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FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe Was Fired; McCabe Memorialized Conversations He Had With The President; Interview with Rep. Ro Khanna; President's Name Officially Linked Now To A Lawsuit To Stop A Porn Star From Speaking Publicly About An Alleged Affair; Facebook Is Suspending Cambridge Analytica With Ties To The Trump Campaign; United Airlines Is In Damage Control Mode After A Third Dog Mishap In One Week. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired March 17, 2018 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Attorney general Jeff Sessions says that he let McCabe go and firing him based on the internal reviews that found alleged misconduct, although he has not made the reviews public. McCabe, on the other hand, claims that he was fired for one reason and one reason only, and that is because of what he knows about the former boss James Comey's firing and he apparently has memos to help make the case.

Yes, CNN has learned that like Comey, McCabe memorialized conversations he had with the President. And his notes are now in the hands of special counsel Robert Mueller.

We have a team of reporters and analysts standing by ready to cover it from every angle. And I want to go first to CNN justice reporter Laura Jarrett.

Laura, you helped to break this news about McCabe's memos. Do you know what is in them and what Mueller has, why he has them?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Ana, we know that these memos covered two key topics, McCabe's own conversations with the President as well as what McCabe was told about the former FBI director James Comey's separate conversations with Trump. We all recall Comey explained that he documented those interactions and told others that he trusteed like McCabe about those conversations because he feared Trump was going to lie about their conversation.

So McCabe's ability to corroborate Comey's story here could be significant as Robert Mueller continues to investigate potential obstruction of justice. And in McCabe's eyes, he sees a direct line from the firing of James Comey to his own termination late last night saying in a statement in part,

Here's the reality, I am being singled out, and I'm being 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. The release of this report was only accelerated after my testimony to the House intelligence committee revealed that I would be able to corroborate former director come Comey's accounts of his discussions with the President. And of course, the report that he is saying that is accelerated there

was the inspector general's report which we still have not seen and has not been made public. But attorney general Jeff Sessions confirmed for the first time yesterday that it partially served as the basis for McCabe's firing as he is being accused of misleading investigators, lack of candor about a separate inquiry, but clearly McCabe believes it is a matter of politics, Ana.

CABRERA: And how is the President responding for that, let's go to White House correspondent Boris Sanchez outside the White House this afternoon.

Boris, the President is clearly politicizing McCabe's firing at least after the fact as his attorney, his own personal attorney is calling for an end to the Russia probe. Tell us what exactly each of them is saying.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Ana. Yes, the President has long accused the department of justice and the FBI of being political. He continues to push this idea of a deep state that is out there to decertify his presidency and derail his agenda. The President not only taunted Andrew McCabe on twitter, suggested that he should be fired a number of times, now he is celebrating the firing.

He tweeted out earlier today writing quote "Andrew McCabe fired. A great day for the hard working 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 all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI."

Obviously, as you just heard from Laura, McCabe has denied those accusations. Separately, though, John Dowd, the President's attorney found himself in a little bit of controversy today after suggesting that he was praying for an end to the Russian investigation. He initially made the comment to the "Daily Beast" saying that he was speaking on behalf of President Trump as his attorney. He later spoke to CNN and walked that back.

Here is the statement he gave to CNN. He wrote in part 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 the professional responsibility and attorney general Jeff Sessions, and bring an end to the alleged Russian collusion investigation, manufactured by McCabe's boss, James Comey based upon the fraudulent and corrupt dossier. Just end it on the merits and like of recent revelations."

Now many are reading between the lines arguing that Dowd is suggesting that Robert Mueller be fired, that Rosenstein following the footsteps of Jeff Sessions who fired McCabe and therefore the firing of Rob Mueller is what many are claiming that Dowd is doing here.

The White House has not publicly commented on the statement. However, one source close to the President tells us that Trump did not authorize this statement. In fact, you get the sense from many around the President that they are annoyed that Dowd went in this direction directly contradicting so much of what we have heard previously from the White House saying that they would comply with the special counsel. The President himself said that he would not fire Robert Mueller. That he was looking forward to sitting down with him during the investigation, Ana.

[16:05:01] CABRERA: Let's not forget Rosenstein said on the record this week that Mueller is not an unguided missile and there is no justification at this point for him to be removed.

Thank you very much, Boris as well as Laura.

And the President, as we mentioned, has been on a tweet storm really about what he sees as a far-reaching deep state conspiracy. Hell bent on destroying his presidency. First, he cited quote "tremendous leaking, lying, and corruption at the highest levels of the FBI, justice, and state." The President minutes later with an addendum saying how many lies. How many leaks. Comey knew it all and much more.

Joining me now CNN political commentator Scott Jennings, CNN law enforcement analyst Josh Campbell, and CNN legal analyst Mark Geragos.

So Scott, how many Republicans are just wishing right now the President would maybe stop tweeting and go play golf?

SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes, probably a lot. Honestly, because look, on the McCabe issue here, there are clearly things that happened inside the department of justice that were reviewed by career DOJ employees that led to a report that led to his firing. And so when John Dowd comes in and when the President tweets, it takes away, I think, some of the credibility of the argument that McCabe was fired for good reason after an internal review.

So the best course right now as a PR matter would be just to be quiet and let this unfold. Of course, that hasn't happened. I was interested in the reporting that people are annoyed with Dowd coming in on this. I thought that was a huge strategic error for Dowd to come out like that and it certainly complicated the President's weekend.

CABRERA: The President is now bringing Comey into the picture, Josh. You worked at the FBI very closely with the fired former director, James Comey. He also is tweeting today, saying Mr. President, the American people will hear my story very soon. And they can judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not. Your thoughts?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it's a very important story. And like many, I can't wait for it to be told. This is a story that has been long -- we have been waiting for a long time to hear. And if you think about the discipline of someone like Jim Comey, and I would add to that Andy McCabe, look at the past year and a half, look at the barbs and, you know, the arrows that have been taken by some of people, highest levels of government that have been directed to them. Yet we haven't heard from them, you know, going tit for tat. I think what we are going to see is a dichotomy in leadership. These aren't the kind of people that are going to go, you know, on social media and, you know, lob insults, but they are going to be thoughtful about what they do.

And I think with the Comey book, it's coming out one month from today. I can't wait to read it. I think it is going to provide some insight into the picture as far as what did he see? What did he witness? And some of the stories throughout his career. I think he is going to treat these issues with the seriousness that they deserve and not just, you know, the medium, the social media to, you know, use 280 characters to tell a story but to do it thoughtfully and a way that really shows the American what went on at the FBI.

CABRERA: You know, you have mentioned what you know of these men, their integrity, their character, James Comey and Andrew McCabe. Were you surprised Andrew McCabe fired back after he was let go?

CAMPBELL: Not surprised at all because now it is his opportunity. And again, if you think about it, I don't know if anybody really knows what Andy McCabe's voice sounds like outside of had FBI. I mean, do you? I mean, we have seen --.

CABRERA: Besides what we heard during hearings, exactly.

CAMPBELL: During hearings, right. And that's my point. I mean, he is not the kind of person that is going to go tit for tat, but think about the amount of insult that he is absorbed over the last year and a half with respect to him, unfair, extremely unfair attacks on his wife. And yet, he has remained silent because that's what career people do. But now that he is out, I think the gloves are going to come off. He is going to be able to tell his story and it also is an important story.

CABRERA: Mark, one thing on that note that CNN has in our reporting is that Andrew McCabe's conversations with the President included multiple times in which McCabe was asked about his wife and the donations from an ally of Clinton's. The fact that he was documenting apparently these conversations with the President and also what James Comey told McCabe about his interactions with Trump in memos, how key would those be as corroborating evidence. Apparently, Mueller have all these memos now.

MARK GERAGOS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and one of the reasons that you want those is from an evidentiary standpoint, you can get those in as past recollection recorded which is normally, it would be heresy if you just did notes. But if you are doing them contemporaneously, then that's a way that you can get that stuff into evidence, number one.

Number two is, part of the reason that the White House between Dowd and between Trump are so feverishly commenting on this and stepping on this story is because they know that the special counsel is closing in on them. There's no other way when you start to connect all the dots, this is a classic federal prosecution and investigation. And they have -- they have tightened the noose, if you will, around his inner circle. And it is only a matter of time. And people keep complaining about kind of the glacial pace. This is on a fast track compared to normal federal prosecutions. And it is zeroed in right on the White House.

[16:10:18] CABRERA: So listen to Republican senators Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley on FOX News just this past Thursday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAEIR, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: If he did fire Jeff Sessions, how would that go over in the Judiciary Committee?

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I would only answer your question this way unless you push me on. I don't think he should be fired.

BAEIR: I will push you on it. What do you think would happen?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It would blow up the committee. The chairman has done a wonderful job getting nominees out of the committee with a lot of obstruction. But if you had to replace the attorney general Jeff Sessions with somebody new, it would blow the place up. It would be seen as an effort to undermine the Mueller investigation. It would lock the Senate down. I think Jeff Sessions has done a good job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: So Scott, the President's tweet storm today, John Dowd's statement, questioning Rosenstein and whether he should get rid of Mueller. Are you worried the President is gearing up to try to get rid of Mueller? And do you see more Republicans coming out and saying we need to protect the special counsel?

JENNINGS: Well, I think the President has been unhappy with Jeff Sessions, but he has not gotten rid of him, and I don't think he will. Precisely because it would put the United States Senate on lockdown.

I have a hard time believing you could get another attorney general confirmed under these circumstances. And also as you heard those two senators say, virtually every Republican over there in the Senate thinks Jeff Sessions has performed admirably and honorably and has done a good job of moving the President's agenda.

So I think you will continue to hear carping, probably about Sessions, maybe about Rosenstein. But it would be a crazy step to fire Jeff Sessions given what it would do to essentially blow up official Washington and derail the rest of the Trump agenda for the rest of the year.

CABRERA: So just double checking that we are all on the same page there, Scott. In terms of getting to Mueller, you think he would go through Sessions ultimately to get rid of Mueller?

JENNINGS: I think he has to. I think the protocol here is that Mueller has to be fired by Rosenstein, who works for Sessions. So there is a progression of people here in the department of justice that they would have to go through. And I just -- at this point, given how far down the road we are, given what we know about the investigation, the wisest course of action here is for the President and his team to do what they have been doing and that is cooperate, turn over documents, submit to questioning and try to get it done as soon as possible.

Firing people, going down a road that makes it look like you are trying to end an investigation that clearly has turned up some things, would absolutely derail this presidency.

CABRERA: Josh, people are really fired up about this McCabe firing on both sides of the aisle. The former CIA director though, John Brennan, also put out a very strong response. He tweeted this.

In response to the President, specifically, saying, he would take his place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history.

Do you think Brennan weighing in in this way is appropriate?

CAMPBELL: Well, he is obviously free to, you know, express his opinion. He had had unique insight as someone who served in government for many, many years. So I thing that's one data point that we have, as far as someone who has been in the room, who made those decisions.

CABRERA: Of course, a lot of people are going to say, he worked under the Obama administration.

CAMPBELL: Sure. They would, that's fair, but he is a career guy. If you look at his time throughout CIA in various postings that were non- political, I mean, he is someone who has served this country well and did so well before he was a political appointee. I think that's an important data point.

Let me just point out one quick thing if I can with respect to what Scott said. And I'm not disagreeing with what he said. But the problem I have is what are the consequences for people who politicize government, such as the FBI? So I understand that people on the hill may not want to take any action or, you know, it may upset them if Sessions goes. But what are the consequences?

If you look at the situation with Andy McCabe, how much more political does it get? On a Friday evening, 26 hours before he retires, the decision is made that he is going to be fired. Now, this is either, you know, the worst profile in courage that we have ever seen or there's something there about that investigation that we need to get to the bottom of.

When did the department of justice know about these accusations for Andy McCabe? And what did they tell the FBI? Was this a rush job? Were they looking at the calendar for Andy McCabe and saying we need to get to hurry to get this done because we need to get rid of him before the clock runs out and he is allowed to collect a pension?

The longer that took to get an answer, the more questions, you know, really came up. And then the last thing I will say is that we still don't know the factual basis on which that dismissal happened. And I think that is extremely problematic. It's a disservice to the American people. It is a disservice to Andy McCabe to point out, you know, to lay out some conclusion without even providing the facts on which that conclusion is based.

CABRERA: But we do know, according to Jeff Sessions, that it was based on an inspector general review, and it was firing that was recommended by the office of professional responsibility, who is also staffed by career professionals, not Trump appointees.

[16:15:06] CAMPBELL: No. You are right, Ana. And you know, the OPR and the FBI and the inspection division, these are career people. These are people who don't care about politics. My concern is, at what point did the DOJ go to the FBI and say, we need you to weigh in on this? Was it something they said, you know, we need you to hurry up and get this done by a set date in time. If that's the case, I think that is highly inappropriate.

I worked in the FBI for over a decade. And I never recall seeing a case that had a deadline attached to it where you have to do this before X date. If that's what's happened here, I think there are a lot of questions that need to be answered.

CABRERA: So Mark, if you were on the President's legal team right now, building a case to attack the credibility of the special counsel's case, as you were talking about, the reason that they probably are reacting the way they do, what would you key in on? Would Andrew McCabe's dismissal play into your calculations?

GERAGOS: Well, clearly, what they are doing is they are trying to discredit the very origins of the investigation. If they do that, they are going to say you can't trust it. You have to get - you got to shut it down. It's, you know, it is kind of corrupt adnishio (ph) is the old expression, which means from the beginning or in its inception. And if it's tainted from the beginning, if McCabe is tainted, if Comey is tainted, then the whole investigation is tainted.

The problem they have got, I mean, the problem with this is it is a fine line. Because remember, what you are doing is it's a full- frontal attack on the FBI and on to some degree related to the DOJ. I have talked to just recently as yesterday, with assistant United States attorneys who are completely outraged by this. And those are people that ultimately inside are going to do this President more damage than he even understands. I just -- it's a very, very dangerous game they are playing. And they are playing in a way that I don't know that they are going to be able to survive. Ultimately, at the end of the day.

CABRERA: Mark Geragos, Scott Jennings, Josh Campbell, never a dull moment around here. Thank you guys.

Coming up, a Democratic member of the armed services committee weighs in on the White House chaos and how it could affect dealings with Russia and North Korea.

Plus, the Stormy saga and new court filings by the Trump team seeking $20 million from the porn star trying to speak out about an alleged affair. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:21:29] CABRERA: Our breaking news. President Trump's personal lawyer calling for an end to Robert Mueller's Russia probe.

Here's part of attorney John Dowd's statement and I quote. "Speaking for myself, not the President, I pray that acting attorney general Rod Rosenstein will bring an end to alleged Russia collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe's boss, James Comey."

Now, Dowd initially told the "Daily Beast" that he was speaking on behalf of President Trump. Then he quickly back pedaled telling CNN he was speaking only on his own behalf and sent out a revised statement.

I want to talk more about this with Democrat congressman Ro Khanna of California Silicon Valley.

So congressman, a lot I want to talk to you about. Let's start with just your reaction to President Trump's personal lawyer calling for the Mueller investigation to be shut down on the heels of the firing of former deputy FBI director Andy McCabe?

REP. RO KHANNA (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, it's outrageous. And you saw that he walked it back. I mean, it leads to the question, why was McCabe fired? Are they really setting this up to fire Mueller or to try to end the investigation?

We all have had confidence in Mueller. We should let him do his job. Find the facts, and have an independence of investigation. And the last two days have really been concerning in terms of the independence of that investigation.

CABRERA: So based on Dowd's statement and also the tweet from the President celebrating McCabe's firing, do you worry that the President is on the verge of trying to fire the special counsel?

KHANNA: I certainly wouldn't put it past them. And I think we need to ask some very basic questions. Was the President or attorney general or anyone else involved in telling the in part inspector general what to do with McCabe? You mentioned in your earlier segment that these were career people, but there's a question, was there any political interference here. And if so, that goes to obstruction of justice.

But McCabe's firing and what McCabe said afterwards where he said he believes he was singled out because of what he did after the Comey firing, raises huge questions of obstruction of justice. And I wouldn't put anything past this administration at this point.

CABRERA: So I just want to make sure I'm understanding what you are saying. Are you worried that people inside the office of professional responsibility were pressured to recommend McCabe's firing?

KHANNA: Well, I think the question needs to be asked. The timing is very suspicious. Two days before his -- he qualified for pensions. And I think we need to know from the White House, from attorney general Sessions, was anyone in the political sphere, did they have any communication with the career officials on this investigation? Did they have any influence on the timing of the investigation? On the recommendations? Did they ask for it to be expedited, or was this purely a career decision? And then we need to know who made the decision that he should be fired. Was this -- was the FBI director consulted? Was this a political decision? Was this a recommendation from the career officers? But it seems the timing seems very fishy. And the facts seem very fishy.

CABRERA: We have also learned McCabe has memos of the conversations he has had with the President. They are now in the hands of Mueller. Are you confident the truth, whatever it is, will all come out eventually?

KHANNA: Well, I do think the truth eventually comes out in American politics. And I'm looking forward to seeing what McCabe has to say. And I don't want to prejudge the matter.

What I have said time and again is Mueller is one of the most trusted people in Washington. He used to be a Republican. He was trusted by Republican administrations. What is sad is seeing people, for personal gain, tarnish his reputation, tarnish the reputation of career officers who have served for 20 years. Let's have an investigation. Let the facts play out, and let's go where the facts are. I don't want to prejudge the investigation. I want to preserve the independence of these agencies and the rule of law.

[16:25:37] CABRERA: At this point, when you say that, preserving the independence of the agencies, that's so important. So many Americans are hearing that and saying yes, that is what's important. But the bottom line, with the President's tweets, and even Andrew McCabe's response, do you worry there has been some serious damage to the credibility of some of America's institutions, particularly the justice department?

KHANNA: I do worry about it. I mean, you know, when you grow up, the one thing you love about this country is that we don't have unlimited power. The executive branch has checks on it. I mean, every high school kid, every kid in elementary school, frankly, learns that. And tor the first time in many, many years, certainly in my lifetime, you are seeing that questioned. You are seeing people acting out of their own political interests and running roughshod over agencies that were independent, over law enforcement, and that American tradition, American institution is being questioned.

Frankly, it's the exact opposite of conservatism, where conservatives usually believed in the independence of institutions and institutional democracy. I do think damage has been done. The good news is I think America's institutions will survive this. We still have an independent judiciary. We have a Congress and senators, and I hope colleagues of mine on both sides of the aisle will stand up for American institutions and independence.

CABRERA: Congressman Ro Khanna, thank you very much for your time.

KHANNA: Thank you.

CABRERA: Coming up, the President's name officially linked now to a lawsuit to stop a porn star from speaking publicly about an alleged affair. Why he now claims Stormy Daniels owes $20 million. Stay right there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:31:47] CABRERA: 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. They have now filed papers to get this case out of California state court and instead before a federal judge. Daniels' attorney says it's just another example of bullying tactics by team Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: It's truly remarkable. I don't know that there has ever been an instance in American history where you had a sitting President carrying out a personal vendetta and seeking in excess of $20 million of a private U.S. citizen who is merely trying to tell her version of the facts. He and his attorney, Mr. Cohen, and now others, are seeking to gag and silence my client and keep the information from the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Joining us now, CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney, Page Pate. So what's your reaction, Page, to these filings on behalf of the President?

PAGE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it does sound like another bullying tactic. And this is exactly the kind of thing that Donald Trump did when he was a private citizen. He had his lawyers act like bulldogs. They were always aggressive. But in this case, I think by being aggressive, they are actually playing in to Stormy Daniels and her legal team's hands. That's exactly what they want.

If there was nothing to these allegations, if they were not true, the last thing you want to do is file a lawsuit in federal court. Take the case and remove it to federal court, where there is likely going to be hearings in front of a judge, perhaps even a jury trial, where all of this gets aired out. I would think that's the last thing you want to do if you're trying to keep her quiet.

CABRERA: $20 million. Would you be worried if you were Stormy's attorney?

PATE: Not at all. I understand the nondisclosure agreement does have a liquidated damages provision. And that usually means if one party breaches the deal, then they are -- they have to pay the $20 million. But in this case, that's crazy. No judge would enforce that type of nondisclosure agreement in a situation involving a private citizen, especially if these allegations have merit to them. If they can be corroborated.

I think worst case, if she violates the nondisclosure, assuming one is even binding, then she is looking at maybe paying back the hush money, which she has already offered to do.

CABRERA: Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, also said his client's story isn't the only one out there about Trump. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AVENATTI: We have been approached by six separate women who claim to have similar stories to those or to that of my client. Two of those women, at least two, have NDAs. We are in the very early stages of vetting those stories.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Page, what do you make of this legal strategy? Mentioning these other women and their stories, even though he hasn't vetted their cases?

PATE: Well, it is dangerous because obviously, you want to make sure if you are making an allegation, there's some merit to it, that it's a truthful allegation. But if it is true, then it would certainly put Trump's legal team on notice that hey, you are not just going to have to deal with us. We may be able to show the judge a pattern of this type of activity. And if those other individuals also receive physical threats, then that's extortion. And I don't think a judge would ever enforce a nondisclosure agreement if it was coupled with that type of physical threat.

[16:35:15] CABRERA: So you bring up the physical threats. You are right. Daniels' attorney said his client had been physically threatened to stay silent. But he didn't say who threatened her. Here's how the White House responded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Obviously, we take the safety and security of any person seriously, certainly would condemn anyone threatening any individual. But I have no knowledge of that situation, and would refer you to the President's outside personal attorneys.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: So how do you see this playing out?

PATE: Well, I don't know if we are going to see direct evidence that the President was making any physical threats. And perhaps he has done enough to cover his tracks so that some lawyer who may have said something, some investigator who may have said something, he is going to be able to effectively distance himself from that.

But if it's a pattern of this type of activity, then I don't think any of these nondisclosure agreements if others do exist, would be enforceable. Because if somebody is not voluntarily agreeing to a contract like that, then they can't be held liable if they violate it down the road. So any evidence of physical threats, whether it came directly from the President or his legal team, or even someone further removed from that, I do think that will play into this lawsuit, and it will only help Stormy Daniels and her team.

CABRERA: One of the central questions has been whether this $130,000 hush money payment to Daniels violated campaign election laws. Do you think it's time for Robert Mueller to sit down with Stormy Daniels?

PATE: Well, I think that might be a little bit beyond the scope of his current mission. I think he would have to go to the deputy attorney general to get approval to look into that. But every new fact that we hear about this payment, where it came from, who else was involved, does suggest that it had something to do with the campaign, that it was intended to help Trump get elected, to try to keep Stormy Daniels quiet so this wouldn't be in the media right at the time of the election. If that payment was made for that purpose, then I think it is a violation of federal election law.

CABRERA: Page Pate, thank you very much for your expertise. We really appreciate it.

PATE: Thank you.

CABRERA: Now a quick programming note. I'm going to go one-on-one with Stormy Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti at 8:00 p.m. tonight here on CNN. Don't miss it.

Coming up, Facebook is suspending a data research firm with ties to the Trump campaign. And get this, it all stems from the personality quizzes we have all clicked on at one time or another. We will explain next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:42:12] CABRERA: Now to a story involving the Trump campaign and social media. It concerns those Facebook personality quizzes so many of us enjoy filling out. And it appears the results don't just disappear when the test is over. Facebook says it is suspending a data firm now with ties to the campaign for using information from the quizzes without users' permission in order to target voters. That firm, Cambridge Analytica, denies violating Facebook's terms.

CNN's senior media correspondent Brian Stelter joins us now.

So Brian, there are a lot of layers to this story. Help us make sense of it all.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And it all involves Cambridge Analytica. The company you just mentioned. It's this mysterious firm that promises to help political campaigns and other organizations target voters, really to micro-target them, to try to figure out exactly what you as a voter wants to hear any given time and then deliver that ad to you. So Cambridge Analytica has been out there selling those services for

years. And the Trump campaign along with the Ted Cruz campaign were two of the people - two of the campaigns that bought Cambridge their services back in 2016.

So go back a little bit further. Cambridge Analytica in its infancy partnered with a professor who happens to work at Cambridge University, no relation to the company, who created this personality quiz, created this app on Facebook. And listen, I have done some of these, you have probably done some of these.

Most of these are just fine. There is no evil purpose behind them. But in this case, this personality quiz which about 250,000 people took, the data from it was then used by this professor and then handed off to Cambridge Analytica and then used to create profiles of voters.

Now what's remarkable about this is you start with the essentially 270,000 people. Then you connect all of their friends, and before you know it, you have 50 million Facebook users' information. That's what was really remarkable about using this personality quiz to then go and grab so many people's data.

Now, Cambridge Analytica says we didn't use the Facebook data to help the Trump campaign. But a whistleblower named Christopher Wiley begs to differ. He has given an interview to "the Guardian" in the UK and to "the New York Times" in the U.S., and he says he has a lot of regrets about how he worked with Cambridge Analytica on this type of data project.

This is actually what he said in "the Guardians." He said this is insane, the company that created psychological profiles of 230 million Americans, now they want to get contracts and work with the Pentagon? It's like Nixon on steroids. That's really why this matters now, Ana, right.

You know, the election is long over, 2016 election. But Cambridge Analytica and other companies like it are still working on harvesting vast amounts of data about voters, about individuals, and then trying to use that data to target ads, to target information to us.

In fact, Cambridge Analytica has a contract with the state department. And they have sought other government contracts as well. So this is an issue, in this case, an investigation in the "Times" tomorrow about this particular use of Facebook data in ways that the company now says were improper. So there is a broader issue.

[16:45:03] CABRERA: Facebook has been criticized very heavily for not doing more to stop people on Facebook from being manipulated during the election, to say the least obviously, with what we have learned of Russia's involvement on social media as well. Did it surprise you or what do you make of the fact they came out and said look, we are punishing Cambridge Analytica.

STELTER: Yes. This is yet another black eye for Facebook. I just put a column up about this on CNN.com. It starts with fake news. You know, there was talk about how Facebook helped fake news spread during the campaign, then it was the Russian propaganda, you mentioned. Now it is the story about the improper use of data.

Again and again and again, Facebook has been called to account for how its systems are being used and really being abused, whether it's election in 2016 or elections in Europe last year. Now the midterms coming up here in the U.S.

You know, Facebook says it's getting better. They say they know they're vowing to make changes and suspending Cambridge Analytica is one of those changes. But you know, I was with a Facebook executive last week. We talked about the midterms. She said, look, we know we have our work cut out for us. Every day, people come up with new ways to spread misinformation. Every day, people come up with new ways to manipulate these systems. It's kind of like a game of whack-a-mole at the carnival, but with worldwide consequences.

CABRERA: How do you keep up though with these technological advancements (INAUDIBLE)?

Thank you very much, Brian Stelter, for breaking it down for us.

STELTER: Thanks.

CABRERA: Good to see you as always. And don't forget to catch Brian tomorrow morning on "RELIABLE SOURCES" at 11:00 a.m. eastern right here on CNN.

Coming up, United Airlines under fire again after one dog dies in an overhead bin, another ends up in Japan by mistake. But now a third pet mix-up to tell you about. Stay right there.

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[16:51:03] CABRERA: United Airlines is in damage control mode after a third dog mishap in one week. The latest incident, the airline had to divert a plane after discovering a dog onboard that wasn't supposed to be there. But earlier this week, you will recall on Monday, a French bulldog died on a United flight after it was put in an overhead bin. Then on Tuesday a German shepherd bound for Kansas ended up in Japan. And the German shepherd's place in Kansas, a great Dane that was supposed to be on the Japan flight.

Let's bring in CNN's Jean Casarez joining us.

So Jean, tell us what happened in this most recent united incident.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Which would be yesterday. It was United Airlines. It was a flight that was bound from Newark to St. Louis. And then they realized midflight they had a dog on the flight that actually was supposed to go to Akron, Ohio. Believe it or not, they diverted that flight to Akron, Ohio, with 33 other passengers onboard. I guess dropped off the dog, and they do say they compensated the passengers. But that was just the third of many.

Let's look at the second one. The second one was this week, a flight from Oregon to Kansas, and a 10-year-old German shepherd named Irgo was supposed to go to Kansas. Irgo probably never even realized he was on his way to Japan. And so he gets to Japan. And the owners are expecting to pick up Irgo, he is not there. They had to trace and find him. They brought Irgo back within hours. So you are talking round trip to Japan on a private carrier.

And so, now the family has him, but one dog died. That was on Monday. That dog on the united flight was a small dog, so it was in the cabin in that authorized airline carrier, right. We all know about it, has the air holes and everything. And the flight attendant said to put it up in the overhead. And they said it was a dog. And United believes that the flight attendant may not have heard that, but the dog went up there for a three-and-a-half hour flight, and the dog was deceased when they went to get that carrier. Just in the overhead.

CABRERA: Just awful. I mean --.

CASAREZ: Horrible.

CABRERA: For everybody involved in these situations.

CASAREZ: Horrible, and the animals.

CABRERA: Three in one week, Jean.

CASAREZ: I know.

CABRERA: I mean, is that just a fluke? Or do you know more about the bigger picture in terms of these types of incidents.

CASAREZ: Well, it's interesting you asked that because the department of transportation in February had just come out with their latest statistics which would be for last year. And they say that 24 animals actually died in care of U.S. airlines. Eighteen of those, which would be three fourths of those, were with United. Fifteen reports of animals injured on flights, 13 of those were on United. United does respond by saying that these dogs were compromised to begin with. Either they had their own health concerns or the cages, the boxes that they were in were not equipped and not proper for them. But it's not a good statistic to be going with at this point for United.

CABRERA: Yikes. Thank you very much, Jean, for that information.

Coming up, we have breaking news in the Russia probe. CNN is learning that special counsel Robert Mueller now has memos written by fired former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe documenting conversations he had with the President. What it could mean for President Trump next.

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[16:58:42] CABRERA: Today, we began another year of introducing you to everyday people changing the world, our incredible CNN heroes.

After Carol Rosenstein's husband was diagnosed with dementia, she began to feel him slipping away and started to lose hope. But then one day, he sat down at the piano.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CAROL ROSENSTEIN, CNN HERO: I was seeing something magical happening before my eyes. The doctor told me that we were watching the power of music changing brain chemistry. Playing a musical instrument is like a full-body workout for the brain. The music actually resurrected him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: To learn more about this story or to nominate someone you think should be a CNN hero, logon to CNNheroes.com.

You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thank you so much for being here.

The news this hour, fresh evidence the President desperately wants the special counsel's Russia meddling investigation shut down. Much more on that momentarily.

Also today, word that Robert Mueller has his hands on what could be a key piece of corroborating evidence. Memos documented by the fired deputy director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe. Now, McCabe was just dismissed by attorney general Jeff Sessions for alleged lack of candor or lying, essentially, to justice department investigators. McCabe tells CNN he was --