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Barr: Congress Will Have Mueller Report Within Weeks; Trump On Report: "I Have Nothing To Hide"; GA Lawmakers Pass Controversial Anti-Abortion Bill; Trump: We're Closing Border If Mexico Doesn't Stop Migrants; Kim Foxx: We Believed We Could Prove Smollett Guilty; Illinois Bar Criticizes Smollett Prosecutors for "Abnormal" Moves; Chicago Demands Smollett Pay $130K for Investigation Costs; NY Times: College Admissions Down After Bribery Scheme; Warmer Weather Ushers in Pollen and Allergy Season; NCAA Tournament Results. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired March 30, 2019 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN, this most trusted name in news.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The collusion delusion is over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we have right now is the four-page Barr report. What we actually need is the Mueller report.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question is obstruction of justice is still on the table and that is something these committees will get into.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's ample evidence of collusion in plain sight.

TRUMP: The Democrats have to now decide whether they will continue defrauding the public.

So Mexico's tough. They can stop them and if they don't stop them, we're closing the border.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And if they don't, we will be closing the border or large sections of the border next week.


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

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY WEEKEND: Good morning to you. So glad to have you with us here. So mid April ...


PAUL: That is when the Justice Department now says Congress, the public and the White House will all get their first look at the redacted Mueller report. BLACKWELL: Attorney General Bill Barr says the redaction process has already begun with help from Robert Mueller and he says they may finish going over the nearly 400-page report before mid April and then after the release, Barr said that he'd be open to testifying to Congress starting on May 1st.

PAUL: Meanwhile, on the southern border, officials say their resources are strained. The President says if Mexico doesn't step up, he's closing down the border and doing so as early as next week.

BLACKWELL: Let's start, though, with the Mueller report. The President first tweeted he has nothing to hide, but then he followed up with what seemed like a warning about the release.

PAUL: Yes. The President's in Mar-a-Lago this morning and CNN's Boris Sanchez is live in West Palm Beach. What are we hearing from the President as he seems to be switching gears here? And good morning.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey. Good morning, Victor and Christi. Yes. President Trump was responding to Democrats who were calling for the full Mueller report to be released by April 2nd. That's a deadline that was set by Representative Jerry Nadler. First, the President talked about his trust in the Attorney General William Barr in this process of redaction. Listen to what the President told reporters yesterday here in Mar-a-Lago.


TRUMP: I have great confidence in the Attorney General and if that's what he'd like to do, I have nothing to hide. This was a hoax. This was a witch-hunt. I have absolutely nothing to hide and I think a lot of things are coming out with respect to the other side.


SANCHEZ: You hear the President there say he has nothing to hide, but he doesn't like the idea pushed by Democrats of releasing the report almost in full. Take a look at these tweets the President sent out. He writes, quote, "Robert Mueller was a hero to the radical left Democrats until he ruled that there was no collusion with Russia. So ridiculous to even say after more than two years since the insurance policy statement was made by a dirty cop. I got the answers I wanted -- the truth.

The problem is no matter what the radical left Democrats get, no matter what we give them, it will never be enough. Just watch, they will harass and complain and resist -- the theme of their movement. So maybe we should just take our victory and say no, we've got a country to run."

Unclear there if the President is threatening to exert some sort of executive privilege over the Mueller report, which Attorney General William Barr has hinted that the White House has the right to do.

Now, as for the information that Barr is currently going through to redact, it falls into four buckets. First, there's information that is grand jury material, information that by law the public cannot see. Then there is information that is sensitive intelligence gathering information, information about sources or information gathering materials, methods. There's also information that could affect ongoing investigations and I want to read to you the last one because this one's really interesting.

This is from Barr's letter. He writes, quote, "Information that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties." Unclear who he's referring to there or what reputational interests he may be looking to protect. We may not find out for years, if not decades, Victor and Christi.

PAUL: All right. Boris Sanchez, appreciate the update so much. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. Let's talk now. CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson, criminal defense attorney as well, joining us and political reporter Daniel Lippman co-author of "Politico's Playbook." Gentlemen, welcome back.



BLACKWELL: So Daniel, let's start here with one of the elements that Boris just mentioned, that tweet from the President. You know, up until that letter from Attorney General Barr saying that he would not give the opportunity to exert privilege over this to the White House, the President said release the report. Then you got this tweet where he says maybe we should just take our victory and say no, we've got a country to run. Is this just the President groaning on Twitter or are there real indications that he's considering changing his support for the release?

[06:05:01] LIPPMAN: I don't think that he's going to block the report from getting released because Barr, his own attorney general, has said this is coming down the pike in a few weeks. I think the real question is whether Justice Department lawyers and officials are going to make redactions over and beyond what should be excised to protect real secrets.

Are they going to, you know, try to protect the President by taking out stuff that the White House would have considered privileged? And what are the -- you know, are politically appointed officials, what role do they have in this process? Is it going to just be career officials doing this or is Barr's top deputies going to be in the report making these redactions? That would raise a lot of red flags.

BLACKWELL: Well, Joey, let's start there because is it typical for these redactions for executive privilege to be asserted by the government's lawyer who was the Attorney General instead of the President's lawyer would be White House Counsel.

JACKSON: That is an excellent distinction that you make and the answer is no, it is not typical, but then again, there's nothing typical about this process at all, right? We're in, you know, uncharted waters. Not entirely, right? We have Watergate and on that issue, Victor, it speaks to the issue of transparency, right?

You heard Boris Sanchez tick off the four different areas, of course, that they would be looking at -- that is the lawyers -- not to release to the public. One of those they're centering around is the whole grand jury information. Let's remember whether it's grand jury information, whether it's ongoing investigations, whether it's reputational issues or anything else there's some degree of discretion and judgment that has to be used, right?

And so these are not categories that if you see grand jury material, you stay away. If it's an ongoing investigation, ah-ha, it's there. If it's reputational, that we can't release. So there's some discretion as it relates to that.

I should say and we do know that there is precedent, however, to releasing the entirety of the report, you know, or at least grand jury information as it relates to the House Judiciary Committee. It was seen and done in 1974. And so as this process plays out, Victor, I think that, you know, the Democrats are going to continue to insist on let us see everything.


JACKSON: Principle conclusions are just not enough.

BLACKWELL: Joey, let me stay with you for that because after this letter was sent to the chairs of House and Senate Judiciary, the House Chair, Jerry Nadler, responded with, "Congress requires the full and complete Mueller report without redactions as well as access to the underlying evidence by April 2nd. That deadline still stands."

I mean, Daniel just mentioned that if they go over and beyond in redactions, for some Democrats, one redaction is over and beyond. So then what happens on Wednesday, April 3rd? I mean, where do they take this legally? What are their options?

JACKSON: Yes. I think the option then is obviously to press it into the courts, right? And so in the event that -- but the reason that that may not happen at least immediately is because I would suspect there would be some ongoing discussions. In the event you prepare papers and you file and those papers are filed on Wednesday and Thursday, but by Friday there's a resolution as to, you know, ultimately we will release the report then it renders your legal argument moot.

But I think the Democrats' position is clear and that position is is we want to see everything and I think there's a reason for that and there's a basis for that, right? Principle conclusions alone are not enough. The fact is, Victor, that you could look at material, Daniel could look at material, I can look at material and we can reach different conclusions based upon our analysis and our assessment of what we have before us.

And so I think underlying material is very important, but I think the path forward appears to be the court unless the Democrats get each and every thing so that they can really be transparent, right? And we can all see and make judgments for ourselves ...


JACKSON: ... as to what a principle conclusion is.

BLACKWELL: Daniel, listen to this exchange that's between our Wolf Blitzer and Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono. And she's talking about disclosure not to the Senate Judiciary Committee, but to the House Judiciary Committee. Let's watch and then talk.


MAZIE HIRONO, UNITED STATES SENATOR: The House Committee is entitled to that information because it is the committee -- they're the -- any investigation into impeachment starts with the House.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: So from your perspective, it would be OK to share some of this very sensitive information with the House Judiciary Committee on a very confidential basis, but could not be made public. Is that right?

HIRONO: The House Judiciary Committee is entitled to a non-redacted version. They are entitled. I'm not saying that the Senate Committee should get that, although it would be good. You know, I'd like to see all of that.

BLITZER: Why should the House Committee be entitled, but not the Senate Committee?

HIRONO: Because of the -- anything relating to impeachment starts with the House, so they need the full report.


BLACKWELL: So anything that deals with impeachment starts with the House, which we know. How does that reconcile that with what we've heard from House Democratic leadership about impeachment?

[06:10:01] LIPPMAN: Yes. They want -- they don't want anyone talking about the I-word. They want to get this report, find out what's in it and then, you know, move on if there is nothing that they -- that warrants further inquiry and so they want to talk about health care, beating back Trump's non-proposal on that. They want to talk about trying to get an infrastructure package. H.R.1, which is their ethics bill that they wanted to talk about to clean up Washington.

And it does -- they don't seem to get have enough support in a Republican Senate for impeachment given that Mueller did not find conspiracy or collusion. There was not -- you know, most people are not trying to impeach the President over obstruction, at least Republicans.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Interesting that comes from a Democratic senator, not a Democratic member of the House, but we'll have two on this morning, so we'll ask them as well. Daniel Lippman, Joey Jackson, thank you both.

LIPPMAN: Thank you.

JACKSON: Thank you, Victor.

PAUL: Well, Georgia lawmakers just passed a controversial anti- abortion law known as the Heartbeat Bill. It would ban abortions once doctors detect a fetal heartbeat, about six weeks into a pregnancy. Georgia's governor who ran on a platform of vowing to enact strict abortion laws says he will sign that legislation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This House has agreed to the Senate substitute to House Bill 481.

PAUL: The vote by the Georgia State House sends one of the nation's most restrictive abortion bills to the governor's desk to be signed into law.

ERICA THOMAS, (D) GEORGIA STATE HOUSE: You do not need to sign this bill because you did this in your first year because you know you are done. You sign this bill, you are done.

PAUK: Known as the Heartbeat Bill, the measure makes it illegal for doctors in the state to perform an abortion once a heartbeat is detected, which the bill says is around six weeks. Opponents of the measure say many women don't even know they are pregnant after six weeks and these restrictions would cause these women undue hardship. Under the bill, victims of rape or incest would be able to still receive an abortion up to 20 weeks if they file an official police report.

JEN JORDAN, (D) GEORGIA STATE SENATE: What gives this body the right to substitute it's choices for those of the women who will no doubt bear the scars, the consequences and who will face death and now likely prison? It is not for the government or the men of this chamber to insert itself in the most personal, private and wrenching decisions.

PAUL: Governor Brian Kemp has said he will sign the bill into law and after lawmakers voted, he tweeted this, "Georgia values life. We stand up for the innocent and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. The legislature's bold action reaffirms our priorities and who we are as a state."

And Kemp's opponent in the 2018 gubernatorial election, Stacey Abrams, also reacted, tweeting this, "With one horrible exception, Georgia didn't jeopardize stability, opportunity and leadership for dangerous legislation that treats the lives of women as political pawns. The film industry is now integral to our economy."

But if the governor signs the bill into law, as he said he would, the state faces some backlash from Hollywood. Actors Alec Baldwin, Rosie O'Donnell, Mia Farrow and Sean Penn earlier this month joined over 40 others in opposition to the measure sending a letter to the governor urging him to veto the bill and if not, for companies to pull TV and film projects from the state. "We cannot in good conscience continue to recommend our industry remain in Georgia if HB481 becomes law."


PAUL: Now, Democrats say they're mobilizing against the state GOP. The ACLU says it will go to court if Kemp signs this bill, if the governor signs it. Coming up in our 8 o'clock hour, we're going to talk with Georgia State Representative Erica Thomas.

BLACKWELL: President Trump threatens to close the southern border if Mexico does not stop migrants, but that could have some serious repercussions. We'll talk about those next.

PAUL: Also, Jussie Smollett back in Los Angeles .Chicago wants him to pay $130,000 though and they've given him a deadline. Hear what the County State's Attorney's Office says is now -- what this is about and why it dropped the Smollett charges.

Also, it is officially pollen and allergy season and that ought to prove it. Look at all the pollen being swept off those trees because of the helicopter overhead where allergy sufferers are seeing the worst conditions.





TRUMP: We have right now two big caravans coming up from Guatemala, massive caravans walking right through Mexico. So Mexico's tough. They can stop them, but they chose not to. Now they're going to stop them and if they don't stop them, we're closing the border.


PAUL: You heard that there, President Trump threatening to close the southern border as early as next week unless Mexico stops migrants from entering the U.S..

BLACKWELL: Well, the Department of Homeland Security is requesting assistance from the Defense Department and they want to add about 218 miles of new and replacement barriers along the border according to a grassroots environmental organization.

PAUL: Customs and Border Protection is projecting more than 100,000 unaccompanied children are going to be stopped at the border by the end of September.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Ed Lavandera spoke with migrants and agencies helping them. Here's his report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Every day this week, buses have dropped off nearly 100 Central American migrants on the doorstep of the Good Neighbor Settlement House Shelter in Brownsville, Texas. Most are requesting asylum, but the scene is sparking frustration among immigrant rights advocates as legions of volunteers scramble to help mothers and fathers with their children.

CHRISTINA PATINO HOULE, EQUAL VOICE NETWORK: What we see is that our community is being instrumentalized as a -- as a tool in a larger political game that is completely antithetical to what the communities here want.

LAVANDERA: Good Neighbor Settlement is one of several shelters helping migrants suddenly released this week by Customs and Border Protection. The agency says it can't handle the massive number of migrants crossing the border.

[06:20:01] KEVIN MCALEENAN, COMMISSIONER, U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION: Immigration system was at the breaking point. That breaking point has arrived this week at our border.

LAVANDERA: CBP officials say Border Patrol agents are on pace for apprehensions and encounters with more than 100,000 migrants in March, which would be the highest number of monthly illegal border crossings in a decade. The Department of Homeland Security Secretary today is warning the system is in freefall and President Trump says the tens of thousands of migrants requesting asylum are carrying out a big, fat con job and is now threatening to shut down the border to control illegal immigration.

TRUMP: And we're on track for a a million illegal aliens trying to rush our borders. It is an invasion, you know that.

LAVANDERA: We met Vilma and her daughter at the shelter in Brownsville. They asked we not show their faces because they fear being returned to El Salvador. Vilma says she fled her home country with her daughter because they feared being killed. Gang members murdered her mother last year. Her daughter says three police officers unleashed a bruising attack on her in January, kicking and punching her for reasons that were never clear. That's when they decided to leave. Advocates say this is not a con job, but real people facing life and death consequences.

LAURA PENA, IMMIGRANT ADVOCATE: We are not ignorant here in the Rio Grande Valley. We know what's happening.

LAVANDERA: Immigrant rights advocates say the Trump administration is deliberately creating a sense of chaos with mass releases of migrants or housing migrants under a bridge in El Paso and giving families confusing paperwork.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is one of the migrants here who asked us not to identify her, but these are the forms that they are given once they're released from custody here and if you look closely here, this is supposed to be a notice to appear, giving them a date and time when they're supposed to appear in immigration court, but here, they're not getting those dates.

LAVANDERA: The Trump administration says there is no manufactured crisis on the southern border and that there is a real humanitarian and security crisis unfolding. So critics say the Trump administration is trying to bolster its case for a national emergency to build more border wall, but the President's threat to close down the border, that's really sending shockwaves throughout these border communities.

See that bridge in the distance? That's what millions of people use to get back and forth. That connects Brownsville to Matamoros. People use that to get back and forth to see family and friends, to get to work, to get to school, that sort of thing. They are the lifeline of these border communities and shutting them down, shutting down these ports of entry, will have a devastating effect. Ed Lavandera, CNN, Brownsville, Texas.


PAUL: Ed, thank you so much. Now, a New York immigration -- immigrant right advocate prevented ICE officers from arresting two undocumented immigrants in his car. When they pulled him over and showed him what they claimed was arrest paperwork, he pushed back citing the Constitution. Take a look at this exchange.


BRYAN MCCORMACK, IMMIGRANT RIGHTS ADVOCATE: Those are not warrants of arrest, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they are, sir. Warrant of arrest of alien.

MCCORMACK: Yes, warrant of arrest of alien not signed by a judge. It's not a judicial warrant. I have no obligation to oblige by that warrent. That's not a warrant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is a warrant.

MCCORMACK: No, it's not. It's a Department of Homeland Security order.


BLACKWELL: Well, that activists name is Bryan McCormack and we will speak with McCormack in our next hour right here on "NEW DAY."

PAUL: So the charges are dropped. Will actor Jussie Smollett have to pay up is now the question. Chicago's mayor makes good on a demand to recruit more than $130,000 the city says it wasted on the star's alleged bogus hate crime.

BLACKWELL: Plus, more than a dozen parents were in court accused of paying their kid's way into college and now investigators are opening up about how they stumbled upon this whole operation by accident.



BLACKWELL: The Cook County State's Attorney is facing mounting criticism over the dropped charges for "Empire" star Jussie Smollett. Kim Foxx wrote an op-ed where she said she welcomes an independent, non-political review of the case.

PAUL: Now, some of her comments also suggest prosecutors would not have prevailed in court. She writes, quote, "In determining whether or not to pursue charges, prosecutors are required to balance the severity of the crime against the likelihood of securing a conviction. For a variety of reasons including public statements made about the evidence in this case, my office believed the likelihood of securing a conviction was not certain.

BLACKWELL: Meanwhile, outgoing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has billed Smollett for the cost of the investigation. The city sent Smollett an invoice for a little more than $130,000l. It's due in five days.

PAUL: CNN's Nick Watt is in Chicago. Kim Foxx's op-ed appears, obviously, Nick, to contradict earlier statements from her about whether her office would have won a conviction. What is the conversation there?

NICK WATT, CNN REPORTER: Yes. It's a little bit strange. Listen, in that op-ed that you just read from, it almost appears that Kim Foxx is siding with Jussie Smollett's legal team. They have come out and publicly criticized the Chicago Police Department saying that the police were trying to try this case in public, but that does contradict what she said to reporters just a couple of days ago. Take a listen to that.


KIM FOXX, CHICAGO PROSECUTOR: Jussie Smollett had not been found guilty by a court of law. We believe that the facts were sufficient to charge and try Mr. Smollett for the crimes. This office believed that they could prove him guilty.

WATT: Now, when the charges were dropped against Jussie Smollett, Kim Foxx's office -- she recused herself from the case, but her assistant said listen, this happens tens of thousands of times a year that a case like this goes to what they call "alternative prosecution."

[06:30:00] But listen, Kim Foxx is under huge pressure here. She's got the President Donald Trump tweeting that this is an embarrassment to our country, and calling for the FBI to review the case. As you mentioned, Rahm Emanuel has been very public, vociferous in his criticism of the way that this case has been handled.

He called it a "whitewash" of justice. Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson who famously said that he and other police in Chicago were pissed off. He is sticking to those earlier statements that Jussie Smollett orchestrated this entire hoax.

And listen, just the symbolism involved in this case is what makes it so contentious. Jussie Smollett claimed that two men threw a noose around his neck. Now, there is no more potent symbol in American history than that. And of course, Smollett also at one point claimed that his attackers were wearing MAGA hats.

So this is a huge high-pressure national story. And, listen, Kim Foxx is also coming under pressure from legal groups who were saying that the dropping of the charges was abnormal. And you know, listen that side of the story, the political side is going to roll on. And as you mentioned, Rahm Emanuel is also now demanding that Jussie Smollett pays the city back for the hours of overtime, the two dozen detectives who were involved in investigating. What Rahm Emanuel still says is a hoax.

And they've written him a letter asking for $130,106.15. Whether they'll get that is an open question. Back to you.

CHRISTI PAUL, CO-HOST, NEW DAY SATURDAY: It's the ask there obviously, Nick Watt, thank you so much.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CO-HOST, NEW DAY SATURDAY: So in the wake of the massive college admissions scandal, it's apparently now getting even harder to get into school according to the "New York Times". Several elite schools are reporting a higher number of students applying, but record for how many are getting accepted. And this week, Yale and USC reported their lowest admissions ever.

PAUL: Meanwhile, 15 parents accused of paying their kids way into college were in court yesterday, they included a NAPA winery owner, a hot pockets heirs, former Wynn Casino president, here's CNN's Brynn Gingras.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: More than a dozen parents making their initial court appearance in the federal courthouse in Boston. For the most cases, the proceedings were procedural, but in some cases we learned a little bit more from these parents' attorneys about maybe the defense that they're going to put forward.

All in all, some just saying they're going to fight these charges. I actually spoke to one attorney who says his clients have actually been in discussion with the U.S. attorney's office regarding plea agreements. But instead, they are also going to fight these charges.

So it'll be interesting to see how all these cases move forward. Remember, these parents are being accused of paying varying amounts of money to help facilitate their children getting into elite schools across the country in this huge college admissions scam that broke wide open in just a few weeks ago.

And the architect behind that scheme, Rick Singer, he says that he earned $25 million over an eight-year period. We also learned this week a little bit more about how investigators learned about Rick Singer. On Thursday, the former Yale women's soccer coach went before a judge, pleaded guilty to two felony counts and cooperated and has been cooperating with authorities for the past year.

We learned in court that authorities first learned about Singer's name during a sting operation of Meredith. He actually was accepting a bribe from a parent who wanted to get their child into Yale and Singer's name came up in that sting operation.

U.S. attorneys say that this scheme and Singer weren't even on their radar. Sources are telling us that more arrests could be coming in the next month or so, more charges could be coming in a month or so. And we know next week is going to be a big week in this federal courthouse.

More parents will be appearing before a judge including Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin and her husband, among others. Brynn Gingras, CNN, Boston.

BLACKWELL: Brynn, thank you, also that former Yale coach, the soccer coach there, Rudolph Meredith is expected to be in -- he's going to be sentenced on June 20th. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

PAUL: So President Trump is spending another weekend at his private club in south Florida. Once again, taxpayers as you are picking up that tab. How the costs of those trips could cover some of the Trump administration's proposed budget cuts.

BLACKWELL: The four-part CNN series following the story of "TRICKY DICK" explores Richard Nixon's rise, fall and incredible comeback and political destruction, and features never before seen footage. Here's some of it.


[06:35:00] RICHARD NIXON, LATER FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People say I was going to come down having run for president almost made it, run for governor, the answer is I am proud to have run for governor.

I would like to have won. I believe Governor Brown has a heart. Even though he believes I do not. I believe he is a good American, even though he feels I am not. I wish him well and for once, gentlemen, I would appreciate it if you would write what I am saying.

For 16 years, you've had a lot of thought, you've had an opportunity to attack me, and I think I've given as good as I've taken. But as I leave you, just think how much you're going to be missing. You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore. Because gentlemen, this is my last press conference, thank you, gentlemen, good day.


BLACKWELL: All right, watch "TRICKY DICK" tomorrow at 9:00 eastern only on CNN.


BLACKWELL: President Trump has reversed his position or at least his administration's position on the funding of the Special Olympics. You know, originally, his administration wanted to slash all federal money, more than $17 million for the organization. PAUL: But then you look at it and you think, you know what else is

expensive, trips to Mar-a-Lago.


PAUL: Yes, here's John Avlon.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: President Trump is waking up at Mar-a-Lago this morning after pulling a slick '70s-style J-turn when it comes to money for the Special Olympics. His administration has been taking heat for calling for the complete elimination of the Special Olympics budget, reducing it to zero dollars.

Now, the Special Olympics had to survive, but there are other controversial clutch from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for I guess with hearing impairments and special needs and even the blind. Now, DeVos says that the department had to make some quote, "difficult" decisions with its budget, and that's no doubt true.

But let's put those choices in context and we're going to do it by minting a brand-new currency, the Mar-a-Lago. Now, just what is a Mar-a-Lago if you ask, well, it's the cost of just one of Donald Trump's trips to his gilded pleasure palace in Florida. Which according to the "Washington Post" cost taxpayers about $3.4 million each time.

Now, think about that number because the president goes there a lot. Some 51 nights over 19 trips. That translates to 69 million taxpayer dollars just to get the president to and from Florida. So, consider the Education Department contributes about $17.6 million to the Special Olympics overall budget.

That's only about five Mar-a-Lagos. And that's not all. Health and human services budget cuts programs for those with autism and this one is about three times as deep, a whopping $51 million. So for those playing at home, that's about 15 Mar-a-Lagos.

What about the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Well, conservatives have been trying to kill the company that built big bird's nests for 1960s. Mr. Rogers even once had to step in to save it. The Trump budget proposed cutting all but 30 of its $465 million budget.

So to save the company that brought "Sesame Street" along with arts and culture for all Americans at home would cost about 136 Mar -a- Lagos. Finally, how about hurricane relief to Puerto Rico President Trump keeps threatening? Remember the storm that ended up killing an estimated 3,000 Americans despite Donald Trump's denials.

Well, it turns out the total of that aid is about $41 billion with about a quarter actually delivered today. So making good on the current allocation would cost an estimated 9,000 Mar-a-Lagos. There's a reason the Mar-a-Lago is such a tempting unit of measurement because everyone is titled to some R and R, but Trump has spent more than a quarter of his presidency at one of his resorts. Of course, I've been watching cable news, morning, Mr. President. One of President Trump's favorite past-times is golf. Phil Bum(ph) at the "Washington Post" analyzed the duffer-in-chief's habit and concluded that he played about once every five days through November of last year.

Now, this matters because Trump constantly criticized President Obama for how often he played golf. And get this, by some estimates, all of President Obama's personal trips over eight years cost a little more than a $100 million or 31 Mar-a-Lagos. Trump's trips to Mar-a-Lago alone are creeping into that territory already, some $69 million to date.

So this Education Secretary said in difficult times, difficult decisions have to be made. But budgets are moral documents. So it's worth looking at the tens of millions of taxpayer dollars being spent on the president's leisure and asking how those Mar-a-Lagos might be better spent on Americans in real need. And that's your reality check.

PAUL: And President Trump is after all waking up at Mar-a-Lago this morning after pulling a '70s J-turn when it comes to the money for the Special Olympics as we said. His administration had been talking -- taking heat for calling for the complete elimination of the Special Olympics at one point and their budget, and then of course, we know that, that has been reversed.

So, it is beginning to look a lot like Spring across much of the country. What caused clouds of pollen? Look at this. If you're having any question as to why you feel so miserable, this should show you intangibly why? Clouds of pollen exploding off the trees there in West Georgia.


PAUL: All right, this video alone --


PAUL: Makes you just want to cough and sneeze. Those are clouds of pollen that are just rifting off of those trees. This is in West Georgia. Gusts created by a passing helicopter is what knocked that pollen off the branches, and that trail of yellow dust left behind.

BLACKWELL: It all landed on my car.

PAUL: And mine.

BLACKWELL: All of it.

PAUL: So nasty, isn't it?


BLACKWELL: Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera joins us now, just the beginning of pollen season. IVAN CABRERA, METEOROLOGIST: Just the beginning when you wanted

Spring, right?

BLACKWELL: Yes, that's true --

PAUL: Yes --

CABRERA: Spring has arrived --

BLACKWELL: All right, what's up there?

CABRERA: Everybody, so this is what we get, a cloud of yellow, which interestingly enough, the yellow that kind of cakes on your car, it's actually not the worst of it. It's the particulates upon that you can't see that goes into your system and that's what really kind of drives people crazy here, and that's what's happening over the last several days.

Over half the country is either in medium or high as far as the pollen count over the last several days, and that includes today. Look at specifically in Atlanta, back on Monday, these numbers, anything over 1,500 is extreme. We were at 1675, it's been doing a little bit better.

And by the way, just checking records, that number has gone up to like $9 and back in around 2012. So it can get worse -- it's not going to. We have a frontal boundary that are going to continue pushing east, it is going to bring severe storms, but it is also going to bring some rainfall.

[06:50:00] That's going to wash out some of the pollen here across the east. But let's focus in across the lower Mississippi Valley and then looking at some showers and thunderstorms here that will continue to develop. And I think the potential for severe weather is there.

Look at this. Drive 110 miles to the north and west, is not raining, it's snowing, and it has been accumulating in places like Kansas and heading up into Nebraska. All right, but this is the area ahead of all that, that has the potential for damaging winds in excess of 60 miles an hour.

We had some hails and the forecast as well as that front continues to push to the east. It is a cold front, it will be bringing some rain and eventually, behind it, will be bringing some cold. Look at these temperatures, guys, we're dropping 20 degrees from today's high to tomorrow's high in many areas across the east. But anyone now that is not happy with the pollen, just hang in there one day and I think it will be better for you outside --

PAUL: All right, thank you so much.

CABRERA: You bet --

PAUL: We found hope there, Ivan Cabrera, thank you --

CABRERA: Yes -- PAUL: March madness, living up to the name in the sweet 16. Coy?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS REPORTER: Yes, Victor. Incredible earnings yesterday. The first number one seat of the tournament goes down, another number one barely survives and a perfectly named hero rises to the occasion. And I have some comedy for you this morning.

Out of all people, you will not believe who is looking to be the Victor in the CNN bracket challenge. My goodness, you know, I'm feeling like that kid right there -- oh!


PAUL: Refugees coming to America have escaped turmoil in their countries to try to build a better life. But upon arrival, they encounter some obstacles. This week's CNN hero helps refugees launch culinary careers. Getting a one step closer to achieving the American dream. Meet Carrie Brody(ph).


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What we're teaching our students isn't just knife skills and it isn't just cooking. It's the idea that you are human and you have value. And that's something that people have tried to strip away from others for such a long time.

What's the dream team cooking up?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Summer cake, awesome. That experience of watching our students transform, of seeing our students really come into their own inspires me.


PAUL: To learn more about Carrie's program and to nominate someone you think should be a CNN Hero, go to

BLACKWELL: Is Duke a team of destiny? Because I'm told that it looks like they're a team of destiny.

PAUL: I'm today, I'm told --

BLACKWELL: I don't know that --

PAUL: He says --

BLACKWELL: I don't know.

PAUL: Just put some sugar on it.


WIRE: That's right --

PAUL: Coy Wire.

WIRE: Yes, good morning to you. Duke is so talented and fortune seems to be favoring and that's just playing unfair for everyone else in the tournament. They squeaked by UCF last week, and then it was Virginia Tech with a chance to tie it with one second to go.

Last night, the Hokies dropped the perfect play, but Ahmed Hill misses. It's like there's an invisible force here, not letting Duke's opponents hit last-second shots. The Hokies, everyone, everywhere stunned. That miss is going to haunt Hill for quite some time. Think about that, Duke, they win 75-73 on another miss by an opponent with a wide open look at the rim.

All right, more drama, Houston with a chance to go up three over Kentucky with 30 seconds to go, but P.J. Washington, no, he comes up with a monster block, a huge play after missing the first two games in the tournament with injury, and then Kentucky needs a hero.

How about 19-year-old freshman Tyler Hero. The game-winning three, Houston nearly pulling off a 13-point comeback, but Kentucky rolls into the elite eight. Auburn's Chuma Okeke was having an incredible game, powering his team over 1 Seed, North Carolina, but then a devastating injury.

And I want you to take note of the incredible display of sportsmanship by Carolina players as Okeke is being taken off the court. That is incredible. That moment galvanized Auburn, they hit 17 three-pointers and trampled the Tar Heels by 17 points. The first number one seed of the tournament has fallen, but so has Auburn's star player.

So it's a sweet -- a bittersweet win for the Tigers as coach Bruce Pearl's emotion says it all.


BRUCE PEARL, HEAD COACH, TIGERS, AUBURN: He was the best player on the floor. He is hurt. He is hurt. So -- but we're going to rally. So I'll go double(ph).


WIRE: Auburn goes to the elite eight for just the second time ever. The last time 33 years ago. So look at the scene back on campus, students rolling the famous Toomer's Corner. Elite 8 begins tonight starting with Gonzaga, Texas Tech, the Purdue, Virginia, both games on our sister network "TBS" now.

I want you, folks to realize here that we are in the presence of greatness --

PAUL: Greatness --

WIRE: Victor Blackwell, out of 42,000 people in our CNN bracket challenge, you are in the top .5 percent.

(APPLAUSE) I mean, this is incredible --

PAUL: We are not worthy, we are not worthy --

WIRE: Of all people though, right? Victor --

BLACKWELL: I have no idea what I'm doing.

WIRE: I ran into one of our producers in the elevator yesterday, I'm not going to say who -- my God, because he says, I don't think Victor is picking them himself.

BLACKWELL: No, listen --

PAUL: Oh, no!

BLACKWELL: I am picking, here's what I'm doing. I poured a glass of gin, Express 1908 if you care, and just picked Duke to win everything and it just picked random schools.

WIRE: Well, you're picking so well --

BLACKWELL: That's it!

WIRE: And let me tell you, the person who is first place out of all 42,000 people has only seven more points than you, but he had North Carolina winning it all. They're done now, you have Duke.

PAUL: Yes.

BLACKWELL: Wow, look out.

PAUL: Apparently, we have to drink when we make up bets, just saying --

WIRE: Gin --

BLACKWELL: It's a good thing.