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NEW DAY SUNDAY

Trump Plans to Sign New Travel Ban Early This Week; Sources: Trump Angry At Staff Over Sessions Fallout; Ethics Concerns Shadow New Trump Hotel in Vancouver; SNL Parodies Jeff Sessions as Forrest Gump; 45th Annual Iditarod Scheduled to Start Monday. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired March 5, 2017 - 07:00   ET

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


[07:00:00] KATE MCKINNON AS JEFF SESSIONS: I am the attorney general of the whole of United States. I got to meet the president and everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This meeting never happened.

MCKINNON: I wonder who remembered it anyway.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning to you on a Sunday. I'm Christi Paul. And look who got up early again for us?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to all of you. I'm Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell. Great to be with you.

PAUL: Good to have you here.

So, we're going to begin, of course, with President Trump seemingly steamed over Sessions. Sources tell us that Trump's frustration is mounting over the firestorm that's surrounding his attorney general.

SAVIDGE: This morning, they renewed focus on Russia is being seen as a major letdown within the administration after Trump's well-received speech to Congress last week. Now, as Sessions is to set to amend his testimony on Russian contacts during the campaign, we're hearing new details on the uproar inside the Oval Office.

PAUL: Also, reaction to the president's explosive and unsubstantiated wiretapping claims against President Obama. At least one Republican senator says he wants to know more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I don't know if it's true or not, but if it is true, illegally, it would be the biggest political scandal since Watergate. So, it's my job, as a United States senator, to get to the bottom of this.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SAVIDGE: And where is President Trump's new travel ban? He originally argued that it was urgently needed to stop, quote, "bad dudes from rushing in". Now, after weeks of delays, we're hearing an updated executive order could be signed as early as tomorrow.

PAUL: We've got our team of political correspondents and experts standing by to break down everything for us. But let's start together here with CNN correspondent Ryan Nobles, first of all, live in Washington for us.

Good morning to you, Brian. What are you learning about the mood inside the White House?

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

Well, sources telling CNN that the president was frustrated and angry that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced to recuse himself from any investigation into the alleged Russian interference into the presidential election. In fact, Trump felt the recusal was hasty and overkill. That led to a fiery meeting in the Oval Office, where there were, quote, "a lot of expletives".

In fact, we have video from outside the Oval Office that shows that a animated with Trump and his top aides. In fact, you can see Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, Ryan Priebus, Sean Spicer and Ivanka Trump in a discussion that appears to get heated at times. Now, we don't know exactly what was being discussed at this particular moment, but we're told the president accused his staff of fumbling the situation with Sessions.

And after that angry White House meeting, the president left for Florida, and it was from his Mar-a-Lago estate on Saturday morning that Trump tweeted out the explosive accusation that President Obama ordered a tapping of his phone at the Trump Tower during the campaign. Now, that is a claim the White House has still yet to provide evidence for and one that former President Barack Obama vehemently denies.

But the administration is not backing down from Trump's claim. In fact, this morning, in a statement to CNN, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirms that White House counsel Donald McGahn is, quote, "reviewing what options, if any, are available to us." That could include obtaining records from the Justice Department that would prove that a warrant was issued to conduct surveillance on Trump or his associates. Now, protocol is normally walled the Justice Department off from such a White House request -- Christi.

PAUL: All righty. Ryan Nobles, appreciate the explanation. Thank you.

NOBLES: Thank you.

SAVIDGE: Let's continue the conversation now with CNN politics reporter Tom LoBianco, CNN legal analyst Danny Cevallos, CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter, and White House correspondent for the "Washington Examiner", Sarah Westwood. Tom, to you, before Sessions recused himself on Thursday, Trump stood

by him and said that he didn't think Sessions should recuse himself. So, is that what is the source of Trump's anger here?

TOM LOBIANCO, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, I mean, you know, Sessions made the right political call here, and even if it's one Donald Trump did not want. Sessions defused this thing. This was -- when I was going around the capital on Thursday asking senators, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee who served on their with Sessions, you know, did they ever meet with Kislyak, and the answers I was getting initially were of flat-nosed, but then they grew into over the day into, "I'm not really sure, I need to check that."

And this kind of goes to the sensitivity there, all right? And Sessions defused this. So, whether or not Trump realized what he did there, you know, Sessions handed him a huge favor.

SAVIDGE: You know, going into the Obama administration now and the Trump relationship there, complicated is the word that comes to mind, controversial is another that comes to mind.

[07:05:01] Here's just a quick reminder.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that President Obama is behind it, because his people are certainly behind it.

And we are grateful to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition.

I have great respect -- the meeting lasted for almost an hour and a half and it could have -- as far as I'm concerned, it could have gone for a lot longer.

Our president is the greatest divider I've ever seen.

There's one line called place of birth. I'd like to see what he said.

President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

SAVIDGE: There's just a little taste there. Trump was a little more diplomatic to the former president during the transition and, of course, the inauguration. Is that all over?

SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, certainly, we did see him moderate his tone after he was elected president. This is one of the first times we have seen him go back after former President Obama since Obama sort of stepped out of the spotlight. Obama, though, has not shied away from criticizing Trump, remember, just ten days after inauguration day, Obama came out with a word critical of Trump's travel ban for Middle Eastern nations.

And so, Trump might be feeling pressure, given Obama has and particular his aides, Ben Rhodes has been particularly critical of Trump, seeing that former Obama administration officials have no qualms about criticizing Trump, Trump might feel whatever graciousness existed between them is gone, and he's now attacking Obama on social media.

SAVIDGE: Yes, it certainly looks that way.

Brian, Trump's allegations that President Obama wiretapped him appears now to have originated from conservative media? What's his sources and what's the danger of amplifying something like that without proof?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think President Trump is tapping into a story line in conservative media that President Obama has been trying to undermine the new administration in a variety of ways, and we have seen stories about this for weeks, actually, I would argued for months, and it came to a head on Thursday, on Mark Levin's a radio program. Levin is a conservative radio show host, I spoke with him over e-mail yesterday. He said he believes the public record is damning of the Obama administration with regards investigations that were happening by Obama's government last year before election day.

So, Levin talks about that on the radio, suggests there's some sort of quiet coup being attempted. That gets to breitbart.com by Thursday night. The Breitbart link was shared widely in the White House. It was circulated in the White House, according to our own Jeff Zeleny and it was infuriating to President Trump when he read that article.

Now, we don't know exactly what provoked Trump to tweeted on Saturday morning, but if that Breitbart story was making the rounds on Friday, we can pretty clearly link this back to Breitbart and to Mark Levin and this conservative narrative that President Obama is out to get Trump. Now, by the way, that is a convenient excuse, two or three or four -- whatever years down the line. If President Trump's term in office doesn't end up working so well, they will be able to point back to President Obama and say it's all Obama's fault. So, I wonder if there are bread crumbs being laid to assign blame later on, and that's just a theory, but it does, sort of adds up when you think about some of the rhetoric we've seen from Trump's allies like Sean Hannity and Mark Levin now being echoed by the president himself.

SAVIDGE: Proof is what is needed here, Danny. The administration officials tell us that the White House counsel is reviewing what options are available to backup up Trump's wiretap claims. Could they court records from the Department of Justice?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: They should review those options very carefully because the implications are very serious. The entire essence of FISA courts is that they are conducted in secret, in a windowless basement of a district court by seven-year appointed judges. The idea behind is that the DOJ conducts these surveillance actions and obtains warrants in secret because they are surveilling foreign agents or Americans who may be working for foreign agents.

And for the White House to interfere in that kind of investigation, especially if it's active, could be very problematic. Now, while theoretically it's possible that there was a FISA warrant in operation against people in Trump's organization, that's the kind of thing that doesn't normally come to light. And again, that's been a criticism of the FISA court that it operates almost entirely in secret and operates on a probable cause standard that is much less than what the regular courts have to deal with.

SAVIDGE: Sarah, let me ask you about another subject that seems to infuriate the president, that's, of course, leaks. What do you make about sources within the White House leaking information to CNN and other outlets that seems to drive the negative reports about the administration?

[07:10:05] WESTWOOD: There are two different kinds that we are seeing coming out of the administration. One is like you mention, the West Wing chatter about who is up or down, and then there are other leaks about sensitive diplomatic conversation or classified information, and those are the ones that seem to drive Trump the most crazy because he thinks that there are former Obama appointees or hold over bureaucrats that existed under the Obama administration that are leaking that to undermine him.

So, when he's talking about going after the leakers, cracking down on the leakers, he's really talking about the government side leaks that are reflective of some of the internal workings of the government that he would rather not get out. I don't know if the West Wing chatter bothers him nearly as much as those other separate kinds of leaks.

SAVIDGE: And, Tom, you know, when the president tweeted about the wiretapping, there were a few Republicans that spoke out. Among them, Nebraska Senator Ben Sass, he released a statement in part warning, quote, "of a civilization warping crisis of public trust," and then calling on Trump to show evidence to support his claims. But that has to be harder for a president who is known for peddling his own conspiracy theories.

LOBIANCO: Well, you know, it is strange. You know, if we were not talking about Donald Trump, for instance, if we were talking about Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, for instance, I mean, this would be earth shattering. But, you know, relatively speaking, this may not seem as strange because it is President Trump.

I think this kind of goes to the question and deeper concerns that you do hear from lawmakers, which is that, you know, how far is this going, all right? And, you know, look, at the beginning of the week, at the beginning of last week, he delivered an excellent not State of the Union, but joint address, all right, and everybody was praising him for that and you saw elation from Republicans. I mean, these are people who want him to go through Obamacare replacement, tax reform, other things.

And, by the end of the week, he's back to this. And that's where this concern comes from.

STELTER: What does the president think his powers are? If he believes a former president was tapping his phones in Trump Tower, when that's not how FISA courts work, it's a lot more complicated than that. There's no evidence of it.

What does Trump think his powers are? What does he think he is able to do as president? This is a man who reportedly listened in on peoples' conversations at Mar-a-Lago, and used to pretend to be someone else when he was being his own PR person in the '80s. So, what does he think with regards to tapping a phone? I think this raises so many questions, and I feel for his aides right now who have no idea how to respond to all the reporters' questions about these tweets, and, of course, the president is back tweeting this morning and who knows what he will say about this today?

SAVIDGE: The whole credibility of the president is at stake.

Danny, Sarah, Tom, Brian, thank you all.

Don't miss "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper. That will be later this morning. Jake has Nancy Pelosi and Marco Rubio on the show today. That's "STATE OF THE UNION", 9:00 a.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

PAUL: Well, tomb stones are found knocked over at a Jewish cemetery in New York. Now, investigators are trying to determine if this is the latest in a rash of anti-Semitic crimes in the U.S.

SAVIDGE: Plus, President Trump has promised to separate himself from any business conflicts of interest. Next, how a hotel in Canada could create a headache for the president.

PAUL: And then "Saturday Night Live," a look at the administration through the lens of a classic movie.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCKINNON: Life is like a box of chocolates. Sure are a lot of brown ones in there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:17:58] PAUL: Seventeen minutes past the hour this morning. So glad to have your company here.

I want to tell you about New York police, because they are investigating a possible hate crime at a Jewish cemetery. Police found five tomb stones knocked over in Brooklyn last night. They're working to figure if the cemetery was vandalized, if perhaps maybe this was something the weather caused. But the investigation is coming after three other Jewish cemeteries were vandalized. So, that's the connection. And they were vandalized because of those recent anti-Semitic crimes.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, in fact, is visiting Israel this morning and toured a Holocaust memorial last hour. He did so with the country's president as a show of solidarity against anti-Semitism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: We must live by the rule that an abuse to one, an affront to one is an affront to all. And that large fires start as small fires. And we must have zero tolerance for any abuse or discrimination of that any fellow human being.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: A delegation from Congress is also in Israel. They are studying the possibility of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

SAVIDGE: Well, it's supposed to be a protest that turned into something else, an all-out brawl between pro and anti-Trump protesters in northern California. And it was all captured on camera.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

SAVIDGE: It's actually just one of several violent demonstrations at the march for Trump rally in Berkeley. At least ten people were arrested yesterday when the supporters all clashed, pro Trump. Cameras captured people beating each other and pulling each other's hair. Several people, including an elderly man, were pepper sprayed. Police tell CNN that several weapons were confiscated during the chaos. They found a knife, metal pipes, bats, and bricks and 2x4s.

President Trump has vowed to separate himself from his business as far as new properties, but there's one in particular in Vancouver -- well, that may have him fighting an ethics battle.

[07:20:11] PAUL: Yes, the Trump organization does not own the building, we want to point out, but the owner allows foreign governments to purchase units within the property and a transaction that can could point to a possible ethics violation is there.

CNN's Cristina Alesci has some details fro us here.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: Christi, Martin, the problem here is foreign money is pouring into the building, and the Trump organization gets a cut and that money flows into President Trump's trust which he personally benefits from. That's why so many ethics experts are alarmed by this arrangement. And this new building is just the latest example.

(voice-over): A glittering new building in Vancouver bears the president's name.

His children on hand to celebrate the opening.

DONALD TRUMP, JR., PRESIDENT TRUMP'S SON: I'd like to thank the press -- just kidding.

ALESCI: The $360 million project was built by Malaysia's Holborn Group. IVANKA TRUMP, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S DAUGHTER: You can't have a great

partnership if you're not on the same page.

ALESCI: It owns the building and pays to use the Trump name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump was not here. Thank you for entrusting me with your family's coveted brand.

ALESCI: The project has been controversial.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything that this man stands for is everything that we are against as Canadians.

ALESCI: But could this gleaming tower house a potential constitutional violation?

NORM EISEN, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE ETHICS COUNSEL: The Trump Vancouver property is an emoluments magnet.

ALESCI: The Emoluments Clause, which bars the president from receiving gifts or payments from foreign governments, could be tested.

Details of the contract are private, but real estate experts say the Trump's licensing fee is usually around 3 percent to 4 percent of each condo sold in the building. And that money comes from foreigners, lots of them.

EISEN: When you have somebody who is a foreign national and who has foreign government associations making purchases, it's fair to ask, who is actually paying for that unit?

ALESCI: For example, Mahmood Al Aradi is a buyer here. He's a senior executive at the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, a state-owned bank. The bank tells CNN he bought a condo in 2014 using his own money. But he's just one of 214 buyers listed on the title search documentary viewed by CNN.

EISEN: It is an opportunity for foreign governments or those who are the agents of foreign governments to purchase units in the property, and by so doing, to transfer foreign government cash to Mr. Trump.

ALESCI: Just before the president took office, his attorney sketched out a plan to a avoid emolument violations.

SHERI DILLON, TRUMP ORGANIZATION ATTORNEY: That he is going to voluntarily donate all profits from foreign government payments made to his hotels to the United States treasury.

ALESCI: But the plan only included hotel profits from foreign countries, not condo or golf courses.

EISESN: Surely there is just as much, you might say even more risk in a property like this one where the purchase is much more than just that of a hotel room.

ALESCI (on camera): Now, the area where the Trump build something located in Vancouver is known as a place where foreigners park their crash and buying condos is a way to diversify investments. I reached out to the White House and the Trump organization for comments, the White House referred me to the Trump Organization, and its lawyer didn't respond. Also, I had an interviewer scheduled with the Malaysian developer and he canceled at the very last minute -- Christi, Martin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL: Cristina, thank you so much.

Now, listen, there's a former EPA chief that is not too pleased with the Trump administration's budget proposal for her former agency.

SAVIDGE: If the White House plans for the EPA go through, a source tells CNN that up to 3,000 jobs can be cut, along with billions of dollars from their budget, and that could kill water and air quality programs, along with grant dollars for abandoned industrial site cleanup.

Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy says these changes had the potential to affect all Americans' health.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINA MCCARTHY, FORMER EPA ADMINISTRATOR: What we are seeing in this budget and other actions is really putting our public health at risk. You cannot turn the clock back 40 years on our staffing levels. You can't reduce our scientists by 42 percent and still get the kind of science we need to understand the threats we are under and the solutions we need to provide to the American public.

You know, public health is a bipartisan issue. It's always been important to American families that when they turn on their tap water, it comes out in a way that is safe for them to drink. This is what is at risk here.

[07:25:01] Not Paris, not big agreements, but fundamental public health protections, as well as addressing the challenge of climate change.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: And McCarthy also says the EPA does not undermine the growth of the economy. She points out that U.S. GDP has tripled at the same time air pollution has been reduced by 70 percent.

PAUL: Well, President Trump could issue a new travel ban as early as tomorrow. A lot of people are wondering if this is going to be a significant change from the original order, or if the White House is going to find itself back in court. We have a team of analysts who are looking at this.

SAVIDGE: Plus, immigrant workers left in limbo after the White House makes a drastic change to the process of securing a visa. What this means for those workers and American businesses. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

[07:30:04] PAUL: Thirty minutes past the hour.

You are waking up but look what is coming down. Yes, in Atlanta, just a couple minutes ago, the old Georgia Archives Building also known as the White Ice Cube is no longer. Apparently, it was made out of white marble.

SAVIDGE: Really?

PAUL: More than 5,000 pounds of explosive were used to demolish this 50-year-old building. They do plan to construct a new state court facility on that site.

SAVIDGE: Marble is expensive material, isn't it?

PAUL: We're a little surprise by that. Yes, we were saying a lot of kitchen counters could be --

SAVIDGE: Maybe I'll go by there after the show.

(LAUGHTER)

PAUL: Good morning to you. I'm Christi Paul. And --

SAVIDGE: I'm Martin Savidge, in for Victor Blackwell. Thanks very much for joining us this morning.

Let's begin -- President Trump's embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions will amend his testimony on Russian contacts tomorrow.

PAUL: This comes after Sessions recused himself, of course, from any investigations into possible ties between Russian officials and the Trump campaign. Now, Democrats want to know why Jeff Sessions didn't reveal -- or what he didn't reveal during his confirmation hearing that he met with the Russian ambassador two times last year. President Trump expected as well -- not only that happening tomorrow, but the president is expected to sign this updated travel ban on certain Middle Eastern and African countries and could sign it as early as tomorrow. But an official with the Trump administration warns CNN, look, things could change.

I want to bring back Sarah Westwood, White House correspondent for "The Washington Examiner", and Tom LoBianco, CNN politics reporter.

So, Tom, this is significant because one of the changes they are talking about is deleting Iraq from the list. Why is that so important and what would it make any difference?

TOM LOBIANCO, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, they clearly need to narrow the scope of this thing. And, you know, you don't want to go back and have the same problems that you had the first time because, remember, this -- when they rolled it out the first time, this got in the way of everything else. So, they are really trying to narrow the scope of this thing and trying to learn lessons from the fumble rollout, and, you know, trying to keep moving with their agenda, their overall agenda here.

PAUL: Sarah, let's talk about the timing of this. He was supposed to sign it on Wednesday, and then they wanted the address to Congress, the joint address to Congress to breathe a little bit because it seemed to be so successful. The senior administration official telling CNN, we want the executive order to have its own moment. Do you think it will happen this week?

SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, ironically, I think the Trump administration would welcome a change of conversation now given all the scrutiny of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. So, I think they're going to try to draw focus on this policy. I mean, you remember, the idea behind the policy, not necessarily the original execution of it was popular with about half of Americans.

There are lot of people who do want to see this done correctly. So, I think Tom's right, they are going to address the language that got them in trouble with the court the first time around and try to present one that could survive the inevitable legal challenges.

PAUL: This travel ban is only an element of the president's immigration policy. The White House halting the expedited processing of H1B visas. These visas allow employers to hire skilled foreign workers. The president accusing companies of abusing the program, saying that it's taking away jobs from Americans and giving them away at lower salaries.

This -- is there credence to that, Tom?

LOBIANCO: Well, you know, what's interesting about this, is this is actually something that labor unions have been interested in before attacking the H1B visa program, some big concerns about that. You know, it could be a play to the populist base with this move.

But, you know, it kind of goes back to the overarching concept of, they want to do a resetting, putting a pause on immigration and travel issues right now while they get their footing. So, I mean, this is just another piece in that, and not as off the wall as the original rollout of that travel ban, but a little more measured, a little more controlled here.

PAUL: Well, in talking about this H1B, there are some folks who say, look, there are rural communities that really benefit from this, particularly in the medical and the technology industries, there's an immigration lawyer who said this suspension is not good for America business by any means. Do we have any idea how detrimental it might be, Sarah?

WESTWOOD: Well, certainly, this H1B visa program has been a target in conservative immigration circles for a long time. Attorney General Jeff Sessions focused really heavily on this program when he was a senator. This is something that conservative immigration hawks would love to see reformed because they accuse big businesses, multinational corporations, of bringing in foreign workers and displacing American workers.

So, Jeff Sessions' office used to champion stories of American engineers who were forced to train their foreign replacements based on this program, there's bipartisan support of a bill that would make the system more merit based rather than just a lottery, a "first come, first serve" situation. So, we'll see if there is a rare area in the immigration discourse where maybe Republicans and Democrats can come together and change this program.

[07:35:07] PAUL: We'll see. Sarah Westwood, Tom LoBianco, thank you so much. We appreciate that, as always.

SAVIDGE: "Saturday Night Live" taking on the Trump administration once again, and this time they brought back a classic movie to help.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATE MCKINNON AS JEFF SESSIONS: I was on the cover of the "New York Times." You wanted to see?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It says you might have committed perjury?

MCKINNON: Yes, I had a bad week.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCKINNON: I always say life is like a box of chocolates. Sure are a whole lot of brown ones in there.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: "Saturday Night Live" bringing back the classics. The show returned to parody Trump's rough weekend. They channel their very best Forrest Gump.

PAUL: CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter has the highlight.

[07:40:00] Look, they're not taking it easy on the White House, but my god, is there anything that Kate McKinnon can't do?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes. She does seem to play every character on some of these episodes of "SNL". Here she was reprising the Jeff Sessions character and maybe making a bad week even worse for Sessions. Here's another part of that sketch when the Russian president showed up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MCKINNON: I talk to the Russians. You know, I met with a fellow that turned out to be Russian on the account of he was the Russian ambassador. His name was Sergei Kislyak. I don't remember the any name with the gay kiss in it. Democrats want me to resign. I've just got to prove to everybody that I don't have any ties to the Russians whatsoever.

UNIDNETIFIED MALE: This meeting never happened.

MCKINNON: I wasn't going to remember it anyway.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: "SNL" always looking for a chance to use their Putin impersonation. Later in the program, the show debuting a new movie trailer and more jokes at the GOP's expense. This was a movie trailer imagining the Republican Party casting someone who can stand up to Trump and then they show the person as TBD. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The election, he cared about what was right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to speak out against the president? Aren't you squared?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brave response, TBD.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What a brave response.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The conservative who became the voice of a generation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Voice of generation, TBD.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With a powerful message.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Powerful message, TBD.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And a rallying cry that spoke to all people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rallying cry that speaks to all people, TBD.

CROWD: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: TBD.

CROWD: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: TBD.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The AB Club calls it a touching tribute to whoever it ends up being about, and the "Rolling Stone" says it's definitely not about Paul Ryan.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Grandma, who is that statue of? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's the man from long ago who stood up to

Donald Trump, looks just like him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: TBD.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Courage, compassion, country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: There we go, SNL having some fun at the GOP's expense. Octavia Spencer, you saw her there at the end. She was the host last night, and maybe it's on your DVR, you can catch up on the rest of "SNL". Scarlet Johansson hosting next week. So, we'll see if Alec Baldwin is back. You know, he was not on last night playing Trump, maybe giving his Trump impersonation a little break.

PAUL: All righty. Hey, Brian Stelter, thank you so much.

Listen, Brian is not off the hook. You can catch him a little bit later on "RELIABLE SOURCES", yes, at 11:00 a.m. Eastern today, right here on CNN.

Thanks, Brian.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:47:10] PAUL: Well, tonight CNN's original series "Finding Jesus" is back. It has a role -- a look at the role of Pontius, the Roman governor of Judea at the time of Jesus' death.

SAVIDGE: Now on its second, the series explores the ground breaking discoveries in the science that are revealing more about the time and life of Jesus.

Here's a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID GREGORY, CNN ANALYST (voice-over): In the Bible, Pilate is infamous as the man who tries Jesus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pilate is a fascinating character in Christian history. He does seem tormented about whether or not Jesus is guilty and whether or not he should condemn him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Pilate at the gospel is uncertain. He seems deeply concerned with Jesus' innocence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have the authority to set you free.

PROF. MARK GOODCARE: He's not firm and decisive about what he wants to do.

GREGORY: The discovery of his name in stone was ground-breaking. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The significance of the pilot stone is it gives us

hard evidence of the central figure from the story of the crucifixion of Jesus, so the Pilate really existed, he really lived, and he really was the prefect of Judaem.

We actually have a literal touchstone, a point of connection between the story of the crucifixion of Jesus from the bible, and actual Roman history.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL: All right. I want to bring in our CNN religion communicator, Father Beck. We haven't seen him in a while.

It's good to see you again, Father.

FATHER EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGION COMMENTATOR: You, too.

PAUL: All righty. So, I want to know, I understand you have seen the first episode in full. What is your takeaway, and what do you think people will glean from it?

BECK: Well, Christi, that clip really showed two great takeaways from the first episode. The first is the archeological discoveries that Pontius Pilate actually existed. You know, it's so easy that we hear stories from where we're children. And you begin to think, well, perhaps, they're just a myth, they're fables.

And then, there are archeological discoveries with a stone in an amphitheater that have the words Pontius Pilate on them. You have a Jewish historian Josephus writing about Pontius Pilate and Jesus. This is an independent authority. So, it supplements the gospel accounts for all the believers, and they say, wow, these people did exist and it draws people more into the story.

So, "Finding Jesus" makes a good point about bringing out the historical data for Pontius Pilate, for Jesus, for a trial, for him being condemned to the death, and I think it just adds to a believer's perspective. Now, of course, we are not going to have facts to believe, but it does kind of help along the belief to know these are historical accounts. So, that's one major takeaway.

[07:50:00] PAUL: So, when it comes to Pontius Pilate specifically, since that's what we were talking about, is there -- are there discussions in the church about the role of Pontius Pilate, whether he was a monster who condemned him to death, or if he really struggled with that decision, if it was a burden to him?

BECK: Well, this is the other really interesting point. So, remember, the gospels are written about 90 years, especially the Gospel of John, after the death of Jesus. The destruction of the temple has occurred. The Jewish people, the identity has changed.

So, now, Romans are becoming Christians. So, the gospel writers in some way most believe tempered Pontius Pilate as being indecisive, not being totally culpable for the death of Jesus. He says, "I find no guilt in the man," and the high priest of the temple, Caiaphas, the Jewish authorities, are pushing Pilate to condemn Jesus to death.

So more culpability is given to the Jewish authorities in the gospel than almost Pontius Pilate even though he condemns Jesus to death. So, this is kind of a shading historically and people say, well, no, Pontius Pilate was a pretty bad guy and he probably wasn't indecisive. But the gospel writers present him in a way that lets him off the hook a little because they had Romans joining the Christian community and wanted to balance out perhaps how bad Pilate really was.

PAUL: So interesting. Father Beck, so good to have your voice back and see you again. Thank you for being here.

BECK: Thanks, Christi. Good seeing you, too.

PAUL: Thank you.

And you can tune into the season premiere of "Finding Jesus". It is tonight at 9:00 Eastern, only here on CNN.

SAVIDGE: The world famous Iditarod dogsled race was supposed to start today. Next, why that start has been delayed while the race moves north.

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(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: So, the famous Alaska Iditarod, it's supposed to start today in Willow, Alaska, but a slight delay in the dogsled race.

SAVIDGE: Didn't know you were such a fan.

The mushers are now on the way to Fairbanks and that's because for the third time in the race's history, they are having to move the start nearly 300 miles north.

Here to explain why is CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar.

PAUL: Allison, I have to tell you, love this story, love it.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. I'm a huge Iditarod fan. No, I've never been there, I've never raced, but I'm a huge fan.

Yes, this is a big deal. The reason they are having to move the race is due to a lack of snow. You think Alaska is surely if there's ever a place to have snow it would be Alaska. But it's where they are missing the snow.

So, normally, the start would be today. It would take place from Willow, but they are having to mo it all the way up to Fairbanks because that Alaska Range region, which is in between the two, is dealing with a lack of snow, and so it's for safety reasons. So, starting tomorrow, that's when the restart will begin in Fairbanks and they will continue off to the west and end up in Nome as normal.

Now, the key thing is a lot of this region is actually above normal for a snow. It's that Alaska range area where they are really lacking it. In Anchorage, for example, take a look, 78 inches so far for this. Their normal is 57.

So it's not necessarily any of the starting points. It's that Alaska Range region in between. We talk about the safety being a huge concern for a lot of the mushing cruise. So, here's the reason why. Much of the path that they will take ends up being dirt or gravel- based. When you have that base for a trail, you only need about 6 inches of snow on the ground in order for conditions to be safe.

The problem is then you start to go up through that range, say through places like Rainy Pass. The problem there is you have a lot of boulders in place that makes it hard to navigate. So, for that reason, you actually need more snow. You need at least about three feet of snow to make it safe.

And, unfortunately, given the conditions that they had, it just wasn't going to be safe through that pass region. So, for that region, that reason, that's why they decided to go ahead and push it back to Fairbanks.

When you look at the forecast of snow we are actually expect a lot of snow along the new path that will be leading from Fairbanks and all the way to Nome. So, at the end of the day, guys, this is actually a better thing. It's a safer thing.

Probably the biggest controversy is this had the first year cell phones will be allowed. A lot of the mushers not very happy. They feel like it takes away from the ruggedness of the race since you'll have technological help, but they're saying it's for safety reasons in case anyone gets injured along the trail at any point, they have a way to contact folks.

PAUL: You do wonder whatever we did without them. SAVIDGE: I would use it for GPS.

PAUL: Tell me where I'm going, please. Yes.

Thank you so much, Allison.

SAVIDGE: Mush that away.

PAUL: Mush that away.

Hey, we hope you made some great memories today. Thanks for being here this weekend.

SAVIDGE: It was a pleasure.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King, it starts right now.