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Gunman Kills 49 in New Zealand Mosque Shootings; Religious Institutions in New Zealand Closing Doors after Shootings; President Trump Comments on New Zealand Mosque Shootings; Reporting Indicate Pilots of Crashed Planes Possibly Battling Automated Systems before Crash; Beto O'Rourke Campaigns for President in Iowa; Analysts Debate President Trump's Comments on Mosque Shootings; Flooding Hits Parts of Midwest; CNN Hero Helps Children Mourn for Lost Loved Ones. Aired 10- 11a ET

Aired March 16, 2019 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:00] MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, join me for My American Life in Columns tour. I'm in Chicago, sold out tomorrow, Wilkes-Barre on April 7, New York City, April 22, Atlanta, April 29, and Nashville on April 30. You can catch up with us anytime on CNN Go and On Demand. I'll see you next week.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: It is Saturday, March 16th. We are so grateful for your company, as always. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. You are in the CNN Newsroom. And we begin this hour with an unprecedented move in New Zealand's history. Out of abundance of caution, religious institutions are closing their doors tomorrow. Synagogues in New Zealand will close for the first time ever.

PAUL: This comes after at least 49 people were murdered at two mosques in Christchurch. Overnight, the man accused of carrying out the terror attack was in court, seemingly unrepentant. He apparently flashed a white power symbol as he faced the judge. And we want to point out the judge asked us to blur his face in the video, that's why you're not seeing him there. In a moment, we're going to take you live to New Zealand to get more on the investigation, on the suspect, on his victims. Ivan Watson is standing by. First, though, Polo Sandoval is at the Islamic Cultural Center of New York. Polo, what are you learning this morning?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christi, Victor, I can tell you that American Muslims are certainly still in a deep state of mourning, but, at the same time, they also in a state of heightened security, and that is certainly what we noticed here in New York City. For the last 24 hours, as Mayor Bill de Blasio has ordered NYPD officers to visit various locations throughout the city, make sure the members of the Muslim community feel reassured, feel safe and comfortable.

Yesterday, for example, we were here as many people stopped by for Friday prayer. They walked past a contingent of tactical police officers and into the main prayer room. When you hear directly from city officials, it's interesting when you hear the message coming from, for example, Bill de Blasio, say the main message that they want to send by sending police officers to these locations is one of solidarity, and also one of safety.


BILL DE BLASIO, (D) NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: I stand here today as the leader of this city to send a clear message to all our Muslim brothers and sisters that we stand with you in solidarity. We understand the pain you're feeling at this moment, and the loss you're feeling, and we are here to ensure this community is respected and embraced and protected.


SANDOVAL: On that note, we certainly have seen some of the messaging on the ground. Yesterday, for example, during Friday prayer service, members of other faiths stopping by the Islamic Cultural Center of New York, expressing their condolences, expressing their support, Victor and Christi.

BLACKWELL: Polo Sandoval for us there in New York. Polo, thank you.

PAUL: And this morning, we're learning the names of some of those victims that were killed in the massacre. One of them is Khaled Mustafa, a refugee from Syria. He moved to New Zealand with his wife and three children just last year.

BLACKWELL: It was meant to be a safe haven from violence in Syria. One of Khaled's two sons was in surgery for at least six hours. That was last night in Christchurch at a hospital there. Of course our best goes to that boy.

Let's go now to Senior International Correspondent Ivan Watson in Christchurch. Good morning. Middle of the night there, what have you learned?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm right next to Christchurch hospital, and this is where some of the victims are fighting for their lives after what is clearly the deadliest terror attack in New Zealand's modern history, as the prime minister called it one of the country's darkest days.

And if you can imagine, just about 10 minutes walk from where I am right now, I just walked through the park where I'm standing is the Al Noor Mosque. And there are candles burning at 3:00 a.m. here, just next to the police line across from the mosque, which is lit up with police lights and police are active there now.

The prime minister said that one of the goals on Saturday would be to remove all of the bodies of victims from inside that mosque, because the suspect was believed to have stormed in on Friday, during Friday prayers, livestreaming from a camera as he opened fire on worshippers who were kneeling in devotion to their God. And another mosque, the Linwood Mosque, was attacked the same day with a death toll of at least 49 people.

It has shocked this small country. I have seen strangers embracing on the sidewalk here in front of the hospital. The key suspect is this 28-year-old Australian named, Brenton Tarrant, who authorities say resisted arrest, was caught with five firearms in his car, also equipped with two improvised explosive devices.

[10:05:01] The prime minister's office has confirmed to CNN that they received a manifesto, an 86-page manifesto, from this man shortly before the attacks took place from his e-mail. In that, he talks about white genocide, that immigrants are threatening white people in a country where there is only about one percent of the population that is actually Muslim.

So part of the response here in New Zealand has been people saying, reaching out to the Muslim minority here, saying this attack on you is an attack on all New Zealanders. The New Zealand prime minister has also made it clear that the gun laws in this country will change. Brenton Tarrant had a gun permit in New Zealand as a foreign visitor, and there are some 1.2 million guns in this country of some 5 million people, but she's made clear that those laws have to change in the wake of this terror attack. Victor and Christi?

PAUL: Ivan Watson, we appreciate the update so much. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: President Trump offered his condolences to the people of New Zealand, and when asked about the terror attack during an event at the Oval Office, the president said that he doesn't see white nationalism as a rising threat.

Joining me now to discuss is Democratic strategist Nayyera Haq, she's the former Obama White House senior director and a former State Department spokesperson. Welcome to the show. Thanks for being with us.

NAYYERA HAQ, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good to be with you this morning.

BLACKWELL: So let's start here with just the facts. Reconcile the president's characterization of white nationalism and what he sees as a very small group with the facts.

HAQ: It is very difficult to reconcile, Victor. And it comes across as more as part of a president's agenda of who he wants to be appealing to with his rhetoric. Frankly, he is not appealing to those who are concerned about their safety, and he's not appealing to those who are worried about religious freedom in this country, particularly given the fact that every law enforcement agency, most of the research coming out of the government itself will tell you that 80 percent of the attacks on American soil that are considered terrorist attacks are rightwing extremist attacks.

All we have to do is look at Charlottesville, we look at Pittsburgh recently. There's several examples of this in the United States, globally. And it all ties into how white nationalists and terror networks use words. We're used to hearing the words twisted of religion to influence, for example, ISIS and for ISIS to get a broader network, but we're seeing white nationalists use the words of historical leaders and use the words of other attackers, and even in this case, the New Zealand manifesto mentions Donald Trump's words about denigrating immigration. So that is all part and parcel of how words matter in these situations to influence people.

BLACKWELL: The ADL, the Anti-Defamation League, their newly released report shows that white supremacists increased their propaganda efforts by 182 percent in 2018, and the number of racist demonstrations and rallies up about 20 percent.

Let's talk about use of words because I think that's important. The president a few months ago quite notably called a question about his rhetoric and his embrace of nationalism, not white nationalism, but nationalism at the time, and a perceived connection to white nationalism, a racist question. How do they use these words? We talk about how they hear it, but how do they use it? And what we're noticing is that it is not just domestic, but all the way in Australia, New Zealand, as we see, across Europe.

HAQ: Yes, Donald Trump has tapped into a global movement of people who feel aggrieved and under attack, that their way of life is also potentially disappearing because of diversity and immigration. In Poland, we saw 60,000 people marching for a white Europe protection parade. And so this is part of the harder work of understanding how we all have to live together, how we make diversity work and not have it be divisive.

But that division is something that leaders are capitalizing on for votes. And these words go beyond just the rhetoric of speeches, they also go into actual public policy. Under the Trump administration in 2017 the entire countering violent extremism program was changed. That's the program that was supposed to look at extremist movements throughout the United States, and Donald Trump changed it to eliminate right wing terror networks and in fact make it exclusively about radical terrorist Islam.

BLACKWELL: How much of this can, if we're talking about legislation, if we're talking about resources, can be legislated, for lack of a better term, away, that an investment can reduce the rallies, the traffic online, the hate, and these attacks that we're seeing?

[10:10:00] HAQ: The Internet has clearly allowed all sorts of information to spread, so it might have been a localized issue or sentiment. People are now able to find connections not just across the country, but, as we talked about, overseas as well and find solidarity in that. That's part of what this New Zealand attacker was trying to do with his manifesto, to get it online, to get it in the hands of people who may rise up and join him in civil war.

So there's a social aspect of this, of really understanding why violence is not the answer to any of these situations, and then there's a policy solution. The Internet is not going to be regulated anytime soon, but hate speech is something that most of the websites and most of our apps do not allow. So there's the self-reporting, there's the self-monitoring that we can do with what we encounter.

But clearly when the government is sending the message that this type of terror does not matter, that in fact immigration, the existence of immigration, is the problem -- Donald Trump in his speech yesterday echoed some of the similar language that the manifesto writer was using. That is the signal that is most dangerous, that needs to be curbed. And for that, really the only solution is changing the nature of the people we have in government.

BLACKWELL: Words matter, and of course dollars matter too. Nayyera Haq, thanks so much for being with us.

HAQ: Thank you.

PAUL: New evidence this morning that the pilots in two plane crashes may have been battling the plane's automated system. We're going to talk to a pilot about what happened, and see what he says about this new reporting from "New York Times" regarding the link between last weekend's crash in Ethiopia and an earlier one with the same model jet in Indonesia.

BLACKWELL: Plus, Beto O'Rourke is in Iowa today meeting voters. The Democratic presidential candidate told "Vanity Fair" magazine that he is, quote, just born to do this. We're live from Iowa just ahead.


[10:16:04] PAUL: It's 15 minutes past the hour right now. And investigators at the Ethiopian Airlines crash site have found new evidence that links that crash to an earlier crash with the same kind of jet, the same type. "The New York Times" cites two sources with knowledge of the recovery operations there, saying a piece of wreckage shows the pilots may have been battling an automated system to keep the plane from diving. Boeing is racing to have a software fix in place by next month. John Gorczyca, former captain on United Airlines, is with us now. He flew a 737-S. Thank you so much, John, for being with us. When you first heard about this crash and the theory about the pilots having to battle this automated system, what were your thoughts?

JOHN GORCZYCA, FORMER CAPTAIN, UNITED AIRLINES: My thoughts were it was like the Lion Air crash that just occurred last fall. And the thought amongst the pilot force is it possibly was a stab trim augmentation system. And we pretty much all felt the same as far as that is concerned.

PAUL: So you are blaming the automated system?

GORCZYCA: No, I am not necessarily blaming the automated system. It could be part of the stab trim augmentation system, or it could be a computer glitch. Or there's another possibility, which is a jackscrew which manipulates the elevator on the airplane itself.

PAUL: And that's what's in "The New York Times" this morning. They're saying that piece of the plane that they recovered, the jackscrew, suggests that the plane stabilizers tilted upward. Is there any other reason stabilizers would be tilting upward if not for some sort of mechanical error?

GORCZYCA: Well, no, generally not, unless the pilot needed to augment the stab trim control switches, which are on the yoke, if he felt that he needed to force the airplane in downward motion. However, looking at the track of both the Lion Air and the Ethiopian airplanes, you could see that it was an upward and downward climb and descent right after takeoff, up to six minutes prior to the collision, crash.

PAUL: As a pilot, if you were in that situation, what do you do?

GORCZYCA: Well, the first thing that I would do, we're trained at Boeing and most all U.S. operators are trained, U.S. airlines are trained to, if they feel it is a runaway stab trim situation, there are stab trim cutouts, which is on the side of the center column, and you cut those switches out and you start flying the airplane manually at that point in time.

PAUL: OK, is it possible to do that with this automated system, because I heard different analysts say sometimes to override that system it is not so easy?

GORCZYCA: Well, it is part of the MCAS system, which is the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, and that's something new on the 737 MAX 700 airplanes, or 800 airplanes. I'm not sure it is on the 900 airplane. But whenever the pilots are maneuvering and they're using the stab trim switches on the airplane, or the auto pilot is engaged, that system does not work. So --

PAUL: Help me, I just want to make sure I get this right. The MCAS system is separate from autopilot system. It can be engaged while the plane is being manually flown, correct.

GORCZYCA: Yes, it is. It's a totally different system. That's correct. It is totally different, yes.

PAUL: OK, so if they're battling it, knowing that that was there, because Boeing didn't tell them that it was there, if they didn't, should they have expected to turn that off?

GORCZYCA: Yes, they should have. And Boeing probably did.

[10:20:00] I have flown Boeing airplanes my entire career. They produce a wonderful airplane. And usually that information is passed on to the various training centers, whether it be Southwest, American, or United Airlines that fly these type of airplanes, and international carriers also.

PAUL: We know that after the Lion Air crash there was additional training given to pilots on this particular airplane. And you're right, it is one of the bestselling planes they have. The FAA says they expect a software fix to be incorporated no later than April. Do you think these airplanes should have been out of function until that fix was completed?

GORCZYCA: No. It probably was the right decision by the FAA and President Trump to do this, because the most important thing in the airline business is safety -- safety, comfort, and reliability. So yes, if we considered this a major problem with that particular airplane, it is probably the smart thing to do, and to stop the use of that airplane until the fix is in place.

PAUL: OK. So once these are back in place, would you be confident as a pilot to get in the cockpit and fly one of these planes?

GORCZYCA: Absolutely. Absolutely.

PAUL: OK. John Gorczyca, we appreciate you taking time to be with us today. Thank you, sir.

GORCZYCA: You're certainly welcome. Have a great day.

PAUL: You, too.

BLACKWELL: Beto O'Rourke is out campaigning. The presidential candidate has jumped right into the race and is spending this weekend meeting with Iowa voters. We will take you there next.


[10:26:06] BLACKWELL: Former congressman Beto O'Rourke is running. Really, he's running.

PAUL: Literally.

BLACKWELL: Yes, he is going to run. Next hour, the Democratic presidential candidate will be running a St. Patrick's Day 5K race in North Liberty, Iowa.

PAUL: And from there he's going to meet voters in Waterloo and Dubuque. CNN's Leyla Santiago is there. A unique way, let's say, to start a campaign event. I'm assuming they're not making you run with him.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I am not going to be running with him, but, yes, Beto O'Rourke will be running here. And it could be good to get some exercise, warm up, because it is cold in Iowa, as you might expect. This is the last day of a three-day tour here in Iowa for him in his first big kickoff to his 2020 campaign. He has done a lot of coffee shops, he's gone to art galleries, talking a lot of issues. He says the most existential challenge is climate change.

But here's the thing, I have spoken to a lot of people who say yes, he has won my vote. I've also spoken to people who say he is on my short list, but it is too early to make a decision. And then I spoke to one man who asked him a question about walls and whether the existing part of the wall should be torn down. He asked him that in Washington, Iowa. And when I went back to that man to say what did you feel about the answer that Beto O'Rourke gave you, here was his response.


SANTIAGO: How did you feel about his response to your question and what he had to say?

RYAN TURNER: Yes, so I don't think he really answered it, honestly. And so I understand there's a lot of pressure and you're getting a ton of questions, but you're asking to be the leader of the free world. And so I think you should be, on either side should be called to the carpet and be able to back up what you say when you're asking for that seat.


SANTIAGO: OK, so that was one take on him. But here's the thing. That is the critique from the other side. Republicans will tell you he doesn't have a lot of experience, his record on legislation is thin. Even yesterday when he was asked about Brexit, he said he didn't have a position.

The other big thing that still has not been answered is Beto O'Rourke is known for being a big fundraiser, raised $80 million in his run against Senator Ted Cruz in Texas, kind of made him a rising star. Yesterday and today I have asked about fundraising. While they do say he has brought in donations from all 50 states, still on day three of the campaign they still have not said exactly how much he has raised.

BLACKWELL: All right, they have to do it eventually. Leyla Santiago, thanks so much.

PAUL: Let's talk about it a little more with CNN's senior political writer and analyst, there he is, Harry Enten.

BLACKWELL: Harry, good morning to you. We love this time we have together on Saturdays.


BLACKWELL: So where does O'Rourke stand in the polls? There was a slide after he waited for weeks and then more than a month to announce a decision.

ENTEN: Yes. So if you look at the polling, right now he is in the mid single digits both in Iowa in our poll there, and nationally, and he was in the low double digits in December after he lost to Ted Cruz. So I think there's a real question of whether or not he waited too long to get in. of course, there's still 11 months to go until the Iowa caucuses, so a lot of time to make up ground. But it does seem to at least a few of us that maybe his time has passed. I know that sounds crazy, but polls do indicate that.

PAUL: OK, but let's talk about how much money he can raise, because he was a money raising machine for a while when he was running against Senator Ted Cruz, of course, in Texas. Does he have that same kind power at this point, that same potency that we know?

ENTEN: He raised $80 million from individual contributors during his 2018 bid, that's far more than anybody else, more than double the next closest person in Claire McCaskill.

[10:30:00] And I think that's the big question, can he raise that type of dough? Was it about Beto O'Rourke in his 2018 race, or was it that this money was going to him because he was opposing Ted Cruz. So far he says I choose not to release those figures. Well, he is going to have to release those figures eventually. If he is able to raise a great amount of dough, then that's a great sign for him because he'll be able to outlast a lot of his opponents. But if he isn't, then we're going to have to back up the truck and maybe he isn't so hot to trot.

PAUL: Leyla just said he had money from 50 states, but you wonder why he wouldn't release the total.

BLACKWELL: Maybe they're waiting for a three day or weekend total. But we'll find out. They've got to release the numbers.

Let me ask you about voting record, because we know on the left there is this crowd on the more progressive end of the spectrum. Where does O'Rourke fit on that line?

ENTEN: Yes, Beto O'Rourke's record in Congress is actually much more towards the moderate side than he is towards the liberal side. In fact, he is about as moderate as Joe Biden according to their vote records, you see it right here on the screen. This takes a look at all the roll call votes that they had cast back in Congress, and O'Rourke is actually to the right of not just Bernie Sanders or Kamala Harris, but he's to the right, considerably so, of the average Democrat running this year.

And that's going to be an interesting question of whether or not the Democratic Party electorate of today, which is considerably more liberal than it was four years ago or eight years ago or 12 years ago, is going to nominate someone towards the middle. And more than that, he is going to have to fight over these moderate voters with Joe Biden, who may or may not get in the race. But obviously if Biden does, that may squeeze O'Rourke out in the center of the electorate.

PAUL: All right, the big question for everybody in every race is always voter turnout. I can't believe we're looking ahead at that already on what to expect in the next presidential election, but what are any of the indicators, the early indicators, that we're going to have decent turnout in this presidential election?

ENTEN: I think that one of the big questions about Beto O'Rourke is whether or not he can get your regular voters out to the polls. And if you look at his 2018 bid against Ted Cruz, what you saw was in Texas, voter turnout was considerably higher than it was nationally as a percentage of who had turned out in 2016. And in 2014, you saw the exact reverse pattern where Texas was below the national average.

So it was an indication that maybe Beto O'Rourke is able to turn out irregular voters. And I expect that to be one of the arguments that he makes come 2020 to say to the Democratic electorate, look, we need to get out irregular voters to beat Donald Trump, and I have a history of doing so. Whether or not of course he is able to make the argument, I'm not sure. But certainly the 2018 election is a little feather in his cap.

BLACKWELL: All right.

PAUL: Harry Enten, always glad to have you waking up on Saturday morning with us. Good to see you. ENTEN: It is my pleasure. It's not a wake up, it is a lovely journey

to the studio that I can share this time with you. Good Shabbos, have a great Saturday. Go out, toss the ball around. Spring is here. Warm weather is in the air.

PAUL: Amen. I love it. Harry, thank you.

BLACKWELL: A senator there in Australia was being criticized for his comments on Muslims following the horrific terror attack in New Zealand. And a teenager, he decided to do something about it.

PAUL: And be sure to watch the new four-part CNN original series, exploring Richard Nixon's rise, fall, incredible comeback, and ultimately political destruction, featuring never before seen footage. The series premiers tomorrow at 9:00 p.m. right here on CNN.


[10:37:38] PAUL: A far right Australian senator got into a fight with a 16-year-old on live television. Here's what happened. The teenager took issue with some controversial comments that Senator Fraser Anning made in which he claimed immigration was the cause of a massacre at two mosques in New Zealand, and this is what happened. Take a look.


FRASER ANNING, AUSTRALIAN SENATOR: What I said was that a terribly unfortunate thing, a tragedy, but it's going to be eventually accepted, or expected that these sort of things happen. When people are getting attacked in their own --


PAUL: OK, so the teenager you saw there smashed an egg on the back of his head, and he fought back. The teenager was taken into custody, but has since been released.

BLACKWELL: President Trump offered his condolences to the people of New Zealand, but when he was asked about the terror attack during an event at the Oval Office, the president added this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you see today white nationalism as a rising threat around the world?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't really. I think it is a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. I guess if you look at what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that's the case. I don't know enough about it yet. They're just learning about the person and the people involved. But it is certainly a terrible thing, terrible thing.


BLACKWELL: Let's talk about it and bring in Republican strategist and former assistant chief of staff of communications for the former Georgia governor Nathan Deal, Brian Robinson, and former D.C. Democratic Party chairman and chair of the National Bar Association PAC, A. Scott Bolden. Gentlemen, welcome back.



BLACKWELL: So Brian, let me start with you. Best case here, right -- worst case is the president knows nad he is just lying. Best case here is that he doesn't know what he's talking about because he's wrong. Why is it the party, why aren't party leaders calling him out on that?

ROBINSON: About white nationalism? If you look what the comments that came out of the White House yesterday, they talked very specifically about attacks on Muslims. They talked very specifically about attacks on mosques. And the issue isn't white nationalism. It is terrorism. It is not what these people think necessarily about their culture. It is about acts of violence. And they spoke out very forcefully against them.

[10:40:04] And look, this is not something that happened in our country, and this is all being lumped in together as one thing. This guy came out and said he was a fascist, he was very specific in what he was. And the president even said look, I need to find out more. So he left the door open to look more into it and see what's going on.

BLACKWELL: Although we would like for the president to find and get the facts before he speaks, he often does not do that. He consistently says that when the issue is white supremacy or white nationalism, though, but on the fact, though, on the fact of the rising threat of white nationalism, the president is just long. He said was a law enforcement candidate, he wanted to be the law enforcement president. To enforce the law, you have to know the threat, do you not?

ROBINSON: Well, certainly, you have to know the threat. But please explain to me where he has been soft of white nationalist terrorism. There was a strong law enforcement response when we had the rallies in Charlottesville. All of those folks who committed violence have been prosecuted to the fullest extent. I don't see him coming out and saying let's pardoning these guys. What do you want him to do? He is speaking out against violence, which is the underlying issue here, we need to stop violence. We need to stop terrorism, and he has spoken against that. I think you're reading way too much into this.

BOLDEN: I think you're avoiding the real --

BLACKWELL: He is factually wrong, but Scott, go ahead.

BOLDEN: I think you're reading well too much into the president. Whenever he has spoken against violence in regard to white supremacists, he has been forced to and he's always had to read from it. This is the individual, the president who wants to ban Muslims from this country and doesn't want any Muslims or Mexicans, or black or brown people, to immigrate to this country.

And so when you talk about white nationalism, that is the basis of the terrorism that we're experiencing not only in this country but now in New Zealand. That's the definition of terrorism, someone who has a philosophy and wants to go to extremes in order to enforce that philosophy.

Look at the manifesto of the killer in New Zealand. Look at the rhetoric. He names Trump. And you can match Trump's rhetoric about Muslims and people of color, and this manifesto, and you see why the racists believe that our president is the racist. It is pretty simple, Brian. And you can say he wants to look into it, you can say all of these other things, right, but the facts are clear. When this Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh, we had that tragedy right there, he talked about anti-Semitism. But he could not bring himself to mourn and empathize with the Muslims who have suffered a tragedy and killed simply because of the color of their skin and the belief of their religion. That's fundamentally wrong, and this president needs to say a lot more about that.

ROBINSON: Yes. Thank you, Scott. It was your party --

BOLDEN: Don't poo-poo it away. It's true. It's humanity. It's humanity. It's not politics. It's humanity, Brian, humanity.

BLACKWELL: Wait, wait, Scott. Brian, go ahead. Go ahead, Brian.

ROBINSON: Look, it was Democrats in the U.S. House, Scott, who refused to condemn anti-Semitism specifically. You can say that --

BOLDEN: Not true.

ROBINSON: -- Trump is just following the lead of House Democrats by condemning hate more generally, condemning hate in all forms rather than specifying. I bet Nancy and Chuck would love it.

BOLDEN: They specified it in that resolution. You didn't want to condemn racism? You just want to leave it to anti-Semitism? So you're for racism, but you don't want the Jews discriminated against. Got it, Brian.

BLACKWELL: Brian, let me ask you this. The president said during the campaign Islam hates us. He has not retracted that, not pulled away. Do you have any evidence that he doesn't believe that anymore?

ROBINSON: I saw heads pop off in the media when he called for the ban on immigrants from certain countries. I saw heads pop off when he said that, and what happened? He went on to win an election.

I think that this is a time of uncertainty globally. And look, that has resulted in a lot of hatred and nationalism, people of many colors, many different ethnicities. And it going to something that we have to approach on a global scale. Look at Brexit. The same is happening there. You're seeing this all over the world as cultures begin to mix. We need to have a serious, nuanced conversation about it, but we can't because if anybody says anything beyond the politically correct talking points, you're called a racist.


BOLDEN: Races and cultures have been mixing 400 years in this country right here. So all of a sudden mixing races is a challenge or problem?


BLACKWELL: Brian, hold on.

ROBINSON: I am not OK with racism. This is the problem. This is the problem. You can't have a conversation.

BLACKWELL: Brian, Brian, hold on. Scott, go ahead, your point.

BOLDEN: We have been mixing, and we've been a melting pot in this country, and the history of this country on the race question has always been tortured with white America either enslaving black people, discriminating against black people, and then wanting to walk away from it because we made significant strides.

[10:45:08] We still have a problem with race in this country. We need a national dialogue on race similar to what we had on reconciliation in South Africa, and black people and white people or people of color are just not comfortable having that discussion. And so the cost of that, the cost of that, these mass killings and this growing white nationalism.

ROBINSON: That is the cost of it. We're not having a serious conversation about it.

BOLDEN: And Donald Trump drives that narrative. The president of a western country drives that narrative.

BLACKWELL: You say, Brian, that we have to have a serious conversation about it, when you say we have to have a serious conversation about it, we also have to address the president of the United States having said Islam hates us. We need a complete shutdown on non-American Muslims coming into the country. There has to be some moment in which we reconcile that with now his ability to lead policymaking decisions. And just to say it is little more than political correctness, is that a serious conversation? We have to wrap it. Brian Robinson, Scott Bolden, thanks so much.

BOLDEN: Thank you.

ROBINSON: Thank you.

PAUL: So this week's mission ahead looks at miracle material found in nature that might be the key to reducing plastic waste. It's called mycelium, and it comes from mushrooms.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Since the 1950s, humans have produced over 9 billion tons of plastic. Most of that is ending up in landfills and could take centuries to decompose. A miracle material found in nature could be the key to reducing plastic waste. It's called mycelium, and it comes from mushrooms.

EBEN BAYER, CEO, EVOCATIVE: Mycelium is the root structure of a mushroom. You are used to seeing a mushroom above ground. Mycelium is the roots beneath it. But no one had ever tried to use them to make materials.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eben Bayer is the CEO of Ecovative, a company that has developed a way to grow mycelium into specific shapes and sizes. They start by taking organic plant waste and mixing it with mycelium cells, which act as a sort of natural glue.

BAYER: Mycelium grows through and around those particles, and it binds them together, and you have got a grown product.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Evovative's mycelium products provide a natural alternative to packaging materials made of plastic and Styrofoam.

BAYER: But at the end of its useful life, you can actually break it up, and you can put it in your own garden. So it is a nutrient, not a pollutant.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ecovative wants to take mycelium to the next level.

BAYER: The current technical focus is evolving the next generation of mycelium materials, from cell scaffolding to leather like materials, and to even meat replacements.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: AKA, mycelium bacon, which is still in its testing phases. The company thinks mycelium could also play a major role in construction and even in regenerative medicine.

BAYER: It really has boundless possibilities, and it comes from its ability to move from microscale to the macroscale.



[10:52:30] BLACKWELL: More than 10 million people are waking up to a flood warning this morning. The Midwest, historic flooding along the Missouri River is getting started and could last for a very long time.

Meanwhile, a flash flood warning has been issued for several counties in Nebraska, and Omaha's mayor has declared a state of emergency. The eastern part of the state officials were very clear -- get to higher ground now.

PAUL: Wisconsin declared a state of emergency as well after melting snow led to severe floods and at least 300 people there had to be evacuated. Allison Chinchar from the CNN Weather Center, what are they dealing with now, and coming up here, say, in the next 24 to 48 hours? ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, so what you're going to see

is a lot of these locations, they're going to continue to rise. In many cases, these rivers really have not crested. Many of them may not even do it for another week. You have over 300 river gauges that are above flood stage. Over 50 of them are major flood stage. And about a dozen are either at a record or are expected to break an all- time record within the next few days.

The cause, in many cases, it has been snow melt. It's March. Temperatures get warmer, this usually happens. But this year is a little bit different, because we've had an excessive amount of snow. Take Minneapolis, for example, they are 20 inches above average for the year. That combined with the fact that many of these areas have just been very soggy. We had a very soggy winter.

So you have all of that water flow from the Midwest, well, it has to go somewhere. It eventually flows further south into the Mississippi. So here's for example, this Missouri River, Plattsmouth, is has already broken the record by three feet, and it is expected to stay above record stage for at least the next five days. Here's a look at the the Missouri River at St. Joseph getting just within about a foot and a half of record stage, but it will stay at major flood stage for, yet again, about another week.

And that's going to be the problem with so many of these rivers. It is flowing from the Midwest but eventually down into the southeast. So Victor and Christi, one of the other things we're going to seeing, too, is that this is going to be something that is going to linger across much of this area, not just for days but for weeks.

BLACKWELL: Long fight ahead. Allison Chinchar, thanks so much.

After losing her father when she was just 14 years old, this week's CNN hero struggled with depression into her late 20s. And that's when she got some help.

PAUL: For nearly two decades now Mary Robinson has dedicated herself to making sure other children don't lose years of their lives to unresolved grief.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Bella, and my dad died.

[10:55:00] MARY ROBINSON, CNN HERO: Kids in grief are kids at risk. Time does not heal all wounds. Time helps, but it is what you do with that time, and what you need to do is mourn.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you hear other people's stories, it kind of brings comfort.

ROBINSON: So that's why a place like Imagine exists, to give children a place to mourn their loss and find out that they're not alone.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLACKWELL: Important, important work. To meet some of the families that Mary is helping and to nominate someone you think should be a CNN Hero, go to

PAUL: Knowing you're not alone, that can be powerful enough to help you get over that hump.

So thank you so much for spending time with us this morning. We hope you make good memories today.

BLACKWELL: There is much more ahead in the next hour of CNN's Newsroom after a quick break.