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Three Killed in France Terror Attack; March For Our Lives; Ban Revised on Transgender Military Service; U.K. Authorities Search Cambridge Analytica Offices; Spending Bill Does Not Address DACA Dilemma; Ex-Playmate Speaks about Affair with Trump; U.S. Hackers Linked to Iranian Government. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired March 24, 2018 - 04:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A French police officer hailed as a hero after intervening to end an attack has died.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A global march for lives. Students from around the world join their U.S. colleagues to demand action against gun violence in schools.

HOWELL (voice-over): And the offices of Cambridge Analytica raided as authorities search for evidence the firm misused Facebook data.

ALLEN (voice-over): Welcome to the United States and around the world. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL (voice-over): I'm George Howell. NEWSROOM starts right now.


ALLEN: Thank you again for joining us.

Our top story, French president Emmanuel Macron says the policeman who helped in a deadly terror attack in Southern France, he says Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame died a hero. Beltrame persuaded a gunman to let him take the place of a female hostage in a supermarket in the town of Trebes.

But he was wounded in the incident and, just hours ago, France's interior minister announced he had died in the hospital.

HOWELL: Police killed the gunman after he stormed the building, after a four-hour standoff. By then, the gunman had killed three other people. Let's go live to France. CNN's Melissa Bell is following the story in Trebes.

Melissa, tell us more about this officer, exactly what he did that has so many people calling him a hero.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is a tale of extraordinary heroism. It took place in the supermarket behind me. It remains cordoned off this morning. It's the location of the end of the killing spree which started with a carjacking, then an attack on the police, then a hostage situation inside.

What Bertrame did was offer to replace the female hostage being held, to take her place. It isn't simply that he probably saved her life but by doing so he helped bring that stand off to an end by leaving his mobile phone on once he was inside, allowing the special forces gathered around the supermarket, that were waiting to carry out the assault to take the assailant out by giving them the possibility of hearing precisely what was going on and carrying out the assault at exactly the right time.

So he has been hailed as a hero by the French president. Sadly, overnight, he died from the injuries that he sustained during the attack -- George.

HOWELL: Melissa, also, just tell us more about what you are learning with regards to the investigation, itself.

BELL: We have a much clearer idea of who Radouane Lakdim was. We learned last night from the prosecutor in charge that, in a series of raids carried out at his home, which we visited last night, it was a very tense situation, large police presence even as the raids carried on.

The woman who shared his life, his partner, is now in police custody. The question at the heart of the investigation, George, are whether he had a wider network, carried it out with the help of anyone else or was simply a sympathizer of the Islamic State.

Those are the questions that have yet to be answered for the time being. Authorities are remaining fairly tight-lipped about what they know.

HOWELL: Melissa Bell live in Trebes, France, thank you so much for the reporting. We'll stay in touch with you.

ALLEN: For more about the story, we are talking with terrorism expert and consultant David Lowe, who joins me now from Liverpool, England.

Mr. Lowe, thank you so much for talking with us. First of all, talk about the hero of the story, the officer who put his life on the line to save others. This could have ended much worse than it did if it were not for him.

What are your thoughts about what he did?

DAVID LOWE, TERRORISM EXPERT AND CONSULTANT: It sums up what most police officers do -- and I'm a former police officer myself. It shows the dangers they face and the sacrifices they make to keep us all safe regardless of which state you are in. I mean, it's tragic this has happened. But, his actions have made most probably, we'll find out when the investigation is released in full, he may have saved many others' lives.

ALLEN: Let's talk about what happened. Officials knew of the suspect. They didn't know he was radicalized, there was no indication he was going on an attack. This shows how difficult this is, this situation, this ongoing situation, from the security standpoint of staying ahead of those who become radicalized.

LOWE: That's right. Just go back to Nice, the tragic events there in 2015.



ALLEN: I'm sorry, we are losing audio, Mr. Lowe. We are going to have to take a break and hopefully we can resume our conversation with you. Thank you so much for joining us.

Again, we continue to follow that story and report on any more investigation.

Plus, was this person officially linked with ISIS?

Was this part of an organized situation?

We'll get into that later in our program.

HOWELL: Those are the big questions in that investigation.

Meantime here in the United States, the Trump administration, once again, trying to block transgender people from serving in the U.S. military. Last year's all-out ban against transgender persons was blocked in federal court. A new policy is directed as those requiring surgery or medications specific to being transgender.

ALLEN: Here is part of the statement from the White House.

"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."

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

ALLEN: Another story we're following, students are calling it a March for Our Lives, this is today. They insist their lives really are at stake. A half-million demonstrators are expected at the main rally in Washington Saturday. They are demanding lawmakers do something about rampant gun violence in school shootings in the United States.

HOWELL: And they will be joined across the United States and around the world by other students, by teachers and parents in similar rallies. This event was organized by students of the Florida high school, where a gunman killed 17 people just last month.

Some of the people marching in the U.S. on Saturday have lived through hell of other school shootings, including Columbine and Sandy Hook. There are so many shootings to talk about. Some parents, though, received phone calls or text messages that a gunman was threatening their children.

ALLEN: Some are former students whose friends, classmates or teachers were killed and some are still children, who barely made it out alive. CNN's Randi Kaye spoke with a family who has members in all of those categories.



RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For 12-year-old Lauren Milgram, it is just that simple: no more guns, certainly not in school. This weekend, in Washington, D.C., she'll make her voice heard.

For Lauren, this is personal. Five and a half years ago, she was in her first grade classroom when a gunman opened fire in her school, Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.

By the time it was over, the shooter had fired at least 150 shots, taking the lives of 20 children, first graders and kindergarteners, as well as six adults. Lauren's quick-thinking teacher hid all 15 of her students in a tiny bathroom off the classroom, saving all of their lives and her own.

Today, Lauren and that teacher are still friends.

KAYE: Do you feel like you are closer to her because of everything?

You really have a nice friendship?

L. MILGRAM: An experience like this really does bring people together.

KAYE (voice-over): The March for Our Lives will bring people together, too. It was organized by the students of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Lauren will stand with them to say, enough.

L. MILGRAM: I'm marching because I don't want this to happen to any other child. It shouldn't have happened. We really do need more safety.

KAYE: Do you feel like you can make a difference, even at age 12?

L. MILGRAM: Yes. It's amazing what the Parkland students are doing. They are already so ahead in this generation. It's just, at that age, it's incredible. They are making such a big difference.

KAYE (voice-over): She doesn't talk much about the shooting at her school but she hasn't forgotten it nor has she forgotten the many friends she lost that day. One who was killed, Daniel Barden, had given her this heart necklace. She wears it some days and thinks of him.

All these years later, her father still recalls gathering with other families at the firehouse, imagining the worse.

ERIC MILGRAM, LAUREN'S FATHER: When I look back, that was the families of 20, 26, really, because adults were lost that day, too.

KAYE (voice-over): Lauren's parents and her brother, Dalton, will be marching alongside her. Dalton was in the fourth grade and survived the Sandy Hook shooting, too.

When you saw what happened in Parkland, what did you think?

DALTON MILGRAM, LAUREN'S BROTHER: There have been so many. It's almost desensitizing to just see one every so often.

KAYE: So it's time to change?


D. MILGRAM: A 100 percent, yes.

ERIN MILGRAM, LAUREN'S MOTHER: We can make a difference. We can speak out. This makes us feel like we are doing something when we do go out and we march. And we do something together, as a family.

ERIC MILGRAM: Our kids, sadly, you know, were not old enough to speak out. And we, as parents, I won't say we failed them but we were too polite. These Parkland kids, they will not be silenced. They will not be muzzled.

KAYE (voice-over): Nor will his own daughter, who still has hope that gun laws will change in her lifetime.

KAYE: Do you think guns are just too easy to get?

L. MILGRAM: Yes, definitely.

KAYE: Would you want your teachers to be armed?

L. MILGRAM: Of course not. Like that's just a horrible idea. I mean, any child would be able to pick up a gun and they could shoot it, thinking that it might be just some sort of toy.

KAYE (voice-over): Come 5:00 am Saturday morning, Lauren will board a bus with her family in Newtown, bound for Washington, D.C. In the shadow of the nation's Capitol, she will hold up her sign and let lawmakers know, she has had enough -- Randi Kaye, CNN, Newtown, Connecticut.


ALLEN: Those little Sandy Hook survivors are growing up.

So many children in this country have been witness to gun violence. The March for Our Lives organizers say more than 800 protests are planned in cities across the world to support the movement.

In Sydney, Australia, hundreds of people gathered to show support for U.S. students. They are asking the U.S. government to enact the sort of gun control laws they have kept Australia from having a mass shooting since 1996.

HOWELL: Also Americans in Israel rallied in Tel Aviv on Friday. Some of those Americans were survivors of the Florida high school shooting. One of those survivors joining us now.

ALLEN: Fourteen-year-old Eden Hebron is in Tel Aviv.

And we thank you so much. This has probably been an emotional day for you, Eden. And we know that you are on spring break there and this is hardly something that you do for spring break.

What was it like to hold a rally in another country in support of your school, your friends you lost and that support you felt from others as so far away from Florida?

EDEN HEBRON, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: You know, I'm here in Israel but wouldn't rather do anything else. It's amazing that even from Tel Aviv, I'm able to show my support and (INAUDIBLE) for what really needs to happen (INAUDIBLE). It's just an amazing experience to be able to (INAUDIBLE) across the world (INAUDIBLE).

HOWELL: So you moved the crowd to tears there, talking about the friend you lost.

Can you share with our viewers some of what you had to say at the rally there?

HEBRON: Well, I was in room 1215 (INAUDIBLE) and besides one of my best friends (INAUDIBLE) so (INAUDIBLE) provided awareness to what that was like to some of those people who really had to watch their friends cry and (INAUDIBLE).

ALLEN: It's just -- it's been a few weeks since this happened and look at what the kids at your high school, look at what you are doing around the world.

What do people say about the gun epidemic in the United States?

What are you hearing about that?

HEBRON: Well, it's gotten out of control. And it's been out of control for a while now. And I think that everyone (INAUDIBLE), all of my friends, everybody, you know, we don't want anyone else to have to (INAUDIBLE). We're just doing whatever it takes (INAUDIBLE) and to allow kids to (INAUDIBLE).

HOWELL: Where do you want this movement to go after these international marches that we are seeing, the huge marches that take place in Washington today, where do you want this to go?

HEBRON: Well, I guess the -- I want it to go somewhere. And I know it will go somewhere. I think that (INAUDIBLE) I think that there's going to be a lot less mass shootings and I hope that (INAUDIBLE).

I think that my (INAUDIBLE).

ALLEN: All right, Eden Hebron, thank you so much. We appreciate your time and we wish you all the best. We know this has been a very tragic time but certainly hopeful. Thank you for all that you are doing. Thanks for joining us.

Isabella Wakeman is a student from Newtown, Connecticut. She was 11 at the time of the Sandy Hook massacre. And Carli Albert is a senior at the Florida school, where 17 students and teachers were killed in the rampage we are talking about on Valentine's Day. Here they are.



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Carli, I'm going to start with you. Let's first talk about your story. You are a triplet and you and your twin brothers were all there when the shooting started. Tell us what happened.

CARLI ALBERT, STUDENT, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: I am a senior at Marjory Douglas and I have two twin brothers that were there, one of which was in the freshman building where the shooting occurred.

And I also have -- my father is a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and he was protecting his students because they were walking toward the building because that is where they go during the fire drill which did occur during the shooting.

They had to run back to the office because they heard gunshots, so he sheltered over 30 kids in the security shack which is like inside the office.

LEMON: I should probably should have asked you guys first, how are you coping?

How are you dealing?

ALBERT: It's really hard for me because I did lose a friend and one of the girls in my basketball team got injured. She suffered five shots to the right side of her body. But she's back at school now and she's recovering really well.

LEMON: Yes. And you play on the basketball team. You're a center and varsity player as we can see from your sweatshirt you have on.

So, Isabella, let me talk to you now.


LEMON: You were in the sixth grade -- hi. You were in the sixth grade of Newtown, Connecticut when the mass shooting happened at Sandy Hook. Are your middle school was just a few miles away?

How has that horrible day influenced your childhood and what you're involved with now?

WAKEMAN: Today it still makes me and my friends all scared to go to school. We fear going out anywhere in public, any large situation. We have to be hyperaware of our surroundings because we know what it's like to feel like our lives are in danger.

We know what it's like to be stuck in a closet for hours not knowing what's going on outside. And so we really have to be careful about where we're going and we really live with fear because of what happened.

LEMON: What will be going through your mind at the march tomorrow?

There's going to be a lot of people.

Are you going to be concerned there?

WAKEMAN: Unfortunately, yes. It is a large city and we are a large target, but that will not stop any of us from still coming and still doing what is right and start making a change because without it, shootings will continue to happen.

LEMON: You started an alliance, Isabella. Tell me about it.

WAKEMAN: So our Junior Newtown Action Alliance started five years ago after the Sandy Hook massacre. And even then, I started going down to D.C. to lobby in Congress. And today, I am trying to do the same thing, trying to pass the same gun laws because what happened in Parkland is almost exactly what happened to us. And even five years ago our efforts did not work. We're hoping now that they will work.

LEMON: Well, I hope that something is done. Carli, this happened in Isabella's community, you know, a few years ago, five years ago. The shooting was at your high school. That was back in February. And way too many shootings have happened in between. What do you think is different now? Why do you think you're seeing a bigger push for change?

ALBERT: I think it happened at a time where we witnessed all of these mass shootings, like Las Vegas and Pulse nightclub shooting and it's just we are sick of it. We are tired of politicians taking money from the NRA and not caring about lives of children and they're taking money instead.

We need to get back on track. We need to save kids' lives instead of just running with the NRA.


ALLEN: Those students will be among 500,000 people at the Mall of Washington. The rally starts at noon. We'll be covering it. There are rallies to support it all over the world. We'll be covering those as well.

HOWELL: That's right. Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, a dramatic new turn in the Facebook data scandal. What British investigators may have turned up at the offices of Cambridge Analytica. We'll go live to London with that report.

ALLEN: Also the parallels between these two women, including how their alleged affairs with Donald Trump were silenced. That story ahead here as CNN NEWSROOM pushes on.






HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM.

In the United Kingdom, authorities are ramping up their investigation into the alleged abuse of Facebook data.

ALLEN: They searched the London offices of Cambridge Analytica on Friday. That firm has been at the center of a scandal. There are reports it harvested data from tens of millions of Facebook users without consent. They then used the data in political campaigns, including that of U.S. president Donald Trump.

HOWELL: That group, Cambridge Analytica, denies any wrongdoing and says that it is commissioning an independent audit. It claims that audit will prove that it deleted the data after a Facebook request back in 2015.

ALLEN: For a look at the investigation and what British authorities may be looking for, CNN's Isa Soares joins us now from London.

Good morning to you, Isa, and certainly just that one story we read, I think people can appreciate the magnitude of this investigation.

ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very much so. Good morning to you, Natalie. The investigation you saw, you played footage there, were going in late last night after four days of waiting for that arrest warrant.

They are going in, trying to find, look at the data and the paperwork to see if Cambridge Analytica had any of the Facebook data that they weren't supposed to have, weren't supposed to have passed on, according to Facebook.

They said they had deleted it, gotten rid of it. Not what we have heard in the last week from the whistleblower, one of the main people that worked for Cambridge Analytica, and not critically what we heard from Alexander Nix, the former CEO, until at least this Tuesday of Cambridge Analytica just last month, if you remember.

He spoke to a committee here in Parliament and he basically said that we have never had Facebook data. We don't work with Facebook data, to which now we have had an MP who oversees that committee --


SOARES: -- who said he wants him to come back to the committee and face questions because he says there are inconsistencies in what Cambridge Analytica has said.

The same MP also wants Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, to come to the U.K. and testify to exactly how that data was passed on to the professor at Cambridge University and then passed on to Cambridge Analytica.

There are many, many people wanting answers, critical answers, why it's taken them so long to come forward, Natalie, and also how they got their hands on this 15 million amount of data of Facebook users -- Natalie.

ALLEN: There's a lot to be learned here. And it's something we'll be watching closely. It will be interesting if Mark Zuckerberg indeed is part of this investigation. Thank you so much, Isa Soares for us out of London.

ALLEN: Our Laurie Segall actually asked him about that, whether he would testify in Washington or in the United Kingdom. He said that many times you send the right person out there, didn't exactly say whether he would do it, but certainly his name is being asked to be there for those questions.

Going now to Spain, there are new tensions between the government and Catalan separatists. This was the scene. Take a look, in Barcelona on Friday, nearly 30 people injured in clashes with police. This after the Spanish Supreme Court arrested pro-Catalan five independence leaders.

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

A porn actress and a former Playboy model are speaking out about their alleged affairs with Donald Trump. Their stories have some striking similarities. That's coming up here.

HOWELL: Plus, a U.S. indictment charges alleged Iranian hackers, who the U.S. says their targets were, straight ahead.



[04:30:00] (MUSIC PLAYING)

ALLEN: Welcome back to our viewers in the U.S. and around the world. This is CNN NEWSROOM live, I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: I'm George Howell.


ALLEN: The president was busy this week on multiple fronts, including imposing tariffs on Chinese goods and naming a new national security adviser.

HOWELL: Before heading off to Florida for the weekend, Mr. Trump signed a huge government spending bill but not before complaining about that bill. Here is Kaitlan Collins with that report for us.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just four hours after he threatened to veto the $1.3 trillion spending bill to fund the federal government through September, President Trump called the press in for a last-minute venting session Friday and issued a stern warning to Congress.

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. Nobody read it. It's only hours old.

COLLINS (voice-over): The president expressed his disdain for the budget-busting bill, calling the process ridiculous.

TRUMP: There are a lot of things 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.

COLLINS (voice-over): But he backed away from his threat this morning delivered by tweet that he might veto the bill.

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

COLLINS (voice-over): The bill includes huge increases in domestic and military spending that Trump had lobbied for.

TRUMP: Ships, planes, helicopters, tanks and submarines. We have submarines being built unlike any in the world.

COLLINS (voice-over): But it only allocates a small portion of the $25 billion the administration asked for to build a border wall.

TRUMP: Not happy with $1.6 billion but it does start the wall. We will make that $1.6 billion go very, very far. COLLINS (voice-over): All this as the president is creating chaos elsewhere in the White House with his surprise decision to replace national security adviser H.R. McMaster with the more hawkish John Bolton, making this his third national security adviser in just 14 months.

That, after he fired secretary of state Rex Tillerson last week, leaving the cabinet with just one moderate voice in his Defense Secretary, James Mattis. The president's latest personnel moves could signal a sharp shift to the Right in his foreign policy ahead of a potential meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and upcoming deadline on the Iran nuclear deal and a looming trade war over tariffs.

TRUMP: China is going to end up treating us fairly. For many years, they had free rein. They don't have free rein anymore.

COLLINS (voice-over): But wait, there's more. President Trump's plan to shake up his legal team is already facing challenges, with two sources familiar with the matter telling CNN that newly-hired attorney Joe diGenova's role is in flux, one source claiming he hasn't even officially been hired.

diGenova has pushed conspiracy theories that President Trump was framed by the Department of Justice.


HOWELL: Kaitlan Collins there reporting for us.

Keeping in mind that president upset about money for the wall from taxpayers but he did say that Mexico would pay for that. And Mexico said they will not pay for it.

ALLEN: Doesn't look like that will ever happen.

HOWELL: We'll continue to follow that, of course.

Stormy Daniels' attorney --


HOWELL: -- is hinting that he has proof that his client had a sexual affair with Donald Trump. The porn actress is suing the president over a nondisclosure agreement that she says is not valid. Mr. Trump denies an affair ever took place.

ALLEN: Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, tweeted an image of a disc. He didn't say what it contained but the tweet's caption said, "If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is this worth?"

Avenatti says it is a warning shot to Mr. Trump and his legal team.

Another woman is speaking out about her alleged affair with President Trump. Former "Playboy" model Karen McDougal says her 10-month relationship with Mr. Trump started in 2006.

HOWELL: That is around the same time that Stormy Daniels says that her affair took place but that's not the only thing these women have in common as our Sara Sidner reports for us.


SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The parallels are unmistakable between these two women, porn star Stormy Daniels and former "Playboy" model, Karen McDougal, who say they were silenced about their alleged affairs with Donald Trump.

The similarities are important because they show a pattern of alleged behavior, including intimidation, chaos and media influence by Trump's allies as he ran for president. Both say the relationships happened between 2006 and 2007. And both describe similar sexual experiences with Trump.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Did he ever use protection?


SIDNER (voice-over): This happening around the time Melania Trump had her son in March of 2006. Both these women say Trump offered them an apartment in New York, which they refused. McDougal says she was well into the relationship when they both attended a Lake Tahoe golf tournament.

MCDOUGAL: He came in one day and said, well, there were a bunch of porn stars out there.

SIDNER (voice-over): One of those porn stars, Daniels, who still has this memento.

MCDOUGAL: I knew he talked to ladies but I didn't know there was anything else. I didn't know he was intimate with other ladies.

SIDNER (voice-over): Except for his wife, Melania, of course.

MCDOUGAL: The only regret I have about the relationship that I had with Donald was the fact that he was married.

SIDNER (voice-over): McDougal even met the now first lady but told Anderson Cooper she purposely kept her distance from Ms. Trump. McDougal also attended Trump's vodka release party in Hollywood in 2007. Also at the party, Stormy Daniels. Friends say Trump invited her.

Their parallels continued just before the 2016 presidential election, when the two women decided they wanted to tell their stories and, somehow, ended up with the same attorney, Keith Davidson. He brokered the deal for Daniels with Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to pay $130,000 as part of this confidentiality agreement.

According to McDougal's lawsuit, she had no idea Davidson was also informing Cohen about her deal to sell her story involving Donald Trump to the "National Enquirer," which it never published.

And both women say they were later intimidated to keep them from talking.

COOPER: AMI has put out a statement, saying that you can talk to the media, that you are free.

MCDOUGAL: Yes, I saw that statement, too. But according to their attorney, I can't. There will be financial ruin.

SIDNER (voice-over): Trump, Cohen and the parent company of the "National Inquirer," AMI, have all disputed various claims. Cohen says Trump denies the affairs ever took place and knew nothing of the deals. He says he doesn't remember any e-mails coming from AMI to him in McDougal's case and denies intimidating anyone.

AMI denies any coordinated campaign to convince McDougal that she would be sued or that her reputation would be besmirched if she told the truth.

SIDNER: The attorney that represented Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal back in 2016 says he would like to comment on what McDougal has said about him in the lawsuit but that he can't because of attorney-client privilege -- Sara Sidner, CNN, Los Angeles.


HOWELL: Sara, thank you.

Now to put this in focus, let's bring in Inderjeet Parmar. Inderjeet a professor of international politics at City University of London, live in our London bureau.

Inderjeet, the porn actress, the former "Playboy" model, and the President of the United States, talk to us about what this means politically for Mr. Trump, given these women are now speaking out?

INDERJEET PARMAR, CITY UNIVERSITY LONDON: There's probably two things there. One is the standing of Mr. Trump in regard to morality is that most people don't believe he's particularly moral, don't share their moral compass.

They don't believe he is honest. The key thing that'll probably protect him in these regards is that he is not going to be seen as a hypocrite and much political science --


PARMAR: -- research on scandals suggests that, if you are a hypocrite, that is you preach something in public that you have not practiced privately, then I think you are generally protected. So I think he's not going to suffer probably too much.

But the number of cases is piling up. So those people are independent or have leaned toward Mr. Trump are probably going to be leaving him and so his support will probably continue to erode slowly. HOWELL: Let's talk about Stormy Daniels' attorney, who says that he has proof that his client had a sexual affair with Donald Trump. He tweeted an image. If we can pull the image up, if we have it, the image of this disc.

There's the image you see and the tweet that he published. Here is what he had to say about it, let's listen.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: 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'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.


HOWELL: The president has avoided questions about these alleged affairs except by surrogates, who've held the line, denying that they've happened.

But with so much coming to light now, can he continue, Inderjeet, to avoid all of this?

PARMAR: I'm afraid from the very beginning, in fact his reputation for many years -- I haven't followed his career too long -- but it strikes me that scandals follow Mr. Trump from being a businessman and various things that he is involved in. His affairs go back many decades.

He seems to be quite Teflon-like in the way in which he can brush these things off. So my own suspicion is this is not going to do damage to his core base. They already know a large part of this is probably true. But I don't think they really care.

I think what they care about is the kind of things that he appealed to them during the election campaign. And I think that was a deep sense of crisis in regard to the political establishment, which had, in their view, forgotten what real Americans wanted, that they wanted to have some sort of a better life. They wanted to be able to achieve something approaching the American dream and they were not being able to do so.

So I think they are willing to forgive President Trump many, many things. And I suspect the core base, the 80 percent who voted for him in November 2016, I don't think they are going to be shifted very much. The Christian evangelicals, for example, as you know, are solidarity behind President Trump still.

HOWELL: And you mentioned the base. He did focus on military certainly during the campaign. And we see him talking about the military in the signing of this new omnibus spending bill, though he signed it with protest, essentially saying that he had to sign it to support the military but didn't get all the things, like money for the border wall, that he wanted.

What are your takeaways from what we saw with this particular bill?

PARMAR: Well, he's got a massive increase in military spending. And he was boasting about the submarines and the missiles and the ships and so on. That is a big part of what that budget was all about.

What you can say is you can forget about Republicans worried about deficits. They've jettisoned that idea with the tax bill in December. And the fact is, now, that with the appointment of John Bolton and also Mike Pompeo as the nominee to the State Department, Jane Haspel to the CIA director and the removal of McMaster and Tillerson, it seems to be that President Trump is amassing, getting together a little war cabinet.

And the optics of it are that, although you may be negotiating, possibly, with North Korea and you have been rejecting the Iran deal, it looks like the military confrontationalism is likely to increase.

But as we know, President Trump is a transactionalist. He has a big role and he likes to see the optics working for his base and to the parties of negotiations. And I think he's signaling to them that he's going to have large amounts of firepower right behind him. And this budget has given it to him.

And I think we can look forward to probably very confrontational stance in regard to the Iran nuclear agreement and that will probably be the key to the kinds of things they are going to talk about in May, possibly with the North Korean president.

HOWELL: We will have to wait and see. Inderjeet Parmar, live for us in London, thank you.

PARMAR: Thank you very much.

ALLEN: Coming up here, we'll have the latest on the Iran hacking story. What the United States is saying about the alleged hackers behind a massive global conspiracy. That's what the United States calls it.

HOWELL: Plus Europe is in for a weather roller coaster this weekend, cold, snow and dust.


HOWELL: The very latest forecast as NEWSROOM pushes on.




HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM.

The U.S. says it has uncovered a massive and brazen hacking scheme linked to Iran's government. It's indicted nine Iranians for stealing huge amounts of data. Their target list was seemingly endless and they could strike again.

ALLEN: They're still out there. The U.S. says the hackers went after university professors, global companies, even government groups and the U.N. CNN's Jessica Schneider has more on the charges from Washington for us.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These are government-linked hackers, according to the Justice Department, doing work on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. That's the Iranian intelligence agency.

They allegedly began the hacking campaign in 2013 and the government says they stole troves of data, including material from 8,000 university professors worldwide as well as various government agencies here in the U.S.

This material included academic journals, dissertations and entire e- mail inboxes. The FBI deputy director, he said it amounted to $3.4 billion worth of material from these universities, many of which are publicly funded, so essentially stealing taxpayer dollars.

This was an intricate scheme, where these hackers did surveillance of each potential target, then sent sophisticated e-mails that appeared to be from other university professors and the links within the emails connected to sites that then stole the e-mails, the user names and the passwords.

At this point, they have been indicted, these nine hackers. But criminal prosecution could be difficult since all nine of them are still in Iran and there's no way to extradite them. However, the Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on the hackers and the entity they worked for.

At this point, law enforcement here in the U.S. --


SCHNEIDER: -- said they are continuing to work with partners worldwide to crack down on these state-sponsored attacks, including any that could be in the works -- Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.


ALLEN: Coming up here, there a haze over Greece and it's dust, coming from Africa. Derek Van Dam will have more about it in just a moment.




Welcome back to NEWSROOM.



ALLEN: We have another hour ahead. Thank you for watching. We'll get back to our top stories in a moment.

HOWELL: Stay with us.