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Young Adults Talk Gun Control; Trump Supports Background Checks; Kremlin Claims No Evidence in Meddling; Trump Criticizes Oprah. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired February 19, 2018 - 09:30   ET


[09:31:14] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID HOGG, FLORIDA SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I think it's disgusting personally. My father is a retired FBI agent and the FBI are some of the hardest working individuals I've ever seen in my life. They work every day, 24/7, to ensure the lives of every single American in the country. And it's wrong that the president is blaming them for this. After all, he is in charge of the FBI.

EMMA GONZALEZ, FLORIDA SHOOTING SURVIVOR: The FBI were some of the amazing first responders who were helping us get to safety. And the fact that he wants to discredit them in any way and that he's trying to shift our focus on to them is -- it's not -- it's not acceptable.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Classmates and survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School coming to the defense of the FBI after President Trump went after the agency on Twitter Sunday morning. The president suggested the FBI missed warning signs because it was spending too much time on the Russia probe.

I want to bring back our panel right now.

And, Molly, I think what's important here isn't the specifics about the defense of the FBI and Russia in this case, it's the fact that these kids -- and I call -- I shouldn't even call them kids, these young adults, these inspiring figures in students from this high school are putting themselves front and center in the discussion now over guns in this country. To some extent they're forcing the discussion right now.

So I guess my question is, does this change the parameters? Does it mean that this will not be ignored now?

MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's not being ignored in this moment. What I would say is, ask me again a month from now. After Newtown there was a ground swell of activism. And the parents were extremely compelling and articulate and forceful figures and they were clear in articulating the demands that they had and we did see movement in the Congress, right? We saw Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey, who were previously -- who have always been pro-Second Amendment figures, come together on what they considered a modest and bipartisan possibility for advancing gun control. And, you know, the opponents of that kind of legislation are just very patient and they knew that if they just waited long enough it would lose momentum and it would fizzle out and that was what happened. And that's what happened since. And that's what leads to the sense of fatalism.

So, absolutely, a lot of people -- this issue burns very hot. The question is, is that passion going to be sustained or is it just going to fizzle out just because it's hard to sustain that level of emotion over the long term and to get organized in way that would actually force action?

BERMAN: You know, Matt Lewis, you say President Trump is uniquely positioned here for this discussion. And, in fact, you know, just this morning the White House says he might be amenable to some changes to the background system. We'll see what those are. But do you think he can take some action here?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it's certainly possible. Look, I mean Donald Trump is somebody who, number one, deep down does not have the same philosophical, conservative instincts that a lot of Republican presidents might have. This is a guy who has supported what I would call sort of moderate gun control in the past as a, you know, billionaire from New York City. He's a little bit different. So that gives us the possibility.

You could look at the other side of the coin, though, which is to say the NRA heavily supported him during his presidential election and stuck by him when a lot of people were abandoning him. So that -- that puts him in conflict.

If Donald Trump wants to become -- if he wants to have a legacy, if he wants to transcend just having a strong base and actually become president of everybody the way that Bill Clinton did after 1994 when Bill Clinton kind of triangulated, he has that opportunity. I think that Donald Trump, because he is so trusted by working class, rank and file, sort of blue collar folks, he would have the leverage and the credibility to say, look, we're not trying to take away your guns, we're not trying to take away the Second Amendment. I'm here to fix things, though. And this is -- we need to cut a deal because we just can't have our kids getting killed, you know, month in and month out in these school shootings.

BERMAN: Right.

[09:35:11] LEWIS: He could rise to the occasion. I hope he does it. Maybe he is doing it right now. We'll see.

BERMAN: Let me just read you an excerpt from his book. You said billionaire Donald Trump. This is what he wrote in 2000, one of his books way back when. He said, I generally oppose gun control but I support the ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun.

I don't think an assault weapon ban is something that would ever become reality now, but it does show that the president certainly has perhaps, you know, stricter views on gun control than some of his supporters do.

And, Errol Louis, this morning we learned from the White House that he seemed supportive of some -- of a tightening of the background check system. John Cornyn proposed this after the Sutherland Springs shooting, which I think was November. I've lost track there are so many of them right now. But this has to do with making sure that everyone reports everything they're supposed to.

This is low-hanging fruit. This is very low-hanging fruit. But if you start doing these things that most people can agree on, then maybe you start fixing some of the problems?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes, you -- you know, God bless the optimism that you bring to the conversation, but I don't see any reason to think that any of that is going to happen. I mean that book that has Donald Trump's name on it is, you know, a generation ago at this point, really, and it's several campaigns ago. It's not something he's probably going to do.

There's an extraordinary amount of bad faith involved here, John, where you have people mouthing all of the right pieties and very much, as Molly suggests, the minute our attention waivers just a tiny bit, you see stuck into all kinds of local bills, all kinds of federal legislation, all kinds of dangerous, active attempts to not just do nothing on gun control, but to actively undermine what little we have there.

I mean there was a bill that passed last year, passed the House. So whatever Paul Ryan has to say, we should ask him about the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 which would allow people from whatever jurisdiction, if you have a Concealed Carry permit, to use it anywhere in the country, notwithstanding local regulations.

BERMAN: And, in fact, that legislation was tied to the thing I was just talking about right now, fixing some of the background checks. So a little bit of giveth and taketh away there.

You know, to Molly's point, we'll check back in a month. These kids say they're marching on Washington on March 24th. That's an eternity. If this discussion can maintain itself until March 24th, and perhaps with a new spotlight on that day, it's hard to see how it will be ignored from either side.

Molly Ball, matt Lewis, Errol Louis, thanks so much.

And, of course, this itself is a big week and a big time for this discussion. Join CNN Wednesday night. A special town hall with students and parents effected by the Parkland school shooting. I think every parent and student is affected by that shooting. Jake Tapper is going to moderate the event. It's at 9:00 Eastern only on CNN.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller says that Russian trolls tricked Americans into helping them meddle in the 2016 election. This morning, the Kremlin reacts for the first time.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [09:42:05] BERMAN: This morning, the Kremlin says there is no substantial evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. This is the first official reaction from the Kremlin since Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies for allegedly conspiring to influence the election's outcome to help Donald Trump and to dupe unwitting Americans into helping them.

CNN's senior international correspondent Matthew Chance live in St. Petersburg, outside one of the Russians troll farms named in the Mueller indictment.

So, Matthew, exactly what is the Kremlin saying?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. That's right, this is the troll farm right behind me. You can see it's got a rental sign outside. They're supposedly leaving those offices but they haven't yet because we've been seeing people going in and out all day.

In terms of what the Kremlin is saying, you just said it, that's their first reaction since these U.S. indictments are saying there's no substantial evidence of any official involvement. Previously the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had said that all it's seen was, quote, blather. But you've got to remember, this is what this troll factor, as its been dubbed, is all about. It's not official. The people who work inside it are not employed directly by the governments. It's run by private businessmen. And that gives it a high degree of deniability for the Kremlin, which is one of its attractions. And, of course, that is indeed what we're seeing now from Russian officials, deny, deny and deny again.


BERMAN: I've got to say, it is really extraordinary to see you standing outside this building, sort of the worldwide headquarters for messing with the U.S. elections in 2016 and maybe beyond because intelligence chiefs says it's still going on.

What do you know about these troll farms right now and who is funding them exactly and what their ties are to Vladimir Putin and the official Russian government?

CHANCE: And it's interesting you raise that issue of whether it's still operating or not because we were told before we got here this morning in St. Petersburg that it wasn't operating any more, that it's no longer there, that it's moved to a different office block or has even been disbanded. But we've been witnessing people go in and out of that office all day. We called the rental company and said, can we rent the space? And they said, no, it's not going to be vacant for at least another 30 days, at least two floors are operating. You see there are lights on in the building right now.

In terms of who owns it, who runs it, the U.S. indictment makes it very clear, it's a guy called Evgeny Peroshkin (ph) -- Prigozhin. I'm sorry. It's one with of those names. Evgeny Prigozhin who is the billionaire businessman. He's very close to Putin. He's called Putin's chef. He's got a lucrative catering contract with the Kremlin. But he's also got his fingers in all sorts of foreign policy pies in this country, including, it seems, the trolling operation.

[09:45:06] BERMAN: All right, Matthew Chance for us outside the Internet research agency, the troll farm, in the middle of the election meddling of two years ago.

Thanks so much, Matthew.

We have some breaking news. Fascinating breaking news from Mar-a-Lago. A driver of one with of the White House press pool vans was detained because a gun was found in his baggage. The driver says he forgot to put the gun in his personal vehicle before getting into the van. The security screening that turned up the weapon took place an hour before the van's joined up with the presidential motorcade. The driver was not allowed on to club property, so a White House staffer drove the van instead.

And, again, the key here is, is that this person would have been driving in the presidential motorcade and had not the Secret Service screened, as they do, that gun would have been in that motorcade as well.

We'll have more on that in a little bit.

All right, holy ship with a "p." Brawls erupt on a Carnival cruise and more than 20 people are kicked off. What happened here?


[09:50:32] BERMAN: Australian police have launched an investigation after a huge brawl broke out on a Carnival Cruise ship in the South Pacific. The ship was forced to dock early. Twenty-three people from the same family were removed. Cell phone video from the Carnival Legend shows passengers fighting with each other and with security officers. One witness described the fight as horrifying. In a statement, the cruise line said we have a zero tolerance approach to excessive behavior that affects other guests.

EPA Chief Scott Pruitt has canceled a trip to Israel as he faces criticism for his pricey travel habits on the taxpayer dime. His spokesperson says he will not say that the pricey trips they're reporting on is the reason for calling off the trip. Newly released documents show that Pruett racked up a travel tab of more than $100,000 on first class travel in his first six months. This included a $14,000 tour of his own state. The EPA inspector general is investigating right now his travel practices.

Republican Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah has sent apology letters to Rob Porter's ex-wives. Both women say the former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter abused them. Now Hatch originally defended Porter. One of his former staffers, Porter used to work for Hatch. Hatch called him a decent man at first, but after a "Daily Mail" article detailing the abuse allegations came out, Hatch condemned domestic violence and said he's heartbroken. Jennifer Willoughby, Porter's second ex-wife, says that Hatch

explained that he originally thoughts the article was part of a political attack against Porter.

So President Trump has his hands full of Russia indictments, a potential guilty plea from his former campaign aide and the tragic school shooting in Florida. So, naturally, he's talking about Oprah. This is what he wrote overnight.

Just watched a very insecure Oprah Winfrey, who at one point I knew very well, interview a panel of people on "60 Minutes." The questions were biased and slanted. The facts, incorrect. Hope Oprah runs so she can be exposed and defeated, just like all of the others.

Now, Winfrey was holding a televised roundtable with 14 voters, half of whom voted for President Trump. The conversation covered everything from politics to policy and the president himself.

I'm joined now by CNN's senior media correspondent, host of "Reliable Sources," Brian Stelter.

Brian, any reaction from the Winfrey campaign.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: No, nothing yet. It's funny you said campaign, though. He's been trying to downplay the idea of running for president. But her friends, her business associates, are still urging her to run. And last week a few of her confidants said to me, look, she's not ruling it out altogether. Yes, she is out there saying she's not running, just like lots of other perspective candidates. She says she's not running.

But the fact that President Trump is talking about her just continues this buzz, continues this interest I think in the possibility of a Winfrey campaign.

Why don't we look at the actual focus group. This is part of what she was doing on CBS last night.


OPRAH WINFREY, "60 MINUTES": When we first met, there was some of you who had said, you know, you've never been in conversations, certainly engagement, with members of the opposite side, political side. So has that changed for you now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, because now I'm looking at them as people, not as you're Trump or not Trump. This has been an incredible experience and an education for me.


STELTER: So that's exactly what Winfrey's trying to do over at "60 Minutes." You know, she got this job at CBS. It's a part time job. She's trying to do pieces about issues dividing the country and she's trying to find common ground. She's trying to find a sense of unity in the country. It's interesting she's doing that given that a lot of people think Trump's doing the opposite, being very divisive.

Anyway, I think the tweet from the president's really notable, John, because in the past Trump has praised Oprah, said he loves Oprah, even talked about running for president with her some day, suggesting she could be the VP. Now, for the first time, he's really breaking with her and insulting her.

BERMAN: One notable thing that you just pointed out to me, Brian. So this was discussed -- the back and forth between Oprah and President Trump was discussed on the various broadcast morning shows. But not CBS (INAUDIBLE)?

STELTER: Yes, the only one that didn't mention the tweet this morning was CBS "This Morning." That's the show co-hosted by Winfrey's best friend, Gayle King. What has King said recently about all this Oprah 2020 talk? She says, I remember what Oprah taught me a long time ago. She said, you always have the right to change your mind.

So I think someone like Gayle King privately has been urging her friend Winfrey to think about running. Certainly some of her other confidants have as well. The official word, though, John, from her spokeswoman last week, notice the word -- the language here. She said, there are no plans in the works for Oprah to run. Present tense. Doesn't rule something out in the future.

[09:55:09] BERMAN: That's right, I'm not planning on having a sandwich for lunch, but I may decide to have a sandwich come lunch time.

STELTER: Right. And, by the way, a dozen people are doing this, right? We're so far away from 2020.

BERMAN: You know, she may not run. She is not running right now. She probably won't. But the fact of the matter is, she is not ruling it out completely as we sit here right now.

STELTER: And President Trump wants her to. Go figure.

BERMAN: We shall see.

Brian Stelter, thanks for being here and reflecting with us on this President's Day.

STELTER: Thanks. That's right.

BERMAN: So, could the shooting in Parkland, Florida, lead the changes in background checks for potential gun owners? The White House says the president is supportive of new efforts, but what efforts, how far will that go? There are new developments on this front. Stay with us.