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Trump Lashes Out Over Russia Probe; School Shooting Survivors Demand Tougher Gun Laws. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired February 19, 2018 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: With the FBI indictment, the evidence is now really incontrovertible.
[05:59:10] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump going on a Twitter tirade over the Russia investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a president who claims vindication any time someone sneezes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With someone like Putin, he's only going to stop when we stop him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump blaming the FBI for the deadly school shootings, saying they were too focused on the Russia probe.
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: I think it's an absurd statement. OK? Absurd.
EMMA GONZALEZ, STUDENT SURVIVOR OF FLORIDA SHOOTING: Politics is telling us nothing could have ever been done to prevent this. We call B.S.!
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If I were them, I'd be as angry as they are.
DAVID HOGG, SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: Our community and our nation have taken too many bullets to the heart. 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 19, 6 a.m. 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. Happy Presidents' Day.
CAMEROTA: 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 tweet storm about the Russia investigation. The president claims once again that there was no collusion after Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals and three companies with a plot to interfere in the 2016 election.
Mr. Trump appears more concerned about vindicating himself than addressing the threat the Kremlin poses to the U.S. in the upcoming elections. He's also blaming everyone except Russia. The president falsely claims that he has never challenged the fact that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, despite the fact that we have him numerous times on tape rejecting Russian interference.
BRIGGS: The president also taking aim at the FBI, suggesting they were too distracted by the Russia probe to pursue a specific lead about the high school massacre. But the bureau admits they failed to investigate.
Survivors of the attack are slamming the president's response, and they're intensifying their calls for him to do something about gun control. Will lawmakers listen to those students by improving background checks for guns? A top Republican donor says he will no longer contribute money to candidates who don't support an assault weapons ban.
We have it all covered for you. Let's begin with CNN's Kaitlan Collins, live in West Palm Beach this morning.
Good morning, Kaitlan.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Dave and Alisyn. It was a weekend full of tweeting for the president in West Palm Beach. He spent most of his days indoors, because aides determined it would be bad optics if he went golfing so soon and so close to that deadly school shooting that happened last week.
But we got to watch in real time as the president's anger grew over that intensifying Russia probe.
COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump lashing out about the Russia investigation, unleashing a series of angry attacks that began with the president blaming his own FBI for the school massacre in Florida that left 17 dead. Mr. Trump tweeting that the FBI missed signals because they were spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. The charge prompting criticism from a number of Republicans. KASICH: I think it's an absurd statement. OK? Absurd.
SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: So many folks in the FBI are doing all that they can to keep us safe. The reality of it is that they are two separate issues.
CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: The president should be staying out of law enforcement business.
COLLINS: Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego calling the president a psychopath, tweeting, "America will regret the day you were ever born."
President Trump also going after his own national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, who said this at a security conference in Germany about Russia's interference in the 2016 election.
MCMASTER: As you can see with the FBI indictment, the evidence is now really controvertible.
COLLINS: Mr. Trump publicly scolding McMaster, saying he forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians, a conclusion that the intelligence community hasn't reached.
The president has not mentioned what, if anything, his administration is doing to retaliate against Russia or prevent them from interfering in future elections. The president asserting that the Russia probes are creating discord, disruption, and chaos rather than condemning Russia, adding, "They are laughing their asses off in Moscow."
Mr. Trump also falsely claiming that he never said Russia did not meddle in the election, despite multiple statements that prove otherwise, including remarks aboard Air Force One in November, when he said he believes Vladimir Putin when he says that Russia did not meddle in the election.
Mr. Trump sarcastically praising Democrat Adam Schiff for saying that the Obama administration could have taken a stronger stance against Russia, insulting him as, quote, "little" and calling him a "leakin' monster of no control.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: I have said all along that I thought the Obama administration should have done more. But none of that is an excuse for this president to sit on his hands.
COLLINS: Schiff challenging the president directly, asking, "If McMaster can stand up to Putin, why can't you?"
The president insisting Special Counsel Robert Mueller's indictment of 13 Russians and three Russian entities for attempting to sway the election vindicates him, insisting it proves there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia, despite the fact that Mueller's investigation into potential collusion is ongoing.
(END VIDEOTAPE) COLLINS: Now, the president is heading back to Washington this afternoon to headlines from "The L.A. Times," reporting that that former campaign aide, Rick Gates, is expect to set to testify against the former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and will plead guilty to fraud-related charges within days, Dave and Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK, Kaitlan. Thank you very much.
Let's bring in CNN political analysts John Avlon and CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero.
OK, let's just start right there, just because Kaitlan put such a fine point on it, the president over the weekend, he had a flurry of tweets, right, about Russia. At least a dozen. And clearly, he was sort of exorcised about all this. And the one that we should talk about is one where he said, "I never said Russia did not middle in the election." He doesn't know that we have videotape and that we have long memories, because I mean, we have so -- I don't know which one to pick to prove that that's wrong. But here's a fun one. So let's go with this. This is from December 2016 so during the transition.
"I don't believe they interfered. That because a laughing point, not a talking point, a laughing point. Anytime I do something, they say, 'Oh, Russia interfered.' It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey."
Now why bring in New Jersey?
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's clearly a Chris Christie reference.
No, I -- you know, you could do a montage of him denying this. This has been his reflexive position from the beginning. And it's only when he's being tightly scripted does he acknowledge.
One of the extraordinary things about this nine-hour tweet storm is just how unhinged the president seemed. I mean, he's going after his own national security director right? He's going after Hillary Clinton, Obama, the FBI. All punctuated by dinner with Geraldo. This is not a particularly hinged guy on President's Day weekend, serving in the Oval Office.
But you really do get a sense of the real man from Twitter Trump, and it doesn't look real pretty right now.
BRIGGS: Yes, no proof of collusion, no proof of obstruction, but proof the president, John, should play more golf. Because 20 tweets on Saturday and Sunday, it was a hot mess.
But Carrie, let's get back to the indictment. Thirteen Russians indicted. Three entities. What did it show? Some call this the largest attack on our country since 9/11.
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this was a really big indictment. As you said, 13 Russian nationals. And what it shows is that the special counsel's team is willing to charge Russian nationals, Russian companies that were operating this intelligence operation directed against American democracy, even if the team knows that these individuals probably will never actually stand trial in a U.S. court.
And so what it shows, it demonstrates the the level of evidence that the United States government has assembled against these Russian organizations and individuals. And it shows, I think, that it's more likely that, in the future, we might see more indictments and charges against individuals, perhaps, who were involved in the DNC hacking, in the Podesta hacking, in the leaking of those -- of that information.
Because if the team was willing to charge Russian nationals and Russian organizations in this, which was conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, then I think we're going to see more of the same.
CAMEROTA: Yes. There's no indication that this was the end for Mueller. There is an indication that this is, you know, the beginning or somewhere in the middle but not the end.
So listen, John, back to the tweet storm. Because there's interesting back story about what was happening behind the tweet storm that we should get into. Maggie Haberman in "The New York Times" has some reporting, as well as CNN. That at first, the president was pleased with the Mueller indictment, because it was people in Russia, 13 people who he doesn't know. They're not connected to the Trump campaign. In fact, they said there's no -- no one wittingly on the Trump campaign. So he saw that as good news.
And he wanted to play golf. But he was counseled that this would not be a good weekend to play golf when Parkland, Florida, is a few miles away, and they have suffered this horrific school shooting.
So he was inside and he was watching TV is the story. And then he started hearing analysts and people saying that, in fact, this was not good news for the Trump campaign. And then he started getting sort of more agitated and tweeting this stuff.
AVLON: Yes. Look, we know the president is reactive to what he watches on TV, particularly one channel that has a tendency to sort of give talking points to the worst angels of his nature. The fact that the president consistently listens to cable TV over his own intelligence community is really troubling. And it raises the real question of, you know, technically, tweets are official presidential statements.
AVLON: And the fact the president's tweets keep confusing American policy, keep being -- attempted to be contained by his own cabinet, speaks to the way in the which the president has isolated himself in sort of a hermetically sealed bubble.
This indictment is a thorough-going indictment of the denial that Russia meddled in our election. They clearly did in a highly- sophisticated way over a long period of time, designed to create massive disruption and prey on identity politics fissures in our society, OK?
But Donald Trump, I think, realized over time that this is not, in any way, a vindication, that this is part of a larger plan that was in place that Mueller is highlighting. And the fact he's reactive to cable TV, maybe sometimes outside voices give him a reality check.
But this is not a situation where the president should feel at all vindicated. This is part of a larger Mueller investigation. And that's incontrovertible now. He's not going to believe his own intelligence agency. This lays it out real clear for the American people.
[06:10:13] BRIGGS: That was the word used by national security advisor H.R. McMaster. The evidence now is incontrovertible that Moscow meddled in the 2016 campaign. So Carrie, does it have anything to do with vindicating the president? Because he retweeted a "New York Post" column that says, "Charges Deal Don a Big Win." Did they?
CORDERO: I don't think so. And here's why.
The main part of the -- what the indictment charged was conspiracy to defraud the United States. And what that defrauding is, in the indictment, is interfering with U.S. democracy and interfering with the election.
What that means is that, if there is evidence that individuals connected to the campaign or other Americans involved in the political process were also conspiring or were assisting in some way or had knowledge, that that conspiracy can actually broaden. And so I'm not -- we don't know if there is that evidence yet, because we haven't seen that revealed. But the way in which this document was crafted leaves open that possibility.
I think also the president's tweets demonstrate that he's terrified of this investigation. And he's either terrified of this investigation because there is some kind of evidence that would implicate those close to him or those involved in his campaign, or he's worried about the fact that this special counsel now, with this indictment and the way that the deputy attorney general is conducting oversight of it, that this investigation is now on track and will not be derailed.
And whether that reaches into financial aspects related to the campaign or the Trump organization or whatever else it is that has him so concerned, it is on track, and this train is continuing to run.
CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, look, that's one interpretation that he's terrified. We also do have some reporting that he's just very, very frustrated that he doesn't want it to be perceived that he had any help winning. He won this election, he feels, fair and square. And the idea that, whenever it's suggested, that he may have had some help, because the Russians wanted him to win, that's what he bristles at. He won't hear that.
BRIGGS: This is all the small stuff. What are we going to do about it? How are we going to stop it in 2018 and beyond? That we will address -- John. AVLON: We know, from DNI Coats' testimony, that there is no
coordinated effort to block -- what he's already saying is going on now, the Russians trying to influence the '18 election.
CAMEROTA: John, Carrie, thank you both very much.
Now we need to get to this story. The students who survived the Florida school massacre are slamming the president for blaming the FBI and linking this tragedy somehow to the Russia investigation. We have a live report on what the students are doing and saying next.
[06:16:53] CAMEROTA: Students who survived the massacre at that Florida high school are slamming President Trump, and they're also calling out lawmakers who take donations from the NRA.
CNN's Rosa Flores is live in Parkland, Florida, with more. What's the latest there, Rosa?
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, good morning.
Well, there is so much pain and so much emotion here after this massacre that surviving students are taking that energy, and they're demanding gun control. And they're not afraid to call out politicians, even if that politician is the president of the United States.
HOGG: How dare you? Children are dying, and their blood is on your hands because of that. Please, take action.
FLORES (voice-over): Survivors of last week's high school massacre criticizing President Trump for his inaction on gun control and voicing their outrage over the President Trump's tweet blaming the FBI for missed signals about the killer because of the Russia investigation.
One student tweeting, "Seventeen of my classmates are gone. But you're right: it always has to be about you. How silly of me to forget. #NeverAgain."
Another writing, "You are the president of the United States, and you have the audacity to put this on Russia as an excuse? I guess I should expect that from you."
The FBI admitted Friday that it failed to act on a specific tip it received on January 5, when a person close to the killer told the bureau he was erratic, owned guns, had a desire to kill people, and was potentially capable of conducting a school shooting.
ROBERT LASKY, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: On behalf of myself and over 1,000 employees of the Miami field office, we truly regret any additional pain that this has caused. FLORES: The Parkland community laying their loved ones to rest.
Emotions running high, many students turning their grief into calls for action.
GONZALEZ: Politicians who sit in their gilded House and the Senate seats funded by the NRA, telling us nothing could have ever been done to prevent this, we call B.S.!
FLORES: The backlash comes as CNN also learns that an investigation from Florida's Department of Children and Families raised behavioral concerns about the killer in September of 2016, including that he was on Snapchat cutting both of his arms, had a Nazi symbol drawn on his backpack and wanted to purchase a gun for unknown reasons.
According to the report, the killer had been diagnosed with autism, ADHD and depression. And investigators questioned how frequently he was taking his medication. But a safety assessment ultimately determined the level of risk was low.
These documents also show that the killer was cited in over 40 disciplinary incidents at school, including fighting, profane language, assault, disruption and suspension, with many school officials advising further counseling and threat assessment referrals.
This new chilling surveillance video captures the confessed killer walking calmly down the street minutes after the attack.
The family that took in the killer telling the Sun-Sentinel, "We had this monster living under our roof, and we didn't know. Everything everybody seems to know, we didn't know."
[06:20:02] The Sneads say he followed every house rule but was depressed and took him to a therapist just five days before the shooting. They allowed him to keep firearms, including an AR-15, in the family's locked safe. But they thought they had the only key.
FLORES: Now, the president is expected to meet with state and local officials on Thursday. He's also expected to host a listening session with students on Wednesday. But at least two students have already told CNN they do not plan to attend.
Now Alisyn and Dave, the other thing that's expected to happen at the end of this week, and this is according to the Broward public schools, is that they're expected to allow teachers, staff, to go back into this school. So as you might imagine, not only are funerals happening and some of these victims being laid to rest, but some of the people who were inside when this massacre occurred are expected to go back inside -- Dave and Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: My gosh. I don't know how they're going to be able to do that. Rosa, thank you very much.
BRIGGS: It will be a difficult time. But they are passionate. They are determined. They are eloquent. We'll talk about those students in just a moment.
Let's bring in John Avlon again, and we're joined by a CNN law enforcement analyst, James Gagliano.
Jimmy, you spent 25 years at the bureau, a former special supervisory agent. If I'm a parent who lost a kid and I know that the tip went to the FBI that said this kid might shoot up a school, what happened and how do they explain that to those parents?
JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: And David, the three of us, you and I and Alisyn, were all down there in Florida. And the emotion, the pain, the grief, the sorrow was -- it was palpable. And on Friday afternoon, when the news came in that the FBI received a tip on what we call an actionable lead, it had not been followed up on. It was -- it was a veritable gut punch to us.
Those of us in law enforcement, on the job now and retired, we take these things -- this is our worst nightmare. And we take these things so seriously.
The call came in on January 5 on the public access line. And that's either an 800 number or an 888 number. It would come into a professional support employee, who would have been the first level of triage. They would have looked at it. Obviously, this had enough information in it that it should have been given to an agent. An agent or agent supervisor would have screened it and then sent it to an office of origin. Because this was Broward County, it would have gone to Miami office.
Somewhere along the way, whether it was human failure -- and the FBI's made up of 35,000 employees, they're fallible human beings -- or whether it was systems failure -- and systems are only as good as the humans who process then -- the FBI has got to get to the end of this.
I laud FBI Director Wray. He did the right thing getting out in front of this. It's painful. It's awful. Literally, my stomach right now is in knots, thinking about the parents that had to hear this on top of what had just happened. But we'll get to the bottom of this. There will be full transparency, and I trust that we can find a way to make sure an error like this never happens again.
CAMEROTA: I mean, in the FBI's defense, John, 2,100 calls a day come into that call center. So it's a call center. They deal with these calls. And they have to figure out which ones are legit, which ones to dispatch somebody from the field office on, which ones not to.
Sometimes the calls come in, and they're like, "I saw somebody at a 7- Eleven a week ago that kind of looked like somebody I saw in a wanted picture." But this one had real specifics and really scary specifics.
So obviously, something broke down at the call center. OK? We can figure that out.
But meanwhile, Governor Scott of Florida is calling for the FBI director, Chris Wray, to be fired over this. I mean, that is -- I don't know what adjective to use for how misplaced that is. AVLON: Often you hear Republicans say, "Let's not politicize a
tragedy in the resistance to talk about guns in the wake of these mass shootings." Rick Scott is politicizing a tragedy by calling for Rick [SIC] Wray -- Director Wray to step down. Pure and simple.
Look, this is a horrific moment for the country, for members of the FBI. Because somebody screwed up. The ball was dropped. There needs to be an inquest, and then there needs to be lessons learned. And it could be any number of things.
But pointing the finger at the FBI, as also the president did on Twitter, trying to say that this was -- oh, they were distracted from the Russia investigation. Thirty-five thousand members of the FBI are not distracted by the Russia investigation or, you know, questions on social behavior.
CAMEROTA: It has nothing to do with the call center.
AVLON: Nothing. So let's be clear about that.
The voices who have the most moral clarity and most moral authority on this are the kids who you interviewed so powerfully, David Hogg and the others, who are now calling for this March for Our Lives in March. Want to talk about when is it the right day to talk about gun control in America if it's not a day after a shooting, how about March 24? Let's have a conversation with the kids who were affected, because these kids can be powerful advocates for themselves.
CAMEROTA: They're future voters.
CAMEROTA: I mean, they are future voters. And they are taking the bull by the horns here. Everything that they're saying and what they plan to do.
AVLON: And over 100 -- there are 180 congressional districts that have had mass shootings take place. So there should be more political awareness and a sense of responsibility by Congress, if only for political, if not moral reasons, than we've seen. So let's see if they finally get off their butts and do something on this.
BRIGGS: Look, you've got to talk about Sandy Hook when this is discussed. Sandy Hook, children were slaughtered. We did nothing. Democrats were in control of the White House, the House, and the Senate, nothing.
[06:25:05] Vegas, no bump stock legislation. So you have to consider the past when discussing the president.
AVLON: You do. And a lot of folks look in the wake of Sandy Hook, and they say, "You know what? That just shows that we're impotent to do anything." But you know, this is the only nation in the world where this kind of thing happens.
The bump stock is particularly infuriating, because it was bipartisan in the wake of the largest mass shooting in Vegas. And then Congress waited until they thought the American people forgot, and you got crickets. Well, now maybe there's -- there's attention back on doing something.
CAMEROTA: It does feel like we're at a tipping point. I have to tell you, James.
BRIGGS: You've said that before.
CAMEROTA: I have, except that...
BRIGGS: Several times.
CAMEROTA: ... all of these kids are teenagers.
CAMEROTA: So unlike the tragedy at Sandy Hook, where they were little, little kids. Now there's teenagers, future voters. This is Florida, not a blue state.
BRIGGS: And it is gun country.
CAMEROTA: It's gun country. And despite all of that, these kids know what they want to do. And on March 24, when they have this national march, people will hear their voices even louder.
GAGLIANO: I think the era of fatalism is over, where people sit back and they go, "There's nothing we can do," and everybody retreats to their intransigent corners. The -- you know, folks struggle.
And listen, as I say all the time, I'm the perfect spokesperson for this, because I'm a veteran. I'm a former law enforcement officer. I'm a gun owner. I have a concealed carry permit. I'm a hunter. I'm the exact person that needs to step up and say we invented gun powder in 700 A.D. The first guns were mid-14th century invented. The -- 1791, the Second Amendment comes online. And were we are in 2018, and we're hanging onto this and we're going, "We just can't talk about this, because if we do that, we're somehow going to tick off the Founding Fathers."
The Founding Fathers could not envision that an 18-year-old kid could go into a gun store. He can't buy beer, but he could buy a semiautomatic weapon, and it's a weapon of war. Dave, we spoke about this as a weapon of war. "Oh, Jimmy, you're wrong." It's not fully automatic. It has a collapsible stock. It has a pistol grip. It has detachable magazines. We have to make sure that those kind of things don't fall into the hands of somebody like this.
BRIGGS: If there was one positive opening, it was Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma, gun country, saying he's open to some movement on background checks. That's certainly some major progress.
CAMEROTA: Yes. There's more.
BRIGGS: No snowflake. CAMEROTA: There's also a big Republican donor, a former RNC finance chair coming on our show. He has raised $600 million for Republican candidates, and he's not going to do it anymore unless they get on board. So we're going to talk about all that.
Gentlemen, thank you very much.
So CNN, we should tell you, is hosting a live townhall this Wednesday with students and parents from Parkland, Florida, as well as several lawmakers: "Stand Up: The Students of Stoneman Douglas Demand Action." This is going to air February 21 at 9 p.m. Eastern. Tune in for that.
BRIGGS: Should be great. Coming up, though, we'll talk with two student survivors who have been out front demanding action from lawmakers and the president.
CAMEROTA: On a lighter note, the USA women's hockey team cruising into the Olympic gold medal game. We have all the details in "The Bleacher Report" next.