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Families Grill Rubio At Town Hall; Trump Suggests Arming Teachers; Team USA Wins Hockey Gold Over Canada; Russia Warned Not to Meddle In Midterm Elections. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired February 22, 2018 - 05:00   ET


[05:00:02] ALEXANDER 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 courage to show up.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many schools? How many children have to get shot? It stops here with this administration and me.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: That grieving father. Families of several school shootings also made their case at the White House. The president suggested arming teachers. Lawmakers and law enforcement pushing back at that idea.

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

ROMANS: That was something.

MARQUARDT: That was an incredible game.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Alex Marquardt, in for Dave Briggs this morning.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. Nice to have you here. It is Thursday -- Thursday, February 22nd. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And what a powerful day of nationwide advocacy by survivors, families, gun control supporters following the Florida school shooting. The day was capped off by this CNN town hall in gun violence. There were signs at least some marginal change might be possible.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, the only Republican willing to face his critics. He said he 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. I will support a law that takes that right away. Traditionally, I have not looked at looking at magazine clip size.

And after this and some details I've learned, I'm reconsidering that position and I'll tell you why. I'll tell you why, because while it may not prevent an attack, but it may save lives in an attack.


MARQUARDT: Rubio reconsidering his position there, but still, he defended his opposition to broader gun violence legislation, including an assault weapons ban. Here is an exchange with Fred Guttenberg, a father who lost his daughter Jaime in a Florida school massacre.


RUBIO: If I believed that law would prevent this from happening, I would support it. I will explain to you why it's not.

FRED GUTTENBERG, DAUGHTER JAIME WAS KILLED IN HIGH SCHOOL MASSACRE: Senator Rubio, my daughter, running down the hallway at Marjory Stoneman Douglas was shot in the back --

RUBIO: Yes, sir.

GUTTENBERG: -- with an assault weapon, the weapon of choice, OK?


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


MARQUARDT: Rubio also faced tough questions about a big source of his campaign funding. Here is Stoneman Douglas High School student Cameron Kasky.


CAMERON KASKY, JUNIOR, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: This is about making a difference to save us and people who are against it and prefer money. So, Senator Rubio, can you tell me you will not accept a single donation from the NRA?


RUBIO: The positions I hold on these issues on the Second Amendment I've held since the day I entered office and the city of West Miami as an elected official. Number two, the answer to the question is that people buy to my agenda. And I do support the Second Amendment and I also support the right and view of 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 any deranged killer. And that's why I support the things that I stood for and fought for --

KASKY: You will take NRA money? More NRA money?

RUBIO: 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 --

KASKY: Hold on. 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 --

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


I have told you I support lifting the age from 18 to 21 of buying a rifle. I understand before I walked out here that the organization is not in favor of that.


ROMANS: 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 did send a spokeswoman to the town hall, Dana Loesch. She would not budge on NRA priorities and suggest local law enforcement missed crucial warning signs.


DANA LOESCH, NRA SPOKESWOMAN: I don't believe that this insane monster should have been able to obtain a firearm.

He had already taken bullets and knives to schools. He had already assaulted people. He assaulted his parents. He assaulted other students, 39 visits. And this was known to the intelligence and law enforcement community. Now, I'm not -- look, I'm not saying you can be everywhere at once.

[05:05:02] But this is what I'm talking about. You have to follow-up on these red flags.


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 students. Outside, there were thousands more students and other protesters from all across the state, they rallied demanding that lawmakers take action to curb sales of assault style rifles.


PROTESTERS: Vote them out! Vote them out! Vote them out!


MARQUARDT: Those are chants of vote them out that you can hear there, aimed at those lawmakers who won't act. Governor Rick Scott has proposed a -- or has promised rather a gun proposal by tomorrow. Students who met with him in Tallahassee said they were hopeful.


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

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


ROMANS: Across the country, students walked out in solidarity with survivors and victims of the massacre, look at this, in Washington, in Arizona, Minnesota, Colorado, Kentucky, Illinois. Students marched out of their classes defying threats and disciple from school districts.

At Coral Springs High, some students formed a heart on the football field to show their support.

MARQUARDT: Incredible.

Now, joining us now to discuss all this is CNN politics reporter Tal Kopan live in our Washington bureau.

Good morning, Tal.


MARQUARDT: Now, in addition to this, CNN town hall yesterday, there was an emotional White House listening session in the state dining room. To his credit, the president invited family members and friends of those killed in the Parkland massacre, some very poignant moments.

But I want to play sound about how the president responded. Let's take a listen.


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.


MARQUARDT: So, that was the president's proposal at this listening session that teachers be allowed to conceal carry a weapon so that they would be prepared should there be an active shooter situation. Was that really the biggest proposal that came out of this listening session?

KOPAN: I don't know it really seemed at the time that the president was sort of coming around to that as his main legislative priority. It was actually really fascinating to watch that. You know, there were some folks in the room who contextualize what the president said. There were others with supporting similar ideas, getting more security guards in school, having some sort of safe, it was sort of free flowing.

And there definitely was push back in the room in the president said, you know, anyone oppose that idea and there were folks in the room who spoke out there. There were teachers, there were parents from Sandy Hook, there were people in there who said, you know, that isn't a good idea. And so, it was actually a very interesting exchange to watch the president sort of listen as different sides kin of presented their views.

At the end, it was a little bit difficult to see what the president actually took in and took away from that meeting. I think that is the type of thing we're going to have to see in coming days and weeks in terms of actual action from lawmakers and Washington.

ROMANS: And our town hall, the CNN town hall, which was incredibly emotional as well. I mean, just a really important day, I think, on this discussion. There was a teacher, Ashley Kurth and Senator Rubio, to his credit, the only Republican to appear at the town hall, and they talked about this idea of arming teachers.


ASHLEY KURTH, TEACHER WHO SHELTERED 65 STUDENTS IN HER CLASSROOM: Am I supposed to get extra training to serve and protect on top of educate these children? Am I supposed to have a Kevlar vest? Am I supposed to strap it to my leg or it up on my desk? How am I supposed to go on that way?

RUBIO: Well, first, I don't support that. I would admit to you right now, I answer that as much as a father as I do a senator. The notion that my kids are going to school with teachers that armed with a weapon is not something that frankly I'm comfortable with. Beyond it, I think it has practical problems.


ROMANS: It is interesting. I just think that was an interesting moment when the president is supporting of arming teachers with concealed carry, and you have Marco Rubio and these teachers taking the opposite view.

KOPAN: Yes, that's absolutely right, Christine. You know, it goes back to the campaign. This is something President Trump has said going back to the campaign and his answer to a lot of public shootings has been perhaps people in the room should have guns. Of course, you know, experts and law enforcement professionals say the last thing you want in the situations is a shootout where you can't tell who the original shooter is and you have bullets flying and perhaps further casualties.

[05:10:08] So, a lot of push back to the idea that putting guns, especially when you get into schools. You know, there was a teacher in the room in the White House who said, teachers have enough responsibilities without having to worry about whether or not to use lethal force. You know, there was applause that came from the room out of that. Certainly a discussion the White House is starting. We will see where they actually end up in terms of hearing some of this feedback and hearing the pushback from teachers and other professionals.

MARQUARDT: Tal, after the town hall, there was a tweet that I want to throw up from Senator Marco Rubio. He wrote banning all semiautomatic weapons may have been popular with the audience at the CNN town hall, but it was a position well outside the mainstream. Polling and recent poll specifically from Quinnipiac shows that that's not really the case, that 67 percent support a ban on sale of assault weapons.

Now, yesterday, it was a day full of emotion, whether it was Tallahassee down in Florida, and elsewhere, but do we get any sense that aside from the emotion, there's going to be any movement that will reflect what the American people are feeling on Capitol Hill?

KOPAN: Well, it's a really tough question because on the one hand, this feels like a new moment. These students, these young people speaking out are truly incredible. The way they have been able to capture the nation's attention and speak so powerfully and eloquently about their own experience is something impressive and new.

You know, we had parents of victims before become activists, but the way these individuals who survived the shooting have really found their voice. It is something so powerful and what we saw in some of the town hall and listening session. But at the same time, how many times have we been down this road where we thought, this is a game changer and this is something new. And we didn't actually see that turn into action.

So, again, you know, it is really hard to say when you are, you know, betting on Congress, it is always good to assume that action is going to be tough. And then sort of pleasantly surprised and so far we haven't seen them really get over this hill when it comes to common sense gun control. There seems to be a lot of support with the American public.

ROMANS: If it were easy, we would have done it. And it's not easy. Video games, how the glorifying violence, broken boys and media coverage of these events, accessibility of guns just, all of it works together.

MARQUARDT: And what we are seeing and what is different here, the feeling that we're getting is that in this case, you've got these young eloquent kids. We've had school shootings before, but this is different.


MARQUARDT: And so, you know, obviously remains to be seen, whether --

ROMANS: Come back, Tal, in a few minutes. We'll talk more about the big day yesterday.

MARQUARDT: Thank you, Tal.

KOPAN: Thanks.

MARQUARDT: Now over to the Olympics in Pyeongchang, big drama on the ice. The U.S. and Canada go to the shootout in the women's hockey final. But even that wasn't enough to settle the gold medal. Coy Wire is live in Pyeongchang, next.


[05:17:12] ROMANS: All right. Team USA takes gold in the women's hockey, beating Canada in a thrilling shootout.

MARQUARDT: Coy Wire was in the arena and has more from Pyeongchang.

Coy, what was that like?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Good morning, Alex. Good morning, Chris.

Chants of USA and Canada back and forth. This is the third Olympics in a row these two teams went toe-to-toe. The last two taken by the Canadians. The game through overtime, then through a shootout and into a sudden death shootout. It was 2-2.

The last skater for each side had a try. It was American Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson who takes the puck to do something to make Wayne Gretzky's jaw drop. She grew up in North Dakota, skating on the ravines with her sister and teammate on Team USA Monique. That gave the Americans the lead.

Then it all came down to Team USA's 20-year-old goalie, a four-time Olympian from Canada with the puck and chance to tie it up. But no. She denies the Canadian and the crowd, goes crazy. America went to capture an Olympic gold for the first time since 1998, back in Nagano. And after the win, "Born in the USA" blasting through the speakers.

Now, with this epic game coming to an end, Lindsey Vonn, the most decorated female alpine skier on the planet, had one more chance at Olympic gold. This time, an alpine combined. She was in first place after the downhill, but then a disaster, missing the gate. She ran off the course in the slalom program, and hoping to end her Olympic career with gold. She ends without finishing the race. She thinks she was out of tears after crying after she failed to take gold yesterday as well.

Now, Americans did celebrate in the alpine combined. Twenty-two-year- old Mikaela Shiffrin taking silver, adding to the gold she already won here Pyeongchang. With gold in last Olympic Games as well, Mikaela has matched Lindsey Vonn in terms of Olympic medal count.

Let's get an early start on your medal count. Norway leading the day, dominating with 33. Germany is in second with 24. And the USA racking up the medals this morning, they jump to fourth overall.

Coming up in a bit, we will tell you about the Olympic champ who gets redemption. Coming back after adversity and back-to-back gold medalist for the U.S.

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

MARQUARDT: And the women's hockey victory, 38 years to the day from miracle on ice when the men won at Lake Placid in 1980.


All right. Twenty minutes past the hour.

The White House warning Moscow to stay out of the 2018 elections. Now says it is taking action to address Russian election meddling. We're going to go live to Moscow.


[05:24:11] ROMANS: A 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 is in Moscow with the latest.

You know, of course, the Russians say this never happened and the U.S. saying it took direct action. I mean, what type of direct action to stop meddling?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's where we're trying to find out. I mean, so far, there's no indication as to what that direct action actually means. It is interesting to see, though, the statement there from the administration where they are saying if they have discussions going on at the highest levels. It's unclear whether if that is between intelligence agencies, we have seen Mike Pompeo over at the CIA come out over the past couple of weeks and saying, yes, the CIA does believe that there are a lot of the patterns in place for the upcoming midterm elections in 2018 that they saw ahead of the 2016 presidential election as well.

[05:25:04] So, the White House is saying it sees this and they are also saying that if this continues, there could be very, very severe and negative consequences. Now, do the Russians believe that threat is real? It's very hard to say. But it certainly doesn't necessarily look like it.

The Russians say this never happened. They say they are sad and taken aback by the fact that the relationship between Washington and Moscow are as bad as they are, but at the same time, they still keep saying that they believe that President Trump is committed to improving those relations.

So, they certainly do believe that there is a rift between President Trump and some of the others working in the agencies, but then also working in his administration as well. And none of that is exemplified better than by President Trump's -- one of his latest tweets where he ripped into Attorney General Jeff Sessions, saying, look, why isn't anyone looking at the Democratic crimes, as he called them. Ask Jeff Sessions.

Those are the things that the Russians really pick up on, where they say, look, this is something where we see a rift between the president and some of the folks who are working in the administration, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Fred Pleitgen for us in Moscow. Thanks for that, Fred. Keep us posted.

In money now, the era of low interest rates is over, and that's shaking markets. Asian stocks closed lower. Europe opened down after a sharp selloff on Wall Street. The Dow and S&P were higher most of the day until the Federal Reserve released the minutes of its January.

The new Fed Chief Jerome Powell and the Fed optimistic about economic growth, a strong U.S. economy means faster interest rate hikes. The Fed on track for three this year.

Bond yields touched another four year high. Better bond returns make stocks less attractive.

Rate fears are behind the wild swings in February, including -- remember the correction and rebound? One of the quickest corrections, by the way, in history.

And while higher rates scare Wall Street, about Main Street? Well, interest rates affect borrowing costs, boosting the rate on things like savings accounts, that's good for savers, but it also means auto loans and mortgages get more expensive.

MARQUARDT: Does that mean the correction is over?

ROMANS: Well, sometimes corrections can take months, you know? A shallow short one and we hit it again. No one knows. If I knew, I would live on a Caribbean island with lots of money.

MARQUARDT: President Trump is suggesting that arming teachers might be a good way to stop school shootings. That idea had little support at a powerful CNN town hall on guns.

Emotional students still trying to come to grip with their new reality.