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Sri Lanka Easter Sunday Massacre; Hundreds Gather For Mass After Notre Dame Fire; FBI Arrested Member Of Armed Militia Detaining Migrants. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired April 21, 2019 - 06:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and hello to everyone around the world. I'm Victor Blackwell.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everyone. I'm Jessica Dean in for Christi Paul this morning.

BLACKWELL: All right. The pope has delivered his Easter message this morning but there is this breaking news that's happening out of Sri Lanka. At least 140 people including at churches were killed in Sri Lanka. We now know there has been an eighth bombing that has rocked at least four cities throughout that country.

DEAN: That new information coming in. This is the scene right now where more than 560 people have been injured after coordinated blasts rocked a number of high-end hotels and churches where worshipers attended Easter services. We are also learning right now, at least 20 foreigners are among those killed.

This is an ongoing situation. We are continuing to get new information. We're going to bring you the latest numbers as they come in.

BLACKWELL: Let's go now to CNN correspondent Will Ripley. He's following the story. Will, what are you learning?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we are learning is that this does appear to be a coordinated series of attacks specifically targeting people who are Christians celebrating Easter. At least three of the bombings so far have been at churches in the south island nation of Sri Lanka. Also four hotels targeted. A lot of people have the holiday weekend off. And these were high-end hotels full of people who are celebrating the holiday.

Also this new report of an explosion possible at house in Sri Lanka. We know that three cities have been targeted. The commercial capital of the country and its largest city Colombo. Also explosions reported in Batticaloa and in Negombo. The scenes that are being described from the church in Colombo that was hit just horrific. We're hearing reports that there were a thousand of people inside the Easter mass at St. Sebastian's Church and the explosion we're told happened shortly after the mass had finished.

There were three priests finished delivering the sermon. Two of them were severely injured and another one was moderately injured and we are hearing that there were bodies about 30 bodies lying in the church and the explosion so severe that there were pieces of flesh they are described at the sides of the walls of the church and even being thrown outside of the streets outside of the church. Obviously shattered glass, people horrified, screaming, running in terror.

And this was just one scene. We know that there are at least 20 dead. Foreigners amongst the 140 at least that are confirmed dead right now. This is according to the hospital in Colombo where they are treating the injured and identifying the dead.

At least 560 people have been injured. And we just can't underscore how horrific of a day this has been for Sri Lanka. It's a relatively small nation just around 22 million people live there and to have three cities targeted in this way on this day it is -- it is a nightmare that has come true on what is supposed to be a holy day for Christians in Sri Lanka and of course to all around the world.

DEAN: Yes. Will, that's definitely true. As you mentioned so many people all around the world celebrating today and this really isn't the first time that Christians have been targeted on Easter. Can you give us a sense of other Easter attacks that we have seen in the past that were somewhat similar?

RIPLEY: Absolutely right, Jessica. I think back to Pakistan in 2016, in Islamabad when there was a blast in a neighborhood park, a park that had Christians and Muslims alike but it was a horrific attack. At least 69 dead in that along with 341 injured. And those who perpetrated the attack in Pakistan back in 2016 said they also were intentionally targeting Christians.

In 2012 in Northern Nigeria there was a massive explosion. It was near a church. It was so close to the church that the windows were shattered and in that explosion, at least 25 were killed and 13 injured with bodies littering the road just outside that place of worship.

So, obviously, attacks on Easter Sunday are not unprecedented. Reports of them happening in 2012 and 2016 but the scale of this attack in Sri Lanka and frankly reports of new explosions just coming within the last few minutes this is -- this is a significant and devastating act of terror that has swept multiple cities across this island nation and at this stage, we know that there is now a curfew in place. Police have been called off of their Easter leave so that they can patrol the streets and try to keep people safe.

People in Sri Lanka are being asked by the president to cooperate with police officers as they try to get a grip on a situation which may still be unfolding.


We just don't know what else is going to happen in Sri Lanka because the news just keeps coming in and it's bad news. Schools are closed for at least two days. Monday and Tuesday, they potentially could be closed on Wednesday as the government tries to get a handle on all of this and understandably condemnation of this attack is coming in, pouring in from all over the world. Everyone from the Turkish president to the prime ministers of India and Pakistan and even the British Prime Minister Theresa May who called this attack truly appalling -- Jessica and Victor.

DEAN: All right. Will Ripley for us again new information coming in by the moment. We'll check in with you in a bit. Thanks.

BLACKWELL: Now again we do not know if this attack is over. In just in the last few moments there was this discovery of the eighth explosion, this one outside or at a home near the capital. So the full horror of the scene in Sri Lanka is only becoming clear now.

We are getting new video all the time of this aftermath and we have to tell you that a lot of video is very graphic, the most graphic video we will not show to you because of what we are seeing on these scenes. You can imagine. But we do have video reportedly showing the explosion at St. Anthony's Church in Colombo. Watch this.


BLACKWELL: And there you see the bit of flames and the plume of smoke there just on the left of your screen. Again, eight explosions and more than 140 people killed, 560 sent to hospitals.

We know that there is this curfew that Will talked about but also authorities are telling people to stay indoors, stay inside, do not crowd around these locations that have been the victims of these explosions because, again, they do not know if this is over.

DEAN: Right. And you see that, it's just so violent even from afar


DEAN: We want to discuss this now with Sajjan Gohel. He's the director of international security of the Asian-Pacific Foundation and also a terrorism expert.

Good morning. Thanks for being with us. We are getting some of these images in. As you're taking all of this in, what are your initial thoughts?

SAJJAN GOHEL, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY DIRECTOR, ASIA-PACIFIC FOUNDATION: It's a horrific coordinated mass casualty attack that is now damaging Sri Lanka, politically, socially, economically and there had been concerns during the Easter period that there could be terrorists attacks specifically against Christian institutions but there was speculation that would happen in the west. No one necessarily anticipated it could happen in Sri Lanka.

People often forget that Sri Lanka actually has a very sizeable Christian community and even though the country has suffered terrorism in the past from the Tamil Tigers, it's been largely peaceful in the last 10 years. And unfortunately, today, terrorism has returned to this little island.

BLACKWELL: As authorities are now trying to determine who is responsible, there has been no claim of responsibility. Knowing this country and the history, who are you looking to first to hear from and who are authorities likely looking closely at?

GOHEL: Well, as I was mentioning, Victor, Sri Lanka had this civil war with the Tamil Tigers which are an ethnic group based on the north part of the country but that civil war ended. The country has been largely at peace. There is no evidence to suggest that the Tamil Tigers have been able to plot or plan something of this scale.

And then, also, the other aspect is the fact that ISIS has been calling for reprisal attacks since the Christchurch shootings in New Zealand and we know that there have been Sri Lankan nationals who have joined ISIS. So there is also that factor as well, that it could be individuals inspired by ISIS.

This was not a basic amateur attack. This was very well coordinated and very well planned. A lot of timing went into this.

So you have to look at the fact that this was something that couldn't have just happened overnight. There was a lot of advanced planning on this attack.

DEAN: All right. Sajjan Gohel, thanks so much for that insight. We appreciate it.

Meanwhile, tens of millions across the globe are celebrating Easter today but for the first time in years, there will be no holiday services at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Today, in some sense, will be remembered as an Easter amid the ashes.

BLACKWELL: Last night, people gathered for a benefit concert to help rebuild the cathedral of course, after last week's massive fire. CNN international correspondent Melissa Bell is outside of a church there where church goers will attend services today. Melissa, hello to you.

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Victor. Good morning, Jessica. It's here at Saint-Eustache Church just on the other side of the Seine River on the right bank of Paris that the service, the mass, the Easter Sunday mass that would have been held at Notre Dame is currently taking place.


In the last few minutes that archbishop of Paris has given his thoughts and prayers in front of the gathered faithful to the people in Sri Lanka. And all the thoughts of the Catholics meeting here, praying here they were also -- they also -- he also praised of course the efforts of the fire fighters.

As you know there has been a lot of taking stock these last few days in Paris about all that was lost but thankfulness being given here this Sunday morning about all that was saved. Once again the archbishop said thanks to the efforts of these brave men. They were presented with a religious book that was still covered in the soot of the night's fire in order said the archbishop that God's word may be preserved.

BLACKWELL: All right. Melissa Bell for us there in Paris. Melissa, thank you.

DEAN: Former vice president Joe Biden is expected to end the speculation this week and announce his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Coming up, how Biden joining the race could shake up an already massive and diverse field of candidates.

BLACKWELL: And new this morning. The FBI arrests a member of the armed militia that has been detaining hundreds of migrants at the U.S. southern border this week. That is next.



DEAN: President Trump is spending Easter morning at his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, before flying back to Washington today.

BLACKWELL: And as people read more of the Mueller report he was on Twitter attacking the report and Senator Mitt Romney for his reaction to what was discovered in that investigation.

DEAN: Now those close to Trump say he's getting newly furious at the current and former staffers who were interviewed for that report after words reveal the chaotic White House where orders from a president were routinely ignored.

CNN White House reporter Sarah Westwood is live in West Palm Beach this morning. Sarah?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Good morning, Jessica and Victor. And President Trump is angry about his portrayal in the Mueller report as a dishonest leader whose orders were simply ignored by his staff. So some former aides are questioning the legal strategy that the president's former lawyers Ty Cobb and John Dowd employed during the Mueller investigation which was total cooperation with testimony when it came to documents.

The president is also upset particularly at his former White House counsel Don McGahn who spent more than 30 hours speaking to investigators and provided extensively access to hits notes, that's something that the president referred to earlier this weekend on Twitter. And this all comes as Democrats in Congress pushed the Department of Justice to hand over an unredacted version of the Mueller report.

House Judiciary chairman Jerry Nadler, a Democrat, is leading that charge. But last night Rudy Giuliani, the president personal attorney said on FOX News that the unredacted material in that report is no different than what we've already read and he said doesn't mind if Democrats get a hold of that copy of the report. Take a listen.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: As far as I'm concerned, you know, he can have it but I'm not the attorney general and the attorney general can't break the law.


WESTWOOD: Now, Mitt Romney -- Senator Mitt Romney is one of the few Republicans who went after President Trump and criticized him harshly after reading that report. Romney said that he was sickened by the president's actions in terms of his efforts to obstruct the investigation. So President Trump who is active on Twitter since the Russia report came out lashed out to Romney for his statement. The president, Jessica and Victor, will head back to Washington, D.C. later tonight.

BLACKWELL: All right. Sarah Westwood for us there in West Palm Beach. Sarah, thank you.

And the president's lawyer Rudy Giuliani joins Jake Tapper this morning on "STATE OF THE UNION." That's at 9:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

DEAN: A member of an unarmed militia group that detained almost 300 migrants at the border in New Mexico is in federal custody. The FBI arrested 69-year-old Larry Mitchell Hopkins known as Johnny Horton Jr. He faced felony charges of possessing fire arms and ammunition. He belongs to a group called United Constitutional Patriots.

BLACKWELL: In a video posted online by that group you can see armed men wearing masks and dress in military fatigues. The video purportedly shows migrants detained and turned over to border patrol. CNN has not authenticated this video or confirmed the date it was recorded. Here is Nick Valencia with more on the militia.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The group calls itself United Constitutional Patriots and they are self-described militia group. A group of concerned citizens they say that are helping to secure the border and they claim that what they are doing is lawful comparing it to making a citizen's arrest. But in videos we're about to show you one of their members not only falsely identifies himself as a U.S. Border Patrol agent he also starts to act like one.



U.S. Border Patrol, what are you guys doing?

VALENCIA (voice-over): The man speaking in the video is not a Border Patrol agent but he appears to be acting like one. Here, he gives commands to the migrant group, some of them children, which he has just intercepted.

The clips were posted to the Facebook page of Jim Benvie, a member of the United Constitutional Patriots, a militia group based along the New Mexico border.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, we don't work well with Border Patrol, by the way, just so you guys know that. That's the media.

VALENCIA (voice-over): They describe themselves as concerned citizens, helping to keep America safe, plugging the holes, they say, for the U.S. Border Patrol.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That Border Patrol is tied up. So if we weren't here right now, they could be bringing in busloads, dropping them over here and running up the hill.

VALENCIA (voice-over): The group's actions have drawn swift condemnation from the American Civil Liberties Union and others who have equated the group's actions to kidnapping.

PETER SIMONSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ACLU OF NEW MEXICO: This is exactly why we don't let private citizens enforce the laws of our country. This is an act of vigilantism and we need federal, local and state authorities stepping in as quickly as possible.


VALENCIA (voice-over): They've asked federal state and local law enforcement to investigate. In a statement to CNN, a spokesman from the New Mexico governor's office said this about the militia group.

"They have absolutely not been authorized by our office or any other. We are actively working with the attorney general's office, state police and local police to determine what has gone on and what can and will be done. That migrant families might be menaced or threatened in any way, shape or form, is completely unacceptable."

CNN has been unable to independently verify when and where the clips were shot. We made several attempts to reach the United Constitutional Patriots and Jim Benvie. They did not rely. A spokesman for the group defended their actions to "The New York Times," saying what they do is legal.

But in one of the nighttime videos posted by the group, a man can be heard alluding to another tactic he wishes the militia could use.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only problem is, if we shoot on the hill it will be an international crisis. We're too close to the border. It would save some time though, wouldn't it?


VALENCIA: We reached out to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. They declined to comment specifically about this group or about the social media post that were made this week. But they did send this statement to CNN.

"Interference by civilians in law enforcement matters could have public safety and legal consequences for all parties involved. Border security operations are complex and require highly trained professionals with adequate resources to protect the country."

Multiple law enforcement agencies are now investigating.

BLACKWELL: Our thanks to Nick Valencia for that report.

We've got more on the breaking news. More than 140 people killed after eight explosions across Sri Lanka. The Pope has just commented. We'll have that after the break.

DEAN: Plus, St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York is on high alert after a man showed up with two gasoline cans and a lighter. We've got more on that ahead.



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLACKWELL: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Victor Blackwell.

DEAN: I'm Jessica Dean in for Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: Right now the pope is delivering his Easter message to the Vatican just as people across Sri Lanka are getting more about the attacks that have killed 140 people, including Christians. Pope Francis just called the attacks such cruel violence.

DEAN: He also referred to the bloodshed as -- quote -- "Mourning and pain for Christians at Easter."

Take a look at the scene in Sri Lanka this morning. We know right now at least eight bombings rocked four cities throughout that country. More than 560 people have been injured after the coordinated blasts rocked a number of high-end hotels as well as churches as worshipers attending Easter services there. We're also learning at least 20 foreigners are among those killed.

This is an ongoing situation. We are continuing to get new information. We'll of course bring you more as we get more. In the meantime, CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is following the latest. Nic, what are you learning?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, we are learning that the blasts have continued beyond those of the church and other two premises. The seventh and eighth blasts have come at premises that it is believed to be again triggered by those responsible for the earlier blasts, perhaps fleeing premises that they had been using.

What we understand at the moment is still a very confused picture if you will in terms of who may or may not be responsible. Of course, the civil war in Sri Lanka ended 10 years ago, 25 year long civil war. And the Tamil (ph) separatists there were a secular group and it would be very, very unlike them on their tactics ever to attack churches, particularly on such a holy day as well.

It has the hallmarks of at the moment it appears to have or is intended to have the hallmarks of Islamist extremist but again these types of groups are unknown really in Sri Lanka. The small Muslim community there is a very peaceful community. So at the moment the picture is still a confused one of who may be responsible.

But what we are understanding, we have heard already from the president of Turkey condemning, we've heard from the United Arab Emirates condemning it. We've heard from European leaders as well all condemning this horrific attack on one of the most holy days in the Christian calendar. One of those blasts going off just as worshipers were leaving the church.

Clearly these were intended, coordinated, intend to cause maximum killing, maximum damage, maximum suffering to the Christian community. This comes at a time of course when we have heard world leaders in the past week or so talking about how the Christian community, particularly in the Middle East, is going through a very difficult period of being essentially being targeted in many places. Again, as I say the picture at the moment remains one without clarity.

BLACKWELL: Nic, it's important, and I don't think we can say it enough, the scope and severity of this attack. Eight coordinated attacks, three at churches, four at hotels, one at a home as well. Would it be fair to say that there is a short list of organized groups that could pull something like this off?

ROBERTSON: One of the big concerns as ISIS was defeated and chased out of Syria and Iraq was that those hard-core fighters that didn't want to stay behind and fight to the death would relocate to south Asia. Sri Lanka would absolutely not have appeared to be on the top of their list. It's not a natural place for them to go to. There are plenty of other places for them to hide out.



ROBERTSON: But when you ask the question about essentially about who could be capable of such a sophisticated coordinated, well-planned attack that clearly involved a number of people, you have to think about groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda and I think in this context with such levels of carnage, ISIS shifts to the top of the list for suspicion in terms of the ability and the knowledge to plan such an attack that they would choose such a type of target, churches on a Christian holiday to target would seem to fit their modus operandi.

But it's still -- it's not clear. We just don't know at the moment. And the fact of the matter is ISIS and number of other groups might claim responsibility. ISIS likes to claim responsibility for any sort of tragedy in the Christian world.

Just last week when Notre Dame Cathedral burned down in a -- part of it in fire, that it wasn't started intentionally, ISIS was crowing about that on their propaganda pages. So it will be no surprise that they may pop up and try to take claim for this. And although they may be likely suspects we won't know yet that it is them for sure.

BLACKWELL: All right. We will wait to hear if they speak up on this and of course treat that with the skepticism it deserves. Nic Robertson, thanks so much.

Back states side here. In New York City, St. Patrick's Cathedral is on high alert after a man showed up with two gasoline cans and a lighter.

DEAN: CNN's Cristina Alesci is following that story for us.


CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Attempted arson and reckless endangerment are among the charges facing this man, 37-year- old Marc Lamparello.

DEPUTY COMMISSIONER JOHN MILLER, NEW YORK POLICE INTELLIGENCE AND COUNTERTERRORISM: It's hard to say exactly what his intension were but I think the totality circumstances of an individual walking into an iconic location like St. Patrick's Cathedral carrying over four gallons of gasoline, two bottles of lighter fluid and lighters is something that we would have grave concern over.

ALESCI: Authorities say Lamparello walked into the main entrance Wednesday night and spilled some gasoline as a security officer quickly stopped him and forced him to turn around. Lamparello left and was immediately detained by counterterrorism officers.

KEVIN DONAHUE, DIRECTOR OF BUILDING OPERATIONS, ST. PATRICK'S CATHEDRAL: Upon questioning him, his explanation for being in the area wasn't legit and he was taken into custody.

ALESCI: Lamparello initially told officers he was passing through the cathedral to get to his vehicle which he said was out of gas. However, according to the NYPD when officers checked his car, they found it did have gas.

CARDINAL TIMOTHY DOLAN, NEW YORK ARCHDIOCESE: Our people were suspicious, walked the man out immediately called the police department. They apprehended him and now he is secure.

So the system works. Does that mean it's fail-safe? No. But that is why we come to church to pray for God's protection.

ALESCI: Authorities describe the suspect as emotionally disturbed saying he had been staying at a hotel for several days and was arrested earlier this week for refusing to leave a church in New Jersey. Lamparello's attorney tell CNN his client is being held for psychiatric evaluation and it's unlikely he'll be arraigned until doctors clear him.

Hours before the incident at St. Patrick's cathedral, he booked a one way flight to Rome set to leave Thursday evening according to authorities. His actions causing alarm in the days after a blaze tore through the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. French authorities are still investigating the cause of that fire but they do not suspect foul play.

Cristina Alesci, CNN New York.


BLACKWELL: It's good that everyone at St. Patrick's was alert there and were able to get authorities there quickly.

OK. Politics now. He has been a front-runner in poll after poll and this week former vice president Joe Biden is expected to announce that he is running for president. Coming up the issues that the vice president will face on his third try to get to the Democratic nomination.

DEAN: And a zoo keeper in Kansas is attacked by a Sumatran tiger. Coming up what happened and why the zoo's director says it won't happen again.



DEAN: Well, it appears the waiting game is soon to be over. Former vice president Joe Biden is expected to launch his third attempt at the Democratic presidential nomination. He is top poll after poll for months including early state polls in Iowa and New Hampshire.

So how will his entrant (ph) shake up the race? Well, joining me now opinion columnist for "The Hill" and a former Democratic aide Brent Budowsky, and Basil Smikle, a Democratic strategist and former executive director of the New York State Democratic Party.

Good morning, gentlemen. Thanks for being here.


DEAN: Basil, let's start with you. We're still months away from those -- from the first caucus, from the first votes, all of that happening but Biden is still entering this race relatively late in terms of how big and vast the field is already.

What are some of the challenges he's going to face as soon as he gets in?

SMIKLE: Well, I think there are three. The first is his -- I think what he is really trying to do here is re-create or reestablish, if you will, the Obama coalition from '08 primary and to some extent 2012. That is going to be a very daunting task because I think one of the other areas that he needs to focus on is bringing white males, white working class males back to party, a group that has been leading the party for over a decade.

So first is trying to reestablish the Obama coalition. Second, try to bring working class white men back to the party.

[06:40:04] And, third, to try to establish himself as sort of this new progressive. In fact, he has called himself a liberal but based on, I think, his definition of what a liberal Democrat is doesn't meet the definition of what a liberal progressive Democrat is today in 2019 particularly with someone like Bernie Sanders at the race.

DEAN: And, Brent, listening to Basil talk, those are two different lanes that he's going to have to try to thread a needle through being that more progressive wing of the party and then also a more moderate wing bringing in white working class voters as well.

How does he begin to build that coalition without sounding like he is pandering to one side or the other?

BRENT BUDOWSKY, OPINION COLUMNIST, "THE HILL": I think what Joe Biden needs to do is be himself, number one. That he has a career, a lifetime of political work and leadership at different levels.

I think he needs to address all groups in the Democratic Party and the white working class voters that Basil correctly referred to that we can win, should win. Trump has (ph) conned (ph) them on the economy and they really ought to be voting with us.

It's not -- it's a good time today to say what John Kennedy said that here on Earth, God's work must truly be our own. That was one of the memorable things that makes him so enormously popular even today. And every Democrat that's running is on the right side of that matter.

Every Democrat that's running stands for those things that John Kennedy stood for. Every Democratic candidate they're like brothers and sisters compared to Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and our other opponents Vladimir Putin and the attorney general William Barr.


DEAN: All right. All right. So we have got kind of the challenges laid out before him. I want to play now a little sound bite from Cory Booker as his potential rivals begin to talk about him entering the race. Take a listen.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm excited about having a vibrant debate in the coming year. We are still a very long way from first votes being cast and I think it's going to be a really wonderful debate and I'm looking forward to that. But my philosophy has always been from the time I was running track in high school is that you don't look to the left (INAUDIBLE) right when you run your race.


DEAN: And, Brent, you were talking about all of the different candidates in there. What does Biden entering the race do in terms of how anybody else is going to be moving forward? Does anybody start to change up their game or do you think they all kind of stay in the lane that they are in right now?

BUDOWSKY: Well, what I hope in any campaign is that the candidates grow during the campaign. I think that is the most important thing that happens in a long campaign. Boy, this one is going to be long.

When CNN is going to do all of those town halls on Monday it's an extraordinary opportunity for the viewers to judge the candidates but even more, it's an opportunity for one of those candidates to shine, to break out with saying somebody that uplifts the country, mobilizes Democrats, makes people feel better about being an American and about our government and leadership today which is what Kennedy did.

So I think they have to take every opportunity about what is unique about them as an individual, about what their vision is for the nation and about why they want to make every American feel better where we don't have a president who tells us every morning who we should hate and who his enemies are but a president who tells us every morning how we can make America better and how we can lift the lives of all Americans. I think that is the challenge --

DEAN: Yes.

BUDOWSKY: -- and that's the key.

DEAN: Yes. And, Basil, what about for you? What do you see any of these other candidates doing? How does Biden getting in affect what they are doing?

SMIKLE: Well, I agree with Brent. I think every candidate really just got to stay in their lane as Cory Booker said, don't necessarily look to left, to the right. Run your race.

The challenges, as I eluded to before, is that in trying to bring back this winning Obama coalition when Joe Biden gets into the race, a lot of those voters, a lot of those operatives and a lot of those donors have gone to these other candidates whether they are 18 others in the race right now.

DEAN: Right.

SMIKLE: So they have each sort of started to pick a side. So, again, I don't know if you can cobble all of that together in the time that we have remaining but certainly the upcoming debates are going to be an opportunity for a candidate to shine and, more importantly, they still got to raise money because money is the first primary in these elections and the truth is as we go further and further into the cycle, money is -- and your ability to raise money is going to be a sign of your continued viability.

DEAN: Right. And the opportunity to stay in the race longer.

SMIKLE: Longer.

DEAN: And continue forward. All right. One more thing I want to get to before I get you guys go. Yesterday, Mayor Pete Buttigieg while arguing for raising the minimum wage slammed supply-side economics, Reaganomics.


He also took a swipe at socialism. Take a listen to this.


MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We were told that if you just make sure that the wealthiest do great that will trickle down and find its way to everybody else. You don't have to make us pay well. They will just do it.

And kind of like another political system we have heard about in the past it might sound good in theory but didn't work good in practice.


DEAN: Basil, quickly before we go, we have seen Republicans already latching on this idea of socialism that they have viewed it as a threat to America and America moving forward. Is that going to be -- and then obviously, within the Democratic Party you have people who are absolutely in favor -- Bernie Sanders calls himself a socialist.

What do they do to both talk about this but protect themselves from attacks moving forward?

SMIKLE: First of all they should stop using the term socialist because it seems like everybody is using that word incorrectly these days. The truth is most American public, most voters on the left and the right do feel that we are in need of some radical change in areas like affordable college tuition and whether it's universal health care, Medicare for all, whatever you want to call it moving in that direction voters want some kind of change because if we keep pushing the American dream, those two things, education and health care, are some of the biggest barriers in achieving that American dream.

DEAN: Right.

SMIKLE: So voters want some relief from that.

DEAN: And, Brent, quickly. Before we go, just any thoughts as we part on that?

BUDOWSKY: Yes. What Democrats stand for is Americanism. Not political labels in our positions. And what Donald Trump and Republicans stand for is socialism for the rich where they grab everything they can in the government. They steal, they are corrupt, they take that money, they reward the wealthy, they reward themselves. Americans don't want a socialism for the rich from Trump. That is the real thing that Democrats are going to campaign against and I think if we do it right, we will win.

DEAN: All right. We will leave it there. Thanks so much, Brent Budowsky and Basil Smikle. We appreciate you both being on.

SMIKLE: Thank you. BLACKWELL: So, listen, we have a lot going on this morning. Of course, there is a breaking news that is happening in Sri Lanka. We will get to that at the top of the hour.

But up next, a zoo keeper in Kansas is recovering after being attacked by a Sumatran tiger. Why the zoo's director says it never should have happened.



BLACKWELL: Welcome back.

The latest on this attack that happened in Sri Lanka. The president, Donald Trump, tweeting, "Heartfelt condolences from the people of the United States to the people of Sri Lanka on the horrible terrorist attack on churches and hotels that have killed at least 138 million people and badly injured 600 more. We stand ready to help."

And, of course, he means 138 people so I'm sure that will be corrected. But that's the condolences coming from President Trump on Twitter in just the last three minutes.

DEAN: Yes. Eight explosions still an ongoing situation there in Sri Lanka. We will continue to update you as the morning progresses.

In the meantime, a Kansas zoo keeper is recovering in the hospital after being attacked by a tiger. The 911 call came in Saturday morning.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have staff getting attacked by a tiger. Staff is still in the enclosure, the tiger is till next to them. Still attacking.


DEAN: According to CNN affiliate WBIW, the attack lasted about 10 minutes. The keeper had injuries on the back of her head, neck, and arm. The director of the Topeka Zoo says something went wrong because the keeper should not have been in the tiger's enclosure at the same time as the tiger. He said they are not considering euthanizing the tiger.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While this incident is very unfortunate, he did what a wild animal, what a wild tiger does.


DEAN: The zoo is not naming the keeper. She is reportedly in stable condition.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about this 76ers Nets game, nearly broke into chaos and pushing and shoving from the teams.

DEAN: Yes. Carolyn Manno with us for this morning's bleacher report update. Good morning.

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Jessica and Victor. Sports fans do not want this particular series to end. It's getting better with every single game that we see. This is bad blood between Philly and Brooklyn and it is something that has made the playoffs extremely exciting.

This (INAUDIBLE) very quickly becoming one of the best in the league. The latest installment came last night. This is the third quarter of the game.

Sixers star Joel Embiid picking up a hard foul on Jarrett Allen and the Nets veteran Jared Dudley not wasting any time flying into the mix. He has not shied away from the spotlight when it comes to this feud which actually started when Embiid elbowed Jarrett Allen in the face back in game two. So Dudley and Jimmy Butler both getting ejected from the game for this scuffle Sixers went on to win. They put the game away on a three from Mike Scott. Philly in very good shape right now with a 3-1 lead in the series. After the game, Embiid ready with the trash talk.


JOEL EMBIID, PHILADELPHIA 76ERS CENTER: I'm in! First of all, he's a nobody, so I'm too valuable for my team. That's why I didn't react. I did not do anything.


MANNO: Jared Dudley maybe a nobody but James Harden certainly isn't. Surprisingly, though he was a virtual no-show for the Rockets. Last night the league's leading scorer missing all 10 of his first half shots against the Jazz. This is the first time anybody has done that in the playoffs since Michael Jordan back in 1997.

Luckily, the rest of the team there to pick up the slack. Six Rockets players manage to score 10 points of the game. Chris Paul had 18 and Harden finally finding his shot in the fourth quarter. He nailed a clutch three to get the Rockets to lead for good. Harden finished with 22 points on three of 20 shooting Rockets finding a way to win though.


They are up 3-0 in the series on the verge of a sweep.

Finally, for you this morning, a story of perseverance on this Sunday. Diamondback's pitcher Taylor Clarke made his major league debut against the Cubs yesterday.

Clarke was born with no feeling or movement on the right side of his face making it hard for him to talk but that has not derailed him from becoming dominant on the mound. And he was in his first major league game with his family on hand. He threw three scoreless innings and also got a hit. So the 25-year-old becoming the first player ever to record his first strikeout, first save, and first hit in the same game. It had everybody on the hand at the ballpark as well. It's a really nice way to wrap things up for (INAUDIBLE) to came up from the minor leagues

DEAN: Absolutely.


BLACKWELL: Congratulations.

MANNO: Yes. It's a great story.

All right. Carolyn, thank you.

Our breaking news coverage continues. Over 140 people killed after eight explosions across Sri Lanka. The Pope is commenting now. We have more for you after the break.