Return to Transcripts main page


Will Congress Take Action After Florida Massacre?; Mueller Looking At Kushner's Business Talks During Transition; Albertsons To Acquire Rite Aid In $24 Billion Merger; Shooting Survivors Take Gun Control Fight To Tallahassee And D.C. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired February 20, 2018 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Go ahead, David.

DAVID JOLLY (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: There -- yes, look, let's bring this home.

Jack, I respect the statistics, I respect the ideology --


JOLLY: -- for what it is.

KINGSTON: -- address the --

JOLLY: Listen to me, listen to me.

CAMEROTA: Hold on, Jack -- hold on.


JOLLY: No, address it, Jack. Listen --

CAMEROTA: Jack, let him talk for a second. Go ahead, David.

JOLLY: No, I want to ask you to address something. I want you to give that speech to the families that survived Parkland. If you can give that speech then that says it comes from conviction, not influence. And here's what we need to talk about.

KINGSTON: David, right now --

JOLLY: When you say health care, when you say school safety, what Republicans are refusing to talk about is the intersection of health care with gun purchases. It's not enough to say we need better mental health. We need to say what is the intersection of mental health on gun purchases.

KINGSTON: You know what, David?

JOLLY: What is the intersection of school safety and guns? If you don't get the gist, talk about the first two and not the last one.

KINGSTON: Whoa, whoa, that's absolutely wrong. NRA, the terrorist group as we're hearing not just from these students -- and you know what else -- and I give that student who's upset the right to say that.

CAMEROTA: Thank you.

KINGSTON: It's irresponsible for an adult to say it but if a -- the NRA has spent thousands of dollars on gun safety and gun training. My children have gone through Eddie Eagle.


KINGSTON: And by the way, I'm not a member of the NRA and --

CAMEROTA: Why not, if you like it so much?

KINGSTON: Because I believe in what their -- I believe in the Second Amendment. But they have absolutely, positively promoted the intersection that David's talking about of gun purchasing and mental health.

And by the way --

JOLLY: You've been on the House floor for those votes, Jack -- absolutely not.

KINGSTON: David --

JOLLY: Why has Congress not voted on this issue if the NRA has coordinated with Republican leadership in Congress to not allow a gun vote? You know that.

KINGSTON: They just had one in December. What are you talking about? It was -- Richard Hudson just passed a bill in December --

JOLLY: Yes --

KINGSTON: -- of 2017. How can you say they haven't had a gun bill?

JOLLY: -- national right to carry reciprocity to expand gun rights. They have not --

KINGSTON: Actually, it fixes --


CAMEROTA: Hold on. Hold on. You're speaking over each other. But --

KINGSTON: They fixed background checks and it is the bipartisan bill that Pat Murphy, who is a very, very pro-gun control senator --


KINGSTON: -- and John Cornyn, who is a Second Amendment --

CAMEROTA: Yes. KINGSTON: -- senator are taking up in the Senate.

CAMEROTA: Jack -- hey, Jack, just one second. You know that --

KINGSTON: To dismiss that is ridiculous.

CAMEROTA: Listen, what -- after Las Vegas -- after the hideous carnage there, it seemed that the simplest thing in the world would be to ban bump stocks from being purchased on the Internet. We didn't even know what bump stocks were. They turn your semi-automatic into an automatic for even more carnage -- and they couldn't do it, Jack, in Congress.

KINGSTON: It was in the Hudson bill in December.

CAMEROTA: They couldn't do it. They couldn't ban it.

KINGSTON: The Hudson bill --

CAMEROTA: But now they're taking it up because of this --

KINGSTON: -- in December -- no. In December, the Hudson bill addressed bump stocks.


KINGSTON: It is in front of the U.S. Senate right now.

CAMEROTA: Why haven't they voted on it?

KINGSTON: I'm not a U.S. senator. If -- listen, one thing David and I would always agree with you on Alisyn is that the U.S. Senate will drive you crazy as a House member.

But let me say this.


KINGSTON: I absolutely respect the right to put guns under scrutiny.


KINGSTON: For example --


KINGSTON: -- you can't buy a handgun if you're under 21, but you can buy a rifle. You know what? Put that on the table and let's put mental health on the table, and let's also talk about cultural changes.


KINGSTON: For example, let me -- let me --

CAMEROTA: Yes, quickly. KINGSTON: Let me raise the hair on somebody's head right now. I heard a thoughtful discussion about school prayer and morality back in the public discussion --


KINGSTON: -- and nobody from the left is going oh, school prayer, horrible. That's hardly a part of the problem. But you know what, what if it is?

CAMEROTA: Well, Jack, I hear you.

KINGSTON: But what if they --

CAMEROTA: Listen -- OK, I got it. You want the whole thing on the table. That's great.

But as you know, what these kids have said that the time for hope and prayer is over. The hopes and prayers from people have only gone so far and 17 of their loved ones are dead.

David, you know Mitch McConnell, you know Paul Ryan. Is this going to be different? Will they change anything as a result of what happened in Parkland?

JOLLY: We're going to see very quickly -- you know, in South Carolina after the Charleston shooting, the political leadership on both sides seized the issue of the Confederate flag. It wasn't gun control but there had been this debate over the Confederate flag. And finally, because of the wretchedness of that shooting, they seized the momentum very quickly, within a month.

It is up to the leadership of McConnell, and Ryan, and Donald Trump. If they want to do something they need to do it now because otherwise, in Washington, if they delay even a couple of months the NRA will slow-roll this and they will do so with a very powerful constituency of voters, not just money.

KINGSTON: I just want to point out --


KINGSTON: -- that after Sandy Hook --


KINGSTON: -- when Barack Obama --

CAMEROTA: Quickly.

KINGSTON: -- was president, the U.S. Senate was controlled by Democrats.

The Second Amendment discussion is very difficult and there are many who want to go to a full-fledged let's ban guns. The National Instant Background Check -- CAMEROTA: Nobody's talking about that, Jack. Nobody's talking about that.

KINGSTON: If we took --

CAMEROTA: We're talking about common-sense reforms. Nobody is talking about banning guns --

KINGSTON: Alisyn, let me say this to somebody who's been in this debate. Whenever --

CAMEROTA: -- today, Jack. Sorry, your slippery slope argument is not going to work today.

KINGSTON: The byword on the left is always common-sense gun control and it usually means restriction of the Second Amendment.

[07:35:00] What I am saying to you --


KINGSTON: -- if you want to put it on the table you also have to tell me why when gun purchases went up --


KINGSTON: -- did the crime rate go down? And neither of you --

CAMEROTA: And why school shootings and mass shootings went up.

KINGSTON: And neither of you have said -- no --

CAMEROTA: I got it. Hey, it's done.

KINGSTON: To a gun-free zone --

CAMEROTA: Hey, David --

KINGSTON: To a gun-free --


KINGSTON: -- that's where they saw --

CAMEROTA: -- we're done.

KINGSTON: -- these mentally disturbed people --

CAMEROTA: Jack, the end.

KINGSTON: -- always attack soft targets.

CAMEROTA: Jack, David, thank you.


JOLLY: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Let's get back to Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: There's progress.

All right. Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York.

Tell me if I'm wrong. First of all, Congressman, always good to have you.


CUOMO: So, gun control -- any type of meaningful legislation. Is it just the reality that it will only exist at the state level?

After Newtown, you saw Connecticut move, the governor here in New York moved. Florida, now we see it. South Carolina, we saw it. When they get hit they act.

Is that the reality that at the federal level you guys won't be able to get it done?

JEFFRIES: I certainly hope we're able to do something. I've been in Congress now for less than three terms and we've gone from the mass shooting in Connecticut to the mass shooting in Charleston. The mass shooting in Charleston at a church to the mass shooting at a workplace in San Bernardino, California.

From San Bernardino, California to a mass shooting at a concert in Las Vegas. A mass shooting at a concert in Las Vegas to another church in Texas. And now, of course, from the church in Texas shooting last November, now to a school shooting in Florida and there's been no real semblance of activity.

Nothing but moments of silence -- empty promises to try to address the situation in some way, shape or form, and then nothing happens on the floor of the House of Representatives or the United States Senate.

And so, Americans can reasonably ask the question, what is the problem? Is the issue that so many members of the House and the Senate are funded by the NRA such that they refuse to act to protect the safety and well-being of the American people?

CUOMO: But the NRA -- look, they definitely dump money on campaigns but they're not alone in that.

The voters vote on that issue. If you are a Second Amendment voter with whatever your notion of what that means, you vote in a way that people who are right now calling for change don't.

And I was monitoring that conversation, OK, what was going on -- and Jack Kingston, he makes his points. Monitoring a thread.

When Australia is mentioned that's what makes people afraid. Oh, my -- they're going to take our guns just like Australia. They just said it. Oh, and you -- assault rifles. People don't even know what these weapons are.

We never get past that point and it makes me wonder if you want to get past that point you can't be just about guns. Access to weapons is definitely an issue.

Mental health identification of people who are at suicidal risk who create these school shootings, that's an issue.

How safe the schools are, which may well mean having more guns in schools, will be part of that conversation.

Will Democrats accept all those components in the name of change?

JEFFRIES: Well, I think it's important to have a comprehensive conversation and discussion and put everything on the table and then have a reasonable debate about these issues. We haven't been able to even get a vote.

CUOMO: That is true. No leadership in Congress, to my knowledge -- you tell me if you're hearing differently off cameras -- where they have said what can we do to stop the school shootings.

Let's start there, which is really what these kids are asking you to do down in Florida. They're not coming up with specific proposals. That's not their job. They're lucky they're alive.

They're saying you have to do something.

Is this a tipping point?

JEFFRIES: I hope so, particularly because of the involvement of these young people who have spoken up in such an authentic and compelling fashion. And all of us should be able to see them and see our children through their voices, and want to act to try to protect them and everyone else across the United States of America who wakes up, goes to school, and shouldn't have to worry about being the victim of a mass shooting and never making it home.

Now, there are comprehensive, reasonable pieces of bipartisan legislation Chris, that as you know, we can consider in Congress. Comprehensive background checks has the support of Democrats and Republicans --

CUOMO: True.

JEFFRIES: -- on the left and gun owners.

CUOMO: Everybody agreed on the system that doesn't work and why won't they fix that system? It gets you into the politics of the slippery slope. But everybody agreed, including responsible gun owners.

You know, they want people to have background checks. That system isn't working well enough. We'll see if they fix it.

Let me ask you about something else while I have you.

The special counsel -- we have reporting that says they're going to look into an expanded view of Jared Kushner -- obviously, the president's son-in-law, senior adviser -- into whether or not during the transition period he was trying to work money for his family's deals.

Do you believe in that type of questioning?

JEFFRIES: Well, I certainly think that we need to make sure that we have the most ethical government possible for the people of the United States of America, and I recall the president saying he wanted to come to Washington to drain the swamp.

How can you drain the swamp when your own senior policy adviser seems to have been engaging in private-sector dealings to benefit his own family or his own real estate business connected to a project that may drown the family business in debt?

[07:40:00] So I think that it is appropriate, but we also have to stay focused here on what the problem is. It seems that the Trump campaign conspired with Russian spies to sell out our democracy and now you have members closely affiliated with the Trump administration and possibly the president who are engaged in a cover-up.

That's a problem and we should just allow the Mueller investigation to run its course.

CUOMO: Well, OK, I agree with the last part for sure but what you said two statements before, it really fights that conclusion.

Proof of Trump surrogates, campaign staffers, whatever you want to call them, conspired with spies? Where is proof of that?

JEFFRIES: Well, first of all, we've got the meetings that took place, one of which was at Trump Tower, including with Donald Trump's son and his son-in-law and his campaign chairman who's been charged in an unrelated matter with conspiracy against the United States of America. They met with closely-affiliated Russian operatives, were promised dirt on a political opponent, Hillary Clinton, and then refused to disclose that meeting or indicate to the FBI that something's taken place there.

CUOMO: But you know that that wouldn't meet the legal definition of conspiracy all by itself. You'd have to show that they were advancing in a legal --

JEFFRIES: Well, there's a whole host of facts that are coming to light that connect the Trump campaign, meeting after meeting after meeting, contact after contact that they failed to disclose, some of which were failed to disclose possibly in violation of the law in connection with filling out security clearance forms. All of a sudden there was selective amnesia.

We know that there seemed to have been a possible triangular relationship between the Trump campaign, WikiLeaks, and the Russian government. Robert Mueller's going to explore that.

Let's let the investigation proceed. He can report to the American people what happened.

Robert Mueller was widely respected by Republicans and Democrats before he got this appointment. He's a lifetime Republican. And Chris, as you know, this entire criminal investigation on all sides is being led by Republicans and yet, Donald Trump continues to try to undermine it.

CUOMO: And there is one thing for you to work on for the American people. Right now, as I understand it, the mandate to Mueller is that he gives a report to Rosenstein at the A.G., not to the American people. So as it stands right now there's no responsibility for the American people to know what this investigation yields.

Hopefully, you guys will help.


CUOMO: Hakeem Jeffries, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

JEFFRIES: Thank you.

CUOMO: Alisyn --


So Chris, a megamerger. We'll tell you about the plan for two companies to deal with threats posed by online giants. That's next.


[07:46:14] CUOMO: It is time for "CNN Money Now." A megamerger between two legacy companies because of the rise of online giants threatening their survival.

CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans -- boy, that is a scary thing I just read there. What does it mean?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT, ANCHOR, "EARLY START": It means Albertsons and Rite Aid will merge, Chris, in a $24 billion deal.

Rite Aid is already selling a number of its stores to Walgreens. Now, Albertsons -- that's a grocery store chain -- it will buy the rest of Rite Aid, creating a new company of nearly 10,000 stores and pharmacies across 38 states. Scale matters.

The heads of both companies told "The Wall Street Journal" this deal is the best way to take on online retailers like Amazon. It is expanding into groceries and possibly the pharmacy business.

And, Walmart's digital offerings have simply exploded in recent years. The rise of both may have forced many retailers to team up.

It's not a done deal yet. It still needs government approval but both companies aim to close that deal by the summer.

And speaking of Walmart, its stock is set to fall this morning, down about three percent pre-market. It didn't make as much money over the holidays as analysts expected, so watch Walmart as a mover this morning of the New York Stock Exchange, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, we will. We do whatever you suggest. Thank you very much, Christine.

CUOMO: You say Walmart and Alisyn is already ready to go there.

CAMEROTA: There -- I'm already there, actually.

CUOMO: She has select shopper stats.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much.

All right. So perhaps, you just heard what former congressman Jack Kingston just said on our air about the teenagers who survived the Parkland massacre. Those teenagers have a response to him and anyone who challenges their motivation and doubts their cause, and they're next.


[07:51:57] CAMEROTA: In the wake of the Florida high school massacre, the victims -- the teenage students are demanding that Congress and the president take some action to stop these mass shootings.

But earlier on our show, former Republican congressman Jack Kingston questioned who is behind these students and their actions.


KINGSTON: Their sorrow can very easily be hijacked by left-wing groups --

CAMEROTA: But do you think it --

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


KINGSTON: -- and --


KINGSTON: -- and those groups are ready to take it --

CAMEROTA: Jack, I'm sorry, I have to --

KINGSTON: -- take it to the streets.

CAMEROTA: -- correct you. I was down there. I talked to these kids.


CAMEROTA: These kids were -- Jack, these kids who are wildly motivated.


CAMEROTA: All right.

Joining us now to talk about this and so much more are two shooting survivors. We have Delaney Tarr -- Delaney Tarr here with us, and Brandon Abzug, along with Brandon's father Mark Abzug.

And I want to start with you guys, Mark and Brandon because I know that you were listening to former congressman Jack Kingston there suggesting that somehow, I guess, you've been co-opted. You've been brainwashed, I guess, by left-wing activists.

What's your response?

MARK ABZUG, FATHER OF FLORIDA SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: Not a chance. These students are motivated, these students are intelligent. The only motivation they have is making change.

They haven't been contacted by any operatives. They are doing this on their own with the support of their families and the people that love them.

CAMEROTA: Brandon, what's it like when you hear people say you guys don't know what you're doing? You must be having help from somebody else.

BRANDON ABZUG, FLORIDA SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR, MET WITH FLORIDA STATE LEGISLATORS: I think it's very despicable that he would even have the audacity to say that. Young people all across this country and over the world should feel that they have the power to make things right and especially, in the wake of a tragedy we really show who we truly are.

So, to say that just because we're young we can't make a difference is not right and he should apologize for that.

CAMEROTA: Delaney, have you been hearing this?

DELANEY TARR, FLORIDA SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: Absolutely. I think with any movement there comes this amount of hating and trolling, and people telling you that you're just a little kid. You don't know what you're talking about or you're a puppet. But ultimately, we have to -- we have to move past all of that because the amount of support that we're getting is so overwhelming compared to everything else.

CAMEROTA: That's really good to hear.

Brandon, what are you all planning to do? Tell us about how you're going to go to the Florida Statehouse and take your message directly to lawmakers.

B. ABZUG: So, I was actually there yesterday and I lobbied for eight hours, minus the 30 minutes I took to have lunch. And basically, I came up with a three-point plan to tell congressmen and basically, I spoke to Rep. Smith, Rep. Oliva and I told them my plan.

[07:55:06] First, gun control. Support Rep. Smith's plan to ban assault weapons. We do not need these weapons. These are weapons meant for killing and attacking people, not for defense.

The Second Amendment is the only thing that opposes it and it's a good amendment. However, we don't need to have these things. We already have limitations, such as the age to buy guns --


B. ABZUG: -- and things like that.

So, by having -- and we already have machine guns banned and things like that.


B. ABZUG: So why can't we ban these weapons of mass destruction and murder in order to save lives? So that was the first thing.

The second thing is I propose to -- that the government of each state has a federal -- or has a state agency --


B. ABZUG: -- that they could work to interact with the FBI and local law enforcement because in our instance in Parkland, the sheriff's office was not in cooperation with the FBI --


B. ABZUG: -- and they both had a lot of hints dropped on the shooter. So, if we had --

CAMEROTA: Let me stop you right there. Yes, absolutely. I just am stopping you there to make that point a little bit further.

There were all sorts of signals, and had there been coordination --

B. ABZUG: Right. CAMEROTA: -- obviously, between them, then the FBI wouldn't have missed perhaps that call that came into the call center because the sheriff's office knew about this guy. They had tried to do so many interventions at his home.

And, Delaney, let me just bring you in on this to follow up on Brandon's point. Why are you all so motivated today? I mean, I know that you lived through this but lots of people, sadly, have lived through a horrific ordeal.

How come you all have the strength today to be able to go and do what you're doing today in front of the state legislature?

TARR: Well, I think that we come from a place where we have the ability to speak out about this and I'm sure that many other people who have been through similar situations have wanted to speak out.

But, we come from an affluent school. We are all very well-educated on government and policy so we are being given this platform and it felt wrong to not take advantage of it. And ultimately, we know that we're in a place where we can speak out, where we can try to make that difference so we're taking advantage of it.

CAMEROTA: Look, I mean, I started talking to you guys when we were there just in the hours after this massacre happened and obviously, you're all exhausted but you haven't taken your foot off the gas.

How are you coping with all of this?

TARR: I think that this -- doing all of these media circuits and trying to organize the march and organizing the movement in general -- I do believe that it is a way of coping. It is a way of us realizing that the only way that we're going to heal, the only way that we're going to feel better is knowing that other people won't have to go through what we go through because ultimately, though our innocence has been taken from us, other people still can be protected.

CAMEROTA: And I do want to talk about your innocence being taken away from you in a second.

But, Brandon, tell us how it's working. I mean, look, you heard -- you heard Jack Kingston there -- the congressman -- say that basically, he didn't think you all could organize on your own.

So, how are you getting these buses to go to the state capitol? How are you all getting your message out so effectively and forcefully?

B. ABZUG: Well, before I answer that I'd like to just finish the --

CAMEROTA: Yes, tell us your third point.

B. ABZUG: -- three points that I --

So, just to go back on the second point. So that intermediate area -- the agency can really be useful because it could interlock the federal government, state government, and local governments so they're on cooperation. And then --

CAMEROTA: So valuable, yes.

B. ABZUG: Yes. And then, the third point is having counselors. So, if we have these -- like, let's say licensed psychologists at school. Right now, we have guidance counselors whose main job is to make sure that we graduate and that we're prepared for college.

But if we have these people that are licensed and are willing to meet with students, see how they are. There's a lot of pressure on students so maybe that could boost the morale of students so that people like -- that are young don't grow up into be so hateful of the world.

CAMEROTA: I think that's good -- great. Listen, this kid -- this killer, he had a lot of intervention. People did flag him. They did know that he was a ticking timebomb of some kind. He was expelled from school because he'd been so disruptive and there'd been violent outbursts in the past.

So, before it gets to that point, having school counselors -- yes, absolutely. Whatever it takes to be able to flag any sort of mental health issue that's cropping up.

But, Brandon, back to my question. How are you all able to do this? I mean, you are -- you guys have just lived through an ordeal.

How are you finding the strength to organize and be able to get your message out?

B. ABZUG: I think, as Delaney said so beautifully, it's -- again, this is our way to make a difference. We want to honor those that passed, unfortunately, on last Wednesday -- on Valentine's Day. And by speaking out against gun violence and advocating for gun control that is our way of honoring them so that this doesn't happen -- have to happen to anyone else.


Delaney, you just wrote a piece for "Teen Vogue" about the loss of innocence. You know, you all had to grow up overnight because you had to see something so unthinkable and so horrible.

I'm reminded of the expression after John Kennedy was assassinated where Mary McGrory, a famous journalist, said we'll never be young again.