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Presidential Tweet Storm Mentions Mueller Personally; Analysts: President Setting Stage For Firing Mueller; Putin Wins Fourth Term In Suspense Less Election; Dem Conor Lamb Claims Victory In PA House Race; Rookie Democratic Candidate Aiming For Ohio Upset; Sweden Helping Negotiate Release Of Americans Held In NK; Downhill Ice Cross: The Fastest Sport On Two Skates. Aired 5-6 pm ET

Aired March 18, 2018 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Again, nothing new. Announcing in all caps, no collusion, nothing new. But there is something new in this most recent tweet storm, the name Mueller.

These are the messages sent out this morning from the White House where the President is spending the weekend with no public events on his schedule.

He writes in one, why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big crooked Hillary supporters wits, and zero Republicans? We should point out, Mueller is a Republican who was appointed FBI Director by President George W. Bush.

Now, on Saturday, the President wrote this. The Mueller probe should never have been started, and that there was no collusion, and there was no crime.

This is notable, because for nearly a year, the President has not mentioned the name Mueller on his Twitter feed, his preferred way to communicate.

Some analysts say it's a signal that the President's patience with the investigation has run out, and he wants it over with, even if it means firing Robert Mueller. Now at least two Republican senators say if that happens, it's game over for the Trump presidency.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, as I said before, if he tried to do that, that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency because we're a rule of law nation.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: Talking to my colleagues all along, it was once he goes after Mueller. Then we'll take action. I think that people see that as massive red line that can't be crossed.

So, I hope that that's the case. And I would just hope that enough people would prevail on the President now, don't go there. Don't go there. We have confidence in Mueller. I certainly do. And then I think my colleagues do, as well. So I hope that the pushback is now to keep the President from going there. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: Senator Jeff Flake also said on CNN this weekend that he was puzzled by the administration's firing of Andrew McCabe, the former FBI Deputy Director, calling it a horrible day for democracy.

One Republican in Congress is happy that McCabe was fired, New York's Lee Zeldin. He tweeted this, decisive, appropriate, timely action by Jeff Sessions to fire Andrew McCabe.

He goes on to call him, quote, a ringleader of rogue actors who are a shameful exception at top, not the norm. Congressman Lee Zeldin is joining us now. Congressman, thank you for being here this afternoon. I understand you feel the firing of Andrew McCabe was appropriate, but how do you feel about the way the President has handled the firing?

CONG. LEE ZELDIN (R), NEW YORK: The President probably feels that the Attorney General, the Office of Professional Responsibility, that the IG, the FBI Director, all of the people who have waited inside the Justice Department with concern over what is in that IG report, probably is very happy that there's -- that accountability, as it relates to Andrew McCabe.

There are people all across our country who lie to the Justice Department, and then they end up getting charged with a federal crime. So the fact that McCabe would face a reduction of his pension as a result of what took place really should be the least of his worries. But I would imagine that the President is quite happy with what took place.

CABRERA: He definitely seems to be in a celebratory mood. Are you OK with the way he is attacking the Mueller investigation, attacking the Department of Justice as a result of McCabe's firing?

ZELDIN: I think that there's clearly misconduct with regards to the process as to which how and why the Clinton probe ended, how and why that the Trump Russia probe began, with regards to the matter in which the Justice Department didn't provide all the information that they should have to the FISA court in securing that warrant to spy on Carter Page.

So the President is -- and obviously, personally, it's been impacting him, because he was elected President of the United States, and there is a desire, I'm sure, amongst many in Congress, some in the media, some in the American public who wouldn't mind if the entire term of the President's time in office was spent with a cloud just continuing to research and investigate different things.

So the President, I'm sure, would like to see that cloud lifted. I wouldn't be surprised at all if the President continued to feel that way strongly, until the Mueller probe ended. Especially if he knows that he did not collude with the Russians.

All of that evidence that he would be aware of existing, or not existing with wherever any of the sourced stories go, on being able to cut through what's true and what's not true better than anyone as it impacts him personally, I would imagine he's frustrated by it. I don't want to speak for him, but I...

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: Well, clearly he is frustrated by it, but we don't have all the facts.

[17:05:02] Congressman, we don't have all the facts yet. We don't know what Mueller have, whether there was collusion or not. But it sounds like you are pretty certain McCabe did wrong.

Did you see that entire Inspector General's report that has not been made public? Have you seen the assessment by the Office of the Professional Responsibility to be 100 percent certain that the firing of McCabe was justified in how it went down was legit?

ZELDIN: Well, first off, much to the credit of the way that the I.G. has been handling this entire investigation, we haven't been reading about leaks every day of what they've been producing.

But what we are aware of with regards to a relationship with the media, and being asked about information that was being provided to the media, it's important to provide honest answers.

People who get charged with lying to the Justice Department -- and the question is, should Andrew McCabe be held to a lower standard, the same standard, or a higher standard as a deputy director when the Justice Department is asking him questions. But you know, we'll see what the I.G. report has to say with regards to a lot more than just Andrew McCabe.

CABRERA: Right.

ZELDIN: But from what I'm aware of, he didn't provide truthful answers when he was asked about that specifically.

CABRERA: That is the charge from Jeff Sessions, who fired Andrew McCabe. Andrew McCabe, though, is defending himself, saying that's just not true. Let me ask you this, though.

The President, as we've seen, is now going after Robert Mueller directly. We read tweets. He's calling him out by name. Do you agreed with your fellow Republicans in Congress, Senators Graham and Flake, who we heard from earlier this hour that if Mueller is fired, it would be catastrophic for this administration?

ZELDIN: Well, the President has repeated over and over again that he is not going to fire, he has no plans to fire, he's not talking about firing Director Mueller. I'm sure that the President would want Director Mueller's investigation to end, especially as it relates to -- here we are, it's well over the news that the President's...

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: Why does he want it to end, though, if he's 100 percent innocent? Why does he want it to end...

ZELDIN: Because we're talking about this right now.

CABRERA: Mueller's broader investigation is about figuring out, and getting to the bottom of Russia's election meddling, no?

ZELDIN: Yes, but when you get to the bottom of it, and there's nothing there, and the President knows that there's nothing there -- you know, here we are, I would imagine that the President would rather us, and many people in our country would rather us be able to talk about, you know, our economy, or national security, you know, issues that we're debating maybe next week in Washington, D.C. to move our country forward. So I would guess if I would be -- if was the president I would want...

CABRERA: I have to stop you for just a second. I'm so sorry, because I don't -- I don't mean to interrupt you, but I do want to make sure that we do present the facts. When you say, there's nothing there, I mean, we do have evidence that there is something there.

The Intel Community was adamant that Russia did meddle in the election. Now we have an indictment from Robert Mueller showing exactly how Russians meddled in the election, at least in one way.

We know there have been guilty pleas on behalf of members of the Trump team, Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, as well as Gates recently. So, how can you say there's nothing there?

ZELDIN: Well, a few things. One is, one of the reasons why I have strongly supported the investigation that took place following the election is because the Russians do meddle.

They meddled in our election, they will meddle in a future election, they meddle in Syria, where we have troops in the way, they will meddle in Afghanistan, where we have troops and coalition forces fighting the Taliban.

So as it relates to the meddling that takes place in Russia, that's important to investigate. There's no need for a Special Counsel to have done that.

The reason why a Special Counsel was appointed was specifically because this Special Counsel would be looking into whether or not President Trump, and his campaign colluded with the Russians. That's what I'm referring to.

Now, as it relates to -- so, you know, what those indictments that you referenced of those Russians, that gets to the heart of stopping the Russians from holding them accountable, first off, from many ways that they've meddled in the past, and they shouldn't have, and also to stop them from meddling in the future.

Now, as it relates to the President's team, Michael Flynn is one of the names that you mentioned. You know, there was a conversation that he was asked about after the election was over, when the President's campaign was going through a transition, where Michael Flynn was asked about a conversation that he had after the campaign. And supposedly, he gave a dishonest answer to the FBI, that's a crime, which goes back to why Andrew McCabe should feel fortunate that the least of his problems would be just a reduction of a pension if that's true.

CABRERA: OK.

ZELDIN: Some of the -- all of the indictments that have come out specifically as it relates to President Trump, it's not because President Trump and his campaign was colluding with the Russians, it's for other things like lying to the FBI when asked about it, and other facts that long proceed President Trump's campaign as it related to Paul Manafort and Gates.

[17:10:10] CABRERA: We'll have to see where the investigation goes. I've got to run, but I do want to make sure I get this answer from you real quickly. Do you support Robert Mueller in his ongoing investigation?

ZELDIN: Yes. And the President has -- and the White House has provided tens of thousands of documents, there have been all the testimony that's taken place with all of the leaks and the stories.

We have just -- we have heard about all sorts of cooperation that has taken place. I also believe that the Mueller probe should not go on indefinitely, that it needs to end.

And it looks like the Mueller probe may be going way beyond the mandate of looking at the 2016 election. And now just trying to find some evidence of any crime anywhere, which -- you know, you just can't have a never-ending probe.

To investigate somebody for winning an election without evidence that they committed a crime to win an election, I have a problem with. So at some point, the Mueller probe is going to have to end.

CABRERA: Well, Republicans weren't saying that in the Ken Starr investigation, let's recall. But, Congressman Lee Zeldin, I really appreciate your time. Thank you for coming on this afternoon.

ZELDIN: Thank you. Take care.

CABRERA: Meantime, here's what some other Republicans are saying about the possibility of Trump firing Mueller. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would it bother you if the President ordered the firing of Mueller?

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: You know, I wouldn't advocate it, but I would have never advocated for the appointment of a special prosecutor.

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: I don't see the President firing him. I think the White House has said ten times, maybe more, that they are not going to fire Robert Mueller. They want to be able to finish the investigation. So I don't even think that's going to be necessary, because the President's not going to fire him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: With us to discuss, CNN Political Commentator and Democratic Strategist, Keith Boykin, member of the Donald J. Trump for President Advisory Board, Jeff Ballabon, and Republican Strategist, Alice Stewart.

So, Alice, I'll start with you. Do you think Senator Lindsey Graham is right when he says firing Mueller would be the end of Trump's presidency, because Paul and Lankford, and even Congressman Zeldin didn't really seem as concerned.

ALICE STEWART, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think he's not far from the truth. He's making a very good point here. We have to keep in mind the Mueller investigation is about Russian interference in our election. We don't know if it influenced the outcome, but it was about their interference.

It's not just about collusion. And I think if the President does decide to do something to stop Mueller, fire him in this investigation, that is a serious, serious mistake, because it does away with the real problem, which is Russian interference in our election.

And I think it's a mistake to even go down that road. We're hearing from many Republicans, certainly Democrats who say so. That for them to try, and say that they're cooperating fully with this investigation, while his Personal Attorney John Dowd, goes out there, and says that they pray the investigation comes to a close, I think it's wrong.

If they're innocent, and they have done nothing wrong, and if there is no collusion, they should welcome this investigation to its conclusion, so they can fully exonerate themselves, and then he can send out a huge tweet that says, see, I told you so.

CABRERA: I want to look at this from all sides. So, Keith, let me ask you this question. Can you understand in part, given you're somebody who worked under the Clinton administration, you remember what happened with Ken Starr, and Monica Lewinsky, and how long that investigation went.

Can you understand where some of these Republicans are coming from when they say that they are concerned about Mueller's scope getting a little bit too broad?

KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I understand the idea that you don't want -- if you're a member of a party in power, you don't want a special prosecutor going after every possible crime that may have been committed, you know, some time in the past, or something not related to the presidency.

But this is different because President Trump was elected in 2016 in a controversial election where Russia interfered. And in order to find out whether there was a conspiracy of engagement between the Trump campaign and Russia, you have to look at Trump's finances.

You have to look at the Trump organization's finances, which is something that the President doesn't want, but the American people deserve to know that anyway, because President Trump center released his tax returns, unlike every other president since Richard Nixon.

But we have a President now that's under investigation from special prosecutor, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who's a Republican. He fired James Comey, who was a Republican. He's now fired the Deputy FBI Director, Andrew McCabe, who's also a Republican.

And Trump claims it's a witch hunt of Democrats out to get him. It makes no sense. The FBI is one of the most Republican-centric right- leaning institutions in our government. The notion that somehow they're launching this cabal against a Republican president is farcical.

CABRERA: What do you think about that, Jeff?

JEFF BALLABON, MEMBER, DONALD J. TRUMP FOR PRESIDENT ADVISORY BOARD: I agree with the word farcical in terms of everything that was just said.

Look, the notion -- First of all, let's start with the notion that the President even suggested that he wants to fire Mueller. Robert Mueller's name came up in a tweet representing the investigation. He did not talk about firing him at all.

[17:15:01] This is completely conjured up by the media. It is not based to any kind of reality. That's number one, and number two, the fact is...

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: Do you recall what John Dowd said this weekend -- John Dowd, President Trump's lawyer?

BALLABON: That's exactly right. And that's the second point, which of course he wants the investigation to be over. This is not an investigation about Russian meddling.

This is an investigation that alleges, and CNN goes on 24 hours a day talking about the idea that somehow there's some kind of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

There is zero evidence of that after a year, endless budget, endless people, endless hostility, there is zero evidence. Why don't we move on to what actually matters to Americans, which is how America is doing, or in fact what the Russians did. But it's not about the Trump campaign and it's not about Donald Trump.

CABRERA: But hold on. Because the facts are, there hasn't been evidence made public yet to collusion. And maybe there isn't any evidence of collusion. We just don't know yet. The investigation is not done.

BALLABON: So what are we talking about...

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: We can't say conclusively that there is no evidence.

BALLABON: Exactly. And this is the point -- this is the point that Representative Zeldin made, and the point I'm going to make also. This siphons away energy and attention from the fact that the President is having a stellar run as president...

BOYKIN: Oh, come on!

BALLABON: Excuse me, no -- see, you want to talk about the President's accomplishments, no let's talk about...

(CROSSTALK)

BOYKIN: Because you're going to try to use this to...

BALLABON: Talk about how great the President is doing, and not about the investigation, which we have no evidence.

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: The President was tweeting all about the investigation today. That's why we're talking about it. Hold on just a second, Keith. Let me give you another sound bite for us all to ponder.

This is Representative Trey Gowdy, who is retiring. He is a Republican. And this is what he said about Trump's lawyer this weekend, essentially calling for an end to the Mueller investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: To suggest that Mueller should shut down, and that all he is looking at is collusion, if you have an innocent client, Mr. Dowd, act like it. Russia attacked our country.

Let Special Counsel Mueller figure that out. And if you believe, as we found, there's no evidence of collusion, you should want Special Counsel Mueller to take all the time and have all the independence he needs to do his job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: So, Alice, let me turn to you. At the top there, he said, if you're innocent, act like you're innocent. Is the President acting like a man who is innocent?

STEWART: He's acting a like a man who has something he doesn't want released to the world. He's acting like he has something to hide. And I agree with Trey Gowdy there, in that if your client is innocent, act like he's innocent. Let hem put all the information out there, let him fully cooperate,

let him fully support this investigation. For anyone to say that there's no evidence of collusion at this point, it's nonsensical, but the investigation has not been completed.

And a lot of information, Ana, has you have mentioned, hasn't been made public yet. We don't know what Robert Mueller knows. We don't know what they're looking. So I think the most important thing that everyone in America can do is support this investigation to its full conclusion.

We need to find out -- get to the bottom of Russian interference, and possible influence in our election, and if there's collusion, we need to find out about that, too. But most importantly, the overall Russia impacting our great American election system should be a concert to every single person in this country.

CABRERA: Let me push the conversation forward a little bit, because I want to pick up on something that you said, Jeff, about McCabe's firing and that nobody is above the law. We want to get the facts out on that, as well.

Here is how Andrew McCabe's lawyers responded to one of the President's tweets today. He wrote, we will not be responding to each childish, defamatory, disgusting, and false tweet by the President. The whole truth will come out in due course.

But the tweets confirm that he has corrupted the entire process that led to Mr. McCabe's termination, and has rendered it illegitimate. So by tweeting, has the President made it harder for Republicans to say McCabe's firing was not politically motivated?

BALLABON: So you would like me to respond to the childish, defamatory and disgusting tweet of McCabe's lawyer. Apparently, it's an absurdity. McCabe was not tossed out by Donald Trump, McCabe was found by Inspector General-- by the way an Obama appointed Inspector General, and the Office of Professional Responsibility to have violated...

BOYKIN: You haven't seen that report yet.

BALLABON: Is it not true? Did that report not come out? Did the Inspector General not find that?

(CROSSTALK)

BOYKIN: Have you seen the report?

BALLABON: Are you denying that the report came out?

BOYKIN: You didn't answer the question. Have you seen the report?

BALLABON: I haven't!

(CROSSTALK)

BOYKIN: You're making allegations of something you haven't seen.

BALLABON: I'm sorry. There is no dispute about this. . There is no dispute about this.

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: That is true, the report has not come out, but it's also true that the Office of the Inspector General and the Office of Professional Responsibility apparently recommended to Jeff Sessions that McCabe be fired.

BALLABON: Correct.

BOYKIN: Why is Jeff Sessions involved in this in the first place? Jeff Session has supposed to have recused himself from this investigation.

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: One at a time. We can't understand. Jeff, finish your point. Keith, you'll get a chance.

BALLABON: The Attorney General runs the department, and because the Attorney General of the Justice Department made the recommendation as did the Office of Professional Responsibility. And so it is actually his responsibility top act -- to preserve integrity.

[17:20:00] Listen, I get it. You know, John Gotti was very upset when (Inaudible), the hammer came down on him because people don't like criminal conspiracies when they're criminals.

The fact of it is, this was wrongdoing, and he was caught, and it's just another example of the kind of wrongdoing. And when you have a guy like Jeff Flake out there saying an absurdity like accusing the President of wrongdoing for commenting on the wrongdoing that's being done to him, he's the victim here. He's the one being victimized.

BOYKIN: The President is the victim?

BALLABON: That's correct.

CABRERA: OK, Keith -- last word, Keith.

BOYKIN: Donald Trump is the most powerful person in the United States if not the world. He has the power of the bully pulpit. He's on Twitter regularly attacking members of the FBI, and people who are part of the Mueller team, accusing them of a witch hunt investigation.

He tweeted in December, and then he wanted -- he insinuated that he wanted Andrew McCabe to be fired before he was able to retire with full benefits. And guess what, Jeff Sessions complied by firing him 26 hours before...

(CROSSTALK)

BOYKIN: Let me finish. Let me finish. CABRERA: Guys, I've got to go. Keith, finish your thought, and then we've got to go, guys. Sorry.

BOYKIN: And Michael Flynn ends up retiring, basically, with full benefits, even though he's pleaded guilty, and Donald Trump continues to defend him after he lied to the FBI. But McCabe ends up getting kicked out, fired with no benefits, and Trump...

BALLABON: You're right, he should be accused criminally as well.

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: All right, guys. Thank you all. I appreciate it. I know, Alice, you wanted to get in there one more time, too. Sorry, guys, we are out of time. I really appreciate all of you being here.

We have some breaking news in fact. Sources telling CNN that outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will meet on Monday with the man nominated to replace him, current CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

The two are slated to have a two-hour meeting at the State Department on Monday. Tillerson was fired last week after months of tension with President Trump.

Coming up in the Newsroom, amid growing concerns around the world of Russian election meddling, Vladimir Putin is heading for a fourth term as President after banning his closest rivals. We're live in Moscow where Putin just spoke out about the nerve agent used in the U.K. attack. You'll hear what he said, next.

[17:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Welcome back. In a thoroughly anti-climatic victory, Vladimir Putin has been re-elected President of Russia. With a projected 75 percent of the vote, Putin wins another six-year term.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is joining us now just outside Red Square in Moscow where there's a huge victory party that was underway earlier. Fred, the results, obviously, no surprise. What is the big takeaway here?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, the big takeaway here is that he easily coasts to another victory. And I think it's a big thing for Vladimir Putin tonight. I mean, he knew he was going to win a large chunk of the vote. There was a big voter turnout.

We are still waiting to see how big the turn out actually was. He won at around 70 percent of people to go and vote. Right now about 66 percent of the votes are counted. So I think he will be a little bit under 70 percent in the total of votes when it comes down to all the votes having been counted.

It's interesting to see though, Ana, for Vladimir Putin that there really appears as though the election for him was more a formality than anything else. Because right after winning this election, he went, and he commented on that spy case in the U.K., where the U.K. is now accusing Russia of having used nerve agent on its territory, and he said, it wasn't the Russians. Let's listen in to what Vladimir Putin said just a couple of minutes ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through a translator): First thing that came to my mind was that, if it's military grade agent, they would have died instantly on the spot. That's absolutely obvious. That's the first thing. And then secondly, Russia doesn't have any such agents. We destroyed all of that under the control, under the monitoring of international organizations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PLEITGEN: So that's Vladimir Putin again just moments after giving a big victory speech here in front of a crowd of what was about 35,000 people right outside the Kremlin. So we're going to get a lot more of those in the next six years, because he is just one -- he's going to be in power in the next six years to come. Ana.

CABRERA: All right. Fred Pleitgen in Moscow for us. Thanks so much. Coming up, are Democrats making a comeback? A recent win in a special election and a new poll suggests they could be. So what's behind the momentum? We'll discuss, next.

[17:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Democrats may be gaining energy and momentum, heading into the midterm elections. Dems are on the verge right now of scoring a major upset in Pennsylvania's 18th congressional district.

President Trump won that same district, by the way, by some 20 points in 2016. Well, now a 33-year-old rookie Democrat named Conor Lamb is already claiming victory over Republican Rick Saccone.

Lamb has a narrow lead there, still fewer than 700 votes, so I want to CNN has not yet projected a winner in this race, the election results aren't yet official. But let's talk it over with CNN Political Analyst, and Editor, and Publisher of Inside Elections, Nathan Gonzales.

Nathan, before I ask you a question, there's another poll out today and let's look at it. It's an NBC/street -- Wall Street Journal poll, asking registered voters which party they want to control Congress after the midterm election.

And look at this, 50 percent want Democrats, 40 percent want Republicans. Nathan, Dems have a ten-point margin there, which has widened, in fact, since January. What's behind it?

NATHAN GONZALES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think there's one person that is unifying and energizing the Democratic Party, and that's President Donald J. Trump. He is unifying the Democrats, and boosting turnout in not only special

elections, but some of these state and local special elections that we've seen over the last 15 months. A 10-point lead in the national generic ballot is probably what's necessary for Democrats to gain back the House.

But, you know, I think it's most important to look at a district-by- district and state-by-state level, and we have these regional election results in the 18th district of Pennsylvania that show that even in Trump territory, Democrats pose a threat, and can't even win under the right circumstances.

CABRERA: I want to ask you a little bit more about that election, specifically. Conor Lamb, the Democrat, was pro-gun, pro-military spending. Is the message here, in order to win, Democrats must act more like Republicans?

GONZALES: Well, I think it helps that Conor Lamb was able to be kind of all things to all people. To moderate voters looking for an alternative, I think he was able to be that, to progressive. And liberal voters who wanted to send a message to President Trump, he was able to be that.

And I think in general, Democrats -- both parties, are well served to have candidates that best represent their district. But, you know, depending on the size of a wave, if we have an electoral wave this cycle, we could see Democrats that are more liberal, or more progressive than their particularly district win, because they're not focused on it.

[17:35:04] Voters aren't focused on a Democrat's ideology. They're focused on sending that message to President Trump.

CABRERA: Dems did take a bashing in the 2016 elections. Will this Democrat momentum we're seeing now last until the fall midterms?

GONZALES: Well, I think Democratic enthusiasm is going to maintain itself and continue to be high, because President Trump is going to be in the Oval Office. What we don't know is what Republican enthusiasm and turnout is going to be like.

I think if Republicans and the President can't figure out a way to get Republican voters to come out in November of 2018, that's when we're going to see an historic election.

If both sides are energized and enthusiastic, then Democrats will probably have a good night, but if Democratic turnout is high, Republican turnout is low, that's when we start to see big numbers, particularly in the House of Representatives.

CABRERA: All right, Nathan Gonzalez, we'll be checking in with you from time to time. You have all the insight for us. Thank you.

GONZALES: No problem.

CABRERA: So that sets the stage now for our next guest. I want to take you to Ohio's conservative seventh district, where a former Navy pilot named Ken Harbaugh is a rookie Democrat running for Congress.

Harbaugh, Yale and an Oxford graduate, he's hoping to score a major upset there over GOP Congressman Bob Gibbs. And Ken Harbaugh is joining me now. So, Ken, thank you for coming in.

KEN HARBAUGH, FORMER U.S. NAVY PILOT: Good to be here.

CABRERA: You know, President Trump won your district by about 30 points. We were talking about 20 points in Pennsylvania. Right now, that race is neck and neck. Thirty points, that's a lot. What makes you think you can win this?

HARBAUGH: First of all, Navy pilots like challenges. So we're getting it done. The fact that we've got hundreds of volunteers out there already, knocking on thousands of doors, and making tens of thousands of phone calls, we're tapping into an energy that is -- that has palpable.

The wave is real. And Conor's election, I'm going to give him the decision, because I think it's going to come in, in our favor, was the first sign of it that.

When I'm on doors talking to folks in driveways, you get the very real sense that people have had it with the partisanship, with the party politics. I sometimes share the story of a mission I was leading off of North Korea when we lost an engine.

And it wasn't as if in that moment I polled my crew of 24. I didn't turn to my copilot and say, are you a Republican or a Democrat? We put the engine to bed, we finished the mission, we got the plane down, and we saved the crew.

Ohioans, and apparently Pennsylvanians, and I think Americans more broadly are looking for leaders who mean it when they say country over party.

CABRERA: Now, Republican Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House had says the election in Pennsylvania results there may be a reflection of the fact that both candidates were conservative. Is that how you see yourself in this race? Are you a conservative running as a Democrat?

HARBAUGH: I see myself as a patriot, as a Navy pilot, as a husband, as a father, as the President of a disaster Relief Organization. Most of the people I talk to are sick and tired of bumper stickers, of the one-word labels.

They're looking for a record of real service. And I think in veterans, they are seeing what they want, which is people who give life to that promise of country over party, who have skin in the game.

CABRERA: So President Trump's policies, is there anything there you agree with?

HARBAUGH: I am grateful for the attempt to level the playing field on tariffs. We have been getting battered by Chinese companies and the Chinese government frankly dumping steel. CABRERA: You support his tariffs on steel and aluminum?

HARBAUGH: Absolutely. As long as they're targeted to go after China, the real bad actor, I absolutely support...

CABRERA: What do you disagree with?

HARBAUGH: On Trump?

CABRERA: Name one, the big one.

HARBAUGH: I lose sleep when it comes to his impulsivity around North Korea. And I worry about approaching the Kim Jong-un regime naively. One of the senses that I worry most about is a political class that has no experience in this arena.

I mean you look at Congress by itself, where you have the lowest proportion of veterans than at any time in modern history. And there's a direct link between that and the misadventures we've gotten into as a country.

We have representatives that don't have the moral authority or the experience to ask the tough questions, and to demand the tough answers.

But one of the most encouraging things about this year is that I'm running shoulder to shoulder with a generation of veterans who have said to themselves, I fought for this country in Afghanistan and Iraq, I served off of North Korea, I'm going to fight for my country here at home.

CABRERA: Thank you for your service, first of all. Getting a better sense of where you stand on the political spectrum, do you support Nancy Pelosi has the Democratic leader in the House?

[17:40:01] HARBAUGH: I do not. I do not. I think we need a new generation of leaders. And that is happening in a way all by itself.

CABRERA: Who would you want to vote for to be the leader?

HARBAUGH: Look, I am keeping my head down, and focusing on the life and death problems we have right at home in the Ohio 7th. I stay out of the D.C. chess game, but I do know that it is high time to send that new generation of leaders to help fix the problems.

CABRERA: Very quickly, because I need to wrap. But I want you to talk about life and death problems here, the country's opioid crisis.

The President tomorrow expected to unveil a plan to combat the opioid epidemic, which I know has hit your district hard, as well. Would you support a plan which we expect the President to lay out, that has stiffer penalties for drug traffickers, even the possibility of death penalties?

HARBAUGH: We need to address the problem for what it is, which is an epidemic, an epidemiological phenomenon. I say that as the President of a Disaster Relief Organization. I've been in camps, on the verge of epidemic outbreaks.

But you seem to have in this administration, you get the feeling that they have one tool kit, one tool in their tool kit, and that's a hammer, and every problem looks like a nail.

What we need to do to break the cycle of opioid addiction in the Ohio seventh and across the country is we need to treat lawful enforcement, but unless we treat it like the medical phenomenon it is, we're not going to break the cycle.

CABRERA: So you don't agree with the death penalty for drug traffickers?

HARBAUGH: I believe in the death penalty for treason.

CABRERA: Thank you so much for coming on, Conor Lamb.

HARBAUGH: You bet.

CABRERA: Not Conor Lamb. We were talking with Ken Harbaugh.

HARBAUGH: Thank you.

CABRERA: Nice to meet you. All right, we'll be right back.

[17:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: We're back with a developing story in U.S. relations with North Korea. Right now negotiations are underway in Sweden to release three Americans being detained by the North Korean government.

These talks come just 10 days after the announcement that a meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un is in the works. I want to bring in CNN Global Affairs Correspondent, Elise Labott.

Elise, we are now seeing these Americans there in front of us. Could we see their release anytime soon, and might the possibility of talks with the U.S. play into this decision?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, the Swedes who are the U.S. protecting power in North Korea, because the two countries don't have diplomatic relations, there's no U.S. embassy.

They've been working on this for some time. You know, they have been working on this ever since the death of Otto Warmbier, who was obviously released from North Korea before he passed away in very poor health, while he was in North Korea.

So the Swedes have been working on this for some time. And we haven't really heard anything from North Korea since President Trump accepted their offer for talks.

I recently sat down with the just outgoing U.S. envoy to North Korea, Joe Yun, who has spoken to the North Koreans in recent days and I asked him about this. Take a listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH YUN, FORMER U.S. ENVOY ON NORTH KOREA POLICY: I think -- to be frank with you, I think they were a little bit surprised that Washington, President Trump readily accepted. They thought it would take a little time. So they were not completely prepared. So I think they're preparing at the moment.

LABOTT: Scrambling.

YUN: Scrambling, you might say, on how best to respond. And so I think you will see that in coming days, something coming out.

LABOTT: Have you talked to the North Koreans since this offer has been made?

YUN: Well, in the meantime, of course, you know, we have channel and I talk to those guys there.

LABOTT: You've talked to the North Koreans?

YUN: I've spoke to North Koreans, and I sent a single message to them, which was that this was an amazing opportunity for both sides, and they need to respond.

And also, when I was in Pyongyang, I saw the three American prisoners there, in June last year. I think I was the last outsider to see them.

And, you know, I would really like to see them released. So I pressed the point to them, this would be an incredibly good time for them to release those prisoners so that they can be reunited with their family, and that in itself I told them it would be a very positive message.

LABOTT: Do you think they'll do it?

YUN: I hope so.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LABOTT: And we haven't heard anything from North Korea yet. And so what Joe Yun is saying, by releasing these Americans, the North Koreans can show that they are serious about talks with the U.S. and improving relations. Ana.

CABRERA: Elise Labott, thank you. Thank you for bringing us that interview with Joe Yun. Great get there. We'll be right back.

[17:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Imagine hurtling down an icy hill that twists and turns as your speed reaches 50 miles per hour. That is world of Downhill Ice Cross, the fastest sport on two skates. It has become so popular, you may even see it in future Olympics, here's Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is Downhill Ice Cross, the fastest sport on skates.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a blur at times to be honest, because you are going super-fast. Sometimes you don't even know what you just did when you get the bottom of the track.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going down a hill straight bombing it.

[17:55:00] In order to be good, you have to kind of flirt with the line of whether you are going to down, or you're going to make it to the finish line.

(CHEERING)

GUPTA: Yet, it was all created on a whim.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The story goes that a couple of guys who were just at some bar in the Alps somewhere, and they came up one night, and the streets were frozen with ice, and they were just sliding down and bump on each other. And one moment they just thought, what we if we like froze the streets and put hockey players on this.

GUPTA: An extreme sport was born, and nearly two decades later, it's going to a world class series of races called Red Bull Crashed Ice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First, it was just a fun thing. Now you got a sport. The guys are training year-round on it in a total 10-stop world tour.

GUPTA: The season begins in St. Paul, Minnesota, the rules are simple, four skaters fly down a man-made track, hitting speeds up to 50 miles per hour. First to the bottom wins.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first jump you have to clear about 35 feet to hit the landing. We got a crazy S-turn coming around which is going to be chaos, guys are going to be crashing there, running into each other and lots of lane changes and passing. It's going to be fun. It will be absolutely fun.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)