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Governor Ralph Northam Tells "The Washington Post" He Plans To Stay In Office; Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax Calls For FBI To Investigate Allegations; Senator Amy Klobuchar Set To Announce Presidential Run Today; Trump Lampoons Democrats' "Green New Deal" Proposal; Trump Jabs Warren Over Native American Ancestry Debacle; Democratic Majority Leader Ready To Support $2 Billion For Border Barrier; War On ISIS Aired 6-7a ET

Aired February 10, 2019 - 06:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax is now calling for the FBI to investigate two accusations of sexual assault against him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Virginians are deadlocked in the question of whether or not Ralph Northam should resign. With that spotlight so much brighter Justin Fairfax in recent days.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I stand here today to declare that I am a candidate for the president of the United States of America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE I certainly think the president is going to haunt her. He's going to go after her over and over again on Twitter.

KENAN THOMPSON, COMEDIAN: Has anybody else worn blackface in college?

BECK BENNETT, COMEDIAN: I have a question. What if the blackface was just part of your costume of a black person?

THOMPSON: You see, Tom, that is the exact kind of thing that we are looking for here today.


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

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good new day to you. And we begin this morning with political crisis engulfing Virginia.

Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson, the two women accusing the lieutenant governor of sexual assault and rape respectively now say they are prepared to testify at impeachment hearings.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax denying the allegations and is now wanting the FBI to investigate. He said in a statement yesterday, the one thing I want to make abundantly clear is that in both situations I knew at the time, and I know today, that the interactions were consensual."

BLACKWELL: Meantime, that state's governor Ralph Northam tell "The Washington Post" he's not going anywhere. A new poll shows the people of Virginia are split right down the middle when asked if Northam should step down. Last week, Northam admitted to wearing blackface. He claims he once darkened his face to play Michael Jackson at a dance contest.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung is following the latest out of Virginia. Kaylee --

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Christi, as Virginia's Democratic leaders and lawmakers continue to call for Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax's resignation he is pleading for due process.

In a statement he released late Saturday night, he calls for investigation here. He asked for the first time for the FBI to be involved and, again he emphatically denies the allegations against him. In his statement we heard a man trying to give context to two sexual encounters which he doesn't deny happen but which he says were consensual. A clear disagreement between a man and two different women about the nature of their sexual interactions.

And while the spotlight has been so bright on Justin Fairfax in the past couple of days the calls for the Virginia's governor Ralph Northam to resign have really quieted a bit. We now have a poll from "The Washington Post" that was conducted from Wednesday of this past week until Friday. So before Fairfax's second accuser came forward and in this poll we learned that Virginians are deadlocked in the question of whether or not their governor should step down in the face of admitting to racially charged behavior in his past, admitting to wearing blackface when he was a college student, 47 to 47 percent Virginia residents really are torn on that question.

But what's most interesting is when you break that number down further he has incredibly high support among African-Americans voters in the commonwealth. They supported him 58 percent to 37 percent. That is 58 percent of African-Americans polled in favor of Ralph Northam continuing to serve as the governor of the commonwealth while white voters polled were much more evenly split.

"The Washington Post" wrote this survey is a snapshot of the competing and sometimes conflicting emotions in a state with a complicated 400 year history of racial division -- Victor and Christi.

PAUL: All right. Thank you so much, Kaylee.

Now in his first interview since that racist photo surfaced, Governor Ralph Northam tells "The Washington Post" that he wants to spend his remaining time in office trying to ensure that black Virginians have the same opportunities as whites.

Northam says this -- quote -- "First of all what I plan to do is to make sure that we have sensitivity training in our Cabinet, in our agencies." And he goes on to say in part, "I have a lot more to learn. I want to heal that pain and I think I'm the person that can do that for Virginia."

BLACKWELL: This afternoon, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar is expected to officially join the race for the White House.

PAUL: Yes. She'll likely make that announcement at a rally in her home state today and she'll be joining -- I mean, let's face it a pretty crowded field.


Take a look at the pictures we have here. More than half a dozen people have already made an official announcement. At least that many are considering it.

Several of them are going to be campaigning today. Senators Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren.

Warren in fact made her run official yesterday in Massachusetts. Look at this.


WARREN: This is the fight of our lives. The fight to build an America where dreams are possible and America that works for everyone. And that is why I stand here today to declare that I am a candidate for the president of the United States of America.


PAUL: The question is can the Democrats drown out the president's tweets by pushing back on the power of the White House or are they just going to drive him to even wilder tweets?

We have CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer with us. Historian and professor at Princeton University. So, Julian, I know that you were -- you wrote a piece on talking about how the Dems are taking over House basically equates to more investigations of President Trump.

Let's put up that full screen if we could have all of the investigations that are ongoing right now when it comes to President Trump. We have investigations into his inauguration, his campaign, his foundation, his administration, his organization, his transition. Democrats and their investigations, are they going to be stealing some of the headlines from whatever the president says out there?

JULIAN E. ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think they will or at least they think they can force the conversation towards some of these issues of corruption, abuse of power that have surfaced in the hearings. And that's part of the power of Congress. They can shift public attention by holding a hearing and the president can't totally control the narrative through his Twitter account. They are also proposing legislation like the Green New Deal and that too is an effort to redirect what people are talking about on the media and on the streets.

PAUL: So, if all of those investigations we just put up on the screen, which do you think the Democrats will focus on much and which are more threatening to the president?

ZELIZER: Well, I think the question is about 2016 remain front and center and Congress really hasn't done a full investigation. So I think those are very damaging but ultimately in my mind questions about the conflict of interest whether through the tax returns or investigations into the Trump organization, and what business incentives have to do with political decisions has always remained a vulnerability of this admission, conflict of interest.

And I think that's a question the president hates when it's discussed and there is good reason. There is very serious allegations out there about how these two are not always separate.

PAUL: We have been talking about the president's tax returns since 2016. Do you think now that the Democrats have taken the House there is more -- it's more plausible that they will actually get their hands on those returns?

ZELIZER: I think it is more plausible, not just because they have control of the House, but because more questions have surfaced since he became president about what his investment interests are and some of the more controversial decisions or announcements we have seen in countries such as Saudi Arabia, for example. So I think the house might try to force those out of the IRS so they can start to uncover and put together the kind of road map we really haven't had about what the president's finances are all about.

PAUL: The president tweets are still certainly garnering attention. I want to pull one up here that he directed towards Elizabeth Warren yesterday as she was announcing her candidacy formally in Massachusetts.

He said, "Today Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to by me as Pocahontas, joined the race for President. Will she run as our first Native American presidential candidate, or has she decided that after 32 years, this is not playing so well anymore? See you on the campaign TRAIL, Liz."

It's disrespectful, no doubt about it. Does his tweets still have power to frame or shape what happens in this election?

ZELIZER: Absolutely. And when I wrote about it, I don't discount it at all. And the point is Democrats will face a challenge. It's a competition between their ability to put issues on the table and his ability to tweet things like that that are explosive and, you know, very controversial, and then to direct attention that way.

But even a candidate -- this is an opportunity for someone like Senator Warren to deal with this issue which will surface, rightly or wrongly, but then to talk about questions that she thinks voters care about much more, such as the middle class and force the conversation back to her own terrain. [06:10:13]

PAUL: Still some questions about Warren with all of the controversy about her Native American heritage. S.E. Cupp brought this up yesterday on her show last night. They were watching Elizabeth Warren and S.E. is from this area near Lawrence, Massachusetts where Elizabeth Warren was. And S.E. made the pint that, listen, the makeup of the people that were at that rally yesterday do not reflect in S.E.'s knowledge the makeup of that town, of Lawrence.

S.E. said that it is more often, as she was growing up, a heavily Hispanic community and that warren started her rally saying, thank you to all who traveled here. She made that point and then this is what she said.


S.E. CUPP. HOST S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED: I was startled to hear this but Elizabeth Warren says at the beginning of her speech, thank you to everyone who has traveled here to Lawrence.

It felt to me -- I'm not a Democrat, I'm not Hispanic -- but it felt she was using Lawrence as a prop. She would not be the first to do that sort of -- into that sort of theater.


CUPP: But the concern is that she is using diversity as a prop.


PAUL: Your reaction to that, Julian?

ZELIZER: I mean, I don't know about the rally itself but I don't think she is using it as a prop. I think it is a big issue for the Democrats in 2019 standing for pluralism, social diversity, justice between different kinds of people in the United States.

The president has forced this conversation in ways that no other politician has because of his statements and because of his policies. I do believe that the senator cares very much about those and sees them as interconnected to the economic questions that concern her. So it's not a surprise she started the campaign with that.

I think it will continue to be part of every Democratic campaign and I don't know about the theatrics of an opening bid and rally. But I think it's a real genuine issue for Democrats in this coming -- couple of years.

PAUL: All right. Julian Zelizer, always appreciate you being here, sir. Thank you.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

PAUL: And quick note for you here. This Tuesday, watch a special presidential town hall, former Starbucks CEO and independent Howard Schultz is live in Houston with our own Poppy Harlow talking about the 2020 election. That's Tuesday night at 10:00 p.m. right here on CNN.

BLACKWELL: At this hour, CNN is near the front line on the final fight to end the ISIS caliphate in Syria. We will take you there live.

PAUL: And a man allegedly stunned with a taser by a police officer nearly a dozen times accuses those officers of excessive force. We've got the video to show you.

BLACKWELL: Also, music's biggest night is tonight. Talking about the Grammys of course. The show is already stirring up controversy with who will and will not perform at this year's show. The preview of what you can expect ahead.



BLACKWELL: Seventeen minutes after the hour now.

Lawmakers have until Friday to reach this budget deal to avoid a second government shutdown, but the question is will the president sign it? President Trump is adamant that he wants $5.7 billion for a border wall. The latest proposal from bipartisan negotiators comes nowhere near that amount. CNN's Ana Cabrera ask Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer about the negotiations.


ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Quick yes or no though. If it comes out and there is $2 billion in money designated for a border barrier, would you support that?

REP. STENY HOYER (D), MAJORITY LEADER: If the agreement comes out, I'll support it, yes.


PAUL: So no matter what they need to agree on, something or the federal government shutting down again on Friday? And this week, the president is trying to drive home his message on the border wall. He's doing so with a rally in El Paso, Texas.

BLACKWELL: Sarah Westwood, joins us from the White House now. So, Sarah, what have you learned -- first, good morning to you.

But what have you learned about what is going to happen at this rally?


And President Trump, obviously, set to press the case for his border wall. He is continuing to go after Democrats, even though all sides are reporting progress towards a compromise that would give some money for the border wall. Sources tell CNN that what we are seeing is a deal that would give $2 billion for some kind of structures along the southern border, perhaps construction of new wall, repairs to existing fencing. Obviously, that's less than half of the $5.7 billion that President Trump requested but it's also much more than the $1 that Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi once said she would be willing to put in a bill.

So neither side really looking to get everything they want out of this compromise out of congress, but, nonetheless President Trump going after Democrats on Twitter last night on writing, "The Democrats just don't seem to want Border Security. They are fighting Border Agents recommendations. If you believe news reports, they are not offering much for the Wall. They look to be making this a campaign issue. The Wall will get built one way or the other."

So Trump is likely to repeat that kind of rhetoric during his really in El Paso, Texas, on Monday. His first rally of the year. He misleadingly touted El Paso during his State of the Union as example (INAUDIBLE) that was made safer by a border wall being built nearby. That's not accurate. That wall was built in 2009.

Violent crime rates started to fall years before that. So Beto O'Rourke, he's the former Democratic congressman representing that area is going to try to point out the president's inaccuracies about El Paso by holing a competing rally basically across the street around the same time as the president's event and also participating in something called "The March for Truth."


So we are going to see some very different narratives coming out of El Paso on Monday -- Victor and Christi.

BLACKWELL: All right. I can see a comparison of crowd size coming. Sarah Westwood there at the White House, thank you so much.

PAUL: Thank you, Sarah.

So stay with us because CNN's Ben Wedeman is near the frontline during this battle to finally end the ISIS caliphate in Syria. We're taking you there live.

BLACKWELL: And be sure to catch CNN's Laurie Seagall as she talks exclusively with Facebook insiders. What is really going on inside the most powerful social media company on earth? What's the CNN's special report "Facebook At 15 It's Complicated." It airs tonight at 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN.



BLACKWELL: Right now, Kurdish forces are attacking the last tiny pocket of land controlled by ISIS.

PAUL: Yes. Since January of 2015, those U.S.-backed forces have driven ISIS from large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria. This is what it used to look like here. Now the extremist -- look at what's left -- are cornered in a pocket of land near the Iraq border. CNN's senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman reports from eastern Syria now.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They arrive in pickup trucks, dusty shell-shocked, exhausted and afraid from the town of Baghuz Fawqani, all that's left of the so-called Islamic State. Adult males are immediately taken aside for questioning, American, British and French personnel are here searching for ISIS members, but we were forbidden to film them.

Twenty eight year-old Dura Ahmed from Toronto, Canada arrived at this barren spot in the vast Eastern Syrian plains this morning. She came to Syria at her husband urging.

DURA AHMED, CANADIAN NATIONAL LIVING IN SYRIA: I don't anything about ISIS or anything. He said just come and see, just come and see.

WEDEMAN: So she came four years ago.

There is a war in Syria.

AHMED: But when you come to Raqqa, it looks like a war. You're there with -- you're eating Pringles and Twix. You're just saying, you know, this is -- you feel like you're in a war.

WEDEMAN: Do you still believe in the idea of (INAUDIBLE)?

AHMED: I believe in Sharia, wherever Sharia is, you know.

WEDEMAN: Was it worth it?

AHMED: Do I regret it, coming? You mean? No. I don't. In a sense I had my kids here.

WEDEMAN: We also met this 34-year-old former graphic designer from Alberta, Canada. She declined to give her name or show her face. Her husband ordered her to come to Syria.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's like, he's like -- you have to come here. He's like, it's obligatory for you to come here. You have no choice. As your husband, he's like, I'm telling you to come here. And as a Muslim wife, you have to obey. Even though it was really hard for me to do it, I had to.

WEDEMAN: It's difficult to determine who might be with ISIS and who is not. The answers to our questions often ambiguous. Dalha Hatib is from Western Syria and he told me he was just visiting a friend and couldn't return home because of the fighting. There are many foreigners, including Chechens and ISIS's last enclave, the town of Baghuz Fawqani, he told me.

It is strange, I say, that you find a Chechen in Baghuz Fawqani, isn't it? I don't know if it is suspicious or not, he responds, but among those fleeing, there are real horror stories of life under siege. Abdul Rahman from Iraq recounts that his home was hit with an air strike at 3 a.m. He lists those who were killed that night.

SALAM, IRAQI NATIONAL LIVING IN SYRIA (through translator): My mother, my brother, his wife, his son, my sister, my wife, my daughter, my uncle, his wife and their two children, he says.

WEDEMAN: Only Abdul Rahman, his kid sister and his father, Salam, survived, but were badly wounded.

I'm afraid, says Salam. Do you understand I'm afraid? All I have left is my daughter and son.

This experiment implemented twisted version of God's will on earth has brought nothing but death, destruction, displacement and despair.

This is how the mad dream of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed Calipho or Caliph of the Islamic State comes to an end.

The subjects of the dying caliphate herded on to buses bound for already crowded camps further north, all illusions shattered.



PAUL: My goodness.

BLACKWELL: Our thanks to Ben Wedeman for that report.

PAUL: Thank you, Ben.

There is outrage over body cam footage that shows a police officer allegedly using a taser to stun an unarmed man multiple times and this happened in front of two young children, his two young children. That is all now the center now of a new lawsuit.


We will tell you about it next.


BLACKWELL: Johnny Wheatcroft is sitting in a vehicle in a motel parking lot with his children and two other adults when officers approached and asked for his I.D. He questioned why they needed to see it and minutes later Wheatcroft had been was stunned with a taser, arrested. He was later sent to jail for months on assault charges.

Well, now he is now suing the Glendale police department over what happened. We're about to show you the video but we have to warn you that what you're about to watch is pretty disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BLACKWELL: July 2017 in a suburban Phoenix, Arizona motel parking lot, Glendale police approach a car for an alleged traffic violation.


Johnny Wheatcroft is in the passenger seat, another man is driving. Wheatcroft's two children and their mother are in the back seat.

A police body cam video given to a CNN affiliate by Wheatcroft's attorneys shows how things quickly escalated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't reach -- don't reach in your bag, man.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You (ph) says you don't have no (ph) I.D. (ph). I don't want you to reach into that (ph). What's your name?


BLACKWELL: This is what happened next.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Relax. Keep your foot in there.

WHEATCROFT: OK. Stop, please.

I didn't do anything wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here is the deal. You tense up I'm going to -- listen to me. Listen to me. Listen to me. OK. We are going to do this. I just watched you.

WHEATCROFT: No, you didn't, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Listen. He is going to fight you.

WHEATCROFT: No. I'm not fighting.


WHEATCROFT: I'm not doing nothing, man. I'm not doing nothing, bro. What the (EXPLETIVE) is wrong with you?



BLACKWELL: At this point, another officer handcuffed Wheatcroft and deploys his taser again.


The officers try to pull him out of the car but his leg is still tangled in the still buckled seat belt.

WHEATCROFT: I'm stuck! BLACKWELL: This is where a lawsuit obtained by CNN claims that one officer pulled down Wheatcroft's shorts and stunned him using a taser in the testicle. The video shows officer turn the man over onto his side and the officer appears to point the taser again at the man's genitals.


BLACKWELL: Wheatcroft is put into squad car and booked on felony, aggravated assault on an officer. The lawsuit says Wheatcroft spent months in jail before those charges were dropped. Wheatcroft claims in the federal lawsuit that officers used excessive force and torture during the arrest violating his constitutional rights.

Since the lawsuit was files Glendale police have released new surveillance video of the incident which appears to show a woman in the car throwing something at the other officer apparently knocking him to the ground.


BLACKWELL: Well, in a statement to CNN, Glendale police say that Mr. Wheatcroft, let's put it up. Reached below the seat into a backpack and "refused to identify himself or obey the officer's instructions to stop reaching his hands beneath the seat." They said for their safety and that of the children in the back seat the officer tried to remove Mr. Wheatcroft from the vehicle. The statement goes on to say that as they try to detain Mr. Wheatcroft, the woman hit one of the officers over the head with a bag of bottled drinks knocking him unconscious that's when the officer's partner deployed his Taser again to regain control of the situation.

In a statement they said methamphetamine was later found in the vehicle.

PAUL: Next, are you feeling the financial squeeze this tax season? Because refunds are falling, falling an average of 8 percent. We have a money expert who is telling us why and what you can do.



BLACKWELL: Early tax filers are seeing smaller refunds this tax season and who is happy about that? Nobody.

PAUL: Nobody is happy about that. According to the IRS, the average refund is down about 8 percent from last year. We have a breakdown with founder and principal of Dynamic Money and financial planner Chris Burns.

But listen to what people are saying online. They are upset, they feel cheated. Russell and Marilyn (ph) writes this. "I'm a middle class nurse. Why is my tax refund 59 percent, literally thousands of dollars lower than this than any time past seven years? Nothing in my situation has changed. I thought your wonderful tax plan was supposed to help the middle class? #GOPlies."

And then Lofi Builds says, "Boy oh boy. My wife and I usually get a good return. This year we owned an extra $2,400 to the Federal Government which obviously caused us to owe a nice bit of money. #taxstory #NeverOwedBefore." Consequences of the president's new tax code.

We're talking about 8 percent is the average that it's down. Why would somebody get thousands of dollars last year but owe thousands of dollars this year?

CHRIS BURNS, FOUNDER AND PRINCIPAL, DYNAMIC MONEY: Yes. Everybody's situation is different and some of the ones you just read are the more extreme examples. Most people are seeing a few hundred dollars less and you have go back to this time last year.

So I hate to say it because it stinks. It stinks when you expect to get a large refund and you've already spent that money probably. It's already --

PAUL: Yes. People count on it.

BURNS: It's like I'm paying off the debt or maybe it's spring break this year. Whatever it is -- but this time last year, remember the Treasury Department was scrambling to figure out what do we do with this new over a thousand page tax overhaul and so they tried to change all of the withholding tables. You didn't have to do anything but suddenly you noticed a change to your paycheck last February, a year ago, and for most people it didn't feel like a big change, right?

If you made $70,000 a year on average you made about $40.00 more per paycheck and it's not something to write home about, right?


BURNS: OK. But $40.00 a paycheck is a thousand dollars over the course of the year. So a lot of people feel like my refund is down $500. I'm getting -- taken advantage of. It's not what I thought but they might have made a thousand dollars extra it just doesn't feel that way because it was in these tiny little increments.

PAUL: Because it was spread out.

BURNS: So I've got two kids. One is a spender. One is a saver, right?


BURNS: Every time I give allowance to one of them by the end of the year he has got all this money in his wallet. He's like, I don't know how this happened. The other one spends it before he even gets it, right? I would imagine most of us $40.00 a paycheck we didn't even notice that. We spent it.

Now suddenly we don't get that refund like we thought. BLACKWELL: So for a lot of people in lieu of saving on a regular schedule throughout the year, this is when they put the down payment on the new car. This is when they make repairs to the home.


So would you suggest changing withholding so that they will get that two, three, $5,000 back in the first half of the year?

BURNS: Yes. So I'm going to annoy some people here. You have two options.

One, is you can go -- OK -- and raise your withholding and let the government keep more of your money basically and then you will get that bigger refund next year again. But let's remember what a tax refund is for a second.

Let's say you go to a grocery store and you're buying your milk and you just hand the guy at Kroger 10 extra dollars and say just because. And all year every time you buy milk it's ten extra dollars. And then at the end of the year, Kroger calls and says, hey, man, we gave you way more money -- you gave us way more money than you were supposed to, we're going to give it back to you.

Would you be like, this is amazing? This is the best thing ever. No, you overpaid for the milk, right?


BURNS: So many of us are just so used to overpaying the IRS but it's your money. So here is a thought. Yes, you could go increase it again. You can get your bigger refund or this year you could actually switch it and say if I'm still getting a thousand dollars that is a thousand dollars that I'm letting the IRS sit on for the year. They are babysitting my money.

Now look, the IRS is good for a lot of things. Not a great babysitter -- all right -- not a great babysitter of your money. I would rather you get that money back and then you take it, you save it, you invest it, maybe earn some interest on it. You will do way better over the long haul than that tax refund.

BLACKWELL: But, Chris, if I've got 40 bucks a paycheck I'm going to movies and to dinner instead of putting it into an account --

PAUL: Right.

BLACKWELL: -- so that I can buy a car in March.

PAUL: But then are you saying that if that happens --

BURNS: You have got to automate it. You have got to automate it.

PAUL: -- you (ph) have (ph) no recourse at the end of the day, then don't complain. Because you're choosing on how to spend your money. Is that right? BURNS: No, listen. You can go -- yes. You can go raise your withholding again. You can go give the money back to the government and have them literally with no interest hand it back to you at the end of year and that's not a terrible thing.


BURNS: But if you can automate that process for the $40.00 you never see and it goes into savings, it's your money now. Now when you hit an issue during the year you have extra money in your bank account. You can, you know, have it actually compound and grow. I know (INAUDIBLE) in this stuff, man, but I'm just saying --


BURNS: -- the IRS isn't doing anything for you with it so why not you take your money?

PAUL: So what do you say to people who are sitting at home like this guy who says, oh my gosh, we owe $2,400 and we always get money back. What is he doing perhaps?

BURNS: OK. The issue with someone like that is probably a lot more complex. It could be -- maybe his income changed dramatically this year as well or it could be that he lives -- like if you look at folks in the northeast that used to rely on those state and local tax deductions, that changed pretty dramatically with the new tax law, so there are folks in a certain part of the country that even though the majority of people got extra this year in their paychecks, some folks really got hosed on the tax change.

Not as much in the southeast where I live but certainly in northeast, on the West Coast where they are relying on some deductions that no longer really exist.

BLACKWELL: You know what stands out and maybe this is speculation but I want your opinion on it. The number of returns received is down too. 16 million through February 1st of 2019 versus 18 million through February 1st of 2018 for the 2017 tax year. Why?

BURNS: You have got to go to the government shutdown on this. It's just basically everybody saw the shutdown. Everybody heard you'll still going to get your refund but then near the end of the shutdown you remember IRS workers weren't showing up and some 16,000 IRS workers just doesn't show up so then all of a sudden, a big question, am I going to get my refund?

I think a lot of folks just said I'm going to let this play out --


BURNS: -- and then I'll file my return once I know that I'm actually going to get some money back at that point.

BLACKWELL: OK. Chris Burns --

PAUL: Chris Burns.

BURNS: Thank so much for having me.

BLACKWELL: Good to have you.

PAUL: Thank you. Always good to have you here.

Ahead, tonight, biggest night in music. Grammys. Why are some artists with the most nominations saying I'm not performing this year?



PAUL: The 61st annual Grammys kick off tonight. They are honoring, of course, the biggest stars in music. It's another rough year though for this award show.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Rappers Kendrick Lamar and Drake who had the most Grammy nominations are two of a score of artists who declined to perform at the show. For years, there have been complaints that the recording academy needs to diversify its membership. The show also had problems with gender equality.

PAUL: So this year, Grammy award winner Alicia Keys is hosting the ceremony. That's just one change on a long list of efforts that the academy is making to combat those issues.

Joining us to discuss entertainment host and commentator Ebony Steele. How are you this morning?

EBONY STEELE, ENTERTAINMENT HOST AND COMMENTATOR: I am excellent. So glad to be here. You all look fantastic. Are you going to the Grammys?

PAUL: So do you. So do you.

STEELE: Is that what's happening today?


PAUL: All right. So first of all, your choices for big winners tonight?

STEELE: Well, we can't ignore the fact like you said that Kendrick Lamar and Drake having the most nominations and album of the year that is a tough one, too. Because if you think about that, who is really going to walk away with it? And you're talking about all of the women, let's just face it. This year is a big year for women.

PAUL: Yes, look at those names.

STEELE: And it's also a big year for hip-hop so this can be a lot of what we think could happen could actually be split.

BLACKWELL: Yes. STEELE: And you can't think about -- forget the "Black Panther" album.

PAUL: I was going to say. Yes.

STEELE: Right. I think that that may be the one that comes off as album of the year.

BLACKWELL: All right. So let me read this about the artists who are not performing. The show producer said this, "The fact of the matter is we continue to have a problem in the hip-hop world when they don't take home the big prize, the regard of the academy, and what the Grammys represent, continues to be less meaningful to the hip-hop community, which is sad."

What is your reaction to that?

STEELE: I think that the hip-hop community and what we hear rappers rapping about and artists talking about is exactly what is going on in the country right now, the divisiveness what we see and politics in our socioeconomic status.


I think that that is what that means. And are these winners that are winning really representing the people that are listening to the music or are these older people that are maybe not in the know that are a part of the academy and not really fully representing who people think should win?


BLACKWELL: Especially after -- I'm sorry. But especially after Kendrick Lamar took home the Nobel Prize --

STEELE: Right.

BLACKWELL: -- for his album.

STEELE: Right. I mean, you have to say that. So there is -- there is -- is it reflective of -- is the music really reflective? And then (INAUDIBLE) at social media into that.


STEELE: There is all of these things. And when we look at the women that are actually being nominated this year, we have pop, we have hip- hop that are going to dominate. Things could be split and it could fall any way.

And when people get their feelings hurt. You know how artists can be sometimes, I'm just not going to go.


STEELE: And I'm not going. PAUL: So when you say that it's not representative, do you think we will see a shift in that this year?

STEELE: Absolutely. One of the things we're going to see -- I mean, look at all of the women that are nominated this year. I think that it says lot.

And even our host this year, Alicia Keys, you're looking a woman with 15 Grammys herself.

PAUL: Yes.

STEELE: So I think that that is showing, hey, who is better to represent hip-hop and pop and women than Alicia Keys?

PAUL: Alicia Keys.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about Dolly Parton honored as person of the year. She has got a song out now with the new Netflix movie "Dumplin." I mean, you don't have to like --

PAUL: Amazing.

BLACKWELL: You don't have to like country music to love Dolly Parton.

PAUL: Country music to love Dolly Parton.

STEELE: No. Well, you just -- I mean, I think music lovers have to have in their heart the wherewithal to appreciate other genres of music.


STEELE: And Diana Ross is supposed to do her thing tonight too --


STEELE: -- and do a medley so we're looking forward to seeing all of that. Women are on the forefront. Hip-hop is on forefront and pop and a little bit of country. It's all -- everything that people could love in music right now is being represented tonight at the Grammys.

PAUL: Yes. I know -- reportedly the academy invited 900 new members to vote.


PAUL: Do you think that's going to change anything? Are we going to see something different this year because of those new --

BLACKWELL: Because we did see that with the Oscars.

PAUL: Yes.

BLACKWELL: Remember that they diversified the academy there and we saw more people of color being nominated for academy awards. Do you expect we will see the same from the academy here?

STEELE: I think so because there's -- they are talking about it and they're seeing that when artists aren't really appreciative of it, they don't show up. So they have to do something unless we just have 900 new people that vote the same way.


PAUL: Yes.

BLACKWELL: Especially if these are the top selling artists --

STEELE: Right.

BLACKWELL: -- you know, hip-hop now the top selling genre.

STEELE: Right.

BLACKWELL: And we discussed cultural relevance if Kendrick Lamar can take home the Nobel Prize.


STEELE: Why can't you take home --

BLACKWELL: What will we see tonight from the Grammys?

STEELE: When people make so much noise like a Kendrick Lamar or a Childish Gambino right then you may be dividing part of what your audience could have been or people that would have liked it because you're making a stand for something. Everybody is not going to agree with you when you have something out there that is so polarizing.

BLACKWELL: Yes, yes, yes.


BLACKWELL: Because they certainly use their music to make messages --

STEELE: There you go.

BLACKWELL: -- that may offend some people.

STEELE: Right.

BLACKWELL: All right.

PAUL: Ebony Steele, it's always good to have you here.

STEELE: Always great to see you. Thank you. It's my pleasure.

BLACKWELL: All right. Comedians had -- they had a good time making Virginia's governor the butt of jokes this week over the blackface scandal.

PAUL: "Saturday Night Live" was no exception. Here is their take on why you should not wear blackface.


THOMPSON: Has anybody else worn blackface in college?

BENNETT: What if the blackface was just part of your costume of a black person?

THOMPSON: You see, Tom, that is the exact kind of thing that we are looking for here today.

Yes, Barbara (ph).

CECILY STRONG, COMEDIAN: Does it count if you did it all the way back in the '80s?

MIKEY DAY, COMEDIAN: No, of course not. It was funny and cool in the '80s.

THOMPSON: No, no. I'm going to stop you right there, Phil. It does still count and it was never funny or cool.

OK. Anybody else?

KYLE MOONEY, COMEDIAN (ph): I have a question.

THOMPSON: Yes. Go ahead.

MOONEY(ph): What if you wore the blackface as a tribute like a homage to your hero?

THOMPSON: Who is your hero?

MOONEY(ph): Al Jolson?

THOMPSON: OK. Well, then I would file that as very, very wrong. Look, people, we are elected state officials. We can't keep having this pop up.

MOONEY(ph): But it was the '80s!

THOMPSON: I don't know what that is supposed to mean, dude!



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax is now calling for the FBI to investigate two accusations of sexual assault against him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Virginians are deadlocked in the question of whether or not Ralph Northam should resign.


With that spotlight so much brighter on Justin Fairfax in recent days.