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Dems Move to Protect Mueller after Trump Tried to Fire Him; Trump Fuming over Russia Probe, Deputy AG; Casino Mogul and Trump Ally Accused of Sexual Misconduct; Interview with Charlie Dent. Aired 11a- 12n ET
Aired January 27, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: He's so poised, you know, I mean -- and graceful.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: He is, yes. He looked good.
WHITFIELD: Beautiful to watch. Can't wait to see him, in just 12 days -- I can't believe it.
CHRISTI PAUL, ANCHOR: I know.
WHITFIELD: All right. Good to see you -- guys.
PAUL: You, too.
WHITFIELD: All right. It's the 11:00 Eastern hour. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. NEWSROOM STARTS right now.
All right. Democrats are launching new efforts to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from the White House. The move follows the bombshell reports from several news outlets, including CNN that President Trump tried to fire Mueller last June.
While the President is calling the stories fake news, some lawmakers are taking the threats to the special counsel very seriously. Senate Democrats are now pushing legislation to prevent any official from undermining the Russia investigation.
CNN Kaitlan Collins is at the White House for us right now. So Kaitlan -- how exactly are the Democrats attempting to protect Mueller's team?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Fred -- they're planning on including -- Senate Democrats are hoping to include some kind of legislation in these ongoing budget negotiations over on Capitol Hill that would protect the special counsel from being able to be fired on the President's whim. They're hoping to create some kind of safety net that requires judges to look at the decision if the President did decide to fire him.
Now this isn't necessarily new. This was actually brought up late summer, early fall last year when there was rampant speculation that the President could be considering firing the special counsel but it died down after not only the President but his aides and his lawyers insisted that it was not on the table.
He was not considering firing him which we now know, because of that "New York Times" bombshell report, is not true because the "New York Times" reported that the President actually ordered the White House counsel to fire the special counsel and only backed off when Don McGahn threatened to quit.
So now this legislation has a sense of urgency. Senator Mark Warner is the leading Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee and here's what he had to say about the "New York Times" reporting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR MARK WARNER (D-VC), SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think if the President had gone through with this or tries to go through with it on a going forward basis, we're going into uncharted territory. We're into the real question of the fundamentals of our democracy.
Are we still going to be a country where rule of law pervades? And that no one, even the President, is above the law?
My hope will be, come next week, that Congress would take up bipartisan legislation that was around last year that would protect the special prosecutor from these kind of arbitrary actions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Now Fred -- if Senate Democrats are going to get something like that passed they would need Republican support here. But back here at the White House it's largely been silent on the issue of this new report. The President denied it calling it fake news.
But so far his lawyers have been pretty silent on things but it's certainly overshadowing Washington and it's going to overshadow the President's State of the Union address on Tuesday -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: Just a few days away.
All right. Thank you so much -- Kaitlan Collins at the White House.
So months after his reported effort to fire special counsel Bob Mueller, sources say President Trump is still fuming over the overall Russia investigation. And he's none too pleased with the deputy attorney general.
Sources telling CNN that in recent weeks, the President has been venting about Rod Rosenstein who oversees Mueller and the special counsel investigation.
CNN's Sara Murray has details on that.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Months after President Donald Trump's reported efforts to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, he is still fuming about the Russia investigation but now he's directing his ire at Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Now, Rosenstein oversees Mueller and he oversees the Russia investigation and four sources are telling us that the President Trump has been airing his frustrations about Rosenstein.
Two of those sources say the President had even talked about wanting to fire him. But they say that seems like bluster, it seems like the President airing his frustrations. But it does give you a window into the fact that one year into Trump's presidency he is still extremely preoccupied by this investigation and looking for any way to bring a conclusion to it swiftly.
Now, we did get a comment from Ty Cobb -- he's the White House special counsel and in his comment he said this. "We do not find it to be a coincidence that there is an onslaught of false stories circulating in what appears to be a coordinated effort to distract and deflect from new revelations about already reported bias and corruption."
He adds, "We continue to cooperate with the special counsel and out of respect for the process, we'll not weigh in further."
Back to you.
WHITFIELD: All right. And today, there are also calls for Republicans to return cash given by major donor and casino magnate Steve Wynn, who also happens to be the finance chair of the Republican National Committee. This, following a report by the "Wall Street Journal" detailing decades of sexual misconduct allegations from women who worked at Wynn's casinos.
And it was just one week ago that President Trump was singing Wynn's praises during a fund-raising event. Wynn is calling the allegations, I'm quoting now, "preposterous".
CNN's Miguel Marquez has the details now. So Miguel -- what more are you hearing?
[11:05:05] MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Fredricka -- look.
These two men have known each other for many, many years here in Vegas. They were also competitors. The Wynn Hotel is right there; the Trump Hotel right there just a few blocks apart.
But these allegations of sexual misconduct against both men is casting that relationship in a new light.
MARQUEZ: "Preposterous" says Steve Wynn, the Vegas hotel and casino billionaire, to charges that he ever assaulted any woman. The blistering statement from Wynn himself after a bombshell "Wall Street Journal" report that a manicurist in 2005 was forced to lie on a massage table naked and then have sex with Wynn against her will.
The "Journal" also reporting Wynn paid the manicurist $7.5 million in a settlement. Wynn, in his statement, said "The instigation of these accusations is the continued work of my ex-wife, Elaine Wynn, with whom I am involved in a terrible and nasty lawsuit in which she is seeking a revised divorce settlement." Elaine Wynn's attorney told the "Journal" that's just not true.
Wynn, the latest high profile wealthy and politically connected man accused of sexual misconduct. The Vegas impresario, a competitor and friend of President Trump, who has denied allegations of sexual misconduct -- their Vegas hotels just a few blocks from each other. Wynn co-hosted a fundraiser for the President just last week in Mar-a- Lago.
STEVE WYNN, VEGAS HOTEL AND CASINO MOGUL: And then all of a sudden, once again in American history, an unlikely person became president, perhaps the most unlikely of all since Abe Lincoln. Donald John Trump became the 45th president of the United States to the chagrin, to the hysterical chagrin, of the other side. It was their worst nightmare.
MARQUEZ: The "Wall Street Journal" says it spoke to more than 150 employees and dozens reported a pattern of sexual abuse by Wynn. Wynn in his statement said, "We find ourselves in a world where people can make allegations regardless of the truth and a person is left with the choice of weathering insulting publicity or engaging in multi-year lawsuits. It is deplorable for anyone to find themselves in this situation."
The allegations now reverberating in politics where despite a history of supporting both parties --
WYNN: I am friendly with Bill and Hillary and I'm a friend of Donald Trump's. I haven't given a dime to either one of them. And I haven't decided who I'm going to vote for.
MARQUEZ: -- Wynn is now closely tied to President Trump as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee. Democrats are demanding the RNC return any campaign contributions from Wynn, much the way Republicans did with Harvey Weinstein.
Allegations against Wynn are now being used to put pressure on the Republican Party. The Democratic National Committee saying, "The RNC have helped fund the campaign of an alleged child molester, blindly supported the GOP's attacks on women's health, supported a president who has been accused of sexual misconduct by over a dozen women and now they remain silent amid sexual assault allegations involving Steve Wynn, one of their party's most senior officials."
MARQUEZ: Now, to give you a sense of just how close these two gentlemen are Steve Wynn has been to the White House on multiple occasions, as Kaitlan Collins, our political reporter up there.
You know, last week, there was a fund-raiser at Mar-A-Lago. The President was supposed to go down but he couldn't because of the shutdown. Who was co-hosting it? Steve Wynn.
He was down there. The President sent a video down, mentioned Steve Wynn in that video. So this is a relationship that goes back a very long way. Coincidentally, today is Steve Wynn's 76th birthday -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right. Thank you so much -- Miguel Marquez. What a birthday president to wake up to with these allegations.
All right. A lot of very big developments in the world of politics and, of course, the Russia investigation.
Joining me right now, Congressman Charlie Dent, Republican representative from Pennsylvania. Congressman -- good to see you.
REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Good to be with you -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right. So first off, you know,these allegations of sexual misconduct against Steve Wynn, RNC's finance chairman. Should the RNC return his donations especially in the light of when Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual harassment? The GOP called for the DNC to return all donations given by the producer.
DENT: Well, if the allegations are true, then yes, I think he would have to be -- then contributions would have to be refunded. Apparently Steve Wynn has contributed to members of both parties, based on what you just said in your lead-up.
So let's first do a little bit more of an investigation here before we make that call official. But if true, there will be pressure to refund contributions.
[11:10:04] WHITFIELD: So how will you be convinced that they are true if there are no charges that are imposed against him but instead, it's a list of people and I guess it's a measure of whether they are credible with their allegations? What will convince you?
DENT: Well, I mean it really deals with the credibility of the charges. Like I said, I haven't read the "Wall Street Journal" article yet but I'm sure this is a very serious matter. And like I said, if these are credible allegations, and it appears that they are, then there should be refunds from anybody, you know, whether it's Republican or Democrat.
WHITFIELD: Ok. And now your reaction to the reports that the President of the United States wanted to fire special counsel Bob Mueller back in June but was stopped only when White House attorney Don McGahn threatened to quit if the President indeed follow through on that. What are your thoughts?
DENT: Well, if the reports are accurate, then I would say that Don McGahn prevented an Archibald Cox moment or a Saturday night massacre and Don McGahn is to be commended.
I've known Don McGahn for a long. He's a man of integrity. He's a very good lawyer. He stood up and he did the right thing.
If the President were to fire Robert Mueller, that would set off a political firestorm the likes of which we haven't seen since Watergate. So you know, give credit to Don McGahn for standing up.
WHITFIELD: Does the report of intent in any way add to your view any mounting evidence of obstruction or an attempt of obstruction by the President?
DENT: Well, the Mueller investigation deals with, you know, Russian interference in our election and if there was any, you know, involvement by the Trump campaign. I am not aware at this moment of the President in any way colluding, although there are others who obviously have some real exposure. So I'm not sure just what Mueller -- director Mueller is going to find, but it's pretty clear to me that, you know, he is looking, he may be looking at obstruction.
I mean, if the President, as he has stated, that he has done nothing wrong, I don't understand why he seems to want to interfere with this process.
WHITFIELD: Well, what does that say to you if, indeed, the President was trying to interfere if it's not the firing of James Comey, then the potential firing of Bob Mueller? I mean does that say to you or raise some curiosities about what does the President have to hide if there are all these reported attempts to obscure the investigation?
DENT: Well, first, I thought it was a mistake to fire Director Comey the way -- at least the way it was done was terrible. And it's very hard for me to try to explain and I'm not going to explain the President's apparent contradictions.
On the one hand, he says he's done nothing wrong. And on the other, you know, he seems to want to interfere with the investigation to the extent that he's talked about, you know, firing Mueller and has been critical at other points.
So there's a contradiction and I'm not in the best position to explain the President's thinking on it.
WHITFIELD: And you know, just ahead of the budget vote you were, you know, rather vocal among those who said it wasn't clear, you know, what the President wanted as it pertains to trying to craft some legislation on budget, et cetera. Now the emphasis will be on immigration.
Do you believe that the President has been a little bit more clear on what it is he's looking for, giving members of congress some direction?
DENT: Yes. I think -- I believe the President, by presenting this plan or this outline -- that was actually helpful. I would say that the four points that the President outlined on border security, DACA, family migration, and the diversity visa lottery -- those four points are consistent with what Senators Graham and Durbin outline.
Now, there are differences in the proposals, but I think at least we have a marker laid down by the President. So now a real negotiation can commence. I believe we need to take care of this Dreamer/DACA issue, tie it to border security. There is a path forward on this. And we can do this in a bipartisan way. And we need to move on it. So I actually think what the President presented the other was helpful in at least framing the negotiations.
WHITFIELD: And when you say a path forward, do you believe there's a path toward citizenship for these dreamers, for these young people who were brought to the United States, you know, unbeknownst to them, you know, crossing the border illegally?
DENT: Oh, absolutely. I believe there is a path forward. There are probably six dreamer/DACA bills, most of which are bipartisan. And I believe the U.S. Senate will be responsible for sending over the bipartisan bill to the House.
[11:14:55] The House is still wasting a lot of time and energy on a Republican-only dreamer bill, DACA bill. And that is a fantasy. It's not going to happen. The bill will not likely pass the House. It will stand absolutely no chance of passing the Senate.
So we need to get down to a serious negotiation. And when the Senate does, in fact -- or if and when the Senate does, in fact, pass a dreamer/border security bill on a bipartisan basis of over 60 votes, that will put tremendous pressure on the House to take up that bill.
And I believe we should even if it means we don't receive the majority of the majority of Republicans in support.
WHITFIELD: Congressman Charlie Dent -- thanks so much for your time today.
DENT: Thank you -- Fredricka.
All right. Hardship overseas -- 95 dead now and more than 150 injured in Kabul after an ambulance packed with explosives detonated. Now the Taliban claiming responsibility.
Plus, a bipartisan House committee wants answers from the U.S. Olympic committee and U.S.A. gymnastics. How did Larry Nassar get away with sexually abusing over 150 girls for two decades?
Stay with us.
[11:16:02] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.
Senate Democrats say they want legislation to protect special counsel Bob Mueller and the Russia investigation after the revelation that President Trump did try to fire Mueller last year.
Our Jessica Schneider looks at how we got to this point.
Jessica Schneider, CNN correspondent: After months of denying the President was considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you considering firing Robert Mueller?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No. Not at all.
SCHNEIDER: -- the White House and the President's lawyers are refusing to comment on reports that the President tried to do just that. CNN has learned President Trump ordered White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller last June, but McGahn balked and threatened to resign if the President went forward, a source tells CNN.
In a statement, Trump's attorney would only say, "We decline to comment out of respect for the office of the special counsel and its process."
Trump has repeatedly and publicly disparaged the inquiry into Russian meddling in the election.
TRUMP: The entire thing has been a witch hunt.
SCHNEIDER: But the stunning revelation that Trump tried to oust the man leading the probe is perhaps one more point in a pattern of behavior some experts say could be considered obstruction of justice, a criminal act of interfering with a law enforcement investigation.
In addition to trying to fire Mueller, the President asked former FBI Director James Comey for his loyalty in January. Then in February, Trump asked Comey to drop any investigation into fired national security adviser Michael Flynn.
He fired Comey officially in May, saying it was because of the FBI director's handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation. But later told NBC's Lester Holt something different.
TRUMP: When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story. It's an excuse.
SCHNEIDER: The President also pressured Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia probe, which Sessions ultimately did in March. And Trump asked his Directors of National Intelligence, NSA and CIA to push back on reported connections between the Trump campaign and Russians.
Sessions was also publicly urged by the President to fire then acting FBI director Andrew McCabe. And the "New York Times" reports Trump also considered dismissing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who has been overseeing the Russia investigation since the Sessions recusal.
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: In this case, you can add all of the activities together. Then you can take the attempted fire and use that as a window into the President's intentions and from that build an obstruction case.
SCHNEIDER: Since the President's reported push to fire Mueller in June, he has repeatedly denied Mueller's firing was ever a consideration.
TRUMP: No, I'm not. No. What else?
I haven't given it any thought. I mean, I've been reading about it from you people. You say I'm going to dismiss him. No, I'm not dismissing anybody. I mean I want them to get on with the task, but I also want the Senate and the House to come out with their findings.
SCHNEIDER: As the special counsel weighs whether all of this amounts to obstruction of justice and prepares to meet with Trump, it could be the President's perception that first takes a hit.
ZELDIN: The President said repeatedly that he was not intending to fire Mueller whereas this story seems to say not only was he intending to, but he attempted to. And so that puts him in a very difficult position in terms of people believing him. His credibility, I think, was greatly damaged by this.
SCHNEIDER: And since June when the President reportedly made that push to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, members of the President's team have denied on nine separate occasions that Mueller's job was ever in danger.
Jessica Schneider, CNN -- Washington.
WHITFIELD: The President brushed off reports that he tried to fire Robert Mueller. This is what he said while in Davos, Switzerland this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you seek to fire Mueller?
TRUMP: Fake news, folks -- fake news.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's the message today?
TRUMP: Typical "New York Times" fake stories.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Trump --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. Fake news -- is that his legal defense? I want to bring in my political panel to talk it over.
Julian Zelizer is a CNN political analyst and historian at Princeton University, David Swerdlick is a CNN political commentator and assistant editor at the "Washington Post", and Michael Zeldin is a CNN legal analyst and Robert Mueller's former special assistant at the Department of Justice. Good to see you all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right.
So Michael, you first -- you know, the President and his staff repeatedly deny that firing Robert Mueller was, you know, ever considered. "New York Times" reporting corroborated by CNN reporting that the President did want to fire Mueller. But White House counsel Don McGahn said he'd quit.
So would that add to any mountain of evidence as it pertains to obstruction?
[11:24:55] ZELDIN: Well, perhaps it's one more brick in the wall or pile in the mosaic. More, to me it's a reflection of the President's state of mind.
And that's very relevant to a prosecutor who is trying to determine whether or not the President acted with the corrupt intent to influence the investigation or whether he was just, you know, defending himself as he has a constitutional right to.
So for me, Fredricka -- it's more this window into his thinking that helps Mueller make that determination of intent than it is in and of itself an obstructionist act.
WHITFIELD: So, Michael -- intent and even the reported attempt, you know, to ask, you know, Don McGahn to back him on the whole firing. I mean, overall, what does this say to you about whether it's undermining James Comey in that firing or whether it's trying to remove, you know, Bob Mueller? Does it speak volumes in terms of what the President may or may not have to hide?
ZELDIN: Well, that's in some sense the $64,000 question when he says repeatedly no collusion and then lately no collusion and no obstruction. If there is no there, there -- why is he pushing back so hard against this investigation? Why would he consider firing Mueller? Why did he fire Comey? Why would he pressure the attorney general not to recuse himself? Why would he want to not keep McCabe, a lifer in the FBI on for the benefit of the new FBI Director Wray?
It just invites a whole host of questions that imply that there is something there that the President is trying to hide or in Nixon language cover up. That's what Mueller has to evaluate.
WHITFIELD: And then, Julian -- you know, the President, President Trump often boasts of backing law enforcement. Yet this reporting of wanting to fire Mueller, you know, to Trump's being very seething over, you know, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. It seems the President may be working really hard to undermine top law enforcers, but at the same time praise them. Can you have it both ways?
JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think his support for law enforcement is selective. Clearly when he's, you know, conducting a law and order campaign and using that as part of what his agenda is, it can be very forceful, very strong. But we've seen repeatedly since day one, when it comes to investigations about his own administration and into what he has done, he can be very aggressive attacking the investigators, attacking law enforcement institutions. And he does it privately and that's what this story is about. But he also does it publicly.
And as with his attacks on the media, he's been very vociferous in going after any kind of intelligence that seems to be circulating around him.
WHITFIELD: And, David -- the President, you know, reiterated that he wants to be interviewed by Mueller. But his attorneys are reportedly terrified about how, you know, Trump just might handle himself. So might these attorneys insist that he be given, you know, questions in writing and that his answers be given in writing, even though the President says he wants to talk to him, but might it be the attorneys who upstage the final decision?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Fred -- I think what we're seeing here is a push and a pull between the legal and the political problem that the President and the White House have.
On the political side, the President wants to come out before the cameras and say, of course I want to talk about it. Of course I want to go on the record. I have nothing to hide. As Michael has said, they've said for now over a year -- no collusion, no collusion, nothing to see here.
At the same time, his lawyers have to be concerned that the President is going to make statements either in a written deposition or in an interview with special counsel Mueller or even, I guess he could be brought before a grand -- I'm not sure if he can be brought before a grand jury.
But either way, if he actually speaks on this issue, he can make statements that are inconsistent with the testimony of, say, General Michael Flynn or any of the other people who have been interviewed in this case. And then that's opening the President up to a charge that he was either obstructing justice or that he made false statements to a federal agent which is against the law whether or not you're doing it under oath.
WHITFIELD: And then a couple of questions -- Michael. Is it the discretion of the President as to whether he can or would be interviewed, period?
ZELDIN: Well, the President has two opportunities here to not testify. One is to assert his Fifth Amendment right against self- incrimination which he has a legal right to do but may have political consequences for him. The other is the assertion of executive privilege.
But that's a little bit more complicated because in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's nine to nothing decision in the United States versus Nixon, they ruled that the grand jury's right to receive evidence overcomes the executive privilege assertion. [11:29:51] There has (ph) been reporting that the White House lawyers are looking at this case in Ray-Seal (ph) case which is a D.C. circuit case involving SP (ph) where it said essentially in order to overcome executive privilege, you need to have sort of a compelling reason. But to me that is really of no moment because it seems to me that if you're evaluating the intention of a person to determine whether they obstructed justice, there's no more compelling reason to sit down and interview with that person than anything else.
So, I think that they have a hard time asserting executive privilege. Fifth Amendment is a nightmare for them. So, I think in the end, whether it's a voluntary interview or Mueller issues a grand jury subpoena which is his right, the president is going to testify and he's going to testify orally.
It's not going to be written interrogatories because that's something that is done by the lawyers and they want to hear from the president out of his own mouth.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And you might understand and know the calculus of Bob Mueller better than anyone else. So, what are among some of the questions you think Bob Mueller will ask the president if indeed he has that opportunity across the table.
ZELDIN: So, on the obstruction of justice front, the firing of Comey is paramount in that analysis. Then, to me, the assertion that the president asked him national security advisers to push back against the FBI in their investigation would be a secondly -- a second important aspect of it.
Because if we remember in Watergate, what was really the final straw in the Nixon resignation is what it was revealed that he asked the CIA to intervene in the FBI's investigation. Here, there is an analogy that I think is stark, which is that they have evidence, it seems, that the president asked him national security apparatus to intervene on behalf of the FBI's investigation.
So, those two things are obstruction. On collusion, it's all about Flynn and his meetings with Kislyak and whether he did so at the behest of the president back in December 22nd and December 29th when they were trying to interfere with the U.S. sanctions and U.S. position on Israeli settlements.
So, those two things are really important. On money laundering, I think it's really much more of a document case and I don't know that they need to hear from the president directly on that.
WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks to all of you. Appreciate it. Michael Zeldin, David Swerdlick, Julian Zelizer, appreciate it.
All right. Coming up, in Kabul, Afghanistan, the Taliban claiming responsibility for a deadly car bomb that killed 95 people and injured more than a hundred. We're on the ground after the break.
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. The Taliban claiming responsibility for an attack that killed at least 95 people in Kabul, Afghanistan, today. It happened when an attacker drove an ambulance filled with explosives through a security checkpoint and detonated it near a government building. At least 150 others were injured.
CNN's senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, joins us now with more on this horrific explosion.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fred, it's staggering because they used an ambulance as a car bomb. Take a moment to think about that, along with the 95 families currently grieving now and possibly that toll will rise.
This was in the securest part, really, of Kabul, near the European Commission of a diplomatic mission as well, and an enormous hospital, too. They got through one checkpoint and then the police took them on and then they detonated the bomb potentially away from the place that was actually their original target.
Now why does this matter 16 years after America moved into Afghanistan outside of that particular horror in Afghanistan? The U.S. is about to deploy thousands more troops who may actually find themselves outside of their bases training Afghanistan soldiers on the front line.
Donald Trump has pledged to win here, certainly, but they're facing an enemy which a year ago when a similar attack happened in a military hospital, the Taliban said that had nothing to do with us. We wouldn't do something as extreme as this.
Today, they came forward very quickly and said they used an ambulance as a car bomb. Given the fact that their leader said it was used in a suicide bombing himself, this is an increasingly extreme enemy.
Some say they're trying to fight for the extreme far reaches of the insurgency with ISIS who are gaining ground, as well. We're into a vital moment here for the Trump presidency. This is the only real war frankly that President Trump has personally elucidated a policy on.
He said he wants to win and he said pretty how. Bear in mind, taxpayers at home, you'll know less and less information about how the war is going because key things like how many Afghan soldiers and police are dying, that was a key way of knowing how well or badly it's going. That's now classified.
So, we're into a key moment here for Donald Trump's personal policy. More Americans on the front line exposed than ever before, but likely less information coming on you from home and today another sign that what should have been the most secure area, frankly, and the whole country is deeply vulnerable to this unbelievably savaged tactic.
WHITFIELD: So sad. All right. Nick Paton Walsh, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
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WHITFIELD: All right. Days after being sentenced to up to 175 years in prison, the fallout from Dr. Larry Nassar's sexual abuse of young female athletes is escalating. Bipartisan committees in both the House and Senate are starting to investigate sexual abused in organized sports including the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics, and Michigan State University where Nassar spent years abusing his victims.
Last night at MSU, an incredible scene of support for Nassar's victims. Instead of wearing green and white school colors, a sea of teal was seen at last night's basketball game. The color of sexual assault awareness.
Hundreds more gathered outside for a rally and march across campus in support of victims and in just a few minutes, Michigan's attorney general is expected to give an update of his investigation into the school's handling of Nassar scandal. Our Jean Casarez is there. Jean, what can we expect?
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're right here in the attorney general's office in Lansing. This is a highly unusual weekend press conference that they called at the very last minute. And it is to talk about the investigation into Michigan State University.
Now, up until this point of time, there was never an investigation publicly into Michigan State University. But today, they've called this press conference to discuss exactly what will happen.
We do know they're going to announce the investigative team involved in all of this. It cannot be considered a criminal investigation at this point, I am told, but it can veer and become a criminal investigation by talking and gathering potential evidence during the investigation phase.
Now, some people that will be very happy to hear this are the students of Michigan State University. It was last night. I was at that rally. There were so many of them there and they're so loyal to their school.
They believe in Michigan State University, but they want new people in very high positions. They want a new beginning and they want an atmosphere on campus where sexual assault victims can feel free to give their opinions known. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The amount of indifference and complacency that all of them has exhibited is outrageous, unprecedented and it's disgusting and they all need to leave.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the most important thing is to show the survivors that they have a support system and so many students do care about them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CASAREZ: They marched for a long time. I think we walked at least two miles with them as they were carrying their signs in support of these accusers, victims, and that's really what the focus was, to honor and give respect to the survivors that have stepped forward.
This next week, Larry Nassar will be involved in another sentencing hearing here in Michigan. He has pleaded guilty to three charges, three counts we understand at this point, 10 survivors will give victim impact statements -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Jean Casarez, thanks so much. Again, you're in a location where very soon the Michigan attorney general will be speaking and addressing this issue and so a lot of folks are shuffling around trying to get into position in time for that. Keep us posted. Thank you so much.
Meantime, seven more children died this week from the flu. Bringing the total number of pediatric deaths to 37 this season and the CDC warns it's not over. Details, next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [11:53:03]
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. The CDC is now warning the deadly flu epidemic could be far from over. Doctors say while outbreaks across the U.S. may be peaking, the flu season still has many more weeks to go. They report seven more children have died from the virus, bringing the number of pediatric deaths to 37. One school district in Florida has even shut down because of an outbreak.
CNN correspondent, Polo Sandoval, joins me now from New York. So, what steps are people taking around the country to prevent, if they can, the spread of this flu virus?
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are in New York right now so let's start there. Where the state is not just telling people, but texting them about this issue. It is clearly a fierce flu season. Officials here in New York are essentially doing several things.
Including expanding this public awareness campaign here, telling people about the need to get these flu shots. We also know that Governor Cuomo signed an executive order earlier this week to give pharmacists, pharmacists now, the authority to be able to vaccinate kids ages 2 to 18.
The state also closely monitoring hospital capacity here. They're reviewing capacity strategies. What does that mean? They could potentially expand capacity to handle this influx of patients. This week alone, at least 1,700 New Yorkers hospitalized for the flu here.
So, it's definitely something here of concern. So, the Health Department certainly seeing this kind of demand. Wider picture, though, we have seen even school districts take the steps of enclosing some of their campuses.
There was a campus you mentioned a little while ago, the district in Florida, the Florida Panhandle, in Gulf County, Florida, where the superintendent closed their schools last week to essentially clean up their campuses from top to bottom. At least 20 percent of their student population was home sick.
Also, some of their staff, at least one-third of them, was home either sick or taking care of a sick child. So, that is just one example of what we have seen across the country.
[11:55:05] We have seen officials at the local state and of course, federal level to try to gain the upper hand with this issue here, this fierce flu season that's being reported across the country.
This is not the kind of map you want to see especially when according to authorities we have not even peaked in this flu season -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: Wow, these precautions more than understandable. All right, Polo Sandoval, thank you so much.
All right. At any moment, we're expecting an update from the Michigan attorney general on the investigation into Michigan State University's handling of sexual assault victims of Larry Nassar. Stay with us.
WHITFIELD: Hello, again, everyone. And thanks so much for being with me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Democrats are launching new efforts to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller from the White House.