Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Lawyer Wants Russia Probe Dropped; Russia Votes; Russian Spy Poisoning; Syrian Conflict; Trump Joins Legal Battle against Stormy Daniels; Facebook Suspends Data Firm Tied to Trump Campaign; Bridge Collapse; Puerto Ricans Still Dying in Hurricane Maria's Wake; Lessons from the President, How Not to Fire Someone. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired March 18, 2018 - 05:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Just one day after the firing of former FBI deputy director, Andrew McCabe, the U.S. president tweets, there shouldn't have been a Mueller probe in the first place.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Plus, voting is under way in Russia. And this man, the man you see here, Vladimir Putin goes for another term in power.

ALLEN (voice-over): And later this hour, what may be major turning point in Northern Syria.

HOWELL (voice-over): 5:00 am on the U.S. East Coast and live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, we welcome our viewers around the United States and all around the world, I'm George Howell.

ALLEN (voice-over): And I'm Natalie Allen, NEWSROOM starts right now.


HOWELL: Around the world, good day to you.

The former number two man at the FBI has been fired but, like his boss who took detailed notes about his interactions with the U.S. president, we now know that Andrew McCabe did the same.

ALLEN: Those memos are now in the hands of special counsel Robert Mueller who is investigating possible Russian meddling in the U.S. election. The U.S. attorney general presented a long list of reasons for firing McCabe.

However, critics say the main reason is to call McCabe's character into question if Mueller uses him as a witness. CNN has learned Mueller's team has already interviewed McCabe. A source tells CNN that McCabe was asked about the firing of FBI director James Comey.

HOWELL: Those conversations and McCabe's notes could be used to corroborate Comey's accounts of meetings with President Trump. CNN's Laura Jarrett breaks it all down for us. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Not only did former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe keep notes on his conversations with the president but CNN has confirmed that McCabe turned those memos over to special counsel Robert Mueller's team and sat down for an interview.

One major topic covered during that interview, the firing of former FBI director James Comey, a topic that Mueller's team has pursued while they investigate among other things whether President Trump obstructed justice in his dealings with top law enforcement officials.

Now the McCabe memos could help bolster how Comey describes some of his more past controversial interactions with the president, that Trump has said never happened, including requests for loyalty and to go easy on former national security adviser Michael Flynn, especially if McCabe documented those conversations contemporaneously with the events.

But McCabe's knowledge of what happened to Comey, at least in McCabe's view, also explains why he believes he's been subjected to what he calls a pattern of attacks on his reputation and credibility.

He told CNN during an interview that the president taunted him repeatedly about his wife's failed state senate campaign in 2015 and even asked who he voted for in the 2016 election. President Trump did not, however, ask him to end the Russia investigation -- Laura Jarrett, CNN, Washington.


HOWELL: The U.S. president's attorney is speaking out about the firing of Andrew McCabe and the overall investigation. And it seems that some statements that he made weren't exactly cleared by his client.

ALLEN: CNN's Boris Sanchez explains what happened next.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: As the president relishes in the firing of former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe via Twitter, his personal attorney, John Dowd, is making some eyebrow raising statements in a statement provided to the "Daily Beast" early on Saturday, he said he was praying for the Russia investigation to end.

And he apparently told them that he was speaking on behalf of the president as the president's personal attorney. He later walked that back to CNN. John Dowd writing, quote, "Speaking for myself, not the president, I pray that acting attorney general Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and attorney general Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe's boss, James Comey, based upon a fraudulent and corrupt dossier just ended on the merits in light of recent revelations." Now we should note that a source close to the president says that

Donald Trump didn't authorize John Dowd to make that statement. In fact, if you talk to people close to the president, you get the sense that they're annoyed that Dowd went in this direction, in part because it contradicts so much of what we've heard previously from the White House when it comes to the special counsel's investigation.

Over and over again, officials have told us they're 100 percent willing to comply with the special counsel in providing any requested documents or --


SANCHEZ: -- anything he needs. We've heard the president specifically say that he would not fire Robert Mueller. In fact, he said that he was looking forward to sitting down with him to prove that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Now there have been rumblings prior to this about firing of Robert Mueller, so much so that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle crafted legislation that would install safeguards to protect Robert Mueller from being fired. That legislation really didn't get anywhere but we should point out that, in the next week, there will be a spending bill that's voted on in Congress.

And there may be a push from some lawmakers to include some kind of language that would protect Robert Mueller from that kind of a move, by either someone at the Department of Justice or here at the White House -- Boris Sanchez, at the White House, CNN.


HOWELL: Boris, thanks for the reporting.

Let's now bring in Scott Lucas. Scott, a professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham, live this hour from the U.K.

Scott, good to have you with us here on the show. So the president's attorney saying that he's speaking for himself but is calling for an end to the Mueller probe, essentially saying there's no there there. Mr. Trump also weighing in on Twitter. Let's see exactly what he had to say here.

Essentially the Mueller probe should have never been started and that there was no collusion and there was no crime. He adds, "It was based on fraudulent activities and a fake dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC and improperly used in FISA court for surveillance of my campaign. Witch hunt."

OK, that tweet, Scott, important to point this out. There are several things in that tweet that are just flatly inaccurate, too many to dissect in this short amount of time, it's the challenge of covering tweets that are put forth as fact.

But as a matter of fact, there has been no conclusion on collusion yet. Here's the question to you, though, Scott. Once again this draws into question whether President Trump is considering firing Robert Mueller.

SCOTT LUCAS, UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM: Yes. I mean, let's review what happened yesterday. Actually, let's go back to Friday.

When Andrew McCabe was dismissed 26 hours before he retired, it was vindictive to stop him from getting a full government pension. But it was another shot to say this FBI role is not legitimate in the investigation.

Then Trump's lawyer comes out and makes a statement that he's praying for the end to the investigation. The White House scrambles and says he's speaking in a personal capacity. John Dowd says he's speaking personally.

But then hours later, Donald Trump says the same thing as his lawyer. In fact, he says not only should the Mueller investigation be ended, he says it should never have begun in the first place.

So whether or not Donald Trump is being held back from advisers, from firing Robert Mueller or moving towards it -- and I think he is -- he now is gathering his ranks to set up that possibility.

Whether it comes to trying to put pressure on deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who formally has to be the person to get rid of Mueller; whether it's more pressure on attorney Jeff Sessions to intervene, even though Sessions is not supposed to because he is recused over his Russian links through the investigation, I think we're looking at a president who feels like he is on the attack and that he can do this.

HOWELL: All right. Scott, I also want to get your thoughts here on what we're hearing from members of the intelligence community firing back.

First the response from the former FBI director James Comey saying, quote, "Mr. President, the American people will hear my story very soon and they can judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not."

Also, Scott, this very sharp response, this comment from the former CIA chief, John Brennan, who tweeted this.

"When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America...America will triumph over you."

Scott, these are pretty strong statements for sure.

LUCAS: Not exactly pulling punches are they?

Here's the backdrop to all of this. That is Donald Trump took office and when we first started getting revelations about possible links with Russia, he compared his intelligence agencies to Nazis. He did that in early January 2017. In his opinion, those within the FBI, and now the special counsel's

team, who are pressing the investigation, they are the enemy. And James Comey is saying, look, he asked me for my loyalty; I wouldn't give it. I did my job; he fired me. John Brennan is reflecting what others are saying in the community.

But most importantly, your correspondent's quite right that Andrew McCabe may come out and tell Robert Mueller what he knew about James Comey's firing. But remember Andrew McCabe was interim FBI director after Comey was dismissed in May 2017.

Did Trump also --


LUCAS: -- ask McCabe for his loyalty?

Did trump also put pressure on McCabe?

If so that adds to the possible obstruction of justice, which of course is the serious element here beyond whatever publicity Donald Trump is trying to whip up on social media.

HOWELL: So you're talking about these memos, again, reminding our viewers, we know that McCabe handed those memos over to the Mueller team. He also had this to say, Scott, about his firing. Let's pull this up, this statement.

He says, "I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey."

So to your point, Scott, these memos that he says that he took, given what he witnessed, again, you say that will play into this investigation in a major way?

LUCAS: Absolutely. The downside of Donald Trump's approach and the approach of his team, which is we'll just clear all these folks out and then we're left with loyalists and it's all OK, is that these people don't disappear entirely.

We have seen this with people who have been convicted and indicted in the investigation so far, who are now cooperating with Robert Mueller. We have seen it with James Comey. We're seeing it with McCabe. We're likely to see it with other FBI officials who have been put under pressure.

Why we don't know all this and how it connects yet is of course because the one person who has been silent through all of this is Robert Mueller. Not a word. And that's because, while others may shout, may make their announcements, he's the one who's assembling the evidence painstakingly.

And it's not until he has it all connected up and the dots are there that we find out how much he has on Donald Trump.

HOWELL: Scott Lucas, we appreciate your insight today. Thank you so much.

LUCAS: Thank you.

ALLEN: The people of Russia are voting right now. There are eight candidates in Russia's presidential election but only one real contender.

So why is the Kremlin concerned about voter turnout?

We'll have live reports ahead about that.

HOWELL: Plus, the United Kingdom is considering its next move toward Russia as diplomatic relations with Moscow go from bad to worse.




HOWELL: A live image here in Moscow, you see this polling center, as people head to the polls for this presidential election underway in Russia this hour. There are eight candidates that are vying for the top spot. Fair to say the Russian president Vladimir Putin is by far the lead contender.

ALLEN: He is expected to easily win re-election --


ALLEN: -- after 18 years in power. He is already Russia's longest serving leader since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

CNN is live in Moscow. Our senior international correspondent Matthew Chance, following the election from the polls and CNN contributor Jill Dougherty is there to give us further context.

First to you, Matthew, there at the polling place. No one questions who will win this election. It's non-democratic.

So from your vantage point, are voters enthusiastic?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, look, the feeling before this, the concern amongst the Kremlin officials before this voting day, was that there was a lot of apathy in the country simply because the democratic choice in Russia is, let's say, not very broad.

There are eight candidates and there's a picture of them here on this board you can see in this voting station. These are the eight candidates but there's only one who's a real contender, Vladimir Putin, there right in the middle of this poster.

It gives some biographical details about him. He was born in 1952. It says here that he also has 13 bank accounts containing a total of about 240,000 U.S. dollars, he has a flat in St. Petersburg, a garage and three Russian cars.

So it's giving a bit of biographical information about all the various different candidates. Apathy was a concern. But Vladimir Putin himself came out on national television a couple of days ago, appealed to people to make their voices heard. And at least in this voting station in the center of Moscow, people are responding.

It's quite buoyant, quite busy, very busy in fact at the moment in this polling station. People are coming out to cast their ballots. But we're going to see what the nationwide turnout is to try to get a better assessment of just how enthusiastic people are in this country for what would be a fourth term as president for Vladimir Putin.

And given, of course, the main opposition figure, Alexei Navalny, in this country has not been permitted to stand in the election. He has a criminal conviction, which he says was politically motivated to prevent him from standing in this ballot.

But we want to get a sense of just how much enthusiasm there is, whether it be through the turnout in the election nationwide for this presidential election in Russia.

ALLEN: Matthew, thank you. Let's talk more about turnout with Jill Dougherty at our Moscow bureau.

Despite the obvious outcome, Jill, the Kremlin wants a strong showing, it's concerned about that because it would reflect a stamp of approval for Vladimir Putin.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Definitely. And, you know, we have to remember that Vladimir Putin legitimately is popular across this country among many, many people. So it's no, you know, question that he would be reelected.

But, as you pointed out, it's really the turnout. Now if you were a voter and you don't agree with Vladimir Putin, your options aren't really very great because the candidates who are in this race, the other ones, don't really have a lot of viability, you would have to admit.

So your choice is to either not vote -- and that's something that's been suggested and propose and promulgated by Alexei Navalny, who Matthew just mentioned, the opposition person who cannot participate in this election.

So some people are staying home. But the -- certainly the Kremlin has been really beating the bushes to get out every single person they can. And I think, you know, domestically it gives that imprimatur to and a mandate to Vladimir Putin.

And also I think this would play internationally, that Vladimir Putin received this -- would be in quotes -- "the overwhelming majority" of Russians voting for him. Internationally, especially look at the United States with all the questions about voting and did Hillary get the popular vote, et cetera, here the Kremlin can argue there are no questions. People support Vladimir Putin and they voted for him. ALLEN: Thank you, Jill.

Back to Matthew. Matthew, it's been quite a weekend speaking of Vladimir Putin. We saw the diplomatic issues heightened between Russia and the U.K. over the nerve attack agent in England.

Is that having any sort of spillover on this election?

Was it expected to?

CHANCE: You might expect it, to looking from outside, the fact that Vladimir Putin has once again apparently led Russia into confrontation with the West. But, in fact, it doesn't appear to have dented his popularity at all, as we've had no sense of that.

If anything, Vladimir Putin has been using this latest standoff with, in this case, Britain, to reassert this idea that he is a powerful Russian leader, that he will not allow Russia to be pushed around by its enemies in the West.

An example of that is just yesterday --


CHANCE: -- the day before, voting opened in this country. That was the day that Vladimir Putin and the Russian foreign ministry chose to issue their response, their retaliation for the expulsion by Britain of 23 Russian diplomats earlier this week.

They just yesterday announced that they were expelling 23 British diplomats and they were going further, closing down the British consulate general in St. Petersburg and shutting down the operations in the British Council, which is a cultural and educational exchange organization backed by the British government in Russia.

So this was yet again Vladimir Putin saying to his voters, I will not let the West push this country, our country, around. And that goes down well with many of these people voting here today.

ALLEN: Yes, that has kind of been the hallmark of his leadership, hasn't it?

Matthew, thank you. Let's get the view from the United Kingdom. Our Melissa Bell joins us from London.

Hello to you, Melissa. Despite Russia's denials and retaliatory actions, Britain is standing firm; as we just heard from Matthew, the Russian president wanting to look powerful on the world stage. They may not see it like that.

What's the latest from the government there?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the very latest is the British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, speaking out in the British press this morning, Natalie. You'll remember it was he on Friday who went even further, so far, laying the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal firmly at the feet of Vladimir Putin himself.

This morning he wrote an article in the British press going over the argument again and in the end pointing out that, look, perhaps the biggest proof that Britain's position is stronger than Russia's on this is that Britain has international allies and friends.

I think that is the idea that's going to be sorely tested this week when Britain tries to get the E.U. to back its position with more than just a simple declaration, with more than just words. That's what we're likely to get on Monday when E.U. diplomats meet in Brussels. Perhaps a condemnation of what Russia has done by the bloc.

But any more than that, it's very difficult to imagine that Britain would get the E.U. to agree to much more than perhaps leaving in place the sanctions that already exist. But clearly the British government intends to go further whichever way it can. We know that because Theresa May speaking yesterday to her own party made it clear.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Today our ambassador in Moscow was informed by the Russian government of the action they are taking in response. In light of their previous behavior, we anticipated a response of this kind and we will consider our next steps in the coming days, alongside our allies and partners.

But Russia's response doesn't change the fact of the matter, the attempted assassination of two people on British soil, for which there is no alternative conclusion, other than that the Russian state was culpable.


BELL: So what you can expect, really, Natalie, over the coming days as we enter this new week tomorrow, will be the British trying to get further pressure put on Moscow, both internally within Britain but also leaning on its E.U. partners to try and go further than just words and backing its position and in taking on the Russian president.

Another interesting thing to keep in mind is that the Labour Party here in the U.K., having been criticized for its stance on the Skripal poisoning so far, could seek to get further measures introduced that would target some of the wealthy Russians that use London very much as their base.

So you can expect this story to rumble on and for London to seek more objection over more actions over the coming days.

ALLEN: Yes and the ramifications certainly extend beyond Russia and the U.K.

Thank you so much, Melissa Bell.

Thank you, Jill Dougherty in Moscow.

And Matthew Chance, there at the polling place, on this day that Russia elects a president.

Thank you all.

HOWELL: We have breaking news that we're following out of Northern Syria. The Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the town center of Afrin is now entirely under control of Turkish forces and allied rebels. He told the audience that the flags of Turkey and the Free Syrian Army rebels have been raised there.

ALLEN: This has been yet another side chapter in all of the fighting that we've seen going in the region. This could be, though, a major turning point in Turkey's Operation Olive Branch against the Kurdish YPG.

The offensive was launched back in January to drive the Kurdish militia of the Afrin region. Ankara considers the YPG terrorists but they have been a key U.S. ally in the fight against is.

HOWELL: No one better to put all of this in focus for us than our senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman, following the story live in Beirut, Lebanon.

Ben, talk to us about the implications of Turkey taking full control of the town center of Afrin.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what it appears is that they haven't yet taken entire control of the city. We've seen video of Turkish tanks in the main square, in front of the city council, and the Turkish flag raised over that city council.

Now according to both the Free Syrian Army, the rebel factions that are armed and trained by the Turks, as well as the Turkish army's Twitter account, they are engaged in dismantling or defusing mines and booby traps that were left behind by the YPG in the city.

The implications are huge. This was an operation that the Turks began on the 20th of January. Initially, they were encountering some fairly stiff resistance. But it appears that the YPG militia has essentially pulled out of the city. This is perhaps what the goal of the Turkish forces in -- engaging in this offensive was.

Now what's interesting is that the Americans have been largely silent as this operation has continued, merely urging the Turks to minimize civilian casualties. And, of course, the YPG was one of the essential allies of the United States when it was fighting ISIS in the eastern part of Syria.

The Americans, however, seem to have stood by and watched as their Kurdish allies have been mauled by the Turks.

HOWELL: It's a complicated cast of characters in this situation. But it seems that Turkey claiming a bit of victory here. Ben Wedeman live for us. Thank you for the context and we'll stay in touch with you. ALLEN: The porn actress versus the president. Coming up here, new details from the latest court filings in the Stormy Daniels lawsuit. We'll also have how the first lady is responding to her husband's alleged infidelity.

HOWELL: Plus, China is not happy about President Trump's signing of a new U.S. law regarding Taiwan. We'll have that story live from Beijing as CNN NEWSROOM continues.





HOWELL: Coast to coast across the United States and live around the world this hour you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. It's always good to have you with us. I'm George Howell.

ALLEN: I agree. Thank you for watching. I'm Natalie Allen. Our top stories:


HOWELL: Back here in the United States, the U.S. president's personal legal team is now officially involved in the matter of Stormy Daniels.

Attorneys for Donald Trump himself filed papers, claiming that the porn star could owe as much as $20 million for violating an agreement about keeping quiet with her alleged affair with the president. He denies that affair ever happened.

ALLEN: Mr. Trump's lawyers also want the case moved from state to federal court and are asking the matter stay behind closed doors and away from the public. Speaking with our Ana Cabrera earlier, Stormy Daniels' lawyer says his team's ready to fight.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: We are not surprised at the effort to move it to federal court. Regardless, whether it is in state court or federal court, we are prepared to fully litigate it.

I had the good fortune just April of last year of securing a $454 million jury verdict in that federal courthouse, that very courthouse that they will move the case to.

So we are very familiar with the judges there. We are very familiar with how smart they are and how deep the bench is, if you will, and we are prepared to litigate it whether it be in state court or federal court.


ALLEN: Not backing down as they face the U.S. president and his team of lawyers.

As stories of Mr. Trump's alleged affairs get the world's attention, many wonder how this may be affecting his wife, the first lady.

HOWELL: But they won't find out from her. As our Randi Kaye reports, the first lady is keeping to herself for now.


JIMMY KIMMEL, ABC HOST: Do you think the president is watching right now?

I like to imagine him.

STORMY DANIELS, PORN STAR: I don't want to imagine him.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Stormy Daniels may be speaking out but Melania Trump certainly is not.

Despite the porn star's claims that she had an affair with Donald Trump, the first lady has remained silent on the matter. In fact, soon after the story broke, Melania Trump canceled a previously announced trip to Davos, Switzerland with her husband, quietly visited the Holocaust Museum in D.C. and made an unexplained solo trip to Mar-a-Lago.

The White House telling CNN the first lady is entitled to some privacy. Instead of the vulgar headlines and talk of hush money Ms. Trump has remained focused on her duties as first lady and at least at times keeping her distance from the president.

The stormy cloud hung over the president's State of the Union address with the first lady arriving separately from the president. A break with longstanding tradition. That was January 30th. And the first couple hadn't been seen together at an official public event since New Year's Eve.

KAYE: Weeks later in mid-February, news of another alleged affair from 2006 with a former Playboy Playmate. Trump denied it but after the story broke, as the couple departed for Mar-a-Lago, Melania Trump chose to skip the ride on Marine One, instead taking her own motorcade to Andrews Air Force Base where she met her husband on Air Force One.

KAYE (voice-over): That same month --


KAYE (voice-over): -- Ms. Trump did appear briefly with the president after the shooting in Parkland, Florida. And she also went along on a day trip to Ohio, though she skipped his speech. Instead taking a motorcade to Cincinnati Children's Hospital. The couple met up again on board the flight home.

Reports that Stormy Daniels received a payoff reportedly blindsided the first lady which may explain her low profile. Still this was hardly the first time she is had to deal with her husband being accused of cheating or inappropriate behavior.

D. TRUMP: I'm automatically attracted to beautiful. I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss.

KAYE: Ms. Trump was quick to dismiss that whole saga as mere boy talk.

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: He was led on, like egged on, from the host to say dirty and bad stuff.

KAYE: She defended her husband again when multiple women came forward accusing him of kissing and groping them. Mr. Trump has denied it all.

TRUMP: I believe my husband. I believe my husband. Did I ever check the background of these women? They don't have any facts.

KAYE: Facts may be just what Melania Trump is waiting for before she breaks her silence again -- Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


ALLEN: Now we turn to a story involving the Trump campaign and social media. It concerns those Facebook personality quizzes that you might have taken. But it looks like the results don't just disappear when the test is over.

Facebook says it's suspending a data firm with ties to the Trump campaign for allegedly using information from the quizzes without users' permission in order to target voters.

HOWELL: That firm, called Cambridge Analytica, denies violating Facebook's terms. But earlier, CNN senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter, spoke with our colleague, Ana Cabrera, to explain how this happened.


BRIAN STELTER, CNNMONEY SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Cambridge Analytica, in its infancy, partnered with a professor who happens to work at Cambridge University, no relation to the company, who created this personality quiz.

He created this app on Facebook. Listen, I've done some of these, you've probably done some of these. Most of these are just fine. There is no evil purpose behind them.

But in this case, this personality quiz which about 250,000 people took, the data from it was then used by this professor and then handed off to Cambridge Analytica and then used to create profiles of voters.

Now what's remarkable about this is you start with essentially 270,000 people. Then you connect all of their friends and before you know it, you have 50 million Facebook users' information. That's what was really remarkable about using this personality quiz to then go and grab so many people's data.

Now, Cambridge Analytica says we didn't use the Facebook data to help the Trump campaign.

But a whistleblower named Christopher Wiley begs to differ. He has given an interview to "The Guardian" in the U.K. and to "the New York Times" in the U.S. and he says he has a lot of regrets about how he worked with Cambridge Analytica on this type of data project.

This is actually what he said in "The Guardian." He said, "This is insane, the company that created psychological profiles of 230 million Americans, now they want to get contracts and work with the Pentagon?

"It's like Nixon on steroids."

That's really why this matters now, Ana, right.

You know, the election is long over, 2016 election. But Cambridge Analytica and other companies like it are still working on harvesting vast amounts of data about voters, about individuals and then trying to use that data to target ads, to target information to us.


HOWELL: Brian Stelter there, speaking with Ana Cabrera.

China is slamming President Trump's signing of a new U.S. law on Taiwan. The Taiwan Travel Act encourages visits between the U.S. and Taiwan officials. China says it firmly opposes the law and that it violates the One China principle.

Let's bring in CNN's Steven Jiang following the story, live in Beijing.

Steven, clearly this plays into that very delicate balance of cross- strait relations. Explain to our viewers why China has staked out such a firm opposition to this move.

STEVEN JIANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, George, China's swift and strong reactions are not surprising, considering Beijing views Taiwan as a breakaway province that must be reunited with the mainland -- by force if necessary.

So the Taiwan issue is really a red line in the eyes of the Beijing government. And they simply do not want to see any country, including the United States, cross it. Now the timing of this signing is also very interesting, of course.

As you know, Mr. Trump has increasingly focused on China as he addresses the huge trade imbalance the U.S. has with the rest of the world. We have heard the recent tariff announcements. And also officials have been telling us there might be more anti-China measures that the White House is working on that could be announced in the coming weeks and months.

So this really comes at a very delicate moment of -- [05:40:00]

JIANG: -- this bilateral relationship, an important but increasingly rocky relationship. Also as you know, Mr. Xi has just officially begun his second term. So this will be a big test for him here as well -- George.

HOWELL: You mentioned trade but China also an important factor when it comes to North Korea, Steven. We'll have to wait and see where this goes from here. Thank you for the reporting.

ALLEN: In Miami, Florida, police say they have recovered the last victims from beneath the pedestrian bridge that collapsed Thursday. Crews dug through 950 tons of rubble to remove some of the last cars that were crushed. For police, investigators and victims' families, you can imagine this process has been harrowing.


JUAN PEREZ, MIAMI-DADE POLICE DIRECTOR: It is heartwrenching when you do so to lose a loved one like this. I cannot even express the empathy, the compassion that they have and the empathy that I have to have to face them.

It's heartwrenching, it's hard to hold back your tears when you listen to them, you listen to every individual story.

But we finally got the last victim out. And it would not have happened if not for the work of the men and women from that fire department that is one of the greatest departments, I guess to me is the greatest department in America, folks, because they did not stop.

The only pause, the only pause from the rescuers was when we asked them to pause so we could pray over every victim and escort them out with our motorcycle unit to the M.E.'s office, that was the only pause in work.


HOWELL: As for the victims, five victims were found under that bridge. One died in the hospital. Police believe the final death toll will stand at six people dead, though they plan go back through that wreckage one more time as a precaution.

Hurricane Maria's wrath haunts the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, people there still dying nearly six months after that storm passed through. We'll tell you more about why that's happening as CNN NEWSROOM continues.




(MUSIC PLAYING) ALLEN: Many Puerto Ricans will tell you they are forgotten and here's

why. It's been nearly six months since Hurricane Maria ripped through the island, a U.S. commonwealth.

HOWELL: That's right. People are still dying there, especially those who lack basic services like electricity. It's home for our Leyla Santiago and she brings us this report.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It shouldn't be so difficult for Miriam Rodriguez seeing this machine.

MIRIAM RODRIGUEZ, PUERTO RICO RESIDENT: That takes me back. It makes me so angry.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): When this machine for sleep apnea stopped working, her husband, 77-year-old Natalio, stopped breathing in the middle of the night in Maunabo, the southeastern part of the island.

RODRIGUEZ: Suddenly he started to shake (INAUDIBLE) I saw him lying dead on the floor. And I couldn't do nothing to help him. That's why I say that. If we had electricity, normal electricity at that time, he could be alive still today. He could be alive.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): She blames Hurricane Maria for wiping out the island's power. At least 120,000 customers still don't have power nearly six months later. The night her husband died, months after the storm, Miriam says their generator ran out of gas, leaving her home without power for the machine her husband needed to breathe.

Natalio's grave is one of many this year. CNN has identified at least five deaths from 2018, identified by families, doctors or funeral homes as related to Hurricane Maria. Among them, Gallio Salinas Santiago (ph). His family tells us he died of a heart attack in the parking lot of Maunabo's clinic, waling for the clinic to open. The mayor says after Maria, the town can't afford to run the once-24-hour service. Carmen Rodriguez Martinez, her family tells us she died because she didn't have power for the machine she depended on for oxygen.

Dr. Arturo Torres (ph) listed Hurricane Maria as a contributing factor on her death certificate.

SANTIAGO: Is Maria still killing people?

DR. ARTURO TORRES (PH): Yes. Yes. I'm sure that my case is not an isolated case since there's no electrical power in many places that would accelerate the end of the -- of the life of that person.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Cemetery workers tell us the number of deaths have doubled since the storm, pointing to dozens of graves they believe are related, graves that cemetery workers tell us will not be getting a headstone anytime soon because families can't afford them after Maria. Natalio's family paid $4,000 for his funeral. Still owes $1,000. To

qualify for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency the death must be certified as hurricane related. But Puerto Rico's list of certified deaths hasn't changed since early December.

The official death toll stands at 64 even though the government's own death statistics in 2017 show an increase of at least 1,000 more deaths after Hurricane Maria compared to the previous two years. The Puerto Rican government has now ordered a review of deaths since Maria.

Dr. Torres says the elderly and those with complicated health conditions are too vulnerable to resist the challenges brought on by Maria.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking Spanish).

SANTIAGO: So just last week, just last week they had a death.

Do you think you'll have to write Maria again on a death certificate?

TORRES: I don't discard it. My opinion, yes.

SANTIAGO: That's hard to hear.

Is it hard to say?

TORRES: It's hard to say, yes.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Even harder to accept, that six months later...

RODRIGUEZ: It was a normal death but wasn't.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): -- Maria is still destroying lives -- Leyla Santiago, CNN, Puerto Rico.






ALLEN: If you watched the American reality show, "The Apprentice," you'd be forgiven for thinking that Donald Trump would be good at firing somebody.

HOWELL: All right. That's the Trump of reality television. But in reality, the now former secretary of state Rex Tillerson has a real story to tell. Our Jeanne Moos explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rex Tillerson has been added to the Jimmy Kimmel show's collection.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now you can pay tribute to all of Donald Trump's ex-cabinet members with the Departed Staffer Commemorative Plates.

MOOS (voice-over): But the dishy part was how Tillerson was fired, by tweet, a tweet that ended...

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: Congratulations to all. Congratulations, Rex, you've won an all-expense paid trip to beautiful get the (INAUDIBLE) out of here.

SETH MEYERS, COMEDIAN: Even when you get fired from Domino's, the manager takes you into that crappy little office and tells you to your face.

MOOS (voice-over): But hey, not face-to-face is President Trump's way. When he fired FBI director Comey, he sent an aide with a letter to FBI headquarters. But Comey ended up hearing the news on TV as he gave a speech.

After Tillerson was fired, Obama photographer Pete Souza posted this picture of President Obama, conferring with his secretary of state, captioned, "Back in the day, when our secretary of state was treated with respect."

JIMMY KIMMEL, ABC HOST: Donald Trump spent more time firing Little John than he did firing the secretary of state.


TRUMP: Little John, you're fired. You go out there and knock 'em dead. He is a great day.


TRUMP: Rex is a very good man.

MOOS (voice-over): The White House chief of staff --


MOOS (voice-over): -- did call Tillerson to warn his time as top diplomat was up but there was nothing definitive until a tweet was posted.

MOOS: Some are comparing the firing to "Sex in the City."

Why, you ask, is Rex Tillerson like Carrie Bradshaw?


SARAH JESSICA PARKER, ACTOR, "CARRIE BRADSHAW": Oh, Berger broke up with me on a Post-it.



KIM CATTRALL, ACTOR,"SAMANTHA JONES": "I'm sorry I can't don't hate me." (INAUDIBLE) concise.

MOOS (voice-over): More concise than President Trump with his 253- character tweet.

Andy Borowitz's satirical headline, "Imagine Tillerson saying, 'I hope Trump finds out he's impeached on Twitter.'"

Who says breaking up is hard to do when you break the news like this?

CONAN O'BRIEN, COMEDIAN: He fired him on Twitter.

MOOS (voice-over): -- Jeanne Moos, CNN...

O'BRIEN: Yes, it makes sense when you consider that Trump hired Rex Tillerson on Tinder.

MOOS (voice-over): New York.


ALLEN: Oh, my.

HOWELL: Guess he was concise.

All right. As for the latest rounds of White House firings, the sketch comedy show, "Saturday Night Live," is putting its stamp on it.

ALLEN: Here's their take on U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions, trying to explain why former FBI deputy attorney Andrew McCabe was fired.


KATE MCKINNON, COMEDIAN, "JEFF SESSIONS": Hello. Look at me, I still got a job.

ALEX MOFFAT, COMEDIAN, "ANDERSON COOPER": Sir, sir, can you give us the exact reason McCabe was fired?

"SESSIONS": Well, yes. Of course. Mr. McCabe was in clear violation because of his lack of candor, what -- I don't know, I can't even dance around. Trump made me do it.



Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. For our viewers in the United States, "NEW DAY" is next. For viewers around the world, "THE CIRCUIT" is ahead. Thanks for watching CNN, the world's news leader.