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President Trump Speaks at Commissioning Ceremony for USS Gerald R. Ford; Sean Spicer Steps Down as White House Press Secretary; Anthony Scaramucci Appointed New White House Communications Director; Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort to Meet Privately with Senate Judiciary Committee; March Held in Protest of Police Shooting in Minneapolis; Migrants Struggle in Sahara Desert to Leave Niger. Aired 2-3P ET
Aired July 22, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: A spokesman for the Kremlin says he sees the agreement, quote, "quite negatively." And the investigation into election meddling moves forward. We now know that Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort will speak with a Senate panel behind closed doors about that secret campaign meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower last year in 2016 during the campaign. And President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner is also expected to have his interview on Monday.
Let's go to CNN White House reporter Kaitlan Collins for more details on all of this. So Kaitlan, we know, at first the Senate was pushing for public testimony, but that is still a possibility, just down the line. Right now, though, it's behind closed doors?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. They were pushing for a public hearing and they were even threatening to subpoena Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort if they had not responded by the deadline, which was yesterday. But we've heard from them that they have worked out a deal with the Senate Judiciary Committee to talk to them privately and casually and provide documents to them before agreeing to go ahead with a public testimony.
But they are going to talk to them privately and be interviewed by them. But we do not know dates for these interviews yet. We do know the topic of them will be that Trump Tower meeting that last June months before the election when Donald Trump Jr. thought he was meeting with a Russian government attorney who had incriminating information on Hillary Clinton.
Now, Donald Trump Jr. after the details of this meeting were revealed -- which were not revealed by Donald Trump Jr. at first, they were revealed by the media, but he did tell Sean Hannity that he would be willing to testify before Congress on everything that happened during that meeting and how it came about and what was said during that meeting. But it sounds like he's talked to his lawyer and instead decided to speak privately to the Senate Judiciary Committee before going forward with any public testimony.
Like you said, Jared Kushner also had several meetings this week with the house and the Senate. And so it's safe to say that Russia is going to dominate what's going on here at the White House next week even though the White House has decided to brand the week with American heroes theme, which is what they've been going with for the past few weeks. Last week it was made in America week and this week it will be American heroes.
WHITFIELD: So, Kaitlan, the president spoke earlier today at a commissioning ceremony for the USS Gerald Ford in Norfolk, Virginia, a new aircraft carrier. He talked mostly about the U.S. military, but did he also send a message to constituents to send messages to congress, members of congress?
COLLINS: Yes, he had a very clear message for Congress today, which was for them to do their job. As he was commissioning this $13 billion state-of-the-art carrier, he said that Congress needs to do its job and pass the budget. This is a budget that would increase military funding, which is something Donald Trump has pushed for ever since he took office in January. Let's listen to what he had to say to the crowd today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's been a very, very bad period of time for our military. That is why we reached a deal to secure an additional $20 billion for defense this year, and it's going up, and why I ask Congress for another $54 billion for next year. Now we need Congress to do its job and pass the budget that provides for higher, stable and predictable funding levels for our military needs. So call that congressman and call that senator and make sure you get it.
TRUMP: And by the way, you can also call those senators to make sure you get health care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: So you see there, Fredricka, that Donald Trump stayed on message today telling -- talking about his priorities to fund the military and increase spending for them, and also telling constituents to call senators and tell them that they want them to vote for health care next week. So he stayed on message there, but on Twitter this morning he was very active and all over the place tweeting about James Comey, Hillary Clinton. But during that speech today he talked about the military and health care.
WHITFIELD: All right, Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much from the White House. Appreciate that.
So we're also learning more about stunning revelations from "The Washington Post," which is reporting that Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak told his Kremlin bosses that he did in fact talk about campaign matters with then-senator Jeff Sessions during the 2016 election. Current and former U.S. officials tell "The Post" they learned of the conversations from intercepts of Russian discussions. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has repeatedly said that he did not speak to Russians about campaign-related issues. This week President Trump said if he knew Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia investigation that he would not have hired him.
[14:05:14] Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, was asked earlier today in Aspen at the Aspen Security Forum what he would do if the president asked his agency to stop working with the special counsel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the president were to say to you this Russia investigation is a distraction, it's preventing me from conducting my presidency, there's no foundation to it, and I am going to fire the special counsel, direct those to whom he reports to fire him, and I think it's time that our intelligence agencies, our FBI cease cooperating in this investigation which I have judged is inappropriate, unnecessary and I'm -- how would you as head of NSA --
MIKE ROGERS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: I'm not going to get into hypotheticals. I will not violate the oath I have taken in my 36 years as commissioner officer. I won't do that. I constantly tell the workforce, your integrity isn't worth the price of me or anybody else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: CNN's Shimon Prokupecz joins us live now from Aspen. So, Shimon, the special counsel has a lot of different angles to investigate, and this really is shaking up the intelligence community in many ways.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, that's right, Fred. You know, the Mueller investigation, you know, each week that goes by perhaps we hear of something new that they're going to be looking at. The Sessions matter, the issue with the intercepts and Sergey Kislyak, you know, these intercepts have been part of the investigation for some time now. The U.S. government has had these intercepts. This isn't necessarily anything new that has just come to light.
But it is part of the Mueller investigation, the Russia investigation into how they meddled. And certainly this has been a hot topic here at the aspen security forum. At almost every panel someone has asked about Russia. And, you know, just yesterday two former leaders of the intelligence community, that's James Clapper and the former CIA director John Brennan, addressed the other revelation that was revealed last week where a meeting that Donald Trump Jr. had and Manafort and some other folks with a Russian lawyer and sort of their reaction to it was quite fiery. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: A lot of this to me had kind of the standard textbook tradecraft long employed by the Russians -- or the Soviets, and now into the Russians. JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: It raises a lot of questions. I
think that's what the administration now is having to deal with, questions about what were the motives, what were people thinking at the time. They should have known a lot better, if they didn't, they shouldn't have been in those positions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PROKUPECZ: So those meetings are now also part of the special counsel investigation. Yesterday CNN reported that they have asked -- the special counsel has asked the folks who were in that meeting to preserve e-mails and texts. So this is ongoing. This is now a new perhaps part of the investigation. And we really right now have no timing on it. There's really no end in sight on this investigation, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much.
So everyone stay with us through all of this, because this too is integral to the growing Russia investigations. I'm talking about the upcoming interviews involving key players in Donald Trump's orbit. Let's talk about all of this with my panel, Basil Smikle, he is the executive director of the New York State Democratic Party, CNN legal analyst Page Pate, and CNN political commentator Alice Stewart. Good to see all of you.
So upcoming interviews is what the terminology is of Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, formerly the campaign manager of the Trump campaign, and even Jared Kushner who is an advisor to the president right now. So, Page, help us understand the distinction now of these interviews on the Hill. These are not being called testimonies. Primarily these are closed door discussions.
PAGE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right.
WHITFIELD: What's the distinction?
PATE: Well, there are a lot of distinctions, but the most critical distinction is this is not testimony under oath.
WHITFIELD: So it's not on record?
PATE: Well, it's record to the extent somebody is going to take notes there. They are going to be asked questions by the senators. I suppose it's more of a discussion really than interview, but no one is under oath. If they're not under oath then they can make false statements and cannot be charged with a crime even if they're trying to mislead the senators. That's why I don't understand it.
[14:10:00] Now, the fact that it's not public is not nearly as important for purposes of investigation than the fact that it's not under oath. And so by negotiating to get around a public hearing and not taking an oath, obviously their lawyers had something to do with that.
WHITFIELD: So Basil, it sounds like this is advantageous, then, for those, can we still call them witnesses? They would be witnesses in the growing investigation case because it allows them time to change their stories or at least get more information before they were to testify?
BASIL SMIKLE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NEW YORK STATE DEMOCRATIC PARTY: I absolutely agree. I think it is an opportunity for them to sort of get their stories straight.
But I want to be clear about something else. I don't know if a public hearing would illuminate a lot of the information that we, you know, would add any illumination to what we already know. I think it's important for the purposes of transparency and accountability. I do want to see them brought before elected officials to talk about the role that they played in what seems to be some sort of shady business here. But I don't know if it's going to be particularly illuminating. I think they would use it mostly as a platform just to talk about the president, sort of protect the shield, Manafort potentially even sort of use it as a platform to engage the alt-right.
I think all of this to be -- all of this said, it's important for Democrats to hammer home the narrative that a lot of what we're seeing is a lot of shady dealings, behind the scenes stuff that you'd think that Americans didn't vote for. And I think a lot of that is why the poll numbers are becoming worse and worse.
WHITFIELD: So, Alice, what's the whole point of this then if it's not on the record? What's the explanation behind why members on the Hill would agree to something like this, this kind of arrangement?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Fred, any information they can gather under any conditions is helpful moving forward. And keep in mind we not only have the House and Senate probes underway, but certainly Robert Mueller is conducting his investigation. So the more information they get, the better we can get to a conclusion here.
And I question Basil alluding to shady dealings. There are a lot of things we don't know, but I think it's really important not to jump to conclusions until we have the outcome of these investigations. It is good that they're coming forward. I personally think at least at this stage of the game it's more helpful to have these conversations and these interviews to be conducted in private away from the spotlight because it does tend to enable some members of the House and Senate to showboat a little bit. And that goes on both sides. That happens with Republicans and Democrats, but I think in terms of just getting to the bottom of this and getting more information, this is helpful. And from the Trump administration, who says there's nothing there and they haven't done anything untoward, this is a great first step to getting the information out there and putting this behind them and going about the business of executing the legislative agenda.
WHITFIELD: So, again, these are going to be interviews, not under oath. Hopefully I didn't misspeak by talking about on the record or not, but just not under oath. So then, Page, somewhere down the line there are likely to be testimonies from these same players. Meantime, we understand reportedly that the president, the White House is looking into the power of the pardon and whether the president would be able to pardon family members, aides, potentially even himself. But is that cart before the horse? Because if we're talking about no charges --
WHITFIELD: -- thus far, can you preemptively pardon before there are any charges or if there are any proven offenses or offenses that are being further investigated?
PATE: Well, the constitution doesn't provide a lot of detail about it, but it is clear that the constitution grants the president very broad powers of the pardon. He can pardon anyone who works for him. He can pardon them even before formal criminal charges have been filed, at least that's what the Supreme Court said many, many years ago. But what is an unanswered question the Supreme Court has not had to address, can he pardon himself.
And I think if you look back not just at the constitutional language but what the framers were saying at the time the constitution was adopted, that he cannot do that. I don't think that power is in the constitution where Donald Trump can pardon himself either before being charged or after being charged.
WHITFIELD: And if that were the case, that would undermine the power of Congress to potentially get the ball rolling on impeachment or anything like that, right?
SMIKLE: Sure. Now, they can still impeach him. Even though Trump may argue, yes, I have the power to pardon myself, that doesn't prevent him from being impeached. But think about what it would do. It would give a president blanket immunity the whole time they're in office to commit any crime that they thought of, and then they could simply pardon themselves before they were ever charged. So I don't think the Constitutional Convention ever envisioned that happening that way.
WHITFIELD: All right, thank you so much. Page Pate, Basil Smikle, Alice Stewart, where does the time go? Just way too fast. We'll have you back. There's more to talk about. Thanks so much.
[14:15:00] Coming up next, new sanctions on Russia may be imminent. The House and Senate could send a new bill to the president's desk before the end of the month. And now Russia is responding. We'll take you live to Moscow after this.
WHITFIELD: The House and Senate have struck a new deal that would slap Russia with a new set of sanctions for interfering in last year's election. It would also give Congress veto powers over any attempt to ease the current sanctions. Some in Congress are expressing concern that Trump is considering giving Russia back two compounds that were seized by the Obama administration in December. The Bill could be on the president's desk before the end of the month. I want to bring in CNN's Phil Black in Moscow. So, Phil, how is the kremlin responding to today's announcement? PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, we asked President
Putin's spokesman how Russia viewed the possibility of new sanctions. His response, two words, "quite negatively."
[14:20:00] That is a powerful understatement because Russia really doesn't like sanctions. It sees them as an attack on its sovereignty, an attack on the stability of the government here itself because quite often they target the most wealthy, the most influential, the most powerful both individuals and businesses at the very center of Russian power.
Russia has spent a lot of time recently trying to have sanctions lifted, like those put into place in response to Russia's behavior in Ukraine. So it certainly doesn't want to see more. It is very likely it will respond in some way. The key question is how, because Russia's ability to hurt America financially, well, that's pretty limited.
So that's why you often hear Russian officials in this situation talking about an asymmetrical response, which means coming at the U.S. in some other unexpected way that is designed to hurt or cause inconvenience or pain to American citizens, businesses, or the country itself.
An example quickly, when Congress passed what's known as the Magnitsky Act targeting Russia human rights abusers with visa bans and asset freezes, Russia responded by banning American families from adopting Russian children even in cases where the process was already underway, even in cases where the families had met the children they were working to take back home. So it gives a sense that from here Russia could respond really in any way. Almost anything is possible from this point. But saying that Russia's view is quite negative, well, that is, it's early, and as I say, and very understated response. We're going to hear a lot more about this in the week ahead, Fred.
WHITFIELD: So it's not just Russia. In Trump's first six months, Phil, in office, he has put to test across the world, including Syria, North Korea, so is there a way in which to kind of sum up his record or even, you know, Trump's positioning on a global stage?
BLACK: What we've seen through these first six months with all the big international challenges that have come along have been other world leaders, allies, really scrambling to maintain a close, constructive relationship with President Trump even when he's being unpredictable, even when they don't always agree with his policies.
BLACK: When Donald Trump meets world leaders, you can't look away. Like any great spectator sport, there's the buildup, the tension. Often there's great physical spectacle. And there's emotion. Sometimes he's effusively warm, sometimes he's not. Each brief, unpredictable moment is watched and scrutinized in the hope it gives some insight into Trump's evolving feelings on the world's biggest challenges. Six months into his presidency Trump's foreign policies can be highly
fluid. Trump surprised the world in April when he ordered a cruise missile attack against a Syrian regime airbase in response to its use of chemical weapons.
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter.
BLACK: Russia condemned that strike ferociously, but since then the U.S. has pursued policies seen as much friendlier to Russian interests in Syria, backing a local cease-fire in the country's southwest while trying to negotiate similar deals in other regions. And now, according to "The Washington Post," citing unnamed U.S. officials, ending the CIA program to train and arm moderate Syrian rebels fighting pro-regime forces.
Officially, the administration says no peace deal is possible with President Bashar al Assad in power. But U.S. policy increasingly recognizes the reality he's not going anywhere.
Trump has continued Barack Obama's policies against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, letting local forces handle the front line fighting with U.S. advisors, artillery, and air power providing crucial support. The results, ISIS has been driven from Mosul in Iraq and the same looks set to happen in the Syrian city of Raqqah. But the human cost is devastating. Much of Mosul is now rubble. Hundreds of thousands were forced to flee. No one knows precisely how many civilians were killed.
And ISIS isn't defeated. As it loses territory, it's expected to return to its roots as a deadly insurgency while still promoting terror around the world.
The North Korea problem has only grown on Trump's watch. As Pyongyang pursues its nuclear ambitions, recently successfully testing an intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time, Trump has again followed his predecessor by trying to work with China. He's focus on building personal rapport with Chinese President Xi Jinping and thanked China for its efforts. And he's also accused Beijing of not doing enough. Contradiction inspired by frustration.
[14:25:10] Trump and South Korea have responded with joint military drills despite China's objections. And Trump hasn't ruled out a direct military response.
TRUMP: One of the worst deals I've ever seen is the Iran deal.
BLACK: Donald Trump has never hidden his contempt for the Obama brokered Iran nuclear deal, but six months into his presidency he hasn't torn it up. On this his administration is conflicted, twice officially certifying Iran's compliance while also fiercely criticizing its behavior.
Trump is trapped between European allies who want the agreement to hold and the strong feelings from Israel and Arab states which view Iran as a threat. Trump appeared more decisive with that other international deal he hates, the Paris climate agreement. World leaders lobbied hard, but Trump declared he's pulling out. Or is he?
TRUMP: Something could happen with respect to the Paris accord. We'll see what happens. But we will talk about that over the coming period of time.
BLACK: Six months in analysts say sending mixed messages has become a consistent pillar of Trump's foreign policy. So has his willingness to lecture or ignore established allies while working very hard to charm traditional adversaries.
BLACK: Now, as for Russia, there's no doubt there was some hope here in Moscow that a Trump presidency would see a thaw in relations, that perhaps the two countries could start working together constructively. But it was always a cautious hope because officials here say they've always known no matter how much the American and Russian presidents flatter one another, the bulk of America's foreign policy and political establishments continue to view Moscow with deep suspicion, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right, Phil Black in Moscow, thank you so much.
All right, next, will a change in guard at the White House during the press briefings, will it affect the administration's relationship with the media overall? We'll discuss after the break.
[14:31:30] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. We're continuing to follow the shakeup in President Trump's communications team. Sean Spicer is out as press secretary, and there's a new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci. We did not immediately hear from Spicer about his resignation, but he did appear on FOX News last night. Here's what he had to say about his departure.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: You started sharing the podium with Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Anthony Scaramucci comes in. Did you feel in any way this was against you, did you feel you were pushed out in any way, or this was just totally your decision?
SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No. As you mentioned, the president obviously wanted to add to the team more than anything. I just think it was in the best interest of our communications department, of our press organization to not have too many cooks in the kitchen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Joining me right now Alice Stewart, former communications director for Ted Cruz back with us. Good to see you. She's also a CNN political commentator and Republican strategist.
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hi, Fred. WHITFIELD: So as a former communications director yourself, what has
been your reaction to the shakeup within the communications team?
STEWART: Fred, I think we all realized this day was going to happen and it was just a matter of time before there was some shakeup or transition within the White House and specifically the communications team. I think Sean did a stellar job with regard to defending the president and getting the president's message out there. But the president clearly wants someone like Scaramucci who will fully support the president, as we heard many times yesterday. He loves the president. He's very energetic. He's clearly someone that looks the part. And the president trusts him to do the job moving forward of communicating the message that the White House wants to communicate.
The one thing I question is whether or not he is going to serve more as a spokesperson role in addition to Sarah, who's done a phenomenal job, but we also need someone there as a communications director who works on the short and long term strategy, working with the policy team, working with the DOJ, working with the various aspects of the White House and the administration to look at their strategy and how they're going to further their legislative accomplishments, and daily and weekly and monthly laying out the communications strategy. That's something that's so critical. And a key of communications is to plan your work and work your plan. And hopefully Scaramucci will take on that role in addition to what he did yesterday speaking so supportively of the president.
WHITFIELD: So even though Sarah Huckabee Sanders is the press secretary and, you know, spokesperson you're going to see from the briefing room, you see potentially their roles will be interchangeable, that Scaramucci might be taking to the podium just as he did yesterday fairly regularly?
It remains to be seen. Look, as I said, Sarah's done a phenomenal job. Clearly the new communications director is comfortable in that role. He clearly has rapport and relationships with the White House press corps. And he's done a great job on many of the talk shows. And this is someone as we've seen reports this morning that the president was really pleased with his performance at the briefing yesterday. And that's critical. At the end of the day those in the comm shop are working for and addressing and answering to an audience of one, which is the president of the United States. And Scaramucci did that yesterday, made some great brownie points with his boss. And that's important. And not only showing support for what the president does but defending his -- what he says on Twitter, what he says out there on television and in interviews, that is a key component of the communications job.
[14:35:12] WHITFIELD: So the relationship between, you know, the press secretary and the press corps there, I mean, words have been used like contentious and tenuous. Do you see that it may be less so or more so in the days ahead?
STEWART: That also remains to be seen. Look, oftentimes what happens with this president, he did a phenomenal job throughout the campaign in the general and in the primary of using social media, using Twitter in order to get his message out there and in many ways bypass the media.
WHITFIELD: Sorry to interrupt, but already we've seen Scaramucci do the same thing with tweets. He tweeted out today saying that all the full transparency, here it is, I'm deleting old tweets, past views, evolved and shouldn't be a distraction. I serve the president of the United States agenda and that's all that matters. So both in concert the president and Scaramucci saying there's a power in a tweet.
STEWART: And that was important for him to do that simply because as he deleted those tweets reporters would have found out about that and made a story of it. But it was important for him to be transparent as to why he did what he did. And sure people's views evolve.
But while we're on the subject of Twitter, today alone the president has tweeted 11 times, and six of them have been on the Russia investigation. And that is something that the comm shop, I think it's critical for them if in any way, shape or form they can scale back the president being off message, because this week we were to be talking about made in America and working to repeal and replace Obamacare. Today he gave a phenomenal but speech at the commissioning of the USS Gerald Ford as we covered it live. Those are the great things that they should be talking about and will help ingratiate the president with not just his base but people across America. And so hopefully the comm shop can help him, the president stay on message on the key issues that people are concerned with and off continuing to further the discussion about Russia.
WHITFIELD: We're going to leave it there. Alice Stewart, always good to see you, thanks so much.
STEWART: Thanks, fred.
WHITFIELD: And don't miss "State of the Union" tomorrow. Anthony Scaramucci sits down with Jake Tapper at 9:00 a.m. right here on CNN. We'll be right back.
[14:41:18] WHITFIELD: More fallout out of the Minneapolis just one week after a fatal police shooting. The city's police chief has resigned and protesters are calling for the mayor to do the same. Justine Ruszczyk, an Australian, was shot and killed by an officer after she dialed 911 to report a possible sexual assault. The shooting happened just over a year after Philando Castile was shot and killed by a police officer, sparking outrage across the nation. During a news conference last night the city's mayor was shouted down by a frustrated citizen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't want you as our mayor of Minneapolis anymore. We're asking that you take your staff with you. We don't want you to appoint anybody anymore. Your leadership has been very ineffective. And if you don't remove yourself, we're going to put somebody in place to remove you. We do not want you as the mayor. We would like you to move on. This department has terrorized us enough. Your press conference is ineffective -- so you hear me now! We do not want you as the mayor of Minneapolis! We're asking you to resign!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: CNN's Ryan Young joining us live now from Minneapolis. You were at that press conference, that moment last night. What is the mayor saying?
RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I was actually standing right next to that young man as he was making his voice heard. He was really shutting the mayor down at that point. The mayor says she's not going anywhere. Betsy Hodges is actually running for re-election. She believes that she can put forward the next police chief and usher in a new kind of air when it comes to policing.
I can tell you the frustration here is building because many people wanted to know what happened to Justine Ruszczyk. About three days went by before we got any extra details. People are frustrated at the fact the officer who fired the shot has not talked to investigators yet. The driver involved in this, that other officer, his partner, has talked with investigators. But so far you can hear in people's voices they want answers, they want change. And they're demanding for it to happen now. In fact, the police union has even stepped forward to say they want Betsy Hodges to step down as mayor as well.
WHITFIELD: Wow. So the Castile family also having empathy for the family of Justine Ruszczyk, members of those two families actually met. Tell us about that.
YOUNG: Yes. Well, we were there for that as well. And there was this march that walked through this neighborhood, this middle class neighborhood where you saw people who normally don't march joining together with Black Lives Matter and neighbors who are concerned. And Philando Castile was killed in a city just outside of Minneapolis, so you can see the two sides coming together. And we had a conversation with her just about what this means to see this happen again. She was very passionate about her opinion and sharing her heart with the loved ones of Justine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VALERIE CASTILE, SON KILLED BY POLICE: Like I said after the verdict, they were going to kill again. And they have. And I think it's our duty and our obligation in the spirit of my son led us over here to speak with the family and march in this march today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YOUNG: Fred, there's something that stands out to all of us though. There was a young man on a bicycle who was nearby the shooting and apparently stopped when police were rendering aid to Justine Ruszczyk. No one knows who he is, but investigators have talked to him. I'm sure a lot of people would like to speak to this young man to see exactly what he saw as he was riding that bike on that fateful night because, as you know, it was just last Saturday and people are trying to get any kind of details they can to put this story together, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, Ryan Young, thank you so much.
And we'll be right back.
[14:49:05] WHITFIELD: A U.S.-supported air strike went terribly wrong in Afghanistan. It accidentally killed 16 Afghan police officers and injured two others. The strike in Helmand Province on Friday was targeting militants in the compound, and Afghan forces were actually inside. Now the United States is apologizing for the mistake, saying, quote, "We would like to express our deepest condolences to the families affected by this unfortunate incident," end quote.
Niger migrants trying to flee to Europe face manipulation by smugglers and starvation, and some don't survive the dangerous journey through the Sahara desert. CNN's Arwa Damon accompanied the Niger army on a rescue mission in the desert looking for stranded migrants in this exclusive report.
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is no man's land.
[14:50:02] There is the serious threat of kidnapping, but the real danger, that is the very desert itself. We're on a mission to rescue stranded migrants. It really only takes a few moments in the back of one of these trucks to begin to gain an appreciation of just how tough it is out here. The Sahara is too vast for any army to control, and a recent government crackdown has meant smugglers are keeping off the main tracks and away from water points.
BEST, RESCUED MIGRANT: When everybody was giving up --
DAMON: They were dying.
BEST: Yes, people were dying.
DAMON: Around you?
BEST: Yes. We just wonder kind of what happened.
DAMON: Best somehow managed to survive for 24 days in the desert, but most of those who were with her, they didn't. Out of 27 people, only three women survived. We met her at a transit center in Agadez that run by the IOM. She's waiting to return to Nigeria.
Agadez is the gateway for migrants en route to Europe. Last year the EU pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to Niger to crackdown on smuggling. But what the crackdown has done is drive the operations underground and destroy the city's economy. Just about everyone here lived off the migrant trade. Agadez is a world heritage site that's been turned into a tinderbox. And it is also about to become the site of 21st century warfare's most modern technology.
COL. JOHN MEITER, U.S. AIR FORCE: This is the largest two plated project in air force history.
DAMON: Just outside Agadez the U.S. is investing $100 million building up Nigerian air base 291. And it is from here that the U.S. will launch its MQ-9 Reapers, a hunter-killer drone with advanced intelligence gathering capabilities. The Reapers in AFRICOM, Niger, headquarters are currently based out of the capital Niamey.
MEITER: This is a nexus area or kind of a focus area of multiple threats to the United States, be it Libya in the north, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb to the west or Boko Haram to the south, Niger is a central location from which the United States can operate.
DAMON: The American military mission to Niger, it's clear, but proposed foreign aid cuts by the Trump White House has thrown its long-term humanitarian commitment into question.
In Agadez, a U.S. civil affairs team is already trying to reach out to the local population. This is a dental hygiene workshop. On site we meet a group of women leaders, and their top concern is youth unemployment. Zara Ibrahim says terrorism is all around them, and that's why they don't want the youth to be idle, so that they are not recruited by something else.
But it's really only in the desert that you begin to understand the innumerable challenges that come with physically securing this lawless land and why the U.S. aerial presence is so valued by Niger's government. Finally, some 10 hours after we leave Agadez, we see a light signal. The migrants have been stranded here for three days after their truck broke down. They don't want their identities revealed. As we speak, one of the women starts praying under her breath. We hear the agonizing wails of another woman and go to speak to her.
I heard you crying.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to see my babies.
DAMON: She says two of her four children were on another truck, and the convoy just kept going towards Libya.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't want to go without my children. I prefer to die here if I cannot see my children.
[14:55:10] DAMON: It's only at daybreak that we truly understand the remoteness of where we are. The migrants ready themselves. They pile into the back of the trucks. They are reluctant to leave. They want to keep going to Libya and not back to Agadez. This is the crossroads of the war on terror, of hope and despair.
Arwa Damon, CNN, Agadez, Niger.
WHITFIELD: Wow, an incredible view there from Niger. Thank you so much, Arwa Damon.
I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Thank you so much for being with me today, Saturday. The Newsroom continues with Ana Cabrera right after this.