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Coverage Of The Aftermath Of The Marjory Douglas High School Shooting Massacre; Special Counsel, Robert Mueller Interviewed Steve Bannon This Week For Hours; Senators Just Failed To Advance Proposal To Resolve The Future Of Millions Undocumented Immigrants. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired February 15, 2018 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:31:13] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Moments ago, this heartbroken community gathered at a park not too far from here for an informal vigil. And there will be another one, I should tell you, just in a couple of hours.
CNN's Gary Tuchman is there.
And Gary, I understand you just talked to a mother of one of these young victims here at the high school. What did she say?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, I will tell you, Brooke, that she will be here for this official vigil which is two- and-a-half hours from now. This is the stage of the amphitheater in this park. And on the stage right now are 17 angels, each to represent one of the people who died in this horrible attack yesterday.
But as we stand here, even though the vigil hasn't started yet, this is an unofficial vigil is going on. Students from the school, which has 3,100 people that go here have gathered here to seek comfort with each other.
One thing I can tell you about these school shootings is when they happen, the day they happened, people often are in shock. They don't realize what happened. It isn't until the day after that people start realizing. And we see a lot of emotion, people crying, people hugging, some people laughing as they tell fun stories about people who they have lost.
And that building right behind us, there counseling sessions going on as we speak. Psychologists are in there. Therapy dogs are in there to help people who are suffering right now in this very difficult time.
Now, you were talking about this mother, Brooke. One of the victims, 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff, by all accounts, a great athlete. She was on the soccer team, a excellent student. Has a lots of friends here. Everyone we talked to here knew her. And her mother, Lori, is obviously a very grief-stricken mother. She has two younger sons. She's grief stricken but is extremely strong. And I want you to listen to what she said to us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LORI ALHADEFF, DAUGHTER ALYSSA ALHADEFF KILLED IN MASSACRE: How? How do we allow a gunman to come into our children's school? How do they get through security? What security is there? There s no metal detectors. The gunman, a crazy person, just walks right into the school, knocks on the window of my child's door and starts shooting, shooting her and killing her! President Trump, you say what can you do? You can stop the guns from getting into these children's hands! Put metal detectors at every entrance to the schools. What can you do? You can do a lot! This is not fair to our families and our children go to school and have to get killed!
I just spent the last two hours putting the burial arrangements for my daughters funeral, who is 14! President Trump, please do something! Do something. Action! We need it now! These kids need safety now!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN: May Alyssa and the other 16 victims rest in peace - Brooke.
BALDWIN: Sorry. Gary, thank you. I'm sorry. It's just --.
Congressman Deutch, help me out, of Florida here who represents the district. Just hearing that mother, I'm sorry. It got me.
REP. TED DEUTCH (D), FLORIDA: Yes. Brooke, I don't know that I --
BALDWIN: What do you say?
DEUTCH: Here is the thing. I always have that same reality. With all these students and what she said, what that grieving mother said is the most powerful message that everyone needs to hear.
[15:35:01] BALDWIN: Everyone.
DEUTCH: And it's the message that I've heard from PTA moms and school board members. It's the message that I heard at that rally from two girls who came up to me and said that they were in the school. One of them said, they said we need action. We have to do something. One of them said I sat there, as my friends -- and watched my friend's face got blown off. Her friend said that she was underneath someone else who bled out, who died on top of her. How much more of this --
BALDWIN: But you are on Capitol Hill.
BALDWIN: You're on Capitol Hill.
BALDWIN: I mean, let me just speak for so many people who have been yelling at the televisions, yelling at members of Congress, how nothing has been done. DEUTCH: Right. And you know what? They are right. And I join them
in their frustration and their anger. They are absolutely right to be angry. Here -- look, here are some things that we probably ought to start talking about, right?
BALDWIN: Let's go.
DEUTCH: I can tell you all the things, basic steps we can take to make sure that everyone gets a background check and to make sure that if you are too dangerous to fly -- which is all true --.
BALDWIN: Which we did.
DEUTCH: But do you know what else? Do you know what kind of gun this gunman used?
DEUTCH: Do you know what kind of gun is always used in these? An AR- 15 assault rifle.
BALDWIN: What are you going to do about it?
DEUTCH: It's a weapon that's made to kill the maximum number of people.
BALDWIN: What are you going to do about it?
DEUTCH: Well, until 2004, it was illegal to manufacture or own them, illegal. And that wasn't -- that didn't come from crazy left-wing liberals. President Reagan thought that that might help dry up the scourge of these guns that wreak so much havoc. I don't understand why in this discussion that we are having, why we continue -- we advocate for the simple things without any response from my colleague. The speaker will not bring up a single bill for debate. We have to focus on the big things, like making sure that guns that are made to kill the maximum amount of people cannot be used that way.
BALDWIN: The speaker today really honed in on mental illness, which is absolutely germane to the conversation. And I'm not dismissing that. But, you know, just in reading everything that I have from Republicans, mental health, mental illness, hearing it - reading in a Trump tweet today.
I mean, you have this mother screaming at the president, who did take time today to try to be the consoler in chief and spoke directly to the camera, to try to talk to kids, that he wants to make them safe. But I heard no how. I heard no specifics. I heard no mention of gun laws.
BALDWIN: Which makes this mother angry.
DEUTCH: And she is right, and everyone is right to be angry. The fact is, we have to deal with the mental health crisis in our country. And we must. I don't want to demonize people with mental illness and make this all about them. We have to provide access to treatment and care for people with mental illness. That's true. But the fact is --
BALDWIN: How many more shootings is it going to take for your colleagues to get it together and fix this?
DEUTCH: Brooke, before I left D.C. yesterday, I had so many of my colleagues come up and grab my shoulder and grab my arm and express their heartfelt condolences.
BALDWIN: Which is lovely.
DEUTCH: It's lovely and I believe them. And today, they were going to have a moment of silence on the House floor.
But you shouldn't have to have something like this happen at your own district, to people that you know and care about and represent for it to matter to them. It's not political. It is not politicizing this issue to talk about ending gun violence. The only people who are politicizing this issue are the people looking for reasons not to have the conversation. And there is simply no excuse. Next week, from all the people I've been talking to, they want to come together. We're going to try to bring together the entire community in a way that will at least focus the nation's attention on this issue past the first couple of days.
We can't afford to let this just become another statistic. This is one of the worst mass shootings in our country's history and it happened in one of the most wonderful communities. Everyone needs to care about this.
BALDWIN: When are you going to get the president to talk about it? Because we talked about Las Vegas -- forgive me, congressman. I'm really fired up. We talked about Las Vegas, 58 people, I believe is the number -- 58 people were killed. You watch the White House briefing, as I do each and every day. And they kept asking these reporters, when will you talk about it? We had a whole conversation about bump stocks. When are you going to talk about it? Now is not the time. Now is not the time. When is the time, congressman?
DEUTCH: The time is today, the time was yesterday, the time was years ago after Sandy Hook, years before that, after Columbine. It's always the time. It is always the time to talk about preventing casualties to keep people safe, to prevent shootings.
And one last thing, some of my colleagues, some of our friends in the Senate went to the floor, they spoke passionately about how much they expressed their grief, their condolences and I, again -- terrific. But to have that conversation and to work as hard as so many of them did to tie themselves into knots, to avoid even using the word gun, that's shameful. It's not just a person who walked in off the street and murdered all of these kids. It's a person who walked in off the street with an AR-15 and shot all these kids to death. That's what we have to come to terms with. It's vital that the conversation, that the debate and that the pressure, the maximum pressure from everyone who cares starts right now.
[15:40:47] BALDWIN: Congressman Deutch, appreciate all that.
I have got one more question for you because I want to play some sound. This is from a public defender, defending this shooter. Just fed in to us. Let's listen in on this together.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORDON WEEKS, PUBLIC DEFENDER: This is a lose for this community A tragic loss of 17 children. Needless to say that -- thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He will come back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He will come back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: So, I mean listen, these public defenders are -- they live in the community. You know, it is their job to defend individuals such as this suspected man facing 17 counts of premeditated murder but it's not often you see someone get emotional like that.
DEUTCH: Brooke --
BALDWIN: Actually, I take that back. Where were we five minutes ago?
Y DEUTCH: Yes. You and I both. And it's OK. It's OK to be emotional. That mom, I can't imagine her grief. The couple that I talked to a little while ago who lost a daughter, they were speechless. The kids who were impacted have so -- they feel so deeply that something has to get done. It's OK for us to be emotional. It's the only way that something will happen. It's emotion that shouldn't just come from those of us who are standing in the shadow of the school where this happened. It's the emotion we should all feel for all people who take their kids to school every day. And after - it is like this wonder if their kids are going to come home. That emotion is what's going to drive this process forward.
BALDWIN: Yes. And I think about that mom. I think about that mom who has to go back into her daughter's bedroom and pick out clothes to put on her daughter for her funeral. You know, these are the things we don't talk about. But it's all those little details. That is everything. Just walking through what these parents are going through. And a time like this that is just unnecessary.
Congressman Ted Deutch, I appreciate you.
DEUTCH: Thanks, Brooke.
BALDWIN: And your candor and I apologized for my tears.
DEUTCH: Me as well. Thanks, Brooke.
BALDWIN: OK. Coming up next, I will be join by student who saw her teacher killed in front of her as he tried to protect his class. Stay here.
[15:46:36] BALDWIN: All right. We are here live at Parkland, Florida. We are gong to come back to this in just a moment.
Look. We are getting some breaking news in the Russia investigation. We now know that the special counsel, Robert Mueller interviewed Steve Bannon this week for hours. The former White House chief strategist is one of the few people in the President's inner circle to be interviewed. But in Bannon's congressional investigations, he has not been forthcoming.
CNN just told the House intelligence committee that the White House told him to invoke executive privilege to avoid answering that committee's questions and now lawmakers are considering whether to hold him in contempt of court.
Our CNN senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju is live up on the hill for me.
And Manu, tell me more.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Steve Bannon actually over two days this week met with the special counsel's team, was interviewed for hours about the Russia investigation, a very significant development that we had been expecting for some time. And it occurred this week.
Now going into this meeting a source familiar with Bannon said he would be prepared to answer all the special counsel's questions. Well, that didn't happen on Capitol Hill after the House intelligence committee subpoenaed him to return to this committee to answer a number of questions that he refused to answer before. Those are questions regarding any topics after the trump campaign. The whole campaign season of 2016.
Now, he came, this time, armed with a letter from the White House that said he was not authorized to answer any topics after the campaign because the White House instructed him to invoke executive privilege on behalf of President Trump.
Now both sides of the aisle were perplexed by this argument and they're weighing whether or not to hold him in contempt of Congress. Now after this roughly three-hour meeting today, the members came out and said that this decision to invoke executive privilege was rather breathtaking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: He refused to answer almost all the questions and asserted that he had been instructed by the White House to invoke executive privilege on behalf of the president. The breathtaking and insupportable.
RAJU: I mean, is there concern any way that the White House here is seeking to intervene and prevent former employees from answering the committee's questions?
REP. MIKE CONAWAY (R), MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: So you need to ask the White House what their thoughts are on that. We have questions that yet to be answered. We would like answers to those. We may or may not get answers totally. And in the large, we will be --.
RAJU: But it is Republican running this investigation. Aren't you concerned with what the White House is doing?
CONAWAY: I would like to get all the answers to our questions as I could.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now Mike Conaway there said that we later meet with Speaker Paul Ryan to discuss the next step about whether or not to hold Steve Bannon in contempt in an a sign, Brooke, of how much the White House is trying to limit Bannon's testimony. The only authorized him to answer 25 questions that he could answer yes or no. And we are told he answered no to all those questions. Members say clearly that's not enough. They need more answers to the questions. Brooke?
BALDWIN: All right. Manu, thank you so much.
I want to get back here to where we are, just in front of the Douglas high school here in Parkland, Florida. And the student survivor who saw one of her teachers killed right in front of her, Tyjanai Thomas is with me now.
And Tyjanai, I'm so sorry that you are even standing here with me and even having to talk about this. Tell me where you were. Because the shooter didn't actually come in your classroom but you saw him passed by.
[15:50:10] TYJANAI THOMAS, SAVE SUNMAN SHOOT HER TEACHER: He was like right next to the door in front of the door of my classroom. Like we heard the fire alarm go off, and where I looking around, like what's going on, this is the sec one today. So me and my friend meet up in the hallway. And I had to wait for her to get the rest of her things,. And then she was getting them, we noticed someone coming down the hallway who didn't look like they belong in the school.
BALDWIN: Why not.
THOMAS: Like their demeanor just looked really off. Like, you couldn't really see them because of the amount of smoke that was there, but they didn't look like normal. I guess you could say. So --
BALDWIN: Smoke from presumably the shooting weapon.
THOMAS: yes. So h approached our class -- my classroom door. And I'm standing here, like what's going on. My friends are still in there. So then I hear gunshot and I grab her hand and we taker off running down the stairs. And when we get to the bottom, there's even more smoke down there. But the body on the right side of the hallway and a figure standing at the end of the hallway. So my other friend yells out, just run, just run out of the building. So we ran out, running back and forth hearing gunshots from either side of us to finally see security guards telling us to get off campus and we ran off into waters edge.
BALDWIN: Wasters edge which is?
THOMAS: The neighborhood like right across from the school.
BALDWIN: Right. It is crossing the school. I should mention you are 15.
BALDWIN: Your mom gave you permission for you to be standing and talking to me about this. So when you say you made a run for it, how close were you to the shooter? Feet?
THOMAS: Yes. That was on the third floor. Like on the first floor, though, he was all the way at the other end of the hallway. I know it is kind of hard to tell if that was the shooter or a police officer, but we ran either way just for our safety.
BALDWIN: What were you feeling at that time?
THOMAS: At that time? It is like I was frozen, but at the same time, I knew what I had to do to save myself and my friends.
BALDWIN: And what were you saying to your friends as you were running?
THOMAS: Like just telling them to get their stuff or leave it. Either way, we just got to get out of here because we -- at first we all thought it was just another drill.
BALDWIN: That's what everyone keeps saying. But it was not.
THOMAS: We, like realization kicked in to us faster than it did to everyone else, obviously, because they were still laughing and joking about it while we were gone.
BALDWIN: So you lost your teacher.
BALDWIN: Where were you when the bullets started flying? And did you see your teacher actually go down?
THOMAS: No, because I was outside of the classroom. I was probably about 10 feet away from the door standing right next to the staircase when I heard it. I was like, I don't know who that was, but we are running. And when I got down to where my family was, I heard someone saying my teacher passed away, and I was, like, we were just in that class, so that had to be the person that got shot.
BALDWIN: What did you do last night?
THOMAS: Last night? After getting all of my siblings with me, making sure everyone was safe, we just sat like sat there, we prayed, and we got all together making sure everyone was OK, didn't have any really huge issues and tried to sleep, but it was hard.
BALDWIN: Tried to sleep issue but it was hard. And then, you know, I guess, I'm wondering, you know, it's like you go through this horrific thing. You are standing here with all these lights and camera people, and telling me, I was here. I saw this, you know, unlike along a timeline. But when you are quiet in a dark space, what's the image? What do you see?
THOMAS: Everything that I have seen that day, like, the body, the figure that I seen, my friends, how scared they were, how scared we were running from the scene, it's just, like, so much going on, and then seeing my mom crying because my sister is still in the school.
BALDWIN: The waiting. That's what we keep hearing from the parents. It took hours in some cases.
Tyjanai, thank you so much. I appreciate you. And I'm glad you're OK.
Let me also bring in Kaden Culpepper, former football quarterback at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school here. He is also in mourning today. He is mourning the loss of his former coach Aaron Feis who died in the hospital yesterday from his gunshot injuries. Coach Feis spent final moments inside the school actually throwing himself on top of students to shield them from the bullets that were coming down from the gunman.
Kaden, just my sincerest condolences to you in your loss. I mean, I keep hearing story after story about this coach and how special he was. Tell me about him.
KADEN CULPEPPER, EX-STUDENT KNEW COACH AARON FEIS FOR 10 YEARS: I mean, I start and hold that tears. I mean, he was such a great guy, just a great role modeler a father figure for kids who didn't have fathers growing up, and the way he went above and beyond for us, it is unbelievable. He changed so many of our lives. And I don't think he realized that. If not for Coach Feis, I wouldn't have made it out of the situation I was in, and made it out to Douglas, he made sure that I did my school work and he paid out of pocket for me to play football. And he took me home and drove me to practices, bought me dinner, did everything he could. Just a true hero. True hero.
[15:55:27] BALDWIN: How did he change your life.
CULPEPPER: He kept me out of trouble. He would speak to my teachers and explain them what was going on with my current situation. And I was going to his office and he helped me with homework and helped did my projects and he would have to practice if I misbehaved, and he would make sure, he would do anything in his power to just help -- I mean, I'm speaking for us of all. He changed all our last year. He helped me study. He got me t tutors. He would pick me up for school. He would take me home. He mad sure because I live out of district. He me sure that (INAUDIBLE) was taking care of. He treated us like family.
BALDWIN: So when you heard, Kaden, when you heard about how he threw himself on top of students, knowing -- I have to imagine he knew, obviously, that the possibility risking his life, right, to save others sound like the coach you knew?
CULPEPPER: That is probably exactly like him. One thing, if he could do this all again knowing the outcome, he could. That's the person he was. I'm not surprised.
BALDWIN: Can you tell me about the last conversation you had with the coach Feis?
CULPEPPER: It was back in October. I said I'm going to Facebook message him to see if he could send some highlights so I can show my stepson how I used to play football, and he was talking and say he proud of me. I told him I have a daughter on the way, and we were talking about, you know, raising daughters, and told me how he loved me and he was proud of me, and he knew when he first met me when I was 13 years old, that I would be the man I am, and I just thank him because he was a big part, played a big role at the end of the day, and I can't thank him and his family enough for everything that he did. He just --
BALDWIN: I imagine his family - no. I'm sorry, for jumping in. I have to imagine just hearing from you and hearing from other former players, just it is so horrible what the coach's family is dealing with, but hearing from you guys must help a little bit.
Kaden Culpepper, thank you so much. And again, my condolences to you over your coach.
CULPEPPER: Thank you so much.
BALDWIN: I do want to get in some breaking news here on Capitol Hill.
Thank you, sir.
On Capitol Hill, where senators are apparently going back to square one on immigration after months of negotiations. Senators just failed to advance proposal to resolve the future of millions undocumented immigrants, so-called dreamers. The vote on a bipartisan proposal would have prepared pathway to citizenship with 25 billion dollars in border security. That was voted down 54-45.
Phil Mattingly is here live.
Phil, what happened? PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brooke. Like
to put it plainly, as it currently stands, there's no legislative future or plans right now to address the DACA issue, at least not one that has a clear pathway forth.
As you note, the bipartisan group that had been working for weeks behind the scenes, trying to address the issue, trying to address what the president wanted while also trying to thread the needle between where Republicans are and Democrats are, obviously, very strongly held feelings on this. That failed.
As you noted, 54-45 as it currently stands. The Senate is voting on a legislative version of the President's for healers' proposal. We already know that doesn't have the requisite number of votes to move forward.
After this, I have asked several aides and several senators, OK, what comes next? This was the free-willing debate we are all waiting for. The Senate was supposed to kind of set the tone and then the House would to follow. The answer is, they don't know. There's no clear pathway for it. The legislative efforts, both the bipartisan and the presidents are failing in the Senate. We still don't know what the House is going to do.
So while the deadline is obviously a little bit murkier than it used to be, it's no longer March 5th because of the court cases. In terms how this is actually going to happen from here and in terms of whether or not the 690,000 individuals who registered for the deferred action program, or the 1.8 million is the number that was put on that would be eligible, whether or not they will have an answer before the court case is finalized, obviously the President deciding to wind down this program, they don't know right now, Brooke. That's really the bottom line here. The Senate has failed to figure out a pathway forward, and the House still has not moved either, Brooke.
BALDWIN: All right. Phil Mattingly, thank you so much for the update there on this whole immigration debate up on Capitol Hill. Appreciate you.
And, again, you know, we have been here in Parkland, Florida high school just over my shoulder. This time yesterday, we covered the breaking news, and now we know 17 people have been killed, so many others injured. I will be right back here this time tomorrow to continue telling these stories of what happened and what can be done.
Thanks for being with me.
"The LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.