Return to Transcripts main page

INSIDE POLITICS

Trump: Will Tackle the Difficult Issue of Mental Health; 7 People Remain Hospitalized After School Shooting; 17 Killed, At Least 14 Wounded in FL High School Massacre; Suspect Charged with 17 Counts of Premeditated Murder. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired February 15, 2018 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:02] ABBY PHILIP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I think no one wants to step on that issue right now.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And we saw the president of the United States last hour. We saw the previous president of the United States. I can't count how many times in the same position. But it doesn't matter if you're Democrat or Republican, it doesn't matter if you're Barack Obama or Donald Trump. It is your job to step forward and try to console the American people at this moment.

As you know, President Trump didn't mention anything about guns. President Obama, the former president tweeting a short time ago, "We are grieving with Parkland. But we are not powerless. Caring for our kids is our first job. And until we can honestly say that we're doing enough to keep them safe from harm, including a long overdue, common- sense gun safety laws that most Americans want, then we have to change."

So, you have the current president not mentioning guns, the former president saying let's have this debate. Again, is this -- this is going to be an issue in the elections this year, but not an issue where the Congress will have a conversation.

RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes. They'll have a conversation for maybe eight to 12 hours. Then they'll leave town, they'll be on recess next week. And by the time they come back, this will tragically all be forgotten. You know, this is a horror film on replay. It's the same thing that happens. There is a tragedy, everybody looks to Congress for action.

Democrats say Republicans, it's time to, you know, grow a spine, stick up to the NRA and actually pass some gun control. And Republicans say, let's talk about mental health, they do for a little bit and then it just -- people stop talking about it until the next tragedy.

I could tell you, I just came from the Hill. The same thing is going on already with Paul Ryan, as you mentioned, saying this is not the time to have this conversation. I was talking to Steny Hoyer, the Democratic whip in the House as he was walking onto the floor. And he said, you know, Ryan is just calling for a moment of silence right now. He said, that's not enough. But even he is at a loss right now about what Democrats can do to move this conversation because they do -- they're in the minority, they try to sit in and they got a lot of press for it, but nothing really changed on that.

So, people are frustrated on the Hill, Democrats particularly. Republicans, you know, this is not an issue that they really want to talk about so they're hoping it moves on quickly.

KING: What about I'll call -- I don't mean it disrespectfully, the lowest hanging fruit. Should we bring in police?

The sheriff in the county, Broward County today was saying today, you know, when people post this stuff on social media, we should be able to pull them in for involuntary mental health screenings. Will Congress at least try to address some of that stuff, or will that all be left to the states as well?

JOHN MCCORMACK, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I mean, I think that the first step to having a serious conversation is having that specific conversation that you said. I think just calling for -- we got to do something or do more common sense forms. So doesn't like (INAUDIBLE), you have to talk specifically.

Is it an assault weapons ban? You know, Democrats can argue that will help keep the most lethal weapons out of people's hands. Republicans would argue that you can do great harm with a typical handgun as was the case in Charleston, as was the case in Virginia attack.

So, we need a serious debate. I think in terms of whether or not someone makes some specific threats on YouTube, if they were able to find him, would they be able to keep the gun out of his hands? That's the debate that should be added should be specific and substantive, not just talks about doing something.

KING: If you get him in a room, don't try to preordain the results. Just have a respectful conversation of all of the spectrum.

Let's see what they come up. They might come up with nothing. They might come up and say just mental heath, we don't want to do guns, but they won't even have the conversation. That's the frustrating part in Washington.

Before we go to break, I want you to listen here, Senator Marco Rubio on the Senate floor just a few moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: Someone has decided, I'm going to commit this crime. They'll find a way to get the gun to do it. That doesn't mean you shouldn't have a law that makes it harder, it just means understand, to be honest, it isn't going to stop this from happening. You can still pass the law per se, but you're still going to have these horrible attacks.

(END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[12:37:38] ZACHARY WALLS, WITNESSED SCHOOL SHOOTING: I just yelled, get back in the classroom. Everyone started sprinting and I just tried to hurdle as many people in as I could.

REBECCA BOGART, SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: As I was heading to the hallway, I see students on the ground, and just blood everywhere. It's just so traumatizing to watch.

AIDAN MINOFF, WITNESSED SCHOOL SHOOTING: There were tears, there was crying. Some of my classmates did not know if they were leaving the school alive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Seven people remain in the hospital in South Florida today as we hear those stories, one day after the deadliest school shooting in years.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher is outside Broward Health North where some of the victims are recovering.

Dianne helping us trying to keep track of something we must, must, must emphasize. The families who are still waiting to see if their loved ones are going to make it.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's true, John. And there were still three patients who remain in critical condition of those seven that you just mentioned. The hospital optimistic this morning talking about the fact they were able to discharge some of the people who they've been treating from that shooting today and are hoping to do more as the hours go on today and into tomorrow.

Now, I'm at Broward Health North. This is the hospital where the majority of the patients were brought to afterward, including the assistant football coach for the JV and varsity team, Aaron Feis. Now, he is somebody who we have heard quite a bit about because of his story, John. A man who according to the football team communications director, shielded students using his body as a human shield, threw himself in front of them to try and take the bullets so they did not have to during that shooting.

The sheriff spoke warmly of him today during a press conference saying there will be 2,000 or more students whenever his funeral is, that he had coached alongside. I mean, it was a guy who never put himself first. He always put himself second and obviously the way he lived is also the way that he died. Here's what one of the students had to say about him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLTON HAAB, SURVIVED SCHOOL SHOOTING: I had a close relationship with Coach Feis. A very selfless man. He was very -- he made sure that everybody else's needs were met before his own.

He was a hard worker. He worked after school on the weekends mowing lawns, just helping as people out as possible. Very friendly, approachable and very selfless.

It's sad because it's not going to be the same without him at school anymore. That's for sure. Football definitely won't be the same.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[12:40:01] GALLAGHER: And we also were getting some other confirmations of victims slowly. The athletic director, Chris Hixon was killed according to the Football Communications Department.

We're also hearing now that Nicholas Dworet was killed. He was a student, he was supposed to be a swimmer at the University of Indianapolis. And from her father's Facebook page, we've learned that Jaime Guttenberg also died. She was committed to go to Skidmore College next year, John.

KING: Dianne Gallagher, thank you for those updates. Our hearts first go out to the families who lost students yesterday and those who are still waiting for word. Dianne, appreciate that reporting.

Up next, this question for the senior senator from Florida, will the Senate do anything to respond to a massacre, another massacre, in his state?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:45:12] Welcome back. For most of the students attending Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Wednesday started just like any other school day and then they took a horrific turn.

One of those survivor, Lyliah Skinner, tweeting this last night, "Today, I woke up excited to go to school in my cute dress and celebrate Valentine's Day with my friends. Today, I came home to be only terrified and worried about the people I care about most. Nobody should have to go through that."

Lyliah Skinner joins us now. She's 16 years old, a junior.

Lyliah, thank you. You're right, nobody should have to go through that. Thank you for your time today. I appreciate it. Let me just start and ask you this question. How you doing?

LYLIAH SKINNER, STUDENT, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL (via telephone): I'm doing well. I'm coping. I'm physically OK so that's what matters the most right now.

KING: Amen for that and I hope you're getting all the support you need from your family and others in the community. Take me back into the school. The second fire alarm of the day goes off. How long did it take for you to realize this one was not a drill?

SKINNER: A good 30 minutes, because we were all just sitting in there, and because we often questioned things. We were like trying to figure out if it was actually a drill or not, because we knew, like, there was a rumor going around that we might have one. So we were all just in there, and I've got a text message from my friend saying that she heard gunshots and that one of my friends was wounded. So that's when I kind of realized that, oh, this is actually happening.

KING: And when you realized this is actually happening, that there's a shooter in your school, what happened next? Take me through the process of you getting from inside the school to outside and safety.

SKINNER: OK. So we were in there for maybe an hour and a half, maybe two hours. And once the police officers came to our room, they had us all drop to the floor and we had to leave our backpacks in the middle of the room. So we all had to exit with our hands up, and I think the scariest part was just running out of there because actually seeing what was happening outside of the room is kind of scary because we didn't know, we were just in there waiting, and all we heard was sounds, we couldn't see anything.

So we got towards the main road over there, and once we got over there, I saw a bunch of police cars and other students, and they just made sure that everyone was OK and that we weren't wounded or hurt or that anyone wasn't in the room, still.

KING: You know of the suspect here, Nikolas Cruz. What do you know about him?

SKINNER: I didn't know of him personally. I only heard about him. I heard that like a lot of people thought that he was a little weird, a little off. But that's mainly about it. Like a lot of people would joke around and say, oh, like if this was to happen to our school, it would probably be him. And I never really actually expected it to happen, but it did, so.

KING: The friends, people you know at school, said if this is going to happen at our school, it would be him?

SKINNER: Yes.

KING: Did they say that before this happened or this is the conversation after it happened?

SKINNER: No. This is a while ago, like last year. It's just like something that people would say, like, oh, if we were in this situation, the person who'd most likely do it would be this person. And in that case it was him.

KING: One of the remarkable things, and I'm going to put you at the top of the list, is listening to the students at the school talk about this horror the day after with such poise and such clarity of memory. And so, I applaud you for that. Take me through in your school -- this is a horrible question to ask, I'm a parent. You prepare for this, you have drills for this. Explain that.

SKINNER: Every month or so, we have the occasional fire drill to make sure that we know procedure and what to do, where to go. And we started doing shooting drills, school shooting drills where every single teacher, they had us all like hide in place as the drill to make sure we knew what to do. And for certain drills we had zones where we supposed to go just in case we needed to evacuate. So we were prepared for like we knew what to do, we just didn't know at that moment that was happening, so actually it threw us off a little bit.

KING: I don't know how much you're following the news in the aftermath of this, and you're 16 years old. You don't get to vote for a year-plus. I assume you're past your birthday.

SKINNER: Yes.

KING: But, yes, so you'll see whether it's your governor, we're about to talk to one of your senators. The people I work with in Washington, D.C., there's a debate about gun control, there's a debate about mental health. There are some people who say there's nothing you can do to stop somebody if they want to kill. They're going to find a gun no matter of the law.

As a 16-year-old student who just went through this in your community with your friends, what would you say to the adults?

[12:50:02] SKINNER: I would ask them if kids aren't even allowed to have their first -- like if they're not able to purchase their first drink of alcohol, then how are allowed to buy guns at age of 18 or 19. I feel like that's something that shouldn't be -- that we shouldn't be able to do. And I feel like they need to create some more, like, better gun laws because, obviously, whatever we have going on, it's not working.

And I feel like as our legislators and leaders that they shouldn't be offering prayers and words because those mean nothing. We need action because action is what going to change what's happening.

KING: I understand you're at your grandparents right now. You're going to go to town for a candlelight vigil tonight. Tell me a little about what you expect from your friends, from your community, from yourself as you try to cope deal and react to this and, I assume in a few days, get back to school.

SKINNER: I expect everyone to be there for each other because that's how our school is. It doesn't matter, like, who you are, what color you are, race, whatever, it doesn't matter how old you are, what you do, because as, like, as our school, we are always together. We're very united, and I feel like everyone is going to be together and we're going to support each other because this is a hard time, so that's what we need.

KING: Lyliah, I want to thank you for sharing your time today. I want to wish the best. I want to assure you from those of us in Washington, people all over the country, your community, you and all your friends on our thoughts and prayers. I really appreciate your time. And, well, I'm sure it's a very difficult day and a difficult time in your life, again, thank you so much for sharing your insights with us and thank care.

SKINNER: No problem.

KING: Thank you very much.

And joining us now from here in Washington, Florida senior senator Democrat Bill Nelson.

Senator, we had you on the floor at the top of the show. I hope you could hear that is a constituent. She can't vote yet. But when you this young woman and watching all these students, I am struck by their poise and their -- just their --

SEN. BILL NELSON (D) FLORIDA: They are amazing.

KING: It's remarkable. And so, we're creating -- we're building new heroes out of this tragedy, I hope. But when you hear her, I heard you at the top of the show. When is enough is enough? And I want you to be as specific as you can be about what you think should be done. But when you hear a young woman like that saying essentially the adults should stop talking and do something, will you?

NELSON: Absolutely. I tell you, this senator will. That lady, that young lady was very perceptive. She said, if we aren't allowed to drink alcohol, why should we be able to purchase guns?" And then the follow-on question is, why should anyone be able to purchase an automatic assault weapon that is not used as I am a hunter? I don't use an AR-15 hunting. That's not for hunting, that's for killing. And so that young lady put her finger right on it.

KING: And yet, Senator, you've been in town long enough. You understand the math. You're in a Republican-controlled Senate, a Republican-controlled House. The Republican President today said he wanted to have a mental health conversation but made no mention of gun controls. On a scale of 1 to 10, I assume zero is the prospect of any gun controls being passed by this Congress this year. Would you agree?

NELSON: Unfortunately, I would agree, but let me say, you talked about my speech on the floor of the Senate saying when is enough, enough. With the accumulation of all of these mass slaughters, maybe even these 17 innocent children are going to be the tipping point with enough people speaking out now in response to some official saying, oh, now is not the time to talk about it, I have thoughts and prayers. So do I have and I've been praying, but now it's time to act.

KING: The governor of your state, the Republican governor of your state, is what most people believe will be your opponent in the Senate election this year as you seek reelection in the state of Florida.

He spoke today at the scene of the crime and said he wants to talk to everybody in Tallahassee where the legislature meets, of course, about keeping kids safe and what needs to be done. Do you think your governor should introduce an AR-15, an assault weapons ban, in the State of Florida if Washington won't act?

NELSON: Of course. And we ought to be supporting Senator Feinstein's assault weapons bill to ban assault weapons. But, John, you know, remember, Senator Feinstein offered a bill that we voted on, and it was just on the terrorist watch list. The people who can't get on airplanes should not be able to buy a gun.

[12:55:05] And as you know, it was defeated. So it's an uphill climb, but at some point, we have to confront the reality of what's happening on the ground with these slaughters.

KING: How much opposition would you get from other Democrats, those who say from the state President Trump carried by a lot more than he carried yours if you try to that this year?

NELSON: Well, in some states you have a problem. But you got a bunch of Republicans in urban states that clearly have a different opinion of this. And, again, I remind you, I'm a hunter. I grew up on a ranch. I support the second amendment. But it's one thing to be able to acquire assault weapons, military weapons. That is where you should draw the line.

KING: I hear you, Senator. In my business we don't get to pick sides of how it should end.

NELSON: I understand.

KING: But I would like all the people to get in a room and have an adult conversation about it instead of the finger pointing. We'll see if that happens. I appreciate your time today. Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat in Florida.

And thanks for joining us in "INSIDE POLITICS". Anderson Cooper is in for Wolf Blitzer, he picks up our coverage for this continuing breaking news story after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)