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CNN NEWSROOM

CNN: Trump Furious Over Leak of Warning He Recieved About Putin; Porn Star, Playmate, Reality Star up Pressure on Trump; Trump Once Again Escalates Attack on Mueller; Austin Serial Bomber Dead, Public Warned of Possible Bombs; Fed Raises Key Interest Rates in Response to Growing Economy; White House Official: Leak of "Do Not Congratulate" a Fireable Offense; Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 21, 2018 - 14:00   ET

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


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: All right, Wolf. Thank you so much. Good to be with you on this Wednesday. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We begin this hour with one major leak and three potentially major legal battles embroiling the president of the United States.

A source says that Trump is furious that word got out that he either missed or simply disregarded all these warnings from his national security advisers that specifically said in all caps on this note card, do not congratulate Vladimir Putin on his re-election win.

The president, in fact, did just that on his Tuesday phone call with the Russian president. A leak of such confidential detail indicates a move to embarrass President Trump coming from the highest levels.

And as President Trump tries to learn who leaked this, he is getting hit with three lawsuits - three! - that may open up more private details in a very public way. All from women in his past. And we'll get to those cases in just a moment.

But, first, I want to play some sound. This is Florida Senator Marco Rubio. The Republican was asked about the president congratulating Putin, whose election victory is widely considered a sham.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I don't like he did it. But you know what I like even less that there's someone close to him leaking this stuff out. If you don't like the guy, quit. But to be this duplicitous and continue to leak things out, it's dangerous.

So, I don't like what he did, but I really hate that that there's someone in his inner circle that's willing to leak this stuff. If you don't like working for the president, you should resign your job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So, let's start there with a very snowy picture. And my friend, Jeff Zeleny, our senior White House correspondent. And, Jeff Zeleny, just first on this leak, we know that, of course, Trump is furious and so is his Chief of Staff John Kelly. JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We do indeed, Brooke. And this certainly is something that the president is focusing on, I'm told. He is fired up. He is furious about this.

And they're trying to get to the bottom of who would have leaked this information. Those three words, do not congratulate in the briefing papers for that call yesterday the president made with Vladimir Putin.

Now, we do know he made that call from the residence. It started before his official workday began in the Oval Office. And there was a very small number of people around him.

Of course, a larger group of people who prepared their briefing papers. Unclear if the president actually read those briefing papers. He did go ahead and congratulate him.

But it is sort of - reminds me of about a year or so ago, Brooke, when so many things were leaking from the national security realm here about his phone calls with foreign leaders. We've not seen a leak like that since.

Certainly, there is a concern here about the president's relationship with Vladimir Putin, about why he finds it difficult to call him out.

So, the White House wanting to focus on the process of this, on the leaks of this. The substance, though, also very important. So many Republicans up on Capitol Hill also raising questions about why the president has not called out Putin specifically for Russian meddling and other matters.

But at least for today, on a snowy day in Washington, you can see behind me, Brooke, the federal government officially closed. The White House has no public events.

But, inside, I can tell you, people are working on trying to figure out who leaked that. It's one of the president's top priorities, Brooke.

BALDWIN: An idle president perhaps trying to, or not, sit on his Twitter fingers with a quiet snowy day, could concern people also in that White House.

Jeff Zeleny, thank you. We'll come back to more of that in a second.

Also, this porn star, a playmate and a reality TV star, the chorus of women from President Donald Trump's past is getting louder.

In just the last 24 hours, results of a polygraph test found that porn star Stormy Daniels was telling the truth about her alleged affair with Donald Trump.

A second woman is now suing to get out of the non-disclosure agreement and a state court ruled that a third woman can sue the president himself in connection with yet another alleged incident.

So, With me now, MJ Lee, our CNN national political reporter. And so, this Stormy Daniels, she has gone from pretty cagey about her allegations, speaking primarily through her lawyer to now - she is not holding back on her Twitter feed. Let's talk a little bit about what she has been saying.

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. Brooke, the fact that she even tweeted about this is actually really telling because, you're right, she has been cagey. She has avoided major questions about her alleged affair with Donald Trump and the whole payout that she received from Michael Cohen.

You get a sense of defiance now from Stormy Daniels. Let me just read what she wrote last night on Twitter. She said, "Technically I didn't sleep with the POTUS 12 years ago. There was no sleeping (hehe) and he was just a goofy reality TV star. But I digress...People DO care that he lied about it, had me bullied, broke laws to cover it up, etc. And PS...I am NOT going anywhere."

Now, keep in mind that with the help of Michael Avenatti, her lawyer, they have sort of mastered this PR game of staying in the headlines every single day. And you kind of have to wonder whether this tweet had anything to do with the "60 minutes" interview that is going to air on Sunday.

[14:05:12] And, by the way, we don't know exactly what she's going to say in that "60 Minutes" interview and she could end up talking about this polygraph test that she took back in 2011.

And just to quickly remind everyone, she was asked, as a part of this "Life and Style Magazine", again, in 2011, two questions. Did you have vaginal intercourse with Donald Trump in the summer of 2006 and did you have unprotected sex with Donald Trump at the same time?

And what the test determined at the time was that there was no reason to question that she was telling the truth on both of these answers where she said yes.

Now, the final thing that I will end with is that there is video, apparently, of her taking this test. This polygraph test. Michael Avenatti says that he purchased that video using $25,000 because he wants to make sure that he is in possession of this video and make sure that it is not tampered with.

Who knows if that video may end up being released at some point?

BALDWIN: Right. And just reminding people, polygraph is not always admissible in court, but still we heard him last night on "AC360", a lot of this - he just wants it to play out. Court of public opinion seems to be the theme with that legal team.

Thank you so much, MJ.

Stormy Daniels is, as we mentioned, just one of the three women putting the presidency to this legal test. Former playmate Karen McDougal in the center of your screen, she is suing to get out of this non-disclosure agreement about her alleged affair with President Trump. And then, you have former apprentice contestant Summer Zervos on the right there. Just got a word from the judge where she was green lit. She can move forward with her lawsuit that accuses the president of defaming her when he denied he sexually assaulted her in 20017.

So, Jennifer Rogers is with me. She is a former federal prosecutor; now a professor at Columbia law school. So, first of all, thanks for coming in on a snow day.

And just the pressure is mounting. You have these three women, three different cases. It's playing out in three different courtrooms. I don't know about precedent, but just how extraordinary is this?

JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, extraordinary is a really good word here, right? We've never had all these different avenues of attack on a president before from different incidents, too. It's not like it's just different witnesses to the same thing.

So, it's an extraordinary problem for him. He is really in trouble if, like happened to Bill Clinton, he gets into a civil case that results in a deposition, right? Because that's when he'd potentially face perjury charges.

So, as a civil matter, who cares? He can sue and be sued. He has gone through it a million times before. But when it turns over into a potentially criminal matter, like when he testifies, that's, of course, when he and his presidency get into great trouble.

BALDWIN: So, how should he respond to any of this? I mean, in the Zervos case, the judge who green lit defamation case says he has ten days to respond.

RODGERS: That's really hard to say because he is in such a predicament. One thing he should do, I think, is get some better lawyers around him.

BALDWIN: He's got lawyers around him.

RODGERS: He does. He needs the A team. He so far hasn't really gotten the A team. He needs people who think both about the civil side of things, like just answering this complaint in the Zervos case, but also, of course, the bigger implications with criminal exposure and, of course, the impact on the presidency.

So, he needs to get better people. They need to be thinking about all of these issues. He should avoid being deposed at all costs and just try to tamp it down as best he can.

BALDWIN: Is it just - lastly, on that, and we'll move on to his fresh attacks on Mueller. At the end of the day, I guess there are multiple worst-case scenarios, but one of the worst-case scenarios would be if somebody says that, yes, he did - campaign finance laws, right, that his team was trying to dupe the American public by covering up any of these alleged affairs or sexual harassment depending on the case and dupe the American public before they elected him? RODGERS: So, that's one of the ways that this could turn into a criminal matter if there was an election law violation here. That's essentially what John Edwards was tried for years ago.

And it looks like that's a pretty good chance. These were benefits to the campaign right before the election. So, the timing looks like that; in fact, was the reason for the payoffs.

Problem is they're very rarely criminally charged. The federal election is unlikely to do anything about it. So, it probably won't go down that road for him, but there is exposure there.

BALDWIN: OK. OK. Let me move on. The series of tweets from the president this morning, once calling out the Special Counsel Bob Mueller. He's quoting Alan Dershowitz, lawyer and Harvard professor emeritus who wrote this opinion piece in "The Hill" this morning.

Dershowitz's point is the special counsel should not have been appointed. So, here's a quote from his piece. "There was no evidence of any crime committed by the Trump administration, but there was plenty of evidence that Russian operatives had tried to interfere with the 2016 presidential election and perhaps other elections in hope of destabilizing democracy."

[14:10:06] Isn't it worth an investigation to see if a crime was committed? How do you see it?

RODGERS: So, Dershowitz has been famously kind of on the Trump side of this question for a long time.

The special counsel law requires that there be some indication that there's criminal conduct here. You don't have to have hard evidence of criminal conduct. In fact, that's exactly what the special counsel is for, to try to dig up evidence like that.

So, to me, there was indications that there were crimes by the Russians. There's a likelihood that they had some help by Americans, which we actually know to be true from the one indictment that's already been issued.

So, to me, it's very clear that the appointment of Robert Mueller fell squarely within the special counsel statute and should have been done.

BALDWIN: OK. Jennifer Rodgers, thank you so much. I appreciate it here.

Coming up, how the First Lady Melania Trump is responding to these allegations against her husband, how she's handling the news behind these scenes.

Also, breaking out of Austin, Texas today, police identifying and searching the home of the man, the 24-year-old, who they say is responsible for the string of bombings. The suspect is dead, but there is growing concern about what he may have left behind, including potential future explosive packages. We have that for you. And a long-time "Fox News" analyst now says he's quitting the network. He's calling it a propaganda machine, his words. What he told colleagues in a scathing e-mail.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:15:48] BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Finally, a sense of relief for so many of you in Austin, Texas. Authorities confirm the manhunt for that serial bomber is over. The suspect is dead.

Police tell CNN that person is 23-year-old Mark Anthony Conditt. Police say he is from an Austin suburb and is the one responsible for all six of these incidents. They believe Conditt built the bombs himself, though it's not clear if, in fact, he acted alone.

Let me show you these pictures. These are FedEx store surveillance images obtained by our affiliate KABB WOAI. And you see, look closely, police believe, this shows the moment when Conditt dropped off two packages Sunday evening.

It appears, they think, he's wearing a wig, caps and gloves. We're told this video was that final piece that tied Conditt to these attacks.

So, To the manhunt now - this is how it actually ended. Police say they tracked his car to a hotel just outside of Austin. When he started to drive away, SWAT team members swooped in, they followed him, Conditt ran into a ditch along the highway and then set off a bomb inside of his car as authorities started to move in.

But the full threat is not over for people in Austin. Authorities are saying danger still remains because they aren't quite sure if Conditt planted additional bombs before they tracked him down. And so, they're warning people still remain vigilant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN MANLEY, AUSTIN POLICE CHIEF: We don't know where this suspect has spent his last 24 hours and, therefore, we still need to remain vigilant to ensure that no other packages or devices have been left through the community.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: What investigators still don't have, the answer to the question, why, the motive. With me now, Tina Sherrow, former ATF senior agent and explosive specialist.

And, Tina, you have tracked all kinds of investigations, I'm sure, in your years and I know you've said that agents just need a little bit of luck and hope that these suspects make a mistake. Do you think that's what happened here? TINA SHERROW, FORMER ATF SENIOR SPECIAL AGENT (RET.): Absolutely. That was exactly the break and that little bit of light that you look for in your investigations.

BALDWIN: What do you think the mistake was that he made?

SHERROW: Well, in this day and age with all the surveillance cameras available, we've heard so many of us talking in the news now about that, that cameras do capture that.

But in addition to the cameras, they still had to rely on the evidence that they collected and they still had to rely on skillful interviewing techniques and looking for those pieces and parts that were part of the devices the bomber made.

BALDWIN: Now, part of the concern is even though he's dead, he could have sent out a package, several packages to be detonated,, which still could be threatening to the Austin community. How can police use the devices that they've already found to help track those down?

SHERROW: So, the investigators will definitely continue to pursue the leads that they already have in addition to exploiting any additional evidence that they get since the events last night and exploiting any new evidence that they get since last night.

So, as they continue to look for the components and go visit stores where he may have purchased things, as bombers will typically purchase things in their own backyard, we can typically go back 30 to 60 days in sales receipts and try to see if we can recover where those sales occurred and what was purchased in order to build the devices.

So, they'll continue to look at all of those aspects to see if they can't piece together how many more he might have made if that's the case.

BALDWIN: Got it. That's incredible. We are just getting this in, Tina. Let me read this. This is the bomber's family, releasing a statement. So, just reading, in part, "We are devastated and broken at the news that our family could be involved in such an awful way. We had no idea of the darkness that Mark must have been in. Our family is a normal family in every way. We love, we pray and we try to inspire and serve others. Right now, our prayers are for those families that have lost loved ones, for those impacted in any way and for the soul of our Mark. We are grieving and we are in shock. Please respect our privacy as we deal with this terrible, terrible knowledge and try to support each other through this time."

[14:20:03] So, Tina, I guess, the next and final question is the motive and the why, which, hopefully, they're able to get to for our people in Austin to be able to move on.

Tina Sherrow, thank you so much for joining me.

SHERROW: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Just in, former Vice President Joe Biden says he would "beat the hell out of President Trump if they were in high school." What prompted that remark? Let's talk about that next.

Also, breaking news on federal interest rates and what it signals about the current state of the economy. Back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:25:02] BALDWIN: News from Fed, just the newest here at CNN, interest rates are going up a quarter of a percent point to 1.75. The move? A response to an improving economy, low unemployment and rising wages.

This is the first major decision for the new Fed Chairman Jerome Powell. The Fed has now raised rates six times since the crisis era lows.

Now to anger in the West Wing. President Trump reportedly fuming and his chief of staff now frantically searching for the source of this embarrassing leak to come from the White House.

This leak revealed that Trump was warned by his national security staff not to congratulate Vladimir Putin on his election win, widely regarded as a sham election, but the president went on and did it anyway.

The leak also detailed this. While congratulating Putin, Trump ignored other advice. He did not bring up the nerve gas attack in Britain or Russia's meddling in the US elections. So, there's that.

There's also this to consider. The president often makes his calls to foreign leaders while he's still in the residence. Few people are often there with him. One who was was his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster.

So, let's go over all of this with Gloria Borger, our CNN chief political analyst. And, Gloria, first to a point I made a second ago with Jeff Zeleny over at the White House was it's a quiet snowy day in Washington, canceled events. There's not a White House briefing today. Should the White House be worried about what Trump might do or say with so much time on their hands in the wake of his fury over the leak?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you never know, first of all. Secondly, I believe the president has a right to be upset about this leak.

I think if I were the president and I were making calls to foreign leaders and my instructions got leaked about what to say or what not to say in a way so as to damage me - again, I'm just not saying what Trump did was right, but I'm saying there is a problem.

And so, on this one, I actually don't blame the president for being upset. And knowing what we know about the president, when he gets upset, he can lash out. And if it's H.R. McMaster who was involved with this in any way, shape or form - and I have no idea - our reporting from our White House team says that he was in the residence, then I think the president could, of course, use it as an excuse to get rid of somebody he wants to get rid of anyway.

But he's got a right to be upset about this kind of a breach.

BALDWIN: So, right to be upset. And McMaster, depending on who leaked this, but the fact that he was in the residence on the call -

BORGER: We don't know.

BALDWIN: We don't know. So, we just don't know if McMaster can survive this?

BORGER: Well, we don't know. Our reporting says that General Kelly, the chief of staff, is also upset. I'm sure what they're spending part of this snowy day doing is trying to figure out who knew what when.

BALDWIN: Track it down.

BORGER: Because the president is upset about it. And so, I think they're going to try and figure it out. This president likes leak investigations. Well, now he's got one going on inside his own White House.

BALDWIN: What does this say, Gloria, about the relationship between the president and the people who work for him in the White House because if they wanted to embarrass him publicly and they go to "The Washington Post" with this kind of information, knowing this would make its way into the cable news cycle, knowing the president watches TV - you know where I'm going.

BORGER: It's bad. It's bad. The saying is even paranoids have enemies. And I think that if I'm the president sitting there, I am understanding or at least I should understand that there's a lot of vitriol in the White House.

There's a lot of bitterness. There's a lot of anger by a lot of people about the way thieve been treated, about the craziness over there, about the chaos, about going to work every day and not knowing what's going to happen, about wondering what kind of a mood the president is in today, what's he going to do.

And so, I think this is reflective of a larger problem, which is that you have a White House that's kind of walking on tiptoes around this president, unhappy. And I'm going back to the days of the Rob Porter scandal and the way that whole security clearance thing was handled.

And so, I think that these things build on each other. And you have a place where people are not happy. They are all there, however, to serve the president. So, as long as you stay in the White House and you're there to serve the president, I do believe the president has a right to be upset when these things get leaked.

BALDWIN: Gloria, thank you.

BORGER: Sure.

BALDWIN: Gloria Borger in Washington.

Next, under pressure, the president now facing these three civil lawsuits from three different women for a variety of reasons. So, what about the president's wife, the first lady? How is she handling this? How is she responding to all of this? Her busy schedule, by the way, has not gone unnoticed. More on Melania Trump next.