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White House Pushes Back After Biden Special Counsel Report; Trump Co-Defendant Accuses Georgia Prosecutors of Lying About When Relationship Began; Humanitarian Groups Push Back On Israel's Planned Evacuation; Largest Survey Of Transgender People In The United States Reveals Key Insights. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired February 10, 2024 - 07:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I like being single. I mean, but I can see the appeal of just being done with the whole thing, because there's some scabs out here, but it's just to like find somebody and that'd be a person, I can get that, but I do enjoy single life.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I mean, I can, yes, I can definitely see that. You would have to be in a happy marriage, right?


WALKER: To be happy. But I definitely see the point. My question is, does a marriage make you happier? Or is it because of people who have happier dispositions who are seeking out marriage?

BLACKWELL: Maybe. Maybe. Yes. I'll find out one day. Maybe.

WALKER: Well, maybe not. You're happy.

BLACKWELL: Maybe not!

WALKER: Do you want to get married?

BLACKWELL: Next hour of CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

WALKER: That's why I said it, that's why I said maybe not.

BLACKWELL: Good morning. Welcome to CNN THIS MORNING. It is Saturday, February 10th. I am still single and Victor Blackwell.

WALKER: We have a full hour to talk about why. I'm Amara Walker. Thank you for joining us. Here's what we're watching for you this morning. Democrats are grappling with how to combat questions over President Biden's age and memory after that damaging special counsel reported to his handling of classified documents. What both the White House and the Biden campaign are doing to tamp down those concerns.

BLACKWELL: There are new warnings this morning from aid groups over Israel's plan to evacuate displaced Palestinians from Rafah, the outcry over the plan and what we're learning about the status of ceasefire talks.

WALKER: Plus, a major study is offering a glimpse into how transgender people in the U.S. feel about their lives at a time when trans-rights have increasingly come under attack.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: And I'm Coy Wire in Las Vegas, Nevada, ahead of the Taylor Swift event tomorrow. And it turns out there's a Super Bowl being played too. We'll have the tale of the tape coming up.

WALKER: President Biden and his Democratic allies are struggling with how to respond to a controversial report from Special Counsel Robert Hur.

BLACKWELL: In the document, Hur concludes that there should be no charges filed against the president for his handling of classified materials, but he also suggested that the president's forgetfulness about some details was caused by his age and lack of mental fitness. Well, now the White House is in damage control, with Vice President Harris and administration officials defending the president. They point out that the interviews happened during a major international crisis. CNN White House Reporter, Camila DeChalus, joins us now. So, first, let's talk about the report and the White House's response to it.

CAMILA DECHALUS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Victor, the White House is aggressively pushing back on how the report has tried to portray the president. White House advisers have called the report gratuitous and out of line. But what has been really interesting to note is that the White House is not ruling out publicly releasing the transcript of the interviews Biden had with Hur. Take a quick listen on what the White House counsel's spokesperson had to say about this.


IAN SAMS, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL'S OFFICE SENIOR ADVISOR: I think that it's important to know that we're dealing with classified materials in this conversation. There are classification issues there. I don't have any announcement on, you know, releasing anything today, but it's a reasonable question and there are classified stuff and we'll have to work through all that.


DECHALUS: Now, Sam's and other White House advisors have just reiterated that Biden has been willing to cooperate in this investigation and that he's been really transparent about the fact that he found classified documents and handed it over to the necessary agencies. Victor and Amara.

WALKER: Obviously, it's an election year and concerns about how that may impact Biden's campaign. What's the strategy to remedy that concern?

DECHALUS: Well, Amara, at this point of time, the campaign hasn't signaled that they're going to pivot from the strategy that they've already laid out, and that is, they've said that Biden is at his best when he is directly engaging with voters, when he's out on the campaign trail and talking about issues that impact people on the state level and on the local level.

But what has been really interesting to see is that how the White House has pushed back on this report and how they portrayed the president is that they want to focus less on how the report has just raised more questions about Biden's mental acuity and his memory and more on putting more attention on the fact that the report ultimately concluded that no criminal charges should be filed against the president at his time over the handling, his handling over classified documents. Amara, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Camila DeChalus, traveling with the president. Thank you very much. Let's bring in now Mika Solner, Congressional Reporter for Punchbowl News; and Harry Litman, a former U.S. Attorney and Deputy Assistant Attorney General. Welcome to you both. Harry, let me start with you and play for you the strong defense from Vice President Kamala Harris.



KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As a former prosecutor, the comments that were made by that prosecutor, gratuitous, inaccurate, and inappropriate. The way that the president's demeanor in that report was characterized could not be more wrong on the facts, and clearly politically motivated. Gratuitous.


BLACKWELL: Harry, did you see a report that was gratuitous, inappropriate, and "clearly politically motivated here?

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Let me start with gratuitous. It surely was, Victor. Look, this is not the kind of language that's in a prosecution memo. It really had next to nothing, really nothing to do with the decision not to charge him. He made a very tenuous argument that, oh, the jury will have some sympathy for this poor, memory- impaired, older gentleman.

It really was, in that sense, a low blow that never would have been taken if it had gone through normal department review, which it doesn't. The problem is it's a sort of quicksand situation for them where the more you struggle, the deeper you sink. It's probably best if they can just make it go away, but now it's been at least for this news cycle put front and center.

BLACKWELL: Mika, the Democrats have derided former President Trump and his allies on the Hill for years now for politicizing the DOJ, calling any special prosecutor, investigating the former president as a partisan. Now, we hear this from the vice president. Are we also hearing similar alignment from Democrats on the Hill? MIKA SOLNER, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, PUNCHBOWL NEWS: Yes, good

morning, Victor. I think that's exactly right. I mean, you're seeing the president, you know, kind of tie Robert Hur to Donald Trump himself, saying this is a Trump appointed guy that's clearly having some kind of political motivation to go after Biden in an election year.

And I'll add that I just went out with House Democrats to their annual retreat, and a lot of them, while publicly praising the president, where he actually spoke to them there, they're saying, you know, this is, this report, you know, is not damning him. You know, he's going to be fine.

It's the accomplishments that we need to focus on. A lot of these members are privately saying that they're really, really concerned about Biden as they already were before this report, but that this report is really something to look out for, especially with his mental fitness.

BLACKWELL: Harry, how many details were necessary? Because if, and I was listening to Amara's conversation with Joey Jackson earlier, that if part of your reason for declining charges for the president, those include his lack of mental fitness, and I'm phrasing it this way, that he's an elderly gentleman with poor memory, don't you have to detail how you arrived at that conclusion?

LITMAN: Look, if you do, but that just would never be in a prosecution memo. You want to know did he commit the crime and can you prove it and this notion of jury sympathy would just not wind up in there. There's a really very clear review process in the DOJ that would excise that with a red pen in a second. Is it necessary? No. Your responsibility as a prosecutor is to explain why you're declining and after that shut up. It's not his business to be detailing his thoughts about his acuity.

BLACKWELL: So, Mika, the special counsel he's done with this, the members of Congress, it's now up to them. What is the plan from specifically the Republicans on the Hill? What are we getting any clear idea of what they are going to do next with this report?

SOLNER: I think you're going to see Republicans seize on this report as they already have. They're going to message by saying that Biden is too old to be president, Biden is unfit to be president, he's not in the best mental state to have another term, as they have done throughout this administration. I think that every time that Biden has any kind of jumble on, you know, speaking, Republicans have taken the opportunity to paint him as someone that's unfit for office into and senile.

On the other hand, you have Donald Trump who's also going to be in a similar age range as Biden. So, we're seeing Democrats use that argument and what I've heard from actually one Democrat, Congressman Seth Magaziner of Rhode Island, he said that he believes there's a double standard between Biden and Donald Trump given the fact that everything that Biden says is analyzed, whereas Donald Trump makes outrageous claims and it's not as criticized. BLACKWELL: We've heard the claim of double standard from both side supporters of the president, former president, but I wonder if there's anything official here because, Mika, the House Republicans have started down the road of this impeachment inquiry with no evidence of wrongdoing on the president's apart. Is there any element here they may take some official action related to the, the mishandling of classified information?


SOLNER: I think it would be difficult to take any official action given that the report doesn't say that Biden actually did anything wrong when it comes to the documents. I think the only thing that Republicans can really do is really play up the accusations of Biden's mental fitness when it comes to this. I don't know and I'm not sure if this will be part of the impeachment plan, but I think that's something that we can watch out.

BLACKWELL: All right, Harry, let me come to you with the case out of Georgia, the state election subversion case and D.A. Fani Willis. CNN now has reporting that a lawyer for one of Donald Trump's co- defendants says that the claim that Willis, her personal relationship with one of the prosecutors, Nathan Wade, started after he joined the team, after she hired him, is just not true. That witness is actually one of Wade's partners at the law firm who actually represented Wade in his divorce proceeding says that the two of them, Willis and Wade, were romantically involved before the D.A. even took the oath of office, before she was sworn in. If that is true and can be proven what's the importance, what's the significance?

LITMAN: Legally, none. It's really similar to what we were just talking about. It's a big so what, except it could have legs as a political talking point. The question is for this case in front of the judge, is there any conflict of interest? Bad move for sure to have started in a relation with them before, after, during, whatever. But the question, the legal question is, does this in some way impair the office's ability to vigorously prosecute? The answer is clearly no, and this latest response by the defendant is just a way of keeping alive salacious allegations that really have nothing to do with the issue in front of the court in terms of the prosecution itself.

BLACKWELL: Harry Litman, Mika Solner, thank you both.

WALKER: Coming up, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has directed the country's military to draw up an evacuation plan for civilians in Rafah, ahead of an anticipated ground assault. We're going to go live to Tel Aviv. Plus, we are counting down to Super Bowl LVIII. We're live in Las Vegas ahead of tomorrow's big game.



WALKER: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the country's planned IDF operation in Rafah must be completed by the start of Ramadan, that's March 10th. Israeli officials say, they want to clear out what they're calling Hamas's last bastion in the region and humanitarian groups are sounding the alarm.

BLACKWELL: Also, this morning, ceasefire talks appear to be at a standstill after the Speaker of the Israeli Parliament cancelled a meeting with the U.N. Secretary General because he called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.

CNN's Nic Robertson joins us live now from Tel Aviv. As Israel signals that these evacuations could come soon, there are a lot of Palestinians say that they have nowhere to go.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And they're very worried about that. Many of the families of the million people that are displaced in Rafah, plus of course the 300,000 that live there already, those displaced are concerned because they've already moved some of them on average maybe five times already as they've sort of moved south in Gaza Strip because the IDF has moved from the north to the south, so this is the last place that they've been able to go to, to take refuge.

The nearest town north of them is the one that's been under the IDF's efforts to take out Hamas there for the last two months. So, this is the last place that they can go. The Egyptian authorities are afraid that if the IDF goes into Rafah, this would cause people to panic and try and flee across the border into Egypt. U.N. officials and NGOs are talking about the potential for a bloodbath there. This is an environment where there's already a desperate humanitarian need. And the Prime Minister has said, look, the IDF needs to tell me and the cabinet how they're going to protect the civilians.

But it's really, it seems taking international political pressure and turning it over to the military to solve. And the military have solved this in essence already. The way they've been operating has been to try to move civilians out of the way. They drop flyers, they send text messages, and civilians are told, if you live in these neighborhoods, then take this route at this time and go to the Mwazi (PH) refugee camp next to the Mediterranean Sea. However, that hasn't proven to be safe. Many civilians have still died. And of course, this is what's now on the mind of all those civilians in Rafah.

BLACKWELL: Certainly, Nic Robertson for us there. Thank you. Now, the human cost in Rafah, as we were just discussing there, it is staggering. A lot of people say that despite the evacuation plans, I mean, where are they supposed to go? They don't know where they can move now.

WALKER: Literally, there's no space. Nada Bashir is with us now. Nada, tell us more about the suffering, what the people are dealing with, the civilians?

NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, have you heard there from Nick, we've been hearing from the outset of the war, from the Israeli military, ordering civilians to move southwards. Many of them, more than a million, are now concentrated in Rafah. There simply isn't anywhere else safe to turn to in Gaza. That has certainly been the message from the United Nations. We heard yesterday from the U.S. Humanitarian Chief, Martin Griffiths. He said there shouldn't be nowhere else safe. But those in Rafah, the

civilians that have moved southwards, have faced what he described as unthinkable suffering. Many of them have been forced to move and evacuate time and time again as a result of this relentless bombardment. Of course, important to note that over the last few weeks, we have seen Rafah targeted by Israeli airstrikes on a number of occasions.

This would mark a significant shift though. A ground operation by the Israeli military could certainly put hundreds of thousands of lives at risk. That has been the warning from multiple aid agencies as well as the United Nations. This is really stoking fears on the ground in the Rafah. We heard from some of those in the Rafah, a warning to our viewers, some of the footage in this report is distressing.



BASHIR (voiceover): There are simply no words. This grandfather cradling the body of his 7-year-old granddaughter, Attaf (PH), beside the shallow grave where she will soon be buried.

"I told her mother that Attaf is now a bird in heaven," Ahmed says, "with her aunt, her cousin and her grandmother who were all waiting for her. You see, we have many martyrs in our family."

Ahmed says his family had been taking shelter in a school in Khan Younis when an airstrike hit. "It took hours," he says, to reach the nearest hospital still able to treat little Attaf, but it was too late. Across Gaza, more than 10,000 children have been killed since the war began, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Many more left orphaned or facing life-changing injuries. In the central city of Deir al Balah, the airstrikes are near daily. Those who survive left to dig through the rubble with their bare hands in search of their loved ones.

Meanwhile in Rafah, once deemed a safe zone, UNICEF estimates that there are now more than 600,000 children among the over a million people in the area, many taking shelter in sprawling tent cities. The southern city has for weeks come under relentless airstrikes by the Israeli military, who say they are targeting Hamas.

But now, a looming ground operation is stoking fears that Rafah could become, as one aid group has described it, a zone of bloodshed. "If by some misfortune there is an invasion of Rafah, two-thirds of the population will die," Jabr (PH) says. "We can't get out of Rafah. We have no other alternative."

Israel says it is now calling for a mass evacuation of civilians in the southern city ahead of a planned ground offensive, but it is almost impossible to fathom where else these civilians can turn to.

But Rafah has not only become a vital lifeline for the displaced, it is also a crucial gateway for humanitarian aid crossing over from Egypt, and many in the international community are now sounding alarm bells over Israel's warning.

ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. Secretary General: And I'm especially alarmed by reports that the Israeli military intends to focus next on Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been squeezed in a desperate search for safety.

BASHIR: The U.S. State Department has warned that it cannot support an Israeli military operation in Rafah without serious planning for civilians there. With U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday describing Israel's actions in Gaza as "over the top."

But Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already dismissed a proposal from Hamas for a prolonged truce, which would see a phased withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza and a gradual release of hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

Netanyahu, who described the proposal as delusional, has vowed to push ahead until a "complete victory" over Hamas is achieved, leaving little hope for diplomacy as negotiations continue and little hope for what lies ahead in Gaza.


BASHIR (on camera): And of course, there's fear now for the situation that civilians in Rafah could soon face. There is also mounting concern that this could certainly put a pause or at least halt negotiations on some sort of ceasefire or prolonged truce agreement.

BLACKWELL: Nada Bashir, thank you for that report.


Tennessee officials are now looking for a man suspected of killing a sheriff's deputy, the massive reward now offered in the case and why the suspect's brother is in jail now.


BLACKWELL: Headlines now, there is a manhunt in Tennessee after a deputy, Kenneth McGowan, was shot and killed during a traffic stop and a second deputy was injured. Officials say, the 42-year-old, Kenneth DeHart is wanted on multiple charges including first-degree murder. DeHart's brother was also arrested. He's accused of helping the suspect after the shooting. He's being held on a $1 million bond. Now, authorities are offering an $80,000 reward for information leading to DeHart's capture.

Two people were dead after a small plane crashed and triggered a fiery explosion on a busy highway in Florida during Friday afternoon's commute. A traffic was at a standstill. Look at this, this massive plume of black smoke rose over I-75 in Naples. Witnesses say, the plane clipped the truck, skidded about 30 feet, and then slammed into a concrete wall and burst into flames. Officials say, three people survived this disaster. The NTSB is investigating.

[07:29:40] WALKER: Newly released results from a survey of the transgender population is giving us a close look at their lives at a time when their lives and rights are at risk. In 2022, the National Center for Transgender Equality polled more than 90,000 binary and non-binary transgender people ages 16 and older.

Now, the survey covered everything from family life, work, and education, housing, and public accommodations. And they found that the majority of people who have transitioned said they are satisfied with their lives.

94 percent, who lived at least some time in a different gender report being a lot more or a little more satisfied with their lives. Only three percent indicated they were a little less or a lot less satisfied.

The survey also asked respondents who were receiving hormone treatment, how they felt about their lives, and nearly all of them, 98 percent said, receiving treatments increased satisfaction with their lives. Just less than one percent said taking hormones made them less satisfied.

Let's talk more about this, and the survey findings with Rodrigo Heng- Lehtinen. He is the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Rodrigo, good morning. Thank you so much for joining me.

So, first of, why did you do this survey? What did you set out to learn from it?


Well, we really wanted to do this survey, because there is so much misinformation about what it really means to be transgender. We wanted to be able to provide the public with some real facts.

You know, transgender people we're really small population. So, it's understandable that people may have questions about what it's all about. So, we wanted to make as deep and wide of a survey as possible, to really paint an accurate picture of who we are.

WALKER: So, then, educate us about the misinformation. What are some things that you know, you think the public needs to get right about the transgender population?

HENG-LEHTINEN: Well, one of the findings that was so clear from the survey is that, unfortunately, transgender people are still encountering widespread discrimination in our daily lives. And yet, overall, people are still saying that they are better off and feel more satisfied with life for having transitioned.

And one thing that really stood out to me especially was growing family acceptance, oh, nearly half, 49 percent of respondents said that their immediate family was supportive of them, coming out as transgender.

And that's just so heartwarming to me. Because at the end of the day, every transgender person is a part of someone's family. And everyone deserves to have that love and respect from (INAUDIBLE).


WALKER: Oh, that is -- that is very inspiring and optimistic to listen to that, you know, the acceptance from families.

So, the last survey was done in 2015. Has anything changed or what has changed? I'm sure things have changed since then, for transgender people.

HENG-LEHTINEN: Well, since the last survey in 2015, there is been a dramatic escalation in hostile state legislation against transgender people all around the country. So, this time around for the survey, we asked people about if they've thought about moving out of the state that they live in because of the growing anti-transgender laws. And tragically, we found that nearly half have thought about moving, only because of this legislation or policy that makes it hard to live their daily lives as openly transgender people.

And even five percent of respondents have already moved. And that's just so heartbreaking. You know, moving is disruptive, no one should have to make a decision between staying in their hometown or with their family, or having to essentially flee to another part of the country just to be safe.

WALKER: Yes, you mentioned these laws. You know, a lot of states have passed -- you know, laws restricting or banning gender affirming care, what would your message be to local and federal lawmakers with the survey?

HENG-LEHTINEN: My message to be -- would be to look at the data. So, you can see that actually, transition-related health care is life- saving essential care. You know, it's understandable that people have some questions about what transition related healthcare entails, especially for young people. It's reassuring to know that this has been researched for decades. It's health care that's been looked into by the American Medical Association and all the leading medical institutions, and they have age-appropriate guidelines to make this really work for everybody.

And we found through the U.S. Transgender Survey that the overwhelming majority of people who have been able to go on hormones or access transition related surgery, are more satisfied with life after being able to do it. It's nearly 100 percent of respondents, which is just remarkable.

WALKER: Well, it's a very important conversation, thinking -- thank you for bringing it to light. Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, thank you.

BLACKWELL: Still ahead, we are counting down to Super Bowl 58, Coy Wire is live in Las Vegas ahead of the big game. Coy?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Victor and Amara, we're head of Allegiant Stadium here where it's all going to go down.


The Niners and the Chiefs, they're going to be fighting for that, the Lombardi Trophy while the breakdown coming up.


WALKER: All right, Swifties, are you ready for it? Call it what you want. Swift mania or the Swift effect, but many are people have -- many are wondering, will Taylor Swift make it to the Super Bowl in time to cheer on her boyfriend, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.

She'll need more than a getaway car to make it there on time. She is wrapping up a four-day stint on her Eras Tour in Japan this morning and she has less than 24 hours to make it to Vegas for this love story.

BLACKWELL: You get them. You get them all in there?

WALKER: So, it come -- she rightful like singing all of this.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Hanako Montgomery joins us live from Tokyo this morning. Question here is, can she pull it off?


WALKER: It's just a question.

BLACKWELL: I'll leave that to you.

WALKER: She -- come on.

HANAKO MONTGOMERY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I do feel like she is going to be able to pull it off you guys. Of course, the Eras, this time difference that works in her favor. And, you know, it doesn't take time travel. It just takes a private jet, which we believe Taylor Swift will be taking.

But right now, we are just outside of Tokyo Dome where she finished the last concert of her Tokyo leg. And, you know, thousands and thousands of fans were inside. I was very jealous. She was performing a sold-out concert.

But, of course, she is not out of the spotlight just yet. All eyes are on her to see whether or not she makes it back to the Super Bowl in time to cheer on her boyfriend Travis Kelce, who like you said is playing for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Now, Swifties we spoke to earlier are convinced that she is going to make the time, they get back in time for kickoff.






UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Totally possible.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 100 percent. And the Chiefs will win.

MONTGOMERY: I guess manifesting that she's -- they're going to win?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need a whole leg on the field, trophy embrace moments.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Oh, yes.


MONTGOMERY: All jokes aside, we know that Swift, who has been to 12 games this past season has been credited with boosting NFL viewership, because more of her fans are now watching the game.

But it's not just about the size of the audience she's commanding, more and more women are now watching football. Overall, female viewership was up nine percent for the 2023 regular season.

One game in October saw viewership among teenage girls go up 53 percent, according to Nielsen pass national data. And even the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, had to tip his hat off to Taylor Swift and the Taylor Swift effect, because now, more young people and more women were watching the game.

WALKER: It's incredible how influential she is.

BLACKWELL: Hanuka Montgomery, thanks so much. Countdown to kick off in Las Vegas is on just one more night until Chiefs and 49ers take the field.

WALKER: Coy Wire Joining us now from Vegas. Should I even ask if you're getting any sleep?

WIRE: Oh, baby. Well, let's see two nights ago, I had an hour and a half. Last night was great. I got two hours of sleep. But you all know all about that, team no sleep. I'm doing just fine.

The 49ers are favored tomorrow. Even though the Chiefs who are the defending champ, but we are going to have this David versus Goliath type of Clash when it comes to the quarterbacks, and it's the Chiefs who have Goliath.

Check out this juxtaposition between Patrick Mahomes and Brock Purdy. Mahomes has four Super Bowl appearances. He's won two of them. This is Purdy's first appearance.

The former first rounder Mahomes' annual salary, $56 million. Mr. Irrelevant, the former last pick in the draft, not even $1 million. Lots of talk about Mahomes, possibly becoming the next GOAT, Greatest of All Time at the position, but he says he's got a long way to go to catch Brady.


PATRICK MAHOMES, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS QUARTERBACK: I barely won two Super Bowls. So, there is a couple other guys in front of me before I even get close to chasing Tom. But I mean, all you can do is just try to be your best every single game every single day. And that's what I try to do is I try to go out there and play my best football, and hopefully, my best football is good enough to win this third Super Bowl, but all I can do is be the best me, I can be every single day. And then, I'll do that again next year and the next year after that. And hopefully that's a -- at the end of my career, I can say that I'm close to Tom.

BROCK PURDY, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS QUARTERBACK: With every little moment in my life, every milestone that I've come across, just being grateful more than anything. With the people in my life that have helped me get to where I'm at. I've had so much support in my life and it hasn't just been a one man show. So, I'm just very honored that --

I mean, I get to play in the Super Bowl now and live out, you know, my dream as a kid. And so, that's more than anything that grateful mindset.


WIRE: All right. So, who is going to win this game? Who wants it last hour? We heard The Rock give us his prediction for the winner of tomorrow's game. And now, we have Shaq "Diesel" Shaquille O'Neal, ahead of his annual party. Shaq's funhouse, our Andy Scholes caught up with him and Shaq gave his thoughts on the big game and Taylor Swift.


SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, FORMER PROFESSIONAL AMERICAN BASKETBALL PLAYER: I was with Jason Kelce today. Fine young man. So, I've always been Travis Kelce fan, would love to meet Miss Taylor Swift.


O'NEAL: No, never met her.

It's good -- congratulations to both teams. You know, the chance to play for a championship. I did that six-times, won four. So, may the best team win. But from a Cowboys fan, I can come in and say, I want this team to win, the Cowboys.


WIRE: All right, there you go. Shaq playing it right down the middle. He isn't going to give his prediction.

I'm going to go with the Chiefs in this one, guys, because you just can't count out Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid. I just want to know, for those of you who are going to be watching Amara, Victor, what snacks are you going to be eating during the Super Bowl?


BLACKWELL: I have committed to bringing a buffalo chicken dip and a crab dip. Those are my contributions to the party today.

WIRE: Yes.

WALKER: I'm all about the Doritos. Bring me any flavored Doritos, and I'll go to town. What about you, Coy?

Oh, you'll be working, I guess.

WIRE: There you go. I'm getting in football mode. I'm going -- I'm going raw meat and peanut butter. I'm ready to play.

BLACKWELL: Oh, my gosh.

WIRE: Put me on the field. I just going to get out there and try to tackle Taylor Swift after I get an interview for us. So, that's my main aim.

BLACKWELL: All right.

WALKER: Hopefully, there'll be no bad blood between you guys. Coy Wire, had to put the last reference in. Thank you.

Are you mad at me?

BLACKWELL: No, I'm not. Get them all in.

WALKER: "FIRST OF ALL", starts at the top of the hour. Victor, what do you have coming up?

BLACKWELL: All right. So, we're starting the show with a couple of weeks ago, there was this attempt from the Biden campaign to meet with Arab American leaders in Michigan, a crucial state for the president's reelection. They said no, you don't send us your campaign leaders. We want to talk about policy.

So, just a couple of days ago, there was a meeting between those leaders and administration officials. I have one of the leaders with me to talk about what they said face to face to the Biden administration about their demand for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Then, a group of voters, we don't talk nearly enough about. They are the fastest growing group of voters in the country. And politicians do a terrible job of reaching them.

We're talking about Asian American voters, and could have huge influence in this special election coming up on Tuesday to replace George Santos. Also, some strong pull in Nevada, which just had a primary and a caucus. It's a mess in the primary process. But in the general, the Democrats progress their advantage is slimming to just a point or two. Republicans could take it this time around.

So, we'll get into that a lot more. And we'll talk about the star we should be focused on. Usher, who is performing at the halftime at the Super Bowl. So, we'll get into that as well.

WALKER: Very good. All right. Looking forward to it, Victor.

"FIRST OF ALL" starts in just a few minutes at the top of the hour.

Also, Las Vegas Raiders president, Sandra Douglass Morgan is making history for women in sports. We'll show you why she is breaking barriers as a difference maker.



WALKER: It has been quite a week in Las Vegas as a countdown to Super Bowl 58 ticks ever closer. While the hometown Raiders did not make it to the big game, the team's president is making her mark on the NFL.

Coy Wire joining us again with more on Sandra Douglass Morgan who is a true difference maker. Coy.

WIRE: Yes. Good morning. Sandra Douglass Morgan, first black woman in NFL history to be named team president absolute boss. She grew up here in Nevada, went to school here college at UNLV Reno, has been city attorney for North Las Vegas, member of the Nevada Gaming Commission, and chair of the Nevada Gaming Control Board. Most importantly, though, she is inspiring the next generation.


SANDRA DOUGLASS MORGAN, PRESIDENT, LAS VEGAS RAIDERS: Not even a dream, because as a young child, I couldn't have dreamt of one. I never had visibility to anyone who was in this role. And two there was no professional sports in Las Vegas due to a variety of reasons. So, to be the president of NFL team was something I couldn't even have imagined much less dreamed up. And just to be able to do this for such an iconic international organization, whose foundation and values have been in the right place in my hometown is nothing short of incredible, honestly.

WIRE (voice over): Her journey is the stuff of movie scripts, growing up in blue collar East Las Vegas, Dad Gilbert was serving in the military, while mom, Kil Cha was working in casinos as casino runner. And through their adversities, Sandra Douglass Morgan learned some of her greatest lessons. MORGAN: We have to treat people as people. We're not, you know, going to judge or assume someone based on the way they look or their accent. And so, that, that have kind of helped me with the foundation of the type of person that I wanted to be, just hearing and understanding the assumptions that people make of people that are just so off base and unfair, very stereotypical.

Culturally, I do identify as being black. I love my -- obviously, my mother and my family, and the Korean heritage. But, you know, we don't -- we don't make the rules, right?

We kind of just navigate them. And I think that it's great that my children now we're in a place where they realize that people do come from different backgrounds, and we don't necessarily have to beat people in, in boxes.

WIRE: First black female team president in NFL history. What were your thoughts, when you were first asked to come in and be what in the past has been perceived as this man's football world?

MORGAN: I do think the fact that I didn't know any other presidents, and I was truly an outsider's outsider probably helped me just coming in and saying, you know what, I'm going to get some other people, I'm going to get to another organization, and we're going to go.

So, I wasn't able to really focus on any hindrances or kind of, you know, preconceived issues that might be there. I just knew, I was going to roll up my sleeves and trying to get the work done.

WIRE: What lessons have you learned on your journey that you want to share with the next generation?

MORGAN: We tell ourselves and then we should to just go for it, you know -- you know, sky is the limit doesn't matter if someone doesn't look like you. But I'm realizing that being more visible will hopefully help and encourage others to know that look, there is -- there is opportunities in sports, there is opportunities in management, and then, you just have to be able to you know, connect and try your best. And hopefully, if I can inspire others, then, that's honestly the best gift that I could I think I could ever give anyone.



WIRE: Her favorite quote is from children's advocate, Marian Wright Edelman, "You can't be what you can't see."

Sandra Douglass Morgan, an easy choice for this week's difference makers.

WALKER: So true. And I am now an instant fan. Thank you so much for bringing her story to us, Coy. Good to see you.

The All-American success story of NFL player Michael Oher, inspired millions and made a fortune at the box office. But a new controversy has derailed the fairy tale. Go inside the story in the CNN FlashDoc, "BLINDSIDED".



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, you can always see the picture clearer when you look back. This whole thing is a story on adoption of Michael Oher, and how it changed our life. And how we helped change his life, but it was never an adoption.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, the two weeks we've admitted that they never adopted him, that they never intended to adopt him legally.

JOSEPH CRONE, BRIARCREST TEAMMATE: They said that they never intended to adopt Michael. That really is contrary to what has been voiced during the last 20 years. And if that is what their lawyers said in their response, I think that, you know, as they kind of say in the south, he got some explaining to do.


WALKER: "BLINDSIDED" airs tonight at 8:00 on CNN. Thanks so much for being with us this morning. "FIRST OF ALL" with Victor Blackwell is up next.