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Mueller's Team Talking To Russian Oligarchs About Election Meddling; Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg To Testify Before Congress Next Week Over Data Breach; Trump Orders National Guard Troops To Mexico Border; Judge In AT&T Trial Makes His Presence Known. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired April 5, 2018 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] RICK SANTORUM (R), CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER U.S. SENATOR, PENNSYLVANIA: And I disagree with Jennifer. I think it is hatred toward the president.

The fact of the matter is this country is doing really great. I mean, it's -- from an employment standpoint, from wages -- everything -- there's a lot of things looking up and it's one of the reasons Trump's numbers are going up.

If the -- if the Congress can get their act together and do something on health care, do something on immigration, and actually deliver for what they said they were going to do back in the last election, I think this can turn around, and I think that's what Scott's pointing to.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Rick Santorum, Jennifer Granholm, thank you very much for that debate -- David.


Coming up next, a CNN exclusive. Russian oligarchs being questioned now by the special prosecutor's team. What the special counsel wants to know. We're going to ask a member of Congress what he thinks about the development, coming up next.


GREGORY: Now to a CNN exclusive. Multiple sources saying special counsel Robert Mueller's team has questioned several Russian oligarchs who traveled into the U.S. The investigators are asking whether these Russians illegally funneled money -- donations actually -- into President Trump's campaign or his inauguration.

Joining me now, Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York. He's a member of the House Judiciary Committee. Welcome, good to have you here.


GREGORY: So we talk about following the money. The financial aspect of this has got to be intriguing to investigators.

Where does it go? How do you put it together with what we already know and don't know at this point?

JEFFRIES: Well, I think there are three pieces to the investigation.

First of all, the more we learn the worse it gets for Donald Trump and for all of the president's men -- that's clear. And, Bob Mueller is running a thorough and comprehensive investigation and he's going to get to the bottom of what happened on behalf of the American people.

What we know is that you've got potential money laundering that may have occurred prior to the campaign with Donald Trump as a private citizen -- so-called businessman. You've got possible conspiracy with Russian spies to sell out our democracy that occurred during the campaign. I think Bob Mueller's going to look for motive and opportunity, perhaps as it relates to interactions that had occurred with these oligarchs.

And then, you've got a third aspect to what's going on, which is potential obstruction of justice that occurred with Donald Trump as president to cover up what may have occurred either as it relates to possible money laundering or as it relates to the conspiracy to sell out our democracy.

GREGORY: That -- those are a lot of the theories of -- perhaps, of investigators, certainly of the president's opponents. But there is a difference between what is potentially gathering up as evidence.

What we know is that there were efforts by the Russians to undermine our democracy, to meddle in the campaign. Now, maybe there's an angle that there's a financial piece of this funneling illegal donations. Any foreign national who donates to an American campaign, that's an illegal donation.

That's a far cry from whether anybody knew about it, least of all the President of the United States, then-candidate --

JEFFRIES: Well, what we --

GREGORY: -- running for president.

JEFFRIES: Well, we know that there was a high-level meeting at Trump Tower that took place involving both his top adviser who happened to be his son-in-law Jared Kushner, his son Donald Trump, Jr., and Paul Manafort with people close to Vladimir Putin who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. They went into that meeting understanding that they were speaking to a foreign power who indicated the willingness to interfere in a presidential election.

We obviously have other examples of individuals -- Papadopoulos and Carter Page -- who were clearly engaged with Russian spies offering up information --

GREGORY: But isn't that -- isn't this an argument that wow, somebody must have known, which doesn't necessarily follow because you certainly could have had all of these attempts, all of the efforts, and it's still not -- and it's even made to look as at a certain level somebody knew. That's not necessarily where the evidence takes us.

JEFFRIES: Well, that's why we need an investigation.


JEFFRIES: I mean, the fundamental question that has to be answered here, what did the president know and when did he know it?


JEFFRIES: We do know that Russia, a foreign power, interfered in our election for the purpose of artificially elevating Donald Trump into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. That, in and of itself, justifies a comprehensive investigation.

GREGORY: You know, it's interesting. You have the national security adviser saying that Russia has faced no costs from what they did in the election. But with regard to oligarchs in particular -- these wealthy Russians -- they are about to face sanctions from this administration.

Do you see that as too cute by half by an attempt to inoculate themselves against criticism?

JEFFRIES: Well, it will be a step in the right direction if it happens. But again, it's not clear whether it's just talk or whether it will result in action because what we've seen from this administration so far, on a whole range of issues, is a lot of conversation but no real action.

Congress, months ago, gave the president and the administration power on an incredibly bipartisan way to levy punishment against Russia for interfering in our election and all we've seen from the president is continuing this bromance with Vladimir Putin. That's unfortunate.

If he's going to change his tune and they're going to punish Russia for what it did, that would be a reasonable step forward.

GREGORY: Let me switch gears and talk about Facebook. Congress is going to be scrutinizing Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, for this breaching of private users' data by Cambridge Analytica next week. This is a huge breakdown -- a huge breach of security.

What do you want to see happen to Facebook? Is this a new era where the government has got to get involved in regulating what it does?

JEFFRIES: Well certainly, I think reasonable guardrails are important as it relates to what these social media companies are doing relative to privacy of the American people.

GREGORY: And, Zuckerberg says he would be welcomed to more regulations, but what does that look like? What specifically does that look like? JEFFRIES: Well certainly, efforts by foreign entities to penetrate Facebook, misappropriate data and/or manipulate the site in order to change the hearts and minds artificially of the American people is problematic and we can spot them (ph).

[07:40:00] GREGORY: Right, we can agree on that. But what do you -- right. So what do you do to start to address that problem?

JEFFRIES: Well, I think one, you've got to -- what we have right now, basically, is that the Internet and Facebook is operating as if it's the wild west.


JEFFRIES: Absolutely no FEC oversight, no FCC oversight, no real capacity to levy fines or punishments when you've got privacy violations. So there's got to be some measure of accountability for what has occurred and some disincentives for entities like Facebook to basically allow its platform to be abused. If we start there I think that would be a reasonable step for the American people.

GREGORY: We're going to be watching next week.

Congressman, thanks so much.

JEFFRIES: Thank you very much.

GREGORY: Appreciate you being here -- Alisyn.


President Trump wants to deploy the National Guard to the southern border. We'll show you what it is like there right now in a live report, next.


CAMEROTA: OK. So, President Trump is ordering the deployment of National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border after officials report a surge in attempted illegal crossings for the month of March.

The president just tweeted this. This is what's on his mind this morning about this.

"The caravan is largely broken up thanks to the strong immigration laws of Mexico and their willingness to use them so as not to cause a giant scene at the border. Because of the Trump administration's actions, border crossings are at a still unacceptable 46-year low. Stop drugs!"

[07:45:13] So there's a few different messages here.

GREGORY: Well, I mean, it is interesting because -- I mean, what he's saying -- we were talking about this with David Sanger.

We did actually experience a drop in border crossings because of then- candidate Trump's rhetoric and his early promises as a president. But now, his administration is saying they've spiked back up in April.

But if they are at a low, which we've been saying, border crossings are down. Why do we have to commit troops to the border?

CAMEROTA: This is -- I mean, this is the point is what's a crisis? So if this -- does this constitute a crisis that historically, they spike back up in March as we've seen year after year after year?

GREGORY: It's certainly not dealing with the underlying complications of asylum seekers, let alone illegal crossings.

This is a president who wants a border wall. He had a chance for funding for it. Didn't get the deal, ultimately.

And again, we have to look at this in the context of broader politics. Not only election-year politics but the idea of trying to get a broader immigration deal.

CAMEROTA: All right. So what exactly is happening on the border right now?

CNN's Ed Lavandera is live in Laredo, Texas to show us. Hi, Ed.


Well, the bridge that you see behind me is one of those popular, heavily-used bridges. Tens of thousands of people use that to connect from Laredo, Texas into Mexico there on the other side of the Rio Grande. So these are communities that are very much used to these kinds of debates swirling around their communities.

And one of the things that Donald Trump mentioned yesterday in his order deploying the National Guard and the idea of sending troops down here to the border was talking about the quote "lawlessness" of the border region. That is something that residents here really bristle at.

Many officials like to point out up and down many of the border communities that they're some of the safest in terms of crime compared to the -- to the national rate. So that kind of talk is one of the things that bristles -- that many people here bristle at.

The idea of sending troops down here to the border, not a very popular idea by any means, but it's also something that residents around here in border towns like Laredo have become used to.

We've reported President Bush deployed the National Guard, President Obama deployed the National Guard as well. And here in Texas, for example, governors Rick Perry and Greg Abbott have also done similar things as well.

So while it is not universally despised by any means it does have some support. It is a question that many people in many ways seem to shrug off at times because they're a little bit used to it. Many people do question the effectiveness -- whether or not it is worth the money. Yesterday, as we flew into Laredo, we were on a flight with Sen. John

Cornyn. We asked him about details about the size of the force, how long they would be here, and he simply didn't have those answers but he supported the idea as well -- Alisyn and David.

GREGORY: I'm curious. For people who have not spent time on the border, it was interesting. My daughter just did a service trip down to the border where she was able to tour some of the barriers. And again, when you go to visit it doesn't seem to make sense. You can have a barrier -- you can have a portion of the wall that's there and the obvious point is well, can't somebody just go around it.

How -- there is a kind of patchwork nature of some of these barriers and even the fencing, right, Ed?

LAVANDERA: Oh, there's no question. If you go back to when President George W. Bush enacted some of that -- the initial border wall that was really built up 10-12 years ago now and what that did leave is a lot of border fencing -- infrastructure put in around places like Laredo, McAllen, Brownsville. And then, what many people say is that that essentially pushed undocumented migrants further out into desert- type regions.

And so you do find that patchwork of where you can drive a couple of miles outside of town and the wall abruptly ends. And you do see that a lot of those crossings get pushed out there into much more dangerous territory, not just for the migrants but the border patrol agents who have to work in those remote areas as well.

CAMEROTA: All right, Ed. Thank you very much for showing us that and giving us context from Laredo there.

Also, we're going to find out what is happening with the caravans because the president just tweeted that the caravans are being broken up.

Our Leyla Santiago is with the caravan and she is going to give us the take from inside on whether or not they're breaking up or whether or not they're still on their journey.


CAMEROTA: All right.

Meanwhile, the judge in the antitrust case between the Justice Department and AT&T is speaking up. The testimony that had some asking questions. That's next.


[07:53:48] CAMEROTA: The federal judge in the antitrust case between the Justice Department and AT&T asked a telling question. The government is looking to block a proposed merger between the telecom giant and Time Warner which, of course, owns CNN.

"CNN POLITICS" media and business reporter Hadas Gold was in the court. She joins us now with more. Hadas, great to see you.

So what questions are the -- is the judge asking?

HADAS GOLD, MEDIA AND BUSINESS REPORTER, "CNN POLITICS": So this is really interesting because in this case, it is only up to the judge. There is no jury in this case so anything the judge says, any questions he asks are notable.

So if we back up a little bit, one of the government's main arguments against this merger between AT&T and Time Warner is that Time Warner could leverage their content -- networks like CNN, HLN or TNT -- to get better deals with cable distributors. And one of those threats the government is alleging is that Time Warner could say oh, we're going to take our programming off your air unless you give us the deal that we want.

To try to allay those fears, Time Warner and Turner, which is a subsidiary of Time Warner, offer what's called an arbitration offer. Pretty much, that they said if there are disputes, a cable company could come to us and say let's sit down with a third-party mediator who will then decide which offer is best and that's the offer we will have to go to. It would be a binding arbitration deal.

[07:55:00] But some cable distributors said that they're not a huge fan of this arbitration offer because they said it's blind. They don't have all the information they would need.

So yesterday, Judge Leon asked one of the cable distributors on the stand. He said, well how would you feel if we restructure the arbitration deal? What if we made it more fair so that there -- you had more information about it? And the cable distributor executive said I'd be open to that.

And that's really important for us to keep in mind because Judge Leon could maybe decide that if this merger has to go through there has to be a different arbitration offer. It's really all up to him so that's why anything he asks on -- to any of the witnesses on the stand is incredibly important.

GREGORY: Is there any precedent with past mergers -- Comcast-NBC, for one -- that is instructive here as a precedent?

GOLD: Definitely. The Comcast-NBC Universal case was a little bit different because the Justice Department didn't sue to completely block the merger like they are in the AT&T case. There was a settlement agreement that actually, Judge Leon, the same judge, presided over. But in that case, Judge Leon also actually imposed some conditions because he also wasn't a huge fan of the arbitration offer in that case.

So that's why all of our ears perked up in the courtroom yesterday when we heard him ask about the arbitration offer because of this past precedence.

CAMEROTA: And so we know that you've reported before that the judge would like them to speed this up. GOLD: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Is that happening? Is it -- has it picked up the pace?

GOLD: It actually has. Yesterday, I think we got through about four witnesses which is sort of unheard of. And at one point, AT&T lawyers decided not to cross-examine one of the witnesses and the judge said oh, you don't hear that every day and everybody started laughing.

Because clearly, the attorneys from both sides have gotten the message because if they don't speed this up -- if they don't get this done quickly enough then we are going to hit up against that merger deadline in June when either Time Warner or AT&T could walk away from this deal.

The judge said that if the trial goes into May he won't have time to write this really lengthy decision before that merger deadline.

CAMEROTA: All right. Give us a preview of today.

GOLD: We're going to be hearing from a lot of AT&T-Time Warner executives. The attorneys have let us know that pretty much the next 10 witnesses are going to be from the defense so they're going to be what's called sort of hostile, direct questioning because they're clearly not on the side of the Justice Department.

So we're going to get come pretty contentious questioning today. It's going to be a lot of sort of insider, what were your discussions, deliberations before going into this merger? How did this all work?

The Justice Department is trying to prove that AT&T-Time Warner executives will purposely use their content to gain leverage over their competitors.

CAMEROTA: OK. You've made -- somehow, you've made the covering of an antitrust case get juicy and into a cliffhanger. So, Hadas, we will look forward to your reporting tomorrow. Thank you -- all right.

GOLD: Thank you, guys.

GREGORY: Thanks.

CAMEROTA: We're following a lot of news right now. Let's get right to it.


KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: The president has directed that the Department of Defense to deploy the National Guard to our southwest border.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm, frankly, glad to see him stepping up. I think it's actually a necessary step.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is just a political fix because he made a stupid campaign promise over a stupid border wall. DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His entire national security team said you can't do this. The president apparently got very testy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a special responsibility. If he just pulls out precipitously it's very like that coalition falls apart.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mueller's team is now targeting certain Russian oligarchs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The questioning of these people certainly isn't focused on donations and money surrounding the campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's always been follow the money. That's where it was in Watergate and that's where it is here.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CAMEROTA: And good morning, everyone. Welcome to your new day. It is Thursday, April fifth, 8:00 in the east.

Chris is off. David Gregory joins me. Great to have you here.

GREGORY: It's great to be your partner in crime, at least for today.

CAMEROTA: Fantastic.


CAMEROTA: And tomorrow.

GREGORY: Oh, yes.

CAMEROTA: Stop trying to sneak out of it.

GREGORY: Oh, I wouldn't do that.

CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, President Trump wants National Guard troops at the border with Mexico and he's one step closer to deploying them. We don't know many details, like how many troops, where they will go, how long they'll be there, or who will pay for this.

And moments ago, President Trump tweeted about that caravan of Central Americans who are heading towards the U.S. border through Mexico. This is the latest in a string of tweets where he's venting about immigration policy.

We have a reporter with that caravan so we'll tell you exactly what's happening.

GREGORY: We will look forward to that. As for the plan in Syria, CNN has learned that President Trump got rather testing with his top military brass and national security team when they advised him against an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria. A source telling CNN that the president has given them six months to finish the mission and get out.

Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Abby Phillip. She's live at the White House with our top story. Hey, Abby.


The president has sent his aides scrambling in this last week, both on this issue of Syria but also on the border wall. And now this morning, he's praising Mexico for breaking up that caravan that he's been talking about.

He tweeted just moments ago, "The caravan is largely broken up thanks to the strong immigration laws of Mexico and their willingness to use them so as to not cause a giant scene at our border. Because of the Trump administration's actions, border crossings are at a still unacceptable 46-year low. Stop drugs!"