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Trump Blames Obama for Inaction Over Russia Meddling; High School Shooting Survivors Lead Push for Gun Control; Mueller Looking at Kushner's Business Talks During Transition. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired February 20, 2018 - 07:00   ET


CAPUTO: -- 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.

[07:00:13] But at the same time, you know, when we look at this Russia investigation and what's gone on since. And as this thing winds down, as it peters out and we're seeing that happening right now, unfortunately, the media and the Democrats have painted this with such certainty that we're going to have our own version of 9/11 truthers out there who never -- never will ever believe that the Trump campaign did not collude with Russia.

CUOMO: Well, last I checked, it's not the media that's big into conspiracies these days. So let's see where the investigation winds up, and we'll see how people play it.

Michael Caputo, thank you for coming on and giving us your take, as always.

CAPUTO: Thanks, Chris. I look forward to seeing you again.

CUOMO: All right. And thanks to all of you, our international viewers for watching this. For you, "CNN TALK" is next. For our U.S. viewers, there is a lot of news. Let's get after it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you for taking steps to save us or are you for taking NRA blood money?

CAMEROTA: The White House signaling that President Trump supports efforts to improve the background check system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Do something" is being translated as more gun laws.

ALEX WIND, STUDENT SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: A 19-year-old should not be allowed to purchase an AR-15.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The time for change wasn't now. The time for change was years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Robert Mueller is now asking about Jared Kushner's personal business dealings during the presidential transition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Trump family running the government has raised serious conflict of interest questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two groups created chaos more than the Russians. And that's the Democrats and the mainstream media.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there was nothing to the Russian collusion story, why does he keep talking about it?


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

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Here's our top story.

The survivors of the Florida school massacre are taking their fight to the state's capital today. Busloads of students are heading to Tallahassee to demand changes to gun laws.

On Monday, dozens of teenagers demonstrated outside of the White House. Here's video. Seventeen of them lying on the ground in silence for three minutes to symbolize the lives taken during that amount of time in Wednesday's massacre.

The White House signaling that President Trump is open to improving the nation's background checks for gun buyers. A new national poll finds that a majority of Americans think the president and Congress are not doing enough to stop these mass shootings.

CUOMO: Now, the president has been all over the place on guns over the years, so we'll see where he is now. But it is an interesting clue as to what kind of resolve the Republicans are going to have.

We also have a CNN exclusive in the Russia investigation. Special Counsel Bob Mueller is expanding his interest in Jared Kushner, we are told, beyond his contacts with Russia. Mueller is now asking questions about Kushner's efforts to secure financing for his company from foreign investors during the transition. We have it all covered.

Let's begin with CNN's Rosa Flores live in Parkland, Florida, with our top story -- Rosa.


Student survivors are empowered. They are fired up with the pain that they feel inside, and they don't plan to take "no" for an answer when it comes to gun control. They are hopping on buses today at about 1 p.m. And they are headed the towards Tallahassee to demand lawmakers that they listen to their voices when it comes to gun control. And they plan to challenge any lawmaker who thinks or believes that they know more about gun control than students who came face to face with death.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CAMERON KASKY, FLORIDA SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: 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?

FLORES (voice-over): Survivors of the high school massacre in Florida demanding that lawmakers make changes to America's gun laws after the horror they lived to tell about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never again should a student be silenced by gunshots. Never again should anyone fear going to school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The time for change wasn't now. The time for change was years ago.

KASKY: 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.

FLORES: In Washington, D.C., a group of teenagers staged a protest outside the White House, lying on the ground for three minutes to symbolize how long it took the killer to gun down 17 students and teachers last week.

WIND: I want to see action. I don't want to see talk. A 19-year-old who can't purchase an alcoholic beverage should not be allowed to purchase an AR-15, a weapon of war, a weapon of destruction. It's absolutely absurd.

FLORES: A new national poll shows that 77 percent of Americans do not think that Congress is doing enough to prevent mass shootings, with 62 percent saying President Trump could do more.

[07:05:09] As for how to solve the problem, the majority of Americans think that more effective mental health screenings and treatment could have prevented the massacre, while 58 percent think that stricter gun control laws could have had an impact.

The White House announcing that President Trump supports efforts to improve the federal background check system. That after speaking with Senator John Cornyn Friday about the bipartisan bill he's introduced that would strengthen how state and federal government report offenses that could prohibit people from buying a gun.

But President Trump's only action on guns since taking office undid restrictions aimed at mental illness. And the president's proposed budget would cut millions from existing background check systems.

All this as CNN is learning more about the confessed killer. A law enforcement source says he purchased at least ten rifles in the last year. But the buying spree did not set off any red flags with authorities.

The killer appearing in court Monday for the second time. He kept his head down and said nothing. (END VIDEOTAPE)

FLORES: And this community continues to mourn. Three more funerals are scheduled for today, as well as two visitations.

Meanwhile, in the school behind me, administrators planning the reopening of the school in phases. First, staff are scheduled to come back on Friday and orientation is scheduled for Sunday and the goal -- and I want to emphasize the word "goal"" -- is to bring back students on Tuesday.

CAMEROTA: Hard to imagine how that's going to work, Rosa. Thank you very much.

Joining us now to talk about all of this, we have CNN chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, and CNN political analyst David Gregory.

So Jeffrey, I'm just starting with you because you've expressed some skepticism that anything's going to change, and I just think that you're wrong.


CAMEROTA: The reason that I think you're wrong is already these kids have gotten lawmakers' attention. Already, the Republican-run state legislature in Florida is announcing that these are the measures that they're looking at. So let me just read them for you.

They're already considering raising the age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21. Why is it harder for teenagers to buy a pack of cigarettes than it is for them to buy an AR-15? They are going to create a waiting period for purchasing my type of firearm. A longer waiting period, so they can do more extensive background checks. Ban bump stocks, finally. This could be in some legislation in Florida. Create gun violence restraining orders, like the kind we saw -- we now see in Connecticut following what happened in Newtown.

So already, the fact that these are even on the table from Republicans who lead the state legislature, why are you still skeptical?

Because I saw what happened after Newtown. I mean, 2012, you had a Democratic president. You had a Democratic Senate, and nothing happened. And, you know, President Obama threw everything he had into it. And you had absolutely nothing happen at the federal level.

CAMEROTA: But there comes a tipping point.

TOOBIN: Yes, there does. Yes, there is, perhaps. But I mean, the resilience of the pro-gun lobby in this country and the power of the NRA, which is now completely aligned with the Republican Party, I am very prepared to be proven wrong.

But I think, you know, the enduring power and the intensity -- the problem -- guns is a little like immigration, in the sense that if you ask most people, you get 60, 70 percent in favor of a reform position... CAMEROTA: More on expanding background checks.

TOOBIN: Right. But the intensity level of the people on the other side is so much greater. For the 60 or 70 percent, it's not a voting issue. If you talk to people in the middle of the country, in more conservative parts of the country, guns are a defining voting issue, which they are not in the northeast and more liberal...

CUOMO: Well, it's certainly true that the gun control community, such as it exists, does not come out and vote single issue the way Second Amendment voters, as they call themselves, do. That's true.

But we have seen, David, state responses to situation, right? Jeffrey is right. We saw nothing on the federal level after Newtown, but we did see states. We saw Connecticut, we saw New York, we saw surrounding states. Now we're seeing Florida. The question is, even if these get through, from the Republican there at the state Senate in Florida, does that translate into political will at the federal level?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I'm very skeptical of that. Because I do agree that it makes a lot more sense for the states to start to take this on. We've seen it.

In New York, as you mentioned, we were just talking about that last week, on the program. I remember back in Colorado, this goes back at least five years, where there were greater efforts in mental health, as well as some restrictions.

Now, by the way, the NRA did a pretty good job in Colorado, even at the state level to force lawmakers to back down from even those state responses. But I think it's got to start at the state level. And then at the federal level, there have to be some measures where there can be, you know, some real alliances on perhaps more modest measures. But that's the reality.

[07:10:13] I mean, I think what Jeff says is actually really right, in the sense that it's a voter intensity issue, and it's not just about guns. It's a proxy for what guns represent to people around their freedom, about government overreach, and we can have that debate about whether any of that makes sense.

But this is America with a Second Amendment and with a rich tradition in guns. And a country that's awash in so many guns.

So I think at the federal level, but also at the state level, this becomes a fight about what actually is effective. How you can reasonably achieve the ends of limiting access to guns and cutting down on the number of guns that are available to those who would abuse them.

I have to say, I think, you know, when the president comes out and talks about addressing mental health concern concerns, addressing school safety, I think opponents of gun rights should embrace those steps and push for more. There has to be an approach that factors everything in, when you've got this kind of violence. TOOBIN: It's worth remembering that AR-16s were banned in this

country for ten years. We forget -- you know, the Brady Bill from '94 to 2004, this was part of president Clinton's assault weapons ban. It was illegal in this country to have an AR-16.

Well, under President George W. Bush, it was intentionally expired. They thought this was a -- this was something that people shouldn't -- should have access to. You know, we were not an unfree country from '94 to 2004. I mean, you know, people still had guns, but...

CUOMO: You're playing on the narrative from the right that it's not about gun control. It's about people control. I haven't heard that argument in a long time, but it is a particularly pernicious one and effective one. That this is not gun control that they want, it's people control.

Now, Gabby Giffords is a big voice on this and we know why. She had to experience this the worst possible way, which where these kids are coming from, too, now. She just released an ad from her foundation about the situation in Florida, targeting the governor there, who has an "A" rating from the NRA. Here's the ad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale, Parkland. We need to stop dangerous people from getting guns.

But Governor Rick Scott made it illegal for a doctor to ask a patient if they owned a gun, even a mental health professional. This law was so dangerous that a court had to strike it down.

Governor Scott, we need more than your thoughts and prayers. Stop putting the gun lobby ahead of our safety.

Paid for by Giffords.


CUOMO: Now, look, it is a fact that Scott is now appealing that judicial decision. We'll see what he does politically with it. He's moving on, anyway.

But where do you think the momentum goes at the federal level? You said something interesting there, David. Everybody is going to have to be open-minded about this. Will gun control advocates want to talk about increasing safety in schools? And we know what that's going to mean. It's going to mean that there's going to be some type of increased gun presence in schools to keep them safe.

CAMEROTA: I mean, and I just want to say, there was an armed guard at this high school in Parkland. One armed guard actually can't bring down a crazed teenager with an AR-15.

CUOMO: But it raises the issue, do you have...

CAMEROTA: There were armed guards at Columbine. CUOMO: But they were -- that was different, that situation in

Columbine. I spent a lot of my life there. That -- it wasn't practical, given how it was set up. They would do different things now. In New York City, when they wanted to stop the gang violence, they put cops in the schools. It stopped.

TOOBIN: If you want to talk about mental health...

CUOMO: That's a different component.

TOOBIN: You know, that's been the big talking point. And the Republicans said, "We want to do something about mental health." Well, then why did Florida turn down the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare? They all hate Obamacare, and so all the red states have turned down the Medicaid money. A lot of that Medicaid money would go to mental health.

CAMEROTA: Guess what? President Trump also rolled back some of the protections, so that it was going to be easier for people with mental health issues to get access to guns. I mean, you can't say that this is all about mental health and then roll back any protections against that intersection.

GREGORY: Let me make a couple of other points that I think, you know, have to be part of this conversation. One, I don't understand gun safety law opponents, right? So pro-gun rights folks, who will say we should do anything rational, irrational, whether it works or it doesn't work, to stop terrorism from overseas.

CUOMO: Right.

GREGORY: But we can't -- we can't -- even if it abridges our individual rights, by the way, after 9/11, let's remember what we went through.

CUOMO: Right.

GREGORY: But we can't do that when it comes to guns.

CUOMO: Right.

GREGORY: Because -- and by the way, this is true on the left, as well, on issues like abortion, is this argument -- no, no, no, no, if you do this, then it's a slippery slope and it's going to be forever. And the truth is that on the right, they are correct about this. Because the left in this country, politicians did want to ban handguns at one point. That is where gun control started.

[07:15:12] But we've gotten to a place of such irrationality, to think, we can't be common sense about this, because this will just be the start and then the federal government will take all your guns. And we haven't really moved off of that place.

CUOMO: It's true, but look, we also know this. There is some such thing as a tipping point when it comes to politics. Nowhere in the world do they have these kinds of shootings the way we do. CAMEROTA: Absolutely.

CUOMO: So sometimes, maybe it's the case -- we couldn't have this after Newtown, because the kids were too young to speak for themselves.

CAMEROTA: Of course. I can't think of better messengers. Having been down there, I can't think of better messengers than these teenagers. They're clearheaded, they are vocal, and so it feels like something -- if ever there were a chance to have something common sense happen, these kids are the right ones.

GREGORY: But Alisyn, there's another side to that, which is, you know, for a lot of people, even those who are grieving with these kids in this community, when they hear, oh, well, you know, the NRA is a terrorist organization, you know what? They're going to hear that differently.

CUOMO: That was one kid.

GREGORY: There are a lot of people who don't believe that.

CUOMO: That was one upset teenager who was speaking there, and that's relevant, as well.

CAMEROTA: And I think they're allowed to use those kinds of extreme words.

GREGORY: Everybody's allowed to do whatever they want. Everybody's allowed to do whatever they want.

CAMEROTA: I think it actually might be effective. Look, all of this...

CUOMO: That is not going to be effective. If you demonize people who care about your gun rights, you will get no progress in this...

CAMEROTA: Well, I think that demon -- I think that calling out the NRA, which is what these kids are doing, might be effective. We'll see today. They are heading on buses to the state legislature. So we will see today, and tomorrow we'll give you an update on what they have accomplished.

Gentlemen, thank you.

TOOBIN: Yes, indeed.

CUOMO: All right. CNN exclusive. Special Counsel Bob Mueller investigating contacts between the president's son-in-law Jared Kushner and foreign investors during the presidential transition period for his own business ventures.

CNN's Abby Phillip live at the White House with more.

We had heard speculation about this in reporting earlier. Now what are we hearing about the investigation itself? ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Chris.

We are hearing from sources who have been briefed on these developments that the special counsel appears to be asking some new questions about Jared Kushner's activities during the presidential transition, when he said he had meetings with representatives from over 15 countries, about 50 different people on presidential transition matters.

But we also know that he was taking meetings with foreign investors, Chinese and Qatari investors, about his New York property, 666 Fifth Avenue.

Now, one of those meetings with a Chinese investor happened about a week after the election. And the Qatari deal also, in addition to the Chinese deal, appeared to fall through. But these developments raised some new questions about whether the special counsel is moving into this new realm, beyond Kushner's meeting with potential Russia investigate -- Russia investors. And into meetings with other foreign nationals.

It also potentially crosses the president's own red line, which he said would be looking into his own business dealings and that of his family's. Listen to what he told "The New York Times" last year about what he would do if Robert Mueller went in that direction.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mueller is looking at your finances and your family's finances, unrelated to Russia. Is that a red line?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, REPORTER, "NEW YORK TIMES": Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?



PHILLIP: Well, that comment is also interesting, because it seems very much that Robert Mueller is moving in this direction. We also now have a statement, a reaction from Jared Kushner's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, who wrote this: "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 documents sought on the 666 building or Kushner Company deals nor would there be any reason to question these regular business transactions."

So the Kushner legal defense here pushing back on this, this line of reporting. But you know, in part, counsel investigation seems to be heating up dramatically. There was an announcement of 13 indictments of Russian nationals last week. And President Trump has been commenting on it furiously on social media, most recently last night when he blamed his predecessor, President Obama, for not doing enough to stop Russian interference -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Abby, it sure does feel like things are accelerating. Thank you very much for all that reporting from the White House.

So will the Douglas High School shooting be the tipping point for Congress? We talk about with two former Republican congressman who can, of course, now speak more freely now that they're out of Congress. What would they do? Next.


[07:23:45] CAMEROTA: A new national poll shows that a majority of Americans want our leaders to do more to stop mass shootings. Sixty- two percent say they do not think the president is doing enough. That number soars to 77 percent when it comes to Congress.

So what will lawmakers do now after the Florida massacre? Let's discuss with two former U.S. representatives from the Republican Party. We have David Jolly and CNN political commentator, Jack Kingston.

It's great to have both of you. You're both Republicans, and now you can speak freely because you are out of Congress.

Jack, I want to start with something that you tweeted, because I don't understand it. So let me read to everyone what you tweeted on Sunday night about this. You said, "Oh, really? Students are planning a nationwide rally, not left-wing gun control activists using 17-year- old kids in the wake of a horrible tragedy? #Soros #Resistance #Antifa #DNC."

Do you think that, Jack? Do you think -- you're serious, you think kids aren't acting on their own volition?

JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's a horrible tragedy, and I'm heartbroken that young people have gone through this and I hope that it never happens again. But I also know that their sorrow can very easily be hijacked by left-wing groups...

CAMEROTA: But do you think it has been?

KINGSTON: ... who have an agenda.

[07:20:04] Well, let's ask ourselves. Do we really think -- and I say this sincerely, do we really think 17-year-olds on their own are going to plan a nationwide rally?


KINGSTON: I -- I would say to you very plainly that organized groups that are out there like George Soros are always ready to take the charge and it's kind of like instant rally, instant protest and...

CAMEROTA: Yes. Hey, Jack...

KINGSTON: ... so ready to take it to the streets.

CAMEROTA: Jack, I'm sorry, I have to correct you. I was down there. I talked to these kids. These kids were -- Jack, these kids were wildly motivated. I talked to these kids before they knew the body count of how many of their friends had...

KINGSTON: Alisyn...

CAMEROTA: Jack, no one had talked to them yet. They hadn't been indoctrinated by some left-wing group.

KINGSTON: But Alisyn...

CAMEROTA: They were motivated from what they saw and what they endured...

KINGSTON: Alisyn, I don't doubt -- I don't -- I don't doubt their sincerity.

CAMEROTA: Yes, you do.

KINGSTON: I absolutely know these children are heartbroken. But I also know that they probably do not have the logistically ability...


KINGSTON: ... to plan a nationwide rally without it being hijacked by groups that already had the preexisting and --- agenda.

CAMEROTA: That's silly. Jack, it's just silly. They're already doing it. They're on buses going to the state legislature today. They're 17 years old. They can figure this out.

KINGSTON: And -- they have the money for the bus, and they're ready to go. I mean, I just have a hard time believing it.




JOLLY: Yes, Jack. Jack, Jack, you're a friend. Who cares who's paying for the gasoline for them to get their voice to legislators? Who cares?


JOLLY: Listen. The message is not a left-wing confiscation. They are not getting out a left-wing confiscation message. They are suggesting that yes, there can be a constitutional right, but...


JOLLY: ... not beyond a reasonable regulation.

CAMEROTA: Hold on. Jack, hold on. Hold on, Jack. Let David -- go ahead, David. Make your point.

JOLLY: Here's the point. Here's what the American people are crying out for leadership on. They want universal and comprehensive background checks. They want it to be as difficult to get an assault weapons as it is to get a security clearance in this White House. And they want to see dramatic enforcement of the laws on the books. You don't get to choose which one of those three will stop gun violence.

KINGSTON: OK. Let's put on Hollywood gratuitous violence and bloodshed, which these kids have been inundated with all their life. Let's put on mental health, which if you look at the background of most of these people who had perpetrated this, there have been all kinds of red flags. In this case, 36 house calls to that house by the local police.

CAMEROTA: Yes, and...

KINGSTON: Two tips to the FBI, and they ignored it. And by the way -- and by the way...

CAMEROTA: He could still legally buy a gun.


CAMEROTA: Let's deal with that.

KINGSTON: Let me give you a statistic that's going to challenge you. But from 1991 to 2014, 160 million guns were purchased by Americans. Now, that's an appalling figure for many people, 160 million guns...

CAMEROTA: Yes, got it.

KINGSTON: During that period of time, violent crime in America went down 52 percent, and the murder rate went down 54 percent.

CAMEROTA: Jack, let me ask you this. I hear your statistics, but let me ask you this, Jack...

KINGSTON: Now, that's a -- that's an important statistic for those who...

CAMEROTA: Yes. Why -- why when it comes to gun violence, do you want to talk about everything except guns?

KINGSTON: I'm willing to talk about guns, but I also want to have facts. When people say an AR-15 is an assault rifle, which it isn't. When...

CAMEROTA: Hold on. Hold on. What do you mean? Why do you -- why are you protecting the AR-15? And how do you define that?

KINGSTON: An assault rifle is where you pull the trigger and you have multiple rounds.

CAMEROTA: No. That's an automatic weapon. That's an automatic weapon. An assault -- what people call an assault rifle is that it's a weapon of war.

KINGSTON: All right.

CAMEROTA: Soldiers get it, use it in war.

KINGSTON: Let's talk about it as a weapon of war. David, do you deer hunt?

CAMEROTA: David, are you a hunter?


KINGSTON: OK, OK. Well, if you deer hunted...

JOLLY: I come from a family of hunters. I respect hunting.

KINGSTON: Listen...

JOLLY: Let me say this.

KINGSTON: I deer hunt. I deer hunt. The caliber of an AR-15 isn't heavy enough for a deer. You use a .25.

CAMEROTA: You're making the point, Jack.

JOLLY: It's for people...


JOLLY: It is to kill 17 young people in Florida.

KINGSTON: Listen, this is a horrible tragedy. I am -- I am all on board. I don't have any fear putting the gun discussion on the table.

CAMEROTA: Jack -- you seem to be diverting from it. You don't like it.

KINGSTON: How do you account for that statistic? Let's talk about that statistic that I just said, the fact that gun purchases went to an all-time high and crime went down.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about -- let's talk about...

KINGSTON: Tell me how they square up.

CAMEROTA: I'll tell you right now, Jack. Let's talk about mass shootings. You know that we have more of them in this country than any other civilized country. That's what happens. School shootings with these AR-15s. That's their gun of choice.

KINGSTON: You've had them in Belgium. You've had them in France.


KINGSTON: Wait a minute. Any time I use a fact, you can't say, "Oh, come on, Jack."

CAMEROTA: You know that when they changed -- they had a massive mass shooting on Australia, and when they changed the nationwide gun laws, they haven't had one since. Go ahead, David.

JOLLY: Yes, look, let's bring this home. Jack, I respect the statistics. I respect the ideological position for what it is. Listen to me. Listen to me.


CAMEROTA: Come on, Jack.

JOLLY: You gave that speech. Now listen. Jack, listen.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead, David.

JOLLY: I want to ask you to address --