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NEW DAY SATURDAY
Trump On Macron: "We Have Much In Common"; Trump Spars With French President As AF1 Touches Down; Trump Visits France Amid Political Turmoil At Home; World Leaders Commemorate 100 Years Since End Of WWI; First Lady Melania Trump Meets With French First Lady; Massive Wildfires Rage Across California; Flames Threaten Thousands, Force Evacuations; Mass Shooting Victims Call for More Gun Control Reforms; WSJ: Trump had Central Role in Hush Money Payments to Porn Star and Playboy Model; Trump Tries to Downplay Whitaker Ties Amid Backlash; Army Veteran Helps Homeless Vets in the U.S. Aired 6-7a ET
Aired November 10, 2018 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Help me, Father. Please help us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Camp Fire, the most destructive fire in California history.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are very few people that their homes are standing. Most everybody has lost their home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: U.S. President Donald Trump wasted no time criticizing his host, the French President Emmanuel Macron, as he arrived in Paris.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not a very auspicious start for a weekend that's supposed to recognize the virtues of world peace.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "The Wall Street Journal" reports that Donald Trump not only knew about hush money payments made to two women, but he was directly involved in the payments and process to get those stories killed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My client is tired of being called a liar and with each passing month, we get closer and closer to judgement day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is "NEW DAY WEEKEND" With Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY WEEKEND: Good morning to you. The President is in Paris leaving behind the turmoil in Washington right after the midterms, but his Washington worries seemed to follow him all the way on the other side of the ocean.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY WEEKEND: Yes. "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting President Trump was involved in hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal who allegedly had affairs with him.
BLACKWELL: Meanwhile, the man he's put in place to lead the Justice Department, acting Attorney General Matt Whittaker, reportedly has ties to a Florida company being investigated by the FBI. Yes, that's the same agency he now oversees.
PAUL: But I want to show you now new pictures of President Trump and President Macron there in France we're in a few moments, they're going to have lunch with each other. French President Emmanuel Macron there with President Trump and CNN's international correspondent Melissa Bell outside the palace there. So Melissa, talk to us about what the two said publicly there before they sit down privately.
MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is in the context, of course, of that tweet that was sent out by Donald Trump two minutes after Air Force One had landed in Paris here last night talking about the insult that Emmanuel -- the idea that Emmanuel Macron should be seeking to bolster European defense forces represented to the United States. So this was clearly going to be a subject when the American president who was welcomed here just a few moments ago.
They're inside the Elysee Palace now having that bilateral meeting. This was always something that was going to be addressed. We've been told by French officials that Emmanuel Macron would be addressing that fairly belligerent tweet head-on. This is how the exchange went just before that bilateral meeting began.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE: I do share President Trump's view that we need a much better burden-sharing within NATO and that's why I do believe that my proposals for European defense are totally consistent with that because it means more Europe within NATO, more capacity in order to take our part of the burden and I think it's very fair and it's very important.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I appreciate what you're saying about burden-sharing. You know what my attitude's been and we want a strong Europe. It's very important to us to have a strong Europe and whichever way we can do it the best and most efficient would be something that we both want.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BELL: There was a sense that the French president was really couching his words in terms that the American president would understand that this was about burden-sharing and it was nothing for Donald Trump to get upset about. Clearly, there was a great deal of surprise here in Europe when that tweet went out since the idea of a European army, frankly, and that strengthening of European defense capabilities has, first of all, been on the table for a long time and second of all, does nothing to take away from Europe's commitment to NATO.
So a bit of explanation there before, it was likely to be a much testier meeting than the two men have had before given their differences of views on so many of the topics. Trade, Iran, Syria, all will be covered during that meeting. We're expecting First Lady Melania Trump to arrive here within the next few minutes. The two presidential couples will then sit down to lunch before kicking off those ceremonies to mark the end of World War I.
PAUL: All right. Melissa Bell, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
BLACKWELL: CNN's White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is also in Paris. Kaitlan, the President seems to have set the agenda just before arriving there with this tweet. Give us more about what he meant by this and what specifically he was reacting to.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And you've also got to look at the timing of this tweet. The President waited until just a minute -- a few minutes after he had landed on French soil to tweet about this, even though this is a comment that the French President made days ago during that radio interview.
Now, you heard Melissa there talk about the tweet. Let's look at what the tweet actually said. President Trump still on Air Force One at this point said, "President Macron of France has just suggested that Europe build its own military in order to protect itself from the U.S., China and Russia. Very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO which the U.S. subsidized greatly."
[09:05:06] So the President there saying this is a very insulting comment that Macron made. Of course, Macron made that comment because President Trump made the decision to withdraw from the INF treaty, that nuclear arms control pact the President Ronald Reagan signed with Russia in the 1960. And in his interview, Macron said that who he believes is the greatest victim of that decision by President Trump is Europe and its security.
That's why he made those remarks about making a more robust European military, but President Trump clearly took offense to that in his tweeting and then brought in something that he has long been bothered by which is NATO defense spending. We saw that in Brussels when he got into that argument with several other world leaders saying that they weren't spending enough and in fact, he didn't even think spending 2 percent of their GDP on defense spending was enough. He wanted to up it to 4 percent.
President Trump bringing that up there, but then he sent another tweet later on about the reason he's actually here in Paris, which is to celebrate the 100 years of the end of World War I. He said, "I'm in Paris getting ready to celebrate the end of World War I." And he said, "Is there anything better to celebrate than the end of the war, in particular that one, which was one of the bloodiest and worst of all time?"
So you see here a dichotomy between what President Trump is here for, setting this tone of the American-European alliance as his national security advisor John Bolton has done in the few days that he's been here arriving ahead of President Trump, and then you see what President Trump actually says where he wants to start a fight.
He starts a clash making us have flashbacks to when he was in London meeting with the British Prime Minister Theresa May not too long ago and in the hours before they both were going to sit down at Chequers, he gave this interview where he blasted her and criticized her policies and her leadership.
Now President Trump is here in Paris and he seems to be setting himself up for a fight with the French President and we'll have to see how this meeting between the two of them goes today.
BLACKWELL: All right. Kaitlan Collins for us there in Paris. Kaitlan, thank you.
PAUL: David Andelman with us now. Author of "A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today."
BLACKWELL: David, thanks for being with us. We want to talk about your piece for "Reuters" in just a moment, but first, this reaction is back and forth between Macron and President Trump, but I want to read for you what the President's reacting to, this interview with "Europe 1" radio. This reported by "Agence France-Presse."
The President, President Macron, said, "We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America. When I see President Trump announcing that he's quitting a major disarmament treaty which was formed after the 1980s Euro missile crisis that hit Europe, who is the main victim? Europe and its security. We will not protect the Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army." Your reaction to that framework from President Macron?
DAVID ANDELMAN, AUTHOR: Well, it's very clear that the French and much of the rest of the Europeans are very concerned about the U.S. withdrawal from this INF treaty, Intermediate Nuclear Force treaty, because this actually regulates the number of missiles from the -- from the Soviet -- from the former Soviet Union, from Russia now, and that could, in theory, target Europe.
These are the missiles that would directly target Paris, France, Germany for that matter and so on and the French are very concerned that if the U.S. pulls out of that treaty, basically all hell breaks loose in terms of intermediate nuclear force development. It's France that will be the principal target, not the United States. So he kind of feels, in some respects, the United States or Trump has sort of sold the Europeans down the river, at least on this particular issue, not to mention a whole lot of others.
So this is a very great concern, an immediate concern to the French and this, I suspect, is one of the foundations for that comment by Macron in that "Europe 1" interview.
Now, since then, of course, it's very interesting that Trump would wait a week in order to -- before he makes that tweet and then arrive -- just as soon as he arrives on French soil, that's when he actually unleashes his reply to that. So that's -- I think that has to upset the French.
PAUL: Well, and I know that you have been watching their interactions this morning when they got there and that very public display before they go into this private meeting. I understand that you noticed a couple of things you wanted to touch on.
ANDELMAN: Yes. What was particularly interesting was just the body language. They tried to be friendly. They tried to be, you know, courteous and so on, but if you watched Macron's face when he was waiting for Trump to get out of that car, it's really quite striking. There wasn't a real smile on it. This was a fixed face by Macron. Macron is capable of enormous graciousness and smiling and effusivness and when he met -- when he meets Angela Merkel, for instance, his great counterpart from Germany, there was a much warmer sense really.
And these -- remember, these were the two countries that 100 years ago were at each other's throats and where millions of people had been killed or made homeless and so on and yet today, their warmth is very much clearer and much more transparent than the -- than the reactions between -- the interactions between Macron and Trump.
[09:10:04] BLACKWELL: So let's expand this beyond the two men here and the larger group of world leaders that the President will be with at this commemoration of the 100th year after the ending of World War I. You write for "Reuters" that certain world leaders are expecting, potentially, a weakened or maybe a different President Trump after the results of the midterm election on Tuesday. Reconcile what they have expected, what they're wanting and likely the President Trump they'll receive.
ANDELMAN: Well, it is very clear to a lot of them that Trump is wounded. It may not be entirely clear to Trump, of course, but I believe in the -- his heart of hearts he has to understand that this is not the same president the same -- with the same powers that there were, say, in their last get-together some months ago. This is a president now who suffered a major defeat in the House, who has not made a major inroad in the Senate, particularly, and whose very base of support has really been eroded.
The Europeans are very sensitive to these kinds of winds of change. I mean, they've had centuries to look at how these kinds of domestic issues affect international politics within Europe and they watch the United States very carefully. I think they have to understand that Trump is coming here somewhat wounded and prepared, perhaps, to strike out.
And if there's anything that, you know, if -- frankly, if Macron could find any excuse for Trump, it would be that, that Trump is feeling wounded. This tweet on the plane was perhaps a way of striking out, of showing that he is still very much in charge, but a lot of them just don't believe it frankly.
BLACKWELL: All right. You're seeing on your screen the first Lady of France Brigitte Macron who is awaiting the arrival of U.S. First Lady Melania Trump for -- there's a spouse's event that will be happening today. So this is what we're seeing here as live pictures we'll have for you throughout the morning of the events here. I think the First Lady ...
PAUL: I was going to say, yes, it looks like ...
BLACKWELL: Mrs. Trump's vehicle has pulled up.
PAUL: Go ahead. Go ahead, David. You wanted to say something?
ANDELMAN: Yes. There's an interesting -- there's an interesting backstory to this, by the way. You know, Melania Trump is from the former Yugoslavia, from one of the former Soviet Yugoslavia republics. Some time ago when the three leaders of the Baltic States, Estonia Latvia, Lithuania, had been with Trump in Washington and then come to Paris, they told Trump -- they told Macron an amazing story about their interactions were Trump.
Trump had said to them before they went out for their press conference in Washington, they said to -- he said to them, "You know," he said, "I blame you for the wars in Yugoslavia." What he was really referring to was the Balkans, having no understanding that these three leaders were actually from the Baltics rather than the Balkans and they were just flabbergasted. I mean, Macron has never forgotten this.
In fact, he told one of the journalists from LeMond (ph) who was interviewing him the other day for a big package (ph) they were doing on the 100th anniversary. He told them the story and and LeMond (ph) has now featured it in this morning's newspapers. So it's very -- and by the way, he said, "This is the -- this is the territory that my wife came from, the Balkans," talking to the leaders of the Baltic republics, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania.
Really, Macron has a great deal of -- and most of the Europeans have a great deal of difficulty understanding how a person like that could be running the United States and American diplomacy in relations with Europe if he doesn't even understand that the Baltics and the Balkans are at the opposite ends of the continent.
BLACKWELL: We're seeing here the first lady's going in for their event. You'll remember that back in April, the Trumps warmly welcomed the Macrons to the White House. They now are in Paris here. French, one of the six languages that First Lady Melania Trump speaks fluently, so maybe their conversations will be there in French.
PAUL: Right. And David, just real quickly before we let you go, talk to us about the relationship between the two first ladies and how they might be able to affect, publicly, whatever happens between the U.S. and France.
ANDELMAN: Well, it's not really clear is, again, from my perspective, is how close -- how much involvement Melania Trump -- Melania Trump has in the -- in the global politics of her husband. It's quite clear that Mrs. Macron is very closely tied to what her husband does and says and is a great representative of her husband.
She travels with him quite a lot. She's very attuned to the diplomatic niceties and the political niceties of France. She's a very -- she's a mature woman, of course. She's much older than her husband. It would be nice if the two of them could get along. I'm not so sure that this will have much impact on what President Trump -- his attitude towards the French or, for that matter, Macron's attitude towards the Americans towards Trump.
BLACKWELL: All right. The book is, "A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today." David Andelman, thanks so much for your insight.
ANDELMAN: Thanks for having me.
PAUL: Thank you, David. All right. We're going to continue watching that throughout the morning, but we're also watching the thousands of people evacuate in California.
[09:15:05] Look at some of the latest pictures coming in here. Three massive wildfires burning, still out of control in California this morning.
BLACKWELL: Plase, "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that President Trump was involved in hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal at a much greater rate and degree of involvement than he's admitted up to this point publicly. We'll talk about that.
PAUL: Nineteen minutes past the hour right now and this morning, at least nine people are dead. Three major wildfires are raging out of control in California. In the north, Camp Fire. It's for nearly 90,000 acres. It's destroyed homes and businesses in the town of Paradise.
BLACKWELL: In Southern California, the Hill and Woolsey fires. They forced nearly 100,000 people out of their homes.
[09:20:00] CNN's Kaylee Hartung is in Oak Park, California. What are you seeing there? What are you learning about that community around you?
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, Victor and Christi, among the reasons these fires have been so difficult to fight, winds are shifting non-stop creating obvious challenges for the fire fighters, but also creating problems like the one you can see behind me. This home destroyed while every other home I look at in this neighborhood is standing tall and perfectly sound. These winds can grab these embers and shift them, move them, attack a home like this one behind me.
So while we're far from the fire line, these winds can grab the embers and do tremendous damage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are evacuating Paradise, California. We can't even see. We don't know where the fire is. So please, please pray -- please pray for us till we get out of here OK. Oh, my God.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A desperate drive out of the flames for one family escaping from the town of Paradise, a town that's been almost wiped off the map by the large camp fire in Northern California.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope mom's going to be all right. God, it's so hot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know, baby. Hold on. I can't see.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It'll be all right. We just -- we'll be OK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Camp Fire is one of three major wildfires roaring through California this morning and it's being called the most destructive fire in state history with almost 7,000 structures gone in two days. Homes, schools, businesses and more. The Camp Fire is also one of the deadliest wildfires according to state officials, killing at least nine people with dozens missing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are a long ways from being out of the firefight. Right now, our focus is on life safety. There are active rescues continuing to go on on all of these fires and in particular the Camp Fire in Butte County.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two major fires in Southern California are just miles from the bar where 12 people were killed in a mass shooting in Thousand Oaks and evacuations were ordered for a nearby Malibu, the beachside city popular with celebrities. Singer Cher tweeted, "I'm worried about my house, but there is nothing I can do. Friends' houses have burned. I can't bear the thought of there being no Malibu. I've had a house in Malibu since 1972."
Lady Gaga also tweeted, "I am thinking so deeply for everyone who's suffering today from these abominable fires and grieving the loss of their homes or loved ones. I'm sitting here with many of you wondering if my home will burst into flames. All we can do is pray together and for each other. God bless you."
Meanwhile, that same fire threatening Malibu, the Woolsey Fire has burned down the Paramount movie set in the Santa Monica Mountains where parts of the TV series "Westworld" were filmed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARTUNG: We have a brief reprieve from the winds now, but they're expected to pick back up tomorrow. Conditions remaining extreme and, Victor, with that, continued uncertainty of what damage this fire could do next.
BLACKWELL: Certainly thinking of all the people there who are struggling with those fires. Kaylee Hartung, thank you.
PAUL: So let's go to CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar. She's watching this so closely. What can you tell us, Allison?
ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right. So the biggest thing really to come out of that overnight are just the amount of structures that have burned. I mean, we talked about this. Over 6,700 structures with that Camp Fire. That now makes it the most destructive California wildfire in history in terms of those structures and again, look at some of the other numbers.
I mean, we beat number two by over 1,000. So I mean, that just goes to show you yes, we're number one, but we beat the previous number one by a lot and they're still going to be a lot of those assessments going on later on today to determine whether or not even more structures, perhaps, have burned that they just haven't been able to get to yet.
Here are the two main fires that we've been talking about. The Camp Fire, this is the one in Northern California, basically for reference point between about Reading and San Francisco. The Woolsey Fire, that's the one that's in Southern California. Again, notice with both of these the key component here is the containment numbers are both very low. Camp Fire only at 5 percent. The Woolsey Fire is at 0 percent containment right now.
They really need those weather conditions to improve so that they can get those containment numbers back up. Unfortunately, the weather really isn't going to cooperate all that much. The winds will come down slightly, but I want you to understand they're not going to go to zero and that's going to be the key thing. Even a five to seven mile per hour wind gust is still enough to be able to push some of those embers from the already existing fires and spread them back out.
You have red flag warnings. That's the pink color you see here on this map. About 15 million people are under those red flag warnings. What does that mean? It basically means you've got either a critical or an elevated fire threat for some of these areas that go through here. When we're talking about that, what we mean is we mean incredibly low humidities, we mean those gusty winds and again, you've got all of that dry ground.
It's been very dry across California, not just this week, but really for the last few months. So that ground is basically ready for those embers to be able to take off at a moment's notice. And Victor and Christi, at one point, I want you to understand, that that Camp Fire was spreading at a rate of a football field every 0.7 seconds just in the last couple days.
[09:25:07] PAUL: Yes. It is just frightening. Allison, thank you so much.
BLACKWELL: All right. Still to come, families not far from where these fires are burning in the Thousand Oaks community, they're now calling for tougher gun control after that mass shooting that killed a dozen people. We'll have more on how they are coping.
PAUL: And a recent study by the CDC says gun related deaths are on the rise again after years of decline. We have a breakdown for you.
[06:30:00] CHRISTI PAUL, CO-HOST, NEW DAY SATURDAY: So glad to have you with us here. Thirty minutes past the hour right now, I'm Christi Paul.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CO-HOST, NEW DAY SATURDAY: I'm Victor Blackwell, good to be with you. A community in California is in mourning after, of course, a dozen people were shot and killed at the Borderline Bar, this is Thousand Oaks, happened earlier this week. Now, some families are calling for tougher gun control.
PAUL: Well, Cnn's Jason Carroll talked with some of them, and with someone that survived the mass shooting and escaped the shooting in Las Vegas last year.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Once again, a community came together to mourn and to remember those who were killed and those who survived the shooting at the Borderline Bar in Thousand Oaks late Wednesday.
In all, 12 people killed, many at the bar that night had survived the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history just last year at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas. Tel Orfanos; a 27-year-old Navy veteran was one of those who escaped the gunman in Las Vegas, this time he did not make it.
SUSAN ORFANOS, MOTHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM: I don't want prayers, I don't want thoughts, I want gun control, and I hope to God nobody else sends me any more prayers. I want gun control. No more guns!
CARROLL: Dani Merrill survived the shooting in Las Vegas and she injured her knee while escaping the Borderline. The debate over gun control weighs heavy on her as do thoughts over why she is alive and others she knew are not.
DANI MERRILL, SHOOTING SURVIVOR: You know, I had a meltdown in the car after. When we got in the car on the way home, I had a panic attack. Like not -- not again, I can't do this again, I don't want to do this again. No one should have to do it once, let alone twice.
I think it needs to be harder to obtain a weapon. I don't think that they should -- we shouldn't be able to, but I think there should be more things -- there should be more rules in place that you need to go through in order to obtain one.
CARROLL: Merrill says many local country music fans formed support groups in the wake of the Vegas shooting. They often gathered at the Borderline, a place given all that has happened, they thought was safe.
MERRILL: Vegas happened, but that's not my home. But you know, now it's even harder. This is your home.
CARROLL: Home for people like Noelle Sparks, a 21-year-old church volunteer or Elena Hausle(ph); an 18-year-old student at Pepperdine; the youngest victim or Dan Manrique(ph); a 33-year-old Marine Corps veteran all gone. Despite so much grief, Dani Merrill says eventually she will go back to the Borderline.
MERRILL: I'm not going to let them win. I'm not going to let them ruin something that I love and that I love to do. I'm not -- I can't do that.
CARROLL: Jason Carroll, Cnn, Thousand Oaks, California. (END VIDEOTAPE)
PAUL: Now, we want to give you some context on the scope of gun violence in America. First of all, what defines a mass shooting? Well, the FBI says a mass shooting as defined by law involves three or more people. So with that information, we crunched these numbers. According to the gun violence archives last year, there were 346 mass shootings.
So far this year, we've had 307. And look at the number of killed and injured, 2018 may not reach the number of killed last year which was 438. The number of injured, though, is staggering, more than 1,800 last year, more than 1,200 so far for 2018.
BLACKWELL: There are new details in the hush-money scheme surrounding President Donald Trump and his former fixer Michael Cohen. A "Wall Street Journal" reports then candidate Trump played a central role in coordinating the payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal with whom he allegedly had affairs.
PAUL: And she's one of President Trump's most trusted advisors. He is one of the president's toughest critics. How Kellyanne Conway's husband became an issue for the White House.
[06:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLACKWELL: Thirty eight minutes after the hour. New report suggests then-candidate Donald Trump was personally involved in the payment of hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels and former "Playboy" model Karen McDougal during the 2016 campaign.
According to the "Wall Street Journal", federal prosecutors spelled out Trump's involvement in a draft of an involvement against Michael Cohen; the president's former fixer and attorney. Now, such payments if not reported will be a violation of campaign finance laws.
And joining me now, CNN political commentator and political anchor for "Spectrum News" Errol Louis and CNN's legal analyst and Criminal Defense Attorney Joey Jackson. Gentlemen, welcome back.
ERROL LOUIS, SPECTRUM NEWS: Good morning.
JOEY JACKSON, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Good morning Victor.
BLACKWELL: So Joey, let me start with you because the articulation of potential violation of law is one thing. But where does this go? Prosecution or charging especially a citizen -- a sitting president I should say is a different thing. Where do you expect this will go with anywhere?
JACKSON: Well, that's the heart of the matter, Victor, for sure. Now, let's start here. Let's start with whether or not at least according to what the reports are showing is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed and the president committed it.
If so and why do I speak to that? Because it raises the specter of what we call an indictment. We have discussed previously that a president cannot be indicted, at least, that's the current Department of Justice guidance. There is a process, however, that would provide for the removal of the president.
[06:40:00] In terms of where it goes, it certainly emboldens the house and, you know, I'm certain that Errol will speak to this more, but in terms of the legal process, it certainly emboldens the House Democrats who are now taking control of the House of Representatives to move forward in proceedings of impeachment.
If we accept the proposition that the president is not above the law, then he needs to be held accountable. He has not been held accountable at least as of late, the last couple of years because he's been protected by that Republican majority.
To the extent now that there's teeth to actual allegations that the president may have been involved in illegalities and improprieties, I would certainly suspect where it goes to the heart of the matter is the House investigating whether this is the case and moving forward with the impeachment of the president.
Of course, he'll be protected by the Senate where there's not only a majority, and of course, you need two-thirds of the Senate for removal of the president, but this could certainly lead to an impeachment.
BLACKWELL: Errol, let's talk about that. Sort of a legal consequence, is this moving near the top of the list of issues that this new Democratic majority in the House will explore?
LOUIS: Well, they will almost certainly explore it for an interesting reason. These are members of Congress, these are people who actually understand the campaign finance rules. They --
BLACKWELL: Yes --
LOUIS: Live under those same rules, they abide by them, they don't look lightly, I think at violations of them, and the very damning account that's laid out in the "Wall Street Journal" for which Michael Cohen among other things is heading to prison.
I mean, there's apparently an agreement that when all of the dust clears, he's going to spend between four and five years in jail. The reality is, with them looking into this and understanding fully what it means to try and evade campaign finance regulations during a campaign, a lot of very damaging information will come out.
Whether or not it leads to impeachment or removal or even political problems if the president seeks re-election remains to be seen.
BLACKWELL: Errol, let's stick with this Whitaker storyline for a moment. And I want to stay with you about whether the president knows him or not. That the president said yesterday and tweeted on his flight to Paris, he doesn't know Matt Whitaker, the man he just appointed to head up the Department of Justice.
A month ago, he said, not only did he know him but he's a great guy. Two things here, Cnn's reporting and reporting from others is that Whitaker has been to the White House dozens of times, including in meetings with the president, the two have spoken by phone.
And also really how does it help the president to say that he does not know the man he just appointed to be the acting Attorney General of the United States?
LOUIS: Yes, look, it's literally inconceivable that the president simply doesn't know him. Not only because he has said that he knows him, not only because he's been dozens of times into the White House and into the Oval Office and so forth.
But because this is such an important and pivotal decision that any president would make. The Attorney General is one of the key appointments, the notion that you would go outside of normal protocol -- I mean, you know, one thing that this was already sort of the deputy who steps up and takes the top position in the normal course of business.
But the president actually changed the normal line of succession. So he clearly knows who this person is, and I think trying to distance himself now is mostly because of the bad press that is coming out because apparently the White House did not properly vet this nominee before he was named by the president.
BLACKWELL: Joey, let's talk about constitutionality here. George Conway, notably the husband of counsel to the president Kellyanne Conway co-wrote an opinion piece for the "New York Times" and here's the title that has put on -- on the screen. "Trump's appointment of the acting Attorney General is unconstitutional." Is it?
JACKSON: Well, look, he certainly has an argument to that point. But before we get into the issues of constitutionality or at least in keeping with that discussion, let's remember what President Trump has been doing. He's been appointing an awful lot of judges to the federal bench, right?
And in addition to appointing judges to the federal bench, you know, last I've checked, the Supreme Court is now solid conservative majority. Why do I speak to that issue? I speak to the issue because when you raise constitutional concerns, it ends up in courts.
And to the extent that it's interpreted we can argue all day and night, and I think the president certainly has some cover, you know, in arguing that he made an acting appointment. The Congress was not in session at the time. There were elections, he decided to fired one person, you serve at the pleasure of the president.
And to that extent he appointed who he felt was appropriate and proper. Now, I get to the constitutional issue that you have to appoint a principal officer with the advice and consent of the Senate. He certainly has a solid Senate majority, he's entitled to do that.
But I think when you get to interpreting the constitution, it takes judges to do that, and when you have a stacked federal bench depending upon who this gets in front of, and if it goes to the Supreme Court, I'm not suggesting the Supreme Court by nature is political, but people have conservative ideologies and philosophies.
[06:45:00] And I think that the sense of the president appointing judges would be so that they would protect him. And if it ends up going that far, you know, I believe that he'll -- he could certainly be protected there as well.
BLACKWELL: Errol, an interesting element on this Whitaker appointment. Mitch McConnell; Senate Majority leader said that he expects that Whitaker will be -- and this is a quote here, "a very interim AG". Now, the president says there's no rush to name a nominee for the permanent position.
But Senate Republicans as we know have not been quick to check this president or provide that oversight. But historically, when it comes to usurping their role of advise and consent on these nominees, they draw a line. What do you make of this response from McConnell about this being a very temporary AG?
LOUIS: Well, look, that's exactly right. Look, the Senate is going to guard its prerogatives, even more so, I would say because Jeff Sessions was a long-time senator and one of their colleagues. They're not going to allow this to turn into some sort of extended appointment as leader of the Justice Department.
It shouldn't be, it's not legally possible, as Joey points out, you can argue it one way or the other. But at best, this is an interim appointment that lasts something like 270 days. So yes, sooner or later, the Senate is going to have to get involved in this.
It's unclear that they would approve Matt Whitaker as a long-term replacement for Jeff Sessions. Not only because of his qualifications and his history, but because there's all kinds of questions that are coming out about his financial dealings, his statements in the past about whether or not he was going to really just be looking out for the president rather than actually exercising the powers of the office properly.
BLACKWELL: And it really goes to the center of the question of, do you know him, do you not? And how he was chosen, and the people that the president had to skip over to get to him. What value would he have in this role other than in the context of what he said about Mueller, the validity of the special counsel's investigation and the ways that he would -- he would be able to limit it or an Attorney General would be able to limit it?
JACKSON: Well, look, Victor, at the end of the day, understand that the president is going to appoint people that he thinks are sympathetic to his point of view. Not long ago we were having a discussion by -- about a person by the name of Kavanaugh who was speaking about presidential powers as it relates to Mueller investigations and whether or not it was proper prerogative, you know, for removal of presidents.
And could they be indicted, could they even be questioned, are they above the law? So the president watches TV as we know, and at the end of the day he's going to attempt to appoint people who are sympathetic. And even if this is an interim appointment, the interim issue, the heart of the issue is the Mueller investigation itself.
And so even if this is a limited appointment for a period of time, the hope is that he could be of assistance, that is Whitaker, with getting the Mueller investigation off the table, done, concluded and gone.
And then who you appoint as Attorney General after that is just not as significant, is it? Because the reason he fired Jeff Sessions is because he thought Jeff Sessions should be his personal guy to protect him and should not have recused himself from the investigation. And so here we are.
BLACKWELL: All right, Joey Jackson, Errol Louis, thank you both.
LOUIS: Thank you.
JACKSON: Thank you, Victor.
PAUL: Well, the wildfires in California, they could have an impact on Sunday's NFL action, Vince Cellini has a preview for us. Hey, Vince.
VINCE CELLINI, CNN SPORTS REPORTER: Hi Christi, both the Los Angeles Rams and Oakland Raiders are hoping to play through the deadly fires, and we'll tell you how teams are adjusting, given the fires and the smoky conditions as well.
[06:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLACKWELL: Well, the raging wildfires in California are impacting several NFL teams as they prepare for their Sunday games.
PAUL: Vince Cellini has more on this morning's "BLEACHER REPORT", good morning.
CELLINI: Hi Victor, hi Christi, how are you? Yes, a lot on the players' minds, more than just football for sure. The L.A. Rams had to cancel their practice in Thousand Oaks on Friday due to the fires. Head Coach Sean McVay says about 20 players and coaches have been evacuated from their homes including defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
Forty five other members of the organization have been displaced. The Rams are set to host the Seahawks on Sunday at the L.A. Coliseum. Meantime, the Raiders host the Chargers in Oakland, Sunday, and Jon Gruden's team had to limit practice on Friday due to poor air quality.
NFL officials are monitoring conditions in Los Angeles and Oakland, but as of now, they say that the games will go ahead as schedule. Meantime, the Anaheim Ducks held a moment of silence before their game with the wild. They honored the wildfire victims as well as 12 people killed in a shooting at a Thousand Oaks bar on Wednesday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our hearts are heavy from the lives lost, and we pray for the victims, their families, friends, and those recovering tonight. The Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild join the Southern California sports community in saying enough to these senseless acts of violence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CELLINI: So much happening in California, and hopefully we can use sports this weekend as a little bit of an escape, a respite, if you will from everything that's taking place there --
BLACKWELL: Yes --
PAUL: Yes, a good point --
PAUL: All right --
BLACKWELL: Thank you Vince --
PAUL: Vince, thank you --
BLACKWELL: Good to see you.
PAUL: Me too.
BLACKWELL: President Trump's 48-hour trip to Paris got off to -- let's call it a bumpy start, with a tweet slamming his host. But you wouldn't know it by looking at the optics, handshakes, thumbs up with the French president. The story behind the scenes coming up in a live report.
[06:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLACKWELL: Well, some veterans have trouble getting support after leaving the military despite giving so much of themselves to their country. Nearly 10 percent of homeless adults in the U.S. once served in the Armed Forces.
PAUL: Well, there's an army veteran who saw some of his former comrades kind of falling through the cracks, so he built a solution to help them. Meet Chris Stout.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What branch are you?
CHRIS STOUT, VETERAN: After starting to work with veterans, I realized there's a huge gap in services. If you've ever served, you know that if one of your fellow platoon guys, they need help, you help them. It's what we do here.
It gives them an opportunity to kind of get stable, gives them a safe and secure place. And then fix what got them there in the first place. When I see a win form, it's a celebration for me. It means everything.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLACKWELL: So this is such a good idea that more than 650 cities are
now interested in replicating Chris' program which will expand to Nashville next year. And you can vote for Chris or any other of your favorite top ten heroes to become CNN Hero of the Year. Just go to CNNHeroes.com to vote.