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White House Sends Mixed Messages on Syria and What's Next; U.S. Sends Carrier Strike Group to Korean Peninsula; K.T. McFarland Leaves National Security Council; Trump's About-Face on Military Intervention; Protest March Fills Dallas Streets; Manhunt for Suspect Accused of Sending Manifesto to Trump; A People Divided, Orthodox and Secular Jews. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired April 9, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:00] ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: And 73 tries, but he can finally say he is a major champion winning this year's Masters tournament in three events.
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.
Andy Scholes, thanks to you. The next hour of NEWSROOM starts now.
Top of the hour, 8:00 Eastern, you're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I want to welcome our viewers in the U.S. and around the world. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thanks for joining us tonight.
As a new week looms, adversaries and allies around the world have their eyes on the White House. They are searching for a signal as to what it may do next in Syria, particularly when it comes to the fate of President Bashar al-Assad, the man blamed for last year's chemical attack on his own people.
But how much of a priority is it to oust Assad? The answer seems to depend on which administration official you ask. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We are hopeful that we can work with Russia and use their influence to achieve areas of stabilization throughout Syria and create the conditions for a political process through Geneva in which we can engage all of the parties on a way forward, and it is through that political process that we believe the Syrian people will ultimately be able to decide the fate of Bashar al- Assad.
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: There is not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime. It just -- if you look at his actions, if you look at the situation, it's going to be hard to see a government that's peaceful and stable with Assad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Those conflicting messages from Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson comes just days before Secretary Tillerson heads to Moscow to meet with top Russian officials. And as of now Russia is quite clear on its position. Syrian state media citing a joint statement from Moscow and Tehran saying, and I quote, "We will respond strongly to any aggression on Syria. Russia and Iran will not allow America to dominate the world."
That warning comes as the Trump administration tackles yet another threat, North Korea. Right now an aircraft carrier-led strike group is deploying towards the Korean Peninsula. A U.S. official confirms to CNN this move is a direct response to recent North Korean provocation. Meanwhile, as the White House tries to navigate all these mine fields, the National Security Council, the very people that the president is relying on for advice, is seeing another shake-up. K.T. McFarland is leaving just days after chief strategist Steve Bannon was booted from the NSC. The impact it could have still unclear.
CNN is covering this as only CNN can. We have a team of reporters and analysts standing by and around the world from the Syrian border to Pyongyang where we have the only American TV correspondent inside North Korea.
I want to begin with CNN senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward along the Turkish-Syrian border.
Clarissa, how are Syria and its allies now responding today?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, we definitely are hearing some tough words from the regime of the president of Bashar al-Assad and also its Russian and Iranian backers essentially saying if the U.S. pulls something like this again there will be real consequences.
Now this was always the argument that the Obama administration had given for not intervening more forcefully or militarily inside Syria, that perhaps in doing so they could precipitate or escalate an actual clash between U.S. forces and Russian forces, potentially leading to some kind of a global conflict or a World War III. That would be a worst-case scenario. But at this stage we still don't really know exactly what Trump's policy in Syria is going to look like. We've seen some glimpses of it today, hearing from U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley who says Assad is definitely one of our priorities in the sense that he should go. Hearing slightly different message from Secretary of State Tillerson that our priority fundamentally is the fight against ISIS.
And of course the concern from some is that it's difficult to engage in that fight against ISIS without some fundamental level of cooperation with the Russians. A very complex situation in Syria. A lot of very nuanced issues to be taken into account and these are exactly the sorts of issues that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, will be hashing out later this week -- Ana.
CABRERA: We are watching. We are waiting to see how that unfolds. Thank you, Clarissa.
Let's turn now to CNN's Will Ripley joining us live in Pyongyang, the only American TV correspondent inside North Korea tonight.
Will, you say North Korea is not backing down?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I have to say speaking with government officials here, Ana, this is my 11th trip to the country, and this is the most tense I have ever seen it. They are very closely watching the activities of the Trump administration.
[20:05:03] That carrier strike group, the Carl Vinson, has been turned around and it's heading back toward the Korean Peninsula right now. It was off the Korean Peninsula several weeks ago for joint military exercises. The North Koreans view that as a very provocative action because, of course, that strike group could launch missiles which would be well capable of landing right here in Pyongyang and other North Korean cities. And they saw the missile strike that President Trump ordered on Syria. They say they will not back down as a result of that potential threat. In fact they say this only encourages them to develop their own weapons.
And not only nuclear weapons because we know that North Korea could conduct their sixth nuclear test at any time, we know that they're working to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile, but they also have a significant arsenal of conventional weapons that put at risk a very key U.S. ally, the South Koreans. In Seoul there are tens of millions of people, there are 28,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, and North Korea, if provoked, if they felt cornered, could launch a devastating strike on a highly populated area.
Right now they could do a lot damage and kill a lot of people with the weapons they currently possess. And many analysts think they may be less than two years away from having a workable intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead capable of reaching the mainland U.S. So the big difference the North Koreans say between Syria and North Korea is that if they are provoked, they promise they will retaliate. So it's a very complicated situation for President Trump.
And the North Koreans feel that the rhetoric right now from the U.S. indicates that military action and actual military conflict on the peninsula is far more likely today than it was during the years of the Obama administration.
CABRERA: Well, it sounds like North Korea is now upping the ante a little bit. Thank you very much, Will Ripley.
Let's bring in CNN's Ryan Nobles in Washington.
Ryan, a bunch of diplomatic challenges to say the least as yet another person is now leaving the White House National Security Council. Tell us more about the departure of K.T. McFarland?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And this doesn't really come as that big of a surprise, Ana. K.T. McFarland is someone that was very close to Michael Flynn, the former National Security adviser. And essentially when Flynn was pushed out after it was revealed that he was in contact with Russian officials without disclosing that information during the transition, basically the clock was ticking on McFarland's time inside the White House.
Now she isn't going away. The White House is actually arguing that she has been offered a promotion. She is set to become the ambassador to Singapore, which is of course an important responsibility but it certainly won't carry with it the day-to-day responsibilities of advising the president on these pressing national security issues. And what it really tells us more than anything is that the new National Security adviser, H.R. McMaster, is really taking control over the national security apparatus around the White House.
McMaster is someone with a long military history. He is a West Point grad, he has a PhD in American history as well, and he is someone who the president clearly trusts. He's also someone whom many national security experts, both in the Congress and without the -- and throughout the government, trust as well. So you can expect McMaster's world to increase, especially when you take into account that Steve Bannon, one of the president's closest political advisers, has been removed from the principal's committee of the National Security Council.
So it seems as though those who have experience dealing with international affairs are now the ones calling the shots in the Oval Office when it comes to national security issues, Ana.
CABRERA: All right. Ryan Nobles reporting tonight in Washington. Thanks to you.
I want to bring in Eric Pelofsky now, who knows the inner workings of the White House, serving on the National Security Council during the Obama years.
Eric, President Obama told President Trump that the biggest challenge he would face was North Korea. Now we know a Navy carrier strike group is on its way to that region. Will Ripley just saying things are most intense he's ever seen inside North Korea. He has visited there 11 times. How do you see this playing out?
ERIC PELOFSKY, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think we've got a really tense situation coming up, and the visit of the Chinese hasn't given us many clues as to how they're going to play it. I think the president has not given the American people much sense of where he wants to go other than he wants to be very, very tough. But that's not a plan and we need to see much more articulated about what our expectations are going to be in the coming days. But obviously putting the ships off the coast is a powerful signal.
CABRERA: What do we know about how they respond to aggression?
PELOFSKY: Well, I think -- unfortunately, I think they're inclined to play along into the playbook of we're responding with signals back and forth. And so I think the hope is here that there's a plateau that -- or an off ramp where both sides can start to have conversations not in the newspapers but actually behind closed doors. That's where something meaningful can get done.
[20:10:07] CABRERA: We're seeing a lot of tough talk on North Korea, but in Syria we saw the president of the U.S. take action. Did President Trump enforce that red line that President Obama initially declared but then didn't act upon?
PELOFSKY: Well, I think, you know, right now what we can tell from the situation is that we've seen a good checkers place but we don't know if there's any chess behind it, frankly. I think it is important the president responded quickly, he lived up to his commitments publicly, but in fact when President Obama was in the same situation there was several plays that worked out such that 1300 metric tons of chemical weapons came out of Syria without a shot being fired and in a way that was infinitely safer than what might have happened if we had gone to guns.
CABRERA: But yet you look at what's happening inside Syria. There are still chemical weapons and now we're looking at a situation in which some 400,000 Syrians have been killed. You can hardly call that a win for the Obama administration, can you?
PELOFSKY: No, Ana, and that's not what I was getting at. What I was trying to say is that, in fact, we saw on the chemical weapons front a very important strategic weapon taken out of the Syrian hands. There were remaining weapons. Clearly we were very concerned about that at the time. We tried to make sure that the file stayed open so that we could continue to pursue the possibility that there were still weapons, but absolutely you're right.
Syria has not been a win across the board obviously and -- but, you know, we've seen this morning the Trump administration really struggling to figure out where they want to go with Syria because, as you saw, the secretary of State said one thing, Ambassador Haley said something quite different, and now they're heading straight into talks with the Russians and we're going to see where the rubber meets the road in that regard.
CABRERA: Now if you were advising President Trump on what to do next in Syria, what would you tell him?
PELOFSKY: Well, I think certainly getting the Russians to a better place would help a lot. I'm not sure that they've got a way to do that. They certainly have more leverage than they had at the beginning of last week, but the Russians are ready to play chess with them, and that's -- and that's where they have to really step up with a plan. We haven't seen that. We saw this morning that there was at least some policy vibrations, if not differences, and those need to be closed out before they go into the meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov and potentially Putin, although, as you reported earlier, it is not clear whether that Putin meeting is going to actually happen.
CABRERA: Exactly. Now we do know the White House is cautiously approaching this meeting. They cautiously approached to some degree the strikes in Syria, warning Russia before the missile strikes were launched in Syria last week. Is there anything or what would it be if the U.S. could say or do to turn Russia from its current viewpoint on this serious situation and from backing Assad?
PELOFSKY: Well, I don't know whether they're going to be able to separate the Russians from Assad. I think Tillerson -- Secretary Tillerson's comments this morning were probably intended to lower the temperature with the Russians. Obviously you put up just a few minutes ago the joint statement by the Russians and Iranians. Obviously that's not a trend in the right direction. But, you know, those are loud noises. The real question is, one, how do the Russians respond? Two, how do the Syrians respond? And three, how does Lebanese Hezbollah respond?
Those responses, not the things they say in the press, not the things they say on Twitter, but the things they actually do is going to really decide the trajectory of this crisis.
CABRERA: Now there are still about 1,000 U.S. troops in Syria right now as we're assisting in the war on terror, fighting ISIS there. Could the Syrian government still retaliate for this military action in some way?
PELOFSKY: Well, I absolutely think they can retaliate. I don't know that they're going to have much joy trying to retaliate against our forces inside Syria. I think that's a risky business. I have worked alongside and I have worked very closely with my DOD, my Defense Department colleagues. I think they'd rather savior that opportunity, although I'm sure they would exercise the kind of discretion that they need to, the kind of restraint they need to. But I don't think that would end well for the Syrians, and so I think they'll look for asymmetric ways to respond.
[20:15:05] And that's the most dangerous, is if they go to a place where we're not expected, we're not prepared, it's not hardened. It's the soft underbelly where they can do more damage, and that's the risk. And that's particularly dangerous -- sorry -- with Lebanese Hezbollah.
CABRERA: So what do you make of that response from Russia and Iran, essentially saying we're not going to let America throw its weight and try to control the world? I'm paraphrasing, but that was kind of the ominous warning that they gave, saying that they would take more action should America do another move like they saw earlier this week?
PELOFSKY: Well, I would read it two different ways. One, I think they're playing to the cheap seats in the crowd. I think they're trying to convey and build up some support on their side, and then I think secondarily, I think they're trying to say, look, you're better off if this is a one off, we're better off if this is a one off. We need to try and have conversations behind the scenes in order to step back from this. I think they're trying to say to President Trump and to the administration that doubling down on this move would not be wise.
CABRERA: Real quick before we let you go, I want to just get your thoughts on this shake-up we've seen now in the National Security Council given you have been in that same group. What do you make of the facts that H.R. McMaster has come in, now we've seen Flynn is gone, we've seen McFarland, K.T. McFarland, the deputy to Flynn, she is now gone, and we saw Steve Bannon being taken off of that group also this week?
PELOFSKY: Well, let me say this. I have sat in dozens of deputy committee meetings. That's the real engine of the National Security Council staff. That's where most of the hard work for big decisions are teed up for the principals, the secretaries of State and Defense and the other members of the principal's committee and for the president. That's where the work has to get done, the details have to be minded, the questions, the problems need to be surfaced.
And you need a strong deputy national security adviser to be running that process. And when you don't have that, then you really end up with at least a modicum of chaos if not a lot of policy incoherence. And so I hope very much that they put a very strong and effective and well respected National Security professional in that role.
I know a friend of mine, a long-time Republican thinks quite well of Dina Powell. Obviously that's one option. But obviously there's a very deep bench on the Republican side of people, some of whom will criticize the president, who could play that role.
CABRERA: All right. Well, we'll see what happens. Eric Pelofsky, thank you tonight.
Now as you've just seen, President Trump is making bold military moves on two fronts, Syria and North Korea. Does this change how he is viewed from those around the world? Is there a Trump doctrine? You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[20:22:27] CABRERA: Republican lawmakers for the most part praise President Trump's decision to launch a missile strike against a Syrian airbase. They called his move decisive, measured and appropriate. But now that the dust has settled the Trump White House is learning that the strike was important but the follow-up may matter even more. Listen to what Republican Senator Marco Rubio said just this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Look, I listened to the interview earlier today. I guess Secretary Tillerson is going to have on your program and I'm a bit concerned about the outlines of the strategy as I understand it. I think it is based on assumptions that, quite frankly, are not the right ones. And I hope they'll reconsider. This idea that we're going to get rid of ISIS and then we'll hopefully use Assad and others to come up with a solution, it's not going to work.
These people who have been killed and gassed and human rights violations against them will never accept Assad as a rightful ruler.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Let's bring in my panel. With me CNN political analyst and columnist for "The Washington Post" Josh Rogin and White House correspondent for the "Washington Examiner" Sarah Westwood.
So the White House may have to get approval from Congress before taking any further action in Syria. Rubio is already voicing some concerns. Could that be problematic?
SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Absolutely. There are already Democrats who are concerned about getting more militarily involved in Syria. There are Republicans on the other side of the spectrum who are -- who want an even more expanded campaign than what the Trump administration looks likely to put forward. So going through the process of seeking an authorization for use of military force, it could be productive for the Trump administration in that it would force them to articulate a road map for engagement in Syria but it could also drag the Trump administration into a protracted negotiation with various lawmakers.
We know that they've had some trouble getting their legislative affairs shot off the ground, the healthcare talks were evidence of that, and this would be a much more high stakes situation for them to get into. It's just the kind of distraction that they weren't looking to pursue right now.
CABRERA: Josh, in an interview just a couple of days ago Senator Rubio said he believed the White House was coming around to the idea that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go. But today he is realizing that, according to Secretary Tillerson, ousting Assad still is not a priority. The media clearly aren't the only ones getting some mixed signal. It appears Congress is, too. What do you make of that?
JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: They're giving us mixed signals. What Secretary Tillerson said, which is that we have to fight ISIS first then work with Russia to establish ceasefire with the Assad regime and then worry about the political process later, is totally mutually exclusive from what Nikki Haley said today which is that, no, no, we've got to do both of these things at the same time.
[20:25:08] And that we can't have a political process that includes Assad because he killed a lot of his people and he doesn't have any interest in a political process in the first place.
Now Marco Rubio and most Republican hawks in Congress agree with Nikki Haley. You know, the question is who does Donald Trump agree with, and we just don't know. I mean it sort of puts a big circle around the biggest problem, which is that, you know, now we've intervened militarily against the Assad regime with no really idea whatsoever what happens next. And this kicks off a lot of calculations for all of these actors, the Russians, the Iranians, the Syrians, the opposition, our allies, and they're all asking the same question, should we believe what Tillerson says or should we believe what Haley says?
And the bottom line is there's no way to believe either of them because Donald Trump, the president, has not made up his mind.
CABRERA: And who has his ears is another big question. While the White House is trying to navigate Syria, Russia, Iran and North Korea, there has been another shake-up on the White House security council, this time we've learned K.T. McFarland just days after Steve Bannon was removed.
Sarah, is this significant?
WESTWOOD: Well, certainly any change that high up the chain on the National Security Council is significant in that it's going to change the day-to-day operation of the NSC. This has been characterized as some sort of punitive purge of General Michael Flynn's old loyalists now that Flynn is out, H.R. McMaster is in, and in a lot of ways it probably is, but it's also just the NSC finding its footings and professionalizing after the first few weeks. The White House, for its part, is kind of trying to spin it as a promotion for K.T. McFarland. They've said that Singapore, for example, has a lot of English speaking media. That's her forte. She comes from FOX News so she'll be able to do a lot of media in Singapore and represent the U.S. there.
So this is sort of how the White House wants to portray this, not as necessarily another shuffling of staff that indicates weakness operationally on the part of the NSC, but just H.R. McMaster starting to want to bring his own team underneath him.
CABRERA: You agree, Josh?
ROGIN: Yes, I think K.T. has been on the way out for several weeks and they were just trying to find a soft landing for her. I don't think that, you know, doing English Singaporean media can ever be seen as being better than being deputy national security adviser. It doesn't pass the laugh test. You know, I think K.T. had a promise from President Trump that, you know, he would take care of her. He likes her personally. That's why she got her soft landing where people like Mike Flynn just got, like, thrown under the bus completely.
You know, but I totally agree with Sarah. H.R. McMaster came in and he wants his own people but he doesn't want to, like, you know, scare everybody and fire everybody on the first day, so he is doing it in fits and starts, in little bits here and there. And having a deputy that you trust, that you want to work with, is kind of the right of any National Security adviser. He should have someone that he likes and I totally agree with Sarah that this is the professionalization of the NSC.
The big question is, OK, when McMaster gets his team in place, are they really going to influence the policy? I mean, we have a president of the United States who changed U.S.-Syria policy because he saw some pictures on TV of children being gassed. So, you know, if we build this beautiful process where everything is, like, functioning like a well-oiled machine, you know, that can't account for the fact that the president of the United States doesn't really have a foreign policy doctrine and is sort of learning on the job and is liable to change U.S. policy with a plea at any --
CABRERA: But, Josh, let me push back on that just a little bit. ROGIN: Sure.
CABRERA: Because we know Trump ran on a nationalist message of America first.
CABRERA: Let's watch the moment from his inauguration day, in fact.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: From this day forward it is going to be only America first. America first.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: So that line is straight out of the Bannon playbook.
ROGIN: That's right.
CABRERA: Is it a coincidence really that this week the president abandons his nationalist message and strikes Syria that Bannon also is booted from the National Security Council?
ROGIN: I think it shows a trend towards the sort of normalization of the Trump foreign policy team. The establishment people are definitely ascending and the nationalist people are definitely on the ropes. I don't think that battle is over yet. I think in the end especially when it comes to trade next week you're going to see the nationalist, the Americans first people winning some of those trade battles.
You know, this is what Trump likes to do, set his teams against each other. You know, it's really hard to predict who's going to win each battle on Syria. Yes, the Bannon team lost, OK, because there's no way that America first and bombing Syria can be congruent with each other, but that's President Trump's style. He said he changed his mind. He said it's my responsibility. That's what he said in the Rose Garden standing next to King Abdullah.
You know, so that's a totally 180 change from where he was in that clip that you just showed. You know, going forward I think there are many fights that sometimes the nationalists will win and sometimes the hawks will win.
CABRERA: Sarah, you'll get the first question next time around. Josh Rogin and Sarah Westwood, thank you both for joining us tonight.
ROGIN: Thank you.
[20:30:03] CABRERA: We have seen a dramatic shift to President Trump's stance on Syria. Ahead, a look at how it's changed, why and what it tells us about what could happen next.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
CABRERA: President Trump openly admits he has changed his attitude towards Syria and its President Bashar al-Assad. He says the images from Tuesday's chemical attack deeply impacted him. But this change in his attitude is not slight. It's actually a complete about-face.
CNN senior Washington correspondent Brianna Keilar has a closer look at just how much President Trump's position has changed.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump has long said the U.S. should keep to itself.
TRUMP: I'm not and I don't want to be the president of the world. I'm the President of the United States.
KEILAR: That was before his decision to attack Syria in response to horrific pictures of a chemical weapons attack on civilians there.
[20:35:07] TRUMP: Tonight I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched. These heinous actions by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated. My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.
KEILAR: In fact, it is completely reversed. In 2013, when it was first confirmed the Syrian government was using chemical weapons on its own people, as pictures came to light of an attack much like the ones we've seen this week, President Obama weighed whether to make good on an earlier threat.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.
KEILAR: At the time, Trump tweeted repeatedly opposing action. "To our very foolish leader," he said. "Do not attack Syria. If you do, many very bad things will happen, and from that fight, the U.S. gets nothing. There is no upside and tremendous downside."
And he told CNN.
TRUMP: Why do we care? Let ISIS and Syria fight, and let Russia -- they're in Syria already -- let them fight ISIS.
KEILAR: Then Thursday, an about-face.
TRUMP: It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.
KEILAR: And Trump's decision to strike Syria was a unilateral one, after once chastening President Obama for considering a go-it-alone approach. "The president must get congressional approval before attacking Syria. Big mistake if he does not," Trump tweeted in 2013. President Obama was ultimately unable to and scrapped plans to strike Syria until 2014, when Arab countries also participated in military action.
But perhaps this is also classic Trump, championing the element of surprise in foreign policy.
TRUMP: I'm not saying I'm doing anything one way or another.
KEILAR: And obsessed with appearing strong.
TRUMP: If President Obama's goal had been to weaken America, he could not have done a better job.
KEILAR (on camera): It also changed the narrative long plaguing the Trump administration, the drip, drip, drip of the stories about his campaign officials, ties to Russia, and their meetings oftentimes undisclosed with Russian officials during and after when Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 election.
Brianna Keilar, CNN, Washington.
CABRERA: Thanks, Brianna.
Still ahead, thousands take to the streets of Dallas for what organizers call a mega march. Look at the numbers. The purpose behind the rally when we come back. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[20:42:01] CABRERA: Tens of thousands of people hit the streets of Dallas today. A massive gathering, organizers called peaceful but this was an urgent call to bring change for those people who are out there. They want their voices heard when it comes to immigration and racial equality.
CNN's Ed Lavandera was there -- Ed.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, on the streets of downtown Dallas this afternoon tens of thousands of protesters turning out to march in what has been billed as Mega March 2017. Tens of thousands of people have been winding their way, this is a marching route that is now spanning several miles here through -- the streets of downtown Dallas, making its way from the Cathedral in downtown here to the steps of city hall.
This is a pro-immigration rally, calling out what they view as the abusive policies of Donald Trump. That is what you see repeatedly from here, not just on questions of immigration, but at how undocumented migrants are being treated currently by this administration.
So you this repeated. Dr. Martin Luther King III was one of the lead marchers here as well as a number of civil rights activists, and joined by a great number of Democratic Party leaders here in the state of Texas as well. A similar rally was held back in 2006 where hundreds of thousands of
people turned out. They're doing it once again this time. And this is a crowd that has grown to massive numbers here this afternoon in the streets of downtown Dallas -- Ana.
CABRERA: Ed Lavandera, thank you.
Straight ahead tonight, police are keeping a close eye on churches in Wisconsin on this Palm Sunday after an online threat is made, aimed at President Trump. The latest on the manhunt to find this suspect.
You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[20:47:52] CABRERA: An increasingly urgent manhunt is on right now for a Wisconsin burglary suspect who allegedly sent a lengthy manifesto to President Trump, and then reportedly posted video of it on Facebook.
The manifesto contains anti-government and anti-religious writings, so police across Wisconsin are concerned. They believe this man is armed and dangerous and they've been on high alert at churches and places of worship.
CNN correspondent Rachel Crane is following this for us.
RACHEL CRANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Authorities say they've received over 300 tips regarding the search for Joseph Jakubowski. Also more than 150 local, state and federal officials are working around the clock to try to find him.
CRANE (voice-over): The manhunt is on in Wisconsin for this suspected burglar who police say mailed a 161-page manifesto to President Donald Trump last week.
JOSEPH JAKUBOWSKI, SUSPECT: Revolution. It's time for change.
CRANE: Authorities released this video of 32-year-old Joseph Jakubowski mailing an envelope. Investigators say it contains his manifesto filled with anti-religious views as well as grievances against the government.
ROBERT SPODEN, SHERIFF, ROCK COUNTY, WISCONSIN: It's really a long laundry list of injustices that he believes the government and society and the upper class have put forward unto the rest of the citizens.
CRANE: Schools and churches are on alert after Jakubowski followed through with one of the threats in his manifesto, to steal weapons and use them against public officials or schools. Last Tuesday, he allegedly robbed a gun shop where authorities say a large quantity of high-end handguns were stolen. Thirty minutes after the robbery, police found Jakubowski's car on fire nearby with evidence of arson.
SPODEN: Please do not approach him. We consider him armed and highly dangerous.
CRANE: Authorities beefed up patrols at churches and places of worship and shut down the Janesville School District on Friday as precaution. The FBI is offering a $10,000 cash reward for any information leading to his arrest.
CRANE: This is not Jakubowski's first run-in with the law. In fact, he has a lengthy criminal record dating back to 2001 that includes some violent offenses.
[20:50:06] In 2008 he tried to disarm an officer. He pled guilty to that. Now officials are urging anybody with any information in regards to this case to please come forward.
Rachel Crane, CNN, New York.
CABRERA: A wild story. Thanks, Rachel.
Still to come, people divided. The growing friction between orthodox and secular Jews and what it means for Israel's future.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
CABRERA: Welcome back. In tonight's season finale of "BELIEVER," Reza Aslan goes to Israel and he senses the growing friction between the country's secular and Orthodox Jews.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REZA ASLAN, HOST, CNN'S "BELIEVER": It's Shabbat, the Sabbath, the Jewish day of rest. I have been invited to spend it at the home of a secular couple. Anat Teitelbaum and Danny Assayag. Two architects who were born and raised in Jerusalem.
[20:55:07] DANNY ASSAYAG, ARCHITECT: I'm going to do it in the same style that my father used to do it, although I'm secular and I'm not really connected to it.
ASLAN: You grew up in this house. What was it like when you were growing up?
ANAT TEITELBAUM, ARCHITECT: It was completely secular. Like all --
ASSAYAG: The whole loft, I think.
TEITELBAUM: Yes. But we are the only non-religious family in this place.
ASSAYAG: That was left. ALON AVRAMI, COLLEGE STUDENT: Growing up in a completely secular
neighborhood not far from here, that when I moved there in '98 or '99, there were no religious families. And seven years later, we moved out because every Shabbat, our neighbors would throw used diapers and rocks at our cars.
GIDI DAR: They're the Jews. There is a fight. We are losing.
ASLAN: If they are talking about demographics, yes, you're losing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Let's bring in the host of CNN's "BELIEVER," Reza Aslan.
So, Reza, give us an idea of what's behind this growing friction you speak of among the Jews in Israel.
ASLAN: Well, the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel is a diverse community, of course, but it is also extremely conservative, very insular. They tend to gather in certain clustered neighborhoods, not just in Jerusalem, but in the environs like places like Beit Shemesh and Meah Shearim. And, you know, for the most part they stick to themselves and their own traditions, their very ancient Jewish traditions. But over the last two or three decades, they have become much more political. They are beginning to vote. They have many political parties.
They are making decisions for the state and particularly for many secular Jews that many Jews in Israel feel is undermining the very secular democratic foundations of the state. I remind you that nearly 86 percent of the ultra-Orthodox Jews want Israel to be a theocratic state. They want it to be a state that's predicated on Jewish law. And this, as you can imagine, is creating an enormous amount of friction.
CABRERA: And you write about some of your concerns. You have a piece that you wrote, "Why I Worry About Israel's Future." What are you most concerned about?
ASLAN: Well, Ana, I mean, I know that this is a controversial thing to say, but I grew up in Iran. I know better than most how quickly a country can change, how quickly a group of zealous minority, conservative, religious people who feeling as though the state is leaving them behind can very easily influence the state can enforce their values, their traditions upon the state.
Now I'm not saying that Israel is about to become Iran, but there are different kinds of revolutions. Some are much more sudden like what happened in Iran and some are more gradual. And I heard during the week that I was following the ultra-Orthodox in Israel, I heard from many, many secular Jews, who openly said to me that they feel that the enormous influence that this group has on Israeli society, on the Israeli government threatens the secular foundations of the state.
I even heard people say that Israel is turning into a Jewish version of Iran. So that tells you just how worried, just how anxious many secular Jews are about the future of Israel.
CABRERA: One of the concerns that you've written about is this idea that the ultra-Orthodox group believe to oppression of women, discrimination, can you explain more of that?
ASLAN: Well, as I said, this is a very religiously conservative group. They believe in absolute gender segregation. They enforce that by, for instance, segregating buses. They are -- they enforce female buses and male buses or they make women go to the back of buses. They enforce that sometimes with violence, with regard to what a woman can wear in particularly dense ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.
In the town of Meah Shearim where we filmed there are the self- ascribed morality police. Basically thugs. The ultra-Orthodox Jewish youth who go around harassing and sometimes even physically assaulting women that they feel are either not dressed modestly or are not acting modestly. And so those are the reasons why I think a lot of Israelis think to themselves, this is not the secular Israel of its democratic founders.
ASLAN: That this is something else entirely. And how -- where we go from here is anyone's guess, really.
CABRERA: We'll see. Reza Aslan, thank you so much for joining us. Don't miss the season finale of "BELIEVER." It airs tonight at 10:00 Eastern and Pacific right here on CNN.
But first, a brand new episode of CNN's "FINDING JESUS," that is next.
I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thank you so much for spending part of your weekend with us. Have a great night and a great week.