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Asylum Seekers Will Be Required to Stay in Mexico While Awaiting Court Appearance; Mall Gunman at Large After Police Say They Shot Wrong Person; House GOP Subpoenas Comey, Lynch For Private Testimony; Climate Change Will Shrink U.S. Economy, Kill Thousands; Newspaper Hopes to Bring Solace to Devastated Town; No Comedy at Correspondents' Dinner. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired November 24, 2018 - 19:00   ET


[00:00:00] ANA CABRERA, HOST, CNN NEWSROOM: You are live in the "CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York, great to have you with us. Our top story this hour, what appears to be a major dispute over the U.S.- Mexico border about asylum seekers.

And the President tweeting moments ago that asylum seekers will be required to wait in Mexico while their U.S. applications are processed. This could end what the President has called catch and release where some migrants are allowed to live and work in the U.S., while their asylum applications are pending.

But some Mexican officials dispute that they have made such a deal with the Trump administration and it's our understanding that no official agreement has been signed. Let's get to CNN White House Reporter, Sarah Westwood who has been covering the President from West Palm Beach. Sara, what is the President saying?

SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, Ana, after weeks of ratcheting up the pressure on Mexico to do more to stop that caravan of Central American migrants, heading for the Southern border, the President is hinting that he may have struck a deal with Mexican leaders to secure more cooperation from Mexico when it comes to illegal immigration.

The president taking to Twitter just moments ago and saying, "Migrants at the Southern border will not be allowed into the United States until their claims are individually approved in court. We will only allow those who come in to our country legally. Other than that, our very strong policy is catch and detain. No releasing into the U.S."

And then he goes on to say, "All will stay in Mexico. If for any reason it becomes necessary, we will close our Southern border. There is no way the United States will, after decades of abuse, put up with this costly and dangerous situation".

Now, of course, these two tweets come just hours after The Washington Post reported that the Trump administration struck a deal with Mexican officials that would force migrants to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims are being adjudicated in U.S. courts right now.

Migrants can claim asylum as soon as they are on U.S. soil. But as you know, the President just weeks ago tried via Executive Action to change asylum policy so that migrants caught crossing the border illegally would no longer be eligible for asylum.

If migrants wanted to request asylum under this proposed rule change they would have had to present themselves at legal points of entry. Of course, a court blocks the President from doing that. So it's unclear if the President has the authority to strike this kind of deal with Mexico that would make such significant changes to asylum law without the input of Congress.

And it's not clear that any formal agreement has been struck, as The Washington Post reported no agreement has been signed and the President has had his efforts in the immigration arena stymied before, Ana.

CABRERA: And Sarah, in the meantime, we don't know either how local officials, residents in Mexico may react to all of this. The mayor of Tijuana has been speaking out, however, today on the caravan of migrants that's arrived in that area. What is he saying about that?

WESTWOOD: Right. The Mayor of Tijuana has described this as a humanitarian crisis. He's been asking the Mexican Central Government for resources to deal with the migrants that are already in Tijuana.

So these border communities along the U.S. -Mexico border, they've already felt the strain from the flows of migrants seeking to apply for asylum or otherwise find a way to enter the United States.

So if the President of Mexico implemented a deal that would effectively turn Mexico into a waiting room for asylum seekers as they're waiting for courts to process these asylum claims, a process that can take months, if not years if there are appeals. That could just really exacerbate this problem along the border that the Tijuana Mayor is speaking out about.

While, the caravan of Central American migrants that the President has focused so heavily on is still miles away from this area and more obviously will be flowing into those same areas under this deal, Ana.

CABRERA: Right, Sarah Westwood, reporting. Thank you. Let's broaden our discussion and joining us now David Sanger, a National Security Correspondent for the New York Times; Margaret Talev, a Senior White House Correspondent from Bloomberg News and CNN Legal Analyst and former federal prosecutor, Elie Honig.

I want to start with you, Elie, because as we've seen time and again that the administration's immigration policies have been challenged in court. Do see this one proceeding without a court challenge?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No. If this becomes official, if and when, this will end up in the courts. This is now the second major move that the Trump administration has made to limit asylum seeking in the last few weeks.

And this one is particularly dangerous, because what this will do is as Sarah said, require people while they are waiting on their asylum applications, meaning they are claiming they are subject to persecution and violence, to wait in Mexico.

And the Northern reaches of Mexico, just South of the border, that is an incredibly dangerous area. That's controlled by Mexican drug cartels.

[00:05:00] My offices that I have worked have done cases there. That is not a safe place for people to remain while they're waiting for their applications to go through.

And one of the side effects here is, as you could see, more people trying to cross illegally if they feel like they're going to have to wait in Mexico, which is inherently more dangerous as.

CABRERA: So the move could potentially backfire. David, according to the Washington Post reporting, though, one of the reasons Mexico is willing to go along with this idea is that they hope these migrants could potentially fill thousands of jobs they have open in their country, is that a bad thing? David?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: No, the key here is, do those jobs actually then exist for them. Because, I know the Mexicans have made the argument that they've got a lot of job openings and they could keep them occupied.

But it's not at all clear that you could pursue the legal case you would need to pursue which would be fairly intense to make your case for asylum if you're not actually on U.S. soil with regular access to the U.S. courts. It would become pretty complicated to make that work. It might keep them employed. It may not actually do the job of letting the United States fairly judge the asylum claim.

CABRERA: Margaret is it possible, though, that this "remain in Mexico policy", should it come to fruition, could end the President's demands for his border wall?

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG NEWS: No, I think, there is zero percent chance of the border wall. Build the wall is the one of the rallying cries of his campaign and as he looks ahead to 2020, I don't expect any of that's sloganing to change.

But a couple of things to keep in mind, one is that the alternative that the Mexican government really did not want to pursue was a different idea by the U.S. , a sort of third way option that would actually switch over the kind of asylum default position to Mexico instead of the U.S.

In other words if you're coming up through Central America and you got to go through Mexico anyway, why do you need the U.S. to be the place where you request asylum. That's not what they want. So, I guess, this is to some extent the later alternative.

And the other a couple of pieces to keep in mind is that the kind of migration through Mexico to U.S. , including asylum seekers, has just ballooned in recent months. This is a problem that Mexico and the U.S. are both trying to deal with. This is a new Mexican administration. This is a populist leader also of Mexico and they understand that they

need to be able to be willing to consider a deal like this. But, notably, The Washington Post interview with the Mexican official said they support the plan for now.

CABRERA: Right, right. David, do you see this possible deal then as a sign that Trump's pressure is proving effective?

SANGER: No, it's interesting. If you look at both the NAFTA case and this, you have seen that President Trump's arguments to the Mexicans, ill-tempered as they may have been, demanding as they may have been, actually seemed to have moved Mexico to positions that a year ago I don't think you would have seen the Mexicans taking.

Now the critical issue here is we have a new Mexican government coming in. They're not yet organized. They haven't really figured out how to go deal with Donald Trump, while other world leaders have sort of begun that to figure out the rhythms of this.

And so a big question, I think, is whether any deal struck now in the last moments of a fading Mexican government and a new one coming in, will actually survive once that government is in place.

CABRERA: I also wonder in this idea of the President of the U.S. utilizing his sort of Art of the Deal strategy, if he's also getting the same from the other side, is this really just an olive branch from the incoming Mexican President or is he now turning this into a bargaining chip for the ongoing trade discussions? What do you think Margaret?

TALEV: Yes. I mean, I think, you raised a really good point. Certainly, the incoming leader has some political skills and there's going to be a sort of -- this is -- this becomes a negotiating position at this point.

But I think for President Trump it's worthwhile, because for his domestic imperative, the Democrats are taking over Congress. It was already hard to get anything done legislatively. It just got that much harder.

He is turning increasingly to efforts to try to use executive power and test the courts. And if he and the incoming Mexican government can meet in the middle on this even for a while, even if it does not demonstrable turn the tide of anything.

Even if it does some of the things critics has said, maybe it sends asylum seekers away from official points and just has them come into the country in other way. But even so if it allows the President to explore his own use of executive power to bypass Congress and to prompt to the court challenge, then I think both countries see something to work with there, and that's what we're seeing the beginnings of here.

[00:10:00] CABRERA: Elie, can the President bypass Congress on this?

HONIG: No. Well, he can try to bypass Congress. He can strike deals with Mexico or other countries, but it has to withstand legal scrutiny. He has -- he will be subject to review in the courts, and thus far, his record is not good.

When he tried to make the prior Asylum change to the existing law about who may apply for asylum and under what circumstances, he was struck down by District Courts, Federal Trial Courts across the country.

The administration is now trying to take that directly up to the U.S. Supreme Court, before it's even been ruled on at the appellate level, which is unusual and I think probably a little bit of a political showmanship.

But his records are not great in the court so far. So he can try to do whatever he wants with or without Congress, but ultimately he's got a much tougher road ahead in the courts, if he's not got Congress with him.

CABRERA: Right, Elie stay with me. David Sanger, Margaret Talev, thank you so much for that conversation, more legal questions for you to come, Elie, so stand by.

Also this hour a manhunt is underway after a shopping mall shooting on Thanksgiving night. And now people are outraged after police admit they fatally shot the wrong man in the chaos. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


CABRERA: And manhunt is underway in Alabama after police make a stunning admission. The man fatally shot by one of their officers at a mall was likely not the same person who shot and wounded two other people moments earlier.

That gives you a sense of the panic and the chaos there as terrified shoppers ran for cover at the Riverchase Galleria. This is near Birmingham on Thanksgiving night. Police mistakenly thought Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr. fired the rounds. That left an 18-year-old and a 12-year-old hospitalized.

Well, now they say, he was likely involved in an altercation, also had a gun, but they don't think he is the one who shot the two victims. Police say at least one gunman is still at large. Protesters walked through the mall this afternoon carrying signs and calling for people to boycott the shops there.

Bradford's family releasing this statement, "As we continue to grieve, rest assured, that we are working diligently with our legal team to determine exactly what happened and why this police officer killed our son. We will never forget E. J. and ask for your continued prayers during this incredibly difficult time".

Joining me now retired LAPD police sergeant and author of Black & Blue, Cheryl Dorsey. Cheryl, how does this happen?

CHERYL DORSEY, RETIRED LAPD POLICE SERGEANT: Well, it shouldn't happen, Ana. Listen, police officers are trained to know what your target is when you pull that trigger. You don't shoot at someone because you think they may be involved in some kind of criminality or that they may have a gun.

You need to know, we practice shoot, don't shoot scenarios. And listen, the Police Chief and the Captain Rector, they get no passes on this one. Because I think that them saying that this young man was involved as the shooter, was just a way to dirty him up straight from the start.

And now to come back out that's not their first press conference. You don't say anything if you don't have all of the information and now to say that "Oops, my bad. We made a mistake", you don't get to do that.

Officers understand over there that there are no consequences when you take a black life. And so unless and until there's substitutive penalties, real discipline, real consequence when you take a life, then police officers will continue to do this.

CABRERA: Walk me through how you expect this investigation to now unfold?

DORSEY: Well, they're going to look at all of the surveillance cameras in the mall for sure and I'm certain that they'll be asking and obtaining cellphone video from those who were there. They'll talk to the people that were with a close proximity to the melee.

Certainly, the person that was injured, but not killed we'll be able to provide some additional information. And then they'll just work backwards from there in terms of what went on.

But what's more important is what kind of investigation is really going to be done about why an officer shot on a thought, and why that officer didn't have proper target identification, know what's going on. This is a big mall. Allegedly, according to reports, they should practice this kind of stuff. And you don't guess, it should be second nature, when you do act.

CABRERA: And that being said, I mean, I'm trying to imagine this scenario playing out. The officer is coming to what he believes is an active shooting situation. And as I have reported in the past, as we've covered many shootings taking place, unfortunately, the rules had changed to actually not wait, but just go directly to where the shots are being fired.

How should he have responded if he sees a person who's running away brandishing a gun, which is what we're told happened?

DORSEY: He should be giving commands. I mean, the first thing you want to do is give verbal commands and give that person an opportunity to either surrender and drop the gun, get down on the ground, whatever it is that you're ordering them to do. Whether or not these officers or that particular officer did that, we don't know. I guess, we'll find out in the investigation.

But chaotic scenes are not unfamiliar to police officers. It's inherent to what we do. Hopefully, it's what they practice doing in a mall, the size of the one that they have there. And so when it happens, when you find yourself for the shoot, don't shoot scenario. Your action should be second nature and it should be based on training and what you know and not what you think.

CABRERA: Cheryl Dorsey, good to have you with us. I appreciate your perspective. Thanks.

DORSEY: Thank you.

CABRERA: Former FBI Director, James Comey is fighting back against a subpoena to testify before Congress behind closed doors about the Russia probe, details ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.


CABRERA: James Comey is fighting back. The former FBI Director is calling a subpoena from House Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, a political stunt. They want him to testify privately next month. Comey says he wants the hearing to be open for anyone to watch.

The Chairman of that Committee, Bob Goodlatte also subpoenaed former Attorney General, Loretta Lynch as part of their investigation to the FBI's action in the 2016 campaign.

And back with us to discuss CNN Legal Analyst and former federal prosecutor, Elie Honig. So Elie, does Comey have a legal case to demand a public hearing?

HONIG: He's got a tough legal case. I think he's made a very smart political play here. The political play is to call out what the Republicans are doing.

[00:25:00] He's seen in a million times. He knows what they're doing.

They want to have this behind-closed-doors meeting and then they're going to selectively leak pieces of what he said. And Comey has called their bluff and said, "I'll answer all your questions all day long. I just want to do it out in public. Let's everyone see".

Legally it's dicer. Generally speaking, the courts are reluctant to quash subpoenas. All right, so he gets a subpoena, you have the right if you receive a subpoena to object to it. You can say it's irrelevant, you can say it's inappropriate, you can say there's privilege.

I don't really see any of those applying here. Comey's real only argument is, I want to do it in a slightly different format, a more public format. But I've never seen a subpoena squashed on that basis.

CABRERA: So he delay it long enough until the Democrats take over in January?

HONIG: As a practical matter, if this takes six or seven weeks until the Democrats take over in January, then yes, the issues going to go away. It's going to become moot at that point. CABRERA: Let me ask you about the President now responding to Robert

Mueller's questions.


CABRERA: We know he turned over his answers this week. He gave written answers and this is what we're learning about what he was asked. According to Axios there were questions about what Trump knew about Don Junior's June 2016 meeting with the Russians at Trump Tower.

Also the President's own comments about dirt on Hillary Clinton following the meeting at Trump Tower, and his comments asking Russia to find Clinton's missing e-mails. If you're the President's lawyer, are you worried about these questions?

HONIG: I am. And I think Rudy Giuliani was a little a little nervous. He actually showed a little bit of a crack in the armor last week when they were turning these and Trump tried to play like, no big deal, I answered them all. I quote myself. It was easy.

But Rudy said, "We had some trouble with some of them and we may not answer all of them". And I think because those questions, we just saw, put Trump in a tough spot. He's got to commit. He can't waffle anymore. He can't take both sides. He's got to say yes or no.

And look at the question about that he know about Trump Tower. How does the answer that if he did know?


HONIG: And I think there's a lot of indications he did know.

CABRERA: On the flipside, though, these are all incidents that we've already reported on that, we knew about. It's not like something outside the realm of anybody's mind. Surely, his lawyers would have seen them coming, no?

HONIG: I think they should have and I think in his lawyers minds, and they're probably right, Mueller probably already knows the answers to these questions. Usually, you wouldn't ask these kind of questions, just hoping to get information. So he could be in a tough spot.

And remember, he's still got the -- that was the collusion question. He's still got the obstruction issue and Mueller has not agreed to written questions on that. And that's what we may see a subpoena battle, maybe.

CABRERA: Do you think Mueller has been waiting to make any big moves until after he got the President's questions back, so that his lawyers couldn't perhaps craft answers around new indictment?

HONIG: It could be. It's one of the things that targets try to do. They try to see what's out there, what's known and let's bob and weave and deal with whatever the known evidence is. And I think now that he's got those answers in hands, yes, he may be ready to take next steps now. CABRERA: Real quick about, George Papadopoulos.


CABRERA: Again, former Trump campaign advisor who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. He will be sentenced. He is sentenced. But he starts to serve that sentence starting this coming week. He's gone into a little bit of trouble because of some tweets -- HONIG: Yes.

CABRERA: --essentially taking back his remorse. How do you see this playing out?

HONIG: He's in desperation mode. He's trying to delay and then he wants to take back his plea. So he has this emergency motion in, with the judge saying I don't want to have to surrender Monday because of some other case brought by a different guy Andrew Miller. It's a Hail Mary on top of a Hail Mary.

Andrew Miller is probably not going to win his case, and even if he does, it probably won't impact Papadopoulos. I think that despite all of all of his struggling, I think, Papadopoulos is going into federal prison on Monday.

CABRERA: All right, Elie Honig, good to see you. Thanks again.

HONIG: Thanks Ana.

CABRERA: A new report out on the dire consequences of climate change. It could cost human life, it could cost hundreds of billions of dollars. But does President Truck believe his own government's report? Stay with us.


CABRERA: Climate change could cost lives and hundreds of billions of dollars. That is the dire warning in a new government report detailing the devastating impacts of climate change on human health, quality of life, even the U.S. economy.

This report says some of the effects will see, if nothing is done, including wildfire seasons burning up six times more forest area annually by 2050, more mosquito and tick borne diseases like Zika, Dengue, higher temperatures leading to more deaths.

In fact, the experts saying we could see a rise in temps as high as 9 degrees Fahrenheit or more by the end of this century. A federally mandated study was released earlier than planned, the day after Thanksgiving, and its findings run counter to the President's consistent message that climate change is a hoax.

Just this week he once again confused climate and weather patterns tweeting, "Brutal and extended cold blasts could shatter all records. Whatever happened to global warming?" While the report comes after the deadliest and most destructive wildfires in California's history, experts say they are in part the result of drought conditions triggered by climate change.

Chad Hanson is joining us now. He's a Research Ecologist with the John Muir Project and the National Director of the Sierra Club. Chad, I'm really glad you're with us. Do you think the President believes his own governments report?

CHAD HANSON, RESEARCH ECOLOGIST WITH THE JOHN MUIR PROJECT: It's hard to say what the President believes. What we do know is he continues to make statements that deny the existence of climate change and minimize the concerns.

Impacts are happening right now to communities and it's ecosystems. And this report from government scientists and staff all across the country is an unequivocal statement that climate change is real and we need to take it seriously and the President is not doing that.

CABRERA: When he was asked after touring California, seeing the devastation, it changed his mind on climate change. Here's how he responded.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --devastation does change your opinion at all on climate change Mr. President?

[00:35:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, no. I have a strong opinion. I want great (ph) climate. We're going to have that. And we're going to have forests that are very safe, because we can't go through this every year we go through. We're going to have safe forests and that's happening as we speak.


CABRERA: Chad, do you think climate change has contributed to the fires we're seeing there in California?

HANSON: Yes, definitely. Climate change and rising temperatures from climate change affects very many different processes, including fire. And it can increase the amount of fire that happens in a given year.

Another big factor is human ignitions near communities, and we need to do something about that. But for the President to deny the existence of climate change when we're seeing events like this, is really unacceptable.

CABRERA: You wrote a CNN op-ed saying President Trump is wrong about wildfire prevention, explain that.

HANSON: Well, President Trump is claiming that the issue is a lack of logging in our forests. There's several main problems with this. #1, a lot of the fires that are happening where homes are being lost, where lives are being lost, are nowhere near forests. They're in grasslands and shrub habitats. They're in oak woodlands.

And the areas that are in forests, like the campfire that burned recently in Northern California, these are in the areas that have been logged the most heavily out of any place in the state. In fact, that at the campfire area, the area it burned through very rapidly before it burned down most of the Town of Paradise was heavily logged on private lands and on national forest lands in years before the campfire occurred.

So Donald Trump's statement that a lack of logging somehow leads to more fires is completely contradicted by the facts. I was a co-author of the most comprehensive scientific study on this issue.

We published these two years ago. And we found that the forest with the fewest environmental protections and the most logging actually had the most intense fires and we're seeing that with tragic consequences.

CABRERA: So what do you see then as the solution, is there one?

HANSON: There is. There's two key things that we need to do. #1, we need to focus our resources and attention on protecting communities.

And we know we can do that well because there's lots of studies that say if we focus on creating fire safe communities, making homes more fire safe with fire resistant roofs and ember proof vents, so those flaming embers that are borne on the winds in advance of the flames don't get sucked into an attic, things like that.

If we do that in defensible space, which is pruning vegetation within 100 feet of individual homes, the great majority of homes will survive wildland fires.

But right now most of the fire management resources and attention are being spent on backcountry fire suppression and logging operations in remote forests and that actually just damages habitat.

It can increase fire intensity in the rate of spread and it diverts scarce resources away from protecting communities. Now, Donald Trump wants to double down on that failed approach, and that's just the wrong way to go.

CABRERA: Chad Hanson, really appreciate your information. Thank you for joining us.

HANSON: My pleasure.

CABRERA: There is some good news on the fires in California, the campfire in Northern California is now 95 percent contained, thanks to the round-the-clock work of firefighters there and some much-needed rain. But the danger is so far from over, because of the unstable ground left by wildfires, floods, mudslides, a flow of debris now creating new risks.

The camp fire has killed 84 people and the search still continues for 475 people who remain unaccounted for. Despite the complete devastation in their town one local newspaper continues its work determined to keep this tight-knit community informed.

CNN's Ryan Young has that story.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: All this devastation is hard to explain. You realize you're looking at someone's livelihood, maybe even their house, their business. This all has been taken away. This fire was devastating.

Now two men are working on the newspaper here to keep the community together, hoping that they can provide some solace and some information to a community in need.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So this is the press room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): At the enterprise record in Chico, California, this is not the typical rush to meet the newspapers deadlines.

YOUNG: You guys are still sort of trying to press forward to make sure the paper is out there, why?

DAVID LITTLE, EDITOR, CHICO ENTERPRISE- RECORD: It's like the one small contribution we can make to make things normal for the community. The paper still lives. It's a kind of a symbolic important message to send to the community, not everything is lost.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): David Little and Rick Silva are not only covering this area's biggest story, but they are now trying to record the story destruction for a community that's no longer there. For safety reasons, most of the residents of Paradise haven't had a chance to see what's left of their homes.

RICK SILVA, MANAGING EDITOR, PARADISE POST: There's nothing else and I don't think they know how little is left until they get up there. It seems like a complete removal of the town of what it once was.

[00:40:00] YOUNG: Rain has helped firefighters get more control of the devastating campfire now some 95 percent contained. The historic fire has destroyed nearly 14, 000 homes. Now, the Paradise Post may be the one of the few things that binds this community.

LITTLE: --the printed newspaper has such a staying power. And so we all know that years from now people will look back at this these print editions as sort of a history book for what happened during the fire.

SILVA: It's the voice of the community, has been since 1947. We have to continue that.

LITTLE: We don't even know where to start, 15, 000 homes almost have burned, 90% of the city is burned and how do you start? Where do you start? Just -- I guess, the answer is, one, you help one person at a time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Some residents are already planning on rebuilding, promising not to leave their homes behind.

SILVA: It was mainly a retirement community. I'm not sure it's going to be that same kind of community mostly. But Paradise has always been a community that can do it. It's always found a way to get itself back on its feet and it will again. It just may be a different group of people getting its back on its feet.

YOUNG: (inaudible) this community was worth saving and they're hoping that a lot of the community members will come together to save Paradise. But they also know that when people see this for the first time, they're going to be heartbroken and it's going to take some time to put it all back together.


CABRERA: Heartbreaking, no doubt. Thank You, Ryan Young. And now and update on a truly remarkable story from the wildfires. This is Allyn Pierce's truck after his daring escape during the camp fire. He as a registered nurse helped evacuate patients and staff before fleeing himself.

But he ran into gridlock on the way out of town which almost cost him his life and you can see the scorch marks on the doors of the truck, the tail lights, the mirrors melted off. He talked to CNN affiliate, KRCR.


ALLYN PIERCE, TRUCK SCORCHED IN CAMP FIRE: And I was just sitting in my car and thought it was like we're getting close to the end here. Recorded my video for my friends and family and like put my phone away. And then and then a bulldozer came out of nowhere and like knocked this flaming truck like right next to me.


CABRERA: Toyota heard about Pierce's story via social media and decided to give him a brand new truck to replace the one that burnt. Amazingly Pierce's old truck still runs. Toyota offered to take it off his hands and display it in their showrooms as a testament to its durability about that.

A White House Correspondents' Dinner taking comedy off the menu this year, my next guest says the group is capitulated to the President, they tells us why it's a mistake next.


CABRERA: This week, the White House Correspondents Association announced it is shaking things up for next year's annual dinner, breaking from 30 years of tradition.


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

You know it kind of makes sense too, because both you like raining down bombs on people from long distances, isn't it?

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

MICHELLE WOLF: 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.


CABRERA: Well, next year there won't be a comedian, instead of famed Author and Historian Ron Chernow will be the featured speaker. And critics like my next guest say this is a capitulation to the President who has been vocal and calling for the dinner to be cancelled. President Trump hasn't even shown up to the event for the past two years.

And joining us now is CNN. com, Opinion Writer and Comedian Dean Obeidallah. He's also the host of the Dean Obeidallah Show on SiriusXM and a contributor for The Daily Beast.

Dean, I'm glad to have you with us for this discussion. You wrote a piece for The Daily Beast this week. You say it's a mistake to not have a comedian, why?

DEAN OBEIDALLAH, CNN. COM OPINION CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's a big mistake, because you look at the context, let me just be honest to the outset. If a Democratic President had done same thing that Donald Trump did, and that in this case, call for the dinner to be reformatted or changed, and the White House Correspondents Association had given in, I would be saying the exact same things.

So what happened is when I say people you had Michelle Wolf perform, caused an outrage. To be honest, I've been writing about the White House Correspondents Association in a few years. Every dinner, some people get upset, yet never has the President of the United States tweeted or called for the dinner to change his format or get rid of comedians.

To remind people of Trump's tweet in April said, "Put dinner to rest or start over".

CABRERA: But they're not putting the dinner to rest there, they are just changing the format--

OBEIDALLAH: We'll start changing -- starting over -- but changing the format. So to me that's what's so troubling. And I interviewed Olivier Knox, the President, White House Correspondents Association on my radio show Wednesday. And I completely being very sincere, and said, I want to see a change.

But in a fact even yes, that's fine. But we don't live in a vacuum. We live in the real world where the President of United States demanded a change to the format. Seven months later the White House Correspondents Association is ending a tradition of 30-plus years.

You showed comedian after comedian making fun of Presidents after President, from Reagan through Trump, never has a President changed and now it's changed. CABRERA: Well, you consider this, because the Knox, the President of

White House Correspondents Association has said in part that the one of the reasons for this change is that dynamics have been different the past couple of years.

President Trump, again, hasn't gone to the White House Correspondents Dinner and so you don't have sort of this camaraderie where there is a barb toward the President, but then the President fights back.

[00:50:00] And you have a little bit of give-and-take, it's sort of like hearted and there's no balance now without him, is that fair?

OBEIDALLAH: Well you can pick a comedian who is going to be balanced. To be honest, if I went back and look at the jokes of Michelle Wolf, who was the comedian in April. She made fun of Trump, she also made fun of Democrats, Hillary Clinton, the media, The White House Correspondents Association. Comedy is fun.

And today what concerns me beyond all of this is that in a democracy we lose freedom of expression not through laws or Executive Orders at first, it's through self-censorship, because you fear having a pushback about speaking truth to power or telling jokes about someone who's in power, and to me that's where this smacks up.

The White House Correspondents Association had enough of getting this pushback. They didn't want it anymore, so they self censor, and that's wrong. That's absolutely wrong. Removed our freedom of speech--

CABRERA: But maybe not. Maybe it's not self censoring, it's just changing the messenger. Our Brian Lowry argues it was the right call, maybe bad timing, because there's this perception that they're caving to the President who's been so critical, but he writes this.

The White House Correspondents Dinner has become such a neat -- thread the needle challenge for comedians and the organization which will inevitably have to defend what they say that it made little sense to continue that tradition, whatever the entertainment value, it wasn't worth the grief. Could a more sober message be what is needed perhaps now more than ever?

OBEIDALLAH: I think we need comedy now more than ever, and people need to laugh now more than ever. And we can't lose sight of one really important thing that which Lowry completely missed. He was a conservative who's part of the people who get upset at jokes at these dinners.

Is that Donald Trump has a long history of attacking comedians who have mocked him, way before the presidency. Jon Stewart, he sued Bill Maher for $5 million over a joke connecting Donald Trump to being the spawn of an orangutan.

At Saturday Night Live Donald Trump called for it to be canceled a month before the election. He was the GOP nominee for President and this President-elect, he lashed out against Senator Lott. He's done as President going into late-night comedians. Trump is cut from more of an authoritarian cloth, where he does not

want people laughing at him, because he understand this -- that takes his power away. So I think we have to look at this in full clear eyes, full context. Let's not play games here.

Donald Trump doesn't want to be laughed at. He went after White House Correspondents Association. They pulled back sadly. I know they -- believe me--

CABRERA: A lot of people, Dean, would say though that it's really no laughing matter what the President has done in his attacks against the press and Ron Chernow who again is going to be the speaker this year. He is an author of six books including bestsellers about Alexander Hamilton, about George Washington.

And he says he was asked to quote "Make the case for the First Amendment, freedom of speech", that you're discussing.

OBEIDALLAH: Absolutely.

CABRERA: "I'm happy to oblige", he adds, "While I've never been mistaken for a stand-up comedian, I promised that my history lesson won't be dry. "Doesn't that make you curious about what he's going to say?

OBEIDALLAH: Well, absolutely. And I have the most respect for him. He's going to make the case for the First Amendment. Then have a comedian show the First Amendment in action right after him.

So I have Ron Chernow talking about here's the First Amendment and here's a comedian that opens up the jokes about whatever they want, but it could be about the White House Correspondents Association, it could be about the media, it Democrats, Republicans.

To me, again, it's not about the White House Correspondents Association. It's not about freedom of expression and I think we need to be more visual than ever. When we have a President who really has attacked the media, he has attacked comedians and anyone who is a critic.

And I fear that if he succeeds here, it emboldened him to go after more of people in the media, more people who are critics, who might say "You know what, I'm going to self censor. It's just easy for me not to criticize him on this day".

And I'm telling you, if the Democratic President had the same to tweet, put dinner to rest or start over, I -- even though the progressive, would have been writing that this is absolutely wrong, and I would be doing exact same words today about The White House Correspondents Association.

CABRERA: Thanks so much Dean. Good to see you.


CABRERA: We appreciate. Coming on, a $400,000 discovery in a washing machine getting new meaning to the term money laundering. We are coming clean on this story just ahead in this CNN NEWSROOM.


CABRERA: The Leaning Tower of Pisa is leaning a little less. After extensive architectural work over several years, the Italian bell tower has lost one and a half inches of its famous lean. Well it might not seem like a lot. Experts say this will keep the landmark from falling for at least the next 200 years.

A bizarre crime story out of Amsterdam. Police found strong evidence of money laundering in perhaps the most obvious hiding place on the planet. $400, 000 stuffed in a washing machine. The 24-year-old suspect promptly arrested on money laundering charges. No joke, no pun intended there.

And in other case of found money that might inspire you to do some housework. Harold and Tina Ehrenberg were cleaning up for the holiday when Tina noticed a few old lottery tickets on her nightstand.

Come to find out, one of them was a winning ticket worth $1.8 million before taxes. Lucky for them, they still had two weeks left to claim their winnings, which they say will be put towards retirement; got to love that.

I'm Ana Cabrera, thank you so much for being here on this Saturday and spending part of your weekend with us. I'll be back tomorrow afternoon at 5:00 Eastern. Up next on CNN, "The Radical Story of Patty Hearst ". Good night.