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NEW DAY SATURDAY

Trump: "Let Obamacare Explode"; After Repeal Flop, Trump Administration Tackles Tax Reform; Dems Outraged As House Intel Chair Cancels Hearing; 3 Ex-Trump Aides Volunteer To Testify Before Committee; Kremlin Critic Murdered In Broad Daylight; U.S. Bans Laptops On Some Flights From Mideast; March Madness Down To Elite Eight. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired March 25, 2017 - 06:00   ET

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


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[06:00:09]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The art of no deal. President Trump in a stunning defeat abruptly cancelled the vote on the Republican health care bill, facing what would have been an embarrassing loss.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republicans could not get their act together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president told the House speaker, I'm pulling the bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will not sugarcoat this, this is a disappointing day for us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is an embarrassment for the White House and House Republicans.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We are going to stop it day one. I never said repeal and replace Obamacare. I never said repeal it and replace it within 64 days. That's a long time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Democrats should take credit for killing a really, really bad piece of legislation.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: The losers are Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, now they own Obamacare. They own it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning to you. It's so great to have your company on Saturday morning. I have this side back. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Happy to be back. This morning, President Trump and the Republican Party coming to grips with the stunning failure of the plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

PAUL: Yes, just months after gaining complete control of Washington, the president and House Speaker Paul Ryan could not wrangle enough votes within their own party. The blame game, you know that already started. Here's our Sunlen Serfaty talking about how it all went wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Trump and House Republican leaders are grappling with a staggering health care defeat. The GOP's promise plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act pulled from the House floor, after leaders determined the proposal lacked enough support to pass.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), HOUSE SPEAKER: We came really close today, but we came up short. I will not sugarcoat this, this is a disappointing day for us. Doing big things is hard.

SERFATY: It was a stunning turn of events, coming less than 24 hours after the president issued an ultimatum to House Republicans, to move forward with a vote or he was ready to move on to other items on his agenda.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think we have to let Obamacare go its way for a little while, and we'll see how things go. I'd love to see it do well but it can't. It's imploding and soon will explode, and it's not going to be pretty.

SERFATY: The decision to call off the vote came after House Speaker Paul Ryan left the capitol to visit the White House to deliver the message in person to the president that Republicans did not have the votes to pass the plan.

Sources tell CNN, a key part of that closed-door conversation dealt with whether the president would take any responsibility for the decision to scrap the vote.

As that meeting played out behind the scenes, the White House press secretary was publicly making the case to reporters that the president had done all he could to deliver a legislative victory.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's no question in my mind at least that the president and team here have left everything on the field.

SERFATY: Part of the administration's last minute push included dispatching Vice President Pence to meet with conservatives, who were not entirely sold on the GOP measure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's one of the worst bills I've ever seen.

SERFATY: Yet even though the mood from the White House sounded less optimistic than recent days, Spicer still refused to throw in the towel.

SPICER: We now have a president that is going to sign a bill if you pass it. Now is that time.

SERFATY: While the president refused to hint at what his next step would be if the vote didn't succeed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you watch it?

TRUMP: We'll see what happens.

SERFATY: But what ultimately happened is rank and file members of the president's own party never fully got on board with leaders losing votes from more moderate members with changes to the proposal aimed at swinging conservatives. That included a late revision to eliminate the ten especial health benefits required to be part of insurance plans under Obamacare.

REP. LEONARD LANCE (R), NEW JERSEY: Suppose that was added to move in the direction of the Freedom Caucus. I'm in what is known as the Tuesday Group and I do not think that that is a good amendment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL: I want to go now to CNN national correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, live from Washington. All right, Suzanne, you're in the thick of this thing. You've seen everybody there in Washington. Help us understand what's happening there this morning.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christi. President Trump, first of all, didn't take any responsibility for the legislative failure nor, did he publicly blame the Republican leadership. Rather, he followed up familiar strategy that we see identifying an enemy that he could rally supporters to get behind and that was the Democrats.

So he identified House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer as the losers because he said now they own Obamacare 100 percent.

Well, as for Trump, he was already reluctant. You could even argue lukewarm about taking on repealing Obamacare first. We saw yesterday that he moved on with the official signoff of the opening of the Keystone pipeline.

He had a meeting with his treasury secretary to get on to the business of reforming the tax code. Trump is also eager to move on to building infrastructure and doing some trade deals. Really remains to be seen whether or not he has a real coalition in his own party to get some of these beefy things done.

[06:05:11]As for the Republican Party, it lays bare, fractured, in disarray. Senior administration officials telling me the president has little appetite to work with the House Freedom Caucus, the conservatives, who remain steadfast in bringing down the GOP repeal plan. They were instrumental in delivering House Speaker Paul Ryan's biggest defeat in his political career on Friday. The moderate Republicans, for their part, they're relieved that their signatures are not on anything coming out of the House that would have left millions of Americans without health insurance.

But they're trying to still save their party from the powerful conservative right. As for Ryan, while Team Trump, they're privately putting some of the blame on him for pushing this reform as an easy first victory, publicly the president said that Ryan should remain speaker. That, of course, remains up to his colleague -- Christi.

PAUL: OK, so what is the political fallout, then, does somebody, one person, one person, one party, take full blame here or do we just move on and how do you do that?

MALVEAUX: You know, I don't think any one particular party takes blame here, but there is a real question now as to whether the Republican Party is going to be able to find common ground within its own party to get things done here.

That is what voters are going to be looking for in the Congressional races in 2018. What you had under Obamacare is that Health and Human secretary, has the power to fix, tweak, some of the things that are plaguing Obamacare.

If Trump and his administration actually take it on some of those problems for the Republicans could see a boost overall. But the real question is whether or not Republicans can unite behind anything and bring some Democrats along to pass their agenda.

This is an agenda that Ryan had called the new wave and this is one way that they put it, New York Republican Congressman Chris Collins said, look, if Republicans can't pass a 2017 budget and can't get Obamacare repealed, how are they going to pass a 2018 budget?

A budget that really is the vehicle for tax reform and tax reform is where the money comes for the infrastructure. So you can kind of see how yesterday's defeat could cast out on things ahead and whether or not Republicans can really move forward on the agenda.

PAUL: All right, Suzanne Malveaux, appreciate it so much. Good to see you. Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Good to see you.

BLACKWELL: All right, so we've got a lot of angles to discuss this morning. I want to start with the president's approach to this health care bill. Let's talk about it with CNN political commentator, Errol Louis, and White House correspondent for "The Washington Examiner," Gabby Morrongiello.

Good morning to both of you. So Errol, let's start here with this narrative that we are hearing from Sean Spicer and from the speaker that President Trump did all he could do. He left it on the field. Here's what they say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPICER: The president has been working the phones and having an in- person meeting since the American health care act was introduced. He's left everything on the field when it comes to this bill.

RYAN: The president gave his all in this effort. He did everything he possibly could to help people see the opportunity that we have with this bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Let's start with just one barometer here. This is from whitehouse.gov. The number of events that President Trump hosted public events pushing the health care bill versus what President Obama hosted during his administration, 28 in support of the Affordable Care Act versus seven for President Trump in the American health care act. Is this narrative accurate that the president did all he could?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I think he did what he did. He did what he could do in the very compressed amount of time. I mean, having made the decision that this was not just be first, but it would be done almost instantly. It left him very little time.

And frankly, I would use a different barometer, Victor. Obviously, when the president spoke at recent events which were supposed to be pro-health care reform events at some of the rallies that were also sort of political morale boosters for the administration, he might talk about health care reform for maybe 5 minutes in a 30-minute speech.

It's not as if he went out and made a passionate, detailed emotional argument even to his political base. So I think he left a couple opportunities out there on the field. I think we all know, that's not really where the problem lay.

I mean, as long as the House decides to allow 30 or 40 radicals in the House Freedom Caucus to determine what will or won't actually be considered and passed. There's nothing the president or anybody else can do about it.

BLACKWELL: Gabby, let's talk about as Errol describes them radicals. The president, the White House offered an ultimatum Thursday into Friday, pass this or be stuck with Obamacare, what do you think the impact of that was, if there was one at all?

GABBY MORRONGIELLO, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Well, look, this is a page from President Trump's self-help book "The Art Of The Deal." I mean, he wanted to walk away from this deal to put something on the table and say I'm done negotiating, and if you aren't going to take the concessions that I've laid out then we we're walking away. That's exactly what will he did here.

[06:10:10]I think that the biggest hindrance to the success of this legislation was the division that we saw during this whole process between the House Freedom Caucus, that conservative wing of the Republican Party and the Tuesday group and the more moderate Republican lawmakers who weren't happy with the concessions that the White House is handing to those more conservative members.

I mean, this really exposed a major rift between Republicans when it comes to where their mentality and philosophy is on how government should be involved in health care. You had the House Freedom Caucus saying there shouldn't be any involvement whatsoever.

And moderate Republicans saying, well, look, if we remove government from the picture entirely, there are going to be negative consequences that are felt across the country that we're going to have to deal with in 2018 and down the road.

And so, I think that that was really underestimated by both the White House and House Speaker Paul Ryan going into this process.

WHITFIELD: Again, you're going to be with Christi in just a moment, we are going to talk about the House moving forward. But Errol, back to you, with the president. I want you to listen to what the president said Thursday before the bill was pulled, and then Friday after it was pulled.

And talk about the credibility of this full throat of endorsement we heard from the president leading up to what was expected to be a vote. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Only politics because we have a great bill and I think we have a very good chance.

I'll tell you what's going to come out of it is a better bill. I really believe a better bill because there were things in this bill (inaudible) particularly left.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: So within the span of 24 hours, you have the president saying we've got a great bill. He tweeted out, you know, early in the process, this is going to be a beautiful picture. Then he says, well, there are some things I didn't like. Wouldn't go into specifics about what he didn't like, but we can get something better. Is that realistic?

LOUIS: No, not only is it not realistic, but it sort of speaks to some of why the bill went down in flames. The Republicans including the president have said all along that this would be a three-step process and that some of the major problems and major fixes that they had in mind would come somewhere down the road after they got some repeal bill done.

That's fantasy land. You know, the notion that you're going to sort of allow plans to be sold across state lines, you know, that some future Congress or in some future year, they'd get some hypothetical law passed. That wasn't something that tens of millions of Americans want to hinge their family's health care on. So, that's really why it wasn't credible then and it's not credible now. This notion that someday we'll have a much better bill. We're just not going to work on it now.

That's kind of a nonstarter. There again, that's partly why there are members of Congress, good solid Republicans who said we're not going to risk our careers on such a proposal.

BLACKWELL: The president during those comments there in the oval office said that the Democrats now own Obamacare. It's theirs but the president is still the one sitting in the seat. Donald Trump is still the president, Gabby. Is that narrative going to sell?

MORRONGIELLO: Well, that's certainly the message that the White House is going to run away with the next week or so is to blame this on Democrats to say that there weren't any Democrats who are willing to get on board with this repeal effort.

Then to say, once we see premiums continue to rise. Once -- as Americans are continuing to face a penalty for not taking health insurance. They're going to -- they're going to blame Democrats. That seems to be the hope that the American people will feel that President Trump is leaning on to get health care done at some point in the future.

Now, whether or not that actually works to benefit the White House, I don't think it's going to. I'm sure we can expect either, you know, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price or Mick Mulvaney to begin looking at different steps they can take to reduce the regulatory burden that Obamacare places on not just the American business owner, but Americans across the country.

Just so they can say that they got at least something achieved and accomplished on health care and that this wasn't a total waste of time and failure.

PAUL: All righty. Hey, guys, stay right there because I want to talk to you next about the next big item on President Trump's agenda. Of course, tax reform, House Speaker Paul Ryan telling the GOP health care loss will make changing the tax code that much more difficult but it's not impossible.

BLACKWELL: Plus, the Trump/Russia investigation, is that in turmoil? Democrats are furious after the House intel chair cancelled next week's big hearing. We'll have details on that, next.

PAUL: Also another critic of Russia and President Vladimir Putin is dead. Is it part of a pattern? That's coming up a little bit later.

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[06:19:10]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRESIDENT TRUMP: We'll probably be going right now for tax reform, which we could have done earlier, but this really would have worked out better if we could have some Democrat support. Remember this, we have no Democrat support. Now, we're going to go towards tax reform which I've always liked.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Next up, you heard it there, tax reform but just like health care, this is expected to be just as, if not more complicated for the Republican Party. House Speaker Paul Ryan says, though, you know what, this party can pull it together.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: This does make tax reform more difficult, but it does not in any way make it impossible. We will proceed with tax reform. We will continue with tax reform. That's an issue I know quite a bit about, I used to run that committee.

I spoke with the president, the treasury secretary and his economic advisers earlier today about tax reform. So we are going to proceed with tax reform. This makes it more difficult. You know how the numbers work. It's about a trillion dollars.

[06:20:04]But that just means the Obamacare taxes stay with Obamacare. We're going to go fix the rest of the tax code.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: All righty. Errol Louis back with us and Gabby Morrongiello, thank you both for sticking around. Errol, I want to listen to something quickly here from Representative Chris Coons with the Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, talking about the fact that there are these allegations that Obamacare is going to collapse under its own weight. Here's what he has to say about what is coming next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPRESENTATIVE CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: I've never said that the Affordable Care Act was perfect. In the last couple of years, I've tried on several occasions to work across the aisle to produce legislation that could help make it more affordable for small business owners to reduce some of the reporting burden.

I think now, we should take a moment, pause, and turn towards each other as parties, and try and move past the Republican-only effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and find a real bipartisan path towards trying to improve it and make it sustainable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: He's talking about trying to move Obamacare forward, to have some sort of reconciliation, do you see, Errol, that being possible in any way? LOUIS: Well, it's in theory, possible, Christi, but you've really got to ask that question of the Republican leadership. You know, the reality is, when it comes to tax reform, although the president says he wanted to do it first, there's been no bill that's come out of the White House, although the Republican leadership in the Senate said that they want tax reform.

There's been no bill that's come out of the Senate. Time is moving. They're going to run out of time very, very quickly, and it is complex. They've got other things on their agenda, including a Supreme Court nomination and so forth.

The easiest path, the one that they don't seem to be willing to take is to actually reach out to Democrats, form some form of a sort of centrist coalition that would push extreme liberals and extreme conservatives off to decide and get to yes as opposed to continually kind of giving hostages to folks who don't really care whether a bill gets passed or not.

If they replay that on tax reform, I wouldn't be surprised, number one. But number two, it would be disastrous politically and bad for the country.

PAUL: Gabby, you know, a lot of people are looking at this. There are people who wanted to see changes in Obamacare who say Republicans had seven years to figure this out. Is there, as we look forward, or are there any solid plans, and of course, this is dependent on President Trump as well, in terms of the tax code and tax reform and the infrastructure that they'll want to tackle?

MORRONGIELLO: Well, if you recall the white paper that President Trump put out on tax reform policy during the election, he did actually propose some which was a zero rate, federal income tax rate for low-income households that many Republicans balked at.

In addition to that, he proposed this, you know, 15 percent corporate tax rate that elicited a similar reaction from Republican lawmakers. So they're all right starting off with tax reform with major differences similar to what transpired during the health care debate.

I think that's going to present a significant obstacle for them as they move on to tax reform as their next big legislative authority. As you know, Errol was saying, the reconciliation process that that's the way that they want to go on, is reality difficult because they'll have to introduce a revenue-neutral bill.

If they want to ensure that a tax bill has passed that doesn't lapse in ten years. So there are major intricate policy details that need to be worked out. And when you have a party that's so divided not just over health care, but on major issues like tax reform, and what those tax cuts should be, I think this is, again, going to be a significant challenge for the White House and Republicans to come over. And they might need Democrats to work with them, to get something like this passed.

PAUL: Sure. Errol, would it behooved this administration to tackle tax reform first?

LOUIS: You know, there's an interesting theory there, Christi, and I guess I would have to say, yes. In part, because some of Trump's proposals, just as Gabby suggests are unorthodox, coming from a Republican, in books that he's written in the past, in his campaign speeches, in some of the way that he has talked about tax reform.

There's a big pot of money sitting overseas in the form of corporate profits that he wants to repatriate, and there are trillions of dollars in fact overseas. And if done properly, that plus corporate tax reform here could potentially put a lot of money on the table that could then be sort of bargained and rearranged.

But that's only a possibility. If they don't get to it right away, if they don't come up with a plan, if they don't start working it through the system and figuring out how they can get votes and constituencies and support for such an idea, it would be a wasted opportunity.

But at least it's an area where there's not like a shortage of money. That's one thing that we in the United States do have is we have a tremendous economy and a whole heck of a lot of money to pay for the things that the public needs.

[06:25:11]PAUL: Gabby, you have the last word. It's got to be quick. I'm sorry. Is it about people or politics?

MORRONGIELLO: You know, I think it's about politics right now and making sure that President Trump does have a legislative achievement and accomplishments in his first 100 days but that's looking less and less likely at this point.

PAUL: All righty, Errol Louis and Gabby Morrongiello, so grateful to have you both here. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right, let's turn now to the House Russia investigation, the finger pointing and calls for an independent commission to investigate on Capitol Hill after the House Intel chair cancels next week's big hearing.

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[06:30:00] PAUL: Look at you up and at them all early on a Saturday morning. We're glad, though, I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you this morning. President Trump is about two-thirds in the way through his first 100 days now. But this is the biggest defeat of this presidency thus far. The republicans plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, this died before it even hit the house floor.

PAUL: The President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan bow at this point, they're moving on, they're tackling tax reform, but both concede their job of rewriting the tax code just got significantly harder. Our Dana Bash actually pressed Speaker Ryan on what he and his fellow congressmen should tell the American people now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Speaker, you all swept the House, won the majority with a promise to repeal Obamacare. The majority in the Senate with a promise to repeal Obamacare.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: That's right.

BASH: The White House with the promise in repeal Obamacare. How do you go home to your constituents and send all of your members home to their constituents saying, "You know what, it's not even 100 days into the administration. Sorry folks, we just can't figure it out."

RYAN: Dana, it's a really good question. I wish I had a better answer for you. I really believe that Obamacare is a law that is collapsing, it's hurting families, it's not working. It was designed in a fundamentally flawed way. We believe this bill is the best way to go, but we just didn't quite get the consensus to get there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: And the blame game has already started. The White House publicly point a finger at democrats, not at Speaker Ryan. We should point out.

BLACKWELL: Well, the Trump-Russia investigation is, some would say, in a bit of turmoil here, with calls for an independent investigation growing louder now. And this comes after House Intel Committee Chair, Devin Nunes, postponed next week's hearing and walked back his claims that Trump and his aides were, in some respect, surveilled.

PAUL: And of course, this all comes as three former Trump aides say they're willing now to testify before that house Intel committee. Here's CNN's Jessica Schneider with what that means.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christi and Victor, the House Intelligence Committee has become the center of a partisan fight. The top democratic and republican pointing fingers at each other as they investigate Russia meddling into the election and President Trump's wiretap allegations. Now, the focus shifts to what new information Chairman Nunes has that he's not sharing, and what three Trump associates will say when they go on the record.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Roger Stone are already under FBI investigation for their contacts with the Russians known to U.S. intelligence. Now, they say they'll go before law makers. Paul Manafort, Donald Trump's campaign chairman, resigned amid questions about his previous lobbying for pro-Russian interests in Ukraine. A spokesman said Manafort looks forward to meeting with those conducting serious investigations of these issues to discuss the facts.

Campaign Foreign Policy Advisor, Carter Page, denied allegations that he secretly met with Putin associates. He told the committee, "I would look forward to engaging with you in the interest of finally ending this ruse."

And the attorney for Roger Stone, a former advisor to Donald Trump, says Stone is anxious to talk. Stone told CNN, "I acknowledge I'm a hardball player. I have sharp elbows. But one thing isn't in my bag of tricks -- treason.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michael Flynn.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is also under FBI investigation. But his spokesman had no comment on whether Flynn might make a similar offer. Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes suddenly cancelling next week's open hearing caption with former Director of National Intelligence, retired General James Clapper, former acting attorney-general Sally Yates and former CIA Director John Brennan. The ranking democrat on the committee, accusing the White House of meddling in the process.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: There must have been a very strong pushback from the White House about the nature of Monday's hearing. It's hard for me to come to any other conclusion about why an agreed upon hearing would be suddenly cancelled.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Nunes wants the FBI director and National Security Agency Director, Mike Rogers, to come back next week in a closed session. Nunes refuses to disclose what new information he has, and where he got it. But he says it revealed incidental collection of communications by President Trump and his associates.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (D-CA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: You can ask me every single name that exists on the planet, and I'm still not going to tell you who our sources are.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Schiff, calling for an independent investigation, saying he's concerned but Nunes may have shared investigative information with the White House.

SCHIFF: To take evidence that may or may not be related to the investigation to the White House was wholly inappropriate. And of course, cast grave doubts into the ability to run a credible investigation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: The House Intel Committee expecting information from the NSA over the next few days on the issue of unmasking. It's the processing of revealing the names of Americans in reports when they're otherwise hidden. Chairman Nunes says they want to know why these names were unmasked and if any additional names were revealed. Christi and Victor?

[06:34:54] BLACKWELL: Jessica, thank you so much. Let's bring Errol Louis back in. Errol, we started this week with Chairman Nunes and the ranking member Schiff, with news conferences together, ending it with these duelling news conferences. Is this committee, this investigation, damaged beyond repair? Has politics made this -- or at least jeopardized the credibility of the investigation? LOUIS: Well, the credibility is in grave danger, if not, gone altogether. And there's no one to point the finger at other than Representative Nunes, who ran off to the White House, refused to explain why his stance on all of this changed after his meeting with the Trump at White House. And the only person to have anything to gain by taking some of these public hearings off the agenda is the White House. It seems clear as a bell that Nunes is working hand in glove with the White House, and that compromises his objectivity and his credibility right off the bat.

BLACKWELL: Let me share with everyone the latest Quinnipiac poll that shows that two-thirds of Americans want an independent commission to investigate the links between the Trump campaign advisers and the Russian government. There doesn't seem to be much appetite for that, or willingness for it among house republicans. We have heard Senator John McCain come out and say that he thinks it's time for an independent commission.

LOUIS: Yes, it is -- it is -- it is shocking, though, the reluctance of some members of Congress to get on board, not just with where the public wants to go, but where common sense would dictate you have to go. A former member of the Russian parliament was shot dead on the street this week, assassinated. And he's not the first. There are journalist, there are business leaders, others who have been assassinated by the Putin regime. The notion that, you know, contacts are harmless, who cares, let's not look into it, is really just shocking. It's shocking to the public. It's shocking to me. I think they're not going to be able to hide behind that very long. And the sooner the facts come out, the more clear it will become that this was a dishonorable attempt to -- for very small political gain -- cover up an incredibly important investigation.

BLACKWELL: Yes, three people who have come up in the hearings, at least -- that have been discussed this week -- we know that they are now willing to testify before the House Intelligence Committee. Former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, campaign Foreign Policy adviser, Carter Page, and Trump associate and former advisor, Roger Stone, have all volunteered. Quick -- relatively close proximity to one another, three central figures here, the impact?

LOUIS: Yes, absolutely. Listen, I think these gentlemen -- I know Roger Stone a little bit. I don't know the other two gentlemen. But I think it's entirely possible that in, you know, the gangster government that is sitting in Moscow right now has its tentacles all over the world and is engaged in all kinds of different things so that they may have been unwillingly providing information and contacts and possibilities for those gangsters in Moscow that they weren't even aware of. So I think it's entirely possible that what they thought they were doing by trying to make a quick buck with this regime and its associates went a little further than I imagined. And so, I'm hoping that they'll come forward, that they'll be open and honest about what they did and what they knew, and we'll have to -- it will take a while to put these pieces together.

BLACKWELL: All right. Errol Louis, thanks so much.

LOUIS: Thank you.

PAUL: Errol brought up something that we want to investigate a little further. That shocking murder he talked about in broad daylight. It's being called the latest example of what happens when you cross Russian President Vladimir Putin. I will tell you more and get Russia's response, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:42:29] PAUL: 42 minutes past the hour right now. Authorities in Ukraine are investigating a murder that was committed in broad daylight. The victim, a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He's one of several Kremlin critics to die or be injured under some mysterious circumstances. Is this latest case just coincidence? Or is it part of a deadly pattern? Here's CNN Senior International Correspondent Frederik Pleitgen. And please let me forewarn you here, I want to give you a heads-up, some of this you might find disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A day after the murder of Kremlin critic, Denis Voronenkov, this chilling surveillance video has surfaced. Obtained by a Ukrainian broadcaster, it purports to show the moment Denis Voronenkov was killed, his bodyguard wounded. And now the diplomatic mudslinging between Moscow and Kiev over this case has kicked into high gear.

One senior Ukrainian lawmaker claiming that the assassin, who was also killed in the shoot-out, may have been Ukrainian but acted on Russia's orders.

"I can say it was certain to you that Denis Voronenkov has been murdered by the agent of Russian special services, a citizen of Ukraine." Said Anton (INAUDIBLE).

Ukraine's President, Petro Poroshenko, branded the assassination "Russian-state terrorism". And on a visit to Ukrainian security forces on Friday, linked it to another mysterious murder of Ukrainian journalist, Pavel Sheremet, and to a massive fire in a Ukrainian ammunition depot near the town of Kharkiv.

"It's a matter of honor for our law enforcement" he said it to disclose the murderers of Pavel Sheremet and Denis Voronenkov, and the sabotage in the Kharkiv region.

Tens of thousands of people had to be evacuated in a ten-kilometer radius around the (INAUDIBLE). Ukraine accuses Russia of setting it on fire. Russian officials called all of these allegations absurd. A speaker of Russia's parliament saying that Ukraine is turning into what he calls a terrorist state, unable to protect its citizens. Other Russian lawmakers chiming in. While the dead bodies are still being inspected and not even in the morgue yet, the head of the state makes such allegations of Russian-state terrorism. What does this tell us? This is a ready-made scenario, this right-wing politician said. Ukrainian authorities say they're looking for the driver who possibly dropped the killer off at the scene of the murder. But even as the investigation to the killing of Denis Voronenkov progresses, the case has already become highly politicized and another lightning rod between the adversaries, Russia and Ukraine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[06:45:14] PAUL: Fred Pleitgen is in Moscow. Joining us now. So, Fred, help us understand where the investigation stands right now?

PLEITGEN: Well, Christi, one of the things that the investigators there in Kiev are trying to do right now is they're trying to find out more about the man who killed Denis Voronenkov. Of course, the assassin was also actually killed during that shootout there in Central Kiev. They say that this is someone who was actually within the Ukrainian Defense Forces and the Ukrainian National Guard, but the Ukrainians still say that they believe that this man was a foreign agent, someone was acting on Russia's orders.

One of the other interesting things is that there've been some other Ukrainian politicians and actually one former Russian politician who also fled to Ukraine who said that Voronenkov may have had information about Russian financial dealings and about Russia's possible involvement in the war in Eastern Ukraine.

So, a lot of explosive information that is already coming out. The Russians, for their part, continuing to say what they said since the very beginning, saying it's absurd to say that they had anything to do with it. In fact, there are some Russian lawmakers who are demanding that Russian investigators be part of the investigation. And say, otherwise, it simply would be unfair. Christi?

PAUL: All right. Fred Pleitgen, we appreciate it so much. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Well, starting today, electronic devices larger than your smartphone will be banned on some international flights headed to the U.S. We'll talk about the specific details and the larger implications, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:50:36] PAUL: New this morning, some airlines are already enforcing President Trump's electronics ban. This is one of the strictest security measures taken since 9/11, we should point out.

BLACKWELL: And this affects more than 50 flights a day from nearly a dozen airports in the Middle East and North Africa. CNN's Rene Marsh walks us through what the new restrictions may mean for your travel plans.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: In an unprecedented move, the Department of Homeland Security is demanding international flights from 10 overseas airports in eight mostly-Muslim countries ban almost all electronics larger than a cell phone from the cabin of the plane. The U.K. following the United States' lead will now ban large electronics in the cabin of certain flights, too, indicating there is intelligence that's creating concern.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: It's clear that with these new restrictions, the United States is essentially saying that they do not have full confidence in these airports, in these various countries to stop bombs getting on planes.

MARSH: Sources tell CNN the electronic ban was not prompted by a specific plot, but in part by new intelligence. A U.S. official tells CNN, Al-Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen was perfecting techniques for hiding explosives in the batteries of electronic devices. The information was obtained over recent weeks and months. The Department of Homeland Security says the intelligence, "indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation and are aggressively pursuing innovative methods to undertake their attacks including smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items.

DHS pointed to the February 2016 mid-air bombing of the Somali passenger plane as proof of terrorist groups' continued efforts to target commercial aviation. Sources say a sophisticated laptop bomb blew a hole in that aircraft. But U.S. intelligence has known for years terror groups have been working to perfect and conceal explosives to smuggle on board, so why such a drastic ban now?

CRUICKSHANK: One scenario is that the new administration in the United States has re-evaluated the entire threat stream up to passenger aircraft, taking into account of all the intelligence that has come in over the last several years.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL: All right. Thanks to CNN's Aviation Correspondent Rene Marsh for that report.

PAUL: So, you know, March Madness is down to the elite eight. And Andy Scholes has a warning, if you got some shut eye last night, you missed it.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: You did, Christi. If you went to bed early, you missed the best game of the tournament so far. But don't worry, we're going to have the incredible overtime buzzer beater coming up in this morning's "BLEACHER REPORT".

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:57:43] BLACKWELL: Florida, yes, if you went to bed early, you probably aren't expecting this, heading to the college basketball, the Elite Eight after an overtime thriller.

PAUL: Andy Scholes has more on this morning's "BLEACHER REPORT". Did you see it coming?

SCHOLES: Well, this is what we've been missing. We've been waiting for a game like Florida-Wisconsin. In this entire tournament, we finally got it. There's been 59 games in (INAUDIBLE) tournament with no overtimes, no buzzer beaters, that was before Florida and Wisconsin played an epic game last night. Now, this clearly, the game of the tournament, though, thus far. Down three, closing seconds, the Badgers Zak Showalter hit this three right here to tie the game. And then, he gave the Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers discount double check celebration. Rodgers was in the stand cheering on Wisconsin.

We would go to overtime after that shot. Four seconds left, watch this, Florida down two, guard Chris Chiozza goes the length of the floor, throws it up at the buzzer, and it goes in. Gators everywhere going absolutely nuts. Florida heading to the Elite Eight, where they're going to face off against SEC rivals, South Carolina. Now, the Gamecocks punching their tickets to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history with a 70-50 win over Baylor. Head coach Frank Martin's team holding Baylor scoreless for a seven-minute stretch in the first half. And coach Martin impressed by a young reporter's question in the postgame press conference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you coach and teach your team to defense, what's more important, technique or attitude?

FRANK MARTIN, HEAD COACH, SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS: First of all, a lot of respect to you. That's a heck of a question. I've been doing this a long time, and that's the first time anyone's ever asked me that, that's a heck of a question. Attitude comes first.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: All right. Two games tonight with the final four on the line. Xavier with super fan Bill Murray cheering them on in the stands. They're going to try to keep their Cinderella story going against Gonzaga. Then, we got Oregons taking on Kansas in prime time. Both of those games can be seen in the sister station TBS. And, you know, normally on the weekends, guys, we show where the bracket standings are between all of us. But Christi and I are doing so bad that we decided to go ahead and kill that segment.

PAUL: We're not in the last place, but we're close enough that --

SCHOLES: Victor hanging in there.

BLACKWELL: I'm not too far behind the lead. I'm middle of the pack. I should be honest about that. All right. Thank you.

PAUL: Andy, thank you.