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Melania Has Public Events as Sex Allegations Shroud Trump; Academic Behind Facebook Data Breach: "I'm a Scapegoat"; Ralph Peters Leaves FOX News with a Bang; Biden Criticizes Trump. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired March 21, 2018 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Under pressure. The president now facing these three different lawsuits from three different women for a variety of reasons. So what about the president's wife, the first lady? How is she handling this? How is she responding to this? Her busy schedule, by the way, has not gone unnoticed. More on Melania Trump, next.


BALDWIN: As lawsuits and allegations from a porn star, a Playboy playmate and reality star shroud the president, his wife, Melania Trump, has held two consecutive public events. So far, she's stayed quiet on these accusations against her husband. But at an anti-cyber bullying roundtable with executives, the first lady pushed back against those who have criticized her for hypocrisy, considering her husband's actions on Twitter.


MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I am well aware that people are skeptical of me. I have been criticized for trying to tackle this issue and I know that will continue. But it will not stop me from doing what I know is right.


[14:35:05] BALDWIN: With me now, CNN contributor, Kate Anderson Brower, author of the book called "First Women," and CNN White House reporter, Kate Bennett.

First, actually, let's stay on the event.

Kate Anderson Brower, to you.

You look at the notion of Melania, speaking up about this at these anti-cybering events, her husband has called people on Twitter fat, psycho, dumb as a rock. How much influence has the first lady had on her husband given the fact that so many people see him as a bully?

KATE ANDERSON BROWER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I don't think she has had much influence on him. I think she, herself, is showing some daylight between her and her husband. You don't see that with first ladies historically. They've stood by their husbands thick and thin. You look at the Bush women, Barbara Bush and Laura Bush. They were pro- choice, but they didn't say that publicly. Barbara Bush told Laura Bush never disagree with your husband in public. One of the most interesting part of Melania's statement she's showing an implicit -- she understands the hypocrisy of the statement but is going to go ahead with it because she believes in it.

BALDWIN: Kate Bennett, I remember when the Stormy stuff first came out, the first lady went to Capitol Hill by herself. She didn't accompany the president in the same way at Mar-a-Lago, and now is busy, busy, busy with all of this swirling. How is she handling it all?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: It's safe to say it's business as usual. She's doing the best she can. I'm sure these headlines are troubling and difficult to live with. As Kate said, this is a first lady who has distanced herself from the West Wing and the chaos there. Her east wing operation, her speaking engagements, the things she's planning -- she convened this meeting with the Internet representatives to talk about social media. This is something she has wanted to do.

I think she's really trying not to let it affect her. That word, independent, keeps popping up with this first lady. I think she is just that. But certainly can't be an easy time. All eyes are on her and her relationship with her husband and it's tricky. It's hard to set that foot forward anyway in this weird role of first lady, much more difficult to do with these kinds of headlines.

BALDWIN: I just think so many people are wondering, how is Melania doing, right, as we keep covering these women and different cases and stories.

Kate Anderson Brower, you write about first ladies, first ladies past. You think back to the JFK White House, Bill Clinton, and how first ladies there handled it. How could Melania draw from the playbook of first ladies past?

ANDERSON BROWER: It's a lot harder now because Jackie Kennedy, there was kind of a gentleman's agreement at the time not to talk about John F. Kennedy's cheating. Now everything is kind of out there in the open. I think the best thing that she can do, and she seems to be doing it, is just carving her own path. I think it's a lot harder for her because cyber bullying is just -- it's a tough issue for her to take on. The opioid addiction crisis is one that's a lot easier to focus on. She feels a lot of pressure because she's following Michelle Obama by the let's move campaign well under way by this time. She's definitely in a difficult position.

BALDWIN: There was a piece of video, Kate Bennett, you wanted us to pull. We have.

We can roll it.

This is when the two of them were going into Marine One on Monday. She sort of trips and her arm goes around his waist. Why did you want us to pull that? What's significant here? BENNETT: I can't read into a marriage. None of us can. I found this

to be an unusual and rare display of public affection. Occasionally, we'll see them holding hands walking off Air Force One, but then it goes back to he'll walk on a plane in front of her, he won't hold the umbrella for her, that traditional thing we see them go through.


BENNETT: This is a moment where he put his arm around her, caught her, and she returned the gesture. I just feel like this is not -- we're used to the Obamas, right? We're used to them displaying their affection on social media, on public, on Instagram. This is not a first couple we see displaying this sort of affection. They may do it behind closed doors or may not. I found that moment to be very human. And also if we're pointing out the fact that he caught her while falling as a thing, which I did, it sort of shows where the bar is, too.

BALDWIN: Kate, what did you think? Last question. What did you think about that?

ANDERSON BROWER: I thought it was fascinating that that happened. They do seem kind of cold with each other and not close. You think of the other South Lawn image of the Clintons walking to the helicopter during the Lewinsky scandal, with Chelsea between them, holding their hands. I thought this was akin to that. I thought it was surprising.

[14:39:53] BALDWIN: The two Kates, thank you so much. Both of you in Washington. Appreciate it.

Just ahead here, data collection woes continue to plague Facebook. Now the academic who gathered the information is firing back after the social media giant branded him a liar. Why he tells CNN that Facebook is making him a scapegoat.

Any minute now, police in Austin, Texas, will hold a news conference. We'll bring it to you live. Stay with me.


BALDWIN: Fallout over a data collection controversy involving some 50 million users is growing today, leaving the data firm CEO suspended and Facebook facing a federal lawsuit for their role in allowing third parties to harvest the personal information of millions of its Facebook users without them knowing. That third party, Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm hired by Donald Trump's campaign during the 2016 presidential election.

Speaking to CNN, Alexander Kogan, the scientist that collected all this information and sold it to Cambridge Analytica, says Facebook is making him out to be a scapegoat to distract from bigger problems facing the company.


[14:45:30] ALEXANDER KOGAN, ACADEMIC THAT COLLECTED DATA: We did collect 50 million people, but we only gave 30 million people.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, A.C. 360: What kind of information about those 30 million people were you providing?

KOGAN: Basically, their public profile. Things like name, age, gender and location. And then these really noisy personality predictions. That was basically it.

COOPER: When you were offering your data to Cambridge Analytica, you knew who Cambridge Analytica -- you knew what they did -- did you know what they were going to do with it? Did you know what their interest was?

KOGAN: No. That's the thing. I was pretty heavily siloed as far as funders or clients. I found out about Donald Trump just like everybody else, through the news.


BALDWIN: What's also key to point out here is that former White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon, was vice president and secretary of Cambridge Analytica until he stepped down to run Trump's campaign. Today, they're reporting Bannon was part of this very program that collected all the millions of Facebook users' information.

Josh Green is with me, a CNN political analyst, national correspondent for "Bloomberg Business Week." He wrote this whole book on Bannon, "Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Nationalist Uprising."

Josh Green, good to have you.

Bannon's name is synonymous with populist messaging. Now these key phrases like "drain the swamp" and border wall, that was tested by this data company started by Bannon and financed by the Mercers, mega conservative donor family, a couple of years ago. Yet, Trump has downplayed the reliance on voter data.

JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: One of the themes in "Devil's Bargain" was that Bannon had been preparing for the 2016 election long before Donald Trump was ever on the scene. And there was a three- pronged approach to that. Prong one was to build this populist nationalist movement with Jeff Sessions, Steven Miller, people like that. The second prong was an investigative arm, Government Accountability Institute that produced the "Clinton Cash" book and would essentially dig up dirt on Hillary Clinton that would impede her from becoming president. The third prong was the Cambridge prong, to develop data techniques and technologies, especially around persuasion that would cause voters to fall in line with this movement. This is the very phrases coming out of Donald Trump's mouth are phrases that Bannon and Cambridge had been testing.

BALDWIN: Would it be insane to then ask if Bannon had any idea, you know, what was taking place within this company that he was running?

GREEN: The answer to the question is I don't know exactly. Bannon isn't somebody who would involve himself, I don't think, in the particulars of data collection and how it was scraped off of Facebook. He is more of a big picture guy. But that said --

BALDWIN: He knew it was happening?

GREEN: He would certainly know. Bannon has been obsessed with Facebook as long as I've known him. Six, seven years, he was talking about the power of Facebook in American politics. He would have certainly been aware and encouraging Cambridge to be active on Facebook and trying to pull data. As far as, you know, whether he was speaking to the Cambridge professor that Anderson Cooper interviewed, I don't know about that.

BALDWIN: It's funny. Just jogged my memory back to when I literally bumped into him getting off a plane heading to a presidential debate. What he was talking to me about was Trump and Facebook.

GREEN: Not surprised.

BALDWIN: Amazing.

Joshua Green, thank you so much.

GREEN: Thank you.

[14:49:19] BALDWIN: Just in, we have the sound now from the former vice president, Joe Biden, who said, quote, "He would beat the hell out of President Trump if they were in high school." That's not all he said. We'll give you the remarks in his own words.

Also, a long-time FOX analyst blasting the network where he has been on the air for a decade, calling FOX a propaganda machine, a place where "he is ashamed" -- his word -- to be associated with. How he dropped the mic on the way out, next.


BALDWIN: For over a decade, former retired U.S. Army officer towed the lined at FOX News as a military analyst. But Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters went out with a bang. Criticizing the cable network in a scathing e-mail announcing his resignation, Peter says he was once proud to work at FOX but now says he is "ashamed." He's denounced the network as a propaganda machine devoted to President Trump. But if you think Peters is some sort of sleeper cell on the left, listen to the brutal criticism of President Obama's speech after the San Bernardino terror attack.


LT. COL. RALPH PETERS, FORMER FOX NEWS ANALYST: Don't be afraid. Mr. President, we're not afraid. We're angry. We're pissed off. We're furious.


PETERS: We want you to react. We want you to do something. You're afraid. This guy is such a total (EXPLETIVE DELETED) it's stunning.


BALDWIN: Yes, he did.

Senior media reporter, Oliver Darcy, and CNN editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza, are with me to discuss.

Language aside, to you, sir, first, on your reporting, who is he? Tell me more about his exit.

[14:55:12] OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: He's a FOX News analyst, on FOX for years and years, hundreds of performances. Not really someone who is sympathetic to views from the left. He has a lot of credibility within the conservative movement. Apparently, he has had enough of the approach from schilling that happens on FOX News. He said when announcing his exit saying he was ashamed to be an associate with the network, that he thinks that the attacks on the FBI, Justice Department and the courts are appalling, and he can no longer associate himself with FOX.

BALDWIN: He had been there 10 years, a decade. Now he says he's ashamed. He had been there long enough to say some things that makes you think, weren't you complicit in what that place does?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes. I think that's always the criticism. So why now.




CILLIZZA: But, what I think, to pick up on Oliver's point, I do think it is of note that he specifically cites the attacks on the FBI, the courts. Donald Trump has gone to war with the establishment at large.


CILLIZZA: And that includes the national security apparatus, the CIA, the FBI. These are -- the court system. These are not fights that any past president has picked. I'm willing to give him a little bit -- what Trump has done do go beyond, in the way it's been covered by FOX, go beyond the past calling Barack Obama some names.

BALDWIN: FOX says they're able to separate news and opinion, are they, though?

DARCY: You see still some traditional blinds, like Shepherd Smith, Bret Baier. They host some traditional news programming. In the Trump era, a lot of this is starting to blur. There's more opinion infiltrating news there, and also the way that the commentators are lined up. A lot of the commentators in the conservative camp but critical of Trump have left the network and have been replaced by people who are a lot more supportive of Trump. That's another change we've seen at FOX. It changes the way, for instance, the special report panel might analyze news.

BALDWIN: Let's pivot to Joe Biden. We just got the sound in.

Chris Cillizza, I want you to jump in on.


BALDWIN: This is the former vice president. He's speaking at this University of Miami events for college Democrats.

The audio, let me warn you, is not awesome. Try to listen closely to what he says about Trump.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When a guy ended up going on national television and said I could grab a woman anywhere and she likes it and then said that would make a mistake. They asked me -- (INAUDIBLE) -- if I were in high school, I would take him to the gym and beat the hell out of him.



BIDEN: I've been a lot of locker rooms in my whole life. Any guy who talked that way was usually the fattest, ugliest SOB in the room.



BALDWIN: OK. In case you missed it, can I read this out?


BALDWIN: He says, "They would ask me would I like to debate this gentleman, Trump. If I was in high school I would take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him." We heard him say that in 2016. He takes it further this time. "I've been in a lot of locker rooms my whole life. I'm a pretty damn good athlete. Any guy that talked that way was usually the fattest, ugliest SOB in the room."

CILLIZZA: Part of this is candidly, in my opinion, dumb chest- thumping, male-bravado stuff from Joe Biden which, by the way, he engaged in prior to Donald Trump's existence. There is a strain of thought in the Democratic Party that you have to stand up to the bully. You can't just sort of be like, can you believe what this guy is doing, which was the Hillary Clinton theory of the case. Like I'm running against this guy. Not Oliver. Of course, you're going to vote for me. There's an element that wants -- in fact, a large element in the Democratic Party that wants confrontation. I will remind you, Brooke, there is literally nothing you could say that is too negative about Donald Trump for the Democratic base.

BALDWIN: What about the whole, they go low, I go high. (CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: That was a Barack Obama thing.

BALDWIN: We're over that?

CILLIZZA: Yes. Yes. That was a pre-Donald Trump thing. I don't know if that's 100 percent true. I do think it's 100 percent true as it relates to how the Democratic base views Donald Trump and what they want out of a candidate. I don't know if that's true for civil dialogue more broadly. I will tell you there is nothing Joe Biden could say there that would not have gotten him cheers. Donald Trump is a bully. We need to stand up to the bully. We didn't do it effectively enough.


CILLIZZA: I think that's Joe Biden being Joe Biden. It also plays into if he's running, that's the contrast a lot of Democrats want.

BALDWIN: That's what people are still wondering.

Chris Cillizza, Oliver Darcy, guys, thank you very much.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Let's continue on.

All right, you're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.