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March Madness Headlines; Trump Administration Shake-Up Continues; April Snow Cripples Travel; Uproar Over Sinclair Stations; Roseanne Tweets Conspiracy Theory. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired April 2, 2018 - 06:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[06:30:53] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: March Madness, it started with 68 teams. Now it's down to just two. Michigan and Villanova square off tonight for the national championship.

Andy Scholes live in San Antonio with a preview.

Andy, I've got to tell you, full disclosure, I'm a Villanova guy. My nephew is an assistant to Jay Wright. So give me the right preview of the game tonight.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, I see.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'll tell you what, Jim, if Villanova wins this games tonight here in San Antonio, they really will enter into that college basketball dynasty conversation. They'd be just the fourth team in the past 40 to win two out of three championships, joining the likes of Duke, Kentucky, and Florida. Now, Wildcats star Jalen Brunson, one of three players left from their 2016 championship team. And we asked him what it would be like to win another one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JALEN BRUNSON, VILLANOVA GUARD: That would be awesome just to be able to do that with my teammates. It would be -- it would be really special. And I'll definitely be honored and I'll definitely cherish that for the rest of my life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: And you might want to mix in a nap at some point today, because you've got a late tip-off between Villanova and Michigan on TBS. The game's going to get started at about 9:20 Eastern.

All right, we had a thriller in the women's national championship game between Notre Dame and Mississippi State. Arike Ogunbowale beat Yukon on Friday with a last second shot and she did it again yesterday to win the national championship. It was the first for Notre Dame in 17 years. They were down 15 in the third quarter before mounting the greatest comeback in women's title game history. Now, Ogunbowale's parents named her Arike, which in Nigeria means to see and to cherish. And I'll tell you what, this is going to be a moment that Notre Dame fans cherish for a very long time. And, guys, how cool that Notre Dame wins a national championship on

Easter Sunday. I'll tell you what, Ogunbowale's going to go down as one of the clutchiest (ph) women's basketball players of all time.

SCIUTTO: I've got to tell you, I was saying earlier that if -- I mean the women's national championship never gets as much attention as it deserves, but if --

CAMEROTA: That's right.

SCIUTTO: If a guy won the semis and the finals on a last second shot as Ogunbowale did, he'd be president. And I'm serious.

CAMEROTA: Right.

SCIUTTO: It's -- it's insane.

SCHOLES: Maybe she should be president.

SCHOLES: Good point.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And this all has been so fascinating. I mean, Loyola, also a great run for them. We've got to give them a shout-out.

CAMEROTA: I just found out I'm in 12th place in my bracket. So I have a chance.

AVLON: So you're saying there's a chance?

CAMEROTA: So there's a chance.

SCIUTTO: I'm like 150th place.

CAMEROTA: Well, if only you know as much as I do.

Meanwhile, Trump cabinet chaos. Could EPA Chief Scott Pruitt be the next one out the door next? John Avlon breaks it down for us. Fantastic. That's (INAUDIBLE).

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:37:52] CAMEROTA: Not a long shelf life in President Trump's cabinet. See what I did there? With original members dwindling, Rex Tillerson and David Shulkin now out. Who could be next?

John Avlon is here to break it all down.

Hi, John.

AVLON: Hello.

CAMEROTA: OK.

AVLON: Cabinet humor. I like it.

CAMEROTA: OK. Good. We have a lot of it.

So, remind us of what's happened thus far with who's fired and retired.

AVLON: We are over 50 percent turnover in the Trump White House between West Wing and cabinet. That is unprecedented. It dwarfs previous. Obviously just in the last couple weeks, we have Secretary of State Rex Tillerson unceremoniously fired by tweet. Good-bye, Rex. We also have a new unit of membership of tenure in the Trump, 42 Scaramuccis is --

CAMEROTA: This is your measurement of time.

AVLON: I think it's very important to have a standard unit of measurement. And 42 Scaramuccis is a respectable -- a Scaramucci, by the way, is 10 days. And that is 42 Scaramuccis for the secretary of state. Very impressive.

Then you have the national security adviser, highly respected H.R. McMaster. People said he was bringing professionalism to the national security staff (ph) with good reason after Mike Flynn. Did he retire? Was he fired? Who knows?

Secretary David Shulkin, who you'll be interviewing in the next hour, he says he didn't resign. The White House says he resigned. We're going to put a question mark after fired, but that's been certainly controversial over the last couple of days.

CAMEROTA: We'll find that out in the next hour what he says exactly happened.

Forty-one Scaramuccis.

AVLON: Forty-one Scaramuccis.

CAMEROTA: OK.

AVLON: So, you know, it's important to keep track of these things.

CAMEROTA: All right, now let's talk about who's on the chopping block. We hear a lot about Scott Pruitt. He has been spending a lot of taxpayer dollars. Is that why his head is now possibly next?

AVLON: That is one of many scandals surrounding Scott Pruitt. We have travel spending. We have a significant issue with a $50 a night stay in Washington, not standard rate.

CAMEROTA: But what's wrong with that? So he's staying at a friend's house, right? And --

AVLON: Wife of a lobbyist.

CAMEROTA: OK, so he's staying at the wife of a lobbyist in the energy sector?

AVLON: Uh-huh. CAMEROTA: OK. So that's important. And he's paying $50 a night. So that is a sweetheart deal.

AVLON: That -- say that's below market rate. If you or I tried to get a $50 a night hotel room in Washington, D.C., I'd be staying in sort of a cubby hole by the train station. I think in the train station.

[06:40:00] But also Chris Christie whacked him pretty hard this weekend.

CAMEROTA: Good point. Let's listen to that on a Sunday show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: I don't know how you survives this one. And if he has to go -- if he has to go, it's because he never should have been there in the first place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Wow.

AVLON: Never should have been there in the first place.

CAMEROTA: And so also I mean there have been reports that he has spent $68,000 on hotel stays in the span of six months. Why is he doing that? Doesn't he -- I mean, honestly, doesn't he know that this is not kosher to spend the taxpayer's dollars like this?

AVLON: Politics is perception and taxpayer funded travel is a third rail, even in the Trump White House. But I think folks in the cabinet were getting messages that this is fine, this is normal. They didn't adjust their behavior and now they're taken to the wood shed for it, and they should be.

And then, of course, you've got Ben Carson.

CAMEROTA: OK, $31,000 dining set that had to be canceled. I don't know if you've seen that dinning set. I mean that's a sweet dining room set right there.

AVLON: I mean -- I mean it's very important that the HUD secretary have a first rate dining room set. And what was worse -- I don't know what was worse. He threw his wife under the bus for ordering that table set.

CAMEROTA: Said that basically she had ordered it and he was checked out.

AVLON: Not -- not -- you know, stay classy Ben Carson.

CAMEROTA: But is -- but is that going to cost him his job?

AVLON: The table set won't, but I think there's legitimate scandals around his leadership of the agency. I mean here's a guy who's an incredibly accomplished surgeon and could have been a logical choice for surgeon general, but he was put in charge of HUD for Housing and Urban Development.

First of all, he pushed to remove anti-discrimination language from the mission statement. Why would you do that? Also allegedly, according to "The New York Times," deep reporting, pulling back enforcement on the Fair Housing Act. That's one of the fundamental reasons HUD exists. So that itself should be the ledger against him.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but, I mean, again, he's probably just echoing the thoughts of the president. I mean some of these people are trying to scale back the agencies with which they're tasked with heading.

AVLON: Yes, but I think there's a core issue of principle and then there's the philosophical debate about the agency. That said, what's likely to get him is probably the dining room set because it makes for a television ready-made scandal, not a policy problem.

CAMEROTA: What's Ryan Zinke done wrong?

AVLON: Ryan Zinke's been having a ton of problems. He's been somebody who was beloved on the -- on the right, but he's had more taxpayer travel issue, more issues with lobbyists. And then, of course, he got Jeff Sessions and John Kelly, who have been hanging on despite a lot of tough media cycles against them, Jeff Sessions, you've got to -- he's the cover of "Time" magazine this week. He doesn't seem to want to resign despite a lot of pressure from the president.

CAMEROTA: John Avlon, thank you very much for walking us through all of this.

Let's get back to Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, winter refusing to let up. Some parts of the country could see spring snow. We're seeing it in New York. Find out where and how much will fall. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:46:35] CAMEROTA: OK. April show is the story for a wide swath of the U.S. today. A fast moving storm creating a slick morning commute.

CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar has our forecast.

I was already caught in it, Allison. I know this is the truth.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is. In fact, take a look, this is a live camera shot of New York City. Again, it's kind of blurry because you have a lot of snow sticking to the camera. But if you look closely, you can actually see a lot of that snow coming down. And it's coming down in quite heavy bands at this point.

We have the winter weather advisories and winter storm warnings in effect for much of the areas in the northeast. This is the live radar. Look at some of those dark bands moving through areas of northern New Jersey and New York City as we speak. Finally coming to an end for cities like Pittsburgh, for example, and that will be the trend as we go through the rest of the day. Right now areas of New Jersey, New York, eastern Pennsylvania are

getting the heaviest snow they are going to get for the day. But as it moves out, it looks like the timeline should end up wrapping up around New York, Jim, say about 12:00. This is good news because the Yankees home opener is expected today at 1:00 this afternoon. Cutting it close, but it looks like they'll make it.

SCIUTTO: All right. Well, I'm a Mets fan, so I'm not worried about the, you know, weather at the Yankees.

CHINCHAR: Your game is later, so you are definitely in the clear.

SCIUTTO: All right, Allison Chinchar, thanks very much.

Another story here, really just an alarming one. The deadly SUV plunge off a California cliff that killed a couple and at least three of their children, it now appears to be intentional. California Highway Patrol says a preliminary investigation shows that the SUV was stopped roughly 70 feet from the edge before then quickly accelerating. At the bottom of the cliff, the speedometer was pinned at 90 miles an hour. The couple's three other children believed to be in the vehicle. They have not yet been found. Really just a -- just a sad story.

CAMEROTA: It's also haunting. I don't understand. Did both mothers agree to -- was this a plot? I mean this begs so many questions.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

CAMEROTA: And it's so like deeply disturbing.

SCIUTTO: And those poor kids. Those poor kids.

CAMEROTA: It's horrible.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

AVLON: And one of the kids was the one from an iconic photograph in the aftermaths of Ferguson, hugging a police officer, crying, which just brings to life, I mean, all the humanity lost by one apparently insane action.

CAMEROTA: We need to know more about the back story. I know that they were facing a possible court hearing coming up. We need to know more about what was happening inside that house.

SCIUTTO: We do. No question.

CAMEROTA: All right, so, listen, tell us about what's going on with Sinclair.

AVLON: This is an amazing story. And CNN's Brian Stelter deserves a lot of credit for first floating this.

So Sinclair Broadcasting Group has been getting a major number of television stations across the nation, but they have been tasking their anchors with reading a prewritten statement attacking fake news and pushing a partisan gender under the auspices of being nonpartisan. It's pretty fascinating stuff. We'll have more coming up (ph).

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:53:18] CAMEROTA: All right, you've got to hear this story. Tensions are rising between Sinclair Broadcast Group and their local affiliates after the company told the journalists, all the reporters at its stations, to record these promos bashing what they called fake news. The promos went viral after Deadspin edited dozens of them together showing the anchors across the country reading the exact same script.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The sharing of biased and false news --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: False news has become --

ALL: All too common on social media. More alarming, some in the media have (INAUDIBLE) that aren't true without getting the facts first. Unfortunately, some members of the media think there's (INAUDIBLE) pushing their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think. And this is extremely dangerous to our democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: I mean it's like something out of the movie "1984."

CAMEROTA: George Orwell online too.

SCIUTTO: Orwellian.

Joining us now to talk about this is CNN media analyst Bill Carter, and CNN's senior media correspondent and host of "Reliable Sources," Brian Stelter.

Brian, I imagine part of the story here is that the enormous number of folks who watch Sinclair stations, right?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is a growing company.

SCIUTTO: They've got (INAUDIBLE) here.

STELTER: Yes, 173 stations owned or operated across the country. They're trying to buy dozens more right now. That deal's pending with the government. There's ever indication the Trump administration will let the deal through.

And what's interesting about Sinclair is that the owners conservative politics have been trickling down into the stations. Lots of journalists of these stations are deeply uncomfortable with it. And these promos are the latest example. You're given this script. You're told you have to read it. You have to attack fake news and say, you're the only real, trustworthy source. You may agree or you may disagree. The problem is, you're putting words in the local anchor's mouth --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

[06:55:01] STELTER: And that erodes the credibility of these local stations.

SCIUTTO: Well, they're reading the words, John Avlon. I mean and it's hard, I imagine, to disobey that direction from their bosses.

STELTER: Well, that's the problem.

BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Well, it's the loss of you job if you disobey.

AVLON: Right. You'll get an edict from on high to sort of read from a national script. But to viewers, it's a local statement of conscience.

STELTER: Right.

AVLON: It's particularly in cities too because it's allegedly defending the virtues of objective news, nonpartisan news, attacking fake news. But it's coming itself from a partisan perspective.

STELTER: Yes, it's like saying fair and balanced, as Fox News used to do.

And, you know, the owner of Sinclair, this started with must-run segments about terrorism, then Boris Epshteyn with pro-Trump commentators. Now it's these promos. We're just seeing more and more of this political bent at Sinclair station.

CARTER: And the funny thing is they think -- they're arguing that, you know, there's something wrong with journalism and the media. And what they're doing is they're undermining their own journalism. This isn't journalism. This is propaganda when you order someone to say something they don't believe in. You're ordering them.

STELTER: And, by the way, a few of these local anchors, I believe, did avoid it. They did say, we're not going to do it. I'm working more on this story, trying to find out what's going to happen to these journalists.

CARTER: What's going to happen to them?

CAMEROTA: (INAUDIBLE).

STELTER: Are they going to be OK? Are they safe in their jobs? Because there has been a lot of turmoil behind this.

CAMEROTA: Look, obviously it's always an ethical dilemma when your boss wants you to do something that you don't want to do. OK. This is what people have to confront all the time. And when people say, well, you should quit. Obviously there are bills to be paid.

SCIUTTO: Sure.

CARTER: Yes. Families to be raised.

CAMEROTA: And there's -- this has put -- families to be raised.

STELTER: Sure.

CAMEROTA: This has put the Sinclair journalists in a really tough spot. Some I have -- some have asked me questions about what they should do about this because they do feel uncomfortable.

What's interesting is the wording does -- isn't exactly -- it's not so flagrant --

STELTER: Right.

CARTER: No. No, it's not.

CAMEROTA: That you would absolutely say, I can't go on. For instance, some media outlets publish the same fake news stories. Well, that's true. Some media outlets do publish fake news stories.

SCIUTTO: Right.

CARTER: Yes.

CAMEROTA: So it's -- it's that it feels a little bit like a hostage video.

AVLON: Yes.

CARTER: It does.

CAMEROTA: OK. So that they're all having to read these lines that they didn't write. But it's also what's next. So if you -- once you get them to do this --

CARTER: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Then what's next?

AVLON: Yes. And, you know, look, hate news and fake news is a problem on the extreme edges. But what's implicitly being targeted here is what folks derisively called the mainstream media. They're calling into credibility places that do independent, objective journalism. That's the larger agenda that Bill pointed out.

CARTER: And it clearly echoes Trump's message. And there's a back story to this because during the campaign they -- Jared Kushner came out and said they had to deal with Sinclair. That the Trump campaign had a deal with them.

SCIUTTO: One thing I'll say, I spent a lot of time in China, which is a country that has an actual state media.

STELTER: Yes.

SCIUTTO: And it rings very familiar. This is the way authoritarian states operate. I mean, it does. You push and you pressure to get a certain point of view across and they have -- they have a tremendous (INAUDIBLE).

CARTER: But it may cost them. I think there will be a backlash against this. I think the -- I think a lot of people are saying, this is outrageous for someone to be ordering someone to do this.

CAMEROTA: OK, next topic. Roseanne Barr, she's a Trump supporter. She also apparently is a conspiracy theorist or at least a propagator of conspiracy theories.

STELTER: Yes.

AVLON: Yes.

CAMEROTA: So, you know, there's this conspiracy theory that she bought into, once again, the age-old child sex trafficking, child sex ring.

CARTER: Right.

CAMEROTA: I'm sorry, John, but, I mean, it is the age-old (INAUDIBLE) --

AVLON: I love it -- I love because it's the age-old child sex trafficking by Democrats story.

CAMEROTA: And the reason I say that is because didn't we learn during Comet Pizza or whatever the -- pizza-gate.

CARTER: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Where I -- where I take my kids for their birthday parties, by the way.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. During pizza-gate --

SCIUTTO: I just want to say, there's no sex ring in the basement (INAUDIBLE).

CAMEROTA: There is no sex ring in the basement. And a guy had to go to jail over this because he showed up with his gun.

CARTER: Yes.

CAMEROTA: But Roseanne Barr, Brian, what does it mean the fact that she is --

STELTER: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Either retweeting this or falling for it?

STELTER: Yes, she's a beloved actress. Tens of millions of people are going to watch her show again tomorrow.

CAMEROTA: There you go. Exactly.

STELTER: And yet she -- she is vulnerable to the kind of conspiracy thinking we see from so many people. It's a huge headache for ABC. And I think it's going to become more of a headache this week. The executives at ABC know that.

That said, this isn't just about Roseanne. It's about why so many people want to believe deranged conspiracy theories. And I think, you know, this one happens to be sex trafficking, which is related to Democrats somehow and Hillary Clinton is evil --

SCIUTTO: And the deep state. And the deep state.

STELTER: And the -- and President Trump's going to save us all. That's kind of the theory here. And, you know, she tweeted yesterday, I just enjoy it. It's like a video game. It's exciting.

CARTER: Right.

STELTER: That is the problem right there.

CARTER: But I want to say, this is a risk for them because -- there's a risk for ABC. ABC did not do a lot of due-diligence about what she's been doing for the past five or 10 years because she has been taking some really outrageous positions against Palestinians. She tweeted something about Hillary Clinton during the campaign that was incredibly vile. Incredibly vile.

STELTER: Yes, but can you -- can't you separate the artist from the art? I think that's the question.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Yes, but, she's just a comedian, right? She's a comedian actress. Why does she -- why should her political views matter?

CARTER: Well, they're trying to sell it as part of the show. They're trying to make -- and -- and, look, it matters if Trump then tweets -- he takes credit for it. He's taking credit for that.

SCIUTTO: Well, imagine if a television star, say, had a political influence or a political future. I could never imagine that happening.

CARTER: Yes. No.

CAMEROTA: All right, gentlemen, thank you for the likely conversation.

STELTER: Thanks.

CAMEROTA: And thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, CNN "TALK" is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.

[07:00:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think we've ever had a better relationship with China.

The only thing that can get in its way is trade.

CAMEROTA: China retaliating against the U.S., announcing new tariffs on American goods.