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Father of Sandy Hook Victim Dies by Apparent Suicide; A Second Parkland Student Dies of Apparent Suicide; Multiple Rocket Sirens Sounding Near Gaza Border; Democrats Demand the Public Release of Entire Report; Michael Avenatti Charged in Two States, Two Separate Cases; Mark Geragos is Unnamed Co-Conspirator in Avenatti Case. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 25, 2019 - 15:30   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: A father whose daughter was killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting has now died in an apparent suicide. This morning New Town police found the body of Jeremy Richman in his Connecticut office building. He dedicated his work to helping prevent mass shootings after his six-year-old daughter, Avielle, was killed back in December of 2012.

And in Florida, the Parkland community is grieving two student suicides a year after the deadly shooting there. And parents held this emergency meeting after a male student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School took his life on Saturday. And that news comes just a couple of days after another survivor of the shooting, Sydney Aiello, took her own life.

So with me now, Ryan Petty, a father who has been socially and politically active after his daughter, Alaina, was killed in Parkland. So, Ryan, thank you so much for being here and for speaking up on all of this. And obviously all of us just were gutted over this constant tragic news. But I know that you were -- you know, this is your home. You were at that meeting last night. How is everyone in your community?

RYAN PETTY, FATHER OF PARKLAND SHOOTING VICTIM: Well, Brooke, I think we're still struggling to understand, you know, what's happening and you know, it's an unfortunate follow on tragedy to -- to a tragedy that the community still hasn't recovered from. We're still clearly in trauma. The students are in trauma. I worry about the students. I worry about the teachers and the staff at the school. And you know, just an unfortunate set of -- just three unfortunate and untimely deaths this week. Just really, I think have caused the community to be very apprehensive and very concerned, but hopefully, this will drive us to action.

BALDWIN: You talk about a community in trauma and I can imagine calls are going out to therapists, you know, after the tragic news in the last week. Can you talk to me about what parents are going through?

PETTY: Well you know I think parents are wanting answers. They got a lot of questions and they're wondering, you know, could this be my son or daughter. And so what we talked about yesterday in our emergency meeting was we really need to drive awareness. We need to make sure that everyone in the community especially parents, understand that their child may be at risk or their loved one may be at risk. And so, we wanted to drive that awareness. Not to scare them or to create more concern, but to make sure that they understand what to look for. And then we wanted to equip those parents with the right questions to ask. So we want to awareness.

[15:35:00] But make sure they have the right questions and the knowledge to determine whether or not their child is at risk or their loved one or their spouse in the case of teachers or staff and then get them -- direct them to the right resources.

BALDWIN: So I want to hear those specific questions. I mean I was just talking to Dr. Kelly Posner Gerstenhaber last hour, who I know you know. You know about questions everyone should be asking not just of pediatrician, everyone. And I know you have several kids. What are those questions you should be asking of your children? Have you had those conversations yourself?

PETTY: So I have. And I will continue to have those conversations and I want every parent in our community to hold each other accountable. We should ask ourselves on social media and at the grocery store, have you asked the questions, right? What Dr. Posner has put together at Columbia University is a simple set of questions. Let me just roll through a couple of them.

BALDWIN: Please do.

PETTY: One is, have you ever thought about going to sleep and not waking up? The next question is, have you ever thought about hurting yourself? Have you -- the next question is, have you thought about how you might accomplish this? And those are three important questions that can help you quickly identify whether or not your loved one is at risk. The beauty of the Columbia protocol that -- what I love about it so much is that it's not something that you have to be a trained therapist to be able to ask those questions. Anyone can use it. Parents, coach, teachers, the barber, pediatricians, anyone can use it. And it's so accessible and so important that everybody understand that they can be part of the solution.

BALDWIN: It's a tough conversation. It is a necessary conversation. I'm going to put those up on my Twitter page. I'm @BrookeBCNN. Ryan Petty, thank you for your voice in, you know, in Parkland and also really nationwide as so many parents are listening very, very closely. I appreciate you.

PETTY: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Let's move on to some breaking news now. Sirens surrounding, sirens sounding near the Israeli Gaza border right now as we are learning Israel has hit the office of a leader of Hamas. We will go live to our crew there just moments away. [15:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Breaking news now out of the Middle East. The Israeli military is striking back at Hamas militants -- excuse me -- Hamas militants in Gaza following a rocket attack and now sirens warning of incoming rockets are going off in southern Israel. CNN's Oren Liebermann is live near Bet Shemesh, Israel. Oren, what is going on?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, at this moment, Israel is carrying out a wide range of air strikes against Hamas targets in Gaza. As you pointed out, after early this morning a rocket fired from Gaza into Israel, struck a home north of Tel Aviv. That is the farthest a rocket has been fired from Gaza into Israel since the 2014 war.

That rocket injured seven people in a home in Israel and now we're seeing the Israeli response. Israel has hit a number of targets, a number of major targets I should say, inside of Gaza including an intelligence headquarters and the office of Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh.

Meanwhile in response to that, militants in Gaza have fired a number of rockets and mortars at Israel. That has triggered alarm sirens across the Gaza periphery in a number of the villages and the towns there. So, Brooke, I think it's safe to say at this point we are in the beginning of a very sharp escalation here. Who knows where this night will go? But it is still early in the evening as we're seeing Israel carry out its retaliation for that early morning rocket.

BALDWIN: And this is coming after the Prime Minister Netanyahu had a significant moment at the White House earlier today. President Trump recognizing Israeli sovereign over the Golan Heights. This is the weeks before Netanyahu's own election where he is facing charges as well.

LIEBERMANN: He hasn't officially been charged yet, but you're absolutely right. Trump and the administration there making it quite clear that they want Netanyahu to win this election. They are effectively campaigning for Netanyahu. This gives Netanyahu -- that is the recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights -- gives Netanyahu a major political victory. A major diplomatic victory. As well as a major foreign policy victory and should give him a boost before the elections.

Of course, now the fighting we're seeing now between Israel and Gaza may also affect that. How? That's much more difficult to predict. But if it comes across to the Israeli public that it's Hamas that decided in Gaza how to start this round of escalation and how to finish it, that could be a blow to Netanyahu. So we may see this boost he got from the White House end before it really began. But it all depends on how this plays out over the next 24 hour or perhaps longer -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: What are you hearing from the Prime Minister's office and what are his plans as far as traveling home? LIEBERMANN: He cut his trip short. He was supposed to meet with

Congressional leaders. He was supposed to speak at the APAC policy conference that's going on right now. But he cut it short right after the meeting with Trump. He is having consultations with the security heads here in terms of how to respond. So it seems his return to Israel has been delayed ever so slightly, but we do expect him on his plane shortly and we do expect him on his way back.

[15:45:00] Even before the Israeli military began its retaliation for that rocket, they'd already closed the entries into Gaza and limited the fishing zone outside of Gaza. Meanwhile, for the communities around Gaza, many have been ordered to open their bomb shelters just in case of incoming rocket fire. So it seems Israel is preparing for what may be a very sharp escalation here in the coming hours.

BALDWIN: All right. Oren Liebermann, thank you so much. Overseas in Israel for us on the breaking news there. We'll keep an eye on that.

Next, all of the Democrats running for President in 2020 have now called for the full Mueller report to be made public. But where do they go from here? We'll talk about the tricky situation they find themselves in now that the President is claiming total exoneration.


BALDWIN: Pressure is on to release the entire Mueller report. Just ask the Democrats running for president.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: The Mueller report must be made public.

BETO O'ROURKE, DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT 2020: I hope this is something that the entire American public can read.

PETE BUTTIGIEG, MAYOR OF SOUTH BEND, INDIANA: I think the American people deserve to see the report itself.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK; The Mueller report must be made public.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), VERMONT: Now I don't want a summary of the report. I want the whole damn report.


BALDWIN: But all these Democrats have a critical decision to make. Do they focus on the aftermath of this whole Mueller investigation or do they distance themselves from it? CNN political director, David Chalian, is with me. And, David, first let's just start with the White House. I mean, how big of a win is this for President Trump, politically speaking?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I think it's a huge political victory. I mean, I do think yesterday was politically the single best day of the Trump presidency. I know there are continued questions that you've talked about on the show and lingering sort of mysteries perhaps of what is actually in the report since we have just seen the summary. But politically speaking the President couldn't ask for more than headlines all around the country saying exactly what he has been saying for the last couple of years which is no collusion.

BALDWIN: And how about in listening to these various Democrats that many of them are pushing for the full report. But others like Pete Buttigieg seem to want to focus on policy issues as we get deeper in the campaign.

CHALIAN: Yes, it's a good question, Brooke. You played all of that sound of all those Democrats. By the way, I know those are Democratic candidates for president saying that, but so too are the American people over all. Republicans, independents, Democrats, one of the things we've seen consensus that I've never seen consensus this large about any issue in the Trump presidency, is that the American people no matter where they sit politically, they do want to see the Mueller report released in the public domain. So that is something that is pretty safe political ground for these Democrats to be on.

You raised the question though of making the calculus of how much to continue to talk about this. Well let's back up for a second. They haven't been talking about it a ton on the trail. Reporters, of course, asked them questions. But it's not top of mind for voters that are interacting with these candidates in Iowa, New Hampshire. So I'm not sure that these candidates are going to be feeling very compelled to continue hammering away at Bill Barr or Mueller's findings.

Some of them have day jobs in the Senate and will want to fulfill some constitutional responsibilities of continuing to hold the Trump administration accountable on some of the lingering issues. But as a main thrust of their political message, just like Democrats in the 2018 midterms learned, this was not the galvanizing thing that got people very engaged politically.

BALDWIN: Do you think this is the thing people are talking about? Like as we -- I know we are still a little bit away from 2020 but is this the thing that Americans care the most about?

CHALIAN: Well, obviously it's the thing dominating the news. Right? So it does end up in some kitchen table conversations. But the answer is no. I mean, we asked in our last poll just last week, an open- ended question, Brooke, that said, what is the one most important issue to your vote in the 2020 Presidential election? Not one responded, not one, offered up the Russia information or the Mueller probe. Some did answer --

BALDWIN: How about that?

CHALIAN: -- democracy and freedom and constitutional sort of balance of power issues between the branches. Which have tangential connections to the probe. But not one responded said the Russia probe or Mueller investigation was a top issue.

BALDWIN: I think that is telling. I think 2020 is anyone's guess. David Chalian --

CHALIAN: On, without a doubt.

BALDWIN: -- thank you very much. Thank you.

CHALIAN: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Back to breaking news today. The attorney who made a name for himself representing Stormy Daniels is now facing a set of his own charges. Michael Avenatti has been charged now into separate cases in California and in New York. And CNN has just learned the name of his co-conspirator.


BALDWIN: Got an update for you on the breaking news we brought you at the top of the show. CNN has learned that attorney, Mark Geragos, is the unnamed co-conspirator in the criminal complaint against Michael Avenatti. That case filed in New York today, just this morning. You know, prosecutors announced that they had charged Michael Avenatti, who represented adult film star, Stormy Daniels, in the hush money scandal involving President Trump. That he has now been charged -- he Michael Avenatti has been charged in this $20 million scheme to extort Nike. Geragos, who is a former CNN contributor, has not been charged with a crime. The Los Angeles based attorney has represented a number of high-profile clients including actor Jussie Smollett most recently. Geragos did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment.

And Apple in the streaming business. The tech giant just announced a totally revamped TV app. It lets Apple TV Plus. The redesign lets customers stream shows and cable movie channels whenever they want.

And also new, Oprah is coming to Apple TV. The queen of talk will be developing content for the app including a reboot of her popular book club. Other highlights include a digital newsstand called News Plus. And a subscription-based gaming service called Apple Arcade. So there you go. The latest out of Apple today.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.