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FBI Begins Another Investigation; Julian Castro to Announce Presidency; Government Shutdown Longest in U.S. History; Explosion at Paris Bakery Kills Three; Sheriff of Broward County Scott Israel Suspended; Jayme Closs is Found; Miami Airport to Close Concourse Early Due to TSA Shortage; Democrat Julian Castro Announces Bid for President. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired January 12, 2019 - 12:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


FREDRICKA WHITFELD, CNN HOST: The FBI started investigating if President Trump was secretly working on behalf of Russia against American interests. A source tells "The Times" there were two specific instances that helped spark this counterintelligence probe. Both were the president tied to Comey's firing to the Russia investigation. Here's one of those moments.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

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 for the democrats having lost an election that they should have won.

(END VIDEO)

WHITFIELD: And the second instance, 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 Times." The White House is calling this bombshell report absurd and it's also sparked an angry tirade from the president this morning via twitter. CNN's Erica Ordin joins me right now. So what more can you tell us about the investigation and the status of it?

ERICA ORDIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is really two elements of one investigation. One is the obstruction -- the obstruction of justice probe, which is a criminal matter, and the other is this counterintelligence investigation that you just described. The counterintelligence investigation was picked up several days after it was begun at least according to "The New York Times" by Robert Mueller's team. The Mueller investigation has continued to look at that. It's not really clear what the current status of that specific probe is but what may happen is that Mueller and his prosecutors are now working or will be soon working on a report to conclude their investigation and you may see some elements or some conclusions from the counterintelligence investigation included in that report.

WHITFIELD: Erica Ordin, thank you so much. All right, let's talk more about how the White House and the president are pushing back on the report and the investigation. CNN's White House reporter Sarah Westwood joining me right now. So what more are we hearing via tweet and otherwise?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Fred, President Trump and the White House are reprising their attacks on the FBI in the wake of these reports that counterintelligence agents were looking into why President Trump was doing things that were beneficial to Russia in the days after Trump fired his former FBI Director James Comey. The White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders responded aggressively to this news last night calling that counterintelligence probe, quote, "absurd."

President Trump has been outspoken on twitter this morning tweeting about a half dozen times about this calling Comey and his former deputy Andrew Mccabe corrupt and also claiming falsely that the FBI pursued a probe of him, quote, "for no reason and with no proof.:

Of course, the FBI opened that obstruction of justice inquiry into the president in May of 2017 shortly after he fired Comey because Trump twice tied his decision to fire the FBI director to the Russia investigation. Now that obstruction inquiry was criminal in nature. The counterintelligence probe that the "New York Times" reported on was not. "The New York Times" is reporting the counterintelligence agents had their interest piqued when President Trump in July 2016 publicly called on Russia to release Hillary Clinton's e-mail, so that's the kind of thing they were looking at, that counterintelligence probe, an aspect of that obstruction inquiry -- it's all the same thing.

And it was folded into the broader investigation of election meddling that Special Counsel Robert Mueller started after his appointment in Summer 2017. This comes as the White House legal team is bracing for the release of Mueller's final report. Sources tell CNN the White House legal team is staffing up in anticipation of that report's release adding 17 lawyers ahead of what could be a fight over executive privilege to keep that report from being released to the public or at least redacting it heavily. So, Fred, we could be looking at a dramatic conclusion to all of this Russia intrigue in just a few months.

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

All right joining me right now, former federal prosecutor and CNN Legal Analyst Renato Mariotti and CNN Contributor Garrett Graff. He's the author of "The Threat Matrix: The FBI at War." Good to see you both. All right so Renato, you're first. What legal implications could this have for the President of the United States?

RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, as you already I think teased out a little bit in this introduction, it has obviously profound political implications. I think from a legal perspective what this helps us do is understand what the Mueller investigation and the genesis of the Mueller investigation really was. You know, we've had a lot of discussion and argument about why did Rosenstein appoint Mueller. There's been some legal challenges to that. I think now it's pretty clear why Rosenstein thought it was so important to appoint Robert Mueller and I think it's much harder to take issue with that decision because the President of the United States himself was the subject of a counterintelligence investigation into whether or not he was a foreign asset.

[12:05:00]

So I think it's pretty easy to understand why that happened. One thing I think this helps us understand, and you really helpfully walked through that a moment ago, Fred, is that the obstruction of justice was seen as sort of the genesis of this collusion. In other words, people keep asking where was the collusion, how was he helping Russia?

WHITFIELD: You talking about (inaudible) firing meaning like the motivation, if he wanted the Russia investigation to go away and he fired Comey that kind of corroborates, you know, that sort of obstruction you're saying.

MARIOTTI: That's right. In other words, that it seems that the FBI is concerned that by the President Donald Trump, trying to interfere with an investigation into what Russia was doing, then that, you know, suggested perhaps he was working to advance Russian interests?

WHITFIELD: And then of course he only underscored it when we had that Lester Hold NBC interview and said he fired because he wanted the Russian investigation to go away. So Garrett, when there's talk that some law enforcement agents want to see if they, you know, overstepped their bounds, I mean, it also seems like, based on this reporting, there was a culmination of things that raised red flags from the president on the campaign trail, you know, asking Russia, hey, if, you know, can find anything or hack Hillary Clinton's e-mail, do so, you know, to a letter that he structured justifying why he was trying to get rid of Comey, but then his lawyer said don't, so is there really any consternation about whether it was appropriate to have this kind of two-pronged FBI probe?

GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well let's start with this simple fact. It is not absurd that the FBI considered the possibility that the President of the United States is acting either wittingly or unwittingly as an asset of the Russian government. That should be a bombshell indictment in and of itself. The fact that's not a crazy scenario is one of the most amazing things we have ever seen in American politics. I think that point is worth emphasizing. The FBI was sitting there in the Spring of 2017, yes, 2017, watching the sort of different threads come together. Jim Comey had these weird interactions with the president where the president had asked him to stop looking into Michael Flynn's conversations with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak.

WHITFIELD: Asking him to pledge for loyalty.

GRAFF: Asking him to pledge loyalty. Remember, FBI officials, other FBI officials, were aware of those conversations at that time. The fact that those conversations came out was part of the pressure that came on Rod Rosenstein to appoint Robert Mueller as the outside special counsel. And remember the morning after Comey's firing, the president is in the Oval Office with Sergei Kislyak and Russian Foreign Minister C latching about the firing of Jim Comey and the president says...

WHITFIELD: They were celebrating.

GRAFF: ... celebrating and saying this really gives me a lot of breathing room or something to that effect. You know, that this takes the pressure off me and, you know, it's -- these FBI agents are sitting there saying, oh, my God, what if the unthinkable is actually not unthinkable?

WHITFIELD: And then, Renato, it seems -- isn't that what the FBI is supposed to do? When there are things that raise suspicion, you're supposed to follow up on it. But "The Times" kind of spells out that this was quite methodical, it was painstaking, saying that back in 2016, the FBI -- I'm quoting now from "The New York Times," "held off" on opening an investigation into him, the people said, in part because they were uncertain how to proceed with an inquiry of such sensitivity and magnitude. So it sounds as though they were trying to check themselves to make sure that this was justified, these kinds of inquiries were justified because so much would be at stake.

MARIOTTI: Well, can you imagine the difficult situation the FBI was in, Fred? I mean, how challenging this must have been for them? You have these men and women working at the FBI. They're deeply concerned that the President of the United States might secretly be working on behalf of a foreign power and their leader just got fired by the president for looking into this matter. They don't know what to do, how to handle this situation. They're trying to act in the most professional way possible.

[12:10:00]

I think as you pointed out a moment ago, they were trying to figure out how to, you know, look at this question without formally opening an inquiry into Donald Trump because they understood how sensitive that was but this made it so that they really had no choice.

WHITFIELD: Right, and still Garrett, trying to look apolitical because they're saying wait a minutes, if we inject -- this is the inference from the "New York Times" article, we inject ourselves into this. There will be some who will be critical thinking that we are being political yet at the same time, the American people elected and voted for, you know, this president and to now investigate the person the American people put in place, you know, they were worried, you know, that underscores the magnitude and the hesitation as to moving forward.

GRAFF: Yes, we've certainly seen the FBI investigate presidents before. That in and of itself is not all that remarkable, sadly. We saw Watergate. We saw Iran Contra. We saw the Clinton scandals in the 1990s. As far as I know from my knowledge of FBI history, we have never seen the FBI open a counterintelligence investigation of the president. All previous inquiries have been criminal ones. That's an incredible Rubicon for the FBI to even consider crossing.

WHITFIELD: Looking into whether this president is a foreign agent or working with a foreign country. All right. Renato Mariotti and Garrett Graff, good to see both of you, thanks so much.

Coming up, we're now in the longest partial government shutdown in U.S. history. Hundreds of thousands of federal employees not getting paid, we'll ask one worker how it is affecting him, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:15:00]

WHITFIELD: All right welcome back. Live event right now in San Antonio, Texas, where the former mayor of San Antonio and the former HUD Secretary under President Obama, Julian Castro is expected to announce his presidential bid. A number of introductions taking place right now and of course when Castro takes to the stage, we'll bring that to you live as it happens.

All right day after day, since the shutdown began, of the U.S. government, we've heard stories from many of the 800,000 federal workers struggling to make ends meet with no paychecks coming in. But the pain is not confined merely to those hundreds of thousands of employees. By one analysis, there are over four million people who work as government contractors; people would work for companies hired by the U.S. government, and while it's not clear how many of those are impacted by the shutdown, contract workers are less likely to get back pay or work at all.

Not included in that number, their family members, including their kids. That's millions and millions of people, families who won't have money to buy groceries, medicine or make their mortgage and car payments or pay their rent. The bills are piling up and most of them missed their first paychecks yesterday. Joining me right now is Andre White, a researcher for the Department of Agriculture, who has been furloughed. Thanks so much, Andre, for being with us. You normally get paid on Mondays, right? But on Monday, you're expecting to miss your first paycheck since the shutdown?

ANDRE WHITE, DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE EMPLOYEE: Yes, hi, good afternoon, thanks for having me. Yes, I am expecting to miss my first paycheck this coming Monday.

WHITFIELD: So how have you been able to prepare yourself at all for this day?

WHITE: Well, I had a little bit of savings, emergency savings, that will kind of tide me through through about half of the month of January. I usually with my paychecks put half of my mortgage payment away for the following month, so I have about half of the mortgage payment I can make coming February 1st, but there are other bills to pay in January. I have car insurance, pet insurance, heat, electric, gas, groceries, all those things. So that's the best I've been able to prepare.

WHITFIELD: Yes, and how worried are you?

WHITE: Pretty... WHITFIELD: I mean lawmakers have gone home for the weekend. The

president says he's in the White House. He's waiting for people to talk but the efforts last week kind of broke down. So no talk of when the government's being reopened.

WHITE: I'm pretty worried. This is definitely historic. I was here for the 2013 shutdown under President Obama. That one was worrisome but this one seems a little bit more and it just seems there's no end in sight. I'm just trying to figure out how I'm going to pay my bills and how I'm going to keep my household going. I've always prided myself on being able to take care of myself and not having to ask for help, but I'm going to have to ask for help.

WHITFIELD: Have you been able to, you know, ask -- or request, you know, to your banks or any creditors, et cetera, if they will, you know, show some leniency? I mean, we heard last week the president said, you know, landlords, you know, banks, et cetera, you know, should be able to, you know, cut people a break and that, you know, federal workers are, you know, able to make adjustments. How did all that sit with you? Are you hearing from your creditors that there will be leniency?

WHITE: I haven't reached out to my creditors but I definitely haven't heard anything from them about leniency towards paying bills. So I have filed for unemployment insurance, which I'll have to -- any benefits I get, I'll have to pay back when we get back pay whenever we go back to work, but I still have no idea when any type of unemployment benefits would come in to kind of help me in my situation right now.

WHITFIELD: What about this notion, you know, this suggestion that people can find other jobs, find other means in which to bring home some income temporarily? How realistic is that for you?

WHITE: Kind of considered maybe trying to look into some type of tutoring service. I've considered driving for Uber but my car is about -- almost 17 years old, so a lot of wear and tear on the car and then will I make back the money that I put out in gas, and just to keep up the car, just doing Uber rides to make a little extra money. But ...

WHITFIELD: Sorry to interrupt you. I know you mentioned you've been through a shutdown in 2013. That was hard and here you are now at the longest partial government shutdown in U.S. history. Express to me, you know, your feelings, your dedication as a public servant, a civil servant, you know, for some 20 years now, and how at this moment you and 800,000 other federal workers are essentially really let down, in that you are not able to go to work. You're willing to go to work, but because of the shutdown, you can't and does that foster kind of a different sense of frustration or anger or sadness in you?

WHITE: It's definitely frustrating. It's demoralizing. You feel like you're not valued as a federal worker as we're kind of left in the lurch here with the shutdown with no end in sight right now. A lot of people don't understand some of the things that the government does for the American people. The agency I work for, we do agricultural research - we're the research hub of the USDA and some of the consumer products and things that are on the market came out of government- funded research. So it's just these things that kind of get slowed and stopped down during these shutdowns and it's just hard on federal workers who just don't feel appreciated or being scape goated for some type of political thing.

WHITFIELD: Andre White, thank you for taking the time, sharing your personal experience and of course everyone is hoping that people are able to get back on their feet as things get up and running again. Because yes, it is really slowed down your life and the life of so many. Thanks so much, Andre.

After months missing, 13-year-old Jayme Closs has been found and her alleged kidnapper captured. Both of her parents were brutally killed. What are police learning as the investigation continues? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:25:00]

WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Two firefighters and a civilian were killed today and dozens more injured after an explosion in the heart of Paris. Authorities say the firefighters were killed after they responded to reports of a gas leak at a bakery. At this point, it is being treated as an accidental gas leak. The blast happened as the city was bracing for another round of yellow vest protests throughout the city.

The sheriff in charge of the response to the Parkland, Florida, massacre is vowing to fight his recent suspension. Newly-elected Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order suspending the Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel and appointing a new sheriff. DeSantis blamed Israel for failures in the response to the shooting that killed 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year. Sheriff Israel has been criticized for the training of a deputy who didn't go into the building during the shooting. Israel calls the suspension unjustified and is promising to fight in court.

And we're learning new details about the suspect who allegedly kidnapped a Wisconsin teenager and killed her parents. Police say they now believe the abduction of Jayme Closs was a random act. Meanwhile, the 13-year-old has been reunited with her aunt. CNN Correspondent Jean Casarez is in Closs' hometown of Barron, Wisconsin. Jean, you just spoke to the sheriff. What are they telling you about the suspect and how all of this happened?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I just spoke with the sheriff and we have a bit of an interview in just a minute. He said that he obviously led the search for her in the last three months. He says he's going to be able to meet her himself later this afternoon and I just saw the thrill of him knowing she's here, knowing she's alive, and he says the crime scene continues to be processed. They hope to have it finished by the end of the day but the question is still remaining, why did this happen? How did this happen? How did he find Jayme? Listen to some of the words he told me minutes ago. Sheriff, do you believe this was a random act?

SHERIFF CHRISTOPHER FITZGERALD, BARRON COUNTY, WISCONSIN: It was a random act by the suspect, but it was a very well-planned out attack on the Closs home.

CASAREZ: Now, my next question was, if you believe he murdered her parents, he walked in with at least one gun to that home.

[12:30:03]

And he said yes, that there was part of this that was extremely planned out, but they cannot find any link between this suspect and between Jayme.

And I said, does Jayme say that she recognized him at all, had ever seen him before? He told me he did not know. And I had to ask some of the sensitive questions that we are all wondering. Do you believe she was sexually assaulted? He held her captive for, according to authorities, three months. He said he does not know at this point.

He said that authorities continue to talk with her, but they are allowing time for her to be with her family. That if they have something to tell her, they tell her. He also said that -- I asked if they would take her back out to the scene to help them identify certain parts of that home for crime scene processing. He said no, they had no plans to do that at all.

But he said that what they're trying to put together is a timeline of the three months of where she went with him, where he went in the last three months, looking for receipts, looking for wherever they may have gone, but he does not believe that they crossed state lines.

You know, we're right here on the brink of Wisconsin and Minnesota. And crossing state lines obviously could lead to a federal prosecution. He does not believe they crossed state lines. He said the suspect is in the local jail right here, that he is in a cell all by himself, that he is cooperative as he termed it.

Fred?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And then, Jean, do we know or have we received any details about, you know, how she was, you know, held against her will at his residence, the suspect's residence. Or, even how she got away before the passerby with the dog, you know, saw her?

CASAREZ: Yes. They are not releasing that information. I mean, we do know at this point that the way she got out of the home is that he left in the car. So we have heard that she was able to come out and actually we also had heard he was in the car looking for her when he was pulled over.

But remember, she came out of the woods and the woman walking the dog in the neighborhood saw her, recognized her. She came and whispered, I'm Jayme. She knew exactly, because of law enforcement, because of this sheriff leading this effort of having flyers everywhere, her face was a household vision and image for people to know. WHITFIELD: Yes.

CASAREZ: And that was one reason they were able to take her, call 911, and she was able to say the vehicle that her perpetrator was in, allegedly of course.

WHITFIELD: Wow. Extraordinary. Well, thank goodness she is now back with family. All right, thank you so much, Jean Casarez.

All right, major airports are now feeling the pinch of that partial government shutdown. Many TSA agents are calling in sick, refusing to work without pay and that's causing the Miami Airport to shut down a concourse this weekend. More after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:37:13] WHITFIELD: All right, live pictures right now, San Antonio, Texas and the stage is set for former HUD Secretary Julian Castro to come out even though you may think you're looking at Julian, that's his identical twin brother Joaquin Castro in the lead-up to Julian Castro who'll be taking the stage to possibly announce that he is officially going to launch his bid for the 2020 presidential election.

We'll get back to it as soon as Julian Castro takes it to the stage.

All right, meantime, as this government shutdown enters the record books as the longest in history, one of America's biggest airports is about to feel its impact. In about a half an hour, Miami International Airport will close one of its concourses early for the first of three days. The closure comes as the airport deals with a major increase in TSA absences.

Let's bring in Jonathan Wackrow, former Secret Service agent for President Obama. And how does this information strike you?

JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, listen, this is as predicted. You know, I think overarching that when you start looking at the shutdown from a national security standpoint what the impact is. There's -- you know, there's a minimal risk that this shutdown is causing a direct clear and present danger to national security. What you are seeing, however, is agencies like the TSA border patrol -- what they're doing is they're shifting their operations. They're not changing or coming off of their protective methodology. And I think that's a very important fact to understand.

You know the TSA is -- you know, what they're doing is they're going to cause an impact to travelers, not an impact to the safety and security of those travelers. So, what you'll see is like in Miami, Terminal G is closing down. You'll see a measured impact where travelers are going to be delayed getting through screening but the level of the screening will not diminish at all.

WHITFIELD: So with this uptick, you know, in TSA, you know, sick calls taking place in all, you know, a lot of places across the country. There is the immigration and customs enforcement issue as well. And the former Director of Management Tracey Valerio says, ICE, and I'm quoting her now, only has a finite amount of money, they've been appropriated, end quote, which ended December 21st. And that if, you know, this goes on much longer, they too could be running out of money.

So do you see this as potentially -- you said, you know, you don't see a national security problem right now? But do you see that this is impacting a number of security-related agencies?

WACKROW: Absolutely. So this is --Fred, this is a ripple effect. So what you're having right now is, you know, all of these federal employees, you know, did not get paid on Friday. Money is the motivator here.

[12:40:00] So, money, you know, working without pay, going into an unpaid, unappreciated status, you know, hurts morale. When you have an organization that has low morale, there's a possibility that you can start, you know, creeping into complacency.

And when I was in the Secret Service around security, our methodology was complacency kills. That for the individual, what we don't want is for morale to be low and then being coming complacent to their job and just going through the motions. That's where the risk is on a go- forward basis.

Senior leadership of every organization has to be very mindful. They have to keep morale up. They have to ensure that there's no complacency in the operation and execution of the mission. And, you know, just get through this shutdown.

WHITFIELD: Every security agency has, you know, contingency plans. You know, and even though nobody wants to plan for partial government shutdowns, et cetera, there is that in place for all of these entities that we talked about, right?

WACKROW: Absolutely. And I think when you take a look at it, there's a lot of guidance that's been put out by, you know, Office of Personnel Management and specifically DHS has put out a series of guidelines for, you know, how to deal with the shutdown, you know, in the short term and long term. And there are plans in place.

But, you know, what happened this week I thought was very interesting with the Secret Service, my former agency, which is the director had come out and sent an e-mail out to their entire workforce not only talking about the impact of the shutdown broadly on the agency, but really focused in on the impact to the individual. He talked about the financial strain. And he had a call up to say that financial strain is a precursor to depression, anxiety in his words, even more.

So his, you know, his methodology and his purpose for sending that e- mail out was for everybody to look out for each other and start taking care of their individual mental health during this entire shutdown. It focused on the individual which is only going to help the overall health of the agency during this shutdown.

WHITFIELD: And you learned this because you still have friends within the Secret Service and they convey this to you?

WACKROW: Absolutely. They sent me copies of the e-mail. A top official actually at headquarters was the one that sent it to me, you know, with just the conversation saying, Jon, you know, we need to take care of our individuals here. Our officers, our uniform division officers who are on the front line outside the White House every single day. They need to know that senior leadership is taking care and actually does have their best interests in mind during this shutdown.

WHITFIELD: You served under the Obama administration with Secret Service. Was there a time when there was that government shutdown in 2013?

WACKROW: Absolutely. And, you know, I was affected, my family was affected and we -- we're in the same position. We had to make those tough financial decisions. Hey, whether or not we have to make a mortgage payment or do we hold on to money not knowing how long this is going to extend. So I actually empathize significantly with those --

WHITFIELD: Jonathan, I hate to cut you off. But thank you so much. We're going to go straight to San Antonio because this has been a highly anticipated moment there in San Antonio where the for -- San Antonio, Texas where the former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, will be making a very important announcement leading up to the 2020 presidential bid. We've already seen from his brother, his identical twin brother Joaquin Castro and apparently his mom, Maria Rosie Castro. It was also, you know, part of the planned introductions to him.

Julian was a former San Antonio Mayor. His mom was also very politically active and also once ran for mayor. And here now is Julian Castro.

Let's listen.

CROWD: Julian! Julian! Julian!

JULIAN CASTRO, FORMER HUD SECRETARY UNDER OBAMA AND FORMER SAN ANTONIO MAYOR: Good morning.

CROWD: Good morning.

CASTRO: Buenos Dias.

CROWD: Buenos Dias.

CASTRO: First of all, I want to say a big thank you to my mom. I bet there are a lot of you all that may have come here to see her instead of me. You know, my mom grew up on this west side of San Antonio and she got involved in politics a long time ago because she wanted to improve her community here on the west side to make sure that folks had basic things like streets and drainage.

[12:45:01] And so she got active back then in the young Democrats and then she ran when she was 23 years old with this slate called the Committee for Barrio Betterment. And their slogan was, "Give Government Back to the People."

Back then, as you all remember, they didn't have single member districts, so very few women and people of color ever got elected. All of that slate of the Committee for Barrio Betterment. lost in April of 1971. But on election night, one of the local reporters asked her how she felt. She said that she felt good about what they had done and that they'd be back.

Well, mom, I think we're back.

You know, so many journeys for me and for my family have started right here and today, we begin another one. In this journey, I am so lucky to have an incredible partner in my wife Erica. And a wonderful inspiration in our daughter, who many of you know, Carina and in our little one, Christian.

But I want to thank each and every one of you as well for being here today and joining us. What a great crowd we got out here.

I also want to thank a moment to say thank you to the press who are here. You know, there was a time when Joaquin and I thought we were going to go into journalism. And so, I know that the press work hard and that they are the friend of the truth in this country. Thank you very much for being here.

So this is a special place for all of us, this west side of San Antonio. This is the place where my grandmother Victoria came in 1922 when she emigrated from Mexico as a seven-year-old orphan. It's where she grew up, where she worked hard for years as a maid, a cook, and a baby-sitter while raising my mom as a single parent. It's where my mother became an activist, working to improve the quality of life for her own community.

It's where my brother Joaquin and I were raised by my mom. Where we went to school, we were baptized just over there at the Guadalupe Church. We got a great public school education just a few blocks away. And I had the honor of serving these neighborhoods as mayor of San Antonio for five years.

You know, this morning, I rode the number 68 bus with my brother down Guadalupe Street like we did so many times when we were kids. Only this time, I brought my daughter Carina with me. That was the same route that we used to take with my mother to get to school or to go to her work during the summer.

I want you all to look around this neighborhood. There are no frontrunners that are born here, but I've always believed that with big dreams and hard work, anything is possible in this country. This community is a community like so many others across the nation. A community of good people, of humble people. People who go to work early and stay late, oftentimes at more than one job so they can provide for their family.

When they go to bed at night they say hopeful prayers. They want their children to do well. They want good health. They want the dignity that comes from a good job and the peace of mind that comes being able to retire on their own terms.

This is a community built by immigrants. Families from Mexico, but also families from Germany and from other countries. It's a community also built by Native Americans. Families who worked to build a future. Both who came here to serve our country at Fort Sam Houston and Lackland and Randolph Air Force Base.

And today, this community represents America's future.

[12:50:04] Diverse, fast growing, optimistic, a place where people of different backgrounds have come together to create something truly special. And I'm proud to call myself a son of San Antonio.

You know, six years ago, I had the honor of standing before the Democratic National Convention. I said then that the American dream is not a sprint or even a marathon but a relay. My story wouldn't be possible without the strong women who came before me and passed me the baton. Because of their hard work, I have the opportunity to stand in front of you today. My family's story wouldn't be possible without a country that challenged itself to live up to the promise of America.

That was the point of the American dream. It wasn't supposed to be just a dream. America was a place where dreams could become real. But the thing is that right now, the relay isn't working. Today, we're falling backwards instead of moving forward. And the opportunities that made America the America that we love, those opportunities are reaching fewer and fewer people.

Today, we're at risk of dropping that baton. And that's why we're all here this morning because we're going to make sure that the promise of America is available to everyone in this 21st century.

You see, I learned from my mother so many years ago in this community that when we want change, we don't wait for change, we work for it. When my grandmother got here almost a hundred years ago, I'm sure that she never could have imagine that just two generations later, one of her grandsons would be serving as a member of the United States Congress and the other would be standing with you here today to say these words, I am a candidate for president of the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)

CASTRO: Thank you.

CROWD: Julian! Julian! Julian!

(Foreign Language)

WHITFIELD: So the newest Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro painting a picture of his family's journey and history there in San Antonio as a former mayor of San Antonio and talking about how today he even rode the bus that he and his brother so often rode when they were younger. Let's listen in again to Julian Castro. CASTRO: -- as one nation working towards one destiny and that destiny is to be the smartest, the healthiest, the fairest and the most prosperous nation on earth.

Again, in this 21st century, we must be the smartest, the fairest, the healthiest, and the most prosperous nation on earth. Demanding anything less is a failure of vision and achieving anything less is a failure of leadership. To be the smartest nation requires an early investment in our children education.

As mayor, I challenged the voters to raise the sales tax to expand high-quality full day Pre-K for thousands of San Antonio four-year- olds. At the time, some said that it was unrealistic, even impossible. Education wasn't my job, they said.

[12:55:00] And by the way, who's going to vote for a sales tax increase in the state of Texas? But the future of this community was my job. So I put my faith in the people. We called our initiative Pre-K 4 SA and we brought together business leaders with educators, with parents and students to make the case. And in November of 2012, the voters of this city said, yes, we believe in investing in early childhood education.

So that next fall, I found myself standing outside of Pre-K 4 SA Early Childhood Center as the first group of young students arrived for their very first day of school. They had their little backpacks --

WHITFIELD: All right, Julian Castro, the former HUD Secretary, former mayor of San Antonio making it official that he has thrown his hat into the ring for the 2020 presidential election.

Our Dan Merica is there in San Antonio, West San Antonio. And he is surrounded by family, lots of friends, and people who lived there and who've watched he and his twin brother grow up.

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, it's quite special. I'm going to lower my voice a bit because he is still speaking behind me.

It's quite special to be here for a lot of these folks because they not only knew Julian Castro as their counsel member, as mayor and even as HUD Secretary under President Barack Obama. But many of them have said that they knew him from when he was riding his bike around this neighborhood. He was baptized just right around the corner right here at this church. It's on this plaza, he's childhood home is a few blocks away.

You could tell that it's significant for people here. I spoke to a mother who actually named her two-year-old child Julian after Julian Castro. He was here decked out in a Spiderman outfit. But she said it was important for him to be here, to see this man that he was named after announce for president.

Now, Julian Castro has leaned into the fact that he is a long shot in this race. He is now looking up at a host of 2020 folks who are considering runs for a number of reasons frankly. He doesn't have the name I.D. that a lot of people have. You know, he's going to have difficulty accessing money that other people can.

But as he told me and as he just said in this speech that, you know, growing up here, I was never considered a frontrunner to do anything that I did. And I eventually, you know, went to Harvard, went to Stanford and now I'm announcing for president. So that doesn't necessarily scare me.

What you're going to see here, what you heard from his speech, he's also heavily leaning into his family's story. And that's really what vaulted him to national prominence when he was mayor of San Antonio. He gave the 2012 keynote speech at the DNC Convention and he leaned on the story of his grandmother who came to the United States in 1922 when both of her parents died during the Mexican Revolution. She settled here in West San Antonio, was a maid, did a number of different odd jobs to put money together then raised her daughter here who then in turn raised Julian and his twin brother, Joaquin.

Now, Joaquin Castro is going to play a major role, he is obviously a congressman from Texas. He's going to play a major role in this campaign. He will be Julian's campaign chairman.

And Secretary Castro also rolled out a host of other hires including a former chair of the Iowa Democratic Party. That's kind of a nod to the fact that, you know, he's not going to take Iowa -- he's not going to write off Iowa which some candidates may or may not do. There are many who say that, you know, Julian Castro should focuses on places like Nevada, Texas, California, Florida where there's large Latino populations. But Julian Castro says, no, I'm going to focus on Iowa as well.

And I feel the fact that he hired someone in Derek Eadon who used to be the chair of the party is a nod to that.

WHITFIELD: Dan Merica, thank you so much.

I want to bring in also to our conversation CNN Senior Political Writer and Analyst Harry Enten, CNN Political Reporter Rebecca Buck, Democratic Strategist Mustafa Tameez, and Republican Strategist Alison Stewart.

All right, glad you could all be with me.

So, you know, Harry, you first, you know, he underscored, Julian did he says, you know, no frontrunners, you know, come from this neighborhood. But, you know, big things, big dreams do come. And he of course exemplifies -- he and his twin brother, you know, exemplify incredible accomplishment. So, what does his drawing his hat into the ring mean to the Democratic Party, this field that is already growing?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: I mean, look, 15 percent of the Democratic Party is Latino. And there hasn't really been a major Latino candidate running the past few cycles. I guess Bill Richardson perhaps in 2008. But Julian Castro is going to bring fort the message he's heavily leaning on his immigrant background -- his family's immigrant background. And I think that's quite a difference with the president of the United States. Because, remember, although the Democrats are running against each other now, ultimately they're trying to determine who is going to be the that Democratic nominee to go up against Donald Trump come November 2020 and trying to differentiate himself and say, hey look, we want to take it to President Trump, I'm going to present a different America than President Trump is presenting and we'll see if it works.

I mean, he's being honest with everybody saying he's a long shot. He's certainly is. But, you know what, you ran. You ran, you ran.