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Trump Promises Support for Russia Following Terror Attack; Democrats to Filibuster Gorsuch Supreme Court Nomination; Kushner Makes Unannounced Trip to Iraq; Trump to Meet Chinese President; Another High-Profile Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against FOX News; "Boss Baby" Character Reminds People of Trump. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired April 4, 2017 - 02:00   ET



[02:00:01] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everybody. Thank you for being with us. I'm john Vause. NEWSROOM L.A., the third hour, starts right now.

U.S. President Donald Trump promising full support to Russia to track down whoever was behind a deadly bombing in St. Petersburg. The subway explosion killed 11 people, wounded dozens more. In the moments after the blast, passengers jumped through windows and pried open doors to try to escape the smoke-filled train. Witnesses say there was blood everywhere. Authorities defused a second device hidden in a fire extinguisher in a nearby metro station.

CNN's Oren Liebermann, live from St. Petersburg with the latest.

Oren, what do we know about this investigation? Exactly where are they focusing and what leads do they have at this stage?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONALC ORERSPONDENT: John, in the early morning hours, we're getting the first indication of what the early stages of the investigation maybe taking at this point. The state-run TASS News Agency says investigators are focusing on two suspects, a man and a woman, both roughly about 20 years of age, of Central Asian origin. Not much information out yet but it's the first glimpse of where this investigation is heading.

Meanwhile, so far, investigators are spoken to metro employees to pick up any information they can as well as scouring not only this metro station, the one behind me, and the next one. Remember, that explosion was between these two metro stations but also others in the area.

As you pointed out, they did find one other bomb that hadn't yet gone off that they safely defused.

As the investigation takes shape, you also have people coming here, a number of them stopping, taking a moment to pay their respects at memorial that is growing by the minute as more and more people stopped by on this first of three days of mourning declared here by the state. And you see this growing quickly. Many people pausing, stopping, reflecting, adding flowers and candles. And there's a similar memorial at the next station down the line. That is where Russian President Vladimir Putin stopped late last night to pay his own respects.

Of course, leaders around the world, as you pointed out, President Trump, also paying their respects. Trump offering any assistance to try to figure out who was behind this and bring them to justice -- John?

VAUSE: As far as a security response, what are we seeing, not just in St. Petersburg but across the country?

LIEBERMANN: Here, there's already fairly tight security. There are metal detectors at this station that were put in within the last few months and there are police at those security stations. We're seeing three or four here. That might be more than the normal security. So there is heightened security but that is above and beyond the security already there, and that is security I suspect is reflected not only in St. Petersburg but also Moscow as well.

VAUSE: Oren, thank you. Oren Liebermann with the very latest from St. Petersburg. Thank you.

Joining me now from Seattle, Washington, global fellow for the Woodrow Wilson Center and former CNN Moscow bureau chief, Jill Dougherty; and in Los Angeles, former FBI special agent, Bob Chacon.

Bobby, first to you.

We heard from Oren that they're working quickly to essentially return everything to normalcy. The train station has reopened. How important is that?

BOBBY CHACON, FOMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: I think in a lot of terrorist attacks, it's very important for the government to return things to as normal as possible as quickly as they can, and that inspires confidence in the government and the government's ability to kind of keep things moving and protect its people. And I think if one objective of terrorism is to create chaos in our societies, then the government's response of moving things quickly back to normal would be an attempt to defeat that objective.

VAUSE: Are you concerned they rushed this? May have missed crucial evidence along the way?

CHACON: Well, that depends. These crime scenes can be very time consuming and they have to be done very methodically. So what happens on the ground, sometimes it depends on the logistics of the system. You may be able to get things moving back quicker if you can get manpower to process the scene quickly. It's been almost 24 hours. In a physical crime scene like this, things can be done fairly quickly, especially overnight, when its empty and your crime scene teams be in there working without being interrupted. I don't think that's too quick a period of time to begin to reopen things.

VAUSE: Jill, it seems there are two main suspects. A ISIS or an ISIS-related group for Russia's military intervention in Syria, all the other usual suspects, Chechen militants, any idea which would be more like, or could it be a combination of the two?

[02:05:07] JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it could. In both cases, you're pointing at Chechnya, but I think the second scenario could be a little bit more possible because, after all, this is the thing that President Putin has been warning about. And there has been concern that those fighters who are becoming very militant not only in the beginning was a break-away republic but became very Islamist and much more radical. And some of the people, as the Syrian war was beginning, moved to the Middle East and began fighting there. There are thousands of them fighting in Syria. The second language after Arabic is Russian. So they're a significant group. And the fear was they, having been radicalized and almost professionalized by that time in Syria, would then come home and carry out attacks in Russia. It's very worrisome. It would fit the kind of ISIS international terrorism theory that President Putin has been talking about before. That is, again, their concern. And it makes it, John, I think easier for him to make, John, that proposal or pitch, as he has been, to President Trump and to the West, let's get on board, let's fight terrorism together.

VAUSE: Bobby, if you were doing this investigation, who would you be looking at right now? Who would be on your list of suspects?

CHACON: I think your report earlier is correct. The two main groups are obviously the Chechen separatists and ISIS. Though you may have a hybrid of those two groups working together. As an investigator, the first thing missing from the pure ISIS perspective is the claim of responsibility. Last year, when two operatives attacked the police officers on the outskirts of Moscow, one of the first things released was the video where they claimed allegiance to al Baghdadi, the ISIS leader, and that is a hallmark, as we even saw here in San Bernardino. It's a hallmark of an ISIS attack. It's one of the things that's kind of missing. Yet, for me to totally put this on ISIS at this point in time --

VAUSE: Jill, it seems this attack happened after what appeared to be relative calm.

DOUGHERTY: Yes. That's true. I'm not quite sure what to ascribe that to. Obviously, the Russian authorities have been able to move the terrorist pretty much out of Chechnya but they went into surrounding areas and other parts of the Caucasus and then, as I said, moving into Syria. But in Syria, the Russian government, as we all know and have been reporting, have been carrying out a lot of attacks, air attacks and helping the Syrian army. So those people are being pushed in the opposite direction. So there is a bit of movement back, it appears, and again, this is surmisel until we know exactly what happened. But that's entirely possible that they're now moving back to their homeland.

VAUSE: And we heard from Garry Kasporov, the chess champion and Kremlin critic. He tweeted out, "St. Petersburg, once again, unknown terrorist, perfectly timed to serve Putin's political agenda."

Conspiracy theories to one side, is there any real suspicion about the timing of the attack? Could it be used as a pretext for a crackdown on what has been a growing protest movement?

DOUGHTERTY: Garry Kasporov and others are really enemies of President Putin, and it's very hard to say. I mean, that is a charge that they make. But can you really prove it? That has been a charge right from the beginning. Remember, a long time ago, back when I was in Moscow, some of the early attacks, the apartment building attacks which were pinned by some of the opposition to the Kremlin on the Kremlin but it was never really proven. So I think you're going to hear those theories whether or not they're true. Russia is a place with a lot of conspiracy theories and ideas swirling around. This is not a particularly stable time.

VAUSE: So, Bobby, all this aside, what sort of response would you expect to see from Russia's security forces?

[02:09:49] CHACON: i'm not sure. The reason I would against it being a pretext is because I don't think President Putin -- Mr. Putin actually needs a pretext. If he wants a crackdown on his people, he's shown in the past a tendency to crackdown without any pretext. I mean ISIS has been verbally and pretty aggressively saying they're going to come after Russia. They had -- there was one attack last year on the police officers. I think there was an arrest in November of five potential ISIS fighters planning an attack in Russia. I think ISIS has been stepping up their interest in carrying out these attacks. So i'm not sure I would expect a crackdown based on this event. Like I said earlier, if Mr. Putin wants to commit a crackdown, he's going to do it no matter what.

VAUSE: Good point.

We heard from the European president, Donald Tusk, in a tweet, saying, "My thoughts are with the victims of St. Petersburg and their families and their loved ones." Many leaders around Europe sent a similar message. But what was notable, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin was not lit up with the colors of the Russia flag, no tribute like the one after the attacks in London and Paris, similar with London and Paris. Jill, what does that say about relations between Moscow and the rest of Europe?

DOUGHERTY: It's a pretty sad commentary. Regardless of the reason, people have died. This is a very tense political time and that's one of the problems here. Even in the United States, where you have President Trump, who has said and agreed with President Putin that he wants to work together against terrorism, he did call. In fact, the Russians noted he was the first, I think the first Western leader who called after the attack to express his condolences and offer support. So, but the problem is this issue of Russia interfering in elections in the United States or Europe, the sanctions, all of that has made this issue very sensitive, almost toxic. So you're getting a very heavy political overlay on this, which is really a terrorist, or apparently a terrorist act.

VAUSE: Jill, thank you so much, and Bobby as well. Jill in Seattle and Bobby in Los Angeles. Very much appreciate it.

The British prime minister trying to downplay a Brexit-fueled depute over Gibraltar. Theresa May dismissed comments former a former U.K. conservative leader who hinted Britain should be prepared for military action to keep control of the territory. This all started after the European Commission's draft Brexit guidelines appeared to increase Spain's influence over the rock, as Gibraltar is called. It sits on the southern tip of Spain.

A short break. When we come back, kicking off a big diplomatic week, President Trump met with the Egyptian president, said he's doing fantastic job. But those comments have infuriated human right activists.

Also, the battle over Mr. Trump's Supreme Court nominee is ramping up. How his confirmation might change the U.S. Senate for years to come.




[02:17:02] VAUSE: Well, it seems U.S. president might be putting international human rights on the back burner during his administration. Mr. Trump hosted the Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el Sisi, at the White House on Monday. Activists say el Sisi is a ruthless dictator, orchestrating a brutal political crackdown. Donald Trump sees it differently.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We agree on so many two things. I just want to let anybody know in case there was any doubt that we are very much behind President el Sisi. He's done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation.


VAUSE: Former President Obama refused to host el Sisi and criticized his human rights record. The Obama administration also did not allow Egypt to buy military equipment on credit.

The U.S. Senate has a long tradition of confirming Supreme Court nominees with some bipartisan support. Now that's looking unlikely for President Trump's nominee. Democrats have enough votes to filibuster and block the nomination of Gorsuch. Republicans are threatening to use the so-called nuclear option, which will lower the number of votes to advance the nomination from 60 to 51, just a simple majority.


SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, (D), VERMONT: My conscience will not allow me to ratify the majority leader's actions, not last year, not this year. I will not, I cannot support advancing this nomination.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY, (R-IA), CHAIRMAN, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: If the Democrats will filibuster this person of the high quality he is, that there isn't any justice that a Republican will put forth that they would get his -- that they would support.


VAUSE: Joining us, Democratic strategist, Dave Jacobson; and Republican consultant, John Thomas

Dave, let's start with you.

Is this a mistake to filibuster Gorsuch? His nomination? Some say it restores the balance. Why not save the filibuster for the next battle?

DAVE JACOBSON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Two reasons. One, because everything that Donald Trump does at this point is over a thick, dark toxic cloud of controversy and scandal as it relates to the Russian probe. And until we understand and get a thorough bipartisan or nonpartisan investigation into what happened with the Russian hacking and whether or not there was any collusion, Donald Trump's pick shouldn't be considered legitimate. Two, Gorsuch is simply not a mainstream choice. To have a 60-vote threshold, you have to have somebody in the mainstream and he doesn't embody that.

VAUSE: John, you would agree with all of that, right?


[02:19:49] JOHN THOMAS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: First, I think I heard him say Donald Trump is not a legitimate president, and until we sort out Russia, we can't do anything.


THOMAS: The Democrats are the party of no. Neil Gorsuch is incredibly well qualified. Yes, he's a conservative and Democrats don't like that. And Republicans were put into office, especially Donald Trump, largely because of the Supreme Court and the ramifications, and if they don't get this done, voters are going to take the Republicans out of office with pitch forks if necessary.

VAUSE: The hardest working man in politics, Jared Kushner, made an unannounced visit to Iraq. He was invited by there by the Joint Chiefs. He received briefings and updates. Kushner was there to see our folks of the field helping out with the counterterror fight so they can see them in action and have an appreciation for what they're doing.

I guess now we can add morale officer to White House senior advisor and running the office of American innovation. And modernizing the technology and data infrastructure of every government department, negotiating with Mexico over the boarder wall. Oversees trade deals and he's going to negotiate peace between Israel and Palestinian.

Dave, that's a lot for a 36-year-old with no experience and no staff.

JACOBSON: At the end of the day, if Jared Kushner is that great, maybe he should have run for president. He's essentially doing the job Donald Trump was elected to do. I think it was fascinating. We have a $1 billion embassy before Rex Tillerson had visited. I think it minimizes the role of secretary of state.

VAUSE: John, hold on. I want to flash back to Donald Trump during the campaign. Take a look.


TRUMP: Nobody knows the system better than me.



TRUMP: Which is why I alone can fix it.



VAUSE: Did that statement come with an asterisk, I alone can fix it - with Jared?

THOMAS: I don't think that everybody thought he would be in every part of the government. Like any great business owner, they delegate. Just because they could put the rivets in the cars on the manufacturing line doesn't mean they're going to do that. He clearly trusts Jared. He's delegating. I don't see any problems as long as it delivers results.

VAUSE: He's not getting paid anyway.

THOMAS: It's true.

VAUSE: And Kushner's set to be in the meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Let's go to Matt Rivers, live for us in Beijing.

Matt, ahead of the summit, Trump told the "Financial Times" he hoped China would help out with North Korea, but then he added, well, "If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you."

So how would the Chinese government react to that statement?

MATT RIVERS, CNN ASIA-PACIFIC EDITOR: Well, we haven't had any official reaction from being as of yet. But I think the Chinese, like the rest of us, are going to take what the president says at face value and work that into their calculations for this upcoming meeting later on this week.

There's two things here. One, the Chinese are not going to be surprised by the president's comments. He's been consistent in taking a harder line about China and its role in solving the North Korean crisis. I don't think anyone in Beijing is going to be surprised he is laying out that kind of vernacular before this meeting.

And we should also mention that the Chinese are probably going to look at this with a bit of skepticism. Because remember what Candidate Trump said on the campaign trail, that China was going to be a labeled a currency manipulator on day one. He was going to enact tariffs on Chinese imports. He hasn't done any of that. He didn't label them a currency manipulator on day one and he hasn't put in tariff's yet. He even backed away from his initial comments about the One China policy, questioning that. He has said he respects the One China policy. So I think China will look at this with a healthy dose of skepticism, but also take what the president says at face value and work all that into what plans to be a very complicated meeting, one that's very important, between two of the most influential leaders in the world.

VAUSE: Absolutely.

Thank you. Matt Rivers, live in Beijing.

Dave, back to you, is it a good move to make threats with the leader of China?

[02:24:56] JACOBSON: No, look what happened last week where he had the ultimatum and failed to secure the votes. How can we expect this man to be a world leader, to have relationships with key nations that we have to trade with? China is one of our top trading partners and allies in terms of trade only around the globe and at a time when there's growing tensions with our country and North Korea, this is a pivotal moment where we need strong working relationship with the Chinese. But here you have President Trump days after he's sworn in creating animosity over the one-China policy with the dynamic with Taiwan and that's a challenge that is going to continue to plague Trump. The real question. Is he going to be presidential or continue to be a school yard bully?

VAUSE: John.

THOMAS: It's clear that Trump is laying out his priorities, that he thinks North Korea is an existential threat, not just to the U.S., but the entire world. And if China is not willing to take leadership, the U.S. will. This is the kind of strength that America used to do. We're just shocked by it because for the last eight years we've had such a limp president that this kind of talk would never have happened. I'm welcoming the change.

VAUSE: There's a shock.


Dave Jacobson, John Thomas, thanks so much for being with us.

THOMAS: Thanks, John.


VAUSE: OK. The White House has released the official portrait of the first lady of the United States. Melania Trump was photographed wearing a tuxedo-style jacket with a sequined neckerchief. Her 25- karat 10th wedding anniversary wedding ring set off the ensemble and was in full display. This accompanies Donald Trump's on the official White House website.

Coming up next, for our viewers in Asia, "State of America," with Kate Bolduan.

For everybody else, when NEWSROOM L.A. continues, details on another lawsuit alleged sexual harassment at the highest levels of FOX News.


[02:30:14] VAUSE: Welcome back. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause, with the headlines this hour.


VAUSE: The FOX News channel is dealing with yet another high-profile sexual harassment lawsuit. Julie Roginsky, an on-air contributor says she was denied a promotion after rebuffing sexual advances from then- network boss, Roger Ailes. It's been nearly a nine since Ailes was forced out amid accusations of sexual misconduct. His lawyer calls the latest allegations "hogwash."

Also on Monday, Wendy Walsh, a former FOX contributor, went public with allegations of sexual harassment against the biggest star, Bill O'Reilly.


WENDY WALSH, FORMER FOX CONTRIBUTOR: So when dinner was finished, he simply said, let's get out of here. I assumed he meant we should move to the bar. And he said, no, no, come back to my suite. At that point, I'm a woman of a certain age, I've had situations like this in my life, knew how to behave. And I simply said, i'm sorry, I can't do that. And he immediately got defensive and said, what do you mean, you think i'm going to attack you or something?


VAUSE: Walsh claims O'Reilly promised her a lucrative network contract but that offer was withdrawn after she turned down his advances. And Walsh was featured in "The New York Times" this week3end in a report on million-dollar-plus settlements to find other women who allege harassment and verbal abuse.

And the fallout, Mercedes Benz is pulling its advertising from O'Reilly's show claiming the allegations are disturbing.

Joining us CNN's senior media correspondent and host of "Reliable Sources," Brian Stelter.

Brian, good to see you.

(CROSSTALK) VAUSE: Let's start with the latest lawsuit. She's suing not just FOX News channel but also the current co president of the news channel. So why is that so significant?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, RELIABLE SOURCES: Because Bill Shine was brought in, partly taking over for Ailes. He's gone. FOX has cleaned up its act. Now there's new bosses in charge. But this new lawsuit charges the Shine is part of the problem. And he was behaving, according to the lawsuit, in some of the same ways. With regards to retaliation. So that is alleged in the suit. This is from a current contributor to FOX. She's been on the air until recently and this is filed by the same lawyer who represented Gretchen Carlson, who started this sort of domino effect that we're now still seeing play out today.

VAUSE: This all gets to "The New York Times" story. Two of the women allegedly receive payouts in the months after Ailes had left.

STELTER: That's correct. When FOX tried to clean up. Again, trying to, they say, make it right, there were a series of settlements. What we didn't know until the weekend was there were also these accusers of Bill O'Reilly who received financial settlements.

VAUSE: We have a statement from Bill O'Reilly, who basically said he is the victim, he is high-profile, which makes him vulnerable to lawsuits. Similar to what he said last year when defending Roger Ailes. Listen to this


BILL O'REILLY, FOX HOST, O'REILLY FACTOR: In this country, every famous, wealthy or powerful person is a target. Anytime someone could attack us, go to the press or anything like that, and it's a deplorable situation. Because I have to have body guards, physical body guards. Until the United States adopts the English system of civil law, if you file a frivolous lawsuit, and you lose, the judge has a right to make you pay all court costs. Until we adopt that very fair proposition, we're going to have this out-of-control tabloid- society that is tremendously disruptive. I stand behind Roger 100 percent.


[02:35:10] VAUSE: How does this all stand up in the case of Wendy Walsh? They don't want any kind of settlement. They're looking for an independent investigation of the FOX News channel.

STELTER: Make people understand who O'Reilly is and what his behavior was in 2015. Lisa Bloom, the lawyer, she's an anti-Trump commentator I think Bill O'Reilly would say this is all part of a liberal hit job. He did not address this on Monday. But that statement over the week, said, hey, i'm vulnerable because i'm a celebrity. The reality is there are not other cable news hosts that have had five settlements of sexual harassment allegations against them that have been sued in the past and allegations in the past. Repeatedly in a similar sort of pattern. VAUSE: Here's a statement from 21st Century FOX regarding "The New

York Times" article. "21st Century FOX take matters of workplace behavior seriously. We have looked into these matters over the last few months and discussed them with Mr. O'Reilly. While he denies the merits of the claims, Mr. O'Reilly has resolved those he regarded as his personal responsibility. Mr. O'Reilly is fully committed to supporting our efforts to improve environment for all of our employees at FOX News."

So, what do you make of that?

STELTER: I think it was FOX trying to issue some sort of half-hearted defense but not a full-throated defense. Like I was saying they're not standing directly next to O'Reilly but standing near him because he is so valuable to the network. It's a little like an NFL star or a baseball star or a musician. Someone in trouble for a scandalous past. And the same is true at FOX News. Bill O'Reilly is incredibly valuable to the network and, right now, that's not changing.

VAUSE: And he's getting paid $18 million a year just from FOX News. So we'll see what happens.

Brian, thank you. Appreciate it.

STELTER: Thanks.

VAUSE: Next on NEWSROOM L.A., he wears a suit, takes power naps, yells, "You're fired." He's the "Boss Baby," but is this latest Hollywood hit more than just a cartoon? Could it actually be political? That's ahead.


VAUSE: The new animated film, "Boss Baby" isn't just topping the U.S. box office, it's also raising a few questions. Take a look.


ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR & COMEDIAN: We babies are having a crisis. Babies aren't getting as much love as we used to. Behold our mortal enemy.

UNIDENTIFIED CHARACTER: No. That's exactly the problem.

BALDWIN: Have you learned anything?


[02:40:09] VAUSE: Well, the main character voiced by Alec Baldwin reminds a lot of people of Donald Trump. "Boss Baby's" director says that's a coincidence, but there are some striking similarities here.

For more, Sandro Monetti, managing editor of "Entity" magazine for joins us now.

Let's check out some of the headlines over the last couple of days. From "The Guardian," "'Boss Baby,' the latest DreamWorks animation, is the first to nod to Donald Trump's childish antics." From "Vanity Fair," "The Alec Baldwin-starring animated movie seems like the timeliest film of the year." "The Irish Times," "The 'Boss Baby' may remind you of Donald Trump but that's just a coincidence.

The reality is, it's really a coincidence. Explain.

SANDRO MONETTI, MANAGING EDITOR, ENTITY MAGAZINE: People see parallels in everything but I don't really understand it in this case. Let's look at the two characters. One is a petulant child who lashes out at his enemies and the other is an animated baby.



MONETTI: And they're both voiced by Alec Baldwin and that perhaps is partly responsibility for the perception.

VAUSE: It took years to produce. All the planning happened long before Donald Trump announced --


MONETTI: It does. He laughs about this thinking people have the ability to -- it's like you and I drawing a picture on a piece of paper. They take six years so it's a fortunate confluence of events.

VAUSE: What are some of the similarities here? We're looking at character. There's the Alec Baldwin voice. What else?

MONETTI: He says, "You're fired." He has great sound bites and he plays golf. He's very much in control. So there's similarities. And of course, the hair. You can't ignore the hair. It's a coincidence.

VAUSE: They lucked out.

MONETTI: And all the talk of the movie has helped the box office. 111 million international. And it knocked off the number one spot, "Beauty and the Beast," which is pure Melania and Donald.

VAUSE: No, it's not.


VAUSE: One of the producers said this comparison with Donald Trump is a blessing and a nightmare. Clearly the blessing is raising its profile. What's the down side? What's the nightmare?

MONETTI: The down side is people go into the movie thinking they're going to see a Donald Trump parody but they're seeing a much smarter- than-usual animated film that works for both parents and kids. So, yeah, the sort of message gets lost. It's not a Trump parody but what it is a superior animated film.

VAUSE: Two thumbs up. Sandro, thank you.

And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

"World Sport" starts after a short break.