Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Facebook Suspends Cambridge Analytica with Trump Campaign Ties; President Trump Slams Russia Probe; President Trump Travels to Unveil Drug-Fighting Plan in New Hampshire; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired March 19, 2018 - 10:30   ET

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


[10:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: National security analyst, national security correspondent for the "New York Times," Matthew, part of the team that broke the story over the weekend.

There's a lot in this story, Matthew. So help us -- help us understand it. Cambridge Analytica harvested private information from more than 50 million users. Explain to us who is Cambridge Analytica, how were they able to get this information.

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: So Cambridge Analytica is a data -- it's kind of a political data analytics firm that was founded by Robert Mercer, who is the very wealthy Republican donor, and Steve Bannon, President Trump's former senior adviser. It was founded with this idea in 2014 that they can map the personality of every American voter. And through that kind of predict their behavior and message at people. And it was the Mercer's bid to kind of reshape American politics.

Now, look, when it was founded, suddenly you have this team of data scientists who just got $15 million from this incredibly wealthy hedge fund magnate and Steve Bannon who is a bit impatient, and they had to come up with technology that could back up the claim that they said they could deliver. And they needed really good data for that. And they found it in Facebook.

So what they did is they got a researcher from Cambridge University, where this technique had been pioneered, to basically create -- take -- have users take a quiz, a personality quiz. It wasn't on the app at all. You would take this quiz, they would then give you a code, you would log in to Facebook, download an app, it would scrape all your data and your friend's data, and you would get a payment code, and you get paid a little bit of money for taking this longer quiz. And through that you get 50 million profiles.

BERMAN: Psychographic modeling techniques. You know, that's what we're talking about here. What is that? How would the Trump campaign be able to use that?

ROSENBERG: So the idea here, and the technique that was developed prior to Cambridge Analytica is that you could tell a tremendous amount from people just from their Facebook likes. It was almost how they base their likes. Are they neurotic? Wu-Tang -- for example, Wu Tang fans, Wu-Tang clan mostly heterosexual men. Fans of Hello Kitty, mostly open minded but not particularly conscientious. And so they wanted to take those traits, you match that up with voter data from voter databases.

BERMAN: Right.

ROSENBERG: And you create this very rich idea of who's out there and what messages are going to best resonate with them.

(CROSSTALK)

ROSENBERG: Look, did it work? It's a very big question.

BERMAN: Yes, and that's --

ROSENBERG: And it's not entirely clear.

BERMAN: No. And that comes through in the article. Then the other big thing here is this is as much a Cambridge Analytica story as it is a Facebook story, maybe more a Facebook story.

ROSENBERG: Yes.

BERMAN: How much did Facebook know, you know, when did they know it and what are they doing about it?

ROSENBERG: So Facebook knew about it by December 2015. They quietly went out and tried to get everybody to delete the data. We've seen the legal letters they sent to various people who were attached to Cambridge Analytica. We know they contacted the company. We know the data was still out there as of last week because we saw a copy of it. So it has not been destroyed.

Facebook is still saying well, we think maybe we don't know. As of last week, it definitely still existed beyond Facebook's control. I know that.

BERMAN: Now I'm seeing Democrats and Republicans calling for a public hearing that will include Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg. That will be fascinating to see if that happens.

Matthew Rosenberg, great to have you with us. Great article. Thank you.

ROSENBERG: Thanks a lot.

BERMAN: All right. The former FBI deputy director fired with just 26 hours until he would have been eligible for a full pension. The president is cheering, but what does the internal report say about Andrew McCabe? Insight from two former special agents. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:37:44] BERMAN: All right. Moments ago, the president put off a new tweet saying what he thinks about the special counsel's investigation, this is the latest. "A total witch hunt with massive conflicts of interest" is what the president wrote. This, of course, follows Attorney General Jeff Sessions' firing former deputy FBI director Andy McCabe. Joining me now, Josh Campbell, CNN law enforcement analyst and former

FBI supervisory agent, also Asha Rangappa, CNN legal and national security analyst, and former special agent in the FBI.

Guys, there are three sort of separate but connected things here. Number one, you know, the firing of Andy McCabe. The determination by the inspector general and the Office of Professional Conduct that he lacked candor in some of his answers, that's one. Number two is the timing. And number three is the issue of whether or not the president has been providing pressure here in this case. I know they're connected. But if we can break them down sort of one by one.

Josh, first of all, you know, lacking candor inside the FBI. That is something that will get anyone fired, correct?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: That's correct, John. And good to be with you and Asha. I'll start by saying that you're absolutely right, that lack of candor in the FBI is a serious offense and it's something that every FBI employee from day one is drilled into them that if you lack candor, which is your currency in this agency, and you're no longer of use to this organization, you're done. The organization is based on truth.

But here's the problem here with the issue of Andy McCabe and, you know, full disclosure, I briefly, you know, worked for Andy as his special assistant. So let me, you know, put that out on the table. I think there has been a tremendous disservice done to him here. We can hold in our heads two thoughts. The first of which being that it is possible that he lacked candor in which case he should suffer the full consequences for that.

BERMAN: Right.

CAMPBELL: But the second thing is that this service has been done not only to him, but to the American people, because essentially what the attorney general is asking is trust me, we're going to put out a press release, very, you know, lacking in detail, mainly focused on process, and saying trust me without providing the American people the underlying facts of which that decision was based.

BERMAN: And we do not know what is in the inspector general report, we will presumably hear that at some point.

And Asha, sort of the second last beat on this first issue is the inspector general and the Office of Professional Conduct, insofar as anything can be apolitical here, these two organizations, groups within the Justice Department and the FBI, fairly apolitical, you're talking about the IG and OPC, right?

[10:40:05] ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, that's their point of being there, is to be an independent and, you know, insulated oversight for the Department of Justice and the FBI. So, you know, these processes are there for a reason, it's a good thing. That is exactly why these tweets by the president weighing in on what he thinks should happen is so damaging to the credibility of the institutions as a whole because then whatever they come out with is only seen in that context, and not seen as something that has been done independently.

And I think that's the problem here, John, or one of the problems as you mentioned with the timing, and all of these other -- the commentary that's been going on by someone who, by the way, is self- interested in the outcome here because Andy McCabe is a witness against the president in his obstruction case.

BERMAN: So talk to me about the timing, Asha. Why does the timing seem funny to you?

RANGAPPA: Well, I have to see the OIG report, but, you know, depending on when this started, was this after the House Intelligence Committee testimony where Andy McCabe revealed that he might have information against the president? Was there any pressure put on externally to launch this investigation and also was this speeded up in any way to give a decision before what would have normally occurred?

I think what we want to know is, were there any departures from normal procedure for anybody else in the way that this was handled?

BERMAN: And the overall impact, Josh, when we're talking about the political pressure, I think you can go back to December, you're going to find a tweet from the president where he notes that Andy McCabe has 90 days left before he collects a full pension. Clearly the president was weighing in on this whole process from early on?

CAMPBELL: Right. And here is my concern here. I mean, if you look at what happens in politics, politics is all about trying to create a narrative and essentially, you know, prove to the American people that you are the one to be trusted, that they should focus on, you know, supporting you, and a large part of that is oftentimes discrediting your opponent, which is completely fair game in politics. We see it every day.

I think the issue here is that in our system of justice, there cannot be doubt by the public on the rule of law in the United States. Its fairness, its independence. So when you start using political tactics to go after law enforcement, I think it's a very dangerous road to start down.

BERMAN: The issue, though, is, you know, the president may be being political here but we don't have any reason to think that the inspector general or the Office of Professional Conduct is being political, do we?

CAMPBELL: No, I don't think we do. But the problem is, is that we're essentially left to make these decisions in a vacuum. So without that full detail, we simply don't know. If you look at IG investigation some of the reports that have been done over the years, I mean, when they issue something, if there is a scathing report that faulted an agency for something, at least you have the information and you can have an informed debate. We don't have that information. So this debate is anything but informed.

BERMAN: You know, and now we have this memo war, Asha, where Andy McCabe, let it be known that he wrote contemporaneous memos of his meetings with the president, the president already trying to suggest that those memos shouldn't be trusted. This gets to the issue of credibility again, who is credible here?

RANGAPPA: That's right. And I just want to say from a legal perspective there is something called present recollection recorded which means that when you write something down at the time that it happens, if it becomes relevant later, that written recording carries great evidentiary weight, because it's kind of presumed to be a truthful representation of what happened. So this is not great for the president, and I also want to point out that his tweets today concerning the conflict of interest actually goes to one of the grounds that the special counsel could be fired.

BERMAN: Right. Yes.

RANGAPPA: So I think it's important to know that he is starting to use the language that is actually in the special counsel regulations that would give grounds for firing Mueller.

BERMAN: No. It's a very important point right there. He is using specific language that means something when you're talking about a special counsel. Whether he knows that or not, I guess we can't be sure. But you should give the benefit of the doubt, I suppose, to the president of the United States saying something specific.

Josh Campbell, Asha Rangappa, thanks so much, guys, for being with us. Appreciate it.

CAMPBELL: Thanks.

RANGAPPA: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. So is this the opening curtain for the 2020 possible presidential primary? When any politician goes to New Hampshire, it is a big deal. Today, the president is going there. We'll talk about the political implications. He's also there for a very important policy event, too.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:49:05] BERMAN: Very, very few politicians ever step foot in the first in the nation state of New Hampshire without having it mean something politically. The president heads there in just a few hours. Another Republican was there on Friday, so what does it all mean?

Joining me now, CNN political director David Chalian.

First, David, before we talk about the state of New Hampshire, what it means, the political implications, the president does have a very real reason for going, to talk about the opioid crisis. It's something very important in New Hampshire and something the president has talked about in New Hampshire.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, it was a big theme during the campaign when he was campaigning in New Hampshire. As you know, John, that opioid epidemic is a crisis across the nation, but it is particularly acute up in New England and specifically in New Hampshire. So it is something we've heard from politicians up there.

The president plans to roll out the plan of how to spend the $6 billion that Congress recently appropriated for it.

[10:50:02] And that includes things like an education campaign, advertising, treatment for people who are addicted to opioids, some job -- helping folks get jobs, but also cracking down on drug traffickers and perhaps going as far as what some drug traffickers using the death penalty.

BERMAN: And that will get a great deal of attention. All right. The president in New Hampshire today. Jeff Flake, who is also a Republican, a Republican not terribly fond of the president, was there on Friday. John Kasich, another person who will be going there again very shortly, I'm sure he's been there already.

Does this mean that the president faces a potential primary challenge in this state?

CHALIAN: Well, it doesn't mean it yet, John. But it does mean that clearly some folks in his party are looking at the prospect of if that might be something to pursue. Obviously we have seen Donald Trump pretty healthy in the polls among Republicans. Around 80 percent support or if not a little higher. So it's tough to see a wide opening for a Republican to sort of get in there and really make a serious challenge.

But, John, the president and first lady in New Hampshire today, Ivanka Trump in Iowa today, it seems to me the Trump administration and the Trump campaign not taking anything for granted and ensuring to try to tamp down talk of a potential primary challenge because you know how devastating that could be, even if it's not successful, for an incumbent president.

BERMAN: Ah. Even if it's not successful. Let's walk down memory lane if we can. 1992, Pat Buchanan, President George H.W. Bush. You know, Buchanan didn't win, but he got 37 percent. That was seen as something that was crippling to George H.W. Bush in the primary.

You go back to 1968, with the Democrats, Lyndon Johnson hadn't dropped out yet, he was at 50 percent, he won, but the fact that Eugene McCarthy did so well drove him from the race.

That's the concern here, that someone else shows pretty well, not necessarily even beating the president, correct?

CHALIAN: That's right. And remember in 1980, I think Teddy Kennedy got about 37 percent of the vote up there in New Hampshire against incumbent Jimmy Carter at that time as well. When an incumbent president faces a primary challenge, even not a successful one, but a substantial one, where they can make a nick from inside his own party, that has proven to be quite troubling for the president running for re-election come the fall in November, in the general election.

BERMAN: Indeed. And remember, trips to New Hampshire and Iowa don't happen by accident as a rule.

David Chalian, always great to see you. Thanks so much.

CHALIAN: You too, John.

BERMAN: All right. Another number one seed is done. I don't even know what the heck is going on anymore in this tournament. March Madness going beyond its name.

Andy Scholes has the latest bracket-busters -- there's only bracket- busters right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:57:27] BERMAN: So admit it, you have no idea who is going to win, do you? Brackets busted all across the country this opening weekend of the NCAA tournament.

Andy Scholes here trying to solve the biggest mystery in life -- Andy, March Madness.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Now, John, don't come to me for any answers.

BERMAN: Yes.

SCHOLES: Because I filled out the worst bracket of my life. You know, this was one of the craziest first four days of the tournament ever. If you're doing well in your bracket, you're definitely one of the few. So many of the favorites already gone including North Carolina and Michigan State, who both lost yesterday. Xavier, meanwhile, becoming the second one seed to go down in the tournament.

Florida State down by 9, with just 5 1/2 minutes to go in this game. They went on an 18-4 run to close it out. The Seminoles just storming back to win the game, 75-70. The party was on, on the court, after the win, and in the locker room afterwards. Florida State, they're going to move on to the Sweet 16 for first time since 2011.

UMBC, the University of Maryland Baltimore County, became the first 16 seed ever to knock off a one seed on Friday beating Virginia. But their Cinderella run coming to an end last night at the hands of Kansas State. The players getting a standing ovation as they left the floor, sharing hugs with each other and their coach.

And the team's Twitter account, which was just open during their run, tweeting, "Well, it was fun, y'all, K-State may have won, but we hope to have won your hearts."

Nevada meanwhile had the comeback of the tournament. The Wolfpack down by 22 to Cincinnati with under 12 to play. And they just made an epic comeback. Josh Hall, that floater right there, with 10 seconds left, put them up for good. The win ties to the second largest comeback in tournament history. And check out Nevada coach Eric Musselman after the game, taking off his shirt and tie, on the way to the locker room. He knew what was coming. Nevada on to the Sweet 16 for first time since 2004.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC MUSSELMAN, NEVADA HEAD COACH: Unbelievable determination, grit. Nobody --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nevada grit.

MUSSELMAN: Nobody quit. And guys, guess what? We are going to the Sweet 16.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: All right, Nevada now moves on to take on Sister Jean and Loyola Chicago in the Sweet 16. Sister Jean, the 98-year-old chaplain for the team, she's of course helped make the Ramblers the sentimental favorite going forward, John.

And now if we look at the bracket standing here at CNN, Erin Burnett doing quite well with Victor Blackwell. You're further down. I'm way down there at the bottom. I'll say this, this is the worst bracket I've ever filled out in my life.

BERMAN: I couldn't -- I didn't even think it was possible for someone to be behind me. Andy Scholes --

SCHOLES: I'll take that.

BERMAN: Thank you very much, Andy. I appreciate you being here and for that.

All right. I'm John Berman. Thanks so much for watching. "AT THIS HOUR" starts now.