Return to Transcripts main page


Putin Touts New Missiles; Trump Continues Attack on Sessions; Mueller Looking into Obstruction; Kushner's Meeting for Loan; Big Storm Could hit U.S. Aired 6:30-7:00a ET

Aired March 1, 2018 - 06:30   ET



[06:32:06] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We have some breaking news for you right now.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is touting new nuclear powered missiles that he says he has that can reach anywhere in the world.

CNN's Matthew Chance is live in Moscow with the breaking details.

What did he say, Matthew?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, this started off as a very (INAUDIBLE) to both houses of the Russian parliament. It comes three weeks before the Russian election. It was all about the economy.

But suddenly the tone of the speech changed and Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, started talking about these new what he called invincible missiles that have been tested in recent months and are now basically in service, or at least have been developed to the point that they can be used, including a hyper sonic missile, a missile that travels many times the speed of sound, that can outpace the U.S. missile defense shield, which is so maneuverable that the U.S. missile defense shield cannot keep up with it.

He also spoke about drones that have been developed, underwater drones that are capable of carrying a nuclear payload and all sorts of other, you know, quite extraordinary military technology obviously designed to sort of provoke some patriotism in the -- in the -- in the hearts of those who were watching this speech, not just in the -- in the parliament, but around the country as well, but also designed, I think, to deliver a message to the United States.

And he made very clear that the -- the path to developing this technology happened over the past couple of years. He said it was essentially a response to the deployments of the U.S. missile defense shield in Eastern Europe and very (INAUDIBLE) military developments in the U.S. He said this, they didn't listen to us then. Listen to us now. So a kind of not so veiled warning to the U.S. not to mess with Russia and its new kind of terrifying arsenal of nuclear weapons.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Matthew Chance, thank you very much. Important news indeed.

The president criticizing Attorney General Jeff Sessions once again. In fact, attacking the entire institution of the Department of Justice. Is that helping Robert Mueller build a case of obstruction against Mr. Trump? A closer look at why and maybe why not, next.


[06:38:22] CUOMO: "The Washington Post" is reporting that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is looking into President Trump's efforts last summer to intimidate and oust Attorney General Jeff Sessions. As the president continues to publicly attack Sessions tweeting, why is AG Jeff Sessions asking the inspector general to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse? Because that's what the IG does, by the way. But he continues, will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey, et cetera. Isn't the IG an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? Disgraceful.

Joining us now, former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, currently the dean of Belmont University College of Law.

Always a pleasure to see you, sir.


CUOMO: So, list for me some of your concerns when you hear the president assailing the ability of the DOJ to do an internal investigation. The idea that members will be politically motivated and the attacks on the AG overall.

GONZALES: Well, it's unprecedented, I think, if we can all agree on that, as a general matter, of course. The attorney general works for the president of the United States. And if the president's unhappy, he can certainly express that displeasure. As a general matter, when your -- when the president of the United States is unhappy with a cabinet official, then that cabinet official is asked to leave or resigns voluntarily.

So what we're seeing here is really different. And I think what -- the thing that worries me the most is that even though the attacks seem to be focused on the attorney general, it -- there is no way that it doesn't affect the morale of the entire Department of Justice. If Jeff Sessions is doing his job, and I expect that he is, then he's -- he's instructing everyone within the Department of Justice to keep your head down and do your work on behalf of the American people.

[06:40:01] Nevertheless, I think it does have an influence on the morale of the department, which in -- you know, at the end of the day, affects the reputation and the viewpoint of the American people of the Trump administration. And so it's sort of counterproductive to, I think, what President Trump wants to achieve, which is, of course, confidence in the American people that the administration's working as best as it can on behalf of the American people.

Let's put the list up there of the things that we know about that he said to him.

Alberto, if you were in the job at this time, would you let somebody talk to you this way or would you have -- would you have left on your own terms?

GONZALES: Well, it's hard for me to even imagine this scenario, Chris. The first thing that would normally happen, I would think, is that there would be a private conversation, probably first beginning with the chief of staff and the counsel to the president to the attorney general. And then as things escalate, there would be a private conversation between the president on the United States and the attorney general. And if things don't get worked out, then, you know, then the chief of staff tells the attorney general it's time to leave or the attorney general decides, you know what, there's obviously no confidence in my -- in my being here and therefore I'm going to resign. So, again, as I said at the outset, from my experience and certainly based upon my review of history, this is pretty unprecedented.

CUOMO: Right. Mueller looking at it reportedly as proof of a pattern that would lead to an analysis of obstruction of justice. Yes, no?

GONZALES: I think it's possible. But, on the other hand, I think we all have to remember, I think this is a -- a pattern, there's a history that certainly has existed before the president got into the white House and I think it's continuing today of how President Trump deals with lawyers, his lawyers. And so the fact that this is the way that he's dealing with this lawyer is -- may simply reflect a history, a practice and perhaps not the corrupt intent that's necessary to prove obstruction of justice.

And I think we're finding a situation, as we saw from the response from Jeff Sessions yesterday, that Jeff Sessions is immune -- is becoming immune to it. He's used to it. And as long as he feels like he's doing his job, he's going to continue doing his job and continue to remain in that position.

But, again, as to whether or not, you know, it's not surprising that Bob Mueller is looking into these kinds of actions because they are somewhat unusual, particularly in the face of an ongoing investigation that we have today. But whether or not there's an obstruction of justice, you know, I'm not sure that the evidence is there as of yet. But Bob Mueller, of course, knows a lot more about the facts here than I do.

CUOMO: And, look, I mean the problem is, the more the president tries to erode confidence in these institutions and the democracy, then when they do come out with a report from the IG about FISA, then when the DOJ does want to act on something, the confidence of the public may be shaken. And that's when you start to get into the big implications.

Let me ask you something. On paper, the idea that Jared Kushner took meetings in the White House that resulted in one way or another in him getting close to half a billion dollars in loans for his family's private enterprise, obviously political common sense tells you, don't take a meeting like that at the White House. Don't do that when you're working for the United States. But what could the potential implications of that be?

GONZALES: Well, of course there are possible violations of conflict of interest. But you're absolutely right that as a general matter, at the beginning, everyone is vetted that comes at the senior staff level. The counsel has a conversation with senior members of the team to understand what their financial situation is, make them -- make them understand what their -- what their both legal and ethical obligations are, what the expectations of the president is with respect to their ethical conduct.

And then, you know, for example, if Karl Rove was involved in this kind of situation, he would have come to me and said, this is the situation. Is there a problem here? And I would have given the advice that, no, this -- while it may not be legally or ethically a problem, the appearance is terrible. And so --

CUOMO: How is it not ethically a problem though? If you take a meeting at the White House in your official capacity with Apollo capital, and they wind up giving you a larger than usual loan for their own book, their own portfolio, how is that not a problem?

GONZALES: I'm not saying that it's not an ethical problem, Chris.

CUOMO: Oh, sorry.

GONZALES: What I'm -- what I'm saying -- yes, what I'm saying is, of course, is that even the appearance -- even if it's not an ethical problem, the appearance is bad. And this is why we're talking about it today. And I -- you know, again, I can't speak to what guidance the council's given in this particular case with guidance and direction, the chief of staff has given with respect to this particular White House. I'm just explaining how this is would have been handled in the Bush White House. This is not something -- this would have been something that we would have handled from the very outset so that this kind of event would not have occurred.

CUOMO: Alberto Gonzales doesn't take a meeting with somebody and ask them for a loan for a private enterprise while he's attorney general or in that capacity for government, right?

GONZALES: No one's -- no one's going to give me that -- a loan in that amount, Chris, to start with. But, absolutely not. You have enough sense. Your antenna immediately goes up with respect to that in that -- that kind of situation that that -- it just doesn't look right, it doesn't smell right and so you just don't do it.

CUOMO: And if it's such an apparent consideration, you have to ask, why did he do this?

[06:45:04] Alberto Gonzales, your perspective is always helpful. Thank you for being on the show, as always.

GONZALES: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Be well. Coming up in just minutes, we're going to speak with form White House

Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci. How does he see what's happening in the West Wing. Is it business as usual? Is it helpful to the country? He'll make the case to you next.

CAMEROTA: OK. And then coming up later in the program, we have a panel of gun owners, half of whom now have second thoughts about their own weapons, including their AR-15s, since the Parkland massacre.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know why you want them. I know they make a lot of noise. They shoot a lot of bullets. A very macho gun. It's cool looking. I understand why they want them. But nobody can tell me why you need it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't have to need it. It's your constitutionally protected right.


CAMEROTA: OK, so watch what happens when these gun owners express concerns about their own guns. That's ahead in our 8:00 hour.


CAMEROTA: The House Oversight Committee is investigating allegations of excessive spending by HUD Secretary Ben Carson. CNN first broke the story that officials spent $31,000 on a new dining room set for Secretary Carson's office. That is more than six times the limit for redecorating the entire office without congressional approval.

[06:50:00] Ben Carson and his wife responding on Twitter saying there's been, quote, no dishonesty or wrongdoing on their part. We shall see as the investigation unfolds.

CUOMO: March roaring in like a lion in the northeast. This storm could be the strongest nor'easter since January's bomb cyclone.

CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray has your forecast.

What are we looking at, my friend?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: This one's going to be a big one, Chris. We are still seeing that flooding in the south. And this is where the storm is originating from. It's going to get its act together and it is going to be a monster storm by the time it gets off the coast of New England.

This is brought to you by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Packed with goodness.

And so what we're going to be dealing with several different components. One is going to be the high wind threat, and that's going to stretch anywhere from the Southeast all the way up to the Northeast. Winds are going to be roaring anywhere from say Eastern Long Island, all the way up to Massachusetts. We could see gusts up to 65 miles per hour. And also the duration of this storm is important. It's going to last all day Friday, into Saturday. Coastal flooding could be a huge concern as we could see flooding through three high tide cycles, which this is a full moon, so the highest tides of the season -- or the month, rather.


CAMEROTA: OK, Jennifer, thank you very much for explaining all of that.

So, a group of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High share what it was like for them to return to their school for the first time since the massacre. That's next.


[06:55:36] CAMEROTA: I spent the day in Parkland, Florida, yesterday with the students as they returned to their high school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, for the first time since a gunman murdered 17 of their friends and teachers.

And then we checked in with them on their way out of school about what they experienced being back in the building. They told us how much has changed in the two weeks that they've been gone, including their life mission and, for some, their hair.


CAMEROTA: How did it go in there today?

DESTINY BRICENO, JUNIOR, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: It was really good. Really calm. Really like quiet. Really laid back today.

CAMEROTA: You thought they handled it well for you as well?

RAMIS HASHMI, JUNIOR, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: I think so. They're helping us heal. And there was a lot of tears. There was a lot of pain. But they're helping us heal.

NICHOLAS JOSEPH, SOPHOMORE, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: Lots of counseling. And it was nice to be with everybody again. And the quicker we get back into the things, the better. And the therapy dogs helped a lot. That was nice. And the teachers are just being really supportive and helpful. And all the students. And we're just coming back together as a family again.

ISABELLA BENJAMIA, FRESHMAN, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: It was hard walking into my classrooms again and seeing my teachers and my friends and also walking into my classroom where I lost my friend. And just seeing her desk there empty and knowing that she'll never be back.

CAMEROTA: How will you cope with that? BENJAMIA: I'll just have to, you know, distract myself and try to move

on and know that she would want me to live my life, live a happy life. And I know that she's in a better place now.

CHRISTOPHER POWELL, JUNIOR, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: Well, ever since everything happened, Joaquin, obviously, you know, had bleach blonde hair. And so I just looked at myself in the mirror and I was like, hmm, like, I kind of want to do something -- like, I want to make a change, you know. I just -- I just bleached my hair. And it shows, you know, we're remembering Joaquim and who he was because everyone knew him as the kid with, you know, blonde -- he dyed his hair blonde. And we were just like, OK, that's a good way to remember him and respect him.

CAMEROTA: So how are you guys going to move forward?

BRICENO: I think I'm just going to be like more positive and live my life like a little more full to my own standards every day like for them instead of like letting me -- letting it drag me down.

CAMEROTA: That's beautiful.

HASHMI: I've become an activist in every single sense of the word. I don't want this to happen in other schools. As simple as that. I'm moving forward in this way. I'm going to make sure that I feel safe. My friends feel safe. I want to work with people, talk -- we're going to make sure we talk about mental health. We're going to make sure we talk about common sense gun control. We're going to make sure that something actually changes in this country.

CAMEROTA: Do you have the energy to keep it up?

HASHMI: Yes, I do. And the NRA and everyone is betting that we won't have the energy. But we will have the energy. We're teenagers.

CAMEROTA: And what happens to the movement now, now that you're back at school? Obviously you guys are kids. You're going to be busy. You're going to have schoolwork. So what happens now?

TANZIL PHILIP, SOPHOMORE, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: It's going to be difficult because we're, obviously, in school and we do a lot of stuff out of school. But our teachers are behind us. And they know what we're doing and they're really helpful with that.

So I think because we have the support with our teachers and our parents, it won't be that much of a challenge to keep working on the movement.

We want change to happen. I know it normally doesn't happen fast. Obviously there are more things that can be done. So we're just -- we're taking it one step at a time.

CAMEROTA: This wouldn't be happening without you guys. Do you feel a sense of satisfaction?

PHILIP: We don't feel like some people call us heroes, some people call us -- we're doing this, but we're just doing this for us so it doesn't happen to my younger brother, who's 12 years old, who's going to come here in two years. We just don't want this to happen to anyone else. So I think that's really what we're fighting for.


CAMEROTA: I liked that one kid said who -- when I said, how are you going to have the energy for this? They're going to be back in school now, you know? And he said, of course we're going to have the energy, we're teenagers.

CUOMO: It's true. And also, look, they are the impetus. They are the motivation. They are not the end point. They shouldn't be held to account for the solutions and getting them enforced. That's for others to do.

CAMEROTA: For sure. And I think they know that. But they do still feel energized and activated, even going back to school. So, obviously, we will follow their progress.

CUOMO: You have to, otherwise people will forget.

CAMEROTA: Yes, definitely, and that would be tragic.

So thanks to our international viewers for watching. If you, CNN "NEWSROOM" is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hope was one of the people he really, really trusted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he's going to feel like he's on an island.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This looks to me like more evidence of a White House in disarray.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president may have berated her for being dishonest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was talking about leaving. I wouldn't blame her.

[07:00:01] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But he's undermined Attorney General Sessions from the very beginning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And now we know he tried to oust Jeff Sessions.

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I wouldn't stay at all. I wouldn't be anybody's whipping boy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president can fire the attorney general, but he can't do it for (INAUDIBLE). That's what I think Mueller's trying to get at.