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EARLY START

17 Killed in Florida School Shooting; Washington Shows Familiar Post-Shooting Political Refrain; Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired February 15, 2018 - 05:00   ET

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


[05:00:00] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: -- known as one of the safest cities in America yesterday.

America, waking this morning to another reputation of its recurring nightmare, facing a mass shooting. Helpless to stop the gun violence plaguing this country.

Seventeen people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School here in Parkland. 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 terror they experiences. We do want to warn you, however, this video is disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy -- oh, my god. Oh my god.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Terrifying. Imagine getting that out of your mind. Officials say that's the sound of an 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Worst possible scenario. The gunfire sent students running for cover. Desperate to escape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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, and then like 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 as mothers and fathers embraced daughters and sons. Imagine those moments just waiting to hear from your kid.

We do have to tell you there are families here in Parkland, Florida, who have not heard from their children. They do unfortunately fear the worst.

There have now been 18 school shootings this year. And it's only mid- February.

For the latest on the police investigation and what we know about the former student behind the shooting, CNN's Rosa Flores also here in Parkland.

Good morning, Rosa.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave. Well, investigators have the work cut out for themselves because they are processing this extensive scene that you see behind me. According to the sheriff here that tells us the shooting actually started outside of the school. Investigators found one body on the street. As they got closer to the school, they found two bodies outside the building and then of course 12 bodies inside.

And these investigators now have to go to this crime scene inch by inch collecting evidence, trying to connect the dots, trying to figure out why this gunman did this. And also, trying to gather evidence that -- that corroborates witness accounts. And again, the goal is to figure out exactly what happened here.

We are learning more about this suspected gunman. Nikolas Cruz, 19 years of age. He's a former student of this high school. Expelled because of disciplinary issues according to the sheriff. We also learned that he purchased an AR-15 style rifle in the past year. He passed the background check. And according to the sheriff, he had countless magazines. That's why we keep on hearing that the carnage here could have been worse because of the amount of ammunition that this individual had with him.

Now the trail of evidence that these investigators are having to go through includes a lot of just belongings from these students who had to run for their lives. Cell phones, their notebooks, their bags. As they were trying to hide from this gunman because a lot of the students that we've talked to say that they could hear the gunshots.

The teachers locking those classrooms to make sure that their students were safe and students hiding underneath desks, underneath the teacher's desk, to try to stay alive and to try to stay safe.

Now we are learning a little more about the suspect and his personal life. We know that his mother actually died back in November. His father died 13 years ago. And so a family took him in in November. And we're learning from that family that they are completely heartbroken. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM LEWIS, ATTORNEY: Nothing to indicate that anything like this was pending.

[05:05:02] Showed no harm or malice towards anyone at the high school, never mentioned anything like that, that he had any problems of anybody there. They totally don't know where this came from.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FLORES: Now the suspected gunman is expected to face a judge later this morning, Dave. We don't know exactly what time that's going to happen. But we do know that it is a bond hearing that is scheduled for later today -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Rosa, thanks.

No school today or tomorrow. You might imagine returning to the school behind me will be an emotional and difficult experience for the kids and their teachers.

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. The Sutherland Springs Church. The Las Vegas Country music concert. The Pulse Nightclub just a few hours from here, in Orlando. The San Bernardino office shooting. Of course the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater.

Now 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, a CNN law enforcement analyst and former police chief of Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia.

Good morning to you, Charles.

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Good morning.

BRIGGS: Let's start with that AR-15 rifle. Less than five years ago it was legalized for 18-year-olds to buy it. The NRA along with 21 other states joined in legislation. Should it be legal for anyone let alone for 18-year-old kids in your opinion?

RAMSEY: Well, in my opinion, the answer to that is no. I'm not anti- Second Amendment, I'm not anti-firearm. But I do think that the civilian use of some of these firearms ought to be limited and I think we've learned enough now -- at least you would think we have learned enough now --what can happen when it falls into the wrong hands. So we need to make it at least difficult for people that are suffering from any kind of mental illness, that are too young to really understand exactly what it is they're doing to own such a powerful weapon.

BRIGGS: There are reports that the shooter did have some mental health treatment in recent years. The law enforcement community. What would you like to see done in Congress? This is certainly a call to action to Democrats, to Republicans, to everyone in this country.

RAMSEY: Well, it starts with honest debate, honest discussion. I mean, what you're going to have now is a period where, you know, everyone is shocked, although I don't know why they're shocked. It keeps happening over and over again. Then you have a period when they want to have the prayer and moments of silence, and say it's too soon to talk about this because we're still mourning.

But then after that, nothing happens. And we just go about our business. And it's time and time again this happens. But when are we going to wake up and realize that we've got to have the discussion? If not now then when?

BRIGGS: It was three weeks ago when there was a school shooting in Kentucky. And it seemed like America didn't even blink. It was an alert on their phone and they went back to business. I was stunned. We need to be outraged, we need to be emotional. We need to be angry.

Where does the investigation, though, go from here?

RAMSEY: Well, they're going to continue. This is still a crime scene. So I'm sure that there are areas outside they're going to go over again now once the sun comes up when they can actually see what they're doing. Inside, you probably have multiple locations where the shootings took place so they've still got to be able to process that.

Where this individual lived is another location that if it hasn't already been searched is certainly being held to get a search warrant. I don't know if he had a vehicle or not. And then they're still going through all the social media data that they have to try to piece this thing together as well as the interrogations that are taking place right now to find out if anybody else know what was going on. Did he have any help at all? I mean, we need to really be able to just dissect this and it's going to take time.

BRIGGS: Yes, Charles, it's disturbing to hear students here at this high school say they almost knew it was coming with this guy. They say he was obsessed with guns and knives and made warnings on YouTube and disturbing posts on Instagram. Should those be part of a background check? Is that even possible?

RAMSEY: I don't know if it's possible or not. I mean, we do have rights in this country where you just can't -- you know, if you're talking about gun shop owners, for example, going into someone's social media. I mean, I don't know how practical that is. I mean, hindsight is one thing. And we all see the warning signs now. But at the time, I mean, you can't arrest somebody for what you think they might do in the future. I mean, nothing has happened. So you're kind of in a position where

you have to pay close attention to what's going on. But you know, I just don't know what's practical in that --

[05:10:03] BRIGGS: So it really falls on Congress. And there is legislation in Congress, but that would make it easier -- easier to buy silencers, easier to carry a weapon across state lines.

We'll discuss that with you, Charles Ramsey, in about 30 minutes.

Christine, back to you in New York.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Dave, thank you so much for that.

That shooting in Florida quick to draw outrage from Democrats in Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: On the flipside, Republicans have largely gone silent. More from Washington next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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. It's the deadliest school shooting in Florida history.

[05:15:08] ROMANS: So far gun rights advocates, Dave, have been largely silent and two of Florida's most prominent Republicans are talking a familiar fallback position, if you will, including Senator Marco Rubio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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: It's not only because people don't -- they don't know how this happened. I mean, how -- who this person is, what motivated them, how did they get a hold of the weapon that they used for this attack? I think it's 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, and we'll continue to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Well, let's bring in CNN Politics reporter Tal Kopan live in Washington.

And good morning, and you seem to have these two camps here, the thoughts-and-prayers camp and the take-your-thoughts-and-prayers-and- shove-it camp. We have to do something about it. And it's just, you know, repeated every time there is one of these school shootings. This one simply devastating here.

Here is what Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, of course where the Sandy Hook shooting happened five years ago. Here's what he says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Will the electorate, Tal, you think ever really take it seriously and demand that lawmakers do something?

TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Christine, it's so hard to imagine that they will after all of these attacks that we've been through. After Sandy Hook where it was just so devastating and the victims were such young children. You know, I think a lot of people felt like if that didn't move people to action, if that didn't move lawmakers or their voters to action, it's hard to imagine what will.

And, you know, it's unfortunate that every time this happens it feels like the script writes itself. You know, we see the sort of partisan divisions beginning to form and let's be clear there are tragedies that each party wants to talk about right away and there are some tragedies that they it's too soon. And the pattern repeats itself over and over, and we just see the sort of fight emerge and nothing actually gets done.

And, you know, maybe you mentioned the electorate. Maybe it is up to voters to demand that more be done. But at this point, we don't see any of that demand resonating in the halls of Congress.

BRIGGS: Well, much like immigration, which we'll get to in a moment, Tal, you need those moderate Republicans to come on board. And you check the Twitter accounts of Jeff Flake, you know, moderates like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. They're not saying anything about any congressional action. They are in the thoughts-and-prayers camp.

But do you expect Democrats in addition to immigration to perhaps campaign on this issue as we approach 2018?

KOPAN: That's an interesting question, Dave. It's hard to know exactly what they're going to campaign on. You know, you talk about running campaigns on kitchen table issues. Traditionally it's things like the economy, it's things like health care. You know, if it starts to feel like America is demanding that their lawmakers tell them what they want to do on gun violence, on these shootings, then perhaps lawmakers will respond.

But at this point, I don't see a lot of even Democratic lawmakers making this a signature campaign issue outside of the ones that have had such a tragedy happened in their districts. This is why we see Chris Murphy has become such an outspoken advocate on this issue after it happened so close to home for him.

ROMANS: Let's talk about the president yesterday about 3:50 in the afternoon. He tweeted his response to this event. "My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school."

That is a tweet. Not an on-camera -- not an on-camera statement which sends a sort of different message when the president personally makes that kind of a statement. The "Sun Sentinel," a Florida newspaper, the editorial board, said this, "Yes, thoughts are prayers are welcomed response to any one 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."

[05:20:09] You know, I'm not the first person to use this analogy. But when there is a bridge collapse, all parts of the government and the community get together to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. When any other consumer product causes harm to someone, you know, you figure out how to fix it.

With gun violence, we don't even try to figure out how gun violence even affects the communities in which it happens. I mean, even on that very micro level as a society, we don't do anything, Tal.

KOPAN: Yes. And you know, you talk about President Trump's reaction. I think we all have an indelible image in our mind of President Obama getting so emotional on camera discussing these shootings. I mean, that's a presidential moment that you think the White House would have tried to create yesterday. Perhaps we'll see it today.

And you know, compare the response to this and to the Las Vegas shooting from the White House to how they respond to terrorist attacks that have happened in this administration and when the perpetrator of that attack is an immigrant. You know, the contrast is stark for the American people to see in terms of how the federal government sort of springs into action to get to the bottom of who those people were and what their motivations are.

You know, hopefully you see the same kind of wholehearted effort to get to the bottom of this one as well.

BRIGGS: Yes. The president before this had been focused on immigration. That is your issue. What does the state of play on this bill or the likelihood of anything getting out of the Senate with 60 votes, Tal?

(LAUGHTER)

KOPAN: Well, Dave, I mean, when you're talking about Congress, you always have to start with sort of long shot odds because that seems to be the case for any piece of legislation. You know, this debate was supposed to kickoff in grand fashion Monday. Here we are Thursday morning and there hasn't been a single vote of substance yet on legislation. But there is -- there have been a lot happening behind the scenes. And yesterday there was a pretty significant development.

The bipartisan group that's been meeting that was everyone sort of hope is the best shot of finding 60 votes or something. Did release their proposal. It is a fair amount narrower than what the White House wants. It's a substantial border security, substantial DACA piece with a little piece about limiting the ability of those recipients to then sponsor their parents for citizenship.

ROMANS: Right.

KOPAN: We don't know yet if it has 60 votes. We may find out today. But it still may be short. And if that doesn't get it, it's likely that nothing will and nothing will pass the Senate.

ROMANS: All right. Tal Kopan for us in Washington. Thanks for that. Come back in a few minutes. We have a lot to talk about this morning.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: And now CNN has learned that Rob Porter, the president's former aide, was one of many operating without a permanent security clearance. Temporary security clearance only for a year.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[05:27:49] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. We're leaving. Make your way out. TRUMP: -- oppose to domestic violence and everybody here knows that.

I am totally opposed to domestic violence of any kind and 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: President Trump breaking his painfully long silence on domestic abuse. He has been avoiding the subject ever since one of the top aides 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.

But CNN has learned exclusively there were more than 100 staffers in the executive office of the president who are working with interim security clearance over a year now 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 have sent a letter to the FBI Director Christopher Wray asking for the names of all White House staff members with interim security clearances.

The porn star who allegedly had a sexual encounter with President Trump is ready to tell her story. Stormy Daniels' manager says she believes the president's personal lawyer breached a nondisclosure agreement.

Michael Cohen admitted this week to paying Daniels $130,000 in 2016. Cohen said the exchange was not a campaign contribution, adding he did not tell president about the payment days before the election.

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 in 2014. Mikaela will try to defend her title in that event tomorrow -- Dave.

BRIGGS: She is outstanding and certainly will be story of these Olympic Games but the story of the day, of course, down here in Parkland, Florida.

We're following the latest on the deadliest shooting since Sandy Hook Elementary.

EARLY START continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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 --