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House Intel's Nunes Spoke to Media on Russia/trump Reports; Democrats Voting Today for DNC Chair; EPA's Scott Pruitt Takes Stage at CPAC; ; Teen Fights Trump in Court Over Transgender Bathrooms; Oscar Night Previews; North Korean Leader's Half-Brother Believed Killed by Nerve Gas. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired February 25, 2017 - 13:00   ET


[13:00::00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Athena, first explain the nature of this request and why the White House says they did nothing wrong.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred, that's right. The White House denies wrong doing here. They don't believe they acted inappropriately. Here's what we know from administration officials. This conversation they say was initiated by FBI director, Andrew McCabe, this happened on February 15th after an early morning meeting at the White House, a 7:30 a.m. meeting led by Reince Priebus. These officials say that McCabe asked Priebus for a -- essentially saying can I have five minutes alone with you, then talked about a "New York Times" report linking Trump campaign aides to Russian intelligence officials. And he called that report quote, "total B.S." That is when the White House says Chief of Staff Priebus asked McCabe can we do anything about it. And he asked whether the FBI, whether there was anything the FBI could do to quote, "set the record straight." Now, McCabe later called Priebus to say that the FBI couldn't get involved in commenting on the report. And that FBI director, James Comey, also called Priebus to echo his deputy, saying he believed the report to be inaccurate, but the FBI could not be involved.

The reason this is important and interesting here is that there is a decade old precedent or guidance that there shouldn't be this kind of conversation between the White House and the FBI. About a pending investigation, simply because it could show ns about the independence of the investigation.

WHITFIELD: So, has there been any reaction among some members of Congress, especially that's investigating any campaign ties to Russia?

JONES: Well, there have been reaction to another report, the "Washington Post" first reporting that once the FBI rejected this call from the White House to get involved in knocking down these stories with journalists, the White House then turned to members of Congress, including the heads of the House and Senate Intelligence Committee, asking them to call reporters and to refute these reports. My colleague, Jim Acosta, reporting that the intel chairman, Nunes, did then reach out to media. He does not believe that he did anything wrong there.

But this is something that has raised the eyebrows of certainly not just Democrats, but also Republicans. We heard from the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on intelligence, Mark Warner, a Democratic from Virginia, who has said he's reached out to the CIA, reached out to the chairman of that committee, to express his grave concerns about this, these reports that they got involved, anyone got involved, talking with reporters.

We heard from a Republican member of Congress, Congressman Darrell Issa, who talked about this last night during an interview on "Real Time with Bill Maher." Congressman Issa said that, first, the intelligence communities need to investigate, but then went further. Take a listen.


REP. DARRELL ISSA, (R), CALIFORNIA: You cannot have something, a friend of mine, Jeff Sessions, who was on the campaign and who is an appointee. You're going to need to use the special prosecutors' statute and office to take -- not just to recuse. You can't just give that to your deputy that's another political appointee. You do have to do that. We're going to have to do it.


JONES: So this is interesting from a Republican member of Congress saying it's going to be necessary to have an independent review of this matter. So a very complicated story here, but probably not the end of it -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: Athena, thank you so much.

Let's talk more about this with Julian Zelizer. He is a historian and professor at princeton University.

Julian, good to see you.

So, you know, now we know that you know, House intel committee chair admitted making calls to reporters.

JULIAN ZELIZER, HISTORIAN & PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: This is not something that should be happening. There's already a level of skepticism that Republican Congress is going to have to investigate an American president. That somehow, the heads of Intelligence Committees are open to these kinds of discussions with the administration. Their job now is to investigation and make sure that this election was down well. From the Russians in connection with the Trump campaign.

WHITFIELD: You heard Darrell Issa say Jeff Sessions should have to recuse himself from the investigation, so who would lead this? How would that appointment be made of a special prosecutor?

ZELIZER: This should come from the Justice Department and it's difficult when the head of the Justice Department is so connected to the company and has been to loyal to the administration. I don't know who's next in command, but it has to be someone who is not so intimately connected to the success of the presidency. Ultimately, it should be Sessions who handles this responsibility and demonstrates his independence.

[13:05:18] WHITFIELD: But if he has to recuse himself, that it would seem that would obligate his role in selecting a special prosecutor.

Will there or should there be repercussions for the Chief of Staff Reince Priebus or the deputy director at the FBI, McCabe, who were involved in these decisions when, you know, we're seeing it now, many are saying it's inappropriate for the White House to have this kind of conversation with the FBI.

ZELIZER: Well, certainly, we want to be caution and learn what happened and have the facts before any kind of punitive actions are taken. But certainly, especially after a whole campaign revolved around the opponent. I think it's incumbent on the administration, the FBI, everyone involved, has to make it clear to the public that this is going to be a legitimate investigation, so there should be some kind of action. If there's communication about knocking down the --

WHITFIELD: Now, to an interview the president had with Reuters this week saying this, quote, "We're never going to fall behind any country, even if it's a friendly country, we're never going to fall behind on nuclear power. It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country to have nuke, but if countries are going to have nuke, we're going to be at the top of the pack."

Why would the president need to go there? Do this? And what are you concerns that he has gone there?

ZELIZER: This is a reversal certainly of the basic approach of the Obama administration, which was to find ways internationally to curtail the production of nuclear weapons and to ratchet it down rather than upward. This is what we've been doing since the end of the Reagan presidency when Reagan and the Soviets signed an accord. Trump wants to reverse this and he's sending a very different message from his administration that we are going to build more and more rather than working in the path of agreements. And it can be dangerous. This is a world where nuclear weapons are not very controllable. That's been the issue policymakers have been trying to deal with. So, it's not necessarily having more than the other person. The ideal goal is to have agreements where everyone has less.

WHITFIELD: All right. Julian Zelizer, thank you so much. Good to see you.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, right now, live pictures out of Atlanta where the Democratic National Committee is about to start the voting process for the next party chairperson. We'll bring you results as soon as they come in. Stay with us.


[13:10:58] WHITFIELD: You're looking at live pictures of the candidates, they're making their last pledge to the audience there before the 447 then cast their ballots. Information we're just getting in, the mayor of South Bend, I understand, who many have seen as a well rising star, a representation of the millennial generation, he has now dropped out of the running for the chair position. Again, last pleas coming from candidates. There were seven. Now, the it's down to six. The two front-runners, former labor secretary, Tom Perez, and Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, as all try to vie make their last kind of closing arguments before the voting begins.

All right, meantime, CNN's Washington correspondent, Ryan Nobles, is there.

What has happened? Why is it that the South Bend mayor has dropped out?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It was a surprise to the crowd gathered here that, only 36 years old, kind of positioned himself as a consensus candidate here to Democrats. Came up to the podium and announced he was getting out of the race. Instead, decided to drop out. He also chose not to endorse, which is also interesting. This changes the dynamic of the race, but not by a whole lot. There's a chance that the votes that he had will go to either Keith Ellison or Tom Perez, who are considered the front-runners as of now. It's not that big of a surprise that he had to get out. He is a rising star in a disappointing showing here, take a little bit of the shine off of that rising star, so, he makes a good impression here.

That really brings us back to Tom Perez and Keith Ellison. Perez kind of representing the establishment wing of the party, former labor secretary in the Obama administration and Keith Ellison, the Congressman from Minnesota., who many Bernie Sanders supporters are backing.

Listen the pitch Tom Perez made earlier to this crowd.


TOM PEREZ, (D), DNC CHAIR CANDIDATE & FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: A united Democratic Party is not only our best hope, it is Donald Trump's worst nightmare. And we will be there, together, with hope, with hard work. And with a hell of a lot of organizing, we will turn this party around and get Democrats winning again.


NOBLES: If you were to poll this room, there are probably more Keith Ellison supporters in the room, but only have the roof is eligible to vote, so there is certainly some passion by Keith Ellison supporters, but there are likely more Tom Perez voters standing behind me, and they're the ones who are going to decide who's the next chair.

But the key here, Fred, is that next chair is going to have to unite both ends of this room if they have any hope of organizing the party and being a true check on Donald Trump and his administration, so that will be a big job. And expect whoever wins to reach out to the side that didn't vote for him in the beginning to begin that process -- Fredricka? WHITFIELD: So, now, it's down to is it five, it's down to five

candidates in the running still?

NOBLES: You know, that's a good new. I don't know if I have the exact number in my head. Those candidates beyond the top two really at this point, Perez and Ellison, they don't -- if you combined their votes together, wouldn't be enough to make a huge impact, at least by what the web count tells us ahead of time. There's a good chance this could wrap up on the first ballot now, especially with Buttigieg out of the lineup.

[13:14:46] WHITFIELD: All right, very good.

Ryan, thank you so much.

We saw that Greene is still in. We just saw her a moment ago. Trying to make her closing argument. Keith Ellison and, of course, Tom Perez, just to name a few.

Thank you so much. Appreciate it, Ryan Nobles.

Happening right now, Republicans convening at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. This hour, EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, will take the podium. We'll take you there live after this.


WHITFIELD: All right, this hour, Scott Pruitt will take the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC. His remarking will follow those of President Trump, who yesterday outlined his agenda of putting America first.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's no such thing as a global anthem. A global currency or global flag. This is United States of America that I'm representing.


TRUMP: I'm not representing the globe. I'm representing your country.




WHITFIELD: Let's bring CNN White House reporter, Stephen Collinson, who is also there.

So, Stephen, first look at today's agenda. EPA's Scott Pruitt speaking soon. What more can we expect from him?

[13:49:51] STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Scott Pruitt, the latest member of the Trump administration to showcase at this key conservative conference. It's going to be a very interesting moment because he's going to be the tip of the spear of what Steve Bannon said the other day was the administration's agenda of slashing regulations, dismantling the administration state. As the attorney general of Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt, repeatedly sued the EPA, the organization he now runs, after he was recently confirmed, because he saw the administration as overreaching, of trying to impose environmental regulations on the fossil fuel industry. This is going to be two facets, slashing regulations. And I think Scott Pruitt is clearly a hero to the conservative movement. Just because of his action on the environment in Oklahoma. So, this will be a coming out party for him in some ways.

WHITFIELD: All right. Fascinating.

Stephen Collinson, we'll check back with you. Thank you so much.

All right, Democrats are voting very soon on the next leader of the DNC as the last five now candidates try to make their closing arguments. After the break, Bernie Sanders' campaign chairman and Hillary Clinton's senior campaign adviser discussing whether the party is ready to mend its deep divisions.


[13:25:33] WHITFIELD: Hello, again, everybody. Thanks so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

All right, a showdown is underway right now for the top post of the Democratic National Committee. Nearly 450 Democrats are gathering in Atlanta to vote on who will be the next chair of the DNC. The party is looking to rebuild just three months after a shellacking from the Republican Party, both nationally and in state.

You're looking at Jehmu Greene. She is one of the five remaining candidates trying to get the position of chairman for the DNC.

I want to bring in former campaign manager for Bernie Sanders, Jeff Weaver; and CNN political commentator and former press secretary for Hillary for America, Brian Fallon.

Good to see you.

So, Jeff, you first.

Sanders helped shine the light on this rift within the Democratic Party. Where do you see the party needing to go from here?

JEFF WEAVER, FORMER BERNIE SANDERS PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN MANAGER: That is the challenge for the party to win seats across this country. What we've got to do is reach out to voters who used to be part our coalition who have fallen away, that's working-class voters of all races and young people, in particular, of all races who did not stand with us in the fall. So we've got to reach out to those voters, speak to their concerns, broaden our tent, and put together a coalition once again that will win across this country. WHITFIELD: As we're looking at the panning camera across the room,

all those closing arguments have been made and the voting is to get under way. We understand there may be more than one balloting process. But they are digital as we understand.

Brian, given the protests we have been seeing, the low approval rating for the president just a month into office, then you've seen this very impassioned town hall, how do the Democrats I guess seize on opportunities? And at the same time, build a more unified party?

BRIAN FALLON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR & FORMER PRESS SECRETARY, HILLARY CLINTON PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: I agree pretty much with everything Jeff said. There's pretty widespread unanimity. We need to get back to focusing and investing in state parties. Start caring about candidates who can really provide the Democratic Party with a strong bench. I think that the next chair whoever it is will inherit a bunch of good opportunities in this grass root movement that's starting. Really the job of DNC chair is going to bring those groups out there operating outside the party structure together groups like Bernie Sanders' organization, groups like Our Revolution MoveOn and new groups like Town Hall Project and Indivisible. And bring them together, function as a big tent in leveraging the grassroots movement to elect more Democrats, not just nationally. Donors like to care about presidential campaign cycles. We need the start worrying about city council races and state legislator races.

WHITFIELD: Brian, the former vice president has thrown his support behind Tom Perez. Are you doing the same?

FALLON: Well, I happen to know Tom Perez closely because we both worked at the Justice Department, so I have firsthand knowledge of the turnaround. He performed for the Civil Rights Division, which had been hollowed out. I know him as a true progressive and somebody who can be a turn-around artist. Because of Keith Ellison, I'm confident he'll be a great chair, too. The really important thing is that whoever wins, Congressman Ellison or Secretary Perez, they work to bring the other sides and their teams into the fold, especially since he just dropped out. I'd like to say that whoever wins between Congressman Ellison and Secretary Perez, they would reach out to the Mayor Buttigieg, who ran a great campaign, and is really showing the way about how to be successful in red states. He's got a great background and shouldn't just be part of our party's future. He should be part of our present.

WHITFIELD: So, Jeff, you know, the mayor of South Bend seemed like rising star. Is there anything to read into why he would drop out at this juncture? Does it seem as though the two front-runners are just too much of forces in which to contend with?

[13:30:00] WEAVER: Well, I think it was clear that Secretary Perez or Congressman Ellison was going to be the winner. The mayor ran a phenomenal campaign. He generated a lot of excitement both out in the country and in this room. I think he realized at the end, he wasn't going to have to votes.

And I think, as Brian said, he does have a role in our present and probably felt it best to end his campaign for the chair during his speech and work with whomever gets elected by the body here.

WHITFIELD: Jeff, are you leaning toward Congressman Ellison?

WEAVER: I couldn't hear you very well. Could you repeat?

WHITFIELD: Are you leaning towards Congressman Ellison just as Bernie sanders has thrown his support behind him?

WEAVER: Absolutely. I'm strongly behind Keith Ellison. Largely for the reasons that Brian talked about. The need to reach out and organize. We see people mobilizing the streets, but now we need to mobilize folks so we can turn them out for elections and we can defeat Trump and his allies. I think he has the credibility with people to be able to quickly organize them.

WHITFIELD: Debbie Wasserman Schultz got a lot of grief for being the chair. Ellison has said he would give up his positioning in U.S. Congress if elected chair. Is that a fair trade in your view?

WEAVER: That's a decision he made. I think it's, he wants to be an effect I have chair and he will be. That was a question posed by some members of the party and he agreed to give up his seat in Congress, so that was a decision he made. It will give him more time to do the work of chair.

WHITFIELD: All right. Jeff Weaver, Brian Fallon, thanks to both. Appreciate it.

And momentarily, we'll be learning who the new chair of the DNC is.

WEAVER: They're voting now.

WHITFIELD: They're voting now.

Thanks so much. We'll check back.

For more on the future of the Democratic Party, don't miss Bernie Sanders tomorrow on "State of the Union." The Vermont Senator sits down with Jake Tapper at 9:00 a.m. eastern right here on CNN.

And this week's "CNN Money," "Away," we take you to a new destination, Portland, Oregon.


UNIDENTIFIED CNN CORESPODNENT (voice-over): Portland, Oregon, it's become known as a foodie city. It is after all one of the first places to jump on the food truck craze, but it's become a top business destination and if you find yourself traveling through town, skip the food scene. This is where you should go.

We drove an hour outside Portland up winding hills, in the snow. And we ended up in Ranier, Oregon, at a sloth sanctuary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, this is our sloth building, the main sloth building. UNIDENTIFIED CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Big temperature change.


UNIDENTIFIED CNN CORRESPONDENT: From out there. This doesn't seem like the natural habitat to a sloth. It's snowing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Warm, humid climate. So the temperature in here runs about 82 to 86 degrees daily, about 40 percent humidity.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the Zoological Wildlife Conversation Center. They save sloths that are at risk in the wild.

(on camera): What percentage of sloths do you think that you are able to save from the wild?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're lucky to get 20, 30 percent.

CNN (voice-over): The rescued sloths live in three research centers in south America and when they're old enough, this is where they retire.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The sloth house is kept very Zen. Their sole job is to sleep 22 hours a day, mate and eat.

(on camera): She can't see me. She can only smell me and the food.


These are the tens we use for the sloth sleepover.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. They're nocturnal. They're most active at night, so that's the best time to see them and spend time with them as they're up and about.



[13:36:59] WHITFIELD: This week, Donald Trump eliminated federal protections for transgender students in public schools and sends it back to the states. These protections put in place by the Obama administration allows students to use bathrooms and facilities corresponding with their gender identity. But that's not stopping one young man. 17-year-old Gavin Grimm his transgender and he was denied access to the boy's bathroom in his Virginia high school. He's now taking his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Grimm says he is ready for the fight.


GAVIN GRIMM, TRANSGENDER MALE: Very frustrating, they've been saying they were going to, but more importantly than that, it emboldened us to really ramp up our efforts and keep fighting as hard as we have been.


WHITFIELD: Let's talk more with our legal guys about this case with civil rights attorney and law professor, Avery Friedman.

Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: And Richard Herman, a New York criminal defense attorney and law professor.

Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: OK, so, Richard, does Gavin have a strong legal case?

HERMAN: He did when the directive was in place because the entire case is premised upon the discrepancy that arose because of President Obama and the administration's directive. The Trump Obama administration has taken it and thrown it out the window, so it doesn't exist anymore. Now, the case is supposed to go to the Supreme Court. I don't think they're going to take this case. I think they're going to turn it back to the district court for more litigation. The Supreme Court likes to rely on district court decisions and I just don't think it's right for the Supreme Court since the Obama directive has been terminated.


FRIEDMAN: I see it a little bit differently. In the sense that a law involved the safety and privacy, Americans who are - (INAUDIBLE) the first time that we have a -- hears rolling back (INAJUDIBLE).

WHITFIELD: So, Avery, unfortunately, the audio on your end is terrible, so it's difficult to hear everything you're saying.

So then, Richard, how is Title IX either a tool in this argument.

HERMAN: That's the issue, Fred, that's the issue. Title IX protecting the United States citizens from sexual discrimination. Does it also apply to gender identity? That's the sole issue here. There are arguments on both sides. Until the Supreme Court or Congress makes the determination or decision of awe on this, it's up in flux. So while the Obama administration said it's our interpretation of Title IX, that it does protect gender identity, the administration says no, leave it to the individual states and the individual school districts to decide their educational policies, so you see, we have a major issue here. It's a hard issue and there's passion on both issues.

And George Takei stated it's not about the bathroom, like it was not about water fountains. The moral issue here, issues to try to protect people's rights and there's a short-term solution to long-term. The long-term is when the Supreme Court or legislature to not a clear law on this. Short-term, you know, Fred, let's be realistic. It's like you have family bathroom. You have multiuse. Have a bathroom, a single bathroom that anybody can use. That's a short-term solution in the schools. And then let's litigate this to the courts and get a firm determination here.

[13:41:03] WHITFIELD: So, is it your view that states would be able to handle this alone? It would seem that potentially even with state law, ultimately, or potentially, it will become challenged in U.S. Supreme Court, which will then ask or involve federal statutes. That's the whole issue here. What does Title IX cover?

HERMAN: There's nothing that references gender identity. So people have to reiterate it. Until the Supreme Court the Trump administration wants to get Gorsuch in for that determination. Until that time takes place, it's in a state of flux. The state will now do what they think is best under the cloak of supervising education, protecting the education experience and there will be more litigation and that group case, interesting to watch. It is spring, see if the Supreme Court takes argument on it.

WHITFIELD: So, Avery's back with us, but on the phone.

How in your view do you see this as being a real tool?

FRIEDMAN (voice-over): I think it's more nuance. More complicated than that. The fact is that federal agencies having interpreting Title IX as covering the protections for young trans gender teams. They looked at those interpretations and looked to the Justice Department and we're satisfied that Title IX covers that. Congress is not going to change the law and frankly, state and local governments are going to do very little about this. That's why I think it's very important for the Supreme Court $z take a closer look at Title IX to make sure that these young Americans are offered privacy and protection.

WHITFIELD: All right, Avery Friedman and Richard Herman, good to see you. And even if we don't see you, Avery. Thanks so much.

Murder, spies and deadly toxic chemicals -- it's a story made for Hollywood. Up next, the latest killing behind the killing of Kim Jong-Un's half-brother.


[13:47:44] WHITFIELD: Authorities say there's no sign of a puncture wound and they have dismissed the idea of a heart attack, and now they are turning their attention to an illegal and lethal nerve agent called VX gas in the killing of the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un. Authorities swept the entire Kuala Lumpur but found no sign of anyone getting sick. Who had their hands on this lethal chemical weapon? Who wanted him dead?

CNN's senior international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, with more on the weapon used in the killing. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPODNENT (voice-over): Some of the last moments of Kim's life. He approaches airport security to complain that someone grabbed his face and that he's feeling dizzy. He's escorted to the airport medical clinic. A Malaysian newspaper shows a photograph of him slumped over in his chair apparently unconscious. He dies before reaching the hospital.

In a twist that reads like the script of a Hollywood thriller, Malaysian authorities now confirm that the half-brother of North Korea's dictator was killed by VX, an internationally banned, highly lethal nerve agent that can kill within minutes.

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE & SECURITY ANALYST: If you get any of it on you, you're dead. There's nothing a doctor can do for you. You just die. You get microscopic dot on you of this.

WARD: South Korea is pointing to the volatile state and the leader himself as the prime suspect.

The dramatic assassination took place in broad daylight moments after Kim entered the crowded check-in hall. Malaysian police claim two women, who can just be made out here, wiped out Kim's face with some kind of liquid. One of the women can be seen walking off wearing an LOL T-shirt. Two female suspects, one from Indonesia and one from Vietnam, are now in custody.

And it gets more surreal. Indonesian authorities say one of the women told police she believes she was participating in a prank for a TV show, a claim Malaysian officials dismissed.

[13:50:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALAYSIAN POLICE OFFICER: These two ladies were trained to swab his face and evidently when they were instructed to clean their hands. And they know it is toxic.

WARD: The hunt is now on for these four North Korean suspects who left the country on the day of the attack. Among them, a senior official with the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

In yet another bizarre twist, police said someone tried to break in to the mortuary where Kim's body is being kept, after which they stepped up security.

UNIDENTIFIED MALAYSIAN POLICE OFFICER: We know who they are. No need for me to tell you.

WARD: Why would North Korea's erratic leader want his own half- brother dead? More concern to U.S. officials is how the dangerous dictator get his hands on one of the most deadly chemical weapons in the world and what else he could do with it?

BAER: It's a nerve agent that's terrified intelligence agencies because it's so lethal. Saddam Hussein was accused of having it, and they couldn't figure out how to weaponize it. What disturbs me is they have figured out how to weaponize it and deliver it. Would he use it on South Korea? Would he use it in the United States? There's simply no way for us to know.

WARD: Clarissa Ward, CNN, London.


WHITFIELD: Clarissa Ward, thank you so much.

And we will be right back.



[13:56:25] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, I'm Dave.


And this is Naughty Soda.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Naughty Soda is a line of all-natural hard soda.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Remember, it's for adults.



WHITFIELD: It's great tasting soda with 5 percent alcohol in it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Naughty Soda started as an idea out of our beer store, and we were like, let's try something different. So we got together and we made a pumpkin pie sort of. Turned out amazing.

Some of our flavors, maple bourbon, triple berry, PB&J.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can taste the fruit.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We started on a small scale in the kitchen, the laboratory.

I think the biggest change we bring to the flavor is flavor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We use all-natural ingredients.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In addition to Naughty Soda, we make Iron Monger brews, very high-end craft beers. Iron Monger is our savory side. Naughty Soda is the sweet side.

When people first taste our products, I think the number-one thing they experience is just, wow. I get a lot of, you can't taste the alcohol in this at all. This is dangerous.



WHITFIELD: All right. The Oscars are tomorrow night and we got a preview of the show.

Here now is Stephanie Elam.



UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I was standing with you.

ELAM: -- family drama, and extraterrestrial life all competing for Oscar.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Keep running into each other.

ELAM: "La La Land" is the film to watch with 14 nominations tying "All About Eve" and "Titanic" for the most nods in Oscar history.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Very, very exciting.

ELAM: The musical up for best picture, along with "Arrival," "Fences," "Hacksaw Ridge," "Hell or Highwater," "Hidden Figures," "Lion," "Manchester by the Sea," and "Moonlight."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People think "Hidden Figures" could eke out in the end but I think in the end, "La La Land" will prevail.

ELAM: Emma Stone is up for best actress. Ruth Negga in "Loving." And return winners, Meryl Streep and Natalie Portman. But Stone is the frontrunner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Emma Stone has potentially won every single award you can win.

ELAM: The race for best actor, though, is tight. Andrew Garfield in "Hacksaw Ridge," Ryan Gosling in "La La Land" and the star of "Captain Fantastic" are all up for the honor. But the moment is with Denzel Washington for "Fences" and the star of "Manchester by the Sea."

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Everyone will be on the edge of their seat for that competition.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE: Do you know who is hosting the Oscars this year. I'll give you a hint. He's touching your face.

ELAM: Jimmy Kimmel is taking on Hollywood's most notoriously challenging role. He will emcee the Oscars for the first time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He really is going to rely on his relationship with the actors in the room to try to make them comfortable and relax. ELAM: Although a few will probably be excited and emotional after

striking Oscar gold.


WHITFIELD: Thank you so much, Stephanie Elam. We'll all be watching.

So much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM and it all starts right now.

Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredericka Whitfield.

Happening right now in Atlanta, the Democratic National Committee is about to learn who its next party chairperson will be. Vote counting is under way right now and we'll bring you a result as soon as they come in.

And new details following exclusive reporting about the Trump administration's attempts to tamp down media reports on campaign communications with Russia. We know the White House asked the FBI to dispute the same reporting. And CNN can now confirm that at least one congress person is joining that effort --