Return to Transcripts main page


Biden Continues to Mull Presidential Run; Phoenix Shooting Suspect in Custody; Trump's Latest Controversy; Aides For Vice President Joe Biden Are Reportedly Calling Supporters; The Army General Who Investigated Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's Actions In Afghanistan Said, " He Should Not Get Jail Time"; Pope Francis Flying Right Now To Cuba; Star Jones' Take On Issues Surrounding The 2016 Presidential Race. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired September 19, 2015 - 07:00   ET



LESLIE MERRITT, SR.: Whoever said he's the I-10 shooter is a f***ing moron. Have a good night.

CHRISTI PAUL, WEEKEND ANCHOR, "NEW DAY," CNN: Vice President Joe Biden apparently getting closer to a run for the White House. There's a new report suggesting the focus is now on when he will make the announcement.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, WEEKEND ANCHOR, "NEW DAY" AND "CNN NEWSROOM, CNN: And Bowe Berhdahl back inside a military courtroom as the General who led the investigation into the Sergeant's disappearance says jail would be inappropriate.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.


PAUL: I want to wish a good morning to you, and so grateful for your company, as always. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell, and we're starting this morning with that breaking news out of Arizona.


This morning a suspect who terrorized drivers on a Phoenix highway for weeks is now in custody, according to police. A swat team stormed a Walmart, arresting Leslie Allen Merritt, Jr. Now police say he's linked to at least four of the 11 shootings on Interstate 10, randomly targeting passing vehicles there.

PAUL: Arizona's Governor Ducey was quick to tweet "We got him!" That was after the arrest, although terrified Arizonans are finally going to be able to breathe easier. Officials say, look, there may be other suspects out there. Let's bring in CNN's Nick Valencia. Nick, what did you learn about the arrest?

NICK VALENCIA, REPORTER AND PRODUCER, CNN HEADQUARTERS, ATLANTA: Good morning, Christi. We don't know if files -- charges have been filed formally just yet, but we anticipate the police will charge him with discharge of a firearm and aggravated assault. This morning police believe they have the person who started this shooting spree in custody. After more than two weeks of terror, police make an arrest in a string of highway shootings.

FRANK MILSTEAD, DIRECTOR, ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: The weapon and the man who we believe was responsible for what started this spree in Arizona is in custody.

VALENCIA: Though authorities have declined to name the suspect, two government officials told CNN the detained man's name is Leslie Allen Merritt, Jr. CNN affiliates say this is Merritt arriving at an Arizona State Police office. He was arrested Friday night at a suburban Glendale, Arizona, Walmart in connection with at least four of the 11 shootings. Most of those occurred along busy Interstate 10.

MARK GRAVES, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: He was arrested at that Walmart with a, with a woman and a five-year-old child. They were not taken into custody, and he was.

VALENCIA: A Phoenix City Councilman told CNN the break in the case came after the suspect pawned a 9 mm handgun. Police say their lab results show it was the same gun used in at least four of the highway shootings.

MILSTEAD: The subject is in custody because the weapon that he owned is forensically linked to these crimes.

VALENCIA: The suspect is only connected to the first four shootings. Police are unclear whether there are more suspects.

MILSTEAD: Are there others out there? Are there copycats? That is possible. We will continue to investigate.

VALENCIA: As of September 10th, there have been no other shootings reported. In Friday night's arrest police accused the suspect of starting the spree on August 29th. Late last night affiliate KNXV tried to get the reaction from Merritt's father.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you like to tell me about him or saying anything on his behalf.

LESLIE MERRITT, SR.: What I'd like... Yeh, what I'd like, yeh, I'll say plenty on his behalf. Whoever said he's the I-10 shooter is a f***ing moron. Have a good night.

VALENCIA: So you hear from the father there he doesn't believe that police have the right person in custody. At that press conference last night authorities did emphasize that there could be others out there, including copycats. Again, this suspect that's in custody this morning tied only to the first four shooting of the 11 that happened over the course of the last three weeks. Victor, Christi.

PAUL: All right. Nick Valencia, we appreciate it. Thank you.

VALENCIA: You got it.


BLACKWELL: This hour Vice President Joe Biden will have breakfast with the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington, this as Biden is getting some big money support to run for President. A letter from near 50 top Democratic fundraisers is now circulating and is urging him to enter the race. Here's an excerpt from that letter.


"The Obama, Obama-Biden administration has been a spectacular success. But much work remains to be done. To finish the job, America needs a leader who is respected both home and abroad and who understands the real challenges racing American families. In our opinion, the next President must be Joe Biden. If he announces he's running, we're all in. It's a campaign we know he will win."

And the Vice President has been weighing a Presidential run for some time now, as you know, but recently said he does not know if he has it in him, or if his family is going to be able to, to make it through this campaign.


Joining me now conservative radio talk show host Ben Ferguson, and political editor at New York 1 News, Errol Louis. Good to have both of you. And Errol, I want to start with you. The Wall Street Journal reporting that it's not a matter of if Biden will run, but when he will announce, and he's leading toward, toward running. What credence do you give to that? I mean do you believe that he indeed has made the decision?


ERROL LOUIS, JOURNALIST AND HOST "INSIDE CITY HALL," NY1 NEWS, NEW YORK: Listen, Victor, the way it works in politics is almost everybody who's run for anything above the level of say City Council thinks that there's a potential President lurking within them. And so what we know about Joe Biden, he's run twice before for President, he has served for eight years as Vice President, clearly immensely enjoys the job, seems to have a lot to say. And, you know in 2012, when he was running for re-election, they said he was sort of haunting the backwoods of Iowa and New Hampshire, even though he was needed on the campaign trail elsewhere. This is clearly something he's given a lot of thought and time and attention to, and I always sort of assumed, as I always do with these folks, that if there any kind of reasonable shot at becoming the most powerful person in the world, they will take that shot. It looks like Joe Biden's getting ready to do exactly that.

(END VIDEO TAPE) BLACKWELL: So, Ben, obviously we heard in the debates and in campaign strategies that these candidates are preparing to run against Hillary Clinton. But if...


BLACKWELL: ...if Joe Biden gets in and shows to be pretty successful in these, these early polls, how does that change the strategy of the top Republicans who are running for the GOP nomination?


FERGUSON: I don't know if it changes it much. I mean, honestly, what it will do is give them more time to debate one another and, and to focus on their primary because you know that your opponent is wrapped up in their own debate, in their own fight for the nomination, instead of just being a sail-through situation for Hillary Clinton, which many people thought was exactly what was going to happen. I mean Bernie Sanders, what he's been able to do is truly incredible, and I don't think it's so much because of what Bernie Sanders believes in. It's because that's how dissatisfied the Democratic Party is with Hillary Clinton as their candidate. They want an alternative. And it's obvious with this letter that's been circulating. You don't let this get out unless you're going to run, in my opinion. It reminds me of Ben Carson back at CPAC earlier this year when there was a draft Ben Carson for President campaign, he was running. He knew the campaign was going on. It's a way to build hype and excitement about what you're going to do already. So, I, I think there's a -- I would be shocked now at this point if Joe Biden doesn't run. And Hillary Clinton is in some serious trouble if he chooses to. And, honestly, I think his timetable -- he doesn't have to jump in right now. He can wait a long time. The longer he waits, I think the more people are going to like him as an alternative, saying thank goodness you're running. Man, we are so glad you finally decided to do this. Because we have just not been happy with Hillary Clinton.

BLACKWELL: Hey, Errol, we know that the Vice President will be at the Congressional Black Caucus breakfast this morning, and a senior member representative, Emanuel Cleaver, said that many members of the caucus like the Vice President but have pledged their support to Hillary Clinton. I mean, is there much he can do today or in the next coming weeks to, to kind of switch some of those allegiances?

LOUIS: Oh, absolutely. Back in 2008 the Congressional Black Caucus almost to a member had pledged support, or decided to stay neutral, but many of them had pledged support to Hillary Clinton, and they switched after the first couple of primaries and Barack Obama caught on fire. John Lewis, in particular comes to mind. He simply switched his allegiance. We know that Jim Clyburn of the all-important state of South Carolina, one of the first primary states, he has very pointedly not endorsed Hillary Clinton and is now on the record as saying, if she loses the first two primaries, everything's up for grabs, as far as allegiances, alliances, endorsements and, indeed, the fate of the nomination. So this is going to be a very tricky time and it's very important that it be the Congressional Black Caucus where this conversation starts. Because Hillary Clinton, you know, she was polling -- she, she got 20 percent of the vote in a lot of key states. It's really where in cases she lost, in many ways she lost the election in 2008. So this is, this is very bad news for Hillary Clinton, politically speaking, and all eyes will be on Joe Biden to see what he wants to do. (END VIDEO TAPE)

BLACKWELL: Ten seconds, Ben.

FERGUSON: Sure. Victor, the biggest reason why Joe Biden's got a chance here is, when you have the number one word people associate you with is not being trustworthy, being a liar, as Hillary Clinton's had had that word now connected with her for weeks on end, it is incredibly hard to overcome that. And that's why, if you're Joe Biden, how do you not run? This is the perfect scenario for you.

BLACKWELL: Yeh, and if you have these near 50 -- and these aren't just supporters, these are big-money Democratic fundraisers...

FERGUSON: Big money, yeh.

BLACKWELL: ...are coming in. This, this is quite attractive. Ben Ferguson, Errol Louis, thank you both.


LOUIS: Thanks, Victor.


PAUL: Meanwhile we're waiting to hear from Donald Trump today.


He's going to be in Iowa, and the big question a lot of people are asking is will he address his latest controversy involving his handling of a town hall questioner's claim that President Obama is Muslin and that the President isn't even American? Republicans were split on the issue, with candidates such as Rick Santorum, who refused to criticize. Listen to this.

SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R), ATTORNEY AND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People are entitled to their opinions. We have a First Amendment for a reason. 'Cause people can stand up and say what they want. You don't have to agree with it, you don't have to like.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So do you believe the President is a Muslim, Senator?

SANTORUM: Do I? The President says he's a Christian. What? It, it, look -- ladies and gentlemen, I'm not playing this game that you guys want to play. The President can defend himself, he doesn't need Rick Santorum to defend him. He's got you doing that very, very well. You cut it out.

PAUL: As for Democrats, Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted about the issue in part, quote, "Trump must apologize to the President and American people." And Sanders' rival, Hillary Clinton laid in.

SECRETARY HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He knew, or he should have known, that what that man was asking was not only way out of bounds, it was untrue. And he should have from the beginning repudiate that kind of rhetoric, that level of hatefulness in a question in an audience that he was appearing before.

PAUL: Joining us now with the latest, CNN's Sunlen Serfaty, joining us live from Mackinaw Island, Michigan, where many Republican candidates are today. Sunlen, what are you hearing there today?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CORRESPONDENT, CNN, WASHINGTON, D.C.: Well, Christi, we've seen many of Trump's rival really come out and try to take full advantage of this. We've heard from Chis Christy, we've heard from Senator Lindsey Graham, really calling on Trump, saying that he should have in that moment, in that moment with that voter in New Hampshire, really come out and repudiate that sort of rhetoric. But we're also hearing from Senator Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum, as you heard, really, really decline to comment, really decline to get in on the fray. And they're saying that they wouldn't have necessarily corrected that voter at the time. But it was Jeb Bush, here in Mackinaw Island, who deviated from his stump speech a bit last night, purposely to try to get in on the fray on this. Here's what Jeb Bush said last night.

GOV. JEB BUSH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Barack Obama is a talented man. And, by the way, he's an American, he's a Christian. His problem isn't the fact that he was, he was born here or that's is what his faith is. His problem's he's a progressive liberal that tears down anybody that disagrees with him.


SERFATY: And I asked Jeb Bush three times after those comments if he believes that Donald Trump should apologize for this, and he said "I spoke to that, I spoke to that," so clearly not wanting to go any further. Now Donald Trump, meanwhile, he has been uncharacteristically quiet on this, his campaign abruptly cancelling a speech last thing in South Carolina, saying that he has a business deal instead. The campaign for their part continues to say that Donald Trump did not hear the question from voter. It will be interesting, Christi, to see if Donald Trump heats this defense up as he hits the campaign trail today in Iowa. Christi.

PAUL: (inaudible) Sunlen Serfaty, we appreciate it. Thank you. And, listen, stayed tuned because a little bit later this hour we're talking live with attorney and former "Celebrity Apprentice" contestant Star Jones. So we'll talk about Trump and diversity as well in the 2016 Presidential campaign.


PAUL: The fate of thousands of migrants is hanging in the air this morning. European countries pointing fingers over how to handle this crisis. We're taking you to the Hungarian-Croatian border for a live report. Also, it was the Boston toddler's death that captured America. She has been identified. You're looking there at Baby Bella. Her mother is in police custody. Today police are still searching for more answers though into her death. Was there a motive? Remember, her boyfriend is charged with murder. Plus Pope Francis flying right now to Cuba, where he begins a week-

long trip, including the U.S. Last-minute preparations underway. What does the Pope need to do to make this trip a success?



PAUL: Well, a Boston couple is in custody this morning, waiting to face a judge on Monday after police arrest them in connection to the death of this little girl, two-year-old little girl, Bella Bond. And there's still so much mystery surrounding this thing. Remember, back in June her remains were found on a Boston shoreline, and then she was known simply as "Baby Doe" for 85 days before we even learned her name. CNN's Sara Ganim examines how investigators finally got a break in this case.


SARA GANIM, CORRESPONDENT, CNN, NEW YORK: After nearly three months of investigation, Baby Doe finally has a name, Bella Bond.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bella, happy second birthday, monkey. Yay, yay! Happy second birthday, whoo-oo!

GANIM: This is Bella at her second birthday. Friday authorities revealed she is the mystery toddler who's composite picture captivated millions when she was found wrapped in a trash bag on a Boston shore in June.

CONLEY: And the tragedy of her death is compounded by the fact that her short life ended not by illness or accident, but we believe by an act of violence in the very place where she had -- where she should have felt safest, in her home.

GANIM: Authorities had determined earlier this year from pollen on her polka dot pants that Baby Doe was likely from the Boston area. According to officials, it was a tip this week that led them on an intense 24-hour search resulting in the arrest of Bella's mother, Rachelle Bond, and her boyfriend, Michael McCarthy. McCarthy charged with murder and Bond charged with accessory after the fact.

CONLEY: We allege that McCarthy caused Bella's death, that he did so intentionally, that he and Bond took specific steps to keep Bella's death a secret and to avoid prosecution.

GANIM: Neighbors say they remember a troubled household. According to CNN affiliate WHDH and WCVB, Court documents show Rachelle Bond had an arrest record that included drugs and prostitution.

YESSIOMARA TORRES, NEIGHBOR: It's shocking and it's sad because she was so young, and for that to happen. I feel sorry for that little girl, she should have been in better hands. GANIM: An official from the Department of Children and Families tells

CNN that between 2001 and 2006 Rachelle Bond had her parental rights terminated for her two other children. The agency also said they had been contact with Bella twice in response to neglect. The agency did not say why she was not removed from her mother's custody. Neither McCarthy nor Bond have issued any statements since their arrests. Officials say they are blaming each other for the child's death. It's still unclear exactly when or how she died.


PAUL: And thank you to Sara Ganim, reporting there. Victor?

BLACKWELL: Thousands of migrants, packing refugee centers across Europe, and it comes as countries across Europe are pointing fingers over how to handle this crisis. We'll go into that in just a moment. Plus the man who led the investigation into Sergeant Bowe Berhdahl thinks jail would be inappropriate. Today we can learn if the Army Sergeant will fact Courts Martial for his disappearance. That report live from Texas.



BLACKWELL: Overnight police in Slovenia used pepper spray to force back migrants trying to cross into the country from Croatia. You see they have their shields and batons there as well. Now Croatia is being accused of helping refugees illegally cross borders. Officials in Hungary say it's trying to help the migrants. But as those two countries point fingers at one another, men, women and children continue to pack buses and trains, trying to escape the violence in the Middle East. Their futures and destinations, no one knows what's going to happen next here. Ben Wedeman has the story.

BEN WEDEMAN, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN, JERUSALEM: She barely made it to the front of the line for the bus, whimpering "Enough, enough." This woman from Syria overcome by exhaustion from a journey that paused in the Croatian border village of Tovarnik.

"We never imagined this trip would be so hard," says Samih from Damascus. "We thought after all we've already suffered, they would welcome us differently than this." Thousands flocked here from Serbia after Hungary slammed shut its border. Yet another night in the rough, this tiny hamlet's population suddenly swelled by thousands. Yet again the tired, the desperate, the destitute from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond stranded and waiting for a solution.

PETER BOUCKAERT, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: This is a real disaster on Europe's doorstep, and the European Union is doing very little to resolve it. We just see thousands and thousands of people on the move every day. Wherever they get blocked, they end up in a similar situation like this.

WEDEMAN: Buses eventually arrive, but few knew where they would be taken. Confusion reigned. (Humun)(ph) from Damascus fainted from the heat, and then discovered her six-year-old son had boarded in one of the buses and left without her. Police told me everyone would be bussed to a nearby city. But hours later, many of the buses ended up here, on the Croatian-Hungarian border, crossing at (Betermin)(ph). The Croatian government overwhelmed and floundering in the flood, was passing them on to Hungary which, in a bizarre twist, agreed to take them in. Just to underscore the absurdity of this seemingly endless odyssey, some of these people 48 hours ago were throwing rocks and clashing with Hungarian riot police on the Hungarian-Serbian border. Two days later, we see Hungarian police herding them onto buses into Hungary. Adults weighted down with exhaustion, children dazed and babies crying, they boarded for the next stop, final destination unknown. Ben Wedeman, CNN, on the Croatian-Hungarian border.


PAUL: Well, the decision is now in the hands of the military, and a lot of people wondering will they rule what the Bowe Berhdahl should be court martialed. We're live for you in Texas. Also, she faced Donald Trump in the boardroom. What does Star Jones think about the Republican frontrunner, and who does she think is the best candidate for women? We're talking to her in just a moment.


[07:31:40] BLACKWELL: We are following breaking news this morning, a suspect now in custody in Phoenix, Arizona for allegedly shooting at passing vehicles over a period of two weeks.

Police say Leslie Allen Merritt, Jr., is connected to four of the 11 random shootings on Interstate 10. Now, officials will file charges soon, but they say it is possible that copycat shooters are still out there.

According to a new report in the "Wall Street Journal" this morning, aides for Vice President Joe Biden are reportedly calling supporters suggesting that the vice president is more likely than not to enter the 2016 race. This comes on the heels of letter from merely 50 top democratic fundraisers urging Biden to enter the race. And, more on these new details, it is coming up in a live report in just a moment.

PAUL: New this morning, the army general who investigated Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's actions in Afghanistan said, " He should not get jail time." Authorities say Bergdahl deserted. But, the investigator says, "He did not find any information to suggest Bergdahl was sympathetic to the Taliban."

Bergdahl was captured and held by the Taliban for five years and released only after a controversial prisoner swap last year. Let us bring in CNN Correspondent Martin Savage, who is there live in Texas. Martin, what else did this investigator say?

MARTIN SAVAGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christi. Good morning, victor. You know, it is just too bad that there were not cameras allowed inside this article 32 hearing -- a preliminary hearing, because there were some stunning revelations that were brought forward. Now, this is just a hearing to determine if there may be a court Marshall.

But, on the stand, the first day, you had the prosecution brought some of the commanders for Bowe Bergdahl. And, they said, one, they were shocked to learn that Bergdahl had apparently gone off of his post in Afghanistan in 2009. And, then they outlined what was the very difficult and dangerous ordeal, how one man had literally by his actions refocused the U.S. Mission in Afghanistan. And, that mission became to find Bowe Bergdahl.

Day two, though, then the defense comes forward. And, they had some stunning revelations. Number one, both the prosecution and the defense announced that they agree, no soldiers died looking for Bowe Bergdahl. This was a huge early contention in the whole Bergdaghl saga.

But, again, the military says in its investigation they revealed, not a single soldier died. In fact, they had a hard time finding any soldiers who are even wounded searching for Bergdahl. Then as you point out, you had Major General Kenneth Daul. This is the guy who led the investigation for Bergdahl.

And, he said a number of things. One, he should not get jail time. Two, that he was delusional and left his post because he had some very odd thoughts. And, then the other thing that came forward, this from the interrogator who debriefed Bergdahl about the suffering he endured for his four years and 11 months.

In fact, as this Department of Defense Debriefer retold what Bergdahl went through, he choked up and teared up, twice. He said that Bowe Bergdahl was quote, "An army of one. He had to fight the enemy more than four years and 11 months. You cannot underestimate how difficult that was." So, this was a dramatic sort of different saga and narration that we have heard about the Bowe Bergdahl event. Back to you, guys.

PAUL: You are absolutely right. Martin Savage, we so appreciate it. Thank you, sir.

[21:05:00] BLACKWELL: All right. Let us bring in former Marine Corps JAG Attorney Gary Solis. Good to have you with us, sir.

GARY SOLIS, FMR. MARINE CORPS JAG ATTORNEY: Thank you. Nice to hear that.

BLACKWELL: So, let us just jump right off from what we heard from Martin Savage there and this claim that Sergeant Bergdahl was delusional and had odd thoughts in this psychological defense. What role does that play in the decision to either recommend that or if the decision rather that Bergdahl will face court Marshall or not?

SOLIS: Well, it may influence the decision, but it is not a defense. I think that it is clear that Bergdahl knew what he was doing. While he may have had delusional thoughts, that does not raise to an insanity defense. So, I think it will have no practical effect on whether the case goes forward. But, should it go to trial, it could have an impact on sentencing. BLACKWELL: Let us talk about the sentencing now. Because we heard

from Major General Kenneth Dahl, who was the leader in this investigation, interviewed Bergdahl for a day-and-a-half, said that jail time would be inappropriate. What weight does that carry?

SOLIS: Well, it is not his call to make. It is the call of the Convening authority, if there is a pretrial agreement between the convening authority and Bergdahl, or a call of the military judge, if it goes to trial and is a judge alone or it is a call of the jury. But, it is clear that this case from the get-go, has not been really appropriate for confinement.

I think the issue is going to be, if there is a pretrial agreement between Bergdahl and the army, which I foresee, whether or not the discharge will be a bad conduct discharge or an honorable discharge or possible a dishonorable discharge and how much penalty he will have to pay in terms of monetary punishment.

BLACKWELL: So, in your opinion, not appropriate for confinement. We heard also from Major General Kenneth Daul. How much is that is the basic philosophy that four years and 11 months he has been confined enough? Is that the center of a decision here?

SOLIS: Well, I think so. Practically, speaking, that is true. I mean, from a strictly legal viewpoint, it does not matter. But, of course, it does matter because you have to take into consideration the circumstances surrounding the offense.

And, given those circumstances, I think that most of us would agree that further confinement are the United States would not appropriate in this case. So, I do not foresee him going to jail.

BLACKWELL: What is the law credence that is given to the accounts of some of those who served alongside him, who are a bit more critical than obviously those put forward by the defense and some of the emotional testimony that we heard about this hearing yesterday.

SOLIS: Well, looking at this in terms of a lawyer, a military lawyer, not much. But, the question is, what can the government prove? Not what others who are not before the court might be saying to the press.

BLACKWELL: All right. Gary Solis, thank you so much for joining us on it inside as we learned more about what is happening during this article 32 hearing with Bowe Bergdahl. We will see if this reaches the level of Court Marshall. Thank you, sir.

PAUL: Pope Francis flying right now to Cuba ahead of his trip to the United States. He has already helped to broker peace between the two countries. So, what defines success for this trip and what do we expect?

Also, the Black Lives Matter Movement, did not come up during the GOP debate this week. Should it have been discussed. Star Jones is weighing in on that.

[07:38:39] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) [07:42:07] BLACKWELL: Coming up on 18 minutes before the top of the hour. And, Pope Francis is a few hours into his flight headed to Havana, Cuba. It is a part of a historic nine-day trip to that country and the U.S. He heads to Washington on Tuesday.

Before traveling to New York, in Philadelphia, we are expecting huge crowds here in Cuba. So, what does the Pope have to do for this trip to be a success? To talk about that, we have with us Father Edward Beck, a CNN Religion Commentator, also host of "The Sunday Mass." Father Beck, good to have you back.


BLACKWELL: So, the Pope is going to Cuba at a really interesting time. The approval of the first Catholic Church since the start of the Cuban revolution but also dwindling numbers of Catholics there. What does he have to do?

BECK: I think he wants to talk, Victor, about the continuation of the reconciliation that has begun between the United States and Cuba; first of all, the normalization of relationships. As we know, he was important in brokering that deal.

And, it is no mistake that he is stopping in Cuba before he comes to the United States. I think what else he needs to do is push the Castro Regime rather gently on more changes for the people; how about the diplomatic relationships with their own people now, because there is still a lot of suffering in Cuba.

So, there has been advances, yes. But, the Pope will say the church would like even more advances. The church would love to recover properties that it has lost. You know, it is interesting that Fidel and Raul Castro attended a Jesuit prep school that is now a military academy.


BECK: Well, I think the Pope would love to have that back as a Jesuit prep school. But, you know, schools are not allowed in Cuba. Catholic schools are not allowed in Cuba. So, some of that kind of moralization has not yet occurred.

And, while the Vatican, the holy city has never broken diplomatic relationships with Cuba. It has believed engagement was the better process. I think the Pope wants to push some of the human rights issues there, while he is there.

BLACKWELL: You know, there appears to be at least a personal affinity between -- from one direction or the other, I would say Raul Castro towards the Pope. We do not know how the Pope feels personally about President Castro, but he said this after their meeting back in May.

"If the Pope continues to speak like this, sooner or later I will start praying again, and I will return to the Catholic Church. I am not saying this jokingly." Raul Castro also promising to attend masses in Cuba. What do you make of that?

BECK: Well, I thought it was rather remarkable, because he have this communist dictatorship that, basically, is atheistic in its origin and philosophy. And, the head of that regime now saying, "Gee, I am so impressed with this man that I may return to the church."

Now, remember, Castro has been impressed that Pope Francis is critiquing capitalism as of course Castro does as well. So, in somewhat, they might be aligned in an ideology that capitalism is in need of certain kind of reformation.

[07:45:08] However, what is remarkable to me is that he is willing to open himself up to the church and saying, "Maybe, I have done a mistake in all of these years that a man like this could even bring me back, someone like me." So, I just thought it was a remarkable statement for the head of the Cuban sect.

BLACKWELL: Yes, and hopefully, we will learn more about this meeting that with the Pope and Fidel Castro, and what that conversations will be like.

BECK: Right.

BLACKWELL: Father Beck, of course, we will continue the conversation this weekend and next as the trip moves from Cuba to the U.S. Thanks, so much.

BECK: Thank you, Victor.


PAUL: Yes. She is a lawyer. A celebrity. A woman's rights advocate. Next, we are going to talk to Star Jones. She has a lot to say about issues surrounding the 2016 presidential race including Black Lives Matter and Donald Trump. You are going to want to hear her.

Also, Russia sends fighter jets to Syria, creating new tension with the U.S. and leaving a lot wondering, what does this do to the military balance of power in the region with the war on ISIS?



PAUL: You know Donald Trump has dominated the political headlines with the surging polls, and standing out from the rest of the republican candidates because of his brash style.

Just like on the days on "The Apprentice." Well, all he needed to say was, "You are fired." He does do it so much better than I do. Someone who knows Trump's style all too well, attorney, business executive, women's advocate, Star Jones with us here. We are so glad to have you here.

STAR JONES, ATTORNEY, BUSINESS EXECUTIVE AND WOMEN'S ADVOCATE: Thank you very much. I am glad we had opportunity to sit down and chat about all kinds of things.

PAUL: OK. Let us start with Donald Trump, of course.


JONES: Why, of course?


PAUL: He made a few headlines lately. Can you tell us, because you had been on "The Apprentice" and you have known him --

JONES: I have known Donald for over 20 years.

PAUL: Years, yes. Tell us something that we do not know about him.

JONES: Well, I am not sure. You know, he puts a lot out there. But, the one thing I can say for certain is together with his first wife Ivana, they raised amazing young people.

PAUL: Yes.

JONES: Their older children I know really well, Don Junior, Eric and Ivanka. And, they are the kind of young people, who really and truly make me proud. So, I am very, very effusive when it comes to the fact that he and his first wife raised some pretty cool kids.

PAUL: Do you think that he is -- if he made it as president, do you support him?

JONES: Absolutely not. I mean under no circumstances and I have told him that to his face. I told him several years ago, when he made some statements about President Obama at the time, and I called him myself. I spoke to him. I spoke to members of his family and his staff.

And, I said that I thought those comment, questioning the president's birth origin, I thought that they were race baiting, and I thought that it was not indicative of the Donald that I knew. And, if in fact they continued, that I have no choice but to distance myself. And, I mean, I am just that kind of person.

PAUL: Sure.

JONES: I want to put it out to you ahead of time. I do not think that, that is anything indicative of what good business is. We know that diversity and inclusion is smart for business. We know that by 2050, the browning of America will have come.

I am not talking about skin color. I am talking about diversity from ethnicities as well as LGBT, as well as disabled, and veterans and women. And, if you do not embrace that in business, you will be of it, plain and simple.

PAUL: So, let me ask you this. So, a lot of people look at him and they think because of his acumen in business, because he has been so successful in the business that he can translate that to the government, but those are two different entities?

JONES: But also, if you are going to be smart in business, you have to be smart in the future of business. The future of business includes all Americans, of all different backgrounds, races --

PAUL: So, do you think he did not do that?

JONES: No, with his immigration policy thus as it is, I would suggest that, that is the least inclusive policy that will forward to business. You know, your consumer base is going to look a different way. Do not you want your workforce to be that same way? That is what I do every single day.

I cannot imagine that Donald, as smart as he is, does not see it. So, then I have to look behind the statements and see where does it really come from. And, what we have to tell ourselves is, dividing each other to accomplish a greater American does not speak to American ideals and values.

PAUL: So, let me ask you this, who do you think would be the best president to help support the equality of pay for women?

JONES: There is no question that Hillary Clinton, she comes head and shoulders above everyone on equal pay for equal work. I mean -- and this is the work that she has done all of her entire professional career, from way back at the Lowe's Law Firm.

And, yes, indeed, I think everybody knows that I am a Hillary Clinton supporter. But, more importantly, I support candidates that support issues that impact on my life and my friend's lives. 40 percent --

PAUL: What is most people do -- to make their choice.

JONES: Right.

PAUL: I mean it has got to be local. Politics has to be local. 40 percent of women are now heads of household. OK? So, what that tells you is, equal pay is not a women's issue. It is a family issue. If a woman is the head of the household and/or making the most money, if she is still getting 22 percent less than a man is getting.

She cannot afford the adequate health care that she wants for her kids. She cannot send them to daycare, afterschool programs. She cannot extend their education. All the things that a family needs to grow to make a community better. So, if you are not on equal pay for equal work, you definitely do not get my vote.

PAUL: Do you have any idea why she is in Atlanta today?


She is here because there is a diversity career fair. And, I want to get into this as well. There has been this strong, you know, criticism into Black Lives Matter Movement did not come into play in the GOP Republican -- GOP debates this last time around, that race did not play into it. What is your reaction to that? JONES: It is just that we have to start to make diversity and

inclusion a part of the frontrunner issues. This is not a secondary issue. If we want to grow America, then we need to speak to Americans' ideas and ideals and values.

[07:55:05] And, you think to yourself, "What are we saying about America if we do not embrace people with different backgrounds, experiences, values, religions?" We do not want to alienate other people. And, that is really what I do at professional diversity network now.

I spend my time connecting businesses, corporations with diverse individuals. The businesses have made a conscious decision saying, "This is not just the right thing to do. It does not just make me feel good. This is the smart and business savvy thing to do."

PAUL: And there are qualified people out there?

JONES: Oh, absolutely. And, my job is to keep that pipeline filled with qualified applicants. And, so across the country, we host these diversity career fairs. We are having one in Atlanta, this week on Monday. And, we will be in Boston the following week.

I am telling, this is the way you move America forward. And, I would like to see that as a part of some of the debate conversations, because Black Lives do matter. Brown lives matter. White lives matter. What is important about the Black Lives Matter Movement is when you make opportunity equal for all, then you really do speak to America.

PAUL: Star Jones, it has been such a pleasure.

JONES: I had been so looking forward to spend some time with you.

PAUL: I am happy to have you here. Thank you. I wish it could have been longer. Star Jones, everybody. The next hour of your "New Day" starts after a break. Stay close.