Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump Arrives in Florida in Wake of School Massacre; First Lady Skips Walk with President as Sex Scandals Swirl; FBI Failed to Act on Tip about School Shooter; Interview With New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler; Special Counsel Indicts 13 Russians for Election Interference. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired February 16, 2018 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[18:00:01] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: This is the second time the FBI was alerted about Nikolas Cruz. Why didn't the bureau heed the warnings?
Call for action. Impassioned pleas for President Trump and lawmakers to do something in the wake of the deadly Florida high school shooting. Outrage fueled by grief has many demanding a change in gun laws. Will anyone listen?
And Playmate playoff. President Trump arrives in Florida amid new allegations of another extramarital affair. Did a tabloid publisher and Trump friend buy the story a former Playmate of the year in order to keep it from going public?
We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
KEILAR: We are following breaking news, stunning and sweeping new charges in the Russia investigation, the first ones filed for interference in the 2016 election.
Special counsel Robert Mueller has indicted 13 Russians, accusing them of trying to sow discord in the U.S. political system through multiple operations, including supporting Donald Trump and disparaging Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign.
President Trump, who has yet to say definitively that Russia meddled in the election, has just arrived in Florida. Before leaving, he responded to the Mueller indictments in a tweet, saying -- quote -- "The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong, no collusion."
We are covering that and more this hour with our guests, including Congressman Jerry Nadler. He's the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by for us. First, let's get more on this breaking news, the major new
developments in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, indictments against 13 Russians accused of waging information warfare against the United States.
We have CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez and CNN crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz here for us with the latest.
Evan, what are you learning?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, this was information warfare, as you said. It was intended to exploit political divisions in the United States, ultimately to elect Donald Trump and to hurt the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.
It was called Operation Lacta. It was apparently named for a neighborhood in St. Petersburg, Russia. This is where the Internet Research Agency, a company based there in St. Petersburg, was doing its job. Essentially, people were showing up to work, posing as Americans, using fake accounts on social media, fake bank accounts all to sow divisions in this country.
Yevgeny Prigozhin is the name of the one of the key people in this indictment. He's one of the 13. He's known as Putin's chef because he owns a company, a catering company that is closely tied to the Russian government.
They had a monthly budget as high as $1.25 million, and apparently this operation was extraordinarily successful. Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, addressed all of this at a press conference this afternoon. Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROD ROSENSTEIN, U.S. DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: In 2014, the company established a translator project focused on the United States. In July of 2016, more than 80 employees were assigned to the translator project.
Two of the defendants allegedly traveled to the United States in 2014 to collect intelligence for their American influence operations. In order to hide the Russian origins of their activities, the defendants allegedly purchased space on computer servers located here in the United States in order to set up a virtual private network.
The defendants allegedly used that infrastructure to establish hundreds of accounts on social media networks, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, making it appear that those accounts were controlled by persons located in the United States.
They used stolen or fictitious American identities, fraudulent bank accounts and false identification documents. The defendants posed as politically and socially active Americans advocating for and against particular candidates.
Count one alleges a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States by all of the defendants. The defendants allegedly conspired to defraud America by impairing the lawful functions of the Federal Election Commission, the United States Department of Justice and the Department of State.
Those organizations of the U.S. government are responsible for administering federal requirements for disclosure of foreign involvement in certain domestic activities. Count two charges conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud by Internet Research Agency and two of the individual defendants.
Counts three through eight charge aggravated identity theft by Internet Research Agency and four individuals.
Now, there is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charge conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PEREZ: That's an important part of this, of what the special counsel had to say here today, Brianna. There is no allegation in these documents that anybody was knowingly or wittingly helping the Russians.
But, look, this was a very sophisticated operation. They knew enough to go to purple states, states that were in contest, Colorado, Virginia, Florida. They were doing things like aiming to depress black turnout, purposely trying to bring down Hillary Clinton's candidacy and to help Donald Trump.
So, make no mistake. They knew exactly what they were trying to do.
KEILAR: What does it tell you, Shimon, about where this special counsel's investigation is?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It tells us that, at least for now, this investigation is over. Like Evan says, we don't -- according to the deputy attorney general, no U.S. people, no Americans will be charged in connection with this aspect.
But it also tells us that they are pretty creative. The special counsel team is pretty creative in how they go about bringing charges. If you look at these charges, they have to do with bank fraud, identity fraud, things of that nature, really nothing to do with any election kind of fraud or any -- this is all specifically -- they found sort of a creative way how to bring these charges.
The other thing we know, which is based on our reporting, there have been other people not connected with this indictment in to see Bob Mueller this week, Steve Bannon, other people connected to the campaign, connected to the transition, connected to the White House that have been to see Bob Mueller. All of that is still very much ongoing. There are certain other
aspects of this case that we know continue to go, and really I don't know that we can read anything into this that indicates that this entire investigation is coming to a close any time soon.
PEREZ: Right, there's still a matter of obstruction, and just today there was another indictment unsealed against a man in California who allegedly operated a system for people to be able to bypass the security of PayPal and other companies that were used by these Russians to pose as American citizens.
Again, there's a lot more that Bob Mueller has that we don't have any idea about, and that that investigation is still ongoing.
KEILAR: In due time.
Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much to both of you.
President Trump has responded to the new Mueller indictments on Twitter, writing: "Russia started their anti-U.S. campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for president. The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong. No collusion!"
I want to get more now with CNN senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny. He's in South Florida for us.
So, Jeff, the president just arrived there, in fact.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: He did indeed, Brianna.
He arrived here in South Florida a short time ago. He still has said that he intends to visit at some point the site of the shooting earlier this week here, that he does plan to spend the rest of the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago retreat.
But he was talking, of course, before he left the White House earlier today about this stunning indictment. Now, he did get firsthand information from this. The deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, went to brief the president on this earlier today.
Now, of course, the president has long called this a hoax. He has long called the whole idea of Russian meddling simply nothing more than a witch-hunt. Back in November, you will remember, the president said he talked to Vladimir Putin and believed his denials on this.
The Justice Department said today they did not and they laid out in sweeping fashion the extent to which the meddling actually unfolded. Now, the president, of course, put out a statement essentially saying it exonerated him from all of this. Of course, it didn't, but let's look at the statement.
It said this. It says: "We cannot allow those seeking to sow confusion, discord and rancor to be successful. It's time we stop the outlandish partisan attacks, wild false allegations and farfetched theories, which only serve to further the agendas of bad actors like Russia, and do nothing to protect the principles of our institutions."
"We must unite as Americans," he says, "to protect the integrity of our democracy and our elections."
Of course, that is one of the rare times there, Brianna, the president actually talking about protecting the integrity of elections. He's simply not wanted to talk about Russian meddling.
But we are getting a new statement tonight just a short time ago from the Clinton campaign. A spokesman for the Clinton campaign is talking about this indictment as well.
He says this. He said: "Time will tell us more, but Russia went to great lengths to undermine our democracy, and the president won't protect us. No matter your politics," the Clinton spokesman said, "it's un-American. We have an adversary that is laughing at us who will act again."
So, Brianna, again bringing this back to present day here, there is no sense that this investigation is over. Of course, the central question, will the president himself sit down for an interview to answer questions from the special counsel? His attorneys have said he does not want to. He, of course, has expressed publicly his desire to do that.
As Evan said earlier, this does not answer the question about obstruction of justice, which, of course, is one more central piece of this entire investigation -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Certainly is.
Jeff Zeleny in West Palm Beach, thank you so much for that.
I want to get more on the breaking news with Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York. He's the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee.
Sir, thanks for being with us.
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Thank you.
KEILAR: So, we're looking at the details that we learned today in this indictment.
So, when you see them, do you believe that this Russian campaign did indeed influence how people voted on Election Day in 2016?
NADLER: Well, they were spending money on ads and other things at a million and a quarter a month for two-and-a-half years. They probably spent between $30 million and $40 million.
A lot of their Facebook and other social media things were retweeted, redone. You have to believe that it had some effect. It certainly influenced votes. Whether it influenced enough votes to influence the election, that's unknowable.
But it would be absurd to say it didn't influence anything. They didn't spend their money for nothing, and they know what they're doing.
But the real takeaway is that we were attacked by the Russians. Our democratic process, the basis of our government, our elections were attacked by the Russians. That was not a hoax. Our intelligence agencies all say we're still being attacked by the Russians, and we will continue to be.
And the president and, for that matter, the Republicans in Congress have absolutely refused to take any steps to protect our next elections. And that is intolerable. We must protect our democratic process from the ongoing attack by a hostile foreign power. And the president, who will not admit that the attack took place will, not defend us from the ongoing attack.
KEILAR: Can the Republicans really do anything if the administration isn't spearheading this?
We can -- first of all, they can admit what's going on, and they can pressure the administration. We could also set up -- you could all have committees looking into this. The Democrats on a couple of congressional committees the other day came out with a program for half-a-billion dollars of shoring up our election security in all the various states, getting rid of the electronic, pure electronic voting machines that are susceptible to electronic hacking in some states.
The Center for American Progress came out with a $1 billion one-time and $10-million-a-year program for basically protecting our elections. And in a $1.5 trillion budget, that's not enough money for making sure that we have confidence in our elections.
Yes, we should do that, regardless of whether the president wants to deny what everybody else knows.
KEILAR: I will say, there are Republicans on the Senate side -- certainly, we look at the House and that investigation is quite the mess right now, but on the Senate side, there still is a bipartisan investigation we're watching. I do want to ask you--
NADLER: But that's an investigation of the past. What I'm saying is, they have to have--
KEILAR: For the future.
NADLER: -- a willingness to protect us going forward.
KEILAR: OK, so I wonder -- I know you have seen the president's written statement that came from the White House. And it warns that farfetched theories and false allegations only help
the Russians. But on Twitter, you have seen what he tweeted. "Russia started their anti-U.S. campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for president. The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong. No collusion!"
What do you think when you look at two very different things, from this written statement from the White House from the president and then his tweet?
NADLER: Well, that tweet has a number of statements that are clearly not true or unknowable.
Yes, the Russian campaign started in 2014, but we know from the indictment that, although they started out just to sow confusion, by the beginning of 2016, they were very clearly telling their people, we want to help Trump and we want to hurt Hillary Clinton.
And so that -- so, they were clearly trying to help the Trump campaign for most of 2016.
Whether the Trump campaign was colluding with them is not dealt with in the indictment at all, so it doesn't say yes or no, although we know from other sources that certainly there were people in the Trump campaign, like Manafort and Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner, who attended a meeting with Russians, who told them that, we have dirt on Hillary Clinton and the Russian government wants to give it to you to help your campaign.
And they said, fine, let's take it. Whether the president knew about that, we don't know.
And whether all this affected the outcome of the election is simply not knowable, one way or the other.
KEILAR: We know from this indictment that there were Russians who concealed their Russian -- there were defendants who concealed their Russian association who posed as Americans and contacted Trump campaign officials. What do you think they were trying to do?
NADLER: Well, they were clearly trying to help the Trump campaign in various ways. The indictment lays out that they were buying ads on social media, that they were inventing their own social media. They were having their trolls.
They invented a site purporting to be the Tennessee Republican Committee, which was not, in fact, the Tennessee Republican Committee, but a lot of people believed it was. It got hundreds of thousands of followers.
They were trying to affect the election. And they were trying to help Trump throughout. That is clear. The question -- two questions. One is past tense. Was the Trump campaign consciously working with them? And the answer is, some people in the campaign clearly were. Papadopoulos clearly was, some others.
Whether the president knew anything about is still an open question. But the real question is, what are we going to do to protect our next election?
KEILAR: What we learned from the indictment is that some of these Trump officials were unwitting, right?
KEILAR: It seems like they might be unwitting.
But even if they were unwitting, could they then have unknowingly helped the Russian effort?
NADLER: Well, yes, but the people who were unwitting were helping arrange rallies and so forth.
Could other people have been -- who are unwitting have helped in a more major way? Quite conceivably, certainly.
KEILAR: All right, Congressman Jerry Nadler, thanks so much. We really appreciate you being with us.
NADLER: Thank you.
KEILAR: Have a wonderful weekend.
We have breaking news continuing next, with much more on the Mueller indictment of 13 Russians now charged with meddling in the U.S. election.
Plus, the bombshell admission by the FBI. Why did it fail to act on a tip warning the Florida high school shooter was poised to attack?
KEILAR: The breaking news that we're following tonight, special counsel Robert Mueller's indictments of 13 Russians who are now charged with interfering in the 2016 election.
Reaction from President Trump coming on Twitter, also in a statement from the White House.
I want to bring in our analysts and experts to talk about this.
David Chalian, to you first.
The statement from the White House, as any president does, it's crafted by his staff, it seemed to be kind of what you would expect. It condemns the findings about Russia here, but the tweet.
Let's look at the tweet from President Trump. It says: "Russia started their anti-U.S. campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for president. The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong. No collusion!"
It seems like what strikes so many people who just follow these kinds of things is that the president doesn't condemn Russia. Normally, you would expect there to be -- we would be reporting on the internal deliberations of how the U.S. would retaliate against Russia because of this. And there's none of that.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right.
The United States' Department of Justice announces these indictments. Where's the follow-up action from the administration right now? Where are the sanctions? Where are they taking the lead here?
I think that the president has continued to abdicate responsibility here about leading the country in response to an attack on the most core, fundamental part of our democracy, our free and fair elections.
And so once again, yes, you are right, the White House put out a written statement crafted that gives a nod to our institutions. That is worth noting. The president's initial reaction, that tweet came out first, and the president's initial reaction was, I got a clean bill of health here, folks, nothing wrong with the Trump campaign, no collusion, I told you this all along, I won fair and square.
Nothing about how he's responding to the attack on our democracy and, more importantly, not looking backwards, Brianna, but how is he going to prevent it from happening again?
KEILAR: Yes, because this is about a bigger issue than just the president. This is about the country, Phil Mudd.
So, what do you think about this?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well, first of all, the document doesn't talk about collusion among Americans. It indicts 13 Russians and explains why they're indicted.
By the way, did the president actually read this? One of the most striking elements of this is, it comes out in black and white and says, before the election, this was specifically driven to favor one candidate over another. I don't know how you could read the document and not draw that conclusion.
The last thing I would say about what the president has said and what I draw from this document is, he went on to make other allegations about the document. For example, it lets him off the hook, I mentioned earlier on the election and in other areas. Most of what he spoke about in his tweet, I didn't find in the document.
I can't correspond what I read today in one of the most intelligence documents I have ever read with the president saying, this doesn't indicate collusion. It doesn't address collusion. It addresses 13 Russians.
KEILAR: No, it's a really good point, Sean (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I think it is.
But when I look at these documents and I think about your question of why isn't the president addressing this larger issue of what the Russians did, I think, if we can take for a second -- take a step back, I look at these things through a national security lens.
Let's put the issue of collusion aside for a second. Maybe it happened, maybe it didn't. We don't know. Let's also put the issue of whether or not there was an impact on the election aside for a second.
If we can just look at the fact that Russians, an adversarial government, came into our country, not just through digital means, but they physical came into our country to set up the infrastructure to allow them to attack our election process, then I think that all Americans can take a step back and look at that and say, we want to see the Russians held accountable for that.
And the big question is, why aren't we seeing that? We get caught up in this issue of collusion and other things, but we need to just look at that fact from a national security perspective, because we're going into another election where they will do it again.
KEILAR: Because, Ryan, this is fascinating when you read this indictment. They go to Texas, they go to Colorado, they go to Michigan, I believe, right?
RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.
KEILAR: They go to Virginia.
LIZZA: Yes. They learned about purple states.
KEILAR: That's right.
LIZZA: It started in 2014, and there's this sort of education process where they send these folks into the United States to learn about what's going on here politically.
Now, frankly, I don't know if they needed to visit the United States to learn about purple states. In some sense, it's not that sophisticated of an operation. But it is new and modern in the way that they used social media. I don't think--
KEILAR: Is it about learning how people organize and activate, though, on more of a grassroots level? Is that possibly what it was?
LIZZA: They learned to use the most salient fact about American politics against Americans.
And that is the polarization and the cultural divide in the United States, and they learned how to sort of heighten the tensions. Now, let's be honest. This is not exactly new. At the height of the Cold War, the Russians were doing something similar in the United States by aligning themselves with certain activists in the '60s.
It's not exactly new in this indictment about the nature of the Internet Research Agency and some of these things that we have learned about from other congressional investigations and what the intelligence community has said.
What's new is a lot of new detail. And to me, what's really, really newsworthy today is the president's response, what you were talking about. Previously, it was a bipartisan consensus that this is an attack on our democracy, and something needs to be done.
What is new now is, we have a president who doesn't believe that or doesn't seem to care about that.
KEILAR: And he seems to be really seizing on this idea that this exonerates him, it didn't affect the election. Now, that is not what the indictment says. He calls it an anti-U.S. campaign.
But, as Phil said, did he read this, because it gets to the point that as it did move toward the nomination of Donald Trump, this campaign coalesced around him.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right. It's not that he didn't read it. That may be also true here.
But he misses the mark entirely, because the focus on the idea of him being exonerated was not the issue of this indictment. It wasn't an ideologically based one about talking about the tenets of democracy.
They actually pinpointed areas of the law that are already concerning, campaign finance, the ideas of money laundering campaigns and schemes, the ideas of using false identities to circumvent our reporting requirements, the foreign registered agents laws that are there.
All of these things remind you of things like Manafort and Gates and Michael Flynn and other things. You're honing in on what the logic is behind Mueller's strategy. He's talking about, in a sense, a democracy, but in a larger legal sense, he's talking about why it is people can violate the laws and not have a particular impact on the election, if that's the case.
You can still violate it and endeavor to do so. And he's prosecuting those very crimes. Now, it's kind of a talking indictment, however, because he may not be able to extradite the people he's trying to condemn.
LIZZA: He's not going to get any of these guys.
KEILAR: You don't think?
COATES: No. But what he's going to do is signal to the president of the United States this actually is, in fact, happening, to the congressional legislative committees that they can protect the midterms 2018, and also that, oh, by the way, the FBI is not engaging in partisan, hack- based election investigations.
They're talking about generalized democracy principles.
CHALIAN: Laura, that last point is so important that you just made, because -- because there's been such an effort on the part of the administration and some Republicans on the Hill to undermine the investigation day in and day out, what Rod Rosenstein did there today by going out there and presenting this, yes, they're not going to be extradited, they're not going to -- Putin is not going to all of a sudden send these folks over.
But it is -- it totally bolsters the very basis of what this investigation is all about, and I think makes Donald Trump's job harder to seek to undermine it. I think that the investigation itself got a lot of political cover today from Rosenstein.
KEILAR: But, still, it's been political for so long. I wonder, after so -- after the special counsel has taken so many hits politically, can this really assist or is just some of the damage of politicizing this just so far gone?
MUDD: I think it's far gone.
One of the biggest losers in this case, in my judgment, is Devin Nunes. The effort on the House committee to undermine this investigation, in light of what is not only an attack on an election, one of the most striking parts of this awesome document -- it's incredible -- is the tail end that a lot of people will miss.
These interventions into American politics, as you see in the document, continued after the election, with an effort not only to favor one candidate, but to start putting out information like, for example, right here, not my president, after the election, clearly intended to divide America and bring American democracy to its knees, in my judgment, clearly also so Putin could continue inventions in places like Crimea.
The fact that the Hill committees couldn't have a conversation about that, the hijacking of our democracy, in the past year, in light of this indictment, it couldn't be starker. Incredible.
[18:30:13] KEILAR: What do you think about that?
TURNER: I think Phil's right. I mean, look, this document lays out a case for the kind of interference in our election that we have never seen before, and I agree that this has happened in the past. But the scale and scope of this is unlike anything we've ever seen. And now that we've got the intelligence community that said it very clearly. Now we've got Mueller's investigation that said it very clearly, again, this really comes back to what is it that the Russians have over our president that keeps him in check and prevents him from doing something about it?
JARRETT: And by the way, the scale and scope of the -- of the disclosures in this indictment is noteworthy. Because you know, you're from the intelligence community, and you understand that they have, basically, an inside job here. All the information that was given for these indictments to be possible -- the organizational chart, all of the banking institutions that were used to foster this sort of thing, all of the information, all of the conclusions, everyone involved -- you have somebody who was able to have a counterintelligence probe, possibly from the inside doing just that since 2014.
KEILAR: Final thought from you as we -- actually, I want to look at some live pictures that we have coming in. The president is actually in Pompano Beach, Florida. He's going to be heading, as we believe it, to the hospital where massacre victims have been, where there's still actually a few that remain -- actually, remain there. It's the hospital where the suspect himself was actually treated, as well.
I want to bring in Boris Sanchez. He is in Parkland -- Boris?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Brianna.
Yes, we learned a -- just a short time ago that the president would be stopping here at Broward Health North as part of his weekend trip to Palm Beach. He's going to be making a stop here before then heading to the Broward County Sheriff's Department.
We've learned, according to a White House statement, that he's going to be meeting with at least one of the victims of the shooting, the child of a Broward County sheriff's deputy. Then he's going to be meeting with some medical personnel that helped to attend to the victims of the shooting this week.
He and the first lady will be paying their respects. Donald Trump stepping into the so-called consoler in chief role. Sadly, it's one that this president is familiar with after three mass shootings in just about as many months with a large number of fatalities.
The president doing his part to show support to these victims at a time where he's facing tremendous pressure not only from Democrats but also many of the friends, families and classmates of the victims of this shooting to take action on gun control.
Many of those friends and families very angry and articulate about their desire to see some form of gun control passed by this president. During his statement yesterday the president vowed to expand security on school campuses but he didn't mention gun control. He also didn't even say the word "gun." So it's unclear exactly what kind of reception he's going to be getting here,, if he's going to be meeting with more than just that one victim that the White House has confirmed to us.
I should note that our cameras, as is usual in these sorts of situations where a president visits victims, are not going to be allowed inside the hospital. We're not expecting him to make remarks here. But our cameras will be at the sheriff's department where he is headed in about an hour or so, and he could potentially make remarks, even answer questions there, Brianna.
KEILAR: All right. Boris Sanchez for us in Florida, thank you.
Something, Boris, that really stuck out to me, Ryan Lizza, and that was, you know, Trump is there to be a consoler in chief.
KEILAR: But it's not a role that is at all a forte for him. I was at Virginia Tech when George W. Bush spoke there.
KEILAR: And just the comfort that he gave people. I -- we think of President Obama being in Tucson after the Gabby Gifford shooting and what was such an important speech that he gave.
This is something that he needs to work on or maybe doesn't come naturally.
LIZZA: I mean, not that it's an easy role for any...
KEILAR: So hard.
LIZZA: But let's be honest about who Trump is and the kind of characteristics that define him. This has not always been a natural thing for him to do, to show that kind of empathy in close quarters with victims -- with family members of victims. It's not -- it's -- he's never been -- he's never looked very comfortable doing it.
But, you know, not every president understands how to do that properly. But it is something that Americans have come to expect from the president.
KEILAR: And then there are moments that I think of that stick out for me with President Trump. I think of him being in Puerto Rico after the storm and throwing paper towels to people like they were footballs.
[18:35:05] Or after Hurricane Harvey where he's talking about sort of the people who showed up to see him, when that's really not what is on the mind of a lot of people who are either there or sympathizing. I mean, and this is just incomparable, the massacre that we're seeing in Florida.
CHALIAN: Yes. And you know, there are times where, even though it's not his natural fit -- where he -- in fact I think earlier this week when he spoke about the shooting and addressed America's children, he -- there are times where he tries to fit into that role of consoler in chief and can put the right words out.
But it is -- it's an intangible is how a lot of people talk about it in politics. And this is not -- it's not anybody's natural habitat to have to talk about tragedies this way, but we've seen some presidents have a bit more ease with it than we see Donald Trump.
JARRETT: I could say the shift is in American sentiment between the need to have a consoler in chief when we've been able to name, each of us, all the different mass casualties and mass shootings we've had over time.
I think what they're going to be looking for is somebody who's going to be a governor in chief, somebody who's going to have some sort of catapult in change for the American people. I think that consolation is probably extremely important, but if the president doesn't address the issues of perhaps both mental health and gun control, I think that they're not going to be placated away to simply being a consoler in chief who has the knack of being able to be in touch and have an Oprah-esque quality, will not be able to satisfy anyone at this point in time.
I think it's because namely, not even going back that far, he still has yet to talk about guns as being the issue in this particular mass shooting. He's talked about other issues, as well.
So I'm looking as a citizen, looking at the president of the United States to give maybe that consolation but also something, a tangible legislative act which is part of his role, as well.
KEILAR: I do have to get in a quick break. We're going to continue to monitor President Trump's visit. He's there in Florida going to the hospital where still, a few victims remain and several of them were treated after the Florida high school massacre.
We also have more breaking news that we're checking out. We'll be right back with that.
[18:42:04] KEILAR: Breaking news tonight, President Trump and the first lady are visiting with staff at a Florida hospital that is treating victims of Wednesday's massacre that left 17 dead at a high school.
And also breaking, a stunning admission from the FBI. They say that they failed to act on a tip they received about the shooter, Nikolas Cruz. In a scathing statement, Florida Governor Rick Scott said FBI Director Christopher Wray needs to resign over that.
CNN senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin is in Parkland, Florida, for us tonight. So Drew, the FBI says the procedure for handling these kinds of tips was not followed.
GRIFFIN: Brianna, really two devastating blows tonight coming out of Florida.
CNN has learned that, despite a history of mental illness, this shooter, Nikolas Cruz, was able to buy not one but five firearms in the last year, all legally.
And the second blow, that inexplicable item from the FBI, that the FBI had information on this shooter that could have prevented this.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Tonight a startling admission from the nation's top law enforcement agency. Just six weeks ago, a tipster called the FBI tip line and warned Nikolas Cruz could be a school shooter. "The caller provided information," the FBI statement reads, "about Cruz's gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting."
What did the FBI do? Apparently nothing.
In a statement released hours ago, the FBI admits it did not follow protocol. The tip never made it to the Miami field office, never made it to the agents who could have possibly followed up.
ROBERT LASKY, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: On behalf of myself and over 1,000 employees of the Miami field office, we truly regret any additional pain that this has caused.
GRIFFIN: The attorney general now demanding an investigation.
It is just one more warning sign missed on the path Nikolas Cruz was taking that led him to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School this past Wednesday. Newly-obtained records by CNN show the Broward County Sheriff's Office was called to the shooter's home more than 30 times since 2010.
In 2016, during one of those calls, an incident report shows deputies and mental health professionals wrote, "Cruz suffers from mental illness, was seeing a therapist," and according to the report, "He has mentioned in the past that he would like to purchase a firearm."
Despite reports from his mother that Cruz was cutting his arms, a therapist on the scene deemed Nikolas to be no threat to anyone or himself at the present time.
Fellow students tell CNN the shooter was strange, constantly acting up in school, getting in fights, and eventually was expelled. Joshua Charo says, once Cruz left school, he felt the danger had passed.
(on camera): You thought he would never come back to the school?
JOSHUA CHARO, STUDENT: I think no one knew he would come back to the school.
[18:45:02] GRIFFIN (voice-over): Charo, 16 years old, spent a year in ROTC class with Cruz, a student that he says was quiet, except when it came to guns.
CHARO: He always liked to talk about guns. He was always asking people what kind of guns were better, if they knew which model worked best for certain hunting activities.
GRIFFIN (on camera): Did he ever talk about hunting? CHARO: Oh yes, a lot. He talked about hunting a lot. That and guns
were usually the only two things he would talk about when we ever spoke.
GRIFFIN: Charo says he lost touch with Cruz and then out of the blue came a message.
CHARO: He asked to follow me on Instagram before everything happened, like two or three weeks ago.
GRIFFIN: That shooter's Instagram account, like his social media postings in hindsight, all possible warnings. Now in the wake of the mass shooting, police, the FBI, school officials and students wonder what could have been done.
GRIFFIN: And, Brianna, the Broward County sheriff today said that they do have the electronic devices and cell phones of the suspect they are going through but offered really little else in terms of the investigation today -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Drew Griffin, thank you so much for that.
We do have more on our breaking news ahead.
[18:51:02] KEILAR: Breaking news, President Trump has arrived in Florida to visit the hospital where many of the shooting victims have been treated. The president also arrives amid new allegations another extramarital affair.
CNN's Tom Foreman has details.
And, Tom, First Lady Melania Trump was noticeably not with the president as he boarded Air Force One, but she did walk off the plane with him in West Palm Beach just a short time ago.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And, Brianna, this has been a tough week for the first lady at the White House. Full of new allegations of affairs her husband, a secret payoff and details about how he supposedly kept it all hidden from her.
FOREMAN (voice-over): Heading to Florida, the president walked alone with Marine One, with wife Melania Trump traveling separately amid humiliating headlines, including word that the billionaire businessman's lawyer paid off an adult porn film star following an alleged affair, and a new claim about another extramarital merger.
That story dates to 2006 when "The Apprentice" was shooting and having a party at the Playboy Mansion in the Los Angeles. The married star of the show, Donald Trump, was there and an according to "The New Yorker" so was former Playmate of the Year Karen McDougal. The magazine says it was a start of a nine-month whirlwind, of hotel room ramps, fancy trips, a visit to Trump Tower where he pointed out wife's bedroom, even high profile events like the launch of Trump Vodka and Miss Universe pageant.
McDougal told the magazine she paid for everything and was reimbursed to prevent a paper trail leading to Trump. The White House says this is an old story that is just more fake news. The president says he never had a relationship with McDougal.
So how did "The New Yorker" come up with the sordid details? A friend of McDougal supposedly gave the magazine eight handwritten pages.
RONAN FARROW, THE NEW YORKER: She wrote a detailed chronicle of this affair in the course of selling the story.
FOREMAN: The story did sell to the company that owns "The National Enquirer" for $150,000 days before the election, according to "The Wall Street Journal" and "The New Yorker".
So, why didn't you read it? Because the inquiry, which is run by a friend of Trump's did not publish McDougal story, but by paying for it legally blocked anyone else, including her, from coming out with details.
"The Enquirer" has made no comment on that part of the story.
FOREMAN: We have reached out to Karen McDougal for more, and we've had no response yet, although the story contains many other lurid allegations against Trump of other affairs, sexually aggressive behavior, disrespectful comments, including even one racist comment. So, is all of this getting to the first lady? We don't know. While she maybe keeping her distance from the president, she is also definitely keeping quiet -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Tom Foreman, thank you so much for that.
We're going to have more news ahead.
KEILAR: CNN special coverage of the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, continues with Jim Sciutto and "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" in just a moment. But, first, we want to pause to remember the 17 people who lost their lives.