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The Camp Fire Forced a Mom to Make A Life-or-Death Decision Hours after Giving Birth; As Lawmakers Sue to Block Whitaker, Walter Shaub Asks Why Whitaker's Financial Disclosure Forms Won't be Turned Over; Trump Says He Didn't Know of Whitaker's Past Criticism of Mueller Probe; White House Threatens to Revoke Jim Acosta's Press Pass Again; White House Correspondent's Dinner Scraps Comedians; Missing North Carolina School Teacher Killed in Mexico. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired November 19, 2018 - 14:30   ET



[14:30:21] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: It has been 11 days since the massive Camp Fire began its deadly trek across northern California. At least 77 people have died and more than 900 people remain unaccounted for.

But devastation and disaster oftentimes bring communities together and this next story is about the kindness of strangers in a moment of crisis. The Camp Fire forced a mom to make a life-or-death decision hours after giving birth. Rachelle Sanders had a healthy baby boy named Lincoln, just as the Camp Fire was erupting. And flash forward 12 hours, she and little Lincoln were forced to evacuate because the fire was racing towards them at the hospital. They ended up inside of a car of a stranger, a hospital employee by the name of Dave, and they made a pact that if they had to abandon the car, this mom said that Dave needed to save the baby and leave mom behind. Twenty miles and nine hours later, everyone survived.

And Rachelle is with me now on the phone.

So, Rachelle, thank you so much for jumping on with me.

Through all of this. Congratulations on Lincoln, but my goodness. First of all, is little Lincoln OK?

RACHELLE SANDERS, ESCAPED FIRE WITH BABY IN STRANGER'S CAR (via telephone): Yes, he's doing well now. He only spent about 24 hours in the NICU and he is with us now out of the hospital. Doing well.

BALDWIN: Oh, my goodness.

So take me back. I read about your story. You gave birth via C- section, which is major surgery. And then you are physically forced to leave the hospital with your baby in a stranger's car. What happened?

SANDERS: Yes, they let us know early that morning that we were going to be evacuated and with less than five minutes after that announcement, they had a few gentlemen came into my room and lift me and put me in a wheelchair and wheeled me out. There were obviously not enough ambulances for the over 60 patients and so they started loading patients into private employee vehicles to get out of there as soon as possible.

BALDWIN: And you raced out of there with a man named Dave, who you, I imagine, didn't know much more about other than his name.


BALDWIN: And how far into the drive did you turn to him and say, you know, heaven forbid, you jump out with my baby?

SANDERS: Well, it was a lot more time than it was in distance. We were all in gridlock, not moving quickly with people getting panicky and leaving their vehicles and having to go around and so it had been quite a while in time, but not very far in distance. We hadn't even made it a mile.

And the fire had surrounded us already on all sides of the vehicle, there were people getting out and David actually looked over at me and said, what would you want me to do? And I knew exactly what he meant. And I said, I would want you to take the baby, and thank you, thank you so much, but I cannot run. I mean, I had an abdominal surgery.

I wasn't even walking yet. I still had I.V. lines and a catheter, there was no way I was going to get out of there. So if it came down to it, he did ask me what I wanted, and we did kind of make an agreement right there. We didn't speak about it again after that, it was just known, if that is what happens, that's what we're going to do.

BALDWIN: So the worst didn't come, thank goodness. You're obviously, you are OK, Dave is OK, Lincoln is OK. Have you had a chance to see Dave again and throw your arms around him and say thank you?

SANDERS: Very briefly. He did make it a point to come, once we were settled in the hospital in Chico, he came up to the room and visited briefly and met my husband, who was extremely grateful. Of course, this man that didn't know his wife and child was essentially responsible for saving our lives and we were able to talk briefly.

I asked about his wife, because we had talked about our families and we had prayed out loud and really just left it in God's hands, because there was no way anyone had control over what was happening. And so we did speak briefly then. And then he also called to check again later with the nurse's station and let me know that they did finally find his wife, Bonnie, and that she was also safe. That's who we had been praying for on his end.

[14:34:44] BALDWIN: The kindness of strangers, how about that.

Rachelle, thank you. Thank you so much.

Happening right now, a group of Senate Democrats trying to block Matt Whitaker from serving as acting attorney general. My next guest, who headed the Office of Government Ethics, says there's also another problem here. Why won't the Department of Justice turn over Whitaker's financial disclosure forms? We'll discuss that.

And ahead, a North Carolina school teacher killed in Mexico. What investigators there are revealing about his final moments after leaving his hotel room and encountering members of a drug cartel.

Stay here.


BALDWIN: Right now, three Senate Democrats filing a lawsuit challenging Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker's appointment. The complaint filed in federal court indicates President Trump's appointment is unconstitutional because Whitaker wasn't confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The legal battle comes as an ethics watchdog group is demanding that the Department of Justice makes Whitaker's financial disclosures public.

My next guest agrees that transparency is, indeed, needed. He is CNN Contributor, Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, who resigned his post last year after clashing with the Trump White House.

Walter Shaub, always a pleasure to have you on, sir. Welcome back.

Here's what you tweeted. You tweeted that, "This is an outrage and it's illegal, unheard of, and highly suspicious." You wrote, "What is the DOJ hiding?"

My question to you is, what do you think they're hiding? Or is it possible that he just never filed a financial disclosure form to begin with?

[14:40:20] WALTER SHAUB, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, well, there's a lot of possibilities. We don't know for sure what the delay is. We requested his report back on November 7th. A week after that, we asked them for an update, saying where's the report. And they said, we're continuing to process it. Now, we don't know what's going on, but what's very strange is, here's what the process includes. Printed PDF and send PDF.

The law does not allow you to make any redactions to that report. And it says on the top of that report, public financial disclosure report. The longer this takes, the more suspicious it's going to get. Now, some of the possibilities include, you know, maybe they're just not doing their job, which I doubt, because they have a very good ethics office.

Another possibility is Whitaker never filed his financial disclosure reports. They don't have anything to release and they're banging on a store saying, you've got to get them to us. Another possibility is he left out information or added incorrect information and they've been trying for months to get him to change it and he hasn't changed it. The only other thing that comes to mind is sometimes agencies will not process a financial disclosure report if a person is under investigation.

They'll wait until the investigation ends. I certainly hope that our attorney general who at least our acting attorney general is not personally under investigation, because that would highlight the fact that there really should have been a Senate confirmation process with Senators to vet all of the possible issues with this man.

BALDWIN: Sure. So, as these groups, rightfully so, are pushing for transparency in this regard.

I want to go back to the weekend interview with Trump and Chris Wallace over on FOX, because he was asked, Trump was asked if he was aware of, if he knew of Matt Whitaker's well-documented past criticism of the special counsel's investigation. And this was Trump's response.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: Did you know, before you appointed him, that he had that record and was so critical of Robert Mueller?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did not know that. I did not know he took views on the Mueller investigation, as such.

WALLACE: And when you found that out?

TRUMP: I don't think it had any effect. If you look at those statements, those statements really can be viewed either way. But I don't think --


WALLACE: Well, he says there's no collusion --


TRUMP: Chris, I'll tell you what --


WALLACE: He says you can starve the investigation.

TRUMP: I think he's right. What do you do when a person's right? There's no collusion. He happened to be right.


BALDWIN: I want to focus in on, "I did not know that." Do you buy that?

SHAUB: No, I don't buy it at all. That's simply most implausible thing I think I've heard in the entire Trump administration and we've heard a lot of implausible things in the last two years. The man was on this channel, this network, repeatedly staking out his views on the investigation.

BALDWIN: And writing columns, et cetera. Right.

SHAUB: And he was brought in and interviewed at one point and considered to president's legal team defending against the Mueller investigation. You can't tell me it didn't come up during that interview what his views were on the Mueller investigation.

BALDWIN: Unless there was no interview, no vet whatsoever, if you want to take the president at his word, which would somehow even be a tad more worrisome, right?

SHAUB: That would be troubling.


Walter Shaub, thank you very much on both of those topics.

SHAUB: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Appreciate it.

Coming up next, what a CIA assessment has concluded about who was responsible for the killing of Journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The question now, will President Trump believe and listen to his own U.S. intelligence?

Also next, a major break from tradition at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. For the first time in years, there will be no comedian headlining the annual black-tie event. Why is that?


[14:48:25] BALDWIN: The White House issuing a new warning to CNN's Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta, threatening to pull his press pass again at the end of month. Now CNN is taking the case back to court. This follows an initial ruling back on Friday when the network won a temporary restraining order, forcing the White House to restore Acosta's credentials for 14 days.

With me now, Brian Stelter, our chief media correspondent.

What's going on?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT AND CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": It's a little bit unclear what's going on, Brooke. Clearly CNN was able to be victorious in round one in this case on Friday, but then kind of surprisingly on Friday night, the White House responded with a letter to Acosta saying, hey, you did violate our rules.

We haven't really printed the rules anywhere, but you violated them and we're going to take away our press pass once this temporary restraining order expires. That's in 11 days from now. That means that CNN and Acosta and the White House might be back in court after Thanksgiving.

This morning, CNN went to the judge saying, this is getting ridiculous, we need to have another hearing and settle this in a more permanent way and get a preliminary injunction. Right. We're coming up against this interesting 3:00 p.m. deadline that the White House created, this 3:00 p.m. deadline for Acosta. They said, on Friday night, you're going to be suspended, we think, but it's only a preliminary decision.

We'll make a final determination Monday at 3:00 p.m. Well, it's Monday at 2:50 p.m. We haven't heard anything from the White House. I e-mailed out to the White House press shop asking if they have made that final determination.

All of this in response to the judge's final ruling on Friday. The judge said, you didn't give Acosta due process, you didn't tell him what you were going to do and give him a chance to appeal. So what we're seeing the White House do now is trying to create a sense of due process. But CNN, in its court filing, said this morning this isn't real due process, this is retroactive, and so asking for another hearing to try to get this settled.

[14:50:10] Brooke, here's the CNN statement that came out earlier today, the company saying, "The White House is continuing to violate the First and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution. These actions threaten all journalists and all news organizations. Jim Acosta and CNN will continue to report the news about the president and the White House."

So, we're in a little bit of a holding pattern here to see what happens. Does the White House really want to keep pushing this case, given they lost in court on Friday? Are they really going to keep trying to punish Jim Acosta? Hopefully not, but we don't know.

BALDWIN: Hopefully not.

As we watch for that really closely, I want to ask you about the news for the White House Correspondent's Association. Two things normally happen. Normally, the president shows up and, normally, there's a comedian who's headlining like this in years past.


LARRY WILMORE, COMEDIAN: Saw you hanging out with NBA players like Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors. That was cool. That was cool.

It kind of makes sense, too, because both of you like raining down bombs on people from long distances, aye.


HASAN MINHAJ, COMEDIAN: The leader of our country is not here. And that's because he lives in Moscow. It's a very long flight.


MICHELLE WOLF, COMEDIAN: It's kind of crazy that the Trump campaign was in contact with Russia when the Hillary campaign wasn't even in contact with Michigan.


BALDWIN: Funny. I mean, obviously, it's been contentious in years past, too, with some of the lines from some of these comedians. But still, they're switching it up this year.



STELTER: They are abandoning the idea of a comedian. Instead, they're going with an historian, Ron Chernow. He's an acclaimed biographer. He wrote the "Hamilton" book that inspired the "Hamilton" play. He's going to be a great speaker, but they're backing away from a comedian.


STELTER: I think a lot of people on Twitter are saying this is cowardly. Even Michelle Wolf says this is a cowardly move by the association. They can't handle humor. I think what's happening here is because President Trump won't go to this dinner, it changes everything, right? If you don't have the president there and he's not making jokes and he's not ribbing on the press corps, it's kind of weird to get a comedian up there and make fun of him.

So he's once again showing how he's changing the balance of these events in Washington. He doesn't go to the Kennedy Center Honors or the White House Correspondent's Dinner. So by snubbing these events, he's changing the makeup. The more provocative, the better. A lot of folks in the room thought maybe it was inappropriate when the president wasn't there to respond or wasn't there to make his own jokes, to have a night of comedy at his expense.

BALDWIN: We're told Ron has been tasked, when he goes, to make a case for First Amendment --


BALDWIN: -- so at least he'll have a lot of journalists in favor of --


STELTER: Yes, sure, there's a lot to talk about, but it won't be quite as funny.

BALDWIN: Thank you very much, Brian Stelter.

Next, a missing North Carolina schoolteacher apparently he's been killed in Mexico. What investigators there are revealing about his encounter with members of a drug cartel.

Also ahead, a stunner in the heart of Reagan country. Has Orange County officially turned blue? The latest election results are in.

We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:57:26] BALDWIN: After a frantic search, Mexican authorities say they have found the body of missing North Carolina teacher, Patrick Braxton Andrew, and that he was killed by a member of drug cartel. Braxton Andrew was vacationing in Mexico. He was alone. He disappeared last month while walking near his resort in the northern Mexico town of Urique.

Dianne Gallagher in our CNN national correspondent with more on this whole investigation.

How awful for this family. Tell us more about what he was doing down there and what authorities believe happened.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Brooke, this was something that he tended to do quite a bit. He would go to Mexico, he would go to Latin America, he was a Spanish teacher and really loved the culture there. The governor of Chihuahua claims that the Sinaloa Cartel is responsible for his murder. If that name sounds familiar to you, that's the cartel that El Chapo used to command before he was captured and is now on trial.

But in a Facebook post from the governor, he pinned Braxton Andrews' killing on a drug trafficker known as the Crooked. He said the middle school teacher died October 28th. The last day he was seen by anyone. He left for a walk from his hotel to this canyon area. His body was found near that town of Urique. But beyond that, the death is shrouded in mystery.

It appears the 34-year-old Spanish teacher's body had been buried and then exhumed and then just left out in the open. But he hasn't gone into detail as to how he was killed or even why he may have been targeted at this point. He called it a cowardly and brutal murder of a totally innocent person, but then said it had nothing to do with an attempt to purchase drugs.

Late last night, a Facebook page has been run by his family and friends during this search confirmed they said with a sense of relief that his body was found and recovered. They're working on getting it back to North Carolina.

Brooke, after learning of his death, they posted, "Patrick died during what he loved, traveling and meeting people. Join us in celebrating his life as he would want us all to do. We will always remember Patrick and his joy for life." And then later, they added, "Although we are still grieving for Patrick, we have work to do and we are asking for your help. We continue to search for justice for Pat."

A little bit later, Senator Thom Tillis, who lives near where Patrick Spanish at Woodlawn School, tweeted that he's working with the State Department and Mexican officials on the investigation.

And, Brooke, just like you said, the past few weeks have been so difficult for his family and friends and the whole community there north of Charlotte not knowing what's going on and then getting this news --