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Trump Remains Silent on Stormy Daniels; Trump Floats Idea of Rob Porter Return to White House; Stormy Daniels Suing Michael Cohen for Defamation; Ryan Zinke Under Fire on Diversity; California Sues After Citizenship Question Added to 2020 Census. Aired 11:30a-12n ET

Aired March 27, 2018 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:30:00] CEDRIC ALEXANDER, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALAYST: But at the same time, that community is going to have -- and its leadership is going to have to find a way to build and continue to build those bridges so that if something again similar to this even happens ever again, then a much better place than they were today.

(CROSSTALK)

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Briefly, how do you build those gaps and build the divide when you continually see investigators and state officials reaching --

(CROSSTALK)

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Gentlemen, I'm so sorry. I have been out of time for a moment here.

Joey Jackson, Cedric Alexander, thank you so much, joining us on this breaking news.

ALEXANDER: Thank you.

KEILAR: The Louisiana attorney general saying that they're declining to press charges against the officer who killed African-American man, Cedric Alexander, in 2016. We'll continue to follow this breaking news.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:34:58] KEILAR: No punching back 10 times harder, no Twitter attack, no name calling. Publicly, President Trump is staying uncharacteristically silent about porn star, Stormy Daniels, despite her jaw-dropping interview with Anderson Cooper on "60 Minutes," when she told the world in detail about unprotected sex that she says she had with Trump, which the White House continues to deny.

I want to go to CNN White House reporter, Kaitlan Collins, for details on this.

Kaitlan, the president reportedly was among the nearly 22 million Americans who were watching this CBS News interview. What are you learning?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Brianna, the White House alluded to as much yesterday when they said they couldn't say if the president watched the interview, but later said the claims Stormy Daniels made in the interview were inaccurate. But the president has not commented on this publicly. It's been noteworthy for a president who doesn't ignore the smallest slight. But he certainly isn't ignoring this privately because we know that he's been polling his advisers, allies, whether or not he should respond publicly to these allegations. So far, they have advised him against that. It is unclear how long he will heed that advice. We know he's complained about what he says is the wall-to-wall coverage of the allegations on cable news. And that his friend, Chris Ruddy, said it was a hoax, and he believed it was meant to damage him politically. And now "The Washington Post" is reporting that the president has even gone as far as to tell people that Stormy Daniels is not his type here, Brianna.

But back to whether or not he's going to publicly comment on this, it is hard to see just how much longer that lasts. People close to the president say they do not believe he'll be able to exercise that restraint much longer. Of course, Stormy Daniels' lawyer has been taunting the president, doing all these interviews. Stormy Daniels herself appearing on television, the president's favorite medium. Now the question is, Brianna, just how long does it take the president to actually come out and say something about these allegations.

KEILAR: We saw a little crack. He said fake news was very -- I think he said voluminous yesterday in a tweet. We know what he was probably talking about there.

I want to ask you about something else, Kaitlan, and that is Rob Porter, the president's former aide, who left the White House after being accused of abusing, both physically and emotionally, his first wife as well as his second wife, we saw the alarming photos. Apparently, he's in touch with Rob Porter?

COLLINS: That's right. "The New York Times" is reporting the president has not only stayed in touch with Rob Porter, asking his advice on some issues, but has also floated the idea of having him return to the West Wing. Now, it is not that surprising that the president kept in touch with Porter. It is a little bit stunning, given the allegations made against Porter and the nasty departure that he had here from the White House, very frustrating, not only because of those very serious allegations but also because the president believed that that departure was botched here by aides in the White House, including the Chief of Staff John Kelly. But the president has stayed in touch with him. He does this with people who leave the West Wing or his orbit. They don't often leave for very long. And we're seeing that here with Rob Porter.

The thing you have to keep in mind is the context here. This is coming as the president's inner circle here in the West Wing has continued to shrink over the recent weeks. Not only the departure of Rob Porter, but Hope Hicks, Keith Schiller, Johnny McEntee, several aides close to the president as well. But a word of caution. Aides in the White House do not think it is

likely that Rob Porter will return, given the seriousness of the allegations made against him. But it does go to show just how close he and the president were here -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Kaitlan Collins, at the White House, thank you.

I want to turn to the latest legal maneuver in the Stormy Daniels saga. The porn star is suing President Trump's long-time lawyer, Michael Cohen, for defamation.

CNN's M.J. Lee is joining us now on this story.

What is the defamation suit all about, M.J.?

M.J. LEE, REPORTER: Brianna, what Stormy Daniels is doing right now is staying on offense. As you know, she already had launched a lawsuit against Donald Trump earlier this month. And that lawsuit had to do with trying to get out of this NDA, make that void so she can speak out freely about her alleged affair with Donald Trump in 2006. Now that lawsuit has been amended to include Michael Cohen, Cohen. Cohen, of course, is Donald Trump's personal lawyer, who was responsible for making that $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels in 2016 to keep her quiet and to keep her from speaking about this affair.

Now, what this lawsuit now says is that Cohen is being accused of defamation. What Stormy Daniels is saying is he is essentially calling her a liar even though he's not directly saying that.

Here is Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels' lawyer, talking about all of this on "A.C. 360" last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: Mainly, he made statements earlier this year, whereby, he basically said that the affair never happened, in not so many words, and made my client out to be a liar. So we're going to test the voracity of his statements against those of my client.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[11:40:00] LEE: I also want to quickly note, you remember in the "60 Minutes" interview on Sunday, Stormy Daniels said that she was threatened in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011, and this had to do with her being quiet about the Donald Trump affair. Well, Michael Avenatti is saying, since that interview aired, they have several new leads on who was responsible. He says that it wasn't directly Michael Cohen or Keith Schiller, Donald Trump's bodyguard, but the question remains, are they going to be able to produce that kind of evidence. The hearing for this lawsuit is set for July of this year.

KEILAR: Stormy Daniels hinted at that in the interview. She said she would be able to identify that person again. We will see.

M.J. Lee, thank you.

Still ahead, critics pushing back on the Trump administration just hours after a controversial citizenship question is added to the 2020 census, whether you're a citizen or not. Why it matters to you, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:45:17] KEILAR: New this morning, California is suing the Trump administration after the Commerce Department announced plans to add a question about citizenship status back to the census. The Justice Department claims the question is needed to better enforce the Voting Rights Act. But critics say it could deter undocumented people from participating and leave the census inaccurate.

In the meantime, over at the Interior Department, Secretary Ryan Zinke repeatedly has said that diversity is not a priority there, and that he doesn't really care about it. This is according to several senior department employees who have spoken to CNN. A spokeswoman says Secretary Zinke never said anything of the sort.

Joining me to discuss, CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist, Joe Trippi, and CNN political commentator, Paris Dennard, a member of President Trump's re-election advisory board.

So you got the Interior Department, Paris, about 68,000 employees, more than 70 percent of them are white. And so this is the backdrop of this discussion about what Secretary Zinke has said. What do you think about it?

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I will say, just in general, I think that diversity is important. I think --

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: It is important.

DENNARD: Diversity is important. I think what we do as a nation is we try to parse words and figure out are we talking about racial diversity, diversity as it relates to women. Heather Swift, the spokesperson for the Interior Department, says she's known the secretary for a very long time, is a woman. And he just recently appointed two women, minorities, to high positions within the department.

I think the last point is the racial makeup of the Department of Interior did not just come along in the year plus since the Zinke administration has been there as a department head. This makeup, these careers, all the people that are there, the statistic that you cited happened long before the Trump administration --

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: I don't know if that's exactly true about these statistics.

JOE TRIPPI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: -- he doesn't care about diversity -- (CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: That's the issue, yes.

TRIPPI: Everybody has -- there say diversity of opinion, diversity of ideas, diversity of perspective, that a lot of things the Interior Department oversees should have people in that department with a different perspective that are giving -- not just the diversity of race and gender, he didn't care about it.

KEILAR: Paris -- let's talk about -- what Zinke is saying. Apparently --

(CROSSTALK)

DENNARD: Allegedly said.

KEILAR: Several people have told us this, OK. So it is not allegedly. He has said this, and we're told repeatedly, that when this issue comes up, this is sort of how he responds to it. What do you think of that?

DENNARD: I don't know. But what I do know is that the Department of Interior just gave a grant of $12.6 million to African-American historic sites across the country. When you talk about diversity, and what these white people, if you will, are doing at the Department of Interior, I think that's something that is positive. If the secretary -- if these statements are true what the secretary is stating, I think what he could be saying is we are going to look at the best qualified candidate and go after that. If you're a white person and you're a black person, equal footing, if you're African-American, you can get the job because you're the best candidate.

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI: You can't have diversity at -- you have to have diversity in leadership and can't have that if the leader of the organization doesn't care about diversity. It is not about -- it is about -- who has a better perspective on what a community needs if you don't have anybody from that community represented?

(CROSSTALK)

DENNARD: That's not true. That's not -- that's not true. There are African-Americans that are there, there are minorities that are women that are there.

KEILAR: I want to ask you about --

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI: -- had a problem with this issue from the get go.

KEILAR: I want to --

(CROSSTALK) DENNARD: -- women and the Trump administration, serving in --

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: Paris, I want to ask you about something very important that is -- I feel like you're on the record with how you feel about Ryan Zinke's comments.

New this morning, the Commerce Department says it's going to add back this question about citizenship and the census. There's many questions that happened that you answer in the census, so they're going to ask in the 2020 census, are you a citizen? There are concerns that, especially in this climate, where there is a lot of uncertainty for folks who are undocumented, that what it means is that people are not going to actually answer the census. Then what you're going to have is places where maybe there are a lot of folks who are undocumented who are just not even going to answer the questions, it's going to be underreported, and then you won't have an actual representation of what's going on in the country -- Paris?

[11:50:13] DENNARD: I think we should answer the question and get an accurate number of who is in the country. It's important for statistical information. It's important for the Congress, the makeup to know how many citizens, how many people are here. And this also reinforces the issue of DACA and why we have to do something about immigration, because we want people to come out of the shadows --

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: I'm so sorry, Joe, and I apologize, because you should have a chance to respond to that. I know you disagree very much with Paris.

TRIPPI: A lot, yes.

KEILAR: Thank you, gentlemen. I really appreciate it.

We have breaking news. The Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has finally made a decision on whether or not he will testify before Congress after a massive, outrageous scandal outraged users. We'll have that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:55:21] KEILAR: Some exclusive breaking news in to CNN. After repeated calls for him to do so, CEO and founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, decided he is going to testify before Congress. Sources tell "CNN Money" he has come to terms that he will have to testify before Congress within a number of weeks and Facebook is planning a strategy for his testimony. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has invited the CEOs of Facebook, Google, as well as Twitter to a hearing on data privacy on April 10.

And President Trump's personal lawyer is facing off with a porn star. Stormy Daniels slaps Michael Cohen with a new lawsuit. Could this spell trouble for his case against the actress? We'll have details, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)