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Congressman Talks about Florida Shooting; Former Congressman Calls to Flip the Congress; Shooting Suspect Appears in Court; Trump Issues Proclamation; Florida Senator on Stopping Violence. Aired 8:30- 9:00a ET

Aired February 15, 2018 - 08:30   ET

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


[08:30:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I don't know how to ask the question any differently. I don't know how many times I have to ask the question about why we can't stop this. Do you have any wisdom on this?

REP. TED DEUTCH (D), FLORIDA: Well, it's not wisdom that we need, it's action that we need. I just -- I appreciate the interview that you just did with the two students and -- and I -- as they were leaving, I just went to tell them how brave I thought they were. And he looked at me and he said, we want action. And that's -- that's coming from someone who had to endure just unspeakable horror yesterday.

And what happened here in an incredible community full of wonderful people -- the kids at this school -- I was at this school just a few weeks ago. These are some of the best kids you'll find anywhere.

CAMEROTA: And this is considered -- it was voted the safest town in Florida.

DEUTCH: Yes. Right. And so what all that that shows us is that no one is immune from this kind of -- from this kind of slaughter.

And, look, I have to tell you, for all of the people who have been saying, you can't politicize this, for the people who have -- who have gone and attacked anyone who said anything about the need to do something, the only people who are politicizing what happened here, the loss of life, the tragedy, one of the worst days that anyone here will ever experience, are the people who don't want to take action, are the people who are looking for any reason to give Congress one more chance to be silent.

And you shouldn't have to feel the way I do. You shouldn't have to stand with a group of cameras in front of a high school where kids were slaughtered to want to do something.

CAMEROTA: And those kids want us to do it today. They want us to talk about it today. The people who endured it and lived through it want it to happen today. So what's the problem with Congress?

DEUTCH: And you know what they don't want? I'll tell you what those kids don't want. They don't want to turn on C-SPAN and watch a moment of silence in the House and then utter silence going forward. I was -- my colleagues came up to me yesterday to offer support and condolences. There were Democrats, there were Republicans, they came from every part of the country and I believe them. They were sincere and I appreciate it.

But the nice words aren't enough. We have to look for ways to try to prevent future tragedies like this from taking place. Yes, this is a school shooting and it's a slaughter. It's one of the worst mass shootings in our country's history. We can't be numb to it. We can't accept this as just part of the price of living in America. That's not who we are. We owe it to these -- the kids that you just had on, the families of those whose lives were lost here. We've got to look for ways -- every way -- everything has to be on the table.

Some people say it's just mental health. Let's talk about mental health. Some people rightly point out that -- that there are -- there's no reason to have high capacity magazines. Let's have that debate. Let's talk about AR-15s. Let's talk about the Second Amendment and not -- there are millions of discussions that we have to have at this time.

CAMEROTA: But -- and are you having those discussions in the halls of Congress?

DEUTCH: We're not having those discussions.

CAMEROTA: Why not?

DEUTCH: Alisyn -- Alisyn, the only -- the only way that we were able to have a discussion about guns and gun safety on the House floor was by sitting in on the House floor for 26 hours straight. That's not the way that --

CAMEROTA: You staged a sit-in, meaning.

DEUTCH: We had a sit-in. I -- look, I've raised this with the speaker directly. I raised it with the speaker after Pulse, after the worst mass shooting (INAUDIBLE).

CAMEROTA: Yes, we were here for that. Chris and I were reporting on that too. And I mean you just -- with each one of these things, you just think that you'll never see something as devastating. And then somehow they up the ante.

And so what was the speaker's response when you raised all of these things?

DEUTCH: Well, look, the speaker's response was, we're not -- we're not going to talk about that now. I told the speaker, at the time the discussion was about the piece of legislation, the reasonable legislation that said, if you're too dangerous to board a plane, if you're on the no-fly list, then you shouldn't be able to buy a gun. Not controversy at all. I told the speaker, if you've got concerns about civil rights concerns, if you're got -- talking about due process, which I think was his argument, then let's sit down and talk about it. But, clearly, we ought to be able to find some way to take meaningful steps. Alisyn, after Las Vegas, there was a moment, a moment, where everyone

at least said -- well, even the NRA said, well, maybe we should outlaw these bump stocks that allow you to take a --

CAMEROTA: The bump stocks. That was -- there was unanimity. Why would you ever be able to turn a semi-automatic into an automatic?

DEUTCH: Right.

CAMEROTA: Then what happened in Congress?

DEUTCH: Well, even -- even the NRA said maybe we should do that.

CAMEROTA: I remember.

DEUTCH: And then they quickly pivoted and said, well, we're going to let the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms go forward with this. No. No. When -- when as many people die on a regular basis, when you have school shooting after school shooting, when you have this scene repeated everywhere in the country all the time, we can't allow anyone else to try to take care of this. We have to try to do it.

I've received messages, not just from all around the country, but from -- I'm on the Foreign Affairs Committee, from people I know around the world, they can't believe it. And we have -- we've got to try to find some way to do this. It's not political. Those kids who were killed weren't killed because of what they believe, what their party is, how they voted in the last election. They're students who showed up at school and never got home.

[08:35:17] CAMEROTA: And so how do you explain it? Why does the NRA have -- is it that the NRA has a stranglehold on lawmakers? I mean I was looking at the donations that the NRA gives to various lawmakers. They're like $4,000 here, $7,000 there. That's worth it?

DEUTCH: Right. I don't -- I don't know why -- I -- look, I don't want to have a conversation about why people don't act. I want to have a conversation about what we have to do to cause people to act. That's -- going forward, that's what we have to do.

CAMEROTA: And what's the answer? What do -- what does have to happen to get people to act?

DEUTCH: Well, look, the governors -- our governor is down here with the attorney general. The president of the United States is going to be about an hour from here over the weekend, all right. I would think that instead of -- instead of tweeting, as the president did yesterday, that some are trying to inject politics in this, I would think that there's an opportunity for someone like the president to actually be a leader and say we can't have this happen, and remember the kinds of things that he had said when he was a candidate, in his prior life.

Look, this is not -- it's not political. And I know there are people watching who -- who are just -- they're so anxious for me to bash one side, to make this a political fight. Look, the politics are hard. They're really hard. But you -- not -- no member of Congress should have to come down here, get out of their car and greet a grieving mayor who shared with me the stories of the people that she knows whose kids were there who didn't come home. Like, no one should have to feel that in order to want to take action.

I know that this is hard. I know that we've had discussions about stranglehold in the politics and outside interest groups. I don't care about them. I care about stopping things like this from happening so that families don't have to grieve, so that we don't have to go through this time and time and time again.

CAMEROTA: We hear you, Congressman Ted Deutch. We hope that your colleagues in Congress hear you as well. We hope that you can make some progress, even in beginning the conversation.

Thanks so much for being here.

DEUTCH: I appreciate it. Thanks, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Thanks so much for being here with us.

Chris, I mean you hear everyone's passion. You hear everyone's plea. But we don't have any answers.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you hear the people who don't have the power. You know, he's a Democrat. They're not going to make anything happen in the House. Have we heard from Paul Ryan about this? We just heard from the secretary of state. He's in the Middle East. He was asked about this. He said now is not the time to talk about it. I mean it's just a copout. We hear it time and again, but it's important for you to ask the questions, especially on the scene of the tragedy.

Now, we all know that Congress has not taken action. And by they I mean Republicans, because they're the ones in power. They won't even meaningfully ask the question, what are we going to do to stop school shootings. You don't even have to have the word "gun" in the question, they still won't ask it. Many are pointing the fingers at Republican leaders, not just me, including former GOP Congressman David Jolly, who said this on CNN last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER REP. DAVID JOLLY (R), FLORIDA: Let's be brutally honest about what we do know, and I say this as a Republican. Republicans will never do anything on gun control. Consider last summer, you had Republican members of Congress shot and nearly killed during a softball practice, and they did nothing. After the Pulse Nightclub, Democrats had a sit-in in the House. Republicans did nothing. After Vegas, hundreds injured, over 50 killed, Republicans did nothing.

There are two things I would suggest tonight. First, flip the House. Flip the House. Republicans are not going to do a single thing after this shooting we saw today.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: So we invited Republican senators, you know, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, why, he's from Texas, because he talks about this issue a lot. We invited the governor to come on the show this morning. They declined.

We say, let's get after it. It's not a slogan. It's an approach. You have to take these issues on. You've got to ask the tough questions. You must be held accountable.

Rubio says this is an inexplicable tragedy. That couldn't be less true. Governor Scott is actively fighting right now to penalize doctors who even ask patients in their state if they have firearms. Where are they? They won't come on here. They're on Fox News this morning, the mother ship, so they won't be pressed about gun control. What are they afraid of?

Joining us now is former Republican Congressman David Jolly of Florida.

Now, of course, the key word, my brother, is former, right, because it gives you a freedom to discuss what is true. But, still, you care about your party, and saying flip the House is not something to be flip about. Why are you calling for that?

[08:40:04] DAVID JOLLY (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE TO FLORIDA: Look, I've been in Republican politics for over 20 years and I had an opportunity to work in the Congress as staff, serve as a member of Congress. And the reality after each shooting, if we are brutally honest, is Republicans are not going to do a single thing. And so if you're an American, that this is the center of your political ideology, gun issues, then you need the Democratic Party to be in charge and address reasonable and reasonable gun control. Republicans will not do it.

And, Chris, I would also point out, though, because I -- there is this thing about former members often speaking out. I tried to lead in the House. On the terror watch list, I offered a compromise that had due process, that Ted Deutch was talking about. I was the only Republican to sponsor universal background checks. And you know what happened? I -- listen, I received NRA support in my very first race, before I had cast a single vote.

CUOMO: (INAUDIBLE) --

JOLLY: Once they started seeing my votes and once they saw the bills I introduced, they abandoned me, and much of my leadership did as well.

CUOMO: Well, look, the NRA matters. They put a lot of money in pockets. I mean there are numbers flying around now. I haven't checked them because I don't think it's relevant because their impact is obvious. And whether it's $3 million to Rubio or $30 million or whatever to Trump, the money's just one part here. It's your voters.

JOLLY: Exactly.

CUOMO: People will come out, Jolly, and they will vote on their Second Amendment rights or their, you know, their ill-conceived notions of what that freedom is about and why it's important to them in today's society. They don't come out on this issue and vote the same way. Do you think pressure from people is the answer to get your party to at least address the fundamental question of, what can we do to stop the shootings?

JOLLY: You hit on two very important things. Look, the NRA is largely a beltway organization that controls the money, but they mobilize voters back home. And, frankly, as a result of gerrymandering, you have these super random, super blue districts. And so there is a constituency that holds tightly to their firearms. And, listen, that have explained to me, Republicans that I know and I trust and I -- and I love have said the reason the Second Amendment is there so that we can keep firearms in case the government comes against us.

CUOMO: Right.

JOLLY: So those are the constituencies that you're wrestling with.

CUOMO: Right.

JOLLY: I don't think pressure will work on this. I --

CUOMO: Because that's --

JOLLY: Republicans have had too many opportunities.

CUOMO: Well, I don't know. Look, I hope you're wrong, all right, I mean, because, look, let's be honest --

JOLLY: I do too.

CUOMO: If you can sell somebody on the contrived notion that they need an AR-15 to protect themselves from the government that has nuclear capabilities, you know, you might as well use some good logic. If ill logic can work, you might as well use good logic.

But we've been making a mistake on our side as well. You know, Alisyn and I believe that you shouldn't say the names of these shooters or terrorists when they attack because there's just no reason to dignify them. But you know what the mistake we've been making is, we don't say by name the lawmakers of that particular state and what they have done or refused to do. So this morning, let's undo the mistake.

Governor Scott again is actively fighting -- Jolly, you tell me if you're wrong, you know the state of play in your own state. He is actively fighting to penalize doctors who ask their patients whether they have firearms in your state? This was a law under the ACA that they brought in. It was something that they didn't like in Florida. They got rid of it. It became a federal lawsuit. The law won. Scott is forcing an appeal of that. He wants to fight it. That's him.

Rubio calls it an inexplicable tragedy. It is the most easily explained tragedy you can have. He knows why this happens. And then you have Ted Cruz. None would come on this morning, Jolly. You would, but you're on the right side of this argument. They're all on Fox, the mother ship, because they don't want to be asked about this. What are they afraid of? Tell me.

JOLLY: Because they're weak-kneed ideologues. You know what I hate in the Republican Party, is people that say, I'm a hunter, I like to own guns and I'm going to fight for the right to own guns, but they don't have the courage to stand in front of the American people and actually admit that they don't have solutions to these issues and they are hiding from the American people on it. They are weak-kneed ideologues.

Last year in the state of Florida, Republicans tried to pass open carry, not concealed carry, and guns on campuses. Students could walk into a classroom, lay their gun on their desk. Fortunately, that got killed. Those are the politics of the Republican Party right now.

Chris, I'm a Republican and I wish Republicans would address universal background checks, responsible gun control measures. But they're not doing that. And so it's not that I want Democrats for ideological reasons to take control of the House, but the reality is, in the wake of these mass casualty firearm events --

CUOMO: Right.

JOLLY: Only the Democrats are speaking to reasonable gun control today. Republicans are hiding from the American people.

CUOMO: You know, again, it is a huge component of this discussion. I do not mean in any way to suggest otherwise. I know this. Nobody in this building's been to more of these shootings than I have, I would expect.

But, you don't -- you know, the question, how do we stop the school shootings? It has other components as well.

JOLLY: Sure.

[08:45:03] CUOMO: I do not believe in villainizing the mental ill. They are more likely statistically to be victims of gun violence than perpetrators of it. But you do have in these mass school shootings well over three out of four wind up having a mental health component. So why not start there?

Brother Rubio was on Fox News this morning saying, you know, you've got the mental health thing and it is a combination of different factors. You know, it's hard. You've got to look at it in its totality. Why not screen for depression? They know in the clinical community it's easy to screen and it's a really strong preventative measure. Why not just do that? Why not start the conversation there?

JOLLY: There was a mental health bill out there for three years that Republicans embraced as the answer, but they never actually would move it and pass it. And the reason is that --

CUOMO: Trump got rid of -- one of the regulations he got rid of, Jolly --

JOLLY: That's right. CUOMO: Was the Obama regulation about making it a little additional screening a little harder for people with diagnosed mental illness to get a weapon. They got rid of the regulation.

JOLLY: And, look, at some point when you have to make political (INAUDIBLE) judgements, there has been this question that if you allow doctors to report, does that reduce the likelihood people would seek care. At this point, I think that's a value judgment. We have to say, let's just take that risk.

But I -- let's go back to the NRA for a minute, because this is the reality of politics. They fight a slippery slope every single day. And they do not want to see an inch of ground given. That's why you didn't see the bump stock vote, because there was no way that Paul Ryan and Republicans were going to have a vote because the NRA didn't want it. And that's their -- and that's their advocacy position.

Here's what's happening in Congress. And every Republican, every Democratic has to face this question when you're elected. A lot of people are elected for the first time based on a certain ideology. A rigid ideology. The day you get elected, you hold the public trust. Everybody's public trust. Not your party's public trust. And the question is, are you only advancing your ideology or are you trying to solve problems that are real for American families, real for these families in Florida today, real for people in Colorado, in Las Vegas, in Columbine, in Sandy Hook, real for people at Pulse? Because the reality is, Republicans are not addressing the real issues.

I would also say, Democrats often play politics with this as well. They may be right on the gun control issue, but they had an opportunity after Pulse to reach a compromise. They were part of the hands that killed it. I've got the scars on my back to prove it.

CUOMO: Why did they kill it? What was the Democrat problem?

JOLLY: I'll tell you exactly what happened. There are photos of me on the House floor during the sit-in, middle of the night. We reached a deal. I said to Democrats, I can get 30 Republicans if you can bring your caucus, a compromise bill with due process. We went to bed about 3:00 in the morning. We had the votes, I believe. The next morning, a Democratic colleague said to me, his leadership said, nobody work with Jolly, we're spending $2 million to beat him in November, we're not going to let him lead on this compromise bill. So, in that case, there was a compromise there. Susan Collins had one as well and it got killed in the Senate.

CUOMO: Party over people. That's BS, Jolly.

JOLLY: That's right, it is.

CUOMO: And if that's -- that's true, I'll check it just to make sure before we jump on it too hard. I'm not saying you're a liar, but I've got to check things. That's the job.

I appreciate you being on, Dave Jolly. Thank you for your perspective, especially as a Republican and one who loves their party. Appreciate it.

And once again --

JOLLY: Thank you.

CUOMO: I don't know what you're afraid of. Governor Scott, we know that you're a fighter. We know that you believe passionately. Senator Rubio, same thing. Senator Cruz, it's your hallmark. You're the great debater. Why won't you answer the questions that need to be answered? Why won't you discuss how we stop the school shootings? It's a simple question. People should insist you answer it.

Alisyn, back to you, please, in Parkland, Florida, where everybody's head and their heart should be this morning.

CAMEROTA: Chris, thank you.

I mean I look at the school buses behind me, over my right shoulder, that are sitting idly this morning and just can't imagine kids boarding those again and feeling safe.

We have some breaking news here, though, in Parkland, Florida, right now.

As you know, 17 people were killed in the high school behind me in this shooting massacre. The 19-year-old suspect is expected to make his first court appearance today. So we have CNN's Dave Briggs. He is live over at the courthouse for us, outside of the Broward County Courthouse with more.

Dave, what are you learning?

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": Hi there, Alisyn.

Well, let's start from the top where Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old, was arrested near the school without incident, taken to the hospital briefly for breathing issues, then taken here early this morning to the Broward County Courthouse, charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, held without bond. He is still being processed.

As you may have mentioned, a disturbing portrait is emerging, and it's all too familiar. One of a weird, sketchy, odd, loner with anger and emotional issues. And there was this chilling description to "The Miami Herald" from a classmate, Joshua Charrow (ph). I can't say I was shocked from past experience. He seemed like the kind of kid who would do something like this.

Imagine that, a kid that you know would seem like the kind of person to walk into a school and shoot 17 people and kill them.

[08:50:17] Now, the big question being asked, though, is why weren't some of these warnings heeded? There was a warning from a math teacher, Jim Guard (ph), e-mailed to other teachers saying that Cruz was not allowed on campus with a backpack. Then there's these disturbing Instagram pictures with guns, with knives. That has now been scrubbed. But YouTube, that's where this story is likely headed. According to

Buzzfeed, one blogger contacted the FBI with a warning from Nikolas Cruz saying he would be a professional school shooter. The FBI, again, according to Buzzfeed, requested an in-person interview. CNN has reached out to the FBI for comment.

What we know now is he'll appear in court, not this morning, but likely in the afternoon session, again, facing 17 counts of premeditated murder.

Alisyn.

CUOMO: All right, I'll take it, Dave. Thank you very much.

We do have some breaking news from the White House. President Trump issuing a proclamation, while we wait to see if he will actually address the nation. This is an unusual move.

Let's get to CNN's Abby Phillip, live at the White House.

A proclamation. What does it say?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Chris. Good morning.

The president still hasn't spoken out publicly to the American people. But the white House released a paper statement. It's about a paragraph long and it offers sympathy for the victims and also orders the flags at the White House to be lowered to half mast, a familiar ritual here in the wake of these kinds of massacres.

But, again, we've been asking the White House all morning about what the president plans to say and do about this. This shooting once again happening on his watch. There's still no word yet.

He also, as you've been talking about all morning, sent out another tweet talking about what he thinks friends and neighbors should do when they see people who might pose a risk. But, of course, we know that that was done here in this case.

In this case, the White House is putting out a statement basically saying that the violence was terrible, and that he is offering sympathy for the people who have lost loved ones. This is just a one- paragraph statement from the president this morning. We're waiting to see if we'll see and hear from him this morning, Chris.

CUOMO: That's the proclamation that you're reading from?

PHILLIP: That's right. Yes.

CUOMO: So there's nothing -- so it's just thoughts and prayer, sympathies, this is terrible?

PHILLIP: Flags lowered. The -- what we often see from these types of incidents, that's what is written here on this piece of paper, Chris.

CUOMO: OK. Abby Phillip, thank you very much.

Alisyn, let's get back to you in Florida.

CAMEROTA: OK, Chris, thank you.

Joining us now is Democratic senator from Florida, Bill Nelson.

Senator, we're very sorry for what's happening in your state this morning.

SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Senator, what can you tell the American public and our viewers right now about how we're going to stop this?

NELSON: Well, these are all our children. You can imagine if you were the parent of one of those children and you're looking for answers and all of the above has been talked about, the mental health, preparation at the school and so forth. But you get right down to the weapon, an AR-15. It's a high-caliber, rapid-fire, military-style weapon. It's easy available.

In Florida, we have a background check law since 1998, but it is not enforced. And as a result, it's easy to get these kind of assault weapons. So if you are one of those parents, you would be asking yourself, if it weren't an AR-15, my child just might be still alive. And that's an issue that we have to confront. And yet we try something as common sense as, if you're on the terrorist watch list -- the terrorist watch list --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

NELSON: You can't buy a gun, and we can't get that passed.

CAMEROTA: Yes, no fly, no buy. I remember it well. I remember the bump stock conversation well. I remember the conversation after Newtown well. I remember all of these well because we've covered so many of them.

Senator, let me ask you this about the background checks.

This suspect left a really shocking digital footprint. He was telegraphing what he was going to do in some of these social media posts. He said things like, I want to shoot up lots of people. He said things like, I want to shoot people with my AR-15. How can someone like that get their hands on a gun?

[08:55:11] NELSON: Well, it's not absolutely certain that a background check would have caught him because he's still so young and he's been in and out of the mental health system. But it would be another check.

But, at the same time, if he could not buy the assault weapon, that would make a difference as well. And we're going to have to confront this as a society. Every time we go through this -- and, look, we've been through it three times in the last couple of years just in Florida. The Pulse Nightclub. A year ago, the Ft. Lauderdale Airport shooting, in the same county as Parkland is. We've been through this a lot. And each time we say, enough is enough, and then, of course, it isn't enough.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

Senator Bill Nelson, we appreciate you coming on to talk about this. And we're sorry for what your state is having to endure again this morning.

NELSON: Thanks.

CAMEROTA: I am down here in Parkland, Florida. I will be here again throughout the day.

And CNN's coverage of the massacre here in Florida will continue on CNN "NEWSROOM" with John Berman after this very quick break.

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