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Growing Backlash Against The Florida Sheriff Whose Department Missed Repeated Signs That They Have Prevented That School Massacre; President Trump Is Publicly Attacking The Top Democrat On The House Intelligence Committee; North Korea Says At Least It Is Ready To Open Diplomatic Channels; President Trump Spoke At The Governor's Ball At The White House. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired February 25, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:23] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Jim Sciutto in today for Ana Cabrera. It started with an explicit warning called into the Broward county sheriff's office. He could be a school shooter in the making. And it turns out he was. This call just one of many red flags that were ignored, and now of course 17 people are dead.
And there is mounting pressure for someone to be held accountable. And this is the man who sits at the top of that department. Broward county sheriff, Scott Israel. Seventy-four Republicans are asking Rick Scott, the governor of Florida, to suspend him, saying that his department knew the 19-year-old gunman was dangerous, was armed. And had explicitly stated his plans to commit a massacre. And on the day of the massacre, Broward county sheriff deputies waited outside the school. At least some of them did. While the kids and those teachers took their final breaths.
One of them, Scott Peterson, the school resource officer, deputy, now stepped down. Sheriff Israel was on CNN earlier today where he told my colleague Jake Tapper that none of that is his fault.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERIFF SCOTT ISRAEL, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: You don't measure a person's leadership by a deputy not going into -- 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Now, this is the letter that the sheriff is talking about. It was written by Republican state representative to the Republican governor calling for the sheriff's removal.
Let's go live now to Parkland and CNN's Martin Savidge. Also Kaylee Hartung.
Martin, clearly, there are some politics involved in this. You have a Republican calling on the Republican governor. I believe that sheriff Israel believed to be a Democrat. But I wonder on the ground where it matters, people who lost their children, they lost their classmates. And are they genuinely disappointed by the real missed warning signs here, are they also calling for the sheriff to be removed?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. But they are not basing it along political lines. What they are basing it along against the fact that there seems to be so many red flags that this department, the sheriff's department, had missed over years. We are not just talking about the necessary all that school resource officer did not do or did do on the day of that terrible attack. As far as warnings and the multiple times that deputies went to Nikolas Cruz's home, all of that is weighing in.
And then of course, as you know, you can tell by the background of where we are. The mourning is still so very deeply felt here. And so, this is anger that is coming directly from the population. It is coming from the families who lost children. And it is coming not because of what party affiliation he has, it is because they believe he simply did not do the job.
And they were not at all pleased by the kind of responses that he was giving Jake Tapper earlier today. Because what people had said is that he step by step has never taken responsibility. He is head of the department. This all still rolls up to him and many people here are angry that he doesn't even acknowledge that he could have some responsibility overseeing all of this. They would like to see not only Florida's department of law enforcement getting involved looking at the response, they would like to see Israel gone. And this is the majority of opinions I hear. And they would like to see some other entities. Some suggested the justice department because they believe it has been so badly handled. They definitely don't believe the sheriff's office can continue with the investigation.
SCIUTTO: And of course, there were missed warning signs by the FBI as well.
Kaylee, now I know that students are going back to school on Wednesday. I have spoken to students who told me they won't go back there. They will make this their cause. But you are at open house today ahead of their arrival at school. Some saying whether perhaps emotionally it is too soon. What are you hearing from students and teachers?
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, in the lead-up to this afternoon, many students and teachers expressed anxiety to me. They didn't know how they would feel. How they would react. Being back on Stoneman Douglas' campus for the first time since February 14th.
But after an afternoon in which many students were reunited with their classmates and their teachers for the first time, had the opportunity to retrieve belongs left in place, like backpacks, laptops, even wallets and cell phones. Yes, of course, it was a difficult day for many. But many telling me
there was more happiness than sadness. Among them, I asked history teacher, Greg Pittman, to share with me the message he had for his students today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[19:05:20] GREG PITTMAN, TEACHER, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: I'm just letting my kids know, you know, that I'm there. Everybody is giving everybody hugs. Everybody is quite relieved to see each other. Some of them are asking me, because we were about to have a world history for World War II test on Thursday, and a couple of some kids said, are we still having the test? And I said, I don't know, we will see. And I'm kind of joking with them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARTUNG: Mr. Pittman went on to say when they come back to class on Wednesday, it will not be class as usual. It will take time for the focus to be back on academics.
Superintendent Robert Ransy telling us he wants to be as flexible and as accommodating as possible to the individual needs of each student and teacher. That may mean counsellors in classrooms or even service dogs. Maybe perhaps stress reduction exercises like yoga if needed.
Jim, the healing process here continues. And we know it so long road ahead for this community.
SCIUTTO: No question. Thank you, Kaylee, Martin Savidge, in the wake of the Parkland shooting.
Of course, President Trump is doubling down on his proposal to arm teachers who suggesting quote "that adept and highly trained teachers with guns could help prevent future school shootings".
CNN's Boris Sanchez is live at the White House tonight with that part of our story.
What did the President have to say on this today?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Jim. Yes, President Trump reiterating this idea about hardening schools. It is not really something that's new, if you recall, back on the campaign trail n 2016. The President brought this up saying that there should not be gun-free zones at schools or at military basis. He actually promised to do away with gun-free zones on his first day in office. And now, in light of the Parkland shooting, he has brought this idea back up with the new twist that teachers should receive bonuses for taking on these new responsibilities. It is an idea that the President argued for again on FOX News. Here is more of what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When these crazy people who are cowards, when they hear or know that randomly you will have maybe 20 percent of the teachers, 15 percent of teachers inside having concealed and these are experts at what we are talking about, they will never go into the building. You will never have this problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Now critics of course have argued that some of these mass shooters are suicidal. So teachers being armed may not make a difference. There may be security complications with teachers that don't have proper training. Having those kind of firearms in schools and further how exactly is a program like this going to be funded. No clarity on those issues there yet.
I should tell you Jim that President right now is actually hosting governors from all across the nation at a governor's ball here at the White House. Tomorrow there is going to be a discussion between the governors and President school security certainly will be one of the topics that is brought up, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Whenever the governors coming to D.C. We understand that even the Republican governor of Florida does not agree with the President's plan to put guns and teachers hands. Governors from both parties now gathering in Washington this weekend. They say they haven't been consulted on this.
Does the President have the sort of perseverance on this issue to stick with it? Or does he expect to marshal governor support behind this plan?
SANCHEZ: That's good question. And there may be a route to do that through funding. Some have suggested offering incentives to states or local municipalities as a way to get them to enact these sorts of programs. Deputy press secretary Raj Shah was asked about how this might look, how funding for this program might look. He said that this idea with still in early stages and that there was still things to work out before a full plan could be rolled out.
There is another big question at play here, too. If there is enough legislative drive in Congress to get something done, not only on the issue of perhaps earning teachers but also bomb stocks and strengthening background checks. We should point out that neither majority leader Mitch McConnell nor House speaker Paul Ryan have really backed any sort of gun control idea after the Parkland school shooting. The question is will Congress take this up when they get back in session - Jim.
SCIUTTO: No question. That is a big question.
Boris Sanchez at the White House.
Well, joining me now is one of those congressman, Democratic congressman Dan Kildee of Flint, Michigan. Thanks congressman for joining us thon Sunday evening.
REP. DAN KILDEE (D), MICHIGAN: Thank, Jim.
SCIUTTO: I know that last October in the wake of the Vegas shooting massacre, you introduced legislature to ban bump stocks. I followed that quite closely. You been talking to Republicans who were interested at the time. But in the end they punted it to the ATF. You have you the sort of rules review process under way. But any sort of momentum there was for a bump stock ban at that time faded away. Do you sense that after the Parkland school shooting, that the momentum is measurably different?
[19:10:09] KILDEE: Well, I hope it is. You know, I have to admit to being somewhat skeptical. Because I have seen too many times that Republican leadership seems willing to protect members from having to vote on these tough issues by never putting them on the floor. My bump stock bill which I wrote with three other members of Congress, two Democrats and two Republicans, was ready to go until the NRA stopped it. And at that point in time, any momentum that that legislation had went, you know, went down the tubes.
So I would like to be proven wrong and I think most of us would. It feels different in some ways. Perhaps there is kind of accumulative effect that, you know, after what happened at Sandy Hook and, you know, after the terrible shooting in Las Vegas and we have seen the Pulse nightclub shooting, so any of these, that maybe at some point in time people say, you know what, we have got do something. I'm getting some of that back home.
SCIUTTO: That to be fair. You know this well, even when Democrats controlled at least one House of Congress in the wake of Sandy Hook and add Democratic President, President Obama, were not able to get through gun legislation.
Is your party, are you or members of your party zeroing in on one or two measures to focus attention and political capital on right now whether it is bump stocks or age limit for purchasing firearms? What are you going to prioritize?
KILDEE: Well, I think we ought to start with what the American people have spoken loud and clear on. That is to go to universal background checks. As it stands right now, a really big significant percentage of gun sales happen without any background check. The American people want that change. We ought to do that.
But we have to look at other things. I think that dealing with high capacity magazines, dealing with the fact that these bump stocks are still out there. There are many things we ought to do. We ought to start with the places where we agree. And reserve the real argument and debate over those tougher issues and one of them of course is an assault weapon ban which I support but I think is somewhat more divisive.
We ought to be putting all of these things on the table, all on the floor of the House of Representatives and let the will of the American people be manifest in policy.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this, because I know you are talking to your colleagues there, both Democrat and Republican. To be fair, yes Republicans often stood in the way of legislation but there are many Democrats out there not particularly excited about gun control measures. They are as concerned about their NRA rating as some Republican counter parts.
Do you, as you are speaking to fellow members, do you get commitments from them to stick with it this time? What is the talk behind the scenes about getting a measure through this time because I know, I imagine, that folks back home are listening tonight and saying we have been here before. Show me why this is different.
KILDEE: Well, I think individual members are ready to vote for change. I think the real question is whether or not, and this sounds partisan, but it's really not. I think you understand whether the Republican leadership is going to be willing to allow these votes to be cast on the floor of the House and Senate. If they do, I think the commitment is there to get something done and get something really meaningful.
But I have to admit, you know, I want this to happen. I want this change to take place. And I want the Republican leadership to do the right thing. But I'm a bit of a skeptic, you know. And for those who are not willing, I suggest they just find a different line of work. This is what we are supposed to do. This is why we run for these jobs to make hard choices. And to listen to what the American people want. Listen those kids from Florida. And take action.
If a member of Congress is so petrified of the NRA, that they are not willing to take them on when they know in their gut and in their heart it is the right thing to do, they should just find another line of work.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. Because as you know, the President visited some of the survivors of the Parkland shooting. And the President's reelection campaign is now using a photo of the President with one of those survivors, in the hospital, as part of an email to ask recipient to donate money to his campaign, and perhaps understandably, we are less than two weeks beyond shooting here, there is some outrage over this.
What is your reaction to this photo, which we are seeing on our screen right now being used in a fund-raising pitch?
KILDEE: Well, it is pretty hard to take. What makes it hard for me to take is that h is a President who says a lot of things and in this case is trying to communicate he is somewhat sympathetic. I tell you, his sympathies would mean more if they translate need policy that would stop the next shooting from taking place. So I find it grossly hypocritical for the President of the United States to claim any moral high ground on this issue when he so far has been nothing but -- has offered nothing but words, and in this case, a picture. How about a change in policy, Mr. President?
[19:15:09] SCIUTTO: Congressman Dan Kildee, thanks you for taking the time tonight.
KILDEE: Thank you, Jim.
SCIUTTO: And coming up, CNN goes one-on-one with the Florida sheriff under fire for how his agency responded at a school shooting in Parkland. His response to reports that his office missed repeated warning signs and why he still thinks he has shown amazing leadership.
[19:19:35] SCIUTTO: Tonight, there was growing backlash against the Florida sheriff whose department missed repeated signs that they have prevented that school massacre that left 17 people dead. Seventy-four Republicans are now calling for his suspension. But Broward County sheriff Scott Israel says he will not resign and he defended his quote "amazing leadership" during blistering interview on CNN' "STATE OF THE UNION." Have a look.
[19:20:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: On November 30th, fewer than three months ago, your office received a call from a tipster explicitly saying that Cruz could be a quote "school shooter in the making." According to notes released on that call. No report was even initiated.
At this point, sir do you understand how the public seeing red flag after red flag after red-flag warning after warning after warning, they hear that your office didn't even initiate a report when they got a call saying this guy could be a school shooter in the making? How could there not even be a report on this one?
ISRAEL: Well, if that's accurate, Jake, there needed to be a report, and that's what we are looking into. That a report needed to be complete. It needed to be forwarded to our either homeland security or violent crimes unit and they would have followed up on it.
TAPPER: That's from your notes. Notes released by your office. I'm not making this up. This is from Broward --
ISRAEL: No, and that's what -- the officer who handled that is on restrictive duty and we are -- that's an active internal investigation and we are looking into it. I can't tell you -- I can't predict how an investigation is going, but I have exercised my due diligence. I led this county proudly as I always have. We have restricted that deputy as we look into it.
You know, deputies make mistakes. Police officers make mistakes. We all make mistakes. But it is not the responsibility of the general or the President, if you have a deserter. You look into this. We are looking into this aggressively and justice will be served.
TAPPER: Are you really not taking responsibility for the multiple red flags that were brought to the attention of the Broward sheriff's office about this shooter before the incident whether it was people near him, close to him, calling the police on him --
ISRAEL: Jake, I -- Jake, I could only take responsibility for what I knew about. I exercise my due diligence. I have given amazing leadership to this agency.
TAPPER: Amazing leadership? ISRAEL: Yes, Jake. There's a lot of things we have done throughout.
This is -- you don't measure a person's leadership by a deputy not going into. These deputies receiving training they needed.
TAPPER: Maybe you mentioned somebody's leadership by whether or not they protect the community. In this case, you have listed 23 incidents before the shooting involving the shooter and still nothing was done to keep guns out of his hands, to make sure that the school was protected to make sure you are keeping an eye on him. Your deputy at the school failed. I don't understand how you can sit there and claim amazing leadership.
ISRAEL: Jake, on 16 of those cases, our deputies did everything right. Our deputies have done amazing things. We have taken this in the five years I have been sheriff, we have taken the Broward sheriff's office to a new level. I work with some of the bravest people I have ever met.
One person at this point, one person didn't do what he should have done. Yes, it is horrific. The victims here, the families, I pray for them every night. It makes me sick to my stomach that we have a deputy that didn't go in. Because I know if I was there, if I was on that wall I would have been the first in along with so many other people.
TAPPER: I think a lot of people, sir, who think a lot of mistakes other than that one deputy.
Let me ask you something else. A lot of people in the community noted that the Broward county school board entered into an agreement, when you were sheriff in 2013, to pursue the quote "least punitive means of discipline against students." This policy encouraged warnings, consultations with parents and programs and conflict resolution, instead of arresting students for crimes. Were there not incidents committed by the shooter as a student, had this new policy not been in place that otherwise would he have been arrested for and not able to legally buy a gun?
ISRAEL: What you are referring to is the promise program. And it is giving this school -- the school, the school has the ability under certain circumstances not to call the police. Not to get the police involved on misdemeanor offenses and take care of it within the school. It is an excellent program. It is helping many, many people. What this program does is not put a person at 14, 15, 16 years old into the criminal justice system.
TAPPER: What if he should be in the criminal justice system? What if he does something violent to a student? What if he takes bullets to students? What if he takes knives to school? What if he threatens the lives of fellow student?
ISRAEL: Then he goes to jail.
TAPPER: But that's not what happened with this shooter. ISRAEL: You are telling me that shooter took knives to schools or
bullets to the school a police knew about it?
TAPPER: I don't know if police knew about it. I know that the agreement that you entered into with the school allowed the school to give the kid excuse after excuse an after excuse --
[19:25:00] ISRAEL: Not for bullets. Not for guns. Not for knives. Not for felonies. Not for anything like that. These are infractions within the school. Small amounts of marijuana. Some misdemeanors. You are absolutely exacerbating it. That's not --
TAPPER: There are teachers at the school who had been told, if you see Cruz, come on campus with a backpack, let me know. Does that not indicate that there is something seriously awry with the promise program if these teachers are being told, watch out for this kid and you don't know about it?
ISRAEL: We don't know that that has anything to do with the promise program. I didn't hear about this until after the fact. I have heard about this information about a week ago. I do know about it. I don't know who the teacher was. It hasn't been corroborated. But that has nothing to do with the promise program.
SCIUTTO: Coming up, declassified, a newly released Democratic memo on Russian meddling comes under sharp attack by President Trump. He says it is bust. But what are the real implications? We are going to discuss that right after this.
[19:30:32] SCIUTTO: President Trump is publicly attacking the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee after the committee released the Democratic memo rebutting GOP allegations of spying abuses at the FBI. Here is President Trump on FOX News talking about congressman Adam Schiff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They will have a committee meeting and he will leak all sorts of information. You know, he is a bad guy. And certainly the memo was a nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Well, the President has also been tweeting of course. He writes quote "the Democratic memo response on government surveillance abuse is a total political and legal bust. Just confirms all the terrible things that were done so illegal, exclamation point."
I want to talk about these memo and these allegations from the president of the legal activity with CNN crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz and CNN political analyst and "Washington Post" congressional reporter Karoun Demirjan. Thanks to you both for taking time-out of your Sundays.
Shimon, the President, other Republicans, dismissing the Democratic take on these charges of surveillance abuse as being a nothing but in fact you and others on our team have been through them. There was news in there, was there not? New information?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Yes, certainly there was. There was, you know, quite a few nuggets of information. But you know,the problem here, mostly for the Republicans, in that their memo didn't paint the full picture of what was going on. And this is exactly what FBI was concerned about.
For instance, you know, what we learned was that the FISA court was aware that Steele dossier was commissioned for political reasons. If you recall, the Republican memo seem to intimate that FISA court was never told that was the case, you know.
Another key thing that we have learned was not only was there a FISA on Carter Page, but the memo then goes on to say that there were some, FBI, opening sub inquiries on other Trump campaign associates which was never publicly said before. We had certainly done some reporting on this, Jim, as you remember. But to have it out there like this publicly was really the first time. And this is sort of what has the FBI so concerned about both of these memos really. And that for the first time, the public gets a window inside FISA court and how it operates and different things that you really need to try and get these warrants and that's why they try to keep all of this so secret.
So certainly the Democratic memo painted a fuller picture whereas, the Republican memo perhaps just gave you a sort of a slice of what was going on during this investigation.
SCIUTTO: And to be clear, Shimon, one of the big charges in the Nunes memo, Republican memo, was that the whole investigation was based on the Steele dossier which had funding from the DNC, Democratic Party, but that the timing belies that, does it not? That the counterintelligence begins before that dossier was submitted.
PROKUPECZ: That's exactly right. The counter intelligence investigations starts in July of 2016. And it is not until September 2016 that Christopher Steele, MI-6, the former MI-6 agent, who compiled and started and worked on this dossier. You put it together, went to the FBI. So it is several months after the FBI opens its investigation that Steele goes to them and raises issues.
SCIUTTO: Now, Karoun, the Steele dossier remains something after target to say the least for Republicans as it applies for the Russia investigation. I want to point to a particular line for the democratic memo. Because it talks about Steele's experience with the FBI and why he was considered a credible source. It reads quote the applications also reviewed Steele's multi-year history of credible reporting on Russia and other hatters including other information dog used in criminal proceedings. This is something that we at CNN reported last year that Steele had previously worked for the FBI, credibly. I believe it was on the FIFA investigation or FIFA rather governing board for professional soccer around the world.
Is that an important point here in terms of Steele having this previous relationship with the bureau?
KAROUN DEMIRJAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Sure. I mean, that's what -- we read now several transcripts of interviews done with Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson in which he talks about this relationship. Also that preexisting where Steele had some knowledge of the FBI which means he went to them directly with the information once he found it. And yes, it has to do with the credibility of the source of the investigation.
Democrats have kind of chilled justice on this which was to both defend the credibility of Steele There was to both defend credibility of Steele and that the sourcing that he put into that dossier which Republicans said argues is faulty and unreliable especially because it was paid for with political money and then also kind of point out that the dossier was not the originating document. It was they are trying to make the point it isn't even the most central thing. Because even Page - I mean, you see the timeline of the counterintelligence investigation. There is an indication in the memo that came out yesterday that Page had actually come back on the FBI's radar screen as early as March of 2016 as well.
So the idea that, you know, this was all well-established. And in the process, anyway, when the dossier came along to corroborate everything and fell into the FBI's consciousness by mid-September. But Democrats are kind of pushing back on both those fronts with Republicans. And so, yes, it is important for the fuller picture to understand all of the elements and Steele's relationships with the FBI is certainly part of that.
[19:35:46] SCIUTTO: And for folks at home if you want it take the time, I recommend reading both of them, right? Because they are both, explains at the core, something a political documents.
But Karoun, I want to ask you one this. You know, lost in the mix of the President's comments on this, the President tweeted in effect that FBI underwent, undertook, rather, an illegal investigation. This is commander-in-chief. How problematic is that? Or how much of an issue is that for the President to accuse the FBI of doing something illegal with this probe?
DEMIRJAN: I mean, it is definitely an issue and the latest chapter in which has been a multifaceted standoff between the President and FBI. You know, that kind of began even before Jim Comey was fired. But certainly this does seem to kick it up a notch if he is directly accusing the FBI of doing something at this level.
But again, this is just, you know, part of the narrative which is that there have been questions about Russian meddling. These questions about ties to the President. Questions about the dossier and everything else. And it is all happening in this very, very politically charged atmosphere with the President at war with his own justice department over the investigations that they are doing. Certainly Democrats and Republicans are still at war with each other. This memo did not resolve the question of whether there are, you know, accused the President of trying to relay the release of it and you are still going to see acrimony on that intelligence panel that actually produced it. So this is certainly adding more fuel to that fire. But we have seen it burning for quite a while.
SCIUTTO: Shimon and Karoun, thanks so much.
SCIUTTO: Coming up, as Olympics in South Korea come to a close, a possible diplomatic opening. A North Korea delegation says that they are willing to talk to the U.S. We are going to have a live report. And that's next.
[19:41:00] SCIUTTO: Overseas this weekend, word that North Korea says at least it is ready to open diplomatic channels, including talks directly with the U.S. That coming from the President of South Korea who says that conversations he had during the Olympics show a willingness at least for talks between Pyongyang and Washington to happen as soon as possible. The American response to that is not an outright no.
I want to get to our senior international correspondent, Ivan Watson.
Ivan, are we seeing the goodwill of the games causing a real chance for some sort of diplomatic breakthrough here? Also, you had that moment where vice president Pence of course was in South Korea. There was talks of talks, and then North Korea pulled out. Is this one more real, I suppose, is the question?
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We don't know yet. And it is interesting. The White House statement has said, well, time will essentially tell. They have said that they are open to talks. As long as the goal is the ultimate denuclearizing of the Korean Peninsula. Basically, North Korea somehow doing away with its nuclear weapons.
So yes, this is the message that has been put out by the South Koreans after the latest rounds of face-to-face talks, face-to-face meeting between the South Korean President and the head of the North Korean delegation shortly before the closing ceremony of the winter Olympics. And the U.S. has always indicated that it would be willing to talk to the North Koreans without preconditions. And the question then becomes denuclearization.
In the past, North Korea made it clear that its nuclear weapons are never going to be a bargaining chip. There is never going to be a discussion if talk of denuclearization is going to be a precondition.
And interesting detail we have learned from a top South Korean official is that when the South Koreans brought up the nuclear weapons at their discussions today, the North Koreans instead of just walking out or refusing to listen as has been the practice in the past they actually sat and listened. So that could be another indicator coming from the North Koreans, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Meaning, the diplomatic tea leaves.
Ivan Watson, thanks very much there from South Korea.
Well, North Korea is just one of many pressing national security concerns for these president. So tonight we would like to try something new in this broadcast. You heard by now that President gets a lot of his information from cable television news. That his twitter feed contains more references to news networks than to his national security staff. And you may have heard the reports that he rarely if ever reads his daily intelligence briefings opting instead for an oral briefing every couple of days instead.
So with all this in mind, we want to share some key national security analysis. And Mr. President, we don't know if you are watching tonight but we hope that you are.
And joining me now is CNN national security analyst and a former national security council adviser to the Obama administration, Sam Vinograd.
Sam, I know you spent two years helping prep President Obama and prep for that president's daily briefing in his administration. With that mind, let's kick off this first edition of the President's daily brief. In your view, what does President Trump need to be focused on first thing tomorrow morning? And if we can, let's start with that threat at the top. I imagine of the list which is North Korea.
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Thanks so much, Jim.
Article One is titled Kim Jong-un is riding out his Olympic victory. Medal count aside, Kim views North Korea's Olympic Games as a win. Images of his sister and North Korea's athletes dominated headlines with much less attention paid to North Korea's legal weapons program. Kim behaved during the Olympics, which was a purposeful move to show that he could literally play nice with other countries while continuing his dangerous behavior. His goal was to normalize North Korea on the international stage and he thinks he succeed. North Korea feels like they have the upper hand on the diplomatic track as evidenced by their announcement about being willing to talk to the U.S. despite canceling their meeting with vice President Pence and meeting directly with the South Koreans. Kim wants to be viewed as calling the shots.
[19:45:42] SCIUTTO: So this is always risky territory. I imagine for both sides. But in your view, would you recommend to the President that the U.S. should be talking directly to the North Koreans?
VINOGRAD: Our strategy is focus on reducing the threat from North Korea. And the fact is Jim, North Korea is continuing its illegal weapons programs. To achieve U.S. goals it will be very important to keep up the pressure. Maintain a coherent policy on what if any preconditions North Korea needs to meet before we invite North Korea to the negotiating table while also encouraging South Korea and others to work with the U.S. on a coordinate approach rather than scarify lateral tracks. We cannot get distracted whenever Kim throws out breakthrough our way.
SCIUTTO: So let's turn now if we can to the second item in our daily brief, Mexico. Neighbor to the south. We just learned last night that the Mexican President scrapped tentative plans for a visit to the White House. This following a tense phone call with President Trump over, you guessed it, the border wall. What more can you tell us about how this went down?
VINOGRAD: Well Jim, in the run-up to the Mexican Presidential election which is in July, we assess a President Pena Nieto as well as six candidate running for President are even less likely to support U.S. request to fund any part of a U.S. Mexico border wall. Campaign are in full swing and 94 percent of Mexicans disapprove of the wall.
SCIUTTO: Definitely I know a sensitive political issue there. How significant is this and its relationship for U.S. national security?
VINOGRAD: I assess that several national security objectives could be in jeopardy if relations with Mexico continue to deteriorate. We are working with Mexico on several fronts countering narcotic, illegal immigration, weapons trafficking and NAFTA renegotiation are also under way. If the border wall funding continues to be a flash point we could see Mexico pull back from discussion on any one of these issues which would be a major downside risk U.S. national security interest.
SCIUTTO: Sam Vinograd, thanks very much.
Coming up, the former model who just ranked number one on the list of Washington's most powerful. Jeanne Moos most tracts the improbable rise of Hope Hicks. That's right after this.
[19:52:24] SCIUTTO: Breaking news, you are looking at pictures just in of President Trump addressing the annual governors ball. This ahead of a meeting Monday in which school safety will be among the big topics following the shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Let's listen into the President at the White House.
TRUMP: Please, thank you.
Well, I want to start by congratulating our great first lady on such a beautiful room. I've never seen it such.
TRUMP: I also want to say that it's an honor to have so many of our tremendously talented governors with us. This is a yearly tradition. And the crowd gets a little bit larger every year. The governors, we are going to have a lot of meetings tomorrow, some very important meetings. We will be talking about Parkland and the horrible event that took place last week. I want to thank Governor Rick Scott of Florida. Rick, please stand
up. You are doing a great job.
TRUMP: And that will be one of the subjects I think will be first on the list because we have to end our entry of what's happening with respect to that subject. So we will be talking about that and many other things. The economy is doing a phenomenally well. I think you have seen numbers that get better and better. They are cutting of regulation has been an incredible event. People are being able now to build. They are building and they are farming. And they doing lots of things that they were having a very hard time doing.
Governor, I see you shaking your head, yes, yes, it's true. We are getting so many compliments. And you know, really, the regulations have kicked in, because I began that right up at the beginning that at the beginning of 13 months. And I have started right from day one. The massive tax cuts that we have just gotten are now starting to kick in, so congratulations.
TRUMP: And I think you are see numbers over the next year to the likes we have not seen in the country for many, many years. Your GDP numbers, as you know, the first quarter or the last quarter for the previous administration was not good. And if you look at it now, we are hitting threes repeatedly, 3.2. And now I think we are going to exceed them like quite a bit. We will find out shortly. But I can tell you definitely over the course of the next couple years, we are going to really be exceeding them.
So I just wanted to congratulate you. You are very, very special people. The job you do is really incredible. And it's not easy. But we are very proud of you. And we are very proud to have you here.
And with that, I would like to ask Brian of Nevada, the governor who has done an excellent job. You are not going to be there much longer. I'm not so happy about that. He said he had enough for a while, whatever the next thing we will be, we don't know, but come on up and say a couple words.
[19:55:37] SCIUTTO: That was the President just moments ago speaking at the Governor's Ball at the White House there. Republican and Democratic governors present. A little number of Democratic governors not attending tonight. The President making a brief mention there of plans on possible gun control measures. We'll continue to follow that story.
Coming up, the President seems poised to take on the NRA over some of his proposals to prevent gun violence, but is that a battle that he will win? We will be back in just a moment.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:00:04] SCIUTTO: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Sciutoo, in tonight for Ana Cabrera.
And we are following mounting backlash tonight against the sheriff whose department missed the warning signs that may have prevented --