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Obama On Legacy: My Idealism Is Unchanged; Trump: Obamacare Is A "Total Disaster"; U.S. Troops Buildup; Bo Jackson: I Would Have Never Played Football; Trump Rips "All Talk," "No Action" Civil Rights Icon Lewis; Senate Panel To Investigate Russian Election Meddling; Trump Adviser Flynn Spoke With Russian Ambassador; Trump Questions Intel Community Competence; Civil Rights March, Immigration Groups Rally Against Mass Deportations. Aired Noon-1p ET

Aired January 14, 2017 - 12:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: -- Russia saying quote, "If you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody's doing some really great things," end quote. This as the Senate Intelligence Committee will review those alleged links between Russia and the U.S. political campaigns.

Meanwhile, as Trump's inauguration committee is making preparations, protests marches are underway in the nation's capital. This hour, be following a civil rights march from the Washington monument to the Martin Luther King Memorial as well as a rally for fair immigration reform. That's taking place right now as you see there in the Metropolitan AME Church.

And there are some members of Congress including that of Congressman John Lewis, refusing to attend the president-elect's inauguration swearing in. In fact, it was John Lewis, who is questioning the legitimacy of Trump.


REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LEWIS (R), GEORGIA: I don't see it as president- elect as a legitimate president.


WHITFIELD: Let's go now to CNN's Jessica Schneider, who is live outside Trump Tower. So, Jessica, what more is the president-elect saying?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, two tweets appeared just before 8:00 this morning. The president-elect taking to Twitter resorting to personal attacks against Congressman John Lewis, after Representative Lewis did in fact say, as you heard there, that he does not view Donald Trump's upcoming presidency as legitimate because of the Russian hacks during the election cycle.

Donald Trump fired back this morning in two successive tweets saying this, I'll read it for you, "Congressman John Lewis, should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in a horrible shape and falling apart, not to mention crime infested, rather than falsely complaining about the election results. Sad."

Congressman Lewis does represent most of Atlanta. He's represented his congressional district in Georgia since 1986, but you know, Congressman Lewis not described as someone of little action. In fact, he was at the forefront of the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

He marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr., the man who we are celebrating this weekend in that national holiday on Monday. He also led the marches including the march on Washington. He was the youngest speaker at age 23 in 1963 to speak at that march.

And then, of course, infamously, he led those larges, the Selma to Montgomery march, the bloody Sunday incident, where he was confronted by those Alabama state troopers and then beaten. So Nancy Pelosi saying that a lot of people have tried to silence John Lewis throughout the years and all have failed.

WHITFIELD: Of course, John Lewis, also being credited with helping to promote greater infrastructure and developments in the Atlanta area. Additionally, which helped secure a number of Fortune 500 companies that continue to generate jobs and industry growth overall.

All right, meantime now, let's turn to that interview in "The Wall Street Journal" where Donald Trump is suggesting that he'd lift the very same sanctions that were imposed by President Obama last month. What more do we know about that?

SCHNEIDER: Well, initially he said that he would keep intact those sanctions at least for a little bit of time, but then he did implicate that he could potentially roll back the sanctions as he continued into first 100 days of his presidency, particularly if Russia worked with the U.S. on some of the United States' goals including fighting terrorism, fighting ISIS.

And then Donald Trump did talk about his willingness to engage with Russia, to engage with the president, Vladimir Putin there, specifically saying this, I'll read it for you, "I understand that they would like to meet and that's absolutely fine with me."

Donald Trump in that hour-long interview with "The Wall Street Journal" talking about Russia, also China, saying that at this point, especially at the beginning of his soon to be presidency, he said everything is up for negotiation -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jessica Schneider, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

All right, we're also hearing more about this Senate investigation into Russian meddling. In last year's election, the Intelligence Committee is promising to look into Russian cyber activity. It will also investigate any possible links between Russia and individuals associated with U.S. political campaigns.

CNN's senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, is joining us now from Moscow. So Matthew, we have heard about this report from the intelligence community on Russian hacking. How is that resonating there? What is being said perhaps from the kremlin on what their expectations are with the swearing in of Donald Trump just days away?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In terms of the kremlin's response to the allegations of hacking, they've been pretty consistent, very consistent throughout this whole period where these allegations have been made in various forms.

The last time we spoke to the kremlin, which was yesterday, about this issue, you know, you got a sense their impatience. Dmitry Peskov, who is the presidential spokesperson for Vladimir Putin said this, "We're done talking about it. There is an emotional storm in the United States engulfing the United States at the moment."

[12:05:08]And the kremlin saying they're not going to take any further part in it. But yes, they've been categorically rejecting any suggestion, any allegation that they've been involved in this election hacking scandal.

In terms of what their expectations are from Donald Trump, president- elect, he's going to be sworn in shortly and I think they're realistic, but I think they're quietly optimistic as well because of what Donald Trump said.

Not least of what he said recently about ending sanctions, about recognizing Russian sovereignty over Crimea which annexed from Ukraine in 2014 and other issues as well. They're quietly optimistic that it's going to be a much better situation with Donald Trump than it was with President Obama.

WHITFIELD: Matthew Chance in Moscow, thanks so much.

All right, let's talk more about this Senate investigation. Joining me now is Steven Cash, a counsel at Day Pitney. He is also a former counsel for the Senate Select Intelligence Committee as well as a CIA lawyer and operations officer joining us from Washington. Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: OK, so do you expect this investigation to shed any more light that has already, more so than any that has already been shed in this investigation?

CASH: Well, I certainly would hope so. I think the Senate Intelligence Committee has a long history of being able to work in a surprisingly bipartisan way, to look at the things that need to be looked at to make sure that our intelligence apparatus is working well and that what they produce is as good as it can be. So I do think this is a positive development.

WHITFIELD: And we are learning that Trump adviser on national intelligence adviser, General Michael Flynn, has been in contact with Russia's ambassador in close proximity to when President Obama announced sanctions and now reportedly that ambassador will also be in the audience attending the inauguration of Donald Trump. Does any of that concern you? CASH: Well, it certainly concerning. I don't know what actually happened. I've read the same reports that you are referring to. The bottom line is in just a few days, President-elect Trump is going to be President Trump and big on his plate in terms of foreign relations is how to deal with Russia. So, he is going to need the best possible timely intelligence to help him make those decisions on how to engage.

WHITFIELD: And at the confirmation hearings just this week for the secretary of defense nominee, Retired General James Mattis, he was asked about the confidence in the U.S. intelligence community that he has and this is what he said.


GENERAL JAMES MATTIS (RETIRED), SECRETARY OF DEFENSE NOMINEE: I have very, very high degree of confidence in our intelligence community.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And if you see that community being undercut, not debated about their conclusion, but under cut or somehow, ignored or selectively being listened to or ignored, again, do you feel you have an obligation to make us aware of this so that we can exercise our responsibilities?

MATTIS: I'll be completely transparent with this committee, sir, but I would not have taken this job if I didn't believe the president- elect would also be open to my input on this or any other matter.


WHITFIELD: So, both secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson, and CIA nominee, Mike Pompeo, also siding with the intelligence community, even though we have heard Donald Trump who's questioned the intelligence community.

But then Donald Trump most recently said he wants his picks to quote, "be themselves." So, what do you see moving forward in terms of people he surrounds himself with, who do respect the intel, that is being presented to the White House, yet at the same time, Donald Trump has laid the groundwork that he's suspicious of it.

CASH: It's fine for him to be suspicious. He's going to be the president of the United States.

WHITFIELD: Maybe it's more than that. Maybe I'm using that term too lightly. It's also dismissing it. It's dispelling it. It's being more than critical. But you know, he's using language that says he doesn't want anything to do with it.

CASH: I think he's going to have to stop using that language because in just a few days, he's going to have to face the reality of a very, very complex world as I'm sure General Mattis would say, the number of threats and challenges that we face overseas are extremely numerous, but most importantly are nuanced and complicated.

[12:10:05]Whether he likes or not he's going to be the president of the United States. He's going to have to rely on his intelligence community to give him the best possible information, including information that can be found no place else.

The American intelligence apparatus in my view is still the best in the world in finding out what reality really looks like, often through clandestine means. I'm hoping he listens to General Mattis.

And when General Mattis says I trust the intelligence community, I think that's the right thing to and I think President Trump when he is president, is going to have to communicate to the intelligence community that he is respectful of their professionalism and their patriotism.

WHITFIELD: So, at the same time, are you in agreement apparently with Trump's proposal to impose some structural change as it pertains to the office of director of National Intelligence, perhaps even downsizing it? What is your view? Is it correct that my research says you're in support of that?

CASH: I am and I just want to make very clear that making structural changes to make the intelligence community work better is a separate issue from respecting and appreciating what you can get and what you must get from the intelligence community.

That said to the extent that the president is going to take a hard look at what in my view is a bloated office of DNI, office of the director of National Intelligence, that's a good thing.

And I think when he starts doing that, he will learn that while there are changes to be made, specifically, that it become smaller and have a more leadership rather than operational role, he will also learn to appreciate has General Mattis said, what an important and professional tool he has at his disposal in the entire intelligence community.

I hope that happens at the CIA as well and when we have a new CIA director, I'm hoping he finds the same thing.

WHITFIELD: All right, we'll leave it right there. Steven Cash, thanks so much for your time. Appreciate it.

CASH: My pleasure.

WHITFIELD: All right, so, as the country is preparing to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, on Monday, President-elect Trump is attacking civil rights icon, John Lewis, a man who once marched alongside MLK. We'll have more on that.


WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Donald Trump is firing back at Democratic congressman and civil rights icon, John Lewis today.

[12:15:04]Trump tweeting this, "Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart not to mention crime infested rather than falsely complaining about the election results, all talk, talk, talk, no action or results. Sad."

This comes after Congressman Lewis questioned the legitimacy of the president-elect.


LEWIS: Unless it is president-elect as a legitimate president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You do not consider him legitimate president. Why is that?

LEWIS: I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected and they have destroyed the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.


WHITFIELD: All right, let's discuss this now with my panel, CNN political commentator, Ryan Lizza, and historian and Princeton University professor, Julian Zelizer.

All right, so, Ryan, you first. This is quite the hornet's nest, now. You've got a congressman whose career has spanned speaking up and he did that and then got now the president-elect who is challenging this congressman saying he really isn't doing enough. So, what's the next move here in this very open, verbal battle?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, as far as I know and correct me if I'm wrong, this is the most senior Democrat to make the case that president Trump has not been legitimately elected. My own view just to inject some opinion. He was elected fairly. He won the Electoral College.

So I don't agree with Congressman Lewis on that, but he carries enormous moral authority in Washington among both Democrats and Republicans. As we all know, he was one of the icons of the civil rights era. He was literally almost beaten to death when he led the Selma March in 1965.

He's been in Congress for 30 years and has maintained an impeccable reputation. So when he speaks out on an issue, other Democrats especially listen and the fact that Trump has now escalated this by not just responding to what Lewis said about whether he was legitimate or illegitimate.

But instead, decided to attack his district as crime infested, for what I've seen from some of the commentary this morning, there are a lot of African-Americans who and not just African-Americans, actually, but a lot of commentators, who are interpreting that as a race tinged comment saying just because he's an African-American representative, his district must be crime infested.

And Fredricka, you live in Atlanta, you could speak more to that than I could. So I think by escalating it in the way that Trump did and making a personal attack on one of the heroes of the civil rights movement, Trump has made an enormous political mistake and this will push the effectiveness, whether Lewis is right or wrong, this will push other Democrats to join him in not going the that inaugural. That's my view. WHITFIELD: You know, there's been quite the response you know from particularly you know, media outlets here in Atlanta who are helping to substantiate the makeup of the districts in which John Lewis represents, ethnically, very diverse. Economically, extremely diverse.

We're talking about a district which has a number of Fortune 500 companies. The infrastructure building, many of those efforts, which Lewis has directly had a hand in to helping in the growth and productivity of Fulton County, DeKalb County, the city of Atlanta.

Helping to encourage jobs and improvement in education, so, there's quite the response coming from trying to insult the work and integrity of Lewis.

So, you know, Julian, it's really interesting because we're talking about the use of the word legitimacy and we're talking about you know, the president-elect who spent a good part of the eight years of President Obama's presidency trying to delegitimize him, questioning where he was born.

And now, the table is turned on how Donald Trump, you know, was elected into office. And that in addition to the intelligence community, talking about the Russian hand that may have played here, and how Donald Trump is responding in this way.

So, do you see that this battle that now is playing out in front of us is only going to intensify even after this swearing in of a Donald Trump, Julian?

JULIAN ZELIZER, HISTORIAN AND PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: I think it will intensify and there's a difference between the two cases. The birther movement was about questioning the birth place of President Obama. Raising false claims about where he came from.

[12:20:09]This is in the context of a hacking scandal and Russian intervention, which intelligence agencies has been pushing, not the Democrats. The Democrats are picking up on this. The Democrats have been frustrated with their briefing from FBI Director Comey.

And while Congressman Lewis went much farther than I think most Democrats are willing to do at this point, he's articulating the concerns about what happened in this election, and those concerns are going to be at the center of this investigation into what Russia did.

I would add on the kind of response from President-elect Trump, I don't think we should take the criticism seriously. It's not really a question of how active Congressman Lewis has been.

He's been a man of action from 1965 and even before that in the civil rights movement to being a very prominent and very important liberal within the Democratic caucus on issues like voting rights and war.

WHITFIELD: But how can people not take the word seriously when this is his primary -- or what Donald Trump is exhibited to his primary form of communicating with the American public. He's written words via tweet.

ZELIZER: They can certainly listen to the tweet. I don't think the criticism is a good one. He's kind of picking on the wrong person for this criticism. Of course, the tweets are very important. These are the central mechanisms of President-elect Trump's and President Trump's communication with the public.

I do think there will be a backlash. Often Trump picks the wrong person and we've seen moments when he does that and it actually undercuts his support as happened in the Democratic Convention as everyone will remember.

WHITFIELD: All right, Julian Zelizer, Ryan Lizza, thanks so both of you. Gentlemen, appreciate it.

All right, still to come, thousands of people from civil rights groups and pro-immigration groups are rallying in the nation's capital at two separate events. We'll have more after this.


WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Two big events happening right now in the nation's capital. About 17 civil rights groups from the NAACP to the National Action Network marching from the Washington Monument to a park near the MLK Memorial for a rally.

And several major immigrations rights groups are holding a rally at the historic Metropolitan AME Church. They're trying to garner support to stop mass deportations.

[12:25:09]Just a few minutes ago, Senator Van Hollen had this to say about the president-elect.


SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: We are not going to allow Donald Trump to bury the Statue of Liberty. We're not going to (inaudible). We are a nation for all people regardless of relation, regardless of background, regardless of who you love. We are here for everybody.


WHITFIELD: All right, CNN's Athena Jones is joining us from inside the Metropolitan AME Church where the rally is underway. What more is happening, Athena?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: High energy rally. A lot of chanting. Talking about a future is ours. Part of what Senator Van Hollen's message was also that -- he said we're not going to let Donald Trump turn hateful rhetoric into action. We won't let him tear immigrant families apart and that's really the overall message, the message of resistance.

You talk to the organizers here, they say that the message today is of unity, love, resistance, defense, and sanctuary. I spoke with one of the organizers, here's what she had to say.


FERNANDA DURAND, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, CASA: This is a group that's coming together from North Carolina, California, and New Mexico. So, immigrants from across the country are coming here to D.C. This is also part of a larger movement that we're doing today, 70 cities -- 7-0, cities are participating in some way or another.

They're either doing marches, rallies, press conferences throughout the country, and this is all under the banner of #heretostay, and we're, you know, here to stay and we're ready to say no, we're not going to get pushed around as immigrants.

We are a group of immigrants that contribute to this economy and we shouldn't be pushed out and if you kicked out every undocumented person, you would have an economic recession in this country.


JONES: So, the economic argument is also part of the message that these folks want to send to the incoming administration. And I tell you that there's a positive energy here, a positive atmosphere, but if you talk to folks, they also talk about people waking up in fear.

People being concerned about what is going to happen to the millions of undocumented immigrants in this country. Given the fact that President-elect Trump ran on a hard line stance on immigration, from building the border wall to deporting millions of people to cutting funding to sanctuary cities.

We'll have to see which of those policies he really tries to carry out, but this group, the group here in and around the country want to show that they are standing and ready to resist -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Athena Jones in D.C., thank you so much. Appreciate it.

All right, coming up, President Obama will be wrapping up his final week in office and he's reflecting on his legacy just as Republicans are working to dismantle key parts of it.


[12:31:15] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD: Hello everyone, and thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. President Obama will hold his final news conference this Wednesday in a White House briefing room. The event will take place two days before he's term end and will likely be the final time American's will hear from Obama as commander in chief. The President sat down with NBC this week where he spoke about his legacy and reflected about his accomplishments as he watched a clip of his speech.


BARACK OBAMA, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you. We as a people will get there.

Yes, we can, Yes, we can.


OBAMA: Yes we did.

HOLT: You did?

OBAMA: Look, if you had told me at the beginning of my presidency that eight years later, the economy would be stabilized, we would cut unemployment in half from its peak, that the stock market would have recovered. If you told me that we provided 20 million people health insurance that didn't have it before, I would've said, all right, we did OK.

HOLT: Did you see some idealism in that young man?

OBAMA: I did. And that idealism passed and left. Look, I'm grayer. People like to note the additional wrinkles. But my spirit is unchanged. It's undaunted. I continue to believe that, as frustrating as sometimes it can be, American democracy moves the ball forward.


WHITFIELD: Republican members of congress are already moving toward repealing Obama's landmark piece legislation. The House just advanced a resolution to fund the process to eliminate Obamacare, but my next guest says it's not too late to save Obamacare. Democratic representative Dan Kildee of Michigan wants to save that measure of the Affordable Care Act. He is leading a rally in Warren, Michigan tomorrow alongside Senator Bernie Sanders and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer. Welcome representative, good to see you.

REP. DAN KILDEE, (D) MICHIGAN: Thank you. Thanks for having me on.

WHITFIELD: All right so this week, President-elect Trump had this to say about this affordable care act.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT-ELECT: Obamacare is complete and total disaster. We don't want to own it politically. They own it right now. So, the easiest thing would be to let it implode in '17 and believe me, we get pretty much whatever we wanted, but it would take a long time.


WHITFIELD: So do you see it imploding unless it is replaced with something else?

KILDEE: Well, if they repeal it and don't replace it, obviously, that would have incredible consequences and to hear President-elect Trump really speak to the political implications for the loss of healthcare for 20 million people or the loss of significant coverage that can't be taken away from hundreds of millions of people, how cynical can he possibly be to be measuring this question based on the political implications? This is about the life and health --

WHITFIELD: Except he's making the argument at least and now sound about he is making the argument that it will implode unless some kind of intervention comes in to replace it with something else. So he's saying it's or, you know, in his words, it's a total disaster, that it's going implode this year unless a new plan is put in place.

KILDEE: Well, what's, you know, that's just rhetoric. I mean this law, while imperfect like any law, could use some, you know, some changes, I'm sure that we could work together to achieve.

[12:35:05] But when we hear Republicans and President-elect Trump talk about the element of their plan, which of course is a secret, they won't reveal it, they describe the affordable care act. They describe coverage that can't be taken away. They describe plans that children can be on until the age of 26. They describe the affordable care act. They might want to call it something else, but the truth of the matter is, this is an important legacy, not just of President Obama, but it was finally as a nation coming to the point where we see healthcare as a right that shouldn't be determined by whether or not you are a wealthy person. It is something that is fundamental.

The affordable care act moved us forward on that. And right now, the Republicans see more focus on scoring political points or satisfying, you know, their narrow ideological base by saying look, we repealed it with no idea whatsoever. What they will replace it with.

WHITFIELD: And then you heard in that town hall here on CNN with House Speaker Paul Ryan, you heard a man who's Republican, who said he is volunteered on a number of campaigns who looked squarely in the eye of Paul Ryan and said he is thinking President Obama because it helped save his life as a cancer patient. And this is what else was said during that town hall.


PAUL RYAN, (R) HOUSE SPEAKER: Because we see this law collapsing even faster this year, because we see more insurance companies pulling out people with little or no choices and another round of double digit premium increases, we really feel we need to step in and provide better choices and options as fast as possible. So we're going to move on this as quickly as we can.


RYAN: Yeah, oh yeah it's something definitely is a plan within the first 100 days to get moving on this legislation.


WHITFIELD: All right. So, Paul Ryan making it sound I mean just it never reached that it's fairly simple to make these improvements. We know that repealing has been defeated more than 60 times. What in your view, could be different this go around if indeed it is replaced as soon as it is repealed. What would be in this possible, you know, replace plan that you think would allow this affordable care act to be salvaged or improved?

KILDEE: Well, I mean, obviously, the idea of having competition, which will affect pricing both for premium, but also the cost of healthcare itself, makes sense. And we're certainly willing to look at those areas where there has been diminished competition because of the providers that are available. The healthcare insurers that are available.

That's a technical question that we can answer, but you don't decide to blow up the entire thing with the idea that well, maybe we can find some solutions. This means the loss of healthcare to hundreds, I mean, really, 20 million people immediately for sure. But an impact on healthcare that is provided for over 100 million people, so I really don't understand why Speaker Ryan or the Republicans who have had six years after 60 votes to repeal this, why they can't just present their alternative without having to put the entire healthcare of many millions of people in jeopardy without plan to replace it. We know why. It's politics.

And when it comes to politics, we understand this is a political environment we're in, but when it comes to the certainty of access to healthcare, to like the man who was on the town hall with Speaker Ryan. The certainty the way he got cancer, he would be able to have life saving treatment. That is not something that should ever be the subject of political debate. That is a fundamental human right. And to see the Republicans in Congress and President-elect Trump, see this as a political question, it's just -- it's shameful. It tells you how far we've gone, you know, on one end, you've got healthcare being taken away from millions of people and Donald Trump wakes up today and decides that the most important thing you can do is insult my friend and icon of the civil rights movement who's nearly beaten to death to fight for the rights of others. And Donald Trump decides that's the most important thing he can do is to attack --.

WHITFIELD: You tweeted in response saying "My friend, you know, Representative John Lewis, has sacrificed more than Donald Trump ever has or will. He or he is almost dying fighting for equal rights". But in your view as it pertains to how this dispute was invited, that Congressman Lewis would go on an interview on NBC and say that he doesn't consider President-elect Trump legitimate.

[12:39:58] Even after we know Donald Trump questioned the legitimacy of President Obama for, you know, eight years. Plus, even though, you support Congressman Lewis' background and his commitment to serving America, what's your view on whether it was appropriate for even Congressman Lewis to say that?

KILDEE: Well, John Lewis has earned the right to express his opinion through decades of fighting for the rights of others to do the same. So I'm not going to second guess John Lewis. I will say this. That any scrutiny that Donald Trump is receiving for his performance not just up to the election, but in the weeks that have followed, any scrutiny that he is bringing is scrutiny that he is bringing upon himself, his behavior has been embarrassing.


KILDEE: He just has to accept the fact that he has to grow up someday.

WHITFIELD: Hold it right there. And you'll be at inauguration?

KILDEE: I will be there unhappily.

WHITFIELD: All right. Congressman Dan Kildee, thank you so much. Appreciate it. And stay with CNN for our coverage of tomorrow's democratic rally to save Obamacare affordable care act.

All right, coming up, President-elect Donald Trump has criticized NATO, but today, Poland is welcoming thousands of U.S. troops on its soil part of a NATO build up. While Russia is calling that a threat to its security.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It started with two business majors seemingly headed for the heights of corporate America, but a lecture just before graduation brought them down to earth.

NIKHIL ARORA, CO-FOUNDER BACK TO THE ROOTS: We heard a professor bring up this pretty random idea that could possibly grow gourmet mushrooms on entirely cycle coffee grounds. We were just both really curious about food grown off of waste.

[12:45:03] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And with that, back to the roots was born. A company that learns some typical small business lessons along the way.

ALEJANDRO VELEZ, CO-FOUNDER BACK TO THE ROOTS: One of the biggest surprises in that we've learned from going back to roots is the fact that some things that are seemingly really easy are actually really hard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like growing a team.

VELEZ: And at the same time, some things that seem impossible are actually quite easy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like attracting retailers. Currently, the company boasts a few million dollars in venture capital. And while they started with mushroom kits back in 2009, they now sell about 14 different products including --

ARORA: A self-cleaning fish tank that grows food. Gourmet in a can.

VELEZ: The herbs actually go right out of the can. Organic stone ground place.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The product list might seem elect tick, but the philosophy behind it isn't.

VELEZ: Really all the stems kind of back from this idea that of let's make food personal, let's make food fun and easy for people to see where it comes from.


WHITFIELD: All right. It's the biggest European deployment of American troops in decades. Poland has formally welcomed some 4,000 U.S. troops. The U.S. says it's meant to reenforce its ties with NATO allies. It comes amidst growing concern over potential Russian aggression in the region. Russia calls the move a threat to its national security and interest.

Poland's neighbors, the Baltic States, are worried about what Russia might do next. American troops are doing their part to show these nervous nations the U.S. has their back. Ivan Watson reports.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: War games in the snowy fields of Eastern Europe as U.S. soldiers train in Latvia. 25 years ago, this was part of the Soviet Union. Today, Latvia is part of the European Union and also, where U.S. military ally in NATO.

These are live fire exercises. That's why I've got to wear all this extra protective armor. Military commanders say they're trying to show that they're a force of deterrents and their number one threat, Latvia's much bigger neighbor to the east.

GREGORY ANDERSON, U.S. ARMY: Origins were really in response to Russian activity in 2014. And the strategic situations changed.

WATSON: He's talking about Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. After Russian forces, drove Ukrainian troops out of this corner of Ukraine in 2014. Russia's land grab frightens people in former Soviet Republics like Latvia, where there are still bitter memories after a half century of soviet occupation.

JANIS GARISONS, LATVIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENSE: Our main aim is to protect our sovereignty and I was thinking protect our statehood. If Russia is so peaceful and regards us as neighbors, good neighbor, why you should put more equipment and forces on your border.

WATSON: But there are two sides to this tension. We traveled from Latvia across Lithuania to Kaliningrad. A Russian enclave in Europe, that's cut off from mainland Russia. In soviet times, this was a heavily militarized place closed off from the outside world. Kaliningrad was recently thrust back into the spotlight after Russia deployed nuclear capable missiles here. Russia's top diplomat defended the move arguing it's the U.S. that's threatening Russia.

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, that's solitary threat. But the plans of the United States, not only to well, they quadrupled I think the money allocated to support military deployment in Eastern Europe then they moved to met NATO infrastructure next to our borders.

WATSON: Kaliningrad is still the headquarters of the Russian navy's Baltic fleet and Moscow's been flexing its own muscles, performing military drills in the region. In 2014, western governments punished Russia's actions in Ukraine with economic sanctions. They've contributed to a broader economic crisis in Russia that's got everyone we talked to worried about their future.

OF course I feel bad when they always blame Russia for everything that's gone wrong in the world, says Konstatine Smernov. This confrontation he tells me is not good for anyone. Rival militaries maneuvering on all opposite sides of increasingly tense borders. In a land that still bears scars from the last time armies fought here.

The country side are on Kaliningrad is dotted with dozens of old german churches like this one. Abandons and in ruins after the Soviet army invaded and conquered this land. Reminders of what happened the last time tensions spawn out of control in this part of Europe.

[12:50:04] Ivan Watson, CNN Kaliningrad, Russia.


WHITFIELD: All right, coming up, NFL great Bo Jackson speaking out saying he would never have played football had he known how dangerous it is.


WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back, I'm Fedricka Whitfield. A star athlete is now voicing his concerns about the risk of head injuries in football. Heisman trophy winner and NFL pro bowler, Bo Jackson, told "USA Today" that had he known about all of these injury, he would have never played football, even adding that there's no way he would ever allow his kids to play football today. CNN Sport Anchor Andy Scholes is with me now. And of course, we know him as a great baseball player and football player, but these words resonate given his career. And really giving his history, you know, on the sport.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: They certainly do Fredricka. And in your list of former NFL players speaking out about wishing they had never played the game of football is certainly growing. And when a running back legend like Bo Jackson says he wished he had never played the game, people take notice.


SCHOLES: Bo Jackson, a two-sport athlete, many know by it's famous advertising slogan Bo knows.


SCHOLES: Now knows something else. Jackson told "USA today" "If I knew back then what I know now, I would have never played football. Never". The only man to ever be an NFL pro bowler and a major league baseball all star added, I wish I had known about all of those head injury, but no one knew that. The head injuries Jackson refers to is the long-term effects of concussions that can lead to the general brain disease known as CTE. CTE has been linked to deaths of numerous former football players, including Junior Seau and Dave Duerson who both took their lives after struggling with the effects of the disease. Other former players have said they regret playing the sport in light of the CTE discovery, including former Jets Wide Wesley Walker who told news day that --

WESLEY WALKER, FORMER NFL PLAYER: And I know it's a business and this is a risk that I took.

[12:55:00] Now, knowing the things I'd know now, there's no way I would do it. To go through what I've been through.

SCHOLES: But not all players agree with those views, including Houston Texans star J.J. Watt, who I caught up with last year.

J. J. WATT, HOUSTON TEXANS LINEBACKER: I understand that I'm going to get hit. I understand that I'm going to get hit in the head. I go into every game and practice knowing that, it's a decision that I've made to play football. It's like a firefighter. A firefighter knows they're going to go into a fire at some point. I understand that football is a rough game. I understand I'm going take hits in the head but I am doing whatever I can to help prevent that.


SCHOLES: And that's the theme I've gotten from a lot of NFL players I spoke into. They all say they know the risks and they choose to play football any ways, but as we said earlier, Fredricka, you know, the list of former players that wish they would never have played is growing. And I think that, you know, of course, that happens as they get older. They start feeing the adverse effects of playing in their football or their football career. And of course, they end up regretting it, so it'll be, you know, interesting to see if the trend continues.

WHITFIELD: Wow, that's interesting. I mean these are powerful words from a Bo Jackson, but, you know, he did master these two sports.

SCHOLES: And that's the thing I admire about Bo Jackson. He was also a star baseball player. At one point he's currently making the major league baseball all star game, so I could definitely see how he says all right, I wish I would have never played football. He could have totally concentrated on baseball and been a multiyear all-star in the sport and still had a great career and then that handled his physical element that he has now, you know, he's had the hip replacement.

WHITFIELD: Right. And the big football injury is what impacted and ended his career with the dual sports.

SCHOLES: So, yeah, you could see how Bo Jackson feels that way. It would be great to see or it would be interesting to see if we hear other like star running backs come out.

WHITFIELD: Yeah. SCHOLES: Who didn't have a baseball background and come out and say --

WHITFIELD: Powerful stuff. All right love that Bo. All right, thank you so much Andy Scholes. Appreciate it.

All right, this is some interesting information. Just coming in. Just seconds ago, as space x rocket launched into space and a lot is on the line. This is the first launch similar -- simply similar on man rocket exploded just last year in September and before the crash, the company made breakthroughs in space by landing several rockets back on earth successfully. Wishing them closer to their goal of being able to reuse rocket. Live images right now of that rocket into space. Today's rocket is bringing 10 satellites into space for communications company iridium.

Still and always fascinating to be able to see that, so many, many hundred of miles away. All right, we have so much more straight ahead in the news room coming up next.