tv CNN Newsroom With Fredricka Whitfield CNN February 16, 2020 1:00pm-2:00pm PST
hello again, everyone. thank you very much for joining me on this sunday. i'm fredricka whitfield. the growing firestorm surrounding the nation's top law enforcement official. more than 1,100 former justice prosecutors and other doj officials are now calling on u.s. attorney general william barr to resign. the stunning development is in response to barr's controversial decision to ask for shorter prison sentence for roger stone, a long-time trump adviser. the officials who served in both republican and democratic administrations signed and released a rare statement today, nanding barr step down. cnn's jeremy diamond joins me now from the white house. what more can you tell us about this letter? what kind of response is it getting from the department of justice and the white house? >> reporter: fredricka, this all began earlier this week when we
saw attorney general bill barr rebuke the president for his tweets and specifically that roger stone case. barr said those tweets were disruptive and made it impossible for him to do his job. but nonetheless, the undercurrent of barr's remarks, really the focus of them, was that he was defending his decision to interfere in the roger stone case, specifically to overrule career prosecutors who recommended a certain sentence for roger stone and this is where this rebuke from these 1,100 former justice department officials comes into play. they write in this open letter, mr. barr's actions in doing the president's personal bidding unfortunately speak louder than his words. those actions and the damage they've done to the department of justice's reputation for integrity and the rule of law require mr. barr to resign. now these are more than 1,100 former justice department officials, mostly career officials, some political appointees, who have served in
both democratic and republican administrations. meanwhile at the white house, the white house has put out statements, insisting that the president was not upset by this mild rebuke we saw from the attorney general bill barr. this morning, dana bash spoke with marc short, the vice president's chief of staff. here is what he had to say about this. >> i don't think that it's impossible to do his job. in fact, i think attorney general barr is doing a great job. he has a lot of confidence inside the white house. the president's frustration is one that a lot of americans have, which feels like the scales of justice are not balanced anymore. there has been a bias inside the department of justice that attorney general barr is trying to correct. i think, as he has said, that the president has not called him directly to say please do this. he has acted independently to initiate these reviews and i think he's doing a fantastic job of it. >> reporter: ultimately, that is the bottom line from the white house, that they are thrilled with the job that attorney general barr has done, even as he's rebuking the president.
he's standing by his decision to interfere in this case. and the president himself has shown that he has no intention of changing his habits on twitter or social media in the wake of mr. barr's rebuke. in fact, just after barr made those comments, the president reasserted his right to intervene in criminal cases even though bar said it would be inappropriate for the president to do so with a political motive. >> jeremy diamond, thank you so much, at the white house. let's talk further now. with with me now congresswoman madeleine dean, from pennsylvania, and house of the judiciary committee. congresswoman, good to see you. >> thank you for having me. >> let me begin by getting your thoughts on this letter from more than 1,100 justice department officials calling for the u.s. attorney general to resign. do you think he should resign? >> i applaud the more than 1,100 former prosecutors for writing that open letter. it did call for attorney general
barr to resign. i agree with them, that he has disqualified himself. the letter went even farther. it told all the members of the department of justice across this country, if you see something inappropriate, if you see more of this, doing the bidding of the president's personal, political errands, say something. say something to congress. say something to the office of professional responsibility. the letter went even further and said if you do not get any reaction from that, you must act, act by resigning and resign publicly. >> do you see them doing that, knowing the kind of support that bill barr has received from the president openly and, you know, the inferences are there that even not openly there's been that kind of, you know, agreement on action. >> i do see that, because these are extraordinary career public servants, not politicians, not
democrats, not republicans. and we did see, of course, the case of four prosecutors on the roger stone case resigning from the case. one resigning from the department. you know, it reminds me of something that always stood out to me in a magnificent martin luther king letter from birmingham jail. he said that history will record the tragedy, not of the clamor of bad people but of those who -- the appalling silence of good people. so i give these prosecutors, former prosecutors kudos for being patriots and standing up against the appalling silence of some would-be good people. >> attorney general barr gave an interview this week. you saw it, where he said that the president's tweets make it difficult for him to do his job, impossible was his word, to do his job. we've since learned that barr has ordered the justice department to reexamine the case of former national security adviser michael flynn, who pled guilty to lying to congress in
the russia probe. do you see in any way, in any time that barr is acting independently, or is he, you know, carrying out the president's wishes? >> he has not acted independently since before he took the position of attorney general and continuing from day one. we saw his appalling behavior at the time of the release of the mueller report, misleading the american public for a month as to the contents of that report. he has been doing the political bidding of this president. and people are tired. my constituents are awfully tired of the corrupt chaos of this president, who utterly disregards the law, utterly disregards the independence of the office of the attorney general and the department of justice. they would like to go back to a time where people understood the limits of their office and had respect for co-equal branches of government. >> tla do you think there's a way in which to go back to that?
>> i believe there is a way and i think it will be at the ballot box. it will be by continuing oversight that congress must do but ultimately it will be at the ballot box. that's what my constituents tell me. they're excited about the things that we are working on. last week, we passed e.r.a. and got one step closer. i'm very excited for my granddaughters and my grandson, hopefully one day very soon our constitution will enshrine equal rights for women, for everybody. it's a long time past due. we passed hr-3. a president who said in his state of the union he cared about prescription drug pricing. if you care about it, tell the senate to take up hr-3 and sign it. if you care about building our infrastructure, protecting our planet, if you care about gun violence, do something about it. people at the ballot box will want to end the chaos and corruption of this administration. >> let me ask you, back to barr. while there is so much skepticism being expressed about, you know, his candor or
whether that was theater, that he said that the president's tweets made it impossible to do his job, yet the next day, you know, he was willing to reopen and look further into investigations that are appealing to the president, he has also agreed to testify before the house judiciary committee that you sit -- that committee on which you sit on, next month. what will his motivation be in how he answers questions? do you believe that his willingness is genuine? >> i have no idea. we'll be able to judge his credibility when he is before us on march 31st. i'm certainly glad he's coming before us. he failed to come last year when he was scheduled to be in front of the house judiciary committee, of which i am a member. but it won't be about what we think is in his heart. it will be about us making sure that we test the independence of this office, of this attorney general. sadly, this attorney general
powder away his credibility as the administration of justice as the top law enforcement officer of this country many, many months ago. so, we'll be able to question him, continue our oversight. and i just applaud the people who worked for attorneys general in the past, who said that we must not be silent when we have a corrupt administration that is using all the levers of power that he possibly has, including his own attorney general to do his own political bidding. >> let's turn now to the 2020 democratic presidential race. you have yet to endorse a candidate. you're free to do so today if you would like. do you think joe biden, a native of your state, from scranton, pennsylvania, can win the nomination? is he the one that you want to throw your support behind? >> well, thank you for asking me. i have not endorsed any of the candidates. i am a fan of joe biden for his
heart, for his public service, for his intellect. i see among all of our democratic candidates extraordinary talent. so, i'm very excited about that. what i will say is that i'm excited also that pennsylvania will be the keystone state. i believe the nation and the world will be watching what happens in pennsylvania. and so i'm looking forward to getting farther down the road, having another debate and making sure that we put forward the strongest candidate in the end who will defeat donald trump. i'm a big fan of joe biden. i'm not endorsing anybody today. pennsylvania is the one to watch. >> congresswoman madeleine dean, thank you very much. >> thank you. hundreds of americans who have been quarantined for two weeks aboard a cruise ship because of coronavirus are now ready to head home. why not all passengers are happy with the evacuation plan. and breaking news out of colorado, where a desperate search is under way to find two people missing after an
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countdown to the nevada caucuses is on. energizing voters will play a key role in who comes out on top on saturday. so far, their efforts seem to be paying off. there are long lines for early voting in nevada, which kicked off this weekend at one precinct in las vegas, people who to wait in line for more than three hours. saturday's caucuses come at a crucial time for these campaigns. nevada will be the most diverse state to vote thus far in the race. and for the first time, candidates will get to see where they stand with a large portion of the democratic base. cnn's gary tuchman spoke with a group of voters about their
views on the current state of the 2020 field. >> this is the fountain of hope church in las vegas, evangelical african-american church. >> the eyes of the nation are now on nevada. right? >> right. >> we asked church members attending an evangelical conference to talk to us about the caucuses in a diverse state. how many of you are leaning toward joe biden? one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. joe biden is one of three candidates who did well among this group but he wasn't number one. how many of you are leaning toward elizabeth warren? one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. elizabeth warren, tied with biden. so who is the candidate who gets the most support here? how many of you are leaning toward tom steyer? one, two, three, four, five, six, seven,th. what do you like about tom
steyer? >> i look the fact that he has got fire in his belly. >> reporter: tom steyer and groups supporting him have spent $14 million on tv ads in nevada, compared to under a million for biden and warren. and he has spent considerable amount of time on the campaign trail in the state. >> he seems to be passionate about the people and he seems to be real about what it is that he's setting out to do. >> tom is direct and to the point and i believe that he can do and claim what trump really is, a fraud and a liar. >> i think that he honestly cares about helping not just small amount of people, but majority of the people. not just african-american people but all minorities and people in general. >> i will probably caucus for joe biden. >> reporter: but based on iowa and new hampshire, are you worried he might not be electable? >> i'm not worried because i don't think iowa and new hampshire are reflective of the
country. >> reporter: for elizabeth warren? >> i like the way she handled trump with the pocahontas thing. she didn't let it get to her and she has that dismissive way, like nancy, of putting trump in his place. >> my heart says elizabeth and now my mind kind of tells me bloomberg. >> reporter: michael bloomberg got some interest here even though he's not on the nevada caucus ballot. >> i like bloomberg because he has the money, he has the experience and he knows what kind of person trump really is. >> reporter: president trump has a lot of support from evangelical christians, so we thought he could have some support here. how many of you are leaning toward donald trump for president? but that is not the case. is it important for you to get a candidate who you feel can beat donald trump? >> yes. >> reporter: is that more important than a candidate who shares your principles who you
think may not be? >> yes. >> reporter: caucuses are february 22nd. gary tuchman, cnn, las vegas. >> right around the corner. political reporter for the nevada independent, good to see you both. megan, you first. let's start with what we just heard there. it seems at least in that small sample size that there really is one consensus favorite in nevada among those voters. is that the feeling that you're seeing on the ground there, particularly among black voters, that they are not voting in a monolithic way? >> definitely. i think that's always true. nevadans are certainly independent and make up their own minds, regardless of what happened in iowa and new hampshire. i met a voter at a joe biden event earlier this week, who told me she was starting to shop around the candidates and had no idea who she was going to vote for. we certainly have seen a fluid feel. especially iowa and new
hampshire, some folks set in their support for joe biden, taking a second look, folks looking at elizabeth warren and saying can she build a coalition to get the nomination, you know. i think we have seen a lot of movement just since iowa and new hampshire. >> megan, that's interesting that people are saying they're waiting. we saw that in new hampshire to a degree but in a big way in iowa, that there were people even days away from the caucus or the vote to say that they hadn't really made up their mind yet. they wanted that face time. you're saying a lot of those nevadans want to be up close and personal with some of these candidates before they even make a decision? >> they do. i mean, i think iowa, new hampshire folks are used to candidates coming through and spending so much of the year before the election in their states. nevada, we get that as well, but not to the same extent. a will the of folks are looking for that personal relationship and do want to build that even though we're a week out from the caucus here. i talked to one man yesterday
who was standing in line, getting ready to vote at the culinary union. early voting has started in nevada. he told me he was going to vote for bernie sanders but didn't realize he had to pick multiple choices on his early vote ballot and he wasn't sure who he was going to choose for second and third. we were talking about it while he was standing in line and he was making a choice right then. this is certainly a fluid race. >> tom steyer spent a bundle in nevada and south carolina, two very diverse states and it seems to be serving him well thus far. south carolina congressman jim clyburn it put it this way this morning. >> i've always said money is the mother's milk of politics. he has money and he has been spending it. and so i think that will always make a difference. where was bloomberg a month ago? but he has money and is spending
it and has changed the calculations a lot. for to us pretend that money doesn't make a difference, that would be foolhearty. money makes a difference. steyer has it. he has been spending and he's reaping the rewards. >> don't forget, money is the mother's milk of politics and we've seen in bloomberg and steyer that money is making the difference. can their spending carry them all the way to the nomination, nathan? >> we're about to find out. we should make a distinction in the amount of money steyer is spending and the amount that bloomberg has spending. mayor bloomberg is spending at levels we've never seen before of the steyer is spending for a while now and wasn't doing particularly well nationally. he was very strategic about spending heavily in south carolina at a time when all the other candidates were focused on at least the first two states.
so he is going to do much better in south carolina than he has in iowa and new hampshire. we're running this live experiment about how far money and spending can get you in a race. the field is so divided that may give someone like mayor bloomberg a chance, that a plurality can eventually push him through. super tuesday will be key. bloomberg isn't participating in the first four states and has to make a big impact on super tuesday or it's just not going to work. >> nathan, on that money for tom steyer, $14 million on ads in south carolina, $141 million on ads in multiple states thus far. and again we're at the early stages of this race. megan, voters in your state seem to be eager to cast their ballots during the early voting period. why are they doing that? is it something about what happened in iowa?
trusting the outcome, or is it a measure of how eager they are about this primary season? >> it's a few things. one, nevadans like early voting in general. 57% of nevadans early voted in 2018. it's people's prevention to vote early. it's easier. for the caucus, obviously, you don't have to show up at noon on a saturday and stand in a room and wait around. you can go into a polling place, cast your vote. we saw long lines so not quite that easy but nevadans like that in general. i've heard concerns about iowa. folks like the fact that for early voting you go and fill out a paper ballot and there's a record of it. it seems more straightforward to folks. they feel there's more of a paper trail. i heard from some voters who say they prefer it, it's a more normal, more secure method of voting. i think there's a number of factors that are influencing folks to go early vote. and the third one, as you mentioned, is enthusiasm. i heard that talking to people
in line yesterday. i think it's a combination of that. >> nathan, then there's the president who is not just on the sidelines conveniently. he will have a rally in nevada during this whole caucus season. his rally is on friday. he was in new hampshire and iowa as well, conveniently at rallies. what's he doing? what's his strategy here? >> there are no accidents when it comes to the president's schedule or any president's schedule. clearly, he wants to be part of the spotlight. he's not going to cede all the news coverage to all the democratic candidates. he is also a visible reminder to the democratic voters about why it's so important they vote. at the very end of that package when gary was talking to those voters at the church, you could see, feel and hear how important it is to those democrats to defeat president trump. and that's why i think that this primary is going to get more divisive, more bitter, there's
going to be a lot of hand wringing if their candidate didn't end up winning, but i think democrats will be united in november around defeating president trump because -- and that's a powerful force in turning out voters when you have something to rally against. >> nathan gonzales, megan messerally, thank you. >> appreciate it. a house in tennessee goes over a cliff during heavy storms. frightening moments. but in my mind i'm still 25. that's why i take osteo bi-flex, to keep me moving the way i was made to. it nourishes and strengthens my joints for the long term. osteo bi-flex - now in triple strength plus magnesium. ...with air wick essential mist. nature... with kits starting at just ten dollars you can transform natural essential oils into mist at a price that is just right.
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breaking news out of colorado. they received a report near muddy pass and believe a group of people snowmobiling in the back country may have triggered an avalanche. one individual was able to free himself and contacted authorities. avalanche danger in the area continues to be very high today. also break at this hour, hundreds of americans who have been quarantined for two weeks aboard a cruise ship because of coronavirus are now heading home, led by a police escort in japan, a convoy of buses took passengers from the diamond princess to chartered flights that are getting ready to take them back to the u.s. they are still facing a two-week quarantine at military bases in california and texas once they return. at least 46 americans on board the ship tested positive for the virus. and anyone testing positive or showing symptoms will remain in japan for treatment. matt rivers is at tokyo
international airport. matt, it looks like one of the planes is about to take off? >> yeah. we just watched it push back. two 747s are being operated as these charter flights. we saw the first 747 back up. that's going to be heartening for passengers. a two-week period in which they couldn't leave their rooms on board that ship because of regulations, quarantine regulations put into effect by the japanese government. >> as you mentioned, though, they'll now have to face more quarantine in the united states at travis air force base in california or lachlan air force base in san antonio.
a lot of people we talked to said they understand the concern over public safety, that they don't want this to spread in the united states. the big complaint was where was the u.s. government ten days ago? what took them so long to choose to evacuate them? that's why so many passengers are upset just the fact that they can't return to their lives for another 14 days. >> matt, for many of those who, i guess they consider this being inconvenient because they have to be quarantined more than once. what are they going to be experiencing during that time? >> yeah. i mean, they're basically going to experiencing life on a military base, that they can't really leave. they'll probably be allowed out for exercise. it's a form of temporary prison
is the way some of these people have described it to us, people who were on board the ship said they couldn't really leave their guest rooms for a while. they could walk around on deck an hour a day under supervision and that's more than likely what it's going to be like on these military bases. that's by design. if it's a quarantine, you can't let people interact with each other, go out into the public. that's what's going to happen. and these people have done that already for 14 days. they're stressed, they're tired, frustrated. out of an abundance of caution, according to the u.s. government, they'll have to go through that process again, albeit with a bit more of the creature comforts of home. >> matt rivers, thank you so much, in tokyo. it's appropriately titled operation chaos. a plan south carolina conservatives have launched to disrupt the upcome iing race. how the open primary could spell trouble for democrats.
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all right. not foreign interference, but home grown. it's being called operation chaos, republicans actively interfering with the democratic primary process for voting who they believe to be the weakest democrat. cnn's lauren fox has more on the effort in south carolina. >> reporter: conservatives in south carolina, pushing for republican voters to disrupt the upcoming democratic primary. >> you know i guess you could call it meddling. >> reporter: christopher sullivan calling it, quote, operation chaos, a nod to rush limbaugh's effort to keep hillary clinton in the race longer to hurt barack obama. >> i would love to see the democrat democrats, whoever wins the democrat primary, for everybody else having accused him of having stolen the election because he was elected with republican support and,
therefore, prolonged the chaos and disruption. >> it's also latest obstacle for joe biden. who needs a victory to bolster his campaign. >> our votes count, too. >> biden was expected to win south carolina. we wanted to disrupt what was expected. >> south carolina has an open primary, allowing eligible voters to cap in either primary. it's resulted in democrats boosting moderate republicans in the state. with the presidential primary canceled this year, karen martin says she saw an opportunity to finally give democrats a dose of their own medicine. >> we thought, aha, what would happen if we made a grassroots statewide effort to cross over and vote for one candidate in the democratic primary? >> martin is pushing for voters to back candidate, bernie sanders. others say they're leaving it up to the voters.
>> just for the sake of optics, it would be great to be able to contrast the ideology of a devout socialist against a capitalist. >> the campaigns have caught the attention of biden's team, including surrogate and state senator, he says republicans in the state fear joe biden in a one on one match-up with trump. >> they are trying to interfere with this election to choose the weakest candidate because they know with out cheating, donald trump will not be re-elected. >> how many voters are going to participate and come out for the democratic party or if they'll be able to have an impact in this process but the south carolina republican party is arguing they are not endorsing this effort, writing, quote, we do not like democrats meddling in our primaries and we certainly do not encourage the same thing from republican voters.
south carolina democrats are claiming that their turnout is going to be so hot, the turnout so great that republicans can't meddle in their primary. >> first ballots in the 2020 election cycle, cnn is taking us behind the scenes of some presidential elections of years past. the premier episode of the all-new season of race for the white house tracks the history making 2008 race between freshman senator barack obama and revered campaign veteran senator john mccain. here is a preview. >> john knew that the campaign wasn't working. he was going to get out of the campaign and cut his losses or change it dramatically. in order to get relaxation and clear his mind he went to a battle zone. he went to iraq. >> in baghdad, on the fourth of
july. surrounded by the military he so admires, john mccain attended the reenlistment and naturalization center. >> when he got to the ceremony, he saw boots of those who were going to be made naturalized citizens there. they were killed in action and that got to him. john came back, told us this story. he was very emotional and he said i looked at that and i realized i need to fight as much for my country as they are. >> let's talk about this. people think it's entertaining, to an extent, for the white house but very serious moment. joining us now, cnn presidential historian tim neftali, who appears in the series, of course. how could we do a series and you not be in it, when it's talking about the white house and history. let's talk about that trip to baghdad. this was a serious moment for
>> joh john mccain and it was a turning point for him. >> he had been a serious contender in 2000 and george w. bush had beaten him. and in 2008 many people saw him as the heir apparent. but his candidacy wasn't getting traction. his campaign wasn't getting traction. he needed to find the fire within. the public can see if you are connected to them and the process and if they think you're going through the motions, they're not going to rally around you. for john mccain, it was that trip to baghdad. for hillary clinton, although she ultimately is not the nominee in 2008, but you'll see in the show tonight, for her it was finding her voice in new
hampshire. she loses the iowa race to then senator barack obama. it looked like the race was over at that point t doesn't end that quickly. hillary clinton finds a moment where she finds that inner passion and shares it. >> she was very emotional. she revealed herself in her thought process and how deeply it was affecting her. it was pretty powerful for a lot of people. before that nomination in 2008 barack obama faced hillary clinton in one of the most competitive democratic primaries in recent memory. and what lessons can democrats take from that race as they embark on their own this go around? >> one of the lessons senator obama took was to be prepared. you will see a clip of his first debate with hillary clinton and our memory of him is someone who was in control and he wasn't in that debate.
he schooled himself pretty fast. one of the lessons for democrats is that there are turning points you cannot anticipate. there will be challenges along the way. the reverend wright issue for president obama, how he handled that, people weren't sure how he would handle it because of his lack of long-term experience. the tests that candidates will face, we can't even predict them but they will face them. it's how they deal with those tests, that's what will allow one to emerge from the pack. >> for barack obama, something happened at that iowa caucus. it was critical. it helped him clinch the nomination in 2008. this year may be a little different story, or do you expect that first contest will offer some foreshadowing in the
ultimate outcome? >> one of the fun things is being an historian, since it's already happened you can always get it right. the turning point was -- but the beauty of the series is that you see these turning points, you realize how many there were. what's clear -- we all see this now. the momentum that the first two contests helped make one person a champion in earlier nomination contests, that's not there right now. >> yeah. >> iowa -- well, iowa had a muddled finish ultimately, right? >> yeah. >> pete buttigieg wins it. but it's a muddled outcome. new hampshire gives sanders and klobuchar momentum. we don't know what will happen when you get to these other states that are more diverse. at the moment what we're looking
at is the outcome of both south carolina and nevada and see if that gives one person or maybe two the momentum to really succeed in super tuesday. the point of super tuesday is that you cannot do retail politics everywhere. you can't. it's not possible. you hope if you developed enough momentum and name recognition that people will vote for you even if they haven't shaken your hand. >> we shall see. you know it, tim naftali. thank you so much. >> thank you, fred. >> be sure to tune in to an all-new season of race for the white house premiering tonight at 9:00 p.m. eastern and pacific only on cnn.
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checking our top stories, state of emergency in missouri, as authorities fear the swollen river will soon unleash catastrophic flooding. more rain is falling in the region today and first responders are warning residents this flooding emergency will last several more days. unbelievable. that was the sound and sight of a house collapsing as it slid down a rain-soaked bluff into the tennessee river. this is what the scene in harden county, tennessee, looked like in the morning, heavy rainfall, fear of landslides prompted several evacuations. so this house was empty when it collapsed.
emergency responders in the rain-soaked area say they are worried about what's to come potentially. and players couldn't help but think about the late kobe bryant who, as a rookie, won the all-star slam dunk contest in 1997, but this was this year. 2020 nba slam dunk contest will be hotly debated for many years to come. miami heat's derrick jones jr. after a controversial dunk-off against aaron gordon. so say gordon was robbed after he dunked overflow nba player taco phal, who is over seven-feet tall. he said he was scared for his life because that dunk was not planned. dwight howard honoring kobe bryant during the contest, dunking a basketball signed by kobe bryant while wearing a superman shirt with kobe's number 24 right there in the middle of his chest. so many beautiful moments.
all right. thanks for being with us this weekend. i'm fredricka whitfield. so much more ahead in "the newsroom." first a look at "the windsors." >> at the making of history. >> 27 million people watched this ceremony. >> i know that i'm in love with this girl and i hope that she's in love with me. >> the public totally in love with this ideal couple and yet the public can't see everything. >> edward leaves and he throws the monarchy into chaos. >> throughout much of diana's marriage to charles, there was a third figure hovering around. >> she called herself the queen of hearts, which really stuck a knife in the queen. >> this was a woman of color who married into the royal family and within two years of marriage, she wants out. >> there is this terrible balance they've got to strike
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