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Tracking Down Americans Duped by Russian Trolls; Students Hold School Walkouts in Florida; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired February 21, 2018 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): -- on August 20th. And the Team Trump Broward Group responded. Florine Goldfarb posted the information for the Fort Lauderdale flash mob on the Facebook page she still runs.

Co-chair of the Team Trump Broward, Dolly Romp, was there holding a "Crooked Hillary" sign. Dolly Romp wouldn't talk to CNN. Her husband told us by phone we are disgusting and not to bother them. Florine Goldfarb told us we are fake news, part of the cover-up.

(On camera): But what part of it in this is a cover-up? What -- are you saying that's not true or what?

FLORINE GOLDFARB, RUNS "TEAM TRUMP BROWARD" FACEBOOK PAGE: The Russians? I don't care if they were involved or not. That to me is the least important thing.

GRIFFIN: But they were involved with you. Did you guys know that?

GOLDFARB: They weren't involved with us. That's -- you know, just make sure that you report it correctly that, you know --

GRIFFIN: But you guys were involved with "Being Patriotic," right?

GOLDFARB: Very. Very patriotic, but not --

GRIFFIN: "Being Patriotic" was the group that contacted and helped organize some of these activities that you posted on your own Facebook account.

GOLDFARB: Those were legitimate.

GRIFFIN: Those were Russians.

GOLDFARB: They were not Russians. I don't go with the Russians. Come on, give me a break.

GRIFFIN: That group was Russians.

GOLDFARB: I have nothing to do with the Russians. The group --

GRIFFIN: Well, apparently, you did.

GOLDFARB: No. GRIFFIN (voice-over): Even though the indictment says the Russians

organized the rally, Miss Goldfarb says she never communicated with any Russians and no one at any of her events were anything but Americans for Trump.

The Russians, pretending to be Trump organizers, also reached out to Harry Miller in Boynton Beach, Florida, paying him to build a cage large enough to hold an actress depicting Clinton in prison uniform. He did just that, appearing at rallies. On Friday, Miller, who now lives in Pennsylvania, tweeted, "This is the cage the Russians paid for."

By phone, he says he learned about his unwitting involvement from the FBI and now believes it was Russians who called him on the phone and paid him between $500 to $1,000 to build his cage.

HARRY MILLER, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I was really embarrassed. They had that beautiful Web site. They were very supportive of the -- supportive of the candidate. There was nothing, nothing at all to lend you to think that it's anything other than people trying to support a candidate.

GRIFFIN: The Russians weren't just recruiting unwitting Trump supporters. As CNN reported last October, a group calling itself "Black Fist" turned out to be Russians trying to infiltrate black communities and seed social unrest. Other groups were encouraged by Russian Internet trolls. The whole protest against police, for and against immigrants, sometimes encouraging both at the same location to increase the possibility of violence.

The indictment also reveals this post-election protest outside New York's Trump Tower was organized by Russians on Facebook. It grew so large even CNN covered it.

Micah White, one of the original "Occupy Wall Street" organizers, says he believes he was contacted by Russian trolls in May of 2016. He worries about the long-term effects.

MICAH WHITE, ACTIVIST, OCCUPY WALL STREET: If it is true that a Russian-created activist group is indistinguishable from an American- created activist group, that will make -- that will have negative impacts on our ability to create social movements that are positive, that actually benefit ourselves and not some sort of foreign power. So that --

GRIFFIN (on camera): People will always be wondering, well, is this -- is this a real --

WHITE: Right.

GRIFFIN: -- event?

WHITE: And I think that may have been part of the goal of the Russian thing.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): For Florine Goldfarb, there is no Russian thing. It is all, as she repeatedly told us, BS.



GOLDFARB: And please, please report that. I don't believe that. That's bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I know all the people that were with me, OK? They were at my meetings. They're all Trump supporters, OK?

GRIFFIN: Mm-hmm. But did you realize that you guys were in communication electronically with Russians?

GOLDFARB: Not me, not me. I don't know --

GRIFFIN: You were posting stuff on Facebook.

GOLDFARB: Hillary -- Hillary Clinton was and so was all her bandits. You were --

GRIFFIN: Some of the stuff that you -- you were in charge of the Facebook account, right? You were posting and re-posting almost word for word the information that was coming out of this Internet Research Agency --

GOLDFARB: No. Goodbye.

GRIFFIN: -- in Saint Petersburg.


GRIFFIN: You don't believe that?

GOLDFARB: Nope, it's bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Thank you.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Wow. Fascinating. Our Drew Griffin reporting.

All right, we have pictures from Florida, new demonstrations across the state. This is a middle school from Westin, Florida. We'll be right back.


[10:38:50] BERMAN: All right. You're looking at live pictures. These are from Westin, Florida. And this is a middle school where students have walked out in solidarity with the students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who are in Tallahassee pushing lawmakers today for action on gun reform.

This after 17 students and teachers were killed just one week ago in Parkland, Florida. This is not the only demonstration, I should note, in the state. We've seen pictures over the last hour of hundreds, really thousands of students walking out of their classrooms to protest and to use their voice to speak out in support of the students from Stoneman Douglas.

Joining me now, CNN political analyst, Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast," Jackie Kucinich, CNN political commentator, former senior communications adviser to Trump campaign, Jason Miller, and Democratic strategy Jamal Simmons.

You know, Jason, you know that a representative, an aide to a Florida Republican was fired after suggesting that these students we're seeing by the thousands are paid actors. There have been others who suggest they are being put up to this by political activists.

What's your message to the people delivering this message?

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think that was good that the action was taken to fire the staffer. That's certainly not the opinion or the sentiment coming from the White House, where we're seeing the president take swift and decisive action.

[10:40:06] He's a holding a listening session this afternoon to talk about how we can prevent these types of tragedies from happening in the future, and we're also seeing the president issue notice to the Department of Justice to talk about bump stocks to see what we can do there as well to go -- if there's something that goes and converts a semiautomatic into a fully automatic weapon.

I think these are common sense reforms and I think also just to say that people who are saying that these students, these whether it be the middle schoolers you just showed or high schoolers are somehow child actors, I think they really should be ashamed of themselves because again that is not the sentiment that the president of the United States is sending out to people right now.

BERMAN: No. These are students who watched their friends and teachers get killed and have been burying them for the last several days right now and who are calling for action.

You know, Jamal, I don't know if you heard Jason because we've been having some audio issues, but Jason just said the president has taken swift and decisive actions on guns. Those actions include holding a meeting today, a listening session, making a statement yesterday saying he opposes the sale of bump stocks. Are these positive measures? Is this swift and decisive action?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: So the president is talking about doing things but this is not the beginning of this problem. I mean, I'm not sure, you know, how long ago Las Vegas was when the bump stock issue happened and Steve Scalise shooting occurred during his first year in the presidency. We just haven't seen Donald Trump do anything of importance or with speed in a Republican-controlled Congress that he ought to be able to move legislation through.

We just haven't seen him do it. And I think what's encouraging right now is you've got 15, 16 and 17-year-old young people who are out here on the streets. They're walking out the schools. I talked to my niece in Chicago yesterday. They are having moments of silence, organizing in schools. This is something that's spreading out of Florida and the last place

I'd want to be is a member of Congress or a politician who's going to a press conference or a town hall and having young people having die- ins in front of me while I'm trying to talk about some other issue and taking money from the NRA.

BERMAN: And again, we're looking at pictures right now from Florida right now where some of these students are walking out.

As best as I can tell, there are 17 flowers up on that stage, Jackie, for the 17 students and teachers who lost their lives in the school shooting. We've been talking to students marching on Tallahassee, meeting with lawmakers, and they're adamant that they will get the change.

We've also spoken to lawmakers there, Jackie, adamant that they will not give these students everything they're asking for. One Republican lawmaker I spoke to said, you know, assault weapons, any discussion about that, not even really open for debate, Jackie.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's -- I mean there's lots of reasons, I don't think it's just because of money from the NRA because when it comes to -- when it comes to lawmakers here in D.C. and there in Florida, it's the people that are part of the NRA. It's their constituents that don't necessarily want these measured -- these measures pushed forward. So that's what they are contending with.

Now the question is, what's worth losing your seat for? What's worth pushing for this? That is -- that is the question. And you know, we saw members of Congress lose their seats after the 1994 assault weapons ban. We'll see. It really is an open question because we've seen -- I don't mean to be cynical here but we've seen a lot of momentum towards change only to see it kind of -- and people forget, people move on.

BERMAN: Right.

KUCINICH: And to see it peter out.


SIMMONS: And John, the one thing we did see, though -- the one thing that we did see that happened in a previous generation is that when children got involved in Birmingham back in the 1960s, that did turn parents in a very different direction on civil rights.

BERMAN: But we'll see. It's not finished in history.

MILLER: John, to make one additional point --

BERMAN: But go ahead. Go ahead, Jason.

MILLER: Yes, I was just going to say that as we talk about addressing this problem, yes, there are some direct things we can do with, say, regard to bump stocks but I think we have to look at the big picture here with mental health issues to make sure that -- BERMAN: Sure.

MILLER: Law enforcement are getting tips such as the FBI or even DCF that we're following up on those tips to stop these tragedies from happening. I mean, the whole attitude of let's go and just try to confiscate an entire class of guns, I think has failed as we saw from the '90s and Hillary Clinton. And that's --

KUCINICH: Who's asked for confiscation, Jason?

MILLER: No. But that's what many on the left are pushing for.

KUCINICH: I haven't heard that at all.


MILLER: And again --

SIMMONS: Where did that --

KUCINICH: Talking to people in the left.

MILLER: Let's just -- it's all over. It's all over. Take a look. The political left is completely up in arms. They want to use this as an opportunity to take away law-abiding Second Amendment --


BERMAN: Jason. Jason, the assault weapon ban -- Jason, you used the word -- hang on. Hang on, hang on. You used the word confiscate, which you know is not true. No one is calling for --

MILLER: That is exactly --


MILLER: That is exactly where the political left wants to take this.

BERMAN: No. The assault -- no. No.

MILLER: Yes, it is, John.

BERMAN: No. The assault weapon ban -- hang on. Hang on. Hang on. Hang on. Hang on. Because there was certainly half of what you said there is 100 percent true. I think the mental health discussion is something people want to have right now, background checks is something people want to have, and you are correct that people are talking about assault weapons, and a ban on assault weapons.

[10:45:03] No one that I have heard of has gone further than the assault weapon ban that was in place for a decade that confiscated nothing from no one. It banned sales of weapons of a certain class that were all modified in a certain way but I have never confiscation discussed anywhere in any --

MILLER: John, take a look -- BERMAN: Hang on, Jason. Hang on.

MILLER: Take a look at the leftist on social media. It's all over.

BERMAN: And that's the kind of language -- that's the kind of language I think that inflames this debate. If we can, I want to change focus to this other big news today. The president of the United States deciding to talk about Russia. He woke up during executive time. The first thought was not to the death of Billy Graham or to the meetings that he's having with students later today but it was the Russia investigation, Jackie, criticizing his own Justice Department for not investigating the Obama administration. Your thoughts?

KUCINICH: It's kind of a rinse repeat, it doesn't seem like this president could get Russia out of his mind. I mean, look, over the weekend he even conflated the school shooting with the Russia investigation, saying the FBI should do their jobs instead of looking into Russia. I'm paraphrasing here. And instead of looking into school shootings.

It really -- this is an obsession. It is -- he wants -- I think there was a thought that these indictments on Friday would mean it was all done and over. It's not. This Russia investigation is ongoing.

BERMAN: Jamal, I want to give you the very last record here because I do push Democrats on this. You certainly think the Obama administration, it's fair game to criticize them for their reaction to Russia and the Russian medaling during 2016, yes?

SIMMONS: Yes. The one thing we learned dealing with Trump administration is while the Obama administration was trying to focus on rules and trying to do things in a way that would have the least political impact in the middle of the campaign, Mitch McConnell was not willing to put the country first. He instead wanted to play politics and now Donald Trump is just trying to also play politics and let's remember --


MILLER: Oh, come on.

SIMMONS: He didn't just criticize --

MILLER: Obama and Biden did nothing after the Russians invaded Crimea. They did nothing -after the attack and meddling of 2016 --

SIMMONS: He didn't just criticize the Justice Department.

BERMAN: Hang on, hang on.

MILLER: Obama and Biden did nothing.


BERMAN: We're basically out of time. You guys talking over each other --

SIMMONS: Jeff Sessions has recused from talking about Russia.


BERMAN: Ten words or less, Jason.

MILLER: Another thing where Obama did nothing --

BERMAN: Ten words or less, Jason.

MILLER: Yes. Obama and Biden did absolutely nothing. Trump will get it done.



BERMAN: Obama told Vladimir Putin to stop meddling which is something that we do not believe President Trump has so far done. But we will see.

MILLER: And Crimea?

BERMAN: There is still time.

MILLER: They did nothing -- nothing with Crimea. Nothing with --

BERMAN: We're talking about Russia.

MILLER: -- the Russian meddling.

BERMAN: Russian meddling. We're talking about --


BERMAN: Jackie Kucinich, Jason Miller, Jamal Simmons, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it. Look forward to speaking to you again.

We do have more breaking news this morning. Billy Graham has passed away. We'll have much more on his life next.


[10:52:07] BERMAN: Billy Graham has passed away at the age of 99. A preacher to the masses, counselors to presidents from Harry Truman to the present.

President Trump just wrote, "The great Billy Graham is dead. There was nobody like him. He will be missed by Christians and all religions. A very special man."

Joining me now is Randall Balmer, chair of the Department of Religion at Dartmouth. Professor, thanks so much for being with us. Billy Graham, you know,

a century, a remarkable century of life and a remarkable influence not just on American religion but America in general. What was his unique role do you think in the last 100 years?

RANDALL BALMER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's hard -- it's hard to boil it down to a single thing. But I think more than anything what he did was bring evangelicalism into the mainstream, that is to say, that Bill Graham himself grew up in a very narrow -- what we would call fundamentalist home. And he made a conscious decision early in his career to forsake the kind of narrow, constricted fundamentalism of his childhood in favor of a broader, more capacious evangelicalism and cooperated with other religious leaders and so forth.

And he was himself a very charismatic individual and the power of his charisma made evangelicalism acceptable to many Americans and throughout the world.

BERMAN: Yes. I think he made his faith accessible to everybody, you know, from every class, every race, you know, just cultural. You look at pop culture, all the way, you know, from the guy from "Unbroken" to Queen Elizabeth herself. He had an impact across society.

BALMER: He did. He was a remarkable man, an extraordinary charisma. I remember the first time I was in the same room with him. I didn't even see him. I could feel that he was there, he had that sort of magnetic personality. And he was able also to boil down the rudiments of his faith, his evangelical faith in a way that was accessible to the masses. That is to say that he understood how to speak in such a way that he wasn't being condescending.

BERMAN: Right.

BALMER: That he could communicate with average folks.

BERMAN: And he had a relationship with every president since Harry Truman. That's a remarkable statement. People should sit back and think about that for a second.

BALMER: That's true. The relationship with Truman did not get off to a good start because Graham was very young then.

BERMAN: Right.

BALMER: And he didn't really understand White House protocol. And one of the great ironies is that the president to whom he was closest theologically, that is Jimmy Carter in terms of being an evangelical born-again Christian, was the president with whom he probably had arguably the most distant relationship. One of the great ironies of American presidential politics over the last half century.

[10:55:03] BERMAN: And so incredibly close to both Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, and of course, you know, Billy Graham had to answer for a lot of his relationship with Richard Nixon but I think that Billy Graham would own up to a lot of the difficulties he had as well.

BALMER: He did and Mr. Graham really had a way of kind of plunging in to politics.

BERMAN: Right.

BALMER: He was drawn to politics like a moth to a flame.

BERMAN: Right.

BALMER: He just loved politics. In fact, many people encouraged him to run for office himself and he didn't do that.

BERMAN: Right.

BALMER: But he was drawn to it.

BERMAN: Randall Balmer -- Randall Balmer, thanks for being with us and helping us understand that remarkable life.

Some images I want you to see, students walking out of class across the state of Florida in a push for new gun control measures. Plus there's breaking news on the president and his relationship with the attorney general. Stay with us.