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Gates Connected to Russia; Trump Silent on Daniels Story; Latest Trump Polls; Trade Deal with South Korea; California AG Investigating Shooting; Eggs and Embryos Lost at Ohio Clinic. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired March 28, 2018 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Deep knowledge of what's going on here, c, Rick Gates is cooperating with them, maybe that's the importance here, or, maybe, d, none of the above.


BERMAN: Right.

GOLODRYGA: I mean we first of all have a case where lying has been uncovered, right, throughout this investigation. When it came to Manafort and Gates and their past ties with Russians, it had always been in the past. That was their argument. It was when we worked in Ukraine. It was before we started working with the Trump Organization and the Trump campaign.

Well, fast forward to this news that we got overnight, and this contact in the working with the former GRU officer, which is Russian military intelligence -- And, by the way, he still had contact with current Russian military intelligence -- took place during the 2016 campaign. So that's putting these two gentlemen who are high up the ladder in the Trump campaign right there at the time that the president was running -- or the president-to-be was running for president, they were having connections with Russian intelligence -- former Russian intelligence. That's a huge leap from past relations.

BERMAN: And the fact of the contact may be significant. We have no knowledge about whether or not they were communicating about the campaign. But, still --

GOLODRYGA: But they lied about it. They lied about it.

BERMAN: Yes, and lies are always significant.


BERMAN: Shift gears now to what we are not hearing from the White House or the president specifically.

Margaret, you know, the president still has remained completely silent on the Stormy Daniels issue really and I think it's been five straight days now where we've had no public events from the president of the United States, which seems to me pretty deliberate, trying to avoid the press and questions about what's going on with Stormy Daniels.

Margaret, among your many jobs, your president of the White House Correspondents Association. You keep track of this type of thing. This seems to me to be a long time with no public events.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, John, as you know, the president, in general, doesn't like to do the wide ranging news conferences. But I was down in Mar-a-Lago with him over the weekend and we really didn't see him in person at all, other than boarding and deplaning Air Force One. And, of course, that was before the "60 Minutes" interview. We were hoping to catch a couple minutes with him, and he wasn't -- he wasn't really amenable to that.

But, look, the stakes here are very high, and it's not incredibly surprising that White House aides and maybe even the president himself kind of want to limit his exposure to off-the-cuff comments at a time like this. I think the developments of the last few days have shown us there is so many things that we don't know and that the president and his team may not be able to anticipate yet about legal challenges, using the courts to try to get him to be deposed, this sort of thing. Anything he says between now and then become a part of that process. And so that may explain part of his caution.

BERMAN: He can't hide forever, though, Margaret, correct? I mean sooner or later he's got to hold a public event and sooner or later someone who works, you know, in the White House with you covering him every day is going to shout a question.

TALEV: Of course. And he's the president of the United States. So, I mean -- and the White House is the people's house. But in the past we've seen the president -- all presidents seek to have public events on their terms, when there's something that he can talk about to drive the narrative so that he can deflect questions or answer the policy questions that he wants to answer. As you know, there are some personnel changes that may be coming. So it may be events like that where we're more likely to hear from him because he doesn't want the only question to be about this.

So -- but, yes, you're absolutely right, there are events approaching closely, the foreign leader visits. There is an international summit coming within the next couple weeks. The president is going to have a lot of face time with the press corps that cover him and with the public and at some point has to be prepared either to answer this question or to deflect it effectively.

BERMAN: And deflect it and mean it and stick with it, not take, you know, another question.

All right, Perry, the White House is arguing that this silence and this story in general is not hurting him in the polls. I mean the polls we have seen show his approval rating ticking up over the last month. But they also show the fact that Americans believe the women in this case. What are you seeing in the numbers?

PERRY BACON, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: Yes, the numbers show throughout these last few weeks that we talked about Daniels and the potential of a payoff that Trump is between about 38 and 41 percent approval, 42 percent approval in the polls. That's where he's been for a long time. Trump seems to have a stable group around 40 percent of Americans who support him pretty much no matter what. And then the rest -- the majority of the public does not support him. So the numbers haven't changed.

And I'm not surprised by that. It's not entirely -- if you watched Sunday's interview, I don't think anything necessarily surprised most Americans. I don't think Donald Trump people thought was sort of a paragon of virtue, someone who was like the most, you know, faithful husband in the world. So I'm not sure the interview sort of jumped out at people.

The one advantage I think Trump has if you compare it to the 1990s, I think, is the Republicans control Congress. You can imagine what you heard on Sunday can turn into a lot of hearings and a lot of questions about cover-up and payoffs and Michael Cohen's role and how Trump treats women. But you're not likely to see hearings like that on The Hill because Republicans control The Hill right now. But next year I think you potentially could see -- if the Democrats won the House, for example, you could see a focus on what exactly happened here and the overall things we saw on Sunday and what that means about Trump's behavior and if it's legal or not.

[09:35:11] BERMAN: So, Bianna, I got to ask you a question about Russia, because you speak Russian. Now I'm going to get to ask you a question about business because you cover it so well.

The White House has made a trade deal with South Korea having to do with steel imports and also auto exports. It's not clear to me that there's much major in the deal itself. But the White House is proud of itself for striking this bilateral deal with South Korea. Is this a sign maybe of more deals that they can strike going forward using the sticks of these tariffs?

GOLODRYGA: Well, it's hard to take this deal away from the bigger geopolitical issue at hand. And, of course, that's North Korea. So South Korea may have agreed to this deal in a way that -- to calm the president down and focus on something that they're a bit more concerned about.

As you said, the president, a lot of rhetoric and talk went into the significance of this deal. When you read the fine print, there's not really that much there. So the president gets a win and South Korea can now focus on what it wants to focus on. Of course, that is North Korea and any impending meeting that the president may have with Kim Jong-un.

And can I just throw one more thing back into the Stormy issue.


GOLODRYGA: Because I think it speaks volumes that the president, whether he means it or not, has at least said that he's willing to sit down with Bob Mueller. We have not heard the president come out and say that he's willing to be deposed. And so that is -- it speaks volumes as to how the president feels about this issue perhaps and why he's not tweeting and why we're not hearing from him.

BERMAN: The comparison there is absolutely stellar (INAUDIBLE).

GOLODRYGA: He may have met his match with Stormy Daniels.

BERMAN: One thing the president is tweeting about today is guns. This after retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens wrote an op-ed in "The New York Times" suggesting that the country should repeal the Second Amendment. This is what the president wrote this morning. The Second Amendment will never be repealed, as much as Democrats would like to see this happen and despite words yesterday from former Supreme Court Justice Stevens. No way. We need more Republicans in 2018 and must always hold the Supreme Court.

Perry, first of all, no party actually holds the Supreme Court, no matter what the president thinks there. But -- but in the minute that this op-ed came out, a lot of people remarked right away that this was handing a potent political issue to gun rights advocates who always say people want to take away our Second Amendment rights. And many Democrats who have run for office say, no, no, we don't want to do that. We're just talking about gun control laws. Well, now John Paul Stevens has said, we want to take away the Second Amendment.

BACON: The Stevens op-ed was probably, you know, not helpful if you're Nancy Pelosi. But I would say that most Democratic candidates are going to be talking about things like expanded background checks and raising the age of purchasing weapons from 18 to 21. So I think overall I'm not sure.

Gun rights advocates, even before this op-ed, were already saying the Democrats oppose the Second Amendment. Marco Rubio said that on Saturday -- something like that on Saturday, in fact. So I already think that both sides are pretty animated about this issue.

But I think the big switch over the -- this -- over the last year is now, you've always had on the right a pretty intense group of people who voted on that gun issue as a single issue. I think now you're seeing on the left you have a pretty passionate group of gun control advocates who are going to vote on that issue and going to vote against people who do not share their views on that issue.

BERMAN: We'll see. It would be a first, really, but we will see if that takes place.

Bianna Golodryga, Margaret Talev, Perry Bacon, thank you so much for being with us.

Protests erupt in Sacramento at a city council meeting over the police shooting of Stephon Clark. Now the state of California is investigating.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you point this to our counsel, does this look like a gun?



[09:42:45] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD: Stephon Clark! Stephon Clark! Stephon Clark! Stephon Clark! Stephon Clark!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The chief of police got my brother killed. He didn't care. He shows no emotion at all.



BERMAN: That's the brother of Stephon Clark, along with hundreds of frustrated protesters interrupting and eventually shutting down Sacramento's city council meeting last night.

Clark was fatally shot by two Sacramento police officers after a foot chase and entering his grandmother's backyard. He was shot 20 times. Police say they thought he had a gun. He did not. Just a cell phone, which prompted this from protesters.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does this look, as you point this to our council, does this look like a gun?


BERMAN: He was shot at 20 times, I should have said, not shot 20 times.

Now, California's attorney general is promising an independent investigation into Clark's death and the Sacramento Police Department itself.

Joining me now, CNN law enforcement analyst James Gagliano.

James, the fact that the attorney general in California is stepping in for this investigation, how significant is that?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: John, I think it's appropriate. Is it significant? There's a debate amongst law enforcement circles that says you should not take these investigations out of the hands of the local D.A. because they have a better understanding of the area, they have a better understanding of the police department.

But I don't think the attorney general can work this in a vacuum. I think he's going to need some of the investigators from the police department. But I think there needs to be an independent investigation. And I think the attorney general's office is the right place to start.

BERMAN: What questions do you have? What are the outstanding issues here?

GAGLIANO: There's a number of outstanding issues. Now, people are going to make hay about the fact that there were 20 shots fired. Now, I'm hearing through channels that the actual hits were only around in the neighborhood of four. And that's consistent with police officers that were responding to -- apparently there were calls that there was somebody breaking into cars. Then they see a fleeing person.

Now, is that consciousness of guilt or is that just somebody that just doesn't want to have contact with theme police department? These officers are being forced to make snap judgments under the cover of darkness in situations like this. Very dangerous.

BERMAN: Well, so one question is, did they have reason to believe he was the one breaking into the windows? We don't know. We don't know if he was or not. We don't know if they have that proof or not. That's an outstanding issue.

Number two, I imagine an issue is what was in his hands. It was a cell phone. They thought it was a gun.

[09:45:03] GAGLIANO: Sure. And in these instances, people think that for a police officer to discharge his weapon, for a police officer to employ deadly force, they have to be fired upon. And that's not the case. The standard is, a reasonable person or a reasonable officer with the appropriate training would have felt threatened and could articulate that under those circumstances they thought their life was being threatened.

We're going to have to wait to see what happens here. Those officers are certainly due -- you know, they're entitled to due process, but it's a tough time because in that city there have been two recent -- I think within the last two years -- shootings of unarmed black men that has got the city on edge.

BERMAN: You know, as we saw, in Baton Rouge yesterday with Alton Sterling, that case come out, you can have an investigation and the results can be, well, they followed procedures. They went by the book. Even though an innocent person was apparently killed.

If they went by the book and an innocent person was killed, do you need to change the book?

GAGLIANO: You may have to. And that's all processes and protocols.

The two police officers that were exonerated, essentially they were not indicted by the state of Louisiana, the attorney general. They may still lose their job for not following departmental procedures. But did what they do -- did what they do, was that murder or was that manslaughter? And I would argue that the federal government, the Department of Justice, conducted a one year investigation into whether or not Alton Sterling's civil rights were violated, came to the conclusion, no, and that was followed by a concurrent investigation by the state that came to the same decision.

BERMAN: Very quickly, James, we saw the protests last night in Sacramento. How hard is it to conduct any kind of independent investigation in that atmosphere?

GAGLIANO: It's very difficult. And that's the thing, we've got to kind of tune out the noise. And these are hard because a tragedy happened. A family lost a child and a father and a brother. But by the same token, those two police officers, their lives are irreparably changed also.

BERMAN: James Gagliano, great to have you with us. Thank you very, very much.

GAGLIANO: Thank you, sir.

BERMAN: Hundreds of families' plans shattered after a fertility clinic loses thousands of embryos and eggs. We'll have the details, next.


[09:51:23] BERMAN: This morning, nearly 950 families are learning their frozen eggs and/or embryos have been lost. Officials at one Ohio fertility clinic are saying a storage tank failure is to blame for the loss of more than 4,000 specimens.

Joining me now with much more on this, CNN's Brynn Gingras.

And, Brynn, I've got to believe this is just devastating for the families and it's all being blamed on an alarm?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And I can't imagine just getting this news and this was maybe your only hope. We've talked to people that are, you know, suffering through cancer and this was what they were hoping to have. They had hope before. It's pretty much gone.

And, you're right, it's on a -- it's on a malfunction issue. And this is really doubled the amount than originally thought when the clinic announced this major issue earlier in the month. We're talking about roughly 950 families now affected. And it's due, again, to a freezer malfunction where the embryos were stored in the Cleveland facility.

In a letter, University Hospital officials uppted (ph) the families saying this. The technical manner in which the eggs and embryos are stored in these freezers complicated our initial determination of how many patients and specimens were affected. We are heartbroken to tell you that it's unlikely any are viable.

Previously, again, there was hope that some specimens would be OK.

So, how did this happen? According to the hospital, temperatures fluctuated inside the liquid nitrogen tanks where these eggs and embryos are stored. Now the tanks do have a remote alarm system to alert staff when this happens, but for some reason the alarm had been switched off.

Now, that was complicated by the fact that the temperatures rose over the weekend when the lab isn't staffed. In this particular tank, the hospital admits, was having technical issues for several weeks. They were in the process of fixing the problem, moving the embryos, but that hadn't yet happened when this all malfunctioned.

Now, University Hospital has offered free services to its patients. It's waived storage fees, which you can't imagine, it's not very comforting, for several years, but lawsuits are really flooding in.

BERMAN: Well, let's talk about these lawsuits now. And, again, it seems to me that if you -- if you run one of these kinds of facilities, your one job --


BERMAN: Is to maintain the viability of these specimens. What kind of lawsuits and how many -- how much in damages might they face?

GINGRAS: Well, and that's what the lawyer wants to know for the family -- the one lawyer for right now that's representing about 40 to 50 families is, how did this happen? This is your one job. How would this get switched off? Was it a mistake? Did someone get annoyed that the alert was going off and so they switched it off and didn't tell anybody or forgot to switch it back on? Again, it was complicated by the fact that this alert should have gone off, first of all, and then that temperatures rose over the weekend, so nobody was even there to even check on the -- on the tanks. But they are expecting, obviously, more families -- there's 950 families affected. Only 50 families so far are a part of this lawsuit. So they're expecting more.

BERMAN: And as you said, for some of these families, this was the last chance, the only chance.

GINGRAS: Exactly.

BERMAN: Our hearts goes out to them.

Brynn Gingras, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

This morning we're learning new details about the man accused of sending suspicious packages to military and government offices around Washington. Investigators say that Thanh Cong Phan sent more than ten boxes with explosive materials to the CIA, FBI and other buildings. Law enforcement sources say the devices were cheap, would not have caused injuries if they exploded. The boxes each also contained a rambling letter from the suspect. One of those letters did mention President Trump, but investigators are not considering it a serious threat.

A bipartisan effort to fight sexual harassment on Capitol Hill. All 22 female senators now calling on Senate leaders to take up a bill that would strengthen the procedures available for harassment victims. The women made their request in a letter that expressed their, quote, deep disappointment over the Senate's inaction so far.

Two Kansas water park executives are facing second degree murder charges after a 10-year-old boy was killed on a water slide in 2016. Caleb Schwab's raft went airborne and he was fatally injured. Two other women were also hurt. The indictment says that park officials knew about multiple issues with the ride but did not address them. Officials say park employees came forward revealing the park covered up similar incidents in the past.

[09:55:19] President Trump silent when it comes to Stormy Daniels, but perhaps that won't be for long if Stormy Daniels attorney gets his way. New, important legal developments overnight.

Stay with us.


[10:00:01] BERMAN: All right, good morning. John Berman here. The president's silence on Stormy Daniels, will it come to an end by legal force?