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Calls for Trump to Release Tapes (If They Exist); Source: Senators Surprised by Sessions' Offer to Testify; The Death of a U.S. Marine: Suicide or Murder? Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 11, 2017 - 18:00   ET


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

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is willing to put himself on the hot seat in two days and face tough questions about his role in the firing of the former FBI director, James Comey.

The big question: will all Americans be able to watch and listen to his testimony?

[18:00:04] Sessions is planning to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, and CNN has learned it will likely be a closed session although the committee ultimately makes the final decision. The ACLU put out a statement saying, quote: There's absolutely no reason why the hearing room doors should be shut, cameras turned off and all American citizens left in the dark when the Sessions testifies.

Meantime, President Trump has a fresh Twitter slam against James Comey, tweeting out, quote: I believe the Comey leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible. Totally illegal, very cowardly.

Comey's admitted to giving a friend a memo detailing one of his conversations with the president and his friend then gave it to "The New York Times".

Plus, more controversy about a key Comey claim that President Trump said that he hoped Comey could drop the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The president and his lawyer both say that Trump never put it that way.

But the president's own son may have just contradicted his dad's version of what was said. Listen.


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


TRUMP: When he tells you to do something -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

TRUMP: -- 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 to then go back and write a memo, oh, I felt -- he felt so threatened, but he didn't do anything.


SANCHEZ: Let's go to CNN White House correspondent Athena Jones. She is in New Jersey where the president spent the weekend.

Athena, President Trump has less than two weeks to turn over any memos or tapes of his Oval Office conversations with Comey. That is, if they exist. What's the latest on the possibility that those tapes are real?

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Boris. Well, we do have some news on that. The president's -- one of the members of the president's legal team, Jay Sekulow, was speaking on ABC's "This Week". He said that we should have finally have an answer to whether or not there are recordings of those conversations between the president and James Comey in a matter of days. Watch.


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 the president said he will address it next week.


JONES: So, there you have a member of the president's own legal team setting a deadline of next week, for finally getting an answer. Of course, we don't know if it means there's tapes, those would be handed over to congressional investigators. That's another question. We will have to wait and see what -- if that happens, if there are tapes -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Now, Athena, some leading Republicans and Democrats have weighed in on the possibility of these Trump/Comey tapes. What did they say?

JONES: Well, this is interesting, because as you know, it was a month ago, almost a month ago, to the day, when the president first sent out or put out this tweet suggesting that tapes may exist. Journalists have been asking ever since then if they do. Of course, the White House has not explicitly answered the question.

But members of Congress have also been asking, why can't they just answer what should be a yes or no question?

Take a listen to what Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and GOP Senator Susan Collins had to say about this on "STATE OF THE UNION."


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: He should turn them over, not only to the Senate Intelligence Committee, but to the special council. So, I don't think that a subpoena should be necessary. And I don't understand why the president just doesn't clear this matter up once and for all.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: There were no witnesses. If there are tapes, please, and the president -- bring the tapes forward.


JONES: So, there you have those two senators, asking for this to be answered. We expect that it will be answered if we were to believe the president's own lawyers. And of course, if there are tapes, those could potentially corroborate the president's version of events. So, that's why this is all so important -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: It certainly is. Athena Jones, reporting from New Jersey, thank you.

Let's dig deeper with our panel now.

Joining me, David Sanger, CNN political and national security analyst, and Philip Lacovara, he served as counsel to Watergate special prosecutors.

David, let's start with you. How significant is it that Sessions wants to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and does it matter whether or not the session is closed or open?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it's significant for a couple of reasons, Boris. First, there's still outstanding questions about his meetings with Russian officials, including Ambassador Kislyak, how many there were and what was discussed. Secondly, that's something that would seem to not only move the investigation but the political discussion.

So, I'm sure there's a great interest from the public in hearing that.

[18:05:02] That doesn't necessarily mean that he has to testify in public at this time. He could testify in a closed session and eventually the word of this will get out.

My guess is, it would probably be better for him for the public to hear it in his own words rather than have it leak out a little bit later on. And so, I think that is one of the main arguments for making it public. But he is not somebody who has wanted to talk about this subject very much in any public forum and I can imagine that probably hasn't changed now.

SANCHEZ: And, Philip, what would you want to hear from Jeff Sessions? What do we need to know from him? PHILIP LACOVARA, COUNSEL TO WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTORS ARCHIBALD

COX AND LEON JAWORKSI: Well, I think, from the standpoint of the investigation, what is going to be most important is whether he corroborates some of the peripheral but significant details in Mr. Comey's testimony. For example, Comey testified that the attorney general was trying to linger in the Oval Office when the president essentially threw him out so that he could have the conversation with Comey that is one of the center pieces of the suspected obstruction of justice. In addition, we would want to hear whether or not his version of what Comey said to him afterwards about how his independence required that the attorney general run interference between the White House and specifically the president and the director of the FBI.

So, to the extent that Sessions is required under oath to corroborate Comey's testimony on these other elements of the story, that tends to confirm that Comey's version is the accurate one.

SANCHEZ: David, one of the most outspoken critics of the president has been Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. I want you to hear what he said earlier today.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Here's what is 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 just were just quiet would clear you.


SANCHEZ: So, is the president his own worst enemy? I mean, we know that part of the reason Comey says he put out that memo, he leaked that me was because of Trump's tweet about potential tapes of their conversations.

LACOVARA: Well, Boris --

SANGER: I think that character -- go ahead.

SANCHEZ: Go ahead.

LACOVARA: The characterization that the president is his own worst enemy is absolutely spot on. First of all, when he blew the cover story that Comey had been fired for mishandling the Hillary Clinton investigation, he said that his motive for firing Comey was to put an end to the Russia investigation or at least relieve the pressure on him That's what may provide the corrupt or improper motive that's an essential element of any charge of obstruction of justice.

And then, his tweets asserting that Comey lied before the Senate Intelligence Committee under oath basically left the special prosecutor, the special counsel no choice but to insist on getting testimony under oath from President Trump about his version of that series of sessions, and I think, that's the last thing in the world a lawyer typically wants to have his client forced to do. And that is to expose himself to more jeopardy, by making statements under oath that are going to be -- that may be in consistent with those of an otherwise credible witness who has got contemporaneous memoranda of the conversations that the president is now denying and may have to either truthfully admit under oath or perhaps falsely deny under oath.

SANCHEZ: Now, David, if you were Marc Kasowitz, if you were Trump's attorney, what would your reaction be to hearing him say that he would be 100 percent willing to testify? Were you cringing at that point or were you egging him on?

SANGER: Well, my suspicion is he was probably cringing because they want to have maximum flexibility to figure out on what issues the president would testify, what he wouldn't. And he seems to have committed himself pretty strongly here. Now, we've got other moments that president himself to doing things, including release his taxes that he later decided that he had reasons not to.

As to you previous question, Boris, if you believe that the president's goal was as he stated to try to bring closure to the Russia deal, then it was the tweet that said, you better hope we don't have any tapes that according to Mr. Comey, and one of the more surprising parts of his testimony, led him to get his notes out in hopes that it would lead to the appointment of a special counsel.

[18:10:02] So, now, the president is going to have to deal with the special council, no matter how this turns out, whether it turns out in his favor, it doesn't turn out in his favor. This is going to be with him for the next year, year and a half, however long the investigation takes. And it may be because Jim Comey was prompted by one of those tweets. That's got to be something that the lawyers must have second thoughts about.

SANCHEZ: Right. Now, Philip, you helped to prosecute Watergate, a chapter in American history that's getting a lot of comparisons to right now. You've argued that Comey's testimony alone is sufficient evidence for obstruction of justice. Critics of that say that, saying that you hope an investigation goes away is not enough. What do you make of that argument?

LACOVARA: I think that argument is just plainly wrong. First of all, the question whether use of the term "hope" simply meant it was an idle aspiration or an idle wish just defies common sense in the circumstances. When a boss in any context says to a subordinate, I hope this is what you do or I hope this is not what you do, especially when now you got a president and a subordinate whom he has demanded pledge loyalty to him -- according to Comey's testimony, that's got to be viewed in context by any reasonable person as more than just idle gossip or idle aspiration.

But the more important point under federal criminal law is that the law doesn't require that the president have commanded that Comey back off. The law forbids a corrupt or threatening expression of influence or an attempt to influence or impede an investigation. I don't think there's any doubt that when the president told the director of the FBI that he hoped he would drop the Flynn investigation and let Flynn go, he was attempting to influence the investigation and that basically is all the federal statute requires in order to make out an apparent violation of federal criminal law.

SANCHEZ: A lot of disagreement over that one word, hope. David Sanger, and Philip Lacovara -- thank you so much for joining us.

SANGER: Thank you. Boris.

SANCHEZ: Coming up, the president battles lagging approval ratings on top of the Russia controversy. What does it mean for his agenda?

Plus, a decorated marine found shot in Iraq. His death was ruled a suicide, but his widow isn't sure. Why she thinks this case needs to be reopened.


[18:16:53] SANCHEZ: For a man who is obsessed with ratings, President Trump's are not great right now. Just 34 percent of Americans approve of the job that he is doing, 57 percent disapprove and his credibility is an issue. Just 36 percent of Americans say the president is honest, almost 60 -- 59 percent say that he is not.

CNN political analyst and Princeton University professor Julian Zelizer joins me now. Also with us, CNN politics reporter Eugene Scott in Washington.

Julian, let's start with you.

President Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton both faced impeachment proceedings or Nixon was about to. Despite that, he won re-election with 520 electoral votes, the biggest Electoral College win ever. And Clinton had some of his highest approval ratings during the whole Monica Lewinsky issue. Yet right now, President Trump's approval ratings are about as low as they have been and he is not really getting on base with any of his agenda.

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And meanwhile, Nixon, the scandal doesn't unfold until after the '72 election. So, there is some time and his approval declines.

And it's true. Bill Clinton became more popular --


ZELIZER: -- after this scandal unfolded. And in the case of Nixon, of course, you didn't have united government. And so, that made the dynamics a little different. You had Democrats controlling Capitol Hill, whereas today, you have united government and generally, Republicans, although a little more critical, have been very reticent about going after the president.

SANCHEZ: And, Eugene, I did want to ask you, what exactly is it going to take for some Republicans to start peeling away. Do you foresee that happening or do you see them going all in with the president, in spite of, again, him getting on base with his agenda and this Russia thing not going away any time soon? EUGENE SCOTT, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: I think it's important that we

pay attention to the midterm elections which are coming up next year, sooner than later. If we see Republican lawmakers have trouble with their constituents because of their association with the president, and his agenda and it's not being able to bring forth all of the things that voters hoped he would when they voted for him. I think we are going to see some people speak out against the president and against Republican lawmakers.

SANCHEZ: Now, Julian, and Eugene, I want you to stand by, we have breaking news about Jeff Sessions testimony on Tuesday. There's word now that senators are concerned that the attorney general is trying to avoid testifying publicly.

Let's bring in CNN senior congressional reporter Manu Raju. He joins us now over the phone.

Manu, what have you learned?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER (via telephone): Hey, Boris, a source familiar with the situation tells me that they are uncertain about whether or not to allow Jeff Sessions to testify in a private session on Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Now, this decision by Senator Sessions to offer his testimony on Tuesday, which came Saturday evening, really caught members on both sides by surprise, they were not expecting that to happen.

Sessions, of course, was scheduled to testify publicly before the Senate and House Appropriation Committees to discuss the Justice Department's budget. I

[18:20:07] n that, those appearances, he was almost certainly going to be quizzed about Russia and his relative conversations with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, and whether or not he properly disclosed a third interaction has become a source of interest among the Senate Intelligence Committee. But Sessions has offered to testify to the Senate Intelligence Committee, instead has prompted some concerns even from the top Democrat on the committee, Mark Warner, whose members are concerned that Sessions may be trying skirt public scrutiny of the Russia issue and testify instead in private.

As a result, a very significant just deliberations that are happening behind the scene among members about whether or not to allow Sessions to testify at all on Tuesday. And whether or not to allow it have it happen in a open or closed session or maybe do what Comey did last week, which was to testify in open and closed session.

So, these discussions are ongoing. They are expected to take shape tomorrow when members return back to Washington. Earlier today, Boris, a Justice Department official told me they do expect that to be a private classified session when Sessions does testify. But they said the decision is ultimately up to the Senate Intelligence Committee. From what I'm hearing tonight, Boris, those decisions have not been made, because of concerns that Sessions may be trying avoid public scrutiny about his involvement in the Russian issue. SANCHEZ: Some excellent reporting there from Manu Raju, reporting as

senators were surprised by Sessions' offer to testify to the Senate Intelligence Committee and that they fear that he may be doing it to avoid testifying publicly.

Manu, thank you.

Back to you, Eugene and Julian.

Eugene, I'm interested in getting your response to this news?

SCOTT: Yes. I mean, my first thought is if it in fact happens that Sessions is not required to testify publicly, the rumor mill is going to go out of control. I think people, the American people who voted are very interested in hearing this and want to know what happens. If he wants to stay in control of his narrative and be able to stand by things that he said publicly, it would be in his best interest to put those quotes before the people who voted for Trump opposed to doing things privately.

SANCHEZ: And, Julian, isn't the perception that if he has nothing to hide, he is better off doing this publicly?

ZELIZER: No, that's absolutely correct. I mean, so much of the scandal has unfolded because the administration says one thing and then we learn something else. And Sessions and others have hidden their contacts. And so, this is one of those moments where public accountability, might help the administration if there really is nothing to hide, but by doing this, he will only fuel the narrative that this administration is not being straight and that he doesn't want to reveal the context in public.

SANCHEZ: Especially because he was forced to apologize for having some undisclosed meetings with the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Eugene and Julian, we appreciate you guys sticking with us through the breaking news. Thank you.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Coming up, suicide or murder. Why the widow of a marine colonel says critical pieces of evidence were overlooked in the death of her husband. Her fight to get this case reopened.


[18:27:37] SANCHEZ: We're back with the military widow's fight to restore her husband's honor.

Nine years ago, Marine Colonel Michael Stahlman was found mortally wounded in Iraq with a gunshot wound to the head. Heroic actions were taken to try to save his life. But a medical examiner ultimately ruled his death as suicide.

Now, his widow with a help of a retired JAG lawyer and NCIS investigator says that she has documents that show critical pieces of evidence were overlooked in a rush to judgment. A medical examiner needs only 51 percent to designate a death a suicide. Navy investigators stand by their conclusions saying that defending their reputation would simply exploit the emotions of a grieving widow and dishonor the service and memory of a Colonel Stahlman.

Kim Stahlman though says that that's exactly what they've done, by failing to reopen her late husband's case.

CNN's Deb Feyerick reports.


DEB FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Colonel Michael Stahlman was one of the highest ranking officers to die in the Iraq war. He was halfway through a year-long tour of duty when he was found in his bed, a gun shot wound to his left temple.

(on camera): What specifically did they tell you when they called you that morning to let you know?

KIM STAHLMAN, WIDOW FIGHTING U.S. MARINES: Oh, yes, it was -- I will never forget it. Is this Colonel Stahlman's wife? I said, yes. And he said, I'm calling to inform you that your husband, Colonel Michael Ross Stahlman, was found in a self inflicted gunshot wound to the left temple. Then, I'm like, he is not left-handed.

FEYERICK (voice-over): From that very first call, Kim Stahlman says she knew something was terribly wrong. The U.S. Marine Corps and NCIS concluded it was suicide. But Kim has refused to accept that and she's taking on the U.S. military in a personal war, seeking justice for her husband.

STAHLMAN: Right is right, and this is not right. And of all the people that did not deserve it, Mike Stahlman did not deserve this.

FEYERICK: Michael Stahlman was a marine's marine, a fighter pilot with unwavering loyalty to his country and the mission. Kim was just 21 when she met him in 1987. Two weeks later, they were engaged.

STAHLMAN: I was the lucky ones that knew, that ran into that one person in my life that I knew this was the person that I would spend the rest of my life with.

FEYERICK: Michael Stahlman rose through the ranks quickly, becoming a highly respected JAG lawyer. He was getting ready to retire when at age 45, he volunteered to serve in a combat zone.

KIM STAHLMAN, WIDOW OF COL. MICHAEL STAHLMAN: I just think that's something he felt was his duty and wanted to do it.

FEYERICK (on camera): Were you worried?

STAHLMAN: Not at all. That's what so surprising.

FEYERICK (voice-over): In January 2008, Col. Stahlman left for Iraq, joining the Rule of Law Unit, in charge of rebuilding Iraq's police and court system and investigating fraud and corruption, both Iraqi and American.

According to NCIS, the day of the shooting, July 31st, Stahlman woke especially early for his usual predawn run, training for an upcoming triathlon. He was a month away from coming home on R&R to celebrate daughter Piper's fourth birthday and take 11-year-old McKenna to a water park.

He had e-mailed Kim a day earlier, writing, "Kim, everything is great, just ready for a break and time with you. Missing you terribly and need lots of hugs and kisses. Love, Mike."

At 4:30 that morning, the colleague tells NCIS investigators he saw Stahlman. He was well liked and that his demeanor appeared to be the same as it always was. Computer records show Stahlman checked on a letter of recommendation he'd been writing. He also sent what would be his last e-mail.

FEYERICK (on camera): What did that e-mail say?

STAHLMAN: "Kim, sorry for what you are about to find out. I love you and always will. You and the girls are the most important thing to me. Love, Mike." That's what it said.

FEYERICK (on camera): What did that suggest to you?

STAHLMAN: I immediately thought, "Oh, no. One of our friends is dead."

FEYERICK (voice-over): Kim says the message is a common military warning. NCIS says it was a suicide note.

STAHLMAN: My husband, he loved life. He'd only basically secured a job. We knew where we wanted to go. Everything was planned.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Stahlman was supposed to be leaving on a morning mission when he was discovered bleeding from a gunshot wound, clinging to life. NCIS says heroic efforts to save him complicated their investigation. He would spend the next two months in hospital.

LT. COL. COLBY VOKEY (RET.), MILITARY TRIAL LAWYER: They assumed it was a suicide from day one.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Retired military JAG lawyer Colby Vokey had worked with Stahlman. When Kim reached out, Vokey agreed to review the case.

VOKEY: My initial reaction was sort of, you know, it's a grieving widow. She just doesn't want to accept the truth.

FEYERICK (voice-over): But as he reviewed the NCIS report, his opinion changed. The bullet had fractured Stahlman's skull, causing multiple traumatic brain injuries.

VOKEY: When the first people responded to Mike and they found him, the nine-millimeter weapon was tucked under his -- kind of the waist, his thigh. So his hand was by his side, the weapon was kind of underneath him.

STAHLMAN: If you're in a bunk bed with a nine-millimeter and you shoot yourself, where is that nine-millimeter going to end up? You think it's going to end up in the bed with you? Have you ever shot a nine-millimeter?

FEYERICK (voice-over): The medic who treated him says Stahlman's left arm was by his side with the nine-millimeter Beretta pointing towards his feet. On Stahlman's right lay his military issue Bible and a key chain with a photo of his two young daughters.

NCIS determined these two items, along with the e-mail discovered later, indicated suicide. Neither the Bible nor the key chain were ever fingerprinted. No fingerprints, not even Stahlman's, were found on his pistol, though his blood DNA was present. And his hands were never tested for gunshot residue. NCIS saying there was no time because he was immediately medevacked.

Vokey needed another opinion and reached out to one of NCIS' former top investigators.

MICHAEL MALONEY, FORENSIC CONSULTANT: Out of hundreds of cases that I've looked at and others that I've reviewed for families, I've had two that were questionable to me.

FEYERICK (on camera): And the death of Colonel Stahlman is one of them?

MALONEY: Yes, it is.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Michael Maloney meticulously reconstructed the crime scene, frame by frame. He found too many things that, forensically, did not add up.

MALONEY: All of these things that we're talking about now are indicative of staging.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Maloney says the bullet angle described in the autopsy suggests Stahlman was not laying down as the NCIS report concluded but getting up, his head turned away, when the fatal shot was fired.

MALONEY: So that puts his head in this position when he receives --

FEYERICK (on camera): So the blood when he was shot, up.

MALONEY: The blood would have gone up. That is called back spatter. It comes from the entrance wound. And the exit wound, the blood would have gone down into the pillow and into the mattress where, ultimately, the bullet would have gone as well.

FEYERICK (on camera): Do you believe that the bullet that caused this hole was the fatal shot?

MALONEY: No, I don't. There has to have been a second shot that was fired. [18:35:03] FEYERICK (voice-over): NCIS records confirm the mattress

and bedding were destroyed as a biological hazard within 48 hours. Stahlman's helmet bag, which he used as a brief case and always carried with him, was missing and never recovered.

VOKEY: That bag turning up, it's the kind of baggage he's going to keep his most personal, important papers in and documents. And that's gone.

FEYERICK (voice-over): A photo of the scene taken immediately after shows a silky white near Stahlman's bed. It appears to have specks of both gunshot residue and blood spatter, indicating, Maloney says, that it was close to the gun when it was fired.

FEYERICK (on camera): Do you believe that Michael Stahlman was alone in his room when that shot was fired?

MALONEY: I do not. There would have been someone else present. Whether it was an accident or whether it was murder, whether it was negligence, I don't know, but there would have been someone else that triggered the weapon that caused the fatal shot.

FEYERICK (voice-over): The NCIS report suggests Michael Stahlman's deployment had put a strain on the couple's marriage.

STAHLMAN: We all grow in our marriage and sometimes, you grow apart. I didn't want that, and that's what we were going to work towards.

FEYERICK (on camera): One of the things they said is that they had reviewed it and there were human factors.

STAHLMAN: Human factors. That's the best they could come up with?

FEYERICK (voice-over): Two months after the shooting and one day before their 21st wedding anniversary, Colonel Michael Stahlman died. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery and eulogized by colleagues in Iraq.

MICHAEL MORRIS, STAHLMAN'S FRIEND AND FORMER EMPLOYER: Mike never got flustered and always managed to stay ahead the power curb. He was always in control. A rock that seemingly couldn't be shaken. It makes what happened in July all the more improbable.

FEYERICK (voice-over): The medical examiner concluded in 2008 that, based on all available investigative information, Stahlman's death was a suicide. When CNN requested an interview, we were told there was no new information for them to reconsider otherwise. Kim Stahlman is trying to change the suicide finding.

STAHLMAN: The problem with this whole thing is, the Marine Corp passes the buck to NCIS. NCIS passes the buck to the medical examiner. The medical examiner passes it back to NCIS. Nobody is responsible.

FEYERICK (on camera): Do you think he would be in pain to know what you're going through? STAHLMAN: Yes, I do. I do. I think -- yes. I think he probably

would tell me to just drop it and it doesn't matter, Kim. But I can't let it go. I can't.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Kim Stahlman received full in the line of duty benefits and says, this fight is for her husband's honor.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Kim Stahlman is getting help from a group called Military Families for Justice, which investigates questionable military deaths. An organization called North American Patriots, which raises money to support soldiers and marines unfairly charged with crimes, unanimously agreed to take her case.

The city of Orlando prepares to mark one year since a gunman's rampage at the Pulse nightclub. So what does the fight against homegrown terrorism look like today? Florida Congresswoman, Val Demings, who served as the first female police chief in Orlando joins us live here in the CNN NEWSROOM. Stay with us.


[18:42:36] SANCHEZ: Monday marks the one-year anniversary of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. The Pulse massacre ended a carefree night of dancing at the gay nightclub, and shook Orlando and the nation.

Forty-nine people died when a man, who pledged allegiance to ISIS, walked into that nightclub heavily armed and opened fire, slaughtering innocent patrons. A year later, this solemn, makeshift memorial outside Pulse is a constant reminder of the lives lost and the threat of homegrown terrorism.

Democratic Representative Val Demings joins us now to discuss. She's a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security and actually served as the Orlando Police Chief before entering Congress.

Congresswoman, thank you so much for joining us. I first wanted to ask you about a tweet that you sent out, a picture of a survivor of the nightclub massacre, who now happens to be a member of your staff. What was it that prompted you to hire him?

REP. VAL DEMINGS (D), FLORIDA: And good evening to everyone. He's actually an intern with our staff, and he was brought on board because of his interest in politics, the skills that he brings to the job, but, certainly, our desire to let people know that we are an office that celebrates diversity. And the skills and information that he brings to the table are certainly good for our office as well as, I think, good for our community.

SANCHEZ: And, Congresswoman, despite the fact that tomorrow marks the first anniversary of the deadliest shooting in modern American history in Orlando, a city that millions of people from around the world visit annually, the Department of Homeland Security recently denied funding to the city to prepare for a terrorist attack like the one on Pulse. Why?

DEMINGS: You know, it's really hard to believe when you just look at Orlando before the Pulse shooting -- we were on the list and then taken off the list a few years ago -- when you look at the number of people and the density of communities in Orlando, when you look at the 68 million people, roughly, who visit our city every year, and now, the deadliest mass shooting in the history of our country.

I had an opportunity to question Secretary Kelly during our Homeland Security hearing and asked him about the methodology for deciding which cities should be on the list or how cities get on the list because it's just baffling to me that Orlando, with the number of people that they serve and now with this deadly shooting, would not be on the list.

[18:45:10] So that is still a work in progress, but we are not going to let it go.

SANCHEZ: Now, you were appointed to serve on the Homeland Security Committee. Looking at attacks like in San Bernardino, Orlando, we're fortunate that we really haven't had something on that scale since. But are you satisfied with the efforts you've seen since that shooting to keep something like this from happening again?

DEMINGS: Well, I think we have to be vigilant every day. We have to remember that in this world, there are people who get up every day and pretty much, every waking minute, are thinking about how to attack America and how to attack Americans. And so the security of our nation, certainly, is our number one concern.

But it really starts with local law enforcement. We've seen the unbelievable job that they were able to do under the most horrific circumstances last year this time. But they depend on grant programs, support from the federal government, to be able to further do the work that they do.

When we look at the shooter in Orlando, we know that he was interviewed twice by federal authorities and had been on a watch list and then came off the watch list. I think that we could do a better job in terms of information sharing between the local, state, and federal agencies.

We also need to continue, as opposed to dividing our nation, we need to continue to build relationships with persons from diverse backgrounds and our neighbors who are really critical to providing intelligence that further helps to keep our nation safe as well.

SANCHEZ: I have to ask you about this. Then candidate Trump tweeted this out last year on the day of the Pulse massacre. He writes, quote, "Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism. I don't want congrats. I want toughness and vigilance. We must be smart."

The President also sent out tweets just last week about his travel ban after the London terror attack. When it comes to mass casualty incidents, like the attack in your

district, you've been outspoken about having to take political action to make it safer. But where do you draw the line when it comes to the risk of politicizing tragedies while still demanding changes that you think are necessarily to keep people safe?

DEMINGS: Well, I certainly think that there's no greater time when we need real leadership than when our nation is going through a horrific event like we've seen at the Pulse nightclub. The entire community is grieving, but the nation and the world is really grieving this incident. And I believe the President has not exhibited leadership in the worst of times in this country.

As I said earlier, it is not a time to divide. It is a time to work together to bring real solutions to a threat that is with us every day. I would really like to see the President show leadership when it comes to gun safety legislation.

We know that one person, armed with an assault rifle and a handgun, walked in to a nightclub and opened fire on innocent people. Forty- nine dead, many more injured, and lives shadowed forever.

I'd really like to see the President show some real leadership and get involved. Since he seems the like to sign executive orders, sign an executive order to really help keep guns out of the hands of people like the Orlando shooter.

SANCHEZ: That is all the time we have. Congresswoman Val Demings, thank you so much for joining us this Sunday.

DEMINGS: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Police in London are now showing the world photos of last weekend's instruments of terror, and they say it's unlike anything they have ever seen before. Look at these. These are water bottles wrapped in tape, made to look like suicide belts.

All three men that were attacking pedestrians and cafe-goers in London last Saturday night were wearing these. The fake belts didn't have any explosives in them, but police say that the attackers might have felt that the appearance of suicide belts would keep them from being shot.

Now, these are the knives that were found looped around the wrists of the three attackers. After the men drove a van into people walking on the London Bridge, they went on a stabbing spree, killing eight people. In response, London police shot and killed all three men.

[18:49:28] To find out what you can do to help the victims of the London terror attacks, you can log on to We'll be right back.


SANCHEZ: What can you expect when the markets open tomorrow morning? CNNMONEY's Chief Business Correspondent, Christine Romans, takes a look at what investors will be watching in your "Before the Bell" report. Hey, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNNMONEY CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Boris. The big question on Wall Street this week, will the Fed raise interest rates?

Investors overwhelmingly think the answer is yes. They put a 96 percent chance of a rate hike following this week's meeting. A month ago, that chance was only 83 percent. But a stable stock market, decent jobs growth, and other positive economic data appear to be enough to justify an interest rate increase.

Now if the Fed raises interest rates, it will be the fourth hike since the financial crisis when rates remained near zero. The Fed moved first in December of 2015, then waited a whole year for the next increase. The last hike was in March of this year, bringing the current rate to just below 1 percent.

So what does that mean for you? Well, higher costs to borrow money for things like buying a home. But mortgage rates fell to their lowest levels of the year last week. They're now averaging less than 4 percent nationwide. That's due to falling bond yields, more than the Fed.

[18:55:10] But if the Central Bank hikes interest rates, you'll likely see mortgage rates eventually follow. So if you're looking to lock in a rate or to refinance, now is the time to do it -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Christine Romans, thank you.

Coming up, former CIA Director James Woolsey joins me live. What does he think of James Comey's revelation that he shared documents in order to get a Special Counsel appointed in the Russia probe? You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


SANCHEZ: It is top of the hour. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Boris Sanchez in for Ana Cabrera. Thank you so much for joining us.

[18:59:57] This just in. Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are debating whether or not they'll let Attorney General Jeff Sessions testify on Tuesday. A source telling CNN's Manu Raju the Committee is debating Sessions' offer, and some members are worried that Sessions may be trying to avoid testifying publicly.