Return to Transcripts main page


Pres. Trump Tweets: "We Must Now Focus On Strengthening Background Checks"; School Shooting Survivors Demand Action On Gun Control; White House Falsely Claims Pres. Trump Didn't Use Florida Massacre To Attack Mueller Probe; NY Times: Jared Kushner In Struggle With John Kelly Over Kushner's Access To Classified Information. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 20, 2018 - 21:00   ET



[21:00:27] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to the second hour of 360. At the end of a truly remarkable day that saws (ph) David Gergen said in our last hour, children acting like adults and adults acting like children.

On the table tonight, Gunning For Change, the students not children but young adults who are pushing lawmakers to making safer even as funerals for their classmates go on.

Also tonight, the president says he's been tougher on Russia than President Obama. We'll put that to the test.

And more on this president's obsession with the last one on the effect it's having on ho he governs. We begin thought with guns, kids, and new tweets from the president on the issue. CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins us now from the White House.

So Jeff, this was the first White House briefing since the shooting in Parkland. Talk about what we learned and some of the messaging from the White House on this.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it was the first briefing and certainly it was not long enough to answer all the questions that are still hanging over the White House tonight.

First and foremost, remember the tweet that the president made over the weekend essentially blaming the FBI for focusing too much the Russia investigation to miss the warning signs in Florida. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tried walking that back. She said, look, this was the act of a deranged individual, in her words, and she said the president essentially didn't mean that. But she went on to say that the FBI's attention on what she called a hoax, the Russian collusion situation, has dominated their time. But then she went on to say in greater words than the president has that Russia did, indeed, meddle in the election. But it was a split screen conversation, still talking about guns as well. And that's what the president addressed from the east room of the White House shortly after the White House press briefing. Let's watch.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A few moments ago, I signed a memorandum directing the attorney general to propose regulations to ban all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns.


ZELENY: So we heard the president there really somewhat of a surprise. The White House had not telegraphed that. Of course, this is something that has coming from the Las Vegas shooting back on October of last year. The White House had not talked about banning bump stocks really at all since then. They are now putting this back in the news, clearly, the White House wanting to be part of this conversation on guns. So you heard the president there signing a directive. Unclear exactly, though, what that will do. We're not talking about new laws here, just existing laws, Anderson.

COOPER: And the president is weighing in again I'm told later tonight on Twitter about background checks. What's he saying?

ZELENY: He is, indeed. Another sign the president has -- as we were talking about over the weekend and yesterday, has been effectively, at least, paying attention closely to that Florida shooting. He was talking about how it's everyone's responsibility here to do something on guns. This is what he said a short time ago on social media. He said this, "Whether we are Republican or Democrat, we must now focus on strengthening background checks."

So this sounds a little bit like the Donald Trump of yesterday when he, you know, was for strong background checks before he announced he was running for president. Do you remember back in 2000 when he was running for the Reform Party or thinking about running as a Reform Party candidate? He was for gun control. Of course, all that has been changed when he was running for president in 2016, strongly supported by the NRA. He essentially rev erased all these positions, but it's clear the president wants to at least have a conversation or be engaged in this conversation on guns. Less clear if he'll actually lead his party to something here.

The House and the Senate are out this week, so the president is sort of alone in these conversations. But keep an eye on that, because advisers say that they're even surprised by how interested he seems in doing something on this. Again, tomorrow here he'll be talking to some students here at the White House, some other school leaders as well.


ZELENY: So the new person in this equation is the president. We'll see if he leads on this, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Jeff Zeleny, thanks. As the president at least alluded to tonight, preventing another mass shooting is obviously not just a federal responsibility, states make gun laws. And today, with a grief still raw, Parkland students went to Florida state capital where they watch some through fresh tears, as the State House defeated a measure to ban the sale weapons like the one that took 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Other classmates like Sophie Whitney are on their way to Tallahassee right now and she joins me from the route. Sophie, are you on the bus right now heading down there?

SOFIE WHITNEY, STONEMAN DOUGLAS STUDENT: Yes, we're on a bus. We're about an hour away.

COOPER: When you heard today that the Florida House voted not to consider a bill to ban assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, I'm wondering what went through your mind because I know you haven't even got into the state capital yet, clearly, there's an up-hill battle ahead of you.

[21:05:04] WHITNEY: To be frank, we're all super pissed about that and don't think that we're not going to address it tomorrow. We have all the meetings with them.

COOPER: Did it surprise you? I mean, it was pretty overwhelming vote, I don't have the numbers in the front of me, but it was overwhelming vote not to proceed on this.

WHITNEY: I don't even know how that's possible considering this happened in their own state, and there are kids that are dead from their own state, along with kids that were there from our school, and they just -- they don't care.

COOPER: Governor Rick Scott, obviously the governor of the floor, held what he called an emergency meeting tonight to find solutions to protect students and said that he would put forth a gun policy proposal on Friday, "To move the needle forward." Do you buy that? Does that give you any kind of hope?

WHITNEY: I'll have hope from the governor when I hear it myself and when he actually takes some action on it. Because he may have an a- plus rating from the NRA but he does not have an a-plus rating from us.

COOPER: Yes, the vote was 36-71 today in the State House. On a national level, you know, the president announced a plan to move towards banning bump stocks, which is something that was talked a lot about after Las Vegas then sort of disappeared. Is that a big enough step forward, in your mind?

WHITNEY: No. They should have banned bump stocks a long time ago, and that wouldn't have prevented anyone from my school dying.

COOPER: If you had the chance to introduce your own bill, I mean what would be in it? Have you thought that far ahead? How far do you want to go?

WHITNEY: We would address mental health, we would address background checks, we would address some kind of waiting period, maybe, and we would also address banning assault rifles. COOPER: For you that's essential, some sort of ban on assault type weapons?

WHITNEY: At least make it not easy enough for an awful, awful person to buy one with no problem at all.

COOPER: Have you been involved in this issue or thought about the activism that you're now involved with prior to what happened at your school? I spoke to so many in your school who said this made them kind of rethink the possibly the trajectory of their lives or the trajectory of their future. I talked to one young lady who's at the State House today who said she'd always thought about being an actress and now she's thinking about getting into politics. Are you thinking about this? I mean, has this been life changing for you?

WHITNEY: Definitely. I've always been an activist for gun reform but never in this extent. I was one of the people that would kind of forget about a mass shooting after it happened, which is awful, because you don't really get how it feels until it happens to you. But we're going to make sure that nobody forgets.

COOPER: There had been some, you know, we talked to David Hoge late in the last hour and, you know, some people have been writing about him, some conspiracy websites, some far right websites suggesting maybe he was a crisis actor, which is obviously a ludicrous notion, he's obviously a student from the school saying that, you know, his dad who had been formerly with the FBI maybe put him up to it. When you hear stuff like this which frankly often comes out in a wake of a school shooting, does it scare you? Does it anger you? Does it diminish your desire to be involved?

WHITNEY: Honestly, I think the reason people are saying those things is because they're in disbelief and they're scared because there are 17-year-old kids that are way smarter than them. And David Hoge is not a crisis actor, I promise.

COOPER: Sofie Whitney, I appreciate your time tonight. I know it's been a long trip. We'll continue to follow you. Thanks so much, Sofie.

WHITNEY: Thank you for having me.

COOPER: I want to get to my panel with me at the table tonight, Kirsten Powers, Jack Kingston, Van Jones, Alice Stewart, Ryan Lizza, and Jeff Toobin.

You know, Kirsten, when Sarah Sanders said today that the president did not try to use the Florida school massacre to attack the Mueller probe, that's just not true. I mean when he said that -- when he made a link between the FBI agents spending too much time focusing on Russia and not enough time on -- because they were -- it doesn't make any sense.

KIRSTEN POWER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's exactly what he said. I mean, Jason Miller last night was saying they were two separate thoughts but they really weren't two separate thoughts. He was essentially saying because they are spending too much time investigating him, they dropped the ball on the shooting, but that's not really how the FBI works. They have people who would be responsible for that and who, by all accounts, did seem to drop the ball are in Florida. They have nothing to do with the Russia investigation, and so for him to sort of conflate it and turn it all around and mix it up and be about him is totally inaccurate and just completely inappropriate.

[21:10:11] COOPER: We have the original tweet which, again, Sarah Sanders parroted today, "Very sad that the FBI missed all the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They're spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. There is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud." I mean, Jack, is it correct that the White House -- that the spokesperson from the White House should parrot a random tweet from the president that is just factually inaccurate and just -- I mean, demonstrably a lie?

JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think we know Sarah Sanders has so many things on her plate that this probably was not a great statement of hers. And so, I think the criticism is valid, but I do think that the FBI does owe everybody an explanation here but not just here, but if you look at Dylann Roof, the Charleston massacre killed 10 people, there was also a glitch in the background check which the FBI could be held for. There was a situation because he had been arrested for marijuana. He should not have been allowed to buy a gun. The guy named Kevin Neal in Texas killed seven people and he also had some arrest records. And then, the guy --

COOPER: -- FBI and any law enforcement should be held responsible for --


COOPER: But it does not have anything to do -- you acknowledge, there's nothing to do with the Russia probe that the FBI spending too much time on Russia that they dropped the ball?

KINGSTON: No, I agree with that. And as a matter of fact, you know, Rush Limbaugh actually had said it previously. I think he said it Friday, and he was saying, you know, as Rush Limbaugh has the ability to do, saying that it kind of a snarky way but --

COOPER: So the president is basically just repeating some Rush Limbaugh said --

KINGSTON: No. I think what the president probably would like is to see the FBI really focusing on this and say, we just can't have this again in a situation where you had two really good tips plus 36 calls to the House and all that.

COOPER: I get that but -- I mean, Van, the president is lying to say that it had anything to do with Russian probe. I mean there's 35,000 people working for the FBI and few dozens on the Russia probe.

VAN JONES, CNN HOST, THE VAN JONES SHOW: So tough to see the distinction between those young people who are so clear, so forthright. Disagree with them, don't like their policies. If you feel that way, that's fine. But if you look at the character of those young people, how clear they are, how forthright they are, how much integrity they have, and then to have that right up against these presidential tweets, you couldn't imagine a more juvenile response to a mass killing of children than to use that opportunity to try to stick your finger in the eye of the people who you didn't like before, anyway. This is a breakdown that can hopefully lead to a breakthrough. Those young people are extraordinary.

I've been hearing marketers talk about this high school generation. They are very different than the college students, that there's something happening with these young people. Those young people are better spoken than most of us on television. They've never been on television before. And so if there's any hope in the country, it's in this generation that's rising. I have not been -- I just want to say to stand over the bodies of children and poke your finger in the eye of your adversary is as low as you can possibly go in public life, and it's a shame the president did that but I'm proud of these young people.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And the thing that's bad about that tweet, not only is it factually incorrect, it takes the situation where he has the opportunity in this social media platform to once again express sympathy and thoughts and prayers and we're going to try and fix this problem to these victims and made it all about him because the Russia meddling situation is all about him.

That being said, I'd like to think that will be yesterday's news tomorrow because we are talking about ways to stop this. We're talking about let's make some changes to background checks. I think that girl that you just spoke with was spot on. She looks at -- there's many aspects. The ABC, Washington Post poll says, what could have prevented this? Better mental health services, stricter gun control laws, and even the possibility that they mentioned in that poll was possibly allowing teachers or school resource officers to have guns to help prevent it.

But overall, more importantly, the Quinnipiac poll says 97 percent of Americans want stricter background checks. That is what the president is now talking about. I would imagine Governor Scott is talking about that with people there in Florida. And do expect change.

COOPER: Jack, I do want to address on "New Day", you said you suggested that the students who were advocating for gun control have somehow been hijacked by left wing groups and that there is no way for them to really nationwide without left wing help.

KINGSTON: Well, you know, I have a lot of concern to these kids, you know, I've been to many, many high schools all over Georgia talking to children, and, you know, I think when they're in an emotional state -- and they deserve to be heard, they deserve to be listened to, and I expressed that on the show also that I believe they're sincere. This is a horrible tragedy. Their hearts are broken. But also know that the state senator from there is facilitating their bus trip up to Tallahassee which, when I was in the general assembly, by the way, was illegal to do something like that, to pay for somebody to lobby. The Democrat Party there is doing it. But what -- the big --

[21:15:23] COOPER: So do you think they are being hijacked by left wing politics?

KINGSTON: I think -- and I was referring to the national rally. It would shock me -- and I hope I'm wrong. I really do hope I'\m wrong. But it would shock me if 17-year-olds around the country -- and I agree with you, Van, very articulate, very sincere. But it would shock me if they did a nationwide rally and the pro gun control left took their hands off.


POWERS: Why does it even matter? I mean --

KINGSTON: I'll tell you what matters.

POWERS: Let me just ask the question. If there is a group of people who are supportive of what they want to do, what would be wrong with them working with them if they have some knowledge about how to get their message out? What you're suggesting is somehow they've been used like some people went in and told them what to say. I mean that's not --

KINGSTON: No, no. I'm saying that --

COOPER: Which, by the way, there are these allegations that --


COOPER: -- ridiculous.

KINGSTON: Well, I would never say that. I did not say that today. I said their hearts were broken, which they are, and that they are sincere, I said that. But I can say this that as Rahm Emanuel famously said, never waste a good crisis. I don't believe that --

POWERS: Come on, Jack.


RYAN LIZZA, CNN COMMENTATOR: Jack, they're trying to enter into politics, they're trying to change the debate that is a political debate.


LIZZA: You cannot criticize high school students engaging politics who are engaging in politics.

KINGSTON: I'm not criticizing them. I'm saying --

LIZZA: When you were a young person and you wanted to change policy, what did you do?

(CROSSTALK) LIZZA: Jack, Jack, just give me a second. When you were a young person, I assume you became a politician because you wanted to effect change in America, right? You joined the Republican Party. You're attacking these kids for having political allies?


COOPER: Van, what were you going to say?

JONES: When you say something like that, it's so bad. I'm going to tell you why it's bad. First of all, these young people don't have to have anybody tell them, you, me, Democrat or Republican, anybody else that something has to change. When we went to school, I was scared of bullies who might take my lunch money. I was not scared of getting killed. We have no ability to understand what it means to go school everyday and wonder if you're going to get killed and these kids are worried about that. So the idea -- no, if anything, the kids are using us, but I don't think we're using the kids.


JONES: Here's the thing, it's not fair to you -- you're sprinkling out there that maybe these kids are illegitimate and that's wrong.

KINGSTON: Absolutely. That is not --

COOPER: OK, let's take a break.

KINGSTON: -- you're putting words in my mouth.

COOPER: We're going to continue this conversation. It's important, we'll have more on the efforts of the students in Florida and around the country. More in the politics of doing anything about this epidemic mass killings.

Later, the president has claimed that he's done more in a year on Russia than the Obama administration did in eight. We'll talk to former CIA and NSA director about that.


[21:21:53] COOPER: We're talking about students taking action in the wake of the parkland tragedy, four funerals today alone. Back now with the panel. We haven't heard from Jeff.

JEFF TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Jack is outnumbered on this panel but he's in the majority in the United States Congress, in the state legislature of Florida, in the state legislature of most states. Gun rights are the defining issue of the Republican Party today. More than immigration, more than abortion, they are going to do nothing. They are going to do nothing regardless of what these young people demand, because this is the issue that unites the Republican Party. Donald Trump used to be for gun control, but today, you know, maybe we'll do something about bump stocks some year. This is an issue that unites the Republican Party against any sort of regulation. You know, for 10 years in this country, guns just like this, AR-16s were illegal --


TOOBIN: AR-15 -- they were illegal. And, you know what, we still had freedom in this country but George W. Bush and the Republican Congress decided what we need under the second amendment is to have access to guns like this. And that's exactly what happened in 2004 after the Brady Bill expired, and that's the kind of country we ever now because Republican legislator was want it that way.


COOPER: To Jack's point, is it wrong if a group of students who have come out on television and been very vocal and very, you know, well- spoken are contacted by gun control groups and who want to help sponsor a rally? Is there anything wrong with that?

LIZZA: No, of course not. That's how politics work.

KINGSTON: Let me --

LIZZA: Jack, you make it sounds like they're being tainted by the political parties, people who can actually organize and help them move legislation. CPAC is this big conservative meeting happening in Washington this week or next week. Do you know how many kids are bussed in from around the country to join CPAC and to talk about --

KINGSTON: Let me repeat this.

LIZZA: But, Jack --


KINGSTON: They're not under duress of a horrible life-changing tragedy, and I would say for those kids, you got to give them a little space. And --


COOPER: If their parents are fine with them being involved, and frankly, being involved helps them move into grief and try to turn grief into something positive, who are we to say how somebody should grieve? I mean, what, should they stay home and grieve and that's the only way to grieve?

KINGSTON: Well, let me say again as I said this morning, I don't doubt their sincerity. Their hearts are broken, I understand that. But I also think that sometimes when somebody goes through that that you don't want to inject politics into it immediately. Let me give you a couple -- let me say this.


LIZZA: There is a shooting every few months. Just pretend that we're talking about guns in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting. Did that happen long enough ago so we can talk about gun policy? KINSTON: Yes. And you know what --

LIZZA: Because if you have this rule that you're not allowed to talk about gun control --


LIZZA: -- what's the time, 30 days, 60 days, 100 days?

[21:25:04] KINGSTON: The Republican House in December passed a bill sponsored by Richard Hudson. The man's 180-day review a bump stocks, to look at the stacks and get rid of them if necessary. It also cleans -- background check which is now what Corwin and Murphy are talking about in the Senate.


KINGSTON: And let me say this. I want to say this because I know gun control debates fairly well having gone through many of them, but the Democrats, Jeffrey, had the opportunity to reinstate the assault weapons ban, and they're not really assault weapons, not according to the U.S. army. They're weapons that look like -- they are semiautomatic. That might be a technical term. But why did the Democrats --

TOOBIN: Should they have? Should they have?

KINGSTON: I would say they should have if that's the belief of their party.

TOOBIN: No, no. Should they have?

KINGSTON: No. I don't think --

TOOBIN: So what difference does it make if they didn't do --


KINGSTON: -- the Democrat had the opportunity --


COOPER: Let's not talk over each other. Van, what are you saying?

JONES: We have to deal the great recession in two wars. Everything that you guys criticize us for not doing in the 18 months that we had control of the government, it s a little bit --

STEWART: Of all the things that we sit here and argue all day long, but one of the most compelling things I heard from one of these students was, you weren't there. You don't know what it felt like. You weren't hiding under your desk or in a closet. You don't know what it felt like. If this helps them in their grieving process, let them get on a bus, plane, train, or automobile and go to Tallahassee and -- KINGSTON: I'm all for their ability to do that and their right --

LIZZA: Jack, have you ever been to a pro-life rally?


LIZZA: Have you ever heard a young person get up there and talk about abortion, somebody who recently has been affected by it, maybe because she had a classmate who had an abortion?


LIZZA: You never heard a young person in the pro-life activist movement.

KINGSTON: No, I haven't. I'm sorry, but I haven't.

LIZZA: -- Republican colleague and you're telling me right now that you've never heard of young people being involved in the pro-life movement?

KINGSTON: That's not what you asked me. You asked me if I heard a young person talk about their abortion.

LIZZA: No, no, no. Have you ever --


LIZZA: -- young people, high school students involved.

COOPER: The answer is yes.


KINGSTON: Come on, you're involved in politics.


COOPER: We got to take another break. We're going to take a break and we're going to continue the discussion, during the commercial break, apparently and afterward. We're just going to go to break. We'll be right back.


[21:31:23] COOPER: Our conversation continues about young people, gun control and politics. It seems to have lasted through the last break so let me continue with the panel.

You know, one of the things that General McChrystal said, I think he said this after the wake of one of the shootings. He said a .223- caliber round, when it hits the human body, the effects are devastating. It's designed for that. He talked about -- he didn't think there was a need for that kind of weaponry on the streets. It was right after Newtown. I mean, what's interesting -- I think, Jack, about -- your comment about there should be kind of a period in which, you know, these kids are allowed to mourn and we don't focus on this and it doesn't become an issue about gun control is, I actually think we don't focus on the reality of what an AR-15 does to a child. I mean if anyone has been on a battlefield and you've see what a weapon like this does to a soldier, I mean -- I think if people actually saw this and saw the reality of this, I mean it's -- it would open people's eyes. I mean we're talking about -- we're not talking about -- you know, we all say, oh, these children lost their lives. They didn't lose their lives. Their lives were ripped out of their bodies. Their brains were splattered on the floor, their intestines were hanging out. I mean it's sickening. And like, we're all talking about this in an antiseptic way, and we're shocked that these kids are angry when they've been hiding in closet and their friends are dead. I mean, I just --

JONES: And that's part of the reason that -- law enforcement people are standing with the young people and saying, we do have to do something different. I mean, what the Republicans and to make it sort of trying to say, these Democrats, they're emotional, they're irrational. They're exploiting kids because they just want to grab all of our guns. And then they're the ones who actually being rational and sane. When, in fact, the people have to deal with this on their frontlines. The kids hiding under the desks and the cops going to save them are saying the same exact thing, that it makes no sense at all for this to be the reality in America. And they have a thousand excuses.

And I have to say, whenever this thing happens, if it's a Muslim, they want to politicize it within seconds. If it's a Mexican, build the wall. If it's a black person, more cops and prisons. But when it's a white kid, thoughts and prayers and nothing else. And that (INAUDIBLE) of this thing here as well. Why is it that when some people take a life, you got a thousand political ideas, and when other kinds of people take a life, you got nothing to say and you're mad that people are upset and you want them to have a cooling off period? There should not be a cooling off period for these kids.

And I want to say one last thing. I do want a filibuster because I do want to hear from other people. But I do feel that we have a situation where a generation is terrorized. We've never had this for all the kids in America. Some neighborhoods, yes. Some racial groups, yes. You now have all the kids in America who have seen this and they're drilling on a weekly basis about how not to get their brains blown out in their classroom. This is a national tragedy. It's an emergency. And the fact that young people are standing up, everybody should stand at attention. We argued and fought because some football players wanted to kneel and beg for the killing to stop in black communities. These kids are not disrespecting any flag. They're not disrespecting any anthem. They are going down to their government and they are petitioning for redress of grievance. And for anybody get on their case and said, you're too vulnerable, sit down and start cry and don't say anything or you're a crisis actor. This is despicable on the part of people in this country. And I think Republicans who can serve as good as you, first, before you say anything critical of them, defend these kids from these conspiracy people who are trying to make them seem illegitimate. And don't --

[21:34:59] KINGSTON: I'm with you on that. And having not criticized the kids, I again respect their sincerity, their hearts are broken. I am concerned that there are people in our country who do hijack grief and other causes, and as Rahm Emanuel said, never waste a good crisis. But let me give you --

JONES: That happens on your side.


KINGSTON: And if you're disgusted with it on my side, you understand. But let me give you a statistic that I would like to throw out. Between 1991 was the most violent year of American crime stats. From 1991 to 2014, there were 160 million firearms purchased in America. From '91 to 2014, 160 million firearms purchased, including about 15 million AR-15s. However, the violence went down. The crime stats of violence went down 52 percent and the murder right went down 54 percent.

COOPER: Suicides shot up, didn't they?

KINGSTON: I actually don't know. But I mean --

COOPER: Suicides are actually on the rise.

KINGSTON: But let me just say this that when you look at --

COOPER: If you have a gun, you're much more likely to kill yourself.

KINGSTON: But if the conclusion going into an argument is that, you know, AR-15s or semi-automatics or whatever are bad, you have to figure out that stat. And I'm willing to say, you know what, I am confident enough that you can put gun control on the table. But would you join me about Hollywood balance or about video games or about social media isolation and about mental health?


STEWART: I think it's really important as we move forward, let's have a time for grief and then let's take action. I think after Vegas, we did have some firm, solid conversations on bump stocks and nothing happened.


COOPER: One at a time. Let her complete her thought. We don't need to jump on each other.

STEWART: Here's the thing. I'm with you on a second amendment supporter. I'm a gun owner. I think every American has the right to own a gun and they should if they want to and it makes them feel safe. Here's the problem. Moving forward -- this isn't just about gun control. This is about gun violence. And to really make a difference on gun violence, we have to address how guns are purchased and how violence is provoked. And there are many factors that go into that, that goes with mental health, it goes Hollywood is partially to blame. There are single-parent homes, no family homes to break down the American family. All of these need to be considered.


POWERS: I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. So John Wayne didn't cause violence? I mean this is ridiculous. Like the idea that somehow like Hollywood is causing this? We've always had violent movies. I mean, now we're going to say this is happening because of violence -- no. This is happening because one reason. It's the guns. It's the guns. It's the fact that they have these guns and they can mass murder people. There is a direct correlation if you talk to people who study gun violence and mass murder. It's when these guns that you can cause -- whatever you want to call them and I'm not going to play you game, you know, that you don't call it by the right name or whatever. The guns where you can go in and mow down people, when those became available and people started buying them, that's when we start --


TOOBIN: -- from the Republicans about mental health. We're so concerned about mental health. Why did Donald Trump sign an executive order in secret, not in front of anybody, to make it easier for people with mental health problems to buy guns? Why, if Republicans are so concerned about mental health, why did Rick Scott and every other Republican governor say, we don't want Medicaid. We don't want to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. If you expand Medicaid, you give people mental health services. But no, we hate Obama, we hate Obamacare. In Florida there is no --

COOPER: I'm sorry, I got to jump in here. We have -- I'm sorry, repeat -- Kushner is resisting losing access to a security clearance, "New York Times" has report on that out. We'll continue with that. We're going to take a short break. We'll have that breaking news ahead.


[21:42:55] COOPER: There is breaking news tonight on the president's son-in-law who is also a top adviser, who also apparently has no permanent security clearance and hasn't this entire time. We're, of course, about Jared Kushner, and White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly's effort recently to curb the access of such people to classified information. Now there's word of resistance from Kushner against Kelly. Joining us by phone is Julie Hirschfeld Davis, one of the two "New York Times" correspondents on this breaking story which just posted. Just talk about for our viewers who have not seen the story, talk about what you have learned.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES (via telephone): Well, John Kelly, the chief of staff, put out a memo on Friday basically saying that he was going to change the policy now regarding security clearance in the White House. And one of the things that he's going to do going forward he said is to essentially revoke the security clearance, the high-level clearance that folks who are currently serving in the White House has if they have not yet cleared their background check, and it's been pending for several months. He put a cutoff date of June 1st.

There is some debate over whether that applies to Jared Kushner or not, but it's clear that because Jared Kushner is one of the high- level officials in the West Wing and serving with an interim clearance that this is going to affect him in some way. He's been trying, as have other officials in the West Wing just figure out how this is going to affect him exactly. And what we've learned is that he doesn't want to have to give up his level of clearance that he has right now which allows him to see the presidential briefing and other materials, and there is sort of this quiet internal struggle going on over whether he's going to continue to have the level of access that he has enjoyed and whether others, and we don't know necessarily what their names are, are going to continue to have access to the kind of information that they have had, even though they haven't been cleared for a permanent clearance by the White House office that's in charge of doing that.

COOPER: I was only able to skim your story very briefly. Part of what stood out to me is that you write about that General Kelly has been dismissive, I believe is the word you used, of Jared Kushner over some time, and I'm wondering, A, if that is true, and B, is this a particular effort against Jared Kushner in some way?

[21:45:11] DAVIS: Well, you know, General Kelly would say that this memo wasn't targeted to any one person in particular, but it had been clear for many, many months that Jared Kushner was one of the, if not the, highest ranking official in the West Wing who, like Rob Porter, had an interim clearance and access to top secret information.

And so whether or not it's the case, Jared Kushner has felt like this is targeted toward him. He has been uncertain about how it's going to affect him, and it's clear that the issuance of the memo and it becoming public on Friday put something of a spotlight on Jared Kushner because everyone knows and has known for some time, again, that he has an interim clearance. So there is a little bit of a power struggle going on.

And when General Kelly came in, one of the things he was trying to get a handle on was that there were a lot of officials in the West Wing who had access to President Trump, ready access without any kind of filter, any kind of organized process around that, and Jared Kushner was chief (ph) among those people. And so he really tried to get a hand along that at and tried to limit it and that has really in someway crimps Jared Kushner's access to the president, and it's been a simmering tension for some time now, and I think this has just brought that to a head.

COOPER: And is it clear at this point why Jared Kushner has not been able to get a full security clearance? I mean obviously we know he has a lot of business dealings, there have been questions raised about, you know, activities during the transition, his relationship with China, his desire to try to get financing for his company's big buildings in New York City, even during the transition. You know, he had to amend his disclosure form several times, initially hadn't put down his multiple meetings, dozens of meetings with foreign officials during the transition, then he finally amended that, then he had to amend it again to include -- I think it was the June or July meeting with Russian officials with Donald Trump Jr. He neglected to put that in his amended version. Does that -- do we know specifically why he doesn't have -- why he hasn't been cleared yet for full security clearance?

DAVIS: We don't specifically, but all the reasons that you just last laid out, particularly the omission from his original form that he submitted with all of those disclosures that were supposed to have been made in the very beginning, are a big reason. I mean we do know that the FBI looks for, you know, out-and-out lies, they look for things that were excluded that shouldn't have been excluded. And Jared Kushner's legal team had said from the beginning -- you know, they didn't intend to exclude anything. They didn't intend to leave anything out. And these were all, you know, he submitted the form essentially before he was ready to submit it. But that certainly always will raise a red flag or always will raise a concern for the FBI.

I asked about this in the White House briefing today and, you know, there was a very swift pushback on the notion that there were any actual red flags, that is to say criminal or any hint of wrongdoing in Jared Kushner's record. But we do know that one of the major things they're looking for is anything that could subject a person to blackmail. And so, of course, any sort of business dealings with a foreign power, anything that involves, you know, large sums of money and big transactions that are unexplained are going to raise issues that the FBI is going to want to look into further.

COOPER: Julie Hirschfeld Davis, the story spokes (ph) with "The New York Times," thank you. We're going to take this over to panel. We're all cleared for it, next.


[21:52:45] COOPER: The breaking news just out in "The New York Times" tonight, Jared Kushner's battle to keep his access to highly classified material, putting him at odds with Chief of Staff John Kelly wanting access, even though he does not have a full security clearance. He's on a temporary security clearance and has been for the past year.

TOOBIN: Anderson, isn't the problem nepotism? That's really what this is all about. Jared Kushner is not qualified for the job he's doing. His only qualification is that he's the president's son-in- law. He's a modestly successful real estate developer --

COOPER: Of his father's company.

TOOBIN: Of his father's company, a lucky sperm club, and he seems to be --

COOPER: Lucky sperm club.

TOOBIN: He seems to be losing the fortune that he was given through this disastrous investment in 666 Fifth Avenue, which is leading to some of these problems, because he's trying to get investors from China, from Qatar, which we have foreign policy issues. But this is why presidents shouldn't appoint close relatives to be their top advisers, because they can't be treated like everybody else. He shouldn't have this job in the first place. And who knows if he should have a security clearance. It's absurd that it hasn't been resolved one way or the other. But the idea that this person is in charge of the Middle East peace and the relationship with China is just absurd, putting aside the whole security clearance issue.

COOPER: Well, also, the lack of structure. I mean we all know the lack of structure in the White House has been a problem from the beginning, about not having clearly defined roles. And certainly Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump fit in that. What do they exactly do?

STEWART: On many campaigns, you have family members and friends who want to be part of the campaign. We would call them Let them come along, let them hang out but don't give them any responsibility. Don't let them have a huge portfolio like this, and in charge of Israeli/Palestinian peace and still not able to pass their security clearance. I think what's important in this article that they pointed out was that General Kelly made it clear that even without availability and access to this classified information, Jared is still able to carry out the duties and responsibilities of his portfolio, including dealing with the Israeli/Palestinian situation. I think I take General Kelly's word that he can do his job without this and I think we should leave it at that.

TOOBIN: But that's crazy. That is absolutely insane. The relationship with Israel and the Middle East is intimately bound up with the national security agency, the CIA. If you are going to be in charge of Middle East peace, you have to have access to classified information. How could he possibly -- why do we have all of these agency if the person in charge of our relationship can't see it? It's ridiculous!

[21:55:19] LIZZA: Jeff, you said if Kushner is not qualified for his job. And if you start applying that standard in this White House, it's a slippery slope about where that ends, frankly. And they don't have, exactly, a large community of people to draw on who, a, want to work in this White House, or two --

COOPER: If you bad mouth Omarosa one more time --

LIZZA: I was just about to say, Omarosa was an assistant to the president!


COOPER: I happen to catch her work on "Big Brother" the other night first time I ever seen it --

LIZZA: I think she's very qualified for reality TV show.

(CROSSTALK) LIZZA: I'm only half joking.

KINGSTON: I do think that the idea of sending your son-in-law, though, there is a certain tradition that would be recognized in the Middle East --

COOPER: Kazakhstan, all the great democracies --


KINGSTON: OK, Saudi Arabia. Don't you think that's a little bit of a --

COOPER: They just imprisoned like half the leadership --


KINGSTON: -- it's a family business. And I'm just saying --


COOPER: Full of corruption and --

LIZZA: Jack, this is a terrible argument.

COOPER: You're saying the U.S. should be more like Saudi Arabia?

LIZZA: Our diplomacy should depend on the local customs? Like -- think about --

KINGSTON: I actually think that sending your son-in-law has some symbolism that is diplomatic important in --

COOPER: Like Kim Jong-un sending his sister to the Olympics? That makes no sense!


COOPER: It works well.


KINGSTON: She was not in the Middle East.

COOPER: We should take note. We've got to take a break. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Tune in Tomorrow night when the students of Stoneman Douglas speak out in a live CNN Town Hall, "Stand Up". It's hosted by Jake Tapper. That's tomorrow at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Thanks for watching "360." time to hand it over my friend Don Lemon. "CNN Tonight" starts right now.