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Truth isn't the truth, says Rudy Giuliani; Trump compares Don McGahn to John Dean; Trump-Russia ties since 30 years back; Crisis of faith for Catholics; Court denies DNA collection for Colorado killings; Suicide victim is youngest face transplant recipient; "Crazy Rich Asians" breaking grounds in Hollywood. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired August 19, 2018 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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[17:00:00] RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: -- Don't -- Don't do this to me.
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ANA CABERA, CNN ANCHOR: The president's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, in damage control mode today making not just that head spinning claim, but also this one about the Russian lawyer at that now infamous Trump Tower meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: She didn't represent the Russian government. She's a private citizen. I don't even know if they knew she was Russian at the time.
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CABREREA: Giuliani is talking about Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian government attorney who has admitted she is an informant for the Kremlin. And don't forget, this is the e-mail Donald Trump, Jr. received about the meeting with her, "Emin asked that I schedule a meeting with you and the Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow for this Thursday. This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump."
These illogical news statements from Giuliani come amid a bombshell report in "The New York Times." The paper says White House counsel Don McGahn has cooperated extensively with special counsel Robert Mueller including giving details about Trump's rage at the Russia investigation and his attempts to fire Mueller.
CNN's Ryan Nobles is near the president's golf club in New Jersey where he spent the weekend. Ryan, is this "New York Times" story getting to the White House and could this just be another attempt by Giuliani to distract? RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is no doubt that the
White House feels the need to respond quite a bit to what was revealed in "The New York Times" over this weekend. And to a certain extent it seems though that Rudy Giuliani is actually attempting to clarify exactly what the White House has planned that at least what the president's criminal attorney's plans were by allowing Don McGahn to the sit down and talk with the special counsel especially without any precondition, meaning that there was no attorney/client privilege involved in this. Listen to how Rudy Giuliani explains Don McGahn's role in all of this, this morning.
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GIULIANI: The president encouraged him to testify. He is happy that he did. He is quite secure that there is nothing in the testimony that will hurt the president, and John Dowd told you that when he said he was a strong witness for the president.
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NOBLES: And that is exactly what the president is saying as well. He is arguing that this was a transparent move by his legal team to show that he has nothing to hide. This is what the president tweeted earlier today, "The failing New York Times wrote a fake piece today implying that the because White House counsel Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the special counsel that he must be a John Dean type rat -- talking about the figure in the Nixon Watergate scandal -- but I allowed him and all others to testify. I didn't have to, but I have nothing the to hide."
Now, interestingly, it was John Dean himself who responded on twitter to what the president had to say and John Dean saying in part in a lengthy tweet, "Nixon knew I was meeting with prosecutors because I told him. However, he didn't think I would tell them the truth." And this seems to be where the rub is here, Ana. Exactly did Don McGahn tell the special counsel?
McGahn's attorneys are making it clear that he did not necessarily go in there with the goal of incriminating the president in any way, shape or form, but "The New York Times" report specifically talks about the fact that McGahn and his allies were concerned that perhaps the president's lawyers were setting it up -- setting him up so that he will be the fall guy if they did determine that there was some sort of obstruction of justice.
One thing McGahn's attorneys are saying over and over again is that he is truthful. He told the truth as he knew it, but of course Ana, we have to keep in mind that there are few people that have been around the president and his interactions over the past year and half more than Don McGahn. So what exactly he told the special counsel is going to be certainly important, Ana.
CABRERA: And don't forget, he told the truth for some 30 hours over the course of three separate sessions. Ryan Nobles, thank you for that reporting. John Dean joins us live now on the phone. John, first your reaction to the president's tweet which -- let me read it one more time, "The failing New York Times wrote a fake piece today implying that because White House counsel Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the special counsel he must be a John Dean type rat."
JOHN DEAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT NIXON (via telephone): All caps on the rat, too.
CABRERA: Yeah, no kidding. What's your response? What do you think about that?
DEAN: I did respond in the tweet that I don't think that Trump understands what's going on. We know he is somebody who does not really reveal his full factual problems with the attorneys. Now, they have to sort of find it out the hard way. So, I suspect that -- and there was no indication in any of this reporting that McGahn was briefed or debriefed before he went in or came out.
So, they don't really know what he told the special counsel. I can tell you this, that even if he didn't go in with the intent to incriminate the president, just giving the president or putting everything in a time line for the special counsel is just invaluable information and this --
[17:05:08] CABRERA: John -- go ahead.
DEAN: And I was going to say, this 30 hours is more than enough time, and that is just set as the minimum. There may have been more conversation in that 30 hours.
CABRERA: I am curious if you think he is calling you a rat because you told the truth.
DEAN: That is what he is doing. I think, you know, he also talked about how when I'm on CNN talking about comparing him to Nixon, it makes him talk to the television. We learned that from "fire and fury" and I think he's referring to the Don Lemon show, where that's happened more than once.
So, he doesn't like the truth to come out. He doesn't know what McGahn has or has not said and I think the very proof will obviously be as this thing further unravels and I think we will look back on this story as pretty significant.
CABRERA: You in your tweet as you describe your response, you say and I quote, "Nixon knew I was meeting with prosecutors because I told him, however, he didn't think I would tell them the truth." So you basically are suggesting that even if the president has said I allowed McGahn to talk to them. I have nothing to hide. This is a good thing for me that he is talking to them, you don't necessarily buy that he knows what he is saying.
DEAN: That is correct. Ana, also you've got to put this in a larger perspective. McGahn is doing what he should do and what was resolved after Watergate as to who is the client of the White House counsel? The client was presumed for when I was there to be Nixon, the president. Today, it is clear that is not the case. It's the office of the
president he represents and there can be real differences between the incumbent president and the office itself, and McGahn represents the office.
CABRERA: With all these news, do you think McGahn can continue to do his job effectively for the White House?
DEAN: I have no known reason he can't. It think his principle job has been to work on filling judgeships (ph). It's interesting that when they brought in Ty Cobb, he was placed on the White House staff as a special counsel. He theoretically did not represent the president either, but rather was representing the office of the president again.
You can't be on the public payroll and be representing the president as a private client. So, there can be real conflicts that arise, and Dowd, of course, was on the other side of that. He was never on the White House staff. But yet, they kept all of this out of McGahn's office.
CABRERA: What kind of conversations did you have with Nixon after you went and spoke with investigators?
CABRERA: Oh, seriously?
DEAN: He -- I was very open when I broke rank in doing so. And I think he first -- I told John Ehrlichman who had been my predecessor as the White House counsel and was then the president's top domestic adviser. And I told H.R. Halderman, the chief of staff. So, I told them what I was going to do after I failed to convince the president to stop the cover-up.
And I said, you know, somebody has to go to talk to the lawyers about this, and to talk to the prosecutors. This thing has got to end. I tried to convince my colleagues that we should all go to the grand jury. I could not sell that.
CABRERA: We are looking at live pictures of the president as he is returns home from his weekend in New Jersey. This is at Joint Base Andrews, as we see him, the first lady as well as their son Barron coming down the starts. And I want to continue our conversation. John Dean, when the president calls you a rat in capital letters as you point out, do you think there is some kind of strategy in him going after you, trying to villainize you?
DEAN? Could be. He might be trying to give a warning to others on his staff. Don't go in and tell the truth or I'll tarnish you, I'll attack you. He likes to use pejoratives and name calling. It's his sort of standard operating procedure. I'm frankly delighted to be on his enemy's list if I have made it that far.
CABRERA: I am curious also to get your take on this argument -- we're now getting word from John Dowd, the former lead attorney for the president, his personal attorney on the Russian probe. He is suggesting that because Mueller has been able to talk to officials like Don McGahn, that the president hasn't set any limits to those or tried to fight it that that's even more reason why the president should not have to testify before Mueller himself because he has all of the information he would need, and what is your take?
[17:10:17] DEAN: Well, that's an interesting argument, but it is not very easy to get a potential subject target defendant state of mind from others or willing. That would be the only reason you'd want to talk to Trump, is to find out what his state of mind was on this or his explanation to the hear it and give him an opportunity to put it on the record.
He is on many sides of most of these issues. He has taken different positions so, what is his real position? That might be what Mueller needs, and what Dowd is suggesting doesn't provide that.
CABRERA: John Dean, great to have you with us. Thank you very much for taking the time.
DEAN: Thanks, Ana.
CABRERA: President Trump has long maintained there is no collusion with Russia in the 2016 election, and the president often claims he is the target of a "rigged witch hunt with no credibility." A new book out this week alleges his ties to Russia date back more than 30 years that involved members of Russian intelligence and the Russian mafia.
The book is called "House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia." The author and journalist, Craig Unger now joins us and he's here with me in New York. Craig, first explain this Trump-Russia business connection that you dig into in your book. You say it started in the '80s?
CRAIG UNGER, BOOK AUTHOR: Yes, perhaps even earlier, but I wanted to find out how and when it began. So I went back and started to research all the real estate holdings that Trump had and who was buying them. And every time I got to a Russian name I started to Googling it and what you'd find is an extraordinary number of contacts.
Trump has said he has zero contacts with Russia. I found at least 59 in my book. They are listed in the appendix of the book. And the shocking thing was that so many of them were part of the Russian mafia and that Trump was laundering money for them.
Trump branded real estate became a way to buy -- to sell anonymously to the Russian mobsters and hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars were laundered through the Trump real estate, perhaps billions. And the other thing I found too about the Russian mafia, is it's very different from the American mafia.
It's not like the Godfather. It is a state actor. It works for Russian intelligence. And I interviewed a former general in the KGB, Oleg Kalugin, who told me, oh, the KGB, that's just another part of the Russian government. So when you realize that you see this is a horrible security breach. CABRERA: Let me just go back to what you said about the money
laundering through Trump properties that he provided or his organization provided an outlet for all these Russian money, this illegal money laundering to happen. If that really is the case, you are able to the find it through the paper trail, why hasn't this then been exposed and revealed already?
UNGER: Well, real estate regulations are so lax that there is no requirement on the seller to find out where the money is coming and the Trump organization has simply said, oh, we don't know where the money comes from. That's up to the broker to determine that. In fact, it is very hard for me as a reporter. I don't have subpoena power so I can't penetrate all the shell companies.
But you can -- there are real estate databases where you can see the purchase and sale agreements and who bought them. And I was able to do that. I found at least 59 contacts over 34 years, and these were real Russian gangsters. They are brutal, heavily tattooed. The Russian mafia is very different from the American mafia.
It's got its own hierarchy, its own code of honor. The stories of their lives are written in tattoos on their bodies, but at the very top of the chain, the top mobster and chief really is Vladimir Putin.
CABRERA: But do you have any proof that President Trump was directly involved in all of this money laundering, this Russian mafia business?
UNGER: In 1984, he met with a man named David Bogadan who was part of the Russian mafia, and he came in with $5 million in cash or $6 million cash. It's about the equivalent to $15 million today, and bought six condos. That, according to the state attorney general of New York, was laundering money for the Russian mafia.
And we have seen the sales in Trump properties in Sunny Isles, Florida. Trump Towers in Panama heavily going into mafia -- being sold to Russians rather. And this has happened again and again and again. Trump was $4 billion in debt after his fiasco in Atlantic City, and it is the Russian mafia who sort of came in and helped him to get back on his feet.
[17:15:09] He never would have been president without their help. He would have been greatly in debt.
CABRERA: I mean, that is the conclusion you have drawn. And do you think this is exactly where Robert Mueller's investigation is headed and is there anything to suggest based on what has been made public that they are on the same trail as you were?
UNGER: Well, I think this is a blueprint of where they might go and a lot of my information came from the FBI files and the FBI had actually started a task force in Hungary to keep an eye on the Russian mafia. They succeed in chasing the boss back to Moscow and then of course 9/11 intervene so the FBI's focus changed really to Islamist terrorism.
But it's a very, very powerful force and when you looking at the Manafort trial, and we may get a verdict this week, you can see Manafort in many ways was a precursor of what Manafort put President Yanukovych in power in Ukraine and he was a sort of puppet for Vladimir Putin. And they did in 2004, he used a lot of dirty tricks and now we see that having been repeated with Manafort as campaign manager for Trump in 2016.
CABRERA: You mentioned one of you primary sources, your Russian sources, this man named Oleg Kalugin, a former KGB spy master and now an American citizen leaving in Maryland. Was he actually an eyewitness to any of these claims or any of these allegations?
UNGER: I can't say that he was an eyewitness, but he was head of counter intelligence for the KGB. He actually had been Vladimir Putin's boss. So I think that he has a lot of institutional knowledge.
CABRERA: But how reliable might he really be given that Russia stripped him of his rank, awards, his pension, even suspected him of working with the CIA. There is not exactly a lot of the love loss there.
UNGER: No, not at all, but to be honest, I believe him more than I believe Vladimir Putin or Donald Trump. I mean, we have -- there are records of all of these sales. The money laundering isn't really in dispute. There had been $1 trillion in flight capital from Russia since Putin has been president.
That needs to be laundered on a massive, massive scale and when you look at Trump's organization, you see he has about 40 Trump Towers all over the world. A $1 million is a lowball prize for a Trump condo. So, it's a terrifically effective way to launder massive amounts of money.
CABRERA: Craig Unger, your reporting is fascinating. It's complicated and we will wait and see where the Mueller investigation leads if any of this comes out when their report comes out whenever that is. Thank you again for being with us.
UNGER: Thanks for having me.
CABRERA: Now, it was the first Sunday following the release of a massive and shocking report detailing decades of sexual abuse of children at the hands of priests. What Pennsylvania Catholic said mass this morning told CNN about that report?
And a historic face transplant allowed a suicide survivor a second chance of life. Her must-see story coming up. You don't want to miss it live in the "CNN Newsroom."
[17:20:00] (COMERCIAL BREAK)
CABRERA: Sunday mass in Pennsylvania today took on new significance. Priests going before their congregations following the release of that massive and shocking report detailing decades of sexual abuse of children at the hands of priests.
In a followup from the report, Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubic is one fo the high ranking church leaders being called to resign. Now, Zubic says that he has no plans to step down and he insists that today's Catholic Church is not the church described in the grand jury report.
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DAVID ZUBIC, BISHOP, CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF PITTSBURGH: I can honestly say that we have followed every single step that we needed to follow to be responsible in our response to the victims. First of all, we have listened to them carefully. Second of all, we have removed priests from ministry. Third of all, we have in fact turned it over to the district attorneys of the appropriate counties.
Fourth of all, we have engaged the independent review board to assess and take a look at allegations of whether or not a person would be suitable for ministry again, and we have in fact informed the people in our parishes about those allegations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: CNN's Polo Sandoval is joins us now in Pittsburgh. Polo, you've been talking with Catholics as they attend mass today. What are they telling you?
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's remember that this report is in fact (inaudible) issues across the state of Pennsylvania. And the reason why we are here in Pittsburgh it's because about a third of the clergy members that are named in that very disturbing report where from this diocese.
So what Catholics in Pittsburgh has to say is certainly and extremely important part of the conversation. So today, we went to the faithful. We found that there is their faith in the gospel that remains fairly intact here. In fact, this is what drew them out here to the cathedral in the first place for Sunday mass.
But then there is also their faith in the church and the institution. That is what seems to be tested right now. Many Catholics that we spoke to believed that there was that cover-up that the Catholic Church had carried on for decades and they want a full apology and admission, but there are some who are quite satisfied with the way that the church is handling this fallout. Hear for yourself.
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ELLEN AHMAD, CATHOLIC PARISHONER: I am horrified. It is gut- wrenching. It is so sad. As a Catholic, I'm ashamed. I'm so sorry. To the victims, my heartfelt sorrow and my prayers and, you know, just I hope that they can get over this.
FRANK GLIOZZI, CATHOLIC PARISHONER: Initially, a lot of hurt personally being a lifelong Catholic, but at the same time just a lot of prayer and hope that whoever was offended by this, that they have a full measure of healing.
[17:25:10] And also for the bishops involved, everyone involved, that things would be resolved in a good manner.
(END VIDEO CLIP) SANDOVAL: Now, Ana, we did attend several masses here in Pittsburgh this weekend, at the homilies, the main topic of discussion of course was this disturbing report. So Ana, whether you are a member of the clergy or among the congregation, this report is being talked about still days after the attorney general released it. Ana.
CABRERA: Yes. And not just in Pennsylvania, but really around the world, and certainly around the U.S. Polo Sandoval in Pittsburgh for us. Thank you.
A week after a pregnant mother and her two daughters vanished from their suburban Denver home, how they died is still not entirely clear. Next, what prosecutors could reveal tomorrow when they formally charge the man accused of their murder. You are live in the "CNN Newsroom."
[17:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CABRERA: Hours before a Colorado man could be formally charged in the murders of his pregnant wife and two young daughters his defense team is dealing with a setback. According to the court documents obtained by our affiliate, KDVR, a judge is now denying the request from Chris Watts' attorneys to collect certain DNA evidence from the bodies.
Police are still searching for a motive. Former senior FBI profiler Mary Ellen O'Toole is joining us. Mary Ellen, I just can't stop thinking about those videos of this beautiful family on Facebook. They look so happy, so loving. How does that fit with such a horrific crime? How do you make sense of it?
MARY ELLE O'TOOLE, FORMER FBI PROFILER: Sure. I have seen it in other cases and here is the, kind of the bottom line. When somebody closes their front door, you really have no idea of what's happening behind the closed doors. You really don't until you really start to look at the family dynamics so, that is certainly one element.
And secondly, once the mom's victimology is really developed here, we'll know if she in fact was someone who posted these happy thoughts and happy photographers, because that is what a lot of people do on Facebook, but again, behind closed doors, it was something very different. So, that's one of the areas where investigators will be looking to understand those family dynamics.
CABRERA: Before his arrest, Chris Watts was pleading for the safe return of his wife and children. He was giving all these interviews to news stations who were asking him a lot of questions about his relationship, what happened before they went missing, what happened the day of their disappearance. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WATTS, SUSPECTED OF KILLING WIFE AND DAUGHTERS: We had emotional conversation, but I'll leave it at that, but it's -- I just want them back. I just want them to come back. And if they are not safe right now, that is what's tearing me apart.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CABRERA: Mary Ellen are you surprised he was doing all this talking and are there any clues in that interview clip?
O'TOOLE: Well, when I see that in other cases, it's not typical, but when I see it in other cases, what the person is doing is it really takes some arrogance, it takes -- it's very high risk behavior, but it does take a certain level of self-confidence to stand before the media and do something like this if in fact you are actually responsible.
And what that does is, again, in similar cases, the individual is deflecting the investigation away from them, in other words saying things like I have no idea what happened. I have no idea where they are. So, but their confidence level is that they could persuade the public and persuade law enforcement that they are not the person that's responsible.
CABRERA: And our local affiliate is reporting Shannan Watts, the mother, was buried in a shallow grave according to court documents and the couples two young girls were found inside an oil storage tank. Does that tell you anything?
O'TOOLE: Well, again, if the father is the one that's responsible, this was a place of employment, but putting the two little girls in that oil vat, it could have been done for a variety of reason and one of which, and I don't mean to be -- and I don't want to become too graphic, but it could have sped up the decomp process of the little girls.
But, putting the mother in the shallow grave, again, in an area where he worked just dissociates him with this crime if in fact he's the one that is responsible.
CABRERA: We still don't know the exact cause of death, but the defense has filed some documents suggesting strangulation occurred. Is that significant?
O'TOOLE: Well, it really is going to depend -- the medical examiner will offer an opinion about the cause of death for all three people, but what I did find very interesting is, and I have to say I've really not seen this before where defense counsel would come in and request certain types of work to be done by the medical examiner, almost pointing them in a certain direction.
And I'm not sure why you would point the medical examiner to look in a certain area especially if you have a client that could be responsible for these deaths. And so, depending on the reports that come out tomorrow, the affidavit and so forth, we might learn more about that.
But to me that was very curious. The last thing you want to do is point law enforcement in your own direction, which is contrary to what we saw on the videotapes the other day.
[17:35:03] CABRERA: Mary Ellen O'Toole, thank you very much for giving us your perspective, giving your expertise especially. We appreciate it.
O'TOOLE: You're welcome.
CABRERA: Got a second chance of life. Those are the powerful words of the youngest person in the United States to receive a face transplant. The doctor who performed this history-making procedure joins us live, next. You're live in the "CNN Newsroom."
CABRERA: There is perhaps nothing more personal to a human being than our face. Imagine for a moment losing yours, literally losing it. That happened to Katie Stubblefield when she was 18 years old.
[17:40:01] In a moment of deep despair, Katie's beautiful face was gone, torn away by a bullet. Three years later at age 21, this suicide survivor became the youngest person in U.S. history to undergo an experimental face transplant. Her story is now featured in a "National Geographic" documentary "Katie's Face." Here is a preview.
KATIE STUBBLEFIELD, FACE TRANSPLANT RECIPIENT: I get a second chance at life now.
TEXT: At 21, Katie Stubblefield became the youngest American to receive a face transplant
She suffered a gunshot wound to the face in a suicide attempt when she was 18.
The 31-hour surgery in May 2017 required 11 surgeons and many other specialists
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In order to get to the tissues and the great (ph) space, what we are transplanting are, all this have to be removed.
TEXT: There have been about 40 face transplants worldwide.
The surgery aims to improve her ability to speak, breathe, chew and swallow.
TEXT: I am able to touch my face now, and it feels amazing."You have come a long way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've come a long way.
STUBBLEFIELD: This is like the beginning of another chapter. Very poetic, right?
CABRERA: Dr. Brian Gastman joins us now from Cleveland. He is the surgeon who performed Katie's historic face transplant. Dr. Gastman, it's tough to watch some of the video, but ultimately you saved her face in different ways. Put it into perspective the extent of Katie's injury. BRIAN GASTMAN, PLASTIC SURGEON: Well, first of all thank you for this
opportunity. I'd like to start in that regard to talk about the fact that I'm just one of many members of a very large team. There is a large team of surgeons, but an even larger team of caregivers -- in the hundreds actually from the Cleveland Clinic that helped make this happen.
This include everyone from anesthesiologist to endocrinologists, rehabilitation doctors and nurses and so on. So, although I'm representing the team in front of you now, I am one of many that made this happen.
CABRERA: Of course.
GASTMAN: But in terms of how extensive this is. This was likely if not the most as about as much as you could be extensive level trauma and still survive, and still then be a candidate for a face transplant. She lost so much of her upper and lower jaw, and much of the skin and so much of the functional parts of the head and neck that we all take for granted.
CABRERA: How challenging was the surgery?
GASTMAN: Well, the surgery itself I would say it was relatively challenging, however, the challenge really was the coordination of everybody together and that included not only the many months over a year of preparation of the surgery, which ultimately made the surgery slightly less challenging.
But also the days just right before the actual surgery where we had to coordinate even other donor tissues that were going from the same donor to Katie to other patients. But ultimately, in the operating room itself, with a really dedicated, well-coordinated team I would say, having done another face transplant, this was challenging no doubt, but it was still within our skill set and I think it went, as a result, quite well.
CABRERA: I mean, you are very humble, but to give our viewers some perspective, I was shocked when I read that her procedure involved transplanting the scalp, the forehead, the upper and lower eyelids, eye socket, nose, upper cheeks, upper jaw, half of the lower jaw, upper teeth, lower teeth, partial facial nerves, muscles and skin.
I mean, effectively replacing her full facial tissue. That is incredible, and the "National Geographic" which of course has done in depth reporting on Katie's story says only 40 people in the world have ever had a face transplant. What made her a good candidate?
GASTMAN: Well, I think that in part, it was her herself, the constitution that she had not just physically but psychologically, although we all know how this happened. When we met Katie and ultimately we're able to stabilize her and find out what she wanted out of life, she turned out to be a really special person. And I think as a result, that made the fact that was so extensive. And mind you, of those 40, very few have had a face transplant if at all, this extensiveness. But her resolve, her commitment to this process really made her an excellent candidate. I mean, threw in the fact that of her age, which has some negative connotations too, but also in theory, she make her heal faster and perhaps handle this level of surgical endeavor.
[17:45:10] I think these things made her a better candidate than let's say someone older who has and been through many years of other chronic problems unlike in this situation.
CABRERA: Well, Dr. Gastman, thank you very much for helping us tell us her story. We obviously wish her the very best in recovery.
GASTMAN: Thank you very much.
CABRERA: It's the movie taking Hollywood by storm. The director of "Crazy Rich Asians" joins us on why the film's all Asian cast is such a pivotal moment for the big screen.
[17:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been dating for over a year now and I think it's about time people met my beautiful girlfriend.
What about us taking an adventure east.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like Queens.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Singapore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Girl meats boy. They fall in love and then comes the time for her to meet his colorful and yes, crazy rich family. On paper, "Crazy Rich Asians" may sound like any other romantic comedy, except this movie is making history. It is the first time in a quarter century, 25 years that a Hollywood film has featured an all Asian cast. And it appears audiences love it. The film has earned the top spot at the box office this week and raking in an estimated $25.2 million.
I sat down with the movie's director, Jon M. Chu to talk about this historic big screen moment.
CABRERA: What has the response been like for you?
JOHN M. CHU, MOVIE DIRECTOR: It has been overwhelming. These last couple of weeks, something I totally didn't expect to feel, people pouring out of the theaters were emotions and sending me letters, sending me pictures of their own stories of being Asian in America and all around the world. It's been really touching.
CABRERA: Your film is being celebrated as the first all Asian cast since the "Joy Luck Club." That was 25 years ago.
CABRERA: What took Hollywood so long?
CHUE: You know, I don't know the answer to that. I think it's about time that this happened. Probably should have happened many, many years ago. But all I know is that there is this great story of Asian- American girl going to Asia for the first time in this that I related to growing up in the Bay Area in San Francisco, and then going to Taiwan for the first time.
So I think -- and I always thought that story was just my own story. So, to know that so many people share in that experience, and not just Asians, people of all ethnicities, all walks of life, is really great to hear.
CABRERA: What kind of challenges were there in casting this film?
CHU: You know, the system isn't built for a lot of the Asian actors of all types and shapes and sizes and genders because the roles aren't there. So we really had to build our own infrastructure in casting. We had casting directors from all around the world in all continents.
We even took YouTube videos to see who was out there. We saw some really, really, again, touching emotional things that people who didn't get to go into acting but are great actors. And for this particular movie, we only had to -- could only fill so many spots. So, there's a lot more out there. That's how I have hope for the future because I know a lot more great actors that have -- need more stories so that they can shine.
CABRERA: You talk about your own personal experience. Growing up in California and the Bay Area. You are born to a Chinese father and Taiwanese mother, were you able to bring your own experiences into this film?
CHU: Oh, absolutely. I grew up in a Chinese restaurant. My parent's restaurant is Chef Chu's in Los Altos. It's been around 50 years next year. So, I always, you know, going to school I was always nervous because I smelled like Chinese food. My parents would pack me dumplings and, you know, your friends at home or at school would make fun of you.
And so I would dump those before I got to school. So, I had never really touched upon my own culture identity crisis in any of my work. I was always very scared. It wasn't until a couple of years ago I was reading all this stuff online, a white washed out, Oscar so white, that I realized why am I not doing more on the Hollywood front.
I'm in Hollywood and I'm aking movies. And so, this has been a really great touch for me and my parents to revisit all the things that's music in the movie, I shared with them and they got so excited because they used to dance to this stuff in China and do the jitterbug to it they told me. So, all these things really helped, actually, me find my own cultural identity. CABRERA: Do you think that it fairly portrays your culture and your
people in that way because there are some critics who say it's not Asian enough?
CHU: Yeah. You know, I think it's unfortunate that we are in a situation where one movie is expected to represent all Asians. And I actually think it's a symptom of the issue of representation of Asians that we all think it has to be one thing. There are so many layers, so many people from all continents, from all places that represent Asia and Asian people.
And this is one little slice. This is one story. One very specific set of circumstances, and I just had to connect myself with the Rachel Chu story, the Asian-American going to Asia for the first time through her perspective to take the audience with me through this journey. Hopefully this cracks a door so more stories could be told, the other stories can be told, all different perspectives from all around the world. So, that's what I hope that this movie starts this movement and it isn't the end of the movement.
CABRERA: What do you hope people ultimately get out of this movie?
CHU: I hope that some kid out there who is watching and sees himself on the big screen. See some people who look like him or his family, and they are funny and they are beautiful and they're fierce, and they're heroes and they're villains that he looks at that name and they know that they have all the possibilities in the world to be whoever they want.
[17:55:00] And that they should own their own identity. Their dual cross-identities no matter where you're from, if you're Asian or not. I hope that that's what this does because it does to me when I see this amazing cast. Be all of those things. I know it changed me.
CABRERA: Don Chu, you are doing it. You are living proof. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for sharing your story.
CHU: I appreciate it.
CABRERA: The 2000s celebrates music from the rise of hip-hop to Napster. See how the music industry changed. "I Want My MP3" airs tonight at 9:00 only on CNN.
[18:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CABRERA: Top of the hour. You are in the "CNN Newsroom." I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. I'm still glad you're with us. In the words of John Lennon, "give me some truth."