Return to Transcripts main page


Mueller's Move Prompts Twitter Tirade; FBI Failed To Act On Florida Gunman Tip; PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired February 19, 2018 - 05:30   ET


[05:30:46] ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: Frustration boiling over for President Trump after the latest indictments in the Russia probe. He's claiming vindication, but could trouble be brewing with a former adviser now set to plead guilty?

RENE MARSH, CNN ANCHOR: Anger and mounting questions after the FBI admits it failed to act on a tip about the Florida gunman. Now, survivors are lashing out at the president for suggesting that the Bureau was too distracted by the Russia probe.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Rene Marsh.

MARQUARDT: And, I'm Alex Marquardt. It is 31 minutes past the hour.

A gale-force tweetstorm this weekend even by Trump's high standards. The defiant president responding harshly after the latest indictments stemming from the Russia investigation.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, on Friday, indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies for meddling in the U.S. election. The indictments focused on social influence from Moscow but not collusion or obstruction. But, the president tweeted the indictment proved no collusion.

MARSH: Well, the president avoided the golf course this weekend at Mar-a-Lago as a sign of respect after the Florida school shooting. Instead, a source says he watched T.V. and got riled up by his sons, Eric and Donald, Jr. who urged him to take at 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 all in an effort to downplay claims of collusion. He also tried to clarify what he means by his repeated dismissal of the Russian investigation as a hoax.

MARQUARDT: And then, the 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 of 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 exception to the remark about Russian meddling, on Saturday, from his own national security adviser, Gen. H.R. McMaster.


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.



MARSH: Well --

MARQUARDT: Excuse me.

MARSH: Well, the president tweeted, "Gen. McMaster forgot to say the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians." He then slammed Hillary Clinton and other Democrats.

Well, a new report this morning that former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates has agreed to testify against the onetime chairman of the Trump campaign, Paul Manafort. The "L.A. Times" reports that special counsel Robert Mueller will present a revised plea deal in federal court within the next few days.

So, how are the new indictments and developments in the special counsel's investigation going over in Russia?

For that, we turn to CNN's Matthew Chance who is live for us this morning in Saint Petersburg where that troll farm accused of wreaking havoc on the U.S. politics is based actually right behind you there, right, Matthew?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Rene. This is the building right here in Saint Petersburg where that Internet research agency, as it was called -- better known to us as the Russian troll factory -- carried out its work in what the U.S. indictment said was its intent to sow discord in U.S. politics.

They posed as American citizens, they organized controversial rallies on the streets of the United States. They bought appetizing physical adverts supporting one candidate or the other and just generally, were sort of like paid Internet provocateurs to sow discord in the United States.

Now, the Russians, of course, categorically deny that. Within the last few minutes there's been a daily conference call take place between members of the press and the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. In that call he was asked about the U.S. indictment. This is the first reaction we've had from the Kremlin.

And he said quote, "There was no substantial evidence seen in that indictment" - that he saw in that indictment -- "implicating the Russian state in the hacking." Yes, there were 13 individuals -- yes, there were three privately

owned companies that were indicted in that Justice Department report, but no evidence the Kremlin, it says, of any indication that the Russian state was involved.

[05:35:10] And that's important because one of the reasons these places were set up because there is a high degree of deniability. They're unofficial, they're privately owned, and denying is exactly what the Kremlin is doing when it comes to these allegations.

MARSH: Well, a growing number -- thank you so much. Matthew Chance reporting.

MARQUARDT: Now, a growing number of questions for the FBI after it acknowledged that it failed to act on a tip about the Florida gunman. The Bureau is now saying that a person close to Nikolas Cruz contacted the FBI on January fifth. The caller provided information about Cruz' gun ownership, his desire to kill, erratic behavior, and even the potential for him to conduct a school shooting.

But the FBI now admits it did not stick to protocols for following up.

MARSH: Well, that revelation led to perhaps President Trump's most outrageous tweet of the weekend.

The tweet said, "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."

But we should note the Florida tip and the Russia investigation would be handled by different divisions with the FBI.

MARQUARDT: The president's tweet has also sparked outrage online, including among survivors of the shooting.

One tweeting, "Oh, my God. Seventeen 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 of your fake, meaningless thoughts and prayers."

On Wednesday, President Trump will hold what's being called a listening session with high school students and teachers.

MARSH: But it's not known whether he will meet with the Parkland students. Some of them tell CNN that they have no interest in meeting with him and that they are focusing their anger at the president and Congress.


DAVID HOGG, STUDENT, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL, PARKLAND, FLORIDA: We've seen a government shutdown, we've seen tax reform, but nothing to save our children's lives. Are you kidding me? Do you think now is the time to focus on the past and not the future to prevent the death of thousands of other children? You sicken me. EMMA GONZALEZ, STUDENT, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL, PARKLAND, FLORIDA: Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA, telling us nothing could ever been done to prevent this, we call B.S.


MARSH: Strong words from those students. Parkland students say that they plan to organization a march in Washington for gun control.

There are signs the shooting may be a tipping point for some with influence. A top Republican donor and developer, Al Hoffman, vowed to stop funding candidates and political groups that do not support an assault weapons ban.

MARQUARDT: And, Axios is reporting that a top administration official expects that Congress will, what he said, take another look at a background check bill that Sen. John Cornyn pushed for last year after the Texas church massacre in Sutherland Springs.

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 saved students from gunfire, were all laid to rest.

Four shooting victims remain in the hospital this morning.

MARSH: That's such a sad story.

MARQUARDT: Horrific.


MARQUARDT: And with all that in mind, who now should be held responsible for the FBI's failure on the Florida tip? That's next.


[05:42:44] MARSH: Well, President Trump is now tying the ongoing Russia probe to the FBI's failure to act on a tip about the gunman in last week's Florida school shooting. The FBI did admit it failed to follow protocol, but does the president's explanation make any sense?

Well, let's bring in CNN law enforcement analyst James Gagliano, retired supervisory special agent for the FBI. Good morning.

First question out the gate, what do you make of this tweet because I don't think before that tweet anyone else was tying the Russia probe to the Florida shooting. The president did.

What was your reaction when you saw that?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST, FORMER (RET.) SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT, FBI: Well, Rene, first of all, the FBI works some 450 different federal violations so they have the capability of being focused in different areas in being able to do a good job in all of them, so no resources were diverted.

If you're working a counterintelligence investigation, which the Russia probe began as, it doesn't impact a criminal investigation which obviously, this mass shooting was. So, that's specious argument right there.

The FBI is capable of working different violations so I'm confident and comfortable that they're going to be able to pursue both investigations without a, you know -- without moving resources around or being ineffectual in one or the other.

MARQUARDT: You just got back from Florida.


MARQUARDT: Obviously, a horrific scene. You also -- we met, actually, after the massacre in Las Vegas and now we've seen the church shooting in Sutherland Springs after that.

A lot of people have said that after Sandy Hook -- if after all these young kids were killed that nothing changed on gun control. That nothing's ever going to change.

Do you feel that that's actually -- that things are changing now? That this is a bit of moment that this outrage from these students, that the outrage around the country is actually going to move the needle on some gun control measures?

GAGLIANO: Alex, first of all, I think just like the #MeToo movement has basically taken the nation and world by storm where people are like this unconscionable behavior of people -- of these sexual predators, it's no longer OK. We're going to do something. We're going to out you.

But, the folks that are accused of things are also entitled to due process. We have to find that balance and it's the same thing here. And I think, to your point, the words gun and control -- when you put them in the same sentence -- that is the third rail of our political system because people retreat to their intransigent positions.

[05:45:04] Listen, I don't think that we have to have a fatalistic view that nothing can be done. I think it can be, but I also don't believe that need to have this reflexive and knee-jerk reaction that in the immediate wake we've got to make -- get something passed today. But there's a number of things we can do and I think people are afraid to do them.

Look, since 700 A.D. we've had gunpowder and I think in the mid-14th century guns were invented. And in 1892, the first automatic weapon was developed.

The Second Amendment was created in 1791. The founding fathers did it for the right reasons. Our country was founded on a revolution -- a breakaway from an oppressive government. But for us not to be able to discuss it now is ludicrous.

MARSH: I mean, a lot of the -- a small number of states do have these so-called red flag laws --


MARSH: -- that would actually give law enforcement, as well as even families if they see someone is potentially dangerous and shouldn't have a weapon, they can actually get a judge's order to prevent them from getting a weapon.

Do you feel like that could potentially be the answer here --

GAGLIANO: I think it says -- we spoke about --

MARSH: -- or help?

GAGLIANO: Absolutely. In the earlier segment, Rene, I think we can't look at any of these things in a silo, independent. We've got to look at them as interconnected pieces.

As a fledging criminologist I struggle with the term when you talk about red flags. The FBI gets thousands of calls a day on yellow flags and the vast majority of them, they're all checked out and the exception being this egregious mistake that happened -- this failure here to track this down, to act on it because we've got what we call an actionable lead, meaning a phone call came in to the public access line.

It was screened initially by a professional support employee who then gives it to an FBI agent or supervisor to basically do a triage to say hey, does this look like there's something that we should have a reasonable suspicion of that we should check out. It didn't happen.

So, the system was set up that we should have responded to that. And I can tell you how pained being down in Florida on Friday and getting that news, it hit a lot of us by a gut punch. But yes, interconnectivity, that needs to happen at a better level.

When you have police responding to a residence 39 times, that's now taking it from a yellow flag to a full-on red one.

MARQUARDT: But how do you avoid a minority report type situation where you follow-up on a tip and someone actually hasn't committed that crime? Do you then just devote resources to keep on eye on that person? And, if I can also ask, who should be held responsible?

GAGLIANO: Sure. To your first point, there's 330 million Americans. I think there's about one million sworn law enforcement officers -- a little over that, so when you think about that it's impossible.

We can't -- unless we want to live in a police state -- and in the United States we cherish our civil liberties. So unless you want a police state there's no way to prevent these things from happening because we cherish our freedoms, we cherish our privacy, and we cherish our civil liberties.

As far as the question is should heads roll here after this, again, leaders create the culture. There's 35,000 FBI employees. Do I think that there was a culture created at the FBI by Director Wray or any of his predecessors -- there's only been eight FBI directors -- that led to an agent taking a look at this information and going it's not important, no.

I think there was a breakdown. We don't where it is now. We know it's being investigated but I do not think the FBI director should step down. But if somebody made an egregious error -- and we'll get to the bottom of this -- I think some sanctions should happen.

MARSH: So you don't -- you think it's an anomaly, not necessarily --

GAGLIANO: Indicia of a culture or indicia of the way the FBI is. I spent half of my life, 25 years, in the FBI. I can report to you it's not the culture.

MARQUARDT: All right, James Gagliano. Always appreciate your expertise.


MARQUARDT: Thanks very much.

MARSH: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: A nail-biter at the NBA's All-Star game last night. LeBron James with 29 points on the court and one big point for a T.V. host who told him to shut up and dribble, next.


[05:53:03] MARQUARDT: Welcome back.

LeBron James caps off a big All-Star weekend with a strong performance on the court after some controversy on the sidelines.

MARSH: Right, and Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."


ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alex and Rene, for 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, and for the first time in a while we had a fantastic finish to the All-Star game.

The stars were out for this game in Los Angeles to watch the NBA's best and in the fourth quarter we saw some drama. Kevin Durant to his old Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook, made it a one-point game with three minutes left to go. Those two look like they've finally repaired their friendship.

Fast-forward to a minute and a half left. LeBron, the step back three to tie the game. Then under a minute to go, down one and out of timeouts, team LeBron just throwing up a fantastic play. LeBron, 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 to 145. Lebron James, your All-Star game MVP for the third time in his career.

Now, LeBron wasn't only taking on team Curry this weekend. He was also firing back at "FOX NEWS" after one of their hosts, Laura Ingraham, said he should just quote "shut up and dribble" instead of discussing politics.

Now, her comments coming after LeBron was critical of 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."

Well, I asked LeBron over the weekend what he thought about her comments.

LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: We will definitely not shut up and dribble. I would definitely not do that. I mean too much to society, I mean too much to the youth. I mean too much to the -- to so many kids that feel like they don't have -- they don't have a way out and they need someone to help lead them out of the situation they're in.

[05:55:11] For me to sit up here in the greatest weekend of the NBA All-Star weekend and I get to sit up here and talk about social injustice, equality, and why a woman on a certain network decided to tell me to shut and dribble. So, thank you, whatever her name is. I don't even know her name.

SCHOLES: Now, LeBron added the whole reason he started "Uninterrupted" is for athletes to have a platform to discuss things they believe in and not have it cut into small sound-bites. And, LeBron says, guys, that as long as he has a platform he will always speak on social issues.


MARQUARDT: And he's all been very vocal. He was a supporter of Hillary Clinton's campaign and then --

MARSH: After Treyvon Martin he showed up with a hoodie on, right?

MARQUARDT: And he most notably, recently, called President Trump a bum.

MARSH: I remember that, too.

MARQUARDT: He's not stopping anytime soon.

MARSH: Right.

MARQUARDT: Now, the U.S. women's hockey team is cruising into the gold medal game in dominating style.

MARSH: And, Coy Wire has more from PyeongChang. Good morning, Coy. MARQUARDT: Hey there, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Good morning, Rene and Alex.

The thing that jumped out to me in this dominant five to zero victory for Team USA over Finland, four out of the five golds scored by former University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. Gophers gone wild in PyeongChang.

Gigi Marvin put the first puck in the back of the net early in the match. Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, she had one as well. And, Dani Cameranesi put two scores on the board for Team USA. Hilary Knight was the only non-former Gopher goal for Team USA.

The U.S. will face the winner of the Canada match versus Olympic athletes from Russia which starts in just over an hour from now, and the U.S. looking to capture their first gold since 1998.

Figure skating -- ice dance short program and all three American teams qualified for the free dance. The reigning U.S. champs Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue currently in third.

But hot on their skates in fourth, the brother-sister duo of Maia and Alex Shibutani, who starting skating together when Maia was four, Alex was seven. And just imagine dancing to the mambo, cha-cha, and Samba on a world stage with your sibling. That's exactly what they have done.

Listen to those who are affectionately known as the Shib Sibs.


MAIA SHIBUTANI, AMERICAN ICE DANCER: In some cases, in sports siblings have to compete against each other. We don't, we're on the same team. We know that all the work that we individually put in goes into something that we can both really enjoy.

ALEX SHIBUTANI, AMERICAN ICE DANCER: I would say that it helps that she's really talented and that she puts up with me. And we're best friends, right? We're best friends?


A. SHIBUTANI: OK. Whew, I was nervous about that. But we've got a great relationship.


WIRE: The Shibutanis have already captured bronze here in the team competition. Free skate is later tonight on the east coast.

MARQUARDT: Awe, winning with you best friend.

MARSH: That's awesome.

MARQUARDT: That's very nice. MARSH: I love that story.

MARQUARDT: Thanks so much, Coy.

MARSH: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: Stay warm.

MARSH: Thanks, Coy.

Well, a record-breaking debut for "BLACK PANTHER." The film raked in an estimated $192 million at the weekend box office. It's the fifth- biggest opening of all time and the biggest-ever opening for a film in February, shattering the mark set by "DEAD POOL" in 2016.

"BLACK PANTHER" is the first film directed by an African-American for Disney Marvel. Disney estimates that the film will total $218 million in the U.S. over the four-day Presidents' Day weekend.

MARQUARDT: Huge haul -- impressive.

MARSH: Yes, I mean --

MARQUARDT: That's great. As we were saying, it's real moment right now.

MARSH: Yes, it certainly is.

Well, that's going to do it for us. Thank you for joining us this morning. I'm Rene Marsh.

MARQUARDT: And, I'm Alex Marquardt. "NEW DAY" starts right now.


MCMASTER: It was the FBI indictment. The evidence is now really incontrovertible.

MARSH: President Trump going on a Twitter tirade over the Russia investigation.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: This is a president who claims vindication anytime someone sneezes.

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: The president has been very adamant to say he didn't collude.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: What everybody understands, except Donald Trump, is they intend to do this in 2018.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: With someone like Putin, he's only going to stop when we stop him.

MARQUARDT: President Trump blaming the FBI for the deadly school shooting, saying they were too focused on the Russia probe.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: I think it's an absurd state, OK -- absurd.

GONZALEZ: The politicians telling us nothing could have ever been done to prevent it, we call B.S.

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If I were them I'd be as angry as they are.

HOGG: Our community and our nation have taken too many bullets to the heart and now is the time for us to stand up.


ANNOUNCER: This is "NEW DAY" with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Monday, February 19th, 6:00 here in New York.

Chris is off; Dave Briggs joins me. Great to have you.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Good to be here, my friend on Presidents' Day.

CAMEROTA: The news -- you, too. I was going to say the news doesn't know it's a holiday so let's get to our "Starting Line."

First up, President Trump lashing out in a tweetstorm about the Russia investigation.