Return to Transcripts main page


Eight Bodies Found In Tractor-Trailer In San Antonio; Scaramucci: Trump Still Doubts Intel Conclusion On Russia; Will President Trump Veto New Russia Sanctions Bill?; Trump: President Has Complete Power To Pardon; Scaramucci: The President Doesn't Need To Pardon Himself; Trump Voters Reflect On Presidency At Sixth-Month Mark. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired July 23, 2017 - 15:00   ET


[15:00:04] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Eight bodies found in the back of a sweltering tractor trailer. Thirty other people who were trapped inside the parked truck were severely injured. Authorities are calling the incident a human trafficking crime and have arrested the driver.

The acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released a statement saying in part, "By any standard, the horrific crime uncovered last night ranks as a stark reminder of why human smuggling networks must be pursued, caught and punished."

Let's get to CNN's Ed Lavandera, who was in San Antonio. Ed, what is the latest from there?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right, Fredricka. We want to set the scene here a little bit about where we are. This is the Walmart parking lot where this truck was found with those 38 migrants inside. It was found here just after midnight by what we've been told is a store manager who was approached in the parking lot by someone asking for water. And from there, that person led folks to the truck and that's where they made the grisly discovery just after midnight.

Investigators who rushed here to the scene said, eight people were found dead inside, 30 others being treated for heat exhaustion and asphyxiation. Temperatures just before sundown here in this area of south Texas reached over 100 degrees yesterday afternoon just before the sun went down. So you can imagine, depending on how long these folks were inside of the truck being moved through this part of south Texas, how hot it must have been inside of there for eight people to die.

Two of the victims that are being treated we're told are 15-year-olds. So this is an incredibly horrifying situation for these investigators. And now we know investigators working to piece together. They've taken into custody the driver of that truck, and as they have described, this as a human smuggling operation.

Now the work begins to try to unravel part of that smuggling operation to see exactly how it all went, where these people came from, where they were picked up and where they were being transported to and that sort of thing. Investigators did say that there were a number of vehicles that drove here to the scene and took some of the people away. So obviously that is, we're told, captured on video. So that is another thing that investigators will be taking a much closer look at to figure out what happened with those people as well. So, a horrifying situation.

Fredricka, we're about 150 miles away from the U.S.-Mexico border. This Walmart sits just along interstate 35, which is the main thorough fair that takes you from San Antonio down to border town of Laredo, Texas. This part of south Texas really sees some of the largest numbers of illegal immigration traffic in the entire country. So, this kind of movement, this kind of illegal activity very common through the corridors in the highways and road systems here in south Texas. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: All right. Ed Lavandera, thank you so much. Appreciate that from San Antonio.

With me now, San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood on the phone with me. And so, Chief, you know, describe what was seen, best of your understanding when the doors of that tractor-trailer were opened upon the discovering that there were people inside.

CHARLES HOOD, FIRE CHIEF, SAN ANTONIO: Good afternoon, Fredricka. This was absolutely a tragic situation where we had some of our fire units respond with San Antonio P.D. about 12:30 last night for a welfare check at the Walmart. Units arrived found the trailer stuff with victims in the back. And, again, very hot, kind like being in an oven if you can imagine. And the tractor-trailer had no air conditioning. It had a (INAUDIBLE) on it but it wasn't working so we quickly removed people.

We ended up calling a mass casualty situation with this because we did have 38 victims. Unfortunately eight of them had deceased. We weren't able to resuscitate them. But another 17 had life-threatening injuries. So we transported them along with another 13 with less severe injuries.

But unfortunately with these 17 that were critically injured, a lot of them have suffered the symptoms of heat stroke. And so, with heat stroke, a lot of times you have neurological deficits that you're never going to be able to recover from. So, again, for those people who survived, they took a beating.

And with our temperatures yesterday, we had temperatures over 100 degrees. So, you can imagine the temperature in the back of that semi loaded up with people was probably 150 degrees. And so, the ones that we took out, all of their pulse rates were about the 130. They were hot to the touch. There was no water, so they were dehydrated. They were nauseated. They were vomiting and all of those things that you see with heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

The most amazing thing, though, to me is that if that truck would have been there overnight, there's no doubt that we would have lost all 38 of those people. WHITFIELD: Oh my goodness. So we understand through Ed Lavandera's reporting that there were two 15-year-olds. Are you able to give me an idea the age range of these 38 people, eight of whom did not make it?

[15:05:06] HOOD: You know, Fredricka, we don't have all of the demographics on the folks yet but they all appeared to be probably in their 20s or 30s, majority men. The two school age children, they were transported to a hospital. I don't know how they're doing today. But again, it was mostly men in their 20s and 30s. But we did have the two children that was school age.

WHITFIELD: We had our Ed Lavandera there reporting that this is a location in San Antonio where you see the largest numbers of immigration traffic. It is your feeling that citizens there are very aware of the potential of this kind of trafficking and that's perhaps what precipitated this manager to know and our instinct to follow up that this was a big problem, that these people were in trouble?

HOOD: You know, probably so. I think all of us that live, you know, in this part of the country are well aware of these things happening and the tragedies behind them. And so I think that when this gentleman showed up looking for water, it would have probably scared the life out of anybody because the condition of these people that were coming out of this trailer, half of them were barely clothed. They were just in just horrid conditions. So, you know, I'm sure once that manager saw that scene, he probably knew exactly what was going on in the back of that trailer.

WHITFIELD: San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood, thanks so much for your time.

HOOD: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Let's talk more about this. Joining me right now also from San Antonio, Asha Rangappa, she is a CNN legal and national security analyst and former special agent in the FBI. So Asha, what will federal and local authorities do from this point forward, many still being hospitalized but then what for these people?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Sure. The first and most important thing is for these victims to get medical attention. But what's going to happen next investigatively is that the FBI and perhaps agents from I.C.E. will interview these victims to find out more information about this particular trafficking operation.

You know, trafficking is one of the largest issues that is overlapping with our immigration, illegal immigration in the U.S. So the State Department estimates that between 14,500 and 17,500 individuals are trafficked into the United States every year. And that any given time, there's about 50,000 trafficked individuals who are trapped in situations in the United States.

So this is an opportunity for the FBI to find out more about the network, the routes, you know, how -- who is running these things. This is publicly a larger organizational network and they have the driver also to interview and who will be facing felony charges. And so they can leverage that.

But you know, it's unusual for them to be -- it's -- they're often not able to get this information because this happens under the radar. And also because immigration policies right now, particularly under the Trump administration, are in some ways in conflict with the mandate to investigate these kinds of crimes. It puts I.C.E. in a dual role of both having to, you know, deport these individuals who could provide information on trafficking which makes them reluctant to come forward in normal cases.

WHITFIELD: This driver is in custody, but in your view the likelihood of cooperation from this driver to reveal other players in this type of network?

RANGAPPA: I think so. In this case, this driver would clearly be facing state and federal kidnapping and trafficking charges. So, he or she, as I'm assuming probably he is going to be facing a lot of jail time. Now, how much information does this particular driver know? We don't know. This person may just have, you know, one or two contacts.

And so, a lot of information could potentially be gleaned from these victims. Unfortunately, as the fire chief just mentioned, some of these people may not be in a condition to even do that because, you know, they may have suffered very serious injuries like a stroke or brain damage. The other thing is that to the extent that some of these victims may already have family members in the United States and are under threat that if they talk those family members will be reported and deported could, you know, really impede some of the information they provide.

And it's also unclear. I think in this case, I.C.E. might hold off on trying to deport these individuals. But it's not uncommon, Fredricka, for victims to be placed in deportation proceedings even as an investigation is going on.

[15:10:04] Again, these are kind of conflicting --


RANGAPPA: -- mandates in our immigration policy right now that haven't been resolved yet.

WHITFIELD: Very complicated. All right, Asha Rangappa, thank you so much from San Antonio.


WHITFIELD: All right. Coming up, in-coming White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci says President Trump still isn't sure whether Russia interfered in at 2016 election. And Scaramucci says the President is not thinking of pardoning anyone despite the President tweeting about his complete pardoning power. We'll discuss next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: Welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta. The incoming White House Communications Director says the President still doesn't accept the intelligence conclusion that Russia meddled in last year's election.

Anthony Scaramucci made the explosive revelation in a remarkable interview on this morning's "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper. Scaramucci also says, the President has not yet decided if he will sign a bill increasing sanctions on Russia. Here is a portion of that exchange.


[15:15:09] JAKE TAPPER, STATE OF THE UNION HOST: Congressional leaders have reached an agreement on sanctions to punish Russia for its election meddling and aggression towards its neighbors. Is President Trump going to sign the Russian sanctions bill?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: INCOMING WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: We got to ask President Trump that. You know, it's my second or third day on the job. My guess is, is that he's going to make that decision shortly. But, you know, there is a lot of questions out there, Jake. I mean, you know, and this is another thing I don't like about the process.

This man, our President, he has phenomenal instincts. A lot of the stuff that people have said in the mainstream media that was supposedly true turned out that it wasn't true. I think there was three to four weeks ago there were 17 intelligence agencies that were saying something. Then we realized that there was only four intelligence agencies. And I'm saying four intelligence agencies is insignificant. I'm just saying there's a lot of disinformation out there.

You know, somebody said to me yesterday, I won't tell you who, that if the Russians actually hacked this situation and spilled out those e- mails, you would have never seen it. You would have never had any evidence of them, meaning that they're super confident in their deception skills and hacking.

My point is, all of the information isn't on the table yet. But here's what I know about the President.

TAPPER: Well, wait, wait, wait. Anthony, Anthony, Anthony --

SCARAMUCCI: Let me finish. Let me finish. All right, go ahead.

TAPPER: Well, you're making a lot of assertions here. I don't know who this anonymous person is that said that if the Russians had actually done it, we wouldn't have been able to detect it. But it is the unanimous --

SCARAMUCCI: How about it was the President, Jake?

TAPPER: OK. It's the consensus of the intelligence community

SCARAMUCCI: I talked to you yesterday. He called me from Air Force One.


SCARAMUCCI: And he basically said to me, hey, you know, this is -- maybe they did it, maybe they didn't do it. And I'm going to maintain for you --


SCARAMUCCI: Hold on a second.

TAPPER: But this is exactly the issue here. We have experts. The U.S. intelligence agencies, unanimous, both Obama appointees and Trump appointees, the Director of National Intelligence, the head of the National Security Agency, the head of the FBI, I mean, all of these intelligence experts saying that Russia hacked the -- Russia hacked the election, they tried to interfere in the election. No votes were changed, but there disinformation and misinformation campaign.

President Trump is contradicting it, and you're signing with President Trump.

SCARAMUCCI: Well, I didn't say that I was siding with President Trump. He hasn't made the decision yet to sign that bill one way or the other. And so when he makes that decision, I will 100 percent side with him. Because I'm his Communications Director and I'm his advocate on a show like this.

Last time, I check the way the Founding Fathers put the constitution together, they made one person the commander-in-chief. It happens to be President Donald J. Trump. He'll make that decision when he makes it and then, you know, I'll come back on the show and I'll explain it to you. I explain to you why he made decision that way.

But what I'm saying to you, you may not want to agree with me, and we can litigate this, there's a lot of disinformation out there, Jake. And so one of the things that I'm going to try to do is speak very transparently to you and the American people. Get the President's message out there. I have found in my life experience with President Trump when he's out there himself and he is being his fresh authentic self, it's very appealing to the people of the United States.

And we don't need to closet him up or coach him uncertain things. What we need to do is allow him to be himself so that we can get these policies out there that would be very good for the American people.

TAPPER: This is exactly the point. Here you have a bill, legislation that was passed 98-2 in the U.S. Senate, the House is about to pass it, it will probably also be an overwhelming vote to sanction Russia and President Trump told you that he still doesn't believe that Russia was trying to interfere in the election, even though the overwhelming body of the U.S. Senate, which is controlled by Republicans and his own intelligence experts are telling him the opposite, you're saying you're going to side with the President. Don't you owe a duty to the truth? SCARAMUCCI: What about the conversation are you missing, Jake? There are checks and balances in the system for a reason. OK? The President will make that decision when he makes a decision. You're telling me that something is true that in fact could in fact be true. I don't have the information in front of me. Once I've cleared my security clearances and I've looked at the stuff, if I think it's true, behind closed doors, I'll turn to the President directly and say, sir, I think this stuff is true. But I don't have it in front of me right now.

Here's what I know, about the President. You may not like it, he's got phenomenal instincts. You may not like it, he's got great judgment on people. You may like it, but he's a phenomenal politician. He started two short years ago he is already six months into his presidency.

How many people can do that Jake, be an American -- successful business person and television personality, hit a button on June 16th, 2015 and raises where to the presidency clearing out 18 people. You know lot of people that can do that. I don't know a lot people that can do that.

TAPPER: It was -- there's no question. That was a phenomenal victory.


TAPPER: It was a huge surprise. It shocked the system. He proved all of the pundits wrong. All of that is true. And it was true as on November 8.

[15:20:07]: My question right now is about the fact that a geopolitical foe of the United States, Russia, interfered in the U.S. election according to every intelligence expert both under the Obama administration and under the Trump administration.


TAPPER: The one person in the government who says it's not true is President Trump.

SCARAMUCCI: Well, I have got -- I -- again, one of the reasons why he is upset about it is that this sort of -- the mainstream media position on this, that they interfered in the election, it actually, in his mind, what are you guys suggesting? You're going to delegitimize his victory?


SCARAMUCCI: Is that going to make his victory illegitimate.


SCARAMUCCI: Is that the point of it? Well, you know what? He legitimately won the presidency.

TAPPER: Yes, absolutely.

SCARAMUCCI: Right? Do we both agree on that?

TAPPER: He legitimately won the president, absolutely.

SCARAMUCCI: OK. So, at the end of the day, let him make the decision. And as I said to you, once I've got a security clearance and I meet with those people myself, if I think it's true, I'm going to turn to the President very honestly, we have a great relationship, and say, sir, I think this is true.

TAPPER: Well that's good that you will do that, Anthony. But the point is kind of like, it doesn't --

SCARAMUCCI: But I'm not going to do that right now on the show.

TAPPER: But it's almost irrelevant whether you think it's true and what President Trump says, because it's the unanimous consensus of the intelligence community that this happened. And it's a threat to the United States because Russia is going to try to do it again. That is also the consensus.

SCARAMUCCI: I got all that. But let me tell you something. The person that's going to be super, super tough on Russia is President Donald J. Trump. If he believes that we're in an --

TAPPER: But he doesn't. That's the problem. That's the problem.

SCARAMUCCI: You know what the problem is? You know what the problem is? Let him run the presidency the way he wants to run the presidency.

TAPPER: He is.

SCARAMUCCI: He's representing the American people. The people voted him in. And so, he will make the judgment. He will make the decision when the time is right. What I don't like about the whole direction of this stuff in the mainstream media and the whole narrative is that you're saying that this thing is 100 percent true.

If in fact he makes a decision that it's 100 percent true, he's going to be super tough on Russia. But let him do it in his own time and pace. He's not hurting anybody by doing it at his own time and pace

TAPPER: But hurting in --

SCARAMUCCI: He's not hurting anybody by doing it at his own time and pace, Jake.


WHITFIELD: All right. Let's talk more about all of this. Joining me right now, CNN political commentator Jack Kingston, he is a former senior adviser for the Trump campaign. Also with me, Tharon Johnson, he is the former South Regional Director for the 2012 Obama campaign. All right gentlemen, good to see you both. So Tharon, you first, you know, do we just see, you know, the first year indicator that the ongoing disputes about facts and the direction of the White House messaging really is hitting a new level of intensity?

THARON JOHNSON, FORMER SOUTH REGIONAL DIRECTOR, OBAMA 2012: It is. And I think that one of the things that Scaramucci tried to do is that he really tried to be authentic. But, unfortunately, he confirmed what a lot of us had been thinking that this President, President Trump still does not believe that the Russian government interfered in this election.

And so to call to question after you have 98 to 2 vote and all of your agencies have come back with conclusive evidence saying that they did interfere with the election. They had the intent to affect the present outcome. It's just ludicrous to me that this President won't acknowledge that. Now, what's unfortunate also is that Scaramucci considers the President a person of good judgment and having good political instinct.

Well, the White House right now is in total chaos. Because you're having people leave left and right. And so, I think what this gentleman needs to do is get his security clearance first so when he comes back on national TV, he's in a position to really extensively educate the American people on which where they going on in the White House. And what important (ph) is what's going on in this President's mind.

WHITFIELD: So Jack, is that going to potentially make the difference? You know there was similar messaging also coming from Sarah Huckabee Sanders and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway today. Just take a listen first.


SARAH HUCKABEE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There was a Wall Street Journal poll that came out this week that showed that the top three issues that Americans care about are immigration, health care and jobs. The top three issues that the media cares about are Russia, Russia, and Russia.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: If we can rely on your help at CNN not to do our P.R., that's silly, that's nonsense. To connect America with the information they need, if you're going to cover Russia, Russia, Russia while we're talking about America, America, America.


WHITFIELD: So Jack, you know, has the White House now tasked itself with trying to convince America that Russia is a none issue and to Scaramucci's point, the President still is defiant in believing that Russia meddled in the U.S. elections and, thereby, everyone should move on.

JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Fred, I think there's a lot to this interview to talk about. I think that Scaramucci does not want to get in front of the President on it. That was very clear in terms of, I think, he was going back, to are you going to sign the bill or not? And I think the President probably hasn't made a public statement about it. And so as a good communications director, he's holding back on making a statement.

[15:25:03] I want to point out to my friend, Tharon, that Obama's first year he went through three communication directors. So, there's no chaos going on at the White House because no one said that about the Obama administration. Went through three, though. I just want to remind everybody of that. And that was within the first year.

WHITFIELD: Well, is it problematic to the issue of this bill that may end up on the President's desk about, you know, increasing sanctions, giving Congress veto power. Is it problematic, potentially, if the President does not embrace this?

KINGSTON: You know what? All presidents don't like that. I mean -- and as a member of Congress for 22 years, you know, we fought about this every time we did sanctions.

We did it to Obama on Iran. He really did not ask for the bill, we pushed it. And you know, because the White House wants to run foreign affairs and they really do not want congressional interference on it. So, it's not problematic. I think it's just built into the checks and balances of the system.

But I think there's also an annoyance that here's the House Republicans in the House and the Senate that haven't passed health care. They really haven't introduced the tax bill.


KINGSTON: They don't have any infrastructure bill there. And then they are going after this.

WHITFIELD: But -- because I wonder, can you have it both ways though? I mean, you said two things the President, White House wants to run foreign affairs. At the same time, there are checks and balances and Congress has a role. But -- I mean this sounds like incongruent messaging right here.

KINGSTON: Well, no. I think that you can be annoyed with your own party and annoyed with the legislative branch. OK, this is what you're going to do? What about health care? What about appropriations process and so forth?

So -- but I think it's -- the House has a legitimate right and the Senate to do this. It's just that there's always that built-in dynamic in the system. But I think what Anthony did not want to do is get ahead of the President on it on the President's statement. That's why he was somewhat dodging the question.

But I think what was also interesting is that his style was so different than Sean Spicer. I think Sean did a good job, but in this case, it reminded me of sitting at the thanksgiving table listening to two brothers argue about who's going to win the Super Bowl. There was kind of a fear to fear sort of a different tone and relationship, a good sort of bantering if you will.

WHITFIELD: All right, so a different tone for short. So Tharon, do you think the role is, you know, being modified with Scaramucci? Is he hired to improve the relationship with the media or to kind of fortify the defense strategy against the media?

JOHNSON: I believe he actually is hired to improve the relationship. I mean, at a point in that interview, which you didn't air, he talked about Sarah Huckabee Sanders and saying that she has done a good job. And he really tried to promote her. Unfortunately, he tried to compare her to an Olympian and basically said that they're --

WHITFIELD: Getting ready.

JOHNSON: Yes, getting ready but also, at least keep that makeup and hairstylist. And I think that actually offended a lot of professional women who, at that job, don't think about, you know, their makeup and hairstyle being perfect in order to do their job.

But I think the other thing that was going to be very important is that he really emphasized one thing. And that was -- is that I'm the president's friend. I'm the president's go-to guy. He trusts me. We have a good relationship, I have a good --

WHITFIELD: He said once he gets the security clearance, if he feels like he is on board with Russian meddling, he'll try to convince the President.


WHITFIELD: So that's interesting in that role, that he would be a persuader, potentially, as the communications director.

JOHNSON: Yes. And I think he alluded to that. I mean, he also really amplified his relationship with Donald Trump Jr. saying that they were very close on the campaign trail.

But the fact of the matter is this, Fred. He still got to be able go out and communicate to the American people the President's agenda without him contradicting his message with the tweets and unhinged behavior that we've seen from this President. Because what happened with Spicer, Spicer would go and say one thing and then the President would totally undermine his message by tweeting at 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning. There lies the problem.

WHITFIELD: Well, Jack, we see that for a lot of folks who are representing the President, there are still, sometimes, inconsistencies in messaging. Do you see that this clean slate, which is how Sean Spicer put it, this clean slate now will mean that we're going to see less of that?

KINGSTON: I think you will. And I think a lot of it is just going to be the settling in of the White House now that they've been on the job going into eighth month right now. But I do think Tharon is right. I got to know Anthony during the campaign and also on another network. I was on a number of shows with him. He's a confident guy, but he's also is a friend of Donald Trump and he is somebody who can walk in there behind doors and saying, boss, you're still the boss but I'm going to disagree with you on this.

Whereas, Sean Spicer, who I served with on the Hill for probably 10 to 15 years, he is a really professional guy but he is a staffer kind of guy who is used to yielding to the member, the elected official. I think Anthony is going to be a little bit different in that regard that he's going to say, you know, I'm not doing this for money and I have the right to disagree with you when I want to. So, I think it's going to be a very interesting dynamic.

[15:30:02] And Sarah Huckabee, I think, you know, she kind of goes out there in a somewhat unassuming manner and people underestimate her and then she just goes in there and I think she is an Olympian, the way she delivers. And she's confident, she's right on message. But, you know, not necessarily that kind of slick polished teen (ph) that we're seeing in Washington.

And when you think about what Trump did running as a, you know, outsider, here are two non-Washingtonians and you're seeing a non- Washingtonian style from both of them.

WHITFIELD: OK. All right, we will see. Jack Kingston, Tharon Johnson, thank you so much, gentlemen. See you soon.

JOHNSON: Thank you.


WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, the President's lawyer says pardons are not on the table. But then why is the President tweeting about his complete power to pardon? We'll discuss next.


[15:35:04] WHITFIELD: All right, hello again. Thank you so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

So President Trump has been addressing the idea that pardons to staff, family, and even to himself, could be a consideration as part of the Russia investigation. In fact, he tweeted just yesterday, "While all agree, that the U.S. President has the complete power to pardon. Why think of that when only crimes so far is leaks against U.S. fake news." Well today the President's lawyer and spokesman are both saying that pardons are not on the table.

I want to bring in CNN's Boris Sanchez at the White House. Boris, what exactly has been the message that we're hearing today?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, for the White House having to clarify the exact conversations that the President has been having about pardons. Just a few days ago our colleague Gloria Borger reported that the President in a conversation with aides about the different turns that this Russia investigation could take asked about pardons. And the Washington Post actually reported and he specifically asked about pardoning his family members even as you mentioned himself.

That curiosity from the President led to a lot of speculation that today newly minted White House Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci, fought back against saying that the President would not need to issue any pardons. Listen to what he said.


SCARAMUCCI: I'm in the Oval Office of the President last week, we're talking about that. He says he brought that up, he said. But he doesn't have to be pardoned. There's nobody around him that has to be pardoned. He was just making the statement about the power of pardon.

And so now all of the speculation and all the spin and oh, he's going to pardon himself and do all this other nonsense. The President does not need to pardon himself. And the reason he doesn't need to pardon himself is he hasn't done anything wrong.


SANCHEZ: Now, it's interesting you mention that tweet from the President yesterday, Fred, in which he said that many agree that the President has quote, complete power to pardon. Interesting, because today on some of the Sunday morning shows, one of his attorneys, Jay Sekulow said that the President has not had conversations about pardoning and his ability to pardon with his attorneys. Listen to this.


JAY SEKULOW, MEMBER, TRUMP LEGAL TEAM: Well, the President, in that tweet, stated something that's rather unremarkable, and that is that under The Constitution, under Article 2, Section 2, the President has the authority to pardon. But I want to be clear on this, George. We have not -- and continue to not have conversations with the President of the United States regarding pardons. Pardons have not been discussed and pardons are not only the table.

With regard to the issue of a president pardoning himself, there's a big academic discussion going on right now, an academic debate. You've got Professor Tribe arguing one point, you've got Professor Turley arguing another point. And while it makes for interesting academic discussions, let me tell you what the legal team is not doing. We're not researching the issue because the issue of pardons is not on the table.


SANCHEZ: Pardons are not on the table, Fred, but they clearly are on the President's mind. Just before some of those closest to him, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort are set to have meetings with committees that are investigating alleged links between the Trump campaign and Russia, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jared Kushner as early as tomorrow on the Hill. Boris Sanchez, thank you so much at the White House.

All right, six months into the Trump administration and we check in with voters who supported the President. Why many of them are giving him high marks and why some say they would like to see change, next.


[15:42:34] WHITFIELD: All right, President Trump in office now for just over six months. So, how do his supporters think he's doing? We sat down with some Trump voters in the key state of Florida to hear their thoughts on his term so far and what they want to see from him moving forward. Here now is CNN's Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Busiest diner in Palm Bay, Florida is in the heart of Trump country. The President won big here in Brevard County, helping him win statewide by less than a percentage point. A half year into his presidency, we came for breakfast to talk to seven Donald Trump voters.

First question for all of you. We start with Izy (ph), the owner of this fine restaurant. How would you describe his presidency in one sentence?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he's doing well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he's doing an outstanding job. I just wish more people would get behind what he's doing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seems like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he's done well. If people would just work with him and not always against him, I think he would make some progress.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like I'm Alice in wonderland down the rabbit hole. It has been a disaster.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Marge Shrimp (ph) does an independent who voted for Trump and who is now not pleased about her decision to do so.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think his presidency right now is worse than what I saw with Nixon and Watergate. It is the most disastrous presidency in my lifetime.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The rest at our table are registered Republicans who are pleased with their vote.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He can't speak without getting ripped apart. If they just leave him alone and let him do his job. He's the hell of a businessman. Let him run the business.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like Vietnam. He's being stopped before and every time he gets to these lines means stop. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where is him bringing together Republicans and Democrats, and working his deal with them? Where is it? It ain't there. He's golfing.

TUCHMAN: The six others at this table say there's an organized effort to undermine the President and there's passion here about the Russia investigation.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): What's B.S. about?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of it. All of it. It's just made up news. I think it's all B.S.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And regarding Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with Russians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Opposition research is part of the political game, is it not? It's my understanding --

TUCHMAN (on camera): Are you bothered by the fact that was -- it was sided is Russian government opposition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As opposed to what, Ukrainian government which is that's a good point --


[15:45:04] TUCHMAN (on camera): -- by some of them in the United States who had the opposition research. So is anyone bothered by that? Raise your hand if you're bothered by that.


TUCHMAN (on camera): It doesn't bother anybody?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not illegal either.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't say it was.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): I think it's been done for years. I think it's been done a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By the Russian government.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By the United States government. Every thing the President is interfering with --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Other elect? But you guys elected this is any big deal about him.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): And the Republicans here don't blame Donald Trump for the health care bill failure although --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he could have used a few more people myself to help him design that bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think our politicians today care about our country the way they should.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Do you think that's why the healthcare bill has failed?


TUCHMAN (voice-over): But do you think Donald Trump does care?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he really, really does.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not the Democrats that are stopping him with health care. He stood on platform after platform after platform saying, I can bring these people together. I can do it. I alone can do it. What happened?

TUCHMAN (voice-over): What would you say to Donald Trump if he was sitting at this table?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would tell him to stop tweeting and get on with business. Get off that social media. That's what I would tell him.


WHITFIELD: All right, Gary Tuchman with some strong voices there in Florida. Thank you.

All right, coming up, a new episode of the history of comedy premiers to night at 10:00 Eastern right here on CNN. It looks that the comedy ripped from the headlines. A preview next.


[15:50:43] WHITFIELD: All right. In this day of President Trump, a lot of comedians are ripping from the headlines for fresh inspiration. The tactic is also the focus of tonight's new episode of the CNN original series, "THE HISTORY OF COMEDY." Take a look.


UINDENTIFIED MALE: Mort Saul was the first person to talk like a human being on stage. It wasn't small tea, he did for comedy what James Dean and Marlon Brando did for acting. Which is he humanized it.

MORT SAUL, COMEDIAN: I have to report to you that largest news last week was the soviet space man was invited to lunch by the queen as you know. Just put in your mind at rest. I probably will not say anything about the queen. She hasn't mentioned me, has she? MIKE SACKS, AUTHOR, "AND HERE'S THE KICKER": He just came out with a newspaper, and he reacted in live time to the a news as he was reading it which is a real high warriors (ph).

DICK CAVETT, FORMER HOST, THE DICK CAVETT SHOW: Bob Hope rather famously said, you know, you got always balance your humor or you're going to offend somebody. Mort did not care.

SAUL: I'm not the most power guy in time in the world, I'm very in power, but that's the bases we act. The act is the statement of a lone guy in a rebellion. That's why people mistakenly call it negative. It's mainly mean. I don't talk about the news. I'm a victim of the news.


WHITFIELD: All Right. Former speechwriter for President Obama, David Litt, joins me live from Los Angeles. David, good to see you.


WHITFIELD: So, you wrote a lot of speeches for President Obama. And now you're the head writer and producer for the Funny or Die comedy website. So, how powerful of a tool was comedy in your presidential speeches that you wrote?

LITT: Well, I was very fortunate I wrote for a president who has really good comic timing. And he used that to get his point across, to entertain audiences, whether they voted for him or not. And sometimes we were able to use that to get the message of our administration to the people who needed to see it. And that's what we do in the D.C. office of Funny or Die as well today.

WHITFIELD: And then what do you think of late night, you know, comedy portrayals of current the president by, say, SNL and comedians like John Oliver and (INAUDIBLE).

LITT: Well. Obviously I'm enjoying all of it, but I think it's challenging for a lot of comedians now because comedy is all about finding the exaggeration. And our current President, I mean, he's going on a tweet storm in the early hours of Saturday morning. It's hard to figure out how to make that any more absurd than it already is.

WHITFIELD: So, we just sort heard in that clip, you know, Dick Cavett saying, you know, you had to find balance, otherwise, you know, you run the risk of offending someone. That rule super applies to the Presidency, and speech writing, and making sure the President doesn't offend anyone. How do you believe you were able to strike that balance?

LITT: Well, you always have to be careful when you're writing jokes for President. And we work with the terrific team of writers both in and outside the White House and we always knew the President is first and foremost the President of the United States. So, he can tell a hilarious joke today but if something happens tomorrow that put it's in a bad light, we would never wrote that.

And so we made sure to think through not just the President as comedian, but also in his far more important job as President, how that's going to look.

WHITFIELD: All right. David Litt, good to see you. Thank you so much.

LITT: Thank you. Great to be here.

WHITFIELD: And don't miss the new episode of the "HISTORY OF COMEDY" tonight 10:00 Eastern right here on CNN. We got so much more, straight ahead in the Newsroom right after this.



[15:58:48] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Happening now in the Newsroom.

UINDENTIFIED MALE: Eight people dead in the back of that trailer.

UINDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tragedy in Texas more than 30 people found packed in a sweltering tractor-trailer in a Walmart parking lot.

UINDENTIFIED MALE: We're looking at human trafficking crime here.

UINDENTIFIED FEMALE: Plus, Congress agrees on new Russian sanctions. And the bill could be hitting the President's desk very soon.

SCARAMUCCI: He hasn't made the decision yet to sign that bill one way or the other.

SANDERS: And we support where the legislation is now.

UINDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Jared Kushner's meeting with Russians.

SCARAMUCCI: My very close friend Jared Kushner is going to testify tomorrow. I predict that will be the last time Jared Kushner talks about the Russians.

UINDENTIFIED MALE: We have a lot of ground to cover. This is just could be the first interview. There's a great many questions that will have from Mr. Kushner.

UINDENTIFIED FEMALE: CNN Newsroom starts now.


WHITFIELD: All right. Hello again everyone and thank you so much for being with me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

All right, despite a consensus agreement from the nation's major intelligence agencies and President Trump own national security advisers, the incoming White House Communications Director says the President still does not accept the conclusions that Russia interfered in last year's election.

Anthony Scaramucci made the explosive revelation in a remarkable interview on this morning "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper. Scaramucci also says the President has not yet decided if he will assign a top new bill increasing sanctions on Russia.