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WAPO: U.S./Mexico Deal for Asylum Overhaul at Border; Paris Protests Over Rising Gas Prices & Macron Turn Violent; Alabama Police Say Mall Gunman Still on the Loose; Tijuana Mayor Declares Humanitarian Crisis at U.S./Mexico Border; Tijuana Mayor Declares Humanitarian Crisis at U.S./Mexico Border; Trump Allowing Troops to Use Lethal Force to Protect Border Patrol; Nick Ayers Top Contender to Take Over as Trump's Chief of Staff; Comey Fights Subpoena for Private Deposition Before Lawmakers; Exclusive Interview with Facebook CEO over Russia Election Meddling. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired November 24, 2018 - 13:00   ET



[13:00:00] PHIL MICKELSON, PRO GOLFER: To have a day like today, I never thought we'll go to this extra hole. My heart just can't take much more of it.


VINCE CELLINI, CNN SPORTS: So Phil not only takes home the truck load of cash but also an Italian belt buckle for a trophy. Ironically, it was more Tiger Woods' size, not Phil's. Michelson got a bit of a chuckle out of it. And I'm sure he is laughing all the way to the bank -- Fred?


All right, our NEWSROOM starts right now.

Hello, again, everyone. Thanks for being with me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

A major development on the U.S./Mexico border. The "Washington Post" just confirmed the Trump administration and Mexico's incoming new government have struck a deal on a new border policy. It would force asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their claims move through the U.S. courts.

CNN's White House reporter, Sarah Westwood, joining me right now.

We've been hearing about the possibility now for weeks. We know the secretary of state met with the incoming foreign minister in Houston last week. Are they in the final stages of this potential deal?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, it looks like the Mexican government has preliminarily agreed to this deal, at least in the short term, that would allow migrants seeking asylum in the United States to wait on the Mexico side of the border while their claims are working their way through the U.S. court system. Obviously this would be a significant change from the current policy which allows some migrants to wait in the U.S. while their claims are working their way through the court system. We know the president has been focused on asylum in recent weeks just before the midterms. He unveiled an attempted executive action that would require migrants who want the asylum to present themselves at legal points of entry and it would deny them the ability to request asylum if they were caught trying to cross the border illegally. That, too, was a change from the current policy which states now that if any migrants on U.S. soil, they're eligible for asylum. The Ninth Circuit blocked that attempted executive action from the president. He has been fixated on that decision. The president has railed against so-called Catch and Release policies in the past, the fact that migrants who want asylum are able to wait in the United States, sometimes for years as their cases are appealed. While they're waiting for asylum, he's called for Catch and Detain policies, keeping them in detention while their claims are being adjudicated. This goes a step further, preventing migrants from coming even into the United States while their claims are being processed. As we saw with this recent attempt at executive action, it's not clear, Fred, that the Trump administration can make these kinds of sweeping changes to the asylum system without the help of Congress.

WHITFIELD: All right, Sarah Westwood, thank you so much.

Let's talk about this more with CNN political analyst, Julian Zelizer, and congressional reporter for the "Washington Post," Karoun Demirjian.

Good to see both of you. Happy Thanksgiving weekend.

Karoun, you first.


WHITFIELD: What does this potentially say about the relationships between Trump and the incoming Mexican government if this is a deal that both sides can agree upon?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a really interesting twist if that's what -- if the deal sticks. Mexico's been resistance to helping the United States solve the border issue that's been such a politically contentious issue by keeping people trying to cross, trying to apply for asylum in Mexico before they go to the United States. The fact the government potentially is agreeing suggests there's some breakthrough here. Either because the Trump administration pressured them into it by sending troops to the border, which has to be slightly scary thing if they have orders to shoot at will, while at your country's border, or for some reason. We'll have to see in the next few days. At this point, this is something Mexico's resisted for a long time. Seems to be agreeing to now. Whether that pre-stages any cooperation between the two countries on this, unclear at this point. There are still a lot of economic and other issues that have to be ironed out if you're going to have thousands of people waiting on Mexico's side of the border.


WHITFIELD: So, Julian, what is the incentive? For Mexico, particularly, what's in it for that country?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, this also comes at the same time the NAFTA negotiations were finishing up. I don't know if there's any connections economically between benefits for Mexico and the deal. It also might be a way to relieve some of the pressure coming from the Trump administration on Mexico to deal with this. But there are big costs. It's going to be very costly financially in terms of human capital for Mexico. There's going to be a lot of outcry about this policy, which is a big change. The towns are some of the most violent towns where these asylum seekers will be waiting. So I don't think the deal is going to be a smooth one, nor it is complete at this point.

[13:05:04] WHITFIELD: OK.

Mexico may, you know, be in a position where it would ask the U.N. for money to help pay for, you know, holding on to people, asylum seekers, Karoun. But then you've got to get past that hump. Why would the U.N. see this as a smart plan and want to dole out millions in order to help Mexico build some sort of infrastructure or have a plan to house, to help all these asylum seekers.

DEMIRJIAN: Don't forget the testy relationship between President Trump and his comments about the U.N. ongoing.


DEMIRJIAN: It depends. For the U.N., the question is, can you do this in a way that treats these people safely? Are there humanitarian concerns about keeping them at the border? Are they in more danger by staying there than by crossing over to the detention centers? Are the detention centers more of a concern, given that's not exactly a situation the U.N. would choose to endorse, given all the scrutiny and backlash to the conditions there. So that's going to be the conditions that the U.N. officials would weigh in trying to assess this claim. Also what kind of proposal is Mexico going to present to the United Nations? Just money that you don't have directed going anywhere.


DEMIRJIAN: That's probably not going to be a blank-check situation. So this is really going to involve or require the United States, Mexican government to come up with what exactly are we going to do here. And why can't they fund it themselves? Or why would they need international assistance? You don't usually seek going back to the United States border area but, maybe in this case, this will be a new chapter of how it's taken care of.


So, Julian, every nation would want to be incentivized. Usually in the form of dollars, too. If Mexico is not just going to rely on money from the U.N., does it also mean there has to be some sort of money from the U.S. if it's the U.S. and Mexico who struck this deal or are negotiating this sort of deal? And won't you then have to sell this to Congress?

ZELIZER: Theoretically, there might be money from the U.S. But President Trump has been not willing to provide that kind of assistance. Congress so far has been stifled of any kind of deal with immigration and even resistant to funding the law. We now have House Democrats about to take over so it's unlikely they're going to be enthused about this. Where is the money coming from, is, I guess, one of the big questions. Remember, President Trump often enters into the deals, like with North Korea, where there's this big announcement and the details are where things fall apart or don't follow through. So that's what we need to find out. But there's big costs here and those are real and we need answers to how this will be financed.

WHITFIELD: Karoun, if there's U.S. money involved here, Congress, you know, potentially has to play a role. What do you suppose the negotiations are like right now? What is the Trump administration saying to leaders, especially with this transition of Congress now about whether this will ever come to fruition?

DEMIRJIAN: If he's trying to get money immediately, he's got only a number of days left to do it because the federal funding bill is going to expire on December 7th. That's part of the equation right now. That would be something he's trying to work out with Republican leaders. It seems like that might be a little quick given we don't know the details of exactly what this would look like at the border at this juncture. But if he's going down the line, I really doubt the Democrats leading the House where all these funding measures start are going to agree to give money for this plan and agree to things like the border wall. There's going to be some horse trading that has to happen if you're negotiating with a Democratic-led House, and that's going to change the way border security ends up looking. It's not going to be exactly what President Trump has been selling. His own party leaders have not been completely comfortable with his ideal situation. But there's going to be even that much more pushback from the Democratic Party if they're in charge especially if he's asking for more money to flow to the border to fund this plan, which, again, we don't know the details of. I think members of Congress are going to want to see those at least in more clarity than we have now before they start writing checks for it.

WHITFIELD: Or potentially, it also acts as a potential deterrent because asylum seekers would want to know how long they have to stay in Mexico before they could ever -- their cases ever go to a U.S. court trying to seek asylum.

All right, Karoun Demirjian, Julian Zelizer, good to see you both. Thanks so much.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

DEMIRJIAN: Thank you. [13:09:38] WHITFIELD: Straight ahead, a violent protest in Paris over rising gas prices. Many now calling for French President Emmanuel Macron to step down. We're live on the scene where the interior minister is expected to speak in a moment.


WHITFIELD: Paris and other parts of France are seeing violent protests over rising gas prices.





WHITFIELD: Police using tear gas and water cannons fought protesters along the famous Champs Elysees. Hundreds are also venting their anger over French President Emmanuel Macron's environmental policies. The price of gas in Paris is already more than $5.50 a gallon. Authorities say two people have died so far in the unrest that began last week. We're expecting an update from French officials shortly. We'll monitor that for you.

Meantime, CNN's senior international correspondent, Jim Bittermann, is live in Paris.

What is happening now, Jim?

[13:14:48] JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, calm finally returned here at the Champs Elysees after hours of protests which began about 10:00 this morning. It's now after 7:00. Basically calm returned but not the kind of calm on the Champs Elysees on a Saturday night after Black Friday. Normally, this street would be teeming with shoppers and all sorts of people out prior to the Christmas holidays. In fact, tonight, there's nobody here. The police have cleared off the avenue. They came through in a major assault a little while ago with dozens of police vehicles and hundreds of policemen who swept down the avenue, making arrests as they went along. In fact, about 20 people have been arrested here in Paris, according to police spokesmen. We're going to get an update shortly from the interior minister so it may be more than that. A number of people were injured, including four police officers. A police vehicle was burned as well as several other vehicles. Protesters attacked the various sites along here on the Champs Elysees. They've now dispersed. Gone home, I guess. There are still pockets, handfuls of people here and there throughout the city.

One of the problems with this protest, at least as far as the government is concerned, is that there's no official leader. No leadership to it. Basically, it's been organized around Facebook and social media. As a consequence, there's no one for the government to negotiate with and no one to say when the protest is officially over. At least the violence here along the Champs Elysees has finished for now -- Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Has there been a response from Macron since he's been singled out by a number of people who say they don't like his environmental policies?

BITTERMANN: Well, not so far. We're expecting something on Tuesday. He said before this began today, he said, Friday that he was going to mention something about changing his environmental policies on Tuesday. He also may at the same time say something about the attacks on gasoline. That's been one of the reasons this protest began in the first place. The fact is, it's become generalized now to people upset about the high cost of living, rising cost of living. They're on fixed incomes, pensions, not making up for the increased cost of living. So a lot of different issues here that brought everybody out today. Wouldn't explain the violence. I think a lot of people that were part of this movement may be dissuaded by the kind of violence they saw today. They may not want to be part of this kind of a movement. But we'll have to see where it goes from here and whether or not what the president says on Tuesday is going to ameliorate the situation here -- Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Jim Bittermann, thanks so much, in Paris.

Straight ahead, police in Alabama say the suspect in a mall shooting on Thanksgiving night is still on the loose and the man they thought was the gunman likely did not fire the shots that wounded two people. Details straight ahead.


[13:22:24] WHITFIELD: Right now, a manhunt is back on in Alabama after a stunning admission from a local police department. Hoover police admitting the man they killed during a mall shooting Thanksgiving night likely was not responsible for two other people being shot.




WHITFIELD: So chaos broke out on one of the busiest shopping nights there. Police say an altercation escalated into a shooting that left two people hospitalized. A police officer shot and killed 21-year-old Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr, an armed man police originally believed was responsible for the shooting. Now police say Bradford was not the man who actually fired the shots and the search is on for the actual gunman.

CNN's Natasha Chen joining me now.

So lots of confusing twists and turns here.


WHITFIELD: What's the latest?

CHEN: We tried to ask them questions. In the last hour, Hoover police did get back to us saying they're deferring to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency that's taken over. They say they can't investigate this because it involves one of the officers. That's the armed Hoover police officer who was working as mall security when this happened.

The initial report was that two men got into a fight at the mall that resulted in a 21-year-old shooting an unarmed 18-year-old and that victim was taken to the hospital. Then, overnight, Hoover police issued a statement saying the 21-year-old, identified as Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr, may have been involved in some aspect of the altercation but likely did not fire the rounds that injured the 18- year-old victim. Police say Bradford did flee the scene brandishing his weapon. That's when the officer working as mall security shot and killed him.

So if Bradford is not the one who shot the 18-year-old, there's someone out there who did. Police say they now believe there were more than two people involved in the initial fight, with at least one gunman still at large who could be responsible for the 18-year-old shooting victim as well as a 12-year-old girl who was caught in the crossfire. She was also taken to the hospital.

We knew that Bradford had enlisted in the Army but an Army spokesperson said Bradford did not serve because he never finished advanced individual training.

It's not clear if police believe he fired any of the shots during this incident, though they say somehow Bradford was involved. Hoover police would only confirm the officer involved in this shooting, Fred, is on administrative leave now.

WHITFIELD: All right, let us know when you learn more.

CHEN: Thank you.

[13:24:56] WHITFIELD: Thanks, Natasha. Appreciate it.

Straight ahead, President Trump says U.S. troops along the U.S./Mexico border can use force, lethal, if needed, to protect themselves. The new guidelines handed down as migrants make their way closer to the southern border, next.


[13:29:40] WHITFIELD: The mayor of Tijuana is demanding money and other aid to deal with a caravan of migrants in his city. He is refusing to use city services or spend public money to take care of the Central American migrants who continue to arrive in the border city. He's calling the situation a humanitarian crisis and is asking for the United Nations to step in. Thousands of migrants fleeing violence and poverty are in Tijuana hoping to get asylum in the U.S.

[13:30:07] President Trump has called the caravan an invasion and this week threatened to shut down the whole border if safety issues arise.

President Trump is granting new authority to use -- for U.S. troops deployed at the border to protect border personnel. That includes the use of lethal force if necessary. Troops can also use force for crowd control and to detain migrants.

Joining me right now, CNN military analyst and former Army commanding general for Europe and the 7th Army, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.

Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: First off, your reaction to the news today that the Trump administration and Mexico's incoming government have struck a deal on a new border policy which would force asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their claims move through the courts.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: That's certainly going to create more complexity to the entire situation. As you just reported, the mayor of Tijuana is not happy about providing public services for a great deal, quite a few people. That's something that actually will, I think, tamp down this current situation because they can at least continue to apply for asylum and use those facilities in Mexico to submit their paperwork. How long that will take will then become the key issue. How long will they be there and how long will the various mayors along the border towns be forced to provide humanitarian assistance to this, resources.

WHITFIELD: It's far from a done deal. We're hearing reportedly that the secretary of state and the incoming foreign minister of Mexico worked on, along with the Health and Human Services director with the U.S., worked on this deal and that potentially there may be this arrangement. We don't know if it's going to happen, asylum seekers, whether they will stay in Mexico while being processed in the U.S. courts. Meantime, we're hearing about other, you know, incremental changes that are a little bit more definitive. The president approving a memorandum allowing U.S. troops to use lethal force if necessary.

Listen to what Defense Secretary James Mattis said when he visited the border.


GEN. JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I do not anticipate military personnel coming into direct contact with migrants.


WHITFIELD: So what do you think about this potential change?

HERTLING: There were quite a few other things that Secretary Mattis said at the border. At one point, he said most of the military forces don't have weapons there. Now, they're certainly allowed to use any kind of force proportional

to any kind of threats they perceive. But as Secretary Mattis said, most of those forces, in fact, I would say almost all of those forces aren't going to come in contact with any of the asylum seekers. They're there to support Homeland Security and the Border Patrol.

I think the president has been attempting to paint this word picture, Fred, where most Americans seem to think there's going to be a line of U.S. forces, rifles and bayonets at the ready, manning the border to ensure no one comes in. That is not the case. The majority of forces down there, the vast majority, are folks like engineers and aviation crews and supply personnel. Very few of those forces deployed are even military policemen. And none of them are infantry soldiers or combat soldiers that would in fact counter defensive -- use defensive measures on U.S. shores because there's no anticipation of that happening.

WHITFIELD: So are you saying this memorandum is really ineffective in terms of approval of some kind of memorandum, it's not even necessary, wouldn't even be, you know, an instrument to use?

HERTLING: I would say that yes. I'm not a lawyer. But this is an attempt to squash some of the conversation that's been going on about Posse Comitatus, the rule that doesn't allow U.S. forces to conduct law enforcement operations. There has been Constitutional exceptions to that in the past. There are other laws called the Insurgency Act or the Call Forwarding Act, where soldiers can be used if it's a defensive threat to the border or a security threat to the nation. That's not the case. Again, these are migrants, asylum seekers that the Border Patrol can certainly deal with.

I think, Fred, this is more the president doing marketing to try and gin up fears of what is going on at the border. The Border Patrol can handle this. The Department of Homeland Security can handle this. The soldiers deployed there have been provided support. They're not going to be at the front lines facing these asylum seekers. And even if they were, I'll tell you, having been a commander of these kinds of forces before, they are drilling the rules of engagement with all the soldiers that are down there to ensure each soldier knows what he or she is supposed to do in various contingency operations.

And I support Secretary Mattis, there's not going to be confrontations between U.S. soldiers and these asylum seekers.

[13:35:20] WHITFIELD: OK. We'll leave it there.

Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, thanks so much.

HERTLING: Always a pleasure. Thanks.

WHITFIELD: The fight is on. Fired FBI director, James Comey, says he will resist a subpoena from House Republicans to testify privately next month on Capitol Hill. The legal challenges, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [13:40:09] WHITFIELD: President Trump is spending some of this holiday weekend interviewing potential candidates for positions in his administration. Recently, he has hinted at replacing his chief of staff, John Kelly. Emerging as a top contender for his spot is Nick Ayers. He's a wealthy Republican political consultant and the current chief of staff for Vice President Mike Pence.

CNN White House reporter, Jeremy Diamond, has the back story on Ayers.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: It was weekly lunches with the president and the vice president that has gotten Nick Ayers, a 36- year-old political strategist and the vice president's chief of staff, put him now in a position to be considered to replace General John Kelly as the White House chief of staff. Nick Ayers began attending these weekly lunches between the president and the vice president when he came in as the vice president's chief of staff in the summer of 2017. Two sources close to the president tell me that is how the president came to know and like Nick Ayers and why he's now considering him for this top post.

But Nick Ayers in his meteoric rise in Republican politics at just 36 years old to be considered for this position, he's earned himself his fair share of enemies. Critics call him arrogant and they criticize the amount of wealth he has amassed, $12 million to $54 million net worth according to his financial disclosures. One of his antagonists we are told is Kellyanne Conway, the counsellor to the president, who we are told advised the president against appointing Nick Ayers as White House chief of staff. Kellyanne Conway disputed this to us, saying she has a zero beef with Nick Ayers. The vice president's press secretary also said that both of them are close friends. But nonetheless, we're told Kellyanne Conway last year sought to prevent Nick Ayers from becoming the vice president's chief of staff.

But Nick Ayers has forged some key alliances in his time at the White House, most noticeably the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner have become key allies. Corey Lewandowski, the president's first campaign manager, also still advising the president on the outside. And what Nick Ayers' allies say that he could be a perfect chief of staff heading into the 2020 re-election campaign because of his background as a political strategist.

But the coming year will bring a number of challenges, including divided government, as well as the potential conclusions of the Mueller investigation being released in the coming months.

Jeremy Diamond, CNN, New York.


WHITFIELD: All right. And now to another battle in Washington. James Comey is fighting a subpoena to testify behind closed doors before Congress next month. An attorney for the former FBI director tells House Republicans Comey will only testify if the hearing is public. In an apparent parting shot before handing over control of Congress to the Democrats in January, the House Judiciary Committee sent subpoenas to Comey and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

Avery Friedman, a civil rights attorney and law professor, joining us from Cleveland. And criminal defense attorney, Richard Herman, joining us from New Orleans.

Good to see you both.



WHITFIELD: Happy Thanksgiving weekend.


WHITFIELD: Richard, you first.

So Comey sent this tweet in a response to the subpoena, quote, "I'm still happy to sit in the light and answer all questions but I will resist a closed-door thing because I've seen enough of their selective leaking and distortion. Let's have a hearing and invite everyone to see."

Richard, can he force a public hearing? Can he say, here are the conditions?

HERMAN: Fred, what's going to happen here is this is a partisan spineless political hack, Goodlatte, who does this with 30 days left before he resigned and is out of office and Democrats tack over the House and this complete fiasco gets thrown in the garbage where it belongs. Comey has testified ad nauseum before everybody. Before everybody. These Republicans still believe there was bias with the Department of Justice and the FBI to swing the election to Trump. Meanwhile, it was Comey who, a week before the vote, handed it over to Trump by destroying Hillary Clinton's chances.


WHITFIELD: So can we say I'll testify before only on these grounds, private?


HERMAN: Yes, he can do that. He can make a motion and the motion would be decided in 30, 40 days, and it's going to be in January, it's over.


HERMAN: It's a waste of time.


FRIEDMAN: That's partially right. Look, instead of the political analysis, legally, here's what the rules say. They're supposed to appear on, the two of them, on December 3rd and 4th. The House Republican - or Judiciary Committee has about a week to consider objections. That takes it to middle December. If they both contempt of Congress, guess what, it goes to 435 members of the House and that will be around the 20th of December. And, guess what, you're going to see Santa appearing before this committee.

[13:45:19] WHITFIELD: Winter break.

FRIEDMAN: It will never happen. It will never happen.

WHITFIELD: What's this exercise all about?


WHITFIELD: OK, Avery, what's this exercise all about?

FRIEDMAN: It's an exercise in futility. Why on earth didn't -- they waited two years to subpoena someone, whether it's behind closed doors or otherwise. There's no physical possibility that anything can happen. This is going to make our legal top-10 cases. The number-one case for going absolutely nowhere.

WHITFIELD: Richard what if there's no adjustment? It's going to be a private, you know, meeting? They've been subpoenaed. There's the date. And if James Comey and Loretta Lynch are no shows, then what?

HERMAN: Then they'll be -- potentially, Fred, it's all hypothetical now, so potentially they could do so many pro-tem proceedings which will take 30 days to respond.


WHITFIELD: What will that gain? What would that do?

HERMAN: Nothing. It's a farce. The whole thing is a farce, Fred. The hypocrisy, the word of the Trump administration, hypocrisy


FRIEDMAN: Look at the legal issue.

HERMAN: I'm talking. People hear me. I'm talking.


HERMAN: What I'm saying is this. They're upset at the way the Department of Justice handled the Hillary Clinton e-mail scandal with the private server. Wait a minute.


FRIEDMAN: That has nothing to do with


HERMAN: His daughter, his son-in-law, everybody --


HERMAN: -- using a private server.


WHITFIELD: You're saying this is a distraction, Richard?

FRIEDMAN: Instead of getting excited about it, there's no time to get the issues done, Fredricka. That's what the issue is.

HERMAN: It's a farce, Fred.

WHITFIELD: You're both in agreement, this is -- I'm just using these words. Is that right? You're both saying it is a charade, it is fruitless, it will go anywhere and it's a side show?

HERMAN: No. That's the best way to describe it.


HERMAN: They hope to get a private hearing with Comey so they can misinterpret what he said and use it to their benefit. That's what the goal here was.

FRIEDMAN: It's never going to happen.

HERMAN: Never going to happen, Fred. And I don't agree with anything Avery said, just make that clear, nothing.


FRIEDMAN: He agreed with everything I said.

HERMAN: Nothing.

WHITFIELD: All right. And then, Avery, what potentially could be gained from this? I mean, all jokes aside, if this is a real serious matter and they really want this to happen, we do see real merit in having this, even private session, what will be gained from that?

FRIEDMAN: If a proceeding of that nature would occur, and I'm in accord that a private proceeding would not be beneficial because it's going to be little bits and pieces to leak. At the end of the day, if the full House votes contempt of Congress, it then has another step of going to the U.S. attorney who is supposed to take it to a court. But by that time, again, Fredricka, we're in January, it is all mooted out. Never going to happen.

HERMAN: Fred, the issue was bias. Was there bias by the Department of Justice, the FBI, in the handling of Hillary Clinton's e-mail server? And that's the issue. The inspector general, independent body, did a full investigation here and said, yes, Comey did some bad things but, you know what, zero bias, no bias. It's already been determined.

(CROSSTALK) FRIEDMAN: That's right, that's right.

HERMAN: It's over with. It doesn't need any more. They wanted to get Comey in a private setting to misinterpret what he said, use it to their benefit to throw off the Muller investigation.


HERMAN: That was the intent here. It's not going to happen.

WHITFIELD: OK. Richard, Avery, good to see you both. Thank you.


[13:49:09] WHITFIELD: All right, take care.

And this CNN exclusive. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defends the social network after reports it didn't act quickly enough to counter Russian election meddling.


WHITFIELD: Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi hitting back at President Trump today. She calls his transgender military ban, quote, "A cruel and arbitrary decision designed to humiliate transgender Americans who have stepped forward to serve our country."

This comes as the president tries again to bypass the federal court of appeals. The White House has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to immediately hear a challenge to Trump's controversial policy that bars most transgender individuals from military service. The president first announced that policy back in 2017. District courts across the country have blocked it from going into effect.

Pressure on Facebook's CEO is mounting as problems pile up for the social network. Recently, the company has come under fire following reports that it tried to ignore and conceal Russian interference on its platform.

Now Mark Zuckerberg is opening up about his future at the company in an exclusive interview with CNN's Laurie Segall.


LAURIE SEGALL, CNN SENIOR TECHNOLOGY CORRSEPONDENT: There are a lot of questions about Sheryl Sandberg's role in the latest controversy. Can you definitively say Sheryl will stay in the same role?

[13:55:06] MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: Yes, look, she's a really important part of this company and is leading a lot of the efforts to address a lot of the biggest issues that we have. And she's been an important partner for me for 10 years. And, you know, I'm really proud of the work we've done together, and I hope that we work together for decades more to come.

SEGALL: Are you going to make any changes, not even looking at this crisis, but a lot of different ones over the last years, any changes in your top leadership?

ZUCKERBERG: If you look at the management team at the end of 2018, you know, it's quite different from what it was at the beginning of the year. On the product and engineering side, I completely restructured things. I think we're leaving this year with a much stronger team in place.

SEGALL: But you are CEO and chairman of Facebook. That's an extraordinary amount of power given you rule a kingdom of two billion people digitally. Shouldn't you be checked?

ZUCKERBERG: Yes. I think ultimately the issues we're working on here, you know, things like preventing interference in elections from other countries, finding the balance between giving people a voice and keeping people safe, these are not issues that any one company can address, right? So when I talk about addressing these, you know, I always talk about how we need to partner with governments around the world, other companies and nonprofits and other sectors. So, yes, I don't think fundamentally that we're going to be able to address all these issues by ourselves.

SEGALL: So you are not stepping down as chairman?

ZUCKERBERG: That's not the plan.

SEGALL: Would anything change that?

ZUCKERBERG: I mean, eventually, over time, I'm not going to be doing this forever, but I certainly am not currently thinking that that makes sense.

SEGALL: This idea of transparency is important, and we keep hearing it, but then you have reports coming out that say something otherwise. So how do you ensure that you do win back public trust? I think this is an incredibly pivotal point for company and for you as a leader because it certainly seems over the last year we haven't stopped hearing about, you know, one thing after the next that shows otherwise that the company hasn't been as transparent.

ZUCKERBERG: Yes. Well, look, there's always going to be issues. If you're serving a community of more than two billion people, there's going to be someone who is posting something that is problematic, that gets through the systems that we have in place no matter how advanced the systems are. And I think, by and large, a lot of the criticism around the biggest issues has been fair, but I do think that if we're going to be real, there's this bigger picture as well, which is that we have a different world view than some of the folks who are covering this. And --

SEGALL: But if we've given the world a voice -- look at what's happened in the last year. You've had elections in the last year, elections manipulated, hate speech that's gone viral and turned offline. It seems like this mission has been accomplished in many ways and there's a whole new set of problems that perhaps you guys didn't foresee. And now we're in a very complicated place where there's not an easy solution. ZUCKERBERG: Yes. These are complex issues that you can't fix, you

manage them on an ongoing basis. But, look, do you think that the world is better with everyone having a voice and having the ability to express their opinion and being able to connect to who they want? I don't think we're going back to a world where there were just a handful of gatekeepers who got to control what ideas get expressed. I'm trying to make it so we're not. That's why making it so, we're building these independence governance mechanisms, and things like that are really important, and that's work I really care about. But I think that the world will keep on moving in this direction. More people will keep on getting a voice. I think that that's good. And I think there are certainly going to be issues that we need to work through over time, but I think that while we are doing that, we can't lose sight of all of the really positive things that are happening here as well. Even if you just think about the economic impact of what we're doing, you know, we serve 80 million small businesses around the world. About half of them have told us that they're hiring people because of using our tools, and that without Facebook and the tools that we provide, that their business would be significantly smaller and they wouldn't be hiring as many people as they are.


WHITFIELD: All right. Laurie Segall, thank you so much.

We've got so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM and it all starts right now.

Hello, again, everyone. And thank you so much for being with me on this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

[13:59:51] A major development on the U.S.-Mexico border. The "Washington Post" confirming the Trump administration and Mexico's incoming government has struck a deal on a new border policy. It would force asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their claims moved through the U.S. courts.