Return to Transcripts main page


Three Killed in France Terror Attack; U.K. Authorities Search Cambridge Analytica Offices; Ban Revised on Transgender Military Service; Spending Bill Does Not Address DACA Dilemma; Ex-Playmate Speaks about Affair with Trump. Aired 12m-12:30a ET

Aired March 24, 2018 - 00:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Fight for his life, a French police officer shot in a terror attack is seriously wounded. Authorities appraising his bravery after he stepped in to save lives.

And Cambridge Analytica's London office is raided. Investigators are looking into accusations the firm stole Facebook data.

Plus the White House again trying to ban transgender people from serving in the military.

Thank you for joining us, everyone. I'm Cyril Vanier, live from CNN HQ here in Atlanta.


VANIER: French President Emmanuel Macron is condemning what he calls an Islamist terrorist attack against his country. Investigators are now trying to find out more about the gunmen who went on a rampage in Southern France on Friday.

He killed three people and wounded 16 others in three separate attacks. He took hostages in a supermarket in the town of Trebes and French media say the police shot and killed the attacker after a four- hour standoff.

ISIS propaganda says he was an ISIS soldier. France has faced a string of terrorist attacks in recent years. Here's a rare sight; the Paris skyline going dark, the Eiffel Tower turned off its lights to honor the victims of Friday's attack.

Melissa Bell has details on the suspect and the hero in this attack.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The profile of Radouane Lakdim is now at the center of an investigation here in Carcassonne after the spree that he's believed to have carried out, leaving three people dead and 16 injured, including two in a critical condition. Amongst those in a critical condition, the hero of the day, the man who in Trebes, the town just outside Carcassonne, where the assailant's killing spree came to an end, this was the man who went into the supermarket, took the place of one of the hostages and brought the attacks to an end.

He is fighting for his life; he's been hailed both by Emmanuel Macron, the French president, and Francois Mallon (ph), the prosecutor, for his courage. Here outside the building that is believed to have been the home of the assailant, the police presence remains very heavy.

There have been raids carried out and his partner is now in police custody. The situation out here remains quite tense. We've used unhappy that we've got a camera outside Radouane Lakdim's building, threatening us a couple of times and this beneath the gaze of the very heavily armed riot police that are on either side of our position.

A lot of focus over the coming days on exactly how the assailant became radicalized. We know that he had been the subject of police surveillance now for several years but we heard also that there had been no indication that he was preparing to go on the attack.

And the question of when he decided to do so and precisely what he was hoping to achieve as he set out from Carcassonne, beginning with a carjacking, then an attack on police men who'd been out for a jog, ending in that standoff with police in the supermarket, how he came to be involved in that, how the attack was launched and why at this moment.

Those will be some of the questions investigators will be looking to answer over the coming days -- Melissa Bell, CNN, Carcassonne.


VANIER: CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank on the enduring reach of ISIS in Europe and France in particular. Here he is.


PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERROR ANALYST: In ISIS' favor, there are tens of thousands of individuals inside Europe who have been flagged for radicalization, who are seen as potential threats inside the European Union.

And the number in France is actually 20,000 with about 10 of those thousand seen as potential active threats.

So it's still a very significant threat moving forward, despite the fact that ISIS has been territorially defeated in Syria and Iraq. They are still trying to encourage these kinds of attacks through their propaganda.

And this attacker today very clearly saying that he was doing this on behalf of ISIS. It would appear this was an attempt to gain a lot of publicity by taking hostages. But it's the heroic actions of this French lieutenant colonel and the gendarmerie, which really kind of meant there wasn't a massacre here.

And that's a huge bravery, one of the most brave actions in this 17- year fight against terrorism. And without what he did today, we could have seen many, many more being killed. This individual, it would appear wanted to kill as many people as possible.

There's been a lull in attacks in Europe really since that Barcelona attack in August. They haven't been able to get a big one through. So there is a big desire for revenge.

But what we saw play out today --


CRUICKSHANK: -- was an act of heroism from a French Security Services officer. And that is the most inspiring thing about today.


VANIER: British authorities are investigating Cambridge Analytica. They executed a search warrant on the company's London headquarters on Friday. Cambridge Analytica has been under fire after reports that it used Facebook data for political campaigns, including the campaign of U.S. president Donald Trump. CNN's Drew Griffin has more on this from London.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SR. INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: The Information Commissioner's office here in the U.K. executed a search warrant on Cambridge Analytica's headquarters.

They are looking for evidence in their investigation as to whether or not tens of millions of Facebook users' data was misused by this company, perhaps illegally harvested from Facebook, and then turned into psychoanalytic material that allowed Cambridge Analytica to target voters from across the world.

Cambridge Analytica denies it, in a statement saying to CNN that they are not the company that's being portrayed as an unethical company and politically motivated. They are defending themselves, calling the actions of these whistleblowers "uninformed."

But right now the case is under investigation, both here in the U.K. and in the U.S., targeting a firm that has run political campaigns in both -- Drew Griffin, CNN, London.


VANIER: Cambridge Analytica says it's commissioning a third-party audit in response to the scandal. It says the audit will prove that it complied with a Facebook request made back in 2015 to delete the user data that it had collected from Facebook.

CEO Alexander Nix is suspended, meanwhile, pending what the firm calls a full, independent investigation. New tensions in Catalonia between separatists and the Spanish government, this was the scene in Barcelona on Friday. Nearly 30 people were injured in those clashes with police. All of this comes after the Spanish supreme court arrested five pro-Catalan independence leaders.

Thousands of protesters gathered in front of a Spanish government building, throwing objects and paint at police, who then pushed them back with batons. A Spanish judge also ruled that Friday 25 Catalan leaders will be tried for inciting rebellion or other charges after last year's illegal independence referendum.

President Trump has failed once trying to ban transgender people from the military and now he is trying again. Coming up, the White House's new plan to transgender persons out of the (INAUDIBLE).

Plus the attorney for Stormy Daniels is warning the U.S. president and his legal team.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: They'd better be very, very careful after Sunday night relating to what they say about my client and what spin or lies they attempt to tell the American people.






VANIER: The Trump administration is once again trying to block transgender people from serving in the U.S. military. Last year's all-out ban against transgender persons was thrown out in court. But the new policy is directed at those who require surgery or medication specific to being transgender.

Here's how the White House statement puts it.

"Transgender persons with a history of diagnosis of gender dysphoria, individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery, are disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances."

This is almost certain to spark another legal battle. The American Civil Liberties Union immediately denounced it as "reckless and unconstitutional."

The president week ended much as it started; a lot of motion without clear direction. It culminated with Mr. Trump fuming about the latest government spending bill. Here's CNN's Jeff Zeleny.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: President Trump vented but backed away from his last-minute threat to veto a $1.3 trillion spending Bill to keep the government running through September.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I say to Congress, I will never sign another Bill like this again. I'm not going to do it again.

ZELENY: But the president did sign this Bill, despite loud objections from fiscal conservatives about the soaring price tag.

TRUMP: There are a lot of things that I'm unhappy about in this Bill. There are a lot of things that we shouldn't have had in this Bill, but we were, in a sense forced, if we want to build our military, we were forced to have.

ZELENY: Never mind that Republicans control the House, Senate and the White House. The president taking no responsibility for this 2,232- page Bill he described like the.

TRUMP: This ridiculous situation that took place over the last week.

ZELENY: For hours, the president had Washington wondering what he would do, after firing off a morning tweet: "I am considering a veto of the omnibus spending Bill."

Several Republicans cheered a potential veto. Senator Rand Paul called it "a sad excuse for legislation, because it's $1.3 in spending that almost no one read."

But the military spending in the Bill provided enough incentive for the president to sign the measure and avoid a government shutdown.

TRUMP: I looked very seriously at the veto. I was thinking about doing the veto. But because of the incredible gains that we've been able to make for the military, that overrode any of our -- any of our thinking.

ZELENY: The $1.3 trillion deal directs $700 billion for the military, a $66 billion increase over 2017 spending. It includes 1.6 billion for construction of a border wall, far short of the $25 billion the president wanted.

TRUMP: Not happy with $1.6 billion, but it does start the wall. And we will make that $1.6 billion go very, very far.

ZELENY: The Bill also did nothing to address the fate of undocumented immigrants, known as DREAMers. For that, the president blamed Democrats. TRUMP: And I say this to DACA recipients. That the Republicans are with you. They want to get your situation taken care of. The Democrats, for this, they just fought every single inch of the way.

ZELENY: But that's not exactly true. Democrats offered to fully fund the wall, all $25 billion of the president's request. in exchange for a pathway to citizenship for up to a million undocumented young immigrants.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Remember, he terminated the DACA program. He rejected and undermined the bipartisan legislation on Capitol Hill to protect the DREAMers.

ZELENY: Meanwhile, the latest staff shake-up at the White House still reverberating as John Bolton is set to become the third national security adviser of the Trump administration.

The former ambassador to the U.N., a conservative firebrand and foreign policy hardliner, has dismissed negotiations with North Korea as a waste of time. Bolton caught the president's eye in his role as a FOX News analyst. CNN has learned Bolton told the president he wouldn't seek to start any wars.

JOHN BOLTON, INCOMING NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Frankly, what I've said in private now is behind me.

ZELENY: With Bolton replacing General H.R. McMaster following last week's firing of secretary of state Rex Tillerson, the president is dramatically reshaping his foreign policy team.

Defense Secretary James Mattis remains one of the lone voices of moderation in the president's cabinet.

GEN. JAMES MATTIS, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Now it's our responsibility in the military to spend every dollar wisely in order to keep the trust and the confidence of the American people and the Congress.

ZELENY: So certainly those changes on the president's national security team do signal a change in direction. John Bolton is scheduled to start on April 9th; his job does not require Senate confirmation.

But the new secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, of course, will have go --


ZELENY: -- through those confirmation hearings. All of this is coming as yet another whirlwind wild week at the White House is ending. President Trump flying to Florida to spend a weekend at Mar- a-lago -- Jeff Zeleny, CNN, the White House.


VANIER: Now Stormy Daniels' attorney says that he has proof that his client, the adult film actress, had a sexual affair with Donald Trump. And he offered an intriguing hint of what that proof might be -- or at least what form it might take.

Now remember, Daniels is suing the president over an NDA -- that's a nondisclosure agreement -- that she says is void. Mr. Trump denies that an affair took place in the first place. But Daniels' attorney tweeted this, an image of a disk. He didn't say what it contains but the tweet's caption said, "If a picture is worth 1,000 words, how many words is this worth?"


AVENATTI: That DVD contains evidence substantiating the relationship and the tweet is a warning shot. I want to be really clear about this. It is a warning shot and it's a warning shot to Michael Cohen and anyone else associated with President Trump that they better be very, very careful after Sunday night, relating to what they say about my client and what spin or lies they attempt to tell the American people.


VANIER: Stormy Daniels is in the news this week. Her interview is up on Sunday but there's also this lady, the -- a former Playmate, former "Playboy" model. She is speaking about her alleged 10-month affair with President Trump, who was just Donald Trump at the time. This was more than 10 years ago. He denies this as well.

Karen McDougal is suing the publisher of the "National Enquirer" tabloid, which she says bought the rights to her story and compelled her to keep quiet. The company says it hadn't silenced her. Many people accuse McDougal of wanting to profit from her story. Her lawyer denies that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to litigate and we're going to do what we need to, to get to the bottom of the extent to which there was collusion between this quarter-billion dollar company that's owned by a personal friend of Mr. Trump, a lawyer that, not coincidentally, represented players here who are negotiating with Trump people, and Michael Cohen.


VANIER: Political analyst Peter Matthews joins us from Los Angeles. He teaches political science at Cypress College.

Peter, what exactly is the danger for the president in all of this?

PETER MATTHEWS, CYPRESS COLLEGE: The danger is that there is a consistent pattern here with these women and it seems like he tries to pay them off or pay them for sex and then he denies it and then they come forward with some evidence that it actually took place and the danger is that, when this happens to any politician, that they could become blackmailed if they're in a situation where they're trying to hide something.

Someone who could get that information can blackmail them. It could be a foreign agent, another government. And this is a real problem right here right now and also credibility, of course. And these women seem to me like they're telling the whole world about

it right now. So Trump has got a real problem on his hands in both cases. Maybe in a third case. There is a third woman involved as well, from what I understand.

VANIER: But look, I think it's safe to say that the voters did not hold Mr. Trump to be a paragon of domestic virtue when they elected him. So I don't think the credibility and the moral standards is what they care about.

Do you really think they care about him, do you really think that voters will be concerned that Mr. Trump could have been blackmailed?

MATTHEWS: Well, I'm not sure which voters because it only takes a few voters to switch away from him. For example, 40 percent of the Republicans' side is -- the voters are evangelical Christians, very fundamentalist Christians.

And if only five or 10 --


VANIER: -- they would give him a mulligan on this, which, by the way, for our international viewers, means they will give him a pass.

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, that's what the leadership says, give him a mulligan.

But what about the actual voters who are among those millions of Christians, fundamentalists who say -- a few of them, like I said, 5 percent switch over --


VANIER: But do you think --


VANIER: -- that they're finding out anything with these stories, with these allegations by Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal that they didn't already know at the time that they voted for him?

MATTHEWS: Well, I think that it's just bringing it up in front of them, in front of their face once again, reminding them. I'm saying a few percent -- it doesn't take a lot because Trump only won 46 percent of the vote and that was 3 million votes less than Hillary Clinton.

And if right now his approval rating is at 35 percent, so if he just loses a few percent of the evangelical Christians, that could be the end of it. And not just Christians. Other people feel like the man is not telling the truth in many ways and there are a lot of other accusations about him and he has to stand up with them and tell the truth.

So you've got Mueller breathing down his neck in other ways. Now you have this to complicate matters further, two women. It's not just one woman, two.


MATTHEWS: -- could have an effect.

VANIER: One thing that's very noticeable here is the president has not addressed this, he hasn't addressed it all, just the only -- the only way in which he's addressed it was -- been very indirect; his lawyers deny any of the affairs.


This is somebody who's not been shy about meeting his critics and responding to them. Listen to what happened when he was once again asked questions about these alleged affairs on Friday.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal lying about the affairs?


VANIER: So, once again, just crickets, silence. He just does not acknowledge the question.

Why do you think the president does not want to engage with this specific issue?

MATTHEWS: That is very strange because he does like to confront and come right head-on as to -- what he's done before with women or what he thought of doing, in the case of the "Access Hollywood" tape. He wasn't shy at all there about what he would like to do or did do with women.

And now he's being very circumspect or reticent about even mentioning anything about these two affairs or alleged affairs.

So let's see what he's trying to not respond to. There is something there. It seems to be there's something there. We'll have to wait and see. And don't forget what the attorney's said, that he has a disk which might have some information on it. And we will find out what that will be all about.


VANIER: Well, that attorney, look, I don't know how good he is at law. He is world-class at teasing things, however, certainly --


MATTHEWS: That's true.

VANIER: Let me pivot to something else. We just learned from the White House that it would move to ban most transgender persons from serving in the U.S. military. Run us through the genesis of this and why is this something that has been so high on the president's to-do list?

Because he's already tried to do this.

MATTHEWS: Well, don't forget that it began with gay and lesbians in the military and President Obama made sure that was going to happen and it did happen. And we've had valiant soldiers who've gay, LGBT in the military and have been doing very well. In fact, Israel has also opened -- people who are openly gay and lesbian and not in any way trying to hide it because they can be that way, no one discriminates against them.

In this case we went one further step to transgender folks as well. And they were also allowed to serve openly and then President Trump comes in and uses that as a wedge issue, an emotional cultural issue to reach back to some of his fundamentalist base once again, right- wing base, who say, look, I'm standing up for true traditional values.

And these folks are going to cost us too much. They shouldn't be in the military. And he is bringing it to looking at a medical issue. Well, other soldiers have medical treatments and we don't refuse them treatment or say that they're a burden on the military.

These folks are giving their lives for the country. To me, it's very shameful that President Trump would even consider banning these folks from actually serving openly once again.

And I think it's absolutely wrong. It's demoralizing, not just for them but for their fellow military people. I've got students is my classroom who are veterans and also military political active or on reserves. And they are very angry about this. They think the president's being -- making the military divisive. It's dividing people. It's demoralizing the soldiers all around, the straight soldiers and the LGBTQ soldiers and it is wrong.

So this has to be changed and President Trump is on the wrong path in my view on this. It's not a good thing to do.

VANIER: We will see what the future for this particular policy is in the courts, of course, last time it was thrown out.

Peter Matthews, thank you very much for joining us on the show.

MATTHEWS: My pleasure, Cyril, thank you so much.

VANIER: Also a programming note: tune in to see Anderson Cooper's full interview with Karen McDougal; that is the former Playmate. That's 3:00 pm in Hong Kong, 7:00 am in London.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. We'll be right back.



VANIER: A powerful cyclone threatening the northwest coast of Queensland.



VANIER: And thank you for watching. I'm Cyril Vanier. "WORLD SPORT" is next but first, though, I will be back with the headlines as usual. That's in just a moment.