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Donald Trump Admits Retweet Mistake; Transgender Citizens React to New North Carolina State Law; Mass Grave Found In Palmyra; Villanova Crushes Oklahoma; Activist Group Faces Possible Fines; Plane Lands On Interstate; Major League Season Begins. Aired 6:30-7a

Aired April 3, 2016 - 06:30   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump is coming off what some say is one of the toughest weeks of his presidential run thus far. So let's count them back.

First, critics accused Republican front-runner of flip-flopping on his position on abortion. Several answers in the span of just a few days. Then President Obama took direct shots of Trump's knowledge of the world saying he doesn't understand foreign policy. And then yesterday Trump admitted to the "New York Times" that he made a mistake when he retweeted an unflattering picture of Heidi Cruz. He's trying to turn everything around before Wisconsin just a couple of days away now.

We've got back with the CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. Douglas, I want to go to this interview with Maureen Dowd in the "Times". And Donald Trump said this, "You know, there are a lot of people who say don't change. I can be as presidential as anybody who ever lived. I can be so presidential, if I want."

So I ask you, do you see a strategic advantage to a presidential candidate not being presidential? I mean, people like a fighter, but this suggestion that he doesn't want to be presidential?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well I'm an old writing teacher at heart. And the line show, don't tell. If you are going to be presidential, show yourself as being presidential. Don't tell us that you could be.

I think this is the albatross around Donald Trump's neck. People are starting not to be able to see him as the commander in chief. Some of the fun of watching somebody unhinged and unscripted has been lasting for months but he really truly has to pivot on this last week. It's been murderous on him and he can't afford -- he's probably going to lose Wisconsin and he's going to even lose, you know, more momentum. So he's got to kind of start tacking in a different direction.

And I thought he used the "New York Times" in the interview with Maureen Dowd maybe as pivot point for himself but, you know, he can't control himself sometimes. And that retweeting has cost him an awful lot the last few months. BLACKWELL: How long before -- he says he can be so presidential if he wants. How long can he wait? Can he wait until the general if he's the nominee? Can he wait until inauguration day?


BLACKWELL: I mean, he says that he can make that pivot. It's been 10 months now this campaign.

BRINKLEY: Yes. I mean, it has worked for him not to be presidential for a while. But a great politician of Franklin Roosevelt for example knows when that moment comes if you have to change your game slightly. You have got to act a different way.

The key to all of his problems is how women are disgusted by him. You have 75 percent of the women in America that want nothing to do with him. He's got to fix that number. And you don't do that by just shooting off the cuff and saying things.

He also has a problem, Donald Trump, at first it seems admirable. He answers every question thrown at him. But you don't always have to answer a question particularly if it's hypothetical just say -- not going there. That is what presidents do. They constantly don't answer a question that would get you into a deep hole.

So he's got to be a little bit smarter than he's been in the last few weeks. Otherwise he is a sinking ship and you're going to see the Republicans, if he doesn't get the delegates, just reject him out of hand when it gets to Cleveland.


BLACKWELL: So it is good that's I have you with us this morning, the presidential historian, because I think one element of this interview where he says he made a mistake by retweeting that unflattering picture of Senator Cruz's wife Heidi Cruz, but he did not apologize for it. People like Donald Trump because he says what's on his mind but to say something like, I made a mistake, or mistakes were made without apologizing is something that is quintessential politically. I mean, if this is what politicians say they don't apologize for it often should he apologize or would that be too much in a primary to apologize?

BRINKLEY: It's a good question, Victor.

And I think he did what we'd called a half-baked apology. He's got to go the full load here. I mean, I think he just needs to win (ph) another interview say, hey, look I apologize to Heidi Cruz. She felt insulted by that. I can see why she might have. And I'm not going to do anything like that again. I was just a little -- I had my dander up and it wasn't me at my best and I am sorry.

If he could do that I think it would go a long way. We'll see whether he can pull that off today or tomorrow before Wisconsin because I think more than anything that photograph he put of Heidi Cruz up, which was directly from him, not a super PAC, I think that has cost him probably his biggest problem, even more than the flippant abortion comment with Chris Matthews

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you finally and quickly if you could, a new interview with "Washington Post", Donald Trump predicts that he could rid the U.S. of the $19 trillion in debt in two terms as president. Any president for anything like that happening? I know the answer but I want your response.

BRINKLEY: Well, Bill Clinton was able to work with Congress and get us a budget surplus after his two terms so it is doable. I think when Trump talks like that, that is when he sounds the best, when he's focusing on economic issues and how to get rid of our national debt. I think that is Trump at his best. When he gets into social issues and becomes the insulter in chief and takes the low road, I think that is when he starts being collusive and loses a lot of voters.

BLACKWELL: A balanced budget and a surplus, but to pay off $19 trillion in two terms. You think that's possible?

BRINKLEY: Well I don't think it's possible but it is worth trying.

I mean, we are going to have to pay some of it off. So he's just saying, I'll find ways to do it.


BRINKLEY: I think something like that, when we can't prove that he can't until he's elected. So I think he's on safer realm when he stays on major economic issues than when he deviates into talking about Latinos and the wall and, you know, not denouncing the clan and on and on. At least it gives us a policy imperative backing his verbiage.

BLACKWELL: All right Douglas Brinkley, always good to have you.

BRINKLEY: Thank you.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Well the LGBT community is reacting to North Carolina's controversial bathroom bill as are so many people.

We're going to talk to a transgender woman who has a lot to say about this and who is very open about how it will affect her. Stay close.



PAUL: You know the fight continues in North Carolina over this law that critics say, limits the rights of transgender citizens.

BLACKWELL: You have heard from protester. You have heard from lawyers and legislator on both sides of the issue. Now hear it from a transgender woman who feels that she could be in danger if she has to obey this law. Here is our Nick Valencia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's Saturday in Raleigh, North Carolina. And this is a midday drag show. A fundraiser for LGBT awareness.

Candis Cox is the woman of the hour.

CANDIS COX, TRANSGENDER WOMAN: The most important thing for me personally is that every time I close my eyes and I say a prayer and I ask my God, as a person of faith how he feels he doesn't seem to have a problem and my parents have no problem with it. And their opinion matters to me.

VALENCIA: Cox is transgender.

COX: ... black transgender woman in North Carolina. I'm used to being stabbed so -- just in my back though not in my eye.

VALENCIA: She says she is one of the tens of thousands of transgender people in North Carolina affected by the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act.

It's a new state law that requires trans people to use the public restroom related to the gender on their birth certificate, not how they identify.

COX: This law affects us because it puts us in danger and it is open discrimination. It is no different than the Jim Crow laws that we had here in the south.

VALENCIA: At home, Candis and her husband, Adam Daniels (ph), say now that's she'll be required to use the men's room they worry she'll be physically assaulted or worse.

PAUL STAM (R), NORTH CAROLINA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: I would say most of the attention is because people do not understand what the bill actually does.

VALENCIA: State House Republican Pro Tempore Paul Stam is one of the bill's sponsors. Stam says the law is not about limiting the protections of the LGBT community but rather not giving them special rights.

STAM: We have lots of accommodations in the bill for those in special circumstances. But we are trying to protect the reasonable expectations of privacy of 99.9 percent of our citizens. Who think when they are going into a restroom or a changing room or a locker room that they will be private.

VALENCIA (on camera): That's you as a boy.

COX: Yes. (INAUDIBLE) junior counselor.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Nineteen 19 surgeries, two trips to Thailand and more than a hundred thousand dollars later Cox is post-op transgender though her birth certificate says she's a man. She's what the trans community would call passable as a woman. But she says that doesn't make it any easier.

COX: We're all literally the same. And we're all fighting for the same thing. We all just want to be accepted and we want to know that we are not going to be discriminated against.

VALENCIA: Nick Valencia, CNN Raleigh, North Carolina.


BLACKWELL: All right. Nick Valencia, thank you for that.

Coming up next on NEW DAY a mass grave uncovered in Palmyra. The ancient city in Syria that has been taken back from ISIS. We've got details next.



PAUL: Forty-eight minutes past the hour and new evidence this morning regarding how ISIS conducted its 10-month occupation of the city of Palmyra.

This is drone video we're going to show you here of just some of the damage. Look at this. Syrian forces seeing this also found a mass grave with at least 40 bodies inside. Many of them were women and children.

Now, they retook the ancient city from ISIS just last week. CNN military analyst, Retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling with us now. General, what it is significance first of all of them being able to take Palmyra back?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, the Syrian forces with Russian air contributions, close air support were able to expand the reach of Mr. Assad's army and his government to Palmyra.

What's important about this particular area, Palmyra is to the east of the city and district of Homs which is a critically important sector for several reasons. It has a great number of Syrian population there. But it also connects the roads to the eastern boundary, specifically the town of Deir ez-Zor (ph). These border towns are critically important for stopping the flow of ISIS fighters into Syria. So it acts as a block, Christi. And this is all beyond the fact that Palmyra is a UNESCO site with all of these antiquities that ISIS has destroyed over the last several months.

PAUL: General Hertling, when they do retake a city like this, are all of the ISIS fighters gone already? Do they capture any of them?


Are they still there? I mean, I'm trying to understand what resources and information and intel they can get from taking a city like this.

HERTLING: It really depends, Christi. And there are indicators that they captured quite a few fighters in the town of Palmyra and that will be critically important to gather intel.

There is also the interesting dynamic that many of the ISIS fighters that are being captured are talking about the organization and its state right now. The fact that they have been reduced in the pay that they have been receiving, the fact that their leaders have been killed, the fact that they no longer want to fight for this organization because of the depravities of what they have seen once they get there, especially the foreign fighters.

So all of these things are indicators that ISIS is in fact faltering a little bit in both Syria and Iraq. But also what's important when you go into these towns, they booby trap the houses, they mine the roads. They put sniper positions in the various facilities. So all of those things require the Syrian forces and truthfully the indicators are that the Syrian forces took quite a bit of casualties going into this town and fighting ISIS. All of this is below the noise level of international media but there are desperate fighting going on between various forces that are going out against ISIS.

PAUL: So based on the intel that you were just talking about the lack of finances and morale. How do you see the fight against ISIS at this point?

HERTLING: Well you can never say we're winning against a force like ISIS or any terrorist organization. What you have to say is we are gaining and actually helping them to deteriorate.

You know, ISIS came in with a proclamation that they were going to not only conduct terror operations but they were going to govern. And any time you talk about a governing force which has all the requirements of any type of bureaucracy, of giving money for water or electricity, and cleaning the street, and all of the things that are associated with government it's very difficult to do.

So when there are indicators that their funding is going down and what they are paying their fighters, that is huge. And we knew about this about two months ago. Several reports came out of the intelligence community. But also when you're talking about their depravity and what they are doing to the people they are trying to govern and their leadership being killed all of those are indicators that they are faltering.

PAUL: OK. Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, we so appreciate your insight on this. Thank you.

HERTLING: Thank you, Christi.

BLACKWELL: Ahead on NEW DAY, Hillary Clinton is telling voters in Wisconsin that she's always been a Democrat but pointing out that Bernie Sanders has not. Is that resonating? We'll have more on that the next Hour.

Plus history made at the final four. But it's a record that one school probably wants no part of.


BLACKWELL: College basketball's final four now cut to two.

PAUL: And sleepless Andy Scholes live in Houston with this morning's bleacher report. You know, I guess there are worse things to have stayed up all night for. Right, Andy?



ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: ... hanging in there though.

You know what guys, sometimes the NCAA tournament, you know, we get those nail biters that come down to the very last second. And then other times, well, we get what happened last night. Both games ended up being blow outs.

I'd tell you what Villanova put on a shooting exhibition against Oklahoma. One for the ages. They made 11 for 18 from three point land. (INAUDIBLE) a ridiculous 71 percent from the field. And Oklahoma's star Buddy Hield on the other hand picked a bad time to have his worst game of the tournament.

The Wildcats able to hold him (ph) just nine points. Villanova crushing Oklahoma in this one 95-51. That the biggest blow out in final four history and the Wildcats are now heading to the championship game for the first time science is the 1985.

JAY WRIGHT, VILLANOVA HEAD COACH: That was just one of those games that could happen to anybody. And I feel bad for Oklahoma that it a happened to them in the final four. I'm happy we have one of those games where we just make every shot.

BUDDY HIELD, OKLAHOMA GUARD: They played really well today. It was one of the best seasons I've ever played in college. So just got to give them credit with what they did. You know, they made it hard for us to guard (ph) them (ph).

SCHOLES: And the night cap, one seed North Carolina having a little problem with 10 seed Syracuse. Tar Heels is at 11 point lead when (ph) that (ph) happened (ph). Syracuse never able to make a serious run. North Carolina win this one 83-66. They are now one win away from their first title since 2009.

So it's going to be as I one seed North Carolina taking on two seed of Villanova for the championships. It's going to be Monday night 9:19 Eastern on TBS. North Carolina a slight favorite to win it all on Monday.

All right. The vice president, Joe Biden, and his wife Dr. Jill Biden were here for the game in Houston last night rooting on their schools. Vice President Biden graduated from the Syracuse College of Law while Dr. Biden got her master's from Villanova. At least one of them got to go home a winner last night. But before the game the V.P. joined the TBS pre-game show and gave his thoughts on the current race for president.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is a lot to look forward in the country. The thing that bothers me about both the parties right now is there is not enough optimism. America is better positioned than any country in the world to control the 21st century for real. And I just think these kids out here are going to see more change and more progress than any generation has ever seen.


SCHOLES: So guys are, you know with Syracuse losing last night I guess the Bidens will at least get to cheer together both for Villanova in the championship game on Monday against North Carolina as opposed to being a house divided.

BLACKWELL: (INAUDIBLE) for everybody. Andy Scholes, thank you so much.

PAUL: Thanks, Andy.

Looking at some headlines for you here. At least two from an activist group face possible fines today for smoking marijuana in front of the White House. Now, they weren't alone. About 200 other people in the group are doing the same thing. They gathered to protest marijuana's federal classification and to send a message that the drug should not be considered dangerous.

BLACKWELL: Let's go to California now where a small plane with engine trouble made an emergency landing on the interstate. But look at these pictures. The plane slammed into a car full of people stopped on the shoulder. One woman in the car was killed. The five others were hurt including the pilot who suffered life threatening injuries.

PAUL: We are two weeks into spring and winter is saying, I'm not ready to go away yet.

BLACKWELL: One more taste.

PAUL: Northeast is going to get one last blast of cold and wind. Today and tomorrow baseball fans are going to have to bundle up for today's opening game. The Major League season between the Pirates and Cardinals high pressure in Pittsburgh going to barely break into the low 40s today. Hang in there.


And stay with us. Thank you so much. We're glad to have you here this morning.

BLACKWELL: A lot more coming up in the next hour of your NEW DAY. It starts right now.