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Trump Sends Out New Series Of Tweets; DHS Considers Separating Kids From Adults At Border; Ryan: Sessions Meeting With Russian Ambassador "Very Common"; More Trump Aides Admit Meetings With Russia; U.S. Defense Budget Up By 10 Percent, China Up By 7 Percent; Petraeus: Putin's Objectives Are "Very Clear"; Man Accused Of Making Anti- Semitic Bomb Threats; ADL Calls On Trump To Combat Hate Crimes. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired March 4, 2017 - 08:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White House is definitely seeking some separation between the president and his team when it comes to Russia during the campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very clear what Vladimir Putin's objectives are. In many cases they are unacceptable to us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I should not be involved in investigating a campaign I have a role in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike Pence was doing the same thing he was criticizing Hillary for.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's no comparison whatsoever between Hillary Clinton's practice having a private server.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: You're going to run your own business and make a lot of money, right? But don't run for politics after you do.


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: It's 8:00 on a Saturday morning. I'm Christi Paul. Look who got up early.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell. It's great to be with all of you.

President Trump may be in sunny Florida, but new clouds are now hanging over his administration.

PAUL: Yes, the president vowing no rest at Mar-a-Lago this weekend. Could he be working on that new travel ban that he promised last week, or is it going to head back to court? Overnight, the White House getting more time it seems to decide if they're going to fight last month's lawsuit.

SAVIDGE: And we're learning embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions will un-end his testimony Monday, all this as the web between Trump's campaign aides and Russia just gets messier.

Plus a stunning DHS headline, the new plan to break up parents and kids who illegally cross the border, officials say it is to fight trafficking.

But first, new accusations from the president this morning in a series of tweets. President Trump alleges that former President Obama tapped his phones during the election. CNN correspondent, Ryan Nobles is live in Washington with more on this. Good morning, Ryan.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Martin, good morning to you. The president has been busy on Twitter this morning. He defended his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, but it is a series of tweets where he accuses President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower that is getting all the attention.

Let's show them to you. First, Trump tweeting, "Terrible, just found out that Obama had my wires tapped in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism."

He followed up with this, "It is illegal for a sitting president to be wiretapping a race for president prior to the election, turned down by court earlier, a new low."

Then he tweeted, "I bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October just prior to the election."

He wasn't done. One more, finally tweeting, "How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process? This is Nixon's lash Watergate, bad or sick guy."

Four tweets in total accusing the Obama administration of tapping Donald Trump at Trump Tower during the campaign. At this point, the White House has not provided any context or a proof to back up the president's claims.

We've reached out to both the Trump and Obama administrations for their responses to these tweets. Martin, we haven't gotten anything back yet. We will update as soon as we get those responses.

SAVIDGE: And we'll look forward to it when you do. Ryan Nobles, thank you very much.

PAUL: So let's talk about that dramatic new proposal from the Department of Homeland Security this morning, CNN confirming DHS is considering separating kids from their families when they're trying to cross the border illegally.

An official says the proposal is meant to protect children, claiming that adults essentially kidnap kids and force them to come along. That's because the current guidelines allow most adults to stay in the country if they make it across the border with a child.

Let's talk about this with criminal defense attorney and CNN legal analyst, Danny Cevallos, CNN political commentator and former Trump adviser, Jack Kingston, and research associate for the New American Foundation, David Sterman.

Thank you all for being here, Gentlemen. We appreciate it. Jack, I want to start with you. You're a former Trump adviser. Your reaction to this proposal?

JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think this shows how difficult immigration reform and immigration security is going to be, that people are willing to kidnap kids or at least use kids in order to become citizens or gain entry themselves.

As we look at all aspects of immigration, we'll have to try to balance this stuff out. How do you protect kids, how do you protect the border and not separate families? So it's difficult, but I think that DHS is doing the right thing when they're considering all of the above.

By that, I mean, walls and better vetting and everything that they're doing. The reason they're getting so much pushback is because it's difficult. But then there are also critics that regardless of what this administration is going to do, they're going to be very upset about it.

I understand the politics of hyperbole and how people would want to use it. I would hope people would say, you know what, there is a genuine problem here. What's the best way to do it so we can come together for a solution rather than just criticism?

[08:05:11]PAUL: OK, so Danny, I'm going to get to you in a minute. But Jack, I want to ask you about that, too, because the DHS did say we're seeing kids essentially kidnapped and used to get here and stay. We know that parents do sometimes pay traffickers -- well, they're not traffickers in their mind, but they pay them to get their kids to America.

You're right. This is a problem. But how do you determine who is a parent and who is not at the border? I mean, this brings up an awful lot of real concerns about families and about where children will end up.

KINGSTON: You know, the Obama administration wrestled with this same thing. Ultimately they decided to give the benefit of the doubt to the parent family or the adults that comes with these children. They wrestled with it. We're going to wrestle with it for a long time.

Because I think what you have done is put your finger on what the real problem is, part of the huge difficulty in implementing a solution. How do you make this determination?

But I think it's totally proper for the DHS to look at all the alternatives when it comes to border security. We have the right to know who is coming into our country and what they're going to do when they're here.

PAUL: Danny, he's right. The Obama administration looked at this, a former DOJ official said that they looked into it and rejected the move at the time. What legal ramifications could there be from a proposal like this? What challenges would be in place?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first, the important thing is to make a legal distinction between children who are traveling with families and children who are just traveling with adults. Children traveling with just adults may be unaccompanied children under the law, because accompanied children are those traveling with parents or guardians.

So that's the major distinction to be made. The law treats these two sets of children differently. They still require screening. They still require transfer to HHS. But the important thing is that the law already presumes that children should not be detained, and that presumption extends to their families if they are traveling with families.

But that is -- we already have law and screening procedures for human trafficking when it comes to children. The question is who are we actually separating them from? Are we separating them from just random adults that they happen to be with or actual families?

In the case of the absence of documentation, how do we make that call? So before we react to this policy, we have to learn more about what exactly the policy will be, vis-a-vis, children and their parents or children and strangers.

PAUL: All right, David, your foundation I know put out new research that challenges some of the reasons used for the president's travel ban. You found the majority of people charged with terrorism in the U.S. are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. We haven't seen a new travel ban proposal from the White House. Do you have any ideas in your head as to what might be taking so long?

DAVID STERMAN, RESEARCH ASSOCIATE, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Well, we'll see what they put together. However, our research at New America found that the travel ban would not have prevented a single death since 9/11, nor would it have prevented the 9/11 attacks. In addition, as you noted, our research found 84 percent of terrorism- related cases in the U.S. since 9/11 are citizens or legal residents.

PAUL: OK, so Danny, listening to that, we know last night a judge gave the White House an extension on this travel ban lawsuit. What would have to be tweaked in that lawsuit to give it the green light?

CEVALLOS: It's a class action lawsuit, and all the court has done here is given an extension, and it's a reasonable extension because, number one, the party who doesn't want the extension already has the stay. So they're not being hurt while the government has additional time.

The other reason is this entire class action could potentially be mooted -- by mooted, I mean it doesn't matter anymore, if there is a brand new policy. So while the court proceedings in Washington and elsewhere are very significant, if there is a new travel ban, it sort of obviates all this litigation over a prior travel ban.

But it's important to watch that because this is going to affect immigration policy, whether it's decided by the court or the administration. And then that order will certainly be challenged just as the first one was.

PAUL: All righty, Danny Cevallos, Jack Kingston, David Sterman, sorry we're out of time. We're grateful that you're with us this morning. Thank you.

SAVIDGE: Still to come, Attorney General Jeff Sessions facing pressure from Democrats to resign, will soon amend his testimony. This as President Trump ignites a Twitter war with Democrats. Stay with us.



PAUL: It's 14 minutes past the hour right now. Embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions will amend his testimony and he'll do so on Monday we've heard. This after Sessions recused himself from any investigations into possible ties between Russian officials and the Trump campaign.

SAVIDGE: President Trump calls the turmoil surrounding Sessions, quote, "A total witch hunt by the Democrats." Yesterday, he tweeted photos of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2003 calling Schumer a total hypocrite.

He also tweeted House Minority Leader Pelosi with the Russian ambassador in 2010 demanding an investigation. Schumer responded saying he, "would happily talk about my contact with Mr. Putin and his associates took place in '03 in full view of press and public under oath. Would you and your team?"

The Democrats say Sessions' recusal isn't really going far enough. They want him to resign, but House Speaker Paul Ryan coming to Sessions' defense.


[08:15:05]REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN, HOUSE SPEAKER: I would think dozens if not more hundreds, that's very common. We meet with ambassadors constantly as members of Congress. That's their job, is to come and meet with members of Congress and express their interest.


SAVIDGE: All right, we'll try and separate fact from friction. Joining me now is CNN political commentator and political anchor of Spectrum News, Errol Louis, and White House correspondent for "The Washington Examiner," Sarah Westwood. Welcome to you both.


SAVIDGE: Sarah, what do you make of President Trump's Twitter exchange with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer?

SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": You know, it was interesting because it sort of underscores the defense that Republicans seized on early in the day when these allegations first came out, which is that the underlying meetings with the Russian ambassador were not the problem.

That's the issue that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is facing. The underlying meeting with Sergey Kislyak is not a problem. It's something that senators do in the course of their duties. The problem was his response to the Judiciary Committee during his January 10th confirmation hearing.

And so Trump's attack, it's accurate that Schumer and Pelosi met with the Russian ambassador, but it really doesn't get at the heart of this entire problem which is that Jeff Sessions should have been more clear when he responded to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

So it's a good step for him to amend his testimony after the fact to that congressional committee so that the inaccurate answer isn't standing in the record.

SAVIDGE: So in other words, that it wasn't wrong to have the meeting, but it was wrong not to tell everybody that you had that meeting when you were testifying. Is that right?

WESTWOOD: Exactly. It's come out that a lot of the senators who were piling on Jeff Sessions in the immediate aftermath of the revelation such as Claire McCaskill, who categorically denied that they ever had contact with the Russian ambassador, it later emerged they did have phone calls and meetings with him.

It became clear that this is a normal thing that happens in Washington. It just became clear that Jeff Sessions wasn't entirely forthcoming during his Judiciary Committee answer.

SAVIDGE: Right. That is a problem. What is also a problem is kind of the declarative statement that President Trump said two weeks ago, quote, "I have nothing to do with Russia," and to the best of his knowledge no person he deals with.

But we are, of course, finding out that more and more Trump advisers disclosed that they have had meetings with the Russian ambassador and the list grows and grows. So I guess the question now becomes is he caught in this kind of bind of almost creating his own fake news?

LOUIS: Well, fake news is an interesting way to put it. I don't know if I'd put it that way, Martin. I would say there's a lot of inconsistencies here. To say that nobody he knows has any meetings with the Russians, and then it turns out not only has his son-in-law met with him, but met with him at Trump Tower, which was not only the headquarters for the transition, but actually the personal residence of what was then the president-elect. So he's got to get his facts straight. He's got to get his story straight. I agree completely with Sarah, it really only calls more attention to the confusion and the inconsistencies coming out of the administration when they put these tweets out and show pictures of Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer at the opening of what was a gas station not far from where I'm sitting right now, that's now closed by the way.

It's really like apples and cumquats. We've got investigations going on. We've got intelligence agencies saying that there was Russian interference on one side of the election. That is fundamentally different from whether or not Chuck Schumer had doughnuts with Vladimir Putin at a purely ceremonial event that took place over ten years ago.

SAVIDGE: Sarah, that really is the point, isn't it? Given the background we know of what is said to be Russia's interference with our election, it makes all of these meetings with members of Trump's administration look bad?

WESTWOOD: Right, it can kind of explain the reason why they may not have been entirely forthcoming, because they knew the political landscape was so charged, that they were less likely to fess up about these routine meetings with Kislyak, in Sessions' case, and it seemed like Kislyak was not brought in through the front door at Trump Tower which has in and of raised questions.

It could explain why they were attempting to hide what were not nefarious meetings, what were to be completely expected of people coming into the administration and who were going to take a role dealing with foreign policy and dealing with these ambassadors.

So a courtesy meeting, as they've described it, would have been totally expected. So their decision to hide it can be explained by this political landscape, but also it makes it look that much worse given the context of these investigations, like you mentioned.

[08:20:04]SAVIDGE: And all of it becomes a huge distraction for a new administration that is trying to get started. Sarah Westwood and Errol Louis, thank you.

PAUL: As accusations swirl around meetings with Russian officials, we're talking to Retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. He said he met with the Russians and did it often.

SAVIDGE: Plus an arrest is made as part of the FBI's ongoing investigation into the bomb threats against Jewish community centers across the country. We'll have more on that just ahead.


PAUL: It's 24 minutes past the hour. Good to see you. I'm Christi Paul.

SAVIDGE: I'm Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell. New accusations from President Trump this morning. In a series of tweets he's alleging that former President Obama tapped his phones during the election.

[08:25:05]CNN correspondent, Ryan Nobles, is live in Washington with more on this. Good morning, Ryan.

NOBLES: Good morning to you, Martin. It's been a busy morning for the president on Twitter. He's defended his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, weighed in on Arnold Schwarzenegger leaving "The Apprentice." But it is a series of tweets where he accuses President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower that is getting all the attention.

Let's show them to you. First, "Terrible, just found out that Obama had my wires tapped in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism."

He followed up with, "It is illegal for a sitting president to be wiretapping a race for president prior to the election, turned down by court earlier, a new low."

Then tweeting, "I bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October just prior to the election."

He wasn't done. Finally tweeting, "How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process? This is Nixon/Watergate, bad or sick guy."

At this point the White House has not provided any context or proof to back up the very serious claims from the president this morning. We've reached out to both the Trump and Obama administrations for their responses to those tweets. We haven't gotten those responses back. Once we do, Martin, we'll be sure to update you.

SAVIDGE: All right, Ryan, we'll wait for that. Thank you very much. President Donald Trump is ramping up military spending here in the U.S. by 10 percent.

PAUL: China also announcing a rise in spending by 7 percent there.

SAVIDGE: It is an increase, but that would also be the smallest increase China has seen in about seven years.

PAUL: Until last year, China's military spending had gone up at a double digit pace ever since 2010. For more on how U.S. military spending stacks up against China, we're joined by CNN military analyst, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. So good to see you.

We want to start with the military spending story, as we see the headline that China is increasing their spending 7 percent, U.S. bumping up theirs by 10 percent.

I want to show worldwide military spending, U.S. spending dwarves the rest of the world's as we take a look at how it all plays out there. What do you make of the numbers?

LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: A couple of things, Christi. If I can go to China first. I was in China in 1998 as part of a military delegation from the National War College. It was fascinating for me back in that year they were showing what they were attempting to do over the next three decades.

They have gone according to plan all three of those decades. I've been back several times to Beijing since then. They've always had 1.3 percent of their GDP allocated towards defense spending. That's not changed. That's significantly less than what the U.S. has in terms of spending.

The 7 percent increase this year is about what they've had over the last couple of years up and down, but it's lower than what they've had recently. They're on a path to become a regional power, not a global power.

When you compare the charts that show the United States against the next seven countries, there's often people that will say, hey, we spend more than the next seven, and five of those are our allies. That's true, but it's also because we're the only global power and we have operations being conducted around the world with a professional military force.

And when I mean professional -- when I say professional, I mean a group of individuals who joined the service out of their own free will and are not drafted. All of those things play a part in the amount of spending we have, having to do with pay for personnel, global operations and an unbelievable amount of acquisition of various advanced level platforms.

PAUL: All right. Let's talk about Russia and David Petraeus, what he had to say about the motives of Russian President Vladimir Putin, let's listen here together.


DAVID PETRAEUS, FORMER CIA DIRECTRO: It's very clear what Vladimir Putin's objectives are. In many cases they are unacceptable to us and NATO and our allies and partners around the world. Having said that, there could be some convergence of interests when it comes to the defeat of the Islamic State and al Qaeda and perhaps to stopping the bloodshed in Syria as an overall objective as well.


PAUL: Do you agree with that, and do you see any point, General Hertling, where the U.S. and Russia could work together?

HERTLING: There's certainly always engagement possibilities with other countries, Christi. I think General Petraeus had it just right. We have to be very skeptical of Russia in every regard because of their strategic goals.

They have stated outright that they are willing to try and disrupt the west, disrupt NATO and disrupt the powers within the E.U. They're doing that in a variety of ways.

They have also become engaged in the Middle East in some ways and in fact have committed war crimes in Syria. So whereas it would be very good to continue dialogue with the Russians, we've got to be very skeptical and very careful about how we do that dialogue.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Being on guard. On that point, I want to show something that you posted on Facebook, this picture. Underneath it you quoted, "For the record, I've met with Russians in my house for dinner, multiple times, multiple places. Don't know how many were spies, but always suspected all of them were reporting on me just as I was reporting on them." Help us understand that dynamic and atmosphere. Are you constantly on guard? Are there moments of authenticity between you?

HERTLING: There is. There's always moments where you can connect with your counterpart, which I did, but you also have to be very careful. When I was commanding forces in Europe and even before then, I spent the last ten years of my career either in Europe, Iraq or Afghanistan and dealt with the leaders, not only in the military, but some of the government leaders of 49 different countries in those two areas.

What I found was, first of all, you always have a note taker in the room who can jot down what's going on because you don't want to engage in what's called engagement fratricide. Where you say one thing and maybe one of your co-workers or colleagues says something else in the next meeting.

You always want to have your story straight and have a record of what's going on. You do have to engage with these people, but when you do that, you should always be telling your boss that you are engaging. I engaged with Russians not only in my home and training centers, but I went to Moscow to several of their training sites on several locations.

Russian delegations often came as part of our Council of European Armies, where we had all of the commanders of Europe together and we would always make note of what was said, who engaged with who, and part of it is keeping record and making sure you knew what had to be done.

PAUL: So the meeting itself isn't the problem. It's the reporting that it happened is what's important?

HERTLING: Yes, it's the recordkeeping and the reporting and informing your boss, whoever your boss might happen to be.

PAUL: All right, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, we always appreciate having you on. It's so good to see you again. Thank you.

HERTLING: Always a pleasure, Christi. Thank you.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: Still to come, arrested and charged, the FBI tracks down a St. Louis man for making bomb threats against a Jewish center. Where does that lead the investigation into a series of anti-Semitic threats targeting Jewish Community Centers across the country?



PAUL: It's 36 minutes past the hour. Police have arrested at least one man in connection with the anti-Semitic bomb threats sparking fear and really panic in some Jewish communities across the country.

SAVIDGE: The 31-year-old Juan Thompson is a former reporter from St. Louis. He was charged with cyber stalking after making at least eight threats to a Jewish center in an apparent plot to get revenge on an ex-girlfriend. It's an odd case to say the least. Jewish Community Centers and schools in 33 states have been the targets of a series of bomb threats. That since the beginning of the year.

So joining me now to discuss all this, Harvard law professor and author of "The Vanishing American Jew," Alan Dershowitz. Thank you very much, sir. Alan, good to see you this morning.

President Trump has denounced the spate of anti-Semitism, but he hasn't really unveiled any plan to do anything about it. So how does the president put his words into action in your mind?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, AUTHOR, "VANISHING AMERICAN JEW": Well, first of all, anti-Semitism thrives at both extremes, the hard right and the hard left. We're living in a period of extremism, living in a period where the right is moving further to the right, the left is moving further to the left, and we will have more anti-Semitism.

What the president has to do is set up a task force in the Justice Department specifically devoted to fighting anti-Semitism. This most recent manifestation, this Juan Thompson guy, he's just a copycat. He wanted to get even with his girlfriend, saw there was a lot of threats at Jewish Community Centers.

So it's natural that he would also phone in threats to get his girlfriend in trouble. But the problem is much, much deeper than that and I think as we move more and more toward the extreme, both in the United States and throughout Europe, we'll see more and more anti- Semitism, more and more anti-Islamic manifestations, more bigotry in general. You know, equality thrives at the center and bigotry thrives at both extremes.

SAVIDGE: The FBI and DOJ are investigating civil rights violations, and the FBI Director James Comey met with Jewish leaders yesterday. So let's listen to what the director of the Anti-Defamation League had to say.


EVAN BURNSTEIN, NEW YORK REGIONAL DIRECTOR AT THE ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: We need action to stop these threats. What will the federal government and the president do to address these anti-Semitic attacks? The EDL has proposed an action plan for anti-Semitism with basic steps that the president can take right now to fight anti-Semitism.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SAVIDGE: Of course, Alan, I think many people see this as an administration, a campaign that seemed to play into these kind of sympathies. But now that he is president, there really needs to be some concrete and serious action taken.

DERSHOWITZ: Yes, look, I don't think that Donald Trump is an anti- Semite. I don't think he himself played into anti-Semitism. I think he tolerated it at the extremes of the alt right, the way many on the left tolerate anti-Semitism, often disguised as anti-Zionism on the hard left. The FBI has ways of stopping this. They can and have infiltrated organizations that have expressed anti-Semitic tropes, engaged in anti-Semitic activities.

[08:40:04]They have techniques for overhearing and getting information, some of them obviously have to strike a balance between protecting civil liberties and protecting against anti-Semitism. We've been very fortunate. So far the anti-Semitism has manifested itself largely in threats.

Those are very dangerous and have closed down institutions. So far we haven't seen actual physical violence against individuals. We've seen it against cemeteries, but usually this kind of manifestation is the beginning of something more serious.

So the FBI has to become proactive. They can't wait for the first murder or the first bombing of a synagogue that kills people. They have to get in there and do it now. Americans have to become concerned about the extremism that we're moving toward on both the right and the left, and we have to bring ourselves back to the vibrant center where America has always been and where America often thrives.

So I think we're seeing a deeper problem that is manifested by these anti-Semitic actions, but that poses dangers to our society that goes beyond just anti-Semitism. So whether you're Jewish or Christian or Muslim, you should be concerned with this growing problem.

SAVIDGE: Yes, there is no question that I think as a nation we do have to face this and face it straight on. Alan Dershowitz, thank you very much for joining us this morning.

DERSHOWITZ: Thank you.

PAUL: When we come back, CNN is embarking on a journey around the world in search of faith and facts.


PAUL: Make sure you check out our "Impact Your World" website. You'll find ways to help causes both here and around the world. Everything from the Flint water crisis and fighting homelessness to migrants and refugees at Thank you for checking it out.


[08:46:16] PAUL: Have you ever wondered if faith and religion were one in the same or ever been curious about different religion traditions?

SAVIDGE: On an all new CNN original series "Believer," Reza Aslan sets out on a spiritual adventure to explore religions around the world. On one of his visits, he met with this peculiar religious sect in India.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Singh is a second generation aghori and a doctor at this clinic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) patients were kind of untouchables, they were condemned a lot. People thought it was incurable and they would ultimately die. By treating those patients and giving them the same respect that they are human beings, they say that leprosy is not untouchable, by touching a leprosy patient, can't contaminate. He gave consent and started treating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not just the fear of infection, but the fear of pollution as well. They were seen as unclean, impure. But, of course, the foundation of aghor philosophy is no such thing as unclean or unclear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Aghor system, there's nothing called untouchable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You feel like Aghor philosophy can actually change Indian society?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, because here everybody is equal. We are trying to convert this society into a class-free society.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's funny, everybody talks about putting their faith into practice, religion is not supposed to be just the things you believe, but the things that you do. You want to know what putting your faith into practice looks like? This is what it looks like.


PAUL: What a great place to stop. We have to turn it on and see what you're talking about. Reza Aslan, writer, scholar of religion and host of CNN's new original series "Believer," cannot wait to watch it. Thank you for being with us.

I want to ask you, because even before this in the last break we showed a clip where you were sitting around a fire with some people and you kind of got yelled at. Was there ever a moment in any of these -- here it is -- in any of these segments where you were a little fearful?

REZA ASLAN, CNN HOST, "BELIEVER": Yes. This first episode is about a little known sect in India called the Aghor. What sets them apart from mainstream Hindus is that they reject the concept of the cast system, the idea that there are things that you can do or touch or eat that would lower your karma and put you in a lower sort of cast.

And so they do various things to prove it. There are guys like this guy on the beach who tries to prove it by essentially defiling himself. That includes eating the flesh of corpses, things like that.

And then there are those who try to prove it by actually doing good in the world, by opening leprosy clinics, by taking care of untouchable children. I think in that really you get a sense of what faith is all about, the way it's expressed in the world. That's really what the show is focusing on.

PAUL: You have gotten such an incredible view and experience to be there in the middle of it and talk to these people yourself. Have you found that your faith has expanded or changed in some way?

ASLAN: Yes. When you study the religions of the world, you really realize very quickly how much these religions have in common with each other. Yes, the myths are different, the metaphors are different. We have different names for God. We read our scriptures in different languages.

[08:50:08]But underneath it all is a sense of identity and values, a faith that is very similar, very much alike. I've always known this intellectually, but going around the world, immersing myself in these different religious traditions, it really brought that truth home to me in a very real and immediate way.

PAUL: Did anybody ever have their guard up, or were they very authentic in opening to you to their rituals and they're edicts?

ASLAN: Well, look, I mean, a lot of these religious communities that I immersed myself in are secretive. They are insulated. They don't really trust outsiders. It was not easy for me to get them to trust me. The thing about "Believers," they want people to know their beliefs, not embarrassed or shy about their beliefs.

They want to make sure you're not there to judge them, you're not there to mock them. I think once I made it clear that that's not who I was, that's not what I was about, they completely opened themselves up to me. It was a really remarkable emotional experience I had in almost every one of these episodes.

PAUL: I can't wait to see. Listen, before I let you go, I have to ask you, we understand that you have a connection in a sense to what's happening with this travel ban that the president has imposed. What happened with one of your family members?

ASLAN: Well, I have an uncle who before the first executive order had spent his entire life savings to come to the United States to see my mother one last time. They haven't seen each other in three decades, before he passes away.

He was stopped at the embassy in Armenia and forced to turn back. We actually went through all the work to contact the State Department and get him another appointment to go back to the embassy and try one more time next week. But now we don't know what's going to happen because the administration refuses to release this travel ban that they say is so urgent to American security, but which for some reason keeps getting delayed for various political reasons.

PAUL: So until a new one comes out, you're on hold, is that it?

ASLAN: Yes. He's in limbo. He's not a very wealthy man. He basically spent all his money on this and we don't know what's going to happen. There's a human tragedy involved in the decisions being made in this administration.

PAUL: We'll continue to obviously find out what's happening with that. Reza Aslan, cannot wait to see all of your experiences. It is going to be fascinating. Thank you so much.

ASLAN: Thank you.

PAUL: Sure. Be sure to tune in to "BELIEVERS," this Sunday night, tomorrow night, 10:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. We'll be right back.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you're spending money on travel, you want to make the most out of your trip so we found some apps that will help you with your next vacation like Whym. The app gives you last minute deal in major cities of things you want to do on a Whym. You get discounted tickets to shows, hot air ballooning, and my personal favorite, horseback riding in Central Park in New York City.

If you like audio books, you'll probably like Detour, the app gives you guided tours from locals who know the city best. It will tell you how long the tour is, the best time for the tour, and it will tell you where to stop for dinner after walking the city all day.

And then there's Parkwood, it's like the wizard of parking, the app finds parking spots for you in your area, you can price compare to find the most affordable option and then you can reserve and pay for the spot before you even get there. It guarantees that spot will be there waiting for you.


PAUL: This is definitely a different take on the tourist attraction.

SAVIDGE: CNN's Richard Ross visited a ranch in Texas where the star attractions are vintage tanks that really work. Here is his test drive.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RICHARD ROSS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Who are you expecting, General Patten? I'm from Manhattan. I don't have a driver's license and I'm a bleeder. Can I drive this tank?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes and yes.

ROSS: All right. Let's do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's do it. You'll go up first.

ROSS: I'm so glad I wore a business suit. Did I tell you I have flat feet that should disqualify me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready for service. All right, Richard. It's go time. Let it roll. Give it a little gas.

ROSS: I feel like we're going to fall straight down --


ROSS: Sometimes I think diplomacy is best backed by military force. So here we go, up the middle. Those sound like gunshots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. They're shooting at you. You're pretty much going to have to gas all the way back and all the way forward.

ROSS: My God, I blew it. How did I do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was a lot worried at the beginning.

ROSS: Now you tell me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's over now.

ROSS: We're done, right, Tom?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no. Range is hot. I think you killed the mountain.

ROSS: Oh my God, it's so hot.