Return to Transcripts main page


President Returns to Growing Kushner Controversy; White House Preps "War Room" to Defend Against Russia Probe; Severe Storms Hit the Southeast; Source: Trump Children Discuss Strategy with RNC; U.K. Official: Some of Bomber's Network May Still Be At Large; Southern Rocker Gregg Allman Dead at 69; Countdown to the Indianapolis 500. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired May 28, 2017 - 07:00   ET


[07:00:04] POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Polo Sandoval, CNN, Atlanta.


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: And next hour, we are talking to Michael Lehman, his long time manager and close friend there about what he was doing the night before he died and it's going to be pretty interesting for fans.


PAUL: No doubt about it, though. Thank you to him.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kushner discussed a plan after election day to set up a secret communication channel for the White House to communicate with the Kremlin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president has answered little to no questions from reporters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, did Jared try to set up a back channel to the Russians?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're establishing a war room inside the West Wing that is able to quickly respond.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not going to comment on Jared. We're just not going to comment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have backchannel communications with a number of countries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is off the map. No other experience like this. We have not heard from Kushner at all. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hateful words directed at Muslim passengers on an

afternoon commuter train.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the loss of two brave, compassionate lives.


PAUL: Sunday morning, we've got a full plate of news for you. Good to have you with us. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you.

And the president is back in Washington after his nine days traveling on the world stage. He is now calling his first overseas trip as president a home run.

But back at the White House, mounting questions about Russia and the ongoing investigations.

PAUL: But there is a reminder of controversy just moments after the president and first lady returned to the White House. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, did Jared try to set up a back channel to the Russians?


PAUL: A reporter shouting out to him and not getting an answer, of course. But this morning, we are getting some new details on how the president's family is crafting the political strategy ahead.

CNN's Ryan Nobles has all of that for us.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Christi, the president is back in Washington after his lengthy trip abroad and even though his team feels confident the trip was successful, he returns to plenty of controversy, including a number of issues that involve his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. Kushner has yet to respond to reports that he attempted to set up a secret backchannel line of communications with the Russian government during the transition.

Kushner's connections to the Kremlin through a variety of means, continue to be a specific line of inquiry by investigators looking to Russia's attempt to intervene in the U.S. elections. Now, despite these issues, a White House official says that Kushner isn't going anywhere. He does plan to keep his head down and keep focused on his wide portfolio of responsibilities in the West Wing.

In the meantime, the White House is shaking things up, creating a war room designed to quickly rebut the attacks that pour as a result of this ongoing investigation. The president's children are getting involved as well. Donald Jr. and Eric Trump and his wife Laura spent the last few days in Washington meeting with groups including the teams at the RNC and PAC the American Priorities which supports the Trump administration.

The goal of these meetings was to get all of the teams on the same page ahead of the 2018 midterm elections and the president's own re- election bid in 2020 -- Christi and Victor.


BLACKWELL: All right. Let's bring in former FBI agent and Russian counterintelligence expert Scott Olsen, and Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for "The Chicago Sun-Times".

Good morning to you.

And, Lynn, first up to you. Just put in the context what the president is returning to and how that will complicate what the White House, what the president wants to do to get back to the business of legislating and get some work done?

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: He has an enormous week and days ahead in Congress. He has the most important issues, raising the debt ceiling that's coming up because he will probably need Democratic votes to do that. You have his budget which was rolled out while he was overseas. Not clear where that's going. And whatever happened to the health care bill in the Senate?

So, that alone would be a full plate. Then you add on it the multiple investigations in the Senate, the House, the FBI. Plus, senior trusted adviser slash son-in-law Jared Kushner under the extreme scrutiny. This is a White House that hasn't yet shown it could even handle routine governing in Congress. Now, it has these scandals to deal with, too.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about the big story this weekend, Scott, Jared Kushner and the confirmation now that he discussed, we don't know who initiated it yet, discussed setting up these secret communications with Russian officials. Now, people have been referring to this as a back channel. But I want you to explain for people how this is not -- or at least what was discussed, the typical back channel between lower level White House staffers to set up some communications for the boss.

What are the important distinctions here?

[07:05:02] SCOTT OLSEN, FORMER FBI AGENT: Sure. Well, staff work is an important part of government, and the reason it's important is because it allows for not off-the-record but informal consensus building between agencies, and it's really an important part of the preparation for high level negotiations when senior official are getting locked into positions and are making statements on the record.

What happened here, as I understand it, is fundamentally different in two ways. One, this is not a low-level engagement. This is high level, in person interaction. And the problem there is that you can't distance yourself from setting positions. And it's a real problem face-to-face. The fact that it's -- there is an attempt here to make it secret

doesn't solve the problem. What is even more concerning is the stories that are related to how this communication was going to happen, the notion that we would, as a U.S. government official, have these conversations over a foreign government's communication system really shows a staggering lack of understanding of the place of the U.S. in the world, and really a remarkable lack of common sense.

BLACKWELL: All right. I want you to listen to House Democrat Ted Lieu, a congressman from California, and his thoughts on what should happen next with Jared Kushner.


REP. TED LIEU (D-CA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Jared Kushner should resign and he should be prosecuted for lying on his two security clearance forms if these reports are true. We know that on his first security clearance form, he failed to disclose a meeting with the Russian ambassador and that was a significant meeting where they discussed secret back channel communications. You wouldn't forget about that meeting on your security clearance form. And then when he was told to revise the form, he lied again because "Reuters" reported two additional contacts with the Russians that he failed to disclose.


BLACKWELL: Scott, you're former FBI. Is there enough here for prosecution?

OLSEN: It's difficult to say, but what is not difficult to say is how important it is when you're filling out those forms and you're seeking a U.S. government security clearance, to be open and honest. I think the lesson here is if you're not open and honest, we're going to catch you.

BLACKWELL: Lynn, there is no chance, at least what we are hearing now, and banner across the bottom of the field, saying Kushner is not going anywhere, but they are starting to create this war room, the reporting shows. Let me put up some of the faces here of people who are potentially members of this war room.

And I want you to set me straight here, because you've been covering Washington and the White House for a long time. The point typically of the war room is to isolate the specific stories and those questions so that the team put in place can get to the business of legislating, of doing what the people elected them to do. If you put the chief of staff in the war room and your chief strategist in the war room, don't you negate the purpose of isolating that story?

SWEET: Well, unless you want to get a two for one, and also a have an informal staff shuffle at the same time, and realign even if you have titles the same, you might have different personnel in there.

But of the four men that you pictured, the most important person in this case is David Bossie and I think people should remember that name if, indeed, he comes into the White House. He was a deputy, the campaign manager in the Trump campaign, but, most important, he comes from an investigative congressional background. He helped let the investigations against Bill and Hillary Clinton when Bill Clinton was president, from his perch in one of the Hill investigative committees all through the Hill hearings during the Bill Clinton years up to and including impeachment. And then he also ran Citizens United. Big research operation.

He knows how the Hill investigations work. These investigations are in the hands of Republicans, although they are not necessarily friendly, I think he could help bring a better understanding, at least to the White House what is going on and then they could communicate it.

But one more quick thing.


SWEET: It's not a war room issue. It's that they have a problem. That's the problem. The problem is they have a problem.

BLACKWELL: There is a here here, although the president continues to say it's fake news, we know that there were people who were close there to the story understood what was reported by "The Washington Post" yesterday who confirmed that, yes, Jared Kushner discussed those secret communications in setting up that line through a Russian facility with the Kremlin.

Lynn Sweet and Scott Olsen, thank you and stay with us.

SWEET: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: We'll talk to the next half hour.

PAUL: Meanwhile, the FBI has joined Portland police in investigating that stabbing on a commuter train. And we are learning more about the two men who gave their lives protecting other people, of course, being called a hero this morning.

[07:10:02] BLACKWELL: Plus, 40 million people in the path of a severe storm yesterday. Missouri has already been hit. Look at this: authorities have been scrambling overnight with water rescues. We'll tell you where the worst of the storm is now and where it's headed.

PAUL: And a video showing a kayaker surviving a shark attack after it knock him into the water. We'll show you more.


BLACKWELL: The FBI is looking into the background of a man who police say stabbed three people on a Portland commuter train and killing two of them.

PAUL: Yes, they are trying to determine if Jeremy Christian, that man, can be charged with federal hate crimes. He is already being held a number of charges including murder and attempted murder. And there are now past videos surfacing from Facebook right here, showing him giving a Nazi salute and shouting racial slurs.

[07:15:07] The city of Portland, however, right now, is honoring the people who stepped up to stop that attack on the train.

CNN digital correspondent Dan Lieberman is joining us live from New York, because they are absolutely calling these gentlemen heroes.

DAN LIEBERMAN, CNN DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, guys. Well, you know, we are learning more about the two men who died in Friday's attack. Two people, 53-year-old Army veteran and father of four, the other man, a 23-year-old recent graduate of Reed College. The victims are being remembered as heroes for intervening, trying to stand up for passengers and fight against hate.

Last night, a candlelight vigil was held in Portland honoring them. A third victim who survived, a 21-year-old, is recovering in the hospital. His mom spoke out yesterday about his injuries. Here's what she said.


MARGIE FLETCHER, MOTHER OF STABBING VICTIM: They missed the jugular by a millimeter. They cut one of the carotid arteries and he will have some paralyzation.


LIEBERMAN: There's been an outpouring of support for the victims on social media and the governor of Oregon praised their actions, speaking out in a press conference. Here's what she had.


GOVERNOR KATE BROWN (D), OREGON: Let's not let hate and fear divide us. Instead, let's take the example of the Good Samaritans who sacrificed their lives for the safety of others.


LIEBERMAN: And the suspect is going to be in court on Tuesday and authorities say he could face additional charges once he is before a grand jury, guys.

PAUL: All right. Dan Lieberman, we appreciate the update. Thank you.


BLACKWELL: All right. Severe storms are rolling through the Southeast right now. Millions of people are facing damaging winds and softball-sized hail.

PAUL: That just sounds bad.

BLACKWELL: Damaging. PAUL: In Missouri -- oh my goodness, yes. In Missouri, hurricane force winds damaged buildings, took down tree limbs yesterday. Last hour, I spoke with the Branson, Missouri, fire chief Ted Martin.


TED MARTIN, BRANSON, MISSOURI FIRE CHIEF (via telephone): A flash flood emergency that caused some areas to flood that we typically do not flood in our community. Some streets were closed and some of the creeks were over their banks that typically are controlled very well and that caused some issues yesterday evening.

PAUL: I understand that at one point, three people were missing in Branson. Is that still the status?

MARTIN: That is. Late last night, the search was called off. We had our vehicle enter a waterway that had five people in it. Two people were able to escape and accounted for and three posterior were unaccountable for. Crews will return at daylight morning to what is called Fall Creek and also along the lake where that creek is built into.


PAUL: Now, for a look on where we are today, there are alerts out there -- CNN's Allison Chinchar.

And Victor made a good point last night with the lightning we are seeing.

BLACKWELL: Yes. We're seeing it here in Atlanta. I mean, non-stop light show.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, for those folks that were trying to get some sleep, they were probably rudely awakened up because of the amount of lightning that was out there. This is the same system we will have from yesterday.

Take a look at the lightning. Again, it was just nonstop throughout Atlanta. Now, the good news is the threat for Atlanta has started to died back down, at least a little bit. It's the same system from yesterday.

We had almost 200 hail reports from yesterday and several of which we talk about were baseball and softball-sized hail. That's not going to put a few minor dents in your car. That's going to total your car.

The amount of rain that also fell was impressive. We talked about the flooding in Missouri around the Branson area, we're talking about nearly six inches of rain in less than 12 hours. That's why we have the flood warning still in effect for portions of southern Missouri. The good news is the rain is starting to exit Missouri and just push a little bit further south.

Right now, still raining around Memphis, starting to come in to portions of Jackson and also into Shreveport, a lot of the lightning there.

In Atlanta, things starting to let up a little bit. A lot of that lightning that we saw from those camera towers coming out as it moved through the city, but now starting to exit, heading over towards Covington and along interstate 20. So, travel along there is likely going to be very bright, lots of lightning and very heavy downpours.

Now, the threat for today still includes nearly 40 million people for severe weather. Main threat still continuing to be damaging wind, large hail, and the possibility at least for an isolated tornado or two but that's not going to be the main threat. As we go into on the afternoon, more storms begin to develop, especially look the south side. We are talking Louisiana, Mississippi, and down toward Texas. But there is also the northern edge of this storm as well, so some of the Mid-Atlantic states, Pennsylvania around Washington, D.C., looking at West Virginia, also going to be dealing with some very heavy rain and the potential for severe weather.

[07:20:09] So, Victor, Christi, a lot of things coming in and so many power outages the overnight hours. That likely is going to stay the case as we go to the day today and those strong winds continue to push east.

PAUL: All righty. Allison, thank you so much.

Listen, this is one of the stories that I say, what is wrong with people? A mother is behind bars today, accused of locking her two children, ages 2 and 5, in the trunk of her car while she went shopping! Her excuse, according to an eyewitness in Riverdale, Utah, that her babysitter didn't show up.

Now, bystanders stepped in to help when they saw the car shaking and heard shouting coming from the trunk, even had the eyewitness say she saw the woman put the children in the trunk. They were able to coax the older child to pull the emergency latch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The little girl I could hear screaming she was, mom, let me out! Let me out! Mom, help! She was screaming and crying. Both kids just came out like jumped and spring-loaded and just jumped out at us. One lady took the 2-year-old. I took the 5- year-old. I was like, this can't be what we are finding.


PAUL: (INAUDIBLE) has been charged with four counts of child abuse and one charge of theft.

BLACKWELL: All right. Let's turn to the White House and Donald Trump, back from his first overseas trip as president. Sources tell CNN his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, held meetings of their own with the RNC. We'll tell you why, next.

PAUL: All righty. You know what? It's racing day. Coy Wire at the Indianapolis 500 this morning! COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: History, tradition, spectacle --

sometimes those words have a pretentious connotation but not here at the Indy 500. What's that this place like, especially for the drivers? We'll hear from last year's champion, coming up.


[07:26:14] PAUL: It's always good to know you're watching. Thank you for being with us here on this Sunday. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you.

And President Trump waking up in the White House, back after his nine- day trip abroad. But it's a White House overshadowed by gathering storm clouds, as we look for answers from the administration about possible contacts between his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Moscow.

PAUL: An official says Kushner is not going anywhere and will cooperate with all of the inquiries that come in. But the White House is preparing to establish, we understand, a war room to contain the Russia investigation.

Listen to Congressman Ted Lieu's take on the new Kushner controversy.


LIEU: The issue is not having a back channel communication with another country. The issue is that Jared Kushner wanted this done with Russian equipment at a Russian embassy. The only reason you would want to do that is to hide those communication from U.S. intelligence and it makes you wonder whose side is he on and what is he hiding?


PAUL: In the meantime, President Trump's sons Donald Jr., Eric Trump and Eric's wife Laura met with at Republican National Committee to discuss the midterm elections and the 2020 reelection outlook.

So, we want to bring back Lynn Sweet here. Lynn, thanks for sticking around.

I want to read to you something that Donald Trump Jr. said this past March at a GOP dinner in Dallas. He said, I thought I was out of politics after election day. I thought I'd be going back to my regular job. But once you get a little bit of a taste of that action, it's hard to leave.

You know, listen, deals are still exciting. But when you're sort of a guy out there 24/7, ever day fighting in this thing, it's like a great fight, the intensity. I don't miss the politics. I promise, I want nothing to do with politics, but I miss the intensity of that.

So he said he doesn't want to be in politics but he is meeting with the RNC. Help us understand the dynamic that's going on behind closed doors between political leaders and Donald Trump's sons. SWEET: Well, in this case, I think this is I'm going to try to play

the role of Lynn Sweet, political psychologist here.


SWEET: After a statement like that, well, I like it, I don't like it, the intensity, the lure, what is this? What is this, walk to the flame here? So part of this is -- it sound like he is a little just not intoxicated but he got hooked on this. Nothing wrong with that. There is a lot of family out there and who wants to defend President Trump? And he needs it.

The question is: are these the right people to be navigating the Trump presidency in this time of crisis? Now, what they did, the two brothers, meeting with these outside groups is to set them up, to have them defend the Trump White House is an aspiration that should have been fully borne weeks ago given where this Trump administration has been heading, because not only do they have the Russia crisis, the Senate and House investigation, the FBI probe with Mueller, they haven't been able to get their governing in order. They have administration positions they haven't filled and as we know heading into this week, they have a new budget to deal with. They will have a debt ceiling to raise and the health care bill to get going in the Senate.

So if they have an outside group that wants to advocate for the Trump White House, let the brothers go kick-start it. Where have they been?

PAUL: So, here is the question: is now the right time to have these meetings about 2018 and 2020 with everything that is swirling around the White House? Or is that precisely why it is the right time?

SWEET: Well, you know, unless you -- politics often, it's a permanent campaign mode any way. The Obama White House had an outside support group in its first term.

[07:30:01] It was tucked inside the DNC that later came out and evolved into Organizing for Action. There were other Democratic allied groups that were there to support policies and programs for the White House.

In a sense, all that is, unless you have a story to tell, you go into 2018 -- you can't go into 2018 and 2020 without something to show for the time you're in. So, this lays the groundwork and is the campaign -- it's a permanent campaign. You have to have something to show.

PAUL: And real quickly, considering the fact these eldest sons are absorbing the Trump organization business, ethically, is there an issue with their meetings with the RNC and who is in charge? Is that them or is it the RNC head?

SWEET: Well, the new RNC head, Ronna McDaniel from Michigan, is somebody who was installed with the blessings of Trump, Reince Priebus, the chief of staff, they are in private business and I don't see any ethical issue coming up in them advising the RNC any more than a big outsider could be used to consult. That is not the issue. What the issue is -- are they giving their father and his

administration good political advice to help him chart the days, weeks, months ahead?

PAUL: All right. Lynn Sweet, always appreciate you being here. Thank you.

SWEET: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: It's been less than a week since the deadly terror attack in Manchester. But, today, the city comes together for a huge public event.

CNN's Muhammad Lila is live in Manchester.

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm Muhammad Lila in Manchester where the city is celebrating and I'll tell you why coming up after the break and give you the latest on the investigation.

PAUL: And if you put yourself in this position, terrifying moments for a kayaker. A shark knocks him into the water. The whole thing caught on camera by people on shore. We'll tell you more about what happened.


[07:36:02] PAUL: Well, we are six days from the deadly terror attack in Manchester that happened in the U.K. there. And officials are still warning this morning a serious threat for more attacks could be eminent.

BLACKWELL: And just this morning, one official said it's possible that members of the concert bomber's terror network are still out there.

CNN international correspondent Muhammad Lila is live in Manchester.

Muhammad, I want to get to the news here, the warning in just a moment. But, first, you're in front of the finish line for a half- marathon happening right now.

LILA: Well, that's right, Victor. The half-marathon just finished. You might see one or two more people straggling across the finish line. It's really quite remarkable scene. There are balloons here. There's music blaring. People are cheering and clapping and laughing. A stark contrast to the situation we saw during the week where there were a lot of tears and a lot of heartbreak.

Really what this is, is this is a show of resilience from the city of Manchester. There were some concerns in this event might be cancelled because it could be a potential target for another attack. But the city of Manchester rose up and said, no, it's important to hold this not just for the city but for entire country and to show the world that Manchester is determined to get life back to normal after the devastating attack. PAUL: So, Muhammad, tell us what is happening with the investigation

and this ongoing threat this morning.

LILA: Well, that's right ongoing I think is the right word. Just a couple of hours ago, the U.K.'s Home Minister Amber Rudd was asked directly if she believed there were more suspects as part of this terror cell that are still on the loose. She would not dismiss that possibility. She said that potentially there could be, but they won't know for sure until the investigation is finished.

Now, if you recall, late yesterday night, British officials released security camera footage, still photos of the man that they believe was behind this, Salman Abedi. They say those images were taken from security cameras as he was on his way to the Manchester Arena to commit the attack. But most importantly for the investigation, they believe they have identified the apartment that the suspect was using and that is so important because they think that that apartment might be the place where he assembled the final explosives.

So, forensic teams will be combing that apartment for any evidence and any residue of explosives to get a better sense of how many people were involved in this network and hopefully they will be able to find any other people that we're involved.

PAUL: You know, we know that the alert had been critical for sometime. It just got knocked down to severe. But tell us about how -- did that affect, at all, the memorial this morning?

LILA: Well, I should say because of the various events that are taking place in Manchester, like I mentioned, the half-marathon, there's a 10k race coming up and organizers say the 10k race is the biggest in Europe, there is a heavy security presence here on the ground. We have seen officers carrying semiautomatic rifles. We have seen large numbers of police patrolling these streets.

And you have to remember, in the U.K., they don't have this culture of armed police officers walking down the streets. So, to see officers in full bullet-proof armor and carrying semiautomatic rifles, it's a shock to a lot of people but that just shows you how seriously authorities here are taking the security threat. They might not believe that another attack is eminent but the public need to exercise vigilance, and that's why there's so many security forces out here today.

BLACKWELL: And we're seeing video that we saw there for a moment, a video of the memorial earlier today, as people there brought flowers and notes. You see the balloons there.

PAUL: It is incredible when you look at it.

BLACKWELL: Thousands and thousands of expressions this.

Muhammad Lila, live in Manchester, thanks so much.

PAUL: I want to share some dramatic video with you here. And you can't help but put yourself in this person's place here. A kayaker who survived a shark attack but you see the shark grab the kayak as this man floats a few feet away. Take a look at this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see a shark attack. I'm filming it. He got knocked off by a shark and the shark went on his kayak right now.

[07:40:05] See it? Yes, look at that kayak, see the shark? See the fin?


Oh my god.


It's swimming towards the guy now.

Call somebody, Karen. That's a big a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) shark. The shark was wider than the kayak. He's waving.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, the sailboat's going over there now.



BLACKWELL: Brian Courier (ph) says he was paddling off the coast of California in March when he heard a bang and went flying into the air. Fortunately, a nearby sailboat came to his rescue minutes later. And he was not seriously hurt. Good news there.

Let's take you to California. Scary moments at a water park there when a kid flew on off a water slide. You got to see this video . Watch carefully. Can't miss it.

Ten-year-old comes off the slide and look to the left here of the slide, and lands there near the bottom onto concrete.

PAUL: Now, he wasn't seriously hurt, believe it or not. Apparently some scratches and bruising but witnesses say he may not have been following the rules for sliding down properly so kid take note, maybe? I don't know. But the slide did close while the company investigated.

Hey, next, we're going to have a conversation with the manager of a titan in southern rock, of course. Gregg Allman, he died last night. But his long time manager and friend is going to talk to us about a number of things, including what he was doing, Mr. Allman, the night before he died.


[07:46:18] BLACKWELL: Gregg Allman, founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, has died. He passed away at his home in Savannah, Georgia.

PAUL: He struggled with liver complications. He was just 69-year- old.

Here's Pablo Sandoval with a look at his career and his life.



POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He was a warm, kind hearted southern gentleman to his manager, but to the music world, Gregg Allman was an icon, pioneer of sounds of the southern rock.


SANDOVAL: In 1969, while man was landing on the moon, a young Gregg Allman was teaming up with older brother Duane to form the Allman Brothers Band. New mix of rock, blues, country and jazz catapulted the group's success becoming, one of the most influential acts in the '70s as group's chief songwriter. Gregg panned the lyrics to signature songs like "Midnight Rider", "Sweet Melissa", and the blues epic "Whipping Post."


SANDOVAL: The band was eventually committed into the rock 'n' roll hall of fame in 1995, but the road to success was anything smooth for Gregg. His older brother died after the release of their first album and Gregg also struggled with drug abuse and rocky romantic history that included a marriage to Cher, one of his many marriages.

Most recently, he returned to Georgia where he opened up to CNN about his battle with hepatitis C.

GREGG ALLMAN, SOUTHERN ROCKER: I just started getting real tired, you know? Energy just ain't there.

SANDOVAL: It's also where he spent his final days working on a soon to be released album "Southern Blood."

MICHAEL LEHMAN, GREG ALLMAN'S MANAGER (via telephone): He fortunately got to hear some of the final mixes of his record and shared with me how happy he was.

SANDOVAL: His general manager Michael Lehman tells CNN Gregg was at peace with his family by his side when he died of liver cancer complications Saturday. News of the musician's death flooded social media with condolences from fans and fellow icon Cher and Ringo Starr.

I have led some kind of life, Gregg wrote in his 2012 memoir. A life now immortalized in lyrics.


SANDOVAL: Polo Sandoval, CNN, Atlanta.


PAUL: His long time manager and friend Michael Lehman is with us now.

Michael, I'm so sorry. Please know we are sending our condolences and our thoughts to you and his family. He was as we could tell by that --

LEHMAN: Thank you so much.

PAUL: Of course. As we can tell by that piece on Gregg that this was a man who was an overcomer. Where did he find that spirit?

LEHMAN: I think he found that from his mother. His mother was a very strong woman. She passed away about two years ago and he always would refer to her as the one that gave him the inner strength when he was younger and his backbone. And I think that is really what propelled him on from an early childhood. Gregg lost his dad when he was two and was raised by his mother and older brother Duane.

PAUL: He was doing something, as I understand it, the night before, that fans will appreciate.

As I understand, up until he died, he was working on the solo album, "Southern Blood." What can we expect from that?

LEHMAN: So, it's an extraordinary record.

[07:50:01] There's going to be 10 tracks on it. Some original music as well as a number of covers, including "A Song for Adam", which Jackson Brown wrote and actually harmonized on to this record. He has "Taj Mahal", that's going to be on and a lot of close friends.

I think it's going to be a special record that the world is going to embrace and celebrate his life. And as I said earlier, to you guy, he did get to listen to a lot of that music two nights ago, maybe 12 hours before he passed and was peaceful.

We were talking about the record. He was commenting on the mixes and just so excited. I made a promise to him two nights ago that I would carry on his legacy and deliver that record to the public.

PAUL: So that record will be coming out. I know his fans will appreciate it.

Quickly, Michael, you have been by his side for so many things. We've been showing pictures of the two of you together. What was his impact on you?

LEHMAN: You know, he was an incredibly warm person, that was so smart. I don't think people really realized how smart he was. So, he taught me different lessons about life every single day about compassion, friendship, love, understanding the arts and music, and just really how to feel things more deeply and I'm forever grateful for that lesson.

PAUL: Well, Michael, know his fans are as well, and again, we wish you all of the best and sending strength and prayers to you and his family. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. LEHMAN: Thanks so much.

PAUL: Of course.

We'll be right back.


[07:56:04] BLACKWELL: So, I understand your problem sometimes when you're trying to get better sleep. I struggle with it myself. Get to bed earlier, you count sheep maybe. Sleeping pills maybe work, but yeah, you're still struggling.

PAUL: Yes, the latest medical advice says, oh, no, exercise is the thing to do.

Here's CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, talking about how and when to get moving to get you a better night's sleep.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Run, run, kick, kick, side.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One thing we can do to live longer and be healthier is exercise. That's because not only does it reduce stress, improves mood and lower your risk for a ton of diseases, it improves your sleep as well. That's especially true for the tens of millions of us who tossed and turned with insomnia, or the millions more struggling with sleep apnea. That's a dangerous condition where you temporarily stop breathing during sleep.

Recent studies show two and a half hours of moderate exercise every week, along with two days of weight training put diagnosed insomniacs back to sleep. It also improved sleep apnea symptoms.

Scientists used to think that exercising at night was bad for sleep, but only early morning workouts improve your snooze. Now, they say listen to your body clock. If you're a night owl, evening workouts can be just as good. What's important is that you just get up and go to catch better Zs.


PAUL: All right. Let's look at a picture and see if you can guess where one Mr. Coy Wire is just based on the picture, although I guess there he is.

BLACKWELL: And we put it on the screen, too.

PAUL: All right. So, there be it.

All right. Indianapolis 500. Coy Wire, how's the party?

WIRE: You guys, this is the greatest spectacle in racing is incredible. I rode over here with a sweet 70-year-old lady named Brenda. I asked how many Indy 500 she's been through. She says, my first is one, it's my bucket list. She was so happy. I got a little verklempt.

This is incredible day today. And we want to talk about who won last year. Alexander Rossi, a 66-1 long shot from Sacramento. He became the first American-born rookie since 1928 to win the biggest auto race in the world. And how he did it was just as impressive. He used one fewer pit stop than the other drivers and he ran out of gas after taking the checkered flag and they had to tow his car to victory lane.

Three hundred thousand people will be here today, the largest single day sporting event in the world. And I asked the reigning champ about the greatest spectacle in racing.


ALEXANDER ROSSI, QUALIFIED 3RD FOR THIS YEAR'S RACE: You're standing on this straight away and you're in your good formation and just around you are people and energy and atmosphere, and it's pretty special as a sports person, as someone who grew up driving go carts, wanting to achieve a level. And just being on this grid is a dream come true, kind of regardless of the end result.


WIRE: Winners drink milk. That's the motto here at the Indy 500. Why? In 1936, the winner Louis Meyer didn't drink champagne after the win. He drank a cold bottle of milk because that's what he liked on hot days. Well, the tradition stuck.

I got to catch up with the milkman Joe Kelsay of Kelsay Farms who provides the winner's bottle and for him and the Indiana Dairy's Association. It's an honor.


JOE KELSAY, KELSAY FARMS: Traditions are such an important part of the Indianapolis 500. And, certainly, chief among them would be the drink of milk for the winner at the end of the race. And it is the coolest prize on all the sports. That's for certain.

Regular people on the street, they recognize that tradition and, frankly, they put a lot of pressure on the milk people to make sure they do it right, because it's that important to the Indianapolis 500.


WIRE: Which is whole, skim, 2 percent before the race. So, we'll find out soon who's going to be chugging a nice, cold jug of milk.

PAUL: Have fun, Coy.

BLACKWELL: All right. Thanks for watching today.