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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Slams Amazon; Calls for Pruitt to Resign over Rental Deal with Lobbyist; Trump Surprises His Administration with Plans to Exit Syria; Police Releases Profanity-Laced Video of Alton Sterling Killing; Interview with John Garamendi; Seventeen Palestinians Killed In Confrontations With Israeli Forces; U.S. Readies To Move 60 Diplomats Out Of Russia; Russia Expels U.S. Diplomats, Tests New "Satan 2" Missile; Trump Raves About "Roseanne" Ratings: "It Was About Us". Aired 11a-12n ET

Aired March 31, 2018 - 11:00   ET

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


[10:59:51] RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: And after a period of relative quiet from the President, Donald Trump is lashing out at Amazon again, criticizing the company's business practices and tax payments, tweeting quote, "While we're on the subject, it is reported that the U.S. Post Office will lose $1.50 on average for each package it delivers for Amazon. That amounts to billions of dollars. The failing 'New York Times' reports that the size of the company's lobbying staff has ballooned and that does not include the fake 'Washington Post' which is used as a lobbyist and should so register. If the PO (Post Office) increased its parcel rates, Amazon's shipping costs would rise by $2.6 billion. The Post Office scam must stop. Amazon must pay real costs and taxes now."

CNN White House correspondent Abby Phillip traveling with the President; she is in Palm Beach this morning. Abby -- there's a lot the President could be focusing on today but instead, he is choosing Amazon and by extension the "Washington Post".

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Good morning -- Ryan.

The President is here playing golf and also tweeting about Amazon on the subject for really the second time this week. He's been tweeting about this quite a bit for several months. It's an issue that is always seemingly top of mind for him.

But it kind of came to a head this week when some reporting about the President's private conversations on this subject sent Amazon stock tumbling. Now President Trump is here in this tweet going after Amazon on some factually questionable basis.

For example, the "Washington Post" is not a part of Amazon, the company. In fact, it's owned by Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos who used his private funds to own newspaper. And the President seems to be making a connection here between the newspaper which often publishes unflattering stories about him and his administration and the company Amazon which he now accuses of defrauding the U.S. Postal Service and also defrauding American taxpayers. On those two fronts, the President's accusations that the postal service is not getting its money's worth out of Amazon is disputed by the Post Office which says the arrangement with Amazon is for the most part mutually beneficial. It has an arrangement with Amazon like it does with other bulk shippers to charge them less for shipping packages but that's a pretty standard thing. And Amazon is a huge chunk of the U.S. Postal service's business.

Also on the taxes, Amazon does pay sales tax to state and local governments on most of it sales. It does not pay sales tax on third party vendors who use Amazon as a platform for its own sales. So some factually questionable things in the President's tweets here this morning.

But clearly what underlies it is this attack on the "Washington Post" media outlet that he doesn't like a lot of their reporting and is using it to attack Amazon, a private corporation here.

NOBLES: Yes. And Abby, he's not just talking about Amazon.

The President also taking shots at California's governor today. What did he say about that?

PHILLIP: That's right. Well, the President appeared to be this morning as he often is watching television, watching Fox News which did a segment about Jerry Brown, the California governor who he has been fighting with over and over again the last several months over this issue of sanctuary cities.

Jerry Brown in this last week pardoned five illegal immigrants who were in this country illegally who had been convicted of crimes. And now Brown chose these individuals according to his office because they had turned their lives around after being convicted many, many years ago of these crimes.

But the President in his tweet highlighted the crimes that the immigrants were convicted of -- kidnapping and robbery, badly beating his wife and threatening a crime with intent to terrorize, dealing drugs. And then the President asks, "Is this really what the great people of California want?"

So here the President escalating his attack on Jerry Brown who has really resisted the President's push to crack down on sanctuary cities and deport illegal immigrant. This is a fight the President wants. He even made his weekly address about, in part, this issue of sanctuary cities -- Ryan.

NOBLES: Ok. Abby Phillip talking about the President's tweets which came in rapid succession right before his trip to the golf course. Abby -- thank you for that.

All right. Let's discuss this now with my panel. With me David Swerdlick, a CNN political commentator and the assistant editor at the "Washington Post"; and Margaret Talev, a CNN political analyst and a senior White House correspondent for Bloomberg News. David -- let's start with you. You work at the "Washington Post", part of the President's attacks this morning. And he's attacking Amazon and then by extension the "Washington Post".

From your perspective, what do you think this is all about?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Ok. So it's important to point out as Abby did that the "Washington Post" is owned by Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon but the "Washington Post" is not a subsidiary of Amazon. It is a separate entity. Our news coverage is governed by the leadership of the "Washington Post", not Amazon.

In terms of what the President tweeted this morning, Ryan, I would just simply say this. If the President is saying that any of the tax treatment of Amazon or any company is something that he wants to review that is obviously fair game.

[11:05:02] But I'm unaware that he is alleging at all that Amazon does not its proper, legally required taxes. I'm also unaware that it does not have a legally, you know, in place agreement with the U.S. Postal service for a bulk rate.

You know, so some of this criticism you have to look at it and wonder if the President's criticism is related to his opinion of "Washington Post" coverage rather than his view of the tax issues involved.

I will just add one more thing and that's that, you know, some people have described what the President describes here as unfair treatment. Other people simply call it commerce.

You know, Amazon is a business and they're in the business of doing business. And so the President, I think, needs to lay out some of thinks criticisms in a little more detail there.

NOBLES: So Margaret -- I mean there are a lot of things the President could be talking about this morning. And usually his Twitter feed is our only real glimpse into his thinking.

But could this be a way of him changing the subject from Stormy Daniels, the Russia probe and the current chaos and turmoil at his White House?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He certainly would like to change the subject away from those issues. I think the one area that many people are curious to know more about because of another recent tweet is what he plans to do on Syria; what he's actually planning to do.

This issue over Amazon is on one hand a very sort of long standing stalking horse of his from before his election. And then the other hand, it's hard to understand where he's actually going with it. What does he actually want to do? And what will be the reaction and fallout among congressional Republicans and other people? So, yes.

NOBLES: Yes. Well, speaking of other topics, you mentioned Syria. That's something we have to get into. But Margaret -- he also is having more trouble with his cabinet.

Another cabinet member under fire for how he spends taxpayer money -- there are reports that EPA chief Scott Pruitt has been renting a condo in Washington at a rate that is way under market value and it comes from the wife of an energy lobbyist. The EPA pushing back on this saying that he is paying the fair market value.

But obviously these aren't the kind of headlines that the President wants to see from his EPA administrator. This is a guy that was once thought to be a possible replacement for Jeff Sessions. Could he be the next cabinet member on the chopping block?

TALEV: The President has suggested that there may be like one, you know, possible tweak left to the cabinet. But on the other hand, I think you have to look at Pruitt not just in the context of, you know, some of this coverage which is the President doesn't want this sort of attention on the cabinet members.

But when you look at what Pruitt has actually done, he's one of the most effective sort of carry outers of the President's policies. Right now, he's at the tip of the spear in the administration's efforts to roll back Obama administration era emissions guidelines on, you know, carmakers and stuff.

And so if Pruitt were to actually become the target, it would throw into question a lot of the progress that Trump believes he's making in terms of dialing back, you know, environmental protections and stuff that they consider to be regulatory burden.

So trying to understand the logic of that, you know, Pruitt's arrangement just on the face of it to get a sort of really good deal AirBNB rate on a crash pad is great and it's probably legally allowable. The issue really is the relationship to the EPA lobbyist that this is property owned by the wife of someone who lobbies the EPA. That is really the problem.

And there was so much previous sort of negative coverage about his first class air fair the he was preferring to use that it became a problem for President Trump because his brand is kind of anti-swamp.

NOBLES: Right.

TALEV: But on the other hand, Pruitt has been so effective at carrying out these rollbacks and policy measures that are important to the President.

NOBLES: Yes. And getting back to the point that Margaret made about Syria, David --

SWERDLICK: Yes.

NOBLES: -- the President sent a lot of people this week including those in his administration when he said the U.S. was pulling out of Syria soon. Now, senior administration official confirming the National Security Council meeting is set for this Tuesday to discuss the administration's plans for battling ISIS in Syria. Is this an important development?

SWERDLICK: Yes, it is. Look, I mean in one sense, the President's statement is on brand for him if you go back to the 2016 campaign where he railed against sort of undue or excessive U.S. foreign policy involvement or military involvement particularly in the Middle East.

On the other hand, now where we are geopolitically, you know, you have various foreign policy experts looking at the situation and say look, if we sort of back out, you know, prematurely of Syria with the limited involvement that we have, it will essentially cede the ground to Russia and Iran who sort of pull strings of the Assad regime.

So, you know, it will be interesting to see what comes out of some of these meetings in terms of what the long term U.S. strategy is going forward. And there are a lot of voices weighing in on both sides.

[11:09:58] NOBLES: Yes. And of course, this National Security Council meeting will come with General McMaster still the head of the National Security Agency before John Bolton comes in which could mark a policy shift. But it will be an important thing to look for this week.

David Swerdlick and Margaret Talev -- thank you so much for being here.

TALEV: Thank you.

SWERDLICK: Thank you.

Stunning new video of the 2016 police shooting of Alton Sterling raising new questions over the officers' actions and why it took the Baton Rouge Police Department nearly two years to fire him.

Meanwhile, in Sacramento, more protests are expected in the next few hours as an autopsy of a 22-year-old unarmed black man doesn't square with the officer's account.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOBLES: Newly-released body camera footage revealing chilling, disturbing details in the shooting death of Alton Sterling, the 37- year-old black man killed in the summer of 2016 by a white officer. Less than 90 seconds, that's how long it took Baton Rouge police officer Blaine Salamoni to shoot Sterling. But police took more than a year and a half to fire Salamoni and release his body camera footage.

[11:15:02] CNN's Kaylee Hartung joins us now. She's in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. And Kaylee -- it seems as though this video is giving us a clear account of Sterling's final moments.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is -- Ryan.

We now have a clear and more complete account of what happened on July 5th, 2016. With the help of both officers' body cams and surveillance video from that convenience store, we see why cops were called there in the first place. Then the encounter, the struggle, the shooting and how officers handled the aftermath of Sterling's death.

I want to warn you again, this video released by the Baton Rouge Police Department is graphic.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HARTUNG: Graphic and deserving new video --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I did? What I did, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't move, I'll shoot you (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Put your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) hands on the car.

HARTUING: -- showing the controversial shooting death of Alton Sterling in July 2016. The Baton Rouge chief of police announcing Officer Blaine Salamoni, who shot Sterling six times during a struggle with him, will be fired over his actions.

CHIEF MURPHY PAUL, BATON ROUGE POLICE DEPARTMENT: The violation of command of temper has been sustained. Officer Blaine Salamoni has been terminated from the Baton Rouge police department effective today.

HARTUNG: This week Salamoni refused to answer any questions during a disciplinary hearing, the chief said, while Howie Lake, the other officer involved, answered them all. Lake, who the chief said made mistakes but controlled his temper during the encounter, was given a three-day unpaid suspension.

PAUL: Two different perspectives and one officer did not follow the tactics, training, professionalism and organizational standards.

HARTUNG: The police chief making it clear their administrative investigation was separate from the federal criminal charges both officers were already cleared of. The police department released four videos from the night of the shooting including this surveillance footage from the Triple S convenience store.

That is Sterling at the front of the store sitting at a table where he is selling CDs. Minutes into the tape, he is seen conducting a transaction with an unidentified man. Here he removes what appears to be a gun from his front pocket followed by money from the same pocket.

Within seconds, Sterling is seen jokingly making a shooting motion towards the man. That night police were initially called to the Triple S convenience store responding to a 911 call from a witness who saw a man with a gun.

Watch closely as things escalate quickly. From Salamoni's perspective, you can see a brief struggle. Then his gun is trained on Sterling's head.

BLAINE SALAMONI, POLICE OFFICER: Don't you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) move, I'm going to shoot you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) in your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) head. You hear me? Don't you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) move.

ALTON STERLING, SHOOTING VICTIM: All right. Hold up, hold up. You're hurting my arm.

HARTUNG: Sterling then was pinned to the ground and tased twice.

OFFICER HOWIE LAKE, BATON ROGUE POLICE: Get on the ground. Get on the ground.

SALAMONI: Pop him again -- Howie.

HARTUNG: Before being fatally shot.

Previously released cell phone videos recorded by bystanders show at point in the encounter Salamoni believes Sterling was armed. A gun was recovered from Sterling's body.

But the federal and state investigations determined that the officer's actions were reasonable and couldn't prove that Sterling wasn't reaching for a gun.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARTUNG: I just spoke with Blaine Salamoni's attorney who tells me they will be appealing the police chief's decision to fire him. Though, even if he is reinstated by this five-member civil service board that the hearing will take place in front of, he knows he will never again be a Baton Rouge police officer.

This is more a matter of principle as Salamoni believes he was doing on that night what he was trained to do. And Ryan, as this new video circulates, Alton Sterling's family is trying to keep his five children from seeing it. The family's attorney says what is most disturbing about this new video is the opportunity to hear the way the officers cussed at Alton Sterling, the way they called him names as he lay on the ground bleeding and dying.

NOBLES: All right. Kaylee Hartung, live for us in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Thank you -- Kaylee.

From Baton Rouge to Sacramento, California where we expect to see more protests in the coming hours following the independent autopsy results in the police shooting death of an unarmed black man Stephon Clark. The forensic pathologist hired by the family says the 22-year-old was shot eight times, six of the gun shots were in the back. Attorneys for Clark's family say the results contradict police accounts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No justice.

CROWD: No peace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No justice.

CROWD: No peace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No justice.

CROWD: No peace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No justice.

CROWD: No peace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No justice.

CROWD: No peace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No justice.

CROWD: No peace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No justice.

CROWD: No peace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No justice.

CROWD: No peace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: Protesters marched again last night -- a fourth night of demonstrations.

And joining me now is Congressman John Garamendi whose district borders Sacramento. Congressman -- thank you for joining me. Obviously this is an emotional --

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIFORNIA: Good to be with you.

NOBLES: Yes. Obviously this is an emotional situation for your city. I'd like to get your reaction to these autopsy results.

[11:20:00] GARAMENDI: Well, this is a tragic death and frankly, an unnecessary situation. What I'm looking for is what will come of all of this? How will this be dealt with in the future?

The protests understandable. But what needs to be done here -- and I know the city council, I know the mayor so very well, more than 30 years. They're good people.

I think what's going to happen here is something similar to what took place just 20 miles to the west in a city of Vacaville where a new police chief came in and established a very serious training program for his police officers and the community policing organization set up.

Crime rates went down. Deaths have not happened. And I think Sacramento's going to change its procedures and its community policing procedures as a result of this tragedy.

So perhaps -- perhaps something will come of this that will be better for the community. Obviously -- a tragic situation. I can understand why people are in the street. I can understand why the family is so terribly, terribly upset by this.

NOBLES: Well, you mention the local response. The White House press secretary Sarah Sanders this week called the Stephon Clark case a local issue. Do you believe that this is just a local issue?

GARAMENDI: No. No, it's not. This is a national issue. We've seen too much of this across the nation. And what we've seen has resulted in protests and in many places appropriate changes are taking place. And we need to understand from the point of view of the police officers, the confrontation, the adrenaline, the challenge that they're faced with and all too often police officers are also killed in the line of duty.

And so what we need to do is to go in to these communities where these situations have occurred and in communities where they could occur in the future. Make sure that the police are very, very well trained; that they understand the confrontation that they will have in the line of duty; and that the best way to handle it.

And there are certainly, certainly better ways to handle it than what we saw in Baton Rouge and unfortunately here in Sacramento. It's going to take a very well trained police force and what I don't understand is why you shoot to kill.

NOBLES: Right.

GARAMENDI: I'm a gun owner. I've been around many, many situations; obviously, nothing like this. But shoot to kill and multiple shots -- I just don't understand how that happens.

NOBLES: Ok. I want to get your reaction to some other topics as well, Congressman.

GARAMENDI: Sure.

NOBLES: Let's talk about the President's proposed border wall. This week the President floating the idea of using Pentagon money to pick up the construction costs. I mean you're a member of the Armed Services Committee. You know a lot about the Defense Department's budget. Do you think that's the right course of action?

GARAMENDI: Absolutely not. I mean this is -- this is crazy -- among the many crazy things. And by the way, Mr. President, you are trying to keep your campaign promise of building a border wall. How about the rest of the promise, Mr. President? You said Mexico will pay for it.

No, no. You're going to take that money out of the military, out of military preparedness, out of the necessary weapons and ammunition that our military needs so that you can build your border wall? Maintain just one half of your promise? Let's stop this.

Let's be very, very rational here. First of all, a border wall $28 billion -- it borders on insanity to do that. And by the way, most of the drugs captured are captured on the high seas by the Coast Guard. Ten times more than are captured on the land. This is just beyond, beyond being foolish.

NOBLES: Other topics I want to get to.

GARAMENDI: Sure.

NOBLES: We learned that a National Security Council meeting is set for this Tuesday to discuss Syria. This comes after the President's comments on Thursday. Take a listen to what the President had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're knocking the hell out of ISIS. We'll be coming out of Syria like very soon. Let the other people take care of it now -- very soon. Very soon we're coming out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: Now this obviously comes as some staffing is going to be changed on the National Security Council. The main national security adviser H.R. McMaster -- he's going to be presiding over these discussions. But it's not long before John Bolton the former ambassador to the United Nations assumes his job at the White House. How important do you think this meeting is on Tuesday?

GARAMENDI: It's extremely important. The fact of the matter is the ISIS defeat began with a very serious program put together by President Obama three years ago, carried out for -- during his entire administration. And then appropriately finished or nearly finished in the last year by the Trump administration. The military's done a good job with it.

But beyond all of that is, what is the American policy in Syria. The situation in that country is extraordinarily of concern to certainly myself and to this nation.

[11:25:06] Russia is playing a major role. In fact, Russia has in Syria men who are perhaps disassociated or not directly associated with the Russian army but they are little green men operating and they did, more than 200 of them, attack an American-Kurdish position. Fortunately, we were able to strike back and stop that attack and to the detriment of many of those soldiers.

Now what is this policy? We have not heard a rational long-term policy about how we're going to deal with Syria. We know that Iran is seriously in the Assad government now.

We know that this is a great concern to our principle ally, Israel. We know that Turkey has problems with the Kurds who happen to be the force that we have been working with to defeat ISIS. We need to have a very clear, comprehensive strategy of how we're going to go forward or else we're going to turn Syria over to both Iran and to Russia -- right in the heart of the Middle East. And that is not a good thing for this nation nor for the stability of the Middle East. So we need to have this government, Trump administration, look at this in a comprehensive way, put together a comprehensive policy. Recognizing that Assad was not defeated in the Syria civil war and that Russia is re-establishing itself as a major player as is Iran both of whom are not friends of America.

Where does John Bolton fit into this? We'll see. He's a super hawk. He's ready to go out and go to war with Iran right now by ending the nuclear deal that was put together during the Obama administration.

NOBLES: All right. Congressman -- obviously we'll have to see if a clear vision of the American policy as it relates to Syria --

GARAMENDI: Absolutely.

NOBLES: -- comes out after this National Security Council meeting.

GARAMENDI: Let's be hopeful.

NOBLES: Congressman John Garamendi -- thank you very much for joining me.

In Gaza, at least 17 Palestinians are dead and more than a thousand injured; this, after violent confrontations with Israeli troops. The U.N. now calling it the most violent day in the region in four years. We're live on the border after this break.

[11:27:24] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:31:50]

RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: There were funerals and more protests in Gaza today.

(VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: Palestinian leaders declared a day of mourning for at least 17 people who were killed in clashes with Israeli security forces along the border with Gaza. Israeli officials estimated tens of thousands of Palestinians protesters marched towards the Gaza border fence where the protests turned deadly.

Israel said thousands also protested throughout the Gaza strip coinciding with the land day which commemorates the confiscation of Palestinian owned land in Israel in 1976. Israel is blaming the militant group, Hamas, for inciting violence and turning the border fence into a war zone.

CNN's Ian Lee is in Gaza. Ian, are we expecting more protests after this day of mourning?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we are. Actually, six weeks of protests, Ryan, as this is going to build until May 15th. We will see it ebb and flow. But that kind of violence that we saw on Friday we're expecting it to repeat itself on every Friday as we get closer to that day.

But let me just kind of step aside and show you and the viewers what we've been watching all day. Here we have one of the camps that have been situated along the border. You can see that it's just not the numbers or the intensity that we saw yesterday.

But still hundreds of people out there at times we've seen tear gas being shot from the Israeli soldiers which if you actually look beyond the people, about a couple hundred yards, there's the fence. That's the border between Gaza and Israel.

And then there is a dirt berm. That's where the Israeli soldiers are positioned. When Palestinians are pushing closer to that fence, that's when we've seen the Israelis fire tear gas. Also, we heard the crack of bullets as well.

And ambulances, you know, not as many as yesterday by any stretch, you know, we've heard that 25 people on the whole Gaza strip have been injured in today's clashes. Yesterday, over 1,500 people, but they're keeping up the pressure.

And as this progresses, they say their ultimate goal when you talk to Palestinians is breach that fence. And Israel has said that they will use whatever force is necessary to stop people from trying to cross that fence. So that really creates a recipe for the kind of violence that we saw on Friday to repeat itself as these protests continue -- Ryan.

NOBLES: All right. Ian Lee, thank you for that update along the border in Gaza.

Up next, the game of diplomatic tit for tat escalates. The U.S. now scrambling to remove 60 of the diplomats from Russia after the kremlin retaliates with its own expulsions.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:40:06]

NOBLES: The U.S. is now scrambling to move 60 of its diplomats out of Russia by Thursday. That's the deadline given by Moscow in its tit for tat scuffle with the U.S. and a handful of other countries, all of which say Russia is behind a nerve gas attack on a former Russian spy in the U.K. To add to that tension, Russia test fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile nicknamed "Satan 2," which it says will be harder for U.S. defenses to target.

Steve Hall is a CNN national security analyst and a former CIA chief of Russia operations. He joins me now to discuss all of this. Steve, what is the real-world impact of expelling these diplomats and closing a consulate on U.S. operations in Russia?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it does have a tendency to slow down Russian diplomatic and intelligence activity in the United States. But only in the short term because, of course, those are specific diplomats that were removed that were expelled. And they will replace those eventually just as we will replace eventually the ones that were expelled from Russia, but there are bigger policy issues here. What's happened is it's not just the United States, of course, it's a large number of western countries have retaliated against Russia by throwing out Russian diplomats.

That's a unifying effect that I think Vladimir Putin did not anticipate when he did the initial poisoning of Mr. Skripal and his daughter which is the proximate cause of these expulsions.

NOBLES: Yes. You know, the Kremlin fought back saying that they were forced to expel the 60 U.S. diplomats and they said it was based on reciprocity. And our State Department reacted by telling Russia that, quote, "It should not be acting like a victim." I mean, all these diplomatic posturing could have serious impact on the global community, couldn't it?

HALL: Well, I think, yes and no. Look, the Russians are experts at being victims, turning things around and simply lying harder and bigger than their opponents. I mean, look, there is little doubt that they actually did poison Skripal and his daughter. They have done these types of things before in the U.K.

They killed Mr. Litvinenko using polonium. So, this is not a shock. This is what's happened and the western response has been pretty strong. But what the Russians will say is they'll say, you know, this is going to escalate tensions. This is a bad thing.

I think a lot of people in the west kind of forget that really in the big picture, Russia doesn't play that huge of a role. It doesn't really need to be involved in a lot of the international affairs that United States and our western allies are involved in. But they would very much like to be, which is why they do things like launch missiles so that we take them more seriously or try to.

NOBLES: You put yourself in a nice position for my next question. The diplomatic end of this but there is also a military aspect here. And Russia launching this missile they're calling "Satan 2" and there are reports that Putin himself told President Trump during their recent phone call that if he wanted to renew an arms race, the U.S. would win. Steve, this seems like we're on the verge of a renewed cold war, is that case?

HALL: I don't think so. I mean, it's a different kind of tensions that we have with Russia. Again, this talk of escalation and renewed cold wars and the horrific, you know, memories that people have of like the Cuban missile crisis, this all plays into the propaganda hand that Putin wants (inaudible).

He wants to say, hey, Russia is a very important country and you ignore us at your peril. In many cases that's actually not true. Look at them economically, I mean, they're very weak economically worldwide. There is other areas of weakness.

The Russians have a really good ability to play a weak hand, which is what they're doing with a lot of the launches and other sort of posturing things that they're doing.

NOBLES: All right. Steve Hall, thank you so much for your perspective. We appreciate it.

HALL: Sure.

NOBLES: Up next, Roseanne makes a triumphant return to television and into conservative America's living rooms. How the star's political views are resonating with Trump's base after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:48:22]

NOBLES: The Roseanne reboot is on a roll. Monster ratings right out of the gate and now ABC has renewed the show for a second season. But after episode one, some are wondering if this reboot is Trump propaganda.

The 2018's "Roseanne" is a Trump supporter and the real-life Roseanne has a history of promoting right-wing conspiracy theories on her Twitter feed. But the series star says that she wants the show to be a realistic image of family and America's current political climate.

CNN's senior media reporter, Oliver Darcy, joins me now. Oliver, back in the day "Roseanne," I remember the show in the first run, very funny, but it was also considered to be a progressive show. How has she become a Trump supporter and how does that mirror real life demo graphics?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Right. That's a great question, Ryan. The show it portrays this blue-collar working-class family that you could definitely see and probably would have supported someone like Bill Clinton back years ago when it was first produced.

But now if you move forward to 2016, a lot of those voters, those blue-collar voters, ended up going for Trump. I think you see that in the show where Roseanne is playing the Trump supporter and the family portrayed is really -- resembles what we saw in 2016.

NOBLES: I thought watching the first two episodes was that so much of the conversation about Donald Trump is often put into very black and white terms and it seemed to me as though she was at least trying to present it with a little bit more nuance. Could that be part of the reason that the reviews were so positive for the first episode?

[11:50:03] DARCY: Yes, I think, people felt a real connection to this. It felt like the dinner room conversations happening across American and they felt like they were finally represented. A lot of conservatives and particularly people who live in the middle of the country and not on the coast often feel like they're not represented in Hollywood.

They don't see families that they feel they can relate to portrayed in big entertainment productions, whether it's in film or a sitcom. So, I think with this they saw it and they said, wow, that looks like our family, we're having these conversations at the dinner table and it's something they can relate to and it's something done with a lot of respect for conservatives.

NOBLES: Right. So, there's Roseanne Conner, the character, Roseanne Barr, the real person. It's difficult to separate the two. Roseanne Barr is known for retweeting and promoting right wing conspiracy theories. She's gone after David Hogg. She's also been pictured in Nazi paraphernalia. I've seen a lot of pushback on social media platforms. Are people supporting both Roseanne and the show or just the actress? Can people divide the two when they watch the show?

DARCY: I think it's a mixture of both. I'm sure some people are supporting the show because they relate to whether they find it funny. It was a successful show when it first came on the air. I think a lot of it is also people -- they support Roseanne and, like you said, she is a vocal Trump supporter.

And she does often dip these really conspiracy theories, I think we can put it on the screen where she tweeted, "President Trump has freed so many children held in bondage to pimps all over this world. Hundreds each month. He has broken up trafficking rings in high places everywhere. Noticed that. I disagree on some things but give him benefit of doubt for now."

What she's referring to is this extremely fringe theory called the storm. It plays out in fringe corners of the internet. Really right wing and I think that is going to be something that people are going to pay more attention to, particularly as the show finds success.

NOBLES: Right. That's something even Donald Trump is not taking credit for. It is so far out on the fringe of the right-wing conspiracy theories. All right, Oliver Darcy, a lot more to come as it relates to Roseanne, thank you for your perspective.

The final four is upon us. All eyes are on the number 11 seed, Loyola Chicago and their star fan, 98-year-old Sister Jean. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:56:54]

NOBLES: And we're getting ever closer to the tip-off of college basketball's final four and the breakout star of the tournament has got to be Loyola's 98-year-old team chaplain, Sister Jean. Andy Scholes is in San Antonio and has a preview. Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Ryan, I'll tell you what, Sister Jean, one of the coolest people I've ever had the chance to meet, 98 years old. Still so much fun. So full of life. Yes, and I've been to hundreds of press conferences in my life. Never one like yesterday, though.

There were 300 or 400 people packed into a small room just to get the chance to see and hear from Sister Jean. It was only slated to last about 20 minutes, but Sister Jean was joking she could have gone on for more than an hour. She had us laughing the entire time. Here's some of the best from Sister Jean here in San Antonio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sister, what do you think of the turnout?

SISTER JEAN: I can't believe it. Even in the morning, I wake up and I think, is this real or is it a dream? Who am I? Don't let it go to your head.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you seen David Rose's grandmother's message to you?

SISTER JEAN: I saw her on Facebook the other day and I also heard that she said she's out to get me. So, we'll see. Somebody said maybe you need a pair of boxing gloves and I said, well, we'll see what happens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your face is now everywhere. It's on socks. It's on t-shirts. How cool is that to see your face on all these items?

SISTER JEAN: Well, maybe I'll get a pair of socks myself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think God is a basketball fan?

SISTER JEAN: He probably is and he's probably a basketball fan. More of the NCAA than the NBA.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever had more fun than you're having right now?

SISTER JEAN: Well, this is the most fun I've had in my life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: Also, a special fan in attendance tonight when the center was just 12 years old, his mom made the difficult decision to send him to the United States from Nigeria so he would have a better life. In the last six years, she has not seen him in person or even ever watched him play the game of basketball.

But thanks to a team effort between Kansas senators, the embassies involved, they were a bell to get her a visa and the NCAA is footing the bill for her to be here at the game tonight. I sat down with the Kansas coach and he said it's going to be one emotional moment when they reunite.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL SELF, KANSAS HEAD COACH: Can you imagine the greeting they're going to have tonight when she gets here? And then on top of that, oh, by the way, mom, we're going to play in front of 70,000 people in a venue that you've never even actually seen me play before.

UDOKA AZUBUIKE, KANSAS CENTER: I'm just going to be focused and just try to play basketball. My mom is coming, that's exciting, but I'm just going to be focused. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: All right. Kansas and Villanova will be the nightcap tonight here in San Antonio. All the action on our sister network, TBS, a little after 6:00, with Loyola taking on Michigan. Be sure to tune in to CNN here this afternoon, 2:30 Eastern, for all access at the final four. CNN "Bleacher Report" special. Going to get you ready for all the action.

And you know I've been walking around in San Antonio. All the fan bases are definitely represented here. I'll tell you what, the sentimental favorite is definitely Loyola and Sister Jean.

NOBLES: Yes. It's probably not a surprise at all --