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Trump Stumps for Moore 3 Days from Alabama Election; FBI Warned Hope Hicks on Russians; Special Counsel Has 400,000 Documents in Paula Manafort Case; Civil Rights Icons Skip President's Event at Museum; Trump Stumps for Moore 3 Days from Alabama Election; Contrasting Weather Fuels Fires in California, Snow on East Coast. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired December 9, 2017 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:00:14] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Hello, on this saturday. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York.
A snowy New York, a snowy southeast and a red-hot southwest. We'll get to all of the weather news in just a moment.
But President Trump today honoring American civil rights heroes of the past and, at the same time, being blasted by prominent civil rights figures of the present. Jackson, Mississippi, is where the president attended the official opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. Two U.S. congressman, icons of the civil rights movement chose not to attend the ceremony. Democrats John Lewis and Bennie Thompson say the president's policies are an insult to the people honored at the museum.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These museums are labors of love, love for Mississippi, love for your nation, love for God-given dignity, written into every human soul.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: I want to bring in CNN national correspondent, Athena Jones, in Jackson.
Athena, it's not just Congressmen Lewis and Thompson who are against the president's visit. We had board members of the NAACP saying the group respects the office but not the president's attitude and the vision of the nation. So how did things go there today?
ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. Well, the president spent about 40 minutes at the museum touring the facility. He saw an exhibit on the Freedom Riders, who helped desegregate the state bus system. He also saw an exhibit on Medgar Evers, who was a civil rights activist here in Jackson. And he delivered brief remarks to the group, the smaller group that was with him inside the building. You just played some of it. In those remarks, he talked about what he called American heroes. Some of the various civil rights activists being honored at this museum. He talked about James Meredith, the first black student to enter the University of Mississippi back in 1962. And he spent a good deal of time talking about Medgar Evers, whose widow was on the tour with him and spoke at the event, the larger event in the plaza behind me.
But as you mentioned, those two congressmen, John Lewis and Bennie Thompson, along with the NAACP, several other prominent civil rights activists, and Mississippi politicians, decided not to attend in protest at Trump being invited. It was Mississippi governor, Phil Bryant, who extended the invitation. Some Mississippi Democrats wanted him to rescind it. That did not happen.
Key and central in the criticism of the president is his record on civil rights or his record as a protector and defender of civil rights. A lot of his critics believe he doesn't have such a record. Instead, he has a record of racial insensitivity. Some mentioned the fact he questioned the legitimacy of America's first black president. He was one of the most prominent Birthers in the Birtherism movement. He also has endorsed an Alabama Senate candidate, Roy Moore, who when asked when America was last great, talked about the era of slavery. He said families were united, even though we had slavery. There's a long list of criticism from these folks who do not want to see the president participate here.
John Lewis and Bennie Thompson mentioned the fact he's been slamming mostly black NFL athletes kneeling to protest racial inequality. Others have mentioned the Voter Integrity Commission the president has set up. They believe it's intended to suppress voting, so they think it's -- in Congress you hear them talking about the fight for voting rights at the same time that his record, they say, does not back it up -- Ana?
CABRERA: All right. Athena Jones there in Mississippi for us at the civil rights museum. Thanks.
Joining us now is Clarence Henderson. He took part in the famous Greensboro sit-in at a segregated lunch counter during the civil rights movement.
Clarence, I know you support the president and his visit to this museum today. What stood out to you about his remarks?
CLARENCE HENDERSON, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: What stood out is that he's going there to serve and represent the president. I don't listen so much to what he says. I watch what he does.
CABRERA: And do you think he has been somebody friendly to the African-American community?
HENDERSON: Yes, he has. If you look at how more housing has been purchased by blacks and the poor, and the fact that the job rates, unemployment is down in the black community.
CABRERA: So you point to the economy, which, of course, was his message. He specifically pointed that out at his rally last night I know in Pensacola Florida, what you just mentioned, the fact that more African-Americans are able to buy homes now, according to latest numbers. The jobs market very strong.
But civil rights icon, John Lewis, boycotted today's event, as Athena just mentioned. Here's what he wrote in a statement before this. He wrote, "President Trump's attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in the civil rights museum."
Explain why you see it differently.
[15:05:32] HENDERSON: The reason why I see it differently is that this museum has nothing to do with the president so much as -- except he is the president. We -- John Lewis as well as others went through all we went through to be able to come to the table and be integrated into the American system, the American society. It's unfortunate that he would not go there and represent what he has stood for in the past. And it doesn't mean that he agrees with the president. It just simply means that they have come together in a one common bond saying that we need to unite.
CABRERA: You believe John Lewis was wrong?
HENDERSON: Yes, I believe he was wrong not to go there because, see, he paid a tremendous price to be able to go there and say, I was a part of this. Of course, his choice is his. But had it been me and I was invited, I would have went there and been with the president. Even took a picture with the president. And if I had any order against him or whatever, I would have spoken to him in regards to that. It's just like when he wanted to meet with the black caucus, they wouldn't meet with him. They should have met with him and discussed anything they had dealing. That's how we do in a society that is a civil society. We sit down and we discuss things, and see if we can come to an agreement.
CABRERA: Sure. I know there have been -- the black caucus would like to meet with the president. I'm not sure if they refused to meet with him or the other way around. There are opposing stories.
The president attended this event just hours after he campaigned for Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore. And I know you're familiar with that. Let me remind you, who has said the last time America was great was during slavery. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROY MOORE, (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: I think what's great at the time when families were united. Even though we had slavery, we cared for one another. People were strong, families were strong. Our country had a direction. And we correct many of the problems.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Are you OK with the president's supporting Roy Moore?
HENDERSON: I certainly am, because, again, what we need people that serve -- people of the United States and government that will serve according to what our Constitution says. I would see it as when you fire so many of us right now ought of the loop and not being taken care of, back to slavery time. If you want to talk about people were fed and housed and all these kind of things, that wasn't perfect but what we have right now is we have, in the last party, the Democratic Party, we had so many blacks out of jobs, getting on welfare, and all this kind of things. So, it's -- it's a situation whereby you have to dissect exactly what Roy Moore said.
CABRERA: Could the president say anything that would change your opinion of him?
HENDERSON: No. He could do something that would change my opinion but not say anything because, see, I heard our former president say so many things, but he did nothing in reference to the situations back in Chicago and Detroit. So now, we have plans that have been working through. The bureaucracy is slow. I have been in constant conversation with some people that are connected to the White House, working with some programs that will bring jobs to the inner city and change some of the dynamics of America.
CABRERA: Who have you been talking to?
HENDERSON: The person I was talking to, trying to think of his name now. I can't think of his name off hand right now. One of the persons I just met with, who is a liaison, a female, down in at the GOP headquarters. We just discussed --
HENDERSON: There was a black businessman and also with the political party of the GOP.
CABRERA: All right, Clarence Henderson, thank you for being here.
HENDERSON: You're quite welcome.
CABRERA: We have a lot more to parse through. With us, CNN political commentator, former senior adviser to the Trump campaign, Jack Kingston. And CNN political commentator and host of BET News, Marc Lamont Hill.
Marc, you first.
Did the president help or hurt his relationship with the African- American community today?
[15:10:09] MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's -- I don't think people have any expectation. Certainly, didn't make -- boiler plate. Knowing Donald Trump, he could have said anything. So to that extent I say he didn't make it worse. But Donald Trump is about his record about what he's done, but what he has not done, about the movements he's supported and not supported. Him showing up to this march was an affront to the legacy of civil rights. To that extent it has angered some people. Because the bar was so low, I don't think it made it worse. I'm not sure things could get worse between Donald Trump and the civil rights community.
CABRERA: I want to ask you a follow-up, Marc, but we're having a little bit of audio problems with your connection.
Let me talk to Jack for a moment while we try to work out the audio situation on your end.
Jack, I want to follow up with you on a question I asked Clarence there in the last segment. He comes out to this visit at the museum today just hours after that campaign event essentially for Roy Moore, even though he was in Florida, and it was the Alabama TV market. Again, Roy Moore has said some things that are controversial to say the least, but including this comment about slavery, saying that was the last time when America was great, during the time when we had slavery. How do you square this?
JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Number one, I don't know the full context of that. Number two, we do know Roy Moore has said a lot of strange and somewhat whacky things over the years. I don't think anyone would ever accuse him of being the candidate. I think the president's big concern is that he's got a solid-red state that may go blue, and a candidate like Roy Moore who is still a wild card for all of us is a better than a sure bet candidate that's going to be against everything Trump is trying to do in Doug Jones. I think he's just being a pragmatist on it.
As somebody who authored the bill with John Lewis on the African History Museum in Washington, D.C., the one that sits on the mall right now, I think that the president did the right thing by going there. There's an opportunity for education. There's an opportunity for communication. And John Lewis is a friend of mine. I think the world of him. He wanted to make a statement, and I think he made a good statement. But however, we'll never know what could have happened if the two of them were in a room together, sitting down, rubbing elbows, shaking hands, one-on-one. We'll never see that picture of them coming out of there and saying, you know what --
LAMONT HILL: Good.
KINGSTON: -- we found common ground. I know that, in Washington, there can be some huge political enemies, but you go on a trip together, you serve on a committee together and lo and behold you find out you've got common ground. That's why I think it's always good to talk and intermingle.
LAMONT HILL: I strongly disagree. Last thing we need is more photo ops. At the beginning of the Trump administration, we saw a string of black so-called leaders in Trump tower taking pictures with the president which grave him cover for some of the most divisive policies. I think it's important for policy to match the rhetoric. And to be quite honest, his rhetoric has been divisive and dangerous.
Let me finish this point. So to me, the best thing he could have done today was stay away from this, honor the legacy who those who did not want him. The legacy of those who fought for civil rights. He could have sent a statement that affirmed the value of civil rights but stay far away.
CABRERA: But, Marc, let me just ask you this, to play devil's advocate. How do you think it would have been perceived if he had been invited to the museum and then chose not to attend?
LAMONT HILL: Well, he's been invited to the CBC dinners, invited to meet the NAACP. He's been invited to meet with many people who he fails to meet with. He's always having a political calculus that does one thing over the other, so I don't think it would lower people's opinion of him. I think he could have made a decision today to send a message I respect the wishes by not going but I'm still going to affirm the value. I think ethic is important. Donald Trump, in many ways, is in a can't-win situation here. If he goes he makes people mad. If he doesn't he makes people mad. It's because he has made a bed that he must now lie in. What he's done, what he said, movements he's aligned himself with and put him in a position where he can't please the civil rights community. He wants to change the way we relate to him, he must show this in his deeds and begin saying things that are more reasonable and in line with the civil rights spirit.
[15:15:13] CABRERA: Jack, the president talked directly to Alabama voters at his rally. He said, "Vote Roy Moore." Is it dangerous to give his support to the candidate? He also said homosexual assault should be a crime, 9/11 happened because of a lack of favorite in God?
KINGSTON: I think it's always tricky and those of us who have been in elected office have been asked to endorse candidates that are flawed, I'm not going to do a television ad. You sort of find a halfway measure. Which is what the president is doing. He's going to Mississippi, Florida, so he's not quite there. But from a practical stand point I think his message is we don't want Alabama to go blue. I need the votes. You need the votes for Supreme Court judges, tax cuts, for gun control, abortion, immigration. We know Mr. Jones is going to be on the Schumer/Pelosi side. Even if he's a place holder, because maybe there are ethics issues that the Senate actually removes his seat or changes his eligibility for down the road, but we know he is a place holder --
CABRERA: But, Jack -- but, Jack -- but Jack, still, you're backing up the president, saying it's better to vote for somebody who is it a Republican than the alternative, regardless of who that Republican is, and what they represent, what they have said, what they have done.
KINGSTON: What I'm saying is I think there's a pragmatic decision that both parties often make that, OK, a shoe with a stone in it is better than going barefoot. I think the case of what happened last night he talked about the good things that have been accomplished. Many have benefited African-Americans.
CABRERA: We heard that from Clarence.
KINGSTON: And I want to say -- but to say that the civil rights community has a checklist that the president hasn't been able to be helpful on is not accurate at all. I think a lot of times there's certain gatekeepers that say, unless you go through me, then you're not one of us. As somebody who authored the African-American History Museum legislation I want those museums to be a forum for people to come together. I'm glad he went, and disappointed John Lewis did not. But he also boycotted President Bush's inauguration. He actually boycotted the --
KINGSTON: -- legislation --
CABRERA: I'm go to --
KINGSTON: I want to say that I felt strongly about the point, Ana.
CABRERA: All right, guys, got to run there.
Thank you so much.
Marc, do you want to say something real fast? Last word?
LAMONT HILL: It's just a bizarre ethical position to compare voting for a racist pedophile. We have to have a moral basis for our votes. We have to have a moral compass that's bigger than the next election. We have to send a deeper message. If you don't do that, you're not honoring the spirit of civil rights.
CABRERA: Marc Lamont Hill, Jack Kingston, thank you both, gentlemen.
CABRERA: Coming up, while snow covers the Deep South, wildfires are still ravaging parts of California. Hundreds of homes lost. At least one person now dead. Where the greatest risk still lies, next.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[15:22:42] CABRERA: Let me take you to the fire lines in California. This is what fire crews are facing. This is what residents are fleeing. Mother Nature is not cooperating. Extremely dangerous and now deadly fires are still racing across the region. And the strong, hot Santa Ana winds are expected to increase over the next few days. Already, the fires have burned over 175,000 acres this week.
The Lilac Fire swept through an equestrian training center outside San Diego. These pictures really tell the story here. Trainers had to set hundreds of these elite racing horses free, so they could escape the flames, but not all of them got to safety. More than 20 horses were killed in the fire.
The Thomas Fire, meantime, has burned at least 148,000 acres alone. This is the one in Ventura County, making it one of the biggest and most destructive wildfires in California state history.
That's where our Kyung Lah is joining us from.
Kyung, what's happening there right now?
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're seeing the winds start to pick up, and the winds are a major factor in all the fires and the growth, exponential growth we've seen throughout California. Because the winds pick up the embers, land on houses, and then this is what it does. Ana, take a look at this. This was someone's home. All that's left, you can see some of the brick. You see bar stools, some of the piping left behind. It's just one home here.
Take a look here. I want you to take a spin around. There are six houses just in our frame of view here that are almost completely destroyed. That home looks like the wreath survived but not much else. This is just one snapshot of this fire, the largest of the six fires burning in southern California, 148,000 acres. It is still a very dangerous fire. It is only 15 percent contained, but firefighters say don't look at the containment numbers. You have to look at what's happening with the weather and whether or not it's still burning. The winds are picking up. But this doesn't even get to what's going to happen tomorrow. The weather conditions tomorrow expecting to deteriorate even further. So firefighters who are dealing with the front of the fire, further into those hills, hoping to get a better handle on it, they're still 15,000 structures that are threatened right now -- Ana?
[15:25:10] CABRERA: Wow. Kyung Lah, it doesn't sound good. We see how windy it is there.
Thanks for that reporting.
Take a look on the right side of your screen. That's the southeast, now shoveling out from a surprisingly strong winter storm. It's now headed north.
Meteorologist Gene Norman is tracking both systems here.
Gene, let's start with those fires. Is there any help coming for those people in California?
GENE NORMAN, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Ana, unfortunately, no. Although you saw some wind out there in Kyung's shot, it's going to get worse as we head into tomorrow. The containment only 15 percent for the Thomas Fire. There are about six of them going down to just north of San Diego. The problem will be those winds tomorrow. Today, about 30 miles an hour to 40 miles an hour range. Tomorrow, the guts almost doubling to 60 miles an hour in many places. It's be a big problem. They'll die down a little bit as we head into tomorrow night and the early part of Monday. Then they'll even get a little bit weaker. So there's a little bit of good news as we head into the beginning of the week. But tomorrow, the small window before things get bad.
On the east coast, opposite story. Snow in the Ohio River Valley and on the east coast. Part of the same system that impacted the southeast yesterday and the Deep South, even down to the Rio Grande Valley. Snow and rain right now in Raleigh. A good amount of snow in the D.C. area and up towards Philly. If you saw Coy Wire at the Army/Navy game, you know he's dealing with the snow as well. And it continues on into the Big Apple and Boston. In fact, we have a live picture to show you here from New York City, Times Square. You can see it's snowing there. And 24 hours ago, what a difference a day makes, Ana.
NORMAN: We had this picture. Completely covered with snow. Now the old light bulb in the sky is doing its thing. But you're getting a good -
CABRERA: We are. We're feeling it.
CABRERA: When I walked outside my house today, I was feeling like I was back in Colorado for a moment. I couldn't help having that tune in my head, "It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas."
CABRERA: I just love this time of year.
CABRERA: I know. Embrace it.
Gene Norman, thank you so much.
NORMAN: Thank you.
CABRERA: Coming up, the president making his support for Roy Moore clear, saying Republicans can't afford to lose a seat in Alabama to Democrats. But today, Dems are bringing in their star power to try to support Doug Jones. Will it be enough to sway the race ahead on Tuesday? We'll discuss live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[15:32:04] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: The push is on. Down to the wire. Three days left in the campaign in the Alabama Senate race. President Trump is now all in for the Republican in the race, the man accused of child molestation, Roy Moore.
Trump addressed the packed house last night at his rally in nearby Pensacola, Florida, near the Alabama TV market. He told the crowd this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can't afford to have a liberal Democrat who is completely controlled by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. We can't do it. Can't do it.
TRUMP: His name is Jones, and he's their total puppet. And everybody knows it. He will never, ever vote for us. So get out and vote for Roy Moore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Let's head to senior national correspondent, Alex Marquardt, joining us from Montgomery, Alabama.
Alex, you've been there in the state for some time. What is the impact of the president's message?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Ana. If you believe the Moore campaign, ever since the president endorse the Roy Moore last Monday and continued to over the course of the week culminating with the comments last night, they say it has ignited their base, put wind in their sails. They're very excited about this.
We have to understand about Roy Moore, he's been around for so long, such a well-known quantity that the people who are going to come out and vote for him are very much a part of his passionate base. So any impact that the president's going to have among Roy Moore supporters is on the margins. Perhaps people who are disturbed by the allegations of sexual misconduct and child abuse but are being convinced or assuaged to then come out and vote for him because the president is essentially telling them to. It might calm their nerves.
On the other hand, it could have a significant impact on the Democratic side as well as well, for Doug Jones. You could have a lot of people who are thinking of possibly staying at home, who aren't passionate about this race. But then the president gets involved and, suddenly, to some extent, it becomes a referendum on Donald Trump. You could see a lot of people turning out to essentially vote against him and Roy Moore at the same time.
Remember, this is a special election. This is taking place in an off- year, in mid December, right before Christmas. Politics is the farthest thing from many people's minds. This does ignite a lot more interest in the race on both sides. It will have some sort of impact on the margins, as I said, and likely on both sides.
CABRERA: Do you know, are Moore's accusers on the minds of voters there in Alabama?
MARQUARDT: Absolutely. But to the question is, to what extent. This has completely upended this race. And so you will see a number of people who would have gone out and voted for Roy Moore, who are going to begin to question that or who have begun to, who will stay home. Some might be completely flipped and go vote for Doug Jones. We have met people like that.
[15:35:09] MARQUARDT: You're going to see people not terribly passionate about this race, who will come out and vote because they find these allegations to be so troubling. But, at the same time, when you talk to Roy Moore's voters, his supporters, who have known him for so long, I would say the vast majority, simply do not believe these claims, whether they're men or women. They will tell you, why now, why are these women coming out now? They must have an agenda. If they've known this and it happened 40 years ago, why didn't they come out then? There's a lot of distrust.
One of these accusers, Beverly Nelson, coming out yesterday saying that inscription in her yearbook, that she had actually written part of it. Now speaking with supporters all day, saying we can't believe her. It's a forgery. That reaffirms what they believed, and that they don't trust these women.
Regardless of what side the people of Alabama are on, whether it's Doug Jones or Roy Moore, there's no doubt these allegations are hanging like a dark cloud over the race -- Ana?
CABRERA: Alex Marquardt, in Montgomery for us. Thank you.
Coming up, new court filings reveal Robert Mueller's team in the Russian probe has over 400,000 documents related to the Paul Manafort's case, along with 36 laptops, thumb drives, other electronic devices. Why that matters, what it means for the investigation, next in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[15:41:00] CABRERA: We are getting a clearer picture today of how Russia tried to cozy up to the new administration as President Trump took office. According to "The New York Times," Russian operatives repeatedly tried to correspond with Hope Hicks with e-mail during the transition period. Hicks was a top adviser at the time. Now she's the White House communications director. The paper says these e-mails alarmed the FBI, and agents met with Hicks to tell her the Russian officials trying to contact her were, quote, "not who they claim to be." The "New York Times" notes there is no evidence Hicks did anything wrong. But the report comes as we learn that she was interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller the past couple of days, both Thursday and Friday of this past week. This makes her the latest person in the president's latest circle to be questioned by investigators.
With us to discuss, CNN legal analyst, Michael Zeldin, a former federal prosecutor who has worked closely with Robert Mueller at the DOJ, and CNN political analyst, congressional correspondent for "The Washington Post," Karoun Demirjian.
Michael, "The New York Times" reporting FBI agents actually warn the Hope Hicks Russian operatives were trying to contact her. What do you see as significant?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's interesting because they attempted to reach out to Hope Hicks during the transition. So we see here a continuum of efforts between the Trump campaign and the Russians, or if you want to put it most benignly, Russians reaching out to Trump campaign officials from pre-election through the transition. And so you ask, what is up about that, in a sense. And if you want to look at it in conspiratorial terms, you think that this is maybe just another effort by the Russians to try to impact policy, and that is perhaps borne out by the fact that at the same time they're e-mailing her, Hope Hicks, that's when also the national foreign policy team is coordinating with Flynn to reach out to the Russian ambassador. So those things are going on side by side. They're reaching out from the Trump campaign to the Russians and Russians reaching back. Whether it's criminal remains to be determined by Mueller. But this effort to communicate with the Trumps is a long-standing effort that is going to determine whether or not the Trump campaign violated law or not.
CABRERA: Right. But on the other hand, Michael, as "The New York Times" also points out -- the fact that this Russian outreach to Hicks happened during the transition, does that in any way undercut this idea that the Russian government had established some kind of a deep foot hold or tie with the Trump campaign?
ZELDIN: No. It just reflects they don't have a deep food hold or tie with Hope Hicks. They did have it with Flynn. They did have it with Papadopoulos, they did have it with Don Jr and others. This is just another entry point, and Hope Hicks, remember, sits at a very important position in the administration. She was at the president's side, pre-campaign, campaign, in the transition, and now in the White House. So, that's why it would make sense to me that anyone who's trying to interfere with or impact policy, would make an effort to speak to her. That's why I think Mueller took two days to talk to her, Thursday and Friday, because of the significance of what information she potentially has to report to him.
CABRERA: We haven't talked a whole lot about Hicks, but remind our viewers how she fits into the bigger picture, what she could know that Mueller would be interested in.
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, as Michael just pointed out, Hope Hicks is close to the president. She has the president's ear, with him when -- when he was traveling, there's been profiles of her at various junctures, yes, she's an adviser but Trump trusts her a lot more and she is somebody moving in and out of his physical inner circle as well as all of the members of his team. So if there's a non-family member of the Trump operation, that is somebody that can kind of have his ear at any point, she is really that person, a lot of people to get to the president, you talk to Hope. That can be an innocuous thing if it's just in terms of various American politicians trying to get to the president. But if that's something Russian operatives realized as well, it makes sense to reach out through her. She can at least communicate a message. She's somebody that can be won over. So, in that sense, that is a logical point of entry. But there are still many open questions as to what exactly the motivation was to reach out to her and what the response was back. Just because you reach out doesn't necessarily mean they're closing the circle, but those are the open questions to be probed at this point.
[15:45:58] ZELDIN: And, Ana, to Karoun's point, what we did learn from that "New York Times" article is that after the FBI briefed Hope Hicks, she went straight to the White House counsel, Don McGahn, to fill him in. Good for her.
CABRERA: We also learned this week through Don Jr's testimony that Hope Hicks played some kind of role in the communication between Don Jr and the president, perhaps, after the revelation came out there had been the Trump Tower meeting in 2016 and they were trying to come up with some kind of statement. She was, apparently, at least a conduit to that, coming up with that statement and getting the president to sign off on that.
But, Karoun, let's move to something that's going to happen this week. We know Manafort and Gates are going to go back before a judge in court. Some interesting revelations coming out. Court documents revealing Mueller's team has collected 400,000 documents, 46 laptops, thumb drives, all of this evidence collected against Manafort and Gates. Mueller has appeared to be a step ahead of everyone. Are people in Capitol Hill questioning whether these investigations are needed at this point?
DEMIRJIAN: Well, I mean, look, you cannot convince members of Congress to stand down when doing an investigation. Congress is very much aware and asserts its own right to do an investigation separate and apart to whatever is being done to the side of the executives and administration. I don't think you're going to see anybody standing down. What you're going to see is the three different congressional probes have different focuses. There's two Intelligence Committees looking at these questions of collusion, the Judiciary Committee in the Senate looking at questions of foreign agents and other issues about how the FBI conducted its operations, and doing oversight of everything that has to do with the Justice Department that's connected to these Russia questions. You are seeing partisan infighting. You may see more of that. Remember, also, it is striking how much Mueller has done with Manafort, 400,000 of those documents, of those 400,000, 200,000 of them are hot documents.
DEMIRJIAN: They could play a significant role. Certainly, Mueller has more access to things than the congressional probes do.
But, again, Manafort is somebody that Republicans and Democrats are split over to an extent because a lot of what he's already been dragged into court over has to do with the foreign lobbying charges that kind of predated his work for the Trump team. Democrats clearly feel those go to establish what his mind set was and are pointing to others in Manafort's activities, such as editing of this op-ed. This is the other issue that came up this week with Mueller's probe.
DEMIRJIAN: But in general, you're going to have the congressional probes go along even if they can't keep pace --
CABRERA: OK. Speaking of pace, Michael, that seems like an awful lot of evidence, or is that just normal in a case like this?
ZELDIN: This is a complex financial crimes case, and it is a lot of evidence for sure. And it not only reflects the seriousness of the evidence against him, and the quantity of it, but the purpose that Mueller is bringing to this investigation. I think he wants a conviction because I think that he believes that he and/or Gates have information to give to him. We learned today or yesterday, Ana, that Gates' lawyer has indicated Mueller has reflected to him a possibility that there may be secondary charges filed.
CABRERA: Secondary charges.
ZELDIN: That's right. So you're struck sort of with the line from "Jaws" of, "You're going to need a bigger boat." This is a lot of evidence against these guys and it's a lot of pressure. And I think they're going to be probably a plea worked out between them and Mueller, because this amount of evidence seems pretty overwhelming to me.
CABRERA: All right, Michael Zeldin, Karoun Demirjian, thank you both.
DEMIRJIAN: Thank you.
[15:49:49] CABRERA: We're back in a moment.
CABRERA: We're just days away from naming a winner, and voting is under way for the CNN Hero of the Year. We want you to meet one of the finalists using soap to save lives.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[15:54:29] SAMIR LAKHANI, CNN HERO: No child should suffer because there simply wasn't any soap available.
In the west, we take soap for granted. But for millions of Cambodians, that is not the case.
When children to not wash their hands, they are vulnerable to illnesses, which, unfortunately, take their lives.
Every single day, housekeepers throw used bars away, so I decided to save them and solve a few problems at the same time.
Once every month, we visit a hotel to collect whatever used soap has been generated. We sanitize the bars and remold them into new bars.
Our soap recyclers are all local women who were striving to find some source of reliable income.
We get our soap into the hands of people who need it the most.
My hope for Cambodia's youth is for them to take their own health into their very own hands just by a simple act such as handwashing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Vote for your favorite top-10 CNN Hero right now at CNNheroes.com.
We'll be right back.