Return to Transcripts main page


CNN: Trump Aide Finalizing Plea Deal; Trump: FBI Too Focused On Russia To Stop Florida Gunman; Kasich To Trump: Take Some Steps On Gun Control; Three Shooting Victims Laid To Rest Today; Big GOP Donor: No More Checks Until Republicans Tackle Guns; Dog Food Could Be Tainted With Euthanasia Drug. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 18, 2018 - 17:00   ET



[17:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: ... on this breaking news. Sara, what all is involve in this plea deal?

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Well, Ana, as you know that the only time it is so important, Rick Gates is going to plead guilty. He will testify against Paul Manafort. Paul Manafort was a co-defendant in this case.

They both pleaded not guilty when they were facing the charges for financial crimes that were unrelated to the campaign. And according to the L.A. Times, Rick Gates is going to serve about 18 months in prison.

Now let me give you a little bit of context here, for the charges that he was facing, Gates could have faced upwards of ten years in prison. This is someone who has four young children, a young family who is facing financial pressure.

It would have been very expensive if he to go to trial, but he's also facing a lot of personal pressure from his loved ones to wrap this up quickly. Now in terms of the investigation, this could potentially be a big deal in the Russian probe.

The fact that Gates is willing to testify against Paul Manafort, you know, that obviously is a coup for Bob Mueller -- the special counsel in building a case against Paul Manafort. But it could also mean putting additional pressure on Manafort to cooperate with this investigation.

So Rick Gates cooperation could actually be a building block for Bob Mueller for something bigger, potentially for charges against President Donald Trump or potentially for charging against one of Donald Trump's other associates.

Now we reported on Friday that it was nearing this plea deal but he was not yet finished, that he was going to cooperate with Bob Mueller. And at that time, the White House sort of downplayed the notion that Rick Gates could flip on Paul Manafort. Then he said, this doesn't have anything to do with that or just having to communicate with the people who are in the west wing. You know, if he wants to flip -- if he wants to cooperate against Paul

Manafort, that has to do whether or not related to the presidential campaign or the transition. We'll see if they are as calm about this not that it appears and make it more official.

CABRERA: So, Sara, you mentioned that the White House is downplaying this as a guy who doesn't really have a central role in terms of the campaign or this administration, but we do know, he was actually with the Trump team longer than Paul Manafort. So talk to us about what role he did play.

MURRAY: That's right. He worked on a presidential campaign and of course as you know, Paul Manafort was eventually dismissed from the campaign. And Rick Gates still managed to stick around for a while after the fact.

He hung around in sort of the Trump orbit or even longer. Now he did not go on to work in the White House, but he did go on to work for an outside nonprofit that was supporting President Trump during the inauguration.

He was helping to raise money and sort of plan the president's inauguration. So he was still in the orbit for quite a while. And I think that's why he's an X factor. You know, we don't know exactly what the Special Counsel could be billing to here.

Could this just be a case against Paul Manafort? Sure. That is possible certainly. He and Rick Gates were just partners for a very long time. And so Rick Gates, he could be pivotal in a case like that. But he could also be a part of a larger probe that we just unaware of at this point. We just don't know exactly where the Special Counsel is headed with this.

CABRERA: All right, Sara Murray, reporting for us. Thank you for that breaking news. We know you are continuing to work your sources to get this information verified.

I want to bring in our panel. We have Sahil Kapur, political reporter for Bloomberg, as we as Norman Eisen, former ambassador to the Czech Republic, also former Ethics Czar for the White House itself. So, Norm, I recall you predicting this was going to happen here on CNN.

NORMAN EISEN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS CZAR (via Skype): Well, Ana, thanks for having me back. That's right. When Tom Green, an old friend of mine from the days in the white-collar bar in D.C., when he came into the case and was seen shoveling in and out above Mueller's office.

And when Gates' other lawyers began making moves to withdraw, it was pretty clear that we were heading to a plea deal, and it is bad news -- more bad news. And in a weekend of bad news for the president on the Russian probe.

CABRERA: What do you see as the significance of this?

EISEN: Well, number one, it will put pressure on Manafort, it was a tough case already. It's a lay-down case now for the prosecutor. So the pressure is on Manafort. And Gates was around the campaign.

He was around these Russia contracts, Ana. And then he was known as one of the many lurkers around the White House. He was in and out of the White House quite a bit. So who knows -- who knows what he saw or did.

This is in the same time that Michael Wolff was reporting what became Fire and Fury with creating such chaos. Who knows what Rick Gates is going to testify about. I'm sure the president and those around him are thinking back now, what did we say around Gates during the campaign and afterwards.

But if nothing more, the pressure is not on Manafort, and then will Manafort flip on the president or Don Jr., or Kushner and move to share information that he so far hasn't been willing to.

[17:05:02] CABRERA: So we don't know if this is a tactic to apply, sort of domino pressure as you are explaining it, to really put pressure on Manafort in the larger investigation into Russia and its meddling, and any potential collusion with the Trump camp.

But, Sahil, if this really is only to get Manafort for money laundering, does it make Trump's case that this is a waste of time?

SAHIL KAPUR, POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: I don't think it makes the president's case that this is a waste of time. I think what it does do is -- this is now the third member of President Trump's orbit who is pleading guilty, which suggest that Manafort does have some goods on them.

The fourth member, Paul Manafort himself and was campaign chairman for Donald Trump in 2016. I'm sure Paul Manafort has some information that Bob Muller wants to get his hands and you know, which is why the reason that he is contesting these charges.

So I mean, the question here is number one, what information Bob Mueller has? What kind of charge he's going for, is it obstruction of justice? Is it more related to collusion?

Is he trying to shake the tree on money laundering which is something we know, in terms of the president's finances that he been very sensitive about in the past, that he has hidden them on like many of his predecessor?

So it is just very difficult to understand and to analyst where this is all going when Bob Mueller was holding his cards very close to the best.

CABRERA: And, Norm, what do you make of the fact that Mueller has been able to flip three people, because don't forget, it was Flynn and then Papadopoulos, and now we have Rick Gates?

EISEN: He's is living on like a short circuit and what I make of it is, this was a campaign who led by a candidate who admits to tamp for the rule of law and for ethics. He has continued that in the White House -- campaign, so free to do

wrong, and that is why Bob Mueller is having a field day now as Special Counsel because they were underlying advances, misconduct.

I think the big just like to Russia indictment Friday was a surprise that work with and against the Special Counsel and he likes to move with shock and awe. There will be more coming. And I suspect we'll find out that Gates is part of that, although it's early moments yet.

CABRERA: Sahil, the president we know was on a Twitter rampage last night and early this morning. Could that play any role in the timing of this?

KAPUR: I don't think so. I don't think that's how the conversation is between the Special Counsel offices and the witnesses are going on the president's tweets. They are pretty innumerous. He is very, very frustrated by this whole investigation.

He believes according to many sources around him it cheapens between the 2016 election that cast doubt on legitimacy of it in the eyes of many people. And this is a man who has for many, many years going back to his time in New York as a real estate developer.

And a kind of a star of the tabloid scene there, sought legitimacy and craved the acceptance and approval of elites around him, as much as he criticizes them now, including members of the press.

So yes, I think we should be expecting to see a number of presidential tweets, so to speak, on this episode as we have consistently in the past when President Trump on these things have, you know, continue to move forward.

CABRERA: And, Norm, talking about timing, too, this comes on the heels of this giant indictment of 13 Russians and three Russian entities that dropped on Friday that proved there is there when it comes to Russia, definitively, meddling in the U.S. election.

EISEN: Ana, Sahil, is right. The indictment Friday is perhaps the most devastating blow yet to the legitimacy of Mr. Trump's victory because we know that he speak it out by less than 100,000 votes in three cases.

Now we learned that there was years long comprehensive Russian assault on our democracy, intended to clip votes in his favor against Hillary Clinton.

And it has raised the questioning the minds of anybody who's student of politics, did this Russia attack make the difference? So the president is rightly freaking out this weekend.

And some of his tweets are the most outrageous in a history of years of outrageous tweets. There have been some shameful statements that can only be swing by the panic over the assault on the legitimacy of his win.

CABRERA: And we are going to talk about those specific tweets we were referencing on the other side of a quick the break. Norman Eisen and Sahil Kapur, stand by. Thank you both.

As president Trump politicizes now that Parkland school shooting that took 17 lives, and this is what he is doing. In his tweet this morning, funerals meantime for some of the victims are taking place today. This as investigators are uncovering new details about the shooter's past.

[17:10:00] Much more to unpack, stay with us, we're live in the CNN Newsroom.


CABRERA: President Trump, he outdid himself today. The past year has made us all accustomed to waking up to tweets from the president, tapped out in the wee hours of the morning, calling his political opponents and other word leaders names, defending himself against attack that in some cases, only he sees.

But today, the president managed to find a new low. By sunrise today just a few days after one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history, the president's declaration that the FBI failed to stop the Florida school murder because they were preoccupied with him.

This is the tweet from the President of the United States. 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.

[17:15:00] Now the president typed out those words just 40 miles from Parkland, Florida, where parents are burying their teenagers today because they were shot dead inside their classrooms.

He tweeted other things, something about tax cuts, calling us here at CNN losers again and promoting the Daytona 500. CNN correspondent Boris Sanchez is in West Palm Beach where the president is spending the weekend.

Boris, let me read some of the reactions from students at Parkland High School. They are sending messages directly to the president. Tonight, quote, my friends were brutally murdered and you have the nerve to make this about Russia. I cannot believe this.

Another one, 17 of my classmates and friends are gone, and you have the audacity to make this about Russia? Have a damn heart. You can keep all your fake and meaningless thoughts and prayers.

And this, you are the president of the United States and you have the audacity to put this on Russia as an excuse? Boris, are you hearing from White House officials about these tweets?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Ana. Yes, we have reached out to the White House press office to get their reaction to these students' strongly worded tweets, no response yet. But I can tell you that we cannot have a picture now of where this

tweet storm that the president went on from 11:00 p.m. last night until about 6:00 a.m. this morning came from.

The president was at Mar-a-Lago last night ding with his sons according to sources. And his sons were egging him on to take a stronger stand against the FBI in light of the news that the FBI mishandled the tip about the shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas senior high school.

The president then stopped at a gala for a while and went to bed around 10:00 p.m. He's been indoors all weekend. The White House deciding that it would be a bad idea for him to go golfing as he typically does on long weekends here at Mar-a-Lago.

Partly because they wanted to pay their respects to those students and teachers that were killed in the shooting. But the president has essentially been sitting inside watching cable news.

And his frustrations boiled over and that's where we got those tweets. No word yet from the White House as to whether or not the president saw or was made aware of what the students were saying though. Ana.

CABRERA: And, meantime, the president's planning to hold a listening session with students and teachers on Wednesday. That is exactly one week after the massacre, Boris. Does the White House now expect a positive reception from these teachers and students get in the comments since the tragedy?

SANCHEZ: Well, here's the thing, Ana, we don't know exactly what students and teachers the president is going to be meeting with. The White House put this on the schedule, that they released this afternoon.

But they wouldn't tell us yet whether they were actually going to be meeting with students from the high school in Parkland, Florida, which is just about 40 miles away from Mar-a-Lago. We don't really have clarity on that.

And so we are waiting to hear from the White House. We did hear, though, from some of the students who sent out those tweets this afternoon on CNN telling our colleague Fredricka Whitfield that if the president wants to hear from them, he would have to come to them. They would not go to him, Ana.

CABRERA: Maybe there will be some progress, listening and understanding of each other. Thank you, Boris Sanchez for that report. Now CNN contributor, Norman Eisen, is back.

He is the former Ethics Czar under President Obama, also CNN law enforcement analyst, Jonathan Wackrow is with us. And he is a former member of the Secret Service, Bloomberg political reporter Sahil Kapur is back with us as well.

So, Jonathan, the President of the United States appears to be blaming the shooting on the FBI. And the FBI admits it dropped the ball and didn't follow protocol and following up on tips about the shooter. But for the president to suggest these agents were too busy investigating the Russia probe to stop this attacker?

JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, it's a shame. Listen, I have seen, and we all have seen the president actually be the healer and chief in a time of crisis. We know he hasn't been on. It's disappointing that he chose this moment to conflate two different things.

I would have really like to see the president come out and get ahead of the issues that we're facing and lean us through really what's a difficult time.

And he chose to go in a different direction. I think he'll come back. I think we will see something by Wednesday, where the president, you know, has the empathy for the lives that were lost, but it was a shame to see those tweets this morning.

CABRERA: The tweet itself is not appropriate as the students have expressed how they interpreted it. But I mean, is there any truth to what he's claiming? Is there even any truth to the fact that they would be investigating Russia, instead of following up on these tips or are this different branches of the FBI anyway?

WACKROW: No. This is -- this is, you know, completely fallen apart. The same organization is dealing with multiple things. But the FBI from -- you know, from the sunrise to sunset is not focused on Donald Trump. They are focused on protecting as every law enforcement agency is, protecting, you know, the citizens of the United States.

[17:20:04] The FBI isn't, you know, out there solely for, you know, Donald Trump. So there was a misstep and now that's what we have to be looking at.

It was a threat, you know, passed on to the FBI, we need to look at this in a linear fashion and see where there was a breakdown because what we don't want, is for this to happen again. We need to take the corrective action. We don't need to politicize this.

We need to actually look at pragmatic strategies, not to let this happen again. And if there was a failure at the FBI, in terms of information flows, lead follow up, et cetera, that's what we need to look at. Not whether or not, you know a field office agent, you know, it had nothing to do with the Russia probe.

CABRERA: So, Sahil, some students at Parkland High School are angry about the president's tweet as we read right before this segment. They see at using their tragedy to attack the Russia probe. Do lawmakers care about these tweets from the president or have they simply accepted them at this point?

KAPUR: You know, we are at a staggering point in this country where children are now putting Congress on notice that thoughts and prayers are not enough, that they want action. And look, it's been a little over five years since the last time we saw a classroom full of dead children, gunned down by a craze person. And Congress reacted by essentially doing nothing and the reason is --

and I don't want to fatalistic about because I know there are people who have lost loved ones and this is a horrific tragedy but the politics in Washington are not changing.

Simply because the side -- the wing of the country that favors no limits on gun ownership and no limits on gun laws is much more mobilized and is much more effective at punishing politicians who cross them.

Even on issues like backgrounds check or bending bump stock which is what the gunman used about four and a half months ago in the deadliest mass shooting U.S. history. These are very popular issues.

But it is so hard to get them through Congress because number one, the Republicans who run it are opposed to any kind of gun control and they have a strong base that tends to punish people who try to do anything about guns. So we're at a stalemate now.

It's hard to see how that breaks unless there is comparable passion, there is comparable energy in mobilization on the gun control side.

And I will say that we have seen some changes in the last few years, especially since the Utah Massacre, the gun control side is getting more organized but there is still that fundamental imbalance.

CABRERA: I want to ask you, Norm, about the second half of that tweet that we read from the president and this part, this is not acceptable.

They, the FBI are trying to spend 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. Do you think if Mueller is taking out of that tweet at all?

EISEN: You know, Bob Mueller has avoided the distractions and has press forward to do his job. He has more powerful obstruction. I am sure he is focusing on that. Ana, I think when the president had the opportunity to be the healer in chief and he chose to be the heal in chief and it is so wrong.

Those student students are right to be angry. The FBI agents are in sight to Bob Mueller and not going door-to-door in Florida, these was multiple, yes. The FBI bothered but there was multiple systems out here.

Florida government official also admit that they made a mistake. It is inherently difficult to predict these matters. And here is what is even worse it, Ana, it's not just about (Inaudible) but it is like continuation of the failure to the deal with the Russian attack on our government.

He's making excuses and slanders. Instead of stating, OK, I read the Mueller indictment, I get it. Now, I'm going to do something to create redress for what happened and to protect us in the future.

It is a total abdication. I think it is one of the lowest moments. I keep thinking they can't go any lower and then the president drills in to the subbasement. He's done it again.

CABRERA: Jonathan, I want to get back something you said, which is, what's next and solution, how do you prevent something like this and while there are s lit of finger pointing happening right now, some people are saying it's not just about signs that were missed.

I mean, can't should have had. He is not a kid. He is a teenager but he shouldn't have had an assault-style rifle to begin with. And I want you, before responding, to listen to what Ohio Governor John Kasich said on CNN on State of the Union today.


GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: I was talking to a friend of mine this morning. He is a big gun collector. I said, if all of a sudden you couldn't buy an AR-a5, what would you lose?

Would you feel as though as your Second Amendment rights would be eroded because you couldn't buy a darn AR-15? These are the things that have to be looked at and action has to happen before -- look, you never going to fix all of this. But common sense, gun laws make sense.


CABRERA: Jonathan, I know you're a gun right advocate or a, you know, proponent, do you see common sense, steps that could be taking when it come to some kind of regulations dealing with gun control?

[17:25:00] WACKROW: Absolutely. But when -- to deal with this problem, it's not solely a, you know, gun issue. We have to look at this through very pragmatic strategies -- basic risk management strategies.

We have to understand and dissect what went wrong. You know, was there a failure by providers not to properly assess the condition of this individual and relay information t back to the police?

I think we -- continuously through this incident, we are looking at things from certain optics, we are looking at it from a law enforcement optic, from healthcare providers' optic, from the educators' standpoint, community leaders' standpoint.

What we need to start dealing is actually breaking down all of those barriers and really looking at this holistically to say, how do we stop this, how do we give, you know, healthcare providers the pathway to talk to law enforcement with out violating any regulations?

We need to be able to have educators to work more collaboratively with healthcare providers and law enforcement. Again, there's not one approach that is the best. It's going to take collaboration across the board.

CABRERA: I mean, there are laws right now that have prevent -- that are preventing the CDC from collecting information about gun violence, from keeping data when it comes to that. There are laws right now that are preventing doctors from asking

patients whether they own a gun, to even investigate if they are concern. Do you believe that somebody who is 19-years-old should be able to purchase an assault rifle?

WACKROW: Listen in the United States, it's a constitutional right. So until it is not a constitutional right, the courts say that can't happen. When I was in the secret service, my job was to defend the constitution and everybody's rights.

Now, we have to look at who are those people that re getting weapons, if we said tomorrow, we can't sell one more gun in the United States of America, it still doesn't solve the problem. We still have 300 million guns on the street.

CABRERA: Yes, but the type of gun does matter when it comes to the amount of casualties that they can inflict.

WACKROW: Absolutely.

CABRERA: I'll let you have here, Jonathan.

WACKROW: Well again, this is a conversation that we could have for hours.

CABRERA: I agree.

WACKROW: We have to look at every single stake holders' concerns and then figure out how collectively we can come up with a solution, not politicize this on either end.

CABRERA: No doubt about it. Thank you so much, everybody. Sahil Kapur, Jonathan Wackrow, Norman Eisen, I appreciate it. Still ahead, as funeral of some of the victims of the deadly Florida took place, today, new details are emerging about the shooter and what his family who is sating with new leading up to the massacre. Don't go away, we'll be right bank.


CABRERA: A town, a nation grieves as the community of Parkland, Florida, lays three of its 17 shooting victims to rest, funerals this afternoon including one for the geography teacher Scott Beigel, who is being remembered as a hero. He was shot while saving students' lives. His girlfriend made a tearful tribute.


GWEN GOSSLER, SCOTT 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 have ever known.


CABRERA: CNN correspondent Kaylee Hartung is joining us now. Kaylee, so much grief today.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Ana. And, Scott Beigel, as you said, was remembered as a hero. As so many of his friends and family who spoke, remind us that he wasn't just a hero because of the way that he died, trying to protect the lives of his students, but also because of the way that he lived.

The impact that he had on his students, on young athletes he coached as a cross-country coach and the campers whose lives he influence at Camp Starlight in Pennsylvania, a camp that held such a special place in his life.

His mother, Linda, was the last to eulogize him and she told us of the practice they have had for the last 28 years of exchanging letters while her son was away at summer camp. And then she shared the final letter she wrote to him.


LINDA SCHULMAN, SCOTT BEIGEL'S MOTHER: Dear Scott, I feel like it is my turn to write you a letter. I wish it was as easy as fill in the bubbles, but I'm afraid it is not. My life was literally turned upside down four days ago.

I glanced at my watch at 2:25 that horrible afternoon and realized that I had not yet gotten my, hi mom, I'm on my way home from school, phone call.

I was sitting in front of my computer at work and heard there was a shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. I immediately texted you asking you if, in fact, it was your school. I got no response.

The minutes passed like hours as I waited for your response. The rest is a total living nightmare. And I'm still trying to swallow the fact that there will never again be a response.


HARTUNG: A short while ago Scott's body was in turn at the mausoleum at Temple Beth El behind me. Earlier today, the life of Alex Schachter was also remembered, a 14-year-old who loved music.

He played the trombone and the baritone in the high school's marching band and orchestra. Alex was one of four children who had already endured the loss of their mother in 2008.

And this afternoon, also the life of Jaime Gutenberg, she was a young and talented dancer. Her favorite color was orange. So dancers across the country in competition could be seen wearing orange ribbon in her honor.

[17:35:00] Both Jaime and Alex had brothers who also attended Stoneman Douglas High School. They both escaped unharmed. Last Wednesday and an update for you, Ana, four students remain hospitalized still at this time -- all four now in fair and stable condition. CABRERA: Well, a little good news there at the end. Jaime, Alex, and

Scott, we will remember them. Kaylee Hartung, thank you very much. I want you now to look closely at this next video we just got in.

Without context, this might not look like much, but see the person there on the sidewalk walking? That is the school shooter heading to McDonald's just moments after shooting up the school where he was once a student.

Authorities say the gunman stopped at Walmart first to buy a drink after the shooting and then walked to McDonald's where he is that the down for a while. He was arrested shortly afterward.

I want to bring in CNN correspondent Martin Savidge. Martin, what more are you learning about this shooter and what was happening in his life leading up to this massacre?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there was a very insightful interview that the Sun-Sentinel newspaper has had with the family with whom Nikolas Cruz was living when this tragedy happened on Wednesday.

You sort of had to understand the scenario, this young man's life. The 19-year-old suspect here. I mean, his mother died last November. And as a result of that, he lost not only his home but he also he also lost the home of which he was living.

He has been adopted. So at that point, a friend of his say, hey why don't you come stay with us. And it did come to fruition that way.

And so James and Kimberly Snead took this young man and they didn't know that he had some problems, and that he had somebody else secrecies, and they also know he had guns.

But they said they had very strict rules on that. And in fact, they build him a gun vault to which they thought they had were the only key, which included the weapons of the AR-15s and some others. It turns out, there was another key and obviously the young man had.

And these are the kind of revelation that she learned. On the day of the shooting, Nickolas says he wants to go to a separate school, a different school that goes to because it was Valentine's Day and I don't go to school on Valentine's Day.

So there were odd behaviors but there was nothing that gave you the red flag of he was going in and going to kill today at another school.

CABRERA: And crazy to read in the report, too, that he was apparently texting with this boy who is he living with as well, on the day of the shooting. Martin, tell us more now about that video. This newly released surveillance video.

SAVIDGE: Right, so what people may not fully understand here is that for about an hour and 10 minutes after the shooting that took place at Douglas High School, the suspect is free and roaming around the neighborhood. The sheriff's timeline shows that he left the campus around 2:28 in

the afternoon. This video is time stamped around 3:00 in the afternoon. So this is 20-some minutes later.

And we him still freely roaming in the neighborhood, which, if he wanted to do harm, is horrifying but -- and it shows that police were still thinking he might be on the campus.

It is not just the McDonald's that we going to, he went to Walmart first and went to the Subway. So is roaming around this neighborhood and he doesn't look like he is running from anything.

He has apprehended about 40 minutes after this particular video and of course, he was apprehended without getting problems. But it just shows you, he was moving around in this neighborhood, even on all of this tragedy.

CABRERA: Kind of eerie and chilling to think about. Martin Savidge there in Parkland, Florida, thank you. The survivors of the Parkland shooting will be joining CNN this Wednesday night for a very special town hall. Again, that's Wednesday, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.

Coming up, in the wake of the Florida shooting, one prominent Republican donor is now giving his party an ultimatum. Do something about guns or the money stops. So what does this something mean? He joins us next.


CABRERA: Welcome back. Another massacre, another glaring lack of consensus just days after a shooter killed 17 at a Florida high school. There's little appetite in Washington for a big debate on guns.

And now one Republican donor says his party needs to ban, so called assault weapons, and until they do, he's not writing them any more checks. Republican Donor Al Hoffman is joining us now.

Sir, thank you for taking a time. You wrote in an e-mail sent to other donors and politicians, it's the end of the road for me. Why now, why this shooting?

AL HOFFMAN, REPUBLICAN DONOR: Well, Ana, let me say this, I have a very close affinity with the folks out in Portland. For years, my company, WCI, was the lead developer in Parkland. We built thousands of homes there, the golf courses, the clubs and retirement communities.

I watched the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School start construction, get finished, opened and dedicated. And so I have developed a personal affinity with the students. It's a great community.

Middle class, upper-middle class, and when the tragedy occurred, I heard it instantly on the television. And I felt my heart just drop. I felt I was holding my heart in my hands. And so the more I thought about it, the more I realized that what I

had been doing, which was hounding elected officials to vote for better gun law control was not going to happen. So I felt I had to do it on my own.

I was the Republican National Committee finance chair for two election terms, one for George W. Bush in 2000 and one for his re-election in '04. And I was partly responsible to help a lot of other people raise over $600 million for the election. And I was proud to do it because I'm a conservative Republican.

[17:45:00] And I always have been and I always will be. But when that tragedy occurred now, I thought, my god, what can we do? And the only thought that came to me is that now I've got to adopt a plan whereby we contact every Republican donor around the country to endorse the adoption of a ban on assault weapons. And majority people in the company are for that.

CABRERA: Let me ask you about this e-mail and contacting, and reaching out to every single Republican Party donor in your role and how you put in the New York Times. You want to try to get them on board. Have people responded and Are they receptive?

HOFFMAN: I believe they are. You know, it was the -- the letter went out Saturday. But I have heard from a couple of them already. And they are endorsing the concept totally. And I'm still waiting to hear back from the others.

But I believe that we can start a movement of consensus here and be successful in achieving our objective. Again, I was so blown away by the occurrence of that tragedy and in realizing what happened to all the schoolchildren, all I really want to do is to restore sanity and adopt this assault weapon ban.

So that our children can be back in school and be safe and not get shot. I want to be able to drop my child off at school, my grand children, and know that they know what they're doing. And I believe with the federal assault ban legislation, it's a great first step in doing that.

CABRERA: We hear from the gun rights proponents that guns aren't the problem, it is who is getting the gun.

HOFFMAN: Well, you know what? That is fine and good. But I believe that was a totally preventable catastrophe that happened. That gun could have been -- could have been avoided.

That gun massacre could have been avoided. That gun would not have been sold in that kid, if he went through a backyard check, and if, in fact, the authorities at the school had the authority to grab the gun away and take him into custody for examination. It never happened.

CABRERA: The bottom line is, he did get through a background check and if we apparently have learned that he did see therapists because people did flack him, so a lot of people have said, that this kid, what turns a teenager and adult, he has put to the cracks. He was one of those that should have been flagged and dealt with along

the way. The system failed here. But let me ask you about what you are trying to accomplish.

And I know Governor Rick Scott has for a lot of time been in the camp of it's not worth changing gun laws, that's not going to do anything but he suggested to our Wolf Blitzer that he is willing now to do something on guns. Let's listen.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Are you ready to commit your political team to work to tighten gun control, gun restrictions in the State of Florida?

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: I'll be strong in that, Wolf. Everything's on the table, all right? I'm going to look at every way that we can make sure our kids are safe.


CABRERA: So I know you sent your e-mail to Governor Scott. Do you think he'll follow through? Do you think the governor is willing to consider banning AR-15?

HOFFMAN: Well, I'm going to try to persuade him to do that when he -- when we talk in a short while. I love Rick Scott and want him to run for Senate. I believe he used to be the best Republican that we could have vote into office.

And I wan to ask him to endorse that principle of banning assault weapons. That's the latest task, if he does, I would be glad to support him and continue to raise money for him.

If he doesn't, in all good conscience, I don't see how I could vote for him. That's just the way it is. I hope he changes his mind.

CABRERA: A lot of people are listening and thinking, what power do you really have with the amount of money you donate compared to what the National Rifle Association donates when you think about people like Senator Marco Rubio who we know has received more than $3 million from the NRA. How do you come beet that?

HOFFMAN: You know, I don't care about the NRA. And you know to give you an example, President George H.W. Bush doesn't care about the NRA. He gave his membership card up years ago. And he said, who the hell is the NRA anyway? And I applaud him...

CABRERA: But a lot of these senators and lawmakers do care about the NRA, clearly.

HOFFMAN: Well, they do. But that is their point, if they want to do that, that's fine. Look, I'm a firm believer in the Second Amendment rights. There's no doubt about it. I have a concealed weapon permit.

And I might add that I carried it for years in a bag underneath seat -- underneath my car. For years I have carried it, now I have not carried for a while but I do have another handgun at home.

[17:50:00] And I believe in that. I believe in a concealed weapon permit. And you know what? Hundreds of thousands of people in Florida have been granted a concealed weapon permit, and to my knowledge, not one murder can be traced to the fact it was issued to a concealed weapon permit holder.

So I don't know that that's an issue. You know, who cares about the NRA? They're not my party. They're not -- I don't care what they do. As long as...

CABRERA: A lot of control over your party though, and that's I guess that's the issue at hand. Al Hoffman, I didn't mean to cut you off. Why don't you finish your thought and then I've got to say goodbye. Go ahead.

HOFFMAN: That's all right. I just want to make sure that we deal with this kind in a safe and sane way. And the first effort is to get the law passed.

The second effort would be to establish organizations which are taking care of the kids in school, know how to love and train them, get off this violence that's on the rappers, and the violence, and the foul language.

I've seen language that we hear over the videos all the time. Train the kids -- train up the kids and hope that they can live and become good citizens. That's my main concern.

CABRERA: Al Hoffman, thank you for doing your part to try to make a difference. And we really appreciate you sharing your thoughts and your ideas with us.

HOFFMAN: Thank you.

CABRERA: Thanks. Coming up, make sure you check your dog food. Some brands are recalling their products after reports of a euthanasia drug found inside these products. We'll tell you which brands are affected next.


CABRERA: A drug used to euthanize animals has been found now in canned dog food. The FDA says it detected the drug in cans of Gravy Train dog food produced by the J.M. Smucker Company.

Now this company says it has initiated a voluntary recall, specific shipments of Gravy Train, Kibble 'N Bits, Skippy and Ol' Roy canned dog food.

The FDA says the levels of the drug are super low, so it is unlikely to harm your pet, however consuming large amounts pf this could cause coma and even death.

Coming up, more on our breaking news this hour, the Los Angeles Times reporting that former Trump deputy campaign manager Rick Gates has agreed to plead guilty to fraud, the details next.