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Gates Help on Collusion; Russia Expels Diplomats; Mattis Jokes with Bolton; Ingraham Loses Advertisers. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired March 30, 2018 - 06:30   ET


[06:30:41] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news.

The U.S.-led coalition in Syria confirms that at least two personnel have been killed and five others wound in a roadside bombing. Their identities and nationalities have not yet been released.

This news comes as President Trump contradicts his top military officials, telling a crowd in Ohio that the U.S. -- U.S. troops will withdraw from Syria, quote, very soon. But a defense official tells CNN, the current military assessment is that now is not the time to withdraw. The State Department also says they were unaware of any plan to withdraw U.S. forces.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The Trump administration said to be taking steps to substantially roll back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards for cars. An Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman confirmed to "The New York Times" that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has given the White House a 16-page draft proposal to review. Now, if implemented, this would be a blow to environmentalists and clean air advocates and a win for carmakers.

CAMEROTA: "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that Walmart is in preliminary talks to buy health insurer Humana. The two sides are reportedly looking at a variety of options, including an acquisition. The details of the potential deal are not immediately clear. If the deal goes through, it would be Walmart's largest acquisition.

BERMAN: Final four weekend is here. That's basketball, just so you know.

CAMEROTA: What's happening with my bracket, do you know?

BERMAN: You're doing very, very well.

CAMEROTA: Oh, fantastic.

BERMAN: Michigan and Loyola-Chicago tipping off tomorrow night. Then it's the battle of the one seeds Villanova taking on Kansas. Jean Delores Schmidt, aka Sister Jean, will be cheering on the ramblers. Loyola-Chicago's beloved 98-year-old team chaplain is such a hit, she has her own bobblehead. And, get this, the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame says it just became the best-selling bobblehead in history.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. BERMAN: Edging out Chris Cuomo.

The women also crown a champion this weekend. Their final four featuring all number one seeds with Mississippi State taking on Louisville and Connecticut playing Notre Dame.

CAMEROTA: So, John, you are sartorially timely. What's on your feet right now?

BERMAN: Dave Briggs gave me Sister Jean stocks.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. Hold on.

BERMAN: Oh, wow, see, there's just half Sister Jean's face. This is -- by the way, my agent is upset that you're seeing my ankles --


BERMAN: Because it's something that no human should ever see.

CAMEROTA: Why, your -- you have bad ankles?

BERMAN: You know, they're small but mighty, let's put it that way.

CAMEROTA: I mean did they cost you -- wow, your agent is full service.

BERMAN: Yes, I know.

CAMEROTA: That's -- wow.

BERMAN: I have a whole ankle rider in my -- in my -- in my new contract, and I just violated it.

CAMEROTA: Come on, I think you could be an ankle model. Those are some fine looking socks right there.

BERMAN: Maybe for like 90-year-old girls.


All right, more on that later.

Meanwhile, the State Department ripping Russia for expelling dozens of American diplomats and closing the U.S. consulate. What will President Trump do now? We discuss that, next.


[06:37:23] BERMAN: CNN has learned why Special Counsel Robert Mueller wants help from former Trump campaign deputy chair Rick Gates. Court filings suggest that Mueller is going after bigger fish as he investigates contacts between President Trump's campaign and Russia.

Let's discuss with CNN national security analyst, former director of national intelligence, James Clapper.

Director, thank you so much for being with us.

The news this week was that Rick Gates was in contact with Constantin Calimnic (ph). This is this individual with ties to Russian intelligence. Was that man on your radar during your time at DNI?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: No, he was not. In fact, as a lot these -- as he's come out in these indictments and that sort of thing, were really not known to us when, you know, before the end of the Obama administration.

BERMAN: What does it tell you that Robert Mueller is investigating this connection and wants Gates to help illuminate really the nature of those contacts?

CLAPPER: Well, first, John, I think we've got to remember that whatever it is that's out in the public domain, that the Mueller team, the special counsel, is way ahead of us. And -- so clearly, you know, he's -- from what we can read into the tea leaves here inferentially, he's pursuing the collusion route, understanding that collusion is a nebulous term certainly legally. But that's -- it appears to me that's where it's going here.

And what -- and what is significant to me is the -- a prominent Trump camp official meeting with a Russian intelligence official. And it doesn't matter whether, you know, he's active or retired because those guys never really retire. And that, to me, just the fact of the meeting when you sort of piece that together with all of the other pieces of the puzzle, is one more indicator of the direction that special counsel is taking.

BERMAN: So the fact of these conversations between Rick Gates and maybe Paul Manafort and this person who had contacts and connections and maybe at one point been an agent for the GRU, does that in and of itself constitute collusion for you?

CLAPPER: Well, it -- it doesn't necessarily constitute the substance of collusion because just like the situation we faced before the end of the Obama administration, we knew about a lot of meetings going on, but we actually didn't know the substantive content of the discussions. And here again, at least politically, we don't know that either. I suspect the Mueller team does.

[06:40:07] BERMAN: One of the things that's happened this week, the United States has expelled 60 Russian diplomats. This in response to the poisoning of a former Russian double agent in the U.K. Do you feel that that response from the United States was sufficient?

CLAPPER: Well, it is was -- it's certainly more than sufficient for the, you know, narrow purpose here, which is to stand shoulder to shoulder with the U.K. after this egregious crime that the Russians committed in the U.K.

I was just in the U.K. earlier this week and certainly people there were gratified and I think relieved that -- and in all honesty a little surprised at the magnitude of the expulsions that we undertook. But as far as the broader context of Russia's behavior here and their

very aggressive information operations campaign, which they are still waging as they did during the election and the run-up to it, now that's not stopped. And this action in and of itself won't do that.

BERMAN: Administration supporters say look at our actions while President Trump has been in office. Expelling these diplomats, which is a very high number. I don't think we've seen this high of a number since the Reagan administration.


BERMAN: Look at the fact that they're arming Ukraine with javelin missiles. Look at the fact that, you know, Donald Trump, President Trump, took military action in Syria against Assad, Russia's ally here. Their actions are as firm against the Russians, they say, as anything that has come before. How would you respond to that?

CLAPPER: Well, it's -- to me suggests, if I can coin a term, sort of governmental schizophrenia here because we seem to have the established government taking some resolute action against the Russians.

But what is -- what is striking by contrast is the absence of any pronouncement by the president himself. And that's very curious. It doesn't -- it's hard to understand. And certainly hard to -- hard for people overseas to rationalize what this is about. So it's -- and I think that's -- in this particular instance, the fact the president doesn't mention the 60 expulsions. But in the larger context of what I think the country needs in terms of leadership to thwart what the Russians are trying to do, which is basically undermine our fundamental system, and, you know, every -- each of the cabinet departments that are relevant are doing their own thing here. But what is needed is some overarching leadership and a sense of urgency to do something about the -- what the Russians are doing.

BERMAN: Last question here. Let me ask you about incoming National Security Adviser John Bolton. He had a very important meeting yesterday with the defense secretary, James Mattis. The two had never met. And we got a little bit of a hot mike moment here. Let's listen in.




MATTIS: It's good to meet you. Thanks for --

BOLTON: So good to see you. Thank you for inviting me over.

MATTIS: Oh, no, thanks for -- thanks for coming and it's good to finally meet you.

BOLTON: Absolutely. MATTIS: I've heard that you're actually the devil incarnate and I wanted to meet you.


BERMAN: I've heard that you're the devil incarnate, Secretary Mattis said to John Bolton. But you're laughing. You think it's funny. What's your take on John Bolton?

CLAPPER: Well, first, I think it's -- it's another example of Jim Mattis' -- Secretary Mattis' deft use of humor. And he's very good at that. And, yes, John Bolton, whom I don't know personally, but, you know, just watching is clearly hawkish. He's certainly in that category. And with respect to Iran and North Korea, and, oh, by the way, Russia. That's going to be interesting.

But I don't think that hawkish necessarily means reckless. And I do think that it's one thing to be a kibitzer (ph) on the sideline with no particular responsibility then when you're actually sitting in the seat, particularly in a position like the national security adviser, it's a little bit different.

So I would be an advocate for actually watching to see what Mr. Bolton says and does before we over categorize him in advance of his actually assuming of the position.

BERMAN: Director Clapper, always a pleasure to have you. Thank you so much. Have a Happy Easter.

CLAPPER: And the same, John. Thanks for having me.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, now to this story. At least seven advertisers have pulled out of Fox host Laura Ingraham's show after a single tweet from the Parkland student, David Hogg. David Hogg joins is us live, next.


[06:48:57] CAMEROTA: Fox News host Laura Ingraham is apologizing for a tweet she sent going after Parkland massacre survivor and high school student David Hogg. Ingraham's original tweet said, David Hogg rejected by four colleges to which he applied and whines about it. Dinged by UCLA with a 4.0 GPA, totally predictable given acceptance rates.

Hogg then called on advertisers to boycott Ingraham and several companies have cut their ties, pulling their ads from Ingraham's show.

David Hogg joins us now live.

David, great to see you, as always.

DAVID HOGG, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR: Nice to see you too. CAMEROTA: So, listen, at our latest count, there's been seven

advertisers that have pulled out of Laura Ingraham's show after one tweet from you. I mean it seems like you have a lot of power at the moment and I'm just wondering how you feel about all of this?

HOGG: I think it's great that corporate America is standing with me and the rest of my friends because when you come against any one of us, whether it be me or anyone else, you're coming against all of us. And I think it's important that we stand together as both corporate and civic America to take action against these people and show them that they cannot push us around, especially when we're -- all we're trying to do here is save lives.

[06:50:05] And when people try to distract like Laura is trying to do right now from what the real issue here is, which is gun violence in America, it's not only sad, it's just wrong. From a journalistic standpoint, I would say that she needs to be more objective and needs to stand down because I am not the issue here. The issue needs to be gun violence in America. But what she's trying to do is to distract from that, and I hate it.

CAMEROTA: Listen, you know, she's -- you know she's a talk show host. She's not objective. I mean her point isn't even to be objective. She has a particular position. She's a conservative.

But, listen, after she -- after the advertisers started pulling out, she did issue an apology to you. I'll read it to everyone. Any student should be proud of a 4.2 GPA, including David Hogg. On reflection, in the spirit of holy week, I apologize for any upset or hurt my tweet caused him or any of the brave victims of Parkland. For the record, I believe my show was the first to feature David immediately after that horrific shooting and even noted how poised he was given a tragedy. As always, he's welcome to return to the show any time for a productive discussion.

Do you accept her apology?

HOGG: No. She's only apologizing after a third of her advertisers pulled out. And I think it's really disgusting the fact that she basically tried promoting her show after apologizing to me. I think it's wrong and I think if she really wants to do something, she could cover things like inner-city violence and the real issues that we have in America. I know she's a talk show host, but as such she also has a responsibility to show both sides of a story, you know?

CAMEROTA: Look, I mean, you and I both know how much vilification there has been during this entire tragedy. I mean, frankly, on both sides. You and your friends have been in the middle of this media maelstrom. I mean you guys have been targeted by right wing, you know, websites and cable news hosts. And I don't know how you are coping through all of this.

HOGG: I mean, honestly, it's -- most of the time for us, when people -- when I see things on Twitter, people comparing me to Hitler or calling us a communist, it's been like about five and a half weeks now since this massacre. And it's insane because it's literally only been five and a half weeks. And the fact that they're going after us personally shows that what we're doing is working. We have them scared. And now we have to go even harder because this is when it really starts to matter is when these people try going against us because -- I want people to understand, we're not trying to take your guns. We're not against the Second Amendment. We don't want to repeal the Second Amendment. We simply want gun legislation in this country that allows law abiding citizens to still own guns or prevents people with a history of mental illness or a history of a criminal background from owning a firearm. It's as simple as that. We are for reasonable and sensible gun ownership so long as it's responsible in the way that criminals can't get it.

CAMEROTA: Well, look, to that end, would you consider sitting down with someone like Laura Ingraham and reaching across the aisle just for the sake of common ground and trying to find the solutions that you're talking about?

HOGG: See, I would like to do that, but first I would need her to be more objective in the way that she talks about us. Because if you look at any time that she talks about us on her talk show, she speaks only to her audience, which is kind of what a talk show host does. But what she does most of the time is, she's like, oh, these leftist -- this leftist group is trying to take all your -- she gets this really threatening tone about us that we don't have. We love every -- like, we're people that just want to come -- want everybody to come together as Americans and help us solve this issue because we do have to reach across the aisle to solve this. This is not a Democrat or a Republican issue. This is an American issue. And as such we have to work together.

CAMEROTA: David, I am stunned that four colleges rejected you. What kind of dumbass colleges don't want you? I mean you've taken the country by storm. How do you explain this? Did they reject you before the Parkland massacre? Or how do you explain this?

HOGG: They rejected me about -- let me think, about two weeks ago, most of them. It was UCLA and UCSD. I -- the way I explain it is, we have a heavily impacted university system in America. And I think there's a lot of really good candidates that don't get into college. And I think it goes to show that regardless of whether or not you get into college, you can still change the world. The hardest part is just believing that you can and continuing that effort to change the world, because you eventually will.

CAMEROTA: David, I know that you haven't been spending much time back at Parkland high school. You've obviously been -- this has become your mission. We've seen you on the media a lot. Are you going to go to college in September?

HOGG: That's a good question. I'm thinking about it. But I may be taking a gap here at this point to work on the campaign trail on a candidate basis, not as -- not just working for Democrats, not just working for Republicans, because there's Democrats that are supported by the NRA. There are Republicans that are not supported by the NRA. This is -- lives really are not a partisan issue. I think that's what a lot of this country is forgetting is, we are simply just trying to save lives. And once we remember that, we can all work together on both sides of the aisle to help solve this issue. But when we work against each other, we can't.

[06:55:05] CAMEROTA: And, David, just last, I mean, emotionally, how are you doing?

HOGG: I'm exhausted. My flight got diverted last night and I had to stay in D.C. another night. But it's all right. I just -- at this point I kind of just want to be back home with my friends for a little bit and -- because we have our own little family, basically, and we all support each other as such.

CAMEROTA: Well, David Hogg, it's always great to talk to you. Best of luck. We'll be checking back in with you soon. Thanks so much.

HOGG: Thank you.


BERMAN: College counselors across America are calling you right now, Alisyn Camerota.

We're learning more about what Special Counsel Robert Mueller wants to learn from former Trump campaign staffer Rick Gates about his contacts with Russia. Is Special Counsel Mueller any closer to making a case for collusion?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mueller has his eye on the ball. It's the Trump campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump can no longer say that collusion has not come up at all.

[07:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have very little evidence that's shown collusion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's at stake here is the following question, did the president himself come under Russian influence?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a lot of stuff that smells very bad.