Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

President Donald Trump Held Campaign Rally To Support Republican Congressional Candidate Rick Saccone Of Pennsylvania; Former Trump Campaign Aide Sam Nunberg Testified In The Grand Jury; Trump White House; Controversy; CNN Heroes; Racism by a Teacher; Reality TV. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired March 11, 2018 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:00] PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Hello and thanks for joining me on this Sunday. I'm Pamela Brown in for Fredricka Whitfield.

A lot going on today, despite five guilty pleas and more than a dozen indictments, including against Russians, President Trump tweeted his lawyers quote "have shown conclusively, there was no collusion with Russia." Well, it's just the latest inaccuracy that he has been hurling after his nearly 90-minute vent session on the stump. And he not only cited some fake news, fake facts, could we call it, but also delivered some real insight on what his 2018 campaign trail may look like as Republicans face midterm elections.

The President unleashed, improvising more than an hour of praise about his tax cuts, his looks, 2020 campaign, and much more. But he only spent a little bit of time, only a few minutes, actually, on the Republican that he was supposed to be promoting. And he also slammed multiple Democrats, the press, and past Presidents, but take note of the soft touch he took with North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, who is expecting to meet with President Trump by May in an historic diplomatic first.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- came to my office, after having gone to North Korea. And seeing Kim Jong-un, and -- no, it's very positive. No. After the meeting you may do that, but now we have to be very nice, because let's see what happens. Let's see what happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: All right. Let's go straight to CNN White House correspondent, Boris Sanchez.

And Boris, tell us the backstory to the President's appearance. It did not go as aides had expected, but I guess that is no surprise, in a sense.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's really no surprise, Pamela. I spoke to one White House official who told me that the President did about five sentences of the remarks that were prepared for his speech in Pennsylvania Saturday night and then he just went off, attacking some of his favorite targets, the media, Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren. He added a new line about a rumored 2020 opponent, Oprah Winfrey, saying that he knows Oprah's weaknesses. Then he kind of pivoted and gave us something unexpected, his 2020 campaign slogan, keep America great.

I'm told that was not in the script. One White House official did not expect that to come out last night. And then the President went a step further and promoted the idea of pushing for capital punishment for drug dealers. Something that initially got a mixed response from the crowd. But overall, it appeared to be positive.

You are right, though, in noting that the portion of his speech in which he dealt with North Korea was different than what we have heard from the President before. One White House official telling me the President actually consulted with advisers and aides about the language that he was going to use in that part of the speech.

We should note why he was in Pennsylvania last night. He is campaigning for Rick Saccone, the House candidate for Pennsylvania district 18. There is going to be a special election Tuesday. It is a district that the President won by more than 20 points in 2016. So Republicans are hoping that the President's popularity transfers over to Saccone.

We should note, I was told that there were portions of the speech that dealt specifically with pushing for Rick Saccone as a candidate. The President apparently ditched those and decided to improvise, calling Saccone a handsome man would likely vote for items on the President's agenda. The President had Saccone say a few words and then took the mic back for just a few moments.

It really boils down to the President's popularity. Swirling controversies the in the White House, not only on turnover in staff, but the Russia investigation which you were just discussing. We will see if the President still holds that kind of popularity in these districts as Republican strategists and insiders are telling us that this race on Tuesday, right now, is a toss-up, Pam.

BROWN: And we will have to wait and see what happens. But this certainly appeared to be a President who was on the campaign trail during that speech.

Boris Sanchez, thank you so much.

And President Trump says the world is watching Tuesday's special election in Pennsylvania's 18th congressional district. Republicans scrambling to save the GOP House seat in Pittsburgh's working class suburbs, as you just heard there, a district Trump easily won by nearly 20 percent in 2016. Well, this tight race now too close to call, pitting GOP's Rick Saccone against Democrat first-time candidate, Conor lamb.

At last night's rally, President Trump touted quote "handsome Rick Saccone." Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: And Conor Lamb, Lamb the sham, right? Lamb the sham. He is trying to act like a Republican so he gets -- he won't give me one vote. Look, I don't know him. Looks like a nice guy. I hear he is nice looking. I think I'm better looking than him. I do. I do. I do! And he is slightly younger than me. Slightly. No, I heard that. Then I saw, he is OK. He is all right. Personally, I like Rick Saccone. I think he is handsome.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[16:05:10] BROWN: All right. Well, in the latest Monmouth poll, Saccone holding a slim three percent lead, well within the poll's margin of error. And just today, Saccone picking up a key endorsement. That would be the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette" editorial board writing Saccone quote "is equipped to be a strong and independent voice for the 18th.

I want to bring in Jason Carroll there in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania.

And Jason, you have been speaking with voters. What are they saying on the ground there in terms of how this race is going to turn out in these crucial hours?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, clearly, this race is going to come down to a lot more than just looks, Pamela. That's very obvious. And even though you have seen the endorsement that Rick Saccone just got, it should also be noted that Conor Lamb also got the endorsement out here today from the United Mine Workers, given all the talk that we have heard from this President about the mining industry. There was some thought that perhaps Rick Saccone would get that endorsement, but not the case.

Look, very clearly, this is a referendum on the President. You have heard it being said over and over again, how well the President did in the 18th district. And there was some thought that would immediately transfer over to Rick Saccone. Not the case. And that's got a lot of folks within the GOP worried. It's got a lot of people from the Democrats excited, although cautiously. There was some thought that bringing in the President would somehow give a boost to Rick Saccone, but not to all the voters we spoke to out here today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNCLE JESSE, VOTER IN PENNSYLVANIA 18TH DISTRICT SPECIAL ELECTION: It was just the same over and over. He is a con artist. Conning people. But it was more about Trump than it was about Rick Saccone. Rick Saccone is just a Trump puppet. You know, we need better. We have got to get rid of this stuff and bring in real people like Conor Lamb that's going to actually work for the people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARROLL: So, certainly, the President still enjoys a great deal of support throughout the 18th district, whether you are in the rural part of Green County, where we are right now, or just outside of Pittsburgh in suburbs like Mt. Lebanon. So he still enjoys a great deal of support. But the question, Pamela, what it's all going to come down to is which party is more fired up? And we are going to see come Tuesday - Pamela.

BROWN: OK, Jason Carroll, thank you so much for that.

And the President, he also talked about his upcoming high-stakes meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that he was scheduled to meet within the next couple of months, at least as of right now.

Now listen to what President Trump said about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Hey, who knows? If it happens, if it doesn't happen, I may leave fast or we may sit down and make the greatest deal for the world and for all of these countries including, frankly, North Korea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: And I want to bring in Republican congressman Will Hurd of Texas. He serves on the House homeland security committee, the intelligence committee, and the oversight committee.

Congressman, thank you for coming on.

REP. WILL HURD (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Hey, Pamela. It's always a pleasure.

BROWN: So I want to just talk about this upcoming meeting that is expected to happen. Defense secretary Jim Mattis has said the potential for misunderstanding remains very high. What do you think of the White House approach to this meeting so far and what would it take for you to view the meeting as a success?

HURD: Well, Pamela, first and foremost, among the things I learned as an undercover officer in the CIA is that when people are talking, you are not fighting. So the potential for talks is a good thing. But all the work that has been put into getting the North Koreans to this point, working diplomatically with countries like China, putting a lot of our elements of the seventh fleet into that region, you know, making sure that sanctions are working on North Korea. Those kind of things need to continue.

And the preparatory work that needs to happen before this kind of meeting is just as important. If the President of the United States meets with the President of a rogue nation, the outcome needs to be pretty spectacular. And in this case, the only thing that would be spectacular is a North Korea agreeing to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.

BROWN: And do you actually see that happening?

HURD: I'm cautiously optimistic. One of the things that, you know, Kim Jong-un is interested in one thing. And that is dying of old age in Pyongyang. He wants to stay in power. And we had to change his calculation from saying that -- he used to think the only way he would be able to stay in power is if he had nuclear weapons. And now we need to get him to think that the only - the way -- he is not going to stay in power if he pursues, continue to pursue nuclear weapons.

So, we have to be cautiously optimistic, but we have to continue working diplomatically, because Kim Jong-un knows that we are probably one or two round of sanctions away from preventing North Korea from being able to consume any kind of energy. If he can't import energy from China, which he gets about 98 percent of his energy from China, then he is not going to be able to fight a conventional war. He is not going to be able to make sure that his nuclear weapons has fuel.

And so this is something that he knows, this close to happening. And one of the reasons why I think you are seeing this reaching out to not only the U.S., but the South Koreans. So we all -- it is in the benefit of the entire world to resolve this issue diplomatically, but the end goal must be a denuclearized Korean peninsula.

[16:10:42] BROWN: All right. I want to move on to the Russia investigation. Top intelligence officials say, congressman, that Russia is already trying to influence the 2018 midterms. However, right now, there was $120 million allocated to fight Russian meddling, just sitting at the state department that's going unused. Does that concern you?

HURD: Well, I don't know the reason why those funds aren't being used. I do know in a place like the department of homeland security, they are working with various secretaries of state to make sure that the infrastructure that goes around elections, you know, are -- that their cybersecurity is proper. We are working to get some more funds for some of these states --

BROWN: Right, but that's homeland security. I mean, that's what we are doing here to try to deter the attacks. But that's not stopping the Russians from trying to infiltrate our systems. And Mike Rogers, as you know, testified that the President has not given the command to counter some of these Russian cyber-attacks.

HURD: Well, a key -- there's a thing called the national intelligence priority framework, which ranks all of our adversaries around the world and who is supposed to collect on it. Russia is very high. I know that our intelligence communities are collecting on this. What specific actions that may or may not have come from the President's mouth. The intelligence community is collecting on Russia.

But there's a broader question here. And the state department is not going to be able to handle Russia disinformation alone. How do we counter this Russian disinformation? Who is responsible for it? When it comes to the elections, elections are under the control of secretaries of state. And you know, we have 10,000 different election administrators. We do need to be having a broader conversation around countering Russian disinformation. But we also need to be accounting, we all learned when we were in school, don't get into a car with a stranger. Except now maybe -- unless it's an Uber driver. But we need to learn, why are you sharing information on social media if you don't know where it's coming from? Now, that's the long game. That's something that we need to make sure as part of our culture and how we use social media. But we need to make sure it's very clear what the public sector, what the private sector, what the media, what academia should be doing in handling Russian disinformation.

BROWN: But do you think the President should be doing more, being more outspoken about Russian election meddling?

HURD: Maybe he should. But we have got to remember the people that are tasked with this, that care about this issue, that are trying to make sure that we are resilient to Russian disinformation is working on this. You know, I'm proud of the works that the folks in the intelligence community are doing to try to collect this information. But we could be doing a better job of sharing information between the private and public sector. When you look at the U.S. social media companies and their research on how Russia used their tool to try to influence the elections.

All of that was research done by themselves. The federal government still hadn't shared the information that we have access to, in order to make sure that they are looking and turning over every single rock. This is something that the only way we are going to make sure that we are prepared to defend against this kind of disinformation is if the public and the private sector are working hand-in-glove on such an important issue.

BROWN: OK. Congressman Will Hurd, thank you so much.

HURD: Always a pleasure, Pamela. Thank you.

BROWN: Well, former Trump campaign aide, Sam Nunberg, said this about complying with the special counsel investigation on Monday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: I'm not going to do it! I'm not going to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: But then he went on to testify before a grand jury on Sunday. And later said this whole thing is not a witch hunt. So what does that mean for the President and the Russia investigation?

Plus, UK police are warning hundreds to wash their clothes because they could have been in contact with a deadly nerve agent. The latest from Salisbury, up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:19:01] BROWN: Welcome back. I'm Pamela Brown.

Well, here's the tweet from President Trump, denying a story that he is looking to add to his legal and also dissing the need for special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. The President says quote "I am very happy with my lawyers, John Dowd, Ty Cobb, and Jay Sekulow. They are doing a great job and have shown conclusively that there was no collusion with Russia." And yet, that's not the conclusion from Sam Nunberg, who was fired

twice from the Trump campaign. And his guess may be better than anyone's, since he just spent six hours Friday with the grand jury.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NUNBERG: I was there a long time and they have a lot of questions. Did I ever hear Russian spoke in the office? And then they asked, why did President Trump support Putin in Syria?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think it's a witch hunt?

NUNBERG: No, I don't think it's a witch hunt. There's a lot there there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Joining me now, CNN political analyst, Ryan Lizza, and Sabrina Siddiqui, politics reporter for "the Guardian."

Sabrina, Ryan, thanks for coming on.

First to you, this tweet to the President today, saying that his lawyers have shown conclusively that there is no conclusively that there is no collusion with Russia. I mean, that's simply not true. There have been no conclusions on this matter. Where is that coming from? What's your take on this?

[16:20:16] SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICS REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: Well, since the very beginning, the President has dismissed this investigation as a witch hunt. He sees it as delegitimizing his victory in the election. But he has also refused to even acknowledge Russian interference in the election. And he has dismissed the fact --

BROWN: But he has slightly acknowledged it.

SIDDIQUI: He has tip toed around it. He has gone back and forth, one day it happened, the next day it didn't. But frankly, there have been at least four now indictments, four officials from the campaign. And you have someone like Sam Nunberg who may have not played instrumental role during, of course, the campaign, but his longtime mentor is Roger Stone, who had contact with Julian Assange, cofounder of WikiLeaks. That is where the hacked emails from the Clinton campaign and the DNC have appeared.

So I think what you have is this pattern of contacts between officials or either associated with the campaign or with the President and Moscow, you know, the extent to which there was a quid pro quo, we don't yet know. But the special counsel team has issued a series of indictments indicating that there was indeed some, potentially, conclusion.

BROWN: And then you have Sam Nunberg really changing his tune. I mean, on Monday, he was saying, I'm not going to go before the grand jury. This is all ridiculous. And then on Friday, after he spent six hours before the grand jury, he says, that this investigation is no witch hunt. That this is actually legitimate. I mean, how is the White House reacting though, do you think?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, something happened in that grand jury that was so sobering to Nunberg. Because he came out and did this interview with ABC and he seemed to take very seriously what Mueller, the road Mueller is going down, right? And it's one of the clearest takes we have on the kinds of questions that are being asked behind closed doors.

The special counsel apparently asking things about policy decisions that the White House made and how they relate -- policy decisions about Russia, and obviously, the line of questioning suggesting, is there any quid pro quo? Is the President of the United States making policy with regards to Russia because of something, some relationship? And that is kind of shocking, that that's the kind of questions that are being asked about the President --

BROWN: It's not just about the campaign, it's about what is happening in the White House?

ZELIZER: Absolutely.

BROWN: In terms of Russia. And again, we don't know. This could mean nothing. They are just asking questions. We don't know what this all means, so we should always caveat with that. Go ahead.

ZELIZER: Yes.

SIDDIQUI: And (INAUDIBLE) is very important because sometimes lost in the discussion around who was having contacts with whom and what role did they play in the campaign is a series of policy decisions that involved at first, potentially, the lifting of sanctions against Russia. Now the administration ultimately didn't go that route, but that's what Michael Flynn had discussed in the transition with then Russian ambassador to the U.S. The President in January delayed the implementation of sanctions against Russia that were overwhelmingly approved by Congress last year. The RNC platform changed during the 2016 campaign to no longer reflect support for Ukrainian rebels' legal assistance towards Ukrainian rebels fighting Russian forces. So there were some changes, in not just the campaign's posture towards Russia, but as a result, now the Republican Party's status.

BROWN: But what do you say to the administration, though, who says, look, we have been really tough on Russia. I mean, look what we did to Russia and Syria, for one? What do you say to that? I mean, you know, the President himself has tweeted that he has been tougher on Russia than his predecessor.

ZELIZER: Look. Sabrina just laid out a series of policy decisions where Donald Trump has really broken with where the Republican Party has been in the last 20 years with respect to Russia. Remember, Mitt Romney, the one of the big debates he had with Barack Obama what that he thought the Democrats weren't tough enough on Russia.

So during his campaign, Trump -- he changed the party's position on this issue and in office, he has taken a series of moves that are more accommodating towards Russia than other Republican Presidents would have been. I think Mueller is seeing all of that and saying, huh, is there a connection here? That's the sort of grand question, one of the big questions of this investigation.

To the White House's point that, hey, we have been very tough on Russia, I think most foreign policy analysts don't see it that way. They see him grudgingly accepting NATO. NATO is the sort of cornerstone of American security, and it took months and lots of back and forth before Trump would affirmatively himself to NATO. And that caused a lot of concern in Europe, to the benefit of Putin. They haven't been able to substitute the sanctions that Congress called for in a massive bipartisan vote.

BROWN: And of course, the administration says, these are allies, these would be sanctions against allies working with Russia. They claim that the business has, you know, they are no longer doing business with Russia. They are talking to the allies. That is what they say about the sanctions.

[16:25:01] ZELIZER: Yes.

BROWN: They say that the message is muddled.

But I want to move on really quickly to what we just saw unfold in Pennsylvania with a very vintage Donald Trump. I mean, this is -- he looks like he is back on the campaign trail. And he went off-script --

ZELIZER: He was.

BROWN: And he was. And he was talking about 2020 and what his slogan is going to be, right?

ZELIZER: Yes.

BROWN: Do you see this as a sign of the fact that there are fewer and fewer people around the President now to sort of restrain him, as we know. Hope Hicks, others who are close to him are leaving or are already out the door.

ZELIZER: You know, it is true that there are fewer senior aides there to box him in and tell him what to do. But let's be honest. This is no different than Donald Trump was in 2015 or 2016 or at the peak of when there were some senior aides that restrained him a little bit. So I always think with Donald Trump, we overemphasize the people around him. Trump is Trump. He is not going to change due to the people around him.

BROWN: And as we wrap up just really quickly, you know, you wonder, Rick Saccone, the Republican, it's really tight. It's a really tight race. Some would say surprisingly tight given the fact that Republicans normally do well there, although it is a midterm. And so it makes you wonder, is that because of Rick Saccone or is it because the President is losing popularity in that district? Just very quickly. SIDDIQUI: Look, I think this is a district that Trump won by over 20

points. The fact that it's now competitive speaks to perhaps the President's own favorability ratings. You think about the Alabama Senate race. One of the telling lines there was that that is the state he won by 30 points in November. When Doug Jones was the victor in that Senate election, one of the underlying statistics was that Trump's approval rating was fairly evenly split. And that was in Alabama. So he is clearly turning out to be somewhat of a liability to Republicans on the ballot, especially when he can't stay on message during these rallies. He is doing that, doing anything for both to their cause (ph).

BROWN: Yes. He barely talked about the candidate.

ZELIZER: Maybe too on-message.

BROWN: Exactly. There you go.

All right. Ryan, Sabrina, thank you so much. Great having you on.

ZELIZER: Thanks, Pam.

SIDDIQUI: Thank you.

BROWN: Well, more questions today about that payoff of porn actress, Stormy Daniels. Were ethics rules violated by not disclosing the alleged hush money? We will discuss, up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:34:02] PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: And now to the storm that won't let up. President Trump's personal attorney now admits that he paid a porn star $130,000 to keep her quiet about an alleged affair with Trump before he ran for office. Now, Michael Cohen says he used his home equity line of credit to make that payment on behalf of his billionaire client, and that President Trump was never aware that he made it.

And whether Trump knew is important because the payment could violate federal law. I want to talk about that possibility with Norm Eisen. He served as the Ethics Czar under President Obama and Ambassador to the Czech Republic. So let's just start off with big question, big picture here. How might this payment, just days before the election to Stormy Daniels, violate campaign finance laws and potentially violate federal ethics law?

NORM EISEN, FORMER ETHICS CZAR UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: Pamela, thanks for having me back. There are two big legal issues around this payment. The first is campaign finance. Campaigns are not supposed to receive contributions, including in-kind contributions, of $130,000. And the question is, it's just a question, although the evidence keeps accumulating, was this hush payment that was made to Stormy Daniels and the agreement done to benefit the campaign?

Was it the same as if an individual gave $130,000 contribution to a campaign? You can't do that. BROWN: But what about if it was done on behalf of Trump's attorney to

benefit the campaign, but the campaign itself, in terms of the actual candidate, Donald Trump and others in the campaign were unaware of it. What would that mean then?

EISEN: Well, it still would be a problem for the attorney, because look, the same way you or I could not -- there's a campaign contribution limit. And we are not allowed to write a check for $130,000 directly, if that is the way the facts turn out, this is still mysterious, and that's a violation by Cohen. Now, if the campaign was completely unaware, that's another matter, but at a minimum, that's a Cohen violation.

The question you have to ask, of course, is it credible that Donald Trump was unaware of this, given the nature of his relationship with Cohen? The nature of his relationship with Stormy, and if Trump was aware, of course, the campaign was aware.

BROWN: So here's that question. Because Trump and Michael Cohen had said, he was left out of this, he was unaware of this. Michael Cohen said he just did this on his own, essentially, but if the President was unaware of the payment to Daniels. Yet, the White House said he won the arbitration. Does that make the NDA invalid? What does that mean for the NDA?

EISEN: Well, first of all, when we're taking account of what Mr. Trump or the White House or Mr. Cohen says, these are not individuals that have the highest reputation for honesty. Mr. Trump lied over 2,000 times in his first year. We've never seen anything like that. So I take what they say with a grain of salt.

In terms of the NDA, the Nondisclosure Agreement, you know, there's a lot of issues about the validity of that nondisclosure agreement. If it's true that Trump didn't know about it, then how did his lawyer have the power to bind him? There's a legal ethics rule. You must get your client consent. The whole story doesn't make sense.

[16:35:00] The most likely account that actually happened is Trump knew. Cohen paid this money, intending to be paid back by Trump, and Trump either did or did not pay him back directly or indirectly. That's the most likely narrative based on this evidence. And that creates the campaign finance problems, and it also creates personal ethics issues, if true, for President Trump.

BROWN: Because he didn't disclose it, right? Is that why it would be a violation of federal ethics?

EISEN: Exactly. Trump is caught between a rock and a hard place, Pamela. Because in running away from this campaign finance violation, which may or may not have occurred, we need to know the facts. He's pled himself into a personal financial disclosure violation. President Trump is obligated, under federal law to disclose all sorts of information, and he signed and personally certified a financial disclosure, including assets and liabilities.

But he didn't mention this hush agreement, the LLC that owns the hush agreement, a possible loan from Mr. Cohen. None of that is in there. And the notion that he didn't know about this is kind of silly. Come on. Have you ever given $130,000 gift to someone you worked with? That's ridiculous! Mr. Cohen had to taken out a home equity, apparently, he claims. He had to take it out of his home equity line of credit.

BROWN: It's hard to believe.

EISEN: And a gift? Come on, or at least that there was an understanding that he would be paid back. And we know he tried to reach, according to media reports, he was trying to reach Mr. Trump during this period when the $130,000 payment was delayed. You know you have to ask yourself, was that a cold call out of the blue or did Trump know about it all the time?

BROWN: There's a lot -- it seems that there are a lot more layers of this onion to be unpeeled. We'll see how it all shakes out. Thank you so much, Ambassador. Do appreciate it.

EISEN: Thanks, Pamela.

BROWN: Well, coming up on this Sunday, hundreds of diners in a small English town now being told they should wash their belongings because they may have been exposed to a deadly nerve agent. Can you imagine? We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:40:00]

BROWN: Well, new frightening details now from the U.K., where a Russian man and his daughter were poisoned last weekend. British officials are telling everyone who went into this restaurant or a nearby pub in Salisbury, England, last Sunday and Monday to scrub their clothes and everything they had with them. That warning is for about 500 people.

Well, they found traces of a rare and dangerous nerve agent in both places. I want to bring in CNN's Phil Black. He is in Salisbury about 90 miles southwest of London. So, Phil is this warning out of an abundance of caution or are the people who went into that restaurant and pub in real danger?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, the authorities here, Pamela say they are being very cautious. But there is a risk, although it is a small one and a long-term one. What they're concerned about are small amounts of this nerve agent on people's clothing, on their belongings, and them being exposed to it, in these small amounts, but over a long period of time.

So what they're suggesting is that people wash their clothes, wash their belongings, their keys, their phones, their wallets as best they can. And they think that will take care of the situation entirely. But they're concerned about this, as you touched on there, because they found this nerve agent and what they described as trace contamination in the restaurant behind me. That's why it's still closed and a pub around the corner, as well.

And you're talking about hundreds of people that may have been exposed to this because these were all the people that were there. It's a big window of time, Sunday afternoon last week. This also tells us that the nerve agent that was used in targeting the Russian man, Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, suggests that it's a slow-acting nerve agent, because what it paints is a scenario where these two went for lunch, went for a drink, over several hours before eventually making their way to a park bench behind the building here.

And that's where they eventually collapsed. That's where they were found really being violently ill as a result of the nerve agent, and so I think it suggests that police are looking for a slow-acting nerve agent, not one that kicks in quickly after exposure.

BROWN: So frightening. And to think that this is a chemical weapon right there in England being used. Phil Black, thank you so much.

Well, a middle school teacher in Florida is secretly running a white supremacist-themed podcast. How she's explaining herself, that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00]

BROWN: Well, a Florida school district has now had a full week to decide the fate of a teacher whose white supremacist comments were discovered online. The middle school teacher was removed from the classroom during an investigation. CNN's Sara Sidner has all the details.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Twenty five-year-old Diana Volitich had one job, teaching social studies to middle school students at this Florida public school. On her off time, she had another passion, sharing white supremacist ideals and anti-semitic conspiracy theories on a public social media website, including her own podcast under the Russian pseudonym, Tiana Dolokov.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So many other researchers have already looked into this. And that's just the way it is. There are races that are higher IQs than others.

SIDNER: She also shared her views on Twitter under the same pseudonym, saying things like, it isn't supremacist or hateful to prefer your own people over others. And you know America's education system is designed to enable victimization when teachers are forced to learn about institutional racism and prove it's real when it isn't.

[16:50:00] After the myriad of tweets and comments were first reported by the Huffington Post, the publication shared what they with the Citrus County School District. The district has removed Volitich from the classroom pending an investigation. In a statement through her attorney, Volitich denies being racist or anti-semitic, saying her comments online were all political satire and an attempt to get more followers. None of the statements released about me being a white nationalist or white supremacist have truth to them nor are my political beliefs injected into my teachings of social studies curriculum.

But she did admit at least one parent complained about her political bias in class.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've had a couple of instances where parents were concerned. I had one at the beginning of this year who emailed the principal over my head and basically told her, I am worried that your teacher is injecting political bias into her teaching. And the principal came to me and she was like, I am not worried, should I be worried? And I am like no. And she believed me and she backed off.

SIDNER: Another parent, Meredith Blakely said her daughter attended Miss Volitich's class.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On personal level, I am outraged that you know people in 2018 still think this way.

SIDNER: Blakely's daughter remembered a comment by Volitich that made a mixed race child in class uncomfortable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She believed she heard a statement from a teacher where she was saying that during segregation they had separate water fountains and the teacher somewhat eluded in the teacher's opinion, it would be OK if that was the way it was today.

SIDNER: But Blakely says she strongly believes in due process and the First Amendment and that she will wait to see what happens with the investigation into the teacher before she passes judgment on whether or not that teacher should be fired. She did say, though, that this is a wake-up call to parents that they should teach their strong values in the home, as well. And she says she's teaching her daughter about inclusion and acceptance.

BROWN: And our thanks to Sara Sidner for that.

Well, next week, we reveal our first CNN Hero of 2018. But before we do, an update on 2017's Hero of the Year. Amy Wright of Wilmington, North Carolina, was honored for opening a coffee shop that employs people with disabilities. Now she has expanded her mission and here's a quick update from Anderson Cooper.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The 2017 CNN Hero of the Year is Amy Wright!

AMY WRIGHT, CNN HERO OF THE YEAR: Oh, my gosh! I cannot believe this is happening!

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: An incredible night, but two months later, Amy has opened a second coffee shop, this one in Charleston, South Carolina. For most of these 17 new employees, this is their first job.

WRIGHT: People with intellectual disabilities aren't valued, and so this coffee shop has created a place where people see their value.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: And Amy has some major expansion plans. Watch Anderson's full update or nominate someone that you think should be a CNN Hero right now at CNNheros.com. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:58:10] BROWN: Well, Austin, Texas, ground zero right now. It's where all things entertainment converges into one big happening called South by Southwest. It's a super conference and festival that often determines what will be seen, listening to, doing, in the near future. And of course, our CNN Senior Tech Correspondent, Laurie Segall, is there. Laurie, much of what South by Southwest is focusing on this year is the power and the promise of technology, plus its downside, though. How is the downside being addressed there?

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN SENIOR TECH CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's interesting, right before I came on with you, Pamela, I realized, this is my tenth year coming to South by Southwest. I started coming when companies like Twitter were launching here and there was so much optimism around that. And now you have people really nervous, and panels where tech executives are being called out. They're raising their hand and saying, do you have too much power?

What are you doing? So that's really something people are talking about. You had Elon Musk actually come and do a panel. And he was talking about the dangers of artificial intelligence, saying, we have to pay attention to this. Hollywood is paying attention, which is very interesting. You have the creators of West World, who actually came here. And West World is a show about robots essentially overtaking human beings.

And I asked them, who's in control, man or machine? That's a question we're all asking. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN NOLAN, HBO WESTWORLD, SHOWRUNNER: We lost control quite some time ago. And I think the last year has been a fairly stark illustration of that. We've struggled this from the beginning. But the idea now that, you know, we've built systems that are so subtle and able to be manipulated so subtly that it's hard to even -- you've got a congressional inquiry now to try to figure out what happened with the election, what's happening social media in general.

It's already being gamed to a point. We don't even understand how to fix it. So the illusion that we have any control over these systems is long gone. We elected quite some time ago to not have the conversation.

SEGALL: You're a Show-runner of a massively influential show. There aren't many people that look like you in these roles. An and I know that everyone is starving for a role model and an example in this era of me too and time's up but way, way long before that. Do you feel the pressure of it?

LISA JOY, HBO WESTWORLD, SHOWRUNNER: You know, I think I feel the pressure of wanting to do something that's good. For a woman, I think you have a little bit more pressure. I think you know that to get that chance, it's sometimes harder and if you mess it up, you become the excuse to not give that chance to other people. I think happily things are changing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[05:00:01] SEGALL: And it's interesting, a lot of these panels, you hear a lot of talk of the me too movement, how it pushes forward, a lot of people in technology being asked about this. And I don't want to say tech is bad. There is so much promise here. I was speaking to an entrepreneur who's helping build out technology for a baby camera that would be able to detect postpartum depression in moms by looking at movements. You know there's really some interesting innovation here. But it's a time we have to step back and really ask about the power, about the peril, about what we can do, and how we can pull our tech.