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Macron and Le Pen Go to Next Round of French Elections; American Citizen Detained in North Korea; Trump's Approval Rating Lowest of Any First 100 Days; Few of Trump's Executive Orders Really Have Teeth; CNN Anchor: Roger Aisles Sexually Harassed Me; Obama to Give First Public Speech Since Election; Vet Walks 2,200 Miles to Spotlight Veteran PTSD, Suicide. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 23, 2017 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[18:00:01] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: On one side, Emmanuel Macron, a wealthy investment banker, never elected to any office. Then on the other side, Marine Le Pen, a far right, a candidate who wants to shut the borders to immigrants and pull France out of the European Union.

Now this is a shock to the political system of France and to the rest of the world where Europe's stability led by France can have a very wide ranging effect. First to the place where the far right candidate Le Pen just spoke to her supporters on this historic day.

CNN senior international correspondent Jim Bittermann is there. I also have CNN contributor David Andelman with me from Paris, the editor emeritus of "World Policy Journal."

But, Jim, first to you, what did Marine Le Pen say to the people who voted for her this evening?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think in her speech tonight she kind of laid out exactly where she thinks this campaign is going to go from here. She's got two weeks now -- between now and the second round of these elections, May 7th, in order to prove her case to the French people. And basically she said that she's going to fight on prosperity, on the economy, she's going to -- talk again as she did throughout the campaign about immigration, about globalization, and about the European Union.

So she has really run this campaign in a way that people were surprised that she did as well as she did and particularly that the mainstream parties did as poorly as they did. I think that's really the story here is the collapse of the mainstream parties. And in their absence, a vacuum has been filled by Macron, who is a centrist, and as you said never ran, never was in a political office or elected political office before in France and Marine Le Pen who has held political office but has never really come up to the level that she's at now.

They're celebrating here still this evening and now after midnight, and the supporters here think this is a great victory that she came in second place. We'll see how she does two weeks from now. But it's going to be an uphill battle for them to put together enough votes to get her over 51 percent or over the 50 percent to be elected president.

CABRERA: Yes. Certainly it seems like a party there, Jim.

I want to turn to David. People point out the similar philosophies of Marine Le Pen and Donald Trump, both are populist, both claim to reject the establishment. Le Pen calls them elite. Both take a hard line on immigration and Islamic terrorism. Is it fair to draw parallels between the two? And where is the distinction?

DAVID ANDELMAN, EDITOR-EMERITUS, WORLD POLICY JOURNAL: There is a certain parallel, there is a certain distinction. And globalization is a key element to the whole thing as Jim suggested before me. You know, it's interesting because listening to her speech tonight, her acceptance speech, if you will, she did talk about globalization and I think what it really means is that the next round is going to become a referendum on Frexit, that is to say the French version of Brexit, taking France out of the European Union, which is what she really wants. And many of the French people seem to be leaning more and more in that direction.

In terms of Donald Trump, you know, Le Pen was a very strong supporter of Trump all along and he of her. In fact, Macron has lined up on the side of Obama. Obama has lined up on her side -- on his side. But it's interesting about Le Pen. She actually showed up in Trump Tower seven days before he was inaugurated as president. So they seem to have a real affinity of interests and so on.

But after the attack on Syria, after the 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched by Trump on Syria, she blasted that. She said this is -- her fear is that this is a return to America's role as the gendarme of the world and that this is not a good thing. So, you know, this is a concern I think that many people will have in the future, will this work, Trump and Le Pen together?

CABRERA: And so, Jim, that leads me to ask you, what does that relationship look like between France and the rest of Europe and the United States for that matter depending on which of these two candidates wins when that final vote happens in a couple of weeks?

BITTERMANN: Well, the foreign policy adviser for Marine Le Pen told me this evening that they would like to have a very strong relationship with the United States, but the United States he's talking about is the United States of Donald Trump, not the previous administration.

The other thing that's interesting, and David touched on it, there has been a close connection with Marine Le Pen and Donald Trump and but also with Vladimir Putin. Marine Le Pen and Russia have a relationship that goes back some years and includes the suggestion that's never been proven I think to 100 percent but that she took millions of dollars in Russian cash to help out her campaign.

So there's also a parallel there that you might see developing in the United States as we learn more about Donald Trump's -- the financing of Donald Trump's campaign. In any case, the -- it's an interesting situation where you've got similar interests, similar ideas developing on both sides of the Atlantic. Whether that will lead to closeness or not, it certainly is going to lead to a difference in France that's going to amount to very close to the same thing as the difference you're starting to see in the United States.

[18:05:10] CABRERA: David, conventional wisdom suggests Le Pen will lose I guess in the final vote, but the pollsters we know were wrong about Brexit and Donald Trump. Are you expecting a possible surprise here or is it pretty certain?

(CROSSTALK)

ANDELMAN: There are a lot of --

BITTERMANN: Yes, exactly right, Ana. I mean, in fact, this is going to be very --

ANDELMAN: It's interesting. We have --

CABRERA: Go ahead, David.

ANDELMAN: OK. I'm sorry. There are some forces here that are very interesting. You know, a lot of the Fillon -- Francois Fillon was the number three candidate, he threw his vote, his support tonight to -- Macron. But a lot of the more right-wing, center right, Fillon voters could very well go to Le Pen seeing her as a sort of safe haven if you will for some of the financial and economic issues that they find most important to them. So that is very important to understand.

This is not by any means a done deal. And this is not something that the world or America should breathe easy on right now, now that we have Macron against Le Pen. Le Pen has a very strong hand to play and there are a lot of French people who may very well be happy to see that kind of a person occupying the Elysee at this point in its history.

CABRERA: Right, David Andelman and Jim Bittermann, our thanks to both of you.

The Pentagon has a brand-new warning for North Korea tonight after the rogue nation detained an American citizen overnight and threatened to sink a U.S. aircraft carrier. A Pentagon spokesman warning North Korea to, quote, "refrain from provocative, destabilizing actions and rhetoric."

The American who was detained in North Korea this weekend was attempting to fly out of the country. So let's talk more about this with CNN's Paula Hancocks in Seoul, South Korea.

Paula, how is South Korea now reacting to the escalating tensions and news of a detained American?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, they're certainly watching this closely considering they also have a citizen who is still being held in North Korea. This is not the first time for an American to be detained in the country. What we know about this particular man, he's surname is Kim, a very popular surname in Korea. We know that he was detained as he was trying to board a plane in Pyongyang. And we know that he was a professor at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.

Now that particular group has brought out a statement saying that they're unaware of what exactly this man is alleged to have done, but they do know that it was not related to the university itself.

But as I say, there's also a South Korean who's a naturalized U.S. citizen, who was taken back in 2015. He was accused of espionage, sentenced to 10 years hard labor, and of course you have that 21-year- old student as well, Otto Warmbier, who in January of last year was condemned for taking -- allegedly taking a poster of a hotel wall and he has been sentenced to 15 years hard labor.

So this is something we Americans take very, very seriously. The U.S. State Department has a warning to people not to travel to North Korea. It's not a ban at this point. It's just a recommendation. But certainly once again an American finding itself on the wrong side of North Korean law -- Ana.

CABRERA: Comes from the heels, Paula, of an American aid worker who was working in Egypt just being released there and Donald Trump apparently had a hand in that according to the White House spokesperson, Sean Spicer, yesterday, so -- I should say on Friday.

So, Paula, do we think that North Korea is trying to send a message and trying to have some kind of leverage for negotiating with the U.S. through this maneuver?

HANCOCKS: Well, Ana, what we've seen in the past is that North Korea wants a high-profile delegate to come to Pyongyang, to try and lobby for the release of these prisoners. In the past we've had President Clinton going to Pyongyang to try and make sure that this happened. We've also had other high-profile visitors. So certainly this could be an element that North Korea is trying to increase its bargaining power, if you like.

But of course we haven't heard very much from that student, Otto Warmbier, so this is confusing some experts that it shows that he's not actually being used as a bargaining chip at this point. And of course relations between Washington and Pyongyang could not be worse at this point. Tensions on the peninsula are particularly high. You have North Korea also threatening to strike and launch a strike against the USS Carl Vinson, which is doing military drills with Japanese destroyers at this point. So it's really not a good time for negotiation to even be considered but of course you don't know what's happening behind the scene -- Ana.

CABRERA: Of course. Paula Hancocks, reporting from Seoul, South Korea. Thank you.

Fast forward now the next week for President Trump could be the most pivotal of his presidency. We'll look at his jam-packed agenda and the showdown with Congress that could decide the fate of our government.

[18:10:06] Plus the president has already made history with an unprecedented string of executive orders. But are these more about appearances than action?

And Trump's predecessor is stepping out of the shadows and making his first appearance in public since leaving office. But will President Barack Obama hurt rather than help Democrats?

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, 44TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Anyway, and Donald Trump is here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Just five days to go until President Trump marks his 100th day in office. And two brand-new polls showed the majority of voters want to see more from their commander-in-chief that they have so far. Right now his approval rating is at 42 percent in the latest ABC News and "Washington Post" poll.

And in a survey from NBC News and "Wall Street Journal," 40 percent approve of the job the president is doing. This is the lowest approval rating of any U.S. president in his first 100 days since polling began.

So what is the president planning to do about it? Take a look at what he has planned for his week. A lot.

[18:15:05] On top of all this, he says he will announce his tax reform plan on Wednesday and he's pushing Congress to come up with an Obamacare replacement and agreeing on a spending bill by Friday.

Let's talk more about this with our panel, joining me, Democratic strategist Jonathan Tasini and CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Alice Stewart.

Alice, a senior administration official tells CNN there is now less pressure from the White House to repeal and replace Obamacare by this week. Smart move?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think so. I think it's certainly something that they learned the first time. You don't put a timeline on something that's so important. The good news is this week, we did hear that at least in terms of the House GOP members we had the moderate members of the GOP, the Tuesday group and the more conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus did meet, had some good conversations.

They're expecting to get some pen to paper in the next few days, which is a good step forward, but they obviously have to get more buy-in amongst the full GOP. But I think the fact that they're still putting this as a high priority, look, all of them ran and won on repealing and replacing Obamacare. They need to do it right, they need to do it that will have lower cost and greater access to health care. That's something that the president campaigned on and promised -- plans to keep his promise and also members of Congress as well.

CABRERA: Now, Jonathan, the president tweeted today that these polls are pretty good news for him and here are some of the reasons he thinks that. If you peel back the numbers you find only 2 percent of Trump voters regret their vote. 96 percent who voted for Trump said they think they did the right thing. Is that bad news for Democrats?

JONATHAN TASINI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No, because the majority of people who have been polled in the polls that you showed reject Donald Trump, disapprove of him. That would include Democrats and most importantly independents. So I think there's a very good reason for that.

Since the election, people have watched Donald Trump now for almost 100 days. They now remember that in the election he was a racist and a bigot and that piled on starting with the travel ban, the one that was stopped, and then he continued to put on another one.

But I think the most important thing, Ana, that strikes me is that over the course of the entire campaign, particularly the media, tried to build up Donald Trump as a successful businessman. And what they didn't focus on is that he built his business over two things, one is bankruptcy, which is failure, and basically borrowing money from many people and failing to the tune of billions of dollars. And, number two, defrauding people. Thousands of people that he cheated and defrauded. That was brought out in a report by "USA Today."

So what that means is now people are looking at him trying to translate that failed business into trying to run a government and he's a completely failed executive. He does not know -- he's incompetent, and that's what I think Democrats and particularly independents now see very, very clearly.

CABRERA: Jonathan, I think some of those things you just commented on are debatable, so Alice, I'll give you a chance to respond.

STEWART: Certainly. I think first and foremost, look, respect Jonathan's opinion but I strongly disagree. I think the media has done more of a job of demeaning the president. Look, "The Washington Post" poll here, all it talks about on the front page is about low approval ratings, the least popular president. But if you really break down this poll and look at the cross tabs and what it really says, as you indicated, Ana, almost 100 percent of people say they don't regret their vote. More than 70 percent of his base say he's doing the right thing when it comes to jobs. And if you jump to page 40 --

TASINI: So why does he only -- why does he only have a 40 percent approval rating?

STEWART: One more -- well, on that note, one more quick thing to point out, if you also look at another cross tab of this, he beats Hillary -- if the election was held today, he beats Hillary Clinton by 3 percent, so people still have a stronger opinion, more favorable opinion, of Donald Trump than they do of Hillary Clinton.

TASINI: But Alice --

STEWART: So that's something to really keep in mind.

TASINI: Alice, why does he only have a 40 percent approval rating?

STEWART: Governing is hard and he's made some tough decisions. And sure --

TASINI: No.

STEWART: The key is he's been a very outspoken candidate, he's a very outspoken president and you're going to ruffle some feathers. Look, he never -- he never ran to be Mr. Popularity. He ran to be president of the United States.

TASINI: I think -- and I would say that the reason so many people disapprove of his conduct and his job in the Oval Office is he's been incompetent. He actually has failed to do much other than scare the crap out of people around the world with things like the missile strike in Syria, which was of no consequence, and them declaring that he was going to send a fleet out to North Korea, which was actually going the wrong way. So people look at this guy and say this guy is scary and they wake up every day thinking, am I going to wake up to a new war, what's he doing about jobs? He's been a complete failure.

CABRERA: But, Jonathan, it's worse for Democrats according to these poll numbers. 67 percent think the Democratic Party is out of touch. Why? What are Dems doing wrong?

TASINI: Well, I've been about as critical -- and I wrote a piece on CNN.com on Friday.

[18:20:03] I've been very critical of the Democratic Party and I think that goes back to frankly a decade-long failure to actually have a full-throated if I can say a Bernie Sanders agenda that reaches out to people, addresses why people feel that there's class warfare in this country, the billionaires have taken over the country, that in fact Donald Trump is now going to enact a tax bill, we assume, in the coming few weeks along with Paul Ryan, that again shovels a huge amount of money over to the rich.

Now if the Democratic Party doesn't take a very strong stand, if they are populist, but they stand for the person, they're against the billionaire class, they will continue to suffer.

(CROSSTALK)

STEWART: I think it's --

CABRERA: All right. Jonathan Tasini, Alice Stewart, we've got to leave it there. You got the first question so we'll let Jonathan have the last word. Thanks to you both.

STEWART: Thanks, Ana.

TASINI: Thank you.

CABRERA: Up next, President Trump has another slate of executive orders to sign this week. It has to do with energy independence. What's the impact? CNN investigates just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:25:10] CABRERA: A White House official says President Trump will sign several energy-related executive orders this coming Friday and they build on previous executive actions designed to advance the president's goal of moving the country forward toward energy independence. This means President Trump will have signed more executive orders in his first 100 days than any other president in the past 80 years.

But as CNN's Randi Kaye reports, few of them really have any teeth.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Should I sign it? So we're going to sign and this is a very important signing.

REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Next is an executive order minimizing the economic burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act pending repeal.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On day one, President Donald Trump got down to business signing an executive order to ease the burden of Obamacare.

Viewers got the message that Donald Trump was a man of action. But was it and the other executive actions just a photo-op?

JOHN HUDAK, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Donald Trump just assumed like as a business leader he would say do this and it gets done. But in government, a president doesn't have that power.

KAYE: In fact, of the more than 70 executive actions President Trump has signed since taking office, January 20th, a CNN investigation shows only a handful of them really have any teeth.

Take the Affordable Care Act, the president's executive order back in January was aimed at the individual mandate which requires Americans to have insurance. But for this year, contracts were already signed with insurance companies. While it looks good on paper, the executive order had little impact on the law itself.

HUDAK: This was done sloppily and it was done as a result that was a-- an executive action that looked meaningful, that connected well with President Trump's base, but ultimately fell flat.

KAYE: And what about the president's travel ban for which he issued two executive orders?

TRUMP: The danger is clear. The law is clear. The need for my executive order is clear.

KAYE: Both travel bans were blocked by federal judges. So in the end, neither executive order accomplished anything.

(On camera): Also tied up in court, the president's executive action stripping federal funding from sanctuary cities for refusing to turn over undocumented immigrants. Various cities have filed lawsuits.

(Voice-over): Another executive action that went nowhere? The presidential memorandum Trump signed to freeze the hiring of federal workers. Sure, that sounded good, but the action was nullified after being blamed for worsening backlogs at Veterans Hospitals and Social Security Offices. Still, optics matter.

HUDAK: The presidential show-and-tell in the Oval Office where he signs his name almost hyperbolically and then shows it off to the class. And that is Donald Trump the entertainer doing what is very important for a president to do and that's communicate and entertain.

KAYE: Some of those executive actions that do have teeth? Trump's presidential memorandum to withdraw the United States from the Trans Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade pact. Also his executive order promoting energy independence which curbs carbon dioxide emissions.

HUDAK: President Trump through that executive action is seriously challenging the Obama administration legacy on the environment.

TRUMP: With today's executive action, I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy.

KAYE: Still, it's unlikely to restore the coal industry and more likely to be caught up in court for years. And remember this?

TRUMP: It's going to be a big beautiful wall.

KAYE: Once in office, President Trump issued an executive order instructing his Department of Homeland Security to immediately begin construction of the wall along the southern border with Mexico. While preliminary planning has begun, there has been no wall construction of any kind.

(On camera): Nor has there been any change to regulations on Wall Street. President Trump's executive order regarding that simply directs the Treasury secretary to review existing regulations on the financial system and report back to the president in about four months.

(Voice-over): Same goes for the order to shake up the executive branch. That, too, will undergo a 180-day review. Then a plan will be proposed to eliminate redundant federal agencies.

HUDAK: What we've seen so far with many of his executive actions is not really shock and awe policy making, but slow bureaucratic policy making.

KAYE: In a move to capitalize on his executive actions to continue building the Keystone and Dakota pipelines and another action to buy American, Trump recently announced this.

TRUMP: I have also directed that new pipelines must be constructed with American steel.

KAYE: That may not be so easy. In fact, the Trump administration had already given Keystone XL a pass on buying American steel since the developer TransCanada has already bought much of its pipe from Canada.

[18:30:06] HUDAK: If there is not enough steel being made into pipe, then contractors can ask for waivers to buy foreign steel. I think if the details of that get out, it could be something that is politically devastating to the President.

KAYE: That could mean not a single U.S. pipeline ends up being built with U.S. steel. The commerce department has been given six months to come up with, yes, another plan to put the Buy American requirement into effect.

Seems that no matter how many executive actions the President signs, much to his chagrin, it often takes a lot more to get things done.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: Still ahead in NEWSROOM, my colleague Alisyn Camerota opens up about the culture at Fox News, claiming she was sexually harassed by former Fox CEO Roger Ailes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": When I was first starting out at Fox and I was single, and I remember being in Roger's office and I was saying that I wanted more opportunity. And he said, well, I would have to work with you about --

BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Work with you?

CAMEROTA: I would have to work with you on that case. I would have to work with you really closely, and it may require us getting to know each other better. And that might have to happen away from here, and it might have to happen at a hotel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: More of Alisyn's story coming up after a quick break. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:35:48] CABRERA: New revelations today in the sexual harassment scandal involving Fox News and the mountain of allegations that brought down network star Bill O'Reilly and former CEO Roger Ailes.

Now, one of our own is breaking her silence about the experience she had working at Fox. Today, on "RELIABLE SOURCES," Anchor Alisyn Camerota told Brian Stelter that Ailes sexually harassed her. Brian asked why she was coming forward now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: It felt like there was a tipping point this week. You know, when Roger Ailes was ousted in July, there was a lot of talk about what the culture was there. And now, with Bill O'Reilly having been fired, it feels as though, if I take the Murdochs at their word, they really want to know what was wrong there and what the culture was like. And I don't know how you get that from silence, so it feels like this might be the right time to just have this conversation, and let some daylight in.

STELTER: And you said on the air, Bill O'Reilly never harassed you, but you didn't say that about Roger Ailes. Did Roger Ailes ever sexually harass you?

CAMEROTA: Yes, Roger Ailes did sexually harass me.

Let me be clear, Roger Ailes could be charming. He could be quite charismatic. He could be uproariously funny. He could also be a bit of a bully and mean. And he also was often kind of grossly inappropriate with things that he would say, and I think that many of us experienced that.

He would talk about body parts. He would say, "Give me a spin." He would want to be greeted with a hug.

But the time that I remember most was when I was first starting out at Fox, and I was single. And I remember being in Roger's office, and I was saying that I wanted more opportunity. And he said, well, I would have to work with you about --

STELTER: Work with you?

CAMEROTA: I would have to work with you on that case. I would have to work with you really closely, and it may require us getting to know each other better. And that might have to happen away from here, and it might have to happen at a hotel. Do you know what I'm saying? And I said, yes, I think I do know what you're saying.

And I just want to say that I knew in my head, at that moment, I'm never going to that hotel under any circumstances, but I didn't know what that meant for me and for my career. And I remember vividly that I had sort of an out-of-body experience hovering over us in the office and thinking, is this it? Is this the end of my time here? Will I be fired if I don't do this?

And I just want everybody to understand that when it happens, there is a visceral reaction that you have where you recognize, my career and everything that I've worked for is under threat, and I don't know what's going to happen next. STELTER: And you end up then doing what?

CAMEROTA: Well, I just went home, and I didn't tell anybody at the time because I was embarrassed and it is sort of humiliating.

STELTER: Embarrassed?

CAMEROTA: It's embarrassing, you know, when this man that you've gone to tell about your strengths and to sort of see if he thinks that you're doing a good job at work, you know, makes that sort of proposition. It is demeaning and it is humiliating. And so I was sort of embarrassed to tell people.

I decided personally -- and everybody deals with it differently -- I'm going to ignore that. I'm going to pretend that never happened. He then changed his M.O. And when I say that I experienced harassment there, it was different. And for me, it was no longer sexual harassment. It was harassment of a different variety.

STELTER: What do you mean?

CAMEROTA: It was sort of emotional harassment. Roger Ailes ruled with an iron fist, and he wanted us all to fall in line and have his world view and say the things that he wanted us to say on Fox News. And he targeted me because he sort of figured out early on that I didn't share his world view.

[18:40:07] Roger was the king and, obviously, everything trickled down from him. So when he said grossly inappropriate things about women's bodies, there was a feeling there that then that's more appropriate and you're not going to get in trouble for that. So on that level, he certainly had an impact in terms of the culture and the feeling there.

I mean, I think that there was a lot of suffering in silence and people who felt humiliated and people who felt scared and people who felt intimidated. But let's talk about it. And let's talk about what's unacceptable and how bad it feels to be on the receiving end of it.

And I don't know. I mean, I do think that this is a turning point. And so if everything that's happened at Fox is valuable in that way, then I hope that people are more free to speak there and everywhere now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Brian Stelter reached out for a statement from Roger Ailes. Attorney Susan Estrich, she denied Camerota's account, quoting here, "These are unsubstantiated and false allegations. Mr. Ailes never engaged in the appropriate conversations she now claims occurred, and he vigorously denies this fictional account of her interactions with him and of Fox News editorial policy."

Still ahead in the NEWSROOM, we just saw him snapping a pic of Michelle on a yacht, but former President Obama, tomorrow, will be back in the public eye for the first time since he left the White House. We'll discuss whether his Chicago speech can help unify the fractured Democratic Party. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:45:47] CABRERA: Former president Obama returns to the public stage tomorrow morning for the first time since leaving the White House. He will speak to young people at the University of Chicago, and we're learning he will lead a discussion on civic engagement and community organizing.

Let's talk it over with CNN Political Commentator and former national press secretary for Senator Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential bid, Symone Sanders.

Symone, thanks for joining us. Do you think the President will get political tomorrow? Will he take on Trump?

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I think the President could get slightly political, but I want to reiterate everything is political, whether we're talking about education, health care, or being able to get affordable groceries at the grocery store.

I do believe that President Obama is keenly aware that he is a young former President and that he does have an important role to play in this. And I think he is fully ready, willing, and wanting to play his role.

CABRERA: What do you want to hear from him?

SANDERS: I want to hear President Obama talk about the importance of young people, the importance of young people putting their name on the ballot, getting involved in running for local offices, young people stepping up to support other campaigns, and young people leading change initiatives.

I want him to talk candidly and really intentionally and specifically about how to do that and how he plans to support that work. And I definitely think that's what we're going to hear tomorrow.

CABRERA: When you talk about trying to galvanize support in particular with young people, we know Democrats are trying to win House seats in typically Republican districts like Georgia and Montana. Should President Obama campaign for those candidates, or do you think that could potentially backfire if he were to do so?

SANDERS: You know, I think that President Obama's space right now is going to be a space where he is helping lead the charge in taking on these issues but also training up the next generation. I don't know if President Obama plays too well in Montana, for example, but that doesn't mean that we cannot take some of the messages and the issues and talk about those things.

So I don't know if he needs to show up in Montana but he definitely has to be vocal in other ways and in other places and spaces. It's absolutely necessary because we need some leadership in the party right now. CABRERA: Well, let's take a listen to what Vice Media's Chief

Operating Officer had to say about President Obama's role moving forward.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALYSSA MENDE MASTROMONACO, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, VICE MEDIA: I think Barack Obama is probably still the leader of the Democratic Party even though he is sort of on hiatus right now. I hope Hillary comes back, but she more than deserves some time out to sort of regroup. Tom Perez, I hear, is sort of cleaning house at the DNC and sort of starting from scratch. So hopefully this will be, you know, going into 2018, will be a moment where the Democratic Party's identity crisis over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Symone, given President Obama has been such a star for Democrats for some time, but his time is over for serving as a President, could he make it harder for the Party to find a new leader for the future?

SANDERS: I don't know of make it harder, but do I think that there's this tendency for Democrats to, you know, just really lean in where President Obama is concerned and want him present everywhere and every way.

Well, we know that President Obama's success and popularity has not necessarily translated into votes and wins for other Democrats down the line. And what we need to do is, frankly, we just need to win. We need to get seats. We've lost over a thousand legislative seats.

So President Obama is going to continue to be a figure, he's going to continue to be out there, he's going to continue to be a leader in the Party. There is absolutely no way around that.

We need him, but we also need new leadership to step up. And we need new faces and, frankly, folks to set a concrete direction for where we go with the Party. Look, we know the Party was just on this unity tour and one could argue that all the kinks weren't necessarily worked out. I think we've seen that play out.

CABRERA: Wasn't so unified. Yes, we heard --

SANDERS: It wasn't so unified, OK?

CABRERA: We heard cheers and we heard boos along the way too. That's for sure.

SANDERS: Exactly.

CABRERA: Symone Sanders, thanks for spending time with us tonight. We appreciate it. And we will be watching what former President Obama has to say tomorrow in Chicago.

Also, stay with CNN because Ohio Governor John Kasich, he's never shy to speak his mind. He gets another chance tomorrow on CNN. Don't miss "AMERICA UNITED -- OR DIVIDED?" a live CNN town hall moderated by Anderson cooper. That's at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

Up next, an incredible Amy veteran walks more than 2,000 miles over five months to raise awareness about PTSD and veteran suicide. He joins us live with his message to lawmakers.

[18:50:02] But first, in this weeks "Before the Bell," a potential government shutdown has investors a little jittery. Here is CNNMONEY's Cristina Alesci. Cristina?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNNMONEY TELEVISION AND DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, the big question for investors this week, will the government stay open for business? Lawmakers will be working to pass a spending bill and avoid the shutdown, but getting anything done in Washington these days, as you know, is proving difficult.

Some issues that can hold up the negotiations, paying for the border wall, a big boost to defense spending, and big cuts to other federal programs. Funding Planned Parenthood will also be an issue. All of these could cause division within the Republican Party, but will most certainly garner pushback from Democrats.

Goldman Sachs, the investment bank, puts the odds of a shutdown at 25 percent. If that happens, it will come on the same day that President Trump crosses the hundred-day mark. With one week to go, the S&P 500 is up four percent since the inauguration. The so-called Trump bump has stalled in recent weeks as investors grew a little bit nervous about tax reform.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin calmed some of those fears last week. He says a tax reform package is coming very soon. Investors will be patiently awaiting for that, and digging through a flood of corporate earnings this week. Results are due from big names like Amazon, Boeing, G.M., and Google's parent, Alphabet -- Ana.

CABRERA: All right. Cristina, thank you. We're back in just a moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:55:55] CABRERA: President Trump is getting back to one of the issues he campaigned on, better health care for America's veterans. This weekend, the President pinned a Purple Heart on Sergeant First Class Alvaro Barrientos at Walter Reed Medical Center.

Now, this sergeant lost his leg, you can see, recently. He was in Afghanistan when he was wounded. President Trump says he will hold a news conference focusing on veterans' issues on Thursday.

And my next guest is a U.S. Army veteran who went on a 2,200-mile trek to raise awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder and the high suicide rate among veterans. Ernesto Rodriguez is joining us now.

Thanks so much for joining us. I want to take a look at some of the disturbing numbers. A study by the Department of Veterans Affairs found that an average of 20 vets a day commit suicide. This was back in 2014. And that was down just slightly from 2012, when about 22 veterans a day took their own lives.

These are staggering statistics. Is this why you walked 2,200 miles?

ERNESTO RODRIGUEZ, UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN: Yes, ma'am. Twenty- two for me is a very significant number, and it's more of a symbol now to help educate the American people on the epidemic of veteran suicide.

CABRERA: Why is this issue so personal to you? Tell us about your own struggle.

RODRIGUEZ: Well, I served in the Army for 15 years, and I attempted twice while I was still in the service. It was very difficult for me when I transitioned back from a combat environment back to civilian life.

I had a family. I didn't know how to react or how to get back to just having a normal day-to-day life. And it reflected very much on the civilian side.

CABRERA: Well, you're very courageous to talk about it, to come out and raise this awareness about an issue that a lot of people don't want to even think about. What isn't working right now in the current system, isn't being done to support veterans' mental health?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, I think we're making strides right now, and we're definitely getting to a point, especially with third-party organizations or VSOs, veteran service organizations. They have been helping, and they're a supplement to the system that we have in place.

So when a veteran needs assistance, such as a support animal or different therapies that are available, and they're not provided by the system, it's great to have those organizations there helping.

CABRERA: Now, we're looking at some of the video highlights from your cross-country journey. What are some of the memories of this journey that stand out to you?

RODRIGUEZ: There's been so many. I've been on the road for five months. And just to name a few, I was able to spend time with the Combat Wounded Coalition, which is run by retired Navy SEAL Jay Redman. I was able to speak with 14th Hour Foundation Kris Paronto. I've met a World War II veteran, 102 years old, in Texas.

CABRERA: Wow.

RODRIGUEZ: I've been blessed to have so many people that have supported me along the way, and I think that's the greater message. No matter what differences we have, I think the common message for me is that there are very good people here in our country that are willing to help veterans, and sometimes it's just education that's needed.

CABRERA: Well, that has to feel good too, to see some of that response to this issue that you feel like is so important to address and to raise awareness for. What were some of the conversations you had with people? And do you feel like you, maybe, changed people's minds or kind of turned the light bulb on for some?

RODRIGUEZ: I think some of them actually didn't even know that that statistic existed. They knew that there was a high veteran suicide rate, but they didn't understand the number or some of the reasons that it happened.

Another great thing that happened is, I was able to network and connect with a lot of veteran service organizations and non-profits and connect them with each other. That way, they can keep pushing forward together instead of working separately.

CABRERA: Well, we salute you. Thank your service and thank you for sharing your story with us, Ernesto Rodriguez.

RODRIGUEZ: Thank you so much for having me.

CABRERA: It's great to have you.

[19:00:04] Top of the hour, you are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks for being with me. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

We are following breaking news right now.