Return to Transcripts main page


Broward County Sheriff Criticized Over Florida Shooting; Trump Calls Democratic Memo 'Nothing'. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired February 26, 2018 - 06:00   ET



SCOTT ISRAEL, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA, SHERIFF: One person didn't do what he should have done. It makes sick to my stomach.

[05:59:23] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoever didn't do their job has to be held accountable.

DAVID HOGG, SURVIVOR OF FLORIDA SCHOOL SHOOTING: If we don't fix this now, when will it change?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to end our country of what's happening with respect to that subject.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm hopeful that the president may be willing to take on the NRA. If he does, there may be a bunch of Republicans who will follow.

TRUMP (via phone): The memo was a nothing.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I'm not surprised that the White House tried to bury this memo. The FBI acted appropriately.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are advocating that it's OK for the FBI and DOJ to use political dirt paid for by one campaign.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is your NEW DAY. It's Monday, February 26, 6 a.m. here in New York. And here's the starting line.

Stoneman Douglas students are preparing to return to school this Wednesday. Lawmakers are back in session in D.C. today. So the question remains: will they do anything to stop the shootings?

Now there is a shift in this investigation in Florida. The governor there, Rick Scott, who did make some recommendations for raising the age of access to weapons, is now ordering an investigation into the police response to the shooting. Dozens of state lawmakers, remember, did not jump at the chance to do something to stop the shootings, are now all calling for the immediate suspension of Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel for incompetence and dereliction of duty.

The sheriff grilled in a CNN interview by Jake Tapper about the red flags that were definitely missed on this shooter. He defended his office, citing his amazing leadership, and insisting he will not resign.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So Congress goes back to work today under pressure to address school safety and gun violence. A new CNN poll suggests that the Parkland massacre has changed Americans' views on guns in a way that no other mass shooting has. Seventy percent of people now favor tighter gun laws, as compared to 52 percent who felt that way after the Las Vegas massacre in October.

And as President Trump faces this issue, the Russia investigation still hands over his head. He's dismissing a Democratic rebuttal memo that undercuts the Republican claims of FBI surveillance abuses. The president called it a, quote, "nothing" and blasts Congressman Adam Schiff, the man behind this new memo.

Schiff claims the White House tried to bury his memo.

So we have it all covered for you. Let's go first to CNN's Kaylee Hartung. She is live in Parkland, Florida. What's the latest there, Kaylee?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, President Trump will meet with many of the nation's governors this morning at the White House. He says Parkland will be first on their list to discuss.

But here in Parkland, as we continue to learn of warning signs missed and hear disturbing details of what happened in the immediate reaction to the attack, many are demanding answers.


GOV RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: We have to do a thorough investigation, and whoever didn't do their job has to be held accountable.

HARTUNG (voice-over): Florida's governor ordering an investigation into law enforcement's response to last week's deadly school shooting and the criticism that Broward County sheriff's deputies waited too long to enter Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as the killer opened fire inside.

Sheriff Scott Israel coming under scrutiny as he welcomes the investigation into his department.

ISRAEL: I've given amazing leadership to this agency.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Amazing leadership?

ISRAEL: I've worked -- yes, Jake. You don't measure a person's leadership by a deputy not going into -- these deputies received the training they needed. TAPPER: Maybe you measure somebody's leadership by whether or not

they protect the community.

HARTUNG: Florida Republican, lawmaker Richard Corcoran and 73 others sending a letter to the governor Sunday, demanding Sheriff Israel be suspended for incompetence and dereliction of duty. This after Florida State Representative Bill Hager wrote a similar letter to Governor Scott just a day before.

ISRAEL: 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.

HARTUNG: Sources telling CNN that when Coral Springs police officers arrived on the scene they were shocked to find three other Broward County sheriff's deputies who had not yet entered the building.

Broward County disputes this, saying it was only the school resource officer, and he has resigned.

Meanwhile, lawmakers returning to work this morning under national pressure to act on gun reform, as a new CNN poll shows 70 percent of people say they favor stricter gun laws. With Congress already looking at a list of options on the table, including banning bump stocks, improving the federal background check system, changing the legal age to purchase a rifle from 18 to 21, restricting the size of gun magazines, or an all-out ban on the purchase of AR-15 style weapons.

Ivanka Trump weighing in on a father's proposal to arm teachers.

IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD TRUMP: I think that having a teacher who is armed, who cares deeply about her students or his students and who is capable and qualified to bear arms is not a bad idea, but it's an idea that needs to be discussed.

Amid all the political fall-out, a somber first day back on campus. As students returned for orientation Sunday, their first time on school grounds since surviving the massacre

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was really scary. I didn't know how I was going to feel when I went in and I saw the fence around the freshman building and I just -- and all the windows were covered. I was just like -- I just can't believe something like this happened.


HARTUNG: The freshman building the gunman attacked is fenced off. One student told me as he approached it yesterday, he felt an intense sadness. But then on that fence he saw banners of support sent to Stoneman Douglas from schools and organizations around the country, and he found that uplifting in a difficult moment.

Teachers today are given the opportunity, if they choose to do so, to go inside that freshman building for the first time -- Chris, Alisyn.

CUOMO: All right, Kaylee. Thank you very much.

It is a little bit ironic for the lawmakers to claim incompetence and dereliction of duty for the sheriff, but not for them, after doing nothing after Pulse and putting nothing on the table right now. The governor's put something there.

But the point is, there's a big reason to act today. The poll shows it. The momentum in the society shows it. And if the president is walking this morning, good morning, sir, your poll numbers show it. Put up the latest read. Trump had gotten to about 40 percent. Now, 35. Fifty-eight disapprove. It could be seen as a reflection of people waiting for action here.

Let's bring in CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd; an associate editor for RealClearPolitics, A.B. Stoddard.

A.B., let's start with this investigation into the police down there, the response. Now obviously, had there been no person like this who could get access to a weapon, there would have been no shooting. The response is relevant, but it's not the primary concern. The sheriff not helping his cause. Here's another excerpt from the interview with Jake.


TAPPER: Do you think that, if the Broward sheriff's office had done things differently, this shooting might not have happened?

ISRAEL: Listen, if "ifs" and "buts" were candy and nuts, you know, O.J. Simpson would still be in the record books.

TAPPER: I don't know what that means. There's 17 dead people and there's a whole long list of things your department could have done differently.


CUOMO: All right. He's glib. He's not handling it well. But substantively, where does this take us, A.B.?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, REALCLEARPOLITICS: There are two separate things going on here, Chris. One is systemic failures at many different state, local, federal levels that make people wonder and question whether or not this massacre could have been prevented. And certainly, Sheriff Israel is accountable to that. He's the elected official. And his defiance is not helping him, you are right.

On a separate track, there is energy behind sort of a hunger for new examination of our gun controls that exist, a search for more -- because it's a cumulative effect that has built up over all the mass shootings that you just mentioned.

It's not just because Nikolas Cruz was deeply disturbed, and law enforcement missed signals to restrict his access to an arsenal or to stop him from this shooting. So there's two things going on here. Do we need to address the

systemic failures? Of course we do. Could have -- could that have prevented a shooting? Of course it might have.

But on the other -- on the other side, you're looking at a society examining the access to weapons of war that are intended only to mutilate as many humans as possible as quickly as possible and whether or not someone who is stable should have them without a serious background check or a licensing process or a course or something like that, or let alone someone who is 18 years old and has serious mental problems.

So those are two things Republicans have to face when they're looking at this. Just getting upset with the sheriff is not going to solve the problem.

CAMEROTA: And Phil, before we get to what Congress is going to do, just as a law enforcement officer yourself, or a law enforcement expert, you know, the sheriff was basically saying that there had been a lot of intervention with this kid.

This was not a kid that was unknown to deputies and to Department of Social Services and to the school safety officer and to school administrators. He had gotten intervention. He had seen counselors. He had gotten medication. He had been counseled. He had been talked to.

And the sheriff was basically saying that, if you make a threat on social media that says you want to shoot up a school, you can't be arrested for that. What could they have done?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Yes. But there's a different question. In the heat of battle here, you've got to make sure you keep your mission objectives clear. I can think of at least three.

How do you secure a school? What do you do about weapons? And the the category we're looking at now, Alisyn. That is the mental health of a -- of a student. There are states -- there's a handful of them -- that have red flag laws. That is short of taking away someone's weapon permanently, short of putting them in a prison.

Do you have a process by which you can temporarily move a weapon or weapons from an individual when someone, probably a judge, maybe a mental health board, judges that that person is not capable of having the responsibility of keeping a weapon? That's a very...

CAMEROTA: The (UNINTELLIGIBLE) law, right? That's what came up, right, in Florida?

MUDD: They're called red flag laws. For example, California has them. So should school officials, mental health officials, and law enforcement have the ability to take somebody's weapon away without going to a court and saying, "I'm charging them with a crime"? That's a very difficult...

CUOMO: It's not easy in the state of Florida. If you make a threat against a person...


CUOMO: ... it triggers authority on the point of law enforcement. If it is against a place, like a school, it doesn't.

[06:10:04] CAMEROTA: That's the problem.

CUOMO: That was a problem. Also, what is flagged in the universe of information?

This is what -- see, this is -- this is the only part I don't like about this conversation. The idea of putting emphasis on, "Oh, you knew all these things. You knew all these things." They don't get absorbed in the current background check system. So that's the concern here, A.B., is that the NRA is pushing this. You know, they've got -- you know, there are surrogates out there saying you've got to look at the police work, all the things they knew. They're not absorbed in the system right now.

If you change the system, which the Democrats are going to have some trouble with also because you get to the privacy rights of ill -- people who are in a medical treatment. But if you change that, you have a legitimate argument. You should have known these things about this kid. You should have had these concerns absorbed into the system. It should have been part of the analysis of whether or not he had access. But that's not the state of the law right now.

STODDARD: Right. And as you know, Chris, for the NRA, this is zero sum. I mean, they're just going to resist what President Trump is calling capital C, capital B, capital C, comprehensive background checks. Republicans on Capitol Hill has no idea what the president means yet, because he hasn't clarified or been specific on what a comprehensive background check is.

But there's a real battle here on what to include when you assess criteria for a gun purchase in someone's background. And pushing for stronger background checks. We've seen it in the polling. It's incredibly popular. Most people want this. But that doesn't mean that Republicans on Capitol Hill facing headwinds already in a midterm, facing primary elections in the spring and early summer, are going to go out on a limb unless President Trump leads on this issue.

Unlike on the tax debate, in which he took a few positions on corporate tax cuts and different things, unlike on Obamacare and on this DREAMer issue, President Trump has to pick a position and he has to stay on a position if he expects Republicans on Capitol Hill to do anything about this.

My feeling is if they look at this in July and they see incredible energy, new voter registration and a lot of gun control momentum piled on top of their preexisting headwinds going into the midterms. They might do something. But the default position right now is to wait and see. And President Trump, if he doesn't make this happen, it won't happen. CAMEROTA: Hey, Phil, it is interesting to look at the public opinion

polls. Something has changed. OK? So October, 52 percent of Americans favored stricter gun laws. That was after the Las Vegas massacre, OK, which as you know, had a huge body count. And still 52 percent then. Now with these kids at the, you know, in Parkland, it's 70 percent. I mean, it does feel like something has shifted, and this is a tipping point.

MUDD: It does. And I think there's another statistic I would look at. We just passed tax legislation for corporations saying we have to be more competitive with the globe. You're going down to 21 percent.

If you look at how the globe looks at not only mental health in terms of background checks but also who has access to a weapon, look at countries that are pure countries. Let's take Japan and the U.K.

If we want to look at ourselves as a country in a globalized world that has peer competitors in places like Asia and Europe, you would ask a simple question. How do we protect our country in ways that other countries that are more successful protect their people. They have fundamentally different laws, fundamentally different training protocols for people who get access to a weapon and ways of looking at mental health before you get a weapon. I'd say if you want to make us in a group of countries in terms of tax law. Why don't you take the same group of countries and ask how they look at gun law. And the answer is they look at it a lot differently.

BLITZER: And they have relative rates of mental health issues. That's an important thing. Before we just demonize the mentally ill, which is always the temptation here. It's all about them. It's not. They're more likely to be victims than perpetrators, except for these discrete school shootings. That's where we have to look at them.

We have more guns. That's the differentiating characteristic. How we deal with it, we'll see.

CAMEROTA: OK. Phil Mudd, A.B. Stoddard, thank you very much.

So this Republican memo alleging surveillance abuses by the FBI, you remember this. Well, it was rebutted now in this newly-released Democratic memo. So which party has the facts on their side? We dig in next.


[06:18:02] CUOMO: President Trump lashing out at Congressman Adam Schiff calling him a, quote, "bad guy," as he slams a Democratic memo which undercuts Republicans' claims of FBI surveillance misconduct.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is live at the White House with more. "Bad guy" probably won't end the conversation.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, it certainly won't, Chris. And let me walk you through this, because it gets a little confusing. The Democratic memo was released on Saturday night without much

warning, and it is in direct response to that Republican memo that alleges that law enforcement agencies were politically motivated when they authorized the surveillance of that former Trump campaign aide, Carter Page.

Now, the subject of much discussion in these two memos is that that infamous dossier compiled by the former British spy, Christopher Steele. Now let me walk you through the differences in these two memos.

In the memo written by Republican Devin Nunes, they say that an essential part of that FISA application to surveil Carter Page was that information from the dossier.

Now, the Schiff memo released on Saturday night says the Department of Justice actually used that information but very narrowly. And there were multiple other reasons for surveilling Carter Page.

Now secondly, the Nunes memo says there was no mention that, in this application to surveil Carter Page, that Christopher Steele was working on behalf of the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Now in return, the Schiff memo actually argues that the FBI did say they had reasons to believe that Steele was being funded by someone who is trying to discredit Donald Trump here.

Now, one more thing: the Nunes memo says that that information used was not verified when the application was first submitted. And the Schiff memo acknowledges that but said that parts of it were actually corroborated during those several renewals that happened.

Now, the president has not responded kindly to this. He's been attacking Adam Schiff, the Democrat who wrote this Democratic memo, and actually called into FOX on Saturday night. And here's what he had to say about this.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (via phone): They'll have a committee meeting, and they'll -- they'll leak all sorts of information. You know, he's a bad guy. But it's certainly, the memo was a nothing.


[06:20:09] COLLINS: Now one more difference here, Chris, it's important to point out how the White House handled these two memos.

The DOJ and the FBI told the White House, advised them not to release that Republican memo, but they actually did so really quickly. The president was saying he was going to release it before he'd even read it.

But for the Democratic memo, they actually blocked its release two weeks ago. And it came out without much fanfare on Saturday night after some haggling over some redactions in this memo, Chris.

CUOMO: Kaitlan, thank you very much. Let's bring back Phil Mudd and A.B. Stoddard.

Phil Mudd, at the time that this first started, we were going after the Republicans saying, "You're stalling on putting out the Democratic memo." They said, "No, we're following the process." It was a delay game.

But that said, what is your take on what this memo reveals? Do you think -- I know you're not a politician. But politically, was this savvy for the Democrats to rekindle this conversation after the Nunes memo fell flat, except for the faithful?

MUDD: I thought they should have just left the memo sit. It was so ridiculous that people in the national security world, I don't know about the public sphere. You said I'm not a great politician. But looked at it and said, "This is a joke. I mean, why do you even were bother to respond? You're going to give them more credibility than it has."

There's one thing we're not talking about, Chris, and I think is fascinating. Just a few weeks ago, people were taking shots at the investigation. It's a hoax. It's a reduce. People taking shots at Mueller.

In the interim, you have Gates flipping. You have that remarkable indictment of 13 Russians and Russian entities that was an incredible intelligence document. If you haven't read that, you've got to read it.

And you have an under reported story. You have the deputy attorney general calling the White House, saying we cannot confirm that it's going to be clearance for Jared Kushner any time soon.

The debate that Nunes was trying to start about the credibility and the investigation of Mueller, just in those few weeks has died away. Nobody is talking about that these days, because the investigation has proven so solid in the indictments and the information that Mueller is uncovering.

CAMEROTA: Hey, A.B., I just want to dive into one of the details. Because I think that it's really illustrative of where we are in terms of what the Schiff memo says.

As you know, the Nunes folks always said FISA court wasn't told that it was Hillary Clinton, or the DNC and that's why Christopher Steele was hired. That's who hired him.

Well, according to all the background in the Schiff memo, the DOJ was informed that there was candidate one and candidate two. That it was politically motivated. Steele was hired by politically motivated U.S. persons and that his research appeared, quote, "intended for use to discredit Trump's campaign."

So I don't know how much more explicit they -- the DOJ needed to be. But why can't Devin Nunes connect those dots? Why does he still think that it's a mystery who hired Steele?

STODDARD: Devin Nunes is speaking to a choir, and they really love what he's singing. And you could see that at CPAC when he was awarded for his bravery and his courage. Conservative media, you know, treated -- treated the Nunes memo like a triumph; it was bigger than Watergate. Biggest scandal ever. Should rock the country. Phil was right: it was intended to cast doubt and impugn the motives and the work of the FBI and the DOJ.

Alisyn, not only did we learn they revealed that was opposition research, which, as we all know, is worth nothing if it isn't true, but it was not the only intel included as a basis for the warrant and the application. You can't get a FISA warrant with one piece of intelligence. And so we knew that weeks ago.

And we also knew that, if Kellyanne Conway and others dismissed Carter Page back in August of 2016 as no longer with the campaign, never influential, never really part of the team at all, starting a warrant on him on October 21 in secret was no way to take down Donald Trump as a candidate for president. So that was wrong all along.

Phil is right. The Mueller investigation is completely overwhelmed. The memo wars, no one really wins the memo wars. Because Robert Mueller's indictments are telling the story that really matters with incontrovertible evidence that people can read upon the release of any indictment. So this memo thing has sort of gone by the wayside, anyway.

CUOMO: You know, Phil, it does come down to matter of fact also. Right?

Nunes was pushing. It's all about the dossier. That's all they had. And they have some kind of closet quotes from people who suggested that. You know, forget about who wrote the memo. You know, we call it Nunes. We call it Schiff, just because they're identifiable names.

The investigation, according to the FBI, had started almost two months before they got the dossier. And you had four different judges, independent judges who looked at this information and decided to approve or extend it. I mean, I don't see how the facts are helpful.

And then the president tweeted, "Oh, it says that the FBI never told them who paid for it." No, Mr. President. The FBI did tell the court. He's talking about Michael Steele, another fact that the president brought up, but he didn't mean to, Phil.

[06:25:08] Steele, according to the FBI, was never told who he was doing the research for. He wasn't told who the clients were by the company, not that the court wasn't told. The facts just don't seem helpful to the Republican cause.

MUDD: I'd take a step further. If you look at all the documentation and the detail that's come out of the indictments, how often is Steele actually mentioned? You look at an incredible Russian intelligence operation detailed in that many dozens of pages indictment dropped a few Fridays ago by Mueller, and Steele doesn't come up. If you look in the flip by the associate of Paul Manafort by Gates,

you look at the financial documentation, it's incredible. So we're having a debate about whether the investigation is based on false information, and the information that's revealed in the indictments doesn't even talk about Steele.

One more quick thing. I've talked to the FISA court about sensitive issues, Chris. I remember having a conversation about them once about information that was not detailed in a FISA application.

I have one question for you, one fact. Has anybody ever asked a FISA court whether they -- whether they knew where this information was coming from? That's an easy question. I doubt they want to talk. But it's not that the documents have every single bit of information. The investigators actually have pretty detailed conversations with them when they hand over the FISA court applications. That's not considered here.

CAMEROTA: We wish the FISA court would talk. That would be helpful. The stories they could tell about Phil Mudd.

CUOMO: Another thing they cast that FISA court as is a secret court. Congress created the FISA court as an oversight mechanism. It's just all such a B.S. distraction.

CAMEROTA: Something we talk about every day is hard to be a secret. But anyway, A.B. Stoddard, Phil Mudd, thank you.

CUOMO: A former campaign official pleading guilty in Bob Mueller's Russia investigation. You know, the hoax. So what's the next move for the special counsel? We'll take you in a closer look, next.