Return to Transcripts main page


Gov. Scott Proposes New Gun Safety Measures; Ex-Trump Aide To Plead Guilty in Mueller Probe; Armed Deputy Waited Outside During Parkland Shooting. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired February 23, 2018 - 12:30   ET



[12:30:43] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome back. A big debate here in Washington about gun control and mass shootings after the Florida massacre last week.

Also today, an important announcement of the state of Florida. Republican governor Rick Scott announcing what he calls a comprehensive plan to keep students safe in his state. Here are some of the things in the governor's new plan.

He wants a mandated law enforcement presence in every public school. At least one officer for 1,000 students. He also proposes changing the age limit to buy any firearm to 21 years old, with the exception for those serving in the military.

Governor Scott proposes $500 million in spending for school safety and mental health initiatives. And he wants to ban the purchase or sale of so-called bump stocks. He also asks the legislator to implement crisis intervention training for all school personnel. And implement what he calls a see something, say something hot line for K-12 schools.

Important, we're sitting here in Washington but most of these proposals, whether they live or die, whether they pass or fail, will be at the state level. Or at least that's the way the system is setup that -- especially when it comes to schools and education. Decisions should be made at -- as local as you can make it.

Governor Scott is not just a Republican governor who for years has been an ally of the NRA, he is a Republican governor we expect to be the Republican candidate in a very important 2018 midterm election Senate campaign.

So, an election year laboratory, if you will, for a very important policy issue after a tragedy. What do we make of the plan?

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG: I think this is a big deal. I mean -- and I think we can actually read something a little more clearly here than we necessarily can from the president's remarks this morning at CPAC. I used to cover Florida politics and that the NRA is very strong in Florida. Florida is an important swing state, Florida is already potentially problematic for Republicans because some of the issues of Puerto Rico and the hurricane management.

And Rick Scott has faced a lot of criticism for not showing up at that town hall. This is actually a pretty decisive set of steps that would dial back some of those protections that the NRA has fought very hard for. Rick Scott is also, as you mentioned, really close with President Trump and really doesn't do anything without being in communication with top officials at the White House.

KING: We were joking before the program about your Twitter feed in recent days. And I don't bring it up as a joke because you're in a back and forth with people, some of whom agreed with you about how this should be handled. But one of the points you were making in your tweets and you see this in Governor Scott's proposal, Margaret just touched that.

If you have an idea the way it's supposed to work, whether you want to arm teachers, and some people think that's a good idea, some think it's a horrible idea. Whether you want to raise the age, some people think that's a good idea, some people think that's a horrible idea. But in a state like Florida which -- where not only the NRA is strong but just the gun culture is strong especially in the northern, more rural parts of the state.

It is a state that has the northern more -- southern if you will parts of Florida where the gun culture is very strong, it's part of their tradition, part of their heritage, part of their family, part of their lives. And then you get to a place like maybe Palm Beach or Miami- Dade where it's a different conversation. It's a fascinating state to have this debate. Let them have it, right?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, it's actually sort of a microcosm for America and what could possibly work. And what I like about this is, look, he's doing this in a rational way. He's coming out and he's presenting this idea in an environment that I think is more receptive to that kind of thing than a lot of the news cycle has been for the last week. And he's offering a multi-facetted plan here.

I think part of the problem is he will reflexively and emotionally get very anti anything that isn't talk of anything but gun control. The fact is that logistically and politically, many of those ideas are incredibly (INAUDIBLE) impossible. So you cannot actually implement them.

Some of these things you actually could, I will say that when it comes to the panhandle and places where guns are very popular, one of the things a popular force for young people hunting. So when you get to 18-year-olds not able to buy a hunting rifle, that will be something that people will speak out against. It's possibly you can get it in Florida which is a more purple state, but I do think you'll probably have some pushback there.

But I like the fact that he's putting forth a plan in sort of a calm way and it's something that a lot of people can latch onto different parts of. Because I think the solution actually is multi-faceted and incremental. It's not a giant web. PERRY BACON, SENIOR WRITER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: I would assume four of those five ideas, except for the call centers, have to go to the legislators. I'd be curious if both Houses controlled by Republicans -- Scott's idea in the past like (INAUDIBLE) have been rejected by legislators so I don't -- so these things will not become law tomorrow. We should be -- and I'll be curious if they become law at all. And I think there'll be some (INAUDIBLE) and that being blocked is my guess.

So I think Scott (INAUDIBLE) is important but again, both here in Washington and in Florida, watch the legislators not just the governors or the president.

[12:35:10] KING: Is he saying -- and he just unveiled it today and again, I think he deserves credit. Especially in a way where at least touch some issues on here where the NRA is going to say, no. Governor, that's not what we want.

Other people say does it go far enough. Others say (INAUDIBLE). I guess your question is, does he push for it. I think the Florida legislator leaves in three weeks, so this session is about to end.

Does he actually push for it or is it a document that when he's in a Senate campaign and he needs to win some suburban areas where there's less of the gun culture and maybe opposition to the gun culture, does it protect him?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I mean, this is the question you should ask of any politician who's talking right now about various gun control measures, whether it's Rubio or Trump or (INAUDIBLE). I mean, is this actually something you're going to spend capital on or you going to just kind of say, well, this is where I am, at least I made a proposal.

I mean, look, the GOP is clearly going to go through -- this is going to be another, you know, moment of soul searching for them, clearly, among other things. And as individual politicians, Republican politicians wrestle with the NRA and how far they're willing to go (INAUDIBLE) from the NRA. Remember, there are still a whole bunch of people who want actual gun-based -- you know, take this gun and don't let them buy it without an appropriate background check, or don't let me buy it at all if it's a certain level of semiautomatic rifle. That also there, and so -- it's going to be -- you know, the question of, will there be any sort of coalition building through the two sides because you got the (INAUDIBLE) right now in the GOP with the NRA but then the bigger one is still out there and there's going to be a lot of people unsatisfied.

HAM: There's also a mini fight that is treacherous for Democrats, which is going toward a semiautomatic ban is very dangerous for them in many places across the country.

TALEV: (INAUDIBLE) in the end, or a lot partly largely some of the (INAUDIBLE) size. Nonetheless, going on the record as a prominent Republican against the kind of bulwark (INAUDIBLE) is potentially the beginning of a tripping away and a little room for maneuvering. KING: An interesting theory. Everybody puts forward their proposals, let's assume that they do it with good conscience and this is what they believe whether you agree or disagree with them. Why don't we have some votes? Let the politicians actually take votes, take stands, let the people decide. And if somebody (INAUDIBLE) they don't like you, you got the chance to vote them out which brings me back to Washington.

Listen to the president this morning. A lot of people have rolled their eyes at this, they think it's not a serious proposal, but the president and allies and the gun rights movements think one way, one way to do this is to train some teachers, allow them to have a concealed carry permit if you carry a weapon in the school.

Again, a lot of people say, no, that's not right. The president thinks it is.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I also believe that schools have to have some form of protection. They can't just be open-ended gun free. Gun free is an invitation for these crazy people to just come in and shoot.

If they're not gun free, if there are guns inside held by the right people, by highly trained professionals, you're going to see this end.


KING: Again, have a debate. Good idea or bad idea? Federal issue or should it be a state issue?

But at least the president, this is what he -- he's talking about what he believes in. I raised the question earlier in the show, did he blink today by not talking about the age limit when he's at the CPAC meeting. A bunch of conservatives had support the NRA, the president saying he wants to raise the age limit for rifles, long guns. He didn't talk about it in that setting, but here's another -- I have to view this as a positive step. The president (INAUDIBLE) Senator Christopher Murphy, a liberal Democratic senator from Connecticut, one of the leading advocates in Congress for major new gun controls, the president says, come down to the White House, let's have a conversation. There's nothing wrong with a conversation. We could use more of them.

DEMIRJIAN: No, sure. I mean, look, if the president ends up backing the Cornyn-Murphy bill, I think it's just really important to know that that one is about actually, you know -- it's actually, you know, complying with the laws that exist. It's not saying the president and Chris Murphy --

KING: Strengthening the background check system.

DEMIRJIAN: It's reinforcing how the background check system recording (INAUDIBLE). It's not expanding it in nay of the broader measures that people have actually -- the Chris Murphys of this world want to do.

It's interesting though that the president is not talking about that in front of CPAC but focusing on this idea of who in the school to give a gun. I mean, he's not addressing the fact that there was an armed sheriff's deputy there, whatever the actual role was, I'm forgetting, at that school who stayed outside. And we saw the president call that person a coward. But the point is it's not a (INAUDIBLE) and he didn't address the problematic part of that.

You heard from cops, from teachers saying, don't give me the responsibility of having to, you know, be the person to fire off the gun. And also, you know, unless you've got everything in very, very secured spaces, some teachers are not that much older than their students (INAUDIBLE) -- it doesn't -- you don't have a guarantee about these things.

KING: We're not going to make it -- we're not going to make any progress in this debate until both sides learn to listen to each other and respect each other even if they think the ideas are off the wall.

Take a breath, listen, be respectful of each other. Everybody, now we'll see (INAUDIBLE) we'll come back to the story but next, quick break, then we come back, more details.

A former top campaign deputy of President Trump pleading guilty in the Russian meddling probe. New details in just a moment.


[12:43:57] KING: More details now on this hour. Big breaking news story from the Russia probe. Ex-Trump campaign aide Rick Gates will plead guilty this afternoon for making false statements and for being part of a conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Gates scheduled to appear in court at 2 o'clock Eastern this afternoon. Let's bring back CNN Crime and Justice Reporter Shimon Prokupecz. Shimon, you've gone through these documents now. Tell us more about the pleas and what Rick Gates is admitting he did wrong.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: So I want to address the count two in the charging documents and the information which he's going to plead guilty to. It's fascinating because according to this document, what he's pleading guilty to is lying to the special counsel just weeks ago when he met with them for a proper possible cooperation agreement. He met with the special counsel, it appears, on February 1st, a couple weeks ago this month, and in that -- during that meeting they had asked him some questions about a meeting that he had in Congress -- up on the Hill with a member of Congress. In fact, that meeting with a member of Congress happened in 2013.

So they were asking him questions about that meeting, and according to this, he lied about the subject of that meeting.

[12:45:06] And the document say the subject of the meeting was about Ukraine. He apparently lied to the special counsel and to the FBI about that meeting. And so that is what -- one of the things that he's going to be pleading guilty to.

It's just fascinating that it is something that happened in 2013. That's how far back this indicates to us the special counsel investigation is going. You know, we're in 2018, they're here meeting with him, with Rick Gates about a meeting that he took with a member of Congress in 2013.

KING: And Shimon, Rick Gates in addition to signing these plea documents today, he's sending a letter to his family and friends explaining his decision. What does it say?

PROKUPECZ: Right. So there is a line and he's explaining to the family and friends why he's decided to plead guilty, saying that he's just exiting the process. And I can read a line to you here, and it says, "The reality of how long this legal process will take, the cost and the circus-like atmosphere of an anticipated trial are too much. I will better serve my family moving forward by exiting this process."

So it's a note that we believe that he sent today to his family, to his friends, indicating that he was going to exit this case, plead guilty and perhaps cooperate. We know that up until yesterday, even last night, he was hesitating, wasn't sure what he was going to do. We -- our producer Caitlin Polance (ph) had seen him at the courthouse several times, least two times where he was delivering documents. Very strange behavior on his part. He was appearing there without his lawyers.

So clearly, this has been something on his mind back and forth, and with this letter to family and friends, he's offering up why he decided to do it.

KING: Shimon Prokupecz, thank you for the great reporting of you and the entire team working on this. You're seeing on the right side of your screen there, that's Malcolm Turnball, the prime minister of Australia arriving at the White House. He is meeting today with the president, you see the first lady Melania Trump out there to greet the Turnballs as well. They're going to have a conversation, some meetings, I believe there is a lunch on tap. They're going to meet with reporter later today, we'll take you back to the White House as that situation unfolds.

For this conversation, let's bring back in Solomon Wisenberg, he serves as Ken Starr's number two back in the Lewinsky investigation during the Clinton administration. Sol, you've been a prosecutor, you're also a veteran white collar attorney. Knowing what we know now about the Rick Gates plea, help me understand how you would view this from the Paul Manafort perspective.

Number one, what is -- if you're the prosecutor, what is getting this plea deal from Paul Manafort's business partner? Do it help you case against Paul Manafort.

And then number two, if you could, if you're on the other side, the white collar attorney on the Manafort defense team, how does this change your calculations? SOLOMON WISENBERG, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, you always need even in a white collar case when you have really good documentation, it's always very good to have an insider who can explain things and say, yes, this is what it looks like, this is what he did. So there's no question that it helps Bob Mueller against Paul Manafort immensely. There's no question that it makes the case stronger, a case that looked pretty strong already, that it makes it look even stronger.

On the other hand, if I were Manafort's attorney, I'd be pretty happy with that letter by Gates to his family and friends. That's almost like a poison pill basically saying, I wanted to fight it but, you know, the government's resources are too big and the stakes are too high, which is really what every white collar criminal defendant faces when he's facing the power of a determined federal prosecutor.

KING: So you don't see, on this day, enough pressure from Manafort to suddenly come in and say, let's make a deal?

WISENBERG: Oh, I would be surprised. He doesn't look like a person who is ready yet or any time soon to make a deal. Again, the interesting thing here is based upon what your reporter just reported, nothing about any of the big topics in terms of the Gates plea papers, the big topics, the big picture topics that Mueller was originally supposed to be investigating. So we're still, you know, not only are we around the margins, we're beyond the margins, really.

KING: The question is, is there something else we don't know, is he building toward something, or it is not there? Excellent point.

Solomon Wisenberg, again, appreciate you for hanging out to help us understand this case much better.

When we come back, yes, a big debate about gun control, but as we look at the massacre last week in Parkland, Florida, one of the sad facts, the reputable facts, a long, long list of mixed signals and failed actions.


[12:51:41] KING: Welcome back. President Trump weighed in today on a stunning new revelation about the Parkland, Florida school shooting. Where an armed deputy was on duty but stood outside as the massacre played out.


TRUMP: What he did, he's trained his whole life. There's an example. But when it came time to get in there and do something, he didn't have the courage or something happened, but he certainly did a poor job.

There's no question about that. He was there for five minutes, for five minutes. That was during the entire shooting, he heard it right at the beginning. So he certainly did a poor job.

But that's a case where somebody was outside, they're trained, they didn't react properly under pressure or they were a coward. It was a real shot to the police department.


KING: In announcing this news, the county sheriff says police realized what happened while watching the surveillance video.


SCOTT ISRAEL, BROWARD COUNTY SHERIFF: What I saw was a deputy arrive at the west side of building 12, take up a position, and he never went in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was Scot Peterson -- was he there when the shooter was still inside the building?

ISRAEL: Yes, he was.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so what should he have done?

ISRAEL: Went in. Addressed the killer. Killed the killer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much time went by that he did not go in that he could have gone in?

ISRAEL: Minutes. Minutes. I think he remained outside for upward of four minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the shooting lasted six minutes?

ISRAEL: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is he seen doing on the video?

ISRAEL: Nothing.


KING: We'll talk about this in a minute. We want to quickly take you the White House. The president of the United States asked just moments ago about the new plea deal from his former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, any concerns about Rick Gates?

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, it's about Rick Gates.

TRUMP: I would, yes, I would. We will be there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you hearing anything about Rick Gates cutting a deal with Mueller?

TRUMP: Thank you very much everybody. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The president is ignoring repeated questions from a rather feisty White House print pool.

Let's come back quickly to what we just heard from the sheriff in Florida. Whatever your views on gun control, when you through the list of mixed signals, and then the officer who stood outside and didn't act, he didn't go into the building. Law enforcement called the Cruz's house on 39 occasions over seven years. The FBI tipped off by threats. The armed resource offices did not (INAUDIBLE).

We have a much longer list, I could go on and on. We don't have time this hour. The -- whatever your views on gun control, the breakdown in the system here is just beyond stunning.

HAM: Yes. And I would like to know more about the rules of engagement for this officer, and exactly what was going on that the surveillance was on a tape delay which seems like an issue as well. And (INAUDIBLE) that Sheriff Israel was on stage the other night blaming an NRA spokesperson for her part in this when he is the one elected to actually serve these citizens. And it's unclear to me whether he knew exactly what went down but he does have to answer for that.

And the failures along the way -- people along the way do have to answer that and we need to grapple with how these red flags do translate into something like an NICS background check. And the fact, by the way that we tried to fix that in 2007 (INAUDIBLE) and that state governments have not been able to comply with filling that database.

That's the bare minimum for making this preventable in some kind of way. And we do need to fix those things before we move on to other giants sweeping solutions.

[12:55:09] DEMIRJIAN: Or whatever it is, you have to really think we have at least two different tracks here. It's just ridiculous that, you know, the actual making the system work, and this is not the only shooting where there's been, you know, mixed signals or things that should have been done. People were not doing their job.

(INAUDIBLE) they should have kept him from buying guns. This is a pattern over several of these shootings and you have to be able to talk about fixing the system if you're going to try to prove the system but then you have to trust the system is going to work.

At this point, you know, that's almost getting lost in the greater argument politically that's happening over what do you restrict, what do you change.

KING: The volume of the gun control debate sometimes will get in the way of basic conversations about the confidence of people in charge.

Appreciate the patience (INAUDIBLE) all the breaking news. Thank you for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. I'll see you back here Sunday morning, get up early, be here at 8 o'clock. Wolf starts after a quick break.