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CNN Poll: 70 Percent Favor Stricter Gun Laws; Guns Expected To Dominate Week's Political Dialogue; Conservative Columnist "Glad" She Was Booed At CPAC; South Korea: North Korea Open To Talks With U.S.; China Moves To Abolish Term Limits. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired February 26, 2016 - 05:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: -- the governor not going as far as dozens of Republicans state lawmakers want. They called on the governor to suspend Sheriff Scott Israel for what they term incompetence and dereliction duty.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: Sheriff Israel says his department will fully cooperate echoing the vow of accountability. Earlier Sunday, Israel rejected calls to step down saying those demands are politically motivated. Despite questions about the actions or lack of action by his officers and red flags that were missed, the sheriff is defending his response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Are you really not taking any responsibility for the multiple red flags that were brought to the attention of the Broward Sheriff's Office about this shooter before the incident whether it was people near him or close to him calling the police on him?

SCOTT ISRAEL, SHERIFF OF BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: Jake, I can only take responsibility for what I knew about. I exercise my due diligence. I have given amazing leadership to this agency --

TAPPER: Amazing leadership?

ISRAEL: Yes, Jake. There's a lot of things we have done throughout -- you don't measure the person's leadership by a deputy not going into -- these deputies received the training they needed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Sheriff Israel under scrutiny for what appeared to be several missed chances to intervene before this 19-year-old gunman opened fire. The sheriff's office says it received 23 calls related to Nikolas Cruz or his brother over the past ten years. Two of those calls under especially close review both suggesting Cruz might be planning to shoot up a school.

NOBLES: It will be a big day on Capitol Hill. The House and Senate return from recess today with the gun violence issue looming. Democratic Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island set to introduce an assault weapons ban. One Democratic source tells CNN the bill has more than 120 co- sponsors, though, how far it will go in the Republican-controlled House remains an open question. On Sunday, Ivanka Trump was asked about her father's controversial suggestion about arming teachers. She defended the proposal as one possible part of a larger solution.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are a mom of three young children. Do you believe that arming teachers would make children safer?

IVANKA TRUMP, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S DAUGHTER: To be honest, I don't know. Having a teacher who is armed, who cares deeply about her students or his students and who is capable and qualified to bear arms is not a bad idea, but it is an idea that needs to be discussed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: The president will talk about guns with the nation's governors today at the White House. Look at this new CNN poll, it shows 7 Americans in 10 favor stricter gun laws. That is up sharply from the 52 percent who said that in October. But the partisan gap is wide. More stringent gun control favored by 93 percent of Democrats, but fewer than half of Republicans.

ROMANS: And a growing number of companies now are breaking up with NRA, Ryan, because their customers are demanding it using social media to voice their outrage. They are not targeting weapons makers, which would seem obvious, right?

They are targeting companies that offer discounts to NRA members and for some the pressure is working, Symantec, MetLife, multiple rental car agencies all ending their relationships with the NRA.

And this company, too, really interesting here, one of the first to break up was First National Bank of Omaha tweeting that customer feedback caused it to cancel an NRA credit card. Also, here, Delta and United Airlines both of them ending discounted flights for NRA members.

Now the NRA doesn't like it as you expect calling this a shameful display of political and civic cowardice. Adding that these brands will be replaced by others that want consumers that value constitutional freedoms.

But these companies are responding to their customers. It's so interesting for years corporate America stayed away from politically charged issues, really did. It was all about just returning shareholder value, right.

But now companies are taking a stand on things like gun violence and climate change and immigration and gay rights. That's actually been good for companies, right? It's been good for business.

According to a recent poll, the most important thing to consumers is to buy from companies that do the right thing. Ryan, it is really interesting to me. Millennial consumers really value what their dollar gets them and so this appeals to the younger cohort which is the biggest buying group in American history eventually.

NOBLES: This seems like the beginning of this conversation. All right. Thank you, Christine.

All right. Let's bring in Siraj Hashmi right now, a commentary writer for the "Washington Examiner" to talk about the big issues of the day. Siraj, thanks for being here. Thanks for getting up early as always.

SIRAJ HASHMI, COMMENTARY WRITER, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": I appreciate you having me, Ryan.

NOBLES: Let's talk first I think about what's going to happen today in Washington. Congress is going to return and hopefully for the first time we are going to get some sort of an idea of where Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are on the issue of guns.

We have this CNN poll out today that shows just an overwhelming amount of Americans, 70 percent, believe that something needs to be done as it relates to stricter gun laws.

[05:05:12] From your perspective, where do you think Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan stand on this issue? Do you think they take advantage of the opportunity to try to get something done?

HASHMI: If they want to turn on all of their Republican base, they would do something on guns, but Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan ultimately want to leave a solution up to the states to decide how they best want to address the gun control issue.

Now if you are looking at the federal assault weapons ban from 1994 to 2004, and studies have shown that after the federal assault weapons ban was removed that crimes from guns increased.

But one of the things we have to look at and this is interesting here because with respect to the Broward County Parkland shooting is that no matter what gun laws you have in place, it doesn't do any good if you don't have any law enforcement to enforce current existing laws like in the case of the Parkland shooter.

ROMANS: That is a devastating part of the story just to see all of those red flags that were missed in this situation. "USA Today" talking about who backs stricter gun laws. "USA Today" has a survey that said, you know, overwhelmingly people want tougher laws and overwhelmingly people surveyed don't think Congress will ever do anything about it.

Do you think that there is a new movement here that somehow these young people in Florida have broken through at least making this not just a shooting that goes away, but we are still talking about it?

HASHMI: Well, it is interesting what we are seeing from our young people, particularly the parkland shooting survivors because I don't think we have ever seen this type of response before and how they are pushing for a new legislative effort to do what they need to do about guns.

And yes, you could make a case that there needs to be stricter gun laws. Particularly in Florida where gun restrictions are relaxed. But on the federal level, it may not work for every single state because there are certain states that already arm teachers and may not have school shootings.

But again, with respect to the solution of arming every teacher, it may not be a great federal solution. It may be better on the state level where Rick Scott may be trying to do something there.

I personally think that if you include special training for law enforcement and probably throw more money at law enforcement to actually have specially trained officers at each particular school, you can harden the targets without actually arming every teacher and not making them feel uncomfortable.

NOBLES: And I think to your, the conversation is going to be about incentivizing these changes at the state level as opposed to some sort of broad federal law. That's probably where the conversation is going to go.

Let's talk now about this memo, the Democratic memo that was finally released. It happened on a Saturday afternoon from the White House. You know, Siraj, do you feel that this has just become a political document, both had become political document, and they might not change really the course either of the investigation or the public opinion of how people feel about the Russian investigation?

HASHMI: Well, until we have the source material and the FISA applications in the public view we have no idea what we're actually debating. What we are debating right now is conjecture between Nunes and Adam Schiff.

I mean, it has become a political partisan game and both of these individuals in Congress are trying to paint a picture to the American public that, you know, the Department of Justice and FBI were either abusing their authority or not abusing their authority if you are looking at the Democratic angle.

I personally think that until we have the source material, it is almost impossible to tell who is actually telling the truth.

NOBLES: It's amazing to think, though, that we're even talking about this kind of source material becoming public. I mean, this is exactly what the FBI and the DOJ were strongly opposed to.

HASHMI: And the fact that the Democratic memo was redacted as opposed to the Republican memo, which wasn't redacted at all. You know, it still demands more questions rather than answers.

ROMANS: Siraj, I want to play a bit of sound from the conservative columnist, Mona Charen at CPAC that really got a lot of attention. She was escorted out by security after she made this comment on a panel at CPAC. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MONA CHAREN, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I'm disappointed in people on our side for being hypocrites about sexual harassers and abusers of women who are in our party, who are sitting in the White House, who brag about their extramarital affairs and brag about mistreating women, and because he happens to have an "r" after his name, we look the other way.

[05:10:04] We don't complain. The Republican Party endorsed Roy Moore for the Senate in the state of Alabama even though he was a credibly accused child molester. You cannot claim you stand for women -- and put up with that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: So, this is what she told "The New York Times" in an op-ed, "There is nothing more freeing than telling the truth. It must be done again and again by those of us who refuse to be absorbed into this brainless, sinister clownish thing called Trumpism by those of us who refuse to overlook the fools, frauds, and fascists attempting to glide along in the slipstream into respectability. Siraj, it was a lovefest for President Trump except for that moment.

HASHMI: I mean, I was at CPAC, and yes, it was a love fest. It also was kind of tampered down because you know, a lot of Republicans and conservatives and even Tea Partiers were not actually at CPAC.

You know, this is one of those off years that I actually think would be a sign that Republicans have a need to worry in the midterm elections. But to Mona Charen's point, she brings up a great articulate point about where we stand in times of inconvenience.

I mean, I think about the Martin Luther King quote particularly focusing on where a person's convictions stand in times of inconvenience. I applaud Mona Charen for calling out Republicans and the Republican Party for completely dismissing the personal moral failings of President Donald Trump and endorsing Roy Moore.

You know, these are issues that Republicans and conservatives used to hold a moral high ground on. Now you have things like Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, who was indicted this past week and even if the indictments or charge wasn't true, he still admitted to having an actual extramarital affair. That should be unacceptable and --

ROMANS: It used to be disqualifying.

HASHMI: Exactly.

ROMANS: It isn't anymore.

HASHMI: And with respect to President Trump, I mean, the allegations of having an affair with an adult film star. That would end presidencies. It is not making the top five stories of the week. That is how crazy our news cycle is.

NOBLES: And the question is, has the Republican Party the Donald Trump party as opposed to what the Republican Party was even five years ago?

HASHMI: Absolutely. It is Trump's party. He is molding the movement into his vision. I talked with a number of people at CPAC. They are all-in for Trump and they may not have been all for Trump before, but they are in for him now.

NOBLES: Right.

ROMANS: Siraj Hashmi, commentary writer at "Washington Examiner," Come back in about a half hour. We'll talk to you more. Nice to see you this morning.

President Trump reportedly advocating the death penalty for major drug dealers. Sources telling "Axios," the president is a fan of Singapore's capital punishment policy citing their low rates of drug use.

Report says he believes a gentler approach to drug trafficking and use is ineffective. The president may also advocate legislation requiring a five--year sentence for people convicted of dealing as little as 2 grams of the synthetic opioid, Fentanyl. The law currently requires that sentence for people who deal 40 grams or more.

NOBLES: Should the U.S. lower its demands to begin nuclear talks with North Korea? A key U.S. ally says yes. We are live in South Korea with the latest developments next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:17:28]

NOBLES: North Korea's participation in the Winter Olympics has come to an end. The last two weeks in PyeongChang will be remembered for bringing the two Koreas together in a historic moment of unity. Now as the world wonders if Pyongyang and the U.S. can get to the table. At least one side is ready.

Let's bring in Paula Hancocks live in PyeongChang. The Olympics has wrapped up, Paula, but this effort by the North Koreans to come to the table is starting to have somewhat of an impact.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Ryan. We are hearing a very clear message now from the North Koreans. The head of the delegation that's here in South Korea right now, Kim Yong- Jol has said that the door is open for dialogue with the United States.

Now that is certainly the clearest indication we've had so far that North Korea wants to talk with the United States. They made it clear they want to talk with South Korea, but now they are broadening this wish for engagement.

Now yesterday, they gave a slightly less clear indication there are ready to talk. The White House responded to that and said, let's see if Pyongyang's willingness to talk is actually the first step towards denuclearization. So, once again, the Trump administration saying that North Korea has to denuclearize and that appears to be one of the conditions for talks. What we are hearing from the South Korean president, Moon Jae- in, who has a very tricky balancing act to get the U.S. and North Korea together.

He has said that the U.S. needs to lower the threshold in order to start these talks. At the same time saying the North Koreans do need to denuclearize -- Ryan.

NOBLES: All right. Paula Hancocks, thank you very much live from PyeongChang.

ROMANS: All right. China's Community Party clearing the way for President Xi Jinping to remain in power indefinitely. Now the party announcing it intends to abolish term limits on the presidency a bold break with established rules dating back decades.

Let's get the latest from CNN's Matt Rivers live in Beijing. Matt, this is really an important story for people who understand that basically getting rid of a set of checks and balances giving this one man so much power. This is about China rising on the world stage.

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It absolutely is and you know, Christine, there is not a lot of checks and balances to begin with in the Chinese communist system and the fact that this term limit was removed.

The kind of term limit put in place in fact to prevent this kind of thing from happening is a truly significant development especially when you consider the context in which it is all happening.

Xi Jinping was already considered the most influential, powerful Chinese politician since Mao Zedong. His name, his thought, as the formal term is called, was actually enshrined into the Chinese Communist Party Constitution last year.

[05:20:08] That is a huge deal. Only Mao Zedong accomplished that. Then you fast forward to Sunday when this announcement comes out that there are no longer be term limits so there will be longer term limits on the presidency.

That means Xi Jinping can remain the head of the Communist Party and also the head of state basically for as long as he wants. That is a huge deal. The Chinese -- the U.S. will know who they are dealing with for a long time moving forward.

ROMANS: Absolutely. All right. Matt Rivers, this is a story that matters to the United States. Thank you.

NOBLES: A week after taking on a conservative commentator, an opposing coach is urging Lebron James to do more than just shut up and dribble. Andy Scholes has this morning's "Bleacher Report" when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) NOBLES: In a much-needed boost to school spirit, the Stoneman Douglas High School hockey team won state title on Sunday.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report." Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, guys. You know, the Stoneman Douglas hockey team did not know if they were even going to go participate in the state hockey tournament after what happened, but they said they were glad they did.

The team upsetting the top seed in the tournament early Sunday before beating Tampa Jesuit 7-4 to win the state title. The players dedicating the championship to the 17 people who lost their lives in the shooting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEW HOROWITZ, STONEMAN DOUGLAS HOCKEY PLAYER: I love the way our team came together this weekend. It has been a rough week for all of us. Hockey for us is more of a stress reliever. So, we come on the ice and we release everything. We were fighting for the 17 that passed away

JOEY ZENOBI, STONEMAN DOUGLAS HOCKEY PLAYER: It has been a tough week. We came here to win. We came to go to nationals. We came together and got the win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[05:25:08] SCHOLES: Stoneman Douglas will now compete in the high school hockey national championships next month in Minnesota.

To the NBA, the Spurs using the big fourth quarter yesterday to blowout the Cavaliers. Lebron with 33 points in the 110-94 loss. Before the game, Spur's head coach, Gregg Popovich, phrasing Lebron for speaking out on social issues saying that Lebron possibly has more impact off the court than on it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREGG POPOVICH, SPUR HEAD COACH: When you look at this guy, millions of dollars -- tens of millions of dollars and tens of millions of kids that see him and are inspired by him. It is like the "Black Panther" movie. How cool is that for kids to have that superhero? Lebron has been that for a long time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: The Winter Olympics wrapping up yesterday with the closing ceremony. First daughter, Ivanka Trump, on hand for the festivities. Jessie Diggins was the flag bearer for Team USA. Diggins and her teammate won the first cross-country skiing medal for the U.S. taking gold in their event.

Now here's your final medal count, Team USA finishing in fourth place with 23 medals. Norway taking the top spot followed by Germany and Canada. Now the 23 medals, the worst showing for Team USA in the winter games since 1998 when they won 13.

That was a little bit of a disappointment, definitely room for improvement, but still plenty of awesome moments. I never thought I would yell at my tv watching cross-country skiing when Diggins and Randall won that medal. That was pretty awesome.

NOBLES: Or curling, too.

SCHOLES: Yes.

NOBLES: To win that gold was pretty exciting too.

ROMANS: All right. Nice to see you, Andy. Actions by police during and before the Florida school shooting are now the subject of an investigation. Will Congress act on guns as lawmakers return today?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)