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A Gruesome Murder Live Streamed on Facebook; Tax Returns Brought up Again. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired April 17, 2017 - 22:00   ET



[22:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: A nationwide manhunt underway for a cold-blooded killer.

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

Police nationwide and the FBI looking for this man. Take a good look. Thirty-seven-year-old Steve Stephens. They say he shot to death Robert Godwin, a father, a grandfather, and then posted video of the killing on Facebook. Godwin's family distraught.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The man who videotaped my father getting shot stripped him of his dignity. Stripped him of -- stripped him of his dignity and to post it online for the whole world to see. I'm just angry. No, I don't want that man to die, I want him to be brought to justice.


LEMON: A very lengthy and emotional interview from that family coming up a little but later on in this program. Stay tuned for that. But I want to turn right away to CNN's correspondent Brynn Gingras. She's live in Cleveland.

Brynn, good evening to you. This is a horrific story. Police have been hunting nationwide for Steve Stephens since the murder. What happened, what did he originally do?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he, Don, you know, he said he was going to kill someone, he posted this video on Facebook, and then in that horrific video that was taken down from Facebook, but people saw it because of the posting, he said that he wanted to kill someone.

He stepped out of the car and he pointed a gun at the victim, 74-year- old Robert Godwin. And now he said, according to his mother who talked to CNN earlier today, he told her that it was because he was angry with his girlfriend.

Also in that video that he posted online, he told the victim to say that woman's name before he shot him. Now, authorities, we know, have talked to that woman. She is in some sort of protective custody at this point in the investigation, but no communication has been made with him at this point.

As to why this happened, this is a huge question that everybody is asking. We're talking about a man who actually works with children, mentors them, with a company that he has been with since 2008, actually helps young adults from the foster care system transition into the work force then doesn't even have a criminal record.

So, the why is the big one here that authorities want to talk to him. Hopefully, they're hoping, rather, that he will turn himself in, Don.

LEMON: He actually says why in the video that, you know, a lot of people are not playing it, but he says why. He says he had issues. He said nobody took him seriously. I think it's a perfect example of his mental state, again, but you know, we're not playing that.

Police say that they have no evidence now as to, again, why he did it and he is now FBI's most -- on the FBI most wanted list. What are they saying about that?

GINGRAS: I mean, at this point the entire nation is involved in this manhunt. You have U.S. marshals, you have the FBI, you have local authorities of course here in Cleveland. We've been driving around this city, and you can't go anywhere without seeing his face and description of the car that he's likely still in posted on billboards around here.

A $55,000 reward is also on the table at this point. Authorities are just hoping that's going to lead to some sort of information that will lead to his arrest. But at this point, Don, investigators are actually making pleas to Stephens himself, saying call your relatives, call your family members, make some sort of communication, and please, turn yourself in before anyone else gets hurt on this.


LEMON: Hey, Brynn, you know, I misstated when I said they have no evidence. I mean, they have no evidence that he killed, he says he killed a number of people in that video that we're not seeing.


LEMON: But do we -- police say they don't have any evidence of that. Have they found any evidence that he killed more than this one person?

GINGRAS: No, they have not. He said in that video that he was going to kill -- or he had, rather, killed 13 people. No evidence that he did. We do know that they have recovered some evidence, Don.

We know that authorities within the last 24 hours or so have done several searches on properties that were associated to Stephens. We know that at one or some of those properties guns were recovered. However, we also know that Stephens did have a conceal carry permit, Don.

LEMON: OK. And no idea where he is, correct? Still no idea. He could be anywhere. GINGRAS: Yes, he really could. I mean, authorities were sort of

casting their net within the five states surrounding this area within states where he had family or ties, maybe reached out to people. Because he was communicating at first with authorities, and then he cut that communication off.

So that was the original sort of net, rather, from authorities, but now they're saying this is a nationwide manhunt, and they said, though, don't be, you know, don't doubt this. He is armed and he is dangerous and they're just hoping and praying that he turns himself in.

LEMON: All right. Thank you, Brynn. Again, Steve Stephens, a nationwide manhunt out for the killing of the 74-year-old gentleman. Just unbelievable. There's his picture up on the screen right there.

[22:05:01] If you have any information, I want to you call, reach out to authorities. They believe he is armed and dangerous.

And I want to bring in now Chris Swecker, he's a former assistant director of the FBI, CNN legal analyst Areva Martin is here, and Stuart Kaplan, a former FBI special agent.

This is sick and monstrous, Chris. It looks like a random murder that may, you know, may have to do with his ex-girlfriend. How are police hunting him down right now? What are they doing?

CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I think first and foremost they're enlisting the media to get his photo out there and get these particulars out there. He's probably the most recognizable person in America aside from people celebrities and people like the president. So he's going to get spotted. It's a matter of time. And he, I think that will make him increasingly more desperate as time goes on, as the pressure mounts.

LEMON: So, is it likely that he's still in the state, across state lines? I mean, would you have any idea right now. Do authorities have any idea?

SWECKER: Well, I think that, you know, given the history of...



SWECKER: I'm sorry, go ahead.

LEMON: This is for Steve. Stuart, excuse me. Go ahead, Stuart.

KAPLAN: Well, I can tell you the United States Marshal Fugitive Apprehension Unit is spearheading this investigation with state and local law enforcement. And keep in mind, Don, the Fugitive Apprehension Unit is the most elite Fugitive Apprehension Unit throughout the United States. This is what they do for a living every day of the week. They track down the most dangerous of dangerous individuals. They are pulling every stop out possible. They don't know where he is

right now, but they have the technology and the ability and the infrastructure to utilize those tools to try to either snuff him out or hopefully use the public to get a sound lead so that they can apprehend him as quickly as possible, because they realize this gentleman obviously is showing the willingness to kill another human being.

LEMON: Areva, there is so much evidence in there and I'm sure you can start to figure out his state of mind. OK? So he invoked the name of his ex-girlfriend before shooting Godman, and then later posted the video on Facebook saying I'm at the point where I snapped. So what does this tell you? And I don't know if you had the chance to look at it, but what does this tell you about his state of mind?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it tells me we're dealing with a very dangerous individual and also one who probably has some of mental challenges. And often in these cases there is not going to be a long history of mental health treatment or anything that suggest that there was, you know, this was evident to the people around him or that something could have happened where there could have been an intervention.

And that's what's so sad about this story, Don. He's saying that no one, you know, took him seriously, people ignored him. And oftentimes we do have people particularly in the African-American community that have mental health challenges and they don't come forward, they don't get the help that they need because there is a stigma attached to mental health issues, particularly in minority communities.

So this is a horrible story, but hopefully a learning opportunity for individuals that may be suffering from some kind of mental health challenge to seek out help, and people around people like Stephens, if you see people in need, you know, take them very seriously and get them the help that they need. Because he's terrorized an entire community.

LEMON: Areva, well, that struck me as well as I was looking at this video. He said, you know, I always tell people I have problems. I have lots of anger inside of me. You guys never took me seriously. You're always blowing me off.

And as I said, I kept, I just kept watching and saying he appeared to be so normal. Later we're going to speak to his fraternity brothers, and I think they say as well they would have trusted him, you know, the last time they saw him around their kids.

When you look at that does anything stand out to you that maybe there was some sort of warning signs?

MARTIN: Well, he's crying out for help in that video. Now, obviously not knowing his history, not being around him before he had this breakdown or before he committed this horrible crime, it's hard to know, Don.

But when I looked at the video, I saw a man in crisis. I saw a man, you know, searching for help, looking for help and unfortunately not getting that help, resorting to this horrific crime.

So again, I just want people to know that when people want help, help them because you can hopefully avert this kind of criminal activity that we saw in this video.

LEMON: Yes. Yes, and we don't know about his mental status, but any time, someone, again, if someone tells you they need help, believe them even if they sound normal to you, right?

So, Chris, I want to show you something, because police pleaded with Stephens to turn himself in. This is Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams.


CALVIN WILLIAMS, CLEVELAND POLICE CHIEF: Steve, if you're out there listening, call someone, whether it's a friend or family member or pastor. Give them a call because they're waiting on you to call them.


LEMON: Think he'll turn himself in?

SWECKER: I don't think so, but I know what the chief was trying to do. He was trying to throw that lifeline out there so that this doesn't end badly. You know, he was obviously rambling in the videos, he was irrational.

[22:10:00] By definition it's an irrational act. But he also was in contact with the detective and there appeared to be a little bit of negotiating going on, and they were trying to restore that. And they're very good negotiators, the FBI, the marshal service, the detectives. They would -- they have a pretty good profile on him, and if they could get him back on the line, they might have a chance of getting him in without further violence.

LEMON: Stuart, did you want to add to do that?

KAPLAN: Yes. I mean, Don, look, you know, I think anybody who shows the propensity to kill another human being obviously has some mental health issues. But I'm not so quick to go as far as saying -- my feeling, and I think a law enforcement finds this individual maybe just to be someone who is very callous and may just a ruthless killer. Because I think that when you see just the way he went about it, yes, there are some emotional issues. Obviously he's in a state of crisis.


LEMON: He's matter of fact.

KAPLAN: But I'm not so sure. Yes, very matter of fact, and I just think it was more calculated and cold-blooded, and there are people out there that need help. I think this type of individual needs to be put away in prison for the rest of his life.

LEMON: All right. Thank you, every... (CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Don, can I just say something really quick about these on lines?

LEMON: Yes. Go ahead. Go ahead, Areva.

MARTIN: You know, we're seeing so many of these horrific crimes being committed online, being posted online.

LEMON: Areva -- Areva, let me read this from Facebook and then you can say what you have to say, OK? I want to get this in. Because Facebook released a statement. They said, "This is a horrific crime and we do not allow this kind of content on Facebook. We work hard to keep a safe environment on Facebook and are in touch with law enforcement in emergencies when there are direct threats to physical safety."

Go ahead, Areva.

MARTIN: I hope that Facebook takes advantage of this opportunity to improve its systems. Sometimes when you just try to post a video that has copy written music, Facebook won't allow you to do that, but yet we keep seeing these videos of crimes pop up on Facebook.

And we were told in the public that this stayed online for three hours. That's way too long for this type of video, this type of content to be on Facebook. So whatever their system is, improve it, because we should not be watching murders on Facebook.

LEMON: Thank you, all. When we come back, we're going to speak to fraternity brothers of Steve Stephens, how they knew him and their reaction to his violent killing.


LEMON: OK, a nationwide manhunt tonight for Steve Stephens. He's accused of shooting to death of 74-year-old father and grandfather and posting the video of the killing on Facebook.

I want to bring in Jason Clopman, Walter Madison and Ben Holbert, all fraternity brothers of Steve Stephens. Gentlemen, thank you. I wish we could have met under better circumstances.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks for having us on.

LEMON: So Walter, let me begin with you. When you saw the reaction of this terrible crime, what did you think, what went through your head?

WALTER MADISON, ATTORNEY: Well, I really struggled for a number of hours reconciling in my mind the guy that I know with the guy that I see here on Facebook, and I still can't really do it. It's just -- it's so surreal that, you know, it's just mind-blowing.

So I just realize, and I've come to the rational conclusion, that he's obviously in some sort of mental crisis and this mental health issue is now, you know, in my life real personal.


MADISON: You can't help but have sympathy for the family, of course, but at the same time, compassion for those who suffer from chemical imbalances and what have you not character issues.

LEMON: So we don't know about his mental state. I mean, do you know if he was suffering from anything or if he had any issues in the past? Do any of you know anything about that?



HOLBERT: Not at all. We, but we definitely want to make sure that the family of Mr. Godwin knows that the members of Omega Si Phi fraternity have cooperate, we send out our deepest condolences to the family.

LEMON: Absolutely.

HOLBERT: What happened here was not representative of our 753 chapters and brothers worldwide, so again, we want to make sure that they know our condolences are with them.

LEMON: So, Jason, when was the last time you saw him, and had he ever talked about violence or acted violently in front of you?

JASON CLOTMAN, FRATERNITY BROTHER OF STEVE STEPHENS: Last time I spoke to him he was at my house in October. I did speak to him on Sunday prior to a couple minutes, maybe, before the shooting.

LEMON: You did. Were you one of the people he was on the phone with?


LEMON: In the video.


LEMON: OK. So what was he saying to you? What time did he call? What was he saying to you? What was going on?

CLOTMAN: Well, he was very apologetic. He said, you know, Jason, I let the line down, I let my fraternity down, I let the Si Omega chapter down, I let the fourth district down, and he just apologized for what he was -- for what he was doing.

I, you know, tried to console him. I didn't really know what he was talking about and until he said, I'll call you right back, or call me right back, but I'm about to post something on Facebook. So once I read the post, I saw it maybe two times and I tried to call him back and he did not pick up.

LEMON: So you never got -- you never got a chance to speak to him again?

CLOTMAN: No, I haven't spoken to him since the initial conversation.

LEMON: Because in the video I heard you, I heard him say that to you, I let all of these people down. So he was talking to you, Jason.

CLOTMAN: I can't confirm that he spoke to all of us that's on our line, two other people within about a five-minute period. So I think he may have said the same message to all of us.

LEMON: And what did you say back to him?

CLOTMAN: I wasn't -- I told him, you know, everything is going to be OK. You know, whatever you're about to do, whatever you plan to do, you don't need to do it. My other line brother said, you know, we can meet over at my house and let's just talk through it, talk about it to see what's on your mind, but we never got ahold of him again.

LEMON: Did he ever say -- because in the video where he says, you know, I have issues and I'm always bringing my problems to you and people didn't take me seriously, and I bear a lot of anger. Did he say that to you?

[22:20:05] CLOTMAN: No.

LEMON: He wasn't -- OK.

CLOTMAN: We were close. We're like brothers. We bring our problems to each other all the time. You know, some we take seriously, some we don't take seriously, but he's never had any deep -- I guess deep thought issues that I could, that we could remember. It could be more or less, you know, my boss, I'm not getting along with this boss or you know, co-worker. But besides that, no.


CLOTMAN: Nothing that any normal person would have.

LEMON: Because he also mentioned his mother. He said his mother didn't really pay attention to his problems, and again, we don't know his mental state or how much credence we should put in it because maybe he was some sort of manic, some manic state, or obviously he was in crisis, but who would do that in the right mind.

But Walter, I have to ask you, did he ever, and we're not saying her name. He said he did it over part of the reason he did it was because of his ex-girlfriend, the love of his life. Did he ever mention her, or any trouble he might have had with her?

MADISON: You know, Don, no, he didn't. But I think the thing that we as an organization and friends and leaders of the community really would like to have America consider, it's not so much what he said and certainly it's not indicative of us as an organization.

LEMON: Right. MADISON: But people, you know, people are struggling, and we are now aware that this is a very real issue, this mental health issue, and as leaders in the community, we want -- if you don't -- if you care about Steve, that's fine, but some of the comments may incite a person, and there are other innocent people who may come in his path. We don't want any more bloodshed, we don't want any more harm.

We're simply here as members of the community to suggest to Steve, if he can hear us, let's transition peacefully and surrender so that this ends better than worse for him, and this is our concern for America, this is our concern for Steve, this is our sympathy for the Godwin family.

We are just simply trying to be the leaders that our organization, our illustrious organization, has been for 106 years.

LEMON: Right.

MADISON: So, if you know -- Steve, if you can hear this, please understand, there are people that care and we really want to make sure that you are safe, that you get the help that you need. And if you are anywhere in America, any brother in this country, in this world, please reach out to them and we will help you.

LEMON: I think it's amazing that you're saying that, but also what is extraordinary to me -- maybe it's not so extraordinary, especially when it's God-fearing people. You know, I heard the family members. Anderson, my colleague Anderson Cooper interviewed some of them, I interviewed some later. I interviewed them earlier and it's going to run later.

And they said that they forgive him, they're not mad at him, they want him to turn himself in, they don't want to see him die. I mean, it's just interesting to me, Ben, that the family can have that much dignity and that much grace.

And just before I go to you, Ben, I'm going to give you the last word. Walter, you're saying you don't want any copycats. That's basically what you're saying in that last sentiment, right? You don't want anybody to try to do the same thing.


MADISON: Yes, we don't want any more violence.

LEMON: I got you.

MADISON: And we thank the family for their compassion as we certainly have sympathy and compassion for them.

LEMON: OK. So Ben, what do you say to him and what do you say to the family and to America who is watching?

HOLBERT: Well, again, Omega Si Phi, our local chapter, we work very closely with the police department and we're doing so at this point. And as Walter just mentioned a few moments ago it is so vitally important for Steve to please turn himself in.

You know, he has talked about some of the challenges he has, so if he comes in peacefully, there can be somebody that can talk to him and we can glean information from why he participated in such a heinous act.

But, you know, we really want this to end peacefully, and we think it can happen. And again, as Walter said a few moments ago, we have brothers across the country who would receive him if he calls, but he's got to take the initiative so we can end this peacefully.

LEMON: Ben Holbert, Jason Clopman, Walter Madison. Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it.

HOLBERT: Thanks.

CLOPMAN: Thank you. God bless.

LEMON: When we come back, the White House saying President Trump won't release his 2016 tax returns, claiming he can't because he's under audit. But experts agree, even if he's under audit, he can release them. So will he ever do it?


LEMON: Tax filing is here. Tomorrow is a tax filing deadline for everybody. President Trump won't be releasing his tax returns for 2016 or any other year despite many promises to do so. The Press Secretary Sean Spicer saying this today.


SEAN SPICER, UNITED STATES WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're under the same audit that existed so nothing has changed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it time to say once and for all the president is never going to release his tax returns?

SPICER: We'll have to get back to you on that.


SPICER: No, I said I'll have to get back to you on that. I think that he's still under audit, the statement still stands.


LEMON: That means he probably won't, ever. I want to bring in now Shelby Holliday, the Wall Street Journal politics and business reporter, and Richard Painter, a former White House ethics lawyer. I think you might agree with me, right? Not ever.

SHELBY HOLLIDAY, REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: It felt like we are watching an SNL skit, maybe, yes.

(CROSSTALK) LEMON: I felt like, yes, we are. Trust me, we're in the middle of an SNL skit. All of us. Everybody. Richard, every president since Gerald Ford has released his tax returns while in office despite being under audit. How is that, how is that President Trump is able to break this 40-year so tradition despite promising otherwise without really any consequences?

RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER CHIEF WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: He does it because he feels like it, and that's been his attitude all along here, but he is not going to be very successful with proposing changes to the tax code if he's not going to release his tax returns so we can find out what loopholes and other provisions he's taken advantage of.

So I would think that so-called tax reform is a non-starter until the president is willing to be transparent about his own taxes because the American people are not going to support so-called tax reform that's nothing but more loopholes for billionaires and real estate magnates.

And we need to find out what particular information of the tax code are allowing him to pay lower taxes than a lot of people, because we've seen some evidence that he may not be paying much way of taxes at all.

LEMON: That is a very interesting point if he's going to, you know, if he says he's going to take on tax reform next and then he is not transparent about his own taxes. It's like, with kids, how do you do that.

I mean, Shelby, the audit excuse President Trump has given over and over again. But here's what Anna Massoglia, I think points out on Twitter. She says, "Tax code has required annual IRS audits to presidents' taxes for 40-plus years. It never stopped release until Trump." So nothing legally stops him from releasing returns under an audit.

HOLLIDAY: No, and we heard that time and time again on the campaign trail, too.

LEMON: Yes, we do.

HOLLIDAY: Even now, even when he was a candidate and not president, nothing really prevented him from doing this. It's up to him, fine, that's fair, but I think at this point the president should do what's in the best interest of the American people.

[22:30:04] There's a security concern, you know, people want to know who he owes money to, if he owes any money, who might be influencing him.


LEMON: Conflicts of interest.

HOLLIDAY: What conflicts of interest he has if any.

LEMON: Right. HOLLIDAY: There's also political problem for him now. As Richard mentioned, democrats are saying, we're not budging on tax reform until you release your taxes. Because we want to know, if you want to change the tax code, what are you being influenced by or what are you being motivated by?

And republicans this is a top priority for republicans so that could pose a problem.

LEMON: But there are even republicans saying he should release his taxes as well.

HOLLIDAY: Right. And now it's becoming even more of a political problem because republicans are being pressured to pick a side. Should he release them, should he not?


HOLLIDAY: Tom Cotton got in some hot water at a town hall because he defended President Trump and that was not a popular response. So there could be some political backlash as well, and that's down the ticket not even at President Trump's level.

LEMON: Well, I think people see that there is -- that's definitely that there's no there, there. There's no excuse there as well.

HOLLIDAY: And a majority of Americans say that he should release his taxes.


LEMON: They want to see his -- yes. This weekend we saw thousands of people, Richard, marching across some 150 cities, renewing their call for the president to release his tax returns. Can the Trump administration sustain this under audit position through four years of his presidency when he's taking on the tax code?

RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER CHIEF WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: Well, he can try, but I think we're get fed up. I was at the tax march here in St. Paul, Minnesota. I gave a speech there, and the people who attended the march were very upset with the fact that the president has not released his tax returns.

There are pervasive conflicts of interest in this administration. He's receiving unconstitutional payments from foreign governments. The list of problems goes on and on.

And these tax reform proposals, most of the proposals being talked about really only benefit the top 1 percent, anyway, and the last thing we need is a billionaire president who won't release his tax returns, who is already enjoying all sorts of loopholes in the tax code who says he's going to take a run with it not to help the middle class but to help people like himself.

That's not what the Republican Party platform or the Democratic Party platform should stand for. So this whole tax reform idea is going to go absolutely nowhere unless there is a lot more transparency in this administration.

LEMON: I want to show, Shelby, you mentioned Senator Tom Cotton this week. Let's play that because I want to discuss that more. Here he is defending the president.


TOM COTTON, UNITED STATES SENATOR: As far as I'm aware, the president says he's still under audit. And he says he's going to release them...


He's the central issue of the campaign. Hillary Clinton and her campaign repeatedly criticized President Trump. And he's going to (Inaudible).



LEMON: So you would think that Senator Cotton and other politicians, especially republican politicians, they have made the calculation that it's not going to hurt them to defend the president with this audit thing, because the president still won. But do you think that's a good political calculation?

HOLLIDAY: Well, that's up to them to decide in their districts, I suppose. I don't think Donald Trump...


LEMON: You heard all the boos.

HOLLIDAY: You did hear boos. That was interesting, because when you look at polls, Donald Trump supporters don't necessarily really care that he hasn't release his taxes. They seem to be OK with that. They voted for him, they're fine with that.

But it is interesting that republicans are getting some heat for this, and I think that that exchange also shows that Trump owes more of an explanation than "I'm under audit" at this point. We've been hearing that for more than a year.

And if he does have -- billionaires have very complicated tax returns. They can file extensions, they can be under audit for many years. None of that is surprising at all. But to just say I'm not releasing them because I'm under audit doesn't fly with the American people.

And you don't have the Romney risk anymore where it could hurt you at the polls.


HOLLIDAY: In four years people are going to care much about what Trump did for the country rather than what Trump paid in taxes.

LEMON: And if you are going to take on taxes...


HOLLIDAY: So if he refuse to release them you are just inviting more questions.

LEMON: There you co. Thank you very much. I appreciate it, Richard and Shelby.

Coming up soon here to -- and coming soon to CNN, I should say, this is a musical journey unlike any other. How is that for a transition? Soundtrack songs that defines history premiers Thursday night on CNN. Here's a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Music is an explosive expression of humanity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you.

DWAYNE JOHNSON, ACTOR: The music will always remind us that it is possible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is what anthems are made of.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's about standing up for your rights.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were killing our own children.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the hell are we going to do that for?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a cultural, political statement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Music is a vehicle for revolution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That how I encourage changed how I viewed human beings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The aftermath of 9/11, everybody was in it together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody has got to put this into words and emotions for everyone to hear.

[22:35:02] This is how we remember history.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Soundtracks, songs that define history premieres Thursday at 10 on CNN.


LEMON: As tensions with North Korea escalate, Vice President Mike Pence makes a very public appearance on the Korean Peninsula.

I want to discuss now with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, the host of Fareed Zakaria GPS. Thank you for coming in. I hope you had a good weekend.

The image of this vice president staring across the DMZ a very powerful one. Let's look at it. What message do you think this moment was designed to give, and how do you think North Koreans interpreted it, Fareed?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: Well, it's interesting, the administration has been trying to send this very tough message, pence's, that image which is of course an iconic image, many American presidents, secretaries of defense, vice presidents have done it.

But it's part of a package. Rex Tillerson said the policy of strategic patience is over. Twenty years of strategy toward North Korea has failed. All of which is well and good, and so then you want to understand what is the new strategy.

[22:39:57] And it turns out the new strategy is basically the old strategy, which is we're going to try to push them, we're going to crank up sanctions a little bit, we're going to try to get the Chinese to do more. Because the truth is the only really significant shift would be an American military strike, which is highly implausible.

The South Koreans would not agree with it. And remember, if this were to happen, South Korea would be engulfed in the flame of war. The Japanese would be -- would be horrified by the prospect, and the Chinese of course would be apoplectic.

So, it's very, very unlikely. And add to that by the way, the North Korean sites are well hidden, some of them are underwater, some of them are underground, we wouldn't get most of them. So it's a military strike with many, many political complications.

So then you ask, what's the strategy? Well, the strategy is what it has been for the last 15 years which is try to find some way to get China to push North Korea because they're the only ones with leverage.

LEMON: Having said that, Colonel Cedric Leighton I heard him say earlier that 13 presidents have been trying to solve the dilemma of North Korea, the last three of them as a nuclear state. Why is it so hard? And what are the -- are the options just to push harder, as you said? Those are the only options?

ZAKARIA: It's a really good question. North Korea is probably the most isolated state in the world. You think about what normally works with countries. It's some kind of pressure where you say, you can't do banking anymore, you can't sell your goods anymore, you can't -- your tourists can't travel anywhere anymore.

North Korea doesn't have any tourists, it doesn't have any banking, it doesn't have -- you know what I mean? It's totally economically isolated. The regime has also been willing to impose and take pain like nothing else. They allowed two million of their own people to starve during a famine about 15 years ago.

And so this is a tough one where the only country that does anything with them is China. China provides them with, I think it's 90 percent of their energy and 50 percent of their food.

But what the Chinese say to the Americans is, if we push them, that regime will collapse, we'll have millions of refugees, we'll end up with a messy, chaotic Korean unification, which means we'll now have an American ally on our borders with American troops, because South Korea is, of course, right next door.

So the Chinese are not as willing, but the key has to be through China. You know for all the bluster, and what I worry about is the Trump administration is talking very tough, but they don't have a new strategy. Their new strategy is the old strategy...


ZAKARIA: ... which is keep, try to get China to do something.

LEMON: When you...


ZAKARIA: And at some point your words lose credibility.


ZAKARIA: You know, you keep making the threat and you say, I'm huffing and puffing and I'm going to blow your house down. But if the house doesn't blow down, what happens?

LEMON: At some point you have to blow the house down or it's exactly as you said that, you said the new position is the old position. I don't know if people actually realize that.

I want to turn now -- and listen...


ZAKARIA: And by the way, this is all happening with an administration that has no staff.

LEMON: Right.

ZAKARIA: There is no deputy secretary of state, there is no assistant secretary for Asia. The assistant secretary, the person who would handle this, is somebody who just in the acting job who said I don't know what this administration's Asia policy is. All I know is the Obama administration's pivot to Asia is now dead. So, you know, this is all happening with a skeleton crew.

LEMON: Well, let's talk about the political ramifications or implications for this all around the world for us. You know, not just North Korea. Because he, you know, his sort of America first rhetoric worked for him during the election and got him into office, but so far he's already bombed Syria, right? He sent missile strikes to Syria and Afghanistan and made a major military move possibly towards or he did, towards North Korea. So the question is, why? ZAKARIA: I think, you know, in the case of Syria, I think he was

confronted with a violation of the Obama red line that I think they appropriately felt they had to take action on.

The Afghanistan one seems to have been a kind of bizarre case where it's not even clear that the Trump people were given -- you know, it's not clear that the president gave authorization for the MOAB.

But he clearly has told the military, ramp up your operations. Anywhere where you have a question about whether to strike or not, go for it. He's not as worried about civilian casualties. The problem is it's not going to produce success on the ground which will come from political settlements, political negotiation.

So I don't think it gets him much. I think that the thought has been that it will give him a momentary boost in approval ratings. The approval ratings are up from 35 to 40.

LEMON: To 41.


LEMON: Yes. Forty, forty-one. OK, so let me ask you then.

ZAKARIA: And one of these operations goes badly and they'll go down again.

LEMON: OK. So may I ask you, then, because we've been speaking so much and discussing in the headlines so much about them being the, the administration being mired in this whole Russia controversy and turmoil, you know, the failed policy initiatives and on and on. Is this a wag of the dog? Is this a diversion, is some of this a diversion?

[22:45:04] ZAKARIA: I don't think so and I don't know. I think there is no question that any administration, any president knows that when you use military force, you look presidential, and there will be people who criticize me for saying that word, but I just mean the optics are, that you look presidential.

It usually doesn't last for long. I mean, Bill Clinton tried it during the Monica Lewinsky scandals, and what really kept Clinton's approval ratings up was a very powerful economy and the sense that the republicans had massively overreached.

I don't think people were particularly impressed by a few more cruise missiles hitting, you know, a tenth of the desert in Afghanistan.

LEMON: Yes. We always come back. It always comes back to the controversy surrounding the president no matter what else happens in the news, and it appears with this president it's Russia. It keeps coming back to Russia.

ZAKARIA: And the mystery remains, right. The ultimate mystery that you and I have talked about remains, which is why are there so many contacts with this one administration, with this one campaign, with this one country?

LEMON: Fareed Zakaria, thank you very much. Make sure to watch Fareed Zakaria GPS on Sunday at 10 a.m. and then at 1 p.m. right here on CNN.

ZAKARIA: Yes, you do twice.

LEMON: I do. I watch both of them. And I also DVR as well.

When we come right back, a very busy day at the White House. The president and Melania Trump hanging out with the Easter bunny -- thanks, Easter bunny -- hosting their very first Easter egg roll.


LEMON: And we're back. I'm going to bring in Mark McKinnon, the co- creator of Showtime's The Circus. Fantastic by the way. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed this weekend. So, mark, let's talk about this. Big day at the White House the Easter egg roll. Was President Trump giving a pep talk of sorts? Watch this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to come out and enjoy you and your company for a roll, a great Easter egg roll. And I don't know if we're going to be successful but I know a lot of people down there are going to be successful. I've seen those kids and they're highly, highly competitive. That I can tell you.


LEMON: Would you expect anything less, Mark?

MARK MCKINNON, THE CIRCUS CO-CREATOR AND CO-HOST: Well, it's just an juxtaposition. I know when as you're -- when you're in the office of the presidency there's a lot of duties that you got to carry out and some of them are ceremonial.

But I just think given the times we're living and given all that's been going on in the last few weeks, given Korea, given all the, you know, very duty challenges that we're facing, why not just recalibrate that?

Let, you know, let Don, Jr. go do that. And he was there by the way. And so with Spicer and some other, you know, staff or family, let them go and do that. And just, you know, send the message that you've got more important stuff to do right now, and there's a lot of more important stuff going on that I think most people would rather see the president focusing on right now.

LEMON: But don't you think if he didn't do it they would -- I mean, we'd be out there criticizing...


MCKINNON: Yes, he'd get it either way he does it. It's just, you know, it's just weird. I know from our own point of view we're focusing this. Our next step sort of under resistance.


MCKINNON: And so as I was thinking about that this morning I'm thinking, OK, I'm at this Easter egg hunt and then I'm going to talk to the resistance. It's just weird.

LEMON: It is a little weird. Listen, don't get me wrong I love Easter and all it stands for. I went to Catholic school. But the Easter bunny is kind of creepy. I mean, don't you think the Easter bunny is a little weird. I've always been creped out by the Easter bunny.


LEMON: Yes. OK. That's just me, folks. Not Mark McKinnon. So, listen, there was a moment...


MCKINNON: I'm pro-Easter bunny.

LEMON: I'm not saying I'm against it but it's a little creepy. There was also this moment, a nudge of sort. I want you to watch. This is a, he says a lot about her attentiveness at least. But it's also a very powerful symbol. An immigrant reminding an American to do the patriotic thing to put his hand over his heart. What do you make of that?

MCKINNON: Well, you know, I was struck today just hearing Melania speak because she went out and read a book to the kids. And I heard that immigrant voice, and again, there's just this weird juxtaposition of building the wall and immigrant deportation and you hear her immigrant voice, and you know, singing the song, the patriotic song. The whole thing just had a weird kind of science fiction style about it.

LEMON: While we're on the topic of Easter I have to ask you about this. Play it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you don't know President Trump recently bombed Syria while eating the most beautiful pice of chocolate cake America has ever laid eyes on. That's a fact.


LEMON: By the way, Sean Spicer used to be the Easter bunny, he used to dress up in previous administrations.

MCKINNON: He did. Yes.

LEMON: Yes, he was.

MCKINNON: And he was out there today. LEMON: Last week we were talking about the SNL effect on Steve

Bannon. This week I want to ask you about the SNL effect on the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Do you think Sean Spicer's handling the briefings differently now?

MCKINNON: I've been a press guy. I've been a press secretary before, I know how tough a job it is. And I think press secretary for the president is the toughest job in Washington.

Listen, he had a bad moment last week. But I thought he walked that back as well as anybody I've ever sign walk it back.


MCKINNON: He owned it. He said I screwed it, and I reflected badly on the president. So I thought that was really actually it turned out to be a good moment for Sean Spicer.

LEMON: Yes. He seemed human for the first time since becoming press secretary.


MCKINNON: Yes, yes. You know, it's funny when people do that when they just show, and when they just a human side, show that they're little vulnerable apologize, you know makes you much more likable.

LEMON: Yes. A lot of people are wondering what happened to the Sean Spicer before he became because he was such an fable guy. You just walk to him like the kind of guy you'd want to go have a beer with now, and I mean, then, and then now, but I think you're right. He seemed like he was humble in his.

MCKINNON: Well, yes, maybe it has humbled him a bit as anybody watched him at that room. But as I said he was out there today at the Easter to hunt with his kids and he seemed very human and, you know, approachable.

LEMON: This moment caught me and it's from your show The Circus and it is chronicle that the campaign and the administration from the beginning. And I want to ask you about this poignant moment. It's from John Heilemann and Congressman Elijah Cummings. Watch this.


JOHN HEILEMANN, CO-CREATOR & EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, THE CIRCUS: I can't imagine what it must by like to by particularly a person of color. I would just be befuddled that the first African-American president would be followed by Trump. I don't understand how those two America's color exist in sequence.

[22:55:00] ELIJAH CUMMINGS, (D) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: As an African-American who is a student of politics, trying to come up with the answer is painful. To see this as I walk towards the evening of my life -- it makes me want to work night and day for the rest of my life to try to make sure that we make the best of the situation. This is bigger than Trump. This is about the soul of our democracy.


LEMON: The soul of our democracy.


LEMON: It's interesting, yes.

MCKINNON: It was so powerful, it was emotionally poignant. The whole interview is one of the best I think we've had in the whole show. And it was just on so many levels there was pain, there was just deep thought about where we are, where we're headed and he said some great things.

First of all, John asked him how did he measure the fear in his communities? He said I measure by how full the churches are which I thought was really powerful.

The other thing he said is he talked about his relationship with Trump which is actually pretty good. They have a working relationship and what's interesting about that is John said, you know, has anything come out of that?

And he said yes, I talked to him very specifically about voter fraud. I just said, man, you are way over the line on that. It's just not true. It doesn't happen and since they had that conversation we haven't heard anything about Donald Trump on that issue, which I think is interesting.

LEMON: There are many African-Americans in this country who feel the same way that he feels in large part not the only reason it's because of the entire 'birther' issue.


LEMON: They feel that that issue was not only disrespectful to the president but it was racist, it was insensitive and it just tried to delegitimize him as a human being and I think it -- I don't know if he can be forgiven by the majority of African-Americans in this country if not for that, for that one thing.

MCKINNON: I perfectly understandable which says a whole lot about I Elijah Cummings that he would show the grace and respect to reach out now after all of that.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you, Mark. Always a pleasure. I'm looking forward to the next episode and the next time you're on.


LEMON: Next episode for us as well when you're back on. Thank you, sir.

MCKINNON: Kick it.

LEMON: All right. Kick it. I love that guy. We'll be right back.