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Trump Supports Concept of Raising Gun-Buying Age Limit; Trump Says He Would Have Stormed School to Stop Gunman; Survivor Shot Three Times Speaks to Press; Trump Pushing His Personal Pilot for FAA Head. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired February 26, 2018 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] QUESTION: -- coaches, administrators, packing heat in school?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That's why we're having this conversation. There are also a lot of parents, and we heard from one of them whose daughter was tragically murdered last week, one of the parents from Parkland who advocated for personnel having guns so there's a lot of different people on both sides of this issue. That's why we're continuing to have these discussions and why we've opened most of them up, so you guys can see exactly where a number of these people are and see that there are a lot of voices on both sides, and we're doing everything we can to bring those groups together, to unify the country and do everything we can to make sure we're taking the biggest and the strongest steps forward in protecting America's kids. I know I said that was the last question, but Jeff, I'll take one last one from you and then we'll call it a day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Sarah. China has moved to get rid of term limits which would allow the president to stay in office indefinitely. What is the White House's reaction?

SANDERS: I believe that's a decision for China to make about what's best for their country. But as you know the president has talked about term limits in a number of capacities during the campaign and something that he supports here in the United States but that's a decision that's up to China. Thanks so much, guys. Hope you have a great day. Maybe we'll do it a little longer after tomorrow after I get a full night's rest.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Sarah Sanders with a more on the brief side White House briefing there. You may have heard her at the end of there say maybe tomorrow will be longer after a full night's sleep. She noted at the beginning, of course she had just returned from South Korea with Ivanka Trump and the delegation that was there for the closing ceremonies. Let's pick apart a little bit what we just heard. Dana Bash, CNN Politics Reporter, CNN politics reporter and editor at large, Chris Cillizza and White House reporter Kate Bennett all with us.

A lot of these questions not surprisingly focused on where the President stands when it comes to some sort of change as a way that this country deals with guns. A number of reporters are really trying to pin Sarah Sanders down here and she continued to make the point, Dana, that this is really right now all about the President listening, that he is talking to a number of different groups to get a feel for where things could go. But when something came up about background checks, it was tough to nail her down a little bit and I know that one really stood out to you, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF REPORTER: It did because as she was speaking, our colleague Ted Barrett sent out a story about the fact that the Democratic leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, laid down the notion that if there's going to be any movement on guns, it's got to be what they call universal background checks, which is what Michael Shear from "The New York Times" was trying to get at with Sarah Sanders. Which is the president talks about strengthening background checks, he said it again today, but their focus has been on bipartisan legislation. John Cornyn, Republican Senator from Texas, along with Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, are pushing to strengthen the existing national instant criminal background check system to do things like make sure that the military puts their information in there, which is something that didn't happen in a previous mass shooting.

[15:35:00] So that is something that the President says he's behind. What Democrats and at least the Democratic leader and other gun control advocates are saying is no, no, no, we need to do more. We need to do something along the lines of legislation that was at least tried but then failed in the Senate after the Newtown massacre, which was to include in the background check system what they call person- to-person sales, private sales either at gun shows or elsewhere, sales on the internet. That is something that the NRA has very, very much opposed. When the president says don't worry about the NRA, we're going to fight the NRA, that is the real test.

HILL: And there's a real question too about the NRA because as we learned earlier today the president had lunch with the NRA over the weekend. As was pointed out in the briefing it wasn't on the schedule and we've now learned since the briefing that that meeting happened on Sunday. Sarah Sanders saying, look, the president is meeting with a lot of people and again saying at the end that's why some of these meetings, obviously not that luncheon, but some of these meetings like we saw today with the governors are open so that in her words you can all see what's going on. Chris Cillizza, is that really what's going on here? We're really pulling back the curtain just to let you see exactly what the conversations are that are happening?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Well, I mean, look, transparency is not partial transparency. We're transparent when we want you to know things and not transparent when we don't. Transparency is we let you know either way. So, no, this is not radical transparency. Barack Obama didn't engage in radical transparency despite promises to and neither did George W. Bush.

But I do think what is interesting is Donald Trump said today in front of the governors that the NRA wants to do something on this. You guys think they're bad. They're really not, they want to do something on this. What's interesting, though, it's not clear what it is the NRA wants to do. They have in the past expressed support for a regulatory solution on bump stocks, not for a legislative solution because I think they're worried about opening Pandora's box, gun legislation in Congress.

They do not want to raise the age to buy a rifle from 18 to 21. They do not as far as I know support the sort of universal background checks that Dana is talking about that Chuck Schumer has said, sine qua non, we have to have this. So, I'm not really sure what he says the NRA wants to do something what that something is and if he knows what that something is or if it's a fake it until you make it situation.

HILL: And that is a the big question. I do want to get back to one point you brought up and that's the age limit. There was a real effort to nail Sarah Sanders down, had something changed in terms of the President's thinking about raising that age limit and, if so, was that change something that came out of the lunch on Sunday with the NRA. Dana, we weren't getting a real clear answer on that, which in some ways is not surprising to Chris's point of transparency, but is this the beginning of backtracking?

BASH: It could be. I mean you know, we'll see. I would not expect Sarah Sanders to say, you know what, yes, he had lunch with the NRA and they convinced him with raising the age limit is a bad idea. It certainly doesn't comport with the other message he's putting out there about the NRA. Look, we'll see. As you and I talked about last hour, Erica, the question about backtracking or continuing to lean forward is going to be even more key this week as Congress actually comes back because most of this does have to be done legislatively.

You know, he says that he can try to sort of eliminate bump stocks by the stroke of his pen. You know, maybe he can to a certain extent, but most of this would have to be done legislatively and this is a Republican-led Congress, and they are the people that he is going to have to take the don't be scared of the NRA message to, and the question is whether he will and how aggressive he'll be with it.

HILL: Kate, one other thing that came up here as well was Ivanka Trump's response. She was asked over the weekend what she thought about her father's proposal to arm teachers. She sort of hemmed and hawed in the answer and then went back a little bit. Sarah Sanders playing to the point of, listen, we're listening to everything right now and see what's going to happen. How important could Ivanka Trump be in that scenario, in that situation?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: I mean I think it depends how important Ivanka Trump wants to be in the scenario. I mean she's already today gone from daughter to diplomat and now she's weighing in on gun control. This is part of her purview perhaps as senior advisor but she certainly you're right did not say one way or the other how she felt about arming teachers. She discussed that if they're qualified to be armed, if they're trained, this could be something worth looking into, but again, she stuck to that line of this is a discussion we need to have, this is something we're going to talk about, but it certainly wasn't absolutely what my father said the other day about arming teachers, I 100 percent agree with him. It wasn't that.

[15:40:00] And I will say today in an earlier interview another Trump child earlier today, Eric Trump, discussed raising the age limit as well. So clearly the Trump children, the adult Trump children are in a way going against their father or haven't quite made up their own minds or are speaking ahead or out of turn perhaps in this ongoing discussion about gun control. So is the first lady, we heard that today too.

HILL: We heard in terms of the first lady a little bit more from her today talking, Kate, about why it's so important to listen to these students and a very pointed question about whether the President is listening. Sarah Sanders point to the listening session the President had. Is that going to be enough moving forward, Chris, in terms of listening to these students who by all accounts and everyone that we speak to, they're not going anywhere any time soon.

CILLIZZA: Yes. What we know, Erica, is that this -- the reaction to this incident looks more like Virginia Tech and more like Newtown than it does many of the other school and mass casualty shootings we had. I mean by that, the interest level. People continuing to talk about it, think about it, write about it has remained relatively high. Usually a sort of falls off a cliff sadly.

The question though is what comes of those things. Some things came from Virginia Tech. In Newtown, legislatively they never even really got a vote. They couldn't vote to end debate on the four proposals in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting. So, the question now is, is there something -- Congress is not going to spend a whole lot of time in Washington this week. You know, with every passing week it becomes that much harder because the reality is some other story, the cameras go somewhere else.

These kids will continue, I think, to speak out. There will be a rally next month in Washington. But Congress tends to work on the urgency factor and with every passing week, there will be a little bit less urgency.

HILL: And that is the sad reality as you point out. Before I let you all go, I do want to get your take on this. Sarah Sanders was asked about what's changed, who lost their security clearance as of today. Sarah Sanders not biting there. Dana, there's a lot of questions whether, not just security clearances in general but obviously Jared Kushner's status.

BASH: Exactly.

HILL: Is there a sense of when we may get an answer, when we may know when he stands?

BASH: Hopefully soon. That is the question, whether or not Jared Kushner is going to keep his interim clearance and, if not, whether or not the President of the United States will just override that, or I should say grant him clearance, which he has the power to do. The president has the power to do that. It will not come without serious blowback.

But there was also a lot of blowback when he put Jared Kushner in the White House, when he put Ivanka Trump in the White House, and so on and so on and so on. He, the president, has not shied away from, you know, controversy and doing things that are against protocol in the past. We'll see if that happens. But first and foremost, you're right, Erica, we have to find out whether or not Jared Kushner's interim clearance has gone away, and we don't know that yet. We're certainly trying to find that out.

HILL: All right, Dana, Kate, Chris, appreciate it all. Thank you.

We are live in Parkland, Florida. Teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High back at work today. One student just released from the hospital after being shot multiple times is now speaking out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) just LT. LAZ OJEDA, CORAL SPRINGS FIRE DEPARTMENT: When they were clearing the rooms, at first, at first sight it was believed that Maddie had deceased. She looked very pale. And at that point officer Fernandez shook her to elicit a response from her. And I believe she gasped or she moved, but she made signs of life.



HILL: One of the students shot in the Florida school massacre speaking out today. Parkland high school basketball player Maddy Wilford, shot at least three times, endured multiple surgeries. She is expected, though, to make a full recovery and today she offered a heartfelt emotional thank you to the first responders she credits with saving her life.


MADDY WILFORD, STUDENT SHOT AT DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: I'm so grateful to be here. It wouldn't be possible without the doctors and first responders and the amazing doctors and especially all the love that everyone is sending. I was thinking about all the letters and gifts everyone has given and just like all the love that's been sent, I definitely wouldn't be here without it.


HILL: CNN's Kaylee Hartung, joins us now live from Parkland, Florida, it's been an emotional day there not just for Maddy Wilford and her family. Teachers back at school. What more are we hearing there?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erica, Maddy Wilford's doctors say she was very lucky to survive the large caliber bullet wounds that pierced through her chest, her abdomen and her right arm, but incredible to see her walk out of that press conference with nothing more visible than a cast on her arm. Her parents stressing while her physical wounds are healing, it will take a lot longer for her emotional wounds to heal.

And that's what everyone in the Stoneman Douglas community is now dealing with. Yesterday was a day that was talked about so positively for the students and teachers. An open house for students to attend with their parents, an opportunity to reunite with classmates and teachers, many for the first time since February 14th. Some telling me there was more happiness than sadness as they were all altogether, drawing strength from within, but today a different sentiment was shared with me by history teacher Gregg Pittman.

[15:50:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREGG PITTMAN, HISTORY TEACHER, DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: It was a very, very, very down and very upsetting day in a way. Teachers are very stressed about being able to do the right thing for their students. People are stressed because, again, today the mood was where some of the teachers had students die in their room and we were meeting with district personnel to try to advise us, and people are just really stressed about having the right thing to do, the right thing to do, on top of the fact that we lost some of our co-workers. We're going to taking those kids into our classes, desks are going to be empty. Tensions were running high.


HARTUNG: Teachers on Stoneman Douglas' campus today and tomorrow preparing for students to resume classes on Wednesday. But Erica, as Mr. Pittman went on to tell me, Wednesday will not be class as usual, it will be a while before academics are the focus in the classroom. That focus continues to be on the emotional healing process that they are all in the middle of.

HILL: Kaylee Hartung, live for us in Parkland, Kaylee, thank you.

Up next, new reports President Trump wants his long-time personal pilot to head up the Federal Aviation Administration. How the White House is now responding to criticism that the appointment would cross ethical lines.


HILL: President Trump's personal pilot is on the short list to head the FAA. According to ask "Axios" the president has been floating the idea among the administration officials although a decision has not been made. CNN aviation and government regulation correspondent, Rene Marsh joins me now. Rene, what are you hearing on this?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: So, I can tell, Erica, that CNN has confirmed with a senior administration official that he is John Duncan, is indeed in the mix. However, nothing is final at this point. In the mix, of course, to head the FAA. The FAA is the agency that oversees regulations, as well as oversight, to make sure that all civil aviation, all planes flying in the air here in the United States air space, it does so, and it does so very safely.

Now, if Trump's private long time private pilot is indeed at the top of the list as "Axios" is reporting, I will tell you this. Speaking to many people in the industry, there are some reservations. Some people are skeptical and here's why. They say although he may be a great pilot with years of experience, he has never served inside the agency. And as one person said to me, the FAA is a very complex organization. This individual, Duncan, would have to deal with huge technology acquisition, essentially talking about technology that's needed to make sure airplanes and systems are all upgraded at airports and things of that sort.

He would have to deal with that. There are a bunch of other issues that he would have to deal with that makes this very complex. Of course, this agency is a huge one. It has a $16 billion budget. More than 45,000 employees. So many of the people within the industry say, yes, he may be a great pilot and they're not questioning that. They're saying being a great pilot and running a huge government agency like the FAA are two very different things.

HILL: All right. We'll continue on watch for more on that. Thank you.

Up next, back to our breaking news. Is the White House now softening its position on an age restriction for gun purchases? This after the president's lunch over the weekend the NRA. More on that in a moment.


HILL: Just coming into us here, President George W. Bush paying his respects to the late Reverend Billy Graham. Graham died last week at the age of 99. People across the country traveling to the Billy graham library in Charlotte, North Carolina to build a final farewell to the evangelist who preached to more than 200 million people across 185 nations during his lifetime. Graham will lie in honor at the US Capitol beginning on Wednesday. He's only the fourth private citizen to receive such an honor, the last was Rosa Parks in 2005. Thanks for joining us this afternoon. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.