Return to Transcripts main page


No New Gun Control Legislation to Pass Congress; NSA Director Tells Congress Trump Hasn't Told Him to Stop Russian Meddling; Trump Data Firm Chief Denies Direct Contact with WikiLeaks; Shooter's Neighbor Told Deputies of More Warning Signs. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired February 27, 2018 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] REP. STEVE SCALISE (R), MAJORITY WHIP: -- said we think he's going to be a school shooter. He himself said he wanted to be a professional school shooter and it was posted under his name and ultimately turned over to the FBI, and somewhere along the way in the FBI's chain of command they let it go.

I think we ought to ask those tough questions and hold people accountable. There are really good people at the FBI, but clearly there are people at the FBI that chose to let this go and I think we ought to know about this. And then at the end of the day, when you look at local law enforcement, you know, and the sheriff has been very outspoken in a lot of ways, but I think what angered me the most is that there was sheriff's deputy, trained and armed, at the school, assigned to protect the school, and he hid out instead of protecting those students and confronting the shooter.

I wouldn't be here right now if it wasn't for law enforcement confronting the shooter in my case. And it's really disappointing that ultimately somebody didn't go into that school that was there and armed to protect those kids.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You're meeting with these Parkland students. You have a daughter who's that age. Can you look at them and say that you are (INAUDIBLE) enough --

RYAN: First of all, there was a colossal breakdown in the system locally.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But they're asking --

RYAN: So there was a colossal breakdown. And we need to get to the bottom of this and how these breakdowns occurred. From what Steve just mentioned, to the armed officer who was in the school at that time, to the FBI who failed to follow up on a glaring tip, that this young man wanted to shoot up a school, so that's pretty profound.

Then we also know that there are problems in the system with background checks where people slip through the cracks. Those are the things -- we already passed a bill to fix that. We want to finish by getting final law on that thing. So of course we want to listen to these kids, but we also want to make sure that we protect people's due process rights and legal constitutional rights while making sure that people who should not get guns don't get them. This kid was clearly one of those people.



RYAN: I realize that, but the question is, enough. I think this speaks to bigger questions of our culture. What are we teaching our kids. Look at the violence in our culture. Look at what they're getting as far as a culture that's providing them there . There's bigger questions here than a narrow law. What about law enforcement, what about school resource officers, what about the FBI, what about background checks, those are all things that we have to get lots of answers to.

At the end of the day or at the beginning of the day, we also have to ask ourselves about the kind of culture that's creating these kinds of people and then do we have the kind of mental health laws that we need in the books. Again, we passed overhaul of the entire mental health system. The question is, are we making sure that that overhaul is doing what it's supposed to be doing to making sure that people who are like this do not get those kinds of guns.

That's where we should focus our problem to be solved, which is the people who shouldn't get guns without trying to take away a citizen's rights. Thank you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. House Speaker Paul Ryan wrapping up, addressing the press on what the Congress, the Republican-led Congress is doing about guns in school safety. And what you heard there was no new legislation coming from the Republican side of the House of Representatives. He mentioned he on the House side has passed this measure to fix the criminal background checks system, give incentives there, but it was tied to a measure to allow people to carry concealed handguns across state lines. You get a permit in one state and you're concealed weapon will be valid in any other state.

Joined again by Ron, Bakari and Alice Stewart.

Ron, again, first to you. I was to ask you a question about Russia but let's still here where we are right now. Again, it's interesting to hear the House speaker sort of dance around what he will do.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, look, I think -- I actually don't think he danced around very much. I think he sent the signal as clearly as he could to underscore what we already know, which is that there will be no significant gun control measure that will ever move forward in this Republican-controlled House. They simply do not believe that it is relevant to the problem.

And it reflects a change, an important change since the '90s that we talked about before. You know, when the Brady Bill, creating the background checks system, was passed in '93 and assault ban was passed in '94, the assault weapon ban was passed in '94, lots of rural Democrats voted against it. 77 Democrats voted against the assault weapon ban and yet it still passed because dozens, around 50 in each case, suburban -- dozens of suburban Republicans, about 50 in each case.

BERMAN: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: Felt they had to vote with Bill Clinton to pass those gun control measures. What's happened in recent years is that the successor to those Republicans in those suburban districts have been voting with leadership and the NRA against gun control. For example, almost all of the suburban Republicans voted for that nationwide conceal carry bill that you cited.

[10:35:05] They are now, I think, the ones who are most out on a limb post-Parkland where you have polling showing a strong demand for gun control among those kind of suburban voters where Donald Trump is already weak in those kind of districts and I think they are the ones who are left most exposed by the speaker and the leadership's refusal to give any ground.

BERMAN: Right. All right, Ron Brownstein, Bakari Sellers, Alice Stewart, again thank you all for your patience and sticking around for the full hour here. Really do appreciate it. Thanks, guys.

We got some breaking news we're going to get to, we'll be right back.


BERMAN: All right, breaking news. NSA chief Mike Rogers says that he needs the president or the secretary of Defense to grant him authority to stop Russian cyber threats where they originate, and he doesn't have that authority as it stands now.

[10:45:13] CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr with much more on this. His words very carefully chosen and very interesting, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, John. Where they originate. Cyber threats where they originate. We're getting the glimpse this morning, just a glimpse, into some of the most classified cyber intelligence operations that there may be.

This is something the Pentagon almost never talks about. What you're talking about is where they originate, going and meeting that Russian cyber threat where it begins in Russia. Meeting the Russians in cyberspace, offensive warfare in cyberspace. You can't say it enough.

A fascinating exchange on Capitol Hill this morning when the head of the National Security Agency was finally asked what authorities he does have to meet the Russians in cyberspace.


MIKE ROGERS, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY DIRECTOR: But the mission teams, particularly at the origin of the attacks, have the authority to do so. If granted the authority, and I don't have the day-to-day authority to do that. If granted the authority. SEN. JACK REED (D), RANKING MEMBER, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: So you

would need basically to be directed by the president through the secretary of Defense --

ROGERS: Yes, sir. I mentioned that in my statement.

REED: Have you been directed to do so given the strategic threat that faces the United States and the significant consequences you recognize already?

ROGERS: No, I have not, but if I could flush this out, I'll say something in an open and classified, I'd be glad to go into more detail in a classified.

REED: Yes, sir.


STARR: So if you want to hear more details, you have to have a security clearance to go behind those closed doors. But a really fascinating glimpse into all of this because it has been a consistent issue for the U.S. military. You can attack them in cyberspace, but the Russians are very savvy, of course. We don't see the Russian state, the Russian government out there conducting these attacks. We've seen evidence, plenty of evidence they work through third parties, through companies, through cutouts of people that are very hard to identify, making it very hard for the U.S. military to go after them -- John.

BERMAN: Very interesting. The president has not said to stop the Russian meddling at its source.

Barbara Starr, I appreciate it. Thanks very much.

We have one tidbit of breaking political news to tell you about. Senator Bob Corker, Republican from Tennessee, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is still not running for re-election. He announced some time ago he was not going to run for re-election. But lately has been flirting with the idea of jumping back in the race. He had a somewhat poisonous relationship with the president. That relationship over the last month seems to have gotten better. Corker thought he might jump back in.

But his chief of staff just told our Manu Raju, man of many stories up on Capitol Hill, that Senator Corker has not plans now to get back in the race.

Plus, we have more breaking news, major political breaking news, the president just announced who will run his 2020 re-election campaign. Who is it? We'll tell you right after the break.


[10:47:12] BERMAN: All right. Some breaking news here. We just learned who will serve as campaign manager for President Trump's re- election bid, Brad Parscale, who is his 2016 digital director. Parscale has remained active in the president's political operation, America First. Now Brad Parscale never worked in politics before joining the Trump campaign in 2015. He did Web design for some Trump properties.

New this morning, the head of the data firm -- by the way, this is not entirely unrelated. The head of the data firm hired by the Trump campaign says he never had any direct contacts with WikiLeaks. But that's not what Julian Assange says.

This is confusing. Cambridge Analytica is separate than Brad Parscale. Cambridge Analytica is that firm we're talking about right now.

CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez has all the latest developments for us on Cambridge Analytica -- Evan.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, no, it is a bit of a tangled web. But here's the long and short of it. Cambridge Analytica is a British company and one of the things that they do is they say that they can do some kind of psychological profiling of voters to try to help campaigns better target them and get better results, right. And so they were working for the Trump campaign, initially working for Ted Cruz's campaign, and then they started working for the Trump campaign.

And why this becomes a little bit more controversial is that it's emerged in the investigations over the past year or so that Alexander Nix, the CEO of the company, who is testifying in London today, he had sent an e-mail, including to Rebekah Mercer, who is of course a top donor to Donald Trump, in which he said he had reached out to Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeaks, and he said that he had reached out to try to figure out whether there was any access to some of the Hillary Clinton e-mails.

In his testimony today, he says that he actually never really had any contact with WikiLeaks, didn't have any connection, period. However, it gets a little more complicated because we have been told by sources that he did, indeed, have contact, reached out to Julian Assange, and Julian Assange himself has tweeted today that his memory or his recollection is a lot different from what Alexander Nix has said.

BERMAN: Interesting. Julian Assange says he has a different version of the story than Alexander Nix.

PEREZ: Right.

BERMAN: Evan Perez, fascinating, a tangled web, hard to understand, we appreciate you laying it out for us.

PEREZ: Exactly. Thanks.

BERMAN: The Broward County sheriff says he received nearly two dozen calls about the Florida shooter and his family, but CNN has found nearly twice as many. One from a neighbor who talked to us. Stay with us.


[10:53:08] BERMAN: This morning, teachers and staff are returning to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Tomorrow students will follow. This as we are learning more about missed warning signs, still more missed signs. The sheriff says that his office took 23 calls about the shooter and his family, but CNN, we pulled the records, and they show at least 45 calls since 2008 and at least one of those calls came from the shooter's former neighbor who says she begged an officer for help.

Our Rosa Flores spoke exclusively to that neighbor. Rosa joins us now.

Rosa, what did you learn?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, she says that her son walked in her kitchen one day, showing her an Instagram post, posted by Cruz, with the picture of an AR-15 style rifle and the caption said something along the lines of, I can't wait to turn 18 to purchase this weapon. Then shortly thereafter, she says another post from Cruz saying that he wanted to shoot up a school. At this point, this neighbor says she picked up the phone and called 911 and here is what the responding officer told her.


FLORES: You begged this officer --


FLORES: -- to please do something.

GUARINO: I did. I begged him. And he basically told me that it was not an immediate threat. He couldn't do anything is what he told me. I remember him leaving and just thinking, my god, he's going to kill someone and I can do nothing about it.


FLORES: Now, John, she says that there were many warning signs as Cruz was growing up. She says that there was the killing of animals, the killing of toads in her yard. But she said that when she felt that she could see his darker side, she says that Cruz was standing over her dog, as the dog was foaming at the mouth and convulsing, and he had this wild eerie look about him, she said at that point she knew that there was no turning back -- John.

[10:55:08] BERMAN: All right. Rosa Flores for us in Parkland, Florida.

Again students go back to class tomorrow. It will be a very difficult morning to be sure. Our thanks to Rosa.

All right. Happening now, the White House communications director Hope Hicks is testifying to the House Intelligence Committee. We just got these pictures in, moments ago, of her arrival. Will she answer all the questions? That is the big issue at hand. Stay with us. We'll find out.


ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Erica Hill in today for Kate Bolduan. Right now, the House Intelligence Committee is questioning another member of President Trump's inner circle --