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AT THIS HOUR

U.S. Accuses Russia of Cyberattacks on Power Grid, Utilities, Travel; Trump Joins World Leaders in Blaming Russia for Poisoning; CNN Changes Rating for House Races after Pennsylvania Race; At Least 6 Killed in Miami Bridge Collapse; More White House Staff Shakeups Expected. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired March 16, 2018 - 11:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:30:00] SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that's something that Russia will have to make that determination. They're going to have to decide whether or not they want to be a good actor or bad actor. I think you can see, from the actions that we have taken up until this point, we're going to be tough on Russia until they decide to change their behavior.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think she should have responded to that differently, Congressman?

REP. DAVID CICILLINE, (D), RHODE ISLAND: Absolutely. I think, Russia, Putin -- Russia, under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, made it clear it is an adversary. Interfered with the presidential elections, sowing discontent in other places around the world, engaged in cyberattacks, a whole number of things undermining the interests of the United States around the world. I think what she should have said is, look, they're an adversary, engaged in very aggressive and dangerous behavior. And she could also recognize there are places in the world that we're going to have to figure out ways to work with them and the issue of North Korea and Syria.

So it is complicated. But no one should be mistaken that Putin and Putin's Russia is engaged in actions which are adversarial, which undermine interests of the West and interests of the United States and we have to confront that. And they need to hear directly from the president and his administration that we take this threat seriously, that we understand the comprehensive nature of the threat of Putin and Russia, and that we're responding to it appropriately. There should be no question about that.

KEILAR: You make it very clear that hearing from an agency or, you know, even a cabinet member, someone besides the president, for you, it is so clear that it has to come from the president when it comes to him voicing concerns about Russia.

The Trump administration joined European allies in a joint statement condemning Russia for the attack in the U.K., the nerve agent attack. And yesterday, the president's Treasury Department announced the sanctions, the same -- against the same Russians that were indicted by Robert Mueller for interfering with the 2016 election. You know, what did you think about that, we may have -- you may have already given us some insight considering you want to hear it from the president. What did you think about the actions yesterday. Credit where credit is due to this administration?

CICILLINE: Absolutely. I think those are important actions. The president only took what was in the Mueller indictment and imposed sanctions on those individuals. That's important. But Russian interference and influences is much broader than that. In addition to that, he joined the letter with our allies with the statement with respect to the poisoning of the Russian double agent. Those were important. But what is very important is that the president really lead an effort with our NATO partners, with our allies, to develop a comprehensive strategy, a thoughtful and effective strategy to respond to this Russian attack.

This is a serious and sustained attack by Russians in a variety of different settings, undermining Western interests, trying to sow chaos in the U.S. and with our allies. And we can't have reactions to particular events. We need to have a full comprehensive strategy. And it has to begin with an acknowledgement of the seriousness of the threat. We have seen a president unwilling in a very serious we to acknowledge what the Russians are up to and how important it is that we respond.

KEILAR: I want to ask about a tweet of yours. It seems like a while ago, but it was Tuesday when the president fired the secretary of state, and you responded on Twitter. Here was your response. You said, "Yesterday Secretary Tillerson criticized Russia. This morning, he was fired. So, again, is it fair to ask, what does Vladimir Putin have on real Donald Trump?"

Do you really believe that Trump fired Tillerson because he condemned the Russian nerve agent attack when there has been so much reporting that this firing had been in the works for a long time?

CICILLINE: Well, I think there is no question that the president has been unhappy with Secretary Tillerson for quite a period of time. There is no question it was only after he made those statements criticizing Russia that he was actually fired. You have to look at the president's other actions. You have a secretary of HUD, who bought a $30,000 dining room table. You have other secretaries spending millions of dollars on travel. It seems to be a lot of toleration for that by this president, but only after a statement criticizing Russia did Rex Tillerson ultimately get fired.

Who knows? You take that, coupled with the presidents' unwillingness to call out in strong terms what the Russians are doing, both in interfering in our presidential election and other aggressive behavior around the world, and you have to wonder, what is it? This is a president who will criticize virtually anybody, sometimes make up stuff to criticize but, somehow, he can't find it, find the sort of spine, backbone, to criticize one of our most serious adversaries, Vladimir Putin and Russia. And you have to wonder why.

KEILAR: Congressman David Cicilline, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

CICILLINE: My pleasure. Good being with you.

[11:34:39] KEILAR: We have a key race alert in the wake of the expected Democratic upset in Pennsylvania. It's not good news for Republicans. We're going to have the full details after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: In the heart of Trump country, a Democrat has seemingly captured a House seat in Pennsylvania's special election. After that race, CNN is making a major shift in the forecast for 2018.

I want to bring in CNN political director, David Chalian, for our very favorite thing, the key race alert.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right.

KEILAR: So in the wake of the special election, we're not just looking at Pennsylvania, we're looking at a shift that is much broader.

CHALIAN: We are, indeed. In these latest ratings, we are now moving 17 House races, Brianna, and they are moving all in the direction of the Democrats. Not all of them are becoming tossups, but all moving, all 17 changes, in the direction of the Democrats after we looked at the demography of what Pennsylvania '18 looks like and where else across the country, if, indeed, it is going to be that kind of a Democratic wave, that good a year for Democrats, where they're winning in deeply red places. We looked at some places that are even more competitive than Pennsylvania '18 should have ever been, on paper, candidate quality, fundraising, to make this determination.

[11:40:11] KEILAR: And what does that mean when you're looking at the majority? Is it at risk for Republicans?

CHALIAN: It was at risk for Republicans before the result of Pennsylvania '18. I think what the result in this week showed us is that it may even be more in risk. I think what we learned this week is we knew this was going to be a bad year for Republicans, history guides us that way, first midterm of any president. This isn't unlike what we saw in 2010 with Barack Obama where you see all the energy and the opposition out party for that first midterm, and that's what we're seeing from here.

Each and every special election that we have seen since Donald Trump has become president, the Democrat is so significantly overperforming in terms of turnout, what Hillary Clinton did, what the previous Democratic candidate did, and that's why Tuesday's results were, like, wow, something larger may be forming here.

KEILAR: Even if they don't even win in some of these elections, right?

CHALIAN: Exactly. KEILAR: I mean, we're just seeing a shift. The Democrats even have a shot in some of these districts.

Something that I think is going to really capture the attention of a lot of people is that CNN has shifted Speaker Paul Ryan's district from solidly Republican to likely Republican. Now, still in that likely Republican category --

CHALIAN: Exactly.

KEILAR: -- but this is significant.

CHALIAN: And, yes, I don't want to overplay it. He is likely to be re-elected. He's the speaker of the House. He has every resource at his disposal. He is going to raise a gazillion dollars. It is only moving from solid to likely. But it's moving that way because Wisconsin's first congressional district that Paul Ryan represents is more favorable demographically to the Democrats than this Pennsylvania '18 district is. It should be a more competitive race.

The speaker has a lot of power and a lot of money. But he's also facing a Democratic opponent who is raising a ton of dollars at the grassroots, small-donor level, could make it a little more competitive. I would be surprised if it moved beyond likely. Paul Ryan, I'm sure, will get re-elected to his district if he runs. But that is one of the moves of the 17 that we're making. And you can see each individual House race at CNN politics.com. My colleagues, Eric Bradner and Terrance Burley (ph), go through district by district where they are.

KEILAR: Still, you can see his team sort of going hmm, right? They sort of wonder, oh, OK, all right.

CHALIAN: No doubt about it.

KEILAR: All right. David Chalian, thank you very much.

Coming up, officials in Florida are confirming at least six deaths after a 950-ton bridge collapsed near Florida International University. There are victims still trapped in the rubble. There are recovery efforts under way right now. We'll take you there live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:47:01] KEILAR: Investigators in Miami are searching for answers this morning, trying to understand why a 950-ton pedestrian bridge under construction collapsed, killing six people. Rescue efforts are now shifting to recovery.

CNN's Rosa Flores is joining me now from the scene.

Tell us the latest, Rosa.

ROSE FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, the focus at this hour is the recovery of the bodies of the deceased with respect and dignity. That's how officials put it here today. We know that at least six people are dead. One of those individuals died at the hospital. And officials tell us that they believe that there are still five people pinned under this bridge. It is painstaking work for the first responders that are working this scene because they have to remove the debris very delicately because this structure is very unstable, they say. It is extremely dangerous for them to do this, but they have to recover the bodies of these individuals and also preserve evidence because, of course, there is a long investigation ahead -- Brianna?

KEILAR: What are you hearing from investigators, Rosa?

FLORES: You know, there are multiple investigations happening at the same time. Here's how officials describe it. There are homicide investigators working alongside the NTSB, OSHA, the FBI, because there are multiple investigations. The NTSB focusing on why this happened and making sure this doesn't happen again. And Miami-Dade, detectives focusing on the homicide investigation.

Here's how the chief put it. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUAN PEREZ, DIRECTOR, MIAMI-DADE POLICE DEPARTMENT: This is a homicide investigation. That's all it is. That means that somebody died. That is it. It does not mean there is criminal charges looming or pending or anything like that. Is there a possibility for that? There is always a possibility for anything like that to occur.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FLORES: These investigations, Brianna, are at the local, state and federal levels, so they are expected to take a while. But every law enforcement officer that we have talked to, every leader in this community and in this state has said that they want to make sure that this is investigated thoroughly, so it doesn't happen again in the United States -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Rosa Flores, thank you so much.

We do have much more news ahead. But, first, a quick programming note that today we start another year of introducing you to everyday people changing the world, our incredible "CNN Heroes." We begin with Carol Rosenstein. After her husband was diagnosed with dementia, she began to feel him slipping away. Then one day, he sat down at the piano.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

CAROL ROSENSTEIN, CNN HERO: I was seeing something magical happening before my eyes. The doctor told me that we were watching the power of music changing brain chemistry.

(MUSIC)

ROSENSTEIN: Playing a musical instrument is like a full-body workout for the brain. The music actually resurrected him. (MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[11:50:08] KEILAR: To get an inside look at the band that Carol created for her husband and to watch their full story, you can check that out at CNNheroes.com. And while you're there, nominate someone who inspires you, someone who you think should be a 2018 "CNN Hero."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:54:50] KEILAR: Of course, all eyes are on the White House as there are rumors of a big-time staff shakeup. We've already seen some of the effects of that this week with Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, being fired by President Donald Trump.

I want to bring in our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, to talk about this.

I wonder, Christiane, how other countries are viewing this shakeup. They must be worrying about how this will affect their relations with the U.S.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Exactly, Brianna. With some trepidation, to put it concisely. They have always found that people like Tillerson or H.R. McMaster or General Mattis are a moderating effect on the more impulsive and hawkish hardline policies of President Trump, for instance, on Iran, on North Korea, on trade and that kind of stuff. So they're quite right worried about that. What it means, with important new issues on those fronts coming up, not the least the potential summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-Un, not least the decision that U.S. President Trump has to make in May about whether to continue the U.S. participation in the Iran nuclear deal, and of course, these tariffs on steel and the like.

So, yes, they're concerned, and they're don't know whether U.S. foreign policy will take a sharp and much more hard line, a view much more monolithic since Trump seems to be bringing in people that agree with him on these issues without much pushback or alternative thought. So it is worry at the moment and they're waiting to see how to shapes up. They're worried also about a lack of bench strength if a whole load of new people come in right at a time when these important negotiations may be about to get under way -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Changing gears -- and perhaps that's one of the things I like most about this series that you are doing. This airs tomorrow night. It explores "Sex and Love Around the World." Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Women are no longer willing to take the place that society has imposed on them. They don't all want to be the perfect daughter who grows up to be the perfect housewife. And a massive shift is underway.

(on camera): Oh, good, we're going to get some drinks now. We can loosen up a little bit.

(LAUGHTER)

(voice-over): I've come to meet a group of friends at their regular hangout where they gather to dish on their lives and their loves.

(on camera): Ladies, let's talk about sex. How is sex?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Skittish.

(LAUGHTER)

AMANPOUR: Do you think men here, the people you're dating, your husband and your partners, do they care about your happiness, about your emotional and your physical satisfaction?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Probably. Maybe. No. No way.

I love the subject matter. It's so fascinating.

But then the other thing that strikes me is that, throughout your career -- we know you for covering extreme human conditions around the world, war, conflict, genocide, the plight of refugees. What inspired you to take this on, a six-part series about sex and love?

AMANPOUR: What inspired me was exactly what you just described, that I have spent my whole career doing that. But I suddenly started to think a couple years ago, actually in the midst of the Syria war, watching all these refugees come out, especially the women and the girls, what are their futures like? It got me thinking about the other side of the human condition, not the extreme survival, the violence that has been perpetrated on women since time immemorial about which we are so in tune right now, but about women's happiness, their rights and their needs, their physical needs, emotional needs.

How do they maintain intimacy, sexuality, sex with their partners in refugee camps and flimsy tents and, you know, metal containers? And that got me thinking. The clip we've just shown was from this week's debut on Saturday at 10:00, as you said. That was in Tokyo where a whole array of fairly interesting sexual mores take place. You know, there are sexless marriages in Tokyo. A huge amount of men are still virgins. There is a whole disfunction as far as we know it in that culture about sex. So to explore that. And then elsewhere, to see younger women, especially, really being agents of their own happiness now, their own sexual fulfillment, emotional fulfillment, their own happiness. Not the victims. I didn't concentrate on the violence that's perpetrated against women, but the opposite.

And there is a little something for everyone in there. It's humorous, it's serious, it's an investigation like we actually haven't seen on television before.

KEILAR: It's so interesting, and we will be tuning in.

Christiane Amanpour, thank you so much.

Check this out. Christiane Amanpour, "Sex & Love Around the World." That is 10:00 tomorrow night, right here on CNN.

Thanks so much for joining me.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.