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Congress to Protect Special Counsel; Averting a Shutdown Over Spending Bill; Facebook Under Scrutiny; Facebook Plays Defense; Trump Steps up Mueller Attacks; Wade Stands Up for Victims; Interview With Sen. Chris Coons. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired March 19, 2018 - 08:30   ET

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


[08:30:00] SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Statements by the president on Twitter this weekend, I think every Republican senator should be on one of these two bills. I think there is a consensus draft that we would like to move forward with. But if Chairman Grassley means what he has said in a recent statement, that the Mueller investigation should be allowed to go forward without interference, the best way to signal our determination from the Senate, to ensure the rule of law and to protect this particular special counsel and future special counsels would be for senators of both parties to join these bills.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Senator Graham, over the weekend, calling on the Senate Judiciary to hold public hearings for the sake of transparency into the firing of Andrew McCabe. Do you agree with that?

COONS: I do. We don't know all the facts yet. The timing of the firing is somewhat suspect. Very late on a Friday evening, just a day before he would be able to get his full retirement benefits after 20 years with the FBI. But there is an inspector general report. We don't know the contents of it. And I think it's important for us to put to rest any questions about whether Andrew McCabe's firing was actually part of an obstruction of justice matter.

HILL: Is it -- is it also possible that in this hyper charged political climate, even a report from the inspector general there, even a report from the FBI in terms of ethically what happened, the lack of candor, as they said, with Andrew McCabe, that no matter when it came, it could look as if it was being politicized?

COONS: That's part of our challenge here is that with repeated attacks on the FBI, at the most senior levels by our president, we face a long-term degradation of the confidence in the rule of law in this country. The FBI has for decades now enjoyed a very strong, bipartisan reputation as being professional, non-partisan, independent. And I think this current fact pattern where you've got the president going after senior leaders of the FBI publically and repeatedly, as well as senior leaders of the Department of Justice, is undermining our confidence that this is an independent force that upholds the rule of law, rather than supporting one party or another.

HILL: There is -- there is a confidence issue, too, when it comes to the American people and lawmakers, as you know. And I point to recent investigations. So, obviously, the House has been much more politically charged in terms of its investigation into Russia than we've seen in the Senate.

COONS: An understatement (ph).

HILL: That being said, even if there were to be an investigation in the Senate, into the firing of Andrew McCabe, do you believe that it would be received in a bipartisan manner?

COONS: Well, part of that depends on how the senators conduct themselves. The Judiciary Committee has been able to work well together on a number of important issues in the past. I respect our chairman, Chuck Grassley of Iowa. But I do think the way that our own investigation into obstruction on the Judiciary Committee has ground to a halt does raise those concerns.

HILL: There are also concerns about funding the government past this week.

COONS: Yes.

HILL: I mean, is that going to happen? Is there -- is there anything that could be -- that could hold it up that you're holding out for?

COONS: Well, as an appropriator, I'm optimistic that we will wrap up this omnibus bill by the end of the week, that we will not have another short term CR. But there are dozens of issues, so-called riders, that came over from the House that we have not been able to get agreement to clear. So part of what has happened, Erica, because we're not legislating as often as we should, or in this bipartisan way as we should, is that folks try to stick big policy moves into must- pass appropriations bills. We need to clear these riders and move ahead and fund the government for the rest of the current fiscal year.

HILL: Really quickly, we're almost out of time, but I do just want to get you on the record here. A lot of concern over what Facebook knew, when it knew it in terms of this data with Cambridge Analytica.

COONS: Yes.

HILL: A number of lawmakers calling for hearings into that. Senator Klobuchar says she wants Mark Zuckerberg to testify.

COONS: Yes.

HILL: Should he?

COONS: Absolutely. We need to know more about how Cambridge Analytica got access to 50 million Americans' private information from Facebook and what role that played in targeting voter suppression or voter engagement efforts by the Trump campaign or potentially by Russia.

HILL: Senator, appreciate your time. Thank you.

COONS: Thank you, Erica.

HILL: Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade standing in solidarity with Parkland massacre survivors. What is motivating his push for gun control? Our exclusive interview ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:38:13] CUOMO: Time now for the "Five Things to Know for Your New Day." Here's number one.

Another explosion rocked Austin, Texas. Two people hurt this time. People -- police believe it could be connected to this string of deadly bombings that have been going on this month. Authorities say the latest explosive may have been different because it could have been triggered by a trip wire.

HILL: President Trump lashing out at the special counsel's Russia investigation, attacking Robert Mueller by name for the first time in a weekend tweet storm. Key Republicans now warning the president against firing Robert Mueller.

CUOMO: President Trump heads to New Hampshire today for the rollout of a plan to tackle the country's opioid epidemic. The president's plan includes stiffer penalties for drug traffickers, including the death penalty for some.

HILL: And state-run exit poll finds Vladimir Putin won Sunday's Russian presidential election, meaning six more years in office. Putin declared victory in front of thousands, calling for Russian unity.

CUOMO: One of the biggest anti-trust cases in decades is going to trial this week. The federal government suing to stop AT&T from merging with Time Warner, which is, of course, CNN's parents company. The outcome has enormous implications for the media and tech industries.

HILL: For more on the "Five Things to Know," just head to cnn.com/newday for the latest.

CUOMO: All right, how about a little "CNN Money Now."

A new crisis for Facebook and its CEO, Mr. Mark Zuckerberg. Lawmakers in the U.S. and the U.K. raising serious questions about how the company protects your data.

Chief business correspondent Christine Romans in the Money Center.

What have you got?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi there. Well, this centers on Cambridge Analytica, a firm with ties to President Trump's campaign. Reports claim it gained access on information on 50 million Facebook users. The data would be extremely helpful for a presidential campaign because it can provide detailed information on big chunks of the population, letting the campaign target specific voters. The data was transferred from a professor to Cambridge Analytica. That transfer violated Facebook's policies.

[08:40:12] It ordered the firm to delete the data back in 2015, but recently discovered that did not happen. So Facebook booted Cambridge Analytica from using its platform and says it's launching an investigation.

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar is one of many lawmakers demanding answers. She tweeted this. It's clear these platforms cannot police themselves. I've called for more transparency and accountability for online political ads. They say trust us. Mark Zuckerberg needs to testify before the Senate Judiciary.

Investors are also taking notice, you guys. The stock is down more than 3 percent now in pre-market trading, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, thank you very much. Appreciate it, Christine, as always.

So, President Trump, they're saying he's untamed now that he's found this new boldness which is fueling his named attack of Bob Mueller. Up next, we talk to Mueller's former chief of staff.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:45:18] CUOMO: President Trump going against the advice of advisers, we believe, and unleashing on Special Counsel Bob Mueller by name. Why? What is his intention and what is his effect? Is he undermining the Russia probe? And, if so, it's obviously on purpose.

Let's get "The Bottom Line" with CNN national security analyst Lisa Monaco. She is Bob Mueller's former chief of staff.

Lisa Monaco, Bob Mueller, lefty shield (ph), surrounding himself with Democrats and that's what this is all about. It's an attack against the president and he is leading it. Do you believe that there is any proof of that suggestion?

LISA MONACO, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Absolutely not, Chris. Bob Mueller is a lifelong Republican, was appointed first as FBI director by a Republican president, President George W. Bush, and subsequently served under President Obama. And then importantly, Chris, his term was extended for two years in an unprecedented and unanimous vote of the Senate just a few years ago. So this is a man who has served his country beginning with his decorated service in Vietnam and has served his country as a public servant -- as a public servant, as a career prosecutor across multiple administrations and he is anything but political.

CUOMO: But his probe is lousy with lefties and he, as FBI director, went soft on all of the uranium dealings that tapped into the Clinton Foundation. Are those fair charges?

MONACO: They're absolutely not fair charges, Chris. And what we see here is an effort, I think, to undermine the credibility of the investigation and any results that it brings. And what we've already seen is a methodical investigation by career prosecutors, many of whom have prosecuted Democrats in the past, and what we see is their results in court. A number of guilty pleas by senior campaign officials, including the president's first national security adviser, and a really jaw-dropping indictment of 13 Russian individuals and entities just a few weeks ago about effects and efforts to meddle into the election.

So the proof here is in the actual results that we're seeing on a regular basis in court and that's where Mueller and his prosecutors are doing their work.

CUOMO: Help me understand something else. I had somebody else who worked for Mueller and I asked them, he must really be angry at what the president is doing. This might -- must make him really want to redouble his efforts, getting called out like this. And I was told, nope, you don't know Bob Mueller. He could care less what Donald Trump says about him or anybody else. When he's in the hunt, he's in the hunt.

How can someone say that -- stay that focused and not be affected by this kind of talk?

MONACO: Because Bob Mueller is a man who puts his head down and he does his job. He's not going to be affected one way or another by what the press says, by what the left says, by what the right says, by what the president says. He is going to follow the facts and follow the law. That's his training as a prosecutor and what he's spent his career doing and he -- that's how he's going to approach this investigation.

CUOMO: The idea of, if we had had collusion, we would have known by now. It's been 14 months. It's been too long and he hasn't come out with anything that's central to this.

MONACO: Look, that just isn't born out. What we see is a methodical investigation, including, as I pointed out earlier, guilty pleas and charges against individuals who had -- were at the highest level of the campaign and through the transition and into the early days of the government and this indictment that really is a page turning read of the Russian individuals and entities a few weeks ago lays out in stunning, really stunning detail about the efforts to meddle into this election.

So, you know, we ought to wait for all the facts to come out from Mueller and his team to do their job, and they ought to be able to do so unencumbered by attacks, both from the president and from others who seek to undermine the investigation and their careful work.

CUOMO: Yes, that's a fair point there, he could have found -- his investigators, obviously, could have found evidence of collusion or willingness by the -- by anybody, but it doesn't rise to the level of a crime, so he wouldn't have heard about any of it because there's no action to be taken on it but could be in his report.

Let me ask you something else. The idea of the president let's say removing Jeff Sessions and putting in an AG who's not recused so they could stop the probe themselves, or pushing the acting AG in this regard, Rod Rosenstein, to move on Mueller. Whatever it is. If Bob Mueller feels that he's been removed for bad reason because the statue, 600.7 lies out pretty clearly what it's got to be to remove the special counsel, is he the kind of person who might fight back against such a move? [08:50:17] MONACO: Look, Chris, I think that if you were to see the

president direct Rod Rosenstein to fire Bob Mueller, that would be in effect a gut punch to the rule of law because it would signal to this country, and frankly to the world, that we are not, in fact, a country that is a rule of law country, but one ruled by fiat where the president believes he is above the law. So that would be, I think, catastrophic for the rule of law in this country.

And in terms of fighting back, Bob Mueller is going to continue to do his work in court methodically, following the fact, following the law. And we should let him do that.

CUOMO: Yes, but it will be interesting. If that were to happening, it would be interesting what his move would be, because he'd be the only one really with standing to do anything legally.

Lisa Monaco, thank you very much for your perspective, as always.

MONACO: Thanks.

CUOMO: Erica.

HILL: NBA star Dwyane Wade opening up about why the Florida massacre has had such a significant impact on him personally, and what he's doing now to pay tribute to the victims. A CNN exclusive interview, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:55:11] HILL: Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade pushing for tighter gun laws after the Florida high school massacre. CNN's Dave Briggs caught up with Wade in Miami to find out why he's been so deeply impacted by this attack.

And Dave joins us now with his exclusive interview.

Dave, good morning.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, guys.

Yes, Dwyane Wade has a really unique perspective on all of this. He's a father to three kids in Broward County schools, but he also grew up surrounded by gun violence in inner city Chicago. This weekend I talked with Wade as he paid tribute to the victims of the shooting with a powerful art exhibit in Miami called Parkland 17.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS (voice over): Three-time NBA champion Dwyane Wade is throwing his support and his celebrity behind the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, motivated not only by his position as star player of the Miami Heat, but also his role as dad.

DWYANE WADE, MIAMI HEAT SHOOTING GUARD: How can we move on as adults, as parents when we know our kids are not safe at school. This is not nothing that happened one time. This has not happened multiple times. And I can't imagine what these families are dealing with, are going through. But what I try to do is I try to put myself in that situation and the heartache and the hurt just even trying to imagine it is too much to bear.

BRIGGS: And central to Wade's experience, his own upbringing in the inner city of Chicago.

BRIGGS (on camera): I don't want this to sound callous, but you talk about Chicago, where you're from, where gun deaths every day. Did it garner the country's attention that it did happen in an affluent town like Parkland, a largely white school, wealthy kids?

WADE: Yes. Yes.

BRIGGS: How did that change, do you think, the debate?

WADE: What I was saying -- and that one of the cool things about going to the school and hearing the kids talk, they know it. Kids at Parkland know it. You know, they understand. And that's why I -- really what made me really want to get behind it and support it more because they understand that they're a voice for so many.

BRIGGS (voice over): Wade is putting his money where his mouth is, donating $200,000 to this Saturday's March For Our Lives rally in Washington, a call for action on gun violence spearheaded by 17-year- old student Adam Alhanti.

ADAM ALHANTI, JUNIOR AT MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: I think March For Our Lives is a step in a marathon. The gun laws will change once we vote out the people who don't want to change gun laws.

BRIGGS: Alhanti and Wade both welcome the action taken by Florida lawmakers to raise the age on some firearm purchases, although they oppose arming teachers.

WADE: You're saying that we're going to give these teachers gun. And if someone comes in shooting, they're going to grab these guns and go out and they're going to -- they're not going to shoot anybody else. They're trained to just kill the person. That -- there's people who are trained to do that now and can't do it and won't do it.

BRIGGS: Wade is sponsoring this art exhibit honoring the victims of the massacre, including 17-year-old Joaquin Oliver, who is buried in one of Wade's number three jerseys. Wade paid tribute to Oliver, writing his name on his sneakers and dedicating the season to Joaquin.

WADE: I'm just honoring him. I'm honoring him. I'm paying respect to a family. I'm paying respect to a young man that I didn't get an opportunity to meet, but I feel some kind of connection to. And as I wrote on that board, I will not let them forget.

BRIGGS (on camera): What did you see in those students when you visited the high school?

WADE: I seen life in that moment. You know, it was -- you know, it was just a moment where I knew the school have -- is dealing with a tragedy that, you know, most of us, you know, can't even imagine. And when I walked in, it was life. It was like, I didn't expect it to be like that.

BRIGGS (voice over): Last month, Fox News host Laura Ingraham said basketball players like Wade should stay out of politics and just shut up and dribble.

BRIGGS (on camera): You are not going to shut up and dribble. Why not?

WADE: Because I do more than dribble. It's just not who I am. You know, it's never been who I am. For me it's bigger than basketball. It's bigger than dribbling. And I've been given an opportunity to use my voice. I've been given an opportunity to stand for so many that cannot, stand for so many that they will not allow to talk and have a voice. And I understand the power of mine. So I will not.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: And pushing this forward, it's not just the march in D.C. Saturday, but also sibling marches in L.A., Boston, Chicago, also as far away as London, Madrid, Rome, Tel Aviv, Mumbai, Hong Kong, to name a few.

And, guys, the students, they say it's not just about gun control. They want their peers to register the vote. Just be part of the conversation. Don't be quiet. (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: That is going to be the key. That is a great piece. It's very timely.

BRIGGS: A lot of these people are 17. They'll be 18 in the midterms.

HILL: Yes.

CUOMO: They have to register to vote and they have to vote on this issue. That's the big division between the gun control advocates and the gun rights issue (ph).

[09:00:04] BRIGGS: It's a single issue of gun voters that have been on the other side, traditionally. We'll see if that changes.

HILL: Yes.

CUOMO: Dave Briggs is right and that is a great story. Thanks for bringing it to us, my friend.

HILL: Thanks, Dave.

BRIGGS: Nice to be here. Appreciate it.