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Over 20 Members of Congress Boycotting Trump Inauguration; Steps to Repeal and Replace Obamacare Underway; Controversial Megachurch Pastor Dies at 63; Mexico and China Fire Back at Trump's Threats; BuzzFeed Editor: We're "Proud" To Publish Trump Memos. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired January 15, 2017 - 14:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me, I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Just five days now until Donald Trump takes the oath of office as this country's 45th president.

But a growing number of Democrats in Congress will not be there. Four more Democratic House members are joining the boycott of the president-elect's inauguration. At least 22 lawmakers total now will be absent in protest. Some are citing Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 election, while others say it's a sign of solidarity with the fellow Congressman John Lewis.

Trump ridiculed the civil rights icon for being "All talk and no action" after Lewis said he did not consider Trump's presidency legitimate. This, as inauguration preparations are moving full speed ahead in D.C.

This morning, a dress rehearsal of the swearing-in ceremony using stand-ins for president-elect Trump, his wife Melania and Vice President-elect Mike Pence. All right, this story is still developing. And we have a team of reporters covering all angles.

Let's begin with CNN Suzanne Malveaux in Washington. So Suzanne, any more being said from the president-elect about so many now boycotting his inauguration?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT : Good afternoon, Fred. Absolutely. There are strong reactions coming from both RNC head, soon to be chief of staff Reince Priebus, as well as the Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

Some Republicans are clearly trying to give Congressman Lewis his props here regarding his stature in the civil rights movement but they are coming to Trump's defense here because they are vehemently opposed to the notion that Trump is not the legitimate winner of the controversial election, despite any role Russia might have had in hacking, listen.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, Donald Trump won this election fair and square. Thirty out of fifty states, including Georgia. More counties than any Republican candidate since Ronald Reagan.

And to hear John Lewis, a man that I served with, that I respect, to question the legitimacy of the election and to say that Donald Trump will not be a legitimate president was deeply disappointing to me. And also to hear that he was not going to attend the inauguration this Friday. hope he reconsiders both statements.


MALVEAUX: So Fred, so far there is no indication that Congressman Lewis would reconsider. In fact, he joins at least 21 others of his (inaudible) Democrats who've also announced so far that they're not going to attend the inauguration.

And this all comes on a day where Washington is preparing for the inaugural events. We've seen these dress rehearsals, the band practice taking place at the Capitol. It also comes comes, Fred, amid more controversy over some A-list performers refusing to participate in Trump's big rollout.

We have most recently heard from Broadway superstar from 'Dreamgirls' fame, Jennifer Holliday, announcing that she would no longer be singing at Trump's pre-inaugural concert scheduled on Thursday.

This is after many of her fans complained. She wrote an open letter to them saying that her performance was really meant to heal but she has now reconsidered. She is backing out of that.

Trump for his part, he has chosen not to directly respond to Holliday but instead tweeting out saying, inauguration day is turning out to be even bigger than expected, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And then what about this boycott of being led by congressional members? Historically, have we seen so many members of congress boycott an inauguration?

MALVEAUX: That's an excellent question, Fred. We've seen protests before obviously, and particularly, from the Congressional Black Caucus.

It was back in 2001 that members of the CBC skipped George W. Bush's first inauguration to protest the supreme court ruling on the outcome on the outcome of that election, which they believe delegitimatized Bush's presidency.

But the number of members protesting back then didn't even come close to now what we had nearly two dozen who are going to be sitting out this one, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Suzanne Malveaux in Washington, thank you so much.

Meantime, Trump has responded to Lewis' language and even boycotting by attacking his congressional district in Atlanta. And that district includes the famous Ebenezer Baptist Church which John Lewis is a member.

CNN's Polo Sandoval was at the church this morning. So, Polo, was the congressman there and what more were said?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred. No Lewis sighting there, at least not today. And of course that church, important for several reasons, not only is it where Dr. Martin Luther King was baptized, he also helped galvanize civil rights movement there. But also, as you mentioned, Congressman Lewis happens to be a member of the congregation.

As we mention, no Representative Lewis today. There were plenty of politics, though. Particularly coming from one of the church members there. And also, from the pastor himself as he addressed this congregation, specifically called out President-elect Trump, criticizing Trump as well, (00:05:00) saying that the way that president-elect shouldn't be tweeting about the lawmaker Lewis, instead should be trying to work with him. Take a listen.


Rev. RAPHAEL WARNOCK, SENIOR PASTOR, EBENEZER BAPTIST CHURCH: Rather than sending nasty tweets, he really ought to sit at John Lewis' feet and learn what service, sacrifice and integrity look like.

I am prayerful that for the sake of our nation, Mr. Trump will finally rise to the level of the responsibility he now assumes. The president of the United States cannot afford to be baited by every sense of being challenged in any way.

It's the nature of the office. If you don't want to be critiqued, if you don't want to be challenged, you should not seek the presidency of the United States.


SANDOVAL: And Pastor Warnock also addressing some of the comments that were made by President-elect Trump, particularly about, for example, the city of Atlanta. You will hear more about that later.

Plus, there was also some interesting reaction from members of the congregation, of course. Many of them, in fact, most of them, in support of the pastor. And, of course, a feeling that perhaps the President-elect Trump may owe an apology to Congressman Lewis.

However, there were also others that felt that, well, the congressman not necessarily immune from any criticism. They weren't necessarily taking issue with the fact that President-elect Trump tweeted about him, it's more about the way it was done, obviously, being a civil rights icon himself.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thank you very much. We'll check back with you, Polo, appreciate it.

Meanwhile, Trump's senior adviser Kellyanne Conway is saying Trump needs the help of people like Congressman John Lewis. Listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, SENIOR ADVISER: He needs the help of people like Congressman John Lewis and others. And I would just say we all -- everyone agrees that Congressman Lewis is a civil rights and voting rights leader. And he deserves our praise for that.

But it is disappointing to hear somebody who has such an important voice and platform to say what he said about the president which, by the way, is just false. He is a legitimate president. He won over 2,700 counties. He flipped 200 President Obama counties are now Donald Trump counties.

And in John Lewis' state of Georgia, Donald Trump won by five points and he won 128 counties. Hillary Clinton won 31 counties in Georgia. So we need to work together to help the inner cities and everyone else in America and we would like his help.


WHITFIELD: All right. Let's talk more about this with Tharon Johnson, he is the former south regional director for President Obama's 2012 campaign. And Pastor Darrell Scott, he is part of Trump's National Diversity Coalition. Good to see both of you.

All right. So pastor, you first. After those initial criticisms, Trump tweeted a similar sentiment about the congressman saying, "Congressman John Lewis should finally focus on the burning and crime- infested inner cities of the U.S. I can use all the help I can get."

So I wonder, Pastor, was this a missed opportunity for perhaps a President-elect Trump to take the moral high ground? And instead of responding in the way he did in that first tweet saying, you know, all talk, talk, talk, no action, perhaps he could've then used that opportunity to say, well, I see we have differences but hopefully we can work together. Would that be the more presidential thing to do?

DARRELL SCOTT, FOUNDER AND SENIOR PASTOR, NEW SPIRIT REVIVAL CENTER: Actually, this contention between President-elect Trump and Congressman Lewis is political. And it seems as if there's a certain segment that is trying to make it personal rather than political. It's not a black-white issue at all. You simply have a Democratic congressman endeavoring to delegitimize a Republican president. It seems as if the Democratic party is showing --

WHITFIELD: OK. But my question is about taking -- as a pastor, though, and perhaps you have the ear of Donald Trump unlike others, would this have been an opportunity for him to take the moral high ground? Would that have been your advice to him or perhaps even going forward when there is something like this, this kind of moment, that perhaps as the president-elect, soon to be president, you use this opportunity to say, OK, how do we work together so that a unifying message could be sent as opposed to this war of words that becomes more --

SCOTT: I understand what you're saying. However, it seems as if today a response is viewed as an attack. President Trump was simply responding to Congressman Lewis saying he was an illegitimate president.

Now I don't believe that if someone accuses you of being an illegitimate president, you should have a kumbaya moment. Now he responded. And what he was saying was whether than talk about my presidency, we need to work together to solve the ills of America. Let's not keep being stuck right here. America is stagnating. America is stuck right there on an election that occurred two months ago. We need to move forward past that.

And so no, I don't necessarily disagree with his response; it wasn't harsh. We understand (00:10:00) that John Lewis is a civil rights icon. We don't minimize that. We don't take away from that. But because you're a civil rights icon, it doesn't immunize you from responses if you go on the attack. He attacked first --

WHITFIELD: OK. So there we heard --

SCOTT: -- and so President Trump responded. Now, him being the veteran congressman as opposed to the novice politician, Lewis should have taken the high roll. And he can't take the high roll and he still can't take a high roll in this. He can response to President Trump --

WHITFIELD: So you are encouraged that you think this point forward, Pastor, you think this point moving forward that you --

SCOTT: We can go forward -- we need to move forward past this, yes, and work together.

WHITFIELD: And you think as the president, Mr. Trump will be able to do that?

SCOTT: Oh, yes, absolutely. He wants to work with the African- American community. I know that for a fact. I know what he says in private. I know what he's been telling to do in public. But it seems as if every every black person that tries to work with him or at least shake his hand and listen to him comes under attack from the black community.

We're looking at a racial bullying that every black person that endeavors to engage with Donald Trump is called a coon, an uncle tom, a spade or whatever black derogatory term you can think of simply because they want to engage and at least listen to the president.

WHITFIELD: All right. So Tharon, what's your response to all of this?

THARON JOHNSON, FORMER SOUTH REGIONAL DIRECTOR, OBAMA 2012: Wow. Well, it's very disappointing for the Pastor to really come on this show and really not answer your question.

You know, the issue at hand here, Fred, is not so much of what Congressman Lewis as a member of congress stating his opinion but it was really the response in the president-elect to say that this man, this civil rights icon, this world leader, this person that we all love and he's so revered to say that he is all talk and no action. It really just showed that Donald Trump was not really as versed and educated on the decades of service that Congressman Lewis had provided to this country.

I mean, at a time where we now able to not drink out of white and colored-only water fountain is because of Congressman Lewis. At a time that we're able to see all the progress of this country, it's because of people like Congressman Lewis who basically almost died and bled for civil rights and equality in this country.

The other issue is this. If Donald Trump is this easily provoked, to Pastor's Warnock's point earlier, that he sends out a very negative and disgraceful tweet that he sent about Congressman Lewis, it's to me more to come. I think what happened here is that, one of the reasons why you see so many members of congress now deciding they're not going to attend the inauguration is because you attacked the wrong man. You attacked Congressman Lewis. And this is a person who is the moral --

SCOTT: He didn't attack.

JOHNSON: -- of the congress and a lot of people --

SCOTT: He didn't attack.

JOHNSON: -- look to him for (inaudible).

WHITFIELD: And in fact, gentlemen, I mean --

SCOTT: He didn't attack, he responded.

WHITFIELD: -- we heard our Suzanne Malveaux, Pastor, mentioned that in 2001, there was a boycotting of some members of congress for the inauguration of President George W. Bush. But this number is much higher with more than 20 now members of congress.

And to Tharon's point, while it may have begun as a political argument, it became personal, Pastor, would you agree, that it became personal when Donald Trump then would talk about the legacy of John Lewis and --

SCOTT: He didn't talk about his legacy.

WHITFIELD: -- and criticize that he hasn't done enough. And so that is what has made this make a turn and why so many more members of congress joined this boycott.

SCOTT: He's not talking about 50 years ago. He's talking about now. Because you're a civil rights icon from the past doesn't immunize you from any criticism going forward. He's talking about what's going on in Atlanta right now.

And the thing I also want to say is this --

JOHNSON: Yes, but Pastor, no one is disputing that. No. But Pastor, you as an -- SCOTT: -- if Donald Trump is an illegitimate president, the Hillary

Clinton was an illegitimate candidate as well.

WHITFIELD: OK. Hold on Pastor.

SCOTT: Well, he's an (inaudible) actually.

JOHNSON: Pastor, here's my thing, is that, you have seen the same reports that I've seen that there's questions that have been raised by the legitimacy of this election because of Russia's involvement in this election. Now you as a very educated pastor cannot deny that you've seen that. I mean, now whether confirmed or not confirmed, there was interference by Russian. And what the congressman --

SCOTT: Since when did Russia become this threat to American society? You're talking about --

WHITFIELD: Well, that's historically been the case. We're not arguing whether that is or it isn't because it is. But actually, in front of that soundbite from the congressman, he did say in large part because of what intel has concluded, that there was influence by the Russians. So let's keep in mind that that is part of what his statement was.

SCOTT: If Donald Trump is an illegitimate president, then Hillary Clinton was an illegitimate candidate, as well. Because the DNC was hacked. And we revealed how they conspired against Bernie Sanders and even with the superdelegate system, that it was rigged against Sanders from the start so we can't talk about the legitimacy of the candidates.

JOHNSON: But, Pastor, you're going to your Republican talking points now. The fact of the matter is that I think you and President-elect Trump --

SCOTT: No. You're trying to make something racial that's --

JOHNSON: No. That's not race at all. It's based on facts and it's based on not moving this country forward.

SCOTT: OK. But listen (00:15:00), the Democratic party keeps throwing stuff up against the wall hoping it stick. First, it was the popular vote. Then it's the electoral college. Then it's WikiLeaks. Now it's Russia.


SCOTT: This is FBI -- is James Comey's fault.

WHITFIELD: OK. Well, you know what, I think the bottom line and the hope for this conversation --

SCOTT: No. Your candidate lost. She lost. That's all it is. She lost, get it over it.

WHITFIELD: -- and what we have at hand is that perhaps we'd be able to look forward of what will happen past January 20th.

SCOTT: If Trump goes low, you go high.

WHITFIELD: All right. Pastor Darrell Scott, Tharon Johnson, thanks so very much, gentlemen, appreciate it.

All right. Still ahead, the greatest show on earth, well, it's coming to an end. Why the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus is ending its century -- more than century-long run. We will talk with someone who used to perform in that circus.

Also tonight, CNN explores First Lady Michelle Obama's journey from Chicago to the world stage. A CNN special report, "History Made: The Legacy of Michelle Obama" airing tonight, 8:00 eastern.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the one, the only Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus! The greatest show on earth!


WHITFIELD: You will only hear that live a few more times because it all began in 1884. Grover Cleveland had been elected president. The Washington monument was finished, becoming the world's tallest structure at the time. And five brothers in Wisconsin founded a circus. And not just any circus but what would eventually become the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

In May, this May, this extravagant part of American history is coming to an end.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the end of the road for the greatest show on earth. In just four months, the curtain falls on the one and only Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

An iconic road show that defined the circus experience for generations of children. In the end, CEO Kenneth Feld said this circus was simply too expensive to produce. His family has owned the show for the past 50 years.

But ticket sales were declining. And the Circus' fate was likely sealed last year when it retired the popular elephant show. (00:20:00) Feld said then it was inevitable.

KENNETH FELD, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, FELD ENTERTAINMENT: There is a saying and it's been around a long time, you can't fight city hall. And we found that to be the case in this situation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For years, the elephants and their dance routines were a big draw for circus fans. But not at all popular with animal rights groups which deplored their treatment and repeatedly criticized, picketed and sued the company for its treatment of animals.

In 2011, the circus paid a fine of more than a quarter million dollars for alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act. And last year, it retired the elephants to a conservation center in Florida. After the closure was announced, people for the ethical treatment of animals declared victory, while admitting its war against other wild animal exhibitors including marine amusement parks like SeaWorld is far from over.

The last performance of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus will be on May 21st in Uniondale, New York.


WHITFIELD: All right. Joining me right now, Paul Miller. he used to work as a clown for the Ringling Bros' circus I understand in, what, 1996 and 1997? So Paul, what's this news like for you?

PAUL MILLER, FORMER CLOWN, RINGLING BROS. AND BARNUM AND BAILEY CIRCUS: Well, it's tough. The clowns have been around for a long time, even before the circus, clowns predate. There's always been clowns in society.

But your segment there talking about the elephants, that had maybe something to do with it but they invested so much money in keeping the animals healthy and happy. And it's a sad day for the clowns, cue the Smokey Robinson, right?

WHITFIELD: So you think in large part, it's a testament to financially just what a hardship it is to keep such a big show, a big production going?

MILLER: I think it was -- again, they're astute business people. Feld Entertainment runs -- they produced 'Walt Disney on Ice' and big motor sports and Marvel Comics shows that have a lot less expense, a lot less personnel, certainly no animals to feed. So, you know, I think it was a business decision, unfortunately.

WHITFIELD: So then Paul, what's among your fondest memories of being a clown for this historic show?

MILLER: You know, it was great to do these blind touch tours that in major markets, they would have kids who were visually impaired come down and they would feel the skin of the elephants and experience the show.

I drove the clown car so we would pack all the blind kids into the clown car and drive around the arena. I mean that was amazing. And to live on the circus train, to see this amazing country on the railroad was amazing. And I'm just a kid from Kentucky. I got to meet people from around the world in that show. So it really truly shapes my business and my world view for sure.

WHITFIELD: Yes. So animal rights groups have also -- in large part called it a victory when the elephants were retired. And many are also calling this a victory saying that, in your view, no more animals will be suffering.

In your view, what do you think were the greatest advantages of perhaps having animals in the show given that there had been so much controversy surrounding the use of animals in this kind of entertainment?

MILLER: Well, the Felds aren't one to quit. So they actually won in court a big case against this animal abuse thing. I will not get into that but they actually won in court proving that a lot of the videos, et cetera, were wrong.

I would say that I think they'd treated the animals better than they treat the people. And again, that maybe will upset the Feld Entertainment organization but they had so much invested in the animals.

And before Google and Facebook and Animal Planet and National Geographic, when the circus came to town, that's the first time people would see an elephant or a giraffe or the light bulb or a car. So the animals certainly were a major part of the circus -- I mean, the clowns and the elephants. That's really what makes the circus.

WHITFIELD: And in a few words, what do you believe or hope the legacy or the memory will be of Ringling Bros. Circus?

MILLER: Well, it's touched so many people. And it will go on in many fashions. Circuses taking a foothold in schools and in hospitals and in all over. Circus is not going away any time soon.

And we have the Ringling Bros. and especially Ringling Bros. Clown College. I was lucky to go there in '96. And an amazing group of people were able to go to Clown College. They will be forever grateful to the Feld family for passing on the clown tradition.

WHITFIELD: All right. Well, Paul Miller, thanks so much for sharing your memories, appreciate it.

MILLER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: I love it. There you go (00:25:00). The clown lives forever. We will be right back.


WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. Senator Rand Paul has been aggressively pushing Republicans to replace Obamacare on the same day they repeal it. He has even tweeted out an image of the cover page of the bill. He says that it's ready to go, to replace Obamacare in his view. This morning, he gave CNN's Jake Tapper a preview of the plan.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), K.Y.: So one of the key reforms that we will do is we're going to legalize the sale of inexpensive insurance, that means getting rid of the Obamacare mandates on what you can buy. We're going to help people save through health savings accounts as well a tax credit.

And then, one of the things that we need to talk more about and this is a third part of the replacement bill is we are going to allow individuals to come together in associations to buy insurance.

I understand as a small business, I had doctor's office with four employees. If one of my employees got cancer, it was devastating to the bottom line -- not only until them obviously but to the bottom line of insurance.

But there's no reason why someone with four employees shouldn't be able to join with hundreds and hundreds of other businesses that are small to become a large entity, to get leverage to bring your prices down but also to get insurance that can't cancel you and guarantees the issue of the insurance even if you get sick.


WHITFIELD: If there is a replacement plan ready to go, are all Republicans onboard with it? Republican Congressman Pete Sessions of Texas joining me right now. He has been afloating a plan of his own that he co-authored with Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy. Congressman, good to see you.

All right. So you heard Senator Rand Paul there. Is his plan similar to yours? How are you all going to come, I guess, to meeting ground and medium place?

REP. PETE SESSIONS (R), TEXAS: Well, in fact, hearing Senator Rand Paul, there are many parts of that that the same as our plans. Senator Cassidy and I have a plan, it's called the world's greatest health care plan.

And in fact, it does, we need the same thing as Senator Paul talked about. But the processes are really, really important and Senator Paul has it correctly. We must first replace (00:30:00) Obamacare with a better plan. Republicans have better ideas. And much of it is through tax credits.

It gives everybody in this country an opportunity to have the same tax advantage that everyone else does that works for a large company.

We need to increase the number of people that are in our insurance pools. We need more people to want to pay in and have a lifetime insurance plan. But the world's greatest health care plan says at its very core that what we're going to do is to do away with the individual and the business mandate and the Cadillac tax.

What we've got to do is take away the parts that harm our economy and that keep consumers from being consumers. This is where Rand Paul's plan, world's greatest health care plan, are very, very close and similar. But the key component here is we must be able to sell the American people on what's better and pass that before we repeal Obamacare.

WHITFIELD: And how do you do that? What do you mean? So it sounds like you're now trying to -- you have to first convince the American people that this is better, and then you say that effort would be made to repeal and replace with this suggested plan?

SESSIONS: Well, I think that there's essentially at this point three or four competing plans. One is what might be called a better way that is not yet a bill. We really don't know how it works. Paul Ryan is attempting to push that. We have Senator Rand's plan.

We have Pete Sessions and Bill Cassidy's world's greatest health care plan and we have Tom Price's plan. It's really going to come down to where members of Congress, House and Senate, need to look and focus their activities on these four bills.

And then be engaged in the national, I guess, dialogue enabling America to understand why we need to change the rules of the game. I'm for making America's health care better for everybody, not just a new system. That's why I'm going to be for my plan.

WHITFIELD: At the beginning of this conversation, it was starting to sound like you were presenting this in a very simplified manner. The question would have been, you know, if it's so simple then why hasn't this happened before?

But now you're talking about a number of choices in which the Senate and Congress would have to come together to discern which is the best one. So how far away are we talking? And is it -- is it your view that it will be packaged in a much more appetizing way to the American public than what 30 million people are already enjoying? How do you offer those assurances?

SESSIONS: Well, what I would say to you is there was a discussion that was coming out of Washington saying we would repeal it and then replace it within a couple of years. That quickly became unacceptable to at least members of the House and the Senate, and that changed the dialogue from two weeks ago.

Now we're on a dialogue that says let's have a messaging around one bill that we would pass, and then we will repeal Obamacare. These are all positive signs that Republicans like Senator Rand Paul, arch conservative, will bring the best ideas to the table.

I believe it will be between Senator Paul's and Senator Cassidy's, my bill, the world's greatest health care plan. The best ideas reside within that world. It's just a matter of us going to sell these, and the American people recognizing we have to give every single person in this country an opportunity to have better health care than they have today.

As you well understand, as you well understand, it is clear Obamacare does not work because it is not attractive to young people who will not buy in.

WHITFIELD: We know that argument is being made, but there a lot of people who actually do like it and advocate it.

SESSIONS: I'm on Obamacare, and I can tell you it does not work. WHITFIELD: Really quick, I know we're up against a break, but I would be remiss if I didn't ask you about the potential mood of the inauguration with so many of your colleagues who are going to boycott. How do you suppose that might alter, change, impact the mood of inauguration for the 45th president quickly?

SESSIONS: In fact, it does. I'm disappointed. I think that Mr. Trump has to come just as far as he expects others to come. Right now it looks like they're both going to hold their ground. We've got to get closer together. We can do that as a body. I think our new president, it's incumbent upon him to lead the first pass to get us back together.

WHITFIELD: All right, Congressman Pete Sessions, thank you so much, from Dallas. Appreciate it.

SESSIONS: Yes, ma'am.

WHITFIELD: All right, Bishop Eddie Long, the controversial head of one of the nation's largest mega churches, has died. He was 63. New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Georgia says Long died today after a battle with an aggressive form of cancer. Long was known for his energy and passionate preaching style.


BISHOP EDDIE LONG: All the things that God has spoken to you, all of it, you got to declare it! I'm making the official announcement, god has not changed his mind about me. He has not changed his mind about you! Declare it. Declare it! Affirm it! Walk in it!


WHITFIELD: But Long found himself embroiled in controversy after four former congregants accused him of sexual misconduct. Those lawsuits were settled. In a statement his church simply remembered Long as a man who grew their congregation from 300 members to more than 25,000. He leaves behind his wife, four children, and three grandchildren.


WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Mexico is warning there will be retaliation if Donald Trump takes the first step in a trade war by issuing a border tax. This as China hits back at the president- elect's comments regarding Taiwan. CNN's Victor Blackwell has a story on the looming global economic battle.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President-elect Trump made his reputation as a dealmaker, but China and Mexico have made it clear that not everything is up for negotiation. First, China, in an interview with the "Wall Street Journal," Mr. Trump said, quote, "Everything is under negotiation including One China."

One China is the policy that accepts that Taiwan and the Mainland are part of the same China. Beijing insists it's not a bargaining chip. China's government released a statement saying, "There is but One China in the world, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China. The One China principle, which is the political foundation of the China- U.S. relations is non-negotiable."

The president-elect clearly does not see it that way. Here he is speaking last month.

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: I fully understand the One China policy, but I don't know why we have to be bound by a One China policy unless we make a deal with China.

[14:40:06]BLACKWELL: And Mexico cast as an adversary during Trump's campaign along with U.S. companies that have sent jobs across the border.

TRUMP: There will be a major border tax on these companies that are leaving and getting away with murder. If our politicians had what it takes, they would have done this years ago.

BLACKWELL: Mr. Trump has said a tax on those companies' products could be as high as 35 percent. On Friday, Mexico's economic minister responded to the threat forcefully saying his nation could be forced to retaliate, and that a tariff will, quote, "Have a wave of impacts that can take us into a global recession."

The anxiety over tariff is not limited to the Mexican government. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates six million U.S. jobs depend on trade with Mexico. American businesses like Ford are also concerned.

MARK FIELDS, CEO, FORD MOTOR COMPANY: Tariffs in general, you know, in general wouldn't be positive. I think the thing is making sure that as the president-elect gets into office and as the administration gets into office, that we can have a fact-based discussion.

BLACKWELL: What that discussion looks like could well determine the fate of the economy here at home and around the world. Victor Blackwell, CNN, Atlanta.


WHITFIELD: And staying with politics, Democrats are holding dozens of rallies across the country with one message -- today save Obamacare. That's next.


WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. All right, Democrats are going grassroots as they push back against Republicans' efforts to repeal Obamacare. Senators Bernie Sanders, Chuck Schumer, and other lawmakers just wrapped up an event in Warren, Michigan, just outside of Detroit.

It is one of dozens of rallies planned for today nationwide in what Democrats are calling a day of action. CNN national correspondent, Jessica Schneider joins us live now from Warren, Michigan. So Jessica, you just spoke with Senator Bernie Sanders, what did he say?

[14:45:05]JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Fredricka, Bernie Sanders leading the charge out here. There were dozens of rallies just like this all over the country. This one in Michigan drawing about 8,000 people. Organizers estimated there were dozens more around the country, thousands of more people all trying to get their message to the Republican Congress that they should not be repealing Obamacare without a suitable replacement.

So I did talk with Senator Sanders, in particular asking him why he came here to Michigan when there's actually a similar rally happening out in Vermont. Take a listen.


SCHNEIDER: You have become the leading voice for Democrats, particularly with this issue. You have thousands of people standing outside there. Will this message resonate? Will this get through to the Republican Congress?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS (D), VERMONT: I think it will. I think the Republicans are going to catch on that not only are tens of thousands of people coming out today in rallies from Maine to California, but that millions of people think it is insane to repeal the Affordable Care Act without having to replace it.

You cannot throw 20 million people off of health insurance, raise the cost of prescription drugs for seniors, do away with very important patient protection provisions, you can't do that unless you have another plan in its place. I think more and more Republicans are beginning to understand that.

SCHNEIDER: We're here in Macomb County. There's also a rally in your home state of Vermont. Why here, and especially the fact that this county did vote for Donald Trump? They don't usually vote for a Republican.

SANDERS: Well, you know, Mr. Trump when he ran for president promised the people of Michigan and the people of America that he was a different type of Republican. He was not going to cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. So part of what today is about is reminding Mr. Trump that he better keep his promises because we're watching.

SCHNEIDER: Last question. Have you spoken with Hillary Clinton about all of these issues --

SANDERS: I'll be seeing her I think pretty soon. OK.

SCHNEIDER: Thank you so much, Senator.


SCHNEIDER: So Senator Sanders not talking too much about Hillary Clinton there, wanting to stay on message about Obamacare. I did ask him about Macomb County. Macomb County really representing the epicenter of the type of place that Democrats need to regain their footing on. This is the home of blue-collar workers. The home of the Reagan Democrats.

They did vote for Donald Trump. A lot of these working class people, this is exactly the type of people that Democrats want to get back into their camp. They want to reshape their message to talk to those people. A lot of people here today getting the message across and hoping to send the message to the Republicans in Congress -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Jessica Schneider, thank you so much.

Coming up, Buzzfeed doubles down on why it published an unconfirmed document about Donald Trump this week. Brian Stelter's exclusive conversation with the website's editor-in-chief after this.



WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. This morning on CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES," Buzzfeed editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, defended the decision to publish an unconfirmed document about Donald Trump. The dossier that claims Russian operatives have compromising information on the president-elect.


BEN SMITH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, BUZZFEED: We're proud we published it. I feel three days later it seems clear that it was the right thing to do. If you look at how much more we know than we knew three days ago. I think in three months it will look even clearer.


WHITFIELD: Host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter, joining me now. So Brian, what else did Ben Smith have to say about that kind of justification?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: That's right. This has been one of the biggest media controversies we've seen in a long time. Most newsrooms, CNN included, even the ones that have seen this memo and had it for a week chose not to publish it. Only alluded to the claims, did not share all the sordid details.

Here's what's been said about the reasoning for going ahead and putting the whole thing on line.


STELTER: Do you regret it now a few days later, do you have any regrets about publishing this entire document?

SMITH: Absolutely not. We're proud we published it and I feel three days later it seems clear that it was the right thing to do if you look at how much more we know than we knew three days ago. I think in three months it will look even clearer.

STELTER: What is it more that we know now that you believe justifies the decision?

SMITH: We know the saga that dozens of journalists, intelligence officials, elected leaders knew of a former British spy creating this document, handing it over to the FBI, John McCain handing it to the FBI, of briefings which Jake Tapper and your team got an amazing scoop on of the CIA briefing the president and the president-elect.

This really of an incredible sight of the highest levels of the U.S. power, but away from the eyes of the American people over this document. And over the claims that as -- in the headline you showed, the claims that CNN and many outlets reported and repeated. I guess our call was that in the first instance, once you have the document, as we did and many did --

STELTER: When did you get hold of it?

SMITH: I'm not going to say exactly, but weeks before we published. We did point out the things that we really were very, very confident (inaudible) in part to say to the reader --

STELTER: Let's be honest, you rushed this out. CNN published, and you published a couple of hours later trying to get this on the internet is as soon as possible.

SMITH: I mean, it is both of our jobs to be accurate and fast as we can.

STELTER: Accurate and then fast --

SMITH: Yes, of course.


STELTER: The rap against BuzzFeed is that they weren't really doing reporting. They were publishing. They were sharing a document. They say it was OK because government officials had it. Senators had it. People in the media had it. So everybody should have access to the same document.

That's more of a WikiLeaks mentality than it is a newsroom mentality. And so Ben Smith, representing the digital media view on this, saying it should all be shared publicly. He also, Fredricka, said there should be unity in the press corps.

He said the Trump team is trying to divide the press corps by stoking this controversy. His view is that the press should be united in this moment while facing Donald Trump's hostile attitude toward the press.

WHITFIELD: And look, Brian, already those of us in this business have seen that there are challenges in now covering President-elect Trump and the anticipation is there will be challenges as President Trump especially when you see even in "Esquire" magazine that White House reporters might get kicked out of the press room. Just this morning, Reince Priebus said kicked out, strong language. Perhaps that room for the press corps in the White House suitable for some 40 something journalists, he says why not they be moved to the executive office building where there could be room for some 400 journalists.

You know, what's at the core here among the greatest concerns for journalists, particularly those who are used to covering the White House in a traditional sense?

STELTER: Yes, it's worked pretty much the same way for decades. CNN, other news outlets have little tiny work spaces there in the west wing, and of course, there's that press briefing room. We all know from television, with rows of seats where the daily briefings take place.

"Esquire" magazine reporting there's a plan being discussed among Trump aides to shake that up, to maybe move across the street to one of the other office buildings. They'd have more space there. Now this story is troubling to a lot of White House correspondents. There's a meeting being planned later today to discuss more of it.

[14:55:00]The bottom line here is that the Trump administration would like to bring in more journalists, maybe more pro-Trump journalists, friendly voices.

And that of course is something that would sort of stack the deck unevenly as a lot of journalists at the White House, who just want to do their jobs fairly, not pro or against Trump. And it seems the Trump administration wants to have more of its own friendly faces in the room.

WHITFIELD: All right, Brian Stelter, thank you so much.

STELTER: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: And of course, Brian's show "RELIABLE SOURCES" airs every Sunday, 11:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN. We'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: All right, Singer Jennifer Holliday is the latest to Donald Trump out of President-elect Trump's inauguration celebrations. She's best known for her role in the original "Dream Girls" and the Broadway show, "The Color Purple."


WHITFIELD: In an open letter to the Rap, Holliday apologized to the LGBT community writing this, quote, "I sincerely apologize for my lapse of judgment for being uneducated on the issues that affect every American at this crucial time in history and for causing such dismay and heartbreak to my fans," end quote.

Earlier she explained more on her decision and why she was so excited initially to perform. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNIFER HOLLIDAY, SINGER AND ACTRESS: I should have looked at the climate of where we are today.


HOLLIDAY: And so that would be my fault. Everybody kept saying did Trump trick -- no, they did not trick me. I wanted to sing on the mall for America and for the people. I wanted my voice, I thought, to be an instrument of healing and unity. All the tweets I read from the African-American community were directed directly at me. The gay community took the issues and did not call me names and --


HOLLIDAY: Also they have been a faithful community since "Dream Girls" to me --


HOLLIDAY: -- and have fed me even when church people did not feed me.