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Biggest Next Decision for President Elect?; Previewing Season Finale of 'This is Life with Lisa Ling'; Grandmother Invites Teenage Stranger to Thanksgiving. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired November 25, 2016 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's discuss with CNN political commentator Ana Navarro, CNN political commentator and host of BET News, Marc Lamont Hill and CNN political commentator, and talk radio host, John Phillips who is a Donald Trump supporter.

So John Phillips, we chatted yesterday, hope you enjoyed your turkey and your Bloody Marys, but let's get down to business now. What do you think -- you know, looking over the course of the next 56 days, what is the biggest next decision for the president elect?

JOHN PHILLIPS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it's really a three-part decision. I think he needs to lay low, it's the holidays, so stay out of the news cycle as much as possible. Keep appointing competent people to fill his open cabinet slots and if the situation were to arise, talk Mike Pence out of seeing An American in Paris.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Well done John Phillips, I was waiting to see what number three is right there. And Ana Navarro, what do you make of at least numbers one and two from John right there, lay low? I mean, I don't think Donald Trump will ever lay low except for the fact that in a way he's not doing press conferences, he's not making public appearances, so he's decided that that's going to be part of this transition at least the beginning. In terms of hiring competent people Ana, as you look at the people lined up so far, what's your opinion of the transition?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think he's done more in the last two days to appease nerves than he has in the last two years frankly.

What we saw in the last two days was that he appointed two very skilled, very qualified women to fill important jobs, Nikki Haley to UN Ambassador, Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. You may disagree with them on ideology, but it is hard to find a character issue to go after these women on. These are the first appointments he makes where you don't want to run into the kitchen, grab a necklace of garlic, put it around your neck to ward this people off. These are not scary people, he's done a good job in the last two appointments.

Also, he has laid low. He has not been tweeting against the New York Times, he has not been twitting against Hamilton, he has not been tweeting about stupid, petty, vindictive type of things for the last two days, I think that's a good thing. And, yes, he needs to keep appointing good people, good qualified people. He needs to, you know, take that little twitchy finger of his and lay low. And put the Twitter away and be presidential. I think he also -- and Thanksgiving, we saw him release a unity video. We saw him release a Thanksgiving message calling for the country's unity.

That he needs to do over and over and over and over again because he unleashed a lot of dis unity, anger, hostility, division, racial divide which he now needs to do everything he can to help put back together and make better.

BALDWIN: All right. Twitchy Twitter fingers aside, Marc Lamont Hill, what about -- I mean, I know you were a Jill Stein guy, but do you think the fact that...

MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Lost in a hair -- in a nail biter.

BALDWIN: Yes, sorry about that. (inaudible) happening but stay tuned. Do you think though that the fact that the Trump folks are considering not necessarily never Trumpers but the likes of a Governor Haley, no love lost there, initially or even a Mitt Romney in his whole eviscerating, "Trump you're a coward" speech back in March in Utah. Do you think that will maybe allay some concerns from the left?

HILL: It won't allay concerns from the left. I mean, there were people who thought the sky was falling when Donald Trump was elected. And I've always been of the opinion that Donald Trump was sort of just playing to the cheap seats, playing to the white working class, playing to the racist sector of America that he was going to be a certain kind of president, then he was going to come in and be a far more ordinary Republican.

Now for me obviously, an ordinary Republican is not a good thing but I didn't have -- he's done pretty much what I thought he would do. I agree with Ana, there were no character issues with the last two appointments, I disagree with them ideologically obviously, but they're not character issues.

I think it's somewhat frustrating, by the way, that Donald Trump has been unavailable to the press largely for the last couple of weeks. We couldn't get rid of the guy for two years. And now that he actually could answer questions and address issues, we can't find him. I find that somewhat troublesome...

BALDWIN: Well, he made a lot of news with the New York Times, after that back and forth, back and forth sitting around that table over there.

HILL: Absolutely. We have some very -- I think the press has some very specific and direct questions around policy now and around these appointments that I'd love for him to answer.

And I also love for him to go to a security briefing so that we could actually find out what's going on -- or so he could find out rather what's going on. I think all of those things would make people better whether you're on the left or whether you're on the right, you want a president who's competent and who has information. And Ana is right, by the way. The fact that he hasn't been on Twitter for a few days, it's somewhat reassuring but it's also kind of scary that the bar is so low again, that we're like congratulating the president for not getting into a Twitter war for two days like he's a petulant seven- year-old. It's a really low bar Donald Trump has set, he's got a lot of work to do to fix it.

NAVARRO: Baby steps. Baby steps Marc, baby steps. Baby steps.

HILL: Fair enough. Fair enough.

BERMAN: John Phillips, what about the perceived conflicts of interest? Because in that one interview he did with the New York Times, that hour long thing, one thing was clear, which is that it's not clear that he's going to do much to separate himself from his business interests. I mean, do you think he needs to draw a bright big bold line?

PHILLIPS: Well, we still have almost two months before he puts his hand on the Bible. So I'm not worried about that. At a certain point, he's going to decide. Yes.

BERMAN: But John, but I will say it's already too late in some cases, right? I mean, he's already the president-elect and already there have been conflicts of interest and questions raised with his daughter ind meetings with the Japanese prime minister saying his son-in-law is going to negotiate mideast peace.

You know, we learned Don, Jr. went to Paris and had meetings with Syrian dissident groups. I mean, there are lines that have been crossed already.

PHILLIPS: Well as of now, he's not in-charge of the government, he's still the president-elect and he still has two months to go to decide who's going to do what in terms of the cabinet, when you're talking about the government, you're talking about the White House and also his business.

This happens all the time at the state and local level, businessmen get elected to become big city mayors, they get elected to become governors, they take care of it, it's always something that their opponents use against them in the primary, sometimes even during - the time in between when they're elected and when they take office, but it always gets worked out.

BERMAN: Glad you have confidence.

BALDWIN: John and Marc and Ana Navarro, who I thought you were supposed to be at the beach in Nicaragua right now, but instead we appreciate you being on with us.

NAVARRO: Yes. But instead there was a hurricane that hit there and now an earthquake. So I'm glad I'm sitting here in Miami talking to you.

BALDWIN: I'm glad you're with us. Thank you all very, very much.

NAVARRO: And you know what, Brooke Baldwin, forget Black Friday, let's do brunch Friday.

BALDWIN: I'm in. I'm in, Ana. I'll see you in New York soon. Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Falling in love, getting married with someone behind bars. What leads some people to prison to find their soul mate? Up next, Lisa Ling, gives us a sneak peak in the final instalment of her really just wonderful series, This is Life.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In a motel room on the outskirts of town, (Tikita) is preparing for a new beginning. In less than an hour, (Tikita) and (Jerome) will be married.

This is the culmination of an over 20-year relationship, one filled with a lot of love but also a lot of pain. Inside this maximum security prison, they will commit their lives together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much.


BALDWIN: OK. That is the preview of the season finale of "THIS IS LIFE WITH LISA LING" which investigates what drives women to have romantic relationships with prison inmates.

Joining us now is the host of This is Life, Lisa Ling. Lisa, great to have you here.


BALDWIN: I have always been fascinated. I'll admit...


BALDWIN: I mean, are there not enough good men out there? What is going on that women think that this is a good idea?

LING: Well, I think contrary to popular belief that women are sort of waiting in the wings for people like the Menendez Brothers for example, a lot of the relationships that women have with prison inmates are relationships that they had with these men before they went to prison.

BALDWIN: Oh, okay. Well that explains it. I'm talking about the Menendez ones where they become pen pals and they become fascinated with these guys and strike up a romance. You see that too.

LING: Yes. I think that based on what I experienced, it seems that there are some women who feel like they can in some ways tame the beast and change these men.

But what was really interesting, with both of the couples that we've profiled, they communicate with these men constantly. They will talk to their partners multiple times a day and they have their, by phone...

BALDWIN: Collect calls?

LING: Collect calls, in some cases they are able to video chat, so they can send videos in one of the prisons. And to be able to have that undivided attention from these men who are really not doing much but doting on these women.

You know, as I was watching this take place, I thought to myself, you know, they spend more time talking than I spend talking to my own husband. And the depth of the conversations they have are actually quite substantial. And I think that in this kind of age of connectedness, we're not really very connected to people, we don't spend a lot of time having one-on-one conversations with people. And for them, to be able to have that undivided attention was something that was significant for them.

BALDWIN: That is a fascinating insight, because they truly have like a captive partner.

LING: You're absolutely right. And both of the women we profiled -- and one of them had a PhD. She was a very bright woman, the other one also incredibly bright.

They had experienced some difficult childhoods, difficult lives in their younger years. And so to be able to have this captive partner was something that they don't think they'd be able to have outside this kind of situation. Now, both of them believe that they will one day be reunited physically with their partners, but they have taken this risk in many ways to -- in both cases marry their partner, one of them is really wanting to marry her partner, but they say that even if they aren't able to physically reunite with them, they still want to stay in these relationships.

BALDWIN: Talk about this physical relationship, I am a little fascinated by how this works, the logistics of this. Do they have conjugal visits?

LING: Neither of the couples have conjugal visits. Neither couple that we followed and for them it's okay.

I mean, they say that there's so much more to a relationship than the physical piece. And, you know, there's -- again, something to be said for it, I mean, I know a lot of women who have been in marriages for a long time who find themselves in that kind of a situation anyway, and so for them, the I guess intellectual and emotional support that they have from these men is what makes their relationships flourish.

BALDWIN: And do they overlook their crimes? I mean how do they get past some of the crimes even though -- you know, particularly the violent crimes? LING: Yes. Well I -- in the cases that we profiled, one of the men was in for murder, but the more she kind of delved into his story, she believed that he wasn't responsible. So -- I mean, the court of law judged otherwise, but it's something that she has allowed herself to believe.

BALDWIN: Lisa Ling, fabulous reporting, great story. Thank you very much for...

LING: Yes. It's actually a pretty moving story. And the wedding that I attended was as moving as any wedding I ever experienced.

BALDWIN: Oh my gosh, really compelling stuff. Thanks so much for sharing it with us. Make sure to watch the season finale of This is Life with Lisa Ling. It's Sunday night at 10:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

OK. Allison, Lisa, thank you. Allison, surprise, jumping in for a little five minutes.

BERMAN: Great to have you here with us.

BALDWIN: Good to see you. Bye. Coming up, it's one of the feel-good stories of the holiday season, this grandmother welcomes a stranger into her home after this accidental text inviting him to her family's Thanksgiving dinner. We'll talk to her about this memorable meal.


BERMAN: This is just an awesome story to get everyone in the holiday spirit. An Arizona grandmother invited a teenage stranger to Thanksgiving dinner because she accidentally sent him a text message.

BALDWIN: Yes. Family, surprise. When Wanda Dench sent that group text to her family, she actually typed in a wrong number leading her to Jamal Hinton.

After realizing the mix-up, Jamal actually asks her over this text, "Can I still get a plate though?" And so Wanda's answer was, "Of course, that's what grandmas do." Joining us is the grandma herself, Wanda Dench. Wanda, good morning.


BALDWIN: So what -- so you accidentally typed in Jamal's number in this text I know you told our producers changed your life. How?

DENCH: Wow. It did in so many ways because I had no idea what exactly was happening when I was getting all these text messages and that he had put it on Twitter and all these fun and kind remarks from everybody. The kindness that I've received from people sending me comments is just unbelievable.

BERMAN: That's what Thanksgiving is all about, right, opening up your house, you know, seating everyone at your table, joining in, making the family that much bigger. Tell us what it was like to have this young man, who by the way is not your grandson, you know, show up for dinner last night?

DENCH: No. Oh, it was awesome. I had met him once before and my first impression was so -- he was so kind and so nice that I couldn't wait to look forward to seeing him again. So he came to my house with my family.

I invited his family but they had other plans, and so I was so sorry to not to get meet them, but he was just as nice as could be and we got to eat food and he told me about his plans for the future and I am just so excited for him.

BALDWIN: I think that's a small detail that a lot of people are missing, that not only did you invite him, you said, "Hey, you want to bring your whole family to my family's Thanksgiving, go for it," which is so incredibly generous. How did your family -- how did your family feel about this stranger breaking bread with you?

DENCH: Oh, they were all awesome about that. They were excited. It's sort of the norm for them because we've always, you know, opened our doors and our hearts to people. All my grandchildren, they've always invited friends to come over to my house and I've always met a lot of new people. So it was not too much out of the norm for us.

BERMAN: They say grandma's texting people again, random people having them over in Thanksgiving, it's happening again.

I think the big question is, you know, given -- this is the question I ask my Thanksgiving guests is, what are they going to bring and did he help clean up?

BALDWIN: Did he do the dishes is what he's asking.

DENCH: No, he didn't. But he was in a hurry because after he ate with us, he needed to get back to his own family. So he had a dual Thanksgiving. So we totally understood that.

BERMAN: He had it good.

BALDWIN: Yes, he did. Yes, he did.

DENCH: Yes. Yes.

BALDWIN: Just last question, just after this whole experience and after the crazy reaction to you online, what is your message to others?

DENCH: My gosh, kindness. Just -- if you have an opportunity to do something kind for somebody, please, please do, because it's such a good feeling. It's a good feeling to give kindness and it's a wonderful feeling to receive it as well. So that's all I can say about that.

BERMAN: I think it's such a wonderful message of openness from both of you, you know, to take a mistake and turn it into something truly, truly wonderful.

BALDWIN: Totally.

BERMAN: You know, great day to give thanks.

DENCH: Yes. Yes.

BALDWIN: Wanda, thank you.

DENCH: Yes. Yes.

BALDWIN: Thank you so much.

DENCH: Thank you so much.

BERMAN: That must have been some dinner.

BALDWIN: Can you imagine? And then the family is like -- I mean, she said, she probably does that often.

BERMAN: Often. This is not the last time.

BALDWIN: A text online...

BERMAN: I bet you Jamal is going back for another dinner at some point too.

BALDWIN: Yes, yes. Seconds, thirds.

BERMAN: All right. Thousands of unwanted dogs getting a new lease on life thanks to an animal lover with a huge heart. We're going to introduce you to one of the CNN Top 10 Heroes, next.


BALDWIN: All right. So we have one more holiday treat for you. Voting is now underway for your CNN Hero of the Year. Here's one of this year's Top 10 Heroes, this is Sherri Franklin.


SHERRI FRANKLIN, CNN TOP 10 HEROES CANDIDATE: I started dog walking at my local shelter. I noticed that the older dogs just weren't getting adopted and most of them would end up getting euthanized. You know, a dog that was seven years old didn't stand a chance.

"You ready to come home?" I don't think any dog should ever spend its last days alone like that. "Wee." Muttville is a change-free, open space. I don't even want to call it a facility because we've tried to make it very home-like. When an old dog that's been in a shelter gets to Muttville, it's like, "Woo-hoo," you know, they realize that it's a good place and it's a big place.

These old dogs are so amazing, so we're educating people about that, about the fact that old dogs have so much to give. "Oh, thank you." I know that once we get them, they're going to have that second chance of a great home and a great life and that we're making a difference.


BERMAN: That's a whole lot of cute. That's a whole lot of cute right there.

BALDWIN: ...for cute puppies. I'm missing my pug who's been pugnapped by mother in Atlanta. I had a crazy travel year but I miss my little guy.

BERMAN: Your pug travels Thanksgiving.

BALDWIN: Pugnapped. Yes, he's in Atlanta. He's in Atlanta. Anyway, I'm so...

BERMAN: It's a long distance relationship.

BALDWIN: Hey, it's been fun hanging out with you for three whole hours.

BERMAN: It's been awesome. We've had this three hours here.

BALDWIN: Yes, it's been so long..

BERMAN: Normally, our offices are just next to each other, we see each other all day.

BALDWIN: I know. Lucky us. Anyway, by the way, back on Heroes, you can vote for Sherri, any of your other favorite Top 10 Heroes, just go to

BERMAN: Hope you enjoy this long weekend. Time now for NEWSROOM with Carol Costello.

BALDWIN: Hi Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN NEWSROOM HOST: Hi guys. Thanks so much. NEWSROOM starts now.