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Trey Gowdy Not Seeking Reelection, Slams Congress; Trump Refuses to Acknowledge Russian Election Meddling; Trump Finally Weighs in on Domestic Violence; Trump Sign Bill to Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Behind Closed Doors; Porn Star Stormy Daniels Ready to Talk Trump; School Shooting in Parkland, Florida. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired February 14, 2018 - 14:30   ET



[14:32:47] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Sobering words today from Congressman Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, when asked on CNN this morning about his upcoming retirement from Congress. The chairman is one of three dozen Republicans heading for the exits ahead of this year's midterm elections.


REP. TREY GOWDY, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Because I miss my old job. I miss the justice system. I like jobs where facts matter. I like jobs where fairness matters. I like jobs, frankly, where the process matters, and it's not just about winning and it's not just about reaching a result.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN CO-HOST, NEW DAY: So facts don't matter in Congress?

GOWDY: I think what matters in Congress is finding a group and then validating or ratifying what they already believe. The art of persuasion? In seven years, I haven't found anybody's mind changed by a speech, by a debate. It's about ratification and validation.

I like the art of persuasion. I like finding 12 people who have not made up their minds and may the facts prevail. That's not where we are in politics.


BALDWIN: Let's talk it over with CNN political commentator and former counsellor to President Bill Clinton, Paul Begala, Rob Astorino, former Republican candidate for governor of New York and former county executive of Westchester County, New York, knows President trump.

Gentlemen, great to have both of you on, in your red ties.


Rob, to you first, Congressman Gowdy, the honesty dripping off of him here. What did you make of that? ROB ASTORINO, (R), FORMER REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE FOR NEW YORK GOVERNOR &

FORMER COUNTY EXECUTIVE, WESTERCHESTER COUNTY, NEW YORK: I thought it was very honest and very true. You see this group think in the chamber, whether it's the House, the Senate, where everyone has to follow the leaders. And the leaders are getting their cues, often times, in their party, a lot of times, from the fringe. It takes hold and there's not a lot of individualism because they caucus together, they come to an agreement and that's what they stick with. Those that go off on their own, you see they have problems with their own party. John McCain comes to mind, Rand Paul comes to mind, and others. That's not the way they operate.

BALDWIN: I want you to jump in on that. But I go back to why does it take a congressman leaving D.C., to be so honest?


BALDWIN: You don't think?

BEGALA: If he was honest he would say I've been part of the problem, Brooke.


[14:35:02] BALDWIN: Maybe that's insinuation, Paul Begala, but he's not owning it. He's not owning it.

BEGALA: He's not owning it. He has spent millions of dollars harassing Hillary Clinton and others about Benghazi.

BALDWIN: Benghazi.

BEGALA: Which it was important to investigate, but eight different investigations cleared Hillary. He did it anyway as a stunt to try to affect the election, as Kevin McCarthy, his majority leader, said. If he's going to fess up now and come clean -- it's Ash Wednesday, so we're all conscious of our mortality -- I wish him well. I really do. I wish he were more candid and self-reflective.

I've been part of the problem, too. I own up, too. I helped to devise a super PAC that did nothing but attack Donald Trump. I'm not sorry I did. But that did help to feed the polarization. If people want to look at their own roles in this, we should, but start with themselves instead of their colleagues.

ASTORINO: We absolve you, Paul.


BALDWIN: On a note of candor, gentlemen, let's talk about Russia and how the president is still not convinced that Russia has meddled, is meddling, presence tense. This, as we're going into the midterms. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: There should be no doubt that Russia perceived that its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.

MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: Yes, we have seen Russian activity and intentions to have an impact on the next election cycle here.

ROBERT CARDILLO, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL GEOSPATIAL-INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: There's no change in my view of the 2017 assessment. I support that. I agree with Director Pompeo's assessment about the likelihood of the 2018 occurrence as well.

MIKE ROGERS, NSA DIRECTOR: I participated in that 2017 work. I stood by it then. I stand by it now. And I agree with Director Pompeo, this is not going to change or stop.

UNIDENTIFIED INTELLIGENCE AGENCY DIRECTOR: Yes, it is not going to change, nor is it going to stop.


BALDWIN: Adding to the chorus of voices, Mike Pence, the vice president, just made news, agreeing with the intel chiefs, which is something that the president has yet to do. Again, this is the leader of the country.

My question to you is, are we in danger? Is our security in danger? Are our elections in danger because this man doesn't believe them?

ASTORINO: You want me to go first?

BALDWIN: I want you to go first.

ASTORINO: Two things here. There are different tracks. First of all, the 2016 election was not tampered with in that Russia, for all that we know, what the Obama administration has said, and there's been no proof that they actually tampered with votes. The election results were certified and true. However, I think what we're talking about is an influence to change the minds of people before they vote, Facebook, Twitter, those kinds of things.

BALDWIN: Millions of people.

ASTORINO: Millions of people. But they did it all over the place. Hillary Clinton in her book, which I'm reading. Paul and I were talking about it before. She was complaining about that kind of interference and they were warned by the FBI in 2015.


BALDWIN: She's not the president. She's not the president.

ASTORINO: No, but both camps were warned. I think the difference here is, in the mind of the president -- I can only guess -- is that he's thinking it's the same kind of track as a Russian investigation into him or his campaign meddling. They're two separate things. And we've had no evidence of that whatsoever.


BALDWIN: No one is trying to take away his presidency.

3ASTORINO: No, but I think

BALDWIN: We're just dealing in facts, as Congressman Gowdy was talking about, on this Ash Wednesday, you know.

BEGALA: This is a bone I've got about this. It's not meddling. It's an act of war. John McCain said that, and knows about war. This is an act of war. This was cyber terrorism. This was an attack against the United States of America. Not just the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton or her campaign chairman. This was an attack on America. And lots of principled Republicans like Senator McCain have said this is important. I have no idea the partisan affiliation of most of those guys on the panel. Mike Pompeo is a Republican. Dan Coats was a Republican Senator. They said we're under attack. Our president is not defending America. It's his most important sacred obligation. Why not? He's the guy who said, I hit back a thousand times harder. He's tougher on Rosie O'Donnell than he is on Vladimir Putin. Why?

BALDWIN: Why? Why?

BEGALA: I don't know. Leads one to believe that maybe he's compromised.

BALDWIN: Rob, why?

ASTORINO: Oh, I don't think he's compromised.

BALDWIN: Actually --


[14:39:11] BALDWIN: Hand on a second. Let me wrap this up. We're getting word the president is now -- thank you both so much.

The president is now, can I say, finally weighing in on this issue that has been swirling around the White House in the wake of the scandal with Rob Porter. He is finally weighing in on domestic violence.

Quick break. The president, next.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you all very much. Thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, why have you not spoken out against domestic violence?


TRUMP: I am totally opposed to domestic violence and everybody here knows that. I am totally opposed to domestic violence of any kind. Everyone knows that. And it almost wouldn't even have to be said. So now you hear it, but you all know it.

Thank you all very much. I appreciate it.


TRUMP: Thank you very much.


BALDWIN: OK. Just wanted to hang on to every little inch of that piece of tape that just rolled in. There you have it, the president sitting there with Senator Tim Scott. It was a totally separate event on the economy. You heard all those press pool asking all these different -- reporters asking different questions. Again, the first time now, after several times dodging the question in the wake of the scandal embroiling the White House and Rob Porter, accused wife abuser. You heard the president say there, "I am totally opposed to domestic violence and everybody knows it."

Dana Bash, back with me here, to chew on this for a second.

Yes, I mean, as a woman, as an American, I think it matters that we hear the president, after some days, say this out loud.



BALDWIN: As a human being.

BASH: As a human being, it is nice to hear the president of the United States say that he is opposed to domestic violence. It was -- it is a week after this has become a huge story because of his own staff secretary and allegations against him. It also is a baby step. There's no question. But it also does not allow for him in that brief burst of --


BALDWIN: Doesn't absolve him.

BASH: No, exactly. It also doesn't answer a lot of other questions, never mind what happened, but also with regard to the president. Do you believe the women? Can you say something about the ex-wives of this man who worked for you for a year, who are alleging this? And do you have any messages for them, in particular, to say that you're opposed to domestic violence is, you know, like -- it's an expectation. But because it was so brief and because it was not a setting in which there is time for follow-up on those specifics, that was about as much as reporters could get. I'm glad, at least they got that.

[14:45:15] BALDWIN: Let me also tell everyone -- people may not know. Coming up next hour, in the thick of all of this that has been surrounding the White House, the president is signing the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act. It's to prevent sexual abuse of minors and amateur athletes by providing prompt report of sex abuse to law enforcement, involving cases like Larry Nassar, which is a wonderful thing.

But the thing is the fact that the president is signing this and he's signing it behind closed doors. It's my understanding this is closed door to the press. My question is just, why?

BASH: Right. I mean, this would and should be something that, obviously, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. It is a no brainer to protect young athletes from people who are preying on them. And, again, to be a no brainer. It obviously is something that is very delicate for the White House right now. It's not the first time that they have had something that should be open and applauded and celebrated in terms of signing legislation that is, instead, you know, quiet and it is kept from the press.

One thing I want to say about the president and this domestic violence issue is, you talk to people around the president who say he has no tolerance for people who abuse their spouses or engage in domestic violence. Yet, because he is a very complicated, complex person, as we know, he also has no tolerance for people who attack his people. And he is highly loyal. So those two things are colliding right now.

So we saw a baby step on the domestic violence thing. We don't have any answers on his beliefs, on his knowledge about Rob Porter and the allegations against him specifically.

BALDWIN: Dana, thank you. We'll talk around the briefing in just a couple of moments.

Also, just in to us here at CNN, why this porn star, Stormy Daniels, now believes she has a right to speak up and tell her story about Donald Trump. This has just come in, this change. We'll discuss that, next.


[14:52:01] BALDWIN: Here we go. Just in to CNN, the porn star who allegedly had an affair with Donald Trump back in 2006 now believes she is free to discuss that encounter. The manager for Stormy Daniels tells the Associated Press that she believes the president's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, may have violated their NDA, non-disclosure agreement, between them after acknowledging paying her $130,000 just before the 2016 presidential election.

Let's discuss. Ashleigh Banfield is with me. She's the host of "Crime and Justice with Ashleigh Banfield," and Rick Wilson, Republican strategist.


Happy Valentine's Day.

BALDWIN: Happy Valentine's Day.


Ashleigh, to you first. Is she right? If they're saying Cohen violated the NDA, can she?

BANFIELD: Yes. If somebody violates a nondisclosure agreement, then it's gone, right? But I haven't seen the agreement. So I don't know if the payment discussion is in that agreement. But if that is the case, then maybe finally we'll get something out of Stormy Daniels' mouth that isn't refuted later on. I think you probably saw her letter that was presented by Michael Cohen, suggesting it was all untrue, that nothing like that ever happened, and later she said I never wrote that.

BALDWIN: Her bizarre interview on Kimmel.

BANFIELD: Right. So I think people are curious about it all.

But you're wearing red. I am not. I'm wearing blue because I'm blue that we're having to have this discussion about the president and payments made to a porn star, specifically -- I'm going to be personal here because this incident allegedly happened when Barron was about 4 months old. I went to the same O.B./Gyn. I was having a baby at the same time Melania was. We were sharing an O.B./Gyn. So this connects. I had a 4-month-old old at that time, too. This is such an ugly, ugly story.

BALDWIN: I'm just sitting here, totally --

BANFIELD: Very blue.

BALDWIN: -- nodding my head, agreeing with you.

Rick Wilson --


-- I don't even know what to say. Who -- what happens here? If she talks, does she, I don't know, flood the zone, talk all over, get her 15 minutes of fame? Who does she talk to? What does she say?

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think Stormy Daniels will start a media bidding war and a book bidding war that, if she is no longer constrained by the NDA, she will go to town. I think we've discovered she is an entrepreneurial capitalist who seeks to monetize her current situation aggressively. I think she will be everywhere and speaking up very clearly.

I think we also discovered in this whole thing that Michael Cohen may not be the best attorney in the world. This is a guy who has locked himself into jeopardy now because -- at this point now, he is going to open himself up to a greater FEC investigation. He has also put himself in a situation where Robert Mueller can request his tax returns. This is a really ugly day for the Trump world. I know Michael Cohen, from whatever strip mall law school he went to, he walks around like he's a super lawyer, but he has made unforced errors in this thing. And we're down to the embarrassment of an already embarrassed White House.

[14:55:23] BALDWIN: Just a slight clarification. I understand there's a piece of paper that said it was Stormy Daniels' manager that said about the point of breaking NDA. It was not her attorney, right, responding to the NDA in the news from Michael Cohen.

Guys, I have to say good-bye to you because I've gotten a horrific piece of news in my ear.

We'll take a hard turn and go straight to Parkland, Florida. School buses, live pictures on your screen. I am sorry to have to report here that we're talking about a high school. Shots have been fired. This is Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Florida, south of Boca Raton, Broward County.

I understand the Control Room has been watching these pictures for a little while. You can see the police presence is enormous down around this high school and we have seen several ambulances responding to -- you see one here, taking out at least one victim.

Let me be entirely transparent with you and say we're going to do this together. We don't have a lot of information. We do know that, again, shots have been fired and several people are being treated by emergency personnel.

So, with that, Art Broderick is on the phone with me here.

Art, again, we don't know a lot.

Guys, get in my ear. Is it an active shooting situation? I presume that it is.

Yes, it is, I'm being told.

Tell me what -- obviously, the priority now is what for these law enforcement?

ART BRODERICK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST (via telephone): Yes. Unfortunately, we're all too familiar with this that the point in time.


BRODERICK: You know, these schools, military bases, government buildings, public buildings have all, unfortunately, had to go through this active-shooter training. The big key that I look at here is this sort of, as opposed to an active shooter that's out there picking out targets and shooting random individuals, or is this something related specifically to maybe a domestic situation or boyfriend/girlfriend- type situation? That's going to be key to figure out exactly what's going on here. But we've had a couple of these as of late. And most of them have been sort of a boyfriend/girlfriend scenario.

But also, I looked to see did the shooting actually occurring at the school or in the parking lot outside the school? To me, that's the key. A lot of high schools and elementary and middle schools are very secure. It's difficult to get an individual outside in on this particular type of scenario.

BALDWIN: Sure. Sure. And just again being crystal clear, we don't know where the shooting took place. That's a great point. Was it outside in a parking lot? Looks like a pretty vast campus, based on these aerial pictures of where police are camped out. And you see the intersection with the buses and ambulance personnel.

Walk us through the whole -- the priority, of course, the safety of the students tending to those who are wounded but also securing a perimeter, Art, the walk us through that.

BRODERICK: There's a couple of different things go on in these scenarios. I know we've talked about this before. Since Columbine, law enforcement has completely changed its tactics as far as responding to an active shooter. They will immediately go in. Immediately, law enforcement will go in and try to stop the threat. And then coming behind them will be the people taking care of those that are injured. Again, we don't know if this is outside or inside the school. We see a lot of activity from law enforcement here. You're going to have local and federal officers coming up. There will be an inner perimeter, outer perimeter. They have to deal with clearing classrooms, making sure people are sheltering in place. It doesn't necessarily have to be in the school anymore to cause this type of lockdown. It could be in the parking lot, it could be in the neighborhood. But it's an all-too-familiar scene for us, Brooke. It's horrible. And now we're hearing the injury toll coming in. I'm watching this on screen. We've got the SWAT team responding --


BALDWIN: Yes, that was SWAT.


BALDWIN: That was SWAT entering the building, guns raised.

So, again, if you're just joining us, Parkland, Florida. This is Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, an active shooting situation. Shots have been fired. And several victims. How many, we don't know. Where specifically, we don't know.

Let me read a tweet for you. Guys, if you'll help me out, just throw it up on the screen.