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FBI Chief to Testify on Wiretap Claims as Trump Doubles Down; Secretary of State Talks North Korea with Chinese Officials; Incidents Put Secret Service in Spotlight; Interview with Patrick Murphy; Republicans to Vote to Replace Obamacare on Thursday. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired March 18, 2017 - 15:00   ET


[15:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Brian Stelter, thank you so much. Of course, we'll be watching you tomorrow morning at 11:00 a.m. eastern time.

Thank you, everyone, for being with me today. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Much more of CNN NEWSROOM straight ahead.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. Thanks for being with me.

We begin with President Trump facing the most controversial of his presidency to date. In less than 40 hours, lawmakers will zero on his unsubstantiated wiretapping claim and time is running out. Not a shred of evidence has surfaced so far, yet President Trump doubled down repeatedly on this claim that his predecessor, President Obama, had his phone tapped during the campaign.

On Monday, FBI Director James Comey is expected to tell the House Intelligence Committee whether there's any evidence to back up the president's allegations.

Also, Monday, Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, begins the first Senate confirmation hearing.

And then the Republican health care plan set for a vote on the House floor scheduled for Thursday. The president predicts it will pass on the first try.


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


CABRERA: Right now, President Trump is at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

And let's go to Athena Jones, White House correspondent, in nearby West Palm Beach. Athena, The White House is bracing for the House Intelligence hearing

on Monday. It's significant for the president. Do we know what Trump is focusing on this weekend?

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRSPONDENT: Hi, Ana. We know he has a relatively light public schedule today. He just spent several hours at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach. White House officials said he'd be working and meeting with staff, but CNN did get video of him driving a golf cart on the golf course, so it appears he hit a few holes of golf. He's now departed the golf club. We know he's scheduled to have an Intelligence briefing at his Mar-a-Lago resort in about an hour. And then he's set to make a phone call or have a phone call with Brazil's President Michel Temer.

But the focus on the unsubstantiated explosive allegations made two weeks ago against his predecessor, President Barack Obama, who he accused of having his, quote, "wires tapped" in Trump Tower. Several officials not just the former president but former Intelligence officials, Republicans and Democrats who are looking into this on Capitol Hill all have said either this did not happen or seen no evidence that it happened. The latest denial is from the number-two official at the National Security Agency, Richard Ledget (ph), in an interview with the BBC used tough language saying this idea that this latest claim the White House is making that British Intelligence was responsible for orchestrating these wiretaps on Trump Tower, this official says that is, "errant nonsense, claims that the U.K. was involved with wiretapping demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of how the relationship works." Ledget (ph) went on to say, "Of course, they wouldn't do it," meaning British Intelligence, "It would be epically stupid."

So this is one more denial to add to a long list of denials. The big question, Ana, is, is the White House, is the president going to retract his statement? Is he going to apologize to President Obama for accusing him of something that there's been no evidence to back up?

CABRERA: There has been a growing chorus of Republicans calling on the president to apologize and retract those statements.

Athena Jones, thank you very much.

I want to talk more about the House Intelligence Committee hearing and President Trump's wiretapping claim.

Let's bring in our panel. Ryan Lizza, the Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker"; Zach Wolf, CNN managing editor of "Digital Politics"; and CNN political reporter, Tom LoBianco.

Ryan, I'll start with you.

You say the president is turning an investigation of Russia meddling into the election into of Trump's own honesty. Explain.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: The House Intelligence Committee, right, which will start its open hearings on Monday, this was basically an investigation of the extent of the Russian influence campaign in the United States election last year, and the secondary issue was whether there were any U.S. persons who were involved with that. The whole issue of collusion, potentially, with the Trump campaign, right, and then another section they were going to investigate concerning leaks of classified information. And those were the primary issues they were looking at. Tomorrow -- excuse me, Monday, when Director Comey testifies, what everyone is going to be focused on is whether Donald Trump lied about Obama tapping his phones in Trump Tower. So by making those, by tweeting those allegations, he has completely changed the focus of what the House Intelligence Committee, at least, at the start here, is going to do tell officials that have spoken out on this and now the top Intelligence officials that have spoken out about this and the top Intelligence officials in the U.K. have all said that there's no evidence for this.

[15:05:21] CABRERA: No evidence, no proof.

LIZZA: That's why I say he sort of changed the focus of the hearing that did not necessarily have to be a hearing or investigation that implicated him or focused on him into one that will start out as the president's honesty and is putting the FBI director in an unusual position of having to say whether his own president lied or not, and that's going to happen Monday.

CABRERA: There were some big news last night as the DOJ dropped off documents for the House Intelligence Committee, kind of the last moment there. You reported on this classified report that the Justice Department delivered to House and Senate investigators. What does that report say about the president's wiretapping allegations?

TOM LOBIANCO, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, we understand from our sources is that, again, there's no evidence of any wiretapping. And you know, this kind of, as Ryan was saying, they're going into the House Intelligence hearing on Monday, it was already going to be a big hearing. The first big hearing looking into Russia's interference in the U.S. elections and it's been over shadowed about this accusation that Trump doubled down on Friday. And what you have here is the Intelligence community, his own administration providing documents that show there is no evidence of this, and for some reason, they insist on finding ways of saying maybe it wasn't a wiretap but surveillance. Again, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, saying, maybe there was the British collection that's the reports they've seen. So they stick to it. And Monday is going to be really important. You're going to have the director of the FBI there in an open hearing going to be asked these questions and have to address it on live national television. It's going to be a very big day.

CABRERA: It makes you wonder if there were some documents of any sort provided to these investigators on both the House and the Senate, what did those documents contain, if there was no evidence provided within them?

Zach, to you, I wonder, does Monday become the final resting point for the story? Could Monday's hearing put this wiretapping issue to rest?

ZACHARY WOLF, CNN MANAGING EDITOR, DIGITAL POLITICS: No. I think Donald Trump is going to have to say something to address this in some way to sort of, you know, put it to rest because there will continue to be questions. You could envision the FBI Director Comey essentially saying there is no evidence for this but then the question is going to become, why is Trump continuing to do it? Where is he getting his information? It just seems like he's going to have to essentially blink at some point to really put this to rest. I'm not sure if people will just stop thinking about it, depending on, you know, what the FBI director says. It really is an issue that comes back to Trump.


CABRERA: I'd like to talk about health care, real fast, because we'll talk more about, of course, the wiretapping issues over the next few hours. But let's talk about health care because it's a big week for the Republican health care plan.

Here's what Donald Trump had to say yesterday about GOP support on this issue.


TRUMP: We just had a really wonderful group of people meeting later. We met with 12, pretty much, noes in Congress, you saw in a while ago and went from all noes to all yeses and we have a lot of yeses coming in. It's all coming together.


CABRERA: Sounds pretty optimistic there. We see Trump, the deal maker here, Tom?

LOBIANCO: Sure. I mean, this is his strength, right? Going into these meetings, you know, one thing that I think a lot of people around Capitol Hill give him credit for, yeah, there's been quite a few stumbles in the past 50 days or so since he took office, but one thing he's very good at is this direct personal lobbying and bringing them into the White House, it's something Barack Obama did not used to do and Trump is doing in spades right now. Whether or not these were 12 definitive noes, that's up to question. Our reports indicate it was a soft no but he got them to yeses. He's building toward this number he needs and building up to 216 in the House. It's not an easy thing to do right now, but they're getting there slowly.

[15:09:55] CABRERA: And our latest, according to CNN's contact with the different members of the House, it looked like there were more people leaning no, some 25 leaning no. He can only afford to lose, 21 is kind of the max-out number to get this health care bill passed but there is still time.

And, Ryan, you have said that the downfall of this Ryan bill -- don't call it Trumpcare -- would have a cascading effect on the rest of Trump's agenda. What do you mean?

LIZZA: I think it would be like Clinton in '93 with the health care bill failing. It just sort of defined his first two years. And then in the midterm elections in '94, he lost the Congress. So presidents -- you know, it's strange, even presidents with eight years, the first year, the first two years are generally the point in time where you can get the most done. Given the fact Trump has a Republican Congress, he's sort of at his maximum political capital right now, even with sort of middling approval rating, it's the chance to do the biggest things in his presidency. So if health care goes down, it's going to impact infrastructure, it's going to impact the tax reform agenda, and it's going to impact his political capital, and the sense of his political strength and his ability to sort of put the Republican Party together.

That's why, you know, and it is interesting that Ryan, Speaker Ryan is putting this on the floor on Thursday. You usually don't put legislation on the floor unless you're extremely confident that you have the votes there.

And look, the Republicans, Ryan has done a pretty good job of pushing things through Republicans in general when they have been in power in the last -- you know, since '95, with one period where they weren't in power in the House. They generally have a very good record of getting the votes they need in the House of Representatives. So, you know, but there's still an issue of the most conservative members, the some 40 Republicans part of what's called the Freedom Caucus, that's where the --


LIZZA: -- they're the main group of noes at this point.

CABRERA: All right. We are going to be watching to see if there's movement there.

Ryan Lizza, Tom LoBianco, Zackary Wolf, thanks to all of you.


CABRERA: Coming up, after his blunt warning to North Korea, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gets ready to meet with the Chinese president. We'll preview what's on their agenda next.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[15:17:04] CABRERA: A couple of things happening overseas. Some scary moments in France. Police shot and killed a man at the country's second busiest airport today. The man tried to grab a soldier's weapon inside the terminal at the airport and after a struggle, shot dead by other soldiers. Police say the same man involved in another shooting and a carjacking earlier in the day. Airport officials evacuated the terminal, flights were stopped for several hours. Things are now back to normal there.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in China, right now, a crucial trip. He arrived in Beijing not long after issuing a strong warning to North Korea, saying nothing is off the table with dealing with Pyongyang, including military action. Chinese officials have called on the U.S. to keep a cool-headed approach to the rising tensions between North Korea and the West.

Let's go to global affairs correspondence, Elise Labott.

Elise, this is Tillerson's first trip as secretary of state. These are two very important countries. And we talk about the world, North Korea, China, what is his message to this region?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, it's a few messages. First, the main message is way basically that the region needs to get serious about combatting the North Korean threat. To South Korea and Japan is basically said that the last 20 years of kind of waiting for things to change with North Korea and North Korea policy has basically been a failure, and now the threat is very eminent in terms of North Korea working towards this long-range missile, what they call an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach the U.S. mainland. So not only does the U.S. want to work with South Korea and Japan, but obviously, but message now to China is to really get tough. The U.S. wants China to put more pressure on North Korea and crack down and implement some of the sanctions already in place.

Listen to Secretary Tillerson this morning meeting with the foreign minister of China.


REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We share a common view and a sense that tensions on the peninsula are quite high right now and that things are reached a rather dangerous level. And we've committed ourselves to do everything we can to prevent any type of conflict from breaking out.


LABOTT: There isn't exactly a meeting of the minds because the U.S. wants to, you know, step up sanctions. You heard Secretary Tillerson in South Korea say that no option was off the table when it came to military options I the U.S. saw North Korea advancing towards that ICBM or would attack U.S. or South Korean troops on the border. China wants the U.S. to get back to talks. And basically, Secretary Tillerson is saying, Ana, until North Korea really commits to ending its nuclear program, talks are not in the equation.

[15:19:58] CABRERA: And yet, China has a key role with persuading North Korea and in many ways, don't care what the U.S. wants to do and we'll go our own path. But I wonder, as the world is watching what's happening here in the United States and the actions and tweets of President Trump, if Trump's unpredictability in some way may serve to benefit Tillerson and his talks in the region in that it sends a message that this is a different ball game.

LABOTT: Well, I mean, certainly, the messages are consistent. You saw the tweet from President Trump on the eve of Secretary Tillerson arriving in Beijing, basically saying that North Korea is a huge problem, China is not doing a lot to help. Might have been a little less diplomatic than Secretary Tillerson. President Trump is not exactly been known for his diplomatese. But it was a very consistent message that Secretary Tillerson was bringing to China. You remember, in the campaign in the early days after the election, there was a lot of talk about the so-called madmen theory, that basically, everybody thought that Nixon was the madman and unpredictable, and that might help the United States overseas because people would be afraid of what he would do.


LABOTT: And certainly, with President Trump's tweets and some of the things that he says, you know, countries are, you know, very shocked and very concerned. You saw that very early with the Chinese when President Trump was talking about, you know, talking with Taiwan, he talked to the Taiwanese president, and talking about ending the so- called One China policy. So I think China is a good example of that. But then things more normalized a little bit. But I do think these world leaders are caught off guard by this president and are really trying to make sense of whether to take his tweets literally or just kind of take them as, you know, some ramblings, and then kind of deal with the officials on what the real policy is. But certainly, it's keeping the Chinese guessing and they're really concerned about the unpredictability.

CABRERA: Thank you, Elise Labott, in Washington.

Coming up, the White House incident today, on top of a stolen laptop with floor plans for Trump Tower. We'll look at a series of events putting the Secret Service in the spotlight.


[15:26:29] CABRERA: There's been another security incident at the White House but, this time, the person was apprehended even before reaching the fence, fortunately. Law enforcement officials tell CNN a man jumped over a bicycle rack in front of the White House just before 1:00 this afternoon briefly escalating the security there. This man allegedly said he wanted to deliver a document he was carrying to the White House. He had no weapon and criminal charges are pending. However, and law enforcement source says the security at the White House worked the way it was supposed to with the man being apprehended quickly.

Now this comes after a major security breach at the White House just last weekend when Jonathan Tran jumped the White House fence and was on the ground for 15 minutes before he was apprehended, according to officials. And that's not all.

CNN correspondent, Brynn Gingras, digs deeper into a number of Secret Service incidents.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A stolen laptop, potentially compromising the security at Trump Tower in New York is the latest setback for the Secret Service. A senior law enforcement source confirms an agent's computer was stolen out of her car in New York City Thursday. On it, floor plans and evacuation protocols for Trump Tower. Sources say the laptop was highly encrypted, but it can't be traced or erased remotely.

A spokesman for the department said there's no classified information on the computer.


GINGRAS: Two agents are also the subject of an internal investigation after being accused of photographing the president's grandson. The entire Trump family and their children receive protection and sources say the agents took pictures of Donald Trump Jr's son as he was sleeping while being driven around New York City.

This comes as we are learning new details about a security breach at the White House where an intruder spent at least 15 minutes evading security on White House grounds while inching closer to the president.

According to a Secret Service source, 26-year-old Jonathan Tran scaled a Treasury Department fence last Friday and set off several alarms but still managed to sneak past a Secret Service security post before being caught in the inner portion of the White House grounds. A criminal complaint shows he was carrying two cans of mace and was walking close to the exterior wall of the White House while the president was home.

Trump praised the Secret Service's response.

TRUMP: The Secret Service did a fantastic job. It was a troubled person. Very sad.

GINGRAS: But former Secret Service agent, Jonathan Wackrow, said the breach is disturbing.

JONATHAN WRACKROW, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: He was able to beat the physical security measures at the White House, the technological security measures and the human capital, the uniformed guards, and that's very alarming.

GINGRAS: Now, a House Oversight Committee wants the breach investigated, writing, quote, "If true, these allegations raise questions about whether the agency's security protocols are adequate."

WACKROW: All of these things are embarrassments to the Secret Service. And compounding that problem is that there's no director of the Secret Service. Joe Clancy has retired. So really, the onus is on DHS.

GINGRAS: Brynn Gingras, CNN, New York.


CABRERA: Coming up, a former member of the House Intelligence Committee accuses President Trump of acting recklessly. Former Congressman Patrick Murphy will join me live to talk about wiretapping and handling of classified information. We'll preview Monday's hearing.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[15:34:14] CABRERA: On Monday, we expect to learn whether the FBI is actively investigating the Trump campaign and any ties to Russia as well as more on Russia's involvement in the U.S. election. Now, FBI Director James Comey will testify before the House Intelligence Committee. The U.S. Intelligence community has already issued a report concluding that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a covert campaign to undermine the faith in the U.S. election and to help elect Donald Trump. Now this committee wants to know if the FBI's probing a connection between Trump and Russian officials.

CNN's senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, is in Moscow covering the Russia reaction to all this.

Nick, what is the word from Russia ahead of this crucial hearing?

[15:35:00] NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, as always, distance and rejection of the claim that they meddled in the 2016 electoral campaign. The spokesman for the Kremlin, Dmitry Peskov, saying they're not even watching as this hearing is under way on Monday. They expect no new details, they say, and also go on to add that this repeated series of allegations against them is like a broken record with a futuristic song, suggesting they don't see anything corresponding to the present-day reality with what they hear coming out of Washington. But at the same time, too, I'm sure there will be people definitely glued to their TV sets to see if there's any kind of granular detail emerging from the testimony of James Comey. His first public moment, perhaps, delivering on the details of the investigations coming forward so far.

But, Ana, it's not necessarily the outcome for Moscow they may have wanted, if you agree with the special litigations, to interfere with the campaign, seeing Donald Trump as a more favorable alternative. It's not clear what the objective is being. But regardless of that, the scrutiny of relationships between Russian officials and those around Donald Trump is so intense now. And the domestic criticism of Donald Trump for that is pretty relentless that it would be hard, perhaps, for the Trump White House to come forward with policies that may be more aligned to Moscow's objectives, certainly in the middle east, too, because they'll be accused of that former sense of collusion. So in the long-term, Moscow not entirely happy but they have certainly thrown the cat among the pigeons in the Beltway causing a lot of internal interruptions in the establishment, and may well be to their advantage -- Ana?

CABRERA: Nick Paton Walsh, thank you so much for the information.

Now, Monday's hearing is led by the House Intelligence Committee. My next guest served on that committee until earlier this year, former Congressman, Patrick Murphy, a Democrat. And he joins me live from Florida.

Congressman, thank you so much for being here.


CABRERA: Since you were on this committee a couple of months ago, what do you expect on Monday? How will this go down?

MURPHY: Well, it's an open hearing, so you can expect all the remarks to be well prepared and All the questions to be well prepared. And one of the recollections that I have and one of the things I always tell people is that so unique about the House Intelligence Committee is that it is not partisan. It's amazing what happens when there's no cameras in the room during the typical intelligence hearings because people want to get down to the facts and see what happened. So Monday's hearing is open. There we'll be cameras and fanfare and questions asked. But I imagine you'll still see a bipartisan questioning and want to know more in-depth understanding of what really happened both with Russia but also people want to get to the bottom to see if, in fact, President Obama did wiretap President Trump. And by accounts, that did not happen and is an absurd accusation by President Trump, and we have continued to see agency and bipartisan Republicans -- Republicans even coming out now saying they want an apology from President Trump for those accusations.

CABRERA: Do you expect Director Comey to come out in an opening statement and address that specifically or will it be more of a back- and-forth Q&A right from the get-go?

MURPHY: I imagine he will have prepared statements and I imagine he will address it. He knows as well as anybody else that this, you know, has been talked about quite a bit and might want to address it in his own terms. If I was him, I would want to get it out of my own light and be able to reference my own comments throughout the hearing, because I imagine most members of Congress want to ask that question.

CABRERA: James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence, said there's no evidence of any collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Did you ever see information that led you to a different conclusion?

MURPHY: Well, throughout the time that I was in the committee, especially toward the end, there were quite a few concerns brought up about what was happening, not only in our country with Russia and what they're trying to do to undermine our election, but what they've tried to do around the world for years now and sow doubt in the Democratic process. And that is what concerns me more than what happened in the last election, is that we're not getting beyond this Republican and Democrat infighting to see what really happened and how do we prevent this from happening in the future. Because if Russia in fact -- and from everything I've seen -- was able to have an effect on this election and the fake news, and we continue to play these partisan games, we're not going to get to the bigger question and solve the problems to prevent this from happening again. And that's what we really need to do here. And it's not just our country but we have to work with our allies and work with NATO, the U.N., and other countries to make sure that Vladimir Putin doesn't continue to do this in other countries.

[15:40:01] CABRERA: Real quick, before I turn to the health care, you can answer briefly, as far as this investigation into if Russia's involvement in the U.S. election, the process, how many answers will we get tomorrow? Is that going to be, like, all out on the table or just a tiptoeing into this?

MURPHY: I would imagine it's going to be tiptoeing into it. I don't imagine huge news out of it tomorrow. Even if Director Comey comes out and says, by all allegations, what he said to the DOJ, a few weeks ago, that he wants to stop all of this coming from Donald Trump, that this is not true, this did not happen, we heard that sort of secondhand. Even if he verifies that he, in fact, said that, I imagine President Trump and/or Sean Spicer will say, no, trust us, something will happen and you'll see it soon, and try to make up some information. And it appears there's no respect for the truth anymore in this White House.


MURPHY: And your own Fareed Zakaria pointed this out really well. It doesn't matter if it's true or false, he got to the place he's at by making things up, and people continue to fall for it.

CABRERA: Do you think it's a personal issue where he can't admit it's wrong or if he was wrong or made a mistake or do you think it's more strategic?

MURPHY: I believe, and most people have studied that President Trump, believe he's about as narcissistic and egotistical as we've ever had in office. Throughout his career, no matter what he's done, in "Apprentice," his favorite words were, "You're fired." Think about the ego behind that. I don't see him backing down. And I don't think it has really hit him yet, the magnitude of the office. And everything he has said has an impact and ripple effect around the world. Just yesterday, with Angela Merkel, quoting a news story from FOX News about this report that the British spy agency was, in fact, tapping, and then said, oh, no, I wasn't saying it was true or not, I'm just repeating what was said. I mean, it's preposterous. Unbelievable.


CABRERA: The British shut down that report. They said it was completely false.

Let's talk about health care --

MURPHY: They would never do that.

CABRERA: -- as well, the full House is expected to vote on the GOP's Obamacare replacement bill come Thursday. Democrats have seemingly been refusing to engage in any kind of brokering on this, but many in the past have acknowledged Obamacare needs to be improved. We know premiums have gone up. Fewer people than estimated are currently on plans. Insurance companies are leaving some of the Obamacare exchanges, so there are fewer options. Should Democrats be working with Republicans to make better legislation?

MURPHY: Well, I'll just backtrack, real quick, because when I was elected to Congress, that was my message four and five years ago that we have to get it right. Yes, we've made some big steps forward. 20 million people now have health care. We've started to bend the health care and we've offered better care to a lot of people, but there are things that need to be fixed. President Obama himself would acknowledge many of those changes and, in fact, wrote a long report outlining exactly what needs to be done. So now --

CABRERA: Why aren't Democrats doing something about it?

MURPHY: -- fast forward -- well, fast forward to this election. There was a lot of talking. And I'll remind folks I've talked about this meeting I had with Senator Schumer, actually, right after the election, that we were upset about the outcome but he said, you know, at least, and I hope that we can work on some things like infrastructure and tax reform and get things right, like the Affordable Care Act, to make sure more people have coverage, and that was the hope. But then President Trump comes out and focuses on building a wall and a Muslim ban and continues to go down this road with Russia. And there has been no effort on his part to reach across and bring Democrats into the fold to find this middle ground. He's pandered way more to the right than I would have ever imagined.

CABRERA: Congressman Patrick Murphy, thank you so much for coming on and for your insight --

MURPHY: Thank you.

CABRERA: -- in the hearing coming Monday, as well as your thoughts on the health care legislation. We appreciate it.

MURPHY: Thank you.

[15:39:22] CABRERA: Still ahead, a 100-year-old Holocaust survivor tries to understand why anti-Semitism and fear are in her life once again. Her take on the current social and political climate, when we come back.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


BRANDON WOOD, RUNNER: People comment all the time, I don't like to drive 100 miles, let alone run 100 miles. But it's the feeling that you get afterwards, just an amazing sense of accomplishment.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Brandon Wood wasn't always a runner. Growing up, he was inactive and weighed nearly 300 pounds. But then his daughter Violet was born.

[15:45:00] WOOD: Made me realize that, OK, if I was going to be around to see my kids grow up, not always be the dad that's, oh, no, I can't right now, I'm tired or my back hurts, something needed to change. GUPTA: He started running. First around the block then down the

street. And eventually, ultramarathons but the Susetna 100 (ph) is unlike anything he's attempted before.

WOOD: This is a much different race because of the winter and the length and the difficulty. I am definitely nervous.

ANNOUNCER: Two, one, go.


GUPTA: Racers have four hours to bike, ski or run 100 miles through the icy Alaskan wilderness.

WOOD: Ten miles in, only 90 more miles to go. Whoa.

GUPTA: Because the course is so remote and temperatures can drop below zero, each racer must carry 15 pounds of survival gear in case of emergency.

WOOD: Oh, no. About two more hours of daylight, it starts getting dark here.

GUPTA: Running through the night without sleep wasn't easy, not only physically but mentally.

WOOD: Multiple times, I've turned around to try and start talking to somebody and there's nobody there.

After 90 miles, it starts to wear on you. All things considered, doing pretty good.

GUPTA: Out of 34 runners, only 13 finished.

After running for over 33 hours --


GUPTA: -- Brandon came in second.

WOOD: There's just something about this amazing challenge. You work hard, you can do amazing things.



[15:51:15] CABRERA: When Fanny Aizenberg turned 100 this week, many stopped to take notice. Aizenberg is one of the few Holocaust survivors left, who has a firsthand story to tell. For the past 15 years, Aizenberg has greeted visitors to the Holocaust Museum in Washington.

It's there, where she celebrated a surprise birthday party, and sat down to talk with CNN's Barbara Starr about the recent threats against Jews here in the U.S. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An auditorium of teenagers listening to 100-year-old Fanny Aizenberg, a survivor of the Nazi Holocaust, tell of an unimaginable fear more than 70 years ago.

AIZENBERG: Nine minutes on the clock, 100 people were dead.

STARR: The students crowd around, wanting to say hello at Washington's Holocaust Memorial Museum. Now at 100, antisemitism is back in Fanny's life.

(on camera): You know that happened. And now today you see things like the JCC.


STARR: What do you think about that?

AIZENBERG: It kills me.

STARR (voice-over): More than 80 Jewish community centers and schools across the country have received bomb threats in a wave of anti- Semitism.

AIZENBERG: Next door to the JCC, they got them already two warnings about a bomb. That's next door to where I live.

STARR (on camera): Explain to people what you think about all of this.

AIZENBERG: I'm afraid to. Because I'm too honest.

STARR: Tell me.

AIZENBERG: No, it hurts me. And I say of all the places in the world.

STARR (voice-over): For elderly Holocaust survivors, a struggle once again to understand why.

AIZENBERG: So where do you stop it? If you don't have the authority today, and America is still the biggest power in the world, so why don't we do anything about it?

STARR: Diane Saltzman works with survivors at the museum.

(on camera): The reaction you're seeing is refusing to give up?

DIANE SALTZMAN, WORKS WERE HOLOCAUST SURVIVERS, HOLOCAUST MUSEUM: There's determination and even some defiance. That they're not going to stop. Their message is really important. STARR (voice-over): And Fanny Aizenberg's life is testimony to that.

When the Nazis invaded Belgium in 1940, she had to send her daughter into hiding. She wouldn't see her for years. Even now, Fanny says the decision to separate was unbearably hard.

AIZENBERG: How do you put a child away? That's the only thing I had.

STARR: She joined the resistance, hiding Jews and working as a courier before she was exposed to the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz, surviving Nazi medical torture. The family eventually reunited and coming to America.

Today, she and other survivors struggle to understand a simple question: Why do people hate?

AIZENBERG: I tried to make people understand, you cannot love each other, but you could understand each other. You don't have to hate anybody.

STARR: Barbara Starr, CNN, Washington.


[15:54:37] CABRERA: What a wise woman.

We'll be right back.


CABRERA: Today, we introduce you to the very first "CNN Hero" of 2017. After losing her 8-year-old son to leukemia, Leslie Morrisette transformed her heartbreak into action. She's using 21st century technology to help kids, who are battling life-threatening illnesses, connect to their everyday lives.


LESLIE MORRISETTE, CNN HERO: It's really difficult for kids to spend a lot of time in the hospital. They get so disconnected from their family and friends. And schools. And when we bring them this technology, we're able to dial in and be right in the classroom.



MORRISETTE: You can just see their face light right up? It brings them such joy.


CABRERA: To see the Philbot in action -- the name of this robot -- and watch Leslie's full story, go to While you're there, we'd love to you if you have somebody who you think deserves to be a "CNN Hero," please nominate them. Again, that's Top of the hour. Great to have you with me on a Saturday. You're

live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York.