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FBI Deputy Director Fired Less Than 48 Hours Before Retirement; McCabe: Firing Is Part Of Trump's "Ongoing War On The FBI"; Trump Joins Effort To Stop Porn Star From Speaking Publicly; Stormy's Attorney: Suit Another "Bullying Tactic" From Trump. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired March 17, 2018 - 06:00   ET





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Attorney General Jeff Sessions firing Andrew McCabe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president has made this political.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have the attorney general being pressured by the president of the United States to get rid of this person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump for a guy who made his career on the phrase, you're fired, doesn't like to be that person who says, you're fired.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stormy Daniels is really outmaneuvering them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They want to hide the facts from the American people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cohen thinks he's going to get a friendlier hearing in the courts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald Trump, if you have nothing to hide, why are your lawyers fighting so hard?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: FIU pedestrian bridge and some cracking that has been observed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: An engineer for the company that designed the pedestrian bridge that collapsed at Florida International University was aware at least two days before that collapse of cracks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our primary focus is to remove all the cars and all the victims in a dignified manner.


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Thank you so much for being with us. I'm Christi Paul. VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. From you're fired to now firing back. This morning, we are hearing from former FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who was fired late last night less than 48 hours before he could retire with full benefits.

PAUL: President Trump cheering the move as a great day for democracy, but McCabe who worked at the agency for more than two decades calls it an attack on the FBI and his credibility.

BLACKWELL: Plus, it is the president versus the porn star in court. Now President Trump's personal lawyer claims Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress, who said she had an affair with the president violated her nondisclosure agreement and could now owe $20 million.

PAUL: And as President Trump starts assembling his team for a 2020 run, the data firm used by his campaign has been kicked off Facebook for, they say, misusing data.

We're following all the details this morning. I know it is a lot to take in first thing. But we want to start with CNN's Abby Philip live in Washington for us. So, Abby, let's talk about Andrew McCabe being fired less than 48 hours before he would receive a portion of his pension. Walk us through what happened here.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Christi and Victor. In the truest sense this was an 11th hour decision on the part of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to fire McCabe with just days to go before he was set to retire after 20 years at the agency.

This 10:00 p.m. at night decision was somewhat expected considering the pressure that had been placed on Sessions to act to fire McCabe. What this all comes down to is that McCabe was the subject of an ongoing investigation over his handling of the Clinton e-mail probe and a Clinton Foundation investigation.

Now, McCabe had been referred to an Office of Personal Responsibility within the Justice Department. That's supposed to be looking at these things and adjudicating whether rules were broken.

Now, that body had reportedly said that they believe McCabe should have been fired because he was not fully truthful with investigators about his role in ordering FBI officials to talk to "Wall Street Journal" reporters about that ongoing investigation.

Now, the problem here is that, first of all, that report hasn't come out yet. Secondly, McCabe was also the subject of a lot of criticism from President Trump who made it clear that he wanted McCabe fired.

Now McCabe's attorney is now saying that this was essentially retribution. That this investigation was accelerated because President Trump wanted him fired and made that publicly clear.

As we all know Attorney General Jeff Sessions is not a person who is in the president's good graces. Sessions himself has been criticized strongly by President Trump and what this looks like is an attempt by Sessions to please President Trump by doing exactly as he wants.

Trump last night seemed to reinforce this perception with a tweet celebrating McCabe's firing. The president wrote, "Andrew McCabe fired a great day for the hard-working men and women of the FBI. A great day for democracy. Sanctimony as James Comey who is the former FBI director was his boss and made McCabe look like choir boy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI."

Now this story seems to very much one that will come down to whether or not McCabe is actually going to pursue, you know, some legal recourse over the loss of his pension using some of the president's own statements and tweets as evidenced that there was a vendetta against him -- Christi and Victor.

PAUL: All right. Abby Phillip, we appreciate it. Thank you.

We need to point out that moments after being fired Andrew McCabe released an emotional statement blessing the Trump administration. I want to read you part of that.

[06:05:02] He says, "For the last year and a half my family and I have been the targets of an unrelenting assault on our reputation and my service to this country. Articles too numerous to count have leveled every sort of false, defamatory and degrading allegation against us.

The president's tweets have amplified it and exacerbated it all. He called for my firing. He called for me to be stripped of my pension after more than 20 years of service. And all along we have said nothing, never wanting to distract from the mission of the FBI by addressing the lies told and repeated about us.

This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally, but to taint the FBI, law enforcement and intelligence professionals more generally. It's part of this administrations ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the Special Counsel investigation, which continue to this day. Their persistence in this campaign only highlights the importance of the Special Counsel's work."

BLACKWELL: All right. Joining me now Errol Louis, CNN political commentator, and on the phone with us Tom Fuentes, CNN senior law enforcement analyst and former assistant director of the FBI. Tom, let me start with you. The president tweeted out this was a great day for the men and women of the FBI. What is the message to the rank and file of the agency?

TOM FUENTES, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST (via telephone): Well, I think, Victor, the rank and file already know the consequences of, you know, the allegation of lack of candor during an internal investigation. I think there's a lot of confusion on how these investigations go.

But if there's an allegation of wrong doing against the senior executive of the FBI, it automatically is investigated by the Office of the Inspector General, which is an independent agency. It's not under the FBI or part of the FBI and they work the investigation.

But when they conclude an issue in their report, they are not in the position to be able to take disciplinary action. So, they refer it to the FBI's internal, investigative service, which is the Office of Professional Responsibility, which is within the inspection division.

So, you have in this case where the investigation is completed, the results are given then to the FBI, and then OPR does the review and makes the recommendation that McCabe should be fired.

So, I think that, you know, all the discussion about politics. I just don't believe that President Trump, no matter what he says, and I know it's going to be hard for people to believe. But no matter what he says is going to affect the way the investigation was conducted by the Inspector General's Office or what happened with the results when it was turned over to OPR within the FBI.

They are not going to be able to manufacturer this out of thin air if they determine that there was evidence that McCabe wasn't truthful during all of the internal inquiry.

BLACKWELL: Now, of course, we have not yet seen the report from the Office of the Inspector General or the other office that is investing this professional responsibility.

Let me come to you, Errol. None of these happens in the (inaudible), right, so the context of the James Comey firing in which the entire White House communications apparatus up to the vice president came out to say that this firing of Comey was based on the recommendation from Rod Rosenstein and then the president said when he fired him he was thinking about Russia.

So, to the degree that politics could play a role in this, explain the context here and how the president potentially has muddied this.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure. In many respects, Victor, this looked like what you would call a pre-textural firing meaning it is entirely possible just as Tom suggests that Mr. McCabe did all of the things that are in this forthcoming report.

It looks a lot of different eyes were sort of on this. That they went through the record pretty carefully and it looked like some disinterested people all concluded, yes, he did this. He was directing some of his subordinates to talk to the "Wall Street Journal."

But let's keep in mind, none of that was directed -- whatever political frame you want to put on it, none of it has anything to do with harming Donald Trump. If anything, if there was any beef to be made about it, it might be from Hillary Clinton or people who were close to her campaign that these leaks were going out about Clinton e- mail.

So, the reality is you've got a firing here at the last minute that the president had, in fact, called for from the outside and just as Mr. McCabe suggests, even though he may have done all the things that were talked about here, even if he did have a lack of candor, you do have a White House here that has decided to go to war, not just with him, but with the upper echelon of the FBI.

I mean, think about that tweet. It's extraordinary that the president put that out there saying, lies and corruption at the highest levels of the FBI and he has said it so often. And there is so much turmoil in this White House that it sorts of comes and goes and we don't make that the number one headline.

Lies and corruption going on at the highest level of the FBI is being alleged by the president of the United States without any kind of proof or backup. It's really extraordinary.

BLACKWELL: Let me read another tweet. This is from December of last year in which the president tweeted, "FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is racing the clock to retire with full benefits 90 days to go."

[06:10:10] And we know he got within just two days of getting those full benefits. Tom, back to you. And you say that you see here that the president from your perspective would not have been able to influence this process. What recourse do you believe that Mr. McCabe has?

FUENTES: I really don't know, Victor. I don't know, I'm assuming that he is going to be able to file some type of lawsuit for being terminated wrongfully and make a case on his side. And, you know, this is unprecedented.

I've never seen anything quite at this level where, you know, you have somebody that is a career FBI agent and senior executive like McCabe in this position. We had Director Comey, but he was not a career FBI agent being removed.

You had Director Sessions being removed by President Clinton years ago, but to have this happen at this point, we don't know all of the story. But I think to me just the evidence that mounts up is, that, yes, you may have the disclosure to "Wall Street Journal" or any other media may have started this.

But during the inquiry, everyone in the bureau knows the one thing you do not do is lie or try to cover up after the event. You have to be forthright. It's a severe offense within the FBI. It's something that is not taken lightly.

And I think the mistake here is that President Trump, with these tweets and he's done this over and over and over again, has just made it worse. He's made a situation that I don't think it may have happened sooner, had he not.

If anything, the president's comments would only make the investigators and the final decisionmakers that much more diligent. That much more certain in their mind that this is the correct decision to make.

And I think that President Trump, you know, has been making a mistake in the way he's been handling all of his criticisms about the FBI for a long time. And I just think it's something that should have been done.

If it was anybody else doing it, you would say this is extremely unprofessional and should be done and you have the president of the United States doing this.

BLACKWELL: All right. Tom Fuentes, Errol Louis, thank you, both. Of course, we now all waiting to see what details will be released in this inspector general's report. Thank you both.

PAUL: Still to come, the president's attorneys have joined a lawsuit to stop porn star, Stormy Daniels, from speaking publicly. They say she owes up to $20 million for what she said thus far.

Also, a missed voicemail raises new questions about what caused this deadly pedestrian bridge collapse in Florida? The engineer says that he spotted cracks, but the message he sent was not heard for days.



PAUL: For the first time President Trump's attorneys have joined a lawsuit to keep porn star, Stormy Daniels, from speaking publicly. They say the porn actress could owe $20 million because she revealed details of her alleged affair with the president violating her nondisclosure agreement.

Daniels claims the nondisclosure isn't valid because the president who was not president at the time did not sign it. Here's what her attorney had to say.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY (via telephone): This is truly remarkable. I don't know that there's ever been an instance in American history where you had a sitting president carrying out a personal vendetta and seeking $20 million against 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.


PAUL: CNN White House correspondent, Abby Phillip is in Washington with more. Walk us through what happened here in the last 24 hours because it is really getting dicey.

PHILLIP: That's right, Christi. This is an extraordinary moment because after weeks and months of saying that the president really had nothing to do with this case and he wasn't aware of what his Private Attorney Michael Cohen was doing on his behalf as it relates to Stormy Daniels.

The president's attorney, Charles Harder, is now joining this case with Michael Cohen against Stormy Daniels to enforce the nondisclosure agreement. What this means is that President Trump is now named in these documents.

And it also implies that some of the claims that Cohen was making about what the president knew and when he knew it might need to be revisited because now, in fact, the president's private attorney, who is known as sort of a pitbull in this legal arena is joining this case and trying to continue to silence Daniels.

Now, this filing essentially says that Stormy Daniels owes $20 million, an exorbitant amount of money in part because the original arbitration agreement required her to pay $1 million for every violation of the nondisclosure agreement. It's unclear what exactly these violations are.

Because in a lot of Stormy Daniels' public appearances, she's actually said that she can't talk about this case. She can't talk about her relationship with Trump and her attorney has made some statements about what Stormy might have to say, but they haven't really gone into specifics.

So, it's really unclear what kind of violations they are referring to. On the other hand, Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, has made some new claims in the last 24 hours that Stormy has been physically threatened in an effort to silence her, to stop her from talking about this ongoing litigation.

It's unclear who he was referring to, but these allegations are pretty serious and suggest that people were acting on the president's behalf. Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, was asked about this yesterday in the briefing and listen to how she responded.


[06:20:07] 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.


PHILLIP: Those comments were made before this new filing, bringing Donald Trump into this case formally and asking, also, Christi, for this case to be moved to federal court in part because Trump and his attorneys do not live in California.

But what it means for the White House is that come Monday, Sarah Sanders is not really going to be able to use that explanation, that she simply can't answer these questions. The president is 100 percent a part of this case now. The White House is going to have to deal with this come Monday -- Christi.

PAUL: All righty. Abby Philip, thank you so much for laying it out there. Meanwhile, the thing is Stormy Daniels' case is sent to arbitration. The president's attorneys are hoping federal judges will be more friendly when handling the case. CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan here.


PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Federal judges tend to be very friendly to arbitration and remember that's what this is all about. Whether an arbitrator can decide this is opposed to a judge or a jury, the agreement says it is going to be arbitrated.

Federal courts are friendly to arbitration. The California courts in recent days have had a history of throwing out arbitration. So, Cohen thinks he's going to get a friendlier hearing in the federal courts.

The second reason and a very important reason is that federal judges are very hostile to lawyers who try their cases in the press. Certainly, in this case, you don't want Avenatti, Stormy Daniels' lawyer giving all of these speeches to the press and appearing on "60 Minutes" to give an interview.

A federal judge might hold him in contempt of court for trying to try his case out of court. Those I think are the two primary reasons. This is a very good move by Trump to move it to federal court.

She took the $130,000 for her silence and now she's turning around, apparently, because she is get a better price on the open market saying I want to have the agreement thrown out. There may be other women who have much stronger cases and I think that's ultimately what Cohen and other people supporting Trump fear.

If you open the flood gates on all these agreements that are probably out there where women have been silenced. He's going to be crushed by the weight of these accusations. So, this is an important case for the Trump administration.


PAUL: All righty. Let's bring back CNN political commentator, Errol Louis, with us. Errol, I want to get to one thing that he was talking about and something that I thought about immediately when I read about this this morning.

Daniels' attorney, and I want to put this up here fired off a series of tweets, and one of them said this, "How could President Donald Trump seek $20 million in damages against my client based on an agreement that he and Mr. Cohen claim Mr. Trump never was a party to and knew nothing about. Is this -- Errol, is it an admission that he knew about this agreement?

LOUIS: Well, and I don't think that was ever really in dispute to be honest with you, Christi. I mean --

PAUL: The president adamantly said he knew nothing. He said he knew nothing. Michael Cohen said he knew nothing. LOUIS: Yes. Michael Cohen has one client and he's always had one client for, I don't know, 10 or 20 years at this point. That client is Donald Trump and to a lesser extent, the Trump Organization. So, I don't think there was ever any doubt about that.

If you look at the nondisclosure agreement, because even with redactions it becomes obvious who is named in it and who is named in it is Donald Trump. Sarah Sanders slipped up in at least one press conference and basically said that one portion of the arbitration was resolved in Mr. Trump's favor.

So, I think everybody knows who was involved here. What I would recommend everybody do is go back and look at the "In Touch" interview that talks about events five years before the nondisclosure agreement was signed in which Stormy Daniels basically makes all kinds of detailed descriptions of her relationship with Donald Trump. I think that is as close to the truth as we're going to get right now.

PAUL: Is that perhaps where this $20 million might be coming from? That President Trump's attorneys are alleging if you mention it once, it's a million dollar fine essentially because she hasn't said a lot.

LOUIS: No, she has not. I mean, the interviews have been fascinating because she goes on late-night television and smiles at the camera and let the interviewer ask all kind of questions and shakes her head and says I can't talk about it.

Now the allegations that they're going to make, a violation of this NDA, I think they're going to get them in even deeper because Mr. Avenatti seems very, very skilled at trying to launder this information into public view in an attempt to embarrass the president. That's been his game all along.

[06:25:06] PAUL: I didn't get to the point where Daniels' attorney and Stormy were talking about how she has been physically threatened by somebody since the president took office, if she goes public with this. And we're going to have to talk about that in a little bit because we've run out of time. I'm sorry, thank you.

BLACKWELL: The big story this morning, former FBI Deputy Director McCabe fired just days before his retirement and receiving the pension. Next, how much will that cost McCabe, and will this help the president?

Also, a missed call and now new questions. An engineer left a voicemail about this bridge in Florida that collapsed, talked about cracks, but no one heard the message until days after it collapsed.

[06:30:35] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: So glad to have your company here. 6:30 is the time. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell, good morning.

PAUL: So less than 48 hours before Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was set to retire on his 58th birthday he is now the ex-deputy director. He was axed by the attorney general. BLACKWELL: Now the outgoing deputy director stands to take a loss on

his pension benefits.

CNN's Laura Jarrett has more on why this firing is especially significant.


LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: For over a year, President Trump has used Andy McCabe as a political punching bag, but McCabe is now firing back. In an interview with CNN and a blistering public statement, McCabe saying in part, "I am 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 just two hours after McCabe's firing late on Friday, a presidential tweet arrived with Trump calling it a great day for the hard-working men and women of the FBI. A great day for democracy. Trump went on to say, "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 at the FBI."

But the back story underlying McCabe's termination here is a bit more complicated. CNN had reported earlier this week that McCabe was the subject of a blistering internal review conducted by the Justice Department and the FBI about accusations that he misled investigators about his role in approving other FBI officials to talk to the press about an investigation back in 2016 into the Clinton Foundation.

Now McCabe says he'd never misled investigators and he did nothing wrong. But Attorney General Jeff Sessions confirmed at least in part those internal reviews late on Friday saying those reports concluded that Mr. McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor, including under oath on multiple occasions.

As for McCabe, the loss at the chance of early retirement is perhaps the most serious blow. It's because he was fired on Friday when he was 49, he did not make it to 50 and that means he will lose out on at least a significant portion of his pension.

Laura Jarrett, CNN, Washington.


PAUL: So, obviously, it's been a busy week for the White House. Exit interviews, particularly. Tuesday alone President Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Tillerson's undersecretary of public affairs was fired for issuing a statement saying Tillerson didn't know why he was being fired.

BLACKWELL: And news broke that longtime Trump personal aide John McEntee was fired over financial crime investigation and escorted out of the White House, then last night Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired Deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe just two days short of his retirement. Look at this.

PAUL: There they are.

BLACKWELL: I mean, this club is growing in leaps and bounds. This is a group of Trump administration alumni. Dozens have quit or been fired from the top levels of the staff. But the president and his staff saying, hey, this isn't a big deal.

PAUL: Yes.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As you move through an administration you have different priorities that you're focused on and different people that are going to lead those efforts and lead those priorities so you may have changes from time to time. The president is committed, though, to making sure he has the right people in the right place at the right time.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There will always be change and I think you want to see change and I want to also see different ideas. But we'll talk to you about it later.


PAUL: As for who could be next, I don't know. It's anybody's guess.

BLACKWELL: No one knows really.

PAUL: For quite some time Chief of Staff John Kelly's name, you know, was at the top of a lot of people's lists who thought was going to be out next. A White House official tells CNN the president told advisers Kelly is 100 percent safe.

BLACKWELL: There is reporting the National Security HR McMaster is next potentially to leave. Jeff Sessions whom the president frequently targets for criticism could also go, and the list includes VA Secretary David Shulkin, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

[06:35:03] Now this is Donald Trump's catch phrase, we don't even need to say it. We'll let him say it himself. He took it from the show to the campaign trail. Watch.


TRUMP: You're fired. You're fired. You're fired. I fired many people, especially on "The Apprentice."

Like "The Apprentice," John, you're fired. President Obama, you're fired.


BLACKWELL: He was believing because of term limits. Anyway, but the president has not carried out many face-to-face firings from the Oval Office.

Errol Louis back with us, CNN political commentator.

I mean, this is the president who made millions and millions of dollars on that line, you're fired. But when we look back over the last 14 months or so, it's just not something either the president does or likes to do.


BLACKWELL: In person.

LOUIS: I don't know if he wants to do it in person, but that's in some ways the least of it. Right? I mean, if you can fire somebody using Twitter, in some ways it's almost more dismissive and more disrespectful. Certainly what happened to Rex Tillerson was almost unprecedented. You know, the kind of off-hand scornful crushing of somebody's career the way the president seems to enjoy doing. I think is part of the larger picture of what's going on here which is that he's running the White House the way he ran his TV show.

He's acting like a game show host. He's distracting us with all this palace intrigue while when it comes to actual serious policies, judicial appointments, the immigration system, foreign policy of the United States, the running of the economy, things are moving along in a pretty determined kind of a way and I think he's counting on all of us to be distracted by all of this foolishness about the way he treats people which is of course disgraceful.

PAUL: Well, he had said earlier this week he was hoping to get people in there that, I think I'm quoting here correctly, that he was happy with. Essentially, Errol, he is just looking to pull in people who are like-minded from him. Does that you -- is this somebody who can deal with people who have different mindsets?

LOUIS: Well, the answer appears to be no. One of the ways you could get yourself fired, there's a couple sure fire ways to get yourself fired. One is to get more press than the president. Show up on the cover of "TIME" magazine, for example, looking as if you're leading some important portion of the government and not the president. You're out the door. That's what happened to Steve Bannon.

Another way to get fired is to disagree with the president. And that appears to be, from what all the reporting indicates, what is going to doom HR McMaster as the National Security adviser. That -- you know, he's not looking for a whole lot of disagreement.

Turmoil is one thing. If you want to fight with other Cabinet members. If you want to fight with the press, the president apparently will look on and sort of applaud and watch the whole thing with a certain amount of glee. If you actually disagree with him, however, that's not something that he's going to tolerate. I mean, and this has been made clear over and over again to surprisingly senior people who are experts in their field and who did not expect, I think, to be treated with such scorn and contempt by the president of the United States.

BLACKWELL: Let's look at some of the people that the president has fired. You know, there were, of course, the firings by the chief of staff, John Kelly. But you look at Sally Yates who was fired by letter. Jim Comey was on the other side of the country giving a speech when he saw it pop up on CNN that he'd been fired. Reince Priebus was on the tarmac and was put into a separate car and driven off in a different direction than the motorcade.

Rex Tillerson, as we reported, learned through Twitter and now Andrew McCabe was sent -- we're told an e-mail to an account he no longer uses because he's not really doing the job. And then learned personally through a press release.

Let's broaden the scope, though, Errol. We put this together with the president who says, I'll take the heat for the controversial legislation either on health care or DACA or guns and then doesn't, the president who blames his predecessors for many of the challenges he's facing and even we can go back to last year when a Navy SEAL was killed in Yemen and he said, you know, the generals lost Ryan. Is this his approach to the job or is this the president's character?

LOUIS: Well, you raise an interesting point. He's got a couple of go-to moves, right, where he'll -- at first stand up as if he's going to take the heat and then when the heat comes, he's nowhere to be found. You've also got a president I think who again likes this kind of Roman coliseum sort of distraction, this kind of management as a form of entertainment to try and keep himself amused, to keep the rest of us amused.

Those firings are really sort of extraordinary when you lay them next to each other, that he finds, you know, ever more creative ways to humiliate senior members of his own team.

[06:40:02] I personally think it tends more towards character because you wouldn't do that to people just on a human level, right? That even if you need to make a change, even if you are angry at somebody, even if you want somebody out the door and you want the public to know why you did it, those little personal touches like the way Reince Priebus was treated, the way Rex Tillerson was treated, I think go to something deeper and that is, in fact, an important part of leadership.

PAUL: All righty. Errol Louis, always appreciate your perspective. Thank you.

LOUIS: Thank you.

PAUL: So listen, crews are still searching this morning for what's left of that collapsed Florida bridge. Investigators are next to them as they are digging for answers. That 950-ton structure. Why did it crumble to the ground is the big question. Well, a new voicemail has emerged warning of cracks, but it wasn't caught right away.

Does that answer anything for investigators? We're back with more after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [06:45:13] BLACKWELL: This morning we've learned the lead engineer on a Florida bridge project tried to tell state officials about cracks. Two days before the deadly collapse and that engineer left a voicemail on DOT employee's landline but here's the problem, no one heard that until after the bridge collapsed.

PAUL: Still, federal investigators warn it's just too early to draw any conclusions about what specifically caused the structure to crumble.

Kaylee Hartung is in Miami with the latest.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're learning an engineer for the company that designed the pedestrian bridge that collapsed at Florida International University was aware at least two days before that collapse of cracks in the newly installed portion of the bridge.

The Florida Department of Transportation releasing a voicemail that that engineer left on one of their employee's landlines on Tuesday. That's two days before the collapse but that voicemail not heard until today. The state employee had been out of the office in the meantime.

Listen to what the engineer detailed.


DENNEY PATE, FIGG BRIDGE ENGINEERS: Hey, Tom. This is Denney Pate with FIGG Bridge Engineers. 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 is any issue there. So we're not concerned about it from that perspective, although obviously the cracking is not good and something is going to have to be, you know, done to repair that.


HARTUNG: The engineer said very clearly there, he wasn't concerned about the cracks from a safety perspective. But this information released by the Florida Department of Transportation came out right as the NTSB chairman Robert Sunwalt was meeting with the media on Friday night. And he said his organization was not aware of any such tips of cracks in the bridge, but that interviews would be done with all of those involved here over the course of their investigation.

We also learned more about what was happening at the moment of the bridge's collapse. The NTSB chairman saying that work was being done to strengthen the diagonal supports that connected the walkway of the bridge with the canopy of the bridge. That activity also on the north end. So why it may seem reasonable to draw conclusion here that work was being done on the north end of the bridge, the engineer was aware of cracks at the north end of the bridge. The NTSB says it is too early to draw such conclusions.

In Miami, Florida, Kaylee Hartung, CNN.

PAUL: Listen, it's a bracket buster. I guess I could say historic proportions. You know I can say that because Coy Wire told me I could.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Exactly right. And you know what else I told you, Christi, that the one thing I hope for this weekend and it's the finest sports story that Victor Blackwell would be interested in. Well, the Baltimore native saw some kids from Baltimore, more known for their school's chess playing than basketball. One of the greatest upsets in March Madness history. That's coming up in just a bit.


[06:52:55] BLACKWELL: Man, I was supposed to pick UMBC. I really thought I picked them and I picked UVA. All right. Thirty-four years, 136 tries but a number 16 seed has finally beaten a number one seed in the men's NCAA tournament.

PAUL: Coy Wire is here with more on what he says is the greatest upset in college basketball history as Victor sighs.


BLACKWELL: I mean, it's like --

WIRE: He wishes he would have picked him because --

BLACKWELL: I was talking so much trash last week about I'm going to UMBC and then I picked UVA.


BLACKWELL: It was just a late night --

PAUL: You picked the button wrong?

BLACKWELL: The management was, like, fill out your bracket. And I just quickly went through it.

PAUL: That's what happened.


WIRE: Big thumbs.


WIRE: You just missed. You thought you clicked it but you didn't. But the University of Maryland Baltimore County. All right. I mean, this is a school, a small school more known for chess. They are the 10-time, a record 10-time Pan-American Intercollegiate team chess champions and here they were taking down the number one overall seed in the NCAA tournament, Virginia. Two words describe this moment. Historic and unbelievable.

Unbelievable in many ways, including that UMBC coach Ryan Odom, he was a ball boy for Virginia the last time they were number one in the tournament back in the '80s and his star player, Jairus Lyles was raised by parents who both attended UVA. What are the chances of that? Lyles led the Retrievers with 28 points. It was a 74-58 blowout.

The Retrievers from now on wherever they go, whatever they end up doing in life they will forever be remembered as the underdogs who made history.

The other side of this, incredible victory, of course, is crushing defeat. Virginia players have probably already thought about what it's going to feel like to go back to campus, walk into class with many who believed in them. For the rest of their lives, they'll be remembered as a team that allowed one of the greatest upsets in sports history.

The greatness of March Madness made even greater when there is a Cinderella team that inspires in stunning fashion like this and the kids from UMBC may have changed that acronym to stand for "you must be Cinderella."

[06:55:03] UMBC beating the number one overall seed will go down as a moment in American sports as one of the most historic ever. Up there with the miracle on ice of the U.S. men's Olympic hockey. And this is a moment that these young guys only dreamed about. But now, after this, get this. We talked about the brackets a second ago, right. There are no perfect brackets remaining anywhere in the country. I'm taking mine right now, I'm ripping it because I'm done.


WIRE: I was ripping yours yesterday.

PAUL: Yes, you were.

WIRE: But a lot of people can do that today.

Victor, you're sitting pretty right now.


PAUL: Even though he hit the wrong button.

BLACKWELL: I know. I should have really gone with UMBC, my apologies.

PAUL: Thank you, Coy.

BLACKWELL: All right.

WIRE: You're welcome.

BLACKWELL: Thank you. PAUL: So fun.

Listen, much more ahead in the next hour of NEW DAY. First though, "THE KENNEDYS." JFK seems like the perfect candidate for president to many, but here won't win victory without using everything that his family can offer. He's a preview of an all-new "AMERICAN DYNASTIES: THE KENNEDYS."


NARRATOR: You know their name. You don't know their whole story. At their wedding, John and Jackie look like movie stars. But inside, Jackie is not so happy. She is surrounded by thousands of guests she doesn't even know all invited by Joe Kennedy for the benefit of Jack's political career. Her dress she later said made her look like a lamp shade.

Jackie would have liked to pick out her own dress but that's not the way things worked in the Kennedy family.

Go behind the ambition, the wealth and the power of America's most famous family. You know their name, you don't know their whole story.

ANNOUNCER: "AMERICAN DYNASTIES: THE KENNEDYS," new episode tomorrow at 9:00 on CNN.