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EARLY START

Armed Guard Did Not Engage; Indicted Putin Ally Involved In Attack?; U.N. Set To Vote Again On Ceasefire Deal In Syria; Backlash To Title Of Trump Jr.'s Remarks In India. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired February 23, 2018 - 05:30   ET

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


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[05:31:20] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT ISRAEL, SHERIFF, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: The deputy arrived to take up a position and he never went in.

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CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Disbelief and outrage in Florida. Officials reveal an armed guard on campus did not try to stop the Florida shooting.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The people that do carry, we give them a bonus. We give them a little bit of a bonus.

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ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump says he's looking far and wide for solutions to curb gun violence in schools, but expect him to play to his base when he speaks to a conservative political action group later today.

ROMANS: And was a Russian oligarch getting direction from the Kremlin to attack Americans in Syria? A damning new report this morning suggests just such a thing.

We have reports this morning from Moscow, Jordan, New Delhi, Seoul, and PyeongChang -- and, of course, here in New York.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

MARQUARDT: And I'm Alex Marquardt. It is 32 minutes past the hour.

The armed deputy assigned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has resigned. An investigation found that Scot Peterson failed to enter the building during last week's massacre in Parkland, Florida. The school resource officer retired on Thursday after he was suspended without pay.

Peterson was armed and in uniform when the shooting began but Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel says that video, witness statements, and an interview with Peterson himself all show that the deputy did not engage.

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ISRAEL: I'm devastated, sick to my stomach. There are no words. I mean, these families lost their children. We lost coaches.

I've been to the funerals. I've been to the homes where they sit and shiver. I've been to the vigils. It's just -- there are no words.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: No comment, so far, from Peterson who had garnered two Deputy of the Year nominations in recent years.

The sheriff put two others deputies on restricted duty while his office investigates their actions during calls to the gunman's home before the shooting.

Today, Gov. Rick Scott set to announce his plan to keep Florida students safe, including improvements to school security and ways to keep guns away from the mentally ill.

Also today, teachers and staff begin returning to Stoneman Douglas High with a variety of support services available to them. Students return to classes next Wednesday on a modified schedule.

The president -- President Trump flushing out his suggestion on arming teachers -- some teachers in the wake of the Parkland school shooting. The president now proposing extra pay for those teachers who undergo firearms training.

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TRUMP: I think a concealed permit for having teachers and letting people know that there are people in the building with a gun. You won't have -- in my opinion, you won't have these shootings because these people are cowards. They're not going to walk into a school if 20 percent of the teachers have guns.

The people that do carry, we give them a bonus. We give them a little bit of a bonus.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUARDT: A bonus for teachers.

Now, the White House says the proposal has not reached the policy or legislative stage just yet. A spokesman was unable to say where the money for training or those bonuses would come from.

Overnight, "The New York Times" is reporting that the Justice Department plans to crack down on prospective gun buyers who lie on their background check forms. Prioritizing those prosecutions is a way to enforce existing gun laws without angering gun rights advocates. The president is set to speak today at the Conservative Political Action Conference or -- also known as CPAC. That will happen later this morning.

ROMANS: Let's bring in Erin Delmore. She's a senior political correspondent for bustle.com. Good morning, again.

You know --

MARQUARDT: Hey, Erin.

ERIN DELMORE, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, BUSTLE.COM: Good morning.

ROMANS: -- Wayne LaPierre, who runs the NRA was there yesterday at CPAC. We're going to hear from the president in just about four and a half hours.

[05:35:01] But, Wayne LaPierre's first real public remarks since that school shooting and boy, he went right to the base -- listen.

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WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND CEO, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: The elites don't care not one wit 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.

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ROMANS: He went right from school safety and an effort to make schools safer by addressing gun violence, all the way to liberals, the media, and the deep state want to destroy your personal freedoms. He really wove that right in there exactly, kind of their mantra, and it resonated in that group.

DELMORE: It's a package talking point from the NRA that works for them. We've seen this line of attack before. We've also heard them say the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

And they're saying these reforms that liberals -- that gun rights activists are pushing want to take guns away from good people like you. That's the entirety of the message he's pushing over at CPAC.

MARQUARDT: Could we just talk about the warning signs that were missed.

ROMANS: Yes.

MARQUARDT: I mean --

DELMORE: Sure.

MARQUARDT: -- missed by local law enforcement, missed by federal law enforcement.

ROMANS: Yes.

MARQUARDT: We've heard -- we've heard the call to 911 from the mother who was housing Cruz.

ROMANS: Twenty-three calls over a decade to the Broward County Sheriff's Office --

MARQUARDT: Right.

ROMANS: -- about this kid.

MARQUARDT: So, let's play that out. Let's assume that the authorities have gone over and visited him and they'd found his weapons. He had them all legally, he hadn't committed any sort of crimes.

You know, short of a minority report-style situation you can't arrest someone before they do anything so what could have actually been done?

GILMORE: Alex, you're talking about the gaps in the law and you're making a lot of sense.

Basically, there are procedures that they have to follow and they did drop the ball in certain incidences. They're investigating two of those calls, in particular, to see why officers didn't follow up. They also have that January fifth phone call to the FBI saying why wasn't that floated over to the Miami field office, then to the Broward County Sheriff's Office.

But what you're talking about specifically -- these home visits -- analyzing how the killer got the gun, analyzing the cache of weapons that he had, you're talking about the legalities that allowed him to make those purchases.

Those are the gaps in the law that lawmakers now need to address. They need to talk about either why they'll fix it or why they won't.

ROMANS: You could argue though that if he was assaulting another kid, as that 911 call suggests, that there could have been an assault charge and there could have been a criminal record.

MARQUARDT: It could be brought in.

ROMANS: And it could have been brought in. And then, you would have had sort of this legal basis to try -- to try to restrict him.

Let's talk a little bit about the gun-free zones. So, we know that there was somebody there at the school who was armed and trained and took cover instead of preventing or --

MARQUARDT: A deputy.

ROMANS: A deputy. I mean, so that's really another very scary part of the story. The president talked about gun-free zones and hardening up the schools.

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TRUMP: We have to harden our schools, not soften them up. A gun-free zone to a killer or somebody that wants to be a killer, that's like going in for the ice cream. That's like here I am, take me.

We have to get smart on gun-free zones. When they see it says this is a gun-free zone, that means that nobody has a gun except them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Do you think that's true or do you think that it's these damaged human beings, evil human beings, are going to a school because they are angry at the school, they're angry at young people? They're -- it's a target because of the people in the school, not because of the gun-free zone.

DELMORE: There are two camps here. There's one camp that says that it shouldn't be easier for a shooter to go in and attack a school than it's easier for them to go in and shoot at a jewelry store or a bank. So when you talk about hardening targets, placing more adults with guns around the perimeter, it's that school of thought.

But Christine, what you're talking about is something that parents of these victims have been shouting at the top of their lungs. They're saying these aren't strangers, these aren't random criminals. These are very angry, emotionally disturbed young people who have a tie to the school. They know these students, they know these teachers.

If you put the resources --

MARQUARDT: Not allowed.

DELMORE: -- and the attention -- exactly -- and they know tactically what they could do at the school and the damage they could inflict, making them all the more lethal. And so, they're saying --

ROMANS: The shooter may well have known that there's an armed guard, too, you know?

DELMORE: Right, right, and when you --

MARQUARDT: If he had known them then --

DELMORE: -- talk about arming more guards or putting more school resource officers in schools that is a vulnerability as well.

The parents are saying instead, let's talk about teaching teachers how to identify these individuals and how to intervene.

MARQUARDT: All right. Well --

ROMANS: More money -- it all takes more money, by the way. It takes more money for school psychologists, it takes more money for teachers with guns, if you do that. It takes more money for hardening the exterior. I mean, all if it takes more money.

All right.

MARQUARDT: And, huge amounts of training --

DELMORE: Yes.

MARQUARDT: -- if this is actually going to happen.

ROMANS: Erin Delmore, nice to see you.

MARQUARDT: Thank you so much. Come back soon.

DELMORE: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: All right.

Well, Missouri's Republican Gov. Eric Greitens is denying that he committed any crime after the St. Louis prosecutor announced his indictment for felony invasion of privacy.

CNN affiliate KMOV reported last month that Greitens was accused of trying to blackmail another man's wife in 2015. Greitens allegedly took a photo during a sexual encounter with her. Greitens later admitted to the affair but denied that he had resorted to blackmail.

[05:40:05] The governor called the charges political and said that the situation is quote "a personal mistake from before he took office."

ROMANS: Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and aide Rick Gates face new charges this morning -- new charges in the special counsel's Russia investigation.

Robert Mueller's team claims Manafort and Gates, longtime business partners, laundered $30 million, failed to pay taxes for nearly 10 years, and used their real estate fraudulently to secure more than $20 million in loans.

Manafort's spokesman says he is innocent. He has already pleaded not guilty to earlier charges. Gates pleaded not guilty to the earlier charges also but is now negotiating a plea deal.

That's Robert Mueller putting the screws on those two -- those two potential witnesses.

MARQUARDT: So many threads in this story --

ROMANS: Yes.

MARQUARDT: -- and so much more to come.

Overseas, a potentially gigantic twist in a recent attack on U.S. personnel military inside Syria. Was a top Putin ally calling the shots? Was that with help from the Kremlin?

We're live in Moscow, next.

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[05:45:45] MARQUARDT: Welcome back.

Breaking overnight, a potentially major escalation between the U.S. and Russia. It follows an attack this month by Russian mercenaries on American forces and their allies in northern Syria.

"The Washington Post" is now reporting that the Russian oligarch believed to be controlling those mercenaries was quote "in close touch" with Russian and senior Syrian officials. Intercepted communications reportedly show the oligarch told a Syrian official that he had secured permission from the Russians for what he had called a fast and strong initiative.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is live with us in Moscow.

Fred, we're talking about dozens, maybe even hundreds of Russian who were killed by American forces -- the biggest flare-up between the two sides in this war.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

MARQUARDT: What potential -- what could happen here?

PLEITGEN: Well, I mean, the Russians are trying to keep it under wraps. It really seems as though the Russians sort of acknowledged that something went terribly wrong there and are now trying to -- I wouldn't say walk back but certainly, don't want the situation to escalate.

But, you know, we do have to keep in mind this is a very big incident, Alex, and you have this man Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is that oligarch in question. And he's the guy who's also been indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller last Friday for allegedly running a troll factory that meddled in the U.S. election.

And, you know, this incident in Syria where this militia that is controlled by him tried to attack U.S. and pro-U.S. forces. And the area they were attacking, Alex, is an area very rich in old fields and the man in charge of the oil company that would have made a ton of money had this succeeded is the same guy. He is also Yevgeny Prigozhin.

So he certainly had an economic initiative to do all of this. So far, we've not been able to reach him for comment.

The Russians, for their part, are saying that they have no control over Russians fighting privately in Syria, Alex.

MARQUARDT: Yes. The Russians saying that they went there voluntarily.

Thanks very much, Fred Pleitgen, in Moscow.

ROMANS: All right.

The United Nations Security Council meet again this morning to vote on a 30-day ceasefire in Syria. On Thursday, an emergency session of the Security Council failed to even vote on a ceasefire to end Assad regime bombardment of eastern Ghouta. The U.S. accuses Russia of blocking efforts to halt this bloodshed.

A State Department spokeswoman was pressed on what the U.S. is doing to help stop the violence.

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HEATHER NAUERT, SPOKESWOMAN, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE: We will continue to have our people there on the ground, frankly. We have Americans who are there who are assisting Syrians to try to get back to a normal life. I don't know what more you expect us to do.

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ROMANS: And now, this morning, new reports of new bombardment this morning.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh live in Amman, Jordan with more.

It has been a devastating few days for civilians there.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, and with no end in sight, Christine, for the violence.

For six consecutive days, activists on the ground are reporting overnight intense shelling and bombardment of different parts of this rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta. Also this morning, they're reporting more airstrikes pounding the different neighborhoods.

And that death toll continues to climb with reports of hundreds killed between Sunday and today. More than 1,000 others have been wounded and it is so difficult to treat these wounded with hospitals being hit in these airstrikes. Hospital after hospital being taken out. Some of those are still operational but they are also struggling to provide care for the wounded.

And we're hearing these nightmare stories of some of the wounded dying a slow and painful death in what the U.N. is describing now as this hell on earth, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. From Amman, Jordan, Jomana Karadsheh. Thank you for that.

MARQUARDT: All right.

Staying overseas, Donald Trump, Jr. preparing to take the stage in a business conference in India today. A last-minute change has now been made to distance the president's son from any political activity.

CNN's John Defterios is live with us in New Delhi this morning.

John, this had been criticized as a foreign policy speech by the president's son. What are they saying now?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR AND CORRESPONDENT, "CNNMONEY": Well, they've certainly lowered the expectations on it, Alex. This is the fourth full day on the ground for Donald Trump, Jr. and the largest market for the Trump Organization, being India.

All week long we heard this was going to be a foreign policy speech covering U.S.-India relations. Then we find out it's been kind of reduced to a fireside chat, something much more casual. And the organizers tell us this was a request from the Trump Organization.

[05:50:12] After that and the speech of Prime Minister Modi, he's going to host one of these very expensive dinners where it cost only $40,000 to enter. That's the cost of a deposit on one of his apartments.

Earlier in the week, he was asked by a local T.V. channel how do you separate business and politics within the Trump family.

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DONALD TRUMP, JR., EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, DEVELOPMENT AND ACQUISITIONS, THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION, SON OF PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I'm a vocal kind of guy. I'm not so good at just sitting in the corner and being quiet.

So, it's all important, it all had to get done. Family being number one, business probably being number two, politics being three.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DEFTERIOS: And for observers like us it's hard to see the light or the shade in between family, business, and politics or the White House with the Trump family.

But in a land of Bollywood actors supporting mobile phones and all kinds of products, the Trump brand actually worked well for the developers. They reported a 15 percent boost in sales this week alone with the presence of Donald Trump, Jr. here.

MARQUARDT: So, another rebranding by the Trumps.

And we should not that fireside chat obviously also has political connotations.

ROMANS: Yes, it was a presidential chat with the people -- fireside chat -- all right.

Ivanka Trump has landed in South Korea. She'll lead the U.S. delegation for the closing ceremonies at the Olympics.

There she is. We're told she's probably eating dinner right now at the Blue House. We're live there, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:56:02] ROMANS: First daughter Ivanka Trump has landed in Seoul, South Korea this morning. She'll lead the U.S. delegation at the Olympics closing ceremony.

CNN's Will Ripley is there live for us in Seoul. Hey, Will.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Christine.

Yes, we learned Ivanka Trump made a brief stop by the U.S. ambassador's residence here in Seoul about five minutes from where I am right now. A little ironic because more than a year into the Trump presidency we still don't have a U.S. ambassador to South Korea.

Now, she's believed to be at the Blue House having dinner with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. The Blue House releasing these photos that President Trump signed wishing South Korea the best of luck for the Olympics.

Ivanka will be heading to the PyeongChang games tomorrow, local time.

But I'll tell you what, there's a lot of controversy about her North Korean counterparts. North Korea is sending their former spymaster, Kim Yong Chol, who is believed to be the mastermind of an attack on a South Korea naval ship in 2010 that killed 46 South Korean sailors.

A lot of people in this country are wondering why Kim Jong Un would send someone like that to the closing ceremonies of what South Korea is calling the peace Olympics -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Will Ripley. Thank you so much for that in Seoul.

American figure skaters stumble again to their worst Olympic showing ever.

MARQUARDT: Heartbreaking. Coy Wire has more from PyeongChang. Hey there, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Good morning, Alex and Christine.

Maybe one of the biggest disappointments in U.S. figure skating history, finishing ninth, 10th, and 11th. In the last 70 years, the top-placing American woman had never finished lower than sixth.

Reigning U.S. champ Bradie Tennell said she couldn't remember the last time she fell, but she fell twice in the short program and failed to execute two of her jumps last night.

Mirai Nagasu couldn't put together a clean skate, either. And, 18- year-old Karen Chen said the toughest thing for her during the games was being separated from her mom 24/7.

Well, an Olympic athlete from Russia, Alina Zagitova, was missing nothing and her level of focus and execution were on another level. She's just 15 years old. Landing her jumps, executing her tricks, seemingly with ease she broke

a world record in the short program and in free skate and took down a two-time world champ and her own teammate, Evgenia Medvedeva, taking the gold for the Olympic athletes of Russia.

Now, Lindsey Vonn was these games -- what they meant to her. Though she failed to snag gold she did make history to become the oldest woman to ever capture an Olympic alpine medal at 33.

She dealt with hateful comments on Twitter after saying earlier that she wouldn't visit the White House if invited. She persevered through the recent passing of her grandfather. This was, most likely, her last ever Olympics -- listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LINDSEY VONN, FOUR-TIME OLYMPIAN: I appreciate everything so much more, especially with also the passing of my grandfather. You realize how short life is and much you wish you had more experiences that were meaningful. And this has been an exceptionally meaningful moment for me in my life and in my career as a professional ski racer, and I will never forget these games.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIRE: She can keep her head high. An incredible career for Lindsey Vonn, whether she continues to ski --

ROMANS: Yes.

WIRE: -- in the Olympics or not -- Christine, Alex.

ROMANS: Absolutely -- all right.

MARQUARDT: She really -- she really can.

Thanks, Coy.

ROMANS: All right, Coy. Nice to see you.

MARQUARDT: He's done a great job.

ROMANS: It's Friday. Thanks for joining us.

MARQUARDT: It's true.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans.

MARQUARDT: And I'm Alex Marquardt. "NEW DAY" starts right now.

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ISRAEL: What I saw was a deputy alive and he never went in.

JAMES GAGLIANO, FORMER AGENT, FBI: It's another gut punch. This is another piece of the failure in the system. TRUMP: They're not going to walk into a school if 20 percent of the teachers have guns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The SRO officer did not do his job. A teacher -- how would they react to that?

DANA LOESCH, SPOKESPERSON, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: Crying white mothers are ratings gold.

TRUMP: I really think the NRA wants to do what's right.

VAN JONES, CNN HOST, "THE VAN JONES SHOW", AUTHOR, "THE MESSY TRUTH": Young people are acting like adult leaders and the adult leaders have been acting like children.

LAPIERRE: The whole idea that armed security makes us less safe is completely ridiculous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As long as we allow the NRA leadership to dictate policy we're going to have this issue.

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ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Friday, February 23rd, 6:00 here in New York.

Chris is on assignment this morning. John Berman joins me. Happy Friday.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Happy Friday.

CAMEROTA: Great to have you here.

So, here's our "Starting Line."

A major development in the investigation of the Florida high school massacre.