Return to Transcripts main page
As Pittsburgh Mourns Synagogue Victims Rabbi Myers Speaks on Shooting; Deadly Shooting at Tallahassee Yoga Studio; Trump & Obama on Campaign Trail 3 Days Before Midterms; Brat/Spanberger House Race Heats Up in Virginia; Protests, Violence at Debate with Steve Bannon; Information Void for Voters Due to News Deserts; Trump Wants to Amend 14th Amendment's Birthright Citizenship. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired November 3, 2018 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining with me this Saturday. I'm Fredericka Whitfield.
It's been a dark and gloomy in Pittsburgh. The city's weather echoing the hearts of its people as they remember and honor the lives of those murdered inside the Tree of Life Synagogue one week ago today. Congregations from Boston to Philadelphia and Los Angeles holding "Show up for shabbat services" last night, paying respects to the 11 lives tragically taken in a hate-filled massacre. And this morning, hundreds more gathered again to honor the victims in Pittsburgh.
CNN's Alisyn Camarota joining me right now.
Alisyn, you were in that shabbat service. Describe what it was like.
ALISYN CAMAROTA, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": We just come out. It was, Fred, really powerful, it was emotional, it was packed. There were at least 1000 people that crowded into this other temple. All of the temples in the neighborhood opened their doors to the Tree of Life congregation because they're going to need a place of worship while their synagogue is closed. It was intense. At 9:52 a.m., which was the exact moment Rabbi Myers made the first phone call to 911, they held a moment of silence for a minute and 11 seconds to honor the 11 lives lost. And it was the first time that we saw Rabbi Myers break down. He has been such a pillar of strength for this community. He has been their rock. And during that moment of silence, he audibly wept. He held his -- hung his head and he cried. And he wasn't alone. You could hear sobs throughout the congregation as they remembered these 11 precious lives and members of their congregation they lost.
Yesterday, we had an opportunity to spend time with Rabbi Myers and he wanted to tell us about what has given them strength during this past week and what has brought him sorrow. Here are these moments.
JEFFREY MYERS, RABBI, TREE OF LIFE SYNAGOGUE: These just showed up. We didn't put him here. They just showed up.
CAMAROTA: They just organically showed up. These are the names of the victims.
MYERS: These are all the names of the victims and it just showed up. This is just an outpouring of love from --
CAMAROTA: Oh, my gosh.
MYERS: -- from countless people. I'm floored by the love. I don't know where the tents came from. These weren't here yesterday.
CAMAROTA: Is that right?
MYERS: This is -- the rain is coming in. Somebody brought in tents. This is amazing.
CAMARAOTA: To shelter all of you.
MYERS: This was not done by the synagogue. We didn't do this. The community did this. And I'm just amazed. Amazed.
CAMAROTA: What is it like for you to walk around here six days after you ran for your life from this building?
MYERS: It was painful. It still is. It's painful. I mean, I know it's part of the grieving process, but I'm a witness, a victim, and a survivor, and I'm also a pastor, but also a human. And I stand here and I'm in pain.
CAMAROTA: Are you scared when you see this building? Do you --
MYERS: I'm not scared. I'm angry. How dare you defile our holy space. What made you think you could ever do that? How would you feel if someone did that to your mother's house of worship? How would you feel? Those are questions he's going to have to deal with.
CAMAROTA: You sense anxiety and fear from the community?
MYERS: Yes. Yes. They're afraid.
CAMAROTA: They're afraid this is going to happen again?
CAMAROTA: You've been so stoical on national TV and you have given your message of love and to tone down the hate, but I just wonder, do you have moments where you break down or are you still on adrenaline?
MYERS: A perfect example, the last funeral today -- it was the last one -- we were -- I appreciate the fact that outside, there's a side there with a contemplative garden. I just sat there and cried like a baby. I couldn't stop. I thought the procession was waiting for me. I couldn't stop. They just came out. Couldn't stop. I haven't held it in me nonstop, but this was the last funeral, and every time I do one, particularly for me, because when I check the memorial prayer, it takes a piece of my soul away and I have no more left to give. My tank is empty.
CAMAROTA: What do you say to your congregants who say, why? How does this happen? How does God let this happen?
MYERS: I don't believe God lets this stuff happen. Humans have a choice. And this person chose, made this choice. To me, God is the one I turn to when I have no strength, to say, God, give me strength to get through this and that's what I do. Every moment of every day, give me strength, and somehow, God does.
[13:05:10] CAMAROTA: All of these people lined up here, why are they here? I mean, what do you think they're coming here to do?
MYERS: The community is just mourning. This is Pittsburgh and this is what Pittsburgh is. We're one community. And Pittsburgh is hurting. And we're here to mourn. And this is what Pittsburgh is about. That's what makes Pittsburgh such a special place.
CAMAROTA: Are you ever going back into this building?
MYERS: Yes. We're going to do whatever is necessary work. We have to redo our sanctuary. We have to figure out how and what that means and what's the best choice in terms of what to do. We'll sit and spend the time and plan properly and we will rebuild in whatever way we need to and we'll be back.
CAMAROTA: Seeing those gun bullet holes through the door, through the glass door, that's really chilling.
MYERS: It is. It is. I've walked through the sanctuary. It's a horror. It's worse than any sci-fi film because it's real. It's not phony Hollywood. I never thought I'd live to see that horror in my life because, I've faced anti-Semitism before, faced it growing up as a kid. I never thought I'd see the horror of this ever. Ever.
CAMAROTA: Just show me here what stands out to you. When you come here to look at this outpouring of the community.
MYERS: It's the sheer immensity of love. It gives me hope because it reminds me, there are so many good people, and this gives me strength to say, hate will never win.
CAMAROTA: So, Fred, you heard Rabbi Myers. Again, today, no cameras were allowed in, but he echoed all of those same messages. And he talked about why he welcomed President Trump here to his synagogue when so many critics said he shouldn't have done that. And he said that he did it because the Bible teaches all of us to welcome the stranger and to treat them as guests and he wanted to model that Biblical behavior. But he had a message for President Trump, and he told President Trump directly, he said that hate speech leads to hate actions. And he said he told President Trump directly, tone down and stop the hate speech, and only love and compassion and respect can stop hate. And at that moment, the congregation inside broke into applause.
WHITFIELD: Wow. And that concept, that practice of open arms, open doors is exactly what the rabbi was doing. And so, Alisyn, talk about the next chapter, when people can reenter
the congregation where the shooting took place. It will happen one day but do they have kind of a possible timetable of when that might be? Are we talking weeks ago, months away? How long before just the construction will be complete but when people will feel comfortable returning to that space?
CAMAROTA: That may take longer. Their comfort level may take longer. At the moment, as he said, it's still a crime scene. In fact, that entire block is cordoned off. The FBI is still everywhere. There are still processing trucks out front because the crime scene is apparently so grizzly and so vast in there that they're not done with the work. But he believes that they will go back. He believes it's important to go back into that building so the hate doesn't win. And, you know, look, he knows the work is just beginning for making people feel comfortable and feel the love that this congregation is all about.
WHITFIELD: All right, well, a huge hug is just wrapping around that community and that synagogue from all extensions of this country and world.
Alisyn Camerota, thank you so much, from Pittsburgh.
As Pittsburgh continues to cope with that tragic synagogue massacre, we're following another deadly shooting, this time in Florida, where a gunman opened fire at a yoga studio in Tallahassee last night. The man killed two people and injured five more before turning the gun on himself.
CNN's Dianne Gallagher following this for us.
Dianne, do we know the circumstances when this gunman killed himself? When first responders came? What was happened here? What was the plan?
[13:09:45] DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It appeared that when first responders came, Fred -- and according to their log, they got there within three minutes of the first call -- that the gunman, who has been identified as 40-year-old Scott Beierle, had already shot himself. This is after shooting six people and pistol-whipping another, according to authorities, inside that hot yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida. They do not know the connection at this point. But we can tell you two people have died, 21-year-old Maura Binkley and 61-year-old Nancy Van Vessem, both connected to Florida State University. Nancy a faculty member, and Maurer a student there, according to the president of FSU. They're working to figure out what this gunman's connection to that yoga studio is. The FBI, state and local authorities are investigating this right now.
Both the governor and the mayor running for offices -- Andrew Gillum, the mayor, running to be the governor, he's the Democratic candidate, Rick Scott, the current governor, running to be a Senator, a Republican candidate -- they both left last night events they had to go back to Tallahassee. Interesting enough, Mayor Gillum was at a "show up for shabbat" in honor of those victims in Pittsburgh when this happened. He went back. They both went to the hospital and visited those victims there. Gillum said one of the people who was still in the hospital -- there are two -- had been shot nine different times.
WHITFIELD: Oh my.
GALLAGHER : Another had a bullet go straight through her. He had put a pause on his campaign but is back out now as we speak with a "get out the vote" rally in Orlando. And he started talking about this shooting and he claims that one of those victims pulled him very close after talking about the shooting and said, you've got to do something about this gun violence.
Fred, Governor Scott has not gone back out on the campaign trail yet today. He had events scheduled this morning but did not appear at those.
Gun violence, we've talked about this so many times. It was a hot topic for so long this year after the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas in Parkland. It has seemingly fallen off the headlines, and politicians, it doesn't seem to be their top topic or priority anymore. Maybe that will change in Florida after this is happening so close to the election. And I can tell you the students, activists all year, they've haven't let up at all. They've been doing this over and over again.
WHITFIELD: They started campaigning for the voter registration shortly after that.
WHITFIELD: So top of mind for a lot of voters just might be this spat of violence.
WHITFIELD: Thank you so much, Dianne Gallagher.
GALLAGHER: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Appreciate that.
Still ahead, President Trump's final blitz with just three days until the midterms. Can the president save his party and knock down that blue wave?
[13:16:43] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Down to the wire. Three days until the crucial midterm elections, and at stake are hundreds of House and Senate seats, plus 36 governors' races. President Trump and former President Barack Obama on the campaign trail squaring off in the home stretch to rally for several candidates. Their tones are shaping the final messages for Republicans and Democrats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They want to take away your good health care and essentially use Socialism to turn America into Venezuela.
TRUMP: And Democrats want to totally open the borders. They have the caravan, let them in. If you want to let them? Does anyone want to let them?
TRUMP: You're right.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The consequences of any of us staying at home are really profound because America is at a crossroads. The health care of millions of people are on the ballot. Making sure working families get a fair shake is on the ballot. But maybe most of all, the character of our country --
OBAMA: -- is on the ballot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: President Trump packing in seven rallies in the next three days. And next hour, he'll be speaking at a rally in Montana where Democratic Senator Jon Tester is in danger of losing his seat to Republican Matt Rosendale.
Senior CNN White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, in in Belgrade, where the president will be.
If you look at the map of where the president will be, you'd think is aa presidential campaign race but it's midterms. This is really unique.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, no question. If you look at the map of where he's going, a lot of red states, a lot of states that Trump won. And he's trying to awaken all Trump voters who voted for him in 2016. He won by some 20 points here in Montana. To try and awaken them to the fact there's an election on Tuesday. He believes, the White House believes that all of his supporters are not necessarily tuning in. He's trying to nationalize this race, talking about immigrations and things like that. Jon Tester, the Democrat here, trying to localize the race and talk about access to health care, access to public lands. But, Fredricka, you can see behind me here, big sky country. Air Force One is going to land here. A few thousand people here in the next hour will be watching that. But the president clearly is trying to excite voters here.
We caught up with Jon Tester on Friday. This is what he said about the president's visit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JON TESTER, (D), MONTANA: Whether the president comes here or not doesn't make any difference. It's still a race between Matt Rosendale and myself. Although, I will tell you this. I think the president coming was a good thing. And I would like to see him get around and not just do rallies but actually see some of the challenges we have in a rural state like Montana. He's from New York City. He could learn a lot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: So Jon Tester there taking a bit of a dig at the president saying he's a New York City developer. I'm lowering my voice here as they're doing a prayer before the rally, Fredricka.
But no question, this race is one of the most competitive. I'm told the president is telling his advisers, this is the one he wants to win the most. He's having a bit of a personal feud with Jon Tester over who was going to lead the V.A. earlier this year. And that's one of the reasons that President Trump has been out here so often. We'll see what happens on Tuesday. This is the president's final stop here before flying to Florida tonight -- Fredricka?
[13:20:27] WHITFIELD: Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much, in Belgrade, Montana.
So President Trump will finish the day with a rally in Pensacola, Florida.
CNN White House correspondent, Boris Sanchez, is in Pensacola.
Boris, former President Barack Obama was in Florida yesterday shaking things up, trying to set the record straight. And later today, you know, President Trump will be there. What is on the line? What's at stake? And what will the president likely be reminding or telling voters about?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Fred. Always a lot at stake in Florida. We likely hear the president reiterate some of what we've heard about caravans and Kavanaugh, et cetera, et cetera.
Really the big race to look for here in Florida is the governor's race, Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum. That race could be seen as a microcosm of where the two parties stand right now. In Ron DeSantis, you have an underdog, somebody who ran against much more establishment Republicans in the primaries and ended up winning by following the Trump play book. As you remember, having his kids build a toy wall in the notorious commercial. Success for him could be seen as a referendum on where President Trump stands with Florida voters.
On the other side, Andrew Gillum, if he's successful, it's because he'll bring out the old Obama coalition, Latinos, African-Americans, young people. If he could win here, a Bernie Sanders-style of progressive, it could give an indication of where the Democrats plan to go in 2020.
Both candidates are neck and neck, Fred, with DeSantis gaining ground at the last minute among Independents. No matter what happens on Tuesday, you know President Trump will be watching. After all, he considers the Sunshine State his second home -- Fred?
WHITFIELD: OK. Boris Sanchez, thanks so much.
Let's talk more about this. Democrats and Republicans are deploying some very serious star power to get out the vote in Georgia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFREY, TELEVISION HOST: Hi.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god.
WINFREY: Are you Denise?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Oprah.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Almost like a Clearing-House door visit. But, no, it was Oprah Winfrey knocking on the door of folks in support of Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for governor, and making an impassioned plea to everyone to vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WINFREY: For anybody here who has an ancestor, who didn't have the right to vote, and you are choosing not to vote wherever you are in this state, in this country, you are dishonoring your family.
WINFREY So honor your legacy. Honor your legacy. Honor your right to citizenship, in this which is the greatest country in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Vice President Mike Pence also part of that star power in Georgia campaigning for Republican Brian Kemp. The vice president had a message for Stacey Abrams and her high-profile backer, such as "Anchorman" star Will Farrell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRSEIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'd like to remind Stacey and Oprah and Will Farrell, I'm kind of a big deal, too.
I've got a message for all of Stacey Abrams liberal Hollywood friends: This ain't Hollywood. This is Georgia. (CHEERING)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: President Obama pushing back in setting the record straight. He, too, in Georgia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What have not seen the way we're seeing right now is politicians just blatantly --
OBAMA: -- repeatedly --
OBAMA: -- boldly --
OBAMA: -- shamelessly lie.
OBAMA: Just making stuff up.
OBAMA: That's what they're doing right now, all the time. Don't be bamboozled. Don't be hoodwinked.
When words stop meaning anything, when truth doesn't matter, when people can just lie with abandon, democracy can't work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So that was President Obama while he was campaigning in Florida. But he did eventually make his way to Atlanta later on in the evening.
So right now, joining me is CNN presidential historian, Tim Naftali, and CNN Politics digital editor, Zachary Wolf.
Good to see you both.
Tim, you first.
It's rare to see two presidents, a sitting, a predecessor, this contrast of styles and message and tone. Will this inspire votes?
[13:24:58] TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, you know, one thing that President Obama is trying to do is to remind Americans that elections are not spectator sports. That you have to participate. He's out there saying to Democrats and Independents, you must participate. If you don't like what's happening in the Oval Office, you have got to do something about it and the Constitution gives you a chance and that chance is Tuesday. President Trump, on the other hand, has been running by his base from the beginning and he saying to his base, we won in 2016. We beat the polls. We surprised everyone. We've got to do it again. Get out to vote. On the one hand, President Trump is trying to get his base to vote, to beat the historical average, which is that presidential party supporters don't vote in midterms in a large number. President Obama is trying to get new people to the polls. So, in those areas that are typically Republican, you might find a change in registration and might find Independents voting for the Democratic option, which would mean a Democratic success at least in the House.
WHITFIELD: And, Zach, Obama has been relatively quiet since leaving office. I say relatively. There have been some appearances but perhaps President Obama has presumed his record speaks for itself. Well, this time, we saw and heard in him more fight in his words, and his voice sometimes even a bit strained. So does this show Obama's frustration as much as continued hope?
ZACHARY WOLF, CNN POLITICS DIGITAL EDITOR: Well, when he left office, he said he was going to give the president some space to do his own thing. And even at times when you thought President Obama would weigh in and go after President Trump, he didn't. So now in kind of these last days before an election, you see him trying to get out the vote. And I think there's a difference there at rallies, trying to get people specifically in Georgia to come out and vote. That's something different than what we've seen for, you know, the last months and years of the Trump presidency where he was sort of trying to hold his tongue, it almost felt like. This is something different.
WHITFIELD: And so, Tim, President Obama said this is fearmongering, talking about President Trump's approach, whether it's about immigration, whether it be about migrants and caravans and use of word "invasion." Who is President Obama's audience if this is the kind of language that is drumming up President Trump's base? You know, who needs to be inspired?
NAFTALI: Well, Fred, what's absolutely the case is that President Trump is the most unpopular, but with one exception, the most unpopular modern president at this point in his first term. Only Ronald Reagan was a little bit less popular. When Barack Obama is talking about fearmongering, he's speaking to most Americans. It's not just Democrats who think it's fearmongering. President Trump doesn't have the support of half the country. So I think, even though we, of course, associate Barack Obama with one party, but he was also president, so he understands what presidents are supposed to do. Presidents are supposed to unite us. This is a message that could be given by a Republican, former Republican president. It just happens to be Barack Obama who is reminding us that when there's demagoguery in the White House, we need a check on that power from one house of Congress. And since both houses of Congress have shirked their duties to restrain executive power in the last two years, the argument Obama and others like him are making is it's time for Americans to use their vote to curb executive authority when it appears to be excessive. WHITFIELD: And so, Zach, most Americans are looking to the president
to be a uniter, and the economy certainly would unite a lot of people, and President Trump really has that in his arsenal because the economy has been looking really good. But even the president, in his own words, said that's essentially boring, uninteresting, and so going this other route is far more interesting. Is his objective to satisfy the voters or is it much more personal for President Trump to be interesting?
WOLF: I think he would love to keep at least one majority on Capitol Hill, and probably the Senate one is more likely of the two for him to keep. But people who are looking to him to be a uniter should probably look elsewhere. That's not what got him into the White House. It's clearly not what he's trying to do right now. He's not even trying, it feels like, to appeal to sort of those moderate suburban voters that give Republicans their majority in the House right now. He's really concentrating on the people who are exercised by the issues of illegal immigration and kind of trying to appeal to people from this base level, you know, on a racial level pretty overtly in this way that we haven't seen a modern politician effectively do and win.
[13:30:07] WHITFIELD: But is it not confusing because he says if the Republicans win, credit him, but if losses, blame the Democrats. It has very little to do with perhaps his strategy here midterm --
WHITFIELD: -- or how do you understand all that?
WOLF: I'll give you one simple prediction. He's not going to take any blame at all if Republicans lose anything. He's going to foist it all over on Paul Ryan.
WHITFIELD: We'll leave it there.
Zach Wolf and Tim Naftali, good to be with you.
WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.
[13:35:01] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. I'm Fredericka Whitfield.
In central Virginia, the battle is on for a House seat that has been held by a Republican for nearly 50 years. It was four years ago that Dave Brat ousted House majority leader, Eric Cantor, in a surprise win. Not Brat, who is tight with President Trump and former White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon, is in a toss-up against Democrat Abigail Spanberger, a political newcomer, outpacing him in fundraising.
CNN's Rebecca Berg is in Culpepper, Virginia, where Brat is campaigning today. Rebecca, this race is key because it's been bell weather with how Republicans are faring with suburban voters.
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right, Fredricka. This is the type of district that should have never been on the map for Republicans in any election cycle. But this election cycle, as you mentioned, this is a top race between Dave Brat, Abigail Spanberger. A really important pick-up for Democrats to send a message on election night and an important test for Republicans. Can they hold these crucial seats?
We are in Culpeper, Virginia, right now, a little bit north of Richmond, but the Richmond suburbs are going to be really key in this race for Dave Brat to see if he could hold suburban women so tough for Republicans in the election cycle.
WHITFIELD: That's a big race to watch.
In the meantime, also, piquing interest, the fact that you caught up with former White House strategist, Steve Bannon, who is pushing for Republicans. And Bannon also took place in a debate that got testy last night in Toronto that sparked some protests outside, there were arrests. Some people were pepper sprayed. Tell us about all of that.
BERG: That's right. He came here to Culpeper to try to get out the vote for Republicans. Some protesters wherever Steve Bannon goes. He's a controversial figure from his time in the White House with Donald Trump.
Here today, his focus on getting out the vote for Republicans ahead of the midterms. He recognizes the challenges the party is facing. He mentioned Republican energy. That's why he's here in a more rural area, the seventh district in Virginia, and he's trying to get Donald Trump supporters out to vote on Election Day.
But he also mentioned suburban women, the challenge that Republican Party is facing with them.
Take a listen to what he told us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: It's pretty obvious at this time that there's a certain weakness among college- educated suburban women and even
BANNON: I just think, look, you have to ask them. I think people have to come to their own conclusion. But I think part of it might be House style. They don't like the style. They see the substance, they don't like the House style and the president's style, and that may keep some people from either not voting or even voting for the opposition.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BERG: So Bannon clear today about the challenge the Republicans and the president are facing with women in this election cycle. It remains to be seen how that will turn out for them on Election Day -- Fred?
WHITFIELD: Rebecca Berg, there in Virginia, and catching up with Bannon in Virginia. Those pictures you saw earlier, at least a day earlier in Toronto. And at that appearance with Bannon, that's where you saw protesters outside and tear gas, and then you saw arrests.
All right, we've got so much more after a quick break.
[13:43:00] WHITFIELD: Just three days to the midterm elections, many Americans may feel overwhelmed by the news and information about the election and the candidates. But in some parts of the country, there's actually an information void. Americans living in so-called news deserts because they have few or no local news outlets.
With me now is CNN Business chief media correspondent, Brian Stelter.
Boy, that title got really long. I'm familiar with that.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN BUSINESS CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Ah, sorry about that.
WHITFIELD: That's OK. No, that's good. Congratulations.
Talk to me about this news desert. How persuasive is it in this country?
STELTER: I think this is going to be a real problem heading into the midterm elections. It's been a problem for a number of years. And every time we get to an election season, this problem is really visible. There's more parts of the United States that are not served by local newspapers and barely by local TV stations. In big cities, like Philadelphia, where I am today, there's daily papers, weekly papers. A lot of sources of news. But if you head out in any direction, you get into these news deserts all across the country where papers have shut down or laid off a lot of staffers. And as a result, you don't know who's running for a local judgeship or the country commissioner. I think, as we head into a midterm election season, increasingly a problem that there are so many news deserts in the country where voters don't really know what's on the ballot.
WHITFIELD: It still is very, very sad that there's this kind of slow death in a lot of newspaper publications across the country. But then in these places where they don't have any newspapers, they don't have any local television news and probably not even radio either, so who or what is filling the void?
STELTER: It ends up being campaign ads by the candidates, oftentimes, misleading. A lot of direct mail sent to addresses, from the candidates. So it's not telling you the full story. And then the other element of this, of course, is social media. People are increasingly learning information on Facebook and Twitter and other sites. Some of that information is legit, but oftentimes, you're seeing hyper-partisan information or straight-up lies spread via social media. That's the kind of fake news we talked about two years ago in the presidential election. These days, fake news has multiplied and magnified. All different kinds of it out there. And I think you take the problem of news deserts, you combine that with this misinformation that spreads on the Internet, and it creates a confusing situation for voters who aren't sure what to do.
[13:45:32] WHITFIELD: It's really confusing because a lot of these outlets look legit. You know, they've borrowed some of the same graphics and some of the same style, and people might read it, get roped in and so many, you know, viewers, readers don't even know how to discern the real stuff from the imitation.
Brian Stelter, thank you so much for that. Appreciate it.
WHITFIELD: We'll be watching you tomorrow.
With three short days now until the midterms, President Trump is all in on a single strategy, scare voters about the southern border. But what about the legal challenges? That's ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[13:50:34] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hundreds of thousands of children born to illegal immigrants are made automatic citizens of the United States every year because of this crazy, lunatic policy that we can end. That we can end.
TRUMP: We need support, but we can end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: That was the president of the United States slamming the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, an amendment that grants citizenship to children born in the United States regardless of their parents' nationality. So could President Trump amend this amendment and what could it mean if it is to happen?
Let's bring in Avery Friedman, civil rights attorney and law professor, in Cleveland, and defense attorney, Richard Herman, joining us from New Orleans.
Good to see you both.
AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR: Hi, Fredricka.
RICHARD HERMAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Hey, Fred.
WHITFIELD: Richard, you first.
Can a president unilaterally amend an amendment?
HERMAN: The crazy lunacy is he's talking about is the Constitution of the United States, that he swore an oath to uphold and defend. People forgot that. He does not have the inherent power to issue an executive order to modify the United States Constitution. I don't care what legal scholars he claims are advising him. If they are, they don't know what they're talking about. He does not have that inherent power. It's a constitutional process that has to take place, Fred. Now, the issue has never been determined by the United States Supreme Court --
FRIEDMAN: Yes, it has.
HERMAN: -- of whether a child is born in the United States to perhaps an illegal alien or someone who is not documented. That issue has not gone to the Supreme Court yet. But the issue of whether the president has the power to modify the Constitution by executive order, the answer to that is unequivocally no, N-O.
WHITFIELD: Avery, what would provoke the president to say this if not being advised by someone in his circle who says there's a window, there's a door in which you can enter that you might be able to potentially change the Constitution?
FRIEDMAN: Yes, I think instead of talking to a law firm like Baker McKenzie, he's talking to the law firm of Barnum and Bailey. There's no legal foundation. For those of us who teach the Constitution, the 14th Amendment is 150 years old this year, Fredricka, and that law is -- that part of the Constitution is sacrosanct unless two-thirds of the House, two-thirds of the Senate, and 38 states decide to change it. By executive order, it sounds like a crack pot theory. There's no basis for it. Believe it or not, we're both agreeing on the same thing. So --
WHITFIELD: Maybe this is the president's approach of saying, hey, Senators, members of Congress, this is what I would like to happen, so that they can -- so that there's that two-thirds majority in both Houses to make it happen, Richard?
HERMAN: It's not going to happen, Fred. There's an election on Tuesday and things will be substantially different after this election. He can say what he wants to happen. It's not going to happen.
And interestingly, this president is so obsessed with immigration and illegal immigration, and you know, in 1988, his first wife, that's the first time she became an American citizen, in 1988. And before that, she had three children. (CROSSTALK)
HERMAN: What would happen to the status of those children if his law was enacted? There's just no thought process.
HERMAN: The president of the United States is spreading craziness, Fred.
HERMAN: It's absurd the president would make statements like this. It's to divert attention from real issues in this country and cause a divisive atmosphere. That's why he says these preposterous lies.
HERMAN: It's just insane.
FRIEDMAN: If you look --
FRIEDMAN: -- in the Constitution, there was a caravan back in 1868. Congress already decided. There were concerns about the influx of Mongols, as they called Chinese-Americans. At the end of the day, Congress voted that birthright citizenship is part of the Constitution. Until there's an amendment, nothing changes. If someone is buying the executive order argument, I don't know how they're doing it. There's no legislate legal theory. It is a crackpot theory. It is not going to happen.
[13:54:57] WHITFIELD: Avery Friedman, Richard Herman, the gentlemen have spoken.
WHITFIELD: Good to see you guys. I appreciate it. Always love having you.
So much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM. It all starts after this.
[13:59:48] WHITFIELD: Hello again and welcome back. Thanks for being with me this Saturday. I'm Fredericka Whitfield.
The Jewish community remains in shock one week after 11 innocent lives were tragically taken inside a Pittsburgh synagogue. This morning, the Squirrel Hill community of Pittsburgh came together to honor those victims with a pair of services, a private service for the congregation and another for all who are rallying around them.