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NEW DAY SATURDAY

Satellite Images Suggest North Korea Prepping Missile Or Satellite Launch; Chinese President Xi Jinping Will Not Meet With Trump In Mar-A-Lago; Jussie Smollett Indicted On 16 Felony Counts; R. Kelly Expected To Be Released From Jail This Morning; Paul Manafort Braces For Second Sentencing Next Week; Paul Manafort Braces for Second Sentencing Next Week; Americans to be Issued Travel Visa to Visit the EU in 2021; U.S. Economy Posts Weakest Jobs Report in Months for the Month of February; Trump Touts Strength of Economy After Abysmal Jobs Report; Fifteen Million Americans Under Threat of Severe Weather; Meghan Markle Speaks on Equality, Women's Empowerment; Royals Crack Down on Social Media Abuse of Meghan Markle. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired March 9, 2019 - 06:00   ET

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


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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A night of CNN presidential town halls, tomorrow starting at 7:00 Eastern on CNN.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our relationship with North Korea, I think it's a very good one. I would be surprised in a negative way if he did anything that was not per our understanding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: New images suggest North Korea may be preparing a rocket launch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What comes next was the Hanoi summit, end of chapter one, end of diplomacy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Breaking news from the Jussie Smollett case, the "Empire" star faces 16 new felony counts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is happening here is, frankly, framing (ph) of this guy of unprecedented proportion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Said it was a very dark place and that unspeakable sexual acts took place there.

R. KELLY, MUSICIAN: I'm not a controlling person. It's just that I am in control of my house. I consider myself the king of the castle and you're the queen of the castle.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is "NEW DAY WEEKEND" with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY WEEKEND: Good morning to you. New satellite images show vehicles on the move at the North Korean facility. Analysts say it could be a sign a missile or a satellite launch is imminent. A ploy to get attention or some combination of something more?

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY WEEKEND: Another blow to (ph) U.S.- North Korea relations, a little more than a week after the Hanoi summit ended without a deal, of course. The launch itself could happen at a site now at least (ph) while talks were underway. It has now been fully rebuilt, we're told.

Joining us live from Beijing, CNN correspondent Will Ripley. Will, what are you learning about the power of this particular site?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So we know that this facility outside the North Korean capital, Sanumdong, has been used to assemble intercontinental ballistic missiles, the kind of which are potentially capable of hitting the U.S.. It's also been used to assemble space rockets that North Korea has used to launch satellites into orbit.

Now, the U.S. considers very little difference between a rocket launch and missile launch because they both use the kind of technology, ICBM technology, that is banned by the United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

So if North Korea has assembled something, a missile or a rocket, and indeed put it on a train and the train has now left the station, as two analysts that I've spoken with after looking at satellite images believe, then the big question now is where is that train headed? Is it headed to the Sohae satellite launch facility, which is now, according to other analysts in the United States at 38 North, fully operational after it had been partially taken apart.

Kim Jong-un pledged to dismantle the facility, but he reversed that pledge and work at the site has really picked up post-Hanoi, post President Trump walking out of talks with Kim Jong-un, leaving the North Korean leader, in the word of one source of mind, bewildered, humiliated and forced to return home to North Korea without a deal having lost a lot of face. Is he potentially sending a defiant message to President Trump and does this signal a breakdown in their relationship?

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RIPLEY: Just one day after North Korean state TV showed an hour-long documentary touting when it called Kim Jong-un's triumphant and successful Hanoi summit, one full of red carpets and motorcades, handshakes and smiles, North Korean state media is changing course, admitting for the first time that no deal was reached and unloading on the U.S. over the failure, saying in a news story, quote, "The public at home and abroad are feeling regretful, blaming the U.S. for the summit that ended without an agreement."

MICHAEL FUCHS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: They are definitely trying to make it seem as though they were ready to cut a deal, that they had a tremendous offer on the table for President Trump and that it was President Trump who decided to walk away from what they saw as a very good deal.

RIPLEY: Initially, both sides kept up a good face during the summit with Kim telling reporters he would discuss getting rid of his nuclear weapons.

KIM JONG-UN, NORTH KOREAN LEADER: If I'm not willing to do that, I wouldn't be here right now.

RIPLEY: But things went south, a source tells CNN, when the U.S. refused to lift all sanctions in exchange for Kim's offer to only shut down his main nuclear fuel factory and President Trump walked away.

TRUMP: Sometimes you have to walk and this was just one of those times.

RIPLEY: North Korea says they only requested a partial lifting of sanctions. A plan signing ceremony was canceled, along with lunch and Kim was left feeling bewildered, a source tells CNN. Today, President Trump held out hope the relationship he once described as falling in love won't now fall apart.

TRUMP: I would be surprised, in a negative way, if he did anything that was not per our understanding, but we'll see what happens.

[06:05:00] RIPLEY: Analysts say what's happening does not appear to be positive. At this North Korean facility where rockets are tested, satellite photos show new activity. Kim had been dismantling it last year after tensions with the U.S. began to thaw, but by Saturday, the walls had been rebuilt and by Wednesday, the roof was restored.

A State Department official says the U.S. has not yet determined whether the site is now operational again, but is watching it closely and will ask North Korea for an explanation. Analysts say the big question now is whether the two leaders' relationship is broken or if they'll try to patch things up and reach a deal again.

FUCHS: What comes next? Was the Hanoi summit end of chapter one of diplomacy between the two countries or was it the end of diplomacy between these two countries and does something much worse, frankly, come next?

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RIPLEY: And here in Beijing, Chinese authorities have taken notice of what happened in Hanoi. Sources are telling CNN that Chinese President Xi Jinping is no longer planning to travel to the United States to Mar-a-Lago at the end of this month, which had been reported.

The reason? They don't want President Trump to walk out on President Xi like he walked out on Kim Jong-un. That would be a diplomatic catastrophe in the eyes of the Chinese and that is further evidence that, at least in this part of the world, President Trump's diplomatic credibility has been undermined because of him walking out in Hanoi, Victor, Christi.

BLACKWELL: All right. Will Ripley for us in Beijing. Will, thank you. PAUL: Now, President Trump has held up the pause in testing as a sign of progress here. If North Korea is making these moves to get the White House's attention, as some analysts say it's possible, the question is has it worked? We want to bring in CNN White House reporter Sarah Westwood. What are you hearing from there in West Palm Beach this morning?

SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, good morning, Christi and Victor. And the White House still not responding to this reported activity at this facility in North Korea. President Trump saying yesterday, as you've mentioned, that he would be surprised in a negative way if North Korea were to resume its testing of missiles.

Recall that this administration has held up the pause in missile tests and nuclear tests and other provocative activity from North Korea as a top point of pride as progress in itself from the President's inaugural summit with Kim Jong-un in Singapore last year. So if those tests were to resume, that could be a blow to the President's strategy when it comes to North Korea, the credibility of which is based on the fact that these tests have stopped.

Now, the President's National Security Advisor, John Bolton, said on Thursday that the President is still open to further talks with North Korea. The prospect of a third summit with Kim Jong-un was sort of left up in the air after the President departed Vietnam just over a week ago, but, of course, if North Korea is in fact re-engaging in that provocative behavior, it's unclear if denuclearization talks would continue, Victor and Christi.

PAUL: All righty. Sarah Westwood, appreciate the update. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. To talk about the political repercussions and consequences, let's talk to Karoun Demirjian, Congressional Reporter at "The Washington Post". Karoun, good morning.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Good morning, Victor.

BLACKWELL: So the President has used the lack of missile and nuclear tests to justify continued engagement as a measure of success of his talks with Kim. If there is a missile test or a satellite test which previous presidents have seen as provocative, what politically is the consequence for the President?

DEMIRJIAN: It makes the gambit of this summit -- not the gambit of talking to North Korea, not the gambit of trying to resolve the standoff over their nuclear weapons, but the strategy that he used in going to two high-profile summits, one more so than the last, open to question. It's been open to question this whole time, but his critics have really kept their own counsel or tried to for the most part because everybody wanted it to work if it could work.

And it was an orthodox strategy to put the North Korean leader on such a public stage and legitimize him so much as to put him next to the American president multiple times, but that was kind of held closer to the chest and it -- there's any incentive to do now if this is a strategy that either so fully damaged the relationship that it can't be resuscitated or has really put the progress on its back foot in terms of being able to move forward in the actual substantive negotiations, whether or not we get to watch that on TV cameras or it happens behind closed doors.

BLACKWELL: So let's talk about that progress. A Senior State Department official held a background briefing this week and said -- and let's put it up on the screen, "Nobody in the administration advocates a step-by-step approach . In all cases, the exception is a -- expectation rather, is a complete denuclearization of North Korea as a condition for all the other steps being taken." How plausible is that that they'll get full denuclearization, although they have not yet defined the term, before anything else happens?

[06:10:02] DEMIRJIAN: Well, I mean, not plausible given what we saw happen after Hanoi, which is that the North Koreans are making hard demands and wanting a lifting of all sanctions and at the outset of doing this. So you have both sides saying, well, you me a very, very clear and very, very expansive gesture of everything I want before I do what you're asking me to do and that's a difficult way to get through a negotiation.

I mean, on the bright side, it's not -- sometimes you need these things to fall apart a few times for people to realize that they really don't want to just retreat to their corners, that their best alternative is to negotiate something even if it's not perfect.

So a negotiation this high-stakes, this complicated is not going to just work like that at the first time, but the fact that we are -- it seems like people on both sides, the leaders on both sides, are still talking to their own countries at this point versus putting out proposals that would be technically negotiation in public, which I'm sure they don't want to do, but actually coming closer towards the middle. It doesn't sound like that's happening.

BLACKWELL: So let's talk about the residual impact as IT relates to President Xi of China. Will Ripley just reporting there that Xi will not be coming to the U.S. by the end of the month for this signing summit at Mar-a-Lago for a trade deal. In part the uncertainty is fueled by the President walking away from the table with Kim in Hanoi. How does that play for the President, that now you've got China saying, well, he walked away from that, maybe he'll walk away from me?

DEMIRJIAN: I mean, it's a political move by the Chinese to say that in the first place, but it shows that there's repercussions for anything that the American president does wherever he's in the world dealing with countries big or small, aggressive or competitors. And I mean, look, the President has put a pause button on rolling out the full extent of the tariffs and other trade measures that he was threatening to do because he thought that he could renegotiate things with China. That slows that down.

It begs the question of what will Trump then do if he's not going to have those face-to-face talks with the Chinese leader and it also begs the question of, you know, what then happens elsewhere in the region? I mean, China has been a vital, vital link for North Korea and it's also been a vital leverage point for the United States in trying to get North Korea to the table.

And there's always other things happening, right? China asserts leverage over North Korea. Currently, we have scaled down our exercises with South Korea. You can't -- you can't silo off any of these relationships from the other, both because of how the countries want to be perceived themselves, but also because if you have a slowdown, probably this is not a complete breakdown with China, but even a slowdown and a pullback suggests that it might be more complicated to talk not just about the bilateral issues, but about the regional multilateral issues which are also so important.

So you can't do any of these things in a vacuum. Everybody's watching and thinking about how to recalculate what their bottom line is given what people did with other leaders and on other fronts.

BLACKWELL: Yes. All right. We'll see if there's progress on either front. Karoun Demirjian, thanks so much.

DEMIRJIAN: Thank you.

PAUL: And we have a reminder for you. Live from South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, three CNN presidential town halls back to back for you. First of all, former Congressman John Delaney at 7:00, Representative Tulsi Gabbard at 8:00 and Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 9:00. CNN's Jake Tapper and Dana Bash are moderating. That is tomorrow night, Sunday, starting at 7:00 P.M. Eastern only here on CNN.

BLACKWELL: "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett indicted on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct. We'll break down the legal implications with our legal analyst. That's coming up next.

PAUL: Also, former Trump chairman Paul Manafort getting ready for a second sentencing. We're taking a look at what he could face next week.

BLACKWELL: Also, the February jobs report was the weakest in months. What this tells us about the state of the economy, that's ahead.

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PAUL: Seventeen minutes past the hour right now. "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett is set to be arraigned on Thursday now. Court records show he was indicted yesterday on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct stemming from alleged false reports that he was attacked in Chicago. Now, the two men who were detained in connection with the incident have been cooperating with police and they say Smollett paid them $3,500 to stage the attack. Mark Geragos, one of Smollett's attorneys, said the actor maintains his innocence and calls the indictment "prosecutorial overkill."

CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson with us now. Joey, what do you make of that? Do you see prosecutorial overkill here?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good morning to you, Christi. You know, I see prosecutors who are motivated to get to the bottom of what occurred. Mark Geragos, a outstanding attorney and a very good individual, I might add, a colleague here obviously at CNN. You know, look, the prosecutors, what they did is they took out every particular factual statement that Mr. Smollett made and they made it into a crime.

So essentially, the counts that you see in the indictment, he spoke to one officer initially and told them a variety of things as to what occurred and those things that he told them, right? Being attacked by masked men, it being a hate crime, the noose around his neck, they made each and every one, that is the prosecutors, a false statement, a false report.

Then, again, he met with a detective and at that time, reiterated the story, adding some details and prosecutors did that again. Did they need 16 counts? I don't think so. I think, you know, Mark certainly has a point as it relates to the prosecutors being overzealous here, but, you know, at the end of the day, it matters little. The fact is is all you need is one count for a conviction and the evidence in this case appears to be somewhat compelling ...

PAUL: Based ...

JACKSON: ... the stuff that we know.

PAUL: Sure. And based on what we know, how reliable do you see these two witnesses?

JACKSON: You know, I think ...

PAUL: These two, men, the brothers.

JACKSON: What happens, Christi, and that's the great question and that's the essence of the question, but how reliable you see someone always depends upon whether they're corroborated and from what we know, and again, I'm relying upon press reports, having examined the evidence, having, you know, Mark Geragos has the evidence or certainly will get the evidence.

[06:20:06] So he'll be able to examine it, but you don't have to rely upon someone's word. What do I mean? We see that the two are talking to the police as to what occurred. The police are not just saying, oh, is that what happened? Really? Let's march you in front of the grand jury and then we'll take you to trial. No. They're evaluating.

So they go and they say, hey, we went and we went to the store and we picked up the mask and we picked up the rope and we got the bleach and all we need. Where do police go? They go to the store. We have surveillance video from them being in the store. You know what else he did? He paid us with a check. It was $3,500. What do police do? They go and get the check.

The argument, of course, is that, ho, those were for personal training services. That's for a jury to vet out, but when you talk about credibility, when you have that credibility matched up against evidence ...

PAUL: Yes.

JACKSON: ... it's hard to argue that someone's lying.

PAUL: Joey, I've got to -- I've got to play this from defense attorney Mark Geragos. Here's something else he brought up yesterday. Listen to this.

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MARK GERAGOS, JUSSIE SMOLLETT'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: What is happening here is, frankly, a media gangbang of this guy of unprecedented proportions and that's the reason I got into this. I've never seen a media pendulum swing more quickly and more viciously and rob somebody of their presumption of innocence like this case. It's startling the way people assume that he's guilty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: He brings up that bigger issue of innocent until proven guilty and the fact that that seems to be, to some degree with a lot of people, absent here. Your thoughts?

JACKSON: You know, Christi, everyone has the presumption of innocence and as a defense attorney, I'll stand by that every day and twice on Sunday. You're presumed innocent until proven guilty. A judge will instruct the jury every time that leave -- they leave that room. Do not make any conclusions. Do not draw any conclusions.

Having said that, why is this in the public discourse? Why are we speaking about it? Because of the nature of what was reported, because of the fact that you say you were attacked, the fact that you say this is MAGA country, the fact that they called you, you know, epithets that relate to your sexual orientation. And so obviously it's a case that resonated and the police took seriously. And then they put 12 detectives on it, they spent 1,000 man hours and they uncover that it just ain't so.

And so yes, it's out there. Yes, people have attitudes about it, but that's, in large measure, to Jussie Smollett himself. Let's be clear, let's be honest about the narrative that he put out there about the the police trying to get to the bottom of, oh my goodness, how could this ever occur? Let's catch the person. And then when you go and catch them. You track the two people down. They don't happen to be white, they happen to be black. You discuss it with the people after you arrest them. You say, I'm not going to arrest them. You detain them. You learn their story. You learn that they were paid for it, allegedly, and the story unravels.

PAUL: Yes.

JACKSON: So yes, it's something that we're all -- you know, people are really motivated to speak about, but that is in large measure to the narrative that Smollett himself put out there concerning what happened to him.

PAUL: All right. Joey Jackson, it's always so good to get your perspective, sir. Thank you.

JACKSON: Thank you, Christi.

PAUL: Absolutely. Victor?

BLACKWELL: R&B singer R. Kelly is expected to post bond to be released from jail this morning. He was arrested Wednesday after failing to pay his ex-wife $161,000 of child support. Kelly was out on bail in another case when he was arrested. Now, last month, a grand jury indicted Kelly on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse accusing him of sexual acts with children between the ages of 13 and 17.

Kelly says he's innocent and maintained that innocence at a "CBS News" special which aired last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you done anything wrong?

R. KELLY, MUSICIAN: I've done lots of things wrong when it come to women that I apologize, but I apologized in those relationships at the time I was in the relationships. OK ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you broken any laws when it comes to women?

KELLY: Absolutely not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you ever had sex with ...

KELLY: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... anyone under the age of 17?

KELLY: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Never?

KELLY: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What they say is you like very much being in control and if you're not in control, it becomes very bad for the woman in the relationship.

KELLY: You're saying me? I like to be?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Yes.

KELLY: No, no, no, no, no. See the -- see the thing is is that I'm not a controlling person. It's just that I am in control of my household. Like, say, if you live with me, I consider myself the king of the castle and you're the queen of the castle.

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BLACKWELL: If he's convicted, Kelly could face between three and seven years in prison for each of those 10 counts.

PAUL: Tough week ahead for the President's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. Critics say he was handed a light sentence this week in Virginia, but next week he could a very different fate in a Washington D.C. Court. That's coming up.

BLACKWELL: Plus, traveling to Europe without a visa will be a thing of the past come 2021. Coming up, the travel restrictions are changing for the European Union.

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[06:25:00]

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PAUL: Twenty-eight minutes past the hour. Oh, it's early.

BLACKWELL: It is. It is early.

PAUL: It is an early Saturday today, isn't it? We're glad that you're up. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you. Paul Manafort's time in jail could be extended, potentially significantly, in the next week because on Thursday, Manafort, you know, was sentenced to nearly four years in prison, far less than the recommended federal guidelines of 19 to 24.5 years.

PAUL: But that's still a most significant punishment in any case brought by the Special Prosecutor's office thus far and next week, things could get a lot worse for Mr. Manafort. CNN's Sara Murray reports.

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SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Critics say Paul Manafort got off easy, but next week, he'll come face-to-face with another judge who may take a harsher view of Manafort's crimes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm surprised at the sentence.

MURRAY: Judge Amy Berman Jackson is set to sentence Manafort for conspiracy and witness tampering, crimes that carry a maximum sentence of 10 years.

[06:30:00]

In deciding whether to impose that maximum sentence, Jackson could also weigh the fact that Manafort continued to commit crimes even after he was arrested --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, traitor. MURRAY: -- and later lied to investigators when he was supposed to be cooperating. A federal judge in Virginia Thursday, sentenced Manafort; President Trump's former campaign chairman to nearly four years in prison. Far less than the recommended sentence of 19 to 25 years.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: This sentence in my view failed to do justice to the very serious crimes that Manafort has committed, as well his utter disrespect for the law.

MURRAY: The comments Manafort's lawyer made after his client's sentencing only further enflamed Democrats.

KEVIN DOWNING, ATTORNEY TO PAUL MANAFORT: There's absolutely no evidence that Paul Manafort was involved with any collusion with any government official from Russia.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: The Intelligence Committee --

MURRAY: Adam Schiff, the Democrat Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee fired back via Twitter, saying "the statement by Paul Manafort's lawyer after an already lenient sentence, repeating the President's mantra of no collusion was no accident. It was a deliberate appeal for a pardon."

In deciding Manafort's sentence, Judge T.S. Ellis called the recommendations excessive and claimed that Manafort lived an otherwise blameless life. But his resume shows a complicated picture. Manafort spent a lifetime enriching himself with lobbying work for dictators and regimes with abysmal human rights records.

Like former Philippines leader Ferdinand Marcos whose image Manafort tried to bolster in Washington after decades of his brutal rule. When he was light on cash, Manafort turned to a Russian oligarch for millions of dollars that Manafort never appear to repay according to witness testimony at his trial.

Later, he built ties with Ukrainian oligarchs with close ties to the Kremlin and stashed the millions he earned from them in foreign bank accounts. As part of his illegal lobbying work, Manafort even pushed news to raising 2012, designed to paint President Obama's administration as anti-Semitic according to court documents.

For their part, prosecutors reached back nearly a decade to document Manafort's history of tax fraud, hiding foreign bank accounts and defrauding banks leading to his eight convictions in Virginia.

(on camera): Now, even though the maximum that Paul Manafort could face when he was sentenced in D.C. is ten years, it will be more difficult for Manafort and his legal team to make the argument that the judge should not give him this maximum sentence. And that's because unlike Virginia, he actually pleaded guilty to the charges he was facing in D.C.

As part of that plea agreement, he acknowledged a number of other crimes that he was never even charged with. He even signed a document that of course prosecutors have, saying he deserved 17 to 22 years in prison. Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CO-HOST, NEW DAY SATURDAY: Well, starting in 2021, U.S. citizens will need a travel visa to visit most European countries. The European Union is implementing increased security measures and Americans will need a new type of visa to travel through its 26 member nations.

Right now, Americans can travel through Europe for up to 90 days, with only a passport. To apply for the new travel visas, Americans will need a passport, credit or debit card and an e-mail account. The visas will be valid for 3 years.

CHRISTI PAUL, CO-HOST, NEW DAY SATURDAY: Tough jobs reports for the U.S. economy. What does it say about the health of what's going on in the economy today, and whether the president's policies are helping, whether they're hurting. CNN business is breaking down some of those numbers. We'll talk about it in a moment, stay close.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[06:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: So, let's say it was a pretty big miss for the U.S. economy. Only 20,000 jobs added last month, and surprisingly low number, so low that it halted the gains that we've been seeing in recent months. The government said thousands of people just couldn't work because of the weather, particularly in industries such as construction and hospitality.

BLACKWELL: The unemployment rate dropped to 3.8 percent and wages grew 3.4 percent from a year ago. Now, average hourly earnings have been consistently stronger in the past few months, but economists are concerned if that pace is sustainable.

PAUL: So CNN business senior writer Lydia DePillis is with us now. Lydia, so good to see you, is there any other evidence that the economy has been slowing other than these jobs numbers that we saw in the last 24 hours?

LYDIA DEPILLIS, CNN BUSINESS SENIOR WRITER: Yes, so economists have been expecting a slowdown to hit for a while now. It's been happening globally for many months particularly in China, there's been a manufacturing slowdown, trade is declining. And so there's been a question about when this is going to happen in the United States after a really amazing 2018.

That is starting to show up in housing purchases and sales, in retail sales, a really bad number in December. Things like loan demand are down, but on the other hand, we haven't seen it hit right quite yet. There are some positive signs, productivity is growing, that's a really great sign for the economy. It means that those wage gains may actually be sustained even as companies start to look around the corner.

BLACKWELL: So we're seeing a foreshadow, not a plot point just yet? We're starting to see --

DEPILLIS: Exactly --

BLACKWELL: The hint of it coming. So yesterday, Lydia, the president, he really shrugged off the jobs report, at least the growth number of just a hard jobs, and he says the economy is doing well. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The economy is very strong. If you look at the stock market over the last few months, it's been great, and certainly since my election, it's up, getting close to 50 percent in the stock market. So we're obviously very happy with that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: The president obviously will take credit for all of that, but how much can he -- should he take credit for, considering his policies over the last two years?

[06:40:00] DEPILLIS: Well, the president conveniently left out the giant dive in the stock market at the end of last year from which we're basically almost recovered. But it is appropriate to give him some credit for the stimulus of tax cuts and increased government spending which led to what some call artificially high growth in 2018, which is why we're coming off of those highs.

Now, businesses have been complaining about the uncertainty he's created with a trade war. Most of that has been a small drag, most of the fears were around that escalating which have been alleviated recently with good talks with China. But people are still looking for things like an infrastructure bill or an increase in high-skilled immigration. Those are the kinds of things that would really help the economy down the line.

PAUL: Of course, we know this morning that Chinese officials say there's no longer this planned summit with President Xi Jinping of China, so we'll wait and see where that goes --

DEPILLIS: Right --

PAUL: In terms of trade, that was a concern. But when we look at the Fed and their meeting in two weeks, how likely will they hold off for the rate hikes?

DEPILLIS: The Fed has said that it is going to be quote, "patient" with rate hikes. Most people expect that, that means they will not hike in March. Now, the recent economic data lends credence to that, it sounds like this gives them good reason to hold off which will be very comforting to many businesses.

PAUL: No doubt, all right, hey, Lydia DePillis, good to have you with us, thank you --

DEPILLIS: No problem --

PAUL: Sure.

BLACKWELL: Right, let's go to Allison Chinchar now watching some severe weather moving through parts of the country. Allison, I spent half the week in Alabama after those fatal tornadoes. Are we expecting anything like that this weekend?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, METEOROLOGIST: Unfortunately we are. And we're already starting to see a lot of those storms beginning to fire up already this morning. We'll break it down what areas are likely to see the worst severe weather coming up.

[06:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: It's going to be another dangerous weekend for nearly 15 million Americans who are under a threat of severe weather this weekend.

PAUL: Yes, it comes nearly a week, of course, after those deadly tornadoes ripped through Alabama, through Georgia. CNN Meteorologist Allison Chinchar is with us now. Do you anticipate, Allison, it will be as bad as we've seen this past week?

CHINCHAR: Unfortunately, yes. The forecast is calling for that. Some very strong, violent tornadoes that are expected through this area. Now, we absolutely hope and pray that the death toll remains at zero for this particular event. But the dynamics are there for this to be a very strong system as it continues to push east.

We're already starting to see some very strong storms develop even at this hour. You know, the sun has not even risen for a lot of these places, that's going to be the problem going forward. As the sun rises, you'll get that heating of the day that will allow for a lot more of these storms to fire up and also intensify.

Because of that, we have a severe thunderstorm watch in effect from Missouri back down through portions of Texas. Large hail is going to be the initial concern, but as we get that heating of the day, that will help develop into more of the threat for tornadoes as well as some damaging winds.

Here's a look at those storms as they again continue to progress throughout the afternoon. Places like Memphis, Nashville, Little Rock and even Jackson, Mississippi, those are going to be the target points for today. The time-line for those in a lot of cases is going to be in the afternoon, and especially as we go into the early evening hours as the storm moves through.

But take a city like Nashville for example. You're going to have multiple rounds of this moving through, and each one of those rounds has the potential to have strong to severe storms with it. So this isn't going to be one quick it's in, it's out and we're all done, very much like last Sunday where they had multiple rounds of storms, that's going to be the case today. Now, when we talk about last Sunday, there were 37 tornadoes from last

Sunday's outbreak. That was an enhanced risk just like the forecast calls for this particular outbreak. We had five is what the average is for Mississippi, a five for the month of March in Georgia and South Carolina averages about three in the month of March.

Here's the thing, they got more than that, a month's worth of tornadoes in just that one event. But how does this compare to March overall as a whole? Here's the thing. Overall, the month of March typically has about 78 tornadoes. So we picked up nearly half of that average from just that one outbreak this past Sunday.

Now, the thing going forward is, when we talk about the rest of the year, it only gets worse from here because Victor and Christi, when you look at April, May, June, each one of those months gets progressively worse.

Now, the one thing I will point out today for the storms, if there are tornado watches issued at any point throughout the day, please make sure you have your safe plan in place. If you live in a mobile home, get out. You are safer in your car than you are in a mobile home.

If you live in a mobile home, make plans ahead of time, say, perhaps with a friend that you can go stay with who lives in a non-mobile home. If that's not an option, Victor and Christi, an easy solution, head to your closest library.

PAUL: Never thought of that --

BLACKWELL: Yes, that is good advice, those mobile homes often show the worst damage first. Allison Chinchar, thanks so much.

PAUL: Thanks. So Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, is using her voice to promote empowering young women now. But she has something else to say. And we're hearing for the first time about this, about the vial racist social media attacks against her.

What is really being said out there? I don't know if you're aware of how bad it is, and what she's saying about it, next.

[06:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: Meghan Markle is keeping up a busy schedule just weeks before she has her baby. The Duchess of Sussex took time to join a celebrity panel discussion for International Women's Day.

PAUL: Yes, she talked about equality, she talked about empowerment, and she took a moment to explain how she deals with scathing and often times the racist social media attacks against her. Here's CNN royal correspondent Max Foster.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've now learned that she doesn't read the papers, she doesn't engage on Twitter, she's there to focus on her public role and the causes she's out to support. MEGHAN MARKLE, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: Again, it's our responsibility. We

make a choice on what we click on, we make a choice on what we read, we make a choice in what we engage in. That is our personal decision to not feed into negativity, right? To really sort of be more cause- driven and action-based.

FOSTER: This comes as CNN reveals the extent of racist trolling on social media, targeting the duchess.

MARKLE: I don't read anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes --

(LAUGHTER)

MARKLE: It's much safer that way. But equally, that's just my own personal preference because I think positive or negative, it can all sort to just feel like noise to a certain extent.

FOSTER: Meghan was appearing on a star-studded panel to mark International Women's Day including the singer Annie Lennox and former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. And she neatly tied in women's equality with the impending birth of her baby.

MARKLE: You know, I've actually be joking in the past few weeks (INAUDIBLE) this documentary on Netflix about feminism, and one of the things they said during pregnancy was, I feel the embryonic kicking of feminism.

(LAUGHTER)

[06:55:00] I loved that. So boy or girl or whatever it is, we hope that's the case --

FOSTER: The duchess dismissed the idea that feminism was just a fad.

MARKLE: The idea that there's a headline saying feminism is a trendy word. That's not helpful either, right?

FOSTER: So the duchess appearing on good form on what's expected to be one of her last appearances before she goes off on maternity leave. The baby due in April. Everyone very excited at this next chapter in Sussex's royal story. Max Foster, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL: All right, Kate Williams is with us now, CNN royal commentator and historian and lecturer at the University of London. Kate, good to have you with us. Talk to me about what you saw there about the duchess and how she talked about empowering women.

KATE WILLIAMS, CNN ROYAL COMMENTATOR & LECTURER, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: Well, the duchess really has said from the beginning that she wants to empower women, she wants to be clear that she's a feminist. She was obviously clear of that identity before she became the Duchess of Sussex.

And she did make a lot of initial comments about her feminism, about the importance of empowering women. And we're really seeing that kicking in now, and that's really interesting. She recently became the patron of a charity Smart Works that empowers women back into employment.

And here she is on this, really as Max was saying, stars studded panel, talking about the importance of feminism. It's not going to go away, and it's so important to her that she's bringing up her baby, the future royal baby as a feminist. And that really shows, I think, what a big and important voice she is in Britain and also within the royal family.

PAUL: There's been so much back and forth about Meghan Markle. How influential, how potent is her voice?

WILLIAMS: Her voice is so influential and so potent. Whatever she says gets huge amount of coverage, not just in Britain, but all around the world. And so she has a lot of power. And I think when we watched the engagement interview when she and Prince Harry engagement was in town -- announced, they said how much they wanted to use the platform that they now had for making the world a better place.

And it was very interesting, some of the charities they used for their wedding, they were talking about women's menstrual health, then this is what Meghan is really breaking down these taboos in terms of women, in terms of feminism. She's saying feminism, women is really important and I want to be a voice for it.

And yes, obviously, the queen is a great example of an independent woman, Kate, too, but they haven't really talked much about feminism, and this is where Meghan is really making an important voice, and she's saying so much. And I do think it's only the beginning of what she's going to do. I think she's going to be a very influential figure in the future.

PAUL: And it says a lot about her strength when you look at just a relentless attacks online by racist, sexist trolls. It's so bad the royal palace issued social media guidelines warning users about posts that are defamatory or inflammatory that are hateful, that are racist, that are obscene, threatening violence and abusive racially and sexually offensive behavior.

We've already heard Meghan say, you know, she avoids the papers, she avoids Twitter, I think a lot of people would do well to take on that practice as well. But what is fueling in your opinion, what do we know that is fueling this anti-Meghan vitriol?

WILLIAMS: Well, Christi, I have been shocked by it. People who marry into the royal family always have a hard time. Whether it's Duke of Edinburgh or Kate Middleton, but it has been absolutely the worse for Meghan, it has been terrible. And I think, there's obviously a sexism there, there's anti-Americanism, there's a lot of criticism of her family, but I think there's really a lot of racism. Some of the clips you were showing there, the extract, talking about

her exotic DNA, there have been talk about her being a controversial member of the royal family. It really has been shocking the racism against her. And right from the beginning, we learned of course, Harry and Meghan were going out because Harry issued the statement saying that she'd been the target of racist and sexist abuse.

And he was concerned he couldn't protect her. And this is -- it's being -- we see it in the newspapers, the clips you were showing, but also online. There have been -- you know, when I look at some of the Twitter, I just can't believe that this is some of the stuff that's being said on there.

And I think it's great to hear that Meghan isn't looking at it because it is obviously very distressing. But also I think it's unprecedented that the palace have come out and said, if you want to respond to it, if you want to use our platform, you have to stop speaking --

PAUL: Right --

WILLIAMS: This way --

PAUL: Right, I mean, they've had to pretty blocked the "N" word, emojis of knives and guns. Is there a real -- is there a concern of a real physical threat that could evolve from this?

WILLIAMS: Well, I think the royal couple are concerned about the physical threat. I mean, you see all these actual physical threats being made, as you say, knives and guns, and it's hard not to be afraid of that. And of course, there's a huge amount of security.

But when Meghan and Harry moved into their new house, Frogmore Cottage, it is in the middle of nowhere in Windsor. But the thing is about Meghan, it's unlike a lot of the royals, she likes to go out there and hug people, and shake hands, so she wants to be close to the people and meet the people, and that could be a bit difficult in terms of security.

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