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NEW DAY SATURDAY

Sessions to Amend Testimony on Russian Contact; Judge Grants WH Extension on Travel Ban Lawsuit; DHS Considers Separating Kids from Adults At Border; Sanders to Lead Civil Rights Protests Against Nissan; Trump Signs Order on Black Colleges & Universities. Aired 7- 8a ET

Aired March 4, 2017 - 07:00   ET

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


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: The next hour of your NEW DAY begins right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[07:00:06] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White House is definitely seeking some separation between the president and his team when it comes to Russia during the campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very clear what Vladimir Putin's objectives are. In many cases, they are unacceptable to us.

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I should not be involved in investigating a campaign I had a role in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike Pence was doing the same thing he was criticizing Hillary for.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's no comparison whatsoever between Hillary Clinton's practice, having a private server.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You're going to own your own business, make a lot of money, right? But don't run for politics after you do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: A little bit of levity there from the president this morning.

Good morning to you. You're up early, 7:00. It is Saturday, after all. I'm Christi Paul.

SAVIDGE: And I'm Martin Savidge, in for Victor Blackwell.

President Trump may be in sunny Florida but new clouds hang over his administration.

PAUL: The president is vowing no rest at Mar-a-Lago this weekend. A lot of people wondering if he could be working on the new travel ban he proposed last week or are the plans to head back to court over that.

We do know overnight the White House getting more time to decide if they're going to fight last month's lawsuit.

SAVIDGE: Plus, we've got this stunning DHS headline: the new plan to break up parents and kids who illegally cross the border. Officials say it's to fight trafficking.

And we're also learning how embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions will amend his testimony. That's going to happen Monday. This after Sessions recused himself from any investigations into possible ties between Russian officials and the Trump campaign.

House Speaker Paul Ryan speaking out in his defense.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I would think dozens if not more of hundreds. That's very common. We meet with ambassadors constantly as members of Congress. That's their job, is to come and meet with members of Congress and express their interest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: President Trump touted his plans to bolster the U.S. military. He did this while on the deck of the USS Gerald Ford in Virginia. This visit came one day after the controversy surrounding his attorney general there.

So, CNN's Randi Kaye talked to some Trump supporters in the crowd to get their take on Jeff Sessions.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On board the USS Gerald R. Ford, sailors and shipbuilders packed the belly of the aircraft carrier anxious to see their new commander-in-chief.

TRUMP: I agree. I agree.

KAYE: Many in the crowd haven't we heard that Jeff Sessions was under fire for failing to share during his confirmation hearings that he had met with a Russian ambassador twice during the campaign.

(on camera): Many members of Congress, including Republicans are saying that he misled during the committee during his confirmation hearings, does that concern you?

QUENTIN CAVANAUGH, ATTENDED TRUMP RALLY: It does. It does concern me. So, I hope that's not true.

KAYE: Should he resign?

CAVANAUGH: No, I don't think so. I think we need to find out more about it first.

KAYE: Do you think it's a big deal?

LANCE HALL, ATTENDED TRUMP RALLY: Yes, probably. If he's talking with the Russians, I mean, we don't know exactly what's going on. I'm not sure exactly.

TOM EARMAN, ATTENDED TRUMP RALLY: They say he was going it because of his job at the time. Not because of Mr. Trump or anything else. So --

KAYE: So, you believe he met with him as a senator and a member of the Armed Services Committee. Not as a Trump surrogate?

EARMAN: Why would he not? I mean, you got to take the man at his word, right?

KAYE: So, all the questions of him lying under oath, do you believe he told the truth?

EARMAN: I do not know all the questions, but there's no upside to lying.

CAVANAUGH: I hope if he's done something illegal, that that's taken care of.

KAYE (voice-over): When we told this Trump supporter that the man then-Senator Jeff Sessions met with is considered by U.S. intelligence to be a top Russian spy. She refused to even talk about the situation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You better get somebody else, because I'm -- that really pisses me off that that was said.

KAYE: Some in the crowd thought Sessions deserved a break, suggesting it was memory lapse or that he was possibly being coached.

EARMAN: It's a part of his normal routine, you don't know what you do every single day.

KAYE (on camera): Are you at all concerned that perhaps Senator Sessions lied under oath?

ABBY PRUET, ATTENDED TRUMP RALLY: No, I think at that time, he was probably told that he should not say anything. So, I don't think he was lying under oath.

KAYE (voice-over): And about those appeals for him to step down?

(on camera): What do you make of the calls for the attorney general to resign? Is it too soon?

MATTHEW HAYES, ATTENDED TRUMP RALLY: I think it may be too soon. Maybe wait a little while to have more facts to come out. Give more time to see what happens. You know, let the whole due process continue.

KAYE: You think he's going to make a good attorney general? PRUET: I think he will.

KAYE (voice-over): So does this man who was quick to point out all senators talk to foreign nation, it's a part of the job.

(on camera): Does that bother you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

KAYE: Why not?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because he's a patriot. God bless America.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[07:05:02] SAVIDGE: President Trump is standing by -- or rather, he is calling the turmoil surrounding Sessions, quote, "just a total witch hunt by Democrats." Yesterday, he tweeted photos of Senate minority leader, that's Chuck Schumer, with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2003, calling Schumer a total hypocrite. He also tweeted House Minority Leader Pelosi with the Russian ambassador in 2010, demanding an investigation.

Schumer responded by saying that he would "happily talk about my contact with Mr. Putin and associates. It took place in '03 in full view of press and public under oath. Would you and your team?"

All this, of course, has shown the web between Trump's campaign aides and Russia getting a lot messier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You're being described on Russian television as an important foreign policy adviser to the president of the United States. So, when you say that you were in meetings, it certainly does make -- if I hear you're an adviser to the president, I would think you would be in more than just a rally in Bismarck, North Dakota.

CARTER PAGE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: You know, Anderson, this is where things just get totally misfocused. I mean, this -- I described the fact that I met similarly in low-level position and just, you know, as -- as had been stated, an informal, unpaid adviser.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: Joining me now is CNN political analyst and columnist for "The Washington Post," that's Josh Rogin, and CNN politics reporter Eugene Scott.

Welcome to both of you this morning. Thanks for being with us.

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning.

EUGENE SCOTT, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Thanks.

SAVIDGE: Josh, let me start with you.

Donald Trump said two weeks ago, it was a declarative statement, "I have nothing to do with Russia" and to the best of his knowledge, no person he deals with does. Yet, now we're finding more and more that there are Trump advisers and members of his administration who have apparently had meetings with the Russian ambassador.

So, the question is this: how much of this is just political back and forth and how much is real harmful substance for his administration?

ROGIN: I think there's a lot of both, actually. I think what we're doing is we're conflating two separate issues here. One is sort of what's normal in diplomatic circles, which is to meet with foreign ambassadors and even run into them at conferences. And the second part, which is lots of evidence that the Trump administration has obscured these contacts from public view and also may have had other interactions with the Russians that were not part of the regular diplomatic process.

So, when you have a guy like Carter Page, interviewed by Anderson Cooper last night, admitting that he ran into the Russian ambassador at the convention, that's essentially a noncontroversial interaction. But in the context of what's going on and because it wasn't disclosed and because the Trump administration is defensive and evasive about it, it makes it look very suspicious and it feeds into this narrative that the Trump administration is concealing more contacts with the Russians. And it fuels calls for further investigation.

SAVIDGE: Right. It does seem to do all of that. I'm glad you brought it up because, Eugene, what do you make of Carter Page's explanation that he was, quote, "an informal, unpaid adviser." Does it matter?

SCOTT: Well, it doesn't matter to people who are very concerned about his involvement with the campaign and his relationship with Russia.

One of the challenges, I think, Page is facing is that he initially seemed to hype up the role of his involvement in the campaign when it was convenient. Now that it seems to be causing some concern, he's way a bit.

What I think most Americans who are watching this want to know is, what were you doing exactly and what was the extent of your communication? The informal adviser or formal adviser is not as much of a focus or a concern. They want details.

SAVIDGE: Eugene, what do you make of this twitter exchange between Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Is this really harmful to the Democrats or does it just show that everybody's had met with Russians at some point?

SCOTT: I think it's really important to realize that what people are focused on right now is the role of Russia in the 2016 elections. There's been a lot of concern about their role in future elections as well. Sure, I think some people do want to know the extent of the conversations that Schumer and Pelosi and maybe other Democrats have with Russian officials, but it's very important to realize that that is a completely different situation than what was originally discussed from the intelligence community. And hopefully, details will make it clear regarding all of the conversations between American lawmakers and Russia.

ROGIN: I would just like to add, you know, I agree with that but I also think it shows sort of Democrats may be overplaying their hand here by really focusing on these meetings rather than focusing on some real issues, which are like the possible collusion between the Trump campaign about the 2016 election.

[07:10:02] I mean, the point is that people like Pelosi and Claire McCaskill claim to have never had such meetings and they just forget them, which is almost exactly the same thing that happened to Jeff Sessions. So, I think both sides need to sort of take this sort of idea that meeting with the Russian ambassador is a bad thing and put it to one thing because the meeting is not the problem. It's what the meeting suggests is going on. And the bottom line is, we don't know if there's more to the relationship than just meetings.

SAVIDGE: Yes, I agreed.

All right. Josh Rogin and Eugene Scott, thank you for joining us this morning.

ROGIN: Thank you.

SCOTT: Thank you.

PAUL: The controversy surrounding the meetings between Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and some members of the Trump administration seems to have made someone feel a little left out. Just yesterday, Sarah Jessica Parker posted a picture on Instagram. This is her alter ego, Carrie Bradshaw from "Sex in the City," and the caption read, "I couldn't help but wonder, has the Russian ambassador been meeting with everybody except me?"

The Russian embassy, we should point out, did take notice. They posted, quote, "If #sarahjessicaparker does really want to meet Russian ambassador to U.S., anything is possible. Sergei Ivanovich will be happy."

All right. President Trump promises it will be a busy weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate. The question a lot of people want to know is, is he working on that new travel ban that was promised, and what could it include?

SAVIDGE: Plus, a new proposal and this worries a lot of people. It could separate families at the border. Why the Department of Homeland Security says they're taking kids away from the parents is really for the children's own protection?

PAUL: Also, some criticism of the president after they say he only represents his base not the entire country. Some say the Trump administration isn't doing enough for minorities. We'll talk about it. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:16:01] SAVIDGE: All right. There's a dramatic new proposal from the Department of Homeland Security. CNN confirms DHS is considering separating kids from their families when they are trying to cross the border illegally.

PAUL: And officials say this is a proposal meant to protect children, claiming adults essentially kidnap kids and force them to come along with them, because the current guidelines allow most adults to stay in the country if they make it across the border with a child.

SAVIDGE: And all of this, of course, is unfolding as we wait to see what President Trump does about his travel ban. Last night, a judge gave the White House a two-week extension on the travel ban lawsuit. So, is Trump going to fight back or just create an entirely new plan?

We are covering all of the angles with our team of experts and we're going to start with Ryan Nobles. He's live in Washington.

Good morning to you, Ryan.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Martin, good morning to you.

Let's talk first about this DHS proposal that would ultimately separate children from the adults that they're traveling into the country with. And the goal of that proposal would be to curb the smuggling and exploitation of children at the southern border. But critics argue that it could separate families and it would be very difficult to implement.

As it stands now, Border Patrol policy allows children and adults to be released into the United States while their cases are pending. But under this new policy, the adult could be detained while the child would be put under protected status, perhaps with Child Protective Services or with a family member already in the United States.

Now, in a statement, David Lapin, who's a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security said, quote, "The journey north is a dangerous one with too many situations where children brought by parents, relatives or smugglers are often exploited, abused or may even lose their lives. With safety in mind, the Department of Homeland Security continually explores options that may discourage those from even beginning the journey."

Well, the obvious question, though, which DHS has yet to explain is how the agency plans to determine which children are being exploited and which ones are traveling with family members. The policy at this point is just a proposal. The fine details are still being worked out.

But keep in mind during his campaign, President Trump did promise while he would have a tough line on immigration, he would keep families together -- Martin.

SAVIDGE: Yes, it's such a personal kind of development here in this kind of crossing the border.

All right. Ryan Nobles, thank you very much.

NOBLES: Thank you.

PAUL: So, the Department of Homeland Security says it's still looking at different options and insists the kids' protection is the main focus here. Obviously, there's some criticism already on social media.

Dean Obeidallah, commentator for "The Daily Beast" with us now, and civil rights attorney, Areva Martin.

Thank you both for being here.

Dean, I want to start with you. Your reaction first and foremost to this new proposal?

DEAN OBEIDALLAH, DAILY BEAST: I think, initially, the reaction is that there's something is wrong there. The idea of separating a mother from her child as they're trying to come into a new country, I know it's illegal, but to come into the country is wrong. You see on social media.

I understand DHS says they're trying to help people, but it seems like they're using the worst example to say a situation where a child is kidnapped to now articulate an entire policy, which is not unlike what Trump did with the Muslim travel ban, the idea of, there'd been a few bad Muslims, so we're going to ban Muslims from seven countries from coming to this country without any real proof or evidence. So, I think it's very similar in that. It's wrong. I think we feel it's wrong. Common sense tells us it's wrong and goes against our values.

PAUL: Well, Areva, I want to ask you from a legal standpoint. If these kids are brought in and they are separated from the adults, we heard Ryan say it might go to CPS, but legally, what happens to them?

AREVA MARTIN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Well, that's a big question, Christi, that has to be resolved. There's a 2015 case from the Ninth Circuit, Flores v. Lynch, which basically says kids have to be released immediately. So, the Obama administration took the position kids should be held with their families for 21 days and then released pending some court proceeding to determine whether they were in the country because they were fleeing some kind of impoverished condition or crime in their country.

[07:20:07] Now, to separate these kids, I think you're going to run smack into a problem with respect to that Ninth Circuit court opinion. You're going to have immigration lawyers, family lawyers, and constitutional lawyers arguing that this is cruel and inhumane treatment for these kids.

The medical profession weighed in on the Flores case and talked about the sadness, the despair, stress and vulnerability of these children. So, now to think we're going to go from this policy of keeping families together, which was the bedrock of that decision, to separating them, is going to have a lot of legal issues and a lot of challenges to this proposed policy.

PAUL: OK. So, let's listen to something Donald Trump said back in 2015.

OK, I apologize. Apparently, we do not have that sound. But he basically said, "We're going to keep the families together. We have to keep the families together but they have to go."

So, Dean, this proposal is obviously the opposite of that, as Ryan was alluding to. Do you think the president or is there any indication the president supports this proposal specifically?

OBEIDALLAH: We have no idea. We've had numerous examples where people have said one and people of his administration said other things. From the secretary of defense going to Iraq saying, we're not going to take your oil -- you know, the president said that to actually little fights within his administration. New national security adviser saying, President Trump, don't use terms like radical Islamic terrorism, it doesn't help us in our war on terror.

So, what President Trump believes and other people in his administration believes, we don't know. I wonder in the future if we're going to see people his administration disregard the president and carve out their little fiefdom because it seems like President Trump is not clamping down on these dissenting voices who come forward. So, we probably have to wait for the president to tweet his true feelings on this issue.

PAUL: OK. Well, Areva, again, DHS in a statement said, we're seeing kids essentially kidnapped and used to get here and stay. We know that that is true. That happens. We know parents pay smugglers to get their kids into the country and that a lot of bad things happen to some of those kids.

MARTIN: But this --

PAUL: So, what's the balance?

MARTIN: This is a very broad statement about kids who are kidnapped or kids who are smuggled. How many kids? What are we talking about, the magnitude?

One thing we see with this administration are these blanket statements made that aren't supported by the evidence or any documentation. We haven't seen any statistics. We haven't seen any numbers from homeland security documenting how many kids are impacted by smuggling and kidnapping.

What we do know is the Obama administration looked at this policy of potentially separating kids. And they decided it was a bad idea. That it would undermine the whole concept of keeping families together, and would farther traumatize children. Until we hear some hard core numbers about how many kids are actually smuggled versus traveling with their families to flee crime and violence in their country, I think this is a nonstarter.

PAUL: All right. Areva, I want to ask you to -- I'm sorry. Dean, did you want to say something?

OBEIDALLAH: That's a great point. This administration has done so much of using the worst example of whatever community it might be and define a policy or articulate a policy based on that. That's the same reason the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the travel ban.

You have zero evidence Muslims from these seven countries have committed any terrorist attack in our country, because that's true. They have not. And again, the Trump administration and Donald Trump himself during the campaign and continuing to this date will use the worst examples of any minority community to try to articulate a view of that entire community.

PAUL: Examples or not, we do know some of it is true. We do know in terms of immigration, there are children that are hurt and exploited. We do know there are people, of course, the new DHS report cites people that come into this country are not radicalized when they come in. They're radicalized once they are here.

But with that point, Areva, the judge did give the White House an extension on that travel ban lawsuit. What do you think should happen from this point on? Do they need to just scrap it and completely start over? And why the delay?

MARTIN: I think the delay is because we know from the reports that have been coming out, there's no evidence to support the travel ban as it's presently written. There's no evidence whatsoever to suggest that individuals coming from the seven countries identified in the ban constitute a threat to Americans or have perpetrated any terrorist attack.

So, Trump, the administration is going to have a very difficult time rewriting this ban in a way that will pass constitutional muster. The Ninth Circuit was pretty clear on -- they were scathing in their comments about the lack of evidence to support any urgency with respect to the ban.

Look at the time frame. The ban was -- the executive order was signed on January 27th. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal order came down on February 9th. On that day, Donald Trump tweeted, "We'll see you in court."

And now here we are at the beginning of March. There hasn't been any new ban issued by the White House. I'm starting to believe there may not be a ban at all because they haven't figured out a way to deal with this huge problem of the unconstitutionality of the ban.

[07:25:07] You cannot ban people from this country simply because of their religion or national origin. And until you deal with that issue, this ban is going to be dead on arrival. It will be challenged in court. Immigrant lawyers are going to win on this point over and over again.

PAUL: Well, we'll wait and see when we actually see the travel ban come out.

Dean Obeidallah, Areva Martin, always appreciate you both being here. Thank you.

OBEIDALLAH: Thanks.

MARTIN: Thank you, Christi.

SAVIDGE: President Trump is leading a United States some say appears to be extremely divided. Why critics are also saying that the president is only concerned with his base?

PAUL: And details on President Trump's executive order targeting historically black colleges and universities. Why some of those college presidents say their concerns were ignored.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

[07:30:08] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Rise and shine. 7:30 is this time on Saturday morning. I'm Christi Paul.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Martin Savidge, in for Victor Blackwell.

Senator Bernie Sanders is leading a massive protest today against what some are calling civil right abuses by automaker Nissan.

PAUL: Yes. Senator Sanders will join actor Danny Glover and NAACP president Cornell William Brooks, politicians, activists, all at a Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi. Now, these activists claim the company has committed safety and health violations against its predominantly African-American workforce. And they go on to assert that Nissan is denying its workers in Mississippi and Tennessee, specifically, the right to unionize. Nissan counters that they're denying the claim and says its employees do not support unionizing.

SAVIDGE: And, of course, these protests are coming amidst heightened racial tensions in this country. Many activists claim President Trump has ignored the concerns of people of color. And to that point, the president of the NAACP met with Attorney General Jeff Sessions to discuss a range of civil rights issues. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, PRESIDENT, NAACP: We were very candid about our concerns, about the fact that the Department of Justice seems to be taking a course backwards in terms of backing away from voting rights, backing way from the full-fledge commitment to addressing police misconduct in this country. And it was on this conversation with the attorney general about the degree to which history rests upon his shoulders.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: It was a conversation you probably wanted to be a fly on the wall for. Let's talk about this with Michael Harriott, he's columnist for

theroot.com, and Paris Dennard, CNN political commentator and Republican strategist. We're going to talk more about the NAACP and AG Sessions' meeting in a moment.

But, first, Michael, let me start with you. You wrote a scathing editorial slamming the president's congressional speech this week and it reads in part, "Trump did not talk to all of the country Tuesday night. He spoke to the conservative base, middle-American Caucasians with whom his support lies.

He didn't even talk to them. He whispered to them. He talked in hushed tones, hoping that the minorities and underclass didn't hear him. He gave the most racist speech ever. He gave a speech for white people."

What do you mean? Explain it.

MICHAEL HARRIOTT, COLUMNIST, THEROOT.COM: Well, if you look at -- listen to all of the ways Trump categorized Muslims, how he categorized immigrants, how he categorized African-Americans. They were all in negative tones. He talked about -- whenever he talked about black people, he talked about rising crime, he talked about poor education, he talked about the underclass.

Whenever he talked about the Mexicans, he talked about -- he talked about crime, he talked about illegal immigrants, he talked -- he brought guests who were -- whose loved ones were victims of crime.

Whenever he talked about Muslims or immigrants from the Middle East, he talked about radical Islamic terrorism. And these were all little dog whistles that painted a picture and made the people who listen, his conservative base, comfortable. And those were the white people. Middle Americans from where he got his support.

SAVIDGE: You know, that's an amazing assessment given the fact that many, many people, even some Democrats, praised the president for his speech.

Paris, what's your reaction to all of that?

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know what speech Michael was listening to. I don't think it's the same speech I listened to or the majority of Americans listened to.

The first words out of president's mouth after saying -- acknowledging the VIPs there was, and I quote, "Tonight as we mark the conclusion of our celebration of Black History Month, we are reminded of our nation's path towards civil rights and all the work that still remains. Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week's shooting in Kansas City remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its form."

So, I'm not quite sure what more the president could have said at the beginning. But you know what, to Michael's point, I went back and looked at President Obama's first joint address that he made in February, also during Black History Month in 2009. And not only de not make any reference to Black History Month, he made no specific reference to African-Americans.

But I will say for President Trump, two out of the four people in the box that were guests of he as well as the first lady were African- American. One, Denisha Merriweather was a champion when it comes to her story about overcoming the cycle of poverty and moving into school choice to be a college graduate.

He went on to talk about inner cities and he did so in a way to show what he wants to do is help.

And so, when you classify the speech as something as not -- that is it was not, I encourage the viewers to listen to the speech, read the speech and you will see, especially in comparison to what President Obama said, that this president started off and had a speech that was inclusive and that spoke directly to our community.

[07:35:05] So, what Michael said is 100 percent inaccurate and false.

SAVIDGE: Well, I agree with you that if people have doubts, they should listen to the speech themselves.

Let's move on. On the meeting between the NAACP and Attorney General Sessions, Cornell Brooks says that the administration is headed backwards on civil rights. Sessions has been praised, though, on the right as a champion of civil rights. But by contrast, he's been slammed as a racist by many of his critics.

So, what does Sessions and the administration have to do to make people of color feel safe and respected?

Paris, go ahead.

DENNARD: Sure. Listen, the role of the NAACP is to be an advocacy organization focused on civil rights. And so, it's their job to do that. It's their job to advocate for people of color, especially as they see in their opinion that something is not quite right.

So, it's the good first step for the attorney general to meet with this organization, to listen to their concerns and to try to let them know that he is going to be an attorney general who takes civil rights, takes these things that are affecting our community very seriously. He has a record, in my opinion, that shows that he is someone who will do this. We can only trust someone until we can't trust them.

SAVIDGE: All right, Paris, I apologize to both. We have to stop. Time is the factor. We'll have you back at another point. Thank you for joining us.

DENNARD: Thank you.

HARRIOTT: Thank you. PAUL: And just stay with us. The conversation continues in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: Well, mortgage rates tick up this week. Here's your look.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:40:56] PAUL: So, President Trump is fulfilling a campaign promise, issuing an executive order helping historically black colleges and universities. This is an order essentially that moves the White House initiative on HBCUs from the Department of Education back to the White House.

The administration says the move will give the schools greater visibility. Critics say it just doesn't go far enough.

Let's bring back Paris Dennard to talk about it. And joining us, John Wilson, president of Morehouse College and one of the presidents who was there at this meeting.

So, John, it's good to have you in studio. But -- help us understand, what was it like in that meeting? What resonated with you? What weren't you so sure about?

JOHN WILSON, PRESIDENT, MOREHOUSE COLLEGE: Well, you know, I've been in the White House before. I served under President Barack Obama. So, I've been in the White House, the Oval Office.

I think what was unique about this particular visit was the expectations that were set in advance. It was said to be historic.

And so, we had great expectations coming in. We thought we were going to hear a huge announcement. And that did not happen on this visit, but we prefer to see it as the beginning of a conversation with this administration. And some things may happen down the road, shortly down the road.

PAUL: Was there anything that happened in the meeting that gave you pause? That makes you concerned about the direction of where things are going?

WILSON: Well, as I said, I think the office relocation, to relocate the White House initiative, which I ran from the Department of Education to the White House, I see the symbolic importance of that.

PAUL: Uh-hmm. But functionally?

WILSON: But functionally, it remains to be seen. What you have to do is you have to leverage that symbolic move and translate it into monetary support for HBCUs. I think we're all concerned about how expensive education is now and how unready a lot of our families, the families of our students, are to pay for the education.

So, a lot more funding from the government will help more students to emerge from our institutions and get into this innovation economy. That's what it's about.

PAUL: Sure. So, Paris, listening to that, what do you say about the expectation moving forward from President Obama on this issue?

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think that it was historic. I think it's important to put this in context. There were two days of events with historically black colleges and universities.

The first day, that involved a listening session with over 60 HBCU presidents from around the country coming in to hear from at least 10 people from the administration and White House offices, to hear their concerns. And then, the next day was the HBCU executive order signing.

And I will say, it is significant to move it under the auspices of the Department of Education to the White House because it gives you direct access to the president. When it was at the Department of Education, it reported to somebody three persons deep. And now, it's going to have somebody that's in the White House reporting to it directly.

And so, President Obama had eight years to convene all of the HBCU presidents and he did not do that. So, this is more than just a symbolic gesture, it's a first step. Not only that they hear from the president, they heard from vice president, secretary of education, the chief of staff, Bannon, all the way down, Kellyanne Conway. So, it was significant.

For the first two days of this news cycle, before this joint address, the news cycle was talking about the important value of HBCUs in the Oval Office and at this president's priority the first 45 days. It was significant.

PAUL: Go ahead. I know you want to respond to that.

WILSON: You know, look, it was significant, I'll give you that. There was significance to inviting HBCU presidents to the White House. I believe it's the first time it's happened.

So, I'm not discounting the significance of that as a gesture and as a symbol. There's no question about that. The bottom line is, have you to translate into funding.

The fact of the matter is when Barack Obama took office in '09, federal -- annual federal funding to HBCUs was somewhere around $3.8 billion.

[07:45:10] When I left after the first term, it was at $5.3 billion. That's the biggest increase. That's historic. That's significant.

So, the significance of this kind of thing has to be measured in terms of funding. We need to increase Pell grants, which is need-based funding to individuals. We need to increase institutional funding, Title III. There are innovation centers in HBCUs.

There was talk of tax credits -- for those who contribute to HBCUs getting an extra tax credit for their contribution. That would be historic. That would be significant. That would result in significant funding to HBCUs.

While we appreciate the conversations that took place on Monday and Tuesday with various people on the Hill -- appreciate Tim Scott and Mark Warner -- Walker, appreciate you a great deal. Marco Rubio was there.

Omarosa Manigault has three degrees from HBCUs. She's got a doctorate from the great Howard University. We get all that. It was the start of a conversation. I'm not negative about that.

PAUL: Sure.

WILSON: I just that think that there's more to come.

PAUL: It wasn't quite what you expected, I think.

WILSON: Right.

PAUL: Listen, we're going to take a quick break. Paris, stay tuned.

DENNARD: Yes, sure.

PAUL: We're going to continue this conversation on the other side. Do stay close.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:50:42] PAUL: Let's bring back Paris Dennard and we have with us, of course, John Wilson, president of Morehouse College.

So grateful to have both of you here.

I want to talk about Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos because she appears to have apologized after she released a statement that got a bit of backlash. I want to read her original statement just so everybody is on the same page here.

She said, "HBCUs started from the fact that there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education. They saw that the system wasn't working, that there was an absence of opportunity, so they took it upon themselves to provide the solution. HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice. They're living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality."

Now, her comments were blasted by some who said she just didn't acknowledge that HBCUs were founded during the Jim Crow era in part due to racism.

Paris, do you understand that criticism?

DENNARD: Sure I understand that criticism. I think she could have worded that statement and spoke more directly to exactly why HBCUs were created and why they still have value today.

But I think her statement was factually correct, but it just didn't go far enough to explain to a large section of the people who may just come into the understanding of what HBCUs are. That's why she made an additional statement to clarify it and make sure it was crystal clear exactly why these important institutions were created and why they are still valuable today.

PAUL: John, what was your response to that?

WILSON: Well, you know, Paris, you say her statement was factually correct. She doesn't even agree with that. She basically said that they were not born out of school choice. They were not an example of school choice when they were born. They were born out of necessity and in the face of racism.

This is -- this to me is not really a big deal. She made a misstatement. She kind of laid over onto the birth of HBCUs the school choice debate.

That is fundamentally wrong. She recognized it. She pivoted. She corrected it. So, let's move on.

I think I can tell in meeting with her over these two days that she intends to be a great secretary of education. She wants do right by HBCUs. And as I said, we have a budget coming up when she could do right by HBCUs. We're not trying to --

PAUL: You'll be watching that.

WILSON: Yes, we'll be watching.

PAUL: So, what do you need -- I'm sorry. Paris, go ahead. Go ahead.

DENNARD: I think it's important that President Wilson does bring up the budget, because history is important. And why is this community so concerned about the budget, in particularly President Trump's first budget? It's because President Obama's first budget, there was a cut.

President Bush put in over $77-some-odd million that went to HBCUs. And then when President Obama came into office, he cut it. Now, that's important. So, what we're looking to this administration is, Mr. President, no significant massive cuts to HBCUs. No things like the Parents PLUS loans debacle.

WILSON: That's factually incorrect. That's factually incorrect.

DENNARD: It's true.

PAUL: We're almost done here. I'll give you the last word. Go ahead.

WILSON: OK. Paris, President Obama did not cut it. He just did not renew it and then when it was brought to his attention --

DENNARD: Semantics.

WILSON: Hold on, when it was brought to his attention, he renewed it for ten years instead of the two years that President Bush had it in for. So, basically, we're not talking about a cut.

Now, the issue is when this administration, the Trump administration, which we respect, started talking about HBCUs, they said we're going to outdo President Obama and we're going to do something historic.

PAUL: And so, we just have --

WILSON: And that's why I mentioned the budget.

PAUL: Right, that's why we just --

DENNARD: That's wait and see.

PAUL: -- wait and see where we go from here.

WILSON: Yes, that's what we're doing.

PAUL: Absolutely.

John Wilson, so good to have you here. We appreciate it. President of Morehouse.

WILSON: Sure.

PAUL: And, Paris Dennard, thank you. Appreciate your voices in the conversation.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:58:47] PAUL: You know, some of us have a hard time getting to the gym. That's just the way it is. But we can stay well from home.

BLACKWELL: You're about to lose a major excuse. Here are some of the alternative ways to stay fit from a health and fitness expert from home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANIE MANSOUR, WEIGHT LOSS COACH: The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends adults get 2 1/2 hours of moderate exercise per week.

Whether you're standing up or sitting down, you can do some abdominal pulses, so pulling the naval in towards the spine, holding in and then releasing for about 30 seconds and then take a rest. This helps to support your lower back and helps improve posture.

Next time you're cooking at the stove or warming up something in the microwave, do some calf raises. Come up on to your tiptoes and lower back down. This helps to strengthen and stabilize your ankle and knee joints as well as give you definition in your lower leg.

Next time you're about to sit on the couch and watch your favorite TV show, turn it into a squad. Sit down, put your feet as wide as your hips and slowly stand back up. Repeat this about ten times. This is going to engage all of the muscles in your legs and it's going to make you feel accomplished and committed to your health and fitness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)