Return to Transcripts main page
Trump Tweets Regarding Immigration; U.S. And South Korea Kick Off War Games; White Evangelicals Split Over Trump's Personal Life. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired April 1, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN NEWS HOST: Good afternoon and welcome to CNN, I'm Ryan Nobles in today for Fredricka Whitfield. And we begin with a call for peace on this Easter Sunday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POPE (through translator): May the light of the risen Christ illuminate the consciences of all political and military leaders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: That's the Pope, speaking to tens of thousands packed into St. Peter's square. While here in the United States, the President is returning to Washington this afternoon after attending Easter services with his family in Palm Beach.
But he's also tweeting and talking today about immigration and the border wall, saying, "Border patrol agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the border because of ridiculous liberal democrat laws like catch and release. Getting more dangerous caravans coming, republicans must go to nuclear options to pass tough laws now, no more DACA deal."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mexican has got to help us at the border. If they're not going to help us at the border, it's a very sad thing between two countries. Mexico has go to help us at the border and a lot of people are coming in because they want to take advantage of DACA, and we're going to have to really see.
They had a great chance the democrats blew it, they had a great, great chance but we'll have to take a look. But Mexico has got to help us at the border, they flow right through Mexico, they send (ph) it to the United States. Can't happen that way anymore, thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP
NOBLES: All right, a lot to unpack there with what the President had to say this morning. CNN's Boris Sanchez is with the President in West Palm Beach and Leyla Santiago is in Mexico City where these migrants are marching. Leyla let's begin with you. What is this story that the President is talking about? LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN ANCHOR: So Ryan these are called Via Crucis, these are marches that take place every year in Mexico during the holy week, and they've really become sort of symbolic of the years. And so many have used them to sort of make a statement about migration or for many of the central Americans, to really make a statement about how desperate they are lead the conditions of their hometown.
We have pictures showing just this morning of a big group marching out of Wahaca that will make their way through Mexico. Now, some of these will kind of have marchers that come and go through the path in Mexico. Some of them when we talked to organizers they tell us that some will make it to Mexico's northern border, U.S. southern border.
And many will seek asylum there when they've reached the border. That's what the organizers of these marchers, many of which are lead by religious groups, are saying today. When I talk to them about Trump's tweets this morning, they're saying that's a very narrow point of view.
That this isn't all about crossing the border illegally, for many people this is about religion or making a statement creating awareness and understanding of their realities here. And when I spoke to Mexican government officials today to ask for their response on exactly what President Trump has tweeted, they actually said, "We have no response."
But when it comes to President Trump, saying that he needs more help from Mexico, that Mexico might do something, Ryan, I would point out that earlier this week Secretary Nielson, Homeland Security, was in Mexico City, meeting with government officials from Mexico.
So, you know how much is actually being down by both countries? I guess, depends on who you ask. But as far as working together this week that's one example of them actually doing that.
NOBLES: All right, Leyla Santiago in Mexico City. Thank you for providing us with information on that.
So let's go Boris Sanchez now in Florida. So president - Boris why is the President talking about this today? And what do these marches have to do with DACA and the wall?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: The answer is surprisingly, perhaps not surprisingly, simple Ryan. There was a report on a cable news station about these caravans, these migrants, and the President responded to what he saw on television, via Tweeter, as he often does.
Calling for as you noted previously, the nuclear option within the senate for republicans to pass new immigration laws. Something that Senate Majority leader, Mitch McConnell has said that he simply will not do.
The President then went further on twitter attacking the Mexican government, he writes, "Mexico is doing very little, if not nothing, at stopping people from flowing into Mexico through their southern border and then into the U.S. They laugh at our dumb immigration laws they must stop the big drug and people flows or I will stop their cash cow, NAFTA, need wall."
Now, before I get to a second tweet, I did want to make a couple of notes on this one. The President yet again threatening to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, something that he has long said that he would do if Mexico does not do more to improve trade deals with the United States and doesn't do more on immigration.
Though, we should note that the President here isn't asking Mexico to pay for the wall, something that he did many, many times, as you know Ryan, during the campaign. And that's note worthy because just this week we heard from officials at the Pentagon, the President had been discussing with the Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, the potential for the Depart of Defense to fund the border wall, the $25 billion that he's requested to construct it.
Now here's the second tweet from President Trump, he writes, "These big flows of people are all trying to take advantage of DACA, they want in on the act." It's not exactly clear what the President means by this because anyone that arrives in the United States today or even yesterday or a few months ago wouldn't be eligible for DACA.
Eligibility not withstanding, the President ended the program back in September though courts have since ruled that dreamers that are here in the United States are eligible to stay and that the program can continue until they finally decide exactly what to do. Renewals are still available for DACA, but it's not like anyone that's arriving in these flows that he's talking about can use that program, Ryan.
NOBLES: Yes, an important distinction there, Boris. If you're already here and a recipient of the DACA program you can renew. But if you're part of this migrate group attempting to get over the border, it wouldn't apply you today.
Some other interesting things happening in West Palm Beach, Boris, the Secret Service investigating vandalism at the Trump National Golf Club. What exactly happened?
SANCHEZ: Yes, this is an interesting story of kind of a strange development. It appears that over night someone threw red paint on top of a sign that's at the entrance of the Trump National Golf Course here in Palm Beach where the President likes to spend his mornings on the weekend. Does not look like the President was there when this happened. Some teams with the press saw officials cleaning it up this morning. It appears that the Secret Service is investigating and that the President was not there when this took place so there was no real danger at that time, Ryan.
NOBLES: All right, Boris Sanchez in West Palm Beach Florida, Boris thank you. So let's talk about all this now. In here with me is Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun Times, Lynn Sweet and Time Magazine contributor Jay Newton-Small.
Lynn lets start with you, the President in a tweet saying this morning, "No more DACA deal", and he's really putting the blame on democrats after watching a report on television. Did the president just shatter anymore hope for the dreamers?
LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, CHICAGO SUN TIMES: That's - let's take a look at the many ways that he has made a very - this is an Easter holiday weekend, Passover holiday weekend. So right before he did those tweets, Ryan and Jay, he also said, "Happy Easter, everybody", so DACA could be resurrected. You know, Jay and I and you we cover congress nothing is really ever dead.
Rather, things just haven't happened yet, which is kind of where DACA is now. So the abundant ironies in these tweets are, he's the one who ended DACA. There would have been a DACA if he had done nothing. Then this kind of really weird thing where he's accusing people wanting to come over the border for a DACA program that doesn't exist and he needs to be reminded that he's the one who ended it.
So in summary this is another tough punch in the gut for people, real people, who are dreamers who are on pins and needles, stress, anxiety, over what their future is and the future of people in their family coupled with more - with these tough deportations going on. And to have to do this on Easter, it couldn't wait a day?
NOBLES: Yes, it's important to point out Lynn it's more than just a political football here. There are families involved.
SWEET: Real people.
NOBLES: Yes and you know, I think it's far to say, the tweets we've seen from the President this weekend come from the more hardline positions that he's taken in the past. And that could have something to do with who he is visiting with while in Mar-a-Lago. A number of his former advisors, some of his celebrity friends this week, including Corey Lewandowski, his former campaign manager, David Bossie.
He even had a dinner with boxing promoter, Don King, who reportedly egged him on about the Stormy Daniels controversy. Jay, what do you think about the President listening to these outsiders and could this give us any indication of what he's thinking about this weekend?
JAY NEWTON-SMALL, TIME MAGAZINE CONTRIBUTOR: Ryan, absolutely you saw this weekend you don't have White House Chief of Staff, John Kelley, with him. Who is very much moderating force when it comes Donald Trump's tweeting. But you do have Stephen Miller who's a very hard lying immigration White House aide, who would appreciate these kinds of tweets.
And you see that, I think across the board in the White House, a lot of the moderating voices have left in recent weeks for various reasons. Whether Hope Hicks, Communications Director, or her - Rob Porter who was the sort of White House staff director.
[14:10:00] For whatever reasons that they've left, they have been the moderating voices and what left with are people who tend to egg the President on and who don't sort of protect him or stop him from wanting to have dinner with Don King, from wanting - from watching Fox News and responding to these reports on caravans. As one cartoon put it this morning, it was he can't seem to resist.
He looks up at the cross of Easter and see's a giant "T", right? So it always ends up being all about him, and I think this is sort of the beginning of the new normal for the Trump White House.
NOBLES: And as Jay mentions those moderating voices it's not this weekend that their not going to be a part of this administration. Going forward he's losing some very prominent voices, Rex Tillerson, no longer in place of Secretary of State. His replacement, Mike Pompeo, still doesn't have a date set for his Senate confirmation headings.
National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster is one foot out the door. We mentioned Hope Hicks is gone. You know Lynn, the stabilizing voices, at least what appear to be the stabilizing voices, are gone. This means the President is really going to be calling his own shots. Could things change the direction of this administration with all these people no longer talking to the President on a regular basis?
NEWTON-SMALL: Yes, and by the way you used the word stabilizing, if this has been a stable presidency for the last year plus, what this means is this could mean more instability. We kind of do this all the time when we use the word unprecedented and then you have to say, no now this is another unprecedented day as each day flows by.
Though I want to be a little contrary in here and I could sum it up, I think in some ways Trump has been and will continue to call his shots, in a lot of ways, no matter who is his adviser. There is no adviser around who would have said, even Stephen Miller, that it was a good idea on Easter, and the second day of Passover, to say you have to take another shot at DACA today, really?
No matter what your position is - and frankly to all the people out there who are listening to us, this isn't really about if you agree with Trump or not. But the appropriateness of trying to set policy or fire people or shake things up with already anxious DACA people with a tweet, I don't know how anyone could convince him this is a good idea.
So, I don't think it matters in a sense who is in some of these sensitive positions at this point.
NOBLES: Which could be why some of the outside observers to the Trump White House are encouraging that he doesn't even need a Chief of Staff or a Communications Director because he's truly his on Chief of Staff and Communications Director.
And Jay, you know the President has been at odds with the media over the number of leaks from his administration but one author now claims he knows where many of those leaks originated. Take a listen to this from "State of The Union" this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD KESSLER, AMERICAN JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: While I was interviewing Kellyanne at the White House, she forgot that she was on the record and started lashing into Reince Priebus, she said the most mean, cutting, and obviously untrue things about Reince. And I didn't include them in the book because they were so unfair.
I know that White House aides have seen texts that she has sent to other journalists dissing her colleagues, leaking material, so if you wonder why there's so many leaks out of the White House, one reason is Kellyanne is the number one leaker.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: The number one leaker, Jay. That's Ronald Kessler who wrote a new book about the Trump White House. Does that surprise you that that would be a description - a tribute to Kellyanne Conway?
NEWTON-SMALL: That actually does surprise me Ryan. I've known Kellyanne a number of years, I've interviewed her for my book. And also for politics for over many years she's been a big champion for electing women to office, in particularly for republican women.
Look, I think there are a lot of people in this White House who are talking to the press, I think there are a lot of people who speak incredibly frankly to the press and sometimes you see that even with people who have come in. For example, Anthony Scaramuchi. He gave that interview, he thought he was off the record to Ryan Lizza from The New Yorker and then it turned out it was on the record. You see a lot of the Trump, sort of staff, this sort of team of rivals talking a lot to the press, and I think if you got rid of Kellyanne Conway or if you got rid of any number of them it still wouldn't make a difference because everything flows from the top.
And frankly this is a president who's obsessed with the media. He's obsessed how people appear on television and he himself calls into television shows and calls reporters up and leaks to them. So, that is the culture of the White House.
NOBLES: Yes. Even if she were the number one leaker, the amount of leaks that are coming out of this White House would be difficult to pin down on just one person, excellent point Jay. All right, Jay Newton-Small, Lynn Sweet thank you so much for joining me this morning, especially on Easter. I appreciate you being here.
NEWTON-SMALL: Thank you.
NOBLES: Now to escalating tensions in Sacramento. Protestors marching for another night demanding justice for Stephon Clark, the unarmed black man shot and killed by police.
(VIDEO CLIP BEGINS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do we want?
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTORS: (Inaudible)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do we want it?
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTORS: Now UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do we want?
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTORS: (inaudible)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do we want?
(VIDEO CLIP ENDS)
NOBLES: Protestors marching for another night demanding justice for Stephon Clark. The unarmed black man shot and killed by police. The outrage now intensifying after a demonstrator was struck and injured by a Sherriff's Deputy's car. Who then drove away and the whole thing was caught on camera. Just a warning some people may find this video disturbing.
(VIDEO CLIP BEGINS)
UNKNOWN MALE: Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!
(VIDEO CLIP ENDS)
NOBLES: CNNs Ryan Young joins us live from Sacramento. You were there at the protest Ryan. What more can you tell us?
RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes intense moments last night Ryan. Look this is the intersection where we were, where we saw those protestors sort of marching back this direction. I also want to tell you this, look they were about six miles away from down town. The police department has been in charge of watching these protestors for the last few days. The difference here is a Sheriffs Deputies were involved, and protestors actually pointing towards them for intensifying last night.
You did see that car that was intermingling between the protestors. Their saying in a statement that basically that someone got close, started kicking that car, tried to break out the back window. You do see in that video if you slow it down, it looks like the woman steps out in front to put her hand in front of car. When she does that were not sure if the Sherriff's Deputy saw her or didn't see here. But it looks like she gets pushed over by that car.
You can hear people screaming, yelling and they are very upset. She was taken to the hospital. But that only enraged people even more. Because that Sheriff's Deputy did not stop where that accident happened. They moved on. So we're told there will be an investigation in terms of the CHP trying to step in to exactly what happened. But at that point it seems like the word went out.
People came out here angry. And they had their voices heard. Then Sheriff's Deputy donned riot gear and walked out. And for more than an hour and half we watched a tense stand off between those Sheriff's Deputy's and the people here. They were yelling toward those Sheriff's Deputy. We hadn't seen anything like that in the first few days of this protest. It intensified to a point and then they pulled back. And that's when it seemed that thing calmed down for a little bit. Then we watched protestors once again taking up this street and they started marching down it blocking traffic for quite some time. Luckily no one else was injured. We're told that woman's going to be OK who was hit by the car. But this is one of those protests that weren't really scheduled during the day. We had the one that was earlier inside the park. That went fine.
This one intensified so quickly you can see how quick something like this can just turn and take a turn, luckily though that woman again as we've mentioned before will survived those injuries that she suffered when that car hit her.
NOBLES: Alright, Ryan Young in the center of it all in a very tense Sacramento, Ryan thank you for that report. Schools across Oklahoma will be closed tomorrow as teachers walk off the job. Some say they're working as many as six jobs just to make ends meet. And their planning to take their concerns strait to the State Capitol, why they say this is about more than just money when we come back.
NOBLES: The work week is set to kick off with a wave of teacher strikes and walk outs across the country. On Friday teachers in several Kentucky Counties called out sick and protested at the State Capital. Kentucky educators are upset about changes to their pension plan. Teachers in Oklahoma are planning to walk off their jobs tomorrow, even though law makers just gave them an average $6,100 raise. Oklahoma educators argue it's just not enough and their planning to strike tomorrow.
Oklahoma ranks 49th in the Nation in teacher salaries according to the National Education Association, the average salary for a high school teacher is $42,460 a year. That's almost $18,000 less than the national average. Many teachers in Oklahoma say they have to take on one or more part time jobs just to get by.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED: I have been teaching algebra for 13 years. You know what I'm going to put the one X there. On top of the teaching job isle so I drive a bus part time. I also do Lyft, I do Uber. While there's a price surge. I umpire little league. And I said but time. And I believe that on top of my teaching and my coaching that I've got six or seven part time jobs.
UNIDENTIFIED: While waiting on students sometimes, or my students parents, or some of my old customers saying why are you back? Are you not in education anymore? Did you realize that you're not making enough? Extra patty meal, OK. I wouldn't say embarrassing but it's just more of a realization of how far Oklahoma needs to come to get educators what they need.
(END VIDEO CLIP) NOBLES: And with me now to discuss this is David DuVall. He is the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Education Association. David a lot of people are going to hear about those $6,000 raises that your governor and the legislature just passed. And wonder why Oklahoma teachers are still planning to strike. What more do you want?
DAVID DUVALL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OAKLAHOMA EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: Good afternoon. This isn't just about teacher pay. What you're going to see this week is thousands and teachers, school bus drivers, school cafeteria workers, parents, students, citizens from all across Oklahoma who are going to come to the Capital and they're going to tell their legislators, their going to give voice to the 700,000 students in this state who have seen a 28 percent cuts in school funding over the last 10 years, the most of any state in the country.
But what their going to say to the legislature is we need more than lip service. We need action. We have students that have 20 year old text books that are ducted taped together, with broken chairs in their classrooms. We have class sizes that are exploding. It's time that we do something about funding our students and funding Oklahoma's future. And that's what they don't understand.
Even the $6,000 pay raise which is an average for teachers, it's been 10 years since they've had a pay raise. That's like $600 a year and that barely covers the cost of living over that period of time. Oklahoma can and should do better.
NOBLES: So when you say Oklahoma can and should do better, I've seen some figures that your suggesting somewhere in the range of $750 million dollars in state funding for teachers salaries over the next three years. You're then also asking for $200 million in funding specifically for schools. Where should that money come from? Are you talking about a tax increase? Do you want it from another part of the state budget? What tough decisions do you want to see law makers make?
DUVALL: Well that's an excellent question. And quite frankly Oklahoma's cut its budget to the bone there isn't any place else in the budget. And what we saw this past week the legislature passed revenue increases and then with in 72 hours they went back an repealed some of that revenue. They've got a - there are options out there for revenue measures which can raise the money necessary to provide for our students.
We didn't get here in one year. I don't expect us to fix it in one year. It's been 10 years in the making for this crisis. And we've - but we've got to start taking in seriously and making the steps to fund our schools. This isn't just about teacher salaries. This is about funding our schools for our students.
NOBLES: Right, so you are taking about a tax increase there. That's essentially what you're calling for. And so you need to make that case. To the people of Oklahoma and we've showed that story of various Oklahoma teachers who have to work part time jobs just to get by. Are these folks the exception or are they the rule? Are most of our teachers in a position where they've got to subsidize their income in other ways?
DUVALL: Absolutely. This is not the exception. This is the rule. Teachers are working several jobs in addition their also taking money out of their own pockets. Money that they don't really have to supplement the materials that their providing for their students. Hundreds of dollars for each student, each teacher, in some cases thousands of dollars out of their own pocket, because the state is simply not providing what's needed. We have schools where they limit the number of - the amount of paper that a student - a teacher can have to use in their classrooms, and their using their own money to supplement that.
NOBLES: What about attempting to recruit and retain teachers. The fact that you are ranking 49th in the country in terms of salary, does that make it difficult just to attract qualified people to teach the young people of Oklahoma?
DUVALL: Absolutely. As a matter of fact people are calling this teacher walk out, well teachers have been walking out of Oklahoma for years. Walking to surrounding states, to Texas, and Arkansas, and New Mexico for better paying jobs. Our teachers are tired of seeing their colleges the best and brightest among our teachers leaving for other jobs.
As a matter of fact there are nearly 2,000 emergency certificates provided for teachers to try and get people who don't have the training for class room - class room discipline, and class room management. Who are now teaching in Oklahoma class rooms because we simply can't find the teachers because we pay so poorly. So teacher pay is part of this. But so is pay for our cafeteria workers and bus drivers where their average salary is $19,000 a year.
And these are the people who make sure that our students get to school safely every day and get home safely. That provide the best and most nutritious meal that a student has every day. These people also need to be rewarded.
NOBLES: Alright David DuVall it seems as though we are at the beginning of this conversation not the end by a long stretch. We appreciate you being here thank you.
DUVALL: Indeed, thank you.
NOBLES: Still ahead a rare appearance of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un with his wife and at all places a rock concert in Pyongyang. And why this comes at a key time in the falling relationship between North and South Korea.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: In a rare event, North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, and his wife attended a concert in Pyongyang that featured South Korean pop stars. It's believed to be the first musical delegation in years, and it follows a visit to the Olympics in February by North Korean performers.
This comes as the U.S. and South Korea are kicking off massive military drills off the Korean Peninsula. The so-called war games typically involve thousands of troops, tanks, bombers and war ships.
But this year the exercises are being toned down somewhat, and the U.S. and South Korea may be trying to avoid provoking North Korea's dictator before negotiations begin over nuclear weapons in the coming weeks. Paula Hancocks is following the developments.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is a discreet and low-key start to the joint U.S.-South Korean military drills this year, a very different situation to what we usually see, but clearly South Korean and U.S. officials don't want to provoke Pyongyang at a time when relations are thawing.
And, of course, there is that summit coming up between Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in dated for April 27th. So, what we are seeing at this point is the Fall Eagle Field Exercise, military drills have started this Sunday. They'll go for a month, but that's half the time that they usually last.
Last year, for example, they went for two months. We are hearing, though, from the Pentagon and from South Korean military officials. They'll have the same scope as previous years. We know there are 11,500 U.S. troops within Fall Eagle. There's 290,000 South Korean troops.
[14:35:06] But one interesting thing we should mention is that we haven't heard about any media date. Usually we have heard about that by this time. I'm hearing that potentially we won't be seeing very much. We won't be invited to film very much, as in previous years we do film it, show it to the world, and of course, North Korea sees the capabilities of the U.S. and South Korean militaries.
So, potentially we will hear very little response from North Korea if they are not seeing exactly what these very visual, and what they believe, to be provocative military drills are. Of course, this goes in tandem with what we're seeing, this political movement towards each other.
And of course, you have the supporting alliances within the Olympics and also cultural events. On Sunday, evening there is a concert in Pyongyang. K-pop stars are in the North Korean capital performing to a North Korean audience. It's very interesting to see the reaction from that audience.
Not a huge amount of K-pop in Pyongyang. This is all part of the growing momentum we're seeing in this thawing in relations between North and South Korea. Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.
NOBLES: All right. Paula, thank you. Evangelicals helped propel the president to the White House but could recent allegations of sexual assault and infidelity negatively impact his standing in the religious community. How some are forced to reconcile their beliefs and their support of the president? Next.
NOBLES: White Evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in the president election. He won 80 percent of their vote, but that support may not be something he can continue to count on. Trump's standing with white Evangelicals is falling as he repeatedly tests the limits of Christian values amid allegations of adultery.
With Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal in the news, it's unclear whether the Evangelical vote will be swayed.
Here now to discuss this top is Stephen Strang. He is the author of "God and Donald Trump." Stephen, first off, let's start with the porn star and the "Playboy" model both speaking about their affairs with the president. This, of course, happened before he became president. So, does it in any way change the Evangelical vote?
STEPHEN STRANG, AUTHOR, "GOD AND DONALD TRUMP": Well, hello, Ryan, and happy Easter. It absolutely changes the view. Most people and certainly most Christians would consider a one-night stand very different, especially as a private person than someone like John Kennedy or Bill Clinton, who the press just kind of looked the other way, and it was well known that they had multiple affairs in the White House itself.
But you know, to understand why Evangelicals support Donald Trump, you have to understand what Evangelicals are. A lot of people asked who they are. I like to say that they're bible-believing, church-going Christians. who try to live their lives by the bible.
We know from the reading of scripture that God has always used imperfect people from King David to the Apostle Paul. So, we believe that God has raised up this unlikely person who is championing Christian values in a way that no other president has and also defending persecuted Christians, which churches all over the country today are publicizing the plight of persecuted Christians.
NOBLES: So, give me an example of -- I mean, that's a pretty bold claim to say that Donald Trump has championed Christian values more than any previous president. We've had Republicans like George W. Bush who had strong support from Evangelicals. Give me specific examples of how he has championed Christian values more than anyone else in office.
STRANG: Well, first of all, I had a lot of respect for George W. Bush, but you know, he said one thing when he ran, and he did very little when he got in the White House. With President Trump there are several things. First of all, his Supreme Court nomination was probably the single most important issue for conservative Christians.
But then he has also taken on the Johnson amendment. I've never even known a politician to talk about it, and this is a rule from 1954 from the IRS code that limits churches and non-profits from speaking up and endorsing candidates. When he heard about it, he didn't even know about it, but when he heard about it, he immediately said that's wrong.
Since he's gotten in, he's issued an executive order. He's also issued executive orders having to do with abortion, and the way that he has supported persecuted Christians, all of these things are very, very important. He's kept his word. You know, in fact, he joked one time that he's kept more promises than he made.
NOBLES: Well, I want to ask you about this thought process that he is a changed man, different from the Donald Trump that he was before he became president. This is something that Evangelical leader, Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham, said he was a changed man from the time of these alleged affairs.
Are Evangelical voters attempting to give him a do-over here? We've seen this president in the past be specifically pressed about whether or not he's asked for forgiveness for some of these issues and he has said that he has not.
[14:45:09] I mean, what is it that leads you to believe he's a changed man in the White House now from the Hollywood star that he was before he became a politician?
STRANG: Well, that's a great question. You know, the whole essence of Christianity is that God is able to change people through the power of the gospel. I deal with this in "God and Donald Trump," my book. I tell how in the early 2000s, he started watching Christian tv late at night.
I document that he watched "Paula White," who he actually became friends with and she ended up praying at the inauguration. But he also followed ministries like David Jeremiah, who I actually watch this Easter weekend. It's a great ministry.
So, I think that something changed inside of him. He loves to be prayed for. In fact, there's been pictures, a lot of things on YouTube, where a minister and others would gather around the president and put their hands on and pray for him in kind of the Pentecostal style.
I've never even known a president to allow anyone to pray for him, but he seems to enjoy it. I've been told that he enjoys what we Christians call the anointing.
NOBLES: Stephen, I know there was a lot of Evangelical criticism of Barack Obama that he does not attend church on a regular basis. Donald Trump does not attend church on a regular basis. He was there today, it was Easter Sunday, but his visits to the houses of worship are pretty few and far between. If he's a believer as you say, shouldn't he be in a church pew more often than he is?
STRANG: I agree with you. I believe when you're a Christian, you go to church every time the doors are open. But look, they criticized Abraham Lincoln for the same thing. Remember Richard Nixon? He had services in the White House. People criticized Ronald Reagan because Nancy was into astrology.
I mean, you're always going to have people that criticize. I think he should go to church, I do, but he's very busy, and frankly church attendance, people take it less seriously than they did when I was a kid. Our family was in church three or four times a week every time the doors were open.
NOBLES: All right. Stephen Strang, thank you for your perspective. We appreciate you being on and happy Easter to you.
STRANG: Thank you and happy Easter.
NOBLES: We are going to take a quick break and be right back.
NOBLES: After a March madness full of upsets, college basketball's final four is now down to just two teams. Andy Scholes has all the action from San Antonio.
ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ryan, the clock striking midnight for Loyola, the Cinderella run for the Ramblers coming to an end here in San Antonio at the final four. Sister Jean, the 98-year-old team chaplain, who captured the hearts of the world with her amazing spirit, was here to cheer on the Ramblers.
They had the lead at half time and hadn't lost a game all year long, but Michigan too much in the second half. Sister Jean leaving right before the end of the game cheering with the crowd, and the Ramblers just fighting back tears after the game as they reflected on their amazing season.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN RICHARDSON, LOYOLA CHICAGO GUARD: It's not going to sink in yet. It hurts to have this be the last one. You know, we wish that it could have ended better. You know, we believe that we could have, you know, gone on.
PORTER MOSER, LOYOLA CHICAGO HEAD COACH: What they did is very hard to do. They changed -- they left an impact on this school.
RICHARDSON: Despite going out this way, we're going to never forget this, and I think a lot of people will remember this run for a long time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHOLES: The star of the night was Michigan's Mo Wagner, 20-year-old from Berland, Germany with a game of his life, 24 points to go along with 15 rebounds. Only two other players have had that good of a game in the semifinals and they're names are Akeema Elijon and Larry Bird.
His parents came all the way from Germany to watch their son play here in San Antonio, and I caught up with the proud parents after the game.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHOLES: How proud are you of your son right now?
BEATE WAGNER, MOTHER: I'm proud but happy, happy, happy.
ALEX SCHULZ, FATHER: So happy for him, proud of the whole team. The whole team played their hearts out, I guess, especially in the second half. We are very proud of the team and Mode is a good part of it.
MO WAGNER, MICHIGAN FORWARD: That was always pretty cool for me because I watched this my entire childhood, this final four here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHOLES: And a nightcap between one seed Villanova and one seed Kansas was supposed to be a heavyweight bout, but the Wildcats just punching the Jayhawks in the mouth from the get-go, starting the game on a 22-4 run. They cruised to victory. The stage is set for tomorrow night. It will be Villanova taking on Michigan for the national title, tipoff at 9:00 Eastern on TBS.
Villanova will be trying to win their second championship in three years, Michigan trying to win their first title since 1989. Ryan, if you had either of them in your bracket, you're probably smiling this Easter Sunday.
NOBLES: Andy, I have them both and I am smiling. So, thank you very much for that report.
[14:55:07] We have much more ahead just after this break in the NEWSROOM. Stay here.
NOBLES: Hello and thank you for joining me. I'm Ryan Nobles in today for Fredricka Whitfield.
We begin this hour with President Trump expected to return to Washington this evening after attending Easter service.