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Trump's White House Shake Up; North Koreas Tensions; Conor Lamb in Lead in Congressional Elections; Death of Stephen Hawking; Republicans Are Panicking After a Democrat Just Cleaned Up In a Deep- Red District and the Results Should Terrify Them; U.K. Deadline For Moscow Response Passes; Fight Against Modern Day Slavery & Human Trafficking; Student's Explain What Freedom Means To Them. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired March 14, 2018 - 02:00   ET


[02:00:32] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to viewers in the United States and around the world. Great to have you with us, I am John Vause.

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: And I am Isha Sesay live in Los Angeles where it is now 11:00 o'clock on the West Coast.

VAUSE: And there is breaking news this hour from Pennsylvania, where Democrat, Conor Lamb, is declaring victory in a special Congressional Election considered by many to be a referendum on the U.S. President.

SESAY: Right now, the race is too close for CNN to call. It's all coming down to the absentee ballots. And with more outstanding votes than the difference between the candidates, we'll await word from the election officials or concession from Republican, Rick Saccone. Let's take a listen to what the candidates are saying.


CONOR LAMB, DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE: It took a little longer than we thought but we did it.

RICK SACCONE, REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE: You know we're still fighting the fight. It's not over yet. We're going to fight all the way -- all the to the end.


SESAY: Well let's bring in our panel, CNN Political Commentator and Democratic strategist, David Jacobson, former Los Angeles City Councilwoman, Wendy Greuel.

VAUSE: Also with us, CNN Political Commentator and Republican Consultant, John Thomas, next to him Republican Digital Strategist, Austin James. OK. You know, this race was never expected to be this close. So John, first to you, Conor is up by 579 votes. If you take a look back at how this district has played out over the years, the Republican candidate has won eight consecutive elections in this district by a margin of no fewer than 15 percentage points in 2014 and 2016.

No Democrat bothered to run. President Trump carried this 18th District by nearly 20 points. Romney won by a similar margin back in 2012. So what went wrong?

JOHN THOMAS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Tonight, as I think my Democrat friends across the table will agree, in 2016 candidates do matter, who we put up matters. And in this case with Rick Saccone, he was an awful candidate. He failed to do a lot of the basic mechanics that you would expect of any Republican. And on the flip side, the Democrats and Conor Lamb had nearly a flawless candidate that was a great fit, that quite frankly, if you didn't know he was a Democrat and you listened to his rhetoric, he fought against Nancy Pelosi, he said he could work for Donald Trump. Everything was Republican light rhetoric.

SESAY: Dave, Wendy, is that how you guys got the win by passing yourselves off as Republican light?


WENDY GREUEL, FORMER LOS ANGELES CITY COUNCILWOMAN: Not at all, not at all. He was a good candidate. He stands for, you know, Democratic values. And the fact is that Donald Trump had won this by 20 points the last time in that election. And he is now this close. And I believe very strongly he is going to win this, but it is also is a win/win for the Democratic Party because this was a district and a seat people thought we couldn't win.

And think about the number, we only need 23 more seats to take back the House and I think we'll see that happen.

VAUSE: And here's the thing because Austin -- places like Pennsylvania, they're not meant to be in play. This is, I think, an easy one, right? But now it seems -- if they win, if they lose, it is narrow win, narrow loss whatever, the game has changed.

AUSTIN JAMES, REPUBLICAN DIGITAL STRATEGIST: So listen. You are hearing both sides. There are talking points on both sides and we tried to break this down the last hour. There is a lot of kind of evolving narratives. I think John's point cannot be understated, which is the fact that outgoing Congressman Republican had union support. That union support shifted to Lamb, this go around. The hyper-local issues that matter in dear-hunting country, guns, issues of abortion, issues of pensions and unions were things that Lamb understood and ran on extremely well.

DAVID JACOBSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But Lamb was pro choice, right? He said he personally opposed abortion so did Bill Clinton, but Bill Clinton was for choice. So look, I think ultimately, this election was a referendum on Donald Trump. Donald Trump was on that ballot. Donald Trump won by 20 points.


JAMES: Because of Donald Trump lifting the failing candidate in the home stretch.


JACOBSON: Republicans spent over $10 million in outside money.


JACOBSON: Conor Lamb spent three million.

SESAY: OK. So what is the lesson here now for the other races, for Democrats, what do you take from here? What can you extrapolate and put in play in other races?

JACOBSON: I think you need a micro target. You need to micro target and be very laser focused and surgical about your message. The way you're going to win if you're a Democrat is you have got to district by district. There is no national narrative or no party platform the Democrats are campaigning on. It's right that Democrats are campaigning against Donald Trump and for a variety of different issues.

Like in California for example, Democrats are going to win campaigning on Medicare for all. They're not going to win Pennsylvania 18 campaigning on Medicare for all. So they have to go district by district and tailor their message to those constituents.

GREUEL: They did that in 2006 and they won a lot of seats. And I think that is the same campaign strategy they're going to use.

VAUSE: From the Georgia Congressional 6th with Ossoff who was a disaster of a Democratic candidate.

[02:05:32] And the Republican held on to that. But also, let's look into the fact that Trump campaigned over the weekend in Pennsylvania. He had done robo-calls. He had done tweeting on behalf of the candidate. Peter (ph), what was interesting, though, at this campaign rally, he hit his familiar hot button themes. He insulted women. He mocked the press. He proved that -- executing drug dealers. You know this was like his greatest hits. But it seems -- I guess maybe has it lost -- Austin or John, has those things lost their punch, you know.


THOMAS: Well, I don't think they have. The Monmouth Poll that came out showing Conor Lamb up by four or five. Part of the problem was Rick Saccone was that 82 percent of Republicans were coalescing around in that moment. The gap tightened was Republicans were coming home. And the only thing that changed over the weekend was Donald Trump having that rally.

JAMES: This is also where I keep using the word lazy, is that the hyper-local campaign was resting their laurels on Trump's chaotic narrative and it doesn't work at the hyper-local level.

(CROSSTALK) JAMES: So if they do micro-target and you do bring out candidates that are kind of wolves in sheep's clothing and you can -- I think it's a real.


THOMAS: Here is the other fascinating dynamic, is if you can look at the Senate, you can go wow, Democrats, blue dog Democrats like Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, this is a great model. She is going to be OK. Wrong, because Conor Lamb never cast a vote. So it was easy for him to talk about what he might be for, who he might be with, remember he says he says it worked with Donald Trump.

Heidi Heitkamp hasn't worked with Donald Trump. So it's going to be more problematic for the incumbent Democrat who rebutted the President where the President is still upwards in his approval ratings.


GREUEL: I don't know. I think the President's approval ratings are still down in the toilet. I mean they are not --


JACOBSON: But let me ask you this. Do you think Donald Trump carries that area again in 2020? I would say yes, he does.

VAUSE: He's 49/49 I think in Pennsylvania right now, approval- disapproval.

GREUEL: Look, I think all of his chaotic nature of the White House and -- are the challenges that he has all across this world are going to start impacting people. And the fact is they're not seeing their pocketbook change very much. Those that are in the -- you know, low income and middle income are not seeing anything changed. They're now going to say, "Wait a minute, he was supposed to fight for us." He fought for the wealthy, not us, and I think that's going to be able to turn some of these seats.

SESAY: Do we see more money coming your way because of this. Because as we talk about momentum and the flipside, do we see issues now for the GOP in terms it of raising money, because the momentum in real terms can be converted to dollars and cents.

JACOBSON: And let's not forget like politics is all about momentum. This was a game changer election, whether Conor Lamb wins or he comes within striking distance, it is a win/win for Democrats either way you look at it. We are picking up steam by every measurement in all these different races. We're not talking about the races that were razor- thin close for Democrats almost beating incumbent Republicans in 16.

Hillary won, as Wendy mentioned, 23 districts across the country, where you have a sitting Republican house member of one of those Republican members that are retiring. So it is clear that we have got the momentum. It's clear that this is going to out fuel our fund raising efforts across the country, and I think this is going to continue to propel us towards victory.


GREUEL: -- possible that we can win back the seats.

VAUSE: A ton of money was pent in this election, $9 million, $10 million on the Republicans. Well, on the Democrats side, the same, was it?

JAMES: Conor Lamb spent about a $3 million and there is about a million of outside money.

VAUSE: Yeah, so there was four million. OK, Corry Bliss Congressional Leadership Fund said this. "This is a very challenging environment for Republicans. We need good candidates who run good campaigns. This may not be nice to say. The fact is that the Saccone campaign was a joke. If any candidate could walk and chew gum at the same time, we would have won the race."

I just want to go through (ph) this because this was the election where the tax cuts had gone through Congress. This was the election when tariffs on aluminum and steel. And this district where that was meant to appeal to. So if those aren't going to get approved for those policies of the President, if they're going to be rejected by you know white, college-educated women in particular, then there surely has to be a message for the Republicans that they're in deep, deep trouble, because they've got nothing to run on come the mid- terms.

JAMES: Well, this is, again, I'm using the word again. It was lazy. I agree with you. I actually agree. I think Trump does Trump well. And I think when Republicans, whether it's at a national level, state level, or hyper-local levels try to play Trump, they lose. I think we've seen that race and race and race again.

Republics have to stop saying, "Hey, listen. You know what? We don't get -- we have crappy candidates. They don't get the voters in that area, and so we're going to rest on cultural chaos. We're going to rest on some of Trump's narratives because they do not trickle down."

JACOBSON: Can I just say Austin is like absolutely right. We saw this, if you look at the ad spending --


JAMES: First time there.


JACOBSON: -- just because the outside Republican national money was throwing down ads on the tax cuts, but it wasn't moving the needle on behalf of Saccone. And so they shifted into, you know, sanctuary cities, right, and it didn't work. And guess what? That didn't work in the Virginia Governor's race against -- with Ed Gillespie, right.

[02:10:32] And so that is the issue. Moreover, what we're seeing Republicans attack their candidate, but this is the same playbook that we saw with Roy Moore, that we saw with Greg Gianforte, Montana Special Election. I mean Republicans knocked (ph) candidates irrespective of whether or not they're looking like they are going to win or not.


VAUSE: Well, you're doing better. At least this guy wasn't a pedophile.


VAUSE: Well, what was interesting, though, that amount of money spent on advertising because this is not a major media market, and I think the take away from is those ads became really annoying. If you talk to the people of Pennsylvania who had to endure that, they were like, "Get the ads off television." There was saturation.

GREUEL: It goes back to being focused on local and really knowing your community, you know, going to the places where you can meet the constituents and that the TV ads are part of it, but they're not everything. So having the most money doesn't always mean you're going to win. And I think having Trump as your endorser also doesn't mean that.

SESAY: And with that knowledge, that Trump being the endorser doesn't always win, do you expect to see the half dozen or so Republicans drop out, retire, that they're not going to run again, as Biden was saying.

THOMAS: I wouldn't be surprised if you see a couple more weak-kneed Republicans drop.


VAUSE: Weak-kneed.

JACOBSON: I like that one.


THOMAS: But by and large, I think there is such a clear contrast in this race between Conor Lamb and how poor of an exercise that Rick Saccone ran. I think most Republicans that are savvy are just going to say, "You know what? I have to run a race this cycle. I just can't dial it in because Trump carried my district."

VAUSE: It was interesting even the President did not like Saccone, called him weak and criticized him, with friends like that. Welcome to politics. OK. We will have a little bit more of you guys later in this hour on the Brexit situation so stick around.

SESAY: And more breaking news tonight, Stephen Hawking, one of the brightest scientists of the modern age has died at age 76.

VAUSE: The world-renown physicist did not let a debilitating disease stop him from unraveling some of the mysteries of the universe. His family released a statement, saying, "We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today. He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years."

SESAY: The statement continues, "His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humor inspired people across the world." He once said. "It would not be much of universe if it wasn't home to the people you love." His family go on to say, "We will miss him forever." Well, though confined to a wheelchair, he never lost his sense of humor.

VAUSE: He is beloved by millions, not only for his scientific achievements but also for a sharp wit. His legacy lives on. CNN's Matthew Chance has more now on the life and legacy of Stephen Hawking.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: By any measure, Stephen Hawking's life was incredible, even more so because in the 1960s he was diagnosed with ALS or motor neuron disease and given just a few years to live. This rare form of motor neuron disease left him virtually paralyzed, unable to express his profound vision of humanity and science without a voice synthesizer.

STEPHEN HAWKING, PHYSICIST: At one point, I thought I would see the end of physics as we know it, but now I think the wonder of discovery will continue long after I am gone.

CHANCE: But this was never a man bound by his own physical limitations. He reveled in a zero gravity flight, freeing him, he said, from the confines of his wheelchair. He also wrote a series of children's books about space with his daughter, Lucy. He had two other children and three grandchildren. For more than three decades, he was a professor at Cambridge University's Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, specializing in the study of black holes and revered as a member of the academic elite.

But Professor Hawking also did much to popularize science, playing himself in Star Trek and the Simpson's. In 2014, his life and romance with wife, Jane Wild, was depicted on the big screen, the acclaimed film, "the Theory of Everything."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The universe is getting smaller and smaller, getting denser and denser, hotter and hotter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You mean winding back the block?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly, winding back the clock.

CHANCE: Hawking consulted on the bio drama, which earned five Academy Award nominations and a best actor win for Eddie Redmayne, his portrayal of the physicist. Hawking's most famous work, A Brief History of Time, remains one of the best selling science books ever written. And he was deeply concerned with humanity's survival.

[02:15:32] HAWKING: I see great dangers for the human race. There have been a number of times in the past when its survival has been a question of touch and go. The frequency of such occasions is likely to increase in the future. We shall need great care and judgment to negotiate them all successfully. But I am an optimist. If we can avoid disaster for the next two centuries, our species should be safe as we spread into space.

CHANCE: He was as ever looking firmly to the future.



SESAY: Hello, everyone, in the latest upheaval at the White House. The Secretary of State is out just ahead of a pivotal meeting with North Korea. After months of disagreements on key issues, President Trump fired Rex Tillerson, announcing the move on Twitter.

VAUSE: Right. The rumors had been around for months, even so the official announcement would seem to catch many by surprise. During a farewell address at the State Department, an emotional Tillerson thanked everyone but the President.


REX TILLERSON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Working with allies, we exceeded the expectations of almost everyone with the deeply archaic maximum pressure campaign. With the announcement of my very first trip, the Secretary of State to the region, but the era of strategic patience was over and we committed the steps to dramatically increase, not just the scope, but the effectiveness of the sanctions.


VAUSE: OK, back with our panel now for more on Rexit, the departure of Rex Tillerson from the State Department. OK, so Tillerson is out, no surprise there. But I guess the question now is about Mike Pompeo, the CIA Director who is taking his place and why he was chosen by the President. This is a man that Donald Trump says is on his wave length, that Pompeo supports Trump on issues the Iran nuclear deal. The question that a lot of people is, is Pompeo the kind of guy who liked by the President because he says what the President wants to hear.

GREUEL: I believe so. I mean if you look at all the people who have been fired or resigned because they knew they were going to be fired. Most of them have disagreed with the President.

VAUSE: Especially on Russia.

GREUEL: Especially on Russia. And I think that particularly with Tillerson, he was very clear on many of his positions. And I will say that most of the -- you know, world, any of our enemies are celebrating once again that there is chaos in foreign policy, and the direction of national security. So I think that Trump is really -- I like to say this is like Scandal, a real life Scandal TV series, where you have this intrigue, international intrigue. Who is dating who and what's happening, and instead of focusing on the issues that are important to this country. SESAY: Austin, James, how did it go so wrong for Rex Tillerson? It

is not a surprise that he's out. But this is a President who has prided himself on hiring the best and surrounding himself with the greatest and being a great deal marker. How did it get the Secretary of State position so wrong, i.e. choosing someone that clearly wasn't on the same wavelength?

JAMES: I think one of the first things that stand out was that he was a successful businessman, and there wasn't a ton of time for him to properly vet exactly how he operated as a businessman. I think one of the things that we've learned is that when he was at Exxon, he liked a close network of people that has translated into the State Department. He largely left the State Department unmanned. He is known to believe that he doesn't think the State Department can actually help.

SESAY: But that's not why he was fired.

JAMES: No, no. He actually managed the State Department very ineffectively as a businessman, right. There wasn't even anything positive to look at in that sense. And as Trump kind of coalesced his ideas and as he's tried to put down things on paper that he wanted to get done, Tillerson wasn't in that end game, right? And so I think one of the things about Trump is that he knows what he wants to accomplish. He doesn't necessarily know how to get there. And we're kind of seeing how the sausage is made so to speak. And so if you don't agree with that end game, I think ultimately you're out.

VAUSE: OK, who does not agree with the end game? Let's go through the list of who could be the next Colonel Mustard in the Billiard Room. Ok, coming in at number one likely to be fired by the President in the next couple of days, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, followed by David Shulkin from the Veteran's Affairs, Secretary H.R. McMaster, the National Security Advisor, the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, EPA Director Scott Pruitt, Housing Secretary Ben Carson, he who likes expensive dining room tables, John Kelly, White House Chief of Staff, and of course, there is Betsy Devos, the Education Secretary, does not perform well on 60 Minutes, and last but not least Defense Secretary Jim Mattis even makes the list.

So who could be next to go? I think we have a hint from the President himself.


TRUMP: You know, we have General Kelly here, four-star and he's doing a great job in Washington. I think he likes what you do better than what he does. But he is doing a great job. He misses you.


VAUSE: That was a kiss of death, Dave.

JACOBSON: Donald Trump likes yes men and women, but at the end of the day.

GREUEL: Mostly men. JACOBSON: Right.


JACOBSON: In the White House to have a quality in terms of senior positions. But yeah, at the end of the day, anybody who disagrees ultimately with the President, perfect example Gary Cohn the other day. He didn't want tariffs. He left. The President wasn't going to budge. And so at the end of the day he says he likes infighting. He says he likes dysfunction. He likes competing ideas to come up with the best solution possible, but there is no evidence of that.

VAUSE: Those competing ideas as long as they agree with his ideas.

JACOBSON: Yeah, precisely.

SESAY: I mean John, at the end of the day you might rationalize it away, saying he wants competing ideas.

[02:23:57] But is it good for the country, is it good for the country's standing internally, externally to have this amount of turnover?

THOMAS: I think the policies -- I mean I think the fact if you just look at the results beyond the infighting in the White House, I think it is pretty good for the country, the sit down that he's having with the leader of North Korea.

SESAY: He hasn't had it yet.

THOMAS: He is going to have. I think that's good for the country.


THOMAS: The fact that ISIS is all but exterminated.


THOMAS: But I'm looking at results.

JAMES: The end game.

SESAY: No, no, the North Korea argument people would make is that this President should not be sitting down with North Korea because it validates them as they seek recognition as a nuclear state. The reason the President made such a hasty decision is because he doesn't have people around him. It comes back to the team around him to give him the right advice, the right guidance.

THOMAS: But there are equally as many people who think it is a brilliant move and an opportunity to actually denuclearize.


JAMES: We don't even have an Ambassador to South Korea, right.


THOMAS: Every President expects loyalty. And to expect anything that Trump would think differently is silly.

VAUSE: There is loyalty to a point. But you rolled your eyes on Pompeo because he is tough on Russia. Yeah, that is true, that he has a tougher position on Russia than others have within that cabinet. Because we'll see how that plays out. He could get fired as well. We just don't know. But Wendy, what we're seeing with this continuing exodus of the people who were the adults, who were the grownups, the restraining ones who you know, would restrain the President from his worst impulses, they're the one's who are leaving.

GREUEL: And that is frightening to many of us. Again, I didn't agree with Rex Tillerson on a lot of things but he was the adult in the room in many instances. It is scary. And you talk about vacancies. You can go into some of these departments and particularly even go into one of the old executive office building and you know throw a bowling ball down there and there aren't people there to do the jobs that are important, like making sure the President has the right information when he's making a foreign policy decision.

And he is not focusing in on issues like Russia is still ting to get into our elections. And today, it was on CNN earlier today, which was a clip of someone in 60 Minutes in Russia who said Tillerson complained about Russia. He got fired. Trump is ours. That's the message that they're getting from Russia. ,

VAUSE: Last word, Austin.

JAMES: The one thing that we haven't talked about and I'll go ahead and say it as Republican is that, largely after Nixon Republicans have kind of went away with this idea that the State Department is kind of the be all for foreign policy and they're trying to minimize this big kind of government of the state policy and its heavy hand around the world, bringing that back larger to the President being the seat of foreign policy decision making.

And largely I think that's where Tillerson was coming from, from mentality. He didn't execute it well. And so I think Pompeo will be a hawk but probably do -- take a very similar approach to keeping a minimized State Department.

VAUSE: We'll see what happens with the Iran nuclear deal, though.

SESAY: And the North Korea talks.

VAUSE: If they happen.

SESAY: If they happen.

VAUSE: We'll take a bet they're not going to happen.

SESAY: I'll take that bet.

(CROSSTALK) JACOBSON: I think it is highly unlikely it is going to happen. Donald Trump is going to fire off some stupid tweet and it's going to change the whole dynamic.

JAMES: A hot day of Conor Lamb.


VAUSE: Conor Lamb.

SESAY: Thank you to you all.

VAUSE: Thank you, guys. We appreciate it.

OK. When we come back, one of the brightest scientists of the modern age has died. We'll look at the life and legacy of Stephen Hawking in just a moment.


[02:32:02] SESAY: Welcome back everyone. The breaking news this hour. Democrat Conor Lamb is claiming victory in a special congressional election in Pennsylvania. If he holds on, it would be a huge upset for Donald Trump who won the district by 20 points in the 2016 presidential election.

VAUSE: Right now the race is still too close to CNN to call. We are waiting for absentee ballots to be counted. Republican Rick Saccone says he is not ready to concede. At least, not yet. Renowned British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking has died. He is widely considered to be the world's greatest scientist. He was an astronomer, mathematician, the author of a lot of books all while living with ALS commonly known Lou Gehrig's disease.

SESAY: While reactions to his passing has been coming in from all concerns of the world, the University of Cambridge put this out where he (INAUDIBLE) we held the position of location professional of mathematics. The statement reads, Professor Hawking as a unique individual who will be remembered with warmth and affection not only in Cambridge but all over the world. His exceptional contributions to scientific knowledge and popularization of science and mathematics have left an indelible legacy. His character was an inspiration to millions. He'll be much missed.

VAUSE: Technology and business correspondent Sam Burke joins us now live from London. Sam, obviously an early start for you. And a lot of people in London waking up to the news now that this great man, this great mind has passed.

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is feeling the airwaves here in the United Kingdom whether it's radio or television. This is the only thing that people on the streets are talking about as they walk to get their coffee this morning. And if you talk to scientists, they'll tell you that his biggest achievement was combining the theory of relativity from Einstein with quantum theory to suggest that the world and space and time would begin with the Big Bang but end with black holes.

But even if you don't understand science, we know at the end of the day which spoke to so many people about this and as a fact that he had ALS and all the things that would suggest that he couldn't leave a public life did not stop him, not the wheelchair, not the lack voice using a voice synthesizer. Instead, so this is what inspired so many people about this man and he knew that he had been living on borrowed time first on years.

He said that he was lucky that the decease had progressed slowly with him and that the fact that he could keep on going no matter what should give hope to all of humanity. And I think if we look out and we see some of the reaction on social media here it really speaks to the fact that he inspired not just scientist but also people in technology and media. So let's just start by looking at a tweet from the Scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson. He tweeted the following, "His passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake, but it's not empty. Think of it as a kind of vacuum energy permeating the fabric of space time that defies measure." And then Sundar Pichai who is now the CEO of Google and I think this speaks to the fact that so many people who are working in technology now changing our lives.

[02:35:02] We're changed by him. He said, "The world has lost beautiful mind and a brilliant scientist." And lastly, this is from the executive producer of The Simpsons, farewell to Stephen Hawking, the most intelligent guest star in the brief history of The Simpsons. I think this really speaks to the fact that he was somebody who knew that he had to use media to become a scientist in the modern age whether it was The Simpsons or Star Trek. He was able to communicate his message about science in a different way so that the rest of us could understand.

VAUSE: Yes. Absolutely. Sam, thank you.

SESAY: Brilliant job at it. Samuel, we really appreciate it. Thank you.

VAUSE: Well, Robert Caldwell is a theoretical physicist who was a researcher in Stephen Hawking's group for two years in mid 1990s.

SESAY: Yes. He's a professor of and astronomy at Dartmouth College and he joins us now from San Diego. Robert, thank you being with us. I know that this is a difficult time for you. You worked with Professor Hawking. Can you just share with us some of your memories of the man you knew?

ROBERT CALDWELL, PROFESSOR OF PHYSICS AND ASTRONOMY AT DARTMOUTH COLLEGE: Well, he was a hero to many of us in physics. And, you know, he was actually the adviser of my Ph.D. adviser when I was developing as a scientist working on my thesis. My adviser told me stories about Hawking. So by the time I got to Cambridge, you know, I knew him as a sort of hero and legend for stories inside and outside of physics.

VAUSE: Robert, and just like -- we talked about Hawking being this great mind, is genius who made so many discoveries. Is there a way that you can link those discoveries to how people live their lives? Is there any kind of direct connection that you can make that you can say, well, he discovered this therefore, it had a bearing on what we do today?

CALDWELL: No. It's a -- it will take some time before we see the impact on our everyday lives I think in terms of technology. For example, it took almost 80 years between the time that Einstein invented general relativity and we got to the relativistic role in GPS. But one of Hawking's greatest accomplishments I think was getting people interested in these esoteric subjects of the origin of the universe and interested in science.

SESAY: Robert, I just want to go back to the fact you had Stephen Hawking as your -- as your supervisory adviser for your Ph.D. because I think that is tremendous and I'm just wondering what it was like working with him that closely such a great mind and whether, you know, some scientists and some experts aren't very generous with their intellect. They can be quite harsh. What was he like in close confines working with him?

CALDWELL: Well, he was -- he was the adviser of my Ph.D. adviser. But I knew him from interactions in the cosmology group at Cambridge and he was -- well, because of his -- because of ALS, he was very direct in his speech because he couldn't waste the energy on a long discussion as you can imagine. But he also had a sense of humor and that came through in personal interactions, comments he made, and it also came through in his scientific papers.

VAUSE: Very quickly, Robert. There's a story that when was he was at Oxford, he finished his undergraduate degree there for about a thousand hours or something between the first and his second class degree. And he said to the folks at Oxford, if you make it first class, I'll go to Cambridge and then they did. So apparently, that is in his book. That is true. That is the kind of guy he was, right.

CALDWELL: I don't know if that's true. But, yes.

SESAY: Do you have a favorite memory of him from your time being in the research group?

CALDWELL: Well, actually it was from after the -- being in the research group to see him on The Simpsons I think was pretty incredible to think that someone in my line of work could end up on The Simpsons is pretty incredible.


VAUSE: It gives hopes to geniuses everywhere that they too can become a popular reference (INAUDIBLE) and being success.

SESAY: Robert Caldwell, thank you so much for joining us. I know this is a difficult time for you in the scientific community. But thank you for joining us.

VAUSE: Thanks, Robert.


SESAY: Still to come on CNN NEWSROOM. The Kremlin is ignoring the U.K.'s demand for a response on the poisoning of a former Russian double agent. We're live in Britain and Moscow to find out why just ahead.


[02:42:58] SESAY: Well, Moscow has ignored a deadline to explain how a nerve agent poisoned a former Russian spy and his daughter on British soil. Russia says it won't respond to the U.K. until it receives samples of the chemical. This as we learned that another Russian exile has died in Britain. Police say the death of Putin critic, Nikolai Glushkov at his London home is unexplained.

VAUSE: So far, authorities say there is no evidence linking Glushkov's death to the nerve agent attack. The Kremlin denies involvement. In the meantime, the U.S. President Donald Trump says he believes the U.K. Government's assessment that Russia was likely responsible but he did not condemn the Kremlin.

SESAY: Well, CNN has the latest details on the story from multiple angles. Erin McLaughlin is in Salisbury, England. Sam Kiley has reaction from Moscow. Erin, to start with you, Theresa May out trying to build a coalition of support amongst the European leaders and it appears that they are on her side.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. She is certainly getting expressions of support, Isha. We heard from German Chancellor Angela Merkel say that Germany stands in solidarity with the United Kingdom. According to Downey Street out of that phone call with President Trump. President Trump saying the United States is with the U.K. all the way on this and that Russia needs to provide answers. Those answers however not forthcoming that deadline that Theresa May set has come and gone paving the way for her now to take action.

She's expected to meet with the National Security Council later today to go over options. Out of that, she's then going to have Prime Minister's questions and then make a statement to the House of Commons. A range of options before her to consider the one which I think that she's considering launching some sort of cyber counterstrike against Russia which would surely lead to retaliatory measures, economic as well as financial sanctions also being considered. Whatever is decided it will be interesting to see how the U.S. and the E.U. then respond. Isha?

[02:45:04] SESAY: Yes, indeed, Erin McLaughlin, then in Salisbury, thank you. Sam Kiley, to you in Moscow. So, we hear Erin talking about the range of options if you will at the disposal of the British government suddenly, being entertained. Obviously, Moscow is well aware of all of these discussions that are ongoing, and yet they remain defiant, and they themselves now warning of retaliation.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that sort of warning of retaliation in anticipation of retaliation. And notably, on this matter of a potential cyber-attack coming from the United Kingdom. The embassy -- the Russian embassy in London warning that, that would be considered very retrograde step and asking for clarity from the British government over what is basically reports within the media or about what the options are available to Theresa May.

There are a wide range of options, some of which could put the European Union relationship undertrain because there is a divergence of opinion across the European Union about the effectiveness and the desirability of existing European Union sanctions against Russia over its invasion of the crime near in destabilization of Eastern Ukraine.

But nonetheless, there is keen anticipation here to see what the British will come up with. There is something of an attitude among the Russians that the Brits don't really matter too much anymore. They're not a major power, of course, they are a nuclear power. But in terms of the power within Europe, and even the relationship with the United States it's somewhat weakened. And so, the Russians are feeling pretty confident.

SESAY: We shall see what happens in the hours ahead. PMQ is coming up. Erin McLaughlin in Salisbury, England and Sam Kylie there in Moscow. Really appreciate it, thank you.

VAUSE: Well, it's CNN's My Freedom Day on Wednesday. And when we come back, we'll show you how young people all around the world are celebrating.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- freedom means having a big space to play with friends and with toys without fear.



[02:51:24] VAUSE: We're marking My Freedom Day here at CNN International. Seven years ago this month, our network and our boss (INAUDIBLE) decided there was a need to highlight modern-day slavery around the world, and so, came the launch of the CNN Freedom Project.

SESAY: Well, this year it is evolved into a worldwide event driven by students to raise awareness about the impact of slavery and human trafficking.

VAUSE: Let's bring in CNN's Anna Coren, she is live at -- in Hong Kong, at the international school. Here at the gymnasium and boy, that's a big crowd behind you.

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there is. And I'll tell you what, John, these are a vibrant, interested group of kids who really want to bring about change. We're in the indoor gymnasium, 600 students have packed in here to listen to a very sobering speech by activist Matt Friedman, who works for The Mekong Club, at the local club here in Hong Kong that's trying to end modern-day slavery. He's been sharing some of the heartbreaking stories of victims who he has come across in his many decades of doing this work. But the only way it's going to -- it's going to be change is through these students. And that's why we are here at Hong Kong International School, I want to introduce you to some of these students. We have Grace Giddings and Kha Nhi Nguyen, and also, Greg Ladner, he's the assistant principal.

Grace if I can start with you, what does freedom mean to you?

GRACE GIDDINGS, STUDENT, HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL: So, freedom to me means that I get to learn subjects that I'm interested in, and then, I get to ask questions and grow as a learner.

COREN: And tell me, why do you think My Freedom Day is important? Why do we need to celebrate it?

KHA NHI NGUYEN, STUDENT, HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL: I think it's important because it helps raise awareness for everyone. And as Matt Friedman asked before, not many people know about slavery. In this, they really helps people understand and embrace in themselves and like what we are supposed to be doing in this world.

COREN: And -- I mean, here we are in Hong Kong, one of the wealthiest cities in the world, we're privileged, you go to a wonderful school. When you listen to the stories from Matt Friedman, then, how does it make you feel?

GIDDINGS: Well it definitely like you said, is sobering. It really opens our eyes because I feel as though we are very privileged group of kids. But it just because we're kids, doesn't mean we can't help this people. And I feel like we've learned a lot of facts about them that we can use to our advantage.

COREN: And Greg, you're obviously very supportive of this initiative and the students bringing My Freedom Day to your school.

GREG LADNER, ASSOCIATE PRINCIPAL, HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL: Yes, look at it's been very much a student-led week. And we have tried to bring together some issues that really are part of the curriculum as we -- you know, approach the whole school year. But it's good to have it culminating into a whole week where we can really focusing on the idea and we get kids throughout behind it.

COREN: And they have gotten right behind it too, haven't they?

LADNER: Lately, I've been blown away. We had the student leadership team on Sunday. Even finishing off 700 badges and pins that they made for the kids in exchange for -- you know, their thoughts about what it means to be free which is so privileged for you.



COREN: So important. And you've also got the choir here which shall -- we're going to share with our CNN audience. I need to alert the crowd that we now need hear the wonderful choir who went to also celebrate My Freedom Day. So, Isha and John, I'm going to hand it over to the choir. That's the cue. That's CNN My Freedom Day.

SESAY: It get strong the --

[02:54:46] COREN: Now, let's have a listen to the song, This Is Me, The Greatest Showman.

OK, the choir is about to perform we're just having a few technical issues which is what happens with live television. But I believe that we're about to take it away.

STUDENTS AT HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL: I am not a stranger to the dark hideaway, they say because we don't want your broken parts. I've learned to be ashamed of all my scars. Runaway, they say no one will love you as you are but I won't let them break me down to dust. I know that there's a place for us --

VAUSE: OK. Anna, thank you so much. Anna Coren there at the Hong Kong International School, of the gymnasium there. The kids have done a lot of projects for this. The kids -- the choir there performing.

SESAY: Yes. For My Freedom Day, a big day as the students raise their voices to basically draw attention to human trafficking and modern-day slavery and singing a beautiful song there.

VAUSE: And should Isha, this is just the start of My Freedom Day.


VAUSE: It -- we started in Abu Dhabi, and we're gone to Hong Kong. And of course, we'll be -- it says we following the sun throughout the rest of the day to schools all around the world. Because there be a lot of work done by a lot of kids.

SESAY: And I will be at the school in Los Angeles in the coming hours. So, a lot to look forward to.

VAUSE: OK, and we'd like to thank you for watching at home. I'm John Vause, you been watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.

SESAY: And I am Isha Sesay. Stay with CNN, the news continues.