tv Erin Burnett Out Front CNN October 18, 2017 4:00pm-5:00pm PDT
tomorrow we'll go with a power company from montana to see how fast they can get that juice flowing again. >> bill weir, thanks very much for what you're doing. the reporting, you and your crew, very, very significant. appreciate it very much. we look forward to your report tomorrow. that's it for me. erin burnt out front starts right now. breaking news, major questions about the ambush in niger that killed four american soldiers. senator john mccain accusing the trump administration of not being up front. is the white house hiding something? a family expecting a check for a fallen soldier. spies pitting against each other. the breaking news tonight, a major charge against president trump's white house tonight. senator john mccain accusing the trurpg "u" trump administration about not being up front about
the attack of in niger that killed four american soldiers. when the compete was asked directly, quote, is the trump administration being up front about what happened, mccain answered in one word, no. there's a lot that we don't know tonight. why didn't anyone know there was a massive group of isis fighters in a village american soldiers were going to visit in an unarmored truck? why did it take so long for support to arrive? and what happened to sergeants ladavid johnson? two weeks after that deadly ambush, sarah sanders was expected to have some details. she didn't. >> is the president satisfied he's learned everything he wanted to know about this situation itself in niger. >> i believe they're still looking into the details of that, but i don't think the president can ever be satisfied when there's loss of life from men and women in uniform.
>> and the questions continued, including whether the niger operation is looking anything like benghazi. >> she says that is the president's benghazi. what say you about that? >> i'm not going to get into the details of that action at this time. >> this comes as cnn is learning a private contractor called barry aviation was used to evacuate the troops after the ambush. we start with barbara at the pentagon. at this point with the deadliest combat loss in the trump administration so far, what do we know? >> good evening. tonight we don't know a lot more than we knew two weeks ago when it all unfolded and that is making james mattis not very happy according to several senior officials i've talked to. the secretary doesn't want it rushed, but he does want answers about what did happen two weeks ago in niger. an investigation is under way. the military may know some
things but it doesn't know a lot by all accounts. 12 soldiers go on a patrol mission with nigeren forces. they've been down in this area before, they know the village and the roads. they had not encountered any trouble in the past. this time they came under fire from 50 isis fighters. now, the pentagon will tell you that the good part of this is help arrived, french aircraft in 30 anoints push off the fighters, but that means the fire fight went on for 30 minutes before they got there. when it was all over, ladavid johnson, missing for nearly 48 hours before he was found dead, four troops killed, two others injured. there's a question of intelligence and what was the operation to get everyone you have to there safely. >> certainly things happened that shouldn't have happened, the question is why. there are such huge unanswered questions at this time, right?
why he was there for 48 hours, and how you could go into a village in an unarmored truck and not have intelligence warning. 50 isis fighters is not a few people. >> this is really the question at hand. there's two basic unanswer questions. we know the soldiers were there, they had been in the area before as we have said. and they had no reason in particular to be in unarmored vehicles because the intelligence analysis would be it was unlikely they would run into a problem, but they did. and so the questions are, why was the intelligence not sufficient, who was responsible for analyzing it right before they went in, to understand the lay of the land, and what happened during the evacuation? how is it a u.s. army soldier got left behind, dead on the
ground for 48 hours? erin? >> answers we must get. let's go to jeff zeleny at the white house. zef, sarah sanders again and again, i'm not giving details, we don't have details. it's been two weeks, they have no details. how is the white house responding now to charges like this from senator john mccain, a very serious charge saying they're not being up front about what happened? >> erin, i wish i had an answer for you, but the white house is simply not answering these questions about any details of this raid. senator mccain, of course, was saying that he wants and needs more information for the armed services committee. he was asked if he wants to conduct an investigation, he said he needs more information. the question question, is the white house being forthcoming, he said no. at the briefing today, sarah sanders when asked said the president was not satisfied by this mission because it had loss of life, but they said repeatedly she cannot comment on
specific details. usually the details of the raid would come from the pentagon or elsewhere, not necessarily the podium. but the time line is so important. 12 days, the president didn't mention this at all until earlier this week when he was asked why he wasn't mentioning it, he started the whole conversation about how presidents notify next of kin. the reality here is the substance of the niger attack is what is more important here than who is calling who. those questions the white house has not yet answer. >> thank you very much, jeff zeleny. former cia operative, april ryan, and retired major general james marks. bob, let me start with you. senator mccain, one-word, an asked whether the trump administration was being up front about the deadliest combat loss since she's taken the office of president, he said,
no. do you agree? >> i totally agree, erin. he's covering up here. the question is what were the soldiers doing out there on the molly board, it's extremely dangerous. the intelligence is awful up there. you've got isis coming over from mally. where was the where i can reaction force? any operation should have soldiers right in the vis sinty. our troops are thin in niger. it's much worse than benghazi. benghazi was the ambassador's decision to go down there, an operation like this was the pentagon's and ultimately the commander in chief's responsibility. >> april, to this point about benghazi, you were there. we heard you ask sarah sanders about the mission and you quoted congressman wilson. she was, of course, with one of the families that the president
called, la david's family. you quoted her as saying president trump's benghazi. sarah sanders twice answer you i'm not going to get into details of that action at this point. she was dodging every question. >> she donald every question, but the issue is the fact that there are answers that need to be given. you have four servicemen who are dead. and then when you deal with this last piece, ladavid johnson, who was left there for two days, and the congresswoman said something in our conversation that was poignant. he had a transmitter with him that was emit ing a signal when they found him. she said that transmitter could have helped locate him, so why was he still there for two days? she doesn't know whether he was dead or alive when they left him in niger. she's very concerned with what
she's hearing. she said she's heard from intelligence committees, from capitol hill, that it was not as barbara starr said, they did not have an armored vehicle. they were there not armed well at all. she said the equipment was poor at best. and she said intelligence should have told them there was a problem. she said they were completely ambushed, even if they had known that they went in on a mission for bow coharam, the group that is accused of taking or kidnapping nearly 200 school girls from a nigerian schoolhouse about three years ago. so we understand that's what the mission was. and i talked to several people on the hill to include senator chris combs who said i have no reason to believe that what congresswoman wilson is saying is not true. >> 50 isis fighters and you know nothing about it, general marks,
when you're talking about these remote areas along these borders, i've been along bureau key in a fas so he, everyone knows what's happening in the other ones, right? the americans may not know, but people do know. was this an intelligence failure? >> let me describe what i think is going on here. from the department of defense level and above there is some great explanation that needs to take place. you need to question what were these special ops soldiers doing in niger in this particular mission. and it must be described based on the conditions as a permissive environment. in other words there's sufficient intelligence for the u.s. military to assess that it's okay for special ops troops to go into these kinds of missions which are called foreign internal defense, which is what they do all the time. for a second, i don't think any one of these soldiers that are
caught in this didn't try until the last round was discharged to recover all four of those soldiers and the fact one soldier was left for 48 hours tells me that environment was so hot they couldn't break back into it to recover that young man. >> the congresswoman said -- excuse me. >> there will be multiple aar, after-action reviews that take place so we can get around what took place at the tactical level what works they didn't have available to them in order to prosecute this mission. >> 12 days now we're looking at 14 and not a single answer. what were you going to say? >> the congresswoman said people were saying they couldn't find them. but she's going back to this transmission equipment. she said they could have found him easily in those two days. when they found him it was emitting a signal.
what was going on there? it sounds like it could have been very hot, but they could have also known where he was. there are a lot of questions, not just for the congresswoman, the american public. people want to know what's going on. this is very ugly. >> let me explain something. at the tactical level, let's not impugn the capabilities of these soldiers on the ground. the concern, i think, we should have is what were these soldiers doing, what did they not have available to them, what was the competition -- >> fire power. >> to that point, what they did not have and april's raising it, they didn't have fire power. it took 30 minutes before help arrived and there's a lack of clarity there. it was french air cover and the evacuation was by a contractor. but these american soldiers were completely on their own and completely outnumbered, bob, for
30 minutes. was that too long? >> without adequate fire power. >> that's too long. more than that, you can't depend on the army of niger. it's undermanned, not particularly disciplined. clearly they slipped across the border. 50 guys is lot to come across that border but in that part of the world, it's very easy to do. general mark will agree it would be nice if they had backup there, a couple helicopters with galgtsing guns. >> completely. >> there are answers needed and the deadliest combat loss in the trump presidency thus far. the white house trying to control the story over the congresswoman's description of
trump's call to the fallen soldier's widow. >> i think it's appalling when the congresswoman has done in the way she's politicized this issue. >> general john kelly, what he told the president about his son, and whether he ever thought the president of the united states would share that personal confidence with the world and use it to slam president obama. we have new reporting tonight. more breaking news, russians using americans to meddle in u.s. politics. ♪ if you have moderate to severe plaque psoriasis,... ...isn't it time to let the real you shine through? maybe it's time for otezla (apremilast). otezla is not an injection or a cream. it's a pill that treats plaque psoriasis differently. with otezla, 75% clearer skin is achievable after just 4 months,... ...with reduced redness,... ...thickness, and scaliness of plaques.
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. breaking news tonight it is white house attempting to explain why a grieving gold star father was left waiting for a $25,000 check the president personally promised him months ago. that check was never sent, that is, until today when the "washington post" broke the story. the white house blaming the delay on, quote, a substantial process that can involve multiple agencies. it comes as the white house is facing further controversy after trump's call to another gold star family. sarah sanders saying the chief of staff general john kelly is disgusted that the death of four soldiers has become politicized. >> i think general kelly is disgusted by the way this has been politicized and the focus has become on the process and not the fact that american lives were lost. i think he's disgusted and
frustrated by that. >> if he's disgusted and frustrated by that, certainly that disgust and frustration should also be directed at hiss own boss because it is the president who first politicized this on monday. he said former president obama didn't call the families of fallen soldiers when asked about niger. and then the president suggested the press ask general kelly whether he got a call from obama after his son died in afghanistan. >> you could ask general kelly did he get a call from obama. you could ask other people. i don't know what obama's policy was. >> democratic senator tammy duckworth of illinois. i appreciate your time tonight. what is your reaction to the fact these deaths have become politicized.
zbl >> utter disgust. playing games with gold star families is absolutely unacceptable. gold star families are sacred. >> just to be clear, you think the blame for this, he's the one who first brought it up t blame is on him, he's the one who brought president obama into this. >> yes. the president is the one who politicized a gold star family and he continues a trend that began even before he was elected. there's only one person who's attacked a gold star family, and that is this president. for him to ton use gold star families as pawns in whatever sick political game he's playing is not honoring the men and women who laid down their lives to defend this country and certainly it's not helping the family members who may reach out and ask for help and now they're going to be hesitate because they have a president, a commander in chief who's going to use their grief for his own political gain. >> do you think there's any chance he will apologize to this family? >> he's never apologized for anything else so far.
he certainly needs to do that. more importantly, he needs to keep his promises to these families so make sure they receive the support and care they need long term. >> when it comes to this particular family, he's right now medal of a he said, she said. this is over his call to the widow of sergeant ladavid johnson. the congresswoman said the president said he knew what he signed up for. two members of the family also confirm that the president said this. the president, though, completely disputes it. here he is. >> didn't say what that congresswoman said. didn't say it at all. she knows it and she now is not saying it. i did not say what she said. i'd like her to make the statement again because i did not say what she said. i had a very nice conversation with the woman with the wife who
sounded like a lovely woman. did not say what the congresswoman said ask most people aren't too surprised to hear that. >> just to emphasis here, two members of the family did confirm what the congresswoman said happened. the white house says the president was respectful and sympathetic. do you have any reason to believe the president would not have been respectful to johnson's widow? >> he may have attempted to be respectful to the serviceman's widow, but let me tell you fixture ask me who i'm going to believe, i'm going to believe the family members who just lost their loved one. >> we did speak to the family of staff sergeant dustin wright who was also killed. his father spoke to president trump. they told us it was a private conversation but his father was satisfied with it. is it possible that congresswoman johnson misunderstood what the president
said? >> regardless, the effect on the widow was not a positive one, and the president should probably rethink how he communicates with loved ones who are hurting significantly and perhaps he needs to do a follow-up with the widow and make sure that he addresses her pain and her perception. the most prnt here is not donald trump, it is widow of this fallen service member. >> another breaking news story this hour confirming that today the president sent a $25,000 check to the family of another fallen soldier after "the washington post" published a story in which they reported in june the president promised and wrote the check today. what's your reaction to that? >> thank god for free journalism
and freedom of the press in this country because without it, no one would be holding our president accountable. congratulations to "the washington post" for forcing the united states president to finally keep a promise to the family member of a fallen service member, but it shouldn't have taken the free press to do that. >> your republican colleague senator john mccain, senator, is saying is administration is not being unfront about the niger attack. you obviously are a veteran. do you agree with him? >> i do agree with senator mccain on this. the white house is being evasesive about what happened in niger. under this president we have now lost service members in yemen, syria, iraq, afghanistan, niger. we have thousands of american troops in africa and the american people don't even realize this. he's not made himself available to the congress of the united states to let us know what exactly his overall plan is, and i think they're being evasesive. we need to learn more.
if he can't go to the american people, come to the congress, to the senate. we'll listen. i'm not satisfied with the answers they've been giving us so far. >> sanders was asked whether this was going to be like benghazi. we're looking at a time line when did help arrive, who was that help. do you think that that is a fair comparison at this time? >> well, i serve on the benghazi committee. my role twouz figure out what we can do to preserve american life, especially those on the front lines. our troops deserve nothing but the best. the president is being evasesive. i want to know what happened. i want to know what those troops were doing there and were they given the adequate support they needed to carry out their mission or did we leave them out there. >> senator duckworth, i appreciate your time. thank you so much. >> thank you. next, new details about how chief of staff john kelly shared private details about his son's death with president trump. did he believe that conversation would remain private?
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breaking news, chief of staff john kelly had no idea president trump would publicize that president obama never called him when his son was killed while snevds afghanistan. kelly kept his son's death private. one source says he was caught off guard by these comments from trump. >> you could ask general kelly, did he get a call from obama, you could ask other people. i don't know what obama's policy was. >> the comments come as trump tried to defend his own response to the four soldiers who were killed in the ambush in niger. jeff, this relationship between the president and his chief of staff, there is no more importance relationship one could argue right now for this country than that one. what else are you hearing about kelly's reaction to the president making their
conversation public? >> airngs no question their relationship is very important, but we are learning tonight this was a conversation the chief of staff had with the president. in terms of the whole context of this niger ambush that killed four americans, and he did -- we are told tell the president that president obama never called him after his son was killed in afghanistan back in 2010 some seven years ago. john kelly at the time was a lieutenant general in the marines. so that was something the president had in his head, and then when he went on the radio telling the world to ask john kelly if president obama had called him, that was simply telegraphing something that the chief of staff we're told was telling the president privately. so there's been no reaction from john kelly himself. he's declined to answer our questions about this. he rarely talks to the media
with the exception of last week. we do know he was taken aback by this. he believes this whole process has been politicized. we heard the press secretary saying he's disgusted how it was politicized. that was aimed at the media. we do not know how he feels about the president bringing this up in the first place. >> thank you very much. richard and our senior political analysis mark preston. you just heard jeff. this was clearly something john kelly said to president trump in a private conversation. i guess the big question is, did he think it was going to remain private? he clearly seems to have, right? and then the president just went out and shared it with everybody. sorry. we can't hear him right now. so we'll get to him in a moment.
richard, what does this say about the president, a conversation he had with general kelly about his son's death, something intensely personal and private, that he would go out and share that with the world twice, once when he said talk to the generals and the other very specifically when he talked about whether president obama had called john kelly about the death of his son. >> i think we've seen over and over again president trump has no em pa think for those who have served abroad, who have been captured like john mccain, or those who've been killed, or the families of those who've been killed. he has no empathy. he stayed home during vietnam with a sore foot or whatever it was. there are those whand the pain
of losing a son at war. what he's done to general kelly is atrocious, but he needs to stake with this job. there are very dangerous people out there, steve bannon, gore ca, a number of others who are pushing to get general kelly out so we can get the extremists back in the saddle in the white house, and that's what puts our troops in danger. and our troops are going into muslim countries and they're fighting side by side with our allies, many of whom are muslim, and the muslim haters out there who want to take over this administration, they're the ones who are putting our troops, their lives in danger. general kelly is what stands between this administration and that type of complete chaos. >> now, do you then, richard, applaud what general kelly's doing? he's not himself -- he's not chosen to respond other than
coming to the podium a few days ago and taking the president's side and defending he wasn't able to stop the president's use of twitter. we haven't heard from him since the president started talking about this issue. the big question is do you think he will defend it and look the other way? he's saying it's disgusting pointing at the media. is it possible he believes that and is not aware of the obvious fact which the the president of the united states is the one who made this political in the first place? >> he's aware of it. he knows what he's dealing with. they say chief of staff of the president of the united states. if he's not there, somebody else is going to be there, and i can assure you we are in a very dangerous situation. if we get people like steve bannon, gour ca, people who are extremely dangerous. there are other lurking in the background who want the united states at war with the muslim world. i just it's a very dangerous
situation. we need general kelly right where he is, and that's where he best serves his country, even though this president is psychological psychologically imbalanced. >> there's one time he's talked about it and i want to play what he said. >> he's the finest man i ever knew. >> why? >> just is. finest guy. wonderful guy. wonderful husband, wonderful son, would feel brother, brave beyond all doubt. his man still correspond with us. they mourn him as we do. >> that's what he chose to make public, mark. he did not choose to make this lack of a only phone call from
public. >> we're starting to hear that when he made the comment to the president, he didn't think it was going to come out. we heard jeff zeleny and our white house team, you have to take a step back and look from a bigger perspective right now. you have to wonder what is going through general kelly's mind. the idea that president trump is the one who decided to politicize the death of general kelly's son, it was president trump who decided to use this as political cover to try to make up for the criticisms he was receiving at that time, erin. honestly, i agree with richard. to see general kelly leave because he would be angry would be a big blow to the administration and the country. the fact is he's done a very good job of keeping a low profile in trying to keep the trains running on time, trying to make sure the white house doesn't go into absolute chaos. i can't imagine what he's going through right now.
>> thank you both very much. next, president trump in times of tragedy, like this, like the las vegas skerks why does he choose to say things sometimes like this? >> what happened in las vegas is in many ways a miracle. the police department has done such an incredible job. >> it's like a spy story out of the cold war. our breaking report how russians got americans to interfere with u.s. politics. is that the work of wizards? yes. technical wizards. who, with the visionary engineers at ge, developed predix- giving plane engines the ability to self-diagnose problems, and alert those who can fix them. and that's no illusion. magic can't make digital transformation happen. but we can. that's the power of pivotal, part of dell technologies.
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the white house denying president trump ever told the widow of a sergeant killed in the niger ambush he knew when he signed up for, this despite the fact that family members of sergeant ladavid wilson say that is what trump said. it's not the first time trump's words have gotten him in trouble, though. tom foreman is up front. >> hurricane harvey slams texas. the president spins to the relief sfwlefrt it's been really nice, it's been a wonderful thing. as tough as this was, it's been a wonderful thing. >> maria's dark clouds hit puerto rico and he embraces the silver lining. b >> but if you look at a real
catastrophe like katrina and you look at the tremendous -- hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here with really a storm that was just totally overpowering, nobody's ever seen anything like this. what is your death count? 17? >> wean when a gum slaughters dozen, he looks beyond the sadness. >> what happened in las vegas is, in many ways, a miracle. the police department has done such an incredible job. >> for his political opponents, president trump often runs long on political posture and go short on kbaert, especially when it comes to the military. >> i know more about isis than the generals do, believe me. >> during the campaign he trashed senator john mccain, a longtime prisoner of war in vietnam. >> he's a war hero because he was captured. i like people that weren't captured. >> trump accepted a purple heart from a veteran, even though he never served, let alone got
wounded. >> i always wanted to get the purple heart. this was much easier. >> you have sacrificed nothing. and no one. >> and, of course, there was his titanic confrontation with the father of an american officer killed in combat who spoke at the democratic convention. >> who wrote that? did hillary's script writers write it. >> what sacrifice have you made for your country? >> i think i made a lot of sacrifices. i worked very, very hard. i've created thousands and thousands of jobs. >> and it continues. in so many moments that would appear to demand sensitivity, the president focuses on optimistic and strength. >> i was having fun. they were having fun. they said throw them to me, mr. president. >> the white house's defense is not that the president is uncaring. they say he just has a different way of doing things.
if his critics want to see more tears or touching moments, this president won't be the hardware sympathetic to them either. erin? >> maybe just a little bit more kindness, not something that seems to come naturally in those moments to him. the breaking news. russian spies enlist americans in a bizarre plot to turn american citizens against each other. we have a special report. >> jeanne moos on vice president pence, bringing new meaning to a phrase, just a heart beat away. over cable for 17 years running. but some people still like cable. just like some people like banging their head on a low ceiling. drinking spoiled milk. camping in poison ivy. getting a papercut. and having their arm trapped in a vending machine. but for everyone else, there's directv. for #1 rated customer satisfaction over cable switch to directv. call 1-800-directv.
shocking details about russians were pitting americans against each other, stoking racial tensions, and it was all done without the americans even realizing that they were agents of vladimir putin. drew griffin the out front. >> after the presidential election, new york martial arts instructor says he was contacted by a group called black fist saying it would pay him to hold free self-defense classes for members of the black community. >> did you ever think this was weird? >> yeah, a lot of times i thought it was weird. >> weird, but the money was
good. $320 a month paid direct through papal and google wallet to teach just four classes, and black fist would promote it. what was also weird, no one from black fist ever showed up to meet him. his only communication was in text and far away sounding phone calls from this man named taylor. >> hello. this is taylor. >> reporter: the digital trail suggested the context on the phone was part of a russia propaganda arm seeking to stroke racism. the accounts connected to black fist are among the pages facebook identified coming from russia. links to those accounts appear on the black fist website.
and black fist which portrayed itself as an activist group seeking to empower black americans were inside of a society in russia. they convinced you? >> very easy. very very easy. thing were sketch dhi but at the end of the day it's training. >> reporter: look at what black fist said about its defense classes. they are by black for black and let them know black power matters. these context were of videos with black self-defense. and this wasn't the only one. there were other classes publicized in other cities. there were dozens in tampa, florida. amateur boxer chuck says black fist found him through instagram
offering to pay him $100 a class through paypal. he confirms it was the same voice on the other end of the phone call. the same demand for videos to prover classes took place. though the entire set up sounded odd, he's having a hard time understanding why russians are behind it. >> when you have something that's going to pay you do something you love, it's hard to see it like a negative thing, it's hard to see it in that light. but i mean, like i said it was weird, it was different. >> the russian magazine rbc first identified black fist as well as dozens of other facebook, twitter and instagram account designed to act and look like real americans, they say were all part of the russians research agency and had a reach of 70 million people weekly. >> so, just how easy was this to do? >> and i think that's what was
alarming it was extremely easy using all these social media platforms. this is in january of this year. after u.s. intelligence knew spoed zli about what was going on in the elections, knew russians were flooding social media and facebook with fake messages, yet this whole operation, what ever the heck it was, was developed and operated during this time when all the scrutiny was put in place. it makes you raise the question of what are the u.s. intelligent doing about this russian troll factor. >> they're not doing anything about it apparently. >> the action that took place came from companies not u.s. intelligence. that is alarming. >> that is alarming and a stunning reality. thank you so much drew griffin. out front next, jeanie moss.
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have you ever noticed how vice president pence looks at president trump? here's gene knee moss. >> reporter: whether he's laughing at the boss's jokes are listening inintently beside him, vice president mike pence has perfected the art of the gaze. >> he likes action. >> the adoring gaze accompanied by the nod. nodding to the beat of the maestro's gestures. you want to see the opposite of pence's look, look no further. the vp's gaze is so loyal and consistent it's been compared with love struck children's contractor. there's one name in children's popping up on how vice president
pence fixes his eyes upon the president. ♪ >> actually it's nancy ray nan eyes, remember how she use to sta stare lovingly at her husband. a business correspondent took it a step further tweeting, mike pence would prompt nancy reagan's gaze look at stark face. the first lady not always looking so enthralled. many commented, trump wishes melania would gaze at him like that. but a stare seems -- when the president forget they're there. a republican media consultant tweeted, i want someone to look at me just once in my life the way mike pence looks at trump. the president took pence as his
political dance partner. now pence has to do it his way. jeanie moss, cnn. new york. >> all right thank you so much for joining us. anderson starts right now. thanks for joining us. a grieving military widow expects a call from president, the president never comes. these are reports we have tonight but we begin keeping him honest with how the president and his white house are dealing with criticism of the family of another fallen shoulder. we're talking about la davis johnson. he was 25 years old with a wife, two young children and a third on the way. today the woman who raised him said the president disrespected her son with what he said in a con doll lens