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Latest on New Zealand Shootings; Islamophobia and Xenophobia Debated; FBI Saw Uptick In Domestic Terror Arrests At End Of 2018; Muslim Communities Outraged In Wake Of NZ Terror Attacks; Trump: I don't See White Nationalism As A Rising Threat; Beto O'Rourke Kicks Off First Campaign Weekend In Iowa; Beto O'Rourke (D), Presidential Candidate, Speaks About Guaranteed Health Care For All. Aired 12-1p ET
Aired March 16, 2019 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Welcome back. Thanks so much for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. New details are emerging behind the horrific attacks in New Zealand that left 49 innocent people dead and we're beginning to hear from some of those caught in the line of fire including this man who just posted this heart-breaking message just moments ago.
WASSEIM ALSATI, MOSQUE ATTACK SURVIVOR: Hi guys, how are you. I'm very sorry to miss your calls and text messages. I will not be able to answer any of them. I am really tired. Okay, guys? Please pray for me and my daughter. Okay? I'm just posting this to show you that I am fully okay. It has been a pleasure to know you all. Thank you for all the support and all the help that you have given me so far. God bless you all.
WHITFIELD: We're praying for him and all of the victims. Thirty-nine victims fighting for their lives in the hospital; 11 of them in intensive care. Here is what we know about the man accused of carrying out this horrific attack. Twenty-eight-year-old Brenton Harrison Tarrant has been charged with murder and police say more charges are coming.
He made his first court appearance today where he appeared to flash a hand gesture associated with white supremacy. And right now authorities are combing through an 87-page manifesto filled with anti- Muslim rhetoric that the shooter posted just minutes before the attacks.
New Zealand's prime minister says that the gunman had planned to continue his shooting spree beyond the two mosques. CNN International Correspondent Alexandra Field is in Christchurch. Alexandra, what have you learned so far about the 49 victims?
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fredericka, really this is a community that has been left reeling. They are mourning the loss of so many killed so quickly and you've mentioned so many others fighting for their lives. These are people who ranged in age we know there are children as young as two years old who were rushed from the scenes of these mosques with injuries.
We know that those who were killed came from a number of different countries. They had made their homes in New Zealand. Some of them fleeing dangerous conditions coming to a place that they considered safe. For those who escaped with their lives, they tell us this place, that they always believed was the safest place they could be, has been changed forever.
In the mosque -- Linwood mosque in Christchurch where seven Muslims were killed, Ahmed Khan narrowly saved his own life.
AHMED KHAN, WITNESS: The guy shot at me but I dodged down. So he missed me. And then I ran back to the mosque and tell everyone to go to the ground because there was someone with a gun that will shoot everyone. And then everyone went to the ground and he start shooting through the windows.
FIELD: Inside Khan found a friend bleeding.
KHAN: I knew that he was shot on the right arm. So I went there and hold him and tell him -- he was asking for some water. I said calm down; the police is here now and stuff. And then the gunman come through the window again and shot him when I was holding him in the head and he was dead.
FIELD: Khan came to New Zealand 12 years ago seeking safety, a refugee from Kabul, Afghanistan. His Afghan uncle among those killed in the gunfire on New Zealand's darkest day at a second mosque just minutes away.
FIELD: Khaled al-Shdokhi was inside Al Moore mosque when the bullets began flying there.
KHALED AL-SHDOKHI, WITNESS: Some of my friends died yesterday, some of them this morning and one of my friends is still in the hospital because he got one shot in his leg.
FIELD: Al-Shdokhi, a Ph.D. candidate from Saudi Arabia says he recently told his Saudi friends he thought New Zealand was the safest place on earth. To him, it was.
AL-SHDOKHI: I saw the bullets on the wall, the man came inside and we couldn't do anything. I was sitting next to the window. I smashed the window and escaped through the window and many people ran after me and we went to the back yard.
FIELD: Sue Harrison heard the shots ring out across the yard.
SUE HARRISON, WITNESS: We got in the stairwell and started hunkering down with panic feeling and just describing the sound.
FIELD: Finally there was silence. HARRISON: After the gunshots had stopped for a few minutes, we peeked
out the window and we could see people in the back yard of the mosque sort of milling around and they were upright, they weren't running, they weren't panicking. They were just sort of walking around. There was wailing going on.
FIELD: Harrison hasn't been allowed back to the apartment. The area around the mosque is still a crime scene. It is where 41 people who couldn't get out died inside.
And Fred, in the days to come, we'll be hearing more of the stories not just of what happened inside those mosques, but of the lives that have been cut short. The prime minister here in New Zealand says authorities are working to return the bodies of the victims of this terror attack to their families as quickly as possible.
WHITFIELD: Alexandra Field, thank you so much in Christchurch.
And right now as many of the victims fight for their lives in the hospital, authorities are working around the clock to find answers. One item at the center of the investigation, that manifesto, packed with hate and xenophobic rhetoric. The shooter posted it just minutes before the attack and CNN's Senior National Correspondent, Alex Marquardt has more.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a diatribe filled with hate, anger and vows of revenge. Eighty-seven neatly formatted pages of ranting about immigrants, minorities and Muslims. More than 16,000 words that the 28-year-old who says his name is Brenton Tarrant posted on social media shortly before the attack.
The attacker repeatedly called immigrants invaders and says immigration must be crushed and like other white nationalists, he falsely claims there's a genocide of white people underway.
GROUP CHANT: Jews will not replace us.
MARQUARDT: It's the kind of toxic message heard in Charlottesville and from the Charleston massacre shooter Dyllan Roof. The New Zealand shooter references Roof's attack in his manifesto. Norwegian mass murderer, Anders Breivik who killed 77, mostly children, is held up as inspiration.
JACINDA ARDERN, NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER: These are people who I would describe as having extremist views, that have absolutely no place in New Zealand and in fact have no place in the world.
MAARQUARDT: The U.S. President is also referenced once, calling President Trump a symbol of renewed white identity, though he says he didn't consider Trump a leader. The suspect claims to not belong to any organization and decided to carry out the shooting which he admits is terrorism, on his own. An attack he says that he had been thinking about for two years and chose the targeted mosques three months ago. He expresses no remorse for those he planned to kill even the children. With white nationalism growing in the U.S. and Europe, the gunman
points to a number of global events that fueled his hate including a terror attack in Sweden's capital in 2017 when an asylum seeker plowed a truck into a crowd killing five.
New Zealand is usually such a calm and peaceful place and the gunman said that's why he chose to carry out this attack there, to show that nowhere is safe. As for the choice of the weapons used in this slaughter, guns, he said it was made specifically to rile up the debate here in this country, the United States, over the Second Amendment. Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.
WHITFIELD: Well let's talke further now. With me now is Dr. Qanta Ahmed. She is a newspaper columnist, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a Muslim. Dr. Qanta Amhed, thank you so much for being with me. So you're working on a column for "The Spectator" on these mosque attacks in New Zealand. And you say it was not the result of Islamiphobia(ph), because that's kind of the terminology most people are accustomed to, but instead you're calling this anti- Muslim xenophobia. Explain the difference and what do you mean.
QANTA AHMED, NEWSPAPER COLUMNIST: First of all, Fred, let me say to everybody in New Zealand a deep condolences. Every Muslim is saying, "( speaking foreign language). "We belong to God and to him we return." This is a devastating attack. This is an act of lethal diabolical anti-Muslim xenophobia. And it's contemptible. There is no question about it, lives were lost and the fear is that this could be repeated.
The term that is being used very widely and without clarity is the term called Islamophobia, but it has a dual meaning that academics have been debating. Islamophobia actually means the refusal to scrutinize or examine Islam or Islamism, Islamist institutions. Muslims and Christians in Pakistan when they challenged Islamism, when they defended Asia Bibi, the Christian woman that was on death row were killed, assassinated for their purported Islamophobia.
So we must distinguish lethal, diabolical, anti-Muslim xenophobia as is happening in Christchurch from a Islamophobia. Why should we do that? Because, if we do not, we empower Islamists who wish to propagate the myth, the same myth that the white supremacists gunman wants us to believe that we are under siege in the secular world, that we are victims in the west. And it's not just those that have animus toward Muslims. We already see in Turkey -- the president of turkey Erdogan, Muslim brotherhood Islamist Godfather, exploiting this attack, taking advantage of this attack, telling his supporters on an election campaign yesterday to watch the live feed of the gunman. Understand anti-Muslim hostility in the west is approaching lethality.
We want to reject that. So it is very important to distinguish lethal xenophobia from Islamophobia, the refusal to examine all the ideology that leads to go Jihadism. Clearly these Muslims were victims. Clearly they were appalling and innocent tragedies which the decency and nobility of New Zealand is coping with now. Muslim families are mending and healing ut this is very different than the meaning of Islamaphobai.
WHITFIELD: And you alluded to the concerns about the exploitation of this attack -- the live streaming and the attacker wearing a body cam.
AHMED: Desperate. Yes.
WHITFIELD: People who were trying to get their hands on seeing the images that have been taken down -- taken down universally on -- on the web. What's your concern about how people would use this to exploit the attack.
AHMED: Yes, Fred not only what you're describing, not only what you're describing as this could inspire all kinds of other supremacists. This is an appalling recruiting video for Jihadists but worse, this is a seed to tell people, tell the frightened public that we are going to fragment, that we are going to divide and our magnificent societies like we have here in the United States, or we have in New Zealand, or in my native Britain, we cannot allow these kinds of splits to occur in society because the entire intent of the perpetrator in this case a white supremacist/nationalist -- in my opinion international terrorist, is to separate us.
And that advantage is only those who exploit the narrative. Erdogan is a good example. In this country in the United States, we have Islamists mother -- Muslim brotherhood front groups that are claiming Muslims are victims. We just saw a few weeks ago the exploitation of this narrative in the trivialization of anti-Semitism.
Anti-Semitism occurred in Congress and the reaction was when there was outrage that this was somehow hate directed at a Muslim who is spewing Islamist ideology. So we have to be extremely clear about the language, clear about the narrative because that controls.
WHITFIELD: You're talking about Representative Omar as -- yes, you're talking about Representative Omar as an example of that.
WHITFIELD: So then you've got this manifesto, 87 pages investigators continue to pour over right now.
WHITFIELD: The accused shooter made reference to President Trump and he appears to be motivated by white supremacy. The president says he doesn't see white nationalism as a threat. He was asked about it whether it was on the rise. He said not necessarily. So during his veto signing this is when the question came about and this is how the president handled hit.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're on track for a million illegal aliens to rush our borders. People hate the word invasion, but that's what it is. It is an invasion of drugs and criminals and people. (END VIDEO)
WHITFIELD: This was the language -- that is a better example of the language that the president used when he was justifying the veto for the national emergency. What concerns you about the way in which the president handled the question of whether nationalism -- white nationalism was on the rise and you who he handled the justification for the national emergency, his word choice.
AHMED: So I think first of all the word choice is poor. Second of all I think the timing is much worse. I did see his very categorical condemnation of the events in New Zealand and that was gratifying. And I also feel that he needs to do the same about white supremacy, not only the United States, but globally. There is nothing -- the president has no responsibility if a fanatic mentions him in a manifesto. A fanatic could equally mention me. So I don't think that is his responsibility. But, yes, I would like to see President Trump condemn all forms of lethal bigotry.
That is very important. And one thing the viewers should know, this president and this administration is often castigated as islamiphobic(ph), but I move in the Muslim word, in Egypt, in Oman, in Jordan, in Iraqi Kurdistan where this president is beloved.
This president and the Republican Party going back to George Bush is very dearly held. Today is the anniversary of (inaudible) the massacre of 180,000 Kurds at the hands of Saddam Hussein. That only change would because of a republican president. So it is very important not to lose so much perspective that we start believing our entire government is Islamophobic. That is not the case.
WHITFIELD: Dr. Qanta Ahmed, always a pleasure to have you. Thank you so much.
Still ahead, President Trump vetoes that bill nullifying his national emergency declaration. This after a dozen republicans break ranks, side with democrats to express their disapproval. Is this a turning point in the GOP allegiance to the president or just a onetime rebuke?
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. President Trump is once again doubling down on his campaign promise for a border wall -- excuse me. He has now signed the first veto of his presidency to protect his national emergency declaration. After the House and Senate passed a resolution to block it. President Trump says that move puts countless Americans in danger, so it is his duty to veto it.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is definitely a national emergency. Rarely have we had such a national emergency. Therefore to defend the safety and security of all Americans, I will be signing and issuing a formal veto of this reckless resolution. Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution, and I have the duty to veto it, and I'm very proud to veto it.
WHITFIELD: Our CNN political commentator is joining me right now. Former GOP Congressional Communications Director and conservative host of the "Honest Speaking with Tara" -- did I say it right, podcast. Tara Setmayer, good to see you. And also conservative host for the "Ben Ferguson Show," Ben Ferguson. Good to see you both.
BEN FERGUSON, "BEN FERGUSON SHOW": Good to see you.
WHITFIELD: Take a look, these are the 12 republicans who broke with the president on the national emergency declaration. So Ben, the president says they will get an ear full from their constituents. But what statement are these republicans saying to the president and to their constituents?
FERGUSON: Look, some of them will, some of them won't. Only one of the people that voted in this 12 is actually up for re-election, which is one of the reasons why I think many of them voted the way they did. I also respect the position of many of these republicans including Marco Rubio who said I support the president on the border wall. I believe there is a crisis at the border. But what I do know is that precedent is everything in Congress and I do not trust that another president down the road might abuse this power to declare whatever they want to in an emergency.
And so I don't see this much as a rebuke as it is people are coming from different perspectives here where they say, look, we've been around Congress for awhile. This could open Pandora's Box. This could be abused even though we support what you're trying to do Mr. President, we've got to figure out a different way to get there. I think this is why we have different branches of government. I think this is the reason why we have a debate. And so several of these people that voted against this all said in their statements they put out -- Roger Wicker from Mississippi another one.
I believe there's a border issue. I believe it's an emergency but we have to do it in a different way and I cannot allow this way to be the way we fix this and I respect his opinion on this one.
WHITFIELD: And then Tara, you know the president said he also has a message to those Senators who voted in favor of the declaration. He says when they return to their states people will love them even more. So, you know, the president is very good at finding the upside to all of this but then what do you think? Is this the beginning of some sort of wave when you have 12 republicans who said, "We don't like the method of this emergency declaration?"
TARA SETMAYER OF "HONESTLY SPEAKING WITH TARA": Well I would hope so. The fact that only 12 republicans voted against this resolution saying that the president cannot take funds from military construction to build the border wall.
WHITFIELD: Money that's already been allocated by Congress. SETMAYER: Yes, this is an Article 1 issue and I'm -- I'm really disappointed that it was only 12 that -- that were willing to stand up for the Constitution here. I agree with Ben, and I'm glad to hear that Ben is not trying to justify this executive overreach. I'm glad we don't have to argue about that today Ben because he's right. What Marco Rubio said, what others said, this is a terrible precedent. Where does it stop? What if a democrat president comes in and decides gun control or climate change or things like that are national emergencies, we can't water that meaning down.
And that's what President Trump is doing. He's very irresponsible with his words, not only on this issue but many others as we well know. So when I listen to him during this veto ceremony going on and on saying it was his duty to veto this and it was putting Americans in danger, that kind of demagogue rhetoric on this issue is what's actually dangerous. He's putting out misinformation about what's actually going on down there are the border. Are there problems? Yes.
FERGUSON: That's just not true.
SETMAYER: Yes. Is this a national emergency unlike anything we've ever seen? I guess he forgot about Pearl Harbor, 9/11.
SETMAYER: I mean its ridiculous that the president is using that to gin people up in fear and instead...
FERGUSON: It's not -- it's not gin people -- let me jump in here.
SETMAYER: What he's doing is he's masking over the fact that what's he's doing is not...
FERGUSON: It's not ginning people up.
SETMAYER: ... constitutional.
FERGUSON: It's not ginning people up.
SETMAYER: Yes it is, Ben, and you know it. It's fear mongering and demagoguery.
FERGUSON: OK, I heard what you said. It's not demagoguery, it's not fear mongering if you sit down and talk to people that have been affected by crimes that have been committed by people -- let me finish.
SETMAYER: Don't even go there.
WHITFIELD: Well he used a word, the word "invasion"
FERGUSON: I can go there.
SETMAYER: Don't -- don't insult me with that Ben.
FERGUSON: I can go there. I can go there. I know this. I'm in Texas.
SETMAYER: Do not insult me with that Ben. Do not insult me with that Ben because I dealt with this for many years.
FERGUSON: I'm not insulting you. I'm in Texas. So listen to what I'm saying. Tara -- Tara. You're not in Texas.
SETMAYER: I wasn't aware I was a radio host and worked on Capitol Hill with this issue.
FERGUSON: You haven't sat down with these people.
WHITFIELD: OK, so Ben -- the word choice...
SETMAYER: Ben I worked on this issue for seven years, don't you dare...
FERGUSON: Talk to a mother who had a child who had been killed by an illegal immigrant.
SETMAYER: ...patronize me on this.
FERGUSON: I'm not patronizing you.
You won't let me speak and I'm going to explain the point the president is making.
SETMAYER: I'm not going to let you get away with that. I'm not going to let you explain without -- explain without trying to personally insult me and what I have done.
WHITFIELD: So one important issue...
FERGUSON: I'm not insulting you. You said it was demagoguery.
WHITFIELD: One at a time -- one at a time because both of you are making excellent points but we can't hear both of you when you're talking simultaneously. So one at a time, Ben.
FERGUSON: OK, so let me say this, Tara, it's not demagoguery when you have 70 -- listen to what I'm actually saying. We can debate this but you said it's demagoguery...
SETMAYER: It is.
FERGUSON: ... and it's somehow wrong when the president is talking about the facts. The facts are ...
SETMAYER: Those aren't facts.
FERGUSON: The facts are you had more than 70,000 illegal crossings last month alone. That is a national crisis at the border.
SETMAYER: But he didn't use the terminology illegal crossings. He said invasion.
FERGUSON: Let me -- let me finish what I'm saying. It's illegal immigrants, whatever you want to call it. I believe it is an invasion. If you live in Houston, if you're here where I am and you know it's going on and you see it every day and you see the crime reports and you sit down with mothers who have their children killed by illegal immigrants...
SETMAYER: State Department, the FBI...
FERGUSON: ... and MS13 gang members...
SETMAYER: ... don't believe it's a crisis.
FERGUSON: It is an absolute crisis. It is a crisis. Come down here.
SETMAYER: The people who work on this issue who are professionals...
FERGUSON: I will sit down with you with a ton of people who have been affected by this.
SETMAYER: ... not commentators, do not believe it's a national crisis that warrants this type of ...
WHITFIELD: I will see that...
FERGUSON: ... Washington. That's because you're in Washington.
WHITFIELD: ... on the word choice and the method but the bottom line is there were republicans who broke ranks with the president to say we don't necessarily agree with your method of declaring a national emergency.
SETMAYER: Right. Thank God for them.
WHITFIELD: OK. You know and so it's not over yet.
FERGUSON: And they agree there's a crisis.
WHITFIELD: It's not over yet. It's not over yet because there still might be a vote on trying to override the veto later on this month. It's really right around the corner but when the president looks at the landscape of support among the GOP in particular, it's not just this declaration, this emergency declaration in which he's getting a message, he also got another message from the Senate when it approved ending military, you know, support to Saudi Arabia in the battle against Yemen.
So when the president looks at what's happening, whether he has full support like he has, you know, from republicans on the Hill or whether some of it seems to be chipped away. Tara, what does the president need to be thinking -- how does he interpret kind of a breakaway from some republican support?
SETMAYER: Yes, I mean obviously he sees it as a loyalty pledge to him. He doesn't see it as the proper use of Congressional power, a balance of a co-equal branch of government's power and what their responsibility is. He just sees it as a loyalty pledge to him only. He is very myoptic on this. And we saw that with the threats that he offers to other republicans. If you do this, it's against me. Not necessarily what's in the best interest of the country or what's in the best interest of the way that the Constitution works and the powers that are granted to the Senate and the House.
So this is the challenge that we've seen. There are so many republicans who know that what this president is doing is not in line with not even what conservatives or republicans believe but they know that it's against what the Constitution is supposed to -- what it's set up.
So to see some step forward and finally say enough is enough, that's great. But we need to see more of them and unfortunately a lot are up for reelection. We saw what happened with Tom Tillis who was a complete hypocrite on this issue because he's being threatened with a primary coming up in 2020 so he flipped and joined forces with the president even though he knows and made a case in an op-ed for why what the president was doing with the national emergency was unjustifiable.
WHITFIELD: So Ben, does it mean the president is going to be thinking, this might be as easy as the first couple years. It looks like that I'm going to have some battles within the family that I have to -- to deal with.
FERGUSON: He has always had these battles and a lot of them are retiring. Lamar Alexander is a great example of that because he couldn't be reelected in Tennessee. . The president is going to stand up and do what he thinks is right and the reality is every president since Jimmy Carter has been very steadfast and firm standing next to an ally in Saudi Arabia and what -- what he is doing and what the president has been doing when this issue of Yemen, giving technical support and strategic support, not having troops on the ground is something the president has a right to do and every other president since Carter has also been doing.
The only difference now is there are people in Washington who don't actually listen to their constituents because they are blinded by their pure hatred and obsession with trying to destroy Donald Trump because they stand he's a (barrier)(ph). And I think part of it -- Tara, you can't stand the president. Every time we talk about this. Its very clear that you have personal animosity towards the president.
SETMAYER: I have justifiable reasons.
FERGUSON: Which is what these congressmen and Senators are doing as well.
SETMAYER: I have animosity toward what he's doing as an embarrassment in the White House and what he's doing acting like a dictator ...
FERGUSON: And this is what I'm talking about.
SETMAYER: ... and you used to when -- when Barak Obama did that.
FERGUSON: The president does his job and you guys come after him.
SETMAYER: I'm not the hypocrite here. It has nothing to do with him personally, I'm looking at the bigger picture.
WHITFIELD: We'll leave this here. We'll have you back.
FERGUSON: Thank you Fred.
WHITFIELD: There's so much more to talk about. Tara Setmayer, Ben Furguson. We'll leave it right there for now. Thank you. And we will be right back.
FREDRICKA: Even after 49 people were brutally murdered in an terrifying anti-Muslim attack. President Trump says he still doesn't think the presence of white nationalism is growing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you see today white nationalism as rising threat around the world?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't really. I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. I guess, if you look at what happened in New Zealand perhaps that's a case. I don't know enough about it yet. They are just learning about the person and the people involved. But it is certainly a terrible thing. Terrible thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[12:35:07] FREDRICKA: New data from the FBI suggests domestic terror arrests have been on the rise in recent months. Let's bring in Josh Campbell, former Supervisory Special Agent with the FBI. Good to see you Josh.
JOSH CAMPBELL, FORMER FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: Hi Fred.
FREDRICKA: So what more can you tell us about the recent uptick?
CAMPBELL: Yes, we're getting some new data from the FBI and first it's important to point out a caveat in what this information doesn't tell us. Now, what the FBI is essentially saying and I think with a graphic there is look at some of the numbers is looking at the last quarter, last three months of 2018, they saw what they are calling an increase in volume in arrests with approximately 25 domestic terrorism arrests in the last three months. And again, if you look at the past couple years that we can't yet draw a line as an annual increase, but as a snapshot in time as of today the most recent available information, they do see an increase in the arrests that spend across the ideological spectrum. One thing that's interesting that it tells us is that although so much focus is on international terrorism, groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda, the FBI very much has a robust component both at headquarters and in the field that's focused on stopping these domestic terrorism threats that we've seen similar to what's going on right now in New Zealand, Fred.
FREDRICKA: And so what are authorities doing to mitigate domestic terror threats?
CAMPBELL: So we're getting some new information from the FBI as far as their response to the attacks in New Zealand, an official was telling us that law enforcement officers are going through their intelligence databases looking for any possible information that might help authorities in New Zealand trying to identify in addition any U.S. based connections to that attack. And then also they're going through these systems looking for known subjects who might be in a position or prone to possible retaliatory attacks.
So again, it's an all hands on deck approach here for the FBI. We're also told from a law enforcement official that agents in the field are being directed to proactively go out and talk to their human informants, people who are on the books reporting information and asking about anything that might help officials in New Zealand as well as here protecting the homeland. And lastly we're told that officials are closely lashed up with authorities over in New Zealand. They're part of an intelligence sharing arrangement that share information already daily, but really trying to ensure if there is anything that the U.S. Government knows, and anything the FBI knows domestically, that that information is quickly shared with authorities over in New Zealand both to protect them and also the homeland here. Fred.
FREDRICKA: All right, Josh Campbell, thank you so much.
FREDRICKA: And we'll be right back.
[12:41:35] FREDRICKA: The terror attack in New Zealand has left Muslims around the world shaken and angry. Some of whom who were already concerned about what they call an anti-Muslim sentiment.
I'm joined now by CNN.com Opinion Contributor Dean Obeidallah and Human Rights Lawyer Arsalan Iftikhar. Good to see both of you.
DEAN OBEIDALLAH, CNN.COM OPINION CONTRIBUTOR: Good to see you.
FREDRICKA: So, Dean, you recently wrote an op-ed on CNN.com and you talk about initially your feelings, you know, of disgust and heartbreak and then how that evolved into anger. Explain to me, you know, this evolution of feelings upon this horrible tragedy.
OBEIDALLAH: Sure and I just want to say first for the outpouring of support of so many people for our community on Facebook and social media, I want to say thank you. It means much more than you might realize. It meant more to me than I thought it would and I'm not even part of the New Zealand community, obviously, but for the entire community going through a challenging day to say the least.
And it was heartbreaking and disgusting and disturbing. And then that turned to anger. And the anger comes from the point that myself, not just me, others in my community have been calling for years to push back against the anti-Muslim bigotry of people on the right. Donald Trump didn't start that. He just brought it to a different level.
And so we've seen that. We've seen gyming up of hate and we've warn that these words can actually inspire people to do horrible things and these are our greatest concern. Secondly, the media card which was just quantified by University of Alabama study last year shows that incidents involving Muslims who are the bad people get about 350 percent more media coverage than when the terrorist is a non-Muslim even when they are talking my community, the Muslim American Community in this country. So we don't get the press coverage about that. Which again perhaps would have alerted authorities worldwide because we don't live in a vacuum anymore that anybody spewing white supremacy online intertwined with anti-Muslim bigotry should be watched, should be checked. And I think that is where the anger comes from then on. Some level we felt this could have been prevented if people had heard our calls for years now.
FREDRICKA: And you know, this outpouring of condemnation has been, you know, measured Arsalan in so many different ways. The President of the United States did come out, you know, with a statement and he did call the attacks monstrous and horrible. But then there has been a lot of criticism of him that he still hasn't specifically condemned the anti-Muslim motivations. How important is that for you to hear from the President?
ARSALAN IFTIKHAR, HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER: Well, Fred -- I think it's important to keep in mind again like Dean said that words matter. You know, Donald Trump once famously told Anderson Cooper on CNN that I think Islam hates us when running for the Republican Presidential nomination. And we all know that he once called for the total and complete shutdown of all Muslims entering into the United States. He was the one who started the Birther controversy against President Barack Obama, you know, with the whisper campaigns of him being some sort of crypto-Muslim and serene candidate.
And what we've seen here with this recent, you know, New Zealand Mosque massacre is that the perpetrator, the chief perpetrator was a fan of Donald Trump's. The -- you know, there was a couple years ago in 2017 in Quebec City, Quebec in Canada another Trump supporter named Alexandre Bissonnette slaughtered six innocent Muslims while they do the morning-dawn pledge or prayers and he had searched for Donald Trump 819 times on the internet and posted selfies with a make America great hat on. And you know obviously, last fall we saw the Tree of Life synagogue, Anti-Semitic Terrorism Act in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.
[12:45:03] So again, you know as a human rights lawyer, for me an attack on one house worship is an attack on all houses of worship. FREDRICKA: But I don't necessarily hear you saying, you know, that the President should be shouldering some of the blame, but you're saying, you know, it can't be overlooked that there have been these references made by people who have been carrying out terrible deeds, that they do make some reference or pledge some sort of allegiance to the President in so doing?
IFTIKHAR: Well I mean, if you look at it again you know the rise of white supremacist terrorism, you know, it has not been exclusive to attacks on mosques or synagogues. We saw the Charlottesville protests, you know, in my home state of Virginia. You know, where Donald Trump, you know, said that you know, there is blame on, quote, many sides of the issue.
And so again, it's important to keep in mind that words matter and, you know, when hateful rhetoric has become weaponized to the point where you see the mass murder attacks, you know, that is something that all people of conscience need to speak out against.
FREDRICKA: And so Dean, it may not be as far as pledge again allegiance but perhaps it's a mention of the President's name. You also wrote in "The Daily Beast" you know another piece and you say point blank and I'm quoting now, "There is no doubt Trump's failure to say any kind words about Muslims was by design. Trump understands that would likely upset his base whom he has fed a diet of anti-Muslim hate, from declaring that, Islam hates us, to calling for a total ban on Muslims coming to this country."
So further elaborate on your thoughts. And why you wrote that way?
OBEIDALLAH: Sure. Sure, I mean, Donald Trump's tweet yesterday very clearly said I stand with New Zealand. That is great sentiment. However, 49 people who were killed are all Muslims in their house of worship.
Donald Trump should have tweeted, I stand with the Muslims of the world. Or, I stand shoulder to shoulder with Muslims. That was by design Donald Trump didn't do that because Donald Trump knows his base.
He knows the GOP base in marinating in anti-Muslim hate for years. Donald Trump just let brought it to a different level. That's why in my view Donald Trump is the anti-Muslim bigot in chief. We've never seen someone offer the banned of Muslims and entire faith of coming to this country and the crowd sheared in 65 percent of GOP primary voters supported a total ban.
So him not saying any nice words about Muslims, saying I stand with them and secondly not using the words white supremacist terrorism. That's what I want to hear. He demanded Hillary Clinton and all of us say radical Islamic terrorism because you can't cure it if you don't say is it.
Well Donald Trump, if you're listening, say the words white supremacist terrorism but he won't because his playbook from 2016 was to do cozy up by with white supremacist by retweeting people with Twitter names like, white genocide and not denouncing David Duke and Jake Tapper ask him point blank on this network to do it. And of Charlottesville and the list goes on.
So it is a dangerous playbook. It's a wake up for all of us that this could be a scary, scary time to and now in 2020.
FREDRICKA: All right, Dean Obeidallah, Arsalan Iftikhar, thank you so much to both of you both. I really appreciate your candor.
OBEIDALLAH: Thanks Fred.
FREDRICKA: All right still ahead, Beto O'Rourke is running, literally, before he hits the campaign trail. And later on today the Democratic presidential contender is hitting the race course. We'll take you there live next.
[12:52:45] FREDRICKA: All right, welcome back. The latest Democrat to join the 2020 presidential race is hitting the ground running literally. Beto O'Rourke just announced this week and he is kicking off his campaign with something new.
He's running in the St. Patrick's Day 5K race in Iowa before he hits the road and travels around the state. He is not the only one else on the trail this weekend. The 2020 Democrats are keeping up with another busy weekend of campaigning.
Let's check in with CNN's Leyla Santiago in North Liberty Iowa where O'Rourke just finished up that race. So something tells me you have to have your running shoes too to keep up with covering him.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's true, he took off this morning running saying that he wanted to run a sub 10 minute mile race. He did accomplish that. And as he was running, he managed to talk to a doctor from here locally in Iowa who had a conversation with him about health care. After the fact he also discussed health care among locals here as well as reporters saying that he wants guaranteed health care for all if he is president, he wants to find the quickest surest path to get there.
But then he also admitted that there will be costs for that. So here was my followup question to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Appreciate it.
SANTIAGO: What would be the fastest surest way, path to get to health care for all guaranteed, what are you willing to give up for that?
O'ROURKE: Well, I think that becomes a discussion. I think you ensure that the perfect does not become the enemy of the good.
For example, if you could expand medicaid today in those states like Texas that refuse to do so, bring millions more into the ability to see a doctor or for their prescriptions, that's an important step in the right direction. If you can introduce Medicare especially into rural communities who only have one or two insurers competing for your business that will not only drive down costs and open up selection, but that will guarantee that people in rural America are able to get care. Those are initial steps that we have to take to get to the ultimate goal of universal guaranteed high quality health care. And then let's take those steps.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANTIAGO: So he is making a big deal about the issues in health care as well as climate change as he talks to voters here in Iowa.
[12:55:04] A lot of people really taking note that he decided to kickoff his campaign for 2020 here in the Eastern part of Iowa. He has talked about how he feels that this area was forgotten. These were counties that were won by President Obama and then later won by President Trump. So he is definitely going to places that he feels are forgotten.
Now, he has sort of become a rising star among Democrats during his race for the Senate against Ted Cruz in the midterm elections, raised $ 80 million, so a lot of people right now wondering how much money he's been able to raise in the first three days. That's something that the campaign is saying donations have come in from all 50 states but they're still not giving a number as to exactly how much he has raised. We expect him to have a few more stops here in Iowa and then he'll head to Wisconsin.
FREDRICKA: Leyla Santiago, thank you so much for keeping up. Appreciate it. And this quick up programming note for you, be sure to check out the new CNN original series "Tricky Dick" which explores the rise, fall and incredible comeback of President Richard Nixon. It airs tomorrow night 9:00 eastern right here on CNN.