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Father of Slain student Fights for School Safety. Aired 8- 8:30a ET

Aired February 28, 2018 - 08:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: They do not get the help and the benefits that they deserve. So Senator, thank you for being here. I hope you prove me wrong. I hope you guys take the mantle and do something that will stop these shootings. Be well.

SEN. TIM KAINE, (D) VIRGINIA: It's on us now. Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: We're following a lot of news. What do you say, let's get after it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have nothing to do with Russia. I have no deals there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Investigators for Robert Mueller have been asking about business activities of Donald Trump in Russia prior to the 2016 campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a president who can be incredibly compromised.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just because they are asking doesn't mean they have evidence of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fact he's been downgraded suggests that he really is not in a position to continue a significant role in this White House.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He's a valued member of the team and he will continue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're getting this blurring of behavior in his private and public roles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to take it as it comes along every single day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to feel the presence of emptiness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're more connected than ever. I don't think anything is ever going to change this.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: Boy, it is a big day today. Good morning and welcome to your New Day. You see Alisyn is in Parkland, Florida. School is back in session. We're split up this morning because we're following several major Russia developments rocking the White House. CNN has learned that special counsel Robert Mueller's team is investigating President Trump's business dealings with Russia prior to the 2016 campaign. And that component, that's the key, that this isn't about what happened during the campaign. They're looking at business before.

Also, Chief of Staff John Kelly has downgraded Jared Kushner's top secret security clearance. A bombshell report in "The Washington Post" says at least four countries discussed ways to manipulate Kushner because of his lack of experience and financial troubles.

Also, a source says that White House communications director Hope Hicks admitted telling white lies for the president. Alisyn?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Chris, so at this moment officially students are in school. It started officially 20 minutes ago, but we still see lots of students streaming in on the sidewalks in front of me here and behind me. This is the first time they're back in two weeks since the massacre that took 17 of their friends and teachers.

So classes are resuming at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. But let's face it, these kids educational experience, their high school and their lives are forever changed. So many students now feel they are part of a movement. They have ignited a national conversation about gun violence, about school safety and what to do now.

Legislators here in Florida are proposing several steps including training and arming teachers as efforts in Congress on the national level do not seem to be moving as quickly.

So we also have some breaking news this morning. Dick's Sporting Goods are making a major announcement in response to the massacre here. They say they will end sales of assault style rifles in all of their stores. And Chris, I know that you will be speaking with the CEO of Dick's shortly about the decision, and I can tell you, lots of these families here in parkland will be watching that.

CUOMO: And look, a lot of people are going to like this. A lot of people won't. So we really want to hear from the man running the company why they're doing this and why it matters. Alisyn, we'll be back with you in just a second.

Let's begin our coverage with CNN political analyst David Gregory. Man, this is a lot of news on the Russia investigation. It's been so drip, drip. Now you have got Hope Hicks saying I tell white lies but on nothing substantive. But I'm not going to answer questions here that I don't want to, and the committee does nothing. Of all the headlines, which one pops to the top for you?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the scrutiny of Kushner on a couple of levels. One, it gets to what I think a lot of people think is the heart of the Mueller probe, which is there any reason why the president or those closest to him were compromised because of his or others close to him, their business dealings with Russia that would prevent him from either speaking out against Russia, being mindful of the threat that Russia posed to the election, or taking action afterward?

I'm mindful of what Ken Starr said to you, which is let's think about what the real thrust of the investigation is to prove collusion. I don't know that we get any closer to that. But I think that scrutiny is so important about whether there's anybody who is compromised.

And the other piece of this is the drama in the West Wing. Kushner has had his security clearance dialed back. You have to question how effective he's been. Is this just rank nepotism which I think it does reek of and has from the very beginning that's undermined his effectiveness. And what is he going to do if he has this portfolio of the Middle East and Mexico and the other countries that he's under such scrutiny within the White House and there are other countries thinking that he can be exploited and undermined somehow and have thought that from the beginning. We know that from the "Washington Post" piece. So I think this is the president's son-in-law, there's a lot of drama, it's a soap opera piece, but it becomes bigger in the context of the Mueller probe.

CUOMO: So on that legal point that Ken Starr and I were going back and forth about this morning, let's bring in Jeffrey Toobin, CNN senior legal analyst, obviously. So rebut the presumption from Ken Starr and others which is, Mueller, you can't look at financial dealings before 2016. You're supposed to be reviewing things that have to do with the campaign and any extension of issues that arise thereto, this is just too far.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: That's just not true. If you look at what Mueller's jurisdiction is, it's very broad. He has the right to investigate anything arising out of his investigation, and certainly anything related to Trump's finances in Russia is very much related. It goes to the crucial issue of motive, and this is a question that remains unresolved. Why has Donald Trump been so favorable to Vladimir Putin? What is in it for him?

A very clear possibility is business, is money, is that he has business dealings in Russia that he has wanted to cultivate. I just wrote a story in "The New Yorker" about when he brought the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow in 2013. That led directly to the meeting in Trump Tower in June of 2016 with the Russian lawyers. It is immediately within his jurisdiction. I don't even think --

GREGORY: Obviously I agree with Jeffrey. I say obviously because I agree with everything he says.

CUOMO: I don't. He was wrong about what's going to happen with some of the election stuff a couple days ago, but that's OK. Go ahead.

GREGORY: That's your fight. I think obviously it's an important point because when you think about the business dealings, we have to go back. What we know, you go back to the Don Junior meeting, this campaign was open for business. They were open for dirt on Hillary Clinton. It doesn't matter if it came from foreign powers which would just be totally inappropriate the first time you heard about it, they were open for business.

You can debate good thing, bad thing, inappropriate. Certainly you can debate whether there was a crime there or not. But we also know -- Jeffrey writes about this in terms of their business dealings. But here is Paul Manafort who is under indictment, who is the campaign manager who had extensive political and financial ties to Russia. And I want to connect this to what the NSA chief said and this cyberattack on America. What the Russians did is they pushed on an open door of cynicism within America about our news in the country, about whether you can believe politicians. And I want to underscore why this is such a big deal. It was Hannah Arendt who writes, whenever you have a society that views the distinction between truth and fiction as being basically indistinguishable, that's a huge threat to democracy. That's what any president has to be thinking about to prevent the next time. We may have just seen the beginning of it with what Russia did.

CUOMO: You can argue that Trump, whether wittingly or unwittingly or with bad malice or just selfish intentions is driving that wedge all the time.

Let me get your head on something else, Jeffrey. Hope Hicks says, all right, come on, I'll come in and talk to you political committee. I don't want to be subpoenaed. Bring me in. I told some white lies but never on something substantial. And those questions you want me to answer about the drafting of the statement about that meeting, I won't talk about it. And nothing happens. What are the legalities involved?

TOOBIN: It's really, as usual in Washington, it's more of a political story than a legal story. But there is such a thing as executive privilege, but it is relatively narrow in scope. You can't simply say I am not answering any questions about my service in the White House.

However, the only way to press that issue, the only way to determine what the scope of the questions are that you can and can't answer, the only way to resolve that is if the intelligence committee first subpoenas Hope Hicks and then finds her in contempt if she refuses to answer questions. And then the matter goes to the courts and they resolve what questions can be asked.

This committee is under Republican control. They have no desire to subpoena her, no desire to hold her in contempt. So she has absolutely free reign to refuse to answer anything she wants because there will be no consequences.

CUOMO: That committee keeps playing it both ways. They keep saying this is a mess, they've got literally a physical barrier put up between the left and the right because they don't trust each other, but we can still conduct our investigation. How? How is this not just a waste of time and money with respect to this one committee?

GREGORY: I'm pretty cynical about it. I think the action in town is the Mueller investigation.

CUOMO: The Senate intel a little bit. They've been working bipartisan and trying to figure things out. GREGORY: I think that's right. And I think the partisanship on the

House that's fueled by critics of this investigation just completely undermine it. Because this is a political process, that's the point Jeffrey I think just made that's important. This is not a legal process. We have that with the independent counsel which is not devoid of politics, but this is purely a political process. I don't see how it gets to the bottom of anything.

CUOMO: Jeffrey Toobin, what popped your eyebrows this morning in terms of all the headlines.

TOOBIN: Jared Kushner's egregious conflicts of interest. That "Washington Post" story is so unbelievable. He is the definition of a security risk. And it doesn't even really have to do anything with blackmail. He is negotiating with Qatar. He is negotiating with China. At the same time his company is begging for money from those countries. How can we know whether when Kushner is negotiating with these countries whether he's representing the national interest or his commercial interest? That's why he doesn't have a security clearance. That's why he shouldn't have a security clearance. I just think this is one of the things about the Trump era is we've degraded all our superlatives. But I just don't -- it's a shocking situation that close to the seat of power.

GREGORY: It's at least the potential for corruption that is eye popping. And it is this blackhole where we don't know where all these entanglements are. And it's incompetent if not corrupt. This is the kind of stuff when you dig deep into Putin's government and the kleptocracy that is the modern day Czarist Kremlin, you have to be deeply, deeply suspicious. And the fact that this president who has promised to bring us the best and to drain the swamp is bringing that in without accountability is at least, at least making us vulnerable to give all fairness to what we don't know.

But I agree. By the why, this is why you don't hire your children, when you have these kind of conflicts that you can't resolve because this is my son-in-law after all. Nobody would put up with this. Again, for all the Republicans and the defenders of Trump, if this were Hillary Clinton, what would they be saying?

TOOBIN: And how rich is it? How much time did we spend talking about Hillary Clinton's concern for national security because of her e- mails? And to have Jared Kushner with no security clearance with access to the crown jewels of American intelligence for more than a year, talk about security risk, it just boggles the mind.

CUOMO: Jeffrey Toobin, David Gregory, thank you to you both. Alisyn, to you.

CAMEROTA: OK, Chris, so you'll remember this dad. He made a dramatic plea to President Trump last week. And now he is making it his mission to make schools safer after his daughter Meadow was killed here at the school behind me. That dad, Andrew Pollack, joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [08:16:42] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I'm here in Parkland, Florida, where the kids at the high school you see behind me are returning to school for the first time in two weeks.

There is a huge police presence on the ground here. We have seen dozens and dozens, I mean, easily hundreds of police officers from neighboring communities coming here to show a sense of solidarity and strength with the officers here as well as, of course, all the students.

So, one dad, Andrew Pollack, lost his daughter Meadow in this massacre at the school behind me. Since then he's made it his mission to improve school safety in the hopes of, of course, preventing any other mass shooting from happening in any other community.

Mr. Pollack was also at the White House listening session with President Trump and he delivered this powerful statement to him.


ANDREW POLLACK, FATHER OF MEADOW POLLACK, SCHOOL SHOOTING VICTIM: I'm very angry that this happened because it keeps happening. 9/11 happened once and they fixed everything. How many schools, how many children have to get shot? It stops here with this administration and me. I'm not going to -- I'm not going to sleep until it's fixed.


CAMEROTA: And that dad, Andrew Pollack, joins us now.

Thanks so much for being here. I know you said that's the first time you actually reheard your words to President Trump.

POLLACK: A little of it. I really don't -- I haven't been focusing on the news at all.

CAMEROTA: I don't blame you.

POLLACK: I get more emotional any time I see myself or see or hear other kids that were affected, or parents. I'm just staying focused on one direction.

CAMEROTA: So, what is it like being back here today?

POLLACK: It's kind of emotional. I'm happy for the kids, they've got to get back on track, get back to school. It's a big police presence, and they're going to feel safe. They've got to feel safe.

And we've got to continue. It can't just be today. That's my whole agenda, is just to make every school safe so when the kids are inside, they're not worried about getting shot.

CAMEROTA: That's a good goal.

POLLACK: That's my goal. CAMEROTA: So did you feel heard at that listening session? You stood

up and you were telling President Trump how angry you are, that this didn't happen sooner to protect Meadow. What did you think came out of that listening session?

POLLACK: I think -- before we went in the listening session, he had my family into the Oval Office. We had -- we sat down in the Oval Office for a good 15, 20 minutes, just one-on-one with the president and Vice President Pence, General Kelly, his whole staff were there, and we just spoke about the incident and how the country is going to move forward.

CAMEROTA: What did the president say to you? Oh, my God. Your dog is chewing on my microphone. She's very cute.

So, tell me what you said to the president and what he said to you?

POLLACK: I just told him we need to get together and fix it. This is -- it can't happen again. It's been 200 shootings in America in schools.

So, he says we're going to fix it. Mr. Pollack, I promise you, I'm working on it. I gave him -- I left him with a collage of pictures of my daughter. I said, Mr. President, I'm going the leave this with you.

[08:20:03] Every day you're going to wake up, you'll see my beautiful daughter. It's going to be in the Oval Office, the pictures, and I want you to concentrate and stay focused.

You know, he's got a lot on his plate. I said let's stay focused and concentrate on school safety.

CAMEROTA: Did he say he's going to do that?

POLLACK: He's going to do it.

And I'm invited back to the White House on Thursday, so he wants to meet with me again. I guess he's going to tell me some things that he's working on.

CAMEROTA: So, let's talk about that. What do you want him to work on? What do you think is the answer here to stop this from ever happening again?

POLLACK: Well, I don't even know -- he's not the one guy. It's everybody in the country, if we all get together -- I think it starts -- it's going to start with the governor in each state. Because Rick Scott just implemented this bill that's a $500 million bill.

CAMEROTA: Yes, do you like the details of this bill?

POLLACK: It's great. I went through it. I had the speaker of the house, came to my house, flew in from Tallahassee.

CAMEROTA: And wanted to know what you wanted in the bill? POLLACK: He went over it with me so I understand it. I was in

Tallahassee, I think yesterday. I've been all over the place. I'm going back to Tallahassee Friday.

Saturday, I'm going to be on the floor in the capitol meeting with all the representatives, discussing this bill to make sure this never happens again in Florida.

CAMEROTA: So, one of the suggestions in this bill is to train and arm teachers, ten teachers in each school. The governor is against that. Where are you?

POLLACK: So what you're telling me, it's not -- it's fake, or whatever you're hearing isn't correct.

CAMEROTA: You tell me.

POLLACK: I'm going to tell you, in the bill it's a marshal program. It's a volunteer program.

CAMEROTA: Of teachers, yes?

POLLACK: Not a specific number. There can be only one teacher in the whole school. Let's say that hero coach that went in -- I'm sorry -- that hero coach, he could have saved ten kids. So --

CAMEROTA: Understood. It but it's not play-offs, it's teachers.

POLLACK: They go through a police program. They're going to be marshal.

CAMEROTA: I get it. They will be trained. But they are right now teachers and they'll be trained to carry guns.

POLLACK: Trained as marshals. I have the answer for everybody up in arms about that.

This is America, and it's freedom of choice, right? You have the choice to go to any school you want. So, my answer to them, is if you don't want a teacher or a marshal or someone with a gun at your school, you go to a gun-free school zone. That's where you go.

You take your kid and you go to a school that has a gun-free zone and you take them there. The parent that wants to go to the school where there's a marshal or a police presence, they send their kids there. And that fixes everything.

CAMEROTA: So, the governor publicly has said he doesn't want to train teachers and to arm teachers. Do you know something different?

POLLACK: It's in the bill, so I don't know why he would --

CAMEROTA: So, it was drafted by the state legislature. So, the state lawmakers not --

POLLACK: But it's not teachers. They're actually going to go through a program with the police department only as volunteers. They don't have to do it. It's not mandated.

CAMEROTA: But they'll still be teachers afterwards.

POLLACK: They're going to teach, yes.


POLLACK: And they're going to get paid, they're going to get compensated.

CAMEROTA: Yes, bonuses.

POLLACK: Bonus for being a marshal.

CAMEROTA: So, you're comfortable with that?

POLLACK: I'm very comfortable with it.

But I want to tell people that, that's the last line of defense, what I'm working on. So, really like a mute cause. My thing is, it's like when you go on a plane, when you get on a plane, do they do an active shooter drill when you're on the plane?


POLLACK: You're not worried that someone is going the shoot you on the plane.

CAMEROTA: Because they have marshals?

POLLACK: No, because you go through a metal detector before you get on the plane. So, we need to stop it before the kids go -- before anyone goes in the school, that's where it starts right there, not in the school -- you know what I mean? the kids shouldn't even be doing active shooter drills. It shouldn't even be in their head that someone is going to get in the school and get shot.

It's like at the courthouse. You're in the courthouse, the judge, is the judge -- do they do drills with the judge?


POLLACK: Judge, go by -- under your desk, someone is coming to shoot you. They don't do it. So, it shouldn't happen here.

CAMEROTA: You made that point so clearly at the White House. Basically what you were saying is why did it have to take this, why didn't this happen a year ago, ten years ago?

POLLACK: Twenty years ago it could have happened. Every courthouse is safe, federal buildings, airports. Now the new norm, I'm dedicated my life to this. The new norm that's going to be any kid that's younger, they're not going to know what it's like to just walk in the school like we did when we were kids. They're going to have to go through metal detectors, security. It's society now, it change.

CAMEROTA: What do you think of one of the proposals of increasing the age limit of purchasing weapons to 21?

POLLACK: I think that's just common sense.

CAMEROTA: To increase it.

POLLACK: Yes, it doesn't really matter like, I don't know -- it's not a big deal, you know?

[08:20:01] So, I think it shouldn't be that important to people. It shouldn't be a deal breaker, to be 18 or 21.

CAMEROTA: Because it seems like the president agreed with you. But then we understood he met with the NRA and he started to feel a little differently.

POLLACK: Yes, I just Think -- I don't think that's going to persuade him. He's a common sense guy, just like I am. It's just common sense to raise it to 21.

But that's not my thing. I'm not an expert on guns and NRA and all that. But it's common sense to me, if they ask me what I thought, I would say 21 is fine.

CAMEROTA: I see your t-shirt. So many of the kids here are wearing MSD strong for their school. But you say Meadow strong. So, I know you're thinking Meadow --

POLLACK: I got all the kids names on the back.

CAMEROTA: So, these are all the kids who were lost here. I see your daughter's name here in the middle. So I've heard you say you think your daughter is the person sitting on your shoulder through all this, how are you getting the strength to be here today?

POLLACK: It's very easy. Everyone keeps asking me, I could never do it, how do you do it?

When someone murders your kid, something -- you just get a certain power that empowers you. My kid is murdered, and I can do anything. I could get up in front of Trump. I can tell Trump how I feel, President Trump. I could stop traffic on the saw grass if I want. I could do anything.

I'm just focusing -- all that for my daughter, I'll focus it toward school safety. It's not -- it's simple. Do that to your kid and you'll see what happens. I hope no one ever has to do what I have to do.

CAMEROTA: And you're prepared that this is your life now, this is your mission.

POLLACK: This is my life, and I just want to be the last one. It stops with me. I don't want anyone ever to go through what I have to go through. Every day, I wake up and I hear her in my head.

I hear voices -- not in a bad way. I hear her voice if my head, not everyone else's. I hear her voice in my head and I don't want anyone to go through it. I just want it to stop.

If we all come together as one party, Americans, we can make it happen. Just stay focused.

CAMEROTA: What's Meadow telling you in those moments?

POLLACK: I just hear her calling me daddy and it's just -- it empowers me to do what I have to do. I'm working -- I'm going to work non-stop. We can't stop -- the thing is we can't just stop in Florida. The other states need to be proactive in this.

Whatever we can do to get these other states to be proactive, it's going to happen. You know, there's going to be some other nut out there that's going to do something like this.

CAMEROTA: God forbid. Andrew, thank you very much. Thank you for sharing all this with us. Florida is leading the way and you are, too. Thank you so much.

POLLACK: Thank you. Give me a hug.

CAMEROTA: Thanks so much.

POLLACK: All right. Thanks.

CAMEROTA: Take care of yourself.

POLLACK: All right. Thanks. We're going in the right direction.

CAMEROTA: And your adorable dog down there.

All right. In the wake of this Parkland massacre, there's big news. Dick Sporting Goods just announcing they will no longer sell assault- style rifles. Their CEO is going to join us next.