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Interview with Survivors of Florida School Shooting; Students Organize March on Florida State Government to Demand Action on Gun Control; Interview with Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired February 20, 2018 - 8:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: 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." How do you feel about that?

DELANEY TARR, FLORIDA SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I do think that there is a certain truth in that statement because even though we are still teenagers, Brandon and I are seniors in high school, we've lost this part of us that we're never going to be able to regain. Right now our lives are so distinctly professional and so distinctly mature that there is no going back from it, there is no going back from being so outspoken on Twitter, from organizing meets with the legislators in Tallahassee because even if and when we solve this and this all passes, it's -- there's no going back. There's no going back to the way things were before. That has been taken from us. So all we can do now is keep moving forward and grow into these people we're determined to be.

CAMEROTA: All of you, the 3,000 kids who go to this high school, all your lives are altered. You don't have to have known somebody, though everybody did. All of your lives are forever altered, and we really appreciate your strength and we really appreciate you both being here and speaking out about this. Brandon Abzug, Mr. Abzug, thank you, and Delaney, thank you. We'll check back in with you.

TARR: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Tomorrow night CNN hosts a live townhall with some of these students and their parents from Parkland as well as several lawmakers. Jake Tapper is going to host. It's called "Stand Up, Students of Stoneman Douglas Demand Action." That's tomorrow at 9:00 p.m. eastern. Do not miss that. And if you would like to help the families of the victims of this Florida massacre, a Go Fund Me page has been set up by the Broward Education Foundation. It has been verified by CNN as being authentic. You can donate by going to

We're following a lot of news this morning, so let's get to it.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and welcome no your New Day. It is Tuesday, February 20th, 8:00 now in the east. Survivors of the Florida school massacre taking their fight to the state's capital today. Students are heading to Tallahassee to demand changes to gun laws. Seventeen of their classmates and teachers were gunned down inside their high school. Questions are being raised by a former Republican congressman and former advisor to the Trump campaign about whether the students are being coached by the leftwing.

CAMEROTA: They have a lot to say about that, Chris, as you know.

We also have a CNN exclusive in the Russia investigation. Special counsel Robert Mueller is expanding his interest in Jared Kushner beyond just his contacts with Russia. Mueller is now asking questions about Kushner's effort to get financing for his own company from foreign investors during the presidential transition. So we have all of this covered for you. Let's begin with CNN's Rosa Flores live in Parkland, Florida, with our top story. Rosa?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, good morning. Student survivors are not taking no for an answer when it comes to gun control. They are packing all the pain and all of the emotion that they had inside after 17 of their fellow students and teachers died, and they are hopping on buses today. At about 1:00 p.m. this afternoon, heading towards Tallahassee to demand lawmakers to listen to them 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 a student who came face-to-face with death.


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: Survivors of the high school massacre in Florida demanding that lawmakers make changes to America's gun laws after they 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.

ALEX WIND, FLORIDA SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I want to see action. I don't want to see talk. A 19-year-old who can't purchase alcohol 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 Congress is doing enough to prevent mass shootings, with 62 percent saying President Trump could do more. As for how to solve the problem, the majority of Americans think 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 10 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.


FLORES: And the mood here in Parkland, Florida, somber, as the memorial that you see behind me continues to grow, three more funerals and two visitations are scheduled for today. Meanwhile, the school is preparing to reopen, and they're planning to do that in phases. First, staff are expected to return on Friday. An orientation is scheduled for Sunday, and the goal is to bring students back on Tuesday.

CUOMO: All right, Rosa, thank you very much.

Joining us now is CNN political analyst David Gregory and CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin who worked with special counsel Bob Mueller. It's good to have you both, gentlemen. Let's start with what's going on with the survivors down in Florida. David, what is Jack Kingston thinking about? Often he is a conduit into talking points that are going to be out there for the political right. So let's play what he just said and then try to figure out why he's saying it.


JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Their sorrow can very easily be hijacked by left wing groups --

CAMEROTA: Do you think it has been?

KINGSTON: -- that 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? 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. It's kind of like instant rally, instant protest.

CAMEROTA: Jack, I'm sorry. I have to correct you. I was down there. I talked to these kids. These kids were wildly motivated.


CUOMO: David Gregory, that was the mild version, by the way, because on Twitter he used every hashtag that checks a box with conspiracy people, antifa, everything in there. Is this what they're going to try to do is try to cancel out what these kids are standing for by saying it's some lefty movement?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, they can't do that. And it's really unfortunate that he would go there. Look, we all know when you're this age in particular you are getting more involved, you're getting more aware, you're feeling things more deeply, let alone to go through something as horrific as this, to personally experience, to come this close to death. If you're not going to be galvanized by that, then what is going to do it?

Can you be facilitated in terms of architecture and planning and so forth with likeminded people? Perhaps, but that's beside the point. We talk about how there was inaction after Newtown. These are young people who are of an age where they can speak. They can speak eloquently. They can overreach, they can offend. They can do all these things by speaking out and actually getting organized because of something they have gone through.

And I do think -- we talked about this last hour, I'm still skeptical about these tipping point moments after these tragedies. But I do think this has the potential to be different because the messages are so powerful, because in their innocence and their eloquence they're saying something we all have to hear.

But at the same time we can't just -- I think you both have been making this point this morning. We can't as a result retreat to our corners and say, therefore, these are the steps that have to be taken and only these steps. It has to be a more inclusive conversation if you're going to get actual agreement in the political sphere.

CAMEROTA: Of course. You need to have everybody at the table. Include the NRA for that matter. Have everybody come to the table to try to figure this out. So why try to silence the teenagers? The very kids who were the kids there, Michael, for the slaughter whose friends were killed, trying to silence them -- I'm sorry. I just have to read Jack Kingston's tweet again so people can hear the talking points and spot it for themselves because these will obviously come back again and again over the next days. So here is what he sent out on Sunday night, right on the heels of this massacre. He says, "Oh really? Students are planning a nationwide rally? Not leftwing gun control activists using 17-year-old kids in the wake of a horrible tragedy? #Soros, #resistance, #antifa, #DNC." So be on the lookout for those talking points because the kids, we've spoken to them, they hadn't had time to shower much less be indoctrinated and brainwashed by the DNC when we spoke to them, Michael.

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I don't know what life was like for Jack Kingston growing up in Athens, Georgia, but growing up in New York for me at that age, we were very much active in the antiwar movement, in the civil rights movement. We were the same age as these kids are. When it affects you as personally as it did, as the draft that affected us, you get galvanized to act. You don't need George Soros or anybody else to tell you what you know in your heart. So I just don't get it with Jack. He's a nice guy, but this is really beneath him.

CUOMO: This is what the politics of the situation has become, David. You were talking about this earlier in the show. People just put their hands over their ears, they retreat to their two sides, and they just wait for the storm to pass. And it will be different this time if -- here is my check on the skepticism, if people are looking at how do you identify people with suicide risk? That's who does these school shooting. If you want to talk about school shooting, talk about who does them. How do you identify them? How do you eliminate access to weapons for those people? What do you do about keeping your school safe? How do you deal with access to weapons that you have any business having in that situation or maybe even in nay? You're going to have to have that conversation, but it starts with the question what are we going to do to stop these shootings? I'm not hearing at the federal level leadership asking those questions. Are you?

GREGORY: No. And ironically you have a president who is much more open, I think, at least he has been before he became president, to more restrictions on gun rights, whether it's background checks or other access issues. But I don't know that he's got the strength or the desire to take on the right at this particular point. And the NRA, he wasn't more recently willing to do it when it came to immigration.

But that conversation has to happen. I think it's important at the stated level, whether there's measurable gains that can be made. Colorado did this some years ago but they ran into resistance as well. You look at this question of access, why is it that a young person, whether he's a criminal, whether he's mentally ill, whether he's a sociopath, whether things just go terribly off the tracks for his life, how can you so readily get access to a weapon like an AR-15. A friend of mine pointed out this morning, what about the rigor that parents have to go through to get a driver's license, and the amount of parental involvement in that which just makes good common sense.

Again, what I get so worried about is this idea that we can't do everything out of fear -- we can't do anything out of fear that the government will do everything to take away gun rights, to actually take away guns. And that's where the conversation has to be joined. And Alisyn, you said the NRA has got to be at the table. Trust me, they'll be at the table. But they have got to somehow be at the table in a way that is deemed more constructive rather than just fighting a rear guard action to have any rights diminished.

CAMEROTA: The NRA can't like school shootings. That's not good for their brand. So they --

GREGORY: But they would argue that you need more weaponry, they would argue you need more armed guards in school. I interviewed Wayne LaPierre right after Newtown. Remember what he said was which is the -- CAMEROTA: Nothing stops a bad guy with a gun except a good guy with a


GREGORY: I do think there's something very particular about school shootings unfortunately in our society where those who are come to a place in their life where they think this is the choice, this is the way to get the attention, to go out in a blaze of glory, schools are going to have to deal with that. We have children -- there are a lot of advanced protocols about what to do with an active shooter or if your campus is compromised. And I think that is going to be something that continues to be looked at and strengthened.

CUOMO: As far as the president's resolve, this morning he's tweeted a lot for his typical pace, about half a dozen times. None of them have anything to do with this issue.

Michael, let's get a quick pivot because we have got an expert in our midst with what's going on with the Russia investigation, so let's use it. This reporting that CNN has that Mueller could be looking at Jared Kushner during the transition period, working people for financing for his outside projects, not the work of the American people, does that sound like something within the purview, and are you suspicious that there's been no request for Mueller for documents as far as we know?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it seems to me, Chris, that what we have in Mueller is a prosecutor who is looking at financial crime. We see this in Manafort's indictment. We see it in the new filing that he had the other day alleging Manafort engaged in bank fraud to obtain a mortgage. We see the Kushner inquiries now.

So, it seems to me and we see that the FinCEN data, the Financial Intelligence Center at Treasury, has been subpoenaed for SAR data, suspicious activity report data. So, I think there are a lot of indications that this is a broad-based financial crimes inquiry of which Jared Kushner is just one part. His part relates to financial dealings on behalf of his own private businesses, just as Manafort's involved his private businesses.

And we'll see how it plays out with respect to Manafort, with respect to Flynn who had similar situations, though he made a plea agreement, it doesn't make him completely immune from further inquiry.

And Trump, of course, himself in his business dealings. So, I think this is a tipping point in some sense with respect to what we can see into what Mueller is doing on the financial crimes side of his investigation.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: That's really interesting insight.

All right. Michael Zeldin, David Gregory, thank you very much for this conversation.

CUOMO: So, survivors of the Florida massacre are calling out lawmakers and saying stop taking money from the NRA. We're going to talk with one lawmaker who donated his money from the gun group. Does he think Congress is finally going to act?


[08:20:08] CUOMO: Student survivors of this week's shooting massacre in Florida are heading to Tallahassee to press state lawmakers on gun control. We all know 17 of their classmates and teachers were killed last week.

As a former Republican congressman, Jack Kingston suggests those students are being coached by the left wing. This seems to be the new talking point to try to distract from the power of these kids trying to do what the rest of us have failed to do, make a difference.

Joining us now to discuss is Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio.

Congressman, it's good have you.

We have seen that states are often forced to step up when they lose kids in their communities, an acute sense of the pain and the potentially political fallout. So, we saw it in South Carolina, we saw it in Connecticut. We've seen it in other streets. We may see it in Florida.

At the federal level, do you believe that leadership is going to step up and start by asking the question, what can we do to stop these school shootings?

REP. TIM RYAN (D), OHIO: Well, we're going to need a lot of pressure. I mean, I think everybody is appalled the fact that the president and the Congress has not acted on some basic, you know, half steps in order to try to address this problem. That's why I think with these young, articulate, heartbroken kids are starting to do in the country is really get people's attention and say, hey, wait a minute. We know the political system is broken, but for God's sake, we've got to be able to take basic steps forward to keep kids safe and others around the country.

CUOMO: Is that enough when you talk about why things haven't been done in the past? Do you think this will make a difference?

RYAN: You know, many of us sat and watched this whole thing unfold and got choked up as it happened and watched these young people step up in a way that weave not seen. I think it's in part because they are high school age. I think in part because they did grow up around social media and filming themselves and videos themselves, that they could get in front of a camera and really articulate and cut through a lot of the B.S. that happens every single day on TV and reach into people's hearts.

And I think that's why I'm optimistic that we will be able to take some steps. And I don't want to get involved in another polemic. You know what I'm saying, Chris? I want us to say, look, there are honest, law abiding hunters that own guns, that are concerned about gun safety --

CUOMO: Right. RYAN: -- that go hunting with their kids. I mean, just a few weeks ago, I was hunting with our son and several other people duck hunting.

Those are good people. They need to be at the table and they need to help push organizations like the NRA to say let's sit down and make something happen.

CUOMO: Right. But you know what? Here's the thing though -- I hear where you're coming from. But even that, even by mentioning them, I guess you need to mention them because you need to help dispel this kind of myth that they're somehow threatened by this, OK? You're talking to a gun owner. It's not about keeping people who legally want guns from getting them. It never has been.

But you have an organization and you have political people who are acting as agents of that organization effectively, you were one of them, taking money from them, I know you've given it back. We're going to have that conversation.

But they believe that if you're a hunter, you want to protect your family, the law is against you and is in favor of everybody else. That is a lie. That is a misrepresentation of the fact.

RYAN: Totally.

CUOMO: So, you have to start dealing with that. You dealt with it by giving back money that the NRA gave you.

It's not really the money, is it? It's they get voters out on this issue. They get hunters and self-respecting sportsmen who say I got to protect my family, I want to protect my hobby. I'm going to vote on this. The gun control people don't vote the same way on this matter.

Isn't that a function of the impasse as well?

RYAN: There's no question. I mean, the NRA is clearly one of the most powerful political organizations in the United States. That's why, you know, having these kids on the other side articulating a more moderate view of, yes, we can respect hunters, we can respect law abiding gun owners and at the same time have universal background checks.

I think these are the kind of conversations we need to have because 70 percent to 80 percent of NRA members support a universal background check. So, why can't we make some headway on that? And if we articulate the other side of that like these young kids are doing, I think we can maybe make some headway.

But they've got to apply the political pressure necessary to move the Congress which is clearly beholden to the NRA at this point.

CUOMO: You think the NRA is that powerful? You think that they are the biggest reason there's an impasse?

RYAN: No question. I mean, there's no question about it. And you have you know, basic 70 -- as I said, 70 percent to 80 percent of the American people supporting a universal background check and we can't get a vote on some of these things, you can't let the CDC, Center for Disease Control study gun violence as a public health issue, they talk about they want more mental health coverage, yet the Republicans they support in Congress now have tried to throw 20 million people off of health care, many of those people would qualify for some kind of mental health treatment.

[08:25:31] I mean, this goes on and on. And there's no innovation coming out of the Republican Party. We have a logjam. But now, we have a force to be reckoned with with these young media-savvy kids coming out of Florida who I think are going to be game changers in this whole debate.

CUOMO: Well, let's see, because something has to happen. Access to weapons is certainly a part of it. Let me ask you about something else. One of the things this country needs is to see Wall Street success into main street success. We've heard it but we don't often hear the solutions. You think you have one.

What is it?

RYAN: I'm really excited. We're announcing comeback cities tour, Chris, in which we're bringing about 12 venture capitalists from New York and California into the Midwest. We're going to start in Youngstown, Ohio and go to Akron. We're going to go to Detroit and Flint, Michigan, and over to South Bend to try to bring these venture capitalists and their massive amounts of money and investment into the Midwest.

And we're really making the argument, acknowledging the fact that 80 percent of venture capital money goes to three states, California, New York and Massachusetts, and only 4 percent goes into the Midwest. And we're saying it's a good deal. There's emerging technologies, emerging businesses in towns like the ones we're going to go visit and many others. And we want these venture capitalists to see and make these investments.

The government -- as a Democrat, the government can't solve all these problems. We can be a part of the solution, but we need the private sector investment to come in. And it's a good deal. It's eight bucks a square foot in Youngstown, Ohio, Chris, and it's about 75 bucks a square foot in San Francisco. You can pay an engineer out of Youngstown State or University of Akron about $60,000 a year. In California, you've got to pay them $100,000, $120,000.

So, the economics match up. But we've got to connect these two worlds. If we're going to have growth and wages and benefits and secure pension, we need private investment to come to the Midwest. So, I'm excited about this tour. Congressman Ro Khanna from Silicon Valley is going to be on it with us. And we're going to have a lot of fun and hopefully get economic development into the industrial Midwest.

CUOMO: It will be good to see private capital helping their own in the United States of America. Let us know how it goes. RYAN: Absolutely. Thanks.

CUOMO: Be well, Congressman. Thank you.


CAMEROTA: All right, Chris.

The students at Douglas High School say their heroic teacher, Mr. Beigel, gave his life to save theirs. We'll speak with Scott Beigel's mom about her son's sacrifice next.