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NEW DAY SUNDAY

Trump to Tout Controversial Immigration in 1st State of the Union Address; Rubio Fires Chief of Staff After "Improper Conduct"; Lawmakers Plan Bills to Protect Mueller from Firing; State Department Employees Allege "Political Retribution"; Twitter: Russian Bots Retweeted Trump Nearly 500,000 Times; 60th Grammy Awards to Honor Music and #MeToo Movement. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired January 28, 2018 - 07:00   ET

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


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- people are saying, man, I wish George W. Bush was still our president right about now.

[07:00:05] So I just wanted to address my fellow Americans tonight and remind you guys that I was really bad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tuesday night will be interesting because it will be the State of the Union. I wonder who is going to show up. Is it going to be the Goldman Sachs scripted Trump or is it going to be the bloom and doom and carnage Trump?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everybody wants to solve the DACA problem. They have been wanting to solve it for a long time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a path forward on this. We can do this in a bipartisan way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obviously, what happens in Vegas is not staying in Vegas. If the allegations are true, then, yes, I think you would have to be -- contributions would have to be refunded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the president were to fire Robert Mueller, that would set off a political firestorm the likes of which we haven't seen since Watergate.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: It's 7:00 on a Sunday. And always so grateful for your company. I'm Christi Paul.

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

PAUL: Just two days now. Two days before President Trump is going to deliver his first State of the Union address in what could be one of the biggest moments of his presidency at the end of the day, a lot of people wondering, is he going to play politics or is he going to try to bridge this divide in our country?

SAVIDGE: At the forefront of his speech is going to be immigration. The president is set to sell his controversial plan that has lawmakers on both sides of the aisle skeptical to say the least. Trump foreshadowed what he could say in his speech blasting Democrats on Twitter overnight over DACA and border security.

PAUL: The White House is still silent this morning on a sex scandal surrounding a top Republican Party official. Steve Wynn has stepped now as the finance chair of the Republican National Committee amid these reports that he forced dozens of women to perform sex acts on him at his casino.

SAVIDGE: And we are learning new details about the bipartisan effort to stop the president from firing special counselor Bob Mueller in the midst of the Russia investigation.

PAUL: Let's start with President Trump's anticipated State of the Union Address. CNN Politics reporter Dan Merica joining us now.

Dan, good to see you this morning.

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Good morning.

PAUL: The president, I know, already calling out Democrats ahead of this speech. Walk us through what's been said thus far.

MERICA: So, the president, we're told, is really going to put on his salesman-in-chief hat on Tuesday night and try to sell this unpopular immigration plan. The White House is calling remarkable when they rolled it out last week. They managed to upset both Democrats and Republicans.

Now, you remember the plan would include a pathway for citizenship for 1.8 million recipients of DACA and other people who are here undocumented. It would also include funding for the border wall, as well as tightening immigration laws across the board really. And Democrats say they will be giving up too much to protect the DACA population. Republicans are saying you're giving way too many people a pathway to citizenship.

Now, plenty of presidents in the past have used their State of the Union to kind of reach across the aisle to speak not just to their base, but to a broader American population and President Trump is going to try and do that. But the tweets that he sent last night on immigration don't really seem to lend itself to that possibility. He said, and I want to read to you, I have offered DACA a wonderful deal, included in a doubling in a number of recipients and a 12-year pathway to citizenship for two reasons, because the Republicans want to fix a long time terrible problem, two, to show that Democrats do not want to solve DACA, only use it.

If that's his message on Tuesday night, Democrats are going to be left kind of confused as to how he expects them to get on board with an immigration plan where he will need Democratic support when he is going to slam them on Twitter just days before.

PAUL: All righty. So, I want to talk real quickly, too, before we let you go about the finance chair for the Republican national committee Steve Wynn. Again, forced to step down in the wake of these reports he forced dozens of women -- himself on dozens of women, I guess I should say. A lot of people waiting to hear from the White House. Any indication that they will address this publicly?

MERICA: The reality is they are going to have to. At some point, the White House has to come out and acknowledge the fact that a personal friend of President Trump's is under these accusations and this is somebody who President Trump was a long time rival of but then he hand-picked Steve Wynn to lead the finance operation at the RNC.

Now, the RNC chairwoman did release a statement basically saying I accepted his resignation. Nothing more.

President Trump has not weighed in. We are told he was kept apprised of the developments in this story but you are exactly right. A lot of people are waiting to hear what the White House has to say and that they are going to have to, at some point, weigh in on this matter.

PAUL: Yes, I wonder if it will be before or after Tuesday's speech.

[07:00:05] So much -- so good to see you, Dan. Thank you.

MERICA: Great to see you.

SAVIDGE: And that sets up a pretty good discussion. So, joining me now is Siraj Hashmi, commentary writer and editor for "The Washington Examiner", and Sarah Westwood, White House correspondent for "The Washington Examiner".

Thank you both for being here.

SIRAJ HASHMI, COMMENTARY WRITER AND EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Thank you for having me.

SAVIDGE: Siraj, the president has been hard to pin down, let's face it, when it comes to where he stands on immigration but the White House says that it does plan to release its immigration plan tomorrow, both hard line conservatives and liberals have balked at that plan, at least from what we know of it so far.

So, what does the president need to say to get both of these groups on board?

HASHMI: Right now, there is actually nothing that president can say, except that if he were to change the numbers of the number of undocumented immigrants that he would give a pathway to citizenship to. Right now, 1.8 million undocumented immigrants simply is far too high for many of his base, as well as congressional Republicans. And you're looking at, obviously, a limitation to chain migration, his base would refer that would end entirely. And then $25 billion for the border wall, that's something that is actually probably a good thing for them.

But if you're looking in this in terms of sports, Donald Trump winning the election is akin to going to the Super Bowl and with Sarah Westwood being from Georgia, this is akin to the Atlanta Falcons basically giving up 25 points to the New England Patriots and basically fumbling this opportunity, because immigration for them is a Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, World Series, all wrapped into one.

SAVIDGE: You really have played to a home crowd there.

(LAUGHTER)

SAVIDGE: All right. Sarah, you know, White House officials when we talk about the State of the Union which, of course, is coming up Tuesday, I can think of no more traditional presidential event than a State of the Union and, yet, we are dealing with a president who prides itself at not being traditional.

So, should we expect that this speech that he will deliver, is it going to be significantly different, say, from his inaugural speech or do you think it's going to be the inspiring, uniting kind of speech that many would like to hear?

SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: If you ask the White House, they say this is the kind of speech that President Trump delivered in his joint address to Congress last year where he earned bipartisan accolades and came at a time there was still a lot of jitters about what kind of President Trump would be and, at the time, he sort of assured people that he did have a second gear, that he could turn off the bluster and express the kind of speech that you might expect any other Republican president to give. And that's what we're likely to see on Tuesday.

President Trump is not likely to attack Democrats in the speech. He is not likely to go off script and make the kind of errant comments that sometimes get him into trouble at rallies. This is the kind of disciplined Trump that we saw at the U.N. General Assembly, just last weekend in Davos. It's the kind of Trump we are likely to see on Tuesday in the chamber.

SAVIDGE: All right. Well, I think many people will tune in to see which Trump shows up. Often what we measure after a speech is approval ratings and if you look at the previous three presidents before and after their first inaugural addresses and we can do that for you, President Obama, 2010 he saw no change in his approval rating and President Bush in 2002 saw his approval rating drop by two points and President Clinton in 1994 saw his approval rating tick up four points.

So, does the State of the Union speech, I should say, matter generally or in this new age of Trump, does it really not make any difference, Siraj?

HASHMI: Well, right now, we kind of get a State of the Union Address from President Trump almost every day through his Twitter feed. So, the State of the Union has sort of lost its luster the last few years even under President Obama. You know, these type of addresses, they really don't map out what the policy agendas are for each president because we already know what President Trump's agenda is. It's to really focus on immigration and also to focus on trade. And those are the two main agendas that he is put in place this year.

Right now, when it comes to the State of the Union, I would have to agree with Sarah in terms of, you know, not really attacking Democrats but really focus on staying on message, because it's really worked for him. If you saw in Davos, he was a rock star there and it was something that not many people really seemed to think would actually happen that he would come away with looking really good and that's even coming from a lot of his detractors. He looked much better than most people would think concerning the fact that World Economic Forum is pretty much for the top 0.1 percent and it's filled with globalists.

SAVIDGE: And there's no question at times president Trump can deliver a speech and talk about something and come across in way that does surprise, especially his detractors. And then the next day or two he comes out with something, like there he s he is back. I'm wondering, the president has historically low approval ratings and do you think, Sarah, that he might be able to broaden his appeal perhaps with this speech and what he lays out?

[07:10:06] WESTWOOD: That's entirely possible. That's the sort of results we saw from the bipartisan address to Congress last year. President Trump really has nowhere to go but up with a speech like this. And a lot of times, many Americans view President Trump through the lens of late night comedy shows and negative cable news coverage.

This is his opportunity to speak to the American people for more than an hour without the filter of commentary that normally doesn't skew in his favor. So, for President Trump, this is an opportunity to not necessarily win hearts and minds, but show a different side of himself to people and lay out in a more clear way for lawmakers in Washington who see him every day without that filter, what his priorities will be because even though we know maybe what his positions are on any given issue, we don't necessarily know what specific policies the White House is going to champion over the next year.

Are they going to focus more on infrastructure, the opioid crisis? Are they really going to encourage Congress to bring back earmarks? This is the kind of the questions that a State of the Union Address can answer.

SAVIDGE: Siraj, real quick, do you think in any way the president is going to directly confront the investigation that looms over him, the Russia investigation?

HASHMI: Well, he said that he is willing to testify or at least speak to Robert Mueller under oath. I know his legal team is probably setting their hair on fire considering the fact it is a horrible idea, knowing that President Trump can say things --

SAVIDGE: But in the State of the Union, do you expect him to address it? HASHMI: No, I don't think he'll address it in the State of the Union.

That will give legitimacy to the probe and I don't think he wants to do that at all.

SAVIDGE: All right. Siraj Hashmi and Sarah Westwood, good to see you both, thank you.

HASHMI: Thank you.

PAUL: Well, Senator Marco Rubio says he immediately fired his chief of staff from what he calls improper relations with a subordinate. The senator didn't name anyone in his statement but his chief of staff has been identified as Clint Reed. The senator says Reed allegedly engaged in improper conduct and threatened to withhold employment payments from the subordinate now. The senator also said the allegations were reported directly to him, that he then immediately began an investigation with his general counsel.

Democratic lawmakers are continuing their legislative push to protect Robert Mueller from being fired by the president. And there are now, we know some more details about a couple of the proposals that are being floated out there.

SAVIDGE: Casino mogul Steve Wynn has stepped down from his post at the RNC. So far, silence from the White House. Should we expect the administration to weigh in?

And you don't hear from him very often, do you? But hip-hop icon Jay- Z is getting political and a little bit personal too. Why he says reaction to President Trump's remarks about African countries is an expression of pain that has been brewing for quite sometime.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY-Z, HIP-HOP ICON: Everyone feels anger, but after the anger is really hurtful because you're looking down on a whole population of people. And you're so misinformed because these places have beautiful people and have beautiful everything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:17:06] PAUL: So, there are now two bipartisan bills in the Senate that aim to protect special counsel Robert Mueller by reining in the president's power to fire him. So, let's talk about this one bill would give a special counsel the chance to challenge the firing in court before a panel of three federal judges. The other would require the attorney general to first get approval from the three-judge panel before the special counsel could be fired.

So, let's talk about it with Brent Budowsky, opinion columnist at "The Hill", and CNN political commentator, Jack Kingston.

Gentlemen, so good to have both of you here. Thank you. Jack, first of all, essentially it sounds like either of these options would make it impossible for the president on his own to fire a special counsel. Would you vote for something like this?

JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. It's stupid. There is a constitutional remedy for this and it's called impeachment. These are political bills. I'm not sure why Thom Tillis got on this train. But they are just going to be talking points because the Democrats do not have an agenda and they have to stir up the Russian thing and keep it alive with all of these threats.

PAUL: But there are two Republican senators. We have got -- yes, Thom Tillis and we also have Lindsey Graham. I mean, there are Republicans behind both of these proposals.

KINGSTON: You know, they'll never see the light of day. I was there when we let the special prosecutor law lapse. That was in 1999. It was about a 10-year law. And the reason why is special prosecutors and special counsels are runaway trains, they have unlimited budgets and they don't quit until they have nailed somebody.

Case in point would be the Valerie Plame prosecutor where they were supposed to find out who the leaker was and they found out who the leaker was but that's not who they prosecuted. They prosecuted, instead, Dick Cheney's chief of staff.

And members in Congress in both parties absolutely positively know this. They don't talk it publicly because it sounds like a bad thing to do politically, but they know these people are -- right now, what is Mueller supposed to be investigating? Collusion only! But now, he is going to go after the money laundering.

PAUL: That happened in the Clinton investigations.

KINGSTON: Absolutely.

PAUL: You never know what else you might uncover.

KINGSTON: That is why the Democrats agree. Ken Starr was supposed to go going after real estate transactions with Whitewater. Instead, it leads to a 24-year -- sexual misconduct with a 24-year-old intern.

And that's why both parties realized that these people who are unaccountable with unlimited budgets, they don't quit until they have got somebody's neck in a noose.

PAUL: OK. Brent, I want to point one other thing out. Both of these are proposals they want to tie to the spending talks, to funding the government, that stopgap spending measure. That expires February 8th. Do you see a shutdown?

KINGSTON: As a Republican, I only hope they try to tie that in to --

PAUL: I'm sorry. Can I give that to Brent, please? I want to get his take in here! I'm going to get back to you, Jack. I wanted to get your take too, Brent. [07:20:00] BRENT BUDOWSKY, OPINION COLUMNIST, THE HILL: Well, I think

it's unlikely that the shutdown showdown is where this issue was raised. I think it's going to be red hot starring tomorrow as members of the House and Senate come back to Washington, having just heard that apparently Trump tried to fire Mueller and apparently his White House counsel threatened to resign as FBI Director Christopher Wray apparently threatened to resign when he was under pressure about Assistant FBI Director McCabe.

Your segment was right earlier when they had the caller that said Russia will be hovering over the State of the Union Address. And the most interesting address on the State of the Union will be the response given by Congressman Joe Kennedy who has a brilliant future in American politics. I suspect he will mention this issue we are talking about right now. I suspect he will be acclaimed across America as a great hope for what the Democrats stand for and have some impact in the future campaigns.

But fundamentally, Republicans do not want to be accused of opposing this bill and aiding and abetting an obstruction of justice. In practical and moral terms, if not legal is what they will be doing if they vote no. I think there's a good chance it gets 51 votes in the Senate. They don't want to filibuster this, do they?

PAUL: No, they don't but they do need GOP support.

KINGSTON: It will never go to the floor.

PAUL: Jack, I want to ask you if we are going to hear -- we have Dan Merica saying the White House has to come forward and say something about Steve Wynn. Will they do that before or after Tuesday night?

KINGSTON: Well, I think they've already said something about it. Steve Wynn is gone. Steve Wynn --

PAUL: They haven't released a formal statement. There's no formal statement from the White House.

KINGSTON: But I don't know that they really need to. This would be just me. You know, the system has worked. You know? Ronna McDaniel was very, very of strong in her statement against Harvey Weinstein and his millions of dollars which he gave to Hillary Clinton and other Democrats. Not millions to Hillary but Democrats in general.

And I think that that is a statement that really led to this as much as anything else that Steve Wynn --

PAUL: But do you think the White House should come out and at least address that? There were so many calls when Weinstein was found out for Democrats to give money back.

KINGSTON: I think if the White House was out there defending him and saying, keep him in there, that would be the stronger play to look for, and since that did not happen, I think their silence shows basically that they are in agreement that he needed to resign. And so, I think most people understand that. If I was advising the president on it, I would say you don't need to

say anything. The fact you haven't said anything and he is gone and it was dealt with in a very short period of time, that is a strong statement in itself.

PAUL: All righty. Brent, I want to get to you quickly on something else that happened. We just talked about what we are hearing from Senator Marco Rubio's office. In this statement, he complained what happened when his chief of staff was accused of improper conduct and this is part of the statement.

He said, this evening, I travelled from Florida to Washington D.C. and terminated his employment effective immediately. We have taken steps to ensure that those impacted by this conduct have access to any services they may require now or in the future.

What do you make of that swift action we are seeing from him? Does it signify some sort of change?

BUDOWSKY: Yes. I give Senator Rubio credit for the swift reaction. I think that's good. The most important thing politically when you watch the Steve Wynn scandal unfold and the Rubio issue and Donald Trump's problems with women, right now, there are women all over America who were given voice by the women's march. They want to register one million new voters.

And that is huge, that women and blacks and Hispanics who were spider of what has been happening have the capacity and power to change the world. And every time there is another story like the Steve Wynn story, every time women watch CNN and others, they are doubling and tripling their commitment to register a million new voters to change America, to move us into the 21st century, to end these abuses from both parties of people who have done the abuse.

But that is a powerful movement in history what the women are standing up for now, and they are going to prevail one way or another. And a million new voters could end up being 2 million voters. That is going to change the 2018 midterm elections and the presidential campaign beyond that.

PAUL: Jack, I have 15 seconds. Your reaction to Rubio?

KINGSTON: I'd say Marco Rubio acted promptly, swiftly and strong, and I think that's the way that most people will be doing. And I do want to point out to my friend Brent that women will be out there voting because it's the highest level of female jobs and business ownership. It's the lowest unemployment level for African-Americans since 1972, and the lowest unemployment level in general for decades. So, I think the economy is going to be really a strong ticket and the Republican Party will have the wind at their back because of it.

PAUL: Well, we will see. Brent Budowsky and Jack Kingston, always appreciate your perspective, gentlemen. Thank you.

KNGSTON: Thanks, Christi.

PAUL: Sure.

[07:25:00] SAVIDGE: Coming up, a CNN exclusive. An increasing number of State Department employees are hiring lawyers, claiming that they are victims of political retribution. We'll have that story just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: Twenty-nine minutes past of the hour. Good to have you this morning. I'm Christi Paul.

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

Some Democratic lawmakers are asking the State Department watchdog why several employees have allegedly been moved from their usual areas of expertise to clerical work.

PAUL: Yes. The employees told CNN they were being targeted, they believe, for political reasons because of the work that they did under the last administration.

CNN's global affairs correspondent Elise Labott has the details in this exclusive report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christi, Martin, top Democratic lawmakers are now calling on the State Department's watchdog to take what they called an immediate review of personal practices at the department after a CNN report saying a growing number of employees believe they are being politically targeted and put in career purgatory for their work under the last administration.

[07:30:18] Representatives Eliot Engel and Elijah Cummings, ranking members of the Foreign Affairs Committee and Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent a letter to the State Department's inspector general Friday citing CNN's report on the issue. Several officials tell CNN they have retained attorneys after repeatedly trying unsuccessfully to raise concerns about being assigned to Freedom of Information Act requests.

Now, that congressman letter cites, quote, credible allegations that the State Department has required high level career civil service with distinguished records serving administration's of both parties to move to performing tasks outside of their area of substantive expertise. At the very least, the congressman charged, this is a waste of taxpayer dollars. At worst, it may constitute impermissible abuse and retaliation.

Now, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has made clearing a backlog of FOIA requests a priority. He's reassigned staff throughout the building to help, as part of what he calls a FOIA surge. Now, many of those assigned include senior employees who used to be detailed to other agencies or offices created by President Obama as policy priorities which the Trump administration does not support. Now, the State Department denies political retribution is involved.

Spokeswoman Heather Nauert says it's an all-hands-on-deck effort. In a statement to CNN, Nauert says, quote, it may not be a glamorous job but it's an important one. People are asked to serve there because there is a need. It is without regard to politics.

And many of these employees are happy to help but want to give substantive work on these FOIA requests like handling classified information or dealing with former governments named in the documents. They want to know why they are being asked to do the most menial of tasks when a month ago, they were negotiating with foreign governments and advising the national security adviser, even the president, on national security matters. Now they are asked to do data entry and Google searches, alongside interns and civil service employees 10 grades below them.

Now, several officials concede this may not be entirely about politics. They say it could be ad hoc or what they called simple mismanagement. But it all contributes to a widespread morale problem at the State Department that the lawmakers are demanding be looked at -- Christi, Martin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL: All right. Elise, thank you so much.

Brent Budowsky and Jack Kingston are back with us now.

Jack, to you first. How does Secretary Tillerson explain this?

JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, number one, I think one of the key words is that they were detailees for other agencies and I can tell you from experience that -- people who are detailees from other agencies are nonessential employees, because if they were so great, you would not farm them out to the Department of Defense or Capitol Hill. There's a valuable role for detailees, but generally, those are junior type employees. So, these can't be key people or they would not have been detailees.

The second part is, I would say this -- in terms of the politics of it, if they are not wholeheartedly implementing the commander-in- chief's philosophy and his task and this agenda, they are servants of the executive branch and of the president of the United States. And, frankly, if they are not doing what they should be doing, they should be squeezed out, not just reassigned.

PAUL: Brent?

BRENT BUDOWSKY, OPINION COLUMNIST, THE HILL: Well, I think what the CNN story reported is absolutely true and important and even urgent. It is damaging and destructive to the United States of America around the world for Trump to turn the State Department into another political agency with litmus tests and loyalty tests. And I do think and hope that the inspector general of the State Department will investigate. I've also called on the inspector general, by the way, to investigate the wholesale attacks against justice in America, the corruption of justice, what I believe is an obstruction of justice that's already proven by facts of the Justice Department, the special prosecutor being attacked, the FBI being attacked, firing one person after another.

I think it is disgraceful. I think it is impeachable. I think it is just damaging in the State Department and as it is in the Justice Department. You cannot have the organizations that make the foreign policy of the United States and protect justice and law enforcement in the United States under unrelentless attacks by a president who doesn't respect the rule of law and doesn't help our place in the world at the State Department. It is a disgrace and I think they're going to pay a price for it politically and it is costing America today on law enforcement, justice, and diplomacy around the world.

PAUL: We'll see if an investigation in this particular area does, indeed, follow.

[07:35:02] Jack Kingston and Brent Budowsky, we appreciate you both. Thank you.

BUDOWSKY: Thank you.

KINGSTON: Thank, Christi.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: The best in the music business will share the stage with the Me Too Movement at tonight's Grammy Awards. How musicians plan to show their solidarity on the red carpet. We'll have that for you, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: Welcome back.

The man behind the anti-corruption demonstrations in Moscow, we are just learning, has been arrested. Alexei Navalny, a prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was detained during protests. Hours before those protests started, though, he said officers forced their way into his offices. Eight of his staffers were reportedly detained at that time.

Now, Moscow police tell CNN they don't have any information on the raids.

[07:40:03] Navalny told CNN he called for the protests and election boycott not only because he was barred from running, but also because of what he calls rampant corruption in the Putin regime. But again, he has been detained there once again.

SAVIDGE: In Afghanistan, the government has declared Sunday, today, a national day of mourning, that after the horrific bombing in Kabul. The attack happened a little more than 24 hours ago. Authorities say that a driver was able to get through a checkpoint and detonate explosives packed into an ambulance. At least 103 people were killed and 235 others were wounded. A spokesman for the Taliban claims responsibility for that.

U.S. president Donald Trump calls the bombing despicable. He also says it has renewed the resolve of the U.S. and its Afghan partners.

PAUL: One more note from overseas today about the crackdown on corruption in Saudi Arabia that has swept up members of the Saudi royal family. A Saudi prince was released from detention where he has been since he was arrested in early November. Prince Alwaleed bin- Talal is a billionaire. He and 16 others Saudi royals and top officials were arrested as part of a new tougher anti-corruption policy in the kingdom.

And this new information on the Russia election hacking allegations as well. Fifty thousand Russia-linked automated Twitter accounts retweeted candidate Donald Trump nearly half a million times in the final weeks of the presidential campaign.

SAVIDGE: That's 10 times more than they retweeted Hillary Clinton, and these numbers come from Twitter.

So, let's bring in Samantha Vinograd. She is a CNN national security analyst and she has also served on President Obama's National Security Council.

Samantha, these retweets were 3.24 percent of retweets of president Trump's Twitter account. So, we are seeing how this could have tremendous influence. Did it?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think that it definitely did. I also think this is probably a drop in the bucket. Remember, a few months ago, we learned from Facebook that 126 million people were exposed to Russian-linked content. We have this story now about Russia retweeting Donald Trump and probably have more stories about Russia's digital psy ops or psychological operations campaign online.

I think just going to continue a pace. And I think it's really important to remember that this story isn't about Donald Trump, in fact. Donald Trump was a tool and may continue to still be a tool for Russia's larger mission to sow divisions, to create confusion and to undermine U.S. democracy and leadership around the world.

PAUL: OK. So, you say Donald Trump a tool. Does this new information at all, should it be considered -- would it be considered evidence of collusion then?

VINOGRAD: I think I'll leave that to Bob Mueller to answer. What I do think we already know from the intelligence community and the entire intelligence community agrees on this is that Donald Trump was Russia's preferred candidate.

Now, that's not because any kind of personal love for Donald Trump. That's because they viewed him and his election as being more preferable to advancing their policies and to advancing their mission again of undermining U.S. democracy by polarizing the American constituency and decreasing American leverage around the world. That's what Vladimir Putin wants.

SAVIDGE: You know, I find this information both terrifying and fascinating at the same time, Samantha. And I'm wondering, you know, this is where you can clearly show data that seems to indicate maybe proves of Russian meddling.

Why has it taken so long for Twitter to be forthcoming? They, obviously, could have looked at the analytics of this much sooner.

VINOGRAD: Most definitely. I think that there are real questions about why we are doing postgame analysis of this stuff and why don't we have this information coming in in real-time in 2016 or even 2015 when this Russian activity started? Those are important questions that Congress should ask.

But I think we are stuck in this postgame analysis right now. We are spending a lot of time looking backward at data and finger-pointing.

And the truth is we are out of time. Russia's attack is ongoing and I think all we care about our national security, both the private sector and public sector, we need to sit down and say, OK, what are we doing today? We were unprepared before. To confront Russia's attack on digital platforms both the 2018 election is coming up very quickly, but also because Americans, as consumers and information, need to know that what they are experiencing online is accurate.

SAVIDGE: But, I mean, how do you legislate something like that? I mean, how do you demand a private entity that they put no these kind of safeguards?

VINOGRAD: Well, I can tell you from discussions on the Hill, that Congress is thinking about a legislative fix. I think there's definitely a sense that technology companies are responding when asked, but that there needs to be some kind of instituted legislative fix such that there is a requirement to, one, institute practices that detect this activity while it's happening and, two, report in real- time.

[07:45:14] So, I think at the very least, Congress, at least on the Democratic side, is thinking about how to have a more productive conversation with tech. And to say, OK, we want to understand what you're doing. And, by the way, that should happen in a classified setting, that should not be public because we don't want to tip our hand and share any trade secrets with Russia that could give them more advantage.

So, I think in the first instance, start with that classified briefing and then I think there is an opportunity for Congress to legislate the creation of some kind of entity that combines law enforcement, the intelligence community, and members of the technology sector requires them to share information and best practices in real-time.

SAVIDGE: Yes. I think no question something has to be done.

VINOGRAD: Indeed.

SAVIDGE: Samantha Vinograd, thank you.

VINOGRAD: Thank you. PAUL: Thank you, Samantha.

All righty. So, still ahead, big night in music. Shining a light, though, on sexual abuse in the entertainment industry too. How the Me Too movement is going to take center stage at this year's Grammy Awards.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:50:25] PAUL: So, are you ready for the Grammys tonight? Yes, the awards.

Also taking center stage, we should point out, the Me Too movement. It's really swept the entertainment industry.

SAVIDGE: Artists are expected to show their support for the movement by wearing white roses on the red carpet.

Joining us to discuss is pop music critic for "The Washington Post", that's Chris Richards.

Chris, good morning to you.

CHRIS RICHARDS, POP MUSIC CRITIC, THE WASHINGTON POST: Good morning.

SAVIDGE: So, what kind of impact, or how do you kind of share the moment of celebration with of course with what is a very important and somber topic?

RICHARDS: It should be interesting and I guess, I hate to say it, but we have to tune in to find out.

The Me Too movement has not come to the music industry the same way it has come to Hollywood just yet. And the movement itself is having maybe -- I don't want to say it's had a harder time finding its roots in the music business, maybe it's so prevalent. People who want to speak out may not know where to begin.

But the idea that this could come to surface in the telecast itself tonight, I think we should be looking toward the pop singer Kesha. She's had a very widely publicized struggled within the industry, with the alleged abuse, and I think her performance tonight could give voice to this struggle.

But it could be a huge night for the music industry to really kind of embrace this cause and amplify it. But so far, we haven't seen it quite in the same way that we've seen in the movie business.

PAUL: Talk to me about Jay-Z, most nominated tonight.

RICHARDS: Yes, right. That's right. Jay-Z is up for eight Grammys tonight, and this is I think a big course correction for the recording academy who has over the decades in my opinion neglected hip hop criminally. Only one album has ever won, one rap album has ever won --

PAUL: Did you say criminally? You feel very strong about this.

RICHARDS: I do feel very strong about this.

PAUL: Rap has gotten a bad rap up until now.

RICHARDS: Absolutely. I think rap is the dominant idiom in pop music of our time. The fact that only one album has ever gotten album of the year, it's crazy to me. That was Outkast back in 2004.

So, Jay-Z actually boycotted the Grammys like round the turn of the century. That's how far back this goes, around 1999 to 2002 or so. So, he was boycotting the Grammys because he thought that the recording academy neglected hip hop music. I argue that they still are, that could change this year as well with his eight nominations.

SAVIDGE: I want to talk about the Spanish song "Despacito". It will make Grammy history, that is if it wins best song or record of the year.

RICHARDS: Yes.

SAVIDGE: How significant a breakthrough?

RICHARDS: I think it's very significant. You know, I think we're trying to find ways for the world of pop music and the way that pop music is recognized to reflect the way we're living in society and to see these voices elevated at the Grammys, voices of diversity, voices of people of color, voices of women, it's important and who gets nominated is one thing. Who wins is the other thing.

So, that's another reason to tune in tonight to see if Grammy voters really want to really embrace diversity and all the great stuff that's happening in the world of pop music today.

PAUL: All right. Who is your best new artist pick and what do you think we're going to get from James Corden?

RICHARDS: Two good questions. My best new artist pick is Lil Uzi Vert. He's a rapper from Philadelphia. I've seen him perform live and he just has a larger than life presence and a lot of influence on sort of the shape and tune of hip-hop today.

In terms of James Corden, we know that this guy loves music. We see him driving around in cars, singing with all the stars. And it should be a high spirited show for sure, if he gets, you know, to sort of drive the car, so to speak.

PAUL: No doubt. Very nice, very nice. Very true.

Chris Richards, always good to have you here. Thank you.

RICHARDS: Thanks very much.

PAUL: Sure.

SAVIDGE: And still to come, the hip hop icon Jay-Z gets personal and opens up about what he had to do to save his marriage to Beyonce. So, we'll discuss that in just a few minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:58:18] PAUL: So hip hop legend Sean Jay-Z Carter getting political and personal. The icon sat down with Van Jones for the premiere of "THE VAN JONES SHOW" -- congratulations, Van, by the way -- talked about everything from the Me Too movement, to race in America, to his marriage.

SAVIDGE: And here's what he had to say about saving his marriage to Beyonce.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VAN JONES, CNN HOST, THE VAN JONES SHOW: What is it about this marriage that's so special that you would fight this hard to save it?

SHAWN "JAY-Z" CARTER, HIP HOP ICON: Well, it's my soul mate. It's the person I love. You know, and you can be in love with someone. You can love someone and you not -- and if you haven't experienced love and you don't understand it and you don't have the tools to move forward, then you're going to have complications, period. And if you -- you can either address it or you can pretend until it blows up at some point.

And, you know, for us, we chose to fight for our love, for our family, to give our kids a different outcome. You see, you know, to break that cycle for black me and women, you know, to see a different outcome, like you were saying. It's not this celebrity couple -- we were never a celebrity couple. We were a couple that happened to be celebrities. We're real people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: I love that and I think that's so poignant because they're saying look, we're not out here to be a celebrity couple so everybody can see us together.

SAVIDGE: He also said -- he uses the inclusive we, it does take two to save a marriage. It isn't just one person. It has to be two. It has to be both of them.

PAUL: Yes, good luck to them, definitely.

SAVIDGE: Yes.

PAUL: And we are so grateful that you spend some time with us on the weekends. Thank you for being here.

SAVIDGE: "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right about now.

PAUL: Make some good memories today.