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Trump: Lawmakers Have 19 Days To Avoid New Shutdown; Mulvaney: Trump Willing To Shutdown Government Again Over Border; Lawmakers Search For Common Ground To Avoid Another Shutdown; Indicted Trump Associate Roger Stone Does Not Rule Out Cooperating Mueller; Corsi: I'll Tell Truth, Let Testimony Fall Wherever It Falls; Soon: Kamala Harris Formally Launches Presidential Bid At Rally; Bolton Warns Maduro: Keep U.S. Diplomats Safe; ISIS Claims Responsibility For Twin Church Bombings In Philippines; Suspect In Louisiana Murders Captured In Virginia; Rep. Steve King Addresses White Nationalist Controversy; "Three Identical Strangers" Premieres Tonight At 9 ET. 3-4pm ET

Aired January 27, 2019 - 15:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:00:22] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again. Thank you so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are back on the job for now, but their concerns remain. Among them, when will they get their paychecks? And the looming threat of another government shutdown?

Democrats and Republicans have just 19 days to agree on a bill to fund the government passed February 15th. If they cannot, the President has threatened to use executive action to fund his border wall. And while the government has reopened, the damage has already done.

That historic shutdown cost the U.S. economy at least $6 billion according to a new report by Standard and Poor's global ratings. That is more expensive that the President's border wall request. So, was the shutdown worth it and where do things go from here? Lawmakers on both sides weighing in this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: Shutdowns are never good policy, ever. They are never to be used as a means to achieve any kind of goal no matter how important that goal may seem to be. We cannot have the threat of a government shutdown hanging over our people and our economy.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (R), MINORITY LEADER: We all know that these workers were held hostage by the President. We all know it's a strategy the American people abhorred, and that's why the President had to cave, but we also want to make sure it never happens again, whomever is President, whomever is in Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: All right, let's check in right now with CNN White House Correspondent Boris Sanchez. So, Boris, the Trump administration not backing down, you know, from this threat to bypass Congress to get the President that border wall.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Fred. The White House for some time has been exploring different avenues to secure funding for the President's long-promised border wall.

One of those options is declaring a national emergency as the President has threatened to do previously to get that border wall funding. He hasn't taken that step previously because it's unclear it would actually work. Democrats have already promised that they would try to block that attempt in court.

The other option is essentially to look for funding elsewhere in the federal government, whether in different agencies like the Treasury or the Department of Defense, there are four future funds, a different places the President can get revenue from for his border wall. The problem there is there's simply not enough. They're a drop in the bucket of the $5.7 billion that the President has been demanding for his border wall.

So essentially for the President and his team, it's back to the drawing board and threatening another shutdown, essentially a repeat of the last 35 days if the President doesn't get what he wants from Democrats in a couple weeks.

It's unclear exactly how the President or his aides believe that he has more leverage now or how things would play out differently a second time around, but as the Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said on one of the Sunday morning talk shows, the President is determined. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARGARET BRENNAN, "FACE THE NATION" ANCHOR: Is the President really prepared to shutdown the government again in three weeks?

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING CHIEF OF STAFF: Yes. I think he actually is. Keep in mind he's willing to do whatever it takes to secure the border. He does take this very seriously. This is a serious humanitarian and security crisis. And as President of the United States, he takes the security of the nation as his highest priority. He doesn't want to shut the government down, let's make that very clear. He doesn't want to declare a national emergency.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Now, Mulvaney insisted that the President is standing by that $5.7 billion that he wants for the border wall. He did say the President is not married to that number, though he would not specify what the President would accept to essentially just leave the issue alone, let the government keep running and focus elsewhere on domestic policy, something that sources' aides here in the White House have told CNN.

The President hasn't really brought up. Mulvaney apparently has approached the President about taking on rising drug prices, infrastructure. It appears the President simply is not interested. He is fixated on this border wall, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Boris Sanchez, thank you so much.

All right, joining me right now, Democratic strategist and CNN Political Commentator Maria Cardona and Republican strategist and CNN Political Commentator Doug Heye. Good to see you both.

All right, so Doug, Mick Mulvaney, you know, said the President will get the wall funding with or without Congress. So how can he argue this is a national emergency, you know, if the President has been threatening this for weeks and resorting to it only because he is not getting it in the budget?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think that highlights the problem that the President has here and part of the frustration that Republicans and Democrats feel on this. This is a negative process for everybody, and more certainly, there's some recharging of funding that a President can do within his own budget, Congress doesn't appear to move on this.

And so it's why you saw finally movement when they could agree to do what we had already agreed to do in the first place, which is exactly where we were in late December when the President walked away from what the Senate would have supported.

[15:05:09] So moving forward, if the President can recharge some things, no doubt about that, but sure of that it looks like we're going to either have a shutdown or border security in the eye of the beholder where Trump can say, "I got my wall," and the Democrats can say, "No, you didn't."

WHITFIELD: But how can he -- how can the country afford to go through this again, Doug?

HEYE: We can't. Obviously, it caught -- you know, you highlighted the 6 billion that it cost, but it also cost a lot more than money. You know, the anxiety that voters were going through throughout the country, not just government workers about where their next paycheck was coming, whether or not they'd be paid, and obviously contractors weren't paid at all, but also anybody who went to an airport that dealt with increased security lines, people who were certainly dealing with food safety inspections that weren't happening. You know, the cost was not just fiscal in this case.

WHITFIELD: So, Maria, where is the compromise going to come? Because, you know, everyone is talking about, you know, the next 19 days of negotiation and that means everyone has to give a little, has to take a little. And where are those areas going to be?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, hopefully they will be in the areas where I believe both Republicans and Democrats agree on. I think to Doug's point, it's just a matter of what you call it. And you talked about this, too, Fred. Democrats have always been willing to put a lot more money into smart border security. And, in fact, Democrats have already come up with a bill or several options that would put a lot more money into border security.

If that is something that Trump can take and accept, and if he wants to go ahead and call that his border wall, then that is how we come to a compromise. But what I think cannot happen again, and I believe -- and I hope that the GOP will listen to my very smart Republican colleague Doug Heye, nobody can afford another government shutdown, especially the over 1 million Americans whose livelihoods were devastated by Trump's insistence on what I believe and most Americans believe is a vanity project, which is why most Americans don't want it.

WHITFIELD: So, you know, Doug, while -- you know, the Democrats have appeared really unified on this and while there are some Republicans who have really demonstrated that they are a lot more pliable, you know, isn't it the President, the incumbent upon the President at this point, you know, to show some flexibility because he's still talking and tweeting, "It's all or nothing. I will still resort to. I will still threaten this emergency shutdown."

HEYE: Yes. I think we did see some modification in his remarks in the rose garden the other day where he said, "Well, I'm not talking about a wall from sea to shiny sea," instead of shining sea. Well, in fact, obviously he's been talking about the whole time, so that is a change.

And, you know, I think Maria would agree, there are places where walls can be effective and can be useful, that doesn't mean we need it everywhere. So the President has changed there, which is why, you know, as you highlighted earlier, he's not fixated per se now on the near $6 billion.

So, there is wiggle room. There is place -- there are places where they can negotiate here. It's time for the President to be that great negotiator that he's always told us he is.

WHITFIELD: Yes, (INAUDIBLE) say emergency declaration. So, I spoke to Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters earlier and this is what she had to say about the shutdown and moving forward.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: It's hard to believe that he is prepared to seriously negotiate when he's making his demands outside of the negotiation already. First of all, he's talking about he's got to have a certain amount of money. He's also talking about how terrible it is with the rapists and the drug dealers and on and on and on. That's not how you enter a negotiation.

You shut up and you shutdown, and you get into the negotiation and you legitimately lay your concerns on the table and people are prepared to talk about what they can and cannot do.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: -- tell you that it's going to be a repeat experience?

WATERS: I hope not. We believe in border security. And we have offered, you know, how we think it can be done. We want to make sure that he understands that it's not simply about a wall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So, Doug, has the President been weakened, you know, with all of this by demonstrating that perhaps he's not the negotiator in chief?

HEYE: Yes, he sure has. You know, I go back to the 2013 shutdown when I was working in House leadership, and it was a mirror image of where we are today. We had a Republican House, put a Democratic Senate and Democratic president, a lot of Republicans thought them that we somehow held leverage by having what John Boehner recalled one half of one third of government.

The reality is in this case because Donald Trump said we can call it the Trump shutdown, that we saw Democrats able to use leverage that they wouldn't normally have by having one half of one third of government. It's a really surprising turn of events but all created essentially by the President from walking away from a deal that the House and Senate were going to support and saying in advance that you can call it the Trump shutdown. He defined the terms of this before we even started.

[15:10:12] CARDONA: Yes.

WHITFIELD: So, Maria, do you think the President is at all reflecting on, you know, mistakes made, what you learned from this experience? You heard Nancy Pelosi who said, you know, he's demonstrating that perhaps he doesn't really have a good grasp of how things are going, but perhaps this was a teaching moment for the President.

CARDONA: Well, I want to say that I hope so, but we know who this President is and how he works. And reflection in terms of past bad deeds or mistakes, it doesn't exist within his persona. He has said it himself.

And so I think what is something that we haven't really talked about, Fred, is the possibility that because Republicans really do not want this to happen again for a whole slew of reasons, one of which is political, because many of them are up in 2020 and they saw what this did to them politically, but I think they also saw what this did to people's livelihoods and they don't want that to happen again.

It's very possible that if we come to a resolution to some kind of compromise, both Democrats and Republicans, and the President says he won't sign it, what if we come to a veto-proof majority that then can say, "Well, look, we believe this is what's best for the country so, sorry, Mr. President, you're wrong on this one." That would be the smart thing to do for Republicans if in fact this continues to be an obsession for this President and doesn't want to sign what has been hopefully we come to as a compromise.

WHITEFEILD: So quickly, Doug, do you see this as the potential moment where, you know, the Republicans or Trump's influence on the Republicans could potentially be eroding?

HEYE: Well, there is some erosion but the difference is what's public or private. What Republicans tend to say privately is very different from what they say publicly. That's all a reaction to their voters.

WHITEFEILD: All right, Doug Heye, Maria Cardona we'll leave it there for now, thank you.

CARDONA: Thank you so much.

HEYE: Thank you.

WHITEFEILD: All right, still ahead, senators -- a senator, rather, Kamala Harris set to formally kick off her presidential campaign with a rally in her hometown. How will she standout in a very crowded field of Democrats? I will take you there live, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:16:31] WHITEFEILD: Long time Trump associate Roger Stone says he is not ruling out cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. On Tuesday, Stone will be arraigned in Washington, D.C. on multiple charges including witness tampering, lying and obstruction. His indictment draws a connection between him, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks for damaging information on the Clinton campaign.

Stone denies the charges calling them politically motivated. After repeatedly saying he would not testify against the President, today, Stone says he's open to testifying.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, "THIS WEEK" ANCHOR: Any chance you'll cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller if he asks?

ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: You know, that's a question I would have to -- I have to determine after my attorneys have some discussion. If there's wrongdoing by other people in the campaign that I know about, which I know of none, but if there is I would certainly testify honestly.

I'd also testify honestly about any other matter, including any communications with the President. It's true that we spoke on the phone, but those communications are political in nature. They're benign and there's certainly no conspiracy with Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITEFEILD: All right, let's bring in CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider. So, Jessica, the Stone media blitz continues.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Fredricka, Roger Stone really making his case now before he gets to D.C. and into a D.C. courthouse and before a judge who is also overseeing both Paul Manafort and Rick Gates cases and she is tough. So perhaps Roger Stone is trying to get this last word in before any possible gag order after he appears in court on Tuesday.

Roger Stone, though, pledging really to tell the truth about his communications with Donald Trump which he says never involved Russia. And Stone today also shedding a little bit of light on who that senior Trump campaign official might have been who was directed to ask Stone about any upcoming releases from WikiLeaks in July 2016.

Stone saying it could have been Rick Gates, the former deputy campaign manager to Paul Manafort. But, of course, Gates has been cooperating with Robert Mueller for about the past year since pleading guilty. And Stone today suggesting that Gates may be feeding this info to Mueller, and Stone said, "Well, Gates might be lying."

And Stone also says he doesn't have any real recollection. And Stone also insisted that he has no idea who may have directed Gates, if it was him, to talk to him. So, that's from Stone.

But another person blasting the airwaves this morning, individual one from the indictment, Jerome Corsi. Corsi, of course, a long time friend and associate of Roger Stone and during the campaign Corsi predicted that WikiLeaks would be leaking more and more documents.

And it's alleged in the indictment that Stone directed Corsi to get in touch with WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, to get some of those pending e-mails that might later be released pertaining to Hillary Clinton.

Corsi is saying no that he has never been in touched with Julian Assange and instead was just a good predictor. Plus, Jerome Corsi also said that he is willing to cooperate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEROME CORSI, FORMER STONE ASSOCIATE: I'll be happy to testify. I was expecting to be subpoenaed and I'll let the testimony fall wherever it falls. I'm going to tell the truth to the best of my ability even that's hard given the amount of information and the fact that -- I've said from the beginning, I'm not a human tape recorder, you can't push a button. And I can't recall precisely in detail granularly conversations, e-mails, events from 2016. But I'm going to do my best to tell the truth without calculation of whom it benefits or whom it detracts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[15:20:06] SCHNEIDER: Jerome Corsi, though, has already been talking. He's been interviewed by Mueller's team multiple times. And, Fredricka, he has said to CNN that in those talks with Robert Mueller's team, he says that Mueller's team knows everything and that they have everything. So maybe a bit of an ominous warning to people who might still be talking to Mueller to perhaps tell the truth.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jessica Schneider, thanks so much.

All right, meantime, we're waiting to hear from Senator Kamala Harris who will formally kick off her presidential campaign rally within the hour. She'll address crowds in her hometown of Oakland, California. The 2020 Democratic field is quickly taking shape. Harris makes up a record, four women exploring a bid for the White House.

CNN Senior National Correspondent Kyung Lah is in Oakland where things will get going very soon. What's happening now? It looks like folks who are lined up outside are now in?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And there is still quite a line outside, but I want you to give a look at what is rapidly filling up. This is the square, Frank Ogawa Plaza right in front of city hall. And as you take a look at these faces that are starting to fill this area, this is Oakland and you are looking at the Kamala Harris coalition.

This is why she said that she is best poised to lead, that she has the credentials as well as the biography, and this rally will be steeped in the symbolism of diversity, that Oakland is the place where she was born. It is a place that has for decades been a place known for protests, and it's continued that charge through the Trump administration.

This is where she began her career as a prosecutor, where she first said the words, "Kamala Harris for the people." It is now her campaign slogan. So what will she talk about in her campaign? It is going to be populist in nature and it will be unapologetically populist.

Here are the five points of the campaign says, that excerpts that were obtained by CNN prior to this -- toward giving the speech. She'll be hitting on these five points that she wants to seek Medicare for all, a middle-class tax cut, access to education, that includes universal preschool as well as debt-free college, criminal justice reform, and fighting climate change.

One of the words that she will be -- one of the phrases that she will be speaking is something that will carry forth in this campaign. She will be saying to this crowd, "I love our country and I feel a deep sense of responsibility to stand up and fight for the best of who we are and what our country can be. The people in power are no match for the power of the people."

Notably absent, Fredricka, is she will not be mentioning President Trump. While her campaign will be absolutely focused on being anti- Trump, she will not be saying his name, she will not be talking about his administration. Today is her day. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: All right, Kyung Lah there in Oakland. And, of course, we'll be coming back to you. We do expect to hear from the Senator live at that venue in the next hour, and we'll take you there as it all gets underway.

All right, next, as the crisis in Venezuela escalates, the U.S. fires another warning over the safety of American diplomats in that country. And we'll hear what one prominent U.S. senator says about the possibility of U.S. military intervention.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:27:57] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Today, National Security Adviser John Bolton fired off a warning to Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro's regime, tweeting, "Any violence and intimidation against U.S. diplomatic personnel, Venezuela's democratic leader, Juan Guaido, or the National Assembly itself would represent a grave assault on the rule of law and will be met with a significant response."

Earlier, President Nicolas Maduro warned U.S. diplomats to get out of Venezuela but he's backed off that demand since. He also snapped back at Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who urged the United Nations to back the opposition leader us the country's legitimate President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NICOLAS MADURO, PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA (through translator): It's an expression of an empire and a face of decline. Pompeo is expressing an empire there is no shouting or threatening because his power in the world is declining and will end.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: With me now, CNN Global Affairs Analyst Kimberly Dozier. Kimberly, good to see you. So both Maduro and Guaido are appealing to the military there to gain support. Is that what will swing the balance?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, the military is arguably what's kept Maduro in power through heightening inflation, through the flight of millions of people from his country. The military's also bought into his government. U.S. officials say that they're literally on the take in a narco-state.

So from the top, Maduro, through the political ruling class to the military, they control everything from food distribution to imports of food. They profit from drug sales. That's what counter-terrorist officials say of the country.

So what you have to do is convince the military that, first of all, they won't be prosecuted for their past crimes, they won't be killed in a purge and that they will have some sort of future in a Guaido government.

WHITFIELD: Senator -- U.S. Senator Marco Rubio told CNN earlier that he would be very cautious about any U.S. military intervention talk. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[15:30:06] SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I don't know of anyone who's calling for military intervention. What I'm calling for is for the constitution to be followed, for military officials in Venezuela to follow and uphold the constitution they swore allegiance, for Juan Guaido to be able to act as Interim President until we have a new valid election so we can support that new Democratic government. That's what I'm calling for.

The United States always retains the right, always, anywhere in the world in any instance to protect its national security. So I'm not going to justify military intervention because I don't know who's calling for that. What I said is everything is an option because we always have an option of defending our national security in cases where it's threatened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So, Kimberly, what are the potential dangers of any kind of U.S. military intervention?

DOZIER: If the U.S. military intervenes, then it becomes a coup, it becomes an overthrow that feeds into the narrative that the U.S. conducts power change rather than change coming from inside the country

I think what you see the Trump administration doing is trying to ratchet up the pressure and then it gets added to by the European Union, other members of the security council who threatened to also follow the U.S. unless new elections are called and Guaido is somehow recognized. So the question is, what will the tipping point be?

Yesterday we saw that the Venezuelan military attache to Washington, declared his support to Guaido, but he's safely outside the country. You're going to have to see someone major within government or within the military declare that they are ready to move on to a new government.

WHITFIELD: And you heard Marco Rubio say, you know, he would be all for, you know, free and fair election but in what capacity might the U.S. be involved in facilitating that or would that be the U.N. body who would better facilitate in something like that.

DOZIER: Well, probably the best way out of this is for Venezuela's protectors, Russia, China, to work on facilitating some sort of election. The last election that Maduro won was widely called not valid, so there's no guarantee that a new election wouldn't also go his way. But that would be some way for Russia and China to slowdown some of this momentum and give Maduro some time to keep his hold on power.

WHITFIELD: All right, Kimberly Dozier, thank you so much.

DOZIER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, a nationwide manhunt for a man suspected of killing five people, including his own parents. Well, that search is over. We'll find out how he was caught hundreds of miles from the scene of the crime.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:35:54] WHITFIELD: And this just in to CNN, ISIS is claiming responsibility for a pair of church bombings in the Philippines. The deadly attacks are placed early this morning in Jolo Island. Authorities tell CNN at least 20 people were killed and 81 injured in the twin bombings.

A news agency linked to ISIS says two suicide bombers detonated explosive belts at the churches as they were holding Christian religious ceremonies. The terror group did not provide any evidence of its claim of responsibility and CNN cannot independently verify it.

Back in this country, the cross-country manhunt for a Louisiana murder suspect is now over. Sheriff's deputies say 21-year-old Dakota Theriot killed five people near Baton Rouge yesterday. Police say he killed his girlfriend, her father, and brother, then he killed his own parents.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung has been following the developments. So, Kaylee, what more can you tell us about the suspects capture?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, the 21-year-old Dakota Theriot managed to drive about a thousand miles in a 24-hour period before this manhunt came to an end.

Let me take you through this chronologically. It was yesterday morning when Theriot allegedly shot his girlfriend, Summer Ernest, her father and brother. He'd been living with them for the past couple of weeks.

He stole the father's pickup truck, drove about 30 miles to his own parents' house. Then when his father, Keith Theriot, was able to call police before he died, he was able to tell them that it was his son who shot him and his wife.

Authorities in Ascension Parish where Theriot's parents lived spoke with authorities in neighboring Livingston Parish where the Ernest family lived and they realized these two crime scenes were in fact connected and the manhunt began.

Authorities had reason to believe he was headed east. Authorities, meanwhile, in Richmond County, Virginia, now that's not to be confused with Richmond, the city, this is a rural area in the northern neck of Virginia. Authorities there were alerted that Theriot did have family in that area.

His family there actually chose to spend the night in a motel and it was something of happenstance, authorities say. This morning they were taking that family back to their home in Richmond County to collect some belongings when Theriot actually pulled up to the home.

He is said to have pointed a gun at authorities. They took cover. But he responded to their commands, dropped his weapon and they were able to arrest him without incident. Fred, this man is sitting in jail in Virginia. He is expected to be brought back to Ascension Parish in Louisiana where he will face at least two counts of first- degree murder.

WHITFIELD: Wow, what an incredible sequence of events. All right, Kaylee, thank you so much for bringing that to us. Appreciate it.

All right, still ahead, embattled Iowa Republican Steve King trying to make clear to his constituents that he is not a racist, the comments coming during a town hall event. What those in attendance were saying about the man who represents them in Congress, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:44:19] WHITFIELD: Iowa Congressman Steve King is back on his home turf this weekend and fighting back against claims that he has defended white supremacy. The backlash erupting after an interview the Congressman gave to "The New York Times" questioning why terms like white nationalists and white supremacists were offensive.

The comments led King's own party leaders to strip him of his committee assignments. At a town hall, the Iowa Republican continued to claim that he is not a racist. Here now is CNN's Sara Sidner.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: First of all, the big subject that's before us all that some might refer to as the elephant in the room is the situation of a "New York Times" quote.

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A quote that his own party thought was so racist. They stripped Congressman Steve King of his congressional committee assignments.

[15:45:06] In it he says, white nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization, how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?"

KING: He chose those works and punctuated them the way he did. But what I was addressing was not those terms of white supremacy or white nationalism, but when I said why did that language become offensive, I was speaking exclusively and directly about -- think about Western civilization. They are denigrating Western civilization today.

SIDNER: King spoke to his constituents in Primghar, Iowa, his first town hall since the controversy. Primghar it's claimed to fame, the only place in the world name Primghar. It is a town with the mayor but no stoplight, an elementary school but no high school, a place small enough where most residents know each other by name.

MAYOR KURT EDWARDS, PRIMGHAR, IOWA: You know, I didn't even know he was coming until earlier this week, they announced it.

SIDNER: King gave his Twitter followers a five-minute warning. "I will be starting a potentially volatile town hall in Primghar, Iowa," he posted. He then walked in to what turns out to be a very warm reception.

KING: Thank you. Wow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We love your conservatism and we pray that they never silence you.

SIDNER: One of the constituent praised him and said she is bothered by what she called reverse racism. King agreed and then pivots.

PAMELA HAMMANN, CONSTITUENT: And one of the things that I was bothered by when you had this problem was the reverse racism towards the white European man that founded this country. And that's the values that we're built on. And we have to be embarrassed to say anymore that we're white and European background. And I think that is wrong and I think we need to push back. And I think we need to take this thing out of the words racism.

KING: We can do the things that you described and we can at the same time embrace everything that Dr. Martin Luther King taught us all at the same time. And if we had stuck with his vision, we wouldn't be in the place we're in today in this society, in this country.

SIDNER: There were a few frustrations expressed, one constituent asking for help invigorating her small town's economy.

ANN, CONSTITUENT: What are you tangibly going to do like the Congress, fight for us, advocate for us? I need tangible actions.

KING: Would you give me a tangible recommendation?

ANN: I don't know. I'm just so frustrated.

SIDNER: Another gentleman asking how the Congressman plans to help with the lack of visas for migrant workers to help work the farms?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you doing to help the temporary worker program?

KING: Until we can secure our border, we aren't going to be able to have a constructive dialogue on the balance of this. But I will support a bonding program, an abundant program that is hopefully tailored to meet some of these labor needs that we have.

SIDNER: Not a single person asked about his prior racist comments. But when we asked what his constituents thought about his comments, we got an earful.

(on camera) Are you concerned that you have a congressman who is racist?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do have a congressman who is racist. I was concerned about it during the whole last election cycle that's why I worked hard for his opponent, J.D. Scholten, because I know my congressman is a racist.

KELLY O'BRIEN, CHAIRMAN, O'BRIEN COUNTY REPUBLICAN PARTY: He's a good Christian man. He's -- if he was a racist, I wouldn't be his friend. I'm not a racist. I have relatives, brother-in-laws, nieces, nephews that are black, OK?

SIDNER: But you do realize that that language, I have a friend that's black, I have a family member that's black, a lot of people see that as somebody who is trying to cover up racist beliefs.

O'BRIEN: Just you saying that makes -- as far as I'm concerned makes you racist. You're thinking I'm a racist because I'm white?

SIDNER: No. I'm just telling you that some of the language that you're using and some of the language that Congressman King has used --

O'BRIEN: I think the language you're using is racist.

SIDNER: OK.

(voice-over) King didn't hang around to answer that question or any others from reporters.

(on camera) And when you talk about they in civilization making a problem, what do you mean by they?

KING: I just got to go. I'm sorry, but let me close the door.

SIDNER: Sara Sidner, CNN, Primghar, Iowa.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: All right, coming up, we preview the CNN original film "Three Identical Strangers" a chronicle, the remarkable tail of a set of triplets separated at birth. I'll speak with the close friend of one of those brothers, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:54:05] WHITFIELD: So imagine walking down the street, opening your front door, or picking up a newspaper and discovering someone who looks just like you. What do you do?

The all-new CNN original film "Three Identical Strangers," which premiers tonight, dives deep into the surreal story of triplets separated at birth who miraculously reunited with each other by chance at the age of 19. Here's a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I tell people my story they don't believe it but it's true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've always thought what would it be like if you turn the corner one day and you saw yourself?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my god.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first time that boys met, the three together, it was a miracle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was nothing that can keep us apart.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's when things kind of got funky.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something we should not write. I'd like to know the truth.

[15:55:06] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was always a question mark.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The parents had never been told.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're trying to conceal what they did, from the people they did it to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There still so much that we don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How could you not tell us?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Extraordinary story. Joining us right now, Ellen Cervone, she is a close friend of the brothers profiled in "Three Identical Strangers" and actually appears in the film, "Ellen". Particularly, you have been what long-time friends with David, counting you've known him his whole life?

ELLEN CERVONE, FRIEND OF BROTHERS PROFILED IN "THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS": Yes, pretty much.

WHITFIELD: OK. So then, what was that like for you? At what point did you learn -- wait a minute, what -- you have two other brothers. You are one of a set of triplets?

CERVONE: Yes. So the way it happened was I was on my way to work in Manhattan. I read an article in the paper. There was no picture. It said two boys found each other, they were twins. And when I got home from work, my mother was on the phone with David's mother.

So, I just sat there listening and when the moms were finished, my mother handed me the phone and it was David and he said, "Hey." And I was like, "Hey, are you OK? What's going on?" He said, "Sit tight, I'll be over there in 20 minutes." And he rushed over and he came over to the house and he told my family the story.

WHITFIELD: Wow. And what was that like for you to, A, hear that, and then, B, what did you see, you know, in David? You know, what was -- was there anything that was kind of like, you know, transformational in him that you witnessed while he's telling you the story? Was he happy, sad, confused, perplexed, all of that?

CERVONE: Well, all of those feelings. And when he came over, it was very shocking and it was a miracle. It was an absolute miracle. Nothing like that had ever happened before. He was so excited. He was planning to meet his brothers the next day, and he was just all excited, yes. WHITFIELD: Wow. And then, to learn that we're not just talking, you know, twins, which is miraculous in and of itself, but that it would be triplets. How did you -- how did you learn of more detail of this kind of discovery that it was continuing to unfold?

CERVONE: Right. So it was in the daily -- all of our local newspapers here in New York. And there were two boys. And when I looked at the photograph, I said, "Oh, my gosh, those look exactly like David." And then, that's how we found out. That's how David found out as well. A friend came up to him with the newspaper with the picture of two clones, in essence, of him.

WHITFIELD: Wow. So, how did you see this changing, you know, David's life? I mean, was this, you know, a completion, you know, almost like he somehow knew that there were puzzle pieces missing and somehow, you know, it has come to fruition? Or, you know, now that you learn that he is one of three, you know, do you look back at the relationship that you've had with him all these years and say, "Hmm, things seem to come together?"

CERVONE: Yes. It kind of explained a lot because, you know, a piece of him was missing.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

CERVONE: These babies laid in a crib together for six months, touching each other, rolling around, and then they were separated. So they totally had that bonding experience. And afterwards, I realized that it caused probably some anxiety in him and the other babies and children as well, because a piece of them was missing.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Oh, my gosh. And so, how have you seen this story has kind of fulfilled his life? And maybe even yours too, because you're close friends with him. And you know, we feel what our friends are feeling, right? So, how is this experience, I guess, further shaped you both particularly?

CERVONE: Yes. It was an amazing experience to go through with him, and meeting the brothers was just amazing. They were all slightly different, but they were so similar. And all of a sudden, I had two more best friends. That's kind of what it was like, yes.

WHITFIELD: Wow. Well, we all look so forward to watching this film. It's extraordinary, just the teasing alone and hearing personal stories like yours and from others who knew them, you know, and know them. It's extraordinary. Ellen Cervone, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

CERVONE: Thanks for having me.

WHITFIELD: And be sure to tune in the award winning CNN original film "Three Identical Strangers" premieres tonight at 9:00 Eastern right here on the CNN.

And hello again. Thank you so much for being with me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The government is open for business, for now, but the clock is ticking. Democrats and Republicans have just 19 days to agree on a bill to fund the government past February 15th. And if they cannot, the President has threatened to use executive action to fund his border wall.

And while the U.S. government has reopened, the damages already done.