Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Condemns Actions of School Resource Officer; Trump Echoes NRA Talking Points at CPAC; Trump Attacks McCain after Telling Family He Wouldn't; Parkland Shooter's Past 911 Calls Released; Ivanka Trump Visits Seoul as Trump Announces News Sanctions of North Korea. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired February 23, 2018 - 13:30   ET



[13:31:20] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: In a stinging rebuke, President Trump condemned the actions of an armed school resource officer that was on duty but stayed outside Stoneman Douglas High School as last week's shooting unfolded.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When it came time to get in there and do something, he didn't have the courage, or something happened, but he certainly did a poor job. That's a case where somebody who is outside, they're trained, they didn't react properly under pressure or they were a coward.


BLITZER: Let's bring in our panel. Joining us, our senior political analyst, Mark Preston, our senior political reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson, and our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

What's your reaction, Gloria, to what the president said about the security guard?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: He didn't want to change the narrative that he has, which is you need more armed people in the school. So when he had a security guard in the school that didn't perform properly, he had to made it sound like, well, this is one guy, and you really need more people who can back him up. That's what we heard from him at CPAC this morning. He was talking about concealed carry. He was saying the teachers love their students. It should be the teachers, therefore, who should protect them rather than this kind of a guard who may not know the students.

BLITZER: We haven't heard directly from the guard yet. We don't know his side of the story.


BLITZER: We know what Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said yesterday. He was heartbroken. He was sickened when he saw all the reports that the security guard waited outside, never went inside that high school.

The president was very forceful once again this morning at this Conservative Political Action Conference here in the Washington, D.C., area, and he accused the Democrats of wanting to take away Americans' Second Amendment rights to bear arms. Those are powerful -- that's a powerful accusation that the Democrats will sharply reject.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And he certainly was throwing a lot of red meat to an audience that wants to believe that, that perhaps believes that, but that's not going to help solve the problem. The situation we're in right now is that both sides refuse to talk to each other, they talk past each other. And when you are in a situation like this and people say, the president needs to be a leader in this, show some leadership, going out there and saying something like that only adds more fuel to a raging fire right now, and that is not leadership.

BLITZER: Nia, listen to what Wayne LaPierre, the head of the National Rifle Association -- he spoke at the CPAC conference yesterday on this issue of guns. Listen to what he said and what the president said afterwards.


WAYNE LAPIERRE, CEO & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCATION: It should not be easier for a madman to shoot up a school than a bank or a jewelry store or some Hollywood gala.

TRUMP: Why do we protect our airports, our banks, our government buildings, but not our schools?

LAPIERRE: We must immediately harden our schools.

TRUMP: We need a hardened site. It has to be hardened. It can be soft.

LAPIERRE: We drop our kids off at school that are so-called gun-free zones that are wide-open targets for any crazy madman bent on evil to come there first.

TRUMP: It's a gun-free zone. It says, this is a gun-free zone. Please check your guns way far away. And what happens is they feel safe. Nobody is going to come at them.


BLITZER: At least on those three points, the president was echoing what Wayne LaPierre said.

[13:35:09] NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: He's very much giving his talking point on this idea of arming teachers with concealed weapons from the NRA. In many ways, this is his most detailed policy proposal. It's the one he talks about the most. It's the one he has sort of numbers, 10 to 20 percent of teachers, maybe they would be folks from the military. So, yes, in this way, he is echoing the NRA and, even in some ways, going further than the NRA, even though the NRA backs this plan. They mainly talk about security guards being there to protect the students. So in that way, he's certainly on the same page.

He is differing from the NRA in terms of raising the legal age limit to purchase some guns, so in that way, we'll see what he does. Is that something he's going to lead with or is he going to lead with this idea of arming teachers, something he ultimately probably wouldn't have any control over. This would be a local and state issue, up to school systems what they wanted to do.

BLITZER: The president thought his prepared remarks were boring, so he went off script. And at one point, he went after Senator John McCain who, as you know, is suffering from brain cancer right now. Listen to this.


TRUMP: Except for one Senator, who came into a room at 3:00 in the morning and went like that, we would have had health care, too.


TRUMP: We would have had health care, too.



BLITZER: You know, just two weeks ago, Meghan McCain, Senator McCain's daughter, said the president had personally promised her he wouldn't continue to attack her father who is going through this really very serious crisis in his health right now.

BORGER: He can't help himself. Honestly, this is someone who doesn't have any internal editing process. He feels that Senator McCain did something wrong to him, to him personally, and he's not going to forget it no matter what promise he made to Meghan McCain. By the way, Meghan McCain just tweeted that she and her mother, Cindy McCain, are going to be on "The View" midweek next week and they're going to talk about this. I think Meghan McCain wanted him to stop this, as any daughter would. Honestly, he can't help himself. It's the only reason I can think of.

HENDERSON: It must be very hurtful to hear this kind of rhetoric from the president. He's said things like that in the past, apparently promised that he wouldn't do it again. It's the first thing I thought of when we heard him talk about John McCain in that way. I thought about what Meghan McCain had said and this promise she had apparently gotten from the president that he now has gone back on.

PRESTON: You know what's sad? I was in Iowa when President Trump said, I don't believe you're a hero if you got caught in Vietnam as a POW, that you got tortured as a hero. John McCain is a hero. Whether you like his politics or not, he's a hero. And the fact that Donald Trump can get away with this goes beyond Donald Trump, it goes to his supporters who thinks it's OK to talk this way. BORGER: They booed McCain in that audience. They booed him. And

here's a man who suffered greatly.


PRESTON: If you want to boo John McCain, you know, because of specific policies or what have you, that's fine, OK? That's politics. What we just saw right there was not Donald Trump attacking him for his policies, it was Donald Trump, as you said, trying to get back at him because John McCain didn't support him. And that in itself is terrible.

BLITZER: Guys, there's more news that we're following.

Coming up, brand new 911 calls from the Florida killer. You're going to hear him describe his emotional outbursts and violent past. That, and more when we come back.


[13:43:11] BLITZER: The Florida shooter calling for help. We're now hearing chilling 911 calls from the teenager who killed 17 people at Stoneman Douglas High School.

Here's the report from CNN affiliate, WPTV.


DISPATCHER: 911 emergency.

NIKOLAS CRUZ, SCHOOL SHOOTING SUSPECT: Hi. I was just assaulted now. Someone tried -- someone attacked me.

UNIDENTIFIED WPTV REPORTER (voice-over): A call from Palm Beach County.

CRUZ: I don't know where I came from. I'm new to the area.

UNIDENTIFIED WPTV REPORTER: -- by the same 19-year-old man who allegedly shot and killed 17 people at his former high school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

CRUZ: He said he was going to gut me if I came back.

UNIDENTIFIED WPTV REPORTER: After his mother's death, Nikolas Cruz and his younger brother moved into this trailer with the DeChamps (ph) family.

CRUZ: The thing is I lost my mother a couple of weeks ago so I -- I'm dealing with a bunch of things right now.

UNIDENTIFIED WPTV REPORTER: According to 911 calls, even though guns were banned from the trailer, the DeChamps (ph) feared Cruz' outbursts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was in the backyard behind the fence digging for 15 minutes, and I'm positive he hid a weapon. I'm positive he hid a .9-millimetre carbine in the back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He put the gun to the head of mother, so it's not the first time he did that to his mom. His mom died.

UNIDENTIFIED WPTV REPORTER: The 911 records showed, at one point, Cruz threatening to pick up a gun at Dick's Sporting Goods after a fight.

CRUZ: I got mad and I started punching the walls.

911 OPERATOR: In the walls?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): He was throwing everything around the room and my son got in there and said, stop it.

CRUZ: And then a kid came at me and threw me on the ground. He started attacking me and he kicked me out of the house.


[13:44:56] BLITZER: A very disturbing report from our affiliate, WPTV.

Those 911 calls came shortly after the death of the shooter's mother back in November. We reached out to the host family, you heard there in that report, for comment. We haven't heard back from them, at least not yet.

Joining us from Los Angeles, CNN law enforcement analyst, Josh Campbell.

Josh, what can we take from these emergency calls?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Wolf, it's another layer of heartbreak for the victims of family members that went through this senseless tragedy. I think they continue to be revictimized every time we learn a new detail, a new clue that could have possibly helped stop this. You interviewed a short time ago one of the students who lived it, Alfonso, and I think he lived out some of the mistakes better than I can. Talking about the tips that came in to law enforcement, talking about the weapons. I think as we see the pattern being put together by the latest calls, it's clear we failed these kids and we have to do better.

BLITZER: Absolutely right. Got to learn a lot of lessons from this so it doesn't happen again.

Josh Campbell, thanks very much.

As President Trump gets ready to hold a joint news conference, his former campaign adviser is about to flip in the Russia investigation and cooperate with the Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He just walked into court. We'll go there. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [13:50:28] BLITZER: On the same day as President Trump announced sanctions on North Korea, his daughter and senior advisor, Ivanka Trump, arrived in Seoul to shore up relations with South Korea, among other things. Earlier, the president tweeted this: "My daughter, Ivanka, just arrived in South Korea. We cannot have a better or smarter person representing our country."

I'm joined now by our White House reporter, Kate Bennett, and CNN national security analyst, Samantha Vinograd.

Is this unusual for the president to send Ivanka Trump on what potentially could be a very sensitive diplomatic mission right now, shoring up relations with South Korea, knowing that she potentially could be very close to a representative from North Korea?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Sure. And who wants to tell the president that Mike Pence was actually already in South Korea, the representative, so him saying that about Ivanka was interesting. Ivanka Trump represents a hybrid role, with part of her as first daughter and sort of feels flashing and sort of a celebrity, and yet, part of her as advisor. This is a very serious time for her today. The president imposed new sanctions. She will exercise this diplomatic muscle a lot more than what the White House initially said, which was, basically, she's a winter sports enthusiast, which is why she's going.

BLITZER: There will be symbolic moments but substantively there could be serious diplomatic moments as well, Sam.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: There definitely could. That's why we need an ambassador in South Korea that can work on these issues. They're complex. There's a reason why, under various administrations, Republican or Democratic, you go into a meeting with trained experts who have background on the issues and approach them that way. North Korea won the Olympics. Medal count aside. All the press out of the Olympics is about North Korea playing ball, literally and figuratively, with other countries while continuing their nuclear program. So, we really need a trained diplomat to implement these things.

BLITZER: I assume she's being well briefed, Kate. The North Korean delegation at the closing ceremonies, the leader of that delegation will be Kim Jong-Chol, a top intelligence official in Pyongyang.

BENNETT: It's interesting with Ivanka Trump considering the new security clearance rule that the White House implemented today. It might be a show of force that, yes, she's still involved, she's still being read in, still an intelligence area where she has access. But certainly, it's going to be a standoff. We'll be looking at it the same way as when Mike Pence was there with Kim Jong-Un's daughter, that everyone looked at that optic as well.

BLITZER: And she's leading this delegation. Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, is part of the delegation, Senator Jim Risch is part of it the delegation, but she's the leader of this delegation. VINOGRAD: She is. And that's really surprising. If she was going in

her capacity as first daughter, that's great. Why not? But someone who doesn't have experience should not be leading a delegation to diplomatic issues.

BLITZER: She also doesn't have full diplomatic -- security clearances. She's working, like her husband, Jared Kushner, with interim security clearances.

BENNETT: That's correct. And her portfolio lately has been more about small business, entrepreneur, women's issues, family medical leave.


BENNETT: When her portfolio expands like this, it feels, as you said, a little odd to include this massive issue right now.

BLITZER: President Trump briefly at the CPAC speech mentioned new sanctions to North Korea, very quickly, didn't speak about it, and then said let's hope the for the best.

VINGRAD: I don't think we should hope for the best when we have a nuclear-armed state threatening to launch missiles at the United States. We need a careful plan. What's clear coming out of the Olympics, we don't have one. It's not working. The sanctions are strong. They're unprecedented. But our diplomatic approach is incredibly haphazard. Vice President Mike Pence agreed to a meeting with the North Koreans with no preconditions and then got snubbed.

[13:54:12] BLITZER: All right, guys, we'll watch and see how unfolds. Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, did announce those formal new sanctions against North Korea.

That's it. We'll continue our special coverage. Moments from now, a rare moment, the president will actually take questions from reporters in a formal news conference. Lots to ask him, from the school shooting to the new charges against his former campaign adviser. We'll have all of that live right after a quick break.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Hello. I'm Wolf Blitzer, in Washington. I want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

We're following breaking news on multiple fronts. The former Trump campaign official, Rick Gates, is about to plead guilty in Robert Mueller's wide-ranging Russia investigation. The plea hearing in federal court in Washington is set to begin moments from now.

It's the same time the president will be holding a big joint news conference with Malcolm Turnbull, the visiting prime minister of Australia, a nation hailed, by the way, for addressing its gun violence problem. Turnbull arrives just hours after President Trump pushed once again for arming selected trained school teachers here in the United States.

We'll get into the Rick Gates plea deal in a moment. All the breaking news.

But first, our senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown, in the East Room of the White House, awaiting this joint news conference.

Pamela, gun control almost certainly will come up.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It certainly will. Just to set the stage here, these are two leaders who had a rocky start at the beginning of President Trump's administration, as you'll recall that contentious phone call they had about refugees. The two men seem to have put all of that behind them and have warming relations.