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Biden Endorses Emerging Deal To Give United States New Power To Clamp Down On Migrant Crossings, Including A Border Shutdown; Haley Stumps In South Carolina As Battle For GOP Nomination Takes Shape; Boeing 737 Max 9 Flies Again After Three-Week Grounding; 7-Year-Old American Killed In West Bank; Weeks After Three Men Found Dead In Kansas Backyard, It's Still Not Clear How They Died. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired January 27, 2024 - 13:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredericka Whitfield.

All right. We began this hour with a big day on the presidential campaign trail. All the presidential hopefuls are out in full force today campaigning across the country. Former President Trump is in Las Vegas where he is set to hold a rally and just a few hours. It will be the first-time hearing from Trump since a jury ordered him to pay more than a $83 million to E. Jean Carroll.

Trump's remaining GOP rival, Nikki Haley is in her home state of South Carolina, as their rivalry grows more bitter ahead of that critical primary. It will also be a busy day in the Palmetto State for President Joe Biden, he was campaigning there as well.

It comes as the president is now endorsing a bipartisan Senate deal that could lead to the U.S. shutting down the border with Mexico. The border, a huge campaign issue.

We have a team of correspondents out on the trail. Alayna Treene is in Las Vegas with Donald Trump. Eva McKend is in South Carolina with Nikki Haley. But let's begin with Priscilla Alvarez, who is also in South Carolina.

Priscilla, what more can you tell us about Biden sudden embrace of a tough new crackdown at the southern border?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Fredricka this marks a stark shift from where the White House was in the early days of the administration and appears intended to fend off any attacks on immigration policy from former President Donald Trump.

Now, this was a rare statement that President Biden put out last night as these talks are still ongoing. And only hours after House Speaker Mike Johnson said that any deal reached in the Senate would be dead on arrival.

President Biden calling this compromise tough and fair. But it was one line in particular that struck current and former administration officials I spoke with as well as immigrant advocates, and it was this one: "It would give me, as president, a new emergency authority to shut down the border when it becomes overwhelmed and if given that authority, I would use it the day I signed the bill into law.

Now, according to our colleague Manu Raju, there is language in this compromise that would allow the Department of Homeland Security to shut down the border if there are daily crossings of over 4,000 across a one-week span. Now, this is reminiscent of what happened under former President Donald Trump.

When a COVID-era restriction allowed authorities to turn migrants away, and immigrant advocates have long said that the U.S. should not take this policy. This would be a decade's long, -- or at least a departure from decades long protocol and could bar asylum seekers from seeking asylum along the U.S. Mexico border. But it does underscore the realities for President Biden, despite having campaigned in 2020 on restoring the border and asylum. They have these harsh realities with a record migration across the Western Hemisphere. And the statement on Friday night, trying to get ahead of former President Donald Trump, who's already trying to tank a Senate compromise. Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Priscilla, thank you so much.

Let's go now to Alayna Treene in Las Vegas, where Trump will hold a rally there soon. Alayna, what are -- what is everyone expecting from Trump today?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN CONGRESSIONAL AND PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS REPORTER: Right. Well, Fred, this is a state where they don't really see Nikki Haley as a player. Donald Trump and his team feel like they've already won Nevada. And that's because Nikki Haley is not on the ballot for the Nevada caucus. She is on the ballot for the primary. And the caucus is really where the big -- the crucial delegates will be going --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump!

TREENE: Excuse me, where crucial delegates will be awarded to the candidate who wins in that state. But because Nikki Haley is not a huge player in Nevada, it does give Donald Trump and his team the perfect opportunity to try and shift their messaging for more of a general election rematch with Joe Biden.

And because of that, were I think we're expected to hear from Donald Trump to talk about the economy, talk about crime, and also talk about the border, as Priscilla said, that is a big issue in the limelight today.

Now, we did hear Donald Trump rail against the border on social media this morning. He said in one post, "It is the worst border in the history of the world, an open wound in our once great country.' Now, I think the timing of these posts and his expect -- his expectation to talk about this is very noteworthy. Donald Trump has been pressuring lawmakers both publicly and privately to tank the bipartisan immigration deal that they have been working on. And part of that is because Donald Trump wants to campaign on the issue in November.

But he also does not want Joe Biden to have a big victory on an issue that he thinks Democrats are very vulnerable on.

And so, you're going to hear him talk a lot about that today. Nevada is a state where they do have a large migrant population, and I think you can expect him to really go after Biden and harder than we've seen because his team does seen Nevada again as a state that they've already won. Fred?


WHITFIELD: All right. Alayna Treene in Las Vegas. Thank you so much. Let's go to Eva McKend now. She's traveling with the Nikki Haley camp, as she campaigns in her home state of South Carolina.

Eva, how was Haley hoping to kind of close the gap, if you will there in her home state?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well Fred, we hear Haley needling the former president a bit, calling him thin-skinned, calling him unhinged, suggesting that he is too distracted, too mired in chaos to really be an effective candidate, or an effective president.

She is also really resisting these polls for her to step out of the race and no indications really that she's slowing down. So, she is holding 13 fundraisers in five states, just in the next 3-1/2 weeks.

She is hoping that she can have a little bit of Hometown Glory here in South Carolina, and win here with the voters that know her in a way that she was not able to capture Iowa or New Hampshire. Her campaign telling us that she has raised upwards of $2 million since New Hampshire.

And she is telling those voters that not only can she sway conservatives, but she can also win the moderates and independents that the former president cannot win in a general election.

So, she'll speak to voters here in the Greenville area today, and then, she'll head tomorrow to the Myrtle Beach area. We'll see Fred if voters are receptive to this message.

WHITFIELD: All right. Eva McKend, and everyone. Thank you so much.

All right. Joining me right now to discuss all of this and more is Nick Corasaniti.

I hope I said that right, Nick? Is that right?


WHITFIELD: Yes. OK. All right. Well, you're the national politics reporter for. The New York Times. Great, you could join us.

All right. So, let's start with Biden's sudden embrace of very tough border measures. And as Trump tries to pressure Republicans into opposing any such bill, does this help Biden more than it hurts Trump?

CORASANITI: Well, it's an issue that President Biden really needs to focus on, if we're to believe recent polling about you know, where he is within the American electorate.

On the issue of immigration, a recent ABC Washington Post poll found that 18 percent, which is the lowest any president has ever had on the issue of immigration since the ABC in The Washington Post began polling this issue in 2004. That's a long time.

And remember, there is been a lot of different border crises, issues regarding immigration, since then. We had the Gang of Eight, we've had, you know, Trump, separating families at the border. So, to see Biden so low on this, means that he really needs to focus on it.

Now, if Trump is to tank this deal in Washington, that also runs a risk for him. Anytime there's a consternation about how Washington is behaving, people immediately look to the leaders. And former president Trump is basically running as an incumbent right now. So, it would be really interesting to see if this deal goes down, exactly who voters blame.

WHITFIELD: And, I mean, Biden's tougher stance, you know, on the border comes as, you know, he does try to fend off attacks from Trump. I mean, Biden is already, you know, treating Trump as though he is the presumptive GOP nominee and going after him.

Does Biden, you know, risk turning off voters by focusing on Trump so early on? I mean, we are some, what? Eight, nine months away from the general election. And even though it looks like the White House is positioning itself, in a two-person race even so early on in the primary season?

CORASANITI: Yes. I mean, we've done a bunch of stories and hold on this issue. This is the general election that the vast majority of Americans do not want.

President Biden is, you know, somewhat historically unpopular. Former President Trump was. Somewhat historically unpopular, there is a lot of people will be casting votes against candidates instead of for them.

And I was in New Hampshire for the past 10 days. I heard this from voters for Haley, for Trump for Dean Phillips, and for Biden. So, many people were casting their vote against someone. And so, that has a real problem in terms of driving out turnout, and what that might do to voters over what will be an incredibly long campaign.

My colleague, Adam Nagourney, just wrote a story about this, about how rare this is in modern American politics and elections. To have such a long election. So, it could drive down turnout, it could turn off voters. But at the same time, this is not a political system that embraces third party candidates that really gives them even an opportunity to mount a realistic campaign in terms of ballot access, money, creations, all of that.

So, it could turn out voters of where are they going to go.

WHITFIELD: Right. And while Trump and some people might think, you know, he has it in the bag in terms of the nomination, I mean, he still needs to beat Haley, you know, to lock up the Republican nomination formally. Not only is she not backing down, she actually, you know, seems to be turning up the heat on Trump.


Just take a listen to her blasting Trump and the RNC for considering a plan to actually declare him as the presumptive nominee after just two states have voted.


NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I let her know how disappointed I was. You know, I mean, let's look at the last 48 hours, Dana. I mean, first of all, you had election night, Trump gets on stage, he throws an absolute temper tantrum. And then, he goes and encourages the members of the RNC and tries to push them into saying that he is the nominee in the race.

I mean, they got so much pushback that he had to backtrack from it. I mean, he is totally unhinged.

DANA PERINO, FOX NEWS CHANNEL HOST: Well, did -- are you sure that he did that?


WHITFIELD: So, how will her posture be advantageous for her, you know, in the race, or does she need to turn up the heat even more?

CORASANITI: Well, I think what we saw in New Hampshire was a lot of people frustrated that Haley didn't start going more aggressively at Trump earlier. It was by far the state that he was most vulnerable in early on. You know, there was some polling back in December that showed her, you know, a few single digits point behind. And then, internal polling from some of our allies that showed when it was a head-to-head matchup, she was statistically tied.

Now, when that polling was coming out, she was still deflecting, just using her normal line, that chaos follows him, rightly or wrongly, trying to kind of step back by saying, I'm not saying this is bad.


CORASANITI: Now, that she is ratcheting up the attacks a little bit, it will be interesting to see if she is able to make up a pretty sizable gap in South Carolina, her home state.

You know, she's down by double digits. And New Hampshire showed us that former President Trump has a stranglehold on the Republican base. He won 75 percent of Republicans who turned out. Haley was able to win 58 percent of independence, and that's how she closed that gap.

Those voters are the ones who want to hear attacks on former President Trump. So, she's going to make this up. That's where she needs to focus. And at the same time, the reason Trump has been trying to pivot towards a general election, aside from obviously, wanting to be immediately crowned the nominee.

The longer Haley makes these attacks, the clearer it is that he has some pretty significant vulnerabilities with independents and middle of the road voters. You know, her winning a significant number 58 percent in New Hampshire, according to exit polls, is a weakness for him in a general election matchup against Trump.

And as more states that have either open or semi-open primaries cast their votes, that can become an increasingly problematic issue for him as he tries to position himself the more winnable candidate in a general election.

WHITFIELD: So, that better explains why she seems to be getting under his skin. I mean, he will say out loud, she is not much of a threat. And he'll give you a litany of reasons why she is not ready, you know, for primetime, so to speak. But really, it sounds like he is very worried.

CORASANITI: Yes, and some of her attacks are clearly aimed at some of the personality, you could say, weaknesses or issues a former President Trump has. And she knows him very well, they've worked together. And so, when she goes out on the stump and tries to portray him as weak or confused, she had this line a few days before voters' head to the polls in New Hampshire that she had to sit him down, quote, unquote, and tell him that you couldn't be that kind of Vladimir Putin.

Those are the kinds of attacks that whether they resonate with voters or not, are really going to irritate former President Trump. You know, he likes to think of himself as a strong leader, no weaknesses. He's smarter than everyone else in the room. So, here is his former ambassador, someone who was in his administration saying, he wasn't necessarily the smartest person in the room.

That's going to really get under his skin. Now, whether it appeals to voters or not. We'll see. But I think when you look at some of the more vitriolic responses the former president has put on Truth Social is often come after attacks, such as those from the Halley campaign.

WHITFIELD: You know, sounds like more fireworks are coming based on the description you just gave us.

All right, Nick Corasaniti, thank you so much. Great to see you.

CORASANITI: Thanks for having me. WHITFIELD: All right. Still to come. Back in the air. The first Boeing 737 Max 9 with passengers, flies after a three-week grounding following a door plug blowout.

Plus, more countries are halting funding to the U.N. relief group aiding Palestinians after allegations that some of the agency's workers were involved in the Hamas attack on Israel.

The very latest after the break.



WHITFIELD: All right. Boeing's 737 Max 9 jet has made a successful return to the skies. The Alaska Airlines flight took off from Seattle and landed safely in San Diego on Friday.

Alaska Airlines chief operating officer took the flight seated next to the plane's door plug. It was just three weeks ago that a door plug on a 737 Max 9 blew off mid-flight, leading the FAA to ground the planes.

CNN's Camila Bernal joining us now from Los Angeles. Camila, I mean, what is Boeing saying now after its plane made that successful trip?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Fred. So, the CEO there, saying that their focus right now is improving the quality. Because he admitted that they essentially have let down and disappointed not just their customers, but also the regulators and the flying public, everyday people who get on these airplanes.

And so, in this letter to employees, he admitted that and said that they own these issues and are going to work on these issues so that they can regain that confidence.

Now, of course, in that letter, he pointed to this flight from Seattle to San Diego, which was safe aside from being delayed. There were no other issues on the flight. And as you mentioned, it was the Alaska Airline's CEO that sat on that window seat right next to the door plug in question here.

But she said that she felt confident in the aircraft and that she had no problems sitting there.


You know, a lot of the passengers that were on this flight, some of them had no idea that this was actually the first flight on the Max 7 since it was grounded.

Some of them saying they were a little bit nervous, but others saying, look, you have to do what you have to do. So, I want you to listen to what some of these passengers told us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: First, anxious, but then, realizing it's probably the safest plane out there right now. It's been through lots of tests since then.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am not going to change my habits for it, and I am going to be: hoping that something bad doesn't happen.


BERNAL: Yes. And so, people saying they will continue to fly, because that's just what you do. And I have the confidence also in the fact that the FAA has looked at all of these issues. And it was actually data from Alaska Airlines and from United Airlines provided to Boeing and to the FAA, that helped regulators decide what it was that they needed to have checked on all of these airplanes.

The instructions were sent out on Wednesday evening. And, of course, the airlines started conducting these checks very soon thereafter.

And look, they had, had to cancel hundreds of flights. This had been a problem for the airlines and also for passengers who had been impacted by these flight cancellations.

And so, the idea here was to get this fixed as quickly as possible, but also to let people know that it was safe.

You know, no one wants to get on an airplane without knowing what's going to happen or if, you know, the door plug is going to blow out. And so, again, it's regaining that confidence from the fliers.

And the Alaska Airlines CEO, actually saying that he believes people will continue to get on the planes despite this incident. Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Camila Bernal, thank you so much.

BERNAL: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All rights. Nearly six months after a wind fueled wildfires swept through the coastal Hawaiian town of Lahaina, Maui police have now identified the 100th victim. Lydia Coloma's remains where the final set waiting for positive identification.

A Maui police official says the 70-year-old wife and mother was a well-respected member of the community. The department's lead investigator says her remains required an extraordinary degree of analysis to bring family members' closure.

Three people are still missing from the August 2023 inferno, while authorities have identified them, their remains have not been found.

Transgender swimmer, Lia Thomas has begun legal proceedings against the swimming world's governing body, after it voted to restrict transgender athletes from competing in the elite women's aquatics competitions.

She is challenging part of World Aquatics gender inclusion policy, which says male to female transgender athletes would only be eligible to compete in women's categories if they transition before the age of 12 or before they reach a specific stage of puberty.

In a statement to CNN, World Aquatic said, it's quoting -- I'm quoting now, "Policy on gender inclusion, adopted by World Aquatics in June of 2022, was rigorously developed on the basis of advice from leading medical and legal experts, and in careful consultation with athletes. World Aquatics remains confident that its gender inclusion policy represents a fair approach and remains absolutely determined to protect women's sport."

The Court of Arbitration for sport says a hearing date for the legal challenge has not yet been set.

All right. Straight ahead, a Palestinian American teenager was shot dead in the occupied West Bank. Now, the U.S. State Department is calling for an investigation into the killing of the 17-year-old.

The father of the teenager joins me live after a quick break.



WHITFIELD: Welcome back.

The U.S. State Department is calling for an investigation into the killing of 70 -- a 17-year-old U.S. citizen in the West Bank last week.

Tawfic Abdel Jabbar, grew up in Louisiana and moved to the West Bank last year to be with family.

Israeli authorities say both an off-duty police officer and an Israeli civilian fired shots in the incident and that IDF troops were also at the scene. Hafeth Abdel Jabbar is Tawfic's father, and he is joining me right now from the West Bank.

I'm so sorry for the killing of your 17-year-old son, Tawfic. He was born and raised in Louisiana, right? And then, just nine months ago, he moved to the West Bank to live with family -- connect with his roots and heritage.

Before he was hit by gunfire, what had he communicated to you? What did he told you about how he was enjoying or loving, living there in the West Bank?

HAFETH ABDEL JABBAR, SON KILLED IN WEST BANK SHOOTING: Well, thank you for having me on the show and giving me the opportunity to tell my son's story.

We moved here in May of 2023 to spend a couple of years to show him where we was born and heritage and culture here to give it a try for a couple of years.

He enjoyed every minute of it. He enjoyed every second of it and he loved he's an out person, outgoing. He loves the woods. He loves cooking out, he loves to spend time with his friends, truck riding, or T.V. writing. He's a very fun, full of life kid. He enjoyed every minute of it until this incident happened, they took away his life from him for no reason.

WHITFIELD: And on the day that he was shot, is it your understanding that he and friends were in a car. He was driving, right? And heading to a barbecue that there was no unrest along the way. And then, out of nowhere, gunshots riddle the car that he was in.

How have you, you know what kind of details have you learned about this -- what happened in the investigation?


ABDEL JABBAR: Well, I learned -- I learned a lot of details. And this is what usually happens. After Friday prayers, people are off, everything's closed here.

They spend time with family, friends. They go out to a piece of properties they own by the olive trees or cook out. And we spend time like that. Some time with family, with friends.

But ever since we got here, I tell him you're not spending too much time with us. He's making new friends and loving spending time with them. He goes out barbecue with them.

This is not the first time or -- that wasn't the first time for them to do a cookout there. There's many times they did that. I can't even count them. That's because they spend a lot of time.

We have three pieces of properties that my grandfather owned around that area, and they usually pick different one every time because it's all hills. It's a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful scene throughout the village. And it's a small village, 4,000 people.

And every time he spend time with his friends in different piece of property. They was going there to have fun, to eat, to barbecue, and go home.

My son was -- he growed up in New Orleans. He went to schools in New Orleans. He was born in New Orleans, for 16 consecutive years. He does not know anything about the conflict here. He does not participate in anything here.

Simply my son was a victim of these guys that kill children for no reason. My son was shot. I have the videos to support to everybody. I sent these videos to the consulate, to some Senators.

I'm trying to reach out to every person in charge, to Secretary Blinken, to let them know that my son was simply executed by someone who loves to kill people. Loves to kill children.

My son was executed from the back. He was shot 10 times. The car was 10 bullets in the car, from the back. He was driving away from everything. He didn't see anybody. He wasn't a threat to anybody. He didn't -- he didn't impose any threat to anybody. They didn't even see anybody.

It was two person -- him and another guy, 16 years old, also an American citizen born, from Miami, born and raised in Miami. They're from the same family, the family.

They spent time together every day, on a daily basis. On Friday, it's extra because everybody's off, and they love to hang out.

My son was just -- I think at the wrong place, wrong time. And these people just -- I'm trying to reach out to the government official, any American there, Children shouldn't be shot and killed, 16 and 17 years old, for no reason like this.


ABDELJABBAR: And they've -- from the first minute, from minute one, they start claiming these stories that he was throwing rocks or he was throwing something.

I sent videos where the car was, how far it was from highway 60 where they claim he was. It was 200 meters away from the Highway 60. And he was driving -- going back to the village.

How can he throw rocks when he is driving away and you get shot and get executed like that? Ten bullets in the back of the truck, 10. Ten bullets. My son was simply executed.

We reach out to any official, to Secretary Blinken, I don't want you to say I'm just concerned. I need some answers. I need some answers to who killed my son and why. Why are these people are killing children for no reason.

WHITFIELD: And, Hafeth, when you say, you know, these guys -- these guys who are killing children for no reason, do you see a connection between the -- the conflict of October 7th and what has happened.

Following that, the disproportionate number of Palestinians who have been killed, the Palestinian health ministry saying more than 25,000 Palestinians have been killed.

Do you feel like your son's death is related, connected to the violence, the conflict that's taking place in Gaza?

ABDELJABBAR: Of course, of course. Over 500 people was killed in the West Bank where we -- we don't have a conflict, like they're saying, like the Gaza Strip. The Gaza Strip is 26,000 people died, 65,000 people hurt. But here in the West Bank, since October 7th, 500 people got shot and killed.


WHITFIELD: And what can you demand or --

ABDELJABBAR: Three kids, three kids, this is the third kid that is shot and murdered in the same area where they spend time there.



WHITFIELD: What can you demand or expect from the U.S. State Department or U.S. government?


ABDELJABBAR: I'm demanding my government that is supporting such a horrific government like Israel, killing children, I'm demanding them to give me answers, who shot my kid, who killed my kid, and why?

That we are supporting a regime, their government officials -- we have government officials from Israel come on TV, says that we are animals. They say we should hit them with nuclear bombs.

They make comments, such horrific comments, and we are supporting that. As American, I am supporting that because I am American. My wife is American. All my children is born in U.S. And we are supporting a regime that is hungry for blood, for children.

This is the third kid that got shot there, got killed there in the same area. Over 500 people since October 7th was killed in the West Bank.

It's -- we are living under an occupation of -- I can give you -- I can go back to 1870, where my great grandfather was born, in the same House that 1870. My grandfather was born 1904 in the same house.

My dad was born in 1948 in the same house. And 1982, I was born in the same House. I can go back 150 years, four generations to our government that came along in 1948 and started killing us out of nowhere.

We are under an occupation, a government that is -- we are supporting, the Western world is supporting, my government, my tax dollars, my tax money.

I am paying for bullets and machine guns to kill our own citizens now. To kill a 17 -- 17 years old U.S. citizen that came here to spend time to see his dad and his great grandad heritage. Now he's dead.

My daughter is 7 years old. Last night, at 2:00 A.M., me and my wife spent two hours, two hours, with my daughter. She's 7 years old. Asking me, I don't understand what's going on, where is my brother?

So I'm asking Blinken, the secretary of state, I'm asking Biden, Biden administration, the whole White House, give me the answer that I should answer my daughter. She's 7 years old. What should I tell her?

What should I tell my wife? She cries every night on the pillow next to us. It takes until 2:00, 3:00, 4:00 in the morning, I'm barely getting sleep because of the situation we're in.

My daughter, just picture that. My daughter's 7 years old. She asks me a question, I don't understand, where is Tafik? What happened? Why what should I tell -- what should I tell her, Mr. Biden? What should I tell her, Mr. Blinken?

That we are supporting a government that shot my kid? Why should we -- what should we tell to these generations?

We are a country who was built on human rights, as America, as the United States. How can we support such a regime that make comments on national television we still supporting that?

Have we lost humanity in this earth? Is Tafik really living in a better place than this place? That is my frustration. Have we come to a time where we say leaving this earth is better to live on it because there is no more humanity here.

Mr. Blinken, Mr. Biden, Biden administration, what should I tell my daughter? What should we teach our children that are growed up? For my son -- my older son is 21 years old. What should I tell him, where is his brother?

He's a full-born -- from Florida. He was born in Florida, 21 years old. What should I tell him? That our government that -- that we prompted the Americans, we proud, deeply proud.

And we -- I came there in '96 to live the dream. And I'm living it until this moment. Until my government supported a government like such as in Israel since 1948.

But my heritage, I can go back to 1870 with my heritage. My great grandfather, the same house I was born in, in 1982. But I have to tell my son, 21 years old, I'm sorry, he was shot by our government that is hungry to kill children. And we are supporting it.


ABDELJABBAR: My tax money every year, I pay for that.

WHITFIELD: Hafeth Abdeljabbar, I mean, yes, your sadness --


WHITFIELD: -- your frustration is completely understandable. And you are certainly deserving of answers --


ABDELJABBAR: I have no words for the feelings here, the feelings to my wife. The feelings from the inside. I cannot express our hope every father and mother doesn't have to go through this.


I pray to God. I pray to God that Tafik is in a better place. Thanks, God, for everything. Everything is meant for a reason. I always thank God for everything that happens.

But I hope that no father, no mother, no sister, no brother has to go through what we are going through at this moment. It's a very terrible thing.

WHITFIELD: I'm so sorry. So sorry for your loss.


WHITFIELD: So sorry for the loss of your dear son --


WHITFIELD: -- 17-year-old Tafik.

Thank you. Thank you for really pouring your heart out. Appreciate it.

ABDELJABBAR: This is from --


ABDELJABBAR: -- they made this. This is from the school in the village. They made this for us.

WHITFIELD: Oh, beautiful. He is so greatly missed.


WHITFIELD: We can tell from your family and from --


WHITFIELD: -- his community in Louisiana, as well. Our prayers go out to you. So sorry. All the best to you.

We'll be right back.



WHITFIELD: All right, it's still not clear what killed three men who were found dead in the backyard of a Kansas City home. In the weeks since the gruesome discovery, no one has been arrested or charged in the deaths, and loved ones want answers.

CNN's Whitney Wild explains the latest in this deepening mystery.


WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More than two weeks after 38-year-old Ricky Johnson, 37-year-old David Harrington, and 36-year-old Clayton McGeeney were found dead in the back of a Kansas City home, there are few details and frustration is growing.

Adrianna Juarez, who shares a child with Ricky Johnson, says she feels too many questions remain about how long it took to find the three friends.

ADRIANNA JUAREZ, SHARES CHILD WITH RICKY JOHNSON: How do you not know there's three dead bodies?

WILD: According to CNN affiliate, KMBC, the three visited a friend's home, a rented house in northwest Kansas City after the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Los Angeles Chargers January 7th.

Two days later, a worried fiancee, who hadn't heard from her loved one, looked for him at the home.

According to police, when there was no answer at the door, she broke into the basement of the residence and found a dead body on the back porch. When police arrived, they discovered two more bodies in the backyard.

CNN is not naming the friend because he hasn't been accused of a crime or charged in the deaths.

His attorney, John Picerno:

JOHN PICERNO, ATTORNEY: In the early morning hours, around 2:00 a.m., he believes he got sleepy. He said, I'm going to crash on the couch." And he said good-bye to his buddies and thought they left out the front door.

WILD: Kansas City police are waiting on autopsies and toxicology reports to determine how the men died.

At this point, police consider this a death investigation, not homicide, noting it is still the case that no foul play was observed or suspected.

Johnson's niece, Stephanie Walling (ph), said they want answers and some sense of closure.

STEPHANIE WALLING (ph), RICKY JOHNSON'S NEICE: I never thought it would get as much attention as it has. I mean, I'm hoping that with the attention that it is getting that it will get us closer to getting answers.


WHITFIELD: Thank you, Whitney Wild.

I'd like to bring in criminologist and attorney, Casey Jordan.

Casey, great to see you.

I wonder, how will the examination of the bodies help determine the cause of death?

CASEY JORDAN, CRIMINOLOGIST & ATTORNEY: Well, the police are on the record of saying they don't believe there was any foul play, which would mean that they suffered some kind of traumatic harm probably because of somebody's specific intent.

What's taking so long, of course, is that we have three dead victims, and they need the toxicology reports. What they're waiting for right now at the medical examiner's office is those reports.

And the trick is that because they're all found in the same location, the backyard of the friend where they'd been watching the football game, you want to figure out if all of them kind of matched, to triangulate those results.

Right now, the biggest theory, the one that makes the no sense, is that these three men probably died of some combination of drugs and alcohol.

The big question is, did they know what they were consuming? Did they consume unknowingly a very strong opioid that could have killed them, perhaps at different times, but slowly?

And if the cause of death is hypothermia, the question is, why weren't they able to get up and go back into the house?

WHITFIELD: Right, because, as we heard in the piece, two of the body were in one location, one of the other bodies in another.

So you know, investigators got to figure out why that is, too. Why would they be in different locations if the cause of death were all similar.

JORDAN: Yes, but one of them -- they are kind of in the same location. They're all found in the back of the house where they were visiting their friend. One on the porch and two in the backyard.

And the question is, the young man who's renting the house, who says he was unaware that people were trying to get in touch with him for two days -- he didn't look at his phone, he was basically sleeping for 48 hours -- how come he didn't actually get up and notice that their cars were still outside of his house?

I mean, this is why the families are really upset and demanding questions from the occupant of that house, who's being portrayed as a brilliant scientist, somebody who clearly should know better.

And his lawyer said he sleeps with headphones, with a big fan. But that really doesn't explain how those three men ended up behind his house on the back porch, in the backyard.

And the toxicology exams, the results are really going to bring the answers home. I think that's why the families are really upset. Tomorrow marks three weeks since they were last seen.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Super perplexing.

Casey Jordan, really appreciate you. Thank you so much.

JORDAN: Always good to be here, Fred.


WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: The company, Lazarus 3D, is introducing a new way for surgeons to practice on models that look, feel, and cut like their specific patients.

Here's how they can make a copy of you, in this week's "START SMALL, THINK BIG."


DR. SMRITI ZANEVELD, FOUNDER, LAZARUS 3D: When I learned that surgeons operate and learn on bell peppers and learn to suture on bananas, the first reaction in my mind was that there's got to be a better way.

So we built that. Lazarus 3D is providing a tool for your surgeon to practice and rehearse that upcoming procedure on a copy of you.

So we take your CTR MRI, and from there we're able to create a digital replica.


Here is a kidney of a patient. Here is a tumor. And from that digital design, we 3D print the physical copy that are very soft and realistic, creates these patient-specific models.

Here is the healthy kidney, tissue surrounding the tumor. And all of those things need to feel realistic.

The tools responding to the liver and how they're responding to the stomach, it's going to be different because these synthetic tissues are behaving like the real patient's organs.


ZANEVELD: Dr. Guerra had a complex liver transplant coming up, and we were able to render the physical model to rehearse that approach for that patient ahead of that real surgery.

GUERRA: I think the biggest benefit of this 3D model is that we have a most accurate understanding of the donor's anatomy. By doing that, we can do a safer surgery.