Return to Transcripts main page


White House To Appeal Rulings Blocking Travel Ban; Manhunt Underway For Teacher Suspected Of Kidnapping; Good Samaritan With A Gun Saves State Trooper's Life; FBI Chief To Testify On Wiretap Claims As Trump Doubles Down; GOP Congressmen: Trump Must Apologize To Obama; Tillerson To Meet With China's President Tomorrow; Tillerson: Tensions Over North Korea At "Dangerous Level"; Vote On GOP Health Care Bill Set For Thursday. Aired Noon-1p ET

Aired March 18, 2017 - 12:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right, hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

All right, President Donald Trump is preparing for one of the most crucial weeks of his presidency. Monday FBI Director James Comey will testify about whether there is any evidence to the president's claims that Trump Tower was wiretapped by President Barack Obama.

Even as the Department of Justice and members of both intelligence committees are rebuking those allegations. The president is not backing down. Rather, he's blaming a conservative commentator for floating the idea in the first place.

Also this week, the president's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, begins a confirmation process that could be clouded by tough questions from Democrats.

And Trump's party's health care plan, very much in peril, going to a vote on Thursday. The president says he is confident, however, that it will pass on the first try.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I also want everyone to know that all of these noes or potential noes are all yeses. Every single person sitting in this room.


WHITFIELD: All right. That's President Trump meeting with Republicans yesterday. So the president now is at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida today. Let's go to CNN's Athena Jones, who is live for us in nearby West Palm Beach. Athena, good to see. So do we know what Trump is working on this weekend?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. Well, we know he is right now at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach. Just a short while ago, CNN got some video of him driving a golf cart on that golf course. So it appears he's hitting at least a few more balls.

We were told by White House officials that he would be spending time at his club taking phone calls or making phone calls and having meetings. We know he's scheduled to return to the Mar-a-Lago resort at about 4:00 p.m. to have his daily intelligence briefing and that after that, is he set to have a phone call with Brazil's President Michel Temer.

But the focus, Fred, remains very much on the president's unsubstantiated claims made two weeks ago today against his predecessor. He claimed that President Barack Obama wiretap his communications in Trump Tower as you just stated.

This is a claim that has been widely refuted and denied not only by President Obama himself through a spokesperson but by Republicans and Democrats on the intelligence committees on Capitol Hill.

And just today, in an interview with the BBC, the number two official at the National Security Agency, Richard Legget (ph) had pretty strong on the record statement about those very claims that the latest claims that British intelligence helped to wiretap Trump Tower.

He called it errant nonsense and said claims they were involved with wiretap demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of how the relationship works. He wanted to say, of course, British intelligence wouldn't do that. It would be epically stupid.

And so here you see the president's unsubstantiated allegations having a big impact on relations with one of the U.S.'s closest friend on the other side of the Atlantic, the British very upsetabout those allegations and the president putting the blame on this Fox News commentator.

I should mention that just yesterday, after the president said look automatic to Fox, don't talk to me, a Fox News anchor came on and said look, Fox does not have any way of corroborating what that commentator claimed.

So this is something that continues. There's been no retraction or apology from the White House, but this story will continue to get a lot of attention -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Athena Jones, thank you so much for that. Appreciate it. Let's talk more about this now with "Time" magazine's Jay Newton Small, and CNN contributor, Salena Zito.

All right, Ladies, I'm glad you could be with me. All right, to see those words epically stupid, it would be epically stupid and it shows a complete lack of understanding, Jay, there is a lot of criticism globally now of the president and his accusations of wiretapping that he continues to dig in his heels about.

JAY NEWTON SMALL, CONTRIBUTOR, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Absolutely, Fred. This is starting to really concern Republicans on the Hill as they're trying to get there as you mentioned this health care law passed. A lot of these things are considered distractions.

The fact that he's digging in even when experts on the Hill people, you know, the Republican chairs of the Intelligence Committees in both chambers of Congress have said there's nothing to these allegations, the speaker of the House has said there's nothing to these allegations.

[12:05:09]And they just see this as a huge distraction. They really want to focus on what's important repealing Obamacare, which is the duty in front of them right now looking at the budget. And sort of all these domestic priorities that are now being completely overshadowed.

Because everybody's talking about how for the last two weeks, virtually nothing else but Donald Trump created this sort of fiction about President Obama wiretapping him when he was at Trump Tower during transition, which turns out apparently to be completely untrue.

WHITFIELD: So we're now going to the third week of this whole wiretapping stuff, Salena. So how consequential is it potentially for FBI's James Comey's testimony to come on Monday, how consequential to Donald Trump's entire presidency?

SALENA ZITO, CNN COMMENTATOR: For his entire presidency, I mean, obviously it's hard to tell and predict something like that. Having said that, it's likely to be a stark con raft to what the president has claimed. And you know, Comey has already, through maybe through his fault of his own, maybe no fault of his own and the circumstances of this election has become a controversial, you know, figure with on both sides of the aisle.

This is going to be a tough day. It is likely although who knows, that he is going to report THAT there hasn't been anything that he can back up. But you know, a lot of this palace intrigue and you know I understand it is incredibly important, you know, to our government and to the function of government.

But a lot of people that I've interviewed look at that just that way as palace intrigue. And you know, I don't know if electorally this would have an impact on him just yet. Not forever but just not yet.

WHITFIELD: That's interesting. Because there is a drum beat getting louder of so many lawmakers now calling on Donald Trump to apologize to President Obama. I want you to listen because it's not just about wiretapping, but it goes much deeper in terms of truthfulness. You know, credibility of Donald Trump as it pertains to words and comments about his predecessor from the birtherism to now this wiretapping. So listen.


REPRESENTATIVE CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I would retract the words if I were in his shoes. I think he should retract those words. If it were me, I would apologize, I think it would be appropriate to do so. REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: It never hurts to say you're sorry. I think that goes for this situation, it goes for the situation with our British friends. Our intelligence cooperation between the U.S. and the British is one of the strongest that we have and it never hurts to say sorry to your friends.

REPRESENTATIVE TOM COLE (R), OKLAHOMA: unless you can produce some pretty compelling proof, then I think the president you know, President Obama is owed an apology in that regard.


WHITFIELD: So Jay, how influential potentially are those words coming from his colleagues on the Hill?

NEWTON SMALL: They're actually really influential because a lot of Republican moderates, these are Republicans who are elected in blue states who are up for re-election in 2018 and quite worried that they're going to get tarnished with this brush of, you know, Donald Trump's brush of potentially unpopularity.

Trump is a very popular with the Republican base. He has an 88 percent approval rating, but these are people elected by independents and with independents, Trump doesn't do, as well. They're very worried about that.

So you see them increasingly sign on to Democratic discharge petitions in the House saying calling for an independent investigation of the Trump campaign's links with Russia. An independent investigation of whether or not President Obama wiretapped President Trump or then President-elect Trump.

And so if you see those discharge petitions in the House gain momentum and actually pass potentially the House against the objections of the Republican leadership that's very damaging not only to Donald Trump's administration but also to the leadership, the Republican leadership of the House when they start to lose control of the floor that way.

WHITFIELD: So Salena, we know that President Trump has signed a lot of the executive orders. But if he's getting anything done, it's hard for the general public to see it because it is constantly upstaged by this wiretapping issue that he is keeping alive by him referring to Angela Merkel knowing what I'm talking about, you know, to his tweets this morning. So I mean, does he not realize that he largely is in the driver's seat of this?

ZITO: You know, I'm not quite sure and you're exactly right. When I talk to voters they become frustrated with us in the media saying why do you talk about all these things, but they will candidly admit yes, he probably causes his own problems.

[12:10:02]Here's the thing about Trump's relationship with voters presently. In that they knew who this cat was coming in, right? They knew he was completely different. They knew that if he had a propensity for hyperbole and they bought into it, and they still haven't sort of let go of that connection with him on that, that there was a sort of moment of forgiveness. I don't know how long that lasts, but we haven't been very good at predicting that either. We thought that would fall apart in the primary.

WHITFIELD: Carl Bernstein, I don't know if you saw him, he called him a compulsive liar, and while all of what you said may be true, people thought they knew exactly what they were getting it's a whole new level now and saying these kinds of things about the predecessor, who you also said on inauguration day that he has been a gentleman, he's been kind, sweet, gracious, all of that.

And so now people are seeing something else, especially as the intelligence community saying there's nothing there and potentially James Comey saying there's nothing there on Monday, but the president maintains this language that his predecessor was out to get him.

ZITO: That's key to it, right? It's his language. I have been saying this forever. He uses words right or wrong, he uses words in a much more casual way than we do in the news or the typical politicians do and for the moment, people like that.

That doesn't mean it stays but for the moment, it works for him. Who knows what happens going forward. This is -- we're in the wild, wild west. This is completely different. This is something different than we have seen or dealt with or reported on before.


NEWTON SMALL: Fred, can I just add?

WHITFIELD: Yes, real quick, Jay.

NEWTON SMALL: I want to say that you know, I talk to Trump supporters and they do as she was saying look, we're giving him a pass. They think of it as he says these things for ratings and to drum up entertainment. It's funny, interesting, whatever. Every show eventually jumps the shark.

So the question is, we've been saying that for a long time but true enough, every single show will eventually jump to the shark and the question is what happens then.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jay Newton Small, Salena Zito, thanks so much. Ladies, appreciate it.

All right, the U.S. warning North Korea that all options are on the table if provoked. Straight ahead, we'll go to Beijing where the secretary of state is telling China it needs to step in and help more.



WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Beijing right now and as China urges the Trump administration to be cool headed over North Korea, at an earlier stop in South Korea, Tillerson warned that no option was off the table when it comes to North Korea including possible military action if provoked.

Just before Tillerson arrived President Trump weighed in on Friday tweeting, quote, "North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been playing the United States for years, China has done little to help," end quote.

All right, Elise Labott is our CNN global affairs correspondent joining me from Washington. Also with me, CNN international correspondent, Matt Rivers.

All right, so Elise, let me begin with you. That statement by President Trump just as Tillerson is arriving, how difficult does that make it for Tillerson?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean you could look at it both ways, Fred. In one sense, you heard Secretary Tillerson in South Korea giving a very tough line and President Trump I think reinforced that. You know, you noticed that every country says that and certainly every U.S. president says no options are off the table.

He said that on the eve of arriving in China. That was because that's to send a message to the Chinese that enough being kind of coy about what you're willing to do in North Korea.

The threat is getting very urgent and he was delivering a very tough message to the Chinese that the U.S. expects them to crack down on North Korea and use its influence and implement those sanctions or it's going to face maybe punitive measures by the U.S. such as sanctions against Chinese companies, more U.S. defenses in the region.

So yes, it makes it a little bit more difficult that tweet, but I think that that was very consistent with the message that Secretary Tillerson although maybe it wasn't as diplomatic as he was delivering it, but we know that President Trump isn't always exactly diplomatic.

WHITFIELD: Yes, perhaps it would be difficult if it were incongruent messaging. All right, so Matt, Tillerson will be meeting with Chinese president tomorrow. The U.S. and China still are at odds over trade, expansion and the South China Sea. Is it expected there do be some real progress there?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We take those issues one by one. Let's start with the positive one. I think there has been progress already made on trade. Given what you heard from then candidate and President-elect Trump, you know, don't forget, Candidate Trump was talking about imposing tariffs on Chinese imports.

He was talking about labeling China a currency manipulator. He was really talking very tough on China economically. But since he took office, President Trump really hasn't taken any action on any of those threats and the relationship trade-wise has actually been pretty good.

I think both countries realize that they are incredibly interdependent on one another. Trade in a lot of ways has been the saving grace of the U.S./China relationship over the past 20 years or so. Both sides have a lot to gain. Cheap prices in the United States and jobs here in China.

But on the South China Sea and even issues like the anti-missile defense system in South Korea, there's less progress to be made there I think for Secretary of State Tillerson. South China Sea really the military expansion by the Chinese will continue unclear how the United States is going to deal with that.

[12:20:08]And on that missile defense system, the United States is going to push forward with that. I don't think there's a lot of wiggle room there. They've already started deploying the system. The Chinese have signaled their opposition there.

I think both sides are pretty committed to their respective positions there. I don't think either side going to walk back from their very publicly stated positions in that particular area.

WHITFIELD: All right. Matt, Elise, thank you so much. Appreciate that.

All right, up next, the fate of the American health care act, the GOP plan, House Speaker Paul Ryan says everything is going according to plan. President Trump says he is confident that it will pass, but doubts still remain on Capitol Hill. We'll discuss.



WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Thanks so much for being with me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. All right, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan says everything is going according to plan on the Obamacare replacement bill. We'll soon find out if that's true. The House votes on the legislation Thursday after GOP lawmakers are making some changes following major backlash to the initial draft. The president even says he's confident it will pass.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: We have a lot of yeses coming in. It's all coming together. We're going to have great health care. It's going to be passed, I believe, I think substantially and pretty quickly. It's coming together beautifully.


WHITFIELD: CNN Washington correspondent, Ryan Nobles, is joining me now from Washington. So Trump claims it's all coming together. Is it when about 25 Republicans in the House either are saying no way or leaning against it?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, the White House and the House Republican leadership including Speaker Paul Ryan are confident enough that they can get their revised health care bill passed that they've actually scheduled a vote for Thursday on the House floor. This is despite a shaky group of Republicans concerned that the bill does not go far enough. But as you showed, Fredricka, President Trump has put his full support behind this bill and leaning on conservatives who don't like the current plan. This week is going to be important.

The White House and congressional leaders are expected to work behind the scenes to fine tune the bill before that big vote on Thursday. Here's the math. It's going to take 216 Republican votes. As of this morning, the House Freedom Caucus remains a firm no.

And according to CNN's Capitol Hill -- our team there, the whip count has 14 Republicans voting no, another 11 lean no. So that means if all 25 of these members were in the no camp, the bill is going to pass with zero margin for error.

Even if the bill makes it through the House, the Senate is a much bigger mountain to climb. Several prominent Republican senators have voiced their concern for the bill and it's likely the bill will be changed even more once it goes through Senate review.

Despite all these challenges, though, Fred, the White House remains committed to pushing the bill through. The president often warns that leaving Obamacare as it is will lead to catastrophic problems with the health care market -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Ryan Nobles, thank you so much.

All right, so for more insight on the fate of the House's GOP bill, I want to bring in Jonathan Gruber, an economics professor at MIT, a key adviser for Obamacare. So more than a dozen lawmakers, Professor, either prepared to vote no or are leaning no. So in your view, what's the likelihood of it being resuscitated by that Thursday vote?

JONATHAN GRUBER, MIT ECONOMICS PROFESSOR: Look, I'm not a political expert. I have no idea. I think what's worrisome is that in an effort to try to get it passed they're moving the bill to make it even more punitive to the poor, the elderly and the sick. It's very disappointing you took a bill that already is going to create 24 million more uninsured and raise premiums for older, sicker and poorer people and make it more punitive. It's very sad moving further in that direction.

WHITFIELD: That's where largely the criticism is going. People are concerned about the elderly. How is it you're going to make it more expensive for them based on the fact that they will have greater needs than the younger person?

So President Obama and many advocates of the Obamacare plan have always said that it may need some tweaking, some adjustments. In your view since you're a big advocate of Obamacare, what are the areas in which you think would need assistance, you know, repairing as opposed to replacing, repealing the whole thing?

GRUBER: Well, I think, look, there are areas we can repair the law. The law is working well. Relative to what it can do. There are things the law wasn't designed to fix. That's about fundamentally addressing the underlying costs of health care and moving those lower in a more fundamental way.

The law starts us down that road. Despite the rhetoric you've heard, health care costs have grown more slowly in the U.S. since the law passed than any time in measured history. That doesn't mean there's not more we could do including things like trying to protect lower income people from high out of pocket cost and try to increase the number of insurance options for people.

But the way to do that is strengthen the law, not fundamentally weaken it as Republicans propose.

WHITFIELD: What are your greatest worries?

GRUBER: So my greatest concern is that basically, people aren't going to understand before this law is passed the damage this could do to our nation. That you have taken that we have taken a fundamental step forward with Obamacare to finally for the first time in our country's history protect the poor, the sick and the old from the crushing burden of health care bills.

[12:30:07] And, this law would remove that promise in the short term. In the long-term, it would go further by block granting Medicaid and actual remove the promise we've made since 1965, to protect all of our indigent and lower income disabled and elderly and low income families from crushing medical bills by block granting Medicaid.

This law proposed to cut it by 25 percent, take one of the great pillars of our society which is improve millions of lives and slash it by 25 percent only really give a tax rate to the rich. I just don't understand why this makes sense.

WHITFIELD: So, I wonder what your view is, you know, about what is this really all about? In fact, this was the president yesterday in the Oval Office, you know, talking about how he has helped to, you know, turn some no's into yes'.

Take a listen and then you know, answer that question in that in your view. What is at the root of this push to make these kind of changes based on exactly what you just, you know, laid out that so many in great need would be hurt the most? Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: These are folks that were either a no or a maybe. And we had a nice meeting. And we've been talking all during the night. This isn't just happen over the last 20 minutes. This has been going all night long. And we are doing some incredible things.

I want everyone to know I'm 100 percent behind this. This is going to be great for people. I watch, I say that's not the bill we're passing. And I also want everyone to know that all of these no's or potential no's are all yes'. Every single person sitting in this room is now a yes. And we made certain changes.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: So, professor in your view, what is behind this motivation to make these changes to do these incredible things that the president is speaking about in contrast what you believe Obamacare, you know, helped answer?

GRUBER: Look, I'm not the first to say the Republican Party is like the dog that finally caught the car. They've been chasing it for seven years. They finally caught it. Now, they don't know what to do because fundamentally Obamacare is working. And they realize that because anything they can propose that moves to the right of Obamacare which they need to do to please the freedom caucus and other Conservative Republicans. These millions of Americans uninsured and especially increases the burden on the poor, sick and old.

So, fundamentally, they're in a tough spot. They made a campaign promise to repeal Obamacare. They demonized Obamacare. They actually put in place strategies to make Obamacare less successful like not expanding Medicaid in some states and not paying insurers what the federal government who promised them.

They demonize it so much that now they have responsibility for replacing it. And they realized as the president said, "Gee, this is pretty hard. And there's no easy way to fix this." And in fact, there's no way to please the right wing of the Republican Party without causing enormous dislocation to the vast majority of Americans. And that's a huge problem.

WHITFIELD: All right Professor Jonathan Gruber of MIT. Thanks so much, appreciate it.

GRUPER: My pleasure.

WHITFIELD: All right. Straight ahead, a new move in what's sure to be a long battle over President Trump's revised travel ban. Federal judges have blocked it for now, but the Trump administration now vowing to appeal.


[12:37:33] WHITFIELD: All right. A lot is mounting for the Trump administration, wiretapping investigations, the GOP health care plan and now the travel ban. A Maryland federal judge has ruled that that's a key part of the revised travel ban. The ban was supposed to go into effect two days ago. But that same day, a Maryland judge blocked the part of President Trump's executive order that bars foreign nationals from six majority Muslim nations from entering the country.

Hours before a federal judge in Hawaii issued a similar decision. I want to bring back Jay Newton Small, Contributor for "Time magazine," CNN Contributor Salena Zito. All right. Good to see you all again. So, Jay, you know, this is a big plan being pushed and a big promise that the president want to deliver on and yet, another roadblock for him.

JAY NEWTON SMALL, CONTRIBUTOR, TIME MAGAZINE: It's definitely has been a setback for them because they thought this second time around they had spent the time to thoroughly draft this order to make sure that it wouldn't be challenged, that it couldn't be challenged.

And to be frank that the two challenges are sort of unusual. They actually cite press reports for -- what Donald Trump has said in the past saying that this is a Muslim ban even though the way its drafted now says it's not a Muslim ban. That it's banned for based for national security concerns.

And so, what they've done really as judges or I guess the opposition to the ban, is they've said that this is essentially they're using Trump's own words against him. And saying this is clearly just trying to make something that is essentially a Muslim ban into something else. And therefore, it should not stand. And those two judges agreed with that, with those arguments. Now, whether or not that will stand on appeal is dubious in legal circles.

WHITFIELD: Yes. So, Salena, you know, these -- Salena these are -- judges are arguing intent and by using the words of Donald Trump whether it's been on the campaign trail or whether it's via tweet. This administration is learning a very valuable lesson here that these words coming from Donald Trump matter and can influence things that he wants to do.

SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right. At the end of the day, words always do matter. Prior again, they end up catching up with you. Well, it is not unusual for presidential executive orders to be challenged by the court, I think. If I remember President Obama, there were 21. I forget the exact number for President Bush. It's not unprecedented, right? And what is unusual as Jay said was that they use the president's own words.

[12:40:09] I've listened to some legal scholars on CNN and they seem to think that at the end of the day, this executive order will pass. And President Trump has shown a willingness to continue to go over these. I mean continue to go after this. And ultimately succeed.

WHITFIELD: What do you mean will pass? I mean, there are a lot of legal analyst who were saying right now. It's having a very difficult time. But, you're saying if it goes to the Supreme Court that may potentially be the place?

ZITO: Right.

WHITFIELD: OK. All right. That is consistent with what some of our legal analysts have said particularly if Neil Gorsuch who ends up being confirmed by the time that were to happen.

OK. So Jay, you know, how much does this continue to be a distraction? This Trump White House thought perhaps by the second version that they may be able to get it moving. Neither one are being, you know, used and exercised right now. How much of this give a distraction for this Trump White House to actually govern, to actually get something done in.

SMALL: Well, you hear from White House aides and you hear from those inside the White House that there is this incredible sense of frustration on the president's part because he just wants to get something done, right? Just achieve one thing in his first 100 days. And that's proving incredibly difficult from the repeal of Obamacare, to the ban, you know, from this immigration from certain Muslim nations or certain nations with majority Muslim populations as Sean Spicer might say.

But, to virtually, I mean, almost all of his initiatives have met with severe resistance and roadblocks in Congress as well as in the courts. And so, he's incredibly frustrated that as president, he promised this sort of rapid change and at every step, at every turn he's being stymied either by the courts or by Congress or by others. And he feels that this is not what he wanted to do as president and really just wants to get something done, get it out there.

WHITFIELD: So, Salena, how does this president -- I mean, does this president have to alter something about his approach this week with the wiretapping, you know, hearings that are on going this week? A possible vote in the House that may be a difficult vote for the GOP plan which he says, you know, is a good plan, beautiful things will happen.

And now, his travel ban, as well with its on going on obstacles. I mean, how potentially consequential are we talking about for this week? And how might this dictate or alter the way in which this president behaves going forward?

ZITO: I think if we go with a pattern of behavior, the president at times has shown a willingness to retreat on things that have not work for him and go forward on things that do work for him.

WHITFIELD: Well, that's what I'm saying. Does this mean deviating from the behavior? You know, that this --

ZITO: Yes.

WHITFIELD: -- pattern of behavior. I mean, he cannot continue to keep going or if he does, then I guess we're going to see the same kind of results. But, is this the week in which it might dictate a change from that pattern of behavior potentially?

ZITO: Yes. I think there's -- it's sort of the perfect storm, right? You know, he is witnessing how this wiretapping has had a negative effect not only are his words coming back on him but also he sees his words coming back on him on the executive order, OK? So, I would suspect that you would see him possibly pulling back on that. And going forward on these things that he's really good at, right?

I mean, one of the things with all the criticisms that he has received, one of the things you cannot criticize him for is he's rolled up his sleeves and he's gone and he talked with these members that are on the fence who are saying no. And he's trying to negotiate with them to get over on his side.

I would say the same he's doing the same thing with Vice President Mike Pence. And those are the kinds of things that have been -- have more impact on voters as they're watching this process. And they see this, they see this willingness to do this. And they find, you know, I think that's what they expected from him and that's more of what they want to see from him.

WHITFIELD: So Jay, is that demonstrative that the handful that he met with yesterday? I mean, might they want have leaned anyway with his persuasion or was it a big sell for him to do?

SMALL: Well, I mean there were certainly members of that room where in leadership were already leaning that way. So, to say all these people in the room were completely against it or leaning no, I think was incorrect. Maybe he did convince some people in that room. Some of the faces did not look completely sold when you looked at the video. They're kind of looked little freaked out by what he was saying.

[12:44:59] But, I do think that for Trump, there is, you know, potentially a silver lining in failure to some degree because you have -- I mean as, you know time put it on the cover last week of the magazine. You have the sense of they want to disrupt things. And every time they go head to head with Congress or head to head with the courts, it shows their supporters they're shaking things up, they're disrupting things.

WHITFIELD: All right, we'll leave it right there. Jay Newton Small, Salena Zito, good to see you ladies again, thank you so much.

ZITO: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, next a massive nationwide manhunt under way after a Tennessee teacher allegedly kidnaps a 15-year-old student, details after the break.


[12:49:59] WHITFIELD: All right, a nationwide manhunt is under way right now for 50-year-old Tad Cummins, a Tennessee who is now on the state's top ten most wanted list. He is charged in the accused kidnapping of 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas, a student at his school. The suspect's wife is now pleading for her husband to turn himself in to police.

CNN's Scott McLean has details.


JILL CUMMINS, SUSPECT'S WIFE: Tad, this is not you. This is not who you are. Please do the right thing and turn yourself in to the police and bring back home.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: An emotional plea from the wife of Tad Cummins, a Tennessee teacher accused of kidnapping one of his students, 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas. She was last seen Monday near Nashville. Authorities say she is in imminent danger. This morning a nationwide manhunt after investigators said they've received an alarmingly low number of leads. JOSH DEVINE, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, TENNESSEE BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: At this point, we've received about 175 tips into the TBI but none at this point has produced a credible sighting.

MCLEAN: Friday, Cummins was added to the state's top ten most wanted list. Investigators said Cummins may have groomed Elizabeth, abusing his position as a teacher and possibly sexually exploiting her while carefully planning the disappearance.

The pair is thought to be traveling in a silver Nissan Rogue with Tennessee tags. Cummins who is wanted for aggravated kidnapping and sexual exploitation of a minor is believed to be armed with two hand guns.

DEVINE: Our amber alert is ongoing. And it has been several days since anyone has seen Elizabeth Thomas or Tad Cummins. Our concern is growing by the moment. We want her home. We want him in custody.


WHITFIELD: All right, Scott McLean with me now. So any tips?

MCLEAN: Yes, so police have actually gotten 185 tips now. And Fredricka, that's seems like a lot. It's actually not. So for comparison's sake there was an amber alert case in Tennessee last year. They got three times that many tips.

The other problem is, none of the tips that they've gotten so far have been definitive sightings. And so the concern is that the pair are already outside of the sort of original net the police cast in the southeast. We also know that Tad Cummins can probably stay under the financial radar for quite some time that's because he got a loan for about $4,500 just a few days before he disappeared by using his car and some other personal items as collateral.

It's also to point out, he was actually under investigation and suspended from his school about more than a month prior to this disappearance. Clearly, he was keeping in touch with Elizabeth Thomas. And police also say that when Thomas was dropped off at that restaurant outside of Nashville in Columbia, that she knew that she was going to meet Cummins.

Obviously, what's not clear is if she knew what was coming next. She's a 15-year-old girl. He's a 50-year-old man. Clearly, one person is taking advantage of the other.

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

All right, still ahead, role reversal. Police officers risking their lives every day to help the public, but for one state trooper, the tables were turned after a good samaritan jumps into action to save his life. That story is next.


[12:57:22] WHITFIELD: All right law enforcement officers put their lives on the line to protect and serve the public every time they put on the uniform. But today, we have the story of a good samaritan who risked his life to save an Arizona state trooper in desperate need of help.

CNN's Stephanie Elam tells us how roles suddenly reversed in this beyond the call of duty.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's dark and desolate in the Arizona desert at 4:30 a.m. Trooper Ed Anderson is working Interstate 10 when an alarming call comes in.

TROOPER ED ANDERSSON, ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: A pedestrian shooting at traffic car with a gun.

ELAM: Anderson finds an overturned vehicle and two possible victims.

ANDERSSON: A male subject kneeling on his knees holding a female in her -- in his arms.

ELAM: Andersson moves his vehicle to block the slow lane. But when he returns to the victims, the woman is there but the man is gone.

ANDERSSON: So I scanned with my flashlight. And as I scanned to my right, I found him. He was standing in the emergency lane. And as my light hit him, I could tell he already had his weapon pointed at me.

ELAM: The suspect shoots Andersson in the right shoulder disabling his dominant arm.

ANDERSSON: Next thing I know, I look up and he's charging me and his gun is up in the air and he strikes me on the head with his gun.

ELAM: The men fall to the ground as they battle.

ANDERSSON: I rolled to my right side so he doesn't get my gun because I knew if he got my gun, it would be all over with him.

ELAM: As Andersson fights for his life a few more motorists pass by. No one calls 911.

ANDERSSON: It takes a certain person to actually stop, put their lives on the line.

ELAM: That person is Thomas Yoxall. He exits his pickup legal firearm in hand.

THOMAS YOXALL, GOOD SAMARITAN: He's beating him in a savage way and just fist after fist.

ELAM: What was his energy like, the suspect?

YOXALL: Evil. If I was going to put a word on it, it was evil.

ANDERSSON: I heard a voice, telling him to get off. And then I heard the same voice asking me if I needed help. And I said, "Yes, I do." And then the next thing I hear is two shots.

YOXALL: I had a clear line of fire and at that moment, I had to discharge my weapon.

ANDERSSON: I heard a voice which I believe was Thomas. He said, "Oh, the suspect won't be getting up no more.

ELAM: What do you think would have happened if Thomas didn't show up?

ANDERSSON: I probably wouldn't be here right now.

ELAM: Once so close to death, the two now forging a bond for life.

ANDERSSON: How you doing, brother?


ANDERSSON: I get to see the grand kids grow up. My daughters, you know, get married eventually. So he did a fabulous.

[13:00:02] ELAM: Stephanie Elam, CNN, Youngtown, Arizona.


WHITFIELD: All right, we so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM. And it all starts right now.