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CNN NEWSROOM

GOP Senator Paul Vows To Filibuster Pompeo, Haspel; Senator McCain Criticizes Haspel's CIA Nomination; Pennsylvania Teen Found In Mexico With 45-Year-Old Man; President Trump Launches Fresh Attacks on Mueller Russia Probe; Polls Close in Russia, Putin Set to Stay for 6 More Years; Professor Sues Data Firm Tied to Trump Campaign. Aired 2- 3p ET

Aired March 18, 2018 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:00] FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in the NEWSROOM.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think that the president is laying the groundwork to fire Mueller?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: I just hope it doesn't go there because it can't. We can't in Congress accept that.

CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: I don't think the president will fire Robert Mueller. I don't think it would be appropriate for him to do so and I don't think he'll do it, and if he did do it, it would be inappropriate.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If he tried to do that, that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency because we're a rule of law of nation.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), FLORIDA: This would undoubtedly result in a constitutional crisis and I think Democrats and Republicans need to speak about this right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't see the president firing him. I think the White House has said 10 times maybe more that they are not going to fire Robert Mueller. They want to be able to finish the investigation.

WHITFIELD: CNN NEWSROOM starts now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Hello, everyone. And thank you so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We start with a red line in Washington. Cries from both sides of the aisle with a clear message for the president -- do not fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Are you worried that the president is preparing to order the firing of Mueller? It sure looks that way from his tweets.

GRAHAM: Well, as I've said before, if he tried to do that, that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency because we're a rule of law nation.

SCHIFF: This would undoubtedly result in a constitutional crisis and I think Democrats and Republicans need to speak out about this right now. Don't wait for the crisis, but I would hope that that would be the result that we would affirm our system of checks and balances and appoint an independent counsel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right. This as the president is escalating his attacks, unleashing a slew of tweets denying collusion, calling out Mueller by name, and slamming FBI -- fired FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe's claim that he kept memos of his conversations with the president.

Trump tweeted, "Spent very little time with Andrew McCabe but he never took notes when he was with me. I don't believe he made memos except to help his own agenda, probably at a later date. Same with lying James Comey. Can we call them fake memos?"

McCabe's lawyer just responded, tweeting this, "We will not be responding to each childish, defamatory, disgusting and false tweet by the president," end quote. And also says, "The tweets confirmed," this by McCabe's attorney, "the tweets confirmed that he has corrupted the entire process that led to Mr. McCabe's termination and has rendered it ill legitimate," end quote.

CNN's White House correspondent Boris Sanchez with us now.

A lot there, Boris.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fred. President Trump is spending the morning on the offensive on Twitter, going after members of his administration, current and former. He also launched a new line of attack against the special counsel. We really haven't seen President Trump go directly after Robert Mueller and his team the way that we have this morning.

I want to show you the tweet that I'm talking about now. The president writing, quote, "Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big crooked Hillary supporters, and zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added. Does anyone think this is fair? And yet there is no collusion."

A couple of points there about the president's tweet. He's trying to argue that the investigation is biased against him because there are no Republicans on Mueller's team. That's simply inaccurate. Robert Mueller himself is a registered Republican, someone who served under both Republican and Democratic administrations. Further, some of the attorneys on Mueller's team have prosecuted both Republicans and Democrats.

There's no real partisan streak there, and perhaps most importantly, Robert Mueller has a vote of confidence from Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who has repeatedly said that Mueller is acting appropriately, that he's carrying out this investigation in pursuit of facts and not allowing personal political views to interfere in the pursuit of those facts. So the president is sounding alarms not only with his own comments but with his attorney's comments.

Yesterday John Dowd saying that he was praying for an end to the Russia investigation. The way that he worded a statement released yesterday led many to believe that the administration was inclined to perhaps fire Robert Mueller, and so today you're hearing a number of lawmakers coming out saying that that would be a constitutional crisis.

Here's Jeff Flake, senator from Arizona, on "STATE OF THE UNION" earlier today with Jake Tapper saying that that would be a red line the president shouldn't cross. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Do you really think that Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan will stand up and say no, Mr. President, you can't do this?

FLAKE: I hope so. In talking to my colleagues all along, it was, you know, once he goes after Mueller, then we'll take action.

[14:05:06] I think that people see that as a massive red line that can't be crossed, so I hope that that's the case, and I would just hope that enough people would prevail on the president now. Don't go there. Don't go there. We have confidence in Mueller. I certainly do, and then I think my colleagues do as well. So I hope that the pushback is now to keep the president from going there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Though the cloud of the Russia investigation continues to hang over the administration, Fred, there is some good news for the president this weekend. His job approval numbers have ticked up since January, this according to an NBC News/Washington -- rather, "Wall Street Journal" poll, showing that his approval rating is now at 43 percent, disapproval at 53. That's down four points from where we were at the start of the year.

Finally the president is set to travel to New Hampshire tomorrow. He's going to give a speech outlining his plan to combat the opioid crisis -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Interesting timing on all those fronts. Thanks so much, Boris Sanchez at the White House.

All right. So the big question remains on everyone's mind, is the president laying the groundwork for the firing of Special Counsel Rob Mueller? Joining me right now to discuss this is CNN law enforcement

contributor and retired FBI supervisory special agent Stephen Moore, CNN contributor and former White House ethics czar, Norm Eisen, CNN political analyst David Drucker and CNN political commentator Ana Navarro.

Good to see you all.

All right, so, David, you first. So with these growing attacks by the president, what responsibility do Republicans have in defending the Intelligence Community?

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I think what Republicans are trying to do is just stay out of the line of fire. They're approaching a midterm election where they're already in bad shape and one thing that could make it worse, getting into a very public spat with the president. The president fires back at them, and their base, in terms of electoral turnout, just disappears because they get mad at Republicans for fighting with the president and the Republican base is still with the president, even though many more Republican voters have issues with the president.

So it's a very delicate matter for Republicans on the Hill. In talking to them over many months, they have always expressed publicly and on the record concerns about the idea that the president would fire Mueller. One, by having the special counsel on the job it absolves them of the responsibility to do much in terms of looking in to Russian meddling and the possibility of collusion.

Number two, if the president were to fire Mueller, which is in his power to do legally, then they would feel compelled to act, and they have told that to me and other reporters over many months, and this is the last thing they want to be involved in as a midterm election approaches.

WHITFIELD: So Trump's personal lawyer had two statements yesterday, John Dowd, saying that he wants Mueller's probe to end, and then of course the tweets started coming in, "The Mueller probe should never have been started, that there was no collusion, and there was no crime. It was based on fraudulent activities and a fake dossier paid for by crooked Hillary and the DNC and improperly used in FISA court for surveillance of my campaign, witch hunt."

Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy weighed in on this, this morning. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: To suggest that Mueller should shut down and that all he is looking at is collusion, if you have an innocent client, Mr. Dowd, act like it. Russia attacked our country. Let Special Counsel Mueller figure that out. And if you believe as we found there's no evidence of collusion you should want Special Counsel Mueller to take all the time and have all the independence he needs to do his job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right. Steve, are you in agreement with that?

STEPHEN MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I am. He's not going to get a better deal from anybody besides Mueller. Mueller will take -- will let the facts take him where they take him and if they prove no collusion, then Mueller is now this administration's best friend and they should thank God for him. If there is collusion, if there are other things like Gowdy said, then Mueller will go there and America should thank God for Mueller. Nobody should want Mueller out right now. No rational person.

WHITFIELD: . All right. So turning to former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe fired, you know, just hours before his retirement. Senator Marco Rubio reacted this morning with this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA; I don't like the way it happened. He should have been allowed to finish through the weekend. That said, there's an inspector general report that's due and work that's being done and after he had retired, that report would have indicated wrongdoing or something that was actionable. There are things that could have been done after the fact, but, you know, 48 hours to go before retirement, I would have certainly done it differently, given the fact there's still this report out there that hasn't come in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right. So, Norm, we heard from, you know, McCabe's attorney via tweet saying, we're not going to respond to, you know, all of this back and forth with the president, et cetera.

[14:10:07] So how else, in your view, should have -- could this have been handled?

NORM EISEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Fred, thanks for having me back, and the McCabe firing was handled the wrong way. You ought to have let the inspector general report come out, let all the facts settle then make a decision, and the stream of invective from Trump that has been targeted at McCabe for months now, there's no way we can be confident -- whatever the merits may be, that we can be confident that this was a fair decision and the spectacle of having his job pulled in order to deny him his pension, less than 48 hours before he was to retire, is just more evidence. That's not to say that the report will exonerate him, but it should have been done in a proper way.

WHITFIELD: Right, because apparently the inspector general report either indicates there were wrongdoings or things that were suspicious allegedly, you know, by McCabe, thereby potentially justifying his firing. Rand Paul did not mince words on the way in which this firing took place, and this is what he had to say this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I really think General Flynn was treated unfairly. I think Andrew McCabe did worse than General Flynn, frankly. Andrew McCabe lied about doing something illegal. He leaked classified documents. General Flynn apparently did not state the truth about something he did that was legal. So you wonder, how are we going to make this fair? How are we going to make this just?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Again, Ana, we really don't know if it was an issue of leaking, if it was justifiably, you know, talking to reporters and talking about McCabe. Again, we don't have the details of that inspector general report, but is there kind of a common sentiment across the party in terms of McCabe was deserving of being fired, maybe it's just the issue of when that is bringing a lot of consternation?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think you've heard today from people like Lindsey Graham, from people like Marco Rubio saying that they don't like the way that this happened. So I don't think that there is a common thread within the party. Where there is a common thread is in the complicity and the silence that they have held as Donald Trump plucks person by person who stands in the way of him firing Mueller.

I think the Republican Party is in for a deep, deep reckoning come November, and in large part it's because the voters of America have seen time and time and time again that they are not performing their duty of checks and balances of being a coequal branch of government and holding this executive, holding Donald Trump accountable. They keep looking the other way because it is a guy from their party, and he throws bones at them here and there, and keeps them happy.

The Republicans have a real problem on their hands because if they get into a fight with Trump over this, they have a short-term primary problem. If they don't get into a fight with Trump with this over this and stand up for American principles and the Constitution and the rule of law, they've got a long-term problem, like we just saw in Pennsylvania today.

They learned nothing from a 20-point turnaround romping in a state that they could have -- you know, Republicans should have been able to nominate a bag of mulch and that bag of mulch should have been able to win in that district.

WHITFIELD: So this new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll looked at the most popular and unpopular political figures and institutions, and just take a look, you know, look at where the FBI and Robert Mueller stand compared to figures like, you know, Paul Ryan, the president, both major parties.

So, you know, David, Trump's attacks on the FBI and the special counsel, is this fueling greater support from him? We just heard our own reporter Boris, you know, reporting that his approval ratings got a bump recently. What potentially is behind that?

DRUCKER: Well, look, I think that the president's rants and attacks on the Intelligence Community definitely have impacted the opinion of the Republican base, which we've seen now the opinion of intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies sort of change with where the president is, and this sort of fight is what his base likes to see out of him. It keeps them very motivated. To them it's about him fighting against the power in Washington. That's how they look at it, and so for the --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Does it look like it's starting to backfire if you just look at the Pennsylvania race, however?

DRUCKER: Well, I think that -- I think that it can and potentially will backfire against the president, when you look at battleground House districts in 2018 midterm elections where you're competing in upscale, suburban educated enclaves, where you have voters inclined to vote Republican, that often vote Republican for Congress but don't like the president, personally they don't like his rants and they don't like his attacks on the institutions of government.

[14:15:05] Even though there's a good chance they're going to enjoy many of the president's policies that he's pushed through at least up until now. And this is the problem for Republicans, and in particular it's a problem with educated white women, and if this continues, then the Republican majority in the House is in deep trouble.

No matter how you parse out all of these polls, who is more popular than that person, at the end of the day, mitt terms are about the president, and at 43 percent, it's a nice bump for the president compared to where he was, but it's still 43 percent, and in that same poll, we saw a 10-point disparity in the generic ballot. That's about three points outside of where Republicans feel confident or at least comfortable that they would have a chance to hold the House.

WHITFIELD: All right. We'll leave it right there. Ana, I did see you in agreement, though, however, your way of adding in.

(LAUGHTER)

WHITFIELD: All right. Stephen Moore, Norm Eisen, David Drucker, Ana Navarro, thanks to all of you. Appreciate it.

DRUCKER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. And then there's this breaking news in Russia. As polls are closing right now, Vladimir Putin most assuredly cementing power for another six years, with polls closing there.

Let's get right to CNN's Fred Pleitgen who is just outside Moscow's Red Square and Putin had, what, seven opponents? But everyone kind of expects what the outcome will be.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Yes, it's not much of a surprise, Fredricka. We just received the first exit poll here from the Russian election. Vladimir Putin is at around a little less than 74 percent of the votes that have been counted so far. I think it's about 21 percent of the votes here in the country that have been counted so far but as you maybe can hear behind me, there's already been election party going on, of the Vladimir Putin supporters, about 35,000 are expected here outside the Kremlin.

As you said, seven people running against Vladimir Putin. It seems as though the closest runner-up at this point is at around 11 percent so from what we can see so far, it seems pretty much assured that Vladimir Putin is going to spend another six years in office as the Russian president. So if anyone in America is wondering who the U.S. president will be dealing with the next couple of years most certainly will be Vladimir Putin -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And Fred, one watchdog group says it has received more than 2,000 reports of potential irregularities in today's vote.

PLEITGEN: Yes.

WHITFIELD: So what can you tell us about that?

PLEITGEN: Yes. That's certainly true. There are groups that have said that there were voting irregularities in several places including ballot stuffing, some other irregularities as well. Those are going to be looking into.

It's interesting because even Russian state media is reporting about that. That there is an ombudswoman for the Russian government that has said she does not believe that that would make the election void or influence the election in any way. But yes, those reports are out there. The Russians are saying they're looking into those reports but certainly that is something that international organizations will be looking very clearly at, as well, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Fred Pleitgen in Moscow, thanks so much.

All right. Mounting pressure on a data firm tied to the Trump campaign. Cambridge Analytica accused of improperly obtaining voter information from Facebook. New details of this growing scandal, next.

And a teen abducted in Pennsylvania and taken across the Mexican border found safe. Police say her abductor was a member of her church. Details straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:22:40] WHITFIELD: All right. The calls are growing for Facebook to come forward and explain who knew what and when about Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm with ties to Trump's 2016 campaign.

Senator Amy Klobuchar is tweeting this saying, "I've called for more transparency and accountability for online political ads. They say trust us. Mark Zuckerberg needs to testify before Senate Judiciary." And the Massachusetts attorney general is announcing her office is opening an investigation tweeting this, "Massachusetts residents deserve answers immediately from Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. We are launching an investigation," end quote.

This comes on the heels of a "New York Times" report that said Cambridge Analytica collected personal data from 50 million Facebook users without their approval. Members of Congress are also echoing concerns today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FLAKE: Well, certainly who knew what when. This is a big deal, when you have that amount of data, and the privacy violations there are significant.

PAUL: We ought to be very, very careful about the government collecting that data from private entities. The privacy of the American consumer, the American individual should be protected.

SCHIFF: We need to find out what we can about the misappropriation of the privacy, the private information of tens of millions of Americans, that misappropriate information used by this digital arm of the Trump campaign to manipulate American voters, and of course the links between Cambridge Analytica and Julian Assange.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Meantime, Facebook has suspended Cambridge Analytica for violating the social media site's policies, claiming the company obtained user data and then didn't destroy it when requested. The company denies any wrongdoing.

Joining me right now Professor David Carroll, who is suing Cambridge Analytica in a British court to find out what the data firm knows about him.

All right. So, David, express to me your concerns, what kind of information do you think Cambridge Analytica got about you and why are you suing?

DAVID CARROLL, PROFESSOR SUING CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA: Thank you. We've been working on this lawsuit for over a year now, back in January, I under British law requested my data from the company.

[14:25:03] And then received it in March and then after that, received guidance from experts in United Kingdom that the disclosure couldn't possibly be complete and couldn't possibly be compliant to the British Data Protection Act, and so we've been mounting our legal challenge and then we filed a claim in British court on Friday demanding full disclosure.

Alexander Nicks, the CEO, repeatedly brags that he has 4,000 to 5,000 data points on every U.S. voter, but when asked if he would give us each our 4,000, 5,000 data points per British law, he doesn't seem to be interested in doing that. So we have the right to get that data because our data was processed in the United Kingdom and so it's subject to their laws.

WHITFIELD: So how do you suppose you got roped up? What were some of the questions that you asked in terms of you engaged yourself in the type of Q&A or polling or profiling via Facebook. What kind of information did you provide and how do you believe that information was extracted to assist a political campaign without your approval?

CARROLL: Well, I've been looking at this industry for a while, looking at the advertising industry and how it's able to collect data and target people, so the technology used to sell ski vacations is also used to sell political candidates now.

When I received my data, it was too difficult to understand and make sense of how it was generated, so that speaks to the idea that they need to disclose more, so that we can understand how the profile was created, based on what kinds of activities, was it based on my credit card purchases, my Web site browsing activity, or was it derived from Facebook in an elicit manner, now that we have heard from the whistleblower Christopher Wiley?

So there's many questions, more questions keep appearing, and none are answered by their disclosure.

WHITFIELD: So reportedly a lot of this information obtained by Facebook users unbeknownst to them would then be passed on indirectly to candidates, and in this case, you know, Donald Trump's campaign, which reportedly the campaign would be able to use to its advantage in terms of how to target certain viewers. Do you believe that that indeed happened?

CARROLL: Well, certainly just from the data that they supplied me, they would certainly be able to find persuadable voters in the competitive districts and be able to figure out maybe the top three hot button issues that really animated that voter, and then could micro-target them for messages about those issues, directly on Facebook and even directly on their set top box.

The industry is able to micro-target people individually now, and so if you could figure out these issues then you could figure out how to communicate directly to specific voters.

WHITFIELD: In most campaigns would say that's smart campaigning but you're saying unbeknownst to you that your personal information may have been obtained and the personal information of other Facebook users may have been obtained for this very purpose without your knowing and so thereby that's wrong, in your view.

CARROLL: Indeed, and there's so many concerns about this company, which is under investigation by the House, the Senate, special counsel, now the attorney general of Massachusetts. It's also under investigation in United Kingdom by its regulator, the information commissioner, and by parliament, and so the related issues for this company create a lot of distress for Americans, who may not understand how our private data was used potentially against us, but luckily British law allows us to get answers.

WHITFIELD: All right, David Carroll, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.

CARROLL: Thank you for having me.

WHITFIELD: All right, President Trump facing growing opposition from members of his own party. A key Republican senator is vowing to block the president's picks for secretary of State and CIA director.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: So no, I can't support that, and I will do everything I can, including filibuster.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:33:53]

WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. President Trump's latest nominees for top post could run into opposition from his own party. Today, Republican Senator Rand Paul vowed once again to do everything he can to block Mike Pompeo for the secretary of state job, and Gina Haspel for the CIA director post.

Paul objects to Pompeo's support for the Iraq war and regime change abroad and Haspel's involvement in the controversial Bush era interrogation programs. Here's what Senator Paul and his fellow Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I'll do whatever it takes, and that includes filibuster. I will try to make a point to the American people and maybe the American people will rise up and say you know, we stand in solidarity with those who seek freedom from torture, not the freedom to torture.

It's inconsistent with who we are as a people to have someone run our spy agency that has all this enormous power, who is intimately involved with torture and from everything we're reading was supportive of the policy, and so, no, I can't support that.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think he's an outlier, Senator Paul, certainly within the Republican Party and I will be looking for her to understand that the law has changed, and she cannot engage in these interrogation techniques. I think it undercuts our national security, but in terms of her qualifications to me they're second to none.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[14:35:13] WHITFIELD: All right. Back with me, CNN political analyst, David Drucker, and CNN political commentator, Ana Navarro. All right. Welcome back. So, Ana, you first, can Senator Paul filibuster and stop these nominations or will he just slow down their inevitable confirmations?

NAVARRO: Are you asking me?

WHITFIELD: Yes, Ana.

NAVARRO: Look, there's a lot he can do. There's a lot one senator can do to tie up a nomination process. We have seen it play out over and over again. I think it's a little weird when it comes to Pompeo. He has been confirmed once already and it's not often that you see people like John McCain and Rand Paul on the same page.

They are about this nominee for CIA, for director of the CIA, but I think every single nominee deserves a chance to be questioned, needs to be questioned vigorously, deserves a chance to give answers to see how, if anything, has evolved in their thinking. I think he deserves that chance.

He should ask very tough questions, but this idea of having, you know, vacancies in our top government is something that I don't think is a good look for America, certainly not in the times we are living.

When we are, you know, seeing so much going on, on the Russia front, so much going on, in the North Korea front, and I do think Lindsey Graham is right. There is no doubt Rand Raul is an outlier, a little bit of a libertarian.

He goes out on his own, you know, battles against windmills all the time. That being said, you know, John McCain has some of the very same concerns when it comes to the torture.

WHITFIELD: Right. I'll get to McCain but, you know, Paul may not be alone, too, because there are so many or there are more Republicans who are expressing they don't like the way in which people are being removed, because President Trump is sending signals that they have to be thinking the same. So, it may not be an issue of vacancies but looking for the right candidates, Ana?

NAVARRO: Well, look, if they don't like the way people are being removed, and they shouldn't, I think it is very concerning, forget as Republicans or Democrats, it's concerning as Americans to think that the primary requirement in order to be appointed by this administration is to be a yes man or yes woman to this president, who knows so little about policy, who is so erratic and so rather unstable.

And so, Republicans should be bothered. Republicans should be doing their job of advice and consent, but you know, Republican words are worth less and less every day, because they talk about being disappointed, about being disturbed, but then they look away, and they sit there in silence.

We have seen -- what we've seen this month, Fred, should bother us so much. Do you think, do you think that if there were 30, 40 people without security clearances in the White House under a Democratic administration and those people had been handling classified information like Rob Porter did, the Republicans would not have called immediately and rightly so for a congressional investigation.

WHITFIELD: Right.

NAVARRO: And yet time and time again, we see them sit in silence, whether it be McCain, whether it be Rob Porter, whether it be Stormy Daniels on issues that should be of concern to all Americans. WHITFIELD: Well, there has been a lot of unorthodox or nontraditional if you want to put it that way. David, back to John McCain, Ana brought it up. You know, John McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, he, too, has expressed his real concerns about Haspel because of interrogation methods used during another, George W. Bush administration. So, how influential might he be? Yes, he is still undergoing his medical challenges, while in Arizona, but he has already proven to be influential even from afar.

DRUCKER: You know, look, what John McCain has to say about national security matters in particular carries a lot of weight and I think that the administration is going to have to work to get Haspel confirmed simply because the Republicans have a very thin 51-49 majority.

And they cannot count on all of their members to vote for Haspel's confirmation, and I think you're going to see a lot of Democrats join with some Republicans that are concerned about her role in enhanced interrogation techniques or torture, depending on how you want to look at it.

I do think on Mike Pompeo that Rand Paul will be someone on an island unto himself, because if you look at Pompeo's record, he is an internationalist. He's a hawk on Russia. He understands the threat coming from China.

In other words, if you think that President Trump has isolationist tendencies, doesn't value American alliances and isn't taking seriously enough the problems we're facing from Russia and from Beijing, Mike Pompeo is the kind of thinker that you want advising the president every day.

[14:40:13] And so I think that a lot of Republicans are actually encouraged, even if they didn't like the way Rex Tillerson was fired, they're encouraged to have Mike Pompeo and somebody like him the way he looks at the world moving into the secretary of state position.

WHITFIELD: All right. We shall see. David Drucker, Ana Navarro, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.

All right. A missing Pennsylvania teen found safe in Mexico. The 45- year-old man found with her is now under arrest. The bizarre details as authorities try to piece together the personal connection, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:45:27]

WHITFIELD: All right. Nearly two weeks after a 16-year-old Pennsylvania girl vanished with a 45-year-old man, the pair was found in Mexico, and the man was arrested. The 16-year-old Amy Yu was reported missing by her mother March 5th after she didn't come home from school. Investigators now believe the teen willingly ran off with the 45-year-old Kevin Easterly.

CNN's Jean Casarez joins us now with an update on this case. Jean, what can you tell us?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we can tell you that the young girl, Amy, is back home with her family. She is safe and sound. Kevin Easterly is in Miami at this point, in custody of the U.S. Marshal and Homeland Security and he will be facing extradition back to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Now, the affidavit of probable cause of which he is charged at this point which is under the Commonwealth Pennsylvania interference with custody of a child, it says that it was a secretive relationship.

We're learning more and more of the back story here, the facts. According to her mother, the families had known each other for at least five years and gone on vacations together, gone to amusement parks together, so that's how they got to know each other, and it was all through their church.

Well, we know that on February 9th, this young girl, Lucy, was taken out of school, checked out of school by Kevin Easterly and it was reported that the mother said that her daughter had actually confessed to police saying that she knew that, that she had put him on as her stepfather to allow to be taken out of school.

And her school, Lehigh Valley Academy said it happened at least ten times in the last few months. Police went to Kevin Easterly and his wife and said stay away from this family but then on March 5th, that's when Amy never made it to school, and police found she had taken money, jewelry, and personal identification out of her home that morning.

Kevin Easterly had not only taken personal identification, but his wife told police that $4,000 had been taken out of her bank account and that was the last they saw from each other, but it was someone on the flight to Cancun that recognized them.

When they got back home, they saw their faces on the news, and it was that passenger that then alerted authorities that he thought they were in Mexico.

WHITFIELD: Wow. See something, say something, on a different level.

CASAREZ: Yes.

WHITFIELD: All right. Jean Casarez, thank you so much.

CASAREZ: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: All right. Next, a young basketball player who got devastating news just after his pro career began. Now he's an inspiration to others. His story, after the break.

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[14:52:30]

(VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: Whoosh, just like that a three-point buzzer beater for the win, with just under 4 seconds left in the game, oh my gosh, falling to the floor, and the season on the line, the Michigan Wolverines pulled off a 64-63 victory against the Houston Cougars, propelling them to the sweet 16.

Their win last night is great news for my CNN bracket challenge. I don't know about yours. I jumped from number 11 to number 1, you know it! Meteorologist Chad Myers and CNN Anchor Kate Baldwin and Sanjay Gupta rounding out the top numbers there. Congratulations to us all. Let's see what happens next.

Before the final four tips off in San Antonio, a group of cancer survivors will be playing a basketball game on the same court and will be united by their powerful and awe-inspiring stories. Deondre Logan's father passed away in 2015 from cancer around the same time he was diagnosed with a cancer of his own. Coy Wire has more on today's "Infinity Hardwood Hero."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEONDRE LOGAN, INFINITI HARDWOOD HERO: I grew up in Los Angeles, California, and I started playing basketball when I was 7 years old. It was something that my dad had in common with his friends and I saw them watch it on tv all the time, so honestly, I was just trying to be like my father.

My parents just taught me to try to get a scholarship out of basketball and achieved that. I went to college at Temple, and then after Temple I decided I didn't want to play college anymore, I wanted to go play professionally, for the Laredo Swarm and that's when I found out I had bone cancer.

I knew right off the bat that I couldn't play any longer, because they said the way that a tumor ate my bone, I wanted my leg cut off, but my mom and my doctor said I couldn't do that, so I ended up getting 15 screws and a plate all the way down my leg.

Right when you get released, you ring a bell in a hospital, everybody hears it, and it's saying that you beat cancer.

The purpose of this game is to raise money for cancer research, and also just to have fun. Obviously to challenge the other team a little bit, just be out there with other people that has a story as well. My name is Deondre Logan and I'm a Hardwood Hero.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[14:55:06] COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Deondre, yes, you are. The Hardwood Hero's game at the Final Four doesn't just help raise money for cancer research as they team up with coaches versus cancer, Deondre and the other players, Fred, they raise our spirits so it's a privilege to share their stories here with you.

WHITFIELD: Big time, big hero, Deondre. Thank you so much, Coy, for bringing that to us. Our top story, President Trump taking on anyone and everyone involved in the Russia investigation. His attacks on the special counsel, the Department of Justice, and the now fired ex-FBI deputy director, and whether all this could backfire politically, more details coming up.