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Migrants March Through Central America to Seek Asylum in the U.S.; Trump Talks DACA Border Wall Ahead of Easter Services; Former V.A. Secretary Shulkin: "I Did Not Resign"; Oklahoma Schools Closed As Teachers Walk Off the Job; U.S. and South Korea Kick Off War Games; Whistleblower: Bannon Wanted Data to Wage Culture War; Atheist Journalist: Pope Francis Says There is No Hell; "Roseanne' Reboot Prompts Congratulatory Call From Trump. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired April 1, 2018 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:00:00] RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: -- President Trump expected to return to Washington this evening after attending Easter services with his family in Palm Beach. But he's also tweeting and talking today about immigration and the border wall saying, quote, Mexico is doing very little, if not nothing at stopping people from flowing into Mexico through their southern border, and then into the U.S. They laugh at our dumb immigration laws. They must stop the big drug and people flows, or I will stop their cash cow, NAFTA. Need wall!
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, what do you mean by no DACA deals?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mexico has got to help us at the border. If they're not going to help us at the border, it's a very sad thing between two countries. Mexico has got to help us at the border.
And a lot of people are coming in because they want to take advantage of DACA, and we're going to have to really see. They had a great chance, the Democrats blew it. They had a great, great chance but we'll have to take a look.
But Mexico has got to help us at the border. They flow right through Mexico. They settle in the United States. That can't happen that way anymore. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: All of this and right now, more than a thousand immigrants are marching through Mexico right toward the U.S.-Mexico border. Their goal is to flee Central American and seek asylum both within Mexico and the United States. The spokeswoman for Mexico's foreign minister said they will not respond to the president's latest tweets.
We have teams covering this news from all angles. CNN's Boris Sanchez is with the president who's at Mar-a-Lago and CNN's Leyla Santiago is in Mexico City. Let's go straight to Leyla first. Leyla, tell us what you're learning about this march. Put it into context for us.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, let's just start with these marches, Ryan, because when people usually say caravan during this holy week which is such a big deal here in Mexico, they usually speak about the tradition known as Veracruzes. These are religious marches that go on across the country. There is one in particular that has gotten a lot o attention because this is something that's symbolic, and so many are using it a way to make a statement.
There is one that right now is in Oaxaca. It started on the southern border of Mexico, so the border with Guatemala, and they have more than a thousand people who are trying to make a statement on immigration, on the conditions of Central America. And they're making their way, according to the collaborators that are helping to organize them, one out of San Diego, they are making their way north. And some of these folks will actually go to the border with the U.S, this is their plan, and seek asylum.
Now, again, let's put this in context. This is a tradition that happens every year. There are Veracruzes that take on different meanings. Some of them are simply for religious purposes.
All of them make more of a statement. They tell me that it's not a political statement but more of a humanitarian issue because this is something that they believe needs some focus.
Now, when we talked to organizers of these, they actually wouldn't respond directly to President Trump, but they did say when it comes to those tweets that they believe that it's a little bit of a narrow- minded response to these marches that happen every year. When it comes, however, to his statements about Mexico not doing enough to work with the U.S., while Mexican officials are not responding directly to that, I think we should point out that just earlier this week, the secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary Nielsen was in Mexico City to discuss that collaboration, to talk about the things that U.S. and Mexico can work together to have a healthy relationship.
NOBLES: All right, Leyla Santiago in Mexico City. Leyla, thank you for that update.
Let's go now to CNN White House Correspondent Boris Sanchez. He's live in West Palm Beach.
Well, Boris, the president recently has been silent on the DACA issue. Where did this all come from today?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ryan, it is perhaps not surprisingly simple. There was a report on a cable news station about these immigrant caravans coming from Central America through Mexico. And the president responded to it as he often does via Twitter going back almost to day one of his campaign back in 2015 when he attacked Mexico for not sending their best in his words. Now the president in a tweet calling for the Senate to pursue the nuclear option to pass immigration reform with only a simple majority, something that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has previously said he would not do. The president then went further in a pair of tweets. Here's the first, the president writing, quote, Mexico is doing very little, if not nothing at stopping people from flowing into Mexico through their southern border and then into the U.S. They laugh at our dumb immigration laws. They must stop the big drug and people flows, or I will stop their cash cow, NAFTA. Need wall!
[15:05:04] So the president threatening to pull out of the North America Free Trade Agreement, something that he has threatened to do repeatedly as a form of leverage to try to get Mexico to essentially do what he wants when it comes to trade deals and possibly some kind of funding for the border wall, something that he has long promised that Mexico would pay for. Though, we should note, Ryan, just last week the Pentagon confirmed that the president was having conversations with the Secretary of Defense James Mattis about having the military fund at the creation of the border wall.
NOBLES: Some other news to report there from South Florida, Boris, some reports of vandalism at the Trump International Golf Club. What are you learning about that situation?
SANCHEZ: Yes, that's right. The Secret Service is now investigating this. It appears that overnight someone took red paint and splattered it on a sign bearing the president's name at the entrance of the Trump International Gulf course. No indication yet is to who may have done this. The president was not there it appears at the time this happen.
But, again, the Secret Service is investigating. The president in no apparent danger, though, Ryan.
NOBLES: All right, Boris Sanchez live in West Palm Beach, Florida. Boris, thank you for that report.
And we should point out, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is responding to the president's tweet this morning saying, quote, on Easter, it is more important to remember that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, as immigrants and refugees sought a place to live and work hoping for a compassionate human response
A lot to break down as always. Let's bring in our CNN Political Analyst Brian Karem, and senior reporter for CNN Politics, Stephen Collinson.
Brian, the president tweeting this morning, no more DACA deal. From your point of view, do you think negotiations on this are over, or can Democrats somehow get this discussion back on the table?
BRIAN KAREM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Wait five minutes and his decision will change. Disingenuous as always trying to make hay while the sun shines as always, and at the same time completely misleading people. That's the nature of all of his tweets. That hasn't changed. I don't suspect that it will change.
I think it's particularly acrimonious to do so on Easter and forget about, you know, the fact that humanitarian efforts are probably more welcome than destructive efforts, which this president seems to be very good at doing. It's a very disingenuous thing to say that you've got to build this wall.
Mexico has said it's not going to build. There's no way you can build it. I mean, that's the whole point everyone keeps forgetting is between Del Rio and El Paso, Texas, there's this thing called the Big Bend, it's a -- like a Grand Canyon. You're not going to build a wall there.
They're going to re -- they're going to enhance the walls and defenses that have been there and that's what it's going boil down to. And the rest of it is the president trying very hard to make political hay out of it.
NOBLES: Well, Brian is right, the president is all over the map on DACA. One day he wants a deal, the next day he says the deal is off the table.
Stephen, he's been pretty consistent as it relates to his approach to Mexico. He's had a very strong arm approach to them, obviously, today threatening to pull out of NAFTA, something that he's done before. Is this going to work with Mexico? I mean, it seems as though Mexico's position on many of these big issues has not changed despite the rhetoric from the White House.
STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN POLITICS SENIOR REPORTER: Well, as you know, it's not the first time the president has threatened to pull out of NAFTA. He's also made sort of similar threats to the other NAFTA partner, Canada. So I think in Mexico, this will be taken with a pinch of salt.
The Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was in Mexico last week discussing cooperation with Mexico on border issues. So it's somewhat strange that the president's tweet and rhetoric today cuts against that. But I think that brings us back, as Brian was saying, as to why the president is talking about this right now.
He has failed to get full funding for his border wall in the omnibus spending bill that was just passed, but this is an issue that animates his political base as no other. After all, it was the issue that electrified his campaign. It looks very unlikely that we'll get any movement on DACA or other immigration issues before the midterm elections in November. The legislative window for that is narrowing every week.
COLLINSON: So, this is a way to get President Trump's voters animated before the midterm elections to get them to come out to vote. The president keeps saying that he's worried that in the midterm election his voters won't vote for him in the same numbers or vote for Republicans in the same numbers as they voted for him in 2016. And just like the Democrats who use this issue as well in elections to get voters out, this is what this is really all about, I think
KAREM: Blue smoke and mirrors, that's all it is.
NOBLES: Yes. Well, I want to talk about an interview that took place this morning on "State of the Union" and that was with David Shulkin, the outgoing secretary of Veterans Affairs.
And Stephen, I want you to respond to this. Listen to what Shulkin told Jake Tapper about his exit from the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Were you fired or did you resign?
DAVID SHULKIN, FORMER SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: Well, Jake, I came to run the Department of Veteran Affairs because I'm committed to veterans and I'm committed to fighting for them.
[15:10:01] And I would not resign because I'm committed to making sure this job was seen through to the very end.
TAPPER: So you were fired.
SHULKIN: I did not resign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: That runs completely contrary to the White House version of this. And our Boris Sanchez followed up with him again today and, Stephen, they still say that Shulkin resigned. Who should we believe?
COLLINSON: Well, it's just the latest sort of differing stories between someone who's been fired or left the administration and the White House and the officials that are left behind. In a technical sense, it could make a difference because there's this debate about whether a president and a White House can install the official of their choice when someone resigns from a post in the Cabinet or they can put in there somebody else that has had Senate confirmation in another job. But effectively, you know, it doesn't matter that much because we've all known for a long time that the White House has wanted Shulkin out. There seems to have been this clash on policy over the issue of the extent to which the V.A. could be privatized. But, you know, in terms of --
KAREM: What does it mean, though? I mean, what does it mean that he's -- when they asked him and he said, I didn't resign, why didn't he just come out and say, hey, look, I was fired? I mean, it's just adds more confusion to the event.
Look, the guy didn't leave of his own accord. He was canned. And that's what the Donald does and that's what he likes to do, and it hasn't changed. And if you don't like the decision he makes, wait a day, he'll make another one. And that's the sad part of it. NOBLES: I mean, there are a lot of distractions that the White House are dealing with, Brian. I mean, does this help the president at all if he's trying to push some agenda forward particularly ahead of the midterms?
KAREM: Well, I think what you're -- you've touched on a point that's very, very close to everyone's heart who's covering the White House. It's all blue smoke and mirrors, it's all distraction that keep you away from the very real issues that he's having to deal with. And that is not just the Russian investigation by Mueller but the actual relationship between Russia and the United States and a growing and alarming arms race.
KAREM: And so having to deal with that, he would much rather deal with Shulkin. He would much rather deal with Stormy Daniels than have to deal with the very real issues that they're incapable of handling because they don't have enough people in the White House, they haven't been able to put their team in place, and they're having a hard time dealing with real, concrete issues. That's why he's doing this.
NOBLES: Stephen, as quickly as you can, I mean, does Brian make a point here, that the kind of drama around the White House actually allows the president not to focus on some of these big issues?
COLLINSON: Yes, and some of the big issues that do need to be addressed aren't being addressed. Look, for example, on Thursday, the president came out and said we'll be leaving Syria real soon which was something that shocked everybody in the administration. They spent all of Friday trying to get on the same page and trying to work out what he was saying. So the downside --
KASEM: And they still don't know.
COLLINSON: Right. The down side for the president is this impulsive, instinctive from the gap leadership is that sometimes he leaves half of his government behind.
KASEM: More than that, that's a seat of the pants. I don't think it's from the gut. It's from the seat of the pants.
NOBLES: All right. Stephen Collinson and Brian Karem, excellent points by both of you. I appreciate you being here. Thank you.
KASEM: Thank you, Ryan.
NOBLES: Ahead, teachers in Oklahoma say they'll walk off the job even after being told they'll get an average raise of $6,100. I'll talk with one teacher who says it's not enough, next.
And a massive data breach at several retailers, this one affecting more than five million customers. We'll have the details coming up.
[15:17:26] NOBLES: Just in to CNN. Hackers have stolen information from more than five million credit and debit cards used at Saks Fifth Avenue, Saks a Fifth and Lord & Taylor Stores. The parent company which owns the retail chains confirmed the breach and said it identified the issue and has taken steps to contain it.
Hudson's Bay Company releasing a statement saying, quote, once the company has more clarity around the facts, it will notify customers quickly and will offer those impacted free identity protection services, including credit and web monitoring.
The work week is kicking off for the wave of teachers' strikes and walkouts across the country. Teachers in Oklahoma are planing to walk off their jobs tomorrow even though lawmakers just gave them an average $6,100 raise. Oklahoma educators argue it's not enough and they are still planning to strike tomorrow.
Oklahoma ranks 49th in the nation in teacher's salaries, that according to the National Education Association. The average salary for a high school teacher there is $42,460 a year. That's almost $18,000 less than the national average.
Joining me now to discuss this is Laurissa Kovacs, she's a middle school teacher in McAlester, Oklahoma.
Now Laurissa, lawmakers just gave you and other teachers in Oklahoma an average raise of about $6,000. Tell me why you still plan to strike tomorrow.
LAURISSA KOVACS, MIDDLE TEACHER IN MCALESTER, OKLAHOMA: We're planning to walk out because we're not just asking for a raise. That's sort of on the back burner for most of us teachers. We are asking for funding for public education, not just teacher raises. That means being able to buy the resources we need to give these kids the quality education that they deserve.
NOBLES: And I want to ask you about this picture, and we're going to put it up on the screen. This is of a broken chair that's from your school that you posted on Facebook. It's been shared right now on that platform more than 60,000 times. Is this something that your students have to deal with on a regular basis, or was this just an oddity?
KOVACS: Oh no, this is something they deal with every day. And I'm not the only class in my school that has chairs like this. There are a couple other classes who have chairs that are worse. And it's sort of a competition to see who can get here earlier to get a chair that's not broken.
NOBLES: Oh my goodness. You mentioned in that Facebook post that you could make $20,000 a year or more if you went to neighboring states like Texas or Arkansas. Is that something that you and your fellow teachers are considering if you don't get the salary increases you're looking for? [15:20:00] KOVACS: A lot of us are. At this point, I don't think I want to move. I think I need to stay here for these Oklahoma kids. I was born and raised here and I think it's my responsibility, my duty to stay here for these kids in Oklahoma and fight for them, and stay and fight for them.
NOBLES: I mean, it seems as though, and we talked to the head of your education association last hour, that this is going to require some sort of tax increase by your legislature in order to make this happen. Do you think you could make the case to your fellow Oklahomans that it would be worth it for them to pay a little bit more in their tax bill if it meant getting better quality schools for their students?
KOVACS: Yes. I think, to me, it's common sense as a teacher. Kids should come first, education should come first, and I know I personally am willing to do whatever it takes to make sure my kids have a quality education. So I would hope that other people would be willing to pay a few more cents for a pack of cigarettes or $5 for a hotel to make sure that the kids are getting what they need to get what they deserve.
NOBLES: And how long are you willing to keep this fight up? What exactly are you looking for? When will you be satisfied?
KOVACS: We'll be satisfied when our asks or met, when we get more money for general education not just a fraction of it. We want what we're asking. And really, what we're asking for isn't that much compared to a lot of states.
NOBLES: All right, Laurissa Kovacs in McAlester, Oklahoma on the front lines there in this battle over teacher salaries and school funding. Laurissa, thank you so much for joining us.
KOVACS: Thank you for having me.
NOBLES: Still ahead, U.S. and South Korea military exercises kick off during a thaw in North and South Korea's relationship. Why this so- called war games could be key to potential denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula. That's coming up next.
[15:26:14] NOBLES: In a rare event, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and his wife attended a concert in Pyongyang that featured South Korean pop stars. It's believed to be the first such delegation in years to visit, and it follows a visit to the Olympics in February by North Korean athletes. This comes as the U.S. and South Korea are kicking off massive military drills off the Korean Peninsula.
The exercises are being toned down somewhat this year. Instead of running two months, they will only go for about a month. The U.S. and South Korea may be trying to avoid provoking North Korea's dictator before negotiations begin over nuclear weapons in the coming weeks.
I want to bring in David Rohde now, He's a CNN global affairs analyst and the online news director the New Yorker. David, are the U.S. and South Korea making an overture to Kim Jong-un here by dialing back these war games a bit?
DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL ANALYST: Yes. I think it's more of an overture for South Korea which is much more interested in dialogue and I think, you know, puts much more hope into the upcoming talks than the Trump administration. I think the Trump White House is quite skeptical, including the new National Security Adviser John Bolton.
NOBLES: And I want to talk about John Bolton now. This morning, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham talked about negotiations with North Korea and a role for the new incoming National Security adviser. Listen to what Senator Graham had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Now we've got an opportunity historic in nature to sit down and maybe not only get him to give up his nuclear weapons but to end the Korean War which is still going on. But, yes, I'd be very cautious about the terms and conditions of this meeting, and this is why I like John Bolton as National Security adviser. He has a very healthy skepticism in North Korea, but I do hope President Trump will meet with North Korea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: So Lindsey Graham there saying that he thought Bolton would be better in this position because he will bring a healthy dose of skepticism. You know, in the past, Bolton has even talked about military intervention and regime change in North Korea. What role could he play here?
ROHDE: I think he is, you know, he rattles sabers. You know, he was a big supporter of the invasion of Iraq. He's talks about confronting Iran militarily and also North Korea.
So I want to give the administration credit. I think President Trump's tough talk has sort of led to this situation now of negotiations. The other reality is that I think Kim Jong-un is willing to negotiate because he has a nuclear arsenal. He has tested it to the point where he, you know, feels he has leverage and it works.
So I'm not sure which side will blink first. So Bolton means a tougher stance from the U.S., a more realistic chance of a military strike. I don't know how North Korea will respond to that. I don't think they'll simply fold when faced with that and the dangerous, you know, escalation.
If the talks don't go well, what does Trump do? How does he save face, and what does North Korea do if these talks fail?
NOBLES: Right. And then, of course, you have China added into this equation. Of course, Kim Jong-un making a surprised visit there last week. I mean, is this about them repairing their relationship or is China trying to get an edge over the United States and South Korea in this whole game?
ROHDE: I think the Chinese, you know, want to show that they are involved and that they are key players here. But the most impressive player so far, or the one that should be taken very seriously I think is Kim Jong-un. He's made a series of unsuspecting diplomatic moves, you know, first with this outreach during the Olympics that has appealed to President Moon of South Korea who wants this kind of dialogue. He's now reached out to China.
And so, I will be very, you know -- I'm waiting sort of anxiously to see how he handles these talks. The biggest mistake I think that the Trump White House can do is underestimate Kim Jong-un. He has been taking many risks and doing many unexpected things.
[15:30:03] So, they need to prepare for these talks and be ready for him to surprise them.
NOBLES: And could this be, at least from China's perspective about keeping the U.S. presence particularly in South Korea from growing any more than it already has?
ROHDE: Yes, there's no question that the goal particularly with North Korea, they would want no American troops in South Korea. The danger of going to these talks is that Kim Jong-un has says he wants the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. That could mean all U.S. military forces in his mind.
And then, yes, China does not want an addition of American presence. Any reduction of the American presence, any effort -- successful effort to turn South Korea against the Trump administration to drive a wedge between the South Korean-U.S. alliance would be a big step forward for North Korea and certainly for China.
NOBLES: And is there any way that President Trump comes at ahead if he ultimately gets a meeting with Kim Jong-un, if it doesn't result in a completely nuclear-free North Korea?
ROHDE: I think so. I mean, it's -- he's promised a complete denuclearization. I think any efforts that will kind of turn down the temperatures here and, you know, reduce the risk of some immediate conflict would help him. And that's the key question. With John Bolton sort of advising him, does he accept a sort of interim deal, a deal where there could be some monitoring maybe of the North Korean nuclear weapons program, or does the Trump administration take a very hard line and say complete denuclearization, complete regime change in North Korea or nothing.
NOBLES: All right, David Rohde, as always, thank you for your insight.
ROHDE: Thank you.
NOBLES: Still to come, new details on the state secret data collection firm that mined at the personal information of millions of Facebook users. We're now learning the president's former chief strategist wanted to wage a culture war. Those details are ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[15:37:20] NOBLES: The secretive consulting firm Cambridge Analytica known for supplying data-driven targeting strategies to the Trump campaign in 2016 now finds itself at the center of a controversy over privacy in social media.
Senior Investigative Correspondent Drew Griffin has been gathering details on the firm and has more on how they came to work for President Trump's campaign.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER (voice-over): Cambridge Analytica was born out of Steve Bannon's alt-right vision for America. He had already propaganda-inspired films, had run the ultraconservative Breitbart News. But in 2016 he was looking for yet another tool in his arsenal, and he found it by creating Cambridge Analytica.
CHRISTOPHER WYLIE, FORMER CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA EMPLOYEE: This was Steve Bannon's baby.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Former Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher Wylie says from his first meeting with Bannon, it was clear the goal. Not to push a single campaign or candidate, but to fundamentally change America.
WYLIE: He sees this as warfare so he is going to use as aggressive techniques as he can get away with.
GRIFFIN (on camera): But you realize what you're saying, you're talking about warfare on the American citizenry.
WYLIE: This is Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer using a foreign military contractor to use some of the same techniques that the military used to fight ISIS on the American electorate. That's what they wanted and that's what they got.
GRIFFN (voice-over): Cambridge Analytica is a subsidiary of the British SCL Group. For 25 years, the military contractor has worked with 60 countries including British and American governments helping battle crime, drugs, terrorists by changing the opinions of foreign populations.
JOSH GREEN, AUTHOR, "DEVIL'S BARGAIN": SCL's sales pitch essentially was look, we go into foreign countries and we use our tools, our psychographic profiling, to manipulate public opinion. I mean, ultimately, that's what Bannon wanted to do in the United States. He wanted to manipulate public opinion.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): So Bannon created SCL's American arm Cambridge Analytica with $15 million from conservative donor Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah. Wylie says using psychographic data gathered from a Facebook app, Cambridge Analytica targeted specific groups of people to try to influence them and push them to the right. WYLIE: It wouldn't always look like a campaign ad or wouldn't always say, you know, I'm (INAUDIBLE) prove this message. You're not necessarily aware that actually what you're seeing is content that has been created and targeted at you to make you perceive an issue differently.
[15:40:00] GRIFFIN (voice-over): The company worked on the 2014 midterms but amidst all the data analytics, the questionable use of psychoanalysis, the microtargeting that the technology allowed, Bannon's real goal was always much bigger than that, according to Wylie.
WYLIE: He wanted to change people's perceptions of what was happening in America to make them more open to an alt-right vision.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Part of that included developing and testing messages that would resonate with voters. Imagery of walls, deep state, increasing paranoia about government spying and this.
WYLIE: We had tested "drain the swamp" --
GRIFFIN (on camera): In 2014?
WYLIE: -- in 2014.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Bannon had worked for two years to (INAUDIBLE) his messaging when in 2016, the perfect candidate came along to blast those messages to American voters.
TRUMP: It's crazy, drain the swamp.
WYLIE: A lot of the narratives of the Trump campaign were what we were attempting in 2014.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Cambridge Analytica is now downplaying its work for the Donald Trump campaign insisting it did not use controversial Facebook data on it and saying elections are won and lost by candidates, not data science. As for Steve Bannon, he wouldn't respond to CNN but recently told a business forum his techniques were used in the past by Democrats and said no one complained until a conservative did what progressives have been doing for years.
Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.
NOBLES: All right next, as the pope sends a message of peace on this Easter Sunday, his comments on hell is causing concern. Why he says or at least someone says that he says it doesn't exist.
[15:46:7] NOBLES: Pope Francis delivered a passionate plea for peace around the world in his Easter message this morning. He called for an end to the carnage in Syria, hope for those impacted by hunger and terrorism in Africa, and emphasized the need for discussion to advance harmony on the Korean Peninsula. Worshippers packed St. Peter Square and listen to his message of peace as the pope presided over Easter Sunday mass.
Meanwhile, the Vatican is now scrambling to walk back an interview the pope did this week with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. I hope I got that even anywhere near right. Pope Francis was quoted as saying for those who die in a state of mortal sin, quote, a hell doesn't exist. The disappearance of sinning souls exists.
The Vatican immediately fired back saying that the quotes were, quote, not a faithful transcription of the holy father's words.
Well, joining me to discuss this, a guy who would know something about this, a catholic priest himself, CNN Religion Commentator Father Edward Beck. Happy Easter, Father. Thank you for joining us on the holiday.
REV. EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGION COMMENTATOR: Happy Easter, Ryan.
NOBLES: Well, Father, what does this mean for the Catholic church if the pope did say this about hell?
BECK: Well, Ryan, some context here. Now, this journalist is a 93- year-old man, who is a friend of the pope, they've met together five times. And he is a devout atheist and he said he doesn't take notes and he doesn't use a tape recorder, so this is his recollection of the conversation.
Now having said that, I don't think it's too hard to imagine that it's pretty close to the conversation that may have occurred. In other words, the way we talk about hell, we tend to anthropomorphize it. We speak about it in human terms like fire, as if it's spatial or as if it has time. So for the pope, I think to say something like, you know what, the way we talk about hell, that hell doesn't exist. Hell is the separation from God. I could understand and imagine the pope saying something like that.
So the headline becomes, wow, pope denies hell when in fact I think he's trying to refine our understanding maybe of what it is.
NOBLES: Is that a problem though for this pope? It seems as though this is obviously a job that requires quite a bit of nuance and everything a pope says gets all kinds of attention. And the Vatican had to walk back a few things that he has said. He's been on this job for a while. Why is that that he continues to find himself in these positions where the Vatican or those around him need to clarify exactly the point he's trying to make.
BECK: Well, I think he likes the conversation. He says he likes a messy church. So, with theology, I don't think it can be so clean cut. And so I think what he's saying is let's open the door to some conversation here. II don't think this bothers the pope at all.
And as far as the Vatican walking it back, note they did not really say that the essence of the conversation was not true. They said some direct quotes cannot be attributed to the pope because there wasn't a tape recorder, and Scalfari did not take notes. Well, that's OK. That doesn't mean what the pope said about hell as the separation from God isn't true. It means that sometimes the way we cheapen that notion is not helpful to understanding it.
NOBLES: Right. Obviously, this is a pope who pushes the limit on many fronts but there is a whole section of the conservative church, the conservative traditional Catholics, they might be turned off by some of these things he says. This quote would probably fall under that category. Are you concerned at all that traditional Catholics might be isolated from the teachings of this pope?
BECK: Well, I'm concerned in the sense that we want this to be everyone's pope. And remember, when Pope Benedict was pope, there were people to the left and more liberal Catholics who had problems with some of what he did and taught.
So I guess nobody is going to be totally satisfied but I think what's important is that the conversation gets open. This pope wants to invite everybody in. So it's OK that some people may like it black and white.
[15:50:04] We understand that we like things to be clear cut. But life isn't that way and certainly spirituality isn't that way and theology isn't that way, and certainly God isn't.
To think that we can limit our understanding of God or something like heaven and hell. I mean, today is Easter Sunday, so we're celebrating resurrection, the afterlife. But, Ryan, what does that really mean? I mean, is it clouds and harps and angels? Of course not. Yet that's the way anthropomorphically we present it as if we can understand it.
Well, I think that cheapen it. And this pope is saying, no, hold on, hell like this doesn't exist, think of this notion of hell. Isn't that more expansive. And so I think he helps the conversation.
NOBLES: Well, if the goal was to start a conversation, he certainly started one, one that you and I are continuing right now. Happy Easter, Father, thank you for joining us. Have a great Easter holiday.
BECK: Thank you. Happy Easter.
NOBLES: And a quick special programming notes speaking of the pope, "Pope: The Most Powerful Man in History" airs tonight at 10 o'clock right here on CNN and here's a preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the 16th century, many Catholics are disturbed by the church's pervasive materialism and corruption. As a result, new denominations of Christianity begin to form and break ties with the Vatican.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The reformation is an anonymous bomb dropped on the theological landscape.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All great religions of the world which are successful change. And Christianity is no exception to that rule.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The umbrella of modern Christianity includes over 800 million Protestants and 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide. But in the 16th century, Catholicism is the law of the land.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a ferment of devotion (INAUDIBLE) in Europe. Everyone went to church out of conviction.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Almost the entire population of Europe devoutly follows Rome's Catholic doctrine. And the pope is at the head of it all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: Ahead, Americans are inviting "Roseanne" back into their living rooms but there's one new reason why President Trump maybe shouldn't be celebrating the return of this on screen and real life supporter. We'll explain coming up.
[15:56:55] NOBLES: Everybody loves a 90s reboot. And while "Roseanne" was greeted with a ratings home run and another season and even a call from the president, actress Roseanne Barr's tweets aren't getting the same reception. Some seeming to reference unhinged conspiracy theories leading us to wonder if the return of "Roseanne" and its huge ratings will actually boost the president's own support. Here's Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper.
ROSEANNE BARR AS ROSEANNE CONNER: Thank you for making America great again.
TAPPER (voice-over): President Trump has a new favorite T.V. show.
TRUMP: Look at Roseanne, I called her yesterday. Look at her ratings.
TAPPER (voice-over): And the former television star is taking credit telling a crowd of his supporters in Ohio that the show represents them.
TRUMP: And it was about us.
TAPPER (voice-over): But can Roseanne's support and the monster ratings perhaps also give the president a boost? The sitcom's title character is an unabashed Trump supporter.
LAURIE METCALF AS JACKIE HARRIS: How could you vote for him, Roseanne?
BARR: He talked about jobs, Jackie. He said he'd shake things up.
TAPPER (voice-over): And Roseanne Barr who ran in 2012 to be the Green Party's presidential nominee is now a proud Trump voter in real life.
BARR: I think Trump steal my act, that's why I like him.
TAPPER (voice-over): Offering what's being build as a rare relative network television portrayal of the White working class.
BARR: First, let's say grace. Jackie, would you like to take a knee?
TAPPER (voice-over): The show is already rallying Trump country, Oklahoma, Missouri and Ohio delivered the debut's highest ratings. But some critics say the fictional depiction is a Hollywood fantasy. Whitewashing Trump supporters as socially liberal, showing for instance Roseanne standing up for her gender fluid grandchild.
BEN SHAPIRO, "THE BEN SHAPIRO SHOW" HOST: The actual theme of the show is that the only reason you would vote for Trump is for non- cultural reasons. Right, the show is one big lie about Trump.
TAPPER (voice-over): The real life Roseanne has come under fire as well for giving voice to a darker side of the far right. Conspiracies involving child sex trafficking, for instance. So far Barr has left those debunked plots out of her mainstream show. But whether the "Roseanne" reboot can win President Trump new supporter understanding remains to be seen. For now, the Conner household sounds a lot like America.
HARRIS: I should have tried to understand why you voted the crazy way that you did.
BARR: And I should have understood that you know, you want the government to give everybody free healthcare because you're a good hearted person who can't do simple math.
NOBLES: And our thanks to Jake Tapper.
We have much more ahead in the NEWSROOM and it all starts right now.
Good afternoon, thank you for joining me. I'm Ryan Nobles in for Fredricka Whitfield. President Trump is moments away from heading back to Washington. But even before his return, he's stirring up controversy.
The president blasting Democrats threatening no more DACA deal. He's also blaming Mexico for not stopping drugs and migrants and floating the idea of ending NAFTA.
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TRUMP: Mexico has got to help us at the border.
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