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Multiple Missed Opportunities to Stop Florida Shooter; A Change of Heart on Trump; Democratic Memo Counters GOP Claims of Spying Abuse; Trump Promises to Push Congress on Gun Law Changes. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired February 25, 2018 - 08:00   ET



[08:00:22] JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): New Democratic memo defends FBI conduct in the Russia investigation and says several Trump campaign aides were facing 2016 scrutiny.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Certainly, the memo was a nothing. I had no phone calls. I've had no meetings. No nothing. There is no collusion.

KING: Plus a shift in the guns debate, as student survivors demand action.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our message is at this point, for the politicians, if you aren't with us, you're against us. We're trying to save the lives of innocent children. And if you're not for that, then we're going to vote you out.

KING: And the conservative movement that viewed candidate Trump with suspicion rolls out the red carpet for President Trump.

TRUMP: Remember I started running and people say, are you sure he's a conservative? I think now we've proved that I'm a conservative.

KING: INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters, now.


KING: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. To our viewers in the United States and around the world, thank you for sharing your Sunday.

A newly released Democratic memo on Russian election meddling is under sharp attack by President Trump. The new memo shows the investigation was under way weeks before the FBI learned of that so-called Steele dossier and also discloses several Trump campaign associates were the subject of FBI inquiry by September 2016.


TRUMP: That document really verifies the Nunes memo, and that's why they didn't push hard to have it. If you notice, they did not push it hard because they understood this was going to happen and just in looking around and seeing reports, a lot people are saying that. That's a very bad document for their side.


KING: Democrats disagree with that.

Plus, some important shifts in America's gun debate following that Florida school massacre. That state's Republican governor now breaking with the NRA, calling for raising the age limit to buy firearms.

President Trump sending mixed signals on the age debate. He prefers to emphasize arming some teachers.


TRUMP: These teachers love their students and these teachers are talented with weaponry and with guns, and I'd rather have somebody that loves their students and wants to protect their students than somebody standing outside that doesn't know anybody and doesn't know the students and, frankly, for whatever reason, decided not to go in even though he will heard lots of shots being fired.


KING: And call this extreme makeover political edition. CPAC is a Trump love fest and campaign stage.


TRUMP: Don't worry you're getting the wall. Don't worry. You're getting the wall.

We salute our great American flag, he with put our hands on our hearts for the Pledge of Allegiance and we all proudly stand for the national anthem.

In America we don't worship government, we worship God.


KING: With us this Sunday to share the reporting and their incites, Julie Hirschfield Davis of "The New York Times", Sahil Kapur of "Bloomberg", John McCormack of "The Weekly Standard", and Margaret Talev of "Bloomberg".

We begin with the major twists in the Russia election meddling investigation, the more detailed Democratic rebuttal memo is out, released last night, parts of it heavily redacted by the government. President Trump rushed to call it a bust and absent facts, the president again accusing the FBI and Democrats of illegal conduct.


TRUMP: I will tell you, that was really just a confirmation of, if you call it, the Republican memo or the Nunes memo, it's referred to as a lot of things, but that was nothing but a confirmation, and a lot of bad things happened on the other side, not on this side but on the other side.

HOST: And you know what's interesting --

TRUMP: And somebody should look into it because what they did is really fraudulent and somebody should be looking into that and by somebody I'm talking about you know who.


KING: That's the president's take and you probably know who he means by you know who here. Before we get to the president's take. Some facts, few key points in the new Democratic memo that undercut key arguments made in what the president was just talking about there.

The Republicans so-called Nunes memo, the Democratic memo or the Schiff memo as it's being called details that the FBI opened the investigation seven weeks before it received its first indication, first information from the so-called Steele dossier. The FBI had interviewed Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser, early in 2016 about Russian intelligence contacts well before Page has said he was interviewed.

By September 2016, the FBI had opened sub-inquiries into several other Trump campaign associates. And in getting the first FISA warrant, the Department of Justice did, it wasn't very specific, but it did say that Steele had political ties and some of the money for his reporting had political motivations.

[08:05:09] In the FISA renewal, the Justice Department said that there was information -- it had information to corroborate parts of the Steele documents.

So, the president says it's all a fraud. It helps him. Let's deal first with the new revelations and the facts in the Democratic memo. How does it advance the story?

JULIE HIRSCHFIELD DAVIS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, it did confirm one thing which was that the Steele dossier was not, in fact, the reason they opened its investigation into Trump campaign associates and what their role might have been in this Russia situation. But the new information here that advances the story is the FBI obviously found some corroborating evidence, enough to be investigating more members of the Trump campaign circle than we previously new about and that information did not come solely from the dossier but was confirmed apart from the dossier.

So, there -- and the FBI, you know, had been looking at this for a much longer time than if you read the Nunes memo you would have thought. So, what this tells you is they had credible reason to be going down these paths and the story here -- a lot of it was redacted, but the story is a lot more expansive than you would think than if you had just read the Republican memo, which makes it seem like this all came from this questionable dossier with political motivation. And the other key revelation is that the FISA court was told about the

fact that the dossier came from and was funded in some way by political money by someone with an agenda against Donald Trump. That was clear to the court and they approved --

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG: And these are judges that were appointed by Republicans.

KING: Four Republican judges. It also makes clear that. So, the Republicans try to suggest there's conspiracy in the FBI among Democrats in the Judiciary, we should make clear there were four Republican judges and part of this started in the Obama administration carried over into the Trump administration when these things were improved by the Trump Justice Department as they went back into court.

TALEV: But it really -- you know, the Democratic memo even in its redacted form does not substantiate and underscore all the points that Devin Nunes was making. So, the president seems to be pursuing that point because he's treating this as a public relations opportunity, assuring the base, trying to assure the kind of center of the country that's probably not going to read the 10-page memo, and it's a little bit confused by all this anyway. But for anyone who's really interested, you can just read this memo and judge for yourself. It doesn't the take that long to read and it's fairly interesting read.

SAHIL KAPUR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: One important revelation in this memo is that we got to see a piece of FISA application around which this whole dispute centers. And it essentially comes down to a semantic disagreement, right? The Republicans are not disappointing the facts in the Nunes memo that -- I'm sorry, the facts in the Democratic Schiff memo that allege or that point out that the court was told there was a political bias behind it. The quote from the FISA application here is that -- it was -- the person behind it was, quote, likely looking for information that could be used to discredit candidate, once campaign once, obviously Donald Trump.

So, people can decide from that whether the court was sufficiently informed about the political bias or not. Republicans argue that because it didn't specify that it was the DNC --

KING: Right. The president even tweeting, it's the Clinton, it's DNC, they should have said that. What the FBI would say is that in court documents like this -- they -- only when they have to do they get specific about their sources.

KAPUR: Exactly, and when you get to the point of whether this can be part of the evidence provided to court, whether there are political biased document can be part of that, that's a valid debate to have. There should not be politically biased information that courts use to spy on American citizens.

The last thing I point out there is that there were three renewals to this FISA application. And under the law, in order to get renewals, you have to show that the information is bearing fruit. The intelligence was producing something. So, the argument that this was entirely a witch hunt against the Trump campaign doesn't hold up if that's the standard.

JOHN MCCORMACK, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, I think that it's also important that the Democratic memo says the specific information about Carter Page was corroborated independently in subsequent renewals. What that doesn't say is whether it was corroborated before. So, I do think that -- this is the narrow question of Page. Obviously, this doesn't undermine the entire Russia investigation. But this is a serious question.

You know, was it an essentially part of getting a warrant, and was it independently verified before the warrant was taken out? So, I think that is an important outstanding question. You would like to look at the underlying FISA application materials if we could --

KING: If we could is a great question. Maybe this will lead to more transparency about this, even though some of it is secret. Now, if you listen to what the president said on Judge Jeanine last night and now listen here, the author of the Republican memo, the architect of the Republican memo, Devin Nunes, at CPAC yesterday, saying, hey, we wanted this out. It makes our case.


REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We wanted it out. We want it out because he with think it is clear evidence that the Democrats are not only trying to cover this up but they're also colluding with parts of the government to help cover this up. What you're not going to see is anything that actually rejects what was in our memo.


KING: Actually, what you do see are things that specifically reject things in their memo. Sorry, Congressman, but facts are stubborn things, I think someone said that once.

But the interesting idea that the president of the United States and Devin Nunes continuing their campaign to essentially say don't believe anything the Democrats or the FBI, including my administration from the president's standpoint, tell you, my Justice Department.

[08:10:05] That the Democrats are not only trying to cover this up, they're colluding with parts of the government.


KING: Donald Trump runs the government, Donald Trump appointed the FBI director, Donald Trump's deputy attorney general is in charge of Bob Mueller, the special counsel. So, the Republicans are saying that the Trump administration is conspiring against the Trump administration.

DAVIS: And the president said last night on Fox News that, you know, you know who and that clearly that's Jeff Sessions, attorney general, with whom he has been livid for many months should be investigating this and why -- and he tweeted about this in the past week, why isn't -- why isn't he investigating their crimes? Not only does Devin Nunes' argument not hold water, but anyone who cares to read that memo could see that.

KING: But, politically --

DAVIS: I think Margaret is right. This is clearly a public relations tactic. People are not going to get into the weeds of what's in here. We need to tell them --

KING: And the timings not a coincidence. You're going after the investigators and the integrity of the investigation writ large, at a time just on Friday, Rick Gates, the deputy campaign chairman flips. So, now, you have George Papadopoulos, low level campaign aide, the Trump people would tell you, Michael Flynn, high level campaign aide, national security adviser to the president of the United States, Rick Gates, deputy campaign chairman, now flips.

So, you have three guilty please from people who worked for the Trump campaign, some of whom work -- one of whom worked in the Trump administration. Gates worked in the transition. More pressure on the chairman, Paul Manafort, who remains under indictment. This adds to the growing list of charges from the special counsel's investigation.

So, you can understand why the president is trying to --


TALEV: Look at the Democrats, yes.

KING: Yes.

TALEV: Yes, there is still a fundamentally important question which is Carter Page, not the most actor on this whole mess, but was he acting at the behest of Donald Trump for whatever he was doing or was he acting on his own or was he acting at the behest of Manafort? Which is kind of the middle option. All that is really important.

KING: Or was he acting at the behest of the Russians? And they infiltrated the Trump campaign? Fine.

TALEV: But so, in his laser-like focus to say that he himself had no idea what the Russians were doing, President Trump has also been trying to take off the table the idea that anyone affiliated with his campaign was trying to do that. I just think we don't know that at all based on the cases as proceeding right now. It points in the opposite direction. So many connections to the Putin regime, the Ukrainian regime.

So many of those questions under the microscope right now certainly give the momentum to keep trying to undercover what actually was going on.

KING: And in the Democratic memo, it discloses several other, doesn't name them, Trump campaign associates who are under scrutiny as of September 2016. We don't know who they are. We know Papadopoulos is one. We know Carter Page is another. It suggests there were others. We don't know who they are, could one of them be Jared Kushner who was

also in the news this week because the president of the United States says it's now up to General Kelly. Jared Kushner, a year a month in, a year and two months in, still doesn't have permanent security clearance. One of the reasons is because he's under scrutiny in the Russia special counsel investigation.

Listen to the president here saying, this is up to my chief-of-staff but I hope he's listening to me.


TRUMP: 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's right here, make that call. But Jared's doing some very important things for our country.

I will let General Kelly make that decision and he's going to do what's right for the country and I have no doubt he'll make the right decision.


KING: In court, I think a good judge might call that leading the witness. But where is -- can General Kelly now say, no, I'm taking this clearance, you have to listen to the boss say that?

DAVIS: I mean, theoretically, he could. I mean, I think that, you know, technically speaking, the president has the ability to intervene and give everyone a clearance who he wants. And so, that -- he's trying to make it very clear that he's not planning to do that in this case.

But there are other ways of intervening, including pressuring your chief of staff --

TALEV: In front of the world --

DAVIS: And essentially saying, no pressure. He's right here, you know, and my son-in-law is a good guy and he's been doing a great job, and, by the way, it's very sensitive stuff he's been working on and he needs his clearance for that. It's clear how President Trump wants this to come out.

But General Kelly does have flexibility in terms of timing. There's an issue whether this past Friday was going to be the date when he had to decide on whether Jared Kushner could keep his clearance or whether it's time, weeks in the future. But this is clearly going to come to a head sooner rather than later.

KING: You add up all these pieces, the debate about the memo, the Gates flip, the Kushner security clearance, interesting week or weeks ahead.

We shift subjects next. The new generation shakes America's gun debate, but is the president -- is the president already dialing back his promises?


[08:18:32] KING: We don't know how it will end, but the conversation about guns is different this time because of moments like this at the Florida state capitol.


ALFONSO CALDERON, SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: We will not be silenced. It has gone on long enough that we just because we are kids we're not allowed to understand. I understand what it's like to text my parents, good-bye, I might not ever get to see you again. I love you. I understand what it's like to fear for your life.


KING: And because of moments like this at the Trump White House.


ANDREW POLLACK, DAUGHTER KILLED IN FLORIDA SCHOOL SHOOTING: I'm here because my daughter has no voice. She was murdered last week and she was taken from us. Shot nine times on the third floor. We as a country failed our children. This shouldn't the happen.


KING: So, will there be significant federal policy changes? President Trump was clearly moved by what he heard at the White House and listen here, promised to take the lead.


TRUMP: We're going to do strong background checks. We're going to work on getting the age up to 21 instead of 18. We're getting rid of the bump stocks and we're going to be focusing very strongly on mental health.


KING: But -- it's an important but -- the National Rifle Association quickly made clear is opposes raising the age limit on the firearm. And the president appears to be backing off some. He did not mention the age limit on Friday when discussing gun policy on three separate occasions, instead emphasizing a plan to allow teachers to carry concealed firearms.

[08:20:06] And then this last night on Fox.


TRUMP: I think we're going to have a great bill put forward very soon, having to do with background checks and perhaps we'll do something -- you know, on age because it doesn't seem to make sense that you have to wait until you're 21 years old to get a pistol, but to get a gun like this maniac used in the school, you get that at 18.


KING: So, he came back to the age proposal last night in the interview with Judge Jeanine, after dropping it on Friday after the NRA said that's not something we're open to doing. The question is, and he also -- the president also tweeted after for days emphasizing, let's arm teachers, tweeted on Saturday that that should be up to the states. So, will we -- what will we get from an I want Congress to do this from the president and if he's waffling at all, doesn't that like Obamacare repeal and replace, like immigration, DACA, and Dreamers, mean that you're never going to get something through the conservative House in an election year unless the president says this, this, this and sticks with it.

KAPUR: The one specific proposal that President Trump has supported, raising the rifle age from 18 to 21 has been opposed by the number two Republican in the Senate, John Cornyn, that exactly a faux of President Trump. That tells you a lot, that there's enough energy in Congress among Republicans to resist this sort of thing.

President Trump, it should be noted, has talked a lot about background checks. He's not endorsed any specific proposal.

Is he talking about the Fix NICS bill that Cornyn and Democrats and even the NRA support? Is it about compliance with existing law, encouraging people to report more into the system? Is it about closing the private sale loophole where a person can buy a gun off Craigslist or the Internet without a background check? The president has not said.

So without a specific proposal, we don't really know what he's talking about. We do know that there's no appetite, no indication among Republican leaders who run Congress to do anything about this issue and nothing is going to happen without dedicated, focus, consistent push by the president, and he doesn't seem to be doing that.

KING: To that point, let's bring the House speaker in to this, largely silent last week. But listen to the House speaker back home in Wisconsin saying, let's not talk about taking away the rights of law-abiding citizens who back the Second Amendment when in this case -- and this is a fact -- there were so many missed signals.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This young man slipped through a whole bunch of cracks, not just a crack. He slipped through a bunch of cracks. We're going to make sure that when law enforcement gets all these tips that that doesn't happen again. We got to make sure that people who are mentally unstable and we just passed a recent law on this don't have the ability to go do this.


KING: We talk in a minute about the collapse of accountability in Florida, but in terms of the federal debate, anybody that says that's telling the truth. Whatever your position on gun control, AR-15, magazines clips, that's a fact that there are a lot of -- he did fall through the cracks, a lot of warning signs are missed. It gives those who don't want to change federal gun laws in the big way a pretty powerful argument.

MCCORMACK: Well, there already are reasons why people can't own a gun, domestic abuse -- violence, you can't own a gun. If you're a felon, if you've been adjudicated as mentally ill. But often times when these threats are presented, they don't reach that level. That's why I think the most serious idea's that's been presented so far is a gun violence restraining order, where people or family members, close friends, can go to the police and say this person is a threat to either themselves or others and take the guns away. I think that is narrowly targeted.

I mean, you don't simply want a mentally unstable person or dangerous person like the Florida shooter to not have semi-automatic rifles. You don't want him to have any weapons. So, I think that is the most serious way that, again, we can lower the threshold but still protect due process rights.

TALEV: Now, this one piece that we understand that we have been reporting that the White House is interested in and looking at. I do think it's going to take a few days for this to gel better to get a better sense what's happening between the governors coming to talk to the president and what we're expecting to be like a midweek bipartisan gathering at the White House. He's got to figure out realistically what can pass, realistically what it's going to cost him politically and with his base to pursue any of this.

I still think really that will the test is not what will Congress do right now but how has the public changed its thinking and is this going to be a ballot box issue.

KING: Will it be a ballot issue? Will the state of Florida be the laboratory of key swing state? We'll get to that in a minute. And also, what about the public standing of the NRA?

It's very interesting, you heard the president at CPAC saying, I stand with the NRA, I'm talking to the NRA. But we have seen just over the past several days, all these companies cutting ties with the NRA, reducing their discounts that they offer to NRA members, not issuing credit cards in the NRA's name. If you look at all the companies, Delta, United, Enterprise, car rental Avis, Budget, SimpliSafe, North American Moving Services, Alamo, you just look at the list of companies right here.

These companies, they don't do this willy-nilly. They have decided for their brand, a relationship with the NRA is not in their broader interest. Are we at some turning point or is this temporary?


DAVIS: The ground swell of youth-led activism on this certainly does seem to have changed the tone of this entire debate. I mean, you didn't see any corporations or many corporations doing this in the past, in the wake of past school shootings or in massacres of any kind. So, the debate certainly has shifted. I think the reputation of the NRA may have shifted in a way we haven't seen in the wake of past shootings.

The question is, though, does this actually affect what is the source of the NRA's clout?

[08:25:04] Which is not direct donations but the groundswell of public support all around the country that it has and can mobilize in the elections. And I do think that that is the key question that Republican governors and other governors are looking at as they figure out what changes to the law they're willing to accept and certainly the president is going to be looking at as well. Because while last week he did seem to say, you know, I'm with the NRA, the NRA loves me and I love them, but I'm willing to buck them. We haven't seen evidence that that's actually going to happen.

KING: Look at a map of House districts -- House districts around the America, and you understand this. How it plays in Washington, how it plays in the coast versus how it plays in America, House district by House district, it's very instructive as we go forward in this debate.

Up next, the Broward County sheriff lashed out at the NRA after the Parkland school shooting. Now, he faces questions about whether his deputies stood by as the students were gunned down.


[08:30:06] KING: If you were watching the "CNN TOWN HALL" Wednesday night, you remember the Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel lashing out at the NRA and making a strong push for new gun laws.


SCOTT ISRAEL, BROWARD COUNTY SHERIFF: Eighteen-year-olds should never have a rifle. An 18-year-old kid should not have a rifle. Eighteen- year-old kids, they're not adults yet; they're in high school. These kids should not have a rifle.

Bump stocks should be illegal. They should be outlawed forever. Automatic rifles should be outlawed forever.

And anybody who says different, I don't know about other people, but Amber and I, we're calling BS on that.


KING: But Israel's department is now front and center in a giant accountability crisis. Law enforcement received numerous warnings about the Parkland shooter. And as the massacre played out, at least one Broward sheriff's deputy, perhaps as many as four, stood outside the school but did not enter or try to confront the gunman.

BRANDON HUFF, SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: You're despicable, you know. You didn't do your job. You were trained for this. You were armed. You had a bullet proof vest, you were protected more than anybody else who died who lost their lives and you did nothing.

EMMA GONZALEZ, SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: It makes me pretty angry, I've got to say. I'm pretty upset about that because as a police officer, you've made a vow, you've made an oath to protect the people that you are policing. And they didn't do that for us.


KING: So there is, and I always think it's a good thing to have conversations if you can have them respectfully, in the country and in Florida about should we have new gun laws.

But there is also a giant question of what happened here. How could you have some people say 39, some people say the number of calls is fewer than that but dozens of calls and warnings about the shooter?

The fact -- and let's focus on the sheriff for a second. A deputy assigned to the school who was armed stood outside while you could hear gunshots inside. Then there's an investigation about when did three other deputies, who did not go inside, arrive? Did they arrive after the shooting stopped and stay outside?

But these are giant questions for the sheriff who I should note is on "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper after this program. It's a big part of this.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE "NEW YORK TIMES": Huge. And it's tragic. And we heard the President talk about it this past week, the sheriff's deputy, the first one that we discovered after he resigned earlier this week had basically been hiding outside essentially while the shooting unfolded.

There's obviously going to be a huge investigation here and it's going to have implications for this department as well as probably I would think departments -- police departments all over the country.

But I think it seems pretty clear from my understanding that what the procedure was supposed to be is, if you are the resource officer assigned to a school you go in, in a situation like this. You don't wait for cover. You don't wait for a word. This is your job.

And I do think that we're going to be hearing a lot more about this in the context of this gun debate because there will be people who will seize on this and say it's not about guns, it's not about anything that allowed this shooter to get to the school with a semiautomatic weapon. It's about failures in the police department. And you can't argue there were obviously clear failures.

KING: You can't. The passion of the students is what is driving the gun control debate. And the state of Florida and the country should have that conversation -- should have that conversation.

But the actions of the adults are pretty good factual fodder for those who say before we change any existing gun laws we should enforce the ones we have. We should follow the process we have. I just want to bring -- the is Mark Meadows, the chairman of the House

Freedom Caucus, influential conservative House Republican tweeting "The Broward county sheriff in front of a nationwide audience on CNN lectured the NRA and millions of law-abiding gun owners when all along it was his department that did nothing after 39 calls, multiple threats and failed to fully engage the shooter. Astounding. We need answers."

Again the 39 is in dispute. The fact that there are many calls is not in dispute. And for the political conversation that's a pretty powerful argument.

JOHN MCCORMACK, SENIOR WRITER, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, they're not saying 23. But if a single one of those calls provided information that could have been used to arrest him, to take his guns away, the sheriff has to resign. I mean if he sat on an information that the deputy did not go in at that town hall so he could whip up -- sort of to cover him.

I mean we have to remember the sheriff, like most sheriffs, is an elected politician. He's not just a law enforcement officer with a badge and uniform. So I think there's already a lot of calls for him to resign and a lot of reasons for him to potentially do that.

SAHIL KAPUR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: This has been a failure of law enforcement locally on a variety of different levels. There's no two ways about it.

KING: And the FBI also didn't follow some protocols.

KAPUR: And it sounds like there's going to be hell to pay about that in Florida one way or another. I think when you zoom out and look at mass shootings overall. There are some shootings that are, you know -- end up being a failure of law enforcement with the laws on the book if they were enforced properly would have stopped it.

But let's remember the Las Vegas shooter, the deadliest in mass history passed his background checks to obtain more than 40 guns. And that's why I think you're seeing a shift in the debate.

A lot of professors are looking at this and saying well, it's not just semiautomatic assault rifles if you ban those and hand guns kill more people. Simply raising the age of rifles is not going to do the trick.

What progressives really want is dramatically fewer guns on the streets of the United States. And now we're beginning to hear activists actually say that rather than pay lip service to the Second Amendment as a lot of Democrats have done for a very long time.

KING: And so will it happen? Will it happen? What will happen at the federal level? Again, we had that conversation.

[08:35:00] And let's look at Florida, a key swing state. You have a big governor's race this year. You have a Republican governor who's been an ally of the NRA who's now likely to run for Senate in a race that could determine control of the United States Senate.

Republican Rick Scott against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson. And the Governor did put forward a proposal that breaks with the NRA. Governor Scott says let's raise the minimum purchase age for a firearm to 21. Ban bump stocks in Florida. Toughen background checks. Strengthen mental health laws. Increase funds for school security.

So a pretty comprehensive package here. And there are some people already questioning whether the Governor means it or just a political document for senate race?

But here is in one of the countries, again highly competitive critical swing states, a great laboratory for this conversation going forward.

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG: Yes. It is an important barometer of some kind because it shows one of two things. It shows that he thinks that he can move ahead in the election process without the NRA support or that the NRA recognizes the change in the climate and is willing to give him a little bit of slack particularly if he's proposing something that doesn't happen right away.

You can feel better about one answer than the other in terms of the purity of politics but either way it does represent I think a significant shift in the potential climate.

KAPUR: That's what happens when the gun control side puts the heat on the way they have. And that's what happens when students and teenagers are speaking out so forcefully the way they are.

Marco Rubio who is an ally of the NRA, consistently voted with them, a strong gun rights supporters softening on this. He said he supports raising the age from 18 to 21. He also said he would reconsider his vote in 2013 when he voted against banning high-capacity ammunition magazines. He said he may end up supporting that down the road.

Rick Scott also an ally of gun rights and the NRA softening on this. This is a meaningful shift and it shows what happens when there's comparable passion and energy on the gun control side as there has been on the gun rights side.

The gun rights side and the NRA and groups like them, some of them even further to the right than the NRA are very good at hanging tight in the middle -- when the mass shootings happen, being patient, you know, taking the heat in the moment and then resuming their activities.

The left is good at exactly the opposite. Keeping the heat on right after a mass shooting and then getting complacent afterwards.

KING: Right. And will 2018 -- will 2018 prove the difference? Will this young student survivor activism actually to the point you made earlier change the results of the polls come November? Will we actually see it play out at the poll the message that if the control advocates are going to win? That's where they need to win. MCCORMACK: Well, we've seen some movement on it for the Republicans.

But you also need to see a lot of movement among Democrats if you're ever going to get any gun laws through Congress. There's something like ten Democrats in the senate still opposed to the assault weapons ban in 2013.

You've seen people like Marco Rubio, as Sahil pointed out, saying that they're willing to reconsider some elements of it such as limiting the capacity of magazines which could reduce the death toll and stop these killing (INAUDIBLE) from taking place but could lower the death toll.

KING: Let's have some votes. Get people on the record, how about that? Strange thought in a democracy.

Next -- a border wall, the national anthem, chants of "lock her up", CPAC welcomes the President it once viewed with a lot of caution.

And yes, Republicans say the darnedest things -- politicians say the darnedest things even about their hair.



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.




TRUMP: By the way, you don't mind if I go off script a little bit because, you know, it's sort of boring -- sort of boring. Got this beautiful speech, everything's wonderful but a little boring.


KING: That was Friday at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC, and the pro-Trump crowd didn't mind one bit.


TRUMP: We have a very crooked media. We had a crooked candidate too, by the way. But we have -- we have a very -- we have a very, very crooked media.

CROWD: Lock her up. Lock her up.


KING: What did we learn here from CPAC? I'm old enough to remember when you go to CPAC and people would talk fondly about their time with Barry Goldwater -- yes, I'm that old -- or in the Reagan years and they talked about, you know, CPAC was conservatives got together to beat up on the communists and talk about the dangers of the national debt. That was not what happened the last few days.

KAPUR: No, the insurgent (ph) energy and the idea of, you know, backlash against a government or leaders that they feel threatened by has been the thing that has driven CPAC for a long time.

If you went any time, and I went a number of years under the Obama administration, it was very active, it was very energetic. A carnival-like atmosphere, as one person who was there, described it to me. That was not there this time.

They run everything. They're happy and they're content and the politics of backlash and fear are often stronger than the politics of hope and optimism and contentment.

I think the biggest takeaway from CPAC I would say is the extent to which President Trump and the right of this figure has moved the conservative movement in the direction of kind of European-style populism and nationalism.

We see that with cultural, the focus on cultural nativism and issues like that, trade protectionism, anti-immigration sentiments.

You had some speakers talking who were about the naturalization ceremonies in glowing terms, got booed. The crowd booed a panelist who said Mexican immigrants actually have a lot in common with conservatives. We see a palpable shift in the sentiment.

KING: And to your point, stars of the show, if you will, the Republican majority leader from the Senate not there, the Republican House Speaker not there. They're the evil establishment to this crowd. But two international voices who are part of the nationalists --


MARION MARECHAL-LE PEN, FRENCH POLITICIAN: I want America first for the American people. I want Britain first for the British people. And I want France first for the French people.

NIGEL FARAGE, FORMER UNITED KINGDOM INDEPENDENCE PARTY LEADER: It all makes you realize doesn't it, that in 2016 with the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump we stopped the establishment. We did.


[08:45:04] KING: Now, in the U.K. and in France, they are called nationalists, to be kind. Critics called them anti-Muslim. Some call them xenophobic. Some call them racists. They're welcome at CPAC.

MCCORMACK: Yes. I mean if you saw those speeches, there's obviously this effort to give it more of a nationalist, populist bill (ph) but if you listen to Donald Trump's speech when he rattled off its greatest hits these could have been cited by any Republican president -- you know, tax cuts, a conservative judge. So in one sense, you know, Donald Trump has moved the party in this national populist direction. In other sense, the Republican Party has moved him to being as much more of a typical conservative.

I mean the question is whether this long-term damage done to the party by putting someone up on stage -- I mean the President himself was considered a fringe figure at CPAC when he first spoke. I mean he's a well-known conspiracy theorist accused of sexual assault by multiple women.

You know, does that degradation of the party ultimately outweigh the good the conservative leaders have?

KING: What strikes me is somehow -- I guess everybody needs an enemy. But I want you to listen to Wayne LaPierre here. He runs the National Rifle Association. We have a Republican president, Republican House, Republican Senate, 35 Republican governors, most of the state legislatures run by Republicans. And Wayne LaPierre views the country as under attack by the socialists.


WAYNE LAPIERRE, CEO, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: Everyone keeps their mouths closed and their heads down and that's exactly how socialistic societies function.

When leaders do whatever they want, when resistance and repercussion disappears, and when the fundamental concept of moral behavior is expunged the state rules the day. And anyone who attempts to resist is smeared right into submission. We do live in the socialistic age of the art of the smear.


KING: Do we live in a socialistic age with all these Republicans in charge of everything?

TALEV: Yes. I mean the President is Republican, the House and Senate are controlled by Republicans. Most state houses are controlled by Republicans. But this shows two things. One is that in the last 13 months a lot of the norms have been turned inside out and this is kind of a fault line or a proving ground for that.

And two, it helps explain why it's so difficult to get bipartisan compromise if you're a Republican and there's this base that's pulling you in this direction.

KING: Parallel universe. Some of it, some of it. Parallel universe.

Up next, our reporters look ahead to the upcoming big stories including what's ahead for the United States and North Korea now that the Olympics are ending.


KING: Let's head one last time around the table and ask our great reporters to share a little something from their notebooks to get you out ahead of the political news just around the corner. Julie.

DAVIS: Well, it was easy this week to overlook these big new sanctions that President Trump and the administration imposed on North Korea. They've been talking about sanctions for a long time. These were significant sanctions against the shipping industry.

They will essentially target ships importing oil and exporting coal from North Korea which is a big issue in terms of funding the regime and their nuclear operation. Of course, they're not sanctioned directly on the nuclear operation but the question now is how far will the Trump administration go in enforcing these? Are they going to be boarding ships which is a military operation essentially?

And there have been a lot of conflicting messages coming from the administration I'm told, in part because there's still a divide between folks at the State Department that really want to pursue a diplomatic channel and folks at the National Security Council who really are looking more toward a military solution and we heard the President talk in a very hawkish way about this last week. So the question is now, what are we going to see in terms of posture going forward?

KING: Interesting moment especially as we close the chapter on the Olympics and move on to what's next.


KAPUR: John -- as we discussed earlier CPAC was mostly a love fest for President Trump with one notable exception. On Saturday, a conservative panelist named Mona Charen stunned the crowd by ripping into conservatives as hypocrites for standing by President Trump as he brags about his infidelities and as he quotes, "brags about mistreating women and because he happens to have an R by his name we don't complain", unquote. She also ripped into Republicans who supported Roy Moore who she described as a credibly accused child molester and slammed CPAC for inviting the Marion Le Pen, the scion of a far-right French political dynasty with racist roots as a disgrace. Wow.

As you can imagine, the crowd was not very happy with that.

KING: Crowd not very happy -- a different CPAC this year, we'll put it that way.


MCCORMACK: Well, we're now closer to the 2020 primaries than we are from the 2016 primaries and on Friday Politico reported that John Kasich is seriously considering running either as an independent presidential candidate or running in the Republican primary if President Trump doesn't run for reelection for some reason.

No fewer than nine people close to Kasich has said he's laying the groundwork. Just last week John Kasich came out strongly against weapons such as the AR-15. I thought that was the strongest indication yet that he's considering an independent run but a source close to Kasich tells me he definitely wants to keep both of his options open.

KING: We'll keep an eye on that. I know he's in touch with his people in New Hampshire quite frequently.


TALEV: Keep your eye on all the governors, not just John Kasich, although he's always fun to watch. But governors are in town for the National Governors Association Conference. Republican governors are outnumbering Democrat governors about two to one. But all of them are going to be really important in influencing potentially President Trump over the next couple of days.

He'll greet them at their formal sort of ball reception tonight. We may get some input on that. And then tomorrow all of them expected to be over at the White House where certainly gun control will be very high on the agenda, although health care and some of the other implementation things.

But it may be those Republican governors who give President Trump some of the signals he really needs to hear as the White House prepares to rollout its approach on everything from, you know, background checks to age limits and all that.

KING: It'll get forgotten in this town a lot but the Republican -- I mean the governors' races in 2018 also --

TALEV: Absolutely.

KING: relatively, in my way (ph) the big event, shall we say.

I'll close with a very awkward evening in Tennessee last night -- Senator Bob Corker and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn at the same GOP dinner. She is running for Corker's senate seat. He is now rethinking his decision to retire.

Corker offered no update last night on his thinking or maybe we should call it his re-thinking. But he did decline the opportunity to endorse Blackburn.

[08:55:05] The Tennessee seat could prove pivotal in determining the Senate balance of power. And back here in D.C. Blackburn allies are more than frustrated with Corker's Hamlet routine.

CNN is told Team Blackburn now making contingency plans in case Corker does change his mind including winning, for now, private endorsement commitments from at least a half dozen maybe more of Corker's GOP Senate colleagues. Fun drama.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Again, thanks for sharing your Sunday.

"STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper is next including exclusive conversations with the Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel and Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff. Don't miss that.

Have a great Sunday. [08:55:41] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)