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Sources: Friend Called Orlando Terrorist During Attack; British Lawmaker Stabbed, Shot, Left Bleeding On Ground; Both EgyptAir Black Boxes Now Found; Disney Adds New Gator, Snake Warning Sings to Lagoon; RNC Delegates Launch "Anybody But Trump" Drive. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired June 17, 2016 - 16:30   ET


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRRESPONDENT: Yes, let me read exactly what is on these new signs that are going up not just at the Grand Floridian, but all of the other properties that are on that lake front there.

[16:30:01] They read, quote, "Danger, alligators and snakes in the area. Stay away from the water. Do not feed the wildlife."

In addition to the signs going up, crews are putting these wood posts spaced out all along the water front. Again, not just at the Grand Floridian, and that they are stringing ropes in between. We're being told by Disney that these steps are actually temporary measures while they still work on what the more permanent fix is going to be. They also say going beyond this, they are training their employees more about alligators and also will be educating their guests more about alligators.

Interesting to point out, the fencing is there to prevent the people from going into the water. Not the alligators. So that raises question. Netting might be there in the future to stop alligators. Experts have opinions on whether that is effective.

One thing is clear, if you look at YouTube, no shortage of guest videos that shows them interacting.

I should point out, though, that the tragedy that happened is extremely rare. There have been two alligator fatalities in the entire state in the last year and this is the first ever at Disney World. The only other attack was back in 1986 when a person was bitten. That person survived -- Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Martin Savidge, thanks very much.

Many Republican donors still refusing to fund Donald Trump and the GOP is concerned about down ballot races, they are bringing a powerhouse back on the campaign trail.


[16:36:02] SCIUTTO: Our politics lead today. So now that Speaker Paul Ryan has endorsed Donald Trump, he's telling Republicans to follow his example, right?

Nope. Ryan says his fellow Republicans should follow their conscience and now there is a new movement among delegates to ditch the convention rules and free delegates to do exactly that, vote their conscience.

CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny is here with me.

So, Jeff, how serious is this new push by delegates and could it succeed in replacing him at the convention?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Jim, I think you can file this under "wishful thinking" here. I mean, Republican worries about Trump have only grown but the chances for success are still minimal at the convention. All of these discussions are coming as the politics of guns in the wake of the Orlando shooting still dominate the campaign conversation.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I'm going to save your Second Amendment, folks. I'm going to say your Second Amendment.

ZELENY (voice-over): Donald Trump in search of a lifeline, trying to rally Republicans behind his full-throated support of the Second Amendment.

But tonight, not all Republicans are rallying around Trump.

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: The Second Amendment didn't kill anybody.

ZELENY: Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Trump ally, telling CNN's Pamela Brown the Orlando shooting calls for a different conversation.

SCOTT: The Second Amendment has been around for over 200 years. It didn't -- you know, that's not what killed innocent people. Let's have a conversation about how we destroy ISIS.

ZELENY: The Orlando massacre is thrusting the gun debate to the front of the political agenda. A new Gallup poll finds 79 percent of American say that the nightclub shooting was an act of Islamic terrorism, while 60 percent of Democrats interpret as domestic gun violence.

With Republicans increasingly divided over his candidacy, Trump hopes guns will galvanize his support inside the GOP and beyond.

TRUMP: And Hillary wants to abolish the Second Amendment. Remember that.

ZELENY: Hillary Clinton is pushing for new and stronger gun laws, but far from abolishing the Second Amendment.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: These aren't demonstratively lies, but he feels compelled to tell them because he has to distract us from the fact he has nothing substantive to say.

ZELENY: But what he is saying is riling up Republicans. On NBC's "Meet the Press," House Speaker Ryan offering a permission slip for Republicans to vote their conscience, for or against Trump.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The last thing I would do is tell anybody to do something that's contrary to their consensus. Of course I wouldn't do that.

ZELENY: Ryan is not rescinding his endorsement but that doesn't mean that he likes what Trump is doing to the party. Yet, the chasm among Republicans is widening, several top Republicans are looking beyond Trump in hopes of salvaging the party's Senate majority.


ZELENY: Former President George W. Bush, who has said he will not support Trump, is campaigning for vulnerable Senate candidates across the country.

But some Republicans are focusing on Trump, exploring last-ditch efforts to block his nomination at next month's convention in Cleveland.

CNN has learned a plan is under way to push some delegates to break their allegiance to Trump. One organizer is New Jersey Republican and former Cruz supporter Steve Lonegan who told CNN, "These delegates have a moral obligation to nominate a candidate who best represents the values of the Republican Party. Right now, Donald Trump is taking the party into a catastrophic loss."


ZELENY: Now, for these efforts to try and change the convention rules, Donald Trump released a statement a short time ago saying this, "People that I defeated soundly in the primaries will do anything to get a second shot, but there's no mechanism for it to happen." Jim?

SCIUTTO: Defeated soundly in the primaries.

Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much.

Joining me now to talk about all things 2016, CNN political commentator and senior writer for 'The Federalist", Mary Katherine Ham, and Bernie Sanders supporter Nomi Konst.

Mary Katharine, if I could begin with you. So, this is our new reporting effort underway to allow Republican delegates to vote their conscience. Do you see any potential there for defeating him at the convention?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm not sure for this reason, if you watch the entire primary, the problem is people didn't go hard enough or early enough to take him out.

[16:40:05] And I don't see them suddenly becoming able to do that at the convention at that late date. It may be a Hail Mary. I just don't see it happening.

SCIUTTO: Nomi, I have to ask you, because this was -- well, first, I'll ask you -- do you agree with Mary Katharine? Do you think this has any potential?

NOMIKI KONST, BERNIE SANDERS SUPPORTER: I agree with Mary Katharine on that. I think the Republicans are in a predicament. They are winning off elections. They're not winning presidentials very well. We all know that. It's sort of the inverse of the Democratic Party right now.

But at least they have the concern of the future of the Republican party in mind and I commend the Republican Party for that. They just didn't catch on to that early enough. So, it is a Hail Mary and they are lucky that they have Hillary Clinton as a candidate. We're lucky that we have Hillary Clinton as a candidate.

SCIUTTO: Nomi, I want to ask you as well, because this has caused a huge uproar yesterday. Senator John McCain echoing Donald Trump to some extent, telling reporters that President Obama is, quote, "directly responsible for the terror attack in Orlando." His Democratic opponents saying McCain crossed a line there. He did qualify his comments afterwards, but, of course, those first comments, they're out there. They tend to stay out here. Does this hurt him at the ballot box in what's a very difficult race?

KONST: John McCain or?

SCIUTTO: John McCain.

KONST: I think so.

I mean, I'm from Arizona and there's a lot of independent thinking Arizonans, there are some progressive independents in Arizona that he's going to depend on. I think the problem with John McCain is he's got this careful balance, he is trying to play this conservative -- strong and national security but the issue is very much the Bush policies that McCain was on board with -- the very firm national security interventionist policies that led us to this situation.

I mean, Barack Obama didn't get us into Iraq. Iraq was existed already. We had a problem. We had, you know -- he had a foreign policy plan. The problem is, is that John McCain wants to blame Barack Obama and he's been doing that for the past eight years.

SCIUTTO: Mary Katharine, there hasn't been substantial polling since Orlando in the presidential horse race. Would you be surprised if this helped Trump in the national numbers? Of course, the narrative right now is he blew it because of his rhetoric and accusing President Obama of colluding in effect with terrorists. That said, I mean, this is right in his wheelhouse.

HAM: One I would note that Barack Obama did get us out of Iraq because of a political promise and left a vacuum for ISIS, but --

SCIUTTO: Let's put that aside for a moment.

HAM: But with this issue, I think there's a part of the electorate that responds to just the projection of strength on this issue. You can't do yourself a ton of harm by being very strong on terrorists. And so, I think there's a segment of the population that looks at the rhetoric of the left and saying you're calling out all of these law- abiding gun owners and saying they're to blame, and you're blind to this person who was to blame. This is a real problem. And people will look at Trump and say I'm not so sure about him and his policies, but I feel like he sees the problem.

SCIUTTO: I heard that. I made a point of asking. I was in Orlando for the week and I asked a lot of folks what their thinking was and many people, frankly, that rhetoric did appeal to them. I wonder, Nomi, what your response is, because you're seeing that issue of terrorism rocket to the top of concerns for voters in this election.

KONST: You know, Americans are concerned, especially when it's home- grown terrorism. I think the issue here is really about the terrorist loophole the only people fighting the terrorist loophole which allowed the San Bernardino attacks, which allowed people to be investigated by the FBI to purchase guns illegally is the NRA. And the NRA, even their own members, 71 percent of NRA members want to close out that loophole.

Eighty-three percent of Americans in a poll last week said that they want to close out that loophole. Nine out of ten Americans want to have expanded background checks. This is not a Republican issue. This s not a Democratic issue. This is an NRA issue and the RNA is falsely sending out these messages about what happened in San Bernardino and what happened in Orlando and saying it's just about terrorism, it's just about mental health. No, it's all three of these issues and there's only one organization that lobbies $40 million a year on lobbying for these kinds of loopholes and that's a problem.

SCIUTTO: We're going to have to leave it there, Mary Katharine. Thanks very much both of you.

Forty-nine people massacred by a terrorist in Orlando. Now, breaking information just in to CNN about a phone call to the terrorist right in the middle of that attack. We're going to have those details right after this break.


SCIUTTO: Breaking news, just into THE LEAD now, brand-new information about a phone call that the Orlando terrorist took from a friend right in the middle of slaughtering 49 people.

CNN justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is in Orlando. She has the details. So Pamela, what was this call -- who was this call to and what did they talk about?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're learning from our law enforcement sources that his friend, who is a medical professional, called Omar Mateen during the rampage. Apparently this friend had seen the posts he was putting online talking about doing it in the name of ISIS.

So the friend called him and apparently Omar Mateen picked up and part of the conversation was focused on medication that the gunman had been on, apparently according to our sources. So, of course, this all raises some questions.

And also we've learned that this friend, who was in Washington, D.C., at the time, went to the FBI and alerted the FBI of the situation and told them that he essentially didn't have anything to do with the attack and walked the FBI through why he called the gunman.

We had previously reported that the gunman had spoken to a friend and said goodbye. It's unclear at this time whether this is the same person but, again, we know this is someone who is a medical professional.

It's unclear how far back they go, how they knew each other. But we know, Jim, that they had discussed medication over the course of this phone call -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Do we know what else the terrorist was doing with the phone during the attack?

BROWN: So people that we've spoken with, my colleague, Evan Perez, (inaudible) as well tell us that the gunman was on his phone seemingly throughout the three-hour rampage.

[16:50:04]We know that he was posting it on Facebook, searching for the shooting. He was texting with his wife at the point where he was barricading himself inside that bathroom asking her if she had seen the news.

We know he called 911 and the TV producer. So it's just bizarre to law enforcement officials, Jim, that this was all playing out during the shooting rampage.

And I can also tell that you that there is surveillance video of everything transpiring and that surveillance video is now in the hands of the FBI. Investigators have been looking at it and scrutinizing it -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: I'm sure it's going to show a horrific scene. Pamela Brown in Orlando, thank you.

Both black boxes recovered from EgyptAir plane that crashed into the sea, but they were damaged. How much information will investigators be able to recover? We're going to find out. That's next.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back. In our World Lead, Britain reeling today after a man assassinated a Member of Parliament in broad daylight. Investigators say a 52-year-old man with ties to right wing extremism including here in the U.S. had stalked Jo Cox and then stabbed and shot her several times as she was leaving a meeting.

Leaving Cox to bleed to death on the ground. An eyewitness claimed that the attacker yelled Britain first. It's a politically charged statement as the U.K. is set to vote on leaving the European Union. Cox is the first British lawmaker killed in office since an assassination launch by the IRA back in 1990. Jo Cox was just 41 years old. She leaves behind two young children and a husband.

Also in our World Lead, what could be a breakthrough in the case of EgyptAir Flight 804, searchers have now recovered the second black box, the flight data recorder, which along with the cockpit recorder found yesterday could help piece together what cause the plane to crash into the Mediterranean Sea nearly a month ago.

I want to bring CNN's Rene Marsh. So Rene, how long before we know what's inside these recordings?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it could be weeks before we start getting answers from those black boxes. It really just depends on how damaged the recorders are. The plane's recorders potentially, though, put investigators one step closer to unraveling the mystery of what caused that passenger plane to crash.


MARSH (voice-over): A breakthrough in the investigation into the mysterious crash of EgyptAir Flight 804 after experts on board this French vessel located and retrieved the plane's black boxes.

Investigators may soon be able to determine whether mechanical failure doomed the flight or something more sinister. They will also be able to hear the final conversations between the pilots as well as any other sounds in the cockpit.

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: The voice recorder is important because it will confirm what the pilots were thinking, what they saw, what they were doing. The data recorder will tell us precisely second by second how the plane was performing.

MARSH: Both recorders were damaged but searchers were able to retrieve the memory units considered the most important part. The data recorder can help investigators determine how the plane's mechanics were performing, the engines, the speed of the plane, altitude, and thousands of other parameters.

The voice recorder can reveal who was in the cockpit, what the pilots were saying and doing, were any of the plane's warning alarms going off? It could also capture other sounds like an explosion.

AHMED ADEL, VICE CHAIRMAN, EGYPTAIR (via telephone): This is a very important step in the investigation process as it marks the beginning of a long process that will go on from there.

MARSH: Both recorders are built to withstand extreme conditions. They can survive temperatures up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour and they are waterproof.

GOELZ: I think the chances that they are not going to get anything off of it is probably pretty low. Advances in technology, in solid state technology, and the forensics of getting the material off of it have advanced greatly over the years.

MARSH: The flight from Paris to Cairo vanished from radar and crashed into the Mediterranean Sea killing all 66 people on board nearly one month ago. Until now, the investigation has been stalled with no evidence explaining what brought down the plane. The airline maintains there were no issues with the aircraft.

ADEL (via telephone): We have no indication of anything as of now. The aircraft was a healthy aircraft. Twenty five days prior to the flight, there was nothing logged into the technical logbook.

MARSH: With the plane's black boxes now in hand, investigators may be able to unravel the mystery of what caused Flight 804 to plunge into the Mediterranean Sea.


MARSH: And once investigators dry out the recorders, several teams of experts will listen to the voices and sounds on the voice recorder transcribed every single sound and of course, this data recorder as well. And Jim, that will create a more clear picture of what went wrong.

SCIUTTO: Let's hope we'll get answers soon. Rene Marsh, thanks very much.

Our Sports Lead now, Russian track and field athletes are out of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. The International Association Of Athletic Federation decided to extend the ban on international competition for the nation saying that Moscow had not adequately addressed the country's doping problem.

A maximum of five Russian athletes could possibly compete though under a neutral flag if they meet certain requirements, but would have to prove that they are clean and would have to train outside of Russia.

That is it for THE LEAD today. I'm Jim Sciutto in for Jake Tapper today. Hope you all have a great weekend. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. He's in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, the killer's secret. The family of the Orlando gunman says they first learned of the shooting when police knocked on their door in the middle of the night. Did anyone else know of the killer's deadly plans --