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Calls For Action Grow After Florida Massacre; Father Of Murdered Reporter Reacts To Florida Massacre; Top Trump Campaign Adviser Close To Plea Deal With Mueller; Obama: "We Are Not Powerless" On Gun Control. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired February 16, 2018 - 07:30   ET

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


[07:30:00] DAVID JOLLY (R), FORMER FLORIDA CONGRESSMAN, FORMER MEMBER, HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: I think a ban should be on the table but let's not make the perfect the enemy of the good. Let's look for where the incremental changes can happen right now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Exactly, and some of those incremental changes, let's talk about them, Jason because what, you could raise the age if you wanted. If there is a will you could raise the legal age to purchase an AR-15 from 18, which it is now, to 21. You could do that.

You could tighten some of the mental health restrictions on buying a gun.

You know, Republicans, right now, are saying mental illness; Democrats are saying gun control. Why not find out where these two things intersect because there are a lot of places, Jason, where they do?

JASON KANDER (D), FORMER MISSOURI SECRETARY OF STATE, FORMER DEMOCRATIC SENATE CANDIDATE, FORMER CAPTAIN, U.S. ARMY: No, look, I totally agree. This is no longer a debate about what to do.

Right now, unfortunately, this is a debate about whether to do anything. That is absurd. Our kids are being killed.

At some point, this Congress needs to either decide that they are willing to take on the leadership of the NRA or we're going to need new people in Congress. And it looks to me like we're going to need new people in Congress.

We're going to need to make sure that everybody who refuses to do anything about this in any elected office in the country finds themselves no longer in elected office, and we get people with some courage to fricking protect our kids.

BERMAN: Dave Jolly, former Congressman, if I can ask you directly you said there are a couple of things here at play. One could be ideology that many of these members of Congress simply believe --

JOLLY: Sure.

BERMAN: -- and the other could be the influence of the NRA. You've been in Congress. You know, you are a Republican who was supported by the NRA.

How much influence do they really have?

JOLLY: Oh, a dramatic amount but let's look at it through two lanes. One is the amount of money and the influence of the leadership in the Beltway, and Jason's exactly right.

But the other is a true reflection of a constituency that has a voice in our democracy. A constituency they mobilize and a constituency that has every right to vote on their conviction when it comes to the Second Amendment.

And that's where I think -- you know, Jason's right. Let's try something. The issue is we're doing nothing.

BERMAN: Yes.

JOLLY: And so, we can embrace the Second Amendment.

I co-sponsored a whole lot of pretty hard-right gun right legislation pieces. But, I also co-sponsored background checks and I co-sponsored the terror watchlist bill. None of those infringe on the Second Amendment rights. Law-abiding owners should be able to embrace restrictions -- strong restrictions on firearms.

You want a hope and prayer, John, I'll give you one. Let's hope that those in office right now who are doing nothing lose and let's pray they get replaced by people who will actually do something, or at least try -- try -- take a risk.

BERMAN: You can still get bump stocks months after Vegas.

Jason Kander, Dave Jolly, thanks for being with us. I do appreciate the discussion.

JOLLY: You got it.

BERMAN: Alisyn --

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, John.

Of course, you'll remember the case of Alison Parker. She was the local news reporter who was gunned down on live television two years ago. Today, her father speaks out about the Florida massacre. His message for lawmakers, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:36:54] CAMEROTA: The massacre at the high school behind me reopening the wounds for so many victims of gun violence, and that's the case with our next guest. He lost his daughter, Alison.

We'll all remember this case. She was a reporter for WDVJ in Virginia when she and her cameraman Adam Ward were gunned down on live television. This was in 2015. Since then, Alison's father has been an outspoken advocate for gun control and Andy Parker joins us now. Andy, it's so sad to always have to see you in these circumstances.

We all, of course, remember the case of Alison and that hideous crime that played out on T.V. And I know that after that we spoke to you and you said that you were going to do whatever you could to stop other families from being victims of gun violence and being in your situation.

So, what's happened since Alison's death?

ANDY PARKER, FATHER OF ALISON PARKER, REPORTER SHOT AND KILLED ON LIVE TELEVISION: Well, Alisyn, it's -- yes, here we are again and my heart breaks for these families that are now, sadly, part of this wretched club that no one wants to join.

But I think that -- you know, to speak to your earlier -- your guests earlier, David Jolly and Jason, talking about Republicans not doing anything, they're absolutely right. This is something that I've -- it's something that I came to the conclusion two years ago is that you're not going to get a Republican to buff (ph) the NRA.

You know, this shouldn't be a partisan issue, but it is, and trying to convince them to do -- to consider any sensible gun legislation, it's like talking to a wall.

So, you know what we have to do is, as those two gentlemen eloquently put it, we've got to get them out of there and replace them with people that will consider incremental -- just easy stuff that can be done.

CAMEROTA: So that's your own -- so that's your suggestion. For people who are listening who feel so helpless and so hopeless, your suggestion is at the next election vote people who haven't acted out.

Is there anything else? Are there any other steps that have been taken since Alison's death or that since you've been involved -- getting involved in politics that can be done, just even incrementally, to stop gun violence from where you sit because now you've studied this?

PARKER: Well, Alisyn, if -- I wish I could say that there are other steps that could be taken but right now, it is -- we are hamstrung to try and get anything done by a Congress and every Republican lawmaker in this country. They just -- well, maybe with the exception of Susan Collins. But, by and large, they're not going to do anything.

Barbara and I were in Richmond last month testifying on an extreme risk protective order bill that would allow law enforcement to recognize a dangerous individual and remove guns temporarily. And this bill was just a temporary bill until they -- until people sorted it out -- a judge adjudicated the person and said OK, well this person's fit to carry -- to have a gun or not.

[07:40:18] And perhaps, had that law been in place -- CAMEROTA: Yes.

PARKER: -- it would have saved Alison and -- or it would have saved -- prevented this tragedy from happening in Florida.

And when we testified, the chairman of the committee, Sen. Obenshain said I'm sorry for your loss, then they immediately killed that bill on party lines. They did that.

There was a young woman who --

CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh.

PARKER: Yes. There was a young woman who was in Las Vegas who was tears -- she was in tears testifying to -- for the General Assembly to ban gun stocks -- at least, bump stocks -- and they said we're sorry for your loss.

And they crafted their votes to make it look like they passed the bill and sent it to another committee where it died. I mean, they will not do anything.

CAMEROTA: Andy, those are really powerful illustrations, particularly because we just had Nicole Hockley here who was the mom of one of the victims of the Newtown shooting and she talked about what you were just saying, the EROPs. These temporary protection orders to keep guns out of the hands of people who have already been flagged as being unhinged. And she said that it is that very thing, the EROP, that has --

PARKER: Yes.

CAMEROTA: -- kept gun violence down in Connecticut after that.

We can't do it nationally --

PARKER: Yes.

CAMEROTA: -- so state-by-state she gave credit to that to keep it down.

So, when you hear President Trump -- let me just play for you what he has said about what he blames for school shootings like this one. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: So many people, after these things, talk about mental health and it does seem like mental health played a role here.

Do you think that mental health talk is a red herring because they don't want to talk about gun violence?

PARKER: It is a red herring, Alisyn because we're not the only country that has people -- or that have people that are mentally ill, you know. Our -- no other civilized country in the world has the same problem we do. We have mentally ill people that can get access to weapons of war, like an AR-15. And that's -- you can't just say well, it's a mental health problem.

And I find it very -- it's ironic that the first thing that Trump did when he took office was make it easier for people with mental illness to obtain weapons if you recall. He rescinded a bill -- or rescinded an executive order from Obama -- from President Obama that would restrict access to people with mental illness and he overturned that. So, he's talking out of --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

PARKER: -- both sides of his mouth.

CAMEROTA: Yes, we need to keep calling that one out because if you don't have the mental faculty to take care of your finances and all of the other list of conditions that that bill addressed, then how can you handle a firearm?

PARKER: Exactly.

CAMEROTA: Andy Parker, thank you. Thank you for your tragic expertise in this subject and sharing it with us.

PARKER: Alisyn, we just -- you know, in closing, we have to mobilize people and we have to do what we did in Virginia and turn these people out across the country. We need to kick these NRA shields -- we need to kick them to the curb.

CAMEROTA: Andy, thank you. Thank you very much.

PARKER: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK, up next for everyone -- John, I know that we have a CNN exclusive that we're going to show people.

BERMAN: Yes. A top Trump campaign adviser could be pleading guilty in Robert Mueller's probe. What could this deal mean now for the Russia investigation?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:47:02] BERMAN: All right. This morning, we have a CNN exclusive.

Former Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates close to a plea agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller. This is according to sources familiar with the case. This could be a major development.

CNN's Sara Murray broke this story. She joins us now from Washington with all the details. The plot thickens, Sara. SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the plot does thicken, John. And as you pointed out, this could be a significant development in the Russia probe.

Sources are telling me and my colleague Katelyn Polantz that Rick Gates does appear to be finalizing a plea deal with Robert Mueller. He does appear poised to cooperate and he's, in fact, already been in to speak with Mueller's team about this case.

Now, this is potentially troubling news if you are Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman who was a co-defendant in this criminal case. Both he and Rick Gates have pleaded not guilty in it.

But if you are Mueller and you're trying to build a case potentially against the president, potentially against other key Trump associates, getting Gates' cooperation could be a key building block along the way.

Now, the White House has downplayed this development. They are basically saying look, we are not worried about a potential plea deal. We are not worried if Gates decides to flip -- if he decides to act against Paul Manafort.

The White House feels confident that Mueller is not looking into anything that had to do with the campaign or anything that had to do with the transition. That he's simply looking at financial crimes related to the Manafort-Gates business that preceded the campaign.

But, Gates is not the only Trump associate who is in the headlines right now. Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon met with Mueller's team this week. He was there over the course of two days. He spent hours getting grilled by the special counsel and his prosecutors.

Now, we are told that no topics were off limits. We know that Mueller was interested in speaking with him about the firing of former FBI director James Comey, as well as former National Security adviser Michael Flynn.

But that appearance from Steve Bannon very different than what lawmakers on the hill got from Bannon on Thursday when he talked to House Intelligence. He refused to talk about anything in the transition, anything in the White House, and said the White House had asked him to invoke executive privilege -- John.

CAMEROTA: OK, Sara. Thank you very much. I'll take it. Thank you for that update from Washington.

So, up next, we have for you the story of two sisters. One of them was trapped in the school behind me when the massacre started. She started texting her sister.

They're going to share their emotional exchange with us, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:52:32] BERMAN: Former President Obama adding his voice to the gun control debate following the massacre at that Florida high school.

The former president tweeted, "We are grieving with Parkland but we are not powerless. Caring for our kids is our first job and until we can honestly say that we're doing enough to keep the safe from harm, including long-overdue common-sense gun safety laws that most Americans want, then we have to change."

Joining us now is Lisa Monaco. She's a CNN senior national security analyst, former Homeland Security adviser to President Obama.

And Lisa, you say something which I think is fascinating and could reframe this whole discussion, which is that this is a Homeland Security issue.

LISA MONACO, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Absolutely, it is, John.

Look, I was the Homeland Security Adviser in the White House. It was my job to brief the president when these tragedies occurred. And, unfortunately, the president has to speak more than a dozen times to the country on these issues after these mass shootings and visit more than a dozen times with families who were grieving.

I think we've got to treat this as a Homeland Security issue. We focus on terrorism issues, natural disaster preparedness, pandemic preparedness, as we should, but this is an epidemic of violence that we're seeing.

We're now six weeks in 2018 and this is, I think, the 18th mass shooting that we've seen. If you do the math that's about once every 60 hours. That's really an incredible statistic.

We've got to start putting the resources and priority to this as if it is -- because it is a Homeland Security issue.

BERMAN: CNN's count, by the way, is eight mass school shootings this year. One is too many. You know, one is too many and one a year and one every year for however long is way too many as well.

When you start treating it like a Homeland Security issue, which is to say give it the same weight that terrorism -- what terrorism was, how would you approach it differently then?

MONACO: Well, I think one of the things is -- and President Obama did this -- and as President Trump did yesterday, which is you have to provide a message of unity and condolence, and pledges of assistance. All of that is appropriate and that's the right role for a president.

But you also have to talk about what steps you are taking. What is the action? After a terrorist attack, I think the country, rightly, requires that the government tell us what is the government doing. What steps are you taking to get weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists.

And I think we have to do the same thing here. What steps are we talking to ensure that a 19-year-old with mental health issues can't get his hands on a weapon of war, which is what an AR-15 is. Assault rifle is what the A.R. stands for.

[07:55:10] And my experience is, having traveled as the counterterrorism adviser to places like Iraq and Afghanistan, that weapon and weapons like it were handled -- were carried by our soldiers and they've got to be trained.

BERMAN: Is the FBI -- is law enforcement empowered the way they need to be to handle this situation? We know that there was this message on YouTube. The FBI was tipped off, you know.

Someone saw something and said something. The FBI questioned the person who raised an alarm there but that's as far as it went.

MONACO: So, we're 48 hours -- just about 48 hours into this and there's still a flood of questions. Was everything done with this tip that should have been done? Was there information about this individual's mental health history that should be been in a database? Why was he able to purchase this weapon of war?

With regard to the tip, I think there's going to be a lot of questions here. Did the FBI talk to YouTube? Did they have sufficient information to identify the person -- the individual behind that username?

Were there legal impediments? Were there other impediments to getting that information?

And so, there's going to be what they call an after-action report done in the FBI to determine all of those questions.

But very importantly, John, the other question we should be asking is if they took all those steps and if they had been able to identify this individual, we should be asking the question what could they have done?

BERMAN: And I think it's such a crucial question because the answer is maybe nothing.

MONACO: Well, they could have -- they or the local police could have gone and knocked on his door and interviewed him, but they could not have taken any steps based on what we know now to take that weapon away.

BERMAN: Because he had no criminal record.

MONACO: Right. They have no -- he had no criminal record and we understand from the FBI that they undertook a series of database checks. What that means, John is they look at their own systems -- their own internal databases and his name would not have turned up unless he had had prior contact with law enforcement, prior contact with the FBI. If he didn't, he wouldn't have been in those databases.

BERMAN: Local law enforcement, as well, called to the house any number of times. At what point does that bubble up as something that is actionable? MONACO: All of those things are questions that we should be learning in this -- in this after-action report. Was the right information shared with local law enforcement? As I said, was there contact with YouTube? Was there sufficient information to meet the legal threshold to get further information about his identity?

BERMAN: Lisa Monaco, great discussion. Thanks so much. Let's treat this as a Homeland Security issue, not just about guns in this case.

We're following a lot of news this morning so let's get right to it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'd be hard put to find another case that was flashing more signs than this young man right here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was obsessed with guns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems like the dots should have been connected here.

TRUMP: For every parent, we are here for you -- whatever we can do to ease your pain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump, you need to help us now. We need security now for all these children.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If now is not the right time, when is the right time?

PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It's one of those moments where we just need to step back and count our blessings.

DAVID HOGG, SURVIVED FLORIDA SCHOOL SHOOTING: We're children. You guys, like, are the adults. You can say yes, we're going to do all these things, thoughts and prayers. What we need more than that is action.

FRED GUTTENBERG, LOST HIS DAUGHTER JAIME IN SCHOOL SHOOTING: What is unfathomable is Jaime took a bullet and is dead. I don't know what I do next.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your new day. It is Friday, February 16th, 8:00 in the East.

John Berman is in New York this morning, Chris is off, and I am here in Parkland, Florida. This is the latest American city in mourning over yet another deadly school shooting.

Thousands of people gathered last night at a candlelight vigil to remember the 17 students and teachers who were killed on Wednesday behind me at this school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

I have one note that I want to get to which is the mayor of this town was just here and was talking to local media about how they really are still processing the crime scene behind us in this school and she doesn't know exactly when the school behind is going to be able to open.

And that means that 3,000 students -- high school students who need to be in school right now -- who went there -- really don't know their futures at the moment and if they're going to have to be absorbed by another school. Three thousand students is a lot to try to figure out how to redirect.

We now know the identities of so many more of the victims than we did even just yesterday. All of their lives cut short. Here are just a few that we want to tell you about.

There was 14-year-old Jaime Guttenberg. Her father says that his family, of course, is having a very hard time coming to grips with this devastating loss.

There was the teacher, Scott Beigel, who we first told you about yesterday. He was killed while ushering students back into his classroom and shielding them when the killer opened fire.