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Clinton To Join Recount Effort Trump Calls "Scam"; Trump To Resume Meetings In New York Monday; Cuba Mourns Death Of Former Leader; Obama, Trump Strike Contrasting Tone On Castro Death; Donald Trump Set to Meet Potential Administration Picks; Efforts To Recount Votes Underway; Syrian Civil War; Voters Say Yes To Medical Pot In Arkansas. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired November 27, 2016 - 06:00   ET



CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to Sunday. It's so good to be here. I'm Christi Paul.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: I'm Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell.

PAUL: Hillary Clinton's campaign now says it's joining Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, in her efforts to recount the votes in three key swing states that contributed to Clinton's loss. The Clinton campaign says that they're not contesting the results but, rather, they want to ensure that it's fair to all sides.

But President-elect Donald Trump is ripping this recount as a scam. Trump is also accusing the Green Party of trying to reel in money that he believes won't go to the recount in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Stein has dismissed those claims. She did so yesterday on CNN.


JILL STEIN, FORMER GREEN PARTY CANDIDATE: He may be creating his own fact here. He's been known to do sometimes in the past and I think, you know, he himself said that it was a rigged election unless he won it.

The drive home here is having a secure elections process all benefits us all and I invite everyone, I invite Donald Trump's campaign, Hillary's campaign.

We've had calls out to Gary Johnson's campaign. This should be a non- partisan people powered effort to ensure that we can rely on the integrity and the security of our votes.


PAUL: Now the recount of ballots in Wisconsin is expected to begin this week after reports of voting discrepancies. Our Tom Foreman explains.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Wisconsin with almost 3 million votes cast, Donald Trump edged Hillary Clinton by less than 28,000. In Pennsylvania out of almost 6 million votes, his advantage was 60,000, and the count in Michigan still remains too close for CNN to call the race.

But now some political activists say in counties using electronic voting Hillary Clinton appears to have mysteriously underperformed compared to areas with paper ballots by as much as 7 percent according to what they told top Clinton aides in a call urging an official review.

They have not released their analysis nor provided proof of hacking. That margin could have tipped Wisconsin and if the others went her way, too, she would have won. So who's leading the charge?

John Bonafest is a Democratic activist who ran for office a few years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a story of where the Democratic Party needs to be.

FOREMAN: He's a big proponent of voting rights and he tried to get President Bush impeached over the Iraq war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The United States House of Representatives has a constitutional duty to investigate fully and comprehensively.

FOREMAN: But at the University of Michigan, the chief computer scientist behind the discovery of these alleged voting odysseys seems to be on a different page. J. Alex Halderman is concerned about the risk of American elections being hacked. He talked about it on C-Span before this vote.

J. ALEX HALDERMAN, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN: The realistic attack on the election is probably going to be honing in on whichever states end up having the closest margin.

FOREMAN: But he wants an investigation because he thinks any questions about voting security ought to be addressed, not because he's convinced it would necessarily change the result nor prove anyone tried to rig the vote.

He's posted online, quote, "Were this year's deviations from pre- election polls the result of a cyber-attack? Probably not. I believe the most likely explanation is that the polls were systematically wrong." As for election officials, some certainly went into the balloting pretty confident.

JERRY FEASER, PENNSYLVANIA ELECTION OFFICIAL: I could set one of these machines in the middle of Red Square in Moscow and the Russians couldn't hack into it.


SAVIDGE: That's our Tom Foreman reporting.

PAUL: All right, let's talk to CNN political commentator and political anchor for Spectrum News, Errol Louis, and CNN politics reporter, Eugene Scott. Gentlemen, thank you for getting up so early on a Sunday. Always appreciate you being here. Good morning.

So let's talk about first of all the Clinton campaign making it very clear that they don't expect any results to change necessarily.

The campaign counsel writes this, "We have quietly taken a number of steps in the last two weeks to rule in or out any possibility of outside interference in the vote tally in these critical battleground states because we have not uncovered any actionable evidence of hacking or outside attempts to alter the voting technology. We had not planned to exercise this option ourselves, but now that a recount has been initiated in Wisconsin, we intend to participate."

So Errol, not contesting the result. That's a politically safe thing to say, is it not? I mean, it's politically correct. But does it tell you they believe there's something here if they're going to get involved with this?

[06:05:01]ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. No. I think just the opposite. Honestly, if you take the letter Marc Elias' letter for what it's worth, what he is saying is that, number one, the margin that we are talking about is tremendous. You know, it's not like we're talking about 10 votes, 15 votes, 100 votes.

When you're talking about 22,000 votes I think is the number in Wisconsin, it's very hard to see where you're going to find such a large pronounced discrepancy in one direction that it will change it. That would mean if somebody's got, as he said, actionable evidence that 11,000 votes went in the wrong direction then they're going to be all ears.

And let's keep in mind, when they said they're going to participate what he said in the letter is that they're going to send some lawyers to kind of keep an eye on things and make sure that procedures are followed correctly and that their client's rights are respected.

That's far from sending a team in to help with the recount or anything like that or to pay even a penny towards the actual cost of it which apparently Jill Stein is going to cover.

PAUL: Sure. Right. So they're basically jumping on Jill Stein's bandwagon essentially because they don't have to pay for it? Would that be fair to say?

LOUIS: I think it's really more like a lawyer saying if you're going to talk about my client even under these strange circumstances that we wouldn't have necessarily have advised you to do, we're going to make sure that we are there to keep an eye on it. I don't think he's going to go much further than that.

PAUL: Eugene, Trump says that Jill Stein is not going to use all of these millions of dollars that were raised on the recount effort. He's accusing her of, quote, "filling her coffers." Here's what she said yesterday to CNN.


STEIN: And for his information, this is actually all going into a dedicated and segregated account so that it can only be spent on the recount campaign.


PAUL: All right. Why -- why would he attack her? Why launch a personal attack, Eugene?

EUGENE SCOTT, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, I think part of the reason is that when this effort was originally announced, Dr. Stein was not clear in terms of what the money would be used for. I believe she initially announced one figure around $2 million or $2.5 million and then within 24 hours said she needed even more.

Yesterday, she said that whatever was not used for the recount would go to benefit the Green Party and that's pretty vague and not clear and I think some people who are skeptical and certain critical of the effort want to know what that means exactly.

But she's certainly denied that it is a scam or a fraud or that the funds would be used inappropriately as Donald Trump has suggested.

PAUL: So let me ask you, Errol. Donald Trump caught a lot of flak, obviously, during his campaign. A lot of criticism for not immediately getting on the bandwagon and saying that he would accept the results as they are in this election. A lot of that criticism came from Hillary Clinton. Is there a risk to her, to the Democrats, to her camp for the fact that now they are looking into Wisconsin?

LOUIS: Well, look, the reality is it's the political professionals, the establishment political professionals associated in particular with the Clinton campaign who are not contesting this, you know, who are saying, look, we conceded the day after the count.

We understand that there are people who really don't want to accept it or who have a hard time accepting it, who are a little thrown off by the discrepancy between the Electoral College count and the popular vote count and all of that is understandable.

But I don't know that we want to tag the Clinton team with driving this because they have taken every step they could to say that they don't want to contest it. They don't think it will make a difference. They're not going to pay for the recount. They didn't ask for the recount.

And you know, that goes all the way up to the White House as far as the Democratic establishment. So these are people -- the gentleman that you had in the clip who are, you know, activists, these young professors and so forth, I understand why they might want to sort of raise some of these questions.

But this is not something that I think mainstream Democrats are really lining up behind as far as we can tell. I mean, where are the Democrats from Wisconsin? I don't see one of them standing up for this.

PAUL: That's very good point. Eugene, lastly, the Green Party, they've done this before back in 2004. They came to the Libertarian Party to pay for a recount in Ohio. It didn't result in any difference to the election. What is the -- what is the motivation here for the Green Party?

SCOTT: Well, I certainly think it keeps them in the news in a news cycle that made it difficult for them to get any attention regarding what it is that they are about and the policies that they promote.

We certainly have had more interest in this election in parties and groups and ideas beyond the two mainstream parties that have historically led this country.

And so for anything, I think it just keeps them relevant in a news cycle that made it very difficult for them to attract any attention.

PAUL: All right. Errol Louis, Eugene Scott, I know you're going to stay with us here because we also want to talk to you about Trump's cabinet picks and the Democrats, they've got some big decisions to make as well.

[06:10:06]And we're going to do that after the break. Thank you for sticking around.

Be sure to watch the "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper today. On the show, he has Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Trump campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway. That is "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper today at 9:00 a.m. Eastern only here on CNN.


SAVIDGE: We're following breaking news on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Police say that ten people were shot overnight in the French Quarter and one of the victims has died.

PAUL: The popular tourist area was crowded because of the Thanksgiving holiday and also a college football game at the Super Dome. Now police don't know what sparked the shooting, but they arrest two men who were carrying guns. We'll obviously keep following the story and bring you any updates when we get them.

SAVIDGE: President-elect Trump is returning to Trump Tower in New York City later today as his team prepares to meet more candidates for his administration. Trump and Mike Pence will meet with eight people Monday. That's going to take place in New York, including the outspoken and fiery Trump supporter Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clark.

Back with us is CNN political commentator, Errol Louis and CNN political reporter, Eugene Scott. I finally figured out which camera to look at here. Let me start with you, Eugene. Sheriff Clark is, of course, a highly controversial figure. In fact, he recently tweeted that the government was so corrupt it was, quote, "Pitch forks and torches time."

A year earlier Clark tweeted false claims about Black Lives Matter saying, quote, "Before long Black Lives Matter will join forces with ISIS to bring down our legal constituted republic. You heard it first here," unquote.

[06:15:03]So, Eugene, my question is, won't this give Trump's critics a lot more ammunition?

SCOTT: Most definitely. Sheriff Clark is the embodiment of the law and order policing philosophy that Donald Trump campaigned on as answers to some of the challenges that affect inner city Americans primarily black Americans.

But many people who have been involved in activist movements against police brutality believe that Sheriff Clark is the problem, the embodiment of what they are fighting against.

So I was just reading there was a former inmate and sheriff -- I'm sorry, one of the sheriff's jails who was in the process of perhaps suing the county after their newborn died, and this is not the first incident even in this year where someone has complained about human rights violations in the jails.

And so this will give us an idea in what direction President-elect Trump may be going regarding these issues.

SAVIDGE: So why is he even being considered then?

SCOTT: I think it's because he's been very faithful in his support for Donald Trump. What we know about Donald Trump is that he values loyalty and if you came out and put a lot of things on the line for him, he praises that.

I think it's also worth mentioning that Sheriff Clark is a black American. He's also a registered Democrat and he also represents these groups that the Republican Party and specifically the Trump campaign were often criticized during this election for not caring about as much as they should have.

SAVIDGE: Right. Errol, let's talk about some of the new names we're now hearing from the transition team and sources within there. People that are now being considered for secretary of state. This is a huge post.

We are now hearing names like General John Kelly, David Petraeus and Senator Bob Corker in addition to names we've already had, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney. Which name stands out to you?

LOUIS: What stands out for me is that they're having this open competition in effect for this. I mean, David Petraeus would be an interesting choice and somebody who would be in some ways sort of politically rehabilitated if Trump were to select him.

But the mere fact that his name is being floated in this unprecedented way where we have this sort of open chatter, much of it coming out of Trump Tower, about who's up, who's down, who's visiting, who's under consideration suggest that Romney versus Rudy sort of competition may be coming to a close.

It may be that Donald Trump goes in an entirely different direction. David Petraeus, let us remember, what's actually to have improperly handled classified information so it would be a crowning irony if Donald Trump were to sort of look past that, look beyond that and, again, rehabilitate him and give him a post of great international prominence. I wouldn't rule that out, however.

SAVIDGE: Right. It would be a classic move, an irony. I do know that, yes, it would seem that Romney and Giuliani, that battle may be over and this is -- we're moving onto the next here of possible candidates here.

On House Democrats, Eugene, they're going to hold a leadership election on Wednesday. Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan is challenging long- time leader, Nancy Pelosi. He says the Democrat's economic message isn't resonating.

I think he could say just about any message the Democrats are doing isn't resonating at this point given the outcome of the election. So who do you think stands a chance? Do you think Nancy Pelosi is going to actually hang on as a leader?

SCOTT: Well, it would certainly take quite a bit for Tim Ryan to unseat her. I mean, he's dealing with party politics, internal party politics and Pelosi is popular among the people who make the decision regarding who is going to lead the party in the House --

SAVIDGE: Despite a huge loss, I mean, there is no blame that she shares for that?

SCOTT: Well, I think what's very interesting, you mentioned earlier, I think what they're realizing and focusing on is that the majority of Americans did vote for the Democratic candidate and so they're trying to figure out how can they make their message more clear.

And I don't think they embraced the whole idea that most Americans are not with them and with the leadership. They will point to the numbers being differently, but also, I mean, I think the fact is that Ryan does not have the leadership experience in the House or the relationships to unseat her that one would expect.

I think he does want to bring forward some new ideas. I don't know that they're going to be able to be made from that position.

SAVIDGE: All right. Very good point. Errol Louis and Eugene Scott, thank you both for joining us.

SCOTT: Thank you, Martin.

SAVIDGE: Cuba is observing nine days of mourning on the death of Fidel Castro.

PAUL: We're wondering what is the mood of Cubans in Havana and their thoughts of the future of U.S./Cuba relations. We'll talk about that in just a moment.



BLACKWELL: Cuba is mourning the death of Fidel Castro. The country is observing nine days of official mourning flying flags at half mass, holding vigils, and starting tomorrow Cubans will have the opportunity to pay their respects before the ashes of their former leader.

PAUL: CNN's international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, is live in Havana right now. Nic, what are you seeing there in the last, say, 24 hours?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, the sense is that this is a somber, more solemn place. I mean, not completely by any stretch of the imagination turning in on itself. The government has canceled all public events. Placido Domingo (ph) was expected to perform last night but that was canceled.

So that really sets the tone. But for people here, they will get a chance to go and pay their respects across the country. The government saying that there will be memorials across the country for people to go to.

Here in Havana at Jose Marte Revolution Square on Monday and Tuesday, Tuesday evening there will be a service in the square for people to attend. The Havana University last night, there's a candle lit vigil.

This was the university, of course, of Fidel Castro attended as a law student in the last 1940s. On Wednesday, a procession begins across the country retracing the steps of his revolution. His ashes will be taken across the country leaving Havana on Wednesday and traveling all the way to Santiago to Cuba arriving there next weekend for a funeral service on Sunday.

We've been hearing from world leaders about his passing. President Obama had this to say. Let me quote exactly here. "This time of Fidel Castro's passing we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. The Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America."

[06:25:10]Donald Trump also released a statement saying, "Today the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope today marks the move away from the horrors endured too long."

The president-elect's words there may find some echo in the hopes of people here that perhaps Fidel Castro's passing will begin change that wasn't possible while he was still here. PAUL: Nic, I'm wondering how many -- is there a good gauge of how many people in Cuba are supportive of Raul Castro and how -- how they have ruled thus far and how many people there actually on the island want to see that change?

ROBERTSON: People here have certainly experienced the best, if you will, and the worst of Fidel Castro's leadership. The transition to his younger brother, Raul, began as we know ten years ago temporarily and then in 2008 passing full presidential powers to him so people have seen that slow progression.

I don't think they're expecting a sudden change, but they do feel that perhaps Raul released from his sort of older brother looking over his shoulder may be able to make more changes. Of course, the improved diplomatic ties with the United States being a signal, symbol, maybe of what could come.

PAUL: All right, Nic Robertson, we appreciate the update this morning. Thank you, sir.

SAVIDGE: There is a big week ahead for President-elect Donald Trump. He's meeting eight potential administration hopefuls tomorrow. We'll tell you who they are next.



CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: It is good to have you with us on a Sunday morning. I'm Christi Paul.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell.

PAUL: Welcome.

SAVIDGE: Thank you very much. (INAUDIBLE) is feeling better.

PAUL: I hope so.

SAVIDGE: Better than yesterday.

PAUL: You would never know it he was able to get up and get going early in the morning.

Listen, Donald Trump is headed back to New York today. Busy schedule ahead tomorrow as well. He's meeting eight potential administration picks that we just talked about including Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee County. But he's also tweeting about the Green Party and Democrats who are joining this push for vote recounts in several states, saying that, "The Democrats when they incorrectly thought they were going to win asked that the election night tabulation be accepted. Not so anymore." That's his tweet.

Hillary Clinton's team said they plan to join efforts to push for recounts with Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Trump calling Stein's plan ridiculous and a scam. A. Scott Bolden, former chairman of the Washington D.C. Democratic Party with us now. Brian Robinson, Republican strategist and former assistant chief of staff of communications. Georgia Governor Nathan Deal is going to be with us here in just a moment as well. But, Scott, I wanted to start with you.

We're going to get into Trump's meetings in a moment.


PAUL: Good morning to you. Let's talk about this recount though.

Donald Trump was heavily criticized by the Hillary Clinton camp when he would not commit to accepting the results depending on what they were at the end of this election. Is there a risk to the Democrats for now joining this effort to recount Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania?

BOLDEN: Well, Christi, it's a false equivalent because Donald Trump is just dead wrong about criticizing the Democrats or Jill Stein's efforts or Green Party effort to do the recount. Actually Donald Trump is going to be part of the recount, too, because you can't do a recount now that Wisconsin says they'll do it and accept the petition without Donald Trump lawyers being there.

And again, Hillary Clinton and the Democrats have simply said, listen, if you're going to have a recount then we're going to sit in and participate. They've also said they don't think any of this is going to change the outcome of the election. They have accepted the results of the election. They haven't challenged it themselves. So it's really misleading for Mr. Trump or Donald Trump to say otherwise.

And so let's put it in perspective. We're willing or unwilling prisoners of this recount now and all political parties and candidates are going to have to participate. They'll all be represented at the table as Wisconsin does this recount and possibly Michigan and Pennsylvania.

PAUL: Do you believe that depending on what happens -- if nothing is found in Wisconsin, do you believe this will even continue into Michigan and Pennsylvania?

BOLDEN: Well, I do think it's important for election integrity.

You know, we've had databases, we've had emails hacked by Russian hackers, at least the U.S. -- the United States believes that. And so I do think there is some value in just confirming and auditing the results of this election. We have every right to do that, we being the American people, but it's the Green Party who is pushing this recount for election integrity.

And I don't think the Democrats or Hillary Clinton would have accepted the results that they said that they would should be criticized for simply saying, OK, we've looked at this. If you're going to do a recount, we're going to participate. And Donald Trump again is going to participate as well. Only 100,000 votes separated the two candidates in these three states. These three blue states quite frankly that made the difference for Donald Trump. That ought to be looked at or any anomalies ought to be looked at. And the Democrats and the Republicans consistently look at these types of issues after any presidential election.

SAVIDGE: Well, let's bring in Brian Robinson. He's a Republican strategist. He joins us via telephone.

Brian, good morning to you. Let's have you weigh in. First of all your thoughts on this whole issue of a recount and the Clinton campaign saying that they are joining in with the Green Party.

BRIAN ROBINSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST (on the phone): Well, I can only imagine the outcry if the roles were reversed and it was the Trump campaign saying that the vote was potentially rigged, potentially hacked by a foreign country and we need to have a recount.

These margins aren't that close. Recounts and manipulating with elections, that happens when you had vote totals that are separated by hundreds.


This is tens of thousands. Now, granted, that's not a huge number when you look at the millions that were cast, but it's still a huge number in this context.

So I think it is very important that Democrats and the Green Party remember what they said before the election, that Donald Trump was being irresponsible to say that there may be a lack of integrity in our election system, that it is a threat to face (ph) in our democracy and I think that's exactly what's happening here. What is happening is they threat to face (ph) in our democracy particularly after such a contentious election with the nation that is so divided.

This is not what we need right now. We need to be focusing on who Donald Trump is going to appoint to his cabinet, who's going to be his Supreme Court nominee. That needs to be the focus. The election --


SAVIDGE: Real quick though. Let me -- let me just bring up this issue. The money that the Green Party says they need $2.5 million, from? Where is that coming from? Who's going to get that money?

ROBINSON: Well, I'm willing to take Jill Stein at her word, that it's just going to go to through the recount, but as you reported earlier this hour, the Green Party was very vague about where the money was going to go to at first and then came back and said they needed even more money.

So I think that they did raise some legitimate questions. I think Donald Trump was right to point out that it could be a fundraising effort. But if she says it's not, I think the onus is on the media and the public to hold her accountable, to hold the Green Party accountable that this money only go toward that purpose but at the same time, I want to emphasize this purpose is not need. They need to drop this effort. (INAUDIBLE).


PAUL: Go ahead. OK. Scott, I wanted to get to one thing real quickly.


PAUL: The fact that she wanted to raise $2.5 million. We know she has raised $5 million. What does that say to you about how people are feeling, the fact that she was able to raise this money really in quite an expeditious way?

BOLDEN: Well, I think it says that the electorate -- a segment of the electorate is really uncomfortable with the election results. That's fair and that's unfair. It also says that because of Donald Trump driving this narrative that the election system is rigged, remember that, and, secondly, that he refuses to denounce Russian's involvement in hacking databases and emails and what have you (INAUDIBLE) for them.

PAUL: But here's the thing, Scott. Even Marc Elias, with the Clinton campaign is saying they have found no evidence of any hacking or anything wrong with this. Does this not come down to the fact that at the end of the day the polls were wrong? People were expecting something to happen, it didn't happen. Does that go back to the people -- and have you not talked to some people out in the field who said I was polled and I lied? We talked about closet voters and that people who said one thing, went into the polls and did another.

BOLDEN: Absolutely. But let me just say this. If all of that is true and the law allows for recount and the Green Party wants a recount then we do the recount, all parties participate and we confirm. We verify.

This isn't a challenge. It's simply a recount and an audit of the results. If we're just doing that and the results aren't going to change because of the numbers or because the polling was wrong, then let's just do it and get it done efficiently by December 19th. And the argument or the complaints or the motives behind this become irrelevant.


SAVIDGE: All right. Let's move on -- let's move on because we've got other issues we want to deal with.


SAVIDGE: I agree with Brian though that I think that the hue and cry would be a huge if the shoe were on the other foot.

But let's go on now to the meeting of these potential picks that is taking place tomorrow. The important is this cabinet that's forming. And one of those being talked about and being considered is Sheriff David Clarke for a position on the administration.

And I'm wondering, you know, just would that be a good move? And, Brian, let's ask you first.

ROBINSON: I think that Trump has got to keep some balance between the insurgent picks, that sort of reflect the tenor of his campaign and the establishment Republicans who have experience in government and who aren't going to be particularly controversial, even an insurgent revolutionary candidate has to build a coalition in a democracy. And I think you've seen Donald Trump's team very carefully navigate that path with some out of the box picks, such as DeVos for the secretary of education who's going to really please a lot of the pro school choice supporters in the Republican Party.

And I think a lot of Republicans particularly like the tough talk of Sheriff Clarke. There was a very positive reception of his go get them speech at the Republican convention. So I think what might be seen as controversial for a lot of liberals in this country would actually be received rather warmly with many people who voted for Donald Trump.

PAUL: All right. Fifteen seconds.

ROBINSON: They want somebody who says the kinds of things he says.


PAUL: Fifteen seconds left, Scott. Go ahead, A. Scott.

BOLDEN: It will be a mixed bag. But Sheriff Clarke is just downright scary to a lot of -- not just liberals but independents and others. This hard line against African-Americans and black lives matter have really been disturbing. And so while he'll be interviewed I hope and it's the hope of many that he will not get an appointed.

PAUL: All right. A. Scott Bolden and Brian Robinson, we appreciate both of you...

ROBINSON: Thank you.

PAUL: ... taking the time to be with us this morning. Thank you.

SAVIDGE: Thank you both.

After years of rebel control, Syrian regime forces have now entered the key district in eastern Aleppo. Next, what it could mean for the Syrian civil war.


PAUL: It has been a rebel stronghold in Aleppo for years but now Syrian regime forces have reportedly entered a key neighborhood in the eastern part of that city.

SAVIDGE: Hundreds have been killed in the weeks of artillery strikes targeting that area. And according to some sources a quarter of a million people could be on the verge of starvation inside of that city.

Joining us live now from London is CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen. Good morning, Fred. Good to see you. What do we know?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Good morning, Martin. And you know, one of the real tragic things about all this is that of those quarter of a million people who are in danger of starvation, about 100,000 are children. Of course they are suffering more than anyone else from that situation there in Aleppo right now.

The information that we're getting, both from the Syrian military as well as from some opposition groups and our own sources on the ground is that indeed the Syrian military has entered into a key and indeed the largest area that's held by rebels in eastern Aleppo.


It's way on the eastern fringe of that city. It's actually a place that was taken by the Syrian military earlier this year, the area around that. And now they've managed to get into that district. By all accounts it's the first time that the Syrian army has been able to push back the rebels and enter into the eastern part of Aleppo that had been rebel held since July 2012.

So this is a key victory for the Syrian regime, but at the same time of course many, many civilians suffering under all of this. There have been huge airstrikes going on over the past couple of weeks. There have been well over a hundred people killed in the past couple of days. Many, many more injured. Of course we also know that in the eastern parts of Aleppo there really no hospitals that are working anymore either.

So this certainly signifies and shows that the Syrian government has been able to make a lot of gains on a battlefield that has been hotly contested, that has been very brutal. But where no one has really been able to make any sort of progress because of the urban combat nature of the fighting that's going on there. So this is a very, very significant development for the regime and very, very bad for the rebels as they battle for what is their last urban strong hold in Syria, Martin.

SAVIDGE: Of course horrendous for those who are caught in between. Fred Pleitgen, thank you very much.

PAUL: Well, as you know, several states said yes to marijuana on election night. How is the passage of medical marijuana in a Bible Belt state going over though? We'll talk about it. Stay close.



SAVIDGE: Some of my friends have jokingly suggested that it wasn't just Donald Trump that was the big winner election night. Thank goodness so was marijuana.

PAUL: Florida, North Dakota, Arkansas, they all approved the use of medical marijuana. Voters in Montana rolled back restrictions on existing medical pot measures. Did you hear me say Arkansas?

SAVIDGE: Mm-hmm.

PAUL: Yes. Victor Blackwell shows us the impact legalization is having there, the first state in the Bible Belt to approve it.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Navy veteran Blake Ruckle suffers from post traumatic stress disorder. He says the memories of his 2011 missions to combat piracy off of coast of Somalia began haunting him two years ago.

BLAKE RUCKLE, NAVY VETERAN: My crew were the one who brought the bodies off of the -- off of the helicopters. I was struggling with alcoholism very badly and I started to suffer from a lot of depression, from a lot of the things that I've seen. I was having night terrors, trouble sleeping.

BLACKWELL: He kept his struggles, even contemplation of suicide a secret until after he was honorably discharged in 2014. Then he read stories online about how some veterans were finding relief through smoking marijuana. So Ruckle started buying and smoking marijuana illegally and he says it helped a lot. But this self-described Christian in Fayetteville, Arkansas now faced a new battle, a moral one.

RUCKLE: I felt like a criminal and I felt like -- you know, I was displeasing to my faith and to my God. The one thing that I found that helped me was under such scrutiny and was illegal.

BLACKWELL: Illegal under state law until now. This month voters here chose to amend the state's constitution by a vote of 53 percent to 47 percent making Arkansas the first state in the Bible Belt to legalize medical marijuana.

According to Pew research, seven out of 10 Arkansans call themselves highly religious. So to win them over Little Rock attorney David Couch, who's group sponsored the ballot initiative, took his case to church congregations.

DAVID COUCH, ATTORNEY: People would come up to you and whisper in your ear, you know, hey, I'm for you. My grandmother has cancer and we buy her marijuana or my son has PTSD and we buy him marijuana. So we have all these stories.

BLACKWELL (on camera): Now despite the vote, Arkansas is still a conservative state with its Republican governor, Republican controlled state legislature, even every member of the congressional delegation, Republican.

And consider this, nearly half of the state's 75 counties are dry which means soon people in those counties will be able to legally smoke medical marijuana although it will be impossible to buy a six- pack of beer.

In 2012 a similar measure was narrowly defeated in part by an ad from the Christian conservative Family Council Action Committee, which some criticize for reinforcing racial stereotypes

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The grass growers and dope dealers will be in charge.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): This time around, the group's ads featured the state's surgeon general making the case against the amendment.

GREGORY BLEDSOE, SURGEON GENERAL, ARKANSAS: Get the law right and many of us will support it. Until then, don't buy the big lie.

KEN YANG, FAMILY COUNCIL ACTION COMMITTEE: Smoking something is not medicine.

BLACKWELL: Ken Yang with the Family Council does not expect Arkansas will be the Bible Belt bellwether for medical marijuana.

YANG: I think there will be a couple more southern states that may come along and by the time we get to the rest of the south I think people will start saying, this is a bad thing.


This has been hard to implement in many states. This is bad for the kids. There's more wrecks. There's more E.R. visits.

COUCH: It really does provide relief and benefit to people that need it. And you know, if you look at it from a compassionate side, a Christian side, then it's the right thing to do.

YANG: The Christian viewpoint, the moral viewpoint is not -- to make sure that our neighbors and our communities aren't bringing harm upon on themselves, and that's kind of where we're coming from. We want to help people but we want to help people in the correct fashion, the right form.

BLACKWELL: Ruckle says smoking marijuana does not make him forget the horror he's seen, it helps him talk about it. And now he wants to talk to others.

RUCKLES: I didn't just fight for the state of California. I didn't just fight for the state of Colorado, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Florida, or any of these states that have some sort of legalization effort. I fought for all 50 states and so did every single one of my brothers and sister if there's a medicine out there that can help them through their night demons -- we are obligated to give this to these people.

BLACKWELL: Ruckle now advocates for legalization and he's starting right here in the Bible Belt. Victor Blackwell, CNN, Little Rock, Arkansas. (END VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL: Well, politics is taking over the headlines once again this morning.

SAVIDGE: And the next hour of NEW DAY begins right now.



PAUL: Well, aren't we lucky that you woke up early with us here. It's just now 7:00 on a Sunday morning and we are always grateful to have you on board. I'm Christi Paul.

SAVIDGE: And I'm martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell.

PAUL: Grateful to have you, too.

SAVIDGE: Thank you.

PAUL: Thank you for waking up early.