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Mueller Staffing Up Russia Probe; Trump: Comey Is A Liar, Comey Is A Leaker; Trump "100 Percent" Willing To Testify On Comey Meetings; Original "Batman" Star, Adam West, Dead At 88; Trump Accuses Comey Of Lying, Leaking; Trump Can Take A Lesson From Whitewater Investigation; Stalled Presidency: GOP Frustrated With Trump Chaos; Democrat Makes Inroad In Reliably GOP District; Bill Maher On Using The N-Word: "I Did A Bad Thing." Aired 12-1p ET
Aired June 10, 2017 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: -- as teams on both sides of the investigation are staffing up with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, adding Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben to his team. We will learn more this coming week.
The Senate Judiciary Committee could receive the Comey memos as early as Monday and on Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions will testify before a Senate panel where he will likely be grilled on his own alleged contacts with the Russians and the firing of James Comey.
CNN Washington correspondent, Ryan Nobles is following all of this. So Ryan, the president says there is no obstruction, but Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein says the Senate should investigate further.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and Feinstein using language, Fredricka, that we haven't heard her use before. She's been pretty even measured throughout this entire process despite being a Democrat.
She sits in a unique position because she is on both the Judiciary and the Intelligence Committees. So she has been privy to a lot of this information and this week, she sent a letter to her fellow Judiciary Committee members suggesting that they need to specifically look into obstruction of justice.
Listen to a part of this letter. She wrote in part, "As a member of both the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, I see firsthand the distinction between the legal and counterintelligence aspects presented by Director Comey's testimony this week.
It is my strong recommendation that the Judiciary Committee investigate all issues that raise a question of obstruction of justice. These issues should be developed by our legal staff presented to us and be subject to the full Committee hearings."
And it's important to point out that Feinstein, of course, was in the open public hearing. She questioned James Comey, but then she was a part of that closed session hearing where Comey went into more detail about what he learned during his time as FBI director and those interactions that he had with President Trump.
So one has to wonder if there was something in that closed session that led her to this point where she's now asking her fellow Judiciary Committee members to take that step of specifically looking into obstruction of justice. This is an important development that will continue to play itself up over the next several weeks -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: Indeed. All right, Ryan Nobles in Washington, thanks so much.
All right, let's talk more about with my panel, Julian Zelizer, a CNN political analyst and a historian and professor at Princeton University, Laura Coates is a CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, and Laura Jarrett is a CNN justice reporter. Good to see all of you.
So I got Laura squared here. Laura Jarrett, you first, you know, Mueller has added several people to his team. What can you tell us about that?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, that's right, Fred. We're learning that Mueller has been methodically and quietly adding some formidable legal minds to this team, five new members now. Perhaps the most significant is Michael Dreeben from the Solicitor General's Office, a foremost expert in criminal law. He's argues over 100 cases before the Supreme Court.
But you know, Mueller has also added people who know everything about Watergate to Enron. So these are serious former and current prosecutors including Andrew Weissman (ph), who leads the Criminal Fraud Section at the Justice Department.
We're also learning that Mueller is taking this case even so seriously that he's now even dressing like he used to back when he was at the DOJ and FBI wearing crisp white shirts and dark suits so even the dress code is matching the directive here -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: This is very serious. Laura Coates then, so if you are Mueller, was this risky? Did he potentially or you know, if you were him, did you potentially undermine your case by allowing chief witness, James Comey, to testify?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, if I was Mueller, I don't wear crisp white shirts as you can see, it's not really my style, but if I were Mueller, I would probably have confidence with the former FBI director was able to stick to the script.
Meaning not to say he was ingenious that he would actually tell the tale of what happened prior to his firing and any relevant portions of the memorandum that he talked about in that seven-page thing.
Remember the moment in time that's really critical, you have to remember this, obstruction of justice, even if you concede that the commentary that was given by the president to James Comey on those three occasions he already explained about. Even if he would concede that wasn't maybe enough to (inaudible) to obstruction, which I'm not conceding. If you do concede that, however, the relevant point in time is the firing of James Comey. That is a moment in time that's very pivotal to an obstruction of justice inquiry.
WHITFIELD: So you're saying even if he didn't ask James Comey, you know, this Russia thing or you know, be easy on my friend, even if that dialogue wasn't there, you're looking at the sequence of events leading up to and including the firing?
COATES: Yes. That's so important. Because remember, James Comey only knows so much until he's no longer the director of the FBI. At that point in time the question becomes whether the president acted corruptly to try to influence or interfere or stop the investigations to Russia.
[12:05:01]By his own admissions, by his own statements to the press including to Lester Holtz, he talks about the decision to terminate James Comey partly in basis on his investigation into the Russia collusion.
That is the point in time you're talking about. That's why the big guns that Laura Jarrett has eloquently talked about has come up. That's why they are there because the point in time, the fixation of Trump is pre-firing. The fixation by the Department of Justice is when he was fired and beyond.
WHITFIELD: So Julian, the president has said, he said it from the Rose Garden that he 100 percent would be willing to testify, and if he does, you know, it's his word versus James Comey. It boils down to believability and credibility. So who would the American public side with if there are no tapes and it really is an issue of those contemporaneous notes and one man's word against the other?
JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, President Trump is someone who has now a long record of statements that are not true. This has not been one of his virtues, and I think that would be very difficult to counteract especially since James Comey kept these memos right after the meetings.
And while many people love Comey or don't like Comey, his trustworthiness is not something that's been under question. So I think he put himself in a pretty precarious situation if he simply denies under oath that all of this took place.
WHITFIELD: All right. So LJ, can I do that? Laura Jarrett, the House and Senate have requested the Comey memos, any White House tapes if there are such things. Is the president in a position where he could refuse to hand over the tapes if indeed they were White House tapes or even if he had personal tapes since he's known to have tape recorded people when he was in the business of, you know, Trump business?
JARRETT: Well, a couple of things. Number one, if there are any tapes, they have an obligation to preserve them under the Presidential Records Act. So the White House Counsel's Office needs to be involved here. Whether they are Trump's personal tapes or something from the oval office, we just don't know so they need to be preserved.
But the second thing is, it's going to be hard to see how he's going to avoid producing them if they exist, especially to the Special Counsel Bob Mueller here and you could foresee a situation in which an aggressive defense lawyer says executive privilege here.
But, of course, courts have routinely held that that privilege disappears if Congress makes a showing that there's been any sort of governmental wrongdoing or any sort of malfeasance there. That privilege disappears.
WHITFIELD: So L.C., Laura Coates, the president, you know, said, Comey's testimony shows there is no collusion, no obstruction. Is that what that testimony was all about? Is that the conclusion to be drawn from James Comey's testimony?
COATES: Well, the conclusion to be drawn, of course, is what was surprising to everybody that he was going to corroborate these statements by the president that there had been at least three occasions of him discussing this investigation.
But what it really signals to everybody is what the president is trying to have you forget, which is he has a theme here that says believe them when it suits me and when it corroborates me but then know he's a liar. That juxtaposition does not work for commonsense people.
It doesn't work for anyone who is trying to figure out whether there's been battle of credibility, who would win. In that context, it would be Comey.
But what it really signals to everybody here is that the need for the special counsel was probably even more so than anyone even suspected given the trail or the (inaudible) that Comey described about him having a fundamental mistrust for who he could go to the Department of Justice here.
And so I think what you're seeing here is a signaling that says, look, if you want to have a battle of credibility between Comey and the president, that's going to be at your prerogative.
But the real question is here, what were you trying to prevent the director from finding out? Why was there obstruction? Remember, the end game of any good prosecutor is never obstruction. It's what you did not want me to see. We're a long way from finding what that out is right now, but we're going to get there with that legal team.
WHITFIELD: The cover up. So Julian, the president saying no corruption, no collusion, let's get on with business, you know, the business of his agenda, the American people. Can he do that with these continued lingering questions with constant testimonies, et cetera. How much more difficult does it make it for the president to get on with his agenda? ZELIZER: It's extraordinarily difficult. I mean, where we're at right now is most members of Congress are focused on this issue, not just members on the committee, but every member in both parties thinking about what to do tomorrow and how things will unfold in 2018.
The special counsel investigation is expanding rather dramatically, it seems, after Comey's testimony, and the journalists are naturally following the story. So this doesn't go away, and at the same time, whatever President Trump says, it's clear that within the White House, this is a central issue.
[12:10:09]This is the clot, as he said, that hovers over the White House. So it's very hard for him to move forward on an agenda especially when Republicans aren't even united on most key issues like health care.
WHITFIELD: All right, Julian Zelizer, Laura Coates, Laura Jarrett, thanks to all of you. We've got JZ, LC, LJ. Thanks so much to all of you.
All right, tomorrow on "STATE OF THE UNION," Jake Tapper sits down exclusively with Senator Diane Feinstein to discuss her call for the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate any obstruction of justice over the president's firing of James Comey. That's at 9:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
Sadly this breaking news, we're getting some very sad news from the world of entertainment, actor, Adam West, the man known for his role as the original "Batman," the quintessential "Batman," has died.
WHITFIELD: Nobody delivered it like him. Adam West originally played a (inaudible) version of the cape crusader in 1966. West struggled for years against being typecast as Batman eventually finding a reoccurring role on the animated series "Family Guy." A family spokesman says West died after a short battle with leukemia. He was 88 years old. CNN's Paul Vercammen has more on Adam West's life and career.
PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Adam West was -- "Batman" reruns turbo boosted West as a global hero steps long after his three original "Batman" seasons ended in 1968. Forty years later, the self-deprecating Adam West got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
ADAM WEST: I think I have the record as the actor who's waited the longest to get his star on (inaudible).
VERCAMMEN: Adam West was born William West Anderson in Walla, Walla, Washington. Young Adam West possessed brawn and brains, a degree in literature and psychology from Whitman College. West developed that trademark voice as a disc jockey and his Batman spoke with an elevated vocabulary. Sure the show was kampe, but Batman's alter ego, Bruce Wayne, offered even more substance.
WEST: He has to be mature enough to have award. He is the mentor or he is adopted a son so to speak.
VERCAMMEN: But Batman's cape seemed to permanently hang around West's neck.
WEST: When I call, the operator knows my voice immediately as does everyone else.
VERCAMMEN: West got typecast.
WEST: When you wear a mask and funny tights, it gets a little frustrating from time to time, and I was. I was turned down for a number of parts over the years, I feel, because of that.
VERCAMMEN: The other acting parts West did get seemed to vanish into TV haze, but cartoons revived him. Adam West played Adam West on "The Simpsons" and then the unrelated eccentric mayor, Adam West, on "Family Guy."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We get asked all the time. Do we have a lot of drugs around the office? No, we have Adam West.
VERCAMMEN: The wacky, intellectual, family man, you think West might dodge typecasting, but the image of him as Batman obliterated all others and West wasn't bitter about being so linked to a man in tights.
WEST: Wherever I go in the world, there's such a wonderful rapport with "Batman," it's neat. People come up play entire scenes for me unsolicited, but I got luck. How lucky can a person get to be part of something that's a classic?
WHITFIELD: Well, one of a kind, Adam West. I love that "Batman" growing up. We just received a statement from West's family, they said, quote, "It's with great sadness that we are sharing this news. Adam West passed away peacefully last night after a short but brave battle with leukemia.
He was a beloved father, husband, grandfather, and great grandfather. There are no words to describe how much we'll miss him. We know you'll miss him, too, and we want you to know how much your love and support meant to him throughout the years. Hug your loved ones today."
[12:19:20] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Live pictures right now out of Milwaukee where Vice President Mike Pence has just landed. The vice president will soon be delivering remarks on health care and the White House's plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.
This trip coming as the Senate faces a crucial week to determine if it can reach a deal on a bill. We'll monitor the event and bring you any headlines as that cross.
All right, back now to the fallout from fired FBI Director James Comey's testimony. President Trump says he has been vindicated that Comey's testimony showed there was no obstruction or collusion with Russia, but how is the kremlin reacting to all of this?
[12:20:01]After all, Comey said there is no doubt Russia meddled in the U.S. election and is trying to undermine everything America stands for. Let's bring in CNN contributor, Jill Dougherty. She's also CNN's former Moscow bureau chief. Good to see you, Jill. So what is the reaction there?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Hey, Fredricka. Well, you know, if you take that specific issue of interfering in the election, the kremlin has said all along, we didn't do it. That is not correct. And the latest coming from Dmitri Peskov, his spokesperson for the president, he said they listen to what Comey said but he said we take that with distrust.
So that's kind of what you would expect, but overall, I would say the media coverage and the way it's being depicted here is really kind of a big nothing burger. One person who is the duma, the parliament said have tweeted that essentially, all of this, all of Comey's testimony is really kind of a soap bubble as he said.
In other words, they're not really getting into the substance of what Comey was saying or a lot of the legal parts of it. They're essentially saying these are the enemies of Donald Trump who want to bring him down.
In fact another tweet was "Trump's enemies are thirsty for blood" and it reminds us of McCarthyism. That was coming from that member of the parliament. So that gives you the flavor. But I can tell you that they did not broadcast live coverage with translation of the hearing because it could cut both ways.
I mean, just think of having here in Russia the head of the former KGB accusing the president of lying. It would be quite extraordinary. So that didn't happen, but they were talking about it and dismissing it.
WHITFIELD: So I want to ask you another question as we look at the tiny box on the screen. You see the vice president, Mike Pence, there arriving in Milwaukee, with those live pictures as he is getting off the plane and getting into his vehicle there. We'll take his comments later and some tighter shots.
Right there he is going to be talking about health care and whatever movement there might be on the Hill to try to replace the Affordable Care Act with a new plan.
So meantime, Jill, some U.S. officials have told CNN that they are crediting the Russians with helping to calm the situation in Syria following the U.S.-led airstrikes against pro-Assad regime fighters this week. Do we think that the Russians might be willing to assist in that?
DOUGHERTY: You know, they have been assisting, but I think you'd have to call it kind of limited. They're really working in that deconfliction zone, but that's on a practical basis. On a broader basis, on policy, they're very critical of what the United States is doing.
They're worried that those strikes that the U.S. is using basically to keep those militias away that that's a pattern and that the United States really wants to get at the Syrian forces.
So I don't think that they are going to be very patient. They do not like the deconfliction zone that the United States has, so that is not very likely -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Jill Dougherty in Moscow, thank you so much. Again, sharing the screen with the vice president arriving in Milwaukee. We'll continue to monitor his journey there.
All right, meantime, as the president of the United States wrestled with a Russia investigation, our next guest has some advice, just turn to the history books for help. What Trump could learn from Bill Clinton's Whitewater scandal next?
WHITFIELD: Hello again. Thanks so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. All right, the Comey testimony is over but the challenges for the Trump White House are really as big as ever. President Trump's attorney genral and some of his closest advisers are under fire.
Is there anything President Trump can learn from history to deal with this crisis? My next guest says the president only has to look back to the Clinton presidency and the Whitewater scandal and investigation.
James Hohmann is the national political correspondent for the "Washington Post." Good to see you.
JAMES HOHMANN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "WASHINGTON POST": Good to be with you, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: So the first comparison you make to Whitewater is how this investigation will open up the inner workings of the Trump empire. How do you expect it to unfold?
HOHMANN: These things just don't go away. Once they start turning over rocks, it takes a very, very long time to exhaust every line of inquiry. What started in the early '90s as an investigation into a land deal in rural Arkansas ended up leading to the impeachment of Bill Clinton over him not telling the truth --
WHITFIELD: Uncover the Monica Lewinsky --
HOHMANN: Exactly. So once you start, once Bob Mueller begins this investigation and what several Clinton alumni tell me, and there's no love lost for Donald Trump there, but they say Trump should learn from their experience because once they start turning over rocks, they're going to look at the whole inner workings of the Trump empire.
They are going to look at his tax returns which we still have never seen. They are going to look at his associates and their business dealings. What they say is those things are a million times more complicated than Bill and Hillary Clinton's financial dealings in the early '90s.
So there's just a lot more for the investigators to go through and that means it's going to take a lot more time.
WHITFIELD: So while Trump has been able to leverage kind of executive privilege to, you know, keep certain things private, might he not be able to do that especially as it pertains to his tax returns?
HOHMANN: So there's a lot of legal precedent from the Clinton era that is more relevant to the Trump case than the Richard Nixon stuff. We like to talk about Watergate all the time. But there were a couple of key court decisions in the '90s about Bill Clinton and what rights he had and what rights his lawyers had to keep some of their notes private. Those are pertinent to Trump.
[12:30:02] So, I think that there's a lot of stuff. I think certainly, Bob Mueller, the special counsel is going to be able to get access to Trump's tax returns. Whether or not he releases this publicly, we don't know. We don't know how it ends. But there's not question FBI agents are reviewing them or already have reviewed them. But that would end up being pertinent to their investigation.
WHITFIELD: And then you talk about the thug of war. It's been written about in so many different, you know, circumstances as it applied to the White House. So, what impact does it have when an investigation does get into full gear in this case?
HOHMANN: So, there's so many things that could end up being important that we don't know about now. We're, you know, what was said in some meeting on May 13th of a year ago becomes relevant. And so, anyone sitting in the meeting could end up theoretically having to appear before a grand jury or get interviewed by FBI agents. And if there's any inconsistencies between the different stories that people tell of that meeting all of a sudden they could get in trouble for making false statements to the FBI.
And so, a lot of even junior staffers end up having to get lawyers to make sure that they don't end up in legal peril. And what happens is you're not really allowed to coordinate about what your statements are to get your stories straight. And so, you have this thug of war mentality where you don't know if your colleague and friend has had appear before a grand jury and what they might have told the grand jury about you.
And all of a sudden, the web just kind of -- keeps getting bigger and bigger. And it makes people, you know, you need an esprit decor in the White House to get stuff done. And all of a sudden, maybe you're not as trustful or maybe it's hard to communicate. Maybe there are certain meetings you try to stay out of because you don't want to have to hire a lawyer.
And that just in perils the workings of the White House. It's already hard enough to get anything done if you're president. They all of a sudden gets much, much harder if you're under the kind of legal cloud that Trump White House is.
WHITFIELD: So, a lot of what you're speaking to also means it speaks to organization and logging. And we know that this White House is not big on the whole logging of guests, for example. So, if there isn't that kind of documentation of things, of meetings, of people, then that might make it fairly difficult for those who are investigating as well, right?
HOHMANN: Absolutely. I think the question is, are Trump folks because they're concerned about the investigation going to not keep records? Are there things they're not going to write down because they don't want them to end up getting uncovered as part of the investigation or will people write everything down to try and cover themselves in the event that something becomes problematic later.
Different people correspond in different ways. But the point is, the cloud that hangs over the White House is going to affect everything, every policy, everything that they're trying to do. Bill Clinton was actually able to get quite a lot done even while he was under investigation. So, it doesn't mean you can't do anything. But this is something that the Clinton people tell me could very well last beyond the Trump's presidency, even if he's in office until 2020, 2024, this investigation could drag on. And just -- this cloud may never go away.
WHITFIELD: All right. James Hohmann, it is all very fascinating, continues to get even more so. All right. Thanks for joining us from Washington.
WHITFIELD: All right, coming up. As the Russian investigation weighs on the White House, questions meld over what's actually getting accomplished on the Capitol Hill. That is next.
[12:37:23] WHITFIELD: Fired FBI Director James Comey's bombshell testimony overshadowed what the White House had billed as infrastructure-weak. The ongoing investigations into the Russian meddling in the elections impossible, Trump campaign ties to Russia, plus the obstruction of justice question, threatened to stall the president's legislative agenda.
With me now to discuss this is Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. Grover, good to see you.
GROVER NORQUIST, PRESIDENT, AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM: Good to be with you.
WHITFIELD: So, are you worried that the drama, the chaos, the investigations, you know, surrounding the Trump administration will make it difficult for the president and the GOP to get anything significant accomplished?
NORQUIST: No. I think people projects. They think because they're focused on the Russia inquiry that all the Congress says. And point in fact, the House and the Senate have passed 14 laws undoing significant Clinton regulations. All have been signed by Trump. Those got almost no attention. It had only been done once before in American history. It's been done 14 times since Trump came in. The Keystone pipeline was approved which the previous administration stalled. The North Dakota access pipeline was approved which the previous administration stalled. There are a series of permits rolling out.
Legislatively, the House, the Senate, and the White House at principal level are meeting on a regular basis on tax reform. The Senate's meeting -- the entire Republican caucus in the Senate is meeting three times a week and twice a week for the subgroup that's working on this.
WHITFIELD: But the big ticket items that well they've met on those big ticket items have been accomplish and completed. We're talking health care and tax reform.
NORQUIST: Right. But if you go back to previous administrations, Clinton didn't get his health care ever and Obama was a year plus in when he passed his bill. And Reagan's tax cut was around September. And tax reform was a year and a half in the making. So we will see.
WHITFIELD: And you don't think it's being stalled as a result of the cloud or the White House.
NORQUIST: No. We're a month delayed because the freedom caucus didn't approve the early bill. And therefore we're late getting over to the Senate on health care. But that has nothing to do with Russians and everything to do with trying to get it perfect though, when actually what you need to do is get a discussion going in the House and the Senate.
This summer, this fall by September, you'll have both the Obamacare repeal reform and significant tax reform. The consensus items are what's impressive, 15 or 20 percent corporate rate, 15 or 20 percent business taxes on people who pay through their individual taxes, the sub chapter S corporations or partnerships. A lot of small businesses pay taxes that way. The debt tax is gone. The alternative minimum tax is gone, doubling the personal exception for individuals and families.
[12:40:16] WHITFIELD: Right. OK. Well, those are the proposals, those are the proposals --
NORQUIST: Those are the ones the House, Senate and president agree on. There are others where there isn't agreement, but that alone, if you only pass those, would change the world.
WHITFIELD: Yes. OK. So that's the work in progress. So, this weekend is the faith and freedom coalition.
WHITFIELD: And you spoke there earlier this week. Vice President Pence is speaking there tonight. So what is the message that Conservatives want to deliver as the White House does grapples with the Russian investigation and other matters?
NORQUIST: Well, I think if you look, the faith and freedom group is Ralph Reed's Conservative pro-family traditional values organization. Trump has spoken five times. Some people thought Trump was kind of new to politics. This was the fifth time he spoke there at lunch on -- there it is the fifth he spoken there, always very well received.
I think what the Republicans and the House and Senate are doing and also across the states is they're focused on reducing taxes. They're just discussing how many and how much, not whether, and also on making health care centered on consumers rather than centered on the government telling you what to do but individuals making their own decisions.
And then on infrastructure and permitting, you're talking about getting the government out of the way and reducing the regulatory burden between wanting to get a factory built and having to go through all the hoops you have to go through now.
So, as we deregulate, I think that will have as much impact on the economy as tax reduction did. Certainly, you saw that during the Reagan years. And the failure of push 41 was not just tax increase, but the massive flow of regulations that he tolerated to push 41. That slowed the economy down. So, moving away from over regulation, the appointments the presidents made have been a big deal. But it get almost no attention.
The head of the FCC Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, is deregulating 16 percent of the economy. That's as big as health care, telecommunications. The FDA, Gottlieb, he's moving to get more and better drugs faster to people, particularly people who are terminally ill, who can't wait for somebody to keep thinking about something long after they're dead. This kind of reforms helped move the whole economy forward. And that's happening by executive order from the commissions.
WHITFIELD: All right. Grover Norquist, thank you so much, good to see you, appreciate it.
NORQUIST: Good to see you.
WHITFIELD: All right, the clock is ticking on the most expensive house race in history and the pressure is mounding on Georgia Republicans who have held the seat for decades. That is next.
But first this week's CNN hero sold everything he owned, his house and his car, to start a boxing gym for kids in Detroit's toughest neighborhoods. Meet Coach Kelly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KHALI SWEENEY, FOUNDER, DOWNTOWN BOXING GYM YOUTH PROGRAM: I've been shot at multiple times. He shot 26 rounds at the car. There was a reason that he didn't hit me. It was for me to be here for these kids.
I've been there. So when they hear from me, they're like, OK, he's not sugar coating it. No mentors. No positive role models. You're putting them in a position to be ready for prison or the county morgue. I don't see bad kids. I see a kid who hasn't been heard yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[12:43:38] WHITFIELD: Wow, we'll see how this coach is changing the lives of children in Detroit, go to cnnheroes.com. And while you're there, nominate someone you think should be a 2017 CNN Hero.
WHITFIELD: All right. Just 10 days left in the most expensive House of Representatives race in history as Republicans work to keep a Georgia seat they've held for decades and a Democrat tries to take it.
Here's our Nick Valencia.
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They say politics and religion don't mix and usually they don't. But today at St. James United Methodist Church here in Atlanta, there's no dancing around it.
MARILYN HUMPHREYS, GEORGIA 6TH DISTRICT VOTER: That's a huge concern. And it's turned me for this election into a Democrat.
VALENCIA: You're the piano player --
HUMPHREYS: I am just --
VALENCIA: Marilyn Humphreys has lived in the sixth congressional district for 37 years. Thanks to voters like her, it's been a Republican stronghold since the 1970s. A lot has changed since then.
HUMPHREYS: I always voted for Tom Price when he was our representative, so I'm sorry to see this change.
VALENCIA: You're changing your vote now from a Republican vote to --
HUMPHREYS: I am. I definitely am.
VALENCIA: Humphreys says, under President Trump she hates what the party has become. So, from June 20th, her vote in the congressional run off will be for Democrat, Jon Ossoff.
HUMPHREYS: The Republican have just kind been fold in mass and said, do this, do this, do this. And then woof, off they go. But it's time to change. And I think it has to change with young people who are committed to a broader view.
VALENCIA: Her church peers say, they're also upset at President Trump and what he's turned Washington into.
ERIC EIDBO, GEORGIA 6TH DISTRICT VOTER: Anything in Washington was a circus.
VALENCIA: Eric Eidbo is a lifelong Republican.
EIDBO: I wouldn't be surprised if somebody showed up with a big red nose, you know, squirting water. This is such a joke.
VALENCIA: Hey, pleasure to meet to you.
But for Eidbo, he's most bothered by what he says Ossoff and the Democrats are up to in District 6th.
EIDBO: Did they have to bring in people to support this kid out from out of our district? Aren't there enough people home grown that really want him?
VALENCIA: The out of state influence bothers you.
EIDBO: Yes. It does.
VALENCIA: It also bothers Doug Scales. He won't say which party he's from but it doesn't take long to find out how he feels about the 30- year-old Democrat and his Republican opponent, Karen Handel.
[12:50:08] DOUG SCALES, GEORGIA 6TH DISTRICT VOTER: He will be relocated to a table which means --
VALENCIA: Here's how you vote.
SCALES: That's right. Here's how you vote. He will not have any power to have you or I.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you think Karen Handel will?
SCALES: No. Nobody will.
VALENCIA: It's that political fatigue among local Georgia voters that's making sixth congressional race so interesting and competitive.
Beyonce James (ph), we wanted to see how Washington was affecting voter sentiment and other parts of District 6.
You like Donald Trump and him liking Karen Handel makes you like her.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I mean I can't help it.
T.J. JOSEPH, DISTRICT 6 RESIDENT: It's going to be more of a Democrats showing our support to ourselves and redeeming myself by voting.
CAROL MEAL, DISTRICT 6 RESIDENT: I am planning on voting for Jon Ossoff.
VALENCIA: Is that a vote for Ossoff or is it a vote against Trump?
MEAL: It's a vote against Trump.
VALENCIA: Back at St. James, there's plenty Trump talk too. But ultimately they say, on June 20th, he shouldn't be the person who decides the election.
EIDBO: You're looking at it as a referendum on Trump.
EIDBO: Well, no, not really. It's just a congressional race.
VALENCIA: It may be a congressional race for some. But for others this has national implications. And if there's any indication it does, Vice President Mike Pence was in Atlanta this week to stop the Republican Karen Handel. And the latest poll by a local newspaper here, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Democrat Jon Ossoff leads Handel by seven points with just two weeks to go.
Nick Valencia, CNN, Atlanta.
WHITFIELD: All right. Up next, mea culpa coming from Bill Maher after the comedian was widely criticized for using a racial slur. But was the apology enough for him to move past the controversy? We'll discuss that after a break.
[12:56:00] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Comedian Bill Maher was hit with a ton of backlash after using the "N" word during an on-air interview. The host of HBO's "Real Time" says, he did not say the racial slur in malice. And he has since apologized. Maher also had an in-depth discussion with Michael Eric Dyson about the "Bad thing" that he said. And here's part of that interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL MAHER, HOST, HBO'S "REAL TIME": For black folks, that word, I don't care who you are --
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, AUTHOR: All right.
MAHER: Has caused pain. I'm not here to do that. It doesn't matter that it wasn't said in malice it wasn't -- it could brought back pain to people.
MAHER: Then I -- and that's why I apologized freely and I reiterate it tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: I want to bring in now CNN senior media correspondent, host of 'Reliable Sources" Brian Stelter. So, Brian, you know, there has been an enormous amount of outrage over the incident. Has HBO, the network, commented any further?
BRIAN STELTER, SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: And no, further letting the episode of 'Real Time" from Friday night speaks for itself. I think it's notable and may be Maher deserve some credit for having an in-depth conversation about this on his program for having his guest weigh in on the matter.
And really in some cases, educate him about this. On the other hand, there are critics of Maher who says he does not belong on the airwaves and does not belong on HBO and should have at least have been suspended.
But HBO instead brought him back on the air one week after this -- well, you know, this incident after using this racial epithet. And there was a really remarkable moment later on the program that I wanted to show you involving the rapper, Ice Cube, one of Maher's guests. He talked to Maher in really blunt terms about the history of the "N" word. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ICE CUBE, ACTOR: You know, it's a word that has been used against us. It's like a knife, man. And you can use it as a weapon or you can use it as a tool. It's been used as a weapon against us by white people. And we're not going to let that happen again by nobody.
When I hear my homie say it, it don't feel like venom. When I hear a white person say it, it feel like that knife stabbing me, even if they don't mean it. But I think this is a teachable moment, not just to you but to the people that's watching right now, you know what I'm saying?
MAHER: I think the people watching right now are saying that point has been made.
ICE CUBE: Not by me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: There were times Maher felt uncomfortable with the comments from his guest, there were sometimes he seemed appreciative. At one point, one of his guests saying, accept Maher's apology and move on. You know, if was Symone Sanders in one of those cut away shoots CNN analyst Symone Sanders, she also weighed in saying to Maher, that the use of the word is a slap in the face to Black America. It was really remarkable to see an in-depth conversation about it. And Maher say, "Hey, this was not meant to be hateful, it was not meant with malice. I'm just a comedian always trying to make people laugh and evolving like everybody else."
WHITFIELD: And so, Michael Eric Dyson, you know, we saw was on there earlier Bill Maher tried to explain, you know, his point of view. We didn't get to hear all of Michael Eric Dyson. But did you get a sense from, you know, Dyson, whether he tried to school him as well or if he took a different approach?
STELTER: You know, Dyson had been on the program before. I think he views Maher as a friend. He wanted to be there as a friend saying, "Listen, Bill, here is why this was so disturbing." He also talked to Maher about unconscious white privilege.
I got the sense Maher was in some cases not all comfortable to conversation, sometimes he was the victim of some of the outrage and coverage of his use of this racial epithet. You know, Maher, he's a comedian. He's out there trying to people laugh. He hurt a guest last week, Ben Sasse, made a comment about working in the field. His head went to the "N" word and Maher used it.
So, Maher is saying, "Hey. I'm a comedian. Sometimes I'm going to go -- sometimes, I do go too far and I'm learning from this episode." That's essentially his defense or his argument.
[13:00:00] We should point out he did apologize one day after that segment last weekend. He reiterated the apology on his program. So, I think in his mind this is over. But I think it was really valuable to see people like Ice Cube seating there right with him saying, "That word is a knife. It can be use as a tool or as a weapon --