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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
The FBI's Mishandling of Calls Regarding the Parkland, Florida, School Shooting is Discussed; Details of an Alleged Affair Between Donald Trump and a Playboy Model Surface and are Discussed. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired February 16, 2018 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ROBERT LASKY, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: The potential of the FBI is always there. We do our best. We have numerous protocols to prevent these things. We will be looking into where and how the protocol broke down, we'll come back stronger than ever were before.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: That's the go top FBI agent in Miami just moments ago admitting today, the agency made an impactful mistake here, not investigating a tip that the Parkland, Florida, high school shooter had the means and apparently the motive to pull off a school shooting like this just six weeks before he allegedly did exactly that.
Two former FBI agents join me now for this. Josh, if could I begin with you, how do you explain not following up on this tip? I know the FBI gets a lot of tips. Is it volume? Was there a management failure here? How can you explain it?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, Jim, you know that will be part of the review process finding out exactly what happened, where did the system break down? As I watched the footage there of the special agent
In charge in Miami, you know my heart goes out to our brothers and sisters in the FBI because if you look at Miami, they're the ones who are facing the cameras, they are the ones who are facing the families, but they are the ones the system failed. Because as the information we learned today indicated, they never received that information. They never received the tips to be able to act on. So you know, our hearts go out to the families but you can bet the FBI's heart is also breaking tonight.
SCIUTTO: I to play what Attorney General Jeff Sessions said today about the internal review he is launching after what he calls tragic consequences of the FBI's failure here. He said the following, "This includes more than the just an error review but also a review of how we respond. This will include possible consultation with family members, mental health officials, school officials and local law enforcement."
Phil, listening to that there, what changes can you imagine they may be looking at?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I look at this - let me be clear, and the FBI Director honorably has already done this. There is a difference between an explanation and an excuse. It doesn't sound like there are any excuses here. There has to be an explanation. The FBI director acknowledged it. The kinds of questions you have to look at are small and big. Quickly, why wasn't this matched up with the Jackson, Mississippi lead? Did they check on whether this individual already had a weapons license? Did they do a cursory check to see if this individual had postings on social media that indicated violence? And did they put in the context of other leads to see if this lead was dealt with differently than others? A thousand questions.
SCIUTTO: We know Phil, we know, Phil, that he had social media postings. We know the cops visited his house a number of times. We know that they got a tip. You know the thing is this is a case where some American did exactly what the FBI asks us to do. If you see something, say something, reach out make a call.
MUDD: No, you misunderstanding what I'm saying is, did this individual responsible for this lead go through the steps, when the FBI investigates it, what did they find whether he did that check or he did that check with social media postings, compare it with other leads and say what went wrong here? Because as I said, there cannot be an explanation for this.
SCIUTTO: Yes, no I hear you. We now hear the Florida Governor Rick Scott. He's actually calling for the FBI Director Chris Wray to resign in light of this failure. This is how his statement read. He said, "We constantly promote see something, say something. A courageous person did just that to the FBI and the FBI failed to act. See something, say something is an incredibly important tool and people must have confidence in the follow-through from law enforcement. The FBI director needs to resign."
Josh Campbell, should he step down?
CAMPBELL: I think a resignation would be premature and I think it would be a distraction. I think the focus has to be on determining what happened, what processes were responsible for this breakdown and then we can determine what next steps there will be. Right now the focus has to be on that review.
SCIUTTO: Phil, I know that your specialty was counter terrorism and I imagine in that field, you were getting tips as well. And again, that's another threat where Americans are constantly urged to reach out if they see something or hear something or read something that is concerning about someone. When you were in that job, how did you make judgments about which ones to follow up on and which ones not to?
MUDD: Let me give you a basic answer. You cannot have it case by case. You've got to have a protocol when you're getting tens of thousands of threats a year for example. Is there an indication of violence? What is your first stage of doing a threat investigation? A simple google search on the individual to see if he has social media accounts. It's not that labor intensive. I think the question here is going to be, it is not an indication of a clear threat if somebody just calls in. Were there initial steps taken to confirm the call in and that would be my first question. There is so much stuff out there, why couldn't we figure it out?
SCIUTTO: All right, just heartbreaking for the families to learn that in retrospect. Phil Mudd, Josh Campbell, I know you both worked very hard when you were on the inside. Thanks very much.
Coming up next, First Lady Melania Trump dodging White House cameras today. This after a new bombshell report that her husband, the President, allegedly cheated on her with a Playboy playmate. Joining me next is the reporter who exposed that had alleged affair as well as a pattern of trying to cover it up.
SCIUTTO: We're back now with breaking news in our politics lead. First Lady Melania Trump choosing not to accompany the President, her husband, on his walk to Marine One this afternoon, but rather arriving for their flight to Florida on her own. It comes as a new bombshell report reveals that another alleged affair by Donald Trump back in 2006 was reportedly covered up. This according to "New Yorker" magazine which broke the story, Ronan Farrow, the reporter. Joining me now with CNN White House Reporter Kate Bennett. Kate, what are your sources telling but the first family's relationship now?
KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: As you said Jim, traditionally we're used to seeing the first couple do the walk across the South Lawn to go to Marine One to head to Andrews and off to Mar- A-Lago. It is a routine thing for them. But today because the First Lady apparently had scheduling issues, her office told me, it was easier for her to meet the President at Air Force One where they'll fly Florida separately. But we're supposed to see them together. This, of course, comes on a day that must be difficult for the First Lady to see these headlines about an alleged affair in 2006 between her husband and a Playboy model, as reported by the "New Yorker" today.
That this affair was carried on and perhaps was hidden by tabloid payment of $150,000. A catch and kill story, as they call them -- a story that never ran. Of course, the White House denies the affair happened. Again, however, this is a difficult headline that Melania Trump is having to deal with on the heels of the Stormy Daniels scandal, we've seen her cancel her trip to Davos to accompany the President.
[16:45:00] We've watched her take a separate vehicle up to the State of the Union Address, do a separate visit in Cincinnati. So this is a first lady who is signaling some independence here today, Jim. SCIUTTO: Kate Bennett there thanks very much. Joining me now is Ronan Farrow. He's the reporter who broke the story about President Trump's affair with Karen McDougal and really the remarkable efforts to cover it up. So you see that there, we see the ripple effects from this pattern of behavior of the President.
RONAN FARROW, INVESTIGTIVE REPORTER, THE NEW YORKER: It wouldn't be for me to speculate you know, the state of mind of the First Lady or whether there's any link between those things, but yes, you know, I think this is a highly significant story on a couple of levels. First of all because we now have multiple alleged relationships, both consensual and in some cases extending to nonconsensual advances of various types. That suggests a pattern of behavior with women including a shared set of tactics to silence women at times.
SCIUTTO: Catch and kill, explain what that means and how that played out.
FARROW: Catch and kill is a term that's used by many in the tabloid industry to describe the practice of acquiring the rights of a story with the intention of burying it. And we talked to six former employees of this tabloid company, AMI which once National Enquirer who said that is a routine tactic used by that company and that interestingly, Jim, that provides leverage, an opportunity for influence over the person whose dirt they own.
SCIUTTO: And you say that since then, the AMI has reached out to Karen McDougal again, right, to interest of what, re-sign her to a contract to apparently never publish the story?
FARROW: So they've acquired the limited life rights to any affair with at hen married man that she had and a retainer that we obtained with her attorney at the time made explicit that that was a reference to Donald Trump. In the course to the past year since the election, contact had been intermittent. They seemed the resume interest. I think in McDougal's view, any time there was a risk, she was going to speak to the press. Since the Stormy Daniels broke, there has been a renewed effort to have Karen McDougal sign a new set of contracts.
SCIUTTO: And is it your interpretation from this that AMI/National Enquirer has any interest or intention to ever publish her story here or is this really part of this pattern of silencing via this payment?
FARROW: Look, AMI had very ample opportunity for input and comment in this piece and they say very clearly that they did not at any point intend to publish this piece because they did not find the story credible. That is their line on that.
SCIUTTO: And like you said, you spoke into employees who contradict that line?
FARROW: That's right.
SCIUTTO: In your reporting, did you hear from anyone that the president to your knowledge or their knowledge was ever aware of this arrangements? FARROW: We are not reporting that this was ordered by the President but certainly, according to their former employees, this was to the benefit of the President and in a context of a relationship where the head of this company, David Pecker, has openly said that he is loyal to the President and that he considers the President to be a close friend.
SCIUTTO: Now, we talked about the pattern here of catch and kill, right? Trying on bury these stories in effect, including with financial payments. There's also a pattern to the President's behavior with these relationships outside his marriage, is there not? Where he meets, how he meets, how he compensates them for their expenses, explain that
FARROW: All the above, you know, one common trend that we hear in a number of this stories is Donald Trump offering money for sex. And that's present in McDougal's story. She says she was offended when that happened. But after they had sex, he offered her --
SCIUTTO: Have explicit offer to exchange money for physical --
FARROW: So that is -- that is one commonality. But you know, there are numerous ones including the locations and the time frames. At the same time frame in which Stormy Daniels alleges that she began her affair with Trump, that is also a golf tournament at which Karen McDougal says that she in this written testimony we have from her that she began a relationship with Donald Trump.
SCIUTTO: Now oftentimes, including on the sexual harassment stories that you've covered, having a personal and detailed account is essential to the case. And you got a hand written note recounting Karen McDougal's interactions with the President. Explain how you got that and what it details.
FARROW: Karen McDougal feels that she ultimately was in a sense cornered into a set of contracts that she finds onerous and exploitative. She's frustrated I think with her inability to speak in her view, and she has regrets about this. She fully admits that she voluntarily signed those agreements and the written testimony exists is because in the course of selling the story, a friend of hers who coaxed her into selling it said sit down and write every detail, and she did.
SCIUTTO: And she did and you were able to see those. Now, she says -- I understand she feels trapped in her silence here. AMI has release a statement saying to some degree that perhaps she's free to speak now, and I know this is -- this is a legal question here but might we hear from Karen McDougal coming out in public with it?
[16:50:00] FARROW: So she did speak on the record for this story. The distinction is that she spoke you know, quite volubly about the condition of being in this contract. The detailed blow by blow of the affair is from that written testimony. And she said that she is terrified of legal retaliation so that's why there's that demarcation. In terms of her future, I believe it to speak, Jim, there's an interesting he said, she said here. AMI says that she can now speak because of an amendment to the contract after the election. Remember they acquired these limited story rights, the election happened and afterwars there was an amendment that they say permits her to respond to legitimate journalistic inquiries. Now, she and her representatives say they're still scared and they don't believe the letter of this agreement allows them to speak.
SCIUTTO: Well, this is a remarkable story and a remarkable amount of detail here. Ronan Farrow, thanks very much. Next, does the catch and kill tactic we were just talking about give this story more credibility going forward? We're going to talk about it right after this.
[16:55:00] SCIUTTO: Welcome back. The President and the playmate. A new bombshell report in the New Yorker revealing a system of pattern of payouts and cover-ups of alleged infidelity involving Donald Trump. This, following allegations that Mr. Trump had an affair with someone else, a playboy model Karen McDougal 2006. According to the magazine, the story never came to light because the National Enquirer bought the rights to it and spiked it just weeks before Trump was elected in 2016. Joining me now is CNN's Senior Media Correspondent and Host "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter. So Brian, David Pecker, he's the Publisher of the National Enquirer, right -- AMI, friend of the President, he has some power over the President does he not over these stories? I mean, he silenced for now, but that gives him influence I imagine because he could un-silence them at some point.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes. If he's able to help the President or his other famous friends by keeping stories quiet, the logic says he could also hurt the President or his other famous friends. And by the way, on this list, it's people like Harvey Weinstein and Arnold Schwarzenegger. There are a number of famous figures that have been associated with the Inquirer, associated with Pecker, stories that were expected to come out of the Inquirer, but then never did. And these stories involving Trump are a pretty dramatic example but not the only example. I spoke with a former executive at American media earlier today, he said this is all about friendship. David Pecker tries to take care of his friends through these catch and kill techniques. The idea you buy a story and then you bury a story.
SCIUTTO: So let's connect the dots there. We now know that twice in the days and weeks leading up to the election, because you have a Stormy Daniels who's payment through Michael Cohen in Delaware et cetera, at least looks questionable and now this in the days leading up to the election there. I mean, this really seems to be a pattern that we're talking about.
STELTER: It does. And Ronan Farrow's reporting, the reason why its so significant today is because it presents this idea of a system. Let remember that right before election day, there was a story in the Wall Street Journal about this particular story involving this particular former playboy model and how the story been buried by the Inquirer. So there were some details but Farrow has a lot more than he has now shared. It does look more like a pattern and it begs the question of how many other stories involving President Trump have been caught and killed? Meaning, how many other stories has the National Inquirer successfully buried for President Trump? When you go to the supermarket, when you go to the drug store, you'll see the Inquirer, you'll notice, it's a pretty pro-Trump tabloid, pretty (INAUDIBLE) promotional of the President. It's one thing to be out there promoting his agenda, it's another thing to try to cover up stories that would hurt him.
SCIUTTO: You know, we noticed in the White House's response to this story saying, "This is an old story that is just more fake news." Of course he mentioned that as always. The President says, he never had a relationship with McDougal. Interesting little separation there. Not that there was no relationship.
STELTER: That's right. I think we're going to see this more often from White House spokespeople. You saw earlier this week, Sarah Sanders trying to say I'm only telling you what I know to be true essentially in this news statement. Whoever gave this statement to the New Yorker is just say the President told us that it's not true. They're trying to keep their hands clean in a very dirty environment. I think that's the bottom line.
SCIUTTO: And this is now becoming -- it's beyond just the New Yorker here, right? I mean, you can imagine there will be those who say it is a left wing magazine, but the Wall Street Journal was the one who's leading the story on Stormy Daniels.
STELTER: Yes, that's right.
SCIUTTO: As these stories percolate and you know, are sustained and backed up by good reporting and facts and so on, difficult for those to just fade away for the President.
STELTER: I would argue, in some news environments, this will be the lead story actually at the top of the hour because there are so many crises, so many cases of White House dysfunction, and so many tragedies in the news, something involving the President's alleged extramarital affairs is not the lead story. However, because of this drip, drip, drip, I think it's going to remain in the news and because of Melania Trump traveling separately today, it going to remain in the news and be a topic this weekend. I think so many Americans feel so much sympathy for Melania and for Baron and for the other Trump children when they're hearing about stories like this. And then, one more point I think so important where we started with here is the idea of a publisher, of a tabloid having the ability to influence the President, try to bury stories in order to help him or try to hurt him. The publisher says that's laughable but I think the evidence is insurmountable.
SCIUTTO: Influential information. Brian Stelter, thanks very much. You can watch Brian every Sunday morning on "RELIABLE SOURCES" 11:00 right here on CNN. Also on Sunday morning, how today's indictments may impact the broader Mueller investigation. That will be the conversation on "STATE OF THE UNION" with guest Congressman Adam Schiff who's the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and former Republican Presidential Candidate John Kasich. That's Sunday morning at 9:00 and again at noon here on CNN.