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Bombings in Texas; Another Nor'easter Slams New England; House Intel Committee's Credibility; Tillerson Condemns Russia for U.K. Spy Attack; Steve Kerr on Gun Violence; Betsy DeVos' Interview. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired March 13, 2018 - 06:30   ET


[06:30:00] NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Erica.

That's right, three bomb attacks in just ten days and an unknown suspect still at large. Now, police do not believe that this is in any way connected to that South by Southwest Festival. They are recommending vigilance and not panic.

Now, the first attack was March 2nd. The 39-year-old African-American man saw a package on his front porch early one morning. Picked it up. It exploded and he died of his injuries within an hour of that blast.

Then, as you say, yesterday morning, again, very early in the morning, a 17-year-old high school student saw a package on his porch. He brought it into the house. He tried to open it in the kitchen. It exploded, killing him almost instantly, and injuring another woman who was also in the house. She is expected to survive.

Now, just as the police were giving these details out to the public, a couple hours later, lunchtime yesterday, a third attack on this street behind me. A 75-year-old Hispanic woman picked up a package on her porch. It exploded. She is in stable but critical condition.

Now, the M.O. in all of these attacks, very similar. Police believe that those packages, hand delivered overnight and not delivered by the U.S. Postal Service or any other delivery service, hand delivered overnight. They are looking for CCTV camera footage to see who may have delivered them. They also say that the -- two of the victims knew each other. The stepfather and the grandfather knew each other. That's a connection they are now looking into.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Bizarre, the use of those kinds of explosives to deal with something that may be a familiarity crime.

Nick Watt, good to see you, brother. We worked together for a long time at ABC News. Welcome to the CNN family. You're a great addition for us. Thanks for being on this story.

WATT: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, so more than 44 million people in the path once again a nor'easter, the third in just ten days. Now, if you live in southeastern Massachusetts, right around there, you're getting heavy snow right now. Part of that state is actually under a blizzard warning. Some spots might see 12 inches or more.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has the forecast.

For us so far here it's not sticking. Looks like snow, but it's hitting the ground like rain.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's exactly right. I was there a couple days ago. I was on the 25th floor of a hotel. It was snowing where I was. I went down to the surface, down to the streets, and it was rain down there. The same kind of thing happening right now in Manhattan, but it gets colder for you and it will start to stick later on today.

It's already sticking in Boston. We're already seeing a lot of snow across parts of Long Island. Blizzard warnings in effect for the red zones here all along the coast. Gusts of 50 or 60 miles per hour and very heavy snowfall. It's already snowing hard right now.

All of Long Island going to get more snow than New York City proper and all of Boston, Massachusetts, right into Worchester and New Hampshire all going to get very heavy snow. By 1:00 p.m., still snowing. This is the story. 6:00 p.m. in Boston, still snowing. Even for Portland and all the way up into parts of Maine, by later on tonight, still snowing.

Now, New York, it's not going to get to you that late, but this is going to really pile up. Everywhere that's pink, Erica, everywhere is going to see 12 inches or more. Many spots could pick up 18 inches of snow. There you see the city with only about two to four. The farther you get to the east on Long Island, the heavier that snow will be. Montauk could pick up a foot. And on the beach, that's a pretty big story.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a rough couple of weeks.

Chad, thank you.

MYERS: Yes, I know. All right.

HILL: Republicans on the House Intel Committee breaking with the intelligence community on whether Putin tried to help Donald Trump win. Has the congressional committee lost its credibility? We discuss with a former chairman of the House Intel Committee, next.


[06:37:38] CUOMO: Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee abruptly ending their Russia investigation without consulting Democrats. The GOP members breaking with the intelligence community and claiming that Russia was not trying to help Donald Trump win the 2016 election.

A Republican member of the committee criticizing his peers. Listen to this republican.


REP. TOM ROONEY (R), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We've gone completely off the rails and now we're just basically a political forum for people to leak information to drive the day's news. So we've -- as you -- as you eluded to, we've lost all credibility and we're going to issue probably two different reports, unfortunately.


CUOMO: Joining us now is Mike Rogers, CNN national security commentator and a former GOP congressman who chaired the House Intel Committee.

Is the congressman making a point, is their credibility shot?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: You don't think it's case closed, Chris? Come on.

I'm a little worried about this. When you have a sitting member of the committee who comes out and says, hey, this has become the leaking committee to advance a political agenda from both parties, unfortunately, I worry about this. And, unfortunately, even if there's some good things in this report, I don't know if there is or not, but now you would be hard-pressed to believe him.

It looks like a partisan document. It's been handled like a partisan document. And it's been released like a partisan document. And I think that does speak to the credibility of the committee's ability to do hard investigations on serious matters.

CUOMO: What do you make of the assertion of one of the Republicans on the committee that the intelligence community just got it wrong, they misinterpreted data and that's how they came up with the conclusion that Russian interference was geared towards helping Trump? Do you buy that, that this -- that this committee would know better than the intelligence committee?

ROGERS: Boy, that would be a tough one for me. And I'll tell you why.

So, you know, all of that documentation is there. So the underlying classified material for the intelligence community to come to that conclusion would be available to the committee if they sought it out. I hope they did. And then for them to have a different conclusion, there better be a lot in that 150-page report to show why that conclusion was wrong because you're not talking about, you know, one agency or one analyst. You're talking about a collective body of work from all the intelligence sources. So they used signals intelligence and human intelligence and analysts from different agencies to come to that conclusion.

[06:40:02] So, there's a big -- that, to me, is a big hurdle to get over if you're going to claim that that -- that collective body of intent, which they've stated clearly, is wrong, then you've got a pretty big hurdle to get over that. And, again, the fact that they won't even give the report to the other party before they read it to vote on it, I -- it just doesn't seem right. When you're talking about something as serious as the Russians interfering with our election -- and, by the way, think about what they were doing, Chris. This is why we should be so angry about this. They were trying to pit Muslims against Christians, the Russians were. They were trying to pit black activist groups against white supremacist groups and they were -- these were the Russians doing this, in an election season to try to drive a wedge between Americans.

And if that doesn't get people's hair on the back of your neck up and get you angry, I'm not sure what will. And this report seems to water those kinds of things down. And that's what worries me most.

CUOMO: Well, there seems to be some thematic consistency here when it comes to mitigating the Russia effect, whether it's the House Intel Committee -- and, let's be honest, ever since Nunes went up to the White House to kind of collaborate with them, the credibility there was in question.

And now you have this right out of a spy novel caper involving these U.K. citizens. Theresa May says they believe that it was Russia or Russia losing control over its chemical weapons. But our White House, very mild. Doesn't even say the word "Russia" when dealing with the event. How do you explain that?

ROGERS: Well, I don't. I don't know. I'm not sure. I will -- I will say, in the old days --

CUOMO: You must. You must, Mike. You must make sense of it.

ROGERS: I will say, in the old days, remember the old days of a presidency when your secretary of state came out and kicked somebody right in the choppers. That was a big deal, right? That spoke for the administration.

And just the fact that we're having a conversation, did that really speak for the administration or is Trump thinking in a different place is probably not a great thing. When you have your secretaries who work for the president coming out that strongly, that should mean that the Trump administration takes that position. We'll see today. I hope they correct this today.

And, listen, this is not -- this is a pattern with Putin. So it's not just people who have spoken out against him. It's people who were with him and then aren't with him. Those are the ones he seems to target for death. He's got about ten of these in his portfolio now. And, unfortunately, when they found the -- probably found the location of this particular former Russian spy and put an operation in place to do this, this is not unusual, unfortunately, for the Russians.

You know, there's a lot of things that we're going to have to do as a nation to join the United Kingdom in pushing back, including in cyberspace and maybe some sanctions and maybe some other geopolitical efforts that we undertake, including in Ukraine, that helps push back on Putin. Let's hope all of that's going to happen. CUOMO: And that's the weird part of this is that we have a president who's always spoiling for a fight. He doesn't spare anybody his criticism, except Vladimir Putin.

Mike Rogers, can't ask for a better guest than you on this story. Thank you very much for joining us.

ROGERS: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Erica.

CUOMO: Warriors' Coach Steve Kerr front and center in the gun control debate. What makes him an authority on gun violence? Details in the "Bleacher Report," next.


[06:47:22] CUOMO: Golden State Warriors' head coach Steve Kerr using his high profile to address an issue that is close to his heart -- gun violence.

Coy Wire has more in the "Bleacher Report."

What is this about for the coach?


Steve Kerr has been outspoken about his desire of increased gun control in the past. His dad was working as a president of a university in Beirut when he was gunned down by terrorists in 1984, when Kerr was just 18 years old.

Well, last night, Kerr joined California Congressman Ro Khanna for a town hall on gun control in Newark, California, and he said he plans on attending the March for Our Lives demonstration in San Francisco, which is in 11 days from now. Kerr calls the March for Our Lives movement, which was created by kids from Stoneman Douglas, heroic. He also said their push for solutions to gun violence are heartbreaking and inspiring all at once.


STEVE KERR, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS COACH: And I'm here because I'm a citizen of this country and we're a democracy. And when people say stick to sports, stick to coaching, whatever, that means nothing. We all have a voice.


WIRE: Kerr told the students that they should register to vote and make gun violence their number one issue.

Erica, he compared that which the Stoneman Douglas students are doing to the anti-war movement during Vietnam.

HILL: All right, Coy, thank you. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos's "60 Minutes" interview continuing to

cause alarm in the White House. A former ethics chief explains why he's concerned, next.


[06:52:54] HILL: Two sources tell CNN White House officials were alarmed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos's recent "60 Minutes" interview. She struggled to answer basic questions about schools in her home state.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have the public schools in Michigan gotten better?

BETSY DEVOS, EDUCATION SECRETARY: I don't know overall. I can't say overall that they have all gotten better.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you seen the really bad school maybe try to figure out what they're doing?

DEVOS: I have not. I have not -- I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe you should.

DEVOS: Maybe I should, yes.


HILL: Let's discuss now with CNN contributor Walter Shaub, a former director for the Office of Government Ethics.

It was a tough one to watch in all honesty and then she was put out again for more interviews yesterday. And the White House, we're told, was unhappy with her performance. Betsy DeVos tweeting yesterday, in her view, missing from the "60 Minutes" interview, she's referencing there, students at charter schools in Detroit are doing two times better than their peers. The reforms are helping. But there's so much more to do. We must help all students be better prepared for strong future.

Could this administration, could the White House have helped Secretary DeVos be better prepared for this interview?

WALTER SHAUB, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, certainly her press people could have. This was kind of a startling bad interview. But if you'd seen her confirmation hearing, that didn't go a whole lot better.

I think, you know, I've -- I've worked with nominees for years and years. And I think it really -- my experiences have been consistent with the old saying that personnel is policy. And this administration seems to have, in many ways, declared war on expertise and denigrated experts, including career civil servants, calling them the deep stay because they -- they don't trust them. And yet what it really reflects, I think, is a suspicion of people who are expert.

And Betsy DeVos's primary expertise seems to be in being a rich person who didn't attend public schools that she's overseeing and didn't send her kids to public schools. So I think when your criteria for hiring somebody is that they were a major campaign donor instead of they're a noted figure in a field, it shouldn't be surprising when you have a result like this.

[06:55:05] And her comments about -- one of the things she said is, she couldn't comment on trends or statistics because each student's an individual. Well, that is an anti-intellectual idea coming from the head of the Department of Education because it's almost like she's saying, you can't study education. You can't study whether it's possible to make school systems in the aggregate better.

HILL: Does it surprise you though -- I mean you reference her confirmation hearings. But we're at the point now where she's been on the job long enough. Does it -- how much does it surprise you that we're at a point where she is -- these are the talking points that she's putting out there and this is her familiarity with the subject matter for the department that she oversees?

SHAUB: Well, you know, there's a good government group called American Oversight that filed a bunch of Freedom of Information Act requests. And one of the things they found is, she doesn't show up to work a whole lot. This is an individual who frequently leaves work on a Thursday and comes back on a Tuesday. And so there's --

HILL: Is she working -- and I mean this very seriously, could she be working from home on those Friday or those Mondays or wherever she may be?

SHAUB: It's entirely possible, but for the most part, cabinet secretaries should be meeting with people and they should be going out to view the things they're overseeing. And you heard her on TV saying, she hasn't focused on looking at the schools that need the most help. So it really is disturbing because it's just sort of an entire trend of not focusing on the subject matter and coming in with one preconceived idea that in her case that idea happens to be, well, everybody should have more school choice. Well, it's such a facile understanding. I mean if you believe that policy, fine, but come armed with statistics and talking points that can justify that viewpoint.

HILL: She, of course, is not the only cabinet member who is under scrutiny. I mean we have four just recently that we can put on the screen and talk about here in terms of ethics concerns and being scolded.


HILL: Where does all of that go from here, though? Yes, we know this has happened. Yes, they've been summoned, they've been scolded, but does anything come out of that?

SHAUB: Well, I'm going to go ahead and call this one right now. Where it goes from here is downhill, and it gets worse. And that's because of the tone setting from the top.

You know, there was a report that the White House scolded these individuals, as you said. Well, I'm not sure the White House is in any position to scold anyone, least of all their own cabinet who are following the president's example.

You've got last week the Office of Special Counsel, which is not related to Robert Mueller, that's a separate agency, issued findings on complaints that I and my group filed saying that Kellyanne Conway had violated the Hatch Act twice. And that's her third ethics violation because there was another one last year when she told America, go buy Ivanka's stuff. And the White House thumbed its nose at OSC and said, we're not going to do anything about it. We don't agree with you.

That's really shocking because OSC is headed by a recent Trump appointee, Henry Kerner, who they said good things about when they appointed. And he really did something brave taking a stand and making a finding that she did something, but they did nothing about it.

Then at the cabinet level, you've got David Shulkin, the head of V.A., deceiving an ethics official. When he got some tickets to Wimbledon and told the ethics official, the woman who gave it to me was a friend of my wife's. Well, when investigators went and talk to her, she didn't even know the wife's name.

And so when the White House refuses to take action against individuals like this, the message they're sending is, none of this matters.

HILL: Does it matter -- I mean is your sense that it matters to the American people?

SHAUB: That's the really depressing thing as an ethics official, because this should be sending off red alarms to people. But I think we're in such a hyperpolarized society that you've got supporters of the administration who assume that anyone who's got concerns about ethics is just carrying partisan water.

And the truth is, anything but that. These are objectively concerning matters. And all you have to do is imagine the other candidate had won the election. This Congress would be holding hearings right now over some of this stuff.

HILL: And does the fact that oftentimes we're talking about it more and that we're also talking about taxpayer money being used to finance any of that? Does that break through the noise or we're at the same point with that as well?

SHAUB: It should. And I hope it eventually will. I mean I mentioned David Shulkin getting those Wimbledon tickets. He spent $122,000 on that trip to Europe with he and his wife. And you've got Ben Carson trying to spend $31,000 on a dinette set. So it's starting to add up. Although it all pales in comparison to the cost of the president's trips to his properties. So, who knows.

HILL: Always appreciate it. Walter Shaub, thank you. Thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, CNN "TALK"

is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the moment that the term "House Intelligence" becomes an oxymoron.

[07:00:01] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've seen no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was apparent really from the very beginning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Their real object was protecting the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to be able to show the CIA just got it wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a sham. These guys are frauds.