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CNN NEWSROOM

New Zealand P.M. Vows Gun Reforms "Within 10 Days"; New Jersey Cracks Down On "Ghost Gun" Assault Rifles; Trump Defends Fox Host Who Made Offensive Remarks; New Study: Taking Low-Dose Aspirin Daily Doesn't Prevent Heart Attacks, Strokes; CNN Goes Inside ISIS' Last Outpost Inside Syria. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired March 18, 2019 - 14:30   ET

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


[14:30:00] MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And we've heard the U.S. FBI is involved here. The authorities aren't saying why. The FBI had volunteered its services. Tragically, the United States, the FBI has a great deal of experience when it comes to mass shootings.

So their expertise is valued. But it could also be that somewhere among the victims could be an American or someone with dual- nationality that hasn't been revealed yet or, in some way, there's a connection to some group back in the United States. Still early, that's being determined.

One last thing I will leave you with, Brooke, and it's going to be another painful thing for the country. The accused in this case has already dismissed his court appointed attorney and says he will represent himself at trial. You get a pretty good idea where this is going.

The hatred and the white supremacy message that started with gunfire and two mosques is likely to be carried into a courtroom. And in New Zealand, they have never had to deal with that or any of this before -- Brooke?

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Martin Savidge, thank you for all of that on the investigation.

Here's the thing. Did you notice how quickly New Zealand is taking action on guns? Seventy-two hours after the attack. At least one gun-shop owner is refusing to sell certain guns and magazines that enable them to use more bullets.

New Zealand's biggest online auction site as banned semi-automatics and associated accessories, saying, "It's clear public sentiment has changed." That's a quote. My point is this, they have all come together to try and find a solution as fast as possible so the doesn't become routine. Routine?

In America, it's just the opposite. Instead of coming together to come up with concrete solutions like this, each side runs back to its partisan corners, sales of guns go up after mass shootings. It's a crisis in America no matter what side you or on, whether it's concertgoers, high school students, worshippers, or first graders. Nearly 40,000 people in the United States died by guns in 2017.

That's a record high, according to the CDC. And think about this. That Sandy Hook massacre was back in December of 2012. Seven years later, the families are still fighting for justice and change just learned they can proceed with a lawsuit against the gun makers. Proceed. That's their victory seven years later.

The New Jersey attorney general has announced the first criminal charges in the state for trafficking so-called ghost gun that are guns that are assembled from kits purchased online that are not registered and do not have serial numbers, making them untraceable.

Polo Sandoval is on this.

Tell me more about these weapons and what's happening.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT; Let's expand on this and what makes a ghost gun untraceable. It's a weapon assembled by an individual using components that have been purchased online. The components don't have a serial number, so technically they are invisible to law enforcement.

And we know that serial number is crucial when they're investigating various crimes. So the concern here by gun-reform advocates, law enforcement in New Jersey today is this now provides an opportunity -- ghost guns do - an opportunity for somebody who cannot legally possess a firearm to make their own. So New Jersey announced in November the introduction and passage of this law that makes it illegal to do such a thing.

Four months later, here we are, the announcement of Operation Stonewall, which is New Jersey's first opportunity to actually apply this new law. Four of the 12 individuals arrested, according to investigators, were trafficking these ghost guns, assault rifle-style weapons that they were selling for anything from $1,100 to $1,500.

Believe it or not, that's twice the price you would purchase an assault rifle for. As you're about to hear from the attorney general in New Jersey, this so-called ghost guns are a very real concern across the country. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GURBIR GREWAL (D), NEW JERSEY ATTORNEY GENERAL: We are starting to see them at crime scenes. We're starting to see them in our investigations. That's why I say they are not an abstract threat. They're a real threat to public safety, to law enforcement safety.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANDOVAL: It not only makes it illegal to assemble these ghost guns but for manufacturers to ship some of these components to New Jersey. So as we heard from the attorney general, they will be taking a look at some of the manufacturers, Brooke. Keep it on your radar.

BALDWIN: Double the price, invisible -- SANDOVAL: Yes.

BALDWIN: -- therefore, ghost guns. Got it.

Polo Sandoval, thank you for bringing that to our attention.

Just ahead, two of the president's top aides are forced to say he's not a racist, he's not mentally ill, after a wild tweet storm impacting everyone but Vladimir Putin.

[14:34:55] Plus, he also defended the Fox News host who made offensive remarks about a congresswoman, questioning her patriotism because she wears a hijab. I'll speak live with a member of the American Muslim community, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: While President Trump made no mention of the deadly mosque attacks in New Zealand during his tweet storm over the weekend, he did send out a blistering defense of a Fox News host, Jeanine Pirro, suspended for her controversial comments on a Muslim Congresswoman. The president was outraged Fox News took Pirro's show off the air Saturday night. Sources say Fox News suspended Pirro where she doubted Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar's patriotism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: TRUMP: Think about it. Omar wears a hijab, which, according to the Koran 33:59, tells women to cover so they won't get molested. Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to Sharia Law, which in itself is antithetical to the U.S. Constitution?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[14:40:04] BALDWIN: While Fox News publicly condemned Pirro's comments, the president denounced Fox for political correctness. In a scathing three-part tweet tirade, Trump tweeting, in part, "The losers all want what you have. Don't give it to them. Be strong and prosper. Be weak and die. Stay true."

Hoda Hawa is the director of policy and advocacy for the Muslim Pubic Affairs Council.

Hoda, thank you so much for coming on today.

You know, I had read what you told our producers, which as when you first heard Pirro's comments, you were not shocked. But seeing the president coming to her defense, now you say what?

HODA HAWA, DIRECTOR OF POLICY & ADVOCACY, MUSLIM PUBLIC AFFAIRS COUNCIL: I think it's not shock at all. The president has surrounded himself with anti-Muslim bigots with Islamophobes who have created policies like the Muslim ban, like other separation of family policies. He continues to defend people like Jeanine Pirro and their disgusting anti-American comments, questioning people's loyalty, members of Congress, their loyalty to this country and the Constitution because of the faith community that they come from.

That is what is antithetical. And it's completely un-brand (ph) for for this president to defend Jeanine Pirro and the comments she made.

BALDWIN: By defending her and not condemning outright white nationalism, what message is the president sending to the Muslim community?

HAWA: What the president is doing is normalizing hate and bigotry throughout his policies, throughout his promises when he was a candidate. He is showing that it is OK to be bigoted, it's OK to treat others in a hateful manner, and what we saw in New Zealand was a manifestation of that exported hate and of that exported bigotry that. Was the most concerning thing of this weekend.

Like you said, he went on a tirade defending this Fox personality and he had no words for condemning white nationalism. This is a man who said they were very fine people represented at the charlotte rally, when it came to the synagogues in Pittsburgh, the attacks in Canada. And I'm not surprised to see there has been a complete absence of him condemning white nationalism and its ties to what happened in New Zealand on Friday.

BALDWIN: What about, Hoda, Fox News, because they did yank her show, there were actual consequences for one of its hosts. What's your response to that?

HAWA: I will say in this whole story, that's the most surprising thing. I am completely surprised and I am appreciative there were consequences. I think it remains to be seen if the show has been pulled completely or if it was just her show over the weekend. But I do -- I respect Fox News for condemning her statements because, you know, questioning another American's loyalty because of the faith they represent, that's antithetical to our American values.

BALDWIN: The way they did it -- and we don't know her future. They didn't make any public announcements about the show. They just quietly suspend her show.

HAWA: Right. You know, I think that there can definitely be more from Fox News in condemning this kind of bigotry. The platform that they have and the audience that they have --

BALDWIN: It's huge.

HAWA: -- is a very powerful tool, and they need to be very aware of the consequences and impact that this extreme rhetoric has on communities. We saw a manifestation of that in New Zealand not too long ago.

BALDWIN: Hoda Hawa, thank you very much. Thank you for the work you do. I appreciate you coming on.

HAWA: Thank you for having me.

BALDWIN: I want to move on to this new study. Why taking that daily aspirin may now be a risky move.

[14:44:28] Plus, tragedy. Details out of Syria. We've learned more than 100 children have died trying to get to displacement camps. The heavy fighting still hasn't stopped. CNN has access to what's left of ISIS's last camp.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: For decades, people hoping to avoid heart attacks or strokes have done one simple thing, take a daily low-dose aspirin. But a new study cautions that is not what you should not be doing.

Dr. Roshini Raj is an associate professor of Medicine at NYU and contributing medical editor at "Health" magazine is with me.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: No aspirin a day makes the doctor stay away?

ROSHINI RAJ, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, NYU & CONTRIBUTING MEDICAL EDITOR, HEALTH MAGAZINE: No.

BALDWIN: What's changed?

RAJ: What changed is now we're betting at controlling the risk factors of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol. In doing that, we realize that the risks of taking a low-dose aspirin and it's internal bleeding, either your brain or gastrointestinal track, really outweigh the benefits.

It's not going to help you if you're an older person who does not have a risk favor for heart disease or who doesn't have heart disease, and it may harm you. You should not be taking it. I do want to caution people, don't stop taking an aspirin without talking to your doctor.

It's an individual thing. For those who don't have heart disease or risk factors, it's not a good idea to take a low-dose aspirin.

[14:50:09] BALDWIN: How about another piece of news from the journal "Circulation" on sugary drinks. Sodas, juices, sports drinks. The deal is they're saying that drinking those could now lead to premature death, especially if you are a woman.

RAJ: Yes. This was interesting. Like, all right, we know soda is not great for you.

BALDWIN: No Bueno.

RAJ: No Bueno. This is looking at women who drank two or more surgery beverages a day versus those who didn't drink it all, less than once a month. What they found was there was a 63 percent increased risk of premature death and also an increase in cancer. It was more pronounced in women than men.

BALDWIN: Why? RAJ: We're not sure. It's not clear from the study. I'll have to do

more research on it. Even for men, it's not great, about a 30 percent increased risk. They had an increased risk for cancer as well, which is surprising. Colon and breast, in particular, were increased if you have more sugary drinks. It's not just soda. It's sports drinks. Many people think they're healthy --

(CROSSTALK)

RAJ: Not if they have added sugar. Also juice is not healthy is sugar is added. Have the fruit, whole fruit. Or water and put lemon in it.

BALDWIN: I'm a bubbly water and lemon kind of guy as well.

RAJ: Good.

BALDWIN: Dr. Roshini Raj, thank you so much.

RAJ: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Important information for each and every one of us.

Moving on, Meghan McCain, she, today, has responded on the president's attacks on her late father. And Senator Lindsey Graham had a rather tepid response of his best friend against the president.

He was a Republican that was rebuked over his most recent racist comments. And now Iowa Congressman Steve King, sharing a meme that depicts a modern-day civil war. Don't miss this. We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:56:23] BALDWIN: In 2014, ISIS controlled nearly 34,000 square miles in Syria and Iraq. Just one year later that shrunk to roughly 23,000. Now ISIS is defending its last stronghold in eastern Syria as the SDF closes in on them.

CNN's Bed Wedeman is in Syria to tell us more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(GUNFIRE)

(SHOUTING)

(GUNFIRE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Inside the last crater-shelled pocket. Some scramble for cover. Others fire through the barricades. One woman carries an AKA-47 assault rifle. ISIS posted the video on social media. It shows the insanity of that state in its dying days.

Three times since early February, the Syrian Democratic Forces have launched operations to finally extinguish the caliphate. Night and day, U.S.-led coalition warplanes, artillery and mortar barrages have pounded the encampment.

(GUNFIRE)

WEDEMAN: Yet during lulls, people can still be seen strolling through the wreckage.

Buildings appear untouched by the bombardment.

(on camera): This is all that's left of the once vastly feared so- called Islamic State. All it is a sprawling junkyard.

(voice-over): A junkyard of wrecked cars and tattered tents that has defied all the swift and finally victory over ISIS.

(GUNFIRE)

WEDEMAN: Last week, as a gun battle raged around us, we got a glimpse of the conditions ISIS followers lived under.

(GUNFIRE)

WEDEMAN (oc0: What you can see here is where the tents were. This black spot is where a tent was, and all around here you can see tents, and in almost every tent they've dug these trenches to try to get cover.

(voice-over): The SDF says there might be as many as 5,000 people, including women and children, still inside the encampment.

"As long as they give themselves up, we won't attack," this SDF commander tells me.

For that reason it may take some time, but not too much.

Nearly 30,000 ISIS family members have left along with 5,000 ISIS jihadists who've surrendered. The end of the caliphate is near, yet, so far.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, eastern Syria.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: Ben Wedeman, thank you very much.

We continue on. You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me on this Monday afternoon.

We start this hour with the torrent of tweets from the president, showing he's outrages about all but the obviously. In a 40-plus tweet binge, President Trump went off a lot of target, Fox News management, some Fox News anchors, unions, General Motors, a rerun of "SNL," and the late Senator John McCain.

You'll hear how low the president went against the war hero who died last year of brain cancer. In the last hour, the president added some targets, i.e., Robert Mueller, the news media. But absent in all of this has been any words of condemnation after a white supremacist massacred 50 people inside mosques Friday in New Zealand.