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President Trump to Speak at CPAC; Sanders Returns to Brooklyn Roots for Major Campaign Speech; Backlash from Otto Warmbier's Parents; SF Giants CEO Apologizes after Video Captures Argument with Wife; Cohen Suggests SDNY Investigation into Trump Underway; Immigrant Groups Demand Release of Infants in ICE Custody; Visiting Key West, the Southernmost City; Guns in America. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired March 2, 2019 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:17] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. It is 11:00 on the East Coast.
I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Welcome to the NEWSROOM.
Right now we're waiting for two major political events on two very different sides of the political aisle.
President Trump will be speaking to his base for the first time since walking out on North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un at the second summit overseas. Will the President address the backlash surrounding his comments on American student Otto Warmbier? And will he say anything about his former personal attorney and fixer's explosive public testimony on the Hill this week where Michael Cohen called the President a "racist" and a "con man"? We're standing by for that.
And soon, Senator Bernie Sanders will hold his first major campaign rally since launching his 2020 bid. He is returning to his roots and returning to his native Brooklyn for today's speech. We'll take you there live.
This as more Democratic 2020 hopefuls are across the map today with another busy weekend of campaigning.
Let's begin with CNN's Sarah Westwood, live for us outside the White House. So President Trump is expected to speak soon, not far from the White House. What can we expect from him?
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Fred -- it's been a rough week for President Trump, both on the foreign policy front and here at home. So we expect the President to use this speech to try to change the conversation, perhaps try to reframe some of the setbacks that hit his White House this week.
Now, when he takes the stage, it will be the first time we're seeing him since he left those North Korean talks in Vietnam empty-handed, without any progress towards the denuclearization deal that he had sought. And he has been taking criticism about what he said about Otto Warmbier, the young American student who died just days after his release from North Korean custody. The President facing widespread backlash, including from Otto Warmbier's parents after he said he believed Kim Jong-un when the North Korean dictator said he did not know how harshly Otto was being treated.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't believe that he would have allowed that to happen. Just wasn't to his advantage to allow that to happen.
He felt very badly. He knew the case very well, but he knew it later. He tells me that he didn't know about it. And I will take him at his word.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WESTWOOD: So that was Trump speaking in Hanoi. But since then, the President has argued that his words have been twisted. He took to Twitter yesterday writing "I never liked being misinterpreted, but especially when it comes to Otto Warmbier and his great family. Remember, I got Otto out along with three others. The previous administration did nothing."
And then he goes on to say he does hold North Korea responsible for Otto's mistreatment and death and he lavished praise on the Warmbier family.
So we could expect the President to continue this line of argument when he appears at CPAC. That will be his third appearance at the conservative gathering since he became president, and it will certainly be a friendly audience -- Fred, if he tries to characterize his failure to secure a deal with North Korea as a positive development.
WHITFIELD: So Sarah -- is the President disputing what he said, which was on videotape? If you didn't get a chance to see it live and hear it live, you saw him and you heard his words on tape.
WESTWOOD: Right, the President seems to be trying to parse what he said in Vietnam very carefully by sort of straddling the line here, saying he does hold North Korea responsible, he does hold the regime responsible but maybe not necessarily Kim Jong-un personally.
You know, he has a history of believing the words of strongmen, even though all the available evidence suggests that they're lying. And so that is sort of a repetition of that what we saw in Vietnam -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Sarah Westwood at the White House. Thank you so much. Again the President is at the National Harbor, just roughly 30 minutes or so away from the White House. We'll take his comments as it happens. Meantime, at any moment now U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders will deliver the first major speech of his 2020 presidential campaign. Sanders is expected to get deeply personal at his campaign rally in his native Brooklyn as the 77-year-old reintroduces himself to voters.
CNN's Ryan Nobles is live for us there in Brooklyn. So Ryan -- what can be expected there?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred -- we're expecting a very different tone from Bernie Sanders than what we saw four years ago. Sanders mainly struck (SIC) to the themes of his policy positions four years ago, pushing these progressive issues that have really become the central tenets of the Democratic Party.
Here today in Brooklyn behind me in front of this big crowd, he's going to strike a much more personal tone. He's going to talk about his upbringing here in Brooklyn, the rent-controlled apartment that he and his immigrant parents lived in on a middle class income while he struggled to, you know, (INAUDIBLE) to his upbringing and to get to the point where he could then move on and become the political superstar that he is today.
[11:05:06] And this is a very calculated move by the Sanders team. While they acknowledge that he was very successful four years ago, he did not win the election. And that's the big difference between 2016 and 2020.
This isn't just going to be about Bernie Sanders changing the political conversation, he himself said he was only going to run if he thought he could win. And so that means that they're doing things much differently.
Not only talking about his personal life but also the makeup of his campaign. His senior leaders of the campaign now represent much more of the minority community. There's much more of a presence from women and females as well.
So today, Bernie Sanders launching that new tone of his campaign with this big rally here in Brooklyn as he hopes to win the Democratic nomination -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. And Ryan -- when you scan, you know, the audience there, is there any real common thread? Can you tell me a little bit about the people there? Are they mostly from the Brooklyn area? Did people come from all over or what?
NOBLES: Yes. That's right -- Fred.
You know, we spoke to quite a few people as they were streaming in here. And this is very indicative of a Bernie Sanders crowd. There are a lot of young people here. He obviously has a lot of support with young people. We are seeing some diversity, a lot of African- American supporters are here, as well as a lot of women.
You know, Brooklyn is a hot bed for Bernie Sanders support. There's a lot of people who come from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. They are passionate about their support for Bernie Sanders.
Now, what's interesting is I asked quite a few of them. You know, there are a lot of other candidates in this race that are espousing many of the same beliefs that Bernie Sanders is. They're talking about free college tuition. They're talking about Medicare for all. What makes Bernie different?
And their answer is he was there first. He was the leader. He's the one that got the Democratic Party to this place. And that's why they believe he deserves to be the nominee for the party -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Ryan Nobles in Brooklyn. Of course, we'll go back live there when Bernie Sanders does appear. Thanks so much.
All right. Let's talk more about this. Joining me right now, congressional reporter for the "Washington Post" Karoun Demirjian, and assistant editor for the "Washington Post" David Swerdlick. Good to see you both.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hey -- Fred.
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER "WASHINGTON POST": Good morning.
WHITFIELD: Al right. So Karoun -- you first. How does this not end up looking again like another 2016 race for Bernie Sanders. What does he have to do differently?
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN: Well, I think that there have been, you know, some negative headlines about 2016 that have driven him to need to cast a wider tent this time. It is interesting that Ryan said that there were a lot of women there and African-Americans because those are two groups that the reporting since 2016 is they felt a little bit marginalized from his campaign.
So if he is able to draw a broader swathe of Americans and the Democratic Party, that's probably going to be advantageous for him.
It is going to be interesting though to see how Bernie casts himself against a much wider field. Before it was Bernie versus Hillary, now it is Bernie, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg and maybe Joe Biden and a number of other people.
And it's going to be interesting to see if of them challenge him for the mantle of the more progressive wing of the party. It seems like that definitely will happen given the list of names I just rattled off right there.
So he doesn't have complete claim to the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party this time and he is going to thus have to make a different kind of a sale, different kind of pitch that appeals to more people who might gravitate toward a number of other candidates, given the options that are before everybody that's looking at the Democratic Party or everybody that's looking to potentially challenge Trump in two more years.
WHITFIELD: And so David -- so he will be divulging a bit more, spending some more time on his personal, you know, upbringing, his life.
WHITFIELD: I mean what does he feel he needs to say to kind of reintroduce himself to people or maybe for the first time he is introducing himself to some potential voters.
DAVID SWERDLICK: Good morning -- Fred.
Yes, Sanders is playing a home game this morning. He's from Brooklyn, went to James Madison High School in Brooklyn where, in fact, my dad went to high school. So it's not a surprise that he is drawing a big crowd, that he's got a diverse crowd there.
But as he goes out into the wider country and the wider electorate -- Iowa, South Carolina, Some of those other early states, California -- as Karoun says, he will be going against a broader field with candidates who have an appeal in those particular states.
For instance, Senator Harris is from California and so she has a home field advantage there, and in South Carolina, a lot of the Democratic base is African-American and as an African-American candidate, a lot of observers think she'll have a leg up there.
So he also -- and the other thing that the challenge will be for Sanders is that in 2016, he was the outlier. He was way to the left and you had a lot of centrist Democrats. Clinton, you had Jim Webb, you had Lincoln Chaffee from Rhode Island.
Now, the party has moved closer to him ideologically. So the question will be Fred -- can Sanders distinguish his personal narrative and his big vision from the country from the other candidates versus on policy where everybody is kind of bunched pretty tightly with him.
[11:10:01] WHITFIELD: Ok. And then, you know, Karoun -- is there bad blood between he and, you know, former rival Hillary Clinton or is too much being made of this moment. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEGHAN MCCAIN, TV HOST: We're hearing about a lot of Democratic candidates who are meeting with Hillary Clinton for advice, so people like Amy Klobuchar. Do you think you'll do the same?
SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I suspect not. Hillary has not --
MCCAIN: You suspect not.
SANDERS: You know, she has not called me.
MCCAIN: You're not interested in any advice from her? SANDERS: I think not. We have -- look, we have --
MCCAIN: You think not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So Karoun -- what do you make of that and do you think, however, there is potential that the two will converse because aren't they both, you know, going to end up in the same space?
DEMIRJIAN: Sure. I mean look, if Bernie gets the nomination, I'm sure that he will be willing to talk to anybody and everybody. But it seems like there's some lingering wounds there. And it's really interesting to see that that's going to be the case uniquely for Bernie I think. Because the Clinton -- if not Clinton herself, then at least many of her top surrogates and aides, her people have been reaching out to all of the other candidates or putting their names out there to talk about various policy issues, to try to unite the party.
They realize that the party has shifted further to the progressive wing as well, and they're trying to come up with some sort of comprehensive strategy that can reach out to as many Democrats as possible.
Now there's going to be a free for all between now and the actual primaries and getting to the convention. But it's going to be really interesting to see how Bernie crafts himself, if he is going to be the one person that is not taking any phone calls, that is not scheduling any meetings with Clinton people to at least get, you know, their expertise, resources, whatever is out there, whether or not they choose to use it as guidance for what their policy platform will be.
WHITFIELD: And a Quinnipiac University, you know, poll is out looking specifically at the 2020 race in Texas. Bernie Sanders along with Joe Biden and Beto O'Rourke, you know, the latter two who have not officially jumped into the race are polling neck and neck in theoretical matchups, you know, with President Trump. So David -- what does this have to say, if anything at this juncture?
SWERDLICK: So Fred -- I think some of this is a little bit expected. Congressman O'Rourke is from Texas, even though he is out of office now you'd expect him to do well there. He did very well in a losing senate race against incumbent Ted Cruz in the last cycle.
Senator Sanders is the only candidate in the Democratic field who ran last time so he's got that name ID. And of course, Vice President Biden is the former most recent past vice president. So all of them have a head start in a big state like that.
As the process goes on, as we get into debates, as other candidates become known, I do think these things will shift a bit. But it also suggests that look, someone like Biden, someone like Sanders because the American people already feel like they know these guys a little they're going to have a leg up on some of the candidates who are still trying to introduce themselves. People like Senator Warren, people like Senator Booker are known, but the whole country doesn't have the same feel for them because they've never run in a national race.
WHITFIELD: All right. David Swerdlick, Karoun Demirjian -- we'll leave it there for now. Thank you so much.
SWERDLICK: Thanks -- Fred.
DEMIRJIAN: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: And of course, still ahead, CNN is learning North Korea fully expected to make a deal with President Trump to denuclearize. So what went wrong?
And the parents of Otto Warmbier rip into the President when he said he believes the North Korean leader did not know about the American student's mistreatment. What the President is saying now.
[11:13:18] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders just moments away from kicking off his first rally of the 2020 campaign season right out of Brooklyn there. He will be more speaking about his personal experience and background growing up. We'll take his comments live as it happens.
And also at any moment President Trump is expected to speak at the nation's largest conservative gathering in National Harbor, Maryland. This follows an abrupt end earlier this week of his second summit and denuclearization talks with North Korea's leader.
We're now learning that North Korea came to the summit fully expecting that they would leave with a deal.
Samantha Vinograd who was the former senior adviser to Obama's national security adviser joins us right now from New York. All right. Samantha -- good to see you.
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Good to see you.
WHITFIELD: So this is the second summit. The President said the deal didn't look good, so he walked away. At the same time, Kim Jong-un is saying that they fully expected to nail down a deal. How do you measure the success or failure of the summit?
VINOGRAD: Well Fred -- I want to point one thing out because the White House is spreading a lot of misinformation about something. We actually do have a deal and a very bad deal with North Korea. We have decided to freeze our joint military exercises and to scale some major joint military exercises back completely because the North Koreans have agreed not to conduct missile or nuclear tests.
That is a very bad deal because the threat from North Korea hasn't gone away, but we're diminishing the ability of our forces to respond to that threat while we engage in these diplomatic negotiations. With respect --
WHITFIELD: And that would be measured as a victory for North Korea because no longer are those exercises -- you know, no reminders of the kind of international force, namely the U.S. force that is available.
VINOGRAD: It is definitely a victory for North Korea because again, North Korea is advancing its nuclear and conventional forces while our forces are less ready to counter those threats because they are not engaging in these join military exercises.
With respect to the Hanoi summit, what is unusual is that President Trump did not allow himself this time to be pushed around by Kim Jong- un and to make a second bad deal related to easing sanctions in exchange for some kind of denuclearization -- and I'm using air quotes here -- because dismantling the Yongbyon facility which essentially is what was on the table is not necessarily denuclearization.
[11:20:00] He did not get pushed over by Kim Jong-un this time around but the fact that he showed up in Hanoi, and this was on the table, and there was this kind of gap between the two leaders' negotiating positions really indicates to me, Fred -- that he didn't do the most basic prep work ahead of the summit, and set himself up for failure in Hanoi and just kicked the can further down the road.
WHITFIELD: Well, is it your feeling that perhaps this is the President's style, that he wanted to be the one taking the lead in any negotiation face to face with Kim Jong-un as opposed to, you know, his predecessors who might send an advanced team. That's what your, you know, diplomatic core is all about, to go hash out whatever deal so that when the President arrives, everything is signed, sealed and -- well, signed, sealed, delivered as soon as the President upon arrival, you know, signs it.
Is that, you know, the real difference here -- that perhaps it is this style of this president who wants to be the one to take credit for either negotiating or walking away?
VINOGRAD: That is certainly his style which is why he has preferred to meet with Kim Jong-un. He rushed a summit in Singapore, just like he rushed this summit.
The prep work wasn't done. And to your point that he, I think he is under impression that he is the Kim whisperer, much like he is a Putin whisperer. And if he just gets in the room with despots who are very good at manipulating him from thousands of miles away, he can convince them to change their aggressive behavior or to change a major negotiating point like what kind of sanctions would be lifted in exchange for denuclearization.
But it is not working -- Fred. Putin has not stopped attacking our country. And Kim Jong-un has not actually agreed to denuclearize as far as we know.
WHITFIELD: Do you see that there would be a third or even wise to have a third summit and perhaps more ground, you know, would be covered? VINOGRAD: Oh, I think Kim Jong-un is begging for a third date with
Donald Trump because the more that Kim Jong-un can extend this in the future, that is more time that this new normal of a North Korea with nuclear weapons, with relationships around the world, and with the crumbling sanctions regime that gives it access to revenue can continue to accumulate.
It is in Kim's interest to keep talking to Donald Trump so all these other activities can continue in the interim. The longer this goes, the better for Kim.
WHITFIELD: All right. Samantha Vinograd -- thanks so much. Good to see you.
VINOGRAD: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Meantime while on that trip something else very serious was stirred. The family of Otto Warmbier issues a sharp rebuke of President Trump after his shocking public defense of the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, in the brutal mistreatment and death of their son. Brian Todd has more on how the family did not hold back.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Analysts called it a low point in an already dismal news conference.
TRUMP: He tells me that he didn't know about it and I will take him at his word.
TODD: The President saying he supported North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un's stance that Kim didn't know of American college student Otto Warmbier's deteriorating condition in a North Korean prison.
TRUMP: I don't believe that he would have allowed that to happen.
TODD: Otto Warmbier -- a student at the University of Virginia was arrested for allegedly stealing a political sign during his tour of Pyongyang in early 2016, during what was widely seen as a show trial, he wept.
Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. A year and a half later, North Korean diplomats abruptly asked for a meeting with their U.S. counterpart and told them the young American was in a coma. Warmbier was quickly evacuated and died just a couple days after returning home.
Trump initially attacked Kim and his regime for the death.
TRUMP: We need only look at the depraved character of the North Korean regime.
TODD: And he embraced Warmbier's parents, even inviting them to the state of the union address.
TRUMP: You are powerful witnesses to a menace that threatens our world and your strength truly inspires us all.
TODD: Analysts said that seemed to be a far cry from his comments this week.
TRUMP: He felt badly about it.
Todd: Trump has in fact struck a different tone for months NOW with Kim Jong-un.
TRUMP: And then we fell in love, ok? No really. He wrote me beautiful letters. And they're great letters.
TODD: tonight, facing backlash from the family, the President took to Twitter saying he had been misinterpreted on Thursday. Quote, "Of course I hold North Korea responsible for Otto's mistreatment and death. Most important, Otto Warmbier will not have died in vain. I love Otto and think of him often."
KELLYANNE CONWAY, SENIOR COUNSELR TO TRUMP: This president is responsible for having Otto Warmbier returned to this country and be reunited with his family in his final hours.
What the President is that there's no indication Chairman Kim knew what happened to Otto Warmbier when it happened.
TODD: But that seems improbable experts say because after his death, doctors who examined Otto Warmbier said they believed he had been in a vegetative state for 14 months before being sent home.
[11:25:04] (on camera): If he is in a vegetative state for 14 months, does Kim Jong-un not know about it at all during that time?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Kim would have known as soon as they had determined that this was something that wasn't reversible. He would have known immediately.
TODD (voice over): Brian Todd, CNN -- Washington.
WHITFIELD: Still ahead the CEO of the San Francisco Giants under fire after explosive altercation with his wife out in the open. It was caught on video. The disturbing images next.
[11:30:02] WHITFIELD: All right.
San Francisco Giants CEO Larry Baer and his wife are apologizing following a physical and public altercation. A bystander capturing the heated argument in a San Francisco park on video.
To get right to CNN's Kaylee Hartung with more details on all of this.
So this incident happening in the open but now it is an apology from both parties -- husband and wife? KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. This happened
yesterday morning. The video very quickly went public very widely with the help of TMZ. And seems that Larry and Pam Baer are now in lock step. They issued a joint statement saying that they've resolved the issue.
Pam Baer is even defending her husband, saying that she lost her balance. Watch the video for yourself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAM BAER, WIFE OF LARRY BAER: Oh my God, help.
HARTUNG: "Oh my God, help," Pam Baer screams as her husband, San Francisco Giants CEO Larry Baer tries to grab what appears to be a cell phone out of her hand. Caught in a struggle, she falls to the ground in the chair she's sitting in.
This video captured by a bystander and first released by TMZ shows just a first seconds of the scuffle. After a cut video, you can see Larry there, cell phone and cup of coffee in hand, saying "Stop, Pam, stop," and walking away. Bystanders are heard yelling for her to stay away from him.
The couple married for nearly 30 years says they're embarrassed by the heated argument over a family matter. In a joint statement they say they resolved the issue, but this video is now an issue for authorities.
The San Francisco Police Department is investigating the incident. And so is Major League Baseball. A statement from the league says just like any other situation like this, they will immediately begin to gather the facts.
Major League Baseball's strict domestic violence policy applies to executives as well as players. Baer is part owner of the Giants and is seen as a major part of the success enjoyed by the organization which won the World Series three times in the last ten years.
HARTUNG: Larry Baer is the public face of the San Francisco Giants management. He's the guy with a clean image who's known to clean up public relations challenges that the team faces. He's apologized, but Fred -- that apology right now not enough to stop the San Francisco police and Major League Baseball from investigating what happened.
WHITFIELD: All right. Let us know. Thanks so much -- Kaylee Hartung. Appreciate it.
Still ahead, the President has more to worry about than just the Russia investigation. New York prosecutors have their own investigation that could bring new damning evidence to light. Details next. But first, here's a quick look at CNN's "ORIGINAL SERIES: THE BUSH YEARS".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would like to introduce you to my family. THE Fact is I would be nothing without them.
Our four sons, our daughter Doro, my own Barbara Bush.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it is hard to imagine any family that has been more significant to American politics.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can hear you and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Bush Family, going back generations believe in public service and helping their fellow man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People referred to the Bush Family as a dynasty. That's what it is and that's what it was.
W. BUSH: I'm running for president of the United States. There's no turning back. And I intend to be the next president of the United States.
H.W. BUSH: That's my boy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "THE BUSH YEARS" tomorrow at 9:00 on CNN.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[11:33:38] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: Welcome back.
President Trump could face a bigger legal threat than the Special Counsel's Russia investigation. The Southern District of New York has its own investigation that could bring damning evidence to light. It's something Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen alluded to during this week's explosive testimony on Capitol Hill.
I'm joined now by CNN national correspondent Brynn Gingras. So why could the SDNY's investigation be more of a problem for the President?
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred -- really for several reasons but mainly because it prosecutes all kinds of cases and aggressively. Now we're talking financial crimes, campaign crimes.
Now compare that to the Special Counsel's case which started really for the sole objective to investigate Russian influence on the 2016 election. And you can see why the President may have more reason for concern. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
GINGRAS (voice over): When President Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen testified before Congress this week, he suggested more investigations into the President are in the works.
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: I am in constant contact with the Southern District of New York.
Unfortunately this topic is actually something that's being investigated right now by the Southern District of New York.
GINGRAS: The Southern District of New York, a U.S. Attorney's office with a rich history of tenaciously taking on high profile cases like Wall Street execs and mobsters. It also operates independently from the Oval Office.
PREET BHARARA, FORMER SDNY ATTORNEY: Michael Cohen said a lot of things about a lot of matters and some new information but the one thing that he wouldn't talk about was the ways in which he is cooperating with the Southern District of New York, my former office, with respect to all sorts of investigations that we might not know anything about. I think that's an ominous sign.
GINGRAS: Cohen pleaded guilty last year in the Southern District to tax fraud, bank fraud and federal campaign finance violations. And Allen Weiselberg, the Trump Organization's CFO has made a deal with SDNY attorneys for limited immunity in exchange for information in the Cohen case.
TRUMP: So help me, God.
GINGRAS: Federal prosecutors in New York are already investigating the President's inaugural committee, subpoenaing a wide range of documents. And earlier this month, CNN reported the SDNY is seeking to interview Trump administration executives though the exact focus of the interview is not clear.
BHARARA: The motto I think of any good U.S. attorney's office, is if you see a serious federal crime being committed, you investigate it. And if there's enough evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, then you charge it.
[11:40:02] GINGRAS: The Southern District doesn't have the same restrictions as the Special Counsel's investigation which the Department of Justice set up to strictly look into one thing, Russian influence in the 2016 election.
The investigation led by Robert Mueller spans nearly two years. Attorneys have interviewed a wide range of people currently or formerly in Trump's orbit. The President repeatedly refers to the probe --
TRUMP: It's a disgraceful situation. It's a total witch hunt.
The entire thing has been a witch hunt. GINGRAS: But to date 37 people and entities have been indicted or
pleaded guilty, including Trump advisers and Russian nationals. Most recently added to that list, Roger Stone, a long time Trump associate who Cohen says told Trump that he had inside knowledge of the WikiLeaks posting of Democratic e-mails during the 2016 campaign.
COHEN: Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange. And that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that within a couple of days there would be a massive dump of e-mails that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign.
GINGRAS: A claim the President and WikiLeaks deny. The Special Counsel's investigation has uncovered and referred cases to the Southern District. That's how a probe into Cohen started.
But it remains to be seen what else Mueller's team may have forwarded to U.S. Attorneys. And that could be what ultimately deals a blow to the President.
CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Bob Mueller is not what should concern the President or the White House. It's the Southern District of New York.
GINGRAS: And let's not forget that in this week's hearing, Cohen dropped many names as people being aware of alleged wrongdoing by the President. Congressional committees may bring in more people to testify and the latest that we're hearing, Fred is Felix Sater, who we know is a longtime Trump associate involved in the President's plan to build that tower in Moscow project -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Brynn Gingras -- thank you so much for that. Appreciate it.
All right. Still ahead, immigration groups are demanding the release of at least nine infants all under the age of one. They're in ICE custody. Why they say the infants are not getting the medical treatment they need.
[11:42:10] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WHITFIELD: A look at our top stories now.
A Texas woman is charged with kidnapping after allegedly holding a man captive in a home they shared for two weeks. The 59-year old victim claims he was bound and assaulted multiple times before escaping. According to the Franklin County Sheriff the 43-year-old suspect used a gun to control and terrorize the victim and gave him only limited food and water.
Striking teachers in Oakland, California have reached a tentative deal to end their one-week walkout. The new contract would provide teachers with an 11 percent raise and a bonus. The agreement also makes class sizes smaller and boosts support staff, including adding counselors and psychologists. At least three immigration rights organizations are pushing for the release of at least nine children under the age of one and their mothers who are being held at a Texas ICE facility. One of them has been there now for nearly three weeks. The groups say they are worried about the lack of medical care available at the detention center.
CNN's Nick Valencia is tracking the story for us.
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The letter was sent to the Department of Homeland Security on behalf of three advocacy groups. And what they're calling for is the immediate release of nine children under the age of one, currently being held in an ICE facility in Dilly, Texas which is the largest immigration facility in the United States.
The letter sent on behalf of the American Immigration Council, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association claims that these children are held along with their mothers without receiving the proper medical care or attention.
They say that some of these mothers report their children have lost weight drastically, other children are having trouble sleeping and some have even gotten sick, which is why these advocacy groups are calling for their immediate release and the immediate intervention of the government of what they're call a uniquely vulnerable population.
Now, ICE did respond to these claims and here's what they sent to CNN. A statement that read in part "ICE takes very seriously the health, safety and welfare of those in our care. ICE is committed to ensuring the welfare of all those in the agency's custody including providing access to necessary and appropriate medical care.
Now, ICE Is required to meet basic medical standards for any non- citizen, any minor in their custody. What these advocacy groups allege however, is that the government has shown an inability to do so.
Nick Valencia, CNN -- Atlanta.
WHITFIELD: Still ahead, dueling visions for the country unfolding right now. Bernie Sanders and President Trump fortify their political messages for 2020. We're live next.
But first, this week's "Wandermust" takes us to Key West, Florida. Take a look.
ALEXA MORGAN, ERNEST HEMINGWAY HOME: We have people flocking from all over the world to Key West to enjoy the beautiful weather, our laid back lifestyle and our great history. People love coming to the Ernest Hemingway home and museum. Everyone gets excited when they see the writing studio with his original typewriter. And they also love the six-toed cats. Polydactyl cats were considered a sign of good luck. Ernest Hemingway really wanted extra luck around him.
Old town is original Key West. Take a stroll down here and you enjoy 19th century architecture and having our catch of the day at a local restaurant.
BILLY LITMER, HONEST ECO: One of the things that makes Key West so unique, our wildlife refuge because of the conservation efforts extending for over a hundred years.
[11:50:05] We have coastal Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphins. We've got a pod of about 200 of them that like to hang out in the shallow waters.
Honest Eco built the first electric boat of its kind so that we can leave as little footprint as possible while we are out enjoying nature.
Key West is famous for its sunsets, so don't miss the Mallory Square sunset celebration. You can see fire performers, acrobats, card readers. And don't forget to get a souvenir.
We wear T-shirts and sandals down here. Hope to see you soon.
[11:54:52] WHITFIELD: Freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar is being asked to apologize again following new comments regarding America's relationship with Israel. During an event Wednesday, the Minnesota Democrat said, I'm quoting now, "I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is ok for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country," end quote. That is according to the "New York Times".
Now the House Foreign Affairs chairman Eliot Engel is demanding an apology. Engel released a statement which reads in part, quoting now "Her comments were outrageous and deeply hurtful and I ask that she retract them, apologize and commit to making her case on policy issues without resorting to attacks that have no place in the Foreign Affairs Committee or the House of Representatives," end quote.
Earlier this month Omar was criticized and eventually apologized for tweets suggesting the pro-Israel lobbing group known as AIPAC was essentially buying off politicians. Those tweets have since been deleted.
When it comes to guns and the Second Amendment, there are strong convictions on both sides of the issue. There is talk, big talk and plenty of proposals on the books in Congress to change gun laws, but there are no actual plans for Congress to pass them. CNN's Phil Mattingly spoke with two lawmakers who fall on different sides of the debate, both directly affected by gun violence.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Two lawmakers with visceral, personal experiences with gun violence on complete opposite sides of the gun debate.
REP. LUCY MCBATH (D), GEORGIA: I urge my colleagues to vote yes on HR-8, the bipartisan background checks act of 2019. It is time.
REP. STEVE SCALISE (R), LOUISIANA: This is a bad gun control bill. We ought to reject it.
MATTINGLY: Congresswoman Lucy McBath's son Jordan Davis was murdered in 2012. That and the fight for more restrictive gun laws is the reason she is in Congress today.
MCBATH: The fact that I am here and I ran on a platform of gun violence prevention when people kept telling me don't do it. That's suicide. You can't win. The numbers aren't there.
I wasn't the only one that ran on this platform. But this was my number one platform because it is the right thing to do.
MATTINGLY: McBath, a Democrat notched an upset victory in November after six years of gun advocacy and a campaign that didn't shy away from the issue.
MCBATH: And in the end I will always just be a mother on a mission.
MATTINGLY: Steve Scalise moments from death in 2017 after he and Republican colleagues were targeted by a gunman at a congressional baseball practice. Now both at the center of the debate as the Democrat controlled House took the most substantive legislative steps on the issue in more than two years.
Capitol Hill reality -- one driven lessen by outside money and political influence and more by personal belief systems. And when it comes to guns and the Second Amendment, there is no clear bipartisan path forward to significant changes.
SCALISE: You know, what happened to me with the shooting in 2017, it didn't change the way I view issues especially on the Second Amendment and gun rights. But it really strengthened my beliefs because people were expecting for some reason that I might change my views.
MATTINGLY: For McBath, it was the exact opposite. Her experience is why she is a key player in the legislative debate now.
MCBATH: No one ever wants to be in my shoes. And so to be able to I guess bear that burden, carry that mantle and bring that mantle here to Washington and really be able to effect change is extremely important. People are depending on me.
MATTINGLY: It's something that has turned her into a national leader on the issue for Democrats.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: By turning her grief and her tragedy into action and courage, to run for Congress, to stand on this floor and share her personal story with us -- that takes real courage.
MATTINGLY: And Scalise, into a key voice for Republicans opposed to those efforts.
SCALISE: For those who want to limit the rights of law abiding citizens to own and possess a gun, I think it is important to show the other side of how guns are used to help save lives.
And in my case it was people with guns who confronted the shooter and are the reason that I'm here today.
MATTINGLY: Both are keenly aware those roles will likely only grow in the months ahead. McBath pledging a step by step process for more restrictions; Scalise countering that the current laws on the books are enough.
SCALISE: One of the things I think we ought to put real focus on is holding people accountable that fail all of us. If an area of government breaks down and doesn't do its job, there are a lot of laws on the books, by the way, that don't get enforced properly, that aren't used. And crimes are committed because somebody didn't do their job right.
And yet government never goes to hold those people accountable. They say let's pass another law. That's not going to work. That's actually going to make it harder for law abiding citizens. So that's where the focus ought to be.
MATTINGLY: As the search continues for some way to bridge such a significant divide.
[12:00:03] MCBATH: I don't think there's anyone -- Republican or Democrat --- who wants a child to have access to a gun and inadvertently hurt or maim themselves as an accident.