tv CNN Tonight With Don Lemon CNN December 14, 2017 7:00pm-8:00pm PST
♪ i was blind but now i see >> our thoughts and prayers are with amazing grace mcdonald and all the others who lost their lives at sandy hook and their families tonight. thanks for watching time to hand things over to don lemon, cnn tonight starts now. this is cnn tonight, i'm don lemon. another day, another departure from the trump white house. this one shines a light on what could be a big problem for team trump. as we learned in alabama. no candidate can afford a departure.
a stunning 98% of black women who voted in alabama's senate election, cast their ballots for doug jones giving a democrat the victory in a state that's been redder than red for years. the trump white house cannot afford to have this be their message to african-americans. >> what the hell do you have to lose? >> sources tell cnn omarosa's departure was a long time coming. there have been questions all along about how much she was doing for the voters she was supposed to represent. the trump administration, one of the least diverse in years, is less diverse tonight. what message does that send to voters? we'll discuss all of that let's bring in chris and april. it's an interesting story.
there are lots of legs to it. the president's approval rating among black voters is down 7%. it wasn't high to begin with. are all these indications that president trump and republicans are going to have a big problem on their hands come 2011? black voters and young voters may be mobilized against them. >> you mentioned the 98-2 vote among black women for doug jones. a couple more numbers. 96-4 for all african-americans. african-americans made up 29% of the electorate on tuesday in alabama. why is that number important? it was 28% for barack obama's re-election in alabama in 2012. the chance to re-elect the first
african-american president ever? what does that tell us? >> african-americans are fired up, enthusiastic and keen on turning out to send a message to donald interrupt and the republican party. and african-americans are a huge pillar of the democratic base. you get a fired up democratic base, you get alabama. >> republicans lost the senate seat in alabama, in large part because of black people, especially women, going to the polls in big numbers. with omarosa leaving the white house. they have lost their liaison with the community. >> with omarosa leaving how many senior staffers here at the white house are african-american? >> we have a diverse team at the white house. we want to continue to grow the
diversity. >> can you tell me -- >> i don't have a number specifically in front of me, i can say, we have a diverse team at the white house, a diverse team in the press office, and something that we strive for every day is to add and grow to be more diverse and more representative of the country at large. >> april, you're at the white house every day, omarosa was the only african-american earning a top white house salary, in her position, in that type of position. talk to me about the diversity there. >> well, let me give you a little bit of history first, the george w. bush republican administration, had the most diverse republican administration racially. this administration does not compare at all. and when you have people at the table, their voices ring true, i think about condy rice back in the day, during the george w. bush years, when there was the issue of the university of michigan and the amicus brief,
the issue of admissions and the preferential admissions they were dealing with at that time. when you have people in the administration, they bring the issues of a culture to the table. i mean there have been a lot of issues on the table. taking the knee. the misunderstanding over why colin kaepernick was taking the knee. if you had that voice at the table maybe it would have changed the dynamic of saying it's about the flag and about soldiers. also, you know, charlottesville. if you had those voices at the table, and maybe they are, but they weren't maybe loud enough, you know, there could have been more sensitivity, it makes a difference. when you have people of all cultures, to include maybe native americans. listen, we just heard what happened with the navajo code
talkers with the president having a backdrop of andrew jackson and talking about pocahontas. there is more of a sensitivity and hope for understanding when you have people of different backgrounds at the table. >> chris, i want you to take a look at president trump's current cabinet. the only black member of his cabinet is ben carson. there's a total of three women in the cabinet. with the addition of kirstin nelson. labor secretary alex acosta is hispanic. the president has been criticized to having a white and male heavy cabinet. is that deserved when you look at previous administrations? >> donald trump had a very clear focus in cabinet picks, one was wealthy business people he knew, steve mnuchin, wilbur ross, the other was military folks. obviously now one, john kelly is his chief of staff, obviously jim mattis, h.r. mcmaster on a
senior position. i think everything else was just sort of there. i don't think -- i think april makes an important point. it's sort of the voices that are in a room when decisions are being made. donald trump diversity is not something he is terribly focused on. it's not a top tier priority. one quick thing on sarah sanders, when she says i don't have eye number in terms of the african-americans who work in the west wing. the reason she doesn't have a number is not because it's impossible to calculate. it's because they don't want to share that number. we know at that top pay level, it's only omarosa, so let's -- i mean, let's cut through why she
didn't answer that question. >> let aus talk about omarosa. speaking about her departure, she's not going away quietly. >> i resigned, and i didn't do that in the residence as being reported. john kelly and i sat down in the situation room. which is a very secure, very quiet room in the white house, and we had a candid conversation. and i wanted to make you one year mark, that was one of the goals i set out to. and then get back to my life. >> i think people were surprised she had access to the situation room. did you notice the emphasis on situation room. she said she resigned, there was no drama, what are you hearing? >>. >> let's go back to the briefing, don. that question about her exit tuesday night was asked of sarah huckabee sanders, she said she didn't want to get into the
weeds of what happened, she would not deny the allegations or accusations that omarosa was vulger, cursing and tried to get into the white house. i continue to hear that. and it's been reported over and over again by other news organizations. and we broke it here first. but the bottom line is, she did not make the year, the exit is not pretty, and there's still -- i mean, this is not over yet. she's gone on television, basically threatening the white house. we're going to watch and see how this unfolds. >> let me play that, since you talked about the threatening of the white house. watch this. >> when i have a chance to tell my story, michael. quite a story to tell. as the only african-american woman in this white house, i have seen things that have made
me uncomfortable, that have upset me, affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people. when i can tell my story, it's a profound story that i know the world will want to hear. >> it sounded like a threat. i don't know if you read it that way, chris. >> that's a tease if i've ever seen one. >> it is the cliffhanger of a reality tv star. >> this is the apprentice playing out and president trump is the only one to blame because he hired her. >> that's the thing, the reason that she's in the white house, because donald trump likes her, he's always liked her, he thought she should have a place there. donald trump had to know, given he met opmarosa through a realiy tv show that she wasn't likely
to say, hey, thanks for that great job, i'm going to head out into the private sector, you're not going to hear from me again. it's not who she is. this is somebody that will continue to be paid through january 20th, but on december 14th, is saying, just wait until i can tell my story. >> we have a lot more to talk about -- >> taxpayer dollars. >> where do issues with the white house's lack of diversity lie the president said he'd choose the best people, who could he choose next? that's ford, america's best selling brand. hurry in today for 0% financing for 72 months across the full line up of ford cars, trucks and suvs. for a limited time, get an additional $1,000 cash back on top of 0% financing for 72 months. get these exclusive offers
visit quickbooks-dot-com. omarosa says a lack of diversity in the white house made her job very challenging. >> it has been very, very challenging being the only african-american woman in the senior staff. >> there are a lot of questions about whether she really accomplished anything in the job that she is now leaving. here to discuss is paris dennard and asia conners. it's great to have you on. three black conservatives. i'm hearing from sources that the white house reached out to black conservatives today saying
it was okay to talk about omarosa, criticize her and they would give cover, is that true? >> yeah, they told us to take the gloves off, they wanted us to share our experience, my experience, when i was at the rnc, other establishment folks were trying to engage her, we were blocked, and we were shut out, so now that she went on and was talking about what her experience was in the white house, we got the okay to express our stories. >> why didn't people do that earlier? why do it now? >> the black republicans, we had a chance to work with her, we went out of our way to work with her, we realized it was too much of a distraction, she didn't want us there, we decided not to waste our time, we turned our focus to congress, we worked with mark walker and senator scott we turned away from the
white house with the hope we would be able to break in and help the white house direct our message to the community. >> paris, weren't you at the white house all week? today? >> yeah, christmas parties, i'm there quite a bit. >> so then why not speak out before i ask you the same question, why come out now against omarosa, after she's gone. why not speak up earlier? >> well, i'm not here to trash omarosa, i am here to set the record straight about the diversity issues that are there, there are a lot of republicans that happen to be african-american out there, saying they were blocked by omarosa specifically, and not allowed to have a seat at the table. i did not have that experience. i know there were many that didn't have that experience. just because that's not my experience, doesn't mean it's the experience of the people who didn't have the seat.
why people are coming out now? i think it looks to what she said at that interview on good morning america. it was a vailed threat to the president, to her former colleagues, her current colleagues, if you believe she was resigned or fired, her current colleagues. and it was sort of an interesting statement that she was -- that surprised many of us who spoke to omarosa privately and publicly, that she was somehow upset or not comfortable with things that were said at the white house by the president or her colleagues. i think many people are coming out now, because they said enough is enough, and they see it as an opportunity. a lot of us see it as an opportunity for the progress, for moving forward, to making sure we can unify around those who want to unify around the president to get the job done to make america great again. we believe that the president has the potential and the opportunity and the policies to do just that. >> you said that you didn't want to come on and trash omarosa.
do you think you are doing the bidding or the dirty work for the white house by them saying, black republicans take the gloves off? why didn't they call white republicans to do that? >> right, i'm not going to be on this network, schuching and jiving and attacking this black woman because she's down. i know people have their issues with omarosa, that's not what i'm going to do. let's not be stupid here. why aren't we seeing more black faces? maybe we should look into this. you're telling me omarosa had that much power she could block every republican? >> no, it just wasn't worth anyone putting their efforts to try to do it, if that's what the situation is -- >> no, i'm not saying it as it pertains to african-american republicans. the individuals on the transition team selecting
candidates to be a part of the administration. not a single person said, why aren't we see more african-american people, we should look into this -- >> they absolutely did do that, thousand. >> the family to lump them all together. one person, give me a break? >> it sort of bothers me when i started getting calls from people saying, black republicans have been told to take the gloves off when it comes to omarosa, the president is the one who put her there in the first place, why is he using black republicans to go after omarosa? can't he say what was wrong? can't an administration official do did? >> i know for a fact a high volume meeting is going to take place 3407bd at the white house. to discuss tax reform and the urban agenda. even just days after she's gone,
you already have j.c. watts, michael steele, some credible names we know, that will help move the ball forward. >> did anyone say to the president or to someone senior in the administration, that this person is hurting our efforts to reach out to the black community? >> don, they knew it. >> did they just not care if they knew it? >> it's not that they just didn't care, it's the fact that this woman was an assistant the to the president, had the ear of the president and they trusted her opinion, because listen, you should trust the people on your team, you should believe that they're giving you wise council, you should believe that they tell you this person is not qualified that you don't take them, that they're telling you the god's truth, and so i -- >> paris, how do we explain the insensitive comments the president made, when he has the highest level black republican there, and you don't think that she was able to scream and tell
him this is insensitive? can you imagine if a credible black republican was in the president's here, we would not be seeing what we've been seeing, that's the bottom line. >> you said she had his ear, and he trusted her, he's said he doesn't trust information coming from the intelligence community, why would he trust information coming from omarosa. >> because he knows her, he has a 14 year relationship with her. and he hired her. >> but paris, paris. paris -- she has -- >> at the end of the day. >> one at a time. >> just quickly, at the end of the day, when you serve at the white house, most people serve for 18 months, i had the privilege of serving for four years. when the pleasure of the president leaves, you leave. while she might have reported to general kelly, remember, donald rumsfeld offered his letter of resignation to president bush several times. each time he said no. if he wanted to keep omarosa
around he would have said, i appreciate you, i need to you stay. >> you should know better. >> i just wanted to say, you should know better, paris. >> i should know better for what? >> she had no political experience. republicans didn't know her. and democrats didn't like her. so how is that going to -- how are we going to use that to message the community when she's not even credible or well liked by the black community. >> shermichael, stand by. could energized black voters, women and young black people threaten the trump president den densecy in the midterms?
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how much of a threat does that pose for the president in next year's midterms? my panel is back with me now. shermichael, you wanted to respond to paris before the break? >> look, don, you raised the point about the white house giving permission, if you will, to black republicans to attack omarosa, how naive are the people at the white house? i mean, do they think that people truly are going to believe they had no idea whatsoever that some black republicans were being blocked? i know earlier today, the press secretary said, we have diversity, we believe in diversity. we want to reflect america. if that's the case, where are the black people. seriously? there are none. >> there are some general -- >> john, don't give me that, the people who are in the white house, not the surgeon general, not dr. carson, not the fellows you mentioned earlier, people were talking about --
>> we're talking about staffers. >> i'll give you. >> whoa! calm down, maybe you're bitter because you were fired. >> do you really want to go there tonight, paris? >> i may have been fired but at least i have respect for my community. >> i'd rather have respect than be a sellout. you have people in alleged affairs. the second lady's office, the white house fellow's office, you have them in black fellows committed to hbcu. the idea that black staffers are not at the white house is not true. >> who's there in a senior role, paris that can talk directly to the president? right. >> listen, i know there's name calling. i don't like that. i respect that i don't like that. paris and i have had knock down
dragout fights on tv, there's no name calling. >> fair enough. >> this is what i want to say. to your point, though. all right? a different way of saying it, i just got this from someone who i respect a lot, so black republicans are mad because omarosa blocked them from helping the president pass policies that will hurt black people? now they want to be on the team of someone who backs roy moore, cuts health care for millions of people, especially blacks and lies about voter suppression and refuses to push restoration of the voting rights act and whose tax plan will have a devastating impact on the black community. that's strange to me. >> i disagree with that person's analysis of the tax plan, i just wrote an op ed about it, it will benefit the black community. >> to the larger point than that? >> there were african-americans who were republican who wanted to serve in the administration from the beginning, and still do. i got e-mail messages and
facebook messages from people today, i would love the opportunity to serve. can you get my resume to certain people? yes, i will do that, the idea that people -- >> can i chime in here? >> okay, so during the campaign, there was a bipartisan effort with black democrats and black republicans with the joint center and inside america, we collected hundreds, thousands of resumes of black republicans qualified. we were prepared for any administration, we submitted names, after the president was elected. and those names, we have information that omarosa trashed those and those people -- i mean, those people were never given an interview, they never got a call back, we're talking about hundreds of qualified subject matters. >> is that omarosa's fault or the president? >> we got information, that's a direct omarosa obstructing black republicans. >> i get people have issues with omarosa, i'm putting this back on the white house, you cannot
tell me people at the white house are so naive think did not realize there were african-american republicans who had an interest in working for this administration, how stupid do they think people are? >> they're not. because they had two black people on the transition team? >> then why didn't more black people get jobs, paris? >> well, because you should ask the two black people who were on the transition team. >> i'm asking you since you brought it up. >> i'm telling america. a lot of people believe there was a process, a backlog. a lot of people who wanted jobs, just black republicans, it's widely reported that the employment filling process was slow and there are a lot of positions to be filled. some people believe that omarosa blocked them. >> that's got to be the last word, thank you all. i appreciate your candor and i appreciate -- listen, we're all people of color, and there's a diversity of opinion on this panel, and there are young black
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we have some new developments tonight in the russia investigation, more on text messages sent by fbi official peter sherzek when he was still on robert mueller's team. i want to bring in laura jared. >> what are you learning about the role of this fbi agent played in both robert mueller's investigation, and the clinton e-mail investigation? >> well, don, i'm told two weeks ago, when news of these text messages first broke, peter was not a household name, within the fbi, he's considered one of the
bure bureau's top intelligence experts, and he played a lead role in investigating hillary clinton's e-mail server, he's part of the group that decided not to recommend charges for her. finally over the summer, he helped oversea probes into the russian operatives and trump campaign associates. the fact that he later joins mueller's team for a brief period of time is being used to say the entire russia investigation has to be tainted because he trashed the president in his text messages. >> what about the role in the flynn investigation. what more do we know about that? >> earlier this year, my colleague evan perez reported that the fbi agents who interviewed flynn, initially weren't in favor of pursuing charges against him for lying in his interview with the fbi back in january. but were also now learning from sources that that same peter struck, the same one part of
this counter intelligence team was actually among those voices who didn't view flynn's answers as purposely false at that time. obviously, flynn later plead guilty so things changed. the thing is, his texts about trump show one thing about his personal opinions, but his actions on the job were clearly a bit more new answered, don. i want to bring in the former official at the mueller justice department. peter struck was part of the mueller investigation earlier this year, this is one exchange between page and struck. he said god trump is a loathsome human he may win.
he expressed shock, i cannot believe donald trump is likely to be an actual serious candidate for president. how significant is this? >> it's a red herring in respect of the mueller investigation. it's not relevant to the determinations that mueller has to make under his mandate with respect to whether there was collusion or obstruction of justice or other crimes that arise out of that investigation. struck made these observations inappropriately in some respects because he was working for the fbi. even though he has the right to do that, prudence would have said not to do that, but these were not investigative leads he was pursuing and using his bias to impact the outcome of. these are personal political views expressed long before mueller was even a figment of anyone's imagination, to try to bring the texts of this private citizen -- as he had a right to,
into the mueller investigation, is just a red herring. >> if you have expressed these kinds of opinions, does that mean you can't be unbiased in an investigation? i mean, congress people hold investigations all the time, and they express their opinions all the time? >> exactly. that's what the deputy attorney general testified to. he said people are under justice department policy, allowed to have personal opinions, they have the same first amendment rights as do all of us, the issue is whether those opinions create bias which impacts the outcome of your inquiry. now, the inspector general of the justice department is looking into whether or not there was opinions which led to bias, which impacted outcome. until we know that, all this is really is the unfortunate expression of individual personal opinions about a candidate who was polarizing, there's no question, but people held positions like that, all throughout government as to the
president and also as to secretary clinton. neither of these people were approached by their detractors with kindness. >> is there any evidence at this point that peter struck or lisa page negatively impacted the independence of mueller's investigation? >> no because all of these transactio transactions, that is the texting between them. predated. mueller brings this guy on to the investigation. as soon as he realizes he has these texts, he gets rid of him. he's dismissed. that's good for mueller, he saw the appearance of impropriety here and he dismissed this guy forthright. it's a credit to mueller and a reflection of the independence that mueller wants to bring to this investigation so that it would be free of the accusations
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president trump speaking by phone today with vladimir putin, that comes as the washington post is reporting that president trump nearly a full year into his term continues to deny evidence that russia meddled in the election, and is working to roll back sanctions that president obama imposed on russia. let's discuss now. sean turner and steve hall, retired chief of cia russian operations. so good to have both of you on this evening. we found out tonight that president trump and the russian president spoke on the phone today. in a speech in russia, putin praised the performance of the u.s. stock market. president trump thanked him for the praise. putin knows exactly what he is doing here, doesn't he? >> yeah, he really does, don. you know, two things struck me about this conversation, the first is how much harmony there is between these two men. you have both using the same
talking points, essentially saying, yeah, look how good the american economy is going. and then you had putin say an interesting thing, look, all this other stuff going on about russia is simply spy mania that needs to be disregarded and is being promulgated by enemies of trump inside the u.s. government. what you have putin doing is promulgating the deep state theory which is nonsense, but he knows exactly what he's doing. and he's very effective at it. the president is not treating russian meddling in the election seriously. as a result, the staff has learned to treat russia with kid gloves around him. his daily inning tell against update know as the president's daily brief is often structured
to avoid upsetting his. his daily briefing. does that mean the president -- is he not getting the best intelligence because he's thin skinned? >> i think the important thing to know, it's not that he doesn't have access to that intelligence, it's important to provide clarity, the people that put together the brief, are doing what they need to do in terms of making sure that all of the relevant information is in the brief, now, when you go in to deliver the brief, certainly there are decisions made with regard to what the pd briefer would prioritize, what they decide to talk about verbally, versus what they decide to put in the book. i heard rumors that the briefers are making decisions that will allow the president to focus on the major national security issues that we need him to focus on, but at the same time, with regard to this russian ya issue, they understand this is a sensitive
>> does that mean he's getting it, they're not sure he's reading it? if they want him to hear that, wouldn't very verbally tell that to him? >> the idea is you put the most important issue in the pdb brief. sometimes if the president doesn't have a lot of time, the expectation is the president will take time to read that brief, you know, when he has time to do that. but it is concerning that there is this kind of understanding that this issue is so sensitive and that the president has not been concerned enough about it to actually have that issue raised to the forefront. >> steve, i want to bring you in on this. have you heard of delivering the briefing to the president this way? >> you know, really in my 30 years, don, i have not. and this is one of the most concerning things i read out of the excellent piece in "the washington post," which by the way today is i think must-read stuff for people who want to understand this. the idea that pdb briefers, and these guys are like the navy
s.e.a.l.s of the cia analyzing team, they understand about the topics there and they have to read what kind of person the president is. there's no doubt that different presidents have processed the intelligence in different ways. some are more readers and some want to do things verbally with the briefers. but the idea that a pdb briefer has to go in and somehow now speak truth to power because the president might not be able to handle it, might not be able to take it, might take umbrage, is ludicrous. it's got to be grinding of teeth for these folks, because that information is there, they're going to want to get the important stuff about russia up front. but if they feel like they have to hold back because the president won't be able to handle it emotionally, that's really horrific. it cuts against everything i think that most intelligence officers, you know, live for. it's to collect and get this stuff to the president who at the end of the day is really the ultimate consumer of this
material. >> according to the "post," white house officials told them the white house has adopted a tougher stance now on moscow, saying look at our actions, we're pushing back against the russians. do you agree with that, shawn? >> you know, look, i think it's to be determined. look, we have these sanctions that have been passed by congress. as we know, the president has been reluctant to move forward with putting these sanctions in place. i also think that we have to look at this president's rhetoric with regard to vladimir putin and russia in comparison to the other world leaders who we're engaged in national security issues with. there was a line in the article that talked about the administration's position of not wanting to irritate russia, but instead to encourage russia or to in some other way get them to pay attention. that's really problematic, when you consider that in comparison to the way the president is dealing with kim jong un, where he's called him "rocket man" and referred to him as short and fat. if you look at the way the president is dealing with china, where he sent some tweets that
would suggest that if china really wanted to do more with regard to north korea, that they could. so this idea that the president is dealing with russia in the same way that he's dealing with other world leaders just doesn't hold water. >> what about the idea that this president has never convened a cabinet level meeting on russian interference? again, that's according to "the washington post." steve? >> it's concerning because i think it's part of a pattern of, you know, sort of this avoidance of the russia problem, because we don't want to make vladimir putin -- we don't want to irritate russia because, and this is the great myth, because russia can be helpful to us. theoretical theoretically, can russia be helpful to us? because that's what the administration would say, we need them as our partners, we're trying to be careful with them. it's a little like an addict saying, i would like a drug dealer to help me deal with my problem. yeah, i guess they could help
somehow, but the bottom line is on north korea, on many of these issues, russia's interests simply don't coincide with ours and indeed, sometimes russia's interests are to undermine ours. syria is a little different because russia got in because we weren't paying attention, basically. and now we will have to deal with them on syria. but on a lot of these other issues, you really have to ask the question, do we have to work with these guys, is it in the u.s.'s interests to work with russia? not sure about that, don. >> steve, shawn, thank you very much. we'll be right back. touch is how we communicate with those we love, but when your psoriasis is bad, does it ever get in the way? embrace the chance of 100% clear skin with taltz.
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for many, this time of year is about giving back. but the 11th annual cnn heroes all star tribute salutes ten people who put others first all year long. the star-studded gala airs live this sunday night at 8:00 eastern. take a look. ♪ take a stand, make a stand >> these are everyday heroes. they inspire and change lives every day. >> we want to make sure they make better choices when it comes to violence. >> when you lose your child, the love doesn't go away. it has to find a place. i'm lucky i found a place to put that love. ♪ you got to walk that walk ♪ yes you do >> they are truly what it means to be a hero. >> it is people helping people the best way we know how. >> when they see me, they always feel happy. >> just give them a chance. they can do anything you ask
them to do. >> this sunday night, cnn presents a very special live event. >> i'm anderson cooper. >> i'm kelly ripa. >> join us live for "cnn heroes: an all star tribute." >> live sunday at 8:00 p.m. on cnn. >> it's going to be a great show, you won't want to miss it. gather up the family, grab your tissues and get ready to be inspired. thanks for joining us. this is "cnn tonight." i'm don lemon here on the east coast. the republican tax plan in limbo with news today that senator marco rubio is a no vote unless he gets the increase he wants in the plan's child tax credit. it comes on the same day sources tell cnn that house speaker paul ryan is doing some soul searching and might be thinking about leaving congress next year. the president expressing his displeasure in no uncertain terms. and don't forget the bruising defeat of the president's candidate in alabama's