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President Trump Attended The Opening Of The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum; Six Fires Have Burned, 175,000 Acres Total This Week, Destroying Nearly 800 Structures; Growing Concerns About The Trump Administration's Mark On The Environmental Protection Agency; President Trump Had A Campaign Rally Along The Alabama-Florida Border; Aired 4-5p ET
Aired December 9, 2017 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[16:00:21] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thanks for staying with me.
President Trump today on hallowed ground very important to people connected to the American civil rights movement. Jackson, Mississippi, the President Trump attending the opening of the Mississippi civil rights museum and his presence there was definitely not welcome by everybody.
The head of the NAACP called it a photo opportunity for the President. And two sitting U.S. congressmen, one of them a civil rights icon, boycotted the museum opening because of the President's involvement says President Trump's policies are an insult to the people who worked for and in many cases died for equality in America.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Their headstones do not mark the color of their skin, but immortalize the coverage of their deeds. Their memories are carved in stone as American heroes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: CNN national correspondent Athena Jones is joining us right now in Jackson.
So all of the pomp and circumstance is over there, Athena. And with all of the controversy leading up to this, the President came and he stayed right on script.
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. That's right. I think you were mentioning just now U.S. congressman Bennie Thompson from Mississippi and John Lewis, a representative from Georgia, who is a civil rights icon. He was beaten and bloodied during a voting rights march in Alabama in 1965. They decided to skip this event, but their names were still on today's program. But they pulled out a couple days ago to protest the invitation of President Trump.
He did not address that criticism during his brief remarks. He spent about 40 minutes here at the museum touring the facility. He saw an exhibit on the freedom riders who were the folks of course who helped to desegregate the interstate bus system in the 60s. That exhibit includes dozens and dozens of mug shots people black and white who were arrested during those freedom rides. He also saw an exhibit on Medger Evers. Here is some of what he has to say during his free for march (INAUDIBLE) museum patriots and elected officials inside. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Their headstones do not mark the color of their skin. But immortalize the courage of their deeds. Their memories are carved in stone as American heroes. That is what Medger Evers was. He was a great American hero. That is what others honored in this museum were -- true American heroes. Today, we strive to be worthy of their sacrifice. We pray for inspiration from their example. We want our country to be a place where every child from every background can grow up free from fear, innocent of hatred, and surrounded by love, opportunity and hope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: So there you heard part of the President's message here. He also spent some time, a good deal of time, talking about Medger Evers, about James Meredith, who desegregated the University of Mississippi. And he hailed the civil rights heroes. He called them American heroes who fought not just in slavery and in depression, but also for voting rights, to end segregation.
But among the President's critics, among the many issues they lived that they have a problem with is that they argue that President Trump has not been a big defender of civil rights. They point to the fact that he has questioned the legitimacy of the nation's first black President. They talk about how he has endorsed an Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore who when asked when America was last great talked about the era of slavery. He said families were united even though there was slavery.
In the statement by Congressman Bennie Thompson and John Lewis, they also mention the President's criticism of mostly black NFL players who have been kneeling at games to protest racial inequality and the injustice. So they argue that his civil rights record doesn't match the kind of rhetoric that we heard today.
One other thing I want to bring up, Ana, that some of the President's critics have been bringing up is this voter integrity commission that the President has set up. A lot of his critics feel that this is an effort to suppress votes, not make sure people can vote. So that is why they believe that his presidency was an affront to those being honored -- Ana.
CABRERA: All right. Athena Jones, thank you for that in Jackson, Mississippi.
Now that visit on to the museum came on the heels of a rally last night in Florida where the President told people in nearby Alabama to vote Roy Moore. And now Moore's Democratic opponent in this controversial senate race, Doug Jones, has come under fire himself in his effort to get out the African-American vote there.
This is a Jones campaign flyer. You can see is as a picture of a black man on it. And it reads think of a black men went after high school girls, anyone would try to make him a senator? An obvious reference to Jones, Republican rival Roy Moore who is accused of sex abuse and molesting a teenage girl.
Jones responded with this statement when he was asked about that flyers. He said that mailer kind of speaks for itself, you know. You now maybe we could have used a little bit different language, but I have been working on the criminal justice system as a prosecutor for a long time and I have spoken about this issue before. I think it speaks for itself.
Senior national correspondent Alex Marquardt is joining us from Montgomery.
Alex, I know you spent some time with volunteers campaigning for Doug Jones in the Africa-America community. Could this flyer actually have the reverse impact they were seeking?
[16:05:58] ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Doug Jones certainly hopes that it doesn't impact this election because it is coming to absolutely the wrong time. This is the final stretch, the crunch period.
Now there are a number of things that Doug Jones has that really what he hopes will get the African-American community to come out and vote for him. They are absolutely crucial voting bloc if he is to stand a chance of winning on Tuesday.
The first is his name recognition. Doug Jones is primarily known because he was a U.S. attorney in the 1990s. And he was trying a case in which two members of the Ku Klux Klan were convicted for blowing up the 1960s Baptist church in 1963 that left four young black girls dead.
And then on top of that, there is a wide perception among African- American voters and I have heard this all across the state that Roy Moore is some say a white supremacist, some say a racist. They point to the fact that he didn't believe or doesn't that President Obama was born in America. That Keith Ellison, Muslim shouldn't serve in Congress.
You heard that reference that Athena just made to the last time America was great during the era slavery. So Doug Jones is hoping that this will galvanize the African-American community to come out and vote for him.
But just to give you a sense of how difficult that is going to be, the turnout that he needs is essentially on par with the turnout Barack Obama got in the 2012 Presidential race. And that as we discovered will be a tall order.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): Alton Smith and Laura Oliver are volunteers going door to door for Doug Jones in this predominantly African- American suburb of Birmingham. At the first house, Oliver meets Renata Thomas who plans to vote for Jones next week.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, that who I'm voting for.
MARQUARDT: If Jones is to stand a chance of winning, he needs every vote he can get particularly among African-Americans.
A monumental task requiring black voters to make up a share of the electorate along the lines of their turnout in Barack Obama's last election, 28 percent. But this is a special election in an off year in mid-December. Randall Woodfin was just sworn in as mayor of Birmingham.
MAYOR RANDALL WOODFIN (D), BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA: It is a challenge, but it is a worthy fight. And what I mean is there are six days before this election. You can't discount the last six days. There is work to be done. There is work already being done and miracles happen.
MARQUARDT: Do you think it would take a miracle for on Jones to win?
WOODFIN: I think a miracle would work. I think there is a balance here.
MARQUARDT: What more does Doug Jones need to do to galvanize this base of support?
WOODFIN: I would tell Doug Jones the same thing I would tell any candidates (INAUDIBLE), don't stop working. Keep knocking on doors.
MARQUARDT: Black voters are around a quarter of the total electorate, but majority of Democratic voters.
Roy Moore's base is overwhelmingly white, many African-Americans accuse him of being a racist. Moore has said he doesn't believe Obama was born in America and that representative Keith Ellison, a Muslim, shouldn't be allowed to serve in congress. Then this --
ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: Then they started to create new rights in 1965. And today we have got a problem.
RICHARD DICKERSON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: 1965 was the year the voting rights act was passed banning racial discrimination. This is a man who said the country was better off when black people weren't allowed to vote.
MARQUARDT: Democratic strategist Richard Dickerson believes Jones could be doing more to energize black voters, but says Moore's past will help galvanize them.
DICKERSON: If not a white supremacist, he is a racist. And I think that he has shown that time and time again by both word and deed and his actions.
MARQUARDT: Jones is best known for his case as a U.S. attorney against two members of the Ku Klux Klan, convicted of the 1963 bombing of the 16th street Baptist church that left four young black girls dead.
John Knight the head of Alabama's legislative black caucus says that isn't necessarily registering with African-American voters.
[16:10:01] JOHN KNIGHT (D), ALABAMA STATE HOUSE: A lot of these young voters just are not familiar with that. But I think that many are asking what are you going to do for me today? I mean, that is the kind of thing that I pick up across the state as we go around.
MARQUARDT: And go around they are. Now with less than a week to go.
KNIGHT: We are going to the churches. We are going to the places that we know the voters are located. We got on to have everybody in place to do what is necessary to get him elected in this seat.
MARQUARDT: And here in this final weekend, if you look at the activities that Doug Jones is carrying out, they are focused primarily on that African-American electorate. He has brought in some of the Democratic Party's biggest all-stars who on are also African-American.
Earlier today in Selma, we saw Doug Jones campaigning with former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick. And that here at Alabama State University which is a historically black college there will be an event later with senator Cory Booker from New Jersey -- Ana.
CABRERA: Alex Marquardt in Montgomery, thank you. Keep us posted as those events unfolds today.
I want to talk more about this with CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Alice Alex Stewart, also CNN political commentator Charles Blow and former Republican congressman from Georgia Jack Kingston.
Charles, we know Doug Jones, he needs to have high African-American voter turnout if he wants to compete in this race to have a chance of winning the Alabama senate seat. Do you think the flyer that has now started its own little controversy was wise?
CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't put much stock in the flyer. What I think is happening here is this is a referendum on Republican voters and whether or not and what they believe at their core is important to them on a moral basis, on a principled basis, right.
So you will always going to have in your life elections where you have a person who represents most of the things that you believe in, but they have some baggage that they are carrying. He is carrying --
CABRERA: Nobody is perfect. BLOW: Nobody is perfect. So if you are a real voter, real engaged in
the citizenry, and up over your end of the bargain, you get out of that and grow up out of it. But this is not that sort of baggage. This is a whole different ball game. And he represents everything that the Republicans should be afraid of people attaching to their brand.
CABRERA: They were at first, right? I mean even the President --
BLOW: Right. And in Washington they were. But whether or not the voters on the ground are is a different question, right. Homophobic, crazy racial history, the sex allegations, his attitudes towards women. Not only do you make a mockery of what they have professed their beliefs to be, he makes a mockery and hypocrite of Donald Trump. Although he has done it with himself.
Trump on the campaign trail said, I will be the best on women. Well, you are advocating for this guy who said women shouldn't run for office.
CABRERA: So let me - let me ask -- hold your thought for a second because we want to dig deeper on this.
Alice, the President, you know, he has now gone all-in for Roy Moore. And that was after he was a little reluctant initially it seemed. He now says that it is about electing somebody who can support his agenda and the agenda of the Republican Party. But I know you as a Republican, somebody who has represents some of other opponents of the President in the past had cruse campaign, you believe that the President is wrong with this move.
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I do. And the Republican Party I think is making a mistake here.
Look, Charles wrote a really fascinating piece on this race recently where he said he lived a life with a Republican Party that he disagrees but at least he understands. Whereas me, I spent a life with Republican Party that I agree but I don't understand their decision in this case. I don't understand how they can put political outcome over principals and integrity. I don't understand how one conservative voice in the senate out-ways the many credible voices from women who have the sexual allegations against Roy Moore.
And I think I believe I have, since this began, that it would be more important for the party to stand behind someone with integrity that doesn't have the cloud hanging over them, that will be someone that will support the President and those views and values and have a write-in candidate that can support our conservative ss.
But the end of the day, obviously, the party disagrees and the President disagrees. And it would be up to the people of Alabama to make that important decision. And what we are hearing and seeing a lot of times is that they would much rather have someone that supports their conservative values and especially the backlash that they have heard from Washington -- CABRERA: Does he really support their values is the broader question
here, Jack. Because beyond the child molestation accusations where Moore is very controversial. He was twice ousted from the Alabama Supreme Court. But he is also said that he believes former President Obama isn't an American citizen. That some U.S. cities are under sharia law and then a Muslim member of Congress. Keith Ellison should be prohibited from taking the congressional oath in Koran instead of a bible. He said that a lack of faith played a role in 9/11 and homosexual contact should be illegal. He also said at a rally back in September that the last time America was great was quote "at a time when families were united even though we had slavery." He says that was according to the "L.A. Times."
So given all of that, do you think that the President is making a mistake attaching himself to this candidate after initially stepping back and saying let the voters decide?
[16:15:27] JACK KINGSTON, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER RO THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Well, I think he is certainly taking a risk and that is why he is not going into Alabama. And he is not doing everything that he Moore and that is why he supported Luther Strange in primary originally.
But I think stepping back, what he outlined yesterday is if you look at what we have been able to do with ISIS and what we have been able to do jobs and the economy and the Supreme Court, if you vote for Doug Jones, you know for certain that he is going to vote against all of this along with being radical pro-choice and anti-gun. So your decision is do you walk across the street with a shoe that has a stone in it? Are you better off walking off bare-footed? And we already know that three of our Republican senators don't vote with the Republicans always and seem to be very anti-Trump. So I think he is taking a very difficult pragmatic approach to --.
CABRERA: Do you think it is the right approach?
KINGSTON: Well, I think it is you are darned if you do and darned if you don't because what he is saying is I don't like the means at all, but the ends is what I need to get. And I need to get Supreme Court justices that are conservative and constitutionalist. And I need to let you keep your guns.
CABRERA: OK. So you are saying that there is justification there.
But Charles, you were talking about character, morality, integrity. I mean, these are Christian values. We know Roy Moore, his base is the evangelical contingent there in Alabama. Why do they support him so unconditionally?
BLOW: I have no idea actually. I mean, I grew up disagreeing with conservatives but understanding them. Like I understood that it was a moral argument that they were making and I could at least contextualize it in that way. I knew that these were their red lines in the sand where they wouldn't cross.
This is a new world. But the moment that Republicans allow Trump to say what he had said on that "Access Hollywood" tape and still hold their noses and cast that ballot, I was already in no man's land. I didn't know where I was in terms of the Republicans that I had known. If these Republicans go ahead and elect Roy Moore, with the child abuse, pedophilia accusations in addition to the things that he has said On the Record, then I don't know what they stand for anymore. I don't know what this is. Because even when Kellyanne Conway has talked about it, even when Trump has talked about it, that's not what they (INAUDIBLE). They said borders and taxes and like it was -- you cannot tell me that building a border wall is more important to you than keeping accused pedophile out of Congress because that just eats up the core of --.
KINGSTON: Let me give you one example though, Ana. Let me give you one example. If you are pro-choice and you know and this is part of their web page Planned Parenthood aborts 325,000 unborn children a year, 325,000. And you know Doug Jones will vote for funding for Planned Parenthood and for abortion, then you may say, listen, that issue alone is going to make me vote for Roy Moore. And he does have a 20 or 30 year track record in public office of being pro-family.
Now, you know, I'm not going to be here saying that he is a perfect candidate. But there are reasons to intellectually go in to this thing conflicted. And so I just want to make that point.
STEWART: And Ana --.
CABRERA: I did hear that from a lot of people who did vote for the President. When I was out there as a correspondent in the field talking to people who are long time Republicans who said that they were struggling with who to vote for or not to vote at all, but ultimately they were going to vote for Donald Trump even after the "Access Hollywood" tape for example because of some of the longer temp implications of having a Republican versus a Democrat in the White House like the Supreme Court piece that you had talked about earlier.
But Alice, before you answer, I think, you know, this sort of hits a lot of what we were discussing. This is an op-ed in the "New York Times" that I read from David Brooks. And just one quick quote. He says that the Republican Party is doing harm to every cause it purchase ports to serve. If Republicans accept Roy Moore as United States senator, they may for a couple years have one more vote for a justice or a tax cut, but they will have made their party loathsome for an entire generation. Do you agree?
STEWART: I think loathsome is a little difficult word. But I think he is right, I think that they are making a huge mistake in doing this. But they have made their choice and they made their bed and they will lie on it.
But to Jack's point, many Alabama voters, many of them, are policy voters. And they are putting aside these sexual harassment, these pedophile allegations and they are looking at it from the standpoint I'm not going to support Doug Jones because he is pro-abortion. And that is what many of them are making their decision on.
And that being said, the campaign and Steve Bannon played this wise by making this not about the allegations, but about making this about don't let Washington tell you how to vote. Don't let fake news take away your vote. Don't let the GOP establishment tell you how to vote. Make your own decision. And they have made sure that the focus has been on that as opposed to the allegation and with as close as this race is, it seems to be paying off despite all these allegations.
[16:20:51] CABRERA: In three days we'll find out for sure.
Alice Stewart, Charles Blow, Jack Kingston, thank you all for the thoughtful discussion.
And now, I want to do a quick fact check on something the President said during his rally last night. He claimed falsely in a black home ownership has hit a record high during his time in office. First here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I love these guys. Look at these guys. Blacks for Trump. I love you. I love you. By the way, now that you bring it up, black home ownership just hit the highest level it's ever been in the history of our country. Congratulations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Actually that is not even close to being true. The U.S. census finds that black ownership rate peaked during 2004 when 49.7 percent of black households owned homes. This year, it's around 42 percent.
Coming up, as several inches of snow cover the Deep South, knocking out power, wildfires are still ravaging parts of California. Hundreds of homes lost, at least one person has died. Where the greatest risk still lies coming up next live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[16:26:17] CABRERA: Welcome back.
We want to take you right to the fire lines in California. Incredible images all week long here. This is what crews are facing, what people are fleeing and unfortunately, Mother Nature still is not cooperating. Extremely dangerous and now deadly fires are racing across the region. And the strong hot Santa Ana winds are expected to increase over the next few day.
Let me show you the match. Six fires have burned, 175,000 acres total this week, destroying nearly 800 structures. Many of those homes. Largest wildfire, the Thomas fire, scorched at least 148,000 acres in Ventura County. And that is where our Kyung Lah is joining us from now.
Kyung, this is one of the biggest and the most destructive wildfires now in California history. We see the devastation behind you.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is just in this one block, Ana, that you get a real quick snapshot of what is happening here. There are about seven homes, I'm going to walk you just this way. And if you look down this way even further, just this one area, but this is a very dangerous fire, 148,000 acres. The governor of California going by air to see the destruction himself.
GOV. JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA: We are facing a new reality in the state where fires threaten people's lives. Their property, their neighborhoods. And of course billions and billions of dollars. So we have to have the resources to combat the fires. And we also have to invest in managing vegetation and forests and all the way we dwell in this very wonderful place, but a place that is getting hotter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAH: And you also heard from the governor talking about this wind event. The wind is what is making everything so dangerous, why much of California remains in this burn area remains under a mandatory evacuation order. But some of the orders are beginning to be lifted and we are starting to see the homeowners returned to see what is left.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID KARIAN, PARENTS LOST HOUSE IN FIRE: A lifetime. A couple lifetimes. And like I said, they are 84, 83. My mom and dad. They have been living here for 30 years. They built it themselves. There is not much, but if there are a few things, it will help them, you know, have some connection to the past. And that's what I'm trying to do. It is what it is. Material stuff, but like you said, memories of a lot of years. And we will see where it goes from here. I don't know what they will do. It's a process. It's still shock. Still trying to understand.
A little box. A little lizard. Don't ask me. But you know what, if it helps, it helps. Despite all the loss, we are fortunate. We have family close by and we have other options. And, you know, it is material stuff. Other people have so much more tragedy in their life that we have nothing to complain about. And you have to just focus on that. Makes the rest of it kind of easier to deal with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAH: Just one family's story. There were some 500 approximately 500 families affected in this one fire. Fifteen thousand structures, Ana, remain under threat due to this fire which is burning in the hills. The weather conditions expected to deteriorate tomorrow -- Ana.
[16:30:10] CABRERA: It does not sound good.
Kyung Lah, thank you. Stay safe my friend.
Coming up, polarize caps aren't the only thing disappearing these days. So are references to the climate change, period, on the EPA Web site. The details next live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[16:34:53] CABRERA: There are growing concerns about the Trump administration's mark on the Environmental Protection Agency especially after a new report by a group of environmental monitors revealing more changes to the EPA website.
CNN government regulation correspondent Rene Marsh brings us the details --Rene.
[16:35:11] RENE MARSH, CNN GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, this is a group of ten volunteers using software alerts them when a change is made to the agency's website. They have been tracking the changes since President Trump got into office and they say the EPA is slowly erasing the facts.
MARSH (voice-over): It happened again. The Environmental Protection Agency is scrubbing more references to climate change from the agency's website. In the EPA strategic plan, climate change resilient is gone. And links on how to adapt to climate change, gone, too.
On EPA's web page for the nation's most contaminated super fund site, click the climate change link, you will find it is being updated to reflect EPA's priorities under the leadership of President Trump.
SCOTT PRUITT, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: I don't even -- what it means to deny the climate? I would say they are exaggerators.
MARSH: The agency says of course the site will be reflected of the current administration's priority. But this isn't the first time the Trump administration has wiped away references to climate change. CNN reported in April the agency scrubbed this page devoted to climate change. Instead this message popped up.
Andrew Bergman is a part of the team of academics and nonprofit monitoring the government Web site for changes.
What is the ultimate end goal?
ANDREW BERGMAN, ENVIRONMENTAL DATA & GOVERNANCE INITIATIVE: I think in the short term to be able to, you know, more easily repeal certain regulations they don't like without as much push back from the public.
MARSH: The EPA says that all the content from the previous administration is still easily available and publicly available on its website, but the monitors we spoke to say while it doesn't appear that the agency has deleted any information, they have archived it in ways that are not easy to find - Ana.
CABRERA: Rene Marsh, thank you.
Coming up, the economy is roaring. The stock market is soaring. So why is Trump's approval at its lowest point in his presidency with only 32 percent in a recent polls supporting him? We will discuss next.
[16:41:34] CABRERA: President Trump is back in his comfort zone last night. He had a campaign rally along the Alabama-Florida border. And he had a lot to brag about. The stock market at a record high, the economy is doing incredibly well. That is true. But Mr. Trump, he could not resist going back to his greatest hits. He mocked protesters. He slammed Hillary Clinton. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Did you ever see these signs? Resist, Resist. These resisters resists. Hillary resisted and do you know what happened? She lost the election in a landslide.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Could this have something to do with the President's attacks? Despite a booming economy, new polls find only 32 percent of Americans approved of the job. President Trump is doing as president, a whopping 63 percent disapprove.
So let's bring in a couple guys to help put this in perspective for us. CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for the "Atlantic" Ron Brownstein and CNN presidential historian Tim Naftali.
So Ron, I want everybody to look at this graphic. This really breaks it down.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
CABRERA: The President's approval rating, you can see there slipping in every group, even down double digit to non-college white and white evangelical, the key segments of his base. Yet we have a soaring economy and he is continuing to check off some of his most controversial promises with that Jerusalem announcement just this week. So what do you think is going on?
BROWNSTEIN: These are personal judgment about him, about his values, about the way he approaches the office, about the way he interacts with other leaders at home and abroad and the way he defines his presidency as a war essentially of one segment of America against another.
To underscore your point, he is actually having more trouble with the people who are doing best in the economy than he is among the working class white voters who are still struggling in terms of wages. I mean, his approval among college educated whites is down in the mid- 30s, well below when it normally be for a Republican president.
CABRERA: I guess it is not just the economy stupid.
BROWNSTEIN: It is not just the economy stupid. It really about - we have been heading in this direction anyway for the last 25 years of a politics that is more where the party coalitions are defined more by values than by interests. But President Trump really accelerates this because he defines himself I think as essentially the voice of all of those who feel eclipsed or marginalized in a changing America.
The risk of that for the Republican Party is that he is systemically alienating all the segments of the population and portions of the geography that really are defining the future. All of the big diverse globally oriented information age metros are moving very sharply away from this in North Virginia in the governor's race there. And that is the danger even as he holds on to the folks who really are still struggling the most at least on the white side of the population and the economy.
CABRERA: Tim, put this into some broader perspective, historical perspective. What does an approval rating like this mean for a President that is not even a year into his presidency?
TIMOTHY NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: It doesn't mean very much for him. It means a lot for Congress because of course we are a year away from an election, a midterm election. And if members of Congress see this approval rating translating into a loss of support for their party, then they might start taking fewer risks.
Now we haven't seen that so far because the only people who are seem to be taking risks among the congressional leadership are the people who are not - or not running again. But if, few months from now, these numbers stay low, then members of Congress are going to have to say - are going to have to think do we want to take a risk that there will be an election that will give so much support to the Democrats that the Democrats will take over both the House and Senate.
So we are not there yet. But that is one reason why people look at approval ratings. It is not so much for the president. The President has four years. What he doesn't want to lose, however, are his majorities in the House and Senate.
[16:45:44] CABRERA: But the fact that, again, the convergence here of his approval so low, the economy so high, it is kind of baffling. Do you think, Tim, that the Russia investigation has anything to do with the approval?
NAFTALI: Well, the Pew survey had interesting data on Russia. And it appears that though not a majority of Republicans think that member of the Trump administration had inappropriate contacts with Russia, 27 percent, almost 30 percent believe that, and a vas vast majority of Democrats do. So that means that a majority of Americans believe that the Trump team had inappropriate actions or inappropriate relations with Russia. That is a big deal.
But I think something else is going on here. We are all experiencing a real life experiments. We are guinea pigs in an experiment. President Trump is betting that he can change the norms of the presidency. In other words, the way the President acts. If you look at past Presidents, they always do well when they appeal to our better angels.
When they appeal to us as all Americans, when their rhetoric is in composing, look at Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan moved to - Ronald Reagan's approval ratings were not as low by any stretch as the ones that President Trump has now, but they weren't that strong in the first couple of years. As Presidents begin to use more inclusive language, their popularity grows. Now President Trump is going in the opposite direction.
CABRERA: He is trying to appeal even more to the cultural divide.
NAFTALI: He is being sectarian.
CABRERA: Those who he knows were with him all along with from the very beginning. In fact, I mean, instead of doing what you just suggested and trying to unite, listen to what he was saying just last night, Ron, and then I'm going to come to you.
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TRUMP: This is a rigged system. This is a sick system from the inside. And, you know, there is no country like our country, but we have a lot of sickness in some of our institutions. And we are working very hard. We have a lot of it straightened out, but we do have -- we really do, we have a rigged system in this country. And we have to change it. Terrible.
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CABRERA: So Ron, even as the commander in chief now, the President still presents himself as an outsider and was cheering when people were saying "lock her up" last night.
BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Well, look. I mean, I think as I said, I mean, I think it is striking that his approval is so low while the economy is so good. You wonder what would happen if the economy slips along the way. But it is rooted in a series of person judgments about him. You are seeing 60 percent-plus saying he is not honest, that he doesn't have the temperament and judgment to succeed as president. That he doesn't share my values. That he is a divider not a uniter. And that essentially he is kind of accelerating, intensifying what has been a general Republican balance or approach really since Ronald Reagan of a cultural agenda that is a mostly working class priorities and resentments of working class and evangelical and nonurban and older whites and an economic agenda that is aimed to those at the very top. And is what we see in that tax bill.
And what this has done is put a lot of strain on the Republican coalition. On the one end, you see for example, in the CBS poll this week, only 30 percent of non-college whites thought that the tax bill would help them. And on the other hand, you see the kind of the white collar portion of the Republican coalition pulling back around the way Trump talks about race and culture. I thought that the widespread resignations from his business council after Charlottesville last summer was really a trail of bread crumbs for Democrats for the 2018 election because they embody the kind of voters who are most pulling away who as I said we most saw pull away in Virginia.
And I think by the way we are going to see the same thing in Alabama. I think that you are going to see a lot of white collar moving away from the Republican Party, a solid turnout among minorities and millenials or dis -affective on Trump. But the blue color evangelical and rural vote standing very strong with Roy Moore and I think that is the pattern that is going to be locked in for 2018 and it really puts control of the House on a nice edge.
CABRERA: All right. Gentlemen, thank you. I always have more questions and wish we had more time. Thanks both of you for being here and offering your thoughts.
Now only 17 of these mammals are left. How a porpoise finds itself in a battle for survival between fish mafia, the black market and drug cartels.
[16:54:39] CABRERA: Only 17 Mexican porpoises, 17, known as (INAUDIBLE) are left in the world as fishing games have hunted another endangered species. The rare porpoises has been caught right in the middle. And CNN embedded with both conservationists and illegal fishing cartels for this compelling documentary. Here is a peek.
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[16:55:55] CABRERA: You can watch the full feature on CNN money, "Vaquita, the business of extinction."
We will be right back.