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Another Bomb In Austin, Texas Goes Off; Republican Warns Trump, to Not Fire Mueller; Facebook Under Fire; Putin Wins Six Year Term; SNL Spoofs Trump Personnel Drama; Futures Drop Ahead Of Fed Meeting. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired March 19, 2018 - 04:30   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We now need the community, to have an extra level of vigilance and pay attention to any suspicious device.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight. Another explosion in Austin, Texas, the fourth in recent weeks. Police say it may have been detonated by trip wire. And they are working on the theory, the same person is behind it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the allegations (ph), collusions with the Russians and you are innocent of that, act like it.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If you try to do that that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency.


DAVE BRIGGS, EARLY START SHOW CO-HOST: A chorus of Republicans warning the President not to fire the Russia's Special Counsel. Comes after the President attacked Robert Mueller by name for the first time.

ROMANS: Fierce criticism for Facebook over not protecting user data. It comes after a firm with ties to the Trump campaign gained access to valuable information of about 50 million users. Welcome back to Early Start. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs, 31 minutes past the hour. Happy Monday everybody. And not so much in Austin, Texas. We start there, breaking news overnight. Police there in Austin investigating another explosion in the city that has been rattled by a series of recent blasts.

They are now working on the belief that this latest attack is connected to earlier explosions that killed two people. The Sunday incident was reported on Dawn Song Drive, that's near the Republic of Texas Boulevard, two people were injured.

ROMANS: Austin police are now asking Travis County residents to stay home until 10:00 a.m. Local time. The chief says the way this device may had been detonated is serious cause for concern.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is very possible that this device, was a device that was activated by someone either handling, kicking or coming in contact with a trip wire that activated the device. So that changes things. We now need the community to have an extra level of vigilance and pay attention to any suspicious device, whether it be a package, a bag, a backpack or anything that looks out of place and do not approach it.


ROMANS: The two men injured in the blast Sunday are both in good condition at a local hospital. Local schools are excusing absences today, since school buses can't get near the scene. This attack came hours after the reward for information leading to an arrest was raised to $115,000.

BRIGGS: Detention in Austin also affecting the South by, Southwest festival. A bomb threat Saturday, cause the cancellation of a concert featuring The Roots. In that case, a suspect was arrested and no word on any link to the explosions.

ROMANS: All right. There are bipartisan calls this morning for President Trump to keep his hands off the Special Counsel after his most direct attack yet on Robert Mueller, quote, "Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big crooked Hillary supporters and zero Republicans?" Another Dem recently added, "Does anyone think this is fair, and yet there is no collusion?"

BRIGGS: Quick fact check there. Washington Post analysis does fine 13 of the 17 members of Mueller's team have previously registered as Democrats, Mueller is himself, a registered Republican and many of the attorneys on Mueller's team have prosecuted members of both parties. The President's tweet got the attention of many on Capitol Hill, including prominent Republicans.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you are innocent, if the allegation is collusions with the Russians and there is no evidence of that and you're innocent of that, act like it.

GRAHAM: The only reason Mr. Mueller could ever be dismissed is for cause. I see no cause when it comes to Mr. Mueller. He needs to be able to do his job independent on any political influence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you worried that the President is preparing to order the firing of Mr. Mueller? It sure looks that way from his tweets.

GRAHAM: Well, as I said before, if he tried to do that that would be the beginning of the end of the presidency.


ROMANS: Senator John McCain weighed in from Arizona, where he is receiving cancer treatment. Special Counsel Mueller has served our country with honesty and integrity. It's critical he'd be allowed to complete a thorough investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election, unimpeded.

So far, efforts in Congress to protect the Special Counsel have stalled. It is unclear if lawmakers will make any moves, this week, before they leave town Friday night for a two week recess.

BRIGGS: The president's Sunday morning tweet came after his personal lawyer, John Dowd, said he praised for the Justice Department to end Mueller investigation.

Last night White House Counsel, Ty Cobb, clarify the West wing position saying quote, "The President is not considering or discussing the firing of the Special Counsel." For more, let's check in with Boris Sanchez, at the White House.


[04:35:04] BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN NEWSROOM HOST: Dave and Christine, the President is taking this stand against not only the Special Counsel, but this weekend, he tweeted about the FBI, the Department of Justice, the State Department as well.

At least one White House official, the Director of Legislative Affairs, Marc Short, defended the President saying that he is frustrated, because the Russia investigation has gone on for so long and yet yielded, in his eyes, few results.

MARC SHORT, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE LEGISTALTIVE AFFAIRS: Everyone in the White House has cooperated on this and what I said, is -- that we have cooperated every single way, every single paper that it was ask for, every single interview. And I think the reality, Margaret, is that, yes, there is a growing frustration and after more than a year and millions and millions of dollars spent on this, there remains no evidence of collusion with Russia. I think the President is expressing his frustration, which I think as well warranted and narrative.

SANCHEZ: Despite those comments from Marc Short and others who had been calling for the Special Counsel to wrap up its investigation, it has yielded some results, not only with those 13 indictments of Russian nationals for election meddling but also with four indictments of figures within the Trump campaign with George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn and others, Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Boris, thank you.

Andrew McCabe is gone, but certainly not forgotten. The former Deputy Director of the FBI, fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Friday night, just a day short of retirement in his full pension. The move not well received even by most Republicans.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R), FLORIDA: I don't like the way it happened. He should have been allowed to finish through the weekend. That's -- there is an inspector general report that's due and work that is being done. And after he had retired, if that report would have indicated wrongdoing or something that was actionable, there are things that could have been done after the fact. But 48 hours to go before retirement, I would have certainly done it differently.

GRAHAM: We owe it to the average American to have a hearing and the Judiciary Committee, giving this to McCabe the chance to defend himself. I believe when it comes to this issue, we need as much transparency as possible to make sure it wasn't politically motivated.


BRIGGS: McCabe says his firing was part of a wider effort to discredit the FBI and Mueller investigation. He said he was singled out because of events he witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

CNN has learned, Mueller's team interviewed McCabe and asked about the Comey firing. Mueller also has memos, McCabe, wrote documenting his conversations with the President.

ROMANS: Mr. Trump responding to that news nationally via Twitter, "Spent very little time with Andrew McCabe, but he never took notes when he was with me. I don't believe he made memos except to help his own agenda, probably at a later date. Same with lying James Comey. Can we call them fake memos?"

McCabe's lawyer fired back with this, "We will not be responding to each childish, defamatory, discussing and false tweet by the President. The tweets confirm that he has corrupted the entire process that led to Mr. Mccabe's termination and has rendered it illegitimate."

BRIGGS: And former CIA Chief, John Brennan, fired off this blistering tweet aimed directly at the President Trump, "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 escape goat, Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America. America will triumph over you."

ROMANS: All right, there is a new crisis this morning for Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, on the mounting pressure, it is not doing enough to protect user data. It centers on reports of firm with ties to the President Trump's campaign called Cambridge Analytica, gained access to information on 50 million Facebook users.

The data would be extremely useful to a Presidential campaign because it can provide detailed interests and behavior characteristics of large swaths of the population and with the campaign target specific voters.

The data was collected by a professor for academic purposes that is in line with Facebook rules, but then information was transferred to third parties, including Cambridge Analytica. That transfer violated Facebook policies. It ordered the firm to delete the data in 2015, but recently discovered that did not happen.

So, Facebook booted Cambridge Analytica from using its platform. That news came from Deputy -- Facebook Deputy General Counsel, who seemingly the only executive commenting, no words from CEO Mark Zuckerberg. A Minnesota Senator, Amy Klobuchar, is one of many lawmakers demanding answers, she tweeted, "It's clear these platforms can't police themselves. I called for more transparency and accountability for online political ads. They say trust us. Mark Zuckerberg needs to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee."

Facebook said it has conducting an internal and external review to see if the data still exists, but it doesn't say how will it prevent this from happening in the future. It doesn't take responsibility for how it happened.

BRIGGS: Well, there wasn't much suspense if any, Vladimir Putin tightening his grip on Russia for six more years after a sweeping victory in Sunday's Presidential election, a state-run exit poll showing the Russian leader winning his fourth term easily. Let's go live to Moscow and bring in CNN's Matthew Chance.

Matthew, what do we make of these election results, are they to be believed there in Moscow?

[03:40:10] MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think they are, but with the caveat that there was -- there was some evidence of election irregularities, including ballot box stuffing and some instances, people being bused to the polling station instead of force by their companies to vote and to cast their ballots.

There was also big effort on the way by Vladimir Putin to try and get people to turn out because he was concerned that there wasn't a real Democratic challenge. He had seven challenges, but he was ever -- only ever be the one contender. And indeed, the results has born that out (ph), the latest results come in a vote of (inaudible) moving counting now, 76.6 percent opposing (ph) voted for Vladimir Putin.

So, sort of a landslide for the Russian President in his fourth term as the leader of Russia. The turnout was 67.47 percent. That was because there was a lot of voter apathy in this country, but it seems to have been overcome by the efforts of Vladimir Putin and his election team.

And it all underlines, of course, juts how popular Vladimir Putin is. Yes, he's despised in the West. Yes, he's potentially responsible for all sorts of, you know, going sonically meddling in the U.S. election, but he is still very popular at home, Dave.

BRINKLEY: All right. Matthew Chance live for us in Moscow. 11:40 there. Thank you, sir. ROMANS: All right. The death penalty for some drug dealers is part

of a plan to tackle the country's opioid epidemic. President Trump sent a roll out proposal today in New Hampshire. He is expected to call for changes in treatment and recovery programs for opioid addicts with focus on prevention and education, including an ad campaign. The plan also aims to help recovering addicts find jobs and long-term assistance.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, talks with the U.S., North Korea and South Korea start today in Finland, this comes after high level talks in Sweden about Americans held captive by Pyongyang. We are live in Seoul.


BRIGGS: Sweden is trying to help negotiate the release of three Americans being held captive in North Korea, as President Trump prepares to meet Kim Jong-un face-to-face by the end of May. One source with knowledge of the talks telling CNN, any movement on the prisoners would be a huge deal for the White House.

For the latest, let's go live to Seoul, let's bring in CNN's David McKenzie, good morning, David. What do we know?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave, yes, this is a crucial potential sticking point for these high stakes meetings proposed with the South Korean President, and of course, between President Trump and Kim Jong-un for late May, we believe, but we still need to see if they can pull it off.

Now these three detainees, these Americans that are currently in North Korea are certainly an important point to consider. The families in the U.S. and elsewhere would want them released certainly.

They had been hoping for the release. Tony Kim and Kim Hok Sung, two Americans had work with the Pyongyang University of Science Technology, they were taken, Dave, last year. They haven't been tried even in this sort of sham trials you see in North Korea.

There's another American dual citizen, we believed Kim Dong Shul, who was in fact sentenced for espionage and sentenced to 10 years of hard labor. All three of those, I'm sure, are up for discussion.

And the point of these detainees really came to head when Otto Warmbier, the U.S. student, returned to the U.S. in a coma and died just a few days later. That has been a major political sticking point between the two countries. So if they can get those detainees released, it could help make that meeting happen. Dave?

BRIGGS: (Inaudible). David McKenzie live for us in Seoul this morning. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Mounting pressure on Facebook this morning. The social network struggling with claims that user data was exploited for political purposes. So how are investors reacting? We'll be going to check on CNN Money next. [04:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: From Rex Tillerson, to Betsy DeVos, to Andrew McCabe, no shortage of Trump related material for SNL.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, can you give us the exact reason McCabe was fired?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, all cause. Mr. McCabe was in clear violation, because of his lack of candor, well, I don't know. I can't dance around it. Trump made me do it.


I'm just a simple man who wanted to make things bad for immigrants and now, here I am taking away the pension of a Christian white. It ain't right.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm fine. I just -- it's just crazy how one day you are the CEO of Exxon, a $50 billion company, and the next day you get fired by a man who used to sell stakes in the mail.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rex Tillerson, obviously still processing this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Betsy, what happened with the interview?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I think the problem is that the words that were coming out of my mouth were bad and that is because they came from my brain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you like your job?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I do not. I do spend most of it getting screamed at while climbing into an escalade, but I do like -- I do like visiting good school and doing worksheets with cute little blacks and the occasional stinky poor white.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stinky poor white, well, Secretary DeVos, you really want to say that on TV?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I did a fudge. Oh!



BRIGGS: Wow. Well, one of the things, Betsy DeVos is now charged with is helping stop school violence. She is leading that study on it.

ROMANS: That's right.

BRIGGS: That's a topic I talked with Dwayne Wade, NBA he -- NBA legend, with the Heat and Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Adam Hunt, you see him there on the left.

[04:55:02] Dwayne Wade and Adam at these gallery exhibit that honors the victims of the Parkland shooting, but also is a called to action. They have direct phone lines so you can pick up the phone, call congress and tell them what you want to see them do about gun violence.

But Dwayne Wade, in particular comes in this from an interesting perspective, he is not just a father of three kids in Broward County, but he is also from Chicago. Arguably the most violent city right now, when it comes to guns, where violence has spiked there. I asked him about that and his perspective being from Chicago and now living near Parkland. Here is what he said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want this to sound callous, nut you talk about Chicago, where you are from where gun deaths every day, did it garner the country's attention that it did happen in a -- affluent town like Parkland, a largely white school?

DWAYNE WADE, NBA PLAYER: 100 percent. And one of the cool things about going to this school and hearing the kids talk, they know it. Kids at Parkland know it. You know, they understand. And that is why -- what really what made me -- really want to get behind the support. They understand they are the voice for so many. They understand that, you know what, this happens very often in the city of Chicago. This is something that happens all the time from the standpoint of our youth lives have been taken by violence.




BRIGGS: And that is what is important. You know, Adam said, look we know this. We know the country is paying more attention, because we are -- white affluent normally safe town. That is their burden, that's' March for our lives. It is Saturday in Washington, D.C. They expect half a million kids. Dwayne Wade gave $200,000. And we will have more on the interview on New Day.

ROMANS: All right, great interview. All right. Let's get a check on CNN Money this Monday morning. Investors feeling some anxiety, Dow features are slipping, S&P500 also set to open lower. Stocks markets in Europe are down. Shares in Asia are down overnight.

The Federal Reserve kicks off its two-day policy meeting on Tuesday. Investors expect a rate hike. It will be the first under new Fed Chief, Jerome Powell. Wall Street worried that the Fed may have to increase to phase the rate hikes, to keep up with President Trump's economic policies and the potential of rising inflation.

Facebook in crisis this morning as the company tries to defend itself against claims it is not protecting your data. Shares of the social network are down just slightly in pre-market trading. It's been a rocky start to the year for Facebook. After hitting a record high in February, shares struggled.

The new controversy surrounds user data, reportedly passed from a professor to Cambridge Analytics, a firm with ties to Donald Trump's Presidential campaign. It seems investors still digesting that news, but lawmakers want answers and the Attorney General is Massachusetts has already started an investigation.

Some are calling it the anti-trust trial of the decade. It starts this week. AT&T and Time Warner head to court fighting the Justice Department over the company's merger plans. Both stocks popped back in October when that deal is announced, but it pulled back, since the Department of Justice sued to block this deal.

Opening arguments start Wednesday, but the two sides will be in court today and tomorrow for hearings. The DOJ claims the deal will hurt consumers and it will have to prove that in court. AT&T and Time Warner deny that claim. They say the deal is a class vertical integration. Time Warner is the parent company of CNN and CNN Money.

BRIGGS: And since that case begin, there has been many mergers, acquisitions --


BRIGGS: -- that some say all are larger and more horizontal.

ROMANS: It's really been fascinating, the opposition to this -- and you know, this could take -- six weeks. We will see what happens here.

BRIGGS: It's hard to not view everything through a political spectrum today. Early Start continues right now with the latest from Austin, Texas -- yet another explosion overnight.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We now need the community, to have an extra level of vigilance and pay attention to any suspicious device.


BRIGGS: Breaking overnight. Another explosion in Austin, Texas. The fourth in recent weeks. Police say it may have been detonated by a trip wire. They are looking for a serial bomber.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the allegations, collusions with the Russians and you are innocent of that, act like it.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If you try to do that that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency.


ROMANS: A chorus of Republicans warned the President not to fire the Russia's Special Counsel. The President attacked Robert Mueller by name for the very first time.

BRIGGS: And fierce criticism for Facebook over not protecting user data. It comes after a firm with ties to the Trump campaign gained access to valuable information of about 50 million users.

Concerning stories we start this week. Good morning and welcome to Early Start. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Monday, March 19th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the east. And breaking overnight. Police in Austin, Texas are looking for a serial bomber. Authorities are now working under the belief, a new blast connected to earlier explosions that killed two people.