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The Trump Presidency; West Virginia Strike; West Wing Chaos; 2018 Election; Public Plea. Aired 3-4pm ET

Aired March 4, 2018 - 15:00   ET



[15:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- the trade agreements were being violated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Plus turbulence in the White House.

REINCE PRIEBUS, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF: The drama is there, but that is how the President makes decision and that process, while different, has gotten to good results.

CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: The problem is, the President has been ill-served, in my view, by staff.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Can't help you on the personnel front. John Kelly, to me, has created an order out of chaos initially, is kind of backsliding now. But I think John Kelly is the right guy to continue to help the President.



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right, hello again everyone, and thanks so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. All right, after a chaotic week in the West Wing, one in which a close ally of the President describes "pure madness". The White House looks to push reset with plan to tackle from big controversial issues, this week the President is said to impose new tariffs on steel and aluminum. The move which is already drawn opposition from America's closest allies may further feel concerns of a trade war and rattle global market. It's also getting swift criticism from lawmakers in his own party.


GRAHAM: Your solution is let China off the hook. It's only going to hurt American consumers and our allies. Please reconsider your solution. We've got a steel plant in South Carolina. We got -- we make more tires than any place in the United States. Thirty two percent of the tires exported from the United States come from South Carolina. This tariff on steel is going to hurt them.


WHITFIELD: All right, from more on this, let's bring in CNN Boris Sanchez at the White House. So Boris, how determined is the President to go ahead with these tariffs, with all this pushback?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It appears he is ready to go the distance, Fred. We should know, the President has varied his stance on a number of issues in the past, whether it be his position on the war in Iraq or just within the past week on gun control policy. But one thing that he is long-maintained as a signature part of his ideology is that the United States is taking advantage of on trade by even our closest allies overseas. That idea dates back to the 1980s.

So even if it creates strain with allies, whether in his own party, you had senators like Lindsey Graham, Ben Sasse and others, that said the tariffs are a bad idea or other allies abroad like Canada, South Korea, and the U.K. But the President seems to be set on moving forward with this.

We should also mention that the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Theresa May, shared a phone call with President Trump this weekend, telling him that she was deeply concerned about the effects that this tariffs may had, not only between of the U.K. and the United States but all of Europe as well.

Despite all of this pushback, though, the President, again, seems to be moving forward. We had Peter Navarro, the President's top adviser on trade on State of the Union this morning with Jake Tapper, saying that we could see this tariff enacted before the end of the week. Listen to more from Navarro now.


PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE TRADE ADVISER: We expect sometime next week the Office of Legal Counsel will put form and legality on proclamations and the President will sign them.


NAVARRO: I would think so towards the end of the week. The latest the following week. Basically, we want to be very careful, dot the I's and cross the T's, make sure we go through all the final legal hoops. So there will be an exception procedure for particular cases where we need to have exceptions so that business can move forward. But at this point in time, there's be will no country exclusions.


SANCHEZ: One final note, Fred, Jake Tapper asked Peter Navarro if the President would he ever consider leaving the World Trade Organization, a group that the President has long criticized, he attributes some of China's competitiveness in global markets with their inclusion in the WTO, Navarro was evasive, he would not answer the question out right, Fred. WHITFIELD: All right, Boris Sanchez, thank you so much, at the White House. All right, meantime last night. President Trump joined the journalist that he loves to hate for the annual Gridiron Club Dinner in Washington. The President made some rather self-deprecating jokes and he made light of the dramas surrounding his staff saying, and I'm quoting now, "So many people have been leaving the White House. It's actually been really exciting and invigorating because you want new thought. So I like turnover. I like chaos. It really is good. Now the question everyone keeps asking is, who is going to leave the next -- next leave, Steve Miller or Melania? And Attorney General Sessions is here tonight, I offered him a ride over and he recused himself." Everyone laughs. "But that's OK."

"And a lot of people said I wouldn't be able to do so well after losing my so-called chief strategist. Somehow we're still doing great even without Omarosa. Omarosa, you are the worst." I'm quoting him now.

All right, so let's discuss all of this with my panel. Joining me right now is Doug Heye, who is a CNN and political commentator and Republican strategist. Also with me Patti Solis Doyle, who is a CNN, political commentator, and a former presidential campaign manager for Hillary Clinton. All right, good to see you both.



[15:05:15] WHITFIELD: All right. So, Doug, you first, your reaction to, you know, the President, you know, poking fun of all the dramas surrounding his staff, the chaos, liking chaos, et cetera, and who might be next.

HEYE: Well, I'd say for -- Fredricka, thanks for having me. First and foremost, it's good that President Trump is now going to some of these dinners. We'll see if he goes more dinners in the future.

WHITFIELD: Right. He didn't go last year --


WHITFIELD: -- to the one at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

HEYE: He didn't go last year -- he didn't go to the correspondent's dinner last year.


HEYE: And that really sets the tone. And as you know in Washington right now, things are really fraught with attention between the media and the president. There are a million reasons for that or maybe just two reasons for that, Donald Trump and the media.

WHITFIELD: I would say he kind of provoked most of that though, right? HEYE: Well, he does provoke a lot of it. I think this is an opportunity for him to show some goodwill, even on a limited basis. I think being self-deprecating is something that's good for Donald Trump, it's good for any politician, really. We know Trump gets very nervous when people make fun of him. So perhaps, him making fun of himself is probably the best move that he can make.

But I should point out that all that we're getting from this is texts and transcripts. This is a long, more than a hundred year event, there's no video of this and at the time when so much with the media is very critical. I think rightly so in many cases about Trump and about access, we should have video cameras in there, not just to get the skits that the journalists are doing but to hear from the President himself directly on video.

WHITFIELD: Right. So, Patti, you know, it's a breakthrough, an icebreaker but then not really because people don't get to see it for themselves. Is that unusual or strange to you?

DOYLE: Well, I think it's the only dinner that doesn't allow the camera in there though Correspondents Dinner, the (INAUDIBLE) Club Dinner do that. I agree with Doug, they probably should allow cameras in there so that we could see for ourselves. I think Donald Trump would have, you know, benefited from people actually seeing him be funny instead of angry and, you know, chaotic.

I think, you know, I agree with Doug, I think the president did some good for himself, you know, even on -- by Trump standards. This last week has been enormously chaotic, enormously erratic and the -- to go out there and sort of poke fun of it was a probably a smart thing to do, probably very deliberative -- deliberate.

But I do take issue with one of his jokes and that was the joke about Melania Trump and, you know --

WHITFIELD: Of leaving?

DOYLE: Of leaving. I just think that -- that's a very sort of in bad taste inappropriate joke, particularly because Melania Trump strike many of us, and many Americans, someone who's very private particularly when it comes to these issues of infidelity in her marriage. I just thought it was in poor taste and I felt sorry for Melania.

WHITFIELD: Yes. One has to wonder if she knows that that one was coming. All right, so one of the standout, you know, kind of jokes the President made is like, you know, I love chaos while I was joking. I don't know, a lot of people might think that he actually believes that. That he really does like chaos. In fact former New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, came to the president's defense today about that White House chaos, and he actually shifted a lot of the blame on his staff. Listen.


CHRISTIE: The problem is, the President has been ill-served, in my view, by staff over the period of the last 15 months where they create a lot of the distractions through their infighting, their leaking.


WHITFIELD: All right. So, Doug, is this kind of passing the buck, it at his staff, it's you know, failed him or is that President the one who sets the tone?

HEYE: Well, I don't think the two are mutually exclusive. This is a president -- this a presidency where the tone is set absolutely by the President himself, that's always true in presidential administrations, but I think more so in Donald Trump's, just given the nature of what we've seen in the volume of news.

And Patti and I were talking about this a little bit before we came on. The chaos theory to some extent does work for Donald Trump because it drowns out so much other news that could be damaging. One good example over the past few days, it was leaked that Carl Icahn, the former adviser to President Trump, had sold a lot of stock that dealt with steel before the announcing on the tariffs were made.

That's a story that in an Obama administration or Bush administration would be a page one, lead of the news story, not just for a day but probably several days. It's already gone away. Most people don't even know that it happened.

WHITFIELD: And Patti, you know, the President also, you know, continued to poke a little fun at Jeff Sessions. I mean, the past few days it's been more mean-spirited, but last night it was poking fun, it's been very critical of the attorney general, and a former chief of staff Reince Priebus and Chris Christie both weighed in on this. Listen.


PRIEBUS: I mean I don't think that it would be good for the President for Attorney General Sessions to leave.

[15:10:05] But I also think the President has made up his mind in regard to how he feels about the recusal. He feels like that was the first sin, the original sin. And he feels slighted by it. He doesn't like it. And he's not going to let it go.

CHRISTIE: The President has the right to do what he wants to do. And if the President has absolutely no confidence in the attorney general, then the President has to act, not, you know, just criticize, but act.


WHITFIELD: Patti, at the same time, you know, Sessions stood up to the President in an unusual way given, you know, the President has been critical of him, you know, in the past year on many occasions and Sessions handled it differently. What does that tell you?

DOYLE: Well, I think he's probably fed up, I think he had enough with the President, you know, publicly demeaning him and publicly insulting him, particularly about the way he does his job. And, you know, god bless, I think President Trump is actually helping Jeff Sessions here. I think people are looking at Jeff Sessions more positively than they have in the past.

But look, here's the real issue, is Special Counsel Mueller is looking at obstruction of justice charges here. We don't know what he's going to find or what he is going to come up with, but this constant battle with the attorney general because he recuse himself over the Russia investigation, I think only give Special Counsel Mueller more ammunition and more desire to look into it. I don't think the President is serving himself well here.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Doug, I mean it only calls more attention to the fact, how is it the President doesn't see that?

HEYE: Well, the President tends to see what he wants to see and it depends what channel he is watching at what hour in the morning before he starts tweeting. But this, Fredricka, is an example of where, not just the Republicans in Congress but Conservative activist have very serious concerns about the Trump administration. There is no one in this administration, more focused on implementing Trump administration policy than Jeff Sessions, yet there's no one in this administration that comes under fire from the President more than Jeff Sessions.

I think a lot of Conservative activist and certainly Republicans in Congress would tell you, at least privately, if not publicly, that the best thing that Donald Trump could do for advancing his agenda would be to get off of Jeff Sessions back and allow him to do the job that Donald Trump initially hired him to do with to remind that Jeff Sessions was one of the earliest people out there and most forceful people out there for Donald Trump when a lot of people wouldn't give him a chance.

WHITFIELD: Right. And he showed that loyalty that we hear being, you know, the reference is made to the president often, Sessions show that loyalty very early on. All right, Doug Heye, Patti Solis Doyle, thank you so much, I appreciate it.

HEYE: Thank you.

DOYLE: Thank you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, coming up, the White House staffers reeling (ph) after a week of chaos and departure. One report even revealing that morale is the worst that's ever been, we'll discuss.

Plus, Monday marks eights and still no end in sight. Details on the teacher strike in West Virginia that is kept nearly 300,000 students out of the classroom.


[19:15:19] WHITFIELD: Teachers in West Virginia are holding their ground. They say they won't go back to work until they get a 5% raise. Lawmakers are debating whether to give them what they're asking for, and it means 300,000 students in West Virginia may not be heading back to school tomorrow.

CNN'S Kaylee Hartung joins me now with more on this. So, it looks as though the strike was headed toward a resolution late in the week, but then not really. It all fell apart.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yesterday lawmakers argued for hours until 11:00 at night, but they could not agree on how much to raise teachers' pay by. So, let's put this in perspective. High school teachers in West Virginia earn about $45,000 a year. They are among the lowest paid educators in the country. They are saying they will not go to work, go back to work, without a 5% increase, that adds up to about $2,000 a year for a teacher, a bill of around $50 million to the state annually.

Yesterday, the Senate actually approved a 4% raise. All that did though was infuriate teachers because they want 5. That bill then went to the State House were it was rejected. Earlier they had already approved that 5% raise. It was a day of emotional argument. Teachers and their supporters in the gallery to listen to the arguments by lawmakers, then at the end of the day, teachers finding the process disheartening and confusing.


CHRISTINE CAMPBELL, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: We're playing with people's emotions, their livelihoods and it directly affects our students. So let's do this right. Let's do it to keep teachers a track to maintain teachers in West Virginia. Keeper service personnel at a living, you know, get them to a living wage. This is unprecedented. It's confusing and it's just really, again, I think they're disheartened by the process.


HARTUNG: Much of the debate on Saturday was about where to find the money for any pay raise. Republican legislatures insist that they can't afford it. This is a difference of about $13 million that we're talking about when you look at the discrepancy between a 4% that the Senate says they're OK with versus the 5% of the House.

Now the next step is for a legislative conference. To me, this is likely going to be three members from each chamber, yet we don't know when this group will meet, no heads up on the timing, it could be tonight, it could be tomorrow, but until they come to a decision about getting to that number that these teachers want, it's looking like 300,000 kids will stay out of the classroom, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And it could be a matter of days or weeks even it comes to that and the teachers say they would not be returning to the classroom, which families are trying to figure out what to do when their kids are not in school.

HARTUNG: That's right.

WHITFIELD: Thank you so much Kaylee Hartung, appreciate it. [15:20:07] WHITFIELD: All right. Pure madness as the administration looks to turn the page after a never-ending week of chaos. A new report reveals the shrinking morale inside the West Wing. That's next.


WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. President Trump reportedly is reeling and fuming after a week of bad press. This follows the sudden resignation of White House Communications Director Hope Hicks and Senior Adviser Jared Kushner's security clearance downgrade, and now questions about who will stay and who will go, are leaving some in the President's own party to joke about White House turnover.


[15:25:09] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On the issue of personnel confusion and some policy confusion that you referred to there --

GRAHAM: Can't help you on the personnel front.


WHITFIELD: Even the President poking a little fun last night. The "Washington Post", you know, sharing stories from staff inside the administration says, these are some of the darkest days in the President's tenure. Joining me right now, one of the reporters behind that article "Washington Post" White House reporter and CNN Political Analyst Josh Dawsey, good to see you.

All right, so Josh, tumultuous times in The West Wing, so where is the President's head right now, if there is a way to know?

JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there's a confluence of factors right now that are driving the President crazy. One you alluded to is the Hope Hicks saga, the increase scrutiny on Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, security clearance being down, and a number of feuds that he is running with his Attorney General, particularly Jeff Sessions, who enrages him seemingly more than anyone else. There is some tension with John Kelly, his chief of staff, Gary Cohn, his Chief Economic adviser who threatened to quit this week over tariffs and said to be very displeased.

So, basically there are a number of fronts where things are not going very smooth for the President right now. And he watches then on television at night and in the mornings. In some ways it's medium and response presidency. Seeing the coverage of really gets him excited and then he makes moves, and those are covered and then we start all over again. It's a cyclical thing.

WHITFIELD: But it is kind of confusing because on the one hand you hear him say he likes chaos. He joked about it last night and many believed that he kind of meant it. And then there are -- and people around him from, you know, Priebus, you know, and even Chris Christie say he likes chaos, but then there is this other sentiment that he is frustrated when things don't, you know, sound like it's smooth sailing. So which is it really?

DAWSEY: I think there's a differentiation there. I don't think the President minds chaos like some of the people around him do, you know, if you heard Reince Priebus, former Chief of Staff, others publicly say, you know, how difficult it is to work? I don't think it bothers him. I think that's his personal style. He became, you know, a billionaire developer in New York. He won the presidency doing it his way. That said, he doesn't like the news coverage of the chaotic administration that's wayward and is not hitting its notes.

So there are two things. The President often doesn't mind the infighting in fact he's publicly said he likes to watch his top advisers joust to see who love him the most. Those were his words at one point. But he doesn't like the consuming coverage of how that manifests itself. And then we saw this week Fredricka, you have on guns and on tariffs, you have shape shifting that all the time and no one's exactly sure what's going to happen.

President is going outside his policy and protocol process to just make announcements whenever and however he feels like it. And you have lot of people in the West Wing got really frustrated and say, you know, we're trying to drive a message, we're trying to get things done and the President's, you know, erratic communication and his tendency to fly out of the seat of his pants is damaging us long term politically.

WHITFIELD: So is that behind what at least one Republican strategist that you talked to who said, you know, "Morale is the worst it's ever been" and that nobody knows what to expect?

DAWSEY: Right. And the President wears on people. You know, he tweets at 6:00 in the morning. He's up making calls to dozens of allies at night. He's not someone who sleeps much. He's not someone who minds having one position one day and another position the next day, and he wants the people around him to defend it.

The president is someone who is, you know, always on the move, moving in both directions sometimes. He has, you know, a lot of people around him who I think frankly, Fredricka, just tired, you know, the weeks, I think, feel like months to these people sometimes. You know, you wake up at 6:00 a.m. they're dealing with the tweet, by 10:00 a.m. there's a different issue.

Now, to be fair, all White Houses are a bit that way, correct? But you take the president's personality and you put it with that sort of combustible atmosphere and you get a tough situation.

WHITFIELD: All right. And so it's very dizzying right now for many.

DAWSEY: Right.

WHITFIELD: So Reince Priebus, his former Chief of Staff, was asked about all of that this morning and this is what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRIEBUS: You can't look at the distractions. I think what the staff has to do is focus in on the results. And so I think what the President does, and he writes about it even in his own books, is he puts rivals around him intellectually. You have people like Wilbur Ross who is going to be on your show, and Gary Cohn. And he puts those two guys in front of him and says, OK, fight out tariffs in front of me, and they fight it out, the media covers the fight, but ultimately, the decision has made. And the drama is there. But that is how the President makes decisions in that process while different has gotten to good results.


WHITFIELD: So, Josh, I guess also interesting is so many trying to intellectualize all of this.

[15:30:05] DAWSEY: Right. And Reince Priebus certainly had his share of frustrations when he was there in the process as well, so it's interesting to hear Reince say that. I think the challenge there is the President is not -- I mean, there's sometimes a caricature that he's dumb. That's not true, he's not. He has governed and lived his entire life in an unorthodox way, in some ways, you know, he street savvy. He knows how to make a deal at times. He could be a marketing genius and then the other times some of his uratic (ph) moves can just be that, they can be, you know, miss fires. He can hurt himself. He can send the markets spiraling. He can send folks on Capitol Hill into a constant freak out mode.

And, you know, at times the President really is just doing it his own way, what he wants to and he's not listening to the folks around him. You saw him last night joke about Fox & Friends but he does watch Fox & Friends. And sometimes he puts more veracity in that than he does to his top advisors.

So this is a President who is going to do it his way everyday, day in and day out. And everyone else is going to have to adjust to him because I don't think he is adjusting to the presidency as much as the presidency is adjusting to him.

WHITFIELD: All right, you've heard from so many observers there who were saying, the making, the deal part, they have really seen that. They've seen a lot of, you know, his style and how he likes to try and bully and strong arm, but the negotiating part, there aren't a whole lot of examples of that thus far in his 13 months.

DAWSEY: Well, this is where the misfires, for sure. But he did, you know, they did get the tax bill done and he got Gorsuch passed. There are a couple things that conservatives, you know, really like. And I think one of the reasons we're not seeing, you know, widespread going away for him is that there are those things that they like.

WHITFIELD: Josh Dawsey, thanks so much. Good to see you.

DAWSEY: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Up next, as the President makes two big announcements this week about his 2020 ambitions, one rumor challenger is weighing in. Next.


JOHN KASICH, (R) OHIO: I don't know what I'm going to do, but all options are on the table.



[15:36:12] WHITFIELD: Hi welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta. Despite a tumultuous week in the White House or Republican national committee and President Trump are pushing ahead, launching a major donor program to fund upcoming elections including a Trump bid 2020. There's amid new reporting that the White House is keeping an eye on potential competition and one of those possible challengers, Republican Senator Jeff Flake.


JEFF FLAKE, (R) ARIZONA: I do think the President will have a challenge from the Republican Party. I think there should be.


WHITFIELD: Ohio Governor John Kasich is also listed as a possible opponent.


KASICH: I'm going to be out of being governor here soon. I hear applause in the background. I'll be out -- I don't know what I'm going to do, but all options are on the table, both for me in my private, my professional life, but I want to keep a voice because I think it's important.


WHITFIELD: Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Val DiGiorgio joining me right now, good to see you.


WHITFIELD: The president is focused on 2020, but should he be paying more attention to the key midterm elections that are right around the corner?

DIGIORGIO: Well, he is paying attention to him. And I got a call from him last week, last Sunday. We talked about the special election in Western Pennsylvania. Rick Saccone is our candidate there. He is very focused on. And I can tell you that is actually coming in to Pennsylvania next week to help us out with that campaign.

WHITFIELD: And so in fact, next Saturday he'll be in Moon Township Pennsylvania right for a rally, but isn't that mostly central to campaigning for himself potential 2020, or do you see that it may potentially make an impact on Pennsylvania races?

DIGIORGIO: No, I can tell you what he told me, which is that he wanted to come to Pennsylvania, make sure he help. We've already had the Vice President here saying he was coming to Pennsylvania and make sure he can help in that race. He's still very popular in that district. His got a message -- his message of creating jobs, his message of supporting coal, supporting fracking, it's going to resonate very well in Southwestern Pennsylvania. We're happy to have him.

WHITFIELD: OK. You have a special election coming up in a week, and this is a Republican stronghold. But polls are showing a tight race and Democrats are leading in fundraising. Is that Republican House seats in your state in danger?

DIGIORGIO: Well, it's a tight race, and we're not surprised. We knew it would be a tight race. We have -- our polling is showing he's leading, including two public polls in the last couple of weeks are showing Rick Saccone leading in that races. We're under no illusions though. We're going to run like we always do, like we're behind even though we're not in this race.

And the ground game is working hard 20,000 doors and 170,000 phone calls. But we know this is a competitive environment, it's a tough year. And keep in mind, this is a Democrat district. There's 80,000 more Democrats in that district. So we're going to do everything we can to turn out our base and we're in the process of doing that.

WHITFIELD: All right. Well, Democrats are winning back Republican- held seats and they did flip 39 state legislatures seats since the President's inauguration and turning, you know, U.S. Senate seat blue in Alabama. So is this, you know, the outcome, are these referendums on the President?

DIGIORGIO: I think, look, the party in power, the party that has the presidency and as we saw the story of the Obama years or it's a 900 almost a thousand seat losses in state legislatures -- legislative seats across the nation. But we've done very well in special elections for Congress as, you know, this year. They've all been tight races by and large. And we expect this to be a tight race as well.

We see a little bit more intensity on the Democrat side. That's to be expected after you win the White House. It happens every year -- every almost every time no matter who's in power, so we're not surprised by that. But we're confident about our chances in the special election coming up in a couple weeks.

WHITFIELD: Speaking of Alabama, you know, the former Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore is actually making an interesting push for money to cover his legal expenses.

[15:40:11] Moore is facing a lawsuit from a woman who accused him of sexually abusing her when she was just 14. Do you think asking for money into those conditions is appropriate will get any attraction, any support in that matter? DIGIORGIO: I guess that depends on, you know, what friends he has in the state that want to continue to support and I hadn't heard about that. I guess if you feels he's innocent and did nothing wrong, he's doing what a man who thinks he's innocent would do, which is go out and defend himself. And, you know, Godspeed to him but, you know, I don't judge his attempts to defend himself one way or the other.

WHITFIELD: All right. Val DiGiorgio of Pennsylvania's GOP chairman, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.

DIGIORGIO: Thanks for having me, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. We'll be right back.


[15:45:20] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. We're just moments away from an event in Selma, Alabama. People are gathering to commemorate the 53rd anniversary of bloody Sunday where civil rights activist including Congressman John Lewis, marks to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge for voting rights but then met with violence by state troopers. CNN's Dana Bash spoke with the congressman, Congressman John Lewis in this exclusive interview.


DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Mister Lewis, it is beyond an honor to be here with you. Fifty-three years after you all marched on this bridge. Why is it so important to come back and to keep coming back every year?

REP. JOHN LEWIS, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: It is a must to come back. This is the place they gave us to voting right side. Made it possible for hundreds and thousands and millions of people to be able to participate in the Democratic process. People in Selma all across Alabama and Mississippi and other states that are south struggled, fought, and died for the right to vote.

In Selma in 1965, only 2.1% of blacks of voting age were registered to vote. People were asked to (INAUDIBLE). So we have to come back to remind people of the changes that we've made and the changes we still must make.

BASH: And that's taken for granted?

LEWIS: It's taken for granted and so many parts of our country. It's not only affect African-American, we'll fight America, native Americans, Hispanics and others.

BASH: You marched across this bridge in a peaceful protest and you were met with a billy club on your skull. Do you have memory of that moment that you got beaten almost to death?

LEWIS: I remember so well the moment that I was beaten and left the foot of a bridge. I thought I was going to die. I thought I saw death. I thought it was the last march. Fifty-three years later, I don't know how I made it back across this bridge, but apparently a group of individuals literally took me across the bridge back to the church where we left home. But I do remember then back at the church and then someone ask me and then says something to do the audience and I stood up and says something like I don't understand it how President Johnson can send troops to Vietnam and cannot send troops to Selma, Alabama to protect people who only desire is to register to vote. The next thing I knew is with 16 other people, we were taken to a local hospital.

BASH: It must have taken a long time to recover.

LEWIS: Well, two weeks later, I was prepared to march again. The doctor --

BASH: Two weeks later?

LEWIS: Two weeks later, the doctors and the nurses took care of us, and I walked again across this bridge all the way from Selma to Montgomery, about 50 miles.

BASH: Amazing. You have said for people who don't think that things have changed, come walk in my shoes.

LEWIS: Yes, I believe that, even now. When we first came to Selma, there was a sign saying white and colored. White men, colored men, white women, colored women, those signs are gone. And the only places you'll see those signs today would be in a book, in a museum, on a video. In this city, you enter the cities sometime, you will see signs for the planned rally. And you don't see any members of the clan walking to street of Selma, walking to this county harassing people.

BASH: Let's talk about right now. There is a movement of young people. You led a movement of young people back in the civil rights movement. There's a new organic movement of young people, begging Washington, begging their local leaders for change. What do you see in the new movement?

[15:50:05] LEWIS: Well, I see so much hope, so much of our future in this new movement a movement for the young people, the movement of women. And I will live -- I truly believe that the young people and women will get us there. They're not quite there yet. But these young people and the women of America will be the leaders that will help build a new America, a better 2America.

BASH: As someone who successfully led a movement as a young person, what's your number one bit of advice for the young people, protesting and marching this month?

LEWIS: I say to young people, to the young leaders, just give it all you've got. It might get weary. Be hopeful, be optimistic, and take the long, hard look. We have some difficulty.

They will have some difficulties. They will have some setbacks, but you cannot give up. You cannot give in. You will make it. They will lead us.

BASH: Thank you, sir. Thank you so much.

LEWIS: Very much thank you.

BASH: Such an honor. Thank you.

LEWIS: Thank you. It's an honor for me to be interviewed by you.


WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much for our Dana Bash for that interview with Congressman John Lewis there. You can read more on Dana's journey on the civil rights pilgrimage and that walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge starting Wednesday, And we'll be right back.


[15:56:04] WHITFIELD: Mister Magoo, a trade war, and an about-face on guns. This week brought no shortage of material for "Saturday Night Live".


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This what I announced these steel and aluminum tariffs this week. People are going nuts at it. I brought back the steel industry by destroying the auto industry and taking the stock market. Impressive. So impressive.

Look at that. Both sides hated it. I don't care. I said I was going to run this country like a business. That business is a waffle house at 2:00 a.m.

Crazies everywhere, staff walking out in the middle of their shift, the managers taking money out of the cash register to pay off the Russian mob. But maybe we do just take all the guns away.

That got her attention. She loves it. She's looking at me like a cartoon pork chop, OK?

She's great. All the people here are great, except Jeff Sessions. He needs to go. I call him Mr. Magoo. Everyone loves it. People around here in the White House are saying, stop, I'm laughing so hard, I can't take it anymore, I resign.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's very funny, Mr. President, but I'm not going anywhere. I'm like skunk stink on a bird dog, sir. I linger. And I just had dinner with all your friends at the Department of Justice and, wow, your name popped up more than a weasel in a pumpkin patch.


WHITFIELD: "SNL's" spoof comes after news this week that the president has nicknamed his Attorney General Mr.Magoo. Here now is Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president who once said he was proud to call Jeff Sessions attorney general now calls him Mr. Magoo. According to the "Washington Post," President Trump privately refers to Sessions as the bumbling cartoon character so near-sighted, he mistakes a mounted moose for a man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this hodgepodge lodge?

MOOS: Cue the split screens, they're now all over the internet, as someone imagined Mr. Magoo himself saying, turn on the tweeter, baby, I'm trending. Someone else zinged both the president and the attorney general by having Magoo declare, I will not be compared to that nincompoop, by that nincompoop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll blast you.

MOOS (on camera): President Trump, you're dating yourself. Mr. Magoo was created in 1949. Millennials are saying, Magoo who?

The original Magoo was created by left-leaning animators, riffing on conservatism in the era of Hollywood blacklisting. President Trump is catching flack for using the childish nickname. Our cartoon president, read one president. From comedians, yes, I would laugh, from the president, well, that's not leadership. Comedians like Stephen Colbert.

STEPHEN COLBERT, AMERICAN COMEDIAN: Please welcome attorney General Jeff Sessions.

MOOS (voice-over): Can't resist Sessions. Some see a resemblance to the keebler elf, so he does a recurring keebler so Colbert does a recurring keebler cookie bit imitating Sessions.

COLBERT: These insults have cut to the quick, to the quick, I say, right to my delicious fudgy center.

MOOS: And "SNL's" Kate McKinnon place him as an opossum-like creature.

KATE MCKINNON, AMERICAN COMEDIAN: Oh, no, I dropped my loofah. But don't worry my trusty little tail is going to get it.

MOOS: Sure, Mitch McConnell has been compared to a turtle for years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You carry your house around on your back.

MOOS: But at least he doesn't have the president on his back, calling him names.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twinkle toes Magoo, they called me.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not elf on the shelf, I'm Jeff Sessions.

MOOS: -- New York.


WHITFIELD: Oh my, there's a lot in there. All right, we'll get so much more straight ahead in the newsroom and it all starts right now.

All right. Hello again and thank you so much for joining me this Sunday I'm Fredricka Whitfield. All right. We begin with new development --