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Trump Accuses FBI, DOJ, State Department of Lies, Leaks, Corruption; McCabe Document Conversations with Trump in Memos; Outraged Brennan Sends Message to Trump; Trump Attorney Calls for End of Mueller Probe; Comey Responds to Trump Ahead of Book Release; Russia Expels 23 Diplomats, Shuts British Council in Response to "Provocative Moves"; U.S. Accuses Russia of Cyberattacks on Power Grid & Nuclear Plants; Trump Lawyer Says Porn Star Violated Agreement, Owes $20 Million; Trump's White House Staff Realty TV Show; Trump Avoids Personally Saying "You're Fired"; Engineer Warned of Cracks in Pedestrian Bridge Days Before Collapse. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired March 17, 2018 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:00:11] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. Thank you for being with us.
Some breaking news, a major firing, more memos, more evidence in the hands of Special Counsel Robert Mueller that may prove damning to President Trump.
Let's begin with what the president is saying at this hour. Unleashing a Twitter attack on the nation's top law enforcement officials as his own personal attorney calls for an end to the Russian investigation.
Trump tweeted this, "As the House Intelligence Committee has concluded that there is no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, as many are now finding out. However, there was tremendous leaking, lying and corruption at the highest levels of the FBI, Justice and State."
All of this is coming just hours after the firing of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. McCabe is a frequent Trump target. He was just 26 hours away from retiring with full benefits when he found out that he had been axed. The decision ultimately made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The president is hailing McCabe's dismissal, saying, "Andrew McCabe fired. A great day for the hardworking men and women of the FBI. A great day for democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choir boy. He knew of all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI."
Now McCabe claims he was fired because of what he knows about his former boss, James Comey's firing. And CNN has now learned that, like Comey, McCabe has memos documenting conversations he had with the president, memos now in the hands of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
McCabe's firing and Trump's tweet all leading to what can be described as a truly stunning response from the former CIA Director John Brennan. He tweeted of the president, quote, "When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America. America will triumph over you."
CABRERA: We have team coverage. A whole bunch of reporters and analysts standing by.
I want to begin with CNN's justice reporter, Laura Jarrett, on this latest development regarding McCabe's memos.
Laura, what are you learning?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Ana, it appears McCabe took a playbook out of James Comey's work. When he talked to the president, he wrote it down. We've also learned those extemporaneous notes are now in the hands of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. A person familiar with the matter tells us that McCabe documented his own personal interactions with Trump, as well as what Comey related to McCabe about his past conversations with the president. A potentially significant way to corroborate Comey's account as Mueller investigates potential obstruction of justice.
And in McCabe's eyes, he sees the direct line of firing James Comey to his own termination yesterday. He says in a statement, "Here is the reality. I'm being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey. And the release of this report" -- meaning the inspector general's report -- "was accelerated only after my testimony to the House Intelligence Committee revealed that I would corroborate former Director Comey's accounts of his discussions with the president."
Now it is important to remember that we still have not seen that inspector general's report, which is likely going to shed light on what exactly McCabe is being accused of here. Attorney General Sessions said it stems from misleading investigators, but McCabe believes it was steeped in politics -- Ana?
CABRERA: And the evidence for his firing has not been made public and so we are waiting for the facts to come out.
Thank you, Laura Jarrett.
And Boris Sanchez joins us at the White House.
Boris, amid all of this, the president's attorney, John Dowd, is calling for an end to the Russia investigation, but he had to backtrack to make sure he's clear that he's speaking for himself and not the president.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN BORRESPONDENT: That's right, Ana. He had to clarify that because when he first made this statement to "The Daily Beast," he said that he was speaking as the president's attorney, on behalf of Donald Trump. In his statement to CNN, he sought to erase that, saying that he was speaking on his own accord and not to President Trump.
This is part of the statement he gave to CNN's Gloria Borger. He writes, quote, "Speaking for myself and not the president, I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe's boss, James Comey, based upon a fraudulent and corrupt dossier. Just end it on the merits in light of recent revelations."
[15:05:00] If you read between the lines, he's saying that he is praying that Rosenstein follows in the footsteps of Jeff Sessions. Sessions fired McCabe. A lot of people are reading between the lines suggesting that he is praying that Robert Mueller is fired.
We spoke to a source close to the White House who is telling us that the president did not authorize these comments from James Dowd. And you are getting the impression that many of the president's inner circle are at least annoyed by the Dowd comments because they contradict so much of what the White House has previously said about the special counsel, that they would fully comply with the investigation. The president has confirmed he would not fire Robert Mueller, going as far as to say he was looking forward to sitting down one on one with him. Something that would have to be clarified with the White House legal team. Nothing yet on the record yet from White House regarding this statement from John Dowd-- Ana?
CABRERA: Boris Sanchez, keep up posted. Thank you.
And now joining is "Washington Post" columnist and CNN political commentator, Catherine Rampell, CNN law enforcement analyst, James Gagliano, CNN commentator and Donald Trump biographer, Michael D'Antonio, and former U.S. attorney, Michael Moore.
So much to discuss. Let's start with the memos from McCabe, James, in the hands of Robert Mueller. How significant is that?
JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCMENT ANALYST: FBI agents are conditioned and learned early that anything that takes place, whether it is your something that you observe or something that goes by way of the interview, you are putting it down contemporaneously, meaning you have to put it down while it happens or when you see it or immediately following. Then you have five days, if necessary, to put it into an FT302, a testimonial document. Clearly, McCabe and Comey were close. One was the FBI director and the other was number two. This was James Comey's way of doing things. He kept copious notes of everything, including what was leaked to "The New York Times" in the infamous memo. I am not shocked that Andy McCabe would have done the same thing, Ana.
CABRERA: Michael Moore, what does the Special Counsel Robert Mueller do with the memos and the news that McCabe has been fired? MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, the memos by themselves are useful because the corroborate testimony. By themselves, they are just used to document what happened. But makes them of particular use to Bob Mueller is they back up what James Comey said, and they'll back up what McCabe is saying, but also what Jim Comey said to McCabe, which is outside of the interview process of the special counsel. They corroborate things as they happen. That is significant there.
As far as McCabe being fired, you don't need a chemistry degree to analyze what is going on. This is political. They would not let a man of 21 years of service get to within 26 hours of his retirement and get to a place where they would suddenly terminate him because they were interested in things leaking. We know at this point that telling the truth is not and a requirement of working in the administration. When they say they fired him because OPR said that he did not tell the truth or the I.G, that is a stretch. You have to look at things with common sense.
The question is, will Bob Mueller consider this part of the pattern of the ongoing process of obstruction that this president has done to thwart the investigation. I think that you can see it within John Dowd, his tweet out and comment, hoping that Rod Rosenstein will follow this great example. I mean, that is a clear message from the president to Rod Rosenstein, saying, you better watch out --
MOORE: Absolutely. He's telling him, you better watch out or you your neck is on the chopping block, too.
CABRERA: And you don't buy that Dowd made the comment and it doesn't involve of the president?
MOORE: No. With all due respect to my colleague at the bar, who cares what John Dowd thinks as an individual? The only reason that we are talking about him or know his name, in this case, at least, is because he is representing President Trump. He said that and then had to backtrack off of it. Probably because somebody said, watch out, you are putting him back in jeopardy by making it look like he is exerting political pressure on the Department of Justice
CABRERA: Michael D'Antonio, you know inside of the president's mind. What does he do with all of this. Do you think he's more likely to fire Mueller?
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He is more likely to discredit him, and that is what has done on here with Mr. McCabe. This whole thing is redolent of the hypocrisy and hype and distortion that the president practices every day. He has lied a record now 2,200 times now in the presidency, as documented by the press. And the hypocrisy has now infected others around him. And this often happens, is that he is so challenging to the people around him that they start to behave the way that he does and to lower their standards. Just for example, with Jeff Sessions, this is a person who said "I don't recall" 29 times in one of the hearings that he appeared before the United States Senate. In other performances, he said that he did not recall or acknowledge that he had visited with the Russian ambassador twice. So these are -- this is a man who is now saying that McCabe deserves to be fired on the brink of his own retirement and collecting his pension because he was not candid. Well, this is a preposterous statement coming from the likes of Sessions.
[15:10:29] But you have someone like the White House press spokesman, Sarah Sanders, saying that McCabe was a bad actor. And she said, of Comey, that the FBI was thrilled, and the rank-and-file in the FBI was very happy that he was let go. Well, in fact, Sarah Sanders is a person who has never worked in law enforcement prior to coming to the White House, and only worked in PACs and campaigns. Her claim was refuted by the documents released by the White House in answer to FOIA requests, over 100 pages, and not one of them said they were glad that he is gone. Most of them said that they were devastated by Comey's firing.
So then we have --
CABRERA: There has been a pattern of dishonesty, as documented over the course of this presidency, so far.
But when it comes to McCabe as an FBI official, I know that, James, you can talk about how important that honesty is in terms of the integrity of the institution.
That being said, we know that this president has worked very hard to undermine the Justice Department through his tweets and the comments and to call into question the integrity of the FBI. He says that today is a great day for the men and women of the FBI. Do you agree?
GAGLIANO: I don't. Recent surveys have shown that one of every two American citizens believe or has faith in favorability and high favorability ratings for the FBI, and that is troubling. And we have to understand something here. Lack of candor is a euphemism that we use in the bureau, which means misrepresentation of the facts or lying. I have known Andy for a long time, for 20 years. He has worked with me for a brief time as a young squad operator in the early 2000s.
Here where it's different. Take the president's tweets out of it. Let's separate it from that. The I.G. is an apolitical actor. The I.G. was appointed in 2012 by President Barack Obama. And Michael Horowitz has a robust reputation within the Department of Justice and the FBI. I trust him and most of the colleagues do. So we can have two mutually exclusive positions here. We can say, yes, there's a lot of partisan noise and people in echo chambers shouting at each other. But if Andy McCabe misrepresented facts in an interview with the I.G., that investigation is going run, take its course. Nothing, not the White House, not the president, not public perception or Twitter is going to impact that. If he retired yesterday or 10 years from now, once you are under investigation, that investigation has to run its course. They can still retroactively come back. CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That is what we don't
know, what's in the I.G. report that has not been released. But what seems to be politically motivated, whatever we will learn from the I.G. report is the timing. The timing itself is what is suspicious here, particularly the fact that as McCabe and his attorney have brought, and have drawn attention to, that McCabe had recently testified before the House Intelligence Committee and made clear that he would corroborate James Comey's version of events. We also know that President Trump has drawn attention to McCabe's supposed political affiliations, although McCabe himself voted in the Republican --
RAMPELL: Well, he voted in the Republican primary in the 2016 presidential election. Not to mention that all of the other supposed lefties that have infiltrated the FBI and the DOJ are people like Mueller and Comey and Rosenstein, who are registered Republicans. So it is silly to casting aspersions on them because of their politics. Not that the politics should matter, of course. But regardless of where the facts may lie on McCabe's situation here -- and again, we should make sure that we don't jump to conclusions one way or another -- the timing of this and the context into which Trump is trying to put his firing, which is in discrediting or attempting to discredit our premier law enforcement agency --
RAMPELL: -- that is suspicious here.
CABRERA: Let me read to you what James Comey is saying about all of this, since his name has been brought up, in the aftermath of McCabe's firing. He writes this: "Mr. President, the American people will hear my story very soon, and they can judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not."
Catherine, of course, his book releases in about a month. So that a big tease, no?
RAMPELL: Yes, it is a big tease. And the book has been kept very much under wraps. I have colleagues, who are book critics, who are a little bit disappointed that they cannot see a copy of it yet. So, yes, this is good timing for him. And, yes, whether or not it sells a lot of books for him, we need to know what the truth is here.
[15:15:11] CABRERA: What is the truth and what are the facts.
Which, Michael Moore, McCabe's attorney has implied that he has been wrong, McCabe, in his firing back after being fired, laid out a bit of his case, his side of the story. What is his legal recourse?
MOORE: Well, I have dealt with some personnel decisions within the department, as U.S. attorney, and watched some of the same things going on with the FBI decisions, and there is always an appeal process in a federal employment question. I imagine that they are looking at that to make a decision about moving forward. I just -- and I keep going back to the idea that the FBI has a
tradition and this history, and they are proud of the fact that their agents have a reputation for the truth, and they count on that going to trial testimony, and count on that basically as their way of doing business. That is why we had such a pushback when there was a move by the department to have agents using tape recorders to record suspect interviews. Because, for years, we have counted on the agents to tell us what went on.
But in the case, you're talking about a man who, essentially, now they are saying that he may have said something out of line. I agree that we need to know what the I.G. report says and withhold our total judgment. But think about the kind of things that have gone on in the administration. You had the president's son-in-law receiving the presidential daily briefing when he had failed to disclose business relations time and time again on his form, on his background form. That's a lack of candor. But that did not seem to stop anybody from thinking that he should have the highest security and access to the president than anybody in the country. So when you look at this and the fact that Andy McCabe announced his retirement some time ago, the fact that he has testified, the fact he is likely to be a significant witness in the case because of the contemporaneous memos that he made with his discussions with Comey, I think if you start looking at it through a lens of apolitical. I agree that when somebody has been less than candid in the bureau or the department, there are things to be done and, certainly, there may be some punishment. But to come out 26 hours before he retires, you have to kind of look at it and shrug your shoulders and question. So I think that, at the end of the day, he is going to appeal. And I imagine that we will be hearing more from Andrew McCabe.
CABRERA: Real quickly, Michael D'Antonio, I want to ask about the dynamic between the president and the Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The president has been calling for McCabe's firing for some time. We know the history of how he feels about Sessions, recusing himself from Russian investigation, and he's never let that one go. So now does it help his standing at all with the president?
D'ANTONIO: Well, it may temporarily. There is almost a quality of "trying to please the gods" here, where you maybe throw up a sacrifice. And in case, I agree that there may have been a lack of candor. That is an issue. But a decision was made by Jeff Sessions at this moment. It is pleasing to the president that he did that. So maybe he bought himself a week or two. We have no idea what is going on behind the scenes. But the president loves to keep people on edge, loves to make them feel insecure. We know that the White House is kind of a place of insecurity for everyone, and it is going to remain that way.
CABRERA: Thank you all for the great conversation, Catherine Rampell, James Gagliano, Michael D'Antonio, Michael Moore. I really appreciate it.
CABRERA: Coming up, the diplomatic tit-for-tat. The new tensions between Russia and the U.K. after a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy. We'll go live to Moscow.
Plus, are Russian hackers on the verge of hitting the off switch on American. New details about cyberattacks directed at the U.S. power grid and nuclear plants.
[15:22:53] CABRERA: The relationship between Russia and Britain is not getting any better this week. In a tit-for-tat, Russian officials now kicking out 23 English diplomats, giving them a week to leave the country. This is a direct response to Britain's expulsion of 23 Russians, blaming Moscow for attacking a former Russian spy and his daughter with a nerve agent in England.
Let's go to CNN senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, in Moscow.
Matthew, we talk about the relations between the U.S. and Russia but now we're looking at things happening between Britain and Russia. How were they before this spy attack incident? And what is the impact of all of this?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the relationship has been very up and down. They really soured back in 2006 when another Russian national, Alexander Litvinenko, was poisoned with the radioactive Polonium on the streets of London -- and you may remember that -- and died on the hospital bed in an agonizing death. After that, there was a diplomatic spat between Britain and Moscow. A number of diplomats expelled from both sides. But this has a much deeper feeling about it and it seems much more serious.
Theresa May, the British prime minister, expelled 23 Russian diplomats from London earlier in the week. And today, the day before the Russian election, in fact, Russia reciprocated. It said that it was expelling 23 British diplomats here in Moscow. But it went further than that. It was not just satisfied with having a tit-for-tat response. It also said that it is closing down the British consulate in St. Petersburg and shutting down the activities of the British Council, which is a cultural and educational organization funded by the British government. And so, you know, tit-for-tat, but going a little bit further than that, a slightly asymmetrical response by the Russians.
CABRERA: And I will have to ask you about this real quick, Matthew, because this is buried in all of the news this week. But the Trump administration also blamed Russia for trying to hack into the U.S. power grid and other cyberattacks. What can you tell us about that?
[15:25:05] CHANCE: Well, I mean, to be frank, Ana, that's been lost over here as well. I mean, you're getting a lot of -- obviously, a lot of the allegations and accusations coming from Washington about what Russia has done in terms of hacking and, you know, meddling in other ways. But because of the magnitude of this diplomatic spat between London and Moscow, you know, there's not a lot of attention being paid to the latest allegations coming out of Washington right now. Having said that, of course, the Russians regard the American
allegations much more seriously and they are much more concerned about the possibility of more-deeper U.S. sanctions on Russia. So they'll be looking at that very carefully, I expect.
CABRERA: Matthew Chance, in Moscow for us. Thank you very much.
Coming up, for first time, the president, through his attorney, weighs in directly on the Stormy Daniels case. Why he says she's on the hook for $20 million.
[15:30:26] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: A new twist in Stormy Daniels' case. The president's legal team is now officially involved. In court documents, attorneys representing Michael Cohen, and the president himself, say the porn star could owe as much as $20 million for breaching a nondisclosure agreement that kept her from talking about an alleged affair with Donald Trump. And they've now filed papers to get to get this case out of a California state court and instead before a federal judge.
CNN's Sara Sidner has more.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, THE LEAD & CNN HOST, STATE OF THE NATION: I say it's an allegation. You say it's a fact.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The news allegations from Stormy Daniels' attorney go beyond the suggestion of a mutual financial agreement between the porn star and the president's attorney to pay for her silence, veering into allegations of physical threats and coercion to shut her up during a series of interviews.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORM DANIELS: The fact is that my client was physically threatened to stay silent about what she knew about Donald Trump.
TAPPER: If she felt physically threatened, did she go to the police?
AVENATTI: I didn't say that she felt physically threatened. What I said was she was physically threatened.
AVENATTI: And she was.
TAPPER: Did she go to the police?
AVENATTI: I won't comment on whether she went to the police or not.
SIDNER: The White House is not confirming or denying the allegations of physical threats.
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Obviously, we take the safety and security of any person seriously.
SIDNER: Saying that it has no knowledge of Daniels' situation.
But Avenatti is suggesting the White House should know, to CNN's Jake Tapper.
TAPPER: Is there anything in the litany of the accusations -- you would call facts -- that surround this case that happened while Donald Trump was president?
SIDNER: We asked, but Avenatti would not provide any evidence to back up the assertions of physical threats.
He has become ambiguous on cable news over the last two weeks, playing cat and mouse with reporters, dripping out new details of Daniels' story of the alleged sexual affair with Donald Trump in 2006, and the cover-up that he says followed in 2016, days before the presidential election.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. Thank you so much.
SIDNER: What he has not done is tell her entire story. Pushing ahead to an interview with "60 Minutes" that will reportedly air March 25th.
AVENATTI: I think that when people tune into the interview, they will learn the details, the circumstances under which she signed the original agreement, as well as what happened thereafter relating to the threats and the coercive tactics used to the shut up my client.
SIDNER (on camera): We did reach out to Michael Cohen, the personal attorney for Donald Trump, and he did not respond.
As for Mr. Avenatti, he says that six more women have come forward with similar stories to that of his client, referring to Stormy Daniels. He says that two of the women have nondisclosure agreements. He said, though, all of the women need to be vetted and he did not give any further details about them.
Sara Sidner, CNN, Los Angeles.
CABRERA: Thank you, Sara.
Whether you call it executive time or just spending hours in front of the television, by most accounts, the president loves to watch and tweet about TV and the cable news contributors who sometimes make it all of the way to the White House. A closer look, next.
[15:38:14] CABRERA: This afternoon, the question remains, who is in and who is out at the White House? One source is telling us at CNN everyone loves a season finale, describing the speculation that multiple cabinet officials and senior staffers are going to lose their job, and reports are the president is enjoying the show. The firings do feel like a reality TV show and so do the hirings, for that matter.
CNN's Randi Kaye explains.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hours after the hiring became public, Larry Kudlow shared what the president told him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KUDLOW, INCOMING ECONOMIC ADVISOR: He said, "You're on the air." And said, "I am looking at a picture of you." And he said, "Very handsome." So Trumpian."
KAYE: In response to Kudlow's hiring, radio host, David Rakoff tweeting, "Only a president who views everything through the lens of TV could think that Larry Kudlow was suitable to be national economic adviser, because he is not an economist, in any sense of the word. He just plays one on television."
But Kudlow is not the only TV personality to see their profile rise in recent days. Former FOX anchor, Heather Nauert, left broadcasting not even a year ago to work as spokesperson for the State Department.
HEATHER NAUERT, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Good afternoon, everybody.
KAYE: With Rex Tillerson's departure, Nauert was bumped up to the fourth in line at the State Department, despite having no experience in diplomatic affairs.
(on camera): And another FOX personality could be joining the administration. Pete Hegseth is a FOX morning show host, but he is to be considered to run the sprawling Department of Veteran Affairs, that employees just under 400,000 people. Hegseth has no experience in either health care or management, but is an Iraq war veteran.
(voice-over): President Trump doesn't just hire media types. He consults them, too. He dined recently with FOX news personality, Jesse Watters, and Geraldo Rivera, reportedly gossiping about politics and TV. Afterwards, Watters tweeting a picture of the menu, signed by the president: "To Jesse, you are great."
[15:40:10] The president once called FOX News host, Kimberly Guilfoyle, to discuss pulling out of the Paris Climate agreement.
KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE, FOX NEWS HOST, FOX & FRIENDS: I spoke to him about it and this is something very much so on his mind.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX HOST, HANNITY: Take a good look long look in the mirror.
KAYE: And it's widely known the president leans on host, Sean Hannity, for advice. He not only consulted Hannity on the Iran nuclear deal, but Hannity had also reportedly advised the president to release a controversial GOP memo that alleged corruption and anti- Trump bias by FBI officials investigating the Trump campaign. Hannity painted it to be a massive political scandal.
HANNITY: This makes Watergate like stealing a Snickers bar --
HANNITY: -- from the trump store.
KAYE: Presidential advisers in the age of Trump.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
CABRERA: Joining us now, CNN senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABIE SOURCES," Brian Stelter.
As we look at this graphic showing the pictures of the people he has fired, in color, and the others are people he has reportedly been interested in hiring. I should say, the ones who he has hired, not fired. It's hard to keep it all straight here, Brian. But should it come as a surprise that this president would be interested in hiring these people knowing how much he watches cable TV?
BRIAN STETLER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, RELIABLE SOURCES: Well, it is certainly what he knows. He views some of the people's television appearances as audition tapes. Pete Hegseth, for example, is in contention for the V.A. secretary job, and he is a war veteran, now a "FOX & Friends" host on the weekend. And that is the credential that President Trump values, somebody who is on television, knows how to perform, who looks the part. We have heard that repeatedly in this presidency. The president wants somebody who looks the part. That's what we've him do, time and time again.
Larry Kudlow, we know he is joining the administration for sure. But there's been other names talked about as well, potential television commentators or hosts making the move over into the administration.
In some ways, Heather Nauert is the first. She was a FOX host who joined the State Department last year. She got promoted in wake of the Rex Tillerson firing.
CABRERA: And some of these people, like Larry Kudlow, have had predictions and been wrong in the past, but that credibility does not seem to necessarily be impacted, based on the president's position --
STELTER: Yes. The big question
CABRERA: -- that he is still hiring him.
STELTER: And the big question I have is whether the set of skills that you have, that I have, that Larry Kudlow has on television, whether they apply, whether they connect well to the government job, to the government post. This is -- in many ways, a lot of what Trump has been doing is an experiment. Bringing in somebody from the outside and the television world, it's an experiment, in the same way that hiring a businesswoman or businessman is an experiment. We have seen it throughout the cabinet. And some of the challenges that Trump faces with some these cabinet officials are precisely because they don't have traditional experience.
CABRERA: A big turnover since this administration began.
CABRERA: And we know that the president is well known on TV for saying these words:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You're fired.
I have fired many people, especially on "The Apprentice."
Like "The Apprentice," John, you are fired.
President Obama, you're fired.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: "You are fired." And yet, he has avoided having to personally say those words to the people, like Sally Yates, fired by letter, and James Comey was on the other side of the country giving a speech when he saw it pop up on CNN. Reince Priebus was on the tarmac in a different car. Rex Tillerson this week learned from Twitter. Andrew McCabe, the last, was sent an e-mail to an account he no longer uses, apparently. What do you make of all that?
STELTER: "The Apprentice" was a mirage. A reality show is really scripted. That is what I am struck by, when we think of the chaos in the White House, the comparisons to the reality TV show. It is not in a reality TV show at all, because the best reality TV shows are carefully produced and scripted. Now President Trump would practice some of his lines on "The Apprentice." He would be edited carefully to bring out the best in him as a character on the show. This is very different. There is no script here that we are seeing him work on
STELTER: He is unscripted now.
CABRERA: -- he likes being unscripted and being able to go on a whim and go with the gut.
STELTER: Exactly. So the guy that said, "You're fired," doesn't actually like to do it.
CABRERA: Let me ask about McCabe's firing. Conservative media, we all know, really helped push this idea that he was part of the deep state.
STELTER: That's right.
CABRERA: Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDGE JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST, JUSTICE WITH JUDGE JEANINE: This guy, McCabe, needs to be taken out in cuffs. They should not be paid by the American people.
HANNITY: McCabe is corrupt and he's as crooked as they come. He is one of those deep-state actors that we have been telling you about.
GERALDO RIVERA, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT-AT-LARGE: There is a whole back story. McCabe is central to it. How many others similarly situated in the Department of Justice or even in the sainted bureau itself, the FBI itself, were part and parcel of a political operation to sink Donald Trump?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[15:45:04] CABRERA: So, Brian, looking at what happened to McCabe through that lens, what do you see?
STELTER: I see an alternative reality, two Americas hearing two different things of what is going on with the FBI. Because we have not seen the underlying I.G. report, we don't have all of the facts about McCabe. But all of those comments and the commentary, it is like they were planting seeds, planting seeds, in this case, of doubt, trying to discredit the FBI and the Mueller probe.
CABRERA: Brian Stelter, as always, thank you.
STELTER: Thank you.
CABRERA: Don't forget to catch Brian tomorrow morning on "RELIABLE SOURCES," at 11:00 eastern right here on CNN.
We'll be right back.
[15:49:48] CABRERA: Someone knew that that pedestrian bridge in Miami had a potential problem but did not think it was dangerous. An engineer for the company that designed the bridge called the Florida Department of Transportation Tuesday saying this new bridge had cracks in it. He left a voice mail that nobody apparently heard until after this bridge collapsed.
Here's part of the voice mail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DENNEY PATE, LEAD ENGINEER, FIGG (voice-over): I was calling to share with you some information about the FIU pedestrian bridge and some cracking that's been observed on the north end of the span, the pylon end of that span we moved this weekend. So we've taken a look at it and, obviously, some repairs or whatever will have to be done. But from a safety perspective, we don't see that there's any issue there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: CNN's Kaylee Hartung is there in Miami near the place where the concrete bridge suddenly collapsed and crushed cars below.
Kaylee, do we know if the construction company was aware of them?
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, we have learned that they were aware. They had been made aware. And even though that voice mail was not heard by that Florida Department of Transportation employee until the day after the collapse, we now know that FIU officials, as well as representatives from the construction company and the engineering firm and the Florida Department of Transportation, they actually met on Thursday morning about five hours before this bridge collapsed to discuss those cracks. And that lead engineer, who you heard leaving that voice mail, presented facts that led them all to agree that there were no safety concerns, and that crack did not compromise the structural integrity of the bridge. And yet, with this information, we are learning the NTSB is saying that it is too early to draw conclusions as to what led to this bridge's collapse -- Ana?
CABRERA: It is such a sad story. We know that at least six people have died and there is still an effort to lift that bridge to get to the trapped cars still underneath.
Kaylee Hartung, thank you for the update.
Coming up here in the CNN NEWSROOM, first, he was fired, and now he is firing back. Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe loses his job less than 48 hours before his retirement. What he is now saying about the president. Stay right there.
[15:56:50] CABRERA: Imagine hurtling down an icy hill that twists and turns while your speed is reaching 60 miles per hour. That is the world of Downhill Ice Cross, the fastest sport on two skates. It's become so popular, you might see it at a future Olympics.
Here is Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Downhill Ice Cross, the fastest sport on skates.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a blur at times to be honest, because you are going super-fast. Sometimes you don't know what you did when you get the bottom of the track.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going down a hill straight bombing it. In order to be good, you have to flirt with the line of whether you are going to bomb or make it to the finish line.
GUPTA: Yet, it was all created on a whim.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The story goes that a couple of guys had some bar in the Alps somewhere and they came out and the streets were frozen with ice. They were sliding down, bumping each other, and one said, what if we froze these streets and put hockey players on it.
GUPTA: An extreme sport was born. And nearly two decades later, it has grown into a world-class series of races called Red Bull Crashed Ice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First, it was just a fun thing. Now it is a sport that guys are training year-round on it and a 10-stop world tour.
GUPTA: The season begins in St. Paul, Minnesota. The rules are simple. Four skaters fly down a manmade track hitting speeds up to 50 miles per hour.
GUPTA: First to the bottom wins.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first jump, you have to clear about 35 feet to hit the landing.
We have a crazy S-turn coming around, which will be chaos, and the guys are going to be crashing there, running into each other, and lots of lane changes and passing. It's going to be tons of action. It is getting to be fun.
GUPTA: Two-time champion, Cameron Naas (ph), a Minnesota native, fell short of winning in his own backyard.
GUPTA: Amanda Trunzo finished on top, ending the season as the first American women's world champion.
ANNOUNCER: It is going to Amanda Trunzo.
ANNOUNCER: Trunzo does it.
ANNOUNCER: She does it. And look at who is happy.
ANNOUNCER: She is fired up!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are inches from thousands of people on the track beside you. It adds a level of experience that you can't match. We are developing association federations in order to get us into the
Olympics. In my opinion, it will probably be the most-watched thing at year-one we could see at that stage.
CABRERA: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. Thanks for being with us.
We begin with breaking news. This hour, President Trump is using the dramatic firing of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to attack the FBI, the State Department and the DOJ as corrupt, while his personal lawyer uses the firing to call for an end to the Russian investigation.
Here's what the president is tweeting: "As the House Intelligence Committee has concluded, there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. As many are now finding out, however, there was tremendous leaking, lying and corruption at the highest levels of the FBI, Justice and State. #draintheswamp."
McCabe, who has been a target of the president for months, was unceremoniously fired late last night just 26 hours before he was set to retire with full benefits. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says that he let McCabe go, firing him based on the internal reviews that found alleged misconduct, although he hasn't made those reviews public. McCabe, on the other hand, claims he was fired for one reason and one reason only, because of what he knows about his former boss, James --