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Trump Insists FBI Has Free Reign in Kavanaugh Probe; Protesters Confront Senator Jeff Flake Before Kavanaugh Vote; Interview with Representative Jackie Speier; Aired 4-5p ET

Aired September 30, 2018 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:58] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again, everyone. Thanks so much for joining me this Sunday from Washington, D.C. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

The FBI's latest background investigation into U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is quickly becoming the latest political pressure point dividing Washington. Many questions still remain about what and who the FBI is looking at.

We're just learning that Kavanaugh's first accuser Christine Blasey Ford has not been contacted yet by the FBI, according to two sources. Meanwhile sources say Senate Republicans are working with White House counsel Don McGahn who is trying to narrow the scope of the investigation as much as possible. But President Trump and his team insist that they are hands off in the process saying the FBI has free rein.

Let's go to CNN's Boris Sanchez at the White House.

So the president is weighing in in other ways. What are you learning?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fred. President Trump tweeting this afternoon in light of some complaints from Democrats that the White House may have too much influence over this FBI probe.

Let's get to that tweet then I'll explain. The president tweeting out, quote, "Wow, just starting to hear the Democrats who are only thinking obstruct and delay are starting to put out the word that the time and scope of FBI looking into Judge Kavanaugh and witnesses is not enough. Hello? For them it will never be enough. Stay tuned and watch."

Now the root of this, Fred, is as you noted that discrepancy, President Trump saying that the FBI is going to have free rein in this probe and allegations against Judge Kavanaugh, and then what we're learning from sources that have indicated that the FBI is being led through this probe by the White House with input from Senate Republicans.

We understand that the FBI is going to conduct only a handful of interviews and that the scope of this investigation will not include questions about Brett Kavanaugh's drinking habits while in high school, something that he was grilled on during his testimony on Thursday.

Now White House official Kellyanne Conway, an adviser to the president, made clear this morning on "STATE OF THE UNION" that this has to be a narrowly focused investigation in part because this administration wants to avoid a fishing expedition. Listen to this.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: It will be limited in scope, it's meant to last one week. I believe beginning last Friday. And it will -- it is not meant to be a fishing expedition. The FBI is not tasked with doing that here. The president very much respects the independence of the FBI and feels as he said last night that they should be looking at anything that they think is credible within this limited scope.


SANCHEZ: Now ultimately, Fred, the FBI is not going to come to any conclusions with the information that they gather from this probe. They're going to pass along all of that information to the White House. The question, though, for some Democrats like Amy Klobuchar who grilled Brett Kavanaugh Thursday is how much influence the White House is going to have. She was on "STATE OF THE UNION" also speaking to Jake Tapper this morning saying that she was concerned about that.

I do want to point out Sarah Sanders, press secretary, was also on one of the Sunday morning talk shows. She says the White House doesn't want to manage the FBI. But she wouldn't answer whether or not she knew if White House counsel Don McGahn had instructed the FBI on who or who they could not interview -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Boris Sanchez, thanks so much, at the White House.

All right. Former FBI director James Comey just wrote an opinion piece for the "New York Times" titled "James Comey: The FBI Can Do This," he writes. And I'm quoting now from his op-ed, "FBI agents are experts at interviewing people and quickly dispatching leads to their colleagues around the world to follow with additional interviews. Unless limited in some way by the Trump administration, they can speak to scores of people in a few days if necessary, " end quote.

All right. Let's talk about all this. Joining me right now to discuss, CNN legal analyst Shan Wu, CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein and CNN political commentator Catherine Rampell.

All right. Good to see you all.

So, Shan, you first. So does this mean that the White House really is in the driver's seat as it pertains to how far, far wide, how probing the FBI goes? It's on his op-ed.

[16:05:09] SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, let's hope not. Because what most people don't realize is a background investigation is actually much broader in scope than the criminal one is. With a criminal investigation, the prosecutor and the agents, very focused, is this really leading to something that we need for the case and that we can ultimately prove beyond a reasonable doubt? But with a background investigation, you want to get anything that may be relevant to the potential employer.

So the idea here that maybe Don McGahn is driving the train here is a terrible situation because he is really the promoter for Kavanaugh, so he's going to vastly limit what they can look at.

WHITFIELD: So limited in scope seems like a misnomer when you read Comey's, you know, op-ed because he's essentially saying we can cast the net really wide and we can do it fast, but if the White House or senators or whoever started that -- you know, saying it is limited in scope, then it sounds like the FBI's abilities are being handcuffed, restricted? Fair to say?

WU: It sounds that way. Obviously we're hearing something different from the president and the White House, but other sources say it's being restricted. I mean, limited in scope could have simply meant that we're only going to look at the allegations publicly raised which would include drinking certainly as well as the sexual assaults.

WHITFIELD: OK. So, Ron, you know, time is one thing in terms of what can be accomplished in a week's time. You know, Comey addressing that, that anything really is possible. But contents or restrictions really are another.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, well, first of all, any potential restrictions are still subject to the acceptance of the senators who forced this in the first place. It was not like Chuck Grassley wanted to do this, it was not like Mitch McConnell wanted to do this, it was not like Donald Trump wanted to do this. They did this, even this investigation only because Lisa Murkowski and, you know, Jeff Flake said they would not vote to confirm Kavanaugh on the floor without it.

And thus they still have that leverage. If there are indications that this is not on the level, then they are -- it is certainly reasonable to ask them whether they will accept a process that is unfairly constricted.

And I would point out that, I mean, that part of the problem here is that irrespective at this point -- at this point now regardless of the allegations, there is a whole separate question about Kavanaugh's fitness for the court based on the unprecedented partisan attacks that he leveled as a judge that I think are going to --


WHITFIELD: When he made reference to the 2016 race?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Yes. Right. Exactly. And said this was really driven by people who could not accept Trump's victory, it was kind of revenge of the Clintons, attacked Democrats by name, sparred with them. And if you have a process -- so that already I think is creating this enormous cloud over whether he can ever be seen by most Americans as a neutral umpire as he called himself in November.

But if you have a process that is short-circuited and designed to produce a result, I think it really only deepens that infection and the question of whether the court's legitimacy is going to be further eroded, which is certainly John Roberts' great fear, I think is just at an enormous risk if this process is not seen on the level.

WHITFIELD: So Comey also, you know, wrote in this op-ed saying, "Yes, the alleged incident occurred 36 years ago but FBI agents know time has very little to do with memory. They know every married person remembers the weather on their wedding day no matter how long ago. Significance drives memory. They also know that little lies point to bigger lies. They know that obvious lies by the nominee about the meaning of words in a yearbook are a flashing signal to dig deeper."

So, Catherine, you know, he is underscoring his great confidence in the FBI, really getting to the bottom of these allegations. How significant is this coming from the former FBI director particularly at this juncture?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, lots of people on both sides are very conflicting opinions of Comey himself. So the significance of him speaking out on this I'm not sure will really sway anyone's opinion one way or the other. But I think he is absolutely right that what this is about is about the nominee's credibility, about whether he is willing to lie under oath about seemingly very small matters, including the definition of various slang terms that are widely understood by people who are his contemporaries to be sexual terms that he is claiming otherwise.

Including whether he actually drank to excess when he was a teenager, which he claims generally that he did not. Those who were quite close to him have said otherwise. People who are friends of his, people who are fellow Republicans have said otherwise. And again the point is not so much, you know, should we rule out anyone who drank to excess as a teenager, no, of course not. There are plenty of people who drank excessively in high school, and in college and have managed to pull their lives together and lead productive successful lives subsequently as he seems to have done.

[16:10:01] What we don't want on the court is not so much someone who drank in high school, but someone who is lying about whether he drank in high school. Someone who is lying about whether these ,you know, again, seemingly minor comments in his high school yearbook meant what they were widely understood to have meant. If he is lying about those things, if we can't trust him on those more minor matters, why should we trust him when he characterizes his jurisprudence as one based on impartiality, as one in which he will, you know, take the merits of the case and not always rule in favor of the party that put him in his seat.

These are the things that we should care about. These are the things that former director Comey has brought attention to and that I think Americans, regardless of their political party, should care about.

WHITFIELD: And so, Shan, you know, truth, credibility, temperament, aren't these still criteria that, you know, should be measured as the senators consider the next Supreme Court justice?

WU: Absolutely, Fred. And that's really one of the reasons that you have a background investigation because you want to look at the fitness of the candidate and what their character is. And --

WHITFIELD: Is that being put on the back burner? Is there an inference that it doesn't seem to be important?

WU: There does seem to be that inference right now. I think the strategy on the part of McGahn and the Republicans is to say that was so long ago in time, it doesn't matter. But it was just pointed out, it's the credibility that matters. And people may disagree with Comey, but no one is going to disagree he's a good investigator. It's clear what he's seeing is flashing red lights.

WHITFIELD: All right. Shan, Katherine, Ron, it's good to see all of you. Thank you so much for your input. Appreciate it.

All right. Straight ahead in the NEWSROOM, a passionate plea on Capitol Hill. Two women confronting Senator Jeff Flake in an elevator. Their emotional stories of sexual assault striking a chord.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux was right there. She and her crew, they took these images right here as it was happening and she will join us to talk about how this is such a pivotal point.


[16:15:38] WHITFIELD: Welcome back from Washington, D.C. GOP Senator Jeff Flake pushed for the Senate to request the FBI review into sexual assault and misconduct allegations against Brett Kavanaugh. Well, it happened after two women who say they are sexual assault survivors, they challenged him. They confronted him in an elevator and no one can forget what happened.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not tolerable. You have children in your family. Think about them. I have two children. I cannot imagine that for the next 50 years they will have to have someone in the Supreme Court who has been accused of violating a young girl. What are you doing, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was sexually assaulted and nobody believes me. I didn't tell anyone and you're telling all women that they don't matter, that they should just stay quiet because if they tell you what happened to them, you're going to ignore them. That's what happened to me and that's what you're telling all women in America that they don't matter. That they should just keep it to themselves because if they told the truth, they're just going to help that man to power anyway. That's what you're telling all of these women. That's what you're telling me right now.

Look at me when I'm talking to you. You're telling me that my assault doesn't matter. That what happened to me doesn't matter and that you're going to let people who do these things into power. That is what you're telling me when you vote for him.

Don't look away from me, look at me and tell me that it doesn't matter what happened to me.


WHITFIELD: What a moment and no one can forget how it unfolded on live television and even when you see it over and over again, there is visceral feeling.

CNN national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux and her crew are largely responsible for showing us that moment at that elevator. Timing was everything. She's joining me right now.

No one could have anticipated this to unfold. You did have an opportunity to talk to these women, get to know their story.


WHITFIELD: But you didn't know this was soon going to follow. How is it that this confluence of events happened?

MALVEAUX: It was really extraordinary, Fred, because you look at that and you hear these are two women who really demanded to be seen and to be heard. It was early in the morning, 7:30 in the morning, myself, Dave Burgess, my photographer, Jasmine Wright (PH), producer all there outside of Flake's office to get a head's up on what the vote was going to be.

And I met both of these young woman, one Annamaria from New York said that she is an activist, shared her story about being sexually assaulted as a 5-year-old and had gone to Flake's earlier in the week on Monday to tell him her story. He wasn't there, so she shared that with the staffers that she was hoping to get that message to him.

And then the other one from Virginia, Maria Gallagher, who had never shared her story publicly ever. A recent graduate. And she told me that she had no intention of doing that. She brought a little sign that she showed, she was going to hold up her sign in the back with a group of protesters. So it was very raw and very visceral. And it essentially happened at the time we all were getting a message on our cell phones right before the Senate Judiciary Committee was going to meet that he was a yes vote.

And the gasp, you know, from these two ladies who had joined us outside his office was audible. They were very emotional when they found out.

WHITFIELD: And so that was stunning. You're also -- you're informing the people who have gathered there hoping that they -- they were hoping to somehow influence, you know, Senator Flake. But now they were hoping to actually confront him, to see him. You and your crew actually see him leaving, making a mad dash or a fast dash to the elevator. And what is it about that moment that compelled you all to follow --


WHITFIELD: -- these women going after him to try to talk to him?

MALVEAUX: Well, these two -- I mean, they felt Flake was their ally. They had never met before. They just met that morning. And so they decided to join us and when they all -- when we all got the announcement at the same time, we weren't even sure that Flake was in his office. Turned around and saw him, saw him headed toward the elevator.

Everyone was in hot pursuit and when those -- he was just at the elevator, he was inside, and it was Annamaria who literally and figuratively put her foot down and those doors opened. And then that was the moment, that the confrontation began.

[16:20:04] And we had initially wanted to ask him to explain himself, but it was very clear at the moment that what was unfolding before our eyes was so much more impactful to have these two survivors of sexual assault literally confronting him and having him be in that small crowded space filled with unbridled emotion to explain himself and to answer to these two women.

WHITFIELD: And as a journalist, your instinct would be that you want to ask questions, you want to help compel him to answer or, you know, give some sort of explanation about what he was thinking and feeling. But you also had an instinct to say this is unfolding right here right now, allow it play out.

MALVEAUX: Yes. And Fred, I mean, you know, that as a journalist part of our job is really to listen and to pay attention and to learn from what we are watching, and I knew that there was nothing that I could possibly say or ask that was more important or impactful than what we were actually seeing. And this was an opportunity for these women to be heard.

We had seen and heard from so many people who felt like if this was a yes vote, if they had gone forward, that their stories would not be recognized. And that is really what unfolded. And one of the things after that moment, because it was really very intense, so intense, and those doors closed, we didn't realize -- one of us realized that we were actually live on television as it unfolded in real time. And that was rather -- that was surprising as well because --


WHITFIELD: So people saw it and had a response like you all did.

MALVEAUX: And -- absolutely. And the young woman, the 23-year-old, she was crying in the hallway with her friend afterwards. She was overcome with emotion. And she told me that her mother called her.


MALVEAUX: And told her that she saw her on television telling her story publicly for the first time and was so proud of her courage. WHITFIELD: And she also got to see how that so moved Senator Flake

that clearly he was emotionally -- he was almost frozen in the elevator as were the two aides who were with him, these young ladies, who, you know, serve an interesting role here. Did they not? They were almost there to -- it almost seemed as though they were not just witnesses, but they too were helping to protect or, you know, secure him in his position. He had to get on his way at the same time they seemed a little, you know, unnerved, but then to see his face later, you know, while he was with the committee. He was moved.

MALVEAUX: And he was forced to confront that anger, that courage, that passion.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Yes. And we know of course how so much was changed as a result of that very pivotal moment.

Thanks to you and your crew for being there at the right time, really having the (INAUDIBLE) and the instinct to know what do with that moment and allow it to play out as was, so that all could see it. And now who knows what next, right?

MALVEAUX: Took a lot of courage on their part, too. Yes.

WHITFIELD: All right. Suzanne Malveaux, thanks. Good to see you. Thanks so much.

All right, earlier I spoke with California Democratic Representative Jackie Speier about the FBI investigation as a whole into Brett Kavanaugh and the role of everyone in this Me Too movement.


WHITFIELD: So here we are, Congresswoman, you know, in the midst of this Me Too movement which has elevated so many women to speak about their experiences and, you know, demand real justice. So is it your view that senators are being mindful of these women, of this electorate, and how their confirmation will be sending a very strong message to women during this Me Too movement?

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: I would say that the Me Too movement is stalled right now. And I'm very concerned about it. Particularly in the U.S. Senate where the House passed a strong bill to protect victims who serve in the Congress of the United States and the Senate is dragging its feet on it. So you couple that with their lack of interest in even pursuing this allegation by Dr. Blasey Ford who even the president of the United States said was credible.

And last time I thought about the word credible, it sort of -- it indicates that they're being truthful. So she is credible, that means she's truthful, then someone is lying and it appears it's not her.

WHITFIELD: And this is close to home for you. As a sexual assault survivor, you have led the charge to clean up sexual harassment in Congress. So what kind of message is being sent and -- being sent to Congress, being sent from the Senate during this confirmation process? SPEIER: Eighty percent of the Senate is made up of male members. And

if you look at the vitriol that came from Republicans in particular during that Senate hearing.

[16:25:04] And if you look at how Rachel Mitchell who was supposed to be the questioner was shut down very quickly, it suggests that their respect for women is quite limited.

WHITFIELD: Meaning she did not conduct the interview, the questions to the nominee, but she was used instrumentally in interviewing Dr. Ford.

SPEIER: That's right. She was -- I think Lindsey Graham basically took it away from her.


WHITFIELD: Congresswoman Jackie Speier.

And this just into CNN, a source tells CNN the FBI has spoken to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's second accuser today, Deborah Ramirez, accusing Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her at a party when he was a freshman at Yale according to her account published at the "New Yorker." Kavanaugh vehemently denying the allegation.

The source said that Ramirez supplied the FBI on Sunday with the name of -- the names rather of eyewitnesses.

All right. Still ahead, why President Trump says he and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un fell in love.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And you know what the interesting thing, when I did it, and I was really being tough, and so was he, and we'd go back and forth, and then we fell in love. OK? No, really. He wrote me beautiful letters. And they're great letters. We fell in love.



[16:30:01] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, NEWSROOM ANCHOR, CNN: All right. President Trump raising a few eyebrows with comments he made about North Korea during a rally in West Virginia last night.


PRES. DONALD TRUMP (R), UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: And you know the interesting thing, when I did it, and I was really being tough. And so was he. We would go back and forth. And then we fell in love, OK? No, really. He wrote me beautiful letters. And they are great letters. We fell in love.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: All right. So one of the biggest sticking points in negotiations continues to be over what it means for North Korea to denuclearize. Joining me right now is CNN Contributor, Garrett Graff. He's also the author of The Threat Matrix, inside The FBI and the War on Terror. OK David, so -- sorry, Garrett, so what do you see in that whole fell in love comment?

GARRETT GRAFF, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: Yeah. This is part of a really remarkable turn of events this year that has seen -- remember a year ago, this was the -- North Korea's calling Donald Trump a dotard and Donald Trump calling Kim rocket man. And that this has been a much warmer relationship this year, especially after that Singapore summit.

But one that has actually seen very little progress on the main issue, which as you said, is whether North Korea will begin to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. In many ways, North Korea has been able to trade compliments this year with Donald Trump, while progressing just as quickly as it ever did on its nuclear program.

WHITFIELD: OK. But then, of course, the President's going to dispute that with you, saying, you know, he has made a lot of headway. Hostages, American hostages were released. There haven't been any, you know, missile testing coming from North Korea in quite a while now. And perhaps the stage is set for yet another summit between him and Kim Jong-Un.

GRAFF: Absolutely. And that is part of what has made North Korea's change in strategy so interesting this year, is that as you said, North Korea for many years had been sort of rubbing our noses in its nuclear program, you know, launching those missiles, testing its ballistic missiles, and trying to rattle its nuclear saber as much as possible.

This year, though, we have seen those tests stop. And in many ways, they are continuing to manufacture nuclear weapons, at least according to the U.S. intelligence community, as they ever did, but without any of the public provocations that had upset the U.S. in the past. In many ways, this is the model that countries like Pakistan and Israel have pursued with their nuclear programs, which is sort of like you can be a nuclear power as long as you don't rub it in anyone's face.

WHITFIELD: So what -- if there is a second summit, what would need to come from it to show that some real progress has been made, that President Trump has been influential?

GRAFF: Well, one of the challenges here is agreeing even to the nomenclature, the terms of an agreement. You know, when Donald Trump hears Kim Jong-Un say we want to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, what North Korea is actually saying is that they think America should pull its nuclear weapons out of South Korea as well.

And that -- so Donald Trump gets very excited by the idea of North Korea denuclearizing without realizing that they are in fact asking for the U.S. to do the same.

[16:35:05] WHITFIELD: Garrett Graff, thank you so much. GRAFF: My pleasure.

WHITFIELD: All right. Facebook could get hit with a $1.6 billion fine over a data breach that exposed the information of 50 million of its users. That's according to the Wall Street Journal. The fine would be for violating European Union's privacy laws. The social media company revealed Friday that breach also gave hackers access to accounts on other sites that used Facebook as its login.

A community in mourning after the death of a six-year-old autistic boy in North Carolina, the boy had been missing for a week. And now the question, what happened and how close are investigators to finding out. A live report next.


[16:40:00] WHITFIELD: A search for answers following the tragic death of a young boy with autism in North Carolina. Six-year-old Maddox Ritch was found dead in a creek in Gastonia on Thursday. And now, his loved ones mourn the loss. Police are hoping to retrace Maddox's steps to determine how he died. CNN Correspondent Jean Casarez is live for us in North Carolina with more on this. This is tragic, Jean.

JEAN CASAREZ, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: It is terribly tragic. And a woman has stepped forward. And we spoke with her this afternoon. Her name is Brooke Sheppard. And she said that she actually was at the park, right here, a week ago yesterday. And she and her mother saw little Maddox. She said that he was jumping around so lively, just as a little six-year-old would do.

And her mother even asked him are you getting tired. They saw him run toward the park office and that was the last they saw of him. Well, the FBI has said that they believe the family's story that he was here, and now maybe this is why because she has spoken to the FBI. But law enforcement is saying they really want to know the facts.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God bless the families...

CASAREZ: The people of Gastonia, North Carolina are mourning the loss of one of their own, Maddox Ritch, a six-year-old with autism. His body found Thursday in a creek near town. People want to know what happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The investigation is not over. And you should not take away anything from that, except to understand that in law enforcement, we will not take anything for granted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are assuming things. And unfortunately, social media becomes an outlet where people can voice opinions that have no fact to it yet. And we argue free speech, but it doesn't change the fact that sometimes free speech wounds people foolishly. And to assume guilt in something like this is just foolish. And it is incredibly damaging. CASAREZ: This is the park where Maddox and his father were. His father said he and his son were walking around the lake having a great time, and suddenly Maddox ran ahead. He normally could do that, but this time he kept running. His father said he couldn't keep up with him, and suddenly he was gone. Ian Ritch spoke with ABC News.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I could see him until a certain point. He got out of my view. And that is (Inaudible) I never seen him again. Everybody looks at you as a monster. And I have dreaded that since the moment it's happened.

CASAREZ: After searching for almost an hour, his father had a park volunteer call 911.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a missing kid. He's been missing probably the last 30, 40 minutes.

CASAREZ: Almost immediately, police and public safety tried to find Maddox. Six days later, they found his body about one foot from the shore in water two to three feet deep, an area that previously had been searched several times. Law enforcement says little Maddox may have walked along a type of trail next to the creek. But as you can see, it becomes very marshy, very desolate, difficult for anyone to walk, more or less a six-year-old autistic boy.

And if he fell into the creek, it would have had to have carried him more than a mile. And it is so shallow here. Law enforcement says that they want to try to retrace what could have been Maddox's steps to find out exactly where he could have entered the creek. What they are really trying to find out is was this a tragic accident or is it a homicide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The chief and I saw Maddox, and it is absolutely amazing that he was found. It was extremely difficult to see him even when we were standing right next to him.

CASAREZ: Authorities won't say if there was trauma to his body, key in helping to determine his cause of death and manner of death.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a dad that is hurting and we have a mother that is hurting. And just pray for them. I can't say anything other than that. Let's just pray for these people because they need us now more than ever.


CASAREZ: Little Maddox's obituary came out today in the local paper. His funeral has now been set for Friday. And for this park right here that had so many people and does all the time, it is still closed. Authorities are still not allowing people to come and enjoy themselves here in Gastonia, North Carolina.

[16:44:48] WHITFIELD: So sad. All right, our prayers go out to the family. Jean Casarez, appreciate it. All right, from the inner cities to rural America, meth is a persistent and dangerous problem plaguing communities across the country. Lisa Ling, Host of CNN's This Is Life, joins me next to talk about the issue surrounding the meth epidemic and the people it is affecting daily.


WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Crystal meth is destroying so many lives across the country. And on this week's This Is Life with Lisa Ling, Lisa travels to Oklahoma, a state at the center of the crystal meth crisis. She talks with law enforcement, users, and recovery addicts about the drug that is tearing their communities apart. Here is a preview.


[16:50:17] LISA LING, HOST, THIS IS LIFE: Finally, we reach a bedroom with the surveillance equipment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have got cameras on the front of the house. There is the front yard. You see some of the folks out front, backyard, and then a view of the side. There is meth residue in both of those plastic containers.

LING: So does it look like there are more than users here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. It looks like with all the baggies and everything, more than likely they are also selling.

LING: You have the suspect's son in custody. How often are you seeing families being involved in drug activity?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It happens quite often. Once the kids get older, obviously, past the teenage years, if they're living at home, then they're going to start doing it. They're watching (Inaudible) that's the example that's being set.

LING: I am pretty sure the young man who is in the back of the squad car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It's just sad to see, you know, that potential wasted on dope.


WHITFIELD: Lisa Ling, Host of This Is Life, joining us right now. So this episode really gives a comprehensive, heartbreaking look at the devastating impact, you know, of crystal meth. But not just in Oklahoma, but really around the country. But is there is a way to singularly focus on, you know, what is it about this drug that makes it, you know, so devastating has such an impact?

LING: Well, Fred, we've been hearing pretty relentlessly about the opioid and heroin epidemic that has overtaken our country. And the reason we hear so much about it is because so many people are dying from heroin or opioid overdoses. Methamphetamines have been here. It has been having resurgence of late because gone are the days of the Walter White laboratories of the early 2000s.

Law enforcement pretty much has gotten rid or combated most of those laboratories. And so to fill the void, Mexican cartels have been sending methamphetamines straight up through Texas into Oklahoma where it intersects with a major highway that heads east and west. And this meth is deadlier than it has ever been. It is a lot cheaper and a lot stronger.

And it's just been having a devastating impact on many states throughout this country, including Oklahoma, which is where this episode is set.

WHITFIELD: And in fact, you were along with law enforcement while in Oklahoma. And you even got a chance to talk to users, dealers. What did they tell you?

LING: Well, we were with law enforcement, both in the city and in the rural parts of Oklahoma. And I am telling you, Fred, it was just nonstop. They were working round the clock. And it just really hit this community really hard. And in fact, in the rural parts of Oklahoma, users are resorting to desperate measures to get their fix.

And you will be able to see that tonight on the episode. Cattle theft is on the rise, and for the most part cattle are being stolen to support people's meth use.

WHITFIELD: In what way? I saw that promo and I just couldn't wait to find out -- huh? You know how is it -- what is the correlation?

LING: Yeah, it sounds pretty impossible, the idea of stealing cows. But it is actually really, really easy to do so because cows are docile animals. They will go to just about anyone. And these users can send -- have cows sent out of the state in a matter of days. I mean the cows that are stolen can be out of the state by the end of the day, because cows are not required to be branded in the state.

They send them straight through the auctions. And they can have several thousand dollars in their pockets by the end of the day.

WHITFIELD: So bizarre. All right, we'll be watching. Lisa Ling, thank you so much. Tune in, an all new episode of This Is Life with Lisa Ling tonight 10:00 Eastern and Pacific only on CNN. And now to this week's CNN Hero, meet Susan Muncie, a woman offering safety to victims of sex trafficking.


SUSAN MUNCIE, CNN HERO: Nobody wakes up and just decides one day I'm going to go sell my body and give the money away. Traffickers or pimps know exactly what they're doing. Much of it is on the internet now. They're going on dating websites, in they're gaming. They're looking for young, vulnerable women anywhere where young women might hang out. My vision was to have a home where women could come and find safety, and find themselves.


[16:55:04] WHITFIELD: To hear more of the stories of courageous women, go to All right, thanks so much for being with me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. News continues right now with Ana Cabrera right after this.


ANA CABRERA, NEWSROOM ANCHOR, CNN: You are in the CNN Newsroom. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thanks for being with us on this Sunday.