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tv   CNN Newsroom With Fredricka Whitfield  CNN  December 9, 2018 1:00pm-2:00pm PST

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hello given. thanks so much for joining me in sunday. and we start with the looming russia cloud less than 48 hours after being implicated in two federal crimes, directing hush money payments to women after alleged affairs, president trump is resorting to his strategy ever distract and deny. the president is railing against former fbi director james comey accusing him without evidence of lying to congress. the tweets coming one day after president trump's surprising announcement that chief of staff john kelly will leave his post at the end of the year. an announcement that was supposed to come tomorrow. despite that, the russia cloud continues to hang over the white house with questions now being raised over whether a sitting president can be indicted. some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree on this, in one is above t is -- no one is above the law. >> i disagree with the special
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counsel in the department of justice. there is nothing in the constitution that prohibits the president from being indicted and i think it is very important that we originated -- this country originated under rebellion of the english king, we did not seem to create another king. nobody can be above the law. >> if someone violated the law, the application of the law should be applied to them like it would to any other citizen. and if you are a position of authority, that would be the case. i don't know if it will reach that point, but my position on that would not be a political decision, it will be the fact that we are a nation of laws and no one in this country is above it. >> and let's check in with sarah westwood at the white house. what more are you hearing, sarah? >> reporter: president trump has spent the weekend going after the paris climate agreement calling for the end of the rush is sha investigatio-- russia in
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basically talking about anything but despite the filings friday that the president trump dwrektsed michael cohdwrekts directed michael cohen to make two illegal payments. and the president began what became a spree of high level appointments starting with his announcement of his intention to nominate bill barr as the next attorney general, heather nauert as next ambassador to the u.n., and saturday morning he said that he would be naming general mark milley to take over as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff replaces josee dunford. and he says that john kelly will soon be leaving the administration. they have had strained relationship for months now. in that same conversation with reporters as he was heading out to the army/navy game, the president also said that his team was happy with what they were reading in the memos that
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prosecutors for mueller submit order friday. he said he hadn't read them himself, bull t he understand t they cleared him. of course those documents did tie him to what prosecutors say are campaign finance violations regarding the payments that cohen made to women who were trying to come forward to allege affairs against trump during that presidential race. now, congressman jerry nadler, top democrat on the house you judiciary committee, said if trump was involved in directing those payments, it would be an impeachable offense even if politically it didn't rise to the level of impeachment. >> if it is proven that the president directed or coordinated with cohen to commit these feloniefelonies, and i und it has not yet been with, it is alleged but not proven, if it is proven, are those impeachable
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offenses? >> well, they would be impeachable offenses because even though they were committed before the president became president, they were committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the office. that would be an impeachable offense. >> and the white house has attacked cohen and sought to undermine his credibility as a witness. they have also sought to distance the president from revelations about the contact of his former associates including former campaign chairman paul manafort. but this week the president will likely have to confront these new disclosures from the special counsel even as the white house prepares to adjust to new faces across the administration. >> all right. sarah westwood, thank you so much at the white house. so we're learning more about former fbi director james comey's close door interview on capitol hill friday. the transcript shows a moment when comey was asked a question about being fired as fbi
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director and an fbi lawyer stepping in and saying ithis, t the extent that question goes to the special counsel's investigation into obstruction, the witness will not be able to answer. so again, the lawyer using the words investigation into obstruction. cnn justice correspondent laura jarrett has more on that testimony. >> reporter: in over six hours of testimony, the former fbi director went over familiar territory about the beginnings of the fbi's investigation into russia interference in the 2016 election saying that he bet his life that the special counsel robert mueller's handling it the right way and suggesting that you'd have to almost fire everyone in the fbi and justice department to derail the relevant investigations at this point. but comey also fact checked the president on this claim that he somehow is best friends with robert mueller saying, quote, i have never hugged or kissed the man and, quote, i admire the heck out of the man, but i don't know his phone number, i've never been to his house, i don't
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know his children's names. and while comey's testimony did not shed new light about his views on whether the president obstructed justice in his firing last year, the testimony from another senior official at the fbi, forge e former counsel jam described how those at the highest level were seriously concerned about comey's firing. and finally, comey was also asked to weigh in on bill barr, president trump's pick for the next attorney general. and he said that he thinks very highly of him, joking that, quote, i probably just damned him by saying that he is a friend of mine, but i respect him and i think he is certainly fit to be attorney general. laura jarrett, cnn, washington. joining me now to discuss, maria cardona and matt lewis. good to see you both. soma re maria, the president tweeted saying that comey is lying to congress and then on the
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sentencing filings and said that he is happy with everything that they are reading. so is this the president just trying to put a good face on things or do you believe or detect that he is really worried? >> well, you know, clearly this administration loves alternative facts. so maybe his staff gave him some alternative memos to look at instead of what the real ones were. because i can't imagine anybody in their right mind, any lawyers in their right mind, that would be happy about the kinds of memos that just came out because they implicate this president in criminal acts. and they do it pretty directly. now, whether that is something that the president thinks is not really that important and that he thinks is trivial compared to what he might be afraid of in terms of the russia investigation, maybe that is what he is talking about. i have no idea. but i think what we're seeing, fred, bottom line is that this is no witch hunt because you
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have had over 100 counts over 33 people indicted, several have gone to jail, several have pled guilty and are clearly cooperating with mueller. everything is now coming out. frankly, i believe that it is unraveling this administration and, you know, whether they are telling the president the truth or not, i don't know, but there is no way that they can actually be okay with what has been coming out. >> so from the mueller probe we are talking about 192 criminal charges against 36 people and entities, seven guilty pleas, three people sentenced, one convicted in jury trial. so, matt, you know, if these filings, and we are talking about the sentencing filings, implicate the president, how concerning is it that the full report has yet to be revealed? >> right. and that is what i think is much more concerning. i think that the russia stuff,
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who knows what is being said by people who have cut deals with rc robert mueller, people who are flipping. i think that is much more damaging than the question over whether you can indict a problem or campaign finance reform. i do think that the russia investigation overall, however, is something that should be very concerned about. >> okay. so the president also, you know, i guess tried to change the lead this weekend by announcing while he was on the lawn before heading off to philadelphia that his chief of staff was on his way out, john kelly would be ending his term at the end of this year. so maria, this kind of up stages what could have been a very formal thank you for your service and, you know, notes of departure, even perhaps giving john kelly an opportunity to explain why he was leaving.
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reportedly it would have happened tomorrow. why do you suppose the president did it in the manner that he did yesterday? >> well, because we know that this president is very erratic when it comes to personnel and staff changes, you know, one day he wakes up pissed off at somebody and he will tweet about it and he will start murmuring that he wants to get rid of that person and then the next day he wants to paint that person as their best freriend in the worl. so we've all seen the writing on the walled for so for some time i think what we're seeing yet again is that this president and this white house chews people up and spits them out no matter how tough their jobs have been, no matter how loyal they have been to this president, no matter how hard and how committed they have served this president. i think the big question moving forward is how many other people are going to be willing to put themselves in this position
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where the question daily is do i love the country more than my loyalty to this president because it is questionable frankly in the minds of a lot of trump critics, not really questionable, but this president and what he is doing, what he is saying is a danger to the country. >> so matt, reportedly it could be nick ayers who is the vice president's chief of staff who would fill the shoes of john kelly. perhaps he is in a good position given that he was almost on the inside to know what he would be getting into. why would he be at an advantage to take this chief of staff job with the president? >> well, i think that the reason would be that donald trump initially was -- i hate to say forced, but he felt compelled to put up this facade of having people who were experienced be his chief of staff or be his staffers, right? so you had -- and also there was an olive branch -- >> you mean in terms of john
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kelly? he was homeland security but a good number of the people that the president has brought in have not been kind of used to policy. they have come from other discipli disciplines. and this is kind of new, this whole white house thing. >> and i think that donald trump initially felt that he had to, whether for appearance sake or whether to calm people, had to bring in -- look at rex tillerson, right? the guy he fired by the way over a tweet who didn't even -- so rex tillerson -- >> and then called dumb and lazy. >> right. i don't think that rex tillerson was somebody donald trump wanted, he was recommended by like condi rice and some others. and i think trump felt like i need somebody with gra-- somebo who looks the part so we'll make him sex. same thing with john kelly. it is not really a trump guy i think trump is past that, he is past feeling like i need to have
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people who have this impression. now what trump wants are people who are basically loyal to him and maybe actually just logistics. i think nick ayers certainly is not going to challenge the president as somebody -- he's not like a general or something like that. but he will probably implement the president's agenda in a pretty efficient manner and that is what the president wants. >> all right. we shall see. matt lewis, maria cardona, good to see you. next, a new report about the relationship between jared kushner and the crown prince of saudi arabia. and the contacts they had following the murder of jamal khashoggi. it was here. i couldn't catch my breath. it was the last song of the night. it felt like my heart was skipping beats. they said i had afib. what's afib? i knew that meant i was at a greater risk of stroke. i needed answers. my doctor and i chose xarelto®
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welcome back. new details on how jared kushner handled the outrage following the murder of journalist jamal khashoggi. according to a report in the "new york times," kushner
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because advising the saudi crown prince even after he was accused of ordering khashoggi's killing. the "times" says kushner offered bin salman, mbs, advice about how to, quote, weather the storm after the killing. it goes on to say kushner and mbs were chatting privately in the days after the october murder despite white house protocol that national security staff be on all phone calls with foreign leaders. according to three former white house officials, and two others briefed by the saudi royal court, quoting now what is being reported in the new york times, the two men were on a first name basis in text messages and phone calls. kushner first admitted that he had contact with mbs when he talked to cnn's van jones in october. >> what kind of advice have you given mbs in this whole situation? >> just to be transparent, to be
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fully transparent. the world is watching. this is a very serious accusation. and a very serious situation. and to make sure that you are transparent and to take this very seriously. >> in november, the cia concluded mbs personally ordered khashoggi's killing. but according to the "new york times," kushner continued to argue that saudi arabia is a key ally to the trump administration. joining me right now, karen atia, who was khashoggi's editor at the "post." and max boot, senior fellow on the council on foreign relations. good to see you both. so karen, i want to read your tweet. you wrote after the "new york times" story reporting that jared kushner has been advising mbs on how to weather the storm after khashoggi's murder, it is definitely time for some subpoenas. do you believe anything consequential will happen,
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karen? >> you know, at this point, we have a new house coming in and we already know that there have been some signals from the incoming congressmen and hoist memb -- house members that they do intends to investigate fully the trump/saudi relationship and they have sent signals that they did want to investigate whether or not this white house has been complicit in the coverup of the murder. and so this report is pointing to that indeed kushner has indeed been advising mbs who has been implicated in this murder. and so i think that there is so much evidence that points towards, yes, the need for congressional oversight and the need for a lot more to come to light about the white house's role in this horrific, horrific scandal. >> max, even with in new york times reporting, do you believe
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that it will be more of the same from this white house, more of the same from this reported relation shship between kushnerd the crown prince? >> it certainly seems like it. the imimpressipression from tha is that the saudis have played kushner and duonald trump for suckers. there was even a saudi report that they were saying that jared kushner revealed his lack of relations and essentially the saudis took advantage of that to feed a line to kushner to convince him that giving the saudis a blank check would in return result in the saudi s brokering a peace agreement between the palestinians and saudis. and now jared kushner still has not been able to release a peace plan because it is dead on arrival essentially. so the saudis are not come through, but kushner and trump
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have come through for the saudis giving them a blank check do whatever they wanted including apparently to murder jamal khashoggi and cover up the horrific act. so i don't see any reason why the administration is going to change course now. but as karen suggested, congress is likely to have its own say and congress is disgusted by what we're all seeing here. >> the white house has been pushed on this, all that is at stake, to try to encourage an investigation, to encourage some sort of penalty to saudi arabia. but you've heard from the president, he says that there is a lot at stake in terms of, you know, lots of money, lots of business, lots of jobs. the "new york times" talks about hundreds of billions of dollars in deals. and so will that be the white house's best defense on whether it needs to continue with this ally of saudi arabia, max? >> well, that is clearly their defense, but it is not a
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credible defense because as we have been pointing out, as newspapers and television networks have been pointing out, the benefits that donald trump claims for the u.s./saudi relationship are vastly exaggerated. i was interested to read that "new york times" story where the saudis basically sold trump on the idea of buying $50 billion worth of u.s. weapons. in fact they are only buying about $14 billion. but then trump and kushner decided to inflate it and claim it is actually $110 billion. they might as well claim it is a trillion dollar, it is all nonsense. it is just not true. and so i think that there is a case that they can make for maintaining relations with saudi arabia and nobody is really saying that we should break off relations with saudi arabia, about you these nonsensical false and misleading explanations for why we can't hold mbs to account, they just fly in the face of logic and human decency and they are being rejected in washington by everybody who does not work in the white house. >> the trump administration claims there is no direct link
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between mbs and khashoggi's murder despite what the cia has said. but marco rubio said this earlier -- >> we don't need direct evidence that he ordered the code red on this thing. the bottom line is there is no way that 17 people close to him got on a charter plane, flew to a third country, went into a consulate, killed and chopped up a man and flew back and he didn't know about it, much less order it. >> so karen, what is your thought on this? you're hoping that congress would do something, but in your heart of hearts, do you feel like that is plausible that will happen? >> you know, here is what is at stake. right now again as max said, it is not that we're asking to throw away the saudi relationship. the question is whether or not the united states should really be in bed with mohammad bin salman. and for all that this white house is looking to give to the saudis, whether it is complete
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coverup of murder, giving them a pass for kids napping a prime minister of lebanon for bringing up diplomatics with canada with the tweets, right now it is basically about why are we giving unconditional unquestioning support? what are we getting for that? we haven't gotten anything on the israel/palestinian peace. they have not been able to counter the houthis. and this regime is torturing and retaining women activists, killing journalists. right now there is absolutely it seems no reason for us to be trusting the 33-year-old prince with our entire middle east policy. so right now it looks more like we're putting mohammad bin salman first and not america first for that matter. so i think in my heart of hearts it is about the american people, congress, to do the right thing and impose a strong check on
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this behavior. otherwise we are looking at perhaps dealing with a brutal, brutal regime for the next 40 or a 50 years and the world and saudi arabia deserve much better than this. >> and if i could just pick up on the excellent point karen just made, which is that we should not be relying on this crown prince and saudi arabia. we shouldn't be relying on this crown prince and washington either. there is good reason why there are nepotism laws. nobody would put this real estate developer with no experience in charge of our middle eastern policy. that's what happened. and the result is a predictable catastrophe. >> we'll leave it there. thank you both. all right. in this breaking news, remember how we have said that the president made the announcement that the chief of staff john kelly would be on ultimate by tby -- out by the end of the year and possible replacement is the vice president's chief of staff, nick ayers. now apparently there is a
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decision from nick ayers. kaitlan collins is joining us now. so thumbs up our thumbs down from nick ayers? >> reporter: well, this is certainly a surprise to most people even in the administration who thought that nick ayers who has served as the vice president's chief staff for over a year now was going to take this job. he has been widely seen as the leading contender to replace john kelly for at least six months now. but we are now being told by sources inside the white house that negotiations between the president and nick ayers fell apart over a time line. the president wanted a two year commitment from nick ayers, but nick ayers told the president that he could only on commit to a few months citing his young children and his desire to move back to his home state of georgia at the end of the year. and the president was insist tainsistent and so we're being told that nick ayers is not expected to become the chief of staff any
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l longer. so of course this raises the question who will be the next chief of staff. and from what we've largely been told, most of the negotiations about replacing john kelly has focused on nick ayers and it would seem to be a given almost inside this administration that he was going to take the job. but now they do not have anyone on the short list and they are going to have to find someone in the next three weeks or so to take over for john kelly because president trump told reporters yesterday that john kelly is going to leave at the end of the year after a 16 or 17 month tenure into the job. so now it is really an open question of who it is that will take over as chief of staff. >> and quickly, barring an emergency for a job like this, wouldn't the white house have lined up a replacement for such an important job before making an announcement that chief staff is on his way out? >> reporter: absolutely. and it seemed to be that they had this plan in place, for the
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president to announce john kelly was leaving and for nick ayers to take this job. but they still had not agreed to a time line of how long nick ayers would stay in the job with president trump's announcement that john kelly would be leaving yesterd yesterday. now even that was not part of the plan. john kelly and the president had discussed his leaving on friday after cnn reported that john kelly was expected to leave in the coming days and they said that they had agreed to having john kelgly ll lly kelly tell o staff that he was stepping down and that that they would announce that nick ayers would take over. but could not come to an agreement on the time line and that seems to have led to nick ayers saying he will not take the job if it requires a two year commitment. now, while talking about that time line, we should consider the fact that just five months ago, president trump also asked john kelly to stay on for two more years and to be the chief of staff until at least 2020.
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that was the time line john kelly had agreed to and he told senior staff members at the white house about it during a meeting over the summer. but even that did not last and john kelly of course is now leaving. so right now though it is an open question of who is going to take over for that job. >> wow. all right. kaitlyn collins, thank you so much. and now the white house having three weeks in which to find a replacement for john kelly. we'll be right back.
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in special counsel robert mueller's filing on paul pl manafort, he said that manafort lied about five major issues. mueller says two of those involved manafort's interactions with a shadowy figure with ties to the same russian intelligence agencies accused of meddling in the 2016 u.s. election. saying he had been a close business associate with manafort for years. manafort said the two had no meetings during the campaign, but when confronted with evidence to the contrary, he admitted to investigators that he had lied. correspondent fred pleitgen is joining us now from moscow. so fred, paint the picture of who this gentleman is. >> reporter: yeah, i think the two words that you put out there are absolutely correct. shady and also very close associate of paul manafort. on the one hand a very secretive
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figure. those two pictures that we showed, that is pretty much all we have of konstanin kilimnick. he is shy and certainly not looking to get his picture out on there, but never ttheless important for paul manafort. he worked with him in russia and also with a key alperson. and of course rmt says that manafort lied about having the meetings when apparently they did take place and even after paul manafort left the campaign and was arrested, apparently konstanin kilimnick is also accused by the mueller probe of allegedly trying to tamper with witnesses as well. so certainly very key figure someone who helped paul manafort earn a lot of money while dealing in eastern europe. and certainly someone who the
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mueller investigation would like to get their hands on, would like to question him. but that looks like it probably won't happen. he was in kiev for a long time and at some point this year went back to russia and is now in the outskirts of moscow and not keen to speak to the mueller team. >> fred pleitgen, thank you. still ahead, allegations of election fraud in north carolina. the fbi is now involved. and the state's election board has now named a person of interest in the investigation. for each job exxonmobil creates, many more are created in the community. because energy touches so many industries, it supports 10 million u.s. jobs. ...and i found out that i'ma from the big toe lian. of that sexy italian boot! so this holiday season it's ancestrydna per tutti!
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shooting in the west bank. the israeli defense forces say that the shots were fired from a car and targeted a group of people at a bus stop near the settlement entrance. soldiers returned fire, but the car was able to get away. a community already rattled by anti-semitism is now dealing with a new threats. pittsburgh police are investigating anti-semitic pamphlets being presented across the city including in the neighborhood of squirrel hill. that is the same community where 11 people were shot and killed at a synagogue back in october. the city's department of public safety released a statement and it reads in part such hate-filled material will not be tolerated in pittsburgh, not by residents, city officials nor law enforcement. the department of public safety ensures the community that we are taking this matter very seriously and will follow every investigatiive avenue. pittsburgh is and will remain stronger than hate. there is one congressional
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race still undecided from the midterm elections. and it is being marred by allegations of election fraud. republican mark harris and democrat dan mccready are vying for north carolina's ninth district house seat. mccready had conceded to harris after it appeared harris had won by some 900 votes. and now there are serious concerns about fraud involving absentee ballots in two counties. the man at the center of these allegations is mccray dallas, a political operative who personally turned in nearly 600 of the an send tn absentee one county. and even republicans are open to a new election. >> reporter: documents being he released show the investigation is expanding. a cnn review of the county found a team of hired republican campaign workers may have harvested dozens of unsealed
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absentee ballots and then signed as witnesses. it is the same pattern found in a neighboring county and allegedly connected to mccray dallas, the paid political operative under investigation. dallas high scho he has not returned requests for comments. it has led to dan mccreeddy to rescind his concession. >> are you suggesting that mark harris knew about this election fraud? >> well, it certainly looks that way. he hired a criminal who was under investigation for absentee ballot fraud, to do his absentee ballot work. and apparently he got what he paid for. he liked his services so much that he actually recommended this criminal's services to other politicians. >> reporter: friday afternoon, republican mark harris who won by just 905 votes released this video on twitter reiterating
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that he had no knowledge of any illegal activity but says this -- >> if this investigation finds proof of illegal activity on either side to such a level that it could have changed the outcome of the election, then i would wholeheartedly support a new election to ensure all voters have confidence in the results. >> reporter: in addition to the alleged ballot stuffing operation under investigation, authorities confirm to cnn a criminal investigation is under way looking at a possible scheme to sue priest mippress minority ballots. and if the election fraud impacted the outcome, they are open to a new election. >> anybody -- anybody -- that targeted some racial or demographic groups to affect their votes absolutely has to be prosecuted under state law and has to be prosecuted for federal
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civil rights violation. >> reporter: the board of elections announced mccray dallas as a person of interest and the board has subpoenaed records from the mark harris campaign, his political consultants and also announced that it is seeking records from the committee to elect the bladen county sheriff. and in an indication of how serious this has become, the wake county sdrinkts attorney who is leading the investigation confirms that the fbi is now helping her with the investigation. all right. up next, we'll head out to the red carpet as cnn gets ready to honor our top ten heros of the year. in america, the zip code you're born in can determine your future. but no matter what neighborhood you grow up in, the y creates opportunities for all. for a better us, donate to your local y today. billions of problems. morning breath? garlic breath? stinky breath? there's a therabreath for you.
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tonight is the night. the 12th annual cnn heros all-star tribute salutes continue people who put others first all year long. the star-studded gala airs live at 8:00 p.m. eastern. take a look. >> we're humans helping humans and they need our help. >> we are truly giving the gift of mobility. >> the best the world has to offer. >> we're building something that matters a lot more than we do. >> they are heros today and every day. >> this is nice. >> they teach you the skills. it is all about solving problems. >> we serve anybody who has ever raised their hand to gedefend o kons fu constituti constitution. >> our first goal was to create this hospital based intervention. >> i want each and every one of
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them to feel special. >> join anderson cooper and kelly ripa live as they name the 2018 cnn's hero of the year. >> celebrating the best of humanity. >> don't we need this tonight more than ever? >> cnn hero, an all-star tribute, tonight at 8:00. >> it is big. and it gets bigger every year it is a real red carpet event. and athena jones is already on the red carpet. so give us an idea, this is a hugely exciting night. what can we expect? >> reporter: it is an exciting night and it is a night for feel good stories. this began in 2007 honoring folks who are giving back, ordinary people who are changing the lives of others in their community and serving others. and it is a very special night because so many of the stories that we report on a daily basis deal with conflict and
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controversy and tragedy. and this is a time to celebrate selflessness and service. we have nominees, these ten nominee, spanning the globe. someone from nigeria, a woman helping teach girls how to computer program. there is a doctor in peru, a doctor in brooklyn who has establishedtd anitti violence initiati initiative. and they are nominated by viewers online. each top ten hero gets $10,000 to put toward their work. and at the end of the night of course just the big reveal, that is who will be the cnn hero of the year. that person gets $100,000 to further their work. all again in celebration of service when it comes to celebrity, it will be like any big and good awards balance la, there will be a musical performance. this time by lenny kraf visivit.
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and about an hour from now, we'll start seeing the heros arrive and the young heros in the making who are doing things like feeding the homeless in their communities. and we expect to see will ferrell, bryan cranston, a long list of celebrities who will be out here tonight to put the spotlight on those helping others fw others. >> so much fun and so inspirational and of course we celebrate all of those ten cnn heros. and it has gotten to be so big that there are a lot of celebrities who are knocking on the door saying i want to be a part of that because that kind of inspiration is so contagious. athena jones, thank you so much. and you don't want to miss a minute of this show. it is live tonight 8:00 eastern. thanks so much for being with me this sunday. the news continues right now. ♪
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it is 5:00 eastern, 2:00 out weath west. you're live in the "cnn newsroom." things are different this weekend in washington and not
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go in a good way for president trump. this weekend, things are different and here is why. we are finally getting to see the real depth and breadth of the robert mueller investigation. who told whom what to do throwing hush money at a porn star and playboy model, who met with russian operatives accused of hacking and lied about it, who lied to congress about pitching big business deals in russia, who promised to stop talking to trump's people after pleading guilty but did it any way. the president until this weekend had been on the deniable sidelines of these revelations, but now president trump is closer to center stage. one united states senator says, yes, this is different. and he is using the words nixon territory. >> we certainly have moved into a new


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