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EARLY START

Cambridge Analytica Bragging About Dirty Tricks; 24 Expelled Russian Diplomats to Depart London; Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired March 20, 2018 - 04:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[04:30:34] CHRISTOPHER WYLIE, CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA WHISTLEBLOWER: I'm probably the only gay guy in London that had a membership card to a strip club. I will do whatever it takes to get a contract.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Sex workers, entrapment and global propaganda. An undercover report shows Cambridge Analytica execs outlining dirty election tactics. So when will Mark Zuckerberg go public about Cambridge sharing your Facebook data, some 50 million users?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The president's legal team sitting down for the first time with the special counsel's lawyers. Now the president is bringing in a flame thrower attorney who publicly says the DOJ is framing Donald Trump.

BRIGGS: And overnight, the Weinstein Company lifting all nondisclosure agreements with Harvey Weinstein. The question now, how many more women are ready to come forward with abuse allegations? Also filing for bankruptcy protection.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody, on a Tuesday. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It's 31 minutes past the hour. A very busy morning and the crisis at Facebook intensifying after it failed to protect user data.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg still missing in action. It's been days since news broke that a firm tied to President Trump's campaign, a firm called Cambridge Analytica, accessed data to 50 million users. But so far Zuckerberg has been silent and the story has cost him about $5 billion off his personal net worth so far.

Facebook shares fell 7 percent yesterday, shaving $37 billion off its market value, sparking both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq's worst day since February. Investors think stricter regulations for Facebook are likely. It faces tough question on how it protects user data from being exploited.

BRIGGS: And the "Washington Post" reports that thousands of developers siphoned data every day. Everything from games like Farmville to dating app Tinder. But unlike those firms, Cambridge Analytica broke Facebook's rules by claiming the data was for academic use.

ROMANS: Now Cambridge Analytica said they deleted all that user data and agreed to a forensic audit. But this latest crisis is a new threat to Facebook's reputation. Already tarnished for allowing Russia to manipulate its platform during the 2016 election. And the whistleblower from Cambridge Analytica told CNN's Don Lemon he is worried they contributed to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WYLIE: I'm concerned that we made Russia aware of the programs that we were working on and that might have sparked an idea that, you know, eventually led to some of the disinformation programs that we have seen and the interference that we have seen from Russia in American elections. So for me, I am concerned about that and if I played some kind of role in that, I feel like it is my duty to tell people about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Meanwhile, an advocate for a strong approach to Russia plans to leave Facebook. That's Facebook's head of security Alex Stamos. In a tweet, he did not deny leaving but promised he is still fully engaged with his work at Facebook.

BRIGGS: Further adding to the intrigue here, an undercover report by Channel 4 in Britain. A hidden camera showing senior Cambridge Analytica execs talking about how they can use bribery and entrapment to get comprising material on their client's political opponents.

Let's bring in CNN's Isa Soares for more live in London. Good morning, Isa.

ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Dave. Cambridge Analytica, the company just behind me in this gray building just over my right shoulders, as you can see, has been hit with an emergency data seizure order in the UK and a warrant is expected to be issued today for them to pass on data.

Authorities here believe they haven't been truthful, they haven't been honest in the last parliamentary committee just in February. This of course coming in the last 24 hours over an expose by Channel 4 News and the Channel 4 reporters you were mentioning, Dave, went undercover posing as a potential Sri Lankan client taking the services of Cambridge Analytica.

Then over a series of meetings which included several of the senior executives with Cambridge Analytica, including its CEO Alexander Nix, they went on to offer and describe what one called disturbing array of services they could provide. One, they said they could provide -- it was using honey traps. Sending in young women, Ukrainian young women, they said, to really operate a sex sting. They also offered to really include bribery to discredit politicians. [04:35:04] They said at one point they can send in a property

developer to offer money in exchange for land and film them and then use that against them, against of course the Sri Lankan opposition candidate. They also said they could promote and create fake news. Initially they said we're not in the business of fake news. But then they said, and I'm quoting them here. "It doesn't have to be true. It just has to be believed. If it happens without anyone thinking it's propaganda." It has to happen, I correct myself, with anyone thinking it's propaganda. The minute they think it's propaganda, they'll be asking who is behind this. They were proud and boasting about ghosting in and ghosting out when it comes to presidential elections.

Now it really showed them to be pervert and corrupt according to Channel 4. For its part, Cambridge Analytica has said that this piece by Channel 4 was edited and grossly misleading -- Dave.

BRIGGS: It sounds like we're just at the beginning of this investigation.

Isa Soares, thanks so much.

Meanwhile, attorneys for President Trump meeting face-to-face for the first time with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team. The two sides sitting down last week to hash out which topics investigators could cover with the president. According to sources, Mueller's team added specifics to the topics already discussed like the firing of former FBI director James Comey.

ROMANS: The meeting makes it clear the investigation is nowhere near ending. President Trump hiring a new personal attorney who's claimed the president is being framed -- the president is being framed, he says, by a group of FBI and Justice Department officials.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH E. DIGENOVA, NEW PERSONAL ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: There was a brazen plot to illegally exonerate Hillary Clinton and if she didn't win the election to then frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Trump attorney Jay Sekulow confirms Joseph DiGenova is joining the legal team. It is expected he will engage with the media and actively defend the president in the Russia investigation.

BRIGGS: Overnight, "The New York Times" reported the president has discussed dismissing White House lawyer Ty Cobb and that the president's lead personal attorney John Dowd has considered leaving because he cannot control Mr. Trump's behavior.

ROMANS: Fellow Republicans warning the president not to fire the special counsel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: It would be the stupidest thing the president could do is fire him.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: How would Republicans react you think if he'd fire Mueller?

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think it would be total upheaval in the Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: So there is little support among Republicans to pass legislation blocking the president from firing Mueller.

BRIGGS: President Trump laying out his plan to combat opioid abuse in America. He wants stiffen penalties for high intensity drug traffickers including the death penalty for some and is promising a large advertising campaign focusing on prevention and education. He is also pushing for his border wall while touting the work of Adapt Pharma which makes a drug that can save someone who's overdosing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today we applaud Adapt Pharma's decision to provide free, free NARCAN to all high schools, colleges and universities in America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: It's not clear whether the president knew he was praising a program backed by the Clinton Foundation, which he has fiercely criticized as a corrupt pay-for-play scheme. First Lady Melania Trump making a rare appearance that include public remarks about her personal commitment to those battling the opioid crisis.

BRIGGS: Uber suspending tests of its self-driving cars after what is thought to be the first fatal crash involving a fully autonomous vehicle. A self-driving Uber SUV struck and killed 49-year-old Elaine Hershberg Sunday as she walked her bike across the street in Tempe, Arizona. A test driver from Uber was behind the wheel, but not in control. Preliminary data shows the car going about 45 miles an hour in a 35-mile-an-hour zone.

ROMANS: Police say there are no significant signs the SUV slowed down before impact. Uber says it is fully cooperating with local officials and, quote, "Our hearts go out to the victim's family." Last year, Uber briefly pulled its self-driving test vehicles after one of its cars landed on its side in an accident also in Tempe. Waymo, a corporate cousin of Google, is launching a public self driving car this year in Phoenix.

BRIGGS: Seven-term Illinois Democratic Congress member Dan Lipinski fighting for his life in tonight's primary election. He faces a challenge from progressive candidate Marie Newman. Lipinski's conservative stances have made him the target of activists fighting to purge the party of what they see as views that are anathema to its energized base. In Lipinski's view, the party focused far too much on identity politics in the 2016 presidential election, losing focus on the economy.

ROMANS: That's a fascinating rural district there.

All right. Winter is going out like a lion. A reported tornado in the south and a nor'easter set to move up the coast with a lot of snow and some ice.

[04:40:05] The forecast next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Happy spring. It starts today. But you cannot tell it from the weather. At least in the southeast and the East Coast. A possible tornado touching down in Jacksonville, Alabama, injuring at least one person, trapping others. At Jacksonville State University, the campus police spent the night going room to room at residence halls, checking on students after the storm damaged dorm roofs as well as campus' sports coliseum. Fortunately many students were away for spring break.

[04:45:14] BRIGGS: Power outages reported in Alabama and Georgia. The storm part of a larger system moving north due to turn into yet another nor'easter tonight into Wednesday.

For the latest, we go live to the CNN Weather Center and meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.

Pedram, deliver the latest batch of bad news for us.

(LAUGHTER)

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I was going to say good things come in four, right? Or bad things in this case. You know, we're watching this carefully here because the severe weather concern quickly begin to dwindle and, you know it has been a quiet last couple of months as you expect into the cold season. It is going to quickly ramp up. In fact you take a look, of course, April, May, June as we approach the peak season of severe weather. And only 75 tornadoes so far since January 1st. Should be at 145. A little over 50 percent of average. So in that sense it's been quiet.

What is left of the city, the weather is shifting off towards the East. Parts of the Carolinas, parts of the eastern Georgia as well from Savannah point to the north, just south of Augusta where we have a severe thunderstorm watch in place.

This is about to expire at around 9:00 a.m. this morning but you'll notice it's really much of the conducted activity, thunderstorm activity dwindles. And by this morning really much of the concern for the eastern Carolinas will begin to fall apart as well.

It's in the parts of Florida, we're watching carefully. Upwards of 12 million people in line for some severe weather throughout this afternoon. And when you break down the numbers in that sense it is really a quiet one as well for tornadoes. The potential is quite high, but only three tornadoes so far reported. The vast majority of the damage related to hail and wind. And the storm system not done with yet, unfortunately it's going to move into very cold air. It's already in place since you know across the northeast. And as it does, we do have the National Weather Service across this region that is really prompting a widespread coverage of winter weather advisories, winter storm warning, winter storm watches that are place for upwards of 70 million people.

So we'll follow this storm system as it pushes up toward the north and really beginning later on tonight around at 6:00, 7:00, 8:00 p.m., you'll see some snow showers across Philly. Begin to see that fill in towards Washington into the overnight hours. New York begins to see a few flurries into the overnight hours as well but through much of Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning is when we really could see the scenario play out depending on which track the system takes.

At this point, it looks more likely like it will want to hug the coastline. It'll be a little closer to the close vine. If that is the case, we could bring in a little heavier snow amounts up there towards places such as New York which could see as much as 10 inches much snowfall if the models remained in agreement here with this. They remain in coastal land but as you know very well, these storms do really wobble back and forth. And if it wobbles a little away, we might make that smile on your face there --

(LAUGHTER)

JAVAHERI: Be a little more meaningful than the reason I know you are smiling.

ROMANS: We don't get snow days. Like, if I were like 11, I think this is awesome.

BRIGGS: You know who does, though? The kids and Pedram, they're already minus two in the bank for snow days.

JAVAHERI: My goodness.

BRIGGS: They're minus two, so it's -- we love our children. We just want them to learn. That's all.

JAVAHERI: Yes: I'm with you on that. Yes.

ROMANS: And everyone watching from lovely Southern California is laughing that we live here.

BRIGGS: Yes. Thanks, buddy, we appreciate it.

JAVAHERI: Thank you.

BRIGGS: OK. The Weinstein Company filing for bankruptcy protection. They're hoping for an organized sale process to a private equity firm. At the same time, the Weinstein board says it is ending all nondisclosure agreements related to sexual misconduct by Harvey Weinstein effective immediately, which could mean more victims coming forward. The company calls it an important step toward justice for any victims who have been silenced, adding no one should be afraid to speak out.

ROMANS: To Austin, Texas, now. Police Department says Houston and San Antonio, Texas, were sending bomb technicians and k-9 teams to Austin to help in the serial bomber investigation after a fourth explosion in less than three weeks. Now the latest attack injured two white men, making it the first not to kill or injure minorities. The Austin police chief is asking neighborhood residents with any security camera footage to contact police.

BRIGGS: Women in Mississippi can no longer get abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Governor Phil Bryant signing a new law tightening what were already the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation. The measure only makes exceptions for medical emergencies or severe fetal abnormality. No exceptions for rape or incest.

Mississippi's Planned Parenthood director calls the ban unconstitutional, says it endangers women's health.

ROMANS: The younger brother of Parkland High School gunman Nicholas Cruz arrested Monday for trespassing on the ground of Stoneman Douglas High School. According to a complaint affidavit 18-year-old Zachary Cruz wanted to reflect on the school shooting and soak it in. He's been released after posting bond. According to court documents he feels some responsibility for what his brother did because he and his friends bullied Nikolas and he wishes he had been nicer to him.

BRIGGS: Officials in Bermuda announcing that a 19-year-old American student who went missing over the weekend has been found dead.

[04:50:02] Police say Mark Dombroski's body was found in a moat at Fort Prospect. They say foul play has not been ruled out and a forensic team is processing the scene. Dombroski was a freshman at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, was on Bermuda to compete in a rugby tournament. Police say after competition Saturday he went out to socialize with friends and family. He's last seen on surveillance video alone just after 1:00 a.m.

ROMANS: So terrible.

All right. Facebook's latest crisis is hitting its stock price and its worst day in four years are dragging down all in Wall Street. "CNN Money" is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:55:16] BRIGGS: 4:55 Eastern Time and 24 Russian diplomats expelled by the UK set to depart London today. The action comes one- day after chemical weapons experts traveled to Britain. They'll test samples of the substance used to poison that former spy and his daughter.

CNN's Melissa Bell live in Salisbury, England, with the latest. Good morning, Melissa. MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave.

Those inspectors that arrived yesterday. It is however the verification of those samples that have been collected by British authorities, something that's likely to take some time, Dave. At least two weeks, we're told the inspectors will get those samples from the British, they're being held at point gun right here. And just outside Salisbury, having been collected from scenes like the one just behind me where the Skripals had lunch on the day that they were found poisoned.

Those samples then get sent to laboratory chosen by the organization to furbish those chemical weapons and then we will find out if these international experts back the president's claim for which they really haven't provided any proof to the international community. There will be a lot of attention, a lot of focus on what the OPCW inspectors come up with.

Meanwhile, of course, as you say on the diplomatic front today, we're hearing from the Russian news agency that it is a flight that will be taking these 23 Russian diplomats, the ones that were expelled by Britain in retaliation for the poisoning of the Skripals and their family, 18 people in over here and they'll be leaving on a special aeroflot plane back to Moscow. And this day really Dave, it's just likely to be the beginning of a much longer diplomatic row between Britain and Moscow.

Indeed Britain's prime minister has said that she is leaving the door open for further measures against Moscow as she tries to gather support for further moves by the European union as well -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Yes. One would think more is still to come. Melissa Bell, for us in England. thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Just about the top of the hour, let's get a check on money this morning. Facebook's worst day in four years dragging down stocks. Facebook fell 7 percent on news of the firm tied to President Trump's campaign with access to 50 million users. Facebook along with Amazon, and Netflix, Alphabet. They all shed more than $100 billion in value, and how big tech goes so goes the market these days.

The Dow, the Nasdaq, the S&P 500 all fell at least 1.4 percent. The Dow is now negative for the year again. Wall Street was already concerned about higher interest rates and possible trade wars especially with reports that tariffs on $60 billion in Chinese goods are imminent. Right now global stocks and U.S. futures are mixed.

AT&T's anti-trust trial just began, it's already sparring with the Department of Justice over e-mails and power points. The DOJ lawsuit will block AT&T's $85 billion purchase of Time Warner, parent of CNN. And attorneys for AT&T want to throw out several pieces of evidence from the DOJ, including thousands of e-mails sent by AT&T employees. AT&T says many are not major decision makers, but the government says it proves the merger will harm consumers by raising prices. Adding that the deal is necessary to compete in the new media landscape. Another nostalgic brand filing for bankruptcy. Teen jewelry chain

Claire's filed for bankruptcy protection Monday. It plans to use the filing to reduce most of its $2 billion in debt, promised that 1600 stores we'll say open during the process. According to It will use most of the $2 billion in debt. It promised the stores will stay open.

This is a staple at the mall. It just the last retailer to succumb to a massive pile of debt like Toy R'Us. Last week the iconic Toys R' Us said it will close or sell all its U.S. stores. So there's a whole generation of women today who got their ears pierced at Claire's.

BRIGGS: And dads who went down there and spent $12 on hair bands.

ROMANS: Yes. Yes.

BRIGGS: Bracelets and necklaces that made their dad as thrilled. Love that place indeed.

ROMANS: All right. Another retailer.

BRIGGS: EARLY START continues right now. The latest on Facebook, and the president taking aim at Bob Mueller.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTOPHER WYLIE, CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA WHISTLEBLOWER: I'm probably the only gay guy in London that had a membership card to a strip club. It would do whatever it takes to get a contract.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Sex workers, entrapment and global propaganda. An undercover report shows Cambridge Analytica execs outlining dirty election tactics. So when will Mark Zuckerberg go public about Cambridge sharing Facebook data of some 50 million users.

ROMANS: The president's legal team sitting down for the first time with the special counsel's lawyers. Now the president is bringing in a flame thrower attorney who public says the DOJ is framing Donald Trump.

BRIGGS: Yes, big stuff here.

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: And overnight, the Weinstein Company lifting all nondisclosure agreements with Harvey Weinstein. The question now, how many more women are ready to come forward with abuse allegations.

Thanks, everybody, for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: Nice to see you all this morning. I'm Christine Romans. It is Tuesday, March 20th. The first day of spring. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.