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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Sources: Coral Springs Police Were Stunned and Upset Some Deputies Didn't Join Entering the School; FBI Tip-Line Caller Warned Gunman "Going to Explode"; Florida Governor Announces Plan To Keep Students Safe; 4 Dem Govs Band Together For Gun Violence Coalition; Mueller Files New Charges Against Ex-Trump Campaign Chair. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired February 23, 2018 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:00] PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And President Ford who had been shot at twice, attempted assassinations twice. They helped -- President Reagan's imprimatur on that helped enormously, and yet after that, we suffered a landslide defeat.

But one of the NRA talking points is that assault weapon ban we passed that we had for 10 years, it didn't have any effect. It was a Justice Department study, with no real -- they said anything conclusive but no great effect. But on mass shootings it did. And this is what assault weapons are used for, mass shootings. They're not used in most crimes, there's not, that's handgun.

But these assault weapons for ten years before the assault weapon ban came in, 155 people were killed in mass shootings, shootings of about five people or more. The 10 years we had it, it dropped from 155 to 89. And then 10 years after it expired, it jumps up from 89 to 302.

The president could make difference here the way Ronald Reagan did. President Trump, we said this a day after this massacre. This president could save hundreds and hundreds of lives and stop a lot of mass shootings by doing what Ronald Reagan did, come out for assault weapon ban.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Everyone, stick around. We have a big report coming up, new and shocking reporting about what three Broward County deputies actually did when they arrived at the Stoneman Douglas campus. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:35:20] TAPPER: We're back with some breaking news.

According to sources in Coral Springs, Florida, it was not just Broward County Sheriffs Deputy Scott Peterson who did not go into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday during the shooting crisis and in the aftermath of the massacre that killed 17 students and teachers. Sources tell me that Coral Springs police officers who arrived on the scene were surprised to find three other Broward County sheriff's deputies also outside the school. They had not entered the school. The deputies, these sources say, had their pistols drawn and they were

behind their vehicles having taken cover. Not one of them had gone into the school. With direction from the Broward deputies who are outside, Coral Springs police soon started entering the building where the shooter was thought to be. New Broward County deputies arrived on the scene. Two of those deputies and an officer from local Sunrise, Florida, joined the Coral Springs police as they all went into the building to try to help the kids and teachers.

Some Coral Springs police were stunned and upset that as they went in, the four original Broward County sheriff's deputies who were first on the scene did not appear to join them as they entered the school, sources tell me. What these Coral Springs officers observed, though not their feelings about it, will be released in a report likely next week.

Now, sources cautioned me the tapes are currently being reviewed and official accounts could ultimately differ from the recollections of the officers on the scene. The Broward County sheriff's office did not return multiple requests for comments today. It's unclear whether the shooter was still in the building when Coral Springs police arrived.

Things may have reached a boiling point in this confrontation the night after the shooting on February 15th where at a vigil in front of dozens of others, Coral Springs city manager Mike Goodrum confronted Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, a source familiar with the conversation, tells me that Goodrum was upset that the Broward deputies had remained outside the school while kids inside could have been bleeding out, among other reasons.

Goodrum said in a statement to CNN, quote: Given the horrific events of that day, emotions were running high and the sheriff and I had a heated moment the following evening. Sheriff Israel and I have spoken several times since and I can assure you that our departments have a good working relationship and the utmost respect for each other.

Goodrum declined to tell me about the content of their confrontation.

Two days after the shooting, we should note, Coral Springs Police chief Tony Pustizzi addressed some of the concerns voiced by his officers in an internal e-mail obtained by CNN that said among other items, quote, I understand that another agency has given the impression that it had provided the majority of the rescue efforts and that the tremendous work of the Coral Springs Police and Fire Departments has not been recognized. Please note that this issue will be addressed and the truth will come out in time.

I want to bring in CNN's Rosa Flores who's in Parkland, Florida, for us.

And, Rosa, you talked to a source who witnessed officers standing outside as this was all happening. What did you hear?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, this source described it as a very frustrating situation, Jake. As you mentioned, because what was going through his mind was, there are kids dying inside the school. We need as many officers inside to serve, to protect, to make sure that the target is neutralized, and to make sure that they can get the students and teachers to safety, to a hospital where they could render aid.

I think one thing is important to note, though, in context, that as this source was saying, that they were going into the building, and that BSO officers were outside on the scene, this is while this is an active shooting, Jake, and I think that's important to note. It's not after when, of course, we all see when we cover these types of shootings, that a perimeter is established. This is seconds after these calls are coming in for help, when students and teachers are calling 911 callers, letting them know that it is an active shooter situation.

In those moments is when the source describes that these BSO officers are outside as they are busting in the doors trying to help these students and teachers.

TAPPER: A lot of criticism for the Broward County Sheriff's Office, and, Rosa, not just how for they handled the shooting itself but for how they handled the months leading up to the shooting. CNN has learned about yet another misread flag in this. Someone close to the gunman calling the FBI tip line and told them something is going to happen?

FLORES: You know, this tipster saying the suspect was going to explode.

[16:40:02] Now, as you mentioned, we know about that January 5th FBI call where a tipster calls in. What we didn't know, Jake, were the chilling details and we're learning some of those chilling details according to "The Wall Street Journal." They obtained the transcript of that call.

And the individual who called is a person close to the suspect who says that she directed authorities to his Instagram account. And she specifically said that his posts went from, I want to kill myself to I want to kill people. The rage was up.

She was afraid that this individual could shoot up a school and said, quote, I know he's going to explode. Something is going to happen. I just know. I have a clear conscience if he takes off and just starts shooting places up.

Now, she goes on to describe that he brings in a dead bird into the house and starts cutting the bird that he dresses up as a ninja, and as an ISIS fighter. And, Jake, this is the FBI tip, of course, that we've been talking about so much and related to this case that fell through the cracks. Yet another warning sign of the violence and the potential violence that this suspect could have done, and now, here we are, covering this massacre in Parkland, Florida.

TAPPER: Horrifying.

Rosa Flores in Parkland, thank you so much. The face of the NRA called him a socialist when it comes to gun

legislation. So, what does New York Governor Andrew Cuomo say about President Trump's ideas on guns? We'll talk to him next. Stay with us.

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[16:45:00] TAPPER: And we're back with the "POLITICS LEAD" now. In the wake of the massacre in Parkland, Florida's Republican Governor Rick Scott just announced today a plan to try to keep safe. Scott proposing raising the age to buy any gun in his state to 21, tougher background checks and longer waiting periods to buy firearms, an end to the sale of bump stocks which converts semi-automatic weapons to automatic weapons.

The Governor's proposal also includes giving government more power to place individual if deemed mentally ill in custody and millions of dollars more in funding for mental health services as well as fortifying schools. In the North-Eastern United States, the Democratic Governors of Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island have also announced the formation of partnership to combat gun violence. Joining me now is one of them, Governor Andrew Cuomo from New York. Governor, always good to see you. Thanks for joining us.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: Good to be with you, Jake. Thank you.

TAPPER: So I want to get to your new coalition in a moment but first, your reaction to these new proposals from Governor Rick Scott of Florida. It seems like something that you might be able to get behind.

CUOMO: Yes, look, I think there's tremendous political pressure especially for the people in Florida, understandably. And I have no doubt that they'll propose a series of reforms. I think frankly most of them are incremental and won't really be consequential and a more political pandering than anything else. But I think we know what the problem is if we are honest and I think we just have to avoid the temptation to follow the administration's line that brings the discussion down to the absurd. The problem is not guns in schools, right? That's part of a problem.

There's shootings in schools, there are shootings in arenas, there are shooting in shopping malls, there are shooting on transportation facilities. So it's not just about schools and fortifying schools. And the answer that the NRA wants to hear is the answer is more guns. The answer isn't more guns. The answer is making sure that people who shouldn't have guns don't have guns.

TAPPER: So strengthening background checks -- you'd been in favor of strengthening background checks, what else? I mean, if you consider getting rid of bump stocks or rising the legal purchase age to 21, if you say that that is -- that's incremental, what's a big sweeping proposal that you think should happen and you think politically could happen? CUOMO: Well, forget politically could happen, first of all, OK, because that's a trap. Now, you're in the Washington gridlock trap. Well, we got done what we could get done. I understand the legislative process but I'm not willing to sacrifice for crumbs and incremental baby steps on a national problem that we've been dealing with for decades and we've gotten nowhere. Why don't we start by saying what the real problem is and what the real solution is? The real problem is not just schools, it is society-wide. These shootings can happen anywhere USA anytime.

So don't just focus schools. Number two, it's not about more guns, it's about stopping people from -- who shouldn't have guns from getting guns. Mentally ill people shouldn't have guns. Dangerous people should not have guns which means you have to have a real universal background check which we do not have. We have a background check where if you walk into a store, they run a background check but if you go to a gun show, they don't have a check. If you buy it privately, they don't have a check.

So you need universal background checks. You'd need a real nationwide database of mentally ill people who shouldn't be able to buy a gun and dangerous people who shouldn't be able to buy a gun. You would then need what they call a red flag bill, a mechanism where someone who could report a person who they believe is mentally ill. A teacher believes a student is mentally ill, they can report it to the police, the police can investigate, go to the judge and put a person on the list. And then you would be talking about outlying unnecessarily dangerous guns which are assault weapon guns. Jake, 1934, we had little common sense, we outlawed machine guns because they were too dangerous. Why are you allowing the sale of assault weapons today?

[16:50:14] TAPPER: OK, and then the last question, sir, you talk about banning assault weapons. As you know, that is a very curiously defined item. It's not a specific -- it was invented for the assault weapons ban during the Clinton years when you were in the Clinton cabinet. Would you be in favor of banning all 2,000 plus semi- automatic weapons that we're talking about here? Would you really want a nationwide ban on that or are you talking about a more narrowly honed description?

CUOMO: I'm talking about a more narrowly honed description, not a semi-automatic rifle. An assault weapon that is military style, that has a fore grip, that has a 30-round clip. Most police officers have a ten round clip or 15-round clip. You know, why didn't that police officer charge into the school in Florida? When you have a mentally ill person with a 30-round clip on an assault weapon, that is an intimidating force. It's the same logic, Jake, that in 1934 we banned machine guns because they were too dangerous.

TAPPER: Surely you're not excusing the officer who didn't do his job, who -- the school resource officer who did not go into the school during the school shooting.

CUOMO: Of course not. That was his oath. That was his job. That was the protocol -- that was protocol after Columbine. But when you start talking about absurd proposals like teacher should be armed and get a bonus, you're talking about a person with -- if they have an assault weapon, a truly dangerous weapon that is more powerful than most weapons that most people have. I don't think you're going to give the teachers assault weapons. And why allow that risk to exist in society? You know there's a chance that the gun is going to fall into the wrong hands. We have 44,000 registered assault weapons just in the state of New York. Anyone of those can be stolen at any given time.

TAPPER: Democratic Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo, always good to see you, sir. Thanks for your time.

CUOMO: It's good to see you, Jake.

TAPPER: And we have some more breaking news. We just got word about more charges leveled against Paul Manafort by the Special Counsel, stick around.

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[16:55:00] TAPPER: And we're back with breaking news in the Russia investigation. New charges filed just this afternoon against former Trump Campaign Chair Paul Manafort in the Special Counsel's investigation. New charges alleged that Manafort "secretly retained a group of former senior European politicians to take positions favorable to Ukraine including by lobbying in the United States." My political panel is here with me. And Joseph, you can see Mueller squeezing these guys. Yesterday he squeezed Gates, he got a plea bargain today, or a plea agreement today, now he's squeezing Manafort even more.

JOSEPH PINION, CHAIR, THE CONSERVATIVE COLOR COALITION: I mean, look, I think we must now accept that everyone who signed up for the Trump train didn't do it just to make America great. I think that there was clearly now enough smoke for us to realize that there were some ulterior motives there, that some of the people that were in that orbit, that sphere of influence. And so we really must come down to the facts of right now realizing that he might get charged with everything from you know, this to killing the Lindbergh baby if that's what it's going to take to get to the bottom of what's really going on here.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, it's interesting because the statement that Paul Manafort put out earlier saying he was disappointed in Rick Gates for accepting a plea deal, for pleading guilty and that he was -- he was going to maintain his innocence essentially. So I wonder if he knew about this, that he was aware that this is coming when he put out that statement just roughly a few hours ago.

BEGALA: And I wonder if this is the end. You know, Rick Gates was Paul Manafort's partner. He has apparently now agreed to plead guilty but more importantly, he's agreed to cooperate fully and he has to cooperate completely and fully or he's right back in the poky with all these charges. So it's awfully quick. It was about 2:00 this afternoon that Gates agreed to plead and before five, we have a new charge against Manafort. I don't know if it's coming from Gates, but my guess is Gates knows an awful lot about the inner workings of Manfort and frankly the campaign that he was the -- he was the Vice Chairman of the Trump Campaign and Gates stayed on after Manafort left. So this is not only a squeeze on Manafort, it's a squeeze on higher-ups in the campaign.

TAPPER: And this is how it works obviously for prosecutions. You start off with people like George Papadopoulos that no one ever heard of and you work your way up the chain. There's a lot of plea agreements and people who are in his crosshairs. One wonders who is ultimately at the top of this flowchart. It is President Trump? It is Jared Kushner, we have no idea at this point but it's whoever -- I guess Paul Manafort, he wants him to give up.

PINION: I mean, we could be literally sitting here saying -- I mean, there's rumours about Jared, I mean -- I mean, to me I've always said, you know, God forbid, it looks like Hope Hicks might be the unfortunate fall person here if you start looking at you know, the chain of events here looking at the transition team all those things and how (INAUDIBLE) she was in that role. So who really knows? I mean, it's unfortunate that we're at this place where we have you know, such charges being leveled against you know, our administration, our president.

TAPPER: Everyone, thank so much. I really appreciate it. Be sure to tune in this Sunday morning to "STATE OF THE UNION." I'm going to have an exclusive interview with Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel as well as Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy. It all starts at 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern, Sunday on CNN. And that is it for THE LEAD, I'm Jake Tapper. Much more on the breaking news right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer. Thanks for watching.