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Former Student Admits to School Massacre; Victim's Mother Plead for Action from Trump; The U.S. Calls for Gun Control After Mass Shootings; Report: FBI Investigating Possible NRA/Russia Ties; Skiing Takes Center on Day 7; NBA Best to Play in All-Star Games this Weekend; Black Panther Stars Discuss Highly Anticipated Film. Aired 1- 2a ET

Aired February 16, 2018 - 01:00   ET


[01:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): What defectors are saying about Kim Jong-un's charm offensive at the Winter Olympics.

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello. Thank you for joining us. I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE (voice-over): I'm John Vause. Good to have you for the second hour of NEWSROOM L.A.


VAUSE: A Florida judge has denied bail to the 19-year-old former student who has now confessed to one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history. Nikolas Cruz is charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. His public defender says he is a broken child who has suffered from mental illness his entire life.

SESAY: Police are releasing new details about Wednesday's massacre. They say an Uber driver dropped off Cruz at the school where he pulled a fire alarm, then targeted people huddled in their classrooms.


SHERIFF SCOTT ISRAEL, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: The suspect readied his rifle and began shooting into rooms 1215, 1216, 1214; he went back to 1216, back to 1215 and then to 1213. The suspect -- the suspect then took the west stairwell to the second floor and shot one victim in room 1234 on the second floor.

The suspect crossed fields and ran west, along with others who were fleeing, and tried to mix in with the group that were running away, fearing for their lives.


SESAY: The shooter's social media account shows slurs against Muslims and African Americans. The Anti-Defamation League says Cruz had ties to white supremacists. And then there are the weapons. Endless pictures of guns and knives and threats of violence. VAUSE: Meantime, thousands of mourners have gathered for a candlelight vigil on Thursday night to remember the 17 people who were killed. Among them, a 17-year-old senior, member of the swim team; a 14-year-old girl, she loved playing soccer; another 14-year-old girl, a volunteer after Hurricane Irma hit Florida back in September.

SESAY: Joining us now here in L.A. is CNN law enforcement contributor and retired FBI special agent, Steve Moore, and criminal behavioral analyst, Laura Richards.

Thank you for staying us.

Laura, I want to start with you. And the shooter's social media profile. Incredibly disturbing. I mean authorities themselves have said it was very, very disturbing.

Let's put up the picture again of him in that Make America Great Again hat that was posted to his Instagram account. Laura, then we hear about possible ties to white supremacist groups, hurling insults and slurs at black people and Muslims.

What does all of this say to you, bearing in mind how this has all turned out?

LAURA RICHARDS, CRIMINAL BEHAVIORAL ANALYST: It says hatred. It talks to me about anger. Misogyny will be in there, too. So this is somebody who was vengeful and wanted revenge on people.

And so if anybody went against him, his peer colleagues would say that he took umbrage at that and he would make threats toward them. There was lots of harassment, threats, stalking; this is somebody who did stand out, both online and offline.

SESAY: Steve, CNN has obtained documents that show that the police were called to the Cruz family home in 2010 some 39 times, 39 times in 2010, a range of emergency calls -- we're putting the logs up onscreen for our viewers to take a look.

I want to be clear to our viewers, there are no incident reports available. So it's impossible to say, at least available at this time. And it's impossible to say who was behind any of the actions that resulted in police being called to the Cruz family home or whether, in fact, these calls involved the shooter. We do not know.

But taking it on the face of it, 39 times in 2010 to the family home of the shooter, what does it say to you?

STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well it is incredible. It tells me that he was -- the police were well aware of him. And they were well aware, I mean, we can say that we don't know what was going on here.

But the implications to me are that he was probably the one involved here. And if that is the case, the police knew about him, they knew about his violence. Then you combine that with his online presence. And the reputation he had with the students. The problem is you didn't have one repository for all of this

information to combine. It's kind of like taking two chemicals and putting them together and they'll react. These chemicals were separated and kept -- we have to find a way --


MOORE: -- to take all of the information we have and put it in the same room.

SESAY: Laura, to be clear, we're drawing inferences from these call logs; again, we don't really know the details. We're also looking at the media. And as you talk about the hate, the vengeance, the vengefulness, the misogyny, an act like this committed by this kind of individual, is it something that would have been planned long in advance?

Or is it something that would have the element of spontaneity, if you will, back to the issue of a psychotic break, if you will, something that happened fairly recently?

RICHARDS: Certainly looking at past cases and understanding what we do now of this case, it looks like he was ruminating on it for some time, posting these things online, saying he wanted to become a professional shooter. That's not something most people aspire to become. That is a warning sign immediately.

But the things he was saying, the things he was doing, even Valentine's Day, the day that he chose the and the time. He waited for 2 o'clock. That was the time that all the doors opened. All the students would be in the hall.

He pressed the fire alarm to try and ensure that there was a maximum body count. This is someone who didn't turn the weapon on himself. This is somebody who didn't go out suicide by cop. He wanted to live.

SESAY: Why not?

RICHARDS: Because he wanted to live through this. This is somebody who knew his exit plan, that he would blend in with everybody else. And he went and had a drink, got himself something to eat and behaved incredibly casually, even taking an Uber there.

These were all details that he had planned out.

SESAY: And to that point, let's play the sound of sheriff, talking about the shooter's exit, the aftermath of this horrific act. Let's play that sound.


ISRAEL: The suspect arrived at the Walmart store, he bought a drink at the Subway. And left the Walmart on foot. The suspect went to McDonald's, sat down for a short period of time, this was at 3:01 pm and he left on foot.

At 3:41 pm, 40 minutes after he departed from the McDonald's, the suspect was detained at 4700 Windham Lakes Drive in Coral Springs.


SESAY: Steve, he went and got a drink and he went to McDonald's and he was taken into custody without incident.

MOORE: When I have been involved in these cases, the behavior of the shooter after the incident is really hard to even explain to rational people. One guy went and got Starbucks, I know. He got a cab afterwards, in fact.

They tend to be casual. They tend to have no realization of the carnage, of the world-shattering things that they have done. I have sat in the room and interviewed these people. And they're as calm about it, as if you and I were discussing a movie we had seen. That's just the psychopathy of these people.

SESAY: Laura, to what Steve is saying, the psychology -- cold, detached, disassociated, if you will. The attorney you heard speak earlier say he is as broken and feels the same pain that the community is feeling.

Do you think that's possible?


I mean, what do you say?

RICHARDS: Well the two things feel very incongruent. To do -- to be so planned, to want to get a high body count. And I believe that's what he wanted to do. I believe that he wanted to become somebody and, therefore, he wants everyone talking about him.

And guess what everyone is doing?

Is talking about him.


RICHARDS: I refuse to use his name and give him the platform. And it is important we remember the lives of the victims. But we understand what went on here. And actually action is taken because I hear far too many times in these cases, the outcries, the outrage. And then it goes quiet until the next case that happens, until the next shooter who decides he will increase the body count even more.

This was somebody who wanted to get out of it. And I believe that he will be feeling that he accomplished something. Because now everyone knows his name. And that's important to him. The rest of it is just a show for him.

SESAY: Do you feel we are putting too much emphasis on mental health here?

Because there is this kind of -- is it a mental health or is it a gun issue, not to bring you into the gun part of things. But just on the surface, are we -- is our attention in the right place?

RICHARDS: I think you have to look at domestic violence, first of all. You have to look at the misogyny aspect of this and the hatred.

You have to look at the fact he is so disconnected, as are others who do this, as well as access to guns. Having an automatic weapon that ensures this kind of body count is just disastrous in my view. And certainly we don't see this in the U.K., we don't see mass shooters like this or in other countries, Australia.


RICHARDS: So unfortunately the gun debate has to be had.

Why does a civilian have access to an automatic weapon?

That's the first question.

If there are 270 million guns here, there's 90 mass shootings and shooters since 1966, the body count is ever increasing; it's coming up to 900. It's a really serious issue. But yet you've got -- there's somebody out there right now, who's thinking they're going to outkill this individual and laying plans down.

And it's up to law enforcement, we have to put our trust and confidence in law enforcement to ask the right questions, have the right risk assessments. And I don't believe that that is happen right here now, to ask the right questions of those who know these individuals online and offline, and start to build the profile more accurately.

SESAY: Steve, I (INAUDIBLE) give you 20 seconds to give your final thought as we have to bring this to a close.

MOORE: It is not an either or either. It is not a mental health or a gun issue. It is a both.

SESAY: Succinctly said. I appreciate it. Steve Moore, Laura Richards, thank you. It's a difficult conversation but your insight is appreciated. Thank you.

MOORE: Thank you.

RICHARDS: Thank you.

VAUSE: So by all accounts, the shooting, it was well planned with one goal: to try and kill as many as possible. And by the time it was all over and done, 17 were dead, students who loved soccer, students who excelled at swimming, a teacher and a football coach who died as he lived, putting the lives of others before his own.

Aaron Feis was 37 years old, the school's assistant football coach. When the shots rang out, he used his body as a shield to protect a group of students.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does it surprise you that he would have jumped in front of students to save them and give his own life?

NICOLE BRUNER, STUDENT: No. It just -- he, he is that kind of person. So it is like, it makes sense that he would do that. I wish he could have made it through. But I am not surprised because, that's who he is.


VAUSE: Coach Feis was a hero long before Wednesday's shooting. A former student says it was Feis who helped him survive cancer.


CHAD LYONS, STUDENT: I began my life with a bunch of difficulties growing up. I was in and out of foster care, in between shelter homes and foster homes, 22 foster homes and four shelters.

And whenever I just felt unsafe or I felt the need to do something better with my life, which means playing football and also just getting treatment and just a bunch of different things he did in my life, getting me out of negative situations and taking me to church on his regular day basis after practice on Sunday mornings, after Saturday night football, letting me be the ball boy, a bunch of activities he included me in. And my lifestyle, just enjoyed it and I got to experience many different opportunities in my life.


VAUSE: And now that Aaron Feis is dead, his wife is a widow. His young daughter does not have a father.

SESAY: When we come back, the people who survived this bloodshed will be looking for answers from the elected leaders in Washington.

Will they get it?


DAVID HOGG, STUDENT: We are children. You guys are the adults. You need to take some action and play a role. Work together, come over your politics and get something done.






VAUSE: U.S. president Donald Trump plans to travel to Florida and will meet with the families who lost loved ones in Wednesday's shooting. But there's no official word on when that will happen.

SESAY: When he does meet with them he can expect many people will be looking for concrete proposals to prevent such incidents, such tragedies from happening again. Take a listen to one student who survived the nightmare.


HOGG: My message to lawmakers in Congress is, please, take action. Ideas are great. Ideas are wonderful and they help you get reelected and everything. But what's more important is actual action and pertinent action that results in saving thousands of children's lives.

Please, take action.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have a sense of what kind of action that would be?

HOGG: Any action at this point instead of just complete stagnancy and blaming the other side of the political aisle would be a step in the right direction. Working together to save these children's lives is what this country needs.


SESAY: Yes, focusing on the children.

VAUSE: What was really interesting was the response from all these kids from this school. It was blunt and it was direct.

SESAY: Absolutely. Absolutely, the ones who were literally in the line of fire.

The president on Thursday framed the tragedy in terms of mental illness. He promised to tackle that, though he didn't say how.

VAUSE: Jeff Zeleny has more now on Donald Trump's response to this latest mass shooting.


TRUMP: My fellow Americans, today I speak to a nation in grief.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An all- too-familiar ritual unfolded across Washington today in the wake of another mass shooting in America, flags lowered to half-staff from the White House to Capitol Hill.

REP. MIKE THOMPSON (D): Mr. Speaker, can you tell us when the House may muster the courage to take up the issue of gun violence?


ZELENY (voice-over): But despite cheers from Democrats, there were no signs today Washington is any closer to addressing gun violence in the wake of the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook. President Trump did not mention the word "gun" in his brief remarks from the White House, instead talking about mental health.

TRUMP: We are committed to working with state and local leaders, to help secure our schools and tackle the difficult issue of mental health.

ZELENY (voice-over): While offering no specifics, the president said it was time for action.

TRUMP: It is not enough to simply take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference. We must actually make that difference.

ZELENY (voice-over): It's the fourth major shooting he's addressed since taking office, each time he's said it's not been the right moment to talk about guns. After the massacre on the Las Vegas strip...

TRUMP: We'll be talking about gun laws as time goes by.

ZELENY (voice-over): -- and the rampage inside the Texas church...

TRUMP: But this isn't a guns situation. I mean we could go into it. But it is a little bit soon to go into it.

ZELENY (voice-over): -- the White House had no daily briefing today. But the question we asked press secretary Sarah Sanders 136 days ago still lingers.

ZELENY: Does he believe that he could bring something new to the gun debate that has been, you know, I guess locked in typical politics for so many years?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that there will be certainly time for that policy discussion to take place. But that's not the place that we are in at this moment.

ZELENY (voice-over): That moment has not yet arrived.

Trump's presidential campaign was strongly supported by the NRA. But before running for office, he criticized his party's stance on guns, writing, "The Republicans walk the NRA line and refuse even limited restrictions. I generally oppose gun control but I support the ban on assault weapons and I support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun."

ZELENY: But since taking office, President Trump has not expressed any support for a gun policy or any type of gun control measures. In fact, he has only talked about it on a day when America is reeling from another horrific shooting -- Jeff Zeleny, CNN, the White House.


VAUSE: Let's bring in our CNN political commentators, Democratic strategist Dave Jacobson and Republican consultant John Thomas.

OK, so while everyone out there is agreeing that something needs to be done and maybe background checks would be a good place to start, guess what Republicans in the Florida state house were looking to do on Thursday?

Because tucked away on page 88 of an --


VAUSE: -- agricultural bill about oyster farming, there was this provision which would have required the approval of a concealed weapons permit to basically be issued within 90 days even if a full background check was not complete. The vote was postponed.

Dave, you know, chances are this is not an end to attempts to weaken, you know, the state's gun laws and it's not just Florida.

DAVE JACOBSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean this is indicative of the NRA and the gun lobby's firm, iron grip over Republicans across the country. And it is -- it underscores the fact that Republicans will not do the will of the people; 95 of Americans, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll, want tougher background checks; 65 of them want a ban on assault weapons, like the gun that was used the other day.

The fact of the matter is, any Republican who takes money from the NRA or takes money from the gun lobby and votes against common sense gun safety laws -- we're not saying take away the guns, just gun safety laws, has blood on their hands.


So John, why?

If you look at the statistics, the AR-15, an AR style semiautomatic weapon, (INAUDIBLE) banned (INAUDIBLE) 2005 I think or 2004. The Bush administration allowed that ban to lapse because it was up for renewal.

And then since then, the AR style has been used in 10 out of the last 15 mass shootings in this country.

So if it was banned once, why not ban it again?

JOHN THOMAS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, because I think a lot of Republicans and Americans feel that it is not just, if they didn't have an AR they would use some other kind of weapon.

In fact, wasn't it the shooting in the church -- in a church a couple what a month or two ago that it was an NRA instructor using an assault rifle that stopped the shooter and had he not had the same level of firepower he might not have been able to stop that shooter.

So I guess the point is, we don't necessarily just blame the gun because people who want to commit harm will commit harm. This shooter had many different kinds of weapons, not just an assault rifle. He had shotguns and several others.

VAUSE: Anecdotal evidence is not empirical evidence, it's a great idea. THOMAS: But terrorists, if they can't get guns in Europe, what do they use, they use vans. Right? People commit violent acts when they want to.

VAUSE: If that is the theory, then let's stop all chemotherapy treatment because chemotherapy doesn't work in 100 percent of the cases, so therefore we should stop all of it, right?

That's the logic. Because if there are laws on the books that wouldn't have prevented this particular shooting, they're going to use something else, then let's just --

THOMAS: Why have a law at all?

VAUSE: OK. And speaking of that, over the past 12 months, the president and Republicans in Congress, they have actually been busy working on gun laws as in rolling back gun laws. Let's take a look. So this is what happened.

They've blocked a rule that made it harder for the mentally ill to obtain guns, made it easier for fugitives to buy guns. They've moved to loosen gun restrictions on federal land, advanced a bill to make it easier to buy gun silencers.

The House passed a bill allowed concealed carry across state lines. They've proposed cutting millions of dollars from the background check system. This is just what we could find.

Again, John, today's point, when the vast majority of Americans want sensible gun reform, especially on the issue of background checks, why are Republicans doing the complete opposite?

THOMPSON: Well, like President Trump said he wants laws that will actually make a difference, not things that will make us feel good.


VAUSE: How does this make a difference?

THOMAS: The point is we need to look at what happened yesterday and say, what could we have done to prevent that attack?

Perhaps fix the way law enforcement communicates with one another. Perhaps work to harden our soft targets. These are things that could have been done that weren't done. These are easy fixes that we can agree on.

John, we can't even agree to keep the government open.

How in the world are we going to agree in Congress on something as polarizing as Second Amendment issues?

JACOBSON: Well, the issues like, for example, the AR-15 in Florida, you can actually purchase when you are 18 years old. The background check only takes minutes. But if you want to purchase a handgun in Florida, you have to be 21 years old and it's a three-day background check.

So why can't we just match that up and make it 21, 21 --


VAUSE: -- prevented this from happening.

THOMAS: Well, but the -- wasn't the guy bought the firearms, what, in September?


THOMAS: -- but it was premeditated, I guess is my point. So a week, a month. It wouldn't have mattered. Same with Steven Paddock in Las Vegas. He purchased the firearms well in advance.

VAUSE: Listen to (INAUDIBLE) daughter is among victims of the Florida shooting.


LORI ALHADETT, VICTIM'S MOTHER: I just spent the last two hours putting the burial arrangements for my daughter's funeral, who is 14. President Trump, please do something. Do something. Action. We need it now. These kids need safety now.


VAUSE: Well, safety may not be coming if the president's budget is any guide.


VAUSE: "Politico's" reporting the budget request calls for a $25 million reduction in funds designated for national school safety activities compared with 2017. Donald Trump's budget will eliminate altogether a $400 million grant program that districts can use to prevent bullying or provide mental health assistance.

John, as they say, budgets are statements of values.

THOMAS: And imagine those things are going to change.

VAUSE: This is where his head was at two days ago.

THOMAS: You are right, yes. No.

VAUSE: And this problem with mass shootings was a problem was two days ago. It's just reoccurred now.

THOMAS: No, it is. I mean, he is going to have to change his tune and readjust his budget on that issue. And I also think the federal government needs to come up with concrete steps beyond just gun control to help fix this challenge.

And my heart breaks when you see victims' parents like that. Of course she wants -- she wants action. I think we can all agree that we need concrete action. The sad part is, after these shootings, we don't -- there is never any plan because one side says gun control. There is never any plan of easy fixes that we can do.

And I think there are some perhaps, I know Dave wants to see gun control. But there are some easy fixes that can be done. These students need to be protected in the meantime before any gun control legislation can go through.

VAUSE: Dave?

JACOBSON: Look, I think that this needs to be not a partisan issue. This is an American issue. Enough is enough. And this cannot be the new normal. Right?

I mean, bottom line, 95 percent, I mean, that is virtually every American polled says that that they want tougher background checks.

VAUSE: It's only a partisan issue in Congress, it's not a partisan issue anywhere else.

JACOBSON: Yes, precisely. And that's a reflection that Congress is not executing what the people want. And there's a severe problem with that. And I think as we head to 2018 election, voters need to internalize and digest that information and hopefully change course.

VAUSE: We're out of time but when politicians start thinking like parents, one parent said today, that's when it will change.

Fair enough?

THOMAS: Fair enough.

VAUSE: OK. Dave, John, thank you.

JACOBSON: Thank you.

THOMAS: Thanks.

SESAY: Well, former Trump campaign aide, Rick Gates, is close to a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller. Sources familiar with the case tell CNN Gates is poised to cooperate with investigators and could help in building a case against President Trump or his team. Gates and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort have pleaded not guilty to financial crimes unrelated to the campaign. A White House official says Gates' potential cooperation wouldn't pose any risk to the president.

VAUSE: Well, gridlock on gun reform is often blamed on the all- powerful NRA. When we come back, questions are being asked about just who is bankrolling the National Rifle Association.

SESAY: Plus, North Korean athletes are capturing international attention at the Winter Olympics. But North Korean defectors are not so thrilled about it.


[01:31:00] VAUSE: After every mass shooting like the one in Florida, there's always a demand to tougher gun laws in the U.S. like increased background checks or a ban on selling fire arm to a suspected terrorist who name appears on the no fly list leaving outlawing bump stocks, a device which essentially turns a semi-automatic into an automatic weapon.

Whatever it is, it won't happen unless the NRA wants it to and the NRA only supports measures to make it easier to get a gun, not harder. The National Rifle Association is one of the most influential conservative groups in the United States, many of its five million members and the millions of others who supported a single issue voters which gives them outsized political clout. And during the 2016 election, the NRA reported a record spent $55 million backing candidates they wanted elected.

Most of that money, $30 million to Donald Trump, more than double what they gave to the last republican nominee, Mitt Romney. The NRA officially endorsed Donald Trump in May of 2016, the earliest its ever endorsed a presidential candidate. And none of that was regarded when Trump addressed their annual leadership forum in Atlanta last year, the first sitting president to do so since Ronald Reagan.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But you came through for me and I am going to come through for you. And to the NRA, I can proudly say I will never ever let you down.


VAUSE: But there are now questions about the source of the NRA's money. Last month McClatchy reported, "The FBI was investigating whether a Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump with the presidency."

And Democrat Senator Ron Wyden has written to the NRA, "I am specifically troubled by the possibility that Russian-backed shell companies or intermediaries have circumvented U.S. laws that bar foreign money being used to affect federal elections." Well for more now on the NRA and the possible Russia connection and the U.S. president, Peter Stone is with us he's a special correspondent and investigative reporter for McClatchy and his byline is on the story about the FBI investigation.

Peter, thanks so much for being with us, just to recap your reporting here, much of the focus is on a man called Alexander Torchen, he's described as a friend of the Russian president, deputy head of the country's central bank and somehow he's a lifetime member of the NRA.

PETER STONE, INVESTIGATION REPORTER, MCCLARTY: Torchen is a very interesting figure who has been on the radar screen, I guess the people who watch the NRA for a few years. There were some reporting in 2016 early on about a meeting that he had during the convention. He comes to the U.S. pretty regularly for the last four or five years to go to NRA conventions starting in 2013.

And most notably in 2016 he was at the convention in Kentucky where Trump was endorsed and had a brief meeting there with Donald Trump, Jr. We were told by Donald Trump, Jr.'s lawyer that it was mostly small talk about guns but it was notable that Torchen did get to meet Donald Trump, Jr. and engage with him briefly.

VAUSE: So you've got this relationship between this high profile Russian figure whose linked to the Kremlin and then we also heard that when Glenn Simpson who is one of the founders of the company responsible for the Russia dossier, he was interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee and he was asked this, "What is the interest of Russia with the National Rifle Association?"

His answer, "It appears the Russians infiltrated the NRA. It appears that the Russian operation was designed to infiltrate conservative organizations." So what you know about Torchen and what Simpson told the House Intelligence Committee, it would suggest that the alleged Russian money and it's still alleged at this point as an investigation, it's just part of a much wider plan.

STONE: Well, just as Russia was actively trying to influence the 2016 election, key Russian individuals who were close to the government did start prior to 2016 building various ties with American conservatives and American institutions. Torchen was probably the most high profile of these.

As I said, he started coming to NRA meetings in 2013, developed a relationship with then president of NRA, David Keene and there were others as well who were involved with this. Infiltrating maybe a little bit strong but they'd certainly had a number of ties with key people in the NRA, former NRA folks who went over to Russia as well and were seen as allies of right to bear arms at Torchen group.

[01:35:21] Torchen has denied any involvement of money laundering at all or organized crime ties which some of alleged as well. But there's a big clout over Mr. Torchen because of these connections with another who he knew pretty well who is convicted in Spain.

VAUSE: Apart from the allegation that the funds that the NRA spent in 2016 came from Russia, is there any indication given by the NRA or anybody else where that money came from?

STONE: Well, we don't know a lot about where the money came from, part of it came from their members. They have a donor club, an elite donor club which has grown significantly in recent years called Ring of Freedom.

Interesting that the man who runs the Ring of Freedom Club which is $4 million plus donors, a Tennessee businessman named Joe Gregory was on the Moscow trip in December of 215. How much if any was funneled from Russia, we don't know. I mean that's what investigators are trying to find out.

They're trying to piece together leads they have that seem to have suggested to investigators there might have been some money coming in probably through conduits or intermediaries that they're probably looking -- that they are looking into.

VAUSE: The NRA denotes a lot of money to a lot of politicians, almost all of them republicans. According to "New York Times" Marco Rubio the republican senator from Florida, he's among the top recipients, he comes in at number six.

In the hours after the shooting, he's asked the softball question of "Fox News" about the need for gun reform, listen to this.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: 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 conclusions that there are some law that we could have passed that could have prevented it, there may be. But should I at least know the facts?


VAUSE: Rubio has a history of opposing tougher gun laws, I guess which is why he gets the NRA support which is not a problem in it of itself. Would it be a problem if the source of that money, if it's proven to have come from Russia?

STONE: Well if some of the money came from Russia and was spend on American elections, that is illegal. Foreign money is not allowed to be spent on American elections. So that is a key part of this investigation. That's one of the things that's driving it. It's a one small part of the much larger investigation that Mueller is looking at that involves possible issues of collusion, coordination between the Trump campaign and Trump allies and Russia, this is just one part of it.

And obviously it would be illegal if Russian moneys did come in and were spent in any way to help trump through outside groups or through conduits of any kind, so I think that's really what they're looking at. We should say that -- or I should say that the NRA has so far only said that they have not been contacted by the FBI and don't have any other statement from them on the issue to date.

VAUSE: OK. It's an interesting angle to a story which brings so many other stories that we've been following for so long together on what has been a pretty sad week here in the United States. But Peter, thank you for being with us, we appreciate it.

STONE: Thank you.

SESAY: One North Korean athletes competing in the Winter Olympics have captured the attention of the athletic and diplomatic world.

VAUSE: The pairs figure skaters surpassed expectations finishing 13th, that's the best result ever for North Korea. Other athletes from the North are competing in hockey and cross country skiing. But it's that decision to just invite North Korea to the games which is part of the protests.

SESAY: Ivan Watson reports the Olympic diplomacy is not sitting well with North Korean defectors.


IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hard as work in the kitchen, this dish from North Korea served up with a smile on the sidelines of the Winter Olympics here in South Korea. Do you want to go see any of the Olympic sports? No?

This ambivalence due to the last minute decision to invite North Korea to the Olympics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I was wrapped around, beaten, and treated like a slave in North Korea.

WATSON: All three of these women are defectors who fled North Korea more than a decade ago. Restaurant owner, Lee Sun-bok has mixed emotions about her homeland. She says she was almost moved to tears watching the opening ceremony when North and South Korean athletes marched out under the same unification flag.


But she insists the North Koreans will never be allowed to visit her food stall even though it's just walking distance from the Olympic Plaza.

LEE SUN BOK, NORTH KOREA DEFECTOR (through interpreter): They have no freedom of movement because they're constantly being watched.

WATSON: Her friend Lee Soo-sil warns that the smiles on the faces of North Korean cheerleaders are pure propaganda.

LEE SOO SIL, NORTH KOREA DEFECTOR (through translator): All of us defectors know that the mask that the North Koreans are wearing so forced to smile.

WATSON: Lee knows the North Korean system well. She spent 11 years as a nurse in the North Korean military. Today, Lee works to undermine the North Korean Regime. Every month she joins activists loading plastic bottles with rice and USB sticks full of banned TV shows.

Care packages sent floating downstream to hungry people in North Korea. Seo Jae-pyong, a defector and leader of a group that claims to represent thousands of North Korean defectors in South Korea says he's angry that South Korea's president warmly welcomed the sister of North Korea's dictator.

SEO JAE-PYEONG, NORTH KOREA DEFECTOR (through translator): The North Koreans conducted nuclear tests just a few months ago and now we're marching together at the Olympics. Is that real reconciliation? Is that really a message of peace? WATSON: There are more than 30,000 North Korean defectors who've

taken refuge in South Korea. Some like these women are deeply suspicious of the North Korean government. But they say they're also worried about reports of poverty and hunger among ordinary people in their homeland.

Those shortages a problem few people face here in well-fed South Korea. Ivan Watson, CNN Pyeongchang.


VAUSE: They must have an incredible point of view right now looking at these games.

SESAY: Yes, very much. Well when we come back, we will take a look at the action happening in Pyeongchang right now. There's really huge upset women skiing, we're going to tell you all about it when we come back.


VAUSE: Brace yourself viewers, several medals are up for grabs this Friday at the Winter Games and CNN's WORLD SPORT, Amanda Davies joins us now with the very latest in Pyeongchang in South Korea. How are you doing? Is it still windy?

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN WORLD SPORT CORRESPONDENT: I love. I love. The sun is out, it's amazing John.

VAUSE: Oh, finally.

DAVIS: The heats are here said --

VAUSE: You can run naked through the snow.

DAVIS: -- it's three degrees which I can tell you -- no. Anyway, glorious here in Pyeongchang.


Yesterday, the sun is showing on the U.S. is shown on the U.S. favorite, Mikaela Shiffrin as she took gold in the giant slalom. Hopes of claiming two in two days were dashed today. The defending slalom champion could only finish fourth with question marks about actually how well she is. She admitted she vomited ahead of her first run this morning.

The 22-year-old said it didn't feel like nerves but, "A virus kind of puking" she then commented after the race saying she just didn't feel herself, didn't know exactly what was wrong, be really interesting to see whether or not that will impact her remaining two events. What a difference a day makes. And Austria's Mathias Maya knows that feeling as well. He's described taking gold in the men's Super-G as unbelievable. The massive turnaround for him given he crashed out in the combined, hurt his hip and then finished ninth in yesterday's downhill. This is where I've been this morning, I was watching and one of his team put it to me, "Today is a good day, yesterday wasn't." But that is the Olympics and that is a message that the U.S. biggest skating hoe Nathan Chen might just want to hold on to amid massive pressure. The 18-year-old U.S. champion stumbled his way through his short program. It was really, really heartbreaking to watch. He'd been considered to be a gold medal contender here at the games but he's actually now sitting down in 17th heading into the second day, a massive distance behind the defending champion Yuzuru Hanyu who was virtually faultless.

Great news too for South Korean fans on what is Lunar New Year and a public holiday here, Yun Singbin took their first ever gold in sliding sports, the Skeleton. He really is becoming something of a superstar here. He's gained a few fans in recent days and not least within some of their local South Korean female contingent working with us here in our Olympic bureau, a real day of contrasting emotions.

VAUSE: We are so out of time, I'd like to hear more. I'm just looking forward to the ice dancing. Thanks Amanda.

SESAY: Well in other sports news, the National Basketball Association All-Star Games is happening right here in LA this weekend. It picks the best players from the league Eastern and Western conferences against each other. And this year's game is expected to reach fans in 215 countries. The NBA has tried to expand its influence beyond the U.S. specifically in Africa where at least 70 current or former players have ties to the continent.

Joining me now, NBA Africa Vice President and Managing Director, Amadou Gallo. Amadou, welcome.


SESAY: Good to see you.

GALLO: Thank you. Good to be here.

SESAY: For our international viewers who may not be basketball aficionados, give us some perspective on where basketball stands right now on the continent, relationship with the NBA, and just basically how things have changed since the first office was opened in Johannesburg in 2010?

GALLO: Well basketball is the number two spot globally, it is also the number two spot on the continent. There's a long history between the NBA and Africa. We've had some great players who played in our league, Hakeem Olajuwon, one of the greatest of all time. (INAUDIBLE), Dikembe Mutombo who's right now our league's global ambassadors.

These guys paved the way for generation now of young talented players who are doing wonderfully in our league and the NBA is extremely committed to growing the sport in Africa. We've launched the first basketball border's camp in 2003 which ultimately led to us opening an office in 2010 in Johannesburg before the FIFA World Cup and just focusing on growing the game, growing the game of basketball.

SESAY: Talk to me about the academy because the academy is a world class academy that the NBA opened not too long ago in Senegal which really dovetails with your own personal story as well. Tell us a little bit about it and the motivations at this point in time for going down that road.

GALLO: So another milestone for the NBA in Africa since we've opened our office in 2010. The focus was in grassroots making the game accessible, there's tremendous passion for basketball on the continent both across gender.

So we focus on grassroots, making it accessible, we launched a number of junior NBA players just to get young people to participate. Now, launching in the academy in Africa first demonstrate the commitment of (INAUDIBLE) we've launched the number of elite trainings entered around the world, the one in Africa is one of them. And I think it is going to really increase the number of players from the continent coming into our league but most importantly, I think from all across Africa, young players who have a passion for the game wants to play.


Now we have an opportunity to be exposed really world class training methods.

SESAY: Yes. The academy is more than a sporting facility and that pleased me greatly as someone that's involved in working with young people. It is about holistic whole character development. To that extent, talk to me also about the importance and the difference sports can make to young people in the developing world.

GALLO: I am living, I guess, example of how sports can really -- of the transformative power sport. We've had an opportunity and through basketball, the game have given me everything and in terms of really how we go back and reach back and try to influence other young people.

When you see some of our players, Bismack Biyombo for example, building a school in Eastern Congo where he's from and he's inspired by his own story, he talks about having to walk 45 minutes to go to school and a lot of his peers dropped of school because they couldn't make the journey every day. Now he's inspired and he's going back and building school. A young man like Gorgui Dieng from Senegal who's passionate about agriculture.

And as we talk about how we are going to develop Africa, these young people are really using their platform to really do something about trying to -- when we talk about Africa, could be the bread basket for the world, Gorgui's involved. Dikembe really started all this, building a hospital. Masai Ujiri of (INAUDIBLE) actually just to demonstrate that our league is really beyond just the players who play the game. This is -- it celebrate diversity, people could come from all over the world and find a way to make a path and they're really doing great things.

So we can only focus on what we do on the ground and I can guarantee that I am inspired around every trip I take to any country across the continent to see this vibrant youth that is really thirsty for knowledge and that is ambitious, that's what we're trying to continue to foster by really launching programs like basketball in our borders and getting back to communities and the partners also we have across the continent share this vision.

SESAY: These are exciting times, anything that brings further development and opportunities to the continent is a good thing. So thank you for coming in to speak to us.

GALLO: Thank you.

VAUSE: Well next here on NEWSROOM LA with Marvel's Black Panther about to roar into theaters, we'll hear from the stars of the film and its cultural impact, just a moment.


VAUSE: Well Marvel's Black Panther is opening in wide release, it's begin I think and could break all the box office records.

SESAY: Here, just look at the film and why its star say it is so much more than just a movie.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nearly 52 years after he first appeared on the cover of this Marvel comic, Black Panther is making a fierce return.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Black Panther is projected to earn an estimated $165 million or more for the U.S. opening weekend alone according to Hollywood's major tracking services. But it's greatest impact may not be at the box office.

CHADWICK BOSEMAN, ACTOR: If anybody believes that Africa didn't have empire, didn't have architecture, didn't have art, didn't have science, you see it in this movie.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Critics are calling this film "A cultural milestone" and "Radically different" not only because it has a predominantly black cast, but because it's breaking ground off the big screen as well.

Hundreds of Go Fund Me Campaign from across the world have raised more than $400,000 to help kids see the movie this month. And to say they're excited is an understatement. The cast is equally excited about the film's scope and significant.

MICHAEL B. JORDAN, ACTOR: It's an honor, it's humbling, and very surreal that this is like kind of a major introduction, almost a reintroduction of like black fantasy sci-fi, mythology, this like I said generation growing up. I can't wait for Halloween and see these little -- like everybody dressing up as the Dora Milaji and Black Panther and Killmongers and stuff like that. I think it's going to be -- it's super important and impactful for their -- for our culture moving forward, I think it's extremely important. So, yes, it means a lot that we're inspiring the youth.

LUPITA NYONG'O, ACTOR: I've never been a doll before and then now there's dolls coming out, Nakia dolls and Okoye dolls and it's such a thrill because first of all I remember when I was younger my mother couldn't even find black dolls for us.

And so the fact that there are going to be plenty because of the kind of reach that Marvel has and that is going to be our faces, I mean it's a humbling and actually a little bit exciting and terrifying at the same time. But how lovely to live at a time when kids can have that.

WINSTON DUKE, ACTOR: I'm so excited, profoundly excited that they're going to get to like ingest, consume this kind of content before the world puts their own politics on them and their bodies, and their experience, and what they could be. They're going to get to see this and see people who look like them, to have agency and story, that's exciting.

DANIEL KALUUYA, ACTOR: And in fact they're not going to see -- especially they're going to see (INAUDIBLE) they're going to expect stories to represent them. And then if they don't see it, they're going to go, "Well, I'm going to make it happen." And they're going to feel that they can make it happen because there's this world here. And Ryan's done -- remember, Ryan's done this at 30-years-old, he shot this film.

I mean, it's like -- well then there's no boundaries, there's no rule, there's no limitations, there's no (INAUDIBLE), just keep on going.

DUKE: Yes, let's keep going.


SESAY: What a moment.

VAUSE: It looks fun.

SESAY: More NEWSROOM LA in a moment, stay with us.