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Interview With New York Congressman Adriano Espaillat; Trump Doubles Down on Guns in Classrooms; Another Trump Aide Pleads Guilty in Russia Probe; Tipster Warned FBI School Shooter Was "Going to Explode". Aired 6-7p ET
Aired February 23, 2018 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Rick Gates has now agreed to cooperate with the Russia investigation, even as his business partner, Paul Manafort, faces new charges tonight.
Declaring his innocence. Gates' guilty plea and a new indictment by the special counsel are ratcheting up pressure on Manafort. But he's vowing to fight in court. Will Gates' testimony against him develop?
Ignored warnings. New details of the tip received by the FBI about the Florida school shooter, Nikolas Cruz. A transcript reviewed by CNN reveals the caller said she feared Cruz "was going explode" -- quoting now -- with the type of massacre that unfolded just weeks later. Why didn't officials act on the tip?
And off-script. President Trump gives a freewheeling 80-minute speech at a conservative gathering, reprising themes from his campaign, including his call for a border wall and attacking the news media. Why did the president toss out his prepared remarks?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news tonight. The Russia investigation heating up, with a third former Trump associate now entering into a plea bargain with special counsel Robert Mueller.
Rick Gates, along with longtime business partner Paul Manafort, was a top official in the Trump presidential campaign. But while Gates is now agreeing to cooperate with Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling, Manafort tonight is maintaining his innocence and vowing to fight the dozens of charges he's facing, including new charges just filed against him by Mueller today.
We will talk about that and much more with Congressman Adriano Espaillat of the House Foreign Relations Committee. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's get details of the breaking news with CNN's political correspondent, Sara Murray.
Sara, critical developments emerging now in the special prosecutor's investigation.
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
Today, a federal grand jury in D.C. approved five new criminal charges against Paul Manafort alleging he paid former European politicians to push pro-Ukraine positions as paid lobbyists. Now, between this and Rick Gates officially flipping on Manafort, his longtime business partner, it's clear Mueller is hoping to pressure more Trump campaign officials into cooperating.
MURRAY:(voice-over): Tonight, another guilty plea for special counsel Robert Mueller. Former Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates pleading guilty today to two criminal charges in Mueller's expansive probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Gates pleaded guilty in D.C. federal court today to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and making false statements, according to court filings, telling friends and family in a letter that the last several months have been excruciating.
Gates is cooperating with the special counsel, which makes him the third Trump associate known to be cooperating with Mueller's investigation. His decision to flip on his longtime business partner Paul Manafort, who served as the Trump campaign chairman, also ramps up the pressure on Manafort to cooperate with Mueller, particularly about the campaign.
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think these lawyers are putting so much pressure on these guys, with so many high stakes, that the ultimate decision is going to be, I have got to protect myself and my family, and they're going to cooperate.
MURRAY: Both Gates and Manafort pleaded not guilty in October to financial charges unrelated to the campaign. But in the charges Gates has now pleaded to, prosecutors outlined how the two business partners hid millions of dollars from their Ukrainian lobbying work from the federal government and then lied to federal investigators in 2016 about the scheme.
Investigators also caught Gates in a lie during an interview in plea negotiations earlier this month, according to court filings. He lied in saying Ukraine was not discussed during a 2013 meeting in Washington with Manafort.
Lobbying disclosure shows California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a Russia-friendly members of Congress, also attended.
In a letter to associates, Gates describes his decision to plead guilt as a change of heart. "The reality of how long this legal process will take, the cost and the circus-like atmosphere of an anticipated trial are too much," Gates writes.
On Thursday, Mueller unveiled a set of new charges in Virginia, 18 counts against Manafort and 23 against Gates, in addition to the counts the pair were already facing in D.C. federal court.
The new charges carry the risk of a far longer prison sentence, up to 30 years for each of them if found guilty of bank fraud. The move highlights how Mueller's team is turning up the heat on former Trump campaign officials to press them to cooperate.
Their cooperation building blocks Mueller can potentially use in a case against other Trump associates or even the president. The pressure took its toll on Gates, who lives with his wife and four children in Richmond, Virginia, and allegedly used millions of dollars from offshore accounts for expenses like his mortgage, children's tuition and interior decorating.
In explaining the plea deal to friends, Gates writes, "The consequence is the public humiliation, which at this moment seems like a small price to pay for what our children would have to endure otherwise."
MURRAY: Now, as part of his plea agreement, Rick Gates has agreed to turn over documents and to testify in cases, including Paul Manafort's.
Now, he's also facing about 4.5 to six years in prison. Obviously, Wolf, that is far shorter than the decades he could have faced had he gone to trail and been found guilty.
BLITZER: Sara, stand by. There's more we're following.
I want to dig a little bit deeper into the breaking news.
Our crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, is with us as well.
Shimon, what do these new Manafort charges, as well as the Gates guilty plea, mean for Paul Manafort?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It basically put more pressure on him to perhaps get him to cooperate. It would appear to, certainly for us who have been covering it, that the goal of this, to get Rick Gates' cooperation is to try to put more pressure.
Certainly, the continuing number of indictments that keep coming out and superseding indictments against Manafort, but it appears by all accounts that Manafort is digging in, that he's sticking to his defense. He just -- he released a statement earlier today.
I'm going to go ahead and read that to you. It says: "Notwithstanding that Rick Gates pled guilty, I continue to maintain my innocence. I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have the strength to continue this battle to prove our innocence. For reasons yet to surface, he chose to do otherwise. This does not alter my commitment to defend myself against the untrue piled-up charges contained in the indictment against me."
Clearly, Manafort has given no indication at this point that he plans to cooperate with this investigation.
BLITZER: The charging document that was released today, Shimon, reveals that Rick Gates, he lied to federal prosecutors as recently as earlier this month, earlier this month, during one exchange he had with them. The lie was about a meeting he had back in 2013.
PROKUPECZ: Yes. This is an interesting part of this document, of the charging documents, that they would go back to February, to 2013, which was a meeting in March of 2013 that he wasn't even part of, but that he just had knowledge about.
And this happened while the FBI and the special counsel investigators, they were interviewing him. This was the proffer agreement, where he came in and he was going to talk to them about potentially cooperating. And while he's in there talking to them about potentially cooperating, they say he lied. He admitted that.
This had to do with a meeting, like you said, in 2013 that happened on the Hill between Manafort and a congressman and some other people. And there were discussions about Ukraine. But it was interesting that this is one of the charges that he wound up pleading guilty to. It had to do with Ukraine.
BLITZER: Yes, lesson learned. Don't lie to the FBI. Always a bad decision.
Everybody, stick around, our crime and justice correspondent, Shimon Prokupecz, reporting, Sara Murray as well.
Let's move on. There are other developments unfolding right now. A big connection potentially to Ukraine in the case against both Gates and Manafort.
Let's go to our senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen. He's working this part of the story from Moscow.
Fred, what are the Ukrainians saying, first of all, about all of this?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
It's interesting, Wolf. We actually managed to get in touch with the Ukrainian prosecutor general tonight. He was saying, look, you look at some of the things that are on the charge sheet here. You have, for instance, acting as an unregistered foreign agent. You have things like, for instance, trying to hide money from U.S. tax authorities.
The Ukrainians are saying, look, that was all Ukrainian taxpayer money. And they are obviously looking into all of this as well. They have their own politicians from the Yanukovych government, which was very close to Russia, that they're trying to prosecute as well.
And they say, look, we would love to hear from Rick Gates. Even more so, we would love to hear from Paul Manafort about all this. So far, they haven't been able to do that.
A lot of it goes to contracts that were there for Manafort's firm, which obviously Rick Gates was a part of as well, and then also contracts that apparently Manafort helped facilitate as well. They say that some of those were probably not part of the regular bidding process and therefore may have been illegal.
The Ukrainians are saying they are cooperating with the U.S. authorities. They say that they have given information to the U.S. authorities. They also say that they would like some investigation back.
And then all of this, of course, Wolf, potentially, could come full circle right back here to Moscow as well. If we had this plea agreement, for instance, of Rick Gates, then the big question is, what did he possibly know about contacts between Paul Manafort when he was campaign chairman for the Trump campaign and important Russians, for instance, oligarchs here in Moscow like Oleg Deripaska, where we've reported in the past that there were connections, there was communication between them while Paul Manafort was still the chairman of the Trump campaign.
A lot of interest from the Ukrainians and also, of course, a watchful eye here in Moscow as well as to the developments that are happening tonight in Washington, D.C., Wolf.
BLITZER: Fred Pleitgen in Moscow, thanks very much.
Let's get some more on the breaking developments right now.
There are new revelations emerging about the problems obtaining a permanent security clearance for President Trump's top eight and son- in-law, Jared Kushner.
This afternoon, the president said the final decision on whether to restrict classified information to Kushner will be up to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. But we're also finding out right now that other top government officials have been discussing this extremely sensitive situation.
Our Laura Jarrett is joining us on the phone right now from the Justice Department, where she's getting new information.
Laura, what are you learning?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Wolf.
Well, a source tells me that just two weeks ago, right in the midst of all of the swirling questions over why former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter was allowed to work with interim security clearance, given all of his history of domestic abuse allegations, that the White House counsel, Don McGahn, contacted Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to inquire about the status of Jared Kushner's security clearance.
That's what a source told me, that McGahn Rosenstein, and then Rosenstein later returned the call later that day, and that Rosenstein conveyed to McGahn that the clearance process was still ongoing.
Now, "The Washington Post" takes this a step further and says that -- quote -- "Significant information requiring additional investigation would further delay the security process for Kushner."
And in any response to this story, Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores told us that the deputy attorney general has not referenced to the White House any specific concerns related to this individual's security clearance process.
And, of course, Wolf, earlier today, the president said that John Kelly will decide. He will to defer to Kelly on the question of Kushner's security clearance data. And, of course, yesterday we reported that Kushner has been unable to obtain full security clearance in part because of the special counsel's investigation -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Lots going on, on that front as well. Laura Jarrett, joining us from the Justice Department, thanks very much.
Let's get some more on all of these developments.
Democratic Congressman Adriano Espaillat of New York is joining us. He's a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Congressman, thanks for joining us.
REP. ADRIANO ESPAILLAT (D), NEW YORK: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: So, first of all, what's your reaction to CNN's new reporting right now about the security clearances, the sensitive issue involving the president son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner?
ESPAILLAT: Well, I tell you, this continues to be a very troubling situation within the House -- the White House.
The president of course has to wrestle with his own personal feelings about his son-in-law and the commitment and the support that he tries to give to Kelly. So he's really usually between a rock and a hard place there. But it's very troubling.
And it further adds to the -- what we perceive the current instability in the White House.
BLITZER: Were you encouraged to hear President Trump say he trusts his White House chief of staff, General Kelly, to make the right decision as far as Kushner's security clearances are concerned?
ESPAILLAT: Yes, I was really surprised to see that. It almost sounded like he's throwing him under the bus.
But, again, this must be a very hard decision for the president, I'm sure, and troubling within that White House to have to choose between his son-in-law and Kelly as well that he's placed so much trust in.
BLITZER: How concerned should the president be right now about this new guilty plea from his former campaign aide Rick Gates and the increased pressure on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, was is also facing yet additional charges?
ESPAILLAT: Well, I think he should be very concerned.
Mueller is a reputable law enforcement, very respected law enforcement expert that. And he's going up the food chain. And it seems that the testimony that will be brought forward by Gates will reveal further information that will be perhaps compromising not only to Manafort, but to the campaign.
So I think he should be worried.
BLITZER: Do you think that Paul Manafort eventually will be pressured to cooperate with the special counsel, to issue a guilty plea himself? And what would that mean, Congressman, for the president?
ESPAILLAT: Well, the superseding indictment that has additional charges would add additional pressure to Manafort. This is just beginning, Wolf. I think this is going to be a long-term, very deep investigation. Again, Mueller is a respected and reputable law enforcement expert.
And I think he's going up the food chain. And lots of pressure, tons of pressure will be mounted against Manafort to cooperate.
BLITZER: When you look at all these new details, Congressman, where do you think Russia investigation is heading?
ESPAILLAT: Well, look, the Russian investigation, it should be very clear to all Americans. Did they in fact intervene in our electoral process?
Was there any type of collusion or cooperation between campaign workers Did the president know any of this? These are all legitimate questions. And the central question was -- is, is Russia a new empire that is now not only involving itself, interfering in foreign elections all over Europe, but also launch a major attack on the veracity and the confidence of the American people have on our electoral process?
That's the central question, whether this country, Russia, continues to interfere and whether it will continue to interfere in our -- going in future elections.
BLITZER: On another sensitive issue, what's your reaction to President Trump's proposal to arm some highly trained schoolteachers? ESPAILLAT: Well, I think that's a horrible proposal.
We saw that was an officer, a person there in the school in Parkland that was armed. And, in fact, it was not effective in preventing this horrendous massacre. There is a host of action that we must take to ensure that the American people and families are safe throughout the nation.
And a ban on assault weapon is one of them. We see how New York state and three other states -- surrounding states -- have joined a safe gun coalition. And they have stringent rules to do background checks on people that want to purchase weapons.
The age of the person obviously is a factor as well. Children should not be carrying semiautomatic war weapons in and around school. That's a no-brainer.
But the real crisis and the bigger crisis in America regarding guns is handguns. And we see how in 2016, 70 percent of the deaths were connected to handguns in the United States. And as high as over 7,000 were killed with handguns.
And so this is a major challenge that we have as a nation to wrestle and put our arms around this culture of violence and death.
BLITZER: Congressman Espaillat, thank you so much for joining us.
ESPAILLAT: Thank you so much, Wolf.
BLITZER: More on the breaking news coming up.
With Paul Manafort now facing new charges, how useful will Rick Gates be to the special counsel, Robert Mueller, now that he's agreed to cooperate?
And the other breaking story we're following tonight, the missed warning that the Florida school shooter was "going to explode."
BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, new charges filed by Robert Mueller against former Trump campaign Paul Manafort just hours after Manafort's business partner, Rick Gates, entered into a plea bargain with the special counsel.
Let's get some more with CNN law enforcement analyst, former FBI supervisory special agent Josh Campbell.
Josh, not even, what, two hours after a former top campaign aid Rick Gates pleaded guilty, the special counsel unveiled these new charges against the former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.
What is Mueller's strategy here?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, in one word, pressure.
I mean, this is the ultimate stress test. And we can guarantee that Mueller's strategy is going to be use every tool in his investigative toolbox in order to work his way up the chain and determine whether there's criminal activity.
It's interesting. Those of us who know Bob Mueller, who have worked with Bob Mueller, we know that he's determined, he's fair, but he's not going to let someone lie. And that has been his currency, that, at the end of the day, his focus is on the rule of law.
It's interesting that in Gates' statement today, he indicated that the consequences, public humiliation. I hate to break it to Mr. Gates, but when you live the FBI and you lie to Bob Mueller, I think the consequences are going to be far greater than simple humiliation.
BLITZER: Gates is the third Trump campaign official who is now cooperating with the special counsel's investigation.
First was George Papadopoulos. The next was fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
How useful are they to Mueller right now?
CAMPBELL: Well, they're very useful.
Well, let's remember three things. First of all, there's still so much that we don't know that Mueller knows. And secondly, if you look at this case, these are not accidental crimes. You don't accidentally move around $75 million through foreign front companies.
And lastly you don't accidentally lie to the FBI. So as Mueller looks at that, I think that's something that's going to be taken into consideration by the special prosecutor's office, is that you have a group of people here that have shown that they're not going to be honest, that they're going to continue even through negotiations and meeting presumably which was the focus was to get some type of deal in exchange for your candor.
Even that, they determined they were going to lie to. And the last thing that is interesting to note, Wolf, is that the Watergate comparisons aren't perfect in this case, but one thing that is interesting, if you go back and look at Woodward and Bernstein's great work, the prosecutors and the journalists, they were always looking for the low-level people to help provide the information that would show insight into the larger crime.
The lawyers. The secretaries. The accountants. Those are the people who are going to shed light and tell you how this process worked. We can guarantee, in this process, Mueller's team is going to be doing the same thing.
BLITZER: Josh, let's quickly turn to the latest developments in the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.
CNN has now reviewed the transcript of a trip the FBI received back in January from a woman close to the shooter, Nikolas Cruz. And the details are rather chilling. She described his access to weapons and how he cut up frogs and a bird.
And she warned the FBI the Cruz "wants to kill people" and she was afraid he would get into a school and just shoot it up, shoot the place up.
Why didn't all those details launch some sort of serious follow-up from the FBI?
CAMPBELL: Well, that's the question, wolf.
we continue to revictimize these family members with every new detail about possible information that could have been acted upon.
In law enforcement, there's this notion that after some type of event or some type of attack, we say, you know, why weren't the dots connected? And sometimes there are not dots. Law enforcement will look at a situation and say, what could we have possibly done?
In this case, sadly, we're starting to see the dots. And every single day, it seems like that there are more that are coming out.
I think what it shows us is that we have to learn from this incident. We have to be able to fuse information from law enforcement, mental health providers, educational institutions.
And I don't know exactly how you do it, but we have to find a way to get that information together, because if you look through past instances of attacks, mass atrocities, it seems to be one of those three prongs.
Either there's a failure in law enforcement, the mental health side, or the education system. In this case, it's compounded with the public coming to law enforcement and saying, we have information that we want to provide.
It's heartbreaking and it has to be fixed.
BLITZER: You have to do a full-scale review. You got to learn lessons in order to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Josh Campbell, thanks very much for that.
Also breaking tonight, new pushes by President Trump to arm teachers in the wake of the Florida school massacre.
Our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is joining us.
Jeff, the president insists that giving teachers guns will save lives.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, he does.
The president now has said this for several days in a row. He believes that arming schoolteachers and other official who are qualified, he says, certainly would save lives and be a deterrent for other school shooters.
Now, as he talked about that, he did leave out one thing out today. That was the idea he's mentioned earlier this week, to increase the age limit to buy a rifle from age 18 to 21. As he spoke before a conservative audience sponsored by the NRA, which is opposed to that idea, the president did not mention it.
ZELENY (voice-over): President Trump pledging tonight to pressure Congress to act on guns, saying it's high time to stop the cycle of massacres in American schools.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The problem that's been happening over the last 20 years is people have talked. You said it. It's all talk. It's no action. And we're going to take action.
ZELENY: The president said protecting the nation's children can't be left to security guards or school police officers alone, pointing to the Florida deputy who waited outside last week's shooting without rushing in.
TRUMP: A security guard doesn't know the children, doesn't love the children. This man standing outside of the school the other day doesn't love the children, probably doesn't know the children.
ZELENY: Instead, he's calling for well-trained teachers to carry concealed weapons.
TRUMP: I don't want a person that's never handled a gun, that wouldn't know what a gun looks like, to be armed. But out of your teaching population, out of your teaching population, you have 10 percent, 20 percent of very gun-adept people.
ZELENY: Appearing with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the first White House news conference in 44 days, the president also weighing in on the controversy over security clearances, specifically for his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said Kushner and other aides who have not obtained a permanent top-secret clearance would have their access restricted. The president praised Kushner, but when asked whether he would intervene, he said this:
TRUMP: So, that will be up to General Kelly. General Kelly respects Jared a lot, and General Kelly will make that call. I won't make that call. I will let the general, who is right here, make that call.
ZELENY: The White House also imposing new sanctions on North Korea, targeting shipping routes in hopes of tightening the economic noose on the regime and its nuclear ambitions.
TRUMP: If the sanctions don't work, we will have to go phase two. And phase two may be a very rough thing. May be very, very unfortunate for the world. But, hopefully, the sanctions will work.
ZELENY: But front and center at the White House today was the topic of guns, with the prime minister noting far more restrictive gun laws in Australia.
MALCOLM TURNBULL, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: Basically, semiautomatic and let alone automatic weapons are essentially not available.
ZELENY: The American public is deeply divided on the president's idea to arm teachers and school officials. Sixty-eight percent of Republicans support the idea, a new CBS News poll finds, while 74 percent of Democrats are opposed.
Earlier today, the president rallied supporters at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, during an 80-minute speech that he warned might go off-track.
TRUMP: By the way, you don't mind if I go off-script a little bit, because it's sort of boring. It's a little boring.
ZELENY: The crowd, of course, didn't mind a bit, as President Trump waxed nostalgic from his days as candidates Trump.
TRUMP: But do you remember I started running and people say, are you sure he's a conservative? I think now we have proved that I'm a conservative.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ZELENY: From the wall along the border with Mexico.
TRUMP: I had a couple of these characters in the back say, oh, he really doesn't want the wall. He just used that for campaigning.
I said, are you -- can you believe it?
TRUMP: You know, I say, every time I hear that, the wall gets 10 feet higher. You know that, right?
ZELENY: To his rants against the media.
[18:30:13] TRUMP: We have a very, very crooked media.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lock her up, lock her up!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lock her up, lock her up!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lock her up, lock her up!
ZELENY: That familiar chant from the campaign trail sounded a bit offkey today--
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell the truth! Tell the truth! Tell the truth!
ZELENY: -- as Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign official, is the latest to plead guilty in the Russia investigation.
The president also poked fun at himself, mentioning something he almost never does: his hair.
TRUMP: Oh, I try like hell to hide that bald spot, folks. I work hard at it. Doesn't look bad, hey we're hanging in. We're hanging in. We're hanging in there, right? Together we're hanging in.
ZELENY: Now, one thing the president not smiling about today is that ongoing issue of security clearances here at the White House. It's been an ongoing issue since the resignation of staff secretary Rob Porter.
One person who is believed to be on the verge of losing his top-secret clearance, Jared Kushner, the son-in-law and senior adviser to this president.
Of courses, we heard the president say earlier today it was up to General Kelly -- that's White House chief of staff John Kelly -- to enforce that memo he sent out a week ago, saying that if you have not received permanent status, you could not see that top-secret information. It appears the president not going to come to his aid.
So, Wolf, we end this week here at the White House with a question. What is Jared Kushner's future? And can he stay in his exact position of being involved in Middle peace and other matters -- Middle East peace and other matters?
BLITZER: Yes, he can't negotiate a Middle East peace agreement unless you have security clearances. That's for sure. Thanks so much.
BLITZER: Jeff Zeleny over at the White House.
The breaking news continues next. Paul Manafort vows to fight in court, even as he faces new charges tonight from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who's now getting information from Manafort's former business partner.
Plus, the FBI warned just weeks before the Florida school massacre that, quote, "Something's going happen." How did the critical tip fall through the cracks?
[18:36:46] BLITZER: We're following breaking news. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has now filed new charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. And Manafort's former business partner, Rick Gates, who also held a top position in the Trump campaign, has now entered into a plea bargain with Mueller and agreed to cooperate with his investigation.
Let's bring in our analysts and experts. And Jeffrey Toobin, Manafort reacted to Rick Gates' guilty plea with a statement. Let me read it to you. This is from Manafort: "Notwithstanding that Rick Gates pled today, I continue to maintain my innocence. I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence. For reasons yet to surface, he chose to do otherwise. This does not alter my commitment to defend myself against the untrue, piled-up charges contained in the indictments against me," closed quote.
Do these new charges change Manafort's calculations, do you think, Jeffrey?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: You bet they do. There's a very interesting phrase there. He says, "Our innocence." What that shows is that he understands they are a unit, that their conduct is completely bound up with each other.
If you look at the charging document today, they're mentioned together in virtually every paragraph. So if Gates is going to say, "I was involved in a criminal enterprise with -- with Paul Manafort," it's going to be very difficult for Manafort to argue to the jury, "Well, no, Gates is just making this all up, or he's just trying to protect himself."
This is a devastating development for Manafort's future in this case. And I think, given his age, given the magnitude of these charges, he is going to have to give serious thoughts to making a deal himself.
BLITZER: Yes. He's almost 70. If he's convicted on all these charges, he could wind up spending the rest of his life in jail, as you, yourself, pointed out yesterday.
Kaitlan, this is the third Trump campaign official now who has agreed to plead guilty, cooperate with the special counsel. And now Manafort, of course, as Jeffrey said, he's under enormous pressure to flip himself. How does this impact the president and others over at the White House?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rick Gates is really big. Because he's not someone they can just dismiss as a small fish that didn't play a large role. Because he actually had a really significant role. He was the deputy campaign chairman. And even once Paul Manafort left, in August of 2016, he remained on as a liaison between the RNC and the campaign. And the traveled with the campaign up until election day. And then he also remained as an outside adviser for several more months.
So he was there for a very substantive part of the campaign. He was there for policy decisions. He was there; he watched a lot go on. He was also Paul Manafort's right-hand man. So he likely knew a lot of what Paul Manafort knew, as well. So it could spell trouble in that way. He could lead to a lot of problems for Paul Manafort, as Jeffrey was just saying, because he could blow a hole in whatever Paul Manafort's defense is going to be.
BLITZER: Shawn Turner, look at the scope of this. We've got a graphic. I want to put it up on the screen. The scope of what Mueller has done so far. So far, 75 charges have been filed, 19 people have been charged. Five guilty pleas already, four people cooperating. Three businesses indicted. He always seems to have an element of surprise, as well. We only know a small piece of what he really has.
[18:40:00] SHAWN TURNER, CNN ANALYST: Yes, and in a town where it's virtually impossible to keep a secret, Mueller's team has done a really good job of managing the information flow. There have been a few details that have crept out here and there, but I think what's really noteworthy is what hasn't crept out. And that is his broader strategy with regard to where he's going.
We know he's trying to use these -- these indictments to apply pressure. But what we don't know, as we sit here today, we don't know exactly how these charges, these indictments relate to Russian interference in the -- in the election. More, we don't know if they do. So I think he still maintains that element of surprise.
I talked to people at the Justice Department today who -- to just ask a very simple question. I asked, you know, does this -- does this symbolize that Mueller is wrapping this up? Or he's just kind of putting a bow on this and this is going to end very soon? And I got a very direct answer. It was, "Not so fast. Stay tuned."
BLITZER: You know, Ron Brownstein, what do you think of the president's statement today that he's going to let the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, decide whether Jared Kushner, his son-in- law and senior adviser, gets security clearances?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think there's any other answer he could have given. I mean, I think that whether he leans on the chief of staff in private is another question. But if you look at the polling this week, I mean, there's been significant unease about the way they have handled this entire question of temporary security clearances, particularly in light of the Rob Porter situation.
It's not hard to do the thought experiment and try to imagine what would be going on in terms of subpoenas from the Republican-controlled Congress if there was this level of relying on temporary security clearances in a Democratic presidency.
I don't think he could have answered any other way. I think the bigger question -- and I think the bigger question, as I say, is whether he puts any pressure on in private. But I think it will be very difficult for them to allow Jared Kushner to maintain the access that he has now, especially given the report from CNN that part of the reason this is being held up is because of the questions being raised about him or relating to him in the ongoing Bob Mueller investigation.
TOOBIN: I've got an even bigger question.
BLITZER: Go ahead. TOOBIN: Why is Jared Kushner working there at all? What are his qualifications? He doesn't have a security clearance. He's been in the administration for a year. I mean, this is why nepotism is a terrible idea. He's unqualified, but he's also unfirable. This is not how businesses or government are supposed to work. And, you know, and they're stumbling around trying to find a solution. Why don't they just get rid of him?
BLITZER: Stick around, guys. There's more we need to discuss. There's more breaking news.
We're also learning new details of a tip about the Florida school gunman. Why did the FBI fail to act when a woman warned of, quote, his "shooting the place up"?
[18:47:26] BLITZER: There's breaking news in the investigation into the Florida school massacre. Tonight, CNN is learning new details of an explicit warning the FBI received about the gunman, Nikolas Cruz.
CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us.
Brian, this was a warning that potentially could have saved lives.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It could have, Wolf, and the fact that this tip was not passed along to the FBI's Miami field office is just devastating to the victims' families. The woman who called the FBI seemed to know Nikolas Cruz well and seemed to predict with chilling accuracy what he would do.
TODD (voice-over): Tonight, new accounts of missed opportunities to stop the Florida shooter. At the scene, and long before he got there are compounding the agony of victims' families. CNN has reviewed a transcript of a call the FBI received in January of this year, warning that Cruz could become a school shooter.
I know he's -- he's going to explode, the caller, who appears to know Cruz well tells the FBI tip line. Quote: I just think about, you know, getting into a school and just shooting the place up. The caller tells the FBI, quote, he had pulled a rifle on his mother. And says, quote, on the Instagram, he says, I want to kill people.
GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Who is known to students as a danger to shoot people.
TODD: Florida Governor Rick Scott is so angry about the missed tip he's called for the resignation of FBI Director Christopher Wray. In a statement Friday, Wray apologized that the tip was never given to the FBI's Miami field office and he called for a full investigation.
Tonight, two other missed warnings are now also under police review. A call to police last November that Cruz could be a school shooter in the making, and someone flagging to police in 2016 that Cruz had posted on Instagram he planned to, quote, shoot up a school. Newly released 911 calls also show that in November, Nikolas Cruz got in a fight with the family that took him in after his mother died. At the time, Cruz blamed his host family's son.
NICOLAS CRUZ: I kind of got mad. I punched the walls and stuff. And then a kid (AUDIO DELETED) came at me and threw me on the ground. He started attacking me and kicked me out of the house. And he said that was going to gut me if I came back.
TODD: But the host family tells 911 their son was the victim.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He punched him in the face. And he kind of hold him just so he doesn't punch and put him down. But he kept punching. Hi son threw him out. He's going to get his weapon. I know that right now. He's going to get the gun.
TODD: All of this comes as police are under new scrutiny about how they responded the day of the shooting, and whether Cruz could have been stopped earlier in the rampage.
[18:50:04] Sources in Coral Springs, Florida, tell CNN when Coral Springs police officers arrived at the high school, they were surprised and upset to see that armed school resource officer, Deputy Scott Peterson, and three other Broward County sheriff's deputies were outside the school and hadn't gone in yet.
The sources say the Broward deputies didn't appear to join the Coral Springs officers when they went in. But they caution evidence is still being reviewed.
Broward County sheriff's office hasn't yet responded but Broward Sheriff Scott Israel expressed shame at Deputy Peterson's alleged inaction.
SHERIFF SCOTT ISRAEL, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: Devastated. Sick to my stomach. There are no words. I mean, these families lost their children.
TODD: Sheriff Israeli said Deputy Peterson was outside the school for four minutes while Cruz was firing inside.
RON HOSKO, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Four minutes is a lot of time for someone with this type of weapon and magazines to kill people. And to hold and do nothing for four minutes absent an order from the chain of command to do so is unthinkable.
TODD: Now, what we don't know yet is Scott Peterson's own side of the story. CNN has tried various ways of reaching former Deputy Peterson. We have not been able to make contact with him -- Wolf.
BLTIZER: All right, Brian. Thanks very much. Brian Todd reporting.
Our panel is still here. Lots to assess. We'll be right back.
[18:56:13] BLITZER: More now on the breaking news. Tipster warning to the FBI more than a month before the Florida high school shooting, the gunman Nikolas Cruz was, quote, going to explode.
We're back with our analysts and experts.
Shawn Turner, what strikes you when we learn more about these really heartbreaking details. Something could have been done.
TURNER: Yes, they are heartbreaking, Wolf. And, you know, the FBI gets lots of calls from concerned citizens wants to report something they seen. But this call was different. The level of specificity, the level of detail, the sense of urgency. This caller said all the right things.
And so, you know, when I hear these details, you know, what I think is certainly someone at the FBI missed an opportunity. And there has to be an investigation to look into what exactly happened here.
But, you know, I think it's important to also say we are kind of looking for a reason to blame the FBI here. Look, the FBI really missed an opportunity here to prevent this tragedy, but we have to have a little bit of intellectual honesty, we missed opportunities for decades in this country.
BLITZER: We've got to learn some lessons.
Jeffrey Toobin, what do you think?
TOOBIN: Well, look, it's awful and heartbreaking, but it is also worth remembering that our legal system has enough trouble determining what happened in the past. It has even less chance of predicting what's going to happen in the future. I mean, the idea that we can sort of decide who is going to be a school shooter is -- we are misleading people if we think we can do that on a regular basis.
And, you know, I -- this was obviously a very specific tip. But, you know, we are not going to be able to predict these people in advance.
BLITZER: Kaitlan, when it comes to guns, where is the president right now?
COLLINS: Well, he's kind of been all over the place. We heard him throw out different ideas since he first had that listening session with students and teachers on Wednesday. But the biggest thing he has proposed and the most repeated is arming those school teachers with concealed weapons. He has this idea to give 20 percent of teachers with a gun, give them a bonus to have that gun, but this obviously comes with a lot of problems. There have been a lot of, you know, potential problems. No specifics from the White House how this would be actually implemented as policy, and many, many questions surrounding it.
BLITZER: You know, Ron Brownstein, where is the American public on gun control right now? And when you tell us, does it really make any difference given the power the NRA, for example, has in the House and the Senate?
BROWNSTEIN: The public is closely divided. It really has been since 2008 core question whether it's important to control gun ownership or protect gun rights. Although there is support for individual measures that is very high, background checks at 90 percent, assault weapon ban over 50 percent now consistently.
Look the key here is the geographic and cultural divide between the parties. And where the debate of this debate I think is going to be sharpest is in the suburban districts where Republicans are still holding on seats. And '90s, those kind of Republicans voted with Bill Clinton to pass the Brady Bill and the assault weapon ban. In recent years, they have been voting in lock step with the NRA, and I think after Parkland, and the shift in public opinion and the visibility of this issue, some of those Republicans in places like Orange County, and the suburbs of Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, they may be exposed this fall.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, anything going to happen, do you think?
TOOBIN: Nothing. Do you have another question?
BROWNSTEIN: No. But electorally something could happen. Electorally, Jeffry, something could happen.
TOOBIN: Electorally, yes.
TOOBIN: But look at Paul Ryan and look at Mitch McConnell, they haven't said a word. They aren't going to bring any of this stuff up. The RNA runs the House of Representatives and it turns the Senate.
BLITZER: On that note --
BROWNSTEIN: Because the Republican Party is now a rural-based party, but the last Republicans left in the metro areas, they are the ones who could be out on the limb after this horrific tragedy.
BLITZER: We'll see what the president does and how much influence.
Everybody, thank you very, very much.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.