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Trump Unveils White House Plan for School Safety. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired March 12, 2018 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to go very strong into age, age of purchase.

[05:59:15] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump backtracking on his support for raising the minimum age to buy some firearms.

BETSY DEVOS, U.S. EDUCATION SECRETARY: I have been asked to head up a task force. There is a sense of urgency.

O.J. SIMPSON, ACQUITTED OF NICOLE BROWN SIMPSON AND RON GOLDMAN MURDERS: I don't remember. Grabbed the knife. After that, I don't remember. It's all kind of --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: O.J. Simpson giving a, quote, "hypothetical confession" in an explosive interview.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You may try and describe it as a hypothetical. But of course, it becomes odd.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: May day, may day, may day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five passengers killed in a tragic helicopter crash in New York City.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was just going straight down like it was coming in for a landing, but it was just really fast.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Monday, March 12, 6 a.m. here in New York. Here's our starting line.

The White House releasing their plan for school safety. This does not include President Trump's repeated calls to raise the minimum age to buy certain guns. The Trump administration's plan does include helping states pay to arm teachers and improving the nation's background check system.

The White House plan calls for creating a federal commission on school safety to examine the age issue headed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But that announcement came hours after the president mocked the idea of commissions, because he said they result in little action.

Secretary DeVos taking heat today after giving some puzzling answers in a new "60 Minutes" interview that we'll play for you.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So the president is hoping that Republicans hope they can hold onto a House seat in Pennsylvania in tomorrow's special election. The president campaigning, of course, for the Republican. He name is Rick Saccone. And he did this over the weekend in a big rally that was all about Trump, using it to attack his political opponents and renewing calls to execute drug dealers.

And fighting back. President Trump blasting a "New York Times" report that says he is in talks with a lawyer who represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment. "The Times" stands by its story, insists the veteran lawyer did meet with the president in the Oval Office, and it happened last week.

Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Kaitlan Collins, live at the White House -- Kaitlan.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris and Alisyn.

Overnight, the White House unveiled President Trump's school safety proposals away from the television cameras. And though they are moving forward with that contentious proposal of giving school employees firearms training, the president is shifting his stance on one of those key issues after multiple conversations with the NRA.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump backing down from increasing the minimum age for purchasing certain firearms, an idea strongly opposed by the NRA that the president repeatedly pushed for.

TRUMP: 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.

COLLINS: The shift coming after Mr. Trump publicly shamed senators Toomey and Manchin -- (AUDIO GAP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CUOMO: -- just the agency.

COLLINS: All right. So some issues there with the piece there, Chris.

But yes, the White House unveiled this proposal that comes after the president on Saturday night was ridiculing the idea that anyone -- that these commissions could actually achieve anything. But now the White House is setting up their own commission for school safety in order to prevent future mass shootings. It's going to be chaired by the education secretary, Betsy DeVos. We've got a few key points here that it includes. Of course, that one

is proposing is giving teachers those -- that firearms training, so they could -- something the president has championed, an idea he believes to prevent future mass shootings.

But it also includes several other things, including transitioning veterans and retired law enforcement into schools to work there, adopting measures to allow law enforcement to be able to remove firearms from individuals that they believe are threatening or pose threats to schools. Also overhauling and reforming mental health programs. Several ideas like that.

But the key thing here, Chris and Alisyn, is that it does not include that strong language, that dramatic language that we saw from the president in the days after that shooting about raising the age from being able to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21. So that is one key thing. Let's listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: In addition to everything that I mentioned to what we're going to do about background checks, we're going to go very strong into age -- age of purchase.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: So that comes after multiple conversations that the president had with the NRA. Of course, you'll remember that comment with the lawmakers here at the White House where the president said that he didn't care about due process, that you should take the guns first and worry about due process later. Certainly, something that struck the NRA officials.

But now we're seeing these proposals put forth by the White House. And Chris and Alisyn, there's no denying that it's just not as strong as the language that the president used in the aftermath of that shooting.

CAMEROTA: OK, Kaitlan. Thank you very much for laying out the -- what the White House is hoping to do with school violence and school safety. So let's discuss it. We have CNN political analysts John Avlon and David Gregory.

Just to put a finer point on how the president has changed, let's just -- Kaitlan played a little bit of how the president was so strong on raising the age to purchase firearms, but something has changed. Listen to where he was in the days after Parkland.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: In addition to everything else, in addition to what we're going to do about background checks, we're going to go very strong into age -- age of purchase.

You can't buy a handgun at 18, 19, or 20. You have to wait till you're 21. But you can buy the gun, the weapon used in this horrible shooting, at 18. You are going to decide, the people of this room, pretty much. They're going to decide. But I would give very serious thought to it.

[06:05:07] (via phone): Perhaps we'll do something having on age, because --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

TRUMP: -- it doesn't seem to make sense that you have to wait until you're 21 years old to get a pistol. But to get a gun like this maniac used in the school, you get that at 18.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: The president still supports raising the age limit to 21 for the purchase of certain firearms.

John, I think this is an interesting exercise, because obviously, the president believed the age should be raised. I mean, it seems like it. He mentioned it over and over. And he said he felt very strongly about it. But it's not in the White House proposal. And so that means he was talked out of it somehow by someone.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it means Trump is in retreat. And if the hit on the president is that he follows the last person he spoke to, apparently the last person he spoke to was the NRA.

This is something the president was clearly personally convinced should be done, but this package is pretty weak tea. And they haven't followed through on the president's instincts.

And indeed it comes, as the package pointed out at the top, the weekend after he dismisses blue-ribbon panels. We're going to get a blue-ribbon panel in addition to this sort of weak sauce from the president. And it is a retreat on their gun positions.

CUOMO: So what do you think, David? Will the Democrats go for this deal?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think so. But I think it's a signal that it is weak. It is a president in retreat from talking tough in his feel-good moment, bipartisan moment. But you know, let's get an assault weapons ban. Let's raise the age, telling the senators Toomey and Manchin "Get back to work on your Bill and start from there."

It doesn't mean that he wouldn't support those things if Congress cobbled those things together. But it's a question of where the presidential leadership is going to be. We know from covering these issues that they will slowly fade away and that the intensity will be among gun rights proponents. They'll vote on this issue. And those who want stricter safety measures will not. And it does take a president to keep this in front of the American people, to keep it in front of Congress, to keep that pressure on.

So there can be momentum that's built up from Congress itself. Are they going to do that in an election year, with the Republicans in control? I'm skeptical about it, honestly. And now the president is signaling that there's certain things that he will buck the NRA on. And I'm sure he'll be supportive of state measures, which may be affected with regard to mental health, which I think are important. The ability of a family to call law enforcement to say, "So-and-so is unstable. I think he's got guns." You've got to remove them. I think those are very important pieces of legislation, some of which are already being discussed in Congress right now, in the Senate. In particular, bipartisan legislation.

But you know, the business about commissions and all that, I just think that that is a highway to nowhere. Because it just gets eaten up by time and lack of interest.

CAMEROTA: Except that, David, it does show that, again, they're not reading from the same script. So when you set up a federal commission with Betsy DeVos, your education secretary, to spearhead this about school safety and assume people -- presumably think you'll take it seriously. Then the president goes to a rally and says this about federal commissions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We can't keep setting up blue-ribbon committees with your wife, and your wife, and your husband. And they meet, and they have a meal, and they talk. Talk, talk, talk. Two hours later, then they write a report. Look, that's what I got in Washington. I got all these blue-ribbon committees. Everybody wants to be in them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: So, John, I mean, he doesn't support his blue-ribbon commission with Betsy DeVos, because she's somebody's wife; and they're just going to have dinner?

AVLON: He's almost reacting to the fact that he presumably had just signed off on a blue-ribbon panel on guns. I mean, that's part of the beauty of President Trump, is the periscope is never terribly far from the surface. So he's reacting against this.

I mean, so -- but it does indicate, I mean, this is the president of the United States. If he wants to take a position, this is the White House position. Doesn't have to wait for Congress. Doesn't have to kick it to a blue-ribbon panel. So he feels sort of disempowered on this key issue. But it is something that requires presidential leadership.

And look, to be clear, I'll take any progress on this. Over 90 percent of Americans that support universal background checks that are included in this proposal. But any progress would be a sign of progress from Congress. The presidential leadership he showed, the open the idea that this could reshuffle the coalitions.

CUOMO: Everybody knew who follows this issue, who understands politics knows that we were going to wind up here, David. Everybody does. Politicians on this issue don't do anything out of conscience. They only do it out of consequence. The kids are compelling. We're not used to seeing a group of victims that play to your sympathy

and can act intelligently and make arguments the way they did. But it was true then, and it is true today. Nothing will change unless the politicians who fight change get punished for fighting change. And those who push for change get rewarded for pushing change. They're not even going to cover all sales. This is a joke, and now it's on the Democrats to figure out how they do.

[06:10:08] But we know how that goes, David. We don't have the votes. We don't have the votes. But they could make a decision to put a line in the sand. We could parade the kids out. They'll be on this morning. They'll be upset; they'll be making their case. This was never about putting it on their shoulders. It was always about leadership in Washington. And they're falling short, period. Where am I wrong?

GREGORY: No. I think that's absolutely right, and the reality is that, whatever happens, the NRA will always be there. And they will be fighting their fight. They will be working in the grassroots, because this is an issue of liberty. They take it away from the school shootings immediately, and they make it about liberty, and about government overreach, and they touch all the buttons that their voters are sympathetic to.

CUOMO: In fact, they're going to win and get more guns. Because they're going to have guns put in places where we don't have them right now. Guns -- schools are gun-free zones. There will be more guns, not less, after this.

GREGORY: I think the president has to reevaluate it straight up on this, which is it doesn't matter what he says in meetings that are televised. That's not leadership. OK? And if he wants to get credit for something, like, for that, that's never going to pass muster.

CUOMO: Sometimes you have to fight the NRA, he said. Sometimes you guys have got to fight the NRA. If they're against you, they're against you.

GREGORY: He's showing -- he's showing none of that right now. And to Alisyn's point about showing the fact that it's going after -- I mean, it's all theater. All that matters is how much pressure will he put on Republican leaders in an election year to follow through on any of these matters, including the federal money for gun training and schools for raising the age and so forth. What kind of pressure is he going to put on Congress for any of that?

CUOMO: What do you do about malls and all the other places that mass shootings happen, more often than they do in schools? I mean, this is a Band-Aid that just works to the advantage of that committee there.

Meanwhile, we want to talk about Betsy DeVos, education secretary. She was on "60 Minutes" last night. And she had some puzzling answers. She was asked how the public school system -- you know, obviously, she's for school choice. Right? So some of that will bleed money away from the public school system, because the money follows the kids. So if you believe in school choice, it -- by definition, it means that

the public schools will be having less money. She was asked about that by Leslie Stahl, particularly from her home state of Michigan. So here's one of the answers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LESLIE STAHL, "60 MINUTES": Have the public schools in Michigan gotten better?

DEVOS: I don't know overall. I can't say overall that they have all gotten better.

STAHL: The whole state is not doing well.

DEVOS: There are certainly lots of pockets where the students are doing well.

STAHL: Have you seen the really bad schools? Maybe try to figure out what they're doing?

DEVOS: I have not -- I have not -- not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.

STAHL: Maybe you should.

DEVOS: Maybe I should, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: John.

AVLON: I'm sorry. That is the biggest train wreck of an interview I've seen in a long time. And look, I'm someone who's really sympathetic to school choice, actually. I think education reform should be a bipartisan priority. But that is not the answer of somebody who's got their hand on the tiller of our education system. I mean --

CUOMO: That actually is the answer of someone who has their hand on the tiller of our education policy. That's who she is. That's what she does.

CAMEROTA: That's not the answer of somebody who has their finger on the pulse.

AVLON: Right. Whatever the metaphor is, yes. You know, this is not -- this is -- let's all serve a softball to your home state. Nothing. Crickets. And, you know, "Maybe you're right. Maybe I should be, you know, visiting disadvantaged schools." That is a rolling disaster of an interview.

CUOMO: It's actually -- David, it's actually spot-on, though, right? That's who the boss is? That's what she brings to this position. She doesn't know how this job is ordinarily done. She doesn't have a manifest intention to make things differently for these kinds of schools. She does have a bourgeois sense of how to deal with education. That's what sense of what it is.

The idea of "let the money follow the kid." That has always been a troubling premise. Because if you do that, you're going to wind up to have an imbalance. You know that, and you already have a difference, David, which is -- the biggest imbalance to have is what? If you are wealthy -- right where I live, on the east side of Manhattan, the public school is like Harvard. Harvard. You go in there, P.S. 6. Go in to Harvard. Always the smartest kids, all the best families. Why? Because it's a weighty place.

You go to places where they don't have the money, you're going to have a problem. She knows that. She's doing nothing to change it. That interview was just the truth.

GREGORY: Well, and look, they -- school reform, especially at the federal level, where the federal level gets involved and controls its money, has been an ongoing reform effort that requires a lot of toughness and a lot of creativity and core competence. And by all appearances, our education secretary at the moment is not up for the job.

CAMEROTA: All right. David Gregory, John Avlon, thank you.

All right. President Trump doing what he does best. Big rally in Pennsylvania, saying that he's the best. Everything's great. Republican congressman was why he was there. But really, it was about him. This was about his campaign and what comes next. He even told us what his slogan is going to be in the next race. Details, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:18:55] CUOMO: All right. The stakes are high for both parties practically and in terms of optics when it comes to this special election in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District. The president knows this. That's why he went there this weekend to campaign for the Republican candidate and have this big rally.

Here's the president, using the rally to hit his political opponents. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I'm on "Meet the Press," a show now headed by Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd. He's a sleeping son of a bitch, I'll tell you.

Arnold Schwarzenegger failed when he did "The Apprentice," but he's a movie star. Martha Stewart failed when she did "The Apprentice," and I just kept chugging along. Every year, it was a big hit

Can you imagine covering Bernie or Pocahontas? Pocahontas, how about that?

Wouldn't we love to run against Oprah? I would love it. I would love it. That would be a painful experience for her.

Maxine Watters, a very low I.Q. individual. [06:20:03] Conor Lamb. Lamb the Sham. Lamb the Sham.

Is there any more fun than at a Trump rally?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Of course, what you don't hear is the name Rick Saccone in there anywhere, who's the guy who's running for office.

CAMEROTA: You know, but I mean, those also weren't just his political opponents. I mean, that was Chuck Todd. That was Oprah. That was Martha Stewart.

CUOMO: Those are his political opponents.

CAMEROTA: They don't think they are. They think they're journalists and TV personalities. They don't call themselves political --

CUOMO: But he -- this is what he does. He says the media is his enemy, and he's preaching to the converted there. They cheered for everyone one of those.

CAMEROTA: -- he thinks are his opponents. But I don't think we should call them political opponents.

CUOMO: Call them whatever you want. The point is that he went down there. He had a very clear understanding of what he wanted to do, David. This is about him. He said it's "Keep America Great Again." That's the slogan for the next election.

His battle is the same, though, brother. I remember you saying this about three weeks into the administration. All right. We know where he is. Will he grow? If he grows, he wins again. If he doesn't grow, he's going to be dogged from midterm into general. Where is he?

GREGORY: Well, I mean, he's -- I don't think he has grown. I mean, I think he's got areas that he'll point to that his core supporters will applaud these tariffs, you know, going into steel country, plotting the tariffs. Whether they actually end up helping the people that he's trying to help may be a different matter. Maybe they view him as trying.

You know, I think there's -- he uses his attacks on popular culture, on media, this populism, to great effect. And it's not about results. It's about here's a guy from the outside who's still fighting the fight against these people.

And it's a sham. You know, because he's now the president. And he says, "We shouldn't have blue-ribbon commissions," even after he just signed off on one. But he wants to run as a kind of -- the permanent outside of the permanent populist.

And the question will be whether both core supporters, more independent-minded voters and those who were opposed to Hillary Clinton still look at him and say, "OK, this was charming, but he shook things up, but now where are we?" And that's going to be the tough verdict, I think.

CAMEROTA: Also, just the style of the rapid-fire succession of insults to anybody sort of in -- within range. You know, it's -- I don't know. I mean, it worked on the campaign trail. I don't know if it still has the same effect when you're president.

AVLON: Look, this is president as P.T. Barnum. This is his comfort zone. He's at a rally, and it's a tribal rally. This is -- he is surrounded by people who love him. And he feeds off that adulation. And he's attacking anyone who's outside the tribe.

But it's -- it's fundamentally not presidential if you believe the presidential offices are designed to try to unite the nation. That's not what this president is interested in doing.

CUOMO: Right.

AVLON: He's interested in being performer and entertainer. He's on a traveling medicine show. But there's -- when you start, you know, attacking all your opponents, for the slightest sleight, if you start saying that you know, you're a fighter, you're not a lover, and therefore, you're, you know -- that's why you're president. That's the heart of your appeal. This is someone who's violating the core trust of being president, particularly when he goes after the press in those rallies.

CUOMO: Look, the people decides. "Make America Great Again" was always a call to go back to times when you didn't have the kind of progress you have; you didn't have the inclusive twins. Things were simpler and harsher. That's what it was. That's why it wound up waking up this part of the Republican base that hadn't been that active before. He's going to double down on that, because that's what he does.

AVLON: Yes.

CUOMO: Want some proof? Listen to what he said about the answer is to dealing with drug dealers. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The only way to solve the drug problem is through toughness.

When I was in China and other places, by the way, I said, "Mr. President, do you have a drug problem?"

"No, no, no. We do not."

I said, "What do you attribute that to?"

"Well, the death penalty."

I think it's a discussion we have to start thinking about don't you? I don't know if you're ready.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CAMEROTA: And that discussion is that we're going to assassinate drug

users or drug dealers?

CUOMO: No, no. Drug dealers.

CAMEROTA: Oh, just drug dealers will get assassinated. The policy was --

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AVLON: This is the Duterte (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: In Singapore, they had talked -- but I think it's a really, really good one for people out there. To the left, you know where they'll be on it. I don't know what the people in that crowd reflect.

But the independent voters, David, at some point to Alisyn's point somewhat, they're going to wake up and say, "Wait a minute. Did she just say we should kill people who deal drugs. That's -- that's what we do in this country? And that harshness is what worked?"

When are we going to learn that rule, that harshness, as it were? You go anywhere in the world and you see that harshness guarantees that you have a drug problem unless you're in an autocratic state where you can kill everybody for no reason. Singapore, you know, they'll beat you with a stick when you spit, David. We remember that case about the kid in the subways and the graffiti. What I'm saying is this: it works for his base. He's going to have to make a calculation in this midterm. His party is going to have to start echoing it or stepping sideways. Which do you think is more likely?

GREGORY: Well, first of all, what voters are going to hear over and over and over again. They are less likely to hear that he, you know, picked up his Neanderthal club and beat drug dealers to death. They're more likely to hear, well, what has he done for the economy? And is it doing any better? What are the markets doing, you know? Are there more jobs? You know, is unemployment down? You know, those are the things that I think he offered the promise on.

[06:25:23] But these divisive elements, this idea of, you know, exacerbating the divisions in the country, especially social divisions, there's a lot of what he says that will make people feel good. And they will focus on, yes, yes, but how are you going to do that? That makes no sense. And so it defies common sense, defies precedent.

It's like, yes, here's a guy who's willing to say that we should use the death penalty on drug dealers to deal with our problem. Now, more thinking people of all stripes in this country, they're going to have to wonder why the president is so enamored of and flirts with autocrats around the world. You've got to really ask if that's what you want for the country.

CAMEROTA: All right. David Gregory, John Avlon, thank you both very much.

CUOMO: That is a nice picture.

CAMEROTA: It is. Don't we look great? We do. OK, now the teleprompter.

All right. Meanwhile, we have this accident to tell you about. It's -- oh, my goodness. It's so upsetting. It was a deadly helicopter crash in New York's East River. And of course, there's video of the moment that it happened right here on your screen. So I guess this will provide obvious clues to investigators. There was a mayday call. We have the latest for you on the investigation into what went wrong here.