Return to Transcripts main page


School Shooting Survivors Demand Tougher Gun Laws; Trump Lashes Out Over Russia Probe In Tweetstorm; Republican Congressman Comments on Background Checks for Gun Purchases. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired February 19, 2018 - 08:00   ET


JESSICA CORBETT, EX-WIFE OF FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPEECHWRITER DAVID SORENSON: He called me a very vulgar term that I think that most women in America would probably slap a stranger if she was called that word in a bar. He called me that. I slapped him. And he said, look, see, you're violent. Kind of smirked at me. I said, no one would call me that name in a bar, no stranger, definitely not my husband. If you call a woman that name, you should expect to be slapped. I told him that.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And you have said that.

CORBETT: And that is the extent of the physical violence. That's why I moved on.

CAMEROTA: You didn't punch him in the face has he says repeatedly. HE said, the way his story is that he was receiving constant punches in the face, multiple punches. Did that happen?

CORBETT: I can answer that and probably your next question in one thing. It said there were no witnesses or anyone who can verify my claim. "The Washington Post" did speak with a number of people who can verify my claims, but they did so off the record out of fear of political retribution. It's one of those reasons I sing from the rooftop this is why women cannot speak up.

About the punching on the face incident, I actually was on the phone with a friend a couple of days ago who that story isn't untrue, but it's a story that we heard secondhand from friends of ours. And like I said, this isn't about revenge and I'm not going to pull innocent parties' names in to this nasty debate on national television, but there are a lot twisted half-truths and very much -- just the way the truth is completely presented and twisted in that statement.

That's why I've been declining to respond to it because those are the manipulation and the lies that I had to spend three years escaping my marriage. And it was the hardest thing I ever did, and I've told every reporter very respectfully I'm only here to talk about relationship violence, how it happens, how it happens in front of our faces. Why women don't speak up. I don't have any interest in hashing out the salacious details of our divorce in the national press. So whatever he says, he says.

CAMEROTA: Understood, and we appreciate you coming on to highlight how complicated all of this is and how scary it is for people to come forward and talk about domestic violence, and of course we're all have this national conversation because now this happened twice in the White House. But Jessica Corbett, thank you for sharing your very personal story of your former marriage with us. Thank you.

CORBETT: Thank you for having me on.

CAMEROTA: We're following a lot of news this morning so let's get right to it.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your New Day. We're title in transitions right thousand. It's Monday, February 19th, 8:00 in the east. Chris is off this morning. Dave Briggs joins me.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Dave Briggs, Brigg, whatever. Dude in the suit. Good to see you.

CAMEROTA: You, too.

President Trump lashing out with a Twitter rant about the Russia investigation. The president claims once again there was no collusion after Robert Mueller's indictments against 13 Russian nationals who meddle in the 2016 election. The president falsely claims that he never challenged the fact that Russia meddled in the 2016 election despite the fact that he has repeatedly rejected the notion of Russian interference.

BRIGGS: The president also taking aim at the FBI, suggesting they were too distracted by the Russia probe to pursue a lead about the high school massacre killer that the bureau admits they failed to investigate. Survivors of the attack are slamming the president's response and ramping up pressure on Congress to do something about gun criminal.

We've got it all covered for you. Let's bring with Kaitlan Collins live in west palm beach, Florida. Good morning.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Good morning, Dave. It was a weekend full of tweeting for the president here in West Palm Beach as he spent most of his time indoors after aides advised him that it would be in poor taste to go golfing so soon and so close to that tragic shooting in parkland, Florida. But instead we got to watch in real time as the president's rage only intensified over this growing Russia probe.


COLLINS: 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 are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. The charge prompting criticism from a number of Republicans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's an absurd statement, OK. Absurd. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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 adviser, 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 ADVISER: As you can see with the FBI indictment the evidence is now really incontrovertible.

COLLINS: Mr. Trump publicly scolding McMaster, saying he forgot so 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 to prevent them from interfering in future elections.

The president asserting that the Russia probe 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 Democratic 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 weakened monster of no control.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNICATIONS: This is a president who claims vindication any time someone sneezes. I've said all along that I've 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.


COLLINS: Now the president heads back to Washington this afternoon with a stunning 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 also expected to plead guilty to fraud related charges within days, Dave and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Kaitlan, thank you very much for all of that. Let's discuss everything. We want to bring in CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd and CNN political analyst Jonathan Martin.

OK, so let's talk about the president saying that he never said, Jonathan, that -- I don't even know where to begin. He said that as you know many times that he doesn't believe there was any Russian meddling. He's called it a hoax.

BRIGGS: A witch hunt.

CAMEROTA: A witch hunt, et cetera. But now he's saying that he never actually said that, but so let's just remind people for the record that we have him on videotape saying that. Here it is.


DONALD TRUMP, 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.

I know a lot about hacking, and hacking is a very hard thing to prove, so it could be somebody else.

When I said there is 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.


CAMEROTA: That last one, the "he" he's talking about is Vladimir Putin. He was believing Vladimir Putin's denial over his own intel agency.

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And don't forget, guys, the famous tweet where he floated the joint cyber intelligence unit with Putin, with Russia. Yes, yes exactly.

I think for two plus years now during the campaign up through now, the president has basically tried to run as something of a dove on Russia. He has not been the traditional conservative hawk toward Russia. He wanted to get along with Putin. He said it time and time again over the last two years. So that's why he sounded these notes over and over again because he wanted to have a good relationship with Putin.

CAMEROTA: He also didn't want any suggestion that he had had any help in winning. He wanted that win to be completely his. And he really bristled at any suggestion that he had help. But in this indictment it does go further than we had known where it says that all of these fake Facebook posts and social media accounts did stir up all of these messages that did end up resonating with voters.

MARTIN: Yes, that's absolutely true. The fact is he's very sensitive to this day about these questions. The reason why he has not challenged Putin and made a tough statement about what they did during our election is because he believes if he does so, that that will basically echo the suggestion that his win was ill legitimate.

But you're absolutely right, Alisyn. The fact is reading this indictment, the Russians tried to suppress Hillary Clinton's vote especially with black voters by, a, advocating for Jill Stein who you guys recall was the Green Party nominee who took crucial votes in a handful of states that otherwise would have gone to a Democrat, and secondly by urging folks to stay at home all together which, by the way, which was as important as the Stein vote, the folks who didn't show up to vote at all in 2016.

BRIGGS: Jill Stein, by the way, one who sat at the same table at Vladimir Putin and Michael Flynn and many people on Twitter pointed that out.

But Phil Mudd, the president has tweeted 12 times since this indictment came out. Again, no pushback to Russia. What would you like to have seen from your president with proof, irrefutable proof that we were attacked, that our election system, that our democracy was attacked?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: The president has a responsibility not to protect himself but to protect us. He seems to believe that if something impugns his victory, something impugns his character, for example, suggestions that his campaign cooperated with the Russians, than that's more important than protecting us.

I'd like to see one comment and three actions. The comment, as commander-in-chief of this country my primary responsibility is protecting the American people. I will do a few things, at least three things to accomplish that. I will speak to the American people in advance of 2018 and 2020 elections to tell them how to protect themselves. Number two, I will speak bluntly to the Russians to tell them to stop this and I'll speak to Congress to figure out how to be tougher on the Russians. And point three, I will tell my national security adviser to bring everybody from the CIA to the FBI to the Federal Election Commission in to figure out how with we have a one government approach to protecting polling stations during elections. It's not that hard, Dave. It's just not that hard.

BRIGGS: It shouldn't be.

CAMEROTA: Phil, I want to get to what happened in Parkland, Florida, because obviously everybody still dealing with the very raw aftermath there. We now know that the FBI -- a lot of people missed things. So the signals were abundant about this guy, and the FBI, we now learned that a very specific call came in to a call center that said that this kid was at risk for becoming a school shooter, that he had stated that he wanted to become a school shooter. And so there was some disconnect between the call center that gets 2,100 calls a day, we should say, and the Miami field office that could have dispatched somebody to go and interview this kid or arrest him or something. What do you think about the FBI's role?

MUDD: I've talked to FBI officials after that, people who are out of the business like I am now, and police officers. This is a rare moment on New Day. I don't have an answer and my friends don't have an answer. If you look at what you might do as an initial step, for example, the quick check to determine whether this guy was already in the FBI records, he was. This is his second phone call. You could've quickly checked social media to say is he posting stuff about violence? He was. I'm not suggesting you had to go to the lengths to listen to his phone calls. The stuff was out there.

That said, Alisyn, we're not taking the next step, and this is why this conversation has to be broader than the FBI and why I blame the Congress for saying they're going to have hearings of the FBI. That should be part of it. But the second part, if the FBI visits his house and he says I was just ticked off that day, I'm sorry I didn't mean it, what are they supposed to do?

CAMEROTA: I don't know.

MUDD: This is a conversation about the FBI, about mental health. That's what I'm saying. The hearing should be on how do we prevent 17 American citizens, 17 human beings from dying. And I think some politicians are viewing this as a parachute out to focus on the FBI instead of saying that's part of a broader problem in America.

MARTIN: It's a fascinating political moment, here, if I could, because typically the GOP has tried to establish itself as the party of the cops. We stand with the cops. The Democrats are the ones who criticize --

BRIGGS: The president said he's the president of law and order.

MARTIN: Exactly, but this is squeezing the right because it's creating tensions between their twin impulses. One impulse is to always stand up for the cops. The other impulse we push back against any gun control laws whatsoever. And so when you do that, though, you have to look for an excuse for why this is happening besides guns, and the excuse now is blaming it on the cops. And that creates some tensions wen their impulses of how to respond to this kind of stuff.

BRIGGS: On gun legislation it appears this conversations being led by children, by these kids at this school who are passionate, who are eloquent, who are determined to do something. There was some glimmer of hope Sunday on "Meet the Press" when James Lankford, senator from Oklahoma, said this about gun control. Listen.


SEN. JAMES LANKFORD, (R) OKLAHOMA: That is the first thing of multiple things that need to be done. That is fixing our background check system to make sure that all information's actually getting in there. We have a lot of warning signs that were out there and people in Parkland and all across the country have every reason to be grieved and incredibly furious. Social Services was in this home more than 20 times, expelled from school, posted online, went into a school shooting, warned the FBI. This person was dangerous and nothing was done.


BRIGGS: All right, so is there some hope on background checks?

MARTIN: Yes. I think it's reasonable to think that if you've got the comments like that from a conservative from Oklahoma, certainly a red state, that you could see some changes made to background checks. But I think it's going to be incremental probably at best. It's going to be the kind of thing that you can find bipartisan consensus. This is a Congress that can't find much agreement on anything at all and this is a very contentious issue. So I'm not hopeful that there will be that broad a scope, but I think it's possible to do background checks.


Look, I think the issue is this, is that these episodes in the past have happened and weeks after there is a push to pass some kind of law. As time goes on that kind of fades and the question, once again is, does this energy from these kids keep up a month from now, two months from now?

CAMEROTA: We do know that it will keep up until March 24th because that's when they're planning to march on Washington and last, Phil, it's just the president is saying a couple different things. He's sort of saying that the FBI was too consumed with the Russia investigation to focus on what they need to be focused on.

We also hear from according to NPR and Fox that the president would support an expanded background checks if this bipartisan bill happens. So, 10 seconds, Phil, very quickly your final thoughts.

MUDD: I do think there will be incremental progress. I don't think it will be huge. As for what the president says, this was not a report on the campaign. It was a report on 13 Russians and a few entities. This party is not over yet.

CAMEROTA: OK. Phil, Jonathan, thank you both very much.

BRIGGS: President Trump has yet to say how his administration is combatting any future threats of election meddling from Russia. Does the president take it seriously enough? We discuss with Republican Congressman Charlie Dent next.



BRIGGS: Survivors of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Highschool are demanding action on gun control from President Trump and Congress. Joining us now Republican Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania who is retiring from Congress and a member of the House Committee of Appropriations. Good to see you, Congressman.

REP. CHARLIE DENT, R-PA.: Great to be with you this morning.

BRIGGS: We've been down this road before, haven't we? Sandy Hook was an astonishing attack on children and we were certain that there would be something done on background checks, on assault weapons, something, anything.

Then came Vegas, bump stock was a slam dunk. There was universal agreement that these had to be banned. Why do you feel this time could be any different? Why should the American people believe that?

DENT: Dave, I do believe people are -- I think they've had enough of this. Look, we saw Las Vegas earlier this year. We all learned about something called the bump stock. I had never known what a bump stock was prior to Las Vegas.

Well, I do now, and I support the legislation to ban the bump stock. Certainly, we need to enhance background checks on private sales. That was the so-called Toomey-Manchin proposal.

Senator Cornyn has a proposal that would also further refine the instant check system to make sure that more data is being inputted into the system. We also have had proposals too from Senator Collins on the no-fly list making sure that any person on that list shouldn't be able to purchase a firearm with due process, right?

So, there are things we can do and should do. I'm not saying any of these proposals by themselves would have prevented any of these terrible attacks, but they're good policy.

BRIGGS: If you could pull back the curtain a little bit and just share with us, what happens, how does this fail each and every time? Is it as simple as saying the NRA is just too powerful and people can't say no to their donations?

DENT: I don't think so. By the way, I think the issue with the NRA is the NRA's real power is in their members more than money. That's been my view. They have lots of members all around the country and that's what makes them pretty strong but that said, I can't speak as to why leadership does not want to permit a vote on this in the House.

I felt for some time that I've been advocating for this ban on the bump stocks and certainly enhancing background checks for private sales like he we do in Pennsylvania. By the way, Pennsylvania is a pretty pro-gun right state. We do background checks on private sales of pistols.

We've been doing it for 20 years and we did it under a Republican governor. When I was in the legislature, we voted for it. We were able at that time to bring together the NRA and gun control groups and law enforcement to agree.

Today in Washington, it's hard to do -- it's getting increasingly difficult to do incremental bipartisan changes on controversial issues. It shouldn't be this difficult.

BRIGGS: You bring up a good point about the NRA and people in Pennsylvania. There are millions of Americans who are responsible and educated gun owners that do not want these weapons, these assault weapons in the hands of 18, 19-year-old kids.

But let's talk about the expanded background checks because James Lankford on "Meet The Press" yesterday says he is open to more work on expanded background checks and we can confirm the president himself is in favor of that. Are you at all optimistic on some work of expanded background checks?

DENT: Well, Dave, I certainly hope so. I think most of us have a good idea what the policy should be, again, background checks on private sales that we could also talk about making sure that after the one Texas shooting with that one individual had been -- he had been convicted, I guess, in the military court of justice, the Air Force.

But that information wasn't transmitted to the system, and on the mental health side too, let's be honest, sometimes mental health care practitioners are reluctant to share information with the database out of fear of lawsuit under HIPAA. So, there are things that we can do to tighten this system up and it's long past due.

BRIGGS: Yes. I'm curious your thoughts real quickly on this AR-15 style rifle. Should 18-year-old kids be able to purchase those across this country, 27 states allow it?

DENT: I guess, the issue is handgun purchases are 21 and long guns are 18. Maybe we ought to revisit that law, maybe we ought to make that consistent. Make everybody -- make all purchases 21 years of age as opposed to 18 or at least for those types of semi-automatics. Maybe a 12-gauge shotgun, an 18-year-old could buy one but maybe not the AR-15.

BRIGGS: All right. Quickly, I want to get your thoughts on the Russia investigation, this 36-page indictment, which came down on Friday indicting 13 Russian nationals, three Russian entities, the president has been very busy reacting to that 12 tweets just about this indictment. But none pushing back on Russia, none suggesting how we might punish them or prevent it from happening again in 2018. What do you make of his reaction?

[09:25:10] DENT: Well, look, the Russians meddling in our election is well-known. We've known this for over a year. They've interfered -- I mean, there's a debate as to how much -- we don't have any evidence the Russia's actually manipulated any kind of tabulation of votes.

But clearly, they've been involved. I think the president has been very soft on Russia. His rhetoric, he's been very accommodating to Vladimir Putin when he should be much more forceful and direct in denouncing Russia as a nation that wants to undermine American power and influence anywhere in the world.

It's trying to break up NATO, undermine the European Union, and they're acting in directly in opposite of what our interests are around the world, and I believe it's time that this administration step-up and start fighting fire with fire.

We can engage in cyber information warfare too. Maybe we should be sharing with the Russian people the corrupt nature of the Russian regime and how they've all profited. We should be playing much more aggressively in this space. So, I can't understand why the president seems to be at a different place than many of his national security team who are much more conventional in their view toward Russia as a threat.

BRIGGS: So, what can and will Congress do to make sure the president implements these sanctions, new sanctions to punish Russia?

DENT: That's a tough question. I was one of the folks who have been strongly supportive of these greater sanctions against the Russians for their very bad behavior. Right now, I believe it's really on the president, it's on the president to stand up and call out the Russians once and for all, and say we are going to respond in kind.

That's what Vladimir Putin understands. That man sees an open door and he will just walk through it and he continue to walk through those open doors. So, I can't for the life of me understand why the president is so reluctant to pushback much harder on the Russians.

It seems like his team, his national security team, is more than ready to do so. The president needs to unleash them.

DENT: Well, Chuck Grassley has said something similar on Twitter. Hopefully, there are more voices like yours in Congress. Charlie Dent, we appreciate you being here. Congressman, thank you.

DENT: Thanks, Dave. Great to be with you.

CAMEROTA: OK, so Dave, more on that, what concrete steps will lawmakers in Florida take on gun violence? Next, very important segment. We have two Florida Congressman, one Democrat and one Republican, is there any common ground they can find? We find out next.