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Trump Trades Jabs With Press At Gridiron Dinner; Trump Jokes About Himself, Aides At Charity Event; In Joke-Filled Speech, Trump Suggests Talking With North Korea; Police: Michigan Student Charged With Killing Parents; President Jokes About Himself At Private Dinner. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired March 4, 2018 - 06:00   ET





DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Don't forget China is great and Xi is a great gentleman. He's now president for life. Maybe we'll have to give that a shot someday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a Chinese communist tyrant who he is admiring.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have now our sitting president openly amusing about wanting to become a dictator.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are all beating us, China, Japan, Waconda.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wanted to tell a story one of the biggest stories I know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "Get Out" has grossed more than $250 million worldwide. It is now a best picture contender at the Academy Awards.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People are still mostly going to put their money on either three billboards and the shape of water.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now the question is how will the Academy Awards address the surge in activism?


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: You saw it there, the president, the press. A little bit of policy.


PAUL: A lot of punch lines. Good morning, everybody. We have all of it for you. I'm Christi Paul.

SAVIDGE: I'm Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell. Good morning, Christi. Good morning to all of you. Trump is back in Washington this morning after joining the journalists that he loves to hate for the Annual Gridiron Club Dinner last night.

PAUL: Yes. Among the jabs that he made at his family, administration, the president's remarks did touch on some of the major foreign policy obstacles that he is facing. CNN's Dan Merica is live in Washington. So, Dan, what resonated with you? What stuck in your mind most?

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: It seems like a fun event. You know, it's a different kind of setting for President Trump. The Gridiron Dinner, a white tie invite only event here in Washington, D.C. that brings journalists and politicians together for some bipartisan ribbing and President Trump showed last night that he was in on the joke.

He made cracks about himself and administration and recent headlines even some of his top aides. He said Steve Bannon, his former White House chief strategist, leaked more than the Titanic.

He joked about Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser joking that it took him longer to get through security, obviously, an illusion to the fact that Jared just had his security clearance lowered in the last week.

And he even made a joke about First Lady Melania Trump, his wife. He joked that the people inside and outside the administration were speculating over who would leave first, Steven Miller, his speech writer or Melania?

Obviously, a reference to the fact that many in Washington have seen their relationship soured -- or thought their relationship has soured over the last few months. Earlier in the day, though, President Trump made news of a different variety down at his Florida estate in Mar-a- Lago.

He was speaking to Republican donors where he openly mused about how much he admired Chinese President Xi Jinping especially the fact that he has gotten rid of term limits or lessened the restrictions around term limits for his office in China. Take a listen to what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Don't forget China is great and Xi is a great gentleman. He's now president for life. No, he's great. And look he was able to do that. I think it's great. Maybe we'll have to give that a shot someday.


MERICA: Clearly, you heard the laughs in the room. That was a bit after jovial affair, but that comment has drawn critics, clearly, because having to do that would rip up the Constitution that President Trump swore to protect. But it all kinds of gets at President Trump's admiration for autocrats. He has said in the past how much he admires President Xi and that is an example of that. He also golfed yesterday with his 100th day as president at a golf course that bears his name, a significant milestone for a president who has spent almost 25 percent of his time at a golf course, 25 percent of days he's in office at a golf course that bears his name -- Christi, Martin.

PAUL: All righty. Dan Merica, we appreciate it. Thank you.

SAVIDGE: All right. Joining us now to talk about all of this, CNN senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter, CNN political commentator, Errol Louis, and CNN international correspondent, Will Ripley.

Brian, let me start off with you. Overall, was the president's message well received? I mean, it was a room full of journalists that the president doesn't get along with, so how did he do?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Certainly, both at the fundraiser in the morning, at the Gridiron Club in the evening, the president was playing up to the crowd. He was performing in a way that we rarely actually see on camera.

You know, the Gridiron Club used to be off the record meaning we wouldn't even see the quotes. Nowadays, it's off camera meaning we can't hear the president give his jokes, but there were some funny lines at the Gridiron Club.

He talked about needing to go to bed because he needed to get up early to watch the morning shows. He talked about Jared having trouble getting through security, referring to Jared Kushner. There were some funny lines and well-received lines.

[06:05:06] And you know, I think that relates to the fundraiser earlier in the day. The president seemed to be trying to play to the crowd at this closed fundraiser. Kudos to CNN's Kevin Liptack for getting a tape so that we could see and hear what the president was saying because that comment about China certainly should drive morning headlines.

It is a very interesting comment. I think to a lot of people really troubling comment. Even if the president is just making a joke it's a kind of joke past presidents never would have made. I know his words are getting a Trump discount frequently right.

The president gets a Trump discount meaning people don't take his seriously or literally. He talks a lot. Sometimes he is joking or trying to win laughs. But in this case, even at a discount, his comments about authoritarian impulses, even if completely a joke, it's the kind of thing that would set off an alarm bell if President Bush or President Obama had said it.

SAVIDGE: Yes. Part of the problem is you really can't tell where the joke ends and the reality begins.

PAUL: Right. So, Errol, with that, was there anything he said that stood out to you that could be problematic? ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, sure. Look, it's troubling not just from the point of view of whether or not the president is maybe thinking about indulging his own authoritarian impulses or possibilities. It's also very troubling from the point of view of the many human rights abuses that China has committed that requires someone and that someone has traditionally been the United States to uphold democracy and human rights, that there are people languishing in Chinese prisons today.

You want to hear the president always, even in private, even if you wake him up in the middle of the night, you want to hear the American president speak out for the values that so many of us hold dear. The fact that this president in private wants to crack jokes with a bunch of rich people at a country club is very troubling and it's disheartening for human rights crusaders.

It's also, I think, sort of a boost and a shot in the arm to dictators and would-be dictators around the world and exactly the wrong message to send.

SAVIDGE: Yes. There's no question Trump seems to have a fondness for a strong man politically. Will, you're in China. So, you know, your perspective there when you hear the president of the United States praising Xi Jinping. What are your thoughts?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's certainly disheartening for many people here in China who are very uncomfortable with the decision that is expected to happen on Monday, the abolition of presidential term limits that were put in place back in 1982 to avoid China from regressing to the kind of strongman dictatorship of Mao Zedong.

I mean, his cultural revolution killed so many people, millions died and there is fear that now Xi Jinping as ruler for life with basically unchecked power even though the Chinese government says, you know, the military party and state are the three pillars.

Now all of them don't have term limits and lead to stability, stability during uncertain times. Clearly, Chinese people not always happy about this. I want to show you the censorship that's happening.

Earlier I was giving a report on CNN International about this and Chinese sensors immediately blacked out our signal and it's not just CNN that they are blacking out. Anyone on social media who uses the term disagree or emperor, referring to Xi Jinping as the next emperor.

Those terms are now banned from Chinese social media. That is how it works here in an authoritarian, heavy-handed government like China, a government that now has the full endorsement and backing of the president of the United States, the leader of the free world.

So, any pro-democracy activists who thought they had the U.S. by their side, clearly the messaging coming from President Trump indicates exactly the opposite and that is why tomorrow when I'm at Tiananmen Square for the kickoff of the National People's Congress, you will not see any pro-democracy demonstrators on the streets because the government brutally cracks down on anybody who demonstrates against this Communist Party and this government. And now apparently, this government has the full support of President Trump.

PAUL: OK, so, Brian, I want to ask you too about North Korea because the president had a couple of comments there as well. At one point, he said, you know, they called me up a couple of days ago and said we would like to talk, and I said, so would we, but you have to de-nuke, you have to de-nuke.

All right. We all know that is not going to happen and it was a joke. He went on to say, "I won't rule out direct talks with Kim Jong-un. I just won't. As far as the risk of dealing with a madman is concern that is his problem, not mine." He is trying to be funny, but a lot of people look at this and think this isn't particularly a funny topic.

STELTER: That certainly is a notable quote, the words, "de-nuke." I told him you have to de-nuke. If it is true, there really was a communication the past couple of days that is very newsworthy amid a dinner that is normally very jovial and playful with D.C. elites. There is going to require follow-up.

I think I saw our colleague, Jake Tapper overnight, saying he is trying to get more information about what exactly Trump meant by those words and right now, it's a bit of a mystery to the press corps in Washington.

[06:10:05] SAVIDGE: Will, what are your thoughts on this whole conversation that the president seems to be, I don't know if he is manufacturing or if it really happened?

RIPLEY: Well, we don't know if there is a back-channel phone conversation that happened between President Trump and the North Koreans, but it is clear, and the North Koreans made it clear at the closing ceremonies of the PyeongChang Olympics that they do want to engage right now with the United States.

I was meeting with a source today who described the situation in North Korea is getting increasingly dire as a result of the sanctions that have been pushed largely by the Trump administration.

The source said that, you know, when there used to be a hundred trucks going back and forth between China and North Korea, now there are ten trucks and things are not looking good in the medium to long-range for North Korea's economy if these sanctions continue.

And you couple that with the language from President Trump himself just last week when he said that if diplomacy doesn't work that he is reeling to move to this phase two which a lot of people interpret as a military strike that one GOP senator at the Munich Security Conference said would lead to a loss of life potentially of biblical proportions.

Obviously, the North Koreans are looking at this very troubling series of events and they are wanting to engage with the United States to try to figure out what the Trump administration really means and what are they really going to do? Right now, they don't have any idea. WHITFIELD: All right. Errol, one more in here that we heard yesterday. The president said, "Many people ask me how my time as a reality tv star prepared me for the presidency. The truth is there is very little overlap between the two.

In one job I had to manage a cut throat cast of characters desperate for TV time, totally unprepared for their roles and jobs, and each week afraid of having their butts essentially fired. In the other job I was the host of a smash television show." Yes. That made everybody chuckle. Yes?

LOUIS: Yes, that's a good one. You have to -- you can always shake your head. That is actually a great line. Look. The reality is from the beginning of his public life even before he made any rumblings about running for political office, Donald Trump would talk about the Trump show.

He is a self-created figure. He runs his White House to a certain extent, his political life, certainly his public life as a whole along the lines of what we have seen in reality television. He was there first. He was there early.

He was there unabashedly and both the good and the bad part of that is for better or worse, how this White House is operating, very -- very unusual, shall we say. It will be something we tell our kids about. The time we had a game show host as president of the United States who chose to run his White House as if it was a game show.

SAVIDGE: Well, his description seemed to nail it. Errol Louis, Brian Stelter, and Will Ripley, nice to see you all. Thank you.

PAUL: Thanks, Gentlemen.

So, "The New York Times" is reporting this morning that Robert Mueller's probe is possibly broadening from Russian influence in the election to include the United Arab Emirates. The UAE allegedly funneled money to support Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign in a possible effort to influence the Trump administration.

SAVIDGE: The special counsel's team has questioned businessman, George Nader, who was an adviser to Abu Dhabi's crowned prince, and also a frequent visitor to the White House last year.

Be sure to watch "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper today. Coming up on his show, Governor John Kasich of Ohio and the "STATE OF THE UNION" this morning is at 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

PAUL: All right. Tonight, Hollywood is rolling out the carpet. The drama expected to be rolled out as well as the movie Academy kicks off the 90th annual awards show. The speeches to the "Times Up" and "Me Too" movements are all going to be. We will talk more. Stay close.

SAVIDGE: Plus, winds push pilots trying to touch down during that wild northeast storm. We have more on this very wobbly landing to show you just ahead.

PAUL: We want to make sure you're smiling today. "SNL" style send- off for White House communications director, Hope Hicks.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some people dance in our lives and quickly go, but they always leave footprints on our hearts and fingerprints on Russian documents. Oops.




PAUL: This is what was going on outside the White House yesterday, a man shot and killed himself the Secret Service say, and they go on to say there was not a suicide note, but there were incoherent sentences that were found in a book that was at the scene.

SAVIDGE: Authorities searched a maroon Honda Accord with an Alabama license plate that was parked on a street just a few blocks from the White House and a Secret Service source told CNN the suspect's car was located in the area where that search took place.

Central Michigan University Police say a 19-year-old student who had been charged with shooting and killing his parents at the university, he has been charged, James Eric Davis Jr.'s parents had come to pick him up for spring break.

PAUL: Police say he had been acting strangely the day prior to the killings. Here is CNN's Scott McClain.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, the last school day before spring break turned out to be the start of a day-long manhunt. Early Friday morning, the sound of gunfire from the fourth floor of this dormitory sent the Central Michigan campus into a panic. Buildings were locked down, and students were told to stay indoors while police scoured the area for the gunman.

MICHAEL WILLETT, CENTRAL MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY STUDENT: The first thought obviously is it could be a mass shooting, which is something no students want to happen at their college. It's unimaginable.

MCLEAN: Police were searching for James Davis Jr., a 19-year-old student who encountered police the night before behaving irrationally and speaking incoherently. Police say they suspected he was on drugs and sent him to the hospital to be evaluated.

The next morning, his parents Diva and James, Sr., a police officer, picked him up for spring break. According to police, security footage shows Davis Jr. in the parking lot returning to the residence hall with his father's handgun. Inside of his dorm room, police say he shot and killed both of his parents. GEORGE E. ROSS, PRESIDENT, CENTRAL MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY: We read about shooters on campuses across this country and in communities. We talk about it.

[06:20:05] We practice what would happen if it happens here and never envisioned it could happen at Central Michigan University. We are a safe community. We are a safe campus, but yesterday, we demonstrated the ability to deal with the inconceivable.

MCLEAN: The police search stretched almost 16 hours, until a train operator spotted Davis Jr. near the tracks on campus, barely half a mile from his dorm.

CHIEF BILL YEAGLEY, CENTRAL MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY POLICE: I don't know if he hid someplace and we missed him. I don't know if he wasn't in that area when we searched it and doubled back. I don't know is the answer.

MCLEAN: One of Davis Jr.'s friends who lives across the hall says he is a quiet kid. He didn't think was capable of this.

MITCHELL KUBIAK, FRIEND OF SHOOTER (via telephone): Something in him just must have gone wrong that day, I guess.


MCLEAN: And his friend also told us that Davis seemed close with his parents and that his parents seemed supportive of him. What triggered all of this is now the focus of the police investigation. Scott McLean, CNN, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.

PAUL: We will keep you posted on what we learn as that moves forward.

Meanwhile, more than 500,000 people don't have power this morning after that storm ripped through the northeast. I want to show you what we are seeing here in terms of what a lot of areas look like from Virginia to New England at this point. We do know at least six people have died because of this storm.

SAVIDGE: Well, the good news is the storm has now moved out to sea, but the National Weather Service in Boston tweeted that it would be windy with possible snow late Sunday into Sunday night, so they are still dealing with the aftermath of that.

And this next video, definitely not for anybody who is a fearful flyer.

PAUL: No, siree. See the plane there? Attempting to land but this is at Washington Reagan National Airport yesterday. It's back and forth and it's going to try and it's going to abort the attempt. Said, listen, we cannot make this happen.

It really gives a sense how strong the winds were and what the pilots were dealing with the past couple of days and kudos for them for being able to handle it. This was the second flight we saw like this that I think one at Dulles when the pilot was off the plane and talking to people in the media, he said he is pretty sure everybody on the flight was sick to their stomach.

SAVIDGE: I'm sure they would. It would be a pretty violent approach.

President Trump takes aim at his own White House with a round of jokes at a private dinner. We will give you a few of the laugh lines and you can figure out if they are funny.

PAUL: The Oscars too are back tonight. This is Hollywood's biggest night as you know honoring the best in film and tv. But there is also going to be some features like the "Times Up" and "Me Too" movements. How will that impact what is happening tonight? Stay close.



PAUL: Good morning to you. It's 26 minutes past the hour. I'm Christi Paul.

SAVIDGE: I'm Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell.

PAUL: So, we were asleep, but there were some Saturday night punch lines we are learning about this morning and talk to you about it regarding the Trump White House, except this time they were actually delivered by the president.

SAVIDGE: And it made it very interesting. It was a closed-door dinner with journalists and he joked about his leadership style and White House staffing issues and of course, his favorite topic which is us, the media.

He said in this quote, "This is one of the best times I've had with the media. This might be the best time I've had since watching your faces on election night."

PAUL: So, let's talk about this with David Litt, who is a former speech writer for President Obama and author of, "Thanks, Obama, I Hope You Changed The White House Years." David, thank you for being here. We appreciate it.

As a writer, I know that President Obama widely praised for his self- deprecating humor at the White House Correspondents Dinner. I also know that you wrote a lot of those lines. Give me a grade for how you think President Trump did last night.

DAVID LITT, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, thank you for having me on this morning. And I think President Trump set the bar very conveniently low for himself. I mean, we know that at the Al Smith dinner the only other time he has tried something like this he got booed by the audience and that is difficult to do in a room like that.

So, I think by that very, very low bar, he cleared it. So, I guess in that sense, it was a success. I think the strangest thing about all this is the contacts that comes in. This is not a normal night of president telling jokes and the press laughing at them and vice versa. This is a president who has issued an attack on the free press that is totally unprecedented and to treat it like it's a normal dinner what are the best lines and what is funny and not funny, it seems like it's missing the point.

SAVIDGE: So, what is your point then? He should not have gone, or this should not have happened?

LITT: Well, in my opinion, and I wrote this in "The Washington Post," I think this should have been available for the public to see. There were, for example, some jokes last night that he made where he joked about in the wake of all these stories about him having affairs that Melania might leave him.

That might be an appropriate joke, it might have been humiliating his wife in public. It's hard to tell without video. The most important part of the speech, I think, and by far the one that deserves the most attention, came at the end and what we would call the serious close of the speech.

And that is where President Trump said the press is actually doing an important service for democracy, so he talks about fake news. He issues all sorts of attacks when the cameras are rolling. It would have been nice to have that tape of him admitting that you know what? This isn't really something that I say all the time. It's not something I'm willing to say to the faces of the reporters who I so regularly attack.

PAUL: So, are you saying that because President Trump has such a different style and does things so differently than past presidents, he can't be afforded the auction of this comedic relief so to speak -- the correspondents dinner is going to be coming up as well. We don't know if he'll be there but you assume he may after this (INAUDIBLE).

SAVIDGE: It could be a dry run.

LITT: You mentioned style. I don't think this is an issue of style.

I mean, I walked through the CNN headquarters to get to this studio right now and in January, there was a man in Michigan who called up CNN, as you know, talking about fake news and threatening to go into the headquarters that I just walked through this morning and shoot the employees. I mean, you murder them. That is not something you saw with people.

No one say -- no one called CNN headquarters when President Obama was president or President Bush was president using their rhetoric as a reason to murder journalists.

PAUL: But can he -- can he -- can the president be held accountable for what somebody else did in that regard?

LITT: The president can be held accountable for what he says and he should be held accountable for what he says. I think the president talks about fake news and the person calling up CNN to issue a threat uses the phrase fake news, it's not impossible to figure out where this person got that idea in their head so I don't think the president is necessarily legally liable.

But absolutely we can hold the president accountable for the things that the president says. I think it would be dangerous not to.

SAVIDGE: It should be pointed out it's not the first time that threats have been made against CNN or against his personnel. The other thing we should point out the cameras.

That wasn't up to the president. That was up to the organization that is hosting the event last night. That has been their tradition.

We have seen actually some events very recently where the president has invited the cameras in at some of these negotiations with members of Congress that have been quite surprising so I put that out there.

Do you think he -- who wrote his lines? Where do you think those came from?

LITT: My guess is looking at the quality of them I imagine they were written in-house. They seem mostly fine but not -- it didn't strike me that, you know, he must have had some really good outside professional help for something like that.

Just to -- to your point, I do want to go back to the cameras because I agree. I think that the members of the Gridiron Club should have made an exception to the tradition and they should have brought cameras in. The president, obviously, couldn't do that but I think the Gridiron Club should have.

PAUL: Was there anything -- I mean, you mentioned the couple quotes off the top but was there anything else that you read about that really stuck with you that maybe, you know, he did well?

LITT: I thought there was, you know, one joke, he made a sort of very tame joke about how nobody does self-deprecating humor like he does and that is not comedy gold but we did similar things in the Obama administration, that is not terrible.

I just feel like in a night like this with -- if it was President Bush or another Republican president, it would be a different thing to go on and talk about which jokes were kind of landed well and which jokes didn't. But I think it's important to remember there's a reason the presidents show up to the Gridiron dinner.

It's not just because they love spending their Saturday night in white tie telling jokes to the press. It's that they hope that by entertaining the press for a night they're going to get better coverage for the rest of the year. And I think if we have that traditional unspoken bargain with this president, given the attacks that he has made on the press that are totally different than past Republicans or Democrats, I think we would be missing the threat and I think we need to pay attention to that stuff.

SAVIDGE: Interesting point though.

PAUL: David Litt, we appreciate you being here. Thank you. SAVIDGE: Thank you.

LITT: Thank you for having me.

SAVIDGE: "Saturday Night Live" said their goodbyes last night in a special "SNL" send off for White House communications director Hope Hicks who -- as we all know who resigned this week.

PAUL: Yes. We want to share you with some of the highlights from her farewell to the White House per "SNL."


COLIN JOST, ACTOR: I have to say I'm a little surprised that you're here. I feel like I've never heard you speak.

CECILY STRONG, AS HOPE HICKS: No, you haven't because I haven't. No I never have -- never had to. No one has ever pressed me on it.

Like, the media has been so nice to me, like insanely nice to me.

JOST: Yes. Why do you think they have been so nice to you?

STRONG: Well, if I had to guess, I'd say because my hair and face are good.

But you know what? Also honestly I just like, I try to stay out of that whole arena because, like, ugh! Like, ugh! Communications, the White House -- it's such a mess.

JOST: Yes. And your job was?

STRONG: White house communications director.

JOST: Right.

STRONG: Working at the White House was like going to summer camp. You know, you make all of these new friends, you barely get any sleep and then everybody leaves after eight weeks. Plus, there's tons of cute guys there -- OK -- and most are like classic bad boys, you know?

The crazy haircuts and breaking the law and they've all hit a girl. I really am going to miss all my friends from my semester abroad at the White House so if you wouldn't mind, I kind of want to read a statement I prepared.

To Kellyanne, you taught me that a strong woman can run a campaign and win. And you showed me what I could turn into if I stick around too long. You're like the human versions of those pictures of black lungs on cigarette boxes.


To Donny, I'll always be your Hopey which is what you called me when you needed help because your big red tie touched the toilet water.

And, Donny, never forget our little inside joke. The meeting was about Russian adoption. He'll get that. You won't get that.


PAUL: We've got more "SNL" for you. Stay close.

As well as Oscars. Red carpet. The fashion. The speeches.

Oscars are kicking off tonight. There is most likely going to be some drama as well. We're going to talk about the #TimesUp, the #MeToo movement how they are stirring up Hollywood's biggest night.


SAVIDGE: You know what that music means? The 90th annual Academy Awards are tonight.


PAUL: The award show is going to honor the best in film and TV. The show's nominees are about as diverse as ever. For best picture there no clear front-runner we should point out.

Several films have already won at other recent award ceremonies so that clouds the field a little bit a lot of times, but the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement they're going to have a platform which will put several male celebrities' past behavior in the spotlight tonight.

Let's talk about this with pop culture editor for "The Washington Post" Zachary Pincus-Roth. Zachary, always good to have you here. Thank you so much.


PAUL: Thank you. First and foremost let's talk about the best picture, who you believe best picture should end up being.

PINCUS-ROTH: Well. If I were to predict basically, I would go out on a limb and pick "Get Out" which is Jordan Peele's horror comedy and those are two genres obviously that rarely win the best picture Oscar. The safer pick would be something like "The Shape Of Water" or "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri." They won more of the awards earlier this season.

But I think "Get Out" has just more passion behind it. It's very of the moment and some of the newer younger voters that have been invited into the Academy in recent years are very supportive of that.

SAVIDGE: I'm going to ask you about Ryan Seacrest because of course this has got to be before the Academy Awards on the red carpet. He's embroiled in sexual harassment scandal of his own.

How do you expect that's going to play out before, of course, the awards?

PINCUS-ROTH: Yes. Ryan Seacrest has been accused of sexual misconduct by a former stylist. Now he has denied it and E!, the network, has said that an investigation has cleared him. And Jimmy Kimmel has said he will talk to Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet but there's always a chance that other stars won't.

PAUL: I want to get back to "Get Out" as we were just talking about. Because according to a newer, younger member of the academy, in fact, several of them, they say some older more traditional members criticized "Get Out" this year and that they didn't even watch it.

How credible, first of all, are the votes if members aren't watching the films?

PINCUS-ROTH: Well, I mean, of course people argue about the Oscars and they are always subject to the wins of the voter. But, you know, as I mentioned earlier there were many more younger newer voters that have been invited to the Academy in recent years in sort of an attempt to make the voting pool a little bit more diverse and it seems that "Get Out" definitely appeals to them.

PAUL: Have you heard of some of the members literally not watching the films?

PINCUS-ROTH: I mean, it's definitely possible. And I guess, yes, some people just don't watch all the films. There are so many movies that it's hard for everyone to take them all in. But the Oscars obviously, you know, people argue over them and they are subject to the wins of the voters.

SAVIDGE: We also know that, of course, other movements are visible besides just the films and that is the #TimesUp and #MeToo movement.

What is their platform going to be tonight and will it dominate maybe even overshadow the events of what takes place on the silver screen?

PINCUS-ROTH: Yes, definitely. I think you'll see people talking about it on the red carpet as people have done in the awards show in the past this cycle.

The red carpet obviously is the place usually for more light hearted banter about fashion but they will take about serious issues. And Jimmy Kimmel has said he will talk about it in the monologue and the Oscar producers have said that they'll -- there will be a moment to recognize #TimesUp which is Hollywood backed initiative to combat sexual abuse and harassment. And people will talk about it in the speeches probably as well probably.

PAUL: Talk to me about Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig for best director here.

PINCUS-ROTH: Well, yes, Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig are -- I think what many people feel are very progressive signs Jordan Peele is the fifth black director nominated in category and Greta Gerwig is the fifth woman director nominated. And I think people see it as a sign of progress.

The past few years there has been this Oscar so white controversy where two years in a row, no people of color were nominated for acting Oscars. This year, the best director favorite is probably Guillermo Del Torro for "Shape Of Water." And actually it will make four of the last five years that a Mexican director has won that category.

SAVIDGE: A little bit of a flashback. We all remember, of course, the best picture mix-up last year, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, and they are back again to present which I actually think is wonderful but what can you expect? Is it going to be funny, humor or are they going to be very pointedly serious about this?

PINCUS-ROTH: Yes. I'm sure you can expect Jimmy Kimmel, the host, he was the host last year, to make fun of it in his monologue and maybe throughout the show and PricewaterhouseCoopers which is the accounting firm that took responsibility for handing them the wrong envelop they've actually put in some method this year to prevent that from happening. There's an extra accountant backstage in the control room and that accountant has all the winners memorized so they can jump in in case anything goes wrong.

You have to remember, last year, I mean, that mix-up happened after the stunning 2016 election and Patriots come-from-behind winning the Super Bowl.


I mean, we thought we were living in some sort of computer simulation.

PAUL: OK. And speaking of maybe strange moments let's talk about this Harvey -- we only have a couple of minutes -- this Harvey Weinstein statue that is called the "casting couch." It's on Hollywood Boulevard. It's close to the Dolby Theater where the Oscars are happening.

It's -- it's a little frightening when you look at it.


PAUL: People are stopping. They're posing with him. What is the takeaway here because the subject is very serious?

PINCUS-ROTH: Yes. The subject is very serious.

And you will see Jimmy Kimmel having to make jokes about it in his monologue but we saw, you know, Seth Myers made jokes about it in his monologue at the Golden Globes and street art stunts like this have happened before. One of the street artists who did this is named Plastic Jesus and he has done kind of his pre Oscar stunts before. It's a little strange that it offers the chance for people to kind of take selfies with the statue but I think, you know, street art is a form of protest and, if anything, it feels almost too late than too early.

PAUL: Good point.


PAUL: Zachary Pincus-Roth, thank you so much. Always good to have you here.

PINCUS-ROTH: Thank you.

PAUL: Sure.

SAVIDGE: Coming up, this morning's sports report.

Kristina Fitzpatrick is here with the preview -- Kristina.

KRISTINA FITZPATRICK, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. An NBA player made it a special night for the family of a Stoneman Douglas victim who was a huge fan. We'll have details on what was done to pay tribute to him coming up in your bleacher report.



SAVIDGE: I just came back from covering two weeks down there in Parkland, Florida, and very sad stories. So this one really resonates.

NBA star Dwyane Wade shared a moment with the family of one of the Parkland shooting victims.

PAUL: Yes. He paid tribute to Miami Heat fan Joaquin Oliver. He was one of the 17 people who were killed by a gunman at Stoneman Douglas High School last month.

Kristina Fitzpatrick is here with more in this morning's bleacher report.

FITZPATRICK: Good morning.

SAVIDGE: Good morning.

FITZPATRICK: An emotional story to start with this morning.


FITZPATRICK: Our bleacher report this morning is brought to you by the new 2018 Ford F150.

Dwyane Wade wanted to pay tribute to this Parkland victim after finding out he was bury in his Heat jersey. Just before the game, Wade met with the Oliver family and gave them a jersey and custom sneakers with Joaquin's name in the Stoneman Douglas High School logo on them.

He hosted the family for the night and stood with Joaquin's sister during the national anthem. He also dedicated last night's game and the rest of his season to the memory of Joaquin Oliver. After the game he talked about why it's so important right now to support the Oliver family at this time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DWYANE WADE, MIAMI HEAT: I'm glad and thankful they came to the game today. Thankful I got a chance just to talk to them tell them and show them my appreciation and also -- also let them know that, you know, we will continue to use our voice.

We'll continue to shine, you know, the light on what they are talking about and what they are going through and what they are dealing with because it's not just there (ph) -- there (ph) -- it's not just happening to them. It's happening to all of us and it could be any one of us.


FITZPATRICK: Day two of the NFL combine was under way on Saturday and one standout performance was by a linebacker from the University of Central Florida who only has one hand. Shaquem Griffin wowed the crowd at the NFL combine wearing a special prosthetic on his left arm to bench press. He knocked out 20 reps, about 225 pounds (INAUDIBLE) and the stadium cheered him on. Griffin is attempting to become the first ever player with one hand drafted in the NFL in the modern era.

It was a pretty cool scene at the Naval Academy where the Capitals and Maple Leafs were playing in the NHL Stadium series. The night started with the gold medal winning curling team at it again this time they served up an epic ceremonial puck drop, perfect shot had the place going crazy.

Then later on in the night, a blackout had fans scrambling for their cell phones to light the place up. The lights eventually came back on 15 minutes later and the game continued. But a scene there in Annapolis last night.

Charles Barkley was on "SNL" last night and addressed a recent feud between a Fox News anchor and LeBron James in which he was told to shut up and dribble. Barkley encouraged athletes to speak their mind like he has been doing for years.


CHARLES BARKLEY, NBA HALL OF FAME PLAYER: A lot of professional athletes are worried about speaking out and might hurt their career. Well, here is something that contradicts all of that. Me. I've been saying whatever the hell I want for 30 years. And I'm doing great.


FITZPATRICK: That was his fourth appearance on "SNL" so he is doing something right and a great mouthpiece for athletes obviously to speak their minds.

PAUL: My goodness. All right. Kristina, thank you so much.

FITZPATRICK: Thank you guys.

SAVIDGE: Nice to see you.

PAUL: That was funny.

So coming up, President Trump shows, you know what? He can laugh about himself. Martin --

SAVIDGE: He can. Yes, he can. Some of it was funny.

PAUL: Yes. His admiration for the Chinese president's power that is one thing that's not going over so well with everyone. Maybe a couple of this as well. From D.C. to Beijing we're covering all the angles like only CNN can.

Do stay close.




HARRY MORGAN, ACTOR (ph): Aw, come on, Charles. Where is your Halloween spirit?

DAVID OGDEN STIERS, ACTOR: Halloween spirit?


PAUL: Some of you recognize the face and the voice. M.A.S.H. actor David Ogden Stiers was best known for his role as Major Charles Winchester in the TV comedy M.A.S.H. The actor died yesterday.

SAVIDGE: His talent agency put out a statement saying that he peacefully died at his home in Newport, Oregon after a courageous battle with bladder cancer. He was 75. And that show is iconic.

PAUL: Yes.

SAVIDGE: Several lawmakers are in Montgomery, Alabama, this weekend for the Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage one of the 1965 Selma March.

This year's trip included a first stop in Memphis where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated nearly 50 years ago. They laid a wreath at the Lorraine Motel where he was killed.

PAUL: Civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis described his time as witness during that civil rights march.


REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: -- and (ph) make it rather than (INAUDIBLE) we (ph) were (ph) left (ph) bloody (ph). We finally made it to Montgomery and the Voting Rights Act was passed.

REP. TERRI SEWELL (D), ALABAMA: I think it's really important that we remember why we are public servants and I think this kind of pilgrimage helps us to remember and to reflect. And now it's time to recommit and rededicate ourselves to the ideals of this pilgrimage.