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Trump Moves to Ban Most Transgenders from U.S. Military; School Shooting Survivors Push for Change; Russia Blames U.S. for Developing Nerve Gas in U.K. Attack. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 25, 2018 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[18:00:35] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Hello on this Sunday. Good to have you with us.

We have this just into CNN. The president's Cabinet about to be shaken up yet again. Sources are now telling us that Veterans Affairs secretary David Shulkin is the next to go. It's just the latest upheaval in an already topsy-turvy few days surrounding the president's inner circle.

Our White House correspondent Boris Sanchez is joining us in south Florida, also here with us CNN crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz.

So, Boris, this news about David Shulkin not entirely unexpected. His name has been out there as being on the chopping block but what more are you learning?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Ana. Yes, this information is coming from sources familiar with conversations that the president has had this weekend at Mar-a-Lago with close associates whom he's apparently told that he is considering getting rid of David Shulkin, the Veterans Affairs secretary, possibly as early as this week.

Of course as you noted, there have long been rumors about Shulkin's ouster. Initially he had disagreements with the president about the involvement of the private sector within the VA, but really he's been in hot water over negative headlines that he's generated, but sources at the White House have told CNN the president is frustrated by specifically a report that came out in February about a trip that Shulkin took to Europe.

This $122,000 trip which included airfare for his wife and extensive sightseeing. The report indicated that there were severe derelictions decisions made during that trip that led to questions about how much money he was spending on that trip.

Notably, there are other Cabinet officials like Ben Carson, Ryan Zinke, et cetera, who have been the subject of speculation regarding their futures for similar issues. However, the clearest indication that we've gotten thus far that David Shulkin is the next member of this administration to be on the way out of the door. These conversations that the president has apparently been having at Mar-a- Lago this weekend.

We may see the secretary of Veteran Affairs leaving the administration before the end of the week. Again, that's according to sources at Mar-a-Lago -- Ana.

CABRERA: There's a lot of instability in that West Wing in more ways than one this week. And Shimon, the president's team of lawyers handling the Russia investigation is also upside down this week. Lead attorney John Dowd quit of course earlier this week. And now we hear that two high-powered lawyers under consideration will not come aboard after all. What does his legal team look like today?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, today, Ana, we've heard, we know of two members certainly that are working with him, that's Jay Sekulow who's sort of been serving as maybe more of a spokesperson. He has been involved in some of the strategic decisions and obviously Ty Cobb who is assigned to the White House and really is more of the White House's lawyer.

So we have those two lawyers that are still heavily involved in this investigation. Certainly the idea of bringing on more attorneys is still out there. There have been some issues for the president and his team in trying to hire some new lawyers. We've done some reporting where at least four different lawyers, four different firms have been approached by the legal team. And all so far have said no.

And also the importance in all this is that John Dowd served as kind of the liaison to the special counsel team. He was the one working on possible negotiations into a sit-down with the president, with the investigators and the president.

And as we've done a lot of reporting the last few weeks, some of the topics that Bob Mueller certainly have been interested, certainly the special counsel has been interested in, that they have told the president's team about in a face-to-face meeting two weeks ago, has to do with obviously the firing of former FBI director James Comey, Michael Flynn and also two other topics that we know of which have to do with a crafting of a statement aboard air force one regarding the Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer. So all of that is still up in the air. Those negotiations still ongoing with the president and his legal team.

CABRERA: All right. Shimon Prokupecz and Boris Sanchez, a lot to keep up with. Thank you very much, gentlemen.

Joining us now to talk more about these developments and others is Democratic Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee as well as the Armed Services Committee among others.

Senator, thanks for being here. First, your reaction --

SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: -- as a veteran yourself to this breaking news that the president is expected to fire Veterans Affair Secretary Shulkin? [18:05:02] REED: Well, it seems to be the pattern. Everyone in the

Cabinet is sort of being thrown overboard by the president. Some of it is because I believe he wants to have a group of people who're certainly just cheerleaders to him, not necessarily leaders in the departments.

In the case of Secretary Shulkin, as your reporter pointed out, there are some lapses in judgment in terms of foreign travels and accepting or asking for remuneration from the government. That might be a part of it, but a large part of it is just the pattern of the president sort of disregarding people with experience in Cabinets and trying to staff them with people who just will simply agree with him.

CABRERA: And we are now getting live images of the president just returning to Joint Base Andrews following a weekend in Mar-a-Lago. And as we look at the live pictures, do you believe Shulkin should be fired?

REED: Well, I'm concerned about the issues of his trip to Europe and the travel expenses, et cetera. He should certainly be admonished for that, although I believe that he has great experience, he was the deputy VA secretary in the previous administration. He's someone I think that has been trying to reorganize the Veterans Administration, make sure that it is fully servicing all of our veterans.

So from the subject level, I think he's very confident and capable. I think he probably should not be left his behavior without comment, but that might be an admonishment rather than being fired.

CABRERA: All right. I want to move to the shake-up of the president's legal team. What is your read on that?

REED: Again, chaos. You know, there have, as your reporter once again indicated, many people don't want to come on board because they sense there's no effective sort of way to give legal advice to someone that won't listen to it, won't take it. Letting Mr. Dowd go is I think a signal that the whole team is in disarray.

And again, it would seem to me that there is nothing to the charges that the president insists constantly that there's this -- this is a witch hunt. The simplest thing for the president to do is just sit down with the special prosecutor and answer questions. And that would be it. But there seems to be a lot more to it than the president likes to recognize.

CABRERA: The president was asked if he would still like to sit down with the special counsel just this week. He said yes. It sounds like he is willing to cooperate, no?

REED: Well, he said yes to lots of things and then a few days later said no. And you know, again, last week, the White House was staunchly denying that General McMasters would be replaced by John Bolton and suddenly John Bolton is in and General McMasters is out. So the president's kind of consistency in what he's saying is not the most remarkable phenomenon in Washington these days. CABRERA: Shimon just laid out some of the areas that Mueller is

planning to focus on with President Trump. What does that tell you as we put them up on the screen there? What does it tell you about where Mueller's investigation is headed?

REED: Well, I think the investigation is comprehensive. He's already been very successful. He has gotten guilty pleas from two associates of the president, General Flynn who was both on the campaign and in the White House, Mr. Papadopoulos who was on the campaign. He is getting, I think, a great deal of information, both in terms of testimony as well as e-mails, specific information.

And I think the focus, as been pointed out, is the focus on what the president did in terms of this evolving situation with Director Comey. Was there any attempt to redirect the investigation, interfere with the investigation? Those are very serious potential charges and I think again, that's the focus of Mr. Mueller's investigation.

Also there's still simply questions about coordination between his campaign and the Russians, whether that amounts to something that has a chargeable offense, that's something that the special prosecutor will determine, but these are all very serious allegations.

CABRERA: Where is your committee's investigation at right now? We know the House Intelligence Committee essentially has wrapped up their investigation into Russian collusion and Russian election meddling. Where does the Senate stand?

REED: Well, Senator Burr and Senator Warren have taken a very positive, thoughtful approach to this. The investigation is still underway. There's no sense that they want to preemptively and prematurely stop it. But just last week they publicly commented and had a hearing in terms of Russian engagement involvement in the election, not just in '16, but the 2018 election.

[18:10:04] So they are taking it step by step, accumulating information and evidence. I don't think they will be able to reach a conclusion in the next several weeks or months. In fact, my sense would be that Director Mueller, because he can move much more directly and much more effectively, his results might become more -- become public before any sort of report or conclusion by our committee.

CABRERA: Now tomorrow, looking ahead here, the president is set to decide whether he will expel more Russians from the U.S. as a sign of solidarity with our allies in the U.K. amid the poisoning of that former Russian spy there. What do you want to see the president do?

REED: Well, the president should be much more aggressive towards the Russians. The Senate passed sanctions in respect to their involvement in the 2016 election overwhelmingly, 98 senators agreed. And he has yet to significantly impose those sanctions. There was a few individuals named a few days ago by Secretary Mnuchin. But they were already have been identified as -- and sanctioned in some respects by the previous administration.

So I think the president has to be much more aggressive. It is, I think, a positive sign if he does expel these diplomats, because again, it looks quite clearly that the Russians were involved in this poisoning, which is absolutely outrageous that they would attack a -- someone in Great Britain using a nerve agent that are traceable to Russia. That's outrageous.

And I think it can't go unanswered. And joining the rest of Europe in doing something signals that we're more unified as we should be against this Russian interference and involvement in democratic society.

CABRERA: Now when it comes to diplomacy more broadly, you will soon be voting on a new secretary of State. Last January you voted to confirm Mike Pompeo as CIA director. Does he get your vote this time?

REED: We have to look very closely. And here, the situation is that it's a different job being the secretary of State than the director of Central Intelligence. I think Director Pompeo brought some skills, some insights on his service in the House Intelligence Committee, also his military experience. And I was very concerned when he came up about some of these comments he had made about the so-called enhanced interrogation.

But he committed that -- you know, he rejected that approach as Secretary Mattis has also rejected that approach. And so far he is staying true to that. Secretary of State is different. And he's made some comments about jettison the JCPOA, the Iranian nuclear deal which could I think imperil our diplomacy in the Middle East and across the globe. So he has to be able to respond publicly through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee here. So a whole host of issues.

And then the other factor, too, I think we have to consider is that the president needs someone who is going to not just agree with him and be a cheerleader, but essentially bring him hard truths and hard views about the world. I think to a degree, although I didn't support Secretary Tillerson's nomination, to a degree, he was one that was willing to speak to the president and not sort of pull his punches or simply agree with the president. So I think this has to be looked at very closely. And I am going to look closely at Director Pompeo's testimony.

CABRERA: So it sounds like you haven't made up your mind yet.

REED: Well, no, I don't think we should. I think this -- one, it's only fair to give a nominee the opportunity to explain himself or herself. But two, some of the statements as I've indicated that Director Pompeo has made particularly with respect to the Iranian nuclear arrangement.

CABRERA: Yes.

REED: I think they're very, very potentially disruptive of policy in the Middle East. And in fact, world policy. It's going to be very interesting if the president starts to unravel the Iranian deal at the same time he's trying to negotiate agreement with the Koreans. What are the Koreans going to think? Does anyone believe he has credibility if he does that? So there are many questions that span the globe in terms of the advice that a new secretary of State should give to the president.

CABRERA: Senator Jack Reed, thank you so much for your time this evening.

REED: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: Now the world watched the students of Parkland yesterday -- as the world was watching, but some people didn't think they were watching a movement. They thought this was a carnival.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to save innocent lives? Take the millions of dollars going to this carnival of a march and hire armed guards in schools all over this country. But then these kids would have to shrink from the spotlight and go back to their homework. And the forces funding them would lose the opportunity to further an agenda that's a million times bigger than the guns.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[18:15:05] CABRERA: More on what the NRA is saying about the March for Our Lives next in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Survivors of the Parkland school massacre issuing a stern warning to Congress -- change gun laws or prepare to be challenged at the ballot box.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAMERON KASKY, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS STUDENT: Politicians, either represent the people or get out. Stand for us or beware, the voters are coming.

DELANEY TARR, STONEMAN DOUGLAS STUDENT: We are not here for bread crumbs, we are here for real change, to call out every single politician. To force them into enacting this legislation.

RYAN DEITSCH, PARKLAND, FLORIDA, SHOOTING SURVIVOR: We will register, we will educate and then when it comes down to it, we will vote.

SARAH CHADWICK, PARKLAND, FLORIDA, SHOOTING SURVIVOR: To the politicians that believe that their right to own a gun comes before our lives, get ready to get voted out by us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: I want to bring in our panel, CNN's senior political analyst and senior editor for "The Atlantic," Ron Brownstein and CNN political analyst, historian and professor at Princeton University, Julian Zelizer.

[18:20:09] So, Ron, we have these younger generation now so anxious to vote and potentially take on the GOP. How pivotal is this moment? RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, historically, the

younger millennials have not been more pro-gun control than older voters. And that may be changing. You know, the way the gun issue has evolved over the last 20 years is very instructive because it is now intersecting with a larger changes in the parties.

In the 1990s, Bill Clinton did beat the NRA twice. He passed the Brady Bill, he passed the assault weapons ban. And after that, a lot of Democrats lost in rural and blue-collar areas. And the party kind of retreated from those issues. But here we are 25 years later and Democrats have recognized that they are increasingly a suburban urban party. And in those parts of the country, there is a majority. In those kind of districts there is a majority for gun control.

So while the country itself is still divided closely on the issue, and while it's a much tougher call for Democrats running in rural places, for example, where Conor Lamb won in Pennsylvania, in parts of that district last week, in the suburban white-collar districts at the top of the Democratic priority list in 2018, this is now a winning issue for the party. And I think you're going to see candidates push it pretty aggressively in those places.

CABRERA: I always think it's good to get a real pulse on the majority of Americans. And there's this new FOX News poll out that asks viewers and voters I should say their opinions on the issue of gun control. It shows 91 percent favor requiring universal background checks. 84 percent back mental health checks on all gun buyers. 72 percent want to raise the minimum legal age to buy guns to 21. Even 60 percent, the majority, favor banning assault-style rifles.

So, Julian, could this really be a turning point?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It could be. It has the potential to be a turning point. I think what Ron was talking about is very important in terms of some of the weight of the Democratic Party is clearly shifted. The problem is the other parts of the country still have a lot of power. And the NRA still holds a lot of clout on Capitol Hill. So what we need to see now is what do the students do next?

And what do other movements who are not necessarily at the center of yesterday's march, how do they respond and how do they align? And can they turn the period from now until November into a real political motivation that scares legislators and changes the tone on Capitol Hill? And in some ways, demonizes the NRA. That's what we're looking for. Does it have the same impact as the civil rights march in 1963? Or does it fizzle?

CABRERA: Hold your thought on that piece because I do want to ask you a little bit about that, but about the NRA real fast, Ron, you know, before the march, NRATV actually put out a rebuttal of sorts with this ad called "A March for Their Lives." Take a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to save innocent lives? Take the millions of dollars going to this carnival of a march and hire armed guards in schools all over this country. But then these kids would have to shrink from the spotlight and go back to their homework. And the forces funding them would lose the opportunity to further an agenda that's a million times bigger than the guns.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: So by taking on the Parkland students in this manner, does the NRA risk appealing to the fringe members of their group while alienating mainstream gun owners that would like to see commonsense gun control reform?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, what the NRA has done increasingly over really I think the last 15 years or so is try to make the gun issue less about guns specifically and more as one braid in this broader kind of cultural war. The idea that push for -- a push for gun control is a statement of a lack of respect, a metro, you know, blue America on the, quote, "the values of rural America."

They make it look the less it is specifically about guns, the better they have done. And look, you know, historically, the view in the political world has been that more people vote who oppose gun control are more likely to vote solely on the issue than the people who support gun control.

The problem the NRA faces is that it is now -- guns are now just one of many issues that are reinforcing this realignment that we are seeing where the rural areas are becoming more predominantly Republicans. But Democrats have an historic opportunity in this election because of Trump's unpopularity in these white collar suburbs where Republicans have been holding on in areas that are otherwise growing more Democratic. And that kind of extreme rhetoric, I think, will make it tougher.

The big change in gun control issues, Ana, from the '90s is that in the '90s, Republicans from these suburban districts voted for gun control by and large and voted against the NRA. There were 40 House Republicans who voted for the assault weapon ban in 1994. Today those suburban Republicans are voting in lockstep with the NRA. And I think as this issue has become more visible many of them are going to be caught out on a limb as the tide moves in the other direction.

[18:25:01] CABRERA: When you put this in historical context, Julian, we saw yesterday in Washington a very special guest, the granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr. And you have this piece that you've written out for "The Atlantic" and talking about how these gun-control activists, these young generation can take away some lessons learned from the civil rights movement.

What should they know? How do they take this from a moment to a true movement that changes?

ZELIZER: Yes, the most important for the moment is this can work. The opposition of civil rights was also incredibly difficult and stubborn and powerful in 1963. And young people helped end that. But it took a lot of work beyond the march. They do need to find political leaders like Lyndon Johnson or John F. Kennedy who were willing to spend political capital on this issue. They also need to form alliances with organizations that are established that have large memberships and then have a presence in Washington because this is going to be about elections. And it's going to be about legislation. So they are going to need allies. And they're going to have to be able to do this almost on a full-time basis, which is hard for young people, both through the election, both through legislation and even after legislation to make sure it's undone.

And they are also going to have to continue to make sure the media pays attention. Because the media will move on to other issues, but one of the things civil rights activists make sure, people like Martin Luther King, is that the stories came back to what was going on with race relations. And that is what the students will have to do with guns.

BROWNSTEIN: Ana?

CABRERA: Last word quickly, Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: Real quick. Just as with civil rights, there's a structural challenge in the Senate on guns. It is possible to envision that you can have an urban/suburban base majority for gun control in the House. The problem is the small state bias in the Senate gives a disproportionate influence to the rural states where this is the toughest issue. If you go back to 2013 when President Obama opposed the universal background checks after Sandy Hook, there were 55 senators who voted for it, 45 who voted against it. But if you get half of each state's population to each senator.

The senators who voted for it represent 190 million people. The senators who voted against it represent about 120 million people. And yet it was blocked by a filibuster. So that hurdle is still out there that you're going to need some senators from either party, from states that are more marginal in the end to accept more limits to pass this than they have been willing to do so far. But it is possible to see where after 2018 there could be a majority in the House supporting these kind of measures.

CABRERA: Rod Brownstein, Julian Zelizer, good to see you, guys. Thank you so much for joining us.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

CABRERA: Fears of a trade war are giving investors jitters.

Christine Romans now in "This Week Before the Bell.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. Well, fears of a trade war spell more trouble for investors. On Thursday the Dow tumbled more than 700 points after President Trump unveiled about $50 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese imports. But China is threatening retaliation with $3 billion worth of tariffs on U.S. goods. That's on the heels of the administration's steel and aluminum tariffs. A growing protectionism is causing jitters on Wall Street. 30 percent

of fund managers now say a trade war is the biggest risk to the market. It's the first time in more than a year that inflation hasn't been the number one concern.

This week watch big tech stocks, Facebook shares pummeled over its data privacy scandal. That dragged the entire market lower. Mark Zuckerberg's apology didn't soothe investors and the worst doesn't seem to be over for that stock.

In New York, I'm Christine Romans.

CABRERA: Thanks, Christine.

Coming up, a policy change that will keep most transgender people from serving in the military. We'll talk to someone who may be affected, next.

[18:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump, late Friday, revoked his blanket ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military. And he replaced it with an updated policy banning most transgenders from serving in the U.S. military with certain limited exceptions. For example, people who are, quote, stable for 36 consecutive months in their biological sex prior to joining the military.

Let's talk it over with Nicholas Talbott, a transgender man trying to join the U.S. Air Force.

Hi, Nicholas. Good to see you again.

NICHOLAS TALBOTT, TRANSGENDER TRYING TO JOIN U.S. AIR FORCE: Hi, thank you for having me again.

CABRERA: This ban disqualifies transgender people who require significant medical treatment and those with a history or diagnosis of what's known as gender identity disorder. Nicholas, is it clear to you where you stand?

TALBOTT: Yes. So at this moment, this new announcement really doesn't have any effect on me at all because all we're dealing with right now is just more details on the same old ban that's been revoked and had the stop put on it by several federal courts.

CABRERA: Any concerns that this new ban with its exceptions might help it withstand a court challenge?

TALBOTT: No. You know, at this point, this is just another speed bump along the road. I am very confident that we are all going to keep pushing forward with this, and that the courts are going to continue to see that there is nothing about being transgender in any way, shape, or form that would disqualify an individual from military service, provided they can meet all of the set standards.

CABRERA: Given the headwinds at the top in this administration, you sound so confident. What gives you that level of confidence?

[18:35:02] TALBOTT: Yes. I mean, I know from experience that there is nothing about my being transgender that has any impact on my ability to put on the uniform and serve my country, and I hold on to that.

And I know that there are thousands of other folks out there just like me who can say the same thing. As long as we can meet the standards, we should have the chance to put on that uniform and serve our country just like anybody else.

CABRERA: One of the things that has come up in this discussion is money. In 2016, a Pentagon-commissioned RAND study concluded that allowing transgender troops would have minimal impact on military readiness and health costs. Less than $10 million per year, which sounds like a lot but it's really just a fraction of the overall defense budget.

Defense Secretary Mattis, however, has now openly challenged that study on Friday saying it relied on limited and caveated data to support its conclusions and that the policy issue is more complex than the Obama administration or RAND assume.

So, Nicholas, what's your reaction to that? Or what do you say to those people?

TALBOTT: You know, we, as a country, pride ourselves on the fact that we take care of our service members and their healthcare needs. And we already have thousands of transgender people serving honorably and openly in the United States military. And I think that, in itself, speaks volumes on this issue.

CABRERA: We have seen lawmakers on both sides of the aisle speak out in support. Joni Ernst, for example. How do you see this playing out?

TALBOTT: Yes. Like I said, I know for a fact that there is nothing about my being transgender that would prevent me from being able to serve in the military honorably and fully.

I know that it's true for all the other transgender recruits out there who want to serve. And I know that, ultimately, we are going to be able to put on that uniform and serve our country with honor.

CABRERA: Does Trump's position affect your desire, overall, to join the U.S. military at all?

TALBOTT: No. I have always had a desire to be in the United States military, and I am looking forward to serving my country and my constitution no matter who the Commander-in-Chief is.

CABRERA: Well, thank you for your bravery, your dedication to serve this country. Nicholas Talbot, good to see you, and keep us posted.

TALBOTT: Thank you so much for having me again.

CABRERA: Meantime, a U.S. Army vet who served two tours in Afghanistan has just been deported.

According to a statement from ICE, Miguel Perez was escorted across the U.S./Mexico border in Texas and handed over to Mexican authorities on Friday.

Now, his case is complicated. Perez served time in prison on a felony drug conviction after being diagnosed with PTSD.

And he has a lot of supporters including Illinois Tammy Duckworth who argues his wartime service should earn Perez the right to stay in the U.S. and to receive mental health treatment for PTSD and substance abuse.

His latest appeal, however, was denied just last week. He was brought to the U.S. illegally when just eight years old.

Coming up, as Parkland students lead the charge on the gun control debate we are having right now, many of those who have lived through other shootings are adding their voice to this debate. Their message, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:42:43] CABRERA: Welcome back to the CNN NEWSROOM.

I want to show you some video we just got back here in the newsroom, in fact, of President Trump just arriving back at the White House after his weekend in Mar-a-Lago. And he was immediately greeted with a lot of questions about the allegations of an affair with Stormy Daniels. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, are you going to watch "60 Minutes"? Are you going to watch the big interview today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about (INAUDIBLE)? Does he still have your confidence?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, are you not going watch "60 Minutes" with Stormy Daniels, sir? Mr. President?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: So as you just witnessed, a lot of questions and no answers. The President basically ignoring but waving to acknowledge those people who are asking all the questions, our reporters included there.

Melania Trump, as you noticed, was not at his side. We were told she is staying in Mar-a-Lago with a -- with her son, Baron -- with their son, Baron, as part of a pre-planned spring break vacation.

It is a club that no one asked to be in or wants to join. It's a community that understands the horror of gun violence inside their schools, inside their classrooms, from Columbine to Red Lake to Sandy Hook and too many others to list here. These communities are still feeling the impact of their school shooting nightmare and still working to prevent the next one.

CNN's Scott McLean reports on how they are leading and lending their voices to this latest gun reform movement.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is a student here with a gun.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nineteen years ago, 12 students and a teacher were killed inside of Columbine High School, gunned down by two of their peers in a place they were supposed to be safe. Tom Mauser lost his 15-year-old son, Daniel, that day.

TOM MAUSER, FATHER OF COLUMBINE HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING VICTIM: I don't know how -- frankly, I don't know how I got through those first few days and even weeks.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Since then, police protocols have changed. So have state gun laws. Thanks in part to Mauser's work to close the loopholes his son had ironically pointed out just weeks earlier.

MAUSER: And then he was killed with a gun that was purchased through one of those loopholes.

MCLEAN (voice-over): In Colorado, background checks are now nearly universal, and there's a limit on magazine size.

But still no one has found the cure to America's school shooting plague.

[18:45:00] MAUSER: We have to deal with this, this terrible illness that we have. And guns are a part of that.

MCLEAN (on camera): Even if you fixed all of the gun loopholes, you might not solve the school shooting problem.

MAUSER: No, we have to do a number of things to deal with the gun violence problem. And we're going to have to compromise. We're going to have to sit down and talk this out and not scream at each other the way we are right now.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Mauser's work continues to this day, still wearing his son's sneakers.

MAUSER: I'd like to think that by, you know, stepping in to his shoes that I am doing what he would want me to do.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Columbine never asked for its newfound notoriety nor did it seek out this dreamcatcher, a gift from students in Michigan meant to ward off bad dreams after a collective nightmare.

In March 2005, Columbine passed it on to Red Lake High School in Minnesota after a student killed seven people there using stolen police-issued weapons.

MISSY DODDS, FORMER TEACHER, RED LAKE HIGH SCHOOL: I saw evil that day.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Missy Dodds was teaching when her former student started shot through a floor-length window to get inside her class.

DODDS: He just started shooting and just went down the line. And when he got to me, there was nothing left in his gun.

MCLEAN (voice-over): But in a culture where hunting is common, the shooting didn't spark much of a discussion about guns.

MCLEAN (on camera): This was about mental health. This was about school safety.

DODDS: It was shut down and forget it ever happened.

MCLEAN (voice-over): But Dodds couldn't forget. She tried and failed to convince lawmakers in the state capitol to use shatterproof glass in schools, which she thinks would have saved lives.

DODDS: I went with a principal from another school district where a shooting had happened and was literally blown off.

MCLEAN (voice-over): It seemed the country was content to move on without doing much at all until seven years later when Red Lake passed the dreamcatcher to Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just hope it doesn't travel anymore.

MCLEAN (voice-over): A lone gunman had used an AR-15 to kill 26, 20 of them young children. Michele Gay's seven-year-old daughter, Joey, was among them.

MICHELE GAY, MOTHER OF SANDY HOOK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL SHOOTING: My oldest daughter just couldn't accept it. It just couldn't be. You know, she was sure that it was a misunderstanding.

MCLEAN (voice-over): For months afterwards, a group of Sandy Hook parents unsuccessfully pushed for sweeping gun control legislation. Gay now pushes schools to be safer but doesn't push gun control.

GAY: If we go in and we start mentioning hot button issues or you know -- or political arguments, we suddenly divide the room in half.

MCLEAN (on camera): When the President says that arming teachers is something that we should look at, you don't dismiss him?

GAY: I don't. We should look at everything. We should put everything on the table. We can't ever count on any one thing.

MCLEAN (on camera): There's no one single magic wand that will solve school shootings.

GAY: I believe if there was, we would have found it and waved it by now.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MCLEAN: And after the Sandy Hook shooting, that dreamcatcher went to Marysville, Washington and then on to Townville, South Carolina. Last week, it was presented to students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

But the students there kept it for just 17 seconds in honor of the 17 victims and then they gave it back. Instead, opting to retire the dreamcatcher with the hope that no other school has to relive their experience.

Scott McLean, CNN, Denver.

CABRERA: Thanks, Scott.

New developments this hour in the poisoned spy case. Russia now claims that the U.S. was behind the development of the nerve agent that poisoned a former Russian spy and his daughter in the U.K. How the U.S. is responding, next.

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[18:53:11] CABRERA: Russia is now blaming the U.S. for developing the type of nerve gas formula that poisoned a former Russian spy and his daughter in the U.K. earlier this month.

A high-ranking Russian official accused the U.S. of developing this poison back in the late 1990s. Now, this comes as President Trump is considering expelling a group of Russian diplomats over the poisoning.

Multiple countries have said they believe Moscow is behind the attacks. The U.K. has already removed 23 Russian diplomats, and the Kremlin retaliated by ordering expulsions from their country as well.

CNN's Michelle Kosinski has been working the story for us.

Michelle, let's talk about the timing. Why is the President weighing this move now versus right after the U.K. expulsions?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. Well, this would be pretty quick especially since European countries are doing the same thing. They're still deciding what they're going to do if they expel diplomats, how many.

But what we do know is that just on Friday, the President's national security team urged him to act now against Russia and expel some Russian diplomats from the U.S.

Now, though, a source familiar with these discussions says that they're expecting an announcement as early as tomorrow and that Europeans are seeing some signs to be optimistic. That this is going to be a big coordinated announcement with multiple European countries, possibly 20 of them, to kick out a significant number of Russian diplomats.

So it's kind of this tit for tat that we'll see. Russia will expel diplomats too. You know, other countries are doing this in solidarity with the U.K. which has already kicked out some Russian diplomats and then Russia responded in kind.

So that's likely what we'll see, but we have to say that until President Trump makes the decision, even though his security team is telling him he ought to do this, you never really know what the outcome would be.

[18:55:03] It was only days ago that we saw this same national security team tell him, in big capital letters, do not congratulate Russian President Vladimir Putin on his election win, but, of course, President Trump, we saw him do just the opposite.

So that may be why this story is leaking out right now. These are private conversations going on within the White House. But clearly, there are people on the inside who want it to be known that the President's national security inner circle is advising him to kick out these diplomats.

And if he doesn't make that decision, it sets the stage for all of the questions why, Ana.

CABRERA: Michelle Kosinski, we know you will be on top of this for us. Thanks so much.

Coming up, some new revelations now about President Trump's alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels from Stormy Daniels herself. That's just ahead here in the newsroom.

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