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Congressional Response on Guns Falls Along Party Lines. Mike Rounds Talks Gun Laws; Student Credits Teacher for Saving Her Life; YouTube Account Holder Alerted FBI to School Shooter; Parkland Shooting Compared to the Columbine Shooting; Rob Porter Knew Security Clearance Delayed Due to Violence. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired February 15, 2018 - 13:30   ET

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


[13:30:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: It does require, though, a pause in shooting for the person to reload. I'm just saying, I mean, is there no limit as to how many bullets somebody should be able to fire in one go in any one magazine?

SEN. MIKE ROUNDS, (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: Anderson, I think that's a critical question out there. As I say, I look at a gun that's been passed through three generations of my own family. It has a magazine that's built into it. Folks would recognize it. It's a Winchester model 69 .22. It carries 21 shells. Yet, you don't find that being used anywhere to do damage. So what you'll find on the other side is people will say, why do you want to take that away from a law-abiding citizen? I don't think that's the goal --

(CROSSTALK)

ROUNDS: -- but I think that becomes the threat.

COOPER: You also talk about passing weapons down in the family. That's such an amazing tradition. And it's an honor to have something your grandfather had. But if you pass down a vehicle, you have to change the licensing on it. You have to file forms on it. You can pass down a weapon within a family or you can give a weapon to a friend without having to register it or make any notification that you have actually gotten rid of the weapon and a new person has it. Should that be changed?

ROUNDS: I think there's a discussion out there. I'd have a tough time suggesting that I'd have to identify a program that was given to my grandfather, to my father, to me, to my son and to my grandson. And to suggest that we would have to write that in the federal government to be followed through. Once again, it sounds really easy, but I don't think that's where your issues are at. I think what's happening is you still come back down to there are individuals in this society who should not be allowed to have access to firearms.

COOPER: Right. Why, then, should cars be re-registered?

ROUNDS: You mean going from one person to another, with the licensing involved in it and the fact that --

COOPER: Yes. ROUNDS: -- you pay for the license that actually goes to paying for the highways themselves? Pay for the transportation systems. If you take a look, it's a matter of picking up the dollars. It isn't a matter of suspicioning. Although, they could be used as a weapon. We aren't licensing them because they are a weapon. We're licensing them because that's the way you pay for your road systems. People license those vehicles because that's what goes into maintaining our road systems. It's a user fee. It's entirely different than suggesting you want to keep a national registry of individuals who have firearms. Even though, right now, if you're going to buy a firearm, walk right in and go through a background check. Some say it's a bad thing that the background check could take only six or seven minutes. I would suggest that that means it's working the way it's supposed to, and that the systems have been put in place. That keeps people in favor of having that background system there and available.

COOPER: Senator Mike Rounds, I appreciate your time. I appreciate your coming on to discuss it. Thank you.

ROUNDS: Thank you.

COOPER: Up next, we'll continue to learn more details about what happened inside the school, the heroic efforts of teachers trying to get their students to safety. I'll talk to a student who saw her teacher gunned down and credits him for saving her life.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:37:25] COOPER: Here in Florida, students in the line of fire. Too many of them dying here in Parkland in their high school. Seventeen fatalities at this point. All they wanted was to learn and to grow as people.

With me is Kelsey Friend. She's a student at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, who saw her teacher get gunned down in front of her.

First of all, how are you holding up today?

KELSEY FRIEND, STUDENT, MAJORIE STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: Today has been a lot easier than it was yesterday and this morning. I still break down in tears when I look on Instagram and when I remember the classroom and how the school looked at the time. And if I was at home, I would probably be crying now because it still hurts. It's something that I'll never get over.

COOPER: I want to ask you some questions. And I know your mom has given permission and stuff. But if there's anything you don't want to talk about, that's completely fine. You don't have to.

Can you just tell me what happened when you realized something was going wrong?

FRIEND: When I realized something was going wrong and when there was a huge wave of students coming back from downstairs saying they heard gunshots. COOPER: This is after the fire alarm had been pulled?

FRIEND: Yes, this was after the fire alarm. I actually walked up to my teacher because I was being shoved around. I walked up to my teacher, who is Mr. Bugle, and I said, I'm scared. I don't know what's going on. He heard the gunshots. I opened the door and ran in. Unfortunately, he did not run in with me.

COOPER: How far were the gunshots when you heard them? Were they loud?

FRIEND: They were close. They were right down the stairwell, it sounded like. He was probably five, 10 feet away from me and a group of friends who were hiding in an open-door classroom. We're lucky to be alive.

COOPER: There were five of you in that classroom?

FRIEND: There were probably 20 kids with me in that classroom and we all had to be very quiet, so we didn't get caught because our door was wide open.

COOPER: He had gone down the hall?

FRIEND: Yes, he had gone down the hall. I think one or two times, I don't really remember, because it happened so fast, but I heard multiple, multiple gunshots. And it was probably the worst thing to hear. I've never heard gunshots before. And having it happen at your favorite school with your favorite teacher on the floor and friends and my mom texting me, and my friends crying, it's the hardest thing in the world.

COOPER: Did you actually see what happened to your teacher?

[13:40:54] FRIEND: No, I did not witness what happened to my teacher. I just heard the shot that ended -- killed him. And remembering that bang, it haunts me. Every time I hear a loud bang anywhere, I freak out, and it's hard.

COOPER: How long were you staying hunkered down in the classroom?

FRIEND: It felt like years, I'm going to be honest. It really did. I just remember the time, 2:35, and that's the time I remember, and I don't remember how long I was in there for, but it felt like forever.

COOPER: How did you ultimately get out?

FRIEND: The SWAT team got us after my friend called the police. We were all crying and upset, and that's the time we realized there were helicopters outside, police outside, that it was real. My friend had called the police and said, we're on the third floor, please come help us. Then I heard the SWAT team. I almost got out but then I realized, what if it's not them. So we waited until they came into the classroom and let us out.

COOPER: And as you're leaving, did you witness anything, or were you just keeping your head down?

FRIEND: I saw a lot of things that I shouldn't. I saw my teacher, I saw two very sad images of two students and a puddle of blood that I had to walk close to and blood on the stairs. Everything was thrown, gunpowder all over the place. It really felt like a movie, if I'm going to be honest. It was that terrifying.

COOPER: I know you said you only slept a couple hours tonight. Are you exhausted, are you on adrenaline?

FRIEND: I'm exhausted, but I can -- I'm still pushing because I loved this teacher very much, and I'm going to continue to push for this teacher and keep his name out there, because he saved 10 to 15 to 20 kids' lives and I'm very thankful for him. He is my superhero.

COOPER: What kind of teacher was he?

FRIEND: He was a geography teacher. And he made learning and what went on in the classroom much easier and more fun. Before the alarm went off, we were actually playing a geography game with coordinates on a map. He was playing music and we were all dancing. He was laughing. And when the fire alarm went off, we were all confused but we all got up, and he was joking around and made everybody laugh, because everybody was scared and confused. He said, we're all going to die, but then in the end, unfortunately, that did happen to him. And the rest of the class, I believe, had lived, which is heartbreaking for me.

COOPER: Well, I wish you the best. And take care of yourself. And I'm glad you're with your mom and your family.

Thank you so much.

FRIEND: Thank you.

COOPER: Appreciate it.

We're going to have more of our breaking news. Why authorities may have missed multiple red flags on the alleged shooter's deadly threats in the community. We'll speak to the man who first alerted the FBI to the possible dangers, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:45:09] COOPER: We're learning more about some warning signs that may have been missed in the Florida school massacre. CNN has confirmed the FBI was warned in September about a threat from a YouTube user with the same name as the alleged shooting suspect. The source says it was one of two warnings. A video blogger alerted the feds after a disturbing message was posted to one of his videos.

Ben Bennight first alerted the FBI to the possible dangers when he saw a YouTube post from a person using the same name as the alleged shooter.

Ben joins me now. Ben, thank you for being with us.

First of all, what did you think when you first saw the news and you heard the name of the person involved?

BEN BENNIGHT, YOUTUBE ACCOUNT HOLDER WHO NOTIFIED FBI: (INAUDUBLE). I called them and told them it could possibly be the same person.

COOPER: I'm wondering, what actually was the post that made you alert the FBI?

BENNIGHT: In September, I received a comment on one of my videos that said, "I'm going to be a professional school shooter." And I found that just disturbing enough that I thought somebody need to know about it.

COOPER: What was the FBI's response when you alerted them?

BENNIGHT: They came out to my office the very next morning in person and met with me and they took down as much information as I could give them, and they left.

COOPER: You have no doubt this was the same person?

BENNIGHT: I don't know, because I'm not on the investigation end of it, so everything that I'm being told, they believe it's the same person.

COOPER: The FBI today said that they weren't able to track down the person who made that post. Did the FBI update you on what they were doing in response to your concerns?

BENNIGHT: No, they did not keep me up to date with their investigation. I wouldn't expect they would.

COOPER: Well, Ben, I appreciate you talking to us.

Let me just ask you, from your perspective, do you think more could have been done to stop this tragedy?

BENNIGHT: I think that question is more for the people that knew the individual personally, if they saw red flags. I don't know that a comment on a YouTube video would have been enough is to stop it.

COOPER: The whole idea of "see something, say something," you did that.

And I really appreciate you talking to us. Thanks very much, Ben Bennight.

The scenes from the tragic school shooting are really becoming too familiar, as you know, kids running in fear from their classrooms, police cars surrounding the school, parents waiting for that moment when they see their child again.

Many people still compare it to a school shooting to a school shooting in Colorado, April 20, 1999. Two people walked into Columbine High School and killed 13 people. It was one of the first school shootings that played out before peoples' eyes on live television.

Frank DeAngelis was the principle on that fateful. He has since retired and works now as a consultant with the Jefferson County school district. He joins us now.

Thank you for being with us.

I just wonder, on a personal level, when you see what happened here, and frankly every time this happens in some community, what goes through your head?

FRANK DEANGELIS, CONSULTANT, JEFFERSON COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT & FORMER PRINCIPLE, COLUMBINE HIGH SCHOOL: It takes me right back. Yesterday, when I started getting texts saying you're in my thoughts and prayers, I'm thinking about you, if you need anything -- because I was unaware. I had just gotten in from New Jersey to denver. Usually, I know when that happens it means a school shooting. When I looked at the coverage, I saw the kids running out of the building with their hands over their head, and it took me back to the Columbine in Colorado, April 20, 1990, the Columbine march or the Columbine run. A lot of emotions went through. It was so sad because, two weeks ago, I was talking to the many people of Kentucky, the principle, Patricia Greer, helping her prepare for the first day back with the kids and parents. A lot of triggers were set off yesterday, retraumatizing.

COOPER: So much was learned in Columbine in terms of law enforcement, their tactics changed for dealing with active shooters. They no longer form a perimeter and wait for a SWAT team. They now go in immediately and try to stop the shooter any way they can. So there has been a lot of evolution. What do you think needs to change, though? A lot of politicians talk about thoughts and prayers right now, which are always welcome, of course, but what do you think fundamentally can change? Is it greater school security measures? Is it something related to mental health? Is it something related to gun control or, you know, changing the laws? What's your take?

[13:50:18] DEANGELIS: Anderson, I think you bring up some valid points. I think the mental health component is huge. You know, more and more information is coming out. How was he able to purchase a gun if he was a mental health risk? I think you have to look at some of those laws. I think having school resource officers in place are important. At Columbine, and you mentioned just previously about the protocol, we had a school resource officer that was exchanging gunfire, but he was told to wait until SWAT. Now SWAT goes in or the first responder goes in. Unfortunately, what I'm hearing happened yesterday is there was a school resource officer, but the shooter walked in and meshed in with all the other kids. This kid had this planned out. He pulls the fire alarm. It was a calculated risk. What is so important is the kids really need to be the eyes and the ears. And if there were things being posted, as the guest you had on before, to report that. And follow through to see if these threats are viable.

I think the other thing, too, is we can't underestimate the role parents play in kids' lives. A lot of times when kids get to high school, parents feel they need more freedom and things like this, but parents still need to be parents. If they're concerned about some of the actions of their children, don't be afraid to go into their rooms to see if there are things that are being kept from them. Social media is so much further along than what it was in 1999. So many of these killers are broadcasting what they're going to do. And people need to come forward to alert the proper people and then, hopefully, action is taken.

COOPER: What's the best advice you could give right now to the students here, to the teachers, to this community, and those who want to help everybody who is impacted by yesterday's shooting?

DEANGELIS: Right now, they're overwhelmed and in a state of denial. So many people have reached out to me saying, what can we do? I have to remind them that so many people were reaching out we were overwhelmed. The piece of advice I can give them is it's a marathon, not a sprint. And someone asked, when is it going to get back to normal? Unfortunately, that's not going to happen. They have to redefine what normal is. I made the statement almost 19 years ago, they're now a member of a club that no one wants to join. But we're all out there to help. We can help them. What they're feeling right now is what we felt 19 years ago. And I would be fooling them if I said everything is going to be fine. It's going to be tough. And the wounds they experienced yesterday, they say time will heal. Those scars will be around. They don't have to travel that journey alone.

COOPER: That's helpful information.

I appreciate it, Frank DeAngelis. Thank you very much for talking with us.

We're following breaking other news out of Washington. CNN has learned that Rob Porter told one of his ex-wives in September that he was informed that his security clearance check was delayed partly due to concerns that he was violent.

CNN's national politics reporter, M.J. Lee, joins me now with more.

Explain exactly what we know. This raises new questions about what the White House knew and when.

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: That's right, Anderson. Rob Porter's second ex-wife, Jenny Willoughby, said that Porter called her in September and told her that he was informed that his security clearance was delayed, and one of the reasons was concerns that he had been violent.

Here is exactly what Willoughby told me, quote, "When I asked him how he knew that, he told me that people who were involved in the background check let he him know it was being delayed, and that one of the concerns was that he was violent. He was asking me if I had used that word with the FBI and if Colbie had used the word as well."

This is all significant, given all of the conflicting and evolving explanations from the White House about who knew what and when about the domestic abuse allegations against Porter. What Willoughby is saying here is it suggests that Porter was told in September, we don't know who, about the issues with his security clearance check. Not only that, but he was told that someone was aware of his domestic abuse history.

We have reached out to the White House with a series of questions to figure out who may have talked to Porter and we haven't heard back.

Just to remind everyone, top White House aides have insisted that few people inside the West Wing knew about the allegations before the news broke last week but, keep in mind, FBI Director Chris Wray said that they submitted a report to the White House on Porter's background check as early as March.

[13:55:07] COOPER: M.J., we should also point out that Jenny Willoughby, his second ex-wife, when I was talking to her, she actually said that he had reached out to her multiple times, not only asking her what she had told the FBI, but asking her to take down a blog post that he was concerned about, or at least putting out a statement saying that she had sort of exaggerated or kind of embellished her account of what happened, and she refused to do that. Remind us what Jenny Willoughby told the FBI.

LEE: Remember, Willoughby was initially interviewed the FBI in January last year. And she says she was pretty upfront with them about her troubled marriage to Porter, as you alluded to, Anderson, including his abusive behavior. And she actually says that she disclosed in this interview that she had taken out a protective order against Porter in 2010 after Porter punched a glass panel on their front door. And we're also now learning that Willoughby got a follow- up e-mail from the FBI in September about that 2010 restraining order. The special agent asked Willoughby to sign a release form so that the FBI could obtain a copy of the incident report from 2010. What's not clear, Anderson, is why the FBI requested this information some eight months after her initial interview back in January. So, we're still waiting to hear back from the FBI on that as well -- Anderson?

COOPER: M.J. Lee, appreciate it.

More on breaking news as this community mourns 17 lives lost in another mass shooting.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:00:07] UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: Are you Nikolas Jacob Cruz?

NIKOLAS JACOB CRUZ, MURDER SUSPECT: Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: OK, sir. You are charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. I have something very --