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Trump to Rally for Balderson in Ohio; Mueller Interviews Manhattan Madam Close to Roger Stone; QAnon Conspiracy Supporters Growing Among Trump's Base; MS-13 Gangs Threaten Certain Communities; How to Stop Young Males from Joining MS-13; Melania Trump Chooses Sides in Trump/LeBron James Battle of Words; New Evidence North Korea's Missile & Nuclear Programs Not Stopped; Pompeo: Sanctions Will Stay in Place Until Turkey Releases Pastor. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired August 4, 2018 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: In just a few hours, he'll be pumping up GOP voters in Ohio in a deep-red district that he won easily on Election Day. But now, a Republican win there is by no means a given. These two are fighting for a congressional seat in Tuesday's special election. On the left is the Democrat, Danny O'Connor, suddenly surging, making it a toss-up against Republican Troy Balderson. The president's trip there today is last-minute to push to keep that seat Republican.

Our White House correspondent, Boris Sanchez, is at the rally site.

Boris, the president expected to speak there in a few hours. If this district flips, what does this mean for midterms?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Ana. Well, it could be a signal of that blue wave that commentators have long been prognosticating for the 2018 midterm elections. This could be a referendum on where President Trump stands with midwestern voters as well.

The fact is, we wouldn't be talking about the 12th congressional district of Ohio when it not for President Trump. As you noted, this is a solid-red Republican district, one that has been reliably that way for decades, which President Trump won by 11 points.

Now on this special election for the district seat on Tuesday, I want to show you this, a Monmouth University poll that shows that this race is essentially a toss-up between Republican Troy Balderson and Democrat Danny O'Connor. A one percentage point difference between the two of them. With such an important district for Republicans and such an important swing state, President Trump is going to come here to try to work some of his magic.

And he did that earlier today on Twitter, sending out tweets in support of Troy Balderson. He writes, "We'll be going to Ohio tonight to campaign for Troy Balderson for the big congressional special election on Tuesday. Early voting in on. Troy is strong on crime, the border, and loves our military, vets, and the Second Amendment. His opponent is a puppet of Nancy Pelosi and high taxes. Troy Balderson, running for Congress, from Ohio, is in a big election fight with a candidate who just got caught lying about his relationship with Nancy Pelosi, who is weak on crime, borders, and your second amendment and wants to raise taxes bay lot." The president closing by saying, "Vote for Troy on Tuesday."

Of course, we can expect the unexpected. When it comes to these sorts of rallies, President Trump is known to make a lot of news in unexpected directions during these rallies. What we can expect is for more of these to take place. Sources have indicated to CNN that aides are trying to get the president out on the road in his natural environment, riling up supporters, instead of being back in Washington focused on the steady drip of information coming from the Russia investigation -- Ana?

CABRERA: OK, Boris Sanchez, there in Ohio. We will be listening. We will be fact checking. We're bringing you the highlights from the president's event tonight.

In the meantime, we are learning Special Counsel Robert Mueller interviewed someone who is incredibly close to a member of Trump's inner circle, someone who has had ties to Trump's long-time friend and campaign adviser, Roger Stone, for decades. She's known as the Manhattan Madam. And today, four sources telling CNN that Kristin Davis sat for a voluntary interview with Mueller this week. Davis has a personal and professional relationship with Roger Stone. And when it comes to Trump, he and Roger Stone are tight.

With us, CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney, Page Pate. White House reporter for the "Daily Beast," Asawin Suebsaeng; and CNN political analyst and "Washington Post" columnist, Josh Rogin.

Asawin, out of everyone who knows Roger Stone, why do you think Mueller wants to talk to this woman?

ASAWIN SUEBSAENG, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, he's certainly casting a wide net to examine not just Roger Stone and his practices recently, regarding to the Trump Russia investigation and fiasco, but trying to get a better understanding of Mr. Stone's orbit and his dirty tricks. And the funny thing about Roger Stone is this isn't just someone who was a long-time confidant and adviser to President Trump. Obviously, he's fallen out of prominence in the pro- Trump orbit nowadays. But going back years, he certainly had a lot of access and dealings with the president that had nothing to do with his presidential run.

He's also someone who is very close to Paul Manafort over many years, who is someone who is also feeling the heat of the cross hairs of federal investigators right now. Both Manafort and Stone were members of a high-powered D.C. lobbying firm in the Reagan era that, among other things, did the dirty work and represented some of the most ferociously brutal dictators who also happened to be pro-American on the face of the planet.

So as team Mueller looks more and more into Roger Stone, they're going to be looking into a lot of stranger cases such as the one you just mentioned. CABRERA: Josh, the fact that Mueller is talking to this Manhattan

Madam, does this provide fuel for the critics who accuse Mueller of overreach, who may be asking, what the heck does this madam have to do with election interference in Russia.

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm sure the critics will make that point. But I think it's clear that Mueller is being as thorough as he can. He's bringing in as many people as he can. And you know, before he issues that report, he's going to make sure that he's exhausted all of his leads and pursued all avenues of investigation. And that's exactly, in my opinion, what he should be doing. You know, you've got this constant drum beat amongst the Republicans and people close to the president saying that Mueller should just end this or wrap it up. What did Rudy Giuliani say? Put up or shut up. You know, of course, set aside that Mueller hasn't been saying anything, he's probably the only one who's shut up out of this whole ordeal. He's not going to be pressured. He's going to go through the motions and go through this investigation until he feels like he's done. And if that doesn't satisfy Republicans' need for speed, then tough turkey. And, yes, it's a questionable what actual connection the Manhattan Madam has to Russian collusion or conspiracy, but that's not the point. The point is that Mueller's checking it out, and he's going to keep checking it out until he's satisfied.

[15:05:49] CABRERA: And also, again, reiterating the fact that she voluntarily sat down to talk to him.

Page Pate, the sources that we're talking to say investigators expressed some interest in actually having Davis testify before a grand jury. So, would you be more surprised if Stone was or wasn't indicted for something at the end of all this?

PATE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Ana, I think at this point, it's still too difficult to tell what exactly the special counsel's office knows about Roger Stone. I do think it's significant, though, that they are moving to this next step. They're interviewing people close to him and possibly calling one or more before the grand jury. The reason you want to do that, as a prosecutor, is to preserve their testimony, because it must have an important part in your case. It must be a material fact that the special counsel intends to rely on when they are drafting indictments. So, is it possible that he could be indicted? Of course, it is. But the mere fact of calling this witness doesn't necessarily mean he's going to be indicted.

CABRERA: Asawin, a question is whether President Trump himself is going to talk to Mueller. His attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said on Thursday he would be making a decision on that within the next 10 days, but we've heard this before, no?

SUEBSAENG: Absolutely. I've spoken to Rudy Giuliani and other members of Trump's legal team many times on this, and they've sort of been moving the goal post for many weeks, if not many months now, about, oh, we're going to make the decision on a potential interview with Robert Mueller and/or his team in the coming days, in the coming weeks. It's always an increment or two weeks or so, and then those two weeks pass and no decision has been made and no interview has been agreed to. And part of this, certainly not all of it, but at least a small but significant part of it is the president himself keeps ping- ponging as he privately talks to aides and close advisers and friends about even if he should do this. There have been times where he has said both publicly and privately, enthusiastically, that he would love to get this over with, that he can basically stick it to Mueller and show him to his face that he did nothing wrong. And there are other times when he starts agreeing with his counsel that perhaps it's better to engage in a state of retrenchment on that.

CABRERA: I want to play something else Giuliani said this week. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: We believe that the investigation should be brought to a close. We think they're at the end of it. They should render their report, put up -- I mean, I guess, if we were playing poker, we're not, put up or shut up. What the you got? We have every reason to believe they don't have anything. The president didn't do anything wrong. I don't think they have any evidence he did anything wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Josh, since you referenced that exact sound byte earlier, I want to pose this question to you. If Mueller really has nothing on Trump, if they want this investigation wrapped up, they, being Trump's team, why not just sit with Mueller?

ROGIN: Right. Because they don't actually know that Mueller doesn't have anything, right? The whole point is that we're working in an information environment where the Mueller people are the ones who are not leaking, and you know, in the -- the reality here is that in the scope and the history of these kinds of investigations, this is not a long investigation, OK? Similar investigations have gotten much, much longer, all right? But of course, the president has a political incentive to, first of all, project that Mueller hasn't come up with anything, and second of all, to call for him to end it as soon as possible. But that's all just chatter. That's all what Rudy's pulling out -- putting out the game the refs, to shift public perception. In the end, we're going to just have to wait until Mueller gives his report, until he's ready, and then we'll find out. Until then, if it's Rudy Giuliani or whoever it is, that's speculating about what Mueller has or what Mueller doesn't have, that's just speculation, and we can't take it too seriously.

And the issue of the president testifying is crucial, of course, because, you know, there's a feeling that Mueller can't actually issue this report if he doesn't talk to the president, and that is a huge vulnerability for the president, mostly because he has a tenuous relationship with the truth and says things all the time about the investigation that don't match up with the facts or reality.

[15:09:57] CABRERA: Page, we are learning Mueller actually did make a proposal to Trump this week about a potential interview. He actually agreed to limit the number of questions on obstruction as long as Trump is willing to meet in person. What do you make of that offer?

PATE: I think it's obvious the special counsel really wants to have that sit-down meeting with the president, but I don't think it's going to happen, because it's clear that Giuliani and the group that's working with Trump, at this point, is trying to do as much as they can to call the special counsel's investigation a witch hunt, it's biased. And so I think politically, they'll have enough cover where the president does not have to sit down and answer these questions. And while I'm sure Mueller will limit the number of questions, he's not going to limit the subject matter. It makes no sense to interview the president in this capacity if you cannot ask those critical questions about obstruction. Why did you fire Jim Comey? What have you been saying to your attorney general? That is really the heart of that part of the special counsel's investigation. He's not going to let it go.

CABRERA: Gentlemen, thank you for the discussion. Great to have you with us. Josh, Asawin, Page, we appreciate it.

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: So, as supporters gather for Trump's rally tonight in Ohio, there's a fringe conspiracy theorist group growing more visible at Trump events, people with shirts and signs bearing this letter, "Q." So who are they? We'll dig into that next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What do they even mean? You say stuff that doesn't mean anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Conspiracy theorists --

(CROSSTALK)

FOREMAN: You think I'm weaponized by the CIA?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe not to your knowledge. But that's unfortunate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:15:47] CABRERA: We're starting to see a new type of supporter at President Trump's rallies. In fact, we might see them tonight, people wearing T-shirts or holding signs with the letter "Q." The "Q" stands for QAnon, a group that believes, among other bizarre things, that the deep state is out to kill President Trump. And that's just scratching the surface.

CNN's Tom Foreman has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(SHOUTING) FOREMAN (voice-over): Photos of missiles and mysterious strangers, rants about a shadow government, Freemasons, secret symbols, and predictions of a world about to change, all of this is part of the conspiracy stew cooked up by QAnon, an Internet conspiracy persona. Some followers of whom showed up at the president's most recent rally, and many of whom see him as a hero, like them, ready to embrace wild theories, to claim secret plots against him, and to attack anyone who says otherwise

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Fake news, fake news.

(BOOING)

TRUMP: They are fake.

TUCHMAN: Internet postings associated with the movement gained traction fast among followers, like one that says the Parkland school shooting victims and witnesses were really actors.

NBC News noted earlier this week a spate of YouTube videos falsely accusing top celebrities of pedophilia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The higher you go, the more sick it gets.

TUCHMAN: At the same time, the "Q" is attracting interest from others, including Roseanne Barr and Curt Shilling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been asked --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe the "Q?" Do you know who "Q" is?

TUCHMAN: The Washington Post" says "Q" is, "An anonymous user claiming to be a government agent with top-security clearance, waging war against the so-called deep state in service to the 45th president."

But back on earth, this is known. The promotion of conspiracy theories can have real consequences.

UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: The Hoover Dam was evacuated.

TUCHMAN: In June, police detained an armed man after he blocked Hoover Dam, demanding the release of a government report, apparently about Hillary Clinton's e-mails, although such a report was already out.

In 2016, police say a man fired a rifle in a D.C. pizza place as he claimed he was investigating a widespread conspiracy theory about human trafficking. He was convicted and is now serving four years.

ALEX JONES, RADIO SHOW HOST: We're not covering Pizzagate enough.

TUCHMAN: And Alex Jones, who pushed the Pizzagate conspiracy on his radio show, is now in court over another made-up tale. Families of victims in the Sandy Hook school shooting say they have been hounded mercilessly since Jones claimed their stories were all part of a hoax to push for gun control. He is countersuing them for legal defense fees.

(on camera): And yet, for all that, back in 2015, Candidate Donald Trump praised Alex Jones. So perhaps it's no surprise the QAnon crowd is now crowding around the president, offering their support.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: QAnon is the name of the group.

And "Daily Beast" reporter, William Sommer, has been reporting on this bizarre movement, and joins us now to discuss further.

So, William, it's so bizarre. And yet, it seems to be growing. Are QAnon followers drawn to Trump, or are Trump followers, do you think, drawn to QAnon?

WILLIAM SOMMER, TECH REPORTER, DAILY BEAST: You know, it's interesting, I think it's a mix of both. Sometimes you see people who are already hardcore Trump people, and they turn to QAnon or believe in it because it portrays this world where, you know, Trump is constantly winning and victorious and sort of engaged in this very dramatic battle. At the same time, I think there are people, especially people drawn from the far left, who find it appealing because it portrays this world sort of controlled by evil banks and shadowy forces, and they, in a way, sort of meet in the middle with QAnon.

CABRERA: How is this different than Pizzagate or Birtherism?

SOMMER: Sure, in a way, it's sort of a combination of all of them. It's a mega-conspiracy theory that offers this explanation for all of that going on. So they say, oh, Pizzagate is real. That stuff's real. Maybe Barack Obama wasn't a legitimate president because he was born in Kenya. They claim the Seth Rich conspiracy theory. They claim he was murdered by Hillary Clinton, this DNC staffer. So it combines all this stuff that's been bubbling up for a long time now and offers this explanation of Trump versus this global cabal.

[15:20:07] CABRERA: But a lot of those we hear that are not supportive of the president, the person in power, these seem to be backers of the current president.

SOMMER: Sure, so this is the interesting thing about QAnon. Is that conspiracy theory experts have looked at this and they say, normally, you get a conspiracy theory like, let's say, Birtherism, when your side loses. This time, though, it's the president's supporters. The Republicans control the entire government.

So what's going on? I think what's going on is that the president -- he made such extravagant promises and his supporters believed in him so much during the campaign. So, for example, they were chanting, "lock her up." Hillary Clinton was never going to be sent to prison, but they're disappointed that she wasn't, so they create this world or believe in this world like QAnon where they think Hillary Clinton's going to be sent to Guantanamo Bay.

CABRERA: CNN's Gary Tuchman got a chance to speak to some of these QAnon supporters. Here's what they told him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys are --

TUCHMAN: So you don't believe in the First Amendment?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I totally believe in the First Amendment.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys are weaponized. You guys are totally weaponized by the CIA.

(CROSSTALK)

TUCHMAN: By the CIA? I don't know anybody in the CIA except a couple people I've interviewed over the years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

TUCHMAN: You believe there's a deep state?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

TUCHMAN: And what do you think that deep state is doing? Do you think they're running this country?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe they were, and they're petrified now because they're losing their control.

TUCHMAN: And who is in this deep state? Who are the people in it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I definitely believe that, like, the Clintons, the Bushes, the Obamas.

TUCHMAN: Do you think the Clintons, the Bushes and the Obamas are running this country as we stand here in the rain?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, they're trying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: William, you say, "QAnon's impact on politics and Trump world is dangerous." Explain.

SOMMER: Absolutely. Well, we saw in the earlier segment, we've already seen one QAnon believer who shut down a bridge. He was armed. He had a weird improvised armored truck. He's a hardcore QAnon guy so we know he's motivated by that. At the same time, obviously, in 2016, we saw someone with Pizzagate, you know, an armed person invade a pizzeria in Washington. So what's happening here is the QAnon people are saying, we're not violent, we're not violent. And admittedly, so far, no one that we know of has been hurt by this. But at the same time, you know, you're telling people these sort of extravagant conspiracy theories about pedophiles and people abusing children, and the fact that the idea that essentially democracy is broken, the government's out of your hands, and so then I think, naturally, that's going to appeal to some fringe people. And as we know, it already has.

CABRERA: Increasing emotions and passion.

William Sommer, thank you very much for your reporting. It's so interesting.

SOMMER: Thanks for having me.

CABRERA: Great to have you with us.

We have this just in to CNN. First lady, Melania Trump, taking sides in her husband's feud with Lebron James. And you might be surprised whose side she's on. Stay right there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:27:09] CABRERA: Again, President Trump hitting the campaign trail in Ohio tonight. And if past rallies are any indication, immigration will be a major talking point, including his crackdown on the infamous street gang, MS-13.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Their new platform, what they want to do, the Democrat Party, they want to abolish ICE. In other words, they want to let MS-13 rule our country. That's not going to happen.

(CHEERING)

TRUMP: Every day, the brave women and men of ICE are liberating communities and towns from savage gangs like MS-13 that are occupying our country like another nation would.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Now let me put those comments into context for you. MS-13 is only one of 33,000 different gangs in the United States. It makes up roughly 1 percent of all gang members in this country. MS-13 is not the largest. And it isn't just made up of undocumented immigrants. But it is a serious threat in certain communities.

And we went to one area directly impacted by MS-13 gang violence to get a better understanding of this gang and its targets.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her life was taken, stolen from her. It's not right. She had dreams, she had goals, she had a future.

CABRERA: Kayla was just 16 years old, a talented athlete nicknamed the bullet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They named her the Bullet because she was so quick.

CABRERA: Sadly, unable to escape the violence just outside her door.

Kayla and her best friend, Lisa, savagely murdered just blocks from home September 13, 2016.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is where it happened. She was found right here.

CABRERA: Attacked with baseball bats and a machete, investigators say. Victims of La Mara Salvatrucha, the gang better known as MS-13.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I miss her every second of the day.

CABRERA: MS-13 is one of the most-violent street gangs in the United States. Federal and local officials agree. Designated a transnational criminal organization with roots in Central America, more than 30,000 members worldwide, up to 10,000 in the U.S., and as many as 1,000 on Long Island alone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have about 500 identified MS-13 members here in Nassau County. Out of that 500, we have 215 that are active.

CABRERA: How do you identify who is an active member?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The number-one is self-admitting. So they'll be all tattooed up, MS-13, self-admitted, do the signs. When they get arrested, they ask them, are you gang affiliated, yes, I'm MS-13.

CABRERA: What is the gang's M.O.?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kill, rape and control.

CABRERA: Ruling by fear, victims of their violence and recruitment are often young.

[15:29:04] (on camera): Local law enforcement says the gang first came on their radar in 2010, but they started to see an uptick in gang violence in 2015. According to intelligence, that's when leaders of MS-13 in El Salvador made a concerted effort to grow and establish new branches of the gang, so-called programs, in different pockets of the U.S., including the affluent suburbs of New York City and Long Island.

TIMOTHY SINI, SUFFOLK COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Why New York is the question. And the answer is that, in Suffolk County, at least, there's a large El Salvadoran population. There's a large population from Central America, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras. There's also a record number of unaccompanied minors coming to Suffolk County during that time.

CABRERA (voice-over): Since 2014, the U.S. government has placed more than 9,000 unaccompanied minors, undocumented children and teenagers who have crossed into the U.S. without parents or guardians, with sponsors in Long Island communities.

SINI: Many of them don't speak English. They don't have money in their pocket. Their parents typically aren't with them. They are seeking a sense of belonging. And MS-13 comes to them and says, hey, we can provide that. But by the way, if you don't join the gang, this is what's going to happen to you. And you know what, we know where your family lives.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You wouldn't believe how bad these people are. These aren't people. These are animals.

CABRERA (on camera): Is the immigration rhetoric that we're hearing from the current administration in D.C. helping or hurting your efforts?

SINI: Certainly, the administration's focus on MS-13 is helpful, both in terms of awareness, resources, and driving the mission. But I think it is also very clear that we need to be sending a message to the immigrant population, the immigrant communities, that we stand with them.

CABRERA: And you don't feel like your community is being used as a political pawn in any way?

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE COMMISSIONER: As a police commissioner, I stay out of politics. My job is to serve and protect all the people. Doesn't matter what your political affiliation is, the color of your skin, or your religion. Doesn't matter to me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her life was so short.

CABRERA: Rodriguez says she's grateful for the support of the president and New York's governor, who recently allocated more than $18 million for gang violence prevention and intervention programs. And she wants to be part of the solution to a safer community, whatever it takes to prevent another family's pain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want them to stop what they're doing. You're hurting family members, loved ones. In the end result, you're hurting yourself.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: Another thing we've learned about these MS-13 gang members, they're overwhelmingly male, and they're young. Some as young as 15 years old committing their first violent act. So what can be done?

I want to bring in a former MS-13 gang member, now working on gang prevention and intervention. Alex Sanchez is the co-founder of Homies Unidos, based in Los Angeles and hotspots for this gang. He does consulting work on Long Island as well.

Alex, so glad to have you with us. Thanks for taking the time.

I want your personal story first. You were drawn into this gang as a teenager. You were just 14. What was the appeal? ALEX SANCHEZ, CO-FOUNDER, HOMIES UNIDOS & FORMER GANG MEMBER: Well,

the appeal was the fact that there was so many social issues in the community that didn't have the answers for the problems that I had. I decided to look for answers outside of home, because at home, there was a lot of abuse. I did not know my parents, like many of the unaccompanied minors now. I was also an unaccompanied minor in 1979, so I didn't know my parents. It was difficult to establish that relationship. I didn't have other family members in the area. And the school did not provide any services for people like me, neither did the community. So it was difficult for me to deal with the bullying, the harassment of other youth, other ethnic groups, as well as other youth of -- that are Latinos as well. We were targeted. And including by gangs. So, for me, it was something to -- that was attractive, primarily, because it was cultural, it was related to where I was from, El Salvador. And I felt that for the first time, I was being acknowledged by this youth, by being part of something, not only the protection, but really providing some of those needs that youth have during those times.

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: What I'm hearing you say is -- sorry, I didn't mean to step on you. But what I'm hearing you say sounds so similar to what we hear from those we have been speaking to as well about why they believe others currently are getting involved with this gang. How did you get out? What was the turning point? What broke through?

[15:34:57] SANCHEZ: Well, people age out. and I was definitely one that learned from my mistakes. I was incarcerated, eventually deported. I became a father during that period, and I wanted to be a father. I didn't want my son to have to go through the same things that I went through. But I was going up against all odds in El Salvador when I got down there. I had to flee the -- there was death squads that were trying to kill me just because I had tattoos. So, I had to flee. I came back to what I knew. I came back to my family that was here. I came back because of my son. But more importantly, I came back because I needed to live. I wanted to live. And my son became my priority. In the process, I was able to also help other youth in the neighborhood, and that's how I started getting involved with the organization.

CABRERA: So, you are sort of paying it forward. And because you have this unique perspective, and those also that you interact with on a daily basis through the work that you do, perhaps you have a solution, some advice for what can be done. What do you think it takes to stop the gang's recruitment effort? What can be done to hurt MS-13?

SANCHEZ: It's not about hurting. It's not about the repression that we've had. The current administration is just one of many administrations that have tried to take this on through suppression. Clinton started with the 1996 law that basically took away legal status of any immigrant people that were here legally. And it hasn't worked. What it's done is worsen the situation in the -- across the world, and especially in Central America. So it's about looking for where it starts, and that starts in our communities. It starts in our schools. It starts at our homes. If resources not being allocated to do that prevention piece, that pre-prevention, the helping the families, I don't see much of that happening with the unaccompanied minor's family beyond reunification. And that's where we really need to be focusing is how are these kids integrating into the communities.

Secondly, we need to understand that MS-13 is one of 30,000 gangs in the United States.

CABRERA: Yes.

SANCHEZ: And we have to ask our question, why are U.S. citizen, children also destroying their lives joining gangs. So it's not just about the immigrant. That's a rhetoric being used by the Trump administration. But why are our children committing suicide by joining gangs? And that's something we could look at from a mental health perspective to understand, what are the root causes of why our youth decide to let go and choose gangs. And I see gangs as committing suicide, as becoming -- getting into prostitution, as drug addiction, as homelessness, as alcoholism. It's just one choice that these youth have in their communities. And I think if we don't start looking at the socioeconomic conditions in communities where gangs exist and address them, we're going to continue having those gangs. Los Angeles has had them for a hundred years and they keep locking people up and other kids keep joining.

CABRERA: Alex Sanchez, thank you for sharing your story, and thank you for the work that you're doing.

SANCHEZ: Thank you.

CABRERA: Great to have you with us.

Still ahead here in the NEWSROOM, the first lady weighing in on the feud between the most-powerful man in the world and the world's greatest basketball player. Guess whose side she's taking.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:43:03] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CABRERA: Breaking news right now on CNN. First lady, Melania Trump, choosing a side in the battle of words and now insults between her husband and NBA superstar, LeBron James. Mrs. Trump just released a statement, and in it, she appears to choose LeBron James.

I want to get right to our senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter.

Because, Brian, this all began with an interview with LeBron James right here on CNN.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Yes, this is one of those stranger-than-fiction stories that I never thought we'd be talking about.

It starts last night when Don Lemon replays his interview with LeBron James. The interview was mostly about how LeBron's opening a new school in Akron, his hometown, all about what he's doing to help the community. But the two men also talked about LeBron's disdain for President Trump. So apparently, Trump was watching and he tweeted about it. We can put on screen the tweet. The president lashed out at both Don Lemon and LeBron James, saying, "Don's dumb and so is LeBron." And then he says, "I like Mike." We'll get back to that.

But what's happened today is really interesting. First of all, Lemon fired back. LeBron James tried to ignore it and just work with the students of the school.

But some reporters asked Melania Trump for a reaction because CNN used #bebest, Melania's initiative in order to call out Trump today. And here is the first lady's statement. She's definitely siding with LeBron James over her husband. Melania Trump say, "It looks like LeBron James is working to do good things on behalf of our next generation. And just as she always has, the first lady encourages everyone to have an open dialogue about issues facing children today."

Here's the whole thing. She says, "As you know, Mrs. Trump has traveled the country and world talking about their wellbeing, healthy living, and the importance of responsible online behavior with her be best initiative. Her platform centers around visiting organizations, hospitals, and schools." And here's the kicker, "She would be open to visiting the I Promise School in Akron."

It's almost as if Melania Trump is the one being the president or sounding like the president. You have the actual president tweeting off insults right before midnight and the first lady saying, hey, this is a great organization, I'll come visit if you want me to.

[15:45:10] CABRERA: She's walking the walk and talking to talk when it comes to her be best program, I suppose.

STELTER: Right. Yes.

CABRERA: But the irony, because her husband is fueling the fire on the other side.

STELTER: Right.

CABRERA: You mentioned, "I like Mike," he tweeted. And he's referencing Michael Jordan, we assume.

STELTER: There's been this debate about who's been the greatest of all time, LeBron James or Michael Jordan. Jordan came out and sided with LeBron James as well today, and said LeBron's doing great work. So, so much for that feud or lack of feud. If Trump was trying to drive a wedge there between the two stars, it didn't work.

And it's also ironic, Ana, because we talk about the president claiming he doesn't watch CNN, claiming he never watches CNN. He's claimed that about Lemon's show, in particular, saying, "I never watch 'CNN TONIGHT.'" Clearly, he was watching last night. It once again shows he's contradicting himself.

I'm curious to see in Ohio, when the president is there in a few hours, if he tries to keep this going at all. CABRERA: Can I point out, too, there's a contradiction in that he

praised LeBron James over and over again in tweets from 2013, 2015 --

STELTER: Yes, he did.

CABRERA: -- and one in May of 2013, saying, "LeBron is a great player and a great guy. LeBron is a tough competitor who delivers under pressure."

I mean --

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: But because now LeBron's been critical of him, he's counterpunching.

CABRERA: All right. More to discuss here.

Brian Stelter, thank you so much.

Smile for the camera. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a top North Korean official shaking hands, as a U.N. report says the rogue regime is still building missiles. A live report on that, next.

Plus, from Enron to the subprime mortgage crisis to Bernie Madoff, the early 2000s were a time of economic turmoil. See how it all unfolded in a new episode of "The 2000s," tomorrow night, at 9:00.

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[15:51:13] CABRERA: We're learning of more letters now exchanged between President Trump and Kim Jong-Un. The latest, a Trump letter hand delivered with a smile today to North Korean officials. Playing the role of diplomatic postman was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who says North Korea will decide its own denuclearization time line. The president responds to a letter he got Wednesday from the North Korean leader.

All this happening as a brand-new United Nations report accuses the North Korean regime of secretly pursuing nuclear programs in violation of international sanctions. Independent experts conducted that report.

Let's get to CNN's global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott.

Elise, what did Trump say in his letter to Kim Jong-Un? Do we know?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: We don't really know, Ana. But these letters back and forth between President Trump and Kim Jong-Un, this is now the new normal. Now that they have met, they have to keep up the conversation. But we understand it's just pleasantries saying we want to go forward with the agreement. And Kim Jong-Un saying he is going to -- committed to the denuclearization.

But the thing is if you look at what's happening on the ground there's not been any progress since that handshake deal between President Trump and Kim Jong-Un that they reached in Singapore a couple of months ago.

As you mentioned, this U.N. report saying that not only is North Korea continuing to work on the nuclear program, it's evading sanctions. There's an oil embargo in place. It's been taking oil shipments from Russia and other countries. It has been getting money from guest workers in the countries, flouting international law. And obviously, even though the tone or tenor of the relations between North Korea and the U.S. have changed since the summit, we're really not seeing any progress on the ground. There's no progress towards a time line, towards even a definition. That's very frustrating to the U.S.

CABRERA: The progress they will point to is that they did return what are believed to be American remains from the Korean War.

I want to ask you about other comments Secretary Pompeo said today, making news about the American pastor detained in Turkey. Tell us what he said.

LABOTT: This comes as there was an unofficial or informal deal between the U.S. and Turkey about Pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been in North Korea -- excuse me -- in Turkey. He was released on house arrest. That wasn't enough. The U.S. thought he was going to be released.

Secretary Pompeo met with the Turkish foreign minister yesterday. Here is what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I had a constructive conversation with my counterpart yesterday. I made clear that it is well past time that Pastor Brunson be freed and permitted to return to the United States. And the others being held by Turkey also similarly must be freed as well. I'm hopeful that in the coming days we will see that occur.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Yesterday, Secretary Pompeo said, time is up, the clock has run out for Turkey to return Andrew Brunson and release the other Americans. And they've already put sanctions on the justice minister, the interior minister.

And, Ana, obviously, the sanctions could continue until Andrew Brunson is released.

CABRERA: We know you will stay on top of it.

Elise Labott, thank you for the report.

A man who was paralyzed in an accident nearly gave up hope he would walk again. But then he met this week's hero, Amanda Boxtol.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NATE WHITE, FORMER KAYAKER: I'm a robot. (LAUGHTER)

WHITE: My goal was always been to make a full recovery. And I think a lot of people thought that was far-fetched.

It was a lot of hard work. I remember when I made this first couple of steps, that's when I knew making a full recovery was possible.

[15:55:08] AMANDA BOXTOL, CNN HERO: He is living the miracle of what we all want, what we all aspire for, to stand up and to do it on our own. He is doing it.

I haven't witnessed that too often in my lifetime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: To see Nate's story and learn more about Amanda's program, go to CNNheroes.com.

We'll be right back.

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[16:00:12] CABRERA: You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York.