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CNN NEWSROOM

Cambridge Analytica Ties to Trump Campaign and Russia's Questioned; Trump Under Fire for Congratulating Putin; NY Judge Allows Defamation Suit Against Trump; U.S.-South Korea Joint Military Drills to Start April 1; Serial Bomber Still on the Loose in Texas; Russia Denies Use of Nerve Agent to Skripals. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired March 21, 2018 - 00:00   ET

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


[00:00:10] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour --

Caught on camera -- just-released video shows an official from Cambridge Analytica bragging about the company's tie to Donald Trump.

The advice was clear, don't congratulate Vladimir Putin. It was in all caps. "Do not congratulate Vladimir Putin." So the U.S. President congratulated the Russian president on his election win.

And fear grows in the Texas capital with a serial bomber still on the loose and apparently changing tactics.

Hello -- everybody. Great to have you with us, I'm John Vause. Hope you can stay for all three hours.

And this is NEWSROOM L.A.

The scandal involving Facebook and the data firm accused of misusing millions of users' personal information continues to grow with the CEO of Cambridge Analytica suspended pending an investigation. And there are more questions about the firm's ties to the Trump presidential campaign and Russia.

Tom Foreman begins our coverage.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Even as Team Trump suggests Cambridge Analytica had little to do with the big election win, stunning new video out of British TV's Channel 4 shows Cambridge CEO Alexander Nix telling a different story.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you met Mr. Trump?

ALEXANDER NIX, CEO, CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA: Many times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have?

NIX: Gave him almost all the data, all the analytics, all the top (INAUDIBLE) -- we brought all the different (INAUDIBLE) -- FOREMAN: Cambridge Analytica had powerful connections to candidate

Trump including one-time top advisor Steve Bannon and billionaire donor Robert Mercer. So presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner and consultant Brad Parscale brought in the company which is now accused of utilizing data from 50 million Facebook users without permission.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Facebook was how Donald Trump was going to win.

FOREMAN: Cambridge says the data has now been deleted and they're working with Facebook on the issue.

But questions are also swirling about a possible link to Russian meddling. In July 2016, that Cambridge CEO reached out to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks seeking access to e-mail from Hillary Clinton's private server. There's no evidence WikiLeaks had such information.

But WikiLeaks was releasing e-mails from the computers of other Democrats which authorities say were hacked by Russians. The e-mails bedeviled the Clinton campaign, and another Trump adviser Roger Stone weighed in.

ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: I actually have communicated with the son --

FOREMAN: He also directly messaged a Russian hacker. He says he did nothing wrong, and despite another claim that Cambridge had ties to a Russian oil company, the campaign insists there were never any links to Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you comfortable that the Trump campaigned through the Cambridge Analytica and had a connection to WikiLeaks.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: They didn't have a connection to WikiLeaks.

FOREMAN: Cambridge Analytica says the comments by the CEO do not represent the values or operations of the firm and "his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation".

And the company told that British channel it has never claimed it won the election for President Trump. They've also launched an internal investigation into the matter.

Tom Foreman, CNN -- Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Hemu Nigam is an Internet security analyst. He joins us now. Hemu -- thanks for being with us.

You know, that -- we've just heard about the Cambridge Analytica part in all of this. But it seems the most consequential questions here are for Facebook. And there was an editorial in the "Financial Times" breaking it down to these four questions.

Why did Facebook take so little action when the data leak was discovered? Who is accountable for the leak? Why does Facebook accept political advertisements at all? Should not everyone who cares about civil society simply quit Facebook? And then throughout all of this, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has gone MIA, not a peep.

HEMU NIGAM, INTERNET SECURITY ANALYST: I think what's really going on here -- and I do think we need to put this in perspective and somewhat put it on the rest of us out here in the community who are up in arms about what happened because at the end of the day, for years -- and I would say for more than ten years social media companies have been collecting data and that's why they're free.

They collect the data and they sell it to people who then use it for different purposes. In their policies they define certain rules and certain things that you're allowed to do and not allowed to do.

So the fact that everyone is so shocked in itself ought to be a little bit shocking. But that doesn't mean that the company's reaction isn't what others are going to question and how they acted when they did find out that something was wrong.

[00:04:56] VAUSE: Yes. Look, for social media companies, the users of the product and, you know, and the advertisers are the customers. But look, there has been no word from Mark Zuckerberg. He is the high profile CEO of Facebook. It's under fire. There has been this parade of lesser known Facebook executives trying to defend the company and it has just been totally ineffective.

NIGAM: Well, I think what's partly going on right now is whenever Congress says you're coming to me and you're going to sit before this committee and talk to us, which is actually happening right now, all hands on deck in getting Mr. Zuckerberg prepared for that meeting. So I'm sure he's doing that.

The general counsel I think held some kind of emergency meeting with employees today, and I'm sure that would have been to talk about what are the legal ramification or the legal issues. Have they done something wrong legally? What' going on in that legal environment?

So I think there's a lot of weighing going on here between different constituents. One is Wall Street. Your stocks tumbling, what are you doing? This is right.

Then there's consumers -- what have you done with my data? This isn't right.

Then there's Congress -- did you follow the things that you were supposed to do and not do? That isn't right.

And now the FTC and the European Commission and U.K. parliament -- every one is piling in. So I think the best thing that they are doing for themselves, not for our perception of what's but for themselves is hunker down, get your facts straight, figure it out and then come out and talk about it.

And I think in the meantime all of this is going to boil up and boil up and boil up waiting for some kind of explosion. VAUSE: Yes. Well, there has been a long, long list of scandals for

Facebook in the last couple of months and the last year or so. You know, just -- what, last month it was noted in the indictment of 13 Russians as part of the Mueller investigation that Facebook had been infiltrated by fake Russian accounts. And then January, changes to the company's algorithm was seen as potentially leading to users spending less time on the site, that would mean there could potentially be at least a fall in advertising revenue.

I mean two very different stories but no scandal so far has affected Facebook's stock like the one with Cambridge Analytica. So why is that?

NIGAM: I think part of that is that people have finally realized how social media companies work, not from the negative perspective, just from the factual perspective. Data is collected on you when you do certain things and it's spread to others.

I think what's shocking to people here is that a company like -- and I'm going to -- let's assume Cambridge did this, but we don't know for sure. But let's assume they did what they're being alleged to have done, they're shocked that this is actually happening. And that's why it's affecting individuals.

Why it's affecting Wall Street is if there is regulation that will limit what a company can do like a social media company in terms of selling data, that is going to have a direct consequential impact on revenue. That means all the social media companies are going to get affected.

This is not just a Facebook issue. This actually is going to boil into a social media industry impact and a direct one because it's all tied to can you sell data. How much can you sell it? How do you control it once you sold it? What happens to the people who buy it? And frankly are they going to be regulating the people who buy it?

And enforce the rules much harsher and I think that's what the FTC is about to look at right now.

VAUSE: For social media users, it's a case of I can't believe there's gambling (ph) going on here.

Hemu -- good to see you. Thanks so much.

NIGAM: You too -- John. VAUSE: Well, There's growing criticism of Donald Trump after he congratulated the Russian President Vladimir Putin on his reelection. The U.S. President talked about the phone call during an Oval Office meeting with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

Critics and election monitors say the Russian vote was neither free nor fair. The White House dodged questions about the call saying the U.S. does not get to dictate how other countries operate.

And President Trump had an additional surprise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had a call with President Putin, and congratulated him on the victory, his electoral victory. The call had to do also with the fact that we will probably get together in the not too distant future so that we can discuss arms, we can discuss the arms race.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Well joining me here in Los Angeles Democratic strategist Caroline Heldman, Republican strategist Charles Moran, and CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein and in Manchester, New Hampshire attorney and professor, Seth Abramson.

We're going to sit tight, Seth, for a minute while we look into this Russia phone call and Donald Trump with Vladimir Putin.

And what seems to be making this phone call even more extraordinary is the reporting we have from the "Washington Post". "President Trump did not follow specific warnings from his national security advisers when he congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin Tuesday on his reelection, including a section in his briefing materials in all capital letters stating "do not congratulate", according to officials familiar with the call.

Ron -- "The Post" does point out that the national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, did not mention the issue when he spoke with the President before that conversation with Putin. But still it was written down, it was there and did he need to be reminded about that in the first place?

[00:10:00] RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Open question. What's more remarkable? That the President ignored the all-capped instructions or that the all-capped instructions ended up in "The Washington Post" two or three hours after the call?

I mean it is a -- both things, both facts are statements about how this White House is operating or not operating. I mean clearly the fact that it was released to the press so fast just underscores the intense divisions within the White House. Leaks occur when one side in an internal debate feels that they're not being heard or being trampled on.

And second it underscores, I think what we've seen increasingly over the couple of weeks that the President feels untethered. And feels more free to ignore advice from, you know, the experts and the senior officials around him. And both of those -- either of those would be volatile, both of them together are downright combustible.

VAUSE: Ok. Well, Senator John McCain, the Republican. The may be battling brain cancer, but he still actually has a spine. He tweeted this out, "An American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections and by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election."

Charles -- fair point.

CHARLES MORAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I mean I think at the end of the day that President Trump was making an acknowledgment of the fact that the international community is going to recognize Vladimir Putin. There are plenty of Democrats across this country that were congratulating Hillary Clinton winning a sham primary against Bernie Sanders in the last election cycle.

(CROSSTALK)

MORAN: So, if we're talking about it -- but again the international community is going to recognize Vladimir Putin and again, the President does have, you know, unlike Senator McCain, the President is the leader of America --

(CROSSTALK)

MORAN: -- and John McCain is not.

BROWNSTEIN: You just compared the Democratic primary to the Russian election? Not seriously, right?

MORAN: Actually, quite seriously. If you look at a comparable of democratic openness in Russia as there was --

BROWNSTEIN: A democratic openness in the Democratic primary in America -- absolutely not. A leader of a party, absolutely working --

(CROSSTALK)

CAROLINE HELDMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That's actually what candidates do when in fact he Republicans should have done more of that during the primary and they would have had a better candidate.

MORAN: John McCain is not the leader of the United States of America, President Trump is. He has the ability and the right to call and acknowledge what the international community is going to do, which is recognize Vladimir Putin.

And again he said --

HELDMAN: There's a difference between recognizing and congratulating --

VAUSE: And congratulations -- yes.

MORAN: Last week we were talking about weapons in Syria, today President Trump is using this opportunity to try to address one of the biggest problems that Russia has which is weapon sales in Syria.

VAUSE: Well, I'll tell you what they're also not addressing, according to the "Washington Post", Trump also chose not to heed talking points that were made instructing him to condemn Putin about the recent poisoning of a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom with a powerful nerve agent -- a case that both the British and U.S. governments have blamed on Moscow. And Caroline, the President also did not raise the issue of Russian interference in the U.S. election in 2016. All in all, It was a pretty good call for Vladimir Putin.

HELDMAN: Right. So he doesn't acknowledge that five days earlier the international community, including the United States, condemned Russia, the Russian regime for the murder of those two spies for a violation of international law in addition, that you know, killing people.

He didn't acknowledge that he meddled in the election. He didn't acknowledge what's happening with the power grid. I mean what happened in a nutshell is Donald Trump called up the person who meddled in the elections to congratulate him on his sham election.

It's a ludicrous day in the White House, regardless of whether we want to try to comparing apples and oranges in the Democratic primary. There's no comparing it to Russia where they do not have free and fair elections nor do they even have pretense of such.

VAUSE: Ok. Well, there are growing fears that the President might fire special counsel Robert Mueller and try and close down the investigation into Russian interference and the links to the Trump campaign.

On Tuesday, the White House press secretary Sarah Sanders went out of the way to reassure everybody that won't happen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The White House yet again, confirms that the President is not considering or discussing the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: The enthusiasm was palpable. Ron -- is there any point in giving any credence, any value to what Sanders says?

BROWNSTEIN: Well no, in a sense that you know, no one knows what Donald Trump is going to do between now and November including probably President Trump in terms of Robert Mueller. The one thing that you can say is that congressional Republicans have chosen to, in essence, drop the shield that they were holding.

I mean they've raised some rhetorical concerns about this possibility and Lindsey Graham in particular has been strong. But in terms of actual practical action, Senate Majority Leader McConnell and House Speaker Ryan repeatedly saying they see no need for legislation to protect Robert Mueller, I think it's the big signal that they are sending to President Trump.

And I think he is someone who does read people. And I think he is reaching the conclusion that if he did this, they would not object at a nuclear level. They would find a way to accept it. It is enormous risk for Republicans with the midterm election. You know, in the last CNN poll, 61 percent of Americans said it was a serious threat that had to be investigated. Only a third said it was an attempt to undermine his presidency. And of the 61 percent, 80 percent of them now say they're planning to vote Democratic for Congress.

[00:14:58] And the -- and what congressional Republicans are doing, I think, is basically sending a signal to any voters who are ambivalent or uneasy about Trump that they are not going to constrain him in any meaningful way.

VAUSE: I want to bring Seth in because Seth -- longtime Trump critic, Republican Senator Jeff Flake, he tweeted this out. "We are begging the President not to fire the special counsel. Don't create a constitutional crisis. Congress cannot pre-empt such a firing. Our only constitutional remedy is after the fact through impeachment. No one wants that outcome. Mr. President, please don't go there."

Would this actually be a constitutional crisis? Or would it only be a constitutional crisis if Mueller was fired and then the Republicans did nothing about it?

SETH ABRAMSON, ATTORNEY AND PROFESSOR: I think that it would be a constitutional crisis. I do think we do need to hear much more from Republicans suggesting that there would be consequences if Donald Trump fired Bob Mueller. And there is reason to think that he might do so.

First of all, let's remember that he ordered White House lawyer Don McGahn to fire Bob Mueller and the only reason that Bob Mueller didn't get fired at that point is that Don McGahn refused.

But let's also remember that two sources told the "New York Times" that it was Donald Trump who just two days ago told his attorney John Dowd to publicly call for the end of the Mueller probe, which would mean the firing of Bob Mueller. And then finally let's remember that the newest addition to Donald Trump's legal team, Joe DiGenova has previously called, or previously called for the firing of Jim Comey and in fact, far more than the firing, possibly even a prosecution of Jim Comey.

So all signs point toward Donald Trump looking to fire Bob Mueller and I do think that if he attempts to do so it will be the same or worse even as these Saturday night massacres. And if Republicans don't act, Americans will be asking whether the rule of survives in America.

VAUSE: Carol -- is there a problem here for the President in the sense that he goes to his club in Florida? He deals, you know, he mixes, with you know, the very wealthy there, his supporters. He goes to the rallies and he gets the chance and he has the love and the adoration of about 30 to 40 percent of the population who supports him.

And he's not listening to his advisers on this. And he's being told by this sort of bubble that, you know, it's a witch hunt. And he genuinely believes that there is nothing to this.

HELDMAN: I'm sure that he does, although he probably is also very afraid. I think he's in a tough place, right, where if he fires Bob Mueller he will be impeached. I don't think he'll be removed in the Senate. But I do think he will be impeached.

If he doesn't fire Mueller, I think he will also be impeached when the findings of the investigation come forward. So either way, I think it's a safer bet to not impeach or to not fire Bob Mueller.

But at the end of the day, again, I don't think the Republicans -- they have said that they're going to stop him at various points. He's done things that I think many -- time and time again, reached the point of high crimes and misdemeanors which is actually a very loose standard. But they haven't acted.

So my guess is they won't actually remove him, but it would be better if he did not remove Bob Mueller his own sake.

BROWNSTEIN: Charles here -- what do you think?

VAUSE: How will Republicans react?

MORAN: I don't think we're going to get to a point where that's going to be an issue. The president has said he is not going to not remove or stop the Mueller investigation. The press secretary today has said that the investigation will continue and that Mr. Mueller will still continue to act in this role.

This is -- this constant obsession that the news media, the Democratic Party have, continue to drop the "I" word. Polling consistently shows continued repletion of the word "impeachment" when there is no basis and no evidence to show that we're even going to get there -- again this obsession is not really in any kind of reality whatsoever. There's no reality.

BROWNSTEIN: Except the President tweeted over the weekend that this is a witch hunt and attacking the special counsel by name for the first time..

MORAN: But you can attack the special counsel. You can attack the reasons for the investigation. But the investigation is still going to happen. Nonetheless --

VAUSE: Nonetheless.

HELDMAN: How many people had Sarah Sanders said -- how many people had Sarah Sanders won't be fired and then are within a week or two?

MORAN: Sarah Sanders has not in any circumstances said within a week or two that any of these people are going to be fired. No. No they have not.

HELDMAN: She is constantly saying that their positions are protected which has not become a sure sign that they're -- MORAN: Well, we're a year into the administration so, you know, month

three saying that somebody is not going to be relieved of their duties a year, it's totally inconsequential.

VAUSE: Ok. Can we go to the other pressing legal issues that the President is facing -- a trifecta of sex scandal lawsuits -- there's Stormy Daniels, there's Karen McDougal and Summer Zervos. I want to get to Seth on this because it seems the most serious of these three could in fact be the one with Summer Zervos. She claims she was sexually assaulted by Donald Trump when he was host of "The Apprentice".

A New York court on Tuesday ruled that here defamation case can in fact go ahead citing the President Clinton versus Paula Jones issue. So explain the legal basis there.

ABRAMSON: Well, this is a situation -- let us remember in which at least 19 women have made allegations against Donald Trump, made them prior to the election. In some cases matters of sexual harassment, in other cases sexual assault and Summer Zervos is one of those.

There are many others. We know that this suit will proceed. There was some question about whether that that would be allowed. But based upon the Clinton precedent it will be allowed to go forward. And we also now have Karen McDougal who is seeking to follow in Stormy Daniels path and also bringing forward their private liaison that she had signed apparently an NDA to not talk about.

[00:20:07] And so it looks like in the coming months Donald Trump may be constantly faced with public disclosures about private liaisons. And I personally think that the more serious one is the Stormy Daniels case because you have a situation there in which it appears that the President was successfully blackmailed for money over his sexual liaison which, of course is one of the central allegations of the Steele dossier that the Kremlin has been doing that over matters that occurred in Moscow in November 2013.

VAUSE: Very quickly, Seth -- because lawyers for Zervos have subpoenaed Trump campaign documents dealing with allegations from any woman who claimed that she'd been inappropriately touched or dealt with by Donald Trump.

What are the chances they'll get those documents? And what are the implications if they do?

ABRAMSON: I think that there is a chance that this will open the door to substantial discovery and disclosures regarding other women. I can't say that I know all the details of all these other allegations. I do know that Steve Bannon said, was quoted in "Fire and Fury" and he has confirmed this since then that he said that Attorney Marc Kasowitz and other attorneys of Donald Trump have over the years signed NDAs or somehow hushed up dozens or perhaps even scores or more of women who had relationships with Donald Trump.

Now, we don't know if that's true or not but if it is this lawsuit by Summer Zervos could open the door to so many more disclosures than we even know about at this point. And this is already a distracted president and a distracted presidency. This would only exacerbate that.

VAUSE: To your point -- yes, Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: In the strange side board (ph) category, one of the -- one of the articles today about the decision who praised the New York decision? George Conway, the husband of Kellyanne Conway. He said it was correctly decided based on Paula Jones.

And look, I mean there are obviously all sorts of legal vulnerabilities here. There is an overriding political question as well. You know, I've been the one who had felt that at times the gender gap is overrated as a factor in American politics, that other things matter more, marital status and educational status.

But in this election we are looking at the potentially a significant gender gap. New numbers out just this week, NBC/Wall Street Journal, the best thing -- (INAUDIBLE) the best thing Democrats have done in the last 25 years in a congressional election among college educated white women is 52 percent. They had Democrats in a new poll at 62 percent --

VAUSE: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: -- among them in the generic ballot. African-American women obviously very engaged. And these -- and that's before all of this. That's just mostly on President Trump's style.

VAUSE: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: You have weeks and weeks of these kinds of revelations and the numbers probably get bigger.

VAUSE: Because this Sunday we had the interview with Stormy Daniels with Anderson Cooper on "60 Minutes". Her lawyer released a photograph of Daniels taking this polygraph test, answering all the questions, the controversial questions in the past.

We know it's not admissible. But I want to give you the last minute (ph) Charles -- because all of this does seem like the pressure is building. It's closing in.

How can you be the Commander-in-chief, the President whilst dealing all of these other issues at the same time?

MORAN: Well, like you said, just the words -- it's not admissible. We've got lawsuits that are being filed. We've got legal challenged being addressed when Donald was a private citizen. He was not President of the United States as opposed to President Clinton and some of the things he was going through while he was actually President of the United States.

Under any circumstances a woman who's been sexually assaulted in any way shape or form has the right and responsibility to have her day court, a fast (ph) responsibility. But this case, you know, so far you know, President Trump is an individual citizen, and before he was President of the United States, even running for President has the right and responsibility to conduct himself. People voted for him knowing that he has had three wives and had children with every one of them. So --

VAUSE: Ok. We're out of time.

MORAN: It is what it is.

VAUSE: Ok. Well, they say where there's two, there's 20. There's already 20 in this case so we'll see what happens.

Seth and Ron, Charles and Caroline -- thank you all so much. Appreciate you being with us.

Next up on NEWSROZM L.A., Washington and Seoul gearing up for joint military drills as a diplomatic effort sets the stage for possible U.S. talks with Pyongyang. We are live in South Korea after the break.

[00:24:02] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: South Korea's president says it's just possible there could be a three-way summit involving himself and the leaders of the United States and North Korea. That news comes as delegates from all three nations are expected to wrap up their talks in Finland later on Wednesday maybe laying the groundwork for a possible summit between President Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

CNN's Paula Hancocks joins us now live from Seoul. So Paula -- what's the chance of this, you know, trilateral summit, if you like, actually happening?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John -- I think the chances of the U.S. North Korea summits happening were sort of almost zero before President Trump agreed to it. So it is possible at this point in time anything is possible.

And this is what South Korean President Moon Jae-in is saying to his committee. They're sort of laying the groundwork and preparing for this summit between President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un expected in late April. He also pointed out just how significant it was that that summit is going to be held on the South Korean side of the DMZ, the first time this -- that Kim Jong-un, in fact a member of the Kim family, would have come to South Korea since the Korean War.

Also pointing out it's significant. It's been done in the first year of being inaugurated as president. So we're hearing some grand words from the South Korean president but really at this point there's a feeling that anything is possible.

We've just heard from North Korea through KCNA state-run media, finally acknowledging that there could be a sign of change in the relationship between North Korea and the United States. Really the first time that many of the North Korean people would have even heard that there is a suggestion that things are getting better in those relations -- John.

VAUSE: Yes, just a little more from that statement. "Thanks to the proactive measure and peace loving proposal made by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea."

Paula -- thank you. Paula Hancocks there, live in Seoul.

Well, next up here ON NEWSROOM L.A. we'll have the latest on the terror in Texas -- Serial bomber on the loose and another exploding package.

[00:28:09] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

VAUSE (voice-over): Welcome back, everybody, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause. We'll check the headlines this hour:

(HEADLINES)

VAUSE: Authorities are connecting two more bombs to the recent string of explosions in Austin, Texas. One exploding package injured a FedEx worker early Tuesday at a sorting center near San Antonio.

Authorities do not believe the facility was a target. And a second suspicious package was found about an hour away at a FedEx center near Austin's International Airport. It did not explode. So six devices are now tied to the serial bomber or bombers, adding to the fear already felt by so many residents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It gives you chills, the fact that this happened in this neighborhood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was in the military, never in combat, but it sounded like a mortar blast, that thump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've heard the fourth bombing was a trip wire. So I don't want to just -- I want to be aware of what's around me. From now on, we're going to make sure we're a little more aware of our surroundings.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Joining me for more on this, former FBI special agent Maureen O'Connell.

(INAUDIBLE). Good to see you.

MAUREEN O'CONNELL, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Nice to see you, too, thank you.

VAUSE: OK. So we got six devices now linked to the same bomber and this is just over a period of two weeks, right? And should the frequency, the sophistication, so whoever is behind this is clearly out there trying to make some kind of point.

O'CONNELL: He's got a -- he's got a lot to day and I wish that he would contact someone and try to say something. I don't know what the reason is behind this. We have no idea with what the motive is. But what we do have right now is a couple of things in our corner.

First and foremost, I would like to -- I feel horrible for the people of Austin. Everything they've been through in Texas is crazy. But now that we have a device that has note not been detonated, we're going to find a lot of information and particularly the package that we found at the FedEx facility and the reason I say that is because it's got a tracking device on it that they were able to I'm sure almost instantaneously tie it back to CCTV.

They could potentially find that -- follow that person out to a vehicle with a tag on it. I think they're getting close and the fact that they have hundreds of FBI agents on it they're going to drill it to the ground.

VAUSE: Because on the issue of the device which was found unexploded, sources told CNN that it essentially if that's the blueprint, the DNA of these explosives devices. But what we're seeing with these bombs, if a bomb is a bomb maker's signature, the signature keeps changing, you know, we had a trip wire used the other day.

That's what's different to the earlier explosive devices. This time it was actually delivered to the FedEx and it was with the -- was the first time that method was bomb delivery was used. So, you know, it keep changing or she keeps changing how these attacks have carried out.

O'CONNELL: Well, it could be more of an evolution. These bombs could have been created and he tried the first ones out. I'm just going to go up and set it on the lawn and see what happens.

And then the next one he's going to try to ship them to see if he can increase his reign of terror over the country. So there is a very solid evolutionary path that he's taken throughout this thing.

VAUSE: And what's interesting is that there's at least what we're being told, no official communication between law enforcement and the person or people behind of this attack.

Could the serial bomber be communicating by this evolution of his bombs?

Is he trying to tell law enforcements on making it?

O'CONNELL: Well, if he's trying to tell them something I don't know what it is at this point. But I do know that the uptick, you know, the first one was on the second. The second one was on the 12th.

VAUSE: Yes, 10 days later.

O'CONNELL: Yes. I mean it's very interesting. And then it just keeps shortening and shortening -- [00:35:00]

O'CONNELL: -- and shortening and it's almost like a spiral or something at this point. So I don't really feel that this is sustainable. I really believe that we're going to come to a -- we're going to figure out who this person is within the next 48 hours I'm hoping.

VAUSE: Also with regards to the unexploded bomb which was delivered to the FedEx center which they say it was not a target. You have the evidence from that. But there's also the statement which had -- which came from FedEx. They say we have provided law enforcement responsible for this investigation extensive evidence related to these packages and the individual that shipped them collected from our advance technology security systems. You know, two things stand out the individual, so indicating that it is the same person, the one person responsible for all of this.

O'CONNELL: Which is why I think they have the CCTV.

VAUSE: That was the next point, yes. Sophisticated, you know, when they say security systems, it indicates that there's some kind of video out there.

O'CONNELL: Right. And the sophisticated security system isn't low grade cameras that have fuzzy images.

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O'CONNELL: Exactly. They have tracking capabilities. A lot of these new cameras that the FBI uses for example on all of our facilities they can -- you can track and zoom and it's just unbelievable to see. So hopefully, they were able to find -- who knows it could be a lapel pin. It could be something on the back of his baseball cap. There are all the these things come into play.

BARTIROMO (ph): Yes. It's bizarre. I think -- I also saying the only motive here is basically to cause mayhem and death which is horrifying.

O'CONNELL: Yes and terror amongst all those citizens.

VAUSE: Yes.

O'CONNELL: But I have faith and this is what the bureau does better than anyone and this and kidnappings. We will run every single solitary lead to ground. There are -- those agents are happy to do it. They're working as hard as they can, smart as a whip and they've got all the resources (INAUDIBLE) to bear.

VAUSE: It does seem -- it does seem to be moving on a clip. Maureen, we are out of time. Thank you so much.

O'CONNELL: Thank you.

VAUSE: When we come back, the Kremlin was long faced accusations about poisoning its opponents. Although some who have been killed and a few who survived next on NEWSROOM L.A.

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VAUSE: Twenty-three (ph) Russian diplomats are back in Moscow less than a week after the U.K. ordered their expulsion over a nerve agent attack in England. This was the scene Tuesday as their plane took off from London's Stansted Airport. The U.K. is blaming Russia for poisoning the former Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter.

Moscow denies any involvement. The dispute has sunk relations between the two countries to a low not seen since the Cold War. Russia dismisses British allegations that it has a secret chemical weapons program designed to assassinate opponents. But for years, Kremlin advisories, politicians, rebels and former spies have been attacked with exotic toxins.

Here's Matthew Chance.

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MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He was one of the Kremlin's most ruthless enemies, an Arab jihadist called Qatab (ph), notorious for executing Russian troops --

[00:40:00]

CHANCE (voice-over): -- during the brutal Chechen wars.

When Russia security services finally announced his assassination in a special operation in March of 2002, they released this video to prove it showing Qatab (ph) laid out dead with no visible wounds.

Russian state media and the rebels both said he died after opening a poisoned letter. It was, quite literally, a message from the Kremlin.

There have been other alleged messages from Moscow, too.

In 2004, the pro-Western Ukrainian presidential hopeful Viktor Yushchenko, who went on to lead the country, was badly disfigured after severe dioxin poisoning. He told me back then his push for Ukraine to join the European Union and later had made him enemies at home and in Moscow.

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VIKTOR YUSHCHENKO, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL (through translator): We started dinner at about 10:00 and finished around 3:30 in the morning. While driving back home the first thing I felt was a terrible headache. I had never felt anything like it before.

When I got home, my wife kissed my lips. She said she could taste something metallic. I asked her for some medication. But the pain was aggravated. Only then I said to myself, "Viktor, you're in trouble."

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CHANCE: For others that trouble proved deadly. The radioactive killing of former KGB agents Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006 foreshadowed the recent Skripal nerve agent attack. Both were former members of the Russian Secret Services were poisoned with chemicals said by Britain to be Russian and seen as traitors by the Kremlin.

There has been, in other words, a growing list of people. This Kremlin sees as opponents and long before the poisoning of the Skripals in Britain who have meet painful and untimely deaths.

Not all, of course, were poisoned; one of Russia's main opposition figures, Boris Nemtsov, so far was shot dead in 2015 right here on this bridge. Of course, the Kremlin denies any involvement and rejects the allegation. It could have ordered the Skripal nerve agent attack as unthinkable.

And as this poisoned father and daughter, Sergei and Yulia Skripal, fight for their lives in intensive care, the Kremlin insists Britain should apologize for the serious allegations it has made or present proof of Russia's hand -- Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.

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VAUSE: Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause. Stay with us. "WORLD SPORT" is up next.