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Students Hold Walkout; Trump Signals Staff Shake-ups; Stunning Victory in Pennsylvania; Criticism after Farrakhan's Remarks. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired March 14, 2018 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:33:52] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, minutes from now, thousands of students across the country will leave their classrooms to take part in a nationwide walkout to protest gun violence. This is a response to the 17 lives lost in the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. In some places the walkout has already begun. We've been looking at pictures all morning. All this is happening as the Senate Judiciary Committee meets on Capitol Hill to hear proposals on improving school safety.

Joining me now from Parkland, Florida, where unfortunately this all began, Dianne Gallagher.

Dianne.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John.

And, you know, this, of course, is just one of the nearly 3,000 schools across the country that are participating in this walkout. But, of course, all eyes remain here in Parkland.

You can probably see behind me the memorials remain. It's been like this for the past month now. It is the one-month anniversary.

The students are going to walk out of their classrooms at 10:00 here and they're all going to walk together to the football field where they're going to stand for those 17 minutes, one minute for each of their classmates, teachers and coaches who were killed in that massacre at their school. And they're going to use that time to reflect on their lives, but also on what they've been able to accomplish in terms of gun control here in Florida and the goals that they have to prevent something like this from happening at another school ever again.

[09:35:12] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JACK MACLEOD, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL JUNIOR: From the day after this happened at the rally, you could tell that, you know, we weren't going to take no for an answer. We were going to take this all the way to the top. And so I'm hoping that Parkland is a representation of what America should be and what America could be.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GALLAGHER: And you hear them say that, what America could be, what it should be. John, as you've said, we've seen other students walking out. In New Jersey this morning kids walking out there. There were even students in Africa, students in Israel who walked out of their classrooms today to try and show solidarity with the students here in the United States when it comes to gun violence in these school districts.

Now, John, it's not necessarily something that all schools support. The kids here at Marjory Stoneman Douglas are enjoying support from their staff, from the teachers and the principals here. But at other schools, some kids are walking out at the risk of being reprimanded, potentially even being suspended for doing so. So we're seeing it received differently across the nation, but something that almost all of them have in common is that they're student organized. I've seen pictures on Twitter of 10 and 11-year-olds, John, who have organized their own walkouts today because they say that they want to make sure that they can go to school in a safe environment.

BERMAN: The kids willing to face the consequence, these students, willing to face the consequences of what happens to them if they walk out of school right now.

Dianne Gallagher, thanks so much for being with us.

Happening now, opening statements underway in the trial of the wife of the Pulse Nightclub shooter. Forty-nine people were killed in that shooting in 2016. Now, this wife could face life in prison. Prosecutors believe she knew her husband was planning the shooting. They will argue she could have prevented the tragedy by reporting him to police. She is charged with supporting a foreign terrorist organization and obstruction of justice. And she's the only person on trial in connection with the massacre.

All right, H.R. McMaster, Ryan Zinke, Shulkin, Sessions, who is next on the president's chopping block? Just hours after firing Rex Tillerson, the president suggests others will follow him out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:41:23] BERMAN: We are looking at live pictures from here in New York City. These are students from LaGuardia High School. They are marching as part of this national walkout in solidarity with the students from Parkland high school in Florida to protest gun violence. These marches are taking place all across the country this morning. And we are watching them as they develop.

In the meantime, this morning the nation's top diplomat is out. President Trump is suggesting more senior staff could follow.

Joining me now is Democratic Representative Gregory Meeks of New York. He is on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

And to that end, congressman, after you learned that Secretary Tillerson was fired, you said, I remain convinced that the disconnect between President Trump and his most senior advisers does immeasurable harm to our national interests at home and abroad. If you are concerned about the disconnect, will things be better with Mike Pompeo as secretary of state, who seems to see much more eye to eye with the president?

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: Well, only time will tell because you remember that the president said anyone that he brought in. He brought in Tillerson. He brought in Gary Cohn and all of the others that are gone. Those were individuals that he brought in. You know, wasn't put in by anyone else. And over a period of time, it seemed as though that he did not listen or went on his own and ended up -- you know that those were individuals that ultimately was fired.

So I think that time will only tell. What will it take for Mr. Pompeo to say something or do something that undermines the president? I can just tell you this, that I just came back from Brussels. And when I talk to our European allies, they no longer trust what anyone says because the president has contradicted his appointees time and time again. And so they wait and they say to me, we wait to see -- to hear directly from the president because we don't know if anybody really represents him.

BERMAN: But -- you say -- you say only time will tell. But you've got a pretty good seat on the Foreign Affairs Committee. You've had a chance to judge Tillerson and look at what Pompeo has done as well. Based on what you have seen, do you see Nike Pompeo more in line with the president?

MEEKS: Oh, yes, no question, he's more hawkish.

But, you know what, but the problem is at times I don't know where the president is or what he stands for. See, that's the problem. If you, you know, trying to figure it out. I've talked to some of his folks that's in and you try to figure out where the president stands. Who knows? You know, he stood one way on gun control when he had members of Congress there, and then he had a meeting with the NRA. He didn't televise that, by the way. That should have been televised. And he then seemed to come out another way. So who knows where the president stands really?

BERMAN: Let me ask you about this congressional race, this special election in Pennsylvania, where the Democrat, Conor Lamb, is leading right now. I'm going to ask you about this in a slightly different way.

Conor lamb is against a ban on assault rifles. You know, Conor Lamb is for the president's tariffs. Conor Lamb did not run away from the president. Says he is personally pro-life. Is this the kind of Democrat that you want to see elected?

MEEKS: Yes. Look, I was here when we were in the majority and we had a whole lot of blue dogs and new Dems. And that created the kind of conversation that is necessary. And I can tell you what I learned from that and what I'm learning and understand from this election, that there's more that Conor Lamb and I have in common because when you look at rural America and other Americas, other part of America, the rust belt and you look at urban America, like my districts, we both want to make sure that there's people that are concerned -- people are concerned about their tomorrow, their jobs. They want to make sure there's investment in their communities. They want to make sure they have access to capital. They want to make sure their children have a better tomorrow. We are all concerned about the same things. And so, therefore, we can have that dialogue and then come up with certain things where we -- with conclusions of what we agree upon and move forward.

Are there going to be distinct differences between us? Yes, that's the fabric of America. That makes us what the -- what I think the greatest country this planet has ever seen. And we learned to tolerate that because he's going to represent his constituents and I'm going to represent mine.

[09:45:15] BERMAN: Congressman, I want to give you a chance to clarify some reports that you have been connected to over the last several weeks, that in 2013 you met with the leader of the nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan, here in New York City, along with the leader of Iran. Did you, in fact, attend a meeting with Farrakhan?

MEEKS: Yes, well, let me just say, again, this is "The Daily Caller." Another friend -- right wing tabloid I guess who keeps putting this out there. Number one, it was not a meeting. They tried to describe it as it was a private meeting with Louis Farrakhan. We had no clue. This was at a time when I was trying to decide whether or not we should go along with the -- with the sanctions against Iran, as well as fixing the JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal.

And it was a U.N. -- a meeting with a number of heads of states. The president of Iran, Mr. Rouhani, was there, along with a number of Islamic religious leaders. The conversation was about, how do we stop terrorism? And I wanted to get a feel also whether or not --

BERMAN: So --

MEEKS: So -- so and Farrakhan happened to be there. It wasn't a meeting with Farrakhan. It was a meeting with Islamic leaders, American leaders from around the United States of America. That's what the meeting was.

BERMAN: You know that people have noted that Louis Farrakhan recently has said things that are extremely anti-Semitic. And, you know, he's got a long history of saying such things. Do you, you know, unambiguously denounce those statements?

MEEKS: Well, yes, as you know, I put out a statement that Farrakhan's anti-Semitic remarks, you know, are remarks that are upsetting and unacceptable to me. I made that statement. And I also make the statement that I hope that "The Daily Caller" and others -- because they were silent when those in Charlottesville made statements about blacks and Jews, and they did not come out strong and talk about the denouncement of that or President Trump when he said there was good people on both sides.

So here again is "The Daily Caller," and I hope they're not trying to put a divide between the African-American community and the Jewish community, because there's (ph) not. If you look at our voting records --

BERMAN: Congressman --

MEEKS: We work very closely together and will continue to do that.

BERMAN: Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York, thank you so much for being with us, sir.

MEEKS: Good to be with you.

BERMAN: All right, from the congressman's home city here in New York City, we've been watching students from LaGuardia High School. They are part of this nationwide walkout protesting gun violence. Much more ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:52:11] BERMAN: All right, let's go straight to Brooklyn. I think we have some live pictures -- well, maybe not.

All right, well, we have some other shots right now. Students walking out of high school across the country right now to protest gun violence in solidarity with students from Parkland, Florida. In the center of your screen, that's Cherry Hill, New Jersey. On the right you can see demonstrators outside the White House. And on your left, I believe, those are students from LaGuardia High School here in Manhattan in New York City. They're marching towards Lincoln Center right now.

These protests happening all across the country today. They are supposed to last 17 minutes each, one for each of the lives lost in Parkland, Florida. You can imagine, though, they will go beyond 17 minutes, I believe in both cases.

You can see students of all ages taking parts in the protest. I can speak from personal experience, schools across the country have been dealing with this, sending notes to parents saying that we will support -- we will allow for these students to walk out of class and we will try to help keep them safe as they do it so they can exercise their rights to free speech.

Again, we will keep our eye on this throughout the morning.

Also this morning, newly released e-mails casting doubts on claims by HUD Secretary Ben Carson that he had little or no involvement in the purchase of a $31,000 office dining room set. E-mails that show Carson and his wife selected the furniture themselves. One of the e-mails from August to Carson's assistant says, furniture the secretary and Mrs. Carson picked out. A spokesman for Carson initially claimed the secretary and his wife didn't have any knowledge of the $31,000 purchase. The order for furniture was canceled by Carson after the price tag became public.

This morning, investigators continue to search for clues in the recent deadly bombings in Austin, Texas. They say the pipe bombs, which are believed to have been made by the same person, were disguised in boxes and rigged to explode when opened. One of those devices will be able to be reconstructed, which could help in the investigation. Austin police say they've received over 250 calls of suspicious packages. They're asking the community to remain vigilant as they continue to work to determine motive.

And a man who probed the farthest reaches of the universe in the very beginnings of time from the confines of a wheelchair has died. Stephen Hawking, he was a physicist, astronomer, mathematician, bestselling author, all while suffering from ALS. A family spokesperson say that Hawking died this morning at his home in Cambridge in England. He was 76 years old. And what a life. What an impact.

[09:54:55] All right, back again to some of these live pictures from across the country. These demonstrations taking place outside the White House. More students expected to walk out any moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right, good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

Happening now, thousands of students across the country walking out of class. You're looking at live pictures. This is a move to protest gun violence after 17 students and faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were murdered a month ago. You're looking at pictures from New York City, also outside the White House, where you can see students sitting down there.

[10:00:00] And these students, as I said, walking out across the country for 17 minutes at a time, each to honor the 17 victims. This even though some face discipline for walking out. Some schools going so far as to threaten suspensions, but by no means all schools.