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Spicer & McMaster Talk to British Counterparts; NYPD on Funding Cuts; CNN Hero Leslie Morissette; CNN's "Finding Jesus" visits Nazareth. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired March 17, 2017 - 08:30   ET



[08:32:35] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Words matter, that's always been true, especially when you're dealing with a White House. It's just never been as obvious as it is right now. The CNN just learning that the national security adviser, H .R. McMaster, spoke with his British counterpart about Sean Spicer's comment about a Fox News report -


CUOMO: That suggested British intelligence was helping to wiretap Trump Tower during the campaign. They had to apologize, essentially saying it was unintended. This is part of "The Bottom Line" with CNN political analysts and deputy culture editor of "The New York Times," Patrick Healy.

I do enjoy that air quotes have been brought back into mainstream via a little of this wiretapping deal.


CUOMO: But, let's just look at this as fact. You know, you had strong and wrong. Sean Spicer say, no, this is on you, media, this is on you.

HEALY: Right.

CUOMO: There are plenty of reports. One of them that he mentioned was this Fox News accusation about British intel.

HEALY: Right.

CUOMO: What does it mean if McMaster had to talk to British intel and call that unintentional bringing them into this. Essentially it's an apology.

HEALY: Right. I mean Sean Spicer can blame the media all he wants. They can sit in that press room and just sort of come up with different spin every day and use, you know, the air quotes that the administration seems to wants to put its claims and its policy in. But the reality is, there's accountability. You can't just sort of cite random news reports and then elevate it to accusing, you know, one of America's closest allies of - essentially of spying on a presidential candidate without giving any kind of evidence. I mean normally you don't see a White House go beyond just, you know, regurgitating a news report and going toward making actual allegations without any kind of - any kind of evidence. And why do it against the British? I mean why start picking fights with, you know, your own friends.

HARLOW: A very critical ally, right?

HEALY: Right.

HARLOW: So here's what the British spy agency known as GCHQ said. Let me read this. "Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct 'wiretapping' against then president-elect are nonsense. They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored."

Talk about the - let's talk about the danger here because I do think, you know, look, the bar is lower some would say for this president when it comes to the word choices he uses, even about our allies, right?

HEALY: Right.

HARLOW: But, where's the real danger in this?

HEALY: Right. I mean, well, the real danger is that the White House is choosing to use a talking head, Judge Andrew Napolitano on Fox News, as some kind of - basically of evidence of wrongdoing that their own FBI, you know, has been saying behind the scenes - I think we're going to see saying next week - is untrue. Why are they - why are they trusting Judge Andrew Napolitano more than the FBI, and more than James Comey. I mean they could have cleared this up two weeks ago by simply going and saying, was there a FISA warrant on Trump Tower? If they're going to make charges, again against Great Britain, you know, for doing this, they need to provide evidence. So the danger -

[08:35:37] CUOMO: And, remember, this is the place that could get the evidence more quickly than any of these intelligence committees.

HEALY: Right. I mean the president of the United States is - is the White House.

CUOMO: One phone call.

HEALY: He can make one phone call. It's very easy to clear up. And for some reason instead of trying to narrow this and clarify it and bring clarity, they're sort of expanding it and bringing in other countries.

And the - but the danger is, is that, for instance, you have the secretary of state, you know, visiting the DMZ, North Korea and South Korea, talking about what intelligence might show the North Koreans doing with nuclear tests.

HARLOW: Right.

HEALY: You get to a point, OK, what are we all going to think when Sean Spicer gets up at the podium and starts talking about a fox News report or President Trump tweets about something that, you know, he heard about something that North Korea is doing, and how far does that get us up to the line of, you know, of potentially sort of serious, dangerous clash?

CUOMO: So, what do we see here in terms of "The Bottom Line"? You're seeing the penalty. It's one thing to beat up on the media, right?

HEALY: Right.

CUOMO: And say whatever you want because what are we really going to do about it. But when you're Britain -

HEALY: Right.

CUOMO: And you don't like how you've been maligned, now what do we see? Sean Spicer may yet at the media. He didn't yell at his British counterparts, did he?

HEALY: Right.

CUOMO: McMaster didn't say, oh yeah, prove we're wrong or, you know, or use some, you know, other kind of silly construct that they use with us. Isn't that the price of this?


CUOMO: And that's why words matter because now this is what people have been talking - they always say it's farfetched. Oh, you guys say, oh, it could lead to something. You just had one of your main allies say, stop talking to us. They had to put out a statement. Now what?

HEALY: Right, no, I mean -

CUOMO: Stop talking about us.

HEALY: Very much so. I mean "The Bottom Line" on this is very - is very clear. The longer that the administration plays this game with words where sort of the danger is coming up, you know, where they're basically making accusations out there and putting things out there that they can't defend, credibility goes down. Credibility goes down. And, frankly, from at least the White House briefing podium, it's all about credibility. So, you know -

HARLOW: Yes. When you have to make the case for something serious about national security, can the American people trust you? Can your allies trust you to get on board with you?

Happy Friday. Thanks for coming in.

HEALY: Sure. Thank you.

CUOMO: Happy St. Patrick's Day.

HEALY: Thank you. Thank you.

CUOMO: What are you? You're a little Irish, no?

HARLOW: You both forgot your green.

HEALY: A little Irish. A little Irish.

CUOMO: He's Healy, he doesn't need it.

HARLOW: Thank you, guys.

All right, coming up, the NYPD blasting the president over his proposed budget. A budget they say will cripple efforts to protect New Yorkers from terrorism. We'll have a live report, next.


[08:41:41] HARLOW: So, the NYPD chief not happy with the president at all right now. He says that the president's budget proposal would eliminate critical funding that the NYPD relies on to combat terrorism.

Our Jason Carroll is here with more details.

What are they saying?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And, Poppy, if you want to hear what the city is - and how the city is reacting to this, just take a look at the cover of "The New York Daily News." What it shows is One World Trade that you see there and you see it right there as a target. It's a pretty provocative image and it falls in step with what the police commissioner and the mayor are saying what would happen if Trump's budget proposals go forward. As of now, they say it would make the city less safe and they say it would cripple efforts to defend it from terrorists.

Police Commissioner James O'Neill says Trump's budget would translate into cutting $110 million that the NYPD receives annually as part of the Homeland Security grant program. That means they say the city would not be able to pay for counterterrorism tools put into place following 9/11, including the network of security cameras that monitor potential soft targets, like Times Square, radiological detectors placed throughout the city, active shooter training for officers and intelligence analysis which is key to preventing another terrorist attack.


JAMES O'NEILL, NEW YORK POLICE COMMISSIONER: Under the president's proposal, nearly all federal funding to the NYPD would be irradiated. This funding is absolutely critical. It is the backbone of our entire counterterrorism apparatus.

BILL DE BLASIO, NEW YORK MAYOR: New York City is directly in the crosshairs of this budget proposal. The people of our city, their lives would be hurt by it.


CARROLL: Security experts say New York City is the nation's top terror target. One estimate shows, since 2002, the city has been targeted by more than 20 terror plots. Just last year, an attacker set off a bomb in Chelsea. That device did not explode. It was dismantled by the NYPD bomb squad, which also would be in jeopardy under Trump's budget.


HARLOW: I remember that night well and covering it live.

Jason Carroll, thank you for that.

Time now for the "Five Things that You Need to Know for Your New Day."

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in South Korea delivering a very strong warning to North Korea, saying nothing is off the table if Pyongyang continues to elevate its nuclear program.

Meantime, President Trump standing by his claim that President Obama had him wiretapped, even though the House speaker and the head of the House and Senate intel committees say there is no evidence.

New York City's police commissioner, as you just heard, blasting the Trump budget proposal, say it would gut nearly all federal funding to the NYPD, making it harder to combat terrorism.

President Trump welcomes German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the White House today. NATO, ISIS and the state of Russia and Ukraine expected to top their agenda before they will take questions from reporters.

More round one madness on tap today in the NCAA college basketball tournament. on Thursday, Northwestern made the most of its first appearance in the dance in 78 years, knocking Vanderbilt off in a nail-biter, 68-66.

Those are the "Five Things You Need to Know for Your New Day." Now here are a few extras to brighten your Friday.

Ray Chavez of San Diego, and the nation's oldest surviving Pearl Harbor veteran, is getting a letter from President Trump to mark his 105th birthday yesterday. The letter from the president thanking Chavez for his service while urging him to keep going.

[08:45:09] And today ice breaking begins on beautiful Lake Superior's twin ports. The wake-up call ritual prepares the harbor for shipping season in the spring. The first ship for 2017 leaves on March the 22nd.

And a Pennsylvania community helped save a toddler's life. Twenty- three-month-old Bentley Gingerlowski suffers from a heart condition. She began bleeding (ph) the day of the blizzard. When his mom called for help, an ambulance arrived, along with plows, along with - and the Coast Guard came to help. The family got to the hospital safely and little Bentley got the medication - look how cute - that he needed.

All right, up next for us, the visit to Nazareth and Jesus' childhood home with our very own David Gregory as our tour guide. You won't' want to miss this. But first, meet the first CNN Hero of 2017, Leslie Morissette. After losing her eight-year-old son to leukemia, Leslie turned heartbreak into action. She's using 21st century technology to help kids battle life-threatening illnesses to stay connected to their everyday lives.


LESLIE MORISSETTE, CNN HERO: It's really difficult for kids to spend a lot of time in the hospital. They get so disconnected from their family and friends and schools. And when we bring them this technology, they're able to dial in and be right in the classroom.



KIDS: Hello, Phillip.

MORISSETTE: You can just see their face light right up. It brings them such joy.



[08:50:51] HARLOW: So in Sunday's episode of the CNN original series "Finding Jesus," our own David Gregory travels to Nazareth and he explores the site that is believed to be Jesus' childhood home. David is the author, of course, of "How's Your Faith," and he joins me now with more.

What a great assignment.

DAVID GREGORY, HOST, CNN'S "FINDING JESUS": It was a great assignment. As you know, "Finding Jesus," the new episode does focus on Nazareth, the boyhood home of Jesus. And in my effort, I also went in kind of - in a promotional aspect for this very interesting documentary to take on this idea of the biblical Jesus. And any search for the biblical Jesus would take you to his boyhood home of Nazareth. There's very little in this city that evokes the biblical era of what it once was, unless you know what you're looking for.


GREGORY: The city of Nazareth, nestled in the Galilean hills, it is the biggest city in Israel's north district, home to almost 70,000 people. It's hard to imagine it is the small, first century town where Jesus grew up. Now, largely an Arab city, then it was a mostly uninhabited Jewish settlement. Today's market harkens back to the town's agricultural roots.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I grew up here and I go through the alley ways and feel connected to this place, to the history of the holy family.

GREGORY: Rana Bulis (ph), a tour guide with a background in archology, shows us how to find the layers of history, stretching back more than 2,000 years beneath this modern city.

At the Sisters of Nazareth Convent, an underground discovery provides tantalizing clues to the childhood of Jesus. Was this where he spent his early years?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of the gardeners was cleaning the cistern and they discover under the convent a unique place that has significant findings from the time of Jesus.

Some kind of -

GREGORY: Writings from a seventh century bishop refer to a church built on the spot where Jesus is said to have grown up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He says that there's a church where our Lord was nourished, grew up, adjacent to a pure water spring where they - the people (INAUDIBLE) the water by means of wheels (ph). They could really see the signs or tracks in the marble above the spring. The sisters found here a lot of pieces of big and tiny mosaic stones and they found also some pieces kept in the mud of the priest (ph) investments (ph).

GREGORY: Along with these underground arches, these discoveries point to an ancient church built at this spot. But only in the past ten years have further excavations revealed signs of an actual home here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a home. It is vacant for the first century. So this is the inside of the house and that's the door.

GREGORY: And the discovery of a tomb covered with a rolling stone specific to the time of Jesus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They found the stone closed.

GREGORY: The findings here raise the possibility that this could be where Jesus spent his younger years.

Christian pilgrims come to Nazareth to quietly reflect on the history of Jesus and his family here and they read the Gospels, which speak powerfully of divine presence.

GREGORY (on camera): It is in this ancient city of Nazareth where we come upon one of Christianity's most important moments. It is here, according to the Gospel of Luke, that the Angel Gabriel comes to speak to Mary. He tells her she will have a son and his name will be Jesus.

GREGORY (voice-over): The Church of the Enunciation commemorates where the faithful believe this took place and is visited by pilgrims from all over the world. Catholics believe the ancient cave inside the church was Mary's home.

MSGR. JIM LANG, LEAD GROUP ON PILGRIMAGE OF HOLY LAND: When you read the story of the encounter between Mary and the angel, the religious encounters that took place there, you have a sense of God's direct intervention in the course of human history.

GREGORY: A matter of belief in a city where the pilgrim comes to experience ancient evidence of holiness.


[08:55:07] HARLOW: So, David, it's a beautiful piece. It's a fascinating discussion. But when it comes to biblical archeology, right, the key question is, the central question is, how sure can we be?

GREGORY: Well, there's still a lot of mystery. And I think one of the things that the "Finding Jesus" series does so well is that it doesn't resolve these questions. It leans into the mystery. In the case of the Sisters of the Nazarene, who have this discovery that they made in the early '60s, there are still questions. It's pieces of a puzzle. You have a sense of - of history telling us Jesus lived there, the holy family lived there. It's impossible to know for certain. But what is clear is that for centuries you see churches, and Muslims have done this as well, Jews did this as well, but in this case Christians building churches upon places that they believed, based on indications of evidence, something holy occurred that the holy family was there.

HARLOW: Absolutely.

David Gregory, thank you so much for that.

GREGORY: You're welcome.

HARLOW: And for all of you watch, you're going to want to join us Sunday night for "Finding Jesus." It's at 9:00 Eastern, on right here on CNN.

Thank you so much for being with us this Friday morning. Have a great weekend. CNN "Newsroom" with John Berman picks up right after this.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[09:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman. We begin with breaking news on what has now become an international incident over the president's claims on wiretapping. Not only are they without evidence, not only have members of both American political parties said they are not true, but