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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump's White House Changes; Gates' Help With Collusion; Trump Silent About Daniels; California Search for Missing Children; White House Staff Not Needed; Cosby Sex Assault Retrial. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired March 30, 2018 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:30:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Trump always said he was going to have the very best people on his team. But he can't seem to stick with anyone, Salena.

SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, maybe it's because he's discovered that the first people he picked weren't exactly the best. I think part of it is Trump likes to work with people that suit the way he interacts with people. And if he feels as though he can't communicate with them that well or if they're not performing to his satisfaction, it's probably time for them to leave. I mean that wasn't the case with Hope Hicks. I think she was just completely burnt out. But, you know, I mean, with other people, with cabinet-level members, I think that Trump wants to have people that he feels that he can trust and he feels that he can communicate with. Probably he --

CABRERA: So do you think he was just completely wrong? I mean would -- would he acknowledge that he was wrong in his initial choices?

ZITO: Well, presidents really have a difficult time ever admitting that they were wrong, I mean just throughout the history. They don't usually say that. He might say something like, look, he was a great person or she was a great person, but our personalities didn't -- didn't clash (ph) or we weren't on the same page. You'll probably get more of that kind of reaction.

And, honestly, that's sometimes how we in our everyday lives, you know, interact with people. Business people hire people and they think this person's perfect. And maybe on paper they were, but after a few months they realize that they don't click, that they don't -- they aren't on the same page, and the person either resigns or they're shown the door.

CABRERA: So, Toluse, on this new development in the Russia probe, Mueller pushing for Gates' help on this issue of collusion, where Trump has consistently and continuously denied, what should we be taking away from this development?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "BLOOMBERG NEWS": Well, one thing that's interesting is to see how much we have shifted from the early stages of this White House and this president saying there was no contact with Russia in the campaign, there was no connection at all, to various developments over the last year showing there have been multiple connections between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, former officials, people who have ties to Russian intelligence. And, obviously, the White House's response has shifted to changing the line of the goal post saying there has been no collusion. The president himself wasn't involved in any collusion.

But it now looks more and more likely that people who were close to the president did have these contacts with people who were tied to Russia. And it's going to be up to Robert Mueller to help the rest of the country figure out whether or not that rises to the level of something nefarious or whether or not all of these connections that we've seen over time were merely a coincidence. And it's becoming harder and harder to believe that all of this was just coincidental. Now that may be the case, but the original White House response saying that we had nothing to do with Russia, there were no connections between the campaign and Russia, that no longer holds any water. And they're now sticking to the president himself was not involved in collusion.

CABRERA: Molly, you brought up the Ohio event yesterday. We did hear the president go on a rip about all kinds of things. I mean he was talking about North Korea, he was taking about "Roseanne's" ratings, he was talking about his border wall and how he believes it's starting to be built. But he didn't say anything about Putin. He didn't say anything about Stormy Daniels. Why?

MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Those are uncomfortable topics for him, I think, right? And with Putin specifically, there's been a pattern where Trump himself doesn't like to say bad things about Putin or about Russia. But on the levels below him, the administration has been tougher on Russia, tougher, I think, than many would have expected given his positive rhetoric, and particularly with the escalation this week, the diplomatic tit for tat, the withdraw of diplomats on both sides. You see a dramatic worsening of relations between the United States and Russia that could potentially get worse than that.

Stormy Daniels, you know, is a very uncomfortable topic for him. I suppose he could come out and call her a liar, as he has other women who've made accusations about him. But it does seem like the kind of thing he just would rather not bring up. It is honestly an unusual degree of restraint for him. He does usually, no matter how bad something makes him look, he likes to take it on frontally.

CABRERA: Well, and, as you know, he has, in the past, called other accusers liars. He hasn't seemed to withhold anything.

BALL: That's right. And in this case, he seems to just be avoiding it completely. Like I said, it's an unusual display of restraint and we'll see if it keeps up.

CABRERA: On the issue of Putin specifically, Salena Zito, other Republicans don't have a problem calling out Putin and condemning the action, such as the U.K.'s -- or the poisoning in the U.K. of the former Russian spy. Of course, the White House and this administration got rid of the diplomats here from Russia, 60 of them, and closed the Russian consulate in Seattle. But the president hasn't said anything about that. Why do you think he is so taken aback in terms of actually addressing Putin verbally?

[09:35:15] ZITO: He has, as Molly pointed out, he has historically, throughout his administration, has avoided that kind of conversation. I often wonder if it's because he has been so angry and insulted that he -- that people believe that the Russians, you know, had a direct impact on the election. And it wasn't because that -- you know, and he feels as though he wasn't given his due in terms of the celebration of him winning and the shock of him winning, that I think that has always restrained him from attacking Putin because he just wants to be like, hey, I, you know, I won this, Putin had nothing to do with it, and I'm not going to go after Putin.

It's an interesting argument. I don't -- I don't know if it's true, you know, but I always wonder if that's what holds him back from saying anything.

CABRERA: Salena, Molly and Toluse, I owe you a question first next time. Thank you all for joining us.

Authorities are trying to piece together a mystery in California. A family's SUV went over a cliff. Three children are still missing. The latest on the investigation, next.

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[09:40:36] CABRERA: This morning, a frantic search is underway for three missing children in California after their family's SUV plunged off a cliff. Authorities have recovered the bodies of Jennifer and Sarah Hart and three of their six children. But here's the big mystery, where are the other three children. At this point it's still unclear if they were even in the SUV. And now the family's neighbors are speaking out about some of their suspicions.

CNN's correspondent, Miguel Marques, is in Los Angeles with more details on this investigation.

Miguel, where is this investigation right now? Any leads in the search for these three missing?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they believe that they were in the car and they were probably swept out to sea. The other three children that were killed were not buckled in. They believe the other three probably were not either. The cliff is so steep that it went nearly into the Pacific Ocean. And the water, the waves were lapping up into the car and could have pulled other debris out.

It is a mystery as to how this happened. One of those missing is 15- year-old Devonte Hart. He came to national attention in 2014 for a hug during a Black Lives Matter protest in Portland, Oregon. He was seen crying by police officers. The police officer approached him. Then he photo, he hugged the police officer and they had a long conversation. That photo went viral. And the -- so the rest is history. Now he and two of his sisters are still missing.

Just how this happened, though, is very much a mystery. The police and law enforcement says that there were no skid marks, no sign of braking. It's not clear how that SUV went over that very steep embankment along the Pacific Coast Highway, this, you know, rough but absolutely gorgeous part of California.

CABRERA: And tell us more about this Hart family. Neighbors say they had their suspicions?

MARQUEZ: Well, neighbors say that they had -- that the children, Devonte and others, had come over looking for food at different points and had burst into the house saying that their mother was beating them. It is not clear how much of that is true.

We do know that there was a referral to child protective services in Washington state on Friday. When officials from CPS went over to the house to check on the children, they didn't find anybody there. Then they checked Monday and Tuesday. Didn't find anyone then as well. So it is all part of this mystery as to why this family was so far away from home, over 500 miles away from home, when this terrible accident happened.

Ana.

CABRERA: All right, Miguel Marquez, we know you'll stay on top of it. Thank you.

Hope Hicks has left the White House and the president is apparently being told by allies he doesn't need to replace her. What this could mean for messaging out of the West Wing.

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[09:47:55] CABRERA: Today President Trump's White House officially operating without Hope Hicks, the now former White House communications director. Sources say top aides are worrying he'll, quote, unravel without his so-called Trump whisperer.

At the same time, CNN is learning others are telling Trump he doesn't even need to replace her or have a chief of staff for that matter.

Here to discuss, CNN political commentator and former Clinton White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart.

So, Joe, we know the president believes he is his own best messenger. What do you think? Does he need a communications director?

JOE LOCKHART, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I think you have to start any of these conversations with, during 2016 he rewrote all the rules of politics.

CABRERA: Right.

LOCKHART: So that -- you've got to have the traditional stuff with a grain of salt. But he does need a communications director. He does need a chief of staff. To be successful I think in politics over the long term when you're governing, you have to have a strategy, an agenda, and you have to go out and build on it day after day after day. And what Trump does is, he just tries to build interest rather than build a message over a long term.

So it seems chaotic. He loves that. I don't think that sets him up, though, for the long term for re-election and I don't think he really understands how different 2020 will be from 2016.

CABRERA: I mean I'm hearing you say he basically sabotages himself when it comes to people who are working for him, trying to strategize effectively. And we have seen him go through now four communications directors, if you include Spicer, Scaramucci in there, he began with Dubkey (ph), Hicks now is gone. None of them have been able to really keep him on message. So what makes you think anybody would be effective as a communications director?

LOCKHART: Yes, I don't know that anyone will be effective. You know, I think Hope served a broader role than communications. I think she got put in there because there was a need. But, you know, she was I think the person who could best translate the rest of the world, or the rest of the political world, to him and then him to the rest of the political world. So I think she will be missed there.

But there is no indication that there's a silver bullet staffer to come in and change his behavior. It's very hard for a politician who's been -- who was told that you have to do it this way and then he did it his way and he won, to really comprehend the idea of, OK, now you really have to change. But I think for him to be successful, and for the administration to be successful, he does have to change. And he hasn't shown the ability to evolve at all, you know, as a political leader.

[09:50:27] CABRERA: He has been quiet when it comes to the Stormy Daniels story.

LOCKHART: Sure.

CABRERA: What do you make -- or how do you assess the way this White House has handled some of these salacious type stories?

LOCKHART: Well, I think, you know, on Stormy Daniels, it's one of the places where I'd say he's done the right thing. There's really nothing he can add to this beyond denial. And getting in and providing oxygen to this back and forth, you know, political fistfight with Stormy Daniels' lawyer is not in his interest.

It's a rare exception, though. It's -- you know, he tends to look at his position running our government as a place to settle personal grievances. And his weapon is his Twitter account. And while it may make him feel better and some of the people around him, you know, his -- some of his base, it's a terrible way to communicate to the country as a whole.

CABRERA: Real quickly, just in 30 seconds, if you will --

LOCKHART: Yes.

CABRERA: I do want to get your take, real fast, given that you were a former vice president of communications with FaceBook. LOCKHART: Sure.

CABRERA: Of everything that's come out in the last week or two --

LOCKHART: Yes.

CABRERA: Regarding that, what's your reaction to FaceBook now being questioned in terms of the public trust and where it's going to go in the future?

LOCKHART: Yes, I think there's -- FaceBook and all of the technology companies and all of the media companies have to do a better job of being more transparent about how information and data is used. Ninety- five percent of it is to the benefit of the user, you know. You see ads that are useful to you. And that's a great thing. You don't have to sift through a thousand ads to see.

But there is a real concern, I think, among consumers and customers about how data is used, how it's stored, who else has access to it. And I think transparency is the answer for FaceBook and all of the technology companies because they're all in the same business of using data, and they all use the advertising model. And, you know, I think their business model won't necessarily change, but I think they really do have to educate consumers more on what they're doing and how their information is being used and give them choices.

CABRERA: All right, Joe Lockhart, good to see you. Thank you so much for coming in.

LOCKHART: Sure. Thank you.

CABRERA: We'll be right back.

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[09:57:04] CABRERA: Day two of the pre-trial hearing underway right now for the upcoming retrial of Bill Cosby. He's facing indecent assault charges. Now, the comedian was seen entering court just this morning. Jury selection begins Monday. And former model Janice Dickinson will testify at some point as well.

CNN correspondent Jean Casarez has more details.

Jean.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Today is the final pretrial hearing before jury selection begins on Monday. And the judge is still deciding what evidence will and will not come before the jury. The judge has already determined that five other women will be able to testify saying Bill Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted me too. A source close to the case has confirmed with me that former supermodel Janice Dickinson has been subpoenaed. She will fly into Pennsylvania.

But the prosecution also wants more witnesses. They want supporting witnesses, who these five women may have told at the time of what had happened to them. The defense is asking for someone named Margo Jackson (ph), a Temple employee, that says Andrea Constand told her she could fabricate the whole story and she could get a lot of money.

But the reality is, this criminal trial is happening because of one person, Andrea Constand, who went forward to police and made herself public in 2005.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASAREZ (voice over): Diana Parsons is Andrea's older sister. Knows her better than anyone else. And she spoke exclusively with CNN about her sister, who she describes as private and centered.

DIANA PARSONS, ANDREA CONSTAND'S SISTER: She's very spiritual and she's calm. She's humble. She's honest.

CASAREZ: And she's also a lifelong athlete.

PARSONS: She played soccer and she played basketball.

CASAREZ: She chose to focus on basketball as she grew taller.

PARSONS: Andrea's 6 feet.

CASAREZ (on camera): Six feet.

PARSONS: Yes. Her basketball skills are unbelievable. I think she was in grade 12 and different universities started coming forward, offering Andrea scholarships.

CASAREZ (voice over): Andrea Constand played four years of division one ball at the University of Arizona. It was followed by two years of pro ball in Europe. Her goal, to play for the WNBA. But it didn't happen.

CASAREZ (on camera): How traumatic was that for her?

PARSONS: I think it was something, yes, she really did want, but that path did not work out for her and she moved along to the next path.

CASAREZ (voice over): In 2001, she decided it was time to make a career off the courts. So she accepted an administration job with the women's basketball team at Philadelphia's Temple University. A path that led her to the very center of Bill Cosby's world.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CASAREZ: Jury selection is set to begin on Monday. The jury will come from right here in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. And we learned yesterday the jury will actually be sequestered. They will stay in hotels for what the judge has said can easily be a month long trial.

[10:00:06] Back to you.

CABRERA: Jean Casarez, thank you. Be sure to watch the CNN special report, "The Case Against Bill Cosby."