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Congressman John Conyers today with the announcement, with a statement that he was stepping down as the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee in the House; Senator Al Franken is breaking his silence on the sexual allegations; Michael Flynn Might Be Cooperating Against The President? Jared Kushner's Deadline On Documents On Security Clearance; Lawmakers Race The Deadline On DACA. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired November 26, 2017 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: All right, Gordon Chang. It is really fascinating indeed. All right. Next hour of NEWSROOM starts right now. All right. Hello again, everyone. And thank you so much for being with me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We are following breaking news. Congressman John Conyers now giving up his position as ranking member of the prestigious House Judiciary Committee. The Michigan democrat and longest serving member in the House made the decision to step aside citing congressional investigation into sexual harassment in workplace abuse allegation levelled against him by former staffers.

In a statement Conyers says quote "I deny the allegations, many of which were raised by documents reportedly paid for by a partisan alt- right blogger. I very much look forward to vindicating myself and my family before the House committee on ethics. I cannot in good conscience allow these charges to undermine my colleagues and the Democratic caucus and my friends on both sides of the aisle in the judiciary committee and House of Representatives."

A senior Democratic aid tells CNN that Conyers' decision to step aside as ranking member comes after days of House minority leader Nancy Pelosi working behind the scenes with Conyers and other congressional black caucus member to lay the ground work for him to step aside gracefully.

Well, this morning before Conyers announcement, Pelosi responded to the allegation against Conyers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: We are strengthened by due process. Just because someone is accused and is it one accusation, is it two, I there has to be -- John Conyers is an icon in our country. He has done a great deal to protect women or violence against women outrage (ph). Right wing is now quoting me as praising him for his work on that and he did great work on that. But the fact is as John reviews his case which he knows which I don't, I believe -- .

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is it that you don't?

PELOSI: I will finish my sentence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure.

PELOSI: That he will do the right thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: And shortly after that interview Conyers made the announcement that he was giving up his ranking member position on the Judiciary Committee.

Meanwhile, President Trump continues to push support for Senate candidate Roy Moore who faces a string of sexual assault allegations involving underage women tweeting this morning quote "the last thing we need in Alabama and the U.S. Senate is a Schumer-Pelosi puppet who is weak on crime, weak on the border, bad for our military and our great vets, bad for our second amendment and wants to raise taxes to the sky. Jones would be a disaster. I endorsed Luther Strange in the Alabama primary. He shot way up in the polls but it wasn't enough. Can't let Schumer/Pelosi win this race. Liberal Jones would be bad."

Meanwhile, here is what Republican senator Lindsey Graham thinks of Moore as a potential colleague.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: From a Republican point of view I don't see what winning - I don't know what winning looks like with Roy Moore. If he wins, we get the baggage of him winning and it becomes a story every day about whether or not you believe the women or Roy Moore, should he stay in the Senate? Should be expelled. If you lose you give the Senate seat to a Democrat at the time we need all the votes we can get.

The moral of the story is don't nominate somebody like Roy Moore who can actually lose the seat that any other Republican can win. And from a party perspective we have to look long term and not short term. And what I would tell President Trump if you think winning with Roy Moore is going to be easy for the Republican Party you are mistaken.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: CNN's Boris Sanchez joining me now -- Boris.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey. There, Fred.

Yes. This is just another disagreement seemingly between the President and his own party though it didn't start out that way when the allegations against Roy Moore first surfaced the White House put out a statement during that 12-day trip to Asia that if these allegations were true then Roy Moore should step down. And at the time that echoed what many other Republicans were saying. There was a point in time where certain people around the White House like Ivanka Trump were harsh in their criticism of Roy Moore saying there was a special place in hell for pedophiles.

You also had the director of legislative affairs Marc Short saying that no Senate seat is above pedophilia. So there was the possibility that the White House would continue to follow congressional Republicans on the issue of the embattled Senate candidate. But since then we have seen the President attack his opponent Doug Jones and also defend Roy Moore before he left for his thanksgiving trip to Mar- a-Lago.

The President was asked before reporters about the allegations and he said that Roy Moore has denied them even going so far as to say that he would go to Alabama to campaign with Roy Moore potentially. So it's a very growing divide between Republicans and the President. You have South Carolina Republican Tim Scott today saying he fears like Lindsey Graham that this could potentially damage the Republican brand. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[16:05:20] REP. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It is pretty clear to me that the best thing that Roy Moore can do for the country is to move on. The reality of it is that the allegations are still very strong and credible. And the denial has been weak. Got a little stronger but it is still fairly weak. So in my opinion and opinion of many Republicans and conservatives in the Senate it is time for us to turn the page because it is not about partisan politics, it is not about electing Republicans versus Democrats. This is about the character of our country. I want to be on the side of right when history writes the story.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: One last note, Fred. It is a crucial week for unity within the Republican Party after a year lacking in major legislative victories. The Senate could potentially vote on tax reform as early as Thursday and there is a lot riding on that vote. So to have this kind of division is certainly not something that congressional Republicans are happy about, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Boris Sanchez, thank you so much in D.C.

All right now to our other breaking story we are hearing from Senator Al Franken who just did an interview with his hometown paper, the Minneapolis "Star Tribune" and a public radio station. One woman who claims that Minnesota Democrats harassed her back in 2006 before he was in the Senate. And a second woman says he groped her during a photo-op in 2010 while he was a senator.

CNN's Ryan Young is in Minneapolis.

So Ryan, you know, today's interviews, this means the senator has broken his silence after what eight days.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: About eight days. And of course, this is an interesting conversation I think a lot of people across the country are wanting to see what he was going to say. He obviously decided to choose his local paper to come out first to have the interview. And he did the public radio interview and then were told later on today he is going to do a television interview. So obviously, trying to get the message to people here in his home in Minnesota so they can understand exactly from him what he is thinking. He says he looks forward to going back to work. But for the first time, we are hearing his own voice. Listen to his words in an interview he just finished.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: First of all, I just want to say that this whole thing has been, you know, embarrassing and, you know, and it's been difficult. But part of that is that I want to respect a woman's experience. Very often there are these kinds of things and allegations and that I believe that women should be respected and listened to.

This is what I'm doing. I'm taking responsibility. I apologized to the women who have felt disrespected. I'm someone who, you know, hugs people. And I, you know, and have learned from these stories that some of these encounters I have crossed the line for some women.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you put your hand on someone's rear end during a photo shoot?

FRANKEN: I do not remember these -- again, I take pictures with thousands of people. I would never intentionally do that. And so -- but that does not negate my intention isn't what is important. What is important is we have to listen to women and respect what they say. And I am been listening and reflecting. And I hope to make a positive contribution to this conversation. It's a very important conversation.

The ethics committee is looking into all of this. And I will cooperate fully with it. Listen, I know I have a lot of work to do to regain trust of people I have let down. I am just going to do my job. And I'm going to go forward. This has been ten days since this came out. I'm going to go forward. I'm going to take responsibility. I'm going to be held accountable. And I'm going to try to be productive in the way I speak about this.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Fred, so you heard him say he does plan to go to work tomorrow morning.

This is very interesting. Just in the last hour, we didn't have these developments and you are hearing his voice for the first time. It is also that article in the paper here in the "Star Tribune." And then we are told once again there will be an interview tonight at 10:30 where he will sit down with the local news reporter and answer questions for the first time about this in front of the camera. So it will be interesting to see how this all plays out because this is happening I real time as we speak.

[16:10:17] WHITFIELD: All right. Ryan Young, thanks for bringing that to us. Appreciate it.

All right. Joining me right now Democratic New York congressman Gregory Meeks who is also a member of a congressional black caucus.

Thanks for being with me, congressman. Good to see you.

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: Good being with you.

WHITFIELD: All right. So we want to tackle two things here. Of course, you know, Al Franken, Senator Al Franken, breaking his silence and then of course congressman Conyers also stepping down as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee.

So first, let me ask you about Al Franken because hearing his sound is freshest on our minds. Were his words enough for you? Does it fill in some of the blanks that you have had over the past eight, nine, ten days of his silence since allegations came to light?

MEEKS: Well, I think what is important is that the ethics committee is reviewing. And if Al Franken is sitting as a ranking member on any committee I think he should step down from that but not from Congress and not from the committees of which he has been assigned to. But - and I think that his apology seems to be genuine. And I think that what the ethics committee should be looking at on any of these instance where there is practice and pattern, whether there was specific intent or not. I think that is important for anybody that is a member of the United States Congress.

WHITFIELD: So you trust the ethics committee to get to the bottom of the allegations flushing out the allegations whether it involves Al Franken or anybody else, whether it has been handled appropriately, whether the complaints are credible, whether a penalty should be forth coming if the allegations are credible?

MEEKS: Yes, I think that the ethics committee has done I think they feel that someone has done something that is not fitting the institution because what is important here is the institution of the United States Congress. Then they have remedies of which they can utilize. And I think that that is the appropriate process to take place now. And then we move from there since these are Mr. Franken and Mr. Conyers and any other member is a member of the United States Congress.

WHITFIELD: And you have said prior to today before congressman John Conyers said that he would be stepping down as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee. You have already said on this network in fact that you believe that he should step down as a result of the allegations. In your view is that enough for now?

MEEKS: Yes. I think that John Conyers is truly, you know, he is an (INAUDIBLE). There is no question that his service in the United States Congress has made America a better place. We wouldn't be where we are today if it wasn't for the service of John Conyers. That being said I think that it is appropriate that while there is an ethics investigation in regards to the scenario with him and whether or not someone was sexually harassed that he remains in Congress but should not be as a ranking member until such time that this case has been resolved. Should it be resolved and it is as he said that basically was a severance pay et cetera then I think there should be opportunity for him to go back. But until that happens and until we know the full facts because if that is not case then it is a different scenario. So I think that they will do that. We should give Mr. Conyers and Mr. Franken and any other member of Congress those opportunities and see whether or not it is a practice and pattern.

As we have seen with regards to Mr. Moore and/or open admission by the President of the United States who have said that he felt entitled because he was a celebrity that he could grab women wherever he wanted to. That is something that is speculative. That is something that came out of the mouth of the President himself.

WHITFIELD: And do you see the standards or how these allegations are being handled differently? You bring up the President who in the "Access Hollywood" tape admitted to it. The American people still elected him President. At the same time, you hear a number of voters, constituents, members, you know, in Congress who say allegations being lodge against members of Congress from this point forward should be taken so seriously to the point that they perhaps need to step down even before allegations are proven, if allegations are credible then that alone merits perhaps members of Congress stepping down.

[16:15:05] MEEKS: Well, I think that some of that is overblown. I so think that you have seen incidents in the past where members of Congress have been accused of something and it has been so egregious that those members have stepped down because of the pressure that has been put on them and/or because of the fact that they know and admitted basically that they have done something wrong. I think that has happened in the past. I think that we do need to improve the reporting process and make sure there is more transparency within Congress itself. But in this instance I do not see where there is a pattern and practice or where there has been admission as it has been out of the president's mouth where he said he thought he was entitled to do certain things or could simply because of his celebrity-ism (ph). So I think that is a different thing. And I think that the President, you know, and we need to look at that also, the President should be undergoing some kind of ethics review for his past behavior. And that no President should be above the similar kind of scrutiny. So he too should be looked at. So, you know. And he has been hypocritical and you know, you heard him say something about Senator Franken. But then at the same time he is out there campaigning for Judge Moore. But then maybe not hypocritical because he conducted similar acts, I guess. Maybe he is not a pedophile as Judge Moore seems to be but similar acts of entitlement and denial so maybe, you know, the two peas in the pod there would Judge Moore and the president of the United States.

WHITFIELD: And before I let you go, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi earlier today before John Conyers stepped down as a ranking member on the Judiciary Committee called congressman Conyers an icon presumably making, you know, reference to his record as a civil rights activist, Korean war vet, co-founder of congressional black caucus. Do you believe that was appropriate? And do you take issue with that? There are some on social media that have been taking issue with that. What do you think?

MEEKS: He is definitely an icon. He has contributed mightily to this country. He has made this country a better place. When you think about where we would be if it wasn't for Rosa Parks refusing to get out of her seat and yet and still here is a woman that was disrespected by white America and prevented from having a job place in the United States here was John Conyers who decided that he was going to hire her in his office and treat her with the kind of dignity and respect that she deserved.

So there is no question. And I think history will record John Conyers as an icon, as individual who is committed his life to making the United States of America a better place.

WHITFIELD: All right, 27-term congressman John Conyers today with the announcement, with a statement that he was stepping down as the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee in the House.

Congressman Gregory Meeks, thank you so much for your time.

MEEKS: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.

WHITFIELD: OK.

Straight ahead, more on our breaking news. Democratic congressman John Conyers stepping down as ranking member, as I mentioned, of the Judiciary Committee. What does this mean for Democrats as they head back to the hill tomorrow? My panel will be weighing in next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:22:55] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.

Breaking news, a major development today on a pair of high profile lawmakers accused of sexual harassment. Congressman John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat and longest serving member in the House saying he is stepping down as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee in the House. We are also hearing from Senator Al Franken who just did an interview with his hometown newspaper Minnesota's "Star Tribune" and a public radio station there.

Franken said he is quote "embarrassed and ashamed," end quote after two women came forward and accused him of sexual harassment, but adds that he will show up to work tomorrow.

Joining me right now Lynn Sweet, the Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun Times" and Nina Turner, a CNN political commentator and former Democratic Ohio state senator.

Good to see you, both, ladies. Happy thanksgiving weekend.

All right. Let's begin with congressman Conyers, Lynn. So, will giving up this position as ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee be enough to save his job overall?

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: No. That's an inside game. People don't know really what it means to be the ranking Democrat on a committee even one as important as judiciary. So no, it means relatively nothing.

It buys him some time with his colleagues and lets them have something to say when asked by their constituents or reports what do you think? They will say correctly, well, it is up before the ethics committee where it should be. So that alone will not save his job.

Here is what will save his job, finding of the ethics committee that somehow exonerates him. But given that settlements have been paid that seems like a long shot.

WHITFIELD: So Nina, minority - House minority leader Nancy Pelosi released a statement after Conyers announcement and that came after she appeared, you know, on "Meet the Press" earlier today. And in this statement, Pelosi says zero tolerance means consequences. I have asked for an ethics investigation. And as that investigation continues, Congressman Conyers has agreed to step aside as ranking member.

As a woman and mother of four daughters I particularly take any accusation of sexual harassment very seriously. We are at a watershed moment on this issue. And no matter how great an individual's legacy it is not a license for harassment. I commend the brave women coming forward.

And so, Nina, particularly that last portion where she talks about, you know, regardless of individual legacy on "Meet the Press" earlier, she said a variety of things. But then she also said, you know, he is an icon. And apparently on social media there are a lot of people who took issue with that.

So, was that statement really a response to back lash that came from her comments on meet the press or is this part of the whole picture given that sources say Pelosi, Conyers and members of the black caucus work together to try to come about some sort of graceful exit from the Judiciary Committee as a ranking member.

[16:26:01] NINA TURNER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, probably more, Fredricka, part of the entire pitcher. But it is no -- you know, people know that congressman John Conyers has done great work. But that great work is no shield for wrong doing. So the work that he has done in the past certainly doesn't go away. But the allegations are important. And it is important for the ethics committee to do its investigation. And so nobody's great work can be a shield for wrong doing. So probably the leader was just, you know, round in the circle out in that statement.

WHITFIELD: And then what about for Senator Al Franken? He now breaks his silence. He talks to Minnesota newspaper, public radio. He says he is embarrassed and he, preceding that, he did have written statements acknowledging, you know, bad behavior and then there was silence from him. No one saw him publically, you know, for eight, nine, ten days. Is this enough to kind of clean the slates, so to speak, for him to return to work tomorrow? SWEET: That was a start. And I now -- we understand now why there

might be a period of silence in these episodes because if you don't know if you are one we have seen in these situations of women who are coming forward because of this new environment where women feel free to say me, too. So by Al Franken is taking a different tack than some of these other men who have been accused of wrong doing, he is talking about it. He is apologizing even though, and this is important, I know he doesn't remember it.

So the other thing I think which is a very important distinction as we talk about it is not all these situations are the same. There are distinctions. There is a difference. We always recognize between going five miles over the limit and 100. And when you look at what Al Franken is accused of doing is very different than some of the other allegations. And that is what I think everybody needs to consider when you think of can somebody get a second shot, a second chance. This town is full of people who have had a second chance and they have taken it.

WHITFIELD: And while we are talking, we are looking Air Force One there out of West Palm Beach, the airport there. The President ending his thanksgiving holiday weekend at the winter White House there making his way back to Washington. It is going to be a very busy week with possibly a vote on tax reform this week and continued questions and conversations surrounding the President's endorsement of Republican Roy Moore or the U.S. Senate seat speaking of, you know, sexual assault allegations and in this case also involving minors. Very busy week.

And Nina, before we go though, I would like to ask you if you do believe that the scrutiny will be the same for Al Franken and John Conyers as they both return to work on Monday? Again, different cases but will they be scrutinized in the same manner?

TURNER: I mean, it should be the same in that the Congress has to take these types of allegations seriously and to show not only to the members but to the American people that they are not different sets of rules for people who have power not withstanding great work that there is absolutely no tolerance for sexually abusing or harassing anyone, zero tolerance, today, yesterday and forever more.

And so the Congress has an opportunity whether in the Senate or the Congress to make that clearly understood and change the way the things have been going forward. I mean, Fredricka, we saw the archaic way by which a person can report and it has mainly women not withstanding that men can be sexually harassed, too.

[16:30:00] But I mean, my god, it can take up to 180 days in some cases, and that system was designed to protect members and not really to give people who have grievances the opportunity to share those grievances and tell the world, and tell the Congress what has happened to them. So they must change that process post haste. That is something they can do right now.

WHITFIELD: OK, Nina Turner, Lynn Sweet, thank you so much. Of course Air force One now in the sky making its way back to Washington. Appreciate it, ladies.

SWEET: Thank you.

TURNER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, so it will be a potentially very big week for taxes as the U.S. Senate looks into passing its version of a tax overhaul. Will they be successful? We'll discuss that in a CNN debate Tuesday night at 9:00 p.m. eastern only on CNN. And we'll be right back.

[16:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. The president's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner is facing a deadline of tomorrow to hand over more documents relating to his security clearance. Congressional committees want the information as they investigate whether there were any inappropriate meetings or contacts between Russian officials and Trump associates during the 2016 campaign.

Also adding to White House concerns, news that attorneys for former national security adviser Michael Flynn are no longer sharing information with the Trump legal term. And then we just heard from the president via twitter, you saw Air Force One leaving West Palm Beach. Well now, his latest tweet he said, since the first day I took office all you hear is the phony Democrat excuse for losing the election. Russia, Russia, Russia. Despite this, I have the economy booming and have possibly done more than any ten month president. Make America great again.

All right, CNN's Kara Scannell joining us now. So Kara, you know, Kushner has been asked repeatedly to turn over more documents. Are we expecting him to cooperate?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So Abbe Lowell, Kushner's attorney, has said that this latest round of document requests was a gotcha game but he has yet to cooperate. I think one of the issues here is that some of the documents that the congressional investigators have requested they have obtained from other witnesses so they're wondering why Kushner didn't hand those over. One of those documents relating to his security clearance form.

Kushner's attorneys have told them really it's the FBI that should hand that over not them. But the other significant development in the past week has been that the former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has told Trump's legal team that they will no longer share information about the special counsel investigation.

That signals to us that breaking this joint defense agreement means that Kushner's -- I'm sorry -- means that Flynn's legal team is exploring a possibility of a guilty plea or that he might cooperate with investigators. Earlier on "State of the Union, Dana Bash asked Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York how he interpreted this development.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DANA BASH, CNN HOST: If you are President Trump right now knowing

that this is your former national security adviser, somebody who you spent a lot of time with during the campaign, how worried are you that Michael Flynn is cutting a deal?

PREET BHARARA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: It depends on what the president has done and what the president's conversations with Michael Flynn and others have been. But if you've done bad things then you should be very worried.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCANNELL: Now, a lawyer for Donald Trump has said that no one should draw conclusions that Flynn is cooperating against the president, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Kara Scannell, thank you so much in Washington. All right, still so much more straight ahead in the newsroom, but first, voting is underway for the CNN Hero of the Year. And here is one of this year's top 10 heroes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STAN HAYS, CNN HERO: I have been competing in barbecue for years. Besides being a nourishing meal, it is comfort food. After a disaster it is extremely emotional. Everybody's lives are on their front yard. So we decided we're going to get a bunch of the barbecue family together and help.

Welcome. Thank you guys for coming out.

Over the last six years we've responded to tornadoes, floods, hurricanes. The core group are all pit masters or grill masters but our volunteers come from everywhere. Our goal is always to be in an area within 24 to 48 hours after a disaster strikes. We put the word out through different groups in that way we know where the meals are going.

You guys need any meals?

To know you're a little part of picking their spirits up --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have no idea what a hot meal means to somebody who lost everything they own.

HAYS: Can't help but bring a smile to your face.

It's amazing. Yesterday you guys put out 43,350 meals. Thank you for everybody who is here.

It is people helping people the best way we know how.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right, vote for Stan or any of your favorite top 10 heroes at cnnheroes.com. [16:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. President Trump will head to Capitol Hill this week. On Tuesday, he is set to meet with top congressional leaders. The bipartisan group, facing a fast approaching deadline to pass a spending bill in hopes of avoiding a government shutdown and raising the debt ceiling, that's a discussion, and meeting that the president will have also this week.

And one topic sure to be front and center, DACA. It's the policy that protects nearly 700,000 young undocumented immigrants known as dreamers who were brought to the U.S. as children. Well this morning on CNN's "State of the Union" Dana Bash spoke to a Democratic senator who says he won't be going home for the holidays until something is done on that policy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Is funding the government contingent on finding a legislative solution for dreamers?

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Listen, there are a number of things that we have to do before the end of the year and I think Senator Graham will agree with me. We heard on an earlier program right here on your network that we face the end of the children's health insurance program, the community health care clinic program, that's also expired.

But we believe, Senator Graham and I do, that we have a fixable priority in the Dream Act, a bipartisan solution to this problem

[16:45:00] to make sure that these young people have a chance to earn their way into citizenship. We can do this and we can get it done before the end of the year.

BASH: Will that be a demand? Will you demand that that gets done in order to get your vote on funding the government?

DURBIN: Let me tell you, I'm not prepared to go home for the holidays until we get our work done.

BASH: Is that a yes?

DURBIN: I'll just leave it at that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right, I want to bring back my panel now, Lynn Sweet and Nina Turner. So, the president will have that bipartisan meeting at the White House, but when he goes to Capitol Hill he'll mostly be meeting with Republicans about tax reform just to make that really clear. So, let's talk about, you know, the bipartisan meeting, talking about DACA and whether, Lynn, you think Democrats are willing to shut down the government over that issue.

SWEET: Well, I think if the test will be, Fred, if either party is going to be willing to shut down the government over that or any other big sticking point issue. It's not just DACA when you look at the things that the chips that lawmakers can use to have bargaining positions. So that's just one thing I would put out there to think about as you get to the crunch time. If it's not DACA it could be something else.

But of all the issues out there, both Senator Dick Durbin who is founder of the Dreamer Movement, which started when he discovered an Illinois woman in a terrible plight about staying here, and Senator Lindsey Graham are working together and have a standalone measure to deal with this. Usually Congress never ever deals with the standalone measure, but somewhere in there, the reason they're not showing their hands is they still don't know how the game is going to play and unfold.

So even i they wanted to use it as taking their last stand do or die moment here, they don't know enough to know how this will unfold to even say that. That is why it will be very dramatic in the coming days.

WHITFIELD: So Nina, how high is this risk of potentially playing right into the hand of, you know, Trump who is really all about nationalism?

TURNER: Yes, well you know, I am going to say what the senator didn't say. He said he is not prepared, he's not going home i.e. (ph) willing to shut the government down. I believe that's exactly what he was getting at. This is important. We cannot play with the lives of nearly 1 million young DACA recipients who have been working very hard, who have been in limbo for all of this time.

And it is the Congress' job to act to make this permanent. And then once we do that, Fredricka, we as a country have to deal with a humane way of immigration reform and stop passing the buck on this and do the right thing. This is important. This is not about widgets. This is about lives. And this is not just, you know, people want to paint this as if this is just the Hispanic community, but there are DACA recipients from Europe.

There are DACA recipients from Africa and god knows what the Haitians are going through separate and apart from this. But there is a rainbow mosaic of humanity out there among the DACA recipients who are asking this Congress to stand up on their behalf. They were brought here as young children to no part of their own.

Many of their parents and caregivers are trying to find a better life for them and now they are being penalized for that. So this Congress must act and no, they should not go home until they find the solution to this, which is to make DACA permanent.

WHITFIELD: So Lynn, you know, collectively Congress has not been able to get a whole lot accomplished, you know. We know in the Senate, tax reform coming up potentially this week but is there a realistic chance to see any kind of movement on this Dreamer's Act?

SWEET: I think there is some relief that could be in store and it could come in many ways. It could be an extension of time. It could be in just rehabbing another temporary order. And it could just be either or having Trump rescind his order that cancelled out President Obama's order. So there are a lot of solutions, short, long term, short, short. So that's why when you look at the deal making that goes on here and how this -- that's why I'm saying this is one of an element here.

So, could there be in this coming days some way to provide some relief for the DACA people out there who I imagine are in a state of high anxiety right now about what they're going to do and their future. There could be something. It could take many forms and you might have to sacrifice the perfect for the good.

WHITFIELD: Nina, last word? Thirty seconds or less?

TURNER: They got to act. Human beings lives of young people in this country depend on this Congress doing the right thing. It is not hard to do. Just do the right thing and make the Dream Act permanent period.

WHITFIELD: Nina Turner, Lynn Sweet, good to see you both and happy holiday weekend.

SWEET: You too. Happy holiday.

TURNER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. We'll be right back.

[16:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Beauty pageants are lively, colorful and often sometimes controversial. In this week's episode of "This is Life," Lisa Ling travels to Thailand to follow an American woman competing in a pageant like no other.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA LING, HOST, CNN THIS IS LIFE (voice-over): I first met Camille at her home in southern California a few days before the start of the pageant.

Hi Camille.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lisa, so nice to meet you.

LING: Me too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you're gorgeous.

LING: Thank you. Thank you for letting us be part of this journey with you.

How are you feeling about this next pageant?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a little nervous but I'm very excited. And this is like a dream come true just being a part of it.

LING: So are you all packed up or are you still getting things together?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I'm almost there. Still wrapping things up.

LING: I see your bathing suits. Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I put the Swarovski here.

[16:55:00] LING: Camille has wanted to be a beauty queen for as long as she can remember.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have always been a fan of pageants. It was a childhood dream.

LING: But there was one problem.

What's your name?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was born Marc (INAUDIBLE).

LING: Camille was born a biological male.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: All right, catch "This is Life" with Lisa Ling tonight at 10:00 p.m. right here on CNN. Thanks so much for being with me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The next hour of the "CNN Newsroom" starts right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:00:04] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, you are in the "CNN Newsroom." I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thanks for being here with. We begin this hour with stunning developments in the national debate on sexual harassment.