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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Sources: President Trump Appears to be Backing Away from 21 Year Age Limit for Assault Weapons Purchase; Interview with Congressman Brian Mast of Florida; Hope Hicks Expected Before House Intel Committee Tomorrow; Interview with Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut; Sources: Pres. Trump Appears To Be Backing Away From 21 Year Age Limit for Assault Weapon Purchases; Past Friends for More Than Three Decades Wind Up Being At The Center Of Two School Shootings; Up Close: The AR-15 Rifle. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired February 26, 2018 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:03] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

We begin tonight keeping them honest with a few words on bravery. Today, Stoneman Douglas High School student Maddy Wilford thanked the doctors and first responders who saved her life, including Lieutenant Laz Ojeda of the Coral Springs Fire Department.

When he first saw her, she was badly bleeding, near death from three gunshot wounds and he had a choice. He could take her to a hospital 30 miles away where department policy said he should take her or go someplace closer, follow the protocol and risk seeing a child died before reaching a hospital or break protocol, go closer and risk her getting the wrong kind of care.

In Maddy's case, he broke protocol, went to the closer hospital and thank goodness it ended well. But it easily might not have. The bravery was knowing precisely that, knowing that either choice could have been the wrong choice and still making the decision.

The irony is neither Lieutenant Ojeda today nor anyone else we've ever encountered who has actually shown such bravery has ever or would ever speak about it in those terms. In fact, speaking about it today, the lieutenant said merely we transferred her to a gurney, gave a report to the nurse and we went back to work.

Brave people rarely ever say I was brave or boast about how brave they would be in a similar situation or suggests that it's easy. And bravery, courage, or whatever you call it, comes in many forms. The common thread involves making a choice or taking a stand and taking a risk.

Today, speaking to the nation's governor's at the White House about responses to Parkland the president suggested he was taking a brave political stand against the National Rifle Association. He is after all, a Republican president with a conservative base of supporters, so whatever you think of the NRA or its positions, going against them would be a risk for him. It would in political terms be an act of bravery. But keeping them honest, the president's words today come even as he seems to have gone silent on something he talked about supporting just last week. Here's what he said today at a meeting of governors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You guys, half of you, are so afraid of the NRA. There's nothing to be afraid of, and, you know, (AUDIO GAP) fight him every once in a while, that's OK. They're doing what they think is right. I will tell you, they are doing what they think is right.

But sometimes, you're going to have to be very tough and we're going to have to fight them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: You're afraid, he says. I'm not. You're going to have to fight them, he says, like I am. The question is, is he?

Here's what he said last Wednesday about raising the age for buying rifles including the one used to kill 17 people in Parkland and nearly taking Maddy Wilford's life.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: In addition everything else, in addition to what we were going to do about background checks, we're going to go very strong into age -- age of purchase.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And here's what he said on Thursday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I mean, we're talking about rules and regulations for purchasing. I'm talking about changing an age from 18 to 21. We're talking about common sense and it's a great thing and the NRA will well back it. I really feel very confident the NRA will back it and so will Congress and so will the Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: (AUDIO GAP) the NRA had already put out a statement saying they do not and would not (AUDIO GAP) and last Thursday night in the broadcast, we raised the question about whether he actually would take them on or bend to their will. But since Thursday, he's gone silent about raising the age, nothing on Twitter, nothing on camera, including nothing today to those governors.

And we don't know what he said to the NRA leaders when he met with him yesterday in fact we didn't even know the meeting took place until after the fact. It was kept off the schedule the White House puts out every day. Today, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders dismissed the idea that the White House was hiding the meeting, suggesting it's part of the president's listening phase. Well, he definitely seems to be listening to the NRA because even as he goes silent on the thing he promised on Wednesday to, quote, go very strongly on, he is still pushing what seems to be his and the NRA's preferred response, arming teachers. Not all teachers, he says, just some.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I want highly trained people that have a natural talent like hitting a baseball or hitting a golf ball or putting. How come some people always make the four-footer and some people under pressure can't even take their club back, right? Some people can't take their club back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Now, you can take issue with how the president put that, but however he phrased it, it sure sounds like he's done listening on that particular subject, a subject the NRA is backing, even as he's telling governor's not to be so afraid of the NRA. In other words, be brave like me or just like I would have been he said unlike the Broward County deputy outside Stoneman Douglas, that terrible day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You know, I really believe, you don't know until you test it but I think I really believe I'd run into even if I didn't have a weapon, and I think most of the people in this room would have done that too, because I know most of you. But the way they performed was really a disgrace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Brave.

Now, we get some new reporting that the president does indeed appear to be back away from his comments last week about raising the age to buying an assault weapon which we just showed you moments ago.

CNN's Jim Acosta joins us with that.

What did you learn, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, talking to some sources tonight who are close to this discussion about gun control issues here at the White House and up on Capitol Hill and those sources are telling us that the president appears to be backing away from this idea that you just mentioned a few moments ago that he seemed to be supporting last week, that the age limit should be raised to 21 for purchases of assault weapons. The president tweeted about it last week, he also talked about it on a couple of occasions on Thursday.

But you noticed on Friday, in a CPAC speech and then today here at the White House with the nation's governors, he wasn't really talking about it. And so, that led to questions about, well, what's happened to this issue? Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, told reporters earlier today that he supports the idea as a concept.

But, Anderson, tonight we're hearing from sources that he appears to be backing away from that. The president said he was willing to fight the NRA on some issues, but apparently that is not one of them. And one source close to this process explained it this way and it really comes right out of the NRA's talking points and that is if a soldier can carry an assault rifle on the battlefield, why can't that soldier also defend his family in his home with an assault rifle?

That is a key talking point of the National Rifle Association, and it appears to be the direction of the president is heading towards tonight.

COOPER: Right. I mean, it's a soldier's variable also to use handguns which an 18-year-old cannot buy. You have to be 21.

ACOSTA: Yes, I'm not rationalizing. I'm just saying that this is what this source was saying, but it's clear that, you know, the president had this meeting with the National Rifle Association over the weekend. They had lunch over here at the White House on Sunday and ever since the president started talking about this idea late last week, there was some concern in the gun rights community that the president was going soft on this issue.

That is why I think you heard the president coming out so hard today and saying he was going to do away with bump stocks. That is something he feels like he's on safe ground on, but when it comes to this issue of raising the age for purchasing assault weapons, the NRA was just not going to be with him on that issue, not to mention a lot of conservative lawmakers on the Hill.

COOPER: Yes, Jim, you asked Sarah Sanders about the president's comments. I'm wondering what her response was.

ACOSTA: Well, yes, I just wanted to ask you know what was the president talking about when he said at this meeting today with the nation's governors, that he would have rushed in to try to save these students. She said he didn't exactly mean it that way and here's what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think he was just stating that as a leader he would have stepped in and hopefully been able to help as a number of the individuals that were in the school, the coach and other adults and even a lot of the students stepped up and helped protect other students. I think the point he was making is that he would have wanted to have played a role in that as well.

ACOSTA: Is he trained in firing a weapon? Is he trained in using a handgun or a firearm of some sort? SANDERS: I don't think that was the point he was making. He was saying that he would be a leader and would want to take a courageous action and a lot of the individuals that helped protect others that day weren't carrying firearms, which I think shows that you can be helpful in that process without it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: And we should point out, Anderson, she never really answered the question whether the president is trained to use a firearm. But on another front, we should also note, our sources are telling us tonight that the president and this White House, they are committed to doing something on this issue and that we should see some movement towards strengthening the background check system.

I talked to a source up on Capitol Hill this evening who said that they feel that that is something that can get done.

And one other idea that was floated, Anderson, that I thought was interesting that is there is some talk among lawmakers and some of that may be happening over here as well that they might give tax credits away to retired military and law enforcement to provide security in schools. That is one of the issues that they're talking about, one of the ideas that they're talking about. That obviously will not be enough for those students in Parkland and a lot of parents across the country -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jim Acosta, appreciate it.

Now, the action in Congress or lack of it depending on whom you ask. CNN's Phil Mattingly has the latest on that side of the story.

Does it seem feel like, Phil, like there is an appetite for change on the Hill especially on the Republican side?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, to put it plainly after talking to lawmakers and aides over the course the last couple of hours, people are all over the map right now. And in a debate that's this complex, this impassioned in terms of where both sides come down, that's not necessarily a great recipe for a result.

Just take kind of the issues right now that are out there. There's already been Democrats that have introduced an assault weapons ban. That doesn't have the votes to go forward. The past votes on universal background checks, even though the president has kind of ambiguously implied that perhaps that's something he'd back, that doesn't have the votes. The idea of raising the age for purchase for long guns from 18 to 21, that doesn't have the votes to move forward.

Even the small bore items, Anderson, that stalled out tonight. It's a background checks bill known as a Fix NICS bill. Now, this isn't an expansion of background checks. What it does basically is incentivize state and federal agencies to comply with existing law.

Well, Senate Republicans tried to move that quickly tonight with no debate and Republicans objected to moving that quickly.

[20:10:05] Democrats said they work for that either. They want a fuller debate, a wider debate, a more expansive debate. So, where does that actually leave things right now?

Well, I talked to one House Republican aide and the House is in a very different place right now than the Senate is on this, Anderson, he told me, people think this time is different. When you talk to members of our conference, the reality is, when it comes to guns, it's not, Anderson.

COOPER: This bill on background checks, I mean, does it see me it would have enough support to pass?

MATTINGLY: It definitely has enough support to pass the Senate. It's just a matter of getting through the logistical hurdles I guess if you will. The big question is, would it have the support to pass the House?

The House has actually already passed this bill, but they paired it with concealed carry reciprocity. Essentially, if you have a permit to conceal and carry in a state, you'd be able to take that over state lines into another state that allows concealed carry. For Democrats in the Senate, that's a non-starter. For Democrats in the House, that's a non-starter. So, as long as that still has to be paired with even this small-bore Fix NICS background check bill, there are real problems there.

Anderson, it kind of put this put a point on this. I was took speaking to a Democratic senator, usually an optimistic Democratic senator who's very strong on the gun rights issue, very strong on trying to push forward some type of gun restrictions, and I asked him plainly, do you think anything is actually going to happen right now? He looked at me and just shook his head.

He said no. He understands where things are right now and there's not a lot of optimism that anything's going to come out of this even that smaller bore background checks bill, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Phil Mattingly, thanks very much.

More now on the question of regulating firearms, arming teachers, and what if anything can pass the Congress, which seems to be the one question that comes up after every such tragedy.

Joining us now is Florida Republican congressman and decorated war veteran, Brian Mast, who recently called for a flat-out ban on AR-15 style rifles.

Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.

I'm wondering, what do you make of this news that the president appears to be backing away from raising the age limit to buy any kind of gun to 21?

REP. BRIAN MAST (R), FLORIDA: I don't think he should be backing away from this issue at all. I think he needs to be leading on this issue. He needs to show the America people what he said today that he's not going to be beholden to anybody and lead members of Congress, and lead members of the Senate in that same way, show the American people what they all hate about Washington, D.C. thinking that people here are purchased by different lobbies, that we're not. Lead the American people to that conclusion that we're not purchased by anybody. Show 'em.

COOPER: In his meeting today with the governors, the president told them that the NRA is on their side. Do you think that's true?

MAST: I think we find ourselves at odds on a great number of issues. But they represent people that need to have their opinion heard as well. The law-abiding gun-owning citizen that just wants to go out there and have that opportunity to hunt, to go and protect their home that they see fit, to be a collector, they have to be represented as well and that's their piece of this.

COOPER: You've taken a stand. I understand you changed your mind on assault type weapons. I'm wondering, A, what led you to that change? Was it this latest shooting? And what do you say to your fellow Republicans who may be wary about having a similar change of heart, fearing some kind of retribution from the NRA?

MAST: You know, it's a long story what led to me to this, but the short piece of it is that I was sitting there and looking at my children in a pool playing and thinking, what could happen to them. As I was concealing and carrying myself, looking in the surroundings around me saying, we could have been sitting ducks in a certain situation that we were in, and thinking about that in the wake of just happened in Parkland to people some of whom I know saying, I've got to do everything that I can to protect life. That was my life's worth, that's what I did, that's what made everything unregrettable in the military was that I was trying to protect the lives of others.

And that has to be the way we function here in Washington. We can't worry about being political casualties. It has to be the last thought in our mind.

COOPER: I know you're asking for conversation with the president. Can you say what you would like to tell him?

MAST: One hundred percent. I want to say to the president, take your plan for having a ban on people coming into our country from various, what we would consider terror-related countries. Take that travel ban, let's apply that exact same model to this situation, let's assess who is purchasing these firearms, what are the systems in place to make sure that the next Omar Mateen or the next Nikolas Cruz or the next Stephen Paddock isn't purchasing a firearm because nobody has faith in the system right now, and let's come back to the American people in 90 days or 120 days after this pause, after this 90 or 120 day pause of selling these assault tactical style weapons and come to them with real solutions, because your whole intro, it led into it.

Lawmakers are across the board on this. Nobody knows if they can get on board with the age or with background check or with this. Have the president -- I would ask the president, Mr. President, lead on this in the same way you led with the travel ban to protect communities, to protect your nation. Apply the same standard to this situation and let's act immediately.

COOPER: I'm wondering just the conversation amongst your fellow Republicans on the Hill. You don't have to name any names or anything. But what are you hearing about a desire for change, fear of change. I'm just wondering kind of what are you hearing from them?

MAST: I've had a great number of my colleagues, Republican colleagues, coming up to me, whispering in my ear that they thought it was a great piece. They love everything that I wrote about it. You know, really trying to feel me out, hey, what was your reaction back home, what were some of the things that people were saying to you. You know, how do they feel about your proposals?

I had a lot of questions today about the reaction that I was getting from my constituency about my remarks.

COOPER: Congressman Mast, it's a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you very much.

MAST: Very good to speak to you.

COOPER: A bit later tonight, we're going to take a closer look at how damaging AR-15 style rifles are to the human body.

Coming up next, breaking news in the Russia probe, Hope Hicks, who's been a part of Donald Trump's inner circle, even before he became president, she's now expected before the House Intelligence Committee tomorrow. New reporting on what she may be asked and whether or not she'll try to invoke executive privilege.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Breaking news tonight in the Russia investigation involving one of the president's closest confidants, White House communications director Hope Hicks. Sources telling CNN she is scheduled to go before the House Intelligence Committee tomorrow. She was initially supposed to appear last month, but her testimony was delayed by questions about whether she could discuss the presidential transition in her time at the White House.

Joining us now with more, CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto.

So, what are you learning about Hope Hicks?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, she's a key witness. She was with the president during the campaign, through the transition and right into the administration. So able to in theory answer questions on a whole host of aspects of Robert Mueller's and the House Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russian meddling in the election.

[20:20:09] The key question is, what questions is she going to be willing to answer tomorrow because that point, that issue that you raised, Anderson, still has not been settled, it's not clear. We spoke to the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee today, Adam Schiff, and he is uncertain if she's going to answer questions.

You'll remember that Steve Bannon, the president's former chief strategist when he was up in the same setting, he refused to answer many questions, citing in effect the White House claim of executive privilege as giving some leeway from answering questions about that conversations with the president about the administration, et cetera. So, we don't know what will happen tomorrow.

Will she go there? Will she answer most questions or refused to answer most questions?

One thing I should note is that the Intelligence Committee is still intending to issue a contempt order to Steve Bannon for refusing to answer those questions. You can imagine they would do the same to Hope Hicks if she refused as well.

COOPER: The House Democrats memo obviously was released this weekend. Just talk a little bit about what was in it.

SCIUTTO: So, here's the thing -- I mean, the two essential claims of the Republican memo known as the Nunes memo that came out a number of weeks ago was one that the FBI's investigation in a Trump campaign ties with Russia was based principally or entirely on this Steele dossier which had Democratic money behind it. On that issue, the Democratic memo attempts to rebut it bought by noting the timeline here that in fact the FBI opened their counterintelligence investigation in July 2016, seven weeks before the FBI team got access to that Steele dossier. So, it's a credible rebuttal on that point.

The other key point of the Republican memo was that when the FBI was seeking a warrant to surveil Carter Page, a Trump campaign aide that I know you've spoken to, that it did not reveal to the court that the dossier had Democratic money backing it, had a partisan backing to it. The Democratic memo says that's not true look at the warrant, in fact they made the court aware that the dossier had a partisan backing.

So, you know, a credible attempt to rebut those. Of course, if you talk to Republicans, they'll say not all the details are in there, but taken together, it certainly raises questions about the central claims from the Republican memo.

COOPER: Jim Sciutto, appreciate the update. Thanks.

Connecticut Congressman Jim Himes is a member of the House Intelligence Committee, someone who's been on the inside through the months of the Russian investigation. I spoke to him just before air.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Congressman, can you just confirm that Hope Hicks is expected to appear before your committee reportedly as early as tomorrow?

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We do expect her to come before the committee tomorrow morning, yes.

COOPER: Do you expect her to invoke executive privilege in the same way that Steve Bannon did?

HIMES: Well, it's a little bit of a mystery, Anderson, because different people who have worked for the White House at different times have approached this differently. So, Steve Bannon obviously invoked executive privilege in an extraordinarily broad way, including going back to the transition. We had other people who worked in the White House before the committee who did not and who answered questions about their time in the White House.

So, again, we'll see what happens tomorrow morning.

COOPER: Hope Hicks has obviously been at the epicenter of a lot of the activity both in the transition, during the campaign, and also obviously the White House. Are there are particular areas of questioning that you hope to be able to ask her?

HIMES: Well, you know, those of us who have watched this White House for a long time know that she is one of the president's most close advisors, that she has been in most rooms when the president has made decisions. So, I think there's a lot that we want to talk to her about.

In particular, of course, is the question of the drafting of the statement that Don Jr., the president's son, gave, the initial statement, which turned out not to be true about the meeting in Trump Tower with the Russians when, you know, he was expecting to receive compromising information on Hillary (AUDIO GAP) about, you know, who was in on (AUDIO GAP) who knew what (AUDIO GAP) and I don't want to prejudice this, (AUDIO GAP) whether there was any attempt there to deceive the public about what -- about what that meeting was to have been about.

COOPER: I also want to ask you about the Democratic response memo which was obviously released over the weekend. The Republican Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes says it actually bolsters his argument, saying it shows Democrats, and I'm quoting, are advocating that it's OK for the FBI and department of Justice to use political dirt paid for by one campaign and use it against the other campaign. How do you respond to that?

HIMES: Well, the chairman is just wrong about that. You know, the premise of the Republican memo was that the Steele dossier was essential, that it was absolutely critical, that it was the basis not just of the FISA application made around Carter Page, but it was associated with the investigation. We now know that that is not true and we further know that the dossier which again, you know, he can call it (AUDIO GAP) doesn't mean that whatever is in that dossier is true or not true.

[20:25:09] It's interesting how (AUDIO GAP) keep using the word unverified. Unverified just means we don't know and the FBI, of course, would have made an effort to understand what was true and what was not true. But what we know today is that the idea that that dossier was critical to getting a warrant on Carter Page after, and remember, it was after he worked for the Trump campaign, Carter Page had left the campaign by the time of that warrant request, is just a you know an attempt to make what is not a partisan issue into a partisan issue.

COOPER: I also want to ask you about Jared Kushner. Do you believe he should have a security clearance even a temporary one? I mean, he's had one apparently this entire time. Do you believe President Trump when he says it's up to General Kelly to determine Kushner's clearance level?

HIMES: You know, it's really important at the White House and that all of us maintain very strict discipline around security clearances. And I don't know all the details and I'm not sure anybody outside of the White House knows all the details of why Jared Kushner security clearance is being held up. But if it's being held up for reasons that you know suggest that there might be some possibility of blackmail there, that there may (AUDIO GAP) there was, but if that's the reason why the security clearance is taking a long time, we need to remember that he has access to the most sensitive information of the United States government and the prudent thing would be to, you know, get the security clearance done and get him that access.

COOPER: Congressman Himes, thanks for your time.

HIMES: Thank you, Anderson.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, just ahead tonight, First Lady Melania Trump spoke out about the high school students in Florida, many of whom have been so vocal after the deadly shooting in their school. We'll talk about two of the students and their thoughts about what the first lady had to say. 2

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:30:09] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back. Again the breaking news tonight, President Trump appearing to be backing away from the proposal that himself made in the wake in the Parkland shooting raising the minimum age for riffle purchases to 21. Earlier today, the First Lady Melania Trump spokes to the wives of the nation's governors, praising Stoneman Douglas High School students who had spoken out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF UNITED STATES: I have been heartened to see children across this country using their voices to speak out and try to create change. They are our future and they deserve a voice.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, before her speech, Stoneman Douglas shooting survivor Lauren Hogg something to say to the First Lady, she tweeted. Hey, @flotus, you say you're your mission as first lady is to stop cyber bullying, well then, don't you think it would have been smart to have a convo with your stepson Donald J. Trump Jr. before he liked a post about a false conspiracy theory which has turned -- put a target on my back.

That's a reference to Trump Jr. liking a website story that falsely said and Hogg's older brother David had been coach to speak out against President Trump. I'm joined now by both Lauren Hogg and her brother David. Thanks so much for being with us.

(OFF-MIC)

COOPER: Lauren, let start with you. You think the First Lady is ever on cyber bullying should start at home?

LAUREN HOGG, STUDENT, STONEMAN DOUGLAS: Definitely. I think that's the main place right means to start. Apparently to have discussions with their children. So I think it's the First Lady promising this to us an issue and adds her platform that she's going to talk about cyber bullying and she hasn't done anything yet. I think it definitely needs to start a conversation. Yes.

COOPER: David you and I talked last week with your dad about this whole ridiculous conspiracy theory. Can you just talk a little bit about what impact Donald Trump Jr.'s, you know, tweeting this out or liking this tweet has have in your family?

DAVID LOGG, STUDENT, STONEMAN DOUGLAS: Oh, it's been extremely annoying and honestly just disgusting for us -- for our family to have to live through. But honestly, because he liked that tweet, he's helped promote our cause as weird as that is. He's (INAUDIBLE), he's help (INAUDIBLE) for my Twitter following, keep this in a mass media and as such, along with the other trolls online, he has proven the point that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree on maturity especially from the President.

COOPER: Laura do you feel it has put a target on the backs of your family?

L. HOGG: Definitely. I mean just started Twitter like two days ago and all the comments targeting my family, I just think it's horrific and I kind of find it sad that I'm 14 and that I know more and then more mature than most the people that are targeting and saying this horrific things about my family.

D. HOGG: And the other thing I think is really sad is the fact that so many people have lost faith in America. If you believe that calling is out, have truly show that they don't care about America anymore, they've lost faith in it. And that's just sad, because we certainly haven't.

COOPER: I want to ask you Lauren about news tonight that the President does seem to be backing away from what he talked about just last week about raising the age for buying an AR style -- AR-15 style rifle or any kind of long gun raising it to 21. It seems like he is backing away from that. L. HOGG: Yes. I feel like he's done that like many things since he's become President. And I think it's just horrible because he is promising things that he is not fulfilling like many other issues.

COOPER: David, I mean, did you have feel that bad and, you know, he did tell -- he is still talking about bump stock, he still talking -- he's talking about arming teachers.

D. LOGG: I think its all talk honestly. Politics is spectacle, that's really what's going on here. There's talking heads on TV. They were saying things like Dana from the NRA, she's now the spokeswoman I believe. And she is saying words to her followers and they -- many of them are just falsely believing her and thinking that they're fighting that she is fighting for them really, she's fighting for the gun lobby and making sure that they can sell more guns, kill more people, scare more people and sell more guns.

COOPER: You're getting, I mean, an up close look, I mean a look you probably never wanted to get given the reasons you're getting this lift (ph), but at how politicians work, and how the system works. I'm just wondering what do you see looking at it up close the way you happen this last.

D. HOGG: Honestly, it kind of disgusting. It really starting to remind me of House of Cards at this point, that I've watched a lot. Like, for example, when one of the famous character is killed Zoe Barnes, Clare immediately turns and starts putting on makeup as a symbolism of the politics being spectacle. And I think really that's what's going on here. These politicians don't care about these children's lives. Notice how the only action being taken for example with Rick Scott is after he is running for Senate to try to take bonus (ph) and seat. That's what's going on here.

People need to acknowledge that. And like with Marco Rubio for example, the man must be a professional dancer just like other politicians, because he is great at side stepping questions. At the CNN Town Hall, he turned a one word answer into a five sentence shenanigan, admitting propaganda and for the NRA and repeating his false message that he is -- his message that he's going to continue to accept money from the NRA just making sure that people don't understand that and they're distracted by him trying to turn it into a long answer so he can get re-elected and it's disgusting.

COOPER: Do you think something will change? I mean bump stocks would that be a positive step?

[20:35:04] D. HOGG: Absolutely. But something that should have been done after 50 people were slaughtered in Las Vegas. If that didn't change anything, how is this going to change anything? That's my question is, the American people are starting to realize and starting to waking up and realizing that they are being abused. And in fact that we're doing that is one of the most important things. And I believe it started Katrina that you really spoke out again some of the abuses that the people face, correct?

COOPER: Yes. D. HOGG: And that's really what we're trying to do here. We're taking of journalist extent for it with -- some of the non-bias of Walter Cronkite. But with a lot of the action and motivation that companies like Facebook and SpaceX had their beginning day and that pace that they're continuing. We have to show this people that we are going to take this place -- their place. And to be honest, it's like when your with an old person, an older person that is --

COOPER: Are you pointing to me, when you say older person?

D. HOGG: No.

COOPER: Thank you very much, I appreciate. Literarily, I was just thinking how old were you during Katrina?

D. HOGG: I was about five.

COOPER: All right, thank you.

D. HOGG: But -- when the older generations are using cellphones, for example, they had to pass it off through us and we just eventually just say just give it to us mistaken. That where we're doing the political system now, because clearly the older generation is -- have failed us and we're not going to let that happen to our children.

L. HOGG: I think that's one of the weird things about this among other things, our whole life we've been thought that adults are supposed to teach 2us what to do. Like they teach us how to tie our shoes but now we're having to tell them what to do.

COOPER: Do you -- I just saw on a personal level, you're going to go back to school Wednesday for the first time. What are your thoughts and (INAUDIBLE) on that?

D. HOGG: Well, think about it this way, imagine getting on a plane and getting in a plane crash and having to get on that plane every single day. Not to mention the fact that problem on that plane has not been fixed. The fact that there hasn't been a single bill pass, the Florida legislators are not listening to us. They're only starting to listen now that I've threat the entire state of Florida's economy. The fact they are only listening to that is a testament to how disgusting the political situation has gotten in Florida and across the nation.

And for example, the other day when you're at the session with them, trying to meet with Republican lawmakers, only one of them not with us, we're supposed to have a day full of meetings with legislators in Florida, only one Republican lawmaker met with us. And they want us to forget. They want the American public to forget. They want you to forget. And we're not going it let that happen, because if we do, how many more children are going to have to die. How many more people are going to have to be slaughtered while trying to be American citizen and enjoy their lives? And that's what we are tying to prevent here. We're trying to get these greedy politicians out of Congress, get these Greedy politicians on a politics in general, because if we don't, how many more children are going to have to die? COOPER: Lauren just -- I mean in personal are you scared to go back on Wednesday?

L. HOGG: I am. But personally, I think that it's going to be part of the healing process. But I just know for me, it is going to be hard just to walk, if we have to walk in that same building. And the other day I went to my old middle schools to see my teachers and just walking into the building and seeing the flooring, I almost had a meltdown because I couldn't help it think of my friends that way on that floor.

COOPER: Lauren and David, I appreciate you being with us. Thank you very much.

L. HOGG: Thank you.

COOPER: When we continue, conversation with two school librarians, who first met 36 years ago, they wound up working at two schools were mass shootings claimed a terrible toll. One worked at Sandy Hook Elementary, the other at Stoneman Douglas High School.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[0:41:50] COOPER: It's a remarkable story, two women who met decades ago while working in a Connecticut radio station went on to become school librarians at schools that were destined to become household names because of the awful events that happened there. One woman Yvonne Cech worked at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. The other at Diana Haneski, became a librarian at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida when the shooting began in Florida, Diana immediately though of all the things her friend Yvonne had told her over the years.

They both join me now.

COOPER: Diana, what were the specific things that Yvonne had shared with you about her experience that came to you as the shooting in Parkland began, I'm wondering.

DIANA HANESKI, LIBRARIAN, STONEMAN DOUGLAS HS: Certain things like make sure you have your keys on your person. Make sure you have on you your phone, your walkie talkie. Those things were very important. And I used to talk about it all the time with my clerk. I'd say, oh I don't have the right thing on. And I can't fit everything. So then I wear a pouch and shove everything in there. So I was trying to be ready but I didn't think it would be, you know, getting ready for this.

COOPER: Yvonne, I wonder when you first realized that there had been another school shooting and in fact that it was at Diana's school. I'm wondering what went through your mind?

YVONNE CECH, FMR LIBRARIAN, SANDY HOOK ELEMENTARY: Oh, just absolutely disbelief. I couldn't even wrap my head around, that it didn't seem like it could be possible and just knowing what we went through and now knowing what they were going through, it was just, it made me furious. It made me angry that this had to happen again. I was absolutely furious.

So many people have said to me in the last few days, what are the chances, what are the odds that you would have gone through this and your close friend gone through the same thing. And I had to say that I think the odds are just getting greater and greater until we do something to stop this problem of gun violence.

COOPER: Have you've given -- Yvonne, have you've given Diana any advice just in terms of I don't want to say how to get pass this, but how to get through this?

CECH: Well, we did talk a lot about that. Because the process of recovery is very complex. It looks different for everyone. I immediately felt after, you know, hearing about what happened at Diana's school that I just had to go and be with her and make myself available in case any teachers wanted to, you know, talk about what they had just gone through. So it's powerful and meaningful to gather together with other survivors of gun violence. Unfortunately, there are more and more of us and the numbers are growing all the time.

COOPER: And Diana, I mean has that helped you?

HANESKI: It has tremendously. She flew in right away and I really did need her. I mean I was like, well you don't have to come. But she did and I was really glad she did because I thought of myself as an understanding person, but now I'm even more understanding because everyone is handling this differently. I couldn't speak. I was more frozen those first few days. I didn't want to eat. It was scaring me so of course I went to the counseling which was very helpful which really ended up being, you know, hugging and talking with my colleagues.

[20:45:13] But having Yvonne there was wonderful because we, you know, she arrived and we went right to Joaquin's service. So she was with me there and I did need her and we talked and talked and she did help me, she continues to help me. We did -- we had an event that was outreach from every town and that was amazing because we had moms and parents and students and it was wide variety from the community coming in and Yvonne spoke (INAUDIBLE) coming up to me (INAUDIBLE), can you give me what she wrote, what she read, is it written down. So I've already compiled and we're sharing that with those who wanted it. Because little things that people were going, oh my god, I feel that way. Oh, she's helping me. I really needed. So, yes, it was amazing that she came to help us. I hope she comes again.

COOPER: I read one thing Yvonne that you said, that you said that if there ever was a teachable moment, this is the definition of a teachable moment. I'm wondering in what way? What's unique about this moment do you think?

CECH: We have students at Stoneman Douglas that are using their voices to ask for help from lawmakers and the adults in our country and they are articulate and they are powerful and they are smart and they are strong and they are asking for help. It's really a perfect moment for the adults to rise to the occasion and then specifically our lawmakers and show them that we can solve this problem of gun violence. The students are asking us to solve the problem. That's really what I think is important here.

You know, the students at Sandy Hook School were too young to be able to articulate their fears and their hopes for solving this issue. But the students at Stoneman Douglas are not letting go of this. They are strong and they are loud and they need to be loud. Because we have had too many, too many of these situations happen. And you know, we should have fixed this problem 20 years ago after Columbine and we didn't.

COOPER: Yvonne and Diana, I'm sorry that you share this bond, but I'm glad that you have each other and there for others as well. Thank you for talking with us.

CECH: Thank you very much Anderson.

HANESKI: Thank you very much Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up next, more perspective under new calls as you heard tonight from Congressman Mast, ban AR-15 style rifle. We'll get an up close look at the actual destruction a rifle does -- rifle like that does to -- from someone who seen it up close on the battlefield.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:52:10] COOPER: We had a spirited discussion last week on this program 2about AR-15 style guns, weapons originally designed for use on the battlefield but used to take 17 lives in Parkland, Florida. We're talking about them because these shootings with AR-15 style rifles have become so frequent and part of the lexicon a mass shootings, that there's not really an understanding of what they really do or how powerful a weapon it is. So we wanted to take a closer look.

AR-15 style rifles were also used in mass shootings in Las Vegas, a church in Texas in Aurora, Colorado movie theater and at Sandy Hook Elementary School. According to the NRA, more than 15 million AR-15s are owned by Americans today. Fans like the guns because they're lightweight, easy to hand the. They also see them as a symbol of their Second Amendment rights. Its opponents question whether weapons so lethal should even be sold. We sent our Gary Tuchman to get enough close-up look at the power of the AR-15, and here's what he discovered.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what an AR-15 sounds like. General Mark Hertling served in the U.S. Army for 37 years, so he knows what the AR-15, which used to be a weapon of war, can do. And he has strong feelings about the semiconductor assault-style rifle, which is the precursor to a weapon currently used by the military, the M-4.

MARK HERTLING, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: The truth of the matter is they look almost exactly the same.

TUCHMAN (on-camera): So this is the M-4 military rifle?

HERTLING: Right.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): This is the AR-15?

HERTLING: Right. A lot of people will buy this just because it's cool, and they want to appear like soldiers. If you're a gun collector or a gun aficionado, and you want an AR-15, you can certainly buy one, and you should be able to buy one. The problem is when it gets in the hands of the wrong people.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Originally built for the battlefield, a defining characteristic of the AR-15, is the speed and power of the bullet.

HERTLING: Now, those are single shots. If I wanted to fire this on full semiautomatic, all I do is keep firing. Now, I won't probably won't hit the target when I do this, when we look at the target later on, but I'm going to fire about five shots.

TUCHMAN (on-camera): OK.

(voice-over): It's a weapon designed to inflict maximum damage.

HERTLING: I've seen soldiers who have been hit by this weapon, and enemies who have been hit by this weapon. Where it will literally tear out the side of the body. I saw one soldier who was hit and a fracture side incident in the shoulder, and the round came out his ass.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The general shares the prevailing opinion of this Tampa guns shop we're visiting. The shooting sports firearms range. But the Second Amendment is sacred. But there is also agreement this weapon is definitely not for every gun owner.

HERTLING: In my person opinion, you have to receive a whole lot of training to use this weapon. And this weapon in the wrong hands can be more dangerous than most weapons, because of its capability to do a lot of damage in a short period of time and be irreversible.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[20:55:12] COOPER: Well, Gary joins us now. How common is it for people to come in and rent the AR-15 and shoot at that range?

TUCHMAN: Anderson, it's very common for people to want to rent that weapon. And not surprisingly, unlike buying the weapon, there's no electronic checks that are necessary. All you have to do is prove that you're an American citizen with ID. But the owner of that store, who I told you said that that's not a gun for everybody, says he employs his own security methods for people who want to rent that weapon. What he does is he looks to see if they're under the influence of alcohol, under the influence of drugs, if they look unstable, if they look irresponsible. And if he sees any of those things, he's the judge and jury, and he says he tells them they cannot have the weapon. Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Gary, thanks very much. And thanks General Hertling.

Up next, more on the breaking news on gun laws. Sources close to discussion between the White House and law makers on Capitol Hill, say it appears the President is backing away from his comment last week that Americans should not be able to buy assault-style weapons until they're 21.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:00:02] COOPER: Well topping this hour, breaking news on a proposal in the wake of the Parkland tragedy that the President himself called a great thing and common sense, raising the purchasing age for rifle from 18 to 21. He said the National Rifle Association will go along with it instead he take them on if they didn't. Then late last --