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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Goes After Everyone Except Russia; Best and Worst President Survey Sparks Debate; Florida Students Promise Never Again; "Black Panther" Becomes Cultural Phenomena. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired February 19, 2018 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: What about how the president has been clinging to this unwitting part of the indictment from that bombshell news from Mueller on Friday, there's 13 Russians accused of interfering in the election. Do you think Trump should see that as vindication?

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, I think he's pipe dreaming if he thinks that it's vindication. All of the case so far has been very carefully crafted, indictments that really don't show the hand of the special counsel. And I think that obviously the special counsel knows an awful lot at this point. They have been on this for well over a year. The investigation has started before Mueller came on so there was a good bit of work that had been done. I think Trump -- that's one of the reasons we're seeing these tweet storms is he's very nervous about what they know and don't know.

BALDWIN: You think it's nerves?

DEAN: I think Trump has got some problems. I don't think Mueller would have taken the case if he didn't see a serious problem here.

BALDWIN: OK. John Dean, the expert in all of this, we'll come back to you. Thank you so much for jumping on this holiday Monday.

Coming up next, students demanding change on guns, from a lie-in, look at that, at the White House today, to Florida where two survivors of the shooting are meeting with lawmakers tomorrow. We're going to talk to them live.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STUDENT SURVIVOR OF DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING: When we were in that closet altogether, I was just thinking we're going to be that school. We're going to be the ones that everyone talks about. We're going to be the school that got shot up.

STUDENT SURVIVOR OF DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING: With this title now that everyone knows the name of the school, we can use that and use it to make change.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[15:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) BALDWIN: On this holiday, the president telling Americans to reflect as we are nearly 400 days into his first term. And while it's still too early to judge what's to come or really his presidency as a whole, two professors surveyed a group of political science experts on how President Trump stacks up against his predecessors so far. Joining me now, the co-author of that survey, Justin Vaughn, and CNN's presidential historian, Douglas Brinkley. Justin, beginning with you since you're the one who did this, let's take a look at the party breakdown. Trump still ranking toward the bottom across the board for Democrats, Republicans and independents. Tell me more about that.

JUSTIN VAUGHN, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, BOISE STATE UNIVERSITY: Yes. We expected that Republicans would view Trump more favorably than Democrats, of course, and they do, but only a little bit. They still have him in the bottom five, whereas he's at the very bottom for Democrats.

BALDWIN: But your survey, and I'm sure you've seen some of this feedback especially on social media, getting a lot of pushback, one critic made this point. Let me just reduce to you, Trump hating has become so unhinged that political scientists are willing to rank the man lower than James Buchanan, a president whose failure was so complete that he failed to prevent the Civil War. Is this ranking a tad premature? Is that unfair to conclude that the current president is last here when he's just a year in?

VAUGHN: Well, I think it's certainly early, right. He's been in office for a year and this is the very first slice that we have of telling the Trump history. Certainly, Buchanan's accomplishments or lack thereof have him at the bottom for a reason. But Trump's low ranking I think is a reflection of just how anti-presidential his behavior has been. He's being judged more on his demeanor and his approach to the office, I think, than he is on the substantive accomplishments of his administration, like we would for Buchanan.

BALDWIN: Doug Brinkley, what's your take on these results?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: You know there are a lot of different polls out there and I think they're all fairly consistent. Meaning Abraham Lincoln is usually number one and George Washington number two, FDR three, and then Theodore Roosevelt four. What jumps out to me at this excellent "New York Times" poll, I found fascinating to look at is how Ronald Reagan is being accepted by Democrats as a great president or near great. Barack Obama has had a huge leap up in the "Times" poll, up ten points.

But you see the power, I think, of history and media on these polls. I mean Ulysses S. Grant is up because Ron Chernow perhaps has a best- selling book about him. Lyndon Johnson has had a lot of movies and one-man plays and celebrations for 50 years of civil rights and voting rights legislation and LBJ is up quite a bit. If I have a disappointment in the poll, it's just how low the War of 1812 president, James Madison, is. I always thought of Madison as top ten and he's not that anymore, instead Eisenhower and Reagan and LBJ have superseded him. BALDWIN: Bush 43, Justin back over to you, Bush 43 was one of several

presidents who also saw a bump as the years went by. Trump still has three years ahead of him. What are the chances he places better in future rankings?

VAUGHN: Well, he can't do worse, so the chances are certainly that he could go up. It's up to him really. If he moderates his behavior, if he strings together some more victories like he did with the tax cut bill, I think he could go up quite a bit. Certainly, as we saw with George W. Bush, over time emotions fade positively and especially negatively. So, between some substantive accomplishments, better behavior in office and Democrats finding someone they like even down the road, Trump should zoom up in those polls.

[15:40:00] BALDWIN: I'm wondering, Doug Brinkley to you, as a historian these are political scientists who were surveyed instead of historians, do you think there would have been a different outcome on this fascinating poll if historians were actually interviewed?

BRINKLEY: Well, I work with C-span and that's what we do, we use historians. They're quite similar. I looked at them. You know, what you never want to do is be ranked below William Henry Harrison who was only president for one month. Donald Trump has been -- Donald Trump is that, so that's a problem for him in perception. But I think a consensus is emerging in this country that Dwight Eisenhower was a great president.

It's not that many years ago, maybe a decade or so ago, Ike was not thought of as that way, but now we're putting him up there in the top ten. John F. Kennedy to my surprise is slipping while LBJ is rising. But by and large these polls are a fun exercise to think about other presidents. You know, you'll see because Andrew Jackson is liked more by Republicans now, he's a big Democrat because Trump has a portrait of him and when to the Hermitage in Nashville, where Democrats don't like Andrew Jackson anymore because of the trail of tears, the native American Indian removal and some of his attitudes on race. So contemporary affairs bleeds into these types of polls.

BALDWIN: Justin and Doug, thank you very much. All of these presidents.

I want to take you now to Parkland, Florida. Let's take a peek here, live pictures in Florida where so many people have been coming and dropping by and paying their respects to the 17 people who were killed at Douglas High School. We'll talk to a survivor who is demanding change from her lawmakers, next.

[15:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Grief and activism as the students of Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School bury two more of their own. Funerals today for 14-year-old Elena Petty and Luke Hoyer, who was just 15 when he was killed by a school shooter. Activism already on display all across this country. These are pictures out of Washington where students are holding what they are calling a lie-in to show support with Florida teenagers demanding tougher gun laws. In Chicago, thousands filled the streets Sunday carrying signs that

read moms demand action and chanting "vote them out."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STUDENTS PROTESTING IN CHICAGO: Vote them out, vote them out, vote them out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Those chants heard all across Florida as well where survivors of the school shooting launched Never Again MSD, MSD the letters for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Its aim, reform gun laws in this country. Let me bring in co-founder of Never Again MSD, Sophie Whitney as well as Jaclyn Corin. Ladies, thank you for being with me. And let's get right to you and your message.

SOPHIE WHITNEY, CO-FOUNDER OF NEVER AGAIN MSD: Thank you for having us.

BALDWIN: Sophie, let me start with you. Tell me about your group, Never Again MSD. Who are you and what's your message?

WHITNEY: Never Again MSD is like a solid 5 to 20 of us students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas who we're strong enough after the shooting to stand -- to make the difference. We started social media, we're reaching out to everyone possible. We're doing all the interviews we can because we know this is the last -- we can't let this be something that happens normally in our country.

BALDWIN: No, we can't. Are both of you getting on buses tomorrow to go to Tallahassee? Is that right?

SOPHIE: Yes. Yes.

JACLYN CORIN, CO-FOUNDER OF NEVER AGAIN MSD: I'm the one that organized the whole trip.

BALDWIN: Well, then let me ask you, Jacqueline, as the organizer, you know, you tell me who you guys are meeting with and I want to know specifically what are you asking of these lawmakers?

CORIN: OK. So basically there's 100 of us heading up there along with over a dozen chaperones, and we are going to be meeting with the speaker of the house, the senate president, along with so many other members of the Senate and House of Representatives. We are working on meeting with Rick Scott actually. Basically, what we are going to be asking them is to really reconsider previous -- pre-existing bills that they have not considered greatly because it hasn't really affected our state that much considering this is a huge -- the first huge -- well, after Pulse, they just haven't been able to listen.

They haven't -- people from Pulse didn't come together and make a movement and obviously we are fighting for them as students together. We are fighting for the victims of Pulse. We are fighting for the victims of Newtown. We are fighting for the victims of Las Vegas. And we are going to be emphasizing the need for gun safety and the need for mental health education because both of them are equally as important because together they cause huge destruction and we hopefully are going to be able to bring up new ideas to the Senate in hopes that they will form a special session in the coming months that use our suggestions to create new bills.

[15:50:00] BALDWIN: Jaclyn, let me jump in because I was talking to a dad last hour who lost his son. This is what he said for me to say to you. He is full of hope listening to your young voices, but what are you going to say when these lawmakers say guns aren't the problem, people are. What do you say to that?

CORIN: Well, hopefully they won't be saying that to us considering we are using an emotional appeal and they've only ever heard the logical appeal from other lawmakers. In the event they do say that we are going to say right back that we do not need you. We are students that created this movement and we've already been getting so much media attention, so much support from high powers of the entertainment business, of the political world, from people that do support us.

And we're just going to say if you don't support us, we don't need you. We've already done enough, and we are continuing to spread this movement worldwide and we've already planned to march on March 24th. If we can do that without you, we go do everything without you.

BALDWIN: You may need them though in terms of enacting or changing laws. I admire you with your, you know, it takes guts to do what you're going to do, and I admire you with your message. In fact, Sophie, back to you. You know I understand some in your group, you're saying, I'm not going back to class unless my discussion with these elected leaders results in action. Is that right?

WHITNEY: Yes. Because why would we go back to a school that isn't safe? That the gun laws aren't strong enough? We witnessed five days ago 17 people in our school die and they expect us just to go back to school normally when I no change. Where's the common sense in that?

CORIN: But we also want to emphasize the importance of education. And we obviously will be going back to school eventually because obviously we're teenagers and we have to finish high school. But we are really prioritizing this movement because it is affecting the entire country.

BALDWIN: Sophie and Jaclyn, I admire you. My heart goes out to you. Best of luck. Let's talk again. Good luck in Tallahassee, ladies. Thank you so much.

WHITNEY: Thank you very much.

CORIN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: We'll be right back.

[15:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: The "Black Panther" phenomenon making a stunning arrival in movie theaters this weekend. Marvel's first ever film with a black director and lead actor already raking in an estimated $200 million plus here in the U.S. even the former first lady Michelle Obama tweeting this. She wrote, congrats to the entire "Black Panther" team. Because of you young people will finally see super heroes that look like them on the big screen. I love this movie and I know it will inspire people of all backgrounds to dig deep and find the courage to be heroes of their own stories.

With me now, Christopher John Farley, senior editor, "The Wall Street Journal" and author of "Gameworld", good to see you. That's quite the endorsement between your 12-year-old daughter sitting off set here and the former first lady, two ringing endorsements of this film. You thought. How was it?

CHRISTOPHER JOHN FARLEY, SENIOR EDITOR, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes, well I think the underlying message here apart from being a really good movie, It's gotten great reviews, Rotten Tomato, 97 percent, the highest score of any super hero film right now on Rotten Tomatoes. So that's big. But the message really is diversity and inclusion payoff in Hollywood. We saw Wonder Woman score a massive global with the first female director at the helm, one of these big-budget superhero films, Patty Jenkins. Also got great reviews.

Now we're seeing the first African-American director to helm, one of these big budget super hero films from Marvel. And the payoff is another huge global box office success. So, there's money in investing in diversity and inclusion in your stories and Marvel is seeing the dividends of that.

BALDWIN: Why is it more than the just a movie?

FARLEY: Here are the reasons why it is more than just a movie. Number one, the world building is really extraordinary in this film. You see a show like "Game of Thrones" or ring a book like "Lord of the Rings" and see the movies. You feel like you're immersed in this whole new world that you want to go visit after you've see the movie.

You want to go on KAYAK and say, hey, can I book a flight Wakanda. And that is what it felt like after I saw this movie. And that is very involving to people. Two, we see a lot -- this is in just a movie about now, it's about the network of black stars and filmmakers who have been built up along the way, working with each other to the state.

[16:00:00] Camille Friend who does the hairstyling for the movie, she worked on "Dream Girls". Ruthie Carter did the costumes. She worked on "Malcolm X." Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan, they work together on "Fruitvale Station." And also, on "Creed."

This whole network of stars has finally come of age working with each other and not working with each other, and the payoff is a great movie for audiences. A great lesson about diversity inclusion for everybody. And just great entertainment for anyone who sees the film. That's why this film is so special. This whole network of black stars and entertainers and behind the scenes people have come of age.

BALDWIN: And just lastly, she's not on TV but you took your 12-year- old daughter.

FARLEY: And my 15-year-old son.

BALDWIN: And your 15-year-old-son. For young people in this country, there are roles where a lot of black actors or actresses were cast. And to see this super hero role for young people like your daughter and your son, what kind of impact did it leave for them?

FARLEY: Well I think it has a great impact. But here's the thing. You know, black people have been super stars and super heroes in pop culture for a long time. I mean Jay-Z, Lebron James, Kendrick Lamar was on the soundtrack of the film, they're kind of super stars and superheroes in their own right. It has taken Hollywood a while to catch up to the fact pop culture has embraced black culture for a long time, and finally put them in the super hero roles they deserve on- screen. And the result is this huge box office, so this is a trend that people saw coming, should've happened earlier. It is happening now, finally.

BALDWIN: All right. Christopher Farley, thank you for being with me.