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Cambridge Analytica Claims It Ran Trump's Digital Campaign; More Than 70 Million People Brace For Powerful Nor'easter; White House Official Says John Kelly Is Furious Over Putin Leak To Washington Post; Austin Suspected Bomber Kills Himself With Explosive Device. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired March 21, 2018 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST, FORMER COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIALS, CIA, FORMER SENIOR INTELLIGENCE ADVISER, FBI: When you have a meeting or a phone call with -- between the President of the United States and a foreign official, the president gets background, for example, about Canadian trade or about what happened during the Russian elections, including ballot box stuffing, and he gets what we call talking points. That is this is what we suggest you say.

Based on those two experiences, the Canadian prime minister and the fact that he didn't appear to know what the package was but the materials were provided by his staff, I don't think he reads any of this.

I mean, as a National Security Council staffer you want to bang your head against the wall. It's not that hard.

You get half a page of stuff that says tell the Russian president you won, but it was a little bit of an ugly election. Tell him you don't like him meddling in the elections. And then tell him hey, our closest ally is the U.K. We stand with them as they investigate Russian potential -- or attempted murder of a -- of a former spy on U.K. soil.

He didn't read any of that stuff, just as he didn't read it when he was talking to Justin Trudeau.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Well look, also, if the president wants to talk about the Mueller investigation he can. He's not going to convince anybody that it's illegitimate, except people who are already predisposed --


CUOMO: -- to believing anything that he says.

MUDD: Yes.

CUOMO: On this one though, what Phil was just talking about with Putin, he can help shed some light. That's why I asked earlier in the show. The president should tell us. He should tweet about why he's so insistent on being generous in his relationship with Vladimir Putin.

The response from the White House -- well, you know, we just passed the sanctions. They didn't want to deal with executing those sanctions.

CILLIZZA: It's months -- it's months after --

CUOMO: They've been on the desk for months. He would have acted much faster like they are in North Korea and other places where they want to act.

Why does he keep doing this with Putin? If only -- just look at raw politics. It's a bad look for him to coddle someone that everybody believes you have to keep at arm's length.

CILLIZZA: I mean, particularly as the head -- I mean, obviously, as the leader of the country but particularly as the head of the Republican Party. I mean, the Republican Party is not premised on we need a new relationship with Russia. They are -- they have long been premised on we need to be very skeptical and tough with Russia.

The short answer to your question Chris is I have no idea but it's a pattern.

CUOMO: Right.

CILLIZZA: Not saying that this -- not being willing to say this wasn't a free and fair election. The continued unwillingness not to talk about the election meddling. All this stuff, it adds up.

CUOMO: Well, the president just corrected one of his tweets -- correcting the spelling of whether or not the correct spelling of counsel -- C-O-U-N-C-E-L -- S-E-L in this case, not C-I-L. But that doesn't matter.

What does matter is the president should tell us why he's acting the way he is with Putin. It would help a lot of people very much, especially this morning.

Phil, Chris, thank you.

Facebook is planning to brief Congress on the Cambridge Analytica scandal. What do lawmakers want to know from the Trump-linked data firm? We're going to ask a member of the House Intel Committee, next.


[07:36:53] CUOMO: In an undercover video, suspended Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix says the data firm ran all of President Trump's digital campaign. He describes his meeting with the House Intelligence Committee, saying his questioning with Republicans lasted five minutes while the interview with Democrats lasted two hours.

Joining us right now is Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut. He serves on the House Intel Committee.

What's the beef with Cambridge Analytica, Congressman?


Well, you know, Cambridge Analytica, in particular, and Nix -- you know, when you watch that video you realize that this guy is one hell of a mercenary. Some of the things that his firm offered to do in terms of sort of entrapment and finding dirt on people was pretty, pretty sleazy. But I've got to tell you, opposition research in politics is a fact of life. He just took it to an extreme.

Facebook, of course, very, very sloppy, particularly years ago about what their platform could be used for about sending off data to an academic in this case -- for academic use which, of course, turned out not to be academic.

But Chris, the piece of this story that I think is getting lost here is that people need to realize that when they take personality quizzes, when they put the name of their favorite car or what they felt like when they had their first kiss into a quiz or into Facebook that information has value and people are going to use it.

And I think there's a real lesson here for the American people in terms of what they do with their personal information.

CUOMO: Oh look, we all know something's going on. I mean, you and I could be having an e-mail discussion about '57 Chevys and all of the sudden I'm getting all these pop-up ads for car parts. There's more than just our conversation at play -- there are other ears.

And another aspect that's interesting about this is the doctor who was involved in creating this personality test as you call it, Kogan. They say about 270,000 users had data collected but they collected some public data from friends' users as well. It winds up netting up to 50 million people.

So you have this one issue about what does Facebook or any other platform allow to be collected, but what is its relevance to this campaign because as you said, oppo research is an ugly business?

HIMES: Yes. Well, you highlight one of the sort of uncomfortable aspects of this. If you take a personality quiz and you answer 15 questions you shouldn't be surprised when somebody uses that. But, you know, it looks like in this particular case this guy, Kogan, had access not just to the people who took the quiz but to their friends -- their Facebook friends' information.

Now, here's the tough part. I bet you -- I don't know because I haven't read all 20 pages of the Facebook privacy agreement, but I bet you that on page 19, footnote number six, that's probably OK. So, Facebook in a court of law -- and I'm speculating here because I haven't actually read the full privacy agreement, like 99.9 percent of Americans -- I bet you in a court of law they don't lose that.

But people need to realize, again, that if they're not reading the privacy agreement -- if they are, in fact, offering up this information it's likely to get out here either because the privacy agreement says that it can or because --

CUOMO: Right.

HIMES: -- lo and behold, somebody steals it.

CUOMO: So I get that. I get that's a legitimate concern, it's a legitimate question of oversight. You guys should get after that.

But it seems to be getting woven into untoward activity by the Trump campaign, whether it's having Parscale, his digital guy who looks like he's going to be running the campaign next time, and him getting him held out for not wanting to answer questions and Democrats coming after him.

[07:40:13] What does this have to do with Trump and the campaign specifically, in your mind?

HIMES: Well look, when you look at the Trump campaign -- and, of course, I'm just coming off this investigation in the House Intelligence Committee that the Republicans had, and when you look at this campaign this is a campaign that didn't observe any of the traditional norms of an election, right?

The president's son, when he hears that Russian government people want to give him information on Hillary Clinton, he says that's wonderful, let's do it. The timing is perfect. That's not the right reaction.

And, of course, there's example after example after example. So if this is yet another example of the Trump campaign stepping over lines which are certainly ethical but may in fact be illegal, I won't be the least bit surprised.

CUOMO: What happens next?

HIMES: Well obviously, Mark Zuckerberg and others are going to spend some time in front of the Congress and I think that's going to serve two purposes.

One, Facebook is going to continue its evolution along with so many of these social media and technology companies to understanding that they actually have a real measure of social responsibility.

Chris, at some point, the videos that Facebook put up that the Russians purchased, the ads are going to be available for the American people see and people are going to understand how manipulative the Russians were on that Facebook. So, Facebook is going to continue the evolution to understanding it really needs to have a -- you know, have sort of a good citizens outlook.

And then, this other piece -- you know, again, it really needs to get into the minds of the American people that if they put information out there, there is a good chance that it becomes public. Either legally or illegally it's going to be out there so be a little careful about what you type into this incredible machine we call the Internet.

CUOMO: You know, it's interesting how the government, Congress specifically, couldn't move net neutrality through fast enough. But when it comes to regulating Facebook the way we get regulated or the FCC regulates the networks, it's a real slow walk going on, and why?

Why should those outlets be treated any differently than any other mass media outlet?

HIMES: Well, first of all, regulation of media outlets is sort of a mess. Cable channels and stuff that --

CUOMO: At least it exists, Jim. I mean, here you've got nothing with Facebook in terms of being able to police their activities.

HIMES: Yes, but it -- look, it doesn't -- it doesn't really exist, you know. I mean, "The New York Times" can publish what it wants. The government does not tell it what not to publish and occasionally the national security apparatus will say if you publish this, people will buy, and "The New York Times" will make a decision about whether they publish or not.

The reality is that in the media world things are not very regulated because it points back to the First Amendment. And I think the regulation for a group like -- or an organization like Facebook has to be about privacy and the preservation of private data, not about what they can say or what they can't say.

CUOMO: True, but I'm saying political ads get policed other places for use of a better word of regulation. But when it's a certain amount you've got to register, you've got to file. You have to know who these people are.

Those rules should apply there as well, no?

HIMES: Oh, absolutely yes. Absolutely, and they do.

Look, Russians can't contribute -- no non-U.S. persons or organizations can contribute to electoral campaigns and if that happened on Facebook, and I think it did, that's a violation. Now, whether -- here's the interesting question there. Whether Facebook knew that it was foreign money that was purchasing those ads, that's for a court of law to work out.

But no, you're absolutely right. Look, our election laws are too weak as they are in terms of money, in terms of who can say what about whom. Those should absolutely be tightened but they are there. And yes, if Facebook is a mechanism for the violation of our election laws, by all means they have to be held accountable.

CUOMO: And we see more and more campaigns are moving off traditional media and onto online.

HIMES: That's right.

CUOMO: There's a lot more targeting being done. It's an important area.

Congressman Jim Himes, appreciate the candor. Thank you for being on the show.

HIMES: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: Erica --

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: A massive nor'easter bearing down now on the east coast. So just how much snow will accumulate? Chad Myers has that answer, next.


[07:47:40] HILL: More than 70 million people along the east coast bracing for yet another nor'easter on the first full day of spring. Cities like New York, Philadelphia, Washington could get more snow this go-round than the previous three storms combined. Thousands of flights already canceled.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has the forecast. Those superlatives are just fantastic.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, snow. I saw a little meme that says this winter is like an angry person that storms out of the room after an argument and runs back in and says "and another thing." That's kind of what it feels like.

So here we go.

Snow in the higher elevations in Pennsylvania now already 10 inches. At the elevation in Philadelphia, zero; D.C., zero; Dulles, more because it's colder. So if you're at sea level you're not going to get a lot of snow but if you're just 150 feet above sea level like Franklin Lakes or like Danbury, you're going to get much more snow than at the surface -- or at sea level.

So it snows all day today. It snows for a long time.

New York City, you'll see snow for 18 hours. Same story for Boston, for Philadelphia, all the way down even toward D.C. but D.C. downtown, it's 35 degrees. Philadelphia, it's also 35 degrees. Boston, you're going to change over to snow and you'll get somewhere around six to 10.

Now, the models have significantly gone down from where they were yesterday which was a dangerous forecast. Some numbers were like 25 on the computer models yesterday. Not today.

We're talking about a big swath here of about six to 10. There may be some spots somewhere around 18 but that's going to be the exception, not the rule. So we'll go from there.

We've canceled the flights and a lot of schools are out anyway, so let it snow, let it snow, let it snow, Chris.

CUOMO: A lot of wise guys this morning looking at pictures of the streets and saying there's nothing here. It shouldn't have been a snow day. Let's see how they feel at 3:00 this afternoon. Chad, appreciate it.

It's time for "CNN Money Now."

The crisis at Facebook intensifying. The Federal Trade Commission putting new pressure on Facebook over its failure to protect user data. Yet, still no word from CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Chief business correspondent Christine Romans in our Money Center with more. What do you see?


Yes, we're really waiting to hear from him, aren't we?

And the FTC now is investigating how Trump campaign consultants accessed the data of 50 million users without their consent, Chris.

Facebook is facing millions of dollars in fines. Even worse, another hit to its reputation. Facebook makes billions of ad dollars off your data and sources at the company think it will take tremendous effort to restore public trust.

[07:50:10] So where is Mark Zuckerberg? He's been notably absent, even from a staff-wide meeting yesterday. Facebook's top execs are frustrated, we're told, that he's not speaking publicly about the issues plaguing Facebook, including allowing Russia to meddle in the 2016 election.

In the meantime, investors are suing Facebook, claiming its misleading statements about policy cost them money. Facebook shares fell another three percent yesterday, wiping out $49 billion in market value this week alone, and that's a big number, Erica.

HILL: That it is. All right, Christine, thank you.

CNN has learned the White House chief of staff John Kelly is furious over a leak to "The Washington Post" that President Trump congratulated Vladimir Putin on his reelection despite being told very clearly not to do so.

We'll speak with one of the reporters who broke that story, next.


[07:55:15] CUOMO: The president is facing partisan backlash for congratulating Vladimir Putin on his reelection.

CNN has learned White House chief of staff John Kelly is furious about the leaks about this phone call getting into "The Washington Post." The newspaper reporting that the president congratulated Putin despite the advice of his national security advisers. That's probably the part that bothers Kelly the most.

Joining us now is CNN political analyst Josh Dawsey. He's one of the reporters for "The Washington Post" that broke the story.

You made the general angry, Josh. Obviously, they don't like leaks in that White House but what do the leaks suggest to you?

JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, the leaks suggest that the president's national security advisers clearly said do not congratulate in the written briefings.

They also wanted him to bring up an attack with a nerve agent that wounded a Russian ex-spy that is believed to have happened at the hands of the Russian government and neither one of those things were addressed in the call with Vladimir Putin.

There was a lot of debate and dissension in the White House on whether he should congratulate Vladimir Putin on this election -- reelection because it's seen as a sham, it's seen as a fixed election, not a democratic election. And there's a sense by congratulating him you give that more legitimacy, at least in the eyes of many close to Trump.

And the president was given extensive briefings on how to handle this call. He obviously handled it his own way. And we were able to reveal that he did handle it his own way and did not follow the national security guidelines that he was given in writing.

CUOMO: What was the argument in favor of congratulating Putin, and what do you hear in terms of the rationale for the relatively light hand that the president uses with Putin?

DAWSEY: Sure. So, the rationale is the president often congratulates leaders who are not democratically elected.

You see him congratulating the Chinese president who has now made himself president for life. You see him congratulating the Turkish president who was seen as a strongman. He often gives autocratic and dictators congratulations even when they win elections -- even if the elections are not done like the United States elections are done.

White House officials would argue that the administration put new sanctions on Russia but there's been a lot of tough talk about Russia from administration officials. But the president has said repeatedly he wants to have a positive relationship with Vladimir Putin and that has attracted a lot of scrutiny Chris because of the investigation into did Russians affect the election.

There's been charges now brought by special counsel Mueller showing how they tried to sway the election -- 13 different people. The Internet Research Agency, a Moscow group tied to the government. So there's a lot of scrutiny on these relationships.

CUOMO: It's very interesting.

Let me ask you something else in terms of the idea that he didn't follow advice on this call.

DAWSEY: Right.

CUOMO: There's some reporting that suggests he may not have looked at the notecards --

DAWSEY: Right.

CUOMO: -- that said it. But your reporting is whether or not he looked at the notecards doesn't matter because he was briefed in person about what should and should not happen on this call, yes?

DAWSEY: The president's given two briefings on these sorts of calls. He's given sets of notecards for his binder that he looks at. He's also given an oral briefing.

It is unclear what came up in the oral briefing and whether the oral briefing cued specifically to what was in the binders. The "DO NOT CONGRATULATE" and the condemnation of attack were both in his written notes.

His oral briefing that's conducted by H.R. McMaster, his embattled national security adviser, may have taken a different tone. We obviously weren't present for that so I can't speak to the entirety of its contents.

CUOMO: Josh Dawsey, appreciate the reporting very much. Thank you.

DAWSEY: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right.

We're following a lot of news this morning. Let's get after it.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CUOMO: Good morning and welcome to your new day. It is Wednesday, March 21st, now 8:00 in the east.

Alisyn is on assignment. Erica Hill by my side and we have breaking news for you.

The suspected serial bomber who terrorized the city of Austin for nearly three weeks is reported dead. Austin police confirm the suspect killed himself using an explosive device in his car.

HILL: Authorities using surveillance video from a FedEx location to identify the 24-year-old white male and track him down to the location where they then ended up pursuing him in a car and where things later ended early this morning.

CNN's Ed Lavandera joining us now live from Round Rock, Texas with more on these breaking details. Ed, good morning.


Well, you can see over my shoulder there the flashing lights and that is where the pursuit of this suspect, the serial bomber, has come to an end just a few hours ago.

Austin police confirming that they started the process of tracking him down. They had gotten a lead on this suspect who is only being described right now, no name released, as a 24-year-old white male.