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FBI Investigated Why Trump's Actions Served to Benefit Russia; Government Shutdown Now the Longest in U.S. History; Shutdown Forces CBP to Move Agents to Other Roles; Democrat Julian Castro to Announce Presidential Bid; Potential Democrat Presidential Candidate Senator Warren Speaks; Three Killed and Dozens Injured in Paris Blast. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired January 12, 2019 - 11:00   ET


End: 12:00>

[10:59:55] VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: It is. Thank you.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you so much.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: What a beautiful union.

BLACKWELL: What is it -- wood, cotton? Something like that.

PAUL: I think it's wood.

BLACKWELL: Wood, ok.


BLACKWELL: Stand by for my gift.

WHITFIELD: I'll find some wood works coming your way.

BLACKWELL: Thank you very much.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much. Have fun today.

PAUL: Thank you. You, too.

WHITFIELD: All right. Hello everyone.

It's 11:00 on the East Coast. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

NEWSROOM starts right now.

So we start with an explosive new report from the "New York Times". After President Trump fired former FBI director James Comey back in May of 2017, the FBI started investigating if President Trump was secretly working on behalf of Russia.

Let that sink in for a moment. The FBI opening an investigation into the President of the United States to see if he was working against American interests on behalf of Russia because law enforcement officials were so concerned by the President's behavior.

A source tells "The Times" there were two specific instances where President Trump tied Comey's firing to the Russia investigation which helped spark this counter intelligence probe.

Here's one of those moments.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story. It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.


WHITFIELD: And a second instance is a draft letter the President intended to send to Comey listing the reasons that he was firing him but his lawyer successfully blocked Trump from sending it, according to the "New York Times".

The White House is calling this bombshell report, and I'm quoting now, "absurd". And then of course, it sparked an angry tirade from the President via Twitter this morning.

CNN's Erica Orden joins me right now. So Erica -- what more can you tell us about the investigation and the status of it now?

ERICA ORDEN, CNN REPORTER: Well, as you mentioned, this is really two elements of one investigation. The obstruction of justice inquiry which is a criminal matter, and the counterintelligence investigation. And that we know or the reporting has shown has been taken over by Robert Mueller's team.

It is not exactly clear what the current status of that counterintelligence investigation is, but it is possible that in the coming weeks and months as the Mueller team writes its report and issues that report, that we might see some conclusions from that investigation or some information from it included in that report.

WHITFIELD: All right. Erica Orden, thank you so much for that.

Al right. Let's talk further about this -- how the White House and the President are pushing back on the report and the investigation.

CNN White House reporter Sarah Westwood joining me right now.

So we know that the President is not happy about it because he has tweeted quite a bit. But extrapolate further on exactly what the President is thinking.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well Fred -- President Trump and the White House, they are slamming the FBI in the wake of these reports that counterintelligence agents were looking into whether President Trump was working on behalf of Russia against U.S. interests in the days after he fired former FBI director James Comey.

Now, as you mentioned, the White House press secretary Sarah Sanders called this counterintelligence probe absurd. And President Trump himself has been very vocal on Twitter this morning, going after Comey, his former deputy, Andrew McCabe -- calling those former FBI leaders corrupt. And also claiming falsely that the counterintelligence probe was opened for no reason and with no proof.

And as you mentioned the "New York Times" cited those two instances that Trump directly tied his decision to fire Comey to the Russia investigation. That's what the "New York Times" says, why investigators opened that obstruction of justice inquiry after Comey's firing.

And this counterintelligence probe is just another aspect of that obstruction inquiry. That was criminal in nature. A counterintelligence probe is not necessarily criminal in nature. According to the reporting, investigators on the counterintelligence side of the FBI were first had their interest peaked by President Trump in July, 2016 calling on Russia to leak Hillary Clinton's hacked e-mail.

So that's sort of the kind of thing that they were looking at. All of this got folded into Mueller's broader investigation of Russian election meddling. And so it is unclear how long the counterintelligence probe actually lasted, but clearly the White House lashing out at the news that it existed in the first place.

And all of this comes as the White House legal team is preparing for what could be the release of the Mueller report soon. Sources tell CNN that the White House legal team is staffing up in anticipation of that report's release, hiring 17 new lawyers ahead of what could be, in the months ahead Fred, a dramatic conclusion to all of this Russia intrigue.

WHITFIELD: All right. Sarah -- thank you so much. Keep us posted.

[11:04:59] So one of the reporters who broke the "New York Times" story talked to CNN about why this is so significant.


ADAM GOLDMAN, "NEW YORK TIMES": The way these things are supposed to work is we're not supposed to find out about them, ok, that the FBI investigates somebody. There's a counterintelligence investigation, maybe they suspect (INAUDIBLE) Russia, they investigate, they do it quietly and it goes away.

Obviously the firing of Comey and the referencing of the Russia investigation by the President is why they're laying (ph) out why Comey was fired.

The second aspect to that was the, I believe that the next day, the Lester Holt interview on NBC News, he said we did it because of Russia.

And, you know, the FBI is watching this and they say he's telling us why he did this. He did this on behalf of Russia. And, you know, within days of that they've opened up this -- you know, they've opened up this -- they've opened up this multi-tiered investigation that, you know, that has a criminal aspect and a counterintelligence aspect to it.


WHITFIELD: All right. Joining me right now to talk further about this retired FBI supervisory special agent and CNN law enforcement analyst James Gagliano and former assistant director for the Office of Congressional Affairs at the FBI Greg Brower. Good to see both of you.

All right. So James -- you first. There has to be a lot there or a lot of red flags for the FBI to launch both a criminal probe and a counterintelligence probe, right?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: That's fair -- Fred. And let's just make a distinction for the viewers here that there are two separate standards here.

So in a criminal investigation, you're looking for information or allegations that are going to lead you to collect evidence to lead to a potential indictment, prosecution and conviction.

On the counterintelligence side, the FBI has been working these investigations since 1917. It is a different standard. You're looking to push back on foreign actors or foreign state actors like North Korea or Iran, China, Russia that might be trying to influence an election, or might be able to -- trying to steal state secrets or trying to steal intellectual property. So those are two separate things.

I think the Mueller report is going to answer those questions fairly, whether or not there's objection of justice on the criminal side, to Adam Goldman from the "New York Times" point, did those things that happened, President Trump's own tweets and statements -- is that indicia of obstruction of justice. And whether or not if they were able to determine if the President was a witting or unwitting accomplice with the Kremlin.

But two last things, I think another big part of this is going to be the IG investigation. It's going to come down to investigate the investigation itself, crossfire hurricane, to determine whether or not any FBI processes and protocols or DOJ protocols were not followed.

And lastly, I think exposure for the President is much less in this instance than it's going to be will be when Michael Cohen testifies. I think the exposure and the damage done by that upcoming testimony is going to have far more impact and ramifications than what the "New York Times" reported on as far as this counterintelligence investigation and obstruction of justice case.

WHITFIELD: So then Greg -- if law enforcement officials are debating, you know, whether the FBI overstepped, you know, its bounds by launching these probes, when you look at these items that were spelled out in the "New York Times" that precipitated the probes from, you know, the firing of Comey to the letter that Trump wrote that was not sent out because it did show that there was some correlation between the Russia investigation and the firing. And, you know, and then challenging Hillary Clinton, you know, while on the campaign trail or, you know, challenging Russia rather, on that campaign trail, you know, if you got -- you know, if you can hack her e-mails, if you're listening, you know, assist, et cetera.

All of those examples, does that say that investigators overstepped their bounds by following up on those leads?

GREG BROWER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I would say as a former federal prosecutor and senior DOJ official, I of course have been on the inside of more FBI investigations than I could describe on this show. And typically when you see this kind of criticism from the outside, it is the classic sort of armchair quarterbacking that really can't be trusted to be credible at all. And I think that's what we're seeing and have seen throughout this investigation.

I think the real point that people should take away from this story is that the real issue here would be that if the FBI when confronted with the facts that have been reported, if the FBI did not open an investigation with senior level approval which would have been required, that would be a story.

The fact that the FBI did apparently have proper predication and as a result did apparently open up this investigation when it did with senior level authority, is interesting but it should satisfy the American people that the FBI is apolitical, that it views anyone and everyone as not being above the law, whether it is the President of the United States or anyone else.

[11:09:59] And if the facts are there, they're going to open up an investigation. And that's, I think, the take away from this reporting.

WHITFIELD: And this was one of those moments that had so many aghast, this was during the 2016 presidential election when these words were uttered. Listen.

TRUMP: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.


WHITFIELD: So at first, you know, while there were all these other threads, "The Times" says the FBI did hold off, you know, on opening an investigation into, you know, the President in part because they were uncertain how to proceed with the inquiry, you know, because it is a sensitive matter, because of the magnitude.

So then James, you know, what would be the tipping point when there's that kind of reticence for the FBI collectively. And then there's a decision that well, we have a lot of material here that we've got to follow-up on.

GAGLIANO: Sure. And Fred -- I mean you listen +to those remarks from the President on the campaign trail, and are they intemperate? Are they reckless? Are they inappropriate? Absolutely.

Now, can we pull on that thread and take that all the way back to having active collusion going on with the Kremlin? That's the part that I'm a cautious skeptic about.

And look, to Greg's point, you're right. These things had to be signed off on the uppermost echelon levels of the FBI and the DOJ, up to and including the deputy attorney general, and probably the attorney general himself.

And why is that? Any investigation into a clergy member, a journalist or a politician requires separate higher level of sign-off. There's scrutinization (SIC) at so many levels.

I just go back to this. James Comey called this the 500-year flood. And I agree with him. In 2016 he was faced and his team was faced with some tough choices to make.

It's easy for people like me to sit back now years later, you know, 20/20 hindsight and say well, you should have done this or should have done that.

The only thing I am concerned about and I think we'll find out when the IG report is soon released into the investigation itself -- did the FBI follow all processes and protocols? Or were they driven by emotion?

And sometimes it happens. I spent 25 years doing investigations. Emotions can sometimes take hold but that cannot happen. The FBI has to be the calm in the chaos. And when I read that article in the "New York Times" last night that wasn't the feeling that I walked away with.

WHITFIELD: And then Greg, last word to you -- do you feel like that this material is now public a year and a half after the fact it precipitated the FBI investigation, you know, precipitated the special counsel investigation, do you feel that because it is public now that is an indicator that the special counsel probe is soon to end?

BROWER: Not necessarily -- Fred. No. There's been a lot of speculation about the timing of the conclusion of the special counsel probe. It really is hard to predict that. The grand, as we know, jury was extended. That may or may not mean that there a more lot activity is to come.

But I would be hesitant to try to game out the timing of the conclusion of this investigation.

WHITFIELD: All right. Greg Brower, James Gagliano -- always good to see you. Thanks so much.

GAGLIANO: Good to see you -- Fred. Thanks.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thus far, it is now the longest government shutdown in history. Hundreds of thousands of federal employees going without a paycheck. CNN speaks to a pregnant TSA worker struggling to make ends meet. This as 800,000 workers ask when will they get paid.


WHITFIELD: The U.S. government shutdown is now the longest in U.S. history. A record 22 days impacting 800,000 federal workers most of whom started the weekend with a big fat zero on their paychecks and don't expect any movement to end this any time soon.

There are no meetings on President Trump's schedule and members of Congress have headed home. President Trump in fact tweeting today Democrats should come back to Washington and work to end the shutdown while at the same time ending the horrible humanitarian crisis at the southern border. "I am in the White House waiting for you."

The President is demanding Congress include funding for a border wall in any shutdown deal. But he says declaring a national emergency is not off the table to get the $5 billion down payment that he wants.

House Democrats have passed smaller spending bills to fund several agencies but without the President's support Senate Republicans have refused to call votes on any of the measures.

Meanwhile, the people really feeling the pain are the federal workers, their families, contractors who have not been able to work or are working without pay while the bills are piling up.

Let's bring in CNN's Dianne Gallagher who is listening to the stories of so many workers who are very frustrated.

DIANNE GALLAGBHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. They're frustrated and to be very honest, Fred -- they're just scared. I think there's a lot of it. You mentioned no movement. And that's what most of these workers have told me they noticed. They don't see an end in sight.

I went down to Little Rock, Arkansas where I met a TSA worker who is still working without a paycheck. She's six months pregnant and says now it is starting to affect her health.


GALLAGHER: It's Aria Smith-Phillips before work morning routine.

ARIA SMITH-PHILLIPS, TSA WORKER: Coffee for my husband, fix my child's lunch, I have to get his backpack together.

GALLAGHER: Wrangling a four-year-old while six months pregnant, not easy. But working three weeks without pay with no end in sight --

SMITH-PHILLIPS: I'm not getting anything and I was expecting that.

GALLAGHER: -- makes it even harder.

SMITH-PHILLIPS: I grew up at TSA -- 13 years. 13 years -- it was 13 years on Monday. GALLAGHER: Along with thousands of other Transportation Security

Administration officers, Aria has been working throughout the partial government shutdown. But today is pay day and her check isn't coming.

[11:20:02] SMITH-PHILLIPS: Reality is the fear of not knowing when I'm going to receive that check. And then this is going to cause a ripple effect on our income here.

GALLAGHER: Aria says her husband's job helps to ease their financial burden, but that's not the case for many of her colleagues at the airport in Little Rock.

SMITH-PHILLIPS: We have a list of food pantries that you are able to contact.

GALLAGHER: And that has not always been up there.


GALLAGHER: And the longer the shutdown lasts, expenses like home repairs, stuff for the baby, daycare -- they become more difficult to swing.

SMITH-PHILLIPS: I can't tell the daycare worker hey, I can't pay you. That's our biggest fear, the unknown. So I don't know how long we are equipped for it, and being six months pregnant, I can't just go pick up a job.

GALLAGHER: A veteran officer, Aria doesn't want to find another job, saying she takes her mission seriously no matter what.

SMITH-PHILLIPS: I wouldn't clock in if I'm not going to give 100 percent. So I go in and I give 100 percent, and not getting paid is really hard.

GALLAGHER: Especially she says when the President says this shutdown is all about national security.

SMITH-PHILLIPS: Shouldn't we be part of that partial shutdown, the one who receives pay? I think we're pretty essential.

GALLAGHER: Does back pay help if it comes three months later?

SMITH-PHILLIPS: Back pay does not help if it comes three months later because I'm already three months behind.

GALLAGHER: She's hoping the shutdown ends soon so she can spend her maternity leave bonding with her daughter instead of looking for a new job.


GALLAGHER: So I asked Aria what would you tell the President and Congress? What do you want to hear from them? And Fred -- she said that it was pretty simple. Please act like there's some kind of urgency here because it is urgent for us. This uncertainty makes it worse. The stress, she already has a complicated pregnancy; it is making it worse for her, that additional stress. They just want congress to act like there's urgency and to get something done.

WHITFIELD: Yes. It's worrisome for 800,000 people and beyond.


GALLAGHER: -- their family members.


GALLAGHER: And more than half of those --

WHITFIELD: Everybody.

GALLAGHER: -- are going to work every day, not getting paid.


GALLAGHER: Every single day and not getting paid.

WHITFIELD: Thanks -- Dianne, for bringing her story. Appreciate it.

All right. Let's talk more about all this now. Assistant editor at the "Washington Post" David Swerdlick is with us; and Margaret Talev who covers the White House for Bloomberg News. Good to see you both.



WHITFIELD: Ok. So you hear examples like that. And we've been hearing from federal workers, you know, over three weeks' time now about their concerns, worries, et cetera. And it was just last weekend when the President said, you know, he has a lot of expectations that federal workers will make adjustments.

But does it seem as though lawmakers and the President are really empathizing with these struggles -- Margaret? Because if so, wouldn't there be greater urgency to come to the table to do something?

TALEV: Well, you know Fred -- I think there's two ways to look at it.

One is -- are lawmakers in a position where they can't pay their bills or, you know, at risk of losing health care or whatever? And the answer is no. And yes, that probably makes them less empathetic from just an instinctive perspective.

But I think also, that both sides see something bigger than this right now for them in the sort of risk-reward category. Neither side is ready to give a little bit. And we're now, as of today, officially in a situation where this is the longest federal government shutdown in history, where the President is vacillating about whether or not to declare a national emergency to kind of get out of it, and where the administration is preparing for at least another six weeks' worth of this shutdown continuing in terms of their contingency options.

So, you know, where things stand at this point seems to be that the White House, President Trump is hoping that if this goes on a little bit longer, the American public stops blaming him and starts blaming Democrats and the coin flips and he has leverage that he doesn't have right now.


WHITFIELD: So David -- is that likely to happen. Is it still the President who's going to get the blame because when it comes down to the giving that Margaret was talking about, it appears as though he is the one who's really giving very little when you have lawmakers who have been proposing plans that mean, you know, some border spending, not perhaps $5.7 billion for a wall but a reduced figure. But it is the President who's saying that's the figure that I want, period, and not budging.

SWERDLICK: Yes. Good morning -- Fred. I think Margaret is right, we haven't seen the political incentives on either side of this really take shape yet. You have people like Miss Smith-Phillips who Dianne just interviewed there who are already feeling the pain, and I suspect that most federal employees are about in that boat. They want to do their jobs but they also want to get paid for doing their jobs.

But look, on one hand, you have Democrats who just won a congressional election who are feeling like they've got the wind at their backs and want to challenge the President.

[11:24:59] On the other hand, you've got President Trump who's got a 42 percent approval rating in the Real Clear Politics Average -- that's about where he's been for most of his presidency.

He's got low unemployment. Stock market up is 20 percent since he took office. He feels like he is in position where he can stand his ground. And even though, yes, the Democrats have a number somewhere between zero and $1 billion or $1.6 billion, the President has a number between $5 billion and $5.7 billion, this is less about the money in my view and where the money comes out and more about the Republican or the presidential view of how the border should be enforced versus the Democrats' view which is yes, the border should be enforced but not with a wall.


WHITFIELD: And so --

TALEV: And I think we --

WHITFIELD: -- go ahead.

TALEV: -- I was going to say we also just in the last few minutes saw maybe one of the more revealing tweets from President Trump about this, about what's motivating him where he talks about how he does really have a plan for the shutdown, but how he ran on a promise to build a wall. And he says elections have consequences. And it is interesting. I mean of course elections have consequences but it doesn't mean that people who oppose the President's ideas have to give him what he wants because he won the election. I think what he might really be saying is that elections have consequences when you run for re-election, and that he is now in a problem as we head into 2020, where if he doesn't either deliver the wall or at least dig in to the max, there's going to be a whole core of his base, of his supporters who voted for him because he promised to do it.


WHITFIELD: And he promised that Mexico would pay for it. And that too is, you know, at the nucleus of this whole funding the wall issue.

So the President while temporarily may have abandoned the whole national emergency idea, he is still investigating using unspent money, you know, for areas hit by natural disasters like Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas and California. And Speaker Pelosi, you know, sent a note to Democratic colleagues vowing to fight that through legal action.

So this is what she writes in part saying, "Now President Trump is threatening to grant himself extraordinary powers to steal billions of dollars from disaster-impacted communities, the military, and urgent civil works projects in order to build his wall. Leadership in our committees are working together to develop legal policy and communications responses should they be needed."

So David -- this really is a -- this really is a powerful struggle, you know, pitting Nancy Pelosi and her power, you know, and the President and his power, and they're coming, you know, head to head. Who will give in? Who will budge?

SWERDLICK: It is not clear. Look, the constitution gives Congress the power to allocate money, gives the President the power to run the government. And I think that's embedded in that statement from Speaker Pelosi.

In terms of whether the President has the authority to declare this an emergency, take money from other parts of the government and build the wall on that basis -- that may wind up coming down to a legal fight.

But I think politically, it's going to be hard for the White House to square the circle that this is a national emergency, that they now have articulated in the last two weeks when they weren't articulating the border as a national emergency in the last two years -- Fred. And I think Democrats are going to hit the White House on that point, although this may wind up going to court if the White House goes down that road.

WHITFIELD: Margaret -- last word?

TALEV: Yes. I think the President for now has sort of put a hold on the national emergency, but I don't think that's a permanent decision by any means. And there's some irony in the threat to take away use of emergency funds for California, to redirect it to what the President says is now a national emergency. It's very complicated --


TALEV: -- but politics is steeped all the way through this policy debate. And for now at least, there is no end in sight.

WHITFIELD: Operative words you said, "for now". "For now".

All right. Thanks so much -- David, Margaret. Appreciate it.

SWERDLICK: Thanks -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, why many border patrol agents are having to leave the front line for other roles as the government shutdown continues.


WHITFIELD: With the partial government shutdown entering unprecedented territory, the people protecting the border are facing their own issues. U.S. Customs and Border Protection is being forced to move agents to desk duty to replace hundreds of furloughed employees.

CNN correspondent Polo Sandoval joins us now from the border town of Hidalgo, Texas. So Polo, this shutdown is forcing border patrol to make some pretty extraordinary changes.


Actually in the last hour, so we've relocated now to Mission, Texas where you can see, that is Mexico off in the distance. That's where their white structure is.

We should note that, you know, border security is really the linchpin issue at the heart of this shutdown. One of the ironies now Fred, is not that shutdown and this back and forth between Democrats and Republicans about how exactly to secure this border is now affecting the men and women who protect the actual border.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We like to come out and relax, just see if we can catch some fish.

SANDOVAL (voice over): About 1,700 miles from the D.C. gridlock --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's as far as I can get it.

SANDOVAL: -- south Texas resident Deanna Santana casts her line into the river that divides the U.S. and Mexico. This stretch of the Rio Grande is protected in part by agents assigned to the busiest sector in the country.

[11:34:50] Since the start of the partial shutdown, a new challenge for the region's 3,100 agents -- fill roles left vacant by 200 furloughed employees. Answering phones, processing paperwork, even helping care for detainees. Some agents have had to leave the front line to perform administrative tasks.

CHIEF RAUL ORTIZ, CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION, RIO GRANDE VALLEY SECTOR: We've had to pull some agents off the line. We do have agents that are currently engaged in our humanitarian mission which is processing and some of the other things that we have to do.

Fortunately we do have I think sufficient amount of personnel in out the field. And like I said we're able to bring in 75 officers from the northern border and from some of the other sectors to help us out.

SANDOVAL: Acting Chief Raul Ortiz met personally with President Trump during Thursday's border visit. From one chief to another, Ortiz told the President he supports the building of additional segments of border barrier.

ORTIZ: I do think that it is an emergency. I do think we need to put the energy and the focus on what's happening here so we can improve the border security situation.

SANDOVAL: Back on the banks of the Rio Grande, Santana and her husband say they feel at ease.

SANTANA: We feel safe. Yes, I don't think there's, you know, any danger. You might see it in the news sometimes that, you know, they caught people, people are crossing, but we have never seen that. I have never seen that.

SANDOVAL: Santana has lived here all her life and says she doesn't agree with the picture of a crisis painted by the President. She feels border fencing already in place throughout portions of the Rio Grande Valley is sufficient to protect against human and drug smugglers.

SANTANA: Crisis is something big or major but I don't see that here.

SANDOVAL: Santana does agree the partial shutdown has gone long enough for federal employees here and across the country.

ORTIZ: I wish I first of all be able to tell somebody that, yes this is going to be solved tomorrow.

SANDOVAL: Ortiz says he'll continue to reshape and reorganize personnel until the impasse comes to an end. The funding stopped, but the flow of drugs and people remains constant.


SANDOVAL: Back out live this afternoon to the U.S.-Mexico border. We should mention that we met Santana here in Mission, Texas -- what is considered to be a relatively safe place.

I mean just today, there are people enjoying some recreation on the Rio Grande because obviously there's heavy border patrol presence also some of that infrastructure in place. However in the last few days, we've actually gone west where the chief believes that there are some of those gaps in border security. Spoke to a rancher there who's also a Trump supporter. He says he wants to see that wall built. Says that the situation on the ground that he lives every day does go to that level of meriting a possible national emergency -- Fred.

So what exactly is happening on the border? Does it constitute that emergency or that so-called crisis? Well, it depends on who they are and where they're standing, where they live.

WHITFIELD: All right. Polo Sandoval in Mission, Texas. Thank you so much.

All right. Still ahead, an announcement from former HUD secretary Julian Castro. The Democrat is expected to reveal his intentions for the 2020 race in just a few moments. We're taking a look at the crowd there, the stage set. What do you think the announcement is going to be? We'll take you there live.


WHITFIELD: Welcome back.

At any moment now, another Democrat is preparing to make a run for the White House. At any moment, Julian Castro, the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama is scheduled to announce his bid in San Antonio where he once served as that city's mayor. Castro will join what is expected to be a rather crowded field of Democrats, and the election is not for another 661 days.

CNN's Dan Merica is at the event in San Antonio for us -- a pretty sizable crowd there.

DAN MERICA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is a good crowd. The crowd just started to stream in a few minutes ago, actually. And Julian Castro is expected to announce his presidential bid here in San Antonio, on the west side of San Antonio where he was not only raised but right over this way is actually the church he was baptized in.

So this announcement is kind of centered on his roots, his connection to San Antonio and his Mexican-American heritage. And his announcement will make him the first Latino in the 2020 race.

And it will start a campaign where he is going to try and leverage that story, his personal, uniquely American immigrant story and leverage that into an attack on President Donald Trump, his view of immigrants and the wall that he hopes to build about 200 miles from here on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Now Castro has really risen to fame because of that story, and it's that Mexican-American heritage that you can see throughout this event here on the Plaza de Guadalupe in San Antonio's west side.

There are Mariachi bands welcoming people in. There are taco trucks selling tacos outside of the event and there are people walking around with screen-printed shirts that say "Julian 2020".

So the cat's sort of out of the bag a little bit. He is clearly going to run for president and that's what he'll announce here.

He is also being introduced by family members. And his family is also a big part of his story. His grandmother came to the United States in 1922 via Eagle Pass in Texas and started her family here. Julian Castro's mother is actually going to be the person to introduce him today.

It is no secret that Julian Castro enters this race as a long shot. He admitted that much to me a couple of days ago when I spoke with him and he said frankly, you know, I have been a long shot my whole life. Coming up, being raised here on the west side of San Antonio, I was always considered a long shot for whatever I got into and this doesn't scare me -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Wow. And so people who are there, mostly San Antonio, you know, residents, people who are following his family, his story -- you know, they embrace him clearly but is there anything else particularly unusual about that audience or is it really home grown?

MERICA: It is very home grown. Julian Castro is kind of a hometown boy who made good frankly. I mean this is somebody who was raised on this side of the city, who overachieved so much that he ended up at Stanford undergrad, Harvard Law School, came back home, ran for city council, ran for mayor, eventually became President Obama's HUD secretary.

[11:45:00] So I think throughout the crowd, you see a lot of people who have not only known Julian Castro as their mayor but frankly were raised with him. Knew him as the little kid that was riding his bike around these streets and maybe even, you know, going to church with him at the church nearby.

So I think that's -- and you're going to see that with Julian Castro's entire campaign. I think the people around him, his advisers are all people who have known him for a long time, including his identical twin brother who is a member of Congress from Texas as well.

WHITFIELD: Yes. I was just about to mention that. I mean his brother, highly accomplished as well. His twin brother -- identical twin brother, Joaquin.

All right. Thank you so much. Dan Merica -- we'll check back with you from San Antonio.

So Castro is not the only Democrat considering a presidential bid. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has set up an exploratory committee. Let's go now to CNN's MJ Lee in Manchester, New Hampshire where Senator Warren is scheduled to hold an organizing event.

So MJ -- Warren was in Iowa last weekend. Today she's in New Hampshire. What might we expect from there today?

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred -- this is Warren's first visit back to New Hampshire. This is a neighboring state, of course of where she represents Massachusetts in the Senate at least for political reason since the fall of 2016. She spent a lot of time here in 2016 campaigning for Hillary Clinton and also campaigning for now Senator Maggie Hasan.

We are told that she hasn't really been back for political reasons since then. And I should also note, this is a state where she spent part of Election Day. She went to different campaign events here, throughout the state, and then she returned to Boston for election night.

I should note that an aide tells me that she is going to be joined today by her husband Bruce and their dog Bailey. There are no current plans for Bruce to speak on stage, but we will at least get that visual of Warren with her husband.

Obviously all of this coming as plenty of other Democrats around Senator Warren are trying to make their own decisions on what they're going to do for 2020. And we expect to hear a lot of the things that we heard last weekend in Iowa echoed here in New Hampshire -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. MJ Lee, thanks so much. We'll keep checking in with you.

All right. At least three people are dead and dozens injured in a massive explosion in the heart of Paris. We'll take you there live on what investigators are saying is to blame.


WHITFIELD: Two firefighters and a civilian were killed and dozens more injured after an explosion in the heart of Paris. Authorities say it was caused by a gas leak at a bakery.

CNN's Melissa Bell joins us now from Paris.

So Melissa -- what more do we know about the firefighters who lost their lives?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Fredricka -- this is the scene here in Paris tonight. The Yellow Vest protests continue. And of course that was the context in which Saturday morning we heard about this loud explosion that had taken place in the center of Paris.

It turned out that there had been a gas leak or at least once firefighters got there that was when the explosion took place. It was sufficiently explosive, the force of it was such that cars were overturned. People were thrown unprotected (ph) and all the windows around this bakery in which this explosion had taken place were shattered.

The images are really quite dramatic. Of course, what we've now learned is that three people died in that tragedy. Two of the firefighters, of course, who were on the scene to check out the cause of this gas leak. And a third person, a Spaniard, also is known to have lost his life -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Melissa Bell -- thank you so much. That, in the midst of protests that have been ongoing now for weeks there in Paris. All right. There's so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM. It all comes right after this.


WHITFIELD: All right. It's how we express ourselves, how we work and how we play. And now the new CNN Original Series "AMERICAN STYLE" takes a look at the role fashion has impacted our country.

Here's a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 40s and 50s were definitely America finding itself.

TIM GUNN: Americans felt very second rate when comparing ourselves to Europe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sportswear became the defining style of the United States.

GUNN: The bikini was the biggest thing since the atom bomb.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, HISTORIAN: Through the 60s and 70s our style and fashion represents freedom.

DR. TODD BOYD: When you look at hippie culture, it's really oppositional to the Vietnam War.

CHRISTOPHER REID: This goal (ph) was very important in terms of people being free to express themselves.

CHRISTIE BRINKLEY: In the 80s, it was a lot of excess in every way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had our Calvin Klein and our Ralph Laurens and our Donna Karan.

GUNN: Calvin Klein's advertising was rather scandalous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Its underwear ad stopped traffic in Times Square.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By the 90s and 2000s, things have become less formal.

TINA CRAIG: Supermodels really brought fashion into every household.

JOHN A. TIFFANY: Now what's embraced is being yourself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Style gives you a voice. It's freedom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "AMERICAN STYLE" premieres tomorrow at 9:00 on CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WHITFIELD: All right. Hello again, everyone. And thank you so much for joining me this Saturday.

[12:00:02] I'm Fredricka Whitfield.