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British PM: Russia Likely Responsible for Attack on Ex-Spy; Porn Star Offers to Return Money to End Her Silence; Austin Police Respond to New Blast After 2 Deadly Package Bombs. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 12, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:09] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi, there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN on this Monday afternoon.

We do have breaking news on several fronts as we wait for the White House briefing to begin.

But, first, let me just tell you about what's going on in Austin, Texas. Police there right now are investigating three different explosions. This all happening within a time span of ten days that left at least two people dead. Police say the first two blasts which happened on March 2nd are, in fact, connected. And in both instances, a person who lives in the area retrieved a package that blew up when it was opened.

Investigators are working to see if a third package explosion is also connected. So, we are working obviously in getting more information on that for people on the Austin area, and as soon as we have more, we'll get a live report from Texas momentarily.

Also breaking news this afternoon, the British Prime Minister Theresa May is pointing the finger at Russia after a former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned last week with what was confirmed to be a nerve agent.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Mr. Speaker, this attempted murder using a weapons grade nerve agent in a British town was not just a crime against the Skripals. It was an indiscriminate and reckless act against the United Kingdom, putting the lives of innocent civilians at risk. And we will not tolerate such a brazen attempt to murder innocent civilians on our soil.


BALDWIN: CNN senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh is with me live just outside of parliament there in London.

And this is hugely significant today coming from the British PM. What else did she share?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Let me just recap. Quite extraordinary development here in terms of Russia's relationship, frankly, with the entire Western world in the weeks ahead. Theresa May making her first statement on this.

And this is really what she said, military grade nerve agent was used on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia visiting from Russia. Now, she named it as something called Novichok. Now, that is not particularly well-known, but it was developed in the '70s by the Soviets basically to get around treaties which said they would no longer develop chemical weapons. This was particularly developed to be undetectable and to be safer to transport. Now, it does act quickly.

We understand, Theresa May went on to say very clearly that she believed only Russia was able to produce this. So, she basically gave Moscow two choices -- either you were complicit in the administering and delivery of this chemical weapon, this nerve agent in which case, we will meet on Wednesday at a British cabinet level and work out what severe response they can bring to what she referred to as non-lawful use of force or, she suggested, maybe Moscow has lost control of this very important chemical weapon stock. And she said, well, in that case, you got until the end of Tuesday, Russia, whose ambassador was summoned to see the British foreign secretary, the top diplomat here. You've got until the end of Tuesday to let the inspectors in and account for exactly where these chemical weapons are.

So, a very bold choice now laid in front of Moscow. I have to say their foreign ministry has very quickly gone forward and reiterated their previous suggestion that this is all complete nonsense, fabricated, and denied any such involvement. But it prevents a very stark moment here frankly for Russia's relationship with the West. Many have accused Britain after the last assassination of a former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko by radioactive polonium back in 2006. They didn't do enough back then.

Well, my word, how Russia's relationship with the West has changed then since the twice invasion of the Ukraine, their involvement in Syria, too. It's a very different world and potentially a very stark response we may see on Wednesday if, indeed, the U.K. calls upon its NATO allies and the U.S. to back them up with more sanctions and measures against Russia -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: We will look for that Wednesday. Nick, thank you so much.

From what seems Russia versus the western world now to this, she is now one of the most famous porn stars on earth. Stormy Daniels is now hoping to end her silence. All of this has to do with an alleged affair with the president of the United States, private citizen at the time.

As we wait for that White House briefing to begin, CNN can confirm this afternoon that Daniels is now offering to return her hush money, that $130,000 that she received from President Trump's personal attorney essentially in order to keep quiet. If this is granted, this would allow her to speak freely about what transpired and also publish pictures, videos and text messages without any fear of legal fallout.

So, with me now, Drew Griffin, our CNN senior investigative correspondent, and Areva Martin, CNN legal analyst.

And, Drew, just first to you, tell me about this deal that Stormy and her team are trying to put out there.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, the deal has been released to the press, first and foremost.

[14:05:01] It was sent supposedly to Michael Cohen, Trump's attorney and Michael Cohen's attorney, Lawrence Rosen, this morning. It says Stormy Daniels in essence will pay back the $130,000 that she was given just 11 days before the election if they release her from the nondisclosure agreement. It also says that Stormy, as you said, wants to be able to use whatever texts, pictures and videos she may have relating to this with the president in the future.

One of the key things to point out though is, number one, that they do want to use those texts if they exist. And number two, that Michael Avenatti is saying, I want to return this money by wire transfer to the president. There's no mention of returning this to Michael Cohen, the guy who said he paid. He wants wire transferred to the president.

Just this afternoon, Stormy Daniels had a funny little tweet saying she wanted to fly it in a gold airplane to return the money gangster- style or something like this. It is a proposal, it is a deal, but it seems to get less serious as we learn more about it.

BALDWIN: OK. Golden planes aside, Areva, and also before we can get into why the heck, you know, Michael Cohen or the president even agree to this, I just want to underscore what Drew just said. So, part of this agreement, according to this letter that Drew and our team obtained, not only would be saying, OK, I'll give you back $130,000 in order for me to speak, but also as Drew said, this would allow her to give up, if they exist, texts, messages, videos, photos, from who knows what to be released publicly.

Yes, Areva?



MARTIN: I'm just -- you can't make this up.


MARTIN: As light as it's become, this is a serious issue. When you think of why this deal was done with this particular porn star at the time that it was done, 11 days before the presidential election, it does suggest that there is more than just a he said/she said that we have seen with some of the other women that have alleged to have had affairs with Donald Trump. We know from the original settlement agreement there was the possibility that there is corroborating evidence, that there are text messages, that there are pictures and we should expect if those do exist and they seem to exist, that they would be very damaging.

Now, as you said, there is probably not the slightest chance that Trump and Cohen and his team would agree to this.

BALDWIN: Why would they say yes?

MARTIN: They wouldn't. They are not going to say yes.

But Stormy Daniels and her very aggressive lawyer -- they are pushing the envelope on this. They are saying she's ready to go forward. I think she has an interview planned with "60 Minutes" to talk about her relationship. And it seems like unless Trump's team runs into court, not this arbitration, that Daniels's attorney says is bogus unless they go into civil court to get some kind of restraining order, she may be talking about her alleged affair with the president any day now.

BALDWIN: No, Drew made a point out of the gate saying, listen, this whole agreement, this whole letter was released by Stormy and her lawyer to the media, right? We understand the implication there.

Let me ask the two of you to stand by. I have more on all things Stormy Daniels ahead, again as we wait for this White House press briefing to begin where they will face questions on this whole Stormy Daniels saga and much more. We'll take that live.

Also, we are watching this breaking story emerging out of Austin, Texas. Multiple package explosions leaving at least two people dead and at least two of these blasts, according to police, are connected. We have a live report out of Austin coming up.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


[14:13:12] BALDWIN: Welcome back.

Here's a breaking news out of Austin, Texas. Another package has exploded after being delivered to a second home. This is a second blast actually today and the third this month in Austin. In fact, at least two people have been killed as a result of these blasts.

The latest blast happening just a short while ago inside a home in the southeast part of Austin. And it comes just a couple of hours after a teenager was killed when a package exploded on a front porch.

Nick Valencia is working this for us. And also with us just to weigh, CNN analyst and former FBI supervisory agent Josh Campbell.

But, Nick, to you first. Tell me what you know.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that there have been three explosions in Austin in the last ten days. Two of which as you mentioned, Brooke, happened today. One earlier this morning, another just about an hour or so ago, and they have similarities. At least the first two, police are saying they believe they are connected just because they are just so similar. The victims in those cases go to their front porch, find a package that's been hand delivered according to police, and when they open it up the blast goes off.

Now, the first happened on March 2nd. A man named Anthony Steven House (ph) was killed as a result of that explosion on March 2nd. And earlier this morning, a second incident happened killing a 17-year- old, as well as putting an adult female in the hospital with nonlife threatening injuries.

And as police were giving a press conference about that, giving a public safety alert to residents of Austin, within an hour after that press conference we heard news of a third explosion. Now, Brooke, we don't know specifically if they are connecting the third explosion to the second explosion. The investigation is just getting under way with the ATF, FBI, and local police. They are not however ruling out a hate crime and here is why. They talked about that at a press conference earlier this afternoon.


CHIEF BRIAN MANLEY, AUSTIN POLICE: We do know that both of the homes that were the recipients of the packages belonged to African- Americans.

[14:15:06] So we cannot rule out that hate crime is at the core of this, but we're not saying that that's the cause as well. We're just acknowledging and we're looking at any possible motivations that would link these two cases together.


VALENCIA: It goes without saying a lot of people on edge in the city of Austin. And we should mention, South by Southwest is happening right now.

I did reach out to some people there that I know and they said there's been no official announcement given to the vendors or the people that are at that festival, but a lot of people are certainly on edge in the city of Austin, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Josh, what does it sound like to you?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it's going to be a complex investigation. I think there are a couple of components here, the first of which being the public safety component. And as we have seen with the police, I mean, in this day and age when you have a situation like this involving multiple devices, multiple detonations, their first goal is not going to be to sit on that information but to get it out. And it looks like they've done just that as far as pushing out the public safety notice, letting the public know that if you see something similar to this, be suspicious and to call law enforcement.

The second is the response. I'm proud to call Austin my hometown and there is a culture of cooperation there of law enforcement unlike many places around the country where you see the fusing of resources from federal, state, and local officials. I talked to someone this morning, law enforcement official that's familiar with the ongoing investigation. And they mentioned the cooperation started immediately back on March 2nd with the first device. Then we have seen the cooperation continues, you know, thereafter.

What's going to happen, the final aspect is the investigation itself. Obviously when you look at the pattern here, it looks like there are similarities. They won't know for sure about the devices until they're able to do that analysis. My understanding is detonation from the second device, that analysis is ongoing now. And they're going to look for patterns for construction, you know, materials that were used, perhaps DNA. It sounds like with this third explosion now, that will now become a critical component in this investigation.

BALDWIN: Josh, thank you. Nick, if you get anything more on this third explosion, you let us know, we pass it along.

VALENCIA: You got it, we're digging. You bet.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Meantime, we are watching and waiting for a White House press briefing to begin. We'll take it live.

This is happening as we're also following news out of Pennsylvania on a special election. We have a brand new poll just in to us. And does it spell trouble for President Trump and Republicans? We'll show you, next.


[14:21:46] BALDWIN: All right. We've got our eye on the White House, that press briefing is set to begin momentarily.

And aside from this whole Stormy Daniels saga, the other huge issue is guns, specifically where exactly the president stands following last month's school shooting in Parkland, Florida. President Trump unveiled proposals to make schools safer, but with a glaring omission. The plan makes no mention of raising the minimum age from buying a gun from 18 to 21.

Less than two weeks ago on national television, he ripped into lawmakers for even being too afraid to bring it up.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They do have great power, I agree. They have great power over you people. They have less power over me. I don't need it.

Some of you people are petrified of the NRA. You can't be petrified. They want to do what's right. They've got to do what's right. I really believe that.

I'm the one bringing it up. But a lot of people don't want to bring it up because they're afraid to bring it up. But you can't buy a handgun at 18, 19, 20. You have to wait until 21. But you can buy the gun, the weapon used in this horrible shooting at 18. You are going to decide. The people in this room, pretty much, you're

going to decide.


BALDWIN: One of the questions now, did the president himself cave to political pressure from the NRA?

Let's start there. With me, Maeve Reston, CNN national political reporter, Chris Cillizza, CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large, and Ana Navarro, CNN political commentator.

So, welcome to all of you. And, Chris Cillizza, you just hit publish on a column where you are arguing instead of what you heard from the president, you people are petrified with the NRA, you're essentially saying, no, Mr. President, you're the one who is afraid of the NRA.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Well, yes. Remember, Brooke, in the immediate aftermath of the Parkland shooting and then again in that open meeting, I guess you could call it, 11 days ago. Donald Trump went out and said clearly he thought that made sense, that it was something that should be done. That it could go hand in hand with hardening schools, with arming skilled teachers, et cetera, et cetera.

So, yes. I'm not sure what else you could ascribe it to. Basically enforcing the laws on the books and arming some teachers which are the two key pillars of the proposal are things that the NRA is going to be totally fine with. There is not anything that he's proposed that the NRA is going to blanch at, that the NRA has opposed and remember --

BALDWIN: What about bump stocks?

CILLIZZA: Bump stocks was something the NRA actually said, we believe should be done through the regulatory process. So, it's going through the executive regulatory process. They just didn't want a legislative fix, Brooke, because they were worried if you open it up in Congress, anything could get added to it.

Let me add one more thing. The NRA is suing Florida for violating the Second and 14th Amendments because Florida's legislation that passed in the wake of these shootings does include raising the age from 18 to 21. So, there is a lot going on around it.

BALDWIN: Which is a huge deal, we talked about it last week, given the fact that it's -- you know, a Republican-dominated state house with a Republican governor.

Let me come back to this, but, Ana Navarro, to you on this huge headline this afternoon on Stormy Daniels. So, the deal is she vis-a- vis her attorney is saying, I want to give that $130,000 in hush money back, the money she originally accepted to keep quiet.

[14:25:05] And in the deal, not only does she essentially want to spill the beans, but she wants to share texts, and photos, and videos that she may have. Care to comment? ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, what are my

thoughts on this? Look, frankly there's a lot of people cashing in on the Trump White House. A lot of them are last name Trump or last name Kushner.

And so, Stormy Daniels wants in on this. You know, this is about her 15 minutes of fame. This is her bringing this to light. And I think, you know, if you're not going to be against Jared Kushner asking Qatar for money, if you're not going to be against Ivanka Trump, you know, trying to sell her jewelry during interviews, then you should not be offended and against Stormy Daniels trying to make money selling her story and keeping herself relevant.


NAVARRO: Also, I don't understand why Donald Trump is spending so much capital and so much time and energy fighting Stormy Daniels telling her story. Listen, his base --

BALDWIN: Have you heard from Donald Trump on this? We have heard nothing.


BALDWIN: Have we heard anything publicly from him on this?

NAVARRO: Well, do we have to hear anything publically from him on this? When his lawyers are doing everything that they are doing.


NAVARRO: Who do you think is paying those lawyers?

BALDWIN: I got you. True, true, true. But, you know, apparently she has -- she actually talked to CNN. We'll play a bit of that from over the weekend. But there were parameters and she couldn't talk about what we are discussing.

But she apparently has agreed to give or has given the interview to "60 Minutes."

So, Maeve, this is for you. The Trump attorneys are trying to keep it from airing, keeping in mind that brief briefing from last week where Sarah Sanders apparently really angered Trump by acknowledging it, right, for the first time in the briefing. If nothing improper happened then what is it that the Trump legal camp is trying to shut down?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: I mean, clearly, that argument doesn't make sense from them or otherwise, they would not be putting everything that they have into this fight. I mean, the Trump White House on top of everything else does not need this story to continue dominating the headlines which it would if Stormy Daniels were allowed to come forward and tell her story, in the year of Me Too when everyone -- all the women voters out there are reminded once again of Donald Trump's misogynistic behavior in the past, you know, his infidelity. We are already seeing his numbers slide, you know, in a recent Pew survey among white evangelical women and also just among women generally.

So, this is not a good political issue for them to have to be dealing with going into a midterm year. And a lot of these women out there, you know, I talked to some of them in the midterm districts over the last week, would really like to see someone else run as a Republican in 2020 who is not Donald Trump. So, a lot of it has to do with his political capital, his ability to win re-election. And, of course, they're going to put everything they can into keeping this from coming out.

BALDWIN: Let me ask the three of you to stand by. I've got to take a break. We are waiting for this briefing. I have much more for all of you, including some of what we heard from Hillary Clinton as she was speaking out about the election and had some comments about Russia specifically on Donald Trump. Stay tuned for that.

We'll be right back.