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Tempers Flare At Town Hall In Florida Over Obamacare; Hundreds Arrested In Immigration Raids Across U.S.; Trump And Japan's Prime Minister Golf At Florida Resort; Trump Might Issue "Brand New" Travel Ban; Pence Trying to "Get to The Bottom" of Flynn Call; Amputee Overcomes Disability with CrossFit. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired February 11, 2017 - 12:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:00:11] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone and thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Anger, frustration and name calling, emotions running high at Republican town halls happening across the country today. A look right now at a fiery discussion in Newport Richie, Florida, constituents begging to be heard over their fears of the future of Obamacare. Even some tension among people in room. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL AKINS, PASCO COUNTY REPUBLICAN PARTY: Here's the problems I have with the Affordable Health Care Act. Number one, there is a provision in there that anyone over the age of 74 has to go before what is effectively a death panel. Yes, they do. Yes, they do, it's in there, folk, you're wrong! OK children, all right, children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am 77 years old and I think it's unconscionable for this politician to tell me that at 74, I will be b facing death penalties. Wall, wall, walls. I have --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm on your side!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I deal with end of life issues on a regular basis. These are heart rending decisions and I can tell you, there is no such thing as a death panel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Wow, heated going toe to toe there. Boris Sanchez is at that town hall in Florida. He's joining me right now on the phone. So, Boris, these folks are not just talking policy. It is personal.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Definitely, Fred. These are people that are extremely passionate about the Affordable Care Act. Whether on one side or the other. I'd say that the majority of the crowd is mix. There's quite a few Trump supporters here, but as you saw, were very vocal about their displeasure with the Affordable Care Act. And on the other side of that, there are people that are very passionate about keeping it in place, rather than repealing it, repairing it, so to speak. The representative hosting the event is (inaudible). He is a representative for the 12th District of Florida.

He has voted to defund the Affordable Care Act several times and so, his message isn't one that's popular here, but I would say that in the majority of the conversations that he has had with his constituents, they've been very respectful toward him, thanking him for coming here and facing their criticism.

That doesn't really compare to some of the town halls that we saw earlier in the week, for example, the one in Utah, where Senator Jason Chaffetz was just about boo off the stage. That ended early.

This one has remained civil, but lot of the vitriol, a lot of the anger in the crowd has gone toward each other, between the people that came here to speak. I want you to listen to more of the exchanges that we've heard here.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two million grand baby.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone here has had great points. We all want health care. Our goal is all the same. Health and affordable care. That's what we want. I don't care whether we call it ACA. I don't care if we call it Obamacare. I don't care if we say repeal, replace, fix, it doesn't matter. Whatever it winds up being is we need it to have all the provisions we need to give us the coverage we're all talking about. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My request to you is to rip Obamacare bill the way it is now to shreds. OK. OK, I didn't say do the current bill that Representative Ryan has right now. There's a lot of the points that people said today that make sense, OK, but it needs to be written. There's plenty of people here who obviously like Obamacare, there's a massive number who don't and the cost and other issues have been -- hold on. Hold off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, so, my request to you is to repeal it completely and build it, a new system that takes care of the needs that everybody wants in an appropriate way and affordable way. Thank you.

[12:05:11]UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every American should have health care coverage. Would you agree? OK, that preexisting conditions should be covered, would you say? OK. If you are 26 years old, you should be able to be covered be by your parent's insurance, would you agree? OK. Mr. Price, the cabinet member has said he's committed to those three things. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! You need to find out the facts before you start complaining!

(END VIDEOTAPE) SANCHEZ: So, Fred, something you heard that I wanted to point out, there is some agreement in the room. Even among the representative's harshest critic. He wants to maintain certain provisions in Obamacare, namely not denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions and maintaining people younger than 26 on their parent's insurance plan.

I should also note that we are likely to see more town halls just like this one. Several people here were organizing this protest, part of them, a group known as "Indivisible," that was formed by some former Democratic aides on Capitol Hill.

And they have made it a point to go to town halls just like this one around the country to disrupt and to face these Republican lawmakers with their anger at the potential for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Boris Sanchez, keep us posted. Thank you so much. Of course, you can head to CNN.com to find out more information about a town hall near you.

Let's talk more about all of this now, CNN presidential historian, Tim Naftali, also the former director of the Nixon Presidential Library, good to see you, and CNN political analyst, Rebecca Berg, a national political reporter for Real Clear Politics. Good to see you as well.

All right, so Tim, you first. These town halls, reminiscent of similar outbursts of the Tea Party Movement in 2010. Could this be the beginning of a movement for Democrats or progressives?

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: You know, in 2009, there were a lot of things said about what Obamacare, wasn't called that then, but what the Affordable Care Act might actually do and a lot of people got scared.

I would suspect when we read memoirs of the Obama administration, we'll hear what they thought what we needed to do was to implement and show people that there aren't death panels. That a lot of the scare tactics are just that, scare tactics.

These are not things we plan to do and what's really interesting now, if you listen to these town hall meetings, people have come to expect the basic provisions of the ACA. It's going to be extraordinarily difficult to provide that kind of social safety net without something that looks like Obamacare.

WHITFIELD: What is this about then?

NAFTALI: This is about rubber hitting the road. This is about the reality hitting the rhetoric. For eight years, eight years, the Republican Party decided that even though Obamacare was based on a conservative plan, that it was a danger. It was perhaps a danger to future Republican majorities, I don't know what, but that it was important to demonize it.

The thing that happened is that a lot of Americans, even though it's more expensive that it should be in some parts of the country have come to appreciate the basic benefits.

WHITFIELD: So Rebecca, does that mean this effort of repealing, replacing, now changing the language to repair it, might this be backfiring for the Trump administration?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it could be if they don't get their act together on Capitol Hill and in the White House. And actually, show Americans, show these voters that Republicans do have a plan to replace or at least fix the existing law.

And what's interesting is that Republicans and independents, according to CNN polling published last month, actually support less than a full repeal of Obamacare and instead, fixing it, tweaking it, and having that replacement or these fixes in place when the provisions are amended.

So Republicans and independents, the majority, actually don't want to see a full repeal and then this long process to actually get something else in place. They want to see fixes immediately and maybe at a smaller measure Republicans might have thought.

[12:10:03]So it will be interesting to see if Republicans in the White House actually walk back this full repeal, which is much more complicated legislatively and actually do something a little bit smaller to begin.

WHITFIELD: So then quickly from both of you, yes or no, you believe these town halls will be influential ultimately?

NAFTALI: Very, very influential. They are forcing I believe Republican lawmakers to think twice about how they deal with Obamacare.

WHITFIELD: And yes or no, Rebecca?

BERG: Absolutely, but really, they're a reflection of the sentiment with voters right now and you can see that there is a ground swell, the sort of popular uprising with this bill, with this legislation.

WHITFIELD: All right, thank you so much, Rebecca Berg, Tim Naftali, appreciate it.

BERG: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: All right, coming up, from coast to coast, hundreds of undocumented immigrants have been arrested following a series of raids by immigration officials. More than three dozen have already been deported to Mexico. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Welcome back. We're following the developments about hundreds of undocumented immigrants being arrested and picked up in series of raids across the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE agents targeting homes and businesses in a half a dozen states this weekend alone, taking approximately 160 people into custody. More than three dozen of them have already been deported to Mexico. The arrests sparking protests in Los Angeles and prompting Spanish language media to promote know your rights seminars.

CNN politics reporter, Tal Kopan is following this story and joining me live now from Washington. So Tal, Trump administration officials are trying to stress that these raids are no different than what is done on a daily basis. Is that the case?

TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: That's right, Fredricka. Right now, there's some things we know and some we don't know. What do we know is that true that ICE did conduct enforcement actions at least similar to this under the Obama administration.

[12:15:06]You know, what we don't know is whether these raids reflected the enforcement priorities of the Trump administration or are more in line with what we saw before.

And so what do I mean by that? Basically, you know, under the Obama administration, ICE would go out and they would target specific individuals in sweeps similar to this. We know that over the past five days, hundreds of people were taken into custody.

They were the ones in L.A. you mentioned. There were also some out of the Atlanta office, which affects some sort of part of the southeast and there were also reports of some arrests in Texas as well. So, we know that these enforcement actions happened as they did under the Obama administration.

You know, the question is, whether the priorities for who they targeted is consistent. You know, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly did go out and really tried to emphasize that these are not out of line with what the administration had done in the past.

WHITFIELD: All right, Tal Kopan, thank you so much. We'll talk more about all of that and the differences on how these sweeps are being executed and targeted. I'm joined now by Javier Diaz De Leon. He is with the Mexican Consulate here in Atlanta, and former commissioner for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, Gill Kerlikowske, and CNN political commentator, Jeffrey Lord. All right, good to see all of you.

All right, so Gill, you served under the Obama administration, is it the case that these raids are the same as what was conducted during the Obama administration?

GILL KERLIKOWSKE, FORMER COMMISSIONER, U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION: Well, during my time, I was the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection. ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is different and rested under Sarah Saldana (ph) then a former U.S. attorney.

But I can tell you as a chief of police and having been in the administration that these kinds of arrests and if you prioritize people who have been convicted of felonies, have final orders of deportation, et cetera. Those continued on, but I don't know if these are any different.

WHITFIELD: OK, and so Javier, what has been your experience based on the phone calls that you have been getting. Does it seem very similar, the same kind of targeting of people who have convictions or is it different?

JAVIER DIAZ DE LEON, CONSUL DE MEXICO EN ATLANTA: Well, there's always a lot of nervousness and uncertainty in the community. I think in this case, we think that this sort of operations are similar to what we have been seeing in the past few years. What is different in this case is probably the size and scope of these operations, the number of these operations that took place in a very short period of time.

WHITFIELD: OK, even though President Trump issued that warning shot, that it would be top priority. Was the expectation there, this is what the consequence would be?

DE LEON: We have had the expectation that maybe some changes will probably happen and actually, the Mexican government issue with a press statement very recently, saying that we are approaching our community, telling them to get closer to the consulates, to call the toll free numbers that we have in place for them, to make sure they are close to reliable information, to legal stance from us. Because we know and we think that maybe some of the ways these operations have been taken place now is probably going to change.

WHITFIELD: And so Jeffrey, an ICE official told reporters that the vast majority of those arrested had criminal histories, not all, so, why is it the case that all immigrants should not be concerned?

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I'm sure -- I mean, look, if you're here in the country illegally, you should be concerned. No country in the world is going to let people just come over on mass. I mean, think of this in the reverse.

If 11 million American or 12 million American citizens, suddenly decamped for Mexico and demanded citizenship and benefits and everything else, the Mexican government would be up in arms. Understandably so.

The United States is a country that is filled 100 percent with the descendants of immigrants. There is no one here even the Native Americans are really the first Americans coming from Asia.

So no one is anti-immigrant, but there is a legal way to do it and an illegal way to do it and that's been the problem.

WHITFIELD: So, Gill, what are your concerns about the potential follow through, that that is a stage one, what do you see on the horizon?

KERLIKOWSKE: So, you have to make sure that you're communicating with the local law enforcement agencies. When I was the police chief in Seattle, this was a significant issue with ICE. Both the ICE director in that area and myself would do community meetings, no one wants a drug dealer, a convicted felon, or a criminal in their neighborhood regardless.

And if the only way that that person can be taken out is through is through an immigration, perhaps the police department could make a drug case or a gun case, but people want to see their neighborhood safe.

[12:20:04]And you have to work closely with local police department. You just have to try and help people understand, you know, these law enforcement agencies have finite resources, and so you're going to direct those finite resources against people that are most problematic, causing the most trouble, the convicted felons and the drug dealers.

WHITFIELD: And so, Javier, how do you allay fears if at all?

DE LEON: We have a lot of reach out into the community. We have a toll free number that is national, 24 hours available to all Mexican nationals to get access to legal assistance and make sure they have solid information.

Of course, we are also very concerned in terms of working with ICE and we have a strong relationship with them in order to get consular access. To be able to access those people who have been detained, to make sure that we can provide to them the assistance and the legal orientation they have the right according to American law.

WHITFIELD: What's your understanding as to what people are subjected to if they are caught up in this sweep presumably, they don't have a chance to grab their cell phone or whatever papers or documentation. But what does happen as far as you know?

DE LEON: I mean, at some point, there is the expectation that they should be able to contact the Mexican consulate. They should be able to have access to due process. If they choose, they have the right to appear before a judge before being subjected to immigration measures.

WHITFIELD: So, there are many days that may pass?

DE LEON: Of course, and they have a right to legal counsel. So, all of those things need to be taken into account. According to the due process that is contemplated in American law and our job is to make sure that that happens.

WHITFIELD: And Jeffrey?

LORD: Right. There's a story in "The Wall Street Journal" this morning that says that there are a number of Mexican officials who are considering deliberately jamming U.S. immigration courts with cases. The courts are already overburden as it is. You know, so, I do expect that something, a story like that, is going to have President Trump's attention.

WHITFIELD: And Gill, final word.

KERLIKOWSKE: Well, a couple of things. One is that remember that our illegal migration flows over these last several years really haven't been from Mexico at all. They've been from these northern triangle, three Central American countries and that goes back to 2012.

There's even some information that people are leaving, that are Mexicans that have returned back to Mexico. So, we need to kind of keep that issue in perspective. Three other countries causing the vast majority of the illegal migration.

WHITFIELD: All right, we'll leave it right there. Gill Kerlikowske, Javier Diaz De Leon, and Jeffrey Lord, thanks to all of you, Gentlemen. Appreciate it.

Happening right now, President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are spending the day at the president's resort in Florida. Topping their agenda, trade and security. We'll take you there live after the break.

Plus, as early as Monday, the president might sign a new executive order in response to his rejected travel ban. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We make it really easy and affordable to turn all your memorable t-shirts into t-shirt quilts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Nathan (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Ross Floor, and I'm a co-founder of Project (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were at business school together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I ended up working with a fashion designer to try out a bunch of different sample, but every time we tried to sell those, people would say we want an affordable t-shirt quilt. You can only hear something so many times before you realize hey, maybe this is the actual idea we should be working on.

We really thought about how do you make a t-shirt quilt that as affordable as possible and as efficient by not making the quilt the way you're aunt or mother or grandmother would make it. We're the only ones who make 1,500 of these a week.

We know that for every t-shirt quilt that we sell, we're recycling at least 15 t-shirts and we're creating two hours of work in the U.S. We set up a pretty wide base of people who love their product and from there, was able to snowball into 4 million in sales.

We are very much on a mission to recycle as many t-shirts to make a memorable product and put as many people to work as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I think what we're doing is helping Americans recycle, but in a way that they don't even have to think about it.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WHITFIELD: Welcome back. This is just in, Judge James Robart, the U.S. district court judge in Seattle, Washington, who initially halted President Trump's travel ban is now giving the state and U.S. Justice Department more time to file legal briefs regarding Thurday's decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The filing deadline is now 3:00 p.m. Eastern on Monday. Judge Robart has said that he wants more clarification from the parties on the ramifications of the Ninth Circuit order.

Meantime, we are getting our first glimpses now of President Trump and the first lady hosting Japan's prime minister and his wife this weekend in Florida.

This morning, Melania Trump visited a Japanese garden with the wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. They toured a museum and its Japanese inspired gardens. This while President Trump and the Prime Minister Abe hit the links at Mr. Trump's golf club.

CNN's Athena Jones joining us now from outside the president's resort. So, Athena, the president has a lot more than golf on his mind. Do we know anything about what they were talking about?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. We don't yet know anything about what they were talking about or are talking about on the golf course, but I can report some reporting from CNN producer, Liz Landers, they are riding in the golf cart together. They are playing at a pretty quick pace we're told and the president is wearing a white make America great again hat.

Perhaps not surprising. This visit has a good deal, at least for the Japanese, about building a personal relationship and being sure that the U.S. and Japan as countries, as government, continue to have a very, very strong alliance.

Perhaps we'll get a readout later on a bit more about what was discussed today.

[12:30:05] We know a lot of the ground was covered yesterday at the White House in the first official meeting between the two. Remember, Prime Minister Abe was their first foreign head of state to meet with President-elect Trump back in November at Trump Tower, but yesterday was the first meeting.

They discussed a range of things like the U.S. commitment to Japan's security, the relationship being the corner stone of peace and stability in the Asia pacific. They talked about North Korea.

Another a bit of news though that the President made yesterday was on the flight down here, on Air Force One when he came back to the press cabin. And we had chance to ask him a couple of question. I ask about the immigration ban.

Here's some of what he had to say on that. He stressed that he thought the government could win any court challenge, but then could take a while. Here's more of what he had to say there. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The unfortunate part is that it takes time statutorily, it takes some time, but we win that battle. But we also have a lot of other options, including just filling a brand new order on Monday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that your plan?

TRUMP: Could very well be. But I like to keep, you know, I like to surprise you. We need speed for reasons of security. So, it could very well be that we do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: And so, the President say it could come this new order, could come on Monday or Tuesday, but he also didn't really commit to it. Saying he likes to keep it a surprise, always wanting to bring up the suspense, asked about any new executive order.

He said very little which we all knew about was some very interesting. And I also ask him about those new security measures. He said would be coming as soon as this coming week. And he didn't expand much on what beyond what he said during the press conference, just saying we will have extreme vetting, we will make sure people coming into this country are coming in for good reasons. Fred.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Athena Jones. Keep us posted. Thank you so much.

All right, also, in Florida, and other places across the country, we're monitoring these town halls taking place. People are speaking out over the fate of Obamacare and voicing their concerns about a whole lot of other things too.

We are there. And we will take you there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:35:44] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Anger, frustration and name calling emotions running high at Republican town halls across the country today. The room was packed at town hall in New Port Richey, Florida.

That event just finished up just moments ago, some people even having to wait outside to get in a word. Constituents were begging to be heard over their fears of the feature of Obamacare and there was also a lot of tension that you could see bubbling up between people there in the room.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've lived a long time. I had a wife who couldn't get insurance because of a preexisting condition. She is dead. So, I'm not here to take anything away from people. I'm a diagnose (ph) Republican, I'm a conservative. But that doesn't mean I don't have a heart.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to rise and express my complete support for the Affordable Health Care Act and my opposition to any efforts to repeal or suppress it. This law has provided health care for over 20 million people who otherwise would not be able to obtain it.

Its impact would be even greater of course if it not for the effort of local governments like here in Florida who refuse to accept the expansion of Medicaid to cover another 100,000 people of our citizens who would be eligible. This has actually the effect of a double taxation.

As our hard earned dollars that went to Washington, for these citizens to be provided for, they can't get the health care, they can't get the subsidy, so now, they have to go to the emergency room, which is far more expensive and the cost of that is then passed on to us in the form of higher premiums and local taxes.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My request to you is to rip Obamacare bill the way it is now, to shreds, OK? Rip it to shreds.

OK, I didn't say do the current bill that Representative Ryan has right now, there's a lot of points, that I think some of the people said today that makes, OK? But it needs to rip as there's plenty of people here who obviously like Obamcare. There's a massive number who don't, OK. And the cost and other issues a bit

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold up, hold up. Hold up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's true, that's true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. So my request to you is to repeal it completely and built it a new system that takes care of the needs that everybody wants in an appropriate way and in an affordable way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right, to find out more information on a town hall coming your way, head to cnn.com.

[12:38:56] All right. Coming up, President Trump says he plans to look into reports that is National Security Advisor discuss sanctions with Russia's ambassador. A potential repercussion from Michael Flynn and U.S. Russian relations is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Hello again. A U.S. official has confirmed to CNN that National Security Advisor Michael Flynn did speak with Russia's U.S. ambassador before the inauguration about the U.S. sanctions against Moscow. What Flynn may have said about the matter is still unclear. The President says he was "Unaware" about the report, but he is vowing "Look into it."

CNN's Global Affairs Correspondent Elise Labbot joining me now from Washington. Elise, what do you know?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Hey Fred. Well, Mike Flynn communicated with the Russia's ambassador of Washington several times after the election before President Trump even took office.

Now he insisted those conversations did not include sanctions against Russia, but now, he's backing away from that deny and it's embarrassing to White House officials who stood by him and its once again raising questions about his ties to Moscow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LABOTT (voice-over): The White House says its troubles over back peddling by President Trump's National Security Adviser. General Mike Flynn who now says he is unsure whether he spoke to Moscow's ambassador to the U.S. about sanctions on Russia before President Trump even took office. Including a conversation on the same day they were imposed by President Obama.

A serious problem for Mike Pence, one of several top officials who vouched for Flynn, including in this interview with CBS News last month.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: What I can confirm having spoken him about it. Is that those conversations that happened to occur around the time that the United States took action to expel diplomats had nothing whatsoever to do with those sanctions.

LABOTT (voice-over): Now, the Vice President is claiming he was relying on Flynn's assurance that sanctions never came up. A close aide now says Flynn has "No recollection of discussing sanction". "But couldn't be certain that the topic never come up." And a Senior White House adviser says Pence's belief that's a problem.

TONY BLINKEN, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: If you got -- different people saying different things. Not knowing who they can trust whether we know on team. That heads to a very difficult place too.

LABOTT (voice-over): U.S. law enforcement and intelligent officials told CNN last month. Investigators were monitoring calls between Flynn and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

[12:45:02] the content of those calls capture during routine eavesdropping on Russian diplomats was concerning. At the same time the U.S. was conducting a broader investigation or Russian activities in the U.S.

Officials who spoke to CNN at that time stressed no determination of wrong doing on Flynn's had been made. A U.S. official confirms Flynn's communication with the Russian Ambassador included discussions of sanctions during at least one phone call that's first reported in "The Washington Post". The Kremlin denies reports Flynn and Ambassador Kislyak discussed sanctions, calling the information, "Incorrect." A key question, whether Flynn's communication with the Ambassador influenced Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision not to retaliate after the new sanctions were imposed.

The Obama administration also kicked out some 35 Russian Diplomats out of the country in response to Russia's meddling in the 2016 election.

BLINKEN: After the Obama administration went ahead with those sanctions, normally, you would expect Russia to retaliate in kind. That's been past practiced and of course, President Putin said no, I'm not going to do that. And you have to wonder whether in fact he was told hold off, don't do anything because when we the Trump administration get in, we're going to revisit this whole thing.

LABOTT (voice-over): At the time, President-elect Trump cheered the Russia's decision on twitter writing, "Great move on delay by V. Putin. I always knew he was very smart."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LABOTT: Now, question is whether during those phone calls Flynn signaled to the Ambassador that President Trump would lift those sanctions against Russian once in office. Now, U.S. and European officials say Flynn has been noncommittal in meetings about maintaining sanctions on Russia, for sanctions in Ukraine.

And the message diplomats are getting from the White House are those sanctions and the one related to cyber meddling in the election are under review.

So, a bit of a mixed message there Fred.

WHITFILED: All right, Elise Labott in Washington. Thank you so much.

All right. Up next, Alabama's Governor who has been embroiled in a sex scandal is raising even more eyebrows around the country. Why his new Senate replacement may be his ticket out of a possible impeachment or prosecution.

We'll talk about it after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

[12:51:01] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Chest up. Let's go.

CINDY MARTINEZ (on-camera): I'm Cindy Martinez, I'm marine veteran and CrossFit athlete.

(Voice-over): Before I got sick I was working full-time. I'm a mother and wife.

One day, I woke up and at first it just felt like a little ache on my shoulder blade area. I was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis which is also known as flesh eating bacteria. I do not know if I contracted the bacteria.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She became septic. And so her life was now in danger.

MARTINEZ: The medications that keep me alive is what caused my limbs to be compromised.

My amputations are both legs below the knee. My right arm above the elbow and all of my fingers on my left hand, I have some type of amputations.

(on-camera): It's a hard thing. They're gone and they're not coming back.

(voice-over): After being in the hospital setting and rehab for four months, when you're home by yourself, that can take toll on you. So I thought, well, let me see if CrossFit could be something I could do. I could barely lift five pounds. Today, I can barely lift up to 95 pounds.

Working out has really changed my outlook on life. I did the Marine Corps Marathon in 2016. It was emotional because just a year prior, I was in a hospital bed. Whatever challenge it is, there's a positive in everything.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Wow, incredible inspiration.

All right. Other things we're following, now, there are growing concerns over how the new United States Senator got the job. The Alabama Governor was quick to name a replacement for former Senator Jeff Sessions after he was confirmed as Attorney General this week.

But that decision is now raising a lot of questions about possible corruption in the State of Alabama. Here's CNN's Victor Blackwell.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hours after the Senate vote to confirm Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions to become the next United States Attorney General --

GOV. ROBERT BENTLEY (R), ALABAMA: Senator Strange, congratulations.

BLACKWELL: Alabama Governor Robert Bentley appoints the State Attorney General Luther Strange to fill Session's Senate seat.

ED HENRY (R), ALABAMA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: There just seems to be some conflict of interest there and it's caused much of the state to reel and with concern.

BLACKWELL: That's because last year, Governor Bentley was accused of having an affair with a political staffer, but the Governor denies the affair and any illegal activity.

BENTLEY: I have never had a physical affair with Mrs. Mason.

BLACKWELL: Bentley was facing possible impeachment until Strange halted the process, launching a criminal investigation instead.

JIM ZEIGLER (R), ALABAMA STATE AUDITOR: The person he appointed was the Attorney General. Now, the Governor gets a two for one. He gets to appoint his own Attorney General.

BLACKWELL: Critics questioned whether the Governor appointed Strange in an effort to stop the criminal investigation and take impeachment off the table.

HENRY: He probably has that much power, but I think that would be a poor play for Luther Strange in that if he were to do that. If he were to stop the proceedings, then he enters into a 2018 election cycle, where he essentially has stopped the impeachment.

BLACKWELL: State Representative Ed Henry says most voters do not want impeachment proceedings canceled. And the State Auditor agrees but has his own fear.

ZEIGLER: And now, Governor Bentley gets his own Attorney General. So, this crowd may continue to hover until January 21st of 2019. That's Robert Bentley's last day as Governor of Alabama by the grace of God.

BLACKWELL: Early Friday evening, Governor Bentley announced the appointment of Steven Marshall as the next Attorney General for Alabama. CNN reached out to the Governor's office for comment on the appointment, but has not heard back

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[12:55:09] WHITFIELD: All right, Victor Blackwell, thank you so much.

All right. Still ahead, town halls across the country with people speaking out about the Affordable Care Act, a live report.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fine. There is a provision in there, that anyone over the age of 74 --

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WHITFIELD: Then, while President Trump meets with Japan's Prime Minister Abe, Trump's immigration ban remains in limbo.

Plus, the fear in America's refugee communities. We'll talk to a family unsure of what is ahead.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We don't know what will happen in the future. After we arrive, we had hopes that we will establish a new life. Now, we are frightened that we'll be stopped at this stage and cannot carry on further.

WHITFIELD: The "NEWSROOM" is back after a quick break.

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WHITFIELD: Hello again and thank you so much for joining. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

The emotions running high at Republican Town Halls across the country today as people share their concerns over the future of their health care.

A fiery town hall wrapped up in New Port Richey, Florida, a short time ago. Just one of many from coast to coast today. People were begging for their frustrations to be heard. Some even shared extremely emotional stories to make their points.

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[13:00:8] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like to see the Affordable Care not replaced but tweak because there are good parts of it and not good. And I'd be happy to be --