tv At This Hour With Kate Bolduan CNN March 26, 2018 9:00am-10:00am PDT
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diplomats poisoning the former russian diplomat and his daughter. >> these are 60 russian diplomats, 12 of them based in new york at the u.n. and several of them around the united states in various consulates and embassies. the entire consulate in seattle is going to be shut down, u.s. administration officials saying it's located too close to a u.s. submarine base there. so generally, the administration uses diplomatic language, you know, calling these people diplomats because these russians are based at embassies and consula consulat consulates, but not today. the administration telling reporters this morning that these people are flat out spies, call them aggressive collectors of intelligence and that the u.s. would be safer without them. this is a bigger response than many of them expected, not only here in the states but among
u.s. allies. now we're seeing the use u.s. leading the response in its scope of more than a dozen allies who have also decided to kick out russian diplomats from their countries, a few here and there, but not 60 like the u.s. keep in mind that britain, where this attack happened, kicked out 23. granted, the u.s. and russia have a large number of diplomats in each other's countries, and over the summer when we saw tit for tat expulsions over other matters, vladimir putin said at the time that now the u.s. and russia were equal, that they each have 455 diplomats in each other's countries. so to put this in perspective, when you see the u.s. now kicking out 60 of those 455, that's 13% of all russian diplomats working in the u.s. this is essentially the u.s. saying, goodbye, good riddance, you have one week to pack your bags and get out. don't let the door hit you on the way out, and by the way,
russia, if you do plan to retaliate for this, as you say you will, the u.s. could take additional action, brianna. >> very well put, michelle kozinski at the state department, thank you. this announcement on the russian diplomats being expelled came with a pretty forceful statement from the white house. cnn's indicakaitlan collins is . she's here to discuss this. tell us what they're saying. >> after the administration took its toughest action on russia since president trump took office, the
white house released a statement shortly after, sarah sanders, the press secretary saying, the united states takes this action in conjunction with our nato allies and partners around the world in response to russia's use of a military-grade chemical weapon on the soil of the united kingdom, the latest in its ongoing pattern of destabilizing activities around
the world. it goes on, the united states stands ready to cooperate to build a better relationship with russia, but this can only happen way change in the russian government's behavior. now, during that call, the administration officials breached reporters
on the expulsion of these diplomats. they said the u.s. were slower to act than ally germany and other countries, and they said that was only due to coordination with those allies in expulsion of these diplomats, brianna. >> so the president spoke with putin last week. did he raise anything about this? did he at all show his hand that this may be happening? because meetings would have been ongoing then. >> reporter: exactly. they said this is a personal decision that the president made, something he's been involved with since the beginning and was involved as recently as this weekend in these discussions to make this discussion here, brianna, but it
raises the question, why didn't the president bring this up when he spoke with russian president ladder mirr vladimir putin himself when he congratulated him? his advisers told him not to congratulate president putin, which he did, but he was also instructed to bring up the issue of this russian poisoning during the call, something which sarah sanders said he did not do during that call. this is a personal decision the president made, but it raises the question, if it's so personal to this president, why didn't he bring it up when he had the opportunity with vladimir putin just last week? i should point out they have not spoken since that time, the white house says. >> kaitlan collins, thank you. joining me now, diplomatic analyst john kirby. he is a pentagon and state department spokesman under president obama.
also senior national security correspondent at the daily beast. what message does this send? 60 diplomats. that is a significant number. >> 60 diplomats, it is a message that's being embraced by our european allies because they've been worried that with some of the things they heard from this president or haven't heard from this president about russian president vladimir putin means he might be soft on moscow. but this tells them that the national security professionals they've been talking to behind closed doors really have held sway and the u.s. policy is following what they have always promised, which was a crackdown. but on the other hand, what it could do at a time when we've got very aggressive russian activity, you're probably going to have a reciprocal expulsion of u.s. intelligence officers from moscow at a time when we really need to be collecting intelligence on them. so i've spoken to people -- i've spoken to europeans since this
has been announced who embrace it, and i've spoken with former intelligence officers who are like, you know what? this is going to give us a black eye right where we need intelligence most. >> and they'll pull out american personnel, probably, as well. but john, it's going to matter the number of folks who are expelled. what do you think? >> it's a sizeable portion, like 450 or so here in the country. as michelle said, it's about 13, 15%, something like that. so it is a significant number. it's going to curtail russia's ability to do some collection but not completely eliminate that. what's really important here, though, is two things about the number. one, it's larger than any other nation. in fact, it's larger than any of them combined. that's significant. number two, that it is done in coordination with allies and partners. this is really more a symbol than it is a practical effect. but the symbol matters. it matters to putin, too, because he has been trying to so discord this unity in the west.
this shows he is not succeeding and the west is willing to stand up and unify against him. >> i've just been told by my producer in my ear that the russian ambassador has responded and said this is a grave mistake. >> this plays against the narrative that the u.s. and the west are against him. and there are a lot of russians who believe the story that's been peddled on russian media, that this poisoning was actually a british intelligence operation to make russia look bad. so if you're in that camp, you think this is one more step on the world beating up on moscow and one more reason to rally behind vladimir putin. >> if you think, though, these actions, we saw the action the treasury department was taking in the last couple of weeks, but then when you look at the president and how he speaks about russia when given the opportunity, when even just last week when he talked to vladimir putin, what does he say before the camera?
he says he's congratulated him, and then we learn he hadn't brought up the u.k., the attempt on the life of the former russian double agent, he hadn't brought up russian meddling in the election. at the time, though, discussions of what now were some pretty serious ramifications with the expulsion of these diplomats, but how do you square that, john, with how the president talks about russia and these actions? >> couple of things there. certainly i would love to hear him talk about this expulsion himself. i think that would be powerful. but i don't think we should get too fixated on it here, brianna. this was a pretty well-coordinated decision not just inside the inner agency, but internationally. it was well rolled out by the white house. you had simultaneous statements from the white house, from the state department, from ambassador haley. i think we should give them credit for that. whether you think it's going to
make a big difference or not, there is no way it gets made without donald trump signing off. >> and it followed a joint statement last week with a number of nations. there was a joint statement that came out where it was very strong language against russia when it came down -- almost in a way a precursor of the ramifications we're seeing now. >> it was almost an awakening to the poison. they also agreed to sell arms to russia. >> it's almost like vladimir putin says, hey, we're the bosses up here, so we'll talk nice to each other. and look, this is a president who seems to avoid tough, direct conversations. he fired rex tillerson in a
tweet, he said in a tweet that h.r. mcmaster would be through. >> thank you, kim dozier, who i should mention is executive editor of the cipher brief. and she alleged to stay quiet when she was holding her infant daughter. trump signals he's about to fire v. a. secretary dave shul kin. so who will take his place? we'll be back in a minute.
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interview about her relationship with donald trump. she said it was a one-time thing but that she was threatened and told to keep silent about it. >> i was in a parking lot going to a fitness class with my infant daughter. the seat is facing backwards in the backseat, diaper bag, getting all the stuff out, and a guy walked up on me and said to me, leave trump alone, forget the story. then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said, a beautiful little girl. it would be a shame if something happened to her mom. and he was gone. >> then this morning the attorney for daniels issuing threats of his own. he says the "60 minutes" interview is not the last we'll hear from his client. >> we have a whole host of evidence. this is not going away, and mr. cohen and the president better come clean with the american people and he better do it quickly. >> the stormy daniels saying from donald trump, so much fake
news. never been more voluminous or more inaccurate. but through it all, our country is doing great. how is michael cohen responding to this? >> this is a very serious allegation stormy daniels is making, not only saying he made threats about her daughter, she's saying these threats came through trump, possibly his lawyer michael cohen. after the "60 minutes" interview aired last night, they sent a cease and desist letter saying they want stormy daniels to stop making false and defamatory comments about their client and even say they want an apology. when she said a man approached her, we just heard her talk about that, they say that cohen actually believes this person may not even exist and the incident didn't happen.
one of them going so far as to say this entire incident isry lick did you sa -- ridiculous. here's what he said. >> 12 years ago someone approaches her in a parking lot. what does she do? she doesn't go to the police, she goes to her pilates class. >> you heard avenatti saying this is not the last time we'll hear from stormy daniels. i think the big question in the coming weeks is going to be, are they going to produce actual evidence that people close to donald trump, including perhaps michael cohen, that they were involved in the threats that they say stormy daniels has received. >> she, back in january, made a statement where she said, no, this affair didn't happen. what did she say about that? >> the big picture or the reason last night was such an important moment for stormy daniels is because this was her moment to address some of these things that have come out, including the money that she received from michael cohen, including why she has repeatedly denied that she even had this affair with donald
trump. and i think the interview last night gave her that opportunity, and she says that the reason she signed this nda and the reason she accepted the money was because she felt like she had no choice and because she felt threatened. here was part of that interview. >> so you signed and released a statement that said, i'm not denying this affair because i was paid in hush money, i'm denying it because it never happened. that's a lie. >> yes. >> if it was untruthful, why did you sign it? >> because they made it sound like i had no choice. >> no one was putting a gun to your head. >> not physical violence, no. >> you thought there would be some sort of legal repercussion if you didn't sign it. >> right. in fact, the exact sentence used was, they can make your life hell in many different ways. >> now, brianna, i know we've all been curious about how first lady melania trump has been responding to all of this. her spokeswoman telling my colleague kate bennett this
morning she's focused on being a mom and is quite enjoying spring break at mar-a-lago while working on future projects, so obviously not specifically addressing the stormy daniels interview. i don't think it's likely that she is going to do so any time soon. >> no. all right, mj lee, thank you so much. i want to bring in our panel. senior politics senior writer michael zelden is with us as well. he's a senior legal analyst and former aide to robert mueller in the justice department. listening, michael, to the stormy daniels interview, it's important to point out the timing of this. this was taped ahead of time with anderson cooper. anderson talked to karen mcdougal, the playboy playmate who claims she had an affair with donald trump also, a few days beforehand. we don't expect they were coordinated, just to be clear. these interviews were in the can, basically, beforehand. so there are similarities that are worth pointing out. you have both of them saying they met with him in his hotel
room for dinner. it was sort of the similar m.o. that was where they had sexual relations. they both said that he told them they were special, that he compared them to his daughter ivanka trump who clearly they both said he held in high esteem. they both said no condom was used. legally, do those similarities in these two stories make these women more believable? >> i think so. when i listened to the interviews, i felt as a lawyer, are these witnesses going to be viewed as credible or not credible? what i walked away from both of those interviews with was these women will appear for a triable effect. we don't know what that triable effect will be. when you listen to them, they were both sober and confident and honest about what they believe is the truth, and i think that speaks volumes of
what other people who have to contend with them as witnesses have to evaluate. >> they didn't contradict themselves, right? >> right, and they admitted lies, they admitted mistakes. and they also acknowledged that they took money, why they took money, what the reasons for their desire to speak now and both said they'll give back money, so i think there is a lot of credibility to them as witnesses. >> trump's friend, christopher ruddy, who is the ceo of news max. as we try to think where is the president in all of this, what is he thinking? he said trump called the daniels story a political hoax. the president himself has not directly addressed the story. what does that tell you? >> i think it tells us a lot because quite frankly the president addresses everything else except this. when you look at his twitter feed, which is a pretty good representation of what he's think oging on a given day, the
fact he put out that tweet about all the false news stories, but he hasn't said, you know, i didn't have an affair while my wife was pregnant or at home with my child, i did not sleep with these women, these women are liars. we've seen him so frequently when he's facing a political moment go out and attack the credibility of what those people are saying. i think it says quite a lot about where he is on this. >> i think one of the reasons he may be silent with respect to these women is in summer averzo's case. >> she was a former "apprentice" star who basically said she was groped. >> right. and the statute of limitations ran out on that. but the president triggered a new offense of defamation. she's suing him for defamation.
if he goes after stormy daniels or karen mcdougal, perhaps he buys him a lawsuit. >> we also heard from the spokesperson and it was not a denial. what it was, he said, there is a minor child who doesn't need to be involved in this. >> melania trump escapes to mar-a-lago. we've seen from the first lady she doesn't want to be in the public spotlight on this. she wants to focus on her young child and spending time with him. i just feel like she's taken a maternal role here, trying not to be distracted by that. particularly if we see these two cases with these two women who have come out, we've seen their faces, we've seen their voices. if more women emerge, i think the pressure will be on her to respond. >> remember when hillary clinton came out and stood by herman, she was pilloried for it.
if ivanka is looking at this -- >> melania. >> if melania is looking at this, she has -- >> the reporting shows she is not looking at this. she is hunkering down in her parental role and she doesn't seem worried about it like hillary clinton was about bill clinton. coming up, which member of the trump administration is next to go? one source tells us the president's v. a. secretary may want to update his resume. stay with us.
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it was demonstrated how he and his wife used taxpayer dollars for generous trips. jeff, it seems like it's only a matter of time before shulkin is out. what do we know? >> reporter: it certainly does look like that. there are several members of the president's cabinet who has the general flying on expensive flights, but the v.a. secretary seems to be the one that will be leaving first. we have not heard from them exactly when he plans to make this switch. so it is something that is expected. of course, you see the firings and departures every week for the last several weeks, at least the last five or six weeks, there has been a major departure and shake-up here. it might happen this week or we don't know. up to the president. he does not have much on his
public schedule. today he is having lunch with the vice president as we speak. so certainly staffing changes and issues are on his mind. we'll see when he decides to make a move on this, brianna. >> what about with his legal team? the top lawyer on his legal team when it pertains to the russian investigation out last week, then you had a new lawyer or two coming in, and now that's not happening? >> reporter: right, that was certainly a big change over the weekend. joe digenova who has been very active on fox news and other places blasting the russia investigation was certainly someone who appealed to the president. so he was announced last week that he was coming to join the president's team of lawyers, but that ended up changing on a sunday after they had a meeting late last week. the president now is essentially left with one lawyer who is handling all of the russia investigation. of course, leading up to the question, will he testify with the special counsel or not? we're a couple weeks away from a
potential decision there. so it's not one of the most sought-after positions, if you will. we've talked to many lawyers here in washington and elsewhere who certainly do not want to come into the administration. it's a difficult case for sure. it's bad for business in some respects. the president, of course, pushing back over the weekend saying he's happy with his legal team, but we've heard that before. so it certainly is one of the many things weighing on this white house today, brianna. >> he said he was happy and then his top lawyer was gone. jeff zeleny, thank you so much. i want to talk more about this with bloomberg political reporter sahil kapor. we heard that trump has confidence in dr. shulkin, but it seems like that means nothing, because if you look at these other dismissals or firing by twitter or however, there is always a statement that comes
out, so that doesn't mean much. >> every day, every week with this white house in terms of personal matters is like a game of russian roulette. you never know who is going to stay or who is going to go. the president is the man with the red pen and he can make all the decisions. he can change his mind. sometimes a firing will come out of the blue, like former fbi director james comey. you never know where the president will go. in the vase of the v.a., he's been upset with this situation for a while. he's wanted a replacement. this is not a glamorous job. this is a massive bureaucracy with about 3,000 employees. who can the president find who will adhere to his campaign promises to take care of veterans, which the united states is not doing, who the president likes and trust to see replace shulkin?
hard to know. >> that's a really good point. according to the "washington post," sometimes there are rumored departures for months. so the post says that several people close to the president say a dramatic move like this would be an effort to change the narrative, take it away from all this focus on the stormy daniels case. do you think a staff shake-up is in response to negative coverage? >> absolutely. it wouldn't be the first time the president layered over one crisis with another crisis. he tries to control the narrative and he's frankly very good at it. he can do it way single tweet. i'm sure that factors into his overall thinking, but i don't think it will change anything. if there is another scandal after he makes the decision to fire someone who he currently can say is an obama administration holdover, that
will weigh very heavily on him and i think he understands that. >> it's such an important job, but like you said, maybe high risk and low reward, right? >> right. up next, they marched for their lives here in washington and across the country, but will young people march to the voting booths come november? how the gun issue could shake up the midterms, next.
you'll get the same answer along bipartisan lines. >> we do have to find a way forward. but simply stating "we need to get rid of other people's rights" is not the right way forward. >> joining me now is cnn political commentator and democratic strategist maria c cardona and former assistant to george w. bush scott jennings with us as well. scott, it was suggested yesterday on fox news that the nra had gotten to the president. listen in. okay, so basically what they said was he met with the nra, he prior to that had said that he would take a position, certain gun positions, and then he meets with the nra and he starts to backpedal from that. we do know that that happened. we do know his desire to do
something did change, and the question is, is there some kind of connection? one of the students on fox news said she found that kind of sketchy. i wonder what you think. the president surely has seen that interview. how is that going to play with the president who insists he's in the pocket of no one? >> well, i think one thing we have to remember about the president is on friday he signed more gun-related legislation into law than barack obama signed in eight years being president of the united states. they got fix nix and they also got the stop violence school act. those things were inserted in the omnibus because of what the parkland students and other activists are doing. so there already has been progress and trump is showing a willingness to move in their direction. where i think this debate will land is toward the things that don't take away guns and don't take away rights. i'm sure they will move to the age being from 18 to 21, military checks, maybe gun
orders many conservatives are talking about, including marco rubio. i think where this debate grinds to a halt is on banning weapons and taking things away from people. i think that's where there's less coalescing solutions. >> you think something can be done on background checks? it just seems there isn't the political appetite in washington to do it. >> i absolutely think something can and should be on background checks, because what is the common theme on shootings? the guy in florida, the background check system failed down there, the background check system failed in texas, the church shooting over there. that guy should have been on the no buy list. absolutely something should happen on background checks and i believe there is political support on that, but this debate is going to break down if we get away from those popular issues. >> is that something, maria, that democrats -- i feel it
might be i. >> let's make one thing clear. it is difficult to git it through republican washington. not democratic washington, because the majority of democrats -- >> don't say that, maria, near unanimous support. it isn't near unanimous. >> the majority. >> but there are still some democrats who don't get on board with this. >> agreed, and that's a problem. the voice of these kids is what is going to propel things forward. i agree with scott, there is overwhelming support from the american people for background checks. there is near unanimous support among the american people for that and also for making sure that people who should not have guns don't get guns. the problem is, brianna, republicans do control washington. they control what gets to the floors, what gets discussed and what doesn't.
if democrats had that control, i would assure you there would be, maybe tomorrow or next week, a discussion on banning assault weapons. schumer has talked about this. to scott's point, you know, he talks a good game and i hope that what he's saying is true, but he's got to look to his own leaders who are the ones blocking any kind of discussion of this on the floor. >> brianna, if i may respond to that, i think maria has an interesting point about who controls washington and what would get discussed. in the first. >> this is an issue that's recall. right now i personally believe
the. if we don't have decisive talk like that, there is common ground here, let's not make it such a problem to find t. >> i want you to listen to something rick santorum told me yesterday. >> how about instead of looking to kids to solve our problem, why not take cpr classes to deal with situations that if there is a violent issue, they can respond to that. >> they took action. >> they took action on passing a law. they didn't take action saying, how can i, as an individual, help solve the problem? those are the kinds of things where you can take it internally and say, here's how i'm going to deal with this, here's how i'm going to help with the situation. >> scott, what did you think of that? >> well, i don't make it a habit to speak. that was on the tracks wrong, embarrassing. i don't agree with everything
the parkland kids want to do, i agree with some of them. but any american expressing their right to free speech -- i went to new york this weekend, walked around to kind of see what the march. which one is. i don't agree with rick on that and i think he ought to take it back. >> i thought it was disgusting for him to say that. imagine all these people marching for civil rights and we have leaders saying, they shouldn't have to wait for laws to make sure everybody is treated the same way. talk about decisive rhetoric.
i agree we should review what is common ground here. scott, you're not going to get anything done on the hill here if paul ryan or the republican leader in the senate doesn't do anything to put this on the floor. put it on the floor. there will be discussion. democrats want that discussion. what do republicans want? >> thank you guys, really appreciate it. the trial of the pulse nightclub's wife is in session. something was revealed. we'll have that next.
there's just been a remarkable twist in the trial of nora harmon. she is accused of aiding and a betting her husband in the pulse nightclub shooting. her family has a close connection with the fbi who they say tainted the investigation. martin joins us from atlanta. tell us about this story here. >> this trial has been under way for almost a week now. the prosecution had pretty much wrapped up its case last friday. today was going to be, and is the first day, of the defense picking up the case. however, over the weekend, late last night the defense files a motion in which they say they learned over the weekend from the prosecution that the father of the mass shooter here is an fbi informant. and then on top of that, we're
talking about sadik martine, is now under investigation by the fbi for questionable money transfers to afghanistan and turkey, the suggestion being that money was being used for not so good purposes. so the defense is saying, hey, wait a minute. you are required under the constitution of the united states to provide all information the prosecution has that could be used for the defense of nora salden here. they said the gunman purposely held back the information that his father was an fbi informant here. this could upset the whole case. the judge said he was aware of the information and the request to dismiss or refile the charges. no word on what the judge will do, but this is a massive turn of events, brianna.
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arguments are under way in a case that could drastically shape the media industry. the justice department and at&t are locked in a high stakes anti-trust trial. the telecom's company proposed an $80 billion merger with time werner. tell us what's happening right now. >> reporter: this has been a pretty interesting morning, brianna. we were expecting to hear from the president of sling tv. this is one of those streaming, over-the-top services that give you live tv which the telecom
company said would be widely affected by this merger. however, we didn't hear from the president of the company. for the entire morning in court, the judge has put on a static machine so we can't hear discussions between the two counsels and having sidebar conferences. he later told us before we broke for lunch that he had a lot of e-mails to review, that there might be consequences for what he has learned. we hopefully will hear what that means for the testimony of sling tv. we are also expecting to hear today from the president of turner, the owner of cnn. from that we're expecting what they call a hostile direct. the governor will be questioning turner asking about contacts he's had with time werner. it will be affected by how
consumers are affected by this entire merger. >> thanks so much for that update in washington. and thank you for joining me for this two-hour edition. at this hour, wolf starts right now. hello, i'm wolf blitzer. it's 1:00 p.m. here in washington, 6:00 p.m. in london, 8:00 p.m. in moscow. wherever you're watching from around the world, thank you so much for joining us. poisoning payback. the president dispelling 60 russian diplomats over the u.k. poisoning. moscow responds. the porn star speaks out of an alleged affair with president trump. we will learn if hush money she received broke the law. and the father of the pulse nightclub gunman was a secret fbi informant