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Pentagon to Pay for Wall; Citizenship Question on Census; NFL Expands Helmet Rule; Evangelicals Still Support Trump. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired March 28, 2018 - 06:30   ET


[06:32:07] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team uncovering a link between former Trump deputy campaign chairman, Rick Gates, and someone with links to a Russian intelligence service. According to court filings, that unnamed person lived in Moscow and Kiev and was in touch with Gates in September and October of 2016. This revelation came in court filings ahead of the sentencing of Alex Van Der Zwaan, that's the Dutch lawyer who worked with Gates and pleaded guilty last month to lying to the special counsel about interactions with Gates and that unnamed person.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: CNN has learned that FaceBook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify before Congress in a matter of weeks. Sources at the company say FaceBook is currently planning the strategy for that testimony. The social media company, of course, came under fire after it was revealed Cambridge Analytica, this data firm with ties to President Trump's campaign, improperly accessed information from at least 50 million FaceBook users all without their knowledge.

CAMEROTA: Now a disturbing new twist in the Larry Nassar saga. The disgraced gymnastics doctor's ex-boss, former Michigan State dean, William Strampel, is now charged with using his position to sexually assault, harass and solicit nude photos from female students. Strampel also faces misdemeanor charges of willful neglect for failing to properly oversee Nassar and failing to protect his 200 plus victims.

CUOMO: All right, so, he promised that Mexico would pay for the wall. How many times have you heard our now president say that? But, guess what, there's plan b for the $25 billion to build it. Who winds up footing the bill? You.

CAMEROTA: And, more of my conversation with a group of young students, including two who survived the Parkland massacre, about the role of race in gun violence.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don't you want to have good guys with guns to protect you from criminals that are getting their weapons illegally?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who is carrying out these mass shootings?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who -- OK, do you --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Young white men and --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, you're a racist. Why are you attacking white people?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's -- that's the statistic.



CAMEROTA: OK, we have much more of that very heated conversation, ahead.


[06:38:20] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to build a great border wall.

And who's going to pay for the wall?

CROWD: Mexico.

TRUMP: And who's going to pay for the wall?

CROWD: Mexico.


CROWD: Mexico.

TRUMP: It will be a great wall. Mexico's going to pay for the wall.

Mexico is going to pay for the wall.

Mexico will pay for the wall.


CUOMO: And by Mexico, he means the Pentagon. Now the president is apparently distancing himself from the campaign rallying cry. Sources telling CNN, the president has a new idea. Have the Pentagon pay for his border wall. The president even discussed the idea in a private meeting last week with House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Let's discuss with CNN political analysts John Avlon and Karoun Demirjian.

All right, John. No Mexico. The U.S. military, we'll take it out of that budget and we'll do it because it's about security, and that's what they do is they keep us safe.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's about security and we all remember the call and response for the campaign, who will pay for the wall, the troops. That was a constant refrain.

Look, it's just a flip flop. It's a bit of hypocrisy. That line about Mexico paying for it was always really about playing to the crowd.

What Trump is frustrated about is that the bill that Congress just passed doesn't include money to specifically build the wall.

CAMEROTA: But it has $1.6 billion for fencing.

AVLON: Yes, for reinforcing existing --

CAMEROTA: And other -- yes.

AVLON: Re-enhancements.

CAMEROTA: Re-enhancements.

CUOMO: Right, no new --

AVLON: It's a (INAUDIBLE) word.

CUOMO: He -- look --

AVLON: I'm going to go with it though.

CUOMO: Look, in this kind of -- this, you know, this BS situation we're in about the wall, because you've got to remember where it came from. This was never a signature promise until they gave it to him as a talking point. You know, it's out there. You can research this.

AVLON: He got a good response, right (ph)?

CUOMO: But the idea of a concrete, new wall that the vice president is out there reinforcing, cementing the idea, if you will --



[06:40:04] CUOMO: That's what they say they want. So the end run here is $1.6 billion or whatever it is, but not for this new wall --

AVLON: Right.

CUOMO: That's -- so they're going to re-enforce, Karoun, and fix what's there and then they're going to build something new, I guess, in front of it.

AVLON: The Bush/Obama walls.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I mean this is the -- this is the -- this is what the dream is, I suppose, if you're in Trump's position. But, of course, there's resistance to that actually happening in Congress because for a very long time many people of both parties have been saying, look, a new wall that runs the entire gambit of the border just does not actually make any operational sense given the shifting terrain, given the fact that it's just -- it -- what the border is in Texas is different than what the border is in Arizona and California. And so this is not a, you know, an easy, oh, if we could just find the other billions of dollars, we could have this sort of wall at the outset.

But also, you know, this -- the president's request of saying, hey, can't we just take it out of this big whopping military budget that we just approved for the Pentagon, it's a little bit too little too late of an idea because, you know, the programs for where those billions of dollars go, even though we are talking about, yes, a very, very large allotment of money for the Pentagon, it can't just be kind of taken out of one pocket and shifted into the other. It doesn't work that way.

We are heading into a new season when we get back to Capitol Hill of talking about the next national defense authorization bill, so maybe this will be a fight that plays out there, but that's going to be several months of arguing because, again, like I said in the first place, people just don't agree. The GOP is not in lockstep on this one (INAUDIBLE).

CAMEROTA: But I'm just curious about the campaign promise, John. I mean he said it over and over, Mexico's going to pay for the wall. That was part of what supposedly his base really likes.


CAMEROTA: They don't like (INAUDIBLE) spending. So what happens to that? I mean is there a political price for this?

AVLON: Well --

CAMEROTA: $1.6 billion (ph).

AVLON: Not good. There are 28 percent of the population that strongly supports him in every poll. That's not going away.


AVLON: That 28 percent is not going to do anything. Obviously, the president was offering up those campaign, you know, promises in a spirit of, look, you know I'm not really telling the truth, but you like what it hears -- you like what you're hearing. That's what they'll (ph) say.

CAMEROTA: Are you sure? I mean are you sure that people who listened to him didn't really think that Mexico was going to pay for the wall?

AVLON: I think this goes back to that big question, are you taking them seriously or literally from the campaign. But it was always a ridiculous thing to promise. The best they could do when pushed to say, oh, it's really, we're going to pay for -- Mexico's going to pay for it via a trade imbalance. That -- we'll handle it that way. That was --

CUOMO: You have Lou Dobbs, though -- AVLON: Oh, Lou Dobbs (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: And others out there saying --


CUOMO: The base expects a wall. You better deliver on that wall. So they have set up expectations.

AVLON: Look, and it's clearly a priority. I mean the president and Trump always talk -- and Pence always talk about promises kept. There's a refrain. So there's an understandable frustration on their part. But so far they haven't gotten it done. And, guess what, folks, it's not going to be Mexico. It's going to come out of your pocket one way or the other.

CAMEROTA: And, Karoun, I want to talk to you about the controversy swirling around the census and how they count people, particularly undocumented immigrants here. So Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, who you'll remember had helmed the voter fraud commission until that was disbanded because they couldn't prove that there was vast voter fraud, as they had claimed. So now he has sent a letter to Wilbur Ross at Commerce saying there should be this addition of a question that used to be in the census but had been taken out. And here's the question, is this person a citizen of the United States, to better get a count, right, of who's a citizen and who's not, how many undocumented people are here. Why is this such a controversy?

DEMIRJIAN: The problem is that it's a bit of a scary question for people in this time. Look, the president has said he's going to be stepping up the deportations. There's this question about what the status is of undocumented people who came to the country as children, given that they had sort of stability with the DACA program. That's now, you know, always -- there's a debate raging about where that's going to go once these court orders expire unless Congress takes some action. The situation in the country right now is extremely tenuous for people who are here without status. And so asking that question, it, in many ways, is an incentive for people not to answer any questions at all. The census is supposed to be a count of people in the country.

AVLON: And it's designed to do that.


AVLON: I think that's the important point.


AVLON: I mean all bad ideas on voting rights come from Kris Kobach's, you know, coconut. But, I mean, this has now been adopted by the Commerce. It's going to be in the census. And it's designed to drive down participation and benefit Republicans politically as a result.

DEMIRJIAN: And that would be an inaccurate count. Exactly. That's the -- because -- CUOMO: And -- and, look, this is all upside for that strain of thought because it also goes to appropriations.


CUOMO: If you wind up having different population counts in states like California where they estimate you may have as much as 15 percent of the population is non-citizen, they're going to get less money based on their population number. So this is going to hurt blue states, which is upside if you're a Republican.

DEMIRJIAN: It's appropriations, but it's also, keep in mind, that when swing states and states that are shifting populations redraw their maps, they base it on the most recent census.

AVLON: That's right.

DEMIRJIAN: And that could actually have big effects for what state legislatures look like (INAUDIBLE).

AVLON: And the argument they're actually using --

CUOMO: All right, we've got to go.

AVLON: Is we should go back to the standard used between 1820 and 1950.

CAMEROTA: All right.

AVLON: Great years for voting rights.

[06:45:01] CAMEROTA: John Avlon, Karoun Demirjian, thank you both very much.

All right, opening day is tomorrow. Last night's final spring training game was called on account of sewage.

CUOMO: I hate when that happens.

CAMEROTA: Oh, me too. The foul details in the "Bleacher Report," next.


CUOMO: All right, so, how do we make football safer, right? That's a real nagging concern. Well, one of the things the NFL is going to do is ban players when it comes to certain activities with their helmet.

Andy Scholes has more in the "Bleacher Report."

What can you no longer do?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Chris, well, it's all about leading with the helmet these days.

This "Bleacher Report" brought to you by Ford, going further so you can. You know, this is the time of year where those NFL owners, they get

together, try to tweak the rule book. And next season they're making it illegal for a player to lower his head and lead with his helmet when making a tackle. If they do that, it's going to be a 15-yard penalty and possible ejection. Now, the NFL hopes this is going to help decreases the kind of injuries like we saw last season when Steeler's linebacker Ryan Shazier lowered his helmet and suffered that severe spinal injury.

[06:50:07] But not everyone's happy with the new rule. The 49ers Richard Sherman telling "USA Today," quote, it's ridiculous. It's like telling a driver, if you touch the lane lines you're getting a ticket. It's going to lead to more lower extremity injuries.

All right, the spring training finale did not go well at Dodgers Stadium last night. A sewage leak on the field in the first few rows by the Dodgers' dugout caused a 32-minute delay in the fifth inning before the game was eventually canceled. The poor grounds keepers, as you see here, trying to mop it all up during the stoppage in play. The Angels having some fun with it, tweeting, smell you later, Dodgers. Now, the team says they hope to have the problem fixed before opening day tomorrow, Alisyn.


SCHOLES: But I'll tell you what --


SCHOLES: If you have season tickets in that first row, is that smell going to be gone in 48 hours? This is the question.

CAMEROTA: That's -- I'm glad this isn't smell-a-vision. Thank goodness.

Andy, thank you very much.

SCHOLES: All right.

CAMEROTA: So evangelicals support President Trump in huge numbers despite the allegations against him. We'll find out why, next.


[06:55:19] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LYNETTE BRYANT, TRUMP SUPPORTER: You can throw all of that stuff up in our faces as many times as you want, but that means that we will work harder for Trump. Is that not so, ladies?

LINDA CHURCHWELL, TRUMP SUPPORTER: The worst case scenario, if he slept with her, whatever. That's between him, the Lord, and his family. That is not about the job he's doing in running our country, which he's doing an amazing job.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CAMEROTA: President Trump, as you know, facing allegations that he cheated on his wife, Melania, with an adult film star and a former "Playboy" playmate. But despite those accusations and other character issues, evangelical voters support the president in huge numbers.

To help us understand why is Stephen Strang. He is the author of "God and Donald Trump" and founder on "Charisma" magazine.

Good morning, Stephen.

STEPHEN STRANG, AUTHOR, "GOD AND DONALD TRUMP": Well, good morning, Alisyn. How are you?

CAMEROTA: I'm doing well.

So explain to us again how it is that evangelicals are willing to overlook these reports of infidelity and other things to support President Trump.

STRANG: You know, that's easy for me. Donald Trump has had a reputation as a "playboy" going back to the '80s. I didn't support Donald Trump for a long time because I didn't -- I didn't approve of, you know, what I knew as his lifestyle. But several things --

CAMEROTA: So what changed?

STRANG: Well, I think he changed. I really do. And I talk about this in my book, "God and Donald Trump." I interviewed him in 2016 and expected sort of the brash personality that you see in the media. I found him to be respectful, be to -- actually be a little bit humble. I was amazed. And other people that deal with him say that he's a changed man.

These allegations are from a long time ago. And when we elected him, you know, the "Access Hollywood" tape had just come out. And people knew that he was not perfect. I bring that up again and again in my book --


STRANG: Because we Christians know that you have to have forgiveness and that God can change lives and that the leaders in the Bible that we read about --


STRANG: From King David on were not perfect in any way, shape or form.

CAMEROTA: Understand. And no one's perfect, of course. But in order to receive forgiveness, don't you have to confess to your sins?

STRANG: Well, that's between him and God. I believe --

CAMEROTA: Isn't that a tenet of the Bible? I mean don't you have to own up to these things? You know, Donald Trump famously said he's never asked God for forgiveness. STRANG: Well, I'm glad you're quoting the Bible. But I think the issue

is here, that's between him and God. The issue for me and for millions of evangelicals is his policies. He supports the kind of policies that we think are important.


STRANG: He has become a champion of religious rights, of helping persecuted Christians. I could go right down the line. And then, of course, the Neil Gorsuch appointment was huge.


STRANG: And those are the policies. He's -- he's done more to keep his promises than any other president.

CAMEROTA: I understand. And I hear you. That one does make sense. But isn't that a little bit like saying, gosh, I really like Harvey Weinstein's movies, so I'm going to overlook what I know to be true about Harvey Weinstein and I'm going to support him and give him money for his movies?

STRANG: Well, look, there was an election between two people. And the other person was Hillary Clinton. In my opinion, one of the most corrupt people to ever run for president. You know, she tried to shame the women that came after her husband. I mean --


STRANG: And, you know, what about the e-mail scandal and everything else? She was not perfect in any way that purports (ph) to her policies.

CAMEROTA: I understand. But what about the women who have accused Donald -- that -- you bring up a very good point, what about all of the women who have accused Donald Trump, the 15 women who have accused him of varying degrees of sexual misconduct? What about them?

STRANG: That's between them and Donald Trump. This will have to play out. But I -- I am --

CAMEROTA: But why are you willing to overlook that, and the fact that he's tried to shame them and called them all liars and talked about some of their looks and said that he wouldn't --

STRANG: Because --

CAMEROTA: You know, he wouldn't dare deign to sexually harass them. Look at their looks. Why isn't he shaming them?

STRANG: Well, look, it's not about those kinds of things. It's about the policies. That's 100 times more important, the direction of the country.

CAMEROTA: Right. STRANG: I talk about this in my book, "God and Donald Trump," too, that millions of Christians were believing that the country was going in the wrong direction and we prayed, we prayed --


STRANG: And God raised up a man that we didn't expect and that we didn't even like. But he has become our champion in a way that nobody else has.

CAMEROTA: Yes. But are you --

STRANG: And, also --

CAMEROTA: Are you practicing some willful blindness in overlooking all of this to just look at the policies? Are you putting blinders on?

[07:00:04] STRANG: Not any more than the media did overlooking John Kennedy or Bill Clinton.