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FBI Investigated Why Trump's Actions Seemed to Benefit Russia; Teenager Found Alive After Being Missing for Months; Air Traffic Controllers Union Files Lawsuit Over Shutdown Pay; GOP Lawmaker Slammed After White Nationalist Comments; Winter Storm Packing Snow, Sleet Stretches 1,400 Miles. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired January 12, 2019 - 07:00   ET


[07:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- for you guys this morning on your "BLEACHER REPORT."

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: He didn't just toss that either.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's okay, though.

BLACKWELL: Good. Thanks, Cristina.

PAUL: Thank you.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The 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 composing 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.

PAUL: So glad to have you with us here. You know what, it became official at midnight, so you're now waking up to the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history. BLACKWELL: Yes, but the White House is now fighting another battle as

news breaks that the FBI opened an investigation into whether actions by the president of the United States were a threat to national security. First reported by The New York Times, this counterintelligence probe was happening at the same time as the obstruction of justice investigation. This all started after the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. The question behind both parts of the investigation was: was the president helping Russia against U.S. interests?

PAUL: So, I want to get an inside look at how this part of the investigation started here.

BLACKWELL: Josh Campbell was working for James Comey at the FBI at the time. Listen to what he said drives this investigation like this.


JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think, first of all, it's important for the viewer to understand the mechanics. So, for the FBI to open an investigation of any kind, the threshold is actually quite low. You need information or an allegation that there's been some type of violation of federal law, which is a very low threshold. You can't go on fishing expeditions. You have to have something concrete to point do.

But again, investigations are just that you're gathering information in order to get to the bottom of what happened. So, if you look at the impact here, and again, let's take ourselves back in time to that place where you have the FBI director -- or excuse me, the president of the United States, who was removing the FBI director, the person who was investigating him, which he knew about, because Comey was on the record in public testimony indicating that he was investigating the Trump campaign.

This is obviously that the president knew about. And people inside the FBI knew there was this Russia investigation. The deputy attorney general himself knew that Russia was on the president's mind when he got rid of Comey. So, as you start to piece together these, you know, elements of the puzzle, people inside the FBI would say, is there a problem here as it relates to national security?


BLACKWELL: All right, let's talk with CNN Law Enforcement Analyst James Gagliano about this.

PAUL: Yes, he's a retired FBI supervisory special agent. So, James, I want to let you know what Rudy Giuliani. According to the New York Times, he said, the fact that it goes back a year and a half and nothing came of it, that showed a breach of national security means they found nothing. This has been the argument, that it's gone on so long, there can't be anything there. Is that valid? Or could it be the opposite? It's still ongoing, which could equate to something substantial? JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, first of all, good

morning, Christi and Victor. I look at it like this, former Mayor Giuliani, who's now basically a political surrogate or counsel to the president, he has his opinions. And obviously, his job is to get out in front of this and to push back on it. The investigation has been going on a long time but that's the way investigations tend to go. Now, we know there've been any number of indictments, a number of convictions, most of them related to process crimes or stuff that is separate and apart from the original hurricane crossfire, which was a cross fire hurricane, which was the investigation into potential collusion between Russia and obviously the Trump campaign.

Look, I took apart The New York Times article last night and I read it paragraph by paragraph. I then talked to Adam Goldman, who's one of the really great New York Times reporters who reported on it. Adam knows a lot about the FBI. He's got the inside skinny. My takeaway in that article was -- I mean, there wasn't a lot new there in regards to the president, whether or not he was a witting or unwitting accomplice with the Russians, trying to influence an election. Or whether or not he's possibly guilty of obstruction of justice charges, which we will find out very soon when the report comes out from Mueller.

My biggest takeaway, the this pains me to say it. My biggest takeaway, is the chaos that was going on the seventh floor at the FBI at the time. Now, I understand James Comey is referred to that period of time in 2016 as a 500-year flood. And I agree with him, and there were decisions that were made, where they don't have the benefit of 2020 hindsight like we do now. So, we can take it apart. Analyst like me can look at it and say, well, you should've done this, you should've done that. That's wholly unfair. And I say that up front, but I think that there were some decisions that were made that deserve scrutiny. And I think that the impending I.G. report is going to answer a lot of the questions that were kind of raised in the New York Time piece when the I.G. into cross-fire hurricane comes out in the next few months.

[07:05:42] BLACKWELL: Let's pull that thread a little more here because The New York Times article references several times, caution, reluctance, on the part of the FBI agents, about even going down that road, potentially, of investigating, if the president was acting, as you said, wittingly and/or unwittingly on behalf of Russia. These investigations are not (INAUDIBLE) casually, as we know. And you can bet your last dollar that President Trump, at some point, probably on Twitter, will react to this story. We might even hear deep state or corruption there in the FBI. Help us understand, what it takes to get that point. Head off preemptively some of these deep state corruption conspiracy tweets, statements, defenses that will come.

GAGLIANO: Sure. So, Victor, let's go back to what Josh Campbell, the former special assistant to James Comey and a CNN Law Enforcement colleague said earlier. You played the sound on that. Yes, you need an allegation to open up an inquiry, OK? They're very different. The standards for opening up a criminal inquiry and a counterintelligence inquiry are very, very different. Now, what I'll say about this on the criminal side: it's not just the

mere investigation. The level of sensitivity for an investigation to be opened up into a sitting president or a president-elect, the standard is so high, the signoff at the levels, at the senior level of the DOJ and the FBI. Yes, it's the FBI director making a decision there. Anytime you investigate a journalist, a clergy member or a politician, it takes so many layers of approvals and authorizations to make that happen.

Now, here's what I say on the criminal side, it is going to be damn difficult to prove obstruction of justice here. Why? Well, obstruction of justice requires intent. Now, Donald Trump, as we all now know, is the most unconventional politicians. He says things recklessly, he says things impolitic, he says things that are untrue. So, to go back and unpack that and to say that he did this purposely, he fired James Comey because he wanted to stop the Russia investigation, it's going to be hard to prove. Why? Well, everybody knows that the director doesn't run the investigation.

The deputy director, a career FBI person -- in this case, it was Andy McCabe. That's the person that oversees investigations. James Comey doesn't oversee investigations. There's only been one FBI director in the 110-year history of the FBI, that was actually an FBI agent first, Louis Freeh. They don't do that. So, in this sense, if you fire an FBI director, it doesn't stop an investigation. Now, that might've been what the president thought and if that can be proven, we'll find that out when the report comes out from Mueller.

PAUL: OK. James, I just want to read you the latest tweet from Donald Trump, from President Trump a couple of minutes ago, we should point out.

BLACKWELL: It came out while we were talking about the president, potentially responding to with a tweet.

PAUL: So, he wrote: "Wow, just learned in the failing The New York Times that the corrupt former leaders of the FBI almost all fired or forced to leave the agency for some very bad reasons, opened up an investigation on me for no reason and with no proof after I fired lying James Comey. A total sleaze." Now, The New York Times lay out reasoning for why they came to that determination that they had to open an investigation today. To this -- to all of this, you say what? Was there overreach here by the FBI or was its duty?

GAGLIANO: Look, again, Christi, I read through that The New York Times piece and it was painstakingly reported. And I'll note this, there were two instances in that piece where the authors of the piece pointed out that they interviewed people that were close to the investigation and they interviewed people inside the FBI as well as outside the FBI. I'm outside the FBI.

There were groups of people that feel -- meaning, former FBI agents that there might have been overreach. And when I say overreach, does that mean that there was a cabal of FBI leaders that were conspiring, you know, conducting a witch's brew, trying to bring down the president? No, but I think all of those things were happening at the time. And going back to 2016, early 2017, we know that bad state actors like Russia, Iran, North Korea and China are constantly meddling in our elections. Going back to the 50s when Jay Edgar Hoover pointed that out. We know that that happened. What I think happened was, there might've been some emotional overreach there.

Now, it's not needed to determine whether or not the FISA application against, you know, Carter Page or whether or not the case against George Papadopoulos, whether those were appropriate. The I.G. is going to determine that. But I do think that the FBI in matters like this, has to be the calm of the chaos. We cannot let emotions get in our way. CNN has reported -- I mean, we've looked at the fact that there was chaos going on the seventh floor of the FBI. People trying to figure out how to "rein in the president." That's not our job. And as many things as I can criticize this president for judiciously, that's not our job. And so, do I think that that might have had something to do with it? Yes. I think President Trump has given them information and things to look into, absolutely.

[07:10:47] BLACKWELL: We'll, of course, have to see if the president continues to respond throughout the morning. His first response coming during our conversation now. James Gagliano, thanks so much.

GAGLIANO: Guys, thank you.

PAUL: The White House is pushing back strongly on the news, we should point out. From the White House now, CNN White House Reporter Sarah Westwood. We just heard from the president in the last couple minutes, you're also hearing, though, from the president secretary, is that right?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Christi. Starting last night, the White House began pushing back aggressively on this New York Times report. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders releasing a strongly worded statement Friday evening that said: "This is absurd. James Comey was fired because he's a disgraced partisan hack and his deputy 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 adversaries push America around, President Trump has actually been tough on Russia."

Now, The New York Times reported that this separate, newly uncovered inquiry into President Trump was opened after Trump, twice, tied the firing of Comey to the Russia investigation. And news of this investigation that took place in 2017, we're not sure if it's still ongoing. It appears, according to this reporting that it was folded into the Mueller investigation, once a special counsel was appointed. But this news comes on the heels on the revelation that Michael Cohen, the president's former Attorney and Fixer, is set to testify next month before the House Oversight Committee. More news that could potentially wrangle this White House, given how close Cohen was to President Trump for a number of years.

It also comes as the White House legal team is beefing up an anticipation of the release of Mueller's final report in the coming months. CNN has learned that the White House legal team has added 17 lawyers in preparation for what could be a fight, in part, over keeping that Mueller report private. Sources say, the White House would like to see that report covered under executive privilege, perhaps kept from being released entirely. Or if it is released, make it partially redacted. Democrats fighting to make that public. So, there there's a lot going on in the Russia front for this White House, including the latest New York Times report, which as you mentioned, President Trump is already up early and pushing back against this morning on Twitter.

PAUL: Absolutely. Sarah Westwood, thank you so much, appreciate it as always.

BLACKWELL: Well, during the campaign and after Donald Trump became president, there were a series of Russian-related red flags. So, let's talk about a few of them, a timeline of the events that sparked the official obstruction of justice inquiry by the FBI. Starting with May 19th, 2017: President Trump fired then FBI Director James Comey. And shortly after, he drafted a letter thanking Comey for telling him he was not the subject of the FBI's Russia investigation. A couple days after the firing, there was the interview with Lester Holt. And President Trump then tied Comey's firing to the Russia investigation.


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.


BLACKWELL: That was a tipping point for the FBI. Then, they started looking into connections between Trump and Russia, leading up to the election and after. Here's part of what they found, as candidate for presidency, the FBI found those close to Trump held meets in Trump Tower with Russians closely connected to Russian President Vladimir Putin -- that was June 9th, 2016. And during the campaign, Trump himself, he called on Russia for help.


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


BLACKWELL: That was in July of 2016. And then there was the Steele dossier, the memo that gave a window into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. James Comey briefed President-elect Trump about that in some detail on the dossier. It was January 6th, 2017. And just months before President Trump fired James Comey, he asked Comey for a loyalty pledge asking Comey to end that investigation into the national security adviser -- that was January 27th of 2017, a week after Trump was sworn into office. That takes us to May 17th, 2017, a little more than a week after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed, his job: to lead the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

[07:15:22] PAUL: We have some breaking news for you this morning. Police in Paris have just confirmed four people have been killed. Two of them firefighters, after a massive gas explosion. CNN's Melissa Bell is live from Paris with us. And these picks, Melissa, are just so riveting. And we're just so sorry to hear now that there are deaths that are a result of this. Help us understand what happened there.

MELLISA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Christi, we just had the confirmation of the deaths. Four people lost their lives in that explosion, as you say, impressive images from this street earlier on. This is the scene behind me now. Of course, that fire has been brought under control. The substantial fire that was caused by that explosion -- an explosion so strong, Christi, that its projected cars, tipped cars over, threw them aside.

People were projected off their feet. The windows on a number of buildings all around were broken. This was a substantial explosion. Now, what we understand happened is that firefighters were actually called to the scene just before the explosion took place, because of that gas leak that someone had obviously smelt and reported. Hence, the wounded firefighters amongst those injured. And sadly, Christi, amongst the four dead, two of them were firefighters believed to have been here on the scene when the explosion took place.

PAUL: All right. Melissa Bell, thank you so much for the update. We appreciate it.

BLACKWELL: We have new details in the case of Jayme Closs. She's the teenage girl who disappeared for three months but was found alive. What police are saying about the suspect and the steps he took to hide his identity.

PAUL: And we are into this morning, a record 22 days of a partial government shutdown. No sign the president or Democrats are ready to compromise here. The government employees now suing President Trump to get their pay.

BLACKWELL: And former NBC Anchor, Megyn Kelly, is leaving the network, but she's taken out something cash with her. How much NBC is paying her to stay off-the-air? We'll have that next.


[07:21:27] PAUL: 21 minutes past the hour right now. And we are learning new details this morning about the suspect who allegedly kidnapped 13-year-old Jayme Closs and killed her parents. According to police, Jake Thomas Patterson "planned his action and took proactive steps to hide his identity from law enforcement." That is a quote. Jayme Closs has been, I'm happy to tell you, reunited with her aunt, as well as her dog, Molly. CNN Correspondent Jean Casarez is in Barron, Wisconsin. Jean, first of all, do we know how she's doing? JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We know that she's reunited with her

family, as you have said and that it was a joyous moment. Her aunt has said, and that there was one picture that was released to show her with her dog and her aunt and she looks wonderful. Of course, that doesn't tell the whole story of three months in captivity, allegedly, with Jake Patterson, who is in custody in the local jail here in Barron County.

The sheriff of Barron County told me that this morning, they will continue to process the crime scene, the home that he allegedly held her at. We also do know that he was arrested on two charges of criminal intentional homicide in the first degree, as well as kidnapping and the complaint should be filed on Monday, because that is the initial court appearance right here in the building behind me. But this all started on Thursday, 4:30 in the afternoon.

And let me tell you, it is cold here. It is so icy in that area where she was being held where the neighbor was walking her dog. But at 4:30 in the afternoon, as this neighbor was walking her dog, this young woman, we know, 13 years old, appeared from the forest and she was disheveled and she was cold, and her shoes were way too big for her. And she said, I'm lost. And that neighbor said she recognized her immediately because this area has been plastered with pictures of Jayme Closs since October. And so that neighbor took her to the nearest neighbor's house, knocked on the door. They answered. And the homeowner, who then called 911, her initial look at Jayme Closs, listen to her reaction.


KRISTIN KASINSKAS, WOMAN WHO HELD JAYME AFTER SHE WAS FOUND: 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 like she'd been fighting a battle for weeks.


CASAREZ: So, 911 immediately called the suspect immediately pulled over and arrested. And, Christi, the very sad twist in all of this is it began when Jayme Closs' parents, both of them, James and Denise, were brutally murdered in their home. Jayme was there, but Jayme was then gone. And that began that three-month pursuit. And everyone in this community is beyond overjoyed that she's alive and she's home, Christi.

PAUL: A lot of people, including a lot of people who not in that community. Jean Casarez, we appreciate it so much. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: We're learning more about what happened after Jayme Closs escaped. The woman who found her spoke with CNN last night and described the moment Jayme approached her while she was walking her dog.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEANE NUTTER, FOUND JAYME CLOSS: I had walked my dog about a mile and

a half, the area where our cabin was, where Jayme was just like a loop. So, I just finished the walk with Henry. And I was at the end of my driveway, and I saw a young woman coming towards me saying, "I'm lost, I don't know where I am and I need help." And so, I went towards her. The roads are 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 apparently were not hers. And so, I knew wherever she had come from, she had left in a hurry.

[07:25:40] And when I got close to her, she leaned into me and just said "I'm Jayme." And 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 and told her everything was going to be all right. And 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, he was gone in a car. I said, what color is the car, because if -- I wanted to be aware, if I saw a car of that color coming towards us, we needed to do something different.


PAUL: That's so smart there. Now, police haven't revealed a motive, but they say Closs was the suspect's intended target the night that he allegedly killed parents.

BLACKWELL: It's been a record 22 days now since the U.S. government was fully funded. We'll tell you how the Air Traffic Controllers Union is fighting back. Dan McCabe, a representative with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association joins us with the details of the lawsuit filed against the federal government.


[07:31:05] BLACKWELL: We're pushing forward on the "BREAKING NEWS" out of Washington this morning. We've learned the FBI opened an inquiry into whether the president of the United States' actions were a threat to national security.

PAUL: And that counterintelligence probe was prompted by the firing of former FBI director James Comey. Now, The New York Times broke this story last night. The FBI tried to figure out -- The Times says, if the president of the United States of America was acting on behalf of Russia, and if he was putting U.S.' interests at risk.

The president responded to the reporting with a tweet this morning, claiming the FBI opened up an investigation for "no reason."

Now this morning, President Trump has reached a bleak milestone. He is presiding now over the longest government shutdown in American history.

BLACKWELL: Day 22 now. For more than three weeks, lawmakers have failed to find a compromise to reopen the government. But it's the 800,000 federal workers from across the country who are paying the price for the inaction in Washington.

PAUL: Democrats, who control the House, have passed a bill to fund the government, one department at a time. The president insisting funding for a wall at the U.S. -Mexico border, has to be a part of any deal. Without his support, Senate Republicans have refused to call votes on any of the measures.

30 furloughed workers, meanwhile, must have been shocked when they received their full paychecks yesterday. But listen to this, according to The Washington Post, they were paid due to a clerical error and were quickly told not to spend any of the money the people (INAUDIBLE).

BLACKWELL: Can you imagine, getting the money you're owed that you're due on payday. And the government says, give it back.

A union representing thousands of air traffic controllers is fighting back after being forced to work without being paid. Filing a lawsuit against the federal government. Joining me now, Dan McCabe, representative with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. Dan, welcome back to the show.


BLACKWELL: So, let's start here. Your group says that the government unlawfully deprived your members of their earned wages without due process. What's your case?

MCCABE: So, we did file yesterday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. It's really got three prongs to it. A couple of Fair Labor Standards Act violations. One, which is our membership that's working is not working for a minimum wage. The other is that overtime has not been paid promptly, and then, the one you just addressed which is actually a Fifth Amendment violation. Saying they've been deprived all their wages with no due process to go get them.

BLACKWELL: Now, essentially, this is on behalf of your members.

MCCABE: Correct.

BLACKWELL: But, I mean, if you're successful, this would affect obviously the all of the people who are working with --


MCCABE: I mean, it's got big implications out there.


MCCABE: And this really goes to the ones that are what we call excepted employees or the ones that are forced to go in to do work, and not getting a paycheck for it. BLACKWELL: Yes, let's talk about -- we were talking during the break about the moral. Specifically, of those who are going in, doing the job, those essential workers as the government says, but are not being paid.


BLACKWELL: What's it like?

MCCABE: So, we came in last week. We talked about it, everyone was fearful of the unknown. Well, it's real now. It happened yesterday. People open their pay stubs on Thursday, saw zeroes, which is like pouring salt in the wound. Moral is as low as I've seen it in 13 years, and getting worse.

So, I'll bring up a little statistic we figured out. Some of 400 people work in the building that I represent.


MCCABE: Just south of Atlanta. So, we'll say just for the sake of arguing that the average paycheck was $10. Some people got some money in the paycheck for overtime they'd work prior to the Christmas holiday. So, that's $4,000 dollars.

You take 400 employees times 10. Our traffic count in one facility of 314 facilities in this agency, the Atlanta air traffic control center worked 8,636 airplanes, Thursday, two days ago.

Meanwhile, the 400 people that work seven days a week, 24 hours a day to work those airplanes, $4,000 for two weeks' worth of work.

[07:35:12] BLACKWELL: So, by your math, that's 50 cents a plane for two weeks of work for the entire team.

MCCABE: Something's wrong with that, it's broken.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you. There are projects, there is training, there are efforts that were stopped cold because of the government shutdown by your account from the organization 6,000. What does that mean? What do those projects mean to the people who pass through this airspace?

MCCABE: So, a lot of these projects, the majority of these projects, you never know about. You've getting on an airplane, sitting on the taxiway, you'd never know. These are things many of them safety related that make an already safe system better, more redundant, safer.

A major project that's going on across the country or was going on is something called Datacom. It's something we're working on. The enroot centers are working on. And it's essentially text messaging between controllers and pilots to free up frequency congestion.

BLACKWELL: Yes. MCCABE: That's stopped. We were in the process of -- in process of implementing it, supposed to go live in March. We will now have to retrain the entire facility on it. Which means more overtime, more people off the operation. More people work in six-day work weeks.

BLACKWELL: The president says that the people who are not being paid support him, and say that what he's doing is the right thing. Now, the White House has not been able to provide any evidence for that. What's your message to the president?

MCCABE: In the shutdown? Immediately, it's not worth it. We are tired of being pawns in the shutdown.

BLACKWELL: All right.

MCCABE: There is too much at stake.

BLACKWELL: Dan McCabe, thanks so much.

MCCABE: Appreciate you having me back.

BLACKWELL: All right. Christi?

PAUL: Well, Representative Steve King facing backlash from both sides of the aisle for his white nationalist comments. We're going to tell you what GOP's Tim Scott, an African-American Senator from South Carolina have to say about it.


[07:41:22] PAUL: Representative Steve King is facing backlash from both sides of the aisle after he appears to lament the white supremacist language -- being considered offensive. And a statement came pushed back against being labeled a white nationalist, Senator Tim Scott, however, counter that in a Washington Post op-ed writing this, "King's comments are not conservative views but separate views that should be ridiculed at every turn possible."

Wesley Lowery, CNN contributor and national reporter for The Washington Post with us now. Listen, let's talk about the timing of this, Wesley, because this is not the first time Steve King has said something racist. Why do you think this moment is gaining so much attention?

WESLEY LOWERY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Certainly. I mean, it is -- it is really fascinating. You know, Steve King, representative from Iowa has long made comments that were clearly racist. You can think of comments about how, you know, we can't repopulate the country with someone else's babies. Conversations about -- the comments he's made about immigrants and immigration.

Once I'm making a comment about -- you know, well, can you -- if diversity is so great, name, name some great things we've gotten from non-white people? He said more or less in paraphrasing, right?

And -- but in this moment, in this particular case, right? You know, very often in the past, conservatives and Republicans have played a nuanced game with Steve King's comments. And saying, well -- but if you interpret these comments in the best possible light, maybe they aren't actually racist or racially discriminatory.

What happened, in this case, was Steve King made comments in the New York Times in which he said essentially, "Well, what's so wrong with being a white nationalist? What so wrong with being a white supremacist?" It was -- there was something explicit about his defense of these terms that in our modern politics, we all know what they mean, we all know what that -- what beliefs those things are signaling.

And it forced some folks to really have to grapple with some of his history in terms of these comments. Now, again, could folks have come out and condemned a very similar comments from him maybe perhaps just a few months ago when he was still up for re-election? Well, certainly, but now there's less of a political -- you know, political backlash to him, or at least, I'm sorry, less of a chance for anything to really happen with this.

As opposed to just a few months ago, when he was facing re-election, this type of backlash from fellow Republicans could have had real electoral results in terms of his House race.

PAUL: So, here's the thing, Senator Tim Scott. I want to pull out another piece of this op-ed that he wrote in The Washington Post. He said, "Some in our party wonder why Republicans are constantly accused of racism. It is because our silence -- of our silence when things like this are said."

Do you see a turning point here, a shift that perhaps there might actually be a consequence for this kind of language now? From Republicans specifically.

LOWERY: Well, we've yet to -- Sure. Well, we've yet to see a consequence, right? I do think it's important and a notable that people like Tim Scott are speaking up. But even speaking to the point he's making, it's notable that Tim Scott seems to be among the only people speaking up, right? That it falls kind of time and time again to the Republicans one black Senator to be the voice on this.

After Charlottesville fell to Tim Scott to meet with President Trump and condemn President Trump's comments. After even just last year, when the president was appointing -- attempting to point a judge from North Carolina who had been involved in voter suppression, it's -- it fell to Tim Scott, the black Senator to stand up.

And so, on issues of race, as the Senator noted in that op-ed in The Post yesterday. There are very few Republicans who are willing to call a spade a Spain. And I think that -- you know, we will certainly have seen some additional backlash in this moment. The National reviews come out and editorialized against Steve King. You've had some other folks.

This was -- this was very low-hanging for, against Steve King has been very open and clear about who he is and what his beliefs are for years. And it's been laid out here. And that it would take something this explicit for a lot of meanest Republican -- Republicans to acknowledge who he is and what he believes.

Speaks to how reluctant most Republicans are to really acknowledge that there's a sizeable portion of their base and other supporters. And even if some of their elected officials who hold really racially discriminatory beliefs.

[07:45:37] PAUL: Well, we don't know if they hold those beliefs. We know that they do not speak up against them just to be clear. Wesley Lowery, thank you so much. Very good points.

BLACKWELL: Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has not said if he will run for president in 2020, yet. But he said, if he did, he would self-fund his campaign. Bloomberg, who Forbes estimate is worth more than $44 billion dollars spent his own money on his three successful campaigns for mayor.

But Senator Elizabeth Warren who is also exploring a potential run for president in 2020, says it's time to say no to billionaires in politics.

The 2020 Democratic field has added another name. The latest now, Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard. Democrat made her informal announcement on CNN's "VAN JONES SHOW" a show airs tonight at 7:00 here on CNN.


REP. TULSI GABBARD (D-HI), HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: I have decided to run and will be making a formal announcement within the next week.


BLACKWELL: Gabbard is an Iraq War veteran, and serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Former television host Megyn Kelly will receive all the money from her $69 million contract with NBC. Kelly and NBC officially parted ways Friday. And that departure was put into motion when Kelly was taken off the air this fall. That's when Kelly defended Halloween costumes that include blackface during a segment on her talk show.

Kelly is nearly halfway through her three-year contract. Sources say the remaining balance is somewhere around $30 million.

PAUL: There is a massive winter storm stretching 1,400 miles, which means millions of you under winter weather alerts this morning. We're tracking that for you, stay close.


[07:51:23] PAUL: 51 minutes past the hour. And the way we dress, it doesn't just reflect our taste in clothes, it reflects what's going on in the world around us. From World War II to the women's movement. All these forces have influenced what we wear to work, to play.

Well, the new CNN Original Series, "AMERICAN STYLE" looks at how the social, political, and economic changes of the past 100 years have really defined America's unique style and identity. Here's a preview.


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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Americans felt very second-rate when comparing ourselves to Europe.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bikini was the biggest thing since the atom bomb.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, RICE UNIVERSITY: To the 60s, 70s, our style, and fashion represents freedom.

TODD BOYD, PROFESSOR OF CRITICAL STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: When you look at hippie culture, it's really oppositional to the Vietnam War.

CHRISTOPHER REID, AMERICAN ACTOR, COMEDIAN: Disco was very important in terms of people being free to express themselves.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had our Calvin Klein's and our Ralph Lauren's, and our Donna Karan's.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Calvin Klein's advertising was rather scandalous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His underwear ads stop traffic in Times Square.

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

TINA CRAIG, CO-FOUNDER, BAG SNOB: Supermodels really brought fashion into every household.

JOHN A. TIFFANY, FASHION HISTORIAN: Now, what's embraced as being yourself?

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


PAUL: Now, Earlier this week, costume designer Janie Bryant of Mad Men Fame sat down with CNN's Kate Bolduan. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KATE BOLDUAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: As we just saw in a clip, American style is constantly evolving, constantly changing. I wonder how do you define American style, what makes it unique?

JANIE BRYANT, EMMY AWARD-WINNING COSTUME DESIGNER: Yes, I think that American style is --as individual, as our country and regions are really -- I think that American style is really about individuality and having a freedom in dressing. And being able to express yourself in how you feel the best the most beautiful.

And, you know, I also think that there's like a real rebellion in American style as well. There are -- there are no rules, and you know, that's what I love about it.


PAUL: Be sure to tune in the all-new CNN Original Series "AMERICAN STYLE". Premieres tomorrow, 9:00 p.m. only here on CNN.

BLACKWELL: Still to come, snow, sleet, freezing rain, powerful winter storm as millions under winter weather alert this morning. We'll tell you who's getting it the worst.


[07:58:23] BLACKWELL: A powerful winter storm is -- it's just making a mess across parts of the country this morning. From Kansas, all the way to the East Coast, millions of people are under winter alerts.

PAUL: In the Midwest, already more than a foot of snow has been reported. CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar tracking this storm from the CNN Weather Center. Look, we know this, this time of year, it happens, but it's still dangerous.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, and it's been record- breaking for some cities. That's the thing you have to keep in mind. Normally, you picture bad traffic this time of day on a Monday or Wednesday.

This is Saturday. Take a look at this. Basically, from Kansas City, all the way to Indianapolis, Interstate 70, both directions pretty much a no-go. And even other cities are dealing with pretty poor traffic right now. And it's all because of this.

Very heavy snowlines, the northern edge of this particular system. So you have heavy snow right now coming down for cities like St. Louis, Indianapolis, even Cincinnati. But that system is going to push off to the east. So you have winter weather alerts that stretch from Kansas all the way over towards New Jersey.

Now, some if some of this will be snow, some of this will also be in the form of freezing rain or even sleet. This is the system as it progresses throughout the day. It begins to slowly push off to the east. So other cities like D.C., Baltimore, you also have the potential to get some snow out of this. The heaviest amounts are going to be where you see purple. It's about four to six additional inches on top of what we've already had, the white about two to four. But ice is also going to be a concern for places like Virginia, as well as the Carolinas.

Take a look at this. Over a foot of snow has already been reported for states like Colorado, as well as Missouri but as we mentioned Victor and Christie, even Columbia, they actually set a record yesterday. And St. Louis could end up cracking the top five by the time the system said and done.

BLACKWELL: A lot going on there. Allison Chinchar, thanks for watching it for us.