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EARLY START

Mueller's Move Prompts Twitter Tirade; FBI's Florida Fail. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired February 19, 2018 - 04:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[04:30:50] RENE MARSH, CNN EARLY START SHOW HOST: Frustration boiling over for President Trump after the latest indictments in the Russia probe. He is claiming vindication, but could trouble be brewing with the former adviser now set to plead guilty.

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: And anger and mounting questions after the FBI admits it failed to act on the tip about the Florida gunman. Now survivors are lashing out at the President for suggesting the bureau was too distracted by the Russia probe. Good morning and welcome to "Early start." I'm Alex Marquardt.

MARSH: And I'm Rene Marsh. It is 31 minutes at the hour. A gale force storm even by the President's standards. The defiant president responding harshly after the latest indictment from the Russian investigation, special counsel Robert Mueller on Friday indicted 13 Russians nationals and 3 Russian companies for the meddling in the 2016 U.S. Election. The indictments focused on social influence from Moscow, not collusion or obstruction. The President tweeted the indictment proved no collusion.

MARQUARDT: The President avoided the golf course this weekend at Mar- a-Lago resort as a sign of respect after the Florida school shooting. Instead a source said that he watched a lot of TV as he often does and got riled up by his son Eric and Donald Jr. who urged him to take a harder line on the FBI. And he did. As you can see here, the President quoted the deputy Attorney General a New York Post columnist and a Facebook executive and all in an effort to downplay claims of collusion. And he also tried to clarify what he means by his repeated dismissal of the Russian investigation as a hoax.

MARSH: And President finished up with this, quote, if it was the goal of Russia to create discord, disruption and chaos within the U.S., then with all the committee hearings, investigations and Party hatred, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They are laughing their asses off in Moscow. Get smart America. He also took exemptions to this remark about Russians meddling on Saturday from his own national security adviser General H.R. McMaster.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: As you can see with the FBI indictment, the evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUARDT: Incontrovertible. The President tweeted after that General McMaster forgot to say the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians. He then went off to slammed Hillary Clinton and other Democrats. So how are the new indictments and developments in the special counsel investigation going over in Russia? Our CNN's Matthew Chance is live in St. Petersburg where the Russian troll farm accused of wreaking havoc on U.S. politics is based. Matthew are the Russians laughing their asses off as the President said?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think there is a certain satisfaction, they have created such a lot of chaos and want of another word discord in U.S. Politics. It was that expressed objective according to the Justice Departments indictments that organizations like the internet research agency and infamous troll factory which is actually located in this building right behind me was set up to achieve. To pose as Americans and to infiltrate blog and chat rooms and to skew the debate toward the Russian point of view to campaign and to buy political advertising to support one candidate or the other. Even to stage protests and divisive protests on the streets of the U.S. That was organized in fact from inside that building. We are told the building has been cleared and no longer operates. We have seen people go in and out this place, this office, on the outskirts of St. Petersburg all morning. We have doubts as to whether it is completely vacant. In terms of the Russian reaction to the indictments, they adopted the stance, they adopted all along whenever confronted with this kinds of allegations which is denial.

[04:35:03] The Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov saying he has seen no facts even after the indictments. It is all just in his words blather. So we are getting colorful language from President Trump and the White House and the Kremlin and Russian officials as well. Back to you.

MARQUARDT: No doubt. Russia is enjoying this debate over here in the states. Thank you very much, Matthew Chance there in a snowy and chilly St. Petersburg.

MARSH: There are a growing number of questions for the FBI after it acknowledged that it failed to act on the tip about the Florida gunman. The bureau saying the person close to Nikolas Cruz contacted the FBI on January 5th. The caller provided information of Cruz's gun information and his desire to kill and erratic behavior and his desire to conduct a school shooting. The FBI admits it did not stick to protocols for following up.

MARQUARDT: That revelation led to the President's most outrageous tweet this the weekend. He wrote quote, very sad 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. We should note the Florida tip and Russia investigation would be handled by two different divisions of the FBI. MARSH: The president's tweets sparked an outrage online. Including

among survivors of the shooting. One tweeting, oh, my god. 17 of my friends and classmates are gone and you have the audacity to make it about Russia? Have a damn heart. You can keep all of your fake and meaningless thoughts and prayers. On Wednesday President Trump will hold a listening session with high school students and teachers.

MARQUARDT: It is not known yet whether he will actually meet with some of those Parkland students. Some told CNN they have no interest in meeting him and they are focusing their anger at the President and congress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID HOGG, STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: We have seen a government shutdown. We have seen tax reform, but nothing to save our children's lives. Are you kidding me? You think now is the time to focus on the past and not the future to prevent the deaths of thousands of other children? You sicken me.

EMMA GONZALES, STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: Politicians put this in your guilty house and senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing can be done to prevent this. We call B.S.!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUARDT: Parkland students saying they plan to organize a March in Washington for gun control at the end of March. There are signs the shooting may be a tipping point finally for some with influence. A top Republican Governor, developer Al Hoffman is vowing to stop funding candidates and political groups that do not support an assault weapons ban.

MARSH: And Conservative Oklahoma Senator James Langford is open to deeper background checks. Axios is reporting that a top administration official expects congress will quote take another look at the background check bill that Senator John Cornyn pushed last year after the Texas church massacre.

The funeral for 15-year-old Parkland shooting victim Luke Hoyer is today. Yesterday 14-year-old Alex Schachter, 14 year old Jaime Guttenberg and teacher Scott Beigel who save students from gunfire were all laid to rest. Four shooting victims remain in the hospital.

MARQUARDT: The red flags missed by the FBI are not the only warning signs now getting another look in the aftermath of the shooting. "The Washington Post" spoke to Teachers says problems with Cruz started at least as early as middle school and quickly intensifies. They cite outbursts and drawings of stick figure with guns, disciplinary issue and threatening statements written on his homework. Including references a reference to killing President Obama. We are also hearing from the family who took in Nikolas Cruz after the death of his mother late last year, they say they did not know they had a monster living under their roof. CNN's Martin Savidge joins us this morning with more in Parkland Florida. MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is information that CNN has

been able to obtain in the investigation from the department of children and families. This is state welfare group. They became aware of problems with Nikolas Cruz by putting something on snapchat in September of 2016. Showing him cutting his arms and talking about getting a gun. Investigators were so disturbed, they went to his home and talked to his mother who was alive at the time. Talked to Nikolas at the time and even talked to mental health experts who are helping to care for him at the time. After all of that, they came out and essentially made the assessment that he was a low risk of doing any harm to either himself or anyone else. That was 18 months before he carried out the attack at the high school here. And then lastly, there is Kimberly and James Sneed.

[04:40:00] The family Cruz was living with up until the very day he allegedly carried out the attack. They said there was no indication. Yes, he was quirky. He was odd. Nothing to insinuate that he was about to carry out a tragic attack. They knew he had guns and one of their restriction is he locked them up in the gun safe giving them the only key. It now appears there was more than one key. Rene and Alex.

MARSH: A new report this morning that former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates has agreed to testify against the one time chairman of the Trump campaign Paul Manafort. The Los Angeles Time is reporting Special counsel Robert Mueller will present a revised plea deal in federal court within the next few days. CNN first reported last week that Gates was finalizing a plea deal. The reports say that gates can expect a substantial reduction and sentence to likely about 18 months instead of 10 years. CNN Sara Murray has more from Washington. A guilty plea would also increase pressure on Manafort to cooperate.

MARQUARDT: Disgraced White House aide Rob Porter's two ex-wives says his former boss Utah senator Oren Hatch sent them letters of apology. Initially Hatch defended Porter then eventually he released a second statement saying he was heartbroken by the physical and mental abuse allegations which are first published in the Daily Mail. The letter described to CNN as quote a sincere apology for the pain he may have caused us. Hatch now saying he was unaware of the nature of the article and thought Porter's political enemies were mounting an attack. Porter's first wife, Colbie Holderness says she appreciates his apology. Porter has denied the allegations.

A drug to euthanize your pet ended up in dog food that was shipped nationwide. Recall information and what to look for coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:46:38] MARQUARDT: Welcome back. Police in Atlanta are searching for an Uber Eats driver suspected in the shooting death of a customer this weekend. They say the victim, a 30-year-old man, met the driver and received his order and then began walking away from the vehicle. The victim and the delivery driver apparently exchanged words and police say shots were fired from the vehicle. Uber Eats in a statement says it is working with the authorities, with the police, adding quote, our hearts go out to the families of those involved. MARSH: There is a voluntary recall of some canned dog food this

morning that may contain a drug used to euthanize animals. The FDA says low levels of the drug pentobarbital were detected in cans of gravy train dog food. Produced by the J.M. Smucker Company. Pentobarbital is most commonly used as a sedative anesthetic or for euthanasia. The FDA's preliminary evaluation indicated low levels found were unlikely to pose a health risk to pets. The Smucker Company identified the root cause as a single supplier and a single minor ingredient used at one of its manufacturing facility.

MARQUARDT: Still very scary. A lot of brawls erupting on the carnival cruise line in the South Pacific that led the ship to dock early so that the Australian Police can remove a 23-member family. Cell phone video from the carnival legend shows passengers tussling with each other and with security officers. And shouting and screams from on lookers who are alarmed. In a statement the carnival cruise line said quote, we have a zero tolerance approach to excessive behavior that affects other guest. Neither carnival nor police saying what started the brawl or how many were hurt or if any charges were filed.

MARSH: A big night across the pond for the film "three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri." It won five statues at the British academy film awards, including best picture. The film also won best actress for Frances McDormand and the best supporting actor prize for Sam Rockwell. The awards can be hit or miss when it comes to predicting the outcome of Hollywood academy awards next month. Just like at the Golden Globes, many stars wore black in support of time's up and #metoo movement which aimed to improve treatment of women.

A record-breaking debut for "black panther" the film it raked in an estimated $192 million at the weekend box office. The fifth biggest opening of all time and biggest opening ever for a film in February. Shattering the mark by "Dead pool" in 2016. "Black panther" is the first film directed by an African-American for Disney marvel. The Disney estimates the film will total $218 million in the U.S. over the four-day Presidents Day weekend.

MARQUARDT: High expectations. They met them. Impressive.

MARSH: It is really like a movement. Not just a movie. If you go on twitter, it is trending. It is more than just a thrill.

[04:50:00] MARQUARDT: A nail biter at the NBA all-star game last night. Lebron James had 29 points on the court and one big point for a TV host who told him to shut up and dribble.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARQUARDT: Welcome back. Lebron James caps off the big all-star weekend with the strong performance on the court during the all-star game after some controversy on the sidelines. Our Andy Scholes has more in this morning bleacher report.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT, CNN: Alex, Rene the first time ever the NBA all-star game was not the eastern conference versus the western conference. The two teams were drafted by Lebron James and Steph Curry. First time in a while, we had a fantastic finish to the all-star game.

[04:55:03] The stars were out for the game in Los Angeles to watch the NBA's best. In fourth quarter we saw drama, Kevin Durant to his old teammate Russell Westbrook made it a one-point game with three minutes left to go. Those two look like they finally repaired their friendship, fast forward to 1:30 left. Lebron with the step-back three to tie the game. Under a minute to go. Down one out of the time-out, team Lebron just drawing up a fantastic play. Lebron with the lay-in to take the lead with 35 seconds left. From there, team Lebron playing just amazing defense in the final seconds. They get the win 148-145. Lebron James is the All-Star game MVP for the third time in his career. Lebron wasn't only taking on team Curry this weekend, but also firing back at Fox News after one of their host Laura Ingraham said he should just quote, shut up and dribble instead of discussing politics. Now here comments coming up with Lebron was critical with President Trump saying in a video on his multimedia platform uninterrupted that he doesn't think the President understands or cares about the people. That prompted Ingraham to say on her show that Lebron should just quote shut up and dribble. I asked Lebron over the weekend, what he thought about her comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: We will definitely not shut up and dribble. I will definitely not do that. I mean too much to society. I mean too much to the youth. I mean too much to so many kids that feel like they don't have a way out and they need someone to help lead them out of the situation they're in. For me to sit up here and the greatest weekend of the NBA all-star weekend and I get to sit up here and talk about social injustice and equality and why a woman on a certain network decided to tell me to shut up and dribble. So, thank you. Whatever her name is. I don't even know her name.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: Lebron added the whole reason he started uninterrupted is for athletes to have a platform to discuss things they believe in and not cut in small sound bites. And Lebron says as long as he has a platform, he will always speak out on social issues.

MARQUARDT: Thanks, Andy. He has a huge platform.

MARSH: As you can see, he is determined to use it. He will not let anyone stop him from using it.

MARQUARDT: I don't know how smart it is to take on someone like Lebron James. He is more popular than Laura Ingraham.

All right. The U.S. Women's hockey team is cruising into the gold medal game in dominating style.

MARSH: That is right. Coy Wire has much more from Pyeongchang. Good morning, Coy. COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Top of the morning to you, Rene and

Alex, or the night from Pyeongchang. Team USA needed this despite a number of record of winter Olympians here, the U.S. still not in the top five of the medal count. The American hockey fans definitely loves this after the men's team got blown out. Facing Finland, the women jumped out to an early lead. A goal from Gigi (inaudible), they never looked back after that and they absolutely dominated as you mentioned, Rene. A 5-0 victory at one point they scored two goals in 34 seconds. It's back to the gold medal round again for the third straight Olympics. They lost to Canada the last two games and they could actually face them again or it would be the Olympic athletes from Russia.

Figure skating. Ice dance short program. All three American teams qualified for the free dance competition. The reigning U.S. Champs lead the way, but hot on their heels is a brother and sister duo. Maia and Alex Shibutani currently sitting in fourth place. They started to skate together when Maia was 4 and Alex was 7. Imagine dancing to the Mambo, Cha-cha, samba on a world stage with your sibling. Here they are, they are known as the shib sibs. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In some cases in sports, siblings compete against each other. We don't. We are on the same team. We know all of the work we individually put in goes into something that we can both really enjoy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say it helps that she is really talented and that she puts up with me and we're best friends, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa. I was nervous about that. We have a great relationship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIRE: It was their mom's Naomi's idea to pair them up when they were young. Their coach said as long as they don't kill each other. It hasn't happened yet. They have a bronze here anchoring the team events. Let us see if they can (inaudible) a free dance victory or medal later tonight, Eastern Time.

MARSH: Awesome story.

MARQUARDT: Nice. You have to enjoy it more if you get to share it with your sibling.

MARSH: Thanks for bringing that, Coy.

MARQUARDT: See you in a little bit. "Early start" continues right now.