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Deadly Florida School Shooting; Resignation Among Lawmakers; Trump Breaks Silence to Spousal Abuse; Trump White House; Aiming for Gold; Wall Street Shrugs Off Inflation Fears. Aired 04:30-05a ET

Aired February 15, 2018 - 04:30   ET




SCOTT ISRAEL, SHERIFF, BROWARD COUNTY: Pray for this city. Pray for this school, the parents, the folks that lost their lives. It's a horrific, horrific day.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: Seventeen more lives lost in a terrible, terrible episode in the cycle of gun violence plaguing American schools. The suspect's social media now raising disturbing clues. Florida community is reeling as officials resort to thoughts and prayers with no action on the horizon.

Welcome back to "Early Start." I'm Christine Romans in New York.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN HOST: Good morning, Christine. I'm Dave Briggs. It's 4:30 a.m. here in Parkland, Florida. America once again waking up to a repetition of its recurring nightmare, facing a mass shooting, helpless to stop this gun violence plaguing the country. Seventeen people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School here in Parkland 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 just a few seconds of the horror they endured. We do want to warn you though this video is disturbing.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Holy -- Oh, my God!




BRIGGS: Just an absolute nightmare. Officials say that is the sound of an AR-15 rifle being fired by 19-year-old former Stoneman Douglas student Nikolas Cruz. Senior senator from Florida Bill Nelson told CNN how the attack began.


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


BRIGGS: It just never had a chance. The gunfire sent students running for cover trying to escape.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I started hearing like six gunshots, like far away, but I can still hear them clear as day. And as soon as that ended, like I just told everyone just we got to go, we got to run, and like everyone started running as fast as they can. And then like people were like taking snapshots. I said you have to go. Like everyone got to go.


BRIGGS: Then for the lucky families, there were emotional reunions as mothers and fathers embraced daughters and sons. You can imagine what that emotion feels like. Those moments of waiting to hear from their kids must have been the most painful moments of their life.

There have now been 18, 18 school shootings this year. That's in 45 days. One about every three days. For the latest on the police investigation and what we know about the former student behind the shooting we have CNN's Rosa Flores here in Parkland, Florida. Good morning, Rosa.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, David. Reliving the horrors. That is what investigators are going through this morning as they process the extensive scene that starts outside of the school. Here is what we have learned from authorities. They found one body on the street. Then as they moved closer to the school, two bodies. And then they found, of course, 12 bodies inside.

And as investigators go through the painstaking process of going inch by inch to try to connect dots, to try to collect clues, to figure out why this gunman did what he did, they are of course and sifting through everything that was left behind. Cell phones that were probably ringing. Cell phones that probably had text messages from frantic parents trying to learn if their child was OK.

[04:35:00] We are also learning more about the gunman. Nikolas Cruz, 19 years of age. He was expelled from this high school because of disciplinary issues. We learned from authorities that he purchased an AR-15 style rifle about a year ago. He passed the background check. Of course, we are also learning that he is going to face a judge in a bond hearing later today.

And we're hearing from some of his closest relatives. And I say closest relatives because his mom actually died in November. So, a family took him in and that family is speaking and saying that they're heartbroken. Here is what they said. This is their family attorney. Take a listen.


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


FLORES: And the sheriff tells us that they are sifting through social media. There are a lot of menacing photographs and messages in his social media, Dave, and they do say that they are hoping that there are signs or clues to let them know why this individual did this because at this point we don't have a motive. Dave?

BRIGGS: Some terrifying posts on Instagram and indeed on You Tube. Rosa, thanks. Many of the worst mass shootings in recent years have something in common. The very same weapon. The AR-15 rifle used in all of these shootings. The Sutherland Springs church, the Las Vegas country music concert which was the deadliest in U.S. history, the Pulse nightclub in Orlando just a few hours from here, the San Bernardino office shooting, Sandy Hook elementary, and of course the Aurora, Colorado movie theater.

The AR-15 is a civilian version of the military's M-16. The National Rifle Association calls it adaptable, reliable, and accurate. The NRA says the AR-15 is America's most popular rifle owned by more than eight million people in this country.

Let's discuss all of this with Charles Ramsey, CNN law enforcement analyst and a former police chief in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. Good morning to you, sir.


BRIGGS: You started your career in Chicago. You know violent cities. This however is one of America's safest cities, recently named the safest city in Florida and the 15th most safe city in the United States. This is a reminder to everyone that no one is safe.

RAMSEY: No is safe. It can happen anywhere. And I think that is the message now that we learned not only from yesterday but Newtown for an example with Sandy Hook. I mean, a similar situation. Not where you would expect to have this kind of violence breakout. But it can happen anywhere to anyone. And until we do something about it as a society, it is not going to change.

BRIGGS: Well, you mentioned Newtown. That was the moment that most thought, OK, this has changed. This feels different. We must do something. Anything whether it is mental health or background checks. The particular weapons. What does the law enforcement community want to see done?

RAMSEY: We want sensible gun laws. I mean, you know, police like everyone else are all over the place. But for the majority of the police organizations, they are not anti-gun or anti-second amendment. But we have to come up with some sensible gun laws where some 19-year- old or 18-year-old, they're not serving in the military, what are they doing with an AR-15?

For that matter, what is anybody doing with an AR-15 in civilian life? I mean, that is an assault weapon. We just have to have some kind of sensible way of approaching this issue and at least make it more difficult for these things to take place.

BRIGGS: Instead of making it more difficult, it is actually making it easier. The legislation we see in Congress today, you say would make it easier on a couple of fronts.

RAMSEY: Well, there is a bill now for reciprocity, for an example, you know, with 50 states, you have varying gun laws. If you have a conceal carry permit in one state with very lax gun law, you can carry anywhere in the United States. There is also legislation pending now that will make it easy for you to get a silencer. Now, think about it.

You showed a clip earlier about what was going on, the sound of gunshots. Can you imagine what that would be like if that kid had a silencer and a muffled sound? How long it would take for people to be able to react, to know what was going on? I mean, that is absolutely crazy for us to even think about doing something like that, yet is slipping through Congress now.

BRIGGS: And it was not so long ago that Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi joined with the NRA and made it easier for 18-year-olds to acquire weapons such as this. But let's talk about the investigation. Where does it go from here?

RAMSEY: Well, this is still a crime scene. It is nighttime now so they got to wait. They are probably holding everything now. Some of the shootings

[04:40:00] took place inside, some outside. They still have to search the grounds. They are looking for shell casings. They are looking for other forensic evidence. Inside the courts, it is going to take time. This is a large building. You had a lot of victims for them to properly map everything out for prosecution.

So, they got a lot of work ahead. Plus, they got search warrants. I am sure they are executing wherever this young man was living. I don't know how he came here, if he was in a vehicle or whatever, but they certainly have to go through that. So, there is an awful lot of work yet to be done.

BRIGGS: When you look at the social media posts, when you understand that teachers had sent around e-mails warning of the student that he was not allowed back at the school wearing a backpack, it seems something was missed here. How does that process need to change?

RAMSEY: Well, you know, everything in hindsight is kind of easy to see. But, you know, how do you really know whether or not someone is going to do something like that? But I think, you know, people do need to be on guard. But again, this is a school where I don't know what kind of security they have normally.

I don't doubt they have metal detectors in a school like this. But, you know, these are the kind of warning signs where people have to take very seriously and take whatever action they have to take in order to prevent something like this from taking place. Whether or not they could have prevented it, I mean, who knows?

BRIGGS: Whether those warnings need to go to police and up to the FBI. It is a call to action to everyone in this country. Not just Congress, but hopefully every student, teacher, parent, administrator. If you see something, say something. Get it up as high as you can. Tell the police. Christine, we will have more from here in just a bit. Back to you in New York.

ROMANS: All right, thank you, Dave. Great discussion there. You know, the shooting in Florida drew quick outrage from Democrats in Congress.


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.


ROMANS: Those are Democrats. From Republicans, mostly silence. More from Washington next.


BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs live in Parkland, Florida, following overnight developments in the Florida high school shooting that killed 17 people. This ranks as the ninth deadliest in modern U.S. history, the deadliest since Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut.

ROMANS: Yes, just five years ago. So far, gun right advocates have been largely silent and two of Florida's most prominent Republicans are talking a familiar fallback position.


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

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA (voice-over): It is not. Only because people don't know how this happened. Who this person is or what motivated them, 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 conclusion if there is some law that we could have passed that could have prevented it.

REP. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: There is a time to continue to have these conversations about how through law enforcement, how through mental illness funding that we make sure that people are safe. We will continue to do that.


BRIGGS: This is the worst shooting in Florida's history. 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.


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 happened 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.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN LEAD POLITICAL ANCHOR: What, if anything, I keep asking this question, has been done to deal with these kinds of mass shootings since then by the U.S. Congress?

HIMES: Well, Wolf, the honest answer to that question 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.


ROMANS: President Trump tweeting his condolences to the families of the victims. The Florida Sun Sentinel Editorial Board not impressed, writing this, yes, thoughts and 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 the president decided against it. Dave?

BRIGGS: Boy, Christine, this really is his chance to show some leadership [04:50:00] and some moral compass and to calm this country. We will see if he does it. But Christine, it is just amazing the 18 shootings this year and mid-February. They have come in 13 states. Do you think anything will be done? Whether it is background checks, whether it is on mental health. Can you see any legislation even getting a vote?

ROMANS: If you couldn't get anything after Sandy Hook, after Pulse nightclub, after Aurora shooting in the movie theater, I mean, there have been so many horrible attacks. Vegas where so many people, hundreds of people gunned down, and so many died with no legislation. Is it up to the American electorate to do something? Not a lobby group, but the actual American electorate to do something. That I guess is the big question.

BRIGGS: Yes. This is the law and order president. We just spoke with Charles Ramsey. He said the law enforcement community is united behind some sensible reforms. Maybe they will be listened to in Congress. Christine, we'll get back to you in New York shortly.

The president, he didn't say anything publicly about the shooting, but after a week of silence, he did speak up about domestic violence.


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


BRIGGS: Now, CNN has learned Rob Porter was one of many operating with temporary security clearance for a year. "Early Start" continues from New York and Florida in a moment.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice over): Thank you. We're leaving. Make your way out.

TRUMP: 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.


ROMANS: President Trump breaking his painfully long silence on domestic abuse. He has been avoiding the subject ever since his top aide Rob Porter was accused of abusing his two ex-wives. Porter denies the allegations. The president who faces his own accusations of harassment and assault has struggled to respond to the nationwide outcry against mistreatment of women.

CNN has learned exclusively there were more than 100 staffers in the executive office of the president who are working with interim security clearance. This over a year after the election. That includes Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, having only an interim clearance can hamper a staffer's ability to perform essential job functions.

Six Democratic senators sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray asking for the names of all White House staff members with interim security clearances.

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.

Nearly two million undocumented immigrants were brought to the U.S. as children. The plan would also place $25 billion in a trust for border security and 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 unite their caucus behind the bill. But the proposal stops short at President Trump's demands, including an end to the diversity visa lottery and an overhaul of legal immigration. And the measure faces even more hurdles if it ever gets to the House.

American skier Mikaela Shiffrin winning the gold medal in the giant slalom at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. It is her second career gold medal. The 22-year-old won the ladies slalom in Sochi back in 2014. U.S. has now won five gold medals in South Korea.

Stock higher today after Wall Street shook off inflation fears. That what sparked the market sell off a couple weeks ago. Stocks initially dropped after Labor Department said inflation rose 2.1 percent in January. Americans paid more for gas, rent and health care.

The Federal Reserve has a target of 2 percent for inflation. Any higher, investors are worried it will hike interest rates faster than planned. Low rates have fueled the bull stock market. But Wall Street rebounded actually boosted by tech stocks. The Dow now in a four-day winning streak. The Dow and the S&P 500 are both up again for the year. Dave?

BRIGGS: Christine, thanks. We are following developments here in Florida. The deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook. "Early Start" continues right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): This is CNN breaking news.


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

ROMANS: Seventeen more lives lost and yet another episode in the cycle of gun violence plaguing American schools. The suspect's social media now raising disturbing clues. A Florida community is reeling as official resort to thoughts and prayers. No action on the horizon. Good morning. Welcome to "Early Start." It is Thursday, February 15th. I'm Christine Romans in New York.

BRIGGS: Good morning, Christine. I'm Dave Briggs. It is 5:00 a.m. here in Parkland, Florida.

[05:00:00] Known as one of the safest cities in America yesterday. America this morning waking up to another repetition of its recurring nightmare, facing a mass shooting, helpless to stop the gun violence plaguing --