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Calls for Schools to be made Safer; McMaster to Return to Military; Florida Votes Against Ban; Helping Troubled People. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired February 22, 2018 - 06:30   ET

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


[06:30:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: More weapons in schools on some level, whether it's teachers, maybe that's unlikely, but more armed security. What were you hearing about that from people last night?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Well, first of all, Chris, I couldn't believe how effecting that father's plea was. I mean he used so many great kind of easy to understand examples. I can't get on a plane with a bottle of water. I got into an elevator today. There was an armed guard. But not at my child's school. I couldn't believe that he was as measured as he was and not screaming to the rafters.

So, you know, look, you heard that same thing echoed here. There were parents here last night who lost their children. And you heard a lot of anger saying, this should have happened sooner. Why are we having this conversation today? It's too late for my children, Ron. I mean that was a big echo.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And --

CAMEROTA: Why didn't we have this conversation and fix it after Columbine, people kept saying.

BROWNSTEIN: Don't forget the generational aspect of this. You know, millennials have not been more supportive of gun control than older generations over the last 15 years. That could be changing. And also the post-millennials. Many of these kids are younger even than millennials and they are emerging. By 2020, the first ones of them will be voting. By -- you know, the millennials will be the largest generation of eligible in 2018. The post-millennials join them in 2020. This could be a galvanizing cause for many in that generation --

CUOMO: Right. But --

BROWNSTEIN: To define their political engagement.

CUOMO: But it will show how left and right are going to have to make changes because after Sandy Hook, after Newtown in Connecticut, this idea about having more armed presence in schools was brought up. I brought it up and others did. And the left did not meet it well. Have they changed on this? We'll see.

Let's leave this part of the conversation for here. We have a lot more to get into on this.

There's another shakeup on the horizon in the West Wing. This is another story we're covering for you this morning. There are breaking details. What may happen next?

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[06:35:46] CUOMO: Breaking news. Sources tell CNN that after months of tension with President Trump, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster may be on his way out.

CNN's Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon with breaking details.

Now, Barbara, as you know even better than I, it is not unusual to hear rumblings that someone is in trouble. How is it different with McMaster?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, with McMaster, he may be on his way out, but he may be on his way out to somewhere else, and it's back to the Pentagon, back to the military ranks, Chris.

What we know is the Pentagon now looking for the possibility of a four star job. McMaster is a three star. He leaves the White House. He comes back. They give him a four star job. But it's going to be tough. In the ranks, he is seen now really, after all this time, as a political operative of the White House. Could he come back and be a credible four star general offering his best military advice, even if it differed from what the president wants. That's the ultimate dilemma.

So here are the options on the table. McMaster leaves. They find him a four star job. He stays for a while. Or perhaps the president -- the defense secretary says to him, time to retire. We don't know how it's going to sort is out, but we do know now they are looking for a four star job to possibly put him into.

Why it is so important? This is the year when President Trump will have to make decisions from everything from North Korea to Syria to Iran and getting in a national security adviser that he can work with is really going to be key.

Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Barbara, thank you very much. Appreciate the update. Let us know if anything else develops on that front.

Now, here's another story coming out of the White House that may take you by surprise. The White House is insisting that it's being tough on Russia about election interference. Officials are claiming the U.S. has already warned the Kremlin not to meddle in the upcoming midterm election. If this is news to you, it is news to us as well.

CNN's Abby Phillip live at the White House with more.

We have never heard anything about anyone in the White House or any of the extensions of government going at Russia about interference, except for the president to say it's a hoax.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Chris. And this is all coming in part because the president himself made a claim on social media this week that he had been far tougher on Russia than his predecessor, President Obama. And in order to sort of prove that to be true, some administration officials came out yesterday and told reporters that they had taken direct action against Russia and had warned Putin against meddling in the 2018 election.

Now, these officials wouldn't give a whole lot of details about what that means and what exactly they've done. They've cited national security concerns, that their actions were classified. However, we also know, as you just pointed out, that the Trump administration has, in the past, declined to impose the sanctions demanded by Congress against Russia for Russian meddling. And they continue to do so to this day.

Officials were also asked, has President Trump actually made these comments to Vladimir Putin directly? Has he warned Putin against meddling in the election? And the officials wouldn't say that either. They suggested that these comments have come from professionals in the ranks of perhaps the foreign service who have talked to their counterparts in Russia and warned them directly.

All of this is coming as Sarah Huckabee Sanders put out a new statement warning Russia against their actions in Syria as well. The White House clearly here trying to make good on President Trump's claim that he is doing more to stop this meddling in the election, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Abby, thank you very much.

So a lesson in gun politics was really on display for everybody yesterday. Survivors of the Florida massacre were just stunned as state lawmakers rejected a ban on assault rifles with students watching the vote. A Republican state representative who voted no joins us next.

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[06:42:49] CAMEROTA: On Tuesday, the Florida state legislature voted against even debating a bill to ban the sale of assault and assault- style -- assault weapons and assault-style rifles, including the one used in the Stoneman Douglas massacre. The bill would have also banned high-capacity magazines.

One of the no votes came from State Representative Randy Fine, and he joins us now.

Good morning, Mr. Fine.

STATE REP. RANDY FINE (R), FLORIDA DISTRICT 53: Good morning, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Why did you vote no on even opening the debate to talk about the ban of assault weapons? FINE: So we, in Florida, do things a little differently than they do

it in Congress. We actually read the laws before we pass them. And this motion would have forced us to vote on a bill that no one had actually read and, frankly, it would have disenfranchised millions of Floridians who on our bills have the right to come and publically testify on those bills as they move through committee. That was something I simply wouldn't stand for.

CAMEROTA: So are you saying that this motion to even debate it was rushed through? That you all hadn't considered this issue before this shooting behind me?

FINE: Neither me, nor any of my colleagues were informed that this motion would have been made. If it was a serious effort and not a political stunt, the sponsor could have let us know a few days before that he was going to do this so we might have been able to read the bills. In fact, he insulted the hundreds of students from Parkland who came the next day in order to share their ideas with us about what they thought we should do about the problem. They hadn't even arrived in Tallahassee yet.

CAMEROTA: But -- how did it insult them to introduce a bill to debate assault weapons?

FINE: The debate would have had to happen immediately after that motion passed. I promised 12 students when I agreed to meet with them in my office that I would hear what they had to say before I agreed to do anything. And for this political operative to pull this stunt the day before those students even arrived was very disappointing.

In fact, Representative Jared Moskowitz (ph), who represents Parkland, was at a funeral in south Florida for one of the victims at the time this stunt was pulled. It was disrespectful to him. It was disrespectful to those victims who died and whose funeral was going on at the exact moment that they tried to -- that they tried to pull the wool over the eyes of Florida voters.

[06:45:22] CAMEROTA: Because what the kids who came into the gallery said -- told us, who watched you all, said that they felt demoralized. They felt demoralized by your no vote because they wanted to at least hear debate.

FINE: I understand they were demoralized. And I feel terribly for them. What was done to them was horrible. We weren't even aware those students were in the gallery. I would have loved to have gone up and talked to them before that motion and to hear what they have to say. You know how I found out those students were in the gallery? When I heard them crying after the vote. That was not the appropriate way to treat those students and the sponsor of that stunt should be a ashamed of what he did to those kids.

CAMEROTA: So are you all going to do something in the Florida state legislature to fix gun violence?

FINE: We're going to try to fix the problem. I absolutely believe that. And, at the same time this stunt was being pulled, that Republicans and Democrats in the House were working together to put together a comprehensive solution. See, we wanted to wait until the students came yesterday to hear what they had to say before we came out with our solution, which I think you will see either today or tomorrow.

CAMEROTA: And will you commit to opening the debate as soon as you've had a chance to read the bill on an assault weapons ban.

FINE: We're going to have a debate on a comprehensive bill. And as that bill moves through the process, any member can make any amendment they want to that bill that is germane and it will be discussed and voted on by the membership.

CAMEROTA: So let's talk about it. Let's dive in. I mean I know that you say you're going to have a comprehensive plan. But let's just dive into some of the details because we heard them last night on the CNN town hall.

For instance, Senator Marco Rubio of your state seemed to suggest, in fact I think he overtly suggested, that he would be willing to ban some high-capacity magazines. How do you feel about that?

FINE: I'm not a big fan of taking away folks' Second Amendment rights. I mean I think we need to look at the issues and see where we can play around the edges. But we have to remember that people have the right to keep and bear arms. And there are tens of millions of gun owners who act responsible every day. And much like we don't punish the many because of the actions of the few, we need to be careful not to do that here.

CAMEROTA: Well, listen, of course. Obviously the vast majority of gun owners are conscientious, responsible people. But you can make the argument that the forefathers also didn't mean to have 100 capacity high-capacity magazines to be attached to AR-15s. So are you saying you're not open to fixing that?

FINE: Our forefathers also couldn't have imagined networks like CNN, yet we fight every day to make sure you all have your rights under the First Amendment. Just because something wasn't contemplated when the Constitution and the Bill of Rights was created doesn't mean we still don't have to protect those rights today.

CAMEROTA: I get it, but we're talking about the spirit of the law. And the spirt of the law was for a well-regulated militia, not a 19-year- old when could get his hands on a high-capacity magazine and an AR-15. Do you agree?

FINE: I agree that we have an issue when kids who have been reported to the Department of Family dozens of times, when someone calls the FBI and says this kid is going to come in and shoot up a school and the government doesn't do anything about it, that we have a real problem. We need to not only look at the instrument that this -- that this -- that this depraved killer used, but we have to look at what led him to do it and we have to look at how he wasn't caught in advance. We can't just focus on the fact that he used a gun. CAMEROTA: All right, Representative Randy Fine, we will look forward

to seeing what that comprehensive look at all of this is. Thanks so much for agreeing to be on with us.

FINE: Thanks for having he me.

CAMEROTA: OK, so slipping through the cracks. That's what we're talking about. Officials admitting that they did miss many red flags about the school killer. Or even if they didn't miss them, they couldn't do anything about them. So, how do we fix that? What can be done to spot the signs and then address them before trouble? We'll talk with a risk expert, next.

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[06:53:00] CUOMO: Solutions. That's what we need. How do we stop the shootings? Guns matter. There's no question about that. But the people using them matter as well.

Now, what if we could identify the people who are likely to perform these kinds of murders before? What if you could identify them and get them help so they don't become homicidal, suicidal? The answer is, we can.

Joining us now is the founder and director of the Columbia Lighthouse Project at Columbia University, Kelly Posner Gerstenhaber.

Doc, it is good to see you, as always.

DR. KELLY POSNER GERSTENHABER, FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR, THE COLUMBIA LIGHTHOUSE PROJECT: Good to see you, Chris.

CUOMO: So the concern is, as you've explained it to me, and tell me if I'm wrong, people who are suicidal, when we look at these school shootings, yes, the mentally ill are more likely to be victims of violence than they are perpetrators. However, in school shootings, we see a preponderance of the people who commit the murders are people who have some type of untreated, undiagnosed, unchecked mental illness. You're saying you can identify those people. It's not that difficult. And you've put it into practice and you've had success. True?

POSNER GERSTENHABER: Exactly right, Chris. So 80 percent to 90 percent of school shooters have suicidal issues. So if we're asking everybody, we can find the people who need help and get them the help they need before it's actually too late. And we know that this works. We know that we can ask.

And, you know what, asking will help everybody. You know that -- you know -- I don't need to tell you that suicide is one of our greatest public health crises. The number one cause of death in adolescents. The second leading cause of death in 10 to 24-year-olds. The number one cause of death in adolescent girls. It kills more people in the United States than car accidents. But it's our one preventable cause of death. And what do we need to do? You know, we know that 50 percent of

suicides see their primary care doctor the month before they die. We need to be asking like we monitor for blood pressure. Did you know that many adolescents who show up to the emergency department, who have tried to take their own life, are not there for psychiatric reasons. So if we're not asking everybody, like blood pressure or vision testing, we're not going to find the people suffering in silence.

[06:55:05] But even that's not enough. You know, the undersecretary of defense wrote this urgent memo that it's not enough to have the primary care doctor ask these questions. We must have a public health approach and put it in everybody's hands.

CUOMO: Right, because it's not just enough, the doctor. Anybody can ask these questions.

Now, people will hear this and they say, this is academic. This is theoretical. These people won't tell you the truth. They're sneaky and they want to come in and kill everybody. You're saying the data, the science, proves otherwise. How so?

POSNER GERSTENHABER: It absolutely proves otherwise. When people are suffering and they want help, and when you ask, they're forthcoming. And the overwhelming majority of people who are suicidal are never going to be -- pose any danger to society, right? But in cases like this, we can find people who -- who are suffering and get them the help they need.

And we know that this simple thing can be so potent. These particular questions, the Columbia suicide severity ratings scale, have been rolled out across the nation. And you know what happened when the Marines put it in everybody's hands? What that means is all support workers, legal assistants, financial aid councilors, it helped them achieve a 22 percent reduction in the rate of suicides.

CUOMO: Suicide down 22 percent --

POSNER GERSTENHABER: Exactly.

CUOMO: Just by asking the questions and getting people help.

POSNER GERSTENHABER: Exactly.

Utah, they said, we're going to take all into a new level. Put it in everybody's hands. Help them achieve a reduction, reversing an upward trend over the past 10 years. And you know what, so we have big data showing this. The largest provider of community health care in the United States, Centerstone, 65 percent in the first 20 months in one state. And you know what, Chris, they brought it life --

CUOMO: A 65 percent suicide rate going down?

POSNER GERSTENHABER: Exactly. In 20 months. And they brought it to life by telling this story about a man who they called a few times and he said he was fine. He said the last time you called me and asked me those questions, I was on the bridge.

But, you know, the -- the on the ground stories that we hear, you know, I went and trained the athletic coaches at Princeton. And you remember one of the suicides a few years ago was an athlete. The people that see these kids up close and personal, you know, they're the front line of defense that can find them before they ever get to a doctor's office is who we need to arm.

CUOMO: This kid, this man, who just did this one in Florida, he didn't kill himself the way the others do in these shootings. They usually kill themself at some point or set themselves up for death by cop. He didn't. He left. People will say, well, then it wouldn't have worked with him because he wasn't really suicidal. Is that accurate?

POSNER GERSTENHABER: Absolutely not. You know he -- he certainly probably had suicidal feelings. And 90 percent of these cases actually end their life after the case. But absolutely not. You know, you don't have to actually die by suicide to be suicidal.

CUOMO: If somebody had helped him and people were talking to him and getting him the help, then he wouldn't have been in this position.

All right, so it is cssrs.columbia.edu. You go there. You will learn about the questions from the Columbia protocol and where it is and where it still needs to be and is not. We will follow up with this on lawmakers and ask them why they're not doing it.

Doctor, thank you very much for being with us. And, congratulations, you are getting the highest civilian honor from the Department of Defense because of the effectiveness of asking these questions and the change they make. Thank you very much.

POSNER GERSTENHABER: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: Be well.

All right, so students, parents, teachers, confronting members of Congress and the NRA at this powerful CNN town hall with just a very simple question, do something. Republican Senator Marco Rubio, brave to show up there, and did change some positions. What? What difference will it make? Next.

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