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Source: McCabe Met Mueller, Turned Over Trump Notes; Trump Slams Mueller Probe As A Witch Hunt (Again); Russians Vote As Putin Seeks Tighter Grip On Power; Facebook Suspends Data Research Firm With Ties To Trump. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired March 18, 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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[06:00:09]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not only did Andrew McCabe keep notes on his conversations with the president, McCabe turned those memos over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: McCabe has had an excellent reputation for many years, but that regard diminished greatly with regard to the Clinton Foundation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Mueller investigation is not close to wrapping.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A new twist in the Stormy Daniels case. The president's legal team is now officially involved.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not surprised at the effort to move it to federal court.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stormy Daniels is really outmaneuvering them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Vladimir Putin is preparing to extend his powerful grip into a third decade.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are eight candidates standing in this presidential election, but of course, there's only one serious contender.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll have the first returns on the Russian election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putin won.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody. So glad to have you with us here. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: You all right?

PAUL: Yes, I know, it's Sunday. Just trying to get everything together.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you. The president is escalating his attacks on his own law enforcement agencies and once again claiming that the Russia investigation, which, remember, has resulted in indictments and guilty pleas and new sanctions is a witch hunt.

PAUL: It's a view that's shared by one of his top lawyers who is facing backlash for suggesting the Justice Department's investigation needs to be shut down. None of this is stopping Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who we now know met with former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and has notes on all of McCabe's interactions with President Trump.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Dan Merica is following all of these developments from Washington. Dan, good morning to you. What more do we know about Robert Mueller's sit-down with the fired FBI deputy director or how he got a hold of these memos?

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: We understand, you know, President Trump continues to fume and rage about the Russia investigation as he has for a long time. What's new here is that as we're told former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe actually sat down with Robert Mueller, was interviewed by him, handed over these notes that he took, which are critical because they could corroborate what James Comey, the former FBI director who was fired by Trump had said and had written at the time.

He also took contemporaneous notes about his interactions with the president. So what McCabe's notes could be, they could corroborate what Comey had already said. It's been a busy weekend on the Russia front for a number of reasons. Andrew McCabe was days away from retiring from the Department of Justice for receiving his full pension.

He was actually fired on Friday night just, you know, really hours before he could have received that full pension. Now the Department of Justice says that was because of I had conduct around investigations, especially one around the Clinton Foundation actually.

But McCabe and others have said that his firing is nothing more than another attack and war on this Mueller probe. President Trump actually weighed in and tweeted about the Mueller probe and has continued to fume about it.

I want to read to you exactly what he said in a tweet yesterday, "The Mueller probe should never have been started and that there was no collusion and there was no crime. It was based on fraudulent activities and a fake dossier paid for by crooked Hillary and the DNC and improperly used in FISA court for surveillance of my campaign witch hunt."

Now he's obviously made that case a number of times. He's also getting a little bit of backup from one of his outside lawyers, John Dowd. John Dowd actually said, "In response to the decision to fire McCabe, I pray that acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia collusion investigation.

All of this kind of contributes to the fact that it doesn't look like the Russia probe is going to end anytime soon and that may make President Trump even more angry.

BLACKWELL: Certainly not going to end anytime soon according to these indicators. Dan Merica in Washington, thank you so much.

MERICA: Thank you.

PAUL: So, joining me now, commentary writer and editor at the "Washington Examiner," Siraj Hashmi, and CNN political analyst, Julian Zelizer. Gentlemen, thank you both for being here. We appreciate it.

First and foremost, we know that McCabe told CNN that he had four interactions with President Trump last May. While he was acting FBI director, three of them were in person, one of them was via phone call. How much credence do these memos hold, Julian?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think they will hold a lot of credence for those who are not simply listening to President Trump. I think like the Comey memo these could provide a window into the thinking of the president of the United States and into the question of whether there was an attempt to obstruct.

And I think like the Comey memo, these could provide a window into the thinking of the president of the United States and into the question of whether there was an attempt to obstruct.

I think McCabe still brings with him a certain amount of credibility to the table that obviously Trump supporters won't agree with, but I do think those memos can be damaging.

PAUL: Siraj, do you agree that these memos just like Comey's memos can really give that much weight to this investigation?

SIRAJ HASHMI, COMMENTARY WRITER, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": That depends. Obviously, there are some things with respect to McCabe's firing still within question. I mean, the fact that we don't have public access to any of the documents relating to whether McCabe misled investigators or he lacked candor when he was speaking to investigators, and whether that constitutes a fireable offense.

Of course, if he did commit any of those things and he was in, you know, obviously within the range of being fired, then probably you can make the justification that he should be fired. But with respect to the memos, you know, it's possible whether, you know, it be about him voting for whoever in the 2016 election whether it be for Trump or Hillary Clinton.

That conversation that he had that was reported on in January, obviously that's of concern with respect to the investigation. But it's also interesting that the responses that we're seeing from the intelligence community to Trump, it's almost a response being -- it's basically Washington speak for Trump is about to catch this fade.

PAUL: By the time the tweet that Dan read as well as the statement from John Dowd came out, this sent a lot of lawmakers into some sort of a frantic spin here. I want to read to you what Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had to say.

He said, "Mr. Dowd's comments are yet another indication that the first instinct of the president and his legal team is not to cooperate with Special Counsel Mueller but to undermine him at every turn.

The president, administration, and his legal team must not take any steps to curtail, interfere with or end the special counsel's investigation or there will be severe consequences from both Democrats and Republicans. What could those severe consequences be? What are their options?

ZELIZER: Well --

PAUL: Julian.

ZELIZER: -- the big option obviously for lawmakers not on the table right now, some kind of impeachment process. The major option on the table is to actually conduct a congressional investigation which has not happened. It's been killed by the same kind of partisan attacks you've had from the administration on the investigation.

That's what Congress has done with their Iran-contra, Watergate, set up a real select joint committee and conduct a full congressional investigation bringing witnesses that the public can see. So, this isn't all done behind closed doors. Those are very effective, and they are good for the Democratic process. That's really what we still need Congress to step up and do.

PAUL: Well, we heard from Senator Mark Warren as well, who is the vice chairman of the Senate Intel Committee and he said every member of Congress Republican and Democrat needs to speak up in defense of the special counsel now. Do you expect that we will have Republicans standing up?

MERICA: Yes, absolutely. I think there are a number of Republicans currently serving in Congress who will speak out in support of Special Counsel Mueller, who believe that this investigation should continue because in the interest of transparency and seeing the investigation go entirely through who are still in law enforcement and agencies like the FBI would want that to happen.

Because, of course, you don't want to go against the FBI in certain cases like Trump is doing because that makes public enemy number one, and to group yourself in with Trump is probably bad for Republicans in the future.

There are obviously political reasons, but there are obviously other reasons such as actual justice that we're trying to make sure that President Trump and his associates as well as those within the Trump campaign had nothing to do with colluding with the Russians. PAUL: But, Julian, President Trump is not the president, the kind of president that the United States has known up to this point. I mean, he is tweeting that this probe should have never been started, that there was no collusion.

With that said, do you get the feeling or the sense that anybody is talking to President Trump and trying to direct him not to do this because -- does he care? Does the president care that if he would try to squash this -- this Mueller investigation that he would -- he would look guilty to some degree?

ZELIZER: Well, I think he probably would disagree with that assessment. I think the president, in my opinion, knows what he's doing and he's conducting a full-scale assault on the investigation. Never really caring about firing Robert Mueller so much as discrediting him in the public mind.

[06:10:06] So, that no one in Congress will actually do anything about this. I'm sure there are lawyers who might say stop tweeting because every tweet puts you in more jeopardy or accelerates the investigation.

But I think he feels that this platform, Twitter, parts of the media, conservative media, those are his best tools to making sure that nothing ever comes of this regardless of the fact many guilty pleas, indictments, and evidence this is not simply all fake news.

PAUL: Right. Siraj Hashmi and Julian Zelier, we appreciate you both being here. Thank you.

And today on "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper, Senator Jeff Flake, Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Rand Paul all on that show. The "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper today at 9:00 a.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

BLACKWELL: Eighteen years as Russia's president and very likely counting. Vladimir Putin support for re-election right now and he's pretty safe bet to win. Voting happening at this moment. We're going to take you live to Russia in a moment.

PAUL: Also, Facebook under fire and facing the prospect of tighter regulation as critics call on it to take responsibility in its role in the outcome of the 2016 election.

BLACKWELL: And could drug dealers soon face the death penalty? And who qualifies as a drug dealer? President Trump is reportedly about to lay out his long-awaited plan and he says it will solve the opioid crisis.

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[06:15:37]

PAUL: Well, you know, as you -- as you sit there with your coffee this morning, voting is underway in the Russian presidential election and for nearly two decades, Vladimir Putin, has held that title, of course.

BLACKWELL: Well, today, seven candidates are running against Putin but for voters in Russia there is really one serious contender. CNN's Matthew Chance is live at a polling place there in Moscow. Matthew, the result of this is a foregone conclusion.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Victor, it's not exactly a nail-biter here in Russia because even though as you rightly say, there are eight candidates contesting this election. There is only one real contender. It's a one-horse race as my camera man pointed out earlier.

You can see the concerns about voter apathy have kind of disappeared to a certain extent. The Kremlin, Vladimir Putin, came out on Russian television a couple of days ago appealing to Russians to get their voices heard and it seems that they are responding as we got from this one voting station in the Russian capital of Moscow.

This is an interesting (inaudible), it's all of the eight candidates with their biographical details and financial information as well. Vladimir Putin in the middle and it says underneath that he has 13 bank accounts with a total of $240,000 and he also has an apartment in St. Petersburg, which has a garage attached to it and has three Russian cars.

The public -- this is the public image that Vladimir Putin likes to present, that he is man of the people, that he isn't, you know, corrupt in any way. He doesn't have these billions of dollars that his critics accuse him of having.

You know, that kind of sells well to the Russian public, because despite all of the conflicts that Vladimir Putin has got himself into, Russia into with the west and with the United States, that does not appear to have dented his popularity amongst most Russians at all.

BLACKWELL: All right. Matthew Chance, thank you so much, reporting live from Moscow.

PAUL: Can you imagine having all of the financial information for a candidate in the U.S.?

BLACKWELL: Well, in the U.S., that would be illuminative.

PAUL: Illuminative, very nice word. So, joining us is Andrei Soldatov, Russian investigative journalist and author of the "Red Web, The Struggle Between Russia's Digital Dictators." He is also a watchdog of the Russia's Secret Service activities.

Thank you, Gentlemen, for being here. Andre, good morning to you. Being that you were a Russian investigative journalist, I wanted to ask you first and foremost, I know you are no longer in Russia but given what has happened this week in the U.K., with the nerve agent attacks, do you have any concerns for your safety?

ANDREI SOLDATOV, RUSSIAN INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Well, we know that for years, for 18 years, Putin in power, we had lots of people who -- and something happened to them. People have been killed. We have spies killed. Every time Kremlin line of defense was to say that it was kind of set up to undermine Putin, but while all of these people are gone, and Putin is still in power and the result of this election is quite predictable.

BLACKWELL: Matthew Chance just mentioned that the concerns of apathy have dissipated. We know that the Kremlin went on this public relations campaign to try to excite people to get out to vote and according to those, I guess, antidotes we are seeing here, it worked. But what was the source of apathy leading into these final days and weeks?

SOLDATOV: Well, you know, it's the most popular joke you can say (inaudible) is to try to count how old you will be as the day he finally is out. And people account how much is spent under Putin and, for instance, for me, it's about 40 percent of my life. Some people -- under Putin knew nothing about Putin and people are quite tired of him.

The only thing here you can use to counter this villain is to try to escalate, to mobilize people around your leader because when you are at war, you cannot question your commander-in-chief and that is exactly what Putin is trying to do right now.

PAUL: At war with?

SOLDATOV: At war with -- the west right now. It's all about the west.

[06:20:12] PAUL: OK. So, when we were looking at all of those people were who showing up to the polls, I think people immediately say, I know what it's like here in the U.S. to go to the polls. They there much like us probably want to know their vote counts. Do they believe it counts? Because Matthew Chance said this is essentially an election of technicality.

SOLDATOV: Yes, absolutely. But at the same time, crazy conspiracy disseminated that we can expect some sort of attack from the United States, a kind of retaliatory attack. We can expect some attacks on the Russian election, that's why you need to go and support your leader.

So, at the same time, as everybody understands as the results are quite predictable, lots of people feel that we need to vote right now to support a leader and to help to protect the country.

BLACKWELL: You mentioned that this war with the west, that at least President Putin is attempting to use to excite people, but to what degree is this conflict that we are seeing with the U.S. and after this nerve agent attack in the U.K. with the British, what -- to what degree is that fueling the population in Russia today?

SOLDATOV: Actually, Vladimir Putin is extremely good at skillful at exploiting confrontation to mobilize people, and he used it many times when there was a war with Georgia, when he got his conflict with Ukraine, Syria. Every time it helped him to mobilize people of support.

So, that is the message right now after the poisonings. The idea was because we are such a powerful country, the rest of the world tries to undermine us, and they try to use tricks like we have like poison of double agents to undermine the Russians stability and popularity of the Russian leader.

PAUL: All right. Andre Soldatov, we appreciate your insight. Thank you for taking the time to be with us.

SOLDATOV: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. Coming up, Facebook has suspended a data firm with ties to the Trump campaign. This stems from those personality quizzes you've taken on Facebook one time or another. We will explain everything.

PAUL: Also, President Trump is set to finalize his plans to fix the opioid epidemics and it includes the death penalty for drug dealers. We will talk about the implications of that. Stay close.

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[06:27:22]

PAUL: So glad to have you with us. It's 27 minutes past the hour on this Sunday. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you. Facebook has suspended Cambridge Analytica. It's a firm hired by the Trump campaign team for violating the social media site's policies.

PAUL: The company is denying any wrongdoing, but there are still questions about how it gathered and what it did with users' personal information.

BLACKWELL: All right. Joining us now to explain all this is CNN senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter. Brian, I think we first need you to kind of explain what the relationships are here because there are a lot of nuances.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is a story on the front page of the morning paper. It says something to the effect of a firm that helped the Trump campaign exploited Facebook data. So, what does that mean?

It actually starts well before President Trump entered the race back in 2015. There was a researcher, a professor who went ahead and harvested Facebook profiles. A couple hundred thousand people's data was taken by this personality quiz that you would fill out.

Remember seeing these on Facebook a few years ago? You would have to fill out a few questions and tell you more about yourself. Well, actually that quiz, one of the quizzes was a way to get data from users. Not just your own data but your friend's data as well. All of a sudden, this professor had 50 million Facebook accounts profiles and he shared was information with Cambridge Analytica. What Cambridge Analytica tries to do is it tries to create voter profiles, really detailed profiles of voters in order to know exactly what kind of ads and messages are going to appeal to those voters and cause them to turn out to the polls.

So, Cambridge Analytica was contracted by the Trump campaign and also by the Cruz campaign in 2016. And some people, this is kind of a matter of debate now, about how important Cambridge Analytica was.

Some people say this was pivotal to President Trump's election victory. Others say it wasn't as important as it might be argued, but that is part of the debate. The big news now is that Facebook has suspended Cambridge Analytica because it says the data that it was able to obtain was obtained improperly, that it violated Facebook policies and that perhaps they didn't delete the data when they supposed to a couple of years ago.

This is a matter of dispute now, but there are a couple of big issues that are really clear. One is that for ordinary users of Facebook, sometimes we don't know how our data, how our profiles and how our information is being used by other companies and I think a wake-up call about that.

There are also some issues involving campaign finance regulations, whether Cambridge Analytica was honest when they testified on this matter. There are some of those issues for the government to work out.

But bottom line here, it's once again a reminder of the power of Facebook and I would say it's another blackeye for Facebook. You know, there's been talk about Russian propaganda on the platform, the rise of fake news on Facebook. And I would say it's another black eye for Facebook. You know, there has been talk about Russian propaganda on the platform, the rise of fake news on Facebook, and now here we are another front page scandal this time involving the data that we all voluntarily hand over to the site that ends up in the hands of other people.

PAUL: It comes to you, you think it's fun.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

PAUL: You think it's something that, hey, let's learn more about you.

STELTER: Yes.

PAUL: And really at the end of the day -- yes.

BLACKWELL: Whispering (ph) to you (INAUDIBLE).

PAUL: Right.

STELTER: Exactly.

PAUL: Yes. So with that said, is there any repercussion for Facebook?

STELTER: We have seen the company tightening its policies for a number of years. And these quizzes, for example, that were popular let's say three years ago, you don't see them on Facebook as often because some of the rules and policies have gotten more restrictive.

The company says it knows it needs to do better. But we have heard this from time and time about Facebook, you know, it's one of the world's biggest companies at this point and it keep saying they know they need to live up to their responsibilities.

Here is part of the statement from a Facebook vice president reacting to the new story about this data issues. The company says, "We are committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people's information. We will take legal action if necessary to hold" -- (INAUDIBLE) accountable -- it says "accountable and responsible for any unlawful behavior."

But here's the thing, you know, Victor and Christi. The main thing here Facebook is free, right? All of us have it.

It's on all of our phones and anyone can sign up for free. If something is free, it means you are the product. It means that Facebook is selling your information, your identity, access to you to advertisers and to other third-parties.

And even though the company says it's trying to be very responsible and take this very seriously, this was a case where data was used improperly, perhaps to target voters in the election and we are going to see more and more of these cases in the future. So it's a situation that may call out for government regulation or at least more awareness on the part of users.

PAUL: I was going to say it's a heck of a reminder to all of us --

BLACKWELL: Yes. Absolutely.

PAUL: -- in terms of what you really want to post and what you do not and what you engage it when you're there.

BLACKWELL: If it's free, you are the product.

PAUL: The product.

STELTER: You are the product.

BLACKWELL: It makes sense. It makes sense.

STELTER: Exactly.

PAUL: That was great. That was very profound, actually. Yes.

Brian Stelter, man with some wisdom there. Thank you so much.

STELTER: Thank you.

PAUL: Sure.

BLACKWELL: Still to come, there was so much that happened this weekend with the White House and the president, but we are looking ahead to next week and it could be just as active. We are going to talk about it with our partisan panel next.

PAUL: Also death to drug dealers. President Trump reportedly set to roll out his hard line plan on ending America's opioid addiction.

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[06:36:50]

BLACKWELL: All right. Some breaking news right now.

Sources tell CNN that Sweden is helping to negotiate the release of three Americans who are being held in North Korea. The detainees range in age from roughly 62 to 55.

The names are Kim Dong Chul, a Korean-American missionary from Virginia. Kim Sang-duk who also goes by Tony Kim, an accounting teacher. And Kim Hak-song a teacher as well.

We will get you more as soon as we learn more about the potential success that the Swedes will help in trying to free these three Americans.

PAUL: And updating now on that story that missing teenager, Amy Yu. She and 45-year-old Kevin Esterly disappeared two weeks ago. They have just turned up in Mexico.

Esterly is in custody and police say thankfully the 16-year-old is unharmed, she's in good health. Her mother says Esterly who has four daughters and a wife got to know their family through church.

BLACKWELL: The firing of former FBI director Andrew McCabe is giving people deja vu.

Let me take you back to last year when President Trump fired FBI director James Comey. Now the entire White House communications apparatus all the way up to the vice president, Mike Pence, said the firing was based on the recommendation of deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein. Then the president came out and told everyone his truth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me be very clear that the president's decision to accept the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general to remove Director Comey as the head of the FBI was based solely and exclusively on his commitment to the best interests of the American people and to ensuring that the FBI has the trust and confidence of the people of this nation.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He made a recommendation but regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it. And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Now fast forward to Andrew McCabe's firing. Attorney general Jeff Sessions said it was an extensive and fair investigation -- writing this as well -- "Reports concluded that Mr. McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor including under oath on multiple occasions."

And then hours later the president reintroduced the political justification for McCabe's -- about McCabe's wife and her run for the Senate in Virginia.

He tweeted this, "How many hundreds of thousands of dollars was given to wife's campaign by Crooked H friend, Terry M, who was also under investigation" -- Terry McAuliffe Virginia -- former Virginia governor there mentioned.

Joining me now to discuss opinion columnist for "The Hill" Brent Budowsky. We're trying to get CNN political Andre Bauer on with us.

Brent, let me start with you because you're sitting in front of the camera here. Did the president do it again when everyone around him, the White House, the DOJ says, here is the official reason and then the president comes along and says, no, this is really why and this is the political justification?

[06:40:10]

BRENT BUDOWSKY, OPINION COLUMNIST, THE HILL: Oh, absolutely. It gets worse and worse.

Let me begin by giving a different answer to the question that Christi appropriately and brilliantly raised in an earlier segment today. What are the options if the president fires Mueller? I believe personally the probability he fires Mueller in the next month or two, possibly this week, is about 90 to 95 percent and that will create the worst constitutional crisis and crisis in American democracy since the civil war.

BLACKWELL: What is that based on?

BUDOWSKY: I think that he is, obviously, running out of control, afraid of the investigation. I think the way he repeatedly attacks the FBI, the way that he repeatedly attacks the Mueller investigation, the comments that his lawyer made profoundly unwisely which I do believe represented the president's views which he stated the first time before he denied it, that's why.

I think it's coming. And here is the option that I predict will happen. You heard it first on CNN today. OK?

If -- if he fires Mueller, which I believe he wants to do and will try to do soon, the option then is that the House and the Senate, by an overwhelming veto proof majority can pass a law that will become law whether the president signs it or not that will reinstate Mueller as a fully independent prosecutor and special counsel so he cannot be fired. That is the option.

And if Republicans, who I predict will support that. If they don't, the Republicans could lose a hundred seats in the midterm elections and what happened in Pennsylvania will look like a dinner party for the Republican Party compared to what happens. And I think for that reason they will do that.

BLACKWELL: All right. Let me bring in Andre. Andre is now with us.

I don't know how much of that you heard. But let me summarize it for you. Brent believes that based on the environment, based on what we heard from the president's attorney John Dowd preying that essentially Mueller will be fired or the Mueller probe will be ended that indeed is happening this week. What your view?

ANDRE BAUER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't believe that is going to happen. I don't see the temperature right down (ph) in Washington to do that. And, yes, I would like it to be brought to conclusion but I also would like it to be done in a manner that looks proper to the American public.

Just to abruptly stop I don't think that is right. I think that he needs to finish his investigation. I think it does seem like it was drawn out a long time but I don't want the American public to think that they in any way didn't received the information that he tried to obtain.

BLACKWELL: Let's go to this reporting from Politico. The White House, according to Politico, is finalizing this plan now to try to solve the opioid crisis in America. And the president could unveil it as soon as Monday when he heads to New Hampshire, which we know is struggling with this challenge. And it includes, according to Politico, the death penalty for drug dealers.

Your view on that, Brent.

BUDOWSKY: I think that's a cheap, easy, and wrong answer. Now we will see what the full policy is. I'm not going to support or oppose a policy before it's been announced, but you don't solve problems by talking about the death penalty.

So far, the president's response to opioid has been far less than what it should have been, far less than his own task force led by Governor Chris Christie recommended. And to substitute for a policy, talk about the kind of death penalty that has been practiced in dictatorial countries some of whom the president has supported or praised is the wrong answer.

You don't do it by threatening to kill people. You do it by dealing with the problem. The supply side and demand side of this issue.

And talk about a capital punishment, talk about the death penalty, let the dictatorships think that way. We, in the United States, don't. We don't run around talking who we will kill, we don't praise foreign dictators, we don't do nothing when Russia is attacking America, we don't go into a negotiation on Korea that can create war -- a Korean war by firing and humiliating the secretary of state --

BLACKWELL: All right.

BUDOWSKY: -- humiliating the national security --

BLACKWELL: Brent, I got to keep us -- I got to keep us on focus there. I got to keep us on --

BUDOWSKY: Those are pretty important issues. We could have a war, Victor.

BLACKWELL: I understand they are important issues but we have got this issue to talk about in this segment.

Andre, I need you to weigh in on this. Do you believe, do you support a plan that would include the death penalty for drug dealers? And who qualified as a drug dealer?

Are we talking about the street dealers or are we talking about the executives at the companies that produce these drugs, the distributors that send them into these communities? Are they eligible for that as well or should they be?

BAUER: Well, the way I understand it is the death penalty would only come if someone died while using them. And I think it's a strong deterrent to try to encourage people not to participate in this type of activity.

[06:45:03]

Look, if it's a misdemeanor fine most people aren't going to worry about the punishment. They're going to continue to do it. When you make crime a severe penalty like killing somebody, you think you may get the death penalty yourself, it's a deterrent.

However, there is a -- this is a very complex plan. There is funding in here. Look, he is making an effort.

When you're president of the United States you lay out a plan and then we have the luxury of having Congress debate this plan. Look, I was a member of the legislative and the executive branch there were many times when the executive branch proposed things when I was at the executive branch and it was a template to start a discussion. And then folks like your other guest --

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: Understood. And we are starting that discussion. But let me ask you, Andre, who qualifies as a drug dealer?

Do the distributors who pump these pain clinics in smaller communities full of these pills do they count as drug dealer? And if someone dies as the result of getting a pill from that pain clinic, how far up the chain does this penalty go?

BAUER: Well, I think this template or at least what I read starts the discussion. It didn't get into the specifics of how deep someone would be prosecuted for distribution of this drug. I think it was an overall to try to get the message out there, we are coming out with a clear template of what we want to talk about.

It didn't specifically say --

BLACKWELL: Yes.

BAUER: -- who would be charged with murder if, in fact, that individual, in some way was in the chain of giving out. I think in --

BLACKWELL: And we still have to actually wait for the president, wait for the White House to propose this. That's a reporting out from Politico that it will include the death penalty for drug dealers.

Let me get to one more thing that's happening on Tuesday. But, first, I want to start with a list. Let's put the list on the screen.

This is a list of the president's insults since he took the oath of office. Liddle, crooked, short, fat, over-rated, lightweight, liar, unhinged, flunky, flakey, crying, weak, sleepy-eyed, loser, clown, crazy, Pocahontas as an (INAUDIBLE), wacky, sloppy, psycho, dumb as a rock, and sneaky.

And on Tuesday, the first lady is going to host tech companies to talk about cyberbullying. Should the president attend -- Andre?

(LAUGHTER)

BAUER: I didn't know the president knew me that well when he described all of those different words about me, Victor.

Look, the president definitely not approach some of the things the way I would have but he has been effective a lot of times in identifying people. I mean, if you don't believe it we now know very well that a U.S. senator used --

BLACKWELL: OK. Before you go down that road, is it not hypocritical for the White House to host an event about cyberbullying when the man in the Oval Office use those roughly two dozen insults of people on Twitter?

BAUER: Well, the first lady has chosen this, not the president, himself. Clearly, the president -- it would be nice if sometimes he throttled back a little bit.

BLACKWELL: Brent?

BUDOWSKY: I think it is staggering that the president of the United States, any president could spend his time dishing out third grade insults, dishing out name calling and trivia and nonsense and garbage, and I will add, speaking falsely, lying, repeatedly, in record numbers of falsehoods. That is a bad day for America and I'm sorry, I don't regard it as partisan. I think there's a lot of Republicans who privately, possibly, even including Andre, agree with what I just said.

It's a disgrace to the White House, all of it. We are not a high school. We are not a third grade.

He is the president of the United States and the commander in chief. We have -- we are being attacked by a foreign country and in danger of war in Korea and running around acting like a two-year-old insulting, berating, childish.

(CROSSTALK)

BUDOWSKY: It is just unacceptable for any president of the United States. He should go back to reality television --

BLACKWELL: All right.

BUDOWSKY: -- and leave the presidency to someone better and what Mike Pence said, by the way, earlier in the segment, was false about why Comey was fired.

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: We will have to see how this event goes on Tuesday. Brent Budowsky, Andre Bauer, thank you so much for being bus.

BAUER: Thank you, Victor.

BLACKWELL: And we will be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FR. JAMES M. WEISS, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF THEOLOGY, BOSTON COLLEGE EPISCOPAL PRIEST: Benedict the IX was a teenager. He was the most eligible member of the powerful Roman family that ruled the city of Rome. They wanted him to be pope for their own financial gain, their own territorial supremacy.

EAMON DUFFY, AUTHOR, SAINTS AND SINNERS, A HISTORY OF THE POPES: The papacy was the legal center of western world. If a king needed a dispensation to marry his brother's wife, if people wanted to take possession of a local parish, they would have to get permission and pay a fee. At Rome you are enormously powerful. Immense responsibility.

LIAM NEESON, NARRATOR: But 19-year-old Benedict has no interest in bureaucracy or public service.

[06:50:04]

He is only interested in the privileges of power.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Before the final four tips off in San Antonio, a group of cancer survivors will be playing a basketball game on the same court and will be united by their powerful and inspiring stories.

For one of our INFINITY Hardwood Heroes Deondre Logan playing pro basketball had always been the dream, a dream that began because of his father's love for the game. Sadly, his dad passed away from cancer in 2017 around the same time Deondre was diagnosed with cancer of his own but he has not let that stop him from playing the game he loves.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEONDRE LOGAN, INFINITI HARDWOOD HERO: I grew up in Los Angeles, California. And I started playing basketball when I was 7 years old. It was something that my dad had in common with his friends and I saw them watching on TV all the times so, honestly, it was kind of like just trying to be like my father.

My parents just taught me to try to get a scholarship out of basketball and I achieved that. I went to college at Temple and then after Temple, I decided I didn't want to play college any more, I want to go play professionally for the Laredo Swarm. And then that is when I found out I had bone cancer.

I knew right off the bat that I couldn't play any longer because they said the way that a tumor ate my bone.

[06:55:03]

I wanted my leg cut off but my mom and my doctor, they said I couldn't do that so I end up getting 15 screws and a plate all the way down my leg. Right when you get released, you ring a bell in the hospital. Everybody hears it and it's saying that you beat cancer.

The purpose for this game is just really to raise money for cancer research and also just to have fun. Obviously, it's a challenge the other team a little bit and just be out there with other people that has a story as well.

My name is Deondre Logan and I'm a Hardwood Hero.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIRE: The Hardwood Heroes game at the final four doesn't just help raise money for cancer research as they team up with coaches versus cancer. Deondre and the other players raise our spirits. So it is a privilege to share their stories with you right here on NEW DAY.

We will have more NEW DAY coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)