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NYT: White House Counsel Cooperating "Extensively" with Mueller; Pope Does Not Address Abuse Scandal During Sunday Prayer; EPA Set to Roll Back Obama-Era Regulations on Coal. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired August 19, 2018 - 07:00   ET


[07:00:01] RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: The Mueller team is panicking. There was no collusion and no obstruction. They can't prove it and they are trying to get the president to testify.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY WEEKEND with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Wow. Glad that you're awaking with us this morning. I'm Christi. Thanks for being here.

OK. Let's talk about President Trump because he says, look, there is nothing to see here, after a "New York Times" report that White House counsel Don McGahn has been cooperating extensively with the Mueller investigation. The president tweeted he allowed McGahn to fully cooperate with the special counsel, adding some of his favorite words, no collusion, no obstruction, witch hunt.

"The Times" reports that McGahn participated in several interviews spanning a total of 30 hours over nine months because he was worried he might end up being the president's fall gay.

CNN White House correspondent Sarah Westwood is live from New Jersey where the president is spending the weekend.

Sarah, what else are we learning?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump is speaking up to downplay the significance of that "New York Times" report that suggests White House counsel Don McGahn cooperated extensively with special counsel Robert Mueller on the obstruction of justice portion of his investigation. Now, Trump and his legal team have been saying that they encouraged McGahn to speak to investigators. But like you mentioned, McGahn gave nearly 30 hours of system to investigators and he provided potentially unflattering information about the ways that Trump reacted privately to developments in the Russia investigation.

Now, Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney, is arguing that McGahn served as a strong witness for the president. Here's what Giuliani had to say about it last night.


GIULIANI: The reality is that the president encouraged all of the people who testified to tell the truth, to take as long as they needed to do that, and as long as they did, they had no -- they will have no problem with the president or us, and we have no reason to believe that Don McGahn didn't do that. And it's John Dowd who is the president's lawyer at the time today said loudly and clearly.


GIULIANI: Don McGahn was the strongest witness for the president. Meaning, he completely gave testimony that said that the president didn't do anything wrong, which the president didn't do. He didn't do anything wrong.


WESTWOOD: Now, McGahn's attorney told our colleague Ryan Nobles that McGahn answered so many of investigator's questions because Trump declined to exert executive privilege over his White House counsel's testimony. Of course, the relationship between McGahn and Trump has at times been contentious, but the White House is denying that McGahn's extensive collaboration with investigators has placed any additional strain on their relationship, Victor and Christi.

BLACKWELL: Sarah Westwood for us there in New Jersey, thank you.

PAUL: So, Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for "The Chicago Sun- Times" is with us now, as well as Ross Garber, CNN legal analyst.

Thank you both for being here.



PAUL: I want to listen, if I could, please, with both of you, hello, to more of what Rudy Giuliani said last night. Let's listen to what he was talking about, about the best analysis of the Mueller investigation thus far.


GIULIANI: I think the best analysis would be that the Mueller team is panicking. They know they don't have a case. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. They can't prove it and they are trying to get the president to testify.

And they are hoping that if they put out a story like this in which they suggest that McGahn is cooperating against him, but don't say it. They don't say that. That he'll want to come in and explain himself.


PAUL: OK. First of all, Lynn, do you get any indication that Mueller's team is panicking?

SWEET: Absolutely not. Mueller's team is very busy. They are wrapping up the trial and waiting for the jury in the Manafort case. They have a plea going on, a settlement on the sentencing for George Papadopoulos. They've got lawyers all over the place doing stuff.

This is not panicking. It's extraordinary to have all of these hours of interviews with a White House counsel who, you know, just at the beginning of this story is that President Trump kind of thought Don McGahn was his personal lawyer, so he didn't quite get the difference between the White House counsel and the role that Rudy Giuliani is playing.

So, now, there is nothing to think that this story is evidence of panic. It provides deep insight into what the investigators -- who the investigators are talking to and the obstruction path that they are taking their inquiry.

PAUL: All right. Ross, I want to read to you something that the president just tweeted about this very story.

[07:05:03] He says: The failing "New York Times" wrote a fake piece today implying that because White House counsel Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the special counsel, he must be a John Dean type rat. But I allowed him and all others to testify. I didn't have to. I have nothing to hide.

Is there anything indication -- remember, this is the president who has said this, that he gave over 1 million pages of documents. He called himself the most transparent in history. In another tweet, this is also the president who has called Mueller's team discredited, called it a scam of investigation, accused Mueller of conflicts of interesting, asking why the investigation is taking so long.

First of all, what do you make of this latest tweet? And is there any indication that the president has not fulfilled any legal obligation he has in this investigation?

GARBER: See, here is what I think is going on. Early on in this investigation, the president and his lawyers, both private and White House, decided there was nothing to look at here. They weren't concerned. They were going to have everybody testify. And it really is extraordinary to allow your counsel, your White House counsel to provide information to investigators. It really, really is extraordinary.

And, honestly, I've said for a long time, I wouldn't have done it if I were representing the White House, but they did it, and I think they did it in expectation that the investigation would be over, would be wrapped up and everybody would move on.

That, obviously, hasn't happened. I think what you're seen from the president's tweets and from the -- and from Rudy Giuliani's statements over the past week or so, is concern that the investigation is going to be prolonged even into the fall and I think that this is an effort to try to get Mueller and his team to wrap it up, to say we have cooperated --

PAUL: So, you're saying -- you're saying this is a timing issue because midterms are coming up? Is that part of the focus?

GARBER: I think -- yes. I mean, if you look at the president's tweets and if you look at Rudy Giuliani's statements, what they are saying is, you know, wrap this up, wrap this up, let's get this done by September 7th so we don't have this dragging into the midterms.

SWEET: May I just --

PAUL: Lynn, go ahead.

SWEET: President Trump, this is the good part about the tweets and the insight. He went to bed tweeting about allowing Don McGahn to testify. That is 12 hours ago. Five minutes ago, he did that tweet that you just talked about, about Don McGahn. What an insight into the president.

So he goes to bed thinking about this and he is getting up this morning thinking about this and trying to put out these tweets to set the agenda for the Sunday shows.

PAUL: Do you think it has anything to do with timing as Ross is suggesting about the fact that if the report isn't released, say, prior to midterms and the Democrats win seats, does that put the president in a vulnerable position?

SWEET: Well, of course, it does because if the Democrats control the House of Representatives, that is where patron proceedings start with the Judiciary Committee. If the Democrats control the Judiciary Committee, then they can start the impeachment proceedings.

By the way, if the Republicans control the Senate, an impeachment trial would be, there most likely would be an acquittal. It means there is a lot at rick. This goes to the president's state of mind. That is what is revealing about this. I don't even know if this is a midterm strategy in these tweets, as much as reflection of the obsession that the president has with this.

PAUL: Go ahead, Ross.

GARBER: Yes. Just quickly. You know, I do think there is an element of that.

You know, an investigation like this is enormously taxing, you know, personally and to an administration. I think that is part of the timing issue also. I think what the president and his lawyers are saying, is, you know, look, this really has been disruptive.

Mueller, this is not an incredibly complex issue. We have cooperated. We provided all of this information, and all of this testimony. Let's wrap it up. Let's get it done.

I think that's what their point is. PAUL: Yes, we've got people on both sides. You know, some sides

saying, OK, wrap it up, there's nothing here. Others side saying there has to be something here because it's taking so long. At the end of the day, the truth is Robert Mueller is the only one who knows what he has and we just have to wait and see what happens.

Lynn Sweet, Ross Garber, thank you both so much for being here.

SWEET: Thank you.

GARBER: My pleasure.

PAUL: Absolutely.

And today on "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and the former director of the National Security Agency, Michael Hayden, on the show live. Both men are on President Trump's short list, by the way, to have their security clearance revoked. That is "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper, today, 9:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

BLACKWELL: You know, it's also fair, Christi, to -- when I look at the two tweets to ask if these were composed by same person, because if you look at last night's tweet, a different cadence, a different tone , and look at the spelling of counsel. It's spelled properly last night, and this morning it's misspelled! I wonder if these are -- one came from an attorney or one from the president.

We that know in the past, his former Attorney John Dowd has admitted that he composed a tweet and sent it to the president.

[07:10:07] So, we may never know but that's an interesting distinction between these two, that on one night you spell counsel properly and the next morning you spell it improperly, and the punctuations are all over the place.

PAUL: And is there any insight into that?


Pope Francis delivered his Sunday prayer but did not address the abuse scandal. But one Pennsylvania bishop is speaking out. The changes he is promising to combat abuse within the Catholic Church.


PAUL: Well, this morning, Pope Francis delivered Sunday prayers in St. Petersburg Square. He did not mention the massive sexual abuse scandal surrounding the Catholic Church, and that was something a lot of people were waiting in were kind of on edge to see if he would bring up.

BLACKWELL: And the pressure has been growing for him to say something, something more about the shocking grand jury that alleged decades of rampant child sex abuse and massive cover-ups throughout the Pennsylvania diocese. [07:15:03] Thursday, the pope issued a statement that called the

allegations criminal and morally reprehensible.

The Pittsburgh diocese is now talking about the alleged abuse and saying it will make changes to combat it.

PAUL: CNN's Polo Sandoval is in Pittsburgh right now.

What are they saying this morning there, Polo?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christi, Victor, Sunday mass is just wrapping up here in the Pittsburgh Cathedral. I can tell you from the clergy, to the congregation, people are certainly talking about this report, even days after its release here.

We have heard, of course, from many people here, yesterday, in fact. We also attended mass on the city's south side and we heard from the priest calling on followers to really focus more on their faith and the gospel versus the institution that certainly has its flaws as we learned in that very lengthy report that was issued by the grand jury here, a very disturbing report.

I can tell you, though, that some churchgoers, they continue to be upset with the church. One woman in particular told me that she -- that this apology that we've heard from her local bishop here in Pittsburgh, all the way up to the Vatican, it is simply not enough. She wants a full admission of a cover-up that has spanned decades here. You hear from the advocacy groups here for the victims of the sex abuse. They want the same thing and here survivors agree too.


JOHN DELANEY, CHURCH ABUSE SURVIVOR: I've been doing this 13 years being public about my abuse and trying to advocate for others but I've heard nothing but empty promises and words. I want action, you know? They are apologizing only because they have been caught and exposed.

They did not willingly do this. I'm not buying that. The pope needs to step up and take control of his church.


SANDOVAL: Bishop David Zubik in -- that leads the Pittsburgh diocese has apologized for this sex abuse and issued a very lengthy letter and also a statement, if I may, I can read you a portion of that, basically calling on the church to not bury its head in the sand here, saying that there were instances in the past outlined in this report when the church acted in ways that did not respond to victims, swift response to allegations should have started long before they did. For that, I express regret.

Again, this coming from Bishop Zubik, the diocese of Pittsburgh head here.

The bishop also expanding on the changes that we've seen here, not only in the last few decades, but also in the last few days. Today, the first Sunday mass after the release of the report, interesting to see, Victor and Christi, if people here feel if that's enough.

BLACKWELL: All right. Polo Sandoval, thank you.

PAUL: You know, pope is traveling to Dublin, Ireland, later this week to attend Catholic World Meetings of Families and that's where we find John Allen, CNN senior Vatican analyst and editor for "Boston Globe's" "Crux".

You know, there are a lot of survivors, John, who say that the pope needs to step you as you just heard there. This is a grand jury report incriminating Catholic priests of sexually abusing 1,000 children. More than 300 predator priests is how they were characterized.

Is the pope's ability to act as a moral authority dependent on how he reacts to this report?

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Good morning, Christi. First of all, just a very small correction. "Crux" was launched by "The Boston Globe", but we've actually been independent of them for a couple of years. So, I wouldn't want there to be any blowback on what you say about "The Boston Globe."

PAUL: Thank you for the correction.

ALLEN: Look, here's the thing. I mean, Pope Francis is a very popular figure around the world. A lot of people see him as moral leader, but there is no doubt that the blows that the Catholic Church, that the Vatican and that he personally have taken over the sex abuse scandals in recent months, even in recent days, have put up a series of question marks around that ability to lead.

Let's remember that as bad as the Pennsylvania grand jury report is, it's hard to leave a sex abuse scandal bubbling out here. I mean, here in Ireland, this country has gone through one of the most appalling clerical sexual abuse scandals ever recorded. You know, at the moment, a equally horrific scandal in Chile and other parts of the world. So, this is truly a global problem. The pope is coming to a world meeting of families.

I think there is lively expectation that when he gets here, he needs to have something to say that goes beyond, I'm sorry, that goes towards what are we going to do about it? And not just in terms of preventing the crime of abuse, but also dealing with the cover-up that is when bishops and other leaders in the church know about accusations of abuse and fail to act, then they need to be held accountable too. That's piece of the puzzle that really has not yet fallen into place. I think people here and around the world are expecting Francis will address it in Ireland.

[07:20:00] PAUL: Yes. In fact, Pennsylvania's A.G. Josh Shapiro said the case is not closed, despite the statutes of limitations there in Pennsylvania.

Does the church support legal action against those who are accused? Do we know? ALLEN: Oh, absolutely. I mean, the church's firm policy, certainly in the United States, since 2002 when the sex abuse crisis first blew up there and the bishops adopted their charter in a meeting in Dallas. The position of the church in the United States has been full cooperation with civil authorities, including cooperating with filing criminal charges against abusers who have harmed children.

So, honestly, Christi, the problem with the Catholic Church, at least in the Western World these days, isn't so much its commitment to weed out predators. I think the church has done a fairly credible job of that. The unfinished business is what about bishops and other superiors in the church who knew about these things a long time ago and didn't report them, didn't take action, what sort of punishment awaits them? That's the question the church still really has not answered.

PAUL: Yes, what is the consequence there?

John Allen, thank you so much for being with us. Always a pleasure to see you.

BLACKWELL: Nashville police are trying to piece together a string of recent shootings. Last Tuesday, a man was killed in an apparent armed robbery while catching the bus to work and on Friday, two more people were killed outside of a convenience store and police say were there some similarities. Now, they released these surveillance images, take a look, of at least one of the suspects.

Still to come: in a major overhaul of Obama era climate policies, President Trump is set to reveal a new plan to benefit the coal industry but one environmentalist says it would hurt the health of families and environment in the long term. We'll talk to her next.


[07:26:35] PAUL: Well, good morning to you. Twenty-six minutes past the hour on this Sunday. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you.

Next week, the president will unveil another rollback of Obama era climate regulations. His proposal says states will be able to set their own rules when it comes to carbon monoxide emissions from coal plants. Environmentalists say although the plan would produce cheaper electricity and better compete with natural gas, it could also increase harmful gas emissions.

Senior vice president of government affairs from the League Conservation Voters, Tiernan Sittenfeld, joins me now.

Good morning to you.


BLACKWELL: So, tell us what is from your perspective the impact of what we've seen with the clean car regulations and what we're expecting to be rolled out this week?

SITTENFELD: Well, we fear this is going to have a devastating impact. Once again, Donald Trump and Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, just like his predecessor, disgraced former EPA Scott Pruitt are putting our health and safety in jeopardy. They're doing this to pad the profit of their corporate polluter allies, and this is going to seriously jeopardize public health.

In fact, the Trump administration's own analysis found that the common sense clean power plan to cut carbon pollution from coal running power plants, that these clean power plants could actually have prevented 4,500 premature deaths per year by 2030, yet they're moving forward to gut it, replacing the clean power plant with the dirty power scam.

BLACKWELL: So, let's put up a map. I think we have it of the coal- producing states. And the president's arguments and those who support him say that this is about jobs and employing people and every limit and control you place on these coal producers really impacts the income in these communities. And to that, you say what?

SITTENFELD: We say that the clean power plant is common sense. It gives states tremendous flexibility. There was a really extensive comment period and analysis by the Obama administration, including receiving more than 8 million public comments in support of this rule. And so, what this really is about is the Trump administration, once again, their pattern of catering to corporate polluters --

BLACKWELL: But I haven't heard you address the jobs though. And that's what he is selling is that he is getting people back to work in Wyoming, in West Virginia, in the states we just listed.

SITTENFELD: The thing about the clean power plant is that it's win/win/win. It's good for our economy, and it creates good-paying jobs. It also can save people money on their electricity bills. It also, of course, is going to protect the planet, which is so vitally important as we are seeing this summer with extreme heat raging across the country and the globe, devastating forest fires in California and across the West. We need to be moving forward with combating the climate crisis, moving backwards is absolutely the wrong direction. Once again, that's what Trump is doing.

BLACKWELL: So, you tweeted out that a green wave is coming in 80 days, time to elect environmental champions up and down the ballot. But there is a new Pew poll that came out, actually it came out this summer, and it asks voters what one issue would you most like to hear the candidates in your state or district talk about this fall?

The environment came in behind immigration, health care, politicians, education, the economy, guns, jobs, taxes, at 4 percent.

So, do people really vote on this issue? By this poll, it doesn't seem like there's evidence to support a green wave.

SITTENFELD: Well, there are a lot of issues that people care very much about and we are confident from polling that we have done with the Global Strategy Group and others that people care overwhelmingly about the air that they breathe, the water that they drink, the lands, and the wildlife that they cherish. And one of the things that makes me so encouraged is that there are environmental champions running for office at all levels of government and I think we see a lot of incumbent Republicans who are running scared, who know that they are out of step with their constituents when it comes to protecting our environment and public health.

BLACKWELL: All right. Well, you've got at least one, two, three, four, five, six, seven topics that, according to this poll, are more important to people or the issue they are like to hear most from their elected leaders before they get to the environment. But again as you say, we are just a couple of months away.


SITTENFELD: That's right.

BLACKWELL: Thank you so much for being with us this morning.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Just let me ask you. Do you have a hobby? Gardening? Bird watching? Fly fishing? Maybe hunting down Russian trolls? That is what one man in Indiana does apparently in his spare time. By day, Josh Russell works as a systems analyst and programmer. Here is what he says about his hobby.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: New details are coming out tonight on just how Russian interference in the U.S. election actually played out.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Facebook sold more than 3,000 ads to a Russian troll farm.

JOSH RUSSELL, PROGRAMMER: I figured out that one of my friends have been posting things that were not true.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What we are talking about is the beginning of cyber warfare.

RUSSELL: To find out something that you really believed in was fake and Russian disinformation bothers a lot of people really bad.

My name is Josh Russell. I am a systems analyst for Indiana University. I spend a lot of my time on different hobbies and I get obsessive about things so the past two years maybe I've collected every piece of Russian disinformation that I could find.

I didn't really believe this story at first. When someone put out the names of the first disinformation groups, I could look it up and confirm it and that kind of got me started off. As far as I know, I probably maintain the most comprehensive list of Internet Research Agency related accounts.

I spend maybe three or four hours a day on this. I'm just a regular person in Indiana. I don't have any relationship with any type of law enforcement, any of the tech companies or social media companies. Hackers use a lot of the same tools that I do but I don't attack anybody's computer networks. I'm basically just collecting data.

At first, I was kind of scared about how much I had gotten into it. I've had threats in Russia before. People try to be mean to steer you out of doing things. I don't care anymore. One of the things I like to keep an eye on is what the Russians might be tweeting about and just check the trending hash tags. They have been super gross and extremely effective.

They had large crowds of people out protesting one group against the other and if you go in and you look at what they did on social media, they played both sides against each other. If they can get you to believe this really insane story, they will slowly work in their propaganda narratives over time, for example, if they don't want you to vote, they might post a lot of stuff on their Twitter feed that you think is awesome and cool, but then they will post those little things before an election that say, hey, you know, it's not worth your time to go out and vote. Very, obviously, Russian bought. The whole purpose was to retweet the Russian troll accounts.

I can ask Twitter all day along to suspend the accounts and they won't do anything. But if I get one actual journalist that works for a reparable newspaper to inquire about that set of bots, they will be ban almost. It's kind of the only recourse I have to like fight against this bots that works for this disinformation.

It's really easy for the Russians to start interfering with elections and doing things politically again and getting away with it because people want their bias confirmed, essentially.

[07:35:00] We have freedom of speech and as part of that disinformation is going to come along with it. The more that people understand what it looks like, the less effect it can have.


PAUL: You heard him there say, yes, he has received threats. But he said it doesn't -- he doesn't let it bother him because he says it's worth the risk he's taking.

When we come back, the Backstreet Boys had to cancel a concert after a storm rolled through and there were fans injured here.

BLACKWELL: Also, actor Kevin Spacey makes history at the box office. His latest release just broke in a career box office low. I'm sure you could write a personal check for the amount that he took in on opening day. The question is -- what caused the abysmal turnout?



BLACKWELL: This is really scary for the people who were this Backstreet Boys concert. This is in Oklahoma. A huge metal awning fell. The weather was really bad. Maybe can you see that in the background, several people were hurt and one person there says that some people left in ambulances, now this was a sold-out concert featured both the Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees. We are hoping to get more on the conditions of those people who were hurt.

PAUL: I hope everybody is OK.

So I don't know if you've heard of this Indie film "Billionaire Boys Club."


PAUL: Kevin Spacey was in it. I had not heard of it either, came in today. The headline is about the money that it took in during its release this week. I made a mistake.

BLACKWELL: You thought --

PAUL: I'm putting an "m" behind it as in million.

BLACKWELL: Here is why I'm so confident that you probably haven't heard it because it took in $126.

PAUL: Not million.

BLACWELL: Dollars, opening day.

Let's bring in CNN's senior media correspondent and host of "Reliable Sources" Brian Stelter. $126, that was only in 10 cities, not including New York and L.A. from what I understand. But surely they expected more than this.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this means about, let's do the math. About a dozen people saw this movie. In all of the cities where it was available, 10 different markets, a dozen people went to see it on the first day. I think, honestly, I don't mean this as a joke.

I think this means the family members of the cast and crew were the ones that went to see the movie. You think about this. This is a really interesting issue in the me too moment that we are all in. Kevin spacey is a supporting actor in this movie that was filmed almost three years ago. It's an ensemble crime drama. You can see the trailer here. It has lots of other stars like Billy Lord and Emma Roberts who are characters in this film.

Kevin Spacey is supporting actor but there was no way to really take him out of this movie. So they taped this movie like three years ago. And then about a year ago, Spacey was accused of sexual assault by a number of men, some of them on the "House of Cards" set on that Netflix show.

So what do you do if you're the maker of this movie and it's sitting on the shelf? You've wanted to release it. Now what do you do? Do you go ahead and put it in theater or not? Ultimately they decided to have a small release of this movie because they said they wanted the cast and crews and families to be able to see it. And you can see the impact here. It's remarkable. The Hollywood trade publications are having a field day with this because of how abysmally unsuccessful it was this weekend at the box office.

PAUL: But honestly, I mean some people might not have known that it was out there. I'm watching the trailer and I think it looks interesting. It's an intriguing movie. But how do you promote a movie maybe with him? Is that part of it?

BLACKWELL: You'd expect more than 12 people knew the movie was coming out.

STELTER: Exactly. It's because of this taint from Spacey, from the allegations against him. It is incredible to think of what a difference a year makes. A year ago, we weren't even talking about Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey. Nowadays, Hollywood has changed forever as a result.

PAUL: All right.

BLACKWELL: Certainly has. Brian Stelter, thank you very much.

STELTER: Thanks.

BLACKWELL: And be sure to tune in for Brian's show "Reliable Sources" today and he will be talking with the Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey at 11:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

PAUL: Some mysterious Russian satellite is behaving like Russian nesting dolls apparently, giving birth to two smaller satellites a few months after blasting off to space. A space expert has some thoughts on this. We will talk to him next.


[07:48:11] BLACKWELL: A mysterious Russian satellite is alarming some military experts. They say it is exhibiting abnormal behavior and even released two smaller satellites a few months after it went into space.

PAUL: Experts worried that Russia maybe casting these satellites for military purposes. Leroy Chiao, retired NASA astronaut is with us now. So what exactly constitutes strange behavior from the satellite?

LEROY CHIAO, RETIRED NASA ASTRONAUT: Well we have the space vehicle that has been put into orbit that starts changing orbits and releasing other satellites that are maneuvering and that's all indications that this is probably some kind of a test to, you know, try to evaluate or try to develop some kind of an anti-satellite weapon or, you know, other kind of a military purpose.

BLACKWELL: So the worry is warranted then?

CHIAO: Yes, I believe so. I mean if it were a civilian project or some kind of a civil program, certainly I would think the Russians would have announced it and told everyone what they are doing. But the fact that it's, you know, pretty much -- they have pretty much been quiet about it, that raises some concerns and it's not that -- it's not that we are not doing it or any other nations aren't developing ASAT capabilities, certainly we are and certainly so are other countries, but the fact this that they didn't announce anything indicates it's probably some kind of a military experiment.

BLACKWELL: Can I ask you about Space Force?

CHIAO: Sure.

BLACKWELL: Of course. I have to ask you about the Space Force. So there's a new CNN poll that is out and it shows only 37 percent of respondents support the creation of this plan. 55 percent do not. What is the value of public polling on something this complex? I mean I don't even know if the Air Force were polled in the mid-40s, what would people have said about it then?

[07:50:02] Is this part of a conversation that people should look at the public polling for Space Force?

CHIAO: I don't know about the public polling. I mean I think the biggest question about something like a Space Force. It's a question that's worth being asked and worth being evaluated. But the first thing that comes to my mind is what problem are you solving by creating a Space Force? Space command in the Air Force is in charge of all the nation's military satellites and things like that.

You have to ask yourself is that not working? Is there a problem that we're trying to solve? I mean is this something -- I'm always one that's skeptical about adding another layer of government, another service, another set of uniforms and what are we going to do? Are we going to create an academy? I mean all the other military services have an academy. So you know you really have to look at what itch are we scratching before we go out and do it, or is this just something that somebody thinks is cool? It's a bit of a mystery to me.

PAUL: You're going to use that later. What itch is somebody scratching? I could see the wheels and head turning when you said that. That was a good one.

OK, so listen to this. Speaking of Space Force, there might be people who would be interested in this particularly a group in Los Angeles. Because they've come together, they are called Summon Events with Robert Bingham. Their people who say I've seen UFOs, I want to know more about them. So have to ask you. Have you seen something? Have you seen an UFO? Have you seen something that you can't explain?

CHIAO: Well, in my NASA career, during my four missions, I certainly saw some pretty strange things in space, but every single time they have been explained later as either natural phenomenon or human - you know manmade phenomenon. So just to give you an example, I saw in one of my space walks - my last space walks as a matter of fact I was in that twilight zone where we were going into the sun rise, we're on the space station. So you're kind of in that netherworld where it's not quite dark, it's not quite light, you can't really see much. It's just almost a fog you're in, just for a few seconds and I saw what looked like five lights flying past in formation. And so, I thought that was pretty strange and I called out to my crewmate and instantly on the Internet, it was out that I had seen these UFOs. And then later because of the exact time when we were you know - when I made those transmissions we could figure out where the ISS was located. Somebody else figured out that we're flying over the coast of South America, and in fact, there were these bright lights from these fishing boats and it was the rotation of the earth that caused them to look like they were flying by.

So you know, it could explain as UFOs but actually it was fishing boats. And so, these people who say they see things, I'm sure they do see these things but they're probably a natural phenomenon or some kind of a military program that the public doesn't know about.

PAUL: We almost lost you at a very inopportune time.

BLACKWELL: And you know what, I could hear the conspiracy theorists approaching the keyboard thinking that people are trying to keep something from them. It's just - folks.


PAUL: Leroy Chiao, it is always good to have you with us. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Remind us always to ask which itch it's scratching? Thank you very much.


[07:57:46] BLACKWELL: Laughter really is the best medicine. This week's staying well looks at laughter yoga classes where people who takes this class say it reduces stress and relieves pain. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In laughter yoga we come together in a group. And generate laughter as a form of exercise. We make eye contact with other people and engage in playful exercises.

It's called laughter yoga because of the diaphragmatic breathing that takes place. When we laugh, it's a full inhalation and a full exhalation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Laughing is good exercise. You feel it from the bottom of your diaphragm up. It really lifted my spirits in ways that I had not anticipated.

SOPHIE SCOTT, NEUROSCIENTIST, UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON: It feels good to laugh because you get to change in the outtake of the naturally circulating endorphins and those are the body's pain killers. They actually get immeasurable increase in your ability to tolerate pain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Laughter yoga definitely helped me to manage stress better. I'm more open to solutions coming to me because I'm in this relaxed space. SCOTT: The longer times go we get a decrease in cortisol. And cortisol is a stress hormone, and when you laugh you feel better, you're more relaxed and you become less stressed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Breath in. Stretch out.

I do think laughter is the best medicine. Science shows us it is, and I've experienced it in my own life.


BLACKWELL: Breaking news here in the NEW DAY weekend family, one of our producers, Mark, has just become a father.

PAUL: Yes, and this was literally 35 minutes ago.

BLACKWELL: Yes, just become a father.

PAUL: He had just enough time to text us about the arrival. That little guy there, Jackson Allan McAfee, born at 7:25 a.m. and look at how beautiful this family looks 35 minutes later - well, not even. I mean that was before that. But Lauren, his wife, that woman had been in labor since Friday -

BLACKWELL: Friday morning.

PAUL: God bless you.

BLACKWELL: And just had the baby this morning.

PAUL: We're so happy for you.

BLACKWELL: Congratulations. I hope you guys use the crockpot I bought you.

PAUL: You know what, why don't you get it back and make some meals for them right now because they're going to need it?

BLACKWELL: That's the joy of a crockpot. You just set it and forget it.

Thanks for starting your morning with us.

PAUL: We're always glad to have you here with us. We hope we make good memories today. "Inside Politics" with John King starts right now.