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WH Frustrated With Pruitt For Apartment Controversy; Trump In Florida Amid Pruitt Controversy; Trump Declares April Sexual Assault Awareness Month; Police Release New, Graphic Video Of Alton Sterling's Killing; Trump Tells Supporters U.S. Pulling Out of Syria Very Soon; Interview with Martin Luther King III; 17 Palestinians Dead in Clashes with Israeli Forces; Steve Bannon Used Cambridge Analytica to Push Alt-Right Vision; Cosby Defense Attorney Revealed New Details of Retrial. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired March 31, 2018 - 08:00   ET




CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: The White House not happy with Scott Pruitt over his controversial living arrangements and the security detail. Is the EPA chief perhaps the next one to go?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he should resign. If he doesn't resign, the president should fire him.


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning.

PAUL: And this morning, White House officials are frustrated, the EPA is on the defense and some Democrats are calling for a resignation, all of this over the head of the EPA and how he is spending taxpayer's money.

BLACKWELL: So, the main issue is where Scott Pruitt lives when he is in Washington. He has been renting a condo at a rate far below market value from the family of an energy lobbyist, a deal some say may be illegal.


WALTER SHAUB, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The justification they tried to offer has about everybody in Washington who has ever looked for an apartment chuckling is the idea that it is perfectly normal in this town to get a prime location, and this house really is that, it is right next to the House/Senate office building on Capitol Hill, for $50 a night. And the owner will hold the house open for you for any night that you don't use it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PAUL: CNN's Abby Phillip joining us live from West Palm Beach, Florida where the president is spending the Easter weekend. Abby, have we heard from the president on this yet or do we expect to today?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Christi. The president is here hoping to have a quite weekend of golf, but there is this brewing issue with the Scott Pruitt that has concerned some of his advisers back in Washington. Now, the White House is expressing some frustration with Scott Pruitt and how he has handled the controversy over his use of this condo.

They have warned him several weeks ago to deal with the ethics problems and notify them before it ended up in the media. But with Pruitt, this has unfolded publicly before White House officials were able to properly deal with it behind the scenes. And they are not particularly happy about it.

This comes as President Trump has already dealt with several of his cabinet members with similar spending issues. He has lost two cabinet secretaries over this problem. David Shulkin just this past week, but also Tom Price earlier last year.

And several other officials have been trying to resolve their ethics problems that have created distractions according to some senior administration officials. But the White House has been pretty quiet on this issue and so has President Trump.

Senior administration officials say that their silence is a sign that they are not happy with how this is being handled and they are not running out to defend Scott Pruitt in the face of these accusations.

Now, the EPA has said that they believe that these payments that he made for this condo were not in any way an ethical problem, that he made an arrangement that was not a gift. He did pay a sum of money to stay in that room although obviously ethics watch dogs and Democrats on the Hill are saying $50 a night for a room on Capitol Hill whenever he feels like using it is certainly not a market value arrangement that Scott brew Pruitt had for that room.

But the White House dealing with yet another cabinet scandal going in to this weekend, and it is unclear whether or not whether this will be the final straw for President Trump -- Christi and Victor.

PAUL: All right. Abby Phillip, so appreciate it. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Joining me now, CNN political analyst, Josh Rogin, and Washington bureau chief at "HuffPost," Amanda Terkel. Good morning to both of you. So, there are many interesting elements to this story, the latest there, ABC News where they reported a year ago, March 29th, 2017, this moment when his Secret Service detail, talking about Scott Pruitt, couldn't get in contact with him.

They thought he was unconscious, they called 911. Emergency crews were mobilized, and they burst through the door to find him awaking from a nap. Just a bizarre story, Amanda. AMANDA TERKEL, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "HUFFPOST": And then because they broke the door and the glass, they had to reimburse like $4,000, $5,000, so more taxpayer money to fund Scott Pruitt. I mean, the Trump administration right now is a mess. They have all these ethic scandals, which is funny because also the Trump administration is not like Scott Pruitt is hurting for money.

I mean, taxpayers are also paying for him to fly back and forth from Oklahoma and he has been flying first class which is outraging a lot of people because obviously it is a lot more expensive, but he is saying needs it because of all the threats he is getting.

That is a break from past practice of other EPA administrators. So, Scott Pruitt is incredibly expensive, and he is not the only one. You had people like Ben Carson, Tom Price, all these other public officials who don't seem to understand that they can't just sort of use taxpayer money to fund these things.

[08:05:05] BLACKWELL: Yes, and the context of -- and Amanda just brought up Tom Price, former Health and Human Services secretary. Josh, how long does Scott Pruitt last with this continued drip, drip, drip of headlines?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, first of all, I have to say I've been living in Washington for about 20 years now. The $50 a night hasn't been the market rate since good about 1997. It doesn't pass the laugh test. If I had a lobbyist friend, no way that I would get a price that good.

For Scott Pruitt, this is only the latest as Amanda pointed out in a long string of ethics scandals. Not only he was flying back and forth to Oklahoma, he was flying to the Vatican, meeting with the pope, flying around the world all on taxpayer dime and with the security detail in tow.

He built a $43,000 sound proof booth inside his office which included $18,000 for pouring two-foot slab of concrete in order to sound proof -- for what reason? I can only imagine. We're talking about pretty egregious things. And I don't know what happened with his health scare, I hope he is OK.

But separating the part from that, this drip, drip, drip cannot go on forever and I can understand why he would think it is OK. We have a president who didn't release tax returns, hasn't separated himself from his businesses, is flouting all the ethical standards presidents have lived under. But that is not OK for Trump according to Trump. It's not OK for the people who work for him.

BLACKWELL: Well, according to ABC News, Pruitt declined medical treatment that day, so we assume that he is doing pretty well. Let's talk about something that happened yesterday. The president before he headed to Mar-a-Lago declared April or proclaimed I should say April National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

Let me read from the proclamation, "We must respond to sexual assault by identifying and holding predators accountable. Too often however the victims of assault remain silent. They may fear retribution from their offender, lack faith in the justice system or have difficulty confronting the pain associated with the traumatic experience.

Now, from this same president, he tweeted out just last month, "People's lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true, some are false, some are old, some are new, there is no recovery from someone falsely accused. Life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as due process." Not referring to anything specific. Is there some contradiction you see here, Amanda?

TERKEL: Yes, absolutely. I mean, that's a nicely written proclamation, but I don't think that any sexual assault victim will get any sort of solace from it considering who it is coming from. I mean, the president himself has been accused of sexual harassment and assault from multiple women.

And he's responded by saying it's fake news, they are too ugly, why would I ever even go after them, and just, you know, berated them and just said that you can't believe these women. And that is just the president himself.

That doesn't even include the men that he supported, people like Roy Moore in Alabama, Trump very, very publicly supported him despite all the allegations, despite the fact that many other members of the Republican Party said we don't want to have anything to do with Roy Moore because we believe the women who are accusing him.

So, yes, this proclamation, honestly, is ridiculous because everything the president and White House has done is completely to the opposite.

BLACKWELL: Let me read a little more of this, "Sexual assault crimes remain tragically common in our society and offenders are too often evade accountability. These heinous crimes are committed indiscriminately, in intimate relationships, in public spaces, and in the workplace." Now the president of the United States, let's watch this --


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I'm automatically attracted to beautiful women. Just a magnet. They let you do it. You can do anything.


BLACKWELL: Josh, this again puts us in the position of the context of the man in the office, the president signs this proclamation about sexual assault awareness and prevention, but also has the Hollywood -- "Access Hollywood" tape. He salutes the missing in action and POWs, but then says that John McCain was only a hero because he was captured. We're seeing this again as he signs this proclamation.

ROGIN: Yes, I think it's probably not shocking news that there is hypocrisy going on inside the White House. Trump is leading the effort to stop internet bullying. What is next, a presidential proclamation on heart health? I don't think that we should really focus on that.

What we should focus on here is the fact that in the Trump era, maybe partially in response to all of the other allegations against President Trump we've seen a revolution, an evolution, an awakening about really the scope and scale of the problem of sexual assault.

We've seen the "Me Too" movement, "Time Up." I mean, this is really a generational change and we're not going back.

[08:10:06] And so, despite the fact that the president of the United States is probably the leftover example from a foregone era. What is going on in our country is huge and significant and positive.

And we should all sort of recognize this proclamation in that light and realize that even though we still have a long way to go, awareness and action to stop sexual assault and sexual harassment is going in the right direction, and we need to all to stay on that path.

BLACKWELL: Excellent point. Josh Rogin, Amanda Terkel, thank you both.

Coming up, new insight into the 2016 police shooting of Alton Sterling. The never before seen video, what it is now revealing about the officer who took Sterling's life.

PAUL: Also, next Wednesday is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. Thousands are expected to gather to celebrate his life. We're sitting down with Dr. King's son to talk about his legacy.

BLACKWELL: And U.S. officials tell CNN they are worried about a power vacuum if the U.S. pulls out of Syria. Meanwhile, Russia is testing missiles and expelling more diplomats. How far could the standoff go? We'll ask a Russia expert coming up.



BLACKWELL: This morning there is new disturbing video of Alton Sterling's final moments. July 5, 2016, Sterling, a black man was shot six times by a white officer outside a Baton Rouge convenience store.

PAUL: Now you may remember this cellphone video. Outrage ignited hours after his death when this came out. The new video though you are about to see gives somewhat of a clearer account of exactly what happened that night.

BLACKWELL: We want to warn you, this video is graphic, it is disturbing. CNN's Kaylee Hartung is in Baton Rouge with more. Kaylee, good morning.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Victor and Christi. Now with the help of both officers' body cams and surveillance video from that convenience store, we do have a more clear and complete account of the encounter and the struggle that led to Alton Sterling's death.

This new video released last night by the Baton Rouge Police Department, I want to remind you again, it is disturbing.


HARTUNG (voice-over): Graphic and disturbing new video.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I do? What I do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't (inaudible) move. I'll shoot your (inaudible). Put your (inaudible) hands on the car.

HARTUNG: Showing the controversial shooting death of Alton Sterling in July 2016. The Baton Rouge chief of police announcing Officer Blaine Salimony, 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 Salimony has been terminated from the Baton Rouge Police Department effective today.

HARTUNG: This week, Salimony 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 and was given a three-day unpaid suspension.

PAUL: Perspectives, 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's Sterling at the front of the store, sitting at a table where he's selling CDs. Minutes into the tape, he's 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 Salimony's perspective, you can see a brief struggle, then his gun is trained on Sterling's head.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to shoot you in your (inaudible) head. You hear me? Don't you (inaudible) move.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Hold up. Hold up. You're hurting my arm.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get on the ground! Get on the ground!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pop him again, Howie!

HARTUNG: Before being fatally shot. Previously released cell phone videos recorded by bystanders show at this point in the encounter Salimony believed 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.


HARTUNG: Blaine Salamony's attorney says that they are disappointed in the chief's decision to fire him. They will appeal that. They believe that he should have had a punishment similar to Howie Lake's, a three-day suspension.

But as the new video circulates, Alton Sterling's family now trying to keep his children from seeing it. The family's attorney tells CNN what they find most disturbing about this video is that you can hear the way the officers cuss over Alton Sterling's body, the way they call him names as he lay bleeding and dying -- Victor, Christi.

BLACKWELL: Kaylee Hartung there in Baton Rough. Kaylee, thank you.

PAUL: Page Pate, CNN legal analyst, is with us. I saw you shaking your head through most of that.

PAGE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He got away with murder. I don't know he looked at that. I understand that he was not prosecuted on the federal or state level. I understand that the prosecutor said we couldn't prove beyond a reason be doubt that he wasn't in fear for his life. That is not the way you are supposed to analyze these cases.

The fact that he didn't immediately comply doesn't mean he should die. And that mindset that I'm going to pull out a firearm and either you do exactly what I say or I'll shoot you and kill you in the street, that is not how these encounters should occur.

PAUL: Which is why that he was fired. The police chief calling it a command of temper that was violated.

[08:20:11] We know that the children have filed a wrongful death lawsuit. They did that actually in June against the city of Baton Rouge, against the police department. Does this -- how does this weigh into what could happen in that civil suit?

PATE: I think it helps the civil case. The standard will be a little bit different in a civil case. It is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt that he intended to kill Alton Sterling. The standard is going to be did he violate his constitutional rights, did he act negligently?

And I think the fact that he was fired from his job for not following the proper protocols and policies that they had in place is good evidence to support the civil case. But none of that changes this behavior over time. I mean, we've seen civil settlements time and time again, but very few prosecutions and even fewer convictions.

And it is only from the criminal standpoint that I think that we'll see any change. Unless we see these folks prosecuted and held accountable, you won't see fundamental change.

PAUL: So, why is it so hard to bring criminal charges against somebody when you do hear threats like that from the get-go is this immediately he was like I'm going to shoot you in the head. How does it happen that we're back in this place?

PATE: Well, the Supreme Court gives a lot of protection to police officers. And so, the standard that prosecutors use to evaluate those cases is different than if you or I were involved in a shooting incident. They are going to determine in hindsight whether a reasonable officer in that same position could have found it necessary to use force, deadly force, in this situation.

Not in hindsight, not knowing what we know now, not all the facts and circumstances, but put yourself in that cop's shoes and was it unreasonable to fire your gun at that point, and that is the legal standard.

And what really bugs me and what is very different again from you or I or any other citizen is they are making this evaluation before they indict the person. They are making this evaluation before a jury trial. That is not appropriate.

This kind of decision is up to a jury. All you need is probable cause to get an indictment, not proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and that's the standard that anyone else should be held accountable to, but police officers are different.

Now, you understand that from a prosecutor's side because they lose a lot of these cases. I mean, we saw what happened in Baltimore in the Freddie Gray case, an aggressive prosecutor indicts these officers, but none of them go to jail.

PAUL: But if this went to a jury, based on everything that you've seen, can you prognosticate?

PATE: It's hard.

PAUL: Would be easier let's say for a prosecution --

PATE: I think so. I think so with these videos that we've seen. This evidence of intent. The fact that one of the officers showed up with the idea that you comply or you die. And I'm here with a gun. I'm going to pull out my firearm.

There is no question whether Sterling had a gun or not. He was not in a position to use that firearm on those officers. He was not posing an immediate threat to anyone in that area. And that is what they should have evaluated. But juries usually side with cops. They give them a lot of leeway because they recognize it is a dangerous job. So, I don't know even if he was indicted that he would have actually been convicted, but that is no excuse not to charge him.

I think people need to see these officers go through the process like anybody else and then if a jury acquits them, then the jury acquits them.

PAUL: The fact that this police officer has been fired, do you think there is any consequential change that could happen from that, are police departments paying attention in that regard?

PATE: When did this happen, 2016 and he's fired over a year later? I don't know. To me as an officer, that signals that I can do what I want to. And as long as I have some argument after the fact that I could have been in fear or I could have had some reasonable justification, I'm going to be OK. I may lose my job, but I'm even appealing that decision.

PAUL: And real quickly, that appeal, how plausible is it that he could win that?

PATE: I don't see it happening. I know his lawyer, a very good lawyer, but Salamony gave no facts during the investigation, refused to answer any questions. I don't see how you justify what he did at all.

PAUL: All right. Page Pate, always appreciate your expertise.

PATE: Thank you.

PAUL: Thank you, sir. Appreciate it -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: President Trump says it is time for the U.S. to get out of Syria. Would that be another win for Russia? Also, Russia's testing missiles, expelling diplomats. How far can this back be and forth go, and for how long?



PAUL: It's 29 minutes past the hour on a Saturday. Hope it is some R and R for you today. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you. National security officials tell CNN that they are worried about what could happen if the U.S. suddenly withdraws from this battle against ISIS there in Syria.

PAUL: President Trump, of course, floated the idea of leaving Syria, floated the idea at a rally this week. The national security officials say if the U.S. is no longer in Syria, it could create avoid that ISIS or another terror group could certainly fill or at the very least it could be a win for Russia. This is being debated at a time when Russia, of course, is testing new missiles and kicking out diplomats from nearly two dozen countries in an escalating international standoff here.

BLACKWELL: All right. So, there's a lot to talk about. Joining us now from Providence, Rhode Island, is Tom Nichols, professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College.


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: He's also author of the "Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Riot Matters."

Hello to you, sir. Thank you so much, Tom, for being with us. First and foremost, your assessment of what would happen if the U.S. did pull out of Syria. Would that be a significant win for Russia?

TOM NICHOLS, AUTHOR, "THE DEATH OF EXPERTISE": It's hard to tell because it's hard to tell exactly what the president meant by that and when and how he does it. But, yes, if the Russians get a free hand in Syria, this would be the capstone to a process begun years ago under President Obama that would continue under President Trump to basically get the United States out of the Middle East. It would be the final moment of reversing about 70 years of American foreign policy.

BLACKWELL: So let me ask you about this expulsion of diplomats. We had in response to the nerve agent poisoning, the Brits got rid of I guess a couple dozen of Russian diplomats and more than a dozen countries including the U.S. expelled diplomats. And then the reciprocation from Russia expelling diplomats. Is that chapter over and is that going to continue? And what's the practical impact?

NICHOLS: Well, the chapter is not over. The Russians used a nerve agent on a territory of an allied country, a Western nation. So this is going to go on because these expulsions were pretty serious. And 60 diplomats is a lot. That's the most we've ever done. We closed the Seattle consulate which is consequential.

They closed the St. Petersburg consulate which is significant. So this is a definite hardening of relations between the two, although again it's hard to tell because it's hard to know exactly what the president -- and I don't speak for the president or the government here obviously, but it's hard to tell exactly what the president's policy is on Russia since it seems to be kind of a good cop-bad cop within the administration.

But 60 diplomats is significant. It's going to lengthen even ordinary things for people who want to get a visa or have to deal with you issues relating to their families both in the United States and Russia. So it is significant.

PAUL: Does it leave a significant security or intel hole as well now that all these diplomats will be coming out of Russia?

NICHOLS: Well, it's going to leave a larger intel deficit for the Russians since most of the people kicked out of all these countries are obviously intelligence related folks. The Russians have had to look around for people to kick out to try to make this a tit-for-tat. The Russians are definitely taking the brunt of this as they should because of what they've done. And because it's not just the expulsions from Britain. I mean, there's 14 other countries as well.

BLACKWELL: So Russia tested this intercontinental ballistic missile, the Satan 2. There's obviously been a lot of reporting about that. You believe that this test is hyped. Why?

NICHOLS: Well, there was such a thing as the Satan 1 and I should note that Satan is our designation for the missile, not theirs. The first Satan missile we designated a large ICBM that the Soviets had back in the '70s as the Satan 1. So this follow-on expected for some time but a lot of the reporting around it points out that it goes hyper sonic and all this other stuff. That's what ICBMs do.

An ICBM comes back into the atmosphere 23 times the speed of sound. So there is no major change in the balance of power here because we in the Russian Federation have an arms control treaty limiting us to 1500 and 15 nuclear warheads each no matter where you put them. So this to me is kind of overdone. But Putin's -- I think Russian President Vladimir Putin is kind of enjoying the hype around it because it makes Russia look powerful and threatening at a time that he needs that.

BLACKWELL: All right. Tom Nichols, thank you so much for being part of the conversation.

PAUL: Thank you, sir.

So we should point out that President Putin is with this missile, he's trying to put other countries on warning basically claiming that there is no defense system that can withstand this newest one. Russia released that video. You just saw it there. Again that test launch, it happened yesterday. This intercontinental ballistic missile Satan 2, as Tom was saying, it does sound alarming, but NATO, as he said, comes up with the code names for these missiles.

There is no word this morning as to how the Russian missile would withstand its American counterparts. We do know there is the Maverick, the Hell Fire, the Trident, the Patriot, the Peacekeeper is a missile, and that one was retired in 2005.

[08:35:03] BLACKWELL: Still to come, thousands of people will head to Memphis next week to mark the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. Well, we will talk to Dr. King's son, Martin Luther King III, about his father's legacy and where we as a country are 50 years later.


BLACKWELL: Next Wednesday is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. Thousands of people are expected at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, where the civil rights leader was killed. The museum is planning an all-day event -- several days of events,

with performances, speeches to celebrate King's life and his message, including appearances by the Reverend Jesse Jackson who was with King on the night that he was killed.

[08:40:09] And Congressman John Lewis who spoke with -- spoke, rather, at King's 1963 march on Washington.

Here with me now is Martin Luther King III, Dr. King's son.

Good to have you back here on NEW DAY.


BLACKWELL: You know, I've been thinking that the celebration of his birthday, right, is something that, you know, we celebrate other birthdays in this country, and we kind of know how to do that. But the commemoration of an assassination is a different thing.

How would you want people to commemorate this day, the day that your father 50 years ago was killed?

KING: Yes, you know, what is very interesting to me personally, and you're absolutely correct, my mom always focused on the birthday, although on the date of his passing or his killing, we actually would always lay a wreath and have a kind of quiet ceremony. But in this context, it is a very interesting set of circumstances because this is right after the backdrop of a major demonstration around guns in Washington, D.C. just a week or so ago. And it is being led by students, high school students at that.

That is so, so powerful. I haven't seen that since 1963 when 3,000 students were arrested in Birmingham.


KING: And so how we should be observing this, and I have obviously mixed emotions about it, but it really is about continuing the work because freedom, justice and equality is not real for all human kind. We just saw what happened in Sacramento just a few days ago. A young man shot with a telephone in his hand 20 times.


KING: One day justice must be real for all mankind.

BLACKWELL: You mentioned that March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. and one of the speakers was a student you know well, your daughter, Yolanda King. And let's play a little bit of what she said.


YOLANDA KING, MARTIN LUTHER KING JUNIOR'S GRANDDAUGHTER: My grandfather had a dream that his four little children will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the concept of their character. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Obviously pulling from Dr. King. What -- how did that come about and what did you feel seeing your little girl up on stage there?

KING: That's the most incredible feeling that my wife and I have ever had, other than her being born. It was phenomenal. We did not prompt her. And actually how it happened was we reached out to the students several weeks ago and said, look, we'd like to be there, we're going to be there, we'd like to assist in any way that you feel possible. And we then talked about this chant that she does about the future of this generation. And then we said -- we sent that to them.

And we didn't know whether or not it was going to happen or not. In fact we learned at 8:30 Saturday morning that they wanted her to come out and she was going to be a surprise guest.


KING: And she had come to her own conclusion as to what she was going to say. I must say this is not a new issue for her. Two years ago, 2016, February, President Obama's last year, he invited us to the White House once again, but this time to see the bust that was erected -- that was in the office -- the Oval Office. We said to Yolanda, my wife and I, Yolanda, you've got to figure out what you're going to say to the president.

Her question to the president is, what are you going to do about these guns?

BLACKWELL: So this is something that's been with her for some time.

KING: Absolutely.

BLACKWELL: So the question, the reason we have you into talk about this commemoration of April 4th, 1968 is in part, where do we go from here? And I ask the question of two men who were there that day, Reverend Jesse Jackson and Ambassador Andrew Young, about what his role had been had he lived. And they corrected me and said what is his role because he is still alive. What do you see your father's role is today 50 years after his death?

KING: I think his words, his work still inspires people around the globe, not just here in the United States. But the work may be even more prevalent when you look at the fact that he wanted to eradicate -- he and mom wanted to eradicate what Dad called were the triple evils of poverty, racism, militarism and violence. We have unquestionably at least 48 million people living in poverty in this country. That is unacceptable with a $20 trillion economy.

We have racial issues that seem to be rising. I still think the vast majority of Americans are not -- do not harbor racist views. But we still have work to do around that which we will do now because the president raises the issue.


[08:45:01] KING: And finally militarism and violence is something we've got to continue to work on.

BLACKWELL: You mentioned the president and that bust that's in the Oval Office. You talked about it being there during the Obama administration. It is still there today in the Trump administration. How would you hope that that bust, that image there, and having Dr. King in the Oval Office would inform this president, inform his decisions?

KING: Well, I think two things. Number one, it should be an inspiration but thus far it does not seem that that's been the case. What I would hope, the president, and as you may remember, gave the Pope five of Dad's books -- six of Dad's books. I would hope the president -- I would implore the president to read those books, maybe he can have a better understanding of Martin Luther King, and hopefully look at different policies.

BLACKWELL: All right. Martin Luther King III, thank you so much for coming in.

KING: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. Christi.

PAUL: All right. The Palestinian Authority president has declared today a day of mourning after more than a dozen people were killed in clashes with Israeli troops. We have a live report for you next.


[08:50:19] PAUL: And that what you see there is what caused Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas to declare today a day of mourning. At least 17 Palestinians were killed and more than 1,000 injured in what you're watching there, clashes with Israeli troops.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Ian Lee is joining us now from Gaza.

Ian, what are the Israeli Defense Forces is saying about this violence and give us an idea of what you are seeing around you now.

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just to give you an idea, behind me right here we have one of these camp cities that we've seen all along the border with Gaza and Israel. Today the numbers are significantly smaller than what we saw yesterday in the hundreds. Yesterday it the tens of thousands. You can see they're burning tires behind me. We've seen some tear gas and we've heard reports of a few people injured.

Yesterday it was the deadliest day in Gaza since the 2014 war, that according to the Ministry of Health. Organizers of this initially called for it to be a peaceful demonstration and what we saw were people going towards the fence. They had slingshots, they had rocks, but Israeli forces have said that Hamas and other militant groups did fire projectiles at Israeli soldiers across the border, gunshots, Molotov cocktails.

And really it is all about that border. For Israel this is the red line. You can see it behind me, there is a dirt berm and on the other side of that dirt berm or on that dirt berm are Israeli soldiers, monitoring the situation. But Israel has said that anyone who tries to go and breach that border, well, they could be met with deadly force. They have snipers all up and down this border. But when we talk to Palestinians, they say that's their goal, they want to breach that border, they want to get across.

And this is going to be a source of tensions over the course of the next six weeks, as Palestinians say they're going to will continue this fight, they're going to continue this protest. But again, you know, if it's anything like we saw yesterday, Fridays tend to be these big days of protests, it could continue to be very bloody, very deadly.

PAUL: All right. Ian Lee, thank you so much for the update. We appreciate it.

BLACKWELL: Still to come, new details in the Bill Cosby sexual assault case as the retrial is set to begin next week.


[08:56:55] BLACKWELL: The Bill Cosby retrial is set to start next week with jury selection starting on Monday. But the judge pushed back opening statements until April 9th.

PAUL: Yes.

BLACKWELL: Cosby faces three counts of indecent assault charges.

PAUL: And CNN's Jean Casarez has new exclusive interviews with the defense attorney and the sister of one of Cosby's accusers.


JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Do you believe they had a romantic relationship?

BRIAN MCMONAGLE, COSBY ATTORNEY: I don't think there's any doubt about that fact. I mean, the testimony in this trial was that Ms. Constand had been with -- his home on a couple of different occasions. That there had been romantic settings, romantic interludes.

CASAREZ (voice-over): Constand testified the relationship was not romantic. He was a Temple friend, she said, somebody I trusted, a mentor. As for the romantic interludes McMonagle says happened, Constand insisted they were passes from Cosby that she rebuffed, which made sense to Diana Parsons who says her sister has no interest in romantic interludes with men.

DIANA PARSONS, SISTER OF COSBY ACCUSER ANDREA CONSTAND: Andrea was actually about 16 years old when she told us that she was gay. CASAREZ: Cosby's attorneys used phone records to try to prove a

romantic relationship, pointing to more than 50 calls Constand made to Cosby after the alleged assault and before March 31st when Constand left Temple.

MCMONAGLE: I found it to be the game changer. There were calls after the so-called sexual encounter. There was call after call after call after call.

CASAREZ: Constand testified she was just returning calls from Cosby, a Temple trustee.


PAUL: And a CNN special report, "THE CASE AGAINST COSBY," airs tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

BLACKWELL: All right. So watch this, this pilot in Florida kissed the tarmac after surviving this really dangerous landing at an airport in Florida.

PAUL: The pilot was coming in for a landing when -- look at this here -- the gear malfunctioned, the landing gear, and he was forced to make an emergency landing nose first there on the tarmac. Luckily -- here he is, nose first again, kissing the ground -- the pilot and his passenger obviously not injured. The NTSB and FAA investigating that crash. Glad everybody is all right.

BLACKWELL: Yes. That's it for us. We'll see you back here at 10:00 Eastern for an hour of NEWSROOM.

PAUL: Don't go anywhere, though, "SMERCONISH" is starting with you now.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

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