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Trump Implies FBI Mishandled Tip On Shooter Because It's "Spending Too Much Time" Trying To Prove Collusion; Trump To Hold A Listen Session With Students And Teachers; Trump Undercuts McMaster On Russian Election Meddling; Mass Shooting Survivors Make Desperate Pleas For Action; Trump Talks Mental Health, Not Guns After Shooting; New Video Shows Gunman Walking Moments After Shooting; Funerals Underway For Victims Gunned Down In Mass Shooting. Aired 3-4pm ET
Aired February 18, 2018 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --warning signs are out there and people in Parkland and all across the country had every reason to be grieved and incredibly furious.
REP. TED DEUTCH (D), FLORIDA: Stop using this for politics and come to Parkland and talk to these kids.
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I'm sorry that you have grown up in a generation that has only known violence and there is no sanctuary, there is no place of refuge. The schools aren't safe, the churches aren't safe, the concerts.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: The tragedy that we saw in Parkland is unspeakable. And all over this country, parents are scared to death of what might happen when they send their kids to school. This problem is not going to be easily solved. Nobody has a magic solution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: CNN Newsroom starts now.
Hi, hello again, and thank you so much for being with me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. President Trump turns tragedy into political talking points as he lashes out at the FBI tweeting, "Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. There is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud".
In a barrage of 13 angry tweets last night and again today, the President is raging at the FBI, his own national security adviser and Democrats blaming everyone about Russia following the indictment of 13 Russians accused of meddling in the 2016 election.
CNN's Boris Sanchez is live for us from West Palm Beach, Florida. So, Boris, we've also learned the President is holding a listening session with students and teachers this week. What more can you tell us about that?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Fred. Yes, we learned this afternoon that the President is going to be holding this listening session with students and teachers on Wednesday, and on Thursday he is going to be meeting with local and state officials also to discuss safety on school campuses.
What we don't know is exactly who the President is going to be meeting with. No clarity from the White House yet on whether he's going to be meeting with some of these students that we've heard from Marjory Stoneman Douglas senior high school which is, just about 45 miles away from where the President is staying this weekend at Mar-a-Lago.
You did note that the President had this overnight tweet storm, which he mentioned the shooting at the high school, but the majority of tweets that the President sent out between late last night and early this morning focused on Russia. The President taking aim at some of his favorite targets, Democrats and the media, and also seeming to undercut one of his advisers, someone that he's been rumored to have some serious disagreements with in the past, that being National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster who spoke at a security conference in Munich over the weekend and was asked about the indictment in the Russia investigation that detailed Russia's meddling in the 2016 election.
Here's what H.R. McMaster said that the President felt he had to clarify. Listen to this.
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H.R. MCMASTER, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: As you can see with the FBI indictment, the evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain.
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SANCHEZ: And Fred, here's what the President tweeted. He writes, "General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only collusion was between Russia and crooked Hillary, the DNC and the Dems. Remember the dirty dossier, uranium, speeches, e-mails and the Podesta Company." It's crucial to point out that in that indictment that was rolled out by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Friday. There was no mention of collusion with Hillary Clinton at all.
The indictment actually says that the Russians tried to disparage Hillary Clinton while promoting Donald Trump further. There was no mention of the dossier, uranium, e-mails. The other thing we haven't seen the President mention in these tweets that is important to point out, Fred, still no warning to Russia, no condemnation of Russia getting involved in the 2016 election, something we're still waiting to see exactly how the President might approach, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Boris Sanchez, thanks so much.
Survivors of that horrific school shooting in Florida are making desperate pleas for action. Students are planning marches to honor their fallen classmates and teachers and say they will hold lawmakers accountable. A handful of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School appeared on CNN "State of the Union" this morning and made passionate vows to fight gun violence and lawmakers who stand in their way.
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EMMA GONZALEZ, SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: We're going to be facing this with trepidation and determination and we have an incredible support system around us and we are going to be the difference.
CAMERON KASKY, SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: My message for the people in office is you're either with us or against us. We are losing our lives while the adults are playing around. This is about us begging for our lives. This isn't about the GOP, this isn't about the Democrats, this is about us creating a badge of shame for any politicians who are accepting money from the NRA and using us as collateral.
DAVID HOGG, SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: It's time for us to stand up and take action and hold our elected officials responsible.
[15:05:05] If our elected officials are not willing to stand up and say, "I'm not going to continue to take money from the NRA because children are dying," they shouldn't be in office and they won't be in office because this is a midterm year and this is the change that we need.
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WHITFIELD: Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are also reacting to the Florida school shooting.
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GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Mr. President, I ask you to do this. You don't have to boil the ocean, but take some steps now. This is an opportunity and I believe those who are Second Amendment advocates realize that common sense, real reforms can happen in this country to answer the cries and the anguish of people all across this country who have lost loved ones.
SANDERS: We have to end the absurdity of the gun show loophole. 40 percent of the guns in this country are sold without any background checks. We have to deal with the straw man provision which allows people to legally buy guns and then distribute it. We've got to take on the NRA. And that is my view. And I am -- we'll do everything I can to -- the tragedy that we saw in Parkland is unspeakable. And all over this country, parents are scared to death of what might happen when they send their kids to school. This problem is not going to be easily solved. Nobody has a magic solution, right, but we have got to do everything we can. (END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right joining me right now, CNN Political Commentator Charles Blow, White House Correspondent for the White House Examiner Sarah Westwood and CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst and Former FBI Assistant Director Tom Fuentes. Good to see all of you.
All right, so we heard from some of the survivors, also Sen. Sanders, Governor Kasich. So the calls for action seemed to be getting louder. Charles, you know this question was asked after Sandy Hook in Connecticut. Is there enough momentum for Congress to act after this tragedy?
CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think there is, but I think that the NRA and their supporters in Congress have created an environment where we end up having these conversations on television and in the public square where people are talking without enough grounding and actual information. And that is because the NRA and their supporters in Congress have forbidden the federal government from spending money on studying gun violence for the last 22 years.
We're basically talking in a vacuum because we do not have the science. We have the capacity to have the science and we do not have it and that is an outrage beyond outrages. That is the first step that we have to take as a society is to say, we take it serious enough as a public health tragedy risk epidemic that we will put money into studying how to stop it. Not just saying partisan -- this side of the partisan aisle thinks we should do this and this side thinks we should study on mental health. We have science that's available to us, we can study this and we can figure out what will work best instead of having these on-air debates.
Even after Charleston, there was an amendment in Congress to allow them to study the link. After Charleston and the Speaker of the House, when they voted it down, said that they didn't want the CDC to study it because guns were not a disease. It is an outrageous position for the Republicans in the House and Congress and in the Senate as well to have held and they hold it because the NRA is holding it over their heads. This is our problem.
WHITFIELD: And in fact, Florida Congressman Ted Deutch may be channeling you because he called out the House Speaker. Listen.
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DEUTCH: The Speaker of the House who refuses to bring these bills up, and the few times when we have the chance to actually introduce amendments to try to bring them to the floor, Congress has voted against those. We need the opportunity to vote. We should -- he should talk to the Speaker. He should come to the Speaker with those kids and he should encourage Marco Rubio to come to Parkland and face these kids directly, and he should encourage the President to come to Parkland. Stop using this for politics and come to Parkland and talk to these kids and their families and everyone who has suffered. That's what should happen. That's how change will come.
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WHITFIELD: And in fact, we understand the President is now planning to host a listening session with students and teachers on Wednesday, but still unclear who is invited, who will be in the arena. Sarah, is this a positive move in the right direction?
SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, absolutely. I think if the President is willing to at least listen to people who might present a counter railing argument to him about gun control, that's a positive step in the right direction. Bipartisanship should be something everyone strives for, for guns.
The problem with the conversation about gun control in this country is that the NRA is very powerful, but not why you might think the NRA has not necessarily powerful because of the money that spends on lobbying or donations, which is substantial, but it's not more than other special interests.
[15:10:02] The NRA wield so much power because it has a very strong grassroots organization and because there are millions of people in this country who do believe very strongly in the Second Amendment. And there has been an energy gap, historically, between the people who are pro-gun and the people who are anti-gun and that there are electoral consequences for some politicians particularly from rural areas who tried to impose restrictions on guns. And that's a problem that persists and prevents the conversation from moving forward, even in emotional times like after the wake of a tragedy like this.
WHITFIELD: So the President is also attacking the FBI, being very critical saying if, you know, the FBI could have done more to prevent this shooting tweeting this, "Very sad that the FBI missed all the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. There is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud."
So, Tom, how is that sitting with the law enforcement community?
TOM FUENTES, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I don't think it's sitting very well, Fredricka. And I think that, you know, the FBI has admitted that it was a catastrophic error that the notification wasn't sent to Miami when they received the telephone message about the shooter and his motives and desires. They've admitted that. But for the President to say that the reason that failure happened was because the FBI is so busy doing the Russian collusion case is frankly one of the dumbest things I've ever heard, you know.
There -- we have 35,000 agents and analysts and support of employees in the FBI. There's a group of them in West Virginia operating a call center. They are not busy with the collusion or distracted by the Russian collusion case. They are working that call center. And yes, if a mistake was made by one of the people there or maybe in the system, the computerized system, we don't know that. We will find that out. But that has nothing to do with the Russian collusion investigation and only a very tiny percentage of FBI personnel are assigned to Robert Mueller to conduct that investigation. WHITFIELD: And the Attorney General Jeff Sessions has also weighed in saying today that more can be done to combat mental health when these tips do arise. Here he is.
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JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: If a person is hearing voices and he's making threats to shoot and kill innocent people, that person is subject to being taken to a -- on a legal official and being declared subject to be having mental health treatment. I think that probably existed in this case. I can't say for certain, but we'll see as facts go by. But I have to say, you are correct that we need to do a better job of identifying people who obviously -- who even could possibly present threats to children in the school.
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WHITFIELD: So, Charles, the White House has repeatedly -- the President has repeatedly focused on mental health, whether it was during his statement on Friday or maybe even, you know, during those tweets. Do you believe, among the things, if Congress responds to all of this pressure and, you know, how vocal people are being that they are more likely to tackle the issues of mental health before tackling background checks or any kind of banning of certain weapons, et cetera?
BLOW: They may well do that, but that would be a political reaction. It is not a -- this is -- I'm so frustrated by this because it goes back to what I was saying before. The CDC could have established if they were allowed to study this for the last 22 years. The CDC could have established whether or not there is an important link between mental health and these particular kinds of shootings or any shootings in general, what those steps could be, what you could do. Now in some states you can't even ask a family when they come in to get their screening whether or not they have guns in the house. We have no idea.
The health professionals have no way to link whether or not they're seeing something with a patient with whether or not that patient has a weapon. We have no one pouring over the data about that and trying to figure out what the linkages are. And so, yes, they could go in and do that because it's very easy to say, let's not ever deal with the thing that's going to cause us pain at the ballot box which is the NRA being upset and the millions or hundred million gun owners being upset that we do something that affects them and make them feel less safe or make them feel like we're threatening their weapons or whatever. Let's not deal with that.
Let's deal with this other thing and hope and pray that people will shut up if we do that. But that is a political reaction. That is not rooted in anything and the fact that we are even having these conversations, not rooted in something because we refuse to provide the actual data to collect the data, and then to provide it is crazy. This is insane what we're doing.
[15:15:02] WHITFIELD: It is frustrating and I think people are outraged on so many levels across the country and are waiting to see what next.
All right, Tom Fuentes, Charles Blow, Sarah Westwood, thank you so much. Appreciate it. We'll leave it there.
All right, brand new video now just in to CNN showing the school shooter walking to McDonald's just a moments after the massacre. It had been reported that he had gone to McDonald's, a subway before a very astute police officer did notice him.
CNN's Martin Savage is joining us right now to give us some context about the imagery that we're seeing. Martin?
MARTIN SAVAGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Fred. This is a surveillance video that is coming to us from a building that was in the area of that McDonald's. Let's sort of walk it back a bit. This is, of course, Wednesday, the day of the shooting.
And we know that the suspect in this case, Nikolas Cruz, was leaving the school building around 2:28 in the afternoon. So that means for about an hour and 10 minutes he was walking, roaming around the surrounding neighborhood. And this is visual proof of that fact. And we can see a person who is walking through the frame of this particular security camera. And they appear to be wearing the clothing and dressed in the fashion that we know Nikolas Cruz was dressed in that day.
And it was around 3:00 in the afternoon when he walks to that McDonald's. As you noted, the first place he went after he left the school property was to a Walmart that had a subway restaurant and he bought a soft drink inside there. He left from there and then walked to the McDonald's. So this is what moment this surveillance video is capturing, when he went across the street and went into this McDonald's. He didn't buy anything at that McDonald's, reportedly. According to the sheriff's office timeline, he just sat down and then left some time later. He was apprehended 40 minutes after this. Fred?
WHITFIELD: All right. Martin Savage, thanks for bringing that to us. Appreciate it.
All right, so survivors of the school shooting will be joining CNN this Wednesday for a very special town hall and focus the road ahead for both a grieving community of Parkland and for the overall gun debate in Washington. That's this Wednesday night, 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN.
And we will be right back.
[15:21:33] WHITFIELD: As part of this morning's tweet storm, President Trump didn't rebuke Russia in any way despite last week's indictment against 13 Russians for election meddling in the U.S. Instead the President tweeting this, "If it was the goal of Russia to create discord, disruption and chaos within the U.S, then with all the committee hearings, investigations and party hatred, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They are laughing their assess off in Moscow."
This morning, Republican Senator James Lankford suggested the President needs to shift his focus.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President has tweeted about the Mueller indictments 13 times since Friday, including five times this morning, and not once, sir, has he condemned Russia. Does that bother you?
SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: It does, because Russia has clearly tried to advance their agenda into the United States. The President has been very adamant to say he didn't collude. He's very frustrated that people seem to accuse the fact that the only reason he's president is because of some sort of Russian collusion.
But I would say the clear message here is Russia did mean to interfere in our election. And whatever way that that might be, starting as far back as 2014 when they were planning, organizing, coordinating, with among other Russians to be able to make sure that they are trying to bring out chaos into our election system.
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WHITFIELD: All right, I want to bring back Sarah Westwood and Charles Blow.
All right. So, Sarah, it's interesting because many people have been saying for a long time that the Russians were trying to sow discord and have been successful doing that and now the President is in agreement by way of his tweet.
WESTWOOD: Right. And I think Republicans have been wanting President Trump for a long time to embrace the fact that interference happened while still denying that collusion took place, which is a tenable position that the White House could have articulated a long time ago. And it would have strengthened the credibility of his denials of collusion if he had acknowledged that maybe the Russians did conduct this apparently very substantial influence effort during the election, but that his campaign was in no way involved in it.
We're starting to learn that that may in fact be the case. This particular indictment noted that the Trump campaign officials who interacted with Russians were unwitting, further indictments may say something different. But for now, it looks like the collusion denials were credible that President Trump had acknowledged interference all along. Maybe right now people would be taking his denials more seriously.
WHITFIELD: And let me take you back into time with what President Trump had to say about Vladimir Putin as a leader.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You admire President Putin. I said I don't admire him. I said he was a strong leader, which he is. I mean, he might be bad, he might be good, but he's a strong leader.
I respect Putin. He's a strong leader, I can tell you that, unlike what we have. We have a pathetic leader.
He says great things about me. I'm going to say great things about him. I've already said, he is really very much of a leader. I mean, you can say, "Oh, isn't that a terrible thing?" The man has very strong control over a country.
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WHITFIELD: So, Charles, as a candidate, as president, you know, Trump, he is speaking by way of tweet today. Is that just in step with a pattern of the President deferring to, if not flattering Vladimir Putin in Russia?
Blow: It could be, but I maintain this position which I have expressed before. Any President of the United States who refuses to meet a threat by a foreign -- meet a foreign threat is himself a domestic threat. I mean, and I cannot say that strongly enough.
[15:25:02] This is no other -- no different than any other massive attack on the country. If it were done by people running into buildings and walking out with cartons of papers, it would be the same thing. If they were Russians on American soil, which there were according to this indictment, by the way, we would respond differently.
Any other president would respond differently. This president is choosing not to forcefully defend this country, and that calls into question whether or not his allegiances are entirely to us or if they are somehow split between us and Russia, and that is a profound question.
WHITFIELD: So in your view, it's not just Russia undermining democracy, but you see the President of the United States as undermining democracy.
BLOW: I think anybody who refuses to defend this country from a foreign attack is a problem for this country. There is no other way to say that. And in addition, can I just make this one point?
BLOW: I am personally offended by this attack because in that indictment there is only one set of people that Russia even tried to suppress their vote, and that is minorities. Everybody else, he was trying to defend Hillary, support Trump, having rallies in favor of Trump, trying to get people to switch their votes, trying to get -- only minorities that they specifically say that they were trying to get black --
WHITFIELD: By going after people with the boarder, security boarder, the Mexican border --
(CROSSTALK) BLOW: -- and mock the people to stay home. That is the ways of life attack.
WHITFIELD: And in two of those examples -- right. Two of those examples for people who have not read the 37-page indictment, we're talking about this Russian, you know, campaign going by way of underscoring the whole security thing between Mexico, Black Lives Matter and of twisting those messages.
WESTWOOD: Yes, absolutely.
WHITFIELD: Charles -- oh, OK. Go ahead, Sarah, you can respond to that. I'm just underscoring the point that Charles was making in that 37-page indictment, you know, those were some of the very strong messages in that campaign.
WESTWOOD: Right. And you're correct that those were some of the groups that were targeted. Most of the direction of a lot of the influence went in favor of Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton. Even though the efforts began as just a general, more broad push to sow discord in the political system, that effort took the form of supporting President Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton as we got closer to Election Day that is indisputable.
And so I think Charles is right, minorities were particularly victimized by this aspect of Russian interference, but note that we haven't heard anything about some of the more serious influences that they tried to have, like hacking the DNC, breaking into John Podesta's inbox, leaking stolen e-mails. So I think we're going to hear a lot more from Mueller in the weeks ahead.
WHITFIELD: So former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders also weighed in on this and he sees it as the ongoing threat posed by Russia. Listen.
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SANDERS: This was not just the 2016 campaign. They intend to do this in 2018. And I think one of the weirdest things in modern American history is you have every intelligence agency, you have the Mueller report, you have Trump's own administration saying the Republicans want to sabotage the 2018 campaign. Everybody knows this except the President of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
SANDERS: And I think people are asking, what is going on with this President? What we have got to do -- and I think Senator Lankford touched on some of the issues front end, front end --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
SANDERS: -- what we have got to say to the Russians. You are doing something to undermine American democracy. You are not going to get away with it. This is a major assault. If you do that, there will severe, severe consequences. (END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: And Charles, we can tell you're already passionate about it. But, you know, another example of exactly the point that Mr. Sanders is making and the point that you just made is the President has undermined his own national security adviser this weekend, you know, because the national security adviser said, "Hey, by way of this indictment, it's indisputable that Russia was interfering with elections."
BLOW: Right. He's not --
WHITFIELD: And the President didn't like that.
BLOW: He's not only undermining his national security adviser, he is literally undermining our country's national security. Every American out there should just understand this. We are vulnerable, right? And we are now depending on states and their state operations to do their best job to try to keep the actual voting machines and the voting processes.
But the coordinated cabinet-level response to the voting, particularly in the cyberspace, about how do we defend this country against that, how do we punish Russia for doing what they did in the first place, that is nonexistent at this point.
There are independent agencies that are trying to do whatever they can do, but the cabinet-level response directed by the President of the United States to protect our country from another country's ongoing attack does not exist.
[15:30:07] America is vulnerable today because Donald Trump is allowing us to be vulnerable. Donald Trump is allowing that because he believes that it looks better for him. That is an extraordinary thing for me to even have to say.
BLOW: It is even more extraordinary that it is true.
WHITFIELD: We'll leave it right there. Charles Blow and Sarah Westwood, thank you so much to both of you. Appreciate it.
All right, coming up, a student and a teacher who were fatally gunned down in this week's mass shooting are laid to rest today. Meanwhile, several other victims continue to fight for their lives. Stay with us.
[15:35:15] Happening right now, family and friends are saying their final goodbyes to 35-year-old geography teacher, Scott Beigel. He died trying to usher students back into the classroom when he heard that the shooting had started. Just moments ago, his girlfriend spoke at his funeral.
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GWEN GOSSLER, SCOT BEIGEL'S GIRLFRIEND: The love we had for each other was special. We completed each other and we made each other better people. He was the sweetest, most loving man I've ever known.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: CNN's Kaylee Hartung is joining us right now outside. What more can you tell us about what's happening?
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, Scott Beigel's mom, the last to eulogized her son from that lectern. As we heard from so many of his friends and family who made an effort to say Scott wasn't just a hero because of the way he died that moment when he unlocked the classroom door in an effort to help student hide from that gunman, but also because of the way that he lived, the way that he impacted so many young people's lives as teacher, as a camp counselor and as a coach.
His girlfriend, Gwen Gossler, said he was just too humble to know or admit that hero status in life. Gwen also said it was his humor that was the reason she fell for him in the first place. We heard so many echoes of his tremendous humor and wit.
Among them, assistant principal from Stoneham Douglas saying she knew within two minutes to three minutes of her interviewing Scott that he was someone she wanted to work along side because of his great humor and that he was also someone she wanted impacting the lives of the student at Stoneman Douglas because of his compassion and his kindness. As this ceremony wraps up, the family will then move to intern him at the mausoleum behind Temple Beth El in a private service.
Earlier today, Alex Schachter was also remembered, the 14-year-old who loved music. He played the baritone and the trombone in their high school marching band and orchestra. This young man, one of four children who had already endured the heartbreak of losing their mother in 2008.
And also this afternoon, Jaime Guttenberg, she was memorialized by friends and families, a talented dancer. Orange was her favorite color. Dancers across the country in competition this weekend were wearing orange ribbons to honor her. You could also see many of her friends and family wearing orange ribbons as they proceeded into her funeral. Alex and Jaime both had brothers who were also students at Stoneman Douglas that left last Wednesday unharmed.
Fred, we should also mention two families welcomed home their children for the first time since that tragic day yesterday. That means three students remain hospitalized, and one who was in critical condition has improved and been upgraded to fair. That means the three remain all in fair and stable conditions on this day, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Kaylee Hartung, thank you so much.
Up next, as top Intel chiefs warn about Russia targeting the 2018 midterms, we're learning new details on how the nation meddled in the last election. So how exactly did they do it? We've got answers, next.
[15:42:25] WHITFIELD: The White House is pushing back on new details on just how far Russia went to try to undermine the 2016 U.S. election. CNN's Polo Sandoval has more.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This 37 pages alleged Russians went a very long way their attempt to interfere with U.S. democracy. According to the federal indictment, Russians operating out of this Saint Petersburg full farm launched a misinformation campaign to wreak havoc on America's political system.
ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: The Russians conspirators want to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy. We must not allow them to succeed.
SANDOVAL (voice-over): Examples of the alleged misinformation campaign include allegations of voter fraud by the Democratic Party and the purchased of advertisements to further promote the allegations on Facebook. The pages were even designed to look like they were run by real Americans and focus on issues in American life, race relations, immigration, and of course, then candidate Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Facebook estimates close to 126 million Americans may have been exposed to this and other propaganda. Federal investigators say the group behind it is the internet research agency linked to the Kremlin. Russia has denied any involvement in the U.S. elections. In a security conference, Saturday, Russia's foreign minister again dismissed those claims.
SERGEY LAVROV, MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF RUSSIA (through translation): I have no response. Until we see the facts, everything else is just blather.
SANDOVAL (voice-over): Then there are the rallies. In May 2016, a small group of anti-Islamic protesters gathered outside a Muslim community center in Houston, Texas. The situation grew tense with a counter-rally. The bury month of the election both pro and anti-Trump demonstrations were held in New York.
U.S. prosecutors say both events were organized by the same trail group half a world away in Saint Petersburg. Russians traveled to the U.S. on a fact-finding mission in 2014, say prosecutors. It would be the foundation of a massive operation brought to light in recent months and described in detail in these 37 pages.
Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.
(END VIDEOTAPE) WHITFIELD: All right, I want to bring in Jonathan Morgan. He runs a company that tracks misinformation online and a former special adviser to the Obama White House. Good to see you.
So help us understand --
JONATHAN MORGAN, COMPANY TRACKS ONLINE MISINFORMATION: Good to see you.
WHITFIELD: -- just how effective base on these indictments is Russian campaign was.
MORGAN: Absolutely. So I think what we've seen here is probably one of the most effective propaganda operations launched in the United States in quite some time. We saw Russian operatives imitating Americans, spreading their message, spending millions of dollars every month, a large staff of people doing a very coordinated campaign to sow discord in the American electorate.
[15:45:14] So not only they influenced the election, but also to get us fighting with each other, kind of break down our social fabric so that it was destabilizing to the country and our election process. So a really truly massive and very effective campaign.
WHITFIELD: So then what are the biggest warning signs that you see coming from these 37 pages as we approach the midterm elections?
MORGAN: Absolutely. So I think what's -- I think particularly daunting about the upcoming elections is that what we've seen from the indictment is that it doesn't take the way in which they were able to conduct these operations hasn't been stopped. So we've seen the social media platforms try and deal with this problem so we're not so vulnerable to this type of propaganda attack in 2018.
But as we can see even with recent reporting on the release the memo campaign that there's still an opportunity for companies and organizations and foreign intelligence agencies to stand up a large number of social media profiles that look and sound, to kind of walk and talk like every day Americans, and that those profiles can influence our conversation in a really significant way. So I think the fact that it's -- the fact that it was so successful means that going forward into 2018, it's kind of open season on our public discourse.
WHITFIELD: So you're saying that this doesn't necessarily put the pressure on federal government agencies, but we're talking about social media platforms, these private organizations who you are saying they have to do more to try to keep these Russian groups from infiltrating or, you know, creating these opportunities to disrupt elections.
MORGAN: Well, it's such a large problem that I think it's actually everybody's responsibility. So there's, of course, a role for the social media platforms to play in making sure that the vulnerabilities that these operatives exploited are no longer there. That they can work to defend their platforms against this type of attack. But I think on top of that, the media also has a role to play in recognizing these attacks in real time and being cautious about how they're reporting on trending stories, particularly on socially divisive issues to make sure that they're not duped into amplifying the type of attacks that we saw in 2016.
And then I think the reason that the social media platforms and the mainstream media have such a strong role to play is because of a lack of attention paid to this issue by this administration. Of course, there's strong consensus inside the intelligence community that this is an important issue, that our country is still vulnerable from these types of attacks.
Obviously the indictment makes the way in much of those attacks were conducted very clear. But we still see a lack of ownership of this problem by the administration. And without that air cover, I think our federal agencies are not able to be effective in combating this problem. So social media companies and mainstream media companies have to pick up the slack and make sure that our discourse is defended as we go into 2018.
WHITFIELD: Wow. And until or when that is to happen, you formally advised the Obama White House if you had an opportunity to directly be involved in this Trump White House, what would your advice be in terms of what can come from the Oval Office?
MORGAN: I think it's important that the Oval Office sends a clear message that we can trust in our institutions. I think ultimately that's what's being undermined here is faith in our press, faith in our mainstream media that were -- that these organizations are telling the truth, that these organizations are doing their best to be factual in reporting information as accurately as they can, and the fact that that's being undermined day in and day out by this administration for political reasons is actually making our democracy less state -- less safe and less stable. And so that would be my first piece of advice.
Accept that this is happening, condemn Russian aggression in the United States during our election process and ask your supporters to put their faith in the media organizations that are reporting on this issue and trying to kind of call balls and strikes on what's real and what isn't.
WHITFIELD: Jonathan Morgan, thank you so much. Great advice, great information, appreciate it.
All right, we'll be right back.
[15:52:25] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. This week's episode of "The Radical Story of Patty Hearst" takes a look at the shootout that took place when the LAPD SWAT team found a hideout of the domestic terror group that kidnapped the Hearst. Americans were glued to their television sets wondering if Hearst was inside.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILL DEIZ, REPORTER, KNXT (voice-over): We try to bring you these live pictures as they occur. We're using the car gear as covered.
(on camera): We thought all the other stations were competing with us for a picture. We didn't know we had the only exclusive picture from the scene and that we were starting to share it with all the stations in the area and then across the country. So we didn't know it. But we were ushering in a new age. We were basically saying good-bye to the age of television news on film and hello to the age of television news on videotape and live.
(voice-over): There is still fire coming from inside the target house, which is across the street as I said before from us right now.
AL PRECIADO, LAPD SWAT RET.: The house is burning and they are stilled shooting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But there was smoke everywhere and we couldn't see the house. And somebody said, hey, they are shooting out of the crawl spaces. And so they had kicked out the floor furnace and gone under the house.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Wow. Bill Deiz joining me right now. He was that reporter in Los Angeles covering the shooting live. What an incredible breakthrough on so many levels there. So, Bill, this was the first time an unplanned breaking news event was seen on live television. You put it so aptly right there bye-bye film, hello video and tape and the media sees. So what was that experience like for you? And then when you look back at it, what is that like?
DEIZ: Well, yes, the experience was incredible because we've been actually rehearsing with the cameras, experimental cameras for weeks leading up to it being at that some point that there might be a breaking news event that we can cover it live with the camera. But up to that point, it hadn't happened.
What we didn't realize was that we were the only ones inside police lines that had a picture there. And so when we started broadcasting, we just started acting like we were competing with everybody else and so we got as close to the scene as we could. And we actually had to dodge some bullets when they started firing out at the back out of the house.
WHITFIELD: Right, I was going to ask you about that. The same time you're having to duck, you know, because your own lives they're on the line there. So this shootout, what a huge moment, you know, in history. Huge moment in the whole Patty Hearst saga. How do you think this changed her story? People weren't sure whether to feel sorry, have empathy or to fear or be angry about her.
[15:55:10] DEIZ: Yes. I think the thing that happened the day before at Mel's Sporting Goods where a woman did cover fire as they were trying to escape after somebody was caught shoplifting in there. I think that sort of started to change the narrative about Patty, because the description of the person doing the firing was that it might have been Patty Hearst. As it turns out, it was.
We didn't know if Patty was in the house or not when the shoot out started, but we did know that these people were actual criminals. We didn't have romantic notions about their mission or who they were. They had started the whole thing by killing Marcus Foster, the superintendent, the public instruction up there in Oakland. That's what announced their arrival on the scene.
So by the time they got to L.A., we were pretty sure they were a bunch of criminals and they were absolutely uncaring about the neighborhood. They were spraying fire in the houses on either side, and behind them, children, women, old people were at risk and there was nothing romantic about them.
WHITFIELD: Wow. And so when you look at the industry, you know, how do you think this where that moment, you know, impacted television news or just news coverage in general?
DEIZ: It actually proved the concept. News directors were using our picture all across the country. And then it went basically viral around the world. And every news director that was using that picture wanted one of those cameras. So within a year, some of the newsrooms had those cameras. And within two years, just about every newsroom in America started using that technology. It was pretty exciting.
WHITFIELD: Wow, really, really something else. So glad you could be with us and reflect on all of that in that part of history. Bill Deiz, thank you so much.
So part three of the series "The Radical Story of Patty Hearst" airs on CNN tonight, 9:00 Eastern Time. And we'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: Happening now in the Newsroom.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KASICH: If you're a strong Second Amendment person, you need to slow down and take a look at reasonable things it can be done.