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Trump Backs Off Own Call to Raise Age to Buy Guns; White House Dismayed as DeVos Struggles to Answer Questions; Japanese Official: Maximum Pressure Worked on North Korea; 2 Fertility Clinics Dashing Pregnancy Hopes After Malfunctions. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired March 12, 2018 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] REP. TED DEUTCH, (D), FLORIDA: All of those have broad support. Sadly, the response from the administration is to form a commission? The secretary of Education, who last night in a television interview, showed a really embarrassing lack of understanding of so many of the issues she has to deal with. Well nowhere was that clearer, Fredricka, than when she said with respect to school shootings. There is no time to waste. It has been 19 years since Columbine and five years since Sandy Hook and a month almost since Stoneman Douglas. And they want a commission? We need action now. That's what people expect.

And David Hogg was right. The president sat in that meeting with me and others and looked at our colleagues in the eye and said, you can't be afraid of the NRA. And yet, here he is, retreating to a position, retreating to a position that is solely the one that the NRA advocates. That is shameful. We need leadership from the president. And we need leadership from Congress if things are going to change. We're going to keep pushing. We're going to keep advocating with those student survivors for the change that is necessary.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: So the president has been busy on Twitter today. He just tweeted about, you know, this plan, and why this plan doesn't call for raising the legal age to buy a rifle nationwide, "On 18 to 21 age limits, watching court cases and rulings before acting. States are making the decisions. Things are moving rapidly on this. But not much political support to put it mildly," he says.

You met with the president, you told him that when it came to stricter gun laws, you can do this. You challenged him. You said, and I'm quoting now, "You can do this with presidential leadership. It doesn't matter what Congress says." So you're saying now there say lack of presidential leadership. The president just tweeted there isn't the political support there. But you disagree. There is political support to make these things happen?

DEUTCH: Well, if by saying -- by saying there isn't political support, the president is referring to the speaker of the House, and the Senate majority leader who were unwilling to yield to the will of the American people and bring meaningful gun safety legislation to the floor, then he's right. But if he's talking about political support throughout the country, among the American people, he couldn't be further from the truth. Of course, there is support to take these measures, not even just generally. NRA members -- NRA members overwhelmingly believe that everyone should get a background check if you purchase a gun. The fact is, the NRA continues to hide behind its members and to advocate on behalf of the gun corporations. That's the problem here.

Look, Fredricka, we're going pass this week legislation that I introduced with Congressman Rutherford, the Stop School Violence Act, and it is a good piece of legislation. The Fix NICS bill is a good piece of legislation. We should act on that quickly as well. But those aren't the types of bold steps necessary after what happened at Stoneman Douglas and after Sandy Hook and after Columbine. Again, I just -- I can't believe that the secretary of Education said that there is no time to waste and then announced that we're going to have a commission to study this. We know what has to be done. It is time to move forward and act on it.

WHITFIELD: In the meantime, do you feel it is incumbent upon states, such as the state of Florida, which the governor has just signed one proposal, is it up to the states, in your view, incumbent on states to take the lead here?

DEUTCH: Well, of course, it is important for states to act. What happened in the Florida legislature, raising the age to 21, three-day waiting period, gun violence restraining orders, those are good provisions that defy the NRA. It is a remarkable success for the student survivors, the families, and the people of Florida to see those provisions become law. But if we don't have a national standard, then we're going to continue with the system that allows people to go to states with lax gun laws to buy guns, if there is no age limit, no background check, if they -- if the ability to purchase them is easier than in states with tougher gun laws, and then to transport the guns to other states putting people at risk. That's why we need to act in Washington and we have to push back against the gun lobby in order to do it. I remind the president, when he looked at my colleagues and said they shouldn't be afraid of the NRA, he shouldn't either.

WHITFIELD: Have you lost hope or are you losing hope that there will be a national standard?

DEUTCH: Well, no. I'm never going to lose hope, not when you see the passion among students. Not even just the students of Stoneman Douglas. Students around the country inspired by them. The fact that there is a movement that has now been created that will demand change, it may not be as fast as we want. But there is going to have to be action taken to move forward on gun safety legislation to keep our schools, our communities safe. If there isn't, there are a lot of people who go to the polls in November and wonder why it is their sitting member of Congress or sitting Senator put the profits of gun companies ahead of the safety of kids and their communities. That's when this movement is really going to take off.

[11:35:36] WHITFIELD: All right, Congressman Ted Deutch, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.

DEUTCH: Thanks so much, Fredricka. WHITFIELD: Coming up, the Education Secretary Betsy DeVos struggling

to answer basic questions on school performance, and those schools are right in her own state. Hear the secretary in her own words, next.


[11:40:14] WHITFIELD: New reports from the White House say officials there watched in dismay as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos struggled to answer simple questions about her home state's schools in an interview with "60 Minutes," just yesterday. Listen.


LESLEY STAHL, TELEVISION JOURNALIST, 60 MINUTES: Have public schools in Michigan gotten better?

BETSY DEVOS, EDUCATION SECRETARY: I don't know overall. I can't say overall they have all gotten better.

STAHL: The whole state is not doing well.

DEVOS: Well, there are certainly lots of pockets where the students are doing well.

STAHL: But your argument that if you take funds away, that the schools will get better is not working in Michigan. Have you seen the really bad schools, maybe try to figure out what they're doing?

DEVOS: I have not -- I have not -- I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.

STAHL: Maybe you should.

DEVOS: Maybe I should. Yes.


WHITFIELD: Let's bring in CNN correspondent, Rene Marsh.

Rene, this interview not helping the secretary as she takes on another huge responsibility.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION & GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: That's right. She is. Three weeks after -- or more than three weeks after the Parkland school shooting, the White House announced yesterday that the Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will lead a federal commission on school safety to essentially come up with policies to prevent future school violence.

But DeVos is really grabbing headlines for just how much she struggled in answering those basic questions about the quality of public schools in her home state. It has been more than a year since she took office. And the current state of public schools is certainly in her wheel house, but she couldn't explain why schools in her home state of Michigan continue to perform poorly. For years, as you know, DeVos' family has contributed millions of

dollars to expand school choice as well as charter schools in Michigan. Despite that nationwide ranking, the nationwide ranking of school performance found that Michigan ranked 35th in the nation with an overall grade of c minus. Now, DeVos couldn't explain why despite the program she's champ pond schools in her home state continue to struggle.

Also, it makes it a tough sell for DeVos who continues to push for tax dollars to be used to fund private school vouchers, which critics say would only deprive already struggling public schools of funding.

On top of all of that, Fredricka, DeVos admitted, and you heard in that piece there, she has not visited any of the poor performing schools to better understand why that they're struggling.

WHITFIELD: And then on another note, DeVos suggested that the president needs to be a better example to children. What did she say?

MARSH: Right. So this weekend, at a rally for a Republican House candidate in Pennsylvania, the president took jabs at the media once again. This time, it was specifically targeted at NBC's Chuck Todd, calling him, and I'm quoting, "a sleeping SOB." DeVos was asked about the president's comments, just this morning, and his use of that language. And here's what she said.


DEVOS: I would probably use different language myself and I think we all have an opportunity and a responsibility to be examples to our kids.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN ANCHOR: Including the president?

DEVOS: That would include the president as well.


MARSH: All right. So she's not a fan of the language that the president used there. That is her words there.

But, again, that interview that happened this weekend not doing Betsy DeVos any favors. She is certainly getting a lot of pushback because of just what appears to be her lack of basic understanding, even just this long into her time there at the Department of education -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: Rene Marsh, in Washington, thanks so much.

Coming up, the president -- the pregnancy, rather, hoped for hundreds of women could now be crushed. How mechanical failures at two fertility clinics may have endangered thousands of eggs and embryos. Details on that straight ahead.


[11:48:41] WHITFIELD: No official response yet from the North Korean government about potential talks between Kim Jong-Un and President Trump. Japan's foreign minister says North Korea's recent change in position, quoting now, "is the result of maximum pressure from Japan, the U.S. and South Korea," end quote. And that they need to keep pressuring the North to give up their nuclear and missile programs.

U.S. leaders say neither side is making concessions at any time.


MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: Make no mistake about it, while these negotiations are going on, there will be no concessions made. The activity of this administration to disrupt the North Korean economy, to put pressure on North Korea, to galvanize the world in the way you have countries from the Middle East and Europe and Asia placing sanctions on North Korea regime, those will continue, and we'll see how talks and negotiations proceed.


WHITFIELD: I want to bring in now Jamie Metzl. He has been working with the National Security Council and the State Department under President Clinton. He is now a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council.

Good to see you.

In your view, this could be a break in a longstanding deadlock or it could be ill advised. So what, in your view, will be need for this move to be a success for U.S. allies as well?

[11:50:02] JAMIE METZL, SENIOR FELLOW, ATLANTIC COUNCIL: Well, there is a very small chance this could lead to a breakthrough. And the argument for that is there is a lot of pressure on North Korea because of the sanctions, and that could get them to make some type of concessions that would be helpful. But the chances of that happening, the chances of North Korea making concessions on nuclear weapons, in my mind, is very, very close to zero. Because nuclear weapons are so important as an insurance policy and as the source, in many ways, of power of the North Korean regime, that the only way they're going to give them up is if the cost of keeping them is so high that they have to give them up in order to be safer. That's only going to happen if they're on the verge of economic collapse or imminent military action. And because imminent -- because military intervention is not really possible for the United States in any palatable way, and because China is making sure North Korea has an economic lifeline, there is really very little of a feasible path to North Korean denuclearization. And so President Trump is bumbling in to these negotiations without a real strategy, without a real plan, without even a team. And it's very likely that not much is going to come of this, and then where are we going to be? And then the Trump administration is going to say, all right, we tried, and things are going to be worse and even more dangerous. So there is a possibility something good could happen, but this is really dangerous. And to do it this way in such an improvisational manner is really worrying.

WHITFIELD: So we are here, we are at this juncture, and the CIA Director Pompeo says the U.S. will not make concessions ahead of the talks. And then the spokesperson for the White House, Sarah Sanders, caused a lot of confusion on Friday saying the talks won't happen until North Korea takes concrete steps, which then the National Security Council had to clarify saying she wasn't putting pre- conditions on that meeting. So what do you think is happening in terms of preparing for a potential meeting?

METZL: Well, it's simply preposterous and dishonest to say that we won't make concessions in advance of talks. Because we have already made one of the biggest concessions in the fact of putting our president forward for talks themselves. The North Koreans for decades have been desperate to have a leadership meeting with the United States president. Any president in five minutes could have had this kind of meeting if our leaders thought it was a smart thing to do. We haven't because we didn't want to legitimate the North Korean regime, which is an incredible brutal regime. There are over 120,000 people in horrible conditions in prison camps. They're developing active nuclear weapons that are destabilizing the entire region. It's a very, very big threat. But we have given them a major gift, really, for nothing. Essentially, they have agreed -- if they've agreed, because we have nothing in writing, no official statements from the North Koreans -- but if they've agreed to halt testing for two months, we are giving them this gift of a presidential meeting, and the legitimation that comes with that for nothing.

WHITFIELD: Jamie Metzl, we'll leave it there. Thank you so much.

METZL: Sure.

WHITFIELD: Coming up, how technical malfunctions at two different fertility clinics could dash the pregnancy hopes for over a thousand women. Details ahead.


[11:57:47] WHITFIELD: Malfunctions at two fertility clinics in two separate states could potentially leave hundreds of families unable to conceive. The Pacific Fertility Clinic in San Francisco announced a storage problem of thousands of frozen eggs and embryos. This follows an unrelated but equally distressing defect at a clinic in Cleveland.

Joining me now, CNN correspondent, Dan Simon.

Dan, what happened?

DAN SIMON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. What a sad coincidence that this would happen at two different fertility clinics during the same weekend?

Here's what we know. The Pacific Fertility Center here in San Francisco said there was some type of equipment failure in its cryo storage unit and they saw a drop in liquid nitrogen levels and as a result thousands of eggs and embryos could be compromised.

Here where it gets emotionally taxing. They're not saying definitively these eggs and embryos are no longer viable. They're simply saying the possibility exists.

I want you to hear from one woman who got the devastating news. Take a look.


KATIE MILLER, FERTILITY PARTICIPANT: It's a real shock because, you know, you put so much faith in the process. Losing those possibilities is something that's really difficult to put any kind of number on. For some people this is perhaps their only chance at having biological children.


SIMON: That woman already has two healthy children, but she was looking at the possibility of having a third. She acknowledged how difficult this must be for a woman wanting to have her first biological child.

Fred, the bottom line is the equipment failure has been fixed but the emotional fallout is just beginning.

Now, the eggs can be thawed to see if they're still viable, the embryos and the eggs, but once they're thawed, they cannot be refrozen, so that's the dilemma, of course, that people face. Fred?

WHITFIELD: Dan Simon, thank you so much.

And thank you so much for being with me today. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.

[12:00:02] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Thank you, Fredricka.

Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

Remember the president promising to lead the new guns debate and scolding lawmakers for being afraid of the NRA? Well, the new White House school safety plan is out today --