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Congress Will Investigate Trump Wiretapping Claims; Clapper: There Was No Wiretapping Of Trump Tower; Sessions To Give Amended Testimony Tomorrow; DHS Considers Separating Kids From Adults At Border; Murder Victim's Father Fights Against Illegal Immigrants; Pence Demands Apology After A.P. Prints Wife's E-Mail Account. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired March 5, 2017 - 15:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:00:16] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Hello, again, everyone and thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

All right, we're following new development this afternoon. The committee is investigating Russia's involvement in the U.S. election. Also, we'll look into President Trump's unfounded claims that President Obama tapped his phone.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes issuing this statement saying, "The committee will make inquiries into whether the government was conducting surveillance activities on any political party's campaign, officials, or surrogates and we will continue to investigate this issue if the evidence warrants it."

Senate Intel Chairman Richard Burr echoed his sentiments saying, this just moments ago, "The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will follow the evidence where it leads, and we will continue to be guided by the intelligence and facts as we compile our findings."

CNN White House Correspondent Athena Jones is near Mar-a-Lago where the president is this weekend and CNN Crime and Justice Producer Shimon Prokupecz is also following the story from New York. Good to see both of you. Let me begin with you, Athena.

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. That's right. After those unsubstantiated allegations made on Twitter yesterday morning from the president, we asked the White House to provide more information, to provide evidence to back up those claims. We did not receive that evidence, but we do have the statement that was put out this morning by Press Secretary Sean Spicer. I'll read to you part of it.

He said, "President Donald J. Trump is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity the, congressional intelligence committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016."

Now, Spicer went on to say that neither the White House nor the president is going to be commenting any further on this matter until such oversight is conducted. I think it's important to note, Fred, that this is an -- these are allegations that President Obama's spokesperson has vigorously denied. Other former senior officials said that there were no such wiretaps and -- as have other officials. And so the question -- one of the big questions here is where did the president get this information?

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Republican, who is on the Senate Intelligence Committee talked about that this morning on state of the union. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: I have no -- I'm not sure what it is he is talking about. Perhaps the president has information that is not yet available to us or to the public and if it's true, obviously, we're going to find out very quickly and if it isn't, then obviously he'll have to explain what he meant by it. So, I don't -- I'm not sure what the genesis of that statement was, but -- well I imagine, we're going to learn more about it here over the next few days one way or the other.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: And another Republican on that committee also said that she expects -- this is Maine Senator Susan Collins, the Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee said that she expects the president is going to want to provide that committee with whatever evidence he has.

But by asking for this investigation, the White House is shifting the burden of proof and by saying that no one is going to comment any further, it seems a way of saying that they're not going to answer any questions about just what evidence the president has. But, I will assure you, Fred, that all the journalists are going to continue to ask for that evidence.

WHITFIELD: Of course. All right, Athena Jones, thank you so much. Appreciate that.

All right, a former senior White House official is also disputing the president's claims, telling CNN that they're not aware of wiretaps related to a criminal investigation of any candidate Donald Trump by the U.S. Justice Department. That backs up former National Intelligence Director James Clapper's remarks this morning that none of the agencies he oversaw, including the FBI, sought to wiretap Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I will say that for the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw as DNI, there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president-elect at the time where as a candidate or against his campaign. I can't speak for other Title III authorized entities in the government or state or local entities.

CHUCK TODD, "MEET THE PRESS" HOST: I was just going to say, if the FBI for instance had a FISA court order some sort for a surveillance, would that be information you would know or not know?

CLAPPER: Yes.

TODD: You would be told this?

CLAPPER: I would know that.

TODD: If there was a FISA court orders on something like this?

CLAPPER: Yes. Something like this, absolutely.

TODD: And at this point you can't confirm or deny whether that exists?

CLAPPER: I can deny it.

TODD: There is no FISA court order?

CLAPPER: Not to my knowledge.

TODD: Of anything at Trump Tower.

CLAPPER: No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right, CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is also following that part of the story for us. Shimon, what more have you learned?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Well, we've learned not only was there no FISA sort of eavesdropping warrant issued by a judge, we've also learned that there were no criminal wiretaps.

[15:05:05] It's sort of these Title III wiretaps that Clapper there was talking about. Up and down the FBI and in other law enforcement agencies really know one knows what Clapper -- I'm sorry, what Donald Trump was talking about. And going forward I think, you know, they're going to look to try and see, you know, perhaps maybe there's something they miss, but right now there's no indication that anyone in law enforcement was eavesdropping on Donald Trump.

Yesterday I talked to a former pretty high-ranking official who had direct knowledge of the investigations surrounding the hacking and anything else that may have to do with Russia and that official told me that if it was complete nonsense, it was not true. Certainly people within the justice department, the upper, upper places of the justice department, the senior levels of the justice department would have to authorize such activity on the federal side. And really, there no one knows what he's talking about because they -- they're just saying this, it just did not happen.

WHITFIELD: All right, Shimon Prokupecz, all right, thank you so much for breaking that down.

Let's talk more about this now with CNN National Security Analyst Steve Hall. He's also a retired CIA chief of Russian operations. And Tom Fuentes is CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst and former Assistant Director of the FBI. Good to see both of you gentlemen.

TOM FUENTES, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Hi, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. So, Steve, no sign of a criminal wiretapping warrant? Not by the justice department, not by a FISA court, you just heard Shimon Prokupecz. Is there any other way to go about surveilling an American citizen?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Not that I'm aware of and, you know, Jim Clapper is absolutely right. He would have known had there been any FISA warrants outstanding. The "F" in FISA, of course, stands for "Foreign."

So they're looking for somebody who's acting, you know, as an agent of a foreign power. And when you're trying to intercept electronic communication, that's really the only way to do it that I'm aware of. And, you know, there's really high bar for that. There's a lot of work that has to go into something like that.

WHITFIELD: So then, Steve, would it be a crime or an offense by the President of the United States to claim that there was wiretapping conducted with certainty by his predecessor and it can not be substantiated by these other means? Is that a crime if it turns out indeed its false based on what the president said?

HALL: Not being a law enforcement officer, I'm going to -- I'll probably defer to Tom and others to talk about the criminality. I can talk from the intelligence perspective. You know, it's very strange. You know, again, the former DNI says he was not aware of it, he would be aware of it whether something was going on, you know, off the books or something like that.

I mean, I suppose it's possible, but we just don't know. And, we don't know so much that this yet again underlines the need for an independent, you know, investigation into all of this.

WHITFIELD: So, Tom, how would you answer that?

FUENTES: Well, if someone was conducting a wiretap and it was off the books or not authorized by a FISA or a criminal Title III electronic surveillance authority that would be a felony for anybody to be involved in conducting the wiretap. As far as the president now saying that there was one, well, it depends on who told him that there was one, how he found out, you know, and that. So it's possible --

WHITFIELD: And if he just got it wrong and said that definitively, is that a problem? Is that criminal?

FUENTES: Well, it's a problem, but I don't know that it's a criminal problem to say that that there was one if there wasn't. That's different than conducting electronic surveillance and not being authorized to do it.

WHITFIELD: So, Tom, you know, when -- if there is a conducting of surveillance of anyone who's associated with Russia, because we know that Intel has said they certainly are watching, you know, Russian diplomats, et cetera, in this country.

And if that Russian diplomat is associating with a U.S. citizen and is caught up in that kind of surveillance, how does it work generally or do notes, you know, or surveillance going to stop when they identify a U.S. citizen is involved and then pick up where, you know, communication continues with a Russian or somebody else who, you know, is a foreigner who is being watched on U.S. soil?

FUENTES: Well, you know, there are many foreigners being watched on U.S. soil. You know, some are engaged in espionage and others might be, you know, the possibility of it.

I'm not going to go into the details of who all would be covered on a daily basis under FISA, but there's a difference between having a FISA authority to intercept calls to certain officials at their embassy and conducting FISA coverage in the Trump Tower. That's a whole different thing, because you're targeting U.S. citizens. You're targeting U.S. citizens, not just the fact that the Russian ambassador might visit once every six months or some other Russian official may come in there.

So, you know, if you were going by that, you'd have FISA coverage in every Senate and congressional office on the Hill and everywhere else in town, because the people that are here doing these activities are in many cases dual diplomats and intelligence officers.

[15:10:07] So, I don't believe that that's going on. But, yes, it would be, you know, the possibility.

WHITFIELD: So then, Tom, you know, how would it be explained that reportedly there are transcripts of conversations involving the Russian ambassador and members of Trump's campaign. How would those transcripts be collected if there isn't some sort of surveillance or even, you know, warrants that may have been --

FUENTES: No, I didn't say there wasn't surveillance. I was saying that if they were covering the Russian ambassador or some other members of his diplomatic team who are also identified as actually being intelligence officers under diplomatic cover, that if they were being surveilled and they were contacted by American citizens, then the American citizens would be inadvertently intercepted as well.

And don't forget, part of the reason for having this type of coverage is that you could have American citizens that maybe they are employed by the military or U.S. law enforcement or intelligence going to those officials offering their services that you could have people trying to commit treason and fall into the net of someone else who is under FISA coverage. So, yes, you could have that possibility happen. It doesn't mean that the American citizen was targeted in the first place. It just means that he fell into the net. WHITFIELD: OK. And as we're talking, we are looking at Air Force One there in West Palm Beach. We understand that President Trump will be leaving his winter White House and returning back to Washington.

Again, all of these questions, however, don't end there. We are really just at the tip of the iceberg of so many of these questions surrounding the ongoing investigations and now newer investigations that are being launched there on Capitol Hill. And by the urging of the White House, might we add.

All right, Steve Hall, Tom Fuentes, good to see you. Thank you so much.

FUENTES: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: And, of course, we'll continue to monitor the scheduled departure of Air Force One there from West Palm Beach, Florida back to Washington. We'll have much more right after this.

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[15:16:23] WHITFIELD: All right, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions were provided the answers to tough questions about Russia tomorrow. Sessions will respond in writing about his pre-election meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. And why he failed to mention those meetings during his Senate confirmation hearing last month. Sessions has suggested that he misunderstood the question.

U.S. intelligence official have described the ambassador as a top spy and spy recruiter. Russia strongly denies that. The ambassador is under FBI surveillance and that surveillance revealed the ambassador's (inaudible) with other Trump campaign associate such as Trump's son- in-law, Jared Kushner, and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Let's bring in our panel to discuss all of this, Republican Strategist Brian Morgenstern and Ellis Henican, a Republican -- a Political, sorry, Analyst.

ELLIS HENICAN, POLITICAL ANALYST AND BEST SELLING AUTHOR: Hold on.

WHITFIELD: Well, my mouth got a little twisted, an author and columnist. Good to see you guys. All right, good to see you guys.

All right, so, Brian, you know, what do you expect to be included in this written amendment by Sessions? What might it be reveal in your view?

BRIAN MORGENSTERN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think it will reveal that the questioning -- I mean, I think it's really two questions. One from Senator Franken, one from, I believe, Senator Leahy that he understand to be in reference to the campaign, because what had come out was a news report suggesting that Trump officials and Russian officials were colluding in some way. And that's how senator -- then Senator Sessions understood the question. And when you watch the video to me, it bears that out. And there's a big difference between a mistake and a lie and I think that's what he'll be explaining. "I misunderstood or there was miscommunication. And, here, let me just clear up what happened. I met with this guy in my capacity as a senator. It had nothing to do with the campaign. And by the way, so did Nancy Pelosi, so did Senator McCaskill and a number of other Democrats meet with this guy in their capacity as United States senators."

WHITFIELD: But, you know, it's being argued in some of those meetings in a public setting during a dinner or where there's an entourage of people is very different or in front of cameras and in front of a body of people as opposed to private meetings that are being conducted and you deny that it happens until it's revealed that you did have those meetings.

You know, they're very different settings that he is going to now have to answer to and justify, Brian. And so there is a distinction, is there not?

MORGENSTERN: Well, it's not like they were meeting in trench coats and fedoras with Groucho Marx glasses on in an alley way. They were meeting in an instated office --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Well, I don't, there weren't any cameras there, so I guess --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: -- who knows, really?

MORGENSTERN: No, but it's easily. They're in a meeting surrounded by staff members who he -- now Attorney General Sessions has suggested when he confirms there's no improper discussion, that it was, you know, as any --

WHITFIELD: Although, we haven't heard that part yet, right? Isn't that likely to be one of the questions, Ellis? What was the content of the discussions, because we haven't heard anything about what Sessions may have discussed with Kislyak?

HENICAN: Exactly. I'll tell you what's going to be different this time, Fred. He'll probably tell the truth, right, which is not what he did last time on two separate occasions and not the first high- ranking Trump administration official to dissemble, to lie, to misspeak, pick which ever word you like. I mean, there's clearly a pattern of this thing going on.

If there were not something to hide, these people would all be revealing what happened and others would step forward and say, "You know what, I also met with the Russian ambassador. I also met with some other Russian official." This thing clearly stinks.

And, oh, by the way, written answers are not the same as hauling your butt back in front of that committee and answering the questions and actually getting a grilling here, having some lawyer prepare a legalistic statement is not remotely the same thing.

[15:20:13] I think he's still trying to hide things.

WHITFIELD: OK. So, Donald Trump tweeted -- he had five tweets yesterday, you know, accusing his predecessor of wiretapping and then today a new tweet from the President of the United States. "Who was it that secretly said to Russian president tell Vladimir that after the election I'll have more flexibility?"

So, Brian, you know, he's referring to the president. It was right in front of cameras. It was right there in the White House when, you know, Obama was meeting with Medvedev there. Is that a fair comparison to make or is this just another distraction, Donald Trump trying to launch?

MORGENSTERN: Fred, I think this is what's good for the goose is good for the gander. He thinks that these -- all these Russian claims as Paul Ryan said, "Hair on fire," claims that he somehow gets firing with the Russians are just unfounded. And so, if the Democrats are going to do it to me, I'm going to do it to them.

And so, he's posting pictures of Senator Schumer meeting with Vladimir Putin himself, of Nancy Pelosi meeting with the Russian ambassador, of Senator McCaskill --

WHITFIELD: But, again, that wasn't -- and I think Schumer has said it was a big photo-op. It was kind of, you know, welcome to the United States and there was an entourage of people, you know, and they were sharing, you know, those American treats, you know, foodstuffs there.

HENICAN: Guys, it's a way to --

MORGENSTERN: Sure, but they'll take one person's word for it, but not the other.

(CROSSTALK)

HENICAN: Brian, Brian, there's a way to put an end to this immediately. Quit lying about it, right?

MORGENSTERN: Oh, my gosh.

HENICAN: I mean, that's of this stuff, all of this stuff is entirely self-created. If all of these meetings were absolutely as innocent as you're saying, Brian, they wouldn't be hiding them so much. They wouldn't keep weaseling around. They wouldn't wait until they ended up in the media before someone stepped forward and acknowledged that these happen. And by way, let's get on to the Jared meetings as well, right, seems like there may be something there.

MORGENSTERN: They already described that as just a cordial quick meeting and Senator Sessions --

HENICAN: Well, let's see if that was true. MORGENSTERN: -- is not hiding anything. He's not hiding anything.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: And so, Brian, it sounds like you're saying --

HENICAN: They keep lying.

WHITFIELD: -- that this White House really has nothing to worry about. Jeff Sessions should have nothing to worry about. You believe everything is on the up and up and this is not what some allege to be potential coverup, but instead an oversight?

MORGENSTERN: It certainly seems -- that's obviously my opinion based on what we have out there and I think that they're going to do their best to prove this up, because I don't think there's any there, there.

And it's stepping all over their, you know, attempt to drive the agenda so that's -- it's got to be frustrating in that regard, which explains why they're punching back with all these things. Hey, remember when Obama was cozying up? Remember when Schumer did it? Remember when Pelosi did it, because they're so frustrated that they're having all these pilon that they feel is unjustified.

WHITFIELD: All right, Brian and Ellis --

HENICAN: Poor babies.

WHITFIELD: -- we'll keep it right there.

HENICAN: Poor babies.

WHITFIELD: For now, this is just the beginning of our discussions as you know. All right, thank you so much, gentlemen.

All right, also coming up, before meeting their state lawmaker, several Muslim students in Oklahoma were forced to fill out a survey. Among the questions needing answers, "Do you beat your wife like the sharia law permits?" Details on all of that, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:27:54] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been a proponent of voucher programs that allow some lower-income students to attend schools of their choice. But 16 years after the program began in Florida, there are still major disagreements about whether it's actually helping students. CNN's Boris Sanchez reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LANA MONTEALEGRE, STUDENT: Science, social studies.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For 7-year-old Lana Montealegre, going to public school was miserable. She had trouble making friends, didn't get enough attention from teachers and even hated the food. Her grandparents say that almost everyday ended in tears.

ANA MONTEALEGRE, GRANDMOTHER: I said, "Why are you crying? "Mommy, I don't like it here. I don't like it. It's not right."

SANCHEZ (voice-over): So, Ana and Anibal (ph) brought their second grader here to Kingdom Academy, just outside Miami where Lana has flourished.

L. MONTEALEGRE: I think it's better here.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): But Lana can only attend the school because of a controversial voucher program, one that's been at the center of a heated political battle in Florida for 16 years.

Instead of paying taxes to the state, corporations get dollar-for- dollar tax credits by donating money to organizations like Step Up for Students, which gave many of the 98,000 scholarships to lower income students, enabling them to go to private schools statewide.

DOUG TUTHILL, PRESIDENT, STEP UP FOR STUDENTS: I don't think that low income children should have less opportunities than more affluent children. You know, kids don't get to choose their parents. They don't get to choose, you know, the environment they grow up in. Why do we have all these opportunities for more affluent families and don't have the same opportunities for lower income families?

SANCHEZ (voice-over): But opponents of the voucher program say it's leaving many students behind.

KALEBRA JACOBS-REED, TEACHER: We are at the point now where we don't have enough books for each kid to take home.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): French teacher Kalebra Jacobs-Reed says that by not paying taxes, corporations are robbing public schools of funding.

JACOBS-REED: If the money that went to vouchers was really reinvested in to the schools, we would have the schools that parents are looking for and we wouldn't have the need for vouchers.

[15:30:03] By funneling this money away, it really hurts the kids.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Program supporters say there have been eight different independent reports and several court decisions that show the program does not cost public school's money. Still, Fedrick Ingram, with the State Teachers' Union disagrees.

FEDRICK INGRAM, VICE PRESIDENT FLORIDA EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: You go to many of our schools in the state of Florida, you see the lack of programming, the lack of band classes, the lack of art classes, fewer vocational classes. You see teachers that are not paid what they need to be paid for doing the work that they do.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Despite the politics, the parents at Kingdom Academy, there is no debate.

FRANCES LEWIS, MOTHER: If I did not have a choice? SANCHEZ (voice-over): Yeah.

LEWIS: I would probably have to move to a place where I was able to choose. Like I said, when it comes to my children, there is -- sky's the limit. I will do whatever I need to, to relocate, to do whatever I need to make sure their needs are accommodated.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: All right, that was Boris Sanchez reporting.

Straight ahead, a father on a mission after his son is killed by an undocumented immigrant.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Who do you blame besides the actual person who killed your son, for the death of your son?

JAMIEL SHAW SR., VICTIM'S FATHER: Anybody who supports sanctuary cities.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: What he thinks about the president's immigration policies, plus, the Department of Homeland Security now considering a proposal that would separate children from adults when crossing into the U.S. illegally. We'll talk with a former director for ICE.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:35:34] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. I'm Fredericka Whitfield. So immigration and border security are top priority of the Trump administration. The president vowing to increase security and build the border wall as well as deport undocumented immigrants, especially those who break the law.

The president's crackdown is getting the support of a man whose son was killed by an illegal immigration. CNN's Sara Sidner has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER (voice-over): Donald Trump made Jamiel Shaw Sr., a promise.

(on camera): Has Mr. Trump as president kept his promise?

SHAW: Yes. He told me my son's life would not be in vain.

SIDNER (voice-over): Mr. Trump promised if he became president he do whatever he could to keep other families from experiencing what the Shaw's did.

(on camera): How did you find out that your son had been shot?

SHAW: I heard it. I heard the gunshots and I just knew. It's all of a sudden, (inaudible). I remember saying "damn."

SIDNER (voice-over): In 2008, Shaw's eldest son, Jamiel Jr., a standout high school running back preparing for college was shot to death execution style by 19-year-old Pedro Espinoza who had just been released from jail a day earlier on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon. But the city did not hand him over to immigrant authorities then.

(on camera): Who do you blame besides the actual person who killed your son, for the death of your son?

SHAW: Anybody who supports sanctuary cities. Three gun charges, (inaudible) people. I mean, he was just Satan's disciple and leading the country in the gang database. Come on, man, do your damn job. All you have to do is just get him out of here.

SIDNER (voice-over): Shaw has been fighting ever since to get Jamiel's law passed that target undocumented immigrants who join gangs.

Fast forward to 2015, and Shaw got a chance to hand his proposal to then candidate Donald Trump. Then in President Trump's joint address to Congress, he recognized Shaw and offered this.

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American victims. The office is called VOICE, Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement.

SIDNER (voice-over): Some Democrats groaned and booed the new office.

SHAW: I took it as an insult. Why would not it be a good idea to have a department set up for those people?

SIDNER (on camera): For the victims?

SHAW: Obama -- for victims. Obama was using that same money for the DACA people.

SIDNER (on camera): What do you think about the Dreamer program?

SHAW: Dreamer murdered my son. He was brought here by no fault of his own, you know. He grew up to be 19 and he murdered somebody. So you can't just say blanket that all Dreamers are good people.

SIDNER (voice-over): But critics of Trump's immigration stance say his focus is misplaced pointing to several studies listed by the CATO Institute all showing immigrants are less crime prone than those who are native born.

SHAW: What do I care about statistics? My son is in the cemetery. I'm not saying all illegals are doing that, but we've got enough trouble tying (ph) with Americans and you're going to import more?

SIDNER, (on camera): One of those studies looking at census data from 1980, 1990 and 2000 show that immigrants as a whole have incarceration rates that are one-fifth of those of native born Americans. But, Mr. Shaw, said statistics wouldn't matter to you if it was your child who is killed. The man who killed his child was sentenced to death that is serving time in San Quentin prison, here in California.

Sara Sidner, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: All right, let's talk more about this and the president's proposed crack down on illegal immigration. Joining me right now is John Sandweg, he is the former acting director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE under the Obama administration. He's also the former general counsel for the Department of Homeland Security. John, good to see you.

JOHN SANDWEG, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT: It's good to be here. Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, so let me begin with this DHS proposal that would separate children from adults when they try to cross the border illegally. How in your view would that work? How might this be different from a very similar effort considered by -- under the Obama administration, but not carried out because some said it would be simply too complicated?

SANDWEG: Well, we have a humanitarian crisis at the southern border, there's no doubt about that. But my concern with this is you're separating children from families, you know, from their mothers and there are better ways of doing this.

We can -- you know, the ways to address this is by increasing the number of immigration court judges so the courts have the capacity to quickly deal with these cases and then encourage Mexico to do more on the southern boarder to stop people from coming in, in the first place. Finally, we can do more with refugee centers in Central America that would prevent these families from coming forward to make these efforts.

[15:40:04] WHITFIELD: So you argue that it separates families, but the Trump administration, or at least this DHS proposal is claiming that instead of using the vernacular that it's children separated from their parents, it's children separated from adults because many children are being trafficked and they may not necessarily be taken across the border with their family members. Do you dispute that?

SANDWEG: Well, there are certainly individualize cases where people are being "trafficker," coming across with, you know, not necessarily their parents. But the problem is the overwhelming majority of these cases. They are coming with their parents. And when you separate them, there's a very high likelihood that they'll never be reunited. The children we brought in the United States with a very good chance of ending up in foster care systems, while the parents are very likely to be deported. So we're talking about not just short term separation, but potentially permanent separation.

WHITFIELD: OK. And these new DHS statistics are showing a big increase in the number of children and adults apprehended at the border. More than 54,000 children and their family members apprehended at the boarder from last October to the end of January. That's more than double the number in the same time a year earlier. So, what do you expect is behind this increase?

SANDWEG: Well, clearly it's the violence and the poverty and the other conditions in Central America that driving these people north. It's also the smuggling organizations, which are having a less effective time recruiting individuals in Mexico. Mexican migration has dropped. Central American migration has skyrocketed.

We need to address this. My concern though is the manner of ripping these families apart and forcing mothers to choose to be ripped apart from their children or returned to very difficult conditions. It's just not an American way nor is it the right way to go about this. There are other ways of fixing the problem, including the ones I just mentioned.

WHITFIELD: OK. And among those things you mentioned, you talked about hiring more judges in order to handle the kind of caseload. The Trump administration wants to hire 10,000 more ICE agents, and also beef up manpower along the border. Is that an answer?

SANDWEG: Well, listen, if you ask anybody who's very familiar with the enforcement system and you ask them honestly, what do we need more, more ICE officers, more border patrol agents or immigration judges? Every single one of them would tell you, "We desperately need immigration court judges."

The problem with the system is, it's broken. The courts are overwhelmed, about 200 judges dealing with 500,000 cases. All of those border cases are asylum seekers that you talked about a moment ago. They only need to see an immigration judge.

Unless we can quickly ramp up the size of the immigration courts, we can't deal with those cases effectively. And when it takes years and years for the claims to be heard and the good cases to be sorted from the bad, it encourages just more people to keep coming north.

WHITFIELD: All right, John Sandweg, thanks so much. Appreciate your time.

SANDWEG: It's my pleasure, thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, next hour, we'll introduce you to a Texas rancher who would give up his land for Trump's border wall. Hear why he trusts the president's plan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The American people were listening to him. So at some point I started listening to him as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [15:47:19] WHITFIELD: In just two weeks, we'll introduce the first CNN Hero of 2017. But, first, we need your help as we search for amazing people doing great work. Anderson Cooper explains how to nominate someone you believe is a hero.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready to ride?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bring it in, girl.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, (voice-over): Every year, CNN Heroes honors everyday people doing extraordinary work to change lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm so proud of you, man.

COOPER (voice-over): We've crossed the globe to tell the stories of these amazing heroes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come on. Go all the way to the end.

COOPER (voice-over): But we can't do it without you. We need you to tell us who you think should be a CNN Hero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look how far we've come in a week, it's fantastic.

COOPER (voice-over): You can nominate someone in just a few simple steps. Go to cnnheroes.com and fill in the form to tell us about your hero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible).

COOPER (voice-over): It's that easy. You can help make your hero a CNN Hero. We'll shine some light on their amazing work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: And again, your hero could be a CNN Hero. To nominate someone, fill out a form on cnnheros.com.

All right, tonight, CNN's original series "Finding Jesus" returns for a second season. The series explores groundbreaking discoveries involving Pontius Pilate, who was the Roman governor and the judge at Jesus' trial. Here's a clip.

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STEFFAN BOJE, "FINDING JESUS", PONTIUS PILATE: Are you the king of the Jews?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): This is really the crucial question. Do you have pretensions to overthrow us? BOJE: Do you ask this on your own or did others tell you about me?

I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and chief priests have handed you over to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Pilate is almost having a conversation as opposed to interrogating someone.

BOJE: Are you the king of the Jews?

ADAM BOND, "FINDING JESUS", JESUS: My kingdom is not of this world. Everybody who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.

BOJE: What is truth?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): When Pilate asks Jesus what is truth, we have a great example of dramatic irony.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right, joining us now is Robert Cargill, Assistant Professor of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Iowa. Good to see you. He's also the author of the book, "Cities That Built the Bible." And also appears in the debut episode of "Finding Jesus." Good to see you.

OK. So in your view --

ROBERT CARGILL, AUTHOR "CITIES THAT BUILT THE BIBLE: Thank you, Fredericka. Good to be here.

WHITFIELD: In your view, what does this series tells us about the role of Pontius Pilate?

[15:50:06] CARGILL: Pontius Pilate was the prefect of Judea from 26 to 36 and until he was basically fired. He was recalled to Rome for being too harsh. And so, we have literary accounts of Pilate. And, of course, he is the one who is said to have overseen the trial, allowed Jesus -- sentenced Jesus to be executed.

WHITFIELD: And then what about "The Pilate Stone" have you learned?

CARGILL: Yes. So, you know, that we had the literary accounts of Pilate and we knew that he had minted some coins. But in 1961, excavators were digging in Caesarea Maritima on the beach and that they found in reuse, a stone. When they flipped it over, here's the name of Pontius Pilate staring right at them.

And it says, "Pontius Pilate prefect of Judea". So we actually had good hard evidence that Pilate not only existed, but was where the bible says he was. He lived in Caesarea and only went to Jerusalem when he absolutely had to.

WHITFIELD: And what's the information that you are hoping viewers take away from this episode? CARGILL: I like this show because what it allows the viewers to do is that, whether they're religious or not religious, they get to look at the evidence that we have and we're honest about the evidence that we don't have. So they get to see different perspectives.

We have critical scholars, archaeologists, historians, but we also have people of faith, rabbis, priests who give different perspectives on the evidence. And so, at the end of the day, we present the evidence and the viewers get to decide what they believe.

WHITFIELD: So any questions answered for you?

CARGILL: You know, I had been studying Pilate for quite a while. It was nice to actually be able to go walk around, you know, where Pilate lived. It was actually Herod the Great's old palace.

And so to be -- to walk in that palace, to see the luxury that Pilate would have experienced, and then to make the trip into Jerusalem and, you know, where he was not liked and where didn't want to be, you can understand how he would have to rely on the Jewish leadership for some advice at least, because Pilate just -- was very brutal and very insensitive to Jewish needs and the religion.

WHITFIELD: Robert Cargill, thank you so much. And, of course, you can check out "Finding Jesus." It debuts tonight, 9:00 Eastern Time right here on CNN. And we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:57:07] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Our live pictures right now at Air Force One in West Palm Beach, Florida as the president of the United States wrap up his weekend at the winter White House.

Momentarily we understand that president should be heading back on to the plane and heading back to Washington. If he thought he was escaping kind of the flurry of attention surrounding investigations involving Russia and its involvement with the Trump campaign while he was away, well, his tweeting didn't help and now it's back to business in Washington, perhaps facing even more questions. We'll keep a close watch on Air Force One there.

All right, now for some other top stories. Police in Washington State are searching for a gunman who allegedly shot a Sikh man in the arm in front of his home. Authorities say the suspect told the man to, "Go back to your country," before pushing him to the ground and then opening fire. CNN's affiliate KIRO says police are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime. Doctors expect the victim to make a full recovery.

And Vice President Mike Pence is blasting the Associated Press after it published his wife's e-mail address. The A.P. included her address in its reporting on Mike Pence using a personal e-mail account to conduct official state business while he was governor of Indiana. When Pence demanded an apology, the A.P. removed his wife's e-mail address, but added, "The A.P. stands by its story, which addresses important transparency issues."

And "Saturday Night Live" is back. After a two-week hiatus and wasted no time calling out the U.S. attorney general, Kate McKinnon played Jeff Sessions while channeling her inner, or his inner Forrest Gump.

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KATE MCKINNON, ACTRESS: I was on the cover of the "The New York Times." You want to see?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It says you might have committed perjury.

MCKINNON: Yes. I had a bad week. Started out real good, president made a great speech. Folks were thrilled on account of it was real words in a row for a whole hour. We were all as happy as a monkey with a peanut machine. Then I went to bed, I got 800 messages on phone alerts saying I was a sneaky little liar. I didn't know what to do, so my lawyer said, "Run, Jeffrey, run."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right. The next hour of CNN Newsroom starts right now.

All right, thanks again for joining me this hour. I'm Fredericka Whitfield on this Sunday.

The chairman of the committee investigating Russia's involvement in the U.S. election says it will also investigate President Trump's unfounded claims that President Obama tapped his phone.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes issuing this statement saying, "The committee will make inquiries into whether the government was conducting surveillance activities on any political parties' campaign associates or surrogates. And we will continue to investigate this issue if the evidence warrants it."