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CNN NEWSROOM

President Trump Likely to Sign Border Funding Deal but May Also Declare National Emergency; Parkland Shooting Survivor on Anniversary Calls for Gun Control Legislation; Interview with Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL); Chicago Police Identify Persons of Interest in Jussie Smollett Attack. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired February 14, 2019 - 10:30   ET

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


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Yes. You don't always get what you want. But that's why (ph) you're in Congress, because you compromise.

Phil, thanks very much. Good luck with those 1,100 pages.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Let's get to CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins.

You know, Kaitlan, "The New York Times" had a great line today. It said, "In pursuit of a wall, the president ran into one."

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: Here, on a signature promise. Goes back years. What is the president's view today?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, and that's something that's being talked about at the White House. And that's why you still have not seen one White House official come out and say that the president is going to sign this. Because they're waiting for the president to publicly say so because they don't want to get out ahead of him, just to be later contradicted.

But we do have some new reporting showing that the president has been complaining about the outcome of this deal behind the scenes, saying that he believes those Republican negotiators including Senator Shelby, have been outplayed by their Democratic counterparts here.

Complaining -- asking why he, the dealmaker, wasn't more involved in this process because he thinks he could have gotten a higher number for those barrier fences than they -- is in this deal, that just over a billion dollars there, that Phil just laid out.

Now, the president has been making that argument to allies, to outside advisors as he's been watching the coverage of this. And he watched a lot of it when he was flying home from that rally in El Paso on Monday night, and he was complaining about what the coverage was going to be, especially people like Sean Hannity saying that this was a garbage compromise, and essentially dismissing it overall. You saw a pretty big change in tone from people like Sean Hannity the

next night, when he said that he wasn't happy about this deal, that the president wasn't happy. But he believed the president would take some kind of executive action if he did sign this deal to avoid a government shutdown.

Well, we've now learned that what the change was in that 24-hour period, Jim and Poppy, was a slew of phone calls from the White House to people like Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Lou Dobbs, three people of the president's favorites on "Fox News."

Telling them two things. One, that this was a loss in part for Nancy -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi because she said the president wasn't going to get over one dollar for his wall in this deal, and now he's got over a billion.

And, two, saying that the president, if he does sign this, will declare some kind of national emergency or take some kind of executive action to secure further funding for the wall.

So that's the argument they've been making. And right now, they're not saying whether or not the president is going to sign this. They say they're still going through all the text (ph).

But we know that White House aides are privately relieved behind the scenes because they feel like they've run out of options. They don't have a lot of leverage here, they know. So they are happy that so far, the president has indicated that he will sign this and try to avoid another government shutdown.

HARLOW: Kaitlan, let's hope --

SCIUTTO: Blame --

HARLOW: -- this all works out.

SCIUTTO: -- Blame Congress. Didn't see that coming.

HARLOW: Right, never.

Thank you, appreciate it.

One year ago today, a Valentine's Day changed forever with horrific violence. Seventeen lives lost, 17 people murdered at the Parkland School mass shooting. One student who lived through it and who has taken action since will join us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:37:29] HARLOW: One year ago today in Parkland, Florida, a gunman opened fire at a high school filled with students, teachers and staff. Seventeen people died that Valentine's Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and another 17 were injured.

SCIUTTO: In honor, no classes are being held today. Instead, students are invited to take part in several service projects.

Joining us now is one of the students who lived through that horrific day, Spencer Blum. He's a senior now at Stoneman Douglas High School.

Spencer, thank you today. I've got to tell you, as a dad, I can't discuss this story or look at pictures of this story without -- without tearing up. And I just want to ask you how you're doing, and how your friends are doing a year later.

SPENCER BLUM, SENIOR, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: I can't hear anything.

SCIUTTO: Oh. Having trouble getting through. Let's try --

HARLOW: Should we take a break?

SCIUTTO: Let's try again. Let's take a break because this is an important part of our show. We're going to get that sound fixed --

HARLOW: We'll be right back.

SCIUTTO: -- when we come back, we're going to bring Spencer Blum back to talk about the shooting.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:43:01] SCIUTTO: We have a Parkland shooting survivor that we're going to speak to very shortly. We had some technical problems, audio issues. We're getting those fixed. once we get those fixed, we're going to come back to him and discuss that important story.

Meanwhile, of course, there's lot of news we're covering today. Former FBI acting director Andrew McCabe, opening up to CBS this morning regarding his actions early in the Russia probe.

I want to get some reaction, now, on that issue and others, from Republican congressman, Francis Rooney of Florida. He serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R), FLORIDA: Thank you for having me on.

SCIUTTO: First, I want to play Andrew McCabe explaining his moves in the hours and day after James Comey's firing, with regard to the Russia probe. And I want to get your reaction. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: I wanted to make sure that our case was on solid ground. And if somebody came in behind me and closed it and tried to walk away from it, they would not be able to do that without creating a record of why they'd made that decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCIUTTO: Now, I know you've been critical of Andrew McCabe, as has the president here. But as we know, the president fired James Comey and he said that he fired James Comey because of his handling of the Russia probe.

So you have McCabe there saying, "Listen, got this probe started so that it can't be quashed." Is that wrong?

ROONEY: Well, I think McCabe's kind of a menace for a lot of reasons. I think he's undermined some credibility in a great American institution, the FBI, by what he did.

You know, he reached out to the media to manipulate the media, to -- to try to protect his investigation. I've never heard of anybody trying to use the media that way.

SCIUTTO: But let me ask you, I'm asking specifically. About here's someone who works in the FBI. He's aware that Russia is interfering in the U.S. election. He's just seen an American president fire the FBI director because he was handling that investigation.

And from his perspective -- I'm not defending him, I'm just asking --

ROONEY: Right.

SCIUTTO: -- you to explain to me why it's wrong for someone involved in counterintelligence to take a step to make sure that an investigation at least continues and doesn't get quashed by the administration. Is that a bad thing for him to do?

[10:45:07] ROONEY: Well, I mean, the objective is great, OK? You don't want to quash the investigation. But it's kind of like the ends justifying the means here, a little bit. I think the FBI had rules about going to the press like that and he shouldn't have done it.

SCIUTTO: OK. That's on the McCabe question. I want to ask about the shutdown because you've got a vote coming up, as do your colleagues, on this.

First of all, will you vote for the bipartisan deal to keep government open and give just about $1.4 billion or so to a barrier on the border?

ROONEY: Of course I will. Nobody wants the government to shut down. People all over the country, certainly the government employees are seriously hurt by all this. And people all over the country get worried about our stability of our government, and they lose confidence.

It's kind of analogous to that business about the FBI. People have to have confidence that we know what we're doing up here.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Fair point. But let me ask you this. As you know, the offer on the table in December, before that longest government shutdown in U.S. history, included actually more money for the barrier. Americans at home, seems to me, would rightfully ask, "Why did the president, why did Congress put us through this shutdown and gain nothing?"

ROONEY: They should rightfully ask that. And this whole immigration deal, going back to George Bush's 2007 or Marco Rubio's 2013, or all the talk last year. I mean, it's almost like the old joke about the scorpion and the frog in the Middle East. We don't seem to be able to survive ourselves and do anything meaningful.

SCIUTTO: I get --

ROONEY: Meanwhile, the whole country's clamoring for reform.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Understood. I get that. Well, is there potential for reform at this point? Because all the debate has been so much focused on the wall because the president, that was what he is singularly focused on.

And as you know, there have been discussions about a broader deal that includes, for instance, protection of the Dreamers, you know, in exchange for even more border wall funding.

Do you see any potential, after the experience of the last two months, that you have a genuine discussion about broader reform?

ROONEY: Well, I hope so. But one of the frustrations, as a businessperson coming into this line of work, is the more difficult the challenge, the less chance that Congress wanted to tackle it.

But we desperately need workers in this country. We need those H1-Bs. We need H2-As and Bs. We need to take care of the DACA kids and we need to deal with the TPS situation.

You know, down in our area, we've got an awesome Haitian community that are all there on TPS and some of them have been there 15 years.

SCIUTTO: I want to ask you on another topic, Yemen. As you know, 18 Republicans joined Democrats yesterday to pass a resolution that would end U.S. support for the Saudi war in Yemen.

You issued a statement on Yemen yesterday, saying the removal of U.S. troops is a dangerous exercise that sets a bad precedent. Tell us why.

ROONEY: Well, I think that the fact of removing troops or supporters -- it's really not so much troops in the sense of active military -- from an assistance operation, would vastly broaden the definitions under the War Powers Act. I don't think that's a good idea.

And I think it's a good idea to support Saudi Arabia in their effort to deal with the Houthis that are backed by Iran. My frustration is that there's only 40 or 50,000 Houthis in that entire country, and Saudi Arabia doesn't seem to be able to polish them off.

SCIUTTO: As you know, on the other issue relating to Saudi Arabia, this administration had a congressionally imposed deadline last Friday to report back to the Congress, under the Magnitsky Act, which is existing U.S. law, on what happened with the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Who is being held responsible.

The administration blew past that deadline, and Republicans have told me on this broadcast, that they -- including Senator James Lankford, Republican in the Senate, that the White House is not fulfilling its legal obligations here. Should the White House do so? Why isn't it doing so?

ROONEY: Once again, I'm proud of my friend from Oklahoma, Senator Lankford. He hit the nail on the head. We need to put -- we need to continue to require or request that the White House do what they said they'd do. And we need to run this Khashoggi thing to ground.

We can't let that guy think he can get away with something like that, or it's going to be worse the next time.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Rooney, we appreciate you taking the hard questions.

ROONEY: Thank you for having me on.

HARLOW: Yes. Really important interview.

All right, so also this breaking news that just crossed. Chicago police just have made public that they have confirmed the identifies of two people that are persons of interest in the Jussie Smollett attack. Ryan Young joins us live from Chicago.

What can you tell us?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I was just able to confirm this news myself thorough the Chicago Police Department.

One of the things that we know is, during this attack or after the attack, there was that image that was put out of the two persons of interest.

And even the actor said there was a lot of frustration at the fact of how long this has been taking, to identify the persons who he believes are the ones who attacked him. Well, now Chicago police believe they have identified those two men.

We're not -- they haven't gone into whether or not they've been able to talk to them yet, whether or not they have them in custody. But this is a major development in this case.

What we have learned from the actor, of course, is the fact that he pointed out a camera to police, and that it was pointing a different direction after the attack.

[10:50:02] That attack happened, of course, two weeks ago. He claims -- the actor -- that he was walking back from a subway when two men approached him, yelled some things at him and then started attacking him. He fought back.

He said at some point, he noticed there was a rope around his neck and the smell of bleach on his clothing. Since then, there's just been a lot of questions about what happened, where did these men run off to. And so now we know that police, the 12 detectives who've been working this case around the clock since it happened, have identified the two men who they wanted to find.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next few days, after they talk to them and then try to figure out what happens next. But Poppy and Jim, this is a major development in this case.

HARLOW: Ryan, thank you for the update.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:55:10] SCIUTTO: A year ago today, if you could believe it, the Parkland shooting. And joining us now is one of the students who survived just that horrific day.

Spencer Blum is a senior now at Stoneman Douglas High School. We had some technical issues before, Spencer. It's good to have you back. Thank you.

I've got to say --

BLUM: Thank you for having me.

SCIUTTO: -- I can only look at this as a parent. Imagine those parents who lost their children. And as someone with children, imagine my children in the same situation.

But I just want to ask you how you -- how you and your friends are doing a year later.

BLUM: Well, it's a very rough time of year. The best way I can describe it is, last year, it was something that was happening. So it's hard to get that whole, like, holistic view.

But now it's something that's happened. So right now, we're kind of having to relive all of the confusion and the grief and the sadness. And it's a very overwhelming time.

It's very hard. You have to take it one day at a time. But the Parkland community is very strong and very resilient. And even faced with such tragedy, we've all come together as one, as one community. We're all here for one another. I know if I ever need anything, I have a huge support group and I can -- we're all here for just -- to hug each other, and -- because we all are in this together.

HARLOW: Let's take a moment, Spencer, to talk about your dear friend that you lost, your friend Nick. He was a swimmer, as I understand it, one week before the shooting, one week before Nicholas was murdered, he had signed on with the University of Indianapolis after being offered a full scholarship there.

And I know he hoped of competing in the Olympics one day. This is just one of the 17 of your classmates who were murdered. What do you want everyone to remember about him today?

BLUM: You know, right now, Nick should be diving into six feet under water, to practice swimming for the Olympics, the 2020 Olympics. Instead, he's six feet underground.

There's nothing that can be done to change that. You know, Carmen Schentrup should be decorating her dorm right now. Jamie should be dancing, you know? Nick should be swimming.

These people were -- these kids were our friends. And not to mention the staff that we lost as well. You know, they were our friends. We knew them really well.

It's a really difficult time because, you know, I saw Nick the day before and we said hi in the halls. And I saw Coach Feis that morning, you know? You have to make sure that you talk to your loved ones and your friends. You make sure that they know you love them and you appreciate them. Because you never know when you may never get to say hi to them again.

SCIUTTO: Yes. That is good life advice. I want to ask you this. There was a lot of talk about change after this. Even on a national level, even from the president. Change. Better gun control. Something to prevent this from happening again.

And I just wondered, do you feel let down by your political leaders, a year later?

BLUM: I do feel a bit let down. You know, even on the national level, right now we have H.R. 8 in the House of Representatives. And even we -- I mean, it's -- people have had, now a chance. A whole year since the event happened.

And it was never too soon, but it was always too late. And now there's a year later. The people who were screaming that it's -- "Oh, it's too soon," it's now a year later. There is no excuse.

You know, we need to have sensible gun legislation and gun reform because this was completely avoidable and preventable. And even in our state, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Safety Act was signed last year by Rick Scott. And now there's a bill on the floor of the House to pretty much gut that entirely.

So we have to make sure that all of the things we've accomplished thus far, stay accomplished and they don't get undone. Because then all of this and all of our friends and teachers will have died in vain.

HARLOW: Spencer, let me read you from the president today, marking this one year since the Parkland massacre. His message on school safety.

Quote, "Let us declare together as Americans that we will not rest until our schools, our communities are safe." What is your message to him on that front?

BLUM: Well, you know, shortly after the massacre last year, we were promised a ban on bump stocks. although I believe the ban has now been implemented, it was not very immediate.

You know, if he really does care, if anyone really does care, you know, about the kids and our communities and our schools, then why was this not done after Columbine? Why was this not done after Sandy Hook? And why was this not done right after what happened here? Or Virginia Tech.

[11:00:02] I mean, if -- do -- I'm tired of people just saying, "Oh, here are our thoughts and prayers. We care."