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Trump Acknowledges Russian Meddling, Blames Obama; Florida Teenagers Demand Changes to Gun Laws; Russian Troll Network Dives into U.S. Gun Debate; Violence Escalates in Two Regions of Syria; Schoolgirls in Nigeria Flee Suspected Boko Haram Attack. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired February 21, 2018 - 00:00   ET



[00:00:10] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.

Ahead this hour.

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: The White House says President Trump acknowledged Russian election meddling. So why is he blaming President Obama and not Vladimir Putin?

VAUSE: Students in Florida on their way to confront state lawmakers about gun violence as a vote on banning assault weapons doesn't even make it to the floor of the state House to debate.

SESAY: And mounting casualties -- a staggering civilian death toll in Syria's eastern Ghouta region.

VAUSE: Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause.

SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

VAUSE: Well, the White House now going to great lengths to say President Trump takes Russia's election meddling seriously despite his weekend tweet storm blaming practically everybody else.

Also press secretary Sarah Sanders is saying it's very clear that Russia meddled in the election it just didn't have much of an impact.

SESAY: And of course she says the Trump campaign did not collude with Russia. But (INAUDIBLE) on why the President himself won't acknowledge Russia's interference.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President has acknowledged that multiple times before. He acknowledged it during the transition. He acknowledged it during a press conference in Poland. And he acknowledged it for a third time at a press event in Poland. He has stated several times. I think one of the places where you guys seem to get very confused and it seems to happen regularly the President hasn't said that Russia didn't meddle. What he's saying is it didn't have an impact and it certainly wasn't with help from the Trump campaign.


VAUSE: Yes. Everybody else is confused. They've got it perfectly clear.

So joining us now CNN political commentators Democratic strategist Dave Jacobson, Republican consultant John Thomas; also Ron Brownstein, CNN's senior political analyst and the senior editor for "The Atlantic".

Ok. So just minutes after Sarah Sanders made that statement in Tuesday's briefing which not like we need to actually check this but said it is in fact false. Sarah Sanders went on to clarify a weekend tweet where the President blamed the Florida shooting on the FBI missing warning signs because it was too preoccupied with the Russia investigation. And then she said this.


SANDERS: I think he's making the point that we would like our FBI agencies to not be focused on something that is clearly a hoax in terms of investigating the Trump campaign and its involvement --


VAUSE: John -- first to you. Ok. Did Russia meddle in the election as Sarah Sanders said or is it a hoax as Sarah Sanders said?

JOHN THOMAS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the hoax the Trump administration is trying to explain is the collusion hoax as it relates to Trump colluding with Russians to swing this election; that there is no evidence that Donald Trump has colluded with Russian to swing this election. So I think that's what she's referring to.

There certainly has been some revision, it's history in their language. But also -- look, I think it is a fair statement to say that the FBI has had some massive failures to -- number one, not identifying this shooter in Florida when there was evidence to get this before it happened.

And the second was we knew about Russian influence or trying to influence our elections back in 2014. Where was the FBI then? Or did they alert Barack Obama? Did he do nothing? There might have been an intelligence breakdown back then as well.

VAUSE: Ok. So John to you yes the Democrats, the question of the Obama administration -- could they have done more, you know, in 2016 to prevent Russia from, you know, meddling in the election? That is not as important as what is the President doing right now either to show there is punishment to Moscow for their actions and there has also been evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

DAVE JACOBSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Look, I think President Obama should have done way more. And I think that was a misstep by his administration and I think they looked at the national polls as Democrats and Republicans across the country did and said, ok, looks like Hillary Clinton is going to coast to victory, like let's not put our thumb on the scale. And I think that was a mistake -- massive mistake by the Obama administration.

That being said let's not forget Axios reported when Donald Trump was in Asia back on November 11th that Donald Trump reported -- he said on Air Force One to Axios reporters that he talked to Vladimir Putin and Vladimir Putin that there was no meddling in the election. And he believed him.

That was reported like three months ago. So Donald Trump said to reporters on Air Force One there was no meddling in the election.

VAUSE: Well, Donald Trump has said there was no meddling in the election lots of times. Listen to this.


[00:05:01] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC.

How many times do I have to answer this question?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you just say yes or no?

TRUMP: Russia is a ruse. This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.

The entire thing has been a witch hunt.

The Russia story is a total fabrication.

Russia did not help me. I call it the Russian hoax.

They made up the whole Russia hoax. That was a Democrat hoax.

It's a Democrat hoax.


VAUSE: So Ron -- is there a strategy here by the White House or is this just simply an administration which is trying to get through each day one day at a time with no thought about what happens tomorrow?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, it's a little bit of both. I mean in a sense that from day-to-day they kind of veer all over the place.

But yes there has been a strategy from the President from the outset as a candidate to delegitimize any institution and any new source that he thinks can harm him. And the drum beat of this over and over and over that it's a hoax actually has had effect on a big portion of the Republican base who kind of doubts that the whole thing happened even to the point of doubting not only collusion but whether Russia was trying to help Donald Trump.

And I would point out one very important point about 2016. Obviously President Obama should have done more. But when they went up to Capitol Hill with the intelligence agencies, he said look, we have this evidence that Russia is doing this -- Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader made very clear that he would oppose them if they tried to go public with the kind of a joint statement on this. And that he would view this as an attempt to, as Dave said, put a thumb on the scale of the election.

So when we asked why the U.S. did not do more in 2016 the hinge point I believe was that meeting where Mitch McConnell said he would attack this as a partisan effort to help Hillary Clinton or at least resist it as a partisan effort to help Hillary Clinton.

I think that was the moment that was the moment that was lost in terms of the forcefulness of the U.S. response. And certainly going forward the issue obviously is what will Donald Trump do when he has refused to even impose the sanctions that Congress has voted?

VAUSE: Ok. So all this now raises the question that now that the President has always believed that Russia meddled in the election even though he said the complete opposite consistently for the last year or so. What will the administration do in terms of retribution?

Again here's Sarah Sanders.


SANDERS: President Trump and the administration have made it clear that interference in our elections will have consequences and we're going to continue to impose consequences in response to Russian cyber attacks. Just last week we called out Russia by name.


VAUSE: Called out by name. What have the consequences been so far?

THOMAS: There haven't been.


THOMAS: And we'll see what they roll out. There just haven't been.

VAUSE: Ok. So you know, Dave -- there've been no consequences for the Russian President Vladimir Putin. What does that tell the Russians?

JACOBSON: Well, clearly it looks like the Russians have something on Donald Trump. It looks like if you read the tea leaves, Donald Trump is hiding something.

I mean let's not forget, like back last year in 2017 there was wide- ranging bipartisan support for intense sanctions against Russia. Donald Trump signed the bill into law. He still hasn't executed on them. Like those new sanctions have not been advanced.

VAUSE: Yes. I don't think at this point.

Ok. Listen to an interesting exchange between the leaders of the U.S. intelligence committee -- community rather and lawmakers at a hearing on Capitol Hill. I think it was last week.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: We're taking a lot of specific efforts to blunt pressure --

SENATOR JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: Are they directed by the President?

WRAY: Not as specifically directed by the President.

REED: Director Pompeo, have received a specific presidential direction to take steps to disrupt these activities?

MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: I'm not sure how specific.

ADMIRAL MIKE ROGERS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: I can't say I've been explicitly directed to blunt or actively stop --


VAUSE: Ron -- all three intelligence chiefs said the President has not given them any instructions when it comes to the midterm elections and Russian meddling.

BROWNSTEIN: And many of those same intelligence chiefs -- you know, it's been reported over the past several months, were given a pressure by the White House to publicly exonerate him in the question of collusion -- so kind of a very clear set of priorities there.

Look, yes, this has been -- you know, whatever the problem -- the problem with the Trump administration response to this clear and present danger of Russian meddling which they clearly have to view as a -- you know an excellent return on investment for whatever they did. Their million dollars a month that they spent in 2016 has paid off enormously in terms of division and confusion in the U.S.

The President has been unable to separate the national interest in resisting and thwarting that kind of activity with his own sort of personal interest in his view that any acknowledgment of the Russian activity somehow undermines the validity of his election.

[00:09:58] And he has not been able to separate his own interests from the national interests long enough to focus the government on what should be, I think, beyond partisanship, you know, a clear -- a clear call to action which as you heard again from those intelligence chiefs simply has not been there. VAUSE: Very quickly, on to gun control because the President on

Tuesday ordered the Attorney General to come up with some kind of regulations to ban bump stocks, the device which turns a semiautomatic weapon into -- or to fire like an automatic weapon.

But John -- we have been down this road before. Banning bump stocks cannot be done through regulation. It has to be done through Congress and a new law. It seems like this is just lip service.

THOMAS: It might be but I think it's a step in the right direction. I think Donald Trump is uniquely qualified to push Congress into making some kind of gun change. I'm not holding my breath for it to get to Congress.


THOMAS: But just think about it nonetheless. It's very politically risky for Trump to even take that step forward. That is not an easy thing for him to do. I guarantee you his phones are ringing off the hooks from Second amendment activists right now?

VAUSE: Dave?

JACOBSON: Yes. The question is, is he going to expand any meaningful political capital to like try to jam something through to Congress. And that's the big unknown.

What's fascinating to me, John, was Quinnipiac put out a poll today and that the highest number ever recorded in that poll -- 66 percent of Americans want tougher gun laws.


JACOBSON: Common sense gun laws. And so perhaps President Trump saw that poll earlier today, who knows?

VAUSE: He loves the polls.

JACOBSON: But as we looked at 2018 guns are going to be a big issue in the upcoming election.

THOMAS: Look, if 2018 is about immigration and guns I feel pretty good.

VAUSE: Ok. Well, I want to finish off with Ron here because Ron, another woman has come forward to accuse Donald Trump of sexual misconduct. Rachel Crooks says before he was president, Donald Trump kissed her without her consent as she was working in one of his hotels.

Donald Trump tweeted out a denial. "A woman I don't know and to the best of my knowledge never met is on the front page of the fake news "Washington Post" saying I kissed her for two minutes here in the lobby of the Trump Tower 12 years ago. Never happened. Who would do this in a public space with live security?" Ron -- I'm wondering if that denial should have been I would never have nor would I ever kiss an employee without her consent as opposed to I would not do this where I would get caught.

BROWNSTEIN: These issues are not going away, you know. The gender gap as I said to you before I think can be overrated historically as a role in American politics. It's very real here. And it goes back to the previous conversation about guns, you know.

If you look at the gun debate, it's been 20 years. The NRA has basically had a blockade on Congress since Clinton passed the Brady Bill and the assault weapon ban in '93-'94. A lot of people focused on the loss by Democrats of rural seats as basically what's consolidated that NRA control.

But the Democrats who used to have those have since voted against gun control too. The big difference is that the suburban Republicans who voted for gun control in the 90s now vote with the NRA in places like the suburbs of Philadelphia or Orange County or New Jersey or Miami.

And it is in those districts where the Parkland shooting I think is raising the salience of this issue and moving more of those college- educated white voters especially women the same kind of women who are, you know, unhappy with President Trump's personal behavior toward I think creating a greater risk for Republicans in exactly those white collar places.

And I do think you could see guns matter in suburbia in a way that they have not been able that are probably not going to help Democrats and may even hurt Democrats in some of the rural and non-urban areas.

But in these suburban areas that are already kind of uneasy with Trump, this is another brick on the load that some of these Republican incumbents must carry.

VAUSE: I wasn't too sure where you were going with that -- Ron. But you kind of linked that nicely. Thank you -- Ron Brownstein. Dave and John -- we appreciate you both -- all three of you, actually for being with us. Thank you.

THOMAS: Thank you.

SESAY: Well, U.S. President Trump says he's directing the U.S. Justice Department to propose regulations to ban devices which effectively turn semiautomatic rifles into machine guns. That would include the kind of bump stocks used by the gunman who killed 58 people last year in Las Vegas.

At the same time students who survived last week's school shooting in Florida are pushing lawmakers in Florida to re-examine their positions on gun control.

Our Brian Todd has more on their campaign.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In Florida, anger and action.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want to thank you guys for coming out.

TODD: Bus loads of students who survived the attack at Douglas High School in Parkland are converging on Florida's state capital with a clear and passionate message. They want tighter gun control laws, a ban on assault style rifles and high-capacity magazines.

CHRIS BRADY, STUDENT, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: If you aren't with us, you're against us. We're trying to save the lives of innocent children. So -- and if you're not for that then we're going to vote you out.

TODD: The student-led call for change comes as investigators are learning more about Nikolas Cruz, the confessed mass murderer.

Ariana Lopez, a former friend of Cruz's tells CNN back in 2015 he asked her to be in a relationship with him. When she refused she says he stalked her. In a new interview she said Cruz's behavior raised alarms with her and others who knew him.

[00:15:00] ARIANA LOPEZ, FORMER FRIEND OF NIKOLAS CRUZ: He used to sell knives out of his lunchbox which I thought was like insane because you can't have knives. This is a school. He's like hey, guys want some knives?

He talked about killing our parents, our friends, boyfriends and girlfriends.

TODD: Cruz's behavior raised red flags with social workers as well. A 2016 report from Florida's Department of Children and families based on an in-home visit by social workers says Cruz's mother said he had started cutting himself after a breakup, that he'd gotten into a fight with another student over a girl and that Cruz was depressed and wanted to buy a gun.

But it concluded at the time that Cruz's level of risk was 0low because, an official of that agency tells CNN, he was living with his mother and getting counseling.

As frustration grows over missed signals on the ground, CNN has learned there's new evidence that pro-Russian social media trolls are trying to capitalize on the shooting from cyber space using the massacre to divide Americans.

The trolls some of them automated jumped on the story last week with a spike in tweets, according to disinformation trackers at the firm New Knowledge. Many tweets were pro-gun like this one that read "After 11 U.S. school shootings this year, is it time to arm teachers?"

Others were more conspiracy-oriented such as "It's only a coinkidink the shooting in a gun-free school is in a Democrat county run by Democrats and very close to a large FBI office."

JONATHAN MORGAN, CEO, NEW KNOWLEDGE: Ultimately the goal of this type of attack or this type of influence operation is to sow discord. So we have a group of accounts that are trying to basically pit Americans against each other because ultimately that destabilizes the country. So we see them hop onto stories that are hot button issues that are very divisive.

TODD: That tracking firm tells CNN the same accounts those tweets came from had previously sent out tweets seeking to undermine the Mueller investigation into Russian election meddling have sent out tweets looking to divide Americans over the issue of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem.

Brian Todd, CNN -- Washington.

SESAY: Well, don't miss CNN's Town Hall where students, parents and others impacted by the school shooting will speak out. "STAND UP: STUDENTS OF STONEMAN DOUGLAS DEMAND ACTION". That airs live on Thursday at 10:00 in the morning Hong Kong, 2:00 a.m. in London and at 9:00 p.m. Wednesday in New York.

VAUSE: Well, we'll take a quick break here.

When we come back it's not a war, it's a massacre. In Syria, aid groups are warning that the Syrian attack on a rebel-held enclave could in fact be the worst atrocity of the civil war so far.


VAUSE: Well, an onslaught of violence in Syria has shocked even seasoned observers of the country's brutal civil war and has left human rights groups speechless. Activists say at least 250 civilians have been killed in the rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta in the past 48 hours even though the area is meant to be part of a Russian- brokered ceasefire plan.

[00:19:59] And conflict is heating up in Syria's northwestern Afrin region where Kurdish fighters are trying to fend off a Turkish military assault. Now pro-Syrian forces are entering the fray.

Ben Wedeman has our report on the relentless violence in Eastern Ghouta and we must warn you it contains graphic video that some viewers may find disturbing.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Nidal (ph) weeps over the body of his daughter, Farah (ph). His other five children went missing, lost as the Syrian government subjects the eastern Ghouta, a rebel-held suburb of Damascus to the most intense bombardments since the war began.

Bodies line the floor of this hospital's morgue, a bed sheet, this child's simple death shroud. And as always it's the children that suffer most in this war without mercy.

According to local tradition Ghouta was the original garden of Eden; now, it's perhaps the closest thing to hell on earth. Home to as many as 400,000 people, it's been under siege for years. Tuesday the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF issued a blank statement on the situation in eastern Ghouat, a small footnote at the bottom explains, "We no longer have the words to describe children's suffering and are outraged to those inflicting the suffering still have words to justify their barbaric acts."

CNN reached out to the Syrian government for comment. They had no words.

"These are the worst days of our lives", Dr. Amani Balur (ph), a hospital director told CNN by phone from the eastern Ghouta. "It couldn't get worse than this", she said. She may be wrong.

It's widely believed the bombardment is a prelude to an offensive to retake eastern Ghout, one of the last opposition strongholds. Many of these disturbing images are captured by local civil defense units, the so-called white helmets rushing from one bomb site to another.

Here, there are no bomb shelters. People huddle in their homes and all too often die in them. Beyond that there are no words.

Ben Wedeman, CNN -- Beirut.


SESAY: Truly devastating.

Boko Haram attackers are suspected of targeting a school in northeastern Nigeria on Monday but hundreds of girls avoided possibly being kidnapped; some confusion about what happened as to whether they escaped before those fighters arrived. Officials say now that the militants stole food from the school, that much is confirmed.

Recent attacks are raising fears Boko Haram is still going strong. That's despite a long running military crackdown.

A Nigerian high court meanwhile convicted 205 Boko Haram suspects on Monday but it let free about 500 others for lack of evidence and ordered them to be rehabilitated.

Well, activist and organizer Evon Idahosa (ph) joins us now live from New York via Skype. She's the founder and director of the Pathfinders Justice Initiative. Evon -- good to speak to you once again.


SESAY: It's horrifying and difficult really to comprehend the fact that we are talking about another attack by Boko Haram on a girls' boarding school. This time, of course, we're talking about what happened in Dapchi in Yobe State.

What are you hearing about what exactly happened?

IDAHOSA: You know, I mean first of all it's just, it's eerily reminiscent of the same story that happened, you know, back in April 14th of 2014. But we're hearing pretty much a very similar story, you know, Boko Haram coming, you know, shooting indiscriminately, lighting the orphanage on fire and people running into the bush.

And so we don't know for sure whether or not the girls -- some of the students from the school were actually abducted. But from what we understand from the commission of police this information is still developing and information is still being gathered.

SESAY: All right. So I just want to be absolutely clear for our viewers. To the best of your knowledge it's still unclear as to whether all the girls have indeed been accounted for?

IDAHOSA: That's absolutely correct, yes. From what we understand the school is still conducting an investigation to determine exactly who is still in hiding and who may actually be missing.

SESAY: What has the reaction been in Nigeria to this?

IDAHOSA: You know I think people there are extremely frustrated. I mean we've heard everything from Boko Haram being technically defeated in December of 2015 to tactically defeated and then even as recent as February of this year hearing that they've been completely defeated.

[00:25:03] But yet the attacks are raging. People are still being abducted, and children and girls particularly remain vulnerable to being stolen from their lives (ph).

And so, you know, for activists like myself, and for many other people in Nigeria it's extremely frustrating because all we're demanding from our government is transparency and the truth that we apparently don't seem to be getting that.

SESAY: And that brings me to this point exactly. You know, right at the beginning of our conversation you said this is eerily reminiscent of what happened to the girls in Chibok back in 2014.

And at that time, as you and I both know, there was an information blackout. There was a slow response, an inept response when that eventually launched, and obfuscation. So I guess my question is what is different this time around as we take in the fact that another school has been attacked and this time under a different administration's purview?

IDAHOSA: You know, I wish I could say there was something that was drastically different. So far there's not been a statement from the president. There's not been a statement from any high official that would corroborate what we're actually currently hearing.

The truth is that, you know, people who remain in limbo including people from that particular town and parents who still don't know exactly what has happened. And so I wish I could say that things were different. I wish I could say that, you know, almost four years later we have measures in place that would prevent something like this from happening. But the unfortunate reality is that it feels almost the exact same way that it did almost four years ago.

SESAY: -- which is truly, truly heartbreaking.

Why would Boko Haram attack a girls' school again? What's your thinking? I've been speaking to people who know the area, who know the story over the last day. And people have different thoughts. What's your thought as to the motive here?

IDAHOSA: You know I think they're trying to prove a point which is that, you know, every time the government comes out and claims that they've been defeated, you know, completely defeated in this particular case they're trying to prove a point that we can attack at any point at any time and that there's nothing you can do about it.

And again you know that is extremely frustrating because this means that there are women who now -- and young girls who are being forced to choose between their education and their life. I mean this is not just -- not just have an effect on the exact -- on the children who were affected by this but potentially lots of children in this area who you know were finally feeling that there was some normalcy that potentially was coming to this area but now are being set back.

And so, you know, it's unfortunate that this is where we stand today but that's just the reality of what it is.

SESAY: Well, Evon -- I know you're speaking to your people on the ground as we are too trying to get a sense of what actually happened and whether all the girls are indeed safe and sound. We're going to continue to check in with you.

Evon Idahosa -- thank you so much.

IDAHOSA: Thank you. >

VAUSE: Well, the campaign for gun reform now seems to have its own rallying cry. The award-winning singer/songwriter Diane Warren is allowing activists to use her hit song "Stand Up for Something" to rally those who want tighter gun laws.

[00:28:30] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) [00:30:00]


JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour:


SESAY: Now President Trump says he wants to strengthen background checks for gun purchases. He also wants to ban bump stocks, which modify guns so they fire bullets fast, like automatic weapons. The gunman in last year's Las Vegas massacre used guns with bump stocks, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds more. Students who survived last week's school shooting in Florida are now

demanding action on gun control. They traveled to the state capital on Tuesday and they will meet with lawmakers on Wednesday. Some students were there when lawmakers struck down a bill that would have banned weapons like the AR-15 used in the Florida shooting.

For some survivors of the massacre, it was just too much.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The next death of someone with an assault rifle here in Florida is going to be on them.


SESAY: Hollywood is also taking action. George and Amal Clooney are making large donations to March for Our Lives, a movement formed after the Florida shooting. And Grammy award-winning song writer Diane Warren is also allowing her hit song, "Stand Up for Something," to be used to raise awareness for the march.


The song "Stand Up for Something" is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, it is Diane Warren's ninth Oscar nomination and I'm thrilled to say she joins us now.

Diane, good to see you again.

Good to see you.


SESAY: -- under these circumstances.

WARREN: The footage you were just showing, people going to a concert, people going to school, what?

SESAY: And running for their lives.

WARREN: Yes, what's going on?

SESAY: It's an incredibly powerful song, "Stand Up for Something."

WARREN: Thank you.

SESAY: I know it's your favorite and you've written many.

WARREN: I think it's my most important song.

SESAY: And it's a song, as we talk about its importance, it's a call to action.

WARREN: Yes, absolutely.

SESAY: It's a song that's been embraced by so many different groups. WARREN: It's really resonated, you know and some pretty yes, it's been used, I mean, NAACP, ACLU, CNN Heroes. There was a beautiful use of that and being there that night and seeing these people like, I mean, yes, stand up to cancer also. And now...

SESAY: And now this. And you made the decision that you wanted this to be a song used in this campaign. Tell me why.


WARREN: Because it's a call to action and these kids are taking action. You know, they're doing what the government can't do for them. You know?

They're marching and they're going to -- I don't think it's going to -- I think this is the change.

SESAY: You think so, you actually think --


SESAY: There are some people who say the forces of the NRA and --

WARREN: This feels different. Think of the '60s. It was the kids, it was the young people that --


WARREN: -- changed everything. You know?

It's almost like -- and the song was kind of written almost to be a protest '60s song, so it's kind of interesting. I mean, I don't know, it's a call to action. And if this could help, you know, anything, I want to help.

SESAY: You want to help. And you're no stranger to activism.


SESAY: You do a lot with --

WARREN: I do a lot. Yes, I'm an animal activist. I love animals. Don't eat animals, people.

SESAY: So what a message.

For you, when you see these young people --

WARREN: It's horrifying.

SESAY: It's horrifying.


SESAY: And then when you contrast it with adults and what happened in Florida, where the House voted down a motion -- WARREN: Yes, that just happened today, right?

How -- we need assault rifles?

Are you kidding me?


Why do you need -- I mean, how can that be legal?

How can someone go and buy an assault rifle faster than they can buy a beer?

It's insane. How is that -- how is that -- I don't have words to describe it. I don't understand that. It has to stop and it has to -- it can't be allowed.

SESAY: We want to show our viewers a graphic that really drives home the damage caused by guns. Every Town for Gun Safety put out these statistics. They've been collecting them. And let's put this up for our viewers.

On an average day, 96 Americans are killed with guns; for every one person killed with guns two more are injured.

The next one, seven children and teens are killed with guns in the U.S. on an average day.

And in an average month, 50 women are shot to death by an intimate partner in the U.S.

Diane, America's gun homicide rate is 25 times the average of other developed nations.

Can you help our viewers, watching this from around the world, can you even begin to answer why this country has such a love affair, such a fascination with guns?

WARREN: I hate them. I went with some friends a few years ago, just thinking I'm going to go to a shooting range, just in case someone robs me, I have no desire to ever shoot anything. I shot it one time. It just freaked me out.

I don't understand the appeal of it. I don't understand why people want to, you know I don't know. I mean but it's crazy. The guns in America, it's crazy.

SESAY: The president put out this tweet. I want to share it with you.

The president put out this tweet on Tuesday, basically saying that he was throwing his weight behind background checks. Let's put that tweet up on screen of the president's words.

"Whether we're Republican or Democrat, we must now focus on strengthening background checks." He's also now asking the Department -- he talked to the -- he's asking

his secretary -- attorney general -- (INAUDIBLE) -- attorney general to basically take steps to ban bump stocks.

WARREN: Why is that not banned now?

SESAY: I guess that was my question to you.


SESAY: -- how he's handled it to date?

WARREN: It should have been taken care of, I just don't -- I mean I'm going back to like why do we need assault rifles, why do we need -- the bump stock makes a regular gun an assault rifle, right.

SESAY: Makes it fire faster.

WARREN: Why? We all really need assault rifles?

I mean, come on. This...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think this issue is going to dominate at the Oscars coming up in a couple of weeks?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think that's going to come up?

WARREN: I think that's going to come up.

SESAY: It's going to be interesting to see what happens in the days ahead.

But you were optimistic that there will be a change with these kids?

WARREN: I do. It feels different with these kids. I don't think they're going to just sit back and let the split be the status quo. I think these are real activists. They're going to make a change. I do. I think, you know, because, I mean, you know, you could think back on Sandy Hook when that didn't change it, when all these -- I mean, how did that not change it?

You know. And then it didn't, you know, those lawmakers wouldn't even meet with the parents, you know. But this feels different, this feels like these kids are going to change it.

SESAY: And will you be marching with them?

WARREN: I'd like to and I want to be singing "Stand Up for Something" with them.

SESAY: We shall see what happens. Best of luck with the Oscars.

WARREN: Thank you so much.

SESAY: It's an important song. So I hope it gets a bigger platform and you know an Oscar would be great for it, as its also being used for this fight.

WARREN: Yes, it's pretty amazing. I'm glad to -- that the song can make a difference.

SESAY: Diane Warren, always a pleasure to see you, thank you.

WARREN: Great to see you.

SESAY: Thank you.

Don't miss CNN's town hall tomorrow, where students, parents and others impacted by the school shooting will speak out. "Stand Up: The Students of Stoneman Douglas Demand Action." That airs live on Thursday at 10:00 am Hong Kong time, 2:00 am in London and at 9:00 Wednesday evening in New York.

VAUSE: When we come back, we'll head off to the Winter Olympics, but they've come full circle for a South Korean ski jumper. (INAUDIBLE) almost burst into tears when he tried his first jump. Now he's an Olympian competing in his hometown and he's a proud local hero.





VAUSE: Well, the PyeongChang Winter Games have been the opportunity of a lifetime for a South Korean ski jumper, not because he medaled.

SESAY: He didn't.

VAUSE: Well, that's why.

SESAY: But perhaps more importantly, he got to compete in the Olympics in the town where he grew up, first started ski jumping and is now a local hero. Paula Hancocks has his story.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kim Hyun-ki (ph) was just 10 years old when his father suggested he take up the ski jump. He'd never heard of it but gave it a try. Four years later he decided to take it seriously.

"I started with a Korean coach," he says. "He told me to jump but I was too scared to come down. I almost burst into tears. All I can remember is closing my eyes and letting go at the start bar."

He's improved a bit since then, competing in six consecutive Winter Olympics, even featuring in a Korean movie. He was the ski jump double for this 2009 blockbuster, "Takeoff."

Kim's first Olympics was Nagano in 1998. He says even after that he never imagined he'd last so long.

He is a local hero, born and bred in PyeongChang. Kim remembers when the Olympic ski resorts were just small farming villages.

"It's very rare for an athlete to be able to participate in an Olympic Games in their own country," he tells me, "but for me, it's in my hometown. This experience is so precious and important to me."

Jochen Danneberg (ph) is a former silver medalist ski jumper and has trained Kim on and off since he was 14. From former East Germany, he says, working in a divided country like Korea has extra resonance.

JOCHEN DANNEBERG (PH), SKI JUMPING COACH: We have the same problems but I think Koreans can learn a lot from the Germans.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): Kim's Olympics may be over, save for the closing ceremony and he hasn't yet won an Olympic medal; his team best is eighth in Salt Lake City in 2002. But he is not finished yet.

HANCOCKS: So this is Olympics number six for you.

Will there be number seven?

KIM: Maybe.


HANCOCKS: Beijing?

KIM: Yes, I try.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): Paula Hancocks, CNN, PyeongChang, South Korea.


SESAY: He's dedicated.

VAUSE: Not whether you win or lose, just showing up.

SESAY: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause, stay tuned for "WORLD SPORT" as they have a lot more from PyeongChang, live. You're watching CNN.