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White House Confirms Death of Usama bin Laden's Son Hamza bin Laden by Counterterrorist Action; Reports Indicate Talks Between Justice Department and Congress on Gun Control Measures Break Down; Actress Felicity Huffman Sentenced to 14 Days in Jail for Part in Admissions Scandal; Bahamas Face Tropical Storm in Wake of Hurricane Dorian; Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Pledges to Release Medical Records Ahead of Iowa Caucus; Thieves Attempt to Steal Golden Toilet from British Museum. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired September 14, 2019 - 10:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Victor Blackwell.


BLACKWELL: We begin with breaking news. President Trump has now confirmed that Hamza bin Laden, the son of Usama bin Laden, is dead, and that the U.S. was part of the counterterrorism operation that took him out. Bin Laden, who was believed to be in his early 30s, was considered to be an emerging leader in Al Qaeda.

WALKER: Here to unpack all of this for us, CNN White House reporter Sarah Westwood, CNN senior international correspondent Sam Kiley, CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen, who once interviewed Usama bin Laden, and CNN military analyst Colonel Cedric Leighton. Sarah, let's start with you. What did the statement from the White House say?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Amara, the White House is confirming for the first time that Hamza bin Laden is dead, specifying that he died in a U.S. counterterrorism operation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. But this does not appear to be a new development. CNN reported on July 31st that the administration believed Hamza bin Laden to be dead. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper also appeared to confirm his death just a couple of weeks ago in an interview with FOX News. And "The New York Times" reported that this death happened sometime within the last two years. So the timeline on that is still really unclear.

But I want to read you part of the statement that the White House released just moments ago. "The loss of Hamza bin Laden not only deprives Al Qaeda of important leadership skills and the symbolic connection to his father, but undermines important operational activities of the group. Hamza bin Laden was responsible for planning and dealing with various terrorist groups."

The State Department earlier this year had labeled Hamza bin Laden an emerging leader in al Qaeda. The State Department had also offered $1 million reward for information leading to the capture of Hamza bin Laden bin Laden. And in addition, documents obtained from the compound where his father Usama bin Laden was killed by Navy Seals in 2011 showed that Hamza bin Laden was being groomed to replace his father as leader of the group. So even though this is not a recent kill, a lot of the details still unclear, the White House confirming for the first time that Hamza bin Laden is indeed dead and that the U.S. operation was the reason, Amara and Victor.

BLACKWELL: Sarah Westwood for us at the White House.

Let's broaden the conversation now, and I want to go to Sam Kiley so we can understand a little bit more about Hamza bin Laden, his role in Al Qaeda. Sam, to you. Was this a branding blow or an operational blow? Give us an idea of his role in the organization.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it's very well put there, Victor. It is both. Hamza had been emerging over the last few years fairly regularly with statements, audio recordings, exhorting among other things to get lone wolf operations going against western targets. Poetry even was the first time he was launched about 10 years ago in terms of his broadcasts, semi-covert broadcasting. So that's all part of the public relations operations that he was involved in.

He was clearly being groomed as we were hearing there. There was evidence coming out of the Abbottabad house where his brother, his much younger brother was killed alongside bin Laden, his father, that he was being groomed for higher office. And we do also understand that he's believed to have been behind, a liaison with other, Al Qaeda related groups or other groups within the wider al Qaeda brand. The brand itself, if you like, within the jihadi firmament that's been under pressure, of course, from the so called Islamic State, Victor.

WALKER: And let's go now to CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen. We were mentioning that you actually indeed interviewed Usama bin Laden many years ago. But first off, regarding the organization Al Qaeda, we haven't heard that much about it in the news, and that's because we've been focusing so much on ISIS and defeating its physical caliphate, and so al Qaeda has been having a much lower profile lately. First off, Peter, how big a blow is this to the organization. And big picture here, in terms of the global threat of Al Qaeda, where does it stand right now?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think symbolically it has perhaps some importance. The fact the State Department put a $1 million reward on his head sort of suggest a rather calibrated understanding of how important he was to the organization. After all, they put $25 million on the head of Usama bin Laden, his father. So that kind of gives you a sense.

Certainly, bin Laden was in touch with Hamza before he was killed. Certainly, Hamza had grown up with his dad and imbibed the jihadist ideology. I'm a little skeptical of the idea that he was operationally important, but that is certainly the claim that we heard today from the White House from the tweet of President Trump, so something to look at.


But al Qaeda itself, the bigger question, al Qaeda is basically a local jihadi group along the Afghan-Pakistan border with scant ability to reach out and attack anywhere in the west. In fact al Qaeda Central, the group that attacked us on 9/11, the last time it successfully carried out an attack in the west was on July 7th, 2005, in London where they killed 52 commuters. That's a long time ago. They did send three Americans to try and conduct a suicide operation in the Manhattan subway in 2009. Luckily that failed, but that's a decade ago now.

So I think their ability to carry out the kinds of operations that we saw, we recently had the 18th anniversary of 9/11, anything like that is very, very improbable. They have some local regional affiliates in Syria. Same would be quite familiar with that group. And they have other affiliates in North Africa and other places around the world. But these are really local jihadist groups focused on local issues.

BLACKWELL: Colonel, help us understand potentially what happened between when news outlets, as we heard from Sarah, started reporting confirmation from U.S. officials back in July and early August of Hamza bin Laden's death and what happened today, this morning from the president. What likely is this additional variable that gets us from officials reporting or confirming to CNN and others that Hamza was killed and today the president on record from the White House confirming it?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET), CNN MILLION ANALYST: It would be that we have incontrovertible evidence now. Under normal circumstances if a president makes announcement of this type, what he would have is DNA evidence, for example, that Hamza bin Laden is indeed dead. So that's a possibility that we would have DNA or other forensic evidence that indicates this. There may be other confirmatory evidence from other intelligence sources, perhaps allied sources, that indicates that Hamza is also dead. So it might be a confluence of those factors. But that would normally be the way it would work.

BLACKWELL: Peter, you wrote back in the beginning of August an op-ed piece for in which you confirmed, a source had confirmed to you that Hamza bin Laden had been killed. And the headline was "bin Laden heir dead, a blow to al Qaeda?" question mark. So you phrased it as a question. What's the answer to it a month later?

BERGEN: Yes, it's a blow to Al Qaeda. But the group itself, as I've already mentioned, this is not a group that has tremendous capacity to plan real attacks against Americans or western targets anymore. Hamza bin Laden was almost certainly killed, when the White House says it's a counterterrorism operation, that is really code for a CIA drone attack, almost certainly in the administered tribal areas in Pakistan along the Afghan-Pakistan border. This is where we know for sure the last time Hamza was located was along that border because some of the documents in Abbottabad where bin Laden was killed indicate that he was in communication with his son who was then living in Waziristan.

But Hamza bin Laden is hardly alone in being killed by a drone attack in this area. Literally dozens of Al Qaeda leaders have been killed by drone attack in that region. And the group is suffering a real crisis. It just doesn't have a lot of leaders left. Ayman al- Zawahiri, the leader of the group who has been the leader since bin Laden died, and there are a couple of other names. But this not, yes, it's a blow to al Qaeda, but the group itself has already taken a lot of blows already.

WALKER: Sarah, to you back at the White House, can you talk about the timing of this confirmation from the president, why this is also significant?

WESTWOOD: Like we mentioned, we know that this kill happened at least more than a month ago because CNN reported it in late July. But the announcement is coming as the president's strategy in Afghanistan is coming under scrutiny. The president recently had a meeting with the Taliban, for example, fall through. He's been criticized for trying to negotiate some kind of peace deal with the Taliban. So now the president drawing attention back to his counterterrorism efforts. We know that he has really enjoyed touting the fact that he has decimated ISIS territorial holdings in Syria and beyond. So the president has really prided himself on touting the fact that he's largely eradicated terrorism in his eyes in the region. So we have only got a paper statement from the White House at this point. We haven't heard directly from the president on this yet, but President Trump making this announcement as his strategy in that region is coming under criticism, Amara.

BLACKWELL: Sarah Westwood, Colonel Cedric Leighton, and Peter Bergen, thank you all.

WALKER: Thank you.

Pressure is mounting on Capitol Hill for lawmakers to take action on guns. New information this morning about talks between the Justice Department and Congress coming to a screeching halt.


BLACKWELL: Plus, relief efforts on standby in the Bahamas over the threat of a new storm.

WALKER: And Joe Biden's plan to prove he's not too old for the White House.



BLACKWELL: CNN is learning that efforts between the Justice Department and Congress to find consensus on background checks are sputtering.

WALKER: Sources say Attorney General Bill Barr is signaling that hopes for a President Trump backed gun bill are dimming. Joining me is Kris Brown, president of, a comprehensive approach to preventing gun violence. Good morning to you, Kris, thank you so much for joining us. KRIS BROWN, PRESIDENT, BRADYUNITED.ORG: Thank you for having me.

WALKER: First of all, I just want to get your reaction to the president wavering on his position on expanded background checks. After the mass shootings that we saw in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, he was saying I support, quote-unquote, very meaningful background checks. And then now you see him backtracking after he spoke with the NRA, saying apparently, he's not as committed as he was before. How frustrating is that for you? Do you remain hopeful there will be some kind of legislation that's more restrictive?

BROWN: I remain hopeful. We know the vast majority of Americans, and that's a great understatement, over 90 percent of Americans believe that we have to have expanded background checks.


And President Trump must know that. That includes Democrats and Republicans, gun owners and non gun owners. And we have the solution right before us. That is, frankly, the frustrating part. And let's be clear about what the problem is. Right now federally licensed firearms dealers are required by the Brady law to conduct a background check before any gun sale. But that law was enacted 25 years ago. Since then Internet sales and gun shows by private sellers have become big business. Technically, they're not subject to the law. So what the bill that passed the House that's pending on Mitch McConnell's desk says is that that loophole has to be closed.

And right now one in five guns is sold with no background check at all, and the consequences are deadly like in Odessa where a prohibited purchaser got that gun in a private sale.

WALKER: And we see those consequences over and over again, don't we? Let me ask you this then, because obviously the gun control issue is a highly politicized and polarizing issue here in the United States. And the last debate, we heard from Beto O'Rourke who was saying, hell, yes, I would take away your assault-style weapons. Do you think his comment there did more harm than good than keeping the momentum going about some kind of bipartisan bill on expanded background checks? You already have lawmakers who are expressing their concerns about his comments.

BROWN: Look, we have an epidemic of gun violence in this country. And I have to say, at look how far this issue and this cause has come since President Obama ran for president and there was one question asked in a single debate. We've now had about four debates for the Democratic nomination, and this issue has been covered in almost every single debate for at least 20 to 30 minutes.

And why is that? Because of the epidemic. What Beto O'Rourke talked about was an assault weapons ban that isn't a polarized issue. About 70 percent of Americans now support an assault weapons ban. The details are, what do you do about the grandfathered inventory? And we can debate the solutions to that. It's not up to candidate O'Rourke or the next president. That's up to Congress. But what we know is the American people want this issue addressed. They want an assault weapons ban. They also want background checks. They also want extreme risk laws, and we have all of the legislation pending now to do that, and we should act on it.

WALKER: And it obviously shows just how strong the gun lobby is when you have polls that show up to 90, 94 percent of Americans saying that they do support expanded background checks.

I want to show a clip from a video you have on your website. And it really hit home. It shows what a typical routine -- morning routine would look for children going to school, brushing their teeth, putting their clothes on, having breakfast, having a conversation in the morning, and then the video shows a parent putting a bullet proof vest on a child. I think we have the video. Let's play it really quick. We don't have the video. I explained what happened in the video. Tell us more about the message there, because it seems like we're closer to that reality now than ever before.

BROWN: I'm a mom. I have girls in the public schools. Like all parents, they come home after lockdown drills, and they feel anxiety. They feel upset. And the reason why is they know that ultimately those drills aren't going to save them and that the answers are right before us. We need to focus on the guns and easy access to assault- style weapons.

There's huge anxiety in America today, especially among parents, sending their kids to school and not feeling like we're doing all we can to protect their safety. What the video really shows is we are not doing right by our children if the answer is that the safety we're providing them is a bulletproof vest. And for our kids in this country, just understand, the market for things like bulletproof backpacks is a United States market. No other country offers those kinds of sales to their public. Is that really the solution we think is appropriate, or should we pass background checks and have an assault weapons ban and have an extreme risk law. The American people agree on this. We should do those things to protect our kids and ourselves.

WALKER: And that's because mass shootings are uniquely an American problem, isn't it?

BROWN: They are.

WALKER: Kris Brown, we're going to leave it there. Appreciate you joining us this morning. Thank you.

BROWN: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Let's broaden the conversation now, bring in Democratic strategist Maria Cardona and Republican strategist Alice Stewart. Ladies, good morning.



BLACKWELL: Alice, let me start with you. The president has been on both sides of background checks after El Paso and Dayton but also after Parkland. What do you believe the possibility of this president deciding and then pushing Congress in a direction will be?

STEWART: I believe very strongly that we will see some progress in the next few weeks. We have to remember --


BLACKWELL: That's not what we heard from the administration.

STEWART: Well, that's exactly what the president said just a few days ago before he left for Baltimore. He said that they are having internal talks. They are making progress. And his effort and his emphasis has been on looking at the overall picture, and that includes red flag laws, which are critical. This is an effort to prohibit people who are a danger to themselves and others from getting access to guns, but also it protects the important aspect of due process, and anyone who does seem to show some type of mental illness, get them the help they need.

BLACKWELL: But a few days in this administration really is an eternity. This president can switch him beliefs on a single issue from sun up to sun down. But we heard last night was that the attorney general is hearing from OMB that this is not going anywhere. This is sputtering to a stop between the Justice Department and the administration. Why is the president on both sides of this issue? Is this as simple as it seems, that he realizes this may not be good for his reelection, so we're not doing anything?

STEWART: I don't see him on both sides of the issue at this point. He has made tremendous progress. The key to remember, Victor, as he has said, we need to address gun violence. That is unequivocal. Overwhelming, 100 percent support across America is that we need to do that. But we also need to protect Second Amendment rights. And he says that is the challenge for protecting the gun owners of this country who have the right to bear arms, but also do it in a way that helps to curb gun violence. And we have Republicans and Democrats who say we need to continue the conversation.

BLACKWELL: You make a good point. And I want to bring this is, because the president said Thursday afternoon, Maria, it depends on if Democrats wants to take your guns away in asking his support of expanding background checks. If this is a movement by the Democrats to take your guns away, it's never going to happen. And then Thursday night, Congressman Beto O'Rourke said this.


BETO O'ROURKE, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hell, yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We're not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.


(END VIDEO CLIP) BLACKWELL: How much do you think that hurt the potential for getting some progress on background checks or even the Democratic Party making their case to people who believe in a strong Second Amendment right?

CARDONA: I don't think it hurt it at all, Victor. Your conversation with Kris Brown, I think, was spot on. This issue has progressed immensely in the last 20 years when gun safety issues and topics like this were seen as dangerous for Democrats to speak about. But look where we are now. While I would love to believe my friend Alice who says that she has seen tremendous progress from the president on the issue of gun safety, where is it?

BLACKWELL: Maria, on this very program we've had the conversation about gun safety and gun control, and you have said Democrats are not coming to take your guns. Now Congressman O'Rourke says, hell, yes, we're coming to take your guns. Reconcile those for me.

CARDONA: Absolutely. This needs to be part of the conversation, Victor. Just because Congressman O'Rourke said that he wants to take everyone's AK-47s and assault weapons away from them doesn't mean it's going to happen. However, I will say that where he is on the issue is where most Americans are on the issue. Let's look at --

STEWART: No, they're not.

CARDONA: Hang on, Alice. Let's look at the point of what he is trying to say. He is saying that we need to take assault weapons off the street. He is spot on on that.

BLACKWELL: But that's a very different question he was asked. He was asked about buy-backs. That's a very different question.

CARDONA: OK, that's right. You're absolutely right.

BLACKWELL: That's a paid confiscation.

CARDONA: You're absolutely right. But let me say this, by him putting out there that if he were elected president, he would put on the table a mandatory buy-back plan, that takes us somewhere further than what most of the Democratic conversation has been, right.

BLACKWELL: Yes, it goes much further.

CARDONA: So you when you talk about compromise and when you talk about negotiation --

STEWART: But here's the thing --

CARDONA: Hang on, Alice. When you talk about compromise and you talk about negotiation, you get to a place where most Americans are, and most Americans believe that we need to take assault weapons off the street.

BLACKWELL: We need to take a break.

STEWART: What Congressman -- WALKER: We need to take a break. We need to take a break. I know

this is a hot issue and we've got another one coming up, so stay with us. We're going to continue our conversation. Thank you, both.

CARDONA: Thanks, Victor.

WALKER: House Intel Committee Chair Congressman Adam Schiff is ordering the acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire to hand over a whistleblower complaint. Schiff says the complaint is being illegal withheld, possibly to protect the president. Schiff issued a subpoena to Maguire accusing him of taking extraordinary steps to withhold the whistleblowers complaint from Congress despite the Intel Community's own inspector general calling the complaint credible and urgent. The Chair of the House Judiciary Committee Congressman Jerry Nadler calls it a cover up.



JERROLD NADLER, (D-NY) HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: This fits into the pattern of the administration's behavior in withholding information and conducting complete coverups and being contemptuous of the law. This is just another instance of their being contemptuous of the law and conducting a coverup.


WALKER: Schiff writes the committee will require Maguire to show up to a public hearing on Thursday if the complaint isn't disclosed by Tuesday next week.

BLACKWELL: Actress Felicity Huffman is going to prison for trying to buy her daughter's way into college. So what does that mean for fellow actress Lori Loughlin's case?


BLACKWELL: Oscar-nominated actress Felicity Huffman is heading to prison next month. After a tearful apology, a Boston judge handed her a 14-day sentence for taking part of the college admissions scandal.

WALKER: It is the largest prosecuted scheme of its kind in U.S. history, with $25 million allegedly paid by parents to get their kids into college. Huffman pleaded guilty to paying the scheme's ringleader to boost her daughter's SAT scores. CNN's Brynn Gingras has more.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Felicity Huffman remained stoic when the judge handed down her decision, essentially the judge saying this wasn't about college reputations being tarnished or the test-taking process being compromised. This was about privileged kids having a leg up on other college applicants, and that's partly why she handed down the punishment she did. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GINGRAS: Actress Felicity Huffman sentenced to 14 days in federal prison, ordered to pay a $30,000 fine and serve 250 hours of community service. Huffman telling the court "At the end of the day I had a choice to make. I could have said no. I take full responsibility. I will accept whatever punishment you give me." In a statement released shortly after the hearing she added, quote, "I broke the law. There are no excuses or justifications for my actions, period."

Prosecutors urged the judge to impose the harshest penalty, saying "Most parents have the moral compass and integrity not to step over the line. The defendant did not." Prior to today's sentencing, Huffman wrote a letter explaining how she legitimately worked with scheme's ringleader Rick Singer for a year before she agreed to cheat. Huffman allowing Singer to hire a proctor who changed answers on her oldest daughter's SAT, boosting her score. She says she considered using the services for her youngest daughter, but backed out.

Huffman explaining in the letter how her poor decision damaged her relationship with her daughter. "When my daughter looked at me and asked with tears streaming down her face, why didn't you believe in me? I had no adequate answer for her. I could only say, I am was sorry. I was frightened and I was stupid."

In the courtroom Huffman was joined by her husband, actor William H. Macy. He is one of 27 people who sent letters to the judge supporting the actress. Macy wrote "Huffman rarely goes outside, usually bombarded by the paparazzi." But their oldest daughter, quote, "paid the dearest price when her first-choice school denied her appropriate two days after the scandal broke. Do something. Please, please do something," Macy says she begged her parents.

Huffman is the second to be sentenced but the first to get prison time in the country's largest college admissions scandal which ensnared from than 50 college coaches, administrators, and wealthy parents. Nineteen parents are still fighting the federal charges, including actress Lori Loughlin and her husband fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli. The couple are accused of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to get their two daughters into USC as crew recruits even though neither rowed. Both turned down a plea from the state earlier this year and are scheduled to go to trial.


GINGRAS: And remember, those who didn't take a plea deal were handed down another charge in the case. So it will be interesting to see how the sentencing possibly could affect them in the future. Felicity Huffman, her attorneys asked that she serve her 14 days in a prison near her home in California. Of course, that will be up to the Bureau of Prisons. But she reports to that sentencing on October 25th.

Brynn Gingras, CNN, in Boston.

BLACKWELL: There is a new threat to the Bahamas. A live report from the islands as residents still reeling from Dorian brace for a new tropical storm.

WALKER: Also we could be nearing a major breakthrough for children living with a peanuts allergy. What the FDA is recommending, ahead.



WALKER: Right now the Bahamas are bracing for a new tropical threat. Tropical Storm Humberto is approaching the northwestern Bahamas today and will bring rain and wind to Abaco and Grand Bahamas areas where thousands are still missing and displaced by hurricane Dorian.

BLACKWELL: USAID is standing by to help those riding out the storm on Abaco. The agency handed out tarps, covered up structures damaged by hurricane Dorian. In the meantime, recovery efforts are on hold while this new storm rolls through.

WALKER: CNN's Dianne Gallagher is in Nassau with more. The people there in the Bahamas, they just started getting into the recovery efforts. They're still looking for survivors hopefully. And now this. How are they preparing?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So they're doing all that they can at this point. And the work with USAID that Victor was just talking about there is something that will help them. We're almost two weeks out from when Dorian hit the Bahamas, and the fact that another storm is coming is obviously hindering relief efforts for a day or two. But Bahamians say at this point they're ready for some updates and some movement.

And so while this storm may affect things that is causing those relief efforts, look, we still have an official list of 1,300 missing people. The death toll has stood at 50 for several days now, and for the most part the people who live here are just looking for progress and answers. It's been two weeks. There's frustration. There is a little bit of anger. And of course, there is that dread now seeing that storm. We spoke with our fixer just a bit ago who says that people on Abaco are now reporting thunderstorm conditions at this point on the island.

And look, a lot of those houses, what's left of those houses, they're not sure if the people who were staying in there, if those structures can actually withstand tropical storm force winds, they can withstand additional heavy rains. So there's the immediate concern of the conditions on the island. And that's why USAID, there are search and rescue teams that are staging in place just in case they need to operate immediately afterward if it gets too bad. But for the most part they're there because it will provide the least amount of delay to continue those relief efforts. They weren't able to fly yesterday, they're not flying today. So they brought additional supplies in on Thursday, hoping they'll be able to get right back to relief work after that that.

There is a long road to recovery for the Bahamas. Victor, you saw it out here. They were flattened. There's nothing left in some parts. And the fact that this storm is coming and threatening to destroy what is left makes it that much more heartbreaking difficult to deal with for Bahamians.


BLACKWELL: Yes, and the prime minister, Dr. Minnis, said that Nassau just cannot absorb all the people who are coming from Grand Bahama and Abaco. But they've got to find some comfort and safety as this next tropical storm comes through and the infrastructure problems there on those islands. Dianne Gallagher for us there in Nassau, thank you.

WALKER: Thank you, Dianne.

The FDA could be close to approving the first eve peanut allergy drug for children.

BLACKWELL: So an advisory committee just approved the treatment Friday. The drug would reduce the severity of incidents of allergic reactions in children four to 17. The FDA will make its final decision in January.

The top three Democratic presidential candidates are all in their 70s, so is President Trump. So does age really matter when it comes to being president?

WALKER: First, in this week's Mission Ahead, an innovative approach to making electricity from the wind inspired by a child's toy.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wind power, it's free, clean, and abundant. But it generates just six percent of the world's electricity. One reason, some of the world's strongest winds are found here out on the ocean where water is too deep for most off shore wind turbines. But a company called Makani believes it has a solution with a new wind technology inspired by a familiar child's toy, the kite.

To me it almost looks like an airplane. What makes it a kite?

FORT FELKER, CEO, MAKANI: When you fly a kite in the park, it's being lifted by the wind, and you're holding onto it with a tether. And so our kite is the same way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Once airborne, Makani's 85-foot long energy kite flies around autonomously, guided by computers. Crosswinds spin eight rotors producing electricity that's sent back to the ground through a tether. And it's carbon-fiber frame makes the kite extremely lightweight.

FELKER: Our energy kites are so lightweight we can install them in deep water on floating platforms.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that means they can capture winds much further offshore where other turbines can't. Last month in Norway Makani successfully completed its first deep water offshore flights, but their kites won't be ready for market for several years. If your system is widely adopted, what kind of impact do you think it could potentially make?

FELKER: There are many areas around the world that really don't have a good resource for renewable power, but do have offshore wind resource. And so our lightweight kites create the possibility that we could tap that recourse very economically and bring renewable power to hundreds of millions of people.




BLACKWELL: Former Vice President Joe Biden says he will release his medical records before the Iowa caucus in February. Biden had previously committed to releasing them before the general election next year.

WALKER: This move is seen as response to the age factor that's becoming an issue among Democratic presidential candidates. In Thursday's debate Biden's younger rival Julian Castro suggested that the 76-year-old was confused about his own policies.

BLACKWELL: The top three Democratic candidates Joe Biden and Senator Sanders and Warren are all in their 70s. Senator Warren says she will also release her medical records before Iowa. No word yet from Bernie Sanders on this issue. Again, the president also in his 70s.

Let's bring in now political commentator, Democratic strategist Maria Cardona and Republican strategist Alice Stewart. Alice, I know that Maria got more time that you did last segment, so I'll make sure you will get more on this one.


BLACKWELL: But I've got to start because we're talking Democrat with Maria. Maria, it's very early to start releasing medical records and summaries. Does this mean the Biden camp is concerned about this narrative sticking?

CARDONA: I think that they are reacting to what they do say have been questions about whether Biden and, frankly, I think this is a good question for anyone in their 70s, whether they're have the stamina and the wherewithal to not just make it through the campaign but make it through four years and hopefully eight years, if whoever the Democratic candidate is wins that they'll have eight years. I think that's a fair question. And I think it's smart of the campaign to get ahead of this and to release their records.

And I guarantee you this, when they do, it's not going to be by a comic book doctor. It's going to be a real doctor, and people are going to have faith in whatever those records are.

BLACKWELL: So Alice, let me come to you now, because this is what we heard from the vice president. Of course, President Trump has been using this "sleepy Joe Biden" moniker since the vice president got into the race. Here's what Vice President Pence said.


MIKE PENCE, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I heard my predecessor said that he was answering a question about his years in the White House, and he said I'm the vice president of the United States. So let me be clear. I am the vice president of the United States of America.



BLACKWELL: Seemingly suggesting some confusion on behalf of Vice President Biden. If you listen to the debate or you watched it, the tense means something. It makes a little more sense. You think this is a smart play from the administration, from the vice president?

STEWART: I think what Pence said was a subtle ding at the former vice president, and that's politics. That's what you do. But the reality is people going after him, whether it's his Democratic colleagues or the current administration, it's not because of his age of 76. It's the fact he's number one in the polls and continues to be number one in the polls. And Julian Castro going after like he did was a low blow. It was a sucker punch. And the challenge --

BLACKWELL: How did we get to Julian Castro? My question was about the vice president.

STEWART: I'm talking about Julian Castro going after the vice president.


BLACKWELL: I know who you're talking about, but that's not what I asked about. The current vice president went after him. That's what I'm asking about. Do you think it's smart for the ticket, for the vice president to now go after Biden, suggesting that he was confused?

STEWART: I don't see that as an issue. It's fair game. All is fair in politics. And Vice President Pence going after him is no different than the president going after him. And we're going to see this from now until the election.

BLACKWELL: How does this president -- he's calling the former vice president lazy -- or sleepy. I'm sorry. How does this president really have a leg to stand on considering he has spends 23 percent of the days he's spent in office at one of his golf properties? There's a moniker out there for him as well, is there not?

STEWART: Look, the current president is known for giving people nicknames. My former boss Ted Cruz was "lying Ted." Everybody has a nickname. Some of them certainly could be worn by the president himself, but that is what he does. He brands people. He has an instinct on someone, and that's what he does, he brands them. And certainly Joe Biden has become "sleepy Joe."

But the reality is age is less a factor than ideology. And I believe it's much more beneficial for voters out there if you have a problem with Joe Biden, go after his politics, go after his ideology, and leave his age out of that. That's really not a factor when we're talking about electing a president.

BLACKWELL: We will read back the monikers as they come in and we'll continue to have this conversation. I think we balanced now in time and conversation. Maria Cardona, and Alice Stewart, thank you both.

CARDONA: Thanks, Victor.

STEWART: Thanks, Victor.

WALKER: Coming up, how this solid gold toilet once offered to President Trump is now causing a big stink at the home of one of Britain's best known prime ministers.



WALKER: Welcome back, everyone. Detroit's economic struggles are well-known, and it remains the poorest big city in the United States. The U.S. Census Bureau says more than one-third of Detroit's residents and nearly half of the city's children live in poverty.

This week's CNN hero is working to change that. She's a nurse who found her mission while making a house call more than 20 years ago. Meet Najah Bazzy.


NAJAH BAZZY, CNN HERO: As a nurse I went to visit this Iraqi refugee family and an infant that was dying. And there at the house they absolutely had nothing. There was no refrigerator, there was no stove, there was no crib. The baby was in a laundry basket. I decided that this wasn't going to happen on my watch.

How is your apprenticeship going?


BAZZY: Nurses are supposed to fix things. We are healers. And this is just a place that heels the world.


WALKER: And to see how she is providing basic needs, education, and hope to thousands every year, go to

BLACKWELL: Friends, it is a toilet fit for a prime minister, and it has been taken in the U.K.

WALKER: Take a look at it. It's solid gold. The solid gold toilet was taken from Winston Churchill's birth place. The fully functioning 18-karat gold made by an Italian artist was on display at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.

BLACKWELL: Police say the offenders broke in, snatched the toilet, caused damage and flooding. But in a few hours police arrested a 66- year-old man in connection with the theft. The toilet made headlines here in the U.S. in 2017 when the Trump administration asked the Guggenheim in New York for a Van Gogh, but they said, no, you can have the toilet. I don't think he took it.

WALKER: Gold toilet, who wouldn't want that?

That's our time. Thanks for watching.

BLACKWELL: That's the way we end it today, friends.


BLACKWELL: Much more ahead in the next hour of CNN Newsroom. Fredricka Whitfield is up next.