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Meet the Press -February 18, 2018

NBC News - Meet the Press

“02.18.18”

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, after Parkland, another mass school shooting.

CHUCK TODD:

Another 17 people dead. And another chance for Congress to do something or nothing about gun violence. President Trump makes a healing statement without mentioning the word "guns."

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

To every parent, teacher and child who is hurting so badly, we are here for you.

CHUCK TODD:

Not enough for some grieving parents.

FEMALE VOICE:

President Trump, you say, "What can you do?!" You can stop the guns from getting into these children's hands!

CHUCK TODD:

Nor students.

EMMA GONZALES:

They say that tougher gun laws do not decrease gun violence. We call--

GROUP VOICES:

BS!

CHUCK TODD:

We'll hear from some of those students this morning and from Broward County, Florida School Superintendent Robert Runcie. Plus, Special Counsel Robert Mueller charges 13 Russians with interfering in the 2016 presidential election to help Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.

ROD ROSENSTEIN:

The defendants allegedly conducted what they called, "information warfare" against the United States.

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump has yet to condemn Russia and insists the indictment proves there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia. But does it? My guests this morning, Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma and the progressive Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Joining me for Insight and Analysis are NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Hallie Jackson, Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher, NBC News National Political Reporter Carol Lee and CNBC's Rick Santelli. Welcome to Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. If you can remember as far back as Tuesday, the week's news cycle began with the nation's intelligence chiefs testifying that Russia is continuing to interfere with our election systems here in 2018, and that President Trump hasn't asked them to do anything about it.

Well, the week ended with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announcing the indictment of 13 Russians including an oligarch close to Putin and three companies for engineering an elaborate campaign to subvert the 2016 election and support the candidacy of Donald Trump using social media.

But in between was the horror of another school shooting. 17 students and teachers dead at a high school in Parkland, Florida. This week's school shooting, and we have to say, "this week's," because there are so many, prompted this Facebook post of a depressingly familiar cycle: mass shooting followed by calls for thoughts and prayers, Facebook debates, everyone forgets, Congress does nothing, crickets chirping, and then another mass shooting.

Perhaps one reason this tragedy may be different is the determination of students and survivors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and elsewhere to speak out. And we're going to hear from some of those students later this hour.

President Trump has seemed more obsessed with the Russia story, tweeting 13 times, including five times this morning, that the indictments clear him of collusion. They don't. And even suggesting that the reason the F.B.I. missed clues about the suspect, Nicholas Cruz, was because it was too focused on trying to prove Russian collusion. So here we are as a country, grieving again, and debating what to do about gun violence again, and with no agreed-upon solution again.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

Thank you very much, everyone.

REPORTER:

More gun laws need to be changed, Mr. President?

CHUCK TODD:

After another mass shooting-- (GUNFIRE)

MALE VOICE:

Oh my, oh my, oh my god!

ISABELLA GOMEZ:

So much screaming. I can hear it all over again, shots right by me.

CHUCK TODD:

With 14 high school students, a coach, an athletic director, and a teacher dead--

LORI ALHADEFF:

I just spent the last two hours putting the burial arrangements for my daughter's funeral, who's 14! President Trump, you say, "What can you do?!" You can stop the guns from getting into these children's hands!

CHUCK TODD:

Broward County students are angry and demanding change.

AMY KOHLI:

We want to send a message to these politicians that they cannot allow this to continue.

EMMA GONZALEZ:

They say that tougher gun laws do not decrease gun violence. We call--

GROUP VOICES:

BS!

CHUCK TODD:

Even the conservative New York Post, Mr. Trump's favorite paper, is urging the president to please act. The gun debate may be the purest representation of the political polarization infecting this country. 75% of Republicans say they are more concerned about the government going too far in restricting gun rights. 73% of Democrats say they worry the government won't do enough to regulate access to guns. The country is divided by region and by gender. There's an urban/rural split and an education divide. Each side now views the other as not just wrong but immoral.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY:

If you are not working today to try to fix this, to try to stop these shootings, then you're an accomplice.

SEN. TED CRUZ:

Of course you're right that the reaction of Democrats to any tragedy is to try to politicize it.

CHUCK TODD:

On the right, guns have become a symbol of patriotism.

NRA SPOKESPERSON:

The only way we save our country and our freedom is to fight this violence of lies with a clenched fist of truth. I'm the National Rifle Association of America, and I'm freedom's safest place.

CHUCK TODD:

On Thursday, Mr. Trump refused to even utter the word "gun" in a seven-minute speech on the shooting, instead taking a swipe at demands for action.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

It is not enough to simply take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference. We must actually make that difference.

CHUCK TODD:

After 58 people were killed in Las Vegas in October, members of Congress promised to address bump stocks.

SEN. JOHN THUNE:

That's something I think that we'll take a look at.

REP. PAUL RYAN:

Clearly that's something we need to look into.

CHUCK TODD:

But no bills have been passed. After 26 were killed in Sutherland Springs, Texas in November, the number two Republican in the Senate pledged legislation on the nation's instant background check system.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN:

Every day we've let the current dysfunction in the background check system continue, lives are in jeopardy.

CHUCK TODD:

That legislation has not been passed, either.

(COMMERCIAL NOT TRANSCRIBED)

CHUCK TODD:

Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma joins us now from Oklahoma City. Senator, welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD:

Thanks, Chuck. Good to be with you again.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, let me start with simply this: does what happened in Parkland make you think Congress does have something to do this time? We saw what Senator Cornyn proposed. We had the bump stock legislation that was proposed. Nothing happened. What about now?

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD:

Yeah, I'm on the same legislation with Senator Cornyn on what they call the Fix NICS. That is the first thing of multiple things that need to be done. That is fixing our background check system to make sure that all information is actually getting in there. As we've seen with a previous shooting, we had an individual that had a criminal record that didn't get into the NICS system, so they were able to legally purchase a weapon. In this case, we have a lot of warning signs that were out there. And people in Parkland and all across the country have every reason to be grieved and incredibly furious. Social Services was in this home more than 20 times.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD:

Expelled from school, posted online, went into a school shooting, had warned the F.B.I. this person was dangerous. And nothing was done. All the warning signs were there. The community did all the things that the community should do to be able to engage. They saw something, they said something.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD:

And nothing was done.

CHUCK TODD:

And yet, Mr. Cruz was able to legally buy an AR-15 because none of that information was in the background check system. So let me ask you, should this be the way the background check system is used? If Broward County had to expel this student, should that information have been in the system so that, if he went to--

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD:

No, the--

CHUCK TODD:

--purchase a gun, then maybe a more extensive background check is triggered?

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD:

I have no issue with more extensive background checks. I have no issue with slowing down purchases for people that show all the basic warning signs. We have determined, as a country, that only a court can actually take away a constitutional right. And the right to keep and bear arms is a constitutional right. So we have courts that step in on mental health and other things. There are ways to be able to do this to make sure that we keep the system clean and clear. It is a major issue in the country, making sure that we have background checks, but the background checks have all the information that's needed on it.

CHUCK TODD:

And one of the other oddities of the, of the-- in Florida is the fact that the AR-15 was something that somebody under the age of 21 can legally purchase, but not a handgun. Well, the AR-15, in this case, was extraordinarily more destructive than any other weapon he could have bought at the age of 21.

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD:

Yeah, that's an issue that's been determined a long time ago. An AR-15 is a rifle, handgun, obviously handgun--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

Is that a mistake?

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD:

Three, four, five--

CHUCK TODD:

I understand it was determined, should it be classified that way anymore?

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD:

So there are three or four, five times as many crimes committed with a handgun than there are with a rifle. So we can have that conversation. But when you look at the statistics, many, many, many more shootings occur with a pistol than they do with a rifle. I-- I-- I'm fully aware that you've got situations like this, with a mass shooting with an AR-15. But the pistol has still been the weapon of choice for murderers.

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that. But going back to the AR-15, is this a hunting rifle, in your opinion?

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD:

Some actually do hunt with an AR-15, as well.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. But should it be?

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD:

I think it's up to the individual. The problem is not owning an AR-15, is the person that owns it. Again, you not go back to the how of what particular weapon is chosen, it's the why. I have individuals in my neighborhood that own an AR-15. That doesn't make it a dangerous neighborhood or them dangerous individuals. It's the individual themself becomes the issue, not the weapon that they're holding.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I understand. But it seems as if the gap here is that it is still too easy to purchase one. Should it be much harder to purchase an AR-15?

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD:

I actually don't think it should be. I think what should be is difficult for any person with any kind of criminal background history, domestic violence, mental instability, all of those things, regardless. I don't care whether they're buying a 22 pistol or an AR-15.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD:

We have good, clear, strong background checks on each person.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you-- but, but obviously, we don't. I mean do you think this background check system--

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD:

That's correct.

CHUCK TODD:

--really works in America? I mean we don't have a strong background check system. I think that's pretty clear at this point, is it not?

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD:

And that's why I'm on the Fix NICS bill, because I also agree with you, that is not complete. We're not getting information from some rural departments. We're not getting it from some federal entities. We're not getting the information into that background system. So that absolutely needs to be fixed. That's why I think that legislation needs to be pushed. And I'm currently on it.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Let me move to the Russia situation. You're on the Senate Intelligence Committee, the one committee in Washington that I think still is working in a bipartisan manner. Your colleague on that committee, Angus King, said the following. I want to get you to respond to it on the other side.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SEN. ANGUS KING:

My problem is I talk to people in Maine who say, "The whole thing is a witch hunt and it's a hoax because the president told me." We cannot confront this threat, which is a serious one, with a whole of government response when the leader of the government continues to deny that it exists.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Senator, that was on Tuesday. We got the Mueller indictments Friday. The president has tweeted about the Mueller indictments 13 times since Friday, including five times this morning. And not once, sir, has he condemned Russia. Does that bother you?

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD:

It does, because Russia's clearly tried to advance their agenda into the United States. The president's been very adamant to say he didn't collude. He's very frustrate that people seem to accuse the fact that the only reason he's president is because of some sort of Russian collusion. But I would say the clear message here is Russia did mean to interfere in our election in whatever way that that might be, starting as far back as 2014, where they were planning, organizing, coordinating among other Russians to be able to make sure that they are trying to get out chaos into our election system.

CHUCK TODD:

But is Senator King right that, if the president won't acknowledge Russia's role here and won't condemn Russia, we can’t-- that we're sort of hamstrung in what we really can do to both protect '18 and '20 but also confront Russia?

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD:

I would actually disagree on that. And I came up and spoke about it not long after that same hearing on Tuesday. The Department of Homeland Security has been very aggressive working with states and under this administration to be able to work on election security. I have a bill with Amy Klobuchar that she and I are doing together, along with Kamala Harris, to be able to work on election security issues. But much of what we have in that piece of legislation that has not been passed yet, that I hope is passed, this administration has already started doing already. That is security clearances for individuals in states, getting information to them much faster, and trying to be able to make sure that information is auditable.

CHUCK TODD:

Does the Mueller indictment, the 37-page indictment, do anything to clear the president or his campaign?

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD:

No, it's not necessarily focused on clearing the president. There are no accusations that anyone in the campaign was colluding. That's very true when you read through the entire document.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD:

Whoever is writing the document was trying to be very clear. These are Russians that were working to be able to interfere in our election. But no American was aware of that. In fact, they made it very clear that these Russians pretended to be Americans, even in their online persona, as they interacted with Americans. Americans were not colluding or cooperating with them. But it wasn't designed to be able to clear everything on the investigation. It was designed to say it was very clear these 13 individuals in this set of companies were trying to interfere in our election.

CHUCK TODD:

It's still an open question of whether more Americans helped or not. Is that correct, sir?

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD:

It is an open question. And I hope that does get resolved quickly. That's something that we've working on in a bipartisan way. We're working on a bipartisan report to be able to come out on that. And we expect Mueller to also come out with his final report in the coming days.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Lankford, unfortunately, that's all the time I have right now. I appreciate you coming on and sharing your views, sir.

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

You got it.

CHUCK TODD: Well, joining me now from the other side of the aisle for his perspective from Burlington, Vermont is the progressive Independent Senator Bernie Sanders. Senator Sanders, welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

BERNIE SANDERS:

Good to be with you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with Russia since I ended there to keep the, sort of the flow of the conversation going here. You- your campaign -- perhaps these Russians were told to leave it alone, that the only people that they were not to criticize were Donald trump and Bernie Sanders. I’m curious. Did anybody in your campaign get interviewed by Mueller to just make sure your campaign had nothing to do with this?

BERNIE SANDERS:

No. To the best of my, to the best of my knowledge nobody in our campaign was interviewed. Mueller mentioned me twice, our campaign twice in his report. And I think what he was talking about was kind of old news. It’s what most Americans know. Is that at the end of my campaign when it appeared that Clinton was going to win, and certainly after she won the nomination, what the…what the Russians were doing was flocking to Bernie Sanders Facebook sites, and they were saying to Bernie Sanders supporters, as they were by the way to Black Lives Matter supporters, people who were fighting for social justice. As they were saying to the Muslim community, if you voted for Sanders, you have to understand Hillary Clinton is crazy, she’s a murderer, she is terrible, all kinds of horrible, horrible things, about Hillary Clinton. And it turns out that one of our social media guys in San Diego actually went to the Clinton campaign in September and said something weird is going on. Bernie’s not in the campaign, hundreds of these people are now coming on to his Facebook site. So I think we already knew that it was an effort to undermine American democracy and to really say horrible things about Secretary Clinton.

CHUCK TODD:

Wh- Do you, do you have an idea of how to prevent this going forward? I mean this was a sophisticated -- so they basically used the divide of the Democratic party between you and Secretary Clinton at the time, to polarize things even more.

BERNIE SANDERS:

Right, look, first of all, the main point to be understood is what everybody understands except Donald Trump. Is that this was not just the 2016 campaign. They intend to do this in 2018. And I think one of the weirdest things in modern American history, is you have every intelligence agency, you have the Mueller report. You have Trump’s own administration saying the Republicans want to sabotage the 2018 campaign. Everybody knows this except the President of the United States.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah

BERNIE SANDERS:

And I think people are asking, what is going on with this President. What we have got to do, and I think Senator Lankford touched on some of the issues, is front end, front end is what we have to say to the Russians. You are doing something to undermine American democracy; you are not going to get away with it. This is a major assault. If you do that there will be severe severe consequences.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

BERNIE SANDERS:

We’ve got to protect states and communities to make sure that their voting is, uh, is not compromised.

CHUCK TODD:

Adam Schiff, the lead Democrat on the House Intelligence investigation, had some tough words on the Obama administration following the indictment. Take a listen.

ADAM SCHIFF:

While I respect the motive in the Obama administration, they didn’t want to be seen as meddling. They should have defended being more public and aggressive at the time.

CHUCK TODD:

It won’t surprise you, Senator that the President has already picked up on that, and has tweeted saying, “Even Adam Schiff is blaming the Obama administration, he should have done more.” In hindsight, did President Obama worry too much about the look?

BERNIE SANDERS:

Look, Obama was in a very difficult position. He did not want to make it look like he was favoring Hillary Clinton. Maybe he should have done more. But the real issue right now is how do we have a President of the United States not saying what everyone knows to be true. Russia interfered in 2016, they’re going to interfere in 2018, and we have got to do everything we can to make sure that they do not undermine American democracy. Chuck, this is a huge deal. And that we don’t have a President speaking out on this issue is a horror show, and we have got to bring Democrats and Republicans together despite the president, to go forward to protect the integrity of American democracy.

CHUCK TODD:

Alright, let me move to the tragedy down in, uh, South Florida. After Newtown, you said, “If you passed the strongest gun control legislation tomorrow, I don’t think it will have a profound effect on the tragedies we have seen.” And Senator, you ended up voting for some of those reforms- Gun control measures that that you weren’t 100 percent sure would solve all the problems. Where are you today? Do you think now—

BERNIE SANDERS:

Hey Chuck, Chuck let’s be very clear. Hey Chuck let’s be very clear. I have a D minus voting record, from the NRA. I lost an election probably, for congress here in Vermont back in 1988, because I believe we should not be selling or distributing assault weapons in this country. I am on record and have been for a very long time in saying we have got to significantly tighten up the background checks. We have to end the absurdity of the gun show loophole. 40 percent of the guns in this country are sold without any background checks. We have to deal with the straw man provision which allows people to legally buy guns and then distribute. We’ve got to take on the NRA. And that is my view. And I am, will do everything I can to—the tragedy that we saw in Parkland is unspeakable. And all over this country, parents are scared to death of what might happen when they send their kids to school. This problem is not going to be easily solved. Nobody has a magic solution, alright, but we’ve got to do everything we can do protect the children—

CHUCK TODD:

What does that mean? You say everything we can. Does that mean raising the age when you can purchase an AR-15? Does that mean limiting the purchase of AR-15s

BERNIE SANDERS:

Yes!

CHUCK TODD:

What does it mean?

BERNIE SANDERS:

Yes! Yeah, look. Chuck, what I just told you is that for 30 years, I believe that we should not be selling assault weapons in this country. These weapons are not for hunting, they are for killing human beings. These are military weapons. I do not know why we have five million of them running around the United States of America, so of course we have to do that. Of course we have to make it harder for people to purchase weapons. We have people now who are on terrorist watch lists who can purchase a weapon. Does this make any sense to anybody. Bottom line here, Republicans are going to have to say that it’s more important to protect the children of this country than to antagonize the NRA. Are they prepared to do that, I surely hope they are.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Bernie Sanders, I have to leave it there. Out of time unfortunately. But as always sir thank you coming on and sharing your views. Much appreciated.

BERNIE SANDERS:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, we're going to get into the future of the gun violence debate and talk about those Russia indictments with the panel. And throughout this morning's broadcast, we're going to show you the names and faces of the 17 people who lost their lives Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

(COMMERCIALS NOT TRANSCRIBED)

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Panelists here: CNBC's Rick Santelli, NBC News Chief White House Correspondent, Hallie Jackson, one of our national political reporters here at NBC News, Carol Lee, and Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher. Well, here we are, Carol. And another school shooting, another debate about whether we're even going to have a debate on guns. It does seem as if, if there is one difference here, it's the students.

CAROL LEE:

It is. And that's the wild card in all this. I think everything else follows the pattern that we've seen after every mass shooting in the country in recent years. But these kids, you know, it's really interesting to watch them.

Because they're basically saying to all members of Congress, "You're not protecting me. You're not looking out for me. And so we're going to do this ourselves, and we're going to take action." And the thing that's really propelling this is their ability to organize, and social media. They are calling out lawmakers on Twitter and shaming them. And that's different, and that is new, and we don't know where it's going or if it'll be sustained. But it's certainly a different element here.

CHUCK TODD:

White House paying attention to this?

HALLIE JACKSON:

They are. I can tell you that, according to a source familiar with this conversation, the president spoke with Senator John Cornyn about the Fix NICS bill that you and Senator Lankford were talking about, after the shooting.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

HALLIE JACKSON:

I'm told that the president seemed open to that, that would, you know, they can't say right now, given the language, that he was deported or not. But there are conversations that are happening around that. So I think that what you heard from Bernie Sanders and Senator Lankford on the show just today, shows you that that is going to be a place where you might see some movement on Capitol Hill.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

HALLIE JACKSON:

The other issue, of course, is the bump stocks conversation, which the White House still-- I was in that briefing room, repeatedly pressing Sarah Sanders after the last shooting, after Las Vegas, about whether the president would support this. At that time, what we heard again and again was, "Well, it's not time for policy yet. We'll look at this down the road." And then down the road, when it came up again, there was no definitive answer from the president. The White House will have to answer to some of this. Because it will, I think, be a discussion on The Hill.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Rick and Cornell, it is interesting. We can look at the specifics of what the policy debate should be, which is what gets into the background system and all that stuff. But this is more of a cultural debate in this country. And until we sort of break that, I don't know, do we get to the specifics?

RICK SANTELLI:

Well, it is culture. But we need to get to the specifics. And I think we need to also think about local versus federal. Federal's going to take time. If you banned every gun in the world from being manufactured starting five seconds from now, we're still going to have this problem.

So I think you need to go to village boards. The students should go to local, try to ramp up security, get more video coverage at these schools, maybe would with some veterans groups to see if we can get a volunteer program like Neighborhood Watch in areas 20 years ago that had high crime. I think there's a lot of on-the-ground solutions. You know, we had terrorist attacks with their planes. There was immediately activity to bring it to something concrete that could be done tangibly.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

RICK SANTELLI:

And I think we need to get to that point, as well.

CORNELL BELCHER:

You know, I'm going to get into the politics of it because I'm a political hack, right? And (LAUGHTER) look, we've had this back and forth before and nothing seems to happen. And I was interested to see the Senator talk about, you know, wanting to work on this issue. This sounds like the same sort of language we heard going after Vegas, right, about the bump stocks.

CHUCK TODD:

You want to sound like you're want to--

(OVERTALK)

CORNELL BELCHER:

Right.

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

--solution.

CORNELL BELCHER:

--you want to do something and then nothing happens, right?

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

CORNELL BELCHER:

This is a town run by lobbyists, for better or worse, right? And there's millions upon millions of dollars poured into this around the gun lobby, which explains a lot of why nothing happens. I'm going to read you a couple numbers, Chuck. And you know these numbers. 68% of Americans, from Pew, ban assault weapons. 71% support a government database to track sales, including a majority of, in fact, gun owners. There's widespread support for this.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

CORNELL BELCHER:

This is not a 50/50 sort of proposition where it's just the people on the coast or the urban areas. My last point on this: the problem has been suburban moms, right? This has not been a central voting issue for them the way it has been for a lot of our voters in the rural areas. For them, health care affordability.

CHUCK TODD:

Sure.

CORNELL BELCHER:

Education issues have been front and center for their voting. I think this is changing, Chuck. When suburban white moms are as fearful and afraid of their kids coming home as urban moms are, they change Congress.

CHUCK TODD:

But isn't the difficulty here legislatively the constitution, which is Brett Stevenson's point in The New York Times, which is he's calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment. And he says, "The United States has by far more guns in more hands than any other country in the developed world. It has, by far, the highest incidence of firearm-related homicides and suicides. Correlation is not causation. But since Americans aren't dramatically crazier than other nationalities, what other explanation is there?" However, it is in our constitution.

HALLIE JACKSON:

Right.

CAROL LEE:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

Unlike other Western democracies.

HALLIE JACKSON:

Yeah. I mean getting rid of the Second Amendment is not realistic.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

HALLIE JACKSON:

It's a nice intellectual exercise that people might want to have, but it's not realistic. I do think that there is some potential on the state and local piece of this seems much more ripe than Co-- look, Congress is deadlocked. They can't even barely keep the government open.

CHUCK TODD:

No. (CHUCKLE)

HALLIE JACKSON:

Right? And so the idea that they're going to do something here-- and they're also, to a certain extent, owned by the N.R.A.. The N.R.A. Spent $55 million in the 2016 election. That's more than twice as much as they did in 2012. So, you know, the idea that they're going to do something in this atmosphere is-- history doesn't show that that'll happen. But also, just the parties. The Republicans are much stronger on this issue. This is a top-tier issue for them. And for Democrats, it isn't really. Not in--

CHUCK TODD:

Not a voting issue.

(OVERTALK)

HALLIE JACKSON:

It's not a voting issue.

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

Nobody has lost-- no--

CORNELL BELCHER:

But that's my point.

CHUCK TODD:

I can't name a politician, Rick--

HALLIE JACKSON:

Correct.

CHUCK TODD:

--that has lost due to not supporting gun control.

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

But I have named politicians who have lost for their support of gun control.

(OVERTALK)

RICK SANTELLI:

No, no, it's about rights. And I understand. Maybe we need more of an independent process for background checks. You know, I come from a trading background.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

RICK SANTELLI:

30 years ago, when I became a member of an exchange, they did an extensive search.

CHUCK TODD:

Sure.

RICK SANTELLI:

I had to pay for it. Maybe if you want to get a gun, you should have choices, independent groups do the background checks. Maybe we should come up with a FICO score if you're a good citizen. If you get a good FICO score, you get good credit.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

RICK SANTELLI:

Rate citizenship based on age, how many tickets you've had, things you've been in trouble. And they have a score. Instead of looking at the criminal side that doesn't follow law, anyway, try to assuage people that are worried that this is nibbling away at their freedoms, make them more comfortable with the solution. Nobody seems to take that approach.

CHUCK TODD:

When nobody seems to even want to have a hearing. Yeah.

RICK SANTELLI:

But it's crazy. Something does have to be done.

CAROL LEE:

But the bottom line, this is a philosophical difference here. Because when you have conversations like the one you called an intellectual exercise about the abolition of the Second Amendment, that is exactly what conservatives are terrified about. That is exactly the conversation that they don't want to be having, because there is a philosophy difference on this. Because this is, as you alluded to in your opening piece here, symbolic, in a lot of ways.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, Cornell, the R.N.A., I think their great strength here has been how they've re-messaged gun ownership and they've wrapped it in the flag.

CORNELL BELCHER:

Right. And by the way, Democrats have been more afraid of the Republican base than they have been of, quite frankly, the middle swath of America. But I think something is changing, Chuck. And when you look at the way those young people are mobilizing, you look at the way some of these gun organizations are raising money, and they're mobilizing now, if this is a front center issue for suburban moms in this coming enough, it will change.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. We shall see. Speaking of those new voices, we're going to hear from some of them in a minute. So coming up, not that there was any doubt, but we learned this week just how wrong it is to call Russian interference in our elections a hoax. We're going to break that down later in the hour. But when we come back, as I alluded to, we're going to hear from some of the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who are saying, "Enough is enough," and are trying to get Washington to listen.

(COMMERCIALS NOT TRANSCRIBED)

EMMA GONZALEZ: They say that no laws could have been able to prevent the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call B-S. That us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works. We call B-S.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Those were students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. One reason that there are some folks who hope that, quote, "This time will be different," is that it's students themselves that are speaking out. There's a call for a national school walkout on April 20th, which is the 19th anniversary of Columbine. And students from Parkland are announcing today a nationwide march, including a demonstration in Washington, for March 24th. Five of those students from Parkland, Florida, join me now. Emma Gonzalez, you were the, the woman we heard, the young woman we heard in there, chanting "No more BS." So I'm going to give you the first crack at this. It's now four days after the shooting. Tell me your feelings today.

EMMA GONZALEZ:

I want to say that this is our opportunity to talk to President Trump, um, Governor Rick Scott, and state-- State Senator Marco Rubio, to make sure that they know we are talking directly to them and all other members of the United States government that are being funded by the N.R.A., to tell them now is the time to get on the right side of this.

CHUCK TODD:

Cameron, I want to ask you, are you going to feel safe walking into school, when you eventually go back to school?

CAMERON KASKY:

I think so. I think that the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas was not because of Stoneman Douglas. It was because people like Nik -- Nikolas Cruz were able to buy these weapons. And I think Stoneman Douglas is one of the safest places you could possibly be. And Parkland is such an amazing community. The attention is on us now. People are watching. And if anything, I'm very excited to get back to school and be with the community and be around everybody supporting each other. Because one of the best things to come out of this horrible tragedy is the fact that Parkland has stayed strong. And we're not going to let the 17 bullets we just took take us down. If anything, we're going to keep running, and we're going to lead the rest of the nation behind us.

CHUCK TODD:

David, I think I overheard you saying earlier that you're not, you’re not ready to go back to school until you – until at least you hear some talk of change, some talk. What is it that you're looking for?

DAVID HOGG:

Yes, so what I'm looking-- What i’m looking for is reasonable change with the United States Congress and bills that are passed before I get back to school. Because this is not the time for inaction and debate. This is the time for discussion, and for all people that are Americans to come together as Americans through love and compassion. This event happened on Valentine's Day. So many people lost loved ones. Our community and our nation have taken too many bullets to the heart. And now is the time for us to stand up. So I will not feel safe going back to school myself until reasonable mental health care legislation and gun control legislation is passed. Because, at this point, it's unacceptable. How many more students are going to have to die and have their blood spilt in American classrooms, trying to make the world a better place just because politicians refuse to take action? That's my question.

CHUCK TODD:

David, I'm going to let you have the last word there. You guys are something else when it comes to showing us what citizenship means. Anyway, thank you all, Cameron, David, Emma, Alex and Jaclyn. Thank you for coming on. I know it's not easy to do this. Um, but it is appreciated. Let me bring in the superintendent of Broward County Public Schools, Robert Runcie there. And Mr. Superintendent, first, you've heard from these students, you've spent time with them. These are very determined young folks.

SUPERINTENDENT ROBERT RUNCIE:

Chuck, I am so proud of our students in Broward County. They are intelligent. They’re articulate. They're passionate. And they're committed to securing a safe future for themselves. And this is their moment. This is their generation. And they're stepping up and doing what needs to happen. So I feel so encouraged that this time will be different.

CHUCK TODD:

Now, you heard one of the students say they're not going to feel safe going back to school when the doors eventually open at Douglas High, because they want to see some change, they want to see some action. Is there anything within your power that you think you can do to make students feel safer before waiting to see what politicians might do?

SUPERINTENDENT ROBERT RUNCIE:

Well, we're going to do everything that we can to enhance law enforcement present at the school. They will absolutely see that. Our focus is on our students, our families and our staff, and looking to reopen school, provide appropriate counseling and support for them and the resources that they need. So we will do what we can to make sure our students are safe. This is a school that has a single point of entry.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SUPERINTENDENT ROBERT RUNCIE:

We have school resource officer there. We're going to add more to it. Safety is a community-wide responsibility, and we're working collectively with other agencies to insure that this happens.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, we've been learning a lot about how the system dealt with Nicholas Cruz. There's times when I'm reading about the interventions, and think, "Oh, the system was trying to work." Right? Interventions were attempted multiple times. The community saw something, so they said something. But yet, the system didn't work. What broke down here? What broke down that ended up, somebody, a troubled kid that everybody identified as troubled, and still ended up doing the worst possible imaginable thing?

SUPERINTENDENT ROBERT RUNCIE:

Well, given what I've seen so far, I believe that we need a smarter system. We need a smarter infrastructure where various agencies, departments, school systems, they're working in a more integrated and collaborative fashion to ensure that we can share data, we can share information, to enhance our level of effectiveness. I think folks are working as hard as they can. But we're working in silos. Better integration in support of that, it would be helpful.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think that a student's record in school should be used in a background check to determine whether they should be able to purchase a gun?

SUPERINTENDENT ROBERT RUNCIE:

Yes. Again, I believe that we have good quality information that's out there. And it's not being used to insure that we can provide the best public safety services that we can. So whatever information is available, it needs to be done while, at the same time, respecting the privacy rights of the individual.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you going to be able to open the school this week? Or are students going to be coming back probably next week?

SUPERINTENDENT ROBERT RUNCIE:

Our goal is to bring teachers back by the end of this week, and then hopefully have the students come back on Monday the 26th. We will actually make a decision on that within the next 24 hours or so, and we'll put an announcement out. But that's our plan right now, yes.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, Robert Runcie, unfortunately, I'm out of time. I know you've had quite the week.

SUPERINTENDENT ROBERT RUNCIE:

Okay.

CHUCK TODD:

We all appreciated the leadership you've shown in guiding your students and your community through this. So thank you for coming on, sir.

SUPERINTENDENT ROBERT RUNCIE:

Thank you, Chuck. And I'd like to just thank our responders, the first responders, law enforcement, teachers and administrators for the immediacy of their response and the courage they have displayed through this moment. And I want to thank everyone across the country for their prayers, their donations, their act of kindness. We sincerely appreciate it. And really inspired by our students. I'm going to do all I can to support them.

CHUCK TODD:

All right.

SUPERINTENDENT ROBERT RUNCIE:

And give them the platform so we can hear their voice. Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you, sir. Much appreciate it. When we come back, Congress used to act after episodes of gun violence, but they don't anymore. What's changed? That’s next.

CHUCK TODD:

And we are back, Data Download time. Often, the question after tragedies like the mass shooting in Parkland is, "Will Congress step in?" And the answer in recent years, of course, has been “no”. But it wasn't always like this. Three of the 11 biggest mass shootings in American history have actually taken place in just the last five months. Just contemplate that for a minute.

And there was a time when incidents or crime trends would actually lead to major legislative action from Washington. For instance, in 1934, as a response to the rise of organized crime and gangster culture, Congress passed what was known as the National Firearms Act. And it heavily taxed machine guns, among other things.

In 1968, after a decade that saw the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Junior and Bobby Kennedy, Congress passed the Gun Control Act, which, in part, grew the list of those people who could not purchase guns, to most convicted felons and mentally ill people. In 1986, with the rise of gang and drug violence on city streets, we had The Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act, which outlawed armor-piercing bullets.

And in 1993 and 1994, after a decade that included the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan and an outburst of workplace shootings, which gave us the unfortunate expression of "Going postal," we passed The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which implemented a waiting period for handguns and a national instant background check. And it also temporarily, at the time, banned assault weapons.

Now, these laws were not perfect, and they didn't solve gun violence in America. The point is that they were attempts by Washington to try to do something in the wake of tragic events or dangerous trends.

So what about now? Well, since 1995, there have been 96 mass shootings in the United States according to a tally from The Washington Post. That includes seven of the 11 deadliest. But get this, even if there were no more mass shootings for the rest of this decade, we would still have had more mass shooting incidents and more deaths connected to mass shootings than in the decade before.

So if you're wondering when Congress will act, it may very well not be until politicians start losing elections for their lack of support for gun control. When we come back, what we now know and what we don't yet know about the Russian interference in our 2016 election.

(COMMERCIALS NOT TRANSCRIBED)

PRESIDENT TRUMP:I call it "the Russian hoax." A hoax. Hoax. Hoax. Might be Russia. Could be China. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, okay? It could be North Korea. It could be a lot of

places. It is one great hoax.

CHUCK TODD:Back now with Endgame. Well, Robert Mueller put an end to the idea, Hallie Jackson, that Russian interference was a hoax. It was quite the indictment, quite the detail in the indictment. A Putin oligarch is charged with this. And the President's response has been all about the president.

HALLIE JACKSON:That's exactly right. His response that came out, but belatedly, by the way, via this formal statement, via Twitter, was looking at what this means for him, making this claim that this had nothing to do with--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:Let me put up the White House statement, Hallie.

HALLIE JACKSON:

Yes.

CHUCK TODD:

Because what was amazing about it is not just what was said. "President Donald J. Trump has been fully briefed on this matter and is glad to see that Special Counsel's investigation further indicates that there was," in all caps, "NO COLLUSION."

HALLIE JACKSON:

No collusion. That's Donald Trump--

CHUCK TODD:

"We didn't do that."

HALLIE JACKSON:

--dictating that.

CHUCK TODD:

That's right.

HALLIE JACKSON:

Correct. That's him telling whoever put that out, "Write this in all capital letters."

CHUCK TODD:

What's not in there is--

HALLIE JACKSON:

Punishment.

CHUCK TODD:

--punishment.

HALLIE JACKSON

:Or prevention. Neither of those things are in there. And that is critical. Now, Steven Mnuchin was on Capitol Hill this week talking about the Treasury working actively on sanctions against Russia. The question is going to be, and the signals that we've been getting from the White House has been, something's going to happen.But what's it going to be? How tough will it be? What kind of teeth will it have? And then the other part of it is what are you doing in seven months from now, in 2018, to make sure this does not happen again? There's a lot of discussion about it. But right now, the president, at a time when he needs to be on offense, is defensive.

CHUCK TODD:

13 tweets since the Mueller indictments, five of them this morning. Rick, none of them condemn Russia, all of them defensive in nature.

RICK SANTELLI:

So if he starts talking about Russia, you think that that would be a good thing? Do you think people would believe him?

CHUCK TODD:

I don't know.

RICK SANTELLI:

This guy's been--

CHUCK TODD:

You tell me.

RICK SANTELLI:

--hit with a newspaper so many times on this topic, it's like a dog. All's you have to do is touch the paper and he shocks back. (LAUGHTER) I can totally understand why he doesn't want to weigh in on this. And--

CHUCK TODD:

But he weighs in all the time.RICK SANTELLI:--what do you think would be the perfect anonym for "collusion?" If you had to pick one word, what would it be?

CHUCK TODD:

What is it?

RICK SANTELLI:"Unwittingly." Where have I heard that word before?

CORNELL BELCHERYou know, (CHUCKLE) I don't want to be partisan here, right? If you read parts of the indictment, it is stunning, the sophistication and breadth of what the Russians were doing here. And no president should be so derelict in duty of protecting our country, right? You can't imagine any president being Bush, Reagan, any president, seeing what Russia did to us, in just saying, "You know, no big deal." I'm not surprised by him being derelict. I'm surprised--

RICK SANTELLI:What about North Korea--

(OVERTALK)

CORNELL BELCHER:I'm surprised by--

(OVERTALK)

RICK SANTELLI:Is about doing about that?

CORNELL BELCHER:I'm surprised by-- that's different. I'm surprised by Ryan and Mitch McConnell. Because they're complicit here. And they should know better. Because they have to do something--

(OVERTALK)

HALLIE JACKSON:Well, you know who the President's talking to today down in Florida.

CHUCK TODD:Yeah.

HALLIE JACKSON:

Paul Ryan.

CHUCK TODD:Right.

HALLIE JACKSON:About legislative priorities. The question is, "Is this going to come up?" What does Paul Ryan tell him to do?

CAROL LEE:Well, even by Donald Trump's standards, he is seeming really defensive in the wake of this. And, you know, the idea that the president of the United States has not mentioned Russia and what they did, when that indictment clearly outlines a Russia intelligence infiltration of the American tradition of political activism is stunning for people.And you can say whatever you want about it, but he does it because he can't legitimize this in his mind, investigation, in any way. And if you were to criticize Russia or, you know, talk about the investigation in the way that everybody else is talking about it, in his mind, it does legitimize it somewhat.And one other point here, the thing about this indictment is that it is only the beginning. This is one very-- it was very detailed, but it was a very narrow piece of this investigation.

CHUCK TODD:It's narrow.

HALLIE JACKSON:Uh-huh (AFFIRM).

CAROL LEE:It is very specific on social media. It's not Wikileaks. It's not collusion. And it isn't obstruction of justice.

CHUCK TODD:Well, you heard James Lankford at the Senate Intel say, you know, "It isn't exculpatory yet, it just said," as you pointed out, Rick, "everybody connected in that part of the investigation--

HALLIE JACKSON:Correct.

CHUCK TODD:--was unwitting.

HALLIE JACKSON:And that was the point that Rod Rosenstein made repeatedly when he was talking, delivering this. The other part of it, Lankford also said, when you asked, "Does it bother you that the president hasn't gone after Russia," he said, "It does." But so then what is Capitol Hill going to do?I think it's worth noting, too, on the White House side, the public silence from Donald Trump, he's tweeting about it, he's delivered a statement. He had a chance to talk to us on the South Lawn before he left for Florida to come out and say, "What Russia did was messed up. They messed with us."

RICK SANTELLI:What about Ken Goldman--

HALLIE JACKSON:And he didn't say anything.

RICK SANTELLI:--from Facebook executive, saying 56% of the funds that we're discussing here came in after the election? I find that highly disturbing.

CHUCK TODD:Right.

RICK SANTELLI:And I find it highly disturbing that Senator Sanders, his people and his campaign, were alluded to in this synopsis.

CHUCK TODD:Right.

RICK SANTELLI:And they didn't talk to any of those folks. That's worrisome. And listen, the President's whole eligibility as POTUS is being questioned on an hourly basis, and all roads lead to Russia. I just can't understand that nobody will give him a little room to think that this is a topic--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:But is not--

RICK SANTELLI:That he might not want to just jump into.

CHUCK TODD:But Rick, let me ask you this. Is his own behavior here, though, not enforcing the sanctions, for instance--

RICK SANTELLI:See, I think--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:--how does that not--

RICK SANTELLI:--comes to this president, whether you like him or not, he's damned if he does and he's damned if he doesn't.

CHUCK TODD:But he doesn't try--

RICK SANTELLI:If he talks about it, we'll come up with reasons --

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:He hasn't tried yet.

RICK SANTELLI:--why he should shut up with Russia.

CORNELL BEACHER:You know what? That's just amazing to me, right? Because again, you do have all our Intelligence Committee. And look, Republicans after said America was attacked by the Russians, right? And this damned if you do, damned if you don't? No. Your job is to protect the United States of America.

(OVERTALK)

CORNELL BELCHER:Not protect your--

RICK SANTELLI:--North Korea--

CORNELL BELCHER:--not protect yourself.

RICK SANTELLI:--many entities.

CORNELL BELCHER:Not protect yourself. The Russians tried to change--

HALLIE JACKSON:But he's been pretty touch on China, North Korea.

CORNELL BELCHER:the outcome of our elections.

HALLIE JACKSON:He's said things about China and North Korea that he hasn't said about Russia, right?

RICK SANTELLI:

Well, what he's saying and what he does are two different things. I don't know any policies that he's implemented that go easy on Russia.

CORNELL BELCHER:And he's tried to cover this up and block it every way.

RICK SANTELLI:But name one example.

CORNELL BELCHER:But again, I'm going to double down on Tim Ryan. There's no House hearings on this right now. And Dem ranking members are saying, "Why aren't we using our investigative powers?"

CHUCK TODD:

Right. Well, I'm going to pause it here. I have a feeling Rick's going to be taking more incoming here in a few minutes (LAUGHTER) anyway.

RICK SANTELLI:

That's all right. I'm sitting here.

CHUCK TODD:

That's all we have for today. Thank you for watching. Happy President's Day weekend. We'll be back next week. Because, if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.