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Questions Remain over Comey Firing; Iowa Town Residents Not Troubled by Trump's Controversial Actions in Office; Trump Invites Lavrov, Kislyak to White House After Firing Comey; Comey Firing Compared to Nixon-era Event the Saturday Night Massacre; Nigerian Government Helping Chibok Schoolgirls Recover. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired May 11, 2017 - 02:00   ET



[02:00:13] SESAY: This is CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles.

Ahead this hour --


SESAY: Hello, and thank you for joining us. I'm Isha Sesay.

NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

Well, at least one thing was clear on Wednesday, it is that the White House will not be able to explain away the sudden firing of FBI Director James Comey any time soon. The questions just keep coming, all to the president's dismay.

Our own Jeff Zeleny has the latest.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much for being here. I appreciate it.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPODNENT (voice-over): There is still one more question tonight, above all others, for President Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why did you fire James Comey?

TRUMP: Because he was not doing a good job, very simply. He was not doing a good job.

ZELENY: Those sparse words were all the president had to say after he fired James Comey.

For a second day, the bombshell rocked Washington.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: The dismissal of Director James Comey establishes a very troubling pattern.

ZELENY: Vice President Pence praised the president's decision, but shed no more light on the abrupt dismissal of the man leading the investigation into Russian meddling into the 2016 election.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Trump provided the kind of strong and decisive leadership that the American public has come to be accustomed from him. He took the action necessary to remove Director Comey.


ZELENY: As protesters gathered outside the White House --


ZELENY: -- inside the West Wing, the administration struggled to not only explain why he was fired, but why now.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRTARY: The president lost confidence in Director Comey from the day he was elected.

ZELENY: The time line and its contradictions matter in determining whether it was president or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who triggered Comey's firing as the White House initially explained.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you regret not doing it earlier, like on January 20th or January 21st?

HUCKABEE SANDERS: No, I believe the president wanted to give Director Comey a chance, but he feels he made the right decision.

ZELENY: Whether tone death of intentionally ironic, Russia, front and center today in the White House. The president appearing alongside Henry Kissinger.

TRUMP: Everybody knows Dr. Kissinger. And right now, we're talking about Russia and various other matters.

ZELENY: Also meeting with the Russian foreign minister and even smiling in the Oval Office with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, considered a spy and recruiter of spies by U.S. Intelligence.

All of this as the deputy White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, blamed Comey's abrupt dismissal on the investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mails.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: I think also having a letter like the one he received and having the conversation that outlined the basic, just, atrocities in circumventing the chain of command in the Department of Justice.

ZELENY (on camera): Now in the days leading up to this decision, the president is growing increasingly agitated by his FBI director. I'm told by talking to multiple sources familiar with this process that the president saw the FBI director as own man and could not be trusted in this investigation.

Now going forward here, as the president, as the White House looks for a new FBI director, one person involved in this is the attorney general, Jeff Sessions. Of course, he recused himself from anything having to do with the Russia investigation a few months back. Now he is back in this conversation.

This Russian investigation not going away. The president, the White House, trying to get back to their legislative agenda, which has been imperiled by all of this.

Jeff Zeleny, CNN, the White House.


SESAY: With me now, former FBI agent, Bobby Chacon, Democratic strategist, Caroline Heldman; and Republican strategist, Austin James.

Welcome to you both.

Bobby, let me start with you.

We're now learning the firing of James Comey comes a week after he went to the DOJ asking for more resources to expand the Russian probe. Do you buy the explanation from the White House on how he came to be fired, especially in light of the new details?

BOBBY CHACON, FORMER FBI AGENT: Well, you know, I'm not sure. I know there is some denial on this, no question how bad it looks and the timing and the way it was handled and the termination actually took place. I think there were a number of things that started to make Director Comey not the most effective leader at the FBI, and so at least among the rank and file there was a split on whether or not his days were numbered and whether or not it may be good to bring somebody new in. But the timing certainly doesn't look good.

[02:05:30] SESAY: Yeah.

Caroline, to you, we're now hearing that the president had in fact been stewing on this situation with Comey for a while now, for a couple of days, and according to sources, he was frustrated with Comey, saying he was his own man and could not be trusted by the president. What do you make of that?

CAROLINE HELDMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, a couple of things there is a concern that if he is his own man on Russia that that bodes poorly for the president's campaign given the ongoing investigation. But it's really clear that he has had issues with Comey for a while. Early on in the presidency, he made a comment, he blew Comey a kiss in January and said you're more popular than I am. Which critics said that is not a good place to be with Donald Trump, he likes the spotlight. And a couple of months later we have Comey coming out saying there is no justification for the claim that Barack Obama wiretapped Trump tower. And that was embarrassing. And last week we saw Comey embarrass the president again, by simply challenging the legitimacy of the outlook of the election saying it made him mildly nauseous if he played a part in the election. And of course, there was evidence he did, the letter coming out saying they were opening the investigation on Hillary Clinton. And so there is evidence that the president may react. You can't fire someone who is investigating you like this and expect to get away unharmed.

SESAY: Austin, the White House apparently is surprised by the backlash. That is what we were getting from our own Dana Bash. The White House is keen to stress that the president's decision to fire him was predicated on this memo from the acting attorney general. Now we hear from the attorney general, according to "The Washington Post," is none too happy and is threatening to resign. Does this put the White House in a tight spot?

AUSTIN JAMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Sure. And Bobby had good points to make on this. Trump promised to remove bad actors from Washington, and Comey was a lightning rod for a number of reasons, dating back to last year, led by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. They were calling for his resignation. There were claims that he broke the law, and so Trump is only following through with that. You know, this is a leader --

SESAY: Ten months later?

JAMES: Well, so there is probably a debate. He had much more important things to do, I would argue, in the first 100 days. There was probably a debate on whether he should have done it previously. She is absolutely right. I think this boils down to a decision that comes to bear. This is the leader of the most powerful law enforcement agency in the world and he was corrupted. He was a bad actor.

SESAY: By your own logic, a leader of the most important intelligence agency in the world. But by your analysis, why wait 10 months to remove him then?

JAMES: The White House and Trump said this has been on my mind since day one. What we're trying to do is over-politicalize bad optics. We elected a businessman -- I know you would disagree -- but we elected a businessman who doesn't understand optics. That's probably a good thing. And if the media and Democrats got off their high horses and looked at it objectively, there's nothing nefarious. So if nothing nefarious comes out --

HELDMAN: But we don't know that. We don't know --


HELDMAN: -- because Donald Trump has given us a false reason for doing this. According to the Rosenstein document, he did it because he was upset about Hillary Clinton and how she was treated back in July. And that is ridiculous, nobody buys that.

JAMES: You have a businessman in the White House, you don't have a business --


HELDMAN: You think he cares about Hillary Clinton? You think that is why he fired Comey?


JAMES: The White House --


HELDMAN: But he has to be honest with us for us to know, to have any faith in his decisions.

JAMES: He needs to be being an authoritarian successful CEO and needs to start being a president of the White House. Those are thing he needs to learn on the job.

SESAY: Let's bring Bobby in at this point.

One of the concerns on this is where does it lead to the investigation, they believed they had been leading to all things Russia. Where does it leave the issue of independence on the part of the FBI, when it comes to bear on the mind the man or woman who is picked next by the president?

[02:09:55] CHACON: All of us hope that the person picked would be an agent in the FBI, that is a huge hope for the bureau. If that is the case you have somebody familiar with how the investigations should go. They're not from the Justice Department. They're not a career just Department official because they have a different mindset when they approach these things. So as far as the investigation personally I've been in some of those rooms an s and on some of those investigations, the things don't change, the team, the structure stays in place all the way to the department FBI director. So the one man at the top changed and the rest of the chain of command has not changed. And the team has not changed. They're going to go ahead with their work, they're professionals, with integrity, experienced in this stuff. They will go ahead and do the investigation the way it needs to be done.

SESAY: Let me follow up with the question that many have, which is, should Donald Trump put a Trump loyalist to lead the FBI? Could that person quash the entire investigation?

CHACON: Number one, I hope he doesn't put a loyalist in. The FBI has always provided the director as being his own man. Comey was not exactly you know, in favor in the Obama White House after he made a speech on to Ferguson effect. He was taken out back and read the riot act by the Obama administration. So we all know about the FBI director, the FBI has a history of being their own man and that should remain. And that is a good healthy relationship and it needs to stay that way. And you know we hope that it's a career FBI agent -- there is plenty of them out there that are qualified. You have guys like Mike Rogers who was FBI, on the intelligence committee in Congress. You have many others that were career FBI people that know the bureau and know how it should be run. And we're all -- many of us hope that the pick is someone who can be their own man but also know how the bureau should conduct its affairs. That is not always the case with career Justice Department officials.

SESAY: All right. All right, Caroline, to you.

The White House, working overtime to get the time line right and to get their point across as to why they came to this decision. But Senator Elizabeth Warren is not buying it. Take a listen to what she had to say.



SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I think there is just no doubt, given the timing, that the reason that Comey was fired was because Donald Trump wants to cut off any investigation into any connections that he has with his campaign and connections to the Russians.


SESAY: So, Caroline, what should the Democrats' next move be here?

HELDMAN: Well, they have already come out and said we -- we are going to stop business and in perhaps both the House and Senate -- it's a partisan move. I don't know if it's a right move. They need to use -- exert whatever leverage they can in order to make sure a person gets into the top position at the FBI who is not a loyalist, right? Somebody who is actually going to be objective. There is talk about putting Trey Gowdy, he is on the short list. So I think they need to absolutely put a stop to that. Elizabeth Warren is claiming to know that it had to do with Russia. I know the optics are bad.

JAMES: She is just one of many. We have to call a spade a spade here.

HELDMAN: Well, until he comes out and rebuts that, we don't have anything else to go on so we'll just assume that is the case.

SESAY: And, Austin, by that point, I understand what you're saying that we don't have the White House's word to go --


JAMES: Sure. Don't elected officials have a responsibility to make claims that they can back up? I guess my broader point is, there is no love lost between, you know, media channels or love lost between the Democratic politicians. To your point, though, to overly politicalize this takes us in a wrong direction, and that could be a political battle for years, and whose fault is that?

SESAY: But let me counter that. The president chose to fire the man making the investigation against him --


JAMES: Caroline, we don't agree on a ton, but we agree the man has come from a very successful business career. I know a lot of CEOs in the private sector, where they think it is best and everybody needs to follow it. He needs to make decisions that are collective, and the ultimate pulling the lever.

Listen, I don't know that there is any way to say this in a way other than to be blunt, which he probably had an ego breakdown, right, he probably said listen this is a man who I thought we had gone over with. I had my doubts, OK, I thought we had gotten over that. Now during the hearing, he said, I'm going to weigh back to the middle and appease Democrats. He is a compromised leader of the most important law enforcement agency.


[02:15:16] HELDMAN: That includes being a wild card with Russia. That includes not knowing what he is going to say next and being his own man in the investigation.

SESAY: And this conversation could go on and on --


SESAY: -- and probably will for another three years.

Caroline Heldman, Austin James, Bobby Chacon, my thanks to all of you. Please come back.

AUSTIN: Thank you.

SESAY: We'll keep it going. Thank you.

Of course, what happened to James Comey is being debated across Washington, but not so much in places that voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump.

Gary Tuchman checked the reaction in one town in Iowa.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Delaware County, in eastern Iowa, Trump country. The president won big here in November, the victory aided by the support of the owner and many customers in this deli, in the county seat of Manchester, Iowa.

People we talked to, not troubled about the controversial things the president has done since taking office.


TUCHMAN: So we were surprised to hear quite a few of them to say the firing of James Comey is different.

(on camera): Because there is an investigation going on with alleged ties between his campaign and Russian officials does it bother you the timing of the firing of the FBI director? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would say in my opinion, yes, I think that

with his reputation that he has for -- like all the Americans, not everybody agrees with his decisions, that he should let the investigation go through before he made a decision like that.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The deli owner, Shelley Shrader (ph), didn't sound concerned.

(on camera): What do you think of the decision to fire the FBI director yesterday?

SHELLEY SHRADER (ph), DELI OWNER: I think it's a good one.

TUCHMAN: Why do you think it's a good one?

SHRADER (ph): I think he should have done it a long time ago.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But after a follow-up question?

(on camera): The attorney general recommended the firing to Attorney General Sessions, attorney general Sessions recused himself from the investigation, but yet he recommended the firing of the man leading the Russian investigation. Does that trouble you?

SHRADER (ph): It does.

TUCHMAN: You voted for Donald Trump?


TUCHMAN: How do you feel about the decision to fire the FBI director, the timing of the decision.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was all of a sudden like that. He should have told the people his feelings or should have probably done it sooner. He knew what was going on with the FBI?

TUCHMAN: So you don't think he was open enough about what he was doing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. That is the way Trump is, he is quick on action, I don't think he should be that way. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's not good.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): There is no question that many Trump supporters in Delaware are completely fine with how the Comey matter was dealt with, like this former mayor of a nearby town.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he walked into a tough situation. I would give him an "A" for what he has done. As a former politician, when you start to clean up a mess, you're not going to be the flavor of the month with a lot of people.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Does it trouble that Donald Trump fired the man that could be investigating and put his presidency in peril? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not at all. Not at all. He needed to go. Maybe

it just happened he was maybe investigating him. He needed to go, you know that and I know that.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Even those that were the most comfortable with the firing of Comey, we did hear this form some.

(on camera): Do you think it would have been possible to have an independent investigation?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that would be the best decision to make, to do that, to investigate - if there is favoritism and mutual people involved trying to investigate. So there is that favoritism to one side.

TUCHMAN: Different opinions from people who all like Donald Trump.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Manchester, Iowa.


SESAY: Time for a quick break. And President Trump welcomes Russia's top diplomats to the White House. Just ahead, what they talked about and why reporters were not there.

Plus, the firing of James Comey has drawn a lot of comparisons to what Nixon did during the Watergate investigation. We'll take a look at U.S. presidential history then and now.




[02:22:58] SESAY: Well, less than 24 hours after he fired the man leading the investigation into his campaign's alleged ties to Russia, President Trump welcomes two top Russian officials to the White House. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says they discussed Syria. U.S. reporters were not allowed into the office. Mr. Trump also met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, whose contacts with Trump campaign matters are at the center of the FBI and congressional investigations.

Let's bring in CNN's Diana Magnay, live from Moscow.

Diana, good to see you once again.

The optics of the Russian foreign minister as well as the Russian ambassador meeting the president at this time, given everything that is happening and swirling around.

CNN's Diana Magnay joins us.

Diana, reporters were not allowed into the office. Mr. Trump also met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Lavrov. Certainly confusing to some and raises questions. Tell me, there in Moscow, is this raising eyebrows?

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Actually, the op-eds, there is plenty of op'ing in the state media, but mostly it's about Comey's resignation and the meetings behind it. This is a peculiar sort of sequence of events and accumulation of people in the Oval Office. The state newspaper calling this -- calling the FBI -- the FBI are the federal bureau of investigations on Russia and saying that Comey was sacked because he basically made the agency concentrate only on this Russia probe, without focusing on anything else. And that he was the real reason that the election was -- went into -- in Trump's favor. And generally, the tone was quite positive really about the laugh -- Lavrov-Tillerson meeting, given the fact that they have relations between the two countries have really sunk after the U.S. missile strike on Syria after the chemical weapons attack.

SESAY: And President Putin himself was asked about the Comey situation because it is dominating headlines here and around the world. He said that Russia had nothing to do with it and it would have no impact on the Russian-American relations, but can there be any direction effect on the ties with the Trump campaign, will it continue?

MAGNAY: First of all, I think we know that resetting relations between the U.S. and Russia is built with problems. And Hillary Clinton tried to reset relations and that did not work very well. There were hopes at the beginning of this administration, of course, the president touting his enthusiasm to Russia that there would be some kind of grand bargain struck. And that was stopped really by the situation in Syria, but also by the swirling allegations of packing. That said, the Russia probe is more a question of sort of a -- undermining of faith in the president's -- from the U.S. people, rather than between the president and Russia. And the Russian president maintains that it will not damage U.S.-Russian relations, those pictures of a beaming President Trump and pictures of Kislyak would seem like he doesn't want to change relations either.

SESAY: Diana Magnay, joining us there from Moscow. Diana, always appreciated. Thank you.

Quick break now. Coming up next, "State of the " with Kate Bolduan for our viewers in Asia.

And for everybody else, coming up after the break, James Comey's firing has been linked to the Saturday Night Massacre of the Nixon era, but there are key differences, as we'll explain.


[02:30:19] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

The headlines this hour --


SESAY: Well, before James Comey was fired on Tuesday, only one FBI director had ever been sacked by a U.S. president, and that was in 1993 by Bill Clinton. But Comey's ouster wasn't like that either. Instead, it's been compared to a Nixon-era event known as the Saturday Night Massacre.

Here's Tom Foreman to explain.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A president under pressure, an investigation in play, and a sudden firing of the man leading the probe. For critics of Donald Trump the parallels to Richard Nixon are startling. This is Nixonian, a Nixonesque cover-up.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D), CONNECTICUT: It certainly is Nixonian in its air and quality and tone to fire someone of this stature, even though I've had disagreements with him as General Hayden did, in the midst of an investigation.

FOREMAN: The cornerstone of the comparison lies in Watergate, of course, the investigation into whether White House operatives engaged in, quote, "a massive campaign of political spying and sabotage conducted on behalf of president Nixon's re-election." Nixon steadily denied it.

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I'm not a crook.

FOREMAN: But when Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox demanded recordings of Oval Office conversations, which contained damning evidence of plans to derail the investigation --

ARCHIBALD COX, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: The investigation on the Democratic break-in thing we're back in the problem area because the FBI is not under control.

FOREMAN: Nixon stonewalled. He offered compromises. And finally, he ordered the firing of Cox, prompting the attorney general and his deputy to resign, too. It was called the Saturday Night Massacre.

SEN. JOE MANCHION, (D), WEST VIRGINIA: I'm old enough to remember the Nixonian move as we speak. And it didn't come out so well for president Nixon.

FOREMAN: It did not. The push for impeachment heated up and, by the next summer, boiled over.

NIXON: Therefore, I shall resign the presidency, effective at noon tomorrow.

FOREMAN: But there are key differences between the situations, too. The probe into possible Russian meddling in U.S. politics has been under way about 10 months. The Watergate investigation lasted years. Although President Trump has pushed out the FBI boss, as the Nixon Library tweeted, "Fun fact. President Nixon never fired the director of the FBI." (on camera): And the biggest difference is this. We now know the

Watergate investigation uncovered illegal acts directly linked to President Nixon. And so far, we have no proof of anything like that about President Trump.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


SESAY: Douglas Brinkley is a CNN presidential historian and author and joins me now from Austin, Texas.

Douglas Brinkley, always good to have you with us.

First off, does the administration's rationale for the firing of former FBI boss, James Comey, make sense to you?

DOUGLS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORICAN: No, it doesn't make sense to me or anybody who's objective. I mean, the rationale that Donald Trump has given for firing of Comey was because he had botched the e-mail situation with Hillary Clinton. Nobody's buying that. Clearly. this has to do with the investigation for criminal charges that are being looked at by the FBI with Trump and associates during the 2016 campaign. So this is a shocking moment in American history. We haven't had anything like this since 1973, during the Nixon years, where there's a potential of a president of the United States trying to finish, obfuscate from an investigation into perhaps elicit behavior.

[02:35:03] SESAY: Critics of this move are framing it as an abuse of power. Firstly, do you agree with that assessment and are there applications for this country's well-established balance of power structures?

BRINKLEY: The problem we have right now, during Watergate, which many people are comparing this to, you had Democrats in control of -- in Congress. Right now, we have a Republican Senate, Republican House and, of course the Trump White House. So the question we're all waiting to see is who's going to look into the obstruction of justice, if that's what's occurred, who's going to be able to really weigh in. Congress has kind of blown their attempt. Now Comey and the FBI is compromised. We probably need about eight to 10 Republican Senators to stand, as like a gang of 10, let's call it, and demand we get to the bottom of this. We've been spending months and months on this Russiagate and others. The Trump White House has done everything it can to not cooperate. And this firing of Comey may have been the straw that broke the camel's back. People are getting really tired of it and suspicious of the White House.

SESAY: Well, and Democrat Senator Richard Blumenthal, who is on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the firing of Comey presents a looming constitutional crisis. Is that where this country is headed?

BRINKLEY: We are in a crisis of confidence right now in America. There is about 60 percent of the American public that's questioning whether Donald Trump is fit for command. Conversely, he has about 40 percent of the public that, thus far, is sticking by all of these acts of his. But when you start -- Director Comey was one of the most respected public servants in America. To can him, you know, because he is starting to look into your own activities, perhaps illegal activities, for Donald Trump to have fired him in such an abrupt and actually cowardly fashion. He didn't even tell him, he had Comey fly all the way to California and he had to find out about it on television. We expect more of an American president than this. But hopefully, we have a lot of checks and balances that will start kicking in and we can get an honest investigation of what's occurring.

SESAY: We learned from our own Dana Bash that the White House was surprised, Doug, by the political explosion caused by this. I mean, what does that say to you?

BRINKLEY: It says that Donald Trump's a one-man show. We've seen that with his Twitter account. I think he was stewing over Comey's recent testimony when he talked about being mildly nauseous, or something to the effect, that he may have weighed the scales against Hillary Clinton in 2016. And so people are -- everybody is still shell-shocked by this. The questions is, are there enough Republicans that are going to loyally stand by Donald Trump. Mitch McConnell is the head of the Senate. He's sticking by Trump. Paul Ryan, sticking by Trump. The question is, will there be a group of mavericks? President John Kennedy once wrote a book called "Profiles of Courage," all about Senators who broke ranks with their party for the good of America. We're starting to see people, like John McCain and, to some degree, Richard Burr of North Carolina, they're starting to talk that this is unacceptable behavior coming out of the White House. We'll have to see if we can get a growing chorus of Republicans that seem to be upset by what occurred.

SESAY: We should see what happens next. The fallout continues.

Douglas Brinkley, always a pleasure. Thank you.

BRINKLEY: OK. Thank you.

SESAY: Time for a quick break here. And next on NEWSROOM L.A., the released Chibok schoolgirls begin their long road to recovery. What the Nigerian government is doing to help them return to a normal life.


[02:41:17] SESAY: 82 Chibok schoolgirls recently freed by the terror group, Boko Haram, are starting their road to rehabilitation. The Nigerian government is trying to ease them back to normal life but this is a long process with many psychological challenges.


SESAY (voice-over): There are the obvious signs and the subtle ones too, of a brutal three years in captivity under Boko Haram. The released 83 Chibok schoolgirls will now join 22 others on the road to recover, here heavily guarded, until now, never before seen government facility.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's like a hotel.

SESAY: A good portion of their days are spent in class.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They said what they want the government to do is to help them -- is to help them in the education of the girls.

SESAY: Amina Ally (ph) was the first of the long-time captives to escape from the terrorist camp. She met with Nigeria's president in May of 2016. Under a head scarf, malnourished, and holding a baby. The minister says her progress is remarkable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: By september, they should have recovered fully psychological, and physically it will be the beginning of the next school year, we just enrolled them in schools.

SESAY: The center has a full-time doctor, a team of psychologists, and a caretaker from Chibok.


SESAY: Still, critics argue families don't have full access to the girls.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In terms of others visiting, not at all. I can say that because we have realities among us.

SESAY: The government maintains that the secrecy of the program is for security. These are, after all, the country's most famous daughters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The parents agreed we did not compel anybody, that they must be here, no way.

SESAY: Now as the center prepares to welcome the new arrivals?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just told them tomorrow I will take you to visit your sisters that just came in. They're dancing and laughing.



SESAY: The end goal remains the same, giving the girls the education that was stolen from them.



SESAY: And with a lot of love and support, they will make it to a better place, that is for sure.

You are watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

"World Sport" starts after this.




[03:00:09] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: The firing and the fall-out.