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NEW DAY SATURDAY

Three Dead After VA Home Hostage Standoff; Stormy's Attorney: Cohen Used His Trump Organization Signature In E-mail; WAPO: Trump Personally Invited Putin To 2013 Beauty Pageant; White House Appears To Put Conditions On Kim, Trump Meeting. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired March 10, 2018 - 06:00   ET

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


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[06:00:06]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm actually one of the most successful adult movie directors in the business. I actually just re-negotiated and got a new contract.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is about the payoff, not the alleged affair.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lawyers don't do that. They don't do that with their own money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did Mr. President Trump know about the negotiation of this agreement? Did he know about the payments? Did he sign the documents?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Face-to-face talks between President Trump and North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president will not have the meeting without seeing concrete steps and concrete actions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The NRA is suing to block a new gun law signed by Florida Governor Rick Scott.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Scott is trying to look like he's taking a step in the opposite direction of the NRA.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Panic at a mental health facility

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're scared. You're anxious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Investigators say a person armed with a rifle shot at deputies before taking three hostages.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. We're starting with three women who are dead after a hostage standoff at a veterans' home in Yountville, California. CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. There are three victims here. The gunman who was found dead had been suffering from PTSD, had been treated at that home. Here's Dan Simon.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Christi, investigators are trying to figure out what caused a military veteran to barricade himself with three hostages, murder them, and then apparently take his own life. This happening in the town of Yountville, California. This is the heart of Napa Valley. This area is home to the largest veterans' home in the United States.

On the campus, there is a nonprofit center, which is called the Pathway Home. It helps veterans deal with PTSD. We are told that the shooter in this case had been receiving treatment there up until about two weeks ago. This comes from State Senator Bill Dodd who represents this area.

What caused the shooter to come back to the center Friday morning around 10:00 a.m., exchange gunfire with the deputy, we do not know. But we do know that once again in this country you have another situation where you have somebody who apparently has mental health issues get hold of a gun and then commit a tragedy. In this case we are dealing with a military veteran. Victor and Christi, back to you.

PAUL: This morning, new e-mails sparking new questions in the Stormy Daniels saga.

BLACKWELL: The porn star's lawyer now revealing that President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, used his official Trump Organization e-mail and signature while he was arranging that $130,000 payment to keep Daniels quiet about the alleged affair between herself and Donald Trump. That payment was made just a few days before the 2016 election.

PAUL: Stormy's real name is Stephanie Clifford, and she's talking. She talked last night. In true to form, she coyly addressed the topic.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

STORMY DANIELS: Sort of in a double-edged sword where a lot of people are interested in booking me for dancing and stuff like that. So, I'm getting more dance bookings. I usually only dance once a month. Now I'm dancing three or four times a month, so that's been really great.

But because of that, it's sort of overshadowing a lot of the adult films that I'm supposed to be promoting and a lot of the mainstream projects that I was actively working on have been indefinitely put on hold. I think it's pretty clear with the new developments comes new interest.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

PAUL: So, Abby Phillip is live for us in Washington. Good morning, Abby. ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christi. This saga of Stormy Daniels has become a new question about whether Michael Cohen, President Trump's personal lawyer at the time, was acting in his official capacity as a lawyer for the Trump Organization, and as a result of that acting in an official capacity of as a representative of President Trump.

These new e-mails provided by Stormy Daniels' attorney seemed to indicate that Cohen was both using his Trump Organization e-mail address to communicate with Stormy's previous counsel on the issue of the $130,000 payment, but he also referenced in these e-mails the Trump Organization office.

He talked about how the office was closed at the time, and he couldn't deal with issues until after time had passed because the office wasn't open. Listen to Stormy Daniels' current attorney explaining what he thinks the significance of these developments are.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: If, in fact, the payment was being made personally by Attorney Cohen, he wouldn't need his office open in other to effectuate the payment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP: So, Michael Cohen is responding to that saying that, you know, he is sort of like a normal person who sometimes uses his work e-mail to communicate about personal matters. He has a statement that he says, "The use of my company e-mail to communicate with the bank and Ms. Clifford's former counsel proves absolutely nothing despite the less-than-convincing documents offered by Mr. Avenatti. I used this e-mail address for virtually everything, as many people do."

But I think, Victor and Christi, questions really do remain about what exactly Michael Cohen was trying to do. And earlier this week here at the White House, we have been asking the White House exactly what the president knew.

Did he know about this payment just 11 days before the election, and also did he know about the litigation that Cohen has been pursuing on his behalf in the very last week. In this case, a judge has just been assigned to it. So, it seems very much that this is moving forward in the legal sphere, and as a result, getting closer and closer to President Trump -- Victor and Christi.

PAUL: All righty. Abby Phillip, so appreciate it. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. Joining us now is Errol Louis, CNN political commentator, political anchor for "Spectrum News." Errol, good morning to you. So, let's start with the obvious, broad question here.

If this transaction was independent of the Trump Organization, as Michael Cohen alleges, then why do office hours matter? Why is he using this e-mail address -- look, I've sent emails, probably shouldn't admit this while on CNN --

PAUL: Started out there.

BLACKWELL: -- from the e-mail address that weren't exactly related to the story of the day. But he alleges here that this is independent of those entities, this was personal. Why does it matter that the office will be closed tomorrow?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Why does it matter? Well, look, if you get into the nitty gritty, it becomes clear that what Michael Cohen did was done somewhat sloppily. It was certainly done in a rush.

If you consider that it was happening, what, two weeks out from Election Day, whatever he was trying to do, he was trying to do it very quickly. He may have been sloppy both in how he executed it and in his subsequent statements about how and why he did it.

What he's trying to do obviously is insulate his client, the president of the United States, as well as the Trump Organization from any dealings in this sort of sticky, not-quite-lovely work that he chose to be involved in.

On the other hand, the fingerprints are all over the place. So, you know, clearly, if he actually used his own money, if he actually made it a private transaction and it's hard to imagine why he would -- but let's assume that he did.

Yes, the e-mail doesn't make a whole lot of sense to do that all of that through your business organization especially if as an attorney, Michael Cohen knows that he's dragged his client and, at a minimum the Trump Organization, into the middle of this mess.

PAUL: OK, so Errol, with that said, let's listen to Jeffrey Toobin here.

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JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: This whole idea that Michael Cohen has to go into his home equity line. It's not like he has $130,000 sitting around. He has to take a home equity loan in order to pay Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet for an affair or relationship that she had with Donald Trump, lawyers don't do that. They don't do that with their own money. It's not ethical. It's not proper to do that without talking to the client. It also doesn't make any sense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: OK. So, it's not ethical, it's not proper, he says. Is there a consequence for the attorney in this case?

LOUIS: I mean, he could. Look, you know, it's funny, I talked to some attorneys here in the city, and they said, look, if you had to sanction or discipline every lawyer who moved forward without checking in with his client, there would be nobody left to practice law in New York. Now, that's probably an overstatement. But yes, I supposed he could face sanctions along those lines assuming that's what he actually did. If he literally went out and took out a loan, extended all of his personal money, sort of co-mingled his personal business interests with that of his client and never mentioned it to the client, he could get into some trouble.

But that's actually not what's going on here. What the president and his attorney have tried to do is make this whole thing go away, and they -- they came to it in such a flustered and hurried way that their fingerprints are all over the thing.

I mean, you know, clearly, there was a relationship here or credibly, I should say, and the fact that his lawyer couldn't make this woman stop talking has been a real sort of thorn in the side.

I think the question is why this. Out of all the different kind of alleged liaisons this president has had in the years before he ran for office, why is this one different from all the others?

BLACKWELL: Let's shift gears here. The reporting overnight that the special counsel has a copy of a letter from 2013 that then-private citizen Trump wrote to President Putin inviting him to the Miss Universe competition, saying, that he was looking forward to seeing the beautiful women there.

[06:10:07] There have been some who question if this is the first entree into really trying to get closer to Putin. But wouldn't one expect if a businessman is taking this pageant to Russia that he would personally invite the president to come to the pageant? And it's a beauty pageant. You'd expect to see beautiful women. What's your take on the significance of this letter?

LOUIS: Well, sure. Look, if you're trying to promote something and it's going to be beamed out internationally, what's the biggest name you can get? If you're in Russia, yes, by far the biggest name you can get is Vladimir Putin's. So, he makes the attempt.

What isn't quite so understandable, though, Victor, is when you see the subsequent statements and you line them up by Donald Trump, first, he says I know Putin very well, I'll be a great negotiator with him. Then he says, well, I really don't know him. You know, so well, which is it?

We've got to sort of -- get some kind of consistent line from the Trump Organization and Trump White House and President Trump himself about what has the relationship been. And you know, other than that, it's -- it's not of any particular consequence that he sent this particular note. But again, it's part of a pattern of being close to and trying to distance himself from some kind of personal relationship with Vladimir Putin.

PAUL: There's been a lot of strong economic news in the last 24 hours, 313,000 jobs added in February, unemployment is still at a 17- year low. Wages grew 2.6 percent. You put all of those incomes into play, and you have to ask how much does all of this matter at the end of the day. LOUIS: Well, that's right. Look, politically speaking, the Democrats, I don't know if they've fully reckoned with this. But there's supposed to be all of this talk about let's resist, we've got a blue wave coming, we're going to take back the House. The reality is a lot of people are seeing extra money in their paycheck.

A lot of people are seeing job opportunities that didn't exist before. A lot of small businesses are getting orders that had dried up over the last few years. The economy is -- is roaring along. There may be some consequences down the road, but you know, down the road is an eternity. The election is in November.

BLACKWELL: All right, Errol Louis, always good to have you.

PAUL: So, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is not feeling well. He's canceled all of his public events in Kenya today. And according to the undersecretary of state, he's under the weather because of, quote, "long days working on major issues such as North Korea."

BLACKWELL: Some of Secretary Tillerson's events will be rescheduled. He arrived yesterday as part of a five-nation tour of Africa. Next week, he heads to Chad and Nigeria.

PAUL: So, as we were talking, one of the big questions this morning is, is the meeting going to happen with North Korean leader, Kim Jong- un? President Trump says it's being planned, but there's one thing the White House says could stop it.

BLACKWELL: Plus, the NRA is now suing Florida over the new gun law raising the minimum age of purchase of a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21. We've got details of that ahead.

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[06:18:07]

PAUL: It's 17 minutes past the hour right now. A day after President Trump says a meeting is being planned with North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, the White House now says the meeting won't happen without, quote, "concrete action."

BLACKWELL: Listen to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, she said yesterday that a promise to freeze nuclear tests, that's not enough.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The understanding the message from the South Korean delegation is that they would denuclearize. We've accepted the invitation to talk based on them following through with concrete actions on the promises that they've made.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: So, after Sanders said that, the president tweeted this, "The deal with North Korea is very much in the making and will be if completed a very good one for the world. Time and place to be determined."

This meeting if it happens would be the latest instalment in a back and forth that has gone on for more than 25 years. The U.S. and North Korea had virtually no diplomatic relationship before the 1990s. Since then, there have been several eras marked by talks and deals and then breakdowns.

PAUL: Yes, the first Bush administration was marked by, quote, "limited engagement," trying unsuccessfully to get North Korea to comply with an international nuclear agreement. Then under President Clinton talks stalled when North Korea started developing weapons- grade plutonium. And then they restarted when former President Jimmy Carter visited, paving the way to North Korea promising to dismantle their nuclear reactors.

BLACKWELL: The U.S. and North Korea continued talks in 1996 and again in 2000 with a visit from Madeline Albright. Then the George W. Bush era begins. North Korea is suspected of violating the 1994 deal by secretly enriching uranium. Another deal follows in 2005 when the North agrees to abandon its nuclear program, then they conduct their first nuclear test the very next year.

PAUL: And then under President Obama, North Korea conducted a second nuclear test. Former President Clinton visits Pyongyang to free two American journalists.

[06:20:08] After Kim Jong-un came into power in 2011, we've seen only two official negotiations. One of them was a 2011 deal from North Korea to freeze its nuclear weapons program in exchange for food.

BLACKWELL: That broke down when they tested a rocket the following year. The U.S. then announced a policy of strategic patience. You've heard about that. No more formal talks until the North commits to denuclearization. That continued until last year when the Trump administration shifted toward a policy of increased pressure and informal engagement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The era of strategic patience with the North Korean regime has failed. Many years, and it's failed. And frankly, that patience is over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: All right. Joining us now, CNN international correspondent, Ivan Watson there in Seoul, South Korea, and Gordon Chang, columnist for "The Daily Beast." Gentlemen, good morning to you. Ivan, let me start with you. Sorry, there's the book by Gordon, the author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on The World." Can't forget that, Gordon. Got to get the book plug in there.

Ivan, this tweet from CNN contributor, Michael Bender, sums up what generously is confusion by the White House when he tweets, White House clarifies Sarah Sanders' statement on North Korea that the president will not agree to the meeting without concrete steps and actions.

Not so fast, the invitation has been extended and accepted, and that stands, the White House tells the "Wall Street Journal." The other players potentially here, especially there in Seoul, do they know what the prerequisites if any are for talks that could be coming by May?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's where all of this has been wishy washy from the very beginning. Are there preconditions for sitting down and talking, or are there not? We've heard very mixed messages from the Trump administration in recent months about whether or not there are preconditions.

And that kind of controversy loomed again with the spokesperson, Sarah Sanders' comments, and that White House official who then said, no, the meeting is, in fact, set up. It may be that the Trump administration is trying to give itself some wiggle room. It may be that their message just hasn't been streamlined yet.

I mean, that's been a chronic issue for this administration in the past. We -- we are really speculating at this point. There are signs from the North Korean side that the message hasn't been streamlined just yet.

For instance, North Korean state media hasn't really talked about this potential meeting between the North Korean and U.S. leaders yet. They haven't really published that yet. And in fact, in today's statements, there was an article slamming the U.S. for a recent round of sanctions against North Korea, saying that this could lead to a possible war.

That suggests that maybe North Korea's state propaganda writers haven't quite caught up with the remarkable diplomacy of the last 48 hours.

PAUL: Ivan, thank you. So, Gordon, I want to bring you into this. Based on what he was talking about, what Ivan was reporting, how likely is it that North Korea will sit down with the U.S. with preconditions?

GORDON CHANG, COLUMNIST, "DAILY BEAST": I think that there's going to be a meeting. There is confusion at the White House -- and also there is a difficulty here that people haven't focused in on. As Ivan mentioned, we haven't heard from the North Koreans. All we have heard is from the South Koreans.

We heard the message Tuesday and then on Thursday from them. This particular time, we don't know if Pyongyang's on board with this. President Moon Jae-in of South Korea may actually just be trying to bring the two parties together to create some momentum.

And in order to do that, he may have been mischaracterizing the message he heard from Kim Jong-un. So, there's a lot to be clarified here. But I think the momentum for the talks is strong, and it will occur despite all of these initial problems.

BLACKWELL: Ivan, back to you. I want to pick up on something that you pointed out that there in Pyongyang they have not gotten at least a consistent narrative about the talks. Is this a case potentially -- and let's at least for the sake of this question -- assume that the south Koreans got it right, that Kim extended the invitation to President Trump, that they never expected he would accept the invitation, so now they have to hurry out and figure out what they believe about this and are going to do?

WATSON: I really don't know because the North Koreans don't really pick up the phone and don't really give press conferences. In fact, they only do their government news bulletins on television, you know, for short periods every evening. And they don't even broadcast all day long.

[06:25:06] So, it's very difficult to try to understand what's going on within North Korea. The fact is, is that there has been a remarkable surge of diplomacy since the 1st of January, since the North Korean leader indicated he wanted to participate in the Winter Olympics that were held here recently in South Korea.

And the South Korean government embraced that and ran with it and have pushed forward remarkably to set up talks and meetings with the North Koreans. Now they've done this before. They have experienced past rounds of inter-Korean dialogue.

The groups that do not, the players that have not met before at this level are North Korea and the U.S. so it does raise some serious questions. How in such short time by May can you get a summit of the North Korean and U.S. heads of state when they don't have previous practice at sitting down face to face at this level to sort out all of the protocol, the diplomacy, with two mercurial and very unpredictable leaders.

There's going to be an incredible amount work to be done on the sides of Pyongyang and Washington, and you wonder whether or not the South Koreans are uniquely positioned to guide them both toward this expected meeting.

GORANI: And real quickly, Gordon, you know, the State Department has a bit of a slim bench at the moment. Is the U.S. prepared for negotiations like this?

CHANG: Of course, it is because in the Trump administration, you know, decisions were made at the top, and President Trump is there. You know, I think the discussions conducted with the North Koreans on back channel, he's gone, that doesn't help. There are plenty of people there. I'm sure the Trump administration can execute what it intends to.

BLACKWELL: All right. Gordon Chang, Ivan Watson in Seoul. Thank you both.

PAUL: Thanks, Gentlemen.

So, the NRA is suing Florida after Governor Rick Scott signed a gun- control bill raising the minimum age to buy a gun of any kind for 18 to 21. BLACKWELL: Plus, British troops trained in chemical warfare are deploying to an English city to investigate a mysterious nerve agent attack. We'll have a live report for you next.

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[06:32:06] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. 31 minutes past the -- 32, excuse me. Just changed.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Already.

PAUL: On this Saturday. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you.

The NRA has filed a lawsuit challenging a new Florida law that raises the minimum age to buy a certain type of gun. Florida Governor Rick Scott signed the bill Friday, the first gun control legislation since the Parkland school massacre.

PAUL: The law raises the minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21. That NRA suit says that punishes law-abiding gun owners for someone else's criminal acts. The new law also allows some teachers to be armed.

BLACKWELL: CNN's national correspondent Athena Jones has details for us.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there. Before signing this bill into law, Governor Scott praised the legislature and he also praised the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the parents of the victims of that shooting in Parkland for their advocacy.

He also talked about the compromises that were necessary to get this legislation to his desk just three weeks after that horrible shooting. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: There are things in this bill that I oppose, and I've been pretty open about that. I still think law enforcement officers should be the ones to protect our schools. I've heard all the arguments for teachers to be armed. And while this bill was significantly changed on this topic, I am still not persuaded. I am glad, however, that the plan in this bill is not mandatory.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: And that provision to arm teachers is by far the most controversial provision in this bill. One the governor, as you heard there, has consistently opposed. He argues teachers should teach. He said that again on Friday. And in fact, the Florida Education Association which represents some 140,000 teachers and school staff across the state of Florida had been urging the governor to use his line-item veto power to veto the $67 million in this bill that was set aside for the program. He chose not to do that. He said instead he wants to talk with the

legislature to make sure that any of that $67 million that doesn't end up getting used for these programs can instead be redirected to increase law enforcement presence on school campuses.

The families of Parkland victims, several of whom spoke to the press after the bill signing, said that they see this as a good first step on the journey to making schools safer and they urged states across the country to follow Florida's lead to harden schools, to increase security, to try to prevent another incidence of mass violence.

Back to you.

PAUL: All right. Athena, thank you.

So 180 British troops trained in chemical warfare are deploying to England to investigate this mysterious nerve agent attack. We've been talking about it. Happened in Salisbury, England earlier this week.

BLACKWELL: A former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned and both are in very serious condition right now and Western intelligence officials consider Russia to be a leading suspect, but this is still early in the investigation.

PAUL: Yes. CNN's Phil Black joins us live from Salisbury now with some more details.

Phil, good morning to you. What are you learning this morning?

[06:35:02] PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christi. So behind me, beneath that tent, that's the bench where the former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia collapsed last Sunday. Their bodies were attacked by a nerve agent.

Now as you touched on the police have been investigating this intensely over the last week or so as they try to answer a pretty key question, that is where and how that particular chemical weapon was deployed.

We saw some early activity here at this location, some restaurants and a pub in the center of the town as well. But in recent days, police forensic activity has really been focused on Sergei Skripal's house and the local cemetery because that's where his wife and son are buried. At their particular graveyards, that's where we've seen police set up forensic tents and approach them wearing full safety gear as they seem to be trying to gather information on precisely how this chemical weapon was used, where the two victims may have been exposed to it.

You mentioned that there are now military personnel in this town. And that's true. The authorities have been warning all week that there is no further risk to the wider public. It seems that these military personnel have been drafted from various services. The Air Force, the Army, the Marines. Some of them do have chemical warfare expertise and in dealing with decontamination as well. Their job, it seems, is to deal with certain objects, cars, items that

might have been contaminated in some way by the nerve agent that was deployed here.

PAUL: All right. Phil Black, great information. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

BLACKWELL: Still to come, President Trump heads to Pennsylvania today to stump for the GOP candidate in Tuesday's special congressional election.

For years, people in that district have voted Republican, but now the GOP is worried. They're worried about the Democrats potentially pulling an upset. More on that ahead.

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[06:41:05] PAUL: Forty-one minutes past the hour. What are you doing on a Saturday night? President Trump is going to be at a rally in Pennsylvania ahead of Tuesday's special election in District 18 there.

This is a district the president won by 20 points in 2016. Voters have elected GOP candidates there for years, but now they say, listen, it could be up for grabs. Republicans are concerned that a loss would set a devastating precedent as we head into midterms.

BLACKWELL: Republican State Representative Rick Saccone and Democratic outside Conor Lamb are battling there to replace disgraced congressman, a GOP congressman there, Tim Murphy. Remember Murphy, staunch anti-abortion advocate, resigned after allegations of adultery and for urging his mistress to get an abortion.

Meanwhile, President Trump's proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, they received a report from both Saccone and Lamb there in Pennsylvania's 18th. And some say that Lamb's more moderate stance is what's fueling his momentum in this special election.

Now I asked Pennsylvania's GOP chair Val DiGiorgio about just that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAL DIGIORGIO, PENNSYLVANIA REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIR: Our trend, our polls and our tracking is showing the Republicans are waking up to this race, but we knew it would be a close race all along. Now Conor Lamb, the Democrat, is trying to pass himself off as a moderate. Figuring that's the only way he can win in a very conservative district. And we're getting the truth out about his record on guns, on taxes, on job creation, on abortion. And we feel pretty confident that Republican voters are going to come home this weekend.

BLACKWELL: I want to just read a couple of numbers from the latest Monmouth poll that shows that Democrats, as you said, are far more engaged in this race than Republicans. Found that 48 percent of likely Democratic voters compared to 26 percent of Republicans say they're following the Pennsylvania 18th special election closely.

Why -- is it that they have a bad candidate? Why do you think there is that disparity?

DIGIORGIO: No. We've seen that even before -- we were in that district polling even before we picked a candidate, believe it or not. And we're seeing that intensity all across the state. And so the key for us is to get our voters out. And we're doing that with 1,000 volunteers on the street this weekend, hitting the doors, hitting the phones, to make sure they know what's at stake here.

BLACKWELL: Lamb took in roughly $3.3 million while the Republican took in about $700,000. Why is he falling behind by this huge -- this chasm in the fundraising aspect?

DIGIORGIO: Yes. Well, Conor Lamb is raising his money across the country through a platform called Act Blue. So his money is coming in from across the country. We're going to see advertising, though, that Republican Rick Saccone, we're going to outspend total what the Democrats will spend on the media.

But get-out-the-vote is not about money all the time. For us, it's about putting the volunteers on the street. Like I said we're going to have about 1,000 volunteers hitting the doors this weekend and on the phones. And I put our get-out-the-vote effort up against the Democrats in this district.

BLACKWELL: Why do you think after a 20-point victory on election night and now the latest polls showing that he's at 51 percent favorable versus 47 percent unfavorable in the district that President Trump will be able to help Rick Saccone win on Tuesday?

DIGIORGIO: That's a great question. The base that I talked to -- and I was at the Allegheny Republican Party dinner last night, had over 500 people there to see Kellyanne Conway. The base likes the president, likes what he's doing. We've seen this week some great news, whether it's on jobs, taxes, the economy, North Korea, and we're seeing that in our -- we have a 200 million data base that we use at the RNC, and kudos to our chairman Rona Romney McDaniel for investing in that.

And that tracking is showing that where the generic ballot is coming back in that district, people like the president's record on jobs and the economy and taxes. So they -- you know, the base likes the president. They support him and they support what he's doing. So we want to have him here.

BLACKWELL: The president announced 25 percent on steel imports, 10 percent on aluminum imports. Analysts believe that those announcements came right in time for the special election and his rally on behalf of Saccone this weekend.

[06:45:08] Do you think that the tariffs announcement really breaks one way or another considering that both candidates have expressed some support for tariffs on some level?

DIGIORGIO: Big time in this district. And I can tell you, I've toured steel plants in this district and around it. They've been hurting. This is big, big news for southwestern Pennsylvania. This will inure to the benefit of Rick Saccone and the president in that district.

BLACKWELL: All right. Val DiGiorgio, head of the Republican Party there in Pennsylvania. Thanks so much for being with us.

DIGIORGIO: Thanks, Victor.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL: Guess what, it's almost time to fill out those brackets. Andy Scholes, come on, give us some good advice, will you, please?

(LAUGHTER)

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, my advice is to now really start doing your college basketball research, Christi. And coming up, I'll tell you who's still alive for the big dance and whose dreams of playing the tournament are over.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:50:08] BLACKWELL: That's dramatic.

(LAUGHTER)

BLACKWELL: College basketball's election Sunday is almost here. Teams around the country are still vying for a spot in the big dance.

PAUL: Andy Scholes is here with all of the highlights because we've got to pick our brackets.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

SCHOLES: Tomorrow night is you've got to start filling that bad boy out. I love this time of year, guys.

PAUL: I know you do.

SCHOLES: It's one of my favorite times, when we're getting to the heat of March Madness. Today is going to be another exciting day of action. Fourteen teams are going to punch their tickets to the NCAA tournament later today.

Memphis hanging on to their hopes of making it to the big dance. The Tigers' (INAUDIBLE) went in there, Thompson to get in, and look at this, they hit a running three at the buzzer, Kareem Brewton Jr., to keep their hopes alive. Awesome buzzer-beater there. Memphis wins 67-64. They move on to play Cincinnati today in the AAC semifinals.

Last night we got round three of the best rivalry in college hoops. Duke-North Carolina squaring off in the ACC tournament. Blue Devils guard Grayson Allen once again in the middle of some controversy. Allen butt-tripping Garrison Brooks in the first half. Take another look. He sticks his rear end right now, right there to trip him. It was a flagrant one. Allen of course has a history of tripping players, though that was the first time he used his rear end to do it. And Allen had a chance to tie game late but his three here no good. North Carolina wins 74-69.

And that Providence down by as many as 17 before they came storming back against third-ranked Xavier yesterday. Alpha Diallo, the jumper, gives the Friars the lead in overtime. It was their first lead in the game since it was 5-4. They did play some stellar defense on the final possession of the game. Xavier doesn't even get a shot off. Providence the only team in college basketball this year with three wins over top-five teams. Keep that in mind when you're filling out your bracket. They move on to the big east final at 75-72 win.

Finally, northern Colorado's Jordan Davis, arguably dunk of the year in college basketball. Take a look at this against Montana. Oh. Man, he took that Montana player on a poster.

PAUL: Wow.

SCHOLES: They ended up winning the game. They're going to play later today in the big sky championship with the trip to the NCAA tournament on the line.

And so, Victor, I know you have some advice to everyone out there who's going to filling out their brackets.

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: All right. Andy, OK. This is coming back to you. Yes. Pick an upset or two. A smaller school, let them get through a round or two.

SCHOLES: Yes.

BLACKWELL: And then let's be realistic about it.

SCHOLES: I like it.

PAUL: And what did you do last year?

SCHOLES: Put them in the sweet 16?

BLACKWELL: Yes. That's what I did last year. I think I ended up, what, 30th to 32?

(CROSSTALK)

PAUL: Your top pick there, ahead of me.

SCHOLES: This is your year, Victor.

PAUL: And butt-tripping? And the way you're going with that, I said OK.

BLACKWELL: I wrote it down.

SCHOLES: You don't see butt-tripping very often.

(CROSSTALK) PAUL: Why did you write it down?

BLACKWELL: I feel like I'm going to have to use that later in life.

(LAUGHTER)

BLACKWELL: Maybe a different context.

PAUL: Let's not talk about it.

BLACKWELL: But I feel like to -- like I will later in life.

SCHOLES: All right.

PAUL: Thank you, Andy.

BLACKWELL: Still ahead, a new CNN original series that explores how Popes have shaped politics.

PAUL: Why some say the current Pope's liberal views make him the anti-Trump.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:57:44] PAUL: Well, from one apostle to 1.2 billion followers, witness the evolution of a global icon here.

BLACKWELL: "POPE: THE MOST POWERFUL MAN IN HISTORY" premieres tomorrow at 10:00 p.m. Here's a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since Michelangelo helped build it, the most obvious change inside St. Peters is that pilgrims now take selfies. The Vatican Library may have gone digital, but only to preserve ancient wisdom. And in the Pope's art factory, mosaics are still handmade. Yet to millions this ancient church seems radically different thanks to the Pope's in the newest mosaic.

Francis the Reformer was an obscure Jesuit from Argentina just five years ago, but he made it very clear very fast that he would be one of the most liberal holy fathers in history.

(On camera): He was asked about homosexuality and said five words that shook the Catholic Church. Who am I to judge?

(Voice-over): He then embraced Muslim refugees and said God redeems the atheists, allowing priests to marry, divorced Catholic to take communion, all open for discussion under this global Pope, who also stands as the anti-Trump.

(On camera): When he says those who build walls instead of bridges are not Christians, does he know what he is doing?

THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, BREITBART ROME BUREAU CHIEF: He knows what he is doing. He is really a great political figure of our time.

WEIR (voice-over): And while his fans love that, the resistance here includes those who worry Francis is either a heretic or a socialist or both.

WILLIAMS: Right now among conservatives there is kind of an agglomeration of people with different concerns that are joined in the fact that they think that the Pope might be a danger or might be a problem.

WEIR (on camera): And what percentage of the church do you think they are?

WILLIAMS: Certainly not half.

WEIR: Yes.

WILLIAMS: Well below half. I --

WEIR: It's a passionate minority?

WILLIAMS: It is a passionate minority, yes.

WEIR (voice-over): When he defended a Chilean bishop accused of covering up the crimes of a pedophile priest the backlash was fierce. So the Pope sent a Vatican sex crimes expert to investigate.

PALOMA GARCIA OVEJERO, VICE DIRECTOR, VATICAN PRESS OFFICE: We need to know the truth to prosecute. He will never stop until he is finished with this shame.

WEIR: But through it all he is obviously most happy like this, blessing the hopeful and the desperate.

(END)