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At CPAC Trump Again Calls for Armed Teachers in Schools; Gov. Rick Scott Announces New Gun Laws for Florida; Mueller Probe Could Block Kushner Security Clearances. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired February 23, 2018 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I appreciate everything you've done.

I do want to say, because people have asked, North Korea, we imposed today the heaviest sanctions ever imposed on a country before.


TRUMP: And frankly, hopefully, something positive can happen. We will see. Hopefully, something positive can happen. But that just was announced, and I wanted to let you know. We have imposed the heaviest sanctions ever imposed.

So ladies and gentlemen, thank you for everything. You've been incredible partners.


TRUMP: Incredible partners.


TRUMP: And I will let you know in the absolute strongest of terms, we're going to make America great again and I will never, ever, ever let you down.

Thank you very much. Thank you.



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield, in for Kate Bolduan, in New York.

You've been listening to the president there at the annual gathering of conservative leaders and activists, outside of Washington, D.C., in Maryland. For more than an hour, you heard the president kind of meander or snake through a variety of topics from a poem you heard him reference many times on the campaign trail, to immigration, DACA, job- killing regulations, the economy.

And then about 45 minutes in, he made reference to that tragic, horrible shooting in Parkland, Florida, taking the lives of 17. He actually made reference throughout his speech that he had a script, as it pertained to that, but wasn't going to go there and then eventually did 45 minutes in. And he talked about the specter of concealed weapons in school. It was almost like a campaign speech as well because it also provoked a number of familiar refrains from the audience from "lock her up" to "build the wall."

A lot to dive into now. Let's bring in my panel, Caitlin Huey-Burns, national political reporter for "Real Clear Politics," Chris Cillizza, CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large, and Nia-Malika Henderson, CNN senior political reporter.

Good to see all of you.

Caitlin, let me begin with you because, 45 minutes in, he talked about the Parkland high school shooting, while he prefaced it by saying, I don't want armed guards in schools, he says concealed weapons, if you had adept teachers, former military. This was a reprisal of what he said from the White House and his listening session, and he got raucous applause.

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Right. This is something that not only gun right activists have been championing in the form of the NRA, but also activist groups I've been talking to, considered to the right of the NRA, this is something they have been championing as well. And what is interesting is to see him lay that out in conjunction with talking about strengthening background checks.

So my question is whether he's using the concealed carry for teachers as a way to provide some political cover, perhaps, for the idea of strengthening background checks, which having covered these bills in the past, there wasn't a big appetite for that. The other question on background checks, what exactly does that mean. Does that mean offering new laws that expand background checks for certain sales or is he talking about the John Cornyn proposal, which would be pretty much to enforce the laws on the books.

Still, a lot of questions here. We're all wondering how he will use the political capital he has on this issue and what exactly he wants to see done.

WHITFIELD: Nia, the president is speaking in generalities. Does he have the political capital in order to get Congress to get behind him on these very loose proposals?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER: That's unclear. It seems to me his most detailed idea, the one he spends the mauve time on, is this idea of arming teachers, whether former military or just average teachers. He says 10 to 20 percent of them. So that is the thing he spent the most time on, doesn't seem like that will be something that Congress would have any sort of jurisdiction over. This was something if that would be up to local schools and school boards in states, of course.

Every state isn't a concealed carry state. It is unclear where he wants to go here. Most of the time he sounds like he's reading from the NRA playbook and people to the right of the NRA and then he sprinkles in this idea of some sort of background check, which, again, the NRA does approve of these kind of strengthening of background checks and incentivizing state and local officials to input more data into the NICS system. But I guess the other idea is about raising the age limit, that is something he didn't mention at that speech because that is probably a crowd that isn't too keen on that idea. By and large, very much in lockstep with where the NRA would want him to be.

[11:35:19] WHITFIELD: And, Chris, noticeable what he did mention, background checks and concealed weapons. But what he didn't mention, as Nia mentioned, he didn't talk about raising the age limit from 18 to 21, which is among the things he has said publicly. What happened?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I mean, I guess you could ascribe strategy to it, Fredricka, but he was just all over the place. I mean, that speech was -- I'm trying to -- it was about an hour and 20 minutes. It was billed to us in advance as a speech -- the news of the speech was going to be the sanctions of North Korea.

It is like when you give a toast at a friend's wedding and you finish and you realize you forgot to mention the bride and you grab the microphone and say, anyway, she's great, she's great. It felt like it was tacked on at the end.

I think he doesn't have a set of proposals or a priority list of those proposals as it relates to guns in terms of what he thinks is both doable and what he wants to spend political capital on. Will he have one? I don't really know. Could have one by today and by tomorrow it will be different. The last 48 hours, Donald Trump spent a lot of time rhetorically sounding look a dealmaker, someone who wants to make a compromise, saw a chance here to make some history, to do something other presidents haven't done.

When you go to CPAC and say things, like, if Democrats win, they're going to repeal the Second Amendment, which takes a two-thirds vote in the House and the Senate and three-quarters vote of all of the state legislatures in the country -- not happening -- you polarize the debate to a point where the what you said the last 48 hours is meaningless.

WHITFIELD: I wonder, Caitlin, too, if this was President Trump becoming rather enamored, remembering how it felt on the campaign trail, taking 45 minutes to really kind of -- whether it was red meat or just to encourage this audience to give back, you know, a lot of positive reaction. And then, oh, yes, let me talk about these things at hand. What happened two days ago, his words, people oppose to this are now agreeing with me. After two days ago, perhaps a reference to the listening session.

HUEY-BURNS: Right. We know the president loves this kind of environment and it did provide him a platform it tout the accomplishments he thinks will be productive for Republicans running in the midterm later this year. If you're a Republican running for office, you might be able to pick out snippets from that piece. I want to go back to the polarization that Chris was alluding to. You

have seen this real activism among Democrats on the gun issue that we haven't seen over the past couple of recent shootings. That, in turn, is forcing gun rights advocates to dig in their heels. We saw Wayne LaPierre talk about that yesterday, talking more broadly in the way that the president talks, going after the FBI and intelligence communities.

And groups I've been talking to say this is something that they think is really going to motivate their voters in the midterms, this gun issue. You're seeing both sides seize their own platforms on this.

WHITFIELD: And, Nia, who is taking the lead on that? There are some similarities in language choices from the president to, you know, Wayne LaPierre, hardening schools, for one.

HENDERSON: Yes. It seems like he's borrowing from the NRA on this. I think we have done this before, side by side, what Wayne LaPierre is saying and hear what Trump says. It has been said that Trump doesn't have an ideology. And it is true. He isn't born and bred to the Republican Party, but he certainly usually arrives there and arrives there based on conversations he has, based on his viewing habits, watching FOX News, listening to folks on net network, listening to his son.

On the whole school shooting thing, the most prominent proposal he talked about is the idea of hardening schools, something the NRA likes. And he goes further that be the NRA in terms of what he's talking about. They typically talk about security guards, this idea of concealed weapons, all over schools, all across the country. That's not something they have even talked about in detail even though that's something they have supported and pushed in some ways.

So, yes, we're seeing a president, we say he doesn't know where he's going to land on this, and he's all over the place. But his core lines up in a conservative way. That's his base. At the end of that, he says, I love you, I appreciate you. He should have said, I need you, too. At some point, he did say that in terms of 2018 elections.


[11:40:29] WHITFIELD: He said some Republicans do.

HENDERSON: Yes, yes. He wants them to show up. He doesn't want to be a president that loses any seats in the midterms like most presidents tend to.

WHITFIELD: We'll leave it there for now. Caitlin, Chris, Nia, we'll have you back in a moment.

Breaking news, Florida's Governor Rick Scott revealing his plan to keep schools safe in the wake of the Parkland shooting. That includes strong new gun laws, all nearly simultaneous to the president's message. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [11:45:02] WHITFIELD: Florida Governor Rick Scott announcing a sweeping new action plan on school safety, guns and mental illness after the shooting in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed. Among the governor's proposal, preventing violent or mentally ill people from possessing guns, banning bump stocks, putting law enforcement officers in every public school, and raising the legal age for buying firearms.


RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA GOVERNOR: We will require all individuals purchasing firearms to be 21 or older. Let me repeat. We will require all individuals purchasing firearms to be 21 or older.


WHITFIELD: Let's get right to CNN's Kaylee Hartung in Parkland.

Kaylee, a lot being reported about the school resource officer who did not engage the shooter. What is the latest on that?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, Fred, the Broward County Sheriff's Office, their chief saying he was sick to his stomach when he watched surveillance video that showed one of his deputies walk up to an entrance to that building, where students and teachers were being slaughtered, and stand there, for upwards of four minutes. Scot Peterson was the only armed officer on Stoneman Douglas' campus that day and he didn't do his job. He is now out of his job as a result, resigning after being suspended without pay. Governor Rick Scott demanding answers as to what exactly happened that day.

And we just heard this half a billion-dollar rollout of a major action plan, as Rick Scott billed it, for the state of Florida. Introduced this as a three-part plan, Fred, gun laws, school safety and mental health. He wants to make it, he said, virtually impossible for anyone with a mental health issue or anyone who could be a danger to themselves to buy a gun or to use a gun.

He mentioned the violent threat restraining order program he wants instituted where a court could prevent a mentally ill person from purchasing a gun if a family member or law enforcement has provided evidence to the court that should be the case. As you mentioned, he doesn't want anyone who is not 21 to be able to purchase a gun, 21 or older, his new goal there. When it comes to school safety, particularly interesting point, he wants one law enforcement officer at every school for every 1,000 students on that campus. And he wants them all hours that students are on campus.

That means Stoneman Douglas, a school of 3300 kids, could have had three officers on campus that day, as opposed to the one armed guard, Fred, who we're learning did nothing in the moments that a shooter began firing upon the students there. He also wants dedicated mental health counselors in schools and a "see something, say something" hot line opened up statewide. A hot line, you can reach by phone, or through a mobile app. As he said, the federal government can't be relied on, as we have heard, they didn't follow up on a tip that could have possibly prevented this shooting -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: Kaylee Hartung, thank you so much, in Parkland.

Let me bring in my panel. A lot to talk about here. CNN law enforcement analyst, Josh Campbell. Josh is also a former supervisory special agent at the FBI. Caitlin Huey-Burns is back. And Chris Cillizza back, CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large. And Nia- Malika Henderson, CNN's senior political reporter is back.

Josh, you first.

Governor Scott has an A-plus rating from the NRA. The NRA has not been on board with raising the age limit. But is there a feeling that the governor is likely to win support on all of the other proposals?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I think what we're seeing are steps in the right direction. And in the wake of any tragic situation, it is incumbent upon our lawmakers and citizens to get together to determine what are we going to do to make sure these types of incidents don't happen again. I think what we're seeing here, I think the governor can be lauded, coming out with a plan, looking step by step, where were the weak spots, the school, law enforcement, mental health, and trying to fill the gaps. I think it is a step in the right direction.

WHITFIELD: And, Nia, the governor trying to address all of those things, whether the deficits and reaction from law enforcement on the local and federal level, or perhaps it is trying to anticipate offering mental assistance, help to reinforce this "see something, say something."

HENDERSON: That's right. I mean, so many things went wrong in this instance of this young man going onto that campus and slaughtering those 17 folks. So there you have Rick Scott who didn't participate in our town hall. Remember, we asked him to. He seemed to be someone who -- we didn't know what he was going to say. He initially said everything was on the table. Here today, he laid some of that out. He has seen, I think, the political winds shift a bit in his state, because of this incident, and other incidents of mass shooting in Florida. He, again, is somebody - obviously, the governor has political ambitions.

Looks like he'll run for Senate there against Bill Nelson. He is seeing those students rally in Tallahassee and essentially say do something, that our voices matter and our votes are going to count in November as well, so here is how he's reacting. We'll see what the NRA says and how they respond to not only what he has said, but now you've got Marco Rubio shifting his stances on some things, too, and the president, of course, going against the NRA in this instance, too, and raising the age limit in terms of buying certain firearms.

[11:50:37] WHITFIELD: Chris, is there an appearance that the president, the NRA and perhaps now even the Florida governor all want to speak on one chord, that there is a consistent message?

CILLIZZA: No. I think you have Rick Scott certainly coming out, as Josh noted, with a relatively detailed set of proposals that aim to address what went wrong here and, hopefully, either prevent mitigate future incidents. I think that is notable. I also think it is much more likely if past incidents in terms of what happens legislatively are a prologue, it is much more likely you will see things happen at the state level rather than the federal level as a result of this.

I would say the NRA is in opposition to a number of things Rick Scott is promoting, including at what age you can buy rifles. They're sort of for the banning of bump stocks, but through a regulatory process, not through a legislative process.

And then Trump, I mean, I don't know. I think he wants to have a win. I think he would like it to be historic in some meaningful way that he did something that even Barack Obama couldn't do after Newtown. I don't know if he knows what it is he wants to win on as it relates to guns, what he wants to find a way to compromise on and if he's willing to put his political capital with the Republicans in the House, much less the Senate, on the line to do so.

WHITFIELD: And, Caitlin, just like on the federal level, Congress may do one thing, and there may be obstacles for this governor as it pertains to the legislature. Or is there a feeling and consensus that the legislature might follow through on his momentum, his idea?

HUEY-BURNS: I think we ought to look at what the floor legislature does as a harbinger of things to come. The legislature only has two more weeks of its session, so the pressure is certainly building. You have not only Rick Scott thinking of running for Senate, lots of people are planning on him doing so. Remember, he only won reelection to governor by one point and this is a swing state. That shows where those winds are facing.

On his bid to replace him as the governor, you have a heated primary already under the way. The House speaker of the Florida state legislature is also thinking about running for governor. So I'm keeping an eye on what he wants to do. He said he would be open to looking at proposals. So what the legislature in Florida does in a very pro-gun state does, a state that has looser gun laws than other places, what they do and whether that moves anyone in Congress will be very interesting just given all the conversions of all these political things happening in Florida.

WHITFIELD: Thanks to all of you, Josh, Malika, Chris and Caitlin. Appreciate it.


WHITFIELD: Meantime, new revelations about how the Mueller investigation could be impacting Jared Kushner's security clearances. We'll explain, next.


[11:57:57] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Today is the day White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said would be the last day some employees with interim security clearances will be allowed to access top-secret information. Kelly's overhaul comes after White House staff secretary, Rob Porter, resigned after accusations of domestic abuse. All of that was made public. Well, will the Kelly deadline and the new rules apply to the president's son-in-law and top aide, Jared Kushner? He has an interim clearance as well. CNN has learned some new information about all of that.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is in Washington with the details on that.

Jeremy, what do you have?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fredricka. As you mentioned, Chief of Staff John Kelly last week signed this memo that said basically in a week -- so today is that implementation date -- that any White House official with an interim security clearance whose application for a full clearance has been pending since at least June 1st, that their interim clearance would be revoked, meaning they could no longer access some of this highly classified information. Jared Kushner would appear to fall within that category because he has had an interim clearance for over a year now and he has been seeking that application since before June 1st.

But the White House has been pretty cagey about whether it will apply to Jared Kushner and how many White House officials will be affected by this move. So we're learning that several White House officials, including Chief of Staff John Kelly, are concerned that President Trump might potentially intervene to give Jared Kushner security clearance. He could actually do that. So they are trying to look for alternatives to ensure that Jared Kushner could retain a security clearance or at least be able to do his job in a manner appropriate without requiring the president's intervention.

But even if that does happen, even if there is some way to keep Jared Kushner with security clearance access, we've been told, according to two sources, that the Mueller investigation has impacted all of this for over - that the Mueller probe essentially has prevented Kushner from obtaining a full security clearance, in part, because of those unanswered questions -- Fredricka?

[12:00:04] WHITFIELD: All right. Jeremy Diamond, thank you so much.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield. See you tomorrow.

"Inside Politics" with John King starts right now.