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Trump Irate Over Russia Scandal; President Trump claims He Was Wiretapped by the Obama Administration; U.S. Intelligence Describes Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak As A Tough Spy and Spy Recruiter; Trump To Sign New Travel Ban This Week; Texas Rancher Would Give Up Land For Border Wall; ISIS Suspected Using Chemical Weapons In Iraq; Believer's Premiere's Tonight On CNN. Aired 4-5 pm ET

Aired March 5, 2017 - 16:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: The chairman of the committee investigating Russia's involvement in the U.S. election says it will also investigate President Trump's unfounded claims that President Obama tapped his phone.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes issuing this statement saying, "The committee will make inquiries into whether the government was conducting surveillance activities on any political parties' campaign associates or surrogates. And we will continue to investigate this issue if the evidence warrants it."

[16:00:08] Senate Intel chairman, Richard Burr, echoed his sentiments saying quote "the Senate select committee on intelligence will follow the evidence where it leads and we will continue to be guided by the intelligence and facts as we compile our findings.

CNN White House correspondent Athena Jones is near Mar-a-Lago where the President is wrapping up his weekend there. And CNN crime and justice producer Shimon Prokupecz is following the story from New York.

And let's begin with you, Athena, as the President is ready to depart there. But apparently reports say he was very angry with his staff over the handling of the Russia-Sessions end of the story as we watch air force one now taxi leaving west Palm Beach. What more do you know?

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. That's exactly right. We have been reporting that the President has been angry. There was a heated discussion captured on tape on Friday in the oval office where the president's chief strategist Steve Bannon was seen speaking animatedly to folks in the oval office. And we know from my colleague's reporting back in Washington that the President has been angry about how his staff has handled, how his press team and his communications team have handled the aftermath of his speech on Tuesday night. I shouldn't say the aftermath. The afterglow. He is upset that the news about attorney general Sessions and his conversations with the Russian ambassador overshadowed what he saw as a well-received speech on Tuesday night to the joint session of congress. I have more reporting from my colleague, the White House producer, (INAUDIBLE), who spoke with sources at Mar-a-Lago who said that the President's angry mood followed him here to Florida and he's continued to talk about his feelings and his concerns about his team with folks down here.

Kevin (INAUDIBLE) reports that in casual conversations in Mar-a-Lago the President expressed frustration that that address to Congress has been lost in the swirl of reports about his aide's tie to Russia. We also know the President was upset that attorney general Sessions recused himself from any investigation into any of this Russia matter. We also know that the President angrily raised this wiretapping issue unprompted in his conversations with friends and acquaintances and he didn't specify where he got the information. But he told the members that he's expecting an investigation and expecting it to prove him right -- Fred. I should go on to tell you --

WHITFIELD: Go ahead.

JONES: Well, and so that's what the President has said now. He is angry and he believes, he believes that this wiretapping allegations that are unsubstantiated, that he made via twitter yesterday, he believes they are right. But as soon as the President made the allegations early Saturday morning, the White House was pressed repeatedly to provide more information and to provide evidence to support the President's claims. No evidence has been provided. Instead we have a call from the White House for this investigation.

I want to read to you a part of the statement put out this morning by White House secretary Sean Spicer. He said President Donald J. Trump is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity the congressional intelligence committees exercise they oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016. That statement goes on to say that neither the White House for the President will be commenting on this any further until that investigation, that oversight is conducted.

And so Fred, this shifts the burden of proof from the White House being asked to provide evidence, I guess, to this congressional committees to investigate the matter -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: So Athena, I'm also struck by what you said there at the top where you said, you know, this casual conversation the President had, you know, with friends there, are we talking about members, friends you know who happen to be members of Mar-a-Lago and that he was, you know, seen or heard or is there was eyewitness accounts of him expressing these frustrations to them there, not staff members but friends or members?

JONES: No. We are talking about friends or acquaintances. This is reporting by my White House colleague, White House producer Kevin Liptak (ph). So they are not named sources. But we are talking about friends, an acquaintances who are familiar with this conversations - who have been in conversations, I should say, with the President where he is continuing to express and continued frustration with his team.

And you know, this happens to all White Houses, Fred. They are not in control of the headlines. They are not in control of the narrative. And so, the President feels that he should have gotten more credit for that Tuesday night speech. And he did get a lot of -- very well- reviewed. But it was overcome by this other news about these conversations between Trump cabinet members and aides and Russian officials.

[16:05:02] WHITFIELD: And the recusing, OK, from Jeff Sessions.

All right. Thank you so much. Appreciate that, Athena Jones.

So former national intelligence director James Clapper, he has been disputing the President's claims saying none of the agencies that he, Clapper, oversaw sought an intelligence wiretap on Donald Trump and his campaign.


JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: I will say that for the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw as DNI, there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the President-elect at the time as a candidate or against his campaign. I can't speak for other title three authorized entities in the government or a state or local entity.

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, MEET THE PRESS: I was just going to say, if the FBI, for instance, had court order of some sort for surveillance, would that be information you would or would not know.


TODD: You would be told this in there was a court order on something like this.

CLAPPER: I would know that. Something like this, absolutely.

TODD: And at this point you can't confirm or deny whether that exists?

CLAPPER: I can deny it.

TODD: There is no types of court order.

CLAPPER: Not to my knowledge.

TODD: Of anything at Trump tower.



WHITFIELD: I want to bring in CNN's Shimon Prokupecz now.

So Shimon, you have spoken to officials who say the President, President Trump's accusations are simply untrue.

SHIMON, PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Well, that's correct. Since yesterday morning when Trump went ahead and tweeted the allegations, I spoke with a former senior law enforcement official who has direct knowledge of the investigation. And that official flatly just said nonsense, not true. There was no wiretapping of any phones relating to Donald Trump. I mean, his phones certainly were not tapped. The department of justice would have had to go to a judge and seek authorization to do anything like that. And they just never did it. It just never existed.

You know, Clapper sort of talked about outside of the secret intelligence warrants, which are these FISA warrants. He talked about title three which are used in criminal investigations by the federal government. And there are also our local entities like the prosecutors at the DA's office, in this case would be the Manhattan district attorney's office, they can seek warrants and eavesdropping warrants and wire taps to try to listen on phone calls. But that would basically mean that Donald Trump was the subject of a criminal investigation. That he was the target of a criminal investigation and they would have to go in before a judge and say we believe something is going on here, some crime has been committed and we need to listen to his phones and they would have to lay out, you know, what their evidence is, what their proof is.

And I just don't see that being possible. We certainly have been reporting here on Donald Trump and some of the investigation that's been circling around some of his -- some of the people that are friendly to him. There's never been any indication that Donald Trump was the target of any information now, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much. Appreciate that.

Let's talk more about this now with Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst and senior editor at the "Atlantic," good to see you. Jason Johnson, politics editor at the and professor of politics and journalism at Morgan State University. Good to see you as well. And Brian Stelter, CNN senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES."

All right, gentlemen. Ron, you first, you know, what do you make of what you just heard from Shimon that these former officials he has spoken to say absolutely untrue. James Clapper says no. There was no order of any kind of a wiretapping. He would know about it.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the reports from the former DNI Clapper are the most important new developments of the day. The thing that has been so perplexing to me from the beginning about this whole episode is that if Donald Trump is right, it is arguably worse for him than if he is wrong. I mean, the President of the United States Barack Obama cannot unilaterally order a wiretap. That part of the accusations is unquestionably untrue.

If there was a wiretap it was because the law enforcement officials in the Obama administration were able to convince a judge, presumably a FISA court judge, that there was sufficient grounds, sufficient reason of concern about collusion with a foreign agent to justify the war tap. And as both Lindsey Graham yesterday (INAUDIBLE), the former HUD said today that would be a source of great concern if it were true at all. But certainly today you are seeing these former officials saying it never happened at all.

I don't think we know the answer yet unequivocally one way or the other. But it is a strange place for the President to be in, essentially where if he is valid in what he is saying, it says that the charges are more serious than we have known to that point.

WHITFIELD: And then additionally now the Trump administration, President Trump and even by way of his spokesperson today saying we want a congressional investigation and now it looks like, Jason, they are going to get exactly that. Committees is now looking into the election meddling by Russia. And taking it further, looking further into any potential wiretapping. The President saying definitively there was wiretapping. How is this potentially more problematic for the White House?

JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THEROOT.COM: Well, honestly, Fred, we really just have to move forward and recognize what the end game of any of this could be.

President Trump lied yesterday. He has lied before. He has lied about the number of people voting. He has lied about a lot of different issues. So him lying because he is paranoid about former President Obama is not surprising.

But putting together a congressional committee, if there's not going to be any teeth or consequences, where does this go? We can can't to have leads. We can continue to find all sorts of connections between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks and Russian hacking but if it doesn't result in someone losing their job, being removed from the administration or facing some sort of sanction, then it's all just window dressing. And that's what I want to see. I want to see a Republican party, obviously the Democrats already are, that a Republican party that's more committed to our sovereignty as a nation than they are in protecting their own partisan interests.

WHITFIELD: So earlier today deputy press secretary Sara Huckabee Sanders was the one who, you know, came out on this, she was asked about, you know, the President making the serious claims without citing any evidence and this is what she said and how she responded to the kind of sourcing that this President is using by making this very serious accusation.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Always telling us to take the media seriously. Well we are today. We are taking the reports that places like the "The New York Times," FOX News, BBC, multiple outlets have reported this. All we are saying is let's take a closer look. Let's look into this. If this happened, if this is accurate, this is the biggest overreach and the biggest scandal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The President of the United States is accusing the former President of wiretapping him. SANDERS: I think that this is again something that if this happened,

Martha --


SANDERS: I agree.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is the President saying it did happen?

SANDERS: Look. I think he is going off of information that he is saying that has led him to believe that this is a very real potential. And if it is, this is the greatest overreach and the greatest abuse of power that I think we've ever seen, and a huge attack on democracy itself and the American people have a right to know if this took place.


WHITFIELD: By the way, you know, Brian, "New York Times," FOX News, BBC, they have not reported that Trump was definitively wire tapped. All have been reporting on investigations surrounding Russian involvement with the Trump campaign.

But you know, what's the explanation here and how bad does this look for this White House, for this President, for the deputy press secretary to now say that the sourcing is not intel, not from private briefings in the White House but instead from how it's being interpreted news reports.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Right. You notice what she does there, it's something that the Trump aides often do. They take the allegations against Trump and his White House, they turn them around. So she says this could be the greatest scandal ever about Obama. This could be a huge attack on democracy. That's something said about Russia trying to attack United States election. So she takes that language, she turns it around, trying to apply it to Trump's opponents.

What we are seeing here is the results of several days of conservative media coverage trying to connect dots that may or may not be able to connected. Starting on the radio show on Thursday, dinner on the Breitbart news Web site on Friday, came up a couple of times on FOX on Friday night. We don't know exactly what triggered President Trump's tweets on Saturday. But the best indication from sources in the White House is that it was this conservative media stories that triggered Trump's anger. And we have heard from Kevin Liptak (ph) and Athena Jones that anger can continued all weekend long.

WHITFIELD: Jason, you are shaking your head on this one.

JOHNSON: Yes, because I have this conversations - I have heard this right wing radio. They keep saying, let's just be honest. The right wing is saying this is a silent coup that Obama, while he is hanging with Richard Branson is somehow trying to take over the United States of America. And it was a ridiculous conspiracy theory. If Obama was that powerful, he would have rigged the election for Hillary. This is just the Trump campaign in the far right way of excusing the fact that the Trump administration can't explain these connections to Russia.

WHITFIELD: Yes. He was doing that while he was - I'm sorry. Go ahead, Brian.

STELTER: I was just going to say first, conspiracy theories. And I'm get over you as I'm probably guilty of that myself. But this does have a conspiratorial air to it all. You wonder if what Trump and his aides are doing or kind of leaving bread crumb to say a year or two from now if things aren't going their way, look, it is all Obama's fault. You know, it got new quote from (INAUDIBLE) is the CEO of (INAUDIBLE), another conservative media outlet. He was down in Mar-a- Lago with Trump yesterday. And what he says he has never seen the President this angry.

I think we can put on the screen the exact quote from (INAUDIBLE) column. He spoke with Trump twice on Saturday and what he said I haven't seen him this, excuse me, pissed off in a long time. When I mentioned Obama's denials about the wiretapped, he shot back. This will be investigated. It will come out and I will be proven right.

So that is what President Trump is telling one of his friends yesterday. I checked him (INAUDIBLE) to see if he has talked to Richard - president more today. We know Trump is flying home to Washington, maybe he is watching this right now. I feel for his aides. His aides are in this impossible position.

[16:15:15] WHITFIELD: And many of whom that view perhaps were caught flat footed.


BROWNSTEIN: Look. It's easy to get turned upside down on all of this, right. Because the part that is most clear, the President cannot unilaterally authorize a wiretap. So if the wiretap was authorized, and again we have the testimony today saying it was not. But if it was authorized and in fact there are news outlets that have reported that it was authorized against elements or individuals around --

STELTER: Associates.

BROWNSTEIN: -- President Trump. If it was authorized it's because the court concluded there was enough evidence to justify that as the next step in a counter-intelligence investigation. So again, so if there is -- if Donald Trump is saying -- President Trump is saying he is going to be proven right. What he will be proven right about is that a court concluded there was enough evidence to authorize a wiretap over concern that someone in his orbit wildly speaking was colluding with a foreign power. And I just remain kind of mystified as to why, whether it is, you know, Sarah Huckabee or the President himself, they view as confirming that critical point as something in their interest.

Again, Lindsey Graham said yesterday if this was done without authorization, it's the biggest scandal since Watergate. If it was done with authorization, it is a reason for enormous concern. And we heard that as well today from (INAUDIBLE).

WHITFIELD: And then James Clapper kind of shooting it down saying if it happened he would have to know. And he doesn't know about it.

So, you know, Jason, you mentioned what are other Republicans saying about this. Well, take a listen.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I have no -- I'm not sure what it is he is talking about, perhaps the President has information that is not yet available to us or to the public. And if it's true, obviously we are going to find out very quickly. And if it wasn't, then obviously he will have to explain what he meant by it.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: I have seen no evidence of the allegations we have seen in the media, Chris. Whether that's a court application or denial of that application or reason, make sure of an application or surveillance for that matter. That doesn't mean none of this doesn't happen, it simply means I haven't seen that yet.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: The President called for congressional investigations into the allegations that he made starting yesterday morning. So I would expect that he is going to want to provide our committee with any evidence that he has.


WHITFIELD: So, Jason, might this be the start of more Republicans kind of stepping away or distancing themselves from this President?

JOHNSON: Not yet, Fred, not until they go home to their districts and put their finger to the wind.

Look. It's not like these allegations are entirely new. We heard about the hacking last year. It went through WikiLeaks. Now we know there was also the contact with some various Russian officials. There are being lied about by members of the Trump administration.

This fire has been burning for a long time and many Republicans have consistently said I'm not sure. I haven't read it. It's under this document, it's that, that and the other. Until they realize that they can actually investigate this issue and it won't harm their individual congressional lives. They are not going to do anything. And that is something that should concern any true patriot in the United States. That they are more concern about their domestic political power than they are about the sovereignty of the United States of America.


BROWNSTEIN: Just real quickly. I mean, the political point to all of this is that the battle for control of the house in 2018 will be decided, the tipping point will be ordinarily Republican-leaning districts where there is a significant amount of unease about Donald Trump particularly among white collar, white suburbanites where his approval rating is well below what Republican Presidents usually enjoy. And if Republicans are going to lose the house in 2018, the most likely route by which they will lose it is enough of the voters conclude. They are not acting as a sufficient check on a President about whom they are deeply ambivalent. And that is probably the biggest single political vulnerability that they have. That these ordinary Republican-leaning voters who are ambivalent against Trump decide they need a stronger check eye on Trump. And would apply than to take a step that they don't actually take of voting for Democrat for Congress.

There are real stakes in how the Republicans in Congress are positioning themselves. And whether they look as if they are in essence, you know, closing their eyes or rubber stamping behavior and/or these allegations that are troubling to many Americans and in this case, you know, for good reason.

WHITFIELD: All right. We will leave it right there, gentlemen. Thanks so much Ron Brownstein, Brian Stelter, Jason Johnson, appreciate it. And we will be right back.


[16:23:35] WHITFIELD: All right. U.S. intelligence has described Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak as a tough spy and spy recruiter. Russia is strongly denying that. Attorney general Jeff Sessions will provide written answers tomorrow to tough questions about his pre- election meetings with Kislyak. Sessions failed to mention those meeting during his Senate confirmation hearing last month. And this morning on "STATE OF THE UNION" Jake Tapper asked Republican senator Marco Rubio is the Russian ambassador a spy.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: We learned this week that attorney general Sessions was in contact with the Russian ambassador on at least two separate occasions during the campaign. This is the second time that somebody close to President Trump has spoken within the Russian ambassador and they have not been forthcoming about it. The other person obviously was General Michael Flynn, the national security advisor who had to resign as result.

Why do you think senior officials in the Trump administration keep failing to be forthcoming about their communications with the Russians?

RUBIO: Well, I don't know about the others that you have mentioned because I just don't know about who they met with or who they talked about. I can tell you about Senator Sessions and I can tell you about ambassadors. That's what ambassadors do. I mean, I meet with dozens of ambassadors a year and I run into them all of the time. That's what they do. I mean, they are out there trying to reach people and talk to them.

And so, it is not unusual for a member of the Senate to meet with an ambassador. Now, obviously he in a -- the Senate committee said he had not been in contact with anyone. That turned out to be inaccurate and that is what I think became problematic in terms of the way he answered that question in committee. I don't believe it was intentional in any way because at the end of the day it's not the kind of thing that Jeff Sessions does and it's not the kind of thing that would be easy to hide, nor would there be any reason to.

But again, I think we have gotten to the point of hysteria here. Lots of Ambassadors try to meet with people all of the time. I mean, I literally meet with dozens of ambassadors and so do most senators especially those on committees that touch upon foreign affairs and foreign relations.


[16:25:33] WHITFIELD: All right. Let's discuss more of this with my panel of two, Republican strategist Brian Morgenstern and Ellis Henican, political analyst, author and columnist.

All right. Welcome back to you guys.

All right. So Brian, you first. You know, what do you make of Senator Rubio's comments on Sessions?

BRIAN MORGENSTERN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Spot on. I mean as I have said, Senator Sessions was meeting with ambassadors. He is on committees that would mean that he would do that all of the time. And he may not have either understood the question as to whether it was about campaign activity or just in general. And it turns out over the last several days, there are so many Democratic members of Congress that met with this guy and just forgot because they meet with dozens of ambassadors.

WHITFIELD: Can I stop you on that because during the confirmation hearing when Representative Al Franken asked, he asked, you know, whether anyone, I'm quoting now, quote "anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign. Sessions then said he was not aware of that happening. And he says I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in the campaign and I did not have communications with Russians. And it turns out at least twice.

So that's the difficulty here, is that he didn't recall twice whether he was there as a representative of the Trump campaign during the RNC or whether as a member of the Senate armed services committee later on in the year. And so, that is really what is at issue here, Brian, that he conveniently either didn't remember, didn't reveal it. And so now the question that he has to answer in that written supplement will be the content of that discussion and why didn't you reveal it.

MORGENSTERN: Well, and they will go back through records and they will figure out exactly what happened. And it seems like now that this has been reported, that the Obama state department, as ever state department does, and set up events for the ambassadors at the party conventions and then ambassadors kind of, you know, milling around and talk to people, and say hello and introduce themselves.

And then in this other meeting it seems that he just forgot but his staff probably has records where they can clarify it on that. And he will be able to correct the record. But I think watching that hearing it's hard to believe that he was sitting there just, you know, intentionally concealing some kind of (INAUDIBLE) plot that the Trump campaign and the Russians where, you know, colluding to torpedo Hillary. It is just -- that is such a far jump that I think, you know, coming from that testimony. I think he is just going to correct a mistake. I think it will be simple as that.

WHITFIELD: OK. So he is going to have that supplement. We know that on Thursday. Then he recused himself from many investigations involving Russia and that campaign, you know, for this kind of conflict of interest.

And so now, Brian, we are wearing that Donald Trump was very upset about all of this, that it kind of stole his thunder after, you know, his meeting with the joint members of Congress. The positive reaction that he received from that. And that, Jeff Sessions then recused himself. So there are many sources now who are speaking. People are talking there in Mar-a-Lago who say he was upset even there. Now he is going back to Washington and there's going to be more heat.

ELLIS HENICAN, POLITICAL COLUMNIST: I mean we know he is upset, right, because you are right. I mean, Tuesday night was the high point of his brief administration so far. He got pretty good reviews on the speech. He sounded like a sane guy, almost sounded like a President up there. And then they blew it all week with the contradictory stories, these rolling disclosures. That's honestly something really to focus on.

If the only time you reveal something is after the media finds out about it, yes, yes, yes, believe me, it was no big deal. All of the statements that were made in the past somehow or something different from what they see. It's not trust building. It would be nice if these folks step forward and actually just said what they know. Reveal all these ties because there's an awful dicey context here.

WHITFIELD: And so Brian, I understand that he was very upset with his staffers. He thinks, Donald Trump thinks reportedly that his staffers should have protected him from this swirl of controversy.

MORGENSTERN: Yes. I mean, it has to be frustrating to have almost universal praise for this bold speech laying out an agenda and then having the momentum sort of stolen away from you.

[16:30:03] WHITFIELD: Well, is it odd that he blames his staff for not better protecting him?

MORGENSTERN: I think that is -- I don't know if he is blaming his staff for not protecting him or what exactly they're talking about. Tempers are flaring because it's a frustrating situation to be in. I mean it must be and I can say from interviewing witnesses, people forget details all of the time. You put records in front of them and they say yes, yes, I remember. And just this kind of having to mop things up has to be so frustrating for a new president trying to get his agenda off of the ground to just having to play cleanup. That does not surprise me at all. It seems like they're going to want to make some corrections and get on stronger footing here. WHITFIELD: All right Brian, yes go ahead, real quick.

ELLIS HENICAN, POLITICAL ANALYST: Nobody made the guy tweet, did they? Are they poking the tweets during the middle of the night? I don't think Brian thinks it's the staff's fault.

MORGENSTERN: I don't know if anyone is poking the tweeters.

WHITFIELD: Thanks for to both of you for wrapping it up appreciate it. All right we'll be right back.


[16:35:40] WHITFIELD: All right welcome back. At least two Muslim students say they were turned away from an Oklahoma state lawmaker's office and asked to complete and offensive questionnaire. The survey asked several questions including this. The Koran and Sharia law of all schools says the husband can beat his wife. Do you beat your wife? Adam Soltani was at the Oklahoma capital a day when it happened and posted a video to Facebook.


ADAM SOLTANI, CAIR OKLAHOMA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: I have been informed by some of our community members that Representative John Bennett who, in my opinion at this point, doesn't even deserve to be called a representative is refusing to meet with Muslims unless they answer questions from an Islamophobic hate group called Act for America. Nobody should be vetted with stupid Islamophobic, hateful, bigoted questions before they can meet with their representative.


WHITFIELD: CNN Sara Ganim just spoke with him. What more have you learned?

SARAH GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These students were in the Oklahoma state capital for what's called Muslim day, an event to help build better relationships. Well when these students tried to meet with state representative John Bennett, his aides gave him a survey that included the question, the Koran, the sunna of Mohammed and Sharia Law of all schools say that the husband can beat his wife. Do you beat your wife? Another question they were post as this. The sunna of Mohammed says that Muslims must be punished for leaving Islam. Do you agree with this? Now Fred, this survey drew immediate criticism from the Counsel Of American Islamic Relations who sponsored the event, the Muslim day Event. Adam Soltani, the member of CAIR, who was there that day said, that students were shocked by the questionnaire; they never ended up meeting with Bennett. They were turned away. Take a look.


SOLATANI: It doesn't surprise me or shock me but it is very offensive to outright discriminate against Muslims by administering a test as a basis of meeting with them. (END VIDEO CLIP)

GANIM: He thought this amounted to a religious test. Representative Bennett has expressed his anti-Muslim views in the past. He called Islam a quote, cancer on our nation. That is precisely why these stunts wanted to meet with him on Muslim day to try and speak with him about his views and clear up misconceptions. It's also worth noting that Bennett's Facebook page quotes scripture from the bible, the same book that also includes passages about, for examples, stoning people until they die. It's generally accepted that some of the religious texts are not to be taken so literally. And that the same benefits should be applied to the Koran. Take a look.


SOLTANI: Anyone can cherry pick verses from the holy scripture and claimed that, you know it says one thing or another but he is latched on to Islamophobic rhetoric that takes the text out of context and then sometimes makes them up and uses them to propagate a misunderstanding of the Islamic religious faith.


GANIM: We haven't been able to reach Representative Bennett for comment. But he did respond to the Tulsa world in response to questions about this incident saying in part quote, can't refute facts.

WHITFIELD: All right Sara Ganim thanks so much for that report.

All right next, Trump administration officials this week is the week we'll see a new travel ban. What will the revised executive order look like? We'll discuss after the break.


[16:43:41] WHITFIELD: All right welcome back. President Trump exists that we'll deliver on his promise to build a border wall. For one rancher in Texas, the border with Mexico is his back yard even though the property has been in his family since 1767. He will give up part of it for Trump's plan. CNN's Polo Sandoval took a trip to Star County Texas to bring us the story.


RUPERTO ESCOBAR, BORDER LANDOWNER: I was born in February 26, 1944.


ESCOBAR: About 100 yards from here in that direction.

SANDOVAL: Roberto's Escobar roots run deep in these 600 acres of south Texas soil.

ESCOBAR: My ancestors lived here as well.

SANDOVAL: Like six generations before him, the 73-year-old farms and ranches here in Star County, Texas.

ESCOBAR: Through the years we've worked the land, took off the brush and leveled it off.

SANDOVAL: Its rugged dusty land carried the name of the Escobar family for centuries long before it was annexed by the United States or even made a part of the republic of Texas. By all accounts this teacher, farmer and rancher, is as American as it gets.

{16:45:00] ESCOBAR: That property has been in our family since around 1767.

SANDOVAL: Escobar says as long as there's been a border. There have been smugglers determine to cross it illegally. These days it's people and drugs.

ESCOBAR: I'm not sure that a wall will ever stop all of these. I would like to see it stopped.

SANDOVAL: You won't find many neighbors who share Escobar's views in this part of Texas. He is, after all, a conservative in a predominantly blue region of a red state.

ESCOBAR: Our president, in his own party, beat 16 other candidates. What does that tell you? The American people were listening to him. So at some point I started listening to him as well.

SANDOVAL: Escobar has seen firsthand the face of immigration from his store step.

ESCOBAR: We've been moved by many of these cases. And so many of them come and tell us their stories about their hunger pains over there, about the corruption, about the illegal activities going on in their country. It breaks our heart.

SANDOVAL: Something else that will break his heart, he has to part with something he holds dear.

ESCOBAR: My country, part of my property, I would be willing to give it up so we can continue to be the land of the brave and the home of the free like it always has been for immigrants from all over the world that come here seeking to be a part of this country in a legal way.

SANDOVAL: This man gave Trump his vote. Now he is prepared to give Trump his land. Polo Sandoval CNN Star County, Texas.


WHITFIELD: All right happening right now, thousands of civilians are fleeing Mosul as Iraqi forces launched a renewed push into the Western ISIS held side of the city. That is next.


[16:51:32] WHITFIELD: All right thousands of civilians are fleeing Mosul as U.S. backed Iraqi forces hammer ISIS target in the western part of the city. The Iraqi military believes several thousand militants are still holed up in the city, eastern Mosul was liberated following an offense that began last October. The city had been under ISIS control since 2014. And as the fighting in Mosul intensifies, there are new accusations that ISIS could be using chemical weapons. CNN's Ben Wedeman reports victims of a suspected chemical attack have been showing up in hospital. And just a word of caution, this report does contain some graphic images.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This 11-year-old lies unconscious in bed, a rocket landed outside his home on Wednesday in liberated east Mosul leaving him with a concussion and symptoms that doctors at this hospital in Irbil say point to a chemical attack.

LAWAND MIRAN, IRBIL EMERGENCY HOSPITAL: Shortness of breath, second degree burn.

WEDEMAN: The hospital director Dr. Lawand Miran has no doubt about what happened.

MIRAN: It is a chemical gas.

WEDEMAN: 12 people, including a month old baby have been treated for exposure to chemical agents, in the first such attack by ISIS since the start of the Mosul offensive last October. Rashied was in his house when a rocket landed outside.

There was a rotten smell, he recalls, and is there was something like burnt oil and gas. No one can breathe in the whole area. We left the house in the civil defense sealed it up. The U.S. Defense department has warned that ISIS has developed a primitive capacity to produce chemical weapons and has used such weapons in both Syria and Iraq. The worry now is that with ISIS desperate and surrounded in western Mosul, it won't hesitate to use everything in his arsenal.

The Red Cross is setting up these tents in the event there are more chemical attacks. The Red Cross stressed that the use of chemical weapons is a war crime. Not that that makes any difference to ISIS.

Indifferent as it is to the suffering of its victims. Ben Wedeman CNN, Irbil, Iraq.


WHITFIELD: And we'll be right back.


[16:58:05] WHITFIELD: All right. Don't miss tonight's premiere of CNN's new original series of believer. It is a journey into scientology, voodoo and more. Tonight Reza Aslan went to India for a Hindu sect known for their extreme rituals.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REZA ASLAN, BELIEVER SHOW HOST: Why are people on that side of the

river so afraid of the Aghori?


ASLAN: I see. Why -


ASLAN: I feel like this may have been a mistake. Maybe we just like somebody distracts him and then I just leave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's see where it goes.

ASLAN: I can be polite. I can be very polite about it.


WHITFIELD: Ok. Find out, watch and see what happens, watch the premier of Believer tonight on 10 p.m. Eastern only on CNN. Thank so much for being with me today. I am Fredricka Whitfield, much more with the Newsroom straight ahead with Pamela Brown.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN NEWSROOM SHOW HOST: And you're live in the CNN newsroom on this Sunday. I'm Pamela Brown in Washington. And we begin tonight with President Trump doubling down on his unsubstantiated claim that President Obama wire tapped his phone during the election. The president telling the conservative website this will be NFTS gaited, it will all come out. I will be proven right. He is officially asked congress to investigate. His press secretary saying in a statement, reports congress potentially politically motivated investigations, immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling. President Donald J. Trump is requesting that the congressional intelligence