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NEW DAY SUNDAY
Voting Underway as France Chooses Next President; Yates to Testify in Senate Hearing About Flynn; Trump Signs Order to Promote Religious Liberties; Nigerian Schoolgirls Freed After 3 Years in Captivity; Florida Wildfires: Hot, Dry Conditions Now Fueling 106 Active Burns. Aired 7-8a ET
Aired May 7, 2017 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[07:00:01] VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Since I even heard the word!
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: It's been a loaded question somehow.
ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: First time I've been able to say kerfuffle on TV. I was pretty proud of myself!
BLACKWELL: I'll tell you at the break.
PAUL: Not something to publicize. Thank you so much, Andy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A historic vote in France with the future of the European Union at stake.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reports of a massive hacking attack has drawn immediate comparisons with allegations in the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were these simply embarrassing as we saw in the case of Hillary Clinton or something more damaging than that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Trump transition team warned former national security adviser Michael Flynn about his contacts with Russia.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not the action but the cover-up that is coming around to bite him. When Sally Yates testified next week, what she is going to say is that the White House lied about it too.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The acting attorney general informed the White House counsel the president asked him to conduct a view whether there was a legal situation there. That was immediately determined that there wasn't.
PAUL: One minute past 7:00 on a Sunday morning. We are always so grateful to wake up with you. I'm Christi Paul. BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you.
Right now in France, people are voting for the next president there in an election that has turned the established political order upside down.
PAUL: Today, capping off a bitter fight between the final two candidates. Far right national front leader Marine Le Pen and independent centrist Emmanuel Macron. Now, whichever way this turns out the outcome has implications not just America but the rest of the world as well.
BLACKWELL: President Trump did not fully endorse Le Pen directly but did say whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism and borders will do well. Two key issues that helped propel him to victory last November, you'll member.
Meanwhile, former President Barack Obama gave a last-minute endorsement to Macron.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: I have admired the campaign that Emmanuel Macron has run. He has stood up for liberal values. He put forward a vision for the important role that France plays in Europe and around the world. And he is committed to a better future for the French people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: Now on the eve of the election in an eerily similar situation, the U.S. candidate Macron campaign's was hacked. Thousands of e-mails were dumped online. Voting ends today at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll be keeping you apprise of what happens with it.
BLACKWELL: And, of course, we are covering all angles of the election there in France, so with our reporters and panelists across the globe.
Let's start with CNN international anchor Hala Gorani in Paris.
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Victor and Christi, we have a very significant number that was published an hour ago.
Here in France, you have reporting restrictions that don't allow you talk about candidate platforms, you can't talk polls either. But what you can report, and this is a benchmark that many people use to try to figure on out which candidate is favored by this number and that is voter turnout. So, at noon local time, 28.23 percent of voters in this country turned out to vote. That is lower than five years ago. A low voter turnout number tends to favor the more extremist candidate. In this case, it would be the far right candidate Marine Le Pen.
Now, let's talk a little bit about what we've seen this morning already. Marine Le Pen cast her ballot in her stronghold. Emmanuel Macron, the centrist candidate, also cast his ballot, alongside his wife Brigitte Trogneux, and the incumbent president, the socialist Francois Hollande, so unpopular he decided not to run again also cast his ballot today.
So, what are we going to see this evening 8:00 p.m. local time? We will see the face of the winner of this pivotal French election appear on television screens across the country. It will be either the candidate who is an anti-E.U., anti-globalization, anti-immigration candidate personified by Marine Le Pen, or the more establishment, centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, former minister of the economy in this country who embraces international organizations to diametrically oppose candidates and this is a really a pitched battle between two very different idea of where France should head next.
BLACKWELL: So, beyond France, Hala, give us what this really means for the rest of the world, beyond the borders.
GORANI: So, we saw with the Brexit vote in the U.K. for instance with British voters, their majority of British voters deciding in a referendum last year to leave the European Union. We also saw with the election of the U.S. President Donald Trump, a sort of populace fever sweeping Western democracies.
Will it be the case in France where the far right Marine Le Pen? Will she come out on top? Or will it perhaps a candidate in the person of Emmanuel Macron who is more of a mainstream candidate, who prefers the status quo in terms of international organizations, not just the European Union, but NATO, but the World Trade Organization who thinks globalization is actually the way to go as opposed to someone like Marine Le Pen and other far right populace candidates who with, in fact, want to completely disrupt sort of the world order as it is -- as it's been seen over the last several decade?
[07:05:32] So, that is the big question. So, therefore, the result of this election will have an impact far beyond the borders of this country for those reasons, Victor.
BLACKWELL: All right. Hala Gorani for us there in Paris -- Hala, thank you.
PAUL: Meanwhile, CNN's Isa Soares joins us now from Marine Le Pen's heartland.
Isa, what are you hearing from voters in that area?
ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Christi.
Well, we did see Marine Le Pen arrive about two hours or so ago. She cast her vote. She looked confident. She looked happy. She didn't say a word, but we can assume I think it's fair to say that she voted for herself.
But she is -- it's important to note that why she came here not to Paris because this is where she began her campaign, Christi, some eight months or so ago, and this is what she calls the "Forgotten France", the elites have forgotten about them and she's played very well here. She's really won the hearts and the mind and she is hoping the votes of the people here in northern France, this Rust Belt of France.
And, you know, two or three years or so ago, the party won a battle here and been in charge three years or so. In comparison, it's the last 70 years have been dominated by the socialists and she has been able to make a huge sweep here. One of 12 towns across France and playing very much into the key areas that we heard Hala talk about, which is the economy, Islamism, of course, and trying to keep jobs at home. Locally, they have reduced taxes by as many as 10 percent. So, people tell us for the first time they are being heard and they're paying attention.
So, there is a very sharp battle between these two very distinct candidates. It's about the haves and have-nots, globalization versus really patriotism. So, that is how it's being played here, and people I spoke to as they vote this morning saying to me, look, we are not popping the sham bottles just yet, but we think she's going to win and we hope Marine Le Pen wins.
PAUL: All righty. Live pictures for you here as people go to the polls there.
Isa Soares, we appreciate it so much. Thank you.
I want to bring in Errol Louis, CNN political commentator and political anchor for Spectrum News, and Amber Phillips, political reporter with "Washington Post's" political blog, "The Fix".
Thank you both for being here.
Errol, I want to start with you. We just heard from former President Obama endorsing Macron. I'm wondering if there is any gauge as to whether the French care what President Obama or President Trump say about what's happening in their country? Because as we sit here and watch it, it does seem very familiar to us, does it not?
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it does seem familiar. There is an enormous popularity, I think, for President Obama among the French. That was demonstrated during his presidency. They loved him, frankly. Even back in -- as long, though, as 2008 they were putting him on the front pages of all of their magazines and so forth.
I think that he would not have done the ad if Macron had not believed that it would help him. And so, this is an appeal to everything that the Le Pen voters dislike and distrust which is this notion of sort of an elite elegant banker class that is not really bearing the burden that a lot of the small towns, a lot of the folks in older industries have really experienced as far as displacement, unemployment, all kind of disillusionment that's out on there.
And so, this is something that we're going to see happen, not only in France but we have seen it happen in Canada. We've seen it happen in the United States. We are seeing it possibly sort of a similar path in both Italy and in Germany later this year. This is a global phenomenon. Make no mistake about it. There are
winners and there are losers in the modern, global economy. President Trump says it almost every day basically in his own way that he is on the side of those who have been left out and who have been losers. President Obama really in a lot of ways represented those who have been the winners.
PAUL: I want to read something from Macron here, Amber, because he almost connected himself to the U.S. in a way with this statement. Talking about how he was not going to just assume, based on polls, that he was going to win.
He said, "That was almost certainly the mistake Hillary Clinton made. I'm absolutely not playing that game. Right from the first day, that hasn't been a way I defended myself or how I thought."
Polls have Macron, as I said, leading, but how much credence does anybody give polls at this point?
[07:10:04] AMBER PHILLIPS, POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: I think that is a perfect example of this totally upside-down world we're in. We saw obviously in the U.S. election the entire political media was pretty sure Hillary Clinton was going to win. Guess what. She didn't.
So, I see Macron not resting on the fact that he has like a 20, 25- point lead in the polls. And really what that underscores for me is he recognizes there are no rules in this new political reorganization of the western world right now. We don't know what kind of candidate voters are going to like when they feel like there aren't enough jobs, they feel like they are not safe from terrorism. Just -- the polls aren't able to act accurately at least in the U.S. they weren't able to capture whether voters in that situation want a traditional candidate to lead them through these insecure times or just complete and total change.
PAUL: The polls were inaccurate, I suppose, too, when we look at Brexit as well.
PAUL: So, let's talk about Le Pen here, Errol. She said, "I think we need to keep our distance from both Russia and the U.S. No reason to wage Cold War against Russia because it's a major power and Russia hasn't shown any hostility towards France."
What does take say to you? I'm wondering if it risks her support of Russia if that will risk her popularity in France?
LOUIS: Well, we should point out for the record that there were major Russians banks and other institutions that financially supported Marine Le Pen.
LOUIS: So, this was not just a kind of neutral observation about Russia and its influence. Look, the destabilization that we just saw in the closing hours of the campaign has all of the fingerprints of the kind of Russian meddling that we saw in the U.S. elections and their goal is very clear. To the extent -- look, Russia's economy about the size of Italy. They do not compete.
They cannot compete with a unified Europe economic, strategically or militarily. They would like to see Europe sort of disintegrate both politically and economically. So, it is music to the ears of the Russian leadership when Marine Le Pen talks about reinstating the franc, getting out of the Eurozone, basically undoing NATO to the extent that they can, and that is what Marine Le Pen represents.
And so, people will vote for all of their local domestic reasons, there is the culture resentment, the economic dislocation, but in effect, what is going to happen from a geopolitical standpoint is that Russia gets another win.
PAUL: All right. Errol Louis and Amber Phillips, always appreciate the two of you being here with us. Thank you.
LOUIS: Thank you.
PHILLIPS: Thank you.
BLACKWELL: All right. We are looking ahead to crucial testimony from former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates as she prepares to reveal what she knows about former national security adviser Michael Flynn's ties to Russia.
PAUL: Also, President Trump signed an executive order this week granting religious institution, more political freedom. Now, some religious experts say this is a slippery slope. We have more on that, ahead.
BLACKWELL: And 106 wildfires are now burning in Florida. Next, what the state is facing as they try to fight them and when the weather might try to provide some help.
[07:17:26] BLACKWELL: Well, tomorrow, we will finally hear from one of the more high profile witnesses in the Russia/White House fallout.
PAUL: Ousted Acting Attorney General Sally Yates is expected to testify before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee and expected to contradict the Trump administration's version of events regarding former national security adviser Michael Flynn's ties to Russia, of course.
CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto has more on her crucial testimony here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Honorable Sally Yates. JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):
For ten days in January, she was the acting U.S. attorney general. And on one of those days, she delivered a forceful warning to the White House regarding then national security adviser Michael Flynn.
SALLY YATES, FORMER ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: I want to thank you for your leadership.
SCIUTTO: Now on Monday, Sally Yates will, for the first time, tell her account of that warning to the Senate Judiciary Committee. CNN has learned that in a January 26th meeting with White House counsel Don McGahn, Yates said that Flynn was lying when he denied discussing U.S. sanctions on Russia with Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak.
Flynn's misleading comments, Yates told the White House, made him potentially vulnerable to black mail by Russia.
YATES: Welcome to the Department of Justice.
SCIUTTO: Yates' account contradicts that of the White House, which has described her warning in far less serious terms.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The acting attorney general informed the White House counsel that they wanted to give, quote, a heads-up to us on some comments that may have seemed in conflict with what the -- he had sent the vice president.
SCIUTTO: Just days after delivering the warning, Yates was fired for refusing to enforce President Trump's travel ban. Yates' testimony comes as a multiple congressional committees investigating Russian inference in the U.S. election put on bipartisan appearances.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We are working together very well, the whole committee is, and grateful for that opportunity.
SCIUTTO: Meanwhile, the questions from lawmakers in open session tell a very different story. Republicans focused on alleged leaks of classified information.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Director Comey, have you ever been an anonymous source in news reports about matters relating to the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation?
SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: There are clearly members of the IC that have had different points in the past leaked classified information. That is an illegal act, correct?
SCIUTTO: Democrats focused on any ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: The president of the United States could be a target of your ongoing investigation into the Trump campaigns involvement with Russian interference in our election.
[07:20:01] SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: From an investigative standpoint, is the sheer number of connections usually or significant?
SCIUTTO (on camera): Sally Yates testified on Monday, so will the former director of national intelligence, James Clapper. But because these are public sessions and much of the information is classified, there will be limits on what they can say.
Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.
BLACKWELL: Jim, thank you. Let's bring in Errol Louis and Amber Phillips.
Amber, I want to start with you. And I want back to the February 14th briefing there at the White House.
Sean Spicer, this is the day after Flynn resigned. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: The evolving and eroding level of trust as a result of this situation and a series of other questionable instances is what led the president to ask for General Flynn's resignation. Immediately after the Department of Justice notified the White House counsel of the situation, the White House counsel briefed the president in a small group of senior advisers. The issue here was that the president got to the point where General Flynn's relationship misleading the vice president and others or the possibility that he had forgotten critical details of this important conversation had great a critical mass and unsustainable situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: So, Amber, it seems that the time line seems to contradict the narrative here, because the president knew every criterion based -- that he used to ask for the resignation of Flynn on the 26th, two weeks before he actually asked for that resignation.
PHILLIPS: Yeah. The White House has been giving mixed messages about, you know, how they -- how they truly understand what conversations General Flynn had with the Russian ambassador and when. You know, of course, we learned over the weekend that Flynn was warned by top Trump transition officials to be careful about having conversations with him because that would put him under potential surveillance by the U.S. and that has created a huge political headache for the Trump administration.
Just last week, Sean Spicer was forced to, yet again, distance himself and the White House from Flynn and say, you know what, we are glad he is gone, we made the right decision when we kicked him out in February, but they wouldn't say any more.
And so, now for the White House to have essentially this hero on the left, Sally Yates come before the entire Congress and cable news and the whole world really, and tell her story, could be yet raise more questions about the White House at the very, very top knew and when. BLACKWELL: All right. Let's listen to Sean Spicer once more, Errol,
because I think it's important that people are reminded what the White House was saying about the time that Flynn resigned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: We have been reviewing and evaluating this issue with respect to General Flynn on a daily basis for a few weeks, trying to ascertain the truth. We got to a point, not based on a legal issue, but based on a trust issue with a level of trust between the president and General Flynn had eroded to the point where he felt he had to make a change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Trying to ascertain the truth. Again, this is weeks after they got this briefing from DOJ. Is it they did not believe Sally Yates potentially?
LOUIS: Well, that's an interesting question, victor. It's interesting that sort of parse the words and really is striking to hear that they were dealing with it every day for, quote, a couple of weeks. It really sort of raises questions at a minimum about the efficiency and the effectiveness of the transition team on whether or not their vetting process meant much of anything.
You know, the notion that somehow General Flynn might have forgotten about discussing sanctions just doesn't square with the facts. I mean, December 29th was the day that the sanctions were imposed. On that day, he spoke with the ambassador. He spoke about sanctions. It wasn't as if they bumped into each other at a cocktail party. They were talking about the news of the day. They were talking about an unprecedented very aggressive move by the United States to kick out diplomats and otherwise put the world and Russian leadership on notice that something very, very important and very destabilizing had been attempted as far as their interference in the U.S. elections.
To spend then weeks trying to figure out why their man lied about it doesn't say much about the Trump transition team.
BLACKWELL: Amber, Jim pointed out in his prep piece there during the previous hearings, we have heard a lot from Republicans about the leaks and that's been their primary focus. For some of them, their exclusive focus. Do you expect we'll see that split, that divide on Monday as well?
PHILLIPS: Yes, absolutely. I don't think Congress, mostly the two intelligence committees in the House and the Senate, are truly on the same page within each committee about what they want to investigate. I don't think it's clear to the American public either.
Does Congress want to look at why we even know about these conversations with Michael Flynn?
[07:25:03] You know, who in the intelligence community let the world and let the media know that they had had caught him having these conversations under surveillance? Or does Congress want to focus on the connections between the Trump administration and to potential Russia official? For example, we know the FBI got a warrant from a secret court to be able to surveil Carter Page, one of the administration's top foreign aides during the campaign.
I feel like as Jim pointed out in his piece, this is split directly down partisan lines. Democrats want to talk about Trump. Republicans want to talk about why leaks are undermining the Trump situation. I don't see any narrowing of that divide.
BLACKWELL: All right. Amber Phillips, Errol Louis, thank you both.
PHILLIPS: Thank you.
LOUIS: Thank you.
PAUL: President Trump promoting free speech and religious liberty with a congressional executive order. And the granddaughter of world renowned televangelist Billy Graham was at the White House signing. We are talking to her and discussing both sides of this debate, next.
[07:30:21] PAUL: You're awake! We are glad to see it. I'm Christi Paul.
BLACKWELL: Good morning. I'm Victor Blackwell.
President Trump made good on a campaign promise this week. He signed an executive order allowing religious organizations to become more politically active.
PAUL: Now, religious experts say the order doesn't actually do anything, citing that congressional action would be needed to make any real change.
So, what exactly is this new policy all about?
CNN correspondent Rene Marsh clues us in here.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This financial threat against the faith community is over. No one should be censoring sermons or targeting pastors.
RENE MARSH, CNN GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Under the federal tax code, the Johnson Amendment says the IRS can investigate churches and they can potentially lose tax-exempt status if they engage in politics. Trump's executive order intends to weaken that law, but only Congress can repeal it.
During his campaign, Trump told Catholic television channel EWTN he was upset that the law was preventing him from getting religious endorsements. TRUMP: And I said, when are you going to endorse me? And they had,
we can't do that. I said, why can't you do that? They had, we're not allowed to do that. If we did that we would lose our tax-exempt status.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
TRUMP: And I said, why is that? And they told me about the Johnson Amendment in 1954, and I said, we are getting rid of the Johnson Amendment.
MARSH: Trump's executive order is intended to give the IRS more discretion to ease up on any enforcement against religious groups who get political. Minutes after the new executive order was signed, the ACLU said it would file a lawsuit. But once the text of the order was released, the language was noticeably scaled back and some on the left say the order actually won't change much at all.
RABBI DAVID SAPERSTEIN, SENIOR ADVISER, UNION FOR RETURN JUDAISM: The churches of America, the clergy of America, they have free speech now. They can say and do whatever they want.
MARSH: Some conservative religious group said the executive order didn't go far enough. Others applauded the president.
TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: This executive order and the statements by the president today says that the hostility that we've seen toward religious freedom at the hands of our own government in the last eight years is coming to an end.
MARSH: Rene Marsh, CNN, Washington.
PAUL: All right. Let's talk more about this with Billy Graham's granddaughter and a key member of President Trump's faith advisory council, Cissie Graham Lynch, as well as CEO and president of the LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD, Sarah Kate Ellis.
Ladies, thank you for being here.
SARAH KATE ELLIS, CEO & PRESIDENT, GLAAD: Thank you.
CISSIE GRAHAM LYNCH, SPOKESWOMAN, SAMARITAN'S PURSE, & THE BILLY GRAHAM EVANGELISTIC ASSOC.: Thank you for having me.
PAUL: Sissy, I know you were at the signing of the White House. You're on the president's advisory boards. What kind of conversations did you have with the president? What did he ask you?
LYNCH: Well, after the executive order was signed there in the Rose Garden, my father, Franklin Graham, and I went into his office. I thanked him. I thanked him for taking a bold stand for religious freedoms.
There are controversies that the executive order didn't go far enough but I disagree. I think that this was a great first step. There was an underlining message and a tone set by our president of the United States that says people of faith, they will not be bullied. They will not be targeted and they will not be silenced anymore.
And that is for people of all faiths were represented on that stage. There were Hindu, Muslim, Jews, Catholic, Evangelicals. So it is important as a Christian and as a believer in Jesus Christ, I don't want anybody persecuted for their faith, but especially for Christians last week, it was a huge message sent because we have been targeted over the last few years.
PAUL: Sarah, you had a swift response on Twitter. You said: Today's executive order stopped short of rampant discrimination but don't be fooled. This begins a slippery slope of a #licensetodiscriminate.
Based on what you just heard from, Cissie, talk to me about that.
ELLIS: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.
I think what we want to talk about is actually what this narrative is. We are saying religious freedom. Religious freedom is baked into the Constitution of America. It's not up for debate.
What we are talking about is actually a license to discriminate against women, against LGBTQ people, and this was the first step in when I say is a really big backlash against marginalized groups in America, especially LGBTQ people. And the future of this and what we see coming down the pike and what we're most concerned about is that people are going to be able to deny really life-saving health care access, be able to deny housing, deny jobs, fire us from our jobs.
[07:35:10] If my wife and I take our kid to -- we have an 8-year-old -- to-- ill to the hospital, some talk of the executive order sitting on the president's desk right now, doctors could deny our child life saving medical health in a moment's notice. And so, to me, that's not religious freedom. What that is discrimination based on the fact that I'm married to a woman.
PAUL: So, Cissie, when you hear her talk about that, and you talk about the fact this is just a first step, what would you say to Kate in that regard in term of what you want to happen and -- the discrimination she feels? The interesting thing is you're both here sitting about talking about feeling discriminated against.
LYNCH: I don't want anybody to be discriminated against. I don't mean, I'm a believer in Jesus Christ who has loved the entire world and he loves us all. I don't want, depending on your faith or whoever you are, to be discriminated against.
Last Thursday, that's not what this was about. The Johnson Amendment was imposed by Lyndon Johnson because a pastor came after him, whatever, back in the '50s and he did not like it and he set that in order.
But even my family, my father, both of his organizations have been targeted by the IRS on the same day his gotten a letter from the IRS to be audited, and he had to spend lot of money of donor's money to prepare for that audit. That's not a coincidence they both came on the same day.
So, this was a huge step for the Evangelicals who, in the last eight years, have been targeted against the Obama administration.
PAUL: So, Cissie, what do you say to the argument some people make this is nothing more than a protection from the IRS for religious groups?
LYNCH: I think this is just a message sent by the president in a strong voice for us. I'm always for that more can be done to protect our religious freedoms. But I'm thankful for this voice and for the stand he has taken.
PAUL: Sarah, the ACLU executive director, Anthony Romero, had a statement and said that this order was, quote, an elaborate photo op with no discernible policy outcome. Do you get the sense the president authentically believes in this action, or, you know, the possible intention is just to shut down on other -- of the remnants of the Obama administration?
ELLIS: I think we can look to the president's past hundred days which have been very anti-women and very anti-LGBTQ. It started on his first day, inauguration day. He wiped LGBTQ people from the White House web page. He then wiped us from the Department of Labor, Department of State, took us off the 2020 census.
So, there's been this drumbeat of erasing LGBTQ people and persecuting women especially around their health care since day one. This is a continuation of it. And this is -- yes, it wasn't as sweeping and broad as it initially was set out to be, but that's coming down the pike. That's just a matter of time.
And I just want to say that we really have to stop using religious freedom. Religious freedom is embedded in the Constitution. This is the opportunity to put targets on marginalized people's backs and use religion to do that. And deny basic health care and deny housing and deny work opportunities.
And so, you know, the narrative on this is really -- is off quite a bit and I just want to really be careful about using religious freedom.
PAUL: Cissie, when you hear what she is talking about and what the fears are, not just in the LGBTQ community but in others based on this religious freedom executive order, what could you say? What could you say to President Trump to make sure that, you know, as a Christian, that everybody is protected in their own right? Would you -- would you go to him on, say, Sarah's behalf to voice the concerns she has? Because those have nothing to do with the Johnson amendment.
LYNCH: Well, I think we have to remember, he was the first Republican candidate to mention the LGBT or the protection of them at the Republican National Convention. But, you know, religious freedoms, I disagree, is so important. It is
the Christian foundation in this country (AUDIO GAP) all religions to be practiced here in the United States of America. That is not the case around the world. If you take right away, it could be very dangerous.
[07:40:01] We started being persecuted already here on a very small scale, but around the world, I think Open Door said that 255 Christians are being killed each month. Next week, my dad is holding a conference called the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians in Washington, D.C. to bring awareness to this genocide that is happening.
But we have to remember that it's here in the United States, it's the Christian foundation that allows the tolerance of all faiths to be practiced.
LYNCH: But you take that away, other religions are not tolerant of that.
PAUL: Sarah, you get the last word.
LYNCH: They are not tolerant of the LGBT.
ELLIS: I want to be very careful here because there is no persecution going on religion here in the United States.
LYNCH: That's not true. You have (INAUDIBLE) in Washington state.
ELLIS: So, I just want to be careful how we use our words. You're talking globally and now, we are talking nationally.
I also want to be really, really crystal clear around this, that this has been used as a weapon against LGBTQ people and it has been for years and years and years and no one -- I'm a Christian woman. I married my wife in a church. I practice every Sunday.
So, I don't like to be -- I am Christian and I think that that is really, really important. And I don't want to go head-to-head with you on this, but what I do think is what we want to be very careful about is discriminating against any marginalized group.
Religion is baked into the Constitution of the United States of America and it's very important part of the fabric of this country. And I believe in protecting it as well but this is not about protecting that.
PAUL: At the end of the day, conversations certainly that have to be had but we can see both of you feel persecuted for different things and you're both coming from that place.
So, thank you so much for being a part of this conversation. Cissie Graham Lynch, Sarah Kate Ellis, we appreciate the two of you.
ELLIS: Thank you.
LYNCH: Thank you.
ELLIS: Thank you, Cissie.
BLACKWELL: Big troubles for the state of Florida. Hot, dry conditions there are fueling wildfires. Next, what dry days ahead, when will the state see some relief?
Also, W. Kamau Bell believes that uncomfortable conversations, much like the one we just watched, create change. On this week's "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA", he is walking the streets of Chicago with gang members to find out why violence there has been growing at an alarming rate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
W. KAMAU BELL, UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA: What does the phrase "Black Lives Matter" mean to you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is a touchy subject.
BELL: It's he most notorious city in the country. Is it exaggeration?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's worse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Worse.
BELL: For the younger generation, what does that mean for them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first thing you put in your hand is a gun.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody look up to the shooter. Other shorties coming up, they like, damn, that's what I want to be.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The violence that have hit our city in Chicago is perplexing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- brings on all of these problems.
BELL: What can we do to make this better?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we want to talk about violence in our communities, we have to talk about the support system we have.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The black system is getting way less funding per student.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[07:47:20] PAUL: Well, big news today: 82 schoolgirls kidnapped by the Boko Haram terror group are finally safe and sound. And we want to share this picture that we're just getting in here. Those are some of the Chibouk schoolgirls boarding a helicopter just a little while ago as they head home. Since they have been taken, they have arrived, we understand, in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, and Nigeria's information minister tells CNN one of the children does have a broken arm. There's another with a leg injury but generally all in good condition.
They were among 276 girls who were 16 to 18 years old at a time kidnapped from their school in the middle of the night in 2014. We covered it extensively here at CNN.
PAUL: And they are getting medical checks now and will be reunited with their families shortly. Just so grateful for that.
Let's take you to Florida now. One hundred six wildfires are actively burning right now. They are fueled by the hot and dry conditions, and according to the U.S. drought monitors, Florida has now taken over California's spot as having the worst drought in the country. And with no rain on the way in most areas for several days, serious relief may not come from the weather until the summer rainy season. And if that was not enough, the state is fighting arsonists. They have torched 20,000 acres so far this year.
BLACKWELL: In today's "Staying Well", we take a look at how dragon boat racing is helping thousands of Americans get their heart rates up and their stress levels down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make sure your stroke is nice and straight and even coming back.
ANDREA ELISCU, FOUNDER, ORLANDO DRAGON BOAT CLUB: Dragon boating is about 2,800 years old and started in China.
A dragon boat is 41-foot long. Everybody has to be synchronized with their paddle. Do you what the person in front of you and the person across from you does. And if you can do that, the boat goes straight and it goes very fast.
WILLIS WEAVER, RETIRED ORLANDO POLICE OFFICER: Constant motion. Like a short burst of energy. Recently retired as an Orlando police officer after 23 years and no matter what I dealt with on the street when I came out here, I couldn't believe it. The water smells good. It feels good. Kind of like a Zen moment.
MELISSA ROMERO, SALES & CUSTOMER SERVICE AGENT: For me, it's about getting my heart rate up, getting some exercise in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Charge. Lengthen your stroke.
ROMERO: I like being out in the open rather than being in a gym. I have a lot of core strength now. When I first started, I couldn't paddle for more than a minute at a time. And now, I can do an hour continuous.
[07:50:01] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Let's take the lead!
ROMERO: The worries of the day just kind of melt away.
BLACKWELL: Anthony Bourdain travels to Spain's Basque Country and the city of San Sebastian to find the best food in Europe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY BOURDAIN, ANTHONY BOURDAIN'S PARTS UNKNOWN: I hesitate to praise this place more than I already have.
It's not really best kept secret in Europe or the world.
When I look at those things, I'm going to bring one back in my luggage.
Because plenty of people know about it, mostly chefs.
[07:55:02] BOURDAIN: What do chefs know? They know that Basque Country, San Sebastian in particular, what about the whole region? Has probably, yeah, definitely, the most awesome food scene, most incredible ingredients, the most delicious food in Europe.
Don't come here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Catch "ANTHONY BOURDAIN'S PARTS UNKNOWN" tonight at 9:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.
PAUL: We haven't told you lately, we appreciate you being with us in the mornings. Make some good memories today.
BLACKWELL: "INSIDE POLITICS WITH JOHN KING" is up next.