Watch CBS News

Full Transcript: Face the Nation on February 25, 2018

2/25: Face the Nation
2/25: Face the Nation 47:00

Read more transcripts from Face the Nation here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Today on FACE THE NATION, anger and anguish following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting leads to a big push for tougher gun laws. Will this effort succeed where others have failed? We'll have the latest on the missed opportunities that could have saved lives or prevented last week's killing of fourteen students and three adults. Then we'll talk to two Florida lawmakers, Parkland area Democrat Ted Deutch and Republican Brian Mast, and Afghanistan war veteran who says this shooting has changed his views. Will others in Congress follow? And what do they think of the President's call for arming teachers in the classroom and his other ideas to end gun violence in schools?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We have to have offensive capability to take these people out rapidly before they can do this kind of damage.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson served as an adviser to the NRA after the Sandy Hook massacre. He'll be here, too. What have we learned from past mass shootings that can help us find solutions now? We'll talk to parents of victims and survivors of Sandy Hook, Columbine, and other incidents involving gun violence. We'll also take a closer look at the horrors in Syria after a massive bombing campaign by the Assad regime. And we'll have plenty of analysis on all the news of the week.
It's all ahead on FACE THE NATION.
Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. I'm Margaret Brennan. We've got a lot to get to today. And we begin in Parkland, Florida, with CBS News correspondent Omar Villafranca with the latest in the investigation into how federal and local authorities handled the Nikolas Cruz case both before and after the shooting. Omar.
OMAR VILLAFRANCA (CBS News Correspondent/@OmarVillafranca): Good morning, Margaret. Students will be allowed on campus today for the first time since the shooting and it's part of a reorientation to get them ready for classes which are expected to start on Wednesday.
(Begin VT)
CROWD (in unison): USA, not NRA.
OMAR VILLAFRANCA: More than one hundred students marched past Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where seventeen of their classmates and teachers were killed last week. The students are trying to keep the pressure on politicians to reform gun laws. This weekend the scrutiny over the police and FBI's missed signals about confessed gunman Nikolas Cruz intensified. Earlier this week Broward deputy Scot Peterson, an armed school resource officer at Douglas, resigned after school video cameras showed him taking cover outside during the attack. The sheriff's department is also investigating allegations from the responding Coral Springs Police Department that when they arrived on the scene, three Broward deputies were outside the building with their weapons drawn. In an interview on CNN's State of the Union, Broward sheriff Scott Israel addressed the charges.
SCOTT ISRAEL: We will look at all the action or-- or inactions of every single deputy and leader on our agency, sergeants, lieutenants, captains, and we'll make some decisions. Right now all I can tell you is, during the-- during the killing, there was-- while the killer was on campus with this horrific killing, there was one deputy, one armed person within the proximity of that school and that was Peterson.
OMAR VILLAFRANCA: Local law enforcement officials are also looking into missed warnings about the shooter, like this one made last November.
WOMAN: He put the gun at the head of his brother before. So it's not the first time, and he did that to his mom. It's not the first time he put a gun on somebody's head.
(End VT)
OMAR VILLAFRANCA: Despite all the warnings and missed signals, all of Cruz's gun purchases appear to be legal under current law. Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Omar, thank you.
We turn now to Democrat Ted Deutch who represents the congressional district where the shooting occurred and his House colleague Brian Mast, a Republican. His district is north of Parkland and they join us from the memorial near Stoneman Douglas High School. Good morning to you both gentlemen. I want to start with you, Congressman Deutch.
REPRESENTATIVE TED DEUTCH (D-Florida/@RepTedDeutch): Good morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: According to the Broward Sheriff's Office, twenty-three calls came in regarding this shooter or his family. Sheriff Israel told CNN this morning, "I have given amazing leadership to this agency." Would you agree with that?
TED DEUTCH: Well, I'll tell you what the sheriff needs to-- needs to do and he's-- he's doing it. I talked to the sheriff last night about this. We need to find out exactly what happened, why it was that there were so many signals not just from the visits but the social media postings, there-- there is so much that-- that has happened the FBI has admitted that the call came in and that was missed. All of that is-- is just-- it's one more blow to a grieving community but it also-- we can do two things. We can continue to figure out what happened to make sure that never happens again and still take meaningful action to ensure that weapons of war like the one that-- that this shooter used can never be used by another-- in another mass shooting anywhere in any school or any other place in America.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Will you be getting a briefing from the FBI on why they missed these signals?
REPRESENTATIVE TED DEUTCH: We will be getting a briefing from the FBI. I also expect and I know those of us the delegation from down here especially is interested in getting a full briefing once all of the information is available about-- about these missed signs about what happened. It's-- it's vital for us to do that. At the same time that we work together inspired by these survivors to take action to prevent this from happening again.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman Mast, I want to bring you in here because you've had a change of heart in the wake of Parkland. You're now calling for a ban on the AR-15 and also an increase in the age limit for purchase. Why, and did you in this case change your view?
REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN MAST (R-Florida/@RepBrianMast): Look, we've seen a lot of shootings out there. We've seen what's happened here in Parkland. We've seen what happened in Las Vegas. We saw what happened in Orlando. And for me personally it pains me to know that I went out there willing to defend my country, willing to give everything with almost the exact same weapon that's used to go out there and, unfortunately, kill children here in Parkland and I think there is a very real opportunity here for response, in here for action, and that's what really brought me to, to my change of heart in talking about this. I just can't stand to see that personally.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But for those two items that you are supporting it doesn't appear that your party or your congressional leadership is behind you on that. Do you have a sense that any other Republican rank and file members will join you in this call?
REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN MAST: So let's look at one of the ways that we can bring people into this conversation, not just my-- my fellow rank and file members, Republican leadership in the House and the Senate but also the President. You know what I love about my President is that he is a man of action and I can tell you that as veterans and soldiers when we see a chance to save life we don't hesitate, we don't have a conversation, we go out there and do it. I think that's what the travel ban has been all about. It's been about saving lives in our community and in our country. Let's take that exact same model and apply it right now to this situation--
MARGARET BRENNAN: But you don't-- you don't--
REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN MAST: Let's put a pause right now--
MARGARET BRENNAN: You don't have any numbers of who's with you at this point? Because the President hasn't called for an assault weapons ban.
REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN MAST: I don't have the numbers, but I think we-- I think we can get the president on board and members of Congress onboard to say let's put that same kind of pause onboard right now where we look at who's having access, what do they have access to. What were the failures that went on with the FBI and-- and the ATF and in other state agencies and in the states? What's everything that's going on there? Let's get back to the American people after this pause with sensible regulation with sensible solutions because we are going to look at this in a very real way. It made sense in the case of terrorists coming into this country. I think it should make sense in looking at guns.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do either of you gentlemen believe that teachers even trained teachers should be armed?
REPRESENTATIVE TED DEUTCH: I-- I don't. The answer-- the shift to arming teachers is a distraction. It's a distraction from the important discussion about all of the-- the things that can be done right now this week when we go back to Washington on mental health, on banning bump stocks, universal background checks, preventing people on the terror watch list from getting guns. Those aren't controversial. Everyone supports them. So that's what we need to focus on. But the important point here is because of these young leaders the ground is shifting. Members of Congress are now willing to stand up and-- and be as offended as everyone else when the millionaire lobbyist who runs the NRA goes to a political convention and says that people like me and Congressman Mast, who want to take action to support kids don't care about children. They're on to him. They're pushing back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But even after Sandy Hook, fifteen Democrats voted against an assault weapons ban. This isn't simply about the NRA at this point.
REPRESENTATIVE TED DEUTCH: I-- I as I said though the ground is shifting. It's-- it's-- every member of Congress and the Senate who's going to hear from these kids there. They're-- They've been in Tallahassee. They're coming to Washington. They're going to have face to face conversations. They're important conversations where they will impress upon them the need to take action. Look, the fact that there are now more than a dozen companies who have severed--
REPRESENTATIVE TED DEUTCH: --their relationship with the gun corporations that run the NRA tells you that things are starting to change. People are standing up to save lives.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Cong--
REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN MAST: I think there is room for this conversation. There are great candidates in terms of former Marines, former law enforcement people that already have conceal carry permits. We have to be careful--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you agree that teachers should be armed, Congressman Mast?
REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN MAST: --with it undoubtedly because teachers are people too.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Should teachers be armed?
REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN MAST: That's what I'm saying. I think some teachers-- some teachers are the right candidates for this. Absolutely.
REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN MAST: That had training, that had the desire to do this. But remember they are people too. They can leave a firearm laying around.
REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN MAST: They don't necessarily have training in identifying the threat and identifying the innocent. And you have to make sure that they get the appropriate level of training.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, thank you both for joining us today for this conversation.
We want to turn now to a group of people whose lives have been impacted directly by gun violence and who have been moved to do something about it.
Austin Eubanks was a seventeen-year-old student at Columbine High School when two of his classmates opened fire in 1999, wounding him and killing thirteen. He is now the chief operating officer at Foundry Treatment Center, an addiction recovery facility out in Colorado. Nicole Hockley's son, Dylan, was among the twenty children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in December of 2012. She co-founded Sandy Hook Promise, a group working to protect children from gun violence. Andy Parker's daughter, Alison, was a reporter for CBS affiliate WDBJ in Roanoke, Virginia, when she was shot and killed during a live broadcast in 2015. And he's now an activist and he helped start For Alison, an educational foundation named after his daughter. And Michele Gay lost her daughter Josephine in the Sandy Hook massacre. A former teacher she co-founded Safe and Sound Schools following her daughter's death. And joining us now is John Mina from Orlando. He is the chief of police for the Orlando Police Department. A job he held back in June 2016 when a gunman entered Pulse nightclub and killed forty-nine people. Nicole, I want to start with you. After Sandy Hook, people said this has to be different. This was an attack on children. People now are saying that about Parkland. It feels different. Politically, do you think it is?
NICOLE HOCKLEY (Sandy Hook Promise/@NicoleHockley): I-- I do feel the difference because I think there's a difference between adults advocating for their children versus children advocating for themselves. And these are articulate teenagers sharing their experience and demanding that the adults listen to them. So I think the politicians need to stop their nonsense fighting and, instead, you know, just kind of shut up and listen a little bit to these kids and listen to what they're demanding because this can't continue. We can't keep letting our kids die and feel unsafe in their schools.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And you met with a number of these activists in Florida.
NICOLE HOCKLEY: I-- I did meet with some of them and their energy and their drive. That energized me. Because, you know, I have been in this fight for five years, they are at the start of a very long journey, but they have tools in terms of social media and stuff that I didn't really have at my fingertips. They are organizing and mobilizing at an incredibly rapid rate. And-- and they are not listening to what other people are telling them to say, they are speaking for themselves. They are being authentic, and I think that has power.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Michele, do you see the student activism in the same way?
MICHELE GAY (Safe and Sound Schools/@MicheleGay): I do. And, interestingly enough, in-- in the school safety space when we founded Safe and Sound Schools in the-- the spring following the tragedy, the first and probably most powerful group that we were hearing from was-- was students. So we've been working with students now for five years. We just released a youth council program that came out this fall. So we're grateful that a lot of those councils were already established prior to this tragedy and that the kids have this platform to speak in their communities. But I would agree with Nicole. It is-- it is different this time because-- because they are organized, because they are speaking up and we want to hear what they have to say.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Andy, after your daughter's death, you became politically active so did Alison's fiance, where do you think that this activism should be focused? Is it at the-- the local and state level or is it here in Washington?
ANDY PARKER (Father of Alison Parker): Margaret, it has to be all of the above. And we have to give law enforcement the tools that they need to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening. And one of them ironically, Marco Rubio brought it up in the town hall last week is a gun violence restraining order. And, you know, what a lot of people don't know is that with all the-- the alarms and the-- and the red flags and the warnings about this shooter in Florida, he was never-- he was never arrested for anything. So, legally, law enforcement can't go in and remove weapons. And with the GVRO, the Gun Violence Restraining Order they can. I hope that-- that this changes the equation because Barbara and I testified in front of a Virginia Senate Committee on this very issue. The chairman of the committee looked at me and said we're sorry for your loss. And then they voted it down on party lines. Same thing with a young woman who survived the Las Vegas shooting was in tears saying please ban bump stocks. They did the same thing to her. So, you know, at this point, the Republican Party, hopefully, there will be a change there but they're the party of the NRA. I mean that's just the fact.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Austin, what you lived through happened in the middle of an assault weapons ban, despite it. So when you hear these activists, these student activists in particular call for a ban on, specifically, that, does that speak to you in any way? Do you say that's misguided? Or how do you think this should be focused?
AUSTIN EUBANKS (Columbine Survivor/@eubanksaustin): Well, it definitely speaks to me, and I'm really inspired by the level of activism that I have seen. The-- the problem that I have is I think that we are so laser focused on either one or two sides. It's either gun control or mental health and then nothing ever gets done. So I think that we do have a problem with accessibility to these weapons but, specifically, I think we have a problem to accessibility to high-capacity magazines. We have to bring down the number of shots that somebody can fire before reloading. And I think that's exceptionally important. Beyond that we have to look at why this issue is occurring and we have to go all the way back to the way that we're educating and socializing young men. And so what I really advocate for is appointing a nonpartisan group of experts who can study this issue comprehensively and in the near term we have to bring down the-- the loss of life. And by doing that we can eliminate high-capacity magazines and assault weapons.
MARGARET BRENNAN: At the federal or the local level?
AUSTIN EUBANKS: I believe at the federal level.
Chief Mina, I want to come to you quickly before we to go commercial break and then continue our conversation on the other side of it. But, Chief, it sounds like there were just so many red flags, at least twenty-three calls to local authorities, flags raised to the FBI in this case in Parkland. How hard is it to actually intervene as law enforcement? I mean is this a matter of just local bureaucracy run amuck or is it a failure, a dereliction of duty? How do people understand this?
JOHN MINA (Orlando Police Chief/@ChiefJohnMina): Well, it's definitely a failure of all the systems involved. You know at the Orlando Police Department, I know, many other law enforcement agencies in Central Florida and across the nation there are protocols in place for when we receive social media threats, for when we get some of these red flags and I would tell that, you know, we don't stop working until that threat is mitigated until we get, you know, identify the person who made the threat, go talk to them, talk to their parents, and go really hands on with them. And in many cases either arrest or commit that person for an involuntary mental examination. The issue and some of the problems with that is, even if we commit someone under the Baker Act for mental evaluation, they can, you know, get their evaluation, probably, be released in less than seventy-two hours and still go-- enable to buy a firearm. So that loophole needs to be closed because many of our law enforcement throughout the country have had many success stories as far as mitigating some of these threats and-- and seeing the red flags and working it to the very end, putting the person in custody or getting them evaluated and then, you know-- and then that person still being able to purchase a firearm.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Chief, we want to talk to you again on the other side of this break along with the rest of our panel. So stay with us, please, we'll be back in just a moment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We are back with our panel on gun violence. I want to go to Orlando and bring in Chief Mina who was chief in that city during the Pulse Nightclub attack which did involve the shooter using a semi-automatic weapon. Chief, I want to ask you this proposal too at the state level have skilled teachers be armed to you. Does that make a difference?
JOHN MINA: Oh, I don't think that's a good idea. Our teachers are already have many responsibilities. It's their job to educate our students and they do a great job of that. Our teachers aren't trained physically or mentally prepared to handle firearms in a stressful situation. Law enforcement throughout the country not only do they get through, you know, hours and months and weeks of training, but they're-- they also carry firearms every day and deal and use their firearms and sometimes in stressful situations and for a teacher to be educating students at one second and then be responsible for responding in a high-stress situation with a firearm with not enough--
JOHN MINA: --training or mental preparation I don't-- I don't think it's a good fit. I'm-- I'm definitely against that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Michele, you are a former-- former teacher. What do you think about arming educators?
MICHELE GAY: I would agree completely. I-- I just I understand that it's a community-based decision and that will always be our position at Safe and Sound Schools. We know that different communities are made up of different people with different backgrounds and-- and there are different circumstances. Some of our school communities are facing you know response times that-- that may be up to fifty minutes so I understand this need to look at all solutions put them all on the table. But when I think very practically about myself sitting in a second-grade classroom on the floor crisscross applesauce with-- with my students teaching reading the last thing I would be ready for in-- in the split second that it might happen is-- is having to-- to pull out a firearm, pull it from my hip, and-- and intervene in that way and-- and further having worked with school resource officers so closely for the past five years we know the level of training that, that they undergo. We know the time, the mindset as the other guest is talking about just-- just the-- the familiarity of having that-- that firearm with you and all of that working consideration that goes into that. That's not something I want to put on a teacher who is already very overburdened sadly with a lot of tremendous responsibilities.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Austin, Colorado has explored this. What do you think?
AUSTIN EUBANKS: So I'm opposed to it as well but I do believe that we have to strengthen schools by way of architecture, metal detectors or, perhaps, additional security personnel. But I do think that those two functions have to be completely separate. Educators have to focus on education and security officials need to focus on security.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Nicole, with Sandy Hook Promise you've been looking at ways to harden the response, at least. What are you looking and proposing?
NICOLE HOCKLEY: Well, I agree that we need to focus on how do we handle imminent danger such as school security and the infrastructure of our schools. But I do believe that the shift needs to focus more to prevention. How do we help identify people that are at risk of potentially hurting themselves or others. That's what we offer from Sandy Hook Promise. We're in about seven thousand schools at the moment with our free programs and our free anonymous reporting system. This is a way for teachers, educators, students, and parents to say this is what I am recognizing and-- and this is what I am seeing and then have a system to report it and-- and to be honest in terms of arming teachers it would be better to arm them with this knowledge and the ability to do that to prevent violence before it happens and if there's federal funding available for these programs versus arming teachers, I would put it towards the programs or you know giving teachers more what they need in terms of supplies or books or arming them with more school counselors as well to help these kids.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Andy, I'm going to ask you, you personally faced some backlash for your activism and something we're seeing now with these students in Florida. Where does that come from?
ANDY PARKER: There are a legion of hoaxers that descend on-- they've descended on me like locusts. They've done the same thing with the kids in Florida. They call us crisis actors. They say Alison is-- has had plastic surgery and is living in Israel some place. You know the level of cruelty is just unimaginable. But you know it's fueled if you-- all you have to do is look up the street on Pennsylvania Avenue. It's enabled by a President that, you know, has unhinged tweets every single day. You know arming teachers and so he's enabling this kind-- he's helping create this sort of atmosphere that-- that-- that brings upon these people.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What did you think of the President's listening session this week? You were there in the choir.
ANDY PARKER: It was-- it was pathetic, frankly. And then when he comes out with again this-- this-- this crazy notion of arming teachers. Teachers are going to quit before they carry a firearm in-- in class. I-- it was-- when you have to hold a note card that says I hear you. I mean come on. That's unimpressive to say the least.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, talking points are something many walk into a room with to get through that but I appreciate your passion all of you and for coming here to share your personal stories. Thank you. We want all of you to come to Washington today for this conversation. We really appreciate all of you being here and all of you watching, we'll be back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: When we come back we'll be speaking with Arkansas Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson. Stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION, including Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and our political panel. So, stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. I'm Margaret Brennan. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson served two terms in Congress and also consulted for the NRA when they pushed for armed guards at schools after the Newtown shooting. He joins us now in studio. Your state of Arkansas also experienced a school shooting many years ago in Jonesboro back in 1998. U.S. doesn't seem to have a monopoly on people with mental health issues but we seem to have this streak of school shootings. For you, does the response need to be at the federal level or at the state level?
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON (R-Arkansas/@AsaHutchinson): Primarily, at the state level. Whenever you're looking at school safety issues when you're looking at mental health issues, this is a function that governors can be uniquely engaged in. I want to focus on the school safety side and to make sure that the children when they go to school feel comfortable in their safety as well as the teachers and-- and officials there. So a lot of work has to be done there. And because as your previous panel pointed out, we have different thinking in different parts of the country. This is uniquely the role of the states in determining safety. The role of the federal government, obviously, can spur the issues in terms of a grant funding and-- and, hopefully, that will be available to us. But, largely, the security side and the safety side will be the governors. In-- in Arkansas, for example, you know, we have passed a law to allow some of our rural schools to have armed personnel that has enhanced training--
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: --not just regular concealed weapon training but enhanced training so they can be responding to an active shooter situation. So we've taken steps in our state and we'll continue to do so.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So for you do you draw a distinction between arming trained staff versus arming educators who are in the classroom with children as the President has suggested?
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: Well, I draw a distinction. But let me emphasize there has to be some flexibility here. I've always said that teachers should teach and others should protect. But--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Will you tell the President that when you meet with him this week?
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: Well, I'll tell him that but also that there are some teachers who whenever they're looking at options and they've got the training and they've got the temperament and they've-- they've done what's necessary and if they want to be able to have a protection and have be armed with that training I think that's a prerogative that they should have as well. But, for example, in Clarksville, Arkansas, one of the schools, we have about thirteen of them in Arkansas that they've selected staff and it's secret information as to who on their staff has been trained. But it could be a-- it could be a coach.
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: It could be a janitor. It could be a teacher. It could be an assistant principal that has gone through this enhanced training that's available for a quicker response. They couldn't afford to have school resource officer so this is a direction they chose to go. The best response is a trained police officer but they're not always available quickly in the classroom.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What kind of weapons should school personnel be carrying to match the kind of rapid fire, firearm such as an AR-15 that was used here in Florida?
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: Well, I mean right now--
MARGARET BRENNAN: How do you arm to protect against that?
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: The-- the children are-- are trained to throw books at an intruder, anything that they have hands on. So if you have any firearm, it's, obviously, going to be a better protection. And so the police go in there, they're able to take out with their weapons that they have on their side, you know, a shooter. And so a weapon can do that. It should be locally decided as to what that weapon is and of what the comfort level is with the trained staff.
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: So those are local decisions that have to be made as to what is the best utility.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Now in the-- in the Parkland example, there was an armed resource officer. There were first responders and-- and the first deputy on site did not enter the building. Doesn't that undermine this argument that you're making? I mean you're putting a lot of responsibility in potentially one or a few people here to respond to extraordinary circumstances.
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: Well, it is. It's a tragic set of circumstances there and as you look back through history, we learn from each one. We learned from the Newtown, we learned from Las Vegas. We learned from what's happened in Florida and from my background at homeland security and in law enforcement what is important are different layers of security. The first one is the point of entry. You've got to make sure that schools are architecturally designed so that you can have security as to people who are not authorized to be there, single point of entry is the best. Secondly, obviously, the armed police officer--
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: --the school resource officer who has had the greatest level of training should be available. But then a school in their security plan should have additional layers of security. A school resource officer might be across the campus and this is again where if a school wanted to have trained personnel that's available closer to the classroom they should be their option.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But that system didn't work in Florida.
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: Well, does-- does that mean we shouldn't have school resource officers? I don't think anybody says that. We've got to improve our systems.
GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: And so, you know, the FBI makes mistakes. You know whenever you're looking at the gathering of information and dealing with mental health issues there and the warning signs, we can learn and we've got to do better. But it doesn't mean we should erase the protections and layered security that's in place. We've got to do better. And to me that is the right debate. How can we better give confidence, better training for our staff, better coordination among our officials and better tools for those in the classroom.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Governor, thank you very much for your time.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be back with a look ahead at the devastating bombing campaign in Syria.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to the situation in eastern Ghouta, a Syrian rebel-held suburb of Damascus where bombing this week has been among the worst in the conflict that is now in its seventh year. President Bashar al-Assad's government forces have bombarded the city, killing at least five hundred this week alone. Many of them women and children. Yesterday the U.N. called for an immediate cease-fire and U.N. Secretary General has called the situation, "hell on earth." For some perspective on this situation, we are joined now by Syria ambassador Frederic Hof, the former special envoy to Syria, I should say. He is now with The Atlantic Council. Ambassador, we've seen these kind of ceasefires before from the U.N. Is this any different?
AMBASSADOR FREDERIC HOF (Former Special Envoy to Syria/@FredericHof/Atlantic Council): Yes. Possibly, not. Unfortunately, Margaret, there is a long list of U.N. Security Council resolutions instructing Syria to stop this kind of activity, to permit the delivery of humanitarian assistance, both food and medicine. They've been ignored. It's good that this resolution was passed. It's good that it was passed unanimously but the early returns are not good. Bombing is, reportedly, ongoing as we speak.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Now this is a suburb of the capital of Damascus.
MARGARET BRENNAN: President Trump has called this a humanitarian disgrace and he publicly blamed Iran, he blamed Russia, he blamed the Assad regime. But he said the U.S. were only there to fight ISIS. Is that the limit of U.S. intervention?
AMBASSADOR FREDERIC HOF: Well, possibly, not. It-- it remains to be seen. Nearly a year ago in April, 2017, the United States intervened very forcefully, striking a Syrian airbase in the wake of a sarin nerve agent attack by the Assad regime on civilians in northern Syria. I suspect there are people in eastern Ghouta right now who are saying please, Mister Assad, attack us with sarin because if you do, perhaps, the world will come to our assistance. I think it's mistaken--
MARGARET BRENNAN: It's a pretty a cynical take to say that the--
MARGARET BRENNAN: --the method of killing is will make a difference here.
AMBASSADOR FREDERIC HOF: Yeah. Yeah. Well, the-- the master of cynicism in all this is Bashar al-Assad. He carefully takes the measure of everyone who comes up against him. He concluded with respect to President Obama, if I don't use sarin gas I can use anything I want.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is it that same calculation with President Trump?
AMBASSADOR FREDERIC HOF: I'm afraid it is. Right now I'm afraid that Assad is testing this President's chemical red line. He's weaponizing the use of chlorine, which although is not-- is not deadly, is, nevertheless, very, very powerful instrument of terror.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Now-- right now the U.S. has about two thousand troops in Syria, that's not a lot.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And we've got about twelve diplomats.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The-- the President used very strong rhetoric, do the resources match that rhetoric?
AMBASSADOR FREDERIC HOF: This is-- this is, again, this-- we're going to have to see if the resources match the strategy. Secretary of State Tillerson gave a very powerful speech at Stanford University a couple of weeks ago about Syrian strategy. But the question is who is going to do the heavy lift? The heavy and sustained lift required to stabilize Syria, east of the Euphrates river, land that's been taken from ISIS and-- and the heavy lift that's going to be required to protect Syrian civilians, because the lack of protection is a-- is a humanitarian and a geopolitical catastrophe.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You know for Americans when they hear U.S. involvement they want to limit U.S. intervention--
MARGARET BRENNAN: --for their own safety.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Why does this need to matter? Why do people need to know what is happening right now outside Damascus?
AMBASSADOR FREDERIC HOF: Well, Margaret, nobody-- nobody that I know of is talking about violent regime change or the United States invading and occupying the-- the Assad part of-- of Syria. The U.N. resolution passed yesterday said that ongoing violence directed against civilians is a threat to the peace and security of the region. This kind of mass homicide campaign encourages extremists, it undermines our friends and allies in the region and beyond, witness the migration crisis in Europe.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The refugees--
AMBASSADOR FREDERIC HOF: In 2015 the refugees who-- and this really roiled European politics, the politics of democracy, all-- all to the-- to the delight of Mister Putin and the Kremlin.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is President Trump's calculus here that he can work with Vladimir Putin, correct?
AMBASSADOR FREDERIC HOF: I don't-- I don't begrudge the administration doing all of the diplomatic due diligence to see if it's possible. John Kerry, the former secretary of state, chased the Russians for a year and a half. And never did catch them. What happens over the next few days and the next few weeks in eastern Ghouta will tell us, I think, whether or not there's any-- they're there in terms of working with the Russians. They really need to get their client out of this dirty business.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Ambassador Hof, thank you very much for joining us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And be sure to tune in tonight to 60 MINUTES, our Scott Pelley will bring you a powerful report on that Assad regime, sarin gas attack in Syria last April and the continued onslaught there.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Time now for some analysis, Reihan Salam is the executive editor of the National Review and a policy fellow at the National Review Institutes. We want to welcome Shawna Thomas to the broadcast. She is the Washington Bureau chief at Vice News. David Nakamura covers the White House for the Washington Post and Rachael Bade covers Congress for Politico. Thanks to all of you for coming here. President is going to hold this two-week listening session. Reihan, is this about buying time or is this about building policy?
REIHAN SALAM (National Review/@reihan/National Review Institute): Well, I think that there has been a shift in the politics of the gun issue, partly, because you see different patterns of gun ownership in the country, and I think that it takes a crystallizing moment like this to lead to a change and President Trump has demonstrated that he is frankly pretty flexible on the issue. He has expressed a variety of different opinions and I think it's quite possible that we'll see some movement on some limited gun regulation measures.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Some limited movement, Rachael, congressional leadership doesn't seem energized on this like the President does. Is that fair?
RACHAEL BADE (Politico/@rachaelmbade): Yeah, I would say that the likelihood of Congress passing gun control measures any time soon is probably about as likely as President Trump himself deleting his Twitter account. It's not going to happen, right? There's energy, yes, right now following the Florida shooting. And you do see some Republicans particularly in Florida you just interviewed Brian Mast, opening the door to potentially doing some gun control measures, but these folks are the minority right now in Congress. Republicans can call Congress and they do not see guns as the problem here. These are Second Amendment enthusiasts who I kid you not carry pictures around on their phones of, you know, their latest kill from hunting, they don't think guns are the problem here. I do think we could hear them talk about how this guy fell through the clack-- slipped through cracks, you know, did the FBI, what did they miss here this tip that they had that they didn't follow through on. I think we could hear them talk about safety in schools, but I think they will say that that is a state issue.
RACHAEL BADE: So I-- I mean, you had-- you're going to have to forget about an assault weapons ban. Universal background checks isn't going anywhere, and even this notion of increasing the age to get an assault weapon it's not going to pass Congress.
DAVID NAKAMURA (Washington Post/@DavidNakamura): And one of the--
MARGARET BRENNAN: It's a-- sorry. Go ahead, David.
DAVID NAKAMURA: One of the things I think is instructive is sort of how does immigration debate played out the idea that the President was flexible doing something on immigration, giving a path to citizenship. But when it came down to it, could he give the cover to Republicans who are concerned that--
MARGARET BRENNAN: He seems to be trying here.
DAVID NAKAMURA: And well, the idea-- right. So we see the initial signs that he's-- he's willing to talk about gun control in a different way. And he's told staff from what we've reported in our newspaper that he wants to go forward on maybe a proposal as controversial as raising the age limit to buy guns from eighteen to twenty-one. He said let's go for that, we'll praise the NRA to keep that-- that portion of our base happy. But when it comes down to sort of campaigning and giving that kind of cover, we haven't seen the President really do that level of sort of engagement.
REIHAN SALAM: Just to be clear. You don't think that Fix Nix could happen. You don't think that's a measure to tighten background checks?
RACHAEL BADE: To be clear on that, so the President came out this week and said he would back a background checks provision that basically fixes ensuring that agencies are reporting people who cannot have these weapons to the background check system.
MARGARET BRENNAN: This is the Cornyn-Murphy bill.
RACHAEL BADE: Yes, the Cornyn bill. However, I spoke with Jim Jordan, a conservative of freedom caucus the day after the President came out and supported this. And he said there is no way he is going to back it. He said, you know, this is a provision that would let bureaucrats take away the civil liberties of Americans, and that's exactly what you're going to hear from a lot of Republicans on the Hill. I think, perhaps it could pass the Senate with bipartisan support, Ryan will have to make a difficult decision just as he want to put this on the floor where probably it would pass, but then he's going to get heat from the right.
SHAWNA THOMAS (Vice News/@Shawna): But I think the difference right now is that over the last week we saw those students March on Tallahassee.
SHAWNA THOMAS: Congress has been out of session this past week. They haven't had to sort of deal with the amount of media that you get when you're actually inside the Capitol. That's this week.
SHAWNA THOMAS: This is coming. And so it's going to be a little bit more difficult than the face of those teenagers especially if people start showing up in Washington, D.C.--
SHAWNA THOMAS: --to say we are not going to do anything. I agree, the Fix Nix bill has a hard time passing through the House, the version is in the Senate right now, also has a concealed carry provision in it--
SHAWNA THOMAS: --which is not going anywhere in the Senate. But it is good that at least John Cornyn is talking to the President about this and there is something that can be done about our background checks system because there are so many holes, and states need help and money to try to fix them those holes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Shawna, if people are so interested in this student activism that you mentioned the March on Tallahassee, there's going to be a march here in Washington on the 24th, the next month. Does that sustain the momentum enough, or is this so politically toxic when a lot of people in Congress are facing upcoming elections that they won't want to go near this?
SHAWNA THOMAS: Well, this-- this is a different moment because of those teenagers. Is it sustainable? I have to admit I'm surprised to a certain extent because I'm a cynical Washington, D.C. person, that we are still having this conversation on FACE THE NATION today. And that we are still seeing that there are reporters in Florida because the-- the news cycle is so fast right now. It's kind of in some ways up to those students, and they have the power of social media, they are known commodity to media outlets, they come here, they're going to get interviews, they go to the Capitol, they are going to be seen on camera. In some ways, it's up to them. Because I do not necessarily think especially since it's an election year this will be run from a political angle.
REIHAN SALAM: This strikes me as fascinating phenomenon happening in our politics more broadly. When you have an issue that's a very familiar issue, that's understood as a kind of culture war issue, suddenly you introduce a class of people who identify as victims, those loved ones of victims and they change the political dynamic. What happens then however is that you realize that there are folks on the other side of this, too. There are victims of violence who care very deeply about firearms and gun rights as matter of self-defense and self-protection.
REIHAN SALAM: Now during that first phase, you know, you change the conversation because no one wants to argue with someone who has been traumatized, someone who has been victimized. But the truth is that that might wind up distorting our conversation because we can't forget that there are people who feel very strongly, have a deep emotional investment in this issue on the other side, too.
REIHAN SALAM: We've seen with Dreamers and Angel Moms. And I think that this is something that's going to define American politics for a very long time because narratives and personal stories are compelling.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So then is the President going to have to rely on the governors he meets with this week rather than the-- the lawmakers here in Washington to get done the things he says he wants to get done?
REIHAN SALAM: I do think that governors are really important part of this. For example, talking about arming teachers that has become a huge contentious question right now, right. But also, you know, Texas has a school marshal's program, the idea is that there are rural districts, there are--
REIHAN SALAM: --you know, places where you don't necessarily have the resource and you have people who receive rigorous training just as you have Air Marshals. Now when you think about it that way, it depolarizes the issue. It changes the contexts in a way that could actually be pretty constructive at the state and local level not necessarily as a national culture war issue.
SHAWNA THOMAS: In some ways that does make-- that does make President Trump's desire to arm teachers or talk about arming teachers who are qualified the perfect issue for him to go forth with, because that's not something that you're going to do on the federal level. That is something that states and localities and all the myriad of gun laws that we have out there are going to control and so he can say, hey, I want to do this in schools and now leave it to the states and he can run on that. And that's something that the NRA isn't going to go against either necessarily. It's-- it is in some ways the perfect issue for him.
DAVID NAKAMURA: To Reihan's point, actually if you look at the President's listening session at-- at the White House,--
DAVID NAKAMURA: --which is pretty extraordinary and then it lasted an hour.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And was broadcast live.
DAVID NAKAMURA: Broadcast live. You saw the-- exactly what Reihan I'm saying which was that some of the parents were really-- and students were pushing for-- directly for gun control measures, but there was a father who stood up who lost a daughter in the shooting at Stoneman Douglas, who've argued very passionately about his perspective as a father who was grieving, but also then said very emphatically that he supported this idea that Trump has to arm teachers.
MARGARET BRENNAN: David, I want to ask you, you talked about immigration quickly.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to look at this March 5th deadline. The President has been tweeting a bunch about Dreamers and how he's the only one pushing, are we going to see the same kind of activism that Reihan just mentioned on this as we face that deadline?
DAVID NAKAMURA: It's an interesting deadline. Because, of course, this was the idea that the work permits would begin to run out in mass, Trump said this deadline six months ago and was supposed to create some sort of action on the Hill. We saw the White House actively undermined a bipartisan bill that went forward and back to different bill for Senator Grassley. I do think we're going to see lot of activism, the question is, though, the courts have actually put injunction so the-- the deadline is not as hard as it had been. So we're not going to see those work permits run out as-- as we thought. So that could buy a little bit more time. But it doesn't look very likely that any kind of immigration bill will go forward.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You agree with that, Rachael?
RACHAEL BADE: Yeah. I think they are definitely struggling right now on Capitol Hill. There has been a little bit of talk about potentially extending the DACA deadline for one year for a little bit of border wall money. There is a-- a bill in the Senate that is gaining traction by John Thune, who basically would propose doing three-year extensions for these DACA kids for about twenty-five billion dollars with a wall money. I know conservatives in the House are particularly worried that that's going to move because they don't think the wall is enough for them to back, you know, a continuation of this program. So, you know, they are basically go nowhere fast and this deadline is coming. They definitely got some work to do.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What do people need to know about this debate over security clearances and the question as to whether John Kelly will continue to give Jared Kushner one?
DAVID NAKAMURA: Well, the President was asked directly about it, put it on John Kelly and said he'll defer the decision. But, I mean it seems likely that Kelly would do what the Presidents wants.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But should people be alarmed?
RACHAEL BADE: The Government Accountability Office came out just a couple of weeks ago and said that this is now a high risk program. Obviously the Government Accountability Office is this watchdog group that looks at various parts of the federal government and they came out and said, giving interim security clearance just for, you know, months and months at a time actually imposes on the U.S. National security, it could hurt the national security. So I think we're going to see the Oversight Committee on the Hill continue to look at this and it's not going to-- the pressure is going to be up. It's not going to go anywhere.
REIHAN SALAM: There's another-- forgive me, please.
SHAWNA THOMAS: Sorry. I mean the issue really is, are some of these people blackmailable. And that is sort of what we saw with Rob Porter, right, who is alleged to have beat his wives--
SHAWNA THOMAS: --and because of that it made him subject to possible blackmail. The question is, is there something in Kushner's history that makes him subject to blackmail that also is keeping him from getting the security clearance.
SHAWNA THOMAS: And if that is the case, which I'm not saying it is, that is the case, so should he have access to this information?
SHAWNA THOMAS: I guess the deadline I think was last Friday to sort of-- where John Kelly said he would cut off that.
SHAWNA THOMAS: But we have to just-- we have to see whether the White House pushes forward on this.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, thanks to all of you. We have to leave it there. So much more to talk about. Thanks for being here today. We'll be back in a moment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Thanks for having us be part of your Sunday morning, and it is a special one for me. I'm privileged to say that I'm joining the FACE THE NATION team as moderator. And in this role, I plan to carry on the tradition of civil conversations and tough but fair questions that you've come to expect each week here at FACE THE NATION. Thanks to my CBS family for the warm welcome and I hope you'll continue to join us. Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.