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Divided Democrats To Vote On New Party Chief; Hillary Clinton Video Message To Rally Democrats; Malaysian Officials Meet With Suspect In Custody; Democrats To Vote On New Party Chief Today; COC: Deadly Drug Overdoses Doubled Since 1999; Trump: Deportations Could Save Lives And Money; Hollywood Gets Political Ahead Of Oscars. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired February 25, 2017 - 08:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- to change things.

[08:00:03] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's why he beat all those other Republicans because he stole a Democratic message. We do have to lead with our values.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're all in this together. That's got to be our message.


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Saturday morning. We are happy to be your alarm clock on the weekend. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you. This is a new day for you. Welcome to the show. Is this a new day for the Democrats? The Democratic National Committee is set to elect its next chairman this morning. Two questions they have to answer. Who will lead the opposition to President Trump's agenda? Also, can they heal the divisions still lingering within the party ranks?

PAUL: This hour we'll discuss the frontrunners, the dark horse candidates pulling in some surprising endorsements.

BLACKWELL: Also, this morning the White House pushing back hard on CNN's exclusive reporting denying any wrongdoing in asking the FBI to speak out against reports of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians, but this revelation is raising this really old question. Can the White House discuss an open investigation with the FBI and how?

PAUL: But first let's really get into this political reset, potential political reset, we should say, for the Democratic Party because we could just be hours away from it at this point. DNC members are voting today for the next chief of their party tasked with taking on President Trump's administration, of course, but the tight race is putting Hillary Clinton Democrats against an army of progressives who backed Bernie Sanders. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM PEREZ, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: The Democratic Party needs to take the fight to Donald Trump. When we lead with our values, when we lead with our conviction, that's how we succeed.

PAUL (voice-over): The Democratic Party is in disarray, struggling to find a path to unite all Democrats after President Trump's blistering election win. Their base, fed up with President Trump's hardline agenda and demanding action.

Democratic National Committee members will choose one of seven hopefuls to lead that battle. At the head of the pack is former Labor Secretary Tom Perez. He has had a list of endorsers including Vice President Joe Biden and several governors.

But right on his heels is Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota. He picked up the endorsement of top Democrat Chuck Schumer, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and John Lewis, and he's also picked up support from top progressive groups, including Moveon and Democracy for America. Congressman Ellison concedes Democrats could learn a lesson from President Trump's election win.

REPRESENTATIVE KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: Donald Trump as deceptive as he was did say he was for jobs, trade, infrastructure, and for protecting Social Security that's our message. That's what we do. That's why he beat all those other Republicans because he stole a Democratic message. We do have to lead with our values.

PAUL: Whoever wins, some senior Democratic officials say their future is already being written by an army of angry liberals. Their mission, nothing less than obstruction of the president. Governor Jay Inslee of Washington told the "New York Times," there was a, quote, "tornado of support for wall-to-wall resistance." For other Democrats the goal is to not only successfully take on President Trump but to also go after top Republican lawmakers.

JAIME HARRISON, CHAIRMAN, SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: So if Democrats want to be in a permanent minority, let's spend all of our time and energy fighting each other, but if we want to actually fight back against Donald Trump, let's spend our energy going after Ted Cruz and going after the Republicans that are up.

PAUL: South Bend, Indiana mayor, Pete Buttigieg, is in the mix for the top job and he's picked up the endorsement of former DNC chair, Howard Dean.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG, SOUTH BEND, INDIANA: What we've got to do as a party is recognize that the same struggle for belonging is true whether you're an immigrant mom trying to make sure you won't be divided from your family or a blue collar auto worker trying to figure where your job is going to be or a transgender kid in a high school who just needs to go to the bathroom like everybody else. We're all in this together. That's got to be our message.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLACKWELL: All right, let's continue the conversation now with Jonathan Tasini, a Democratic strategist who supported Bernie Sanders in the primaries, Maria Cardona, a CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist who supported Hillary Clinton, and Jay Jacobs, chairman of the Nassau County, New York Democratic Party. Welcome, everyone.

Jay, let me start with you, beyond the chairman race and we'll talk about that in a moment, what do the Democrats have to establish today, articulate today?

JAY JACOBS, CHAIRMAN, NASSAU COUNTY, NEW YORK DEMOCRATIC PARTY: We've got to bring the party together. I think the main thing that the new chair has to do is keep everybody excited, appreciate the fact that we've got to get a good message out that's going to appeal across the board to Democrats, Republicans, too, and independents across this country.

BLACKWELL: Beyond being excited because the different factions and, you know, you may push back about my using that term but the different factions of the party are excited about going in different directions.

JONATHAN TASINI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I would say rather than use the word faction, I think, it's vision for the party. The Bernie Sanders movement was about throwing about the neo-liberal politics of the Clinton administrations and past Democrats.

[08:05:01]And in some way what happened if we go back and look at what why we're here aside from the fact that Hillary Clinton was not elected and she would have the choice of who the chair would be.

We forced Debbie Wasserman Schultz out of the party position because she was, in my view, corrupt and she tried to move the party in the primaries towards Hillary Clinton and more important, she was a complete and utter failure.

Look at the previous block. Look where the Democratic Party is now, it's in shambles. Two-thirds of the state legislators are in control of the Republicans. You just go down the list. The Democratic Party has no power in the country? Why did that happen?

It's partly because of the insiders and elites in the Democratic Party, the consulting class, the same people that are now trying to raise millions of dollars to run the exact failed campaigns that haven't worked.

On the other hand, you see the energy at the state level. Bernie- crats have taken over 600 seats in the California state party and Nebraska state chair is now a Bernie Sander supporter, Jane Cleave, Hawaii, Washington, we have the vision that I think can appeal to the American people.

BLACKWELL: You have a sticker that you're supporting Keith Ellison. Jay is supporting Tom Perez and so are you. Now let me bounce off what we just heard from Jonathan there. The Bernie-crats who are skeptical of a Tom Perez and think this is the establishment holding on to the party when they don't want to go the direction he wants to go.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think reporters need to take their cues from the actual candidates because neither Keith nor Tom have tried to re-litigate the 2016 election, which I think a lot of supporters on both sides have done. I give them kudos for that.

They are focused on bringing the party together. There's no question there will be challenges and no question whoever wins will have to reach out to the other side, and they absolutely will do that. I'm completely confident.

But we have to focus on why is it that we lost and frankly keep in mind that this was not a landslide election for Donald Trump, that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 3 million, so there's a lot of support out there. You're seeing it on the streets.

This is not a re-litigation of the 2016 election. We have to focus on that energy and we have to bring everybody together, including the Bernie-crats. You have Tom Perez that has some Bernie supporters supporting him. You have -- you have Keith Ellison with supporters from -- that used to support Clinton.

BLACKWELL: He disagrees with that.

TASINI: First of all, let me quickly say and I said this to Maria off campaign. Tom Perez was a terrific labor secretary on progressive values. I don't doubt it, but he does represent what I think and what many people think is the elites and the people who want to hold control of the party. This isn't about re-litigating the primary. It's about a completely different vision of what the party should stand for.

JACOBS: That's a false narrative and that's been something that's been touted again and again about Tom Perez. Look, there is no way that he represents the establishment. This is a guy who earned his living going through school on a garbage truck. I mean, this is a guy --

BLACKWELL: Hold on. Let him finish.

JACOBS: This is a guy who has represented Democratic values and principles in the civil rights division of the U.S. Attorney's Office and --

TASINI: If that's true, why did he jump into the race?

JACOBS: Because Keith Ellison does not represent the direction of the party that other people like myself think it should be.

TASINI: Exactly.

JACOBS: It is the centrist. It's not about establishment or not the establishment.

TASINI: It's about the people who have destroyed the party, who have lost for a decade. The reason we don't have power in this country is because you guys don't know how to run elections.

JACOBS: With that attitude --

TASINI: Let's talk about the facts.

BLACKWELL: What you do with that passion if Perez wins.

JACOBS: This is the problem, with that attitude we divide.

TASINI: It's facts.

JACOBS: It's not the facts. The fact is this. We need to articulate a vision that is broad-based. There is a centrist country. Let's not forget it. If you want to win in the United States of America, you're going to have to win starting in the suburbs. I'm from the suburbs, from Nassau County. You're not going to tell me that a far left agenda is going to attract voters in Nassau County.

BLACKWELL: But this is the same argument that I'm sure many of the Bernie-crats, as you say, heard during the primary --


BLACKWELL: -- where Hillary Clinton needed to win. We've got to take a quick break and we'll continue this conversation right after the break. We'll be right back.



BLACKWELL: All right. The Democrats are in Atlanta, and we've got with us, Maria Cardona, Jay Jacobs, and Jonathan Tasini, continuing this conversation on the vision forward, the vision on what the party will be in the Trump era. Jonathan, you were talking about what you are hearing from two Perez supporters, Maria Cardona and Jay Jacobs.

TASINI: I want to pick on what Jay said in terms of defining what the politics of the party should be. Jay mentioned centrist politics is what wins. I think what was proven both in the primaries and the general election is that that typical way that we look at the spectrum doesn't work.

So Donald Trump was very successful going into the Midwest and the industrial Midwest, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, talking about trade. I consider him to be a fraud. He's no defender of the regular person, but he was absolutely right.

So-called free trade has been a disaster. That's been something that the Clintons, the elites, the insiders have supported for the last 25 year, and I think it's distanced ourselves from while working class people from regular Americans.

Donald Trump was very successful with that. Tom Perez supported the Transpacific Partnership. So when we talk about economics, it's not about centrist far left, it's about what will get a decent living for regular Americans and it's not economics. It's not the economics that have defined the kind of portion of the party that we don't support.

CARDONA: And so I would say -- I actually agree with Jonathan that in fact not just the party but the country has moved in a more progressive direction to make sure that the playing field for anybody who wants a shot at the American dream is level.

And Tom Perez takes a back seat to nobody in fighting for those policies that will help, you know, the immigrant mother who is scared that ICE is going to knock on her door, even though she's a citizen.

Yesterday, we had Muhammad Ali's son being detained for two hours at the Fort Lauderdale Airport simply because of his name and because he was Muslim. That is thanks to the man who is in the White House, who by the way, has a 38 percent approval rating.

That is what we need to focus on as a party. If we do that, we will bring everybody together including the energy that's on the street today.

BLACKWELL: Jay, I want to play a portion of the video that Hillary Clinton recorded for the conference and let's watch it and then we'll talk.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you to the leaders who have already done so much beginning with Barack and Michelle Obama. Thanks as well to Donna and the DNC leadership and to the outstanding bench of Democrats stepping up to lead us forward.


[08:15:06]BLACKWELL: Now that's just the tail end of this video that's goes on for 3.5 minutes. My question is what's the bench here that she's talking about? How deep is this?

JACOBS: Well, in terms of other people coming up for the future. I think we've got a very good bench and you take a look at the number of candidates we have running for chair is an indication of the strength of the voices that we're going to be seeing.

And I've got Kirsten Gillibrand up in New York who is dynamic and certainly there, and I applaud Hillary Clinton and I have to say to you, you know, I make no apologies for Hillary Clinton. I think she is an outstanding public servant, was an outstanding candidate for us, and won the popular vote.

CARDONA: People wanted her to be president more than they wanted Donald Trump to be president.

JACOBS: You know, there was this narrative also that she was the establishment and all of that. We have to get away from this. If the Democratic Party is going to win, we need everyone. We can't cast out one of us. I want the Bernie supporters --

BLACKWELL: Absolutely. JACOBS: I want Keith Ellison supporters as engaged, and I want to hear that argument, but we all have to remember that at the end of the day we come together or we lose.


JACOBS: And it's all about -- it's not about, you know, an artistic success. You've got to win seats in the House and in the Senate and the statehouse.

BLACKWELL: What's Clinton's role moving forward?

TASINI: I don't think she has any role at all.

JACOBS: I disagree.

TASINI: Thousands of people have signed up to run for office, Bernie- crats, a woman by the name of Heidi Harman, who is an activist, who won by 47 votes in the city of San Luis Obispo. There are thousands of those people now running for office at the county level.

That's the bench that I think -- it may take some time to evolve, but we're taking control over the state parties and over real government positions in the -- in localities so we can take back the state legislators.

I'm much more interested in the local and state races at this point because I think the federal government, let's face it, is going to be in Republican hands at least for the next two years and where we have to really build the benches at the local levels.

BLACKWELL: All right, a lot of work to do.

CARDONA: I agree with that.

BLACKWELL: Jonathan Tasini, Jay Jacobs, and Maria Cardona, thank you all.

CARDONA: Thanks, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right, Christi.

PAUL: All righty, still to come for the first time since Kim Jong- Nam's death, Indonesian officials have spoken to one of those suspects being held in connection with the murder. We'll tell you what they are learning this morning. Stay close.



PAUL: New details in the investigation behind the bizarre murder of Kim Jong-Nam.

BLACKWELL: Indonesian officials met with one of the suspects being held by Malaysian police. In that meeting, they say she was asked to do what she called an activity by people who she says looked Japanese or Korean.

This is coming after Malaysian police say the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un, was killed using VX. That's an illegal and lethal nerve agent. CNN's Brian Todd has the story.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A horrifying discovery from Malaysian officials. They say Kim Jong-Nam, half-brother of North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un was killed by a chemical weapon, a VX nerve agent when he was attacked at the Kuala Lumpur Airport. Experts say VX is one of the most potent chemical weapons. It can kill almost instantly.

JEFFREY LEWIS, WMD EXPERT, MIDDLEBURY INSTITUTE: VX shuts down the enzyme that regulates your nervous system and so your nervous system goes crazy, which is why you see things like convulsions and eventually you just stop breathing.

TODD: Malaysian officials say the VX was found on Kim Jong Nam's face and in his eyes. Police have said when they touched his face the two women who allegedly have attacked Kim had a toxic substance on their bare hands.

DR. BRUCE GOLDBERGER, TOXICOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA: Exposure to a trace, a drop of VX is lethal. There's a couple of possibilities. One is the VX was somehow encapsulated and then placed on to a skin or these women were enucleated with the antidote to VX before the incident.

TODD: Both women are still alive but Malaysian police say one of them showed signs of sickness and was vomiting and there could also be collateral casualties.

(on camera): How dangerous was it for them to do this in the middle of a crowded airport terminal? Could other people have been harmed?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, absolutely. When you think about how toxic VX is you have to be really worried about that. What if she turned around, and bumped into someone and put her hand on them.

TODD: Malaysian police are still hunting for four North Korean suspects who they say trained the women and gave them the chemicals. South Korean officials say Kim Jong-Un's regime ordered the hit on his half-brother. VX nerve agents are banned around the world, but analysts say North Korea has ignored the ban and possesses tons of chemical weapons.

A U.S. intelligence official tells CNN North Korea has proven it has no regard for human life other than its own leader and it should be not surprised that Kim's regime would engage in assassination. Analysts say even for the man who executed his own uncle, this attack is disturbing.

SUE MI TERRY, FORMER CIA ANALYST ON NORTH KOREA: I believe that he's more willing to take risks than even his father. I would like to believe that this is a red line such as maybe selling nuclear (inaudible) material to terror groups. But the fact that he's willing to use chemical weapons in a public airport like this now deeply concerns me.

[08:25:11]TODD: So far the North Koreans have not responded to the report from the Malaysian government that a VX nerve agent was used to kill Kim Jong-Nam, but the North Koreans have denied carrying out the attack.


PAUL: All right. Thank you so much. Now, ISIS fighters are setting stores on fire we're learning this morning as Iraqi forces close in on the terror group's last major stronghold in that country.

BLACKWELL: Federal police announced overnight that they have recaptured an agricultural area near Mosul and are inching further into the city. This comes days after they gained control of the city's airport.

PAUL: Joining these Iraqi forces in the battle for Mosul American soldiers. They are stationed right now just one mile from the front lines. We'll keep you posted on what happens there.

After a bitter Democratic primary and that election loss there, the Democratic Party is demanding change, and they want to start at the top. Who will be the next chief? We talked to the president, the Bernie Sanders-inspired movement. Our revolution about that next.


PAUL: Well, good morning to you. I'm Christi Paul. Glad to have you.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning.

PAUL: A lot of people wondering this morning what is next for the future of the Democrats? Hours from now the party will have a new leader tasked with bridging the divide.

Let's talk about this with Jeff Weaver, former campaign manager for Bernie Sanders and president of "Our Revolution," a Bernie Sanders inspired movement.

We also have Jason Cantor, CNN contributor and president of Let America Vote, an effort to combat voter suppression, and Stephen Collinson, CNN politics senior reporter. Thank you, Gentlemen, for being here.

[08:30:00] Jeff, I wanted to start with you being that you are in Bernie Sanders' camp. How open are the -- is the progressive movement, your movement, to merging with the establishment Democrats to form the Democratic Party now?

JEFF WEAVER, FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER FOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I think there's a lot of anxiety how the in the countryside, as you've seen. We've seen mass movements sort of developing all across the country and I think what people are looking for is, you know, are the inside sort of players willing to -- to change the way that they have been doing things so that we begin to win elections and elect progressive candidates to office.

I think everybody was disappointed by what happened in 2016 and we clearly cannot continue down that path. We've got to reach out and enlarge the base of this party and got to bring in all the young people, working glass people. People of color who either sat out the last election or decided to go with another candidate.

That's the challenge in front of us and to the extent the party wants to do what, I think people out there want to participate with it to the extent that they want to stay on their old ways. I think people are going to be very reluctant.

PAUL: Jason, Maria Cardona last hour or segment said that Democrats need to let progressives' movement rise. They need to let them breathe. How do you allow the progressive movement to rise without barreling over the establishment and the base of the Democrats?

JASON KANDER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the key really is just making sure that Democrats make their argument, you know. I am down here in Atlanta today to speak to the DNC and what I'm going to talk about is the perspective of the next generation that what has to happen is we need to go out there and we have unapologetically make our argument.

I'm a progressive from a red state. You know, I've won a very close race in Missouri and I've also lost a very close race in Missouri, but both times, I outperformed the top of the Democratic ticket substantially and the way I did it is I just made the argument to everybody.

No matter where you are in the state and the country, it is my belief that progressive values that the policies of the Democratic Party are what are best to improve your life and that's the argument we need to make.

PAUL: Stephen, Robert said earlier, too, that the Democrats are just not engaged here and that they need to figure out how to make the party relevant. How are they going to do that? In this meeting alone, how do they set that foundation?

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, I think it's a first step. I think this race has been very interesting because it's shown the extent to which the Democratic Party and is not alone in this is yet to work out how to respond to the tectonic shocks in politics that were brought by Donald Trump's election the way he ate into traditional Democratic constituencies in the Midwest, for example.

But the work of rebuilding a party takes years. The Democratic Party has been devastated at the state and local level over the last few years and maybe that's where you start and often you need a charismatic individual to -- to lead that effort once it's sort of the foundation has been laid. Look at the way Bill Clinton sort of reinvented the Democratic Party in the early 1990s. Barack Obama did the same thing in 2007 and 2008, and look at the way Donald Trump is reinvented his party and is continuing to on the other side. So it's a very slow process.

If this time next year we're still having this conversation, then the Democratic Party is going to be more trouble than we think but, you know, the election was only a few weeks and months away and this is the first step.

PAUL: OK. So let's listen to a call from Hillary Clinton about what she thinks needs to happen at this meeting today.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The challenges we face as a party and a country are real. So now more than ever we need to stay engaged, in the field and online, reaching out to new voters, young people and everyone who wants a better, stronger, fairer America. Our best days are still ahead. So keep fighting and keep the faith, and I'll be right there with you every step of the way.


PAUL: Jason, how influential is her voice in this at this point?

KANDER: Well, I think if you listen to what she said, it's not that different from what's being said at town halls across the country in even the most conservative districts that was being said at the women's march or the protest against this awful immigration policy.

You know, successful movements historically have not started in Washington but outside Washington and there's something happening in the country right now. There's a movement going on and what it is, is that 54 percent of the people who voted in November voted for somebody not named Donald Trump.

And yet the president is governing as if he has a mandate and the people in this country, not just the Democratic Party, but the people of this country are standing up against that.

[08:35:01]PAUL: Jeff, how -- how strongly do you believe the movement is -- is prepared to infiltrate in the Democratic Party? If you don't hear what you want to hear today and what do you want to hear that will help you built the Democratic Party up, or is there a risk that your revolution is going to go off and form its own party, that you will abandon the Democratic Party all together?

WEAVER: Well, I don't think it's a question of people forming another party. I will tell you that our revolution has been quite active across the country and helping folks work and run for local party office. We've been successful in a number of states across this country.

I think the comment was made about revolutions not happening out of Washington or movements not happening out of Washington is right and so we are fighting, you know, state by state or county by county or party by party, you know, state party by state party and that's what we've got to do electorally as well.

I mean, the Democratic bench has been decimated. We've lost 1,000 Democratic legislators since 2010 and that's got to be reversed and has to be reversed in every zip code in this country. We cannot afford to abandon Midwest states or southern states or other states where the party has not traditionally put a lot of money. We have got to be a national party that speaks to working people in every state in this country.

PAUL: All right. Jeff Weaver, Jason Kander, and Stephen Collinson, thank you all so much for taking the time to be with us. We appreciate it.

BLACKWELL: New evidence shows that the epidemic of opioid deaths and heroin overdoses across the country is getting worse, and there's a sociologist who says the reasons behind that may have also influenced the 2016 election. You'll want to see her research next.

Plus, President Trump says deporting undocumented immigrants will save lives and money, but could the wrong people end up being targeted?



BLACKWELL: The opioid epidemic in the U.S. is getting worse. There's a new report from the Centers for Disease Control that shows drug overdoses more than doubled across the country since 1999 and are now responsible for more deaths each year than suicide or car accidents.

And as health professionals and politicians are now looking for solutions to this growing opioid crisis, one sociologist has found a link between the spike in drug overdoses and the despair that motivated many disillusioned voters in the 2016 election.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the most fun I never want to have again.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Army veteran, Ryan Cooper is proud of his service in Afghanistan, but he's had a tough time transitioning into life back home.

RYAN COOPER, LIVES IN WILKES-BARRE: You're trained to do one thing and then you come back and there's, you know, very little need for an infantry soldier back in the civilian world.

BLACKWELL: Ryan game home in 2011 and secretly struggled to forget the horrors of his service and there was another struggle.

COOPER: There really was not much going on at all. People were either collecting unemployment, you know, taking a couple of classes at community college or not doing anything at all and I just fell into that with them. BLACKWELL: Ryan could not find a suitable job in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. That year unemployment here in (inaudible) County peaked at 10.6 percent. So Ryan says to ease the emotional pain, he began taking prescription painkillers.

COOPER: A lot of other people who were either unemployed or not in school or doing anything, they were doing heroin.

BLACKWELL: Soon Ryan was too.

(on camera): Didn't meet your expectations of what life would be?

COOPER: Exactly. Just disillusionment all around.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): According to Penn State University sociologist and demographer, Shannon Monnat, people handled that disillusionment in different ways.

SHANNON MONNATT, PENN STATE UNIVERSITY: Some people turned to self- medicating and some people turned to another kind of fix, which may be voting for a candidate that's just proposing some radical change and burning the place down.

BLACKWELL: Last year, Monnatt crunch the numbers from more than 3,000 counties across the country comparing Trump to 2012's Republican nominee, Mitt Romney. She found that President Trump did better than Romney in 80 percent of the countries especially well in New England, Appalachia and the industrial Midwest. Also that he performed best in the counties with the highest drug, alcohol and suicide mortality rates.

MONNATT: I'm not saying that Trump supporters are a bunch of drug addicts or alcoholics but that drug use in communities, alcohol abuse in communities, mental health problems, are really symptoms. Canneries in the coal mine so to speak of broader economic and social issues that have really been building.

BLACKWELL: Monnatt says that strong correlation is rooted in the broad economic distresses and job losses in these counties.

MONNATT: These sorts of places are really primed to be vulnerable to prescription painkillers and heroin and they were also primed to be vulnerable to messages of a quick fix or quick change from somebody like Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is all from Obama's campaign.

BLACKWELL: Eileen and Richard Sorokas have lived in Wilkes-Barre all their lives. They're registered Democrats and voted for President Barack Obama twice even volunteered for the president's 2008 campaign near the height of the great recession.

RICHARD SOROKAS, TRUMP SUPPORTER: People are desperate to work and a lot of people are going back on welfare and counting on the government, so people were struggling at that time for, you know, any type of work. BLACKWELL: At the end of President Obama's term unemployment in Lucerne County had dropped to 5.9 percent. The Sorokas said that's not good enough and the high-paying jobs have not returned, so in 2016 they voted for Donald Trump.

EILEEN SOROKAS, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Just like Barack Obama was there. It was time for change. It was time for change again to have Trump in there.

BLACKWELL: A lot of their neighbors agreed. In 2012, President Obama won Lucerne County by almost five points. In 2016, Donald Trump won the county beating Hillary Clinton by 20 points.

RICHARD SOROKAS: I believe you need that businessman. You've got to get the politically correct things out of here and get a businessman and get this country straight out and get the deficit down and start getting jobs.

BLACKWELL: Ryan has been sober for 90 days now. He knows that his recovery will take time and when it comes to President Trump and the return of those high-paying jobs.

COOPER: This area is relying on him so I hope he doesn't steer them wrong.

BLACKWELL: He and the Sorokas hope that those jobs rush in as quickly as the president promised.


PAUL: Well, the shift in U.S. policy means a larger number of undocumented immigrants could be deported. Our next guest says a wider net could end up catching the wrong people.



PAUL: You've got the Washington there at 8:49 on this Saturday morning. And President Trump says a crackdown on undocumented immigrants will save money and lives. Listen to this.


[08:50:03]DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We are also going to save countless American lives. As we speak today immigration officers are finding the gang members, the drug dealers and the criminal aliens and throwing them the hell out of our country.


PAUL: Our next guest says new guidance on deportations could hurt the wrong people though. Those branded by the White House as criminals may actually be parents trying to help their kids seek safety.

Let's talk about this with Jen Smyers, the director of the policy and advocacy for the Immigration and Refugee Program at Church World Service. Jen, thank you for being with us. It's good to have you here.

I do want to read part of the new guidance on deportations that you're particularly worried about. It says, quote, "We shall ensure the proper enforcement of our immigration laws against any individual who directly or indirectly facilitates the illegal smuggling or trafficking of an alien child into the United States.

When he adds trafficking into it, that may bump it up to a whole new level, but it does seem that based on this verbiage a parent could be obviously prosecuted for bringing their child simply into the state and that's the criminal aspect of this for the government. Help us understand the psyche of some of the parents who are coming over the border, first of all.

JEN SMYERS, CHURCH WORLD SERVICE IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE PROGRAM: Sure. So one example that I can give that really demonstrates what these children and parents are going through is a young girl living with her mother and sister in Guatemala for her privacy and safety and I'll refer to her as Rita.

So you know, Rita is living with her mom and sister and every time that she goes to school she is harassed by gangs and it's very clear that they are targeting Rita to be a gang girlfriend, which is when gangs forced young girls to be repeatedly raped as part of their gang recruitment efforts.

And forced them to continue to be the girlfriends of every member of that gang, and so, you know, in Rita's case, it's a very similar case with a young girl who we've worked with. Her mom actually applied for her to be able to come to the United States to join her father here.

But because our immigration system is so broken and because it is takes so long after six months she hadn't even been given a prescreening interview and so the question is, what is a mother to do in this situation?

You know, when your daughter is being targeted like this and in Rita's decision her mother decided to put her in the hands of the smugglers and send her to the United States so that she could escape the situation.

And so when the best alternative for a child is to put them in the hands of a smuggler rather than having them raped and murdered by gangs, you really understand the desperation of parents here, and so when we look at these policies we really have to ask ourselves if this is us, you know, being completely morally bankrupt as a nation.

PAUL: Would a fix be to add some sort of provision for parents who are in the country to have their children come in? Are you looking for a provision? Would that satisfy the situation?

SMYERS: Well, this is -- this provision actually is explicit that it does apply to parents, caregivers, grandparents, anyone who even scrapes together what little money they have to help their child seek safety, so, I mean, the underlying issue is that this is bad policy.

It's irrational and it's wasteful and it's morally bankrupt, and when we look at these policies we have to ask ourselves what kind of country do we want to be? Do we want to be a country that separates families, that rounds people up and deports them?

We're proudest in our nation's history of the moments when we welcome people, and we look back with shame at moments in our history where we've turned away Jewish refugees back in the hands of Nazi Germany.

And so this is really a moment of definition, not just with this part of the policy, but with the entirety of this administration's really immoral immigration policy.

PAUL: I want to read this again, who directly or indirectly facilitates the illegal smuggling or trafficking of an alien child into the United States. We know that trafficking is an issue. How do you suggest things change to take care of that really horrendous situation because trafficking does occur and separate the parental situation?

SMYERS: Well, I think we can start by making sure our immigration enforcement actions are actually targeting people who are exploiting children and causing harm rather than focusing them on the children themselves, you know. This same executive order would actually completely roll back protections for children.

So that instead of allowing their case to be heard by an immigration judge, this executive order would say that they should be immediately deported, which would put them back into the hands of those very same traffickers.

So if we want an immigration policy that makes sense and that's true to our values, we'll stop targeting people for deportation and we'll stop targeting children and parents and will actually go after people who are speaking to exploit these young children.

[08:55:12]PAUL: Jen Smyers, thank you so much for your input today. We appreciate it.

SMYERS: Thanks for having me.

BLACKWELL: A pre-Oscars protest as Hollywood celebrities rally against President Trump and his agenda. Why Hollywood feels their voices are more important this year than ever before.


PAUL: Hollywood held a different kind of Oscar event this weekend, the United Talent Agency hosted a rally in California last night in protest of President Trump's agenda.

BLACKWELL: The event featured a number of celebrity speakers, including Jodie Foster, Keegan Michael Key and Michael J. Fox. Crowds gathered to celebrate the film industry and human rights, both on and off the screen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JODIE FOSTER, ACTRESS AND FILMMAKER: This is our time to resist. It's our time to show up and demand answers. It's our time to tell our elected officials to do their job.


PAUL: The Oscars ceremony is being held in Los Angeles tomorrow where some say we can expect more celebrities to speak out.

BLACKWELL: Almost for sure. That's it for us. We'll see you back here at 10:00 Eastern for an hour of NEWSROOM.

PAUL: Yes. Don't go anywhere. "SMERCONISH" is coming at you next.