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Trump Calls For Arming Teachers; Melania Trump Addresses Florida School Shooting. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired February 26, 2018 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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[12:30:00] MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF UNITED STATES: -- our continued thoughts and prayers go out to all who were affected by such a senseless act. As a parent, I cannot imagine the kind of grief and tragedy like that
brings. And I hope and I know we all find ourselves wondering what we can do to help.
In my year as first lady, I have also learned that it's oftentimes after a tragedy that you see the strength and resilience of the human spirit. I have been heartened to see children across this country using their voices to speak out and try to create change. They're our future and they deserve a voice.
I know all of you are seeing this in your own states and territories too. And I believe that if we all come together, we can start to affect positive change for our children and help prepare them for their futures.
As I have said before it is important that as adults, we take the lead and responsibility in helping our children, manage the many issues they're facing today. This means encouraging positive habits with social media and technology. Even limiting time online and understanding the content they are exposed to on a daily basis. It also means taking the time to teach them about the real dangers in drug abuse and addiction. This country is in the middle of an opioid crisis. Let's use that grim reality as a tool to stop this epidemic.
Before you leave to go back to your wonderful states and territories, I am asking you all to join me today and commit to promoting values such as encouragement, kindness, compassion, and respect in our children. With those values as a solid foundation, our kids will be better equipped to deal with many of the evils in our world today, such as drug abuse and addiction, and negative social media interactions.
In my role as first lady, I want to nurture and protect the most valuable part of our society and our future, children. I hope you will join me today in my efforts and ask for your support.
My office will be reaching out to many of you in the future as we travel the country and work to promote and fight for the well-being of our children. Thank you all for being here today and thank you for all that you do for your home states and territories. God bless each of you and your families, and God bless the United States of America.
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JOHN KING, CNN'S "INSIDE POLITICS" HOST: Listening to the first lady of United States, Melania Trump there, speaking at a spouses' luncheon in the National Government Association Meeting in town. It's a tradition they go to the White House.
You saw the president earlier meeting with governors in one part of the White House, this is Melania Trump speaking to the spouses. She, too, as the president did bringing up the national conversation about guns and violence in the wake of the Parkland, Florida shooting, saying it is the time to act.
No specific there from Melania Trump, no specific proposals, except to say there's also a drug crisis in the country. The kids need to be restricted on their social media account and what they see on line, but no specific proposals.
Let's talk in the room for a little bit. Let may take you back to the White House for the event still underway with the President, tape of that event that have been still feeding from the president. We may take you back there as developments warrant.
But let's start with the president. What we heard from the president earlier in the sense he said it's time to act. He said he's met with the NRA. He said at times you might have to pick a fight with the NRA.
But again, some -- last week he said he wanted to raise the age limit for gun purchases. At least so far today, we have not heard that from the president. What did he do right, I guess, and what did he not do right in the context of moving the ball in Washington?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they take up a lot of questions too. I don't think we really know exactly what he's talking about, exactly what the NRA is for and what he's for after this lunch that he said was a productive meeting.
He said he wanted to push, "very strong background checks." He said that again, but he did not say if he was willing to go as far as background checks on internet sales and gun shows, which is what would -- the leading proposal in the Senate, the Manchin-Toomey bill, which doesn't have enough votes to pass to Senate. He does say that he would get behind that.
And he also said that he's willing to write up a new executive order, some administrative action in dealing with bump stocks. And of course, there was an issue after the Las Vegas shooting.
[12:35:00] And remember, that time, the NRA said they didn't want Congress to act, and they were OK if the ATF acted. And there were question about whether the ATF had legal authority to even go that far. So, it's really uncertain what the president is talking about here, whether he's in line with the NRA, whether he's ready and really willing to take on the NRA and he suggest that --
JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: I do think it's possible that Trump could try to be the president that takes this really divisive issue and tries to get action on it, because he does have a good relationship with the NRA, he does have a good relationship with congressional leaders. It's just unclear to me after this speech where he is going to fall on this.
I mean, the point that you made about him not bringing up raising the age on purchasing certain types of weapons, that would be -- of all the issues that he's talked about the related to guns, that would be one that the NRA would probably fight the hardest on. The fact he had this lunch with NRA officials over the weekend and then did not raise it in this meeting, I don't know how much to read into that because he had kind of a rambling speech there, but I think that is probably notable.
I also heard from administration officials that they don't right now see a lot of appetite on Capitol Hill to move on that.
KING: Right. And then, it's just that lack of appetite on Capitol Hill that if the president really wants these things, he is going to have to drive that debate and force his own party. Force his own party to (INAUDIBLE), right on who's not with us at the top of the hour when we first went to the president.
Listen right here, again, if you're a Trump skeptic, if you're in favor of more gun controls or at least new gun restrictions, expanded background checks, you've been watching to see, is the president going to be on my side this time? Listen.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because I had lunch with Wayne LaPierre, Chris Cox and David Lehman of the NRA. And I want to tell you, they want to do something. And I said, fellows, we got to do something. It's too long now and we got to do something.
And we're going to do very strong background checks, very strong. We got to do background checks. If we see a sicko, I don't want him having a gun. And, you know, I know there was a time when anybody could have. I mean, even if they were sick, they were fighting. And I said, fellows, we can't do it anymore. And there's no bigger fan of the second amendment than me and there's no bigger fan of the NRA. And these guys are great patriots, they're great people and they want to do something. They're going to do something.
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KING: He said they're going to do something. And he went on to say sometimes we might have to fight with them. If you're the president of the United States, that is smart political positioning. You're safe with your own base. They may look at you and say, what does he mean? You're safe at your own base and you're reaching out to the middle there, smart positioning. The question is, the specifics and the follow-through.
Because to Manu's point, Mike, would come in, the president and he said it again, we're going to do background checks. But the only specific bill he mentioned was Senator John Cornyn's bill, which is a very, very modest reinforcement of the existing system. It does not expand the number -- the types of weapons covered by background checks.
MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: And let me tell you one more variable and that is time, right? So, if you take President Trump at his word and that he wants to do something, the last president that wanted to do something was President Obama right after the Newtown shootings.
And what President Obama found was that time was not on his side. The passion around that event inevitably sage the NRA and their allies in Congress, delayed and delayed and delayed, the president, in the case President Obama, took a lot of time to develop recommendations. And by the time that all got to a vote in April, I think it was April of 2013, which was a good four or five months after the terrible shootings, you know, all of these sort of political energy had faded.
And so, that, you know, part of a question here is, how fast can -- again, if you take President Trump in his words that he wants to do something, how fast can he get the Congress to act because we know history shows that if they wait months and months, and months, and we get to May, there is also an election this year. The closer you get to that, the harder it is for at all these lawmakers to do anything.
You know, if this doesn't happen quickly, whatever this is, and I think to Manu's point that we don't know quite what that is, but if it doesn't happen quickly, I mean I'm very skeptical that it happens at all.
MOLLY BALL, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, TIME: Yes. And I think that sounds -- and this has always been the irony strategy, is to wait out these moments of urgency right because the urgency does fade. I mean, tragically these events happen frequently enough that as soon as the urgency fades, there's --
SHEAR: There's another one.
BALL: There's another one, as fast as that is. So that may probably be working in favor of legislation, it also really interesting to me to see Melania Trump come out and speak on this issue. A lot has been said about how she's been somewhat invisible in recent weeks. And she doesn't often come out to speak on policy at all or even when she does speak, which is relatively rare. So this appears to be something that has moved her as a mother as she spoke about -- we have not seen her really a light on a cause in a way that first ladies traditionally find a signature cause, you know, she talks about cyber bullying, which sounded terribly ironic. But if this is something that she feels passionate about, I think having her to be the face of that could be also really powerful. [12:40:00] KING: Especially, she said she'll be in touch with governor's offices, if she were to travel, especially to places where this is difficult for Republicans to push changes, maybe to bring a national profile with it. We'll see as we go more with the president a little, also more on the controversy now in Florida, aide (ph) has gone control proposals there, the sheriff in Broward county also under fire.
Quick break, we'll be right back with more in just a moment.
KING: Welcome back. School safety, gun control as far of a long conversation at the White House today, President Trump meeting with the nation's governors, Democratic and Republican. An interesting has changed here.
Democratic Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State a former member of the House of Representatives debating the president over the president's proposals, one of the proposals in the wake of the Parkland, Florida shooting, the president says we should train and arm some teachers. The governor disagrees.
GOV. JAY INSLEE (D), WASHINGTON: Now I know that you have suggested arming our teachers. And I just --
TRUMP: No. No. Not your teachers. Arming a small portion that are very gun adept that truly know how to handle it because I do feel, governor, it's very important that gun-free zones, you have a gun-free zone, it's like an invitation for these very sick people to go there.
[12:45:00] I do think that there has to be some form of major retaliation if they're able to enter a school. And if that happens, you're not going to have problems anymore because they're never going to the school. You never going to have a problem. So it would just be a very small group of people that are very gun adept. Anyway, go ahead Gov.
INSLEE: If I may respond to that, let me just suggest whatever percentage it is, I heard it one time you might have suggest the 20 percent, whatever percentage it is, speaking as a grandfather --
INSLEE: -- speaking as a governor in the state of Washington, I have listened to the people who would be affected by that. I have listened to the biology teachers and they don't want to do that at any percentage. I have listened to the first grade teachers that don't want to be pistol-packing first grade teachers. I have listened to law enforcement who said they don't want to have to train teachers as law enforcement agencies which takes about six months.
And I just think this is a circumstance that we need to listen, that educators should educate and they should not be wasted upon this responsibility of packing heat in first grade classes. Now, I understand you suggested this, and we suggest things and sometimes then we listen to people about it. Maybe they don't look so good a little later. So I suggest we need a little less tweeting here, a little more listening, and let's just take that off the table and move forward.
TRUMP: All right. Thank you very much. You know, we have a number of states right now that do that, and I think with that in mind, I'll call on Greg Abbott the great governor of Texas.
KING: The president of the United States testy exchange there with the Democratic Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State against though to the heart of this issue. The president has suggested, he's the president of the United States, so when he -- whatever he says it's a national conversation, although even he tweeted out over the weekend, maybe it should be states who do this. It's one of the controversial proposals of my view is air it out.
If you have a proposal, air it out. So you have the president saying let's arm some teachers. And he did say at one point maybe 20 percent. And he made clear you train them first, you make sure they're adept at firearm skills, the governor of Washington State saying, no way, no how, one of the debates we're having.
PACE: It's a hugely controversial proposal. People who support it support it passionately. People who oppose it oppose it equally as passionately.
I think one of the questions that's come up as we started this debate though is, if you put guns in the hands of teachers in classroom, and you look at what happened in Florida where did have a person who was armed on the campus who did not use their gun. I mean this is not as foolproof solution that the president makes it out to be, if you put guns on campus gun then won't come. That is not necessarily true.
If you put guns in the hands of teachers they will use them and stop the gunman. Also not necessarily true. It's really complicated, it's hard for the -- to see this happening at a federal level, but certainly I think will be interesting to watch at state and probably even more at local levels if you do see certain communities grab onto this idea.
KING: There are some Republican governors. I assume that even in that meeting who would say at least to our state should have this option. So as you get into should we raise the age, should teachers be armed, should the background checks be expanded? We're going to have a national conversation about the -- one of the most fascinating parts to me is because this happened in Florida, because Florida that's a horrific tragedy what happened in Parkland, but because you have a big elections this year including the governor (inaudible) around for the United States Senate.
Because it is such a competitive swing state the American politics, because it is such a gun rights state that a debate in Florida in some ways could be a lot more interesting than a debate in Washington.
BALL: Potentially. I mean, we'll see what happens. And, you know, I think its interesting we keep talking about is Trump that actually proposing in these things, how concrete is it?
It seems to me and this is sort his usual process. Trump is more or less thinking out loud and that did not look like a listening face, the face that he gave to Jay Inslee, right?
KING: That body language is something else.
BALL: Body language was very hostel. But I think he is at this point listening. I think what he's done is float a series of trial balloon and he's seeing what floats and what gets shot down.
And so, you know, with raising the age he may have seen that doesn't fly so well with the NRA so he's going to look at other things as well. He does seem to be listening to the people he cares about whether that's his base or whether that's governor. So he consider sympathetic. He's probably not going to listen to a liberal Democratic governor from the west coast.
But I do think that he is in a phase of just seeing -- he takes people's temperature, right? He polled people at Mar-A-Lago to see what -- that's his sort of focus group. He's always bouncing things off people, and it's the opposite of a traditional president's process who would, you know, in private check the polling talk with advisers and then come up with something that they had drafted that was the thing they were going to present. He presents everything first and then I think, you know --
RAJU: And I think that's what the congressional leaders, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell have been silent so far on this issue, because they don't know exactly where the president stands. We do know Paul Ryan and the president did speak about this issue over the weekend, but exactly where the president is ultimately going to end up.
They don't want to get ahead of the president. They don't want to get crosswise with the NRA. So as a result they're being quiet and that seeing where the debate plays out, and then we'll see what they ultimately decide to do, but we know they're not going to make any key decisions this week in Washington, John.
KING: We're going to continue the conversation. And before we go to break, one victim of a shooting who spent the past two weeks in the hospital recovering from her wounds today she spokes to reporters.
[12:50:10] Listen here, a powerful reminder it's the students and their stories from Parkland who have turned this into such a different national conversation.
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MADELEINE WILFORD, SURVIVED FLORIDA SCHOOL MASSACRE: I would just like to say that I'm so grateful to be here and it wouldn't be possible without the doctors and first responders and these amazing doctors and especially all the love that everyone is sending. I was (INAUDIBLE) thinking about all the letters and gifts that I was given and all the love that's been passed around. I definitely wouldn't be here without it.
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KING: Welcome back.
As the president was meeting with governors earlier today to talk about school safety and gun control, he spoke harshly of the Broward County sheriff's department response. At least one deputy was armed on campus, did not go into the school during the shooting.
There's an investigation into whether three other deputies may have arrived, just exactly when they arrived, they also did not go into the school during the episode.
The president saying, quote, not exactly Medal of Honor winners in criticizing that behavior.
Defending his department and defending his own leadership here on the "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper yesterday, the Broward County sheriff. Listen.
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SHERIFF SCOTT ISRAEL, BROWARD COUNTY: Deputies make mistakes, police officers make mistakes, we all make mistakes. But it's not the responsibility of the general or the president if you have a deserter. You look into this. We're looking into this aggressively. And we'll take care of it and justice will be served.
I can only take responsibility for what I knew about. I exercised my due diligence. I've given amazing leadership to this agency.
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KING: How much is this controversy and this investigation going to impact the other conversations? Because if you are an opponent of new gun restrictions, even an opponent of expanded background checks, you say, no, there were red flags, they missed signals. And then you had an officer on the scene who didn't enter the school deal with the accountability crisis before you start saying, let's change the law.
SHEAR: I mean, look, one of the things that happens after all of these shootings is that the question becomes, do you deal with the general issue or do you deal with the particulars of the incident?
So, you know, after Vegas there was a big focus on bump stocks because that was the accessory that the guy used to make the gunfire faster.
Here, the people who want to avoid a broader, you know, addressing some of the bigger, broader issues of availability of guns is going to -- are going to focus on the particulars of this case in which these things were missed.
KING: And they should be able to do it all. They should be able to investigate. They have the broader conversation, take some votes and see what happens.
Deputy Scott -- the deputy there, Peterson, has hired an attorney who issued a statement saying, let there be no mistake. Mr. Peterson wishes he could have prevented the untimely passing of the 17 victims on that day and his heart goes out to the families of the victims in their time of need.
[12:55:10] However, the allegations that Mr. Peterson was a coward and that his performance, under the circumstances, failed to meet the standards of police officers are patently untrue. He said he's confident as the investigation goes on that his behavior will be taken judge in a different way. But this is now a huge part of the followup to this story.
BALL: Yes, of course. And, you know, there is -- there are a lot of existing systems that could stand to be fortified. We talked about the Cornyn bill. That is also about tightening the existing background check system because there are, especially in this case, a lot of instances in which the existing system broke down.
How do you translate that into policy, right? Is there any way to encourage this kind of thing nationally, whether it's, you know, sheriff's departments like this that are apparently falling down on the job, and of course this is preliminary. We don't know what we're going to find out as this investigation goes on.
KING: And the investigation will play out in the middle of a very tight election here in Florida as well. We'll keep an eye on that, we'll keep an eye on the national conversation.
I appreciated you joining us CNN's "INSIDE POLITICS" today. We'll see you back here this time tomorrow. Wolf starts right after a very quick break. Have a great day