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THE SITUATION ROOM
More Charges Filed Against Paul Manafort; Interview With New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries; NRA Head Lashes Out; Trump Advocates for Guns in Classrooms. Aired 6-6:30p ET
Aired February 22, 2018 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Arming teachers. President Trump is arguing that attacks on schools would end if any educators carry concealed weapons. Tonight, he's all over the map, tossing around proposals to address gun violence. Are his ideas practical or potentially dangerous?
Spoiling for a fight. NRA leaders are sounding defiant, despite Mr. Trump's call to action. The gun lobby throwing new red meat to its members with over-the-top attacks on Democrats and the news media.
And Ivanka's agenda. The president's daughter is heading to the Winter Olympic Games for the closing ceremony. Is she on a mission to send a message to North Korea after the vice president famously gave Kim Jong-un's sister the cold shoulder?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking tonight, a new 32-count indictment, as the special counsel, Robert Mueller, follows the money in the Russia investigation.
A federal grand jury piling on more charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates, Manafort accused of laundering more than $30 million in income with Gates' help.
This hour, I will get reaction from former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, a Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. And our correspondents and analyses are all standing by.
First, let's go to our justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider.
Jessica, you have been poring over this lengthy indictment. What are you learning?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, this indictment outlines a detailed scheme where Manafort and Gates allegedly hid bank accounts, failed to pay taxes on income for more than a decade, and then when that money ran dry, prosecutors say they resorted to bank fraud to secure millions of dollars in real estate loans.
These amount to 32 new and additional counts in a different court, in Virginia. And it really amps up the prosecution of both Manafort and Gates and it does raise some new questions on whether or not Gates may be on the verge of a plea deal.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): More evidence special counsel Robert Mueller is not letting up. Tonight, CNN has learned a Virginia grand jury has returned a new indictment against President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates.
There are 32 new charges, and they are separate from the charges the pair faces in D.C. federal court, including money laundering, failing to register as a foreign agent, and failure to report foreign bank accounts. In this new indictment, prosecutors describe a scheme where the two longtime business partners failed to pay taxes for almost 10 years, and then used real estate they owned to fraudulently secure more than $20 million in loans.
The indictment also alleges Manafort, with the assistance of Gates, laundered more than $30 million, income that he concealed from the United States Department of the Treasury, the Department of Justice, and others.
The charges were announced just hours after Rick Gates was spotted leaving this D.C. federal courthouse. With this long list of new charges, it appeals any plea deal from Gates may have fallen apart. CNN reported that Gates has been in plea negotiations with the special counsel's team for the past month. And if he pleads guilty, he could testify against Paul Manafort.
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think these lawyers are putting so much pressure on these guys, with so many high stakes, that the ultimate decision is going to be, I have got to protect myself and my family, and they're going to cooperate.
SCHNEIDER: In addition to tonight's new charges, "The Wall Street Journal" reports Mueller's team and federal prosecutors in New York are also examining up to $16 million in loans to Manafort from Federal Savings Bank, a bank run by a former campaign adviser to President Trump, Steve Calk.
The special counsel is reportedly looking at whether the loans were made as part of a quid pro quo, Manafort got the loans and Steve Calk was promised a job in the Trump administration, while New York prosecutors are investigating possible money laundering. Both Manafort and Calk have not commented. Calk did not get a spot on the Cabinet, but was a member of candidate Trump's Economic Advisory Council in August 2016.
Manafort, who served as the Trump campaign chairman, until he stepped down three months before the election, sought in the past to distance candidate Trump from Russian money.
QUESTION: So, to be clear, candidate Trump has no financial relations with any Russian oligarch?
PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER DONALD TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: That what he said. That's what I said. That's obviously what the -- our position is.
SCHNEIDER: Manafort left the campaign amid questions about his lobbying work for the pro-Russian government and the payments he received.
SCHNEIDER: Now, when it comes to Rick Gates, he is scheduled for a hearing tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. That relates to his lawyers' efforts to withdraw from his case.
In the meantime, after weeks of working with Rick Gates, prominent white-collar criminal defense attorney Tom Green, he has officially entered an appearance as Gates' attorney. That happened today.
Now, this is significant, because Tom Green has been talking with Mueller's team about a potential plea deal for Gates for more than a month behind the scenes. So it appears now a guilty plea could still be possible.
In addition, we know that Mueller's investigators were scheduled to interview former Trump campaign adviser Sam Nunberg today. He was an early adviser to the campaign, but he was fired in August 2015 for racially charged Facebook posts.
But, Wolf, it's very interesting. In terms of a Rick Gates possible plea deal, we understand from several sources he's rejected a few possible deals. However, today, those talks are still ongoing. So this is still in flux. It could still happen.
BLITZER: Yes. And if he cops a plea, the pressure will build on Manafort to do the same thing. We will see how this unfolds. Lots going on. Jessica, good report. Thank you very much.
Let's bring in CNN's senior legal analyst former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara.
Preet, thanks so much for joining us.
What do these new charges mean? I assume you have gone through this lengthy document.
PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I have. They mean a few things.
They mean that Bob Mueller and his team, if people didn't realize it before now, are incredibly serious, are incredibly thorough, and are going to keep looking. And so just because you see charges filed against one person or another, it doesn't mean that that's all there's going to be. This is the first superseding indictment. I think it's possible there could be additional superseding
indictments against Manafort and Gates as they continue to look at the paper trail and the money trail. And so, you know, every day or week that goes by, with someone like Rick Gates choosing not to plead guilty, is another week where the Mueller team is continuing to look at his background, continuing to look at his finances, and so more charges could be in the offing in the future.
BLITZER: So, big picture, Preet, how do you see the special counsel's strategy unfolding?
BHARARA: Well, the first bit of strategy and approach for any prosecutor, special counsel or otherwise, is to get at the entire truth and to find out, in as thorough a way as possible, who should be held accountable for what.
And so, in the course of doing that, of course, you're trying to get as far up the food chain as you can. So if Rick Gates has more exposure, he's more likely to plead guilty and he's more likely to cooperate up the food chain against Paul Manafort. And if Paul Manafort can be accused of more things legitimately, and that can be proven in court, then Paul Manafort has greater and greater incentive to cooperate further up in the chain as well.
So, the overall strategy is to figure out who has done what, why, whether you can prove it, and it's also clear that the Mueller team is not, you know, sort of doing everything all at once. If it finds something they're prepared to charge someone, whether it's Mike Flynn or Rick Gates or anyone else, that doesn't mean it's the end of the line for that person.
BLITZER: So your assumption is that Mueller is pressuring both Gates and Manafort to cop a plea, to plead guilty, to fully cooperate, because they potentially have useful information about what?
BHARARA: It could be a whole number of things.
Paul Manafort was a significant figure in the campaign for a substantial period of time. Even though people in the Trump White House like to discount him, like they do everyone who runs afoul of the law or runs afoul of the boss, he could have information about dealings with other countries, he could have information about potential quid pro quos that went on.
He could have information about the interactions with Russia. The sky is the limit with respect to how much Paul Manafort could have possibly known. And so they're doing everything they can, you know, as they like to say, turn the screws, to see if they will cooperate.
BLITZER: And they already have Michael Flynn, the president's former national security adviser. He's already pled guilty. So, presumably, he's cooperating. He knows a lot about what's going on as well, right?
BHARARA: Yes, he does. I mean, the odd thing about the Flynn plea, as I have said before, is
it's a plea to -- you know, a false statement to the FBI. Given all the information that's been swirling around about the kinds of activities he was engaged in, including with respect to Turkey, and not just Russia, people were expecting more.
So, you know, I don't want to speculate overly, but I still think it's possible we see additional charges against Michael Flynn. If at some point he's going to be asked to testify against someone, with respect to conduct that he himself participated in, I would expect further charges against Flynn as well. I wouldn't rule out further charges against anyone, including Flynn.
BLITZER: Preet, Flynn was the president's national security adviser, albeit for only a month, but he served as a top adviser during the transition and of course during the campaign as well.
The White House argues, at least previously, it's suggested, that Paul Manafort and Rick Gates had really not much to do with President Trump at all. What do you make of that?
BHARARA: It's a -- it's a common strategy, generally, to try to, you know, throw off to the side people who are in trouble and you want to distance yourself from. And it's a particular strategy of this president.
You know, anybody who runs afoul of the law or the boss, as I said a second ago, is someone that they say was just, you know, a coffee- getter or someone who ordered lunch from time to time, didn't know anything about them.
They have even said the same kinds of things about Steve Bannon. When someone is out of the loop and they don't like them anymore or they think they're in a position to provide damaging information about the president or the White House, they say they weren't really connected to them. And, obviously, the evidence shows otherwise.
BLITZER: You agree with Jeffrey Toobin, our legal analyst, that based on these 32 counts, these additional 32 counts, if convicted, Paul Manafort, who's 70 years old, could potentially wind up spending the rest of his life in prison?
BHARARA: Yes, I always like to agree with Jeff Toobin, and I agree with him there as well.
The other point to the make, though, is the nature of the charges are certainly serious and they're very numerous, but they're also pretty straightforward. You know, some of the charges have to do with whether or not he declared income, he engaged -- and whether or not they lied about having foreign bank accounts.
Those are fairly simple things to prove. Pretty straightforward. If he had income and he didn't declare it on his tax returns, it's a very hard defense to make in response to that. And the same is true with respect to the bank accounts in other
countries. I know a little bit less about the facts relating to the bank fraud and the loans. But, you know, cases like that can be made fairly quickly and straightforwardly, and there's not much you can do about it.
BLITZER: It's really amazing, if you go through the document, and gone through it, how much detail the special counsel and his team, they have collected. They clearly have gone ahead and followed the money.
But I suspect what we know publicly right now, in all the various indictments, is a relatively very small part of what they know. Do you agree?
BHARARA: I completely agree. And I think it's a point worth reiterating over and over again.
At various points in this investigation, it hasn't even been that long, the Mueller team surprises us. You know, nobody saw coming -- I don't think anybody saw coming last week the indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three organizations.
These things happen at the pace and with the intensity with which the Mueller team wants to bring them. And there are lots and lots of things that are happening behind closed doors with the Mueller lawyers that we have no idea about, and I'm sure we will be back to talk about them when they happen.
BLITZER: Yes, I agree. Preet Bharara, thanks, as usual, for joining us.
BLITZER: Let's get to other breaking news we're following on President Trump escalating his call to arm up to 40 percent of the nation's teachers. He's promising action in response to the Florida school massacre. So far, it's a lot of talk today that doesn't seem to be changing a lot of minds over at the National Rifle Association, the NRA.
Let's go straight to our senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown.
Pamela, the president has seized on this idea of arming teachers.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. He has told his advisers, Wolf, that he wants to lead on the gun issue, unlike his predecessors, and one of his solutions is putting more guns in schools by arming "highly adept teachers." And he even suggested the idea of giving those teachers bonuses.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's a tremendous feeling that we want to get something done. And we're leading that feeling, I hope. But there's a great feeling, including at the NRA.
BROWN (voice-over): President Trump is pledging action on gun violence in the wake of the shooting at a Florida high school last week that left 17 dead.
TRUMP: For many years, where people sitting in my position did not take action, they didn't take proper action, they took no action at all, we're going to take action.
BROWN: But what that action will be is still unclear. Trump unleashed a series of tweets on guns this morning, saying: "I will be strongly pushing comprehensive background checks with an emphasis on mental health, raise age to 21, and end sale of bump stocks. Congress is in a mood to finally do something on this issue, I hope."
The president says he is working the phones to rally support for his ideas.
TRUMP: I have called many senators last night, many congressmen, and Jeff and Pam and everybody in this room, I can tell you, Curtis, they're into doing background checks that they wouldn't be thinking about, maybe, two weeks ago.
WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, National Rifle Association: To stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a good guy with a gun.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BROWN: Even as Wayne LaPierre, the head of the National Rifle Association, blamed Democrats and the media for turning a tragedy into a moment for political gain.
LAPIERRE: The elites don't care, not one whit, about America's school system and schoolchildren. If they truly cared, what they would do is, they would protect them. Their goal is to eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms freedoms.
BROWN: Despite those objections, the president says he believes the NRA will join him in reforming the country's gun laws.
TRUMP: I don't think I will with going up against them. I really think the NRA wants to do what's right. I mean, they're very close to me, I'm very close to them. They're very, very great people. They love this country. They're patriots. The NRA wants to do the right thing.
BROWN: At the same time, the president is doubling down on his position that some teachers should have guns at schools, an idea raised during a listening session with Parkland students and parents at the White House Wednesday.
TRUMP: If you had a teacher with -- who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly. BROWN: Today, Trump insisting attacks would end if teachers were
armed, adding that they would need regular training and would get paid bonuses.
TRUMP: These people are cowards. They're not going to walk into a school if 20 percent of the teachers have guns. It may be 10 percent. It may be 40 percent. And what I would recommend doing is the people that do carry, we give them a bonus.
BROWN: The president saying schools that remain gun-free zones are open targets.
TRUMP: I think we need hardened sites. We need to let people know, you come into our schools, you're going to be dead. And it's going to be fast. And unless you do that, you're going to always have this problem.
BROWN: That idea echoed by the NRA today.
LAPIERRE: It should not be easier for a madman to shoot up a school than a bank or a jewelry store or some Hollywood gala. Schools must be the most hardened targets in this country.
BROWN: But the White House says it doesn't expect to agree with the NRA on every issue.
QUESTION: Is he willing to go against the NRA ultimately? Because the NRA is standing firm that it does not support age limits for semiautomatic rifles. Is the president willing to stick with his...
RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: He's willing to do what's right to ensure safe -- to ensure we have safe schools.
BROWN: So, tonight, the president remains at odds with the NRA over the issue of raising the age limit for those buying semiautomatic rifles.
Meantime, today, the president said he opposed active shooter drills in schools. And the White House later clarified that he was talking about the branding, the name, not the actual drill, saying that the name would be traumatizing for young students and suggesting the idea of safety drills instead -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Pamela Brown at the White House for us, thank you.
Let's get some more on all of this.
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries is joining us. He's a Democrat who serves on the Judiciary Committee.
Congressman, thanks for joining us.
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), NEW YORK: Thanks for having me, Wolf. BLITZER: So, we just learned that the school resource officer who is
armed didn't actually go into the high school building where the shooting happened. What would be the impact of President Trump's proposal to have more trained and armed teachers in schools all across the country?
JEFFRIES: Well, it seems to me to be a very unreasonable, knee-jerk proposal, that if he was going to float this out there publicly, at least he could have had some consultation with the actual teachers who would be compelled, not just to be responsible for the education of our children, but, under the Trump model, to be required to train, to carry a gun, and to intervene to the extent that a school is impacted by a mass shooting.
Seems to be wildly irresponsible, John Wayne-like, something that only President Trump could propose in the midst of a national tragedy.
BLITZER: He also tweeted this. And I will put it up on the screen.
"I will be strongly pushing comprehensive background checks, with an everyone size on mental health. Raise age to 21 and end sale of bump stocks. Congress is in a mood to finally do something on this issue, I hope."
Will you support the president on those measures?
JEFFRIES: Well, those are reasonable steps. And Democrats have always been in the mood to do something. We were in the mood to do something in the aftermath of the tragedy at Sandy Hook, in the aftermath of San Bernardino, in the aftermath of Charleston, in the aftermath of Orlando, in the aftermath of Las Vegas, in the aftermath of Sutherland Springs.
The problem has been, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, led by the speaker of the House and the current majority leader, have refused to do anything reasonable, even such as enact comprehensive background checks, which the overwhelming majority of the American people support.
We could use some presidential leadership on this issue, to finally be able to get something done.
BLITZER: This is interesting. The radiologists for some of the Parkland high school victims says the wounds she saw from the AR-15- style rifle were completely different from the handgun wounds she had seen so many times over the years.
She wrote this, and I will quote her. "If we can see the different impacts of high- and low-velocity rounds clinically, then the government can also draw such distinctions."
Do you agree there are serious distinctions between, let's say, a handgun and an AR-15-style assault weapon?
JEFFRIES: Absolutely. And let me make the observation. One, the overwhelming majority of
gun owners in America are hardworking, law-abiding, patriotic citizens who grew up in a gun culture that was often taught to them by their mother or their father, their grandmother or their grandfather, their older brother or their older sister. It was a family affair.
And they have learned how to shoot and how to hunt in ways that are protected by the Second Amendment. That's not what we're talking about when we are trying to address the issue of keeping weapons of mass destruction, like assault weapons, out of the hands of criminals, mentally ill individuals, people with convictions for domestic violence offenses, and those who we have reason to believe may engage in a type of mass shooting that we have seen.
The fact remains that an assault weapon is not used to hunt deer. It's used to hunt human beings. And it does not belong in the hands of an individual who can inflict such tremendous carnage on the American people.
BLITZER: Some Florida teachers and unions, they want to divest from gun companies after Bloomberg reported that the state pension plan is invested in the very company that was -- that made the weapon used in last week's massacre down in Florida.
Would that be an example of a different approach to go forward, something you would support?
We need to look at a comprehensive set of approaches in order to make sure that this time is different. And I'm thankful for all of the wonderful young people who have stepped forward with such courageousness and compassion in terms of fighting to make sure that we can finally get some things done in Congress, in the state capitals all across this country.
One of the things we need to explore is, why is it the case that the NRA has such a vice grip on so many members of the Republican Party in the House of Representatives and in the United States Senate? Presumably, it in part relates to the fact that they heavily fund so many campaigns and invest in political efforts in order to secure such loyalty.
But the NRA is funded by the gun manufacturers to the tunes of tens of millions of dollars. And so one of the things that may change the dynamic in this country is to make sure that the American people push back against the actual gun manufacturers, those who are funding the NRA and, by extension, the politicians who are standing in the way of commonsense gun legislation.
And using pension fund investment strategies is one effective way to do that. We have pursued it in New York. They should look to pursue it in Florida as well.
BLITZER: Congressman Jeffries, thanks so much for joining us.
JEFFRIES: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, more on the breaking news.
A major new indictment against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. What message is the special counsel sending about the Russia investigation?
And we will have a live report on the shocking revelation from a Florida sheriff that an armed deputy on the campus of that high school during the shooting massacre stood there and did nothing.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: There's breaking news in the Florida high school shooting massacre that left 17 people dead.
The Broward County sheriff has just revealed that the armed school resource deputy waited outside the shooting -- waited outside the school as the shooting unfolded and never actually entered the building.
CNN's Martin Savidge is in Parkland, Florida, for us with details.
Martin, this is truly a stunning and such a disturbing development.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is, Wolf.
It's a horrific change in the narrative here that we're getting. And this is coming from the sheriff of Broward County now, Scott Israel, who says that he first was going to suspend Scott Peterson, but now that deputy has resigned.
We're going to play for you the news conference in which Sheriff Scott Israel explains what Peterson, who is the school resource officer -- this is an armed deputy, in uniform, assigned to this campus, who was on the school that day as the gunfire breaks out. You could tell the sheriff was deeply distressed as relayed the information.
There were a serious of questions asked. Here's how the narrative is put together by the sheriff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT ISRAEL, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA, SHERIFF: Scott Peterson was absolutely on campus through this entire event. He was armed. He was in uniform.
But what I saw was a deputy arrive at the west side of Building 12, take up a position, and he never went in. I think it was upwards -- I think he remained outside for upwards of four minutes. He went on his -- I think he got on his radio at a point in time, and
he took up a position where it looked like he could see the western- most entry into the building, and stayed where he was. Never went in.
Devastated. Sick to my stomach. There are no words. I mean, these families lost their children. We lost coaches. I have been to the funerals. I have been to the homes where they sit and shiver. I have been to the vigils. It's just -- there are no words.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: Wolf, as you know, it is standard practice with law enforcement ever since Columbine in 1999 that any officer on scene with a weapon must go in and engage the gunman at the time a shooting taking place.
You can't wait for backup. You can't wait for the SWAT team. That was the deadly consequence of Columbine, the lesson learned. But, in this particular incident, the sheriff said that did not happen. There was an armed deputy, a good guy with a gun. There was a bad guy with a gun on the inside, and it did not work the way it was supposed to.
And remember, Wolf. These families were told just days ago by the FBI that they had received a tip that this gunman was very likely going to carry out an attack at this school. They didn't act. Now those same families are being told there was an armed officer on campus outside the building where the shootings were taking place. And again, those families are told, as their children were dying, that law enforcement did not act -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Truly shocking, indeed. Martin Savidge on the scene for us in Parkland. Martin, thank you very much.
Let's bring in the panel. Jeffrey, you know, it's stunning to hear that, because the whole purpose of having an armed deputy at a school, God forbid, if something like this happens, is for that deputy to do something.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: But doesn't it show that a good guy with a gun can't stop this kind of activity? Yes, it's true, he should have gone inside. But if you have someone inside with an AR-15, how many armed officers, even if they're doing their job, can stop it?
I mean, this just shows, if you have assault weapons in schools, in the hands of lunatics, it doesn't matter how many people you have.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, but it does change a narrative here for the president, you know, to a degree. I don't know that it will.
But, you know, the president talked about hardening the defenses inside -- inside the schools by either having the teachers be armed, 20 to 40 percent, or -- or having more armed guards in. And then you hear this story. And first of all, your heart just breaks for the parents and the
relatives of these children, because not only have they gotten the news about the FBI falling down on the job, but now this. And it just -- I mean, I don't know how you process that, to be -- to be honest.
But this whole notion that, if you arm teachers, who, by the way, are not trained like -- like this officer was, and that suddenly they're going to -- they're going to do what this officer did not do, I think it raises a lot of questions about -- about whether that's the right route to go.
BLITZER: It is sickening, when you hear that kind of stuff, Sam. It makes all of us nauseous.
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: It definitely does. And there's also a national security angle to this, right? I mean, we know after Parkland that Russian bots and trolls went into overdrive, re-tweeting different pieces of this, conspiracy theories, and all this finger-pointing and all of these different narratives about who's to blame.
And I think over the coming weeks, as the Department of Justice looks at where the failure was, as different people try to come up with solutions, the troll farms are going to be working overtime.
BLITZER: You know, the -- you've got to -- you've got to wonder if they're going to be able to learn lessons from this and really change things, or is this just going to go on and on and on?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think one big lesson, Wolf, is that there are a lot of components to this. My brother-in- law is a police officer who has been -- received commendations for his actions in life-and-death situations, but he has said to me, "You don't know how you're going to act until you're in the moment."
And I think that when you look at talking about arming teachers or putting more guards in schools, that is not a foolproof solution to all the variables that are going on in these situations.
TOOBIN: Let's talk specifically. There are 3.5 million teachers in schools in America. If you're going to arm 20 to 40 percent of them, you are arming 700,000 to 1.4 million teachers. That's a great new market for gun manufacturers. They're going to like this idea.
But how many teachers want to have guns? How many teachers are qualified to have guns? Does this idea make any sense at all? It strikes me as complete insanity. And I just -- I don't see any way this is going to happen or that it could happen.
BLITZER: The president is pretty firm. You know, you heard what he had to say today.
BORGER: Right, but he...
BLITZER: He thinks this is a really potentially good idea. A deterrent... BORGER: He thinks it's a good idea...
BLITZER: ... to a mad killer, if that killer knows that there are armed teachers inside the school, maybe that will deter.
BORGER: Concealed carry, he likes that idea. It's an idea that the NRA likes. The NRA has talked about that. You heard Wayne LaPierre talk about that today.
But the president is talking about a lot of things right now. You know, he's talking about enhanced background checks. He's talking about banning bump stocks. You know, he's talking about raising the age at which you can -- at which you can buy a gun like this. He's talking about mental health.
So this is part of a whole group of things that he is talking about.
[18:35:00] And there is a lot of pushback now from teachers. And I'm wondering whether teachers' unions are going to get involved in this. And whether you're going to -- you know, people who go into teaching -- and we heard this at the town hall last night, from teachers, who were saying, you know, "I went into teaching to teach. Do I now have to -- have to become a guard? Do I now have to learn how to use a weapon?" And I think we heard some of that pushback last night.
And so I don't think this is the end of this debate. I think it's the beginning of it.
BLITZER: So we haven't yet heard from the deputy, but we did hear from the Broward County sheriff, Scott Israel. You just heard what he said. You saw how devastated, how upset he was that an armed -- an armed police officer, for all practical purposes, was standing outside during the killing and never bothered to go inside the building. "There are no words," he said. "These families lost their children. We lost coaches. I've been to the funerals. I've been to the homes where they're sitting shiva. I've been to the vigils. It's just -- there are no words." And there really are no words.
VINOGRAD: There are no words. And I think that we are hearing so many red flags that were missed by the Department of Justice. We're hearing about various breakdowns along the process.
And Gloria, as you mentioned, we're hearing the president make some really wild proposals, just like this proposal to arm teachers. And you have to sit back and ask, what's he actually doing? He's making a lot of statements. A lot of them are ludicrous and terrifying, like this most recent one. But we haven't actually heard him come up with a plan to take action. And I don't think that's an accident.
TOOBIN: But he has taken action. He did take action. In February of last year, he signed a bill overturning an Obama attempt...
TOOBIN: ... to make it harder for people with mental illness to get guns. So the president is on the record making it easier to get -- for people with mental illness to get guns. I mean, so, you know, he has a record on this. History didn't start, you know, with this...
SWERDLICK: No. And he gleefully accepted, more so than recent candidates in recent memory, the endorsement of the NRA very early in his presidential campaign.
To your point, Sam, I think what the president is doing and what the NRA is doing, they know they can't do nothing; they know they can't say nothing.
TOOBIN: Why not? They do no -- they've been doing nothing for years.
SWERDLICK: Well, they have to say something in response to this outcry. But wanting to find a solution, as ludicrous as the arming teachers thing is, that doesn't involve taking away guns or restricting guns.
BLITZER: Let me play a little clip, Gloria. This is the president speaking about this sensitive issue earlier in the day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we need hardened sites. You let people know, you come into our schools, you're going to be dead and it's going to be fast.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Yes. He's pretty determined on this.
BORGER: You know, and that's why the news that we're just talking about, about this resource officer standing outside...
BLITZER: An armed resource officer.
BORGER: An armed one changes what the president is saying. Because -- and we need to hear from the -- from the resource officer. We need to hear what was going on. And we -- you know, we don't know that side of the story. But we did hear the sheriff say that he was devastated by this, and he was sickened by this. So we're assuming that he's -- that he's heard it.
So now the president has got -- this is a case where you did have someone. And the president might come back and say, you needed to have more.
TOOBIN: Or that this guy was incompetent and he should be prosecuted...
BORGER: That's right, that's right. And you can't just have one. You need to have more. And if the teachers had been armed, maybe it would have been -- you know, maybe it would have been different.
So you know, the argument will continue, but it will not only continue from the president, but it's going to have to go to Congress. And, you know, there are going to be people in Congress who say, "Arm the teachers," because that's what the NRA wants. And they're afraid of getting primaried by more conservative opponents who will be funded by the NRA.
So we have to see where that goes. So this is, you know -- this is a conversation that the leaders have not weighed in on yet.
TOOBIN: Yes, I was going to say. You know who you haven't heard from at all is Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell, who will control whether any of this even gets voted on.
TOOBIN: And they haven't even -- they haven't said word one...
BORGER: Right, right.
TOOBIN: ... that they're going to do anything about this.
BLITZER: It's interesting, Sam. The president also today seemed to blame, you know, video games, where there's a lot of violence, movies for some of this gun violence that's been going on. And he also proposed not just arming teachers but giving them bonuses if they go ahead and train themselves and get ready to pack -- to pack a weapon in a school room.
He talked about reopening what he -- mental institutions that have been shut down over these many recent years, to put away what he calls sickos. What impression does all of that give you?
VINOGRAD: That he doesn't actually like to take on any responsibility, right? I mean, he's blaming video games. Video games are viewed all over the world. People don't go and shoot up schools.
And we typically see the president try to take away from him having to actually do anything by blaming other people. I mean, look, he's blaming president Obama for Russia's ongoing attack on the United States. Why not blame video games for a mentally ill person going into a school and shooting it up?
[18:40:10] BORGER: You know, I think he's having difficulty here, because part of it is his using the NRA talking points, which is blaming movies, blaming video games, blaming everybody else. You know, blaming school security, et cetera.
And on the other hand, he's sitting there with those parents, and he is thinking, "Wait a minute. I have to do something, because I'm the president."
And you know, he never has been committed before he ran on gun -- on the gun issue. He's been all over the lot on that on the question...
SWERDLICK: Or almost any issue.
BORGER: On -- right. So I think what you're seeing play out here is a president who has no set of beliefs here.
VINOGRAD: No policy. BORGER: No policy. And trying to figure out how he can thread the needle. And the problem with this issue is you can't thread the needle on it. It's not easy.
BLITZER: Yes, not easy at all. Everybody stick around. There's more breaking news we're following. We'll be right back.
[18:45:40] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The breaking news tonight, new charges against former Trump campaign officials, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. The special counsel, Robert Mueller, has filed 32 new counts against them, including money laundering more than $30 million.
Let's bring in our analysts and our experts once again.
Jeffrey Toobin, you've gone through this document, a very long document. Clearly, Mueller and his team have been following the money. What do you make of this?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: It's very simple. The message to Paul Manafort is, if you don't want to die in prison, plead guilty and cooperate. To Rick Gates, if you ever want to see your children grow up, plead guilty and cooperate.
There are now two major cases against both of them. The federal sentencing guidelines are based on the dollar value of the case involved. If they are convicted, they are both looking at decades in prison. Paul Manafort is 70 years old. Rick Gates has young children.
I mean, this is a complete squeeze play on both of them to put this case behind them and tell what they know about the Trump --
BLITZER: And you heard Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney, tell us just a little while ago that, you know what, this may not be the end of it. If they don't cooperate and plead guilty, more charges could be on the way.
TOOBIN: Well, one of the things about working for the government, when you are an assistant U.S. attorney, is you have all the time in the world. You don't have -- you're not paying legal fees. I mean, these are incredibly complicated cases to defend. There are thousands and thousands of documents needed to be reviewed. So if either of them go to trial, they will need months and months to prepare.
This guarantees if these cases go to trial that the Mueller investigation will continue into 2019.
BLITZER: So give us a sense, Gloria, step back a little bit, the specific information that you think Mueller is seeking.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, Wolf, I don't have the answer to that question, honestly. None of us do at this point. I think we wish we did.
BORGER: But it's very clear that Mueller is squeezing these people. And that these are such serious charges that the question is -- I have is, why did Manafort get involved in this campaign in the first place? I mean, here was a man who failed to pay, according to the indictment, failed to pay taxes for more than a decade, from millions and millions of dollars he got from Ukraine.
BLITZER: On a pro-Russian government in Ukraine.
BORGER: Pro-Russian government in Ukraine. And then when that spigot was turned off, what he did was he tried to fraudulently secure more than $20 million by refinancing real estate he had. And so he could avoid paying taxes on his fancy real estate. So, he was -- he was avoiding the IRS for quite a long time.
BORGER: Allegedly. And getting this, you know, getting this money originally from, you know, this Russian-backed candidate in Ukraine. So, we're talking about Russia here in this investigation. And so, you have to ask these questions about Manafort's links.
I mean, don't forget, Manafort was fired from the campaign shortly after stories came out about his leaks to this Russian-backed Ukrainian president. So I think that, you know, you have to try to put one and one together, but we don't know.
BLITZER: He was fired right after the convention, after Donald Trump got the nomination. What's the message Mueller is sending right now?
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think Mueller's sending a message that he's just getting started. And that despite the repeated attacks on the investigation by the administration, also by the Russians, by the way, he's not deterred. The U.S. justice system is alive and well.
But we learned something else from this document. To your point, it seems like no one on the campaign did a basic Google search into Manafort and Gates and they would have known what these guys were up to. And there is a pattern here of the president both during the campaign and while in office of surrounding himself with people with secrets. I mean, these guys pathologically swindled the U.S. government for at least nine years. That's obvious.
Rob Porter, domestic abuse allegations. We have Jared Kushner, conflicts of interest. So many secrets, which, by the way are massive foreign intelligence targets, and it just keeps going and going.
BLITZER: And just to be -- these are all allegations right now. And the White House keeps saying, you know what, these guys may have done allegedly was years before there ever was a Trump campaign.
[18:50:06] DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, well, if it's the case that special counsel Mueller is using these guys to try to get them to plead guilty, as Jeffrey says, and to roll them up into someone higher up or closer into the president's inner circle, then what they did when is not as relevant. Because if they can put into play, they can testify against other people for other things unrelated to their own -- to the things they are alleged for.
BLITZER: This is only just beginning.
BORGER: And we should all point out, you know, the administration has divorced itself completely from Paul Manafort as if they don't know who he is. And this is somebody they say who worked for us for a few months. You know, and the truth is the president was never close to Paul Manafort, but they have kind of said, well, who is he.
TOOBIN: He was the chairman of the campaign.
BORGER: I know, I know.
TOOBIN: He was campaign manager.
BLITZER: Everybody, stick around.
Stand by. There is more news we are following.
The White House sparks intrigue, announcing president's daughter Ivanka Trump will lead the U.S. delegation to the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics.
[18:55:47] BLITZER: Tonight, President Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump is heading to South Korea where she will lead the U.S. delegation for the closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics.
This is raising question what, if anything, will be different from Vice President Pence's visit to the games especially if she encounters dignitaries from North Korea.
Let's bring our own Brian Todd.
Brian, what are you hearing?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, White House officials are saying right now they don't plan on Ivanka Trump meeting with any members of North Korea's delegation. And they are trying to move away from comparisons. They don't want Ivanka Trump's visit compared to Mike Pence's controversial trip to the Olympics and they certainly don't want comparisons to appearance at the Olympics by Kim Jong-un's sister Kim Yo-jong.
TODD (voice-over): It's the latest high stakes round of all in the family diplomacy. Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and adviser, is on her way to South Korea tonight representing the United States at the closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in South Korea. Just two weeks after the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un sent his
younger sister Kim Yo-jong to the games' opening ceremonies, a carefully choreographed mission, expert say, that was designed to soften the image of the brutal regime.
White House officials have reportedly glanced at the idea that the Younger Trump's appearance somehow rivals the younger Kim's. But observers say the comparison may be unavoidable.
MINTARO OBA, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT KOREA DESK OFFICER: I think the Trump administration was looking at how Kim Yo-jong handled herself in Korea, the impact that she had as this very polished, very positive young woman, and I think they are hoping that they can get some of the same out of Ivanka Trump going to Korea this time.
TODD: Analysts say Ivanka Trump could help smooth tensions created during Vice President Mike Pence's visit to the Olympics. Pence sat with leaders of South Korea and Japan, but didn't acknowledge Kim Yo- jong who was just feet away from him at the VIP booth at the opening ceremonies.
While overseas, he also met with North Korean defectors and repeatedly hammered at North Korea's human right abusers, gestures seen as key reasons why at the last minute, the North Koreans pulled out of a planned secret meeting with Pence at the Olympics.
Today, Pence defended his actions.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, for all the media fawning over the sister of the North Korean dictator, I think it's important that every American knows who this person is and what she's done. The sister of Kim Jong-un is central pillar of the most tyrannical and oppressive regime on the planet.
TODD: White House officials say there are no plans for Ivanka Trump to meet with North Korean officials at the Olympics, although they can't rule out a chance encounter. If that occurs, the president's daughter wouldn't meet with Kim Yo-jong who left several days ago, but she could come face-to-face with one of Kim Jong-un's most notorious enforces, Kim Young-chul, a top intelligence official in Kim's regime is heading North Korean delegation to the closing ceremonies. He's a former bodyguard to Kim's father and grandfather and is believed to have masterminded North Korea's 2010 sinking of a South Korean navy ship which killed 46 sailors.
Kim Young-chul also once headed the top secret unit thought to be responsible for the Sony hack.
BRUCE KLINGNER, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: It's really an in-your-face gesture in many ways by North Korea. It's a signal that while North Korea is now willing to engage with the South, they are not going to alter their military plans or their ICBM plans or any of their programs to threaten, not only the United States, but its allies.
(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD: Analysts say the days and weeks after the Paralympics end in March are going to be crucial. U.S. and South Korea have said they'll resume joint military exercises then, which could prompt Kim Jong-un to test more missiles. But it could also go the other way with possible summit in Pyongyang between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a summit proposed by the North Koreans which the South Korean has not yet committed to, Wolf.
BLITZER: I assume she'll be meeting with South Korean government officials as well?
TODD: That's right. She is going to be having dinner with President Moon Jae-in, Ivanka Trump will be having dinner with him, pretty shortly after she arrives, Wolf. But watch out for those possible chance encounters because Olympic area can be small place, and sometimes by chance or maybe not by chance, she could meet or run into some of these North Korean officials.
If she meets Kim Young-chul, that intelligence official, that will be very, very interesting. He's a notorious figure.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens.
Brian, thanks very much.
That's it for me.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.