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President Trump Now Taking A Firm Stance On The True Purpose Of The Sit Down; Maria Butina, The Russian Charged With Spying; President Has Accused Russia And China Of Interfering With North Korean; President Trump Has Vowed To Wipe Out MS-13. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired August 5, 2018 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[16:00:09] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: All right. Hello again, everyone. Thanks so much for joining me this Sunday from Washington, D.C. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
All right. It's the meeting that just keeps evolving, two years after it happened. We are talking about the now infamous 2016 Trump tower meeting, President Trump now taking a firm stance on the true purpose of the sit down tweeting today, this was to get information on an opponent. Totally legal and done all the time in politics and it went nowhere.
That message very far from the initial statement from Donald Trump Jr. that we later learned was dictated by President Trump himself saying we primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children, with no mention of dirt on Hillary Clinton. This shift comes as sources tell CNN that the President is concerned about his son becoming entangled in the Russia probe.
CNN's White House correspondent Boris Sanchez is in New Jersey, near where the President is staying for his vacation.
So Boris, we know this meeting is of interest to the Mueller team. So what is the White House's position on this latest approach now?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Fred.
President Trump dismissing that recent reporting from CNN and others that he is concerned about the possible legal implications for his son Donald Trump Jr. and his son-in-law Jared Kushner that may come as a result of the Russia probe. The President dismissing the idea that he has become agitated by recent news from the Russia probe. And that that has lead into more aggressively attacking the special counsel Robert Mueller directly.
Though in that tweet that the President sent out earlier today where he dismisses that reporting, he acknowledges the true nature of that June 2016 meeting between his son and other campaign officials and Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. The President there acknowledging that it had more to do with dirt on Hillary Clinton than it did with adoptions even though that was the official explanation that we heard from the White House at the time.
As you note, the White House legal team told us, the President was not involved in the crafting of that adoption story, only for sources to later tell CNN that the President actually dictated that statement.
Today, Jay Sekulow, one of the President's attorneys who first denied that the President was involved in crafting of that story of that statement, acknowledge that he was wrong. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY SEKULOW, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I had bad information at that time and made a mistake in my statement. I talked about that before. That happens when you have cases like this. I think it is very important to point out that in a situation like this you have over time faxes develop. That's what investigating do. I agreed to go on your network and others days within being retained on this. I had a lot of information to process. I got that one wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Now, Fred, despite repeated calls from the President and some of his surrogates for this Russia investigation become to a close, it is moving ahead full steam. We learned that last week that our sources on the team told CNN that they were still trying to reach one of the key figures that was involved in that June 2016 meeting. (INAUDIBLE), he is the Russian pop star, the son of an oligarch with deep ties to Vladimir Putin, who facilitated that meeting with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump tower. Sources indicate that efforts by the special counsel to sit down with Agilarov and potentially his father have been ongoing for more than a year now - Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Boris Sanchez in New Jersey, thank you so much.
All right. Let's bring in CNN political analyst Nathan Gonzalez who is also editor and publisher for "Inside Elections" and CNN legal analyst Shan Wu, a former federal prosecutor and a former attorney for Rick Gates.
All right. Good to see you both.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to see you.
WHITFIELD: OK. So the President is now saying that the meeting at Trump tower was totally legal. And we heard his attorney admit that he is the one who made the mistakes in his earlier statements, but now he is agreeing with the President. Listen again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEKULOW: Well, the question is how it would be illegal. I mean, the real question here is when a meeting of that nature, constitute a violation, the meeting itself constitute a violation of the law. Let's be honest with the American people. There are irregularities in this investigation the likes of which we have not seen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So Shan, is he right? It was legal, perfectly legal to have this meeting, to get information, to get dirt from a foreign adversary.
SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think the irregularity is that fact that the original email indicates some confliction to the Russian government. I think the phrase was crown prosecutor. There is no crown prosecutor today in Russia, but it's probably a reference to their equal to attorney general. That should have sent up immediate red flags to Don Jr. that this has something to do with the Russian government. And it is very hard to understand.
[16:005:01] WHITFIELD: And the President's argument is that is totally legal.
WU: Yes. The President's argument actually, as always, there is some subtlety to what he is saying. He was also trying to point out that getting dirt or opposition research is perfectly legal. I think he actually side steps the question of the Russian government part.
WHITFIELD: He is leaving the Russian part out.
NATHAN GONZALEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: One thing stuck out to me, Fred, was just thing it was said beyond the mistake, he was saying that facts, when in cases like this, facts evolve. I know. Facts of one thing happened, there might be different revelations throughout the process, but only one thing happened in that meeting.
WHITFIELD: And it's fair enough that you will learn information as an attorney representing and perhaps you don't know everything, but when you do speak out, you are likely to speak out on the stuff that you know.
WU: That's right. And it seems like they have shifted gears so much on that. That, I mean, I think it's interesting to say it's from that investigation that develops, but at best, he spoke too soon at best.
WHITFIELD: OK. So the President has said, you know, he wants this Russia thing to go away. He wants people to stop talking about it, stop asking about it, but he is the one who is bringing it up. And here we are just a couple of months away from the midterm elections, so how much more difficult does it say they make it for the GOP to, you know, to get out in front, change the narrative, redirect, when the President keeps bringing it up.
GONZALEZ: I think it makes it difficult. I mean, every morning, the news of the day is dictated by what the President tweets. I mean, one thing I think we can all appreciate about the President's twitter account, is that we don't not know what he is thinking in the morning.
WHITFIELD: A mystery.
GONZALEZ: This is what he spoken about. You know, what (INAUDIBLE) was talking about in the previous segment, was that the Republicans want to talk about the economy. They want to talk about jobs. They want to thank about the unemployment rate but yet the President is defining the agenda with his tweets and that just makes it difficult to say --.
WHITFIELD: Could it be damaging for the outcome of midterms?
GONZALEZ: Yes. I mean, the Republicans here don't vote in the same percentages that they normally do in midterm elections or the independent voters are turned off and they want to send a message to the President, then Republicans are going to struggle, particularly in the House.
WHITFIELD: And we know, Shan, that the Mueller team has expressed or had lots of dialogue with the representation of Donald Trump, saying we do want to interview. Let's come up with some parameters, et cetera. But now that the President is talking so much about this, changing the sequence of events about the Trump tower meeting might the Mueller team say, you know what, we actually have enough. We don't need to interview him because he's voluntarily giving information.
WU: I think Mueller will still want to talk with him. He wants to check off that box for completeness. And although I think the person with the biggest jeopardy right now is Don Jr. The President is certainly creating more of legal hazards for himself by putting out these tweets when he does talk to Mueller if that would even happens.
WHITFIELD: What is the potential danger that you see for Don Jr.?
WU: For Don Jr., it is the consistency. He, unlike the President, has testified under oath. He has denied talking to his father about it. He has denied talking about the Russian government aspect of it. A lot of that may be contradicted. I mean, they may be able to get phone records that he did speak to his dad. We have the allegations from Michael Cohen, that actually the President did know and Don Jr. may have been in the room when he was told. But the most important aspect of it is really because he has testified under oath.
WHITFIELD: Do you see him being called back, especially as a result of the President saying this, as a change of tail here, don Jr. Being called back because he would be the one potentially subject to perjury, right, if he has to change his story?
WU: They might try to call him back. If I were his lawyers, I would not let him to go back. I would look to explain through other circumstances. For him to go back now, just present the opportunity for further inconsistent statements that could leave to a false statement charge.
WHITFIELD: Another very interesting thing with, you know, Mitch McConnell saying forget the recess, Nathan. Stay here, get policy done, legislation done, confirmations done. Is this because Mitch McConnell is concerned about the President's behavior, what he says leading up to midterm elections?
GONZALEZ: Well, I think part of it is, with less than three months before the elections, Republicans, ones that are on the ballot this fall, the entire house, some key Republican senators, they want to have something tangible to go back to the voters and say this is what we got done.
You might be hearing about the Russia investigation, here's what I'm doing as your congressman or your congresswoman. And if they don't have enough about that, they have the tax bill, I think they would like to get a couple of other things under their belt to take back because they don't have that thing. The conversation is going to be dictated by other things.
WHITFIELD: Right. It's an expression of urgency to get it done now because it sounds like the GOP, you know, Senate majority leader is worrying about the potential outcome of the midterm elections.
GONZALEZ: Yes. I mean, Republicans have a better chance of ruling the senate than they do the house. But both the majorities are at stake in both chambers right now.
[16:10:05] WHITFIELD: All right. Nathan Gonzalez, Shan Wu, good to see you both.
WU: Good to see you.
WHITFIELD: Thank you so much.
All right. There is a new report from "the Washington Post," that Maria Butina, the Russian charged with spying, interacted with former Trump campaign aide J.D. Gordon in the run up to the election of 2016. Butina and Gordon were in contact over email in September and October 2016. And Gordon even invited her to attend a concert and his birthday party that month.
Here is CNN's Sara Murray.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like to present Russia.
SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For an alleged Russian spy, Maria Butina's weren't particularly impressive. She like to communicate via widely available platform lie twitter and Whatsapp. Her overly flirtatious approach left men wondering what she was really after. And sources say she bragged about her ties to Russian intelligence when she was intoxicated.
Two of her classmates found her comments so alarming they reported her to law enforcement. Sources tell CNN, Butina pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent in the U.S. after her July arrest. Her lawyer insists she is not a spy and says, she won't cut a deal with prosecutors if it means saying she is one.
ROBERT DRISCOLL, MARIA BUTINA'S ATTORNEY: The problem with cutting a deal is if you're not an agent for foreign government, you can't lie and say you are in order to get rid of this.
MURRAY: Intelligence expert see Butina as far from sudden approach to allegedly trying to infiltrate GOP political circles as just one of the tools in Moscow's arsenal as Russian president Vladimir Putin tries to meddle in American democracy, an ongoing effort.
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: We continue to see a pervasive messaging campaign by Russia to try to weaken and divide the United States.
MURRAY: Past Russian spies have adopted fake identities using visible ink, communicated with coded messages over radio transmission.
But the under the radar approach didn't seem to suit Butina.
MARIA BUTINA, RUSSIAN SPY: We promote gun rights.
MURRAY: She touted her gun rights group in raising Russian GQ photo shoot in 2014. In 2015, she questioned then candidate Donald Trump about sanctions against Russia at a Vatican political event.
BUTINA: I'm visiting from Russia. So my question is --.
MURRAY: As an American University student, Butina defended Putin. And even claimed in class to be liaison between the Trump campaign and the Russians, the source says.
People who met her through school and political events said she was a little too friendly. She was quick to start playing footsie under the table and boldly sidled up to older men at political event and asked them to be Facebook friends. Her lawyer admits her activity and contacts caught the attention of the FSB, one of Russia's security services.
DRISCOLL: I think anyone who is Russian has to meet with the FSB when they go back and forth and frequently is asked at the airport what they were doing in America if they have any information for the FSB.
MURRAY: And expert say, she was probably a valuable asset for Russia.
STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think Maria Butina would have been very valuable to the Russian government despite the fact that she was the classic, you know, classically trained intelligence officer like perhaps someone like Ana Chapman. So I would expect to see other versions of Maria Butina.
MURRAY: When investigator searched the home of Butina and her political operative boyfriend who has not been accused of wrong doing, they found a note in his handwriting, how to respond to FSB offer of employment. It's unclear which of them it was before.
Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.
WHITFIELD: Still to come, how close the North Korea to actually getting rid of its nuclear weapons? The President is being criticized for not holding the regime accountable and now the White House is responding.
And the fight against MS-13, we will take you to an area in the U.S. hit hard by gang violence and find out what is being done to stop it from spreading. Plus, what the President says he plans to do about the gang coming up.
[16:18:09] WHITFIELD: The President's top national security advisor addressed the deteriorating situation with North Korea today and concerns that Kim Jong-un is not following through on its commitment to denuclearize.
John Bolton came to the President's defence saying Trump won't be to blame if talks fail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: There's nobody in this administration starry eyed about the aspect of North Korea actually denuclearizing. But I think what's going on now is that the President is giving Kim Jong-un a master class on how to hold a door open for somebody. And if the North Koreans can't figure out how to walk through it, even the President's fiercest critic will not be able to say it is because he didn't open it wide enough. But we are doing to have to see performance from the North Koreans. There is no question about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: I want to bring in CNN global affairs analyst David Rohde and he is also the executive editor of "The New Yorker" online. Good to see you.
All right. So there was an exchange we understand of letters between Trump and Kim Jong-un last week. And Trump himself hasn't really called out Kim Jong-un for not moving faster on denuclearization. And then you hear Bolton there who is essentially saying, you know, protecting the reputation of the President that he is working really hard. What is going on here with this messaging?
DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think that, you know, Bolton is defending the President, that's you know his job. But there's a very alarming reports coming out of the U.S. intelligence community that North Korean summit that North Korea after the Trump- Kim summit, you know, has continued to build news intercontinental ballistic missiles, some that can arguably reach United States. There's also intelligence reports that North Korean officials have talked about destroying some of their nuclear weapons declaring that they have given them up and actually secretly retaining dozens of nuclear warheads. All of this is, you know, this is a very bad sign. This does not show great progress from the Trump-Kim summit.
[16:20:01] WHITFIELD: So the President has accused Russia and China of interfering with North Korean particularly in helping them bypass U.S. sanctions, what do you make of that?
ROHDE: Again, that's another negative sign. And the broader picture here is this policy was. He has the very sort of tough rhetoric, you know, and saber rattling by President Trump and then this meeting in Singapore, has it actually worked? And if you just look at the ground reality, you know, is North Korea, you know, giving up his nuclear arsenal, is it most importantly allowing inspections unfettered inspections inside North Korea?
No. None of that has been achieved. I hope this works. But it is a remarkable contrast, the sort of very gentle rhetoric towards North Korea and a very harsh rhetoric towards Iran that you hear from this president.
WHITFIELD: Yes. And in fact, on Iran, the U.S. now re-imposing a new sets of sanctions. You know, starting this week, President Trump saying recently that he is willing to meet with Iran's President, you know, without any preconditions. This as we remind the world that the President pulled the U.S. out of the Iran deal. So how is this being received if you are in Iran?
ROHDE: I think there's, you know, there's confusion. The President pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, there's economic sanctions that are going to be re-imposed in Iran. And they are not sure, I think, what's going to come next. But there's no question that Iran was abiding by the Obama administration's nuclear deal. U.N. inspectors agreed to that. But the Trump has thrown that out. So we see this sort of volatile. And again I hope the President's diplomacy works. But it's a very volatile, sort of erratic approach to each of those countries.
WHITFIELD: What about the notion of any potential regime change in Iran? What are potential consequences of that? Is that something that this, you know, is there some inference from this White House that that's what they are looking for?
ROHDE: Yes. There has been step up rhetoric. Secretary of state Pompeo has called for essentially called for Iranians to rise up. We have done this before. We did regime change in Iraq. Are we going to trade a new government in Iran? How do we know there is the new government in Iran will be better? How do we know there won't be chaos in Iran? So what's the strategy here? What's the long-term plan in Iraq? If we are able to change this government, you know? What comes next? You know, are we enmeshed in another country, another occupation? I'm not saying that, you know, there couldn't be a better government to come, but what is the plan to make this happen over the long-term and to stabilize the region in the long-term.
WHITFIELD: I also want to ask you about Venezuela. You know, president Maduro, apparently the target of an assassination attempt by way of bombs or explosives on drones as he was speaking there. He is blaming outside agitators for the incident. And we heard from the White House who said there was no U.S. government involvement. What do you suppose he is saying?
ROHDE: I think he is playing on a statement by President Trump, you know, soon after he took office. To the surprise of many of his aides, President Trump talked about the U.S. considering carrying out an actual invasion and military invasion of Venezuela. So again, this is the kind of the cost of the President's rhetoric where he is threatening, you know, countries on one point and then defending them on the others.
So I don't believe United States was involved in this. I think someone else have made this assassination attempt. But the President's rhetoric makes it easy for Maduro to say, look, I'm the victim of Trump, the imperialist Trump, you know, the man who was threatening on U.S. invasion of our country, so he will try to use this - Maduro will try to use this to actually his attempt to increase his popularity at home.
WHITFIELD: David, always good to see you. Thanks so much.
ROHDE: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Coming up, the President continues to criticize an immigration system that he claim has allowed gangs like MS-13 into American cities. We will take you to an area hit hard by gang violence and what they are doing to stop it from spreading.
[16:28:37] WHITFIELD: President Trump has vowed to wipe out MS-13. But the FBI says the gang is growing and the violence is rising. Last night the President touted his administration's effort. Once again, he praised immigration enforcement officers for their part in combatting gang violence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You know, when MS-13 sees the I.C.E. people, when they come in, MS-13 says we got problems. I.C.E. has been fantastic for this country. They are brave. They have got a tough job. And we are getting these gangs like MS-13 and others. We get them the hell out of the country one by one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: But the problem is anything but gone. Authorities say the gang has been on a killing spree in recent months and is making their way into more suburban neighborhood.
CNN's Ana Cabrera went to Long Island to see how MS-13 is impacting that community.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her life was taken, stolen from her. It's not right. She had dreams. She had goals. She had a future.
ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST (voice-over): Kayla Cuevas, just 16 years old. A talented athlete. Nicknamed the bullet.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They named her the bullet because she was so quick.
CABRERA: But sadly, unable to escape the violence just outside her door. Kayla and her best friend, Liza Mickens (ph), savagely murdered just blocks from home September 13th, 2016.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is where it happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[16:30:00] ANA CABRERA, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Kayla and her best friend Lisa (Inaudible), savagely murdered just blocks from home, September 13th, 2016.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is where it happened and Lisa was found right here.
CABRERA: Attacked with baseball bats and a machete, investigators say, victims of Mara Salvatrucha, the gang better known as MS13.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I miss her every second (Inaudible).
CABRERA: MS13 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 MS13 members here in Nassau County. Out of the 500, we have 215 that are active.
CABRERA: How do you indentify who is an active member?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) self admitted, so they'll be all tattooed up MS13 and self admitted. They give the gang signs. When they get arrested, they ask (Inaudible) MS13.
CABRERA: What is the gang's MO?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kill, rape, control.
CABRERA: Ruling by fear, victims of their violence and recruitment are often young. Local law enforcement says the gang first came on their radar in 2010, but they started to see an uptick in gang violence in 2013. According to intelligence, that's when leaders of MS13 in El Salvador made a concerted effort to grow and establish new branches of the gang, so called (Inaudible) in different pockets of the U.S., including the affluent suburbs of New York City and Long Island.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why New York is the question. And the answer is that in Suffolk County at least, there is a large Salvadorian population. There is a large population from the northern (Inaudible) of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras. There is also a record number of unaccompanied minors coming to Suffolk County during that time. CABRERA: 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.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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 MS13 comes to them and says hey, we can provide that, but 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.
PRES. DONALD TRUMP (R), UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: You wouldn't believe how bad these people are. These aren't people. These are animals.
CABRERA: Is the immigration rhetoric that we're hearing in the current administration in D.C. helping or hurting your efforts?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certainly, the administration's focus on MS13 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 MALE: As a Police Commissioner, I stay out of politics. My job is to serve and protect all the people. It doesn't matter what your political affiliation is, the color of your skin, or what your religion is. It 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. They're hurting family members, loved ones. In the end result, you're hurting yourself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, NEWSROOM ANCHOR, CNN: And our thanks to Ana Cabrera for that reporting. As California goes, so does nearly half the country. Attorneys general in 20 states facing off against the Trump administration, next, why they say they plan to file suit.
[16:35:00] WHITFIELD: California's governor calls it reckless, and he says his state will join with 19 others in suing the Trump administration over their plan to roll back an environmental rule, the signature Obama air regulation requiring car companies to work toward higher fuel standards. If the Trump administration freezes it, it would join a long list of Obama initiatives the White House has reversed. Here's CNN correspondent Nick Watt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICK WATT, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Freezing a major plank of Barack Obama's environmental policy, attacking yet another pillar of the previous President's legacy could be a long legal road for President Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Earth is not flat, and climate change is real. Can someone please inform the folks at the White House?
WATT: Already, 20 state attorneys generals say they will challenge the administration's new emissions proposal to trim fuel economy standards. The AG from Massachusetts said this has to go down in the books as one of the dumbest ever. Some Californians we spoke with seem to agree that Trump following through on a campaign promise to fix emission standards is wrong-headed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are more important things to be taking care of for the United States. And unfortunately, should I say this? I believe Trump is an idiot.
[16:39:59] WATT: In 2012, the Obama administration set out incremental fuel efficiency standards that auto makers must meet by 2025 average fuel efficiency must top 50 miles per gallon. The Trump administration now proposes freezing that at just under 44 miles per gallon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If people can afford new cars with the Trump program, they will be safer.
WATT: The argument goes like this. If fuel economy standards are lower, cars will be cheaper to make, and therefore cheaper to buy. Opponents over the proposal say consumers will actually suffer paying more at the pump in those less fuel efficient vehicles. Air quality will suffer, along with public health, and the oil industry will benefit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an effort by the Trump administration to try to eke out some more profit before that whole industry turns upside down.
WATT: This President does have a predilection for rolling back the policies of his predecessor dismantling his legacy, fuel efficiency standards were a major Obama achievement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The standards set by the Obama administration are absolutely doable.
WATT: Now, auto makers don't know whether to plan for the old standards or the proposed new ones, as lawyers lick their chops of the prospective years of work, a lengthy legal wrangle over emissions between states and the White House that could even outlast the Trump presidency. Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Other top stories we're following, the search for a missing toddler led to the rescue of 11 children who police say were living in quote, heartbreaking conditions. Police raided a make shift compound in New Mexico looking for a three year old who has been missing since November of 2017. There they found 11 children that officials say look like third world country refugees, their words.
The kids range in ages from 1 to 15 years old. They were found living in conditions with no running water, no food, and wearing dirty rags for clothes. The missing toddler was not among the children found. The childhood home of the late holocaust survivor (Inaudible) was vandalized with anti-semitic graffiti. The incident happened Friday night in Romania.
An investigation is underway. And police already have a list of suspects according to the county council. The national institute for studying the holocaust in Romania called the act grotesque and deemed it an attack on all victims of the holocaust, much more straight ahead in the Newsroom right after this.
[16:45:00] WHITFIELD: All right. Tonight, the CNN original series, History of Comedy, is back with an all new episode. Robin Williams, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Bernie Mac, all comedy legends cut down at the height of their careers. This week, we'll look at what happens when the people who make us all laugh leave us too soon. Here's a preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you do something great, a little piece of you will always continue to go on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The worst thing about being in the hospital is that they shave you. I mean they shave everything, you know? And I was just visiting a friend of mine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Larry Sander was not afraid to express his frailties, his (Inaudible), inabilities, all the T's (Inaudible).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He broke the fourth wall with his (Inaudible) show and with Larry Sanders, he broke that mould too. He turned TV on its head twice.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I feel so uncomfortable when I do these showings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, so do I.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you're so good at it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trust me. I hate myself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Much of modern television comedy can be traced back to a lot of the chances Gary took.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It still doesn't add up for me that he's gone. It doesn't make sense. Not having his voice doesn't feel right, even long before I met him, he felt like a comedic friend to me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All my journey is to be authentically who I am.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was a mentor to a lot of people. He almost seemed like he was floating through the world a little bit, like he was there to help.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I want at my funeral is an actual boxing referee to do a count and at five just wave it on and say he's not getting up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The reason that Gary's death is a crime is not just because I don't get to talk to him anymore. But he wasn't done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. Joining us right now, Kliph Nesteroff, good to see you again, he's a Consulting Producer on History of Comedy and the Author of the book The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy. So the loss of these comedy legends like the people we mentioned earlier, you know, Robin Williams, John Candy, Gilda Radner, Bernie Mac.
The reaction of the fans and fellow comedians is really so strong. Why does it seem that people feel even if they didn't know them personally, that there is such a connection?
KLIPH NESTEROFF, CONSULTING PRODUCER, HISTORY OF COMEDY: Yeah. Well, I mean when you think about your favorite friends, forget about comedians for just one second, but in your personal who are your favorite friends. They're usually the people that make you laugh, you know. You want to hang out with those people. And that's sort of what comedians are, you know.
If you can make somebody laugh, you're going to have a tremendous amount of affection coming your way, which is why comedians do what they do. They want that love. They want that attention, you know. And we the clip of Gary (Inaudible) who definitely died too soon, but even somebody like Don Rickles who was over the age of 90 when he died, or Joan Rivers who died over the age of 80.
[16:49:55] Even that seemed too soon because we love the way they make us feel. But you know a lot of comedians have -- not just too soon deaths but sort of strange deaths, because these are people that make us laugh. There was a guy named Dick Shawn. And Dick Shawn was the star of The Producers, the Mel Brooks movie, The Producers. And he played Hitler in the springtime for Hitler sequence, the hippie Hitler, Dick Shawn.
And he did standup in the 1950s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. And when he was doing standup I think in 1985, 86 in San Diego, he was doing a very broad shtick. He did character, physical comedy. And he had a heart attack on stage, fell backwards and dropped dead. And the audience laughed (Inaudible) and applauded and he laid there still for three, four minutes.
And the laughter would come and go and the applause would come and go, and wow, what a great performer. He's not moving at all, until somebody realized something was wrong. So everybody thought it was a big joke. There was another comedian in the 1950s and 60s named Joe E. Ross. He was the star of a sitcom called Car 54, where are you.
And in the 1980s, his career kind have fallen on hard times and he doing a gig at an old folks home. He was being paid $100 to perform for seniors. And in the middle of his act as well, he had a heart attack on stage. This time everybody knew for sure that he had died. And his wife went to collect the money because they didn't have a lot of money and she wanted to raise funds for the memorial service, for the funeral.
And she met with the guy, who booked him at the old folks home and said I'm here to collect the money for my husband Joe E. Ross. And he oh sure no problem, handed her $50, and she said no, no, it was $100. And he said but he didn't finish the show.
WHITFIELD: Oh no.
NESTEROFF: So that's sort of a famous show (Inaudible) story that people trade the fire (Inaudible). But that's kind of -- you know an insane story, but at the same time it makes comedians laugh. It's a coping mechanism. And you know comedians are so near and dear to our hearths that when we lose one, it's really hard to process, you know.
WHITFIELD: Yeah. Yeah. There is a real emptiness. So you know there are comedians that have passed and there are comedians that we lost because they simply quit. Is this, you know, an issue of just getting burned out?
NESTEROFF: Well, in a way it's amazing if you look at the list of comedians that quit standup before they became huge comedians. Woody Allen, Larry David, Albert Brooks, even Steve Martin who became a huge comedian quit at the height of his fame. And they all had their different reasons for walking away, most of them wanted to use stand up as sort of a launching point to do something else.
Woody Allen with movies, Larry David with TV, Steve Martin as well with film, but it is interesting to think what would their acts have been like if they were still doing stand up in the 1980s and the 1990s or even now. Somebody like George Carlin who passed away, what would he say about what's going on in America today, about fascism, about Nazi's, about the President, whatever.
We'll never know, but it's really something that I think a lot of us think about and consider frequently. WHITFIELD: Yeah. I think a lot of folks from outside looking in, are
thinking that often times standup is going to be the launch pad, and people perhaps leave standup to pursue other things. But then there are sometimes is a return to stand up because that is their roots, you know, it's kind of familiarity. It's, you know, that touch stone again before branching off again to those other things. Is that what you find?
NESTEROFF: Well, yeah. I mean once you do stand up, once you figure out what the puzzle is, of how to do it, how to have confidence, how to entertain an audience randomly. You never truly lose that skill. It's always with you. It gets rusty if you're not going up on stage on a regular basis. There will be stuff that you need to relearn, the comfort level, particularly if you do a show every night of the week it gets very comfortable on stage and improvise.
If you haven't gone up for a while you get rusty. But you never truly loose that mechanism of action. I myself did standup for eight years. I quit in 2006. But I can come on TV and it's not a big deal, where a civilian who never did comedy and never did TV, they would be freaking out about it, you know. So you never truly lose that mechanism of action, that muscle but it
needs to be worked out like going on a gym.
WHITFIELD: All so fascinating. Kliph Nesteroff, good to see you again, thanks so much. And be sure to tune in, an all new episode of History of Comedy airing tonight 10:00 p.m. only CNN. All right, now to this week's CNN Hero. Amanda (Inaudible) was paralyzed after a skiing accident, and now, she's made it her mission to help other people walk again with the help of bionic limbs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My goal has always been to make a full recovery. And I think a lot of people thought that was farfetched. It was a lot of hard work. I remember when I made those first couple of steps. That's when I knew that making a full recovery was possible.
[16:54:53] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's living the miracle of what we all want, what we all aspire for, to stand up and to do it on their own. He's doing it (Inaudible) in my lifetime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Wow, extraordinary to learn about bridging bionics. Go to CNNHeroes.com. All right, thanks very much for joining me in this Sunday in Washington, D.C. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The news continues with Ana Cabrera right after this.