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Trump Aide Refusing to Answer Questions Before Congress; Republicans Threaten Delta Over Break With NRA; Swastikas Etched in Florida's Shooter's Bullets. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired February 27, 2018 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Josh, a lot of new details to start dissecting here.
I want to start with the number of rounds that were remaining when the shooter left, 180 additional rounds of information (sic).
I mean, the first thing that tells you is that the damage could have been much worse, but also perhaps, is this a way to read it, that there was a part of his plan that was maybe thwarted?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, that's a question that we were asking even on the day of the shooting, as we sat here trying to analyze what was playing out.
And as you look at the latest reporting from our colleague Evan Perez regarding the number of rounds that were left, if you think about it, he had more than half the rounds left that were expended on the day of that tragic shooting. It's chilling in the sense that you think, could there have been more victims had he continued with the plan?
The one question that we did have -- and we may not have answers to this any time soon -- and much of this will depend on his statements -- but why did he stop? Why did he stop shooting? Did the gun jam? Was it thwarted by other means? Did someone approach him? Did someone confront him? That's a question we need to get to the bottom of.
And it's going to come from three different sources, first of all, questioning the shooter himself, secondly, if there was any CCTV that was coming from inside the building to look to determine how did this situation play out, and then lastly from the witnesses who were there, and taking their statements.
And that's something that's going to take time. But as we put together that full picture, we will hopefully try to be able to determine, at least to some degree, what played out and what caused him to stop.
KEILAR: What is your reaction to this breaking news that he tried to break a window and that authorities believe he was trying to create a sniper's perch, so that he could shoot from inside the school to outside the school? CAMPBELL: Yes, well, it shows that level of sophistication and in his
cunning and number of lives that he wanted to take.
This isn't someone who was just going to randomly go throughout the building and try to take lives, as it appears he also wanted to shoot people as they were running away from the building. So, again, we don't know his exact movements in and outside the building.
Perhaps, whenever the fire alarm went off and he had students that were fleeing from the building, perhaps he didn't have enough targets there inside the building, and so he was simply looking for others to take out. But, again, it shows that level of sophistication and it shows that level of deadliness that you have an individual who is deranged enough to try to shoot people while they're fleeing.
KEILAR: Do you read a lot into this news that there were swastikas carved into the magazines, the one that remained when he left the rifle, and also the one that was actually in the rifle?
CAMPBELL: It shows the deranged mentality that we're dealing with here. And that's why the law enforcement interviews with the subject are going to be so important, to try to determine, what was his state of mind? What was his motivation? What was causing him to do what he did?
We're seeing that unfold. There are a lot postings on Facebook and social media that we saw that show kind of this deranged mentality. I think this is another layer of that. A lot of that, again, is going to come from that law enforcement interview.
And hopefully the public will learn -- I assume that will -- during the trial, why did he do what he did and what was going through his mind when it was happening?
KEILAR: What was the motive there? All right, Josh Campbell, thank you so much. Really appreciate your perspective.
I want to bring in White House reporter Kaitlan Collins now.
Kaitlan, we just watched a very interesting White House briefing. There had been some question about where the president stood on what seemed to be his support of increasing the age limit for purchasing an AR-15-style rifle. It seemed as if he had backed off on that.
And then we heard from the press secretary, no, she says he's standing firm on that. But there are a lot of other policies, we don't know exactly where the White House is on them.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna.
Sarah Sanders, the press secretary, did just explicitly say that the president does still support raising the minimum age to buy certain firearms from 18 to 21.
And that answer today, very explicit there, comes after it was very vague yesterday whether or not the president still supported this policy after several mixed answers from the deputy press secretary throughout last night and today.
But the White House is now saying that the president does still support that. You might wonder why the White House has to repeat that the president still supports a policy that he just raised the idea, that he just proposed five days ago. But the president had originally raised this several times.
He had even gone as far to tweet about it. But then the president had essentially gone silent about raising that age to 21. He didn't say anything else about it. And then he had lunch with several NRA officials here at the White House on Sunday. And, as you know, the NRA is very against raising that minimum age to 21.
It left some wondering if the president had changed his mind. But Sarah Sanders says, no, that is still what he's thinking. And she did say that the White House is hoping to offer some specific policy proposals later on at the end of this week, which is certainly something that Republicans on Capitol Hill will be wanting to see, Brianna.
KEILAR: I also want to ask you about a different story, Kaitlan, some new information that we just received. A top aide for Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner is now out. Tell us what happened here.
COLLINS: Yes, that's right.
CNN has confirmed that Josh Raffel is leaving the White House. This is someone who certainly was not a household name, but very influential here in the White House, very influential here in Washington, because he essentially served as the point man for Jared Kushner and for Ivanka Trump, responding to their requests, essentially did a lot of P.R. on their behalf, a liaison, essentially, if you will, in between those two and these reporters here in Washington.
But we have confirmed he is leaving the White House in the next two months and he is expected to depart and go back to New York to work in the private sector, citing family obligations.
But certainly some big news here in the White House. It is going to certainly change a few things in the West Wing, Brianna.
KEILAR: Yes, certainly will. All right, Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.
And we have some more on our other breaking news. The White House press briefing wrapped up just moments ago and spokeswoman Sarah Sanders denied the president's inaction against the attack that's happening right now against the United States. I'm talking about Russian meddling in the nation's elections.
Today, the leader of U.S. Cyber Command said he has yet to receive an order from the president to disrupt Russian hacking operations where they originate. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: You would need basically to be directed by the president or the secretary of defense?
ADM. MIKE ROGERS, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY DIRECTOR: Yes, sir, as I mentioned that in my...
REED: Have you been directed to do so, given the strategic threat that faces the United States and the significant consequences you recognize already?
ROGERS: No, I have not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: All right. Well, here was the White House response just moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Admiral Rogers is the one that would have the agency that could actually go and confront Russian intrusion at the source. And he hasn't been given the authority. In fact, he says that the Russians haven't paid a sufficient price to make them change their behavior.
He's the one with the power, with the means to do it. All he needs is the presidential directive, the authority...
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I disagree with the premise of your question. It's not just one individual. It's looking at a number of different ways.
QUESTION: He's in charge of Cyber Command. Why not give him the authority?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: Nobody is denying him the authority. We're looking at a number of different ways that we can put pressure. Look, this president, as I told you last week, has been much tougher on Russia than his predecessor.
Let's not forget that this happened under Obama. It didn't happen under President Trump. If you want to blame somebody on past problems, then you need to look at the Obama administration.
QUESTION: This is not about the past. This is about protecting intrusion in the next election.
HUCKABEE SANDERS: Exactly.
QUESTION: He said he needs the authority, and he hasn't been given it.
HUCKABEE SANDERS: Well, I can't speak to that specifically.
I can tell you that we are taking a number of steps to prevent this. And we're looking at a variety of other ways that we're going to continue to implement over the coming weeks and months.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Joining me now, Kim Wehle, who served as associate independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation of President Clinton. Also here, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
All right, this was interesting to listen to Sarah Sanders talk about this, because she went from the president is not denying the authority to the NSA chief, to it happened in the Obama administration, even though it's ongoing, to she doesn't want to get ahead of the president when she is talking about what's going to be done on Russia meddling.
Let's start with the beginning. She said he's not denying the authority, Jeffrey, to the NSA director. That's not what we heard today on the Hill from him, though.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, not at all.
And, look, anyone who has been paying the slightest bit of attention has known for more than a year President Trump has been downplaying Russian influence in the election, has been saying that it may not even have taken place at all.
Now, apparently, he acknowledges it took place. But the idea that his administration is committed to stopping it is pretty laughable, because he has done nothing on that score.
KEILAR: And he's also said that what Russia is -- what has been done from the U.S. to retaliate is not sufficient to prevent Russia basically from continuing on this path, Jeffrey.
TOOBIN: Right, which means it could be going on as we speak.
And there was tremendous Russian effort that we know of in 2016. All the intelligence agencies have said they expect this to continue. It's apparently -- it's very likely to continue. It's very likely it's continuing as we speak.
KEILAR: Kim, what do you think about this as you hear -- as you try to square what you're hearing from the NSA director, who is known very much as a straight shooter, and then what you're hearing from the White House?
KIM WEHLE, FORMER ASSOCIATE INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: Well, I think it's actually quite frightening.
And I would recommend everyone actually read the indictment setting forth the facts relating to the Russian influence in our election that the Mueller probe handed down, because it -- that -- people talk about fake news, what to believe. People can go to the source documents and read it. We were attacked,
essentially. Our democratic system was attacked. So, the question isn't, is this going to happen? It happened. And it's probably going to happen again.
And so then the question is, how are we going to stop the bleeding? Who is going to stop the bleeding? And it sounds like the president isn't. It sounds like this particular Congress and the Republican control is not really rigorous in terms of doing anything about this.
And so it's something I think we all, as Americans, need to be very, very concerned about.
TOOBIN: And the Mueller indictment of the 13 Russians was only part of the Russian effort.
WEHLE: That's right.
TOOBIN: It dealt only with the social media side of things, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter.
It didn't even talk about this theft the e-mails, the DNC e-the mails, John Podesta e-mails. That's a whole other part of the Russian involvement in this campaign. And Mueller hasn't even addressed that.
KEILAR: And, Kim, he -- the president referred to this as a witch- hunt again.
Someone from your perspective, who has participated in an independent counsel, especially when you consider that indictment was targeting, at least this one part of it, what Russian involvement specifically was.
It wasn't about the Trump campaign. That was sort of left for another time. This was about Russian involvement.
WEHLE: Yes. The witch-hunt is fake news at this point. That sort of mantra is just false. And it was something that we did hear in the Whitewater investigation.
And, listen, prosecutors prosecute, right? They look at the facts and they look at the law and identify if there was a violation of the law. And if it wasn't, they move on. And I think that that's a system that we should all uphold and respect here.
And this witch-hunt lie, essentially, really has I think been debunked by what's been coming out of the Mueller investigation. Witch-hunt suggests it's purely political. That's not the case here.
KEILAR: I'm going to have you two stick around with me. We have other topics to cover as well.
We have more breaking news ahead. White House Communications Director Hope Hicks refusing to answer some questions about her time in the White House and on the Trump transition, as she appears today before the House Intelligence Committee as part of the Russia probe. We're going to discuss that next.
Also, Virginia and New York among the states opening wooing Delta, as the airline finds itself in a feud with Republicans in Georgia over the NRA. I will be talking with one lawmaker who is giving Delta an ultimatum.
KEILAR: We have breaking news in the Russian probe.
White House Communications Director Hope Hicks is refusing to answer some questions in front of the House Intelligence Committee, following direction from the White House on that. And as she was doing that, Sarah Sanders was before reporters saying that the White House is fully cooperating.
Kim Wehle and Jeffrey Toobin back with me now.
OK, so let's just be clear what's allowed before a House committee. Now, you have experience working on Whitewater. And so you know, obviously, when it comes to special counsel what the parameters are.
It's not too different when you're talking about Congress. We know that Hope Hicks has spent a lot of time with special counsel investigators and has answered questions for hours and hours.
But she is following the White House's direction in not talking about anything to do with the transition or her time in the White House. Is that acceptable legally?
WEHLE: Well, it is acceptable. The question is, what is Congress going to do about it? When I say acceptable, it all depends on, what's the consequence here? And the consequence would be contempt.
And there are a lot of problems. There are three routes to it. None of them are really very easy to satisfy. So, this person already has testified in the Mueller investigation. And if her testimony is inconsistent before Congress, she could have some other legal problems.
So it's not entirely clear to me that it's an apples-to-apples situation, that is, not testifying before a grand jury investigation and not testifying before Congress.
KEILAR: Because this committee subpoenaed Steve Bannon, who took a similar tack. They're not doing that with Hope Hicks, it appears.
TOOBIN: Not yet. But it's very important to remember the political context here.
The only remedy that a congressional committee has when someone refuses to answer questions is by majority vote to subpoena them, to hold them in contempt, to go to court to force them to answer questions. There's absolutely no sign that the Republicans who run the House Republican committee have any intention of playing hardball with Hope Hicks.
She has essentially free rein to tell the committee to go to hell, which is what she appears to be doing today.
WEHLE: Or the Justice Department could bring a case against her for contempt. And under President Trump, that's not going to happen. So, I agree. I think she can just do what she's doing.
TOOBIN: I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt, but I think it's also no coincidence that the president went on this big tweetstorm on the day that Hope Hicks was testifying, because he is so personally close to her, so protective of her, doesn't want to see her hassled by the committee.
And she is essentially given mayday hand gestures that you're not allowed to make on TV to the House Intelligence Committee.
KEILAR: I think I know what you're getting at.
TOOBIN: Well, we have smart viewers that can figure it out.
KEILAR: Yes, I think they will extrapolate.
KEILAR: Jeffrey Toobin, thank you so much.
Kim Wehle, really appreciate you being with us as well.
WEHLE: Thank you.
KEILAR: And thank you to both of you.
So, next, some Republicans in Georgia are threatening to take a tax break away from Delta after the airline cut ties with the NRA. Now, one of the state lawmakers supporting that effort will be joining me live in moments.
KEILAR: Since the Florida school shooting nearly two weeks ago, several major corporations are cutting ties with the NRA.
Delta Air Lines, based in Atlanta, is one of them. Now Georgia's lieutenant governor, a lifelong NRA member, and other Republicans to make Delta pay in a big way. They're vowing to kill a vote on a multimillion-dollar tax break for Delta unless the airline reverses its decision. And with that threat, Delta is quickly amassing a list of suitors.
Virginia, "You're welcome here any time." Birmingham, Alabama, "Hey, Delta, let's chat." New York, "Move H.Q. to where you're appreciated?"
Joining me now to talk more about this is one of the Georgia state senators who is supporting the move against Delta. Michael Williams is in support of this.
Thank you so much for being with us. We really appreciate it.
MICHAEL WILLIAMS (R), GEORGIA STATE SENATOR: Oh, it's my pleasure. Thanks for having me on.
KEILAR: So, to be clear, you didn't support this tax break for Delta even before the NRA split. I think that's really important to notice.
KEILAR: To note. But I think you certainly are enjoying that this has energized your position on this.
I wonder, though, when you look at Delta, which is the largest private employer in your state, such an important piece of the economic puzzle for your state, if this isn't, perhaps, a problem for you.
WILLIAMS: No, absolutely not.
Again, even before Delta came out and took away the NRA's discount, I was innocent at fighting this bill. The lieutenant governor, the tweet that you just read, he has been trying to fast-track this bill to get Delta this credit.
Even yesterday, about 30 minutes before he did that tweet, he was trying to push this bill through, and he realized he didn't have the support of the other senators.
To me, Casey is out there basically lying to the people of Georgia, lying to America, saying that he wants to side with them. In fact, he would love to push this through, but he can't because he doesn't have the support of the senators here in Georgia Senate.
KEILAR: OK. So, just to be clear, you obviously have criticism there for the lieutenant governor.
KEILAR: Who is vying, of course, to run for a gubernatorial run.
The point here, though, is that this is a bill that would benefit, well, not just Delta, but Delta would be the primary beneficiary, because it would say you don't have to pay taxes on jet fuel.
You're looking, though, at other cities and other states where they don't have this tax as well. When you look at how the NRA has factored into this and how Delta has said, you know what, we have this agreement where NRA members would get a discount , and even though we support Second Amendment rights, we're not now going to honor that discount.
What's your impression of that?
WILLIAMS: Well, again, why did they come out and do that Saturday? They could have waited for a couple of days, maybe another week or so, so Casey could have pushed this bill through. But they decided to come out and do it Saturday.
And that energized our base. Like you said, it energized those people that love our country, that love our Constitution and love our Second Amendment right. And if they're going to pull the discount for NRA members, why pull it for Planned Parenthood or some of the left organizations out there?
KEILAR: Well, wait, wait. Where is the discount -- you're saying -- where are you getting that, that Delta gives a discount to Planned Parenthood members?
WILLIAMS: Well, again, they're out there giving discounts to other liberal-leaning organizations.
KEILAR: Where are you getting? Look, I just need to be clear on this, because you just indicated that they give discounts to Planned Parenthood members. I haven't seen that anywhere.
I have seen allegations of that on right-wing blogs. I have been able to find no verification of that. We have people looking at that. Where are you getting that?
WILLIAMS: I was in a caucus meeting yesterday morning where the governor of Georgia was in there trying to convince us all, basically threatening us that if we don't pass this, that things are going to be taken out of the budget, that if we don't do this, again, there will be consequences.
And other senators, as well as myself, we looked it up on Google. And I apologize. I don't know the exact source right now, but my campaign can get it to you, if you need to.
KEILAR: OK. Just to be clear, no, we looked it up as well. And it doesn't appear, after some digging, that we have been able to determine that that is actually factual, because you're indicating something that may not be true there.
WILLIAMS: Well, again, I believe very firmly that Delta is out there giving discounts to left-leaning organizations as well. And if they're going to take it away from the NRA, why not take it away from the left-leaning organizations.
KEILAR: But if you're making that argument, shouldn't you have your facts straight?
WILLIAMS: Again, it is correct. You're telling me that Delta is not giving -- is not giving away discounts to left-leaning organizations? Is that what you're telling me?
KEILAR: No, you told me that it was Planned Parenthood. I'm just talking to you about what you said to me.
WILLIAMS: I know, but is that not a left-wing organization?
KEILAR: No, but that's the point, is...
WILLIAMS: It is a very left-leaning organization.
KEILAR: There's not -- there's no indication they are giving discounts to that organization, is my point.
WILLIAMS: Again, let's, I guess, agree to disagree, because, again, we cannot -- bring me back on and I will have the information for you about where they're giving away these discounts to a left-leaning organization that support Planned Parenthood.
KEILAR: OK. We are going to following up with you.
KEILAR: I'm going to post on Twitter when you do provide us some factual information that backs up your claim there.
KEILAR: Or I will let our viewers know if that isn't true.
Atlanta, of course, is a finalist city when it comes to the Amazon H.Q., right? This would be a giant development, positive economic development for Atlanta. Are you concerned that this would give Amazon a big reason to not consider your state?
WILLIAMS: I think Amazon is looking at the size of the check that these states are willing to give them.
And the numbers that are being thrown out there anywhere -- I think New Jersey, what, offered $7 billion? There's other reports where they want $9 billion to $11 billion for 50,000 jobs. That's about $200,000 a job with over a 100-year payback.
I would love for Delta -- for Amazon to come to the state of Georgia, but not at the expense of taxpayers here in Georgia. And when these 50,000 people move into our state, who is going to pay for the schools their students, their children are going to? Who is going to pay for the roads they're driving on.
KEILAR: So, you don't want the jobs?
WILLIAMS: No, I do want them, but not if it costs us $200,000 a job, not if it's a 100-year payback.
Let's create an environment here in George where all businesses thrive, not just those that we give tax credits to.
KEILAR: But people would have jobs that would pay them that would benefit taxpayers.
WILLIAMS: Well, correct.
But, again, if I...
WILLIAMS: If I give $200,000 in credits to a company, and I only get back $100,000, that's a loss. The state of Georgia loses. The taxpayers of Georgia lose.
So, before we start --