Return to Transcripts main page


Ex-Trump Campaign Aide Pleads Guilty; Kelly to Decide on Kushner Security Clearance; Failures, Missed Signals and Politics in the Florida School Shooting; Thousands of Civilians Trapped in Eastern Ghouta; Second Russian Athlete Found Guilty of Doping. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired February 24, 2018 - 02:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): More shoes drop in the sprawling Mueller investigation in Washington. But former Trump aides, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, both charged, are now taking different paths.

As calls for in the U.S. for fewer guns, the U.S. president pushes his idea to arm teachers.

And a big question looms.

Will Russians participate under their own flag in the Olympic closing ceremony as another doping scandal hangs over the team?

These stories are all next here on CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you for joining us, we're live in Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen.


ALLEN: Criminal charges are stacking up against President Trump's former campaign manager. On Friday, prosecutors filed a new indictment against Paul Manafort, accusing him of secretly paying for European politicians to lobby in the U.S. on behalf of Ukraine.

The new charges come hours after Manafort's former long-time aide, Rick Gates, pleaded guilty Friday to two charges. He is now collaborating with Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. CNN's Evan Perez has more.


EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Former Trump campaign official Rick Gates is now a very important cooperating witness in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. And that's a big deal to Paul Manafort, Gates' business partner, and potentially for others in the Trump campaign who are still under investigation.

After all, Manafort was the former campaign chairman. In court, prosecutors described the scheme in which the two long-time business partners allegedly laundered $30 million and failed to pay taxes for almost 10 years and used real estate that they owned to fraudulently secure more than $20 million in loans.

Prosecutors piled on new charges against Manafort on Friday, alleging an illegal campaign to use former European politicians as lobbyists for Ukraine in the United States.

Gates pleaded guilty to two criminal charges, conspiracy to defraud the United States and making a false statement.

Manafort issued a statement insisting that he is innocent, saying, quote, "I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue to battle to prove our innocence. For reasons yet to surface, he's chosen to do otherwise."

Gates could face between 4.5 years and just under six years in prison. That's a big break from possibly decades if he had been found guilty on the charges he was facing -- Evan Perez, CNN, Washington.


ALLEN: Now the latest on the president's son-in-law. The White House was alerted two weeks ago that significant information requiring additional investigation would further delay the security clearance process for Jared Kushner. That according to "The Washington Post."

President Trump says the decision on whether his son-in-law and senior adviser keeps his temporary security clearance will be made by chief of staff John Kelly. Questions have been raised about Kushner having access to classified materials with only a temporary clearance.

He has not been granted a permanent clearance because of questions about his background check.


There's a lot to talk about. Let's turn to political analyst Michael Genovese, president of the Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University and author of "How Trump Governs."

Michael, thank you for joining us.


ALLEN: What does it say, first of all, let's start with the president's son-in-law, that Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, cannot get a permanent security clearance to work in the White House?

GENOVESE: Well, he shouldn't be there in the first place. He has a job description that far exceeds his experience and his talents. And the fact that he cannot get a clearance speaks volumes to the entire absurdity of him being this close to power.

The president clearly trusts him; loyalty is big to the president. But you also have to have talent. You also have to have experience. You also have to have some people in place, in important positions, who know how to --


GENOVESE: -- do the job. And so over a year and no security clearance, maybe you ought to cut bait.

ALLEN: We'll wait and see because this very serious issue also pits the embattled White House chief of staff, General Kelly, against Kushner. And Kelly apparently, according to reports, not a huge fan of both the president's daughter and son-in-law having such access to the West Wing.

Do you expect the president will sit on the sidelines and let this play out?

GENOVESE: Well, I think he'd prefer doing that. I think he wants to make General Kelly the heavy. The president doesn't want to do anything to harm in any way his relationship to his family. He really does take great pride in his family --


GENOVESE: -- and brings them close. They've been advisers for a long time.

But this is not a case where you want his family to advise, you want experts to advise. So I think in one sense, General Kelly is being asked to nudge Kushner away. And in another sense, the president still wants to keep him close to the vest.

ALLEN: We'll wait and see how that plays out.

This week, the special counsel on Russia, Mr. Mueller, seemed to tighten the screws as far as the investigation, filing new charges against former Trump campaign aides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.

Mueller certainly seems interested in the activities of Manafort.

But the question is, does it lead back to the president's campaign?

Should the White House be worried?

GENOVESE: Well, let's start with what happened today when Gates basically said he's going to cooperate. Gates was an ultimate insider in the campaign and in the transition. And so he's someone who knows a lot about what went on and a lot about where the bodies are buried.

He also works so closely with Paul Manafort. He's basically caved in, because I think the Mueller team said, look, you can either go through this process and spend maybe years and millions of dollars and end up in prison anyway or you can cop a deal with us and turn over some information that we need.

And so the question then becomes, does Manafort follow?

Right now, I think Paul Manafort wants to try to hold out in hopes of getting a pardon. But I think Mueller's information, with the help of Gates, is going to be so much and it will squeeze Manafort so much, that he may have to just cave in as well. If that's the case, then the president should start sweating.

ALLEN: Michael Genovese, as always, thank you for your comments.

GENOVESE: Thank you, Natalie.

ALLEN: More failures and missed signals in the Florida school shooting which could have stopped the massacre or perhaps saved more lives. CNN's Randi Kaye reports from Florida.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While the gunman was inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, killing people at random, a trained Broward County sheriff's deputy did nothing.

SHERIFF SCOTT ISRAEL, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: Devastated. Sick to my stomach. There are no words.

KAYE (voice-over): The Broward County sheriff revealing the stunning news that one deputy, Scot Peterson, who was armed and in uniform, clearly knew there was an active shooter but stayed in his position outside Building 12.

The sheriff says video shows the deputy doing nothing for more than four minutes while the bullets flew inside. The shooting lasted about six minutes.

Deputy Peterson has since resigned.

When reporters asked what he should have done...

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

KAYE (voice-over): -- and new information tonight that Peterson wasn't the only sheriff's deputy who failed to act. Now, Coral Springs police sources tell CNN that three other Broward County sheriff's deputies also remained outside, pistols drawn, but hiding behind their vehicles.

It's unclear if the shooter was still there when they arrived, but not one of them had gone into the school. It was the Coral Springs officers who were the first to go in.

Meanwhile, during the shooting, another key misstep. Turns out the surveillance video security teams were watching, in hopes of locating the 19-year-old gunman in the school, had been rewound.

The 20-minute video delay led authorities to believe the gunman was still in the building when, in reality, he was long gone.

CHIEF TONY PUSTIZZI, CORAL SPRINGS, FLORIDA POLICE: The delay never put us in a situation where any kids' lives were in danger.

KAYE (voice-over): Long before the shooting, there were warning signs that went nowhere. Even the FBI missed a major red flag.

CNN has reviewed a transcript from a January 5th call this year. A tipster close to the Parkland shooter warning the FBI that the teen was, quote, "going to explode."

The female tipster spoke of his social media posts about guns and his violence in school, saying she feared him getting into a school and just shooting the place up.

The FBI has admitted that proper protocols weren't followed on a key tip about the suspect just weeks before the attack.

DAVID BOWDICH, FBI ACTING DEPUTY DIRECTOR: There was a mistake made. We know that. But it is our job to make sure that we do everything in our power to ensure that does not happen again.

KAYE (voice-over): Also, the Broward County sheriff now revealing their office had received 18 calls related to the suspect over the past decade. In a 2016 call, officers got a tip that he planned to shoot up an unknown school. Police records show the responding deputy passed the information on to a school resource officer.

In another call last November, police records show a caller warned the teen was collecting guns, suggesting he could be a school shooter in the making. Officers simply referred it to the Palm Beach Sheriff's Department for review.

Also last year, a family in Palm Beach County alerted police that the suspect had put a gun up to someone's head.


KAYE (voice-over): The suspect himself called 9-1-1 about the incident.

NIKOLAS CRUZ, SUSPECT: I kind of got mad and I started punching walls and stuff, then a kid (INAUDIBLE) came at me and threw me on the ground.

KAYE (voice-over): Police responded and were told at the scene it had all been worked out -- Randi Kaye, CNN, Parkland, Florida.


ALLEN: On the issue of guns, President Trump signaled a willingness to raise the legal age of owning some weapons to 21. And he reiterated his wish to ban bump stocks, a device to make semiautomatics make shoot as fast as machine guns.

And he says he has another answer: arming teachers.


TRUMP: Well-trained, gun-adept teachers and coaches and people that work in those buildings, people that were in the Marines for 20 years and retired, people in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Coast Guard, people that are adept with weaponry and with guns -- they teach.

I mean, I don't want to have 100 guards standing with rifles all over the school. You do a concealed carry permit.


ALLEN: The teachers' union in the U.S. has come out and strongly against that idea of arming teachers.

At the same event Friday, Mr. Trump attacked Democrats, saying they want to take away Americans' right to own guns.

A number of companies are now cutting ties with the NRA, the National Rifle Association, the powerful lobby group that defends Americans' gun rights. Car rental companies, Enterprise, Alamo, Hertz, National, Avis and Budget all stopping discount programs now for NRA members. The same for MetLife insurance and Allied and North American Van Lines and First National Bank of Omaha, stopping its NRA branded visa cards.

It is a living hell. That's how Syrians in Eastern Ghouta describe the bombardments that's killing them. Ahead here, the efforts by the U.N. to stop the slaughter and who is standing in the way.

Plus the Olympic Games have helped reduce tensions between North and South Korea. We'll tell you why one North Korean refugee doesn't think it will last.




ALLEN: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM.

At the United Nations there is still no action on demands for a 30-day cease fire in Syria. A Security Council vote set for Friday has been pushed to Saturday. The U.S. accuses Russia of blocking the truce while the Kremlin says the U.S. and its allies can't guarantee militants, rebels will observe it.

Areas like Eastern Ghouta remain under intense bombardment. Here is why one U.N. official says the cease fire is so desperately needed.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, reiterates that the humanitarian situation of the civilians in Eastern Ghouta is appalling and, therefore, we are in urgent need for a cease- fire that stops both the horrific heavy bombardment of Eastern Ghouta and the indiscriminate mortar shelling on Damascus.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ALLEN: Almost half a million people are trapped in Eastern Ghouta. Human rights groups say they are in desperate need of aid and there are reports hundreds of civilians have been killed in just the past few days, almost 500; 99 of them children. Here is how people there describe the nightmare of their life.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).


ALLEN: Again, that is what they're dealing with there in Ghouta. And the Security Council may vote in a few hours, an agreement on a cessation of the bombing. France has warned that a failure to reach a cease-fire could result in a loss of credibility for the Security Council.

Earlier, I asked CNN global affairs analyst David Rohde if that argument has merit now.


DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: We saw this before in the conflict in Bosnia and in many other conflicts where the U.N. Security Council isn't united and it really doesn't have credibility. And I think it's correct. I think these are empty statements by the U.N. It has very little influence.

And as long as Russia wants to back the Assad regime and the U.S. isn't willing to aggressively counter Russia, the bloodshed will continue.

ALLEN: So seven years in, the Syrian war goes on. Turkey is fighting the Kurds. Iran and Israel are threatening each other over Syria. Russia supports the regime.

So it's not just a horrific, deadly situation for these citizens that we're seeing in Ghouta; it continues to flare in all kinds of dangerous directions as many predicted long ago.

Doesn't this make it almost impossible to imagine the outcome for this region?

ROHDE: It is difficult. And it's also very dangerous. One of the most extraordinary incidents recently was the first lethal clash between Russian nationals and American forces.

They were Russian security contractors who tried to take a compound in Deir ez-Zor, Syria. Dozens of Russians died when American airstrikes were called in. So it's an amazing and tragic scenario, half a dozen countries involved.

But again, it's civilians who are paying the most. Hundreds of thousands of people have died in Syria. And I would blame the Assad regime most of all. The brutal attacks on Eastern Ghouta has been by the government. Russia is backing them but it's really the Assad regime that just continues to slaughter people who oppose it.

ALLEN: Is there any other country or world leader that can have an impact when it comes to Russia in all this?

ROHDE: No. I think that this is very critical for Putin. He has a presidential election coming up and he needs this appear to be a successful Russian intervention in Syria.

Again, the problem is that the Syrian government, most of the country, most of them are Sunnis. They oppose the Assad regime. And the Assad regime does not have enough troops to control the country. So this stalemate grinds on.


ALLEN: We will let you know what the U.N. Security Council does in a few hours when they meet on Syria.

The U.S. has imposed new sanctions on North Korea aimed at shipping. The U.S. is targeting numerous companies and vessels it believes are helping North Korea evade trade restrictions. As a news conference with Australia's prime minister, President Trump warned harsher measures could follow.


TRUMP: If the sanctions don't work we'll 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.

We have tremendous support all around the world for what we're doing. It really is rogue nation. If we can make a deal, it'll be a great thing. And if we can't, something will have to happen.


ALLEN: He was smiling when he talked about phase two. But he didn't elaborate on what that could be.

Well, she is the surprise star of the Winter Olympics, taking home two golds in two different sports. We'll go live to South Korea just ahead for that story.





ALLEN: Sports and diplomacy have been the underlying themes of the Winter Games at PyeongChang with North and South Korea reducing tensions if only for two weeks. But one North Korean man who fled to South Korea 70 years ago doesn't think it will change his situation. Paula Hancocks has his story.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kwon Moon-kook, who was just 19 when the Korean War broke out in 1950, he deserted the North Korean military, hating the ideology and walked 14 days to get home, hiding in his mother's attic.

He then joined the U.N. forces led by the United States.

"I thought it would be a matter of days," he said, "for our forces to take over the North. I told my parents I'd be back in a week and ran away in the middle of the night."

Kwon said he wouldn't have left if he had known he would never see his parents or two brothers again. He's heard nothing in almost 70 years. He doesn't know if any of them are still alive.

One of millions of families destroyed by the Korean War, one of thousands of North Koreans that settled here in Abai (ph) village on the east coast near the DMZ so they could move back home easily when the time came. But it never did.

Kwon married in South Korea and has four children and nine grandchildren but still misses his North Korean family every day. He checks Google Earth once a week to see satellite images of his hometown near Wonsan in the north, the closest he can get to seeing it again.

HANCOCKS: Ah, so there. That's where you used to --


"No, this is my school," he says. "My mother and father live there."

Some see the Olympic sporting diplomacy between North and South Korea as a positive development. But Kwon says he's not happy to see a joint Korean team. He says they're wearing masks and he doesn't think it will change his situation.

He has not applied to be part of official family reunions between North and South, fearing any family still alive would be punished for his military desertion a lifetime ago.

"I was almost 20 when I left home," he says. "I'm now almost 90. There's no joy of life for me. I'm waiting to die.

"I don't know why," he says. "The older I become, the more I miss my brothers." -- Paula Hancocks, CNN, Abai village, South Korea.


ALLEN: Such a sad story there.

President Trump's daughter, Ivanka, is cheering on Team USA at the games. She is in PyeongChang, South Korea, ahead of the closing ceremonies on Sunday night and spending Saturday attending a few competitions, like men's curling, where the USA is taking on Sweden for the gold.

CNN "WORLD SPORT's" Amanda Davies has the latest on all the happenings from PyeongChang and the breakout star and the country that just can't stop getting gold.

Hi, there, Amanda.


Yes, Saturday the 24th of February, 2018, a day that Ester Ledecka won't forget. It's the day she made history claiming her second gold medal in her second sport at this Winter Olympics. Absolutely incredible.

She shocked the world, you might remember and herself to win gold in her least favorite event, the alpine skiing SuperG last week. And today she followed it up winning again, this time in the snowboard parallel giant slalom. She was the favorite for today.

So you suspect she won't have made the same mistake she did last week in not putting on any makeup, which she felt she meant she had to her press conference in ski goggles. That, though, the Czech Republic's seventh medal of the games.

And there's been a record for Norway as well. Their bronze in the alpine skiing mixed team event was their 38th medal. Which sees them surpass the total of most medals ever by a country at a single Winter Olympics.

It's quite incredible, given the size of their team, just 109 athletes. That's in contrast to the USA's 242, for example. It certainly left a lot of the other teams scratching heads, trying to work out how they've done it. And talking of head scratching, you'd think --


DAVIES: -- a fair amount of that goes on at the IOC executive board meeting here in PyeongChang this afternoon. It's the meeting where they will discuss whether or not to allow the banned Russian team to transform their neutral uniforms and Olympic flag back to using their own Russian flag and Russian kit.

For Sunday evening's closing ceremony, you may remember it was put on the table as an option when the deal was struck to allow some Russian athletes to compete, despite their national ban for state sponsored doping.

It's a decision that the Russian whistleblower, Grigory Rodchenkov, has described as the most important moment in its history for the IOC. And it's one that's most definitely been complicated by the failed drugs test of bobsledder Nadezhda Sergeeva. She became the second member of the team of Russian Olympic athletes to fail a test during this games.

That is two of just four positive tests at this games coming from the team that is meant to represent the new, clean face of Russian sports. It will be interesting to see how the board feel that it plays into the ideal of the OAR team competing by the letter of the law and the spirit of the games.

The board meeting gets underway in about 10 minutes from now. It's expected to last a couple hours. But the decision we're not expecting to find out until tomorrow -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, well, Russia keeps kind of missing the spirit of the games, at least some of the athletes do. Amanda Davies for us there in a snowy South Korea. Thank you.


ALLEN: Thanks for watching. Our top stories will be right after this.