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Russians Charged with U.S. Election Meddling; Florida School Shooting; Oxfam Denies Cover-up; Munich Security Conference; Mitt Romney Announces Senate Bid; PyeongChang Olympics 2018. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired February 17, 2018 - 04:00   ET

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


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NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): With the announcement of the new indictment, U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller just made it impossible for President Donald Trump to keep calling the Russia probe a total hoax.

And a former intelligence chief predicts there's another shoe to drop.

Plus, as victim funerals take place, new details about the Parkland, Florida, shooter and how the FBI failed to act on a tip before 17 lives were ended.

And Oxfam's alleged sex crime scandal. CNN's Cyril Vanier travels to Haiti to investigate.

These stories are all ahead this hour. Hello, everyone, in the United States and around the world. I'm Natalie Allen live in Atlanta and CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

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ALLEN: Our top story: the Russia probe that U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly dismissed as a hoax has now led to very real federal indictments against 13 Russian operatives.

The charges filed by special counsel Robert Mueller paint a vivid picture of well-funded Russians pretending to be Americans. They set up fake social media accounts and spread dirt about Hillary Clinton, they championed Donald Trump and even communicated with unwitting members of his campaign.

The president's initial reaction to the indictment said nothing about the attack on U.S. democracy. Instead he tweeted about himself.

He repeated, again, no collusion. Later, he released this statement.

"It's time we stop the outlandish, partisan attacks, wild and false allegations and farfetched theories, which only serve to further the agendas of bad actors like Russia and do nothing to protect the principles of our institutions."

For more on the indictment and how Russia is reacting, CNN's Matthew Chance joins me now live from Moscow.

Hello to you, Matthew. Russia has continuously denied, denied and denied and called all of this fake news.

Are they still denying?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I was going to say, you can add a couple of more denials to that list of denials you just made. Already, there's been a couple denials from senior Russian officials.

The foreign ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, has said it was absurd that just 13 individuals could have basically distorted the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. Her boss, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, has said there's been much talk about state interference in the U.S. election. But he added, I haven't seen a single fact to date.

So there are more denials coming from the Russians. But of course, this indictment identifies 13 individuals, who the indictment says were involved in that kind of manipulation of the election process in the United States as well as three companies, one of which is a notorious so-called Kremlin troll factory set up in St. Petersburg with the express aim, according to the indictment, to basically influence the politics and the election process in other countries, including the United States. Take a listen.

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CHANCE (voice-over): In May 2016, a small group of anti-Islamic protesters gathered outside a Muslim community center in the U.S. city of Houston.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Down with the Nazis.

CHANCE (voice-over): Across the street, a counter rally formed. And the two sides hurled abuse in a stark illustration of American division and discord.

The organizers were thousands of miles away, in St. Petersburg, Russia, working for a secretive organization which, according to a recent U.S. indictment, had a strategic goal: to sow discord in the U.S. political system.

Its name, the Internet Research Agency, dubbed the Kremlin troll factory by former employees who smuggled out these rare cell phone images. In 2016, CNN spoke to a Russian journalist who went undercover as an Internet troll there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The U.S. elections are the key issue for the Kremlin. And of course, Russia has invested a lot of effort into them. That's why the troll factories are working, I have no doubt.

CHANCE (voice-over): It was during the Russian-backed rebellion in Ukraine in 2014, that evidence first emerged of pro-Kremlin troll factories, filled with bloggers paid to spread false information online about the conflict. And this is the Russian oligarch, who, according to the U.S. indictment, bankrolled --

[04:05:00]

CHANCE (voice-over): -- the troll factory operation. Yevgeny Prigozhin, known as Putin's chef, because one of his companies provides catering services to the Kremlin, has denied any guilt.

"Americans are very impressionable people," he told Russian state media. "They see what they want to see. I have great respect for them. I'm not at all upset that I'm on this list. If they want to see the devil, let them see one."

But it is the devilish work of Russia's Internet trolls and the social divisions they have incited that the U.S. has now moved firmly against.

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CHANCE: All right, Natalie, well, there is, I suppose, a silver lining from the point of view of the Trump administration. The deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who announced this indictment, also added that there was no allegation that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity nor any suggestion that the meddling altered the outcome of the U.S. presidential race. And so again, that's something that the Trump administration may draw solace from.

ALLEN: Right. But there could be more to come. But, Matthew Chance, we thank you for your reporting from Moscow. Thanks, Matt.

ALLEN: Let's talk now with our panel of experts: Steve Moore, a CNN law enforcement contributor and retired supervisory special agent with the FBI.

Hello to you, Steve.

Areva Martin is a CNN legal analyst and a civil rights attorney. And Ron Brownstein is a CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for "The Atlantic."

Thank you all for joining us to talk about this. Well, finally, after so much time, we hear from Mr. Mueller. Indictments are handed down. And it's quite interesting what all is in this.

Let's bring it up right now and look at it: 13 Russian nationals indicted, charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S., posed as Americans and created false U.S. personas online, operated social media pages designed to attract U.S. audiences. We know those pages are on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

I want to go to each one of you to get your initial reaction to the first, significant charges.

Let's start with you, Steve. STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: You know what's interesting to me is what the modus operandi of these 13 people and the people they hired seems to be kind of like civilianized tradecraft from the old Soviet days.

It's the standard COINTELPRO, the poison pen stuff that they have used for years. And it's the way that they have always done it, including using unwitting participants on the other side.

I think there was probably some training involved in this. It just has the government's fingerprints all over it.

ALLEN: What about you, Areva?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think, Natalie, what was so shocking is the nature, the depth, the expansive nature in which the Russians interfered in our elections.

We have been hearing all year from our law enforcement and intelligence community that this meddling happened. We have also heard and watched our president push back on it, call it a hoax, say that it was made up by the Democrats as a way to explain why they lost the 2016 election.

But today, we have proof that this isn't a hoax. This wasn't something made up by the Democrats. There was real Russian meddling in our elections and it wasn't just surface level.

It was expansive, it was deep and it was designed to do exactly what we saw happen, which was to create dissension amongst Americans, to support the Trump candidacy while casting doubt on Hillary Clinton as a candidate and creating this cyber warfare that we saw take place.

So we can no longer say that this was made up by anyone. This is real. It happened in real time. And as far as we know, it's continuing to happen.

ALLEN: We'll talk about the president's reaction in a moment.

But, Ron, I want to get your initial thoughts on this indictment.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I would just say three quick points, just to compound what we just said. The first point is, this just explodes the idea from the president that this was a hoax. The whole story, it was China. It was some guy who weighed 400 pounds sitting on his bed in New Jersey.

This was a detailed, extensive and comprehensive Russian plan to interfere in the election, initially to sow discord but as the indictment makes clear, as it went on, to help Donald Trump.

Second, that this is a clear and present ongoing danger, that everything laid out here can be applied in the 2018 and 2020 elections and the U.S. government, partly I think because of the president's reluctance to acknowledge this occurred at all, has not been vigilant enough in dealing with that. And the third point, maybe the most important politically --

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BROWNSTEIN: -- in the U.S. is just the humbling reminder that we don't know what Bob Mueller knows. But we can safely assume that he knows more than we do. And all the analysis of this investigation, I think, is limited by the reality that he has constantly shown the ability to surprise us even in this era of pervasive media.

He consistently shows that he is more deeply into this entire tangled story than really anyone on the outside comprehends.

ALLEN: The fact there are 13 individuals indicted here, this is a lot to digest.

I want to throw this to you, Steve. It wasn't just that there was this network of hacking into media social sites. There were Russians inside the U.S., in various states -- Tennessee is one of them -- pretending to be campaign workers, staging events and promotions, mingling with presumably unsuspecting American voters. That's almost surreal.

MOORE: There's a word for it. It's espionage. It's old school. It's what they have always been doing.

I think the only thing we can take away from this that's positive, at least as far as the government's reaction, is that the FBI doesn't really care if the president believes in this or not.

The FBI is going to continue to investigate it and still move forward. And the Justice Department is going to do what they can. At the same time, if the president is not going to jump on the Russians about this, then there's limited political will here.

ALLEN: Let's talk about, also, Areva, it does not suggestion collusion, at this point, between the Trump campaign and Russia. Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein was careful not to mention that. The focus of this, so far, is Russia's attack on U.S. democracy.

MARTIN: And we shouldn't read too much into this, Natalie. If the assistant attorney general was very careful in stating facts as it relates to this indictment, and that's not uncommon. It wouldn't be common for him to stand there and to project what may be coming as it relates to other individuals.

What we do know is that there are unnamed co-conspirators that are mentioned in this indictment. We don't know who those individuals are or what may happen with respect to those individuals. We don't know what may happen as it relates to further charges and further indictments that may be issued.

So when President Trump says no collusion, no collusion, that's really an empty statement at this point because we know that this investigation, all the reporting suggests that this investigation is ongoing. And we don't know what further indictments may be coming after this indictment.

ALLEN: Right.

Ron, I want to ask you to talk more about President Trump. We all mentioned he's been calling the Russian investigation a hoax since he was running for office. Let's listen.

MOORE: Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Russia story is a total fabrication. It's just an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics.

This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.

The entire thing has been a witch hunt.

Look, there has been no obstruction. There has been no collusion.

As far as hacking, I think it was Russia. But I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people.

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ALLEN: And, Ron, let's also point out, this is a tweet from Donald Trump.

"Russia started their anti-U.S. campaign in 2014, long before I announced I would run for president. The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong. No collusion."

And, Ron, let's add to the fact that back when he was visiting Vietnam and meeting with President Putin, after that meeting, he made it clear again to the American people and the world that he believed Vladimir Putin.

BROWNSTEIN: Right. I mean, this just directly is a, you know, house dropping on the president's claims about the core issue of whether Russia meddled. It does not, yet, get to the question of whether there was collusion on the part of the Trump campaign. It's obviously premature for the president to claim exoneration.

The issue of whether it affected the outcome of the election, that is really unknowable. But it's hard to imagine that you would have hundreds of thousands of social media interactions and rallies and not move the votes of somebody.

I mean, what the president is referring to there is there's no evidence that Russians directly altered the results in voting machines or voter registration. But, look, I think, politically, one of the impacts of these indictments are to make it, I think, much tougher for the president to entertain the notion that he has clearly entertained before --

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BROWNSTEIN: -- of firing Bob Mueller. I mean, the idea of firing Bob Mueller, now, when something of this gravity has been laid out and he is in the midst of prosecuting and investigating it, I think becomes much more politically fraught.

ALLEN: (INAUDIBLE) fiasco at this point. We have got to leave it there. But there's a lot that's not in this round of indictments.

Also, how does this revelation affect the midterm elections?

We'll dig down into those things as we push on here. But for now, we have to let it go there. Ron Brownstein, Areva Martin, thank you all so much.

Still to come here on CNN NEWSROOM, President Trump visits victims of the Florida school shooting as the FBI makes a strong admission. What it knew and missed about the gunman.

Also, CNN heads to Haiti to learn more about charity workers accused of using prostitutes while assisting earthquake victims. Our Cyril Vanier reports in a moment.

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ALLEN: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM.

President Trump is in Florida, giving his condolences to the victims of the --

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ALLEN: -- mass shooting, the massacre at a high school in Parkland. Trump visited with two of the wounded and met with first responders. He posted these pictures online. Our Brian Todd is in Parkland and was there during Trump's visit. He has details about critical information the FBI apparently bungled.

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BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Trump is spending the weekend at his Mar-a-lago estate, not far from here, after a dramatic couple of days following the horrific school shooting on Wednesday afternoon.

The president came to South Florida on Friday and spent time with some victims of the shooting at a hospital in Broward County, he then came here to the Broward County sheriff's office to get an extensive briefing from first responders and from the sheriff's office on the shooting on Wednesday and the response to it. This comes as we are getting some really disturbing and chilling new

information about warning signs, clues that were missed and some information that was mishandled about the shooter, specifically a crucial tip that was given to the FBI.

TODD (voice-over): New and alarming details of missed and of mishandled warning signs. The FBI says it was given information on January 5th on a tipline. The caller provided information that Nikolas Cruz was erratic, armed, had a desire to kill people and showed the potential of conducting a school shooting. This information was never passed on to the Miami field office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The potential of the FBI to miss something is always there. We do our best. We have (INAUDIBLE) protocols to prevent these things. We will be looking into where and how if something, the protocol broke down.

TODD (voice-over): This, in addition to a separate notice given to the FBI regarding disturbing social media posts predicting a massacre, including these, saying, "I want to shoot people with my AR-15. I want to die fighting, killing S-ton of people."

Jim Gard (ph), a former teacher of the shooter, tells CNN that faculty received an e-mail in late 2016, prompting them to be on the lookout for Cruz and to let administrators know if he was seen with a backpack.

TODD: Describe that e-mail and what it said?

JIM GARD (PH), TEACHER: It was very simple. It just said, if he comes on campus with a backpack, let me know.

TODD (voice-over): CNN affiliate WPLG is reporting on a school document, recommending in January 2017 that a threat assessment be conducted to determine if Cruz was a danger to the school, the document issued after he was involved in an assault.

CNN cannot confirm the authenticity of the document. It's not clear if the threat assessment was ever done and the Broward County School Board has not commented.

Signs at every turn that the 19-year-old shooter was troubled and violent. Police records show 39 calls to the shooter's home over the past seven years for various reasons, including reports of, quote, "mentally ill person," "child or elderly abuse" and "domestic disturbance." Not all of the calls refer to the shooter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know how often but there was definitely police cars in the driveway.

TODD (voice-over): Shelby Speno's (ph) home is just two doors down. She said they and the other neighbors had many encounters with Cruz over the years. On one occasion, her daughter said she saw Cruz shooting toward a neighbor's yard with a gun.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She just said, "Mom, that redheaded kid is shooting chickens." The people behind us had chickens. And I looked out the window and I saw him with a -- it was a long gun, I don't know anything about guns. So I just saw it was a long gun.

TODD (voice-over): Cruz lived there with his adoptive mother until she passed away last fall. He was the taken in by the residents of this Pompano Beach home. A neighbor captured this video of what he says was a regular and frightening occurrence. The shooter wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat, firing a weapon in his backyard.

He lived at this home until Wednesday's deadly rampage. Police say he fired 100 rounds during the rampage. They detailed the moves the shooter made, some of them seem calculated, others haphazard.

After being dropped off by an Uber, he entered the school building and began firing into rooms on the first floor before moving to the second and third floors. Police say he finally exited the building and blended in with fleeing students.

He then made stops at this nearby Walmart, then this McDonald's. After leaving the area, he was apprehended in nearby Coral Springs.

As the investigation moves forward and the Parkland community searches for solace, many here are asking, with so many warning signs, why wasn't he stopped?

TODD: A question that is now placing serious pressure on the FBI director. Florida governor Rick Scott in a scathing statement said the FBI's failure to take action against the killer was unacceptable and Governor Scott is calling for the FBI director, Christopher Wray, to resign -- Brian Todd, CNN, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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ALLEN: We are learning even more about the confessed gunman. It comes from a closed Instagram group that Nikolas Cruz belonged to. In it photos of Cruz illustrate his obsession with guns and violence. And among hundreds of racist comments, he talks about hating Jews and killing Mexicans.

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ALLEN: Breaking news now out of Pakistan, a man has been sentenced to death for the murder of 7-year-old Zainab Ansari in early January. Shortly after this little girl went missing, she was spotted on closed circuit TV being led away by a man.

Her body was found four days later, tossed on top of a trash pile. The court found 24-year-old Imran Ali guilty on four counts, including abduction, rape and murder. Protesters marched in force across the country after her body was found. They demanded justice and better protection for children against sexual predators.

The British charity Oxfam says it's reviewing the agency's practices after several staff members were accused of using prostitutes while they were deployed in Haiti. The aid group denies it tried to cover up their behavior, which allegedly occurred following Haiti's 2010 earthquake. Our Cyril Vanier reports for us from Port-au-Prince.

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CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Barbed wire, tall walls: this compound is like many others in Port-au-Prince. Yet this is one of the villas at the center of the Oxfam prostitution scandal.

The security guard is edgy. No cameras allowed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no.

VANIER (voice-over): This apartment complex was rented by British aid agency Oxfam back in 2010 at the height of the earthquake relief effort. And Oxfam confirmed to CNN it is one of two locations in Port-au-Prince where their staff brought prostitutes.

We spoke to neighboring store owners who were here at the time. Some of the vendors, like Joel Charles (ph), knew NGOs like Oxfam were staying in the area. But Joel (ph) says he was surprised to hear of the allegations.

The man of the center of it all left the country seven years ago. Roland Van Hauwermeiren, a Belgian national. He ran Oxfam's operations in Haiti during the earthquake. In an internal investigation, he admitted bringing prostitutes to his personal villa but those details were not made public at the time.

He was forced to resign in 2011. "The Times" newspaper in London first reported the allegations and CNN has been unable to reach Roland Van Hauwermeiren for comment. On Thursday, he spoke to Flemish media and hit out at what he calls "exaggerations."

ROLAND VAN HAUWERMEIREN, FORMER OXFAM HAITI OPERATIONS DIRECTOR (through translator): I don't feel good about the people who, of course, are told by perhaps less professional journalists that Oxfam is an instrument that keeps sex orgies with the money from good civilians. That is really not true.

VANIER (voice-over): Back in Haiti, authorities are launching their own investigation to find out exactly what happened. The foreign minister tells me he hopes it will lead to arrests and ultimately prosecution.

Prosecuted where?

ANTONIO RODRIGUE, HAITIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): A Haitian court, a Haitian court because the alleged actions were committed in Haiti and it involves Haitian women. So definitely a Haitian court.

VANIER (voice-over): Mr. Rodrigue also says Oxfam is not currently in danger of being expelled from the country.

At a public park in Port-au-Prince, emotions are mixed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): From what I'm hearing about the NGOs, exploiting the vulnerabilities of the youth, they are poor and living miserably. And if things don't change, it will always be the same.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's something that's not good for the country.

VANIER (voice-over): Exploitation is a word we heard a lot here, after a string of scandals involving NGOs in recent years, Haitians feel let down by aid groups.

RODRIGUE (through translator): These people who came to help, they profited from the misery, the vulnerability, its abuse, its exploitation. What happened is horrible.

VANIER (voice-over): Cyril Vanier, CNN, Port-au-Prince.

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ALLEN: An earthquake in Mexico shakes buildings and rattles nerves. Ivan Cabrera will have the latest about it for us coming right up here on CNN NEWSROOM.

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ALLEN: Welcome back to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world, you are watching CNN NEWSROOM in Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen with our headlines.

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ALLEN: We want to turn to Munich now and CNN's Nic Robertson, that's where hundreds of top policymakers are gathered in Germany this weekend for this year's Munich Security Conference.

The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, is speaking. The U.K.'s Theresa May spoke last hour. And in a little over an hour, we expect to hear from Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov. We're waiting to hear if he talks about those U.S. indictments.

Nic, so much on the agenda at this summit. But no doubt these indictments are on the minds of world leaders there, namely the U.S. and Russia are present.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: And national security adviser, H.R McMaster will speak shortly after the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov.

So it will absolutely be interesting to see if Lavrov mentions the indictments or indeed if he mentions the fact the military confrontation recently between U.S. forces backing their Syrian allies that were attacked by Syrian government forces that were backed by Russian mercenaries.

More than 100 of the Syrian government Russian mercenaries were killed. That's causing a stir in Moscow.

So will Lavrov mention this use of Russian mercenaries in Syria and these deaths?

That's something we'll be looking for.

What everyone was looking for from Theresa May when she spoke and of course what she was looking for was to deliver another of her Brexit messages. There was a Q&A session after Theresa May spoke, which was very telling. And it was put to her that most people in the hall there didn't like to see Brexit and were disappointed to see Britain leaving the European Union.

And she responded very quickly to that, saying the people of Britain have voted. We, the politicians, have to respect that. There will be no second referendum, there will be no going back. We are leaving the European Union.

But the crux of what she wanted to say here, and I think although her message is sort of similar to what we've heard in the past, it was sometimes the passion, sometimes the intensity and some of the key points in it that really get us to understand that the British government, Theresa May are -- is very concerned about the loss of possible counterterrorism and criminal-type cooperation with the European Union.

So her message was one that we have got a common threat and a common enemy. This is what she said.

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THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: These people don't care if they kill and maim Parisians, Berliners, Londoners or Mancunians because it's the common values that we all share, which they seek to attack and defeat.

But, I say, we will not let them. When these atrocities occur, people look to us as leaders to provide the response. We must all ensure that nothing prevents us from fulfilling our first duty as leaders to protect our citizens. And we must find the practical ways to ensure the cooperation to do so. We have done so --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: But the difficulty that Theresa May is --

[04:40:00] ROBERTSON: -- facing now in making that argument convincing, and this is why she said she proposed a new partnership, a new security partnership with European leaders, is the difference in laws between what will be U.K. laws and the laws of the European Court of Justice.

And here, Theresa May made a slight concession, saying that, in future agreements, we could respect some of the laws of the European Court of Justice. That was quite a significant concession.

But it represents how much the British establishment are beginning to worry about what they will lose in terms of security cooperation when they leave Europe, if European governments take decisions that they appear they might take -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right. Thank you, Nic Robertson, covering it for us there in Munich.

Coming up here, a familiar face throws his hat in the ring for U.S. Senate. Why President Trump may not be happy about it.

Also another scandal regarding the president's earlier escapades. This time a former Playboy model is opening up about an alleged affair. We have got the details for you -- next.

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ALLEN: It's official. Former presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, is running for U.S. Senate. And if President Trump thinks he can count on Republican Romney to be a party line ally on immigration, he may want to think again. Here's CNN's Maeve Reston in Utah.

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MAEVE RESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Mitt Romney stepped out for the first time on Friday night as an official candidate for the U.S. Senate to replace retiring Senator Orrin Hatch.

He talked about bringing Utah values of goodness and decency back into the political dialogue while also exporting some of Utah's economic successes and free market principles to Washington.

This was a very low-key and informal Mitt Romney. He didn't even give a speech. He took questions from the audience. And one of those was about Donald Trump.

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MITT ROMNEY, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS: I'm with the president's domestic policy agenda of low taxes and low regulation and smaller government, pushing back against the bureaucrats. By and large, by the way, his policies are very similar to those I campaigned for.

RESTON: Romney announced his candidacy earlier on Friday, posting a video that surprised many people because of the moderate tone that he struck on immigration. That's a reflection of the compassion that many Utah Republicans feel for immigrants and the welcoming attitude that they have here.

On Friday night, he dove into the issues that he wants to tackle in Washington, like the national debt and entitlement reform. And at the end of the night, he took questions from press and then drove off, alone, in his pick-up truck -- Maeve Reston, CNN, Provo, Utah.

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ALLEN: "The New Yorker" magazine is out with a report that says President Trump had an affair with a Playboy model more than 10 years ago while married to Melania Trump. The White House firmly denies the allegation.

The report is based on a hand-written document from Karen McDougal, the former model. She says that after the months-long affair ended, a tabloid sympathetic to Mr. Trump bought her story in order to kill it. CNN's Brian Stelter has more.

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BRIAN STELTER, CNNMONEY SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Donald Trump and former playboy model, Karen McDougal. In a bombshell story, "The New Yorker" is detailing evidence of a nine-month affair that started in 2006 and a pay-off scheme to keep the story from going public before the election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Karen McDougal feels that she ultimately was, in a sense, cornered into a set of contracts that she finds onerous and exploitative. She's frustrated, I think, with her inability to speak, in her view, and she has regrets about this.

STELTER (voice-over): Ronan Farrow writing that the "National Enquirer" paid $150,000 for the exclusive rights to McDougal's story in 2016, but then never published it. The company in charge of the tabloid, which is unabashedly pro-Trump, says it did not find McDougal's story credible.

But former employees of American Media Inc., which owns the "Enquirer," says this is a classic catch and kill. You buy a story unfavorable to Trump and then you kill it, you bury it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What it really means is it takes the story out of the market so it won't see the light of day.

STELTER (voice-over): Why?

Well, American Media's chairman, David Pecker, is a long-time personal friend of Trump's.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These guys met many years ago and have maintained a friendship for a long time. And David Pecker takes care of his friends.

STELTER (voice-over): It's a back-scratching relationship. With Trump, sometimes praising the "Enquirer."

TRUMP: I've always said, why didn't the "National Enquirer" get the Pulitzer Prize for Edwards and O.J. Simpson and all of these things.

STELTER (voice-over): During the presidential campaign, he even mentioned while implying that the father of Senator Ted Cruz was involved of the assassination of President Kennedy.

TRUMP: On the cover of the "National Enquirer," there's a picture of him and crazy Lee Harvey Oswald having breakfast.

STELTER (voice-over): That was debunked.

More recently, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski claimed that the White House threatened to run a hit piece on them through the "Enquirer."

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: They said, if you call the president up and you apologize for your coverage, then he will pick up the phone and basically spike the story.

STELTER (voice-over): On Twitter, Trump called those allegations fake news.

More fake news is also how the White House described the alleged affair between Trump and Karen McDougal, just like it has denied the alleged affair between Trump and porn star Stormy Daniels. Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, admits he paid $130,000 for Daniels' silence ahead of the 2016 election.

And which tabloid has been all over that story?

No, not the "Enquirer" but its rival, "In Touch" magazine -- Brian Stelter, CNN, New York.

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ALLEN: We are off to the Olympics next. And CNNSport's Christina Macfarlane joins us now with a little preview of what's up. Hi, there, Christina.

CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Natalie. Yes, we'll tell you why there was a sea of Winnie-the-Poohs after the PyeongChang figure skating arena after this Japanese master class -- coming up next.

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ALLEN: It is day eight of the Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. And Germany is dominating the Olympic medal table with nine golds. In terms of total medals, Norway leads the pack with 19. Other countries still have a chance to get in on the action. Japan, for instance, just won its first gold at the games in men's figure skating after Yuzuru Hanyu's stunning performance.

CNN's Christina Macfarlane joins us now from the Olympics with more about the upsets and the wins and those pesky Winnie-the-Poohs.

MACFARLANE: That's right, Natalie.

It's been super Saturday here in PyeongChang, with nine gold medals up for grabs, one of the most popular you just mentioned came in the ice arena earlier today. Yuzuru Hanyu had the largely Japanese crowd here in floods of tears after his win. He put in a record breaking performance in the short program on Friday.

And there were big questions as to whether Hanyu's fitness would hold out for the free skate today because he was still recovering from a long-term injury. In the end, he did just enough, skating on the edge of endurance, bending down to touch the ice as stuffed Winnie-the-Pooh bears rained down from the crowd.

Just to explain, Hanyu is a huge fan of the fluffy bear and he uses it in his competition as a mascot. And he's swamped every time he competes out there on the ice.

Also in action was America's Nathan Chen, who said he wanted to redeem himself after a poor skate in the short program that saw him finish a dismal 17th. And today, he did just that, making history in fact with six quant jumps, signing off these games by actually winning the free skate today but overall --

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MACFARLANE: -- finishing in fifth (INAUDIBLE) showing us exactly what he is capable of at 18 years of age.

Meanwhile in the mountain cluster here behind me, there was high drama in the women's super G in the alpine skiing. American speed queen Lindsey Vonn in action for the first time after so much buildup. She has been speaking a lot about racing for her late grandfather who passed away last year.

But sadly a strong and fast start gave way to a mistake toward the end of the race that put her out of contention and into sixth position.

Instead, it was a rank outsider, Ester Ledecka, of the Czech Republic who pulled off the race of her life to take the top spot. The most extraordinary thing about this, Natalie, is that she is the only athlete here competing at the games in two different sports, skiing and snowboarding. And perhaps because of that, she never really expected to win. But it

turns out, she's a much better alpine skier than even she thought, an incredible story here on Saturday.

ALLEN: Look forward to seeing her on that snowboard. My goodness, what a versatile young lady. Christina Macfarlane, thanks so much, Christina.

We have this, too. Jamaica's women's bobsled team started official training runs just Saturday. But earlier this week, their debut appeared to be in jeopardy.

Their driving coach left the team and reports surfaced that she was taking the sled with her. But Jamaican beer company Red Stripe came to the rescue, tweeting on Thursday, "No bobsled, no problem. If you need a new ride @Jambosled, put it on @RedStripe's tab." It isn't clear which sled the team will be using for their historic run but all eyes will be on them when the opening heat starts Tuesday.

That's CNN NEWSROOM for this hour. I'll be right back after a break with more of our top stories. Please stay with us.