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Trump Infuriated by Leak About Putin Call; Future Elections Potential Targets for Russia Hacking; 70 Million People Under Winter Storm Warnings; Trump Faces Lawsuits from Porn Star, Playmate, Reality Star; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired March 21, 2018 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The American public deserves to know this so I think it's two-front. They can find the leak if they want to, but I'm more concerned about the president's acquiescence to Vladimir Putin's wishes.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I will say this, and again, a lot has happened since 2012. A lot that's happened since 2012 between Crimea and Russian election meddling, and now this nerve agent attack in just the last few weeks. But Barack Obama when he was president did call Vladimir Putin in 2012 with a congratulations. So it's not as if these types of calls don't happen ever. But this one certainly happened without any kind of, you know --



BERMAN: Go ahead, Bakari.

SELLERS: But, John, I mean, let's not forget that Barack Obama issued some of the toughest sanctions that we've ever seen against Russia. Its economy was spiraling. It was close to bankruptcy. He actually dispelled and kicked out Russian nationals from the United States of America for their meddling.

So, I mean, yes, Barack Obama did call him and congratulate him on a victory. However, when you look at the totality of the circumstances, there's no question that Barack Obama -- he should have done more, but he also did more than this president is doing to protect our interest.

BERMAN: We don't know --

SELLERS: I think Alice and I are correct in saying that he should -- all we're asking is for Donald Trump to do more.

BERMAN: And there's no evidence that President Trump has ever said any cross word to or about Vladimir Putin.

Guys, stand by, we're going to come back to this discussion in just a moment. But the Homeland Security secretary is on Capitol Hill testifying, and moments ago she did speak about Russian election meddling. Let's listen.


KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: In 2016, we know that Russian actors targeted state election systems. We have no evidence that votes were changed as a result of their efforts. However, the threat of interference remains and we recognize that the 2018 midterm and future elections are clearly potential targets for Russian hacking attempts.


BERMAN: All right. Joining me now, our senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill.

There's been a lot out of this hearing, Manu.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. And the administration defending its response on how exactly to deal with the threat going forward and members themselves of this committee issuing a series of recommendations they believe the states should take ahead of the 2018 elections to ensure that nothing happens like this again.

One thing that they are debating here is whether or not enough was done in 2016 to ensure that the states prevented Russian efforts to influence the elections back then. That's why you have Jeh Johnson, former Homeland Security secretary, also saying that he preferred that the administration -- the government took steps to label state systems as so-called critical infrastructure to ensure the federal government could do more to clamp down and prevent this kind of activity.

But outside of the hearing, John, there have been a lot of discussions about another controversy, Vladimir Putin and that conversation that President Trump had with Vladimir Putin, the congratulatory phone call. I had a chance to ask Chuck Grassley, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, whether or not he was OK with the fact that the president congratulated Vladimir Putin but also did not call him out on election meddling.


SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I don't think I'll talk about Trump making a phone call but I'm very happy to make a comment on what you asked me. I think Putin is a criminal. You can -- what he did in Georgia, what he did in Ukraine, what he's done in the Baltics, what he's done -- what he's done in London, poisoning people with nerve gas, that's a criminal activity. I wouldn't have a conversation with a criminal.


RAJU: Some strong words there. And something you're also hearing from a number of Republicans on the Hill who do not believe the president should have done this. We'll see if the president responds in any way but clearly not much support for what the perfect did in congratulating Vladimir Putin for that election victory -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Manu Raju, the latest from the Hill and that hearing, thanks so much. Back now with the panel.

Guys, we've talked through I think the phone call and the implications there. If I can shift gears, Matt Viser, to the legal battle right now, just one of the legal battles the president is facing. This having to deal with the special counsel investigation. We got word yesterday that he wanted to hire Ted Olson, the most, you know, power house of power house lawyers in Washington. Olson won't join his legal team.

You know, by the way, Olson like the one guy who can put on his resume "I won a presidential election," you know, in 2012, or played a key role -- 2000 in a key role on "Bush V Gore."

Matt Viser, I don't feel like you can go from trying to hire Ted Olson on Tuesday and then Wednesday say, you know, oh, no, don't worry about it, everything is OK right now. Isn't this a sign that the president has got real issues, concerns about his legal representation?

MATT VISER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, this legal battle is not a new one. The Mueller investigation has been the most enduring aspect of President Trump's presidency so far.

[10:35:04] And yet you're kind of in the heat of things and trying to shift gears all of a sudden right now and that's not a good sign. And he's also keeps adding layers upon layers of his legal team without sort of shedding some of it. So the fact that he's trying to add somebody -- the fact that he's turned down by somebody as prominent as Ted Olson, all of that not a great sign heading into a potentially very dicey period for him as they try and figure out whether President Trump is going to undergo questioning from the special counsel. And as the investigation shows all signs of heating up.

BERMAN: Alice Stewart, we're lucky to have you, we have time for one last quick question. We're always lucky to have you. But you worked for the Cruz campaign.


BERMAN: Ted Cruz was the first U.S. candidate to hire Cambridge Analytica which is in the news right now. The Cruz campaign used data and information provided by that organization. I just wonder what your take is now on all of this information we're finding out about the fact that 50 million Facebook users may have had their data, you know, in the hands of Cambridge Analytica and everything that's happened since.

STEWART: John, I think it's important with that yes, we used Cambridge Analytica during the presidential campaign only for data mining and analytics, and it was clear and explicit in the contract that we used that all the information we received and that they gathered was done lawfully and according to all the laws and regulations. And once our presidential campaign was over, we severed ties with them.

And a lot of what we're hearing from Cambridge Analytica happened since then. And I think it is troubling. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered about how they have obtained information and Facebook needs to come forward and answer a lot of questions. This is concerning. We're talking about 500 million people that use Facebook and their personal information being used for reasons that they are not aware of.

And I think that's concerning, but also, I know that Cambridge Analytica likes to brag about how they won the Donald Trump presidency.

BERMAN: Right.

STEWART: And that's not the case. The RNC came in with a lot of great information and they helped with the data and analytics that put him over the finish line. Cambridge Analytica I think is patting themselves way too much in the back.

BERMAN: Alice Stewart, Bakari Sellers, Matt Viser, thanks for being with us, guys. You know, Alice, careful of that snow.

Seventy million people under this winter storm watch or warning as the northeast braces for this monster storm. We're not bracing for it really anymore, we're right in the middle of it. It's all around us. We got team coverage next.


[10:41:38] BERMAN: All right. It's getting pretty ugly out there. More than 70 million people under winter storm warnings or advisories as the fourth nor'easter in three weeks heads our way.

We got team coverage watching it all. First to Ryan Nobles in Washington, D.C. -- Ryan.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, this storm may be starting a little bit later than some were expecting but the snow is coming down at a pretty steady pace right now. We're right in front of the United States capital normally on a day like today, you could see the dome no problem. You can barely see it right now.

Interestingly enough both the House and Senate are in session today but pretty much everything else in the nation's capital is shut down. That means the federal government is shut down, D.C. government shut down. All the school districts in northern Virginia and Maryland and D.C. are shut down as well.

And honestly, in many ways this has the making for a perfect snow day because this snow is perfect for this kind of work right here. We've built this snowman on the National Mall. Didn't take very long at all because this snow is easily packable, it's heavy and wet. Easy to turn into a snowball or a snowman. And honestly it's not that cold.

There's not that much wind. Everything is shut down. So it has all the makings for a day where you can just get outside and play or stay inside with a hot chocolate and enjoy the day. We should say, though, if you're traveling at all on the northeast, a lot of travel precautions to take in mind. These roads are slick. They are a little bit wet. Many of the major airlines are also either delaying or canceling flights. So you should check that before you go. But right now the nation's capital, a snowy and what could be a pretty enjoyable day.

John, we'll send it back to you.

BERMAN: Ryan, see if you can get the MOS from the snowman over the next few minutes. We expect sound in your next tip.

Ryan Nobles, a terrific reporter, pretty good snowman-maker. Thanks, Ryan.

Now over to CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray who's in Villanova, Pennsylvania.

Jennifer, what do we have?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: John, it finally started snowing around 9:00 this morning. Before then it was just basically rain and sleet but the snow machine has really turned on. A lot of the snow on the ground is from the storm we had previously and even the one before that. So what's accumulated on top of that is a little less than an inch. I have a little measuring tool over by our truck. But you can see the snow already starting to accumulate on the tree branches, this is going to be a heavy, wet snow and we talk about that a lot with these spring storms.

It is going to possibly bring down those trees and power lines and so we could see additional power outages. And so that's a huge concern, about 600 flights have been canceled in the Philadelphia airport alone. And so air travel is basically not happening today and road travel is going to be very, very difficult. So the city is basically shut down. The government offices, the schools, people are just staying home.

And so this is going to continue, John, as we go through all day today and even into the overnight hours.

BERMAN: Oh, great. Jennifer Gray, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

So a porn star, a Playmate and a reality star, they are all putting serious legal pressure on the president of the United States.


[10:49:06] BERMAN: President Trump continues his attacks this morning on Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe but the president's mounting possible legal battles don't stop there. Not even close. Three different cases currently brewing involving three separate women.

And joining me now is CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin.

Counselor, thank you very much being with us. Russia is one thing. These other cases are getting increasingly serious, particularly the case having to do with Summer Zervos, the former "Apprentice" contestant who's suing the president for defamation. She says the president, you know, sexually harassed her. There were unwanted kisses, unwanted groping. The president calls her a liar. She's suing him for defamation.

A state court says that case can go forward. That has major implications, correct?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. What this case is, is a mirror of what President Clinton went through with Paula Jones. This is a lawsuit that is going to require depositions and the testimony of the president under oath.

[10:50:02] And it will be appealed no doubt but this is I think his most problematic of the three lawsuits that you've just mentioned.

BERMAN: And what happens now is that she may not be the only person in a similar situation who may feel the way she does. In theory other women who feel like they've been defamed could sue. The president risks the possibility of being deposed. Now I understand there will be appeals and this won't happen tomorrow. But what's the risk there?

ZELDIN: The risk is what happened to President Clinton, which is he doesn't tell the truth under oath and that's, you know, problematic and that what the hearing is about is when he said that she had an affair with him. He lied when he accused her of lying. So she's saying I had an affair. He said you're a lee ar. The court says well, let's find out if you had an affair and if what you said was true because truth is the only defense in the defamation action. So it brings up the entire affair.

BERMAN: It will be very interesting to see. In the defamation case that has to do with, was it a consensual relationship, this was unwanted sexual advance in that specific case. The consensual relationships, the alleged affairs have to do with Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougall. And there's been a lot of noise and sort of sensational things happening in the last 24 hours on that. We now have a polygraph test, which isn't admissible per se, but it is -- it goes to prove that there was a relationship there.

What would be enough to get these nondisclosure agreements thrown out, Counselor?

ZELDIN: Well, there were two approaches that are being undertaken. First is, is this a valid contract? And in Miss Clifford's case, Stormy Daniels' case, the question is, do they have a valid contract because it implies on the face of the contract that the president should have signed it. So it's essentially, do we have a contract?

The second one, the nondisclosure is, was this -- with McDougall is, was this in good faith negotiated or was she tricked in some way? So these are breach of contract actions. If the contracts are upheld then these women won't be allowed to talk. If they are not upheld, then they'll be free to talk. So you've got breach of contract on the one hand and then defamation, did the president commit a lie when he said Stormy Daniels -- when he said Summer Zervos did have an affair with him.

BERMAN: Right. Michael Zeldin, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

ZELDIN: Any time.

BERMAN: All right. Serena Williams' return to tennis after giving birth has sparked a new debate over seedings. Is she being punished for becoming a mother?


[10:57:12] BERMAN: Should a tennis player be penalized in the rankings for having a baby? Andy Scholes has more on the debate involving Serena Williams in today's "Bleacher Report."

Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. You know, according to the rules if you leave the game of tennis for an extended period of time, you drop in the rankings but should that be the case if you leave to have a baby? That's the debate going on right now ahead of the Miami Open.

This "Bleacher Report" brought to you by the new 2018 Ford F-150.

Now Serena took more than a year off to have her daughter. She was ranked number one in the world when she stepped away from the game. But right now Serena has dropped all the way down to 491st in the rankings and because of that she has to play much tougher opponents earlier on in the Miami Open.

The tournament director and former pro James Blake tells CNN that he doesn't think what's happening to Serena is fair.


JAMES BLAKE, TOURNAMENT DIRECTOR, MIAMI OPEN: She was pregnant, left at number one in the world and comes back in -- you know, is at the mercy of the draw when she comes back because she went and gave birth and had a -- you know, had -- did something that's so beautifully natural that you don't think there should be any sort of punishment for it.


SCHOLES: Now because Serena is ranked so low, her match today more like a championship match than an opening round one. She's going to be taking on Naomi Osaka who's coming off winning in the Indian Wells and is really an up and coming player.

Now the WTA says they will be reviewing rules how returning mothers will be ranked for the 2019 season.

All right. Sweet 16 picks ramps up tomorrow night. Loyola Chicago, of course, has 98-year-old Sister Jean in their corner. Well, the Clemson Tigers also some special fans who have been cheering them on for more than a decade.

Meet Franklin Grooms, 82 years old, and his wife Paula who's 72, they have been greeting the Tigers at their team bus before and after every single road trip for the past 10 years no matter what time of day it is. Now Paula said years ago when she found out the team left and came home with no one to welcome them, it broke her heart. So no matter what, she and her husband made it their mission to be there for the team.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've been there in sleet, we've been there in rain a lot. We're there no matter what.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been there 2:00 in the morning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If it was 3:00 or 4:00, we would be there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We would be there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You be safe and careful out there.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know we have a lot of fans this year mostly it's because we're winning but even when we was losing, like they were always there supporting us. I just appreciate them so much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Y'all have fun out there.


SCHOLES: Now Tigers coach (INAUDIBLE), John, has even joked to the Grooms, you guys are crazy for being out here in the middle of the night. You should be in bed. But of course that hasn't stopped them from doing what they love to do.

BERMAN: Awesome people. Well, good luck to the Grooms, good luck to Sister Jean. Someone is going home unhappy. Just saying.

All right. Andy Scholes, thanks very much for being with us. Appreciate it.

That is all for us today. I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR" with Brianna Keilar today starts right now.