WPPB

News Brief: Gilroy Shooting, Coats Leaving Administration, Trump Tweets

Jul 29, 2019
Originally published on July 29, 2019 11:14 am
Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Gilroy Garlic Festival is this annual tradition in Northern California that brings in thousands of people every year. There's a lot of food. There's music. It's the kind of summer event that is replayed in American towns across the country this time of year. This year, though, the festival in Gilroy turned into a crime scene.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Yeah, police say they responded quickly to reports of gunfire on Sunday. Here is Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SCOT SMITHEE: It's just incredibly sad and disheartening that an event that is - does so much good for our community has to suffer from a tragedy like this.

INSKEEP: Police say the unidentified gunman killed three people and injured at least 15, and then police shot and killed the gunman.

MARTIN: Reporter Erika Mahoney of member station KAZU is covering the story and joins us now. So Erika, this festival is huge, right? I used to live in Northern California. This is a big deal every year. Garlic is a big crop in Gilroy. And so they make a big party out of it. Tons of families come. I mean, what can you tell us about what we know at this point?

ERIKA MAHONEY, BYLINE: So what we know is that the shooting began at 5:41 p.m. local time here on the third and final day of the garlic festival, which is right - Northern California is 80 miles south of San Francisco.

And police say that they responded quickly to the reports of gunfire. One suspect had some sort of rifle. He was shot and killed shortly after being engaged by an officer, according to the police chief. A second suspect, a possible accomplice, was not apprehended, and police say they are unaware of what role that second person played. So at this point they are still asking witnesses for information and cellphone video, and they've even set up a hotline for people to call.

MARTIN: You - I understand you were at - you were in Gilroy. You went to this reunification center for people. These are tents that essentially are set up after something like this happens, where people can get information about loved ones or anyone missing, right?

MAHONEY: Yeah, it was a parking lot at a nearby college, Gavilan College. And actually, it was set up by the festival organizers initially as a place where the attendees could hop on buses and be shuttled back and forth. So then after the shooting happened, it became that place for families and people attending the festival could find one another, get some information. But it was very chaotic. There wasn't a lot of information going around. I did speak with a volunteer. She's been volunteering at the festival for 18 years - Marsha Struzik. She just said, you know, she felt sick to her stomach.

MARTIN: I'm sure. So, I mean, as we noted, this is the kind of festival that happens all across America during the summer - food and it's just a huge celebration. At the same time, you know, it's harrowing to go into some kind of really populated event these days. What do we know about the security setup for this?

MAHONEY: Well, of course, the police chief said he never wanted to have a press conference like this. You know, Gilroy's just south of Silicon Valley, so in recent years, it's become a bedroom community for that area. But, of course, it has deep agricultural roots. It's considered the garlic capital of the world. And, you know, the shooting happened at the annual garlic festival, which has been going on since 1979.

MARTIN: Right.

MAHONEY: So 100,000 people come here for this three-day celebration - very family-friendly. But, you know, that's not to say there wasn't security. In fact, the chief of police that there was a metal detector and bags were inspected as well.

MARTIN: All right, Erika Mahoney of member station KAZU covering this story. Thanks. We appreciate it.

MAHONEY: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: All right. One of the last members of President Trump's original national security team, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, is out.

INSKEEP: The president made that personnel announcement on Twitter, as he often does. He said Dan Coats will be leaving his post next month. The president says he plans to nominate John Ratcliffe, a Republican member of Congress from Texas and a Trump defender. Here is Ratcliffe on "Fox News Sunday" criticizing Democrats over Robert Mueller's congressional testimony.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY")

JOHN RATCLIFFE: They overplayed their hand, and they did it in front of the American people on the national television audience. And it was just a train wreck of a week for the Democrats, and it was a great week for Donald Trump because of that.

MARTIN: We've got NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre in studio this morning. Hi, Greg.

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Hey, Rachel.

MARTIN: Why is this happening now?

MYRE: Well, no specific reason. But the president and Dan Coats had a pretty rocky relationship throughout his tenure. And I think, even more broadly, just - this is a president who's gone through almost all his original national security members - secretary of state, secretary of defense, national security advisers, homeland security directors.

MARTIN: Which we should say is an exceptional number of replacements to make it, even with - even though we're now at the end of his first term.

MYRE: It is, it is. absolutely.

MARTIN: You mentioned the tension between these two - Coats and Trump. Can you give us some of the highlights?

MYRE: Yeah.

MARTIN: What were the moments?

MYRE: I think when Trump and Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader, had a summit last summer, at a press conference afterward, Trump questioned whether Russia interfered with the election. And Coats took this highly unusual step of issuing a very blunt statement saying the consensus of the intelligence community is that Russia interfered, and they're still doing it, and we're not going to stop presenting this unvarnished truth. So that really stood out.

But just this last January, Coats went on and testified on Capitol Hill after the president had said North Korea's nuclear program was no longer a threat and that the Islamic State had been defeated, and Coats contradicted him very publicly. So you didn't hear a lot from Coats, but when you did, it seemed to be shooting down something the president had recently said.

MARTIN: The DNI is a tough job, right? You are - theoretically, this is a job - you're overseeing all the other intelligence agencies. It was created after 9/11. What's his legacy - Dan Coats?

MYRE: Right. So, you know, it is this sort of funny position where you're overseeing 16 other intelligence agencies. But I think one thing he did do was shift the emphasis or was part of this communitywide effort. You know, for almost two decades, the focus has been on terror groups, al-Qaida and ISIS. And Coats has really stressed the traditional big state rivalry. He called them the big four - Russia, China, Iran, North Korea - and said the U.S. should be placing greater concentration on that.

The other thing was election security, and in fact, in one of his last acts, he appointed an election security czar, somebody who will oversee or coordinate all the government efforts heading into the 2020 balloting.

MARTIN: So Coats was also known as a guy who didn't really seek to politicize intelligence, as is the job of the DNI. Could that change with his successor, though, John Ratcliffe, who's been such a vocal defender of the president?

MYRE: Well, that's been the concern. Again, early days - he still needs to be formally nominated and confirmed. But, yes, he's seen as a highly partisan figure in his defense of Trump and his criticism of the Mueller report. Also, he's in his third term. He's only been in Washington about four or five years at this point. He has experience as a prosecutor in terrorism cases, but he has not worked in the intelligence community. So that's - to win the trust of the intelligence community will take some time.

MARTIN: OK. So we will look forward to those confirmation hearings. NPR's Greg Myre. Thanks.

MYRE: Thanks, Rachel.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: "A disgusting rat and rodent infested mess" - that is a direct quote; it is what President Trump called the District of Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings.

INSKEEP: The district includes a good part of Baltimore, which is a majority black city. The president also said, quote, "no human being would want to live there," although many people do want to live there, including City Council President Brandon Scott.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BRANDON SCOTT: The president of the United States, the leader of the free world, who is the person who is in the best position of any human being on the planet to help Baltimoreans who need help, instead of doing so, is using his office to beat down an American city.

INSKEEP: And making lots of news with a tweet or two. His tweets echoed his previous attacks on four Democratic members of Congress of color.

MARTIN: NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez is in studio. Hi, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hi.

MARTIN: What prompted this attack by the president?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, the first tweets came on Saturday, after a very unflattering segment on Fox News about Representative Cummings and his district. Should note that Cummings is also chair of the House Oversight Committee, which has been investigating Trump. The committee actually recently sought the personal emails and texts of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.

So, you know, he's been lashing out in a way with these tweets, as you just played. Democrats are calling the tweets racist; so are many Baltimore residents, as we heard. But Trump has shown very little interest in turning down the temperature. He has tweeted 14 times, and the message very explicitly is, focus on your district and not on me.

MARTIN: So what is Congressman Cummings saying about this?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, he's saying - he tweeted about this. He said in a tweet, Mr. President, I go home to my district daily. Each morning, I wake up and I go and fight for my neighbors. He went on to say it's his constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the executive branch.

MARTIN: Often when the president tweets something like this, especially attacks on individual lawmakers or cities, it makes things difficult for Republicans. Have we heard any response from the GOP?

ORDOÑEZ: We have not heard much yet. Like when Trump attacked the four minority congresswomen just a few weeks ago, the majority of the Republican leaders have kept quiet; even those that have spoken out have been very tempered. Representative Will Hurd, one Republican from Texas, he's the only African American Republican in the House of Representatives. He wouldn't explicitly condemn Trump's attacks. He did when Trump attacked the four congresswomen. But this time, Hurd said this is different. He just said he wouldn't tweet that way.

Mick Mulvaney, Trump's chief of staff, was asked about this on CBS, asked whether he understood why people perceived the president's comments as racist.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FACE THE NATION")

MICK MULVANEY: I understand why, but that doesn't mean that it's racist. The president is pushing back against what he sees as wrong. It's how he's done it in the past, and he'll continue to do it in the future.

ORDOÑEZ: And we've heard this line very similarly president - pardon me. Press secretary Sarah Sanders has said this a lot.

MARTIN: What does it say about how the president sees his path to victory in 2020?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, the president launched a campaign that was based in part on racial divisions and stoking tensions by attacking immigrants from Mexico. We have seen this again and again. It's something that - I'm not going to say it's a master strategy of President Trump, but it is something that he has shown instinct for.

MARTIN: NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez. Franco, thanks.

ORDOÑEZ: Thanks so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF TESK'S "ORBIT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.