tv CNN Newsroom With Fredricka Whitfield CNN June 11, 2017 1:00pm-2:01pm PDT
hello again. thanks so much for joining me. i'm fredricka whitfield. u.s. attorney general jeff sessions will be in the hot seat tuesday. that's when he plans to testify before the senate intelligence committee. sessions will likely face tough questions over his allege contacts with the russian ambassador. and the big question -- will that testimony be public or private? cnn has learned the attorney general's testimony will likely be in a closed session, but we have yet to get an official decision from the committee. this comes as the president launches one of his fiercest attacks on former fbi director james comey tweeting this morning -- i believe that james comey leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible.
totally illegal? very cowardly. want to talk more about this with my panel. paige pates, brian morganstern, republican strategist, and ellis henican, political analyst and columnist for "metro papers." steve, first to you. the president's reaction and in the tweet calling comey cowardly. >> what we've got here are two people saying different things. we've gotten it in name calling and kind of getting histrionic. i think it would be better if we backed off and just let people judge based on the facts of the matter. it's disappointing. it almost makes me feel like he's afraid of more leaks, like he's managing people's expectations that there's more to come on this. >> do you interpret that as a veiled threat? >> it's hard to threaten james
comey now. i think more likely what he's doing is believing that some other things comey might have and be holding on to until later on. then he's basically conditioning the public to say, well, i told you these were coming. >> so, brian, how do you interpret this? is it badgering, you know, the potential witness? or is this just the president trying to be as transparent as he can in the way in which he uses to take to tweeting? >> well, he's defending himself. i think pointing out the fact that jim comey apparently gave confidential memos to his friend to leak to the press before he ever shared them with the senate or with anybody else in the administration is something that people would call into question. that's some shady behavior there. i think the president is right to defend himself on that. >> page, is it shady behavior, trump versus comey?
how is the special counsel, mueller, supposed to manage all of this? >> well, he's going to look carefully at the evidence. he's not just going to take one statement and pit it against the other statement. he's going to talk to other people, people in the white house, people in the fbi, people who have worked with both of these individuals who find out, number one, whose story makes the most sense. number two, who has a reason to make something up. jim comey's out of office now. he no longer has that job. the president has become the focus of a possible criminal investigation. he has a reason to change his story. >> ellis, the president has not given a straight answer on whether there are indeed tapes. we know he's tweeted about it. he was asked about it again from the rose garden and he says, you'll see, soon, and you may be disappointed. how do you interpret that? >> well, we have a little disagreement here, don't we. we have to decide who it is of these two gentlemen who's more credible, right? on one hand we have the fbi director who served three presidents from two parties with distinction. and we have the guy who told us
that barack obama was born in kenya. you know? you decide. which one of those do you want to believe? >> page, we know that comey testified. he's talked about feeling very uncomfortable that these were inappropriate interactions that he had, the phone calls and face to face with the president. and then today the former u.s. attorney general preek ba preet >> when i read about how the president is contacting jim comey over time, sounds a little bit like deja vu. the call came in, we got a message, deliberated over it, thought it was inappropriate to return the call and 24 hours later i was forced to resign, along with 28 other people. >> he didn't resign. he was fired. that's the way he wanted to do it. how do these commonalities assess this, if at all?
>> i think both these situations are very similar. very similar situation. you have two individuals who were in a position to be involved in an investigation involving the president. mr. comey was with the fbi. they were running an investigation into michael flynn and any russia connection to the election. mr. bahara in the southern district of new york may have been investigating any trump interests. couple of phone calls, couple of conversations later, they're cut without any explanation. at least without a consistent explanation. >> in the first couple of phone calls he received, preet says it was president-elect trump, they just exchanged pleasantries. but then after he called after inauguration, preet said it wasn't appropriate and he, too, went to his colleagues and
reported what he thought was inappropriate behavior by the president and then 22 hours later -- fired. >> right. i don't think anyone really disagrees that these conversations were inappropriate. the focus now is going to become were they illegal. was something else going on here. was the president trying to influence these investigations, and if so, what needs to be done about it. >> so, steve, what potentially can happen next? you've got sessions who's going to be testifying. you've got this little drip drip drip of information coming from it barara. comey's testimony. then of course trump's latest tweets this morning. >> well, i think you're going to see a pattern of defaming the messengers, if nothing else. bahrara has some political baggage. he's only agreeing with comey because he got fired, too, not that i necessarily agree with that, but that's what you might
hear. you're probably not going to hear a whole bunch if it is a closed session with -- right now there is just going to be a reset and get away from the histrionics and say, this is the fact set. which side do we believe? one or the other. >> brian, most likely that senate panel will be asking jeff sessions why it is that he would leave james comey in the room with the president. he did linger, according to comey's testimony. comey even later said to the attorney general, i shouldn't be left alone with the president, that shouldn't happen again. what are the pressing answers you want to hear from jeff sessions on that issue? >> well, if there was some understanding as to what the conversation would be about getting to know each other or whatever, or if it was just sort of an after-thought. people make mistakes. it is entirely possible that he says, i hadn't thought about the guidelines. in retrospect i would have acted
differently. i would expect just an honest explanation, frankly, to put it behind him. >> i want to hear from all of you after a short break. steve, brian, ellis, page, stay with us. also coming up, a top republican on the senate intelligence committee has a message for president trump. turn over any tapes or we'll subpoena them. details on that next. just like that? f verizon, uh huh. i switched to t-mobile, kept my phone everything on it oh, they even paid it off! wow! yeah, it's nice that every bad decision doesn't have to be permanent! now you can ditch verizon but keep your phone. we'll even pay it off when you switch to t-mobile.
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raise your rates due to your first accident. switch and you could save $509 on auto insurance. call for a free quote today. liberty stands with you™. liberty mutual insurance. welcome back. calls are growing today from lawmakers to president trump to release any tapes that might exist of conversations he had with james comey. a top republican on the senate intelligence committee says she's willing to seek a subpoena from the white house does not comply. >> this is an issue that the president should have cleared up in his press conference. he should give a straight "yes" or "no" to the answer -- to the question of whether or not the tapes exist, and he should voluntarily turn them over.
>> if he doesn't and a subpoena would be necessary to find this out, you support that? >> i would be fine with issuing a subpoena. >> white house. correspondent athena jones now joining me now from new jersey where the president is spending the weekend at hthe president's golf club. >> the president's legal team says we will finally have an answer to this question we have been asking and members of congress have been asking for, for the better part of a month, does the president have tapes or some other kind of audio recording or record of his conversations with the former fbi director. listen to what he said on abc's "this week." >> the president said he's going to address the issue of the tapes, whether the tapes exist or not next week. that's a decision that the president will make in consultation with his cheer lawyer, marc kasowitz, and the president said he will address it next week.
>> so there you heard him say, next week. it is a new timeline being set by a member of the president's own legal team. so we certainly hope that that comes to fruition and we do get an answer by next week. this is important, of course, fred, because here you have the fired fbi director, james comey, who took these very, very detailed contemporaneous memos, these notes, after every significant conversation he had with the president. these were conversations that disturbed him. if you ask members of congress, some of them who talk about this today, they're more inclined to believe comey than they are the president simply because he has those contemporaneous notes. if the president -- if the white house has a record of their own to corroborate his version of events, that would be helpful to them. but listen to what senator collins, susan collins of maine, and also senator dianne feinstein of california, democrat, and a republican, had to say about this. >> well, at this point i believe the fbi director.
i know him the best. i've observed him the longest. i know he has his own band of integrity. i've disagreed with him on the e-mails. let him know that. mono syllabically. >> i found former investigator comey's testify to be credible. he testified under oath. so he believe the information he gave our committee is what he believed happened. that doesn't eliminate the possibility that there was a misinterpretation. >> so there you heard a slightly different answers from those two senators. but the upshot is that they find comey to be credible and that is why there is so much focus on this question of whether there are any sort of recordings or records to corroborate president trump's denials of some of what
comey had to say. this is what we hope to have answered this week. >> all right, athena jones in new jersey, thanks so much. let's talk more about all of this. my panel is back. steve, good to see you. let me ask you first. so the calls for the president to release these tapes, it's growing. you heard from the attorney who says next week the president himself on friday said "very soon." we know capitol hill has set a deadline for june 23rd. what if any or all of those deadlines are not met? >> well, first of all, how long does it take to say, no, there were no tapes? this is a put up or shut up moment. and really there is an elephant in the room here. you can talk about what the congressional committees are going to do on this until you are blue in the face and whether they subpoena or not doesn't have anything to do with the fact that robert mueller is conducting a concurrent investigation that is potentially criminal. if you don't think robert mueller is going to subpoena those tapes, you're sadly, sadly
misled. and so those tapes, because they've been rencferenced, he's going to be able to get a subpoena for them, and possibly even a search warrant. so there is no -- this is going to come out. and i would suggest that people speak about it quickly, and i suggest that if there are tapes, there better not be any gaps in them. >> right. no missing anything. no 18 minutes. no 80 seconds. so ellis, did the president -- has he opened himself up for more scrutiny? has he made it more difficult, whether it be prolonging it or just from the initial tweet that you better not hope that there are tapes. >> he does keep doing that, doesn't he. as to the question of whether the tapes exist, the truth is none of us really knows. but i would suggest that it is unlikely. right? just think about it. if he were running tape around the white house, just imagine the treasure trove of stuff that would also be there beyond whatever conversations he had with director comey.
i cannot imagine that donald trump would like the world to have a detailed record of it. >> so if no tapes, is that even -- is that worse? after all of this, dragging it out, better hope there aren't any, you're going to see soon. some of you might be disappointed. if there's nothing -- >> in the end, that would be less damaging, i think, honestly. all of us with our paws over hours and hours of tape of it donald trump talking to people? let me tell you, i'd sure like to get my ears around that. >> okay. senator lindsey graham weighed in on the president's rhetoric this morning. listen. >> here's what's so frustrating for republicans like me. you may be the first president in history to go down because you can't stop inappropriately talking about an investigation that if you just were quiet would clear you. >> so, brian, that's a lot of frustration being expressed. >> it sure is. but i would agree with ellis, i
think it is unlikely that he has tapes. i think maybe the president's been having some fun with this. but i want to also respond to something steve said that there could be a subpoena issued or even a search warrant for these things. for what? there has to be some suspicion of a crime. and even if jim comey's account of everything that happened, if he had said, man, i wish you'd lay off mike flynn -- >> does it have to be a crime? isn't part of this rooted in did he cross the line by asking the ex- -- or at the time the fbi director to drop an investigation and have this conversation in private and then claim that there are tapes to verify what really was said. and then come to find out if there are no tapes -- i mean that's a whole lot of mess. it doesn't have to be criminal, does it? but isn't it a matter of coming clean with everyone? >> congress has oversight responsibilities, of course. but the fact is, even if everything jim comey said is true -- so what? if he said lay off mike flynn,
he could have pardoned mike flynn with the stroke of a pen and ended it just like that. i mean nothing he did is criminal or anything. maybe it is politically -- maybe senators are going to make some hey over it, but that's about it. >> page, i saw you nodding your head a few times on that. also the issue is, sometimes it is not the crime, right? or the alleged crime but it is the cover-up that then thereby leads to something criminal. >> right. there is a lot to unpack there. congress can certainly request whatever tapes they want as part of their oversight responsibility. the president can push back on that. if there are tapes and can say, look, you can't have everything. some of these discussions i'm having in the oval office, they are protected by executive privilege. but, steve is right -- a special counsel can come in, maybe not with a search warrant but with a grand jury subpoena and say, look, i want to have these tapes. i don't know if there is a crime here or not -- yet. that's why we need to hear the tapes. that's why we need to compare what you've said, president trump, publicly with what
actually happened in the oval office. so i think a legitimate request can be made. and if the white house fights it, it is going to end up just like the nixon case. and the court, i think, will require those thaps to apes to produced if they exist. >> there are many voices that say, give the president a break, he's learning, he's figuring it all out. he also tweeted this morning and he used very interesting language and punctuation which exhibits that he just might be pretty salve vvy about all of t when he talked about comey and leaking and he said totally illegal? question cowardly exclamation, making a statement. you have a theory, page, behind that. >> i do, fred. that stood out to me immediately. if i'm reading a tweet and there is a period or exclamation mark off the totally illegal part, then he's possibly committed defamation against jim comey because he's accused him of a crime. i think that question mark is intentional. perhaps the president's having a lawyer review these tweets before they go out.
but somebody told him, think -- or he figured it out on his own that if you don't put a question mark there, you could be in additional legal trouble from jim comey's side. >> one would think his attorneys are probably telling him refrain from all this commenting. >> but if you're going to do it, let me look at it, first. >> brian, did you want to say something? >> yeah. it was me, page. i wanted to say, a grand jury can't subpoena everything under the sun for no reason at all. they have to have some reason to believe that there is a crime committed, that they are actually investigating something that would be indictable. it has to be something admissible in that court for that purse. it can't just be anything. it can't just be these tapes might exist, and, man! would we like to hear them! because they sure are interesting. it has to relate to some type of a crime. even if the worst is true that the president said, hey, man, lay off mike flynn, that wouldn't be subject to a criminal investigation. >> well, i completely disagree. >> it is a criminal investigation. i mean you've got to look at
this. mueller is not doing a civil case here. it is already a criminal investigation. >> it is a counterintelligence investigation. >> you don't understand. >> i do understand. >> then you wouldn't have said that. counterintelligence involving an american, if there is a crime -- or if he is violated that, is a criminal case. and so there is already a criminal case open and the grand jury -- you wouldn't have a grand jury if it wasn't a criminal case. and if the president then says there are no tapes, then you could actually get a warrant to prove that. >> mike flynn is the only one potentially implicated in anything so far, along with the leaking. the president hasn't been. >> all of this is very serious and it is debatable and the hearings and the testimonies continue. meantime, the president has been accused of a lot of things, such as being masterful at diversion and while he's been in new
jersey, perhaps this was -- oh -- just upon tspontaneous? or part of the plan. there was a wedding taking place at his golf resort. this moment with the president and the bride, a great moment of lefb visit for the white house. and it really made the day of that wedding couple. any comments? thoughts? observations? >> memorable. memorable. i think that's about as far as we want to go. >> very memorable, especially for that couple that was a cute moment. congrats to them to the new newly married couple. steve, brian, page, ellis, thanks to all of you. we had to end on a high note. little cheeriness there. speaking of which, there is no change when it comes to the uk's invitation extended to president trump. they, too, want to be on the high note, according to the
prime minister, theresa may. but the president's state visit later this year could still be at risk. we'll explain after the break. i, and you're talking to your rheumatologist about a medication... ...this is humira. this is humira helping to relieve my pain... ...and protect my joints from further damage. humira has been clinically studied for over 18 years. humira works by targeting and helping to... ...block a specific source... ...of inflammation that contributes to ra symptoms. it's proven to help relieve pain and... ...stop further joint damage in many adults. humira can lower your ability to fight infections, including tuberculosis. serious, sometimes fatal infections and cancers, including lymphoma, have happened, as have blood, liver, and nervous system problems, serious allergic reactions, and new or worsening heart failure. before treatment, get tested for tb. tell your doctor if you've been to areas... ...where certain fungal infections are common and if you've had tb, hepatitis b, are prone to infections, or have flulike symptoms or sores. don't start humira if you have an infection.
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a uk official said today there is "no change" to the invitation for president donald trump to visit great britain later on this year. that was in response to a report in the "guardian" newspaper reporting that donald trump called theresa may saying he didn't want to visit until there was greater support from the british public. right now may is scrambling to put together a conservative government after she lost her majority in last week's snap election. international diplomatic editor joins me from belfast, ireland. nic robertson. word is there has been no change, but could the trump visit still be in some jeopardy,
anyway? >> sure. 10 downing street, theresa may's office, is also saying they aren't going to comment on private phone conversations and that invitation from the queen still stands. but it's been a contentious issue from the get-go from theresa may's visit with donald trump, president donald trump, earlier this year. she was criticized in the british media for the hand holding. then the travel ban, 1.8 million people in britain signed a petition saying president trump shouldn't -- or the queen shouldn't have to meet president trump. then as we've got into the election cycle here, leader of the opposition who is supported by "the guardian" newspaper -- indirectly, but that's how most people's read of it -- he has used a security issue saying that britain is not going to -- is not going to have its security dictated or left in the hands of a trump white house. so president trump has become an election issue. then there was a climate change agreement. prime minister theresa may criticized for not being stronger in her criticism of president trump pulling the united states, backing out of the paris climate change agreement.
then of course, last week with the attack in london, president trump's twitter comment about the mayor of london, that went down very badly. that also reflected badly on prime minister theresa may. so jeremy corbin today, leader of the opposition, tweeted if president trump isn't coming, that's a good thing. because of these issues i just mentioned here. so that is something that is just -- you know, if president trump does come, undoubtedly there would be protests in the places that he was visiting. people in britain, some of them, feel very strongly about him right now. as far as theresa may forming a stable government, the leader of the opposition has been saying that he thinks there will be elections within another year. jeremy corbin. this is what he said. >> i thinks it is quite possible -- quite possible -- there will be an election later this year or early next year, and that might be a good thing, because we cannot go on with a period of great instability. we have a program.
we have support and we ready to fight another election campaign as soon as maybe because we want to be able to serve the people of this country. >> of course theresa may is trying to use the ten politicians here in the democratic unit of this party in northern ireland to form support for her government. she sent one of her senior officials over here to try to broker that agreement saturday. that didn't work out. talks are going to go on this week but that kind of deal with the delicate nature and peace process here in northern ireland to strike a deal with a party that is seen as very pro british, when there's very pro irish parties here in northern island. the politics created by this, so it is a very contentious issue you for theresa may with a lot of pitfalls, many pitfalls to make that agreement with the dup and it is not there yet. >> nic robertson, thanks so much. meet this week's cnn hero.
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corb with comey's blockbuster testimony behind us and u.s. attorney general sessions expected to talk to the senate intelligence committee in just two days now, it is worth taking a look back at hearings that have captivated washington and the nation, for that matter, in years past. here's tom foreman. >> reporter: for airing grievances, probing issues or political punch, congressional hearings can be explosive. >> the fact is, we had four dead americans. >> reporter: consider 2013's testimony on the benghazi attack and this moment from then-secretary of state hillary clinton. >> was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night that decide they'd go kill some americans? what difference at this point does it make? >> it's been that way for generations. from testimony on the sink iingf the titanic to joe mccarthy's hunt for communists and his denunciation by attorney general
joe welswelsh. >> if there is is a good in heaven, it will not do you or your cause any good. >> reporter: to a hearings on allegedly obscene music to which the lead singer of twisted scissor argued with future vice president al gore. >> what does smf stand for when it is spelled out? >> it says for the sick [ bleep ] friends of twisted sister. >> what did the president know and when did he know it? >> reporter: the watergate hearings proved enormous con consequential for president richard nixon. >> did there come a time when you reached the capability in the white house for intelligence gathering. >> intelligence gathering. that would be no. >> he talked about pornographic materials. >> anita hill's allegations against supreme court nominee clarence thomas, and his denial and slamming of the committee. >> as far as i'm concerned, it is a high-tech lynching for
uppedy blacks. >> hearings that brought impeachment, corruption probes, harsh accusations against the irs. >> i have not broken any laws. >> reporter: scathing words for cigarettemakers. >> the difference between cigarettes and twinkies and the other products you mentioned is death. >> reporter: outraged questions for the secret service. >> we're talking about a respected member of the secret service who was absolutely drunk. >> reporter: admittedly, congressional hearings often lead to nothing. but every now and then this unique type of political theater collides with something important, and then it really can be a show worth watching. tom foreman, cnn, washington. >> from coast to coast today, people are taking to the streets to pledge their commitment to equality. live pictures right now from the nation's capital, washington, d.c. thousands are marching in solidarity with their lgbt community. we have so much more straight ahead in the "newsroom" right after this. step one: point decisively with the arm of your glasses.
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ask your doctor about nonprescription ibgard. today cnn kicks off a week-long special series called "champions for change." a dozen cnn and hln anchors, including me, headed out to spend time working alongside the people whose causes are close to our hearts. these are truly special individuals. we want you to meet them. our "champions for change" learn about the challenges they face every day, and see firsthand the real difference they're making in the lives of others. i feel very fortunate while spending my school age years in montgomery county, maryland, i benefited from fantastic public schools with remarkable athletic programs helping me and a number of my former sports teammates, such and elise thomas, at the time, she's returning to my alma mater to me, as you see, and it helped us become self-assured, self-confident and aspirational all while having a little fun. >> i think we all became very
strong-willed people. >> oh, yeah. >> weren't we already strong willed? but even stronger as a result of doing sports together? >> yes, i agree. it was a situation where, you know, you just wanted to participate. didn't matter who was better, lo wasn't better. >> right. >> we pretty much supported one another because we were a team. >> right. >> to this day we are besties going way back to our middle school sports teams. i know today not every american public school kid has the same access to a variety of sports and amazing buildsing blocks that come with athletics, which is why i want you to meet some extraordinary people inspiring girls to reach their athletic and personal potential through a national non-profit group called girls on the run. i caught up with a d.c. chapter. >> reporter: there's something about lacing up. gearing up. the start line. >> go! >> reporter: and how, for so
many girls, sports launches dreams. so it is thrilling to see these young ladies in girls on the run d.c. get a head start. kennedy and mia, how you guys feeling? >> good. >> yeah? >> yeah. >> how does that run make you feel? >> confident. >> yeah. and afterwards a little tired. but it makes me feel like i know i can do it. >> awesome! >> reporter: and that's exactly what i recall. from my school days on the track and field, basketball and gymnastics teams. >> i think i learned who you to swim before i learned how to walk. we played tennis. we got lessons right away. we were running. we were walking. we were playing soccer. we were doing everything. i think sports helped me with a sense of belonging that i can fit in anywhere, any place. >> reporter: to this day, i compete in triathlons or play sports for the thrill of it. all of it, a driving force.
just ask graduates of my alma mater, paint branch high school in maryland. >> sports allow you to have a dream for yourself, to be able to envision yourself doing something, and attaining. then when you do attain it, you're like, i can do anything. >> now you're in dental school. you think in large part being a track athlete helped have that kind of aspiration? >> yeah, for sure. >> you learn that there is no limit to all the things that you can accomplish. >> athletics has made me a stronger girl and i didn't even know it. i want all girls to feel this same way. i want all girls to feel like there's nothing that i can't do. the girls on the run athletes show that with each step. >> all right. sarah's doing good! >> some people say that sports are only for boys, but they're for girls, too. >> reporter: all these girls,
ages 8 through 11, running it out and talking it through. >> we talk a lot about the way we think about ourselves. what we're going to do is we're going to take a look at a couple pictures. is this a healthy message for girls? >> yes. >> yes. >> does it make you feel good about yourself? >> yes. >> and has it also helped you look at yourself differently when you look in the mirror? >> yes. >> and what do you think? you care for yourself more? >> yes. >> even better than that. we're all beautiful on the outside but we're also beautiful on the inside. >> awesome! >> for ten weeks on the way to their first 5k race, they run together, build friendships. >> girls on the run d.c. is committed to serving any girl and all girls in all eight wards of washington, d.c. any girl that wants to be part of this program, we are committed to providing the access and removing the barriers. they're gaining confidence and
character that they're going to be able to take out into their life as they move on. these girls are the next generation of our future leaders. >> hey, mom, she's doing great. >> i like it because it does build teamwork. they are a he not judging one another. they're more or less encouraging one another. i feel like that's a good thing. >> i love the kids. i just love coming and running with them. when they first started to run and it's really hard because they don't have the endurance at the beginning. sometimes you hold their hands and run with them. when they finish, they see that, oh, i really did do that. i just did that!
>> good job! woo! awesome! nice. ♪ >> yeah, baby. >> after two and a half months training, girls on the run 5k in the nation's capital. how we feeling? >> fine! >> feeling strong? >> yes! >> woo! all right, let's go! you guys have a really good pace. arms up! woo! if you ha did you have a favorite part of the race? the end! >> these young girls are now equipped with the power of saying "yes" to certain opportunities and "no" to certain obstacles. i'm so impressed by these little
girls. to hear them pat each other on the back or just whisper some words while running by, "you can do it," that's so great. they inspired me, and i loved that. >> wow. what a powerful group. girls and the coaches to make it all go with girls on the run. so profiles in our "champions for change" series resumes tomorrow bright and early with allison beginning at 8:00 a.m. check out all the "champions for change" at cnn.com/chans for change. and we'll be right back. mom did? and so you know this is something that's important. losing my mom to heart disease and then being diagnosed myself. it's like a war we're trying to fight against these diseases. \ s 5 is really what keeps me going. i could really make a difference in these people's lives. that would be my dream.
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be left to the gop-led congress. the people living there are americans but they don't have u.s. voting rights. it is a topic cnn's a's "united shades of america" explores tonight. >> nobody everybody asks u.s. do you want to be american citizens. in 1898 the united states invades puerto rico and claims it as a prize from the spanish-american war. after 1917, anybody that's puerto rican is born as an american citizen. but we still dealing with a colonial government. >> there is occasionally a push for puerto rico to regain its independence fully from the united states of america. some people are like, leave it as it is. >> people have to understand about the need for independence is that there's a fear that has been instilled on the people in puerto rico that if we were independent, we couldn't run our own country. and that's what happens when you're a colony. >> kamau bell, host of "united
shades of america" joining us now. history is unfolding in washington but puerto ricans can only watch, not act, so to speak. so what is the biggest frustration that you heard listening to people there? >> i mean i think the biggest frustration is that they don't feel like their future is necessarily in their hands. yes, 97% of the people who voted voted for statehood. but also the puerto rican democratic party in puerto rico and other groups boycotted the election. i think something less than 30% of people voted. so i think a lot of people decided because this doesn't actually mean anything, we're going to opt out. >> this is an incredibly diverse island. very diverse culture. everything about it. music. food. et cetera. what did you find about people there that really brings puerto ricans together with kind of a common goal of having a piece of the pie, so to speak? >> i mean it feels like i was
there for about a week, actually stayed there after we taped the episode with my family. it was a really beautiful place. it has a lot of natural resources. it is one of those few places on the planet. people of puerto rico feel like there's something wrong here we're $72 billion in bankrupt. we didn't do it to ourselves. they feel like if they put their future in their hands, they could do a competent job. everybody we talked to, there was not consensus among who i talked to should we be a state, should we be independent. i feel like there is such a complicated history, there is is a lot of fear. seems somehow people as american citizens who are colonized, we've done something wrong. >> there is so much to love about puerto rico. i vacationed there twice. last year. and am always angling to get back. w. kamau bell, appreciate it. catch "united shades of america," tonight, 10:00 eastern time. that does it for me.
thanks so much for hanging out with me today. the news continues with boris sanchez right now. you are live in the "cnn newsroom." i'm boris sanchez in for ana cabrera. we thank you so much for joining us. he called him a liar and a leaker. and now maybe his harshest attack yet, president trump is blasting his former fbi director, james comey, as cowardly. he tweeted this out earlier today writing, "i believe that james comey leaks will be far more prev leapt than aalent tha thought possible. totally illegal? very cowardly." that's in reference to comey's memos. congress is still waiting to get copies of those memos and they are also waiting to hear from embattled attorney general jef s sessions. he is expected to testify on