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EARLY START

Seventeen Killed In Florida School Shooting; Suspect's Violent Social Media Posts; Democrats Lament Lack Of Action On Guns; Trump Responds To Porter, Finally. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired February 15, 2018 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pray for this city. Pray for this school, the parents, the folks that lost their lives. It's a horrific, horrific day.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, EARLY START SHOW CO-HOST: Seventeen more lives -- 17 lives lost in the latest episode of gun violence plaguing American schools, the suspect's social media now raising disturbing clues, A Florida community reeling as officials resort to thoughts and prayers with no action -- no action on the horizon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome to Early Start. It is Thursday, February 15th, I'm Christine Romans in New York.

DAVE BRIGGS, EARLY START SHOW CO-HOST: Hi there, Christine. I'm Dave Briggs. It is 4:00 a.m. here in Parkland, Florida. And folks, America, waking this morning to another reputation of its recurring nightmare, facing a mass shooting.

Helpless to stop the gun violence plaguing the country, 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School here in Parkland, Florida, where about an hour north of Miami. At this hour, five patients remain in life threatening condition.

Ten others hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries. So far 12 victims of the deadly rampage have been identified. Here now are a few seconds of the horror they went through inside this high school that will never been the same. We do want to warn you, this video is disturbing.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy (BLEEP). Oh, my god!

(GUN SHOTS)

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BRIGGS: Students will never get that out of their minds. Officials say that is the sound of the AR-15 rifle being fired by 19-year-old former Stoneman Douglas student Nikolas Cruz. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida told CNN how the attack began.

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SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: The shooter wore a gas mask and he had a smoke grenade. He went and setoff the fire alarm so the kids would come pouring out of the classrooms and into the hall. And there the carnage began.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The gunfire sent students running for cover to escape.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I started hearing like six gunshots, like far away. But I could still hear them clear as day. And as soon that ended, like I just told everyone we got to go, like we have to run. And like everyone started running as fast as they can, people were like taking snapshots and stuff. And I'm like, man, you got to go, like everyone has got to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Then for the lucky families, there were emotional reunions. These mothers and fathers embraced daughters and sons. Those are the moments that just bring a tear to your eye.

There have been 18 school shootings this year in 45 days. That is one every three days. For the latest on the police investigation and what we know about the shooter. Rosa Flores joins us just down the road closer to the school. Good morning, Rosa.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave. Investigators this morning reliving these horrors as they process the scene, a painstaking task. According to the sheriff, this is an extensive scene. The death trail -- that deadly trail according to the sheriff started outside of the school where they found one individual dead.

And then as they got closer to the school, two individuals were found dead and then, of course, there were 12 inside. Now what we're learning from authorities about Nikolas Cruz, 19-years-old, he was expelled from this high school.

And according to authorities, they believe that he was ready for mass carnage. He had countless magazines, according to the sheriff. He had an AR-15 style rifle that he had purchased in the past year.

And according to some of these investigators, this trail inside the school is just heartbreaking, cell phones that were probably ringing when students left them behind or had text messages from those worried parents who were just trying to find out if their loved ones were OK.

We know that the suspect is somewhere in the cell this morning and he will be facing a judge for the very first time later today. We will bring you that, of course, when that happens.

[04:05:00] And we are also learning from his relatives that they are heart broken and they have this message from a family attorney.

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JIM LEWIS, ATTORNEY: Nothing to indicate that anything like this was pending, showed no harm or malice towards anyone at the high school, never mentioned anything out, that he had any problems of anybody there. They totally don't know where this came from.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FLORES: And the Florida attorney general tells us that the state will be paying for the funerals for all of those individuals who lost their lives. This morning, Dave, the governor is flying all the flags in Florida at half staff. Dave.

BRIGGS: Rosa, thank you. Many of the worst mass shootings in recent years have something in common, the same weapon -- the AR-15 rifle. Used in all of them.

Sutherland Springs, the church there, the Las Vegas country music concert, the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, just a few hours from here, the San Bernardino office shooting and Sandy Hook elementary, and the Aurora Colorado movie theater.

The AR-15 is a civilian version of the military's M16. The National Rifle Association calls it adoptable, reliable and accurate. The NRA says the AR-15 is America's most popular rifle owned by more than 8 million people in this country.

Let's bring in Cedric Alexander. He is a CNN law enforcement analyst and the deputy mayor of Rochester, New York. Cedric, good morning to you. Where does this investigation go from here this morning?

CEDRIC ALEXANDER, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST (via phone): Well first of all, our heart and prayers go out to the victims and the families, and all of those who lost their lives yesterday, so tragic.

But today certainly begins -- they will begin to look at and continue to look at a lot of the social media information and interview those who knew the subject that was involved in this deadly shooting.

And of course, when something like this happens, it affects all of us. And it doesn't just take a toll among those, of course, there in that community.

It affects us across -- across this country. So a lot of questions will be asked today and a lot of investigative techniques are going to be introduced. And of course you have a huge crime scene there also that will continue to be investigated as well.

BRIGGS: Cedric, we understand that teachers had sent an e-mail warning of this student. We see these social media posts that we just showed, whether its Instagram or YouTube. Was something missed? ALEXANDER: Well, that's very hard to tell. I think, it's still very

early in this investigation. Certainly, when we look at the social media information that has been determined or discovered thus far, it is very frightening, it is very scary.

We would like to think that some would have taken -- someone would have taken some action at this point. But that may not have happened for a variety of reasons.

But what we must consider at this point, to move this investigation forward and what is it that we can learn from this to could be helpful to save lives the next time around? That's what's going to be really important for us here.

BRIGGS: Something, anything. I was at columbine nearly 20 years ago and it's astounding there have been 25 deadly school shootings and nothing has been done -- absolutely nothing.

He did buy this gun legally. He did pass the background check. We don't know the timeliness of those Instagram or YouTube comments. Should social media be part of a background check?

ALEXANDER: Well, that's going to be interesting to do when you have such a large number of people who are involved, who utilizes social media in this country and around the world. I think what we will hear again, I think what's going to be need critically important for us to remember is that we have to say something when we see something.

And I know that just sounds like an old adage that we often hear all the time, particularly when we travel. But it certainly has to have meaning in the environment that we live in today.

When we see that type of language, those types of threats and that type of uncharacteristic behavior of anyone on social media, particularly if we may know them or suspect that they may do harm, we have to let someone know. We can no longer take any of these types of things from granted.

But at the same time, we have to try to use as best judgment as we can. We have over 300 million people that live in this country alone.

[04:10:00] The greatest majority of the people in this country are on social media and some type of way. But we just have to be more attentive and certainly not be afraid to notify authorities that we feel we need to do so.

BRIGGS: Cedric Alexander, thank you. This is a call to action without a doubt. It's a call to action to Congress. It's a call to action to every student, every parent, every teacher, and administrator and every school in the United States, if you do see something, you must say something.

Christine, hopefully something, anything can be done. It is not clear that any legislation would have stopped this, but to do nothing is inexcusable. Back to you. ROMANS: And to do nothing is what has been done over and over, and

over again. If you can't send your kid to school and be safe in America, you know, what is the point? Voters have got to take a stand. That shooting in Florida, Dave, quick to draw outrage from Democrats in Congress.

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REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: The pattern will be perfectly predictable. There will be a moment of silence. People will wish everybody thoughts and prayers, and sympathy for the victims and then the Congress of the United States will do absolutely nothing.

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ROMANS: On the flip side, Republicans have gone largely silent. More now from Washington next.

[04:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: The high school shooting in Southeast Florida ranks as the ninth deadliest in modern U.S. history -- the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook five years ago. So far, gun advocates have been largely silent. And two of the Florida's most prominent Republicans are taking a familiar fall-back position.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of your colleagues in the Senate from Washington, D.C. have already been trying to make this about policy and about gun control. Is this the appropriate time to be doing that?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: It is not only because people don't know how this happened. I mean, who this person is, what motivated him to made it, how did they get a hold of the weapon that they used for this attack? I think it is important to know all of that before you jump to conclusions that there is some law we could have passed that could have prevent it.

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: There is a time to continue to have the conversations about how through law enforcement and how to make this funding to make sure people are safe. We will continue to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Governor Rick Scott. If you ask gun control advocates, there never seems to be a right time. Listen to two Democratic lawmakers who say there is a sense of resignation in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: This happens nowhere else other than the United States of America. It only happens here not because of coincidence, not because of bad luck, but as a consequence of our inaction. We are responsible for a level of mass atrocity that happens in this

country with zero parallel. As a parent, it scares me to death that this body doesn't take seriously the safety of my children.

HIMES: The pattern will be perfectly predictable. There will be a moment of silence. People will wish everybody thoughts and prayers, and sympathy for the victims, and then the Congress of the United States will do absolutely nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What, if anything -- I keep asking this question, has been done to deal with these kind of mass shootings since then by the U.S. Congress?

HIMES: Well, to honestly answer that question, there is not a damn thing. This institution is not going to move. Think about -- you know, as you said, 20 dead babies in Connecticut wasn't enough to move the heart of this place.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: President Trump tweeting his condolences to the families of the victims. The Florida sent an editorial board, not impressed, writing, yes, lot's of prayers are a welcome response to anyone in mourning and in need.

But with this type of tragedy, repeated so many times across our country, we already know that thoughts and prayers alone are a grossly inadequate response to our country's self inflicted cancer of gun violence.

Maggie Haberman of the New York Times reports the president's aides wanted him to make a public statement about the shooting, but he decided against it. Dave.

BRIGGS: You know, Christine, it's a uniquely American problem. And it's just -- we don't know if mental health legislation or if outlawing bump stocks, or background checks need to be tightened.

We don't know what would help but it is astounding that even the Congressional shooting at the baseball-softball practice, that did not sphere draw action. We are happy that Steve Scalise recovered, but it is not astounding to you.

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: That was not the moment that Congress finally decided to do something.

ROMANS: It was astounding that there is not an effort to even study gun violence in some cases. Congress has sort of handcuffed the Centers for Disease Control for even being able to study the impact of gun violence as a health -- as a health issue.

You know, when a bridge collapses, Dave, we go in to overdrive figuring out what happened to that bridge, how prevent it, and how to keep people safe. When any other kind of consumer product fails, we figure out how to make it safer for consumers. Gun violence? We just don't.

BRIGGS: If anything, though, it seems we have become numb to these school shootings. You see alert on the cell phone and go about your day. This one feels different.

This one feels like a wake-up call. But indeed we said that after Sandy Hook. Christine, we will be back to you in just a bit. The president did not say anything publicly about the shooting, but after a week of silence, he did speak up about domestic violence.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am totally opposed to domestic violence of any kind. Everyone knows that.

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BRIGGS: Now CNN has learned that Rob Porter was one of many operating with temporary security clearance for more a year. [04:20:04] More ahead on Early Start.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. We're leaving. Make your way out.

TRUMP: 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.

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ROMANS: The president is breaking his painfully long silence on domestic violence did abuse. He had been avoiding the subject ever since his top aide, Rob Porter, was accused of abusing his two ex- wives.

[04:25:04] Porter denies those allegations. The president who faces his own accusations of harassment and assault has struggled to respond to the nationwide outcry against mistreatment of women. Vice President Pence now admitting the Porter debacle was fumbled.

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MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As I said and the White House has said, I think the White House could have handled this better. I still feel that way.

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ROMANS: CNN has learned exclusively there were more than 100 staffers in the executive office of the president who were working with interim security clearances over a year after the election. That includes Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, having only an interim

clearance can hamper staffer's ability to perform essential job functions. Six Democratic senators have sent a letter to FBI director Christopher Wray, asking for the names of all White House staff members with interim security clearances.

A bipartisan group of senators has hammered out that much anticipated compromise on immigration but it is unclear if the deal can get the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate.

A draft obtained by CNN shows the bill would offer a path to citizenship for DREAMers for nearly 2 million undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

The plan would also place $25 billion in a trust for border security. It would bar most DREAMers who become citizens from sponsoring their parents for citizenship.

Democratic senators who met behind closed doors last night emerged hesitant but hopeful. They could united their caucus behind the bill but the proposal stopped short of president's demand including an end to the diversity, visa lottery and an overhaul of legal immigration and a measure faces even more hurdles if it ever gets to the House. Dave.

BRIGGS: Yes, there is very little optimism about legislation there either. The suspect in the deadly shooting in Florida is due in court this morning around 8:00.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sad to say that 17 people lost their lives.

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BRIGGS: Nikolas Cruz did pass a background check to buy an AR-15 style rifle despite scary social media posts, red flags and warnings. We are back in Parkland, Florida after this short break.

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