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Hope Hicks Expected Before House Intel Committee Tomorrow; Democratic Intel Memo Released, Trump Slams It; CNN Exclusive: Neighbors Of Gunman Speak Out, Reveal What They Told Sheriff Deputies; $10,000 Reward For Missing CDC Doctor, If You Have A Tip Call 404-577- TIPS. Aired 11-12a ET
Aired February 26, 2018 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:43] DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT NEWS SHOW HOST: This is CNN tonight, I am Don Lemon. It is 11:00 here on the east coast and we are live with the breaking news for you tonight. White House communications Director Hope Hicks, one of the President's closest long-time aides, set to appear behind closed doors to face a House Intelligence Committee in just a matter of hours. She was on air force one when the initial misleading statement about Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with Russians was crafted and she is going to face tough questions about that. And other contacts between Trump associates and the Russians. I want to bring in now CNN's senior White House correspondent Mr. Jeff Zeleny, he joins us live. The word out is that Hope Hicks, the President's communications Director, will testify for the House Intelligence Committee tomorrow. What do you know about that?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Don, she is scheduled to testify tomorrow. This is something that has been awhile in coming. We do know Hope Hicks has sat down for hours with the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and his team of lawyers. And she is scheduled to be on Capitol Hill tomorrow answering questions from the House Intelligence Committee, but it is an open question if she takes any questions. What I mean by that is Steve Bannon, the former chief strategist of the White House, was also appearing before the House Intelligence Committee several weeks ago, essentially declining to answer questions, citing executive privilege there. So it's unclear if Hope Hicks will answer questions tomorrow or simply show up to this meeting and say she can't answer questions. So that is something that we will find out tomorrow as the day goes on. Don, it's important to point out a closed hearing. This is not a public or open hearing, so we won't see her face the members of congress. But we are expecting her there. We'll see if she answers these questions, again about the original meeting that was happening in 2016 in Trump tower with the Russian operatives and some campaign officials.
LEMON: So Jeff, the White House held its first press conference today since the former Trump campaign Deputy Rick Gates agreed to cooperate with the special counsel on Friday. What did the White House say?
ZELENY: White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was asked about that. And of course this comes after the chants on Friday of "lock her up," the old Hillary Clinton chants from the CPAC conference when the President was speaking, was happening about the same time that a top former campaign official was pleading guilty. So the White House was very quiet about that on Friday. But this is what Sarah Sanders had to say today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, I think that those are issues that took place long before they were involved with the President. And anything beyond that, because those are active investigations, I'm not going to go any further than that. The actions that are under review and under investigation took place prior to him being part of the President's campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: So Sarah Sanders there trying to answer the question saying it took place beforehand, but the reality is Rick Gates, if you remember, was a top campaign official. He traveled with candidate Trump throughout the fall campaign cycle, worked on the transition, and then worked for the super pac supporting the President after that. It's pretty difficult to distance the President from him. We do not know if there was any evidence of collusion that is still being investigated. Certainly that was the most important, if you will, campaign official as of this point to a pleading guilty.
LEMON: So the Democratic rebuttal to the Nunes memo was released over the weekend. What's the reaction had been from the President?
ZELENY: The President, not surprisingly, was calling this a politically motivated memo. This comes a couple of weeks after the big release of the Republican memo. Both of them were politically motivated, of course, with their own lens. The President finally decided to release the redacted view. He went on a Fox News show on Saturday evening, the first President ever, we believe, at least in this administration, or one that we can remember, to call into a show, the Judge Jeanine show, and he pushed back against Adam Schiff, of course the ranking Democrat on the committee, he called him all kinds of names, said this is a simply Democratic politics at its worst here. So he was simply blaming Adam Schiff for this.
[23:05:00] But the reality here, when you look at those memos side by side, the Republican memo and Democratic memo, it's clear the underlying situation here depends on which way you're viewing it. The President went hard after the Democrats there. But there is very decent and good reason to believe that that Democratic memo trying to equal things out here in terms of the justification for that FISA warrant. It certainly underscored that all this investigation was going on long before that dossier was ever presented. So the President not surprisingly dismissing it as pure 2politics. Of course he doesn't have the final word on this, Don.
LEMON: Absolutely. Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much.
Join me, Congressman Eric Swalwell, California Democrat and member of an intelligence committee. Congressman, thank you so much. White House communications Director Hope Hicks expected to appear before the House Intelligence Committee tomorrow. What are you going to ask her about?
REP ERIC SWALWELL, (D) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Don, we can't confirm any witness's appearance. However Miss Hicks is a relevant witness in this investigation, because of her role in the campaign during the transition and all the way up until present day. She certainly was very close to the President by all accounts. And someone who I think can tell us about the President's knowledge of meetings that occurred among his family members with Russians, any knowledge the President had of interference in the campaign that was taking place, as well as that June 9th meeting at Trump tower and how the White House responded to it a year later when it became public.
LEMON: Do you anticipate that she will cooperate or do you think Hicks will model her appearance after Steve Bannon, who has been less than forth right with your committee?
SWALWELL: Not just Steve Bannon. Also Donald Trump Jr. has invoked a new privilege that we've never heard of, the father-son privilege. Roger Stone has refused to give us information we have ask for and Corey Lewandowsky, who never served in the White House, is asserting some sort of new executive privilege. I hope we're just consistent, because seems to me now that the only reason my Republican colleagues were so eager to have Steve Bannon come in and bring him under subpoena was to dance on his political grave, because he was an enemy of theirs. Not because they were trying to be consistent and do all we could to get to the bottom of this and make sure we have any witness who refuses to testify, force them to provide information.
LEMON: The intelligence committee met earlier today. What can you tell us about the session?
SWALWELL: It was non-Russia related. We do -- most of our work is not related to Russia so it had mostly to do with our budget and the future. Right now, I hope that we can be unified in agreeing that as we put a spending plan forward in the next few weeks that we dedicate more money than we ever have before to Russia interference or any other type of interference, because we've done nothing since Russia attacked us. I'm afraid that is also going to attract other countries with similar capabilities who will look at us as having blood in the water and they will be ready to strike. It's time that we start giving resources to county and state election boards, but also to make sure that the FBI can work with social media platforms and any individuals who receive information about election interference.
LEMON: The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, was asked about former Trump campaign deputy Rick Gates and other Trump associates pleading guilty to special counsel Robert Mueller. She claimed they pleaded guilty to issues that happened long before they were involved with the President but that is not accurate. We know Gates was caught lying to investigators just last month. What's your reaction to the White House's claim?
SWALWELL: Bob Mueller is stacking up guilty pleas and every person who pleads guilty or is indicted is relegated to being a coffee boy or a distant volunteer of the campaign. I think this is what you would expect. People want the President to just come clean with the American people. Sit down with Bob Mueller, no multiple choice question and answer, submit it in writing, and phone a friend type of scenario. Just come clean with the American people.
LEMON: Ivanka Trump told NBC today that she had not been interviewed by the special counsel. Is the investigation getting closer to the oval office?
SWALWELL: It certainly looks that way. You know Don, and it's not just the President's family. He has had contacts among people on his campaign, people who worked for the Trump organizations with Russian for a very, very long time. This will be a classic bottom-up prosecution to make your way from the bottom individuals all the way to the top. You don't want to confront the target of an investigation until you know absolutely everything. That is probably why the President's doing everything he can to avoid being questioned.
LEMON: You think that is what Mueller is doing?
SWALWELL: That is what it appears to be.
LEMON: The Democratic response to the Nunes memo released over the weekend, finally, because there has been some time, are you satisfied with that redacted version? Did it prove in your estimation that the FBI did not abuse their power by surveilling Carter Page?
SWALWELL: It's the memo we never wanted out there in the first place. But when the Republicans put out their falsities to undermine the FBI, there was a responsibility to tell the American people the truth.
[23:10:05] Now of course we'd want everything to be out there that is relevant. But we worked with the Department of Justice, something that they weren't willing to do. I think the picture is quite clear. The FISA application had an arsenal of evidence on Carter Page. The actual Russia investigation began well before Carter Page landed their radar, because George Papadopoulos was over in London receiving and being previewed information that Russians had on Hillary Clinton. Which would later be anonymously disseminated. So I think it's time to move on, Don. Let's start getting witnesses back in the chair. As I mentioned earlier, put reforms in place so that the American people don't have to go through a mess like this again.
LEMON: President Trump responded to the release of the Democrats memo on twitter, he wrote this and said, the Democrat, I think that should be Democratic, the Democrat memo response of government surveillance and abuse is a total political and legal bust, just confirms all the terrible things that were done, so illegal. You say it does the opposite. Explain that.
SWALWELL: So legal, Don, so legal is how I respond. It's important for the American people to know a FISA application is the beginning of an investigation. It's not the closing argument that goes to the jury. So this is how you get to the next step to make it into court and to present a case to the jury. They had more than exceeded that legal standard. This is the President and his team willing to torch every floor at the FBI building just to save themselves. The collateral damage is if this continues, the legitimacy of law enforcement is going to erode. We must protect against that.
LEMON: Congressman, thank you for your time.
2SWALWELL: Of course, my pleasure.
LEMON: When we come back, after a guilty plea from his one-time deputy, special counsel Robert Mueller seems to be closing in on Paul Manafort. How Rick Gates' flip could change the course of the investigation. That is next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 2
[23:15:58] LEMON: Hope Hicks expected to go before the House Intelligence Committee tomorrow, but will she actually answer any questions? Let's discuss now with CNN contributor John Dean, former counsel for the Nixon White House. And CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin. Robert Mueller's former special assistant at department of justice. Gentlemen thank you for joining us this evening. John, few people are closer to the Trump family than Hope Hicks, without actually being a member of the family. What do you expect from her testimony tomorrow? What does the House Intelligence Committee most want to learn from her?
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I would frankly be very surprised if she doesn't invoke some kind of privilege. And refuse to testify. If Bannon is reluctant to do so, he really has no privilege. She is still employed, she is very close to the President, so she does theoretically have a privilege. But remember, the only person that can truly invoke the privilege is the President himself. He has to instruct and then tell the committee, ultimately, why he objects to the testimony. So I think something will happen. And we'll see how far the committee pushes.
LEMON: So Michael, when Steve Bannon appeared before the committee, he actually conferred with the White House counsel during his testimony. Do you think Hicks will be more cooperative than Bannon was?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Probably not. I think, though, that it's not inappropriate for a witness to confer with White House counsel, to ask whether or not the President is interested in asserting privilege with respect to a question that was put forth to her. They can't do it preemptively. The President really needs to assert that privilege. And we'll see how it plays out. I think, though, in answer to the question you asked John as well, my thought might be that one of the key areas that they'll want to inquire of Hicks is the June 9th meeting that Jared Kushner and Manafort and Don Jr. attended with five Russians. And then the follow-up memorandum or press release, I guess, that was drafted on air force one that she and Jared and the President, now President, drafted, which was untruthful. I think that will be important to them to try to get to the bottom of that. I don't think as to those things really any privilege attaches.
LEMON: John, today the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, defended President Trump's decision to bring Rick Gates, Michael Flynn, 2George Papadopoulos, onto the campaign, saying that their crimes occurred before their time with the campaign. That is not entirely an accurate statement, is it?
DEAN: It is not entirely accurate, in fact, it's an inaccurate statement. When she made that statement, I had a thought that Ron Ziegler, who was Nixon's White House press secretary, shared with me. He said, you know, I can't lose credibility with the press. That is why at one point he literally says "all my prior statements are inoperative." He had to confess that. When everything -- many of his statements were shown to be wrong. And he did maintain a credibility with the press throughout. It was quite remarkable. Even when Nixon was in his final days and sinking, Ziegler was actually really close to being his chief of staff and head policy guy, yet briefing the press occasionally. He did keep his credibility, because he was honest with them to the degree he could be. He was a good dodger too, though.
LEMON: I thought you had a great observation about Gates' guilty plea on twitter. Here's what you wrote. You said, Mueller's throwing everything he can against Manafort, including Gates who can nail him, appears Manafort is the link to Russian collusion, if Gates can testify that Manafort was acting with Trump's blessings it's the end of his presidency, that is substantial. That would take a lot of connections that we don't yet know. Explain what you mean by that.
DEAN: Well, I was first thinking about how Mueller has really thrown everything he can at Manafort and Gates until Gates finally yielded. And he clearly wants them.
[23:20:00] He clearly knows there's something there. And I think he would not have taken this case on had he not thought there was something serious at the root of it and he is going after it. I think that Comey probably knew more than we know. That investigation had been going on a good while before Comey stepped aside and Mueller stepped in. And so they know much. And there's something here that is very serious. And I think Gates is the link to it. And they've got something now they can really squeeze Manafort with.
LEMON: So what do you think, Michael, do you think Manafort is a link that could lead to the end of the Trump presidency?
ZELDIN: I can't go there yet, there's no evidence that suggests that. I don't disagree with John's speculative analysis, I think it's fair enough. I think that what is sort of problematic for me in some sense is what I don't know is whether Manafort has information that he can bring forth on what we'll call the counter intelligence investigation versus evidence that he can bring forth on what's been called the collusion investigation. Those things are separate. We saw in the Russian indictment that, that was a counterintelligence indictment. It said that Russians were acting against the democracy that we have here in the United States. Collusion is different. That implies a conspiracy between two sides. Whether Manafort has information about the first and not the second, or both, just for me is something that remains to be seen. I'm happy to wait and see how Mueller addresses these things. LEMON: So Ivanka Trump spoke to NBC news about the Russia
investigation. Here's what she said, take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IVANKA TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S DAUGHTER: Consistently we've said there was no collusion, there was no collusion, and we believe that Mueller will do his work and reach that same conclusion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've been interviewed by the special counsel yet?
I. TRUMP: I have not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Michael, do you think Robert Mueller will be looking into -- looking at the interview of Ivanka Trump, looking to interview her in the future?
ZELDIN: I would think so. I would think that everybody who's a close adviser of the President that may have factual evidence to give to Mueller to allow him to conclude all aspects of his mandate will be brought into the grand jury or in an agreed-upon, informal interview. I don't think that there's any reason to think that she would be immune from that. Because there's no real basis to conclude that she doesn't have information. She was present at some key moments in the election, in the transition. And now perhaps even in the White House. So I think it's just waiting for her time to come.
LEMON: John what do you think? I'll give you the last word.
DEAN: I would agree with that. She might, again, try executive privilege. Because of her role at the White House. But it certainly doesn't go to the transition or the campaign.
LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate it.
When we come back. An exclusive interview with the Florida shooter's neighbors. Her children grew up alongside Nikolas Cruz. Why she says she knew he was going to kill people and even considered moving, because of him.
[23:27:42] LEMON: Breaking news on the Florida high school massacre, and it is a CNN exclusive. Neighbors of the gunman are speaking out tonight revealing shocking stories and more missed warning signs before 17 people were killed in the Valentine's Day rampage. I want to bring in now CNN's Rosa Flores in Parkland for us tonight, Rosa good evening. This woman who lived across the street from Nikolas Cruz, their children played together, did they have any indication he would do something like this?
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well you know she says she started seeing the signs Don, very early on. She says that Cruz started killing toads in her front yard. Then he started using his bb gun to shoot at squirrels and rabbits and other small animals. He'd never look her in the eye, he was very destructive, and he destroyed property. She says it was until she saw him over her dog max as the dog was convulsing and foaming at the mouth that Cruz had this weird, eerie look in his eyes, almost wild, she described it, that she knew that he had a darker side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FLORES: What is going through your mind?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That he was pure evil. That I had to keep my kids away from him. Enough where I was actually going to move when he turned 18. I did not want to live down the street from him knowing he was going to own a gun. I wanted to move. That shortly before he turned 18, they moved, so I kind of feel like I dodged a bullet with him. Once he moved, I didn't have contact. But my husband and I both knew that it was not over. That we would eventually see him one day on the news. Wearing an orange jumpsuit. Being charged with murder. We both knew it. I didn't know exactly how it would happen or how soon it would happen. But I had no doubt in my mind that it would happen.
FLORES: That is chilling.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FLORES: Don, she says that she just knew. She can't explain it. She just knew that he would eventually end up killing people.
LEMON: Oh my gosh, so Rosa, Joelle made a call to 911 in 2016 expressing concern to authorities about Cruz's violent tendencies. Nothing ended up being done, why was that -- tell us more about this call. \
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, we had heard about the call, Don. But until now, until we talked to her, we know more of these chilling details. She says she was in her kitchen, her son walked in showing her a post that Cruz had posted on Instagram showing an AR-15 style rifle, Cruz saying he couldn't wait to turn 18 so he could purchase this gun. Then later, another post saying that he wanted to shoot up a school. That is when this woman said she picked up the phone and called 911.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FLORES: In hindsight, do you wish that deputy would have listened to your plea?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well -- I think he listened. But I felt at the time that he couldn't do anything. Because what he explained was that it was not an immediate threat. And he was only 17 at the time. So he didn't own a gun. He basically told me that there was nothing he could do unless he carried out a threat. Unless something happened. FLORES: In this case, unless he shot a school.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
FLORES: Because that is what you were talking about.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Basically, yes. After he left, I just felt completely helpless and frustrated. I didn't know where else to turn. I told my husband that I wanted to move. I did not want to stay in this house when Nikolas turned 18. I did not want to be here. I was really afraid for my family, for my animals, for myself.
FLORES: So take us through that phone call. What happens when you decide to pick up the phone and call 911?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it was building up to that point. He had posted a picture of a gun that he wanted to buy. With a caption that read he couldn't wait to turn 18 so he could buy this gun. And later he posted something else about wanting to shoot up his school. So I talked to people about it. I finally came to the decision to call 911.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FLORES: Don, she says when she heard about the shooting at Douglas Stoneman high school, she says she immediately knew that it was Nikolas Cruz. Before authorities released the name, she says she knew it was him.
LEMON: Rosa, thank you so much for that, I appreciate it.
When we come back, the school resource officer who stood by while Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people is telling his side of the story for the first time. We tell you what he is saying in his own defense.
[23:37:27] LEMON: President Trump today slamming the school resource deputy who stood by during the shooting at Stoneman Douglas saying he "choked." the officer breaking his silence amid news of more missed red flags. I want to bring in now Chris Swecker, former assistant Director at the FBI's criminal investigative division and former FBI agent Stuart Kaplan. Gentlemen thank you for joining me this evening. Chris, Rosa Flores reported about another example of a warning that went unheeded, what needs to change in our systems and who is responsible for this breakdown, ultimately?
CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIVE DIVISION: Don, it was just a tragic system-wide failure from two different sheriff's departments to the FBI to child welfare, the school resource officer, the school itself, our legislators. It's a clean sweep across the board. I hear a bunch of half-measures being discussed as solution. What we really need is a consolidated solution, incorporating a bunch of different things, everything from fixing the nics system, which is broken, to conducting effective school threat assessments, being able to get restraining orders just like you would get a domestic violence restraining order, being able to go into the house and pull the guns out in that case. There's a whole host of solutions here. And I don't hear a lot of them being discussed. I hear a lot of politics.
LEMON: Stewart, you spoke with Sheriff Israel today saying there was information not released about Cruz and a mental health evaluation. What can you tell us about that and why wasn't it released?
STUART KAPLAN, FORMER FBI AGENT: Well I spoke to the sheriff this morning and I can tell you that Nikolas Cruz was referred to a mental health facility for an evaluation. And that was pursuant to what the sheriff's office is supposed to do in these type of cases. The behavioral health center examined Mr. Cruz and from what my understanding is that they cleared him, meaning that he was not a danger to himself nor a danger to the community. And they basically gave him a clean bill of health. At that point, unfortunately, law enforcement's hands are somewhat tied. There's not much you can do at that point.
LEMON: You know, Chris, we are just hearing from Scott Peterson today, Scott Peterson, the armed school resource officer and sheriff's deputy criticized for not entering the school as that shooting went on. In a statement through his attorney, he attempts to explain why Peterson failed to enter the school, here's what he said.
[23:40:00] Mr. Peterson initially received a call of firecrackers and not gunfire in the area of the 1200 building. Upon arriving at 1200 building, Mr. Peterson heard gunshots, but believed that those gunshots were originating from outside any of the buildings on the school campus. So his boss, Sheriff Israel, said last week he should have addressed and killed the killer. But if Peterson believed the gunshots were outside, did he act according to protocol?
SWECKER: Well, the facts don't seem to bear that out. I mean, apparently he was facing towards the inside of the building when he called in that there were shots being fired. Every resource officer, every law enforcement officer, knows now, here in the year 2018, that when you have a school shooter and you're the armed person on campus, you're the first responder, you go straight to the threat. You take it on. In a world where AR-15s can fire 45 rounds a minute, he sat there for four minutes outside the building that is 180 rounds. That is devastating. So he must have been stuck in some pre-columbine era when you muster up, wait for the SWAT Team, get the intelligence, then methodically go in and do your entry. By that time there's too much damage done, and we know that now.
LEMON: Stuart Kaplan, he goes on to say this, radio transmissions indicated that there was a gunshot victim in the area of the football field, which served to confirm Mr. Peterson's belief that the shooter or shooters were outside. Does this explanation back up Peterson's thinking that the shooter was outside?
KAPLAN: Don, in my opinion, I think Chris would agree with me, it's a pathetic excuse. Anybody who's been around firearms, there is a distinct difference between a gunshot that is heard outside versus gunshots that are heard within a structure. Clearly this guy, for whatever reason -- and by the way, I have the standard operating procedure in my possession for the Broward County Sheriff's office. They had a sound active shooter policy in place. They had the appropriate training and the right resources. It says do the deputy that if, in fact, you are encountered with an active shooter situation, you may enter the area or the structure to preserve life. And I can tell you, and again I would defer to Chris, when I executed search warrants or arrest warrants, the thing that you learn very quickly is that a threshold of a doorway can be a kill zone. The last thing you want is to have someone who walks or pauses at that threshold. I can tell you from my own experience in executing search warrants and arrest warrants there were times we were hitting that door, trying to breach that door, some agents and law enforcement officers would have their doubts and they would freeze. It's part of the unknown human factor. In this particular situation, it is my opinion that this deputy, it was fight or flight, and unfortunately for these children, these minutes that elapsed, he decided to basically standstill and not do what he was required to do, and that was to engage this shooter.
I also want to just comment on, because I think it is very important, this sheriff, Scott Israel, really to me has taken his hits. I think he is a person who has tried to get out in front of this. I think he recognizes the fact that there are some shortcomings with their deputies, and perhaps there were some mistakes made. But I think under any other situation or any other department, I think we'd be talking about this maybe a year down the road, and I have to say that we need to probably show some more support for him trying to take this head-on and accept some responsibility.
LEMON: You think he exhibited the proper leadership?
KAPLAN: I think he is one of the best around. I think he has tried his best --
LEMON: I'm running out of time. I'm going to ask Chris the same question, do you think he is exhibited proper leadership? Because there have been calls for him to step down. He told Jake Tapper he is not doing it.
SWECKER: Yeah, that is a tough one. He is obviously been talking a lot with -- either without facts or knowing the facts to be different. He was early on lecturing the public about see something, say something. We know now the public did see something, did say something. I think he needs to get his facts straight before he starts talking, or just stop talking altogether.
LEMON: All right, I got to go. Thank you both, I appreciate it.
We have news tonight about the students of Stoneman Douglas high school who survived the Valentine's Day shooting rampage. A group of students and alumni met today with Congressman Steve Scalise, the number three House GOP leader in the Capitol Hill office. Congressman Scalise himself was seriously wounded by a gunman targeting a Congressional baseball practice that was last summer. He showed his experiences with the students, but in an interview later, he expressed outrage about some deputies who failed to confront the high school shooter and refused to back a ban on assault weapons calling that "taking away the rights of law abiding gun owners."
[23:45:02] We will be right back.
LEMON: A highly regarded doctor with the CDC disappeared without a trace two weeks ago. And his desperate family is now pleading for health. Dr. Timothy Cunningham left work at the centers for disease control and prevention in Atlanta on February 12th and hasn't been heard from since. So I want to bring in now his parents, Tia and Terrell Cunningham. Thank you so much for joining us. You must be terrified. How are you guys holding up, Tia?
TIA CUNNINGHAM, MOTHER OF MISSING CDC RESEARCHER: Don, I'm really doing the best I can. It's very hard. I just take one day at a time. I thank god, once I get up and start my day. But it is very difficult without Timothy.
[23:50:00] LEMON: I can only imagine, Mrs. Cunningham. Mr. Cunningham, tell us now what police are saying. Do they have any leads about what may have happened?
TERRELL CUNNINGHAM, FATHER OF MISSING CDC RESEARCHER: As of now, we have no real leads. Of course, the police department has been very communicative with us, and all of what has been shared with us, we cannot actually share with the general public. But in terms of being able to tell you I'm positive that Tim will be returned soon, I am not able to do that. But I am prayerful and we are trusting god that our son will be returned safely. And it is only through prayers and support of others that we have actually been able to survive, because this is something that, that you are not trained for. You are not prepped for, and one can never imagine the difficulty that you would experience when you your loved child just disappears. And without any accountability or, idea where he is at. When, when he has such a history of being so responsible. And dependable that I think that is what puts us all at such disbelief we are at this state.
LEMON: Let me ask you, Mrs. Cunningham. I know that you had, you received a text from him early in the morning, but I am not sure about your last conversations with him. Did everything seem ok?
TIA CUNNINGHAM: My last, last communication with him verbally was Sunday, it was, the 11th, last Sunday. It was around like 12:30. I just came back from church. And Timmy called. So I picked, ran in the house to pick of the phone. And I asked him, he said, how are you doing? I am just calling you to check in. And I said, Tim, let me call you back. I have a lot of things in my hands. So, I had a bite to eat. I called him back. And at that time, Tim was, he was fine.
TIA CUNNINGHAM: Yes.
LEMON: Mr. Cunningham. An article in today's "Washington Post" you, said some of the exchanges with your son before his disappearance was concerning, because he was focus several personal and professional issues. Do you mind sharing what you meant, is that?
TERRELL CUNNINGHAM: I can give you some clarity, but I am not able to share. Again, an open case. What Tia has stated. Given the fact that she had a conversation with him at or about 12, noon, later that evening, at or about 7:00 there was a distinct difference in the tone, even voice tone, of the conversation and the text communication that occurred from Timothy to us at, about 7:00. Well to follow on at 7:00 a.m. that morning, Tim did, speak to Tiara, Tiara his younger sister. And I spoke to Tiara as a follow-up, how is Tim doing? It is more or less to see if in fact the same person that I thought we had communicated with earlier, if there was greater clarity. At that point, we still had reasons to be concerned. So, that led to the, to the, intense attempts to communicate to Tim throughout the day on Monday. And it persisted into Tuesday. At which time, we were all making several calls, leaving voice mails, as well as the, sending, text messages. To no avail. We did not have a return.
LEMON: Well, let me just say. You know speaking of that, there is a rumor circulating on the internet your son was a whistle blower and warned about the flu shot not being responsible for this year's, flu shot being responsible for the deadly flu season. That is not correct you. You wanted to correct the record on that. Tell the viewers according to you, has nothing to do with it. And I also understand Mr. And Mrs. Cunningham, crime stoppers, Atlanta crime stoppers offering $10,000 reward for information leading to her arrest on indictment in Tim's case.
TERRELL CUNNINGHAM: That is true. We have had a tremendous outpour with the -- with the gofundme site. And, so the purpose of that, those funds, were to lead into the recovery, the return, rewards, so. We have taken a portion of those funds, and put it towards the -- the $10,000 reward with crime stoppers. The timeline is just not, not normal that a 35-year-old black man, a true professional, disappears.
[23:55:00] There is no, currently, there is no evidence or signs of foul play. Now, we can speak to that, because we were the individuals who entered Tim's home at about 7:00 a.m. on Wednesday. So, all of that information, describing what we found, has been given to the Atlanta police department.
LEMON: There was nothing out of place according to, I read numerous stories, nothing out of place, wallet, keys, and his dog. All there in the apartment. Which makes it even odder. We thank you so much and we hope this helps and we are trying to get the word out for you. Let us know if you can update us. Thank you so much.
TERRELL CUNNINGHAM: Thank you.
LEMON: That is it for us tonight. Thank you for watching. I'll see you right back here tomorrow.