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Trump Holds Listening Sessions on School Gun Violence; Russia Warned Not to Meddle in U.S. Midterm Elections; Second Netanyahu Confident to Testify Against Him; Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired February 22, 2018 - 04:00   ET



[04:00:12] FRED GUTTENBERG, DAUGHTER KILLED IN SCHOOL SHOOTING: Your comments this week and those of our president have been pathetically weak.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Angry families make a statement in a riveting exchange of views and ideas on guns. Marco Rubio took a beating, but did have the decency, the courage to show up there.


ANDREW POLLACK, DAUGHTER KILLED IN SCHOOL SHOOTING: How many schools, how many children have to get shot? It stops here with this administration and me.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: Families of several school shootings also made their case at the White House. The president suggested arming teachers, an idea that's now getting pushback from lawmakers and law enforcement.

ROMANS: And, an instant classic overnight at the Olympics. The U.S. and Canada needed a shoot-out to settle the gold medal in women's ice hockey. Wait until you see the move that finished the game.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

MARQUARDT: What a game.

ROMANS: I know.

MARQUARDT: Great to be back with you. I'm Alex Marquardt in for Dave Briggs. It is Thursday, February 22nd, it is 4:00 a.m. here on the East Coast.

There was a powerful day yesterday of nationwide advocacy by survivors, families and gun control supporters following the Florida school shooting. The day was capped off by the emotional CNN town hall on gun violence. 2There were signs at least that some marginal change might now be

possible. Florida Senator Marco Rubio was the only Republican willing to face his critics. He said that he now backs raising the minimum age for owning a rifle from 18 to 21.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: In this country, if you are 18 years of age you should not be able to buy a rifle, and I will support a law that takes that right away.


RUBIO: I traditionally have not supported looking at magazine clip size and after this and some of the details I've learned about it, I'm reconsidering that position and I'll tell you why.


RUBIO: I'll tell you why. Because while it may not prevent an attack, it may save lives in an attack. 2


ROMANS: So Rubio defended his opposition to broader gun control -- gun violence legislation including an assault weapons ban.

Here's an exchange with Fred Guttenberg, who lost his daughter Jaime in the Florida school massacre.


RUBIO: If I believe that that law would have prevented this from happening I would support it, but I want to explain to you why it would not. 2


GUTTENBERG: Senator Rubio, my daughter, running down the hallway at Marjory Stoneman Douglas --

RUBIO: Yes, sir. 2

GUTTENBERG: -- was shot in the back.

RUBIO: Yes, sir.

GUTTENBERG: With an assault weapon, the weapon of choice --

RUBIO: Yes, sir.

GUTTENBERG: OK? It is too easy to get. It is a weapon of war. The fact that you can't stand with everybody in this building and say that, I'm sorry.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: Rubio also faced tough questions with Stoneman Douglass high school student Cameron Kasky.


CAMERON KASKY, JUNIOR, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: This is about people who are for making a difference to save us and people who are against it and prefer money.

So, Senator Rubio, can you tell me right now that you will not accept a single donation from the NRA in the future?


RUBIO: The positions I hold on these issues of the Second Amendment, I've held since the day I entered office in the city of West Miami as an elected official. Number two -- no, the answer to the question is that people buy into my agenda. And I do support the Second Amendment and I also support the right of you and everyone here to be able to go to school and be safe. And I do support any law that would keep guns out of the hands of a deranged killer. And that's why I support the things that I have stood for and fought for during my time here.


KASKY: No more NRA money? No more NRA money?

RUBIO: I -- there -- that is the wrong way to look. First of all, the answer is people buy into my agenda. Our goal here is to move forward and --

KASKY: OK, so hold on.


RUBIO: And prevent this from ever happening again.

KASKY: So right now, in the name -- in the name -- in the name of 17 people, you cannot ask the NRA to keep their money out of your campaign?

RUBIO: I think in the name of 17 people I can pledge to you that I will support any law that will prevent a killer like this from getting a gun.

KASKY: No, but I'm talking about NRA money.


RUBIO: No. This very evening, I have told you that I support lifting the age from 18 to 21 in buying a rifle. My understanding before I walked out here is that that organization is not in favor of that.


MARQUARDT: So many incredible moments from last night. Now Rubio there has an A-plus rating from the NRA. And he is right about that. Before the town hall, the NRA says -- it said it opposes raising the age to buy an AR-15.

The group did send a spokeswoman to the town hall. Her name is Dana Loesch. She would not budge on NRA priorities and suggest that local law enforcement missed crucial warning signs.


DANA LOESCH, SPOKESWOMAN, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: I don't believe that this insane monster should have ever been able to obtain a firearm. He had already taken bullets and knives to school.

[04:05:02] He had already assaulted people. He assaulted his parent, he assaulted other students. Thirty-nine visits and this was known to those -- to the -- to the intelligence --

SHERIFF SCOTT ISRAEL, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: What -- so, you're saying 39 visits --

LOESCH: -- and law enforcement community.

ISRAEL: You're --

LOESCH: Now, I'm not -- look, I'm not saying that you can be everywhere at once.


LOESCH: But this is what I'm talking about.

ISRAEL: You're not the --

LOESCH: We have to follow up on these red flags.

ISRAEL: You're not --


ROMANS: CNN's town hall followed an entire day of action across the country at the Florida state capitol in Tallahassee, busloads of Parkland students lobbied lawmakers, although a number of lawmakers declined to meet with those students.

Outside, thousands more students and other protesters from around the state rallied, demanding lawmakers take action to curb sales of assault-style rifles.


PROTESTERS: Vote them out. Vote them out. Vote them out.


ROMANS: What you're hearing there are chants of "vote them out" aimed at lawmakers who will not act. Governor Rick Scott has promised a gun proposal by tomorrow. Students who met with him were hopeful.


CARLOS RODRIGUEZ, SURVIVED PARKLAND HIGH SCHOOL MASSACRE: I felt supported. I felt like he will make a change and he will help us and hopefully provide the safety for all the other students.

AMANDA DE LA CRUZ, SURVIVED PARKLAND HIGH SCHOOL MASSACRE: Small steps count and he's really cooperating on participating with those small steps.


MARQUARDT: Across the country, students then walked out in solidarity with survivors and victims of the massacre. In Washington, Arizona, Minnesota, Colorado, Kentucky, and Illinois, students marched out of class, even defying threats of discipline from some school districts.

At Coral Springs High, you can see there, students forming a heart in the middle of the football field to show their support.

ROMANS: That's amazing.

All right. Before the CNN town hall, President Trump had an emotional listening session with victims of school gun violence, students and parents. And he floated the idea of arming teachers and arming school staff.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This would only be obviously for people that are very adept at handling a gun and it would be concealed carry. A teacher would have a concealed gun on them. They go for special training. They would be there and you would no longer have a gun-free zone.


ROMANS: Now the idea met with support from many in attendance there. But not Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.


ISRAEL: I don't believe teachers should be armed. I believe teachers should teach.


MARQUARDT: On Wednesday, the sheriff did order all deputies in Broward County schools where that massacre took place to carry rifles on school grounds. That move has the support of the Broward school superintendent.

As for the president, he is not done addressing the gun issue. We now get more from CNN's Jeff Zeleny at the White House. JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and

Alex, President Trump will be holding another listening session here at the White House today with state and local officials. Of course this comes one day after holding that very emotional session in the state dining room of the White House on Wednesday.

Listening to stories from six students from Florida from that shooting one week ago, their parents sitting alongside parents of Sandy Hook and Columbine. Certainly shootings that are etched into our collective American memories. But the president stood and watched as he heard the story from one father, Andrew Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter Meadow died last week.


POLLACK: All the school shootings, it doesn't make sense. Fix it. Should have been one school shooting and we should have fixed it. And I'm pissed. Because my daughter I'm not going to see again. She's not here. She's not here. She's at -- in North Lauderdale, whatever it is, King David Cemetery. That's where I go to see my kid now.


ZELENY: The president flashing a thumbs up to the father as he called for some type of change. Now the president said perhaps it would have been different if school officials and teachers had been armed. That prompted one mother of a Sandy Hook child to stand up and said no, that is not the solution. So the problem here so very clear. The solution far from it. But the president said he is committed to making some type of change here.

We've seen this happen so many times before. This feels different. The president says he is engaged on this. This will be an incredible test of his leadership -- Christine and Alex.

ROMANS: All right. Jeff Zeleny at the White House. It will. Thank you.

The reigniting gun debate taking an ugly political turn Wednesday and comments from Republican Congresswoman Claudia Tenney from upstate New York. She represents one of the most competitive district in the country. A local radio host said the majority of gun victims come from the inner cities. Tenney said this.


2REP. CLAUDIA TENNEY (R), NEW YORK: It is interesting, so many of these people that commit the mass murders end up being Democrats but you don't want to -- the media doesn't talk about that either.


[04:10:07] MARQUARDT: Tenney is an ardent gun supporter. She later stood by the remark in a statement saying, "While we know the perpetrators of these atrocities have a wide variety of political views, my comments are in response to a question about the failure to prosecute illegal gun crime. I will continue to stand up for law- abiding citizens who are smeared by anti-gun liberal elitists.

So doubling down there.

ROMANS: All right. Trump administration official says the U.S. has warned Russia not to interfere with the midterm elections. That official adding the U.S. has taken direct action to address Russian election meddling going forward.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen in Moscow with the latest.

And of course, Fred, the Russians say this never happened in the first place. How tough is the U.S. being at this point?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you're absolutely right, Christine. The Russians are saying this never happened in the first place. And the Russians are also saying that they are planning not to meddle in the midterm elections. They say it's something that they have done and that's something that they are going to do in the future.

Obviously the administration doesn't believe that. They say that there are signs of election meddling coming up in the 2018 elections. The director of the CIA, in fact, said that the signals are very clear.

Nevertheless, Russians I don't think really feel that the administration is being very tough on them. One of the things that we keep hearing from Russian officials is that they feel that yes, the American bureaucracy, the agencies like for instance the CIA but also Congress are being tough on them, but the president certainly isn't. It's interesting also, one of the things that the Russians are looking at as well is that the recent tweet that came out from President Trump where he said why aren't Dem crimes -- calling them the Democrats, obviously, being investigated and at the end saying, "Ask Jeff Sessions." Obviously ripping into his own attorney general.

That also plays into that narrative that we've been hearing from the Russians where they keep saying, look, it met the U.S. officials that are putting pressure on Russia, but they still think that President Trump wants better relations with the Russians and they certainly don't think that President Trump is tougher on Russia than President Obama was -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Fred Pleitgen and the plot thickens. Thank you so much. Nice to see you this morning.

MARQUARDT: All right. Well, coming up next, big drama on the ice in Pyeongchang. The U.S. and Canada go to shootout in the women's hockey finals. Even that wasn't enough to settle the gold medal.

Coy Wire is live in Pyeongchang next.


[04:16:36] MARQUARDT: Welcome back. Team USA taking the gold medal in women's hockey. ROMANS: Wow.

MARQUARDT: Beating Canada in a thrilling, thrilling shootout.

ROMANS: Didn't you say it was 38 years to the day since "Miracle on Ice"?

MARQUARDT: Since "Miracle on Ice" and 20 years since -- the American women have the gold medal.

ROMANS: All right. Coy Wire was there and has more from Pyeongchang. Hey there.


COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Alex and Christine.

USA. Canada. That's what we heard in the arena. An incredible match of the two most dominant powerhouses in women's Olympic hockey history going head-to-head again. Canada stopping the last four Olympic gold. The last two were taken with victories over the U.S.

The game through overtime, then through a shootout and into sudden death shootout. Score stalemated at two. And the last skater for each side with a try, it was American Jocelyn Lamoureux-Davidson who pulled a freaking beat for the USA. An incredible score to put the Americans up by one. The girl grew up skating in the frozen ravines of North Dakota with her teammate and twin sister Monique gave the Americans the lead.

Then all eyes turned to Madison Rooney. Team USA's goalie, just 20 years old, with a four-time Olympian from Canada barreling down towards the net and Madison rises to the occasion. My goodness. Denying the Canadians the goal of securing gold for the U.S.

An epic and dramatic finish as American women capture an Olympic gold for the first time since 1998. After the win, "Born in the USA" was blasting through the speakers.

While this epic game was coming to an end, Lindsey Vonn, the most decorated female alpine skier on the planet had one more chance at Olympic gold in the alpine combined. She was in first place after the downhill portion, but then disaster. Missing a gate. Running off course in the slalom. And hoping to end her Olympic career with gold, it ends with her not even finishing the race. Afterwards, she said she is all out of tears from crying after she failed to medal yesterday as well.

Americans did have something to celebrate in the alpine combine. The 22-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin take silver adding to the gold she already won earlier here in Pyeongchang. And with a gold in the last Olympic Games as well, Mikaela has already matched Lindsey Vonn in terms of Olympic medal count. Two golds, a silver and a bronze.

Medal count for you this morning. Norway continues its domination with 33 medals overall. Germany is in second. And the USA wracking them in today here in Pyeongchang. They jumped up to fourth. Netherlands rounds out the top five.

Coming up in a bit, we're going to have a back-to-back Olympic champ for Team USA not bad for 27-year-old hubby and a father of two. We'll show you who that is in just about 30 minutes.

ROMANS: Awesome. All right. You've got a great assignment. Oh my gosh. Everybody having fun. Thanks, Coy. Nice to see you.

MARQUARDT: Sad and happy moments there.

ROMANS: I know. I know.

MARQUARDT: Feel bad for Lindsay Vonn.

ROMANS: I do, too, but she's an incredibly athlete and has had an incredible career.

MARQUARDT: Such a great run.

ROMANS: And she should be so -- I think -- I know but she missed a gate but she should be proud, like, she's a household name in this century.


ROMANS: An inspiration for all kinds of girls.

Nineteen minutes past the hour, breaking overnight, a grenade thrown at the U.S. embassy in Montenegro. We got those details next.


[04:24:08] MARQUARDT: Welcome back. Security is being ramped up at U.S. embassy in the Balkan country of Montenegro after an attacker threw a hand grenade over the embassy compound wall. Officials are saying that the grenade appears to have just gone off as it was being thrown. The suspect was found dead 100 feet from the embassy wall. His identity and his motive are still unclear. No injuries and no damage have been reported at the embassy.

ROMANS: Another major blow to embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A second close confidant of his now agreeing to testify in a corruption investigation swirling around him and his inner circle.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is live in Jerusalem for us. How big of a development is this?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine, since these investigations went public about a year and a half ago, this may very well be the biggest blow to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who keeps a notoriously tight inner circle.

[04:25:02] And that's why this man, Schlomo Filber, agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors, could be such a big blow to the prime minister. He knows the inner workings of Netanyahu's inner circle as well as being potentially a key witness in one of five investigations facing the prime minister and his inner circle, potentially implicating the prime minister as well. We'll find out as the case continues.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu himself speaking both last night and on his social media Facebook account this morning trying to portray an air of normalcy saying he will continue to lead Israel with judiciousness and saying that he expects to be back at a conference next year, implying there is absolutely nothing wrong here as these investigations get closer and closer.

ROMANS: All right. Oren Liebermann for us in Jerusalem. Thanks, Oren.

MARQUARDT: Well, President Trump is now suggesting arming teachers to stop school shootings. That idea had little support at a powerful CNN town hall on guns. Senator Marco Rubio was the only Republican on hand. He heard from emotional students still trying to come to grips with their new reality.