Return to Transcripts main page


Witness: Sheriff's Car Hit Protester at Stephon Clark Rally; CNN: Trump Being Told He Doesn't Need Chief of Staff, Communications Director; Police Chief: I Think We Prevented A Disaster; U.S. and South Korea Kick Off War Games; Laura Ingraham To Take Week Off Amid Advertiser Boycott; First Lady to Host Easter Egg Roll at the White House; Fiery End Coming Soon for Defunct Chinese Space Lab. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired April 1, 2018 - 07:00   ET




[07:00:10] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight we felt is most tense sort of interaction between police and protesters.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The vehicle accelerated very fast and struck her violently.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump has decided that he is going to follow his own instincts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trump allies are telling the president he doesn't even need to replace her or even have a chief of staff for that matter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the end, I think President Trump will be the boss of this Oval Office.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The U.S. and South Korea kicking off international military exercise as the world waits and see how North Korea responds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Washington is downplaying these annual war games now that President Trump plans an historic face-to-face meeting with North Korea's leader.



DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Dianne Gallagher, in for Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Happy Sunday and happy Easter to you. GALLAGHER: Escalating tensions in Sacramento, California, overnight

after witnesses say that a woman was protesting the shooting death of Stephon Clark was hit by a sheriff's deputy's car and it drove away.

BLACKWELL: The Sacramento County sherriff's office released a statement and here's a portion of it here.

Protesters were yelling and pounding and kicking the vehicle's instructor. The sheriff's deputy vehicle sustained scratches, dents, and a shattered rear window. The damage to the vehicle was not a result of the collision involving the pedestrian but was caused by vandals in the crowd.

GALLAGHER: And again, not entirely clear if they're using this -- that statement to talk about whether or not, that was part of the reason why it happened --

BLACKWELL: To justify that this deputy hit the gas in that crowd.

GALLAGHER: Now, CNN has obtained video of the incident but before we show it, we want to warn you some of you may find is a little disturbing.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my gosh! Oh, my gosh!


BLACKWELL: You saw remain the woman is carrying the sign crossing in front of the deputy's car signaling for it to stop. Then the sheriff's deputy car, it appears to accelerate and we see it hit her. Police say the woman was taken to a local hospital with minor injuries.

CNN correspondent Ryan Young is in Sacramento and has more for us.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The protests for Stephon Clark in Sacramento have been peaceful up until this point. Tonight, we felt the most tense sort of interaction between police and protesters. You look behind me, you can see that police donned their riot gear that's after an interaction between a sheriff's deputy and a protester. It appears a woman was trying to stop a deputy's car from moving through protesters. And then there was a hit, there was an impact between the two. We're not sure exactly what happened.

But to show you what's happening now, look at all the sheriff's deputies and police officers from around the area that have decided to come down here. They're cue just in case anything happens here. Of course, this is after a day full of protests where nothing has happened but now that tenseness has bubbled up and there is definitely a tense moment, not only between protesters but between the police officers who are definitely trying to protect and maintain the peace.


GALLAGHER: Now, you can see a little bit of it in the video there, but look, police were lined up in riot gear as 50 to a hundred demonstrators were peacefully protesting.

Ryan Young also spoke with one of the witnesses of that collision between the sheriff's deputy car and the protester. Take a listen to what they had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two Sacramento sheriff's deputies were coming westbound. The first one got through the crowd. The second one decided he was in a hurry and hit one of the protesters who was on the curbside of the street, and then ran.


BLACKWELL: Obviously, there are still questions here. The police say that the investigation is ongoing. We will bring you more as soon as we learn more.

GALLAGHER: President Trump and the first family spending his Easter at the Florida resort where they often go on the weekends but when he returns to Washington this afternoon, well, a familiar face and a very close confidant, she's going to be missing.

BLACKWELL: Yes, the president said good-bye to his former communications coordinator Hope Hicks. That was Thursday. And sources tell U.S. he may not replace him. According to "The Washington Post", President Trump is growing more independent and defiant and wants to call his own shots.

CNN's Abby Phillips joins us now live from Florida where the president is this morning.

Good morning and happy Easter to you, Abby.


Down here in Florida, the president has spent the last several days playing golf and doing a little bit of tweeting. It's been a fairly low key weekend for him. But in the last week, we have seen him doing a lot more of the things that he wants to do and now, "The Washington Post" is reporting that the president feels emboldened. He is going into his second year as president and a lot of his senior staffers, the people who have been closest to him a long time, are leaving. As a result, he is relying more on himself. Here is why this matters. There have been a number of big moves in

the last several weeks that have really reflected the president's own instincts. Just last week, he announced that he wanted the United States to pull out of Syria, you know, catching his Defense Department off-guard. He announced tariffs that were opposed by a number of his staff members and announced his White House physician would be named the V.A. secretary.

All of these moves, sources tell "the Washington Post", are a reflection of the fact the president wants to call his own shots in this stage of his administration. But some people worry that it means that he is not relying on the people around him who are the experts, who have the expertise in some of these areas.

Sources have also told CNN that the president is being advised by some people around him that he doesn't even need a communications director now that Hope Hicks is gone. And that if General John Kelly were to leave the White House, he might not need to replace him, that in essence, the president could be his own chief of staff. Already, we have seen the president relying on his own instincts and relying less on his staff members.

There are people who used to be in this White House who are now gone who used to be kind of guardrails around him when it comes to policy and decision making. It remains to be seen what impact that is going to have going forward, especially as we see the president growing more frustrated with his cabinet and more frustrated with the pace of decision making in his government -- Victor and Dianne.

GALLAGHER: Abby Phillips in West Palm Beach Florida, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: All right. Joining me is Washington bureau chief for "The Chicago Sun-Times", Lynn Sweet.

Lynn, good morning to you.


BLACKWELL: So let's start here and pick up where Abby left off about this intrigue about General Kelly if the president takes extremely step of running a White House without a chief of staff. Let's at least consider that Kelly stays. Could he stay in some diminished role like a Priebus style chief of staff without being the gatekeeper that at least he once was?

SWEET: Of course, he could. Of course, it's a nontraditional model but everything about the Trump presidency is nontraditional Trump. I think the issue isn't so much of having a strong chief of staff as having an impulsive president. And I think as long as that's the case, the job of the chief of staff is different than any other chief of the staff that we have seen in recent presidencies partly because of the power and this will dovetail into our communication question, partly of the power of the presidential tweeting that he does which helps sets agenda and policy and politics. BLACKWELL: Now, we know that the president has long consulted these

outside advisers, a friend from the business community, friends that he's made over the last 30 or 40 years. Are there any of those kind of kitchen cabinet consultants who are suggesting that he keep a traditional structure after White House even for this nontraditional approach, this nontraditional president?

SWEET: Well, I am impressed that one of the people he has been seen with at Mar-a-Lago is great boxing promoter Don King. So, I'm sure if we have a national boxing policy, he will be well-informed on that one.

Now, on a serious note, I don't know firsthand what the people are telling him, but I do know what the president does each day and that is he somehow seems with all this chaotic staffing, seems to be confusing true substantive change to carry out his policies and agenda that he ran on but just keeping moving the chess pieces or throwing the chess pieces up in the air. That is not the same thing as winning the board game.

BLACKWELL: Let me get your thoughts on something that is really getting some traction on social media. The White House released the photo of the spring 2018 interns. There has been a lot of criticism from people about the perceived lack of diversity of this group. Just for comparison sake, we see this as the Trump group.

Let's look at the Obama photographs from one of their classes of interns just for comparison sake.

And your thoughts on what we are seeing of the reaction to this photo.

SWEET: Well, I must say in this case, I was my own one-woman focus group. Saw at that time first, I thought how does that happen and is this a one-off? I think this photo is just a silent, but strong statement to the lack of the commitment of the high levels of the Trump White House to assemble when they do something important like the White House intern program, a group that is as diverse as America.

[07:10:07] I mean, Victor, the picture, if it were just one off, if there were other groups you say look at the rich diversity here and this was just a particular set of circumstances, OK, we would get it. But I think the reason that it kind of resonates is that it suggests this is not the case.

Remember back in the days of Clinton? He wanted to assemble a cabinet that looked like America and that was a value. With President Obama, it wasn't even, you know, by then, it didn't even have to be stated that clearly. It just happened because the people around him were diverse.

This photo, I think, is the output of an administration that just didn't put a priority in how the people that they selected to reflect the diversity of America.

BLACKWELL: Yes, you mentioned the president's cabinet. I think we've got a photograph of the cabinet as well as we discuss diversity in government. Here is picture of at least some of those members here.


BLACKWELL: And mostly white men in the president's cabinet.

And, you know, "The Washington Post," in their write on this, I think their first line suggests or at least exposes a larger problem. The latest class of White House interns is a reminder that diversity and government isn't an issue only at senior levels. It starts at the bottom.

SWEET: Absolutely. And that is why I was saying that this is photo is an important one, because these people, people who end up in White House internship programs, no matter the administration, very often are part of the pipeline of people that end up years later in life for people that are on your show, I'm interviewing important positions, selected or appointed run for office. So, this is important to get it right or be more thoughtful about the importance of diversity even at the beginning and this White House internship program which has been around a while, is a very important starting point for a lot of people in public life.

BLACKWELL: Yes, there is no disconnect between policy and politics and personnel and we need to have those conversations simultaneously.

Lynn Sweet, thanks so much.

SWEET: Thanks, Victor.

GALLAGHER: The Democratic Representative Elizabeth Esty is facing mounting pressure from within her own party now to resign. It's been revealed that she kept her former chief of staff, Tony Baker, on the payroll for three months after she found out that he threatened and assaulted another aide that he used to date.

BLACKWELL: Now, Representative Esty has apologized but is standing firm, saying she has important work to do in Congress including building on the lessons of this horrible series of events.

GALLAGHER: All right. Be sure to watch "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper this morning. Recently fired V.A. Secretary David Shulkin is going to be on the show, as well as Senator Bernie Sanders. That is "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

BLACKWELL: Police say they stopped a disaster as a Chinese student in Florida is being deported after buying two semiautomatic rifles and behaving, as they describe it, erratically. We've got new details on that case.

GALLAGHER: Plus, American troops kick off the war games with South Korea. Next, we have a live report from the Korean peninsula and a look at how this year's exercises are a little bit different than most events.

BLACKWELL: Also, a space lab the size of a bus could crash back to earth in the next 24 hours.

GALLAGHER: Oh, that's great.

BLACKWELL: Scientists say it has very little chance of hurting anyone on the ground -- good news -- here on the ground.


[07:17:39] GALLAGHER: Police say that a Chinese college student in Orlando made no real threats to harm anybody, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Yes, but after a series of decisions that worried his fellow students and then campus police, he is now being kicked out of the country.


BLACKWELL (voice-over): The purchase of a rifle, a dramatic change in appearance, holding up inside his room and a pricey shopping spree that included a Corvette, a student at the University of Central Florida is being deported to China after the school's police chief said there was red flag after red flag that something bad would happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just saved a bunch of lives. There's no doubt about it.

BLACKWELL: Police started investigating 26-year-old Wenliang Sun earlier this year after he made unusual statements to a school official. They flagged it to the ATF and found out that Sun owned an assault-style rifle and ammunition. When a detective interviewed him, Sun referred to his weapon as a sniper rifle but said he never thought about hurting himself or others. Days after that interview, Sun bought a second assault-style, this one with a bipod and expensive scope.

Police were monitoring Sun but officials say he owned both guns legally.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know if one individual falls to the cracks, very bad things can happen.

BLACKWELL: But then his visa was revoked due to an issue unrelated to his gun purchases. He stopped going to class.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, I think there was disaster about to happen and we stopped it.

BLACKWELL: Sun is now being held by immigration officials and is expected to be deported soon and he will not be allowed to return to the U.S. for 10 years.


And campus police want other students who own guns to know that they should not be concerned. They said this case was about the behavior of one student whose actions showed that he was in crisis.

All right. This morning, the U.S. and South Korea are kicking off massive military drills off the Korean peninsula.

GALLAGHER: Ships like the ones you're going to see here, the USS Wasp, they're participating in this year's so-called war games, but things are a little different in 2018. The exercises are taking on a different kind of tone as both the U.S. and South Korea hope to avoid upsetting the North Korean dictator as they negotiate over nuclear weapons.


REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY & DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: From a U.S. perspective, we get to focus on military readiness, we get to try to make sure that we continue to send strong message about our treaty commitments to the South and the seriousness with which we take the security on the peninsula. At the same time, we are taking measures that are in keeping with the warmer rhetoric, the reduced tensions that are on the peninsula.

[07:20:04] I think it makes a lot of sense.


GALLAGHER: CNN international correspondent Paula Hancocks live in Seoul.

And, Paula, we know one of the major differences in this year's drills, they started late because of the politics, but they're going as long this time around.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Dianne and Victor. They are half the duration they usually are. They start today. They will go for a month.

But usually -- in fact, last year, they went for two months, so we are definitely seeing it scaled back when it comes to the duration. The Pentagon and South Korea are insisting that the scope is the same, the scale is the same, 11,500 U.S. troops for this one that started today, the field training, and then 295,000 South Korean troops.

The interesting thing, though, is the messaging. The fact that by this time, usually, we have a number of media day set up, we know that we will be invited to go and film an awful lot of these drills so that we can show the world and, of course, we can show North Korea what the capability of the U.S. and South Korean militaries are. That doesn't appear to be happening this time around.

So, certainly, we are getting the sense, this is a more discrete start to these drills and they are trying to be quieter about it. We heard from Kim Jong-un through the South Korean delegation saying he understood the drills had to go ahead, so potentially we're not going to see much of a reaction from North Korea either.

BLACKWELL: We remember a couple of weeks ago the athletes from North Korea were in South Korea for the Olympics, and now, we've got these pop stars from South Korea who are in North Korea as part of this continued thaw between the two countries.

HANCOCKS: That's right. This is a k-pop in Pyongyang concert which is rare, to say the least. It's expected to be going on right now.

We don't have, of course, live pictures from North Korea on this, but they did have a taekwondo celebration before it on the South Korea side. They had a standing ovation from 2,300 North Koreans in the audience, so we do believe that groups like Red Velvet, a very popular one here in South Korea, are performing.

The first time they've had this kind of cultural event, this kind of concert in Pyongyang since 2005, so this is just a buildup of the momentum from having the political breakthrough. You have the sporting breakthrough with the Olympics and now, you have the cultural breakthroughs as well. It will be interesting to see the reaction, though, of some of the North Koreans in the audience. There's not a lot of K-pop in Pyongyang.

BLACKWELL: There's not a lot of K-pop here either.

GALLAGHER: K-pop is on the rise. It really is on the rise, actually.

BLACKWELL: It is. Paula Hancocks, thank you very much.

And for anyone who's just watching that little clip of the video, let's listen a little more of this group.


GALLAGHER: I believe that this is Red Velvet, but K-pop has become more prominent here in the United States. We saw that exchange during the Olympics of North Korea and South Korea, sort of seeing this here, it does appear, Victor, that things are their way to going.

We'll be right back.


[07:28:16] GALLAGHER: Welcome back. I'm Dianne Gallagher, in for Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Happy Easter to you.

GALLAGHER: All right. Some harsh words from NRA board member and rocker Ted Nugent. This happened during an interview on a conservative radio program. He called the survivors of the Parkland shooters liars and mushy brained children. And when asked about how the students are railing against the NRA, he said, quote, not only is it ignorant and dangerously stupid, but it's soulless.

Meanwhile, outspoken Parkland survivor David Hogg is standing up against the criticism he had against Fox News host Laura Ingraham. It happened after she mocked him in a series of tweets earlier this week about not getting into some of his colleges and then she later apologized.


DAVID HOGG, STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR: I think my biggest takeaway from this is when somebody -- no matter who somebody is, no matter how big or powerful they seem, a bully is a bully and it's important that you stand up to them.


GALLAGHER: So, more than a dozen companies pulled their advertising from Laura Ingraham's show after her attacks. Now, she announced she is on a preplanned vacation next week. Of course, it comes amid all that controversy.

BLACKWELL: All right. Joining us to discuss, CNN senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES", Brian Stelter.

Brian, good morning to you.


BLACKWELL: OK. So, what is in Fox News vacation? We remember Bill O'Reilly took a vacation at the height of the sexual harassment allegations, never came back. But Sean Hannity took a vacation at the height of Seth Rich conspiracy controversy and he came back, has been on ever since.

So, what are we to read into this vacation announcement for Laura Ingraham when she's now got a dozen advertisers that are dumping the show?

STELTER: That's right. I noticed even another advertiser announcing withdrawing from her program yesterday, Bayer.

[07:30:05] Obviously, this has been a headache for Fox, a headache for Ingraham, and it's notable that some companies are still trying to distance themselves from her program, even though she apologized and even though she's taking a vacation, the list of advertisers continues to grow.

Look, I think these boycotts are a bit dangerous and it gets really messy really quickly when you think about these pressure campaigns against advertisers. At the same time, I understand why David Hogg decided direct attention to the advertisers because that is one way to cause change. So, you see this list of advertisers growing. You see Fox trying to mitigate the damage by laying low rather than having an apology.

Look, I fully expect Ingraham to come back in a week after this vacation. It is spring break time of the year, so Fox said it was a preplanned vacation. But we have seen this in the past and as you said, when O'Reilly was being scrutinized for the secret settlements in his past, he went on vacation and never came back.

So, it is a giant controversy for Fox and I think, yet again, another reminder. If you're attacking high school students, if you're smearing or mocking them, then you're losing. And that to me that someone of the bottom lines of this story.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Let's talk about Sean Hannity specifically. CNN reporting he had dinner with the president yesterday at Mar-a-Lago there on Palm Beach Island. "The Washington Post" is reporting that the president could, in large part, go it alone, potentially not moving forward with a communications director and maybe getting rid of and not having a chief of staff. Now, it seems that Hannity would be someone who would feed those impulses if you pay attention to his monologues.

STELTER: Yes, that's exactly why these kinds meetings are important, because someone like Sean Hannity or some of the other folks that Trump sees at Mar-a-Lago, they encourage the president to take a harder line, for example, against Robert Mueller's probe and many other matters. Whether it's immigration, whether it's spending, or whether it's something like the Russia probes and the president's feelings about the Russia probes.

Hannity, of course, you know, is someone on television every evening. The president sees Hannity and watches regularly. But according to CNN's reporting, they were also having dinner, according to one of the local papers, also playing golf yesterday. So, that kind of -- that kind of environment where the president is at Mar-a-Lago is able to be around his friends and talk to his informal advisers like Sean Hannity and it matters because these people reinforce some of the president's instincts.

What we have seen for the past several weeks is a president who is going to go his own way, not necessarily take advice from advisors who around him from some of his more moderate advisers who left the White House, but what we've seen instead are people like John Bolton and Larry Kudlow coming in and, of course, the president leaning on these informal advisers like Sean Hannity.

BLACKWELL: All right. The president will be headed back to Washington this afternoon. We'll see if he has any announcements before the start of the week.

Brian Stelter, thanks so much.

STELTER: Thanks.

BLACKWELL: Stelter will be back at 11:00 a.m. Eastern for "RELIABLE SOURCES" right here on CNN.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN ANCHOR: And still ahead with us, First Lady Melania Trump is keeping up public disappearances despite the daily headlines how her husband allegedly cheated on her early in their marriage. So, is it affecting her role in the White House? We'll be looking into that.


[07:38:31] GALLAGHER: So, President Trump and the First Lady are spending Easter at his Florida resort. Despite headlines that claim that her husband allegedly cheated on her with a porn star and a former Playboy playmate early in their marriage, Melania Trump is keeping up her appearances. She's going to host tomorrow's Easter egg roll at the White House.

Joining us now to discuss is CNN contributor and author of "First Women", Kate Andersen Brower.

Kate, so, first of all, are the allegations affecting Melania's role as first lady?

KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's making it more difficult for her. People are so focused on the elephant in the room which are these stories and allegations of her husband's infidelity shortly after she gave birth to their son Baron. And she's really retreating into herself. She's been at Mar-a-Lago for the past week.

But her press secretary is making it clear that she has been involved in the Easter egg roll tomorrow, that she actually started planning it in the fall. She picked out colors for the eggs in December and there is also a state dinner that's coming up with the French president later this month. So, things are going to be -- appearances are going to be kept up. She is working behind the scenes and not just setting upset at Mar-a-Lago all the time.

But, of course, you can't avoid this story and it's embarrassing, it's humiliating. But I think she is a strong person and her friends say that she is very strong so she is not letting this get to her maybe as much as we all think it would.

GALLAGHER: Look. Some may say there's strength in silence.

[07:40:00] Melania has certainly remained silent about those reports of the alleged affair. But, look, her spokesperson addressed the speculation kind of on Twitter. I want to show the tweet that her spokesperson put out on Twitter.

While, I know the media is enjoying speculation and salacious gossip, I'd like to remind people there's a minor child whose name should be kept out of news stories when at all possible.

Now, as far as I know, at least most mainstream media here have not attacked Baron in any way. But, look, she's very protective over her son.

Do we think we'll ever hear from Melania?

BOWER: I think on this, we might never hear from her. I think is also goes into the narrative of, you know, fake news in the idea that the media is attacking them unfairly. And, you know, she was interviewed shortly after the "Access Hollywood" tape came out on CNN where she said, you know, people feel bad for me. Don't feel bad for me. No one should feel sorry for me.

And I think that is kind of her stance. I think it's humiliating, but I don't think we're going to hear from her. And, you know, when Hillary Clinton went through this, she also, you know, had to grapple with whether or not to be publicly out front in supporting her husband or not, but she did publicly come and support him. She even went to Capitol Hill and lobbied members of the Congress not to impeach her husband, and I think you're not going to see that kind of support from Melania Trump.

GALLAGHER: Is that the main difference? Because, look, it is -- it's both presidents that are dealing with, obviously, one affair during the White House, the other allegations of affairs previous but, again, right after she had her son. There is a humiliation level.

Is that the only difference there in the reaction that you expect from Melania and then First Lady Hillary Clinton?

BOWER: Well, it's ironic that they have this in common, because Melania Trump and Hillary Clinton couldn't be more different. Hillary Clinton is the first first lady to run for office herself. She was a New York senator. She ran for president twice.

And Melania Trump is not a political Trump. She's not necessarily interested in this life. So, I think that, you know, the fact that they are both grappling this issue and handling it in different ways is really fascinating and they have to kind of decide whether or not to stand by their husband.

I really don't think we are going to see Melania publicly do that but we are going to see her keeping up with her schedule as first lady.

GALLAGHER: OK, so let's switch gears a little bit here. What is she doing in Florida? What has she been doing there? We don't really see her and the president together very often.

BOWER: It's hard to get a sense of what she is doing because they are so private. Look, they have a 12-year-old son. And they are very protective of him. I think everyone can kind of sympathize with that.

And the Clintons were protective of Chelsea and the Obamas were protective of their children. I think she is focused on being a mom as her press secretary said. But she is also focusing on people might think the Easter egg roll is a silly thing, but it is a gargantuan effort among the staff. So, a state dinner is also something that takes a lot of planning.

So, she's not completely abandoning that, but we saw her on Thursday visit a hospital in Florida and she really does well with children. I think that is where she shines. So her kind of modus operandi going forward is I think to be with children and that is really where she seems the most comfortable.

GALLAGHER: Kate Andersen Brower, thank you so much. Looking forward to seeing the first lady tomorrow at the White House.

BLACKWELL: Well, the president and the White House have branded President Trump as a counterpuncher. You take a shot at him and he'll punch back ten times harder. GALLAGHER: Yes. Well, with this Stormy Daniels story, while everyone else can't stop talking about it -- well, the president has stayed remarkably silent on here.

Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The president is taking a licking when it comes to Stormy Daniels. She is water cooler conversation.

But you know who isn't talking?

REPORTER: We watched "60 Minutes" on Sunday, Mr. President?

MOOS: President of the United States is waving, pointing smiling, posing with babies. But when it comes to the hush agreement meant to keep Stormy quiet, well, it's the president who's been hushed lately.

REPORTER: Is Stormy Daniels a liar, sir?

REPORTER: Are Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal lying about the affairs?

REPORTER: Is Karen McDougal telling the truth, sir?

REPORTER: Mr. President, any comment on Mrs. McDougal?

MOOS: Stormy Daniels' attorney is literally taunting, daring, provoking President Trump.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: Let the president take to the podium and call her a liar.

We have a president that will tweet about the most mundane things.

Known to mankind, but for some reason, he can't come out and deny the affair.

You know why he won't tweet about it, because it's true.

STORMY DANIELS, ADULT FILM STAR: He knows I'm telling the truth.

MOOS: The president's only stab at a post "60 Minutes" tweet was generic. So much fake news. Never been more voluminous, or more inaccurate.

He is leaving the spin to his spokespeople.

REPORTER: Why haven't we heard from him?

RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Well, that will be up to the president.

MOOS: Donald Trump doesn't always zip it when facing accusations by women. For instance, the "People" magazine reporter who said Trump pushed her

up against the wall and put his tongue down her throat.

[07:45:03] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look at her, look at her words, you tell me what you think. I don't think so.

MOOS: But if the president insists on keeping a stormy silence, he's got to hope that "60 Minutes" doesn't become 60 days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More details from Stormy Daniels.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We still stay a little on the Stormy side.

MOOS: -- New York.


BLACKWELL: It is remarkable that the president has been talking about Amazon and Jeff Bezos and the cost of shipping all weekend and has not talked about this since that became a top story.

All right. It was one of China's highest profile space projects, but it could meet its fiery demise soon, plummeting back to earth. How closely should you watch the sky? There is a provocative question.

GALLAGHER: I'm glad our meteorologist Allison Chinchar is joining us to let us know.

Plus, we have a man who spent his share of time on a space station. Former NASA astronaut is coming up to talk about just this, up next.


[07:50:13] GALLAGHER: All right. If you look up in the sky tonight and you see a shower of fire balls, there's no need to worry.

BLACKWELL: OK, stop right there. Yes, there is a need to worry if they're fire balls.

GALLAGHER: Victor, it's just an empty Chinese space lab crashing back to earth.

BLACKWELL: I'm told that this is worse than it sounds. In truth, actually, scientists say any debris will likely burn up as it falls. Switch that. It's not as bad as it sounds is what I should have said.

The chances of getting hit by anything is 1 in 1 trillion. So what's the story behind all of this?

Let's get to our meteorologist Allison Chinchar.

What's going on, Allison?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's the million dollars question, Victor.

So, let's talk about where it is right now. This is the radar image of the space station taken from space. It may not look that big, but actually it's quite large. It's the average size of a school bus. About 12 meters long, which is about 40 feet, and it weighs about eight and a half metric tons.

Now, here's the thing. It was launched back in China 2011. China lost contact with it in 2016. Reentry is expected later on tonight into tomorrow.

Now, universal time, about midnight tonight through early tomorrow. That would be about 8:00 Eastern Time tonight, through the early morning hours.

Here's the thing: the reason why it was delayed is we like to call space weather. There was calmer space weather. We anticipated that some of those strong solar winds would create a denser atmosphere, thus pushing the space station back down into reentry a little bit faster. But those winds didn't have too much of an impact, so thus the delayed arrival.

But as you mentioned the majority of this is expected to burn upon reentry. Any pieces that would make it to the surfaces are going to fall 43 degrees north and 43 degrees south.

So, what is going to happen? Let's take a closer look at this, OK? Now, it's still hovering above us right now. As we get later into the evening and into overnight hours, it is going to start to come back. It's going to burn up upon reentry as well as break apart.

The thing is, it does have a pretty wide area, Victor and Dianne, of where it could go. But again, you cannot emphasize this enough. We are not expecting a bus to make it down to the surface. This thing will break apart before it makes its final reentry.

BLACKWELL: All right. Allison Chinchar, thanks so much.

GALLAGHER: All right. We want to bring in someone who has actually been in space to talk about this. Leroy Chiao, a former NASA astronaut.

You flew on four space missions and you're a former International Space Station commander. So, you're aware of this. We're showing the viewers a NASA illustration of really just how much space junk is out there. We're going to be showing them in just a second here I believe.

It does make a single falling space lab look, well, like the least of our problems. But, really, Leroy, is this a concern that we with should have here?

LEROY CHIAO, FORMER NASA ASTRONAUT: Well, overall, any kind of orbital debris say big concern. That's the number one threat that we have to spacecraft and that's what we worry about most when we fly into space is getting hit and having our spacecraft damaged by orbital debris.

As far as the Tiangong-1 goes, as you guys were saying, it very likely will all burn up in the atmosphere on entry and posing zero danger, and even if some piece survives, it shouldn't be that big and most likely will hit the ocean. But it's a very big deal in space. All spacecraft that carry astronauts are shielded, so we can't tolerate some impacts.

And, of course, you do think about it when you put a spacesuit on and go outside. There's a lot of little, for lack of a better word, little rocks flying around and also pieces of old spacecraft, bolts, nuts things like that that have fallen off boosters.

BLACKWELL: First, can I say how much I love that the term for this is spacecraft?


BLACKWELL: Before I get to my question. But, Leroy, when you see Elon Musk send a Tesla up and put a dummy in it as part of the promotion of their space program, do you think, damn, there's more spacecraft that we have to avoid as we go up the next time?

CHIAO: No, actually. I thought that was great and the images -- those are real photographs, of course, of the roadster being propelled away from the earth. It's going to highly elliptical orbit around the sun. It's going to be nowhere near the earth. It's essentially going to be into that orbit forever for all practical purposes, at least millions of years.

But it was -- I thought it was a wonderful thing to do. Normally when you do a flight test, dummy payload is simply water and I thought this was a much more interesting payload than water.

GALLAGHER: And lastly, just for me here, I know space is very large, endless area there, but all of space junk, does it create a problem at all? I mean, is there a limit to how much we should put out there and up there are?

[07:55:03] BLACKWELL: And is there any interest in cleaning it up or just because it's space, you just leave it?

CHIAO: Well, in lower earth orbit, there's actually enough atmosphere up there, enough air molecules that it will slow things down and they will eventually come down just like the Tiangong-1. And so, yes, we keep putting up more spacecraft and pieces up there, but they are coming down.

Now, it is a problem and it's a growing problem because we're launching more and more satellites. The push now is to these nano sats which, you know, cube sats, that are going to go up big constellations in lower orbit.


CHIAO: So, we're actually going to be adding a lot more stuff in the coming years and it is -- it is a concern. There's no question about it.

BLACKWELL: All right. Word for the day, space-craft. It's hyphenated.

Leroy Chiao, thanks so much.

CHIAO: Thank you.

GALLAGHER: And thank all of you so much for starting your morning with us. For those of you celebrating, have a happy Easter.

BLACKWELL: "INSIDE POLITICS" is up next. Nia-Malika Henderson is in for John King.

Thanks for being with us this morning.