Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
FBI Investigators Detain and Question Trump Campaign Ally; Alleged Russian Hacker Appears in Federal Court; Confusion after Trump Says U.S. Leaving Syria 'Very Soon'; Porn Star's Attorney Claims 'Mountain of Evidence'; FBI Investigators Detain And Question Trump Campaign Ally; Whistleblower: Bannon Wanted Data To Wage A Culture War On America; Russia Tests New "Satan 2" ICBM, Expels U.S. Diplomats. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired March 30, 2018 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. Mueller's new witness. CNN has learned the FBI detained and questioned a one-time Trump campaign ally who was once in the running for a U.S. ambassadorship, as part of the special counsel's Russia probe. He says agents asked him about Roger Stone and Julian Assange and that he's been subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury. What answers could he provide to Robert Mueller?
[17:00:32] Satan's spawn. Russia shows off a new long-range ballistic missile nicknamed the Satan 2. It's capable of carrying a dozen or more nuclear weapons and reaching the United States. Vladimir Putin brags it's invincible. Is the Russian leader trying flex his muscles after many of his diplomats were just kicked out of the United States and Europe?
Syria surprise. President Trump sows confusion by declaring the U.S. will be leaving Syria very soon. But a top U.S. official tells CNN the president's aides are trying to figure out exactly what he means. Why is the president who said he'd never telegraph his plans to the enemy doing just that?
And Stormy's proof. Porn star Stormy Daniels' attorney says he has a mountain of evidence of her alleged sexual affair with the president. But he's not yet ready to reveal what it is. That claim comes as another woman who says she was sexually harassed by Mr. Trump parts ways with her celebrity attorney. Where do the two lawsuits stand tonight?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We have breaking news in the Russia investigation. A man who claims he was an informal adviser to the Trump presidential campaign says he was questioned this week in the special counsel's Robert Mueller's Russia probe. Ted Malloch says he just -- had just flown into the United States when FBI agents detained him in Boston's airport and asked about his contacts with Roger Stone, Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. What does all this say about the direction of Mueller's investigation?
I'll get reaction from Democratic Congressman Cedric Richmond. He's a member of the Homeland Security and Judiciary Committees. And our correspondents and analysts, they're all standing by.
But let's begin with our justice correspondent, Evan Perez. Evan, tell us what you have learned.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're getting a picture of just how aggressive Robert Mueller's prosecutors are getting as they try to get witnesses to come before the grand jury to provide evidence in this investigation.
Ted Malloch says that he was stopped on Tuesday as he landed at Boston Airport on a flight from London. And he said that the FBI not only searched his devices, his phones and so on, but they questioned him for some time about not only WikiLeaks and Roger Stone, Wolf, but also whether or not he had been to the Ecuadorian embassy. He says it's all a mystery to him. Malloch has been a prominent vote on right-wing websites, things -- sites like Info Wars and so on.
He says that he has no idea what they exactly wanted. We've got a statement from him earlier today that says, "What could they want from me, a policy wonk and philosophical defender of Trump? I'm not an operative. I have no Russia contacts. And aside from appearing on air and in print often to defend and congratulate our president, have none nothing wrong."
We reached out to the special counsel's office, Wolf, and they declined to comment. He has a date before the Mueller grand jury on April 13.
BLITZER: So he's been subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury. Even though they spent, what, FBI agents at the Boston Logan International Airport, they spent about an hour questioning him. They now want to bring him before the grand jury. So what does that suggest?
PEREZ: Right, exactly. And we've seen this with a few other witnesses. They've essentially stopped them when they've come into the country. The FBI clearly has people on watch lists, to make sure that when they land in the country, they pull them aside. And they question them. They look through their devices, their computers, looking for whatever evidence they can gather and then they bring them before the grand jury. It's a pretty aggressive tactic to do. It's essentially taking people by surprise to make sure that there's no evidence destroyed before they come before the FBI.
BLITZER: They confiscated his cell phone, right?
PEREZ: They did. They took his cell phone. They took his -- whatever other devices they had. They said they searched it. What they typically do is they take an image of it, essentially, and save it for -- for the purposes of the FBI investigation.
BLITZER: So it clearly suggests that Mueller's investigation into -- into all sorts of aspects, including cooperation between the campaign and the Russians, is escalating.
PEREZ: It really shows that this is not exactly an investigation that's on the wane or wrapping up, as we often hear from people close to the president. But they believe this is an investigation that's almost over. This suggests the opposite. It's pretty aggressive tactics to be using at this stage in that investigation.
[17:05:04] BLITZER: You also have some information on a different story about an alleged Russian hacker who was just extradited to the United States. What do we know about this?
PEREZ: Right, his name is Yevgeniy Nikulin. He was the subject of a high-stakes -- essentially a fight between the United States and Russia. Both countries wanted his extradition from the Czech Republic, which is where he was arrested in 2016. The United States, the U.S. has charges against him for stealing 117 million LinkedIn passwords.
He was a prominent hacker working from Russia and had a pretty lavish lifestyle. He was on Instagram and so on showing expensive cars, beautiful girlfriends. And he was arrested in 2016 in the Czech Republic.
I met with Czech officials to ask them about Nikulin last year, Wolf, and they told me they were getting a lot of pressure from the Russians. The Russians came up with some vague charges from over a decade ago. And they said that they wanted him back; and they were trying really hard to make sure he didn't fall into the hands of the U.S. government.
Now, what is it that Yevgeniy Nikulin has that the Russians do not want the FBI to get their hands on? That is the big question, obviously.
BLITZER: So clearly, the Czech Republic extraditing him to the United States. Do we know if there's any connection with the Mueller probe?
PEREZ: Well, we don't believe it's directly connected to the Mueller probe. Certainly, when he landed overnight from Prague here in Virginia, he was then transferred to -- on a flight to San Francisco, where he's facing charges.
But what I -- I'm told by officials who are familiar with the investigation, Wolf, is that they believe that he could shed some light on this shadowy world of Russian criminal hackers who are believed to help Russian intelligence carry out some of their work. That could, of course, include the DNC hack, which is believed, which the U.S. government says was carried out by Russian intelligence hackers but often working in concert with -- with criminal hackers like this one.
BLITZER: We're going to have more on these late-breaking developments in a few moments. But Evan, thank you for that report.
There's other important news we're following. New confusion right now about whether the United States and its military forces soon will be withdrawing from Syria. President Trump dropped a strong hint during a speech at his only public appearance this week.
Let's go to our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta. He's following the president down in Florida right now. He's joining us from West Palm Beach, not too far away from the president's resort.
Jim, even top U.S. officials aren't sure what the president is even talking about.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. While President Trump was out on the golf course today, he was creating confusion inside his administration over the U.S. policy on Syria. Aides to the president are trying to determine what the president meant when he said he wants to pull out of Syria very soon. This from a president who brags that he doesn't like to telegraph his moves.
ACOSTA (voice-over): President Trump was laying low in Mar-a-Lago, playing golf, while back in Washington, senior administration officials are scratching their heads over this comment Mr. Trump made in Ohio about Syria.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're knocking the hell out of ISIS. We'll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon. Let the other people take care of it now. Very soon. Very soon. We're coming out.
ACOSTA: As one senior administration official put it: "We're still trying to figure out what he meant about Syria."
The president made the remark as fighting continues in Syria. On the same day as Mr. Trump's speech, two coalition soldiers, one American and one British, on a counter-ISIS operation in Syria, were killed when their vehicle hit an IED.
The president's comments on Syria are also contrary to what he's insisted in the past, that he doesn't telegraph his moves.
TRUMP: I have a substantial chance of winning. If I win, I don't want to broadcast to the enemy exactly what my plan is. Let me tell you. This is what Obama does. We're going to leave Iraq on a certain date.
ACOSTA: The president has also been a tough critic of his predecessors in the Middle East, knocking George W. Bush for invading Iraq.
TRUMP: Everything that's happening started with stupidly going into the war in Iraq. Now, Iraq. We have -- and people talk about me with the button. I'm the one that doesn't want to do this. OK?
ACOSTA: And slamming Barack Obama for leaving Iraq too soon, leaving a vacuum that led to the creation of ISIS.
TRUMP: He is the founder of ISIS. He's the founder of ISIS. OK? He's the founder. He founded ISIS.
ACOSTA: A sudden U.S. withdrawal from Syria may not only embolden ISIS, it could strengthen the hand of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has long supported Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Putin is doing some sabre rattling this week, boasting about a new nuclear weapons system that's capable of evading any kind of missile defense, striking targets in the U.S. like Florida, where the president is on vacation.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): This new system has virtually no limitations on distance. As you can see from the video, it is capable of attacking targets via both the North and South Pole.
ACOSTA: Russia's ambassador to the U.S., meanwhile, is defending Moscow's decision to expel U.S. diplomats, a response to the Trump administration's announced diplomatic expulsions earlier in the week.
[17:10:25] ANATOLY ANTONOV, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: If anybody slap your cheek, your face, what will be reaction from your side? You will think not -- you will try to do and you will retaliate. It goes without saying.
ACOSTA: All that as the White House is grappling with more drama in the president's cabinet. This time it's EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who's facing accusations of taking a security detail with him on personal trips to Disneyland and college football's Rose Bowl. Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse complained in a letter significant agency resources are being devoted to Administrator Pruitt's round-the-clock security, even when he's traveling on non- official business. That follows the firing of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin.
SHULKIN: Shortly before the president tweeted out, the chief of staff gave me a call just to let me know and to give me a heads up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you were found -- Kelly told you. And then you found out by tweet.
ACOSTA: Shulkin was hardly given the same sendoff as former communications director Hope Hicks that came complete with flattering photos of Hicks in her office snapped by "The New York Times."
ACOSTA: And the White House is bracing for yet another staff shake- up. This time on the president's national security team with new national security advisor John Bolton taking over and expected to bring on his own people. One official told us it is anybody's guess at this point just how many staffers will be out of a job.
And earlier this week, Wolf, the president was receiving input from a familiar face. Corey Lewandowski, we're told, was having dinner with the president earlier this week as well as his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
So it goes to show that Corey Lewandowski is never far from the picture when it comes to the Trump White House -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Good point. Jim Acosta, thanks very much.
With us now to discuss all of the day's headlines, Louisiana Democratic Congressman Cedric Richmond, he's a member of the Homeland Security and Judiciary Committee, as well as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D), LOUISIANA: All right.
BLITZER: So as you heard in our lead story, Trump campaign ally, Ted Malloch, thinks he was questioned by the special counsel's investigation, because he's writing a book accusing the so-called deep state of trying to destroy President Trump. Do you think there's any truth to that?
RICHMOND: Absolutely not. I think that this president and his team and conservative media, they like to create rabbit holes and hope that we go down and chase him. I think that the Mueller investigation has been very methodical. I think it's very thorough. And he's taking his time to make sure that they don't make any mistakes.
So I have full confidence in it, and I have the patience to wait until Mueller and his professionals come back with a recommendation of what, in fact, happened and paint the picture for the American people of what's going on.
What do you think, Congressman, about the attorney general Jeff Sessions' decision to have a prosecutor, a career prosecutor, not a second special counsel, look into Republican claims of FBI and Justice Department misconduct?
RICHMOND: This is Jeff Sessions trying to get back on -- in the good graces of the president. The president has called him disgraceful. The president has called him every word under the sun when it comes to incompetent, untrustworthy and everything else. And I think he's trying to find a way to get in the good graces of not only the Republican chair of the Judiciary Committee but also, the president.
There's an inspector general in the FBI that could do this work, but I think that this is more a part of their smoke screens and mirrors to distract people from the real issue. And that is the Russian meddling in our presidential election, which is an act of war by many accounts.
And also, to prevent people, or distract people from looking at any role that the Trump campaign had and of colluding with the Russians.
BLITZER: Is the attorney general, in your opinion, safe in his role right now?
RICHMOND: Well, it depends on which Trump wakes up. And I firmly believe that the Trump administration governed by chaos is not a governing philosophy without a strategy. I think that every time you see a real step in the Mueller investigation, you see the president do something drastic to distract American people from the investigation. And therefore, have them talking about a fired cabinet secretary. Whether he's talking about NFL players taking the knee at -- during the national anthem.
He will always find the distraction every time this Mueller probe heats up. So do I think the attorney general is safe? I don't know. But the truth of the matter is, I really don't care. I care about Mueller being safe. But this attorney general is incompetent at best and has his challenges with race and justice and equality. So you won't see me on here defending Jeff Sessions.
BLITZER: Let's turn to another sensitive issue that's unfolding right now. We're following these late-breaking developments in the shooting deaths of two African-Americans at the hands of police. Alton Sterling in Louisiana, Stefon Clark in California. Louisiana's attorney general, as you know, decided not to file charges against the two police officers involved in Alton Sterling's death. And we're waiting to hear if they will lose their jobs, but we're also expecting to release a video in the shooting.
What does the treatment of these officers tell you? I know you're studying it very closely.
RICHMOND: I am. And it's unfortunate that the officers won't see their day in court and be judged by a jury of their peers. I think that's the biggest breakdown for people in urban America, African- Americans and others, who are seeking justice, is that these officers all across the country are never charged. They never have to go before a jury and explain their actions.
So we have a number of dead African-Americans who did not possess a weapon. And no one has to defend that. And at the same time, we're supposed to believe that justice is color blind, or that the scales of justice are balanced. That that, I believe, is the biggest erosion in the African-American community.
But my biggest disappointment in this case is that, if we had true community policing that was funded like it used to be under -- during the Clinton years. Those officers that responded would have known Alton Sterling by name. He was at that store every night doing the same thing. And if you had true community policing, it would have been a little bit different, because they'd have walked up and said, what the hell are you doing? Come here.
And that's, I believe, where we're going wrong with the warrior mentality of policing as opposed to the guardian.
BLITZER: Congressman Cedric Richmond, thanks so much for joining us.
RICHMOND: Thank you, Wolf, for having me.
BLITZER: Up next, porn star Stormy Daniels' attorney says he has a mountain of evidence. Is he ready to show it to a judge? Plus, we're learning new details about former White House chief
strategist Steve Bannon's connection with a controversial data firm is said to have personal information about millions of U.S. voters.
BLITZER: Tonight, we're following several new developments in a pair of women's lawsuits against President Trump, including the new claim from porn star Stormy Daniels's attorney that they have a, quote, "mountain of evidence."
CNN's Athena Jones is following all the late-breaking developments for us. Athena, Daniels, she'll be back, what, in public this weekend?
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She sure will, Wolf. Stormy Daniels is in the midst of a three-day run at a strip club in Tennessee, revealing all for patrons paying $30 and up.
Meanwhile, her lawyer is being pressed to reveal a lot more about just what evidence she has to back up her claims about an alleged affair with Donald Trump.
JONES (voice-over): Stormy Daniels set for a weekend of stripping in Nashville, performing as "The Porn Star That Trumps Them All."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're expecting a really good show.
JONES: As her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, faces questions about when he'll reveal proof she of the affair Daniels says she had with President Donald Trump in 2006. And why he has yet to explain this tweet with a picture of a DVD and the caption, "If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is this worth?"
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Tell us right now what's on that DVD.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, LAWYER FOR STORMY DANIELS: I'm not going to do that. I know that everyone wants that. We're in a society where everybody wants immediate gratification. We've got a lawsuit to try.
CAMEROTA: I guess the point is what's your evidence that there was an affair?
AVENATTI: We've got a mountain of evidence.
CAMEROTA: Such as?
AVENATTI: I'm not going to lay out all of our evidence.
JONES: But Daniels is suing to be released from what she argues is an invalid hush agreement, invalid because Trump did not sign it. Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, says he paid Daniels $130,000 as part of that deal.
Avenatti was asked today how much money it would take for Daniels to settle the lawsuit?
AVENATTI: I don't think there's a number. I really don't. I mean, that's not what this is about.
JONES: Avenatti maintains a federal judge is ruling Thursday, denying his motion to question Trump and Cohen under oath isn't a setback.
AVENATTI: Well, I don't really classify this as a setback. I mean, it's a temporary denial. We're going to refile the motion. It's a procedural ruling.
JONES: David Schwartz, Cohen's spokesman, an attorney in another matter, is praising the judge's decision.
DAVID SCHWARTZ, SPOKESMAN FOR MICHAEL COHEN: I'm not surprised in the least bit. I said from the moment it was filed that it was frivolous, it was untimely. And the judge made the proper decision.
JONES: Schwartz called the hush agreement rock solid and continued to argue that it is valid, even though Trump didn't sign it.
SCHWARTZ: The president is a third-party beneficiary to this agreement. It's been said all along --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meanwhile, a legal shake-up in the case of former "Apprentice" contestant Summer Zervos, who is accusing Trump of defamation for denying her claims he sexually assaulted her in 2007.
Zervos losing her high-profile attorney, Gloria Allred. Allred, who frequently represents women in similar cases saying in a statement, "Our withdrawal has nothing to do with the merits of her case against President Trump. We will have no comment regarding the reasons for our firm's withdrawal. We continue to wish Summer the very best in her pursuit of justice."
[17:25:10] Zervos says she's parting ways with Allred for personal reasons.
"I decided to part ways with Gloria Allred purely for personal reasons, having nothing to do with her work as my attorney. I look forward to having my day in court with my current legal team."
JONES: Now Zervos says she isn't going to comment further on this case. And back to Stormy Daniels for a moment. We've been talking about how much her lawyer has been working to keep this story in the headlines.
Well, today he made clear that, even if the president apologizes to his client, they are not going away, saying, "We want the truth from Mr. Cohen and we want to truth from Mr. Trump, and it doesn't matter if it's next week, next month, next year or next decade. We're not going anywhere" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Athena Jones reporting. Athena, thank you. Coming up, we're going to have more on the Stormy Daniels case. Is her attorney ready to present what he calls a mountain of evidence to a judge.
Plus, Russia rolls out a new missile nicknamed the Satan 2, capable of reaching the United States. Is Vladimir Putin bluffing, or is the weapon a credible threat?
[17:30:48] BLITZER: Breaking news, important developments in the Russia probe. Ted Malloch, an ally to the Trump campaign, says he was detained by the FBI this week upon arriving at an airport in the United States. And according Malloch, investigators seized his phone and asked him questions for about an hour about Trump confidante, Roger Stone and WikiLeaks among other issues. They then gave him a subpoena to appear before a federal grand jury in two weeks. Let's turn in to our experts for more analysis: Joey Jackson, does Ted Malloch he appear to be an important witness?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, Wolf, good evening to you. Obviously, the Mueller team thought so, which was the basis for them detaining them -- you know, him. But looking at this from a defense perspective, practicing in federal court, I'm very concerned about even the conversation. People are under no obligation to speak to the FBI. But when you do, even if you don't have any information relevant to the case, even if you're not a target per se and a mere subject, you expose yourself and lay the ground work for your own prosecution. What am I referring to? If you look at the current list of people who have been in trouble and have been convicted -- Papadopoulos, you look at Flynn, you look at Gates, you look at van der Zwaan, what were they convicted of? Lying to the FBI.
And so, to the extent that he spent an hour speaking to the FBI, I can guarantee you that when you speak to the FBI, they contemporaneously write down what you said, who was with you when you said it, what was the nature of the conversation, what was the time that it was said, what was the duration of the conversation. And then, the next time you see them is when you're sitting with your lawyer and they're in front of you.
Final point of that is this: the FBI also, in conjunction with the U.S. attorney, used those statements as a measure to put pressure on you. Because I find that the FBI and the Justice Department go lenient on people who might have lied but have critical information to their prosecution. And so, the fact that he's spoken already certainly subjects him to some liability depending upon what he said, and then you have to look at the circumstances which are often very intimidating.
BLITZER: That's an important point. How do you see it, Gloria?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think if you look at the entire investigation, what this is, is another question of how whether, in fact, there was collusion -- for lack of a better word -- between people who were in the orbit of the Trump campaign, and Russians. And, you know, we have been seeing that, we saw that in our reporting yesterday on Gates, and the fact he had communication with someone who was known to be a Russian agent. And I think you have to ask the same question about this again. And I
think what they're doing, we don't know what they've discovered. We don't know whether there's any there, there. But it's very clear to me that this goes to the, sort of, the central core of the investigation which is, did anyone in the Trump campaign collude, cooperate, or get information from the Russians to help them win the election?
BLITZER: It looks like they're moving in areas that -- in this collusion area, Mark, that is very, very significant.
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's very significant. We shouldn't be surprised. And look, anybody right now that the Mueller team is speaking to is going to be a significant witness. What we have not seen with the Mueller investigation, we haven't seen this idea that they've thrown out this huge wide net. And they're just pulling anybody and asking them questions.
They've been very targeted in who they've been speaking with -- and to the point, where we haven't even known who they've been speaking with. In fact, when we've seen witnesses actually turn and have decided to plead guilty on some things, the bottom line right now is that if you are the Trump legal team, you have got to be very concerned. You've got to be very concerned because you have lawyers who do not even want to join your team anymore, and you've got to be very concerned right now that Mueller doesn't seem to be slowing down; he only seems to be heating up.
BLITZER: Yes. David, he seems, Mueller, to have all the cards right now, right?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, he is any prosecutor in any special counsel in particular has enormous investigative resources available to him, and we know that is the case here. And you know what is interesting is he seems to be -- he's exploring those very things that have been talked about for quite a long time. How is that it Roger Stone got a bead on what WikiLeaks was going to do? What were the contacts between Manafort and Gates, and the Russians given their history in Ukraine with the pro-Moscow regime.
These are things that have been kicking around for a long time, and what all of this tells me is that Mueller is doing a thorough job of vetting all of this and using all of the tools available to him. Let me just take a contrarian view, just to throw it out there. If the president, if there truly wasn't collusion, if there truly wasn't -- weren't these ties that lead back to the campaign, if they didn't coordinate with the Russians, then at the end of the day, he should be gratified because Mueller will have thoroughly investigated them and we'll say so. If on the other hand there were these ties, I agree with Mark that he ought to be very concerned about this.
[17:35:53] BLITZER: Yes, there's going to be a lot that's developing, even probably as we speak. Everybody, stick around. An important note for our viewers, by the way: tune in tomorrow evening, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, for a new episode of the "THE AXE FILES" with David Axelrod. David sits down with special guest, Charles Barkley. You won't want to miss it tomorrow night, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Coming up, Vladimir Putin says America's missile defense systems are no match for his latest weapon that he's nicknamed -- Satan 2. How real is the threat?
[17:40:58] BLITZER: The secretive consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, known for supplying a data-driven targeting strategy to the Trump campaign in 2016 now finds itself at the center of a controversy over privacy and social media. Our Senior Investigative Correspondent, Drew Griffin, has been gathering lots of details on the firm. Drew, what can you tell us about the origins of Cambridge Analytica and how they came to work for President Trump's campaign?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, they came together because of one man, Steve Bannon, and what former colleagues say was Bannon believed he was fighting a culture war.
GRIFFIN: Cambridge Analytica was born out of Steve Bannon's alt-right vision for America. He had already produced propaganda-inspired films, had run the ultra-conservative Breitbart News. But in 2014, he was looking for yet another tool in his arsenal and he found it by creating Cambridge Analytica.
CHRISTOPHER WYLIE: This was Steve Bannon's baby.
GRIFFIN: Former Cambridge Analytica employee, Christopher Wylie, says from his first meeting with Bannon, it was clear, the goal: not to push a single campaign or candidate but to fundamentally change America.
WYLIE: He sees this as warfare. So, he is going to use as aggressive techniques as he can get away with.
GRIFFIN: Do you realize what you're saying? You're talking about warfare on the American citizens.
WYLIE: This is Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer using a foreign military contractor to use some of the same techniques that the military use to fight ISIS on the American electorate. That's what they wanted and that's what they got.
GRIFFIN: Cambridge Analytica is a subsidiary for the British SCL Group. For 25 years, the military contractor has worked with 60 countries including British and American governments, helping battle crime, drugs, terrorists, by changing the opinions of foreign populations.
JOSH GREEN, AUTHOT: SCL's sales pitch essentially was, look, we go into foreign countries and we use our tools, our psychographic profiling to manipulate public opinion. I mean, ultimately that's what Bannon wanted to do in the United States; he wanted to manipulate public opinion. GRIFFIN: So, Bannon created SCL's American arm, Cambridge Analytica, with $15 million from conservative donor, Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebecca. Wylie says, using psychographic data gathered from a Facebook app, Cambridge Analytica targeted specific groups of people to try to influence them and push them to the right.
WYLIE: It wouldn't always look like a campaign ad or it wouldn't always say, you know, I'm with candidate so and so and I approve this message. You're not necessarily aware that, actually, what you're seeing is content that has been targeted at you to make you perceive an issue differently.
GRIFFIN: The company worked on the 2014 midterms, but amidst all the data analytics, the questionable use of psychoanalysis, the microtargeting that the technology allowed. Bannon's real goal was always much bigger than that, according to Wylie.
WYLIE: He wanted to change people's perceptions of what was happening in America to make them more open to an alt-right vision.
GRIFFIN: Part of that included developing and testing messages that would resonate with votes. Imagery of walls, deep state, increasing paranoia about government spying, and this.
WYLIE: We had tested drain the swamp.
GRIFFIN: In 2014?
WYLIE: In 2014.
GRIFFIN: Bannon had worked for two years to refine his messaging. When in 2016, the perfect candidate came along to blast those message to American voters.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's crazy. Drain the swamp.
WYLIE: A lot of narratives of the Trump campaign were what we were testing in 2014.
GRIFFIN: Cambridge Analytica is now downplaying its work for the Donald Trump campaign insisting it did not use controversial Facebook data on it, and saying election are won and lost by candidates, not data signs. As for Steve Bannon, he wouldn't respond to CNN, but recently told a business forum: his techniques were used in the past by Democrats and said no one complained until a conservative did what progresses have been doing for years.
[17:45:17] GRIFFIN: Wolf, as Cambridge Analytica tries to separate itself from his work on the Trump campaign, there's a lot of behind the scenes criticism about the data company. Several sources telling us, they just don't believe any of that psychoanalysis and audience manipulation worked. When I asked Christopher Wylie if it worked, his response was: Trump won, didn't he? BLITZER: Drew Griffin reporting for us. Thank you. Coming up, the
FBI detains and questions a Trump campaign ally at an airport. We're going to bring you the latest on a new witness in the Russia probe. Plus -- frightening claims from Vladimir Putin. Is Russia's newest missile dubbed, Satan 2, an unstoppable threat to the United States?
[17:50:38] BLITZER: New tonight, bold claims from President Vladimir Putin as Russia unveils yet another advanced weapons system. Our Brian Todd has the latest details. Brian, is this a threat the United States should be taking very seriously?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, it is. Wolf, tonight, we're told that U.S. officials intelligence analysts are watching the development of Putin's latest updated missile very closely. This is fire power that Putin has been talking about for weeks. And tonight, his missile threat has taken another step forward.
TODD: It is powerful, provocative. And tonight, it is on public display. Vladimir Putin's latest threat to America is this Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, officially called the Sarmat, but nicknamed by western officials the Satan 2, for its deadly force. The missile's test firing was rolled out by Russia in high-definition. Putin says, it has virtually no limitations on distance, capable of reaching the United States.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): it is capable of attacking targets via both the north and south pole. Sarmat is a formidable weapon. No system, not even perspective missile defense systems are an obstacle for it due to its characteristics.
TODD: The Russians say, this missile can carry as many as 16 nuclear warheads, enough to wipe out Texas. Today's dramatic test firing, which experts say was meant to send a signal to the U.S., comes on the heels of Putin's grandiose presentation of other Russian weapons systems earlier this month, including a cruise missile, which can fly low to the ground, weave around obstacles and enemy radar, and is powered by a nuclear engine on board.
As well as this unmanned underwater drone launched from a submarine, it could carry a nuclear warhead directly to an enemy sitting. U.S. officials tell CNN, they have doubts that many of these weapons are near operational. But experts say, the Russians will get there. And for Putin, there's a bigger game of foot. What's his motivation here?
MICHAEL KOFMAN, RUSSIAN MILITARY EXPERT, CNA: He's got two audiences. First is always his domestic audience to show Russians and to show the rest of the elite that Russia's still a great military power. The other audience is always a conversation with the United States to show us that he's a force to be reckoned with.
TODD: As he flexes his military muscle, tonight, Putin is in an all- out diplomatic brawl with the U.S. and its allies over the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England. The Kremlin denies Britain's the claims that Putin is behind the attack. But after the Trump administration, along with several European countries kicked out dozens of Russian diplomats, Putin is retaliating, expelling western diplomats from Russia. And according to Politico, Russia's new ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, has complained in a letter to Republican Senator Orrin Hatch that he can't get meetings with anyone in the Trump White House, with cabinet secretaries, or members of congress. If that's true, why would Antonov be shut out?
JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: No doubt, if I'm in the administration, the last person I want to see on calendar is the ambassador from Russia to the United States, at least right now.
TODD: But tonight, the White House is saying Ambassador Antonov's claim is not true. A White House official telling CNN that they've always been responsive to Antonov, that he's met with senior national security council officials several times throughout the year, and that they've encouraged others in the U.S. government to meet with him. This official, points out that is access that the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman, has not been granted in Moscow. Wolf?
BLITZER: Interesting. Brian, thank you.
[17:54:12] Coming up, more on the breaking news. An ally to President Trump's campaign reveals he was detained and questioned by the FBI as part of Robert Mueller's investigation.
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news, subpoenaed by Mueller. A Trump ally is ordered to face a grand jury after being detained and questioned by the FBI. We are learning more this hour as this news witness in the Russian probe is naming names.
[18:00:00] Recruiting Russian spies? The Kremlin accusing the U.S. of trying turning Russian diplomats into double agents, even if they're being forced to leave the country.