I will mention that during the attack, apparently, he posted words saying, "In the next few days, you will see attacks from the Islamic State in the USA." And he talked about, ranting about U.S. and Russian bombing on ISIS territory in Syria and Iraq.
[11:05:21] Now, we also know that in the weeks coming up to this attack, he was consuming a lot of jihadi videos. Part of this process that his wife has now told investigators really reflects a worsening of his behavior, signs that he was getting more radicalized, more violent. And even on the day, the day before the attack, Saturday night, before he left his home, he told her he was leaving to go visit some friends. She suspected that he was planning to carry out an attack. And she said, she told investigators, she tried to talk him out of it but she never called the police, which is why she is now the focus of this investigation -- John?
BERMAN: She never called the police, which is something the grand jury will be listening to, listening to evidence on, and deciding whether this constitutes a charge of misprision (ph).
That's the current investigation, what happened in the days and weeks before the shooting.
But we're also learning about the gunman's distant past, that perhaps he made threats as far back as elementary school.
CNN's Brian Todd is working that part of the story.
Brian, what have you learned?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, just incredible information we're building on this man's past that really tells you there is a pattern of disturbing behavior going back to elementary school, when he was about 9 or 10 years old.
A former classmate at Mariposa Elementary School in St. Lucie has told us that in fourth and fifth grade, he was threatening to bring a gun to school and to kill everyone. Now, this classmate says that they don't recall quite what the punishment was for that, but he remembers it was a big deal at the time. So, again, this is in fourth or fifth grade. He would have been at the 9 or 10-year-old range at that point and they thought this was really threatening behavior. But, again, patterns of other behavior that we've picked up. Three former classmates at two different high schools in that area have told us that on 9/11 he kind of acted out. He imitated planes hitting buildings. He jumped up and yelled that Osama bin Laden was his uncle. And he got into confrontations with students. There were some disciplinary issues over that. Patterns of behavior going back to those years that are very disturbing on the part of Omar Mateen.
We have to say reached out to the school district, and they have not returned our calls. Trying to get more on the school system on what the discipline was.
But, again, patterns of behavior on the part of this man that stretched back to maybe when he was 9 or 10 years old that lasted up until his adulthood. We've seen the accounts from James Comey about his behavior as a security guard in the St. Lucie County courthouse where he made inflammatory comments back in 2013. That's when the FBI started an investigation of him. And talked about all the inflammatory comments he made. The pattern goes way back now -- John?
BERMAN: Data points in 2013, 2014, but well past that, 2001, even before.
Brian Todd, interesting developments. Thanks so much for that.
I want to go live to Capitol Hill right now. Senator Chris Murphy, from Connecticut, is speaking. He staged an almost 15-hour filibuster trying to get votes on new gun control laws. Let's listen in.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY, (D), CONNECTICUT: -- where that shooter was able to buy a weapon because of a loophole in the nation's background checks laws.
Please welcome to the podium, first, Tina and then Reverend Risher (ph).
TINA MEINS, FATHER KILLED IN SHOOTING: Thank you, Senators Schumer, Blumenthal, Murphy, Feinstein, Booker, Markey, and Baldwin, for inviting me here today. I'm grateful to you and members of your delegation for taking action on this issue so that other families do not have to live with the heartbreak and anguish my family has been forced to endure for the rest of our lives. Your leadership has been a source of comfort to my family and me.
My name is Tina Meins. My father, Damian Meins, was killed on December 2nd last year at the Inland Regional Center while at a work event with the San Bernardino County Environmental Health Department when a co-worker and his wife, who had pledged allegiance to ISIS, burst through the doors of his office spraying bullets from their semiautomatic rifles. My dad along with 13 of his co-workers was killed. In mere seconds, my life and the lives of my mother and sister were irrevocably changed.
Our family was small, but close, very close. Dad was always happy to spend time with us whether it was helping us with our homework, teaching us how to ride our bikes, helping coach our soccer teams, or later just going for long walks with us. We traveled the world together and spent countless hours talking about the importance of helping others and everything else from politics to current events to whatever was on our minds. In our house, there was laughter all the time. Now that laughter is gone.
[11:10:18] As news of the horrific mass shooting on Sunday morning in Orlando began to unfold in front of our eyes and the numbers of dead and injured continued to rise, I was immediately taken back to December 2nd. I know exactly what those families were going through. I know what it's like to get the call telling you the worst news you could ever imagine. And the pain of knowing that this was happening and again in our country to so many families was just too much to bear. Each person in that club was someone's child, a sibling, a lover, a friend.
I wish I could say I'm surprised that we're here again, but sadly I'm not. And we will continue to be here again and again if our elected officials fail to take action that prevents dangerous and hateful people from getting their hands on a deadly weapon. It's time to disarm hate. One day after the San Bernardino mass shooting, Congress had the opportunity to take meaningful action to make our nation safer. But instead, a majority of Senators voted in lockstep with the gun lobby against a common-sense measure that would have prevented people on a federal terrorism watch list from purchasing guns.
How can we ignore the fact that in this country we make it easy and legal for dangerous people, including suspected terrorists, to commit unspeakable acts by providing them with easy access to guns?
Suspected terrorists are prohibited from boarding planes, yet they can still legally purchase firearms. Since 2004, more than 2,000 terror suspects have taken advantage of this loophole and our laws to buy guns.
I can't wrap my mind around why anyone in Congress finds this acceptable. Closing the terror gap could have prevented what happened on Sunday in Orlando. The FBI had investigated the shooter multiple times for terrorist ties and homicidal threats. Based on his history, terror gap legislation could have blocked the gun sale to him and prevented the deaths, injuries, and emotional scars on our fellow Americans.
It wasn't easy for me to be here today. It wasn't easy for my mom and my sister and I to get on an airplane and fly across the country. We are still in very early of our grief. I think about my dad every single day. I lost my father, my best friend, in a horrific and brutal way that seems to defy all reason. But that is also why I couldn't not be here today. I want my story to remind others that it doesn't have to be this way. It's time we take a stand in this country and disarm hate.
BERMAN: All right. You have been listening to Tina Meins, the daughter of one of the victims of the San Bernardino shootings. This is an event on Capitol Hill.
Senator Chris Murphy, from Connecticut, staged a nearly 15-hour filibuster overnight trying to get votes on new gun control measures, specifically assure that is would prevent, he says, people who were on various terror watch lists from being able to buy guns. He wants votes on amendments to do that and also he wants universal background checks at gun shows and the like. That is what the filibuster was about. And this is an event right now speaking out in favor of
I want to bring in Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.
Manu, it was a dramatic night to be sure. Senator Chris Murphy speaking for a long time. Newtown was in his congressional district when he was in the House, obviously part of his state, now that he's in Connecticut. Calling for new gun control measures. Democrats call for measures in the past when there's been massacres. We've seen them even get votes or be blocked on the way to get votes. There doesn't seem to be a greater chance this time that they will be able to win victories where they failed before, does there?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: That's absolutely right, John. Very unlikely we will see any significant changes to gun laws. Really, it's been about a decade since Congress has done that. After sandy hook, that terrible massacre in 2012, Congress tried to move forward. The Senate tried to move forward with universal background checks, and at that time Senate Democrats had control of the majority and they still failed. They still were unable to get the 60 votes they needed in order to make that -- pass that into the House, pass it over to potentially get that to become law. That did not pass. This time, there's virtually no pass a universal background checks can be passed.
The one thing they're looking at is how to prevent suspected terrorists from getting guns. There's a bill that Dianne Feinstein, of California, has proposed that would give the attorney general the authority to block purchases of gun sales from suspected terrorists if someone is viewed to be possible on one of those terrorist watch lists, for instance, a no-fly list. But Republicans are worried that bill is too broad. They think it will sweep up folks who are actually not -- should not be on the no-fly list, prince, and does not give any recourse if you're unfairly targeted. They're pushing an alternative measure that would give courts actually the say in determining whether or not the Justice Department can move forward and block a terrorist from obtaining a firearm. Those negotiations between John Cornyn and Dianne Feinstein have sort of stalled, I am told. Very unlikely at this point that they can reach a deal.
There's probably going to be votes at some point in the Senate, but it's uncertain whether or not a deal or actually anything can get passed. Very unlikely, I would bet on that -- John?
[11:16:06] BERMAN: So votes probable but actual probably not. Not saying that's a good thing or a bad thing but it's a fact right now in the U.S. Senate.
Manu Raju on Capitol Hill for us. Thanks so much.
RAJU: Thanks, John.
New frightening terror warnings from CIA Director John Brennan. I want you to listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: We judge that ISIL is training and attempting to deploy operatives for further attacks. ISIL has a large cadre of Western fighters who could potentially serve as operatives for attacks in the West. And the group is probably exploring a variety of means for infiltrating operatives into the West, including in refugee flows, smuggling routes, and legitimate methods of travel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Joining me now, George Diaz, from the "Orlando Sentinel"; and James Copenhaver, a retired major case investigator.
I want to get to the investigation in a second, George. Let me start with the president's visit. The president due here shortly. What does this community right now need?
GEORGE DIAZ, ORLANDO SENTINEL: Simply put, a group hug. Orlando is a city with a big heart, a huge heart, and right now those hearts are collectively broken. I look across the street over there, there are therapy dogs. I think a lot of us need therapy dogs, not just the victims, unfortunately. So I don't think this will be a time some people will think let's talk gun control, let's talk war on terror. No, I honestly think this is as much a healing thing and the president of the United States just hug
BERMAN: The families need it, the survivors certainly need it, the whole city needs it as well.
James, let's focus on the investigation for a moment. We got the news that this killer was posting to Facebook during the shootings, right? Also making phone calls after he was in the middle of the shootings. What does that tell you about him?
JAMES COPENHAVER, RETIRED MAJOR CASE INVESTIGATOR: Literally, he was nonstop on his cell phone from 2:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m., until he was taken out by the SWAT team. To me, it shows he had this planned out. I think he was very methodical in terms of what he was intending to do and he knew he was not going to walk out of that building alive.
BERMAN: We had some new reporting I'm just being told in my ear. Drew Griffin is being told the gun store that sold the weapons to the killer, they knew say they were suspicious of him. If that's the case, you know, what do investigators take from that? Do they have any culpability here? No, right?
COPENHAVER: Absolutely not. It's gone back to San Bernardino. We had neighbors that literally had seen bomb making material at the House of the bad guys but didn't report it. We're living in a climate that everyone is so in fear of being called a racist or bigot, we're not saying the proper things we should be to the authorities.
BERMAN: The store manager apparently -- the killer went into the store, asked for body armor. Very, very high-grade body armor. The store didn't have it, and now the store's manager is telling Drew Griffin, he was suspicious of that effort to purchase it.
COPENHAVER: Armchair quarterbacking the gun store owner, he probably will you should have alerted the local authorities and, if not, there needs to be some poll at this out of Tallahassee or out of the federal government to mandate the gun store owners to alert officials if they see something suspicious.
BERMAN: It's interesting. It gets to the discussion on Capitol Hill with people on the terror watch list. It's not exactly analogous but you want people to come forward if there are suspicions.
George, let me ask you about the community and this investigation. You talk about the need for a group hug which is definitely what this city needs. How much interest do you think there is in the investigation? Do people here want to hear? Do people in the city want to hear all the new details?
[11:19:51] DIAZ: I think it dovetails into a lot of different issues for different people. Some people are really upset about the gun control. Some people are upset about terrorism. It's just -- it's such a personal -- it's such a personal tragedy for everyone. Some people just want to tune it out and forget about things.
I mean, we live in this place that we call literally the Magical Kingdom, right? Well, look what's happened the last three days. We had that horrific shooting Friday, then what happened Saturday night, and then a child is attacked and killed by a gator on Disney property. It's unfathomable that all of these things are happening, this convergence of dark side just kind of engulfing Orlando.
So I think it's -- for some people it's really hard to handle because there's so much to process. So that's a tough question to answer. There's just I think it becomes an issue of where you're at and where your beliefs are and, frankly, I think just a lot of people are crushed by this.
BERMAN: I was talking to a hospital official this morning who told me that after the killings here, there was the alligator incident, and they were alerted they may have to treat a little boy who had been attacked by an alligator. I know it sounds so different, but basically these medical professionals deal with so much. Essentially, they're like, we can't handle anymore. We've dealt with so much grief, so much tragedy. It was one too many things at that point.
George, James, thanks so much for being with us. I appreciate it.
All right. She still has shards of glass in her arms and legs. Ahead, I speak to a survivor of the attack. She is dealing with so much anxiety, fear, and, yes, also guilt. We hear that from everyone involved in this situation. She's been afraid to go anywhere for days after the massacre. That's next.
[11:25:34] BERMAN: Inside the terror attack here in Orlando, and the somber task of identifying the victim, it's a heart-wrenching, overwhelming, but essential job, shouldered by the chief medical examiner. What he saw with his own eyes just defies the imagination.
CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, joins me now.
You spoke with the doctor involved here.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, he's a veteran. He's seen a lot of things. He's been doing this a long time, and even mass casualties, aviation disasters, natural disasters, things like that. As you said, this was something we've never seen before.
And I asked him to describe it. He has a job to do. But I asked him to describe how he would describe it to other people. Here is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. JOSEPH STEPHANY, ORANGE COUNTY MEDICAL EXAMINER: It's almost like time stopped. There was still things, break ground tv is playing, lights blinks, drinks that had just be, poured, checks about to be paid, food half eaten, and that's not even thinking about the bodies on the ground. But when you actually see everyone lying down in one place or everyone down in one place or their final positions, you can feel it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: It was really important, John, for him to have all the bodies identified as quickly as possible, have the autopsies performed within a day after that, out of respect for the families. There's no exact protocol or sort of time line for these sorts of things, but they moved very, very fast to do this.
I'll share something else with transported separately from all the other victims, was in a different building than all the other victims. He didn't think it would be appropriate to do the autopsy on the same building. When the autopsy was performed, he did it by himself. As of last night the shooter's body had not yet been claimed by anybody.
BERMAN: It's fascinating. That level of concern, that level of concentration on the task there and the care for the families involved is remarkable.
Sanjay, thanks so much.
GUPTA: Thank you.
BERMAN: A had a chance to speak to one of the Pulse survivors, Jillian Amador. She told me her story. The injuries on her body, they will heal, but the emotional scars, she knows they may never go away.
BERMAN: Jillian, what have these last few days been like for you? JILLIAN AMADOR, ORLANDO SHOOTING SURVIVOR: They've been surreal.
Feels like I'm not -- it's not real basically. It feels like a dream, I'm in denial. It's been terrible.
BERMAN: Denial. Denial about what?
AMADOR: Like that that really happened here where I'm from and that so many lives have been lost. It's crazy.
BERMAN: It's hard. You were hurt on your arm and your knees. Can I see?
AMADOR: Yeah. My hand -- there was glass shards. They're still in there. My arm, both my knees.
BERMAN: How long will it take for the glass to come out?
AMADOR: They said it's going to reject by itself.
BERMAN: So you were in the club. Were you there with friends?
AMADOR: Yes, I was there with friends.
BERMAN: How are they doing?
AMADOR: They all made it out. Everyone is good.
BERMAN: That's wonderful news given what happened. You were there with friends. And you didn't get shot. It's glass. What happened?
AMADOR: I was in the main bar dancing and drinking with my friends, and then all of a sudden we hear these shots that sound like fireworks. We thought it was fake so the music hadn't stopped. So we kind of look around, everyone is still dancing and the music is still playing, so we're like, OK, and then, all of a sudden, it just keeps going back to back to back and I just see people dropping. I'm not sure if anybody had been shot or they're dropping because they were scared. So my initial reaction was to drop to the floor to dodge any type of bullets that were coming through. So that's how I'm assuming I got the glass on my arm and then all I was thinking while I was on the floor was if I get up, I can die. I'll get shot in the back or if I stay down, I might also get shot. So I think there was a break. There was a lot of come motion, people screaming, people crying. There was a break and I started to run. Everybody was running. I remember there was a girl laying next to me with a green shirt, and I just -- it was like a flight or fight and I just ran until I couldn't run anymore. Friends have told me that I went out the side bar area door, but to be honest with you, I don't even know where I exited or what I passed or anything like that.
[11:30:14] BERMAN: So you got out pretty much right away after it started?