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Consumer Agency Now Has Two Acting Leaders; Egypt Death Toll at 305; Flynn's Attorneys Stop Sharing Info with Trump's Lawyers; New Roy Moore Ad Blasts Allegations As "False"; North Korean Soldier's Daring Escape Captured On Video; Some Retailers Worry This Could Be Last Black Friday. Aired 11a-12n ET
Aired November 25, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:22] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Good afternoon.
I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Welcome this Saturday.
Major confusion today over who is in charge of a top U.S. consumer watchdog agency. And it's a fight that could be headed for a showdown between the U.S. President, Congress, and the courts.
President Trump named White House budget director Mick Mulvaney as interim chief of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after its director stepped down. But that set up a political and legal clash, because the outgoing director chose someone else -- the chief of staff.
In a tweet, Senator Elizabeth Warren, who helped create the consumer agency said this, "The Dodd-Frank Act is clear. If there is a CFPB director vacancy, the deputy director becomes acting director. Donald Trump can't override that."
For more on this looming confrontation, let's bring in CNN White House reporter Abby Phillip. So, Abby, the man the President chose voted to kill this agency when he was in Congress. Any indication that he has had a change of heart perhaps?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning -- Fredricka.
That's very unlikely. Mick Mulvaney has been one of the strongest critics against the CFPB, both in Congress and in this White House.
Take a listen to some of the things that he's had to say in the past about the agency that he's about to lead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: It's a wonderful example of how a bureaucracy will function if it has no accountability to anybody. It turns up being a joke, and that's what the CFPB really has been, in a sick, sad kind of way because you've got an institution that has tremendous authority over what you all do for a living, over your businesses, over your members.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: So, supporters of the CFPB a little worried today that when Mick Mulvaney is in charge, he might be presiding over a gutting of this agency.
Now, as you mentioned, there is a dispute over whether or not he, in fact, is in charge. The White House said this morning to reporters that they believe the President has full authority to appoint his successor and that Leandra English, who was named the deputy director of the agency will report to work on Monday, but will not be in charge of CFPB.
A little bit of confusion here, but the White House thinks this is a clear-cut decision in the President's favor -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: Ok, very confusing. Abby Phillip -- thank you so much.
All right. Joining me right now is Richard Painter, former chief White House ethics lawyer for George W. Bush. So Richard -- good to see you.
Is this likely to be a real showdown? Because if the, you know, deputy director is going to report to work, it looks like there is, as Abby just said, there'll be confusion as to whether she's going to be the director or back to her usual job.
RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER CHIEF WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: Yes, there will be a showdown. I think that Senator Elizabeth Warren is correct in her interpretation of the statute. There are separation of powers issues, other issues have to be addressed by court, but that will be sorted out.
What is really shocking here is that the President nominates someone to head an agency who believes that the agency really ought to be abolished. That's like nominating a pacifist to run the Department of Defense. It makes absolutely no sense to have someone who really is just going to sympathize with the lenders and others and not with consumers.
This bureau was established to protect American consumers against predatory lending and other practices that contributed enormously to the financial meltdown of 2008. And we can't have somebody running it who doesn't want to carry forth the mission of the agency as set forth by Congress under law.
And if they want to repeal the law, then they could try to repeal it. But the law is the law and I think Elizabeth Warren is right with respect to the succession in the agency.
WHITFIELD: Might this be a precursor to a potential repealing of that law if the President is going this route by naming Mulvaney into this position as opposed to the chief of staff or deputy director?
PAINTER: Well, yes. The problem is they don't probably have the votes to repeal that law, because all the members of Congress on the House side have to stand for re-election and a third of the Senate.
And this is a bureau that is there to protect consumers -- ordinary people against predatory lending. They are getting a lot of campaign contributions from the lending institutions, and, of course, the Trump administration is getting a lot of campaign contributions from them too, but they don't want to appeal the law and alienate the voters.
[11:05:06] So they want to do this through the back door. Just put someone in charge of the agency who will gut the agency. But I don't think the American people are going to fall for it. And, yes, it's going to end up in court.
WHITFIELD: Yes. So Mulvaney has already called that agency a joke when he was a member of congress.
So we saw the tweet from Senator Warren referring to the Dodd-Frank Act and so did the outgoing director, Richard Cordray. Are they correct that the deputy director takes over until the Senate confirms a permanent director and that confirmation would happen by way of the U.S. Senate?
PAINTER: I believe they are correct in their interpretation of the statute. That's a difficult question that ought to be determined by the courts. I believe they are correct. The President is going to argue that he's correct, and that can be sorted out. It is definitely a legal showdown.
The important point, though, is that the President is trying to gut this agency, trying to effectively repeal a statute without going to Congress to repeal the statute because the members of Congress are not willing to do that. So they are going to do it through the back door, destroy this agency.
And that's what the plan is here. And that's what we need to be focusing on. And we'll let the courts figure out the succession.
WHITFIELD: And even in the director, Richard Cordray's resignation letter, or letter to his staff, he said accordingly upon my departure, she -- meaning the deputy -- will become the acting director pursuant to Section 1011 of the Dodd-Frank Act -- making direct, you know, reference to that.
So do you see that this is likely to find its way in court?
PAINTER: I would think so. The statute appears to me to be quite clear. I think he's correct. I think Senator Warren is correct.
We also have a White House that has no respect for the law. I mean we had Kellyanne Conway violating the Hatch Act on the White House lawn a couple of days ago and the White House just completely distorts the Hatch Act in defending her.
So I don't have any trust in the statutory interpretation coming out of this White House. They make it all up. It's alternative facts. We need a judge to sort this out.
WHITFIELD: All right. Richard Painter -- always good to see you. Thanks so much.
And this breaking news into CNN. The U.S. Navy has identified the three sailors killed when their plane crashed off the coast of Japan Wednesday -- Lieutenant Steven Combs, Airman Matthew Chialastri, and Airman Apprentice Bryan Grosso. This comes after the military notified their families that the extensive search and rescue efforts have ended. We'll have more details next hour.
Still ahead, Egypt strikes back against suspected terrorists following a brutal assault on a mosque. What we're learning about the attackers, next.
[11:07:50] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.
We're following new developments out of Egypt where the death toll in the horrifying massacre at a mosque has climbed to 305. Egyptian authorities say more than two dozen attackers surrounded the mosque before setting off explosives and then gunning down people as they tried to run.
CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is joining me now from Cairo.
So has ISIS taken responsibility for this attack, given that there were witnesses who said they saw ISIS flags during the attack?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No. To the best of our knowledge, Fredricka, they have not taken credit for this attack. Although yes, the Egyptian public prosecutor did put out a statement that was read on television saying that the attackers did wave an ISIS flag.
And now we understand, according to the official news agency here in Egypt, that the death toll is 305, including 27 children, 128 people wounded.
Now, according to this account, somewhere between 25 and 30 men showed up outside this mosque, the Rawdah mosque for noon day prayers in five SUVs. They placed themselves in front of the mosque, and apparently also at all of the 12 windows to the mosque.
Then they set up -- set off some sort of explosive and as people were running out of the mosque, they opened fire, killing this horrendous number of people. And as people were trying to flee and ambulances were trying to arrive at the mosque, the terrorists opened fire on the ambulances, as well.
So this is by any measure the worst terrorist attack in modern Egyptian history. But, of course, the struggle between the Egyptian government and militants in the Sinai goes back many years. In fact, since 2013 more than 1,000 members of the Egyptian security services have been killed in this ongoing battle. Now, we know that the Egyptian Air Force did launch a number of air strikes on vehicles they believe were involved in the attack on the mosque. And they also hit, from what we've seen in a cockpit video put out by the Egyptian Air Force, they hit storage points for weapons and ammunition.
But as we heard from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt is going to use brute force in responding to this attack. And I think what we've seen so far is only the beginning of that effort to crush the terrorists in Sinai, which has gone on, as I said, for several years -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: Yes. And of course, their hope is that those recent bombings may help avert the next strike at innocent victims.
All right. Ben Wedeman -- thank you so much.
[11:15:00] All right, still ahead, Michael Flynn's lawyers no longer sharing information with President Trump's legal counsel -- could this mean that Flynn is preparing to cut a deal with the special counsel? And if so, what would that mean for the overall Russia investigation?
WHITFIELD: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be in Texas today for the funeral of a fallen border patrol agent. Rogelio Martinez died in a Texas hospital last weekend after he and another agent were seriously injured while on patrol.
[11:19:59] The FBI won't say exactly what happened, calling it a potential assault. The governor of Texas says Martinez was attacked, but the local sheriff says his injuries may be consistent with a fall into a culvert, where he and his partner were found. His partner is having trouble remembering what happened.
As the President gets ready to make his final push to congress on tax reform next week, the specter of the Russia investigation continues to follow him. Sources tell CNN that former national security adviser Michael Flynn's lawyers are cutting off communications with President Trump's legal team.
It comes just weeks after CNN reported that Flynn was increasingly concerned about the potential legal exposure of his son in the investigation.
I want to talk it all over with our panel now. Julian Zelizer is a CNN political analyst and historian at Princeton University; and CNN national security analyst Samantha Vinograd. She served on President Obama's National Security Council. Good to see you both.
JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning.
WHITFIELD: All right. So Julian -- to you first. Six months ago Flynn's attorney said, you know, he would use the Fifth Amendment, you know, unless he was granted immunity from prosecution. So, you know, if he doesn't get a deal, so to speak, but he is, quote, unquote, "cooperating" with the special counsel, what potentially could that be leading to?
ZELIZER: Well, this brings us someone who was in the White House for a time, unlike Paul Manafort, and so that switches the narrative to the election to the presidency.
It could also bring us information both about the financial ties that advisers like Flynn had, in this case with Turkey that were not always put forward in -- in documents. And at the same time the obstruction issue revolved in part about Flynn with statements by President Trump that he wanted the Flynn investigation to go away.
So it actually is quite important. He's a big piece of this puzzle inside the presidency, not just in the campaign.
WHITFIELD: And Samantha, President Trump's lawyer Jay Sekulow said, you know, quote, "No one should draw the conclusion that this means anything about General Flynn cooperating against the President". But as you read that, does it still indicate that perhaps the White House is a little worried?
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think that people in the White House are probably uneasy this weekend, and here's why.
The national security advisor is not a one-man team. I worked at the White House for several years, and I can tell you that every phone call that the national security advisor has, every meeting, is scheduled by someone, staffed by someone, someone helps the national security advisor prepare.
And typically if there's a high stakes meeting, the national security advisor is giving readouts, at least to senior staff, if not the President.
So if Michael Flynn was involved in some kind of illegal activity, whether during the transition or while at the White House, it will be very unusual to me that no one had any idea what he was up to.
WHITFIELD: And it may not just be the, you know, potential illegal activity that the investigators are looking into in terms of, you know, his doing work for, you know, Turkey, not disclosing that; but simply being present and being on that national security advising team in the transition.
And then just that first month or so in office he may have been eyewitness to, listen to, overheard, seen documents, et cetera, that the special counsel would be very interested in, correct -- Samantha?
VINOGRAD: I would assume so. If they are investigating potential collusion with Russia, we do know that Michael Flynn received payments from the Russians that he did not disclose. We also know that he met with Ambassador Kislyak and discussed sanctions.
Now, discussing the incoming administration's policies towards future Russian sanctions would tell me that he had to discuss with other future administration officials whether or not to tell Kislyak whether those sanctions would be implemented or not. So it seems to me like there were a lot of folks discussing what was or was not going to happen with Russian, alongside General Flynn.
WHITFIELD: And Julian, this investigation is proving to be really very, you know, multifaceted and very complicated. Do you think now is the appropriate time, where there are those who still want to make those comparisons to Watergate, that perhaps it's not potentially, you know, the crime that investigators are looking into, but, you know, the cover-up of the crime or any other tentacles of any potential investigation?
ZELIZER: Well, I think that's exactly true. Mueller is looking at that issue, I think in particular, the obstruction issue.
And with Richard Nixon, obviously, that was the aspect of his presidency that brought him down, much more than the break-in to the Watergate complex.
[11:24:59] And in this case we're looking not simply at the election and the activities of advisers, but how did President Trump respond. And was the firing of James Comey, the FBI director, as President Trump himself has suggested, an effort to push away this investigation?
So it's a very serious matter, and that's why the news about Flynn this weekend will cause concern in the White House.
WHITFIELD: And Samantha, the loyalty between Flynn and Trump seemed evident, particularly at the beginning stages of this investigation when Trump kept saying, you know, he's a good guy, you know, essentially asking investigators to kind of back off.
But now if you've got attorneys representing both of these teams now, no longer talking, do you see that that loyalty just might be severed?
VINOGRAD: Well, I don't know much about the personal relationship between Trump and General Flynn, but I do know that General Flynn looks like he has a lot of legal exposure here. And we also know that President Trump has already been deeply distracted by this investigation.
And we have to be honest about the fact that we're at a period of enhanced national security risk right now. We know from various reporting threads in the President's own Twitter feed that National Security Council staff are anxious, they are worried about the investigation.
And the truth of the matter is, any time that President Trump or White House staff spend worrying about the investigation or distracted by it, they are not doing their day jobs. And we know there's no shortage of threats coming at us, so we're more vulnerable right now.
WHITFIELD: Samantha Vinograd, Julian Zelizer -- thanks to both of you. Happy Thanksgiving weekend.
ZELIZER: Thank you. WHITFIELD: Still so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.
But first, if you're traveling this holiday season, taking great photos -- well, it's a big part of exploring some place new. Here are some ways to capture the biggest moments in pictures.
VANESSA YURKEVICH, REPORTER: One way to capture great moments and memories while traveling is to put down the smartphone and pick up an instant camera like this one from Fuji Film. This is the Instax Mini 70 and it's really lightweight, easy to carry, and provides really good high quality photos.
My favorite feature is selfie mode. There's even a little tiny mirror so you can make sure that you capture the perfect selfie. It prints hard copy photos on the go, which makes for a fun souvenir or sharing with friends.
With companies like Shoot My Travel, you can book a professional photo shoot in the city you're traveling to.
ANDRES ECHEVERRY, SHOOT MY TRAVEL: More than a service, what we offer for our customers is an experience.
YURKEVICH: The company has a network of more than 400 photographers in about 50 countries. Travelers can book in advance online or on demand through the app.
ECHEVERRY: Put the selfie stick down or your cell phone down, and just live the moment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I get memories with my kids and don't have to worry about shooting them by themselves. I can get pictures of the whole family together.
[11:28:09] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: In a little over two weeks, Alabama voters will decide whether to send Republican Roy Moore or Democrat Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate. Monday is the last day for Alabamans to register to vote in that special election. Moore has seen some of his support erode in the polls, but he is, again, firing back against sexual assault allegations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Five state campaigns, four years of honorable service, Roy Moore has been intensity scrutinized and not a hint of scandal. But four weeks before the election, false allegations, schemed by the Republican establishment to protect their big government trough. But we know a vote for Roy Moore means conservative judges, tax cuts and rebuilding the military. Roy Moore, right choice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right, so that's Roy Moore's campaign ad. Bill Britt is the editor-in-chief of the "Alabama Political Reporter" and joins me live via Skype from Etowah County, Alabama. Good to see you, Bill.
So, Alabama's governor, Kay Ivy, has said that she will be voting for Roy Moore despite saying that she also believes the allegations of these women and she expressed her concern about protecting the Republican majority in the Senate.
Do you believe that's how most Alabama voters are thinking, as well, they are thinking about, you know, the balance of power in the U.S. Senate?
BILL BRITT, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, ALABAMA POLITICAL REPORTER: Fredricka, that's what we're hearing right now on the ground. Of course, it's mixed. There are people that do not like Roy Moore. They are hardened on that side. There are people that like Roy Moore and they are hardened on that side, and then there are a lot of Republicans that are going to hold their nose and vote for Roy Moore for just the reason that you just stated.
WHITFIELD: And then it's also been reported that, you know, it's really important, you know, to have a diversified vote, and that in so many circles there are a number of African-Americans who are staying away from the polls. How potentially influential could it be if, indeed, more black voters do go to the polling stations on that special election day?
[11:35:00] BRITT: Well, I think that's quite possibly the key to Doug Jones winning, because in Jefferson County, a large African-American population just elected a really bright young man to lead that city of Birmingham.
Also in Montgomery County, there's a special election to replace a long serving state senator, who also is African-American. So, they can get out the vote, that will have a great impact. This is going to be a tight race. It's probably two, four points right now in real time.
WHITFIELD: Yes. And I also read, though, can't be presumed that of the majority of black voters who do vote, that they would be voting Democrat.
BRITT: That's absolutely true. Because we spoke with congregation the other day, didn't want to be on the record, but their preacher said that the devil was at work here and that trying to take down Roy Moore.
So, listen, whites, blacks, Latinos, none of us fall into a stereotypical mindset. We're all individuals, we're all American citizens, Alabamans, we make up our own mind about who we're going to vote for. I think we have to get beyond those stereotypes in many ways here in the South especially. WHITFIELD: So how potentially influential is the pro-choice versus pro-life, you know, platform? How persuasive is that position as to how voters will select their candidate, their choice?
BRITT: Well, Fredricka, it's very, very important. I mean, 16 percent or more of the people in Alabama are pro-life, and they vote on that issue. So, it's a strong indicator of how people are going to vote. It may be a single issue to some, but to some that's a single issue that matters more than others.
WHITFIELD: Democrat Doug Jones, have you seen a change in the way in which he has been campaigning? Are people reminded that he was the attorney who helped, you know, lead to the conviction of those involved, you know, in the church bombing in Birmingham so many years ago, the conviction that he was involved in or that he helped successfully lead to the conviction happened just barely under 20 years ago.
BRITT: I know, and that made him world famous, because of that case, you know, taking that out of the obscurity and really doing a great job of bringing those men to justice. I mean, that's an important thing, but Jones is considered by many in Alabama a liberal Democrat. He's trying to persuade people that he's a moderate, but just the abortion issue alone will cause some people, not all folks, to not vote for him or stay home.
WHITFIELD: I remember that case. I covered that and remember at the time that conviction was considered a real turning point, but now here we are at a new turning point for this race in the U.S. Senate. Bill Britt, thank you so much. We'll keep tabs with you over the next couple of weeks.
All right, President Trump causing some confusion over his tweet claiming to turn down "Time" magazine's offer to be person of the year. The president tweeting this, "Time magazine called to say that I was going to be named man/person of the year like last year, but I would have to agree to an interview and major photo shoot. I should probably this is no good, took a pass, thanks anyway."
But guess what, "Time" shot back saying, "The president is incorrect about how we choose person of the year. "Time" does not comment on our choice until publication, which is December 6th."
President Trump was named "Time's" person of the year in 2016 following his victory over Hillary Clinton, and we won't know this year's winner for another 11 days.
All right, still ahead, a North Korean soldier flees the country under a hail of bullets. His brazen escape all caught on camera. What life is like for him now after carrying out what some have called a real suicide mission, but he lives to tell the story next.
[11:43:42] WHITFIELD: A heroic escape, that's how fellow defectors describe the soldier who fled North Korea amid gunfire. The entire escape played out like a dramatic action film with real life or death consequences, and the North Korean regime is not pleased. Workers already have dug trenches and planted trees along the border to try to prevent future escapes.
CNN's Anna Coren is in Seoul with more details.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see him moving at a good rate of speed.
ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Speeding down a deserted road on the DMZ, a North Korean soldier is attempting something the U.N. Command says no one has ever done before.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will see some KPA soldiers come out of this building here as the vehicle quickly moves past them.
COREN: Using an Army jeep, he drives to within meters of the South Korean border and under a rain of bullets from his own comrades, he runs across the demarcation line, defecting.
KANG RI-HYUK, NORTH KOREAN DEFECTOR (through translator): There have been many defectors, but this is the first one I want to praise for bravery. He was heroic. I never thought to do this because it's a suicide mission.
COREN: The 32-year-old Kang Ri-Hyuk would know. He spent ten years as an officer in the North Korean People's Army based on the DMZ and while he thought about defecting, he never imagined pulling off such a daring escape.
[11:45:03] Instead, he crossed the border into China, made his way to Thailand and then defected to South Korea four years ago. And that's where he met his wife, also a defector, who doesn't want her identity revealed fearing for the safety of her family back in North Korea.
Conditions were harsh. Everyone was hungry, even the soldiers, he says. The U.N. is sending rice and fertilizer and it all goes to the ranking officials. There are many soldiers who also die from disease because they're not given medical treatment.
The latest defector the third this year, suffered serious injuries to his arms and abdomen from at least four bullet wounds. By the time he was medevac'd to hospital, he had lost more than 50 percent of his blood and was almost dead.
While surgeons were operating, they discovered dozens of parasitic worms, some up to 27 centimeters long, which doctors say were the result of poor hygiene and malnutrition.
(on camera): Back in the 1990s, famine and starvation plagued North Korea, but the U.N. says malnutrition is still a major problem. More than 40 percent of the population is under nourished and one in four children face chronic malnutrition. And while North Korean soldiers are generally treated better than civilians, life is still a constant struggle.
(voice-over): This exclusive footage obtained by a South Korean Christian Mission shows North Korean soldiers physically plowing the soil instead of using livestock and here, they're foraging through a bird's nest hunting for chicks presumably to eat.
Pastor Kim Sung-Eun, who heads the mission has rescued hundreds of North Koreans. He says while this footage is bleak, it's not hunger that motivates defectors, but rather, the desire for freedom.
North Koreans are thirsty for the outside world and frustrated by the reality they face, he explains. Those who defect including soldiers are hungry for information and have a strong desire to get out.
Kang says he, too, wanted a better life, especially for his new family. And now working as a journalist, he occasionally broadcasts loud speaker messages to the North Korean soldiers and has this message for his fellow defector.
KANG RI-HYUK, NORTH KOREAN DEFECTOR (through translator): Congratulations on your defection, happy South Korea. I wonder if you heard my broadcast and it helped with your decision. I hope we can meet and have a soju.
COREN: Anna Coren, CNN, Seoul.
WHITFIELD: And now, would you believe, awards have been handed out for the South Korean and U.S. soldiers who helped rescue that defector. The servicemen received the Army Commendation Medal.
They put their lives on the line while dragging the gravely wounded North Korean to safety. The daring rescue was captured on security camera video, you saw some of it earlier. These images released by the United Nations Command.
I want to bring in Balbina Hwang, a former senior adviser to the U.S. State Department and a visiting professor at Georgetown University. Good to see you, Balbina.
BALBINA HWANG, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, STATE DEPARTMENT: Good morning.
WHITFIELD: Well, how unprecedented was this escape? I mean, clearly, this young man must have planned to the "t" to be able to do this.
HWANG: Well, I'm not so sure. It could have actually been a spur of the moment thing that he was in a jeep and had access to a vehicle and just decided. In fact, it looks like it might not have been planned and that he ran into an embankment and just decided to flee at the spur of the moment.
These soldiers are all trained, and they know that if they do try this, they are all trained to actually kill each other to make sure that nobody crosses.
WHITFIELD: Wow. And then to learn of his condition, I mean, multiple tapeworms, you know, is it the case usually that North Korean military members have access to better food, you know, and treatment and if that is the case, then what might that say about the welfare of people in general?
HWANG: Well, we've known for a very, very long time that the North Korean people are suffering under immense and sometimes unimaginable conditions. So, unfortunately, this is not that shocking or surprising.
And the fact that a military -- especially one that is on the border, which tends to be the most well fed or well preserved are so on by the regime, I think that shows the dire conditions in that country.
WHITFIELD: And then perhaps to act as a deterrent, we've seen now, or at least video has captured North Korea has now has been able to capture that North Korea has now, you know, created this trench, they put trees there, they put trees there perhaps to make sure nobody tries that route again. Effective?
HWANG: Well, most certainly. And certainly, there will be measures taken, probably quite repressive, to make sure this doesn't happen again. But this does occasionally occur over the decades.
[11:50:02] Strangely enough, we've had some that crossed over from the South Korean side into the North. And so, these incidents show that this is not essentially, you know, the complete iron fortress border that we often think it is.
WHITFIELD: And if he had family, might they be made as an example of, you know, this is what happened to your family if you choose to do this?
HWANG: Absolutely, there's no question. In fact, this is the fate of every single defector that leaves. And this is why it is so dangerous and why many defectors are afraid and, frankly, others that probably also want to make that escape because they worry about the fate of their families.
WHITFIELD: Right. All right, Balbina Hwang, a happy Thanksgiving weekend, thank you so much.
HWANG: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right, still ahead, is the Black Friday frenzy, is it now a thing of the past? A worry among retailers as analysts warn that for the first time more people are expected to shop online than in stores.
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. Today is Small Business Saturday. The traditional shopping excursion after Black Friday. It's designed to promote community over big box profits.
Well, during this make or break season for many mom and pop stores, owners hope a growing online presence, low unemployment, and a strong economy will help keep their doors open. It's been a mixed bag for retailers as the holiday season kicks off. Shoppers are expected to spend more than ever before, but more say they'll be shopping online.
CNN's chief business correspondent, Christine Romans, shows us how the online takeover is becoming a real game changer.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, yesterday's Black Friday shopping spree could be the last for some retailers. The 2017 has been brutal for brick and mortar stores, bankruptcies, a record number of store closures, more than 6,000.
But shoppers are actually expected to spend more than ever this holiday season. Only they'll be doing more of it online, 59 percent of shoppers will choose to shop on the internet this year. That's according to the National Retail Federation.
This is the first time, first time ever more people will shop online than at big box stores like Target or Walmart. Amazon is the clear winner here. It now accounts for 43 percent of online retail sales.
On the losing side, nearly 7,000 store closures have already been announced this year. And companies like Toys "R" Us, Payless, Radio Shack, many others have all filed for bankruptcy.
This retail apocalypse is happening despite a strong economy. Online shopping is also speeding up change in the industry. One bad holiday season could be enough to close a store that would have survived in the past -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right, Christine Romans, thank you so much. All right, well, did you shop on Amazon yesterday? And if so, you helped founder, Jeff Bezos, make nearly $2.4 billion alone.
Bezos who also owns the "Washington Post" is now worth more than $100 billion, further securing his title as the world's richest person. Amazon shares are up more than 58 percent this year, helping Bezos rake in $34 billion.
So, in this week's new episode of "PARTS UNKNOWN," the heel of the boot draws Anthony Bourdain back in time as he visits the largely untouched landscapes and colorful locals of Southern Italy. Here's a preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY BOURDAIN, CNN HOST (voice-over): Despite its uncanny beauty, Southern Italy's regions are some of the least populated, least visited, least known parts of the country. A mix of sea, hills, valleys and rich earth. The food here is Italian but completely its own.
(on camera): Sea urchin, some kind of fish. Pasta. That's it. Incredible. Never been to this part of Italy before. A lot of blue here. Light browns and okers and white. I don't know, you just look at this place, it demands a big space. As I walk around, I'm always humming scores. For a few dollars more, once upon a time in the west.
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WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh, I think I'm hooked. So, catch "PARTS UNKNOWN" tomorrow night, 9:00 Eastern, right here on CNN. The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.
Hello, again, everyone. Thank so much you for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
We begin with major confusion today over who's in charge of a top consumer watchdog agency. It's a fight that could be headed for a showdown between the U.S. president, Congress and the courts.
President Trump named White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney as interim chief of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after its director stepped down. But that setup a political and legal clash because the outgoing director chose someone else, his chief of staff or deputy. In a tweet --