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Trump at National Prayer Breakfast: Pray for Schwarzenegger Ratings; Trump Praises Senate Chaplain at Prayer Breakfast; White House Pushes Back on Easing Russian Sanctions; Trump's Education Secretary Pick Facing Opposition. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired February 2, 2017 - 14:30   ET



[14:30:50] PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: At President Trump's first pray breakfast, an annual tradition since 1953, he welcome congressional leaders, spoke to religious leaders, and asked for them to pray for Arnold Schwarzenegger.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They hired a big, big movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger to take my place. And we know how that turned out. The ratings went right down the tubes. It's been a total disaster. And Mark will never, ever bet against Trump again. And I want to just pray for Arnold, if we can, for those ratings, OK?


BROWN: Schwarzenegger quickly responded to that with a video on Twitter.


ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, ACTOR & SHOW HOST: Hey, Donald, I have a great idea. Why don't we switch jobs? You take over TV, because you're such an expert on ratings, and I take over your job. And then, people can finally sleep comfortably again, hmm?


BROWN: President Trump also commended the chaplain at this morning's breakfast, guaranteeing his job was secure.


TRUMP: Thank you as well to Senate Chaplain Barry Black for his moving words.

And I don't know, Chaplain, now whether or not that's an appointed position. Is that an appointed position? I don't even know if you're a Democrat or Republican. But I'm appointing you for another year, the hell with it.

(APPLAUSE) TRUMP: I think it's not even my appointment. It's the Senate's appointment, but we'll talk to them. You're very -- your son is here. Your job is very, very secure, OK?



BROWN: For those wondering, it is, indeed, a Senate appointment.

Joining me, Senate Chaplain Barry Black.

Chaplain, thank you so much for being here.

First I want to get your reaction to President Trump bringing up "The Apprentice" start, Arnold Schwarzenegger and talking about ratings. Is this appropriate in your view?

BARRY BLACK, SENATE CHAPLAIN: Well, I think he was trying to say things tongue in cheek and to keep it light. I think that's what it was all about. And from the response of the audience, they laughed at what he had to say and some applauded some of what he had to say, so I don't think they were taking it too seriously either.

BROWN: What about you and what Trump said about you. You were appointed by the Senate, not by the president, but still seems you made quite an impression on him. You get to keep your job, apparently, according to President Trump. What was your reaction to what he had to say?

BLACK: Again, I thought he was trying to express his appreciation for what I had to say about making your voice heard in heaven. I was trying to hammer home that people of faith often under estimate the power they have in making things happen. We become so preoccupied with making our voices heard on earth, through social media, through television, through Twitter, that we forget that, if we are believers, we are connected to an omnipotent, omnipresent God who can get things done, but often by requests only. So, I think he was basically saying thank you for that message and your job is secure.

He self-corrected. He basically pointed out that, indeed, it is a Senate appointment and the executive branch really has very little to do with my job.

Moreover, my boss is the sovereign God of the universe, and so he is the one from whom Senators and presidents borrow their heartbeat.

BROWN: It was interesting this morning when you said we need to pray for everyone, all people, including non-Christians, and that prayer must come from a sense of need. What have you been praying over the last week for the refugees that have been denied entry into the U.S.?

BLACK: Well, I think there's just so much pain in the lives of the refugees. And Galatians 5:14 says, "Loving your neighbor as yourself fulfils the entire law." So, I have to ask myself, God, you know, how would I feel if I were one of the refugees, and how would I want to be treated? I know a little something about being marginalized and being left out, and so I think if we are truly trying to fulfill the law of God, we will be as Galatians 5:14 saying loving our neighbors as ourselves. So, I pray for refugees like I would want someone to pray for me if I were in that situation.

[14:35:39] BROWN: Let me quickly ask you this. Trump also said he would, quote, "destroy the Jonathan Amendment." This is a law that limits the ability of religious tax-exempt organizations to endorse or oppose a political candidate. Do you agree with that repeal?

BLACK: You know, my position is non-partisan, non-sectarian, and I basically let the politicians do what the politicians do.

BROWN: Chaplain Barry Black, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

BLACK: Thank you.

BROWN: We'll talk more about this and more of President Trump's messaging this week with Michael Eric Dyson, a professor at Georgetown and also the author of "Tears We Cannot Stop, A Sermon to White America."

Michael, thanks for coming on.

I want to start with your reaction to the remarks at the prayer breakfast saying "hell" and talking about "The Apprentice" ratings. It's a little different, perhaps. What's your reaction?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Well, obviously, the president has the bully pulpit to his well, but I think it's consistent that things ultimately turn back on President Trump. Whether he's speaking about Black History Month, prayer breakfasts, the things seem to circulate around his own particular understanding of the world, which is as it should be to a degree. But the dignity of the office suggests that there's a distance between his own personal investment and the issues to which he speaks. So, in terms of the pray breakfast, praying for the ratings of "The Apprentice" or being is tongue in cheek is one thing. But there are so many serious issues at stake, that this, along with his other previous perceptions as not being the most serious person, lacking a kind of gravitas, only reinforces the perception that this president is not only disconnected a bit but just not able the dig deep and connect with people at a substantial level.

BROWN: I want to talk about his Black History Month event yesterday. Here is some sound from that.


TRUMP: Well, this is Black History Month, so this is our little breakfast, our little get together.

Last month, we celebrated the life of Martin Luther King Jr, you recall. And Reverend Martin Luther King Jr, who is an incredible example. He's unique in American history. You read all about Dr. Martin Luther King, when, a weeks ago, when somebody said I took the statue out of my office, and turned out that that was fake news.


TRUMP: Fake news.

I'm very proud now that we have a museum on the National Mall where people can learn about Reverend King. So many other things. Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody that's done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice. Harriett Tubman, Rosa Parks, and millions more black Americans who made America what it is today. Big impact.


BROWN: He got some criticism, but do you believe that criticism is misguided?

DYSON: I don't think so. Again, it seems related to the fact that this president does not know much about so many different issues and this seems to be one of them. It seemed to be like Frederick Douglass was a second baseman for the Baltimore Orioles, a guy that's getting more recognition. That could be an acceptable faux pas. But when you put that next to the fact that this president speaks about black America often in terms that are not intimately associated with a deep knowledge of the community, with the variety of experiences that constitute that community, and the people who make it up and the leaders who make it up. He meets with entertainers and athletes but avoids meeting with serious political figures who might be offer a critical edge to their particular perspective or some feedback that might be helpful towards public policy and the like, except for those who echo his own outlook. So, in that sense, because of the perception that he's not intimately familiar with this culture, this is enforced by what might otherwise be seen as a general faux pas.

BROWN: Sean Spicer was asked about this recently and he said, look, President Trump has been meeting with African-American leaders. He recently met with Martin Luther King's son. But when you look inside the room, it was mostly Trump staff and supporters. There was no one from the NAACP, the Urban League or the Congressional Black Caucus. Sean Spicer says they have a whole month of things planned. What can they do to be more inclusive?

[14:40:21] DYSON: Exactly what you just said. If they were to meet the Urban League, Al Sharpton, the National Black Women's Roundtable -- there are so many other organizations that are interested in developing an agenda. Kimberly Crenshaw (ph), with the African- American Policy Agenda, who is articulate about the interests, concerns of African-American communities from a broad swath. And if the president met with them, he would be ahead of the game and could brag that he met with them far before President Barack Obama met with them in his own term. So, President Trump has an opportunity if he meets with the Congressional Black Caucus this month or next month to have bragging rights to say Obama kept them at arm's length so long, but that he was able to reach out to them and meet them and engage with them about public policy, the issues concerning African-American people across the board, and how the president can address them. BROWN: Michael Eric Dyson, thank you.

DYSON: Thank you so much.

BROWN: Up next on this Thursday, a slight easing of U.S. sanctions against Russia. Hear Donald Trump's response to the breaking news.


[14:46:01] BROWN: More on our breaking news. The U.S. Treasury Department will let some companies conduct limited business with Russia's Federal Security Service, the FSB, but when asked, President Trump denied easing any sanctions.

CNN's Matthew Chance, CNN senior international correspondent, is live for us in Moscow.

What exactly has happened here?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a very small change in the latest round of sanctions that were imposed by President Obama in the final weeks of his administration just last month -- the month before. Basically, punishing Russia for its alleged hacking the U.S. presidential election. What the U.S. Treasury has said it will allow some companies to do some transactions with Russia's Federal Security Services.

It's significant in two ways. The first way is that any easing of the sanctions, any movement in that direction is seen significant by the market, significant by Russians, and by people who are opposed to Russia as well, and this is certainly that even though it's a small step.

The other reason it's significant is that this is easing the sanctions on the FSB, which is a successor of the KGB, and it was the main organization accused by U.S. intelligence agents of hacking the U.S. presidential election. So, it's a very small step but a controversial step as well -- Pamela?

BROWN: Matthew Chance, thanks for breaking it down for us. We appreciate it.

Up next, the fate of one of Trump's cabinet picks right now hanging in balance as two Republicans say they will vote against her, but Betsy DeVos just got more bad news. More on that live from Capitol Hill.


[14:51:50] BROWN: President Trump's pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, is facing opposition. Two Republicans say they will vote no. I'm talking about Maine Senator Susan Collins and Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski. Republicans hold a slim 52-seat majority in the Senate.

So, let's bring in Manu Raju, CNN senior congressional reporter, to discuss this. Top Republicans are still saying she will be confirmed. Why?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Two reasons, Mike Pence and Senator Sessions. It means it's going to be a 50/50 vote in the Senate. The Republican leadership had delayed Senator Sessions' confirmation to be attorney general until he can vote on the Betsy DeVos nomination. With a 50/50 split, that means Vice President Mike Pence, who, in his role as president of the Senate, will break a tie. So this is the first time to see any dissension among the Republican ranks. They're expecting the confirmation vote on Monday. The filibuster is expected to be broken tomorrow. This comes as Republicans are taking steps on a number different nominees to avoid Democratic obstructionist tactics, including today, advancing the nomination of Scott Pruitt to the floor of the Senate, even though Democrats had boycotted the committee vote. The Democrats forced them to suspend the rules in the committee, approve the nomination without any Democrats present. They did the same thing for two other nominees this week, all in an effort to get some of Donald Trump's more controversial nominees confirmed -- Pam?

BROWN: Very interesting.

Manu Raju, thank you.

RAJU: Thank you.

Just ahead, violence erupting at U.C. Berkeley hours before a controversial conservative commentator was scheduled to speak.


UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: We're standing right next to them.




Sorry about that, Pam. It's a getting a crazy.

These guys shooting at the officers, literally, are standing right next to us right now. And they have these --


UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: -- they're using to protect themselves from whatever --


BROWN: We're going to discuss the debate there.

Plus, back to breaking news. When it comes to Iran, President Trump says military action is not off the table. The reaction from Iran, just ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:58:42] BROWN: Well, studies show that being in a good relationship is also good for your health. It's all part of staying well.

Dating Coach Traci Porterfield has some advice for you. If you haven't found that special someone yet.


TRACI PORTERFIELD, DATING COACH: Three pieces of advice I give to my clients to be successful in the dating world? Number one, be open. Be open to new people in the dating world. Height, hair color, age, those things do not matter. That is not the person. And certainly, don't turn your date into a job interview. So, keep it light.

Number two, internal dialog. What your internal dialog. Watch what you tell yourself about yourself. Because that's what you're projecting to your date and to the world. And you're not fat. You're not uninteresting. Those things won't serve you in the dating world. When you become consciously aware of what your thoughts are and you turn those around, you'll be more successful.

DST. What does that mean? Do something different. If you want something different in the dating world, you have to do something different. It can be as simple as driving a new way to work. It can be stopping at a new coffee shop. Going to a new restaurant. When you put yourself in these new places, you have a better chance of meeting new people, feeling different, and finding your happily ever after.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[15:00:06] BROWN: Top of the hour now. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Brooke Baldwin on this Thursday.

And we're following breaking news on multiple fronts. First, President Trump speaking at the White House --