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CNN NEWSROOM

Money for Election Meddling; Trump Ties Tariffs to Mexico and Canada; Model Offers Trump-Russia Secrets; Gun Bill in Florida; Me Too and Time's Up at Oscars. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired March 5, 2018 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:30:00] REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Anyone else.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And it's sort of ironic that this news is coming out on the very same morning, although it could be like most mornings, although it could be like most morning, but the president just put out a statement this morning where he said, President Obama did nothing about Russian election meddling. Well, his State Department is not spending $120 million to fight it.

CICILLINE: Yes. And the global engagement center isn't properly staffed. No one in that center speaks Russian. I mean it's really -- they have been really derelict in their responsibilities to address this very real and current challenge.

BERMAN: Let me --

CICILLINE: I think part of the reason is, the president doesn't want anyone to do any work on combatting Russian interference because he thinks somehow it undermines the legitimacy of his own election.

But we need to at least look forward and prevent it from ever happening again.

BERMAN: This week the president focused very much on trade. The idea of levying tariffs on aluminum and steel imports. And he's going to base this on section 232 of an old trade act, which essentially says that it's a national security issue. Listen to what his trade adviser, Peter Navarro, told our Jake Tapper.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE TRADE ADVISER: This is an action basically to protect our national security and our economic security. The president was quite clear. We can't have a country that can defend itself and prosper without an aluminum and steel industry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Is he right? Is this a national security issue?

CICILLINE: Well, look, we can't have a country that prospers without an economy. And the idea of engaging in a trade war that could do real damage to the American economy, that could hurt our allies and our kind of geopolitical situation between the United States and its allies.

This is not a well thought out policy prescription. This was apparently a president that was angry about something. According to all the reports, in a bad mood. Didn't consult, didn't go through the normal process of decision making of a decision this significance where people could weigh in, what are the implications where our allies could be alerted, that it would be narrowly tailored to achieve an objective. This was basically just sort of spouting off, has huge consequences.

Now it remains to be seen whether it's actually going to happen. We've seen this president before say things in an effort to distract from another issue or because he's just sharing an emotion but it doesn't actually get operationalized. So we'll have to wait and see.

BERMAN: It's interesting --

CICILLINE: It isn't how you make good public policy.

BERMAN: You know, it's interesting, because this morning he's writing about the possibility that he could offer deals to Canada and Mexico on steel imports if they renegotiate NAFTA. But if it's about NAFTA and it's about trade, then it can't be about national security, can it? You know, it's either about NAFTA or it's about 232 and national security. It seems like it can't be both?

CICILLINE: That's right. And we're in the middle of -- or at least the administration is saying they're in the middle of renegotiating NAFTA. I'm a big supporter of a new NAFTA that is fair to American workers, that provides really good protection for American jobs. That is fully an ongoing process. So it is mixing two things.

But, again, this is just more evidence of a White House in chaos. And, frankly, one of the great challenges we face as well there is the kind of chaos they're in and the investigation continues and the scandals continue to come forward. We're not getting the work done of the American people of, you know, passing a good infrastructure bill, creating good paying jobs, passing legislation to reduce the cost of child care and prescription drugs, focusing on raising incomes, reducing the cost of peoples' lives and preparing them for job (INAUDIBLE). We're not getting that work done.

BERMAN: Congressman, very quickly, Axios this morning is reporting that one of the witnesses who testified to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team was asked for any communications dealing with a pretty wide list of people who were central to the Trump campaign and Trump administration, including Corey Lewandowski, Hope Hicks, Keith Shiller (ph), Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Roger Stone, Steve Bannon. What does that tell you?

CICILLINE: It tells me that Robert Mueller is doing his job, that this investigation is proceeding in a very serious way, that we all have to redouble our efforts to protect the integrity of this investigation, to ensure that Mr. Mueller has the resources he needs to complete his work and is free from any political interference or any effort to stop him from getting to the truth. BERMAN: Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island, thanks so much

for being with us.

CICILLINE: Thanks for having me.

BERMAN: All right, a woman stuck in a Thai prison says she has secrets to share about President Trump's ties to Russia. CNN has spoken to her. Next, who she plans to share those secrets with.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:38:26] BERMAN: So new this morning, CNN has spoken to a jailed Russian woman who says she has secrets she can tell about President Trump's ties to Russia, but she says she will only share those secrets in exchange for getting out of jail. She calls herself a seductress. She calls herself that. So, is she credible?

CNN's Ivan Watson live in Bangkok with this strange tale.

Ivan.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, strange tale, and that's the big question, is this young woman credible. Born in Belarus, 21 years old, calls herself Anastasia Vashukevich. And actually uses a pseudonym, Nastya Rybka.

Now she told me, through the bars of this sweltering immigration detention center where I spoke to her, that she wants to work with U.S. investigators to help give information about alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. election. But she doesn't want to give it if she's going to be deported back to Russia, which is probably a fate that awaits her after she got in trouble here.

She claimed to me that she knew about meetings between a Russian billionaire and Americans that she wouldn't name and that they discussed plans for impacting the U.S. election.

Now this could all sound like a desperate get out of jail free plan, except that this young woman's Instagram account shows pictures of her herself -- her with this Russian oligarch named Oleg Deripaska on the back of a private yacht. And it was subsequently discovered that another man in those photos was none other than the deputy prime pictures of Russia. So she's clearly been around some very powerful people in the past and she claims she has more information, audio files, photos to back up her claims.

[09:40:23] She and her friends, who have also been detained, have sent a handwritten letter to the U.S. embassy here in Bangkok offering the help, requesting asylum in the U.S. The embassy here tells us that they don't really know about that asylum request yet.

John.

BERMAN: So, Ivan, these so-called coaches who were telling her what to say and what to think, who are they? What more do you know here? WATSON: And here the story gets even weirder. The young woman,

Vashukevich, is part of a group of Russians. They describe themselves a movement. And they were teaching, when they were arrested, a sex training course in a Thailand resort when the Thai police picked them up.

I spoke with one of their followers, who was not arrested. Take a listen to what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIA SKULBEDA, FRIEND OF JAILED "SEDUCTRESS": We have our goal. It's a positive goal. It is for sex, freedom and love. That's it. Sometimes people don't understand it. As you can see. First they are in danger. Second, they have the information. And third, we are afraid of their lives. Really afraid of their lives. I don't know what's going to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATSON: so make no mistake, John, this is a very strange story, but you do have this young woman who's been around powerful Russians saying she has secrets and she's behind bars in Bangkok and trying to get somebody to listen to her.

John.

BERMAN: Fascinating and odd all at the same time.

Ivan Watson in Bangkok.

Thanks so much, Ivan.

In Norristown, Pennsylvania, this morning, pretrial hearings ahead of a second trail for Bill Cosby. A judge will decide if the prosecution can call more witnesses than they did in last year's case, while the defense tries to have the case thrown out altogether. Last summer a jury deadlocked on indecent assault charges against Cosby after six days of deliberations.

In West Virginia, public schools closed again. This is the eight straight day as teachers continue to strike, demanding a 5 percent wage increase and better benefits. Frustrations clearly mounting at the state capitol over the weekend after lawmakers and the senate could not come to an agreement, nor could they in the house.

The next step, an appointed bipartisan joint committee to bridge the impasse. Not clear when it would convene, however. More than a half million West Virginia students have been out of school since February 22nd. That's a long time.

New this morning, Florida lawmakers set to vote today on a bill to tighten gun laws in the state. This is happening weeks after the deadly shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 students and teachers.

Live in Tallahassee for us, Athena Jones.

Athena, what are the prospects today?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John.

Well, the Florida lawmakers are racing the clock to pass a bill before the session ends on Friday. That's why senators were in session on Saturday, a rare Saturday session, debating this measure for eight hours. Here is what's in the bill we expect them to vote on today.

The bill would raise the age to purchase a firearm to 21 years old from 18 years old. It would require a three day waiting period to buy a gun with some exceptions. It would ban the sale or possession of bump fire stocks. Those accessories that allow a semi-automatic weapon to fire more like an automatic weapon.

The bill would also give law enforcement more power to seize weapons and ammunition from people deemed mentally unfit or otherwise a threat. And it would provide additional funding for armed school resource officers and for mental health services in districts across the state.

What -- the most controversial provision, though, is this provision that would allow the arming of teachers and other school personnel after they go through training. It would be a voluntary program that the sheriff and the school district would have to agree to implement. No teachers would be required to take part. But this is a provision that's gotten a lot of pushback from students, from parents, from teachers and from Florida Governor Rick Scott. He's made it very clear he is opposed to the arming of teachers. He says that teachers should teach.

What we don't know, John, is whether the governor would veto any legislation that reaches his desk that includes this provision. As of right now, the provision is in this senate bill. It looks like it's likely to stay in this bill if it passes the senate and moves on to the house. These chambers are both controlled by Republicans who back this measure.

But we'll be closely watching to see what develops.

John.

BERMAN: All right, Athena Jones for us in Tallahassee. Keep watching for us. Thank you very much.

So "The Shape of Water" may have won four Oscars last night, but the Time's Up movement right at center stage. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:49:13] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ASHLEY JUDD, ACTRESS: The changes we are witnessing are being driven by the powerful sound of new voices, of different voices, of our voices, joining together in a mighty chorus that is finally saying, time's up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Three of Harvey Weinstein's accusers there as Time's Up and the Me Too movement takes center stage at the Oscars.

Host Jimmy Kimmel, he roasted Weinstein while pointing out that Hollywood still has a long way to go. He also made fun of the anatomy of the very Oscar statue itself.

Stephanie Elam was on the red carpet last night with the highlights.

Stephanie.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I can't believe you tossed to me with just that line. Thanks, John.

Yes, no, there was definitely a lot of discussion about Time's Up and Me Too before the show started. Didn't know exactly how it was going to play into it. But as you can see, listening to those three women stand up there and talk about this change, it was obviously a big moment. You have Annabella Sciorra, you have Ashley Judd and you have Salma Hayek there talking about it.

[09:50:11] And then continuing on that moment is Frances McDormand, who wins for best lead actress for her portrayal in "Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri." She didn't really talk about herself when she won. In fact, take a listen to what she did.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANCES MCDORMAND, ACTRESS: I'm hyperventilating a little bit. If I fall over, pick me up, because I've got some things to say.

If I may be so honored to have all the female nominees in every category stand with me in this room tonight, the actors, Meryl, if you do it, everybody else will, come on. And look around, everybody. Look around, ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ELAM: So she's saying, if you want to work with us, we're here. You see us. Make that effort.

Just to round out some of the other winners of the night, Gary Oldman was the favorite to win for "The Darkest Hour." He did win in that category for lead actor. And also Guillermo del Toro having a historic win as well. He's winning for -- he won for "The Shape of Water." And he also won a directing Oscar there. And he really had words of inclusion going forward, which is interesting with this movie "Shape of Water," because there's that issue of their love being forbidden, but he had a lot to say about inclusion.

And then Jordan Peele winning for best original screenplay. He's the first black winner to -- black writer to win in this category. This was obviously momentous. There are a lot of people wondering what was going to be there for "Get Out," his movie "Get Out." So he had a funny tweet afterwards where he just was like, couldn't believe it, shocked that he had won an Oscar. So a historical moment there as well, John.

BERMAN: I think "Get Out" may be the movie that had the longest lasting impact.

All right, Stephanie Elam --

ELAM: February.

BERMAN: Thanks so much.

You know, we teased with a picture from moments ago. CNN contributor and "Entertainment Tonight's" host Nischelle Turner is with us.

Nischelle, wonderful to see you.

Me Too and Time's Up --

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You too. What day is it?

BERMAN: I know, right?

So, look, the Academy clearly wanted Time's Up and Me Too center stage.

TURNER: Yes.

BERMAN: They clearly wanted to send a message last night. The question is, does it go beyond last night? Is this something --

TURNER: Well, yes.

BERMAN: Go ahead.

TURNER: Well, that is the question. I definitely think that you're right, that's the question that I actually was pressing people on last night throughout the night saying, this is all good. This is great that we're having this moment. Everyone feels good. Everyone's saying the right things.

But what happens tomorrow? What are we going to do now? Is there really a sea change? And I tell you, John, person after person, black, white, young, old, male, female, all said to me, yes, this is more than a moment. Things are changing. You can feel a shift.

And one of the things that, you know, people referred to a lot of times is the Time's Up movement because these women in Hollywood were putting in the work for months before we ever knew anything about quote/unquote Time's Up. They were working, they were meeting, they were strategizing and then they came out with this movement. But they had a plan.

So now we're seeing this plan be implemented. And I really do feel a change. I even feel a change in the media. We have been empowered now to say -- have more meaningful conversations on the red carpet, to talk about inclusion, to bring up these subjects, to press people on it.

And Frances McDormand has everybody Googling "inclusion rider" this morning. And we were talking about that last night on the red carpet. That was the topic, how you can get into your contract a clause that says you have to have a certain number of women and persons of color on this project. Things are changing.

BERMAN: And when she said it, as you said, people ran to their phones to find out what exactly it was.

TURNER: Yes, absolutely.

BERMAN: Now they know and that might make a difference.

All right, obviously inclusion, diversity, a big part of the night.

You know, Maya Rudolph and Tiffany Haddish, they had a little bit of fun with it in what was, I think, one of everyone's favorite moments. Let's just watch that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIFFANY HADDISH, ACTRESS: When we came out together, we know some of you were thinking, are the Oscars too black now?

MAYA RUDOLPH, ACTRESS: But we just want to say, don't worry, there are so many more white people to come.

HADDISH: Uh-huh, so many. We just came from backstage and there are tons of them back there.

RUDOLPH: Tons of them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: All right, that was funny.

TURNER: Yes.

BERMAN: And then obviously people tweeting immediately that those two should host a show.

TURNER: Please, and thank you. Yes, I know one -- Will Packer, who, you know, makes great movies, was -- tweeted last night that he was in the lab, that he had the cat emoji that was hurriedly typing on the computer trying to create a project for them.

I agree, Tiffany is hosting the MTV Movie Awards this summer. Maya is doing so great. I mean she's one of the funniest people in Hollywood. And I think they definitely should work together.

But they were making -- while they were being funny, they were also making a little bit of a point there, John, because they were say, yeah, yeah, yeah, we're right here, but just know in Hollywood there's a lot of jobs and they're still the majority of white males that have those jobs. So let's just remember that.

[09:55:07] BERMAN: We have ten seconds or less, Nischelle.

TURNER: Oh, boy.

BERMAN: The movies, small movies, right? I mean this is a very different kind of Oscar here. These were not movies that are widely seen by the masses.

TURNER: True. True. I think "Get Out" is the movie that has made the most money this year. And that happens a lot in the Oscars, that we see these small, independent movies that not a lot of people have seen, that not a lot of people know about getting nominated. I hope that changes because there is this notion in Hollywood that big blockbusters can't be great movies. I think we've seen with "Black Panther" this year that that really isn't the case. So hopefully next maybe we'll see some big budget films in there. (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: Fantastic. You know, there is always room for sea monsters, I will say -- I will say that. Not to say anything bad about sea monsters.

TURNER: That is true.

BERMAN: But, you know, there is more than just sea monsters.

Nischelle Turner.

TURNER: Listen, whatever does it for you.

BERMAN: Lovely, lovely to see you.

TURNER: All right.

BERMAN: Forbidden love, as Stephanie Elam said.

All right, this morning, President Trump lays out what it would take for him to get to back off tariffs that even some of his closest allies are against. We're following all the latest developments.