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Churches Attacked During Easter Services in Sri Lanka; Parisians Pray for Swift Restoration of Notre Dame; Dems Plan Monday Conference Call on Mueller Report Implications. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired April 21, 2019 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:24] ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Alex Marquardt in for Ana Cabrera on this Easter Sunday.

We have breaking news right now. An entire country shaken after hundreds of people are killed in a wave of bombings. This is Sri Lanka. More than 200 people are dead, hundreds more wounded in three separate cities. There were at least eight explosions that went off in what authorities are now saying was clearly an act of terrorism.

U.S. officials are confirming that several American citizens are among the dead. The places that were hit on this Easter Sunday are places where people gather, high-end hotels as well as several Christian churches that were full as they so often are on Easter Sunday.

We have CNN senior international correspondent Sam Kiley live in the capital of Colombo. Sam, the entire country is locked down. It's under curfew for several more hours after this wave of explosions. What are officials now saying about what happened and who may be behind it?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the -- as you say there, Alex, the entire country is under lockdown with 207 confirmed dead, including three policemen who were killed in two explosions during a follow-up operation.

There have been at least seven arrests, among them, according to the local media, a whole family of people. There's no suggestion yet from the authorities as to who might be behind this, what is clearly a terrorist attack. The locations singling out hotels popular with westerners. Local authorities are saying there could be up to 30 foreigners killed.

The Shangri-La is just about 150 yards down the road from where I'm standing now. That was hit in the teashop at the same time as this other explosions were going off inside churches, picking out for Christians for particular murderous treatment.

But, Alex, there has been a very interesting development that might point to who was behind this because there's been a memo released, or at least leaked, written on the 11th of this month, nine days before the attacks, to a number of security officials around the country by the deputy inspector general of police in which he warns that, and I quote, the state intelligence services have stated that they have information regarding an alleged plan of suicide attack by the leader of Nations Thawahid Jaman. And they named the leader as Mohomad Saharan.

Now, that is a militant organization that's associated with the ideology of al Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State. It goes on to say that he requires these different security organizations to up their security and pay special attention. And already, there are even cabinet ministers here -- excuse me -- complaining that no extra security efforts were made.

So that will be part of what the Prime Minister here has already said will be an inquiry into what went wrong, Alex. But he also insists that the most important thing to do is to maintain peace and try and round up the rest of -- if there is, the rest of the group behind these killings, Alex.

MARQUARDT: So there is a name but no confirmation yet that they are behind it. Sam Kiley, live in the Sri Lankan capital. Thank you very much.

Joining me now is CNN's religious commentator, Father Edward Beck. Father Beck, thank you so much for joining us on this Easter Sunday. First of all, what was your reaction when you heard that among those more than 200 victims today were Christians in what we now understand were three Catholic churches just celebrating Easter mass?

REV. EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGION COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, Alex, of course, it's not the first time that people have conspired to make this week not Holy Week but an unholy week. Remember, there have been Easter attacks in Kenya, in Pakistan, in India, all in recent years.

So the fact that, in these Christian minority countries, that on these major feast days, even the Christians show up in such numbers knowing the risk, I mean, that's just a testimony to me that people do believe in the power of goodness and the message of this season, of rebirth. That that's stronger than the evil and that's stronger than the violence and the death. And it's really the testimony of the faith.

So my first response was, this terrible tragedy has once again befallen innocent people, Christians, on this High Holy Day, and yet it is the mystery that we're celebrating. It is the suffering, death, and resurrection that Christians are committed to and that they continue to show up to celebrate.

[19:05:01] MARQUARDT: Father, we heard from Pope Francis today in the Vatican as we do every Easter, and he said in his speech that he was praying for, quote, all of the victims of cruel violence in Sri Lanka.

As you've noted, it's been a grim week overall this week, not just the Sri Lankan attacks that we saw today. There is the historic fire at Notre Dame on Monday, the arson scare here in New York at St. Patrick's Cathedral, churches intentionally burned down -- three of them -- in Louisiana, as well. On top of all that is the ongoing sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.

So, Father, after hearing that long list, does Easter Sunday feel different this year?

BECK: Well, I think Easter Sunday feels like what it's supposed to feel like. That that's not the final word, that even amidst -- I mean, Jesus goes to the cross. It's unjust crucifixion, unjust persecution. And the symbolism of that for us is it's not the final word.

So you name all of these tragedies -- and, yes, terrible tragedies -- but at Notre Dame, I mean, that cross still stood. The wall still held. All of the donations have come in to rebuild. And it's people's testimony that this will not win.

And so I think that the Easter message is just needed in the midst of such tragedy and that list. And I'm thinking, too, you mentioned about the sex abuse scandal. I mean, institutional religion is not doing well right now. And I think the point, though, that people are feeling, that's still a need for spirituality and a connection to some depth in their lives but maybe they're not finding it in the institution.

But is it the buildings that matter? I mean, Notre Dame fell. These churches have been destroyed. But the people of God are the church. So that's the real message of Easter, that Christ lives in those believers who will continue on despite the destruction, despite those who would thwart that advancement.

MARQUARDT: And in the wake of these horrible attacks in Sri Lanka, we did saw the Eiffel Tower in Paris go dark as it so often does following tragedy around the world. Paris, of course, dealing with its own tragedy in the past week, that fire that you noted at Notre Dame Cathedral.

Parishioners who might normally go to Notre Dame on Easter Sunday, they had to attend services at a nearby church. So for those non- Catholics or for those who don't know, what significance does Notre Dame hold for Catholics?

BECK: Well, it is the cathedral of Paris. So you have a hundred parishes but that is the seat of the archbishop. It's the most important church. And historically, it has held such significance, not only for tourists but for people who wanted to go there to pray.

And, you know, I've heard some the critique like, well, it's just a building, and why are we spending all this money on a building? And, yes, it is that. But I think it's a testimony that the human spirit needs to be lifted up in some way.

To know that all of that time and money and effort were placed in a building for God and that the human spirit might be lifted up to something higher, that's really why it's such an important symbol. It's not about the brick and mortar. It's about what the symbolism of that building, what people aspire to, what it helps them get to.

And so I think that it's so important because, yes, it's beautiful. It has the paintings, it has the organ, it has those beautiful bells that toll, but it's because people have been baptized there, people have been married there, people have been buried there, people have gathered for prayer to go beyond themselves, to be lifted higher.

And that's why I think it resonated throughout the world, even with nonbelievers who looked at it and said, you know, I don't know everything about what that's about but something special is happening there and it moves me even though I'm not Catholic or not Christian.

MARQUARDT: Yes. It resonated so much that there has been an outpouring of offers of funds to the tune of more than $1 billion that had been raised for the effort to rebuild the cathedral. Were you surprised by this response?

BECK: I was and surprised by it, first of all. And I was surprised that even non-Christians were donating to it. I think for the reasons I just enunciated.


BECK: And I was also not surprised, though, that people are protesting that. That, you know, you have protesters in France who've been protesting for a fair wage, against economic injustice, and saying, well, why aren't they spending the money on that? Why are they spending it on a building?

And so I get that. I mean, people come first before buildings, and so I think we need to do both. And I think the protesters have a point, but I think the people are responding to the building, again, not for the brick and mortar but for what it represents.

We need beauty in our lives to lift us up, to take us beyond ourselves. That's why people are giving to it, not because buildings are more important than people.

[19:10:05] MARQUARDT: Well said. Father Edward Beck, thank you very much, and happy Easter.

BECK: Happy Easter, Alex. Thank you.

MARQUARDT: Coming up, the President's lawyer claims that there's nothing wrong with getting information from Russians. We'll dig in to his argument.

Plus, a new Democratic call to begin impeachment proceedings. But will it impact Speaker Pelosi's hope to make -- to take, rather, a more cautious approach?


MARQUARDT: It's the phone call that could change Donald Trump's presidency, and it's happening tomorrow afternoon.

Congressional aides are telling CNN that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will hold a conference call at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time with her Democratic caucus to discuss the Mueller report. Something the Speaker referred to in a letter to colleagues as a grave matter.

The question now is whether lawmakers will discuss whether to pursue impeachment proceedings, which a small number of Democratic lawmakers already support.

[19:15:03] Meanwhile, the President's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is spreading a message of vindication on this Easter Sunday. But he also offered this surprising view to Jake Tapper this morning on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION."


RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: There's nothing wrong with taking information from Russians.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: There's nothing wrong with taking information --

GIULIANI: It depends on where it came from. It depends on where it came from. You're assuming that the giving of information is a campaign contribution.

Read the report carefully. The report says we can't conclude that because the law is pretty much against that. Do you -- people get information from this person, that person, this person.

TAPPER: So you would've accepted information from Russians against a client -- against a candidate if you were running the President trolley (ph)?

GIULIANI: I probably -- I probably wouldn't. I wasn't asked. I would've advised, just out of excess of caution, don't do it. I'll give you another thing, though --

TAPPER: But you're saying there was nothing wrong with doing that? You -- I mean, that doesn't just --

GIULIANI: There's no -- there's no crime.

TAPPER: You just said you wouldn't accept help from the Russians if you were working the --

GIULIANI: I don't know if I would or I wouldn't. I -- the legal advice I would give is, out of an excess of caution, don't do it. But maybe that's informed somewhat by what is going on right now and what we've learned since then.

The reality is you're picking on a minor point when the major point is he was pursued for years for a false charge. Two FBI investigations, one with four affidavits for electronic surveillance that turned out to be fraudulent. That's a big crime. Now --


GIULIANI: -- it turns out he didn't do it.


MARQUARDT: White House correspondent Boris Sanchez is near Mar-a-Lago in Florida where the President spent most of this Easter weekend. Boris, any sense of concern from the White House about tomorrow's conference call led by Nancy Pelosi about this talk of impeachment?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Alex. If the White House or the President's allies are concerned about impeachment, they certainly aren't showing it. Part of that confidence comes from the makeup of the Senate where a majority of Republicans would likely defend President Trump as they have in light of the release of the Mueller report.

Impeachment is clearly on the President's mind this evening, though. He actually tweeted this out just a short time ago after landing in Washington, D.C. and getting back to the White House from the Easter weekend here in Mar-a-Lago.

The President writing, quote, how do you impeach a Republican president for a crime that was committed by the Democrats? Make America great again.

So President Trump still, as always, on the attack here over the issue of impeachment. The counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway was on one of the Sunday morning talk shows, also suggesting that an attempted impeachment could backfire on Democrats. Listen to what she said.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: People will look back at this week as another reason he got re-elected, mark my words, because they spent 22 months, $25 million in taxpayer dollars constantly beating the drum of collusion. That's why I think that you have many of the 2020 candidates and Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer themselves saying we're not talking impeachment.


SANCHEZ: Now, despite Kellyanne Conway's statement there, there are 2020 candidates like Elizabeth Warren who support the idea of moving forward with impeachment and other prominent Democrats too like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. We'll wait and see what the White House has to say but, for now, no concern here, Alex.

MARQUARDT: All right. Boris Sanchez, down there near Mar-a-Lago, thanks very much.

So to dig into this a bit more, we have CNN's senior political analyst and former adviser to four presidents, David Gergen; as well as CNN political commentator and former special assistant to President George W. Bush, Scott Jennings.

Gentlemen, thank you for joining me on this Easter evening.

David, first to you, Giuliani says that there's nothing wrong with taking information from the Russians. What's your reaction?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He's wrong. I think every -- and imagine Scott Jennings would believe that, as well. It's been sort of a bipartisan understanding for years, as long as I've known anything of politics, that you never, ever go to your adversary and seek information if that overseas adversary is a threat to the United States.

I mean, if that adversary comes to you, as happened in this case -- repeatedly, the Russians tried to lure people in the Trump orbit over. Fortunately, they did not appear to succeed.

But if a Russian comes to you, you have two responses. The first thing is make sure your candidate knows what's going on, and then second is call the FBI. Those are the two things you do.

You do not continue the conversations and exploit the offers by the Russians to give you information that may compromise you in the eyes of the law and of your political opponents and indeed, of the whole country.

MARQUARDT: We've heard from former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. He is calling on Giuliani to retract that statement. Let's take a listen.


PREET BHARARA, FORMER UNITED STATES ATTORNEY FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: The idea that it is OK, separate and apart from it being a criminal offense, that we should be telling future candidates in the run-up to an election in 2020, that if an adversary -- a foreign adversary is offering information against a political opponent, that it's OK and right and proper and American and patriotic, it seems he's saying to take that information, that's OK.

[19:20:03] That's an extraordinary statement, and I would hope he would retract it.


MARQUARDT: Scott, do you agree with Preet Bharara?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Look, I agree with Mr. Gergen, what he said at the top of the show here. I was on right after Mr. Giuliani this morning, and I was stunned that he would have said that.

I mean, look, the Trump people got a good thing out of this report, which is no evidence to support the idea of collusion or coordination. That's a good thing. There's really no reason now to go out and talk about how it was right and proper when I think the vast majority of Americans would agree that getting information from a hostile foreign power is not a good idea.

I think the WikiLeaks people, Assange, the Russians, all of these folks that tried to hack into and meddle in our democracy need to be held accountable by this government because they obviously weren't being held accountable by the previous one either.

So it was wrong to say that. I don't want them to be talking about this as we move on into the future because I think it's going to prolong what's been, frankly, a painful couple of years for the Republican Party.

I think Donald Trump can now try to have a normal presidency. He doesn't have this investigation hanging over his head. And if the Democrats don't move to impeach him, then perhaps he can get two years of some normalcy here.

MARQUARDT: Right. Well, these comments from Giuliani this morning to Jake were all part of a rebuttal to Senator Mitt Romney who is among the very few Republicans not cheering for the President after the Mueller report came out.

He said in a response, quote, I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the President. Reading the report is a sobering revelation of how far we have strayed from the aspiration and principle of the founders.

So, David, is that the tone that you think more Republicans, not just folks as powerful as Mitt Romney, should be taking?

GERGEN: Look, I think that's an individual choice. I think it's worth remembering that when he ran for president, Mitt Romney, again and again, argued that the Soviet Union represented the great -- or that Russia represents the greatest threat to American national security, and we should be doing nothing to aid them or work with them. We ought to be very careful.

So I think he's coming from that place. And frankly, his own -- he's got a very strong moral base, which -- through which he examines much of life, so I think those comments are -- I will guarantee that there are some other Republicans who believe that.


GERGEN: They simply don't have the guts to stand up in the way Mitt has and take the heat he's taking.

MARQUARDT: Right, because they could pay the price with their base. Democrats are now circulating old clips of Republicans who are still in office as we speak who had a very different opinion back when, say, Bill Clinton was in office. Take a listen.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: He doesn't have to say go lie for me to be a crime. You don't have to say let's obstruct justice for be -- for it to be a crime. You judge people on their conduct, not magic phrases.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: I'm smart enough to know that the President has done wrong, and I want the people to know that. And I want history to know that, that we don't want a president lying in office. That we don't want obstruction of justice.


MARQUARDT: Scott, double standard?

JENNINGS: Look, I don't think that Republicans are going to turn on Donald Trump over this. They look at this investigation as a two-year attempt to prove an allegation of collusion which turned up no evidence of coordination or collusion, and I think they're going to want to move on from this.

I think Democrats are definitely going to talk on their conference call tomorrow now that more people are calling for impeachment like Cortez, like Elizabeth Warren. I think there's going to be a heavy movement in their party to do it.

So I don't think Republicans are going to break with the President. I think Democrats are going to feel the pressure. And we may not be done with this yet because if they move to impeach this president, it's going to be a long year in Washington.

I didn't have high hopes for much getting done before all this. But if they move on impeachment, I don't think anything is going to get done after.

MARQUARDT: And aside from tweets that we have seen from the President, including one in which he called the Mueller report B.S., David, we haven't seen a formal statement from the President.

In past administrations, presidents would come out to the cameras. They would talk to the people, and they would be contrite. Take a look.


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First, let me say I take full responsibility for my own actions and for those of my administration. As angry as I may be about activities undertaken without my knowledge, I am still accountable for those activities. As disappointed as I may be in some who serve me, I am still the one who must answer to the American people for this behavior.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our country has been distracted by this matter for too long, and I take my responsibility for my part in all of this. That is all I can do. Now, it is time, in fact, it is past time, to move on. We have important work to do, real opportunities to seize, real problems to solve, real security matters to face.


[19:25:12] MARQUARDT: David, that was, of course, President Reagan after the Iran-Contra report and then Bill Clinton amid the Monica Lewinsky scandal. You worked for both of those presidents. So do you think Trump should be taking any of these lessons?

GERGEN: Yes, I think taking full accountability is what really good presidents do. Going back to Jack Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs, you know. And he owned up to it and guess what? He was responsible for a disaster and he's -- he went up, owned up to it. His popularity went up 10 points. The Americans appreciate people who are frank.

Now, listen, Alex, I don't think we're going to move toward impeachment. I think people like Scott Jennings, reasonable people on both sides of the aisle, are opposed to moving to impeachment for different reasons.

Republicans, I think with some justification, said, well, listen, you've had these two years of investigations. You didn't turn up a crime. You didn't have enough evidence to go for a crime. How can you go to impeachment? You know, there's no underlying crime on obstruction. And the Democrats will say, you know, but this is unacceptable behavior.

So they're going to continue to fight this out, but I don't think they're going to get there because the Democrats also realize the -- if you look at the polls, a majority of the country does not want impeachment. What they do want, for investigations to continue and let's see what turns up.

This isn't the last chapter. I do also want to say one other thing, Alex. You know, it's really interesting, CNN is hosting a set of town halls tomorrow night, five major, significant candidates on the Democratic side. Don't you think that's going to be a question for each one of them? It's going to be quite interesting to see how it turns out.

MARQUARDT: Oh, absolutely. And, Scott, to you, do you think that this is something that they should be rallying around? Is this a good strategy for those 2020 candidates considering that it's not something that necessarily the electorate, the Democratic electorate en masse, is calling for? Or should they simply just be focusing on beating Donald Trump fair and square?

JENNINGS: Well, I think Mr. Gergen is right. I think that it would -- and I hope he's right that we're not going to move to impeachment. However, the Democrats inside all the polling actually want impeachment.

I think the electorate at large does not favor it, but the Democrats, the partisan Democrats inside of these polls, absolutely want it. Now, you have a presidential candidate, Elizabeth Warren who, frankly, I think, threw it out there to jumpstart her flagging campaign. She wants it. The liberal left flank of the House Democrats is now all banding together on it.

It's going to be really hard for them to stave this off. I hope David Gergen is right because it would tear the country apart, I think, if we have an impeachment. After two years, frankly, of the country being torn apart over this, we're going to have another several months or a year of being torn apart?

MARQUARDT: Right, right.

JENNINGS: This country needs a period of time to have normal politics.


JENNINGS: We need normal politics and a normal presidential campaign. And my advice to the Democrats would be, let's sort this out at the ballot box next November.

MARQUARDT: And that's what Nancy Pelosi said a couple of weeks ago, that --

GERGEN: Agreement, agreement. Full agreement.

MARQUARDT: -- that it will be divisive. And we'll see if she communicates that same message to her caucus tomorrow on that conference call.

David Gergen and Scott Jennings, thank you so much for joining us.

GERGEN: Thank you.

JENNINGS: Thanks, Alex.

MARQUARDT: Now, just the other week, the President said that WikiLeaks is not my thing. But according to the Mueller report, that was a lie. The significance of what he uncovered in your weekend presidential brief, next.



[19:32:52] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It is not my thing.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN HOST: That very recent claim by the President was very much contradicted by Robert Mueller report. According to the special counsel not only was WikiLeaks very much Trump's thing but the relationship may have been much cozier than originally thought.


MARQUARDT (voice-over): On the campaign trail then candidate Donald Trump made clear what a boost he felt WikiLeaks was to his campaign.

TRUMP: WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks. This WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable. I love reading those WikiLeaks.

MARQUARDT: Now new details in the Mueller report show the extent to which the campaign was eager for WikiLeaks to publish the Democratic emails stolen by Russia and given to them. The special counsel writing the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts. Campaign chairman Paul Manafort according to then deputy Rick Gates expressed excitement.

TRUMP: Hillary Clinton is a disaster. She's been a disaster. MARQUARDT: Days later, Trump publicly called on Russia to help find

Clinton's emails.

TRUMP: Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.

MARQUARDT: Aides later said Trump was joking but Mueller reports that just five hours later for the first time Russian hackers targeted Clinton's campaign. The Trump campaign then started planning a press strategy, a communications campaign and messaging based on the possible release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks.

Mueller in his report says Trump told Gates more releases of damaging information would be coming.

Trump friend and associate Roger Stone who prosecutors say wanted information about the leaks to benefit the Trump campaign was allegedly directed by a campaign official to seek out WikiLeaks. There's not known if Stone actually made contact.


MARQUARDT: Now when the President was asked specifically by the special counsel's office about communications by Roger Stone, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates with WikiLeaks, President Trump answered, in writing, I do not recall.

So that brings us to your weekend presidential brief. With me now CNN's national security analyst Samantha Vinograd. She helped prepared the presidential daily brief under President Obama.

Sam, thanks so much for joining us.


MARQUARDT: So Mueller's report said that the Trump campaign did expect to benefit from Russia's election interference. And now we have Rudy Giuliani, the President's lawyer saying that there's nothing wrong with getting information from the Russians. Your thoughts?

VINOGRAD: Alex, the Mueller report is a case study in how not to run a secure campaign. And it should be a teachable moment for all 2020 candidates, especially President Trump. Instead, Giuliani's statement implies that rather than learning from past mistakes, the President's team is doubling down on them and that he may remain open to receiving foreign campaign contributions in the next election cycle. That is not OK. It may not be legal.

Remember, Mueller did not say that the Trump campaign legally accepted these contributions. He said there wasn't enough evidence to obtain a criminal conviction. But we do know that accepting these contributions is definitely dangerous.

Let's remember the context. Russia offered this information as part of their attack on our democracy. They viewed the Trump campaign as a tool to advance their own agenda. Anybody that accepts this information going forward is knowingly aiding and abetting that attack.

And let's just be honest. President Trump would be singing from a totally different sheet of music if Bernie Sanders met with the Chinese to get dirt on President Trump or Elizabeth Warren was twitter messaging with Chinese hackers to get stolen emails. There should be one standard that applies here. Foreign outreach to campaigns is expected but it should be reported so that we keep our Democratic as (INAUDIBLE) as possible.

MARQUARDT: And now that we are discussing all these contacts between the Russians and the Trump campaign, we now have President Vladimir Putin of Russia quietly setting up a meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, of who of course, President Trump has met with twice on his own. So should we be concerned?

VINOGRAD: Well, this one has come as no surprise to me for starters. Putin is a host with the most when it comes to despots. He hosted Bashar al-Assad of Syria on more than one occasion. And now it's Kim's turn. Plus, Kim has two main patrons, China and Russia. He has met with President Xi Jinping of China on his home turf and now its Putin's turn.

But this meeting between Putin and Kim could have been an opportunity for the United States in that Iran negotiations, for example. Secretary of state Kerry spoke often with the Russian foreign minister knowing that Russia had such a close relationship with Iran. Russia has a close relationship with North Korea. They could have carried a message to Kim Jong-un on our behalf. But instead the President's public thirst for adulation from Kim Jong-un and this message that he is in this for the long haul no matter what, means that Putin will use this meeting to increase his own influence on the Korean peninsula. I expect him to announce more projects with North Korea perhaps or going to mediate between the U.S. and North Korea. He has made that offer before. And Kim will use this to increase his image as a normalized illegally nuclearized world power.

MARQUARDT: Who goes around meeting with legitimate --.

VINOGRAD: Wining and dining, yes.

MARQUARDT: Let's switch gears quickly. We just had this incredibly dramatic election in Ukraine where a comedian who played a president on TV has now just won in a landslide victory. Now, there's a perception that he - that will be beneficial to President Putin. How is he supposed to decipher this outcome?

VINOGRAD: Well, this is life imitating art because the president- elect doesn't have real experience and his election victory is really a rebuke of the incumbent administration, Poroshenko administration rather than support for a very beige agenda. He said that he will negotiate with President Putin. Remember, Ukraine is still at war with Russia in the eastern part of that country. And it really looks like he is going to be the disadvantage when he is supposedly negotiating with someone as skilled as Vladimir Putin once he assumes office.

MARQUARDT: All right. Around the world with Sam Vinograd in two minutes.

VINOGRAD: Thank, Alex.

MARQUARDT: Thanks so much for joining us.

All right. Well, coming up, he is almost in. Joe Biden expected to announce his candidacy for President this week. Will it be a game changer that was worth the wait?


[19:43:17] MARQUARDT: Former vice president Joe Biden is expected to end the months of speculation this week and finally announce what we really already know, that he is running for president. This will not be Biden's first run for the presidency. He tried twice before. His earlier campaigns really never got all that far but this time before even announcing Biden is leading the polls in a growingly crowded field of Democrats.

Gabby Orr covers the White House for "Politico."

Gabby, welcome to the show. Thanks you for joining me.


MARQUARDT: All right, Gabi. We have seen Biden now sitting on the sidelines as countless other Democrats have gotten into the race. Do you think that he can make up for lost time?

ORR: You know, his campaign certainly thinks that because of his stature in the Democratic Party he has been able to sort of wait it out, find the right moment to jump in and that it is not going to affect him. They believe that number of these poll numbers in early battleground states where he is ahead of the pact or at the very top of the Democratic 2020 field indicate that there's great support and affection for him in the Democratic Party and then it goes beyond simple name recognition.

So I do think that his campaign is under the impression that waiting until this moment to jump in really won't have a lasting impact on where he stands in the Democratic field. But on the flip side, there have been a lot of young, fresh faces that have entered this 2020 field as Democrats who have had a chance to sort of build support and get in front of voters who might have otherwise considered Biden or supported him, but are now leaning towards those candidates because it had a chance early on to hear from them.

MARQUARDT: Right. And in terms of message that we expect to hear from Biden, not just in his launch, but during the course of his presumptive campaign is one that centers around the middle class. Let's take a quick listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) [19:45:04] JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Workers are not being treated across the board with dignity. They are not being treated like they matter. And let me get something straight with you all. Wall Street bankers and CEOs did not build America. You built America. We built America. Ordinary middle class people built America. This is morally wrong what's going on around this country and I have had enough of it. I'm sick of it. And so are you.


MARQUARDT: Gabby, is that a message that will do enough to separate him from the rest of the Democratic pact or still all about his name recognition?

ORR: Well, look. It is a message that fits nicely into the open lane for somebody who is a bit more centrist, a bit more pragmatic and less progressive than some of these other candidates who are currently in the 2020 field. Biden is obviously targeting the voters who may be switched from the Democratic Party to support President Trump in 2016 but are now, you know, so frustrated with some of his administration's policies that there may be looking to switch back and support a Democrat against him in 2020 and he is targeting those voters, those white middle class workers in places like Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania. It's rumored that he might even have his campaign headquartered in a small town in Pennsylvania. And I think that that really indicates, you know, who he is trying to reach with that message.

It is not the progressive part of the Democratic Party. He knows that that is more likely to go toward Elizabeth Warren or somebody like Bernie Sanders. And I think that's why we see him strategically, you know, honing in on this message that will appeal among white working class voters.

MARQUARDT: And Gabby, when we look at the other end of the age spectrum, there was so much excitement early on for Beto O'Rourke. Do you think that Pete Buttigieg has stolen a lot of his thunder?

ORR: That's' a great question. You know, I think Pete Buttigieg is certainly having a moment. And a lot of people are paying attention to him because he has been able to connect with some of those same voters I was just talking about, people who supported President Trump but have maybe grown tired of what they have seen over the last two- and-a-half years and are looking for somebody new. And Pete Buttigieg has made an effort to connect with them.

He is not really running a negative campaign against President Trump. He is putting out policy proposals. He is articulating ideas that make him stand out in the Democratic Party. And he is also trying to connect with some voters who are maybe being ignored by other candidates.

So I do think that he has some momentum behind him. Is it impacting Beto O'Rourke's campaign? You know, that's a good question and it is something to keep an eye on over the coming weeks. But I still think that Beto has momentum behind him, as well. MARQUARDT: All right. Well, it could be a big week for the

Democratic field.

Gabby Orr, thanks very much.

ORR: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: You can join us live from New Hampshire tomorrow night for the first major event of the campaign of the 2020 presidential campaign. We have Senator Bernie Sanders, kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and who we are just hearing about, mayor of South of Indiana, Pete Buttigieg. All in the same stage back to back for a CNN town hall event. That's tomorrow night starting at 7:00 p.m. eastern time only on CNN.

We will be right back.


[19:52:35] MARQUARDT: We have a truly shocking glimpse at how out-of- control the opioid crisis in America has become. The department of justice has charged 60 people in five states, including doctors, pharmacists and other medical professionals with illegally prescribing millions of pain pills. Prosecutors say some doctors traded prescriptions for sex and invited prostitutes into their homes to abuse illegal drugs.

CNN's Tom Foreman takes a closer look at the scandal and how these doctors were caught.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A river of pills pouring into the Appalachian region and beyond. That is effectively what the justice department has described in this bust of 60 health professionals. Now charged with illegally pushing opioids into communities where addiction is already an epidemic.

BRIAN A. BENCZKOWSKI, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: These cases involve approximately 350,000 opioid prescriptions and more than 32 million pills. The equivalent of a dose of opioids for every man, woman and child across the states of Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and West Virginia combined.

FOREMAN: The details are staggering according to the feds.

In Tennessee, in one case a doctor who called himself the rock dock prescribed powerful and dangerous combinations of opioids and Benzo Diazepam, sometimes in exchange for sexual favors. This is the rock dock's You tube TV show.

In Kentucky, a dentist is accused of removing teeth unnecessarily to push painkillers. And another doctor is accused of leaving pre-signed blank prescriptions for his staff to hand out.

In Alabama, a doctor is charged with providing pills while having knowledge that patients failed drug screens and were addicts, preferring cash payments and charging a concierge fee.

Pill mills, pills for Facebook friends, as many as 15 pills per day for some patients. The accusations go on and on against those charged as --

BENCZKOWSKI: Simply white-coated drug dealers.

FOREMAN: The administration has long agreed this is a health care crisis, even as other big busts have made news in the past.

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: It is the resolute policy of this administration and this department of justice to reduce these overdose deaths.

FOREMAN: Others have put a finer point on it.

[19:55:01] BIDEN: We got here, I believe in part, because of the greed of the drug companies.

FOREMAN: But some of the sharpest legal action against drug companies has come at the state and local level. Earlier this year, Purdue Pharma agreed to pay Oklahoma $270 million over its aggressive marketing of Oxycontin. Many analysts believe this may be the first big win in a wave of similar lawsuits.

So things like these lawsuits and the charges that we have seen and the headlines are all encouraging to those who are trying to do something about this epidemic. But make no mistake, they still face an immense uphill battle with the centers for disease control still saying 130 Americans die every day from opioids.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


MARQUARDT: A stunning crisis.

All right. Coming up, Easter massacre. Hundreds of people killed and injured in a series of horrific bombings across Sri Lanka. We have a live report, next.