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Trump Vows To Push Congress; Trump Says Arm And Train; Media On Mass Shootings; Trump Blames Games And Movies; Trump Talks Gun Reform; Trump Talks About Arming Teachers; NRA Suggests Armed Guards in Schools. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired February 22, 2018 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.
A presidential promise. President Trump volleying to make changes over guns in America, to arming teachers, to fixing background checks. But the question, what will the U.S. Congress do?
Plus, as the president defends the, quote, "great people" over at the National Rifle Association, the group's leader is speaking out for the first time since the shooting and blames everyone from the FBI to the news media.
And confusion in crisis. Serious new questions about the moments after the first shots at Parkland, Florida, as we learn officers there were responding to a 20-minute taped delay.
President Trump is going all-in right now on guns with a series of tweets today in a statement on his plans for changing America's gun laws.
First, he went on a multi-tweet rant over his idea of arming teachers. Quote, "I never said, give teachers guns, he tweeted." Then said he wants to explore, quote, "giving concealed guns to gun-adept teachers with military or special training experience."
He also said, and I'm quoting now, once again, "Those highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to a potential sicko shooter who might attack a school."
The president then laid out his three immediate objectives, quote, "I will be strongly pushing comprehensive background checks with an emphasis on mental health, raise age to 21 and end the sale of bump stocks. Congress is in the mood to finally do something on this issue, I hope."
And moments ago, this is what he told a group of local and state officials over at the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to look at the Internet because a lot of bad things are happening to young kids and young minds. And their minds are being formed. And we have to do something about maybe what they're seeing and how they're seeing it.
And also, video games, I'm hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people's thoughts.
And then, you go a further step and that's the movies. You see these movies, they're so violent. And yet, a kid is able to see the movie if sex isn't involved but killing is involved. And maybe they have to put a rating system for that.
And, you know, you get into a whole, very complicated, very big deal. But the fact is that you are having movies come out that are so violent with the killing and everything else that maybe that's another thing we're going to have to discuss.
And a lot of people are saying that you have these movies today where you can go and have the child see the movie and yet it's so violent and so disgusting. So, we may have to talk about that also.
BLITZER: Let's go to our Senior White House Correspondent Jeff Zeleny. He's over at the White House for us.
Jeff, how much pressure do we expect the president to put on the Republican-led Congress on this sensitive issue of gun control in the United States?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the president certainly is certainly talking tough about this. It's the second day in a row he has held some type of listening session here at the White House, talking about gun policy.
He said, in that event just a few moments ago, he spent last evening on the phone with members of Congress, both the House and Senate, wants to urge them to act.
The question, of course, is act to do what? We've seen just a stream of ideas come out from him on social media this morning, as well as in that event with some state and local officials. And everything from, you said, providing more weapons for officials and teachers at schools, to erasing the age limit for the -- some type of guns.
Now, that will be controversial with the NRA. The NRA has said that it does not support raising the age limit to purchase weapons.
But it is clear -- the president said he wants to meet the president to do something on guns. He said, too many people have sat in my position and done no action -- taken no action on guns.
So, it's clear that he wants this to be a legacy item for him, and he wants to help tackle this problem. The question, of course, though, how will he lead his Republican Party? Will he confront the NRA? Of course, you know, steep resistance to many of these ideas.
Those are things to be coming in the weeks and months ahead here, Wolf. But no question, the president says he wants to do something. We'll see what that something is.
BLITZER: The president, Jeff, also tweeted his support today for the NRA, saying they'll do the right thing. What did we hear from the National Rifle Association today?
ZELENY: He did, Wolf. He expressed his strong support for the NRA. Not surprisingly, of course, the NRA was strong the supportive of this president and his presidential campaign, giving more money to Donald Trump than any other presidential candidate in the group's history.
But Wayne LaPierre, the head of the NRA, was speaking at an event just outside Washington at a CPAC, the Conservative Political Activation Committee. And he blamed everything on this issue except guns, from mental health to the FBI.
[13:05:04] Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND CEO, NRA: Their situation is to make you, all of you, less free. They want to sweep right under the carpet the failure of school security, the failure of family, the failure of America's mental health system. And even the unbelievable failure of the FBI.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: So, Wayne LaPierre went on to give a pretty extraordinary attack against the FBI, Wolf. I cannot recall the head of the NRA going so aggressively after a law enforcement agency, like the FBI.
Of course, that's following in a tweet the president sent out at the end of last week, essentially blaming the FBI for missing those warning signs in the Florida shooting, because they were investigating the Russian meddling case.
So, it seemed like Wayne LaPierre was picking up where the president left off.
But, Wolf, the question, as we sit here today, once again addressing this, how will the president lead his party? And will he defy and confront the NRA?
He's certainly suggesting ideas that show he might. We will see if he does that.
Of course, the president is scheduled to speak at CPAC tomorrow -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jeff, thank you. Jeff Zeleny over at the White House.
Let's discuss this with my panel. Joining me, CNN Law Enforcement Analyst, former FBI supervisory special agent Josh Campbell; our CNN Political Reporter Nia-Malika Henderson; and our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger.
Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association, he also really went after the Democrats.
And he said this. I'm going to play this other clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAPIERRE: The elites don't care, not one wit, about America's school system and school children. If they truly cared, what they would do is they would protect them.
For them, it's not a safety issue. It's a political issue. They care more about control and more of it.
Their goal is to eliminate the second amendment and our firearms freedoms, so they can eradicate all individual freedoms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He really lashed out in a very, very --
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
BLITZER: -- tough way.
BORGER: You know, this is what we've heard from the NRA, over the last decade or so, I'd say. It's that every challenge to laws on guns becomes an assault on an inalienable right, an assault on the second amendment. It becomes a culture war.
And rather than engaging on the specifics of the issues, it becomes the elites versus us. It's the socialists versus us which is also what he was talking about this morning.
And, as Jeff was talking about, what was striking to me, was this notion of suddenly the FBI being part of them and that cultural group, rather than in alignment, you know, with the NRA.
And I think they're taking a page out of Donald Trump's book, and saying, we're with you, Mr. President, on the FBI. So, you better be with us on these other things.
But when we heard from the president this morning, there were some things he was talking about, like raising the age for buying a gun, that the NRA is not going to agree with.
BLITZER: Yes, they put out a statement yesterday, saying they oppose --
BORGER: Yes. BLITZER: -- lowering the age --
BLITZER: -- for people in the United States to purchase a rifle. Right now, in many states, you only have to be 18.
BLITZER: Like Florida. Whereas, a handgun, you've got to be 21 in the United States.
BLITZER: The spokeswoman, Nia, for the NRA -- Dana Loesch, the NRA Spokeswoman, she spoke just before Wayne LaPierre at this conference. She went one step further.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA LOESCH, SPOKESWOMAN, NRA: Many, in legacy media, love mass shootings. You guys love it.
Now, I'm not saying that you love the tragedy. But I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying, white mothers are ratings gold.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, Nia, I mean, --
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Horrifying.
BLITZER: -- that's pretty outrageous.
HENDERSON: Yes, pretty outrageous. But this is, kind of, what she specializes in. I mean, she gets attention and eyeballs to her speech here by saying something so outrageous, false and horrifying.
But I think it gets to Gloria's point here as well. I mean, as much as it's an us versus them, in terms of Democrats supposedly being socialists, they put the media in the same place, the, kind of, mainstream media.
Of course, Dana was -- Dana was at -- was at our town hall yesterday and criticizing the media, in some ways.
But I think, yes, it's just this big culture war. Us versus them. You rile the base. You energize that crowd. You grow the membership which is about 3 to 5 million folks there.
[13:10:03] But there is -- you know, I mean, ultimately, they are conspiracy theories.
I mean, that's what Wayne LaPierre is talking about. This idea of that, ultimately, Democrats want to grab everyone's gun.
There is no evidence that that is actually what is going on. Certainly, no evidence of what she said there. But it's good, red meat for that crowd there.
You know, Josh, the NRA's Wayne LaPierre also said -- and I'm quoting him now. He said, "The unbelievable failure of the FBI," his words, "was one of the reasons for the school's shooting."
You're a former agent of the FBI. How do you respond to that kind of language?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it's upsetting but it's not surprising. And it's, yet, another example of the attack on the FBI and law enforcement for purely political reasons.
And, you know, we're always going to have these special interest groups that are trying to further their own special interests. That, we're never going to stop.
But my question, the issue I have, is where are the voices of those who know the FBI, who know law enforcement? Stepping out and standing up to say that this nonsense needs to stop.
Now, we have to hold the FBI accountable. They are responsible for what looks to be a colossal, gut-wrenching, heart-breaking mistake here. We have to get to the bottom of it. And they need to be held to account.
But this isn't about accountability. This is about pure politics.
So, we have people that are currently in government. We have people that are formerly in government, even former law enforcement. Some of them who make a hobby of, you know, going on T.V. and, you know, sticking their finger to the wind to see the -- what the direction of politic winds are before they weigh in on a controversial topic. Where are those voices? Where are they countering the nonsense that's out there?
You know, Wolf, it's not a Republican issue. It's not a Democrat issue. But you can guarantee that law enforcement in America are paying attention to every single word of this debate.
And my job here is analysis, so let me put it in analytical terms. I assess with extremely high confidence that the quote, unquote, "party of law enforcement" is going to quickly find its way on the road to relevancy, if they think that the way and the solution to their political problems is to attack the FBI and to attack law enforcement.
BLITZER: Yes, the FBI deputy director, as you know, Josh, he admitted today that procedures weren't followed, when they received a tip about this killer, this shooter, down in Florida. They've got to learn from that blunder, that was a major mistake, and move on.
CAMPBELL: They do.
And, Wolf, can I say something, also real quickly, and just about what we heard there, as far as the media and enjoying these kinds of events? As I sat there and listened to that, I thought, well, wow, what a difference 12 hours made. Talk about Jekyll and Hyde. We didn't see that person last night.
But, you know, in front of a red meat audience, it was striking. And I have to say, Wolf, I sat there with you on the day of the shooting, on that set. And the anger in that room, I wish the American people could have seen it.
When we went to break, I don't know if you could actually talk through your clenched jaw. We all sat there just infuriated that this -- we see, yet another -- again, another attack on our children in the United States.
So, for anyone to claim that this is something that the media enjoys, it's stunning. And there are no words.
BLITZER: Yes. Totally, totally sick.
You know, Gloria, we heard from Marco Rubio. He's revising his long- standing positions on guns in America. We've now heard from the president.
We haven't yet heard, specifically on this sensitive issue, from the speaker of the House or the Republican majority leader in the Senate. They're the ones who are going to have to take leadership, if they're going to change the laws.
BORGER: Right. And I think they're waiting to hear what the president has to say on this. I think that they understand their constituencies here. They want to get their people reelected.
Paul Ryan has a lot of conservatives in the House who are -- who are worried about getting primaried on the right on any vote on gun control.
And, by the way, the NRA will be the group that finances their primary opponents, if they -- if they make a move here that the NRA doesn't like.
So, they're all for trying to protect their flock here. And I think they're going to have to wait and see what the president decides to do. And then -- and then, let him know what they can sell in their -- in their chambers.
And I think it's a very, very touchy situation, particularly in the House.
BLITZER: And, yesterday, as you know, Nia, the NRA spokeswoman, Jennifer Baker, put out a statement leading up to our town hall here on CNN. Saying that if you deny the right of 18, 19 or 20-year-olds to purchase rifles in the United States, you are depriving them of their constitutional right to self-protection. The president has rejected that today, publicly in the statement he just made on Twitter.
He also, at the same time, seem to, sort of, protect himself by tweeting this about the NRA. What many people don't understand or want to understand is that Wayne, Chris and the folks who work so hard at the NRA are people and great American patriots. They love our country and will do the right thing, make America great again.
[13:15:00] So, there's a dispute between him and the NRA on age requirements to purchase rifles. But he's going out of his way to praise them.
HENDERSON: Yes, and in many ways he's in lockstep with the NRA and everything else. When he talks about the background checks, that's something that the NRA backs. Even when he talks about strengthening security at schools, that's something that the NRA probably also endorses, whether or not they think that schools should -- you know, actually teachers should be armed, although that's something that they've talked about.
So by and large he is in lockstep with where the NRA is. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in -- on Capitol Hill. You talked about the Republicans. Democrats in a tough place, too, in the Senate.
HENDERSON: Some of these red state Democrats in states like West Virginia, Missouri, Indiana, they might not want to take a tough vote in terms of any of these things. But, you know, I think the main thing that might happen is on these background checks, right? What essentially incentivize state and local authorities to put more data into this (INAUDIBLE) system around mental health, around criminal backgrounds. Something they're not -- they don't have to do it at this point, but this idea that the federal government would incentivize them to put (INAUDIBLE).
BORGER: Well, and --
BLITZER: There seems to be a consensus growing on these so-called bump stocks --
HENDERSON: Exactly. And the bump stocks.
BLITZER: Which allows this -- sort of a rifle to become a machine gun in many respects.
And -- but Marco Rubio said last night that he was reconsidering his support for large capacity magazines, which is a big step.
BLITZER: Yes. BORGER: If you have a Republican like Marco Rubio saying that, coming out on that, you many start to have an interesting debate. In many ways it's kind of like the Nixon going to China scenario --
BORGER: Which is, when a Republican is president, there is not this sort of sense, oh, my God, he's going to take away all our guns, as there was with Barack Obama. He hates the Second Amendment. Barack Obama hates the Second Amendment. There isn't that sense with Donald Trump.
The question is whether he is willing to exert the leadership on that and whether Republicans are willing to follow because they know they're going to be up against the NRA. They are the ones who are going to face challenges that are going to be funded by the NRA. And would they even follow the president on these kinds of issues I think remains to be seen.
HENDERSON: And he's got to -- yes, he's got to start to be more disciplined about what he's for.
HENDERSON: I mean he's talking about looking at the Internet, mental institutions, all that stuff. It's a bit broad.
BLITZER: He's got -- he's got a lot of ideas. We'll see what follows in terms of substance.
Everybody stand by.
The president pushing the idea of arming some teachers. An idea that's getting a lot of backlash. We'll discuss that. Also, I'll speak live with a student survivor who delivered an emotional plea face to face with President Trump. You're going to hear his reaction to the president's promises.
And the evolution of Senator Marco Rubio. The Republican getting an earful from grieving families, but he broke with some NRA policies in real-time. We'll update you on the latest.
[13:21:59] BLITZER: President Trump is now trying to clarify his suggestion about giving guns to teachers in school. The president saying he only means that specially trained teachers should be armed. That idea didn't sit well at CNN's town hall last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT RUNCIE, SUPERINTENDENT, BROWARD COUNTY SCHOOLS: Some of the dialogue that I've heard recently is about arming teachers. We don't need to put guns in the hands of teachers.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: The notion that my kids are going to school with teachers that are armed with a weapon is not something that, quite frankly, I'm comfortable with. Beyond it, I think it has practical problems. And I'll share what they are. And this is really about the safety of the teacher, as much as anything else.
Imagine, in the middle of this crisis, and the SWAT team comes into the building, and there's an adult with a weapon in their hands, and the SWAT team doesn't know who is who and we have an additional tragedy that was unnecessary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Joining us now from Parkland, Florida, is Chris Grady. He's a student at Stoneman Douglas High School. And from Tallahassee, the State Representative Kionne McGhee.
Chris, would arming teachers in your high school, for example, even just a few of them, 20 percent, let's say, as the president threw out that number yesterday, would that make you feel safer?
CHRIS GRADY, SURVIVED SHOOTING AT STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: Absolutely not. I know I've talked to a lot of my peers about it, and none of them would like that at all. I've even talked to a lot of my teachers about it, and they just wouldn't feel comfortable having a concealed weapon in class. No one wants it.
Representative McGhee, would you support a bill in the Florida state legislature, for example, that would allow teachers, specially armed, trained teachers in Florida schools, to be armed?
KIONNE MCGHEE (D), FLORIDA STATE HOUSE: Wolf, the answer is no. My wife is a schoolteacher in the public schools here, and simply to allow teachers who do not have the same training and experience that law enforcement have, it is pretty much a no starter for me.
BLITZER: Chris, moments ago the president, over at the White House, meeting with local and state officials, he said that in part he was blaming that there is an element out there that blames these violent video games and movies that are seen, obviously, by a lot of the youth of America for generating this kind of violence. You're part of the youth of America. What's your response to that?
GRADY: That's just a really pathetic excuse on behalf of the president. I grew up playing video games, you know, "Call of Duty," all those kind of first-person shooter games, and I would never, ever dream of taking the lives of any of my peers. So it's just -- it's pathetic.
BLITZER: The NRA executive vice president, Chris, Wayne LaPierre, he also said today that what schools need are armed guards, like they have in banks. There will be armed sheriff's deputies at your school when it reopens next week. Will that make you feel safer?
GRADY: Well, I don't believe it's the long-term solution, but obviously for when the school does reopens next week, that, yes, that we do need to have tighter security. But I don't believe it's the long-term solution. [13:25:11] BLITZER: What do you think, representative, would you
support armed guards in public schools throughout the state of Florida? Is that something you believe could pass the Florida state legislature?
MCGHEE: Right now -- right now, Wolf, the real issue is, how do we get these AR-15s out of the hands of these kids? And how do we get the AR- 15s off the streets? And my solution at the particular moment, while we're discussing exactly what needs to be done, is to issue a moratorium on the sales of AR-15s.
Now, as it relates to having armed police officers at the school, I agree with the sheriff from Broward County. That that is not -- that is not the long-term answer. And we should be looking at the real issue here.
From Las Vegas to Pulse to here at Stoneman Douglas, the reality of it is, is the one common factor is the AR-15. Let's have a discussion about either banning it completely and/or issuing a moratorium until we can somehow come to a conclusion that will protect our kids who are both in the classrooms and out of the classrooms.
BLITZER: Well, representative, the president now clearly is on the record publicly as saying raise the age to 21 across the country to purchase a rifle. The NRA strongly opposes that. They say that 18, 19 and 20-year-olds have the right, the Second Amendment right, to go out and arm themselves for self-defense. They can't get -- they can't get handguns because that's a federal law right now. In your state of Florida, do you think there is backing for that, to raise the age limit to 21?
MCGHEE: As a short-term fix, there is a discussion that's happening with the Republican legislature here. As you know, in my party, I am in the minority. I am the incoming minority leader. However, I can tell you that private discussions they're having is to increase it from 18 to 21.
But the reality of -- at the end of the day is, that's not going to deal with the fact that we have a major issue in this country as it relates to the AR-15 that is simply made to kill, it's a weapon of mass destruction, and it's something that we have to tackle. Everything else at this moment in my -- that I honestly believe is a distraction. So we have to look at the real issue.
BLITZER: Well, let me ask -- well, Chris, how old are you?
GRADY: I am 18, sir.
BLITZER: You're 18. Well, what do you think? Do you think you should be allowed to go into a store with a little bit of a background check and get an AR-15-style rifle, or do you think it's better to wait until you're 21?
GRADY: Absolutely not. There is no reason for me to go out and buy an assault weapon. I don't need an assault weapon to defend my home from a burglary. And, I mean, while I don't believe that, again, raising the age limit is going to be the long-term solution, it's a start. But, you know, mental illness doesn't just stop after the age of 18.
BLITZER: Chris Grady, thank you so much for joining us. Representative McGhee, thanks to you as well.
MCGHEE: Thank you.
GRADY: Thank you for having me.
BLITZER: Serious new questions emerging right now about the response to the shooting in the immediate aftermath after we learned that officers were actually operating on a 20-minute taped delay inside the school. They weren't seeing live video.
Plus, more new sound coming in from the president, who just made some news on the National Rifle Association and calls gun-free zones for killers like going in for ice cream. Stand by.