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Putin Touts New "Invincible" Nuclear-Powered Missile; Attack Underway In Burkina Faso's Capital; Beyond The Call Of Duty; Is Trump Flip-Flopping On Gun Control? Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired March 2, 2018 - 07:30   ET



[07:32:32] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, says he isn't trying to ignite a new Cold War, but Putin is touting -- Putin is touting Russia's new invincible nuclear-powered missile that is capable of hitting anywhere in the world, according to him. Putin showed a video as proof, simulating Russian missiles apparently raining down on Florida near the president's Mar-a-Lago estate.

Our next guest is skeptical of Putin's claim about his capability but has real feelings about his intentions. Joining us now is Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA and NSA under President George W. Bush. Sir, always a please.


CUOMO: Nothing subtle about that, General -- missiles, accurate or inaccurate, about the capabilities right down on Florida. I mean, is that --

HAYDEN: Actually, that's one of the stunning aspects of the demonstration yesterday. That they would actually use an absolutely recognizable part of the United States to show where the targeting was.

But look, we'll run out our videos to explain capabilities and new capacities but they're usually generic. They're not going after a particular country for that very reason. You don't want to be seen doing that. Clearly, he wanted us to see that.

CUOMO: Now, ordinarily, someone like you says in the face of this kind of provocation let me handle it. A president should ignore this.

However, can you think of any other inimical actor that would do something like this and not get an immediate response from President Trump? Can you imagine if North Korea did this, or China, or anybody that he has gone after in the past, except Russia?

HAYDEN: So the norm, as you suggest, is we're telling the president we've got this one, big guy.

CUOMO: Right. HAYDEN: We'll go ahead and comment on this. You keep your powder dry. We'll bring you on when we need you and then you don't have the president mixing it up with every offense that real or imagined that takes places.

The president blows through that kind of advice and now, you've got this kind of offense which really feels like a Kim Jong Un rhetoric than stagecraft here coming up, and the president's not commenting on it.

So what you've got is the delta. It's not that he does it all the other times, it's that he won't do it for this one.


HAYDEN: Well, and people draw conclusions from that.

CUOMO: No, look, I'm not saying that he should provoke --

HAYDEN: Oh, no, of course, not.

CUOMO: Nobody wants any kind of escalation.


CUOMO: We've had enough of that.

But -- well, how do you explain his reticence --


[07:35:00] CUOMO: -- to go word-for-word with this man when he does it with everybody else?

HAYDEN: Yes. So, there's no logic that explains it. I don't know what created the dynamic but we saw it during the campaign, all right? And now, it may be just at a point, Chris, where it's a thing for him now that in order for him to say something about Putin now would be implicit admission that he should have been saying other things and he just won't do it. It's not useful.

CUOMO: That's the best example.


CUOMO: That would be the best rationale if -- well, if I do it now I'll be giving in to my critics, so I won't.

HAYDEN: Right.

CUOMO: That is the best possible area. All of the other ones are much more troubling.

HAYDEN: Well, I'll give you a modestly darker one, all right? He actually admires the way Putin does business. He actually -- you know, in his heart of hearts he may look at what happened yesterday in the Russian Federation and have a certain sense -- why can't I give speeches like that? Why can't I do those kinds of things?

I think there is a bit of autocrat envy in terms of the president's attitude towards the president of the Russian Federation.

CUOMO: And, Putin envy?

HAYDEN: The way he is able to govern, the things Putin is able to say, the way things seem responsive to Putin without the institutions of government pushing back on him -- yes, I think he'd like that.

CUOMO: And look -- and to your point about the distinction between how he's dealing with this and otherwise, more talk again about potential preemptive military action on North Korea by the United States.

Do you think that that is likely and would you believe that that could be successful in any circumstances?

HAYDEN: I don't think it's likely and I have less confidence that it would be successful. I think the language we had here, Chris that generated this most recent threat was if they showed the capability of the missile and the weapon -- the capability of --

You know, you and I have been talking about this now for over a year and trying to parse out the language.

Mattis has been very careful. Mattis has talked tough -- the secretary of defense -- but he's talked tough about the threat. If they threaten America, if they threaten America's friends -- and it puts our response in a fairly narrow, fairly easy to define lane.

Occasionally, the presidents talk like this. Not about the threat -- not about the threat induced, but simply the existence of, the capacity to, and this most recent statement is over here. And that really, to me, is unsettling on a whole lot of levels.

CUOMO: Now, that goes to the finesse of message and the methodology and the sequencing that's involved. Those are terms that you've put into my head in terms of relevant aspects of this kind of planning and strategy.

That takes us to H.R. McMaster. We've heard many times, as have you, he may be on his way out.

He's frustrated with the process. Trump doesn't listen to him. Trump goes against his advice.

The president said yesterday that it's not true. He's doing a great job.

How important is McMaster to national security?

HAYDEN: Well, the position is traditionally very important to national security and unless you hire a Brzezinski, a Kissinger or a Scowcroft -- and we've had occasions to have those kinds of folks -- what you'd normally get in the job is someone who controls the process of issues and information reaching the president so that there's a methodology, there's a sequence, that there's an order, all right?

So that's H.R.'s task. Can you imagine that?


HAYDEN: Discipline, order, sequence for this president.

And so, my picture, Chris, is we're going to have these sideways of periodic friction simply because of the nature of the job and the nature of the president. And even if you pulled H.R. out and put someone else in, if he's going to do the job you're still going to have these sideways of friction because they're imposing things on the president who, frankly, wants to act spontaneously and immediately.

CUOMO: Putin pretends to drop missiles on Florida, silence. Alec Baldwin, the actor, says something the president like, he tweets about it first thing in the morning. It would be crazy but, for us, it's just Friday.

HAYDEN: It's Friday.

CUOMO: General, thank you --

HAYDEN: Thank you.

CUOMO: -- very much. Appreciate the perspective -- Alisyn.


We are following some breaking news right now. An armed attack is underway in Burkina Faso's capital city. We have a live report from there with the latest, next.


[07:42:50] CAMEROTA: We do have some breaking news to tell you about right now.

There's an attack underway in Burkina Faso's capital. This is near the French Embassy. You can see we're just getting some video in from Reuters.

The U.S. Embassy, a few miles away, warning Americans who are downtown to seek shelter right now.

CNN's David McKenzie is tracking the latest for us in West Africa. What have you learned, David?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Alisyn. It's an unfolding situation in Burkina Faso in the capital of Ouagadougou,

Now, what we do know is that there were large explosions. You see the smoke billowing from buildings there. Witnesses say that there's ongoing gunfire in the capital.

The French Embassy saying there was an attack of some kind near the French Embassy. It appears also multiple locations targeted, Alisyn. The U.S. Embassy saying Americans should shelter in place -- no movement in the capital.

And there's a real sense there could be more to the story as it unfolds. To give some context here, it's too early to speculate necessarily but al Qaeda's Islamic Maghreb and its affiliated groups are active in Burkina Faso. There have been deadly attacks there over the last few years. Normally, those attacks have taken on soft targets in the capital and military oppose in the edge of the country.

Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, which is heavily involved in that country, was there just a few months ago for a controversial visit.

We'll give you more details as they unfold but at this hour, an attack still ongoing in the capital of Burkina Faso.

Chris, back to you.

CUOMO: All right, thank you very much. Appreciate you monitoring the situation. Let us know if there's information we need to get out for the rest of the show. Appreciate it, my friend.

Republican lawmakers in Georgia following through on their threat to punish Delta Airlines for cutting ties with the NRA. Exemptions on jet fuel that are worth about $38 million to Delta were stripped from the state's new tax plan.

The lieutenant governor, Casey Cagle -- he's the one who first motivated this and he's defending the move, insisting that corporations can't attack conservatives without expecting them to fight back.

[07:45:05] CAMEROTA: A Massachusetts police officer using his passion for boxing to help at-risk youth.

CNN's Brynn Gingras shows us how he's changing lives by going beyond the call of duty.



I'm not in uniform here. It's a police program. I'm a police officer. In here, I just want to be J.J.

By yourselves to the bells. Just work on your form.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tucked away in the basement of the Cambridge, Massachusetts YMCA, a boxing ring that stands for more than just a sport.

For Alfonso Hidalgo, the ring was an escape.

ALFONSO HIDALGO, TRAINED BY JONES: I was going through a lot of difficult times before I came here. I was homeless.

JONES: When he came in here it was obvious that he needed some guidance.

GINGRAS: The relationship between J.J. and Alfonso took several rounds.

HIDALGO: Before we was even a month I'll never forget -- and I just -- I don't know why. It was just that time and I just opened up to him. I said, you know, this is what I'm going through. Basically, just -- like, help me.

It became that place for me and for those two or three hours I was here I was like actually happy.

GINGRAS: And that's a feeling Alfonso didn't expect.

HIDALGO: You know, growing up in my community you hear a cop, you run, sometimes without even knowing why.

He was probably the first person that made me see beyond the uniform. (INAUDIBLE).

JONES: You're usually tight.

HIDALGO: No, I'm in shape.

JONES: No, I know, I see. You look good.

The hope is that if they can connect with me maybe that builds a trust with other officers and patrol.

GINGRAS: To date, J.J. has trained nearly 750 kids and teenagers over eight years.

JONES: Good job.

GINGRAS: He's never missed a Tuesday or Thursday class, not even for a vacation, a commitment that is not only changing lives, but saving them.

JONES: Come on. That's good.

GINGRAS: Elissa Gould's mother said her daughter was self-harming before she found this program.

ELISSA GOULD, TRAINS WITH JONES: Over the week, because of school, I get a lot of stress. Coming here, I can just kind of get that off because it kind of helps.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like, show her punch?

JONES: Every punch.

It is giving them individual attention.

GOULD: They also let me rant sometimes.

HIDALGO: It was never about me just to fight another win. It was about just growth. Boxing brought me here but J.J. made me stay.

JONES: He's not anything close to the person that he was when he first came here. He's a star as far as I'm concerned.

GINGRAS (on camera): Why do you think kids keep coming back?

JONES: I don't know but I'm glad they do.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Brynn Gingras, CNN, Cambridge.


CAMEROTA: That's wonderful. It sounds like it turned that girl's life around, too.

CUOMO: That's exactly right. You know, you default to the idea that this will be angry young men who will ascribe to this, but there's something -- and you know, I love fighting. I love everything about it.

CAMEROTA: Yes, you do -- yes.

CUOMO: And the training, especially because it is all about getting things out. It is all about being raw and real, and that will give these kids who are dealing with such horrible things a chance to just open up, get it out, fight back, take control of themselves.

And this police officer is showing us why we love these men and women so much. He gives of himself in a way that most of us wouldn't.

CAMEROTA: I love these stories -- the call of duty. It's so wonderful. Great story.

CUOMO: Great stuff.

All right, so back to the news of the day.

The president -- is he flip-flopping on gun reform after that big show of a White House meeting? Then he met with the NRA and a different message came out.

A Republican lawmaker who wants assault weapons banned joins us next.


[07:52:56] CUOMO: President Trump and Vice President Pence meeting with the executive director of the NRA lobbying arm last night. The NRA official later tweeted that the two quote "don't want gun control." How does that square with what the president said in his meeting with bipartisan lawmakers?

Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm going to write the bump stock -- essentially, write it out. It doesn't make sense that I have to wait until I'm 21 to get a handgun but I can get this weapon at 18. I don't know.

I like taking the guns early. Take the guns first, go through due process second.


CUOMO: Florida Republican Congressman Brian Mast was at that meeting and joins us now. How do you marry these two reckonings of the status quo?

REP. BRIAN MAST (R), FLORIDA, U.S. ARMY COMBAT VETERAN: I think it's very difficult to try to walk that back whatsoever. You can't do that.

You can't back -- walk back, saying hey, bump stocks, they're as good as gone. You can't walk back saying hey, if you get me a bill that addresses the buying age for anybody purchasing a firearm or what's going to go on with background checks and he'll sign it into law, I don't think you can walk that back.

CUOMO: Well, it seems like that's what's going on though, so how do you negotiate this? What do you think your best chance is to go forward and get something done or do you think the NRA's going to get what it wants?

MAST: I don't think the NRA is going to get what they want in this case. The president has been very firm to this point, largely saying listen, we're not going to be frightened of the NRA in this respect. We're going to go out there and we're going to do what we think is right based upon saving lives as it relates to the FBI, as it relates to every state agency, as it relates to firearm, as it relates to mental illness, and everything else surrounding this issue.

And I knew it was going to be a huge debate. That's why I was calling right up front to say Mr. President, let's apply this travel ban idea that you did -- a temporary hold on everything going on here -- to what's going on with the sale of AR-15s.

Let's put a pause on this while we're discussing all these things. That's where I'd like to see that. But I don't think he can walk this back.

CUOMO: A little moratorium. Are you getting any love on that suggestion of taking a beat?

MAST: Not a great deal. Not a great deal of love on that. I think I probably lost some friends on that.

[07:55:02] I did speak to the vice president about that after the meeting with the president and, you know, spoke to other folks about it. But the president has given very clear marching orders. He gave them

in that meeting. He gave it to senators, he gave it to members of the House of Representatives.

Merge these bills as it relates to background checks and the buying age of firearms. I'll take care of the bump stocks and we'll get it signed into law. He said he would sign it into law.

Then, more importantly than that, he's having the conversation of saying right now there's a line in the sand for what is the level of lethality that we're going to allow for civilian purchase and what is -- what is not going to be allowed. And he's saying I'm willing to move that line in the sand based upon a number of things.

That's a very important conversation. Maybe not everybody's at the same line in the sand, but him saying that he's willing to move it, I think that's probably the most significant part of this conversation.

CUOMO: And look, we're all saying that things feel different this way. You have such a motivated group of survivors that play to our sense of vulnerability of our children.

But, you know, the only real action he's taken in anything that you could even connect to this category of potential change is when he struck that ACA provision that would have restricted access for certain people receiving mental health care. And the president got rid of that and the theory of getting rid of it was on one level, too much regulation. But on another level was we don't want to restrict access to weapons.

MAST: Look, we need to look at who has firearms. That is very, very clear.

This incident in Parkland is the perfect example to say -- to bring people together and say nobody has confidence in the system. That we're weeding out the next Nikolas Cruz or Omar Mateen or Stephen Paddock.

Nobody -- Republican, Democrat, Independent -- that's what's so concerning. We've seen these failures time and time again of the system to weed out those that are the wrong people. Those that are not responsible gun-owning, law-abiding citizens.

That's the big problem here. We have to work on this.

CUOMO: But a lot of people who voted for you disagree, not just the NRA. The NRA is the head, right, but there's a lot of people who incorporate the body who say legally obtained weapons are almost never responsible for gun crime. They're a very small percentage.

And if you start banning weapons you're going to ban all weapons. And if people want to get a weapon they'll be able to get one. And they can kill with lots of different kinds of weapons so you're doing a slippery slope towards getting rid of all of them.

And the mentally ill -- they're going to have a constituency that comes forward and says you can't treat them differently.

How do you combat all of that resistance?

MAST: You know, this is basically what I said to the president very briefly in that meeting at the White House. He has an ability to speak on this issue with an authority that no other Republican can. People want to believe, Republicans want to believe that the president does not want to go into anybody's home and take their firearm. He doesn't want to -- doesn't want to endeavor down a slippery slope in that kind of way.

He can speak it a way that others can't. That's why he has to lead on this issue because he's the only one that can lead Republicans down a road for responsible gun ownership as it relates to eliminating incidents like Parkland, like Las Vegas, like Orlando. He has to be the leader on this.

CUOMO: Should he not be meeting with the NRA as you guys are figuring out how to do this?

MAST: The president should be meeting with the NRA. The NRA represents millions of gun-owning, law-abiding citizens, collectors, sportsmen, people that care about their Second Amendment rights. That God-given right to go out there and defend themselves. That's important.

They have to play a role in this conversation. It's their kids that are inside of the schools, as well. It's their families that are out parks or out at concerts. They deserve to have a very loud voice in this conversation as well, especially because it affects them.

But that's not the going to stop us from butting heads in this. That's going to be a part of this debate. I think the founders would be sickened if we didn't have this debate fervently and ardently. It's something that they would expect us to do.

CUOMO: But they're saying just hardened up the schools. More guns in the schools.

Get armed guards in there. The teachers who want to be trained and volunteer, let them have it. That takes care of your school problem.

MAST: It's something that has to be done. Look, I think all of our schools should be just as safe as the way that we feel as members of Congress when we're walking through the Capitol building, or as safe as the president feels when he's walking through the White House.

That's the level of safety that our children should feel inside of every school. That's the truth of it. But the reality is this conversation goes well beyond just what happens inside of a school.

Because we saw one of those incidents happen in a nightclub in Orlando, we saw it happen at a concert in Las Vegas. We can know it can happen out at a park somewhere. It can happen in a movie theater.

It can happen anywhere and this conversation is going to end up being defined in other places as we move forward.

CUOMO: Schools get a lot of our attention and rightly so, but they are not the main part of the mass shooting problem in terms of venues where they happen.

Well, Congressman, you are fighting a fight that is unpopular with a group of people who voted for you, so that takes a lot of bravery in politics in this day and age. So we'll see where the fight goes from here.

Thank you for coming on to make your case to the American people.

MAST: Absolutely, take care.

CUOMO: All right.

We're following a lot of news. What do you say? Let's get after it.