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Republicans Seek to Strip Internet Privacy Protections; Fighting in Iraq?; Ivanka Trump Becoming Official W.H Employee; First Lady Highlights Women's Empowerment; Conspiracy Theories Transcend Political Party. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired March 29, 2017 - 16:30   ET




BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The comments also come just after word of a formal investigation into a U.S.-led airstrike in Mosul after more than 100 civilian deaths.

The Trump administration is now dropping 500 precision-guided bombings on Mosul every week, a U.S. defense official tells CNN. The top commander, General Joseph Votel, acknowledges keeping civilians out of the line of fire while attacking ISIS is growing harder.

GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: As we move into these urban environments, it is going to become more and more difficult.

STARR: As the Trump White House increases bombing and troop levels against ISIS in several countries, still no sign of a Trump military strategy.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think there's the vague idea that you have to throw some troops at the problem, whether the problem is in Iraq, in Syria or Yemen or some other place.

STARR: More U.S. troops are headed overseas.

VOTEL: I think that is what you continue to see with all of these deployments right here. We are not -- we have -- one of our key principles here with our folks forward is to help our partners fight, but not fight for them.

STARR: In Afghanistan, commanders want hundreds of additional troops. In Iraq, another 250 are on the way. In Syria, up to 900 are on the ground at any one time. In Yemen, the U.S. is increasing military support and stepping up airstrikes against ISIS.

Trump is also facing calls for more troops to counter Russia from his top general in Europe.

GEN. CURTIS SCAPARROTTI, SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER EUROPE, NATO ALLIED COMMAND OPERATIONS: A resurgent Russia has turned from partner to antagonist. STARR: General Scaparrotti wants a brigade permanently in Europe,

more than 3,000 additional troops.

Trump defended Russia.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we have a good relationship with Russia, believe me, that's a good thing.

STARR: A fundamental disconnect from his defense team. Defense Secretary James Mattis says he's not ready for military cooperation with Moscow.

JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Russia is going to have to prove itself first.


STARR: But relying on those local forces around the world, the U.S. training and advising them, it does sound a lot like the Obama strategy, those local forces, especially in Mosul, Iraq, now paying a very heavy price for their fight.

In the last five weeks, more than 300 Iraqi soldiers have been killed in Mosul -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, important to note that.

Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thanks so much.

Lots to talk about today with our panel.

Jackie Kucinich, CNN political analyst, Washington bureau chief of The Daily Beast, let me start with you.

The Senate Intelligence Committee sort of took the curtain off today, unveiled their investigation. Richard Burr and Mark Warner provided a bipartisan face. I think that was one headline to their news conference. We're the grownups, enough with the kids' table at the house.

But there another headline too. Manu Raju sort of asked Richard Burr, Senator Burr, outright. The White House keeps on saying that everyone says there's no evidence of collusion between Trump associates and Russians. Are you ready to say that now? And Richard Burr said, no, I'm not ready to say that now.


He's saying -- and he also said that they are going to go where the facts lead them, which is traditionally how you would have an investigation, not the way the House is doing it.

And I will be honest with you. It's kind of refreshing to see the two of them, Senator Mark Warner and Senator Burr, presenting a united front. And you got the impression that there is actually going to be serious work done there, which is not really the case on the other side of the Capitol.

BERMAN: And, look, it's clear to me that they wanted to show a united front.

KUCINICH: Absolutely.

BERMAN: That the appearances there were no mistake.

But, Margaret Hoover, Charlie Dent, Republican from Pennsylvania, moderate Republican from Pennsylvania, earlier today us here on CNN that, you know what, the Senate should just take over. He basically said he's lost faith in the House Intelligence investigation, which is very rare to hear from a congress -- from a member of the House, saying, I don't have faith in the House to do this.


I like Charlie Dent a lot. I happen to disagree with him here. I think the reason we have two bodies that represent the people in the United States is because you want as many people with eyes on the government, looking at the government, checking on its accountability, and reviewing it.

What Charlie is saying is, he doesn't have faith in Devin Nunes, the leader of the Intelligence Committee. But what they should do is get somebody who has the confidence of the House of Representatives in that position, because you want both houses of the legislative branch looking at these problems.

BERMAN: Chairman Nunes not going anywhere still, according to Chairman Nunes.


BERMAN: And Joaquin Castro, Democrat from Texas, agrees with you. He doesn't want to take it taken out of the House' hands, no matter what Charlie Dent says.

Angela Rye, the Senate committee talking to 20 people. They won't tell us which 20 people, except for Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law. It sounds like a lot of this is going to be behind closed doors. In fact, it sounds like on the House side, if anything does ever happen, it won't be for a long time. We may have seen the last in public of these investigations for some time.


ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. And there's so much left to be discussed in the public domain. People have a ton of questions, and I think it's unfortunate that they aren't being fully transparent.

I understand the sensitive nature around this investigation. I understand all of that. But we do know so many people have been making jokes about Devin Nunes going over to the White House in the dead of night. I don't know what time it was. We do know that he hopped out of a car and got into an Uber. I think the issue is, why are we calling -- or why has the House been

calling -- I'm saying we would like us to work there -- for an independent commission, an independent commission? Because it is clear, right, that the chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is compromised in some way.

Why were they calling for a special prosecutor out of DOJ? Well, it's clear that once Jeff Sessions lied in his testimony during his -- during his nomination hearing, that he also is compromised. He also has had conversations.

There's a laundry list of Trump associates, business partners, et cetera, that have had some type of conversation and engagement with Russia.

BERMAN: And many of them by name appear to be speaking before the Senate Intelligence Committee at some point.

RYE: Right.

BERMAN: Jackie, Sean Spicer today, White House press secretary, once again was asked would he turn over the name of the person that cleared Chairman Nunes on to the White House grounds to have that meeting where he looked at the intelligence?

And Sean changed his story again today, to an extent. He said, I have asked, but I still have nothing new for you on that.

My understanding, from talking to people who have worked in the White House, is, you know, you can get that information in minutes, if not seconds. It's not a matter of asking. It's a matter it's right there. You can go get it. So, if he wants to get it, it can be got.

KUCINICH: Yes, of course. Yes, of course.

I mean, he probably can -- I'm not saying that Sean Spicer knows who it is, but this is not secret information. It's not that hard to get.

HOOVER: It's not that hard to get.


HOOVER: I worked in the White House. I was a White House staffer.

When I was a White House staffer, which was over eight years ago, you simply put in the person's name and Social Security number, and it's in the system that Secret Service runs, right? So you have to coordinate with Secret Service in order to get that clearance.

But it is accessible. It's not -- you don't have to be privileged in order to get it. You just have to have Secret Service let you get it. And that was post-9/11 days.

Look, this White House leaks a lot, OK? It's one thing that they are not particularly good at is keeping a lid on secrets. So if it's really that easy to find, everybody, go work your sources. You will have it in 24 hours.


BERMAN: Angela, Charlie Dent, Margaret's friend Charlie Dent, made some more news today. He's a member of the Tuesday Group, moderate House Republicans.

And that was one faction who was not supportive, who were not supportive of the health care bill. Freedom Caucus on the other side were not supportive.

Charlie Dent says the White House hasn't reached out to him in the last few days to talk a new health care deal. Charlie Dent says that House leadership hasn't been in conversations with him about negotiating a new health care deal.

So this idea that there's some resurgence of discussion going on somehow behind the scenes makes me wonder if it's not actually going the way people are saying it's going.

RYE: You're asking if something that they said might not be factual, John? Is that what you're...

BERMAN: Just wondering. I'm wondering.


KUCINICH: This White House can't have nice things.


RYE: It's not even about that. To me, it's about the way in which the Trump administration rolled out a health care initiative. Not only have they not talked to the House. And they, I think, failed in a lot of way to talk to members of the Senate.

They also failed to engage stakeholders, key stakeholders, like, I don't know, doctors, medical associations, pharmaceutical companies, on this last stretch. Let's see if they do anything different this time.

But you have to have a broad campaign. I think we learned that with Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. You have to have a number of people who are engaged and bought into the process. They didn't do that.

They wanted to drain the swamp. And they forgot, while they were actually filling the swamp, to talk to people who you need to carry your water.

BERMAN: So, real, not real, these health care discussions now?

KUCINICH: Maybe there are discussions, but nothing is going to come of this. The players haven't changed.

The bill hasn't changed. Nothing has changed since last week. I don't know if they are trying to save face, or they can't let go.

HOOVER: Don't underestimate the ideological sort of weddedness that the conservatives and the movement conservatives have to reforming health care.

They -- many of them didn't like Obamacare. They didn't like President Obama and they weren't for it for those reasons, but a lot of them really, truly believe that you can have a better, a reformed health care system. And they have worked so long in order to get themselves to this place.

They feel really fraught that they have missed this opportunity. I don't think Paul Ryan is going to give up yet. I don't think many of them are going to give up yet. I don't think it is going to happen in the next 28 days, but I think that they are unwilling to just say, OK, we missed our chance.

So my guess is on the back burner, they try to start figuring out if there's a way to do it before the cycle is over.


RYE: This is a really bad example of what happens when you study history. They should have studied history and realized that this is going to cost a lot of political capital, if you do this at the beginning, again, Obamacare, and they are doing the same exact thing.

BERMAN: It turns out health care isn't so easy, despite what the president said.


BERMAN: All right, Jackie, Angela, Margaret Hoover, great to have you with us. Thanks, guys. I really appreciate it.

Coming up, the top Democrat from the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff, he will join Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." A lot of questions to ask that guy tonight.

All right, your Internet privacy in the Trump era, the move that has a lot of people nervous and maybe clearing some folks' search history.


That's next.


BERMAN: Back now with the national lead.

Any day new, President Trump is expected to decide the fate of your online privacy. Congress just voted to repeal an FCC rule that required Internet service providers to get your permission before collecting and selling your data. That include things like your Web browsing history, yes, and apps you use. Republican supporters say it's about time, that the old privacy rules

stifle innovation, prevent your Internet provider from competing with the likes of Google and Facebook.

Want to bring in Jeff Chester with the Center for Digital Democracy.

And, Jeff, I know you have a position on this. You are an advocate for one side.


[16:45:00] BERMAN: But, before we get that, I just wanted to have you explain to people how this is different. The information that your internet service providers have and now will be able to hand over as compared to Google, Facebook, Instagram which also hand over that information.

CHESTER: Well, your internet service provider like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T have a front row seat into your lives. Your most personal details are now online. Your financial interests, your health concerns, are you searching for depression? Does your child have attention deficit? Are you looking for a loan? You know, who did you vote for in the last election? All of this information is now online, and the ISPs have kind of a one-stop shopping system in place that can gather and make lots of money off all of this information. Look, you decide to go to Google and Facebook and you know they're an advertising-based business, but you pay a lot of money each month for your computer connection at home or your mobile phone and don't expect the same company to also basically steal your information and sell it to the highest bidder.

BERMAN: So you're saying you have more of a choice to go to Google, more of a choice to go to Facebook, more of a choice to go to -- or you know what you're getting into there, but getting on the internet, in and the of itself now is almost a requirement for being a member of this society, and then you're opening yourself up to all that information which will now be available to the highest bidder?

CHESTER: That's right. Well, look, the ISPs, these big internet service companies, and let's remember that most Americans don't have much choice when it comes to their internet service provider. We really have kind of a monopolies here and they also bring you your television service. You know, they're -- they've invested a lot of money in today's big data technologies to generate new profits. Look, because of innovation and because of our use of the mobile phone, you -- companies are now able to know so much about us, and they are able to tie all that information together in profound ways that it wasn't before possible. Where do you shop? Where do you buy? Who your friends are? How much money do you -- do you spend? Who do you communicate with? All of that information on a minute-by-minute basis is now gathered and processed so people can be marketed to and targeted by advertisers and others. ISPs have an unfair position because they are in your home.

BERMAN: Right. CHESTER: They are in your mobile phone. All the FCC rule said was

they have to ask first before your sensitive information, your most personal details, could be used. The regulation didn't say they couldn't use it. They said they had to ask. If President Trump, who we hope will veto this bill, if somebody came to President Trump's desk in the Oval Office and took his financial information, his health information and other personal details about his children, he'd be furious. That's what this sensible rule does. It simply says you have to ask first, and the -- but the companies are afraid telling consumers, telling their subscribers what they're really doing. Yes, we're selling your financial information, yes, we're selling your health information.

BERMAN: We got about a minute left here. How do you protect yourself? If you don't want people to know, to buy the information about what sites you're searching on or where you might be looking online, what can you do to protect yourself?

CHESTER: Well, I think this is a real problem because in America what's happened is we don't have any privacy regulations for the internet really except for children. A law that we got through back in 1998 before there was a Google or a Facebook. So it's a wild west out there. Your data is being collected in more manned more ways literally every day. Now, you can be technologically savvy and maybe you can afford to kind of buy some technologies to get you out of this and wipe out your cookies but for the average person who wants the free shipping, who wants that discount, who wants to know where the restaurant or the drug store or the gas station or directions are, you have to give up this information.

BERMAN: Right.

CHESTER: You know, and you're not told what it's going to be used for. So people have no control, and for the first time in almost 25 years people were about to be given some control over the sensitive information. Not about buying a book or buying a shirt but about your health information. That's why we need people to go on the White House website, the we the people petition, and sign the petition and tell President Trump, protect the average American's privacy. This is the best families and kids.

BERMAN: He has said -- he has said he is going to support this bill. Jeff Chester, thanks so much for being with us.

CHESTER: Thanks for having me.

BERMAN: A lot of your information -- a lot of your information now available and these internet service providers don't have to ask.

CHESTER: That's right.

BERMAN: By the first lady stepping into the spotlight making her first formal speech in the nation's capital and some are noticing the person she did not mention, plus, plus, we have some breaking news just in about Ivanka Trump's new official role in her father's White House. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:53:32] BERMAN: Welcome back. We have breaking news just into CNN. Ivanka Trump is becoming an official White House employee. This is an unprecedented role for a first daughter. The White House says she will be an unpaid adviser to her father. The role will offer her increased opportunities they say, to lead initiatives driving real policy benefits for the American public, so the White House says. But the statement doesn't say anything about her level of security clearance. A statement from Ivanka Trump's attorney says Ivanka Trump will file the financial disclosure, forms required of federal employees and be bound by the same ethics rules she had planned to comply with voluntarily. You'll have much more on that later. Now, in the east wing of the White House, Melania Trump has been keeping a low profile spending most of her time here in New York City. But in the past 24 hours, the first lady has been busy in Washington. Moments ago she attended a White House event with the President just hours after headlining an event at the State Department. Want to bring in CNN White House Reporter Kate Bennett. Now, Kate, we haven't heard much from Mrs. Trump but we may be getting a sense of the causes shoal champion as first lady.

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, that's right, John, and in today's speech she talked about her passion for empowering women and supporting gender equality and it sort of a first glimpse that an official platform from this first lady who stayed far away from the spotlight.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first lady of the united states, Mrs. Melania Trump.

BENNETT: A public appearance by first lady Melania Trump is rare, but today in Washington, Mrs. Trump made her first formal speech since the inauguration.

MELANIA TRUMP, UNITED STATES FIRST LADY: I'm deeply humbled to be here today.

[16:55:00] BENNETT: Wearing a white coat dress, a look that's quickly becoming a signature, Melania was at the State Department handing out the International Women of Courage Awards.

M. TRUMP: As they continue to preserve against unimaginable odds, these women are extraordinary examples of reaching within to find the courage that lies inside us all to change the world.

BENNETT: It was a speech that's shaping up to be her platform, encouraging gender equality and supporting women's empowerment on a global stage.

M. TRUMP: Together with the international community, the United States must send a clear message that we are watching. It is, therefore, our duty to continue to shine the light on each miraculous victory achieved by women, all capable of trying, truly leading the change to fight for those that cannot fight for themselves.

BENNETT: Mrs. Trump didn't reference her husband, President Donald Trump in her speech. She used the opportunity to speak at length about her own beliefs. However, last night, she was at Trump's side for a dinner with senators and their spouses at the White House.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you all for being here. Melania, thank you very much

BENNETT: The appearances, along with a spike in social media presence, she's been instagramming and tweeting, mark an active few days for Melania. This week she finally announced the hire of a communications director, a sign she could be ready for more public sightings.

M. TRUMP: You feeling good?

BENNETT: For now the first lady remains a New York resident until her son Barron finishes the school year and she will likely join her husband full time at the White House.


BENNET: And we've been getting these somewhat lengthy gaps between her public glimpses of Melania but we're definitely anticipating her back in Washington for the annual White House Easter egg roll in a couple of weeks. John?

BERMAN: All right. Kate Bennett in Washington. Thanks so much.

Finally today, facts are fickle things and these days the search for truth is difficult, but even as members of the left denounce the conspiracy theories flowing from the White House and the President, liberals are not immune to misinformation. Our Jake Tapper filed this report.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Since the Presidential Election --

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration period.

TAPPER: The role of conspiracy theorist has grown to include not just members of the Trump administration,

D. TRUMP: I said wait a minute, there's a lot of wiretapping being talked about.

TAPPER: But now more liberal additions as well. Did you hear Mr. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin were seen together at a Swiss resort according to a fake news site created by a movie studio marketing team. Another online article asked whether the administration travel ban was perhaps a trial balloon for a coup. And the satirical Satira Tribune recently reported that the President cut funds for a veteran suicide hotline. Of course, none of these stories is true, but for some people these days facts are fickle.

BRENDAN NYHAN, DARTMOUTH COLLEGE PROFESSOR: It is remarkable how people are condemning the conspiracy theories that Trump promotes while at the same time promoting conspiracy theories of their own. And I think we need to take a sober second lock and think more carefully about what the evidence really supports.

TAPPER: Professor Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist at Dartmouth College says conspiracies aimed at Trump may be a coping mechanism for liberals.

NYHAN: It's not like conspiracy theories have gone away on the conservative side, but the intensity is seemingly lessened. People tend to believe them when they're negative about their opponents, and in particular after they have lost power they may be more vulnerable.

TAPPER: Of course, Washington conspiracies are nothing new.

NYHAN: In some cases, they turn out to be true. You can think of Watergate as a conspiracy theory that turned out to be true. But at the same time conspiracy theorizing leads to a kind of sloppy thinking.

TAPPER: Past rumors include the Clintons leaving a trail of dead bodies in their wake. 9/11 was an inside job and, of course --

D. TRUMP: Barack Obama should give his birth certificate.

TAPPER: So what's new now? Well, the Trump administration's unprecedented disregard for facts.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP'S COUNSELOR: Alternative facts to that.

TAPPER: According to Nyhan, Russia's unbelievably true intrusion into the U.S. Presidential Election has lowered the bar for belief even further.

NYHAN: Contacts with Russia and the unprecedented Russian interference in the election have seemed to legitimize elaborate conspiracy theories of the sort we'd see on "homeland" or "house of cards." People have taken those legitimate questions as a license to believe in all sorts of things for which there's no evidence.


BERMAN: All right. You need the evidence. That is all for THE LEAD today. I'm John Berman in for Jake. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."