Return to Transcripts main page


French Media: Man Holding Hostages Claims Allegiance To ISIS; Students To March Across U.S. For Gun Control Tomorrow; Kellyanne Conway's Response To The Opioid Crisis And West Wing Shake-Ups. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired March 23, 2018 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, FORMER DIRECTOR, CIA AND NSA: The Russians tried to cover their tracks -- put out this gentleman -- this idea -- this concept of Guccifer 2.0, trying to pivot off of a hacker that actually did hack into American systems -- Guccifer 1.0, who's now in a Romanian jail.

And so what they were trying to do was to cover their tracks but the Russians didn't do it. And now, we know based upon "The Daily Beast" article that this individual was, in fact, a GRU officer and it was part of the overall Russian operation.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Michael Hayden, we'll have to leave it there. Always appreciate your insight. Thank you, sir.

HAYDEN: Thanks, Erica.


So, we have some breaking news. It's from France. There is a terror standoff at a supermarket in the South of France. Prosecutors say the attacker has pledged allegiance to ISIS.

We'll have a live report with breaking details, next.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CUOMO: All right, we're following breaking news.

French media reporting there's a man holding hostages in a supermarket in southwest France. Prosecutors say the man has claimed allegiance to ISIS.

Let's get right to CNN senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh. He has breaking details. What do we know, Nick?


At this point, it is still an early situation, indeed. But the latest information we're hearing is the interior minister of France is headed to a supermarket -- a Super U, kind of like a Walmart to some degree, in the southern city of -- town of Trebes. Now, there are varying different reports here. The mayor of the city, according to Reuters, is suggesting that, in fact, we may be dealing with one potential hostage-taker and possibly one policeman still inside there.

[07:35:08] But I have to tell you the level of security measures that are being put in the perimeter around here and the response from that cabinet level in France has got many concerned. That is one key fact here that according to our affiliate BFMTV, ISIS have claimed responsibility for this particular attack.

Obviously, Chris, as we've both been seeing over the past years, one enormous note of caution here. We simply do not know if ISIS had anything to do with this.

They are a much-diminished group at this stage, having lost the caliphate, they used to call it, in Syria and Iraq back in the day when the Bataclan attacks in Paris occurred. Even the truck driving into pedestrians in Nice.

But still, at this stage, a great amount of concern for how many hostages may have been in there, if any have fled, if any have been injured, how many gunmen there could possibly be. And above all here, I think it's the nature of the response from the interior minister possibly simply mandated by the fact we hear the word ISIS involved in this that's causing this response.

But a big moment for pause, though. The very early stages we're dealing with here. France, a terrible history of ISIS attacks randomly against civilians but a great concern, I believe, here to at least establish the facts and hope this incident is smaller than people's worst fears -- Chris.

CUOMO: And even with the ongoing police action and the kind of muting of certain rights there in society in favor of security, they still have a big threat.

So what we know so far from Nick Paton Walsh and other reporting is that whatever's going on here we know people are armed and we know that there is deadly intent. We have a team on its way to the scene right now.

Nick Paton Walsh, thank you very much. Keep us informed.

HILL: And we'll continue to follow that story -- again, out of the South of France.

Tomorrow, nearly a million people expected to descend on Capitol Hill as a March For Our Lives rally kicks off with students gearing up to make their voices heard. Others affected by school shootings renewing their push for change.

CNN's Scott McLean has more.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erica, those people are part of a group that no one asked to be part of; a group that understands the horrors of gun violence in the classroom. From Columbine to Red Lake to Sandy Hook and plenty of others, these communities are still feeling the impact of their school shooting nightmare and still working to prevent the next one.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is a student here with a gun.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Nineteen years ago, 12 students and a teacher were killed inside of Columbine High School, gunned down by two of their peers in a place they were supposed to be safe.

Tom Mauser lost his 15-year-old son Daniel that day.

TOM MAUSER, FATHER OF SLAIN COLUMBINE STUDENT DANIEL MAUSER: I don't know how -- frankly, I don't know how I got through those first few days and even weeks.

MCLEAN: Since then, police protocols have changed. So have state gun laws, thanks in part to Mauser's work to close the loopholes his son had ironically pointed out just weeks earlier.

MAUSER: And then he was killed with a gun that was purchased through one of those loopholes.

MCLEAN: In Colorado, background checks are now nearly universal and there's a limit on magazine size.

But still, no one has found the cure to America's school shooting plague.

MAUSER: We have to deal with this terrible illness that we have and guns are a part of that.

MCLEAN (on camera): Even if you fixed all of the gun loopholes you might not solve the school shooting problem.

MAUSER: No. We have to do a number of things to deal with the gun violence problem and we're going to have to compromise. We're going to have to sit down and talk this out and not scream at each other the way we are right now.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Mauser's work continues to this day, still wearing his son's sneakers.

MAUSER: I'd like to think that by stepping into his shoes that I'm doing what he would want me to do.

MCLEAN: Columbine never asked for its newfound notoriety nor did it seek out this dream catcher, a gift from students in Michigan meant to ward off bad dreams after a collective nightmare.

In March 2005, Columbine passed it on to Red Lake High School in Minnesota after a student killed seven people there using stolen police-issued weapons.


MCLEAN: Missy Dodds was teaching when her former student shot through a floor-length window to get inside her class.

DODDS: He just started shooting and just went down the line, and when he got to me there was nothing left in his gun.

MCLEAN: But in a culture where hunting is common, the shooting didn't spark much of a discussion about guns.

MCLEAN (on camera): Was it about mental health? Was it about school safety?

DODDS: It was shut down and forget it ever happened.

MCLEAN (voice-over): But, Dodds couldn't forget. She tried and failed to convince lawmakers in the state capital to use shatterproof glass in schools, which she thinks would have saved lives.

DODDS: I went with the principal from another school district where a shooting had happened and I was literally blown off.

MCLEAN: It seemed the country was content to move on without doing much at all until seven years later when Red Lake passed the dream catcher to Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.

[07:40:06] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just hope it don't travel anymore.

MCLEAN: A lone gunman had used an AR-15 to kill 26; 20 of them young children.

Michele Gay's 7-year-old daughter Joey was among them.

MICHELE GAY, MOTHER OF SLAIN SANDY HOOK STUDENT JOSEPHINE GAY, CO- FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SAFE AND SOUND SCHOOLS: My oldest daughter just couldn't accept it. It just couldn't be, you know. She was sure that it was a misunderstanding.

MCLEAN: For months afterwards a group of Sandy Hook parents unsuccessfully pushed for sweeping gun control legislation.

Gay now pushes schools to be safer but doesn't push gun control.

GAY: If we go in and we start mentioning hot-button issues or -- you know, or political arguments, we suddenly divide the room in half.

MCLEAN (on camera): When the president says that arming teachers is something that we should look at you don't dismiss him?

GAY: I don't. We should look at everything. We should -- we should put everything on the table. We can't ever count on any one thing.

MCLEAN: There's no one single magic wand that will solve school shootings?

GAY: I believe if there was we would have found it and waved it by now.


MCLEAN: After the Sandy Hook shooting that dream catcher traveled to Marysville, Washington and then on to Townville, South Carolina.

On Friday, it was presented to students in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, but the students there accepted it for just 17 seconds in honor of the 17 victims, and then they gave it back opting to retire the dream catcher with the hope that no other school will have to relieve their experience -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Scott, appreciate it. Thank you for the reporting.

All right. The president replacing two people at the White House -- we know that.

But we want to show you this situation that's ongoing in southwest France. We know the following.

There is a stand-off in this community surrounding a local market. We do know, according to the mayor there who spoke with a local newspaper, that at least one person has been killed. We don't how many gunmen are involved.

We do know that there was firing on police who were at the scene, and we do know that at least one of the people inside has pledged allegiance to ISIS.

We also know that France has had a history of troubles with Islamic extremists and we know all what happened there with the Bataclan and in and around Paris. The threat is very real there.

We have a team en route to the area. We will bring you a live report soon.

All right. We're also going to have Kellyanne Conway live on the show to discuss the White House efforts to stop the scourge of opioids.

So let's take a quick break. We've got a lot of news for you. Please stay with CNN.


[07:46:50] CUOMO: All right.

You know about Fentanyl, right? You know about opioids. You know that they're bad. You probably don't know how bad.

In the country in 2016, we had just over 63,000 overdose deaths. Two- thirds of them were because of opioids that were laced with Fentanyl.

It is a scourge the likes of which people who are in the addiction community and the police community -- they say they haven't seen anything like this ever -- not meth, not crack -- and there are a lot of reasons for that, but that's a separate part of the conversation. The main question is what are we going to do about it? This White House says they are aware and they're taking charge.

Kellyanne Conway is not just a senior adviser to the president. She has been tasked with overseeing this.

We know that there is an allocation in the budget about it now -- we know that in this spending measure. We know that there was an allocation in the long-term budget.

What is enough? What is going to be done? A worthy discussion.

Kellyanne, thank you for taking the time.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Thank you for having me Christopher, and for really shining a light on what truly is the crisis next door.

The president, in New Hampshire on Monday, rolled out his policy plan. He is attacking the opioid crisis and the drug demand crisis overall on three major fronts -- prevention and education, treatment and recovery, and law enforcement interdiction.

The president is tackling all those simultaneously, not sequentially because we have to really fight this battle on three fronts. And the president himself has said that he wants a massive, public-facing ad campaign where we are deploying facts and figures and messages to people, sometimes shocking the conscience and sometimes warming the heart with those stories of recovery and treatment access.

As you've noted, the president's -- the Congress really met the president's request to have significant funding -- new funding for the opioid and drug demand crisis. Three billion dollars this fiscal year, $3 billion next fiscal year. A total of over $13 billion is the package that Sec. Azar has been mentioning.

And with those funds we plan to beef up the interdiction and disrupt the supply of illicit drugs coming into our country. Ninety percent or so of our heroin comes through our southern border and about eight or nine and 10 of new heroin users say that they started through prescription drugs.

As you say, opioids is very tricky. It starts in your family medicine cabinet often -- too often enough and on that little bottle there is a label that says the family doctor and local pharmacy.

But treatment's important and this president is calling for lifting a 40-year ban on mental health facilities because now they're being used to treat people with addiction and if you fill that 17th bed you don't get Medicaid reimbursement. We have a long list of people waiting for treatment and empty beds. He doesn't want that to persist any longer.

But the strides his administration have made are many. He's calling for a one-third reduction in prescribing. We are about five percent of the world's population and we consume about 80 percent of its opioids, so it needs to stop. We want to make sure that all Americans are bid into this. People can go online today Christopher and go to Crisis Next Door -- -- and literally share their stories.

[07:50:04] Yesterday, we shared a story from Michelin, Missouri. He shared his story since the president mentioned this website on Monday and it's a -- it's a very compelling story of a young man who is fighting back from his addiction but he's talking about how he got started and what the gateways were, how to spot those signs, and what we can all do for each other.

So thank you for helping us bring attention to it.

If people don't know what Fentanyl is, really educate yourselves. We're suffering from information underload. This is a synthetic opioid being manufactured outside of this country, being brought through our mail, through our southern border which is part of why the president wants the wall sitting in our sanctuary cities, and it is literally killing us.

Fentanyl is 50 times the potency of heroin and 100 times --

CUOMO: Right.

CONWAY: -- the potency of morphine.

CUOMO: Well look, first of all, good on you for taking the responsibility to head this up for the White House. This matters, it's an important thing. It's good to see the action being taken.

Now, the debate to have and the testing to do here is how much and where because especially, China being highlighted with the tariffs right now about intellectual property theft true. They also make a ton of Fentanyl that gets brought into this country -- sometimes the right way, sometimes the wrong way. That's something that should be approached.

But really, the pushback is going to be this.

CONWAY: The president has.

CUOMO: Yes. But, I mean, that could be done in a much more fulsome way.

You want to be aggressive about something. That's something where you'd get probably all the American people behind you because this is killing us, literally. So, you're putting money into it and that's good.

I know you heard this on the ground in New Hampshire because as you know, we did a documentary up there. We highlighted their fight against this drug. They, in West Virginia, are being overwhelmed in a way a lot of other places aren't and they are laboratories for the problem.

We need to put a lot more money than you're putting in here right now. It's not even close.

The death ratio is so much more than HIV and AIDS, yet the funding ratio in terms of addressing the problem is nowhere near close. You have only about 10 percent of the addicted population that has access and ability to fund treatment. If we did that with cancer or heart disease we would have a plague on our hands of death.

We have to do more and more money has to get to the local communities. How do you do that?

CONWAY: Well Christopher, we agree that more money has to get to the local communities. We are -- this is a federal, state, and local and community effort.

This is the White House. He is the president. He is an engaging, captivating, edifying speaker at that podium, including in New Hampshire on Monday.

So I think that with the president and the first lady bringing attention to this issue it's going to go a long way toward just the basics of educating people and honestly, putting the fear into some of our youth for not buying that street drug for $10. For not getting hooked in the first place and yet, recognizing so many people in this country are already suffering from the disorder with these drugs and helping them.

Now, I want to say something about the money. That is Congress' job to appropriate the money. This president declared a public health emergency. Congress has met the president's request which was a historic request for new funding for opioids. No president, no administration had anything close to this -- ever had anything close to this.

And we know it does take money and it also takes lifting or changing these crazy rules that really prevent people from accessing and remaining in treatment.

We also, in our opioids cabinet -- we've involved the departments and agencies and the cabinet secretaries that you would expect. -- DHS, DOJ, V.A., HHS. But we also have involved USDA, so they've put out guidance --

CUOMO: Good.

CONWAY: -- for more of American -- of America on opioids.

We've also involved the Department of Labor and HUD? Why?

CUOMO: Really?

CONWAY: Because we recognize that when people if they're lucky enough to be in the drug course and lucky enough to get into treatment, and they're lucky enough to come out is still a small percentage of complete recovery. If they're fortunate enough, they come out and the only thing familiar to them are the drugs.

CUOMO: That's right.

CONWAY: There's -- but this is a president who is also committed very passionately --

CUOMO: Good.

CONWAY: -- and with dollars to skills education, to workforce development, to connecting people with their corporal needs. With -- we're talking about --

CUOMO: Right.

CONWAY: -- HUD and my colleague over there in terms of housing opportunities. So you've got to -- you've got to tackle this whole entity --

CUOMO: There's a whole continuum of care. That's smart talk.

CONWAY: Yes, and we're not going to tackle it overnight. The numbers are going to get worse before they get better.

CUOMO: Absolutely not. Well, they're getting worse every day. It has -- it's something that has to be addressed. It hits in a lot of ways. People become addicted for a lot of different reasons.

CONWAY: But on China and Fentanyl I want to just say this --


CONWAY: -- because it's incredibly important. And most outlets are not covering Fentanyl today so thank you. Twenty thousand deaths last year alone.

So with Fentanyl, the Department of Justice announced the first two indictments of Chinese nationals --

CUOMO: Right.

CONWAY: -- who were Fentanyl traffickers. They have also filed a statement of interest with the civil litigation that the states have put forward.

I went to the press conference with Attorney General Sessions and the -- and Democratic and Republican state attorneys general who were part of that.

CUOMO: Right.

CONWAY: The president has directed them to take a look at the litigation.

[07:55:02] And also, you see so many of these -- you see so many of these companies now -- and so many of these states really and the pharmaceutical companies saying you know what, we support the first prescription being seven days, not 30.

And let me make clear to your viewers. This is not -- we're talking about opioids. We're not talking about chronic pain sufferers --

CUOMO: That's right.

CONWAY: -- who rely on those drugs.

CUOMO: Palliative care and pain management --

CONWAY: That's correct. Those folks need it.

CUOMO: -- is still real. A lot of people need it.

CONWAY: They need it.

CUOMO: Not everybody who takes pain management medicine is an addict.


CUOMO: We understand that. There's a lot of stigma that goes on with this.

This is what I saying. I'm saying there's a place for tough talk and if you want to go after the threat, go after the makers of these drugs. I think the tough talk about hey, make a better choice with kids, that is a little misleading about how addiction happens.

And the tough talk about well, let's kill the drug kingpins, I know that that appeals to the base and harshness if often perceived as strength but you are not going to punish --


CUOMO: -- your way out of this problem.

CONWAY: Yes. Well, Christopher, I want to say something about that.

CUOMO: You know that, right? You talked to experts, they'll say the death penalty is barely a deterrent on any level, let alone when it comes to addiction. And it's not about killing the drug kingpins.

CONWAY: You have to be --

CUOMO: Nobody's going to defend the drug kingpins but you're not going to punish your way out of the problem no matter how good that sounds.

CONWAY: Well, you may -- you may --

CUOMO: That's why I raise the point.

CONWAY: -- think nobody's defending the drug kingpins. Some are but very few have been punishing them. We have had a kingpin statute on the books for decades and the attorney general --

CUOMO: Yes, the Supreme Court doesn't like it though.

CONWAY: But hold on. But the attorney general, just two days ago -- CUOMO: It has a hard time with eighth -- with Eighth Amendment muster.

CONWAY: The attorney general, two days ago, put out guidance to all U.S. attorney's offices. Again, you can pull it up. You can put it on the screen --

CUOMO: Right.

CONWAY: -- if you like or your viewers can watch it.

What the president is saying is -- and he's absolutely right -- that we don't have tough sentences because a lot of those minimum sentences go by the weight of the drug.

CUOMO: Right.

CONWAY: And so with Fentanyl, literally you need about two milligrams for one legal (ph) dose.

CUOMO: Right. You can change the sentencing. I'm just saying the call was to kill them. And not only are you going to have a Supreme Court problem there --

CONWAY: He said many things. He said tougher sentences and he said in very specific --

CUOMO: But he said kill drug dealers. That's what --

CONWAY: No, no, no, he did not say kill drug dealers. He said in very specific cases the Department of Justice --

CUOMO: He said kill drug pin -- kingpins. That's what he said.

CONWAY: Christopher, there's a two-page -- hold on. There is a two -- well, good. There is a two-page --

CUOMO: No, not good. I don't think that gets you out of the problem.

CONWAY: No, and you say the base likes it. He didn't say it gets you out of the problem. He's actually tackling it on these three major fronts and you know it.

CUOMO: True. That matters.

CONWAY: And we have a first lady who is taking this issue on. She's incredibly popular and she's given such voice and visibility to neonatal abstinence syndrome.

CUOMO: A good thing to do.

CONWAY: We have 25 babies being born addicted every day in this country.

CUOMO: It's a good thing to do. It's a huge scourge. It's all over the place and it has addressed. CONWAY: If anybody wants to volunteer their time go for it in your community. It's a great cause.

CUOMO: Let me ask you something. There's a lot of good work that needs to be done and there are a lot of big problems. There are distractions --

CONWAY: And it's a nonpartisan issue, Christopher. This legislation should be happening --

CUOMO: There's no question. Listen --

CONWAY: -- unanimously.

CUOMO: I wish I did not know as much about this problem as I do.

CONWAY: That's right.

CUOMO: I wish I hadn't lived it the way I have. I get it.

CONWAY: You have been on the front lines. We appreciate it.

CUOMO: I get it. I get how real it is.

It's good what you're doing. More has to be done and the effort has to very focused and we have to talk the right talk. That's why I'm checking you on those points.

Let me ask you something else, though.

All of this work that needs to be done there is compromised by the drama that's going on in that place, whether it's the turnover and now, these stories with these women that are coming out that are not -- you know me. I am not about getting into people's private affairs. That's not what I'm into. It's not a matter of public concern in my estimation.

However --


CUOMO: -- the way they're being handled are creating potential legal situations for a sitting President of the United States.

How much of a distraction -- how difficult is it to get the job done there with these looming legal questions surrounding these women and, of course, the political intrigue of all the shake-ups you have there?

CONWAY: The answer you see every single day. This is a very active president. Look at everything that happened just this week.

He's hardly retreating into a cocoon. He's the most active president. As I like to say, he's a man of action and he's a man of talk.

CUOMO: Well, he's spending a lot of time about this. That's the fight with Joe Biden. CONWAY: No.

CUOMO: That's the tweets about this stuff.

CONWAY: No, no, no, sorry. He doesn't spend much time on that.

Joe Biden, like that woman who lost the election whose name I don't say on your network anymore, they seem pretty upset.

CUOMO: It took you longer than I thought it would, by the way. I think I owe someone lunch.

CONWAY: No, no, no. Why do they keep mentioning him, and his voters, and the election? It's kind of moot at this point.

CUOMO: He could run for President of the United States. And the president brought him up. The president went after Joe Biden.

CONWAY: It's kind of odd. Well, excuse me -- no, no, no. Vice president Biden went after him and talked about violence.

CUOMO: Only one is president, Kellyanne.

CONWAY: Hold on, excuse me.

CUOMO: Only one is president.

CONWAY: But one was vice president for eight years --

CUOMO: True.

CONWAY: -- and let's not talk about all the things that didn't get done. You and I just spent 10 minutes talking about a biggie.

That man was vice president for eight years. I respect his public service. I honor his public service.

However, if people in that kind of position -- a former vice president, a former secretary of state and twice-failed presidential candidate but also first lady of the country -- they have considerable platforms. Why aren't they using them for more good?

Where is her -- where is her center for women and girls?

Why isn't he talking about --

CUOMO: No, no, no. But that's not --

CONWAY: Why doesn't -- why doesn't he call me today and help on the drug crisis?

CUOMO: Don't -- but don't take -- but don't take us down the road. I don't care what she's doing.

CONWAY: Why does he say --

CUOMO: She is not in charge of keeping my kids safe, you guys are.

CONWAY: You guys covered the 2016 elections -- no, no, no -- no, no.

CUOMO: You're in power. You control both houses of Congress and the White House.

CONWAY: So here's --

CUOMO: It's all on you, my friend.

CONWAY: And that's why the omnibus got thrown. That's why we now have funding for the wall, for the military, for school safety, for opioids. For so many of the president's priorities, Christopher.

This town was mocking the wall two years ago and now they're funding it. That's Donald Trump.

CUOMO: That's Washington.