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Students March To Capitol Hill Demand Gun Reform; FBI Exec Confirms Tip On Cruz Threat Was "Explicit"; Schiff: "There Is Significant Evidence Of Collusion"; Nail-Biter In Pennsylvania: Race Too Close To Call. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 14, 2018 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:04]

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, there. I'm Brianna Keilar in for Kate Bolduan. Across the country in red states and blue and big cities and tiny towns, students are walking out of their classrooms and into the debate over gun reform.

Today's nationwide walkout comes one month to the day since the massacre inside a Florida high school. Today's protest a show of solidarity with Parkland and also a call to action. We have some live pictures for you coming from Capitol Hill. It's 11:00 a.m. Eastern here.

Last hour students across the Eastern Time zone walked out in their 10:00 hour, that includes this protest at the White House where students turned their backs in a show of disgust for the lack of action taken.

And also, last hour, a walkout at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the epicenter of the activism, students staying out of their classroom for 17 minutes in honor of the 17 people killed there. We have a map to show you, the breadth and scale of today's walkout.

Some students are taking part despite the threat of suspension or even other punishment and also this hour, students are taking their message directly to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Organizers say they expect 2,000 students from more than two dozen schools in the D.C. area coming on a day when both the House and Senate are focusing on school safety. CNN's Ryan Nobles is there with the latest.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, we're live on the west front of the United States capitol where this protest continues to grow. Most of these students started at the White House and made the walk down across Washington, D.C. to end up here at the United States capitol.

You mentioned they were hoping for a turnout of around 2,000 students and judging by what we've seen already because the students just keep pouring in, it's going to far exceed that number of 2,000.

I want to introduce you now to two students from nearby Silver Spring, Maryland, who are part of that protest. It started at the White House and made their way here. This is Melissa and Deichi. Melissa, you decided to basically skip school today to be a part of this. Why do you think it was so important to have your voice heard?

MELISSA JOHNSON-BERRY, STUDENT: I feel it's important for my voice to be heard because in my own opinion, I feel like adults in a bunch -- adults, they don't really listen to our opinions because they tell us as children our job is to go to school and do what we have to do but we're much more than that. Like they say, we're the future. This here, this is our future. We're trying to protect our future by stopping gun control.

NOBLES: Deichi, if you had to pick one important thing that you would want your member of Congress to know, what do you want to see done here in the halls of Congress to stop violence like this from happening in the future?

DEICHI NWANKWO, STUDENT: Personally, I don't believe that we -- that the average student should be able to get a weapon of war. I understand if you want to protect yourself you can get a hand gun, but I don't believe -- if I want to see a change, I think it would be that assault rifles and automatic weapons be taken away from the average person. It's too easy to access and cause mass destruction.

NOBLES: OK. All right. Thank you to both of you. Good luck today. Brianna, they are going to have the opportunity to hear from the Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. There's a chance that the minority leader in the House Nancy Pelosi will also speak to this group.

They want to make sure that these lawmakers understand that the violence that happened in Florida is not something that they are going to accept. They want to keep up the pressure and by this showing today, it's going to be very difficult for these lawmakers to ignore what these students have to say -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Ryan Nobles for us outside the capitol. Now this morning, students also poured into the streets of New York and that's where CNN's Brynn Gingras is. She is in Brooklyn for us. Tell us about what you are seeing there.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, we still have a demonstration that's going on. These students are loud and enthusiastic. It's about another hour of this demonstration and the student speaker said this is not a day off. This is a civics lesson and how to get things done and that has been the message for today.

I want to bring in one of the organizers of this incredible demonstration. Savannah, first of all, look behind you, look at these people that you guys brought together. How does it make you feel?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It makes me feel empowered and that students can truly make a difference and I think that's one of the most important things I can feel today. Everybody has something to say and they are finally getting to say it and that's amazing.

GINGRAS: What's the difference you want to make? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to make change and want people to feel safe in their schools because safety is not a compromise. I don't want black and brown individuals and their communities to feel unsafe because we're not looking at police brutality.

The homicide rate alone in New York City is ridiculously high. I think that gun violence is not just a school issue, it's a world issue. I think that America needs to address it. So, that's what I would like to change.

GINGRAS: There are a lot of voices here speaking out. Thanks so much, Savannah.

I've got to tell you, Brianna, it's pretty incredible to see these students of all different ages some as young as 14 and 13 years old having a strong opinion, not wanting to be underestimated about what they have to say about their message they have for lawmakers.

[11:05:10] And one of the students told me, he's 18 and he can vote. He can impact change, but he wants to make sure that he affects the younger kids the middle schoolers who will come up and need to continue this momentum in the name of what they believe -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, they too will be voting soon here in a few years. Brynn Gingras, thank you so much. Today's protests are a show of solidarity with Parkland and the students there at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. They are leading the calls for action. CNN's Dianne Gallagher is there. Diane, you have the latest. Tell us about it.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, you know, a little bit of a different mood here. The students walked out at 10:00 a.m. and walked together to the football field. They had kind of a moment of silence during those 17 minutes, but they also had the drama team that created this song called "Shine" that we've heard several times before here in the months since the shooting happened.

They played that and then at the end the student body of roughly 3,000 students hugged each other. Then they felt a little inspired by some of these students that had come from other schools to surround this school and they then marched off campus to the Pine Trails Park, which is where we've seen those large memorials for the 17 students and teachers and coaches who were killed one month ago today.

So, they weren't expecting to do that. That's not what they initially planned to do. But they walked out there, and they were with elementary school students and middle school students and students from schools that actually decided they were going to march the school. It took almost an hour to get here by foot.

Two hundred to 300 students coming this way and again, it was sort of the show of the fact that we're all in this together as kids. We may not be old enough to vote but as the students at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas have proven, their voices do carry weight.

With Florida Governor Rick Scott signing the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Safety bill just about three weeks after the shooting happened. So, they plan on continuing this, taking it there to Washington for their march later this month.

But this today was just really about solidarity they said and making sure that no other student has to go through what they are going through. This grieving process because of a mass shooting happened at their school-- Brianna.

KEILAR: Diane Gallagher for us in Parkland, thank you. We have some new information about how the FBI dropped the ball after it received a tip about the Parkland shooter. The tip coming in the month before the shooting rampage at Stoneman Douglas high.

We have CNN justice reporter, Laura Jarrett, with details on this, this is coming out of the Senate hearing and we had known that proper protocol wasn't followed because you heard from the people who had said, I called in and left a tip and clearly, it didn't get where it needed to go. What have we learned?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Exactly. So, the law enforcement officials are facing a grilling at the Senate Judiciary hearing that's underway right now, Brianna. And David Bowdich, who is the acting deputy director of the FBI, so the number two director there, he explained that there were two missed tips in particular.

He walked through them in detail as lawmakers questioned him about this. He said there was one in September where there was a YouTube posting by Nikolas Cruz that was disturbing, but there was also this call in January.

That one he said the warning from the caller was, quote, "explicit." Now, he said he doesn't know why the person who received the call at the call center in Virginia, in West Virginia rather, didn't convey that to law enforcement. She did or he did run it up the chain to a supervisor, but it never got to local law enforcement.

He says he doesn't know why. Now in response to this entire situation, which is still under review at the FBI, deputy director also explained that the FBI has now doubled the number of supervisors who are going to be reviewing these types of tips so this doesn't happen in the future -- Brianna.

KEILAR: We actually have just turned the sound of that exchange. So, let's listen to it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Did the FBI reach out to law enforcement to give them a warning about Cruz and if not, why not? Push the red button.

DAVID BOWDICH, FBI ACTING DEPUTY DIRECTOR: No, sir, we did not. I do not know why the call taker did not do so. You know, she conferred with her supervisor and she made some sort of a presentation about what was contained in that call and a decision was made -- there was discussion about the fact that the local department had been notified. You're absolutely correct, Senator, the call was very explicit. However, they made a decision to close it, no lead value, and no call was made to the local jurisdiction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: So, we don't actually know which call this was, right?

JARRETT: He didn't want to detail it there. You can see that he's hesitating a little bit because this is still under review. The top Republican there, Chuck Grassley, is asking him, do you know her personally? Do you know that she's a good worker?

[11:10:08] And you can tell Bowdich is hesitating to really evaluate it at this point, but it's clear, he is saying mistakes were made and it's not clear if it would have changed the result here, but he did say multiple times more could have been done, more should have been done in this case.

KEILAR: So, eventually what we're going to find out is what the call contained, right? What exactly is the explicit nature of this threat that was being reported.

JARRETT: Yes, and some of the transcript has already come out through prior reporting, but you can tell that there's more to uncover here. And as the deputy director explained, they also local law enforcement received multiple tips about Cruz --

KEILAR: And had gone to his house, right?

JARRETT: Exactly. So, it wasn't just the FBI, it's really a failure at multiple levels.

KEILAR: Had the local law enforcement been told about this, would they have treated those contacts with Cruz different than they had the others? That's also an open question that we'll see. Laura Jarrett, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

Coming up, Democrats on the House Intel Committee blasting their Republican colleagues over the Russia probe, Ranking Member Adam Schiff now claiming that Republicans are ignoring significant evidence of collusion. We'll have details ahead.

Plus, the potential upset in Pennsylvania that is signaling serious trouble for Republicans. Is the president now a liability for GOP candidates? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:15:36]

KEILAR: Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are taking a stand against Republicans on the panel who have wrapped up the investigation into Russian election meddling. The top Democrat on the panel, Congressman Adam Schiff says he plans to continue the investigation. He disputes the GOP's claims that the panel found no evidence of collusion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: I can certainly say with confidence that there is significant evidence of collusion between the campaign and Russia. What I cannot say because I don't know what Bob Mueller knows is whether that evidence rises to the level of proof beyond a reasonable doubt of conspiracy to violate U.S. election laws.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: I'm joined now by Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois. He does sit on the House Intelligence Committee. Sir, thanks for being with us.

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D), ILLINIOS: Thank you. Glad to be here.

KEILAR: We are so happy to have you. You heard your colleague there, Adam Schiff, saying there's, quote, "significant evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia." Do you agree with that?

QUIGLEY: Absolutely. Here's what I would add. There's a lot of evidence that we are not allowed to see and a lot of witnessed that were never subpoenaed and who could have answered questions that would have added or subtracted --

KEILAR: I just want to interrupt you because he's talking about what -- talking about what you were able to see.

QUIGLEY: Sure.

KEILAR: Based on that he's saying there's, quote, "significant evidence of collusion," but he also seems to be admitting that whether this rises to a legal threshold is unclear. So, what do you say about that?

QUIGLEY: I would agree. All I was adding, there's a lot of other opportunities to find more but that the investigation was shut down and others were not allowed to testify. I think there's ample evidence that there was collusion. I don't know what that word means legally.

Clearly, there was a coordinated effort at least nine Trump associates were communicating with Russians during the election period. So, we were not allowed to subpoena the social media pages where the communication with Twitter and so forth was taking part between Trump associates and Wikileaks and Gucifer (ph) and the people they were communicating with.

So, I think he's absolutely right, what's frustrating is, attempts to find out whether there was more were thwarted.

KEILAR: If Democrats were to take over the majority in the House, is that a line that you would pursue because it's hard to see without having control of the committee at this point in time that Democrats can effectively continue this investigation?

QUIGLEY: I think that we'd have to see where the situation lies in January with the Mueller investigation. If the Senate investigation is still going on what they've found, I would say to answer your question, if the change took place tomorrow, it's not just our committee.

Remember Mr. Nadler would be the chairman of Judiciary and Mr. Cummings of Oversight and Government Reform, and obviously Adam Schiff, and the subpoenas suppressed would go out and find out exactly what the Russians did and it's important how to prevent them from doing this in the future.

KEILAR: You say in your report that the minority, the Democrats, has good faith reason to believe there's documentation of the president's conversations with Jim Comey, the then FBI director. What do you believe that the White House possesses on this?

QUIGLEY: I can't go beyond what that says. I do believe that we're going to have to be given the opportunity to get that information. It is just part of a larger body of evidence that again, we're allowed to pursue and it's extremely difficult to come to the conclusions we need to. What you're seeing is just an assessment of their report. Our detailed report is some time to come.

KEILAR: But this -- the report of Democrats says there is a reason to believe -- a good faith reason to believe that -- it seems to be indicative of a belief that there are recordings and the reason is because it seems we've seen some press reports that there was a memorandum that was reportedly composed by President Trump and Steven Miller that referenced President Trump's communications with Director Comey.

Of course, the committee from Democrats perspective wants to subpoena the White House to produce all responsive documents, but is it a bit of a cognitive leap to say you believe that there are essentially recordings?

[11:20:04] QUIGLEY: Yes, and again, I have to leave it at that just because, A, we're not given the opportunity to pursue those -- that other documented evidence, but I'll stand with the statement. We believe the evidence is there and need the opportunity to pursue it and it's one element again of many other bodies of evidence out there that would help us understand exactly what took place --

KEILAR: But why say there's a good faith reason to believe instead of we've not been able to foreclose the possibility of? Because it's really casting this insinuation out there that this exists when it sounds like what you're really saying, you haven't been able to fully determine if this exists but it's a concern that you have. I mean. those are two different statements.

QUIGLEY: Sure, but let's also remember what President Trump said about Mr. Comey, better hope there's no tapes. We know that Mr. Comey himself had to document his conversations in means with the president for the same reason I'm talking about. I would like to be able to give you a definitive answer.

We're living with the evidence we have and how we couch that is one thing, the bigger issue here is our being able to find out exactly what took place and the fact that my colleagues on the Republican side have helped the White House obstruct the investigation. And working with them, they closed it down from their perspective.

KEILAR: Congressman Mike Quigley, thank you so much. We appreciate your time.

QUIGLEY: Any time, thank you.

KEILAR: And we're having a live look right now of protests in Washington, D.C. to do with school safety on this day of nationwide walkout for schools all around the country. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:26:00]

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- a giant leap in the right direction. I want to take a moment -- I want to take a moment to say thank you to the national legislators showing solidarity today. For this reason, I'm deeply honored to introduce someone who has been an active advocate for gun control in Congress, please join me in welcoming House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Good morning, DMC. Thank you, Brianna and thank you to all of the Montgomery County students for your courage to stand up, speak up and walk out. I'm proud to be here with you. Erin organized with Congressman Ted Deutsche of Florida, our leader on this issue, representing in Congress the students who have sacrificed so much, spoken so eloquently, commanded the attention of the nation.

Erin has helped organize the congressional solidarity walkout that all of us are honored to be a part of. The congressional solidarity walkout, we're all moved by your eloquence and your fearless insistence on action to prevent gun violence.

Thank you for bringing your urgency to this fight to the door step of America, the door step of the capitol of the United States. Our congressional solidarity walkout is here to say enough is enough.

Whether Orlando, San Bernardino, South Carolina, Las Vegas, Newtown, Sutherland Springs, Parkland, city streets, homes across the nation, there's been too much violence and too much heartbreak.

The American people overwhelmingly support common sense action to prevent the tragedy of gun violence, 97 percent of Americans support strengthening background checks, including --

KEILAR: You're listening now to the Democratic leader in the House, Nancy Pelosi, who has joined students protesting there on Capitol Hill as you have the House and the Senate dealing with school safety, looking at the Parkland shooting.

We're going to continue to monitor this, but you can see a sea of Democratic lawmakers who have joined these students behind the House minority leader there. Now to the drama that is unfolding in Southwestern Pennsylvania, a deep red district where a GOP candidate is in deep blue trouble. The special House election pitting trump approved Republican against a Democrat, Conor Lamb. It's too close to call.

Lamb has a razor thin lead. He's just about 627 votes now. He's already proclaiming victory, and this comes in a district that President Trump won by nearly 20 points. But in 2018 the GOP is in danger of watching the seat slip away.

I want to go to CNN's Jason Carroll in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania near Pittsburg for us today. What's the latest on the vote count?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, there's still some absentee and provisional ballots that are still outstanding in some more rural parts of the district. So, that 627 number that you referred to, that's going to change just a little bit.

But look, at this point, the Lamb campaign says the math is just not in Saccone's favor, that's why you saw the candidate come out very early in the morning and declaring victory. The Saccone folks are not giving up, not conceding.

Saccone for his part is going to be meeting with his advisers to see if there's any sort of recourse that he has going forward. You know, I spoke to the Lamb camp and they are feeling good, Brianna, about the campaign that they ran.

Feeling good about the results, saying that their efforts in terms of reaching out to the labor community has paid off. The ongoing debate that keeps going on out here is whether or not the president had any effect on this race.