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Bannon: Every Day Is "Going To Be A Fight"; Bannon Attacks Media As "Opposition Party"; Priebus, Bannon Defend Trump White House; President Trump Calls Deportations A "Military Operation"; Kelly Promises There Will Be No Mass Deportations; Ukraine Investigates Member of Parliament For Pushing Peace Plan To Trump Camp; Dow On Course For Tenth Straight Record Close. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired February 23, 2017 - 15:00   ET




HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Hala Gorani. Live at CNN London. Thanks for being with us this Thursday. This is THE


Well, he had huge influence in the White House, but usually remains in the shadows. And frankly, we don't hear from him much, we haven't publicly

since the inauguration of Donald Trump.

Now Donald Trump's controversial chief strategist is speaking out, giving rare public remarks in defense of the president. Steve Bannon addressed a

conservative conference just a short time ago, alongside chief of staff, Reince Priebus.

He came out swinging at the media, saying their portrayal of the White House is dead wrong. He also called the media corporatist and globalist,

suggesting there is a conspiracy against Mr. Trump's agenda.


STEVE BANNON, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: He's going to continue to press his agenda and as economic conditions get better, as more jobs get

better, they're going to continue to fight. If you think they're going to give you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken. Every

day, every day, it is going to be a fight and that is what I'm proudest about Donald Trump.

All the opportunities he had to waiver off this, all of the people who have come to him and said, oh, you've got to moderate, every day in the oval

office, he tells Reince and I, I committed this to the American people, I promised this when I ran, and I'm going to deliver on this.


GORANI: Steve Bannon there. Let's bring in political reporter, Tal Kopan. She joins us from Washington and not far from where that conference is

taking place.

So Bannon said some interesting things, I mean, overturning the global order. He's called in the past that has very recently said the media, the

journalists are the opposition. This is a champion of the so-called alt- right, who headed, of course, Breitbart News, and is now the center as the face of the new sort of conservative movement in America.

TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, and you know, a little bit of background on CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference that's

taking place, you know, this is something that's happened annually, but obviously, for years, you know, with the Obama administration in the White

House, it was really an opposition conference.

And so what's really interesting about this year is you have a figure that was for a long time considered part of the opposition movement in the U.S.,

really the right wing. Now central in the White House, and addressing the conference as a chief strategist in the White House.

And so, you know, perhaps it's not surprising that he really attacked the media, because in some ways, he sort of needs to be a little bit

oppositional and you can't be, when you are sort of in charge. So, you know, the media serves as the foil for this White House.

GORANI: But is this brand of conservatism representative of the GOP, of conservative ideologues in America or not? I mean, is this the new sort of

conservative party in the U.S.?

KOPAN: That's a very complicated question and I'll tell you why. I mean, first of all, a lot of the folks who ran a very anti-establishment campaign

for Donald Trump, they won, which makes them the establishment. So, sort of point of fact, they are the leaders and the flag-bearers of the

Republican Party, so in a sense, yes, they do represent the conservative movement.

At the same time, there are still a lot of lawmakers, a lot of big donors to Republicans, a lot of thinkers in the Republican Party, who do not

entirely line up with Steve Bannon.

That's part of why he appeared on stage with Reince Priebus, who really represents the establishment, was sort of an attempt to tell everyone,

we're all on the same page. It's not entirely clear if that's fully clear at the moment, but that's the message they're trying to project.

GORANI: And we have some sound earlier, because Reince Priebus, of course, there were some reports that the two men didn't necessarily get along, that

it was chaotic, the first few days of the Trump administration. They wanted to put that story to bed. This is what they said on stage a short

while ago.


REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: There are many things hitting the president's ear and desk every day, different things that come to the

president that want to move him off of his agenda.

[15:05:09]And Steve is very consistent and very loyal to the agenda and is a presence that I think is very important to have in the White House. And

I consider him -- but secondly, a very dear friend, a very dear friend, and someone that I work with every second of the day and actually, I cherish

his friendship.

BANNON: Yes, you know, I can run a little hot on occasions, and Reince is indefatigable. It's low key, but it's determination. The thing I respect

most and the only way this thing works is Reince is always kind of steady. His job is by far one of the toughest jobs I've ever seen in my life.


GORANI: There this sort of image of unity they wanted to protect, Tal, right?

KOPAN: Yes, absolutely. I think in some ways that speaks for itself. It's pretty clear what they're trying to say. They're trying to say, we

may seem like yin and yang, but put us together and everything's great. You know, there have been reports of some discourse in the White House, for


And certainly, you know, Trump has a reputation of liking to assemble deferring viewpoints and sort of watching them battle it out in front of

him as a leadership style. But, you know, the message from the White House is clear.

They want to say, we're all getting along, we all bring something slightly different to the table, and they really tried to drive that home today in

this joint appearance.

GORANI: Tal Kopan, thanks very much reporting live from Washington. What a time to visit Mexico if you're the U.S. secretary of state. Relations

between the two countries are on very unstable ground right the now. For one thing, the White House has rolled out sweeping new immigration

directives. Putting Mexico on the defensive there.

Then there's the border wall, which is controversial and its expensive price tag. Mexico, of course, has refused to pay for it, even though

Donald Trump during the campaign said he would force the country to.

All this is in the air as Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly visit Mexico City. Here's what Mr. Trump had to say about their



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Right now Rex, who, as you know, he's in Mexico. I said, that's going to be a tough trip

because we have to be treated fairly by Mexico. That's going to be a tough trip. But he's over there with General Kelly, who's been unbelievable at

the border.

You see what's happening to the border. All of a sudden for the first time, we're getting gang members out and drug lords out. We're getting

really bad dudes out of this country and at a rate that nobody's ever seen before.


GORANI: Donald Trump there. So what were Tillerson and Kelly able to accomplish, if anything, during their trip to Mexico? Our senior

diplomatic correspondent, Michelle Kosinski, joins me live from the State Department, and Leyla Santiago is in Mexico City.

Michelle, I want to start with you. Donald Trump has called the planned deportations to come a military operation. Some of his top lieutenants and

representatives are quick to say, no, this is not what's going happen. We're not going to send out the military to deport people across the border

into Mexico. There is some major mixed messages here.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think that was just the wrong use of the word, from what we're hearing from U.S.

officials. But when you saw these statements that were delivered in Mexico City today from the secretary of homeland security, saying, let me be

clear, get this right, this is not a military operation. The military will not be involved in this.

This is going to be done systemically and with respect for human dignity. So his message was extremely forceful. Giving reassurance to the Mexican

side and saying, you know, we're not talking mass deportations here. Even though, President Trump has repeatedly promised that.

You also have the secretary of state delivering messages of respect, of acknowledgement, that the relationship is a two-way street, and even an

acknowledgement that problems don't just flow south of the border to north, they also flow the other way.

Saying that the U.S. has to do its part to stop the flow of illegal guns and drug money south of the border. So I think what you saw was a U.S.

side giving the Mexicans exactly what they wanted to hear on these points because this is what Mexico demanded going into these meetings.

But what stood out the most to me was the one word you heard not a single time, in any of the public statements today, and that was the word, wall.

GORANI: Yes, interesting. Leyla Santiago, what did Mexican officials take away from this? Are they choosing to listen to what Donald Trump is saying

about the nature of the deportation operation or to the secretary of state and the secretary of homeland security in this case?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, we're still waiting to see exactly what that big take away was but Michelle is right. There was

major statements made in the fact that he said, no mass deportations and no military operation.

[15:10:12]And the wall didn't come up, who's going to pay for it didn't come up. But there was an acknowledgement of, you know, just

acknowledgement that the problems at the border are not a one-way street, and that there are some very, very big differences, but they want to move

forward through dialogue. I want you to listen to what else they said.


REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Although our two nations share a long history, our visit was forward-looking, focusing on common interests

that would advance security and economic well-being. We also reiterated our joint commitment to maintaining law and order along our shared border

by stopping potential terrorists and dismantling the transnational criminal networks moving drugs and people into the United States.

JOHN KELLY, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Let me be very, very clear. There will be no, repeat, no mass deportations. Everything we do in DHS

will be done legally and according to human rights and the legal justice system of the United States.


SANTIAGO: And what Kelly addressed there was what the foreign minister was pretty much waiting for. I mean, yesterday, he said that was unacceptable,

to have non-Mexicans deported to Mexico. That could be a big problem. And given the guidelines that went out as far as implementing these immigration

policies that was certainly a concern.

But, you know, these were direct statements. The media was not allowed to ask questions. So, what was very telling to me was actually what you did

not see on camera. The fact that when they were approaching the podium, Secretary Kelly, I actually saw him pat the secretary of government on the

back and they exchanged a laugh. So they're clearly getting along, willing to work together. The question now, can their presidents do the same


GORANI: Interesting that it seems that on a personal level, Michelle Kosinski, on a personal level, it seems like these officials are get along.

But you're at the State Department, I mean, is it difficult for a secretary of state or a secretary of homeland security, whatever it is, to do his or

her job if they're constantly having to sort of reassure foreign partners that what their president has said is not something they should be taking

literally and coming with messages of reassurance? We saw with Mike Pence and NATO, for instance, a few days ago.

KOSINSKI: It is one month old. It is very easy for people to forget that. One month, and in that period of time, we've seen so many mixed messages.

And we've seen these trips that have a big element of damage control embedded within them. So that has to take away from the productivity and

they kind of have to work from a position of first, let's smooth over these rough edges that should never have been there in the first place.

Whether it's our neighbor to the south or it's NATO, and then let's try to move on from there. So it's not as if these relationships can't be

smoothed over, it's just a big and embarrassing, in some cases, and noticeable chunk of problem that has to be dealt with, before the real

issues can be addressed.

GORANI: All right, Michelle Kosinski, thanks very much at the State Department. Leyla Santiago is in Mexico City. Well, it was quite the

turbulent day for all of us watching the Trump administration. Certainly, an interesting one, rather than turbulent, it has to be said because we

heard from Steve Bannon, the chief strategist, and also Reince Priebus, the chief of staff.

Let's bring in CNN political commentator, Ryan Lizza. He's the Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker." Thanks for being with us. First, I've

got to ask you. We very rarely hear from Steve Bannon.

You even spoofed on "Saturday Night Live" is kind of like that man in the shadows that's whispering in the ear of Donald Trump, et cetera, because

he's the real president behind the scenes. What did you make of his performance, his appearance today?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: First of all, I will say that Steve does actually talk to us in the press, just not on the record. So, there

is a little bit of a man behind the curtain, aura, that he likes to build. And just on that subject, Hala, I can't help but quote one of his

colleagues, a senior White House official, who was joking with me recently, talking about how Steve likes to be in every picture that the White House

puts out, but he likes to cultivate that image.

So there is a little bit of PR going on there with him, you know, being the power behind the throne and not being in public too much. I thought that

the joint -- and look, as many of us in the media have been report over the last but weeks, this White House is very factionalized. Not exactly

unusual. Most White Houses have multiple power centers.

[15:15:05]But this one is a little deferent and the two main power centers are Reince Priebus, the chief of staff, and Steve Bannon, the chief

strategist. So for the last couple of weeks, they have been essentially on a media tour, showing -- trying to show that they are friends.

They talked on the record to "The Washington Post," to smooth over these differences. They did it a couple of other journalists. They did it with

our own, CNN's own Dylan Byers, I believe.

And today was a big public event, the sort of culmination of this -- you know, I want to call it like the Felix and Oscar tour, if you remember the

old show, "The Odd Couple." I think it was their way of showing that they're friends.

GORANI: I had to dig deep, but I do remember.

LIZZA: Yes, the '70s. From my perspective, watching them on stage actually showed you the obvious differences between them. Bannon was full

of the venom towards the media, whether it's, you know, for effect or real, and he was full of -- you know, brimming over with ideas and trying to

define what Trumpism is.

While, frankly, Reince was a little bit more laid back and massive and a little bit more political, but not as sharp in his sort of enunciation of

what Trump means and what he wants to do.

GORANI: But what you're saying, basically, there Bannon, more of the ideologue, which is really something that's been sort of, many times, said

about him. Media is the opposition party, he loves that one. That the movement is being built, that it's about overturning the global order. Did

we learn any -- I mean, did you learn anything from listening to the two of them today?

LIZZA: I think I learned why Bannon is so much more dominant when it comes to the policies in the White House, because if you have strong ideas and a

philosophy and a view of the world, that will beat someone who doesn't, every time.

And Reince Priebus is a political operative, someone who ran the RNC. He is the chief of staff. He is, in a sense, there to make the trains run on

time, not necessarily to push an ideology. And when those two kinds of people clash, very often the more strong-willed ideological person wins the

day, especially when your boss is Donald Trump, who very clearly agrees more with one than the other.

So I thought that the differences that we have all been reporting on and noting were basically, you know, mirrored on that stage. It sort of

reinforced for me --

GORANI: But is Donald Trump an ideologue? Is he in it for the same reason Steve Bannon is in it?

LIZZA: That's a great question. He has changed his mind on so many issues, but he has very strong feelings about a few that have remained

constant. One, of course, is immigration, and we've seen him go forward, and, you know, this gets to the other news of the day. The press

conference there in Mexico with Kelly and Tillerson and the Mexican officials.

You heard Steve Bannon say, what did he say that Trump's ideology is? He said, it's what he said in those speeches during the campaign, right? And

what did he say in those speeches about immigration? He said he was going to model his -- he was going to put together an immigration task force.

He talked about this horrendous program from the Eisenhower era, that had a -- that called operation -- I'm not even going to say the word, because

it's a slur for Mexican immigrants and that was a mass deportation program.

Trump talked about, you know, the Muslim ban. So Bannon today in his appearance said, listen to what Trump said in those speeches that will be

the policy. Meanwhile, you have Kelly and Tillerson down there saying, there's going to be no mass deportation. This is a very thought-out,

moderate plan. So you see those splits within the Trump team on display.

GORANI: Yes and they're very obvious splits at this stage. We'll see how they develop. Thanks very much, Ryan Lizza, as always. Always a pleasure

talking to you. Thanks for being with us.

It's a story straight out of a cold war novel and a sign of how unconventional, even chaotic, diplomacy and foreign policy may be in the

Trump White House. An obscure Ukrainian Member of Parliament said he presented a peace plan for war-torn Eastern Ukraine to Donald Trump's

personal lawyer.

That lawyer said he would take it to the top in the White House, something the lawyer and the White House deny. In his first western television

interview, the Ukrainian MP at the heart of this speaks to Nick Paton Walsh in Kiev.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a peace plan as controversial as the war in Ukraine seems endless. It

all but began with a story of how one obscure Ukrainian MP dined at a luxury New York hotel with Donald Trump's personal lawyer.

[15:20:08]Found his left-field ideas perhaps passed on to the president's short-lived national security adviser and was then caught in a diplomatic

storm. Now investigated for treason in his own homeland.

ANDRI ARTEMENKO, UKRAINIAN LAWMAKER: He told me that Michael Flynn is the best person, with the best connections in the Trump administration, who

really if he likes, is going to be huge support.

WALSH: Andri Artemenko gave us a hurried interview in Kiev and tells us of a January dinner in Manhattan he says he had with Donald Trump's personal

lawyer, Michael Cohen, arranged by their mutual friend, Felix Sater.

ARTEMENKO: We probably spoke around 20 to 25 minutes where I present my intentions for my peace plan for Ukraine, how we can stop the war, how we

can finish this, and also he says, listen, this is gentleman that's very potential and he wants to send you your message to Trump administration.

WALSH: Mr. Cohen says the dinner happened, but they didn't talk about peace for Ukraine. But Artemenko says Cohen insisted at the plan be given

to Trump's controversial and short-lived then national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who resigned 24 days into his job due to his comments over

sanctions on Russia because of Moscow's actions in Ukraine.

(on camera): When he first spoke to Felix Sater, did you ever imagine that your peace plan would end up on the then national security adviser, Michael

Flynn's desk?

ARTEMENKO: No, absolutely not. It was Michael Cohen's idea. He mentioned his name first in our meetings. And he said, listen, Michael Flynn, for

his personal opinion is most powerful man who can really support this idea, who can really support and help you, who can provide information to

President Trump.

WALSH (voice-over): The White House flatly denies any contact with Cohen or Artemenko on this issue. Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in

2014, then sent military help to the separatists in the country's east where the war drags on this day.

Artemenko hints his plan may have involved the release of Crimea to Russia in exchange for Russian troops leaving the east. Michael Cohen told CNN in

a text message, "If this continued fake news narrative wasn't so ridiculous, I would be angered. I acknowledge that the brief meeting took

place, but emphatically deny discussing this topic or delivering any documents to the White House and/or General Flynn, something stated to

"The New York Times."

According to the "Times," Cohen says he left the plan in a sealed envelope on Flynn's desk, although Cohen later denied ever delivering Flynn the

plan. The White House says it has no record of receiving such a document.

Mr. Sater and Mr. Flynn didn't respond to requests for comment. Both Russia and Ukraine have rejected the plan. Artemenko has since been

expelled from his political faction and has to hurry off, he says, to meet Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, although the president's office

denies it.

He promises to return but doesn't. Moments after he leaves, Ukrainian prosecutors announced he's being investigated for treason for even

suggesting the plan. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Kiev, Ukraine.


GORANI: A lot more to come this evening. A naked protester upstages a French presidential hopeful. That lively scene is next.

And controversial words from Pope Francis. Find out what he suggested was worse than being an atheist.



GORANI: Well, Marine Le Pen wanted to grab people's attention with her latest speech, obviously, but the French presidential candidate got

upstaged by a topless protester, who was reportedly from England's rights activist groups. She was quickly removed by security.

Unperturbed, the national front leader used the speech to say she intends to make France a free nation and calls for a withdrawal from the E.U.,

which she described as a bureaucratic monster.

Let's talk about markets. It's been a remarkably bullish run for the main U.S. market, and it's not showing any signs of stopping. This is how the

Dow Jones index is trading right now. It's on course for a tenth straight day of closing record highs. It's the longest such rally in basically 30


CNN Money's Paul La Monica joins us from New York with more. So what's behind this bull run, then?

PAUL LA MONICA, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: I think it really still is a validation of Trump's economic policies, or at least, what Wall Street

hopes Trump's economic policies will be. They are still banking on a pulling back of reform, on the financial industry, and health care.

They're betting on big stimulus and they are betting on tax cuts. And they're ignoring everything else that is may be maybe a little bit less

savory about the administration, so far.

GORANI: All right, and the last time this happened was 30 years ago. You know, so, I mean, it is really historically speaking, quite significant.

LA MONICA: Yes, 1987 was the last time you had ten consecutive records in a row. We've had ten-day win streaks since then, but this is the first

where we've had ten records in a row. If it does happen, it's going to beg the question, a lot of people still remember what happened later in 1987.

You had the huge Black Monday market crash. Not saying that's going to happen again, but we are getting a little frothy right now.

GORANI: Yes, it was before October of '87. Thanks very much. Last big -- there were 14 days of record high closings. The last time that happened,

1897. So, this is quite significant, if it happens today. Thank you, Paul.

Still ahead, President Trump withdraws protections allowing transgender students to choose which bathrooms they want to use. Civil rights groups

are reacting and the decision even revealed a rift inside the White House, next.

[15:30:41] HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR: We are hearing from Donald Trump's controversial chief strategist, Steve Bannon, today. He addressed a

conservative conference a short time ago. He was joined by Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

The two men really showed or tried to show that they were unified. They complimented each other. They wanted to downplay rumors, it's been said,

of discords in the White House.

Some news out of the world of football. You remember the incredible achievement of Leicester City. The man behind that has been sacked,

Claudio Ranieri, the man who led the team to its first historic English Premier League champion last season. And this year, I should say, the club

is not doing very well. It's battling against relegation.

Now, some remarkable words from Pope Francis. According to Vatican Radio, he said, it is better to be an atheist, than a greedy, hypocritical


During a sermon in Rome a few hours ago, the Pope said, quote, "Scandal is saying one thing and doing another. They say, 'I am very catholic, I

always go to Mass, but my life is not Christian. I don't pay my workers a just wage. I exploit people. It's a double life and so many Christians

are like this."

Really remarkable to hear this from the pontiff. Let's go to Delia Gallagher, our Vatican correspondent.

I mean, really, this was very surprising to hear, better to be an atheist, essentially, to believe that God doesn't exist, than to be a greedy,

hypocritical catholic.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Right. So let me give you a little bit of context, Hala, on the Pope's remarks because it's very


When he was speaking this morning, he was commenting, as you mentioned, on a passage in the gospel which Jesus talks about giving scandal. And the

Pope said, one of the ways in which Christians give scandal is by living a hypocritical life, a double life, and he gave that example of somebody who

says they go to Mass but then they don't pay just wages to their employees.

And he said the scandal is that you cause other people to think, well, then, it's better to be an atheist. If this is what it means to be a

Christian, it's better to be an atheist. So the nuance in what the Pope has said is not that it's better to be an atheist, but that other people

will think, if you are not a good Christian, if you are a hypocritical Christian, that there's nothing to Christianity and therefore, it is better

to be an atheist.

So that's the context of his remarks, something which he went on to say is something for every Christian to consider, the way in which they are living

a double life. Or are they living up to the Christian standards and is it something which gives scandal to other people? Because that's, of course,

one of the main points for this Pope, is that Christianity should be lived and be attractive to other people.

So if you're not living up to it and you're not doing the things that you say you believe in, then other people will look at you and say, well, then,

what's the difference? You might as well be an atheist -- Hala.

GORANI: All right. Interesting there, some context to the words of Pope Francis. Thanks very much, Delia Gallagher.

Donald Trump has rolled back protections that allowed transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice in schools. His administration calls

it an issue for each state to decide.

The move is provoking harsh criticism from organizations, like the American Academy of Pediatrics, among others. It says the new federal guidance,

quote, "sends a message of exclusion and intolerance, which transgender students encounter enough of already in their day-to-day lives."

Joe Johns reports from Washington.


JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The federal departments of Justice and Education issuing a letter to public schools,

saying they no longer need to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their gender identity rather than the gender they were assigned

at birth. The White House arguing this week that this isn't an issue for the federal government to decide.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President, as I said yesterday, is a firm believer in state's rights.

JOHNS (voice-over): The move in stark contrast to candidate Trump's position last April.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go, they use the bathroom that they feel

is appropriate. There has been so little trouble.

MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS HOST: So if Caitlyn Jenner were to walk into Trump Tower and want to use the bathroom, you would be fine with her using any

bathroom she chooses?

[15:35:01] TRUMP: That is correct.

JOHNS (voice-over): Sources tell CNN the President's Education Secretary opposed the new guidance but was pressured to get onboard by the President

and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. A source says Education Secretary Betsy DeVos reminded the President, they both promised to protect all


DeVos issuing a strongly worded statement saying, "This is not merely a federal mandate but a moral obligation. No individual school district or

state can abdicate," reassuring concerned students that her department will investigate "claims of discrimination, bullying, and harassment against

those who are most vulnerable in our schools."

The new guidance rejects the inclusion of gender identity in the interpretation of Title 9, the federal law that bans sex discrimination in

schools. Hundreds gathering outside the White House to protest.

CROWD: Protect trans youth!

JOHNS (voice-over): One of the performers at the president's inauguration who has a transgender sister, tweeting Mr. Trump, "You gave me the honor to

sing at your inauguration. Please give me and my sis the honor to meet with you to talk transgender rights."


JOHNS: So this is a very controversial issue. It is a very divisive issue, and it's not over yet. In all likelihood, the courts are going to

get to decide this. There is a case pending before the Supreme Court.

GORANI: Joe Johns reporting there. Check out our Facebook before we move on to our other stories, by the way,

Something a little different. We'll get to the rest of the news in a moment, but imagine being kidnapped from your hometown and taken to a

neighboring country to become a complete stranger's wife. Well, that's exactly what happens in some communities along the border between Vietnam

and China.

Kristie Lu Stout has that report for us.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They come and they run and they catch me and they grab my arm. Like, now, I'm going kidnap you and you'll be my wife.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was 2010 in Sapa, Vietnam when three girls, part of the Hmong ethnic minority, went missing.

Ben Randall, an Australian on furlough, had been teaching them English at the time, and he wanted to help.

BEN RANDALL, FOUNDER, THE HUMAN, EARTH PROJECT: But I thought if we did find the girls, that that would be the end of the story. But in fact, that

turned out to be just the beginning.

STOUT (voice-over): Soon, Randall learned one of the girls had managed to get a cell phone. She called a Vietnamese aid group, Blue Dragon, to

inform them she and two other girls had been grabbed and put on the back of motorcycles. She has escaped but did not know where the others had been


In this agrarian town, just south of China's Yunnan province, locals estimate more than 100 girls go missing each year. And their fate, often

to be sold as brides or worse.

RANDALL: There are still some cultural practices that are actually quite harmful to these girls and facilitate trafficking.

STOUT (voice-over): This footage shot by a colleague of Randall shows the practice of ceremonial bride kidnappings, a tradition which can sometimes

lay cover for more deviant behavior. Family pressure to get married means Hmong girls are susceptible to what can be aggressive courting, even

entertaining offers of marriage from strangers which human traffickers use to their advantage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The boy, they are just like telling us, oh, we will love you and we will want to marry you for sure. Just speaking like this.

And after that, they are just bringing the people to sell in China.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hate people who is coming here and stealing the girl here to sell in China. And I wish I can kill all of them.

I see a lot of boys, they come here, want to try to steal my friend or even they tried to steal me also.

STOUT (voice-over): As for the two girls, it took Randall and the investigators from Blue Dragon more than three years to find them. The

next five months were spent investigating and documenting a way to get them home.

RANDALL: That was a very intense five months.

If I come to Guangzhou --


RANDALL: -- can I call you and can we meet somewhere?

I was just doing everything I could to try to locate and meet with the girls. The journey was a process of discovering just how complicated the

world of human trafficking is and how difficult life becomes for its victims.

STOUT (voice-over): But in their time away, both girls had given birth with the men who had bought them. Randall says, while he did manage to

find both girls, one of them ultimately decided to stay in China with her child. Looking to motivate people into action, he's now turning his

experiences into a photography project and a documentary.

RANDALL: They way I'm pitching in "Sisters for Sale," my friends in Sapa are very strong willed, very strong women, because they need to be. They

grow up in a society that's very male dominated. They don't have a lot of rights within their traditional culture. So I set up "The Human, Earth

Project" as a photography project to raise awareness of human trafficking in Asia and around the world.

STOUT (voice-over): A thoughtful lesson, born from heartbreak.

[15:40:01] Kristie Lu Stout, CNN.


GORANI: All right. And CNN has a day of action planned, by the way. It's March 14th. It's called "#MyFreedomDay." The simple question we're asking

you, what does the word mean to you? Send us your answer via text or video across social media. And you can use the hashtag, "#MyFreedomDay."

After the break, an absolutely fascinating story. Imagine looking in the mirror and seeing someone else's face. That's reality for this man who's

had one of the most extensive face transplants ever. And the man who led this surgery will join me next.


GORANI: A very rare and a highly complex procedure has offered a man from Wyoming the chance at a new life. His features rebuilt in a near-total

face transplant. In a moment, I'm going to speak with the doctor who led this remarkable feat, but first, here's the story of what he achieved.


GORANI (voice-over): Ten years ago, Andy Sandness attempted suicide, shooting himself in the face. Rushed to hospital, he miraculous survived

but was left with life-changing injuries -- without a nose, chin, or most of the flesh below his eyes.

ANDY SANDNESS, FACE TRANSPLANT PATIENT: You know what, I was stupid. I made the wrong choice, and now I'm paying for it for the rest of my life.

GORANI (voice-over): A decade on, last June, he was given a groundbreaking opportunity -- to get a new face via transplant. A donor was found. Calen

Ross, who like Andy, had turned a weapon on himself, aged just 21. His tragic death offering Andy a glimmer of hope. His surgery, finally able to

go ahead.

A team of specialists, led by Dr. Samir Mardini, had been practicing the face transplant technique for three years, rehearsing the full operation

more than 30 times.

DR. SAMIR MARDINI, SURGICAL DIRECTOR, MAYO CLINIC: A face transplantation is a combination of so many other procedures that we do, including eyelid

surgery, jaw surgery, facial nerve surgery.

GORANI (voice-over): It involved mapping and preserving an intricate web of nerves on both Andy and the donor's face. The high-risk surgery lasted

a full 56 hours, with surgeons taking shifts. And the result, after a few weeks of recovery --


GORANI (voice-over): Unable to fully talk yet, Andy writes down his feelings for his medical team.

MARDINI: "Far exceeded my expectations." You don't know how happy this makes us feel.

GORANI (voice-over): Andy's new facial features completely restored, though not the ones he was born with. His life, half a year later, is now


[15:44:55] SANDNESS: And I was absolutely blown away by the results. I just feel like a normal person, walk around outside, going to the shopping

malls. Nobody asks any questions, nobody stares. I feel like another face in the crowd. And now with this transplant, I just feel more comfortable

and more confident in doing these things.

GORANI (voice-over): Andy will need to continue speech therapy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I boiled the peas.

SANDNESS: I boiled the peas.

GORANI (voice-over): And he'll be on medication forever to stop his body rejecting the transplant. With a new face and a new lease on life.


GORANI: The team behind this extraordinary transplant were from the Mayo Clinic of Minnesota. I'm joined now by one of the leaders of that team.

Surgeon Samir Mardini is in Rochester, Minnesota.

Thanks so much for being with us, Doctor. First, we heard you there get quite emotional when Andy Sandness wrote down, "This far exceeded my

expectations." Talk to us about that moment.

MARDINI: You know, Hala, after so many years of seeing Andy with his deformed face, missing so many functions, including, you know, not having

teeth and all these things and the challenges and the struggles he went through in life. We embarked on this journey together a few years ago,

just beginning the discussion and introducing him to the team and going through all the rigorous things that you can imagine we had to go through

at Mayo Clinic to get this approved and to do it.

And then to do this surgery and see him look at himself in the mirror, we're already full of emotions. You know, I was looking at him too. I was

happy with what I saw, but to see those words coming out, you know, from him, it's just heart-warming and really, really touching.

GORANI: And, Doctor, I have to say, one of the things I found most compelling about this, not obviously the 56 hours of surgery and four-hour

shifts, the 3 1/2 years of practicing on cadaver heads, that pattern, connecting the nerves, all that, but he doesn't look like a man who's had a

face transplant. I mean, he looks like someone who may have had a small accident or something.

MARDINI: You know, Hala, these patients, you know, this is a huge investment for Andy. And you know, to think about putting yourself through

an operation like this and the life-long immunosuppression that you're going to go through, you know, his goal is to be normal. His goal is to be

able to walk into a crowd and not be noticed, like, this is an abnormal person. And that's what we had in time the whole time preparing for this


You know, 3 1/2 years ago, we knew we were approved to do this. We knew we had a patient. We spent 50 Saturdays in the cadaver lab, just rehearsing

and practicing and understanding the nuances, the small details that would make the biggest difference in his function and his appearance.

We looked at every aspect of this, thought about it a thousand times, so when we did the operation and we got the result, it would be something

worthwhile. And, you know, Hala, one of the most significant things about this -- and we can't ignore this at all -- you know, we train and train and

train as surgeons, but it's the generosity of the donor and the donor family.

GORANI: Absolutely.

MARDINI: And the beautiful face that he had and he gave to Andy, that's really what made it so, so spectacular.

GORANI: First of all, I'm in awe of this entire thing. I've watched this video. I've read many, many articles about what you achieved, but it's the

practice involved. You were talking about all the Saturdays, about practicing on other faces to make sure you got it exactly right and the

cohesiveness of your team. I mean, 56 hours in shifts means, I imagine, you had to really be 100 percent on the same wavelength with everyone else.

MARDINI: When we walked into the surgery, we were not nervous. There was not one team member that was nervous. We had rehearsed this so many times,

it felt like another operation.

We were excited. We were thrilled that we had the opportunity to share this and to do this for Andy, but none of us were nervous. We knew exactly

what to expect.

And we had two rooms going at the same time. We had the donor and the recipient, side by side, in two different rooms. We had a donor team and a

recipient team, and I was between the two teams. And so we worked the entire 24-hour shift together. Of course, there were some breaks here and


And then we moved the donor face to the recipient, to Andy, then we had an abundance of surgeons to work on this one. So there were forced breaks for

every team member so that they could come back fresh and excited.

And, you know, everybody knew their role. Everybody knew how to do the entire operation, so it was very easy to make this work. You know, we

enjoyed working with each over the last three years, so it was an enjoyable project.

It felt it was all centered on this one patient. We felt like we had a real goal, and it was something really remarkable to see how everybody came

together for the care of this one patient.

GORANI: Right. And there are risks here. I mean, the immunosuppressants, the fact that it's possible that the donor will not necessarily -- and this

can happen in many years, right -- accept this transplant.

[15:50:10] What are some of the major risks, and have we made progress since the first face transplant? Sadly, the lady who was the recipient of

that partial face transplant died of cancer. Have we made major progress there?

MARDINI: The immunosuppression that we're using is standard immunosuppression. We're not altering anything from our usual medications

that we give for a heart transplant, liver transplant patients, kidney transplant patients. So there's thousands and thousands of patients and

experience of years doing this at Mayo Clinic and elsewhere, so we're not experimenting with immunosuppression.

And we feel that, in the right patient, that, you know, is going to be compliant, is going to stay healthy, is going to do the right things, take

the medications on time, we feel comfortable and confident that long-term, they should do well.

We don't know the answers 100 percent. We do have the experiences of others in face transplantation, but there's also the experience of others

in hand transplantations. So that, you know, the similarity is having skin and other tissue types involved. So we can extrapolate from other

transplants, solid in hand, that the patient that's compliant, doing well, has a good match, should do well long-term.

GORANI: Dr. Samir Mardini, to all your team as well at the Mayo Clinic, first of all, thanks for joining us, and congratulations on this incredible

accomplishment. We really appreciate you joining us today.

MARDINI: It's an honor to be with you. Thank you so much, Hala.

GORANI: All right. We'll be right back after a quick break. Stay with CNN.


GORANI: Donald Trump is everywhere. Since becoming U.S. President, he's rarely been out of the news. One man has tried to escape this ever-present

leader of the free world for a whole week, saying it was like trying to bite into a fruit and nut cake without getting any to have the fruit or


The man who tried, "The New York Times" columnist and author, Farhad Manjoo. He joins me via Skype from Palo Alto, California.

So you spent a week or tried to spend a week without consuming any Trump news or Trump-related news. How did you do?

FARHAD MANJOO, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I guess I was a failure in that I pretty much couldn't avoid it. I tried pretty hard. I

went to most news sites that I normally visit, but I tried to scroll very fast past the Trump news. I tried to look at Twitter and Facebook as I

normally do, but again, there was a lot of Trump stuff as I was trying to scroll by.

And then I went to a bunch of sites that I normally don't, you know, visit as a primary source of news, things like subject-specific sites, like, you

know, science news sites or sports sites, there were still --

GORANI: But there, too, I imagine. There, too, you at least saw references to the Trump administration, right? I mean, you were saying

even during the Super Bowl, some of the ads, you know, kind of were, you know --


GORANI: -- sort of at least implying some of the themes brought up during his campaign and first few weeks of his administration.

MANJOO: Right. And what I discovered was that Donald Trump has kind of permeated every part of the culture. He's more than just a subject of news

or even just, you know -- his popularity has sort of gone over what you would normally expect of a president.

He is just part of the culture now. He is part of the Super Bowl ads and how we respond to it.

[15:55:03] GORANI: Yes.

MANJOO: He looms over sort of pretty much every T.V. show. So he's essentially unavoidable. And, you know, I talked to a bunch of researchers

who study fame and popularity. And the numbers on this are not exact, but I think it seems pretty clear that there probably has never been a more

read-about, sort of famous, well-known person than Trump is right now.

GORANI: So according to one metric at least, he's more famous in terms of the exposure he gets than the hundreds of people or celebrities below him

on the list. But why is this happening?

I mean, obviously, you came to the conclusion, you know, the snowball effect of social media, has a lot to do with this.

MANJOO: Yes. I mean, you know, if you look back at the news when sort of other big things were happening, if you look back at like newspapers during

the World Wars, you see that reporters paid attention to the big stories but also lots of other different types of stories. What happens with

social media is, it amplifies kind of any big story so that it becomes, you know, the only story. You may have seen this, you know, like, you see it

sometimes when stories go viral and kind of take over your feed.


MANJOO: What's happening with Trump is that pretty much everything that happens on the Trump administration is going viral and taking over your

feed. So it becomes, you know, essentially the entirety of your feed and there's a feedback loop there.

The better the Trump stories do on Facebook and Twitter, the more that people in the media kind of assign those stories, try to cover Trump, and

then that does better on social media. And so, you know, there's kind of a back and forth there.

GORANI: All right. Farhad Manjoo of "The New York Times," thanks very much. You know, we'll see if this level of interest is sustained because

what Farhad is saying, and it's the case, we see it on television, newspapers, magazines, even in Super Bowl commercials, allusions to Donald

Trump. We'll see if that's sustainable.

All right, everyone. Thanks for being with us on this Thursday. I appreciate it.

I'm Hala Gorani. This has been THE WORLD RIGHT NOW. I'll see you same time, same place tomorrow.

Don't go anywhere. A quick break here on the network, and we'll be right back with "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" next.


[15:59:52] RICHARD QUEST, CNN ANCHOR: And so the closing bell rings on Wall Street. The Dow Jones up a mere 24 points, but those 24 points take

the Dow to a record high once again, the tenth record high in succession.