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Trump Backing Up his Attorney Michael Cohen; Democrats File Lawsuit Against Russia, Trump Campaign, WikiLeaks over Election; Trump's Twitter Rant Against NYT, Maggie Haberman; Former Stormy Daniels Attorney Cooperating with Feds Against Michael Cohen; Sessions Threatens to Quit if Rosenstein is Fired; Trump Praises North Korea's Decision to Suspend Nuclear and Missile Tests; Forbes Reporter Shares Tapes of Trump Lying to Get on "Forbes" 400 List; Barbara Bush Laid to Rest in Texas. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired April 21, 2018 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:00:03] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Hello again. Thank you for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
President Trump is backing up his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, as legal troubles grow for his long-time lawyer. This morning, the president tweeting, and I'm quoting now: "'The New York Times,' a third-rate reporter named Maggie Haberman, known as a crooked H flunky, who I don't speak to and have nothing to do with, are going out of their way to destroy Michael Cohen and his relationship with me in the hope that he will flip. They use nonexistent sources and a drugged, drunk -- drunk, drugged-up loser who hates Michael, a fine person with a wonderful family. Michael is a businessman for his own account lawyer, who I have always liked and respected. Most people will flip if the government lets them out of trouble, even if it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don't see Michael doing that, despite the horrible witch hunt and the dishonest media," end quote.
All that from the president via Twitter.
Right now, President Trump is at his Florida resort.
CNN White House correspondent, Boris Sanchez, joins us now.
Boris, that's a pretty big vote of confidence from the president on Michael Cohen.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Fred. And sort of surprising following some recent news. I'll get to that in a second.
But we have breaking news. The president just tweeting a few moments ago, weighing in to the news that the Democrats on Friday filed a lawsuit that names the Trump campaign, Russia, WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, accusing them of conspiring to interfere in the 2016 election. One portion of that lawsuit specifically says that the Russians found a willing and active partner in President Trump.
We got a response from the president a few moments ago. He writes, quote, "So funny the Democrats have sued the Republicans for winning. Now the R's counter and force them to turnover a treasure trove of material, including servers and e-mails."
The president there referring to this lawsuit by the Democrats, as he often has, as a way to justify having lost the 2016 election.
As you noted, the president earlier lashed out on Twitter, attacking "The New York Times" and specifically one reporter, Maggie Haberman, over a piece that was published yesterday that shed some negative light on his relationship with his personal attorney, Michael Cohen. The reporter, Maggie Haberman, cited six different sources saying the president historically has not treated his personal attorney well. The president went into the rant you read where he talks about having confidence that Michael Cohen won't flip against him.
That comes on the heels of news that legal experts have told the president that he should prepare for Michael Cohen to potentially flip. That's to say, if Michael Cohen has any incriminating information about President Trump, that he may comply with investigators and use that information for some leniency. Haberman has defended her reporting since then, Fred. We've yet to see the president go any further. But we should note that the president, in the past, has not quite been as vocal about his confidence in Michael Cohen -- Fred?
WHITFIELD: Boris Sanchez, thank you so much. Keep us posted.
Jeremy Herb is a CNN politics reporter. Areva Martin is a CNN legal analyst and civil rights attorney. And Kendall Coffey is a former U.S. attorney for the southern district of Florida.
Good to see all of you.
JEREMY HERB, CNN POLITICS ATTORNEY: Hi, Fred.
WHITFIELD: Jeremy, you first.
How damaging could a possibly Cohen indictment be for the president?
HERB: We learned last week the Justice Department has been investigating Michael Cohen. We didn't learn specifics. The subject matter could determine whether or not this implicates the president. CNN reported some of the materials taken related to Stormy Daniels, something that could involve the president. At the same time, there's financial information taken about his financials related to taxi medallions, something less relevant. The key question will be the subject matter. Also what is affected by attorney/client privilege. Trump and Cohen's lawyers are in court right now fighting about whether some of the documents seized can be used by prosecutors.
WHITFIELD: And then, Areva, one would think that this huge effort, the raid of Michael Cohen's places, his home, his hotel, et cetera, wouldn't be just about Michael Cohen. I mean, why all this effort if it's not in some way related to the president?
AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's what's troubling and somewhat puzzling as well, Fred. Why is the president going to such lengths to prevent information from being revealed? If he has nothing to hide, if he's not been involved in any criminal activity, why does he care about Michael Cohen perhaps even cooperating with federal prosecutors? When you look at what the president is doing in the civil lawsuit that's pending in federal court and what he's doing with respect to this raid, it suggests that he has some guiltiness, some conscious of guilt. And I think we need to note more about what was taken from Cohen's office. But it appears as if the president is really trying to prevent the American public from knowing very much about what Michael Cohen was involved in and the extent of their relationship.
[15:05:24] WHITFIELD: And then, Kendall, there's this legal, you know, battle, and then, of course, there's been so much written. Just today's "New York Times" writes about the relationship of President Trump and people who have worked in the Trump Organization, how it's a one-way street of loyalty, and it lays the ground work as to why Michael Cohen, even though he said he'll take a bullet for, why potentially he may not if it means going to trial in terms of saving the president and when the president unleashes a number of tweets pointing at one of the reporters of that story, Maggie Haberman, and then Maggie Haberman actually responded in this manner. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Michael Cohen has, over the years, done all kinds of things at the president's urging because the president wanted them to. He came to sort of into it what he thought the president would want. It didn't always work out. Sometimes those things were handled in a way that came back to bite the president later. The Stormy Daniels case is one of them. But Cohen was basically trying to do right by his boss and was seeking his boss's approval. And Trump, time after time, treated him -- Trump is fond of using the phrase "like a dog." He treated Cohen quite poorly over a period of time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So then, Kendall, that's painting the picture of this personal relationship, but still at question is what was the professional kind of relationship? Was he -- Michael Cohen, representation of Donald Trump in a legal sense, or was it someone who conveniently looked over documentation? How important is solidifying that relationship to the case going forward?
KENDALL COFFEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF FLORIDA: Well, it's very important. Cohen said he'd take a bullet for President Trump. He hasn't said he'd take a tom hawk missile. We don't know the gravity of the potential charges he faces. It's one thing if it's a year and change. It's another thing if it's between five and ten. It appears the president has sent maybe two messages. One very explicit that Cohen's a good guy and he would never flip and turn on the president of the United States, his long-time friend.
The other one is maybe implicit. Because we recall that President Trump pardoned Scooter Libby, who happened to be an ultimate loyalist. Is perhaps that a signal that if you're an ultimate loyalist, at the end of the day, the president will be ultimately loyal to you and by the way, there's a pardon power out here? WHITFIELD: And, well, that's another option, but only if it's on a
federal level. Right? Because if it remains on a state level, the president doesn't really have that kind of pardoning power, right, Kendall?
COFFEY: Can't pardon state crimes. It's complicated. It's not sure what the state crimes might be. But that remains an exposure. It's intriguing timing that President Trump pardoned Scooter Libby just after the offices of Michael Cohen were raided by the FBI.
WHITFIELD: Right. Without any kind of relationship between Scooter Libby and Donald Trump.
So, Areva, a former attorney for Stormy Daniels is said to be cooperating with prosecutors in the federal investigation or the investigation of Michael Cohen. Could this be a clue that prosecutors might be going after the whole campaign finance violations because of that $130,000 payment? Unclear whether that's going to be considered a do nation, a campaign donation or what?
MARTIN: Yes. It's pretty clear, Fred, that the feds that raided Michael Cohen's office and his home are interested in that negotiated $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels. Now you have Keith Davidson cooperating with the federal investigators. We know he was involved in negotiating that agreement. And we should also note something pretty significant happened in court this week. And that's in the federal civil case. Where Michael Cohen was asking that judge to delay that civil case that he removed from state court to federal court. He asked for a 90-day delay. The court pointed out that there were gaping holes in the paper work and the documents that were filed by Michael Cohen's team. And the court refused to grant the 90-day delay saying Michael Cohen, come in and file your own affidavit stating that you're taking the Fifth Amendment, because of the raid that has happened with respect to your home and your office. That was a pretty significant blow to Michael Cohen who had hoped that he would get this federal judge who's overseeing the civil case to delay that matter. Stormy Daniels's lawyer is saying, Judge, no delay is need. Give us the right to go in and take Michael Cohen's deposition and get his testimony under oath. If the judge sides with Stormy Daniels' attorneys, we could see Michael Cohen being subjected to deposition even though this raid is pending in the southern district.
[15:10:16] WHITFIELD: And then back to the whole issue of the pardoning. Kendall, you brought up the Scooter Libby pardoning, and the mysteries behind that. And now, apparently, the president just tweeted about pardoning Jack Johnson. He writes that, "Sylvester Stallone called me with the story of heavy weight boxing champion, Jack Johnson. His trials and tribulations were great. His life complex and controversial. Others have looked at this over the years. Most, though, thought it would be done. But, yes, I am considering a full pardon."
So, Jeremy before I hear from you -- Kendall, you want to continue your thought on the whole notion of the pardoning powers exercised by the president in serious ways? COFFEY: Well, yes. He's putting his pardoning power in the news.
There are a lot of potential cooperating witnesses out there that might be reading that news very, very closely.
HERB: You know, it's interesting. This is such a far-removed way of pardoning. The pardons the president has done so far, the Justice Department hasn't been involved. Obviously, in this case, the president said he got a call and tweeted about it. Well, we'll see now that he's only considering it if it's something the Justice Department looks at it.
I remember this is something I think John McCain and Harry Reid -- forgive me if I'm wrong -- but this is something they have actually been pushing for a few years now back when Harry Reid was in the Senate. I'm going to be curious to see how it plays out.
WHITFIELD: Areva, do you have a quick thought on that?
MARTIN: Yes. I think the president, hopefully, will stop using the power of the tweet to send these messages to these potential witnesses. That's not how the justice system should work. Witnesses should not be getting the smoke signals from the president via tweets.
WHITFIELD: From someone who says he doesn't like telegraphing, he sure does like telegraphing.
Kendall Coffey, Jeremy Herb, Areva Martin, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
WHITFIELD: All right. Next, Democrats hit the Trump campaign and Russia with a lawsuit. Why the DNC is alleging a grand conspiracy they say cheated the 2016 election.
[15:16:42] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. President Trump is lashing out at the Democratic National Committee after it sued the Trump campaign, Russia, WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, and several relatives of associates of the president. The lawsuit alleges they were all part of a grand conspiracy that harmed Democrats during the 2016 presidential campaign when WikiLeaks published internal party e- mails after a cyberattack on the DNC.
Trump tweeting, just moments ago: "So funny the Democrats have sued the Republicans for winning. Now the Rs counter and force them to turn over a treasure-trove of materials, including servers and e- mails." Let's talk about this. Joining me right now, Democratic political
strategist, Howard Franklin, and Republican strategist, Kevin Paul Scott.
Good to see you both.
Howard, you first.
WHITFIELD: What's your response to what the president has to say?
HOWARD FRANKLIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think this lawsuit alleges what everyone on the planet already knows. What most if not every American intelligence agency has confirmed. What's been the subject of multiple investigations at the federal level and elsewhere. And the real question is what has taken the DNC so long? This was 15, 18 months ago in the most litigious country on the face of the planet --
WHITFIELD: What's the answer to that potentially?
FRANKLIN: What's the answer to --
WHITFIELD: Yes. Why would it take so long?
FRANKLIN: That's a great question. It's taken the Democrats a long time to do a lot of things. I think there's a lot here. Even if we aren't alleging collusion, I think we still can say the Russians have had an impact on the presidential election.
WHITFIELD: Kevin, Democrats believe this is important to help protect the electoral process. Do you agree, or is this frivolous?
KEVIN PAUL SCOTT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: What it shows us, Fred, is the national Democratic Party is stuck in the past, and this is just reality here. Democrats are going to do very well in 2018, the congressional elections and Senate races, but nationally, this is a party that's struggling to find its voice and footing moving forward. They're stuck in 2016. And then when you look at 20, they're talking about Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, both of whom are five years older than the president. This is a party that nationally is struggling to move forward.
WHITFIELD: It's not about protecting, moving forward, upcoming midterms or even 2020?
SCOTT: I think it's about trying to draw people's attention in the upcoming election cycle to what happened in the past because they don't have a platform and a message that's cohesive. They have a lot of other messages that are resounding locally, but not a cohesive message in the party.
FRANKLIN: I don't know if I could go quite that far. I think both of the parties need to do soul searching. Looking at the Republican Party under the helm of Trump, without him there. But I think a lot of what Republicans nationally benefitted from basically revolting against President Obama is what we're seeing here and, unfortunately, it was very successful. I don't see any reason why it won't be successful in 2018. More importantly, looking at protecting the sanctity of the elections. We don't know what happened or what Russia did. We can't allow it to happen again.
WHITFIELD: Why would Democratic Representative Jackie Speier say, in her view, this is "not in the interest of the American people," just quoting her now, about this lawsuit, Howard?
FRANKLIN: I would say this is not in the interest of the American people. I think people are interested, as Kevin mentioned, in putting this behind us. I don't take any issue with that sentiment. I think we'd still need to safeguard the American democracy. If we don't know how Russians or other foreign actors impacted our election cycle, we don't have a way to guard against it in the future.
[15:20:04] SCOTT: Isn't that the job of Special Counsel Robert Mueller? That's the reality of it. This is a side show the DNC is putting on.
WHITFIELD: Let's switch gears. There's a variation of investigations ongoing. We'll talk about Robert Mueller, the special counsel one in a moment.
But first, an off-chute of that is the Michael Cohen investigation in New York. Still, the president is exhibiting that he seems to be far more concerned about that investigation, where it's going, the loyalty of his attorney, et cetera. So is it your feeling that perhaps the president is particularly concerned or anyone in the president's orbit is particularly concerned that Michael Cohen has reason to flip, to become the prosecutor's witness?
SCOTT: Yes. I want to divide that into two things. Number one, I don't think there's any fear of Michael Cohen flipping. I think his loyalty is proven. I think he's going to stay loyal to the president. Is there a reason for the president to be concerned? Absolutely. The fact, the quantity of the tweets --
WHITFIELD: If he didn't do anything wrong or if there's nothing to be concerned of, when why would he be so concerned?
SCOTT: That's a good question. I don't think we fully know. I think when you look at violating attorney/client privilege, that's a concern. This is his personal lawyer. There's a lot of information there. There's a lot of things that have gone on.
WHITFIELD: That, too, is an issue of consternation. Is this his attorney? Did he act on his behalf? Is this a friendship? Which is it?
FRANKLIN: Or is he a business associate? The questions about Cohen are more specifically focused on the roles he played when he wasn't acting as an attorney for Donald Trump. More to the point, and I'll agree with Kevin here, there are two things. There's a political question and a legal question. Donald Trump has every right and obviously is going to take the Twitter every chance he gets to try to answer the political question. I think a poll was done by ABC that said that 70 percent of Americans support Robert Mueller's investigation into collusion with the Russians. I don't think he's winning the political argument. Even if he were to win it for a time, he still has to do the legal argument. There's no indication he's figured it out how to address that.
WHITFIELD: Now, as it pertains to the Russia investigation, the attorney general recused himself from that. And now "The Washington Post" is reporting that the attorney general has said to Don McGahn, I will quit if the deputy A.G., Rosenstein, is fired. Using this bullhorn to make this announcement for all to hear, I mean, what do you think is behind this? Does this allow the president, perhaps, to proceed with getting rid of a Rosenstein and then consequently getting rid of an ag because he's made it very clear that he's not happy with either one?
Howard, you first.
FRANKLIN: I think, obviously, a big question for the rule of law in American politics. Right? This president obviously, and for the entirety not only of his campaign but also his presidency, there's short 14 months or so, as it's been, has perceived himself as above the law. I think he's testing the limits of that threshold. At some point, we'll hear an argument that maybe brings him down to earth.
SCOTT: I think maybe A.G. Sessions, maybe watched Nikki Haley as a way to push back against the president. Maybe that's a way in this cabinet to communicate with him. I don't know if his staying power is as strong as Nikki Haley's.
We'll leave it right there.
Kevin, Howard, good to see you both. Appreciate you.
SCOTT: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Thank you.
Straight ahead, President Trump now praising North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-Un for suspending nuclear and missile tests as of today. But is the president being too optimistic? That's next.
[15:28:13] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. After decades of missile tests and threats of war, North Korea says it is done with its nuclear and long-range missile testing. The announcement on North Korean state television comes just days before talks are set to begin with South Korea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED NORTH KOREAN NEWS ANCHOR (through translation): Under the proven condition of complete nuclear weapons, we no longer need any nuclear tests, midrange and intercontinental ballistic missile rocket tests. And the nuclear test site in northern area has also completed its mission.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: President Trump raising the development tweeting out: "North Korea has agreed to suspend all nuclear tests and close up a major test site. This is very good news for North Korea and the world. Big progress. Look forward to our summit."
I want to bring in Jim Walsh, an international security analyst at MIT. He's been to both North Korea and Iran for nuclear talks in the past.
Jim, always good to see you.
So what does this mean in your view, this announcement for talks with South Korea, and then the planned meeting between Kim Jong-Un and the president to say that there will be this freeze?
JIM WALSH, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST & RESEARCH ASSOCIATE, TECHNOLOGY'S SECURITY STUDIES PROGRAM, MIT: Well, I think it's pretty good news. Now, this is the first step in a long process. They haven't even sat down and talked. The negotiation has not begun. And the North Koreans have made or offers several changes in their position. So that tells me they're probably serious about this thing and trying to lay the ground work for it to be a success. Now, will it ultimately be successful? We won't know until we get into it. As far as things go, this is a pretty good beginning, I would say.
WHITFIELD: North Korea has made come to agreements with the West before, it has made many overtures, but ultimately reneged on just about everything. Do you think this time it's different?
[15:30:02] WALSH: Well, first of all, when you look at the history of past negotiation, it's a little more complex than that. You could argue the U.S. was the one who took actions that led to the breakdown of the agreed framework. But certainly, the most successful agreement we've had was the agreed framework. It lasted eight years. It froze long-range missile tests and a freeze on producing nuclear weapons material for eight years. I would love a freeze for eight years, Fred. That would be awesome. It's always at what cost. But certainly, preventing things from getting worse, I think, would be an improvement over what we've had before. But I think both sides are going to be wary. You're right to say both sides are going to be wary. That's why probably starting off on the right not a matter for this president maybe more than for other presidents.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Is it a consideration to say, all right, North Korea is kind of dangling this carrot saying, OK, we'll freeze unless, and then fill in the blanks? Is it a bit of a kind of veiled threat?
WALSH: Well, I think both sides have things they can gain and both side things they have that can punish or threaten the other. Neither side has made an irreversible commitment. The U.S., the president may pull out of the Iran agreement. What signal will that send to the North Koreans about his willingness to stick to his promises? I think we have a long way to go, and both sides can back out. But right now, both are also making positive signals, and you got to go one step at a time with these things. I would say the early steps are good.
WHITFIELD: You brought it up, on that Iran nuclear deal, just for a moment, President Trump has indicated he won't renew the deal next month when it comes up unless there are major changes. You have signed a letter urging him not to walk away. What are you imploring him to consider?
WALSH: Well, I want him to listen to his secretary of defense and his former secretary of state and his former national security adviser and all our allies in the International Atomic Energy Agency. I want him to say this is working. Iran is in a box. It can't get out for a long time. Let's not open the box. If you do that, then how are the North Koreans going to ever believe you're going to follow through on your promises? Now, if other countries did this sort of thing, we would say, you're cheating. If Iran sort of stopped complying with the nuclear rules, we'd say Iran, you're a cheater. But when we do it, when we're the ones who do it first, we seem not to call it cheating. We say well, we're pulling out or trying to fix it, or whatever. But we're cheating. We're going back on our commitment as the United States of America.
WHITFIELD: All right. So that, too, is threatening the trust that others might have of the U.S. as a result. I hear you loud and clear on that one.
Jim Walsh, thank you. I appreciate it.
WHITFIELD: All right. Family, friends, dignitaries, all descending on Texas to pay their respects to Barbara Bush as the beloved former first lady is laid to rest. Stay with us.
[15:37:47] WHITFIELD: President Trump has been a fixture on the "Forbes" richest list for decades, but now a former "Forbes" magazine reporter claims then-citizen Trump fed him lies to get on the magazine's annual list of richest Americans back in the 1980s, and that reporter had tapes of those conversations. Jonathan Greenberg is sharing audio of Trump apparently posing as his
alter ego, John Barron.
CNN's Alex Marquardt has the story.
JONATHAN GREENBERG, FORMER FORBES REPORTER (voice-over): OK, what's your first time?
JOHN BARRON, DONALD TRUMP'S ALLEGED PSEUDONYM (voice-over): John.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Barron, one of the aliases President Trump has been accused of using over the years to speak with reporters glowingly about himself.
BARRON: Most of the assets have been consolidated to Mr. Trump. You know, because --
MARQUARDT: In this call from 1984, the so-called Barron is claiming the assets of Trump's wealthy father, Fred, are, in fact, his. So he deserves a higher spot in the famous "Forbes" 400 list.
BARRON: It's been pretty well consolidated.
BARRON: That's one point you can --
GREENBERG: Is that just the -- is that including the residence?
BARRON: Yes, everything has been consolidated basically now and over the last couple of years, they've been working on it.
MARQUARDT: Trump, as himself, was in regular contact with former Forbes reporter, Jonathan Greenberg, repeatedly arguing for a better ranking.
BARRON: And then you mentioned other names. There's no contest. There's no contest.
MARQUARDT: Greenberg didn't take Trump at his word and "Forbes" decided to list him at $100 million, much lower than his stated value.
Greenberg says later research showed he was worth under $5 million at the time and didn't belong anywhere near the list.
GREENBERG (on camera): He's a consummate con man. He figured out what to do to deceive me and get onto the list. He did it very well. He maintained that persona of just talking about his assets without any sense of debt and lying about it.
MARQUARDT: Greenberg says he's reporting this now because he just recently came across the tapes from the mid '80s. He alleges Trump repeatedly inflated his wealth by dramatically inflating the value of his properties.
GREENBERG: He lied about -- there are 25,000 apartments in Brooklyn and Queens. There were 8,000 apartments in Brooklyn and Queens. He lied about his father, that he owned all of his father's assets and he borrowed against his father's assets.
[15:40:07] MARQUARDT: Trump has long denied that he's John Barron or another alleged alias, John Miller, who would call gossip reporters.
JOHN MILLER, DONALD TRUMP'S ALLEGED PSEUDONYM: By the way, I'm sort of new here. And I'm --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What's your position?
MILLER: I'm sort of handling P.R. He gets so much of it.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Those didn't sound like me, really. You think that sounded like me?
JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE: Yes.
MARQUARDT: But then.
TRUMP: Over the years, I've used alias. If you're trying to buy land, you use different names, so you have aliases.
KIMMEL: What names would you use?
TRUMP: I would use -- I actually used the name Barron.
MARQUARDT (on camera): There it is, Barron. Not just the name he liked for an alias but also naming his youngest child, a son, Barron as well.
Fast forward to the 2016 presidential campaign in which Trump repeatedly claimed he was worth some $10 billion, something that is very difficult to verify because we still haven't seen Trump's tax returns. We have reached out to the White House for a reaction to these new recordings. We have not heard back from him. And the Trump Organization says they have no comment.
Alex Marquardt, CNN, New York.
WHITFIELD: We have so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.
But first, here's this week's "FIT NATION."
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's swimming and then there's ice swimming.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get down in the water.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People who do this are crazy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right. I'm a little crazy. I think you have to be a little bit crazy when you go into the cold water and swim in the cold water.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You try not to freeze. You swim as fast as you can in the cold water.
GUPTA: This is the Scandinavian winter swimming championship. One of the coldest swimming competitions in the world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of spectators coming to watch it every year. They come from everywhere. They want to see this way people suffering in the water.
GUPTA: Studies have shown that swimming in cold water can improve mental health, promote healing, and improve circulation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a good way to strengthen your body, to strengthen your mind and be ready for extreme condition.
GUPTA: But swimming in water this cold, especially without a wetsuit, isn't without risk.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You swim the same way you do as in regular swimming. But it's breathing. When you're in cold water, you're lungs cramp. You have to train to be able to breathe quickly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you first get into the water, you remember it's mind over matter. You're not going to die. If you stay in too long, you can get hypothermic. The trick is not to do that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wasn't as bad as I thought.
GUPTA: Over 400 swimmers compete in various short distance races.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's breast stroke, free style and, for the first time, we also butterfly. Butterfly is special. Then you're under the water.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The hesitation before you go into the water, where you say, you don't really want to do this. If you manage to do it, it's a really good thing.
GUPTA: With the growing popularity of the sport, there's hope for a grander stage in the years to come.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We hope we're in Beijing, we'll be in the Winter Olympics. Chinese already told us they would like to show the winter swimming as a potential new sport.
(END VIDEOTAPE) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[15:45:59] WHITFIELD: All right. This has been a day of tribute for the former first lady, Barbara Bush. You see many standing at attention there at College Station, which is going to be the location of internment for the former first lady at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library complex there. The motorcade has just arrived there? OK. It will soon be arriving. With the family and, of course, the casket, a silvery blue casket. Barbara Bush will be in a hearse that arrives there, along with the family. In attendance, upwards of 1500 people at her funeral, as her private funeral ceremony taking place earlier today.
Here are some of the poignant moments that happened earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In her final days, while the 43rd president was visiting, Mrs. Bush asked one of her doctors if she'd like to know why George W. Turned out the way he had. She announced, I smoked and drank while I was pregnant.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Barbara, the tough but loving enforcer was the secret sauce of this extraordinary family. Thank you, dear lord, for bringing Barbara Pierce Bush, the vibrantly beautiful human being, into the world. And especially for bringing her friendship into our lives.
JEB BUSH, (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR & SON OF BARBARA BUSH: I feel her looming presence behind me. And I know exactly what she's thinking right now. Jeb, keep it short. Don't drag this out. People have already heard enough remarks already. And most of all, don't get weepy.
Remember, I spent a decade laughing and living a life with these people. And that is true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Again, beautiful moments earlier at the St. Martin's Episcopal Church, in Houston. And now roughly 100 miles away, at College Station soon to arrive there, the motorcade, including the family and the casket of the former first lady, Barbara Bush, arriving at the George Bush Presidential Library complex. Mrs. Bush will be interned there alongside her late daughter, Robin, who was also interred there. She died of leukemia at the tender three years old. And as we await those pictures, the arrival of the former first lady,
let me bring in CNN political analyst, Julian Zelizer, and CNN White House reporter, Kate Bennett.
Because what we saw today was just an extraordinary, a beautiful ceremony paying tribute to Barbara Bush. Loved by so many, regardless of what kind whatever political affiliation you might have, Kate. And it was beautiful because there was a striking balance of levity and solemnity. It was extraordinary, a beautiful sendoff for her. What were your impressions of the dynamics there of how family, political dynasty, all came together?
[15:50:27] KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, actually, I think this was a moment where politics was sort of set aside. We saw, obviously, Melania Trump representing the Trump administration going there, wanting to pay her respects. You know, sitting next to the Obamas, whom her husband has criticized and Hillary Clinton, who had are very tumultuous campaign with Trump and Jeb Bush and the entire Bush family, so this really was a moment where, you know, memories and respect and reverence for this woman, this iconic first lady came into play far more than the sort of divisive politics that we've seen play out in this Trump administration on a broader scale. Melania Trump actually did something sort of special today, too. She brought along with her two staff members from the White House who really adored Mrs. Bush and vice versa. One of them, George Haney, is a former chief maitre'd at the White House. And another, Buddy Carter, is still an usher there to this day, working now with the Trump family. Mrs. Trump invited them to come along, fly down and back on her plane and attend this memorial service, which was really, I think, an important gesture of kindness from Mrs. Trump.
WHITFIELD: And explain why or what, perhaps, was behind that decision making of Melania Trump. And she has since put out a statement, you know, coming from the office of the first lady. I'm going to read it in part, saying, "Today, the world paid tribute to a woman of indisputable character and grace. It was my honor to travel to Houston to give my respects to Barbara Bush and the remarkable life that she led as a mother, wife, and fearless first lady. My sincerest thoughts and prayers continue to be with George H.W. and the entire Bush family."
But talk to me about that incredible gesture of bringing two people who have their close ties with Barbara Bush, the Bush family.
BENNETT: I mean, again, I think it's, in a way, it must be sort of an olive branch for Mrs. Trump who is walking into the scenario at the church, again, filled with former adversaries of her husband. I think words that she used in that statement like fearless to describe Barbara Bush must be inspirational to her. This is a first lady who announced almost two days beforehand that she wanted to go to this memorial service and be there in person. Two days before her husband announced that he wouldn't be going. So clearly, she feels this very deeply. She's looking for guides in this new role, still finding her footing as first lady, so it must have been very inspiring for her. I would imagine she felt welcome. We saw for a moment her interact with Barack Obama, and smile and the two laughed, maybe exchanged some pleasantries, So certainly, an important moment for Melania Trump to feel embraced by former presidents and former first ladies and pay respect to this, and I think bringing along those staff members really showed that she cares and has a deep respect for the relationship between the first lady and the White House staff.
WHITFIELD: And, Julian, on that note of feeling welcome, well it appeared she was at ease, yes, we saw that, you know, picture, live as it was happening, of former President Obama talking with her and there were some very subtle smiles but at the same time, one can't help but wonder -- as we're looking at these live pictures of the motorcade now on the way to check station, the George Bush presidential complex there -- one can't help but think about the awkwardness, Julian, of Melania Trump sitting next to the Obamas after her husband on the campaign trail and beyond as president now, who has made lots of efforts to undermine the legacy of President Obama, after that moment of those -- the same words in Melania's speech that come from the speech of Michelle Obama. So talk to me about how, perhaps, this was a moment to perhaps reset for Melania Trump to show that she is at ease, even though there had been these very prickly moments. And the Clintons were just on the other side of the Obamas and the history of President Trump and campaign Trump with the Clintons.
JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It was certainly a special moment and to watch her and former President Obama interact was different than much of what we see on a daily basis. Let's remember President Trump before he was president also was part of the birther movement, which was questioning the legitimacy of President Obama. But you know, special people can bring together all sorts of figures from different political backgrounds, and Barbara Bush was not only a first lady, her role both as the wife of a president, the mother of a president, the mother of a very important governor, made her pretty remarkable and she was someone also, personally, who was never boxed in by the political world that surrounded her. So in some ways, it makes sense that at her funeral, the celebration of her life, you'd see all kinds of odd configurations sitting side-by-side, including our current first lady and some of her husband's deepest adversaries.
[15:55:43] WHITFIELD: And you know, we're reminded, whether it be from the stories from family members or the replay of accounts from family members who would talk about Barbara Bush as being the enforcer, and it wasn't just as a mother she was an enforcer and as grandmother the enforcer, you know, but also, as the first lady, Kate.
And take a listen to Jeb Bush as he so poignantly described his mom, her legacy, and how she, in so many ways, shaped all of them. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Some of my greatest memories are participating in our family dinners with mom when mom would get into it, most of the time with George W., as you might imagine, and having us all laughing to tears. We learned to strive to be genuine and authentic by the best role model in the world. Her authentic plastic pearls, her not coloring her hair -- by the way, she was beautiful until the day she died. Her hugging of an HIV/AIDS patient at a time when her own mother wouldn't do it. Her standing by her man with a little rhyming poetry in the 1984 election. And a thousand other ways Barbara Pierce Bush was real and that's why people admired her and loved her so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Oh, Kate, those were such beautiful words.
Talk to me about how difficult, perhaps, this was for Jeb, even though he said I'm not going to get all weepy, she wouldn't want it but heck, I got weepy just listening to him earlier today.
BENNETT: I think there were just some really, really touching moments in that ceremony. It's funny to think about Barbara Bush now in the contrast with first lady such as Melania Trump. I mean, Barbara Bush really prided herself on those dirty Keds and the $29 shoes she would wear to fancy events and joking about her wrinkles and her realness. And we look now at Melania Trump, not to say she isn't real, but it's certainly a very different feeling, a very different aesthetic. She's very stately. She's a former model. She wears fashionable clothes. And I'm sure, in a way, we're all remembered -- we remember those times of Barbara Bush when she sort of felt very grandmotherly to us all and sort of approachable and friendly and jokey. And it's interesting to watch this path of history as these different administrations, different first ladies pass through and really understand and remember what a matriarch for this country Barbara Bush was. And I think that's very much what Jeb was trying to relay in discussing these personal stories.
WHITFIELD: And, Julian, just those personal stories really say she not only kind of made a mold, but she also kind to have broken the mold, not just as first lady, but as a mom, a grandmother, an incredible supporter of her husband, and how -- in a lot of ways, she was a leader in the politics of the family, in the relations of the family. How does one kind of summarize her legacy, in your view?
ZELIZER: I think she was at the center of leading, nurturing, shaping a family that was devoted to public service and that whatever your party affiliation is, everyone has to admit played a formidable role in the last 30, 40 years of our nation's politics. And he wasn't simply part of the family. She was at the center of the family. And that's a remarkable role and I think it's an important role to celebrate and commemorate at a time when often public service is dismissed and devotion to the nation takes secondary status to other things.
WHITFIELD: And then, Julian, talk to me about the significance of this burial site at the George Bush Presidential Library complex, right alongside her daughter, Robin, who, at 3 years old, died of leukemia and this site now being a place of rest.
ZELIZER: Yes. It's a site that commemorates his presidency. It's a beautiful facility. And there she rests alongside a tragic thing that happened to the family, but at the same time, a monument to what her husband was able to achieve during his term. Those are both the archives of his presidency, a library commemorating his presidency, and now his wife lays on that ground, the ultimate commemoration to his family.
[16:00:12] WHITFIELD: It was said during the funeral, too, that --