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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Pres. Trump Slams FBI's Handling of Tip on School Shooter; Pres. Trump Falsely Says He Never Said Russia Didn't Meddle; President Trump Uses Florida Massacre to Attack Mueller Probe; Student Protest in Wake of High School Shooting; CNN Exclusive: Mueller's Interest in Jared Kushner Expands to Include Foreign Financing Efforts. Aired at 9-10p ET
Aired February 19, 2018 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[21:00:16] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to the second hour of "360".
On the table tonight, after a very busy few days, we saw 13 Russians indicted in the Mueller probe. The President's weekend tweet storm making everything about Russia all about himself, even dragging the Florida shooting victims into it. Also in the wake of that, the students taking action they hope to make this latest tragedy the last. Plus, the new focus on Jared Kushner's finances. It's story you'll only see here about a new dimension in the Mueller investigation. The question, will it cross the presidential redline?
We begin with those tweets. CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins us now.
So, Jeff, I mean the President certainly had a lot to say over the weekend?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, he definitely did. I was in Palm Beach with him covering him and he was quiet early on. But then that storm started certainly after dinner on Saturday evening and continued really throughout the day on Sunday, 21 tweets in all talking about everything from the Russia investigation to the FBI, to the shooting, to a NASCAR.
One common theme throughout all of them, as you said, talking about himself, facing two national crises, the tampering in the U.S. election and another school shooting. He turned it back to himself.
Here's a couple examples, just a sample, if you will, if you happened to miss it over the weekend of some of those messages he sent out. Let's take a look.
On the FBI, he said this on Saturday night. He said, "Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russia collusion with the Trump campaign. There is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud." Not to spend too much time fact-checking that, Anderson, but clearly the indictments handed down on Thursday did not say there was no collusion. Simply that was his take from that.
But of course, he went on to talk specifically about the Russia matter in other ways. He said this. He said, "I never said Russia did not meddle in the election. I said it may be Russia or China or another country or group, or it may be a 400-pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer. The Russian hoax was just that, the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. It never did."
So again, Anderson, I feel like groundhog's day here. He of course has gone through all of that. The U.S. Department of Justice and a Special Counsel said pretty clearly on Friday they have enough evidence, they believe, to show that Russia did, indeed, meddle in the election. That, of course, was on his mind on Sunday.
COOPER: Do we know what contributed to the President's mood, I mean, these past few days? Because on Friday, it seemed like -- you know, he seemed pleased that in his opinion he was cleared of collusion, but then it just seemed to kind of devolve over the weekend.
ZELENY: Anderson, a lot of White House aides that I talked to were mystified and frankly surprised as these were coming in. No one gets a heads up for this. The advisers see them in real-time, most of them, at least, as we do. But the sense was that he did feel a sense of vindication on Friday as he left the White House here, but then he started watching the coverage over the weekend on cable news.
Of course, he was not out on the golf course on Friday or on Saturday or on Sunday, not until today, of course, out of respect for those shooting victims. And he was sitting around watching this coverage, stewing and stewing. And his sons were also there, Don Jr. and Eric Trump, also there over the weekend talking about the FBI, talking about how they believe this Russian investigation has been so unfair to him. So that combination sort of fed together and that's what led to the tweet storm, at least most people believe. Anderson?
COOPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much.
I want to bring in the panel, Kirsten Powers, Roby Mook, Jason Miller, Tara Setmayer, Alice Stewart and Ryan Lizza.
I mean, Kirsten, there was no tweets -- in all the tweets, no tweet about the funerals that were taking place over the weekend. Today, you would think of all the things he could have tweeted about, that would be one thing to mention.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I really can't imagine what it's like to be a young person today and to see something like this. All of the time I've been aware that we had a president, through my childhood, through my teens, through my adulthood. The one thing you could count on is whatever you thought of the President, whether it was the person that you liked or your family voted for or didn't vote for is that in times of tragedy, you could count on them to at least make an effort to bring people together. And to have the President be behaving this way when such an enormous tragedy has happened and these kids are suffering so much, and the whole country is suffering because of this, it's just -- it's unreal.
COOPER: Jason, I mean, Matt Lewis, you know, conservative writer, said he thought it was shameful for the President to use the Florida massacre as a way to attack the Mueller investigation?
JASON MILLER, FORMER SENIOR COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Well, I mean the one thing with this President is we know what he's thinking all the time because whatever is on his mind, he's likely go and tweeted out and tell people. And I think that to a certain extent here, why wouldn't the President go out and tweet when he knows that everybody is going to go and cover it and it's going to drive the Sunday shows and all the coverage.
[21:05:02] And so whether he's talking about the FBI or whether he's talking about Adam Schiff or he's talking about President Obama, if he's going to go out there and it, it's -- it is like Jeff said, it's almost kind of like Groundhog Day whatever in goes in Russia and so we're going to cover with the President said in the tweets but we shouldn't cover the tweets. I mean at least we know exactly what he's thinking on.
I guess the one --
POWERS: I mean I don't understand, like you're saying but that's what it's on his mind, so why -- why -- it come to mind of f literally every single person I know. Why is it not on his mind?
MILLER: The President was down there and he was visiting to the people who want to save him. I think the kids very much are on his minds.
POWERS: And you don't think talking about the FBI investigation and making it about him and making some crazy claim that they didn't follow up because they were spending too much time on Russia isn't insulting to the kids?
MILLER: So my pushback to that would be -- well, no. And my pushback to that would be where is the President inaccurate in his tweets in Adam Schiff is a massive leaker. President Obama should have done --
COOPER: He mischaracterized what Adam Schiff have said. He also, you know, said that he was cleared of collusion. These indictments have nothing to do with that. Made no mention of that either way.
ROBBY MOOK, FORMER CLINTON MANAGER: He's doing it for the reasons we're here now. We're getting into a discussion about what's true or not true about the Russian investigation. We're not talking about children who were dying. What was so striking to me today is these JRC students who's being buried and they're planning to have this young men buried with military, you know, rights or honors. I mean it's incredible dying in a combat situation in the United States and the President won't even go to these people and meet with them. He wants us to be talking about the Russia investigation because that's where he can, you know, he can sort of pull the strings and get us fighting with each other and not solving the problem. That's exactly why he's doing this.
ALICE STEWART, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think the President -- and when I was in Arkansas we had a school shooting there years ago, and Governor Huckabee appealed to the people of the state, calm reflection, offered prayers and thoughts for the victims and people of the state really brought people together. I think President Trump did a fine job with his statement he gave to the nation last week, but he canceled it all away this weekend by the comments that he made.
This was a weekend for him and the nation to have quiet reflection, to hug your children and to reflect on what we can do as a nation to heal and to make sure this doesn't happen again. For him to go on and on and on about Russia and speaking more about himself than offering prayers --
COOPER: NASCAR, Oprah Winfrey, I mean --
TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That is the point I was going to make. Why doesn't the President just shut up? Just be quiet for a weekend.
MILLER: But, Tara, he's constantly being attacked.
SETMAYER: No. I don't care. Children were killed and he --
MILLER: So it's OK if the President is being attacked and he can't pushback at all?
SETMAYER: Great. It's called impulse control. It's called being an adult. It's called being the president of United States. You cannot freak out on Twitter every single time someon attacks you.
COOPER: Jason, hasn't every president --
SETMAYER: That is part of the job of being president of the United States. I mean he's supposed to be in New York. He is the thin- skinned person -- he doesn't need to defend himself all the time constantly, especially after a major national tragedy where kids died miles from his resort where he's living in luxury.
MILLER: And he went and visited with folks who are on the scene now.
SETMAYER: That's great. And he should -- that was a good thing to do, and then he should have just quietly let the weekend go by and allowed people to mourn, have people come together for solutions to go through that and then he'll pick it all up today.
MILLER: On Saturday, he was being attacked around the clock. SETMAYER: So what, that goes with the job, Jason. It goes with the job. That this, again, just highlights how unqualified he is as president of the United States. He does not have the temperament. You have to be able to take the hits if you're going to be president of the United States. And he is unable to do it. So instead, he behaves like an insecure lunatic on Twitter as opposed to being a mature adult as the president of the freaking United States. I'm sick of you guys making excuses for him.
MILLER: So being attacked and not doing anything in response makes you a good president?
SETMAYER: No, it's how you choose to react to adversity. And the way this president chooses to react to adversity is to behave like a petulant child and he goes on Twitter tantrums. That is not OK. And you should not make excuses for it. That's the problem that I have.
MOOK: The problem is we don't have a commander in chief right now. So we found out our country was attacked by Russia, they actually deployed agents into our country to manipulate our election and all he could do is talk about himself. We have children getting killed and shot. He can't even console the families.
A commander in chief is our leader. He expresses our moral fiber and he speaks out when something happens. He defends the country when we it's attacked and we were attacked.
COOPER: Even if for every funeral he had sent out a tweet, even if some aide had said to him, you know, here's the name of the person whose funeral is today, or the two names, this is what, you know, this is what their lives were like, maybe say something about it.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean we're this close from this President attacking some of those kids for speaking out.
MILLER: Oh that's too far. I think that's too far.
[21:10:01] LIZZA: Look, I hate to say it, Jason, normally I would never think that a president would do that, but a president who has attacked a Gold Star family, a president --
MILLER: So now you're going to attack the President for something that he hasn't done based on what you think --
LIZZA: Fair enough.
MILLER: -- he could --
LIZZA: Yes, fair enough. I'm just saying this is a president that crosses lines and I would not be surprised if he did that. But you're right, he hasn't done that.
But, look, we -- what would you do, Jason, if under Barack Obama Putin sent a bunch of spies into the United States, they ran around, meddled in the election, illegally spent money on campaign ads and it was all orchestrated by Putin's chef. What would you do if the reaction from Barack Obama was, well, I didn't have anything to do with that so it doesn't matter. And then a few days later if there was a mass shooting under Obama and Obama blamed his own FBI for focusing on some unrelated investigation and sort of blamed them for not preventing the shooting.
Just put your -- just turn it around for a second, just think -- you know, whenever I think I'm being biased, what I do is how would I react if someone else, the other party, was doing this? Just turn around, what would you think if Obama had done that?
MILLER: But there are two things here. I mean the director of the FBI --
LIZZA: That didn't speak out against spies running around in the country --
MILLER: -- that there were -- they completely missed the warning sign and they missed that tip with regard to the tragedy in Florida. That is an accurate statement.
COOPER: But, Jason -- yes. But what's not accurate is the President saying the reason they missed it is because they're all spending too much time in the Russia investigation. You well know the number of FBI personnel involved in the Russia investigation, the Mueller team, is miniscule compared to the thousands and thousands of personnel working at the FBI.
COOPER: They're two separate things.
MILLER: I do think that they completely -- I mean, look, they missed -- it wasn't just a warning sign, it was --
COOPER: They missed it. They acknowledged that.
MILLER: I also think they're spending way too much time on this whole --
COOPER: But the President is conflating the two. Fair enough. But you just said what everything the President said was accurate. You don't 2believe that that was accurate, do you? The reason they missed is because they were spending time -- too much time on Russia?
MILLER: I think both of the two things can be accurate. I mean if I were advising him under particular tweet, I'd say go and split your time between the two. But again, going back to the point, we have the director of the FBI who said they missed this massive warning and that's something that we should have attention because we can't --
COOPER: Did they miss it because they're spending too much time on Russia?
MILLER: I think there are a lot of questions about what's going on with the Russia investigation right now.
COOPER: But I'm asking did they miss it because FBI agents are spending too much time investigating Russia?
MILLER: I have no idea what goes on internally at the FBI.
SETMAYER: Oh come on, Jason.
COOPER: Do you don't know how many people work at the FBI?
MILLER: I don't know.
COOPER: 35, 000. Do you know how many people are working on the Russia investigation? I mean it's miniscule. So the idea that if --
COOPER: -- is just factually incorrect.
COOPER: Not only is he, you know, tweeting, not tweeting about dying kids and funerals, he's lying.
MILLER: But there's no collusion proven and that's all we see in the news.
COOPER: He's lying about these things and tweets constantly and we all just sit here and be like, oh OK, it's just another lie. It just seems normal for this president, which is a sad thing.
Anyway, we've got to take a quick break. A lot more to cover on the subject. We'll pick up the conversation next.
Also later, the effort in the wake of the Parkland killings by Parkland students and young people around the country to try to change minds, change laws on guns.
[21:16:53] COOPER: The point raised before the break about Parkland and the President's tweets, earlier this afternoon, we asked former FBI official James Gagliano how many agents -- FBI agents he estimates are working on the Mueller probe, he said probably no more than two dozen, aside of 12,000 special agents that the FBI and 35,00 employees at the FBI. When asked whether the President was comparing apples to oranges, he said, no, it's more like apples to wheelbarrows. As for the threat from Russia, FBI director Christopher Wray said last week, he received no specific instructions from the President on fighting it, a threat that his own national security adviser just said is now incontrovertible, and in the wake of Friday's indictments, incontrovertible except perhaps to the President. Here's what he said about Air Force One a little more than three months ago about a conversation with Vladimir Putin.
"Every time he sees me, he says, I didn't do that. And I believe, I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it. But he says, I didn't do that. And then you hear it's 17 agencies," meaning the intelligence community. "Well, it three. And one is Brennan and one is whatever, I mean, give me a break. They're political hacks." The President then did back -- walk that back after a controversy erupted.
Back now with the panel. It is, Ryan -- interesting, Ryan, I mean, so to the point that was made earlier that the war that the Russians, you know, by their informational warfare that they launched against United States and the term the Department of Justice use as well, the only response really by the President on Friday and over this weekend has been about himself. It has nothing specific or concrete about here's how we're going to man the barricades, here's what we're going to do, here's what we need to do.
LIZZA: Can you imagine Ronald Reagan at the height of the Cold War and an indictment comes down with 37 pages of detailed information that helped 13 Russians went to the United States, ran around the country doing a counterintelligence operation, went back to Russia and launched a sophisticated propaganda campaign over three years that cost millions of dollars, all detailed by the Justice Department? Can you imagine someone like Reagan standing up and saying, well, that proves I had nothing to do with that operation.
I mean that was the President's response. He basically said, this indictment proves I had nothing to do with that. You know, when my kids do something wrong -- when something happens in the house and I ask my kids, who did that? They all say, I didn't have anything to do with it. It makes you look a little bit suspicious that your first reaction is I had nothing to do with those spies running a propaganda campaigns to help my election.
POWERS: -- premature to say that there was no evidence of collusion. A couple of the key phrases that came out of this whole report were specifically stating that in this indictment and persons known or unknown, which tells anyone with half a brain that this investigation is far from over. What we saw with the 13 indictments, clearly Russia meddled in our election. Whether or not it influenced the outcome remains to be seen. But for the automatic response instead of highlighting the fact, this tragedy happened and could happen again if we don't do something, for the President to stand up and say it didn't have anything to do with me, because we don't know that yet.
MOOK: Well, it will be interesting. So the Republicans control Congress right now. And we didn't see a lot of incoming -- for them, although we know of Cruz and Rubio and others were potential targets. After the -- during the last election, Marco Rubio wouldn't comment on e-mails that were stolen, in part, in retrospect, probably because he knew they had his e-mails.
[21:20:08] And it will be interesting if Republican candidates are attacked in the midterms using information stolen by Russia or narratives push by the Russians. Will they tolerate the President, our commander in chief standing back away he has now when it's their election?
LIZZA: And will -- and the same way, will Democrats actually have the self-control to not touch that? And I, you know, I hate to say it, but I don't think a lot of Democrats will be able to do that. And frankly, in 2016 if the shoe were on the other foot, I'm not sure the Democrats wouldn't have just ignored all the stolen e-mails. Maybe I'm wrong about that but it takes a lot of self control not to use weaponized information when it's out there and you can use it against your opponents.
MILLER: And, Ryan, by the time that we get to this fall's midterm elections, I mean, at what point are people going to say that the Trump campaign was not colluding with some foreign entity? Because at a certain point, it just keeps going and going. There's nothing that 37-page report that says that the campaign was even when Deportee Rosenstein got up there and talked. He basically put it squarely on these people. And I mean even --
COOPER: Right. But isn't the answer to that, when the investigation is over?
MILLER: For the motivated parties and opponents, it's never going to be. I mean look how closer --
MILLER: Look how quickly the news coverage. You see just the absolute --
MILLER: We have this horrible, sickening tragedy that happened last week, this Mueller announcement, the 13 Russians being indicted comes out, and all of a sudden everyone goes to covering that and people are, oh, this is really damning. This is terrible for the President. The President had in his campaign had absolutely nothing to do with this.
POWERS: Jason, Jason. Hi. When Mueller finishes the investigation, that's what we're talking about. Why are you acting like that's not going to happen?
MILLER: I'm saying that the partisan opponents are going to keep trying to say the only reason Trump won is because of Russia --
POWERS: It will actually it. There will come a day when --
MOOK: Nobody's saying that. I'm not saying she lost because of Russia. I'm saying Russians meddled in the election.
MILLER: She lost because of Comey?
MOOK: There were a lot of information. We can have a whole --
MOOK: All I am here to say is we now learned Russian agents infiltrated our country, spent millions of dollars illegally on ads attacking Democrats and Republicans, and our commander in chief is AWOL. That's all, I or any other Democrat is saying.
MILLER: A couple different things here. They spent, at least we saw from the reporting, millions of dollars, but there wasn't that much has actually spent on advertising.
MILLER: -- Facebook ad saying do not trust Hillary Clinton.
COOPER: Well, there were also --
MOOK: Your own digital direct (ph) on, your campaign talks all day long about how effective a platform Facebook is. So don't tell me now that when people advertise on Facebook, it's not effective.
COOPER: But we actually do know what else they were spending money on, they were spending money on organizing rallies, hiring people to dress up as Hillary Clinton --
MILLER: We had someone from Facebook come out and say that he didn't think that their goal was to go and sway the election. It was just --
SETMAYER: OK. I can't believe that I'm actually hearing that these are -- you are minimizing what the Russians did. You are minimizing the fact that --
MILLER: I'm not minimizing. I'm saying that it's caught on Trump.
SETMAYER: You are. You are. You're saying, well, they only spent but so much money. And oh well, but Trump had nothing to do with it. Where is the concern --
SETMAYER: I'm not -- I did say any of those things. What I'm concern about the fact is that a foreign enemy infiltrated this country to try to meddle in our elections and they were successful in it. How we quantify how successful, I think that's out for -- that's up for debate. But the point is that they did it, we caught them, and that our Department of Justice came out with a very detailed indictment explaining what an enemy of this country did to us. And the president of the United States and his enablers seem to think that, well, as long as the President didn't have anything to do with it, let's move on. He hasn't had a Cabinet-level meeting on this.
Christopher Wray and others --
SETMAYER: No. Christopher Wray and others have said they have not gotten specific instruction from the President about what they need to do, what they should be doing --
SETMAYER: The president of the United States should be -- number one focus should be protecting the American people, especially from foreign enemies. So why hasn't the President taken any interest and any proactive interest in making sure the Russians don't do this anymore?
MILLER: Totally agreed that we cannot have a foreign entity attempting to meddle in our elections.
SETMAYER: OK. So then why doesn't -- why hasn't the President even -- how come he hasn't tweeted that out? He hasn't tweeted that out.
MILLER: Because right now, all the attacks against the president are saying that somehow --
SETMAYER: It's bigger than him. How about -- he gets the memo that is bigger than him.
COOPER: -- all these attacks lately are about Russia interfering in the election --
[21:25:00] COOPER: -- and he's not commenting about that.
COOPER: He's taking everything personally as if it's all about him.
MILLER: Because that's were the news coverage is.
COOPER: No, it's not, actually. (CROSSTALK)
COOPER: I did two hours of news coverage on this Friday night, and it wasn't about attacking him, it was about where -- his silence on this and this incredible indictment and what the Russians did. I know you interpreted it as an attack on him and he certainly interprets it. But --
MILLER: The people who I want on top of this are Pompeo, I want Wray on top of this. Those are the people I want to go and deal with this.
COOPER: You don't want the President to deal with this?
MILLER: I think the President has a pretty complex game that he's playing, talking about North Korea, talking about Syria. We have a lot of different moving pieces. We look at the actions --
COOPER: You think he's playing a complex game?
MILLER: Absolutely. And how we deal with the Russians. I mean look how we're sending our --
MILLER: -- or helping the Ukrainians with energy. And if that's not a big --
COOPER: Has he ever said anything negative about Vladimir Putin?
MILLER: I don't know if he ever has. I'm not around him 24/7.
COOPER: I mean publicly he's never said anything negative about Vladimir Putin.
SETMAYER: He never tweeted anything negative against Putin.
MILLER: Because again, because he does have a pretty complex game with North Korea. So you think we can solve the North Korea problem without being able to deal with the Russians on this?
SETMAYER: No, I think the president of the United States should forcibly come out and condemn what the Russians did and reassure the American people that he's on top of this and that we're not going to tolerate this moving forward and that he's instructed the national security --
LIZZA: I don't remember want Ronald Reagan saying, oh, we'll look the other way with all the spying going on in the United States.
(CROSSTALK) COOPER: We've got to take a break. There was a lie-in directly across the street from the White House today. Seventeen people lying on the ground representing 17 killed in Parkland, Florida last week.
Coming up, we'll talk with Parkland's mayor who met with President Trump in the aftermath of the shootings.
[21:30:42] COOPER: Well, two more funerals today of high school students killed on last week's massacre. There will be more tomorrow. Still way too much to absorbed.
I'm joined now by Parkland, Florida's mayor Christine Hunschofsky.
Mayor, thanks so much for being with us. It's been five days since the shooting at the school. I'm just wondering how you, and how the community are doing.
MAYOR CHRISTINE HUNSCHOFSKY, PARKLAND, FLORIDA: Well, the community is still grieving. Some people are still in shock, and it's very difficult right now. We have all the funerals and the viewings, and we're community in grief right now, and everybody is grieving in their own way and at their own pace.
So we're trying to make sure that people are taking advantage of the grief counseling that's available and to make sure that everybody in the community is taking care of each other. Sometimes as part of grief, people get very angry, and we want to make sure that everybody remembers that we're all hurting here and we're all -- we all need to look out for each other right now.
COOPER: I think one of the things that struck a lot of people in the immediate aftermath of this shooting is some of the reaction by the students, how they were speaking out, whether on television or on rallies, sort of on gun control issues, which is something often one hasn't seen in the immediate aftermath of a school shooting from the student themselves. I'm wondering how you see it, what goes through your mind when you see these young people using their voice in this way.
HUNSCHOFSKY: Knowing some of these young people, I'm not surprised that they're speaking out. As a mayor and, frankly, as a mother, I'm extremely proud to see students speaking out and using their voice. We talked today about how people have kind of turned off and are no longer engaged in the voting process and in their government, and I think it make -- will gives us all hope to know that there are students out there who are going to work hard and get engaged, and I'm hoping they're going to inspire other young people to get engaged.
COOPER: President Trump, I know you met personally with him on his visit to Parkland. I wonder if you can just talk about what he said to you, what struck you most about his visit.
HUNSCHOFSKY: Just to clarify, I didn't actually meet with him.
HUNSCHOFSKY: He called me.
HUNSCHOFSKY: So when we were on the phone, he expressed his condolences and what really -- he said he would help us out. I told him it would be a long road for our community to heal and that we would be needing services going forward for grief counseling, mental health and also for security. And what struck me is that he seemed very impacted by his visit to the hospital. He spoke of one student who he met in the hospital who had seen his two friends get shot, and the president, I remember him saying several times, how do you recover from that?
COOPER: What do you make of the White House today signaling that the president might be open to backing some legislation to improve background checks for gun purchases?
HUNSCHOFSKY: I think the students are having an impact. I think it's good and wise for people to be listening to what they're saying. These students were there.
They have a firsthand account of what happened. They are survivors of this. And I think we can learn a lot from listening to them and listening to their experience, and I hope it motivates all lawmakers to look at all things we can do to prevent something like this from happening in the future.
COOPER: Yes. I know you've asked for vigilance, for a search for many solutions to avoid this happening anywhere again. Are you still hopeful that something can and will be done politically and otherwise?
HUNSCHOFSKY: Yes. What gave me hope today is I had seen that there seems to be a growing support for this flag for red flag legislation, which from what I've been told is legislation that when someone is in crisis or somebody has have -- it looks like they might harm themselves or someone else, it gives law enforcement the tools to remove guns from them. I think that's -- the fact that that's gaining momentum and that you hear some GOP members saying they'd be open to it, I think that's a good start. We can't -- if we want a solution, we have to look at everything. And that gives me hope.
COOPER: Mayor Hunschofsky, I appreciate your time tonight and I know there are some very rough days and weeks and months ahead for you and your community, and I wish you the best.
[21:35:05] HUNSCHOFSKY: Thank you very much.
COOPER: We'll get the panel's take next. Also ahead tonight, more on what the school -- students hope to achieve so they and others can be safe.
COOPER: Before the break, the mayor of Parkland, Florida told us that everyone there was grieving in their own way. We're all hurting, she said. She also talked about kind of activism that we've been seeing from students there. Listen to Emma Gonzalez who's been at the forefront of much of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMMA GONZALEZ, STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us. And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and our parents to call BS. They say that no laws could have been able prevent the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred.
We call BS that us kids don't know what we're talking about, that we're too young to understand how the government works. We call BS. If you agree, register to vote, contact your local Congress people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I'm back now with the panel. Do you think something will be different this time? I mean I've been to a lot of school shootings and I said this when I was down there, I've never seen kids in the aftermath of a shooting, immediately in the aftermath of a shooting come forward so quickly to speak out. Oftentimes, its weeks later or months later some may get involved.
POWERS: Right. Well, I think it's because we're at an absolute breaking point. And I don't know if something will happen now.
[21:40:02] I do think something is going to happen, and we think that we're all in this sort of learned helplessness of oh nothing will ever change. But nothing ever changes until it does. And we just saw that happen for my entire adult life women just said to each other, well I guess we're going to be sexually harassed. And if somebody's powerful, there's nothing you can do about it. If somebody attacks you whose powerful he'll be protected.
And guess what? That's not true anymore. It took a really long time, but this also has been going on for a while. So I do think at some point it is going to reach a breaking point. I hope this is it, but I don't know if this will be it. But I do think eventually people should just keep trying because eventually something will change.
STEWART: One of the things the President said in his address the other night, which I would love to hold him to it where he says, this is the time where it's not about just taking actions to make us feel like we're making a difference, we have to make a difference.
And I think those kids and hearing from the mayor, they're going to hold politicians' feet to the fire. I think what's currently being discussed with further restrictions on background checks, incentivizing agencies to report criminal behavior from people and making sure that they are not able to have access to guns according to the legislation, and with the mayor mention this regard to a red flags, people that have mentally illness, trying to prohibit them from gaining access to guns. These are sensible proposals that need to be talked about. I do think we also need to have a larger discussion on mental illness and their impact on these mass shootings, but we need to put all of this on the table and not just talk about it, like we did with Vegas in a bump stocks, we need to actually follow through with some action.
STEMAYER: And I think the difference this time around is also that it is bipartisan, it's a Cornyn-Coons bill that Alice is talking about where there has been a breakdown in the background check system and that there needs to be tighter controls with that. We saw the failure of the background check system in the Texas shooting, church shooting, in the South Carolina church shooting where there were issues that should have been reported that weren't -- that would have prevented these people from getting guns. So I think that that's a good start. But the difference this time around is that you actually do have the President giving some ground, expressing a desire to do something.
COOPER: Do you think that's real?
SETMAYER: I think it is. Because he, in the past, has made comments about gun control, however you want to define that, before he became this Republican. Remember, he was a Democrat up until 2009, and so he had made comments in the past that seemed to lend him to common sense gun control. So he may -- if the NRA and some of the more ardent rightwing gun -- pro-gun folks come out and pressure him, they spend a lot of money supporting him, maybe he'll change his mind.
But I think seeing the passion of these kids and what's going on in this most recent tragedy and the proximity it has to him, especially of being in -- with his property in Mar-a-Lago, it's very close to there, I don't see how he -- the people he surrounds himself with, I don't see how he doesn't do something. It may not be the big, you know, overarching banning assault weapons and all that. But I think starting with at least fixing some of the holes in the system now is a good step forward. It would have to be incremental.
MILLER: Well, and I think also there's something going on here in a societal level that I haven't seen enough coverage and I wish that would be talking about this a lot more. I mean the first big shooting that happened, I remember, when I was a kid was in Stockton, California. That was the first one that really kind of stuck with me and, you know, wow, this is a scary thought, and obviously it's become way too frequent.
What's changed since then, you think about how kids are exposed nowadays to the first-person shooter games that look so realistic. You look at the way that so many of these kids fall into these traps where there are at least these chat rooms and they're separated from reality and so many of these kids, as they moves along will realize that there -- I mean it's right in front of us. I mean these are red flags. I think things get swung so far into the privacy side and hipping all these things -- if we do see a red flag, you know, we have to do something about it and there have to be this better background checks to make sure that this doesn't happen. There's something going on with society today and with kids today where we have to address that, I think.
COOPER: No one is addressing guns.
MOOK: Yes. I was just going to say that the whole issue here is that an 18-year-old or 19-year-old can go buy these guns. And slightly I disagree on President Trump. I think what he'll try to do because at times he's even done this on immigration. He'll float that he's on board with something happening. He'll float it and he'll do that to kind of pushback against people who are protesting and complaining, and then it all gets muddied up and nothing happens.
And I think that is a real risk here. That first of all, the President just kind of hints that he'll do something to try to placate people, but the real question is can Republicans in Congress cast a vote?
POWER: Well, and also --
MOOK: That's going to be hardest part. And the last thing I would just say is that's where the students must sustain this. That is the key. They have to sustain. Yes, this will get a lot of coverage the next few days, but it will not sustain over the long haul unless people stay at this and don't let up. And don't get placated by half- statements.
[21:45:05] POWERS: And also he doesn't often understand the dynamics of the politics. So even if he has a view, it will run up against with the Republican Party thinks about it and the NRA. And the NRA is going to comeback and they're going to make sure that anything that's going to really address the problem is going to be shut down, that's just the fact.
And you can talk about mental illness all you want. It is a factor, but most mentally ill people don't go and shoot up people. And the common denominator here in all these situations isn't mental illness, it's guns. I mean that is --
POWERS: We're not -- but we're not the only country -- but we're not --
COOPER: Well, actually --
POWERS: They don't all, actually. And we're not the only country in the world of mentally ill people. We're the only country in the world that's a developed country that allows people access to these kinds of guns. That is the commonality. So --
MILLER: So I mean where this --
POWERS: So we have to cut off access to these kinds of guns. They're not all --
MILLER: That can be all mentally illness.
POWERS: No they have -- some of them have emotional problems but they're not all mentally ill.
MILLER: Kirsten, these people are whacked out.
POWERS: No, I'm just telling you from a psychiatric standpoint. They're not all technically mental ill.
MOOK: You know what? Let the Republican Party pass a mental health bill. Let the Republican Party pass a mental health. Let them fund free mental health for every American, then I'll believe this.
COOPER: All right. We got to take another break.
When we continue, more on the CNN exclusive, special counsel Robert Mueller taking a deeper look into the business activities, the President son-in-law Jared Kushner during the presidential transition, this while Donald Trump Jr. heads to India to help promote Trump real estate ventures. The question is will he makes business in politics?
[21:50:30] COOPER: CNN is reporting that President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner is facing more questions from special counsel Robert Mueller about possible Chinese financing for some of his real estate projects, altering the presidential transition. Fair amount (ph) to unpack here.
Back now with out panel, also joining the conversation is Jeffrey Toobin.
I mean, Jeffrey, according to this report, it does seem to indicate that special counsel Mueller is looking into more than just all things Russia.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It does. And well, certainly he's already charged the Manafort and Gates case, which is not directly related to Russia. His jurisdiction is really very broad. And Russia and any related cases. And Jared Kushner is obviously intimately involved in both the campaign and the possible obstruction of justice, and here you have a situation where the potential for conflict of interest is so enormous. This is why all previous presidents in the modern era have not had active business interests while they are president of the United States.
Jared Kushner is facing a crisis in his real estate business because of his failed investment in 666 Fifth Avenue. He desperately needs capital. He has gone around to China, to Qatar, to other countries with whom the United States has very complicated diplomatic relations and he's trying to raise money from them. That's a conflict of interest. And I am certainly unaware of any crimes that he's committed, but there's certainly potential for all sorts of --
COOPER: Well, also "The New Yorker" has reporting I mean, that (INAUDIBLE) has the speech in New York and then he is basically been the point person on China meeting privately with the China's -- China ambassador, you know, that he's sort of the point person in the White House in China.
TOOBIN: While he's running his business. I mean, he is not running it day to day but he's still deeply involved in it. And it's just -- it's totally inappropriate. It's never been done in the modern era. Whatever you say about Richard Nixon or about Warren Harding or about anyone in the 20th or 21st century, they have never been running profit-making businesses out of the White House as the Trump family is doing.
COOPER: And Kushner does -- still doesn't have a full time security clearance.
MOOK: Because he lied presumably on his SF 86 form.
SETMAYER: Or at least he modified it several times including leading out a hundred foreign contacts that he had. So if he was this wonder kid and that was running his family business in his 20s but he couldn't figure out how to fill out a security form, which thousands of federal employees do all the time or he just forgot all these foreign contacts that he's had, and all these different financial entanglements that he had, he's forgot them all. And here we are year end and he -- it was just reported that he has requested more classified information than anyone outside, more than the national Security Council members?
What is Jared Kushner doing in the White House in this capacity? He has zero foreign policy experience, zero diplomatic experience. He has run his family business almost into the ground, yet he doesn't have a security clearance, he has no intelligence background. What the hell is he doing being the point person on Foreign Affairs, on peace in the Middle East, running around as a shadow diplomat in Saudi Arabia?
MILLER: He's a smart careful businessperson.
SETMAYER: -- the President son -- he is the President son-in-law --
MILLER: No, there's not about --
SETMAYER: -- who has all kinds of business problems like Jeffrey just said and he needs the money for foreign investments.
MILLER: If I'm Jared Kushner and I'm reading the story, which again, I -- Gloria and Shimon and Carter all fantastic reporters. If I'm reading the story and I'm Jared, Mike, I'm actually feeling pretty good, because it's basically everything that was in the Michael Wolff book, and so of course the Mueller team is going to see what pop in the Michael Wolff book and then go and ask people follow up questions on that. Where it would have been concerned if get a whole bunch of new questions and different things that they're throwing in there. But look, Jared complied with the House, the Senate. He sat down with the Mueller team. I think he's doing everything that he needs to be doing in this. And look, but --
SETMAYER: That's not completely true.
MILLER: -- political --
SETMAYER: Thirteen Democrats sent a letter because he was not complying with requests that they were making -- that they had made from him concerning financial entanglements.
MILLER: He has a multi-billion-dollar business --
SETMAYER: And he should have stayed there.
MILLER: He is investing himself from and that takes time.
SETMAYER: Then he should have stayed there.
MILLER: And that takes time. That's just, we haven't had successful people in business like this just come in who haven't been active --
SETMAYER: He has no business in this position.
STEWART: This is why we have nepotism rules and --
SETMAYER: This is nepotism at its worst.
STEWART: This for this very reason right here. You can talk about his multi-billion-dollar business, the 666 Park Avenue --
MILLER: Fifth Avenue.
STEWART: Fifth Avenue is a billion dollars in debt. And if he can pick up the phone and make some calls to different people that may potentially help him out, that's a problem.
MILLER: So if there -- but if there was some issue or if he was freaking out about it then he would have stayed outside the White House and just stayed in his business.
SETMAYER: Or maybe he has more access because he is inside the White House and it gives him unlimited infinite access to any --
[21:55:03] MILLER: He is not running his business anymore.
MILLER: -- if you're going to make that charge that was Jared running his business, then.
SETMAYER: So you're telling me that he does -- he never talks to the people who are running his business? You're telling me --
MILLER: He's no longer running his business.
SETMAYER: -- people are still above board, yes, they're still above board, they're so (INAUDIBLE) and you actually believe that Jared Kushner has absolutely zero --
SETMAYER: -- he has -- I'm going to make the claim that I don't believe -- and I call BS that Jared Kushner doesn't have anything to do with his family business anymore.
MOOK: We get with no proof.
MOOK: So when I was on the Clinton campaign, the biggest problem that we had was we didn't know what we didn't know. And I think there's a really important lesson for the electorate here that when candidates were not release their taxes, when you don't understand the fundamental conflicts of interest themselves that the candidate may be acting on, you have a real problem. And the fact of the matter is we don't know anything. We don't know what business interests exactly Donald Trump has. I will tell when you we as a campaign tried to look into this, it was overwhelming. It is a tree of LLCs and Shell companies. We couldn't even get to it and we had people working on this full time all day long.
MILLER: And so now it becomes the guilty until proven innocent game at how the President --
MOOK: No, the point is when you choose to become president of the United States, you have a special responsibility to the people of this country to be honest about what conflicts you might have. And the problem is this is getting even more complex. We now have a son-in- law with a whole separate set of conflicts.
COOPER: And according to "The New Yorker" piece he was --
STEWART: Meeting with Russian bankers, too. Let's not forget that.
COOPER: -- according to "The New Yorker" piece, (INAUDIBLE), he as still running his business when during the transition --
STEWART: That's right.
COOPER: -- when he's meeting with Chinese officials and Russian officials in Qatar and others. STEWART: And Russians bankers. And often times, the initial response to these are quite telling -- the CNN reporting that came out today outlining all of this. His attorney -- his initial response was, here we go, another story based on name of sources instead of addressing the accusation based on nameless sources, instead of addressing the facts that are outlined in the story. That's how you knock down a story like this. It's not true --
TOOBIN: In experience with Abbe Lowell, who is the lawyer who -- he did say that he has not been asked to produce documents related to 666 Fifth Avenue. He has not been asked about these things. So that is relevant. Now, the Mueller investigation, I think it's quite clear, is a long way from over. They may go back to him, but at the moment I think Abbe Lowell made a fair point, that if they were so interested in 666 Fifth Avenue, they would have asked her so that --
MILLER: Does anyone disagreeing with me that this -- the entire story and what basically came out from this supposed sit-down with Mueller's folks is basically just a recap of the Michael Wolff book? I mean that's -- there was point --
MOOK: We don't know, I mean, we don't know, I mean, I agree with Jeff. The point Jeffrey just made to the point is we just don't know any thing.
COOPER: We got to take a break.
MOOK: It sounds like they're doing their job.
COOPER: Thank you, everybody. We'll be right back. More news ahead.
[22:00:14] COOPER: That's it for us. Thanks for watching. Time to hand over to Don Lemon.