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President Is Set To Hold A Listening Session With High Students And Teachers On Wednesday, Families And Friends Are Saying Their Final Goodbyes To Two Of The 17 School Shooting Victims, President Throwing His Own National Security Advisor, H.R. Mcmaster Under The Bus In That Tweet. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired February 18, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:12] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. And thank you so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

President Trump turns tragedy into political talking points as he lashes out at the FBI, tweeting, very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russia collusion with the Trump campaign. There is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud.

In a barrage of 13 angry tweets last night and again today, the President is raging at the FBI, his own national security adviser and Democrats blaming everyone but Russia following the indictment of 13 Russians accused of meddling in the 2016 election. Members of the President's own party are blasting what he is saying today.


GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: I think it's an absurd statement, OK, absurd. The fact of the matter is the FBI apparently made a terrible mistake and people should be held accountable. But we need leadership out of the executive. This is a great opportunity for commonsense steps that can be taken.


WHITFIELD: All of this comes as more victims of the horrific Florida shooting are being laid to rest this hour. The survivors are demanding changes to prevent more of these tragedies from happening again.

Let's begin with the tweet storm from the President and the news that he will hold a listening session on school safety with high school students and teachers this week.

CNN's Boris Sanchez is traveling with the President and is he is joining us right now live from West Palm Beach, Florida.

Boris, what more can you tell us?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Fred. Yes, we learned in just the past hour or so that the President is

going to be holding this listening session on Wednesday with students and teachers. And on Thursday he is actually going to be sitting with local and state officials to discuss school safety as well. We don't really have clarity right now on exactly who the President is going to be meeting with, if those students will be from Marjory Stoneham Douglas high school here in Parkland, Florida just some 40 miles from where the President is staying at Mar-a-Lago. The White House tells us that this is still in the planning stages and that we should have more clarity about who the President is actually going to be meeting once we get closer to Wednesday.

As you know that the President did mention the shooting and this tweet storm that started at 11:00 p.m. last night and went into early this morning. But the majority of his focus was on Russia. The President taking aim at some of his favorite targets, the Democrats and the media. But also undercutting an adviser that he is long been rumored to have some disagreements with. His national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, who was speaking at the Munich security conference and was asked about the indictment that was put out on the Russia investigation Friday by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein.

I want you to listen exactly to what McMaster said that the President felt he had to clarify. Here's the sound bite.


H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: As you can see with the FBI indictment, the evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain. Whereas in the past, it was difficult to attribute for a couple of reasons. First, technically it was difficult. But then also you didn't want to divulge your intelligence capabilities. But now that this is in the arena of a law enforcement investigation, it's going to be very apparent to everyone.


SANCHEZ: Now here is the President's tweet, Fred.

He writes quote "general McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians. And that the only collusion was between Russia and crooked H, crooked Hillary Clinton, the DNC and the Dems. Remember, the dirty dossier, uranium, speeches, emails and the Podesta company."

We should note, Fred, that the indictment release on Friday doesn't mention collusion between the Russians and Hillary Clinton. In fact, it says that the Russians were trying to disparage Hillary Clinton. Further, it doesn't mention anything about infamous dossier, uranium, speeches, emails or the Podesta company. So the President trying to take the messages matters into his own hands here.

One thing that we have not seen from the President yet, Fred, that many, even Republican are waiting for is a condemnation of Russia for interfering in the 2016 election, some kind of warning that if they do that again they would have to face consequences, Fred. WHITFIELD: All right. Boris Sanchez, thanks so much.

Our Republican and Democratic lawmakers are reacting to the President's tweets. Many say the agency's top law enforcement agency may have made a mistake by not following up on a tip about the shooter. Others stopping short of agreeing with the President when he said the Russia investigation is taking up too much of the FBI's time.


SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The FBI missed an opportunity to weigh in heavily and perhaps prevent something from happening. That is a tragedy that should be investigated. I believe that oversight in the House and the Senate will do so. A separate issue is how they spend their time and whether or not the time is well spent on this Russian situation. I will tell you that from my perspective, that so many folks in the FBI are doing all that they can to keep us safe.

[14:05:24] REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We can't stop simply by blaming the FBI. We also have to do something about this rather immense threat facing the country from so many weapons of such high power that are accessible to people with serious mental health problems.


WHITFIELD: All right. Joining me right now, CNN political analyst and Princeton historian and professor Julian Zelizer and CNN political analyst Ryan Lizza.

Good to see both of you. So what we haven't heard from the President is a meaningful dialogue about gun control. That's about to change, apparently, as the President is set to hold a listening session with high students and teachers on Wednesday. Still unclear where the kids are coming from and where the teachers are coming from.

But Julian, does this signal that the President is willing to make some changes or at least listen about them?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we see that he is willing to listen but it's unclear how much of what he hears will affect him. So far he has been pretty adamant and not talking about gun control, focusing on mental health and other issues. And at the same time, Republicans in Congress have made clear they are not very interested in any kind of substantive legislation. So I'm skeptical that this will be more than an appearance, a photo-op, so to speak, that will really change the politics of gun control in Washington.

WHITFIELD: And you know, Ryan, the President has been criticizing the FBI in terms of missing things as it pertains to this shooter. This is how senator Bernie Sanders saw it this morning.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Of course we have to make it harder for people to be able to purchase weapons. We have people now who are on terrorist watch lists who can purchase a weapon. Does this make any sense to anybody?

Bottom line here, Republicans are going to have to say that it's more important to protect the children in this country than to antagonize the NRA. Are they prepared to do that? I surely hope they are.


WHITFIELD: So among other things that Congress might entertain, would it be simply making it tougher to buy certain guns for people?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that has what has to be looked at. And look, every study that studies the gun problem in the United States comes to the same conclusion. We have more gun violence in America because we have more guns and easier access to those guns by people who perhaps should not have them.

But the bottom line is we have 30 million -- excuse me -- 30,000 gun deaths in the United States because we have so many guns. So, you know, there is only so many ways to solve this problem. It's not like it needs a lot of study or investigation.

We know how to do it. We know what has worked in the states, for instance, in Connecticut after the Newtown massacre there. They restricted guns quite severely or at least for an American state they did. And gun deaths have gone down significantly in Connecticut. We know it has worked in other countries.

So -- and look, Bernie Sanders is a Democrat who used to be pretty -- not very high on gun control and he has changed in the last few years, as most other Democrats have. A lot of Democrats used to be scared to talk about gun control. It is really, the Democratic Party has really changed on that. The Republican party hasn't. The two parties are pretty polarized on this issue right now.

Donald Trump used to be a much more sort of typical New York liberal before he was running for the Republican nomination. And you could find all sorts of statements before he started running for President where he was open to sort of moderate gun control. What changed was he entered the Republican primaries and realized that the NRA and gun rights activists are extremely important and he needed their support to win the nomination.

And even though Trump has been flexible on all sorts of issues as both a candidate and a President, he has never waivered on the second amendment and gun control issues. He has always been right in line with the most hard right NRA supporters.

WHITFIELD: OK. And so, similar to other school shootings, there has outrage. But perhaps, what's different here, Julian, as you see young people who are now taking the lead, calling for taking and demanding action. These survivors who are at this anti-gun rally yesterday were incredible. I mean, they were strong. They got a lot of people's attention. And now there is a planned significant national march that will, you know, be the main event next month March 24th in Washington, D.C. and perhaps spur other marches across the country.

Let's hear and see whether Congress will be listening.


[14:10:10] REP. TED DEUTCH (D), FLORIDA: It's not members of Congress, it's the speaker of the House who refuses to bring these bills up. And the few times when we have a chance to actually introduce amendments to try to bring them to the floor, (INAUDIBLE) has voted against those.

We need the opportunity to vote. We should -- he should talk to the speaker. He should come to the speaker with those kids. And he should encourage Marco Rubio to come to Parkland and face these kids directly. And he should encourage the President to come to Parkland. Stop using this for politics and come to Parkland and talk to these kids and their families and everyone who has suffered. That's what should happen. That's how change will come.


WHITFIELD: Julian, is that kind of partnership possible?

ZELIZER: Yes, it is possible. And we shouldn't forget the power that grassroots mobilizations have had, often from young people in American history. And they have been able to break what is considered to be the inevitable status quo.

So, you know, back in 1964, the idea of civil rights legislation was impossible. All the interests lined up against it. But a civil rights movement with many young people made politicians change their mind about what was possible. So the rally that we saw yesterday, the planned march and the possibility of some kind of actual mobilization going into a midterm year could be effective. It will take a lot of work. The NRA has a lot of clout in Washington and many members of Congress are going to be scared to vote on any kind of legislation. But those students and their allies should not be underestimated.

WHITFIELD: So among those who were very vocal this morning, Ohio governor John Kasich, he said that he has no confidence that Congress will address gun control. Listen.


GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: I was talking to a friend of mine this morning. He is a big gun collector. I said, if all of a sudden you couldn't buy an AR-15, what would you lose? Would you feel as though your second amendment rights would he be eroded because you couldn't buy a God darn AR-15?

These are the things that have to be looked at and action has to happen before --. And look. You are never going to fix all of this, but commonsense gun laws make sense. And I'm hopeful that this group that I have assembled on both sides of the issue are going to come together with recommendations.

The speaker of our House, Cliff Rosenberger, says he is anxious to see what is produced. We will see. And if they don't produce anything, I will put my own stuff out.


WHITFIELD: All right. Soo Ryan, he is underscoring. There are major obstacle.

LIZZA: There are. And look, Kasich is someone who comes out, you know, who was in Washington in the '90s, part of a class of very conservative Republicans that came to power during the Clinton administration and were way to the right on gun issues. But now as governor is much more -- sounds like he is much more open, much more moderate on the issue, willing to listen and willing to push things, including, it sounds like, some version of the assault weapons ban which was in effect nationally for a number of years but was expired during the Obama era.

And look, Kasich does sort of represent a part of the Republican party that is its own, you know, its own silo right now. There aren't that many prominent national Republicans who are willing to even say what he just said in that clip. But, you know, perhaps some of the energy around this movement and some of the activism that is a counterbalance to the NRA will start to push other Republicans in that direction.

WHITFIELD: All right, Ryan Lizza, Julian Zelizer, thanks for now. We have got much more coming up to talk to about.

Also, as the President politicizes the mass shooting that took 17 lives, funerals are underway right now for some of those victims.

Plus, investigators uncovered new behind the shooter's past including what his poster family knew leading up to the massacre. Stay with us.


[14:18:13] WHITFIELD: Another difficult day for many in Parkland, Florida today as families and friends are saying their final goodbyes to two of the 17 school shooting victims. Funerals are just getting started by Jamie Guttenberg who was just 14 years old, and 35-year-old teacher Scott Beigel.

The father of the young girl gave a powerful speech at the vigil and reminded parents to hug their children and say I love you. He has these heartbreaking words about how his family will move forward.


FRED GUTTENBERG, DAUGHTER KILLED IN SCHOOL SHOOTING: What is unfathomable is Jamie took a bullet and is dead! I don't know what I do next. My wife is home. We are broken.


WHITFIELD: And 35-year-old Geography teacher Scott Beigel is being remembered as a hero. He was killed as he tried to usher students back into his classroom when the shooting started.


KESLEY FRIEND, ONE OF THE SCOTT BEIGEL'S STUDENTS: Mr. Beigel was my hero and he will forever be my hero. I will never forget the actions he took for me. I'm alive today because of him.


WHITFIELD: Earlier today 14-year-old Alex Schacter was laid to rest. He was in the school's marching band and orchestra.

This is the start of another difficult week, and this time dotted with a lot of funerals for the victims. Tomorrow 15-year-old Luke Hoyer will be laid to rest.

Let's go live now to Florida. We have team coverage. CNN's Kaylee Hartung and Martin Savidge joining us.

So Kaylee, you first. You were outside one of the funerals. What can you tell us?

[14:20:01] KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I am, Fred. Scott Beigel is being remembered at the Temple Beth behind me as a hero as you mentioned. But as one man eulogizing him said, he is not a hero just because of how he died, saving children but a hero because of the way he lived. The quiet way that he was able t impact children's lives as a teacher and a coach and a counselor.

Scott Beigel grew up in Long Island, New York. And he came to board to attend the University of Miami. He had the benefit of grandparents who are local to the area so he never left. He was also a beloved camp counselor at Camp Starlight in Pennsylvania. At the camp he attended as a kid and where he met his current girlfriend, Gwen.

You mentioned Alex Schacter who was remembered this morning as a kid who loved music, playing the baritone and trombone in the school's marching band and orchestra. He was one of four kids who had already endured the heartbreaking loss of their mother back in 2008.

And also Jamie Guttenberg who is being remembered as we speak, the young and talented dancer whose favorite color was orange. Dancers across the country this weekend in competition would be seen wearing orange ribbons to honor her. We also saw many attending her funerals wearing orange as they walked in.

Alex and Jamie, both had brothers who were also students at Stoneman Douglas high school and escaped without injury on that fateful day.

We should mention, Fred, two families had the opportunity to welcome home their children yesterday as two more were released from the hospital. Three remain in the hospital's care, though one who was listed in critical condition has improved and upgraded to fair. That means all three who remain in the hospital are all in fair and stable condition, Fred.

[14:21:37] WHITFIELD: All right. Thank you so much, Kaylee.

All right. Martin, to you now. You are learning more about the shooter. What?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is indeed, Fred. Let me just point out something too that is new today. And that is the fact that they have opened the main street right in front of Stoneman Douglas high school. It is the first time that the general public has been able to drive by or even walk up to the school and many people have been taking advantage.

The traffic is bumper to bumper and you see a lot of families coming to, one, bear witness, and two, to pay their respects to what happened.

As to what is going on with the investigation, investigators still looking into, were there red flags? Were there warning signs that this was potentially in the offing? We already know about the miscue that went with the FBI. Now CNN has obtained records from the department of children and families here in Florida. That is a child welfare. And they report that back in 2016 after there was post up by Nikolas Cruz, the suspect in this case, which he showed himself on snapchat cutting his arms and talking about obtaining a gun. Now that was deemed so serious that investigators actually went to his home. They talked to his mother and they talked to Nikolas. They looked at the environment he was growing up in. They check to see what medications he was on.

This investigation went on for several months. And at the end of it, even after they talked to mental health experts, it was deemed that Nikolas Cruz was considered a low risk of harming himself or harming anyone else. So it is just another indication that there were investigations being done both on a state and an attempt at a federal level. And that there were red flags raised but no direct action was taken.

We also yesterday obtained the disciplinary records and it showed all the way back to middle school that Nikolas Cruz was having disciplinary problems, acting out, allegedly cursing at his teachers and then he was disciplined multiple times including 2016 and 2017 when he was eventually expelled. So red flags but no direction action was taken to stop him or incarcerate him in any way - Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, incredible details.

Martin Savidge and Kaylee Hartung, thanks to both of you. I appreciate it.

And don't miss a very special town hall this Wednesday. The survivors of the Parkland shooting will be joining CNN to talk about this mass shooting and the action they are demanding out of Washington. That's this Wednesday night at 9:00 eastern only on CNN.


[14:28:29] WHITFIELD: President Trump has going on a 24-hour twitter storm following the indictment of 13 Russians meddling in the U.S. election. In a barrage of tweets last night and this morning, the President attacking his own national security advisor, Democrats and the FBI saying the agency lost too busy with the Russia investigation and missed many signals about the Parkland, Florida shooter.

But the President hasn't denounced Russia over the indictments. Instead of condemning the Kremlin, he tweeted out comments like this one.

If it was the goal of Russia to create discord, disruption and chaos within the U.S., then with all the committee hearings, investigations and party hatred, they have succeed beyond their wildest dreams. They are laughing their A's off in Moscow. That from the President.

Former national intelligence director James Clapper is warning, there is a bigger danger when the President turns his criticism away from Moscow.


JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: Above all this rhetoric here, again, we are losing sight of what is it we are going to do about the threat posed by the Russians. He never talks about that. It's all about himself, collusion or not. And the indictment, as was the deputy attorney general's statement, was very precisely and carefully worded. The indictment itself reflected no collusion in the same way that it acknowledged members of the Trump campaign were unwilling participants in this.


WHITFIELD: I want to bring back CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer and Ryan Lizza to talk over all of this.

OK, so Julian, the President throwing his own national security advisor, 3H.R. McMaster under the bus in that tweet. But yet, to criticize Russia. So, what will this do to the relationship with his own national security team?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it was already strained, and I think with this indictment, it will become worse. I do think there are members of the national security team who want the president to simply acknowledge what is before the public.

That there is substantial evidence that Russia conducted this campaign during the election -- this is not about the collusion part of the investigation -- and to offer some kind of assurance and plan that the United States will make sure this doesn't happen again.

And someone like McMaster has his reputation on the line. He has his own beliefs in what needs to happen with public policy, and yet he's watching a president who is tweeting very different things and who is showing no indication that he takes this seriously. Instead he attacks the FBI, and he attacks many of his opponents with a vehemence that's absolutely lacking when it comes to Russia.

WHITFIELD: So, Ryan, is that, then, the explanation of why he'll do this because he'll be consistent? He already has a strained relationship and has so for a while. RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And what it shows is he still expects his top national security officials in their public statements to be talking about the Russia investigation and the Russian campaign against our election system in 2016 in terms that go back and defend Donald Trump.

That's what he expects. And McMaster was very candid, said what every other national security official and intelligence official who is honest have been saying and believes, and what clearly tipped off Trump is that he wasn't using these talking points that Trump has been using since the Mueller indictments came out the other day.

And that is to say, oh, the indictments didn't have anything to do with collusion, or, oh, the campaign started in 2014 when Trump wasn't running for president. All of these sort of beside the point. Frankly, gaslighting talking points that he expects from his national security team.

WHITFIELD: In fact, let's go down memory lane, shall we? This is some of what the president has said about Russia and Vladimir Putin.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.

What I said there is that I believe that he believes that, and that's very important for somebody to believe. I feel that he feels he and Russia did not meddle in the election.


WHITFIELD: Julian, what we're seeing today, merely in step with the pattern. You know, the president deferring to, if not flattering, Russia.

ZELIZER: Yes, look, the president is pretty consistent on some things and this is one of them, and he's had a pretty consistent response whenever this story comes up and this controversy comes up. He's either dismissed it altogether or focused on the part of the revelation that has to do with the 2016 election.

The one thing we rarely hear are strong words about what happened to the electoral system, not to him, and assurances that the administration is taking this seriously. We have a midterm right around the corner.

And there's been a lot of evidence this might happen again. And so those clips, I think, really reflect where the president is in dealing with this scandal.

WHITFIELD: Republican Senator James Lankford actually today offered his own warning on Russian meddling. This is what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president has tweeted about the Mueller indictments 13 times since Friday, including five times this morning, and not once, sir, has he condemned Russia. Does that bother you?

SENATOR JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: It does because Russia has clearly tried to advance their agenda into the United States. The president has been very adamant to say he didn't collude. He's very frustrated because of the fact that some think he's only president because of the Russian collusion.

But I would say the clear message here is Russia did mean to interfere in our election and whatever way that that may be, starting as far back as 2014, whether they were planning, organizing, coordinating with among other Russians to be able to make sure that they are trying to get out chaos into our election system.


WHITFIELD: So, Ryan, are more Republicans willing to say that now?

LIZZA: They are now, but it hasn't always been the case. You know, in this question of collusion, I'm glad you played that previous trip of Trump inviting Russia to get involved.


LIZZA: I know Trump spokespeople said, he was joking. But this idea of collusion, you know, there is overt collusion, right, and that could be criminal, say, that Mueller seems to be looking into, and that would be Trump campaign officials secretly working with hackers or, you know, Russians to interfere in the election.

[14:35:04] We don't have strong evidence of that yet. There is also, though, just the collusion that was out in the open that I think is suggested by that clip. In other words, when the Trump campaign in 2016 promoted the illegal, the stolen, hacked and dumped e-mails from John Podesta and the DNC, and when they openly advanced and pushed the press to cover that, right, and made an issue of it.

And as we saw in that clip, invited Putin to hack Hillary Clinton. You know, is that collusion? That was certainly saying, I don't have a problem with this information being out there, even though it may have been stolen by Russian military services.

And then there's the sort of unwitting collusion that we saw in the Friday indictment. That is, these Russian nationals going to Trump campaign staffers who didn't know they were Russians and getting some assistance from them.

So, what we don't have strong evidence of yet is the sort of, you know, the secret collusion, and that's what Trump has --

WHITFIELD: Intentional.


WHITFIELD: Right. All right, Julian Zelizer, Ryan Lizza, we'll leave it right there. I'm finishing your sentences there for you.

LIZZA: I need it.

WHITFIELD: Much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM. But first here's this week's "Staying Well."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Vision boarding is the process of taking your visions for your life and your relationships and putting it on a board in the form of pictures, words. When you focus your attention on certain things, you will take action toward those things. Pictures are more powerful than just putting a to-do list on a wall. It gets a couple on the same page.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're engaged to be married later this year. We first talked about our goals. It made us plan. It made us talk about things that are normally uncomfortable. On our vision board, we have to buy a new home --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a 30k goal for savings. We have a big sign that says vegan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My son Brian has a fear of riding bikes, so we have this huge bike on our board.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We look to the board on a daily basis, honestly, to draw inspiration. It just makes it that much more tangible and real.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're well on our way to pass our savings goals for the year and we are (inaudible) on that home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The fact that you envision what you want to see in your life, you draw that into your life.




WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Parkland, Florida community in mourning and looking for answers. Teenagers, students, parents, teachers and survivors of the Florida shooting coming together, capturing the country's attention at a weekend rally calling for action on gun violence.

These young students are incredibly articulate. They are shocked, angry, numb, afraid, you name it. Now they are railing against Washington for not doing more to protect them.


EMMA GONZALEZ, SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: If you don't do anything to prevent this from continuing to occur, that number of gunshot victims will go up, and the number that they are worth will go down, and we will be worthless to you. To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My concern (inaudible) gun control and whether or not I will be shot wherever I go. My innocence, our innocence, has been taken away from us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've already, I think, called out on Congress and told them this is their job, is to work for the people and they're not working for the people. The country wants gun reform and they refuse to talk about it!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now is the time we would say that is not enough. We do the same thing again and again and the same thing continues to happen. We say stop it today.


WHITFIELD: Joining me right now, Nicole Hockley. Her six-year-old son, Dillon, was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting five years ago. Nicole, good to see you again, but unfortunately, under such tragic circumstances.

So, it seems certain that change would happen after what happened in Newtown, Connecticut, 26 lives lost, including 20 children, your son included between the ages of six and seven. Now 17 killed in Florida. Is the momentum for change different right now?

NICOLE HOCKLEY, MOTHER OF SANDY HOOK VICTIM: The momentum has been growing since Sandy Hook, which is incredibly encouraging, but what's different this time is that these are kids that have voices, and they know how to use them. And so far, all involved we're talking to are adults. The people on either side of this discussion are all talking to adults.

It's the kids that are going to create this change. High school students, their voices need to be heard. They should not be modified. They shouldn't be told what to say, they should speak with authenticity into what they want, because they just experienced this, and we have to do better by them.

WHITFIELD: These young people, largely, people who are victimized there in Parkland have now helped to galvanize a movement, which has led to a scheduled March 24th march on Washington and in other cities. They've also helped to, you know, now plan a walkout which would be a message to Congress mid-March. What are you hoping or do you hope that it will affect change that perhaps other movements or efforts have not been able to do?

HOCKLEY: What I hope is that they have a lot of people supporting their efforts on the March 24 date and any other date that they put forward.

[14:45:03] When we turn up in volume, what we support in numbers, that's showing that our needs need to be met. What needs to follow after that, though, is a very clear ask of what we want to do. Because otherwise, this potentially go down as other opportunities have in terms of, you know, we galvanize towards movement and there's so much fracture in terms of what are we asking Congress to do so they can sit back on their heels and do nothing.

So, I want everyone to support these students, make your voices be heard, help amplify theirs. This is their moment and we should be doing everything we can to lift them up and support them but be very clear about what change we want as a result.

What are the one to five things we want to say to our congressmen, do this now in order to keep us safe. That's what we need to force them to do.

WHITFIELD: You're also trying to let them know what they're up against because it is one thing to have a message, and it would seem like the volume is so great, the momentum is huge right now, the outrage is universal, but there are still obstacles. What would you be able to warn them about?

HOCKLEY: Yes, I've been facing obstacles for five years now, and this is a long marathon, so they need to -- I've already had the honor of meeting Cameron Kasky, and I would love to meet some of the other students as well. They are fierce in their drive and commitment.

They need to look after themselves. This will take a long time, but I also just say keep going. Once the headlines die away, once the interest dies away, keep this alive. That's the only way you'll keep others' interests alive is by constantly beating the drum and finding a way to move forward.

WHITFIELD: What's your reaction today to the president's tweets intertwining this school shooting and the Russia probe and saying if the FBI was paying closer attention to the gunman's signals and not an election meddling, this could have been prevented?

HOCKLEY: I completely agree that this shooting could have been prevented. I think -- I'm struggling to find the words of how to react to that because this is another distraction technique. A little, hey, look over here while something is going on over here, and I think just ignore all that.

You can't conflate these two things. They had nothing to do with each other. Was the Parkland shooting preventable? Absolutely. Does it have anything to do with Russia? No. Can we just focus on what's real here, focus on that community, that school, those students and what to do to keep other students safe?

WHITFIELD: And what do you hope will come from the scheduled Wednesday listening session between the president and parents and students? We're not sure who is on that invite list, but what are you hoping will come from that?

HOCKLEY: I hope that the students have a fair chance to voice everything that they want to say and be authentic to themselves and their mission and their message, and I hope that our president has the respect and courtesy and dignity to listen to them and really take that in and then work with his team as to what can be done better.

WHITFIELD: Nicole Hockley, thank you so much for your thoughts. Appreciate it.

HOCKLEY: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.



WHITFIELD: Lebron James responds to a tv host who said the NBA star should just, quote, "shut up and dribble," end quote, after he criticized President Trump. Andy Scholes is live for us in Los Angeles at the site of tonight's all-star game. So, Andy, you spoke with Lebron about all of this. What did he say?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, Lebron told me that he is never just going to shut up and dribble, he's going to continue to speak his mind on social issues given his platform as one of the top athletes in the country. Lebron has been critical of President Trump in the past and especially on his multi-media platform "Uninterrupted."

Lebron said that he thinks the president doesn't understand or care about the people and it was those comments that prompted Fox News host, Laura Ingraham, to say that Lebron should, quote, "just shut up and dribble and not talk about politics."

I spoke with Lebron yesterday and I asked him what he thought about what she had to say.


LEBRON JAMES, NBA SUPERSTAR: We definitely will not shut up and dribble. I would definitely not do that. I mean, too much to society, I mean too much to the youth, I mean too much to so many kids that feel like they don't have a way out and they need someone to help lead them out of the situation they're in.

For me to sit up here in the greatest weekend of the NBA all-star weekend, and I get to sit up here and talk about social injustice, equality and why a woman on a certain network decided to tell me to shut up and dribble. So, thank you, whatever her name is, I don't even know her name.


SCHOLES: We're just hours away from the 67th NBA all-star game here in Los Angeles, and for the first time ever it's not going to be eastern conference versus western conference. The two teams were drafted by Lebron James and Steph Curry. He's got Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving.

Steph Curry, while seeming like the underdog, I asked him what it was like to be the underdog for once and he told me he's very much looking forward to this game tonight, Fred.

[14:55:03] And you know, the last few all-star games have not been that entertaining at the end, they've been blowouts, so hopefully this new format of drafted teams will bring us exciting one come the fourth quarter.

WHITFIELD: Never a dull moment at any all-star. It's always a lot of fun. All right. Andy Scholes, thanks so much from L.A. Appreciate it. We've got much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM right after this.


WHITFIELD: Happening now in the NEWSROOM --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're a strong Second Amendment person, you need to slow down and take a look at reasonable things that can be done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this case, we have a lot of warning signs out there and people in Parkland and all across the country have every reason to be grieved and incredibly furious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop using this for politics and come to Parkland and talk to these kids.