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Manhunt Underway After Naked Gunman Kills Four at Waffle House; Trump Slams Russia Probe as Part of His Weekend Tweet Storm; Many Republicans Not Ready to Back Trump's Re-election; Sandy Hook Parents Sue Alex Jones of InfoWars; Parkland Survivors Weigh in on Alex Jones Attacks; Sean Hannity and FOX's Cozy Relationship with President Trump; Aired 8-9p ET

Aired April 22, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: And just a short time ago a stunning detail emerged that the suspect was arrested by the Secret Service last year for crossing a security barrier near the White House. He apparently wanted to set up some meeting with President Trump.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher is in Nashville for us.

Dianne, it's going to be dark there pretty soon. Police are, I imagine, concerned about that because this is a dangerous and clearly disturbed killer that's still out there somewhere.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Ana. And the people who live here in this Antioch part of Tennessee, they're nervous as well. They've had the dogs out searching, the K-9s have been looking around the neighborhoods. And they still have no sign of him and we're going on 15 hours since that shooting happened.

He has a history of, it appears, some form of mental illness. That interaction with Secret Service where he talked about being a sovereign citizen and having a meeting with President Trump back in 2016. He spoke with police in his home state of Illinois threatening suicide but also saying that the pop star Taylor Swift was after him. She was stalking him in some way trying to get into his Netflix account, his phone, that his FBI -- the FBI and his parents were in on it.

And so this is somebody who has had some issues in the past. The state of Illinois actually revoked his authorization for guns. They took four of his guns away. They gave them to his father. Two of those guns they've located already. Police say that his father gave those guns back to him, one them the AR-15 that was used in the shooting here. The other was found in his home. Two still unaccounted for.

Police say that when he showed up to this Waffle House what happened just before the shooting was kind of eerie.


DON AARON, NASHVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT: At 3:19 a.m., Travis Reinking arrived in the parking lot of the Waffle House in his pickup truck. Reinking sat inside the pickup truck for 3 1/2 to four minutes just looking at people inside the restaurant. After about four minutes, Reinking got out of his truck armed with an AR-15 rifle and started shooting. There were two persons standing outside the restaurant. They were the first ones who were hit. Both fatally. Reinking then entered the restaurant and began shooting.


GALLAGHER: And again, four people killed, two people do remain in the hospital with gunshot wounds, Ana. We are told that Reinking worked at a crane sort of trade here. He'd been fired from the job three weeks ago and had a new job but didn't show up for work on Tuesday.

CABRERA: Diane Gallagher in Nashville, thank you.

The killing inside that Waffle House was stopped not by police or the gunman himself but by a customer, a man who says that if he was going to get shot he wasn't going to sit and let this happen. James Shaw Jr. eating with his friends waited for the right moment then grabbed the killer's rifle and wrestled it from his hands.


JAMES SHAW JUNIOR, DISARMED WAFFLE HOUSE SHOOTER: You have to either react or you have to -- or you're going to, you know, fold. And I chose to react because I didn't see any other way of me, you know, living. And that's all I wanted to do. I just wanted to live. I'll say it again, I didn't really -- I didn't really fight that man to save everybody else. I know that might not be a popular thing but I'm really honest. I'm going to be honest to the core.

I took the gun so I could get myself out. And then I went back -- and then I went back for my friend after I was, like, let me see, is he still alive? Because it was just so fast. Like -- I don't think -- I hope nobody ever has to be in those shoes again. But it was almost like light switch type fast. Like you hit a light switch and the light is so fast, and you have to think.


CABRERA: Police say without a doubt that man, James Shaw Jr., saved lives inside that restaurant by acting bravely putting a stop to this horrific attack.

I want to talk now to another man who witnessed that sudden and violent act this morning. Chuck Cordero was in the parking lot of that Tennessee Waffle House while this attack was happening.

Chuck, thank you for being here. How are you doing personally after this experience today and after what you saw?

CHUCK CORDERO, SHOOTING WITNESS: I'm pretty tired from lack of sleep. I worked all night last night. When this happened, I was toward the end of my shift. I haven't really slept yet. It's very surreal. I'm just kind of just in a daze at the moment. CABRERA: I can only imagine. Tell me what happened. You were in the

parking lot waiting and then what?

CORDERO: Yes. I pulled up at the Waffle House and since it was crowded I decided to wait in my car for a second. My friend who's a cook there was outside smoking a cigarette and I decided to get out of my vehicle and go talk to him while I waited. I thought the gunman pulled up at that point but I guess he was waiting in his vehicle as I was, but he exited the vehicle at the same time I did.

[20:05:07] I didn't even get a chance to take the keys out of my car door, he was shooting already. He had shot my -- shot the gentleman at the door and then he turned and shot my buddy who was trying to get away, and then at that point I dropped to the ground and started crawling around my car looking underneath it so I can keep an eye on the gentleman to make sure he wasn't coming after me.

And then he stepped inside and I heard a volley of shots and that's when I really made my way across the parking lot because I did not know in which direction he was shooting but when he went inside the building he started shooting a lot more than outside, it was just a couple of pops, four shots. Two at the victims and two through the window but when he went inside he picked it up.

CABRERA: Hmm. It sounds terrifying, Chuck. Tell me a little bit more about your friend. You went to visit a friend who was there. You said he got shot?

CORDERO: They're all my friends at the Waffle House. As if -- how the Waffle Houses are. They have their regulars. They treat you real good, they're very personable. T was very friendly, he was the cook, very jolly, listening to music all the time. A pep in his step. You know, they're all that way, though. But I would consider them all my friends. If this would have happened to any one of them, I would feel just as bad. They're just good people and it's very sad.

CABRERA: I hate to even have to ask but the person who you talked about who you called T, did he survive?

CORDERO: No. T was one of the gentlemen outside -- there was me and two other people outside the restaurant. I had just got out of my car. There was someone about to enter the restaurant and then my friend T who was outside smoking a cigarette and, you know, they were in his line of fire so they got shot. I was off to his side. I don't even know if he saw me but I was afraid that he did so when I got down I really kept an eye on his feet and legs from underneath my car to make sure he wasn't coming after me.

CABRERA: I am so, so sorry. So sorry for your loss, for what you witnessed. What was going through your mind as all of this was happening before your eyes?

CORDERO: First of all, it was just bizarre to see some guy step out of the car with no clothes on and an assault rifle, and then it was just like, oh my god, he's shooting people and then when I hit the ground I really expected him to go around circles with me around my car so I just really thought he was going to come after me but when he went inside that's when I got more distance away from the restaurant. I was petrified. I really was. I mean, I hate to -- I was scared.

CABRERA: Of course. Well, you've heard now about the man inside the Waffle House, James Shaw Jr. who jumped into action and stopped the shooter.

CORDERO: Oh right.

CABRERA: What do you think of what he did?

CORDERO: Yes. That was -- that was awesome. He saw an opportunity when the guy wasn't shooting and he took advantage of it. I saw them wrestling when I stood up to see what was going on because it got quiet. You know, he did what he had to do. You know? There's been people on the local news Web site calling me a coward because I didn't do anything.

The guy was killing people and I have a daughter who needs me. And self-preservation was going through my mind. If that's cowardly --

CABRERA: Of course.

CORDERO: Then that's what it is.

CABRERA: I do not think you're a coward. I think a lot of people would react the way you did, which is get as far away as possible. Remove yourself from the danger. That is the natural human reaction which is what makes it remarkable what this other gentleman did.

Now we're here about 15 hours plus since this shooting happened. How concerned are you that this killer has not been caught?

CORDERO: He's a -- if there's a coward in this whole story, it's him. Taking a weapon and killing unarmed people is pretty cowardly. I don't think he's a threat. I think he's some psycho that's out there. I think he's going to get what's coming to him eventually. I don't think he's all that bright so I don't think he's going to get away with it. I'm not worried about him at all. I think he is just a psycho out there and he'll get what's coming to him.

CABRERA: Chuck Cordero, thank you very much for joining us. Again I'm so sorry for your loss. Sending our best wishes to you.

CORDERO: I lost a friend. Some people lost a brother and a son and daughters and girlfriends. It's just tragic.

CABRERA: It is tragic. And heartbreaking. I'm so sorry.

Coming up, mixed messages, the president slams the Russia probe as a complete witch hunt even as his aides insist he has no intention of firing the special counsel.


[20:13:56] CABRERA: The president this weekend throwing shade at the Russia investigation with tweets highly critical of his own attorney general Jeff Sessions, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert Mueller. A White House aide today said despite the president's harsh Twitter digs Trump has no intention of firing Mueller and Rosenstein right now. Watch.


MARC SHORT, WHITE HOUSE LEGISLATION AFFAIRS DIRECTOR: When's he going to fire Rosenstein? When's he going to fire Mueller? We have the same conversation. As far as I know, the president has no intention of firing these individuals.

CHUCK TODD, CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": Right, but it's always as far as we know and the president -- he never says definitely. Why not?

SHORT: It's the -- he has no intention.

TODD: Why doesn't he say definitively, it's not going to happen? This investigation is going to run its course, period, end of story. I'll never --

SHORT: Because you don't know how far up the investigation is going to veer. Right now he has no intention of firing them.


CABRERA: Let's discuss with James Schultz, former Trump White House lawyer.

Jim, thanks for being with us. The president devotes a significant portion of his weekend composing tweets, slamming the Russia probe, the aides go on TV and say everything is honky dory. What is the political strategy behind all the mixed messages that seem to be coming from the White House?

JAMES SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: Look, the president is clearly frustrated with the Russia probe and the speed with which it's been progressing.

[20:15:05] But that doesn't mean he's going to fire Rod Rosenstein, that doesn't mean he's going to fire Bob Mueller. I think he said all along that the White House has been cooperating, they've turned over over 1.4 million documents, they've done everything they can to cooperate to bring this to a conclusion. Certainly upending by firing those two would upend the investigation probably prolong it even further and I think the president probably recognizes that and I don't think he has any plans of firing either of the two.

CABRERA: So you have no doubt that Rod Rosenstein, Sessions, Mueller, they're all safe?

SCHULTZ: I would think that they are. I think -- the White House wants this to come to a conclusion so they can go about the business of working on furthering regulatory reform, furthering the issues overseas that we have to deal with, the trade issues. I mean, there are so many things that the White House needs to focus on. Certainly this Russia investigation needs to come to a close so they can do that.

CABRERA: The president is also tweeting a lot about his personal lawyer Michael Cohen this weekend and the idea of him flipping. Why do you think the president is worried about Cohen flipping if he has nothing to hide?

SCHULTZ: Well, I don't know -- you know, I don't think I've said -- Michael Cohen's in a lot of trouble right now and he's got some serious problems. Those subpoenas are not issued in a willy-nilly fashion. They're issued by a judge who looked at them and actually put in more protections so that the attorney-client privilege could be preserved. So he's got some real issues, Michael Cohen does, and certainly whether he lips or not there has to be -- he has to have some information --


SCHULTZ: -- that's worthwhile to prosecutors in order to flip and there's no indication that he does.

CABRERA: If you had the president's ear would you advise him to keep commenting publicly on Cohen's situation or to tone it down?

SCHULTZ: I would ask the president not -- as his lawyer, if I were serving as his lawyer, I would ask him to not comment on the Cohen issue whatsoever. It's an ongoing investigation which kind of brings you to the new person on the legal team, Rudy Giuliani. And I think he'll bring some measured stability to that, because he's someone who is very experienced in law, government and politics, and someone the president will likely listen to.

CABRERA: Do you think the president will listen to Rudy Giuliani even though he didn't listen to John Dowd who he had a history with, who also had a history with Mueller?

SCHULTZ: Look. I think Rudy Giuliani brings a real talent to the legal team because of that law, government and politics intersection. The experience he has in all three. And I think the president will accept his advice and I think he will demand that the president accept his advice.

Rudy Giuliani is not someone who's going to shy away from challenging the president. He's a tough prosecutor. He has a great record as a prosecutor and understands high-profile cases.

CABRERA: Is there any potential that Giuliani could be called as a witness himself in the Mueller probe given he was part of the Trump transition team, he also was on the 2016 campaign as an adviser to the president?

SCHULTZ: That would all depend on what information Rudy Giuliani has as results of those positions. Certainly he's thought about that before taking this engagement because that could cause some problems with him working as the president's lawyer. So I'm -- he's a good lawyer, I'm sure he's thought about that issue.

CABRERA: Jim Schultz, good to have you with us. Thank you very much.

SCHULTZ: Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.

CABRERA: Coming up, it's usually not even a question you need to ask. Will the president have the support of his own party for re-election? But several high-profile Republican lawmakers say they aren't ready to get on board with Trump in 2020. We'll tell you who, next.


[20:23:19] CABRERA: The cover of latest "Economist" asks the question with words and then answers it with images. This is their take on Trump's Grand Old Party and not all Republicans are board with having that continue past 2020.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: I haven't thought about that election.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: It could be a completely different world by 2020.

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R), NORTH DAKOTA: That's a long ways off.

SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I think that it's far too early to make a judgment of that type.

REP. MARIO DIAZ-BALART (R), FLORIDA: Talk about what might happen in, you know, at that time is I think premature.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: We have no idea who's going to run, whether the president runs again or not I think is very questionable candidly. I mean --


CORKER: I don't know. Why would he?


CABRERA: Let's discuss with CNN political commentators and Republican strategists Tara Setmayer and Scott Jennings.

Tara, let's begin with you. We know you're not a fan of the current leader of your party. But are you surprised to hear so many Republican lawmakers refuse to throw their support behind the president, Trump's re-election campaign?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, no, because there's been trepidation inside the beltway from the very beginning when Donald Trump jumped into the race as a candidate and throughout his candidacy and throughout his presidency. There's been a lot of tumult. It's been chaotic and yes, there's a couple of legislative wins here and there but most people who have been here for a long time know that there's nothing normal about what's happening with Donald Trump and the way he's governing so conventional wisdom would say that this is very, very unusual because any other time and when you have full control of government, Republicans control the Congress, they control the White House, they would say absolutely, right? We are looking forward to eight years or it would be no doubt about it.


[20:25:02] SETMAYER: But because of the way that Donald Trump behaves, the cloud of suspicion over him with the Russia investigation, with Michael Cohen, just how erratic he is in general, I -- you know, they don't want to commit yet because there could be potentially be a disaster in the midterm elections and that changes the political dynamic completely.

CABRERA: Former GOP presidential candidate and now current Senate candidate for Utah, Mitt Romney, also says he is not ready to commit to backing President Trump in a 2020 bid. Take a listen to what he said at Utah's Republican convention just yesterday.


MITT ROMNEY (R), UTAH SENATE CANDIDATE: Some people I've spoken with today have said this is a David versus Goliath race. But they're wrong. First, none of us is David. David was anointed of God. And second, I'm not Goliath. Washington, D.C. is Goliath.


CABRERA: Scott, Romney told CNN he plans to make a decision down the road, off kind of the same deal that we heard others that we played earlier on. But he says if he endorses anyone he would want to know what they would do to help Utah.

Of course Romney is an interesting situation because of all the criticism of Trump during the 2016 race. Is this animus just left over from the presidential race or something else?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, they've had a long history as you pointed out. Governor Romney who I worked for in 2012 and worked very hard to try to elect president and thought he would have been a good president and think he'll be a great senator, he gave a pretty ornery speech of then candidate Trump and then of course he was passed over for secretary of State.

The politics of Utah among Republicans are a lot different than in other states. President Trump only got 46 percent of the vote in Utah. And he doesn't rate as well on his approval ratings among Mormons as you would expect other Republican presidents to do. So I think what is happening to Mitt Romney right now is he's doing what he needs to do to win a primary and then a general election in Utah which I expect him to do.

CABRERA: And then there's Ted Cruz, the senator who is fawning over President Trump in this new tribute in "TIME" magazine. He writes, "While pundits obsessed over tweets, he worked with Congress to cut taxes for struggling families while wealthy celebrities announced that they would flee the country. He fought to bring back jobs and industries to our shores, while talking heads predicted Armageddon. President Trump's strong stand against North Korea put Kim Jong-un back on his heels."

Tara, President Trump famously dubbed Cruz "Lying Ted" and he criticized his wife's appearance during the 2016 presidential primary. Why do you think Cruz wrote this gushing tribute?

SETMAYER: Let's not forget that he also insinuated that his father may have had something to do with the JFK assassination.

CABRERA: The death of JFK.

SETMAYER: I mean, Ted Cruz, you know, I like Ted Cruz and some policy issues and things but this is exactly why people hate politicians. After someone does what Donald Trump did to Ted Cruz, going after his family like that, and Ted Cruz at the end of the election in 2016 had a pretty poignant press conference where he dressed down Trump pretty well before he dropped out of the race and then for him to turn around, which I'm sure a lot of people are like, you know, good for you, because he took so many licks from Trump that were disrespectful to his family and him personally, but then you -- you turn around, Romney did the same thing.

You know, they get the taste of power and then they decided they want that, they would rather kiss up instead of standing up for what's right and they look like craven cowards. I can't stand it. This is because Ted Cruz is in trouble somewhat in Texas right now. The polling showed that his opponent is within striking distance. There hasn't been a Democrat elected statewide there in a generation so they're nervous.

And that's why he's doing this. He is trying to shore up his support in Texas because Trump is popular there. Well, actually he's not as popular there as one would think but obviously more popular than Ted Cruz apparently or else he wouldn't be doing this. But I think it's -- this is why people hate politicians.

CABRERA: And Scott, earlier this week we heard from Charlie Dent who's now just resigned his post as Republican congressman from Pennsylvania. He issued this warning to his Republican colleagues.


REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), TENNESSEE: I tell my colleagues, particularly those in the swing and marginal districts, that they need to put some distance between themselves and the president. The energy, the enthusiasm and the anger is on the Democratic side in this election. There's no sugar coating that. So, you know, there's a big wave coming. And you know some members have to get off the beach.


CABRERA: Scott, should Republicans be worried about a big blue wave? JENNINGS: Well, sure. I mean, history would tell us that Democrats

ought to do well in the midterms. They do have enthusiasm and history on their side. What the Republicans they have on their side is a great economy that's getting better every single day and we also see the generic ballot polling not favoring Democrats by as much as it needs to favor them for them to pick up the massive gains that some people are predicting.

My belief on the midterm is ultimately going to be that Democrats will make some gains in the House. There's a better than 50 percent chance they win the House but in the big red states where President Trump did well, where we have targeted Senate races, I actually think Republicans could do well there.

[20:30:04] So we might see a split decision in November where Democrats do well in the House, possibly picking it up, and the Republicans hold on to the Senate which would have a divided Congress come January.

SETMAYER: It might do us some good actually because that's the only way Republicans are going to hold Trump accountable. They're worried right now, they're trying to save their own tails, which is what you see what Ted Cruz just did, so if they lose the House maybe that will finally wake them back up and hold Trump accountable and we can right this ship.

CABRERA: Tara and Scott, got to leave it there. Thank you both.

JENNINGS: Thank you.

CABRERA: Coming up, a well-known conspiracy theorist goes too far. Parents who lost their children in the Newtown shooting are fighting back. Their million-dollar lawsuit against Alex Jones, plus reaction from those who know what it's like to be the victim of conspiracy theorists. The Parkland shooting survivors.


[20:35:11] CABRERA: Alex Jones, the man behind InfoWars could be called a Sandy Hook denier. He has spent much of his time since the 2012 school massacre claiming it was faked. Jones goes so far as to call grieving parents crisis actors. Last week a group of those parents hit back with a pair of lawsuits accusing the InfoWars host of defamation.

CNN's Randi Kaye takes a close look at Jones and the painful conspiracies he pushes.


ALEX JONES, AMERICAN RADIO SHOW HOST AND CONSPIRACY THEORIST, INFOWARS: The whole thing is a giant hoax. It took me about a year with Sandy Hook to come to grips with the fact that the whole thing was fake.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Four years now right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been selling the outlandish falsehood that the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary which tragically did leave 20 children and six adults dead never actually happened.

JONES: Sandy Hook is a synthetic, completely fake with actors, in my view manufactured.

KAYE: Completely fake and a giant hoax? Jones says yes. All carried out by opponents of the Second Amendment.

JONES: I don't know if the moon landings were faked. But I don't put anything past these anti-gunners.

KAYE: Well, now two families whose children died in the shooting say they have enough. They are suing Jones for $1 million for defamation, alleging his conspiracy peddling has caused emotional anguish and despair. Jones didn't respond to a request for comment.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: What do you want to know about Noah?

VERONIQUE DE LA ROSA, NOAH POZNER'S MOM: He was a 6-year-old little boy.

KAYE: One incident highlighted in the lawsuit is an interview Anderson Cooper did after the shooting with Veronique Pozner, now Veronique De La Rosa. Her son Noah was killed. And now she and the boy's father are suing Jones.

This clip from the Alex Jones show was the first time Jones floats a conspiracy theory about the interview suggesting Cooper wasn't even there talking to grieving parents.

JONES: Folks, we've got video of Anderson Cooper with clear blue screen out there. He's not there in the town square.

KAYE: Later, in April 2017, Jones hosted a radio show he called "The Sandy Hook Vampires Exposed." Highlighting that same Anderson Cooper interview, only this time going even further.

JONES: And then we've got Anderson Cooper famously, not just with the flowers blowing in fake, but when he turns, his nose disappears repeatedly because the green screen isn't set right.

KAYE: Jones' claim is ridiculous and the lawsuit makes that clear saying the video glitch resulted from motion compensation video compression. A distortion effect that is common when converting video to a digital format.

The other lawsuit is being brought against Jones by Neil Heslin, who lost his son Jesse at Sandy Hook. He talked with NBC last year.

NEIL HESLIN, JESSE LEWIS' FATHER: I lost my son. I buried my son. I held my son with a bullet hole through his head.

KAYE: In the weeks following, Jones and another InfoWars personality cast doubt on whether Neil Heslin really did hold his son, saying the coroner identified children through family photos.

OWEN SHROYER, INFOWARS REPORTER: That is his claim. Now according to timeline of events and a coroner's testimony that is not possible.

JONES: They never let them see their bodies.

KAYE: Grieving parents made out to be actors, all part of an alleged sinister manipulation plan concocted by Alex Jones to fool the public.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


CABRERA: Joining us now school shooting survivors David Hogg and Jaclyn Corin.

Thank you both for being here. You both obviously have received attacks in the wake of the shooting in Parkland.

David, having been called a crisis actor yourself, what goes through your mind when you see Alex Jones and what he has put out there?

DAVID HOGG, SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I think it just goes to prove what he is really trying to push here. The more extreme of a view he pushes the more advertising money he makes because he peddles to more extremist views. People continue to consume his content and that only promotes his message more and more, especially when he gets in the news for doing it because any press is still press for him regardless of what he's saying and that still makes him money.

CABRERA: Here we are again talking about another shooting today. There was this mass shooting over night. Four people killed, four injured in Tennessee at a Waffle House.

David, you tweeted about this saying, "I'm sorry to all of the people affected by this tragic event. Know that we are here and fighting for you."

I'm so taken by this because you both -- you're both teenagers and yet you have such a sense of purpose right now. How consuming is this issue of gun violence for you, Jaclyn?

JACLYN CORIN, SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: Honestly, today's shooting just further reinforces our need for a nonviolent culture.

[20:40:03] I mean, this happens time and time again. It happened in Ocala on the school walkout on Friday. Just every single week, it's again and again. And I mean, the March for Our Lives is the biggest protest for gun violence in this -- in the nation's history and now we are going to be spending our time advocating for the nation's largest voter registration push.

CABRERA: So that's what's coming up next?

CORIN: Yes. CABRERA: I was going to ask about that because since March for Our

Lives we have seen more shootings. We haven't seen more legislation to solve the problem at least at the federal level, David. Do you feel like these protests could be all for naught?

HOGG: At least at this point I think what they're doing is they're getting people politically involved and making sure that our voices are heard, leading up to November. One of the things that we're really trying to push right now is for Paul Ryan to -- we're saying #allowthevote on just simply universal background checks. There's 97 percent support among constituents.

Factor in the margin of error that's about 100 percent for universal background checks yet he won't even introduce a bill on the House floor. He had students outside of his office, about four of them, protesting and he wouldn't even speak to them. They were laying down on the side, peacefully protesting, and he had the cops called on them and had them arrested for blocking a congressional hallway.

CORIN: And keep in mind that universal background checks pull about 80 percent support from NRA members so when a politician doesn't support universal background checks, it really shows that they're just in it for the money and not their constituents.

CABRERA: How do you plan to move forward with this voter registration drive in terms of applying the pressure that could affect change?

HOGG: Yes. So essentially what we're doing right now is we're making -- we're working with a bunch of organizations to try coordinating a massive movement at schools across America, colleges across America, and different organizations across America to make sure people are registered to vote in November and are voting on these issues that affect every American worldwide.

CABRERA: Now you both are part of the "TIME's" 100 Most Influential People of 2018. First of all, congratulations. I want to read you something former President Obama wrote about you.

"The Parkland Florida students don't have the lobbyists or big budgets for attack ads that their opponents do. Most of them can't even vote yet. But they have the power so often inherent in youth to see the world anew, to reject the old constraints, outdated conventions, and cowardice too often dressed up as wisdom. The power to insists that America can be better."

What's your reaction?

CORIN: Honestly that message from President Barack Obama was so special to us and we appreciate it dearly. But the side of us that are on the "TIME" cover and that are going to the "TIME" 100 are just representatives of our entire community because so many people in Parkland are working toward this change and around the country. There's millions of people, millions of high schoolers behind us creating movements in their own communities so we're really there to raise their voices, as well.

HOGG: And --

CABRERA: It's got to feel good to have the affirmations and to be recognized in this way for what you've been through, but also the hard work that you put out there to try to affect the world and this country and your peers and so much in a positive way but it also has to feel like a lot of pressure.

HOGG: I mean, it absolutely is. But the fact that like, for example, I'll go home at night oftentimes being fully exhausted to the point where I feel like I'm basically going to collapse almost every night and everybody else in the organization and in our community feels that way, too, because we see these things continue to happen. But once I go to these different communities, for example, Thurgood Marshall Academy which I visited in Washington, D.C., I think a day before the march where I met people like Zion Kelly who had his twin brother murdered in Washington, D.C.

When I see those people that have to live through this every day that's absolutely empowering and that keeps me motivated and keeps me going because this is an issue that is not going to go away by just marching alone. It's not an issue that's going to go away by youth just making their voices heard. It's going to go away by people marching into that ballot box and voting.

CABRERA: Thank you both for joining us. Nice to see both of you and best of luck.

CORIN: Thank you.

CABRERA: David and also Jaclyn Corin, we appreciate it.

Coming up, a new report that says FOX News host Sean Hannity basically has a desk in the White House. Is he really the president's unofficial chief of staff?

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[20:48:50] CABRERA: The unofficial chief of staff? That's what White House insiders have dubbed FOX News host Sean Hannity according to "The Washington Post." The paper says, quote, "Trump and Hannity usually speaks several times a week. The two men review news stories and aspects of Hannity's show and occasionally debates specifics about whatever the president is considering typing out on Twitter. The frequency of Hannity's contact with Trump means that he basically has a desk in the place, one presidential adviser said."

To illustrate just how close this relationship is between Donald Trump and Sean Hannity and the rest of FOX News, here's a look at what the president has said about the Russia investigation and what we've heard from that network on this issue.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no collusion. There was no collusion with Russia.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: The conspiracy theory that was cooked up by the Obama administration, by Democrats --

TRUMP: Really a hoax created largely by the Democrats.

HANNITY: As an excuse for why Hillary Clinton lost the election. That was never supposed to happen.

TRUMP: Softening the blow of a loss which is a loss that frankly they shouldn't have had.

HANNITY: The FBI never was actually able to look at the DNC servers.

TRUMP: Their server, the DNC server was never gotten by the FBI. Why did the FBI take it?

[20:50:04] BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS HOST: The Robert Mueller investigation is tearing this country apart.

TRUMP: It is a bad thing for our country. Very, very bad thing for our country.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: There was no collusion. Everybody knows that. Everyone has always known that.

TRUMP: There has been no collusion. They won't find any collusion. It doesn't exist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The administration actually doing some pretty tough things against Russia.

TRUMP: There's been nobody tougher on Russia than President Donald Trump.

HANNITY: Trump is now getting tough on Russia. The mainstream media is spinning in circles. Didn't they claim he'd never get tough on Russia?

TRUMP: With the media, no matter what I did, it was never tough enough because that's their narrative.


CABRERA: Joining us now, CNN senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter.

So, Brian, how much credence do you give this reporting about Trump and Hannity?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is striking because it shows the relationship is even closer, even cozier than we might have thought before. The idea according to the "Post" is that the president is even kind of a shadow producer of Hannity's show at the same time Hannity is a shadow chief of staff for the White House. So this does add new details about this layered relationship and it all comes one week after we learned that Hannity was a secret client of Michael Cohen's.

I think Cohen and the possibility of impending indictments is going to continue to be a story into the new workweek. Cohen has been walking around the city trying to avoid questions from reporters, but he was quoted today saying that this is a tough situation right now. There's a lot going on. So we'll see what more we learn about Hannity and Cohen. We know that Hannity has tried to down play the relationship saying it was mostly about real estate. But regardless of that particular relationship, Hannity and his connections to Trump, are really important to understand.

I don't think you can really fully understand the Trump presidency without understanding how this alternative universe of information works. You think about Hannity as one of the shelters from the storm.

CABRERA: Who benefits more from this close relationship, Hannity and Trump?

STELTER: I would argue that President Trump is the biggest beneficiary right now. Certainly Hannity has high ratings, he's also causing huge headaches for FOX with this kind of undisclosed relationship with Cohen. But the president benefits on a daily basis because he's hearing talking points from Hannity and others in the conservative media universe. He's been echoing those talking points as we see in that video there, and you'll see on Twitter as well the president today, you know, what was it, just four words. He said a complete witch hunt.

He's reverting to those basic messages and repeating those over and over again. You know, I'm not claiming to be an expert in rhetoric, but I think any college professor who teaches rhetoric would tell you the repetition, saying the same thing over and over again, is incredibly effective and that's what both Hannity and Trump do. They reinforce each other by insisting there was never collusion, by insisting this is all a witch hunt, but insisting it's all the Democrats' fault.

By saying it over and over again, they are not convincing a majority of the public, but they are at this point convincing a majority of Republicans, a majority of Trump's base. And that's worth something. That's a benefit to the president.

CABRERA: Should Americans be concerned at all?

STELTER: I think there's reason to be concerned that many, many of us, and that's not just Trump voters or Trump haters, many of us are in echo chambers only hearing views that we already agree with. And that's particularly pronounced I think among some Trump loyalists to tune into Hannity's show who read certain Web sites that are argue always in favor of Trump and against his opponents.

That's something that's been going on for decades, but it's getting stronger. And it's incumbent on all of us, and all our friends and family to push us outside of our bubble. To push us outside of our echo chambers.

CABRERA: I want to pivot here and take a look at this picture from First Lady Barbara Bush's funeral yesterday. A lot of people are looking at this. Look at all those smiles. Look at the combination of people who are there. A common theme from that funeral yesterday was sort of this craving people felt, this pull to a time when there was civility.

STELTER: I think this is the photo of the weekend. And honestly, maybe the photo of the year so far because of what it shows and what it doesn't show. That there was obviously this weekend a longing for the Republican Party of the past and of a sense of civility and unity in the country. Certainly there are lots of areas where the Clintons and the Bushes disagree for example, and we all know that. But they are still able to be together and smile.

And the presence of Melania there also speaks volumes. Look, I think a lot of Americans look at this photo and say that they miss the Clintons or the Bushes, or the Carters who were unfortunately unable to be at the funeral. I think other Americans look at the photo and say that's exactly why I voted for Donald Trump. That both parties have failed the country. That these families have failed the country. So we elected a hand grenade instead to make change.

I think that photo -- it's almost like a war shock test depending on how you feel about the president, how you feel about the president's family and past presidents.

[20:55:06] That photo says it all.

CABRERA: And so striking.

Brian Stelter, thank you. Good to have you on.

And that does it for us. I'm Ana Cabrera. Thank you for being here. Up next, get ready for a new season of "PARTS UNKNOWN" by looking back at the memorable moments of the past. "PARTS UNKNOWN: PRIME CUTS" is next. Have a great night.