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Kentucky Teachers Protest; Teacher Rally in Oklahoma; Russia Tests Missile; Trump Blames Democrats Over DACA; Trump Attacks Amazon; Melania Trump's Back in the Spotlight. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired April 2, 2018 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What they're also extremely upset about and what they are very vocal and passionate about is also the funding bill, Ana. Some of these teachers do worry that it could potentially affect their jobs if they cut down on textbooks, on hiring as well come the next two years here in the state of Kentucky.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Polo Sandoval, thank you.

It's not just happening in Kentucky. Let's go to Oklahoma now. Schools there are closed as up to 30,000 teachers march on the state capital. An Oklahoma teachers union rejected a $6,100 pay raise plan signed by the governor saying lawmakers have done nothing to fix overcrowding and underfunding in schools.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia is the president of the National Education Association, is joining us live now from Oklahoma City.

Lily, thank you for being with us.

We mentioned the lawmakers there in Oklahoma had already passed a pay raise for teachers. Explain why that's not enough.

LILY ESKELSEN GARCIA, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: Well, that's -- they passed something and then immediately, within 24 hours, started undoing the funding, dismantling the funding. So they're playing games. They can't be trusted. And that's the message that they sent loud and clear to Oklahoma educators here is that it's not over till it's over. And we thought we had a deal and, what do you know, they say, here's what we're going to give you, but we're not going to fund it, which would mean you'd have to lay off thousands of educators in order to fund it on the local level.

So we're not playing games. This is real. And this is the result of a decade of underfunding public schools. Zero raises for these hard working educators. In 11 years, zero raises. And we've done everything we were supposed to do. We showed up. We pulled out of our own pockets to give our kids things that they weren't funded for. And now enough is enough. And now we want the legislature to do its job.

CABRERA: Just a couple of weeks ago we covered the teacher strikes in West Virginia. Now it's Oklahoma and Kentucky. To your point, this isn't a new issue. So why now? If it were as bad as we're hearing, why not take action sooner?

GARCIA: You know, I think you get to this point -- and it's a tipping point. We're at a moment right now where we've always been good citizens. We know how a bill becomes a law. We call our legislators. We invite them into schools. And we've been inviting legislators and governors in some of the most underfunded states to come in and see the results of a decade of neglecting our public schools. And they pretty much said, yes, keep up the good work and keep filling in the hole that we -- that we dug for public education.

There gets to a point where you say, no more. This is not fair to students. This is not fair to the people that have to work two or three jobs or can't pay off their student loans for the privilege of being a public school teacher.

CABRERA: Right. And we have spoken --

GARCIA: And so this is our moment to stand up.

CABRERA: We have talked to teachers there in Oklahoma who say they have to work as many as six jobs just to make ends meet. That being said, Lily, how do you bring in the future generation of teachers and educators? What makes people want to become a teacher if they can't even make a healthy living?

GARCIA: Well, and that is the perfect question. I wish I had a perfect answer for you.

I will tell you that the public -- when we asked parents, do you want your child to be a public school teacher, most of them say no because we'll have to pay off their student loans. So we have seen a precipitous fall in applications in teacher colleges.

And so the folks that are out here today, they're worried about who's going to take their place. So it's not just about their paycheck today, it's about the future of our profession. It's about who's going to be there for those kids when we're long gone. And we feel that if we don't stand up today and say, our students are worth the investment, then it's going to be too late.

CABRERA: Lily Eskelsen Garcia, thank you for joining us.

A show of force again from Russia. Will the U.S. respond to Putin's latest missile test?


[09:38:39] CABRERA: This morning, Russia test firing yet another missile. New video now shows us the successful launch of an upgraded air defense missile in Kazakhstan. And, according to the local press, this missile completed its task of hitting a hypothetical target at the stated time.

Now, just days ago, Russia released footage of a different test. This one an intercontinental missile dubbed Satan 2. And yet, just last month, the Kremlin stated it wanted to curb an arms race. Let's discuss with Democratic Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode

Island. He serves on the foreign affairs and judiciary committees.

Congressman, good to see you.


Is Putin sending a message to the U.S. with these missile launches? CICILLINE: Well, I think there's no question that we need to

understand the serious threat that Russia poses. They're engaged in cyber activity and military aggression around the world.

They've interfered with our presidential election and are trying to destabilize other western democracies. So we certainly need to understand that Russia is not a friend. They're an adversary of the United States.

And what we need from the president is really leadership on developing a comprehensive strategy that's fully integrated, that worked with our allies around the world, that understands the seriousness of this threat and fashions a comprehensive strategy to meet that threat.

So I think this is just another example of Russia trying to sort of assert themselves, as they have in other parts of the world, and showing their military capabilities. And we need to understand and recognize the seriousness of this threat.

[09:40:08] CABRERA: How should the U.S. respond? Because I know in the past you've said, for example, the U.S. expelling some of those diplomats from our country over the U.K. spy -- Russia -- former Russian spy poisoning was a good start?

CICILLINE: Yes. I mean I think one of the things we've got to do is impose additional sanctions that really get to the heart of Putin's power base, the oligarchs. So I think, again, working with our allies, making sure that we develop and implement even stricter sanctions that really get to the financial system, that get to the -- the processes that the oligarchs have around the world so that you can really hurt Putin where it counts, those kinds of financial sanctions.

But we've got to work closely with our allies. And we need to, of course, respond in a serious way to their ongoing efforts to interfere with our democracy. And, you know, strong statements from the president condemning those actions would be a good beginning. And then making sure that we've put things in place to prevent them from ever doing it again.

But this is about American leadership, not just reacting sort of a one-off, but really coordinating with our allies in a comprehensive way to send a very strong message to Putin and Russia that we are not going to permit their aggressive behavior or their interference in our democracy.

CABRERA: The president is not sending any message to Russia today, but he is sending messages to Mexico. He's back to tweeting about DACA, about immigration. This is what he wrote in a tweet this morning. Congress must immediately pass border legislation, use nuclear option if necessary to stop the massive inflow of drugs and people. Border patrol agents and ICE are great, but the weak Dem laws don't allow them to do their jobs. Act now Congress. Our country is being stolen.

Your response?

CICILLINE: Well, it's unclear to know what exactly the president is talking about. It's a pretty unhinged tweet. DACA is something we should take care of. We have bipartisan legislation that we could pass today if we were brought back into session, or next week when we're there, that would pass The Dream Act. We provided additional resources for border security in the omnibus bill. So it's unclear what the president is talking about other than maybe just appealing to his base by sort of just fermenting this sort of anti-immigrant language.

But DACA, of course, doesn't apply to anybody who's coming over the border today as his tweet suggests. This is a program where you have to have been in the United States as of 2007. And there are no new applications for dreamers being accepted.

So it's unclear what the president is talking about. We need comprehensive immigration reform. There's bipartisan support for that. But the president hasn't provided any leadership. And, in fact, he's prevented us, when we reached a deal, from moving forward on the Dream Act. So it's hard to understand what the source of this is other than some reporting that was on Fox News that apparently caused him to send out these tweets.

CABRERA: I mean you said that you could pass a law today, but the truth of the matter is, you guys haven't even voted on any of this legislation. Paul Ryan, in the House, hasn't put this to a vote. We saw what happened in the Senate last time around. You think this is going to give lawmakers a new charge to get back at it and try to pass immigration reform?

CICILLINE: Well, I think if the -- if the Republicans believed the president was serious about passing comprehensive immigration reform or was serious about taking care of the dreamers, they might be willing to do it. But they've seen that he sort of makes one statement and then acts contrary to that.

We have been pushing hard for passage of the Dream Act and for comprehensive immigration reform. There are good bipartisan bills that would pass if they were brought to the floor. The Republican House leadership has refused to bring those bills to the floor. We've tried discharge positions to force his hand.

But the president isn't really interested in solving this problem. If he were, he would call on the speaker to bring the Dream Act to the floor and we'd pass it. If he were serious about immigration reform, he would call on the speaker to bring a bipartisan bill to the floor and we'd pass it.

But this is really political fodder. And, unfortunately, using the lives of immigrants who came to this country as a political ploy seems to be a practice of this president and very counterproductive. CABRERA: I want to read you a tweet we just got from the president. He

says, only fools or worse are saying that our money losing post office makes money with Amazon. They lose a fortune and this will be changed. Also, our fully taxpaying retailers are closing stores all over the country. Not a level playing field.

So he's back at bashing Amazon and demanding changes there.

What's your take on this?

CICILLINE: Well, you know, I've raised some questions about our current anti-trust laws and whether they are sufficient to deal with kind of the new economy and some of the emerging, very dominant technology platforms. I think we have to be smart about this and look at ways that we can insure competition exists and protect the growth of American jobs and all of the things that we traditionally have not looked at in the context of anti-trust laws.

[09:45:02] I don't think it's useful to have the president attack a particular company. I think there's a larger question about whether or not our anti-trust laws need to be updated or modernized to deal with this growing concentration of economic power, these huge technology platforms. And he's right that they are having an impact on main street, on retail, on the ability of people to have their first job and what is the impact on the wages.

So I think there's an opportunity here and I've been calling for this in the anti-trust subcommittee to look at our anti-trust laws and make sure that they're working to create an economy that works for everyone, that helps promote the creation of good-paying jobs. And I think we have to acknowledge the economy is changing and we need to look at the anti-trust laws, which were written at the turn of the century in response to the railroad monopolies and say, you know, it's a different world, it's a different economy. We want to be sure that we are promoting competition and we are addressing some of the issues that these big mega mergers present.

CABRERA: So just to make sure I understand you, you actually agree with the president on this?

CICILLINE: Well, I don't know what actually the president's position is. I think his -- he seems to be attacking, you know, an individual and one company. I think we need to look at this in terms of policy, of public policy. Is our current anti-trust law doing the job? Do we need to modernize and look at the impact, not just on consumer price, but on the impact on jobs, on the impact on wages, which have traditionally not being the things that anti-trust analysis has looked at.

I think we need to recognize the economy is different. It's not working for lots of folks. We're seeing a tremendous concentration of economic power that's hurting working people and creating real income inequality and we need to look at our anti-trust laws.

CABRERA: OK. Congressman David Cicilline, thank you.

CICILLINE: My pleasure.

CABRERA: Melania going from a low profile week to a major public event today. Very first after the Stormy Daniels interview.

Stay with us.


[09:51:21] CABRERA: This morning the president, the first lady and about 30,000 guests will take over the South Lawn for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, one of the most high profile hosting events for the first lady. But for most of her husband's presidency, Melania Trump has been anything but high profile. While accusations of affairs and payoffs by the likes of Stormy Daniels make headlines, Melania has mostly stayed out of the spotlight.

Joining us now is CNN contributor and author of "First Women," Kate Andersen Brower.

So, Kate, Melania was by Trump's side Sunday at church. Will be front and center today. How has her role as first lady evolved since last year's Easter Egg Roll?

KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I mean, she's been planning this Easter Egg Roll, I'm told, since the fall. And she actually picked out egg colors in December to give you an idea of what an effort this event is for first ladies.

But she's really retreated into herself. I think the last week we saw her in Mar-a-Lago with no public events except for a trip to a children's hospital in Palm Beach.

But I think that her role is really complicated now. And probably the most complicated since Hillary Clinton, when her husband was facing the Lewinsky scandal. So her office is being very quiet about it and really they keep saying that she is focused on these, you know, first lady responsibilities, like the Easter Egg Roll.

And she clearly does well when she talks to children, so they had her speaking to children in a hospital, and that's really where her warmth comes through. But she's clearly in a very challenging position.

CABRERA: I want to just hit on something you mentioned, Hillary Clinton. And you recently wrote that Melania has something in common with Hillary Clinton, regarding public embarrassment?

BROWER: I mean it's interesting that Hillary Clinton and Melania Trump, who are two completely different women, Hillary Clinton, you know, the first first lady to run for office and win when she was a New York senator, and Melania Trump, who's someone who clearly doesn't necessarily enjoy politics. But they both face the same kind of humiliation, having their husbands betray them in a public way on the national stage and things have changed a lot since the Kennedy era. Now we know details that we would never have known before because of media and social media. So it's a lot more difficult to be first lady now than I think ever before. CABRERA: In an interview with "Slate," the first lady's communications

director, Stephanie Grisham, talked about the first lady's work on cyberbullying. Although she says we really want people to stay away from saying it's a cyberbullying campaign. What's going on there?

BROWER: Well, I mean, I think the first lady is still passionate about cyberbullying as a topic. But I think her staff, they recognize, and she even recognizes, the charges of hypocrisy here because her husband takes to Twitter so often and can be just, you know, so visceral and nasty on Twitter. So it's hard for her to talk about cyberbullying, right?

But it is something she believes in wholeheartedly. And so I think they've tried to pivot to opioid abuse and kind of working on that topic instead because first ladies traditionally have to pick an apolitical topic, which is very difficult right now in such a partisan atmosphere. They have to pick something that's not going to upset the right or the left. And that's why they so often do something involving children because there's not a lot you can criticize there. So I think we're going to see her more focused on children's issues, which is a very broad subject, obviously, but she does really shine when she is with children.

CABRERA: And I still think about what she came out and said during the campaign, and she talks specifically about cyberbullying. But as this article in "Slate" points out, an actual platform hasn't been presented, at least in a more official sense. How long until we hear about what that actual platform is, do you think?

[09:55:14] BROWER: I mean, I don't know. They're still working on it. I know that by this time during Michelle Obama's tenure in the White House, the Let's Move campaign was in full swing. You know, typically by now they would have a more formalized platform in place. I think because of the chaos of this administration and also because they didn't necessarily expect to win, right? So I think that they -- they kind of were scrambling to find a topic and a platform that is apolitical. And she does face a difficult uphill battle because she follows a very popular first lady too.


Kate Andersen Brower, as always, thank you so much.

BROWER: Thank you, Ana.

A very vocal morning for the president on Twitter. And we're about to see him in just a few minutes at that Easter Egg Roll, live at the White House.

Stay with us.