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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Authorities: Ex-Student Confessed to Opening Fire with AR-15; FBI Alerted to Threatening Comment Apparently Posted by Shooter, Agency Says it was Unable to Track Him Down; Neighbor Captured Video of Shooter Doing Target Practice; Vigil Underway for the 17 People Killed in School Shooting; Interview with Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York; Exclusive: Top Trump Campaign Adviser Close to Plea Deal; Interview with Congressman Mike Quigley. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired February 15, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. CNN special coverage of the deadly school shooting in Florida continues on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT."
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: "OutFront" next breaking news, new details in the deadly shooting at a Florida high school. How the gunman tried to blend in and get away after the massacre. Plus, the FBI was tipped off to the gunman months before the shooting. Why wasn't he stopped?
And the victims, tonight the community coming together to remember the 17 people who lost their lives. Let's go "OutFront".
And good evening. I'm Jim Sciutto in for Erin Burnett.
"OutFront" tonight, breaking news on what is now confirmed as the deadliest school shooting in more than five years. The shooter has confessed to opening fire with an AR-15 killing, 17 people, students and teachers, in cold blood. And tonight, we are learning new details about his deadly rampage.
Authorities say that Nikolas Cruz went room to room firing at students and teachers, sometimes coming back to classrooms. He then dumped his backpack and rifle and fled trying to blend in with other students fleeing the shooting. Investigators say he was on the run for more than an hour. Cruz went to a Walmart. He bought a drink at subway. And then went to a McDonald's.
Eighty minutes after the first shots were fired, he was finally picked up by police. Cruz has now been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. He made his first appearance in court today. Earlier, President Trump addressed the nation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are all joined together as one American family. And your suffering is our burden also. We are committed to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools and tackle the difficult issue of mental health. (END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: One word he didn't mention, guns, or gun control. And those words did little to comfort one mother whose daughter was killed in the shooting. Lori Alhadeff, her daughter Alyssa was a freshman at the high school.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LORI ALHADEFF, DAUGHTER ALYSSA ALHADEFF KILLED IN MASSACRE: 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 daughter's funeral who is 14.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: She's 14 years old, mother's grief tonight. And we have a lot to cover tonight with new details just coming in. Kyung Lah is "OutFront" live in Parkland, Florida tonight. Shimon Prokupecz live in Washington with new details on the FBI investigation. But we begin with Kyung who is at the jail in fact where that suspect is being held tonight.
Kyung, we're learnig about the shooter's life leading up to this horrible, horrible murder.
KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is a young life, Jim, that has been marked by loss, mental illness, and now this violence, leading here to this jail core complex where he made his first appearance facing 17 counts of premeditated murder.
LAH: Shuffling to the closed circuit court camera, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz barely raised his eyes, speaking only once to confirm his name.
This is what falling through every singly crack and society looks like, say his public defenders.
GORDON WEEKES, EXECUTIVE CHIEF ASSISTANT PUBLIC DEFENDER: He has been experiencing and enduring mental illness his entire life. That has been an ongoing issue that he's been dealing with.
LAH: Adopted at birth, the shooter public defender says Cruz lost his adoptive father more than a decade ago. He suffers from brain development issues and depression. At school, the Miami Herald reports the shooter had history of fights and had been suspended for bringing in ammunition, eventually expelled for disciplinary reasons. Then last November, a major trauma, says his attorneys, Cruz's adoptive mother died unexpectedly from the flu and pneumonia. He ended up working at this dollar tree where Hunter Vukelich was store manager.
HUNTER VUKELICH, SUSPECT'S FORMER STORE MANAGER: My manager brought me in one day and say we were hiring someone. He had been through some stuff. His mom recently died. She felt bad for him.
LAH: The shooter was living with a family of a former classmate near the store.
VUKELICH: You could tell he was a little off. But serious people that are off that you wouldn't say let's lock him away because he's that dangerous.
LAH: When you say he was off, what do you mean?
VUKELICH: He laugh or like, you know, he show acknowledgement but he wouldn't go out and seek a conversation with anyone.
LAH: But he may have turned to a local white supremacist group, according to a report from the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL says supremacist group claims Cruz was brought up by another member and he participated in at least one training exercise with them. Riding with other members to Tallahassee, Florida some six hours away.
[19:05:04] The group claims Cruz was never encouraged to carry out any kind of shooting. Law enforcement says they are looking into the supremacist groups claims. Cruz did, however, manage to legally buy an AR-15 almost a year ago. The tragedy painful to Cruz's own attorneys.
WEEKES: This is a loss for this community. A tragic loss of 17 children.
LAH: Now on suicide watch the lawyers say Cruz recognizes what he's done.
PUBLIC DEFENDER MELISA MCNEILL, LEAD DEFENSE COUNSEL: He's sad. He's mournful. He's remorseful. He is fully aware of what is going on. And he's just a broken human being.
LAH: That court appearance was a very short one. More will certainly follow, Jim, tonight. This gunman is now being held without bond. Jim.
SCIUTTO: A lot of broken human beings tonight. Kyung Lah on the scene there.
I want to go now to Shimon Prokupecz. He's "OutFront" in Washington. He's been following the investigation from the FBI. We're learning new details about what the FBI new about him last year, at least something of an investigation.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Jim. They're really saying they didn't really know that much about him. They didn't really know. They didn't connect him to anything. Here's where all this started this was a tip that came to the FBI through their online database from a person who saw a posting on YouTube that referenced this person named Nikolas Cruz who posted saying I'm going to be a professional school shooter. That tip was forwarded to the FBI. They then say they started looking into it. They ran internal checks, that's their database internally that they checked to see if his name came up as someone who previously fallen under their radar, they did not find anything.
They then went and interviewed the man who offered them this tip who sent in this tip. And basically they didn't really learn much from him because he didn't know who the person was that posted the tip. So really left them with no leads.
They claim, and certainly from law enforcement officials that I've talked to, there really wasn't much that they can do because they didn't have the authority, the legal authority to institute, to start any kind of court action, perhaps subpoenas or search warrants, really you can't do something like this just off a tip.
So basically, it went no where. And now certainly, they've gone back since this happened and they're looking to see, you know, was there anything that they missed. But up to this point, there really, really wasn't much that they could do, certainly. They feel that they have -- they tried to run this down as much as they could.
SCIUTTO: Shimon Prokupecz in Washington, thanks very much.
"OutFront" now, Chris Swecker, he's a former assistant FBI director for the Criminal Investigative Division, Juliette Kayyem, a former assistant secretary for the Department of Homeland Security. Art Roderick, he's a former U.S. Marshal.
Chris, if I could begin with you first. And I know there's a number of tips that the FBI will have at any one time about potential violent acts like this or others. But you do see a pattern here, right, because you had this posting that they looked to chase it down, you had Instagram images posted which were disturbing. And you had this contact, according to the ADL at least with white nationalist group. When you have multiple signs like this, how difficult is it for the bureau to learn about those dots and connect those dots?
CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER ASSISTANTS FBI DIRECTOR, CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIVE DIVISION: Extremely difficult. If you knew the volume of information tips and complaints they get in their eGuardian system, I think there might be more perspective around why they didn't dig deeper here.
They did what the attorney general guidelines allow, which is a threat assessment. A threat assessment is basically a record check. Now, if that record check indices criminal record check produces enough information, they can take it into a preliminary inquiry and then into a full investigation. The problem here though is they don't have primary jurisdiction in a school threat type situation.
So I can see where they would have run this out to a certain degree, and then basically closed it out. What perhaps they could have done is looked to see if they were -- he was posting elsewhere, and perhaps that would have dug up more information for them.
SCIUTTO: Juliet, you know, I don't want to dump on law enforcement here. I know they're chasing threats all the time, but based on your experience, do you see any mistakes that were made here?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: It's actually hard to tell right now, as we've seen with a lot of these cases, mass shootings, counterterrorism. We'll probably learn a lot more given what we know right now. It does seem like the FBI, at least the FBI did not ignore it. They ran it as far as they could.
[19:10:01] I am curious about certain things, obviously, you know, access to the YouTube channel. What else was posted on that? And I do think in the same way that we talk about the responsibility of these platforms, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, whatever it is to, you know, ensure that they are posting legitimate things, I do think that it's worth having a discussion about the kinds of things that are being posted on these platforms that might be hints or even confessions of what's about to happen.
So, you know, in that way, I do think that it's a similar conversation that we have in counterterrorism, which is what's happening on these platforms and what can we learn from it.
SCIUTTO: Right. Even with the Russian investigation.
Art, we learned --
KAYYEM: Yes. Right, exactly.
SCIUTTO: We learned a lot about how the shooter carried out this act, Cruz confessing to the crimes. And in a post-Miranda statement, he stated a few details. He began shooting at students that he saw in the hallways on the school grounds. We believe he pulled that fire alarm to get people out of their classrooms so that he could go after them. He brought additional magazines along with him. He had a lot of fire power.
ART RODERICK, FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR INVESTIGATIONS, U.S. MARSHALS: Yes.
SCIUTTO: And then carried this out, you know, with -- in a number of minutes and caused all this death. I mean this was a premeditated fairly well planned crime.
RODERICK: I agree. It was fairly well planned to a certain, you know, to a certain degree. I mean when we look at the amount of ammunition he had, I mean he could have really done a lot more damage than he actually did.
And I think the mere fact that he pulled that fire alarm to get people out into the hall and not only shoot them but planned his escape to get out with the crowd. Now you're talking 3,000 kids at various different exit points coming out of this building and he could blend in with the crowd very well. But then he kind of reverts back to 16, 17-year-old kid and goes to Walmart and McDonald's and has a couple drinks and gets picked up wearing the same exact shirt he had on when he committed the crime.
So this kind of a weird juxtaposition here that on one hand, he had some 2really good planning to make the escape but then he goes to Walmart and McDonald's afterwards. It doesn't -- two, don't seem to add up very well.
SCIUTTO: It's remarkable he sat down. He bought a drink after --
SCIUTTO: -- killing these young people. He bought a drink at subway and sat down.
Folks, we got some new video in that I want to play for our viewers. This is the shooter just a few months before the attack doing target practice in his backyard. This was filmed by a neighbor that appears from the sound of it to be a BB gun. But his neighbor filmed him shooting that weapon there out in public in broad daylight October of last year. We just got this video in.
Chris Swecker, again, you know, you put this back into this collection of signs here. So you got a guy firing a gun outside. I've spoken to someone who lived close to him who said that the police had been called to his house a number of times for strange or sometimes violent behavior. Again, folks at home, and again I know you guys have a difficult job, no question. But that's a lot of warning signs pointing in the direction of someone who looked like they needed help.
SWECKER: Agreed. I think we'd be hard put to find another case of a mass shooter that was flashing more signs than this young man right here. And there are a lot of -- I think we're going to find -- we're going to learn more about this motivation and how he did this, probably more than we care to know over the next few days. But there are safety nets. There are early warning systems or there should be in the school systems.
When you rise to the level where you've been expelled you've done a lot of bad things in today's school system. You really have to do a lot of -- you know, accumulate quite a record to get yourself expelled from school. And within the school system, there needs to be an assessment process and someone has to decide and follow up on whether that person presents a danger.
And I think it's fair game at that point to then start checking social media. You've been expelled, you've threatened people, everybody talks about the ammunition and he shouldn't have been -- he was banned with -- from coming on campus with a backpack. Well that just wasn't enough. I'm not armchair quarterbacking, I'm just suggesting that there needs to be a really well defined threat assessment process, perhaps even restraining order in a case like this, and then an arrest on-site.
SCIUTTO: And Juliette, I got to say, and yet with all these warning signs, police visiting his house, the social media postings, tip to the FBI, the firing a weapon in his backyard inside of his neighbors we saw in that video there, he was able to go into a store in Florida and buy an AR-15. Florida has a waiting period for handguns. It doesn't have them for AR-15s. How is that possible? He's 19 years old. He couldn't buy a beer.
[19:15:01] KAYYEM: He could not buy a beer. He -- you know, it is -- it's remarkable. And this is where the fallacy that laws can't help in these situations is a joke, right? Because the laws have structured certain behavior. They allow someone to more easily buy a weapon that's going to kill people very quickly as compared to a handgun.
So, you know, this idea that we can't solve this through legislation or at least minimize the harm, I've been harping on this for the last 24 hours. People will have guns and people will use guns unlawfully. The question is do we want a society in which they can get a gun that has no place in our civil society at an age of which someone has been, you know, still a teenager and kill that many people so quickly.
So in other words, this is the laws actually can fix that. Because what's the amazing thing is, is besides some of the little things that we're hearing about, it really wasn't until yesterday that he committed a crime. Everything he did until yesterday was perfectly lawful. That has the whole system is just upside down at this stage.
SCIUTTO: I'll tell you, when we heard those videos yesterday of the gunfire underway, the sound, the volume of those pops, I haven't heard gunfire like that except in war zones, frankly, and I'm sure you might say the same.
Listen, Chris, Art, Juliette, thanks very much as always.
"OutFront" next, we go live to a vigil in the heart of this community confronting its pain, its grief tonight. They are remembering 17 people who lost their lives. Many of them young, including the school's athletic Director Chris Hixon and we speak to his wife.
Breaking news in the Russian investigation as well, a top Trump campaign adviser, his close to a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller. What does that mean for the President?
[19:20:36] SCIUTTO: Breaking news, as we speak, and you see them there, hundreds of people gathering for a vigil for the 17 people killed in the high school shooting. Among those killed, several students, a geography teacher, a popular coach. Our Martin Savidge is right there at the memorial.
Martin, I know you've been speaking to the students, their families. Tell us how they're doing tonight.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, they're having a very difficult time. We moved to the back of this gathering here just to be respectful of the way that this is both the way to mourn and it's also a way for people to come together. The truth is, this is a community that is still deeply in shock. They haven't measured the bottom yet of their grief or of their suffering and even trying to come to grips what is happening here
But what is remarkable about this gathering, and tragically you and I have covered a lot of vigils like this is that it began exceedingly more. And the first to speak were parents who had lost children and that was electrifying and devastating to this crowd. But it has changed. As it's moved on, it's grown more political. You hear shouts of people demanding no more guns. The call has come not just from the crowd but also from the stage.
Speakers have been up front saying that they must organize, that this crowd must take its grief, motivate themselves and move on to something. If the leaders aren't going to make change, then the people must.
And just a moment ago before we came out of break, something remarkable you would never expect, almost the entire crowd began to take up the chant, no more guns. We are just over 24 hours after when grief is still very strong. But action is on the minds of many here as well. Jim.
SCIUTTO: Martin Savidge there at that gut-wrenching memorial service.
One of those lives lost in yesterday's shooting was the athletic Direction Chris Hixson and now his wife, you see her there next to him, Debra, joining me now on the phone.
Debra, thank you so much for joining us. We were reading a lot of the comments about your husband, clearly a beloved member of the faculty. One friend wrote Chris is probably nicest guy I ever met. He would give you the shirt off his back. Tell us what you can about Chris.
DEBRA HIXON, WIFE OF CHRIS HIXON, ATHLETIC DIRECTOR KILLED IN SHOOTING: Well, take me hours to explain that. He -- that definitely describes him. Well, everyone of those students he thought of as his own kid. He -- we took many students into our house when they needed it. He would give them lunch money, rides. He just loved being around kids and giving back to the community.
SCIUTTO: Well, I know that he was a service member, was deployed to Iraq as a Naval Reservist in 2007. And I understand your son, a Marine as well, service is part of the family.
HIXON: It's definitely a huge part of the family. He loved being an American and serving his country. And he instilled that in our kids.
SCIUTTO: Is that part of the reason he did what he did, helping kids, teaching kids, supporting kids at a school like this?
HIXON: Definitely. He loved athletics. He loved being the athletic director. He's actually also the wrestling coach at Douglas. And it was his passion. And he just loved being in that environment with the people and part of that community for sure. SCIUTTO: I know this was a tight community. It was a happy
community. It was a peaceful community. Tell me just how shocking it was for all of you to see this happen here.
HIXON: It's never going to be in your backdoor.
HIXON: This is not where that kind of stuff happens, you know. It's surreal. It just feels like it's a bad dream. And we just can't wake up from it.
SCIUTTO: I hear you. We always think these things happen in the distance and will never hit us close to home. How is the community coming together tonight? I imagine folks are reaching out to you, trying to offer support that they can.
[19:25:03] HIXON: Yes. Well, I also teach at a different high school, and people have been -- he was at South Broward before he went to Douglas. So he has a really large community of people who love him and just wants to be here to support us. And outpouring has been phenomenal.
SCIUTTO: I'm glad to hear that. I hope that helps. I wonder as you look at this, and it's early, what do you want to see done next to help keep the community safe?
HIXON: Well, my husband would not agree with me on this, but I believe in gun control. If there's no guns, nobody can shoot anybody else. But I believe that we have done our children and community a huge disservice in the way that we treat mental health. And something has to be done to stop this. If that's what can come out of this, that's something good, then that will be my mission is to -- we have to change it and stop it. It has to stop. This is ridiculous.
SCIUTTO: And you are paying a price like so many others, too many others, such a personal price. I'd ask you just, finally, how would you like your husband to be remembered for people listening to the stories about him tonight?
HIXON: Well, he was an awesome husband and father to many friends and country men. And he was probably the best man that I --
SCIUTTO: Well, Debra, I'll tell you, we can see it in his face there, we're seeing some of the photos now of you with him that you shared. And let me tell you this, we are thinking of you, the whole team here praying for you tonight. OK. Please take care.
HIXON: Thank you so much.
SCIUTTO: Well, there were 16 others killed in that mass murder. Most of them just teenagers. And we'd like to tell you a little bit about them.
Aaron Fies, he was an assistant football coach at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He also served as security guard there. Student says that he died as he lived looking out for others before himself. He used his body as a shield to save his students.
Jamie Gutenberg was a student. Her father said my heart is broken. Tonight, he's wondering how his family will get through it.
Nicholas Dworet was a senior, a good athlete. He was planning to attend the University of Indianapolis and join their swim team.
Alyssa Alhadeff, just14 years old. She was on the Parkland soccer club team. You may remember you saw her distraught mother pleading for action just a few moments ago. She says that Alyssa was loving and caring. And doesn't she look it.
Scott Beigel, taught geography at the school. He ushered students into his classroom during the shooting. One of his students tells CNN, Beigel saved her life before he was shot outside their classroom door.
Luke Hoyer, his family described him as always happy, always smiling. Cousin says that he loved his mother and father with all his power.
Martin Duque Anguiano was also a student says. His father says "Words cannot describe my pain."
Joaquin Oliver, 17 years old, Miami Herald reports he was originally from Venezuela, he became a U.S. citizen just a year ago.
Gina Montalto, just 14, she was described by a former teacher as the sweetest soul ever, always smiling.
Carmen Schentrup was said to be a standout student there at the school, a 2017 national merit scholar, semi finalist.
Cara Loughran, Helena Ramsay, Alaina Petty, Peter Wang, Meadow Pollack, Alex Schachter have also now been identified as among those killed yesterday.
Let me say this, we share our sincerest condolences to all who knew and loved them.
"OutFront" next, the shooter's former neighbor says that she saw all kinds of red flag during disturbing and violent encounters with him in the months and years before the shooting. She'll be my guest. And a student who survived the shooting with a message, please take action. Will that finally happen?
[19:31:34] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Breaking news tonight in the aftermath of the deadly high school shooting. A clearer picture emerging tonight of the gunman, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz and his very troubled past. He had been expelled from school for disciplinary reasons. He posted pictures of himself on social media posing with knives and guns.
And the FBI had received a threat report about the shooting.
OUTFRONT now, Rhonda Roxburgh. She lived just down the street from the shooter until just a couple of years ago.
Ronda, thank you for joining us tonight.
I know you had a few run ins with him over the years. Can you tell us what those were like?
RHONDA ROXBURGH, FORMER NEIGHBOR OF HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING SUSPECT: Really, the first time I had any run-ins with him was in about 2012. And he actually slammed his backpack into my car door, which, you know, I got out and approached him and asked him, you know, why did he do that, why did he, you know, try to damage the car.
He wouldn't look at me. He was giggling. So, you know, mischievous boy.
SCIUTTO: Did he have --
ROXBURGH: So I confronted him directly.
SCIUTTO: You confronted him on the street?
ROXBURGH: Yes. Yes, I did. And I'll tell you, he didn't want to answer anything. He had a very cold stare. He couldn't care less.
SCIUTTO: Did he have any interactions like this with other neighbors, other kids in the neighborhood?
ROXBURGH: He did. He did. He got in several fights with kids throughout the neighborhood. One he bit his ear and injured him, his ear. Also --
SCIUTTO: Another kid's ear?
ROXBURGH: Yes, yes, he got in a fight with several kids in the neighborhood. And I didn't physically see that but I heard about it. But also I did see him with a pellet gun, and there were squirrels that he was shooting and killing. There were cats that were missing in the neighborhood as well.
SCIUTTO: There was suspicions that he had killed the cats, these animals?
ROXBURGH: Yes, this was floating around the neighborhood. I can't confirm that. I did not see that, you know. But I know I saw him with a pellet gun. And, you no he, there were animals that were dead throughout the neighborhood, unfortunately, yes.
SCIUTTO: Did anyone report this kind of behavior to the police, to the local authorities?
ROXBURGH: Absolutely. From what I -- I did, just about the backpack incident. And I had heard through other neighbors who had reported his behavior to the authorities that they had been called out to that house over 30 times at that time.
SCIUTTO: The police? ROXBURGH: And that was in 2013.
SCIUTTO: Police called out to that house, his home more than 30 times?
When you heard the news that he was the suspect in the shooting, he's now confessed to these murders, what did you think?
ROXBURGH: I just -- I said I knew, somehow some way when I stared into his eyes that day, he was so cold and disaffect -- he just couldn't care less. And I was not shocked, to be quite frank, with that news. And I just never imagined it would be on that scale.
[19:35:03] SCIUTTO: Just harrowing to hear that. And I'm sure it was difficult for you to hear the news.
Rhonda Roxburgh, thanks so much for joining us tonight.
ROXBURGH: You are most welcome, Jim. Thank you.
SCIUTTO: Chris Swecker, Juliette Kayyem and Art Roderick back with me now.
Art, you listened to the neighbor there. The police called to his house 30 times. And you have all the other clues we have seen, Instagram postings, FBI tip. Should those dots have been connected?
ART RODERICK, FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR INVESTIGATIONS, U.S. MARSHALS: It seems like the dots should have been connected here. I mean, when I looked earlier at some of the initial reporting, and actually a lot of us have been saying for the past couple days, if you see something, say something. And I think now we are figuring out that we did have the YouTube blogger who actually did the right thing and called law enforcement. But I think because of the way that Cruz just commented on this blogger's page, the FBI couldn't connect the dots.
Now, we are hearing this information about law enforcement being called to that particular home 30 times. It is quite troubling. And it seems like every time we talk about one of these shootings, we always find these individuals have fallen through the crack somewhere in our system. And it appears that's exactly what happened here again.
SCIUTTO: Chris, I know you do security assessments for schools. You say that many don't have programs to deal with threats like this. This school did, we believe, have drills to prepare, lockdowns, et cetera. But in your experience, a lot of schools just aren't prepared?
CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER ASSISTANT FBI DIRECTOR, CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIVE DIVISION: Well, it's an ecosystem. Security can't just be on auto pilot. It can't just be gates and guards. It has to be -- there has to be a real program in place where you actually intake threats.
There is a way to report suspicious activity. It's known to everybody. Somebody is looking at that information, analyzing it, and assessing it. And then a team has to decide, OK, does this really present a threat. This will be a multidisciplinary team of the security people, administrators, somebody in medical field, especially in the counselor or psychiatry field, and they would have to decide what kind of action to take.
Now, suppose they had taken some action after they expelled him, and went to the police department, and with their concerns, and if you match that up with the information there, then these dots start to get connected. But there has to be a real living, breathing assessment process, and then someone accountable to follow up on that process.
SCIUTTO: Yes. Juliet, I have to ask you, what do you have to do to get red flagged when you walk into a store to buy an AR-15? This kid wasn't red flagged. What do you have to do? What causes someone to prevent buying a weapon like this?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: According to, you know, in Florida, not much. In other words, he satisfied the age requirements and satisfied background check, because he didn't have a sufficient criminal record beforehand. It sounds like at least whatever, what this neighbor is at least saying, that these calls to law enforcement may not have been because of crimes, but maybe because of disturbances and so they are not tracked.
You know, for weapon like that, you're going to want the exact opposite in terms of what data you want. For example, first of all, we shouldn't have these guns being sold. I'm going to say that. But if you do, what's the regulatory system you want for that?
One is expulsion would be somewhat relevant. Another of course is age. And, you know, are there -- is there proof of any behavior or mental behavior? And so, we can fix this. This is not -- it's honestly not rocket science, it's failure to do it politically and incentive to get a gun like that seems to be greater than get a handgun because it's easier.
SCIUTTO: Art. I often hear from law enforcement folks that they endorse some gun measures. I mean, is that a common feeling from folks like yourself, folks you work with, they want to see stricter rules for access to firearms?
RODERICK: Absolutely. I mean, I mean, we go against bad guys every day and make arrests. I mean, just my old agency makes approximately 100,000 felony arrests every year. And just last month, January 19th, we had a marshal shot and killed in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, by a felon with a handgun. So, yes.
When you look at some of these incidents we all recall the Baton Rouge shooting and that was AR-15 against handguns. So, yes, all looking for some kind of control.
SCIUTTO: Art, Chris, Juliette, thanks very much.
KAYYEM: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT next, everybody, including the president agrees that something must be done to address gun violence, but no one agrees certainly on what exactly should be done.
[19:40:01] So, what will happen? Will anything happen?
And breaking news, a top Trump campaign adviser on the verge of a plea deal with Robert Mueller. How will this affect the Russian probe and the president?
SCIUTTO: Breaking news: CNN has just obtained new video of the gunman, Nikolas Cruz, shooting target practice just a few months ago, the neighbor who recorded this telling us Cruz would often shoot bottles on his back patio, as you see there. And tonight, we've learned he has confessed to killing 17 people with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.
Earlier today, President Trump expressed his condolences to the victims, the families affected by the mass shooting, emphasizing the need for stronger security at schools. What he didn't talk about at all was guns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are committed to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools and tackle the difficult issue of mental health.
[19:45:09] It is not enough to simply take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference. We must actually make that difference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is OUTFRONT tonight.
Governor Cuomo, thanks very much for taking the time with us.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: Thanks for having me, Jim.
SCIUTTO: So, here we are again, another shooting. Young Americans dead in their classrooms and their school hallways. We often find ourselves there, the question gets asked, what can be done, what's going to get done, and so often nothing gets done. What can actually change, in your view, after a tragedy like this?
CUOMO: Yes, Jim, you're right. I understand the frustration of the American people. It's over and over and over again. And it's madness. And there is a bustle of activity in the aftermath and then it goes away. We actually did something in the state of New York, we had the Sandy
Hook massacre five years ago, Sandy Hook in Connecticut, but it's right on the New York border. And people were outraged. Twenty-eight school children. It was horrific.
CUOMO: And we actually did something about it. And we passed something called the SAFE Act which is basically common sense gun control. It says, number one, you have to do a background check and we say we have background checks but that's only if you walk into a store and buy a gun. If you can't pass a background check, you buy it privately or buy it at a gun show. And there are no background checks.
So, we closed that. We have background checks on any sale whatsoever. We have a mental health database.
When they say, Jim, well, it's not a gun problem. It's a mental health problem. That's malarkey. It's a mentally ill person with a gun. That's the problem.
And the answer is to keep the gun out of the hand of the mentally ill person. So, we have a database now of mentally ill people that should not have a gun.
And we have guns that are extraordinary dangerous and not worth the risk. Why have AR-15, right? You don't hunt with it. We don't shoot birds with it. That's what our law did in New York.
Now, when you --
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you though.
CUOMO: -- pass a law, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Because at the state level, to be fair, makes a difference. But, of course, our borders are porous, people move easily across the borders. At the national level, it's been, as you know, as you well know, a different story.
I just want to play briefly for you a student who survived yesterday's mass shooting. Have a listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID HOGG, STUDENT WHO SURVIVED MASSACRE: My message to lawmakers in Congress is, please, take action. Ideas are great. Ideas are wonderful and they help you get re-elected and everything, but what's more important is actual action, impertinent action results in saving thousands of children's lives. Please, take action.
REPORTER: Do you have a sense of what kind of action that would be?
HOGG: Any action at this point instead of just complete stagnancy and blaming it the other side of the political aisle would be a step in the right direction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Isn't that, Governor Cuomo, on Democrats and Republicans? I mean, after -- you mentioned Sandy Hook. After Sandy Hook at the time, you had a Democratic president, there was a Democratic control of the Senate at least, not the House, and again nothing happened then.
CUOMO: Yes, Jim, there is no doubt, they are afraid of the issue. There is no doubt that this is a politically charged issue.
The student was right. Don't ask a politician what they say and what they support. Ask them what they have gotten done. Judged by results.
We did it five years ago. The mental health piece, background checks, et cetera. Nobody's gun was taken away, Jim. Hunters still hunt. The world still spins. But it's that initial fear that the politicians don't want to tackle.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this --
CUOMO: And I understand it. And they won't unless they are pushed, though, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Right. The irony is that even this talk in the wake of this just horrendous tragedy, I'm going to tell you and I'm sure you're the same, you're father, and, you know, my eyes were welling with tears as you hear these accounts again. But the irony is what's moving through Congress now is not a gun control measure, it's something -- you know it well -- concealed carry, reciprocity that would allow folks -- states that have concealed carry laws to then carry those weapons into a state like New York that doesn't have those laws. I know that the New York City police commissioner, he's not happy with that.
What would mean to a state like this? And do you look at that and think that that kind of legislation is going to get passed?
CUOMO: Look, with this Congress, nothing would surprise me in terms of what they pass because it's all symbolism. They're playing to an extremist base.
Second Amendment, I should have the right to carry my gun anywhere, and if I have a concealed permit carry -- carry permit from Texas I should be able to use it in New York.
[19:50:11] Baloney. It violates state's rights, et cetera.
It would be total mayhem if people remain adamant, the way they are right after a crisis. I passed my bill literally within days of Sandy Hook because people were focused.
CUOMO: You need the focus of the American people because the politicians are not going to take the risk unless they know they're being pushed.
CUOMO: It's that simple.
SCIUTTO: And, sadly, memories fade quickly.
Governor Cuomo, thanks very much for joining us tonight.
CUOMO: Thanks for having me, Jim.
SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT next, breaking news: a plea deal is in the works for a top Trump advisor campaign who has given a wide-ranging interview to the special counsel. Should the president be worried?
SCIUTTO: More breaking news now. Former Trump campaign advisor Rick Gates is close to a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller's office. This according to sources familiar with the case. Gates would become the third former member of Trump's team to cooperate with Mueller, and that's just the ones we know about.
Sara Murray broke the story. She is OUTFRONT tonight.
Sara, how important would Gates' cooperation be in this investigation?
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, this could potentially be a very important development. Clearly it is possibly troubling news for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort that Gates is preparing to tell Mueller everything about the criminal case that they're both involved in. Now, sources are telling me and my colleague investigators are preparing to file new charges against Manafort and Gates.
[19:44:01] So, all of this could put additional pressure on both to cooperate. Now, remember, both of these men have pleaded not guilty to financial crimes unrelated to the presidential campaign. So, the big question, of course, is how could this impact the president? And that's a little bit murkier. Gates' cooperation could be a building block for Mueller in a possible case against Trump or key members of his team.
Now, the White House insists that they're not concerned at all about a potential plea deal in this case. They don't believe Mueller has any interest in Gates or Manafort's activities in the presidential campaign or the transition. There would be no anxiety here if Gates strikes a plea deal, that's what a White House official told me today. So, there are people close to the president who say he has expressed some sympathy for both Gates and Manafort for the fact they found themselves in legal troubles -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: Sara Murray, great reporting. You and Kaitlan Collins, thanks very much.
OUTFRONT tonight, we have Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley. He's on the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, first, I want to give you the opportunity to react to CNN's reporting, Rick Gates cooperating with Mueller's investigation, the third cooperating witness now. What does this mean crucially for the president in your view?
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Yes, obviously, all investigations begin on the periphery and they move toward the middle. They move a lot faster when people start talking and cooperating.
You asked if the White House should be worried. I think their worry was manifested as the indictments took place and the news that two of them had started to cooperate, now a third. I think if you had a parallel track here as this news came out, the White House started being very worried and they started more and more elements of obstruction.
Today, we witnessed some of that when one of their former employees was following their gag order.
SCIUTTO: You mentioned that, that being, of course, the former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, appeared before you committee today for the second time. We've been told he would not answer questions about the transition, invoking executive privilege. Again, tell us from your perspective what happened in that room.
QUIGLEY: Yes, if it wasn't so sad and tragic for our country, it would almost be funny. I don't think they know exactly how to exert privilege. To do so, you have to do so in writing with explanations. They certainly didn't do that, and there was a sense of waver. He was answering some questions the first round, a few today, and obviously there were other members of the Trump associates who answered questions in the same time frame.
So, they haven't exerted the privilege. They seem to do it occasionally and waive it, which you're simply not allowed to do. But here is why this matters. If the White House is allowed to dictate investigations like this, you might as well forget the fact that this is a separate but equal branch of government or there's any hope for an independent investigation.
Quite honestly, the speaker of the House has to step up. It is not going to happen with the chairman of this committee, Mr. Nunes. We've seen that, a track record there. The only person that can get Mr. Nunes to step up by his actions and his orders is the speaker of the House. We simply can't let the White House dictate what's taking place here because they want to obstruct this investigation.
SCIUTTO: Is there any Republican support on the committee for holding Steve Bannon in contempt for refusing to answer those questions?
QUIGLEY: Well, look, I think both sides in all honesty were upset with how today went forward. The questioning on both sides questioned the validity of the privilege that was being exerted. So now would be a good time. They've got to -- we're not in D.C. next week. I hope my Republican colleagues get together and decide how to move forward with contempt proceedings.
It is far beyond just Mr. Bannon. It is far beyond this investigation. If they want to have any credibility to make witnesses testify in the future on important investigations like this, if they let Mr. Bannon do this and tell the White House that you don't have to follow orders, mandated orders from the Congress, then all future investigations are in serious jeopardy.
SCIUTTO: Is your committee's investigation close to coming to a conclusion?
QUIGLEY: Well, it is certainly in a bad period. I mean, this is an investigation that we've had a lot of progress, but we haven't had a witness for some time. I will tell you right now there are no witnesses planned in the coming weeks, none.
What we've done in the last four weeks, a colossal waste of time in the majority's memo. Also, a memo which did extraordinary damage to the relationship between the intelligence community who keeps us safe and Congress.
QUIGLEY: So all of that, all of that so they can delay, deflect and distract, trying to find out exactly what the Russians did, how to prevent it and who helped them.
SCIUTTO: And we're still waiting for the fate of the Democratic memo.
Congressman Quigley, thanks very much.
And thanks to you all for joining us.
"AC360" starts right now.