Return to Transcripts main page


Sessions Plans To Testify On Russia Tuesday; Lawmakers Demand White House Tapes. If They Exist; Trump Vs. Comey: Who's Telling The Truth?; Dem Leaders: Sessions Needs To Testify Publicly; Equality Marches Unfold Nationwide; Puerto Rico votes Today On U.S. Statehood; Lavrov To Tillerson: Stop Bombing Assad's Forces. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired June 11, 2017 - 15:00   ET



[15:00:33] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN NEWSROOM ANCHOR: Hello again, everyone, and thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions expected to face a grilling on Capitol Hill, Tuesday. That's when he planned to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee although that committee has not confirmed the details of his appearance.

What's still up in the air? Will the public get to see it?

CNN has learned the hearing will likely be closed. The final decision left up to the committee.

The president still focusing his attention on James Comey's explosive testimony last week, tweeting this morning, "I believe the James Comey leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible. Totally illegal. Very cowardly." That from the president.

Trump's attacks on Comey are not sitting well with some republicans who say the president is sabotaging himself by focusing on the investigation.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You may be the first president in history to go down because you can't stop inappropriately talking about an investigation that if you just were quiet would clear you. My advice to the president is every day you're talking about Jim Comey and not the American people and their needs and their desires, their hopes and their dreams. You're making a mistake.


WHITFIELD: All of this as the White House faces a June 23rd deadline to turnover any tapes of the president's conversations with James Comey. And the big question remains in the Trump versus Comey saga who is telling the truth, the fired FBI director or the president of the United States?

This morning on CNN State of the Union, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Republican Senator Susan Collins, both say they take Comey's word over President Trump. Just listen.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: At this point, I believe the FBI director. I know him the best. I've observed him the longest. I know he has his own band of integrity. Disagreed with him on the e-mails, let him know that monosyllabically. But in this kind of thing, he's not going to lie.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I found Director Comey -- former Director Comey's testimony to be candid, to be thorough, and he testified under oath. So I believe that the information that he gave our committee is what he believed happened. That doesn't eliminate the possibility that there was a misinterpretation.


WHITFIELD: CNN's White House correspondent Athena Jones joining me now from New Jersey where the president is spending the weekend at his golf club there.

So Athena, President Trump has suggested that this conversation with Comey was taped. Today, the chorus is getting louder for Trump to release any tapes.

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. It certainly is and this shaping up to be the question of the year. Does the president have a recording system in the Oval Office and more specifically, does he have tapes or some other sort of audio recording. Perhaps, a cell phone recording or even just records, memos like Comey kept of his conversation with the former FBI director.

The president said, Friday, we've learn in a short period of time and now a member of his legal team, Jay Sekulow, said on ABC this week that we'll find out in a matter of days. Watch.


JAY SEKULOW, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: The president says he was going to address the issue of the tapes, whether the tapes exist or not, next week. That's the decision that the president will make in consultation with his chief lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, and that the said he'll address it next week.


JONES: So now, we have a new deadline straight from the mouth of one of the president's lawyers saying that we're going to get that answer next week. What's important here, Fred, is that it's been nearly a month. Tomorrow would be a month since the president tweeted this suggestion that there might be these tapes. And yet, in all this time, despite repeated questions, no one at the White House has definitively answered whether or not there are recordings of some sort.

This is something that has frustrated not just journalists, but also members of Congress and it's something that both of those senators Senator Feinstein and Collins discussed on State of the Union. Watch.


FEINSTEIN: If there are tapes, please, and the president's equivocal on this, bring those tapes forward.

COLLINS: This is an issue that the president should have cleared up in his press conference. He should give a straight yes or no to the answer -- to the question of whether or not the tapes exist. And he should voluntarily turn them over.

[15:05:04] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN STATE OF THE UNION: If he doesn't and a subpoena would be necessary to find this out, you support that?

COLLINS: I would be fine with issuing a subpoena.


JONES: Now, Senator Collins went on to say that most likely a subpoena, any subpoena, would come from the special counsel, Bob Mueller, who's looking into all of this. But a congressional committee could subpoena the White House if they so chose.

But hopefully, Sekulow is right. We'll get that answer finally next week.

But one more thing the president mentioned that created a little bit more mystery is he said on Friday reporters would be disappointed --


JONES: -- to find out the answer. It's not clear what he means there so the mystery continues.

WHITFIELD: But we're just disappointed that we don't understand what that means. All right, Athena Jones in New Jersey. Thank you so much.

All right, let's talk more about all of this now. I want to bring in Michael Zeldin. He is a CNN legal analyst, a former federal prosecutor and also was Robert Mueller's special assistant at the Department of Justice. Good to see you. And Jay Newton-Small --


WHITFIELD: --a Time Magazine contributor. Good to see you as well.

All right, so Jay, you first, because there is a lot of pressure, the chorus is getting louder that Trump should release these tapes. Provide, produce these tapes if they do indeed exist. Do you have any better clarification of what he means when he said from the Rose Garden, you know, coming soon in so many words? And you also might be disappointed.

JAY NEWTON-SMALL, TIME MAGAZINE: No, Fred. I don't think anybody's really that inside Donald Trump's brain, but I have heard a lot of frustration from Republicans on the Hill that there is -- that he hasn't -- if there are tapes, that he has not released them.

In the sense of, "Why not just release everything out on the table, clear the air." You might have one or two bad news cycles. But instead, their entire legislative agenda has been sort of overtaken by this trip, trip, trip, a little, you know, hearing there, hearing here. Comey coming out with certain accusations, Sessions is now testifying next week.

And people forget that this last week was infrastructure week and we absolutely did not talk about infrastructure. So, there's a lot of frustrations from Republicans on the Hill who wanted to see these tapes if they exist because they feel it might just clear the air, settle a lot of questions and they can maybe move on and do actual governing.

WHITFIELD: So Michael, in your view, will it boil down to subpoenas for these tapes if they do exist or might the White House be able to claim executive privilege? If so, what will be the circumstances to do that?

ZELDIN: Well, we saw with Richard Nixon that if there's an ongoing criminal investigation, which it appears to be, and these tapes are relevant to the determination of whether criminal laws were violated, then executive privilege fails, in respect of United States versus Nixon, and that Mueller's subpoena for them would be prevailing.

I think the thing that's so interesting, I watched almost all of the morning shows. And I think the person who had the most telling comment was Lindsey Graham, which you just put up, and says the more the president talks about this, the more he makes matters worse for himself in political terms. But in my view, as a legal analyst, the more he talks about this, the more he makes himself in legal jeopardy and I just don't understand what's going on with him.

WHITFIELD: It's surprising he wouldn't listen to his attorneys, Marc Kasowitz, and I'm sure all of those attorneys are saying, "Don't say anything."

ZELDIN: Right, right. I -- We sort of laughed a little bit about the notion that the president would say, "100 percent, I will testify under oath." Marc Kasowitz had to be saying, "Oh, no, oh no."

WHITFIELD: And, "Why did you do that?"

ZELDIN: Why did you say that?

WHITFIELD: So Jay, the president says, you know, he did not ask Comey to end the investigation into Michael Flynn. Remember awhile back he was, like, no, no. Listen to what he said in the Rose Garden on Friday.


JON KARL, ABC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE JOURNALIST: He did say under oath that you told him to let the Flynn -- you said you hoped the Flynn investigation you could like -- he could let that --


KARL: So he lied about that?

TRUMP: Well, I didn't say that. I mean, I will tell you I didn't say that.

KARL: So he said those things under oath. Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of these events?

TRUMP: 100 percent.


WHITFIELD: And now, listen to what Donald Trump Jr. said last night on Fox.


DONALD TRUMP JR., DONALD TRUMP'S SON: When I hear the Flynn comments, you and I both know my father a long time.


TRUMP JR.: When he tells you to do something --


TRUMP JR.: -- guess what? There's no ambiguity in it. There's no, "Hey, I'm hoping." You and I are friends, "Hey, I hope this happens, but you've got to do your job." That's what he told Comey. And for this guy, as a politician, that then go back and write a memo, oh I felt -- he felt so threatened, he felt that -- but he didn't do anything.


WHITFIELD: I want to hear from both of you on that one so Jay, you first.

NEWTON-SMALL: Well, it just -- It doesn't -- It certainly doesn't help Donald Trump's case in the sense that if his son is correct and he was absolutely telling Comey to drop the investigation and that Comey thought he was nudging him and in fact, he was absolutely telling him to drop the investigation, then that is actually obstruction of justice, I think.

I mean, I'm not the lawyer here. But I mean, that certainly -- the Comey hearing was a step by step case that was clearly being made to say that the president could be potentially guilty here of obstruction of justice.

[15:10:05] And the big question, I think, that a lot of Republicans have and a lot of politicians on the Hill have is in, you know, three months from now, six months from now, are we going to be talking about the obstruction of justice case against the president or are we going to be talking about the Russia --


NEWTON-SMALL: -- meddling in the election case. And in this case the obstruction of justice case might be actually bigger and worst effect. Since the sort of the cover up is worse than the crime in these case.

WHITFIELD: So, Michael, the lawyer hat, what did you interpret when you hear that from Donald Trump Jr. about his dad?

ZELDIN: Well, it confused me honestly. His dad said, "I never said it". His son said "he said it, but he didn't mean it". Comey, said "he said it and he meant it." None of those things really helps the president's, you know, credibility. And if this ends up being a one- on-one credibility contest as Senator Feinstein said, right now I think the smart money is on Comey and the president's continual talk and his surrogates continued talk just doesn't help his situation. They really just need to be quiet and I hope that Marc Kasowitz, who is a terrific lawyer, is telling him that.

WHITFIELD: All right, Michael Zeldin, Jay Newton-Small, thank you to both of you, appreciate it.

All right, up next, the U.S. attorney general testifying Tuesday in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. So, will Jeff Sessions clarify his meetings with the Russian ambassador in public or will this happen behind closed doors?

And then check out Los Angeles right now, where thousands have taken to the streets to march for unity and equality for the LGBT community. And it's not just L.A. these marches of solidarity are unfolding nationwide in cities including Washington, New York, and Boston. Stay with us.


[15:15:50] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he plans to testify before the Senate Intelligence committee on Tuesday. But at this point it's still unclear if that testimony will be public or behind closed doors.

A Department of Justice official says when Sessions testifies, it will likely be a closed hearing but ultimately it will be up to the Senate Intel Committee to decide. Many Democratic senators are calling for the Sessions's testimony to be public.


FEINSTEIN: Don't know whether it will happen or don't know whether it's going to be public. SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: We'll first I think he should be sworn under oath. Second, I think it should be public. There's very little that's classified. Anything that's classified they can do in a separate classified briefing.


WHITFIELD: And Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, a member of the intelligence committee wrote a letter today urging the chair and ranking member to hold a public hearing with Sessions. Let me bring back Michael Zeldin. He's a CNN legal analyst, a former federal prosecutor, and also with Robert Mueller's assistants to the Department of Justice. Welcome back.

All right, so do you agree with Senator Schumer who says there is a lot? The attorney general can talk about that is not classified and thereby should be public?

ZELDIN: So it depends on what the purpose of the hearing is. If the hearing is to delve into the state of the Russia investigation, I'm not sure that Sessions really has anything to add to that because theoretically he's recused. If it's to talk about his contacts with the Russian ambassador and the allegations that he had a third meeting that wasn't previously reported, I think that is something that the public has a right to know and should be held in public Sessions.

WHITFIELD: And why that?

ZELDIN: It actually should be held -- it should actually be held probably before the Judiciary Committee because they oversee General Sessions as the attorney general. Well, because I don't think that in our democracy it's good generally speaking for things to go undisclosed to the public. I think there should be a preference for public disclosure unless there is a national security or other need that the intelligence committee usually deals with to keep something secret.

So just default I prefer public to private. And I don't think there's anything here that's of such a nature that can't be held in public. And if I'm wrong and there is some things, then as Schumer said "then you hold those parts in private and you keep the other stuff that's of public interest is my attorney general an honest fellow, can I believe him, is the attorney general's office and the department of justice free of political influence?" Those are important questions that people need to understand to have confidence in the workings of the judicial and criminal justice systems.

WHITFIELD: So a few things that Sessions may be asked. So he may be asked about this, you know, undisclosed meeting. There might be a third undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador. He may be asked about, you know, being asked to leave the room with that meeting taken place in the White House between Comey and the president. What are the questions that you want asked as it pertains to the possible undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador?

ZELDIN: Did it happen? I mean the question here for the attorney general is to put a question to him that's specific. How many times did you meet with Russians? When did you meet with Russians? With whom did you meet? When did you meet? If I didn't say that already. That's what you want to get from him with respect to this. You want to ask good questions, where you have precise answers so you can determine whether the attorney general is being truthful. Perjury requires that. It requires a good question and a clear answer and an answer that is a perjuries, one, is one that is with intent to lie.

WHITFIELD: Does it change the line of questioning because he's already been under oath and if it did. It's the case that there was another meeting. He didn't reveal that at that time that the line of questioning may change as to why didn't you reveal it once before if indeed it's the case?

ZELDIN: Sure. I mean you remember the first time he testified he wasn't really asked a question. He just sort of volunteered and answer to a statement by Senator Franken. I think that's why is was saying in this time around you'd want to have a sworn witness where you ask those questions, who did you meet with, when did you meet, what was that at those meetings, et cetera.

[15:20:09] With respect to the Oval Office meeting --


ZELDIN: -- you're second question -- with your second question, Comey testified that the president shooed everybody out of the office but that the attorney general lingered until he was essentially asked a second time to leave. That's what you'd want to explore. What did you think the attorney general when the president made the first request for everyone to leave but Comey, and then why did you linger and what was your thinking when he shooed you out a second time?

What did you think was going on there? Did you think this was with good purpose, with bad purpose? Did you think there'll something that was going to happen that the president didn't want to witness to? You know, essentially what was his thinking around that event? Because it's hard to come up with a legal, you know, solution to why would you kick out the subordinate's boss at that meeting?


ZELDIN: Normally speaking, the boss stays with the subordinate. As we saw when Rosenstein and McCabe testified, Rosenstein answered often the times from McCabe because McCabe as the acting FBI director works for Rosenstein.


ZELDIN: So that the principal ask -- answers the questions on behalf of the agent. And that didn't happen in the Oval Office according to Comey and therefore you want to know why. What was up with that is essentially the question.

WHITFIELD: Something tells me all senators listening to you are taking notes (INAUDIBLE) notes because those are the questions that are likely going to be facing Jeff Sessions this week. Thanks so much, Michael Zeldin. Appreciate it.

ZELDIN: My pleasure.

WHITFIELD: All right, up next a top donor for the Democratic Party says Republicans have a double standard when it comes to impeaching a president. He makes his case to us after this.



[15:26:00] SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Today in the White House we have perhaps the worst and most dangerous president in the history of our country.


WHITFIELD: Senator Bernie Sanders firing up nearly 4,000 of his supporters and urging them to take down President Trump's agenda speaking up the second annual People Summit. Sanders ripped the president's, quote, "incredible hypocrisy". Many progressives outside Washington are now building upon that energy and increasing their calls to impeach Trump.

That includes billionaire Democratic donor and environmentalist Tom Steyer who just penned a scathing letter to lawmakers and it read impart, quote, "impeachment of an elected president is an act of enormous magnitude that must not be undertaken lightly or in response to routine political disagreements or a policy differences, but the seriousness of the remedy speak not only to the dangerousness of its misused but to the importance of using it when appropriate."

Tom Steyer joining me right now. So Tom good to you see. You say Republicans are not living up to their own standards of impeachment. What exactly do you mean and what have you heard in response?

TOM STEYER, BILLIONAIRE DEMONCRATIC DONOR AND ENVIRONMENTALIST: Well, the Republicans have made a deal with the devil in regards to President Clinton and in 1974 with regards to President Nixon, there were absolute standards where obstruction of justice was a clear cause for impeachment of a president, and some of the very Republicans who are in Congress now were drew a line in the sand and said if you obstruct justice as the president, that that is something that absolutely deserves impeachment and now they are acting as if they have never said it, as if the rules don't apply to them and as they are tied to President Trump and his behavior from here on out if they, in fact, don't hold him to account.

WHITFIELD: Meantime it's House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi who is warning Democratic lawmakers to slow down on talk about impeachment. Listen.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: When that word comes up, I always say to my colleagues in the Congress and my constituents and people across the country, what I said before, anything you do has to be based on data, evidence, facts. So you can speculate, but it's got to be the law and the facts.


WHITFIELD: All right, so many Democrats are echoing Pelosi. So are your calls for impeachment premature?

STEYER: I think is a matter of fact the -- if you consider obstruction of justice a cause for impeachment, there's absolutely no question that that happened based simply on the public statements of President Trump himself, who said the reason that he fired former FBI Director Comey was because of the Russia investigation. The fact of the matter is we have Prima Facie evidence that he has obstructed justice. He's admitted it himself.

And so, if that is the basis which it has historically been in the last two impeachment proceedings for going further impeaching a president, then he is guilty. He is -- he absolutely should be impeached.

I have also called for an independent prosecutor to go out and find out exactly why he's impeding the Russian investigation. We don't know. But actually we do have evidence that he has obstructed justice and that is the Republican's line in the sand for what causes impeachment.

WHITFIELD: So have you had a response from your letter, Democrats or Republicans?

STEYER: Well, I've had responses directly to me from democrats and they have been overwhelmingly positive saying somebody needs to say this. We need to call for this. The fact of the matter is we can't sit back and let this go on and act as if just because the Republicans won't do anything that that's OK that we have to have a voice for holding people to account to do the right thing.

WHITFIELD: Right, so let me ask you about something near and dear to your heart, and its climate change and President Trump's reason withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreements. Several businesses, city mayors, governors across this country has said that they still want to honor the agreement in their city as in their states.

[15:30:12] But if it's a whole the U.S. is not on board meeting being led by the president. Do you feel like that there would be an impact?

STEYER: Oh, I think there's no doubt that this was a disastrous decision. And that people around the world, including business people and elected officials in the United States, have rushed in to try to mitigate the damage that the president did to our country and to our working families.

WHITFIELD: And in fact, many of these business leaders in those cities, you know, they mentioned, they said they want to continue to honor the Paris, you know, climate accord. But how do they do that? How does, you know, the world recognize their efforts if you have the president of the United States who's saying, you know, we're withdrawing as a nation?

STEYER: Well, I think you have to breakdown what it means to reduce green house gases. I mean two of the very bit -- important ways that we emit green house gasses is through the generation of electricity. That's usually what people talk about when they're talking about coal fired plants, natural gas plants, or solar and wind. And that is something that is by and large regulated on a state basis.

So when governors and mayors talk about generating electricity, that is something over which states have an enormous amount of control. When we talk about green house gases coming from transportation especially from cars, that's something that tends to get regulated on a national basis. And so there is a great leadership possibility there that's traditionally been led by California and other progressive states about the miles per gallon rules.

But the fact of the matter is that is something where the president can have impact, is talking about trying to reduce projected miles per gallon rules (ph) in a way that would create more green house gases, be make us more dependent on fossil fuels, and keep us from building the kind of clean America that would create a lot of new jobs and make Americans healthier.

WHITFIELD: All right, we'll leave it right there. Tom Steyer thanks for being us with.

STEYER: Fredricka, thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, when President Trump uphold the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, he faced criticism not only from abroad but some right here at home calling the decision short cited. You saw some of that and heard some of that just minutes ago.

Well CNN Jennifer Gray found a group the voters who support for Trump is unwavering. Even as they could soon be force to abandon their homes because of the environmental changes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're running out of lying to give up. We don't have to tell him the (INAUDIBLE).

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Residents of Tangier Virginia don't have time to wait for Washington to debate climate change.

BRUCE CLARK GORDY, TANGIER RESIDENT: I agree (inaudible), but our problem is to our community is eroding away. Yes. Yes.


GORDY: Always.

GRAY: They live fewer than 100 miles from the white house on an island in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. Population about 450. Area, just 1.3 square miles and shrinking. During severe weather such as Super Storm Sandy in 2012, the island is buried under feet of water. The Army Corps of Engineers tells CNN erosion and rising sea levels alone will make this historic craving community uninhabitable and as little as 20 years. Adding the quote a major storm event striking the island directly could cause abandonment sooner.

It's a heart breaking prospect rejected by many locals whose families have been living and fishing off the island since the 18th century.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I tell our citizens as mayor, do not lose hope.

GRAY: In a small room on the old town clinic the mayor James "Ooker" Eskridge meets daily with fellow life long residence to discuss the island fate.

(on camera): There are people out there that say we'll just move, why do you live here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just assume we're (inaudible). So much say you don't just leave your home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're favorable.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, Donald Trump, if you see this, I mean, whatever you can do, we welcome any help you can give us.

GRAY (voice-over): Donald Trump received 87 percent of the island's presidential votes last November. Some of Tangier's local say they care less about his controversial view on climate change and more about his views on infrastructure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's cutting the regulations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of his concerns about our safety.

GRAY: The Army Corps of Engineers will begin building a jetty to protect the harbor here next year. But the rest of the island will need a far larger and more expensive barrier to survive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's going to cut down or to tell him it takes to study something. We've been studied to death. We just need something done.

GRAY: Mapping data shows how the shoreline has waned in the past and without intervention the small American town will disappear into the bay at the rate of 16 feet a year in some places.

[15:35:07] (on camera): So what could Tangier Island look like for future generation if the predictions do come true? Well we're about to find out at a place called the Uppards.

(voice-over): Carol Pruitt-Moore is a seventh generation islander. She takes the short boat ride from the main island everyday to walk along an abandoned shoreline and reflect on the past.

(on camera): As recently as the 1920s entire community lives right here where only about a mile and a half from Tangier and this is all that's left of the Uppards.

What do you think about when you come here every day when you take your walk?

CAROL PRUITT MOORE, 7TH GENERATION TANGIER RESIDENT: Well I mean, you know, like when a fun pieces of glass and pottery, I try to imagine the people who may have used them and, you know, what their lives were like. I'm sure they never thought, you know, we would have to live Uppards because it's our home. If we don't get help it's going to be like Uppards just a memory.

Her name was Polly Parks. She died in 1913.

GRAY: It wasn't many years after this the entire community was under. So one of your fears has got to be that somebody like you one day walking around Tangier.

MOORE: Oh yes.

GRAY: Picking up pieces of glass wondering about your life.

MOORE: Picking up my life.

GRAY (voice-over): Sea level rise isn't just affecting Tangier and its 450 locals. With many larger waterfront cities such as Miami and New Orleans threatened by climate change, convincing outsiders the small town is worth saving is a challenge.

EARK SWIFT, JOURNALIST RESEARCHING TANGIER: It seems to me that the decisions we as a country make about whether or not to save this place will inform how we deal with much bigger problems in cities like Norfolk (ph) and New Orleans and Miami and New York City.

GRAY: Earl Swift is a journalist working on a book about Tangier's climate plight. He lives part-time on the island researching life here where residents say they refuse to be climate change refugees.

SWIFT: If you make the decision that whether or not you save a place is simply a function of head count, then Tangier doesn't have a chance. You can't make it cost effective. You know, that's a dangerous slope to start sliding down if that's your chief decider. Because then you find yourself having to come up with what number is the baseline. I think it will be a real shame to see us get to that point.

GRAY: For now the mood on Tangier is optimistic with some welcoming the new president like kin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love Trump as much as any family member I've got.

GRAY: And hoping his view on climate change won't prevent funding for their future.

(on camera): If you could say anything to him or his administration today, what would it be?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Build us a wall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, build us a wall. They talk about a wall. We'll take a wall. We'd like to have a wall all the way around Tangier. We'd love a wall.


WHITFIELD: All right, that was Jennifer Gray reporting. Up next, U.S. Secretary of state Rex Tillerson takes a tough call from his Russian counter part while congress debates sanctioning Russia for meddling in the U.S. election a live update from Moscow.

Plus, Puerto Ricans are voting today in a referendum on whether they would like Puerto Rico to become the U.S. 51st state. And even if they approved it, they likely face an uphill approval battle with he Congress. The vote happens while the territory struggles with the ballooning death problem and the relationship with the American mainland. Tonight, on United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell. He visits the island and takes a look.


W. KAMAU BELL, UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA (voice-over): So Puerto Rico are American citizens.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not by choice. In 1898 the United States invades Puerto Rico and claims it as a prize from the Spanish-American War.

BELL: So you believe that Puerto Rico would be better off if it was officially a state.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Independence hasn't worked, not because we haven't tried, but because we have been so repressed.

BELL: Puerto Ricans can't vote for the president.


BELL: That does not make sense, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That doesn't make sense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Barack Obama were to move to Puerto Rico, he would lose his right to cast an absentee ballot. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the business front we are limited in our growth. Even the poorest states, they still have an income per capita that's more than twice.

BELL: People of color have always been invisible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are American citizens yet we don't have the same rights.



[15:43:27] WHITFIELD: A blunt warning from Russia's foreign minister. He is telling the U.S. it needs to stop bombing pro-Assad regime forces in Syria. Sergey Lavrov delivering the message by phone last night in the conversation with U.S. Secretary Of State Rex Tillerson.

U.S. relations with Russia could be further strained when legislation is expected to pass this week aimed that sanctioning Russia over its support of the Assad regime in Syria. Earlier today Senator Lindsey Graham explains why he wants the bill to pass.


GRAHAM: They colluded with Assad so he could keep his chemical weapons. And I think they were complicit in the attack of chemical weapons by Assad on children in Syria. We're going to punish the Russians. Any member of Congress who doesn't want to punish Russia for what they've done is betraying democracy. And if the president doesn't sign this bill to punish Russia, he will be betraying democracy.


WHITFIELD: All right, let's bring in CNN contributor Jill Dougherty in Moscow. So Jill, are you were able to get a response from the Kremlin and what was said?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, MOSCOW: Well as you expect it was not a happy one. I think, you know, when American members of the Congress say they're going punish Russia it really angers the Russians. And I reached out to Dmitry Peskov, who is the spokesperson for the president and he said "They have to ask themselves why and what is the reason and what is the evidence? Otherwise, it's just hysteria."

And that's a word you're using -- that they're hearing a lot here in Moscow that they're using to describe what's going on in the United States. I mean, a lot of the way they are depicting the political back and forth is political hysteria almost as if the United States has lost its mind.

[15:45:11] So, you know, we'll have to see where they go with this. But President Putin before has made the argument that yes, it's hurting but there are other industries that it is helping because they are having to produce things on their own. That is his approach.

But you could say f course that oil prices have hurt them more than sanctions. But just this tone, just that let's punish Russia is really going to get a lot of people over here quite angry.

WHITFELD: Right. And even hearing that language hysteria, so that makes it very difficult to gauge. So, what is the measurement of the relationship between the U.S. and Russia right now?

DOUGHERTY: You know, I was just looking at some comments by Ambassador Kislyak. Now, you know, he is the person with whom a lot of members of the administration spoke. And he has been very controversial figure in the relationship with Russia and the Trump administration.

He gave a speech in the United States and actually he's a diplomat, but he said I'm not a naive optimist, but I really believe that life itself will make the Americans understand together with Russia they can accomplish more than acting against it. And this is the more I'd say reasoned approach which is look, this is a tough time. In fact, he took a little swipe.

He said Americans are going through a tough period in their political life that's affecting relations. But ultimately, the conversation is beginning we have to work together. So you have a couple of things going o going on.

You know, politically, it gets sensitive when the United States takes action. The Russians want to retaliate however they can. They're also standing back and saying look at America in it's dysfunctionally. And then finally the diplomats are standing over in the other side and saying this is bad, it's been bad before, we can get through it and we have to work together because you got a lot of messages, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All Right. Jill Dougherty in Moscow, thanks so much. Up next, a look at the president's promise to bring back manufacturing jobs.


BRET MATTICE, FACTORY WORKER, GENERAL ELECTRIC: This was actually the first time I ever voted. He was saying the things that the average person who wants to see more decent paying jobs that somebody could support a family on.


WHITFIELD: But first CNN Money highlights how innovators under 35 rather got their companies off the ground and how they are disrupting entire industries with their new series upstarts.


BRENT BUSHNELL, CEO, TWO BIT CIRCUS: Oftentimes I will be talking with people and they are like what do you do? I'm like I run a circus. And some folks are like oh yes, I got a web design firm. We are kind of a circus, too. I'm like no, no, no, we are really a circus. Like lasers, fire, robots.

We are a location-based entertainment company creating the future of fun. People have a lot of options for entertainment, right? We are adding to that landscape in a new way and adding new styles of interaction. New styles of play.

You know, it's a bunch of nerds that would get together, you know, once a month and collaborate on stuff. And so we started making interactive art and then Microsoft called and said, hey, would you do all the entertainment for our e3 party. And all of the sudden we're like, gosh, is there real business here? Like, are we actually a high-tech circus?

It was fascinating because the brands like kept coming, and so Intel, Honda, Cisco, IBM. We started working with all these monster companies as just as a tiny little group of 30 nerds, but we were sitting at that intersection of software and game design and fabrication and frankly out-of-home entertainment.

This stuff is really a ton of fun, you know I mean. Sometimes I really can't believe I get to call this work. But it really is work, you know. It make no mistake.



[15:53:43] WHITFIELD: All right, live pictures right now of the nation's capitol from coast to coast. In fact people are taking to the streets to pledge their commitment to equality. This is happening right now in the nation's capitol, very sizable crowds there. It's also taking place in Los Angeles where thousands have been marching in solidarity with the LGBT community.

All right. Now, to a new segment on CNN called "Future Tense." Today, we take you to a warehouse in New Jersey that is transformed into an automated fulfillment center.


MAGGIE LAKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When most working-lass people think of automation, there is a fear that technology is taking their jobs away. In some cases, they are. But when online wholesale retailer Box decided to automate their fulfillment center in Union, New Jersey, the company wanted to be clear that people would still be a necessary part of the equation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to move and the new center will be automated, just kind of like the air was completely let out of the room. You are able to then say, you know, actually, no one is going to lose their job. And actually you're going to go from, right now, what you can argue is an unskilled position to a skilled position.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am not sure of what to expect.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All those worries are kind of going away little by little. And everybody is seeing how we do here.

LAKE: But the threat of robots taking work away from humans is not entirely imagined.

[15:55:04] A recent study by PriceWaterhouseCooper showed that 38 percent of Americans could lose their jobs to automation with the highest risks in fields like transportation, manufacturing, storage, retail and wholesale.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The definition of work in a field that we need as workers needs to change. But if you change and are willing to put in that time, then there is a good chance that you will evolve just like our world.


WHITFIELD: All right. For more "Future Tense," visit And we'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: Hello again. Thanks so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be in the hot seat Tuesday, that's when he plans to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee.