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Trump on School Shooting: 'I'd Run In' Even Without a Weapon; Intel Panel Meets for First Time Since Release of Dems' Memo; In Russia Probes, GOP Draws Line on Trump's Finances. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 26, 2018 - 17:00   ET


TAPPER: Thanks for watching.

[17:00:04] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. In the line of fire. President Trump slams the initial response to the Florida high school massacre, saying he would have rushed in, even without a weapon, to protect students from the shooter. And the president tells governors not to worry about the NRA, saying -- and I'm quoting him now -- "They're on our side."

Investigation red line. CNN learns the GOP leaders of committees involved in the Russia probes are drawing a red line when it comes to Trump family finances while Democrats say, follow the money.

Dueling story lines. The House Intelligence Committee meets for the first time since the release of the memo by its Democratic members, responding to Republican claims of FBI abuses. Now President Trump and the panel's top Democrat are in a war of words over that memo.

And school deputy responds. The armed resource office who failed to confront the gunman during the Florida high school massacre speaks out for the first time through his lawyer, calling the criticism of his actions unfounded.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news, President Trump is sticking with his idea of keeping schools safe by putting guns in the hands of some teachers. And he criticizes deputies who failed to confront the Florida high school shooter. The president says he would have run in to do so without a gun in his hand.

And the president is in a war of words with House Intelligence Committee Democrats over their memo defending the FBI against Republican attacks. The committee is meeting tonight.

I'll speak with Congressman Joaquin Castro of the Intelligence Committee. And our correspondents and specialists, they are standing by with full coverage.

Let's begin with President Trump suggesting he'd be the first responder in chief in a school shooting situation. Let's go live to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. Jim, the president is still pushing the idea, I take it, of more guns in schools.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He certainly is, Wolf. And President Trump made the strange claim today that he would have tried to rescue the students at the Parkland school shooting. The White House attempted to clean up those comments today, but there was not much clarity on exactly what kind of gun control measures the president would support beyond banning bump stocks, which weren't even used at Parkland.



ACOSTA (voice-over): President Trump insists he would have saved the day. If he had been on the scene of the Parkland school shooting, the president says he would have stormed the building.

TRUMP: I really believe I'd have run in there, even if I didn't have a weapon, and I think most of the people in this room would have done that, too.

ACOSTA: Unlike the deputies, the president says, who choked.

TRUMP: They weren't exactly Medal of Honor winners. All right? The way they performed was frankly disgusting.

ACOSTA (on camera): When the president said earlier today that he would have run into the school, was he suggesting that he could have saved the day?

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.

ACOSTA: 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.

ACOSTA (voice-over): In a candid exchange with the nation's governors at the White House, the president claimed he met with leaders from the National Rifle Association over the weekend. It was no surprise when the president defended the gun lobby's intentions.

TRUMP: Don't worry about the NRA. They're on our side. You guys, half of you are so afraid of the NRA. There's nothing to be afraid of. And you know what? If they're not with you, we have to fight them every once in a while. That's OK.

ACOSTA: The president also continued to push his goal of ending the days of gun-free zones at schools in order to put more firearms in the hands, he says, of skilled shooters.

TRUMP: I don't want teachers to have guns. 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?

ACOSTA: One of the Democratic governors in the room, Jay Inslee, from Washington state took issue with that plan, then offered the president some advice.

GOV. JAY INSLEE (D), WASHINGTON: I've listened to the first-grade teachers who don't want to be pistol packing first-grade teachers. So I'd just suggest we need a little less tweeting here, a little more listening, and let's just take that off the table and move forward.

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump did vow to ban so-called bump stocks, the attachments that allow semiautomatic rifles to fire like machine guns. That was the weapon of choice in the Las Vegas massacre last October, though not the Parkland school shooting.

TRUMP: Bump stocks, we're writing that out. I'm writing that out myself. I don't care if Congress does it or not. I'm writing it out myself. OK?

ACOSTA: The president need only look at the polls to see the growing support for new gun control laws, now at 70 percent. A huge jump from the days after the mass shooting in Las Vegas.


ACOSTA: And the students who have been demanding action on gun control now have the first lady's seal of approval.

[17:05:04] MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY: I have been heartened to see children across this country using their voices to speak out and try to create change. They're our future. And they deserve a voice.

ACOSTA: Still, the White House appears to be staying on message. Even daughter Ivanka Trump sounded supportive of the idea of arming teachers in an interview with NBC.

IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD TRUMP: I think that having a teacher who is armed, who cares deeply about her students, or his students, and who is capable and qualified to bear arms, is not a bad idea. But it's an idea that needs to be discussed.


ACOSTA: And the White House was asked whether the president is backing away from his support for raising the age for people, buying assault rifles to 21 nationwide. The president tweeted his support for that last week, but in fact, today, press secretary Sarah Sanders was asked about this a couple of times at a briefing today, Wolf. She would only say the president supports that concept. It's not exactly the same thing, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, I looked at the tweet. Raise the age to 21. That's what he said then. But since then there seems to be a little backing away in the face of NRA opposition to that. We'll have more on that. That's coming up.

Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

The House Intelligence Committee is meeting tonight for the first time since the weekend release of the memo by its Democratic members, responding to Republican claims of FBI abuses.

Let's bring in our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. Jim, the president has sharply attacked that memo, which attempts to smack down Republican claims of wrongdoing one by one.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Right. And though this was buried, seemingly intentionally, by the White House on a Saturday afternoon by the White House and Republicans, it does take aim at the two central claims of what was known as the Nunes memo or the GOP Republican memo.

The first one being the aspersion the FBI opened its counter- intelligence investigation into Trump-Russia ties based principally on the so-called Steele dossier. That's the opposition research document on Trump and Russia that was funded by Democratic groups, including the Democratic National Committee.

Now, the memo, in countering that allegation, notes that, in fact, that probe, that counterintelligence probe, started in July 2016. That's seven weeks before the FBI team investigating Russia first received that dossier.

The memo states -- and I'm quoting here -- the FBI's concern about and knowledge of Page's activities -- this is Carter Page, a campaign adviser to the Trump campaign -- long predates the FBI's receipt of Steele's information.

Now on a second key charge of the GOP memo or the Nunes memo is the GOP claim that the FBI hid that political origin of the dossier. But the Democratic memo says that, in fact, in its first FISA warrant request -- this is a warrant to observe, to surveil an American -- the DOJ, in fact, mentioned Steele's political ties and motivations.

So going after those two central claims there, of course, you know, each side has its political motivations here. But on the facts, it's a fairly credible rebuttal of those central GOP claims.

BLITZER: And beyond that, Jim, there's also some new information about this overall investigation contained in this ten-page memo.

SCIUTTO: That's right. And this -- this caught the attention of myself and my colleagues as we were reading through this memo when it came out on Saturday afternoon. And this entry caught our eyes.

By September 2016, the FBI had opened what are called sub-inquiries into a number of Trump campaign associates. This beyond Carter Page that we knew about, indicating that Page was not the only person that the FBI was looking at.

Now, because this was a redacted document, a great amount of this information is classified. Both the number of those associate that were under these inquiries and the names of those people under these inquiries, they were redacted from the documents. We don't know how many. We don't know who they are, but we know that there are a number of them in addition to Carter Page.

BLITZER: Very interesting. People are trying to find that, figure out who those people might be. Thanks very much for that. Jim Sciutto reporting.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, thanks for joining us.

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: Thank you for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: So your committee chairman, Devin Nunes, says that this Democratic memo, in it the Democrats are advocating that it's OK for the FBI and the Department of Justice to use political dirt. How do you respond to that?

CASTRO: Well, the first thing is that the Democratic memo was written to really correct the record. Remember, Devin Nunes and the Republicans put out a memo that was wrought with inaccuracies and really a bunch of falsehoods. So we came one a version that corrected the record.

And it demonstrated that the FISA process was followed. In fact, that the FISA court was made aware that this was part of opposition research against President Trump.

And I'll also point out that the way that this firm, Fusion GPS, got involved in the first place, is because they were hired by a very conservative outlet, "The Free Beacon." That's why they were looking into President Trump, then-candidate Trump, in the first place. So it wasn't just a bunch of Democrats. There were also conservatives involved, as well.

[17:10:17] BLITZER: But should that FISA application, with hindsight, knowing what you know right now, Congressman, have specifically named the Clinton campaign and the DNC as the financier of the dossier?

CASTRO: Well, as I understand it, all the processes were followed with the FISA court. All the information they are required to know was made available to them. And so, you know, as long as those -- those processes were followed, then I don't see a problem. And they knew that part of this had to do with political opposition research.

BLITZER: Yes. Political opposition. But it's one thing to just say it was political opposition. It's another thing on say the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign were funding it. Right?

CASTRO: Well, but as I said, Wolf, remember: Fusion GPS was first involved because of Democrats but the conservative "Free Beacon" publication.

BLITZER: Yes. But when they actually hired Christopher Steele, that was only after Hillary Clinton and the DNC took over. Right?

CASTRO: No. You're right about that. That's right.

BLITZER: All right. So they could have been a little bit more specific.

Was -- would releasing this memo -- and I've gone through it now several times, all ten pages. Would releasing this memo, unredacted -- and there are a lot of redactions in these ten pages -- unredacted have compromised sources and methods?

CASTRO: Yes, we said all along that we would work with the FBI and the intelligence agencies to make sure that we didn't divulge any classified information, any sources and methods. And that's exactly what we did. We did our very best to make sure that there was no classified information that was -- that came out in this memo.

BLITZER: But are you OK with the redactions that the FBI and the intelligence community, maybe the White House, made, citing sources and methods? You don't want to compromise how the U.S. gathers intelligence?

CASTRO: Look, I mean, ideally of course, you wish that every word would get out. But this was an agreed-upon compromise, and so, you know, we will take it.

BLITZER: The Democratic memo also says that by mid-September 2016 -- and I'm quoting now -- the FBI had already opened sub inquiries into, and then they redact individuals, the names. Individuals linked to the Trump campaign. More redaction. And former campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page. That redaction is very long. How many Trump campaign associates were under investigation, and are those redacted names all publicly known?

CASTRO: That as you could imagine, I can't discuss. But I said months back, to you, in fact, Wolf, that I believe, based on everything that I've seen, that there would be several people that I think would be subject to legal liability. I still believe that's the case, and I still think that there are more people that haven't been named, who may be in legal jeopardy.

BLITZER: Can you give us an approximate number?

CASTRO: I can't. You know, we're going to wait to see when it all comes out.

BLITZER: And in the memo, can you just tell us, is it two or three or four or five? I saw how long the -- the redaction was, and it's hard to tell specifically how many names were mentioned.

CASTRO: Sure. And I don't have the memo in front of me, but you know, it -- I believe that there's more people to come.

BLITZER: What are these memo feuds doing to protect American elections, looking ahead to the mid-term elections in November, the 2020 presidential elections? What does this do? The release, first of the Republican memo and now the Democratic memo? CASTRO: I think that it was important for us as Democrats to correct

the record, but this entire episode has been a real side show to the main point of this committee's work, which is figuring out who messed with our 2016 elections, why they did it, how they did it, and also as important, whether any part of it was an inside job. Which Americans, if any, cooperated with the Russians who interfered with our elections. That's the main purpose of the work we're doing, and we have to make sure that we get back to focusing on that.

BLITZER: Let's get to the issue of the Florida school massacre. President Trump said today that, every once in a while, you have to fight the National Rifle Association. What do you think he'll fight them on when it comes to specific gun-control legislation?

CASTRO: Well, I hope that he'll do what he has talked about. Ban bump stocks, raise the age of purchase to 21, and do other things that the Congress should do. I think that we should either ban assault weapons or at least ban high-capacity magazines so that somebody can't fire off 20 rounds and put ten bullets in somebody before they had a chance to even react.


CASTRO: There's a lot of work to be done.

BLITZER: Any chance the House and the Senate will pass that?

[17:15:00] CASTRO: Well, sure. I think there's more momentum right now. And you see even among the public that you've got 70 percent in support of more gun reform.

And really, Wolf, if the president and Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan were committed to do something more than talk, they could absolutely get something done. They could pass a bill on the House floor and the Senate floor tomorrow, or this week, if they wanted to.

And I hope that the president puts as much effort into pushing for sensible gun reform as he did for giving tax breaks to the wealthiest corporations in this country. This Congress can get it done if there's the will of the president and the will of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and this body to do it.

BLITZER: Congressman Joaquin Castro, thanks for joining us.

CASTRO: Thank you.

BLITZER: Up next, the Russia probe's congressional Republicans are steering clear of the Trump family finances while Democrats say, follow the money.

And as Florida authorities investigate the response to the high school mass shooting, the deputy criticized for -- criticized for failing to confront the gunman is now speaking out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:20:35] BLITZER: Breaking news in the Russia investigation. CNN has now learned that Republican committee leaders are drawing a red line when it comes to the finances of the president and his family, even as Democrats are saying follow the money.

Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju.

Manu, what are you learning?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, six Republican leaders of key committees on Capitol Hill have made it very clear they do not believe there's a reason for them to probe Trump family finances as part of their own investigations that are happening on Capitol Hill, despite calls from Democrats to look into any financial links between Trump -- Trump, his family, the Trump Organization and Russia.

Now, in his very significant comment, the Republican leader of the House Intelligence Committee's investigation, Mike Conaway, told me just several days ago that, quote, "I don't see a link at this stage to going after the Deutsche Bank, subpoenaing Deutsche Bank, where the Trump Organization has done business for a number of years. Despite the calls from the ranking Democrat, Adam Schiff, has subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for a number of records. Conaway does not see any reason to do that.

But he's not the only one, Wolf. A number of key committees, including the House Financial Services Committee, where the top Democrat, Maxine Waters, has called on the chairman, Jeb Hensarling, to go after Deutsche Bank records, other records, as well, has said that's not their purview. That's not something they're looking at.

Even Trey Gowdy, the House Oversight Committee chairman, made very clear he does not believe that that's his role as chairman of his committee, said that isn't that what Bob Mueller is doing instead?

Now, in the one committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, they have received some documents from the Treasury Department. But when I asked Richard Burr, the chairman of the committee, whether or not they had received any documents related to the finances of the Trump family, he said very clearly that "I'm not going to get into any issues involving -- I'm not going to disclose exactly which financial records we've been seeking, but the Democrat, Ron Wyden, who sits on that committee, Wolf, told me that he does not believe that committee is following the money as he's demanding. It's shows a divide between Democrats and Republicans at this stage of the investigations on Capitol Hill, Wolf.

BLITZER: Manu, I understand you just spoke to the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, about the possibility of the White House communications director, Hope Hicks, testifying before the committee. What did he tell you?

RAJU: Yes. He expects her to come very soon. He also made it very clear, Wolf, that he expects her to answer all questions. That means questions that happened during the campaign season. That means questions during the transition period. And that means questions at her time at the White House.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I can't comment on when specifically she's coming in. We expect she'll come in soon.

And we don't know at this point whether she will testify completely and fully, as others who have served in the administration have, or whether she will do what Steve Bannon did, which was stonewall. We hope, obviously, that she'll be fully cooperative. But at this point, I don't know what we can expect, except that we expect her to come in soon and we hope that she'll fully cooperate.


RAJU: Now, Steve Bannon did come earlier this month before this committee for the second time, and he did not answer these questions about the transition period or his time at the White House, saying that he wanted -- he was preserving the right for the White House to invoke executive privilege, after being instructed by the White House to say that.

The question is whether or not Hope Hicks will do the same thing and whether or not she'll face any backlash from Republicans on the committee the way that the Republicans are going after Steve Bannon, raising the possibility that he may be held in contempt of Congress. Will they do the same thing if Hope Hicks decides not to answer those key questions?

But Wolf, she's a very important witness, given how close she's been to the president from her time before the campaign, during the campaign, and at the White House. So a lot of key questions that members hope to get answered in the coming days here, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see if that happens. All right, Manu. Thank you very much.

Coming up, as Florida authorities begin investigating how officers responded to the high school massacre, the deputy who failed to rush into the school is now speaking out for the first time, even as President Trump says he would have rushed in and lashes out at the first responders.


D. TRUMP: At some point, you need volume. I don't know that a school is going to be able to hire 100 security guards that are armed. Plus, you know, I got to watch some deputy sheriffs performing this weekend. They weren't exactly Medal of Honor winners.



[17:29:41] BLITZER: We're following breaking news in the gun debate igniting by the massacre at a Florida high school. Just a little while ago, the White House clarified President Trump's assertion to the nation's governors that he would have run into the school, even if he didn't have a weapon.

The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, told reporters the president's point was that he would be a leader and would want to take courageous action.

Let's bring in our analysts and politics experts. And Gloria Borger, listen precisely to what the president told the governors.


D. TRUMP: I got to watch some deputy sheriffs performing this weekend. They weren't exactly Medal of Honor winners. All right? The way they performed was frankly disgusting.

I really believe you don't know until you test it, but I think I -- I really believe I'd have run in there, even if I didn't have a weapon.


BLITZER: So what do you make of that?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't know what to make of it. I mean, I don't know what to make of Sarah Sanders' explanation. And you wonder whether she ever gets tired of having to walk back either the tweets or some of the things that the president said. It's just so typical of Donald Trump to turn sort of this national tragedy into something about him. Which is, "OK, I watched those guys. And you know what? I would have run into the building. I would have done that."

So it's always about Donald Trump. I think it was, you know, just ridiculous. And you know, Sarah Sanders, I guess, just had to -- to dance as fast as she could.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR A LARGE: There's a -- just to add to Gloria's point, there's a Walter Mitty quality to Donald Trump, in that he has spent almost his entire adult life writing a story about a brave, fearsome tough guy named Donald -- cool guy named Donald Trump.

So in a way it's not really new. I mean, he says in that line, "None of us can really know until the moment, but I think I would." I mean, this is in line with creating a spokesman named John Miller in the 1980s, who called the gossip tabloids and talked about how cool and desirable Donald Trump was. Well, it was Donald Trump. It's in line with many of the things he said during the campaign that were not borne out. It's in line with him talking about how wealthy he is when the reality suggests he is much less wealthy. He is a fabulist at some level. He tells himself the story he wants to believe about his own past, present and future.

BLITZER: You know, there was also another interesting exchange he had with the Washington state governor, Jay Inslee, Jackie. Listen -- listen to this moment.


GOV. JAY INSLEE (D), WASHINGTON: Speaking as a grandfather, speaking as the governor of the state of Washington, I have listened to the people who would be affected by that. I have listened to the biology teachers, and they don't want to do that at any percentage. I've listened to the first-grade teachers that don't want to be pistol- packing first-grade teachers. I've listened to law enforcement, who have said they don't want to have to train teachers as law enforcement agency, which takes about six months.

Now I just think this is a circumstance where we need listen; that educators should educate, and they should not be foisted upon this responsibility of packing heat in first-grad classes.

Now I understand you have suggested this. And we suggest things, and sometimes then we listen to people about it, and maybe they don't look so good a little later. So I just suggest we need a little less tweeting here, a little more listening, and let's just take that off the table and move forward.


BLITZER: He was responding to the president's proposal that at least some teachers be armed with concealed weapons in classrooms.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You've heard -- Jay Inslee, of course, a Democrat. But the interesting thing is, you started to hear this from Republican lawmakers, as well, most notably, Rick Scott, who came out last weekend...

BLITZER: The governor of Florida.

KUCINICH: ... the governor of Florida, who said that he wasn't on board. Governor Sandoval said he -- of Nevada, he's not on board. His daughter is actually training to be a teacher, and he said, "I don't want that for my daughter."

But you know, you've had some Republicans like Governor Daugaard in South Dakota who said, you know, maybe this should be on the table. But certainly, it doesn't seem like one of those proposals where a lot of Republicans or a lot of lawmakers are saying, "Hey, let try anything." It seems like there is a lot of reservations on both sides of the aisle of this particular proposal.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Bianna, because he says -- he also said, in his exchange with the governors today, the president, occasionally you've got to fight with the NRA once in a while. He met with the leadership of the NRA over the weekend, Sunday over at the White House.

Do members of Congress, at least right now, have a good sense of how far the president will go in gun control?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It doesn't seem that way, wolf. It seems that he's back and forth, depending on what day or what time you talk to him about the issue.

He said today that, "Oh, the NRA, you can negotiate with them. And if we don't agree, we don't agree." Well, it's not as easy as that, and I think he knows it.

He spent the majority of last week talking about how he supported raising the age to buy guns from 18 to 21. You didn't hear much about that today. You heard him emphasize bump stocks. So maybe that was some sort of compromise he was able to get out of them over the weekend. The NRA, of course, after the Las Vegas shooting, said that they would support, or at least a conversation about more law enforcement or regulations when it comes to bump stocks.

[17:35:04] So again, it seems that we're hearing a lot of "Let's listen, let's talk" and debates from both sides. But what I think you're going to hear more and more from constituents, specifically on the Democratic side, is to get something done legislatively.

BLITZER: On this issue of the -- raising the age from 18 to 21, Chris.


BLITZER: In that tweet last week, he said raise age to 21. It wasn't, like, "if," "maybe." Today the White House -- since then he really hasn't spoken about that. But today the White House is saying, "Well, you've got to study it." Precisely what does that mean? Right now if you're 18, 19 or 20 in Florida, you can go buy an AR-15-style rifle.

CILLIZZA: Yes, I believe this is what's known in the political dictionary as hedging. I mean, like, that's clearly what they're doing here. The NRA has come out and said, "We are against this."

I think -- Bianna touched on this -- I think what you have with Donald Trump is someone who doesn't have, with the exception of trade and some stuff on taxes, does not have that sort of built-in belief system.

KUCINICH: Although on guns he used to.

CILLIZZA: And it was the opposite of what it currently is.


CILLIZZA: So he just kind of, he takes these things and he says these things. He sees how people react. I think the focus here is he wants something done. He would like to sign something. He would like to say, "Barack Obama didn't get any gun legislation done after Sandy Hook, and I could." Right? Much of his presidency is defined in retrospect to Barack Obama.

But what it is, and the necessity of him prioritizing and pushing it to Congress, you saw Sarah Sanders today. She was like, "Well, we'll see what comes." I think Congress is waiting for them to say what they want. BORGER: You know, he has lunch with the NRA. How many lobbyists for

many issues including health care or whatever, would have liked to have lunch with the president right before their legislation was going to come up in Congress? But the NRA got to have lunch with the president, and now the president is not pushing to raise the age. I think there may be a cause and effect there. And I think it's something they don't want, it's something he mentioned and now he's no longer mentioning it.

BLITZER: We'll see if the president walks away from that "raise age to 21" tweet the other day.

BORGER: Seems like he will.

CILLIZZA: Shuffling away.

BLITZER: Everyone stand by. There's a lot more. We'll be right back.


[17:41:45] BLITZER: We're back with our analysts and our political experts. And Bianna, I want to play a clip. Peter Alexander of NBC had this exchange with Ivanka Trump, and I want to play it for you, and then we'll discuss.


PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS: Do you believe your father's accusers?

IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF AND ADVISOR TO DONALD TRUMP: I think it's a pretty inappropriate question to ask a daughter, if she believes the accusers of her father, when he has affirmatively stated that there's no truth to it. I don't think that's a question you would ask many other daughters.

I believe my father. I know my father. So I think I have that right as a daughter to believe my father.


BLITZER: All right. She's the daughter, of course. She's also a senior adviser. What did you think of her answer?

GOLODRYGA: Well, look, that I think would have been a more acceptable answer had it come from Tiffany Trump, who is not a senior adviser to her father. But wearing one hat when it comes to one issue and a different hat when it comes to another, just isn't going to fly.

I mean, the president even tweeted about her trip to South Korea, specifically to represent the United States. She wasn't going as a spectator. She was going as a representative. In fact, that seemed to be a snub at the vice president because, of course, he was there for the opening ceremonies, when it came to any sort of potential developments with the relationship with the North Koreans. So -- and this is something we've repeatedly see. Every time there's

an uncomfortable situation or it becomes too personal, we hear the "Oh, I'm only a daughter." Or "That's not an appropriate question."

And yet when it comes to other issues that are of high importance to our foreign and domestic policy, that she feels more comfortable addressing, she does.

So you can't have it both ways. And I feel like this is an issue we come to time and time again, which bears the point of being a case study in not allowing family members to serve as top advisers in the White House.

KUCINICH: Well, there does seem to be this -- I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt and say it's a disconnect. Because right after Oprah's speech, remember, she got a ton of criticism for tweeting about how it was time for men and women to come together, and time's up. And Oprah's speech was seen as a challenge to the president, to her father.

And again, I don't know if it's a disconnect or it's being coy. But still, at least point, you should have that level of self-awareness. She works in the White House.

BORGER: You know, this is an issue that Ivanka has had to deal with time and time again. As she grew up, she had the question with Marla Maples and her father and the divorce. And Tiffany were born, and the children with on their mother's side and went skiing with her in Aspen rather than go to the wedding, if you'll recall.

So this isn't the first time she's had to deal with charges about her father and women. But she's trying to have it both ways here. And you know, you really can't. You know, you can't be a senior adviser to the president and the first daughter and believe that they are separate. I mean, if you've blown the whole nepotism thing, then you've blown it. And you need to answer questions.

CILLIZZA: Yes. She was over there as the face of the American government as bestowed by her father, Donald Trump. This is where Bianna touches. This is why we have anti-nepotism laws.

The interpretation, legally speaking, is that -- the law passed by Congress the deal with things like Bobby Kennedy was agency. That was the word and that doesn't apply to the White House.

But this is why you don't do this because no one knows which hat you have on at which time. And it's not fair to anyone for Ivanka Trump to be able to say, oh, well, no, this is my capacity as a daughter, not in my capacity as a White House senior official. Well, that -- who knows when you're doing which one?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right, she led the U.S. delegation to the closing ceremonies.

CILLIZZA: I mean --

BLITZER: Vice President Pence led to the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremonies.

CILLIZZA: And she's -- no one disputes she is the innermost of innermost circles of presidential advisers to her father.

BORGER: But, you know, she has a right. If she doesn't want to answer a question, fine. But to say it's inappropriate is wrong.

CILLIZZA: Right. You can say --

BORGER: You use this --

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Chelsea Clinton got actually asked the same question because she was a surrogate through the campaign.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: During the campaign.

KUCINICH: It's not like she was an engineer in Des Moines.

BORGER: Exactly.

KUCINICH: She was a surrogate for the campaign.

CILLIZZA: That's right.

BORGER: So you could say, OK, I don't want to -- I'm not going to answer that question, but don't say it's inappropriate when you actually --

CILLIZZA: You can't have your cake and eat it too.


BORGER: -- working as a senior adviser to the President.


BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Or when she spoke out against Roy Moore. Remember, she believed the women there.


GOLODRYGA: And sort of, you know, and got into trouble --

BORGER: And her father got upset.

GOLODRYGA: Right. Her father got upset with that.


GOLODRYGA: And you would anticipate at least them knowing a question like this may come their way and having a better answer.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Everybody, stick around. More news coming up.

The former school resource officer breaks his silence about what did he and didn't do during the deadly attack at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. And critics, including President Trump, aren't holding back in condemning his and other deputies' actions.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I got to watch some deputy sheriffs performing this weekend. They weren't exactly Medal of Honor winners, all right? The way they performed was, frankly, disgusting.



[17:51:432] BLITZER: There is growing pressure tonight on a Florida sheriff as details keep coming to light about his deputies' actions during the massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd.

Brian, we're finally hearing from the former deputy who was at the school during the attack.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Through the efforts of our team and our colleague, Sara Ganim, for the first time, we are hearing the story of the former Broward County school resource officer, Scot Peterson, who's been so heavily criticized by his former boss, Sheriff Scott Israel, and by President Trump, for not rushing into Douglas High School as shots were being fired.

This comes as Sheriff Israel himself is facing enormous pressure tonight from the highest levels of government in the state.


TODD (voice-over): Tonight, Florida's top law enforcement agency is investigating how officers responded to the horrific shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, including the actions of school resource officer Scot Peterson.

Peterson resigned on Thursday after Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel suspended him pending an investigation into why Peterson was seen on video waiting outside the school as shots were being fired.

SHERIFF SCOTT ISRAEL, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: I was disgusted. I was just demoralized with the performance of former Deputy Peterson.

TODD (voice-over): Tonight, through his lawyer, Peterson says Sheriff Israel's criticism is unfounded and uncalled for.

Jeff Bell, the head of the Broward Sheriff's Deputies Union says he disagrees with Peterson's decision not to go into the school. Bell talked to Peterson about what happened that day. JEFF BELL, PRESIDENT, BROWARD SHERIFF'S OFFICE DEPUTIES ASSOCIATION:

Deputy Peterson did believe that he did a good job of getting there and calling in additional resources and back up.

TODD (voice-over): According to Peterson's lawyer, when he arrived at Building 1200 where authorities say all of the killings took place, Peterson heard gunshots but believed that those gunshots were originating from outside any of the buildings on the school campus.

But some experts question that version, saying witness accounts of Peterson's actions suggests he must have heard shots from inside the school.

ART RODERICK, FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, UNITED STATES MARSHALS SERVICE: That kind of flies in the face of what we've heard from not only witnesses, high school students, but also from the Coral Springs P.D.

When they arrived at the scene, the school resource officer Peterson actually had his handgun out in the ready position facing the building, standing right next to the bidding.

TODD (voice-over): Seventy-four Republican Florida state lawmakers are now calling for Governor Rick Scott to suspend Sheriff Israel for, quote, incompetence and dereliction of duty.

RICHARD CORCORAN (R), SPEAKER OF THE FLORIDA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: What we're saying is enough is enough. Let's get someone in there.

I applaud Governor Scott. He's got -- our FDLE agents from Tallahassee are going to go down there. They're going to start investigating and figuring out what's going on down there.

TODD (voice-over): Sheriff Israel is under enormous pressure for what critics say is his department's failure to intervene after they received several calls over nearly 10 years, warning of the violent behavior of shooter Nikolas Cruz.

Sheriff Israel's says his department is investigating those calls, but he defiantly told CNN's Jake Tapper he will not resign.

ISRAEL: I exercised my due diligence. I've given amazing leader this leadership to this agency.


TODD: Now, another prominent voice, in this case, is defending the sheriffs, deputies, and police -- David Wilford. He is the father of Madeleine Wilford, a student who received multiple gunshot wounds in that Wednesday afternoon shooting, but she survived.

Well, this father today thanked the Broward County Sheriff's Department and the Coral Springs Police for going into the school, pulling his daughter out, and saving her life. Wolf?

[17:55:03] BLITZER: All right, Brian, thanks very much. Brian Todd reporting.

Coming up, breaking news, President Trump criticizes deputies who failed to confront the Florida high school massacre, suggesting he might have done better.


TRUMP: You know, I really believe you don't know until you're tested. But I think -- I really believe I'd run in there even if I didn't have a weapon.



BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Running in. As President Trump looks to arm many of America's teachers, he is suggesting he would have responded to the massacre in Florida by storming the school with or without a gun. What is he actually doing right now to stop shootings and save lives?

[18:00:02] Under investigation. The House Intelligence Committee is meeting for the first time since the release of a Democratic memo containing new revelations about the Russia probe.