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Anti-gun rally held in Fort Lauderdale, President Donald Trump visited a hospital in at Broward County, Major developments in the Russian investigation, Former playmate model Karen McDougal is tells the "New Yorker" magazine that she had an affair with Trump for nearly a year beginning in 2006

Aired February 17, 2018 - 14:00   ET



[14:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Right now, we are watching an anti-gun rally in Fort Lauderdale, and survivors, teachers, parents, elected officials are there and they have passionate strong messages. Let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have to ensure this never happens again, but most of us are under the voting age of 18. This is why we need your help. Register to vote. Become educated on your politicians, vote and make sure that Marjory Stoneman Douglas - never again, do I want to text my mom, I love you, and you have never going to say it again per se. Never again do I want to be desperately waiting to my friends and siblings to know if they made it out alive. Never again do we hear the names of 17 people who lost their lives to something that could have been prevented. Never again should one evil person be able to take away the future, dreams and aspirations of such bright people. And never again should parents send their children to school to never return home. Never again should students fear going to school. Never again should such a tragedy occur.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On behalf of the entire Stoneman Douglas (INAUDIBLE) chapter, we express our deepest condolences to the families of the victims and every student of our community. Four of the 17 angels were part of our family, Jamie Guttenberg, Alyssa Alhadeff, Luke Hoyer, and Alex Schachter. Words can not describe how much we and the entire community will miss you. And to the our, both of our victims who are recovering, Ben (INAUDIBLE) and Samantha Mayer, we hope that you have a very speedy recovery.

WHITFIELD: All right. You were listening to people there spontaneously talking about, talking about the shooting that claimed 17 lives there in Parkland, Florida.

Our Martin Savidge is there in the crowd.

And Martin, these young people, teachers and elected officials have direct messaging to the president of the United States and to politicians as a whole and they have pledged, these people here are pledging that they want to take matters into their own hands to prevent yet another school shooting from ever happening again.

Martin, what are you hearing and experiencing from the people there directly?

All right. Looks like we do not have our connection with Martin Savidge there. It might just be that it is very loud. He is in the crowd there and we are listening -- here we go.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on the phone): -- from the high school where this tragedy took place. And speaker after speaker hasp been electrifying the crowd, often bringing this tome tears talking emotionally about what they have been through. But obviously, very empowered and bringing about change. In fact, the mantra that has been saying over and over again is that if the politicians cannot bring change and if the adults will not bring the change, then students will have bring change.

There is a chants that calm from the crowd demanding the political leaders have action if they do not, they say, over and over shouting them in one voice, vote them out. It is a clearly very, very difficult day, but also a very empowering for many of the young people that are here. They are saying they are now committed to the cause, because of what they witnessed through the tragedy at the school.

WHITFIELD: And Martin, there are lot of messages that have been standing out particularly from this young lady, Emma Gonzalez, who singled out the President of the United States and his being a benefactor of the National Rifle Association as well as other pol politicians who have been benefactor. Let's listen to what she had to say.


EMMA GONZALEZ, STUDENT, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: If you don't do anything to are prevent this from coming, from continuing to occur that number of gunshot victims will go up, and the number that they are worth will go down, and we will be worthless to you. To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you.


WHITFIELD: This has been billed as an anti-gun rally, but at the same time, Martin, people here are fired up about all of the missed -- looks like we lost Martin, but people are also fired up about all of the missed opportunities that there were.

That young lady Emma Gonzalez says, you know, it is not just an issue of mental health, but she had strong memories of this young man, of this gunman, and she says as far back as middle school, and she singled out all of the people that she believes bear responsibility, not just the victims she said, it is not the issue of the victim who should bear the responsibility, but the people who were eyewitness to his behavior, to the signals that were sent, to those who took videotape of his erratic behavior. I mean, some really strong comments coming from the people there, and Emma Gonzalez and others.

I want to bring now in CNN political analyst and White House reporter for the "Washington Post," Josh Dawsey.

So, Josh, Emma Gonzalez among those who had pointed positions to the President of the United States. The President was at the hospital last night. He is at Mar-a-Lago which is roughly 40 minutes away from Parkland, you know. Florida. Is there an indication that the President is able to hear, knows exactly, you know, what is happening just down the street and the passion that is, you know, it is really coming out of the pores of the people here?

[14:06:09] JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: We know that the President is at the resort. He is not golfing as he often does during in warm weather down here. The White House say it is out of respect of what is going on here. And a lot of times when he is at his resort, he is watching television pretty nonstop.

What we saw from the President last night, he visited a hospital in at Broward County about 45 minutes from Palm Beach where we are and then he visited a sheriff's office. In the hospital, the White House said that he saw victims. In the sheriff's office, he greet and met with a number of first responders and police officers. But most of the comments were not about the 17 people killed or the victims. Most of his comments were congratulating the first responders and the police officers for their work, talking about what he cast as heroic response, and really, you know, not speaking nearly as much about the people who were killed.

We did not see, you know, the emotional commemoration from the President last night. We did not see much of a remembrance for those who were killed. It was more about the first are responders, though the White House did say privately he met with victims and the families.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And so, Josh, you know, does the White House feel that it is the actions of the President going to the hospital, you know, the pictures that we have seen of the President with some of the victims and the family members with the first responders, he and the first lady with, you know, smiling with the thumb's up, are they receiving any kind of reaction or is the audience in that community very receptive of the President's visit in the ma manner in which it happened?

DAWSEY: Well, it is really hard for us to know. It is certainly that we have heard a lot of people in the school call for more gun control laws and local politicians call for that, but his appearances last night were scripted and controlled. We were in a hospital, you know, only meeting with the doctors. When he met with the victims the media did not see him. Then he met with the police officers last night. There was no interaction with the general public. In fact, there were people on the road side (INAUDIBLE) I think to say for the President, signs both supporting him and against him.

But we didn't interact with the most people. What we saw last night were, you know, simply a hospital visit with some doctors and police an officers. And it was hard for us to know how the people on the scene actually felt towards the President.

WHITFIELD: And then in addition to that meeting at the hospital, here is a brief statement that the President made during the visit.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They have to done an incredible job. The doctor was amazing. He saw numerous people and incredible recovery. Incredible. And the first are responders and everybody, the job they have done is incredible, and I want to congratulate them.


WHITFIELD: So that is a little bit of the President's sentiment. But again, you have not been able to hear from anyone on how his visit was received.

DAWSEY: Right. And Fredricka, what is different about this visit in a lot of previous visits from presidents is President Obama and others presidents kind have seen their role as consoler in chief, someone who do, you know, emotionally marks and talked about the victims. This President, when he has gone to Texas for the hurricanes, when he has gone to, you know, other natural crises and disasters and Las Vegas for the mass shootings, he has mainly met with first responders and police officers and some victims. He has not appeared at the funerals or vigils or the big events where he has delivered, you know, emotional and resonating responses towards the community. It has been different for this President.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And the President did just tweet saying Melania and I met such incredible people last night in Broward county, Florida. We will never forget them or the evening.

You know, it is difficult to, you know, predict, you know, this President. And anyone for that matter especially when you have a rally going on like this, with this kind of passion, with this kind of pain that is coming from people. And even challenges coming from the people who have taken to the microphone there.

There is the mayor, you know, of Parkland talking right now, but you heard from teachers, parents, students who really are challenging the President directly and challenging Congress, elected officials to do something.

How will we know how that messaging is being received by t the President there, just miles away from this location of the rally.

[14:10:41] DAWSEY: Frankly, I don't know. I know after every shooting there have been, you know, these cries to do more and then protests and rallies. The statement does seem a little bit different. The "New York Post," the President's favorite newspaper in New York, he reads that first every morning. That's kind of the conservative leaning newspaper. Hard for him to do something and going to cast him as the absentee landlord President on Friday. People who are close to the President predicted to us that may make a difference. A lot of the President's response is what he is seeing on TV and how he views thing going politically. WHITFIELD: Yes. And speaking of television, we know that he watches.

Sorry to interrupt, Josh, but you brought up the, you know, television, we know he watches. I mean, sometimes we may have a discussion with someone, and nearly immediately, he will tweet about it in a comment in that form. We have not seen it thus far, you know, the rally. But, you know, similar to the White House, does he have monitors, you know, throughout where it is hard to escape the comments coming from people today?

DAWSEY: Right. And Fredricka, we know that this President is often driven by emotion. We were told earlier this year that one of the reason he sent 59 missiles in to Syria is that he saw the pictures of the young children and atrocities that were done to them. He often is driven by the imagery. And you know, crowd sizes matter to the him. We remember at the inauguration, it bothered him, you know, how the crowd size was compared to President Obama and the women's march the next day bothered him. He often response to a large crowd.

Now, it is hard to know whether anything precipitous her will happen on gun control or anything, major legislative we will come out of this. But I can certainly guess that the President is paying attention very closely to what people are saying and he is always phoning the friends and trying to get a sense of where this is heading.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And correction, speaking right now is the superintendent of Broward county schools. We have heard a number of comments coming from parents, other elected officials and students. We are going to continue to monitor anti-gun rally still underway right now out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Josh Dawsey, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

DAWSEY: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: And we will be right back.


[14:16:49] WHITFIELD: All right, major developments in the Russian investigation. Today, the White House national security advisor H.R. McMaster says evidence of Russian interference in the said that there is evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election is now indisputable. This after the special counsel indicted 13 Russians charged with attempting to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

Let's get straight to CNN's Boris Sanchez live in West Palm Beach, Florida traveling with the President there.

What are you hearing from the White House today?


Yes, the White House putting out a statement yesterday in response to the indictment that was read out by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein. The President also tweeting about the indictment, really, the first time that we have heard President Trump directly addressed Russian meddling in the 2016 election without calling it a hoax or a witch hunt being perpetrated by the Democrats and without a caveat as well.

You will note that the farthest that the President had gone previously talking about the Russian meddling was saying that it could have been the Russians and it also could have been China or the 400-pound person sitting on their bed. So this really the first time the President has come out to fully acknowledge that Russia meddled in the election.

You noted what H.R. McMaster said, the national security advisor earlier today at that security conference in Munich. It is not the first time that we have heard it from high ranking White House officials or from others in the international security, the intelligence community essentially saying that there should be no doubt that Russian meddling is real, and not a hoax or a witch hunt. Listen to more from H.R. McMaster now.


H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: As you can see with the FBI indictment, the evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain whereas in the past it was difficult to attribute for a couple of reasons. First, technically, it was difficult, but then also, you did not want to divulge your intelligence capabilities. But now that this is in the arena of the law enforcement investigation, it is going to be very apparent to everyone.


SANCHEZ: Now, Fred, I mentioned the President's tweet and the statement that was put out by the White House, two quick notes specifically on the tweet. The President wrote that the Trump campaign did nothing wrong. There was no collusion. That is not exactly what the deputy attorney general said yesterday if you recall. He said that in this indictment, there were no Americans named that wittingly colluded with Russians. But he did say that the special counsel's investigation is still ongoing and declined d to say whether there would be perhaps more indictments in the future.

And secondly, neither in the statement nor in the tweet does the President say that he is going to aggressively go after Russia for meddling in the election or protect the U.S. from further election meddling and possibly as soon as this November in the midterms, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Boris Sanchez, thank you so much.

We will be right back.


[14:23:44] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.

Just weeks after the Stormy Daniels' scandal hit the headlines, President Trump is facing new allegations of infidelity. Former playmate model Karen McDougal is tells the "New Yorker" magazine that she had an affair with Trump for nearly a year beginning in 2006. McDougal story bears the remarkable resemblance to Trump's alleged affair with Daniels, an ex-porn star whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. Both reportedly involved private dinners at the Beverly Hilton hotel, traveled to Trump's properties, promises of real estate and both allegedly ended in with nondisclosure agreements, and shall we call it hush money.

The White House denies all of the accusations surrounding Daniels and McDougal. Some are calling it hush money, some are calling it just simply payment for agreement.

So let's bring in the legal are guy, the civil rights attorney and law professor Avery Friedman and criminal defense attorney Richard Herman.

Good to see you both.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to see you, too, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: OK. So - thank you so much.

Well, this is this really interesting because this is really not a story just about affairs, relationships, what is going on, but really it gets to the heart of financial transactions, the pattern of such and contracts that follow or maybe just agreements because of the money exchanged.

So, when we talk about this case, Karen McDougal and this financial transaction that came from the publisher of the American media incorporated which is the publisher by the way happens to be a good friend of Donald Trump.

[14:25:22] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

WHITFIELD: This was payment to McDougal as far as we can understand from the reporting from the "New Yorker," payment of her story that would never really be published.

So Avery, you first. Does this end up being a contract with McDougal to silence her? You are not telling the story to anybody else, and just us. Is this a protection against any potential blackmail? How do you see this arrangement?

AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Well, actually, I thought that it was going to be a very exciting freedom of the press case where Mr. Pecker, that is his name, and he is the publisher of the "National Enquirer" and he bought the story from Karen McDougal for $150,000 according to the "New Yorker," the idea is and the glorious work of journalists here you go. You pay for the story and a great publication, except that this is what is called the "catch and kill." Meaning, what the publisher did was to take the story, gave her money and then never published anything, because Mr. Pecker is a friend of Mr. Trump. And so, the question is can you do something like that and one of the

constitutional rights, Fredricka is the right to contract. In other words, did Karen McDougal give up her right to tell this extraordinary story about Donald Trump for $150,000 and can Mr. Pecker now bring a suit against Ms. McDougal because it has come out in the "New Yorker." And that is what the question is. Well anybody do anything about enforcing the rights in this contract between Ms. McDougal and the "National Enquirer?"

WHITFIELD: OK. And so, Richard, is in a contract because there is a financial exchange. What if there isn't a written agreement on I'm not going to disclose this story to anybody else, you know, or the exclusivity rights or how do you see it?

RICHARD HERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Right. Well, I disagree with Avery, it is not extraordinary, it is kind of nauseate. But in any event, if there is a written agreement here, Fredricka, and there are apparently was an extensive written agreement provided to Ms. McDougal, she is going to be bound by the terms of that agreement. She got $150,000 and I'm sure she was represented by counsel when she signed that agreement. If she wasn't, maybe she has an argument. But if she was represented by counsel, she got $150,000.

And look, let's face it, cats don't chase dogs. We know what that $150,000 was. And Trump's buddy, you know, gave it to her. And then hid the story.

But, you know if you look at it right now, the "Enquirer," they got blackmail material now on Trump and they can hold that over his , sudden threaten him down the road. And if he does not do something they want or give him - give them information, they will release the story.

So it is not good for trump at all. You think that you are slick, you know, what a tangled (INAUDIBLE) from first, we practice to deceive. You think you slick. It is contrast as a guilt to try to hide all these things. But in the end, it comes out. And Trump has been exposed so many times. And the American people just - they are just numb. They are anesthetized to him right now. Nothing he can do will phase it. His 40 percent cult is with him no matter what. So let's just -- it is nauseating actually.

WHITFIELD: And then, gentlemen, this is not an issue of illegal, I mean, illegal agreement. I mean, you make a contractual agreement. There might be payment. And you know, when you talk about the freedom of the press, there are variations of the publications. Most of mainstream and news organizations would not exchange payment for a story. But this is a different kind of the for-profit tabloid, you know, organization where the exchange of money, you know, is customary or it is not out of the ordinary.


WHITFIELD: Now, has there been a breach of a contract you know, Avery, because the information has gotten out, you know. That there was a payment coming from the publisher, similar to Michael Cohen who admitted to making a payment to Stormy Daniels?

FRIEDMAN: Yes, that was kind of goofy. But in both of the instances, both in the Stormy Daniels' breach and then also the breach here with Karen McDougal, the question is really, is the "National Enquirer" actually going to enforce this? I don't think they will, because if there is a question of the breach, does Donald Trump become a critical witness in this?


FRIEDMAN: Yes, it is a contract. But is it going to be enforce, I would really doubt it.

WHITFIELD: We will leave it right there. OK, Richard, we have to get you next time, because we are out of time. Got to go. We have a special coming up.

Thanks. Well, good to see you, guys. Thanks for hanging with us. Appreciate it.

The CNN "BLEACHER REPORT" special all access at the NBA all-star game is next.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield. See you tomorrow.