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EARLY START

Sheriff On Defense; Democratic Memo Is Out; Weinstein Sales Falls Apart; Democratic Memo Versus GOP Memo; Chemical Used In Syria Strike. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired February 26, 2018 - 04:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[04:00:12] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, I won't resign.

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CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The Broward county sheriff on the offensive. New questions over his department's response of the Florida school shooting and warnings about the gunman.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is important for the public to see the facts and the FBI acted appropriately.

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RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGON CORRESPONDENT: The Democratic memo is out rebutting GOP claims of surveillance abuses of the FBI, the Democrats defend efforts to monitor Trump adviser with ties to Russia.

ROMANS: And breaking overnight. The end could be near for the Harvey Weinstein Film Company. Reports say, bankruptcy protection is the next step. Good morning. Welcome to "Early start." I'm Christine Romans.

NOBLES: And I'm Ryan Nobles. Thank you for joining us. It is Monday, February 26th and it is 4:00 a.m. in the east. Florida Governor Rick Scott ordering an investigation into the law enforcement response to the deadly shooting at Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida. Scott calling for full accountability for the weigh on the Broward Country Sherriff office handle the mass shooting just 12 days ago. The Governor not going as far as dozens of Republican state lawmakers want. They called on the Governor to suspend Sheriff Scott Israel for what they term incompetence and dereliction of duty.

ROMANS: Sheriff Israel says his department will fully cooperate echoing the vow of accountability. Earlier Sunday, Israel rejected calls to step down saying those demands were politically motivated. Despite questions about the actions or lack of actions by his officers and red flags that were missed. The sheriff defending his response.

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JAKE TAPPER, AMERICAN JOURNALIST CARTOONIST: Are you really not taking any responsibility for the multiple red flags brought to the attention of the Broward sheriff's office about this shooter before the indent or people near him or close to him calling police.

SCOTT ISRAEL, SHERIFF OF BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: Jake, I can only take responsibility for what I knew about at the time. I exercised due diligence. I have given amazing leadership to the agency.

TAPPER: Amazing leadership?

ISRAEL: Yes, Jake. There is a lot of things we have done throughout this. You don't measure the person's leadership by a deputy not going into -- these deputies received the training they needed.

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NOBLES: Sheriff Israel under scrutiny for what appears to be several missed chances to intervene before the 19-year-old gunman opened fire. The sheriff's office says it received 23 calls related to Nikolas Cruz or his brother over the past ten years. Two of the calls under especially close review. Both suggesting Cruz might be planning to shoot up a school.

ROMANS: The house and senate return from recess today with the gun violence issue looming. Democrats Congressman David of Rhode Island set to release assault weapons ban. One Democrats source tells CNN the bill has more than 120 co-sponsors. How far it will go in the Republican controlled house remains an open question.

NOBLES: On Sunday, Ivanka Trump was asked about her father's controversial suggestion of arming teachers. She defended the proposal as one possible part of a larger solution.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are a mom of three young children. Do you believe arming teachers would make children safer?

IVANKA TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S DAUGHTER: To be honest, I don't know. Having a teacher who is armed and who cares deeply about her students or his students and who is capable and qualified to bear arms is not a bad idea. It is an idea that needs to be discussed.

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NOBLES: A CNN poll shows 7 in 10 Americans favor stricter gun laws. That is up from 52 percent who said that in October. But the partisan gap sill pretty wide. More stringent gun control favored 93 percent of Democrats, but fewer than half of Republicans.

ROMANS: In a much needed boost to school spirit, the Stoneman Douglas high school hockey team won the state title on Sunday. The victory over the tournament's top seed.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the 17 that passed away out here. It has been a tough week. We came here to win. We all just came together and got the win.

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ROMANS: Stoneman Douglas will compete in the High School hockey national championship next month in Minnesota.

NOBLES: President Trump's re-election campaign is using a photo of the President visiting a survivor of the Parkland massacre to solicit donations. An e-mail was sent Saturday asking supporters for money using a photo of the President and first lady with 17-year-old Madeleine Wilford and a hospital bed surrounded by her family. The solicitation reads making our schools and our children safer will be our top priority. And there is a link to a donation page.

[04:05:00] The campaign did not immediately return CNN's request for comment. E-mails and calls to the Wilford family were not returned.

ROMANS: All right. Customers are pushing companies to cut ties with the NRA. Taking to social media to voice their outrage. Look at the companies here. They are not targeting weapons makers, but people and customers are targeting companies that offer discounts to the NRA and NRA members. A lot of the companies have special treatment for NRA members. The pressure is working here. Symantec and MetLife all ending the relationship with the NRA. One of the first here national bank of Omaha is tweeting that customer feedback caused it to cancel an NRA credit card. Also the latest Delta and United Airlines. We heard from Delta both ending their discounted flights for NRA members. And the NRA has responded here calling this a shameful, shameful response. As shameful display of political of civic cowardice. Adding that this brands will be replaced by those that want customers, consumers that value constitutional freedom. This companies are responding to customers thought, for years, corporate American stayed away from political charge issue by gun control, but now companies are taking a stand on things like, climate change and immigration and gay rights and now on guns. That is actually good for business. A recent poll found that the most important thing for consumers and activists is to buy from companies that do the right thing. Ryan.

NOBLES: Christine, you think this is because companies are targeting millennials in particular?

ROMANS: I absolutely think so. They have a very big cohort of future consumers who are speaking out on guns.

NOBLES: Great. Very interesting. Meanwhile the House Intelligence Committee finally releasing the Democratic memo that rebuts Republican claims of surveillance abuses at the FBI. The White House signing off on the document following the negotiation between the FBI and the committee top Democrat Adam Schiff over what should be redacted. The GOP accuses the Justice Department of using unverified dossier about Donald Trump as the linchpin of its application to conduct surveillance on a one time Trump campaign adviser. But the Democrats memo agues the Justice Department gave the FISA

surveillance court additional information beyond just what the dossier had written about former British intelligence operative Christopher Steele. Also, the Republican memo spearheaded by Devin Nunes accuses the Justice Department of misleading the FISA court. They say the Department of Justice failed to mention the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid in part for the dossier. The Schiff memo says the department gave all of the necessary political contacts and following longstanding practices by not identifying the Americans involved by name. President Trump attacking Adam Schiff in an interview while also dismissing the Democratic memo entirely.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They will have a committee meeting and he will leak information. He is a bad guy. Certainly the memo was a nothing.

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NOBLES: It should be noted the release of the Democratic memo was delayed for weeks for redactions. The White House allowed the GOP memo released quickly over the objections of the FBI.

ROMANS: The Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto calling off his official visit to Washington after a confrontational phone call with President Trump last week. Pena Nieto was planning to meet with the President y early March, but according to the Washington post he canceled his plans after President Trump refused to publicly affirm the Mexico's position that it will not pay for a border wall. The White House official telling CNN in the meeting between the two leaders would be awkward and counterproductive even the president's repeated promise to get Mexico to pay.

NOBLES: President Trump reportedly advocating the death penalty for major drug dealer. Sources telling Axios that the President is a fan of Singapore's capital punishment policy citing their low rates of drug use. The report says he believes a gentler approach to drug trafficking and used is ineffective. The president might also advocate legislation requiring a five year sentence for people who are convicted of dealing as little as 2 grams of the synthetic Opioids Fentanyl. The law currently requires that sentence for people who deal 40 grams or more.

ROMANS: All right. Mona Charen, a conservative columnist standing by her comments that threw an angry response to the conservative political action conference this weekend at the CPAC committee. She was asked what rose her up bout modern feminism.

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MONA CHAREN, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: I am disappointed in people in our side for being hypocrites about sexual harasses and abuses of women or in our party who are sitting in the White House. Who brag about their extramarital affairs and brag about mistreating women. Because he happens to have an "r" after his name, we look the other way.

[04:10:02] We don't complain. The Republican Party endorsed Roy Moore for the senate in the state of Alabama even though he was incredibly accused child molester. You cannot claim that you stand for women --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not true!

CHAREN: And put up with that.

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ROMANS: All right. She had to be escorted out by security. She now says she is happy with what happened. In New York Times op-ed Sunday titled, "I'm glad I got booed at CPAC." She writes, there is nothing more freeing than telling the truth. It must be done again and again by those of us who refuse to be absorbed into this brainless, sinister, clownish thing called Trumpism by those of us who refuse to overlook a fools, fraud and fascists, attempting to glide along in his foot stream into respectability.

NOBLES: We have breaking news right now. "The New York Times" and multiple media outlet reporting that Harvey Weinstein's film company is slated to file for bankruptcy protection after a last-ditch talks to sell to an investor group collapsed. The $500 million deal would have given control to a team led by Maria Contrares. A former head of a small business administration, but the discussions came to a sudden halt when the New York Attorney General's office filed civil rights lawsuit against the Weinstein Company and his co-founders.

Should the U.S. lower its demands of the nuclear talks with North Korea? A key U.S. ally says yes. We are live in South Korea next.

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[04:15:40] ROMANS: All right. North Korea's participation in the Olympics has come to an end. The last two weeks in Pyeongchang will be remembered for bringing the two Koreas together in a historic moment of unity. Continuous outreach in goodwill extend beyond this games? Let's bring in Paula Hancocks live from Pyeongchang. Good morning.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. It has been an interesting couple of weeks. We just had an information in the past half hour that the head of the North Korean delegation said the doors are open for dialogue with the United States. That information coming to us from the South Korean President. Walking a tricky line as he is trying to get the two sides together after the U.S. said they had to show they were willing to denuclearization before accepting any kind of talks. What President Moon said he would like to see the U.S. lowering the threshold in order now this speak to the South Korean unification minister just yesterday and asking him about this talks, how to you keep the momentum going? He said in the past North Korea would walk out anytime South Korea tried to mention the nuclear word. Now the attitude is changed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHO MYOUNG-GYON, UNIFICATION MINISTER (TRANSLATOR): We explained our

position North Korea's nuclear issues on several occasions including the January 9 talks in the North Korea high level delegations reception with the President. North Korea listened closely to what we had to say.

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HANCOCKS: Also the minister told me in the past North Korea always said we'll talk to the U.S. about that. Not South Korea. That appears to have changed as well. But clearly there is desire from the South Korean and North Korean side for the United States to be engaged in the discussions. We had Ivanka Trump here. She just left Monday morning local time to head back to the United States. She did stand for the North Korean and South Korean athletes coming in the stadium at the closing ceremony. Unclear if she was already standing. She was applauding as well. A very different optics than we saw from the U.S. Vice President Mike Pence just a couple of weeks ago, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Thank you so much for that, Paula in Pyeongchang.

NOBLES: China's communist Party clearing the way for President Xi Jinping to remain in power indefinitely. The Party plans to abolish term limits of the presidency. A monumental break from the establishment rules dating back decades. This is by far the boldest move by President Xi to strengthen his hold on modernizing society. Let's go to CNN Matt Rivers, he live in Beijing. Matt, was this a surprise?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, depends on who you ask here. This was a bit of an unexpected move when you consider where the real power lies in China. Xi Jinping was already widely considered the most powerful leader in China since Mao. He is the general secretary of the communist party that is way more important than the presidency, he literally had his name written into the Party constitution late last year. So many political observers were saying he gives up power after two terms. That said, apparently Xi Jinping has that much political capital to burn that he decided to amend the constitution and make no mistake about it. It will be amended. Why does this matter to the United States? One, you know who you will be dealing with for the next several years if not decades to come. What this shows you is that China will move forward under the vision that Xi Jinping sets forward. He has an incredible amount of power. Domestically, he doesn't have the political strive that dominates the headlines right now in the United States. This is going to be a country that will go toe-to-toe with the United States for dominance on the world stage and it will be led by Xi Jinping.

NOBLES: Major development. Matt Rivers live in Beijing. Thank you Matt.

ROMANS: OK. A medical group in Syria says patients are showing symptoms of a chemical attack as the dire situation there just gets worse. We go live to the Middle East.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [04:24:04] NOBLES: Eastern Ghouta in Syria is still under heavy

bombardment despite U.N. declassified -- declare is should say, ceasefire. Hospitals and clinics reportedly 520 people killed and 2500 injured since relentless air strikes and artillery began pounding the suburb eight days ago. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is monitoring the situation, she joins us live from Amman, Jordan. Good morning.

JOMANAH KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Ryan. By all accounts Sunday was a day of escalation with activists reporting air strikes and artillery shelling pounding almost every part of eastern Ghouta. They reported the regime was trying to push into the area on several fronts in what they described as ground offensive. Overnight, we received disturbing reports coming from activists and medical groups, including the Syrian-American Medical Society about a suspected chlorine gas attack.

[04:25:10] SAMS says one of the hospitals it supports in eastern Ghouta received 16 patients. Including six children saying quote suffering symptoms indicative of exposure to chemical compounds. The health Director is reporting the same and saying the symptoms they showed were consistent to exposure toxic chlorine gas. We in CNN cannot verify this allegation, we have heard them in the past during this conflict and both sides have accused each other of using chlorine as a weapon. And it is always the case, it is the civilians who bear the brunt of this conflict, Ryan.

NOBLES: Absolutely heartbreaking, Jomana thank you for that report.

ROMANS: The Nigerian air force is stepping up its search for at least 110 school girls missing since the Boko Haram militant faction attack their school last Monday. Officials say additional fighter jets, helicopters and surveillance planes joined the search yesterday. The Nigerian President has vowed to those girls family they will be found and the attackers brought to justice.

NOBLES: Actions by police during and before the Florida school shooting are now the subject of the investigation. Will congress act on guns as lawmakers return today?