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Lawmakers Point To Police Failures, Want Sheriff Out; New CNN Poll: Seven In 10 Favor Tighter Gun Laws; Robert Mueller: The Man Behind The Russia Probe; Students And Teachers Return To Stoneman Douglas This Week; South Korean President: Pyongyang Willing To Talk With Us; U.S. Assault Rifles Being Sold On An App In Syria. Aired 5- 6p ET

Aired February 25, 2018 - 17:00   ET



[17:00:00] SHERIFF SCOTT ISRAEL, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: ... made in his letter. It was a shameful, politically motivated letter that had no facts. And, of course, I won't resign.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: Well, this is the letter that the sheriff is talking about, written by a Republican state representative to the governor, calling for the sheriff's removal.

We should point out, the sheriff is an elected Democrat. Florida's house speaker, also a Republican, adding the weight of his office to this same cause, speaker -- Speaker Richard Corcoran writing, today I sent the following letter to Florida Governor Scott asking that he suspend Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel for incompetence and dereliction of duty.

I was honored to be joined by 73 Republican colleagues. CNN's Martin Savidge is in Parkland, Florida, right now. And, Martin, that is a long list of lawmakers right now calling for the sheriff of Broward County to be removed from his position. Now, do the people that you've talked to there feel the same way?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they do. They do. In fact, it was probably the people of Parkland where this all really started to begin. Even before it got up to Tallahassee and the legislature occupy there.

Many of the families here have been deeply disturbed, as they have heard so many red flags that seem to have been overlooked by law enforcement.

But the final straw seems to be this report that there was Deputy Peterson, the only armed deputy on campus who did not act as their children were being killed. I should talk about Representative Bill Hager. He is speaking out about why he wants, Israel, to step down. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILL HAGER (R), FLORIDA STATE HOUSE: Clearly a series of failures at multiple levels. I've identified the sheriff's office, probably the most grievous of fault, at least based on the reported facts, as we can understand them so far lies there.


SAVIDGE: Legislature's back in session again tomorrow, of course Monday, and I'm being told that there will be even more calls coming and more pressure being applied to the governor. Only the governor, we are told, can remove Israel from his post.

It could be possible that, Israel, could step down on his own accord. And already, the governor is saying that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is going to investigate the police response, and the response by deputies in the initial aftermath of the shooting, Ryan.

NOBLES: So far, the sheriff seems pretty defiant in whether or not he will resign, telling Jake he's not going to do that. But, Martin, we also heard the sheriff tell Jake Tapper that he sees this effort as just a politically motivated effort to get him out of office.

And we pointed out before, he was elected as a Democrat. The house speaker, the governor of Florida, they're all Republicans. Now, is the sheriff suggesting that the statehouse is using this horrific tragedy -- tragedy to try to drum a Democrat out of office?

SAVIDGE: Well, the sheriff might suggest that, but there is no one up in Tallahassee who is going to support that. It should be pointed out that up until this point, Sheriff Israel has actually been quite popular.

He was re-elected in 2016 with over 70 percent of the vote. I mean, that's a landslide by any measure. So he has had a very sudden turn when it comes to his political future.

But, of course, this tragedy and the anger it has spawned, and this is where we are on this whole stage to have the grieving process, the anger. And it is clear that many people believe that he has not taken the responsibility.

And I've got to tell you, a lot of folks were not pleased with his appearance on State of the Union today. Felt that Jake Tapper really had him questioning hard and he felt that the answers that the sheriff gave just weren't good enough.

NOBLES: Yes, not just to people in Parkland, a lot of outrage across the country after that interview. Martin Savidge, live in Parkland. Martin, thank you for that update.

Now, it's tough to find an issue that Americans can all get behind. Polls show the country split on legalizing marijuana, health care, even same-sex marriage. Yet the one issue right now that has united the country is the idea of universal gun background checks.

It is a staggering 97 percent of Americans that are now behind it. That's the highest level of support ever measured by the independent Quinnipiac University national poll. And today in a CNN poll, 70 percent now say they back stricter gun laws in general.

That's up from 52 percent who said the same in an October poll. Joining me now to talk about all of this, April Ryan, CNN political analyst, Alice Stewart, a CNN political commentator, and James Gagliano, a CNN law enforcement analyst and a retired FBI supervisory special agent.

And, James, before we get to this appetite for a stricter gun control, I want to get your reaction for these calls for the sheriff of Broward County to step down. Do you think -- I mean, do you agree with this assessment that he should really no longer has the credibility to remain in this post?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Ryan, I watched the entire State of the Union interview and my two takeaways were this, Kudos to Jake Tapper for testing power and pushing back. And book of proverbs, Pride goeth before the fall as I listen to the sheriff.

[17:05:05] Listen, he's got a large department. I understand how the actions or the inactions of one deputy shouldn't taint an entire department, because that department is made up of men and women who are brave and do their job.

In this instance, I believe it's the culture and his refusal to admit it like the FBI director did. We made a mistake. We've got to get to the bottom of it. His refusal to do that, I agree with the calls for him to step down.

NOBLES: I mean, obviously, no one thinks that, you know, he was the one standing outside of this school and not running in to take control of this situation.

But is that the job of a leader, to take one of his deputies and put him out there and place all of the blame on the shoulders of this one person, when his entire department has the responsibility of keeping the people in that community safe?

GAGLIANO: I'm a west pointer. Leaders create culture. They align their organization. The fact that he had a deputy here who did not understand that post-Columbine, after 1999, we go to the sound of the guns, is unconscionable.

He needs to admit that. He needs to try to tone down the hubris. And I know he's an elected official, sheriffs are in that one zone where they're not appointed, they're elected, so maybe it has to work out where the people who elected him have to take notice and do something different the next time he comes up for re-election.

NOBLES: OK, all right, James, I appreciate that assessment. Let's bring, April and Allison, into this conversation now and talk about the political reality of this.

And, Alice, how is it possible that the will of 97 percent of the people can't seem to get something done? Do you think that the Congress will finally take action as it relates to at least background checks when they come back on Monday?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. There's no way they cannot do something on this. And one thing to keep in mind, the NRA is even in support of enhancing our background check system.

That's one thing that everyone can agree on. A system -- information system is only as good as the information that's put into it. And we do need to improve that.

And look, I think all of the options that we have out there on the table, the president has been clear that he would support many issues, hardening schools is a big one, and also, increasing background checks.

Governor Scott, I think, has really, really stepped up to the plate and act quickly in understanding that their legislature is only in session for a few more weeks, laying out a multi-million-dollar plan that would work to improve background checks.

He's in favor of raising the minimum age for purchasing guns. He's also in favor of banning bump stocks and hardening schools, which are all factors that this nation really needs to look at seriously.

NOBLES: But, April, let's talk about the Democrats' role in all of this. It seems as though every Democrat you talk to has a different priority when it comes to gun control.

Are they missing a moment here by not streamlining their message and putting out something very clear? This is specifically what we want to get behind?

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I'm going to say, it may not necessarily just be about the Democrats and what they see. You know, I talked to a Congressional leader just before we came on the air.

And they said, look, you know, they believe that there could be background checks, but the issue now has been taken basically out of -- to a certain extent, out of what happened. And now the onus is on the FBI and the police department. Taking the focus on all the rest of what's on the table off.

And if you have 97 percent saying, yes, we should do background checks, you know, they think the background check issue will happen.

But other than that, they are saying, it may not, because you have got all of this focus on the problems that could have -- the issues that could have stopped this with the FBI and at least cut into the numbers of dead and injured with the police department.

NOBLES: Right.

RYAN: So we have to see how this plays out. But the pressure that has been placed on the president, on the NRA, on Republicans and Democrats, is evident and it will take the pressure, again, to make more movement happen, if it happens, if anything happens. NOBLES: That is a very great point, April. I mean, there are clearly

two streams of conversation taking place here, one about gun control, the other about the law enforcement response. There are probably two different conversations.

But that doesn't mean the focus shouldn't be on both of those issues. And, James, I want to play some sound now from a Democratic Senator, Chris Murphy.

He, of course, represented Newtown, Connecticut, during the Sandy Hook shooting -- the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. And listen to what he has to say.


SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: As much as we all would have liked this school security officer to act differently, once you are in the position of hoping that a school security officer or a gym teacher decides to take a pistol to somebody with a military-style assault weapon, public policy has failed.

You should be passing laws to stop that kind of horrific incident from happening in the first place. So I don't think you can just assume that better law enforcement response is going to quell the epidemic of gun violence in this country.


[17:10:00] NOBLES: And this kind of plays right into what, April, is talking about here, James. Because you have the laws that are on the books and then you have what -- how this law enforcement group handled this particular situation. Could they have been better equipped to handle this situation if the laws in this country were better?

GAGLIANO: Sure, great question. And I think Senator Murphy, to his point, I'm going to agree and disagree. So quickly, I'll break it down like this. First of all, who are the 3 percent of Americans who don't believe that universal background checks are a good idea? Where are those people?

I haven't met them in law enforcement. I haven't met them on the right side of the aisle or the left side of the aisle. Should law enforcement have responded better here? Absolutely. And it starts at the top. It starts with the FBI. We missed leads.

January 5th, we got a lead that was an actionable lead and it wasn't acted upon and we're going to try to get to the bottom of it. Did the locals miss 39 phone calls that basically brought them to this young man's doorstep and didn't figure out a way to interdict this? Absolutely.

Did our mental health system, HIPAA issues, did that go into this mix as well? It's not a single issue. There are a lot of things that need to be looked at. But as I keep hearing from folks on both sides of the aisle, if not now, when? We've got act on this. NOBLES: And I want to talk more about the politics of all of this

with April and Alice, as well, because, you know, everybody talks about the strengthening of background checks, which is important.

But it's also important to keep in mind that there is a Supreme Court decision on the books that essentially prevents a federal background check system.

They can put it in place, but it's still upon the onus of local governments and local states to say that they want to participate in that.

You know, Alice, how can the Congress craft a law that complies with the Supreme Court decision, but still strengthens this background check process, to make it easier to make sure that the bad guys aren't getting the guns?

STEWART: Ryan, I guess the main focus is to enforce the existing laws and what many are talking about in the conversation is to create incentives and incentivize people, to make sure and put the proper information, first of all, in the NICS System, and more importantly, making sure that that information is shared and accessible by all. And it is important.

We look at all aspects of background checks. And Congress will be discussing this. The president has been clear that he is for enhancing this. And as I said, even knowing that the NRA is for enhancing this, that will go a long way.

And as, James said, this isn't just an isolated incident that just happened on this day. As he said, there were countless incidents where law enforcement were notified of this person and even went to his home 23 times and nothing was done.

So background checks at the point of sale are critical. But also, we need to look at the component of following up when tips are given to the law enforcement agencies. How do we go about addressing these people and getting them the help that they need.

NOBLES: All right, April, James, Alice, terrific conversation. Thank you so much for joining me.

STEWART: Thanks, Ryan.

NOBLES: Parkland students demanding action after seeing their classmates gunned down in cold blood.


SAMUEL ZEIF, LOST FRIEND IN PARKLAND SCHOOL SHOOTING: I don't understand why I can still go in a store and buy a weapon of war -- an AR.


NOBLES: That student just returned to his school. We are looking at live pictures right now of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, an open house taking place right now for students to enter back into their school for the first time since this shooting. What could be going through their mind? We're going to talk to that student when we come back.


NOBLES: Robert Mueller is undoubtedly one of the most important men in Washington right now. But what do we know about him beyond the investigation he's conducting into Russia's election meddling?

CNN's chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, takes an in-depth look at the man behind one of the most important and polarizing investigations in modern political history.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Special Counsel Robert Mueller is a mystery man, perhaps the most private public figure in Washington. But as the leader of the Russia investigation he's also a political ground zero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the public trust in this whole thing is gone.

BORGER (voice-over): And in the sights of a President who wanted him fire.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Last year, the President had ordered the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller back down after the White House counsel threatened to quit.

BORGER (voice-over): Putting Mueller in a bizarre position of investigating whether the President tried to fire him. But you'll never hear about it from Mueller.

GARETT GRAFF, AUTHOR, THE TREATH MATRIX: I mean this is someone who has turned down more press conferences and interviews than most people in Washington ever get the chance to give. He doesn't really live talking about himself. He doesn't really like speaking with the press.

BORGER (voice-over): At the start, Mueller was a bipartisan favorite.

ROBERT RAY, INDIPENDENT COUSEL DURING BILL CLINTON INVESTIGATION: He would have been on anybody's list of let's say the top five people in the country to have, you know, taken on this kind of a responsibility.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all need to let Mr. Mueller do his job. I think he's the right guy at the right time.

BORGER (voice-over): With a long resume. At 73, he's been involved for decades in some of the Justice Department's most celebrated cases. Mobster John Gotti, Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega.

ROBERT MULLER, SPECIAL COUNSEL: Directed to Pan Am 103... BORGER: And the Pan Am 103 bombing in Lockerbie Scotland in 1988, a

case that's still remains personal.

MUELLER: I'll never forget the visit that I made to Lockerbie where I saw the saw the small wooden warehouse in which were stored the various affects of your loved ones. A white sneaker, a Syracuse sweatshirt, Christmas presents and photographs.

GRAFF: He's been effectively the same Bob Mueller in every place he has ever worked. Whether that was the U.S. attorney's office in San Francisco in the 1970s, whether that was the George H.W. Bush administration in the 1980s, whether that was the D.C homicide prosecutor's office in the 1990s or the FBI in the 2000s.

[17:20:05] He is a hard driving, he's tenacious, he is incredibly thorough and has a very strong sense of right or wrong.

BORGER (voice-over): Not Republican or Democrat.

PHILL MUDD, FORMER FBI SENIOR INTELLIGENECE ADVISER: In one or half years or whatever, 2000, I didn't say hear him say anything political.

BORGER (on-camera): Really in Washington?

MUDD: Yes, I know that sounds weird. He might have said that guy's a jerk. I didn't see it as a partisan issue.

BORGER (on-camera): How would you describe his politics?


BORGER (on-camera): As in there are none?

MONACO: He's apolitical. He's nonpartisan. He is, I -- sorry, I think he's become quite clear, a pretty law and order guy. But he doesn't speak of things in political terms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States.

BORGER (voice-over): Which is partly why President Bush picked him to run the FBI in 2001.

GEORGE BUSH, 43RD PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: The FBI must remain independent of politics and uncompromising in its mission.

BORGER (voice-over): Mueller arrived at the FBI just seven days before 9/11. He served most of his term under Bush. And when President Obama asked him to stay for two more years, it required an act of Congress the Senate approved 100-0. His M.O., abide the book's guide even after hours.

MUDD: People told me after that Christmas party, while we're going to the director's house, the guy who never really interacts with us, that at the end of the party that he would flick the lights. So, it's going to 7:09, at 9:03, it's like, well, on the invitation, 7:09 it's 9:03 lights on, that's kind of a signal.

BORGER (voice-over): Married for 50 years to a former teacher, the father of two daughters. There still wasn't much small talk about family at work -- a literally buttoned-up and buttoned-down boss.

MUDD: I remember telling him, director you wear a white button-down shirt everyday. Can you wear like tattered or something?

GRAFF: I asked him finally years after he had been director, you know, what was the deal with the white shirts when you were at the FBI? He said, I understood I was leading the FBI through a wrenching period of change.

I wanted to wear the white shirt because I wanted the other FBI agents to be able to know that this was still the agency that they had signed up to join.

BORGER (voice-over): His dress code as unforgiving as his work ethic.

MONACO: He was in the office between 6:00 and 6:30 every morning, and he would always plop his briefcase down on the chair, opposite my desk, not to sit down and keep a tour or a shoot the breeze. Immediately what's happening, what's going on?

BORGER (on-camera): What if you're not a good briefer?


BORGER (on-camera): Done?

FERNANDEZ: Then you're done. I mean, the boss likes a good briefer. People use to wake up at 4:00 in the morning and study for two hours before briefing the boss. It was like the big test to the day.

MUDD: There's not a lot of back and forth. Very quickly you're going to go through the details of the case.

BORGER (on-camera): Would you assume that he is managing the Special Counsel investigation the same way?

MUDD: No, heck yes. I wouldn't assume it. That is his -- it's not like a professional twist, that's his DNA. What's going on today? What do you got? What do you got? What do you got?

I don't want to hear a lot of noise. I want to hear what the facts are. Let's talk about it. What's your judgment? What do you think? OK. Next, there's the decision, let's move on. Let's go. I never saw any curiousness or nervousness ever, ever, ever.

BORGER: Ever, never?

MUDD: Never.

BORGER: The pressure on Muller now as Special Counsel is intense but he's seen worse. FERNANDEZ: Forget this is man that in his early 20s fought in Vietnam. I don't think there's anything in Washington that's going to be any type of fear that he'd face when he was a young man.

BORGER (voice-over): Mueller grew up in the wealthy Philadelphia suburbs and attended an elite boarding school, a classmate of John Kerry, then to Princeton. But the combat death of classmate David Hackett in Vietnam inspired Mueller to join the marines.

GRAFF: He was wounded in combat, shot through the leg, received bronze star with valor, Purple Heart and, you know, goes right back in the fight a couple of weeks later.

MUELLER: I will always consider myself fortunate to have lived through the war in Vietnam, and there were many men such as David Hackett who did not.

And in some sense you feel that you have been given a second lease on life and you want to make the most of it to contribute in some way.

BORGER (voice-over): After graduating the University of Virginia Law School, Mueller soon found his way to the Department of Justice and remained there for most of the next four decades.

MUELLER: My colleagues here at the Department of Justice passed...

BORGER (voice-over): With two short breaks to give private practice a try.

GRAFF: Bob Mueller has been notoriously unhappy every time he has tried to be in private practice. He just can't defend guilty people. They'll meet with a client, they'll explain his problem, and he'll say, well, it sounds like you should go to jail then. You know, that...

BORGER: So he'll tell his client...

[17:25:00] GRAFF: It sounds like you're guilty. Bob Mueller is someone who sees the world in very black and white terms.

BORGER (voice-over): By 2004 Mueller was running the FBI when his phone rang. It was James Comey, then Deputy Attorney General. It was the first time Mueller and Comey would find themselves in a very controversial legal drama.

JAMES COMEY, FMR FBI DIRECTOR: I was very upset. I was angry.

BORGER (voice-over): Comey was worried the Bush administration was determined to keep a warrant less eavesdropping program that Mueller, Comey and their boss, Attorney General John Ashcroft thought was illegal. But Ashcroft was in the hospital recovering from surgery leaving Comey in charge.

COMEY: I was concerned that given how ill I knew the attorney general was, that there might be an effort to ask him to overrule me when he was in no condition to do that. Called Director Mueller, which whom I'd been discussing this

particular matter and had been a great help to me over that week, and told him what was happening. He said, Ill meet you at the hospital right now.

BORGER (voice-over): They had to literally race administration officials to Ashcroft's bedside.

COMEY: Director Mueller instructed the FBI agents present not to allow me to be removed from the room under any circumstances.

BORGER (voice-over): In the end, Ashcroft backed Comey and Mueller.

GRAFF: He enlisted Bob Mueller because he knew that Bob Mueller had this incredible nonpartisan reputation in Washington, while Comey might be able to be personally blamed for having political motives or thinking politics, no one was going to be able to attach that label to Bob Mueller.

BORGER (voice-over): That was then. Now Trump views their relationship with suspicion.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, he's very, very good friends with Comey, which is very bothersome.

BORGER (voice-over): Mueller loyalists deny it. But it's all part of the new landscape as he investigates the President.

REP. TREY GOWDY, (R) HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: In Congress we just assume politics infects and invades everything.

BORGER (voice-over): And it has. News of disparaging text messages about Trump led Mueller to remove a member of his team.

GOWDY: I think they're devastated. They're beyond showing political preferences. It very much impacts people's perception of fairness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President are you...

BORGER (voice-over): Then the President declassified a document challenging the FBI's professional behavior.

TRUMP: I think it's a disgrace what's going on in this country. I think it's a disgrace.

BORGER (voice-over): The intended message to Mueller was clear. Your investigation is contaminated. Mueller remains silent, instead letting his work speak for itself.

GOWDY: He is the best hope to produce a product that my fellow citizens can have confidence in. It will not come from Congress, let me assured you of that. It is not going to come from bunch of politicians.

I hope it can come from a former marine who is the head of the FBI and a U.S. attorney but he has got to be mindful of the perception. I'm going to give him benefit of the doubt and I'm going wait on the product that he produces.


NOBLES: And that was Gloria Borger reporting. Parkland students demanding action after seeing their classmates gunned down in cold blood.


ZEIF: I don't understand why I could still go in a store and buy a weapon of war -- an AR.


NOBLES: That student and many of his fellow students just returned to their school for the first time today for an open house. This is a live picture outside the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

We're going to find out what was going on in his mind as he had that experience and if he's prepared to return to school in a live interview when we come back. Stay here.


NOBLES: This week, President Trump held a listening session on gun violence. Front and center, students and families from Stoneman Douglas High School, still reeling from a tragedy that took 17 lives and reignited the gun control debate in this country.


ZEIF: I'm sure a lot of you have read my texts on the Internet with my brother. I didn't plan for them to go viral. I just wanted to share with the world, because no brothers or sisters, or family members, or anyone should ever have to share those texts with anyone. And that's why I'm here.

I lost a best friend, who was practically a brother. And I'm here to use my voice, because I know he can't. I don't understand why I can still go in a store and buy a weapon of war -- an AR.

I was reading today that a person 20 years old walked into a store and bought an AR-15 in five minutes with an expired I.D. How is it that easy to buy this type of weapon? How do we not stop this after Columbine, after Sandy Hook? I'm sitting with a mother that lost her son. And it's still happening.


NOBLES: A powerful moment, and that student, Samuel Zeif, joins me now. Sam, thank you for being with us. Again, I want to send our condolences to your family and friends for everything that you've been through.

And first, I want to ask you about what happened today. You returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for the first time since the shooting.

[17:35:02] Just tell us what that was like.

ZEIF: Thanks for having me, Ryan. It was crazy being back in there. You know, it was a lot of memories came back and I didn't want to go. I had to get my backpack, but the main reason that I went was because I'm lucky, you know, there's people there.

And I only have to go there for three more months. There are people there, including my little brother, who had to go there for three, four more years, who have to work there for who knows how long, who have to carry on forever.

I'm kind of looking at waiting for the day to graduate and get out of there. But like I said, my little brother is going to be there for three years.

My other little brother is going to be there for four years, himself, after these next two years in middle school. And we've got to give them strength, as the upper classman we are. We've got to show a good example, and show them that it's going to be OK, give them hope.

NOBLES: Today was one thing. It was an open house to, you know, take that step of walking back into the school for the first time. But you're actually going to start classes later this week. How are you and your classmates preparing for that next stage in this recovery process?

ZEIF: I don't know. You know, my -- I had a class with Joaquin. People had classes with Meadow, Joaquin, Nick, and it's just -- I don't know how we're going to take those classes, you know?

There are a lot of kids that were in the freshman building that got to be moved to somewhere else, you know, whether it's the auditorium or the media center, or the cafeteria. It's not going to be easy.

NOBLES: Yes. I can only imagine. And I want to talk about that powerful moment between you and President Trump at the White House. At that time, you floated the idea -- or the president, I should say, floated the idea of arming teachers.

And this is something that he's talked about quite a bit in the past few days. From your perspective, and you were pretty clear in your assessment about the gun laws to the commander in chief, do you think that position by the president is a reasonable solution?

ZEIF: No, not at all, you know. As a lot of people have recently learned, there was an armed deputy right outside the building, hiding behind a wall. And if he can't do it, that's his career.

That's what he's made of his whole life. And why should teachers face the responsibility to do that? It just doesn't make sense to me. It's not common sense to bring guns into school after a school shooting.

NOBLES: Yes, I can't imagine that you ever imagine your senior year in high school, that you would find yourself right smack dab in the middle of one of the most contentious political debates in this country.

But this is where you are now. And having been through everything that you've been through, do you have hope at all that something positive could happen -- that there would be true movement for substantiative change on this issue?

ZEIF: Yes, yes, I really am hopeful. And you know, I'm glad to say that there is change, you know, in these nine, ten, eleven days that there's been -- there has been change, you know? They've got an age raise, bump stocks.

You know, it's not enough, but it's progress. It's more progress that's been made in the last who knows how long. But since Columbine, it's been 20-some years, almost. But, it's something. You know, we are doing a lot. And we're not going to stop.

NOBLES: All right, Samuel Zeif, thank you for your courage, my friend, we appreciate it, and good luck this week when you're returning to school.

ZEIF: Thank you.

NOBLES: Thank you for being here. Coming up, South Korea says the North is finally open to talks with the United States. This as the North and South have shown a willingness to build a better relationship. But how does the White House feel about that? We'll break it all down, next.


NOBLES: All right. I want to show you some live pictures right now of devastating flooding from the Louisville, Kentucky, area. Three people have died in the state due to the severe weather. This is a pretty massive storm system impacting parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, and Arkansas.

We know that one woman was struck by debris in an area that was hit by a tornado. Now, this flooding is still the result of those severe storms.

Many have moved to the south and central United States but you can see there, water up to the roofs of many houses. And this continues to be an ongoing weather emergency in Kentucky.

Overseas this weekend, word that North Korea is ready to open diplomatic channels, including talks with the United States. That comes from the president of South Korea, who says that conversations that he had with the North Koreans during the Olympic Games indicated that they concede talks between Pyongyang and Washington happening as soon as possible.

Now, the American answer to that is still an outright no. So I want to get to our senior international correspondent, Ivan Watson. He's going to provide his perspective, Also, global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott.

Ivan, let's start with you. Is this just leftover goodwill from the Olympics, or is there real progress right now towards some kind of a diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've certainly seen this really remarkable scene now twice in one month of senior U.S. officials sharing a VIP box at Olympic events with senior North Korean officials.

They may not have been hugging or shaking hands or even really acknowledging each other, but that close proximity is pretty striking given the amount of tension and threats that have been hurled back and forth in recent months.

[17:45:00] The statement coming from the North Koreans has been passed to us from the South Korean government. The South Korean president met with the leader of the North Korean delegation for about an hour before the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics, up in the Olympic city, Pyeongchang.

And that's where the South Koreans came out with the statement saying that the North Koreans would be willing to engage in dialogue with the U.S., alongside with dialogue with South Korea, that they would basically be willing to do this.

Now, there's been reporting that Vice President Pence, when he led the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremony, a little bit more than three weeks ago, that there was going to be some kind of encounter, some kind of a meeting, but the North Koreans called it off, because they were angry at his criticism of North Korea's human rights record.

We don't know if any real interaction would have taken place with these people in such close proximity. And very strange, not only was Ivanka Trump sitting very close to the North Korean official, Kim Yong-chol, who used to be the spy master in North Korea.

But also the uniformed American military commander of all U.S. forces here in Korea, pretty striking to see those two individuals sitting so close together at that closing ceremony. Ryan.

NOBLES: Elise, is there some concern that the goals of South Korea, when it comes to negotiations with North Korea, may be different than the goals of the United States?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, you have to remember, ryan, that, you know, South Korea has larger goals than the United States in terms of, you know, making peace with the North Koreans and, you know, a unified Korean Peninsula, on one hand.

On the secondhand -- I mean, the other hand, the goals are the same. I think the tactics are different. South Korea thinks it's going to get North Korea to denuclearize by improving the relationship, by maybe giving them more aid, by, you know, cozier relations between the Koreans. The United States wants to maintain what they call the maximum

pressure campaign. And South Korea is kind of in the middle here. Because both sides are saying that they want to talk, but they're throwing rhetoric at one another. I mean, I think. Ivan, is completely right.

It was a much different kind of dynamic, even though you didn't see Ivanka Trump talking to the South Koreans, Mike Pence, even though he was, you know, maybe going to talk to the North Koreans, it was supposed to be a very tough message, kind of delivering the U.S. rhetoric in person.

NOBLES: Right.

LABOTT: Now, Ivanka Trump by standing up for the unified Korean team when they came out in the closing ceremonies and just her presence there without so much kind of vitriol and rhetoric behind her, I think, presented maybe a kinder, gentler face of what U.S. engagement could be.

But make no mistake, I mean, the United States is not interested in pleasantries or talks for talk's sake. I think South Korea would like it, you know, to maybe start from that and hoping that, you know, the denuclearization comes later on. So I think that's where the rub is between these two allies.

NOBLES: All right. Elise Labott in Washington, Ivan Watson for us in Seoul. Thank you so much. Up next, an investigation into how assault rifles -- assault rifles from South Carolina are ending up in the hands of Jihadis in Syria. We'll go inside Syria in search of the answer, next.


NOBLES: U.S. supplied weapons that were originally meant for moderate allies in Syria have ended up for sale on Jihadist online forums. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has this story.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After six years of war in Syria it's a wash with weapons yet no more so alarming than here on Jihadi messaging forums in al Qaeda dominated areas of the north.

Scan hundreds of guns for sale on the app telegram and you can see just how distant peaceful normality is, grenade launchers, sniper rifles, heavy machine guns, shoulder-launched missiles, thermal sniper scopes.

But one offer stands out, an M16A4 all the way from South Carolina Company FNMFG, but somehow its seller says he's in the Syrian City of Idlib while al Qaeda-linked Jihadists dominate. He offers to make and makes an extraordinary claim about where he got it from, Division 30, he says.

They were U.S.-funded and trained elite group of Syrian rebels deployed in 2015. The unit was swiftly derailed by Jihadists some linked to al-Qaeda and eventually collapsed.

A top-end U.S. taxpayer funded weapons they had vanished into the void of the Syrian civil war. The weapon serial number suggests it was supplied as part of a U.S. program in the region.

DAMIEN SPLEETERS, CONFLICT ARMAMENT RESEARCH: What this does show is that this weapon was made in the USA and its serial number is very close to another weapon that our field investigation teams have documented in Northern Syria in July 2014, recovered from ISIS forces there and who, presumably stole it from Iraqi forces earlier. It doesn't mean that the exact same thing happened with his weapon just that it probably shares the same or similar American source.

WALSH: Over the past three months, we've been observing this robust trade-in anything from rifles to cell phones to mortar shells. We can't be sure that every telegram user is in possession of the extraordinary array of weapons on offer.

The U.S. Military declined comments and telegram say they block such content when it's encountered or reported but it barely seems to let up.

[17:55:07] What's more, it's all in an area where an al Qaeda- affiliate known as HTS is the predominant military power.

HAID HAID, ANALYST, CHATHAM HOUSE: Al-Qaeda there being active and having basically access towards us and to human resources will for sure increase that challenges of ending the war anytime soon.

WALSH: Idlib is fast bearing the front of the regime's fresh onslaught, civilians trapped. Among extremists whose clout has grown as the focus has been on fighting ISIS, and the market and sophisticated weapons just making peace for these people even more distant dream. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.


NOBLES: Nick, thank you. A lack of accountability, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel is facing increasing calls from 74 Republican lawmakers for his resignation amid revelations of his deputy's inaction during the Parkland shooting. I'll be joined by a Democrat congressman and ask him if the sheriff needs to go, next.