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NEW DAY SUNDAY

White House Preparing For Stalemate To Last Through February; Trump: Biden Is Weak, "Obama Took Him Off The Trash Heap"; Julian Castro Announces Presidential Bid; Senator Kamala Harris Heckled During Book Tour; Major Winter Storm Rips Through Midwest And Heads East; Our Galaxy Is Due A Catastrophic Collision In 2 Billion Years; Second Mysterious Radio Burst Detected In Space; "American Style" Premieres Tonight; Trump Russia Turmoil; Congressional Black Caucus Condemns Steve King; Wisconsin Teen Escapes Captor; Trump's National Security Council Asked Pentagon For Iran Military Strike Options. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired January 13, 2019 - 06:00   ET

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


[06:0015]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why not release the conversation that you had with President Putin in Helsinki?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had a great conversation. We were talking about Israel and securing Israel and lots of other things. I'm not keeping anything under wraps. I couldn't care less.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The FBI was so concerned about things the president did and said that they started looking seriously into whether or not he was working for the Russians.

TRUMP: I think the no insulting thing I have ever been asked. You read the article you see that they found absolutely nothing.

There was now collusion. There was no obstruction. There was no anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did a little girl end up getting away and escaping from her captor?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is like a miracle on everybody around the world, I think it's (ph) happening (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just wish we could do something for her right away, but, you know, it's going to take time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY WEEKEND with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul. CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. New news this morning that the president reportedly is trying to actively or has tried to actively conceal what was said in private meetings with Russian president Vladimir Putin, meetings that he had face-to-face with that leader, even keeping that information secret from high ranking members of his own administration.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: So according to "The Washington Post," it's happened five times in two years. And at least one case, he even went so far as to take the notes from his interpreter, telling him not to talk about what happened. That means there is no detailed record, classified or not, of what was said in those meetings.

PAUL: Here is what the president said when asked if he was a secret Russian agent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think it's the most insulting thing I've ever been asked. I think it's the most insulting article I've ever had written. And if you read the article, you'd see that they found absolutely nothing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Now the question here why not just say no if that is the answer? Just say no.

For the latest reaction to this report from the White House, let's bring in CNN White House reporter Sarah Westwood. Sarah, good morning to you.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Good morning, Victor. And President Trump, he is, obviously, denying that he took any steps to conceal notes from his interactions with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Of course, his interactions with Putin had come under scrutiny in the past before we knew this information reported by "The Washington Post" about the president's efforts (INAUDIBLE) after the president met with Putin in Helsinki last year there was widespread criticism of the fact that the president declined for a long time to provide a readout to senior administration officials.

Now we are getting some insight perhaps into some of the reasons why. President Trump last night on FOX News strongly pushing back on the "The Washington Post" report saying that he meets with a number of leaders and that he didn't take any efforts to conceal notes from those Putin meetings. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I'm not keeping anything under wraps. I couldn't care less.

I met with every leader, just about individually. I meet with Modi. I meet with -- in Japan, I meet with Abe. I meet with all of them but nobody says anything. But I meet with Putin and they make a big deal.

Anybody could have listened to that meeting. That meeting is open for grabs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WESTWOOD: Now this "Washington Post" report came on the heels of a "The New York Times" report about a counterintelligence probe that agents and the FBI opened in the days after President Trump fired his former FBI director James Comey and all of these developments on the Russian front comes as the White House legal team is staffing up in anticipation of the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's final report on his investigation.

That is slated for the months ahead, sources telling CNN that the White House legal team has added 17 lawyers. There is a lot going on the Russia front for President Trump right now, despite his denials -- Victor and Christi.

PAUL: All right. Sarah Westwood, we appreciate it so much. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. So let's set the table here with all the times President Trump met with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Let's start at July 7th, 2017.

President Trump met with Putin on the sidelines of the G20 Summit. That was in Hamburg, Germany. That's where the "Washington Post" says President Trump took notes of that meeting from the interpreter. And during the same trip, he met with Putin at Hamburg banquet later in the evening.

Now the president and the first lady, Melania, spoke to Putin through Putin's translator. Now November 2017 President Trump and Vladimir Putin met briefly at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit that was in Vietnam.

Then you'll remember Helsinki. For two hours, behind closed doors, one-on-one with interpreters, that was July of 2018. "The Post" reports that several officials were never able to get a reliable read- out of the Helsinki summit.

[06:05:05]

Then on November 11th of last year, they reportedly had what was described as a good talk at the Paris World War I centenary. Finally November 30th, 2018 an information conversation on sidelines of the G20 in Buenos Aires.

Let's bring in Frederik Pleitgen in Moscow with details on how this report is being received there in Russia. Hello, Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Victor. Yes, the Russians really are certainly just waking up to this report right now. I've sort of been skimming through Russian media earlier today there are a couple of sort of news reports that basically state the facts of what has been going on and what President Trump says about these allegations. There really hasn't been anything so far in the way of Russian reaction to all of this. However, what the Russians have said in the past is that, obviously, they would not say that in any way, shape, or form President Putin of Russia was trying to influence President Trump. But if you look specifically at that meeting in Helsinki, I think, that's the most important one for the Russians. The Russians certainly believe that Vladimir Putin really came out on top after that meeting specifically that part that you were talking about, those two hours behind closed doors where President Trump came out afterwards and essentially sided with Vladimir Putin against his own intelligence services and said he didn't know why Vladimir Putin would have wanted to meddle in the United States elections.

Now of course that was something that was very important for the Russians. The Russians really also looking up, believing that the relationship between the U.S. and Russia was improving after that very specific meeting. Vladimir Putin, of course, was invited to go to Washington early 2019 something looking that's looking a lot more bleak right now.

So essentially what you're hearing from the Russians most of the time is they obviously have their version of events of what happened in the meetings. They always say, look. These are two leaders that are speaking to one another. They always say that the Russians are not trying to influence President Trump but they certainly do believe that Vladimir Putin does have the upper hand at those meetings.

And one of the interesting things here in Russia is the notion even of asking for notes, of asking for interpreter notes after such a meeting took place is something that is absolutely out of the question here in Russia. What happens afterwards there is an official read-out from the Russian side that is provided and there really isn't any questioning of what is in the official versions that the Russians at least put out for their public -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Fred Pleitgen for us in Moscow. Fred, thank you.

PAUL: We have CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer with us, historian and professor at Princeton University, as well as, Siraj Hashmi, commentary writer and editor at the "Washington Examiner." Thank you, gentlemen, or both of you being with us.

Siraj, I want to ask you so based on the information we are getting, is there any indication there is any documentation of any of these conversations anywhere that the president had with President Putin?

SIRAJ HASHMI, COMMENTARY WRITER AND EDITOR, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Well, there should be documentation from an interpreter. That might be the only thing that congressional members have been actually looking for. They have been actually looking to possibly bring them to testify in front of Congress, which, obviously, might violate the impartial role that interpreters played in the role of diplomacy.

Now with respect to the actual readouts, of course, this is unprecedented presidency. But with President Trump and his meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin -- I've been critical about his meeting with him in Helsinki and not basically seeding ground on whether Russia actually played a role in interfering with the 2016 presidential election.

But we have to remember here is that we don't really know exactly what happened in these particular private meetings. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was supposedly in both Helsinki and the Hamburg meetings so we might have to rely on his testimony as well.

At this moment with respect to "The New York Times" report about the FBI opening a counterintelligence investigation, that is, obviously, very concerning, but, more so from the point of the FBI acting upon the president using his executive authority to fire an employee, i.e. James Comey, for whatever reason.

PAUL: So, Julian, talking about Tillerson. Remember, he is the former secretary of state. What is the possibility that he could or would expound on any of this?

JULIAN E. ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, now that the Democrats control the House, who knows if there is going to be hearings on this. I would suspect there were and we could hear from Tillerson. I think this is a concerning story to have a president have several high-level meetings with so little documentation and so little advisory input from top people.

Presidents usually have people in the room and they usually have notes about what happened and this is an unusual relationship. So I think we might hear from Tillerson. I think there will be an attempt to learn whatever we can about what happened in the room and why this was kept quite.

PAUL: So, Julian, let me ask you this. I want to read a quote from "The Washington Post."

[06:10:00]

They say the, "Former U.S. official said that President Trump's behavior is at odds with the known practices of previous presidents who relied on senior aides to witness meetings to take comprehensive notes then shared with other officials and departments."

Is there a precedent for what we are seeing, this allegation that the president is trying to keep this information from these face-to-face meetings away from his administration?

ZELIZER: Not that I know of in the modern presidency. Even when Reagan and Gorbachev met in their historic summit to end the Cold War there's a lot of documentation and there were people like Secretary Shultz around to know what was going on. So this level of secrecy several times is not a familiar pattern for presidents.

PAUL: Siraj, I want to read another quote from "The Washington Post" this from former deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott, who was deputy secretary of state to Bill Clinton. He says regarding this whole thing, "It's outrageous. It handicaps the U.S. government -- the experts and advisers and Cabinet officers who are there to serve the president -- and it certainly gives Putin much more scope to manipulate Trump."

In other words, no records, no evidence. Is there a widespread belief that President Trump is being manipulated by President Putin?

HASHMI: Well, there are certainly a number of critics and members of the media who believe that President Trump is being manipulate by Putin. A lot of his actual policy and implementations with respect to imposing sanctions on Russia, albeit hesitantly, initially, but imposing sanctions nonetheless on Russia seem to be at odds with this idea that Trump is -- quote -- unquote -- "an agent of the Russian government," an agent of the Kremlin.

I mean, it's ridiculous to think that a sitting president of the United States is doing Russia's bidding and we are still having these discussions about it. I haven't seen any evidence, at this moment, to convince me that President Trump is working on behest of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Maybe they have an unconventional and unorthodoxed relationship. That happens in the presidency.

I mean, he met with Kim Jong-un in the past year. So, yes, there could be a time that President Trump or any president meets with a leader that we previously were at odds with who we may be seem to try to extend an olive branch to.

PAUL: Julian, what are your thoughts on that? Is it a difference of, OK, maybe he is not an agent working against the U.S. by any means, but is this a situation where he is vulnerable for manipulation?

ZELIZER: Look. There are enough strange things that happen that it's legitimate to raise questions. To have the FBI get into this kind of investigation, that is not normal. Something triggered this.

Both his public actions, many statements that he has made that really support or prop up Putin and we don't even know what the prior evidence is to Helsinki statement that was very stunning and let's remember, there are many officials in the Trump administration and campaign who have even -- either pled guilty and many of whom have lied about this particular relationship over and over again. So something strange is happening and I think it's more than legitimate at this point to wonder what is going on.

PAUL: Julian Zelizer, Siraj Hashmi, we appreciate both of you. Thank you so much.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

HASHMI: Thank you.

PAUL: And coming up in the next hour, we are talking live with Greg Miller, national security correspondent for "The Washington Post." He wrote this morning's story about the President Trump and President Putin meetings.

BLACKWELL: The Congressional Black Caucus is calling on Republicans in the House to go beyond condemning Congressman Steve King. They want the GOP to back their words with actions. Now in a statement aimed at Republican Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Karen Bass wrote this. "They must actually condemn Mr. King by removing him from his committee assignments so that he can no longer affect policies that impact the very people he has made it clear he disdains."

In an interview with the "New York Times" this week, King complained that the labels white nationalist and white supremacist had become offensive. In 2017, he said, we can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies.

PAUL: Still to come. More details unfolding about how and why Jayme Closs' alleged abductor killed her parents. The latest in the investigation from Barron, Wisconsin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:18:26]

BLACKWELL: There are more details this morning in the case of Jayme Closs, she's the missing girl that was found alive in Wisconsin.

PAUL: Yes. Police say the suspect, Jake Patterson, allegedly killed Jayme's parents to clear the way for him to kidnap her but was still unclear is why he chose Jayme.

CNN's Ryan Young reports from Barron, Wisconsin.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Christi, as you can imagine, this community is still all smiles when it comes to this story. Jayme Closs was found. In fact, a lot of people say not only did she survive but she escaped her captor.

She was able to make it out to a road and make it to somebody who was walking a dog and then get to freedom. Now we see all of the pictures of her joining her family and getting to enjoy those smiles and her freedom for the first time in over 88 days.

But there is something else that goes along with this. There's an investigation to figure out exactly how this man Jake Patterson discovered this house and decided to take a shotgun, blow open the front doors what the sheriff was telling us then go inside and murder her parents. His first court appearance will be Monday but there's still a long part of this investigation that is ongoing.

In fact, listen to the sheriff detailing how they are going through that house over the next few hours.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERIFF CHRIS FITZGERALD, BARRON COUNTY, WISCONSIN: Right now, we are looking for 88 days of evidence, so we are looking for receipts, where the suspect may have been over the last 88 days.

Did he take things with her? Did she go with him to the store?

Did he buy clothes for her? Did he buy food? Time frame so we can gather any other video evidence. (END VIDEO CLIP)

[06:20:00]

YOUNG: Look. Guys, this is a small community. And even during the news conference on Friday, people from outside came in to listen to the sheriff for themselves. They were actually clapping when he finished.

You understand how much passion people are into this. Thousands of people went out looking for her. They were so glad they were able to find her. Now the next page turns in terms of trying to support her and this community.

The family tells us there is a plan in place for where she will live. They don't want to share it with us just yet because obviously they want to make sure she makes this transition in a nice easy step -- Victor and Christi.

BLACKWELL: Ryan, thank you.

So breaking news this morning. According to "The Wall Street Journal," the U.S. National Security Council which is led by John Bolton, asked the Pentagon to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran last year.

CNN military analyst Lieutenant General Mark Hertling is with us now. General, good morning to you.

First, this was in response to, I believe, three mortars that landed up in the green zone in September of last year. What do you believe -- is this a proportionate response, disproportionate response? What do you see?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I don't know. I would assume, Victor, and good morning to you that this would be a request for something that would contribute to a proportional response. Either way, it's dangerous.

This is one of those kinds of things that I think the president's team saw what they could do in Syria, thought they could do the same thing in Iran, but in the event, it is actually elements of a declaration of war. When you strike another country.

So this is opening up a new front potentially. There has been talk within this administration of striking Iran on several occasions. It's not abnormal to ask the Pentagon for plans and contingencies to do these kinds of things. I was the J7 on the Joint Staff which is in-charge of these kinds of plans.

And this is -- this is done not frequently but certainly it's usual to ask one. It's one thing to ask for plans, it's quite another to act on them without the consent of Congress, because it is the declaration of a war event and it could have been a proportional response but still there's a requirement to notify several people within the administration that this is going to take place. BLACKWELL: We're going to from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a moment. But let me just read you a couple of sentences from this -- right from the "The Wall Street Journal."

"The Pentagon complied with the National Security Council's request to develop options for striking Iran, the official said. But it's unclear if the proposals were provided to the White House, whether Mr. Trump knew of the request or whether serious plans for a U.S. strike against Iran took shape at that time."

Important to note that here. Now let's listen to the secretary of state here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We will not let Iran get away with using a proxy force to attack an American interest. Iran will be held accountable for those incidents.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Even militarily?

POMPEO: They are going to be held accountable. If they are responsible for the arming and training of these militias, we are going to go to the source.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Do you expect that there will be, that there could still be on the table a military response?

HERTLING: There certainly could be, Victor. And, truthfully, various elements within Iran have been contributing to malign actions within Iraq as this one was for almost more than a decade. They were involved in certain attacks along the Iran/Iraqi border even when I was in there in 2007 and 2008.

You can never pinpoint the actions. It was always covert but it smelled and spoke of things coming out of Iran to try and disrupt the governmental activity of Iraq.

But, again, one more time. This is taking an action based on something that is occurring in another foreign country against a U.S. consulate or embassy which is the rational according to "The Wall Street Journal" article for the strikes.

Again, Mr. Pompeo is right to say they will take any action to prevent these kinds of things. That is solid national security policy. But, again, a strike against a sovereign nation has a great deal of gravitas within it and should be discussed with other people.

BLACKWELL: General, to what degree does the source play into this, the source of their quest, John Bolton, who even before entering this administration has long been known as a hawk on Iran, has written about encouraging the U.S. to strike Iran militarily? Could this have possibly been an opportunity for Bolton to execute what he has been wanting the U.S. to do for some time now and that's take that military strike against Iran?

HERTLING: Well, this is very nuance, Victor. If you're suggesting that John Bolton -- this was John Bolton's idea and he was going to tell people to do it, that is a whole different bag of worms.

[06:25:08]

But when you're talking about the national security adviser, his job is to present options to the president of the United States. Of course, if he has a bias toward this kind of action against Iran he can key up discussions within the National Security Council that would present options to the president for decision.

Bolton by himself, or Pompeo by himself, will not be able to order such actions without the advice and approval of the president of the United States and going through the chain of command within the Department of Defense.

Those are two different issues. Whether or not this was Bolton's idea and he was ready to execute it or --

BLACKWELL: Yes.

HERTLING: -- whether it was Bolton's idea and he was looking for options to present to the president are two different scenarios.

BLACKWELL: All right. General -- General Mark Hertling, thank you so much.

HERTLING: My pleasure. Thank you, Victor.

PAUL: Well, there's a lot of blame going around between Democrats and Republicans regarding what is now the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. There is a new poll out this morning as well.

Who the majority of Americans blame for the stalemate?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:30:19]

BLACKWELL: More serious concerns about the White House. "The Washington Post" is reporting that President Trump has concealed information from private meetings with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders is calling the report outrageously inaccurate. "The Post" reports this has happened at least five times in two years.

PAUL: They say President Trump went so far as to take away notes of a meeting from his interpreter telling the translator not to discuss details about the meeting with other officials. As a result "The Washington Post" says U.S. officials have no detailed records even in classified files of the president's interactions with President Putin.

BLACKWELL: The partial government shutdown is now in its fourth week. And a new poll shows the American public blames Republicans. PAUL: According to the new ABC Washington Post Poll, 53 percent of Americans blame President Trump and the GOP, 29 percent say it's the Democrats' fault. The White House is digging in here and preparing for the shutdown to last through February.

The administration is stopping the spread of public pain by continuing to pay out food stamps and delivering tax returns and the TSA is promising one day's pay plus a $500 bonus to unpaid screeners who worked over the holidays. Now look it's short of the two weeks' pay they are owed but could help solve at least part of the problems of agents calling out sick.

BLACKWELL: We have heard from federal workers across the country about the real pain they are experiencing because of the shutdown. But I want you to listen to a senior White House adviser. You pay this man. He is talking about the workers being actually better off.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN HASSETT, CHAIRMAN, WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: A huge share of government workers were going to take vacation days, say, between Christmas and New Year's, and then we have a shutdown and so they can't go to work and so then they have the vacation. But they don't have to use their vacation days. And then they come back and then they get their back pay then they're in some sense they're better off.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: With a grin on his face, he says that people who are not being paid are better off because they are not being paid at sitting home during the holidays. There is not a single person we have had on this show who has been affected by this shutdown who does not want to go back to work and earn the money to pay their bills, to pay their mortgages, to pay the children's tuition. They are better off, he says.

Both sides are digging in on the border wall fight. Will the president take an extraordinary step to bypass Congress? Senator Mark Warner and Senator Ron Johnson will be on "STATE OF THE UNION WITH JAKE TAPPER" that's at 9:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

PAUL: Well, President Trump is also talking about the 2020 elections, saying he, of course, is the most qualified person in the country to be president and he is looking at a potential opposite -- opposing candidate, I should say, calling a vice president weak. We're going to break all that down for you. Stay close.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:37:44]

BLACKWELL: Twenty-two minutes until the top of the hour now.

President Trump says he is not worried about some of the Democrats he could potentially face in 2020. He spoke to FOX News last night and when asked about who he would like to run against. He said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, I don't want to pick anyone out but, you know, a lot of people say Biden is doing OK but he was always a one percenter. He was a one percent guy. He ran two or three times. He never got above one percent. And then Obama came along and took him off the trash heap and he became a vice president, and now he is probably leading but he is basically a one percent guy. He is weak.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: All right. Let's discuss. Let's bring back the panel. "Washington Examiner" commentary writer and editor Siraj Hashmi, and CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer. Julian is the author of a new book "Fault Lines: The History of the United States Since 1974."

Siraj, let me start with you. Is this just the kind of trash talk you'd expect from Donald Trump a year out from his general election, from the re-election campaign? Or is this an indication that this is someone he is concerned about?

HASHMI: Well, the thing is that Joe Biden is leading in the Democratic field at the moment. Of course, we are more than a year out from the 2020 presidential election. And what is interesting here is that Donald Trump, with respect to this government shutdown, if he does not cave -- I should say if he does not declare a national emergency and he caves on state funding for the border wall, then he has to start worrying about a 2020 presidential election in terms of which Democrat he faces because any of them could possibly beat him, because his base would basically be fractured at that point.

So if you're looking at Biden specifically he's actually probably of the Democratic candidates who are, you know, flirting with running or have announced running.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

HASHMI: He is the most viable who can actually reach across and get a lot of independent voters who went to Trump in 2016 but voted for Obama in 2012 and 2008.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about that, Julian, because we've now got four Democratic candidates who have either declared or they are officially exploring. Donald Trump announced in June of 2015, Barack Obama announced in, I think it was February of 2007.

[06:40:03]

Does the orthodoxy or this, I guess, accepted idea that Biden has some time to get in, does that hold in this environment?

ZELIZER: I think it is going to be harder. There is less time to wait to really get in and Biden, himself, has often waited, so he has a history of that. I think the field is going to get crowded very quickly. Although many people, obviously, know who Biden is. I'm not convinced he really is the front-runner. I think it's just name familiarity and I think the Democrats are actually going to have a pretty large, but also very talented field of people to run against a very unpopular president.

So this won't be easy for Biden to somehow claim he is front-runner because he was vice president.

BLACKWELL: Julian, let me stay for you for this. You talk about this talented field. President Obama's HUD secretary Julian Castro announced for president on Saturday. He's not as well known as some of the other potential opponents here but he has a good personal story here. He now has a couple of former Iowa Democratic state party chairs who are signing on to his campaign.

Is he being seen as someone who is a real contender or just someone with an interesting story? They are waiting for the other potential Democrat out of Texas?

ZELIZER: I think he is considered a real contender and he has been for several years. He has some formidable opponents with a lot of experience like Senator Warren, so I do think it will be difficult.

But I think there is a lot of excitement about him, his story, the policies he has promoted, and the collective, you know, field of Democrats just now looks a lot more like America more broadly than a lot of the Republican parties. So I think that is what Democrats are excited about and that is how he fits into a broader narrative the Democrats want to tell.

BLACKWELL: All right. And talking more about the field. Siraj, we have got a senator from California Kamala Harris, a potential 2020 candidate for the Democratic nomination. The last woman of color to run was Carol Moseley Braun, that was about 15 years ago. She would potentially be running this year.

I want you to watch an exchange during an interview this weekend and she was heckled by someone in the audience. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR LONDON BREED (D), SAN FRANCISCO: You have been, for so many vulnerable populations.

(CROSSTALK)

BREED: We are so great -- we are so --

(CROSSTALK)

BREED: Excuse me. I'm talking. Just give me a minute. Thank you.

So thank you for everything that you have done.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLACKWELL: Now if you couldn't hear that, the reason I bring up race because the person in the audience was yelling, "What about black people, Kamala? What about black people?"

We saw what then Senator Obama had to answer and answer for in his run in 2007 and 2008. How will this be different being now the first woman of color running for president in 15 years do you expect, Siraj?

HASHMI: Well, the interesting aspect is that we live in the digital age in which previous comments or actions, they are quickly unearthed through the media and through the internet. Now with respect to Kamala Harris' actual policy as the district attorney and also the California attorney general just in the last five years -- we're talking about 2014 to now she has a lot of questionable actions that happen, specifically with trying to block second strike nonviolent offends in the state of California from being allowed to -- they are being barred from parole because she said that they would be withdrawing from the prison labor pool.

I mean, that's quite stunning to think about a progressive star like Senator Harris coming from those type of roots. So her particular history as a state prosecutor is going to come into question and honestly is going to be the biggest baggage for her with respect to how Democrats and progressives and liberals view criminal justice in the last five years since Tamir Rice, Michael Brown and as well as Trayvon Martin as well.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And we know that the criminal justice as you said will be a central point for the primary at least and maybe the general after the president signed new criminal justice reform legislation. They got bipartisan support, so we will see if that continues through the cycle.

Julian Zelizer, Siraj Hashmi, thank you both.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

HASHMI: Thank you, Victor.

PAUL: So are you one of the more than a million people waking up this morning to a foot of snow or more with this major winter storm that is pounding parts of the Midwest? It's going to the East Coast. We'll talk more about it in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:48:31]

PAUL: All right. So this is a beautiful shot here of Washington.

The snow is gorgeous. It is also treacherous and it is -- look at it there. That is Sarah Westwood's shot. She stepped out of the camera for us so we could an image of what they are dealing with there really. But this is also dangerous and it is very widespread today.

BLACKWELL: Yes. PAUL: This is not just in D.C.

BLACKWELL: Stretching across a few states here. More than a million people waking up to a foot of snow or more with winter storm warnings now in Washington, parts of central Maryland, northern Virginia. The governor of Virginia declared a state of emergency last night.

PAUL: Take a walk through that but being in the car that's when it gets a little tough.

BLACKWELL: Sleet, snow, ice already making travel dangerous, if not impossible in some parts.

PAUL: CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar in the CNN Weather Center. So let us know how bad is this going to be at the end of the day.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, the thing if for a lot of these places it's still snowing which you have to understand. Look at the numbers of what's already fallen. Montgomery City, Missouri already has 20 inches of snow on the ground.

They're not the only state. Look at Iowa, Illinois they've also picked up over a foot of snow. Dulles Airport just outside of D.C. Yes, I know you're reading only 5.1 inches but keep in mind they haven't really even reached their halfway point.

They've got several more inches to go before this storm is finally said and done. The question is will they get to a foot of snow before the storm moves out? It's not out of the question especially when you see all that pink area.

[06:50:03]

Those are the locations that have picked up at least a foot of snow or more. The thing is it is still snowing in states like Missouri, states like Ohio and especially around Washington, D.C. You've got some really heavy bands of snow coming down right now.

But other cities, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, even Roanoke, you've got very heavy snow coming down at times and that's going to make visibility incredibly poor. So please if you do not have to be out on the roads today, don't do it. The good news is this will finally come to an end, guys, by the time we get to the evening hours tonight.

So if you can maybe just stay put, have a nice day at home with some hot chocolate or something like that inside.

PAUL: Sounds good to me. Allison, thank you.

CHINCHAR: Thanks.

BLACKWELL: The scientist that recorded a cosmic signal emanating from deep in outer space. Coming up, the mystery behind these repeating radio waves and whether they could be signs of life.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:55:04]

PAUL: (INAUDIBLE) offering (ph) some good news and bad news this morning. First the bad news.

Our galaxy is spiraling toward a catastrophic collision.

BLACKWELL: That's bad.

PAUL: The good news is that we are not going to be around for it because it's happening in quite some time.

BLACKWELL: Joining us now retired NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao. Leroy, welcome back. Explain this collision and when does it happen? Who are we slamming into?

LEROY CHIAO, RETIRED NASA ASTRONAUT: Well, there's another galaxy out there -- there are many other galaxies of course but the one we're talking about is Magellanic cloud and in about 2 billion years ago it's possible that the Milky Way galaxy may collide with it or it collide with us. So the Milky Way galaxy -- I mean, keep in mind it's a pretty big galaxy.

Most galaxies go I think we are kind of medium-sized about a hundred thousand light years across that is it would take a beam of light about 100 thousand years to travel from one end to the other. And so think about these galaxies out in space, they are moving around and every now and then, they're going to collide. And so it looks like this one may hit us in about 2 billion years.

BLACKWELL: So I have got time to finish my bucket list?

(CROSSTALK)

PAUL: Yes, you do. Yes, you do.

But what happens -- what happens when two galaxies collide?

CHIAO: Well, think about galaxies. They are collection of stars and planets and solar systems. And so when they do collide, there is a possibility that a solar system is going to hit another solar system. Stars collide with stars. Things like that.

And so the idea is -- well, it's possible that our solar system, being part of the Milky Way galaxy could actually be disturbed or actually hit by other stars coming from this other galaxy.

BLACKWELL: Explain these burst of radio waves in space and if that means there is life out there somewhere.

(LAUGHTER)

CHIAO: Well, yes. The fast radio bursts that have been observed recently they're about a millisecond in duration and we haven't really seen them before. But it's probably due to not having been able to detect them before or not having noticed. As I said, they are very quick and it's probably something like the fact that some years ago, not that many years ago, we only detected the first exoplanets, that is planets that are outside of our solar system.

And since then, we have detected many, many exoplanets in fact some of them could actually have earth-like conditions, and so we are coming to understand that they are much more common. Same with these radio bursts. It's probably just that we are now noticing them and they are probably due to astro physical phenomenon, things like black holes forming or engulfing other stars, things like that.

Things are almost beyond our comprehension. It just goes to show that the more we learn about the universe, the more we realize how little we actually know.

PAUL: (INAUDIBLE) the truth.

BLACKWELL: Leroy Chiao -- absolutely. That is life. Leroy Chiao, thank you so much.

PAUL: Thank you, Leroy.

CHIAO: My pleasure. Thank you.

PAUL: Style is about more than just what we wear it's influenced by what is happening in the world around us. The new CNN original series "AMERICAN STYLE" looks at the inner section of fashion and politics and how first ladies have used their own personal style to connect with voters, conduct diplomacies and political messages of their own.

Here is Kate Bennett.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I wish people would focus on what I do, not what I wear.

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A fair request, but not always easy when, like it or not, what a first lady wears has political messaging of its own. That "I really don't care, do you" jacket, Melania Trump wore to and from the trip to the border or the stilettos heading out of town to help with hurricane relief, or even that pith helmet in Africa, clothing that stirred controversy.

But thoughtfully, fashion diplomacy can be a help. Trump's homage to Middle Eastern style in Saudi Arabia, yellow for friendship in Helsinki, and Felliniesque (ph) Dolce & Gabbana in Italy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The United States elected its 35th president in 1960.

BENNETT: It was Jackie Kennedy who really ushered in using first-lady style to create a feeling, showing women chic simplicity was part of Camelot. And America followed.

JAY LENO, FORMER HOST, THE TONIGHT SHOW: I want to ask you about your wardrobe. I'm guessing about 60 grand?

(LAUGHTER)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Actually, this is a J. Crew ensemble.

BENNETT: Approachability and accessibility. Michelle Obama dressed as a realistic image of a working mom, appealing to a broad base, with moderately priced outfits reflecting the tighter economic times of the country, proving she that was paying attention to the political climate.

(on camera): Now, whether or not what a first lady wears should matter is still up for debate. But one thing is clear, what she wears, how she wears it, what her style says, all of those things are a window into her personality.

Kate Bennett, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL: Kate, thank you.

"AMERICAN STYLE" premieres tonight 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why not release the conversation that you had with president Putin in Helsinki?

[07:00:03]

TRUMP: We had a great conversation. We were talking about Israel and securing Israel and lots of other things.