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Violent Tornado Slams Missouri's Capital Overnight; "American Taliban" Fighter Released From Prison After 17 Years; Wild Chase Involving Stolen R.V. Injures Two Dogs. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 23, 2019 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: -- kind of a watershed year for legislation. You guys talked about it in the last hour.

But you've had signature pieces, including the War of Powers Act, which was a -- which was done over his objection, but Republicans and Democrats worked together to get it done.

So there really is no precedent for government stopping doing their work and going to total gridlock, and a president saying I won't work with you until you stop investigating me. It -- you know, there's nothing in the Constitution that anticipated that or set it up as in the president has that kind of authority. He just doesn't.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The president changes his mind, so --


CAMEROTA: -- it's possible that today he'll feel differently and that some infrastructure things -- since they both want it. I mean, this is the -- this is the crazy irony of all this. Both sides want this one. The American public wants this.


CAMEROTA: This one's a no-brainer.

LOCKHART: Yes. Listen, the president ran on infrastructure. He even said yesterday that this is what I'm good at. But it's the White House that's been throwing cold water on infrastructure.

All of the sudden, they're worried about the deficit after a -- you know, what -- a tax cut that will blow a $10 trillion hole in that deficit that gives us $1 trillion a year. But now, they're worried about that. It appears it was a campaign promise that had no -- they have no interest in fulfilling.

And, again, he went into this yesterday with no intention of discussing infrastructure. But that's an issue that I think will be powerful for Democrats and will be very difficult for Republicans running for reelection in the Senate and the House, which is --

You know, everybody sees crumbling infrastructure around them and somehow, the Republicans are going to have to explain in their election that well, no, we're not fixing that bridge because the Democrats are being mean to the president. And when they stop being mean, we'll fix that bridge.

I don't -- I don't really like that hand.

CAMEROTA: Joe Lockhart, thank you for the history lesson.

LOCKHART: All right.

CAMEROTA: Great to talk to you -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Missouri hit by multiple tornadoes. The state capital taking a direct hit by one overnight and we are beginning to see the extent of the damage now that the sun is coming up.

We'll bring you the latest, next.


[07:36:32] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CAMEROTA: We do have breaking news for you right now because we're getting our first pictures of the catastrophic tornado damage in Missouri's capital, Jefferson City.

Take a look at your screen. You can see an entire side of an apartment building that has been torn off and all of the debris. You can see a tree snapped in half there.

Joining us on the phone now from Jefferson City is Missouri's governor, Mike Parson. He rode out the tornado at the governor's mansion in that city.

Good morning, Governor. Thank you so much for being with us. What was your night like?

GOV. MIKE PARSON (R), MISSOURI (via telephone): Thank you. Well, it's been a long night, needless to say, but lot longer a night for a lot of emergency crews and people that's been out here all night trying to just make sure we're keeping safe. And thank goodness we didn't have any fatalities was the good news.

CAMEROTA: That is remarkable. I mean, just really what a blessed bit of news that we can report that you say that there's no fatalities because there were three fatalities 150 miles southwest of where you are in Golden City.

And so, have you been able to get out and look at what Jefferson City looks like this morning?

PARSON: (Audio difficulty).

CAMEROTA: Yes. Obviously, we're having a hard time with your audio because -- sorry, Governor. The -- obviously, communications are really challenged this morning given the state of Jefferson City.

But tell me again, have you been able to see what it looks like?

PARSON: (INAUDIBLE) out in the town of Jefferson City right now were headed across the state of Missouri to where other areas were hit last night also.

CAMEROTA: And describe it to us. We understand that Lincoln University in Jefferson City was really badly hit. So can you describe what you're seeing?

PARSON: Yes. I mean, you just have vehicles all over the roadways, trees are down, an 18-wheeler turned on its side, (INAUDIBLE). A lot of people there last night. A lot of damage to those areas.

But it's just a strip coming through here has just devastated and just lots of damage. Debris everywhere you look.

CAMEROTA: Was the state Capitol damaged?

PARSON: It was not. As far as we know right now, we had several state buildings that did have damage, but the Capitol and the mansion seems to be alright this morning.

There's a dealership here. The majority of the car dealership -- the building itself is down. Power lines are down right now. There's just a lot of devastation here right now.

CAMEROTA: We understand that nine people are possibly in the hospital at this hour. At least that's the last number that we got probably an hour and a half ago. Do you have an update on injuries?

PARSON: Yes, we do. We just received that this morning. There was probably about 20 people that were treated last night that we know of at this point. We assume there will be more people with injuries this morning.

Again, the three fatalities is all we know in the state right now down in Carl Junction. But we were very fortunate last night that we didn't have more fatalities than what we've had.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. And so, the 20 people who were treated, do you have a sense of what their injuries were and if they were all from one neighborhood?

PARSON: Yes. You know, they were strung out through quite a -- through the tornado swath that come through. I mean, it's not just one neighborhood. It was strung out there through quite a bit of an area.

But, you know, I don't think any serious things. I think most people were treated and released that I know. But again, we're just getting all this information constantly this morning as it gets daylight here and we're seeing what damage is there and see what people are injured.

[07:40:03] CAMEROTA: Yes. No, we know these are early hours, obviously, and we really appreciate you giving us the information to the best of your knowledge. Things keep changing.

We had an opportunity to speak at 6:00 a.m. our time, 5:00 a.m. your time, to a truck driver who was bringing 44,000 pounds worth of soda pop to the location and he said that he watched the tornado come towards him.

He was just -- by the time he got the text alert, he said it was just -- he was just upon the tornado. And he said his windshield exploded and it picked the truck up -- all of those -- all of that tonnage -- and flipped it on its side. And you can see it flipped on its side right now on our screen for our viewers.

Are you satisfied with the alert system there in Missouri -- that it worked well enough -- because he said he got his text alert just about seconds before he was hit?

PARSON: Well, we picked it (ph) up all night long. The SEMA emergency personnel really were doing a really good job last night in Jefferson City. We were getting warnings -- multiple warnings prior to the tornado hitting.

So I think the warnings were out there. I think they did a great job with that.

And just, unfortunately, it just depends when you get those, but I think the warning system worked fine. You just had a tornado come through and it come through quick, but we had an opportunity to know it was coming also.

So I think, thank goodness, that's why we didn't have any fatalities here in Jefferson City last night and why we didn't have more injuries. I think people were well aware of what was taking place here.


Governor, are you asking the White House or Washington for any federal assistance with this?

PARSON: You know, we're going to analyze that this morning. We're going to -- we're going to meet here again probably around 8:00 this morning. Right now, we're just assessing to see what the damage is. But it's -- I'm sure we will be.

You know, two days earlier, I did a declaration emergency just in case because we have so much flooding right now in the state and we knew these storms were coming in. So we made sure everybody was a little prepared a couple of days ahead of time in case this happened, which we were naturally hoping it didn't. But thank goodness we did that a couple of days early to make sure people were somewhat prepared.


PARSON: And we -- and the other -- and the other thing I think is important, too, that we also have the Guard on standby if we need them to come in and secure to do their part. We're going to get all the resources we can to these local communities.

CAMEROTA: Well, Gov. Mike Parson, we really appreciate you talking to us and giving us your latest information this morning. We're thinking of you and everyone in Missouri this morning. Thank you.

PARSON: Thank you very much for that. I appreciate it.


All right.

Breaking overnight, the man known as the "American Taliban" walked out of prison, now a free man. We have the breaking details, next.


[07:46:49] BERMAN: Breaking overnight, the first U.S.-born detainee in the war on terror is now a free man. John Walker Lindh, the so- called "American Taliban," was captured in Afghanistan fighting for the enemy after September 11th. This morning, he was released from federal prison in Indiana after serving 17 years of a 20-year sentence.

Our Barbara Starr has more.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's an American citizen, right?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Now, you are a prisoner.

LINDH: All right.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was in this exclusive CNN video that America first saw John Walker Lindh, a then-20-year old from California once known as the "American Taliban."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What injuries do you have?

LINDH: I have a bullet in my leg and several shrapnel wounds.

STARR (voice-over): Now, Lindh is a free man after serving 17 years for fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan where he was even introduced to Osama bin Laden.

Taliban fighters stormed the compound where Lindh was being held and claimed the first American casualty in the global war on terror, Johnny Michael Spann, an undercover CIA officer who had interrogated Lindh.

Lindh is now being released three years early for likely, good behavior, but there will be restrictions on his freedom. MITCHELL SILBER, FORMER INTELLIGENCE ANALYSIS DIRECTOR, NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT: He won't be able to access social media on his own, he won't be able to have his own e-mail address, and he probably will have some limitations in terms of even who he might be able to meet with.

What he won't have any restrictions on is what he can say and doing media. So it's likely that he'll be out there in the public domain, potentially even espousing his same pro-al Qaeda beliefs that got him arrested to begin with.

STARR (voice-over): Documents from the National Counterterrorism Center obtained by "Foreign Policy" magazine say Lindh "...continued to advocate for global Jihad and to write and translate violent extremist texts."

And in this U.S. Bureau of Prisons document, Lindh wrote to his father that he was "not interested in renouncing my beliefs."

Those views are what concerns Mike Spann's father, Johnny, who petitioned federal court this week to investigate.

JOHNNY SPANN, FATHER OF MIKE SPANN: We need to find out for sure is this guy still the same al Qaeda member that we put in jail? If he's still the al Qaeda member we put in jail then we need to throw the plea agreement away and do something else.

STARR (voice-over): Lindh's parents continued to claim his innocence over the years, maintaining he was too young to understand what he had gotten himself into.

MARILYN WALKER, MOTHER OF JOHN WALKER LINDH: It's been exceedingly hard for us to think that most of the citizenry of this country believes that your son -- your child is a terrorist. And it's a -- it's a difficult moniker to -- you know, to remove.

STARR (voice-over): Lindh will now be on a 3-year term of supervised release. He will live in Virginia, subject to the direction of his probation officer.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


BERMAN: You know, again, it's a moment in history. Twenty years ago when this was all happening, it seemed like such a long time --

CAMEROTA: It sure did.

BERMAN: -- but that time is now.

[07:50:00] CAMEROTA: That is incredible.

All right. Meanwhile, our politicians do not agree on much, but the one thing they've always agreed on is the need to fix our nation's infrastructure. So what's the problem? John Avlon has our reality check. We need some reality, John.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, we need some reality on this one because it's looking like it's never actually going to be infrastructure week in the Trump era. And that's genuinely a damn shame because if there's one big ticket item that could command bipartisan support in our hyperpartisan time, it's this.

After all, both parties campaigned on infrastructure in 2016 with Trump proposing a $1 trillion plan, twice Hillary Clinton's, paid for with tax credits rather than tax hikes.

And it's one of the few policy issues he's got the experience to lead on. The man's a builder. He's done public-private partnerships in the past.

And, Trump could overcome conservative objections to big public works projects while corralling Democrats' support despite all the bad blood.

And that's certainly the way things seemed just last month when Chuck and Nancy came by the White House for a surprisingly civil and constructive meeting. They agreed in principle on a $2 trillion plan -- a number, reportedly, Trump actually raised above the initial price tag because the larger topline number sounded bigger and better.

But there was no agreement on how to pay for it so they agreed to meet again. But yesterday's follow-up meeting quickly degenerated to a presidential tantrum.

So, this is Lucy and the football infrastructure edition.

We should know better. There's a ready that infrastructure weeks become a punchline for this administration because there's been a pattern of the president's self-inflicted scandals stepping all over his administration's proposals.

"Washington Post's" J.M. Rieger does us all a service by listing the times team Trump's tried to launch infrastructure week to no avail.

It goes back to May of 2017 when Transportation Sec. Elaine Chao promised a $1 trillion plan. But just a few hours later, Trump got exposed for sharing highly classified intelligence with Russian officials.

So, June 5th, they decided to get back on the horse with the first official infrastructure week kicked off, incidentally, without a plan. But then, James Comey appeared before Congress and accused Trump of lying. Trump returned fire and no plan emerged.

On August 15th, President Trump announced an executive order to cut red tape from the infrastructure approval process. But you probably remember that press conference as the time Trump declared there were good people on both sides in the deadly Charlottesville rally.

To date, we've seen seven failed infrastructure rollouts in all. Seven opportunities to govern in the national interest squandered by self-inflicted scandals and petty hyperpartisan politics.

It's a lost opportunity for the presidency and the country because this is an idea whose time has come. America's infrastructure is aging and outdated. It's vulnerable to manmade and natural disasters. It's not befitting a great nation.

Now, when Obama put forward a modest infrastructure plan in 2011 -- $50 billion from transportation investment, $10 billion to seed capital for a public-private infrastructure bank -- ruling Senate Republicans derailed it despite having supported similar initiatives in the past. But, Trump can wrangle those Republicans now.

And, yes, while some Democrats would no doubt argue against passing a bill to deprive the president of a political win, Democratic leadership had already agreed in principle.

But once again, we see an idea with strong public support. A political and economic win-win being derailed by stupid partisanship and sandbox politics.

And that's your reality check.

BERMAN: You calling him the boy who cried infrastructure week? Is that what's going on here?

AVLON: That's the least popular children's story, but I --

BERMAN: Exactly. Helps the kids go to sleep.

John, thank you very much.

A national outpouring of concern for two dogs. You can see one of them jumping out of this R.V. during a police chase. Everyone wants to know how are they doing this morning. We have an update for you, next.


[07:57:41] BERMAN: So, how are the dogs? That is what everyone wants to know. How are the dogs?

It's all about this. A woman behind the wheel of a speeding R.V. led police on a wild chase through the streets of Los Angeles, seriously injuring at least one driver and the two dogs that were inside her vehicle.

CNN's Nick Watt has more.


NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An allegedly stolen R.V., a 52-year-old woman at the wheel, and two terrified dogs on board tearing through the streets of Los Angeles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, oh -- no, no, no.

WATT (voice-over): There's one crawling out the broken windshield.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see a dog right there trying to jump out. The dog -- no, don't jump out. The dog jumped out.

WATT (voice-over): Once again, in slo-mo.

This was carried on live T.V., viewers pulling for the pooches in peril.

Finally, R.V. meets tree, it's a foot chase, and there's dog number two. It looks like a 3-paw limp. Then, posing, panting behind the cuffed suspect.

That rogue R.V. left plenty of damage in its wake, a few people a little hurt, but --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel the most sad for the dog.

WATT (voice-over): -- the Mastiff mix that fell onto the highway, she's alive. Lacerations, soft tissue damage, but now in good hands.

DR. HUGHES SANDERS, VCA MCCLAVE ANIMAL HOSPITAL: She lets us clean her paw, she let us place the bandage on her paw. She's really -- she's really a sweet dog.

WATT (voice-over): Remember the incredible journey?

DISNEY'S "HOMEWARD BOUND": Pace yourself, pup. We've got a long way to go.

WATT (voice-over): It's that meets "Speed." But, animals were hurt in the making of this movie.

SANDERS: She has a rocky road for the next couple of weeks but we expect her to do very well.

WATT (voice-over): Both dogs now in the care of animal control. Next issue, figuring out who actually owns these death-defying mutts.

Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


BERMAN: So glad they're doing OK.

CAMEROTA: Me, too. I'm so glad we did an update because when you just see that video --


CAMEROTA: -- it was so scary to see what happened to that dog. That is a great update.

BERMAN: And I'm even more happy that Nick used "Speed" -- a "Speed" reference in there because Keanu Reeves -- I mean --

CAMEROTA: Yes, yes. I mean, any time you can insert Keanu Reeves into your story, you should do it.

All right. We're getting our first look at the damage after a tornado hit Missouri's capital city overnight. NEW DAY continues right now.