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The Couple Who Took in High School Killer Speak Out; Team USA Struggles at Olympics; Mueller Looking at Kushner; Russian Election Interference. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired February 20, 2018 - 06:30   ET


[06:30:07] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Surprise, surprise! President Trump endorsing Mitt Romney to replace retiring Utah Senator Orrin Hatch. The president tweeting about Romney, quote, he will make a great senator and worthy successor to Orrin Hatch and has my full support and endorsement. The endorsement, I guess, a sign that two Republicans may be burying the hatchet after a sometimes contentious relationship. Romney, with a tweet of his own, thanking the president for the support.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: A military official tells CNN the U.S. wants to send Russia a message with its show of force in the Black Sea. But a U.S. Navy commander maintains the decision to have the USS Carney join the USS Ross in the Black Sea is proactive, not reactive. Russia reinforced its military forces in the area after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. A move rejected by the vast majority of the international community.

CUOMO: All right, updating you now on a story we told you about yesterday. An Uber's Eats driver is accused of shooting and killing a customer. Now that driver has surrendered to Atlanta police. Thirty- six-year-old Robert Bivines turning himself in on Monday. Police say Bivines opened fire on 30-year-old Ryan Thornton after an argument Saturday night. Bivines attorney says his client acted in self- defense, claiming Thornton angrily charged at Bivines when his food arrived late.

CAMEROTA: Well, the couple who took in the Florida high school shooter speaking out, trying to come to grips with what he has now confessed to doing.


CAMEROTA: So how do we -- how do you guys process this? How do you explain what happened?

JAMES SNEAD, LIVED WITH CONFESSED SCHOOL SHOOTER: We -- we can't. We -- we don't know. We're -- we're lost. We have no answers.

CAMEROTA: If you saw Nick right now, what would you say to him?


CAMEROTA: OK, so our interview with Kimberly and James Sneed and what they say he was like when he lived with them, next.


[06:35:53] CAMEROTA: The couple who took in the Parkland school killer after his adopted mother's death last fall are now speaking out. James and Kimberly Snead say they did not know that a monster was living under their roof. I spoke with them at JFK Airport and here's some of what they had to say.


CAMEROTA: So tell us what Nick was like when he lived with you guys.

JAMES SNEAD, LIVED WITH CONFESSED SCHOOL SHOOTER: He was -- he was very respectful. He was a little quirky, a little socially awkward and --


J. SNEAD: He told us he was depressed. We knew he was depressed. So --

CAMEROTA: And so when you say he was quirky, just give us a sense of what -- what that looked like?

J. SNEAD: He was just -- he was just trying to fit in. He was just -- just -- didn't know what to say or when to say it or how to say it, you know, so he'd ask a lot of questions. He'd apologize a lot. If we told him to do something, if he needed to clean up something after himself or something, he'd apologize and said he was sorry. You don't have to be sorry, just do it.

CAMEROTA: And did you know that he had had this history at the school, that he had been suspended for these sort of behavioral issues?

J. SNEAD: I knew he was kicked out of Stoneman Douglas. I didn't know why. I asked him. He said for fighting. And that was it. I mean when he came in to live with us, and part of the -- was getting him back in school, I tried to get him back in Stoneman Douglas and they just basically told me no. So we put him in an adult education center.

CAMEROTA: And what was he studying? What did he --

J. SNEAD: He was just trying to get his high school diploma. And he was doing well. He was doing really well. He was proud of what he was doing. He'd tell me every day that he took -- you know, how many quizzes and how many tests and did good on them.

CAMEROTA: There are different reports of him having been violent at times. There's different reports of him having been rude to teachers, being profane, using bad words. Did any of that ever come up? Did you see any flashes of any of that?

J. SNEAD: Not at all. Not at all.

CAMEROTA: Do you know where he bought the gun? J. SNEAD: No. No. I just -- when I -- when I talked to him about

coming to the house, I made sure they were -- they were purchased legally. I asked him. And I asked for the paperwork. And -- and he provided everything and it was -- it was OK.

CAMEROTA: How many did he have?

J. SNEAD: I'm not sure.

CAMEROTA: When he moved into your house, you saw one or you saw more than one?

J. SNEAD: There was a few. There was a few. But a couple -- he had a couple of pellet guns, too. You know, so I don't know which was which. And it really doesn't matter what he had. They were under lock and key.

CAMEROTA: Did it worry you that here's a depressed 19-year-old with an AR-15?

J. SNEAD: I -- no.


J. SNEAD: I mean --

K. SNEAD: To me, the depression was more stemmed from losing his mother, not from all the things they said about him being bullied or by things that happened in school and all the other issues that have now come out. I didn't know any -- about all those issues. I just thought it was about his mother, you know?

And the day I met him, I told him, I said, you need to find somebody to talk to. We need to find you a professional to talk -- to speak to. And that was -- the ball was rolling on that just days before all this happened.

CAMEROTA: Yes, tell me about that. You took him to a counselor, yes?

K. SNEAD: I did because I have my own. I have someone I go and talk to. And the last time I had gone, I introduced them. They got his name. They were going to start the insurance processes to see what would be covered and he was going to start going.

J. SNEAD: Ironically, it probably would have been this week.

K. SNEAD: Right. Right.

CAMEROTA: So he was open to it? He was open to going counseling?

K. SNEAD: Uh-huh.

J. SNEAD: Absolutely. Absolutely.

K. SNEAD: He asked me on more than one occasion.

CAMEROTA: He recognized that he needed help?

K. SNEAD: He knew it. Yes.

J. SNEAD: I believe so.

CAMEROTA: Was he taking any medication?

J. SNEAD: Not that I know of.

K. SNEAD: Not that we know of.

CAMEROTA: You never saw any pills? You never saw anything? You never saw -- any drugs?


K. SNEAD: As I said before, I saw -- I offered him Motrin for a headache and he says, I don't like taking pills. So, I don't know. I mean he took it eventually. You know, I told him, I'm a nurse, you should, you know, do this, it will help your head. And he just -- and he was thankful later, but he says, I really don't like taking medications.

CAMEROTA: So tell me about what happened Wednesday morning.

K. SNEAD: I didn't talk to him Wednesday morning. I talked to my son and he told me that Nick told him the night before that it was Valentine's Day and he doesn't go to school on Valentine's Day.

CAMEROTA: Was there anything unusual about Wednesday morning? Was he --

K. SNEAD: No. No. Just the fact that he was home. And I just asked him, I said, what are you doing home? I said, you didn't go to school? And he said the same thing about Valentine's Day. I said, well, what about work? And he said they called and said they didn't need me. I said, all right. I said, well, what are you going to do today? He goes, I'll just go fishing and he was getting fishing stuff out. And I had some errands to run, and so I left. And so that's the last time I saw him.

[06:40:03] CAMEROTA: It's now come out that he had sent a couple of texts to your son in -- while he was in the Uber car on the way to the high school. Do you -- does it ever cross your mind that he might have been looking for your son for some reason?

J. SNEAD: Oh, every second of the day.

K. SNEAD: Yes. Absolutely.

CAMEROTA: What do you think those were about?

J. SNEAD: I have no idea. I have no idea. I don't know if he was looking for him or trying to protect him or what. I don't know.

CAMEROTA: Is there any part of you that thinks that your son might have been target of when he was going over there?

J. SNEAD: No. I -- no, because he had every opportunity to hurt us if he wanted to. And he didn't.

K. SNEAD: He told him two weeks prior that he's the happiest he'd been in his life, before all of this, just a couple weeks ago.

CAMEROTA: The happiest he's ever been in his life?

K. SNEAD: Uh-huh.

J. SNEAD: Yes.

CAMEROTA: And so how do we -- how do you guys process this? How do you explain what happened?

J. SNEAD: We -- we can't.

K. SNEAD: We can't.

J. SNEAD: We -- we don't know. We're -- we're lost. We have no answers.

CAMEROTA: If you saw Nick right now, what would you say to him?

J. SNEAD: I don't want to see him right now. I would tell him, I'm disappointed. We're hurt. We're angry. We want to know why. We want to know why. I mean we helped him out, put him on a good path, and he seemed to be doing well with it, and, I mean, did he -- was he faking the whole time or -- we don't know. We have no idea.

CAMEROTA: And, Kimberly, you had a moment, right, where you saw him. You went to the police station. Can you just tell us about that moment?

K. SNEAD: It was just rage in my heart and mad at him and I just -- when they passed him by, I basically went after him and just said, really, Nick, really, you know, and he pulled me back in the room. So that's --

CAMEROTA: And what did he say to you? I didn't hear what he said. He heard him apologize. But I didn't hear it.

J. SNEAD: He said he was sorry.

CAMEROTA: And what did you see in that moment when you looked at him?

J. SNEAD: He was lost. He was lost.

CAMEROTA: What do you want to say to the families?

J. SNEAD: There's really nothing I can say to comfort them. We feel for them. Our heart aches for them. And hopefully something good will come out of this. We're trying to figure that out.

CAMEROTA: What would that be? What kind of -- what would you call for? What's the --

J. SNEAD: I am -- I am proud of the students taking up for their own and demanding changes. I think that's very important and maybe somebody will listen.

CAMEROTA: How does your son feel about having to go back to school?

J. SNEAD: He has mixed emotions. He wants to go back. He wants to see his friends. He's more willing to go than we are willing to let him at this point.

CAMEROTA: You're nervous?

J. SNEAD: Absolutely.

CAMEROTA: Why? What do you think could happen?

J. SNEAD: His friends know him and know he's a good person, but there's people there that may not know him. And we don't want, you know, anything to happen to him.


CAMEROTA: Well, all parents are nervous right now, but, of course, they, in particular, when word gets out that they took in this killer. They took him in around Thanksgiving, obviously, trying to do the right thing, offer him a loving family support. He was at loose ends. His mom had died. And you heard them. I mean there's no way to predict, really, that something like this will happen.

CUOMO: Well, look, for them, no, because they don't know what to look for.

CAMEROTA: That's right.

CUOMO: And they are like many parents. This fact pattern is a little different, right, because you had this kid who was adopted, he loses his mother. These people just take him in.


CUOMO: That's new.

CAMEROTA: And they did their own due diligence. I mean, you know, you heard him say, did you get the guns legally? That was their version of due diligence.


CAMEROTA: They're not mental health experts. And so, you're right, yes, there were a million red flags, a million, but not for them.

CUOMO: Right. And there will have to be skepticism. We don't know what they really said. We don't know what they really did in terms of what they knew about his gun situation and what they were comfortable with or what they weren't. And there is going to be a sensitivity to those questions right now.

But here's what you know. You get a 19-year-old kid. You can't make him get medical treatment. She's a nurse, and still you don't know if he's on any medication. You want to get him help, but you really can't. That's a big part of this issue, as well.

CAMEROTA: All right, we'll continue talking about this obviously throughout the program.

CUOMO: All right, so here's something that's making headlines of a very different variety. Fergie's national anthem rendition. What the singer says about this.


FERGIE (singing): The rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air.


[06:48:20] CUOMO: So, the USA, that team is the biggest delegation at the Olympics, but the country is struggling to keep up in the medal count at the Winter Olympics.

Coy Wire has more in the "Bleacher Report" live from South Korea.

It is such an event to behold, but the U.S., not pulling its weight.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Chris, as you mentioned, more athletes competing in these games than any nation in Winter Olympics history with 242, but they are struggling to stack those medals. In the last four winter games, Americans have finished either first or second in total medal count, but the chances of that are looking slim this time.

Here's your medal count this new day. Norway dominating with 28 overall. Germany's in second with 20. Canada, 19. And you see down there rounding out the top five, tied with France, at 12 medals is Team USA. I caught up with Team USA silver medalist Nick Goepper earlier today here at our studios in Pyeongchang and asked him how he feels about what's going on.


NICK GOEPPER, SILVER MEDALIST SLOPESTYLE: It's kind of a bummer, to be honest.

WIRE: Stupid question, right?

GOEPPER: You know, it's kind of a bummer. It's a wake-up call for us, though.

WIRE: Yes.

GOEPPER: I mean I pride myself on being an American and being really, really, really good at what I do, being the best in the world, and, you know, I hope the other U.S. athletes feel the same and we go in and just dominate these next few Olympics.


WIRE: And back in the states, Fergie apologizing for her widely criticized rendition of the national anthem before the NBA all-star game.


FERGIE (singing): Through, through that night that our flag.


WIRE: She put her own unique touch on the song there. Unique touch. And told TMZ sports it didn't strike the intended tone. She also said, quote, I love this country and honestly tried my best, unquote.

[06:50:08] Alisyn, some good news for Team USA's medal count. Potentially later tonight Eastern Time, the most decorated women's alpine skier in the world, Lindsey Vonn, competes in downhill, her best event.

CAMEROTA: That is exciting, Coy. Thank you very much.

Listen, Fergie tried something different. She tried to mix it up. She tried something different. Why are everyone all over her.

CUOMO: She is a very talented performer. I think the bar is forgetting the words.

CAMEROTA: I do too. I think the bar is Roseanne Barr.

OK, anyway, to our CNN exclusive for you. Special Counsel Robert Mueller now looking into Jared Kushner's foreign financing efforts for his own company during the presidential transition. We have former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo on that, next.


CUOMO: More on that CNN exclusive. People familiar with Special Counsel Bob Mueller's investigation say Mueller is digging into Jared Kushner's attempts to secure financing for his company from foreign investors during the presidential transition.

Joining us now, former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo.

Good to see you, Michael.

MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Good to see you, Chris. Thanks for the invitation.

CUOMO: Always.

You say you are unimpressed by this news about what Mueller may be looking at. Why? CAPUTO: Well, I -- first of all, I don't know if the leak is true. We

saw this leak about, you know, Rick Gates and Paul Manafort also. Like it came from the Mueller operation. I think that's completely bogus.

But also, at the same time, you know, whatever Jared Kushner was doing during the transition, I think that's something that any investigator would have, you know, the wherewithal to look at. He was working on behalf of this nation. And if at the time he was continuing to pursue his business interest, it would be of interest to the -- to the special counsel. And I think this is much ado about nothing.

[06:55:02] CUOMO: Well, but, how do you know? If you agree that it is something that would be a legitimate enterprise for the special counsel, and we don't know what has been found, we do know that there was a lot of questions and concerns about what Kushner was doing while on government time. So how can you be so sure how it comes out?

CAPUTO: Well, I don't know how it's going to come out, obviously. You know, whatever the special counsel is doing will come out in the wash. But at the same time, the idea that the special counsel is looking at what Jared Kushner and others were doing with their private businesses, while they were on the transition team and then later in the White House, you know, that's something that we all should assume that the special counsel is doing.

CUOMO: And why does the Gates thing rub you as nothing? If Gates is cooperating with the special prosecutor and is going to testify against Manafort, then why would you dismiss that as not true?

CAPUTO: First of all, I think both Manafort and Gates are cooperating with the special counsel. But the idea that Rick Gates has somehow caved and, you know, going to make some state's evidence against Paul Manafort, it's all crap. And I think that, in the end, when this leak is proven to be false, you know, where does everybody get their reputations back? It's really -- if you look at it, it has all the markings of a strategic leak by an investigation or by a prosecutor to try to force someone to do something. That's what this is. And I wish that the people who had written that story up had written it truthfully.

CUOMO: But how do you know what the truth is? How do you know that Gates hasn't made a deal with him? Have you been in contact with him?

CAPUTO: Well, I've spoken to Rick. I've spoken to Paul. I've known them for 30 years. But this isn't --

CUOMO: So does Gates say this isn't true? I didn't cut any deal?

CAPUTO: No, I did -- I did not -- I did not ask Rick about this. I saw him last week. I just find this completely out of character. But really within the character of the Mueller investigation, to leak it, and really within the character of journalists to carry it like stenographers.

CUOMO: Well, look, first of all, leaks are part of the currency of journalism and the only people that don't like them are the people that the leaks work against.

CAPUTO: And also those who are worried about the rule of law, because they're illegal.

CUOMO: Right, but, look, Mueller being a leak machine, or however you characterized it, is almost without basis, Michael. We have learned so little --

CAPUTO: I don't characterize it that way.

CUOMO: About what's going on in that investigation. Uncharacteristically so, I would argue. If anything, this investigation has been an example of integrity in terms of leaks, not a sieve.

CAPUTO: Well, I don't characterize Director Mueller or those around him as leakers. I know Director Mueller abhors leaks.

CUOMO: You just kind of said that, though, Michael, didn't you?

CAPUTO: But I -- but there are leaks coming out. You -- CNN has been the beneficiary of some of them. They're still illegal. And even though it might be a tactical move to try to push, you know, a target into cooperation, it's still illegal. And it did come from the Mueller investigation. The stories directly say that.

I think the "L.A. Times" story that came out of this and the others that came out of this regarding Gates and Manafort, none of those reporters are going to turn around and say "they're sorry" in the end. And the -- you know, this is just another leak from an investigation that really must, in my mind, upset Director Mueller.

CUOMO: I'm just saying, all leaks are not equal. So we have to see where it comes out --


CUOMO: And then you can judge, you know, the process at that point.

Let me ask you something about the Russia investigation in general.

You know Russian culture, Russian political culture well. You worked there. You know people. You are not surprised by Russian interference. You say that this is something that needed to be pinpointed for decades. So you believe that Russia interfered in this election, yes?

CAPUTO: No doubt. I believe that Russia interferes in all the elections of, let's say, for example, the Security Council from the United Nations. We also do things to manipulate elections overseas. I was sent to Russia by the Clinton administration to get involved in their elections.

However, this whole thing from the Internet to research agency that's run by this oligarch named Prigozhin (ph), they call him a chef --

CUOMO: Right. CAPUTO: This stuff had been going on since 2013.

CUOMO: Right, so --

CAPUTO: It's been in the news in Russia for a while.

CUOMO: So it's real.

CAPUTO: This needed to be shut down.

CUOMO: So it's real. It's nefarious.

CAPUTO: It's absolutely real. No question.

CUOMO: You believe that in that.

CAPUTO: No doubt.

CUOMO: What I don't understand is, why would you echo this false narrative that, you want to know who really bred dissension during the election, it was the Democrats and the media. They're the real problem, not Russia. Why would you endorse such a silly statement as that?

CAPUTO: I don't find that silly. I think a lot of the dissension has been sewn since the election was entirely the responsible of the Democrats -- a responsibility of the Democrats. I think the Democrats have fed this bogus Russian collusion narrative to the media. The media has gleefully swallowed it because it's really good for ratings.

CUOMO: Every one of the investigations is run by Republicans, including the special counsel, who's (INAUDIBLE) --

CAPUTO: In response --

CUOMO: Way more of a Republican than President Trump has ever dreamed of being.

[06:59:57] CAPUTO: I get that. And because of the Republican involvement and Republican leadership of these committees, the Democrats have been really successful in this gambit. I -- you know, I salute them as a cynical political operative, but as an American, I weep for my country.