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Britain Says no to Trump; Driving Force for Kids; Puerto Ricans Decision Day. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired June 11, 2017 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: 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. Sessions will likely face tough questions over his allege contacts with the Russian ambassador. And the big question, will that testimony be public or private?

CNN has learned the attorney general's testimony will likely be in a closed session, but we have yet to get an official decision from the committee. This comes as the President launches one of his fiercest attacks on former FBI director James Comey tweeting this morning,

I believe that James Comey leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible. Totally illegal? Very cowardly.

I want to talk more about this with my panel. Page Pate, CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney. Steve Moore, CNN law enforcement contributor and retire supervisory special agent for the FBI. Brian Morgenstern, Republican strategist, and Ellis Henican, political analyst and columnist for "Metro Papers."

It is good to see all of you.

All right. So Steve, first to you. Your reaction to the President and his tweet calling Comey cowardly.

STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I don't think it is helping the situation much. I mean, what we have got here are two people saying different things. And we have gotten it in name calling and getting kind of history on it. So I think it would be better if we backed off and just let people judge based on the facts of the matter. And it's disappointing. It almost makes me feel like he is afraid of more leaks. Like he is managing people's expectations that there's more to come on this.

WHITFIELD: Do you interpret that as a veiled threat?

MOORE: It's hard to threaten James Comey now. I think more likely what he is doing is believing that some other things Comey might have and be holding on to until later on. And then he is basically conditioning the public to say, well, I told you these were coming.

WHITFIELD: And so, Brian, how do you interpret this? Is it badgering, you know, the witness, the potential witness? Or is this just, you know, the President trying to be as transparent as he can in the way in which he uses to take to tweeting?

BRIAN MORGENSTERN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, he is defending himself. And I think pointing out the fact that Jim Comey apparently gave confidential memos to his friend to leak to the press before he ever shared them with the Senate or with anybody else in the administration is something that people would call into question. That's some shady behavior there. And I think the President is right to defend himself on that.

WHITFIELD: OK. So Page, is it shady behavior, you know, Trump versus Comey? How is the special counsel, Mueller, supposed to manage all of this?

PAGE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, he is going to look carefully at the evidence. He is not just going to take one statement and pit it against the other statement. He is going to talk to other people, people in the White House, people in the FBI, people who have worked with both of these individuals to find out, number one, whose story makes the most sense. And number two, who has a reason to make something up.

Jim Comey's out of office now. He no longer has that job. The President has become the focus of a possible criminal investigation. He has a reason to change his story.

WHITFIELD: And so Ellis, the President, you know, has not given a straight answer on whether there are indeed tapes. We know he has tweeted about it. He was asked about it again, you know, from the Rose Garden and he says, you know, you will see soon, and you may be disappointed. How do you interpret that?

ELLIS HENICAN, POLITICAL COLUMNIST: Well, we have a little disagreement here, don't we? We have to decide who it is of these two gentlemen who is more credible, right? On one hand we have the FBI director who served three Presidents from two parties with distinction. And we have the guy who told us that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, you know? You decide. Which one of those do you want to believe?

WHITFIELD: And Page, you know, we know that Comey testified. He has talked about feeling, you know, very uncomfortable that these were inappropriate interactions that he had, the phone calls and face to face with the President. And then today the former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara said that h experienced something similar. In fact, he said it was like de javu. Listen.


PREET BHARARA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: So they are very unusual phone calls. And it sort of when I'm read the stories about how the President is contacting Jim Comey over time, sounds a little bit like deja vu. So the call came in, I got a message, deliberated over it, thought it was inappropriate to return the call and 22 hours later I was asked to resign, along with, you know, 45 other people. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: OK. And he didn't resign. He was fired. And that's the way he said he wanted to do it. So these commonalities, how do these play into this? How does Bob Mueller, you know, assess this, if at all?

PATE: Well, I think both these situations are very similar. Very similar situation. You have two individuals who were in a position to be involved in an investigation involving the President. Mr. Comey was with the FBI. They were running an investigation into Michael Flynn and any Russia connection to the election. Mr. Baharara in the southern district of New York had the ability to investigate Trump University and may be other claims relating to conflicts of interest. So he tells both of these folks, hey, you are doing a great job, (INAUDIBLE) to working with you and then a couple of phone calls, couple of conversations later, they are cut without any explanation or at least without a consistent explanation.

[16:05:16] WHITFIELD: Right. And Bharara said, you know, the first couple of phone calls that he received, it was President-elect Trump. These, you know, calls and he says, you know, they were just exchanging pleasantries. He got the impression that the President just wanted to kind of, you know, forge a relationship. But then after he called after inauguration, Preet Bharara said it wasn't appropriate. And so he didn't. And he, too, you know, went to his colleagues, reported this inappropriate what he thought was inappropriate behavior by the President and then 22 hours later -- fired.

PATE: Right. And I don't think anyone really disagrees that these conversations were inappropriate. The focus now is going to become were they illegal. Was something else going on here. Was the President trying to influence these investigations? And if so, what needs to be done about it.

WHITFIELD: And so, Steve, you know, what potentially can happen next? You have got, you know, Sessions who is going to be testifying. You have got this little drip, drip, drip of information coming from it Bharara. Comey's testimony. And then of course Trump's latest tweets this morning.

MOORE: Well, I think you are going to see a pattern of defaming the messengers, if nothing else. I mean, Bahrara certainly has some political baggage. The people can point to and say this was a poison pen. He is only agreeing with Comey because he got fired, too, not that I necessarily agree with that, but that's what you might hear.

You are probably not going to hear a whole bunch if it is a closed session with Sessions. And right now, there is just going to be a reset where we try to figure out and get away from the histrionics and say, this is the fact set. Which side do we believe? One or the other.

WHITFIELD: And Brian, most likely that Senate panel will be asking Jeff Sessions why it is that he would leave James Comey in the room with the President. He did linger, according to Comey's testimony. Comey even later said to the attorney general, I shouldn't be left alone with the President, that shouldn't happen again. What are the pressing answers you want to hear from Jeff Sessions on that issue?

MORGENSTERN: Well, if there was some understanding as to what the conversation would be about, you know, getting to know each other or whatever, or if it was just sort of an after-thought. I mean, people make mistakes. It is entirely possible that he says, you know, I hadn't thought about the guidelines. In retrospect, I would have acted differently. You know, I would expect just an honest explanation, frankly, to put it behind him.

WHITFIELD: All right. I want to hear from all of you after a short break. Steve, Brian, Ellis, Page, stay with us.

Also coming up, a top Republican on the Senate intelligence committee has a message for President Trump. Turn over any tapes or we will subpoena them. Details on that next.


[16:12:07] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.

Calls are growing today from lawmakers to President Trump to release any tapes that might exist of conversations he had with James Comey. A top Republican on the Senate intelligence committee says she is willing to seek a subpoena if the White House does not comply.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: 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.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: 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.


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

So Athena, President Trump's attorney has responded and what he is saying?

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. That's right. Jay Sekulow who is on the President's legal team with Marc Kasowitz says that we will finally have an answer to this question we have been asking and members of Congress have been asking for the better part of a month, does the President have tapes or some other kind of audio recording or record of his conversations with the former FBI director. Listen to what he said on ABC's "This Week."


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


JONES: So there you heard him say, next week. It is a new timeline being set by a member of the President's own legal team. So we certainly hope that that comes to fruition and we do get an answer by next week.

This is important, of course, Fred, because here you have the fired FBI director, James Comey, who took these very, very detailed contemporaneous memos, these notes, after every significant conversation he had with the President. These were conversations that disturbed him. And if you ask members of Congress, some of them who talk about this today, they are more inclined to believe Comey than they are the President simply because he has those contemporaneous notes. If the President -- if the White House has a record of their own to corroborate his version of events, that would be helpful to them.

But listen to what Senator Collins, Susan Collins of Maine, and also Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, Democrat, and a Republican, had to say about this.


SEN. DIANE FEINSTEIN (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, at this point I believe the FBI director. I know him the best. I have observed him the longest. I know he has his own band of integrity. Disagreed with him on the emails. Let him know that monosyllabically. But in this kind of thing, he is not going to lie.

[16:15:02] COLLINS: I found director Comey, former investigator Comey's testify to be Candice, 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.


JONES: So there you heard a slightly different answers from those two senators. But the upshot is that they find Comey to be credible. And that is why there is so much focus on this question of whether there are any sort of recordings or records to corroborate President Trump's denials of some of what Comey had to say. This is what we hope to have answered this week - Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Athena Jones in New Jersey, thanks so much.

So let's talk more about all of this. My panel is back.

Steve, good to see you. Let me ask you first. So the calls, you know, for the President to release these tapes, it's growing. You heard from the attorney who says next week the President himself on Friday said, very soon. We know Capitol Hill has set a deadline for June 23rd. So what if any or all of those deadlines are not met?

MOORE: Well, first of all, how long does it take to say, no, there were no tapes? This is a put up or shut up moment. And really there is an elephant in the room here. You can talk about what the congressional committees are going to do on this until you are blue in the face and whether they subpoena or not doesn't have anything to do with the fact that Robert Mueller is conducting a concurrent investigation that is potentially criminal. And if you don't think Robert Mueller is going to subpoena those tapes, you are sadly, sadly misled.

And so those tapes, because they have been referenced, he is going to be able to get a subpoena for them, and possibly even a search warrant. So there is no -- this is going to come out. And I would suggest that people speak about it quickly. And I suggest that if there are tapes, there better not be any gaps in them.

WHITFIELD: Right. No missing anything. No 18 minutes. No 80 seconds.

So Ellis, did the President -- has he opened himself up for more scrutiny? Has he made it more difficult, whether it be prolonging it or just, you know, from the initial tweet that, you know, you better not hope that there are tapes?

HENICAN: He does keep doing that, doesn't he? As to the question of whether the tapes exist, I mean, the truth is none of us really knows. But I would suggest that it is unlikely. Right? Because just think about it. If he were running tape around the White House, just imagine the treasure trove of stuff that would also be there beyond whatever conversations he had with director Comey. I cannot imagine that Donald Trump would like the world to have a detailed record of it.

WHITFIELD: So if no tapes, is that even -- is that worse? After all of this, dragging it out, better hope there aren't any, you are going to see soon. Some of you might be disappointed. If there's nothing --

HENICAN: In the end, that would be less damaging, I think, honestly. All of us with our paws over hours and hours of tape of it Donald Trump talking to people? Let me tell you, I would sure like to get my ears around that.

WHITFIELD: OK. Senator Lindsey Graham weighed in on the President's rhetoric this morning. Listen.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Here is what's so frustrating for Republicans like me. 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.


WHITFIELD: So, Brian, that's a lot of frustration being expressed.

MORGENSTERN: It sure is. But I would agree with Ellis. I think it is unlikely that he has tapes. I think maybe the President's been having some fun with this. But I want to also respond to something Steve said that there could be a subpoena issued or even a search warrant for these things. For what? There has to be some suspicion of a crime. And even if Jim Comey's account of everything that happened, if he had said, man, I wish you'd lay off Mike Flynn --

WHITFIELD: Well is it -- does it have to be a crime? Isn't this suspicion or it doesn't - isn't part of this rooted in did he cross the line by asking the -- or at the time the FBI director to drop an investigation and have this conversation in private and then claim that there are tapes to verify what really was said. And then come to find out if there are no tapes -- I mean that's a whole lot of mess. It doesn't have to be criminal, does it? But isn't it a matter of coming clean with everyone?

MORGENSTERN: Congress has oversight responsibilities, of course. But the fact is, even if everything Jim Comey said is true -- so what? If he said lay off Mike Flynn. I don't want you -- he could have pardoned Mike Flynn with the stroke of a pen and ended it just like that. So I mean nothing he did is criminal or anything. Maybe it is politically, you know, -- maybe senators are going to make some hey over it, but that's about it.

WHITFIELD: OK. Page, I saw you nodding your head a few times on that. And also the issue is, you know, sometimes it is not the crime, right? Or, you know, the alleged crime but it is the cover-up that then thereby leads to something criminal.

[16:20:10] PATE: Right. There is a lot to unpack there. I mean, Congress can certainly request whatever tapes they want as part of their oversight responsibility. The President can push back on that. If there are tapes and can say, look, you can't have everything. Some of these discussions I'm having in the oval office, they are protected by executive privilege.

But, Steve is right. A special counsel can come in, maybe not with a search warrant but with a grand jury subpoena and say, look, I want to have these tapes. I don't know if there is a crime here or not -- yet. That's why we need to hear the tapes. That's why we need to compare what you have said, President Trump, publicly with what actually happened in the oval office. So I think a legitimate request can be made. And if the White House fights it, it is going to end up just like the Nixon case. And the court, I think, will require those apes to be produced if they exist.

WHITFIELD: And at the same time, you have made a point, well there have been -- there are have been many voices that say, you know, give the President a break. You know, he is learning. He is figuring it all out.

He also tweeted this morning and he used very interesting language and punctuation which exhibits that he just might be pretty savvy about all of this when he talked about, you know, Comey and leaking and he, you know, he said totally illegal? Very cowardly exclamation, making a statement. And you have a theory, Page, behind that.

PATE: I do, Fred. I mean, that stood out to me immediately. Because if I'm reading that tweet and there is a period or exclamation mark after the totally illegal part, then he is possibly committed defamation against Jim Comey because he is accused him of a crime. And I think that question mark is intentional. Perhaps the President's having a lawyer review these tweets before they go out. But somebody told him, I think, or he figured it out on his own that if you don't put a question mark there, you could be in additional legal trouble from Jim Comey's side.

WHITFIELD: Interesting. And one would think his attorneys are probably telling him, you know, refrain from all this commenting.

PATE: But if you're going to do it, let me look at it, first.

WHITFIELD: Interesting.

OK, what that you Brian, you want to say something?

MORGENSTERN: Yes. It was me, Page. I wanted to say, a grand jury can't subpoena everything under the sun for no reason at all. They have to have some reason to believe that there is a crime committed, that they are actually investigating something that would be indictable. It has to be something admissible in that court for that purpose. It can't just be anything. It can't just be these tapes might exist. And, man! Would we like to hear them! Because they sure are interesting, you know. It has to be some kind, you know, relating to a crime. And the fact that, you know, even if the worse is true that the President said, hey, man, lay off Mike Flynn, that wouldn't be subject to a criminal investigation.

PATE: Well, I completely disagree.

MOORE: It is a criminal investigation. I mean you have got to look at this. Mueller is not doing a civil case here. We are suing this. It is already a criminal investigation.

MORGENSTERN: It is a counterintelligence investigation.

MOORE: You don't understand.

MORGENSTERN: I do understand, Steve.

MOORE: Then you wouldn't have said that. Counterintelligence involving an American, if there is a crime -- or if he is violated that, is a criminal case. And so there is already a criminal case open and the grand jury -- you wouldn't have a grand jury if it wasn't a criminal case. And if the President then says there are no tapes, then you could actually get a warrant to prove that. MORGENSTERN: Mike Flynn is the only one potentially implicated in

anything so far, along with the leaking. The President hasn't been.

WHITFIELD: OK. And all of this is very serious and it is debatable and, you know, that the hearings and the testimonies continue.

Meantime, the President has been accused of a lot of things, such as being masterful at diversion and while he has been in New Jersey, perhaps this was -- oh -- just spontaneous? Or perhaps this is part of the plan. But there was a wedding taking place at his golf club and he showed up. And folks were taking pictures and got this moment with the President and the bride, a great moment of levity for the White House. And it really made the day of that wedding couple. Any comments? Thoughts? Observations?

HENICAN: Memorable. Memorable. I think that's about as far as we want to go.


WHITFIELD: Yes. Well, very memorable, especially for that couple that was a cute moment.

All right. There, congrats to them to the new newly married couple.

All right, Steve Moore, Brian, Page Pate, Ellis, thanks to all of you. Appreciate it. Glad you be with us. We had to end on a high note. You know, little cheeriness there.

Speaking of which, there is no change when it comes to the UK's invitation extended to President Trump. They, too, want to be on the high note, according to the Prime Minister Theresa May. But the President's state visit later this year could still be at risk. We will explain after the break.


[16:29:00] WHITFIELD: A UK official said today there is quote "no change" to the invitation for President Donald Trump to visit Great Britain later on this year. That was in response to a report in the "Guardian" newspaper that Donald Trump called Prime Minister Theresa May telling her that he didn't want to visit until there was more support from the British public.

Right now May is scrambling to put together a coalition to form a conservative government after losing her majority in last week's snap election.

International diplomatic editor Nic Robertson joins me from now Belfast, Northern Ireland.

And so, Nic Robertson, the official word is there has been no change in the invitation, but could the Trump visit still be in some jeopardy, anyway?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Sure. Well, 10 Downing Street, Theresa May's office, is also saying that they aren't going to comment on private phone conversions and that invitation from the queen still stands. But it's been a contentious issue from the get-go from Theresa May's visit with Donald Trump, President Donald Trump, earlier this year. She was criticized in the British media for the hand holding. Then the travel ban, 1.8 million people in Britain signed a petition saying that there President Trump shouldn't -- or the queen shouldn't have to meet President Trump.

Then, as we got into the election cycle here meet with the opposition who supported by the Guardian newspaper -- indirectly, but that's how most people's read of it -- he has used a security issue saying that Britain is not going to -- is not going to have its security dictated or left in the hands of a Trump White House.

So, President Trump has become an election issue. Then there was a climate change agreement. Prime Minister Theresa May criticized for not being stronger in her criticism of President Trump pulling the United States, backing out of the Paris climate change agreement.

And then of course, last week with the attack in London, President Trump's Twitter comment about the mayor of London, that went down very badly. That also reflected badly on Prime Minister Theresa May.

So Jeremy Corbyn today, leader of the opposition, has tweeted if President Trump isn't coming, that's a good thing. Because of -- because of these issues I just mentioned here. So that is something that is just -- you know, if President Trump does come, undoubtedly there would be protests in the places that he was visiting.

People in Britain, some of them, feel very strongly about him right now. As far as the -- as far as Theresa May forming a stable government, the leader of the opposition has been saying that he thinks there will be elections within another year. Jeremy Corbyn. This is what he said.


JEREMY CORBYN, LABOUR PARTY LEADER: I think it's quite possible -- quite possible -- there will be an election later this year or early next year, and that might be a good thing, because we cannot go on with a period of great instability. We have a program. We have support and we ready to fight another election campaign as soon as maybe because we want to be able to serve the people of this country.


ROBERTSON: But of course Theresa May is trying to use the 10 politicians here in the Democratic Unionist Party here in Northern Ireland to form a support for her government. She sent one of her senior officials over here to try to broker that agreement Saturday. That didn't work out.

Talks are going to go on this week but that kind of deal with the delicate nature and the peace process here in Northern Ireland to strike a deal with a party that is seen as very pro-British, when there's very pro-Irish parties here in Northern Island. The politics created by this, so it is a very contentious issue for

Theresa May with a lot of pitfalls, many pitfalls to make that agreement with the DUP and it is not there yet. Fredricka?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, HOST, CNN: All right, Nic Robertson, thank you so much. We have so much more straight ahead in the Newsroom.

But first meet this week's CNN hero. Coach Callie. He sold everything he owned -- his house, his car -- to start a boxing gym for kids in Detroit's toughest neighborhoods.


KHALI SWEENEY, FOUNDER, DOWNTOWN BOXING GYM YOUTH PROGRAM: I've been shot 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.

Catch one, Jay.

SWEENY: I've been there so when they hear it from me, they're like, OK, he's not sugar coating it. No mentors. No positive role models. You put them in position to be ready for prison or the county morgue. I don't see bad kids. I see a kid who haven't been heard yet.


WHITFIELD: See how the Coach Callie is changing the lives of children in Detroit. Go to And while there, nominate someone you think should be a 2017 CNN hero.

And we'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: With Comey's blockbuster testimony behind us and U.S. Attorney General Sessions expected to talk to the Senate Intelligence Committee in just two days now, it's worth taking a look back at hearings that have captivated Washington and the nation, for that matter, in years past.

Here's Tom Foreman.

TOM FOREMAN, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: For airing grievances, probing issues or political punch, congressional hearings can be explosive.




FOREMAN: Consider 2013's testimony on the Benghazi attack and this moment from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CLINTON: Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night that decide they'd go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?


FOREMAN: It's been that way for generations. From testimony on the sinking of the Titanic, to Joe McCarthy's hunt for communists and his denunciation by Attorney General Joe Welch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you know stands up decency, sir. If there is a God in heaven, it will not do you any favor nor your cause any good.


FOREMAN: To hearings on allegedly obscene music to which the lead singer of Twisted Sister argued with future Vice President Al Gore.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does SMF stand for when it is spelled out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It says for the sick (muted) friends of Twisted Sister.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did the president know and when did he know it?


FOREMAN: The Watergate hearings proved enormously consequential for President Richard Nixon.


SAM DASH, CHIEF COUNSEL, SENATE WATERGATE COMMITTEE: Did there comes a time when you were asked to develop the capability in the White House for intelligence gathering.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Intelligence gathering. The answer would be no.

ANITA HILL, ATTORNEY: He talked about pornographic materials.


FOREMAN: Anita Hill's accusations against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas spurred debate about sexual harassment, and his denial and slamming of the committee even more talk.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As far as I'm concerned, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks.


FOREMAN: Hearings that brought impeachment, corruption probes, harsh accusations against the IRA.


LOIS LERNER, FORMER IRS OFFICIAL: I have not broken any laws.


FOREMAN: Scathing words for cigarette makers.


HENRY WAXMAN, (D) FORMER UNITED STATES SENATOR: The difference between cigarettes and Twinkies and the other products you mentioned is death.


FOREMAN: And outraged questions for the Secret Service.


[16:40:01] NITA LOWEY (D) FORMER UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: We're talking about a respected member of the Secret Service who was absolutely drunk.


FORMER UNITED STATES: Admittedly, congressional hearings often lead to nothing. But every now and then this unique type of political theater collides with something important, and then it really can be a show worth watching.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

WHITFIELD: And from coast to coast today, people are taking to the streets to pledge their commitment to equality. Live pictures right now from the nation's capital, Washington, D.C. Thousands are marching in solidarity with their LGBT community. We have so much more straight ahead in the Newsroom right after this.


WHITFIELD: Today CNN kicks off a week-long special series called Champions for Change. A dozen CNN and HLN anchors, including me, headed out to spend time working alongside the people whose causes are close to our hearts.

[16:45:01] These are truly special individuals. We want you to meet them. Our Champions for Change learn about the challenges they face every day, and see firsthand the real difference they're making in the lives of others.

I feel very fortunate while spending my school age years in Montgomery County, Maryland, I benefited from fantastic public schools with remarkable athletic programs helping me and a number of my former sports teammates, such and Elise Thomas, at the time, she's returning to my alma mater with me, as you see right there, and it helped us become self-assured, self-confident and aspirational all while having a lot of fun.


WHITFIELD: I think we all became very strong-willed people.


WHITFIELD: Weren't we already strong willed? But even stronger as a result of doing sports together.

ALEASE KOUADIO, PBHS ALUM: Yes, I agree. It was a situation where, you know, you just wanted to participate. Didn't matter who was better, who wasn't better.


KOUADIO: We pretty much supported one another because we were a team.


KOUADIO: We were for family.


WHITFIELD: And to this day we are besties going way back to our middle school sports teams. So, I know today not every American public school kid has the same access to a variety of sports and amazing building blocks that come with athletics, which is why I want you to meet some extraordinary people who are inspiring girls to reach their athletic and personal potential through a national non-profit group called girls on the run. I caught up with a D.C. chapter.

There's something about lacing up. Gearing up the start line.


WHITFIELD: And how, for so many girls, sports launches dreams. So it's thrilling to see these young ladies in girls on the run D.C. get a head start.


WHITFIELD: Kennedy and Mia, how you guys feeling?




WHITFIELD: How does that run make you feel? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Confident.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. And afterwards a little tired. But it makes me feel like I know I can do it.


And that's exactly what I recall. From my school days on the track and field, basketball and gymnastics teams.

I think I learned who you to swim before I learned how to walk. We played tennis. We got lessons right away. We were running. We were walking. We were playing soccer. We were doing everything. I think sports helped me with a sense of belonging that I can fit in anywhere, any place.

To this day, I compete in triathlons or play sports for the thrill of it. All of it, a driving force. Just ask graduates of my alma mater, Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville, Maryland.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sports allow you to have a dream for yourself, to be able to envision yourself doing something, and attaining. Then when you do attain it, you're like, I can do anything.

WHITFIELD: And now you're in dental school. You think in large part being a track athlete helped have that kind of aspiration?


WHITFIELD: You learn that there is no limit to all the things that you can accomplish.

Athletics has made me a stronger girl and I didn't even know it. I want all girls to feel this same way. I want all girls to feel like there's nothing that I can't do. The girls on the run athletes show that with each step.

All right. Sarah is doing good!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some people say that sports are only for boys, but they're for girls, too.

WHITFIELD: Lucero, Tatiana, Kennedy, Fia, Aniya, Andrea, and Riana (Ph), ages 8 through 11, running it out and talking it through.

We talk a lot about the way we think about ourselves. So what we're going to do is we're going to take a look at a couple pictures. Is this a healthy message for girls?



WHITFIELD: Does it make you feel good about yourself?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. WHITFIELD: And has it also helped you look at yourself differently

when you look in the mirror?


WHITFIELD: And what do you think? You care for yourself more?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even better than that. We're all beautiful on the outside but we're also beautiful on the inside.

WHITFIELD: And you're beautiful in the outside and you're beautiful in the inside.


For 10 weeks on the way to their first 5k race, they run together, build friendships.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Girls on the run D.C. is committed to serving any girl and all girls in all eight wards of Washington, D.C. So any girl that wants to be part of this program, we are committed to providing the access and removing the barriers.

They're gaining confidence and character that they're going to be able to take out into their life as they move on. These girls are the next generation of our future leaders.

WHITFIELD: Piece of cake.


WHITFIELD: Hey, mom, she's doing great.

[16:49:57] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like it because it does build teamwork. They are a he not judging one another. They're more or less encouraging one another. So I feel like that's a good thing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love the kids. I just love coming and running with them. When they first started to run and it's really hard because they don't have the endurance at the beginning. Sometimes you hold their hands and run with them. When they finish, they see that, oh, I really did do that. I just did that!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good job! Woo! Awesome! Nice.


WHITFIELD: After two and a half months training, girls on the run 5k in the nation's capital. How we feeling?


WHITFIELD: Feeling strong?


WHITFIELD: Woo! All right, let's go! You guys have a really good pace. Arms up! Woo! Did you have a favorite part of the race? The end!

WHITFIELD: These young girls are now equipped with the power of saying yes to certain opportunities and no to certain obstacles. I'm so impressed by these little girls. To hear them pat each other on the back or just whisper some words while running by, you can do it, that's so great. They inspired me, and I loved that.


WHITFIELD: Wow. What a powerful group. Girls and the coaches to make it all go with girls on the run. So profiles in our Champions for Change series resumes tomorrow bright and early with Alisyn Camerota beginning at 8 a.m. Check out all the Champions for Change in our web site at

And we'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: Citizens of Puerto Rico are voting right now on whether to make the U.S. territory the 51st State of America.

So far, 89 percent of precincts have been counted. And of those 97 percent have voted for statehood. That's according to the Puerto Rico State Commission on Elections but the decision will ultimately be left to the GOP-led Congress. The people living there are Americans but they don't have U.S. voting rights.

It is a topic CNN's United Shades of America explores tonight.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nobody ever Puerto Ricans do you want to be American citizens. In 1898 the United States invades Puerto Rico and claims it as a prize from the Spanish-American war. After 1917, anybody that's Puerto Rican is born as an American citizen. But we're still dealing with a colonial government.

W. KAMAU BELL, HOST, CNN: There is occasionally a push for Puerto Rico to regain its independence fully from the United States of America. And then some people are like, leave it as it is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People have to understand about the need for independence is that there's a fear that has been instilled on the people in Puerto Rico that if we were independent, we couldn't run our own country. And that's what happens when you're a colony.


WHITFIELD: W. Kamau Bell, host of United Shades of America joining us now. So, Kamau, history is unfolding in Washington but Puerto Ricans can only watch, not act, so to speak. So what is the biggest frustration that you heard listening to people there?

BELL: I mean I think the biggest frustration is that they don't feel like their future is necessarily in their hands. Yes, 97 percent of the people who voted for statehood. But also the Puerto Rican, the Democratic Party in Puerto Rico boycott the election and other groups also boycotted the election.

So, I think something less than 30 percent of people voted. So I think a lot of people decided because this doesn't actually mean anything, we're not -- we're going to opt out.

WHITFIELD: And you know, this is an incredibly diverse island. Very diverse culture. Everything about it. Music, food, et cetera. What did you find about people there that really brings Puerto Ricans together with kind of a common goal of having a piece of the pie, so to speak?

BELL: I mean it feels like I was there for about a week, actually stayed there after we taped the episode with my family. And it was a really beautiful place. It has a lot of natural resources. It's one of those few places on the planet. And the people of Puerto Rico feel like there's something wrong here that we're $72 billion in bankrupt and we didn't feel like we do it to ourselves.

I mean, they feel like they're very confident and mobilize people who feel like, if they put their future in their hands, they could do a good job. And I think the complicated issue for Puerto Rico mean that everybody we talked to, there was not consensus among like who I talked to should we be a state, should we be a state, should we be independent. And I feel like because their history is so complicated, there is is a lot out fear. But it seems like somehow people as American citizens who are colonized, we've done something wrong and suddenly to blame not (Inaudible).

WHITFIELD: There is so much to love about Puerto Rico. I vacationed there twice last year. And I'm always angling to get back.

W. Kamau Bell, thank you so much. I appreciate it. All right. Catch United Shades of America tonight at 10 o'clock, Eastern Time.

All right, that does it for me. Thanks so much for hanging out with me today. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The news continues with Boris Sanchez right now.

BORIS SANCHEZ, HOST, CNN: You are live in the CNN newsroom. I'm Boris Sanchez in for Ana Cabrera. We thank you so much for joining us.

[16:59:59] He called him a liar and a leaker. And now maybe his harshest attack yet, President Trump is blasting his former FBI Director, James Comey has cowardly. He tweeted this out earlier today, writing quote, "I believe the James Comey leaks will be far more prevalent."