Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Tells Supporters U.S. Pulling Out of Syria Very Soon; 17 Palestinians Dead in Clashes with Israeli Forces; Steve Bannon Used Cambridge Analytica to Push Alt-Right Vision; Police Release New Graphic Video Of Alton Sterling's Killing; Calls For Pruitt To Resign Over Rental Deal With Lobbyist; Former Ethics Official Slams EPA's Defense Of Pruitt; White House Frustrated With EPA Chief Over Apartment Controversy; WAPO: Office That Vets Trump Appointees Is Understaffed. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired March 31, 2018 - 06:00   ET





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Disturbing new video from an officer's body camera showing the police killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't move. Stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did I do? What did I do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't (inaudible), I'll shoot your (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't walk away from the truth, Baton Rouge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An independent autopsy shows that Stephon Clark was shot by police officers eight times, six of those wounds were in his back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Contradicts the narrative that has been put forth by the police.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The White House not happy with Scott Pruitt over his controversial living arrangements and his security detail. Is the EPA chief perhaps the next one to go?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he should resign. If he doesn't resign, the president should fire him.


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. So glad to have your company as always. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good Saturday to you. We're starting this morning with the shocking new video of Alton Sterling's final moments and also the officer who shot and killed him. We know he has been fired more than a year and a half, nearly two years after pulling that trigger.

PAUL: It was July 5th, 2016, when Sterling, a black man, was shot six times by a white officer. That officer responding to a call about a man with a gun. You might remember the cell phone video ignited outrage just hours after Sterling's death. The new video that you're about to see gives a clearer account of exactly what happened that night.

BLACKWELL: Now we want to warn you that this video is disturbing. CNN's Kaylee Hartung is in Baton Rouge with more for us. Kaylee, good morning to you.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Victor and Christi. Now with the help of both officers' body cams and surveillance video from the convenience store, we now have a more clearer account of the events that led to Alton Sterling's death.

This video released last night by the Baton Rouge Police Department. I want to remind you once again, this is disturbing.


HARTUNG (voice-over): Graphic and disturbing new video.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I do? What I do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't (inaudible) move. I'll shoot your (inaudible). Put your (inaudible) hands on the car.

HARTUNG: Showing the controversial shooting death of Alton Sterling in July 2016. The Baton Rouge chief of police announcing Officer Blaine Salimony, who shot Sterling six times during a struggle with him, will be fired over his actions.

CHIEF MURPHY PAUL, BATON ROUGE POLICE DEPARTMENT: The violation of command of temper has been sustained. Officer Blaine Salimony has been terminated from the Baton Rouge Police Department effective today.

HARTUNG: This week, Salimony refused to answer any questions. During a disciplinary hearing, the chief said, while Howie Lake, the other officer involved, answered them all. Lake, who the chief said, made mistakes but controlled his temper during the encounter and was given a three-day unpaid suspension.

PAUL: Perspectives, one officer did not follow the tactics, training, professionalism and organizational standards.

HARTUNG: The police chief making it clear their administrative investigation was separate from the federal criminal charges both officers were already cleared of. The police department released four videos from the night of the shooting, including this surveillance footage from the Triple-S Convenience Store.

That's Sterling at the front of the store, sitting at a table where he's selling CDs. Minutes into the tape, he's seen conducting a transaction with an unidentified man. Here he removes what appears to be a gun from his front pocket followed by money from the same pocket.

Within seconds, Sterling is seen jokingly making a shooting motion towards the man. That night police were initially called to the Triple-S Convenience Store responding to a 911 call from a witness who saw a man with a gun. Watch closely as things escalate quickly. From Salimony's perspective, you can see a brief struggle, then his gun is trained on Sterling's head.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to shoot you in your (inaudible) head. You hear me? Don't you (inaudible) move.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Hold up. Hold up. You're hurting my arm.

HARTUNG: Sterling then was pinned to the ground and tased twice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get on the ground! Get on the ground!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pop him again, Howie!

HARTUNG: Before being fatally shot. Previously released cell phone videos recorded by bystanders show at this point in the encounter Salimony believed Sterling was armed. A gun was recovered from Sterling's body. But the federal and state investigations determined that the officer's actions were reasonable and couldn't prove that Sterling wasn't reaching for a gun.


HARTUNG: Blaine Salimony's attorney tells CNN they are disappointed in the chief's decision to fire Salimony. They believe he should have gotten a punishment comparable to Howie Lake's three-day suspension.

[06:05:05] They plan to appeal to a higher level in hopes of reversing the chief's decision. As this new video circulates, the Sterling family is trying to keep Alton Sterling's five children from seeing it.

The family's attorney tells CNN that what they find particularly disturbing about this video and disrespectful is the way you see the officers cuss over Alton Sterling's body and call him names as he lay bleeding and dying -- Victor, Christi.

BLACKWELL: All right. Kaylee Hartung in Baton Rouge for us, thank you very much.

Let's go to Sacramento now where the latest police killing of an unarmed black man is really spreading. That information is spreading across the country. The emotion there spreading, too.

PAUL: No doubt. CNN was there as Black Lives Matter activists marched for Stephon Clark, the 22-year-old who is gunned earlier this month. Here's Ryan Young.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Another night of protests in Sacramento. You can see the protesters behind me letting their voices be heard. This is a day that had a lot of high emotion because the attorney for the family came out with their own findings and autopsy. The autopsy showed that Stephon Clark was shot once in the side, six shots to the back, and another in the leg.

The father, too, they believe was on the ground dying for several minutes before receiving help. Ultimately, he died. Now you can feel the power of this protest that has been taking to the streets the last few days. They do plan to have another protest Saturday before the NBA game here.

There's been a lot of conversation about what to do next here in this city. We know the police department has said they will not comment about the independent autopsy because they do not want to comment before their investigation is finished.

What they are doing here, though, is standing still right outside of city hall to make sure their voices are heard. Once again, another protest Saturday, a lot of people wondering what will happen next because people in this community said they want to have more answers from the authorities involved. Ryan Young, CNN, Sacramento.

PAUL: We'll keep you posted on how that goes. Now listen, guess what -- maybe you've heard this one before. A member of the president's cabinet this morning facing backlash for how they're spending taxpayer dollars.

BLACKWELL: Notice we didn't stop you because we have certainly heard it before. Sources tell CNN that senior White House aides are frustrated with EPA Head Scott Pruitt after learning from news reports that Pruitt has been renting a condo in Washington at a rate that's far below market value from the family of an energy lobbyist. Now some Democrats are calling on Pruitt to resign.

Let's go now to CNN's Abby Phillip joining us live from West Palm Beach where the president is spending Easter weekend at his beach resort. Abby, good morning to you. The president really still has to answer a lot of these questions within his administration has been dealing with the fallout from Pruitt.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Good morning, Victor. The president being tailed a little bit here by some of the problems with his cabinet. He is here in Mar-a-Lago for the Easter weekend. And while it has been fairly quiet here, he's been out playing golf at his resort.

There have been some issues with his cabinet members. You mentioned the environmental protection agency's Scott Pruitt, who is now under increased scrutiny for several different ethics-related issues.

One of them being his use of a 24/7 security detail, but now this issue of a condo in Washington that he has apparently been renting from a political donor for a small amount of money, about $6,000 in six months, which many critics say is not near what the market value would be for that property.

Now the frustration in the White House is growing with Pruitt because he is one of several cabinet members who has been embroiled in these kinds of controversies related to ethics issues and spending.

Others including Ben Carson and -- and David Shulkin, the VA secretary, who recently was ousted from his position, were called into the White House in the last several weeks by the chief of staff, John Kelly, and told that optics matter, optics matter when it comes to some of these things.

And they wanted the cabinet secretaries to get out front of some of these issues and not have the White House and the president find out about problems like this from the media. The problem for Pruitt is that that's exactly what happened.

Some of these stories have been coming out in recent days, blindsiding White House aides. And now questions are being raised about what he is going to do about them and how he's going to resolve this issue.

So far, the White House hasn't said anything at all which administration sources tell us is an indication that they are not going out to defend Pruitt on this issue -- Victor and Christi.

BLACKWELL: All right, Abby Phillip for us there in West Palm Beach. Abby, thank you.

PAUL: The EPA is defending Pruitt's department deal, though. The former director of the Department of Government Ethics, however, calls that defense, quote, "total baloney." The man behind those comments, Walter Shaub, joining me now. Thank you so much, Walter, for being with us. I want to read what you tweeted out yesterday, so people understand it in full context.

[06:10:07] You say, "I'm giving this EPA press release a rating of total baloney. You cannot get a whole place to yourself in that prime location for $1,500 a month nor will you find anyone willing to hold it open for you and charge you only for the nights you use it."

Now, again, an EPA official told CNN the Ethics Council reviewed this living arrangement. That the ethics issue was not one because he paid rent they say, and that the landlord was a friend and by law, quote, "does not ban federal employees from receiving a gift from a friend." Do you give any credence to those conclusions?

WALTER SHAUB, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, that's silly. In fact, the EPA released a memo yesterday that was dated yesterday. Pruitt did not go to the EPA ethics office and get advice in advance as to whether this was appropriate. This story broke, and then the EPA tried to come up with a post rationalization, and the rationalization is preposterous.

They don't actually rely on the alleged friendship, and they really can't because the lobbyist told the press yesterday that they're merely casual friends. That would not meet the standard for an exception of the gift rule based on very close personal relationships where you get a gift under circumstances that it's absolutely clear that the gift was solely motivated by the relationship.

But the justification they tried to offer which just has about everybody in Washington who's ever looked for an apartment chuckling is the idea that it's perfectly normal in this town to get a prime location -- and this house really is that, next to the House/Senate office building on Capitol Hill, for $50 a night.

And the owner will hold the house open for you for any night that you won't use it. He won't rent it to anybody else, but you only pay for the nights you actually stay there at well below market rate. There's no doubt that this is a gift and below market rate. So, the EPA's justification doesn't wash.

The one thing I would add is that it seems pretty clear to me based on some of the reporting out there and things that I've actually heard indirectly from my own sources, is that the ethics officials were told about this pretty much the night before, and they may have been given incomplete information.

For instance, initially some of the reporting suggested that Pruitt was only renting one room in the house. And, of course, you'd pay less if you were going to be renting only one room, and the owner might put any stranger, who could be an ax murderer in there with you.

But later it turned out the daughter was staying there. And some of the reporting says that the ethics officials didn't know that Pruitt actually had the run of the whole house.

PAUL: So, I want to put up a picture here that Abby referred to of five of the other cabinet members who have been facing similar accusations here. You've got Tom Price there, Shulkin, Ben Carson. What's striking here may be the scope of this.

Is this isolated to President Trump's administration? Surely all of these people coming in are not unaware of what is supposed to be happening, what the parameters are of what is ethical and what is not. Has this happened in past administrations?

SHAUB: No. I don't think we've ever seen anything like this, where you have this widespread abuse of position by so many high-ranking officials. It perplexes me as to why the White House can't figure out why this is happening.

You know, I warned them in a speech prior to his inauguration that if the president doesn't follow ethics rules, he's going to set a bad tone from the top. And that's going to trickle down to his cabinet.

Well, we just saw the reporting that the president is down there golfing away again. He spent about one-fourth of his time in office golfing at one of his properties. Every one of these trips costs millions because of the security and the entourage he has to bring with him and the expensive equipment and the Air Force One.

And so, I'm baffled as to why the White House can't figure out that the cabinet is not going to hold itself to a higher standard than their boss. But this president seems determined to hold himself to a lower standard to the people who work for him and chastise them for following in his footsteps.

PAUL: All right. Walter Shaub, thank you so much. Appreciate your insight as always, Walter.

BLACKWELL: All right. Coming up, a new report finds the White House office responsible for vetting President Trump's appointees is severely understaffed and inexperienced. We'll talk about that.

[06:15:03] PAUL: Also, President Trump says it's time for the U.S. to get out of Syria. So, what would that mean when it comes to Russia?

BLACKWELL: Also, a former Cambridge Analytica employee tells CNN that former White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon, wanted data to wage a culture war on America.


BLACKWELL: It's 19 minutes after the hour. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is facing some pretty heavy criticism this morning for renting an apartment in Washington, D.C., from the family of an energy lobbyist. The move is creating yet another headache for a chaotic White House looking to move past controversy.

Plus, a new report by the "Washington Post" finds the White House office that is responsible for recruiting and vetting the president's appointees is severely understaffed and inexperienced.

Here with me to discuss, CNN political commentator, Errol Louis, and breaking news reporter for the "Washington Examiner," Melissa Quinn. Good morning to both of you.

[06:20:02] So, let's start with this new reporting on the EPA administrator, Mr. Pruitt. Now we know the president does not like these headlines, Melissa. Do you expect that Pruitt will last long with this continued drumbeat of these controversies?

MELISSA QUINN, BREAKING NEWS REPORTER, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": I think that's the million-dollar question. All eyes are really on the White House right now to see how President Trump will react. We know from previous experiences when cabinet secretaries like Secretary Shulkin and Ben Carson have been swept up in these controversies regarding their spending and travel decisions, and ethics decisions.

The White House sometimes comes out and says that president does still have confidence in enter the secretary's name here. Sometimes in the past that ultimately has not lent well to their future in the administration.

I'm sure that Sarah Sanders is going to be facing a lot of questions from the White House press corps in terms of what President Trump wants to do with Administrator Pruitt and whether he does still have confidence in him. So, I think all eyes will be on the president to see how he reacts.

BLACKWELL: It's either that comment about having confidence in him or an unsolicited "he's a good man" coming on a Friday. You know that's always ominous for potentially what's coming.

Errol, let me come to you, the president has to get Mike Pompeo confirmed at State. He has to get Ronny Jackson confirm at the Veterans Affairs Department. Politically, is there space in the timeline, can the president also take the weight of now having -- finding someone else at the EPA?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, as long as you're doing a cabinet shuffle, the problems that are going on in your cabinet can maybe be resolved. And that's not really good news in this case because you've got somebody who is generating bad headlines.

We know one of the fastest ways to find your way into the bad graces of the president is to show up on television and cast the administration in a negative light. In this particular case, it's -- there's almost no way around making the Trump administration look awful because whether you're an establishment Republican who -- those folks don't like to see money wasted, or you are part of the outsiders who promise to come in and drain the swamp.

Either way you've got a lot of swamp-like behavior going on here where there's a cozy relationship apparently between the cabinet secretary and a bunch of lobbyists and public money is being sort of wasted along the way.

It's not good headlines, and while the shuffle is going on, we've seen that one thing this president is good at is firing people abruptly, without warning, on Twitter. And for what could seem like sort of a whim, but really sort of a building problem for this administration in this case.

BLACKWELL: Errol, let me stay with you for this question about the "Washington Post" investigation about the office, Presidential Personnel Office. The job is to recruit and vet the thousands literally of presidential appointees, more than 1,200 have to be Senate confirmed.

The "Post" through their investigation described it as something of a social hub where young staffers from throughout the administration stopped by to hang out on couches and smoke electronic cigarettes. Most of the people here, according to their assessment, in their 20s.

They go on to say that in January they played a drinking game in the office called icing to celebrate the deputy director's 30th birthday. Icing involves hiding a bottle of Smirnoff ice which is a flavored malt liquor, the "Post" points out, and demanding that the person who discovers it, in this case the deputy director, guzzles it. This can't be the way this office is supposed to work.

LOUIS: Well, no, I guess not. Although it's interesting -- I smile as you're reading all of this because I'm thinking back a good 30 odd years, when I was in my 20s, and would see people around Capitol Hill where the life of young staffers in Washington is really -- just doesn't change year to year.

You're always looking for a reception to go to, so you can get a little food and call it a meal. You're bunking up with other people. The social life is quite active. It's the glue that holds a lot of this together. With the "Washington Post" expose, what it indicates seriously is that these folks are in way over their heads. This is really serious business to staff an administration. And coming in as outsiders and saying we're going to do it differently, getting rid of the 100 odd- member office that was recommended by Chris Christie, who does know something about government was just a huge, huge mistake. And this embarrassment was something that was not only predictable but was, in fact, predicted.

BLACKWELL: Melissa, the "Post" describes the director and deputy director respectively as a college dropout with arrests for drunk driving and bad checks and a Marine Corps reservist with arrests for assault, disorderly conduct, fleeing an officer, and underage drinking.

We should point out that the White House, the deputy press secretary, Raj Shah, said that despite historic obstruction for Democrats in Congress, the Presidential Personnel Office is filling the administration with the best and brightest appointees who share the president's vision for the country, staff work tirelessly, and have experience consistent with the practice in previous administrations.

[06:25:14] Although, the "Post" reporting is that they do not. You'll remember the president, Melissa, several months ago when questioned about why there were not the embassy positions, the ambassadors, the diplomats across the world, why those weren't being filled, he said that he was saving the government money. Is there in some way potentially that this is intentional?

QUINN: I think that may be a little bit of a stretch. I think that this may be a good -- and a good instance in this case where we could potentially see the president's words come back to really haunt him. He has said before that he recruits the best and the brightest for these positions.

And I think that this expose from the "Washington Post" about the Presidential Personnel Office really sheds a lot of light into what we have seen in this administration in terms of the number of administration posts that have been left vacant including a number that requires Senate confirmation.

And at the end of the day, it really is the White House as much as they want to blame Democrats for slowing down the process, the White House is the one who was nominating these people. While we did see a ramp-up after the president's comments regarding those ambassadorships, we sort of have seen a little bit of a slowdown in recent weeks.

I think a lot of people are going to be pointing to this story and the dysfunction that -- within the office that was highlighted by the story as perhaps a good reason for that.

BLACKWELL: Yes. The chaos no one wants. I asked the question about if this is intentional because the White House acknowledged to the "Post," and this is a quote, that the staff is much smaller, the PPO, than at any time in recent history. That admission questions why. All right. Errol Louis, Melissa Quinn, thanks so much.

PAUL: U.S. officials tell CNN that they're concerned about a power vacuum if the U.S. pulls out of Syria. If the U.S. does move on as President Trump says will happen soon. Who wins in that regards?

Also, the U.S. versus Russia, both sides kicking out diplomats, as Victor was talking about. Now Russia is testing missiles and threatening to sue the U.S.


[06:32:00] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm glad that you're keeping us company here. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you.

National Security officials tell CNN that they are worried about what could happen if the U.S. just suddenly withdraws from the battle against ISIS. The officials say that if the U.S. is no longer in Syria, it could create a void that ISIS or another terror group could fill.

PAUL: Here's what President Trump told supporters at a rally this week.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're knocking the hell out of ISIS. We'll be coming out of Syria like very soon. Let the other people take care of it now.


PAUL: So what happens if Syria -- in Syria, we should say, if the U.S. is no longer involved in the fight? Would that be a win for Russia?

BLACKWELL: Let's go to CNN's senior international correspondent Matthew Chance. He's seen this conflict up close, having embedded with Russian forces in Syria.

Matt, the implications for this battle without the U.S. there?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, from a Russian point of view, that -- I think you're right, it would be a major geopolitical success for them. They, of course, back, Moscow backs Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president. They've made it very clear that they believe he is the rightful leader of Syria and they've used their considerable air power to bomb the opposition parties, opposition groups, that have fought against Bashar al-Assad including ISIS, but including other more moderate rebels as well.

And they've succeeded in not just bolstering him, preventing him from collapsing, but also from getting into re-established Syrian government control across vast swains of that country. If the United States were to pull out as President Trump has indicated they might soon, then that would be, you know, obviously a big boon for the Russians. That means that Bashar al-Assad backed by the Russians and, of course, by the Iranians, would be able to have a free hand to take what territory they wanted in Syria.

And, so yes, in short, I think it would be a major victory for the Russians if the U.S. were to pull out of Syria.

PAUL: OK, so when we see this back and forth, kicking diplomats out or kicking your diplomats out back and forth, does the expulsion of diplomats actually hurt Putin in any way? And what do you foresee happening?

CHANCE: Well, I think it leaves Vladimir Putin's Russia isolated diplomatically. I mean, there were 149 Russian diplomats who were kicked out of various countries, 60 from the United States just last week in response to the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal allegedly by a Russian nerve agent in Salisbury in England. And that's the largest number of Russian diplomats that have been expelled ever.

You know, certainly since the end of the Cold War. And so it's a major sort of act of Western unity in the face of what is generally believed to be confrontational Russian behavior. The poisoning is only one example of that.

[06:35:03] The big question is, is it going to be enough to change Russia's behavior, or is it just going to antagonize Russia to enter into more confrontation with the West? We just don't have the answers to that yet.

BLACKWELL: All right. Matthew Chance for us in Moscow. Matthew, thank you very much.

PAUL: Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin is putting other countries on warning claiming no defense systems can withstand his newest missile. Russia released video of a test launch of that missile yesterday. Here it is. The intercontinental ballistic missile is nicknamed the "Satan 2." And while it sounds alarming, I know, NATO actually comes up with the code names for these missiles. So no word on how the Russian missile would withstand its American counterparts. There's the Maverick Hellfire, the Trident, the Patriot. The aptly named Peacekeeper missile was retired in 2005.

BLACKWELL: Still ahead, more protests planned for today after a deadly day in Gaza. More than a dozen people were killed. We'll take you there live next.


[06:40:59] PAUL: Looking at deadly protests in Gaza there that are forcing Palestinian authority president Mahmoud Abbas to declare today a day of mourning. You're looking at the scene yesterday along the Gaza-Israel border. At least 17 Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli troops and more than 1,000 were injured. And witnesses say Israeli troops fired live rounds, rubber bullets, and teargas. BLACKWELL: Well, this was the first of what are expected to be weeks

of protests called the March for Return. The Palestinians are demanding they be allowed to return to land that is now part of Israel.

PAUL: CNN's Ian Lee is in Gaza right now joining us.

So, Ian, what is the situation there this morning? Have you been seeing anything like what we saw yesterday?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a bit calmer this morning than what we saw yesterday. You know, yesterday was the deadliest, bloodiest day in Gaza since the 2014 war. At one point we were close to the front lines, and there were just so many casualties coming in, there weren't enough ambulances. They were putting two to three people per ambulance. Some people had to wait for a ride to the hospital.

You know, this protest started by the organizers started saying they wanted to be peaceful. And from everything we saw on the front, it was the most that we saw from Palestinians with slingshots and rocks. But the Israeli military says that Hamas and other militant groups did fire projectiles across the border including live fire. They say there were Molotov cocktails also thrown at them.

Let me just kind of show you what really this is all centered around. Behind me, you can see one of the camps where people are staying. Behind them is a fence. That is the border, and behind that fence is a dirt berm. And that's where these Israeli soldiers are positioned. Israel says that they're not going to allow anyone cross over that border, breach that border. They say they're ready to use deadly force.

They say they have snipers all up and down this. But when we were talking to Palestinians, they say that that's their goal. Their goal is to breach that border to get to the other side. So this is making a mixture of a very tense situation. And as we saw, a very deadly situation. And these protests are expected to go on for the next six weeks.

BLACKWELL: All right. We'll continue to watch that for the next several weeks.

Ian Lee, thank you so much.

PAUL: Listen, still to come, a former Cambridge Analytica employee tells CNN former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon wanted data to wage a cultural war on America.


[06:47:40] BLACKWELL: GOP strategist Steve Bannon worked to spread his conservatism long before he joined the White House, whether it was through Breitbart News, various document films, his intention was always to move the country further to the right.

PAUL: In 2014 Bannon expanded its reach and created Cambridge Analytica and according to former employees there he used the platform as, quote, "a weapon of psychological warfare."

CNN correspondent Drew Griffin has more details for us here.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cambridge Analytica was born out of Steve Bannon's Alt-Right vision for America. He had already produced propaganda-inspired films, that run the ultra- conservative "Breitbart News." But in 2014, he was looking for yet another tool in his arsenal, and he found it by creating Cambridge Analytica.


GRIFFIN: Former Cambridge Analytica employee, Christopher Wylie, says from his first meeting with Bannon, it was clear the goal -- not to push a single campaign or candidate, but to fundamentally change America.

WYLIE: He sees this as warfare. So he is going to use as aggressive techniques that as he can get away with.

GRIFFIN (on camera): I mean, do you realize what you're saying? You're talking about warfare on the American citizens.

WYLIE: This is Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer using a foreign military contractor to use some of the same techniques that the military used to fight ISIS on the American electorate. That's what they wanted and that's what they got.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Cambridge Analytica is a subsidiary of the British SCL group. For 25 years, the military contractor has worked with 60 countries, including British and American governments, helping battle crime, drugs, terrorists by changing the opinions of foreign populations.

JOSH GREEN, AUTHOR, "DEVIL'S BARGAIN: STEVE BANNON, DONALD TRUMP, AND THE NATIONALIST UPRISING": SCL's sales pitch essentially was, look, we go into foreign countries and we use our tools, our psycho-graphic profiling, to manipulate public opinion. I mean, ultimately that's what Bannon wanted to do in the United States. He wanted to manipulate public opinion.

GRIFFIN: So Bannon created SCL's American arm, Cambridge Analytica, with $15 million from conservative donor, Robert Mercer, and his daughter, Rebekah. Wylie says using psycho-graphic data gathered from a Facebook app, Cambridge Analytica targeted specific groups of people to try to influence them and push them to the right.

[06:50:05] WYLIE: It wouldn't always look like a campaign ad, or it wouldn't always say, you know, I'm candidate so and so and I approve this message. You're not necessarily aware that actually what you're seeing is content that had been created and targeted at you to make you perceive an issue differently. GRIFFIN: The company worked on the 2014 midterms. But amidst all the

data analytics, the questionable use of psycho-analysis, the micro- targeting that the technology allowed, Bannon's real goal was always much bigger than that according to Wylie.

WYLIE: He wanted to change people's perceptions of what was happening in America to make them more open to an alt-right vision.

GRIFFIN: Part of that included developing and testing messages that would resonate with voters, imagery of walls, deep state, increasing paranoia about government spying, and this.

WYLIE: We had tested drain the swam.

GRIFFIN (on camera): In 2014?

WYLIE: In 2014.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Bannon had worked for two years to refine his messaging when in 2016 the perfect candidate came along to blast those messages to American voters.

TRUMP: It's crazy. Drain the swamp.

WYLIE: A lot of the narratives of the Trump campaign were what we were testing in 2014.

GRIFFIN: Cambridge Analytica is now downplaying its work for the Donald Trump campaign, insisting it did not use controversial Facebook data on it and saying elections are won and lost by candidates, not data science.

As for Steve Bannon, he wouldn't respond to CNN but recently told a business forum his techniques were used in the past by Democrats and said no one complained until a conservative did what progressives have been doing for years.


BLACKWELL: All right. Drew Griffin, thank you so much for that.

They call it March Madness for a reason, people. Coy Wire is here to explain.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Victor, and Christi as well. Coming up, we're going to talk about Sister Jean. She's been the talk of the town. But for a second straight year, UConn's quest for another perfect season ending in heartbreak. A dramatic finish. That's coming up on NEW DAY.


[06:56:46] BLACKWELL: Notre Dame heading to the National Women's Championship after stunning the previously unbeaten UConn.

PAUL: Coy Wire has all the overtime killer info. WIRE: The Women's Final Four in Columbus is all that college sports

is meant to be. This is the only time in NCAA history that both Final Four games went into overtime. This is a big deal. Kobe Bryant, mambo was in the house to witness this thriller.

Game tied, tensions through the roof. And this is the final seconds. Notre Dame's Arike Ogunbowale was money. Check this out. Her name in her father's native Nigeria is something that you see and you cherish. Well, this is something she'll cherish forever. The Irish stunned the Huskies, headed to the title game, heartbreak, though, as you can imagine for UConn. They had just gone 36-0 two years in a row, lost in the Final Four in overtime both times. Both on last-second shots.

And get this, the last four teams to beat UConn in the Final Four ended up losing in the title game including Notre Dame's next opponent, Mississippi State, who suffered that same fate just last season.

Now on the men's side, Kansas's star Udoka Azubuike, he's going to see his mom Florence for the first time in six years in San Antonio. She's coming all the way from Nigeria to see her son play in the Final Four. And his coach talked about how special this moment will be.


BILL SELF, KANSAS HEAD COACH: Can you imagine the greeting they're going to have tonight when she gets here? And then on top of that, oh by the way, mom, we're going to play in front of 70,000 people in a venue that you've never even actually seen me play before.


WIRE: All right. Let's have some fun now. Loyola-Chicago's 98-year- old team chaplain Sister Jean, she's become the biggest star of March Madness. I mean, she's on T-shirts, socks, bobble heads, right? I mean, she had her own press conference yesterday. Right? And it was larger than the ones for the players. Remember "Where's Waldo"? We're going to play a little game called "Anyone Seen Andy." Because Andy Scholes was there. All right. Here you go. Look at this scene.


PAUL: Oh my god.

WIRE: A sea of people trying to ask Sister Jean about her team. Come close up to your screen. Can you find --

PAUL: I think I see him. I think I see him there.

WIRE: And --

PAUL: Look into the left.

BLACKWELL: Oh no. I would not have picked him out.

WIRE: Yes. All right. Here is some of what Sister Jean had to say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So what do you think of this turnout?

JEAN DOLORES SCHMIDT, LOYOLA-CHICAGO TEAM CHAPLAIN: I can't believe it. Even in the morning that I wake up, and I say, is this real or a is it a dream? Who am I? Don't let it go to your head.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Have you seen the Game of Roses' grandmother's message to you?

SCHMIDT: I saw her on Facebook the other day. And I also heard that she said she's out to get me. So we'll see. Somebody said maybe you need a pair of boxing gloves. And I said, well, we'll see what happens.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Your face is everywhere. It's on socks, it's on T-shirt. How cool is that to see your face on all these items?

SCHMIDT: Well, maybe I'll get a pair of socks myself.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think God is a basketball fan?

SCHMIDT: He probably is. And he's probably a basketball fan, more of the NCAA than the NBA.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Have you ever had more fun than you're having right now?

SCHMIDT: Well, this is the most fun I've had in my life.


WIRE: Join Turner's Allie LaForce and Steve Smith for "All Access at the Final Four," a CNN-"Bleacher Report" special at 2:30 this afternoon Eastern on CNN.

I brought some Sister Jean socks, Victor. You get to choose --


WIRE: He's leading our CNN bracket --

PAUL: Let someone else take it anyway.