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Stoneman Douglas Holds Open House; Former NRA Lobbyist Speaks Out; Investors Worried About Rising Inflation; South Korea's History of Assassination Squads. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 25, 2018 - 18:00   ET



[18:00:24] RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ryan Nobles, in tonight for Ana Cabrera.

In South Florida today, a chorus of voices, elected officials calling for the county sheriff to be removed from office. They are urging the state governor to get him out saying his department bears some blame for the horrific school shooting that ended with 17 high school kids and teachers dead.

The sheriff is Scott Israel. He went on CNN today to say that efforts to get rid of him are just politics and have nothing to do with his leadership.


SHERIFF SCOTT ISRAEL, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: You don't measure a person's leadership by a deputy not going into a -- these deputies received the training they needed. Of course, I won't resign. It was a shameful letter. It was politically motivated. I never met that man. He doesn't know anything about me. And the letter was full of misinformation.

I wrote a letter back to the governor. I talked about all the mistakes that Hager made in his letter. It was a shameful politically motivated letter that had no facts and of course I won't resign.


NOBLES: Well, here's why the sheriff says it's all about politics today. He's an elected official, a Democrat and the letter calling for his removal are from the state's Republican lawmakers to the governor who is also a Republican.

CNN's Martin Savidge is in Parkland, Florida, right now.

And Martin, looking over your shoulder, we see the flowers, the tributes and other expressions of grief and loss. And while the aftermath of the shooting seems to be turning even more political, do these people in Parkland feel that some of these politicians are starting to use this tragedy for their own purposes? MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, they haven't

expressed that. I think where we are in the stage of the grieving process now is anger. And that is truly what you hear, what's being directed at the sheriff, and remember, this is his constituency here. And many of them here voted for him back in 2016. What they are looking at is not a deputy who may have failed in the moments when the shooting was happening. They look at the department that time and time again appeared to miss the very big red flags as to the problems that were going on in Nikolas Cruz' life.

It didn't help that of course you had the only armed deputy on campus seemed to fail to act and then on top of that there have been additional reports by CNN that there were other deputies after the shooting that failed to charge into the building to begin rendering aid or rescuing people. So it is a combination of things but most of all it isn't that people are feeling their anger based upon politics. They're feeling it based upon the gut-wrenching emotions that they've been going through and the failures on the part of his department.

Bill Hager is the representative who sort of kicked this all off. I should mention, the families were wanting to see the sheriff step down some time ago but he has been speaking out and here's what Representative Hager said.


BILL HAGER (R), FLORIDA STATE HOUSE: There was clearly a series of failures at multiple levels. I've identified the sheriff's office probably the most grievous of fault, at least based on reported facts as we can understand so far lies there.


SAVIDGE: Because the sheriff is elected then it's the governor we understand that would have the ability to remove Israel from office and as you hear there is a very, very strong, growing chorus of voices likely to grow even tomorrow for the governor demanding that he do something.

The governor has said that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement get involved as far as investigating the response by the Sheriff's Department and others on that terrible day -- Ryan.

NOBLES: Martin, I'm sure you've seen that the president has floated the possibility of putting concealed weapons in schools, in some cases carried by teachers. The governor of Florida, whom you just talked about, Rick Scott, he's actually not on board with that idea. Listen to what Governor Scott has to say about that.


GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: I disagree with him. I believe -- I believe you've got to focus on people that are well-trained, law enforcement that are trained to do this. I want to make sure we have significant law enforcement presence on top of hardening the schools, metal detectors and bulletproof glass, better perimeter fencing, all of these things.

And the other thing is I want to give our sheriff's department in each county the authority to do -- create the program on a per school basis and that parents can feel comfortable that their child is going to a safe school.


NOBLES: I would imagine this particular policy position is a hot topic in Parkland, Florida. What are you hearing from the people that have been shattered by this gun violence? What do they think of the idea of teachers carrying guns?

[18:05:05] SAVIDGE: Most of them do not like that idea. They just don't think it's a good idea for educators to take on this additional duty. They've got enough to do as it is and they also don't think that they are going to be properly trained enough to handle the dire circumstance like what was seen. That said, there are probably some who might think that is a good idea. This community is split on some of these ideas.

But for the most part what they wanted to see was much more stringent background checks and they definitely wanted to see the prevention and sale of these semiautomatic assault style weapons like the AR-15 that was used by Nikolas Cruz.

NOBLES: All right. Martin Savidge, live in Parkland, Florida, for us. Martin, thank you for that report.

And I want to talk now to Florida State Representative Robert Asencio. He is a Democrat and he's joining me from Miami.

Representative Asencio, I'd like your response to your Republican colleagues calling in such large numbers now for Sheriff Israel to be removed. Of course the sheriff is a fellow Democrat. We have not seen any Democrats come out and suggest that it's time for him to step down. What is your take on that?

ROBERT ASENCIO (D), FLORIDA STATE HOUSE: Well, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you tonight. I think we need to separate Democrat and Republican. We need to put that off the table and we need to address the issues. The key here is ensuring public safety and taking a look at what were the factors that led up to this mass casualty shooting and make sure that we don't leave anything -- any stone unturned and also make sure that we do take all the preventive measures that we can to ensure that this does not occur.

NOBLES: Well, what about Sheriff Israel, though?

ASENCIO: I -- well, that's where I'm going.


ASENCIO: I'm sorry, that's where I'm going. So I will tell you this. I'm for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement conducting a more thorough investigation as to the facts that led up to this. You know, we saw or we've heard, and I haven't had an opportunity to speak with the sheriff, I haven't had an opportunity to speak with the investigators, but we do know from what the newscasts are saying is that at least three deputies stood outside.

We need to know exactly what happened. Is this a policy issue? Is this a training issue? And what can we do to prevent that from happening again? And obviously after the investigation is conducted, if there's a need for the sheriff to be withdrawn or for him to resign, then I think they should take action.

NOBLES: Right.

ASENCIO: But we have to remember this is a constitutional officer who at the end of the day is an elected official accountable to the voters in his district.

NOBLES: Right.

ASENCIO: Throughout the county.

NOBLES: Representative, you know, I want to hone in on this topic because you yourself have a very long career in law enforcement. You even worked as a school resource officer at one point. And I want to get your take on that. But back to the sheriff, I just would have to wonder what you would think as a deputy watching that sheriff this morning defend himself essentially take no personal accountability for the lapses that his department had in this situation.

There's no part of you that feels as though he needs to take a little bit more responsibility and perhaps that responsibility extends to him resigning from his post?

ASENCIO: Well, obviously he's the executive officer of that agency and ultimately the buck stops with him. So therefore whether he takes it or not, whether he takes personal responsibility or not, he will be held accountable for the actions of his department, his supervisors, and those deputies on the ground that not only were there at the scene but that handled the incidents that were reported prior to the mass shooting.

So I will say that whether he takes action or not he will be held accountable and should be held accountable as the sheriff of that agency or the chief executive officer.

NOBLES: Now I want to lean on your experience as a school resource officer. I mean, you probably don't want to -- you know, put a hypothetical situation of you being in that situation but from your view of this, did this deputy follow the proper protocols as he stood outside the building as the shooting was taking place?

ASENCIO: Well, we know that following Columbine, and it's been referred to a lot in the last couple of days, but following Columbine where the officers responded on the scene and they perimetized (PH) the school while there were victims inside, the police community across the country began to change their tactics and train up on a rapid response entry model. So each agency is responsible for training, adopting policies, and I

don't know exactly, although I've asked for the policies of Broward Sheriff's Office to be sent to my office, so I can review, I don't know what the policies call for. But I will tell you, when the sheriff spoke and gave account of the officer, Deputy Peterson, I believe his name is, that he took a position outside the school, I want to know exactly what that means. Was he on the radio? And why was he on the radio? Was he calling in reinforcements?

[18:10:02] Now I know that BSO, the Broward Sheriff's Office, it polices that area or at least is responsible for the school, but I also know that that's -- the neighboring agency is Coral Springs. You know, how many officers were on the road during that time? So were they calling? Were they patched up on mutual aid frequencies? Because I know that again Coral Springs is on a separate frequency.


ASENCIO: And were they directing officers to the area? Another concern that we have to be aware of is inside those schools, are there dead zones to radio communication? So was that a factor? And -- but it does bother me, it does bother me, and I'm -- this is why I really call on an investigation to be conducted to determine the factors that led to three deputies standing outside while there was a shooter inside the school. If that is the case.

NOBLES: All right. Representative Robert Asencio, thank you for your time, sir. Obviously you and your colleagues have a lot of work to do in the wake of this terrible tragedy. We appreciate you being with us today.

ASENCIO: Thank you.

NOBLES: And I want to get some analysis on this now. Joining me now, CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem. She's the former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security.

Juliette, first your response to the congressman there. He's a Democrat. There are many Republicans saying that it's time for Sheriff Israel to step down. From what you see of this situation, do you think it's time for him to step down? Has he really lost the confidence to run this department?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think it's premature. He should stay -- he should step down. I was not pleased about his interview with Jake Tapper this morning. I thought he came off as not as sympathetic or as understanding of the pain that's going on in the community and ultimately the responsibility does fall on him.

Nonetheless, I do think and have been saying for a couple of days now that Broward County ought to give the investigation to an outside entity at this stage.

NOBLES: Right. KAYYEM: That it's gotten too political. That you have Democrats and

Republicans. Yes, we have to do this for the kids, in fact. I mean, for the students at that school. As much as we still need to talk about gun control and the issues around gun legislation, we also owe it to them to have a thorough, adequate, honest review of what actually happened and I fear that Sheriff Israel and all of Broward County Sheriff's Department understandably so may feel a little bit defensive at this stage. And I think then at the end of that, a determination can be made was the training bad? Was the leadership bad? Was this just one case of one guy not going in?

NOBLES: And, you know, we're still learning all the details about exactly what happened on that day.


NOBLES: But I do want to ask what we do know about the school resource officer's response on the scene. And everything that we've been told and this comes directly from the sheriff himself is that Deputy Peterson stayed outside of the school instead of charging inside to confront the shooter.


NOBLES: What is the proper protocol here? What should he have done in that situation?

KAYYEM: The proper protocol now with school shootings, and this is out of Columbine, is there's two pieces. One is what we're telling the students, which is run if you can and hunker down if you must. Right? In other words, what happened in Columbine was the students stayed inside and were not protected, and most of the fatalities happened within -- in one single room. Then you tell the resource officers or any law enforcement, go in immediately, do not worry about the kids. Do not worry about the wounded and get the assailant.

So both pieces then would -- in an ideal situation would minimize the amount of harm. So that's the way it should be and I think it is not -- I think it's a little bit odd that we have not seen the training that the Broward County Sheriff's Department put either themselves or the resource officers under. I think that this is once again why we got to get this out of Broward County and figure out what entity might be able to do this.

NOBLES: So what you're suggesting is that, you know, there is a best practices out there for this particular scenario but that doesn't necessarily mean that's how he was trained?

KAYYEM: That's exactly right. So there may be -- it may be that, you know, there's nationally recognized best practices and then, you know, we just don't know what was happening in the school. And look, with an independent review, you may be able to determine what -- you know, what information was the resource officer getting? You know, what -- we just don't know and we owe it to those kids to have an honest assessment.

NOBLES: Right.

KAYYEM: And I fear that this has gotten too political and that honestly Broward County should for the kids step aside and let someone else review it.

NOBLES: And I just want to get your take on this quickly. The president, we talk about this quite a bit, his call to arm teachers. He's talking about them having annual training, perhaps getting a bonus.

I mean, you're a mom. You're a national security expert. But you're a mom first.


NOBLES: How would you feel if you knew that your student's teacher had a gun?

KAYYEM: I'm -- it's like -- I can't even answer the question both as a security professional and as a mother because it is so bad and it is stupid and I honestly -- and no one who knows the field believes that this is a good idea, nor do the teachers believe it's a good idea.

[18:15:10] I believe that President Trump is just throwing this out here as a way once again to sort of deflect from the deeper harder conversation that we have to have about access to guns in this country. It's not going to happen and the reason why it's not going to happen is because each jurisdiction -- you know, we don't have like national security rules for teachers and so each jurisdiction would have to choose.

But there's -- we should remember there's a reason why we haven't armed teachers in the past, right? It's just a bad idea.

NOBLES: Right. OK. Juliette Kayyem, as always, very good analysis, we appreciate you being with us.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

NOBLES: Coming up, a new CNN poll shows a big shift on whether the country needs tighter gun control laws. So with Congress back to work tomorrow, will lawmakers act on this changing public opinion? We'll talk about it next.


[18:20:11] NOBLES: A broad majority of Americans say they support stricter gun laws. Take a look at this new CNN poll. It finds that 70 percent of people want tougher restrictions on firearms. Back in October after the Las Vegas concert massacre, the number was just 52 percent in favor.

Congress is back in session tomorrow. Will they begin the process to pass some legislation?

With me to discuss this, CNN political commentators Jason Miller and Maria Cardona. Maria, a Democratic strategist, Jason, of course, a former senior adviser to the Donald Trump campaign.

Jason, let's start with you. I mean, look at those numbers, 7 in 10 Americans say they want stricter gun laws. Can the Republicans afford to do nothing?

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Ryan, I think that's why you're seeing President Trump providing the leadership that he is immediately going after increased background checks and even having some very tough words at the CPAC, conservative conference, this past weekend. You know, what we saw in Florida with the tragedy was an absolute failure at all levels.

I mean, we saw someone who clearly is very mentally disturbed who the school district missed it. There were police reports that were filed. The FBI missed it. I mean, you know, I watched Jake Tapper's interview with Sheriff Israel earlier today, and was absolutely horrified how the sheriff could think that he was providing amazing -- and that was the word he used -- leadership during this time.

And I think it's just been an absolute failure but look, President Trump is providing strong leadership here. Everything from ordering the ATF to go and take action on bump stocks and I think really what people want to see is to make sure that we don't allow guns to get in the hands of people who are either, E, mentally insane or B, criminals.

NOBLES: Maria, 7 out of 10. That sounds like a big number.


NOBLES: That's a pretty broad question.


NOBLES: That want stricter gun control laws. Is there a problem here that Democrats have not been able to hone their message and specifically put substantive piece of legislation behind this idea of stricter gun control?

CARDONA: No, I don't think it's been a problem of Democrats at all when you have had many bills in the past that focus on universal background checks which, by the way, 97 percent of Americans support. It's not a problem of Democrats, it's a problem of politicians bought and paid for by the NRA. And with all due respect to my friend Jason, talk is cheap. The time for action is now. And though what President Trump is talking about sounds good, we'll see if he will have the spine to stand up to the NRA who put $30 million of campaign money into his presidential campaign.

And more so than that, it's going to take the politicians in the Senate and in the House of Representatives who have been bought and paid for by the NRA to actually pass the legislation that the NRA is against. So we'll see what happens moving forward.

What I think, though, is that these kids have completely injected a new -- a new day hopefully and hopefully they have injected steel into the spine of those who have yet been too cowardly to do anything at this point.

NOBLES: All right, Jason, earlier today President Trump's re-election campaign e-mailed this photo showing President Trump with a shooting survivor. This is from the Parkland massacre. The e-mail then went on to ask for a donation to his campaign.

You were part of this campaign at one point, Jason.


NOBLES: Is this appropriate for the president to fund raise off a tragedy like this?

MILLER: Well, clearly on an e-mail like this, this probably is not something that the president himself would have seen. I do think it would be appropriate to send out a picture from the official side of things, from the White House, talking about the president visiting with both victims and first responders.

I think that would be appropriate. I would not have used that picture in a campaign e-mail. And I think going back to the more important point here is the actual leadership that we've seen from the president. I mean, how remarkable is it that this president went in front of CPAC, a conservative conference, and talked about things that we have to do to make sure that tragedies like this never happens again.


NOBLES: But, Jason -- Jason.

CARDONA: He didn't say anything, Jason.

MILLER: That's the kind of leadership that we're seeing from the president right now.

NOBLES: But let me make this point. Jason, let me make two points on this. First of all, I mean, the president may have not had expressed knowledge of this particular photo going out but it is under his name. So he does bear a degree of responsibility.

And when you talk about what was said at CPAC, there was a lot the president left out of that speech in CPAC.


NOBLES: Particularly the idea --

CARDONA: Exactly.

NOBLES: -- that he supports the idea of raising the age limit to 21. Does he need to be leading on this at all, not just when he's in front of a friendly audience?

MILLER: But, Ryan, the fact that the president did go and bring this up and did address it at CPAC, I think you have to give him some credit. And I think that's one of the things that sometimes my friends on political left forget to do is to actually acknowledge this is very much like Nixon goes to China type moment where we're seeing President Trump step forward.

And again going back to the e-mail, I said that is not something that I would have signed off or I would have been on board with at all, but also let's call balls and strikes here.

[18:25:03] I mean, I'm sure there are plenty of left to center and Democrats who are out there sending out fundraising e-mails as well. And so let's go and call it both ways.

CARDONA: You know --

NOBLES: I'm sure this isn't the first time it's happened on either side of the aisle. You're absolutely right about that, Jason. Maria?

CARDONA: On the speech, Ryan, you know, just a couple of things here. This is not a Nixon goes to China moment. President Trump did not go up in front of CPAC to say work with me on passing sensible popular gun safety legislation. He absolutely did not talk about anything that he wanted to pass in front of that crowd. And in fact he applauded the NRA over and over and over again. So I'm sorry. It was a completely cowardly speech.

And secondly, when he talks about not wanting the mentally ill to get a hold of guns, then why in February of last year did he block an Obama-era regulation that would have done exactly that and kept 75,000 mentally ill people in the United States from acquiring guns? Again --

MILLER: Maria, fact checkers have said that that's not the case.

CARDONA: He's a hypocrite.

MILLER: That that's a false interpretation of that.

CARDONA: It is absolutely is the -- no. It absolutely is. He's blocked the rule.


NOBLES: Let's just move on.

MILLER: That's not the case, Maria.

CARDONA: He blocked the rule. That's a fact.

NOBLES: But, Maria, I want to make a point -- I'm going to make a point about the point you made about the NRA.


NOBLES: And there's been a lot of talk about the NRA's influence and the millions of dollars that they have sent to Republican candidates, but, Maria, have we lost sight a little bit about the NRA is more than just a fundraising mechanism here? They do have millions of members who are politically active and get involved in campaigns knocking on doors, making phone calls, sending e-mails. To a certain extent they are a grassroots organization, aren't they? And should these politicians just ignore their point of view because of what has happened here over the past few weeks?

CARDONA: Well, you know, what's interesting about that, Ryan, is that actually the majority of NRA members also agree that we should have universal background checks but yet the NRA as an organization does not want to pass any kind of legislation that would keep any kind of weapon out of any kind of American's hands regardless of whether they should have it or not. And I think that is the bottom line. They don't want to do anything and you just have to listen to Wayne LaPierre's speech, he says that anybody that is looking for any kind of legislation, additional gun legislation, wants to take away your freedom. That is not --

MILLER: Maria, I think you're --

CARDONA: That is not the language of an organization that wants to do something sensible on gun safety.

NOBLES: All right. Jason, you get the last word here because we have to go.

MILLER: Yes. I think you're going to see the NRA come together with President Trump to come up with some solid thoughtful solutions here. I think it's most important these background checks in making sure the mentally insane people and criminals do not get their hands on guns and also make sure that whether it be DCF, the local sheriff's office, the FBI do not allow these red flags to go unnoticed.

That's really where the problems are. And the final thing I'll say is we ought to have to make sure that the folks on the left, whether it be the editorial pages of the "Boston Globe" or whether it be the Oregon -- Democratically-controlled Oregon statehouse that they don't start pushing forward for outright gun confiscation. That's not the way to go. We need to make sure --

CARDONA: No one is talking about that, Jason.

MILLER: -- crazy or criminal, make sure they do not get their hands on guns.

CARDONA: When you inject that kind of language --

NOBLES: OK. All right. We got to go. Maria, we got to go.

CARDONA: -- that means you really don't want any solutions.

NOBLES: We will find out what's going to happen when Congress returns to work on Monday.

CARDONA: That's exactly right.

NOBLES: To see if anything substantive will be taken up on this particular issue.

Jason Miller, Maria Cardona thank you as always for the lively discussion.

CARDONA: Thanks, Ryan.

NOBLES: Parkland students returning for first time to their school after the shooting 11 days ago, how some are describing the experience next.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: An open house is winding down right now at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. For the last few hours, teachers and students were allowed to wander the halls and enter classrooms, some for the first time since the mass shooting that left 17 dead.

Today's open house was held to help ease the way for students to return to class on Wednesday. CNN's Kaylee Hartung is at Stoneman Douglas. She's been covering the story from the very beginning.

Kaylee, what are you seeing there today?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ryan, many students and teachers expressed an anxiety to me in the lead up to this afternoon, unsure of how they would feel or react to being back on Stoneman Douglas' campus.

But after an afternoon in which many students were reuniting with classmates and teachers for the first time since February 14th, retrieving belongings like backpacks, laptops, wallets, and phones left on campus as they fled for their lives, they are telling me, they experienced much more happiness among them than sadness.

Listen to how 10th grader Tanzil Philip encapsulated the evolution of his emotions.


TANZIL PHILIP, STUDENT, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: It was really scary. I didn't know how I was going to feel.

When I went in and I saw the fence around the freshman building, I just -- and all the windows were covered, I was just like -- I just can't believe something like this happened. And then we all decided to meet in our theater room where I was, and we just gave each other hugs.

And I'm just happy a lot of my friends decided to show up because, without them, I wouldn't have been able to do it.


HARTUNG: Superintendent Robert Runcie told us today was about addressing concerns for students and parents, telling them what they plan to do to increase security measures, telling them how there will be enhanced law enforcement on campus as well. If you can see the gate behind me here, as cars were pulling into that parking lot, they had to show Stoneman Douglas I.D. to prove that they belonged on this campus.

[18:34:59] Today, the Superintendent also telling us, though, that he wants to be flexible and accommodating to each individual students' and teachers' needs at this time. This process, of course, about more than just making them feel safe but, of course, helping the healing process as well.

And now, administrators and teachers have conversations they need to have over the course of the next several days before classes resume on Wednesday.

As we've known now for a little while, that 1200 building where the gunman attacked, that building will no longer be in use. So the staff has to get creative about how they will be adjusting student schedules to work with the space they do have, Ryan.

NOBLES: Kaylee Hartung, a very difficult but necessary next step for the survivors of that awful shooting.

Kaylee, thank you.

Coming up, with growing calls for something to be done about gun control, we'll hear from the man responsible for the NRA's policy of not giving an inch. I'll ask how he views the group's response to Parkland, next.


[18:40:03] NOBLES: You are looking at live pictures of devastating flooding from the Louisville, Kentucky area. This is a storm in which three people have died in the state due to severe weather, including a woman was struck by debris in an area that was hit by a tornado.

Now, this flooding is the result of severe storms that have moved across the south and central United States. Tennessee, Ohio, Arkansas, as well as Kentucky among the states impacted. And those are some pretty dramatic pictures of the floodwaters that are continuing to rise.

As high schoolers were buried, the President made a pledge: we're going to take action. But what kind of action remains unclear.

Now, President Trump has backed a measure that the NRA opposes, raising the age limit on gun purchases. But last week at the conservative convention, CPAC, the head of the NRA restated its longstanding position that no changes should be made to the age at which a person can buy a firearm.

It's a position that even Florida's Republican Governor, Rick Scott, also disagrees with.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: I'm an NRA member. I believe in Second Amendment. I believe in the First Amendment and all of the amendments.

I think most members of the NRA agree with me. This is logical. I'm sure there's going to be some that disagree.

But I'm a dad, I'm a granddad, and I'm a governor. I want my state to be safe. I want every child to be in a safe environment when they're trying to be educated.


NOBLES: And my next guest is Richard Feldman. He's a former NRA lobbyist. He is a gun owner, a Second Amendment advocate, and he's also responsible for the NRA's policy of not giving an inch. And this dates back to the '70s, but he then had a change of heart and he wrote a book about it.

That book got him blacklisted by the NRA for arguing that extreme politics and the focus on fundraising has corrupted the organization while distorting the opinions of many of the NRA's members.

Richard, thank you for being with us tonight.


NOBLES: I first want to ask you about this divide between the influence in the NRA, and we've heard Democrats, in particular, criticize the NRA as being funded by gun manufacturers and then pouring that funding into political candidates while Republicans argue that it is a grassroots organization that is run by its membership.

From your perspective and your role at the NRA, how would you describe the NRA's motivations?

FELDMAN: Well, the NRA is comprised of millions of firearm owners in this country. It's true that the gun industry put some money into the NRA, but they have very little say into the NRA's policy, contrary to how it may look from the outside. It's the membership through the elected board of directors of the NRA that sets NRA's policy.

NOBLES: And so from your perspective, what created your disillusionment with the NRA? Why did you decide to write that book?

FELDMAN: Well, I wasn't so much disillusioned with NRA. I still am a member. I support what NRA stands for. There are times, and this isn't one of them now, that NRA is more interested in the politics of the issue but that can be said of the Brady campaign. It can be said of every environmental group.

Every interest group in this country is more focused sometimes on the politics than it is on the policy. That's true across the board.

NOBLES: Right. So let's talk about the politics right now and specifically, the policy. And we have a new poll from CNN that's just out that shows that seven in 10 Americans favor tighter gun laws. Last week, Quinnipiac came out with a poll that showed that 97 percent of Americans support some form of a background check.

So how is it that despite all this public opinion -- and some of this opinion, I should say, comes from NRA members as well.


NOBLES: Why does the NRA still have such a stranglehold on any kind of substantive change to the gun laws?

FELDMAN: Well, when you talk about the NRA, for starters, are you talking about the NRA leadership or the membership? Because there are multiple NRAs, and the NRA leadership doesn't have a stranglehold on anyone.

What gives the NRA the power it does is what any group aspires to in this democracy. Get your people motivated, activated, involved in politics and out to the polls on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

If the NRA has done a better job of that than other groups, I don't think they can be blamed for doing what you should do.

NOBLES: Right.

FELDMAN: Other groups talk tough but they don't deliver. And politicians respond to the reality. And the gun owners of this country care very deeply about their gun ownership and their rights.

[18:45:05] NOBLES: Right.

FELDMAN: And frankly, it's -- the gun owners of this country didn't pull the trigger. They didn't misuse their guns, and they get pretty upset when they get blamed for something they had nothing to do with.

NOBLES: Right.

FELDMAN: We're all Americans and we're all united in keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous, mentally disturbed individuals, unsupervised juveniles, and violent predatory criminals. So why don't we stop the politics and recognize that we really are far more united in this country on that issue and those groups of people who ought not to have guns?

If we recognize this instead of blaming each other in this silly game, we can actually achieve some good results with both sides.

NOBLES: OK. All right. We'll see if the members of Congress take your advice when they reconvene on Monday.

Richard Feldman, thank you for your perspective.

In this week's "Before the Bell," interest rates are being closely watched and whether they're -- and whether or not they're going to be going up or down. Here's CNN's Christine Romans. Christine?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ryan. This week, all eyes are on the brand-new chairman of the Federal Reserve. Jerome Powell testifies Wednesday and Thursday on Capitol Hill. Wall Street wants any news about the pace of interest rate hikes.

Concern about rising inflation sparked a huge sell-off in the stock market a few weeks ago. Investors are worried the Fed will have to raise interest rates more aggressively to keep rising prices in check.

You can bet lawmakers will ask Powell whether he sees an inflation threat and what he makes of the recent stock market volatility.

Of course, investors have also been focused on corporate earnings. This week brings more report cards from the retail sector. Macy's, Kohl's, Gap, Nordstrom, and Best Buy are among the names reporting quarterly results.

In New York, I'm Christine Romans.

NOBLES: Christine, thank you.

Coming up at the Olympic Games, the North and South historically came together. But now that the games have ended, our Ivan Watson takes a look at the -- a chilling look at the steps the South has to assassinate Kim Jong-un's father.


[18:51:53] NOBLES: The Winter Olympic Games are now formally over. The closing ceremony was this morning in South Korea. And an enormous highlight of the games happened on the sidelines, apparent cracks in the ice built between North Korea and the United States.

Word today on good authority that the North Koreans are willing to open diplomatic talks with Washington. While we wait to see if that develops, South Korea is still preparing for armed conflict with the North. CNN's Ivan Watson is there.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Faced with a hostile nuclear-armed neighbor, South Korea's military has announced the creation of a decapitation unit. In the event of a war, the mission of the special task brigade would be to take out the leadership of North Korea.

But this is not South Korea's first attempt at creating a team of possible assassins. In 1968, after a bloody North Korean incursion, South Korea created a top-secret hit squad called Unit 684.

The assassination squad was sent to this uninhabited island called Silmido for years of training. The initial plan was to recruit death row inmates. But in the end, intelligence officers chose 31 civilians from the streets of South Korean cities. YANG DONG-SOO, FORMER UNIT 684 TRAINER, REPUBLIC OF KOREA ARMY

(through translator): They were either a shoeshine boy, a newspaper boy, a cinema worker, or a bouncer. They would approach the ones who looked like they might have played some sports and had a strong physique.

WATSON: In 1970, Yang Dong-soo was a 21-year-old Air Force sergeant sent to Silmido Island to train Unit 684. The conditions on the island were often brutal.

YANG (through translator): There were accidents. In the middle of sea survival training, one recruit died of fatigue.

WATSON: In fact, five other recruits were executed for desertion or crimes such as threatening their trainers.

For more than three years, unit members weren't allowed to communicate at all with the outside world. Finally, something snapped.

On the morning of August 23, 1971, Unit 684 staged a bloody mutiny on this beach. They began killing their trainers one by one.

When Yang heard gunfire that morning, he initially thought it was a North Korean attack. But then he says one of his trainees shot him through the neck.

YANG (through translator): When I woke up, I was bleeding from the neck. Everywhere. Trainers like me were being killed by recruits or running away. It was chaos.

WATSON: Yang says he dragged himself out onto these rocks and hid and somehow escaped being murdered. After killing 18 of their trainers, Unit 684 wasn't finished. They made it to the mainland and hijacked a bus to the capitol where 20 members died in clashes with Korean security forces. Four survived to be later executed.

[18:55:00] For decades, the brutal story of Silmido Island was covered up. Until the Korean blockbuster movie "Silmido" hit screens in 2003.

Though it led to a public government investigation, this former Unit 684 trainer claims much of the film is fiction.

The mutineers were victims who were sacrificed, he tells me, and so were the trainers.

To this day, the survivor often preaches about how God saved him on that terrible day when the assassins turned on their commanders.


NOBLES: That's Ivan Watson reporting.

That does it for me. I'll be back tomorrow morning, bright and early, 4:00 a.m. Eastern for "EARLY START." Thank you so much for watching.

Jim Sciutto picks things up after this quick break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)