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EARLY START

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 4:30-5a ET

Aired February 22, 2018 - 04:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[04:30:20] FRED GUTTENBERG, DAUGHTER KILLED IN SCHOOL SHOOTING: Your comments this week and those of our president have been pathetically weak.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: Angry families make a statement in a riveting exchange of views and ideas on guns. Marco Rubio, senator from Florida, taking a beating, but did have the decency and the courage to show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Families of several school shootings also made their case at the White House. Really powerful, powerful words. The president suggested arming teachers, an idea getting pushback from lawmakers and law enforcement.

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

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Alex Marquardt.

ROMANS: Nice to have you this morning.

MARQUARDT: Thank you so much.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. 31 minutes past the hour.

A powerful day yesterday of nationwide advocacy by survivors, by families and gun control supporters following the Florida school shooting. The day was capped off by this emotional CNN town hall on gun violence.

There were signs at least that some marginal change might now be possible. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, the only Republican willing to face his critics, he said he now backs raising the minimum age for owning a rifle from 18 to 21.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(APPLAUSE)

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.

(APPLAUSE)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUARDT: Still Rubio defended his opposition to broader gun violence legislation including an assault weapons ban.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(BOOS)

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

RUBIO: Yes, sir.

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)

MARQUARDT: Rubio also faced tough questions from Stoneman Douglass high school student Cameron Kasky.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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?

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

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.

(CHEERS)

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.

(CROSSTALK)

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.

(BOOS)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Now Rubio is right about that. He does have an A-plus rating from the NRA. Before the town hall, the NRA said it opposes raising the age to buy an AR-15. The group sent a spokeswoman to the town hall, but Dana Loesch -- Dana Loesch would not budge on NRA priorities and suggested that local law enforcement missed crucial warning signs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

[04:35:02] 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.

ISRAEL: Yes.

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 --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUARDT: CNN's town hall followed an entire day of action all across the country. At the Florida state capital in Tallahassee, busloads of Parkland students lobbied lawmakers, although a number of lawmakers declined to meet with those students. Outside, there were thousands more students and other protesters from all across the state rallying, demanding lawmakers to take action to curb sales of assault- style rifles.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUARDT: Vote them out. Those chants aimed at those lawmakers who won't act. Governor Rick Scott has promised a gun proposal by tomorrow. Students who met with him were hopeful.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Across the country, students walked out in solidarity with survivors and victims of the massacre. In Washington, Arizona, Minnesota, Colorado, Kentucky, and Illinois, students marched out of their classes, defying threats of discipline from some school districts. At Coral Springs High, students formed a heart in the middle of the football field to show their support.

MARQUARDT: Look at that.

ROMANS: That one just gets me.

MARQUARDT: An incredible shot.

Now before the CNN town hall, President Trump held an emotional what he called a listening session with victims of school gun violence, students and parents. He floated the idea of arming teachers and school staff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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 -- it's called concealed carry where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them. They go for special training. And they would be there and you would no longer have a gun-free zone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUARDT: That idea was met with support from many in attendance but not the Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: "Teachers should teach." On Wednesday, the sheriff did order all his deputies in Broward County -- in Broward County schools to carry rifles on school grounds. That move has the support of the Broward school superintendent.

Those are deputies. Those are trained law enforcement officials, not teachers.

As for the president, he is not done addressing the gun issue. We get more this morning 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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.

MARQUARDT: All right. Really tough moments to watch there. Our thanks to Jeff Zeleny at the White House.

Now the reignited gun debate taking an ugly political turn on Wednesday and comments from Republican Congresswoman Claudia Tenney, she's from upstate New York and a local radio host -- Sorry. She told a local -- a local radio host said that the majority of gun victims come from the inner cities. Tenney responded like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CLAUDIA TENNEY (R), NEW YORK: It's interesting that 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[04:40:05] ROMANS: Tenney is an ardent gun rights supporter. She later stood by the remark that mass murders are predominantly committed by Democrats. In a statement she said this. "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."

MARQUARDT: All right. Turning now to Russia. The Trump administration says that 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 is live with us in Moscow.

Fred, I can't imagine those warnings would have much effect on what Russia might be planning for the 2018 midterms.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, I don't think, Alex, that they'll have much effect. And it certainly doesn't seem as though they're leaving much of an impression in Moscow either. One of the things that we keep hearing from the Kremlin, but also from other Russian ministries as well is they say, look, we've never meddled in the U.S. election and we don't intend to do so in the future. So the Russians just flat out denying it.

And one of the things that they keep saying is that they don't feel any evidence of that has ever been provided. Despite the fact that of course you have these indictments that were handed down by the special counsel just last week.

Now it's interesting to see this new statement from the administration, however, saying that all of this could have negative consequences. And they are saying that they are seeing a pattern of almost the same kind that they saw before the 2016 election. We heard that from the CIA. We're hearing it now from administration officials again. So it's going to be interesting to see whether the White House is actually going to take any action on it. because that's the other thing that the Russians keep saying is that they believe that yes, there are people in the administration who are tough on Russia, but they don't believe that President Trump is one of them.

And one of the things that leads them to believe that could be the latest tweet of the president where he asks why Dem crimes as he calls them are not being investigated, saying a lot of the meddling happened under the Obama administration and then asked why nothing is happening, and then says, "Ask Jeff Sessions."

And you know, that's one of the things that the Russians have really been playing on over the past couple of months is they keep saying President Trump says one thing. Other people in the administration say something different. So while there may be some in the administration who want to get tough on Russia, who talk tough on Russia, they still believe that President Trump is trying to mend relation and improve relations with the Russians -- Alex.

MARQUARDT: Yes. A bit of a gap between President Trump and his intelligence chiefs as we go into these midterms.

Thanks very much, Fred Pleitgen in Moscow.

ROMANS: All right. 32 minutes past the hour. Big drama on the ice.

MARQUARDT: What a game.

ROMANS: The U.S. and Canada go to a shootout in the women's hockey final. Even that wasn't enough to settle the gold medal. Coy Wire is live in Pyeongchang next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:47:04] ROMANS: The biggest companies in tech are once again spreading conspiracy theories, forcing both YouTube and Facebook to apologize. A top trending YouTube video suggested that this young man, David Hogg, an outspoken survivor of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, is an actor.

Hogg was also trending on Facebook. Several of the top results suggested the same false information. Hogg of course has knocked down these claims. Remarkable that you'd even have to. Facebook removed the contest. YouTube took down the video. But this isn't the first time these big tech companies have spread conspiracy theories. For example after the mass shooting in Las Vegas last year, that prompted both companies to pledge to use human beings, not algorithms to moderate content.

Facebook plans to hire an additional 20,000 people, but it has 2.1 billion users. That's like having one cop on patrol for every 100,000 citizens. YouTube faces a similar problem. Trending tabs constantly update all over the world. It does not have enough employees to monitor them all.

But at one point yesterday, the 10 top videos on YouTube were -- you know, there was one CNN video in the middle that was news. A CBS one. And the rest of it was fake garbage about this real kid, this 17-year- old kid who survived the mass shooting only to be taken down by nuts.

MARQUARDT: And it's time after time here. We keep talking about inserting humans in the process. But there are so many apologies, but then nothing changes ever seems to change.

All right. Well, switching gears. Team USA takes gold in the women's hockey, beating Canada in an incredible game last night that ended in a thrilling shootout.

ROMANS: Yes. Coy Wire was there. He has more from Pyeongchang.

Hey, Coy.

MARQUARDT: Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I have the most difficult assignment in all of CNN. I know I had to be there for this incredible epic victory. The Canadians have absolutely owned Team USA. It was 1998 the last and only time Americans have ever won gold in Olympic Games. All four Olympics since then, the Canadians have won. The last two were over the USA. So a third Olympics in a row.

This game went through overtime then through a shootout and into sudden death shootout. The score was stalemate at two and the last skater for each side with a try. American Jocelyn Lamoureux-Davidson, she giveth, then she taketh away, and then says take that. This is the most incredible move. It puts the Team USA up by one. The girl who grew up skating in the frozen ravines of North Dakota with her teammate and twin sister Monique gave the U.S. the lead.

Then all eyes turned to Madison Rooney. Team USA's goalie, just 20 years old, four-time Olympian from Canada barreling tried but was denied. That was it. Victory. Elations, celebrations. Other Olympic athletes from the U.S. were there, celebrating the first Olympic gold in 20 years. Ended in epic fashion.

[04:50:00] Also, Americans taking gold and silver in the men's ski halfpipe. And David Wise, repeating as Olympic champ from four years ago. He's 27 years old. A husband and father of two. He's overcome a lot on the slope since Sochi. He was there for his sister when she lost a leg in a boating accident. Lost his father and grandmother who passed away. His son Malakai had a near-death experience, too. But after this win, he celebrated with his family and says this was absolutely the best run of my life.

And U.S. women making serious noise here in Pyeongchang. History made earlier today when 27-year-old Jamie Anderson took silver in the first ever snowboard big air competition. After taking gold earlier in the slopes, she became the first female snowboarder ever to win two medals in a single Olympics. This girl is tough. A ruptured spleen, broken bones, all of that in her career.

But, Christine, Alex, she takes it all in its stride. She's a yogi, a nature lover, she's a literal tree hugger. She centers herself before competition by finding a tree and hugging it. One of just the many incredible stories and journeys that are able to finally celebrate here with medals for Team USA.

ROMANS: It is just so much fun to watch.

MARQUARDT: And Olympics, yes. Finishing up with two really fun events, we forget that there's that -- the skiing halfpipe as well.

ROMANS: Yes.

MARQUARDT: And the winner there looking like a young Shaun White.

ROMANS: All right. Coy, nice to see you. Nice to see you.

MARQUARDT: Thanks, Coy.

ROMANS: All right. Twitter cracking down on spam bots. The move has sparked controversy among conservative users. Details on CNN Money next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:55:55] MARQUARDT: Welcome back to EARLY START. 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 joins us from Jerusalem.

Oren, this is someone who is very close to Netanyahu. How much of a problem could this pose for him?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It could be the biggest problem Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has faced yet since this corruption investigations were made public about a year and a half ago. The man we're looking at here is Schlomo Filber, Netanyahu's former right hand man and one of very few members of Netanyahu's inner circle. That means he knows the workings in and around Netanyahu.

And the case in which he's agreed to work with prosecutors, Netanyahu has not been named a suspect. But it's Filber's testimony that has the potential to very much change that. So we'll see what comes out of the agreement he signed with state prosecutors.

Remember, Netanyahu and his inner circles are facing five different graft probes. In the first two of those, Netanyahu himself has been named a suspect. In the third, fourth and fifth, it is members of his inner circle. So it is Filber that could make Netanyahu a suspect in another one of those probes as the pressure builds around the embattled Israeli prime minister.

Also worth remembering that about a year ago, a year and a half ago, one of Netanyahu's former chiefs of staff also signed an agreement with state prosecutors to turn state's witness here. And yet Netanyahu continues to portray an aura of confidence. Speaking last night, he said he will continue to lead and he'll see everyone next year at another conference. So Netanyahu hanging in there for now.

Alex, he has the support of his coalition partners. We'll see if that holds.

MARQUARDT: All right. These legal troubles threatening to bring Netanyahu down now just two years into his third term.

Thanks very much, Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem.

ROMANS: All right. America's pastor, world renowned evangelist Billy Graham will be laid to rest on Saturday, March 2nd in Charlotte, North Carolina. His son Franklin Graham will deliver the eulogy. More than 2,000 people are being invited including all the living presidents. A private family service will be held as soon as this Saturday. Graham died Wednesday at his home in North Carolina. His longtime doctor said Graham, quote, "just wore out." He was 99 years old.

Let's get a check on CNN Money this morning. The era of low interest rate is over. That is shaking markets. Right now global stocks are down. Building off a sharp selloff on Wall Street. U.S. stocks were higher most of the day. Then the Federal Reserve released the minutes of its January meeting. The new Fed chief Jerome Powell and company optimistic about American economic growth. Investors worry that means faster interest rate hikes.

Bond yields also jumped to another four-year high. Higher rates may scare Wall Street. What about main street? Interest rates affect your borrowing costs. Assume the rate on things like savings accounts, that's good. But on auto loans and mortgages as well.

Ford's North American president is out over, quote, "inappropriate behavior." Raj Nair will leave immediately Ford said, adding that an internal investigations on certain behavior by Nair violated its code of conduct. Ford did not specific the behavior. Nair joined Ford back in 1987 and has been the head of Ford's North America division since June 2017.

The culture at Ford's factory is also under scrutiny. Ford faces sexual harassment claims at two plants in Chicago.

Twitter cracking down on spam bots. But its actions spark controversy among conservative and far-right users. Twitter will limit coordinated posts across multiple accounts. That prevents users from promoting false and misleading information. It also suspended thousands of suspected spam bot accounts. However, many conservative figures lost thousands of followers as a result blaming Twitter for a lockout on conservative accounts. Twitter denies this, adding that it regularly suspends suspicious accounts and that it will reinstate them once they confirm an actual human being is behind that account and that information.

MARQUARDT: Many people believing not enough humans are involved in the process.

ROMANS: That's right.

MARQUARDT: EARLY START continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: Angry families make a statement in a riveting exchange of views and ideas on guns. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida taking a beating, but he did have the decency and the courage to show up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)