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Gas Leak Blamed for Paris Bakery Explosion; Russian Collusion Probe Continues; Jayme Closs Found; Government Shutdown Forcing Federal Workers to Seek Employment Elsewhere; GoFundMe to Return Money; Tulsi Gabbard to Announce her Candidacy for President; New York City's Mayor Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren Clash; Notorious RGB Has No Plans to Step Down; A CNN Original Film About Ruth Ginsburg will Premier Tonight at 8:00 Eastern on CNN; "American Style" to Premiere at 9:00 Eastern on Saturday Evening; Weather May Play a Factor in NFL Playoff Game. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired January 12, 2019 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president's behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Investigating a President of the United States to see if an American president is working for the Russians is just -- it's almost too much to wrap your mind around.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can just imagine the reaction from the president. I'm sure he's proposing the witch hunt tweets right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After 88 days, 13-year-old Jayme Closs alive, after escaping captivity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I saw a young woman coming towards me saying, "I'm lost, I don't know where I am, and I need help."


ANNOUNCER: This is "New Day" weekend with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Good Saturday to you. It is now official. This is the longest shutdown of the federal government in U.S. history.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN HOST: And the White House is fighting another battle as news breaks that the FBI opened an investigation into whether actions by the president himself were a threat to national security. First reported by "The New York Times," this counter intelligence probe was happening at the same time as the obstruction of justice investigation prompted by the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

Now the question behind both parts of the investigation, was the president helping Russia against U.S. interests? One of "The New York Times" reporters who broke this story spoke to CNN along with former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper. Here's what they said about this investigation.


JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: It's not surprising, I think, in fact, I would so in so far as to say I think the FBI would have been derelict not to have at least considered the possibility, given the behavior of both Candidate Trump and President Trump.

There were a couple things that pushed the FBI over the edge. And I think it's been lost on people. Is that the obstruction, the possible obstruction, related to the firing of Comey, the obstruction has to have an object. And the object was the investigation into Russian interference in 2016. That is a national security investigation.

ADAM GOLDMAN, REPORTER FOR "THE NEW YORK TIMES": There were a couple things that pushed the FBI over the edge and I think it's been lost on people is that the obstruction - and the possible obstruction related to the firing of Comey. You need an object - the obstruction has to have an object and the object was the investigation into the Russian interference. It hasn't succeeded. That is a national security investigation.


BLACKWELL: During the campaign and after, Donald Trump became president, there were a series of Russian-related red flags. Here's a time line of events that sparked the official obstruction of justice inquiry by the FBI was May 9, 2017. President Trump fired then FBI Director James Comey. Shortly after he drafted a letter thanking Comey for telling him that he was not the subject of the FBI's Russia investigation. Well two days after the firing, an interview with Lester Holt the president then tried tying Comey's firing to the Russia investigation.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Regarding 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."


BLACKWELL: That was a tipping point for the FBI, and they started looking into connections between Trump and Russia leading up to the election and after. Now remember, the FBI knows a lot more than is public right now. Of course we know as candidate for president, the FBI found those close to Trump held meetings in Trump Tower with Russians closely connected to Russian President Vladimir Putin. That was June 9th, 2016. During the campaign, Trump called on Russia for help. (BEGIN VIDEO)

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


BLACKWELL: That was July 27th, 2016. There's also the Steele dossier, the memo that gave a window into the possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. James Comey briefed then President-elect Trump about those details in the dossier. That was January 6th, 2017. And just months before President Trump fired James Comey, he asked Comey for a loyalty pledge asking Comey to end an investigation into his National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. That happened on January 27, 2017, 7 days after Trump was sworn into office. That takes us to May 17th, 2017, 8 days after President Trump fired FBI director James Comey, Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed. His job, to lead the investigation of Russian interference into the 2017 presidential election.

PAUL: And the White House pushing back strongly this morning on this. Joining us from the White House, CNN's White House reporter Sarah Westwood. Sarah, what are you hearing from the White House this morning?


SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christi, good morning, and the White House is pushing back, as you said, aggressively against this "New York Times" reporting that suggests that President Trump was under investigation by the FBI in the days after he fired James Comey, not just for alleged obstruction of justice but also whether he was working against U.S. interests on behalf of Russia.

Sarah Sanders, the White House Press Secretary saying in a strongly- worded statement, "This is absurd. James Comey was fired because he's a disgraced partisan hack and his deputy, Andrew McCabe, who was in charge at the time is a known liar fired by the FBI. Unlike President Obama who let Russia and other foreign advisories push America around, President Trump has actually been tough on Russia."

Now remember that President Trump did run on a promise to thaw relations between Washing and Russia but many of his actions towards the beginning of the administration especially were looked at through the lens of these allegations of Russian collusion. The Mueller probe still ongoing. The White House has continually said that nothing will come of that probe, that the president did nothing wrong and they've downplayed the criminal charges and convictions that have been levied against those close to President Trump.

But of course it's been difficult to insulate the president from the allegations and the charges and convictions that have come against people who have been very close to President Trump such as Michael Cohen, his former lawyer, set to testify before Congress; Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman. And the White House is certainly bracing for Mueller's final report to come out in the days ahead.

It's not clear yet whether that will be made public, whether the White House will put up a fight to keep that private but certainly this adds another complication to President Trump's agenda right now as he struggles to pull his administration out of a partial government shutdown. Christi.

PAUL: All right, Sarah Westwood, appreciate the update, thank you.

BLACKWELL: This morning, a massive explosion ripped through a Paris bakery after a gas leak. Several people were hurt. Look at this. You can see the fire billowing out of the building there. CNN's Melissa Bell is not far from that location. Melissa, tell us more.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let me show you Victor just what's happening behind me. It was a few how, as you say, that that massive explosion took out really, a bakery. And what we understand from the firefighters from the emergency services who have been working here in their hundreds throughout the morning, Victor, is that it was just before 9:00 a.m. Firefighters were called out to the scene because someone had smelled gas.

It was while they were here, that that huge explosion took place setting off a fire in that bakery. Of course, the (inaudible) on us in Paris is whether it was terror-related. Very quickly, authorities confirmed to CNN that it was due to a gas leak. But really speaking to eyewitnesses here, it was the force of the explosion that was remarkable. People were knocked off their feet. Windows in surrounding buildings were taken out Victor. And now we're hearing confirmation of the number of wounded. Twelve people have been seriously wounded; five of those critically. Their lives are still in danger we're told by emergency services. Amongst the wounded, three firefighters who came out here initially, Victor, to check out the gas leak.

So, huge explosion here in Paris this morning with, as we've feared, many wounded but nothing terror-related.

BLACKWELL: Hoping for the best for those wounded. Melissa Bell for us, thank you.

PAUL: Well the 800,000 government workers who just missed their first paychecks, they're finding ways to pay their bills during the government shutdown or they're trying to. We're speaking to an EPA employee who is selling her collection of rare books just to pay her bills.

BLACKWELL: And new details in the case of Jayme Closs, the missing girl who was found alive. You're going to hear more from her neighbors about how they found her.


KRISTIN KASINSKAS, WOMAN WHO HELPED JAYME CLOSS AFTER SHE WAS FOUND: She looked exactly the same as she did in her picture, a little bit thinner, I would say and she looked really tired like she'd been fighting a battle for weeks. (END VIDEO)



BLACKWELL: This morning, we're learning new details about the suspect who allegedly kidnapped 13-year-old Jayme Closs and killed her parents. According to police Jake Thomas Patterson planned his actions and took proactive steps to hide his identity from law enforcement.

PAUL: In the meantime, Jayme Closs has been reunited with her aunt and her dog, Molly. CNN Correspondent Jean Casarez is in Barron, Wisconsin. Jean, what are you learning?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're learning a lot. First of all, we're right here at the Barron County Justice Center and the suspect, Jake Patterson is being held here. Obviously no bond. His first court appearance will be on Monday. But last night, 30 to 40 local, federal and state law enforcement officers were at his home allegedly where he held captive Jayme and they were executing at least one search warrant and they were there, according to the press conference yesterday, they would be there for hours.

Now it was Thursday at 4:30 in the afternoon when a lady that just has a cabin in the area was walking her dog. And it's an area that there are not a lot of people and she saw this young woman come out from the forest and she is said she was disheveled and she was young and she had shoes that way too big for her. And she knew she recognized her and then she said her name, that she was Jayme Closs. She said, "I'm lost. I don't know where I am. I need help."

So it was that lady that took her to a neighbor's home as fast as she could, rang on the doorbell. They opened it and the homeowner looked at this young girl. We want you to listen to what her thoughts were when she saw Jayme Closs for the first time, listen.


KASINSKAS: Absolutely knew it was her. We've seen her picture a million times around here. She looked exactly the same as she did in her picture, a little bit thinner, I would say. And then she looked really tired and like she'd been fighting a battle for weeks.


CASAREZ: And so that woman right there, not only called 911 immediately, but asked Jayme, "Who has been holding you? What do they look like? What kind of vehicle do they have?" And it was that woman that told law enforcement and within ten minutes they had pulled Patterson over and that's when he was arrested. Jayme got into the hands of law enforcement and then it began the reunification process which was medical, which was mental, which was law enforcement talking to her, interviewing her. We don't know how long those sessions lasted or what information they got from her, but finally reunification with her family. Victor, Christi.

PAUL: Yeah, I saw the chief yesterday was saying their main concern was just making sure that they stabilize her, that they get her with her family, that they make sure she's okay. What more will you know, or when might we learn more, about how this suspect focused in on her?

CASAREZ: That's the big question. They don't understand how he targeted her, found her, found her family's home, because they don't find any social media contact at all. And you see, this story, Christi, has so many similarities to Elizabeth Smart. It really does. And I covered -- you covered Elizabeth Smart, but here's where it differs.

This suspect allegedly shot and killed her mother and father, conceivably in front of her eyes in October. And then she was gone. Because there was a 911 call, police came, they just heard rustling in the background and they found James and Denise Closs deceased but there was no Jayme. So this young girl knows at this point that her parents were murdered and Elizabeth Smart had her parents to come back to. This young woman doesn't but she has a loving aunt and uncle. She has a family that she's coming back to which is the most important thing.

PAUL: Thank goodness for that. And this is one of those stories just like Elizabeth Smart, when I heard this yesterday I said, "This is why we cannot give up on these people who are missing..."


PAUL: "...because you never know where they might be." Thank you so much Jean Casarez. We appreciate it.

BLACKWELL: There's so many more angles to this and what we're learning more about the moment after she was discovered. The woman who found her, spoke with CNN last night, described the moment Jayme approached her while she was out walking her dog.


JEANNE NUTTER, LADY WHO FOUND JAYME CLOSS: I had walked my dog about a mile and a half. The area where our cabin is and where Jayme was is like a loop. So, I had just finished the walk with Henry and I was at the end of my driveway and I saw a young woman coming toward me saying, "I'm lost. I don't know where I am, and I need help."

And so, I went towards her. The roads were very icy and I knew right away when I first encountered her that she was in trouble because she wasn't dressed for the weather. It's very cold here. She just had on some leggings and a sweatshirt and shoes that were not hers so I knew wherever she had come from, she had left in a hurry. And when I got close to her, she leaned into me and said, "I'm Jayme."

I knew right away who it was because if you live in Wisconsin, you've seen so many pictures of Jayme. I just walked really quietly with Jayme, told her everything was going to be all right. I just kept saying to myself, "Just be calm. You don't need her to get upset or excited."

I didn't ask her any questions about anything, except I wanted to know if the person she had been with, was he gone? Was he in a car or whatever? She said, "Yes, she was gone in a car."

I said, "Well, what color is the car," because I wanted to be aware if I saw a car of that color coming towards us, we needed to do something different.


PAUL: Now, police haven't revealed a motive as you heard there. They say she was the suspect's intended target the night he allegedly killed her parents.

BLACKWELL: Well real people, real consequences coming up. We hear from a furloughed worker, forced to auction off her prized possessions to pay her monthly bills.



BLACKWELL: This morning, President Trump reached a pretty bleak milestone, presiding over the longest government shutdown in American history.

PAUL: It's 22 days that federal employees are being told stay home or being forced to work without getting paid. And it appears the government is no closer to reopening at this point. Democrats who have control of the House have passed bills to fund the government one department at a time. President Trump insisting funding for a border wall will be part of that deal. Without his support, Senate republicans have refused to call votes on any of the measures. And the 30 furloughed workers that were mistakenly paid yesterday were told to give the money back. That's according to "The Washington Post." They were paid due to a clerical error.


TRUMP: When during the campaign, I would say Mexico is going to pay for it. Obviously, I never said this and I never meant they're going to write out a check. I said they're going to pay for it.


BLACKWELL: That was President Trump Thursday insisting that he never said that Mexico would make a direct payment for the border wall. And obviously he never said that Mexico would hand over billions, but did he?


TRUMP: Who's going to pay for the wall?



TRUMP: And by the way, by the way, 100 percent. You know, the politicians say they'll never pay - 100 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're not going to write us a check.

TRUMP: They'll pay. They'll pay. In one form or another, they may even write us a check by the time they see what happens.


BLACKWELL: And that direct payment plan was more than just an offhand response during the campaign, it was his official strategy. This didn't get a lot of attention during the campaign, but 22 days during this government shutdown now, we need to revisit it. This two-page memo first published by "The Washington Post" dated March 31st, 2016, was sent to Robert Costa and Bob Woodward of "The Washington Post" from Donald J. Trump on campaign letterhead; the subject, "Compelling Mexico to Pay for the Wall."

It's then Candidate Trump's three-day plan to force Mexico to make, quote, "a one-time payment of 5 to $10 billion to pay for his wall." That's back when Trump claimed it could be built for $10 billion; estimates roughly double that now. Now according to the memo, on day one Trump said the U.S. would suggest redefining and evoking part of the Patriot Act to take a portion of the money that workers in the U.S. send to Mexico and block all payments sent to Mexico by workers in the U.S. illegally.

It's not clear whether the president can even do that. But let's go to day two of the plan, assuming Mexico would immediately protest, as the memo says, because so many people rely on those remittances as they're known. And then on day three of the plan, the U.S. would quote, "tell Mexico, if the Mexican government will contribute blank billion dollars to pay for the wall, the regulation would not go into effect."

Simple, three-day plan. It's day 722 of the Trump Administration, and it hasn't happened yet. In a memo to "The Post" Trump also threatened canceling visas or small increases in visa fees would pay for the wall or enact new tariffs. And in the memo Trump says, "The U.S. has the moral high ground here and all of the leverage and it's an easy decision for Mexico," he wrote. The president has not executed that plan. Mexico has said empathically that it's not going to pay for the wall. So the president is demanding that you, the taxpayer, pay for it instead while simultaneously, claiming this.


TRUMP: They are paying for it with the incredible deal we made between United States, Mexico and Canada, the USMCA deal.


BLACKWELL: USMCA, that's the trade deal that President Trump hopes will replace NAFTA. He and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto signed the deal in November. No I said "hopes" because it's not law. Congress has not ratified that. With democrats running the show in the House, there's no guarantee that it will.

Remember, any direct benefits of the deal will be reaped by individuals in the U.S. and American companies, not the U.S. government directly. And the White House argues that more money for American companies means more tax revenue. Sure. But it would be nearly impossible to track which dollars are the direct result of the new trade deal. And it's up to Congress to allocate the money at the end of the day, anyway, and we see how that's working out.

Bottom line, when the president claims he never said Mexico would write a check for the wall. He didn't just say it, he wrote it down in detail. And when he says the new trade deal will pay for the wall, it won't.

PAUL: We want to hear about the human cost of this now record-long shutdown. Anna Cory is with us now, a student services contractor for the Environmental Protection Agency. Anna, thank you so much for taking time to be with us.


PAUL: Thank you. I want to let people know that you have started a government shutdown online yard sale on Facebook and it gets creative, but it's got to be hard for you. Let's put up some of the pictures here, some of the things you're selling because I know that you've got some very rare books. You're a librarian in North Carolina and you work as a contractor, as we said. But these are very rare books of the 1800s. Help us understand your decision to part with these that you value so much.

CORY: Sure. When I was facing the upcoming shutdown, my last day of work was December 28th, I decided to just make some crucial decisions about what I owned, and what was the most valuable, and what could sell. So, I chose some books from my book collection as a librarian. I collect antique books. So, I chose what might be the most popular and most eye-catching to sell online.

PAUL: It's got to be hard for you.

CORY: It is difficult. I was just recently engaged on January 2nd. My fiance and I were planning to buy a house. Just recently, we started house shopping but we have put that on hold because the bank does not take a friendly eye to seeing a zero on one's pay stub. So that's been pushed out at least two or three months. So, right now, we're just surviving; we're not thriving. We're not joining the middle class and achieving our dream of home ownership or moving forward with wedding planning because it's an uncertain situation.

PAUL: I know this is the second shutdown that you've been through. With each day that ticks by, how do you feel? Do you have hope? CORY: Right now, I'm holding on to hope, and the relationship I have

with my fiance, with the support of family and friends. But in terms of my work, it's depressing and saddening that I'm not able to do what I'm contracted to do with the Environmental Protection Agency.

PAUL: And you love your job I understand. Is that right?

CORY: I do. I love my job. My teammates and I, my supervisor, we all are a fantastic team and we just want to get back to work and we just want to do what we are assigned to do in the EPA.

PAUL: You know there are some people who would say you know this is a possibility in your job.

CORY: Uh-huh, that's right.

PAUL: And yet, you take that risk. Why do you take that risk?

CORY: We take that risk, because we believe in the work that we do. Our section supports the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts which are mandated by Congress. And we want to make sure that those acts are up to date. And that the public is knowledgeable about the research that goes into those Congressional acts. So, all the work that we do is made available to the public.

PAUL: Will you look for other work?

CORY: I know that the terms of my contract are limited. So, eventually, I do need to work, to look for a permanent position. I've moved that up. I am applying to permanent full-time positions and so, if I get a reasonable offer, I will take it.

PAUL: Well, Anna Cory, thank you for sharing with us your day to day life right now. I know that it's hard. Congratulations on your engagement; that's exciting.

CORY: Thank you very much.

PAUL: We're happy for you. Absolutely and thank you for being with us. Best of luck to you.

CORY: Thank you for the opportunity.

PAUL: Absolutely.

BLACKWELL: Those beloved trees at Joshua Tree Park in California are among the unintended victims of this partial government shutdown. The park is still open despite a lack of funding but with fewer rangers patrolling the area, some visitors have cut down the park's famous trees to go off-roading and to set fires in illegal campsites. Those campgrounds were closed just after the new year due to health and safety concerns including overflowing garbage bins and dirty restrooms.

PAUL: GoFundMe says it will begin refunding money donated for a campaign to build President Trump's wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. More than 300,000 donors helped raise $20 million for the project since it began just after Christmas. That's well short, of course, of the campaign's goal of raising $1 billion. The crowd funding platform says the campaign was designed to be all or nothing so the money will be refunded.

BLACKWELL: Representative Tulsi Gabbard says she plans to run for president. We'll have more on the key issue that prompted her to make the decision.

PAUL: Also representative Steve King facing some backlash from both sides of the aisle for his white nationalist comments. What GOP Tim Scott, an African-American Senator from South Carolina has to say about it.


BLACKWELL: Add another candidate to the democratic primary field for president. We now have Hawaii representative Tulsi Gabbard. The democrat made her informal announcement on CNN's "Van Jones Show" which was taped earlier but airs tonight at 7:00 on CNN.


REP. TULSI GABBARD, (D) HAWAII: I have decided to run and will be making a formal announcement within the next week. Issues relating to making sure that people who are sick get access to the healthcare that they need. Making sure that people who are stuck in our broken criminal justice system and the families that are torn apart are being helped, that are being served. Making sure we're taking action to protect our planet for us and for the future. There's a whole host of issues that I'm looking forward to addressing and there's one main issue that is essential to the rest. And that is the issue of war and peace.


BLACKWELL: Joining me now, Errol Louis, CNN Political Commentator and Political Anchor for "Spectrum News." Errol, good morning to you.


BLACKWELL: All right, so no one really knows obviously what will be the central issue of the general election campaign a year and a half from now but Congresswoman Gabbard mentioned healthcare. Yes, that's important to democrats. Criminal justice reform, obviously, but the issue of war and peace. Do we have any indication how central that is to the primary fight?

LOUIS: Well, you look at the polls and they tell you one thing, but as you and I learned, Victor, along with other a lot of other journalists, what the insiders and the pollsters think is one thing and then what the actual primary voters think and do can be quite different. But, as of right now, yes, there's no particular reason to think that war and peace is going to be central and on the agenda.

The reality, of course, is that we are fighting these long wars. We have these gigantic military commitments. Donald Trump capitalized on the discontent that many of the rest of us don't focus on. Tulsi Gabbard seems taking a page out of that book.

BLACKWELL: So Gabbard notably, just a couple months ago sent a tweet directed to the president after the killing of "Washington Post" journalist Jamal Khashoggi that being Saudi Arabia's bitch is not America First. Is this going to be who can punch harder at President Trump? Is that the democratic primary? What happened to when they go low, we go high? Where are we seeing that this is going to line up?

LOUIS: Yeah, the low-high thing doesn't seem to be working for a lot of democratic candidates. Hence, you're starting to see the obscenities that are dropped casually here and there, some of the tough talk, things like the tweet that you just showed. It's going to be tough I think for democrats to strike the right tone. Because if they're going to try to pose themselves to an alternative to some of the vulgarity and obscenity that we saw that has come with the Trump campaign and now administration, they're going to -- they'll have to do something about that.

But they also have to show the democratic base that they're ready to go toe to toe with this administration or the idea for which it stands. And there's no easy way to do that. Many, many people, I think we saw it all throughout the Republican Primary in 2016 really failed to get the right tone. You know, you can't out-juvenile Donald Trump. You can out cute him, when it comes to the nicknames and all of this kind of stuff. She's welcome to try, obviously. I think more seriously though underneath it, you've got a question of somebody who is really breaking with the rest of the democratic field most likely when it comes to this question of war and peace and whether or not all of the U.S.'s alliances overseas need to be shaken up, reconstituted or ended.

BLACKWELL: And let's talk about another separation in the democratic field. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said if he runs he would sell funds for the nomination. "Forbes" has his net worth at $44 billion or so, so good for him. But Senator Elizabeth Warren is in New Hampshire this weekend and she's telling democrats to say no to billionaires' influence on policy, setting up a direct clash - a direct confrontation between these two.

LOUIS: Yeah, it's really interesting, Victor. You've got Mike Bloomberg who ran three times for mayor here, successfully, in New York City. He makes the case that because he's self-funded he can avoid issues of corruption because there are no donors, there are no interest groups that can sit down with him and hold their money as a lure to get him to take certain policy positions. And that has a certain amount of ring of truth to it.

On the other hand what Elizabeth Warren is saying is also true, which is no billionaire, even one who is a candidate himself should be able to use private wealth to steer the course of public policy. So, the democratic base is going to figure out whether they're in the mood for the Michael Bloomberg argument that somebody who is unbought, he can't be bought because he's got too much money, is the way they want to go. A similar argument, by the way, was made a couple years ago by this

guy Donald Trump, another rich New York businessman, who managed to convince a lot of people that having money meant he wouldn't be subject to a lot of those outside temptations. I think we now know it's a little bit more complicated than that.

BLACKWELL: Yes, it certainly is. Let's talk about Steve King, Iowa Congressman who told "The New York Times," white nationalist, white supremacist, western civilcivilization, how did that language become offensive? Well Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, only black republican in the Senate wrote an op-ed for "The Washington Post" in which you said "King's comments are not conservative views but separate views that should be ridiculed at every turn possible."

Any indication that there will be formal Congressional ridicule? There has been talk of censure. How far will that go? And that obviously sets up the question, what say you, Senate republicans? What say you, or rather House republicans about the President of the United States and his racist comments??

LOUIS: Yes, the new democratic-led House could censure him; it's well within their power to cite the behavior of its members but that's not really what Tim Scott is getting at. What he's saying is that the Republican Party needs to drum this guy out of -- if not formally out of the party, at least put him off far on the margins that there will be no mistake about what the Republican Party stands for when it comes to characters like him.

By the way, this is long overdue. This conversation needed to happen a long time ago. The republicans have treated him like the sort of embarrassing relative that you kind of keep off to the side and they kind of don't want to be associated with him. But that ship has sailed. And Tim Scott is, you know, I think very accurately and very commendably calling the party on this question.


At some point if you're going to have somebody like this hanging around using your label, you've got to decide to publicly to say that this is not what we stand for.

BLACKWELL: Yes, let's see if they do anything formal here. Errol Louis, always good to have you.

LOUIS: Thanks Victor.

PAUL: Well she may be down a little bit but she's not out. The Supreme Court says the Notorious RBG is getting better after surgery. She will miss oral arguments next week, but what does that mean for the Supreme Court really? That's next.


PAUL: Well just as Ruth Bader Ginsburg getting better after surgery to remove two cancerous nodules from her lungs. She will miss oral arguments though next week. This past Monday was the first time the Supreme Court Justice missed oral arguments due to her health, despite surviving two bouts of cancer, we should point out. We have with us Irin Carmon - Irin Carmon, sorry about that, CNN contributor and thank you so much. Co-author of "Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg" of course. Thank you so much for taking the time to be with us here.

The White House is said to be discussing possible candidates should she vacate her seat. Is that who opportunistic at this time, at this stage, or it simple preparation?

IRIN CARMON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR AND AUTHOR: Well, Christi, the words "no evidence of remaining disease" really put a lot of people's fears at ease. Of course, the Justice is still almost 86 years old; on March 15th, she'll turn 86. But for those who are really counting on her to continue her spot of championing equality and justice as one of the nine lifelong members of the Supreme Court, that was a huge relief. It was actually before we got the news about the results from the tests she underwent when they found the nodules in her lungs, that the White House started circulating that they were working with their outside groups that have largely determined the course of these nominations for her replacement.

To my mind, that was pretty premature. Yes, she is older. Yes, she has had cancer before. But to me, as a journalist, I wondered whether that was kind of a strategic leak at a time where the White House is dealing with legions of problems from the shutdown to the ongoing Mueller investigation. What better way to remind conservatives of why they cast their lot with President Trump in the first place and that is Brett Kavanaugh, that is with Justice Gorsuch, that is the future of the judiciary. To me, it seems less about any kind of information that they had about Justice Ginsburg's health or her plans for the Supreme Court and more about the fact that they wanted to change the subject to something is that makes conservatives feel good about this current White House.

PAUL: We know she's reading briefings, she's reading filings and transcripts of the sessions. So, she's committed to staying put, obviously. But you make a point about the possible distraction there. If President Trump is in a position to fill a third seat coming off of the chaos and divisiveness of the Kavanaugh hearing, prognosticate what kind of a choice he might make?

CARMON: Well, I understand that they have talked about several women in recognition of the fact that Justice Ginsburg is only the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court. They'd be looking at women who have really different views on the constitution, really different ideological committments than Justice Ginsburg. The name that came up again and again, and this woman was a finalist for the seat that went to Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, and I guess the thinking here is she's a hero of women's rights, any woman will do, and I think that will not be the case if this comes to that.

PAUL: All right, Irin Carmon, I always appreciate you being here. Thank you so much.

CARMON: Thank you. PAUL: Absolutely. And be sure to tune in tonight for a CNN original film "RBG, the Life and Career of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg" tonight at 8:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

BLACKWELL: All right, Kristina Fitzpatrick has the latest "Bleacher Report" for us next. Anything going on this weekend?

KRISTINA FITZPATRICK, CNN ANCHOR: Just a few NFL playoff football games to talk about and we'll tell you why. Snow may play a significant role in the Colts/Chiefs matchup coming up this afternoon. That's going to be in your "Bleacher Report."



PAUL: So, a quick programming note for you, join fashion and cultural experts Tim Gunn, Christie Brinkley, Diane von Furstenberg and more for a front row seat at the runway of American history. "American Style" premieres tomorrow night 9:00 Eastern on CNN.

And we go from that to the NFL. Divisional playoffs kick off later today with what could be a snow bowl in Kansas City.

BLACKWELL: Snow bowl, Kristina Fitzpatrick has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report."


BLACKWELL: Good morning.

FITZPATRICK: You know with the NFL playoffs there's a little bit of a weather report I have to give you every season, right? There's going to be plenty of snow on the ground when the Chiefs and Colts square off at Arrowhead today. Crews are already trying to get ready for what is forecasted to be as much as 4 to 8 inches of snow which isn't good news for two of the league's high-powered offenses led by Patrick Mahomes and Andrew Luck. The Chiefs are seeking revenge for blowing a 28-point lead to the Colts in the wildcard game five years ago. The other game features the Cowboys in L.A. to take on the Rams. It's been at least 17 years since either team has been to the NFC title game.

So, Clemson is heading to the White House on Monday to visit President Trump. Remember, the tigers were the first seem as National Champs to visit Trump when they won the title two years ago. Trump confirmed it in a tweet last night saying, "What a game, what a coach, what a team." Clemson received a hero's welcome on Tuesday after crushing Alabama in the title game. A parade to honor the National Champs is set to begin in about two hours from now.

And you've got to feel a little bad for the Pacer's Victor Oladipo here. He thinks a teammate is open near him but it's actually the ref. He gets tripped up by the ball and goes down. It's all about how you recover though, right? To his credit, he still made the call and it's been a crazy week in that regard in the NBA. Just the other night, James Harden got hit right in the head with an

errant pass. I'm not sure what's going on with the NBA. Maybe they pay a little more attention, maybe it calls for an eye exam for the entire league. Anyway, crazy stuff going on. Some good video for you guys this morning on your "Bleacher Report."

BLACKWELL: He didn't just toss that either.


PAUL: No, no, he got smacked.

FITZPATRICK: He's okay, though.

BLACKWELL: Good. Good.

FITZPATRICK: It's the fact that he went down.

PAUL: That's all that matters. Yes. Yes. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Thanks Kristina.

FITZPATRICK: You're welcome.