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President Trump In His Strategic Chess Game With Democrats And Congress Today Threatened To Flip Over The Board; President Trump Is Making His First Comment About Paul Whelan; Navy SEAL Pleads Not Guilty to Premeditated Murder Charges; NYT Investigates Rash of Child Cancers in One Indiana County; Pelosi Repeats History, Recaptures Speaker's Gavel. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 6, 2019 - 18:00   ET


[18:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: It is 6:00 eastern, 3:00 in the afternoon out west. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Great to have you with us. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

President Trump in his strategic chess game with Democrats and Congress today threatened to flip over the board and end it once and for all. He said for the second day in a row now that we would do something American Presidents only do in a time of absolute catastrophe.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I may declare a national emergency dependent on what's happening the next few days.


CABRERA: The President said the same thing yesterday that he might declare a national emergency. Now if he does that, the money set aside for urgent military action or times of national disaster could be diverted to that border wall project. Whether he can actually do that, lawmakers disagree.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: I may give that really threatening talk from the President that he doesn't have the power to execute. Look, if Harry Truman couldn't nationalize the steel industry during war time, this President doesn't have the power to declare an emergency and build a multi-billion dollar wall on the boarder so that's a non-starter.

REP. ADAM SMITH (D), WASHINGTON: Unfortunately the short answer is yes. There is a provision in law that says the President can declare an emergency.


CABRERA: Both of those guys, Democrats, mind you. Earlier today in Washington vice president Mike Pence and other

administration officials met for a second straight day with congressional aides, many of them Democrats, talking again about navigating a way out of this funding dispute that has partially shut down the government now for more than two weeks.

This from the President just a few minutes ago. Vice president Mike Pence, he writes, a group had a productive meeting with the Schumer/Pelosi representatives today. Many details of border security were discussed. We are now planning a steel barrier rather than concrete. It is both stronger and less obtrusive. Good solution and made in the USA.

Let's get to CNN White House correspondent Boris Sanchez.

Boris, upbeat words about the Pence meeting. But the President had his own gathering as well today at Camp David. What do we know about that?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Ana. The President gathered with top administration officials at Camp David to outline priorities for 2019. He didn't actually say much about it when he returned to the White House this afternoon instead focusing on that other meeting going on on the White House grounds between some top administration officials. You saw there Mike Pence, DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and his own son-in-law Jared Kushner and aides to top lawmakers.

The President, though he called it productive, the perspective from people inside the room was very different. A number of aides saying that it was not a productive meeting at all. What we are hearing is that Republicans presented to Democrats a specific outline of how they would spend that $5.7 billion for what Trump has requested for a border wall.

According to a Democratic source, that presentation was incomplete. What we are hearing is that Democrats suggested that it would take too long to have that discussion now about a border wall. They wanted to first reopen the federal government before digging deeper and striking a deal on border security, potentially a barrier on the southern border with Mexico.

President Trump, meantime, is not waiting around. He has said that he is strongly considering declaring a national emergency to get funding for his border wall. I asked him about that today. Listen to the exchange.


TRUMP: We are looking at a national emergency because we have a national emergency. Just read the papers. We have a crisis at the border of drugs, of human beings being trafficked all over the world. They are coming through. And we have an absolute crisis and of criminals and gang members coming through. It is national security. It's a national emergency.


SANCHEZ: I asked the President if he had a specific deadline or some kind of marker that he had to see to then take that drastic step. He didn't really answer. He said we would have to wait and see. We should point out if he does take that step, there will certainly be a series of lawsuits brought against the President to challenge his authority to do that, Ana.

CABRERA: Boris Sanchez at the White House. Thank you.

With us now, former advisor to four U.S. President's, CNN's senior political analyst David Gergen.

David, always good to have you us. What's your reaction to the possibility that a sitting U.S. President would declare a national emergency to fulfill a campaign promise?


It is very concerning, Ana, because it would be a vast expansion of Presidential authority which the courts may well strike down and would leave the government closed, presumably, for a long period -- longer period of time.

It's worth remembering that the classic case in this area is one that was brought during the time of Harry Truman as President during the war and there was a strike on the railroads and Truman tried to seize the railroads, private railroads. And there was a case called Youngstown in which the Supreme Court ruled that the President did not have such authority even in the midst of a war.

And we have no war here and it's not clear we have an emergency. So I do think that in terms of expansion of Presidential power under Donald Trump, which he has been pushing and pushing to do this in all sorts of areas, I think it's really questionable for the country.

[18:05:39] CABRERA: Vice President Mike Pence took the lead in the second meeting this weekend to reach a deal over the government shutdown. Again, no members of Congress, just their staffers. Does that give you a sense of how serious Democrats are taking this?

GERGEN: I don't understand why this is a negotiation with on one side the vice President of the United States and on the other side no elected representatives but the staffers. These staffers are of course, you know, very valuable public servants. They know a lot but they are not negotiators. They are not empowered to cut deals. And it's just - it just been odd from the beginning.

My own sense, Ana, and I may be wrong, is that this is going to go on for about three more days of negotiations. And the President talks about, you know, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday being a day for serious consultation. And if it does not resolve then, I think there's a growing possibility that he will declare a national emergency.

I would argue strongly that before declaring a national emergency, the President has a responsibility to come before the people of this country and explain what the emergency is. But lay the facts out there. It's very clear that Nancy Pelosi believes the facts are not what the President and his administration are bandying about inside. She has a separate set of facts and the country deserves to hear both sides on this because this is going to be a really major national issue for both sides.

CABRERA: And most importantly here, neither side had their top negotiators or decision makers at the table this weekend.

GERGEN: Absolutely.

CABRERA: Trump wasn't there. He sent the vice president. And as we just discussed, Democrats and members of Congress sent their staffers, not to mention the President also keeps changing his mind on what he is trying to accomplish. If you just look at some of the different things he has said in the past week alone, he has said quote "Mexico was paying for the wall." Then the USMCA is paying for the wall. Much of the wall is built already. The wall will be concrete. Then the wall will be steel. He will declare a national emergency to build the wall. What message does all of this send?

GERGEN: It sends a message that the President feels he is very much cornered. He is in a very awkward situation. Frankly, he put himself in it. Nancy Pelosi out maneuvered him, got him into a corner, in which he's inevitably either going to keep the government closed for a long time and pay a price for that or he is going to compromise in some fashion in which he will look weak which is the thing he detests, as you well know. So he is in a corner.

And, you know, what's really interesting is -- in part is that Nancy Pelosi has now stepped up to this job. You know, her popularity is up from where it was in several polls. And these first few days I think are going to help her a great deal in exercising power on the part of Democrats. The Democrats have longed for someone who could stand up to Trump. So far she's been pretty good at it.

CABRERA: Why do you think her popularity is up?

GERGEN: Well, I think because she has acted in what we consider a more traditional way. She is standing up to the President but she is doing it respectfully. She is holding her caucus together. You know, she -- she has put down the rebellions in a way which I think has satisfied a lot of members of her own caucus who are asking for changes in structure.

So she is just off to a very, very good start I would argue even though she inherited this government shutdown, not what she wanted. But I do think she's off to a good start and she can potentially be real foil against the President for the Democrats. We will just have to wait and see. It's early, but one can't help but notice in that oval office session she more than held her own against the President. And she is playing the higher cards, by the way.

CABRERA: She has a lot of people within this caucus that don't necessarily see eye to eye and I wanted to read something to you, David, because Kimberly Strassel of the "Wall Street journal" editorial board tweeted this this weekend.

America meet the Pelosi House. Articles of impeachment, a move to abolish the electoral college comparisons of the President to a Hitler, a non-starter vote of the shutdown, profanity, a proposal for a 70 percent tax on the wealthy, all under 36 hours. Wait until they get rolling.

I mean, these are things that have come up or have in the past few days, David.

[18:10:14] GERGEN: That's right.

CABRERA: And Nancy Pelosi is out there saying she is trying to legislate, trying to work with the other side. She has her hands full.

GERGEN: She does have her hands full. And let me just say (INAUDIBLE) had Kimberly Strassel is well respected especially in conservative circles. So that tweet is a biting one.

I think in fairness there are -- you know, when you elect a lot of much younger people to the Congress, people who haven't had a lot of experience with the traditions you are going to get some wild cards. And you know, when one person uses profanity out of over 200 members -- Democratic members of the House, it gets headlines. I don't think it means very much in the long run.

If it continues, it's going to be a problem. But I assume a lot of these young folks are going to get the message and try to be more conservative -- or more constructive. This wasn't helpful, some of the comments and some of the things that were being put forward this week.

But, you know, I think overall the election of more young people, the rising generation, the election more women who haven't had a lot of experience is such a good thing for the country. That they are going to say some things perhaps that others will flinch about, but they are bringing an energy to our politics which I think is -- especially the younger ones and women and the veterans, I might say, are bringing a spirit to our politics which we should take some lumps along the way but I think it's good for the country.

CABRERA: The President also has a number of new people around him. Let's listen to what he had to say before departing to Camp David this morning about his cabinet.


TRUMP: Well, I am in no hurry. I have actings. And my actings are doing realty great. I sort of like acting. Gives me more flexibility, do you understand that? I like acting.


CABRERA: That's a lot of people in acting positions, not permanent roles. What's your take on all of that? Do you see a benefit in having so many acting cabinet members?

GERGEN: Absolutely not. They don't have the authority of full-time cabinet members. They are not seen up on Capitol Hill. You are not going to invest a lot of time in experience or effort trying to work out a relationship with somebody who may be gone tomorrow and who is -- they are sitting there at the whim of the President. You know, we have hearings and we have confirmations for a reason and to be acting diminishes the authority. The government is not well run. There are all sorts of reasons to name the person they want to confirm for a reason. And to be acting I think just diminishes the authority of these people. Government is not as well run. You don't have good people coming in.

There are all sorts of reason why they ought to go ahead and get this. Either name the right person is going to be. They want to confirm, or, you know, or name the acting person, but don't leave it in this. Don't leave people in limbo. It just cuts their legs off.

CABRERA: David Gergen, good to see you especially in the New Year. Happy New Year. Thank you.

A group of concerned parents in Indiana living in a county that overwhelmingly voted for President Trump now gearing up to take on his EPA. I will talk to a pair of moms who say a toxic site in their town is causing kids to get cancer. You don't want to miss this segment.

Plus, President Trump finally breaking his silence on the U.S. citizen being held in Russia. What he is saying about this American facing spy charges.

And wild video of a group of bystanders doing something remarkable. Flipping a burning car to try to save the driver. We will tell you what happened live in the CNN newsroom.


[18:16:00] CABRERA: President Trump says he may soon declare a national emergency to pay for his border wall if Congress cannot break the funding impasse that has had the government shutdown now for almost 16 days and counting, but that would do nothing to help the 800,000 federal employees who aren't getting paid right now.

Our Polo Sandoval is joining us right now.

What are you hearing from some of these people who are furloughed?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's quite obvious here, Ana, that this shutdown has far reaching effects, right. Take food stamps, for example, federal program that feeds over four million Americans. At this point, the USDA which runs its program says that they do have the funding especially in their emergency reserves to take them through the rest of the month. But the question now, what will happen after that?

There are other domestic nutritional assistant program. Take WIC, for example, programs like that have already been told to make due with the federal funding that they have already because they will not get any more until this partial shutdown ends. Those are the people who have been struggling or may struggle to put food on the table. Now let's hear from the people who may struggle to pay their bills.


SANDOVAL (voice-over): It's week three of a shutdown showdown between the President and lawmakers with Americans caught in the middle, 800,000 federal employees considered essential continue to either be furloughed or working without pay. People like TSA officer Brian Turner.

BRIAN TURNER, TSA OFFICER: I live about a half hour from work. And it's going to come to a point where you say, do I put gas in my car or do I feed my family?

SANDOVAL: Already hundreds of TSA employees have missed work in major airports across the country. It is a feeling concern of possible security risks and travel disruptions. The TSA insists that security for travelers will not be compromised and that screening weight times remain well within TSA standards. Air traffic controllers may soon be forced to support themselves through other financial means.

In Washington State, Alex Navarro says he has able to stay financially afloat for now.

ALEX NAVARRO, AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Safety is still on all-time high. Efficiency is still at an all-time high. It's just trying to fight back the doubt and the worry of not getting that paycheck.

SANDOVAL: The partial shutdown may lead to other hassles. This year's tax refunds could be delayed as IRS workers are temporarily off the job. Farmers may have to wait for loans and for a major agricultural report due out this month from the USDA. It's supposed to help plan this year's harvests.

MOREY HILL, FARMER: The January report has a lot to do with 2018's productions of farmers and acres. And a lot of farmer and traders base a lot on what they are doing in the coming year on what that report tells us.

SANDOVAL: Also at a standstill, some environmental drug and food inspections. At KC Beer company in Kansas City, the new beers are blocked before they can get approval from federal inspectors.

ANDREW ZENDER, KC BEER COMPANY: We are just in a holding pattern, just enough to keep brewing the beer that we already doing and getting that out there while we wait for approval on the new products.

SANDOVAL: Helpless and hopeless. Americans have to wait for an answer from Washington how to run this partial shutdown will land. The President, who seems to be in a deadlock with Democrats, says he can relate to affected workers.

TRUMP: People understand exactly what's going on. But many of those people that won't be receiving a paycheck, many of those people agree 100 percent with what I'm doing.


[18:20:00] SANDOVAL: And just today the national park service announced that it will now be taking an unprecedented step to basically dip from some of the revenue that's been gathered from park entrance fees. This is money that they will now redirect here, Ana, to try to help with operational aspects of working at some of these sites, these locations that should pay for security, it should pay for cleaning bathrooms, the garbage that has been piling up, those pictures we have seen on the national mall.

But we have to remind viewers, this is only a measure of relief, something very temporary while lawmakers and the President continue to be at odds.

CABRERA: We don't know how it is going to last. Thank you, Polo Sandoval, for that report.

SANDOVAL: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: So here's how we got here. December 11th a possible government shutdown becomes a reality when President Trump meets with Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and then incoming house speaker Nancy Pelosi. Trump insists on the need for a border wall and he floats $5 billion. Now the Democrats are unwilling to go beyond the existing funding of 1.3 billion for border security in general. President Trump then says this --


TRUMP: I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck. I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I'm not going to blame you for it.


CABRERA: A week later on December 19th the Senate passes a continuing resolution that will temporarily fund the government and keep border security funded at the current level. It doesn't include money for Trump's border wall.

Still, the next day then House speaker Paul Ryan tells Republicans the house is ready to pass that same bill and he expects the President to sign it. Republicans seem confident Trump is on board.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any doubt that Trump will sign it?

REP. CHRIS COLLINS (D), NEW YORK: No, there's no doubt at all.


CABRERA: Just hours later warning signals from the White House. A senior White House official tells CNN pressure from all conservative of the freedom caucus could cause President Trump to change his mind. Never mind the conservative media voices like Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh joining the chorus against compromise.

And just like that the President is no longer willing to sign that short-term funding bill and keep the government open. He wants his wall. The House moves quickly and passes a funding bill that gives President Trump 5 billion for that wall.

The bill is more symbolic than anything. There's no chance it ever passes the Senate. Therefore, at midnight on December 22nd the government partially shuts down. Trump digs in his heels, $5 billion for his wall. Democrats not budging either from the $1.3 billion they originally offered for border security. Behind the scenes Trump aides start reaching out to Democrats with offers. Here's then acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.


MICK MULVANEY, ACTING CHIEF OF STAFF: We have insisted on five. The discussions are between 1.6 and five.


CABRERA: We are told the exact ask was actually $2.5 billion for a comprehensive border and immigration proposal and that was made by vice President Mike Pence. Democrats quickly reject this. Following weekend White House aides begin backing away from President Trump's demand of a physical wall. Outgoing chief of staff John Kelly in fact tells the "Los Angeles Times" quote "to be honest, it's not a wall." And then Kellyanne Conway and Senator Lindsey Graham both say this --


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The government filed shutdown --



BASH: A wall?

CONWAY: No. No, no.

BASH: It has shut down over a wall.

CONWAY: That incorrect.

BASH: The President said in the oval office, he said very, very clearly.

CONWAY: It is shut down because of border security.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The wall has become a metaphor for border security.


CABRERA: Twenty-four hours later the President contradicts his own advisors and allies by tweeting quote "an all concrete wall was never abandoned as has been reported by the media making clear this shutdown is about the wall, not border security in general. Not a metaphor."

Days later the President then contradicts his own vice president saying 2.5 billion for his wall isn't acceptable. It is 5.6 billion or nothing.


[20:05:11] TRUMP: They are not 2.5, no. We are asking for 5.6 and, you know, somebody said 2.5. No.


CABRERA: President Trump has not publicly budged from that $5.6 billion demand since.

It has also been more than a week since Paul Whelan was detained in Moscow. What the President is now saying about one of his citizens accused of espionage.

But first this week's before the bell here's CNN's chief business correspondent Christine Romans.

Hi, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. 2019 kicked off the very same way 2018 left off with a burst of volatility. Investors trying to decide for mix messages.

A surge of hiring last month suggests the U.S. economy is strong but a warning from Apple raised fears about a global slowdown. Apple cut revenue forecasts last citing slowing iPhone sales in China and Apple shares tumbled 10 percent. That was the worst day in nearly six years.

Now investors are asking who is next, iPhones, autos, global brands rely on China for growth. A slowdown in that country puts their earnings at risk. It could also put pressure on the Federal Reserve to pause rate hikes. But then the strong December jobs report makes that case harder.

The U.S. economy added a much better than expected 312,000 jobs in December. The unemployment rate went up to 3.9 percent for a good reason, more than 400,000 people came into the labor market to look for jobs probably base wages are rising of 3.2 percent.

Now, this week investors make it more clues on the feds thinking on Wednesday, the central bank released its minutes from last month's meeting. And Fed chief Jerome Powell addresses the D.C. economic club on Thursday.

In New York, I'm Christine Romans. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:29:20] CABRERA: President Trump is making his first comment about Paul Whelan, the American businessman the Kremlin accuses of being a spy. Russian officials detained Whelan more than a week ago. U.S. ambassador to Russia John Huntsman visited Whelan earlier this week. But through it all there has been no comment from President Trump until today.

Senior international correspondent Sam Kiley reports.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Donald Trump has finally commented on the case of Paul Whelan. The former U.S. marine was arrested by Russian authorities on December the 28th and stands accused of espionage. The American President when asked about what he's doing about it said, we are looking into that. We are looking into that.


Hardly the sort of aggressive stance taken, for example, by the British Foreign Secretary -- because Mr. Whelan is also a British citizen -- who accused the Russians of using the British citizen as a pawn in an international game of diplomacy and condemned such actions.

Nonetheless, the U.S. Ambassador here has been here to see Mr. Whelan in prison, and the Russian Foreign Minister has, for now, scotched suggestions that Mr. Whelan could be a pawn in a potential prisoner swap perhaps with Russians held in the United States. Because, in the view of the Deputy Russian Foreign Minister, Mr. Whelan has not been charged with any crime, least of all espionage.

That is in contradiction, of course, to what his lawyer -- that's Mr. Whelan's lawyer -- told CNN earlier this week when he said not only has his client been charged but also that he was asking for bail for Mr. Whelan.

Nonetheless, this all is getting increasingly murky following the arrest by American authorities of a Russian, Dmitry Makarenko, on charges that he was involved in money laundering and arms shipments based on a warrant issued for his arrest in Florida. He was picked up in U.S. territories in the North Pacific the day after Mr. Whelan was arrested.

Sam Kylie, CNN, Moscow.

CABRERA: Stunning video out of Texas now where a group of good Samaritans does the unthinkable -- they try to turn over a burning car. Wait until you see what happens. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


CABRERA: A 70-year-old Texas driver has a lot to be grateful for. Incredible police dash cam video out of Corpus Christi, you have to see this. The officers and bystanders there working together to flip a burning car to rescue the elderly driver trapped inside.

[18:35:00] Police say the vehicle was struck by a wrong-way driver on New Year's Day. The impact caused the car to flip onto its side and catch fire.

Look at them work together. Police believe the driver would not have survived without the heroic first responders and civilians who rushed to rescue him. And he did. The wrong-way driver, unfortunately, died at the scene.

A decorated Navy SEAL is now pleading not guilty to premeditated murder charges. Prosecutors say Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher killed a wounded ISIS fighter while Gallagher was deployed in Iraq in 2017.

CNN's Nick Watt reports members of his own SEAL platoon turned him in, but others are standing by him.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A chest full of medals. Nearly 20 years in the service.

PHILLIP STACKHOUSE, ATTORNEY FOR SPECIAL OPERATIONS CHIEF EDWARD GALLAGHER: When somebody's been named the number one SEAL on the West Coast, you're dealing with a very high caliber individual.

WATT (voice-over): This Navy SEAL now charged with premeditated murder.

In Mosul, Iraq, in May of 2017, Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher allegedly stabbed an injured boy to death. The military says the boy was a captured Islamic State fighter.

Prosecutors claim Gallagher took a photo with the corpse and sent it to friends with messages such as I got this one with my hunting knife, and I got my knife skills on.

WATT (on camera): What is your contention, that he didn't, in fact, stab this ISIS fighter, or he did but the circumstances are extenuating?

COLBY VOKEY, ATTORNEY FOR SPECIAL OPERATIONS CHIEF EDWARD GALLAGHER: He didn't murder -- he didn't murder anyone when he was out there.

WATT (on camera): You're not entirely answering the question. Did he stab this ISIS fighter?

VOKEY: Well, without getting too much into the facts of exactly what happened there, the question is what he is being charged with, is he's been charged with, did he murder anyone? And the answer is, no, he didn't murder anyone.

Special operators, SEALS, MARSOC, green berets, they do kill people in combat. The question is, is it lawful? WATT (voice-over): Prosecutors claim that a month later, also in

Mosul, Gallagher shot a civilian, an old man. And a month after that, he shot a young girl. And that on multiple occasions, he also fired indiscriminately into crowds of civilians.

It was members of Gallagher's own SEAL platoon who reported him to authorities. He was arrested September 11th and has been in custody at the Miramar naval base ever since.

Family, friends, and colleagues in court to watch Gallagher plead not guilty to all nine charges leveled against him.

AARON KAHN, FRIEND OF SPECIAL OPERATIONS CHIEF EDWARD GALLAGHER: We're here to support our belief in Eddie's overall innocence and the fact that our government is prosecuting an innocent man.

WATT (on camera): Gallagher is also accused of obstructing justice. Prosecutors claim that he sent text messages and spoke to people in person, all, according to the charge sheet, attempting to discourage members of his platoon from reporting his actions.

He also stands accused of, quote, wrongfully retaliating against members of his platoon for reporting those criminal actions.

STACKHOUSE: There are text messages that we have been provided that indicate that Eddie might have sent some text messages out saying that these individuals who are making the allegations against him are lying.

WATT (voice-over): Gallagher, married with kids, was planning to retire. He might not get that chance.

VOKEY: If you're charged with premeditated murder and anybody found guilty of that, it's a mandatory minimum life sentence.

WATT (voice-over): Prosecutors claim that, as well as posing with the body of his victim, Gallagher flew a drone above the corpse and conducted a re-enlistment ceremony next to the body.

WATT (on camera): The judge has now scheduled Gallagher's trial to begin February 19th. And he says he will decide next week whether this Navy SEAL has to remain in the brig, remain in custody until that date.

Nick Watt, CNN, San Diego, California.


CABRERA: It is a frightening number -- more than 50 cases of children with cancer. That in just one Indiana county. Next, what a "New York Times" investigation is revealing and why a group of parents is demanding answers from the EPA.

Two moms who have been personally impacted by this tragedy will join us live. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


CABRERA: "The New York Times" this week profiling an unusual cluster of child cancers in just one Indiana county and outraged moms accusing the EPA of serious mismanagement at a toxic chemical cleanup.

Now, those moms believe a chemical called TCE is endangering their children, and they are ripping the Trump administration's plans to weaken TCE restrictions. The moms telling "The New York Times" their group has traced 58 childhood cancer cases in the last decade in Johnson County, Indiana.

Now, that is somewhat higher than the national average. But so far, the hard science shows no solid link between TCE and the rash of childhood cancers there.

Johnson County, Indiana is considered a middle-class haven for mid- western parents. Taxes are low, schools are top tier, and most residents are solidly Republican. Voters there overwhelmingly supported President Trump in 2016.

But these moms say danger lurks underneath the ground in the form of TCE near an old industrial site. CNN reached out to the White House and the EPA, no response.

And, yes, the EPA is closed right now due to the government shutdown. The agency did tell "The New York Times" it promised to work on a cleanup plan.

Now, CNN reached out to the company responsible for the cleanup after acquiring the site. No response there. The spokesman for that company told "The New York Times" the company is working, quote, to help ensure the well-being of residents.

And now joining us, two moms who spoke to "The New York Times" and shared their story -- Kari Rhinehart, whose daughter, Emma Grace Findley developed brain cancer and died at the tender age of 13, and Stacie Davidson, stepmom of 14-year-old Zane Davidson who is now in remission after his cancer battle.

Ladies, thank you so much for being here. What a journey your families have been through.

Kari, I'm so sorry for your loss. At what point did that red flag go up that something bigger was going on here?

KARI RHINEHART, MOTHER OF EMMA GRACE FINDLEY: It went up once there was a local T.V. report that showed that we were worried about the number of kids, and then they started bringing up the fact that we were located near this contaminated site and also an EPA superfund, which I lived right there on top of it and I had never even heard of it at that point.

[18:45:11] CABRERA: So what went through your mind when you heard this report?

RHINEHART: It was alarming. It was mind-blowing. Emma's tumor was the type that's never seen in children. You're talking about the Joe Biden and -- or the Beau Biden and John McCain and Ted Kennedy had this kind of tumor, so it didn't make sense how she got it in the first place.

And then to hear that, of course, you know. For 11 years of her life, we lived there, so it automatically triggers that question if that had something to do with this.

CABRERA: We're seeing pictures of your beautiful daughter there.

Stacie, you both are part of this group now called If It Was Your Child. And I'm grateful, Stacie, that Zane is in remission.


CABRERA: Tell us about what you're doing to make sure this doesn't continue in your community.

DAVIDSON: Well, what we're trying to do is find where the contamination is coming from and the source. And basically, what we're trying to do is find the groundwater plume and find the contamination source -- whether it be air, soil, water -- and then get it cleaned up. It's our ultimate goal.

CABRERA: Now, according to "The New York Times," the EPA has promised to team up with the company that took over the land where this contamination was present. They want to develop a cleanup plan. Are you satisfied with that?

DAVIDSON: It's very hard for us to completely trust right now because, first, the EPA was overseeing the testing for decades at the Amphenol site. And during that time, back in the mid-'90s, a pump and treat system was put in place to take care of the contamination under the EPA.

The problem is, is that on that pump and treat system, there was supposed to be a scrubber filter put on top so when the volatiles separate from the water then they're contained.

The problem is, is that scrubber filter was never placed on top of that discharge stack. So for decades, volatiles such as TCE, PCE have been placed into the air where residents breathe, our kids breathe.

CABRERA: Wow. Kari, what has been your experience --

DAVIDSON: So -- so, no.

CABRERA: So you're not satisfied. I'm curious what your experience has been then, in terms of interacting with the current administration on this.

RHINEHART: Working with the EPA has been a newer part of our struggle, obviously. We didn't -- we couldn't get anyone to really move on this for the last three years until we had actual testing done. Edison Wetlands came in from New Jersey and helped fund testing, and

that's when we were able to prove that these carcinogens were in people's homes. And it has been -- it has been a quicker response initially than I thought it would be, but then it just -- it's painfully slow.

I understand that, you know, bureaucratic agencies and the government, things move slower than most people would like on the ground. But like right now, with the shutdown, while nothing is happening because the EPA is run by the federal government, our kids are continually being exposed to these toxins.

So the EPA did what we were hoping for, to begin with, was to begin to identify if those toxins had moved off of the Amphenol site. And they have shown now that they did and they have.

And they -- we just would like it taken further because it's only -- they've only isolated their testing to a certain area of their choosing. And we know that these toxins have been found by others that have tested around the town and found there as well.

CABRERA: Scientists who spoke to "The New York Times" say there is no definitive link between childhood cancers and TCE. It doesn't mean an association doesn't exist. They say it's just too early to draw conclusions.

And, Stacie, I know you have gone to Washington to speak in favor of more regulation of this chemical, TCE. What response have you received?

DAVIDSON: We're extremely devastated about the deregulation of TCE as far as on the federal level goes because while we're fighting with that on a local level -- I mean, when you're deregulating carcinogens on the federal level, that's not going to help us down on the ground and help keep our kids safe.


DAVIDSON: We just don't understand why a carcinogen that was called a carcinogen several years ago is now being put back into play.

CABRERA: Right. And let me just try to clarify that for our viewers, as well, because both of your children were diagnosed with cancer in 2014. The facts are --

[18:49:57] DAVIDSON: Correct.

CABRERA: -- the Obama administration did take some action when this was brought to their attention. You could argue it wasn't enough, but according to "The New York Times," the current administration is actually rolling back the action that has been taken or has stalled the moves that would further investigate and regulate TCE. How does that make you feel?

DAVIDSON: I think it's just so hard and it's so frustrating because we have progressed so far in our local investigation, but when we're getting hit with these roadblocks on a federal level, there's only so much we can do.

And so far, we can go on a local level before we hit that roadblock of them saying that TCE isn't as bad as what people are saying or it shouldn't be completely banned. So that's frustrating and it doesn't help our cause.

CABRERA: Kari, who needs to be held accountable?

RHINEHART: Hmm. That's one of the most difficult parts for me, is that, you know, we've analyzed over 30,000 pages of documents that go back decades.

And to think about the number of desks that this has -- and the number of people who have seen this and who knew that there was a problem, it's very difficult to identify any one person or group that's responsible, necessarily.

Obviously, we know that the company, Amphenol, had been mandated to do cleanup, and clearly what was being done just wasn't enough. But at the same time, the EPA didn't require more of them, so, of course, they only did what was required. So that's kind of a tough question to answer because there are so many facets to this.

And it's not just one company. There are multiple manufacturers in that area that we're delving into and trying to establish who all could have contributed to this problem, in addition to.

But we know for sure that the Amphenol site obviously has contamination and that it has not been contained to just that site and that it has moved offsite. And that's been known for quite a while, we've discovered, by both state and local officials, which is also really hard to take.


RHINEHART: Especially being someone who lived in this town for 20 years, and you feel like you have close, personal connections to so many people who probably knew that this was -- that these contaminants were offsite. Now, I don't know they all understood how --


RHINEHART: -- devastating that could be, but.

CABRERA: No kidding. Kari and Stacie, thank you so much for sharing your story. Let's keep in touch as this proceeds forward.

RHINEHART: Thank you.

DAVIDSON: Thank you.

RHINEHART: We appreciate it. Thanks.

CABRERA: Thanks. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:56:21] CABRERA: Twelve years after she first held the speaker's

gavel, Nancy Pelosi is opening a new chapter. Our Dana Bash sat down with her to find out how her personal and political background helped her become the most powerful woman in Washington.




BASH (voice-over): To really know Nancy Pelosi, you go where it all started. Little Italy in Baltimore, where she was born to Congressman Tommy D'Alesandro and Anunciata D'Alesandro. When she was 6, her father became Baltimore's first Catholic mayor.

PELOSI: He leaped out over the Irish. That was a big deal. But it took political organizing to do that.

BASH (voice-over): Much has been made of Pelosi's father's influence on her. Less known is her mother's.

BASH (on camera): Your mom actually patented a device, the first device to apply steam to the face.


BASH (on camera): Basically, an at-home facial.

PELOSI: That's right. She did.

BASH (on camera): That's incredible.

PELOSI: It is incredible.

BASH (voice-over): Pelosi says her father and the times held her back in many ways, but Anunciata D'Alesandro was a quiet force in politics.

PELOSI: My mother was very much a part of the organizing. My father was the orator, the public servant, the --

BASH (on camera): And your mother got stuff done.


PELOSI: Well, my brother called it her moccasin brigade. All of these women who would be part of getting the message out, being at events.

There are two things about what I bring with me from my family in this regard. One is to know how to count. That's very important. Count your votes to win the election. Count your votes to win a vote on the floor. But the other is listen to the constituents. BASH (voice-over): The D'Alesandro home was at the center of this

Italian community. A vivid childhood memory helping new immigrants who knew where her father, the mayor, and his family lived and would regularly knock on their door asking for help.

PELOSI: Since I was a little girl, I knew how to tell somebody to get a bed in the city hospital, how to try to get housing in the projects. Because that's right here next to us and because I heard my mother say it so many times.

BASH (voice-over): After college, she wanted to go to law school. Instead, like many in her generation, she got married and started a family.

PELOSI: When I got married and I had a baby and another -- five and six years. People are always saying, oh, she knew when she was a little girl, she wanted to run for office.

BASH (on camera): Yes.

PELOSI: I never thought of that at all. Ever. Until I did.

BASH (voice-over): The Pelosis moved back to husband Paul's hometown, San Francisco. She became more and more active in the Democratic Party. But it wasn't until her youngest daughter was a senior in high school that she ran for an open House seat.

PELOSI: I went to her and said, you're going to be a senior. Mommy has a chance to run for Congress. I don't even know if I'll win.

BASH (on camera): She said, get a life.

PELOSI: She said, get a life, yes.


PELOSI: And I did.

BASH (voice-over): When she first ran for House leadership 18 years ago, her male Democratic colleagues didn't get it.

PELOSI: When people said, oh, there are a lot of the women supporting Nancy to run. And they said, well, why? Do the women have a list of things they want us to do? Why don't they just make a list and give us the list? This is the Democratic Party in the year 2000.

BASH (voice-over): She attributes her boundless energy to Italian genes. It's certainly not a balanced diet -- dark chocolate and ice cream. Vaccaro's has been her favorite since she was a little girl.


PELOSI: The chocolate. Not the chocolate chip, the chocolate. I like my chocolate unadulterated.

BASH (on camera): How do you think that you wield your power as a woman differently than a man does?

PELOSI: Other people tell me -- after a meeting or something, they'd say, do you understand how different that meeting would have been if a man were conducting it?

BASH (on camera): Do they explain how?

[19:00:01] PELOSI: Well, they -- you listen, you build consensus.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), CALIFORNIA: I extend to you this gavel.

BASH (voice-over): That's exactly what she did to get enough votes to be Speaker.