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Three Shooting Victims Laid to Rest Today; Shooter Espoused Racist, Homophobic, Anti-Semitic Views; Jittery Market Eye Federal Reserve Meeting this Week. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 18, 2018 - 18:00   ET


[18:00:02] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Great to have you with us this week. And we begin this hour with breaking news.

The "Los Angeles Time" is reporting that former Trump deputy campaign manager Rick Gates has agreed to plead guilty to fraud. That makes him the third person that we know of to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

And I want to bring in CNN political correspondent Sara Murray with more on this breaking news.

Sara, what's involved in this plea deal? What are you learning?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, we sort of thought this was coming. On Friday we reported that Rick Gates was close to finalizing a plea deal with Special Counsel Bob Mueller and was poised to cooperate. Now according to the "L.A. Times" Rick Gates is going to plead guilty. He will testify against Paul Manafort, that's his co-defendant in this case.

It was a criminal case regarding financial crimes before he had anything to do with the presidential campaign. Now both of these men pleaded not guilty to those charges. So, you know, it's obviously a worrisome development for Paul Manafort, the fact that his co- defendant in this case is willing to engage in this plea deal and then testify against him.

Now according to the "L.A. Times" Rick Gates could spend about 18 months in prison. And just to give you a little bit of context, the charges he was facing he could have faced upwards of 10 years in prison if he had gone to trial and if he had been found guilty.

Now this is a person who has a young family. He has four young children. He was facing personal pressure from his loved ones to kind of get this over with, but he was also facing financial pressure. It would have been very expensive for him to continue with this, to go to trial.

Now if you are Bob Mueller, what does it mean for the grand scheme of things? What does this mean for the Russia investigation more broadly? And it could mean a couple of things. I mean, one, cooperation from Rick Gates obviously means that you are moving closer to being able to get what you need on Paul Manafort, to move forward on him. It could also put pressure on Paul Manafort to cooperate with the special counsel's investigation.

And we don't know if he could be building up to something else. Rick Gates' cooperation could be kind of a building block in the special counsel's investigation either to bring charges against President Donald Trump or against some of his other associates. We just don't have a good sense of how valuable this information is that Rick Gates is providing the special counsel in exchange for this plea deal.

CABRERA: And as the White House tries to downplay his role, what was his role exactly, Sara? Because we do know he was with the Trump team longer than Manafort.

MURRAY: Well, that's right. And look, the White House has basically said if Rick Gates strikes a plea deal and he wants to cooperate against Paul Manafort, that doesn't bother us here in the West Wing. That has nothing to do with the president. That has nothing to do with the people who serve here. This all has to do with activities before they were on the campaign and before they were involved in the presidential transition at all.

But as you pointed out, Paul Manafort for fired from the campaign, Rick Gates stuck around for a while afterwards. And while he wasn't necessarily involved in the presidential transition, he did play an important role on the inaugural committee. He helped to raise money, he worked on President Trump's inauguration, and then after he went and worked for a nonprofit that was supporting President Trump. Ultimately he had to leave that role because of its connections with Paul Manafort.

CABRERA: Sara Murray in Washington. Thanks.

Let's bring in our panel now. Joining us, CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin, he's a former top assistant to Robert Mueller, White House reporter for the "Daily Beast" Asawin Suebsaeng, and Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun-Times," Lynn Sweet.

Everybody, thanks for being here.

Michael, let's start with you. What are the implications of this reported deal. Where is it going do you think?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the first thing is that he appears to be making Gates plead guilty to the first count in the indictment, which is a conspiracy to defraud the United States. That's based on his failure to register as a foreign agent and based on his failure to disclose foreign bank accounts. That's the only thing that speaks to fraud in the indictment. There isn't a substantive fraud count, so it must be if the "L.A. Times" reporting is correct this conspiracy to defraud the United States.

[18:05:01] We know that Mueller likes that charge because that's the exact charge brought in the Russian indictment, conspiracy to defraud the United States based on the activities on social media.

What it means for Gates personally is, as Sara reported, under the sentencing guidelines probably about 18 months. Additionally, in this indictment there is a forfeiture allegation. What that means is any real or personal property involved in or traceable to this crime the government can forfeit from Rick Gates. Sara talked a bit about the financial pressure he is under. This is going to be a financial penalty on top of the jail term. So there's a lot that Rick Gates is going to suffer from this plea deal.

With respect to Paul Manafort, it seems clear that this is going to be a terrible day for Paul Manafort's defense team. Rick Gates and Paul Manafort seem by the indictment to have been inseparable over the course of the allegations set forth in the indictment. And so if Gates can say, this is what Manafort and I did together, then they have a harder time saying that this was a mistake or accident or unintentional behavior in some respect that might form the basis for Manafort's defense.

With respect to the president --

CABRERA: But when --

ZELDIN: It's not clear whether he has anything to say about that.

CABRERA: Yes. And let me ask you, Asawin, about what kind of response we can anticipate from the White House. Do you think they will respond tonight?

ASAWIN SUEBSAENG, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, DAILY BEAST: Well, perhaps not tonight. In terms of what response we might expect from the president, I think the best response we can hope for or the most likely response from President Trump is for another tweet or another public statement distancing himself from Rick Gates and basically saying, I don't even know who he was.

Now, it is true that Rick Gates played a fairly senior role on the Trump campaign and did work on the inauguration, and then went on to work for Tom Barrack for a little while as his right-hand man. Barrack is one of the president's top outside advisers and a longtime friend and confidante.

But ever since the Trump campaign, as my colleague Gideon Resnick and I at the "Daily Beast" reported over the summer, Rick Gates is kind of a funny figure in Trump world because President Trump actually -- maybe hate is a strong word, but if not hate really dislikes Rick Gates.

He never really respected him or cared for him during the campaign, and there's a good chance he might not even remember what Rick Gates looks like at this point. So this is not someone like Mike Flynn who was complicated or rolled up in the whole Trump-Russia affair.


SUEBSAENG: And scandals, who the president had a strong personal affinity towards. This is someone who he and many other figures in Trump world very much consider a hanger-on.

CABRERA: So, Lynn, Rick Gates says, as we've mentioned a couple of times --

ZELDIN: And Ana --

CABRERA: Hold on just a second, Michael because, Lynne, I want to get you into the conversation. Given his role as a deputy campaign manager, stuck around even after Paul Manafort was dismissed, do you -- what do you think is the possible exposure here for the president?

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The exposure is what Gates knows not just from the jobs he held during the campaign but what he knows from Manafort even before, because we know that the Mueller investigation is in separate buckets. He could comment on the bucket of just what Manafort had in his dealings and then he might just also, as somebody who was there, might be a witness to things that we can't even imagine having to do either centrally to the Russian investigation or to a branch of the investigation now that we know the depth and the breadth that is taking place with Mueller's probe.

CABRERA: So, Michael, in your legal expertise and knowledge of the workings of Mueller, do you think it is in a separate little silo of its own in terms of the investigation or do you think this could be one strategy to ultimately get back to the heart of the investigation dealing with Russian meddling?

ZELDIN: I think, Ana, that it's probably both. I think that this financial crimes work stream is separate and apart from collusion and obstruction work streams in large measure. However, in the case of Rick Gates because he was such a close confidante of Manafort and because Manafort was at the June 9th meeting at Trump Tower where those Russians came to give dirt on Hillary Clinton, Rick Gates may know from his communications with Paul Manafort about that meeting, how it arose, what the nature of the contacts with those Russians were before and after that meeting, whether there was any sort of collusive agreements. So it could tie back to that so-called collusion work stream, but that's speculation at this point.


ZELDIN: We just don't know whether the facts support it.

CABRERA: I want to add CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Doug Heye to this conversation.

[18:10:04] Now, Doug, when charges were first announced against Manafort and Gates, the president made sure to point out on Twitter they are related to his time before the Trump campaign, again dealing with Ukraine and some tax evasion, other issues related to being foreign lobbyists. So is it possible this deal is totally separate from the grander Russia probe do you think?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's certainly possible that it's separate from the probe, but it's certainly not going to be separate from the larger conversation that we're having not just about indictments or pleas but everything connected to the Trump campaign and Russia.

I got an e-mail from a member of Congress about five minutes ago, Republican member from a district that Trump won pretty easily that just said, here we go again, and then the next sentence said, and we don't know where it will stop. That ultimately is I think the biggest challenge and threat to the administration, is we don't know how far- reaching this will go.

And these investigations can go in any direction that they want to and take on lives of their own. That should be very troubling to the administration, and it certainly is troubling to Republican members of Congress.

CABRERA: Asawin, some legal experts have suggested this could be putting Gates in a position to ultimately put more pressure on Manafort, which obviously is connecting down the road to the larger investigation, and the president has sort of minimized the role on the campaign that Paul Manafort played and hasn't attacked Paul Manafort either whenever asked by reporters.

Do you expect him to continue to play nice?

SUEBSAENG: Well, I certainly anticipate that the White House and the president of the United States himself will continue to, if not play nice, continue to pretend that top tier figures such as Paul Manafort were essentially campaign volunteers, even though the entire premise of such a thing is I'm sure ridiculous to many of your viewers and everybody on this panel. He led the campaign, Paul Manafort did. That's hardly someone who wasn't in the know in a lot of this.

And Rick Gates was his right-hand man in much of the time that Paul Manafort was there helming the campaign. And however distance the White House wants to put between itself and these guys, when you are the president of the United States and these ongoing scandals and inquiries and investigations are roiling your administration, it is never a good idea when your former deputy campaign manager is in a situation like this.

CABRERA: And, Lynn --

ZELDIN: And Ana, can I add one thing? I'm sorry.

CABRERA: Sure, go ahead.

ZELDIN: Sorry. Go ahead. No, I was just going to add one thing, which is with respect to the pressure on Manafort remember the day before yesterday Mueller made a filing in court which said that Paul Manafort may have committed mortgage fraud with respect to obtaining a mortgage --

CABRERA: That's right.

ZELDIN: -- that he has used for property that may be related to his bond status. So they are really pressuring Manafort in a whole host of ways. Gates is just one part. This new mortgage fraud allegation in closed-door session to the court is another. I think they want Manafort's testimony, and I think it is going to be hard for Manafort to withstand the multiple-front pressures that he is under.

CABRERA: Lynn, I wanted to ask you about kind of the political spotlight on what Manafort has revealed in his investigation so far. I mean if -- I mean what Mueller has revealed in his investigation so far. If it does come out that this really is all about Paul Manafort and money laundering or some kind of fraud, is that going to be a win for the president essentially?

SWEET: Well, no, because this is still unfolding. Like I said, there are different buckets. So the Manafort bucket might go to financial fraud. We have the indictment of 13 Russians this week that speaks centrally to Russian meddling in the campaign.

And my bottom line point about Gates, because he straddles both of these worlds, which is why his flipping is important. He could talk to the political operation and he could talk to Manafort's personal financial situations. So that's why I think it is a very significant get for the government, and even though he's not a household name in this drama, he's a threat to the Trump writ large, unfolding scandals, controversies, even if it never touches President Trump directly.

This certainly is expanding and if Manafort just ends up being in trouble for financial crimes, that's only a part of, not the whole story here.

CABRERA: Doug Heye, Lynn Sweet, Asawin Suebsaeng and Michael Zeldin, thank you all.

SWEET: Thank you.

HEYE: Thank you.

CABRERA: Coming up, live in the CNN NEWSROOM, a night of breaking news. We've been discussing in the Robert Mueller investigation reports of a major plea deal on the heels of the indictment of 13 Russian nationals for meddling in the U.S. election. Former CIA director James Woolsey joins us next to make sense of all the stunning development.



CABRERA: Welcome back. The breaking news tonight, a former top Trump campaign official indicted by the special counsel is ready to strike a deal. A report from the "Los Angeles Times" says Rick Gates will plead guilty to fraud charges in the next few days in exchange for his testimony against his former boss, ex-Trump campaign CEO Paul Manafort.

Joining us now former CIA director and former adviser to the Trump campaign, James Woolsey.

Sir, Rick Gates pleading guilty, what implications do you think this has for the special counsel probe into Russian meddling?

JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, the politics of all this are really interesting. It looks like a man who jumped on the horse and rode off in all directions at once as Mark Twain once said, but it's not the main point. The main point is not to have to let the Russians get all over our electoral system and run it until we indict one or two people for one thing or another.

[18:20:03] We've got to stop what they are doing, and that takes a different approach than just indicting and convicting people who have screwed up in some way.

CABRERA: Well, I guess, number one, you have to admit that this happened. And National Security adviser H.R. McMaster said the evidence Russia launched an influence campaign in 2016 was incontrovertible. The president tweeted, chastising his National Security adviser for making that comment.

And here's the tweet from the president today. "General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians, and that the only conclusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC, and the Dems. Remember the dirty dossier, Uranium, speeches, e-mails, and the Podesta company."

Why do you think the president is going after McMaster for acknowledging the obvious when it comes to Russia's election meddling?

WOOLSEY: I don't know. That seems pretty straight forward what McMaster said. But the key thing is to stop this from happening. And I think one thing we want to do is to try to see if we can get the price of oil down $10 or $20 a barrel, down into the $30s or at least into the $40s. So that Russia for the main thing itself overseas is with oil and gas, that Russia is put in a real tight bind economically.


WOOLSEY: I was negotiating with the Russians back in '79, or '89, '90, '91 when the Berlin wall went down. And I tell you, you've never seen such friendly Russians, accommodating Russians. Once they saw the key part of their infrastructure, their sort of political infrastructure falling apart, they got to be relatively easy to deal with. And I think that's what we ought to do to them, is undermine their ability to make what money they do now from oil and gas.

CABRERA: Well, people are saying why aren't you implementing the sanctions that Congress passed almost unanimously?


CABRERA: And even since this indictment came down on Friday President Trump has tweeted at least 13 times about it but he hasn't even once condemned Russia.

WOOLSEY: The sanctions would be useful but they're tiny compared to being able to get down into the $30s or $40s with the price of oil, let's say. If --

CABRERA: Should the president condemn Russia? Should the president say, this is not OK? Should the president acknowledge that Russia attacked our democratic election system?

WOOLSEY: It doesn't matter what he says. What matter is what he does. And if he can --

CABRERA: What is he doing?

WOOLSEY: If he can undermine their power, which it depends very heavily on a high price for oil, if he can undermine that, he will -- he doesn't have to talk. He doesn't say -- have to say a darn thing about what he has succeeded in doing or not succeeded in doing. Reagan and Casey did something that very, very badly messed up the natural gas system of the then-Soviet Union and they didn't say a word about it. The Russians sure knew what we were doing and they were devastated.

CABRERA: What are you seeing this administration do in order to prevent Russia from meddling in the upcoming 2018 election or even beyond? Because we heard the current CIA director Pompeo say it's happening.

WOOLSEY: This is not a board game. We don't have to respond in the same way that they come after us. They can come after us with cyber. It doesn't mean we go back at them on cyber. We can do something else if it is more effective. And what will be more effective is letting people switch fuels in their cars so they can drive on whatever is available when they pull up to a filling station.

That would drive the price of petroleum products down and that would be hundreds of times more devastating to the Russians than having to put up with a few of these relatively minor sanctions.

CABRERA: I hear what you're saying in terms of what you believe should be done, but I think my question is, what is this administration currently doing to have an impact, to thwart additional Russian attacks? Because it is laid out in detail, this 37-page indictment, what they were doing in order to successfully manipulate Americans who were planning to vote in the election.

WOOLSEY: Absolutely. But we -- although we need to try to get them to stop that, we don't need to rely on replying with steps that are analogous to what they are doing. We can do something much more effective than --


WOOLSEY: We don't need to mimic them.

CABRERA: Yes. No, I get what you're saying, but is that being done? Are the steps that are necessary being taken?

WOOLSEY: No. No, it's not. Not close.

CABRERA: OK. Let me have you listen to what Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein said on Friday when he announced the indictment.



ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Now there is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity.


[18:25:09] CABRERA: Short and sweet. President Trump says that's proves there's no collusion between Russia and the Trump camp. The deputy attorney general, though, says there's no allegation of that in this indictment. Aren't those critical words there, "in this indictment?"

WOOLSEY: Sure, this is a -- it's an important issue and we need to get it right, but it's not going to have a big effect on what the Russians are doing. Look, the Russians have been this, interfering in the elections and the like, going back into the '20s and '30s. What is new is not their interference with our institutions including elections. What's new is they're being able to do it with computers.

So the whole business of the cyberattack is relatively new and that has made it difficult for us to defend against some of the things they're doing. But we should not play the same game they're playing. We can be much more effective than them.

CABRERA: If you were running a counterintelligence investigation, would President Trump refusing to acknowledge Russia meddled in the election make you suspicious?

WOOLSEY: Well, maybe, probably not necessarily. It is an investigation -- there are two kinds of investigations that can be done under 401, basically looking at crime and another looking at counterintelligence, which is really just a matter of collecting information. So a counterintelligence investigation doesn't necessarily produce criminal violation and collusion is not a word that's used in the statue.

There's no bar, statutory or otherwise as far as I know against colluding. What there is, is a bar against conspiracies. And that would of course be a serious matter. But that hasn't been claimed here as far as I know.

CABRERA: Can you think of any reason why the president wouldn't use the words that his National Security adviser used and put a point and an exclamation point on it, yes, Russia did this?

WOOLSEY: Again I don't care what words he uses, I care what he does. And if by letting different -- all sorts of different vehicles drive on whatever they want, one of two fuels, let's say, electricity or ethanol, if they can switch fuels when they come up to the filling station they can drive the price of oil down. If they drive the price of oil down, it makes so much more difference than the way in which we indict someone for conspiracy to work with the Russians.

That has to get done right. It is important, but it is nowhere near what would happen if Russia had to face $30, $40 a barrel oil consistently. They would be about as unhappy as countries get.

CABRERA: James Woolsey, thank you so much for coming on today.

WOOLSEY: Thank you.

CABRERA: Coming up, the community of Parkland, Florida, buried three of its 17 shooting victims today. The emotional memorials next. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: A Geography teacher, a member of a high school marching band, a 14-year-old whose grandmother says she always looked out for the underdog.

Funerals today for Florida shooting victims Jamie Guttenberg, Scott Beigel, and Alex Schachter. Grief on display as families and friends remember the 17 victims of a mass school shooter.

Kaylee Hartung is joining us now.

And, Kaylee, three funerals today, many more in the week ahead. What have you seen today?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, Scott Beigel, the 35- year-old Geography teacher, he is being hailed as a hero for his actions on Wednesday to help protect his students.

But as his family and friends memorialize him in Temple Bethel behind me today, they tried to remind us all that he was a hero long before his actions Wednesday. He was a hero because of the way he lived his life, with compassion and kindness.

His girlfriend, Gwen, said he was a hero long before Wednesday, but he was too humble to know it or admit it. Listen to more of how she characterized her boyfriend.


GWEN GOSSLER, GIRLFRIEND OF SCOTT BEIGEL: 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.


HARTUNG: Gwen says Scott's humor was what first made her fall for him.

You heard more about his humor and wit also from the assistant principal of Stoneman Douglas who told us she knew about two or three minutes into her first meeting and interview with Scott that he was someone she wanted to work alongside and someone who she wanted to help shape the students of Stoneman Douglas.

Earlier today, Alex Schachter was also remembered. A 14-year-old boy who loved music. He played the baritone and the trombone in the high school's marching band and orchestra. He was one of four children in his family who had already endured the loss of their mother tragically in 2008.

And this afternoon, Jamie Guttenberg, she was also remembered. A young, talented dancer. Orange was her favorite color, and dancers across the country in competition this weekend could be seen wearing orange ribbons to honor her.

Both Alex and Jamie had brothers who were also students at Stoneman Douglas who were able to escape Wednesday's tragedy without harm.

And, Ana, one last update for you. We know that four students now remain hospitalized, all in fair and stable condition.

CABRERA: It's a little good news there to hear that they are recovering. That is a good sign.

[18:35:01] Thank you, Kaylee Hartung, for that report.

Coming up, we are learning much more about the White supremacist views of the killer who massacred 17 at this Florida school. And that's leading to new questions about how our country reacts to his disturbing allegiances. We'll discuss next in the CNN NEWSROOM.


CABRERA: We're learning disturbing new details about the gunman who shot and killed 17 people at a Florida high school on Wednesday.

Group chats on Instagram reveal he was obsessed with violence and regularly espoused racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic tweets and views.

The Instagram chat group was titled Murica, short for America. And in it, the gunman wrote things like this -- I hate Jews, expletives, immigrants. Shoot them in the back of the head. I think I am going to kill people.

He also wrote -- my real mom was a Jew. I am glad I never met her.

[18:40:02] The shooter also posted pictures on Instagram including this one which shows him wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat.

President Trump has not commented about the gunman's alleged support of his campaign or his White supremacist views, but would that be different if this shooter had, say, radical Islamist views or was holding a Quran instead of wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat?

With me to discuss, Dean Obeidallah. He's a contributor and "Daily Beast" contributor and host of "The Dean Obeidallah Show" on SiriusXM.

And also with us, CNN political commentator and conservative Ben Ferguson.

So, Dean, you have said the President would react differently. Would he?

DEAN OBEIDALLAH, HOST, "THE DEAN OBEIDALLAH SHOW": Absolutely. He would've reacted differently because we've seen that. He has a track record of that.

After the two terrorist attacks in New York, one where the man drove a truck and killed people, he instantly called for the end of what he calls chain migration, what I call family unification, a law since 1965.

And after a man that did an attempted bombing on the subway here, he found out the man was in the Diversity Visa program, and he called quickly for scrapping a program that's been in place since 1990.

There's no doubt in my mind, and I think no one watching doubts if this gunman was Muslim or was an immigrant, an undocumented immigrant, Donald Trump would use either of those scenarios to gin up fear and to try to get policies he wants in place that would be more, more extreme.

So that's the reality. There's no one could watch this and say that's not true. It is absolutely true.

CABRERA: Can you say it's not true, Ben?

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I would say you're dealing with two different scenarios here.

One, if you have someone that's come into this country illegally for the example he gave or someone that snuck into this country that was a jihadist, that deals with a border security and a national security issue. And clearly, it would be only the right for the President to mention that or talk about that.

This is someone who lived in this country. This is an individual -- and we have other issues here that we clearly have to talk about.

Why is it that the FBI missed two major warnings about this individual? How is it that he was able to post online and so many people warn, including some at the school --


FERGUSON: -- that said they knew he was going to do this. So I don't compare the two situations

CABRERA: But, Ben, if you look at the picture --

FERGUSON: -- because they're completely hypothetical and different.

CABRERA: But it's not hypothetical because the President has reacted to other things without having all of the facts in front of him just based on a person's name. If this person was Mohamed instead of Nikolas, do you really think he would have held his fire?

FERGUSON: I think if someone is yelling Allah Akbar and he's a terrorist and wanting to claim he's a terrorist is appropriate for the President of the United States of American to respond to that terrorism that we know is clearly aimed towards free democracies around the world. It would be ignorant for the President to move against that.

CABRERA: Espousing White supremacist views and homophobic views --

FERGUSON: That's right. Now, you're asking me --

CABRERA: -- and anti-Semitic views is not a threat?

FERGUSON: No. Now, you're asking me a completely different question and I think he should also denounce that. I think, at some point, the President does need to come out and make it clear that this individual is not someone that he would want to be associated with.

The fact that he wore this hat is something that, obviously, we can talk about. But the original question that was asked to me was, wouldn't the President react differently? It's a completely different set of circumstances.

I have no problem denouncing this individual. Clearly, he was disturbed. Clearly, what happened here was wrong. Clearly, there were mistakes that were made in our government that we should all be asking questions about and accountability.

But right now, what I know is we had real chances to stop this shooting beforehand and we didn't do it. So whether this guy is wearing a Trump hat or a Clinton hat doesn't matter to me right now.


OBEIDALLAH: What matters to me is that after the Las Vegas shooting where 59 people died, after the shooting in a Texas church where people were there to pray and they were murdered, Donald Trump had the same reaction in terms of policy. Nothing. He did nothing.

I'm not going to say blood is on his hands, but I can tell you, there are mothers and fathers --

FERGUSON: You just said it by saying you're not going to say.

OBEIDALLAH: There are mothers and fathers right now burying their children because Donald Trump did nothing because the NRA spent $31 million to help him win. And the Republican Party has been complicit in this.

And on the age of conspiratorial -- you know, to me it is stunningly scary that we have a President, a Commander-in-Chief, will not stand up and say, 30 Americans die every day.

Today, Ben, 30 Americans will die. Seven children will die today by gun violence, and this President will not say the words "gun violence" or just "access to guns."

He'll just talk about mental illness when only four percent of shootings deal with mental illness. So this is the world we live in.

FERGUSON: OK. Let me -- let's --

OBEIDALLAH: People will die today and he'll do nothing about it.

FERGUSON: I know there's --

CABRERA: Go ahead, Ben.

FERGUSON: OK. Let me say two things here. One, I'm a victim of a gun crime. I don't know if you've ever had a gun pointed at you, I don't know if you've ever had a gunshot at you from point-blank range. I have. I had a gun and was able to protect myself and to fight back and save my own life.

I know how gun laws work. I know that those two guns that were used in the shooting against me were stolen weapons. I also know they were against the law. I also know the two people that committed the crimes against me, when they were caught, were convicted felons.

So there were multiple gun laws that were broken because they weren't allowed to have a gun anywhere in this country.

[18:44:57] You look at Chicago, for example. You have some of the strictest gun laws in all of America, and they have the highest homicide rate and illegal gun rate in that city. So to say that you're going to pass a law and that's going to fix a problem with mental health, I think, is ignorant. It's pushing an agenda.

Now, I'm in favor of -- let me say this though.

OBEIDALLAH: Only four percent of gun shootings deal with mental illness.

FERGUSON: I'm in favor -- let me say this though.

OBEIDALLAH: By the way, in Chicago --

FERGUSON: Let me say this. Let me finish.

OBEIDALLAH: By the way --

FERGUSON: Let me finish.

OBEIDALLAH: Ben, can I just ask you one --

FERGUSON: Let me finish.

CABRERA: Hold on.

OBEIDALLAH: Hold on, hold on.

CABRERA: One at a time. One at a time. Dean, I'll let you -- OBEIDALLAH: Quick --

CABRERA: I will let you respond in a moment. Finish your point, though, Ben. Hold on. Go ahead.

Hold on, Dean.

FERGUSON: The bottom line is you have an individual here that clearly should have never been able to get his hands on this gun legally. You had multiple warnings and that's what we should be focusing on here.

The government has been telling us if you see something, say something. We had people from Florida all the way to Mississippi doing exactly that, going above and beyond to contact the government, and we did not do the job right to stop this individual.

CABRERA: But, Ben --

FERGUSON: You and I should be focusing on that.

CABRERA: Ben, back to the original topic though, when a Muslim person had carried out an attack here in the U.S., the President has immediately called for increased immigration vetting.

FERGUSON: Correct.

CABRERA: Why isn't he calling for increased background checks for gun buyers, for example?

FERGUSON: What increased background check would you be referring to that would this sufficiently?

OBEIDALLAH: Closing the gun show loophole. Closing the background check loophole right now. Only federally licensed --

FERGUSON: This had nothing -- this gun had nothing to do with a gun show loophole, by the way.

OBEIDALLAH: No, no, it -- but authorities say 25 percent to 40 percent of guns are sold --

FERGUSON: Again, the law you just described would not have hit active students.

OBEIDALLAH: -- outside of federally licensed gun dealers, Ben. You know that. I know that. Statistically, Connecticut, they have closed the gun show loophole. Gun violence and murders are down about 35 percent.

FERGUSON: I understand -- look -- look --

OBEIDALLAH: In states where they closed the gun show loophole, it is working.

FERGUSON: But look --

CABRERA: Let him finish. Let him finish.

OBEIDALLAH: Getting rid of bad apple gun dealers. Having a federal gun trafficking laws which Republicans won't allow us to have.

FERGUSON: Not true.

OBEIDALLAH: Having requirement of secure storage of a gun. There's a list of things we can do.

Ben, we'll never get to zero, but let's have one less mother cry over a dead child.

FERGUSON: Dean -- Dean -- Dean -- Dean -- Dean --

OBEIDALLAH: How about that, Ben? How about five less mothers and fathers crying over a dead child?

FERGUSON: Dean, let's not also give --

OBEIDALLAH: That's enough for me to change the law.

CABRERA: Last word, Ben.

FERGUSON: Dean, let's not give false hope. What you just described with the gun show loophole --

OBEIDALLAH: There's no false hope. Those are statistics.

FERGUSON: Let me finish. Let me finish:

OBEIDALLAH: I don't make up statistics.

FERGUSON: Let me finish. Let me finish. When there's a -- when you just give false hope that a gun show loophole would have stopped what happened in Florida when this gun was bought not through any loophole that you're describing, you're putting a political ideology ahead of real things that could have an impact --

OBEIDALLAH: No, five kids will die today --

FERGUSON: -- with this individual.

OBEIDALLAH: Five to seven kids will die today by gun violence. It has nothing to do with that shooting. Closing gun show loopholes saves lives.

FERGUSON: Again, how many does of those dealt with the gun show loophole today?

OBEIDALLAH: By the way, Chicago, 60 percent of the guns involved in Chicago crimes don't come from Chicago. You have to know that by now.

CABRERA: They come from Indiana.

OBEIDALLAH: They come from neighboring states like Indiana.

FERGUSON: I know that very well.

OBEIDALLAH: We all know that. It's such an old, tired talking point. These are lives we're about here, Ben, lives.

FERGUSON: I don't -- look, again, I have -- I've had a gun pointed and shot at me. I care about gun laws.

OBEIDALLAH: And I'm sorry about that, but I don't --

FERGUSON: And I know the gun laws that have an impact. We need to put people away for longer when they commit crimes with guns. We don't do that in this country. The two people that pointed a gun at me had gotten out early on good behavior for gun crimes.

And the gun show loophole, the information that you just put out there, would have had no bearing on this shooting in Florida. But let's talk about what would happen, in fact --

OBEIDALLAH: On this, yes, but on today, the five or seven kids who will die today, yes, maybe it would save their lives. Let's put partisanship aside and say, let's have less mothers cry over their dead child like we saw on CNN this week --

FERGUSON: Dean, you and I could agree on that.

OBEIDALLAH: -- which moved me to tears and moved Brooke Baldwin to tears. Let's have less than that.

FERGUSON: You and I can agree on that.

OBEIDALLAH: Let's save one mother from that heartbreak. How about that? Is it not worth it to pass a law to save one mother from crying over a dead child?

Seriously, the GOP, stand up. Donald Trump, show some leadership. Something to prove you're not a coward.

FERGUSON: Again, I can understand the talking points you're saying here with -- but let's be clear about something.

OBEIDALLAH: These are not talking points. This is reality.

FERGUSON: Let me finish here. Let me finish something that's very important. When you look at what gun laws actually have an impact -- you keep going back to this same list.

You want to talk about what could have had an impact in Florida and stopped this shooting and the people that Brooke was talking to? Let's talk about the fact we had "see something, say something," and it didn't work and accountability there.

Let's talk about the fact that clearly and many Republicans, I am one of them, that is in favor of mental health laws that if you had been committed against your will and a judge has declared you insane or temporarily insane, you should not be able to go out and buy a gun.

OBEIDALLAH: That's the law right now.

FERGUSON: This young man did not --

OBEIDALLAH: That's the law right now.

FERGUSON: It's not --

OBEIDALLAH: Ben, you're advocating the law we have.

FERGUSON: No, it's not the law everywhere. It certainly doesn't -- let me --

OBEIDALLAH: It is. If you're imagining --


OBEIDALLAH: If you're adjudicated or in --

FERGUSON: These are the laws.

CABRERA: Guys, I mean --

OBEIDALLAH: That's right.

CABRERA: But let's --

FERGUSON: Dean, on the -- it's the law --


CABRERA: Well, let's look at a couple of facts here, Ben. Let's look at a couple of things.


CABRERA: First, there is a lot of research that hasn't been done when it comes to gun violence to be able to really investigate what could help that situation because there's a law that prevents that research from being conducted --


CABRERA: -- on a national level. And we do know of an analysis, for example, that CNN has done on our own.

When you look at some of the states that have passed some regulation, for example, limiting gun magazine sizes, those states have seen a decrease in mass shootings. So there is at least some an anecdotal evidence that there could have a positive impact on something like that.

We also spoke with a GOP donor from Florida today who is a gun owner himself. He has a concealed and carry permit, he tells us, and he says enough is enough. Why not ban these AR-15 style weapons? Who needs an assault rifle?

[18:50:01] And would you be on board with doing something like that, Ben?

FERGUSON: Here is what I know. I know that criminals commit crime with another gun if you ban one gun.

And what I do know is if you look at one of the school shootings that happened very close to my hometown in Jonesboro, Arkansas, an AR-15 wasn't used. It wasn't even out there on the market yet.

And you had adolescent children that were able to have a massive school shooting there and kill teachers there for more than a hundred yards away shooting with a basic rifle.

So if you think that every time you ban a gun, it's going to somehow make it safer, you obviously have not talked to the criminals out there who say, fine, you take that one away, I'm going to do another one.

I think this young man had mental issues. We've seen that clearly. We have to deal with the mental issues here, and we have to deal with the responsibility of adults who are under their care, if they're under the age 18, to make sure the guns do not fall into the hands of a child that has mental issues.

We're talking about serious issues here. Those are the laws that I'm focused on because I know that criminals, they have no problem adapting and changing and moving to another gun. We've obsessed about an AR-15 --

OBEIDALLAH: Let's make it a little harder though, Ben. Let's make it --

FERGUSON: We've obsessed over --

OBEIDALLAH: All you have to do is just one step, make --

CABRERA: Dean, I got to go and I gave you the first word --


CABRERA: -- so I'm going to let Ben have the last word. Guys, thank you for the passionate debate. We all want solutions here.


CABRERA: And we appreciate the ideas. Dean Obeidallah, Ben Ferguson, thanks so much. We'll be right back.



[18:55:47] CABRERA: Welcome back. In this week's "Before the Bell," will the market rebound last? Here is CNN's Alison Kosik. Alison?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN GENERAL ASSIGNMENT CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. It is a short week on Wall Street. The market is closed tomorrow for President's Day, possibly a welcome breather for some.

After sharp declines earlier this month, stocks did seem to stabilize last week. That's despite inflation data on Tuesday and Wednesday showing rising prices. Investors are worried stronger inflation could cause the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates more aggressively.

We'll get a window into the Fed's thinking on Wednesday. And that's when the Central Bank releases the minutes from its last monetary policy meeting. In this environment, a hawkish tone from the Fed could certainly move the market.

We'll also get a read on the consumer economy this week. Both Home Depot and Walmart are due to report their quarterly earnings.

Alison Kosik, CNN, New York.

CABRERA: Thanks, Alison.

Coming up, more on the breaking news this hour, the "Los Angeles Times" reporting former Trump deputy campaign manager Rick Gates has agreed to plead guilty to fraud. We'll discuss what this means for the Russia investigation going forward, next.


CABRERA: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks for being here. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York and we begin this hour with breaking news.

The "Los Angeles Times" is reporting tonight that former Trump deputy campaign manager, Rick Gates, has agreed to plead guilty to fraud, making him now the third person that we know of to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

[19:00:01] And I want to bring in CNN political correspondent Sara Murray with more on this breaking news. Sara, what is involved in this plea deal?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, it does appear that they have struck a deal according to "L.A. Times."