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School Shooting Survivors Demand Tougher Gun Laws; Trump Lashes Out Over Russia Probe. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired February 19, 2018 - 07:00   ET

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


GONZALEZ: -- is being torn down. But the school, the rest of the school is staying up. And as soon as we can, we are going to go back into the school. As soon as they say, "School is on Monday," I'm going to be there, I'm pretty sure. Unless I have interviews or -- unless we have interviews or somewhere to be, we are going to be at school...

[07:00:22] HOGG: We need to stand with the students.

GONZALEZ: ... with the people who need us. We need to stand with our peers. We haven't had time to stand with our peers through all of this. We've been working so hard.

CAMEROTA: Hey, David, obviously, everybody remembers when we first interviewed you on Thursday morning, and you were so plainspoken and so vocal and so strong. How are you guys doing emotionally? I mean, I know you're galvanized by this, but emotionally, how are you?

HOGG: For me, it's been absolutely exhausting. On those first three nights I only got two hours of sleep. And then I got four hours, and last night I got five. But that's only because I couldn't miss an interview that I had at 1 in the morning in England.

And it's just been absolutely exhausting, but it's still nothing compared to what these parents are having to go through right now. And I think the -- that's what people really need to focus on, is these 17 individuals. If Emma and I couldn't exist, if we could just be nobody still, that's how I'd prefer it. I want everybody to be doing this on their own, without any of us saying this. But sadly, we have to stand up and take charge, because nobody else will. Because our elected officials certainly won't.

CAMEROTA: David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez, we appreciate you keeping your foot on the gas and we appreciate you being available to us. Marco Rubio -- Senator Marco Rubio has declined our request to come on.

HOGG: Of course.

CAMEROTA: Best of luck, guys. We'll check back with you.

As we mentioned, CNN is hosting this live town hall this Wednesday with these students -- you'll see them again -- and their parents from Parkland, Florida, as well as several lawmakers. It's called "Stand Up: The Students of Stoneman Douglas Demand Action." It's going to air Wednesday at 9 p.m. Eastern. Do not miss it. All right. Thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you

CNN NEWSROOM is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.

All right. Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Chris is off this morning. Dave Briggs joins me.

Great to have you here.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Good to see you, my friend.

CAMEROTA: We have a busy morning. President Trump lashing out in a tweet storm about the Russia investigation. The president claims once again 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 falsely claims that he 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 killer. The bureau admits they failed to investigate.

Survivors of the attack are slamming the president's response and intensifying their calls for him to do something about gun control.

We have it all covered for you, begin with CNN's Kaitlan Collins live in West Palm Beach. Good morning, Kaitlan.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave, good morning.

It was a weekend full of tweeting in West Palm Beach as he stayed indoors and off of the golf course after aides determined it was too close and too soon to that tragic school shooting in Parkland for the president to go golfing.

But instead, we got to watch in real-time as his anger grew over that intensifying Russia probe.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: 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.

H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: 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.

[07:05:12] 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: This is a president who claims vindication any time someone sneezes. I've 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, Dave and Alisyn, the president is heading back to Washington this afternoon to the headline from "The L.A. Times" that that former campaign aide, Rick Gates, has agreed to testify against the former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and is expected to plead guilty to fraud-related charges within days.

CAMEROTA: OK, Kaitlan, thank you very much for all of that reporting.

Let's get to our guests. We have CNN political commentator Michael Smerconish and CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin. He worked as a special assistant to Robert Mueller at the Department of Justice.

It's great to have both of you here, to get your perspectives on this.

So just in case anybody's forgotten that the -- how many times the president has denied that he's denied Russian meddling, since he's saying that he didn't, we do have some videotape. This is why videotape is so handy. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But I notice any time anything wrong happens, they like to say, "The Russians" -- she doesn't know if it's the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking.

And I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else.

What I said there is that I believe he believes that. And that's very important for somebody to believe. I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Hey, Michael, the last -- Smerconish, that last one was the president basically saying he believes Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence agencies. So where are we today?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the most troublesome aspect about his denials of this situation and his failure to accept the findings, or at least the allegations, of the Mueller indictment, is that it means that, at the most senior level, the commander in chief of our government is not combatting nor retaliating. I mean, Congress passed that sanctions bill against the Russians, and he refused to embrace it. So that's what troubles me most.

How are we protecting ourselves against whatever's to come in the midterm election this cycle or in the 2020 reelection, presumably, if he runs again? Seemingly, we're not defending ourselves.

BRIGGS: Michael Zeldin, there were a dozen tweets from the president. We only have two hours left in the program, so we won't read them all. But to Michael Smerconish's point, there was something missing. So what are the implications of the fact that there appears to be no punishment, no pushback against Russia for interfering in our democracy?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, so these are political questions which I try, as best as I can, to steer clear of. I can say that what he is saying in these tweets has no bearing on his legal standing and are irrelevant to what Mueller is investigating.

Mueller is inquiring as to whether or not there was a counterintelligence inquiry against the United States, and we see that in the indictment, that he feels that there was.

He's inquiring whether there was collusion, whether there was obstruction of justice and where there was connections between Trump and Russians as they attempted to interfere with the election. All that is ongoing and quite irrespective of what the president had to say on his Twitter feed.

CAMEROTA: Hey, Michael, back here at home there is a suggestion that Rick Gates, who was the deputy campaign manager, will be pleading guilty and thereby cooperating with Mueller to offer up what he knows about money laundering, what happened with money from Ukraine, what Paul Manafort, the campaign manager, was up to.

And so even that -- I mean, then he -- you know, as we know, he joins the guilty pleas of Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI, George Papadopoulos. So back here at home, you know, it's interesting that 13 Russians were indicted. But a lot's happening here, too.

ZELDIN: Exactly right. And the Gates plea, if it occurs, will be to it looks like, count one of the indictment, which is a conspiracy to defraud the United States Department of Justice and Department of Treasury by failing to register as a foreign agent and failing to declare foreign bank accounts. It's not completely tethered to the Russia counterintelligence aspect of the Mueller investigation. But it puts additional pressure on Manafort to make a decision about whether he's going to go to trial or himself cooperate.

[07:10:12] I think that Mueller would like Manafort to plead and cooperate. We see the other day, I think it was Friday into this past week, Mueller filed more information with the court about Manafort perhaps engaging in mortgage fraud. So the pressure on Manafort is growing.

And I think that that's purposeful on Mueller's part, because Manafort may hold a lot of keys to the information that Mueller wants as to whether or not there was collusion between the Trump campaign and foreign nationals.

CAMEROTA: Yes. That's interesting. Clearly, that and what's in these 36 pages, they matter, Michael Smerconish.

But when I talk to people right now, they're talking about gun control. They're talking about background checks. They're talking about the lack of action in the light of what happened in Parkland, Florida.

You hear from Americans each and every day on your program. What are they saying? What are they calling for?

SMERCONISH: Well, they're saying and they're calling for the same things that they did in the aftermath of Sandy Hook. And the question is whether this is going to last. I mean, the fact that that rally is scheduled for March 24 means that people will be galvanized at least for an additional month.

I think, like many not only around the country but around the globe, I'm just mesmerized by those students, including the two that you just had on, who speak with more poise and more conviction than most elected officials.

So the intangible "X" the unknown this time is whether there will be some movement begun by the youngest voices that gives sustenance to the adults that they've not had up until now. That's the intangible. That's what I want to see.

CAMEROTA: But Michael Smerconish, does it feel different to you this time? Because it does to me. I mean, the idea that they were in Florida, the idea that this is a gun culture, obviously, in Florida in a way that it isn't in Connecticut. You know, this is a geographical...

BRIGGS: Not in Parkland, Florida. That's not gun country. The state might be.

CAMEROTA: Sort of.

BRIGGS: We were both there last week.

CAMEROTA: We were. But I guess my point is...

BRIGGS: Affluent, highly educated. Not true gun country there. Just to clarify.

CAMEROTA: OK. Except that they have, I think, a different attitude towards guns than they do in Connecticut.

BRIGGS: Exactly.

CAMEROTA: Even the surrogate family that took this shooter in, they were gun owners. They allowed him to keep his gun, because it was locked up. That's how you do it if you're a responsible gun owner. They didn't know that he had had a key made.

And so I don't know. Somehow the fact that these kids are so vocal and speaking out, does it feel different to you, Michael Smerconish?

SMERCONISH: It does feel different to me. And something that I think that is potentially game changing about this tragedy is the failure of what I'll describe as data integration. And you've been reporting on so much of this.

The bail bondsman who last January made that initial phone call, a Nexus search says there were only 22 individuals with the same name as this shooter. Couldn't they run down the 22?

CNN reporting that 39 times law enforcement responded to that address. The investigation by the local child services organization. There were so many aspects, Alisyn, of this case being troublesome in the Ethernet that it just begs for, in a Google, Amazon, Facebook world in which we live, the ability to tie it all together and give law enforcement the tools that they need to do their job. That's not a Second Amendment issue. You know, that's just working smart, not working hard.

BRIGGS: Yes, and it's difficult for people to understand that we can track down Russian interference in our election...

SMERCONISH: Right.

BRIGGS: ... but we can't follow up on simple tips.

SMERCONISH: Exactly.

BRIGGS: If you're a parent and you lost a loved one there, you must be struggling with that.

The president had his take on how these two things overlap. Here's a tweet: "Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable." That is true. "They are sending -- spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. No collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud."

Michael Zeldin, do those two things have anything to do with one another?

ZELDIN: One would hope not. And my experience as a decade-long federal prosecutor is that the FBI has enough competence to do both things at the same time.

What happened here in this case has to be inquired of. We don't know why that tip wasn't followed up on yet. But it's not because the resources of the FBI were diverted to Russia.

If it is, in fact, true that the Russian investigation is drawing out additional resources put a budget in to get more resources to the FBI. It is not connected in that respect.

And I have to say one thing. I don't like to talk about politics, but the one law that I would change if I were trying to get gun control...

CAMEROTA: Yes.

ZELDIN: ... is campaign finance law. I would change law so that these politicians aren't so tethered to the need for money so that they could actually take principled stands on issues, which I think a lot of these guys privately feel but just can't break away from the milk of their livelihood, which is raising money.

[07:15:16] BRIGGS: It's not just the NRA. It is their constituents. It is a passionate issue for people across this country that vote -- some people vote exclusively on gun rights. We need to keep that as part of the conversation. It's not just merely the FBI -- not merely the NRA, excuse me.

CAMEROTA: Fair enough. I mean, obviously, this is...

ZELDIN: I didn't say -- I didn't say it was the NRA.

BRIGGS: No. I know you did not.

ZELDIN: That -- that principles get interfered with when money is the lifeblood of your life as a politician.

CAMEROTA: True statement. Michael Zeldin, Michael Smerconish, thank you both very much for the perspective.

BRIGGS: All right. The survivors of that high school massacre are turning their grief and anger into calls for action on gun control. What will Congress and the president do?

CNN's Rosa Flores live in Parkland, Florida, with more. Good morning, Rosa.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave.

There is so much passion. There is so much pain here in this community that student survivors are taking that energy and they're demanding gun control. They want a ban on the type of weapon that was used to kill 17 people here, and they also are calling for a ban on high-capacity magazines that increase carnage. And they are not afraid to call out politicians who are funded by the NRA, even if that politician is the president of the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID HOGG, STUDENT SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: 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'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.

EMMA GONZALEZ, STUDENT SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: 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."

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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FLORES: As we take a live look here in Parkland, you can see that there is a memorial that continues to grow. The street here in front of the school was opened yesterday. And that's why people have been able to come and pay their respects.

We've learned from the Broward County Public Schools that they are expecting staff to come back into this building at the end of the week.

Alisyn, you can only imagine how emotional that's going to be for those staff and those teachers to come back to the site of this massacre.

And Rosa, we just heard from the students who say that it's going to be very emotional, obviously, for them, as well. But they are determined to march in there as soon as school opens, because they won't be stopped by the violence, and they now feel they have a purpose for all of this.

[07:20:10] Rosa, thank you very much for all of the reporting from down there. So you just heard those students, those two students we had on,

calling for change. What will Congress do? We ask a Democratic congressman about the plan, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAMERON KASKY, STUDENT SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: It's not our job to tell you, Senator Rubio, how to protect us. The fact that we even have to do this is appalling. Our job is to go to school, learn and not take a bullet. You need to figure this out. That's why you were, unfortunately, elected. Your job is to protect us. And our blood is on your hands.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Those are just some of the students who survived that school massacre in Parkland, Florida. They're demanding change, and they're taking their message to Washington, D.C., on March 24 for what they hope will be a giant protest and march of students fed up with school shootings.

Joining us now to discuss that and what Congress can do is Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut.

Good morning, Congressman.

[07:25:03] REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Good morning, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: So listen, I mean, the students couldn't say it any better. But when you hear what Senator Rubio said right, I mean, in the hours after this school shooting, he said basically -- well, I'll just let -- I'll just let him say it. I won't even quote it. Here's what he said right after that on Thursday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: If someone has decided, "I'm going to commit this crime," they'll find a way to get the gun to do it. That doesn't mean you shouldn't have is a law that makes it harder. It just means understand, to be honest, it isn't going to stop this from happening. You could still pass the law, per se, but you're still going to have these horrible attacks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: He thinks that a law wouldn't stop it from happening. What do you say to that?

HIMES: Well, I mean, it's just one of the many absurdities we hear from those people like Marco Rubio, like the speaker of the House, who was in Florida last week and didn't bother to stop by and hear from people who suffered this tragedy. It's one of the many, many absurdities. I mean, think about the point: well, OK, just because people are going to commit murder or just because they're going to, you know, commit larceny, gosh, that we shouldn't pass those laws. Of course we should.

And Alisyn, what makes -- what makes this particularly tragic is that there's things that we could do that have, you know, three-quarters to 90 percent of the American public behind them, things like universal background checks. Just making sure you can't buy a gun unless you've had a check. Making sure that nobody has access to a 20-round magazine. I could go on and on and on.

But the point is, for guys like Marco Rubio, it's muscle memory. Because they know that if they change their tune, that they will have to deal with the NRA.

And that's why, you know, young men like Cameron, who just spoke on your air, make me feel so good. You know, young people now standing up and joining adults who have been banging this drum for a very long time. I don't know if it's going to make a difference. But Congress is a very, very hard place. But getting more people involved will eventually force people out of sheer shame like Marco Rubio to start addressing this issue.

CAMEROTA: And listen, I mean, obviously, this is a very emotional issue. But if you put the emotions aside somehow, if you can, the facts don't support what Marco Rubio was saying.

Look at Connecticut. I mean, after Connecticut -- I don't have to tell you, that's your state -- after Newtown, everybody thought things would change. Congress couldn't figure out how to do it. So your state of Connecticut did it on its own. And when they passed more strict gun laws, gun deaths went down in Connecticut. There's a direct correlation. Why don't -- why don't some senators realize that?

HIMES: Well, the facts are incontrovertible here. And I mean, there's just example after example.

You know, in the 1990s when there was a brutal mass killing in Australia, you know, Australia passed laws that made it much harder to get your hands on weapons of war like the AR-15, which was used in this and so many other school killings. And they haven't had any other since then, since the mid-'90s have they had this sort of thing in Australia.

So the problem is people like Marco Rubio, and Speaker Ryan, and sad to say, most Republicans in Congress, and to be fair, a few Democrats, they can't allow the conversation to go to facts. This why the NRA puts up videos to try to scare Americans. They go to emotions; they go to fear. You know, people want to take away your guns.

Nobody wants to take away people's guns. We just don't want to be any different than Canada, or Australia, or Great Britain where you can get guns; you just get checked out. You can't get weapons of war. They have reasonable, yes, mental health systems that allow for the identification of people like the shooter at -- in Sandy Hook or this individual in Florida. There is a lot that we could do that would bring this to a close.

The problem is that people like Marco Rubio and Speaker Ryan will not allow that conversation to happen, because it will cut off the flow of money from the NRA and groups like it that are funding these guys to -- precisely to stop any meaningful change on gun safety.

CAMEROTA: Well, look, the president and lots of other people say that Democrats do bear some responsibility here. Here's his tweet from this weekend. He says, "Just like they don't want to solve DACA problem, why didn't the Democrats pass gun control legislation when they had both the House and the Senate during the Obama administration? Because they didn't want to, and now they just talk."

So Democrats had their chance.

HIMES: Well, you know, like so many of Donald Trump's tweets, that is unbalanced, inaccurate and nearly insane.

The reason the Democrats weren't able to pass gun control when they did, in fact, in 2009, 2010 control the Congress, was that Mitch McConnell, Republican leader of the Senate, led a filibuster. And as we all know, you need 60 votes in the Senate to pass anything. Mitch McConnell, despite there being more than a majority of the Senate willing to support a bipartisan bill on gun safety, Mitch McConnell led a filibuster against a piece of legislation that was supported by some 90 percent of Americans.

So nice try, Mr. President, but as usual, you've really got to put the phone down.

CAMEROTA: Very quickly, there is this bipartisan effort now in Congress for expanded background checks: Chris Murphy, John Cornyn. Do you have a sense that this will go anywhere?

HIMES: Well, I've got to tell you, Alisyn, I hate to say it in the face of the activism and the optimism of the young people in Florida today but, no, I have zero confidence it will -- that this will go anywhere.