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Governor Orders Investigation of Florida Shooting Response; Trump Slams Democrat Memo as "Nothing" and a "Bust"; Lawyers Setting Terms for Trump Testimony in Mueller Probe; U.N. Secretary-General on Syria Crisis: "Hell on Earth;" Supreme Court Sends DACA Fight Back to Lower Courts. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired February 26, 2018 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:30:00] STATE REP. CHRIS LATVALA, (R), FLORIDA: I'm gathering input from my constituents and others, and ultimately I will make that decision. I suspect there is going to be an amend attempted to be filed onto that bill. And as of right now I'm undecided how I'll be voting on an assault weapons ban.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And your governor, your governor wants to raise the age --
STATE SEN. LINDA STEWART, (D), FLORIDA: And I'm not undecided.
BLITZER: I know you're not. Senator, you're totally decided on this.
Representative Latvala, Senator Stewart, thanks to both of you.
I just want to point out that Governor Rick Scott does want to raise the age to 21 to purchase guns in the state of Florida from 18.
STEWART: That's not enough.
STEWART: That's not enough.
BLITZER: A lot of people, Senator, agree with you, but he is risking the wrath of the NRA, which wants to keep it at 18, so it's a step in the right direction, right?
STEWART: The NRA should not be involved.
BLITZER: We'll continue this conversation down the road.
STEWART: Thank you.
BLITZER: I'll have both of you back.
Thank you to both of you.
LATVALA: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thank you for joining us.
STEWART: Thank you.
Up next, avoiding a perjury trap. The president's lawyers look to set the terms for President Trump's testimony with the special counsel, Robert Mueller.
Plus, yet another member of the president's inner circle may be in line for a top government job. We'll have details. Stay with us.
[13:35:21] BLITZER: President Trump is slamming the newly released Democratic Intelligence Committee memo which pushes back on Republican claims on FBI surveillance abuses. President Trump says it's a "nothing" and, in his words, a "bust."
CNN's crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, is joining us right now.
Shimon, what is the key arguments in the Democratic memo?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The Democratic memo, Wolf, gives us a more complete picture of the details given to the FISA court. And some of the main arguments in the Democrat memo consisted of the fact that the FBI's request for a FISA warrant on the former campaign advisor, Carter Page, was proper, the political motivation behind the dossier, and the source, the involvement of Christopher Steele was disclosed. Now, Republicans were trying to claim that the dossier was key to getting the FISA, the surveillance warrant for Carter Page. But the Democrats memo clearly shows it wasn't a key. There was more to the information they had, that they relied on, and that the FBI developed information from its own sources. And then lastly, Wolf, the Democrats say the FBI gave all the necessary information to the court, including the political motivation behind the dossier. But as a standard, they didn't name Clinton and the DNC in the court filings to this FISA court. Now the Republicans have taken issue with that claiming Steele's motivations were not revealed. But clearly, the Democrats' memo shows us that that was not the case -- Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Shimon, thank you very much. Shimon Prokupecz with the latest on that.
President Trump's lawyers, meanwhile, they're reportedly weighing their options right now. The "Wall Street Journal" reporting they're considering ways for the president to testify before the special counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia probe, and they're saying, quote, "everything is on the table."
CNN's legal analyst, Michael Zeldin, is joining us right now. He was also Robert Mueller's former special assistant over at the Justice Department.
Michael, walk us through what this potentially could mean.
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So the president's lawyers, Wolf, are trying hard to make sure the president doesn't find himself in legal jeopardy. They have to figure out how do they get to that point because Mueller is going to want him to testify. The first thing they'll try to do is what Lawrence Walsh and President Reagan did, which was written interrogatories, written questions, where they send the writings to the president, he and his lawyers work out the answers, and they send them back. That's the best thing that the president could hope for, because basically, the lawyers will write the answers. The president signs it as true but it's protective. Next in the good to bad is oral testimony, and that we saw in Jimmy Carter's case where he had to give a deposition in response to the special counsel asking him about impropriety in private business dealings. That's a little bit better. You have your lawyers present as well as a civil deposition where your lawyers are present, they can object, and it's a more relaxed environment. And the worst, and what we saw with President Clinton is the grand jury subpoena. Ken Starr subpoenaed or worked out a deal in lieu of a subpoena where the president in the map room at the White House gave testimony under oath, which was piped in to the grand jury in real time. No lawyers present, five and a half hours between Clinton and the special counsel's office. So these guys are trying to figure out where on the continuum can we place our client that will be protective of his legal interests.
BLITZER: Because if you lie in this kind of Q&A with a federal prosecutor, that's perjury.
ZELDIN: Exactly. And we saw that in the most recent indictment and guilty plea of Gates. Gates went in for his interview in early February as a part of a proffer with the special counsel and he lied in that proffer interview, and that's what Mueller charged him with. That's what the lie was, lying to him while trying to work out a deal to plea.
BLITZER: Pretty surprising since that proffer took place on February 1st, a few weeks ago.
BLITZER: They got him lying, he's not pleading guilty to that, and that sets the stage for the next round.
ZELDIN: Exactly right. That's what we're dealing with here today.
[13:39:50] BLITZER: Michael Zeldin, thank you very much.
Also, coming up, "hell on earth" -- that's how the United Nations secretary-general is now describing the situation in Syria. We have a live report. That's coming up.
BLITZER: In Syria's eastern Ghouta, opposition groups say several people were treated for exposure to chlorine gas, and airstrikes and artillery fire from Russian-backed Syrian regime battered the area despite a U.N. ceasefire. The Russian foreign minister calls those reports a hoax. The U.N., meanwhile, reports that in the last week alone almost 500 people were killed in fighting. The U.N. secretary- general made an impassioned plea earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONIO GUTERRES, SECRETARY-GENERAL, UNITED NATIONS: Easter Ghouta cannot wait. It's high time to stop this hell on earth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Joining us now, our senior international correspondent, Sam Kiley, who has covered the war in Syria extensively.
Sam, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, is calling for a humanitarian pause to be implemented tomorrow. Do you think civilians will leave? Will they be allowed to get out of the way?
[13:45:17] SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that's the critical question. Now, the Russians are asking the rebels who control the front line on that area between the main city of Damascus and east Ghouta to de-mine that route for this five- hour period. That, of course, from the rebel perspective would allow a counterattack or an opening for an attack by government forces. Ground forces have been engaged in the last 48 hours trying to get into east Ghouta. That's the first point to make.
The second point to make is this is not a route out for civilians into a safe haven. It is a route out into a government-held area. Given the scale of the destruction visited upon by east Ghouta, Wolf, it's very unlikely that many of the 400,000 people trapped in the city would take the opportunity. There could be one group of people for whom there is an exception. That is many hundreds of people who are in critical need of medical attention. They may well take that route offered if, indeed, it materializes.
But the problem is, Wolf, it's only a five-hour window, the implication being that Syrian and Russian forces for the rest of that 24-hour period will go back to business as usual, which has been raining bombs and reportedly chlorine gas down on 400,000 people -- Wolf?
BLITZER: And more death and destruction coming in this never-ending battle over there.
Sam, thank you very much. Sam Kiley reporting for us.
North Korea, meanwhile, says the door is open for dialogue with the United States. That, according to a spokesperson for South Korea's presidential office. It follows a meeting with the North Korean delegation who attended the closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games. South Korean President Moon did say both sides need to lower their threshold for talking. The U.S. has responded saying, and I'm quoting now, "We will see if Pyongyang's message that it is willing to hold talks represents the first steps along the path at denuclearization," closed quote.
Coming up, a major blow to President Trump. The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear the Trump administration's bid to end the DACA program. What this means for the roughly 700,000 DACA participants. That, and more when we come back.
[13:52:01] BLITZER: The United States Supreme Court is staying out of the DACA debate, at least for now. The court said this morning there will be no ruling on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program at the moment, the so-called DREAMers program. At the moment, President Trump has said March 5th was the deadline to find a deal to keep the program alive.
Our Supreme Court reporter, Ariane de Vogue, is with us now.
What does it mean, Ariane, for the Trump administration, the Supreme Court's decision not to hear arguments?
ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: It is a loss for the Trump administration. The Supreme Court said it would not review the lower court opinion that temporarily blocked the administration from ending the program. So that means these renewals can continue. But this whole issue is going to return to the lower courts. Remember, it's the lower courts that blocked that March 5th deadline. The issue here was never the legality of DACA. It was always how the administration chose to end it.
BLITZER: So basically, the DREAMers, 700,000, 800,000, the president suggested maybe 1.8 million, including many who never signed up formally with the DACA program, the pressure is off them to come up with a solution by March 5th?
DE VOGUE: It's true the pressure is off. But these DREAMers aren't looking for the courts to fix this. They really want this long-term fix. And that's why they're really hoping the president and Congress are finally going to come together and figure something out here. Because the legal issue will play out, but it won't be the long-term fix --
BLITZER: But they have extra time now. Members of the House, members of the Senate, the White House, the president, they can work on it a little bit easier without the March 5th deadline hovering over them?
DE VOGUE: Absolutely. The renewals will be able to continue. The March 5th deadline is not in play now.
BLITZER: These lower court rulings have suggested people can go out there and register as potential DACA recipients.
DE VOGUE: What they have said is you can renew. You can't -- there can be no new people coming in. But if you are a part of the program, you can renew. That's where things stand with the lower courts right now.
BLITZER: The fear that some of the DREAMers have is, if they sign up, they could be in danger.
DE VOGUE: That's right. They have been apprehensive. What's the future? Should we give up all of our information? Should we come out of the shadows and then have this all go away? That's a very clear fear on their part.
BLITZER: If it eventually winds up in the hands of the nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, any indication which way they might decide?
DE VOGUE: What the Trump administration asked for here was a long shot. They asked for this issue to come right to the Supreme Court and jump over the federal appeals court. The Supreme Court doesn't like requests like that. They want to see it going through the federal appeals court because they want to hear from more judges on the issue, so if it does reach them, they will have a more robust record here.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens. These are critical moments. There are hundreds of thousands of DREAMers who are anxious to get a solution.
The president keeps saying he wants a deal, he wants a solution, but he's adding other stuff to this, and it's causing some serious debate now.
DE VOGUE: Absolutely.
BLITZER: We'll see if there is movement on that front.
Ariane, thank you very much for that.
DE VOGUE: Thank you.
[13:55:13] BLITZER: Meanwhile, the search is on to find the next head of the Federal Aviation Administration. President Trump reportedly has a nominee in mind. That nominee? Reportedly his personal pilot. Axios News reporting President Trump is pushing to have John Dunkin lead the FAA. Dunkin flew the president's personal plane during the presidential campaign. But an administration source is quoted as saying that Dunkin also has extensive airline management and certification experience. We'll see where that goes.
In the meantime, that's it for me. Thank you very much for watching. I'll be back at 5:00 p.m. Eastern in "THE SITAUTION ROOM."
For our international viewers, "AMANPOUR" is next.
For our viewers in North America, "NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right after this.
[14:00:12] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Erica Hill, in today for Brooke Baldwin.
Teachers today --