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Stephen Miller Eyed For Possible Promotion; North Korea Hit Tough New Sanctions; NYT: Mueller Asks White House For Documents on Flynn; Trump Backs GOP Plan to Slash Legal Immigration into U.S.; Trump Gets Rave Reviews from Heartland on Job Performance; FBI Tracked Suspected Russia Disinformation on Election Day Looking for Fake News. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired August 5, 2017 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:10] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. It's 5:00 here in Eastern. I'm Ana Cabrera here in New York.
The United Nations Security Council speaking with one clear voice this weekend against the nuclear threat posed by North Korea a short time ago. It unanimously passed a draft resolution that hits North Korea with a slew of new sanctions. The rogue nation's punishment for the regimes continued missile launches in defiance of other U.N. resolutions. I just spoke to the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. You will hear what she told me in just a moment.
Also, the American National Security adviser leaving very little to interpretation when it comes to possible U.S. military response to the North Korean threat, more on that in a moment. And is this man on a fast track to a much larger role at the White House? He's a senior policy adviser and according to a White House officials, possibly the President's next communications director. We are following all these big stories right now.
CNN's Boris Sanchez is with us in Washington and traveling with the President in Bridgewater, New Jersey, CNN's Athena Jones.
Athena, to you first. Let's talk about Stephen Miller. A White House official now saying this weekend that Miller may be headed for a more visible role. What are you hearing?
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. That's right. This White House official described it as a possible elevated role in the Communications Department. This would be in addition to his current role as senior policy adviser. He is also a big part of the President's speech writing team. This source says that Steve Bannon, the President's chief strategist who is an ally of Stephen Miller favors restructuring the communication director role.
So, it's not clear whether Miller would actually get that title but they -- but the idea is to give him an elevated role in the Department. I should note though that CNN has also spoken with two sources who have said that the new chief of staff John Kelly may be favoring his own former Homeland Security spokesperson for the role of communications director. And I should mention that the White House source said that it wasn't clear whether Bannon had floated this idea of Stephen Miller having an elevated role to chief of staff John Kelly.
Of course now we're discussing it publicly so it's been floated publicly. And let's just briefly remind our viewers who Stephen Miller is. We saw him sparring last week with our own Jim Acosta over the White House's announcement about plans to restrict legal immigration. And immigration has really been Stephen Miller's pet issue for many years going back to when he served as an aide to then- Senator and now Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
But we haven't seen Stephen Miller in front of the camera for months now. He was instrumental in the planning and what many saw as a disastrous rollout of the administration's original travel ban targeting seven Muslim majority countries. He made the rounds on the Sunday shows trying to sell that ban, but one of the arguments he made at the time raised eyebrows because he pointed to terrorist attacks like 9/11, the Boston bomber and the San Bernardino attacks as three incidents that would have been prevented by this travel ban even though none of the attackers in those incidents came from any of those countries.
So, we saw them Stephen Miller take a more behind the scenes role. Now he's re-emerging. And we understand that the President liked the combative role he played last week during that briefing because the President likes to see people defending him vigorously on camera -- Ana.
CABRERA: Athena, thank you. Boris, let's talk about the special counsel investigation of the White House and the Trump campaign, the New York Times reporting this weekend. Robert Mueller and his team have now put Michael Flynn in very sharp focus. What exactly are they trying to get at here?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ana, "The New York Times" is reporting that Robert Mueller's special counsel is looking into the connections between the former national security adviser and the Turkish government. Allegedly Michael Flynn received secret payments from Turkey in exchange for his lobbying against a political opponent of the Turkish President Recep Erdogan.
From what we understand, "The New York Times" is reporting that Special Counsel Rob Mueller has requested very specific documents from the White House pertaining to Michael Flynn, even going so far as to question folks in the administration about his ties to Turkey. This coincides with what CNN is reported in the past. That the special counsel investigation on Flynn is focusing on payments made to him by foreign governments.
We have reached out to Flynn's attorneys, they have declined to comment on the story. We have also reached out to the White House's outside counsel, and we got a reply from Ty Cobb essentially saying that they would not detail communications between the President's lawyers and Robert Mueller and his investigative team except to say that they are fully complying with the investigation.
Very important to point out though, Ana, back in the spring we heard from leaders on the House Oversight Committee who said that the former National Security adviser may have broken the law by not disclosing payments from foreign countries on those security disclosure forms, security clearance forms not only the alleged payments from Turkey but also some from Russia and RTTV, the Russian News Agency and you remember, Ana, that Flynn ultimately was fired for lying to the Vice President about his conversations with a Russian ambassador. So, this is just one slice of a very broad investigation but it gives us an indication of where this is headed -- Ana.
[17:05:43] CABRERA: An investigation that just continues to broaden. Boris Sanchez and Athena Jones, thank you both.
Some breaking news from the U.N. Just a short time ago, the United Nations Security Council made a show of solidarity recording North Korea voting unanimously to impose tough new sanctions over the nuclear missile testing.
Joining me now is our senior U.N. correspondent Richard Roth and CNN's global affairs correspondent Elise Labott in Washington. Richard, you first. You were there. Was this move expected and just how hard will these sanctions be on the North Korean regime?
RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: It was expected, especially after the second ICBM launch test by North Korea. But Ambassador Nikki Haley of the U.S. last week said she didn't want to hold an emergency session where people just run in and diplomats make speeches. So, there's more teeth with a resolution that adds on to the pile of previous sanctions. They're cutting $1 billion of North Korea's export economy. Seafood, coal and other shipments to other countries. And reducing slashing hard currency North Korea receives from its foreign workers in other countries who Security Council diplomats said work in deplorable conditions.
Will this stop any missile tests? I think many people here would say they don't expect that. They are pleased whether it's the U.S. or China that there's unity for the moment again on North Korea. The differences remain on things like the anti-THAAD -- the missile defense that South Korea now has thanks to the United States. Trying to said it should be dismantled. Nikki Haley of the U.S. says, it's serving a valuable role for a growing threat -- Ana.
CABRERA: I just spoke with U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley and she said there's still more that needs to be done. Let's listen to what she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Is preemptive military action on the table right now?
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: That is all up to North Korea. At this point, they really have some serious decisions to make. What I will tell you from the United States' perspective is we're prepared to do whatever it takes to defend ourselves and to defend our allies and the ball is in North Korea's court. They now have to decide where they want to go from here. We hope that they will go the route of peace and security. We hope that they will go the route of focusing on human rights and
feeding their people. We hope that they'll go the route of stopping modern slavery that they do in terms of sending laborers overseas and then taking the money from that situation. But again, all of this now is all in North Korea's court and we'll see how they respond.
CABRERA: Well, we have seen how they have responded to the sanctions in the past and that's with more aggressive action. Kim Jong-un is accused of orchestrating the murder of his own brother. Can sanctions or diplomacy stop him?
HALEY: Well, you know, I think we did what we could in the U.N. and that was basically speak with one voice. He is now on an island. North Korea now has to look at the rest of the world and see that they're all telling them to stop this reckless activity. And they need to respond to that. And they need to respond in a good way. We want to see peace and security on the Korean Peninsula. We want to see responsibility come back in.
What we have seen is a reckless dictator who has been paranoid. Who's been irresponsible. And who has continued to make his own interests over the interests of his people. And I think that this is now going to see what they're going to do in response. But to have China stand with us along with Japan and North Korea and the rest of the international community telling North Korea to do this is pretty impactful. This was a strong day in the U.N. This was a strong day for the United States. It was a strong day for the international community. It was not a good day for North Korea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: So Elise, when we look at what could come next given these new sanctions, she's also not ruling out military action and in fact we heard McMaster, the national security adviser also speak today saying, military options have been presented to the President. But if you just look at the sanctions, everybody wants to avoid the military option, does this perhaps involve these so-called hard embargo and if so, doesn't that too carry a serious risk?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think what they wanted to do is ramp it up. So, certainly these are the toughest sanctions that you have seen in about a decade. And I think if this doesn't work they'll continue to ramp it up not just against North Korea but secondary sanctions against China and other countries that are doing business with North Korea.
I think what you have now, Ana, that you really didn't have under the Obama administration is a kind of commitment by the United States to actually do something about North Korea and they're showing that they're going to take actions. So, I think that this should send a message to North Korea that it's not going to be business as usual in the sense that's endless talking. Whether the U.S. wants -- obviously the U.S. doesn't want a military action, but what you have now is the real credible threat of force and I think that bolsters the case for diplomacy. [17:10:33] You have secretary of state Rex Tillerson out in Asia right
now. Looking for a diplomatic solution. So you know what's the incentive for Kim Jong-un to engage in a diplomatic solution? Now you have a ramped up sanctions, now you have a credible threat of military force. I think this added threat of force does I think send a message to Kim Jong-un that you know, he needs to do something.
CABRERA: Richard, you mentioned earlier Russia and China agreed to these sanctions but there are divisions including the deployment of the THAAD defense system as you talked about. If there were to be some kind of a military response, is there something that the U.S. might be able to pursue that would have the full support of the U.N. Security Council?
ROTH: Well, that is a big hypothetical in terms if there was a military action it depends by who's doing it, who's launching. There would always be grave concern as there is right now at the United Nations Security Council, of the wider conflict. They know the implications of what's happening. The diplomats who like to speak in hushed tones are using words like the French did an hour ago that it's a G4 type of encounter now.
They know the stakes keep going up. They have heard President Trump used rather aggressive language that we've had on other previous U.S. administrations and presidents talk tough at times. Everybody says, they'd like to get back to the negotiating table. But everyone on the western side says North Korea's got to take a major first step. They have -- they lied, they violated previous agreements so they want to see some true commitment to revealing how deep their nuclear program is. The question is, it's time going to run out on all of this?
CABRERA: Richard Roth and Elise Labott, thank you both.
Coming up, Robert Mueller issuing a grand jury subpoena in the Russia investigation. Meanwhile, the Special Counsel is also said to be following the Michael Flynn money trail. The latest developments and details, next.
[17:16:15] CABRERA: Back to new developments we're following in the Russia investigation this afternoon. "The New York Times" reporting that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has asked the White House to turn over documents related to former National Security advisor Michael Flynn. Now the paper says, investigators suspect Flynn's company was secretly paid by the Turkish government to help discredit an opposition candidate. This is first time that we know that the Special Counsel has asked the White House to turn over evidence.
Joining us, CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin, he is a former federal prosecutor who has worked closely with Special Counsel Mueller in the past. Also with us, Larry Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. And CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer, he is a historian and professor at Princeton University. So, Michael, I want to ask you first about this "New York Times"
reporting that suggests the Special Counsel probe has expanded into full examinations of Flynn's financial dealings beyond whether he simply failed to register as a foreign agent or lied about that conversation in his business arrangements from Russian officials. What should Flynn be most concerned about in terms of the legal trouble here?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, he's got a lot of issues that are percolating on the radar of his lawyers. And I think we have to make sure that we say at the outset that anything that Flynn is accused of or is alleged to have done, the prosecutors have to prove that he did so knowingly and willfully and not by accident. And so for example, he didn't register as a foreign agent and people say that that's a crime.
And maybe it is, if he did so knowingly and willfully. That he didn't disclose payments on a security forms. Again, that could be a crime if he did so knowingly and willfully and not by accident. With respect to the grand jury and the subpoenas, they're looking at the money trail that led to his being retained by Turkey through cutouts. Principally to damage the reputation of a cleric who lives in Pennsylvania and to do other related things.
And so, there's a money flow here that implicates possibly the money laundering statutes, possibly the foreign corrupt practices act because it looks like there maybe have been some sort of a kick back to the Turkish officials for the contract. These things are still in the very early stages of our understanding. But so we have money laundering, you've got corruption, you've got failure to register as the foreign agent. You have potential tax issues and then you have the security clearance, that's enough to keep a good group of lawyers busy for a long time and I'm sure General Flynn is sleeping less soundly than he might want to.
CABRERA: And we know that they have brought on at least 16 lawyers and they have more than three dozen people as part of the team of investigators that Mueller has brought on. Now, this is the first time we know of Julian, that the White House has actually been asked to turn over documentation. Remember, earlier we reported they were asked to preserve any documents that might be connected to this campaign and to the Russia investigation. But how big of a deal is it that they are now having to turn over something?
JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think this week was a big deal, it was an acceleration of the investigation. The grand jury certainly signals the next stage in Mueller's investigation. The request for the documentation with the clearer story about what might be the issue with Mike Flynn who we need to remember was a very high level official at the start of this administration in the campaign. Signals this is ramping up. And I think the White House is aware of this.
CABRERA: He's the National Security adviser that high up.
ZELIZER: And on the campaign trail, he was the voice of the administration from the convention on on National Security issue.
CABRERA: A huge adviser to the President. Larry, let me ask you this question. Trump has said this investigation is a witch-hunt. He's continued to use those words and yet there's been a couple of bipartisan efforts now, Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill, trying to protect the Special Counsel investigation. To prevent Mueller from being fired, to prevent Trump from making any recess appointments. What do you make of this?
LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA'S CENTER FOR POLITICS: Well, that's for the base. There's no question about it. He is speaking --
CABRERA: Which comments if that is the base, what you're saying?
SABATO: He wants to make sure that they're still with him, that they understand he's done nothing wrong at least in his view. But of course everybody hears what's going on and even some of his base will listen at least to part of it. What's really significant is, we seem to know more about what's happening to General Flynn than we do about what's happening perhaps to the Trump family behind the scenes with this new grand jury. What's revealing here is that Bob Mueller and his team are looking very carefully at the finances. It's right back to Watergate and it's right back to what deep throat said to Woodward and Bernstein, follow the money and the same thing may happen with Trump himself.
[17:21:32] CABRERA: Mueller was given a wide scope, we know now he's revealing records related to the Trump organization, his family, the campaign associates, he's also looking at list of people who have bought Trump related real estate or lived in Trump Towers and going through shell companies.
Now, Michael, what if going through all of this, they do find some kind of financial crimes for example that are completely unrelated to Russia at all, what do they do with that?
ZELDIN: Well, so, there are a couple of things. First is how -- you know, the Bill Clinton depends on how you define unrelated, is is question. Unrelated in what way. If it provides a motive for understanding the way that people behaved a couple of years later, then it's related. If it's completely unrelated that they just come across a crime independent within their mandate. Then under the regulations, they refer that -- they can refer that back to the Attorney General and say, look, guys, you take care of this, yourselves.
It's outside of our mandate or under the same regulations, they can go to the Attorney General and say, look, we came across this. It's not within our mandate per se. But you have the authority as Attorney General to expand our mandate and we'll just take it from here and they can do that. So they have got either option to give it back or to ask for an expansion of the mandate if it's truly unrelated.
CABRERA: Real quick following up. 2013 Miss Universe pageant, we know they were talking about what happened then, and who the business associates were around that time. That's a number of years ago. Is there a statute of limitations that could apply here, Michael?
ZELDIN: Well, it's not a statute of limitation in the sense that you're not charging those people with crime. I think that, you know, there are normal five year statutes of limitations that apply to some things and other things where it's not disclosed to you until later the statute of limitations starts at a later time. So, it's not a hard and fast rule when the statue would apply, but I think really the financial crimes here is partly an effort to understand why it is that people in the Trump ecosystem behaved as they behaved.
Was there a motive, was there a quid pro quo, a repayment at a later date for something done earlier? There are lots of stories in the press about the Trumps not being able to get lending from financial institutions, and they went to the Russians and Don, Jr. gave a speech in 2008 saying exactly that. So, I think you have to look at all of that stuff and say, how does that mosaic piece together? And then they'll make a decision where there's a crime at the bottom of the end.
CABRERA: Well, let's not forget there are the ongoing Congressional probes that are also happening in this. And we learned this week that the House Intelligence Committee staffers had actually gone to try to track down the person who was involved in that dossier if you'll recall and in fact they did and actually get to talk to that person. But they did it without any of their Democratic counterparts knowing. Julian, this was supposed to be a bipartisan committee. That doesn't look good.
ZELIZER: Right. Well, from the start the Congressional committees have been hampered. There's been a lot of partisan tension and the House Committee, it essentially broke down with the Democrats feeling that they were not participating. Democrats feeling that the Republicans were not really investigating and it is really essential at this point given what we know, given the level of the investigation that there is some bipartisan cooperation and that's going to be incumbent on the Republicans.
They control the committee. They control the Congress. But if they conduct this without including the Democrats, it taints the investigation from the beginning. Watergate ultimately did have bipartisan support and bipartisan buy-in and how the investigation was done and that made all the difference in making it be seen as legitimate. In contrast to the investigation, of President Clinton which was ultimately seen as a very partisan affair.
CABRERA: Very quickly, Larry, we're out of time but I do want to ask you this last question because you're talking about the politics of all this. Given what we just talked about and the bipartisan nature and not so much in some cases with these Congressional probes, do you put more weight on Mueller's investigation? Is that the one that you think is going to be the investigation that matters most?
SABATO: No question about it. I think most people realize that Mueller's team is very, very good and I don't think anybody would want those 16 lawyers plus Bob Mueller investigating them for anything. Don't forget though the Senate Committee has been somewhat bipartisan. Senator Byrd from North Carolina, Senator Warner from Virginia have worked well together. So, I don't think the House pattern is repeating in the Senate, at least not yet.
[17:26:16] CABRERA: All right. Larry Sabato and Julian Zelizer, Michael Zeldin, thank you all.
Coming up. With President Trump announcing his new immigration plan, alongside Republican senators, Tom Cotton and David Purdue, we talk to a congressman who represents a district that borders Mexico and get his thoughts on the President's plan. We'll be back live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Stay with us.
[17:30:48] CABRERA: President Trump is throwing his weight now behind a GOP plan to slash legal immigration into the U.S. with a new merit- based system. Here's what the president had to say when he endorsed the bill a couple of days ago. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This competitive application process will favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: The bill would create a point system for potential green card holders with points awarded for categories like age, education, English language proficiency, skills needed by the economy and salary. Backers of this plan say it is similar to immigration systems used in Australia and Canada. Economists, however, warn the GOP plan might actually hurt economic growth by reducing the number of available workers.
Let's talk it over with Texas Congressman Vicente Gonzalez. He's a Democrat. And he's joining us now from Texas.
Thank you, Congressman.
How is this immigration plan being received, first, on Capitol Hill among you and your colleagues?
REP. VICENTE GONZALEZ, (D), TEXAS: Well, obviously, it's going to be dead on arrival. And it's unfortunate, because it's another lost opportunity rooted by partisan politics. I think both parties are interested in talking about some type of intelligent immigration plan for the country. But when you use English proficiency as a standard to immigrate to the United States of America, it's obviously flawed. I can assure you the members of both Congress and the Senate have at some point in history had an ancestor who was not proficient if the English language. It's never been a standard used to immigrate to this great country and we shouldn't begin now. When you discriminate on age, I mean, we have laws that prohibit age discrimination.
CABRERA: Age is one of the points that would be awarded based on how old you are.
CABRERA: And of course, the younger you are, in this particular plan, when you look into the nitty-gritty details, it's like the 26 to 31- year-olds who would get preference. But are there any parts of this bill or specific policy changes you could support?
GONZALEZ: You know, there are. I was reading the bill, and I mentioned that to one of the staffers today. I said, you know, I do think we should vet folks by talents that are useful to our country and some of the ways that are used in Canada or Australia may fit into our immigration plan. But you really just kill it on arrival, you water it down so much that it loses bipartisan support when you use factors such as age or language proficiency. I think, really, it loses a lot of credibility and legitimacy. That's why we should have everyone at the table in one room talking about these issues. We have experts on both sides of the aisle that I think need to participate in this conversation.
CABRERA: Economists have said that this type of plan could slow job growth. We know that there are already worker shortages in some industries. How are small business owners in your Texas district responding to this plan?
GONZALEZ: Oh, it would affect us -- it would have a certain effect. We have a lot of agriculture in my district that relies on immigrant workers. And I believe that in Texas we hire, you know, some of the best engineers at our chemical plants that immigrate from across the world, all the way down to, you know, local hardworking people that are harvesting what we eat every day and on our American tables. These are issues that we should have legitimacy when we talk about it. We should have folks on both sides of the aisle have a serious conversation and not play partisan politics. This is too grave of an issue for this country to play partisan politics. And at the end of the day, it just ends up being a monumental waste of time for Congress. We have had several bills passed through Congress and get parked in the Senate and this just looks like another one of them.
CABRERA: I'm curious how the Congressional Hispanic Caucus might respond to this. Have you spoken with the leadership of that caucus about immediate action?
GONZALEZ: You know, I haven't. I have been on recess. I have been working in my district since I arrived. So, no, I haven't. This is a -- I read some of the commentary. Everybody is against it. When you use language and you want to divide families up as a standard to immigrate to this country, it's a problem.
[17:35:13] CABRERA: You are a son of a Korean War veteran who attended a school on a military base. The issue of deporting veterans I know is near and dear to your heart.
CABRERA: You asked Governor Abbott, a Republican, to pardon undocumented veterans from Texas who were deported for minor crimes. Have you received a response from the government there?
GONZALEZ: I have not. These are veterans who were here legally, permanent U.S. residents, who had no prior criminal history to -- before serving our country, served honorably, were honorably discharged, and then later ended up getting charged with a minor crime, and next thing you know they're in a deportation center being deported to countries around the world. I find that shameful that we would treat our veterans like that. I hope I have bipartisan support in the House. And I would hope that Governor Abbott and the Board of Pardons in Texas would pardon veterans who served honorably, who were charged with a minor crime, and get ahead of the federal gang and bring our Texas veterans who -- home. He won't be the first governor to do it. It's happened -- another governor has already done this. I think Texas should be last on getting online in helping our veterans. And I certainly hope that the governor will support this idea and will talk to folks in the Board of Pardons and try to bring our heroes home.
CABRERA: Congressman Vicente Gonzales, thank you for your time this weekend.
GONZALEZ: Thank you. It's a real pleasure.
CABRERA: Coming up, strong support in the heartland helped President Trump get to the White House. But with no major legislative wins after six months, is that support still as strong? What voters have to say about the president's stalled agenda, next.
[17:40:58] CABRERA: An incredible upset as a legend exits the world stage. You've got to listen to this. American Justin Gatlin -- go American -- just beat out Usain Bolt in the 100-meter race at the world championships in London. Gatlin finished in 9.92 seconds. Fellow American Christian Coleman was second and Bolt, the eight-time Olympic gold medalist, finished third. It's the first time in 10 years that he has been beaten in an individual race. He is the fastest man on earth, holding the world record. He is just about to retire after one final relay race next weekend. But again, an incredible upset. And props to the runners from the USA. Bolt, what a legacy he leaves. I'm a track and field nerd, in case you couldn't tell.
Turning to the nation's heartland, President Trump is getting rave reviews for the first six months in office from his supporters in Nebraska. He easily won that state in the 2016 election, beating Hillary Clinton by almost 25 percentage points.
CNN's Alex Marquardt went to Nebraska for an update on the president's job performance. Here's what he found.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a stifling hot and humid field of alfalfa that Bob Hilger is driving across. The 72- year-old farmer is the head of what's become a family affair, growing and bailing hay that will feed nearby cattle.
BOB HILGER, TRUMP VOTER: This was the first pipeline.
MARQUARDT: Hilger also rents out some of his land for a pump station for the controversial Keystone Pipeline, which was revived by President Trump.
HILGER: I'm really impressed with all the things he's accomplished. Energy security is one of his big things and that's what this is all about.
MARQUARDT: Eastern Nebraska is deep in the heart of Trump country. Here in Butler County, the president beat Hillary Clinton overwhelmingly with almost 80 percent of the vote.
David City, population 2,900. Locals tell us that support for Trump has hardly wavered.
HILGER: I didn't think he would meet with as much resistance from people who refused to acknowledge he's the president of the United States.
MARQUARDT (on camera): When you see the efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare collapse as they have over the past few days, you don't blame President Trump for part of that?
HILGER: Oh, heavens no. He's being obstructed in every way they can.
MARQUARDT: Do you feel he's accomplished quite a bit?
HILGER: Yes. He's laying the groundwork for the future for us, for the military, for our national security and for employing people. And that's awfully important. People got to have jobs, so they feel comfortable. And when they know the military's strong, they feel safe. They want to make sure that they have a paycheck and that nobody is threatening their life. That's what most people are concerned about.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): No cracks in Hilger's support, even when asked about the president's tweeting of personal attacks and his controversial comments like those about the French first lady's physical appearance.
HILGER: He's one of us. He talks to people like he wants them to talk to him. He talks to people like I like to talk to people.
MARQUARDT: The people of David City get together at this time of year at the county fair for rides, dancing and judging livestock.
(CROWING) MARQUARDT: The fair's events were opened by local veterans, led by Vietnam War vet, Larry Sabata. He and his wife, Ann, have a son who served in Iraq. They blame distractions, including the Russia investigation, for lack of progress.
ANN SABATA, TRUMP SUPPORTER: If they let him be a president, if the media would leave him alone. If the -- they come together, it would be ok, but he always has to side step something.
LARRY SABATA, TRUMP SUPPORTER: It's rough for him. He's got to get everybody together. He's got to get the Republicans back on board, as well as the Democrats. And all of this other small diddley stuff, I'll call it, like Russia. The American people want to see results already.
[17:45:05] MARQUARDT: The result that matters most to Larry and Ann Sabata, to Bob Hilger, and so many more here is that Trump is in office. And their voice was heard.
LARRY SABATA: They just laugh. They said, running for president, are you kidding? Nobody took that guy serious. Well, they forgot about us deplorables here in the Midwest. They totally forgot about us.
MARQUARDT: Alex Marquardt, CNN, David City, Nebraska.
CABRERA: Coming up, as we learn that the FBI monitored social media sites on Election Day last year, new details about what they were looking for, and why the Trump campaign is facing questions.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[17:50:10] CABRERA: New insight into the ongoing investigation into Russia's meddling into the 2016 presidential election. CNN is learning that the FBI monitored social media on Election Day to track Russian efforts to spread fake news and conspiracies about then- Candidate Hillary Clinton. The question now is, did the Trump campaign have anything to do with promoting these stories?
Here's CNN's Drew Griffin.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's no question, according to the FBI, that Russia used fake news to try to influence the 2016 election.
UNIDENTIFIED FBI AGENT: They also push fake news and propaganda. And they used online amplifiers to spread the information to as many people as possible.
GRIFFIN: What Democratic congressional investigators want to know is whether Russia colluded with the Trump campaign to spread false information about Hillary Clinton through Facebook.
SEN. MARK WARNER, (D-VA), RANKING MEMBER, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I commend them because --
GRIFFIN: Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, has traveled to Facebook headquarters in California. While he won't discuss specifics of the meeting, he tells CNN he wants to know whether the Trump campaign helped Russians to target fake news to specific Facebook users.
WARNER: I'd like to look into the activities of the Trump digital campaign. I will point out this, Facebook, which basically denied any responsibility around our elections, by the time the French elections took place this spring, they took down 30,000 fake sites.
GRIFFIN: Fake sites spreading fake news, mostly negative about Hillary Clinton. The Democratic theory? Somehow, the Trump campaign and Russians colluded to do it.
(on camera): Go ahead and tell me what we see right here.
(voice-over): This is why it matters. Look at this program that tracks social media. You can clearly see the explosion of completely fabricated stories, fake news, in the months just before November's election.
GABRIELE BOLAND, CONTENT STRATEGIST, NEWSWHIP: In the fall, it just became so much of a problem.
GRIFFIN: Gabriele Boland, content strategist with NewsWhip, a social media analytics firm, says fake news spiked astronomically in the months before the election, mostly fabricated stories about Hillary Clinton or Democrats, with headlines like "Donald Trump protester speaks out: I was paid $3500 to protest Trump's rally." The story is from a fake news site made to appear like the real ABC News. It was created by Paul Warner, who told CNN he writes fake news to make money, but that did not stop his completely fake story from spreading through conservative media.
And there's this story, "FBI agent suspected in Hillary e-mail leaks found dead in an apparent murder-suicide." This story was 100 percent made up, released on a made-up news site called "Denver Guardian." Nothing about it was true. The author admitted that to CNN. Yet, it had nearly 570,000 shares, likes, comments on Facebook and published four days before the election.
The questions Democrats want answered are, how did fake stories from fake websites become so popular so quickly, and did someone pay to boost fake news.
ANNOUCER: Decades of lies, coverups, and scandals.
GRIFFIN: Facebook was a massive part of the Trump campaign's online advertising efforts.
CARTOON CHARACTER: I went to Wall Street - GRIFFIN: 95 percent of Trump's fundraising ads were placed on the platform, according to campaign officials.
(on camera): But the Trump campaign flatly denied any Russian collusion whatsoever. And, though, not appearing on camera, the Trump campaign official who oversaw all of the Trump campaign's digital advertising, is going on record at CNN to say it simply didn't happen.
GARY COBY, DIRECTOR OF ADVERTISING, TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Trump followers had amazing engagement.
GRIFFIN: Gary Coby, the former director of advertising for the Republican National Committee and the Trump for President campaign told CNN by phone, "We'd never put money behind someone else's Facebook page or source." And added, "We did not back anyone's Hillary's stories, had nothing to do with fake Hillary stories, or any Hillary stories that weren't our own."
BRAD PARSCALE, DIGITAL DIRECTOR, TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: We would produce content.
GRIFFIN: Brad Parscale, a lead contractor on Trump's digital campaign, has also denied involvement with Russia. Parscale has been called to testify before the House Intelligence Committee to swear to that under oath.
Facebook has done its own internal review and has reported it did find malicious actors with fake accounts spreading misinformation during the campaign, but said in a statement to CNN, "We've been in touch with a number of government officials, including Senator Warner, who are looking into the 2016 U.S. presidential election. We'll continue to cooperate with the officials as their investigations continues. As we said, we've seen no evidence Russian actors bought ads on Facebook in connection with the election.
Drew Griffin, CNN, New York.
[17:55:08] CABRERA: Our thanks to Drew.
This week's "CNN Hero," Mariuma Ben Yosef, has dedicated herself to helping vulnerable youth in Israel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIUMA BEN YOSEF, CNN HERO: To be homeless at the young age it's very lonely. When you don't have your family, it's all a black hole.
BEN YOSEF: I know what they're going through. I want children to breathe. I want them to feel alive. I want them to feel secure. I want them to feel they can hugged and not be in danger. We can see it in a different way and win life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Does her energy and spirit not just jump out at you watching that video? To see more on how Mariuma helps young people, go to cnnheros.com. And while there, nominate someone you think should be a 2017 "CNN Hero."
That's going to do it for me for now. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. I'll be back in one hour here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
"SMERCONISH" is next.