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Armed Deputy at School Never Went In to Confront Shooter; Trump to Speak at Conservative Conference; Mueller Files 32 New Charges Against Manafort And Gates. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired February 23, 2018 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:11] PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good Friday morning. I'm Pamela Brown. And this morning Florida Governor Rick Scott is set to announce his action plan to increase security at schools amid the stunning revelations that an armed officer on duty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas waited outside doing, quote, "nothing," according to the sheriff during last week's massacre. That long-serving deputy was suspended while higher-ups investigated and he has now resigned.

Also this morning, President Trump is set to address the Conservative Political Action Conference a day after backing at least one new gun restriction that many conservatives and the NRA oppose.

We're going to have more on that in just a moment. But we begin in Parkland, Florida, where we find CNN's Rosa Flores.

What's the latest there, Rosa?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pamela, good morning. You know, we hear this argument all the time. All it takes is a good guy with a gun to take down a bad guy with a gun. Well, in this particular case there was a good guy with a gun, but according to the sheriff, he stayed outside and did nothing.


SHERIFF SCOTT ISRAEL, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: What I saw was a deputy arrive and he never went in.

FLORES (voice-over): The only armed police officer stationed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School resigned amid revelations that he waited outside as the massacre unfolded.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What should he have done?

ISRAEL: Went in, addressed the killer, killed the killer.

FLORES: Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel telling reporters that surveillance video shows that Deputy Scot Peterson taking a position outside the building for four minutes as gunshots rang out but failed in his duty to stop the attacker.

ISRAEL: Devastated, sick to my stomach. There are no words. I mean, these families lost their children. FLORES: Peterson retiring Thursday after being suspended without pay.

SCOT PETERSON, BROWARD COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPUTY: I'm Scot Peterson. I've been a police officer for 30 years.

FLORES: Peterson seen here speaking at a school board meeting in Broward County in 2015, records show he was recently nominated twice for Deputy of the Year. Two other deputies now on restricted duty, they're being investigated for how they handled tips warning about the killer. Authorities announcing that they have received 23 calls involving the killer and his family starting in 2008 when the killer was just 9 years old.

The most serious warnings began two years ago when an anonymous caller alerted police that the killer threatened to shoot up the school on Instagram and posted pictures of himself with a gun. Seven months later, a peer counselor reported that the killer possibly ingested gasoline, wanted to buy a gun and attempted to commit suicide by cutting himself. Days later an investigator for Florida's Department of Children and Families determined that he was low risk. The family that initially took the killer in after his mother's death called police to report a fight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 911 emergency, how can I help you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, there was a fight in my house with a kid and my son.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Punching him and when he left the house, but I need someone here because I'm afraid he comes back and he has a lot of weapons.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What kind of weapon, ma'am?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me ask my son. What kind of weapon did he get? That he's going to get?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A Remington. It's not the first time he's pointed a gun at somebody's head.

FLORES: The family also revealing this disturbing detail.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He also dig in the backyard because he knew he was not allowed to bring it here and we found that he did. Aside from the box. And he was going to bury the gun there.

FLORES: The next day, a tipster from Massachusetts called the sheriff's office to report that the killer was collecting guns and knives, telling them he will kill himself one day and believes he could be a school shooter in the making.

(END VIDEOTAPE) FLORES: And students here are expected to return to class on Wednesday.

Pamela, you know, from talking to a 911 dispatcher, she was explaining to me the intense moments when the first calls were coming in. She was telling me that she could hear the gunfire. And then she said, and then there was eerie silence, so she started listening for people breathing. That's how she knew they were alive -- Pamela.

BROWN: That is chilling. Rosa Flores, thank you so much for that.

And in just about an hour from now, President Trump will take the stage at the conservative conference in Maryland. And that's where we find our CNN's Kaitlan Collins. She is live in Oxon Hill at CPAC.

So, Kaitlan, what can we -- what do we expect to hear from the president today?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela. There are two big things we're waiting to see the president say today. The first is, he's going to announce a new set of sanctions against North Korea during his speech here today at CPAC.

[09:05:07] And that comes as his daughter and the Press Secretary Sarah Sanders have just touched down in South Korea for the closing ceremonies of the Olympics. And we'll likely learn more about what's in this latest sanctions package from the Treasury Department later today. But the other big thing is this dynamic between the president and the NRA.

Just 24 hours ago, the NRA boss, Wayne LaPierre was here on stage at this conference essentially saying any attempt at gun control was part of a larger attempt to eradicate all guns here in the United States.

The president is actually at odds with the NRA on some of his proposals for gun control measures in wake of that deadly shooting in Parkland, Florida. The main one was his suggestion to raise the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21.

Now that is something that the NRA has roundly rejected. They actually doubled down on their rejection of that idea last night. But there are also several other things that the NRA and the president are at odds about.

Now the president says he doesn't expect to clash with the NRA. He's actually spoken with several officials from the gun rights organization over the last several days over what to do and how to move forward. And the president's biggest proposal so far has been arming teachers in school, something the NRA actually supports.

So it will certainly be an interesting dynamic. What does the president say to this very conservative, very traditional group here at this conference as he goes on. And he likely won't answer any questions while he's here. But he will this afternoon at the White House as he has a press conference with the prime minister of Australia -- Pamela.

BROWN: All right. Kaitlan Collins, thanks for breaking it down for us. Do appreciate it.

And joining me now are CNN political analyst Josh Dawsey and CNN political commentators Robby Mook and Alice Stewart.

Thank you all for coming on. I first want to start with Dana Loesch, the NRA spokesperson, because she doubled down on, if I can just say, this ridiculous notion that the media loves mass shootings. I'm in the media. I certainly don't love mass shootings. But she doubled down about it on CNN's "NEW DAY" this morning. Let's listen.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Why would you say -- why would you make a statement like that?

DANA LOESCH, NRA SPOKESPERSON: Because it's true. Alisyn, I said many, not all.

CAMEROTA: You think we love mass shootings?

LOESCH: Well, I said many. I said many, not all. But I do think that the way that --

CAMEROTA: Who? Who loves mass shootings?

LOESCH: I do think the way that -- many in the media do because they like the ratings aspect of it. And it's true because it's wall-to- wall coverage. They put the murderer's face up on loop on televisions all across America more than they discuss even the victims or survivors.


BROWN: Again, that is not true. So I'm just making that clear. But I want to go to you, Alice, is this -- does her sentiment echo what conservatives think in your view?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: None that I speak with. Look, no one loves a mass shooting. No one loves a single shooting. No one loves violence and we certainly don't love any kind of violence in our schools. They should be places of learning and safe haven.

I think the important message we got from her and from Wayne LaPierre, the head of the NRA, yesterday was that the NRA wants to achieve safe schools, safe communities and a safe country. And some of their plans will seek to do so. One of the points that she made with Alisyn earlier I think that's really important was improving the background checks and making sure they're incentivizing people, whether it's law enforcement or the military or mental health institutions, to put critical information in the background check system.

So at the point of purchase, when people are purchasing guns there's the appropriate information to make sure that people that should not have guns don't have guns. And that was a key point. There's other factors that we'll talk about certainly with the president and others. But the overall message I think for her was that improving background checks is an important first step.

BROWN: And let's actually listen to what Wayne LaPierre had to say at CPAC.


WAYNE LAPIERRE, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND CEO: The truth is laws succeed only when people obey them. But once again, so many existing laws were ignored. Their laws don't stop illegal criminals from crossing our borders every single day. Their laws don't stop the scourge of gang violence and drug crime that savages Baltimore, Chicago and every major American community.


BROWN: So there's Wayne LaPierre, Josh. And we know that there is this divide between the NRA and the president in terms of an age limit on semi-automatic rifles. Do you think that they were able to bridge that gap and reach an agreement? The president seemed to indicate yesterday that somehow they would get on board.

JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's hard to know. But it's also what to do with Congress. And there's a lot of reticence from House GOP members to raise that as well. So you have the NRA against that, you have many conservatives in the House against that. You have the president who's continuing to push for it. But some in his administration are, you know, giving us mixed signals on how serious he is about that compared to some of his own proposals.

[09:10:07] So I think right now it's just kind of too premature. I certainly think this White House is concerned that they are not seen at odds with the NRA. Yesterday we did some reporting where he was going out to say -- sending Raj Shah, his press secretary, yesterday out to say that they still supported that. He said, you know, make sure -- he told his people make sure we still say we love the NRA basically so I --

BROWN: And also is that, Raj Shah basically said that the White House isn't going to agree with the NRA on everything during the press conference.

DAWSEY: Right. And I think they're trying to walk that fine line between disagreeing with them, you know, on some proposals. But to be clear, what they're disagreeing with the NRA on is not, you know, exhaustive big differences. I mean, the age is a difference. But, you know, what folks on the left would want are certainly far more strenuous gun control measures than raising the age from 18 to 21 even though that is a step.

BROWN: Right. And I want to just bring you in, Robby, because you've actually talked to students from Florida who organized walkouts. Do you think that that kind of activity, that kind of activism could lead to real change? ROBBY MOOK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think you're already seeing

it lead to real change. You heard the leadership in the Florida Senate saying that they were planning to take action. They were going to hold votes and that that was inspired essentially by what they were hearing directly from these students.

I think the challenge for the students and what I was talking about them yesterday is how do they sustain this in the long term. This is going to be hard and it's going to take a long time. And how do we keep the focus as a community on their voices because, look, if I had one criticism of this whole thing right now, it's that we're giving the NRA too much voice in this.

I don't really care what the NRA has to say. We know what they're going to say. We don't need to -- you know, we don't need to predict what their stance is going to be. It's always been the same. And the NRA is a political actor in this. They're not a gun safety advocacy organization, they're not a pro-gun organization. They are a political organization and all you have to do is look at their track record of playing in political campaigns.

When they ran ads in the presidential campaign last cycle, they were about Benghazi. They weren't about guns.



MOOK: And so --

STEWART: I'm just going to say, I'm an NRA member, I'm a gun owner, I support Second Amendment rights. And I think it's important that we do take into consideration the issues and the ideas they're putting forward that will make a difference. If you look at the graphic we just put a lot of what they want the president doesn't agree with. The members of Congress --

MOOK: That's totally untrue. Totally untrue.

STEWART: Look, many of the proposals that the president is pitching forward, the NRA stands against them, against background checks, against raising the --

MOOK: The president and the NRA are playing a game --

STEWART: Against bump stocks. And they do agree on highly trained -- or arming teachers in the schools. I think the president is going to stand up to them. He is listening to the people across this country who are saying enough is enough.

MOOK: He doesn't stand up to them. Look at what he tweeted. They're patriotic Americans, I want to work with them. He's not standing up to the NRA. They're playing a dance where they agreed on something to disagree on, and they're trying to change the terms of the debate. They don't want to have universal background checks. They don't want to ban these assault rifles. And so they're setting up the debate to say, well, if you raise the age limit or if you want to expand some aspects of background checks, then you oppose the NRA.

Donald Trump does not oppose the NRA. They got into his race earlier than any presidential race ever and they spent almost double what they did on Mitt Romney on political campaign ads, not gun ads, political campaign ads. They're a political organization.

BROWN: Do you think that the NRA wields too much power, Alice, in terms of -- with the politicians?

STEWART: No. I think at the end of the day -- these are just policies that these people support, whether the NRA gives them money or not. These members of Congress and even on the state level, they support Second Amendment rights, they support the right to bear arms, they support a lot of the policies that the NRA supports regardless if they receive money from the NRA. So I think that's critically important.

BROWN: You think the money from the NRA plays no role in decision- making in Capitol Hill?

STEWART: This is about the policy. This is about the Second Amendment rights that members of Congress and at the state level support. And the NRA is certainly backing that. But they stand for the policies, it's not about the pocketbook.

BROWN: I want to just go back to you, Josh, to a point you made, will Congress have the appetite especially in an election year to do anything on the gun issue? I mean, we have seen -- history has shown that other bills in the wake of mass shootings dealing with gun control have withered away. They failed. Why would anything change now?

[09:15:00] DAWSEY: Look, if I can make predictions, there certainly have been a lot of coalescing forces that have been interesting. The -- you know, students coming out, President Trump being a bit more vociferous on guns than some on the right. But it's still hard to imagine that the conservative members of the House, the Freedom Caucus, a lot of folks on the right, are really going to push for substantive gun control changes in an election year.

Political reality is what it is in Washington on gun control. And I think the NRA does play a big force in that. It's hard to -- you know, it's hard to see significant laws being passed in 2018. But, you know, everything in President Trump's Washington so far has been unpredictable. So I'm not going to make any bold predictions.

BROWN: And the president has said he wants to lead on this issue where his predecessors have failed. The question is how will he be different, what will he do that is different from his predecessors and how he turned some of these ideas into action?

We will have to wait to see. Hard to predict as you said, Josh. Thank you so much to our panel, Josh, Robby, Alice. We do appreciate it.

Meantime Special Counsel Robert Mueller files new charges against former Trump campaign officials, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. Reaction from a member of the House Intel Committee.

New title for the talk, but the same conflict of interest concerns. A, quote, "fireside chat" with Donald Trump Jr. under way in India. So, why are critics raising a red flag about this fireside chat.

Plus, charged, the Missouri governor indicted amid allegations of sexual misconduct and blackmail after admitting to an affair. We have the latest.



BROWN: Well, this morning, 32 new charges are now on the table against former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort and his aide, Rick Gates. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team are now claiming that the pair laundered $30 million, failed to pay taxes for nearly 10 years, and falsely used real estate to secure roughly $20 million in loans.

Now you may recall both men pleaded not guilty to charges filed by Mueller last fall. Gates, however, is negotiating a plea deal.

Joining me now to discuss is Democratic Congressman Jim Himes, who serves on the House Intel Committee. Congressman, thank you for coming on.

REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Good morning, Pamela.

BROWN: I first want to get your reaction to these charges, these fresh charges from Robert Mueller's team against Gates and Manafort. Do you think that this is a strategy to apply more pressure on them?

HIMES: Well, no question bob Mueller now has remarkable leverage. If he didn't have it before over both Manafort and Gates. That's important, of course, because, you know, the investigation -- the two investigations we're undertaking in the Congress around Russian attacks on our election and of course, the possibility that there were any U.S. people assisting or colluding with that.

Bob Mueller now has ample leverage to find out anything he needs to know from Paul Manafort and Rick Gates about exactly what happened. Let's be very clear here, we don't know what happened, but exactly what happened inside that campaign.

By the way, the other thing that I got reading that indictment which is a very, very powerful signal to other people out there, just the sheer detail of what Bob Mueller knew, individual financial transactions, communications and stuff, this is an all-seeing investigator, which has got to be scary for people who have things to be nervous about.

BROWN: You know, it's interesting, if you read the statement from Paul Manafort's spokesman, he reiterated that this has nothing to do with Russia or any possible collusion during the 2016 campaign. Why would the spokesman bring that up? Do you see this as sort of angling for a pardon? What's the point of that if it has nothing to do with that?

HIMES: Yes, that's a really good question. I mean, that doesn't necessarily serve his client's interest. In fact, his client might be best served if there was something that he could trade for, you know, removing some of the -- whatever it is, 140 years in prison time he may be facing.

So, very strange thing. It does make you wonder whether that was designed to communicate with the White House about an intention not to talk about anything Russia related. I'm not going to speculate, but that was a very strange thing for a lawyer to say on behalf of his client.

BROWN: Quickly, we know that Gates is working on reaching a plea deal. Clearly, this process is ongoing given the charges yesterday. Do you think the White House should be worried at all?

HIMES: That obviously depends on what the White House knows they might be worried about. Again, as a member of the committee investigating this whole thing, I don't want to sort of jump to conclusions or prejudice the outcome.

But obviously, if there are people who know things, this is a good time to get ahead of it. You raise an interesting and larger question, Pamela, which is, you know, this is a White House that has had all kinds of problems.

I mean, just the sheer ethical challenges of the chairman of the campaign, Paul Manafort, and his deputy, you know, the blending of private business with public -- official public activities.

You know, this is a White House that if they don't get their act together and start drawing some very bright ethical lines is going to be distracted for the remainder of this administration by people overstepping ethical lines. I think that, you know, on behalf -- for the benefit of the American people, they should really give that some thought.

BROWN: And just to point out, the Trump administration has responded saying the White House has repeatedly declined to comment on the matters involving Mr. Manafort and Mr. Gates, given the fact that none of the charges pertain to the campaign or the White House.

And the White House has consistently maintained that there was no collusion during the campaign and no obstruction of justice. I want to talk about Jared Kushner now, the president's son-in-law.

Because our sources tell us that he has been so far unable to obtain a full security clearance. Under the new memo from John Kelly, those who haven't obtained it yet in the White House cannot have access to top secret information.

You've interviewed Jared Kushner as part of the House Intel Committee. Do you think that he should get one?

HIMES: Obviously, he shouldn't get one until whatever questions the FBI has have been resolved. There's a reason you're careful about giving people security clearances. If the FBI has concerns -- notice my use of the word if there because I don't know.

But if the FBI has concerns about Jared Kushner's activities, it would in this context be very serious because if there is some question, some misbehavior, that can be used by foreign powers or others to blackmail somebody with highly classified intelligence.

[09:25:08] And that is obviously not something we want in this country. So, I think, you know, -- and it's an awkward thing, of course, right, because Jared Kushner's role has always struck me as an alternate secretary of state. He's going to negotiate a Middle East peace agreement, in charge of all sorts of things around the world.

You cannot do that unless you have access to classified information. So, this is something that hopefully can get resolved quickly or Jared Kushner can move into a role that doesn't require access to classified information.

BROWN: All right. I'm going to ask you a yes or no question. You have said that you respect the Second Amendment and enjoy shooting. There's a lot of discussion right now on the gun issue and whether there should be tighter restrictions. Do you think there should be a ban on every semi-automatic rifle sold in America? Yes or no?

HIMES: No, I don't believe there should be a ban on every semi- automatic rifle. What I care about and what's important and really matters here is I just don't want weaponry with the ability to fire 30 rounds in 45 seconds.

There's lots of semi-automatics that are designed for hunting where that's not the case. So, it's really a question of can somebody deliver 30 rounds in 60 seconds, that's the kind of weapon that the police fear, as we saw down in Florida, and the kind of weapon that the wreak havoc that we only want to see wreaked in war.

BROWN: OK. Thank you so much, Congressman Jim Himes. Appreciate you coming on the show.

HIMES: Thank you, Pamela.

BROWN: Critics cry conflict of interest as Donald Trump Jr. delivers a speech in India. They are dubbing it a fireside chat, but is he mixing business with politics?

Plus, first daughter turned diplomat in South Korea as tensions build with North Korea, this as President Trump is set to announce new sanctions on the regime in just minutes. We'll be right back.