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Charlottesville Schools Close After Racially-Charged Threat; Insults, Personal Attacks, Civil War Memes, New Low; Ex-Wife of Former Trump Aide Rob Porter Speaks Out; Police Officers Rush to Save Man from Burning Car; Market Plunges as Recession Fears Stoke Investors. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 22, 2019 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: It's not been dealt with, clearly. What's your thought moving forward?

PHILLIP THOMPSON, SERVES ON VIRGINIA'S NAACP EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE: You know, if the governor of the state is able to get away with doing some of the things that he's done, what message is that sending to kids and what message does that send to our citizens on these different issues. People feel inclined to be able to say and do things. And if you don't have clear policies, laws and different things in place. To say, hey, we're not going to tolerate this and if you do this, there is going to be some sort of payment. But if we've got a governor that's showing up in blackface and done several other issues that he's had and he's not being punished, so what do you think these kids are going to say.

BALDWIN: Phillip Thompson, thank you very much. Again, a 17-year-old charged with this felony in Charlottesville.

And now to this, decency in America. Where has it gone? Or as Meghan McCain put it as the President continued to attack her late father, she referred to it as a bizarre new low. And I just wanted to pause today and look back on the week that was. Starting back on Sunday. The acting chief of staff took to the Sunday shows to tell the nation that his boss, that the President of the United States is not a white supremacist.


MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The President is not a white supremacist. I'm not sure how many times we have to say that. Look what we've done while we've been here. I don't think anybody could say that the President is anti-Muslim.


BALDWIN: The very next day, the nation started its week trying to decipher the President's tweetstorm. He attacked everything from General Motors to "Saturday Night Live", even to Fox News. But speaking of decency, nonexistent in this twitter war between the President of the United States and the husband of his top adviser. Insults were hurled in both directions. Here's all you need to know. Total loser, whack job, mentally unstable, and you period are period nuts period. How about this. This period is period America period.

Another example this week a sitting member of Congress shared this civil war meme saying red states would win in a modern-day civil war because they have a trillion bullets. This happening this week.

Congressman Steve King got called out by his own supporters during a town hall back home in Iowa.


REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: Only people that care about that are national news media. Nobody has raised the issue around here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you posted it, sir. Why did you post it?

KING: I've answered your question. And we weren't going to take any question from the press, but I answered your question.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: We care about it.

KING: OK, and I've answered the question.


BALDWIN: This is the same Steve King who was stripped of committee assignments and widely condemned over previous racist comments he's made in the past and he wasn't finished. He also slammed hurricane Katrina victims last night.

This after a week of new details of privileged parents paying thousands of dollars to cheat their kids into college, reports that despite Robert Kraft's charges of soliciting prostitution his good friend the President still wants to invite him to the White House.

And even more, Jewish graves desecrated this time in Massachusetts. I just want to remind you of a conversation I had earlier this week with a presidential historian, Tim Naftali.


TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I think when this period is over, we're going to need to take a collective shower because this cannot be the way that this country is evolving.


BALDWIN: So I just wanted to end this week with the words of a hero. A man who sacrificed and served his country for decades. So let us all remember Senator John McCain's message to America in the midst of that bitter fight over Obamacare.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Stop listening to the bombastic loud mouths on the radio and television and the internet. To hell with them. They don't want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood.

What greater cause could we hope to serve than helping keep America the strong aspiring inspirational beacon of liberty and defender of the dignity of all human beings and their right to freedom and equal justice. That is the cause that binds us and is so much more powerful and worthy than the small differences that divide us.


BALDWIN: Senator McCain, thank you.

Coming up, more on this confusion the President has sparked with yet another foreign policy announcement via tweet. This time involving North Korea.

Plus the former top White House aide forced to leave after domestic abuse allegations is making a slow return to the public eye. His ex- wife says he should not be given a platform yet. She joins me live next.


BALDWIN: Last year amid allegations of spousal abuse from to ex- wives, Rob Porter, a top aide to President Trump, resigned from his job as White House staff secretary. At the time he slammed the claims as outrageous and falls and vowed that he would not make any further public comment on what he called a coordinated smear campaign. But last week suddenly Porter surfaced writing this "Wall Street Journal" op-ed in support of the Trump administration's trade policies.

[15:40:00] And that prompted a response from one of his former wives, Jennie Willoughby, in the form of a "Washington Post" column. And her headline is, "Is there life after disgrace? My ex-husband Rob Porter shows that is hard to answer.

And Jennie Willoughby is with me now. Jenny, thank you so much for being here.


BALDWIN: Why did you write this?

WILLOUGHBY: I have to be honest with you. When I first was notified that the "Wall Street Journal" op-ed had come, I was sort of dumbfounded. I had been having conversations with Rob privately about what it would look like and when that would be a good time for him to be able to do this comeback. And so, to be blindsided by it unearthed a lot of righteous anger, I think. And once I was able to, I moved through that bit, I realized that it was a much larger issue. It was a much larger thing, particularly in the moment that we're in of what are you entitled to when you are in the public eye and when you are in public service. And what is it that you actually have to work for.

So I'm hearing you and it sounds like -- so you have been in touch with him. WILLOUGHBY: I have.

BALDWIN: Off and on. You write a lot about -- you say Rob has yet to publicly show regret or contrition for his actions and that seems to be a huge part of this piece. And so first just privately has he expressed regret?

WILLOUGHBY: To a certain degrees, absolutely.

BALDWIN: Is it enough for you and why does it matter that he does it publicly?

WILLOUGHBY: That is a good question. And I think that is kind of what people are wondering is, can't a man do the work and make amends privately. And I think, yes. That is an option, but not if you expect to return into public eye. Not if you expect to return to public service. Because in essence what he did was live in a veil of dishonesty and deceit. Which are strong words but I think that's true, considering how he ended up in the White House with the past that he had. So now in order to be able to return to that level of public scrutiny and public service, they need to be able to see what he's done to earn that seat there.

BALDWIN: Do you believe then that if he doesn't essentially mea culpa very publicly that he would continue with his own behaviors and you feel like it is not fair to the public or to whomever he serves?

WILLOUGHBY: I feel like it is not fair to the cause of domestic violence or assault because what message that sends to people who don't have a platform such as I do, to other people who have husbands or abusers in prominent positions is, what you say doesn't matter. They're going to get redemption, they're going to get their job back in the end.

BALDWIN: What about if he is -- if he is on the Trump re-election campaign, do you believe if he hasn't expressed this contrition publicly, do you believe that he should not be?

WILLOUGHBY: I believe that he should not be until he has done the work, until he has publicly come forward and addressed what Colby and I brought into the media a year ago.

BALDWIN: The last graph of your piece I think is the most powerful. I'm just going to read it for everyone if you haven't read this.

We all crave a redemption story. We want to see people take ownership of their inadequacies and sins because we want to believe we too can be redeemed for our own. But true redemption is not a given. It is earned.

How is it earned in this case?

WILLOUGHBY: The same way that it is earned under any circumstances. It is really going inward, it is doing a self-reflective work to understand why you ended up in the situation that you did. It's making peace with demons and issues in your past that perhaps are contributing to the issue. And showing through repeated and consistent effort and example that this is something that you are moving to work beyond.

BALDWIN: And last quick question, look who's faces huge behind us. How are you doing?

WILLOUGHBY: I'm doing well. I'm glad to have the opportunity to speak on this again because I think this is a different side to the story that very much needs to be heard. Once someone has been in abusive situation, the perpetrator of abuse or the victim of abuse, what happens after. What does healing look like? And how can you rebuild a life after that.

BALDWIN: Jennie Willoughby, thank you so much.

WILLOUGHBY: Thank you for having me.

BALDWIN: Good to see you. We should note that we, CNN, have reached out to Rob Porter and the "Wall Street Journal" declined to comments to us.

We're minutes away from the closing bell on this Friday afternoon and the Dow is down more than 400 points. Why analysts say an economic slowdown could be on the horizon.


BALDWIN: Two Georgia police officers put their lives on the line coming face-to-face with flames just to rescue a man from a burning car. CNN's Victor Blackwell tells us how these officers went beyond the call of duty.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you all right?

Give me your other hand, bud. Anybody else in the car with you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is anybody else in the car?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are the chaotic seconds that two Georgia police officers say made the difference between life and death.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That car could have exploded with us in it.

BLACKWELL: Officers Kelly Horne and William Palmer were driving through Henry County about 30 miles southeast of Atlanta late one Sunday night in December, when officer Horn noticed something alarming under a car.

OFFICER KELLY HORNE, HENRY COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT: The gas was leaking out which was leaving the trail of fire behind the car and leaving tire debris and everything else behind it.

BLACKWELL: With lights flashing and sirens blaring, officer Horn chased the car until it eventually stopped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of the car.

HORNE: He didn't get out of the car, so I got up to the car. I got my fire extinguisher, tried to put the flames on the driver's side. It wasn't successful the flames quickly ignited back.

[15:50:00] So I went to the passenger side --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hear him coughing. Come out. Get out.

HORNE: -- I started breaking the windows out with my baton so I can see in the vehicle and let smoke out.

BLACKWELL: Officer Horne radioed for help.

HORNE: I stepped it up and I got to him as quick as I could.

BLACKWELL: Officer William Palmer rushed into try to put out the flames.

OFFICER WILLIAM PALMER, HENRY COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT: We got him out just enough for me to open the door and instructed the driver to crawl over to us. Seen his arm and I grabbed it I immediately started pulling him out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is anybody else in the car with you? Anybody else in the car?

BLACKWELL: Seconds later an explosion.

HORNE: If we didn't get them out, I think he would've gone down Highway 81 until the car blew up. He would've died in the car.

BLACKWELL: The driver was fined. He was charged with driving under the influence. After officers Horne and Palmer, they were each honored with department's lifesaving medal for going beyond the call of duty.

HORNE: I don't think I went above and beyond. I just was trying to get a guy out of a burning car, you know.

PALMER: I strap on a gun and a vest and a badge every night and you know, if the same call was to happen tonight, I'd do the same exact thing.

BLACKWELL: Victor Blackwell, CNN, Henry County, Georgia.


BALDWIN: Incredible. So grateful for our law enforcement.

There are jitters right now on Wall Street after the Dow was taking a major tumble this afternoon. At one-point plunging -- you see it down 407 -- plunging deep into the 400 territory as a leading recession indicator stoked fear among investors. Right now you can see it down nearly as much. Rana Foroohar is our CNN global economic analyst and "Financial Times" global business columnist and associate editor.


BALDWIN: What's going on?

FOROOHAR: Well we got some bad news from Europe. And that tipped off the bond market in the U.S. to kind of start going nuts. Now there is a big indicator, as you mentioned, in the bond market. Bond yields -- the amount of interest you get for holding a bond is supposed to kind of go in an upward curve. But if that curve starts to dip and longer dated bonds pay less than shorter dated bonds that is a key indicator that a recession is coming. And in fact, every time that curve inversion -- as they call it in a very wonky way -- has happened in the last 60 years we've had a recession. So that happened today.

BALDWIN: So this is an indicator.


BALDWIN: What would that even begin to look like?

FOROOHAR: Well so to be fair, in order for this sort of prophecy to play out, it needs to happen for three months. So one day isn't going to do it. But basically, we are probably looking if this continues at recession in 2019, certainly by 2020. I mean, you know, you just had a big report of business economists coming out and saying that were probably going to see 2 percent growth instead of roughly 3 percent. Which is where we are now. By 2020 that's going to have really interesting impacts on the presidential elections. I think it's going to be a big topic in the primaries. How are we going to fix the economy? What's happening in the market?

BALDWIN: So many people are feeling like the economy -- what was the number?

Seven in 10, thank you, Eric. Seven in 10 people polled say that they feel like the economy is in good shape. Which is obviously great news if that can -- it's all about maintaining that momentum. Right? For President Trump. When we talked recently -- with the floods in the Midwest and that hit a lot of farmers hard.

FOROOHAR: Absolutely.

BALDWIN: And it's not good for them and good for their own, you know, economies.

FOROOHAR: And you got the U.S. China trade war still out there. Right? I mean, we thought for a couple weeks we were going to get a deal. Now the Chinese are actually toughening up saying, no, we're not going to buy more U.S. farm products. Which is another reason farmers are going to be hurting. And there being actually quite politically sophisticated. And saying, what are the red states where Trump has support? Let's put pressure on those states in terms of what kind of tariffs will bring. The U.S. is doing the same thing. Meanwhile, Europe, you know, Brexit. Britain is bombing out of the --


FOROOHAR: There you go. I mean is looking like were going to get what's called a hard Brexit, no-deal. You know, people are stocking up on toilet paper in the U.K. because they don't know if they're going to be able to get imports from the EU. So there is a lot to worry about there in the world. And the U.S. is more dependent than it used to be on the global economy. So that's why markets are doing what they are. It's going to be interesting to see where we are on Monday and Tuesday. I think that'll be big indicator.

BALDWIN: We'll watch for it again on the other side weekend. In the meantime, Rana, thank you very much.

FOROOHAR: Thank you. Have a good weekend.

BALDWIN: Same to you.

Coming up next, President Trump takes to Twitter yet another afternoon to make another foreign policy announcement. This one involving North Korea. And yes, there is all kinds of confusion over this one. We'll be right back.


BALDWIN: Just want to take a minute just to check in with our top 10 CNN heroes of 2018 to see how they were expanded since they were honored just a couple of months ago.


LUKE MICKELSON FOUNDER, SLEEP IN HEAVENLY PEACE: Just since January 1st we've built and delivered 1,100 bunk beds. We've trained 14 new chapters and were averaging about 15 every other month. We've partnered up with FEMA and the Red Cross and now are offering beds to families that have been affected by disasters across the country.

ABISOYE AJAYI-AKINFOLANN, FOUNDER, PEARLS AFRICA YOUTH FOUNDATION: So many have been knocking on our doors. Normally we look for partners. Now partners are looking for us. Before CNN news (INAUDIBLE) in three years. But with the platform we've been given we are going to 5,000 in one year.

AMANDA BOXTEL, FOUNDER, BRIDGING BIONICS: Everyday people, ordinary people but with big, big hearts wanting to just make a difference.


BALDWIN: Not a dry eye that that room. I can attest to that. You can nominate someone. Go to Thanks for being with me. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts now.