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At Least 23 Lawmakers Will Not Attend Trump's Inauguration; Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus Will End May 2016; U.S. Called to Join Syrian Peace Talks Next Week; Mexico Promises Retaliation for Any Border Tax; Leading Democrats Rally To Save Obamacare. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired January 15, 2017 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: At least 23 lawmakers will be absent, some are citing Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 election while others say it is a sign of solidarity with fellow congressman John Lewis. Trump ridiculed the civil rights icon for being quote "all talk and no action" after Lewis said he did not considered Trump's presidency legitimate.

Nevertheless, inauguration preparations are entering their finals stages now. This morning a dress rehearsal of the swearing in ceremony, using stand ins for the president-elect and his wife Melania.

Today we are learning that Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas will swear in vice president-elect Mike Pence.

Let's bring in CNN's Suzanne Malveaux in Washington.

So Suzanne, what more is the president-elect's camp saying to this growing boycott.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, there is strong reactions coming from both the RNC head, soon to be chief of staff Reince Priebus, as well as the vice president-elect Mike Pence. Both of them speaking out on morning shows about this.

There are some Republicans who are clearly trying to give Congressman Lewis his props regarding his statue in the civil rights movement. But at the same time, they are coming to Trump's defense. They are vehemently opposed to any notion that Trump is not the legitimate winner of this controversial election, despite the fact that intelligence points to a role that Russia might have played in hacking.

((BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: Look. Donald Trump won this election fair and square, 30 out of 50 states, including Georgia, more counties than any other Republican candidate since Ronald Reagan. And to hear John Lewis, a man that I served with, that I respect to question the legitimacy of the election and to say that Donald Trump will not be a legitimate president was deeply disappointing to me and also to hear that he was not going to attend the inauguration this Friday. I hope he reconsiders both statements.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: So far, Fred, there is no indication that Congressman Lewis would reconsider. In fact he joins at least 22 others of his colleagues. House Democrats have also announced so far, they are not going to be attending the inauguration that seems to grow as the controversy grows. And all of this coming on a day where we have seen Washington preparing for these inaugural events, the dress rehearsals, the band practice taking place on the capitol. And it comes as well amid controversy over some A-list performers, again, refusing to participate in Trump's big roll out.

We have Broadway superstar from Dream Girls' fame Jennifer Holiday announcing now that she is no longer going to be singing at Trump's pre-inaugural concert. That's on Thursday after many of her fans were complaining about it. She wrote this open letter to them saying her performance was really meant to heal the country. She has now reconsidered that.

Trump, for his part, he has chosen not to directly respond to Holiday. But instead, Fred, he tweeted out this saying, for years our country has been divided, angry and untrusting, many say it will never change. The hatred is too deep, then he says it will change. So trying to be a bit more optimistic, I suppose.

WHITFIELD: And this boycott compares how to previous boycotts of presidential inaugurations.

MALVEAUX: Well, Fred, we have certainly seen this protest before, particularly from the Congressional Black Caucus. This was back in 2001. There were members of the CBC who skipped George W. Bush's first inauguration. That was protesting the Supreme Court's ruling on the outcome of that election which may believe delegitimized Bush's presidency. But the number here of members protesting back then, certainly doesn't come close to the nearly two dozen that we are seeing so far that are going to be sitting out there one, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Suzanne Malveaux in Washington. Thank you so much.

All right. So Trump has responded to Lewis' language and boycott by attacking Lewis' congressional district in Atlanta. And that district includes the famous Ebenezer Baptist church of which John Lewis is a member. But Lewis was not at today's Sunday service.

But CNN's Polo Sandoval did speak to several members of the congregation as well as the pastor. And how are they express themselves about this issue?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There was some mix reaction during that (INAUDIBLE) church service today, Fred. And what is interesting is as you mentioned, there was no Representative Lewis, at least not attending today. But there were plenty of politics especially from Raphael Warnock who is the leader of the congregation as the senior pastor. He specifically called out president-elect Donald Trump on some of this - on its latest tweet tirade, specifically for targeting civil rights icon. I want you to listen to our conversation with the church's pastor before he took the pulpit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. RAPHAEL WARNOCK, SENIOR PASTOR, EBENEZER BAPTIST CHURCH: Rather than sending nasty tweets, he really ought to sit at John Lewis's feet and learn what service, sacrifice and integrity look like.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANDOVAL: Pastor Warnock stepping up to defend not only the Democratic lawmaker from Georgia but also his community as well. I'm you remember these tweets from yesterday that were also posted by president-elect Trump from which Trump say congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district which in horrible shape and falling apart, not to mention crime infested. Of course, the tweet goes on there.

Of course, that is something that many people have taken issue with, particularly here in Georgia. In fact even on the cover of the Atlanta Journal constitution, the headline there expressing some outrage that perhaps the president-elect's details or at least his information was wrong with respect to the community. And that is basically what we heard from senior pastor Warnock before he took the pulpit today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[16:05:37] WARNOCK: This district is obviously more complicated than that. The world's busiest airport is in district. Ebenezer Baptist church sits in this district. And the people of this district deserve than to be insulted by an incoming president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANDOVAL: And there were, of course, as you mentioned Fred, mixed reaction. There were a lot of people that stepped up and, of course, defended Representative Lewis. There were others who felt that, well, he is a public figure. That he could be criticized, however there was a small margin of folks that felt that politics and religion should not be mixing today. So a lot of opinions on an issue that is still dividing several people.

WHITFIELD: So many commented on the comments about Donald Trump and the legacy of congressman Lewis, did many comment on the idea of the boycott, the growing boycott of the inauguration?

SANDOVAL: That was pretty discussed too much because mainly, again, the focus was on John Lewis and what he stands for, where he has been and what he's done particularly for the civil rights movement. And in a place that's so rooted in history, such as Ebenezer Baptist church, that message perhaps did presumed with the community quite a bit. It's a place that where Dr. Martin Luther King was baptized, where of course, he got his start in a place that helped galvanized his civil rights movement. So I think that was really the focus of the conversation, not so much on the drama that could be unfolding in the capitol --.

WHITFIELD: All right. Polo Sandoval, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

SANDOVAL: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. After the initial criticisms, Trump tweeted a similar sentiment about the congressman saying quote "Congressman John Lewis should finally focus on the burning and the crime infested inner cities of the U.S. I can use all the help I can get." That tweet coming in earlier today.

I want to bring in CNN political commentator Errol Louis to talk more about this. He is also a political anchor for Specter News.

Errol, good to see you.

ERROL LOUIS, POLITICS ANCHOR, NY1: Good to see you.

WHITFIELD: OK. So what's your interpretation of Donald Trump's latest tweet? Is this his attempt to kind of clean up or advanced a message that perhaps he and the congressman could ultimately work together?

LOUIS: Well, I think he was kind of caught out there. There was a tweet storm yesterday. A lot of support for John Lewis. John Lewis's books are at the top of the bestseller list for amazon. A little mini movement started to try to promote him and his history and legacy by doing that.

But Donald Trump, make no mistake about it, in all of those tweets, including the one that was supposed to quote "clean this up," there is a barely disguised racialized discourse that runs through it. He sees a black congressman. He says your district is crime infested. And ignoring, of course, anything resembling facts. I don't think he even bothered to find out that this is the district that's home to Emery and Georgia Tech and the headquarters of Delta and the headquarters of, you know, Coca-Cola that has butt-head, of course.

You know Atlanta better than I do, Fredericka. So this is something that he has done throughout. Whenever he try to talk to Donald Trump about urban problems, he would immediately flip to this kind of denigrating, rationalize discourse. That's kind of where he is coming from.

WHITFIELD: And that's many people in his district interpreted that, those comments that a city that is very diverse. And we are talking nearly 50 percent, you know, nonwhite Latino, the black community, very high in terms of numbers and the interpretation that people had is that he associated that with, you know, a failing city. And that there were racial undertones.

So how does a Donald Trump go into the White House, his message during his victory night was that of unity. Those around him say that he will try to convey a message of unity on inauguration day. How does he recover from this twitter war that many are interpreting or some are interpreting as having racial undertones? LOUIS: Well, let's not make the mistake of assuming that he actually

wants unity as the outcome here. He doesn't accidentally spouse this kind of divisive rhetoric. In fact, there's an argument that he does it precisely because it does rile up his base. And it does bring him closer to the people who feel the same way that he does, you know.

I mean, of that group of members of Congress that you just flashed on the screen, by the way, by a quick count, it looks like at least half a dozen of them, meaning about half of the New York City congressional delegation is on that boycott list. This is home city. This is the city where he lives, where he grew up, where he was born and where he made his fortune. That does tell you something about who he is in all of this stuff. And if he was serious about unity, he might start with people from his home city. But that has never been his style. That's not what got him to the White House. It is not what launched his public career. We remember, of course, that his public career is campaign in effect began with the birtherism lie, which he has never renounce. So this is, you know, let's not pretend that he is all about unity just because he says it once in a while.

[16:10:41] WHITFIELD: At the same time, do you see this as potentially backfiring for Democrats particularly after the Obama administration. You heard Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, you know, talk about going high when they go low. And the criticism that is now being launched against some Democrats who are choosing to boycott saying that this isn't sending a message of unity and in tolerance, even when things don't go your way. Shouldn't you be going high?

LOUIS: Well, you know, I think there's a sort of counter veiling argument, Fredricka. And it's partly a moral argument, which is that if somebody like Donald Trump comes along and tells lies and denigrates as abstains your constituents, some of whom are very vulnerable people who are say undocumented immigrants or who are Muslims. You have an obligation and it's partly a political but it is partly immoral obligation to stand up for those people. And I think that is what, at least some of the members of Congress see themselves is doing.

WHITFIELD: OK. Very rocky start, just now five days away from the inauguration of the 45th president.

LOUIS: Absolutely.

WHITFIELD: Errol Louis, thanks so much.

LOUIS: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. And a reminder, don't miss our CNN Special Report tonight, CNN explores first lady Michelle Obama's journey from Chicago to the world stage, history made, the legacy of Michelle Obama, airing tonight at 8:00 eastern time.

And after more than 130 years, the curtain is coming down for good on the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus. Up next, behind the decision to end the iconic American spectacle.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)

[16:15:06] WHITFIELD: And it all began in 1884 where Cleveland had been elected president. The Washington monument was just finished becoming the world's tallest structure at the time. And five brothers in Wisconsin founded a circus, not just any circus, but what would eventually become the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circuit. But in May, this extravagant part of American history is coming to an end.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD (voice-over): It's the end of the road for the greatest show on earth. In just four months, the curtain falls on the one and only Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus, an iconic road show that defined the circus experience for generations of children.

In the end, CEO, Kenneth Feld, said the circus was simply too expensive to produce. His family has owned the show for the past 50 years. But ticket sales were declining and the circus's fate was likely sealed last year when it retired the popular elephant show. Feld said then it was inevitable.

KENNETH FELD, CEO, RINGLING BROTHERS AND BARNUM AND BAILEY CIRCUS: There's a saying, and it has been around for a long time, you can't fight city hall. And we found that's to be the case in this situation.

WHITFIELD: For years, the elephants and their dance routines were a big draw for circus fans but not at all popular with animal rights groups which deplored their treatment, and repeatedly criticized, picketed and sued the company for its treatment of animals.

In 2011, the circus paid a fine of more than a quarter million dollars for alleged violations of the animal welfare act.

And last year, it retired the elephants to a conservation center in Florida.

After closure was announced, people for the epical treatment of animals declared victory while admitting it is as against other wild animal exhibitors including marine amusement parks lie Sea World is far from over.

The last performance of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circuit will be on May 21st in Union Dale, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And now turning to politics, after the break, Donald Trump and the future of the intelligence community. CIA director John Brennan has a message for the president-elect.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Mr. Donald Trump has to be very disciplined in terms of what it is he says publicly, he is going to be in a few days' time the most powerful person in the world in terms of sitting on top of the United States government. And I think he has to recognize that his words do have impact. And they can have a very positive impact and they can have an undercutting of our national security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:20:15] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

So the U.S. is being called to join the Syrian peace talks to begin next week. Russia's foreign minister extended the invitation when he spoke with president-elect Donald Trump's national security advisor nominee Michael Flynn. The talks come after a fragile ceasefire was broke in Syria last month.

I want to bring in Edward Djerejian. He is a former U.S. ambassador to both Israel and Syria. And he is the director of Baker Institute at Rice University. Good to see you.

All right. Do you see this as welcome news or is it a problem that a member of the Trump -- incoming Trump administration would be invited to these talks, but not any member of the Obama administration?

EDWARD DJEREJIAN, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO BOTH ISRAEL AND SYRIA: Well, I don't see it as a problem, Fredricka. but I see it as a very serious challenge, only three days after the president-elect is sworn in, his team or members of his team, if they do attend the conference in Astana and Kazakhstan, they have to hit the road running on one of the most critical foreign policy crises on the agenda.

You know, what happens in Syria doesn't stay in Syria. The horrible Syrian civil war, the thousands, the hundreds of thousands of people killed, the refugee exodus affects all of its neighbors, and they have close relationships with us, be it Turkey, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan, our gulf partners in the Arab gulf and our European allies because of the Syrian refugee crisis that these refugees has been part of the destabilization of Europe. So this is a major foreign policy issue for the new administration.

WHITFIELD: And so, when you say a challenge, because you have laid it out, that that is quite sizable, there is a lot at stake, it's a challenge because it doesn't give whatever representative is to go of the Trump administration an opportunity to be able to offer some ideas, or a challenge because this would -- the U.S. would play more of a note taking kind of role. Define and explain what you mean by the challenge.

DJEREJIAN: Well, the challenge is that the United States has to be a major player in whatever the future direction of Syria is going to be. It cannot be ignored for the reasons I explained, the heavy interests involved.

I think this Astana conference is a steppingstone to the Geneva conference in early February in which the United States is a major party. And all the players will be there. So it gives the United States an opportunity if they do attend. And frankly, I hope they do attend with their eyes wide open and one hand on our wallet, and see what can be achieved at the Astana conference. I think mostly it could be a consolidation of this very, very fragile cease fire, if they achieve that and then begin to outline the possibility of political talks for political transition in Syria, then that could be helpful.

WHITFIELD: OK. Now, let's shift, you know, to Russia, away from that end of the Syria conversation.

Now, let's listen to something that outgoing CIA director John Brannan said about Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin and intelligence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: I don't think he has a full and appreciation of Russian capabilities, Russians intentions and actions that they are undertaking in many parts of the world. And that is what the obligation responsibility and tells community is.

I very much hope that our relationship with Russia improves in the coming administration. I think he has to be mindful that he does not yet I think have a full appreciation and understanding of what the implications are of going down that road, as well as making sure he understands what Russia is doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So do you see that as both a warning and advice coming from Brennan?

DJEREJIAN: It is both. It is warning and advice. I think it really is incumbent upon the Trump administration to determine what type of relationship the United States is going to have with Russia. I think a major effort should be made by the new team to basically enter into a real strategic dialogue with Russia, outline what our common interests are, for example, terrorism, ISIS, Al-Qaeda. That's a common interest that both of our countries have. But to also take a very clear eyed look at where our differences are, certainly in Syria, in the Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea, and another issues.

So, this is the time -- not a false reset like occurred unfortunately under the Obama administration, but really to restructure this relationship is key. Let's not forget, Russia is a major nuclear weapons power.

[16:25:29] WHITFIELD: And 70 countries were in Paris today for Middle East peace talks, talks that Israel is boycotting. The upshot is that most of the countries support a two state solution and warn against anything that could derail that, is that a warning for the Trump administration not to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. What is your interpretation?

DJEREJIAN: Well, I think it's an alert being given by all these countries to the new American administration, that there's an international, a large international consensus on the two-state solution being the only viable path forward, that Israel is going to remain as itself desires a democratic Jewish state. That this is one of the most intractable problems in the Middle East. But it's also a cause of continuing instability. And the very future of the Palestinian state and the future of Israel depends on successful negotiation.

So I think this is an alert. I wouldn't call it a warning. I think it's an alert, that it's an international consensus and they are trying to influence the Trump administration to really adopt a two- state solution and certainly not move the embassy to Jerusalem, with all the implications that would have and the possible consequences. But we will see. We don't know what the new administration's policies are going to be.

WHITFIELD: All right. Ambassador Djerejian, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.

DJEREJIAN: Appreciate being with you.

WHITFIELD: Still ahead, Mexico sends a strong warning to Donald Trump, hit us with a major border tax and we will retaliate immediately. Up next one of Trump's former advisors on the threat and the risk of a tariff war.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:30:22] WHITFIELD: Hello, again, and thank you for joining us, I am Fredricka Whitfield. Mexico is firing back at Donald Trump over his proposed border tax. The President-Elect is doubling down on his threat to tax companies manufacturing in Mexico and selling in the U.S. CNN Leyla Santiago is in Mexico City, so Leyla, understandably Mexico is not too happy about this tariff idea, what more are you hearing?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well the economic minister said you put a border tax down and we will respond immediately. And I have also had a chance to speak to maybe a handful of U.S. companies that are already here in Mexico, none of which willing to go on the Record so that sort of speaks to the sense of fear not only about this tax and the possibilities of what could be coming, becoming targets of the upcoming administration, but also for the company the U.S. companies that were once considering coming to Mexico to manufacture goods and possibly bring them back into the U.S. You know, many people are not only concerned about this tax, but also the future of NAFTA, that was the deal that essentially removed a lot of the taxes on imports as well as exports and the Mexican government here acknowledges that it could be good to go back, take a look, another look at what was a landmark deal between the countries.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CARLOS GARCIA DE ALBA, CONSUL GENERAL OF MEXICO IN LOS ANGELES: You

have to remember, Leyla, NAFTA was negotiated before internet. There was not internet at the time. Imagine how much the world changed after internet. Now we need to speak about e-commerce. We need to speak about intellectual property. We need to include energy. That is not part of NAFTA.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANTIAGO: And that was a top diplomat, a top Mexican diplomat to the U.S. the consul general out of Los Angeles. He went on and on also saying that the deal does not address migration or energy. And this is a deal that President-Elect Trump calls one of the worst in history, because of the jobs the U.S. jobs lost to Mexico. But I think it's also important to note, that at this point, there are 6 million jobs, U.S. jobs according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that also depends on that very same trade, the trade between U.S. and Mexico. One that transports goods to and from, we are talking about $1.5 billion worth of trade on a daily basis, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right a lot of stake. Leyla Santiago, thank you so much in Mexico City.

Joining me now is Steve Cortes, a former campaign advisor for Donald Trump. He is also a market strategist, so Mexico's economy minister has warned that this terror could also lead to a global recession. Do you agree with that?

STEVE CORTES, FORMER CAMPAIGN ADVISOR FOR DONALD TRUMP: I think if there were trade wars right now out all over the globe that could be very dangerous. I don't think that is going to happen. I think what is going on here is that the American worker, one of the reasons that Donald Trump won this election is that he spoke very powerfully to the forgotten American worker, the average American worker has not had a pay raise yet in this century, which is really pretty astounding and very sad. And one of the reasons I believe that is so is because really bad trade deals, terrible trade deals with China, a bad trade deal or at least a very dated one now with Mexico that is two decades also, I think Trump promise the American voter that he would renegotiate these trade agreements recognizing that America has the strong hand, even though we acted in part, we don't have the strong hand in this agreements. We're going to get better reciprocity, meaning better openness for our product and services into their market and we're going to be smart about controlling our borders and smart about the deals that we make sure - from here going forward take part in it. And Mexico will be part of that.

WHITFIELD: Before any of those potentially it is going to be very positive results, there would have to be like a tariff war. And so what would that mean for most Americans wallets?

CORTES: I don't think we have to resort to a tariff war. I will tell you this, look I'm for free trade, I think Donald Trump by the way is for free trade, he is an international businessman, he is been doing business all over the globe for decades, so we're not isolationist, but again we also believe in fairness to the American worker and that is what I think we have globalists who have been put in charge of Washington, D.C. and largely by extension of our economy at the expense often of ordinary American workers. And so we already seen by the way - where not even inaugurated yet, he is already saving American jobs. He is already convincing companies to invest in America. I think to me to invest, rather than talk about the terror side, you know there is sort of terror and stick, I don't want to focus much on the stick side, I want to focus on the carrot side, which is let's make America so competitive and so wonderful for business through tax simplification, through tort reform, through regulatory relief, that American companies and global companies are just dying to invest here and to purchase American technology to pay American workers. I believe we already started to do that and we haven't officially taken the field yet. In 2017 and beyond, I think there's going to be great progress for American workers.

{16:35:40] WHITFIELD: So this week, we're going to see two more key confirmation hearings for the two men that Trump wants to run the economy, Steve Mnuchin, Treasury Secretary, Wilbur Ross, Commerce Secretary, when I ask specifically about Wilbur Ross, does he communicate Trump's message to the people that necessarily agree with the hard-line stance of the President is taking on trade.

CORTES: We have already seen this now in these confirmation hearings, where some very senior people, we saw a bit, I think with General Mattis, some very senior nominees of the president are not necessarily 100 percent on the same page with the President-Elect and the President-Elect tweeted out, that is just fine, he wants to have strong men and women around him who are strong leaders and at times whose views aren't completely in alignment with the President-Elect. I think we will see some of that on trade, I'm a free trader, I don't want to see tariffs, so I'm not someone who worked very hard during this campaign to get Donald Trump elected and work for the campaign, I'm not entirely on board with him with some of the tariff talks.

But that is ok, during his campaign, and more importantly I think what he is going to do in the White House, he is going to construct a team in some ways a team of rivals, who have rival ideas at times even with his own, but more importantly a team of doer's and people who have enormous accomplishments. And so when you bring people like Wilbur Ross, and Steve Mnuchin who bring enormous success, whether it is in a movie industry on Wall Street and American business. These are people who know global business and know how to make America competitive again in this global economy.

WHITFIELD: All right Steve Cortes, thank you so much, good to see you.

CORTES: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right from coast to coast today, top Democrats including Senators Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer rallying to protest the GOP agenda to dismantle the affordable care act. We are live on the scene, after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) {16:40:36] WHITFIELD: Across the country today, people are showing

their concerns about the future of Obamacare. Democrats have planned dozens of rallies on what they're calling a day of action. Earlier today Senator Bernie Sanders, Chuck Schumer and other law makers held an event in Warren, Michigan outside of Detroit. CNN national correspondent Jessica Schneider joins us live from Warren, Michigan, Jessica, you spoke with Senator Sanders and what more did he have to say?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well you know Fredricka, Senator Sanders said this could be just the first of many rallies. Of course we saw these rallies throughout the campaign season and now it seems they are taking center stage when it comes to going into Donald Trump presidency, right here in Michigan, there are about 8,000 people by organizers count. This isn't the only rally. There are about 40 happening all over the country from Maine to California. So hundreds of thousands of people making their voices heard, we heard people out here sharing their stories about the affordable care act, many people saying it saved their lives not an exaggeration they say, but many more people saying it saved them massive amounts of money. So when I talked with Senator Sanders, I asked him, will this rallies will be matter when it comes down to it, especially since Republicans are moving full steam ahead with repeal and replace.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: You have become the leading voice for Democrats, particularly with this issue. You have thousands of people standing outside there. Will this message resonate? Will this get through to the American congress?

BERNIE SANDERS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well I think it will. I mean the Republicans are going to catch on not only tens or thousands of people are coming out today on rallies from Maine to California, but millions of people think it is insane to repeal the affordable care act without having a replacement. You just cannot throw 20 million people off of health insurance. Raise the cost of prescription drugs for seniors, do away with very important patient protection, petitions, you just can't do that unless you have another plan in its place. And I think more and more Republicans are beginning to understand that.

SCHNEIDER: We're in Macomb county, there's also a rally in your home state of Vermont, why here and especially the fact that this county did vote for Donald Trump. They don't usually vote for a Republican.

SANDERS: Well, you know Mr. Trump when he ran for president, promised the people of Michigan and the people of America that he was a different type of Republican. He was not going to cut social security, Medicare, or Medicaid. So part of what today is about is reminding Mr. Trump that he better keep his promises, because we're watching.

SCHNEIDER: Last question, have you spoken with Hillary Clinton about all of these issues? SANDERS: I'll be seeing her I think pretty soon.

SCHNEIDER: Thank you so much, senator.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: So we haven't heard from Hillary Clinton since the election, Senator Sanders saying he expects to speak with her, but two people we have heard from quite frequently, President-Elect Donald Trump says he expects an immediate repeal and replace. Also House Speaker Ryan says it will be a simultaneous repeal and replace. But when talking with the Democrats who are front and center out here, and also the people gathered here, they say they're skeptical. They say they haven't seen any plan from the Republicans, they doubt there would even be one in the coming days and the coming weeks, so they want more answers Fredricka, that is exactly why they gathered all over the country today to send that message.

WHITFIELD: All right Jessica Schneider thanks so much. Senator Rand Paul has aggressively pushing Republican to replace Obamacare at the same day they repeal it. He has even tweeted out an image of the cover page of the bill that he wants to replace the affordable care act with. This morning he gave CNN's Jake Tapper a preview of the plan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAND PAUL, REPRESENTATIVE KENTUCKY: So one of the key reforms we'll do is we're going to legalize the sale of inexpensive insurance, that means getting rid of the Obamacare mandate on what you can buy, we're going to help people save, as well as a tax credit, we're going to allowing individuals to come together in associations to buy insurance. I understand as a small businessperson, I had a doctor's office with four employees, if one of my employees got cancer. It was devastating to the bottom line, not only to them, obviously but to the bottom line of insurance. But there's no reason why someone with four employees should be able to join with hundreds and hundreds of other businesses that are small to become a large entity to get leverage to bring your prices down, but also to get insurance that can't cancel you and guarantees the issue of insurance even if you get sick.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[16:45:07] WHITFIELD: Early I spoke with Texas Congressman Pete Sessions who was floating his own replacement plan for the affordable care act, Obamacare and we have Tim the differences between the plans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETE SESSIONS, REPRESENTATIVE TEXAS: Hearing Senator Rand Paul's there are many parts of that, the same as our plan, we also have a plan, it's called the world's greatest healthcare plan, and in fact it does many of the same things that Senator Rand Paul talked about. And Senator Paul has it correctly, we must first replace Obamacare with a better plan, Republicans have better ideas and much of it is through tax credits, it gives everybody in this country an opportunity to have the same tax advantage that everyone else does that works for a large company. We need to increase the number of people that are in our insurance pools, we need more people to want to pay in and have a lifetime insurance plan.

But the world's greatest health care plan, says it at its very core that what we're going to do is to do away with the individual and the business mandate and the Cadillac tax. What we got to do is take away the parts that harm our economy and keep consumers from being consumers. This is where Rand Paul's plan, the world's greatest health care plan are very, very close and similar that the key component here is we must be able to sell the American people on what is better and pass that before we repeal Obamacare.

WHITFIELD: And how do you do that? What do you mean? So it sounds like you're now trying to -- you have to first convince the American people that this is better and then you say that effort would be made to repeal and replace with this?

SESSIONS: Well I think essentially there are at this point three or four competing plans, one is what might be called a better way that is not yet a bill, and we really don't know how it works, Paul Ryan is attempting to push that. We have Senator Rand's plan, we have Pete Sessions and Bill Cassid's healthcare plan, and we have Tom Price's plan, it's really going to come down to where members of congress, house and senate need to look and focus their activities on these four bills and then be engaged in the national, I guess, dialogue enabling Americans to understand why we need to change the rules of the game. I'm for making American health care better for everybody not just a new system. That is why I'm going to be for my plan.

WHITFIELD: Ok. At the beginning of this conversation, it started to sound like you were presenting this in a very simplified manner. And the question would had been, you know if this is so simple, then why this has happened before. But now you're talking about a number of choices where congress and senate have to come together and come up with a better plan. So how far away are we talking and is it your view that it will be packaged in a much more appetizing way to the American public than what 30 million people are already enjoying, how do you offer those assurances?

SESSIONS: What I would say to you is there was a discussion that was coming out of Washington saying we would repeal it and then replace it within a couple of years, that quickly became unacceptable to at least members of the house and the senate. And that changed the dialogue from two weeks ago, now we're on a dialogue that says let's have a messaging around one bill that we would pass and then we will repeal Obamacare, these are all positive signs that Republicans like Senator Rand Paul's arch conservatives will bring the best ideas to the table. I believe it will be somewhere between Senator Paul, and Senator Cassidy's plan, my bill, the world's greatest healthcare plan, the best ideas reside within that world, it's just a matter of us going to sell these and the American people recognizing we have to give every single person in this country an opportunity to have better health care than they have today.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: All right, still ahead, President-Elect Donald Trump's

press conference this week fell victim to "SNL" that is ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES SNL PROGRAM: Who is quitted for my Inauguration Day, yes, thank you to those people over there, who I definitely did not pay to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:52:33] WHITFIELD: All right Michelle Obama made her final television appearance as first lady this past week, on "The Tonight Show" with Jimmy Fallon. From mom dancing to carpool, karaoke, the appearance cap Eight Years of Talk Show Performances from The First Lady they call a TV natural. CNN takes you back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY FALLON, THE TONIGHT SHOW: Michelle Obama.

STEPHEN COLBERT, THE LATE SHOW HOST: Michelle Obama.

ELLEN DEGENERES, ELLEN SHOW HOST: Michelle Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her days of dancing across our screens are numbered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How cool is the first lady?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cool enough to run a potato sack race in the White House with Jimmy Fallon. And now she is reached the finish line, it's the first lady of late night.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE U.S.: It is nuts, I feel like crying right now and I didn't think that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her last talk show appearance featured her surprising people as they delivered farewell messages.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So continue to go high, even when the challenges of life make us feel low, thank you so much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was even serenaded by Stevie Wonder who adjusted his lyrics. It won't be easy to follow her in her dance steps. Without further adieu, we present the greatest hits of the comedy stylings of Michelle Obama. Of course there was the evolution of mom dancing alongside Jimmy Fallon in drag, followed by the evolution of mom dancing two, with classics like getting a bag from your collection of plastic bags under the sink. She did car pool karaoke went shopping at CVS with Ellen.

DEGENERES: We need help on aisle 2.

Obama: This is hard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was always promoting --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dance Party!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her let's move campaign, she even beat Ellen, who gave up after 20 push-ups, no Stevie Wonder is singing in tribute.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll always be first lady in my mind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is the first lady favorite singer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Signed sealed delivered I'm yours

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not for so much longer, she is ours.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Don't forget, just a reminder, CNN's special report tonight, CNN explores the first lady's Michelle Obama's from Chicago to the world stage, history made, the legacy of Michelle Obama, airing tonight 8:00 Eastern Time. And we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[16:58:10] TRUMP SNL: Hello, thank you for coming, I like to start by answering the question that is on everyone's mind. Yes, this real life.

(LAUGHTER)

On February 20, 2017, I Donald Jake Trump will become the a 46th president of the United States, and then two months later, Mike Pence will become the 47th.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: That is Alec Baldwin. Once again as Donald Trump on "Saturday Night Live" in a recreation of last week's press conference. Michelle also pokes on at Trump's effort to repeal Obamacare.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, Mr. Trump, you and the Republicans want to repeal Obamacare, but why would you do that before coming up with a replacement plan?

TRUMP SNL: Because Obamacare is a disaster and I actually do have a replacement plan. I just read about it this week, it's a terrific plan, just great, it's called the affordable care act.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is the same thing as Obamacare, and if you repeal it, 20 million people will lose their health insurance, I mean, people could die. TRUMP SNL: Listen, sweetheart, I'm about to be president, we're all

going to die.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, Mr. Trump, many people are concerned about all your business conflicts, have you taken the proper steps to divest from your companies.

TRUMP SNL: Yes I have turned all my business to my two sons Beavis and Butthead. They are her today. Can we get a shot of them? Look at those two American psychos.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right, so far no comment or tweets from Donald Trump about last night skit. All right thanks for being with me today, I'm Fredericka Whitfield, we have so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM, it all starts right now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM SHOW HOST: Hi, everyone. Top of the hour, 5:00 Eastern, I'm Poppy Harlow in New York and you are live in CNN NEWSROOM.