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Democrats to protect Mueller from being fired; Kentucky school shooting victims funeral; Louisiana school district sued for promoting prayers. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired January 28, 2018 - 16:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:00:11] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: All right. Hello, again. And welcome hi Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

All right, in just two days, President Trump will deliver his first state of the union address in what could be a pivotal moment of his presidency.

Let's get straight to CNN's Boris Sanchez live for us at the White House.

So Boris, what are the expectations of this speech?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Fred. White House official telling CNN to expect an optimistic speech coming from President Trump. The theme of the state of the union address on Tuesday will be building a safer, stronger and prouder America. We are told the President is going to attempt to reach people outside of his own base and appeal to them on several different levels. One of them will be his touting of a booming economy.

The President expected to cite the growing stock market and dwindling unemployment numbers before shifting to outlook of the future. Specifically, he is set to ask Congress nearly a trillion dollars to fund his infrastructure plan. He is also expected to talk about national security and trade. But the biggest driver of this speech, the thing to watch for is the President's message on immigration at a crucial time in that debate.

The President is going to try to sell his vision of immigration reform in exchange for creating a pathway for citizenship for some two million undocumented immigrants. The President is going to ask Congress for $25 billion to build his long promise border wall.

Aside from that, he is also going to be asking for changes to legal immigration and that's where the biggest divide is right now between the two parties. There's not a tremendous amount of support for the President's proposal right now on Capitol Hill. But the White House is sticking by this plan. You have the director of legislative affairs for the White House Marc Short on the Sunday morning talk shows saying that lawmakers should follow the President's lead. Here's more of what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARC SHORT, WHITE HOUSE LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS DIRECTOR: Congress will always have a reason to do something later as opposed to fixing the problem today. This President is trying to fix a problem that's perplexing our country for decades. This was often a very rational compromise to get it done. This was borne out of many conversations with Democrats alike and Republicans to get to this point. It is actually help us get it done and protect us. We don't have this problem several years from now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Marc Short also took aim at Democrats saying that the President has made concessions with that pathway to citizenship and that now it's time for Democrats to make concessions on legal immigration.

Many Democrats have said that the White House's stance on changing things like what the White House calls chain migration, that is the sponsorship of family members for people who have become naturalized citizens, is inhumane and a non-starter for them when it comes to a debate to creating a deal on immigration.

Ultimately, though, this is what's on paper. As we have seen so often with this President, he has a tendency to get off the teleprompter. We will see if that happens on Tuesday and potentially we may see some distractions yet again circling this White House's agenda.

WHITFIELD: All right. Boris Sanchez, thanks so much.

So as the President prepares for his state of the union address in two days, his attention is also focused on rapper Jay-Z and comments the music mogul made on Van Jones' new show, which premiered last night on CNN.

Trump tweeting this morning inform Jay-Z because of my policies black unemployment has been reported to be the lowest rate recorded. So what set off the President? Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VAN JONES, CNN HOST, THE VAN JONES SHOW: He is somebody who is now saying look, I'm growing -- I'm dropping black unemployment. Black people are doing well under my administration. Does he have a point that maybe the Democrats have been give us just good lip service but no jobs. Maybe he is going say terrible things but put money in our pockets. Does that make him a good leader?

SHAWN JAY-Z CARTER, RAPPER: No, because it is about money at the end of the day. Money doesn't equate to like happiness. You are missing the whole point. You treat people like human beings. And then, you know, that's the main point. You can treat someone like -- it goes back to the whole thing. Treat me really bad and pay me well. It is not going to lead to happiness. It is going to lead like, to you know, again same thing. Everyone is going to be sick.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: I spoke to Van Jones last hour about that interview. And here is what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Do you feel like as a result of the President's tweet he misses the point of what was central to the conversation?

JONES: Yes, I thought it was good to get attention for the show, but really he totally missed the point. I mean, Jay-Z last night was stunning. He was confessional. You know, usually hip hop you think, you know, braggadocios and accusatory. He was the opposite of that.

He was confessional. He was humble to talk about the struggles with his marriage. He talked about his children. And he really set the kind of example I wish the President would set. The President is now the guy who is braggadocios accusatory, never confesses to anything, never shows any public growth. Meanwhile, Jay-Z is just growing and growing and growing in front of the public eye.

And part of what he talked about which I think really set Donald Trump off, he talked about the racism in the country. And he talked about how, in an interesting way, he talked about how we keep pushing it under the rug, you know, when somebody says something racist and we just smack them down and would push them out public life. It's making things worse. It actually making the various to work.

[16:05:37] WHITFIELD: Systemic racism.

JONES: Yes. And so -- but then he said that we now pushed it under the rug so much that it's now come back as a super bug of racism, Donald Trump. So he called Donald Trump a super bug of racism. And then I challenged him, I say, well, isn't he doing something good? And then he point out, just having a little bit more money in the economy doesn't count if you are treating people badly.

It was a profound interview. It was thoughtful. It was substantive. And for the President, who apparently didn't, you know, maybe even watch it, for him just to fire off something, I think was disrespectful of an icon in this community.

WHITFIELD: You got a feeling that the President did not watch the show in its entirety or see the message in its entirety that perhaps he got a snippet of it elsewhere, you know, seized upon that misses the whole point about numbers versus quality in which you make reference to people, in which you treat people and that was the underlying message. That was the nucleus of the message that Jay-Z was making.

JONES: And what is so interesting about this President is he could actually it sounds crazy to say this, he could actually learn from Jay-Z. Jay-Z is a very rich person, successful person, is a business person.

WHITFIELD: A fellow New Yorker. JONES: A fellow New Yorker. But he has had one marriage. And he has

fought for that marriage. And he talked -- he was, I mean, he was just unbelievable last night talking about this is my soul mate. I'm fighting for this marriage.

Donald Trump has three marriages. I have never heard Donald Trump refer to the first lady as his soul mate. If he did I'm not sure what people would say about that. Also Donald Trump loves to pick fights with people like black rappers, like football players, like FBI agents, like journalists. But he is yet to pick a fight with these Russians who messed up our election. He is yet to pick a fight with these white supremacist terrorist organization that are growing by leaps and bouncing killing people in America.

And so why do you continue to pick on certain kinds of people if you want to be a tough guy and leave others alone. I would say that if I were a father, and I am, I would rather have my kid follow the example of Jay-Z, Shawn Jay-Z Carter, the mistakes he has made that he has confessed to and improved his life than to base his life on someone like Donald Trump who makes the same mistake over and over again and never improves.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: All right. My conversation with Van Jones.

Let's talk more about the President's twitter war now with Jay-Z and his upcoming state of the union speech with my panel.

Joining me right now Lynn Sweet is the Washington bureau chief for "the Chicago Sun Times." Also with me is CNN political analyst Ryan Lizza.

All right. Thanks so much.

You saw that, you know, twitter war but really it's only been kind of a one-way street. It's the President who sent out his tweet. As far as we know Jay-Z has not responded via tweet.

So Ryan, let me begin with you. Two days away before the first state of the union for this President. And this took top priority for him. Why?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there's the Trump of prepared speeches that we will probably see on Tuesday that are sort of written by the people around him and are often in the business of protecting from himself. And then there's the Trump of his interviews and tweets, where he has no unventilated thoughts. So I think that is - he is doing what Trump always does. He sees an interview. It personally offends him. And had reacts precipitously.

Look, you know, if you look at the back and forth or really, it's only one way so far. I think Jay-Z is being the bigger person here and sort of saying above the prey. I thought his comments about Trump were fairly nuanced to be honest. And the criticism from Trump was inaccurate. I mean, what he criticized the interview for actually, that

conversation happened between Van and Jay-Z. They talked about whether Trump deserved some credit for African-American unemployment.

WHITFIELD: Right. Acknowledging the numbers.

LIZZA: Acknowledging the numbers.

WHITFIELD: And then defining them.

LIZZA: The way I look at it, he took a very nuance and interesting conversation and launched an attack that didn't really reflect what happened in the interview itself.

WHITFIELD: So then, Lynn, the President presumably will have a state of the union script speech. And we know the President sometimes likes to deviate or inject a couple of, you know, personal thoughts even when he does have a speech.

So the state of the union, what is likely to be his primary focus? You know, immigration, infrastructure or might he even make some references similar to how he did via tweet?

[16:10:21] LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Well, the answer is, Fred, all of the above. So you will have the state of the union and then you will have the state of the twitter union. It will come at the same time. It may come a little before. It may preempt whatever he says.

You know, there is no reason why today instead of having this whole segment on hundreds of policy matters, you know, about the state of our nation, we are talking about Jay-Z. And it's an important conversation to have. I think any time that Trump brings up race, but it didn't have to be that way. We could have talked about what the presidency is going to do looking ahead.

So I think you will see a lot of programs. I have heard - I have gotten some briefings on the White House on infrastructure, immigration. He will touch on trade. Usually, these speeches as right, and you know Fred, are (INAUDIBLE) and then you kind of have to listen as to what's new.

Trump gave a pretty straight forward speech in February 2017. That's about a month after he was inaugurated when he got through that. He got through Davos in a standard speech. I just think that when we look at this as the first draft to history Tuesday it just may not matter as much as other speeches and tweets. We are just in a new era. So I'm not thinking this might be one for the history books because other things the President does may matter more.

WHITFIELD: Right. So Ryan, its content versus self-restraint.

LIZZA: Absolutely. Look. The thing that I will be looking for in the state of the union is does he lay out, as the White House has started to do, a comprehensive deal that Democrats might be interested in on immigration reform. And we all know that this - in get reforming the immigration system has bedeviled Barack Obama and George W. Bush every time - even though there is a lot of consensus on some of the big issues, the two parties have not been able to get it done.

And you have an interesting dynamic right now where you always have sort of three moving parts with immigration. You should have the chamber of commerce business wing, which one are comprehensive immigration reform. You had the Democrats who largely wanted to take care of undocumented immigrants who were here and wanted a pathway to citizenship for them. And you had the really hard core restrictionists on the right, who basically have always scuttled the deal, but have never been the sort of principle players at the table.

Now in the White House, that faction is represented by the President. And so we will see if that actually makes the things even more difficult or it is actually the key to unlocking a big comprehensive deal. I think that's what I will be watching for if he lays something out that gets both parties there.

WHITFIELD: And Lynn, of course, there will be a global audience, but we also understand that in the audience of the chambers will be absent many members of Congress. And I understand you have done some reporting and have uncovered yet at least one more name adding to the list of those which is Maxine Waters, John Lewis, you know, and Gregory Nate who will not be there.

SWEET: Well, Congresswoman Jan Shakowski (ph) who is a Democrat from the north side of Chicago and the northern suburbs told me the other day that she is going to boycott the speech. She doesn't want to normalize the presidency of Donald Trump. She told me and that's a decision that she made not to be there.

What's interesting is that Democrats in the House and Senate are divided on this. So one of the things we'll be watching for Tuesday is who comes, who doesn't, who is going to bring guests, and what will they symbolize. Who will be wearing black?

And just one other quick point to make on immigration because this is an issue to a lot of budget hard liners. If Trump comes in and says he wants $25 billion, it's for the wall and other border security measures. It will be interesting to see if when it really gets made a proposal. Does he really want -- if he is really asking Congress for that one appropriation, one year, he is going to get trouble on the right flank. It is just usually not done that way.

WHITFIELD: Interesting, Ryan, too that the Democratic rebuttal Joe Kennedy III. And I guess, you know, there is a logic behind that choice. I guess the Kennedys notably known as, you know, the barometers of morality and might that be the inference going on here or what?

LIZZA: Perhaps. I mean, Brian Clay (ph), the person who gives the response, you know, that job is sort of like the drummer in spinal tap, you know. It seems like a great job at the time and then they disappear under unusual circumstances.

It's just an impossible thing to do. No politician has really pulled off a response to the state of the union in a way that truly enhanced them. Just because you are going up against the President at the peak of his powers speaking before Congress, you know, the party of flubbing him. And then you know, then you have this --.

[16:15:22] WHITFIELD: It can really sore or it can really sink.

LIZZA: Yes. So it is a tough job. I, you know, I wish Kennedy the best of luck because it is not an easy thing to do.

WHITFIELD: All right. Hopefully, there, you know, they have the drinking - reaching for him a glass of water.

SWEET: Like Marco Rubio, yes.

WHITFIELD: Anything like that.

LIZZA: Rubio moment.

WHITFIELD: OK. There will be a moment.

All right. Lynn Sweet, Ryan Lizza, thanks so much to both of you. Appreciate it.

LIZZA: Thanks, Fred.

SWEET: Thank you, Fred.

And of course, CNN will have complete live coverage of President's first state of the inion this Tuesday. It all kicks off in Washington, 5:00 p.m. eastern.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:20:05] WHITFIELD: Another shutdown showdown inching closer perhaps. Well, Congress is hashing out a spending deal to keep the U.S. government funded before the February 8th deadline. Members of both parties are emphasizing a need to compromise on immigration ahead of a meeting tomorrow by the so-called common sense coalition.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: We have the wall. We need to repair the wall. We need to build more wall. We need to do whatever we can to secure the borders. We had $42 billion of expenditures to secure America with that piece of legislation in 2013. But also there was a pathway to citizenship for 11 million people.

Now if you want to go big, that's big. If you are going it go medium or small. We have to decide. You can't have big on one end of it and then also medium or small in the other. I think that's what we are trying to figure out. And I will work with Susan Collins. Our common sense coalition I think is going to be the grounding, if you will, of what will pass or what can move through the Senate. We are going to meet Monday night and start over again trying to find that commonality that we have been able to do. And there's no way that anyone should be considering any more of a shutdown, even talking the nonsense of a shutdown. Let's get down to business and fix it. And we can do it.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: We are going to be meeting this week, our common sense coalition, to take a look at the four pillars that the White House has put out there. I think all of us realize that it's going to take a compromise on this issue for us to get something done and to protect the DREAMER population, which is certainly a goal of mine. But I think the President is also right about borders security. That we do need to beef up our border security.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: All right. Let's bring in CNN political commentator and former senior adviser for the Trump campaign Jack Kingston and Mustafa Tameez is a Democratic strategist and former consultant for the department of homeland security. Good to see you both.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to be here.

WHITFIELD: So Jack, fist. So sounds like this common sense coalition will put everything on the table to try to avoid a shutdown. But you also heard the operative word from Susan Collins, compromise. Do you see that happening?

JACK KINGSTON, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Well, I see it happening. And I think happening. And I think that there have been these small coalitions like the Graham-Durbin that really have never gotten more than ten people on board. And certainly not a serious majority particularly when you look at the prospects in the House.

But I think it's necessary to have a compromise. And the President on Thursday laid his four buckets out there and in terms of border security. And then train migration address 1.8 million dreamers and end in a lottery.

I think some of that is going to be easy. I actually think the border security, there is a lot of common ground. People can get to. And in the visa lottery is that hard but defying what - which people in the 1.8 million is going to be very difficult. What kind of documentation would you use? Where do you block it? Because as you know, DACA recipients are actually small bracket of the dreamers and it does have a dead line. You had to qualify it a certain date. And that's where the big debate I think is going to lie.

WHITFIELD: So we have seen the President, you know, torpedo bipartisan immigration reform efforts before. What do you anticipate this go around?

MUSTAFA TAMEEZ, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You never know with Donald Trump. But you know, one thing to remind ourselves, we are a nation of immigrants built on religious freedom. A friend of mine wrote this great book called "there goes the neighborhood." And he said (INAUDIBLE), immigration is not just a political issue, it's a cultural issue. There are a lot of people that are afraid of this.

And I just want to remind all of us that Texas, where I'm from, became a majority-minority state in 2004. Almost 14 years ago. We have had the best economy, created the most jobs in the last 14 years. And if we build this wall and make sure that nobody ever gets in to cut off all immigration, by 2044, (INAUDIBLE) will tell you that, you know, this country will look like Texas. So this fear mongering that is happening on the Republican side is really going to cost a great deal in the 2018 election.

WHITFIELD: So Jack, you know, you talk about the, you know four pillars. The President already laying those things out. And the President also, you know, intimating that there will be a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million many within his base have already balked at that and been very critical. Might that also, you know, be kind of a spring board who the President may change his mind at the last minute on that.

KINGSTON: Well, I think it is. You know, the President said at the bipartisan meeting he will sign what Congress sends to them. So I actually think that the President has a lot of flexibility in it. You can say that critically that while you don't know exactly what he wants, but I think the fact that he is not approaching it in a rigid manner I think that's an indication to Congress he wants both parties to sit down and hammer something out.

But I want to emphasize that you are really not talking about 1.8 million people because you allow the nuclear family to migrate in and so you really talking about three millionish people, even more than that perhaps. And that's where the debate is going to be. How do you define who that's going to be and then how will it play with the base groups. The Democrats might not feel like it's enough. They want to go to what Joe Manchin just mentioned 11 million people on the Republican side, it is amnesty. And it is something well of three million people is a lot of folks. That's, you know, maybe changing the political demographic which we all have to admit that's why the Democrats really are pushing this to begin with.

[16:25:43] WHITFIELD: So Mustafa, there are some Democrats who are still very angry, you know, very salty that there wasn't something that could be cemented in for dreamers the last go around. And are a little nervous about the February 8th deadline. And that instead it really may come down to the March deadline. What do you believe?

TAMEEZ: Well, it's an artificial deadline the President set up for March 5th.

Look. The President also said in that meeting that he is willing to take the heat. That he would take the heat from both sides if a compromise were put together. So, you know, if the senators are looking to put a country back together, are looking for a stronger economy, one way is to do a comprehensive immigration reform. And I think maybe some compromise can put together in the Senate. But when you get to the House, it's not going to go anywhere. So this 2018 election should serve as a reminder a lot of the Republican members of Congress that are in the house that they need to do something. That they are going to need to step up and work with Democrats to pass some kind of a compromise because otherwise our voters will remember this.

WHITFIELD: All right. Jack Kingston, Mustafa Tameez, good to see you both. Thanks so much.

KINGSTON: Thanks, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Coming up, a renewed interest to protect special counsel Robert Mueller after it came to light the President wan wanted to fire him last year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It certainly wouldn't hurt to put that extra safeguard in place given the latest stories.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: The idea lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are proposing to shield Mueller from the President, next.

[16:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Sources tell CNN Democrats will try to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller from potentially being fired by the president. The news follows reports that the president attempted to fire Mueller last June. A Democratic congressional aid says the Democrats will seek to attach protections for Mueller to the upcoming spending negotiations. Some key Republicans and Democrats seemed open to the idea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: It probably wouldn't hurt for us to pass one of those bills. There are some constitutional issues with those bills, but it certainly wouldn't hurt to put that extra safeguard in place given the latest stories. But again, I have faith in the deputy attorney general that he is going to do what he told me he would do.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: There's a process they have to go through. Mr. Rosenstein would be the first person that I would think if there's going to be some movement in that direction where they are going to go first and I think that would give us time to move and act if we need to. I hope it doesn't come to that and I really do.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I will do whatever it takes to make sure that Mr. Mueller can do his job. We're a rule of law nation before President Trump. We're going to be a rule of law of nation after President Trump. I haven't yet seen any evidence of collusion between President Trump and the Russians, but the investigation needs to go forth without political interference.

We're not going to stop looking at the president because he claims the "New York Times" is fake news and we're not going to convict him based on a news article. As a matter of fact, I think Mr. Mueller is the perfect guy to get to the bottom of all of this and he will. And I think my job among others is to give him the space to do it. I intend to do that. I have got legislation protecting Mr. Mueller and I'll be glad to pass it tomorrow. (END VIDEO CLIPS)

WHITFIELD: I'm joined again by Ryan Lizza and Lynn Sweet. Also joining us now Steve Hall, a CNN national security analyst and a former CIA chief of Russia operations. Good to see you all. OK, so there are two bipartisan senate bills out there that would make it much more difficult perhaps for the president to fire Robert Mueller. So Ryan, do either of these bills really have a chance into making it into law?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST : I mean, maybe. Look, these budget negotiations require Democratic votes to pass the Senate and perhaps even the House and so the Democrats do have some leverage. I think one thing we have learned from both Trump's inability to fire Mueller, remember he apparently tried to do it and he backed off because his White House counsel threatened to quit, and the fact that several leading Republicans have said that doing that would be a serious red line. There aren't that many constraints on Donald Trump and we have seen him do things that other presidents wouldn't do.

In this case with Mueller, it does seem like just the politics of firing Mueller have led to constraining him. That he understood that it would be so damaged into his presidency, so damaging to the Republican Party that it's a red line he just won't cross. Now, a lot of Democrats are going to say, well, you know, there's never been a red line that Donald Trump didn't cross and so we need this

[16:35:00] legislative fix. But I think this is a rare case where he is politically constrained in doing something that he wanted to do.

WHITFIELD: So Lynn, at the core here, you know, is trust or lack thereof, you know. But how is Congress, you know, saying that it doesn't trust him on the investigation, but it might trust him on advancing his agenda or getting behind certain components of his agenda?

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, CHICAGO SUN TIMES: Well, that's because Congress is one of three partners that have to advance government budget's agendas. By the way, when you ask Fred, when we're trying to handicap this, I think it all depends when in the sequence this would come up. So would Democrats trade this for Dreamer protections, no? Could it be part of an infrastructure bill, yes?

And it would have to come since the Republicans control everything. First you'd have to get tremendous buy in from the Republican leadership to even know if this thing had any point to passage at all. And that depends on the behavior of the president and the people around him.

WHITFIELD: And then, you know, Steve, if you're Bob Mueller or a member of the team, what kind of protections are you putting in place, you know, not waiting for our Congress to perhaps put protections in place, but what are you doing to protect the investigation just in case the president were to try to behead the investigation.

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well first and foremost, there's been a great deal of operational security as I would refer to around the Mueller investigation. I mean, there has been, you know, very little information that's come out so we don't know a whole lot about specifically what he is doing and that's a very good place to start in terms of protection. But we were talking about rule of law earlier and really that's the greatest single protection.

In this country, we sort of take rule of law, you know, for granted, but in a place like Russia, which are the ones of course who started this whole thing, rule of law is meaningless and the president can do whatever he wants. That's something that in our system of course is anathema and needs to be protected against, which is why I think we're having this conversation, Fred.

WHITFIELD: OK, so two days away from the State of the Union, we know that immigration is going to be top of mind, but when might this be an opportunity where perhaps the president says for the first time publicly in a very big way that he would be behind a probe that would help protect democracy against Russia or any other adversarial country potentially interfering in elections come 2018.

SWEET: I don't think he would say it that way because I don't think it's in his DNA because -- and he would have to explain what he really meant, which is I'm saying this but everybody knows, you know, everybody should know I'm not a target or whatever his language we have all heard him say many times. I think he would just go off into some deep, you know, deep pit of rabbit hole of explaining no matter what was written for him.

What he could do, now that you have brought it up though, is say that he is going to work for election security in 2018. He could maybe call for a renewal of the election commission he created that had to be disbanded because of the super partisan way that they went about their work. So, he could find a back door way of bringing up what you are talking about, yes.

WHITFIELD: Ryan, because this could be an opportunity for the president to look less like he's trying to hide something instead of every time saying something like, you know, it's fake news or there's no corroboration, no corroboration. Might this be an opportunity for the president?

LIZZA: It would be an opportunity, but there's just nothing in the history of how he has dealt with this issue that suggests that he wants any action on this. I think it's a tragedy because the House investigation and the House Intelligence Committee has sort of descended into partisanship. I don't think the final report there is going to, you know, be what the country deserves.

In the senate, some of the Senate committees that are looking into this, they are a little bit more promising and the Mueller investigation frankly is about, you know, is a criminal probe. It's not his job to sort of come up with a comprehensive take on what would happen in 2016. And frankly I think the American people is going to be left with none of the sort of final answers about both what happened in 2016 and going forward what the government needs to do to make sure there's no meddling, collusion in the future. And to look to Donald Trump to suddenly take the lead on this issue

that would be incredibly newsworthy and would be the opposite of everything we we know about him and his view on this issue so far.

WHITFIELD: And Steve, what is the law enforcement community -- what is the FBI, you know, need to hear from this president? Steve?? Did we lose audio with Steve? I t looks like we did.

LIZA: The Skype pit (ph). You know, sometimes --

WHITFIELD: It happens. He is kind of frozen in time there. All right, Steve, Ryan Lizza and Lynn Sweet, thank so much.

LIZZA: Thank you Fred.

SWEET: Appreciate it.

WHITFIELD: OK. All right, today marks

[16:40:00] an official day of prayer in the Kentucky community that has been reeling since last week's deadly school shooting. Details on the investigation and what we're learning about the shooter, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Marshal County, Kentucky is in mourning as the funerals for the two victims of this week's deadly school shooting are held today. The community is observing an official day of prayer declared by the governor in honor of the two young victims. CNN Kaylee Hartung is live for us in Benton, Kentucky. Kaylee, this has to be an extremely hard day for so many there.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Fred. We just saw a caravan of jeeps and SUVs heading to the high school behind me where we believe they will be escorting the funeral procession of Preston Cope to his burial site. I spoke with the father of one of Preston's pallbearers yesterday as he explained to me the emotions his son is feeling. His son,

[16:45:00] a baseball teammate of Preston's, a neighbor of his, where his son feels tremendous guilt that his friend's life was taken and his was spared, those emotions that many students of Marshall County High School are grappling with at this time.

Last night at the high school, it was an opportunity to celebrate the lives of Preston and Bailey Holt as hundreds if not thousands of people filled that gym and then the line poured out into the parking lot of the gym as people waited hours to pay their respects to the Holt and Cope family.

And the scene inside of that gymnasium, Fred, such a stark contrast to the basketball games and pep rallies that students are accustomed to seeing in there as there were two coffins at one end with the families standing against them, pictures of the students and as well as standing floral sprays surrounding the gym floor. As these two families lay their 15-year-old children to rest today,

we're learning more about the life of Bailey Holt and the way that these families are finding strength and comfort through this difficult time as Bailey's Aunt Tracy Tubbs told us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRACY TUBBS, BAILEY HOLT'S AUNT: When the shots began, Bailey made a call to her mom in secret. Of course, we assumed she intended to tell her mother the catastrophic events unfolding. Unfortunately, it was too late for she was taken from this earth. By the time her mother answered the phone, Bailey was gone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARTUNG: Bailey's family finding comfort in those final moments because they have since learned that Bailey did not suffer. Her aunt also told us more of the simple girl as she called her, who love to live in jeans and is sweatshirts and Converse sneakers, a girl who grew up in a house, in a family full of University of Louisville fans. When she was buried earlier today, Fred, she was laid to rest wearing a Louisville sweatshirt.

WHITFIELD: It's heartbreaking. All right, Kaylee Hartung, thank you so much. We'll be right back.

[16:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: A mother and daughter are suing a Louisiana school district for promoting prayer and Christianity in schools. It's a case that is dividing the small religious community in the heart of Trump country. Here's CNN's Nick Valencia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GREG LEE, RESIDENT, WEBSTER PARISH: Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil for you are with me because the Lord is my shepard.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's straight from heaven to you. That's what the Lord is saying today. It's good stuff.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Greg Lee grew up in rural Louisiana like his father and his grandfather before him. He's a banker by profession, but like most in the Webster Parish, he sees himself more as a servant of god.

LEE: It's the foundation of who we are. That's why we live in this area, that's why we are here, that's why my address is in Webster Parish is because it's at the foundation of who I want to be.

VALENCIA (voice-over): The imprint is undeniable. Just look at its downtown, which rests at the intersection of no less than seven churches. God in prayer is a fundamental part of the community. Even if that means it shows up in the halls of public schools.

Just like any other school here in Webster Parish, the students at Lakeside start their day with the pledge of allegiance. But it's what they do afterwards that makes it so different. Students remain standing reciting Christian prayers while Bible verses are broadcast over the school's P.A. system. After Christmas break, that stopped.

KAYLEE COLE, STUDENT SUING THE SCHOOL DISTRICT: Whenever I started sitting down for the players, I could just feel every like pair of eyes on me.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Seventeen-year-old Kaylee Cole is a senior at Lakeside High. She grew up a Christian but she says years of being pressured to pray in class has made her lose faith. In the Webster Parish school district Cole says there's no getting away. God is everywhere.

COLE: Football games they have prayers in them. Our pep rallies, sometimes they have prayers in them. Any sort of ceremony.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Fed up, last month Cole was pushed by her mom to sue the school over what they call religious indoctrination. The ACLU is representing them. The district declined to comment, but in their court response they deny some claims and admit to others saying, quote, a voluntary student-led prayer was delivered in the morning at Lakeside, but the school denies their actions were unlawful or unconstitutional.

COLE: For somebody like me and some of my friends I know, it just kind of feels like it does feel like a church.

When you walk into a classroom and you see want a change, pray and daily objectives, love God, worship God, read the Bible, doesn't it feel like that?

VALENCIA (voice-over): Kaylee Cole is an agnostic living in the heart of America's Bible belt, President Trump's base. He's worked hard to show evangelicals he's in their corner. To explain first amendment rights about student-led prayer in public schools on the heels of Cole's lawsuit, the Louisiana state attorney general co-authored a religious freedom document. He wrote it here in direct eyesight of a painting of Moses flanked by the scales of justice and a Christian bible.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Does God has a place in public school?

JEFF LANDRY, LOUISIANA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well God has a place I belive in everyone's hearts.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Even in public school?

LANDRY: Even in everyone's hearts.

VALENCIA (voice-over): At the core of Webster Parish are its long standing Christian beliefs. Beliefs Greg Lee says he is willing to fight for, not just for the soul of Webster Parish, but for the soul of America.

LEE: If you begin to tell me that my children do not have the right to pray in school, that's an attack upon the relationship that I have with my God

[16:55:00] and the relationship that they have with our god.

VALENCIA (voice-over): A bond they dare anyone to break. Nick Valencia, CNN, Webster Parish, Louisiana.

(END VIDEOTAPTE)

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much for being with me today. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Up next, the hour of the "CNN Newsroom" continues with Ana Cabrera after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You are in the "CNN Newsroom." I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thanks for being here. President Trump in a fresh battle of words this weekend, not with a political rival. He is slapping, not slapping a foreign leader with a new nickname I should say. Today's beef in fact is one of the best selling musician of all time. It's with Sean Jay-Z Carter. He appeared on CNN last night of course, the first guest on the new Van Jones show.

[17:00:00] Well, Jay-Z was critical of President Trump's opinion of African countries. He talked about why black Americans usually vote for Democrats and discussed unemployment in the black community. The president on Twitter responded.