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EARLY START

Students Press For Tighter Gun Laws; Mueller Expands Interest In Kushner; Turkish Journalists Sentenced To Life; Israeli Police Arrest Prime Minister Netanyahu Confidants. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired February 20, 2018 - 05:30   ET

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


[05:30:53] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAMERON KASKY, SURVIVED FLORIDA HIGH SCHOOL MASSACRE: Are you for taking steps to save us or are you for taking NRA blood money?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Students from Florida and beyond mobilizing to change the nation's gun laws, and a new poll this morning shows Americans think Congress is failing on this issue.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The special counsel's interest in Jared Kushner now extends beyond Russia. His business efforts with the other investors, including China, now under the microscope.

ROMANS: And, a big move by Facebook to prevent a replay of election meddling. We'll explain how the tech giant is turning to the U.S. Post Office.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Thirty-one minutes past the hour.

And you think this -- the students mobilizing in Florida is similar to the Vietnam moment with the college students really turning public opinion?

ROMANS: I think this is the mass shooting generation and --

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: -- so it had -- they have a voice that gen-Xers and baby boomers don't have, so maybe that is a change, yes.

BRIGGS: It certainly feels different.

Six days after the school massacre in Parkland, Florida the nation's youth are seizing the megaphone, demanding changes to America's gun laws. More than 100 teens and their supporters staging a lie-in outside the White House on Presidents' Day, an effort to pressure lawmakers to toughen gun regulation.

ROMANS: Today, about 100 students will board buses from Parkland to the Florida state capitol. They will speak to state lawmakers tomorrow.

Last night, students from Florida were rallying and promising to take their message to Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KASKY: This is simply a matter of are you with us or are you against us? Are you for taking steps to save us or are you for taking NRA blood money? We are not letting the United States be run by that terrorist organization.

My friends and I, my community and I have stared down the barrel of an AR-15 the way you have not. We have seen this weapon of war mow down people we know and love the way you have not. How dare you tell us we don't know what we're talking about? You have no idea what you are talking about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: That's an eloquent young man.

There is support for the students' view that Washington is falling short. A new "Washington Post-ABC News" poll found 77 percent of Americans believe Congress is not doing enough to prevent mass shootings. Sixty-two percent say the same of President Trump.

New momentum growing behind a bipartisan effort to improve the background check system. The president speaking with Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn about a bill he introduced with Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy.

ROMANS: The measure is a modest proposal. It ensures state and federal authorities comply with existing law to report criminal history to the national background check system with consequences if they don't.

The White House says the president supports efforts to improve the background check system although this bill does nothing to expand that system at all.

Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland has announced it plans to reopen gradually. Staff members returned to the school Friday morning with voluntarily campus orientation for parents and students -- that's set for Sunday. The district says the goal is for classes to resume on a modified schedule next Tuesday.

BRIGGS: Funerals and viewings for five of the victims are set for today. They are students Peter Wang, and Cara Loughran, and Carmen Schentrup, along with Stoneman Douglas High's athletic director Chris Hixon and football coach Aaron Feis.

You've certainly read about the story of Aaron Feis shielding students with his body. He is a hero.

ROMANS: All right. Joining us live from Washington this morning, Brenna Williams, multi- platform editor for CNN's "THE POINT" and "CNN POLITICS," and let's stay on the subject of gun violence because this has been such an emotional few days.

David Brooks, in "The New York Times" in an op-ed this morning that is frankly, kind of viral. A lot of people have shared this and are talking about it this morning.

BRIGGS: Yes, blowing up on Twitter, sure.

ROMANS: "If you want to stop school shootings it's not enough just to vent and march. It's necessary to let people from red America lead the way and to show respect to gun owners at all points. There has to be trust and respect first, then we can strike a compromise on guns as guns and not some sacred cross in the culture war."

It's called "Respect First, Then Gun Control." It's the name of the piece in the opinion pages of "The New York Times."

It's so interesting, this idea that it's a tribal red versus blue. We get back to this terrible, predictable reaction after these events. Does he have a point?

[05:35:05] BRENNA WILLIAMS, MULTI-PLATFORM EDITOR, "THE POINT" AND "CNN POLITICS": I think so, absolutely, and it's so sad because these days, trust and respect are not two things that you think about in politics or in any hot-button issue.

I'm from Florida. I have a sister who's in high school there right now so this really strikes close to home for me.

And I think that there's something there, absolutely. I mean, you need to have dialogue and you need people to feel like they're being heard, and I think any of us can agree the best ideas come to the table when we all work together.

I think that it's going to be hard because the community needs to be on board with something before Congress will ever agree on something and I think that there are two very disparate sides right now across America.

And I think that Brooks makes a really good point. We need to come together and, first of all, listen. And secondly, we need to come to that table with a shared humanity and a shared respect for every single person and their opinions.

BRIGGS: His column is proof of that divide because when you read the angry Twitter posts --

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: -- back at David Brooks, it kind of justifies what he's saying.

But look, we've been down this road before, as we've discussed. I mean, the Democrats controlled the House, the Senate, and the White House. Then we had Sandy Hook.

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: Twenty children were killed, nothing was done.

We had Vegas. Bump stocks couldn't get banned. There was universal agreement that they would be.

The kids are what make this different. They are passionate, they are eloquent, they are determined. They can organize via social media.

Can they Brenna, though, make a difference politically speaking? Can they get some change on the AR-15-style rifle or perhaps readdress bump stocks?

WILLIAMS: I think something that's really interesting and I think something that politicians should be paying attention to is that these kids are going to be voters, if not in 2018, in 2020, right? So, I think that they have more of a voice -- obviously, much more so than any of the children from Sandy Hook -- any of the survivors from there.

BRIGGS: Yes.

WILLIAMS: Their parents had to speak for them and these kids, they're going to be voters. They are constituents that are going to have -- their voicing their opinions now vocally but they're going to be at the ballot box soon, right? So, these are -- this is the next generation.

These are the constituents that these politicians need to please --

ROMANS: Yes.

WILLIAMS: -- to keep their jobs. So, I think that that's something that we need to pay attention to.

And also, they are able to mobilize in a way that no other generation has been able to. Survivors from Columbine did not have the power of social media behind their voices. And I think if anything's going to help -- and I feel like we say this every time -- but if anything's going to help it's that.

ROMANS: Yes, we've got to do better.

BRIGGS: A couple of them are voting in 2018 in the midterms -- a couple of the ones we've heard so vocal -- but they'll need strength in mass numbers on March 24th in Washington to have any impact.

ROMANS: All right. So, the president has endorsed Mitt Romney to be a senator in Utah and it brings up memories of the relationship between these two. Roll the tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), UTAH SENATE CANDIDATE: Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He's playing the members of the American public for suckers. He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mitt ran and probably, it was the worst run that most people have seen. He doesn't have what it takes to be president, that I can tell you.

I could have said Mitt, drop to your knees and he would have dropped to his knees. He was begging. He was begging me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Oh, wow.

BRIGGS: A lot of love there.

WILLIAMS: Yes, it's sad.

BRIGGS: A lot of love.

ROMANS: The president has endorsed Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney has said, "Thank you for your endorsement. Now, it's up to the people of Utah."

Where does this relationship go?

WILLIAMS: I don't know, but I am here for it. It is -- this is one of the more fascinating political relationships that I'm following, that most of us are following because they -- Trump endorsed Romney in 2012 and in the intervening time they had words -- many words and many opinions. And then, there was that amazing photo of them at dinner that goes viral every time any -- either one of them talk about each other.

So, they just had this relationship on many different levels. They're a meme. They're political allies or enemies.

Oh, that photo, so good.

But, I mean, what is Trump getting out of this is my question, right?

ROMANS: Yes.

WILLIAMS: Romney is polling really well. They love him in Utah. It's a very red state.

My question is if Romney does win that seat is Trump going to come back to this and be like oh, but I helped you win because I endorsed you even after everything that you said about me and everything we overcame?

ROMANS: (INAUDIBLE).

BRIGGS: Not so well, thus far.

ROMANS: -- with Trump's other endorsements of Republican candidates?

WILLIAMS: It's going to be fascinating --

ROMANS: Yes.

WILLIAMS: -- so I'm curious to see what was behind this. I'm sure we'll hear and there's a long way to go before the election --

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

WILLIAMS: -- so I'm curious to see if it stays so bromancy.

BRIGGS: Well, what's behind it is if he didn't endorse, he had a lot to lose there if he picks one of the other guys running who have no chance.

ROMANS: Yes.

[05:40:00] BRIGGS: He really no choice but to support --

WILLIAMS: Well, I mean --

BRIGGS: Romney.

WILLIAMS: I mean, he came back from supporting the wrong candidate in Alabama. He kind of brushed that under the rug.

So, I mean, did he need to? Could he have stayed silent? OK, well, could he have stayed silent? That's a question for Twitter always.

But again, you do make a good point. If he was going to endorse anybody, it was going to be Romney --

BRIGGS: Yes, the winner.

WILLIAMS: -- but I wonder if he was gritting his teeth while he was tweeting that?

ROMANS: All right. Brenna Williams, we will stay tuned because I know you are going to love following that. Thank you. Nice to see you.

BRIGGS: All right.

WILLIAMS: Thank you. You, too.

BRIGGS: CNN has learned exclusively that special counsel Robert Mueller's interest in Jared Kushner has expanded beyond his contacts with Russia. The probe now includes Kushner's efforts to secure financing for his real estate company from foreign investors during the transition.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz has the latest from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Good morning, Dave and Christine.

CNN has learned that the special counsel Robert Mueller is now asking questions about Jared Kushner's personal business dealings during the presidential transition.

We're told by people who are familiar with the investigation that Mueller's lawyers are asking about discussions Kushner had with potential Chinese and Qatari investors. Now, this is the first indication that Mueller wants to know about contacts the president's son-in-law had with foreigners outside of Russia.

The discussions revolved around this building in Manhattan at 666 Fifth Avenue which Kushner's company owns, and the financing on the building is in debt by over $1 billion.

Now, it's not clear what is behind Mueller's specific interest in the financing but we're told that the special counsel hasn't asked the Kushner Companies for information. He also has not asked for interviews with other executives from the Kushner Companies.

A spokesman for the special counsel has declined to comment but we do have a statement from Jared Kushner's attorney Abbe Lowell, responding to our story, and Lowell had this to say.

Quote, "Another anonymous source with questionable motives now contradicts the facts. In all of Mr. Kushner's extensive cooperation with all inquiries there has not been a single question asked nor document sought on the 666 building or Kushner Company deals, nor would there be any reason to question these regular business transactions."

And it's important to note that while his attorney seems to think that this story was based on one anonymous source we can tell you that we spoke to several sources for the story who explained to us that these inquiries and this line of questioning has been underway by the special counsel team for several months -- Dave, Christine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right, Shimon, thank you so much for that reporting.

Forty-two minutes after the hour. High-tech meets snail mail. Why Facebook is turning to the Post Office to prevent election meddling all the way from Moscow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:47:05] ROMANS: Is an old-school postcard in the old-school mail the answer to high-tech foreign meddling on Facebook? Reuters reports that a senior Facebook executive says they're going to verify online political ads using postcards.

That's right -- they're going to send verification codes to potential ad buyers in the mail to make sure they live in the U.S. Buyers will need that code to publish the ad. Facebook told Reuters sending codes in the mail won't solve everything but it is the most effective way to combat foreign interference.

Facebook faced a lot of criticism for allowing Russian meddling during the presidential election. Facebook unveiled this plan a day after the special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians for election interference.

BRIGGS: Pennsylvania's Supreme Court imposing a new congressional map that appears to give Democrats a big boost ahead of the midterm elections. The new boundaries follow a ruling that Republicans unlawfully redrew the state's district to maximize GOP gains.

The biggest changes come in the Philadelphia suburbs where three Republican-held seats were already Democratic targets.

Republicans in the state legislature say they will challenge the new maps in court.

ROMANS: The United States and South Korea will conduct joint military drills once the Winter Olympics come to a close in PyeongChang. North Korea has long objected to those drills. The fallout between the North and South at the Olympics had some wondering if the drills would be put off.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said this morning there still is a risk of North Korea and the U.S. clashing but fortunately, Moon says, both countries appear to feel the need for dialogue.

BRIGGS: Kentucky Fried Chicken forced to close hundreds of locations in the U.K. after running out of chicken. About 800 of the roughly 900 KFC locations in Britain --

ROMANS: Can you see that banner?

BRIGGS: What the cluck? You like that?

ROMANS: I like it. I like that.

BRIGGS: Forced them in Britain to close at least for the day.

Company officials say the chicken shortage was due to problems with its new delivery partner DHL. The shipping company acknowledged some deliveries had been incomplete or delayed because of operational issues.

That one got you, huh?

ROMANS: What the cluck? All right.

"BLACK PANTHER" roaring to a record-breaking box office weekend, notching the fifth-biggest opening of all time -- wow.

BRIGGS: T.C.

ROMANS: Yes. "CNN Money Stream," next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [05:53:31] ROMANS: All right, 53 minutes past the hour.

Journalists and other media professionals in Turkey sentenced to life in prison. Now, they are associated with a U.S.-based cleric who religious and social movement is accused of plotting a failed coup attempt in 2016. Amnesty International slamming the harsh punishment, saying it sets a chilling precedent on trumped-up terrorism charges.

CNN's Arwa Damon spoke to the daughter of one of those jailed. She is live in Istanbul for us this morning -- Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine.

The daughter, who not only actually has her father jailed but her uncle one of those six as well, was saying that when that sentence came down they kind of expected it to a certain degree because of the sheer absurdity, she said, of these charges that are being leveled against her father and the others.

They're being accused of being part of the media wing of the Gulen movement. That is the movement that Turkey says was behind that failed coup attempt.

Turkey, for its part, says that it is well within its rights to be bringing these charges against these people. That the coup wasn't just carried out by soldiers. That those who were attempting to overthrow the government also had the support of certain individuals within the media and that these people are not being detained and charged because of their work as journalists but rather, because of their ties to the Gulen movement.

Now, one of those who was detained daughter went on to say that they do still hold out a little bit of hope because there is still an appeals process but bear in mind that this comes against a fairly chilling backdrop when it comes to media freedoms in Turkey.

[05:55:12] Historically speaking, no matter who is running this country, Turkey has ranked among the top nations with the highest number of journalists behind bars. In fact, as we speak, there are about 150 journalists awaiting various different stages of their trials.

ROMANS: A hundred and fifty, all right. Arwa Damon, thank you for bringing that to us this morning, live from Istanbul.

BRIGGS: All right.

New trouble for Israel's embattled prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Police arrested seven people, including some members of Netanyahu's inner circle in a widening corruption probe. It is the fourth investigation involving the Israeli leader or those close to him.

CNN's Oren Liebermann live in Jerusalem for us this morning.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave, and perhaps appropriately, this case is known locally as case 4,000. It comes less than a week after police said they have enough evidence to indict Netanyahu on corruption charges and two others cases, case 1,000 and case 2,000, although Netanyahu himself has not been named as a suspect in this latest investigation.

So, what is this one all about? It focuses on the government's Ministry of Communications and Israeli telecom firm Bezeq. The suspicion in an earlier probe about this was that the Ministry of Communications advanced Bezeq's interests, benefitting its owners and senior officers. In exchange, Netanyahu would get favorable media coverage.

What's important to note here is that it was Netanyahu himself who was the minister of communications during this time and his close friend was the controlling shareholder of this company, Bezeq, and the owner of the news site.

Who has been arrested here? Well, Netanyahu's former family spokesperson is one of those closest to the prime minister, as well as that controlling shareholder of Bezeq, the shareholder's wife, son, and the director general of the Ministry of Communications who served under Netanyahu.

All of this puts more pressure on the prime minister as it's now the fourth investigation that's touched Netanyahu himself or members of his inner circle.

Dave, the language we have seen from Netanyahu, who has insisted his innocence, should sound familiar to those in the U.S.

BRIGGS: Yes.

LIEBERMANN: Netanyahu has blasted this as a media, quote, "witch hunt."

BRIGGS: It does sound awfully familiar to us.

Oren Liebermann live for us in Jerusalem. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Let's get a check on "CNN Money Stream" this morning.

It's a short trading week for Wall Street. The market was closed yesterday for Presidents' Day and last week was the best in years for U.S. stocks.

After some wild swings earlier in the month the Dow rose for six straight sessions. The S&P 500 gained 4.3 percent, its best week in five years. The Nasdaq also had its best week since 2011. But the rally may not endure because right now, futures are lower and global stock markets are mixed.

All right.

Small banks nearing a big win on Dodd-Frank. For years, they have argued that they should not face the same scrutiny, the same standards as the big Wall Street banks, and that the current rules hurt their ability to lend.

So, a new bill will raise the threshold for federal oversight from $50 billion to $250 billion, shielding two dozen midsized banks. The bill is expected to hit the Senate floor at the end of February.

All hail the king.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLIP FROM "BLACK PANTHER": What happens now? It determines what happens to the rest of the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: "BLACK PANTHER" roaring -- roaring to a record-breaking box office, raking in an estimated $235 million over Presidents' Day weekend for the fifth-highest opening of all time. The record is also a watershed moment for Hollywood. "BLACK PANTHER" is Marvel's first film with an African-American director and a primarily black cast.

That earned praise from former first lady Michelle Obama, tweeting that "Because of you, young people will finally see superheroes that look like them on the big screen." She really loved that movie.

Everyone loves that movie. Ninety-seven percent is the score on "Rotten Tomatoes."

BRIGGS: It's 100 percent in the CNN studio.

ROMANS: Yes, everyone here loved it.

BRIGGS: That director, Ryan Coogler, is 31 years old. Kudos to him. It looks like a terrific film. You going to see it?

ROMANS: All right. Of course.

BRIGGS: I'm going to see it.

ROMANS: Of course.

BRIGGS: All right.

ROMANS: All right, thanks for joining -- but not right now because I'm watching "NEW DAY."

Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" does start right now. We'll see you tomorrow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KASKY: I have stared down the barrel of an AR-15 the way you have not. How dare you tell us we don't know what we're talking about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wants to look at John Cornyn's bill in the Senate to improve national background checks. That's a good step.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unstable, dangerous people should never have access to a deadly weapon. I want to see action. I don't want to see talk.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": Did it worry you that here's a depressed 19-year-old with an AR-15?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never again should a student be silenced by gunshots.

PROKUPECZ: Robert Mueller has been asking about Jared Kushner's personal business dealings during the presidential transition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The potential for conflict of interest is so enormous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president appears to be lashing out at everyone but Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We must defend out democracy and that is not happening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is your new day. It is Tuesday, February 20th, 6:00 here in New York.