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President on 17-day Working Vacation at NJ Golf Club; During Campaign, Trump Said He'd Take No Vacations; Hijacked: Terror in the Sky. Aire 12-1p ET

Aired August 5, 2017 - 12:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome. Happening in the NEWSROOM right now, CNN uncovers new details in Russia's interference on America's election day. The FBI tracks specific social media accounts that pushed out false and damaging news stories against Hillary Clinton.

This as "The New York Times" reports a new target for the independent investigation into Russia. Special Counsel Robert Mueller wants all White House documents on fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

And the former ambassador to Russia revealing new details about his conversations with Flynn. Sergey Kislyak said he never discussed sanctions or divulged classified intel. CNN NEWSROOM starts now.

WHITFIELD: Hello, again, everyone. Thank you so much for being with me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

All right. We begin this hour with new developments in the Russia investigation. "The New York Times" reporting that Special Counsellor Bob Mueller is asking the White House to turn over documents.

The "Times" reports Mueller is looking into fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and the secret payments he received from the government of Turkey during the Trump campaign.

I want to bring in now CNN's Boris Sanchez in Washington. So, Boris, what more can you tell us?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Fred. Yes. That "New York Times" reporting is that the special counsel led by Rob Mueller is looking into potential secret payments from Turkey to Michael Flynn for his lobbying efforts in which he was lobbying against an opponent of the Turkish President Recep Erdogan.

From what we understand, they have requested specific documents from the White House pertaining to Michael Flynn and they questioned witnesses about Flynn's relationship with Turkey.

This coincides with CNN's own reporting that the special counsel was looking into ties between the former national security adviser who is fired for apparently lying to the former -- or rather to the vice president, and that government.

We've reached out to attorneys for Michael Flynn. They have declined to comment. We've also reached out to the outside counsel of the White House. They have said that they will not discuss any specifics of their communications between them and the special counsel except to say they are complying with all of their requests.

We should point out, Fred, back in the spring, the House Oversight Committee leaders there said that Michael Flynn may have broken the law when he didn't reveal these payments from foreign governments including Turkey on his security clearance forms.

Another one of those payments very interestingly, Fred, we learned was from RTTV, the Russian state news agency. So, taking all of this into account it gives you a picture of where this investigation is headed when it comes to Michael Flynn. It's important to remember this is just one strand in a very broad investigation -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: And then there's this on election day, CNN has this exclusive reporting that a team of FBI analysts gathered in a war room to track specific social media accounts. What exactly were they looking for? And what did they find?

SANCHEZ: Yes. This is really a fascinating picture on election day. You have all these analysts and agents gathered into a war room looking at social media and fake news that was streaming in across social media platforms with suspected links to Russian sources.

Some of the stories that were posted were about Hillary Clinton, her health and her campaign. Much of it fake news, Fred, and from what we understand they were in communication with the White House throughout the day.

There was a celebratory tone in that war room when election night ended in part because they felt there was no specific intrusion by Russia into election systems, but the feeling from what we understand and sources in the White House, Fred, was that they were disappointed because they felt like Russia's fake news push worked in their favor.

WHITFIELD: All right. Boris Sanchez, thanks so much.

All right. As for Russia, a former ambassador to the U.S. is sharing new details about his conversations with Michael Flynn which ultimately led to Flynn's firing. Sergey Kislyak says he talked about terrorism not sanctions.


SERGEY KISLYAK, FORMER RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S. (through translator): There are a few topics that are important to U.S./Russia cooperation. First of all, it's terrorism. This was one of the topics we discussed. This conversation was proper, calm, and absolutely transparent. There were no secrets, at least on our side.


WHITFIELD: All right. Kislyak also added that he would refuse to testify before Congress if he was asked. We're learning President Trump who is on a working vacation will be meeting with his new chief of staff, General John Kelly, during this time off.

[12:05:06] CNN's Kaitlan Collins is live for us from Bridgewater, New Jersey, near Trump's golf course where he is vacationing with his family. So, what more can you tell us about what might encompass this 17-day working vacation?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes. It's day one here, Fred, and we heard from a White House official this morning that said that while the president is here over the next two weeks essentially, he's going to be meeting with his new chief of staff, John Kelly, as well as other senior administration officials and some lawmakers.

We don't have details of which lawmakers or what they will be discussing, but we'll likely find out more about that soon. But the White House is being sure, Fred, to bill this as a working vacation for the president, while the west wing undergoes some renovations.

WHITFIELD: So, let's talk about H.R. McMaster. He is facing some backlash from the far right over a number of issues including firing several national security staffers and urging the president to keep up the Iran nuclear deal, at least for now.

So, where does the president or is there a way of telling exactly where the president is on this criticism and whether he is still behind H.R. McMaster?

COLLINS: Yes. We found that out overnight after all this backlash against McMaster this week, saying he was undermining the president's agenda and calling for his dismissal. The president issued a statement last night, essentially saying he does have confidence in his national security adviser.

He said, "General McMaster and I are working very well together. He is a good man and very pro-Israel. I am grateful for the work he continues to do serving our country."

As you know, Fred, McMaster came under fire this week for two things. One was the dismissal of Ezra Cohen-Watnick, this intelligence aide from the National Security Council.

This was someone who was brought in by Michael Flynn before he left the White House earlier this year and secondly was because everyone found out that McMaster, who wrote this letter to Susan Rice, Barack Obama's national security adviser, essentially extending her security clearance.

So, she can weigh in on current national security matters within this administration. However, the White House said this is standard procedure and then McMaster sent this letter to all former national security advisors -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Kaitlin Collins in Bridgewater, New Jersey, to where the president is vacationing, thanks so much.

Let's talk now about this with CNN political commentator, Jack Kingston, a former Republican representative from Georgia and a former senior adviser to the Trump campaign, and also with us is CNN political contributor, Michael Nutter, a former Democratic mayor of Philadelphia. Good to see you both.

Good. So, Jack, let me begin with you. You know, what do you make of some conservatives apparently going after McMaster? What does that represent to you? What's going on?

JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think that there was a backlash about him advising the president not to go to the western wall with Netanyahu when he was in Israel and certainly his statement that Susan Rice did not do anything wrong on the unmasking just raises the hackles of the conservative base.

And so, you have that kind of criticism that's going to be out there to any cabinet member that may be is seen as somebody who isn't going along with the full program and agenda, but I think the president did the right thing if he's going to have somebody on his team, he needs to stand behind them when they get that criticism.

And, you know, just make sure that it doesn't get out of hands. So, I think right now, what the president did is the right thing.

WHITFIELD: So Michael, is it the conservative base or is it a reflection of there remains some infighting within the White House?

MICHAEL NUTTER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's probably both of those, as well as maybe one of the few times that I agree with the Congressman, you know, this administration is --

KINGSTON: Come on, Michael.

WHITFIELD: We like to bring people together here.

NUTTER: Yes. Absolutely. Peace, love and happiness for now. The administration is six months old. The president said that he believes and trusts in these generals. I do not know General McMaster. Read a great deal about him.

But it seems to me that he has a right to have the team that he wants. The president has the team that he wants and if you ask someone to take on a position like General McMaster, he has to have the team that he wants and it's not just about the, quote/unquote, "conservative base."

There are 330 million Americans. Some are Democrats, some are Republicans, some are independents, some may not be registered to vote. In the meantime, the country has to run and it's not just about keeping one part of your base happy.

Lastly, we don't know what kind of advice ultimately General McMaster is giving to the president. These are usually pretty complicated matters that, you know, you pull this string another string gets snagged and a whole bunch of things fall out of place.

So, you know, they should be able to do their jobs and figure out -- I will disagree with my friend on one, I'm not sure what the agenda is and what they're trying to do, but --


[12:10:06] NUTTER: But just responding to every complaint about every personnel decision is really not moving whatever the president's agenda is, it's not moving it forward.

KINGSTON: Well, let me say part of it, which is center stage where McMaster is very important as North Korea, and the recent missile launches and the ideas that the six nation talks have not produced a great strategy anybody would say that, and so McMaster is part of it.

What are we going to do about North Korea? And he had the interview the other day about it. So, you know, he's saying it's not acceptable, there's a lot of statements out there, but I think right now, McMaster is center stage in North Korea and that's one of the reasons why the president needs to stand behind him.

WHITFIELD: So, there are these big world --

NUTTER: It's hard to have a strategy -- it's just hard -- I will acknowledge this, it's hard to have a strategy as it relates to North Korea when you are dealing with someone as seemingly erratic and imbalanced as the president of North Korea, who just keeps firing missiles every other day, seeming to want to provoke something.

I certainly can't figure out what the -- what man wants. But it is an absolutely complicated situation and General McMaster should be able to come up with a plan to deal with North Korea obviously with the president's support.

WHITFIELD: So you have these big world stage issues. At the same time, at the White House, you've got this growing cloud, you know, with the investigations that are taking different turns.

And, you know, Jack, I know that, you know, the special counsel, Robert Mueller, has issued grand jury subpoenas, talking about documents and also testimonies from people, but we also know from "The New York Times" reporting that he wants to look into Michael Flynn and accepting of payments from the government of Turkey in the last few months of the -- of the presidential campaign.

You actually tweeted, Jack, that the investigation is, quote, "going off the rails." Is this going off the rails, or is it that there are areas of concern that investigators now want to look into further?

KINGSTON: Well, let me say this, as far as General Flynn taking money from the Turkish government or Turkish business, that's legal. What is illegal is not to register --

WHITFIELD: It wasn't disclosed.

KINGSTON: Yes. He has to do it.

NUTTER: Just that little fact.

KINGSTON: You don't need a special prosecutor for that. The special prosecutor's intention was to look into collusion from the Trump campaign in Russia --

WHITFIELD: But isn't the investigator looking into the motivation, why would you not disclose this information? Isn't that the red flag that they want to further look into?

KINGSTON: I would love to know that. Now if he comes back with a Hail Mary and says this was related, that's a good thing, but I do think sometimes special prosecutors with an unlimited budget and staff can go in a number of different ways.

Who would have known that a five to six-year investigation during the Clinton administration led by Ken Starr, on real estate would end up with a 24-year-old intern and a blue dress in the oval office?

WHITFIELD: Right. So, was that going off the rails? I mean, is that very similar --


WHITFIELD: You might be going for one thing but then you uncover other things.

KINGSTON: You know, if somebody gave you -- gave an opponent of yours an unlimited budget and unlimited ability to hire investigators and did an audit on your life, they're going to find some kind of deal somewhere that doesn't make sense.

And so yet, I talked to Henry Hyde about it at the time and said Henry, this what is we're coming up with? I thought there was going to be wheeling and dealing and tax fraud and all kinds of things. So, in my opinion it was very disappointing and I think we'll all agree in Washington that special prosecutors can get out of hand.

WHITFIELD: Michael, how do you see it?

NUTTER: Yes. I think we're much too early to prejudge what Mr. Mueller ultimately will come up with. We already know that Michael Flynn has some pretty shaky stuff going on with him.

The reason he was fired, of course, is not just because he lied to the vice president and possibly the president, it's because he got caught in that lie and there are all kinds of other issues swirling around him.

So, I think this is all within the bounds, it's all within the general scope of collusion, Russia, people who can't seem to fill out their forms properly, they have to amend them multiple times to try to figure out what in the world are they really up to?

KINGSTON: If we're really investigating Russia's influence on the American election and interference, should we not look at Bill Clinton's speech in which he got $500,000 paid by Russia, or maybe the uranium deal or that John Podesta sat on the boards of Russian --

WHITFIELD: Jack, we're talking about influence --

NUTTER: We are talking about the current president of the United States.


WHITFIELD: Isn't relations overall with Russia we're talking about compromising democracy. That's what's at issue.

[12:15:10] KINGSTON: I think that compromised democracy when John Podesta is sitting on the board of a Russia company and at the same time advising Hillary Clinton in State Department matters that to me is very scary.

I don't understand why fair-minded people can't say we're going to look at Russia and the American electorate and politics, why not look at all of it. I think it's a legitimate question.

WHITFIELD: All right.


NUTTER: Talk about a Hail Mary.

KINGSTON: Mike, take off your --

NUTTER: Talk about a Hail Mary. That's a Hail Mary and a couple of Our Fathers in there.

WHITFIELD: Maybe you will be getting a phone call, Jack, to see if, you know, your counsel could be brought --

NUTTER: I think the Congress has gone off the rails --

KINGSTON: No, Michael, what about Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton on the tarmac. That doesn't bother you?

WHITFIELD: Michael Nutter, always great to have you.

NUTTER: Nice try, Congressman.

KINGSTON: You know I'm right. You know it.

NUTTER: You think you're right.

KINGSTON: It's still a happy Saturday.

WHITFIELD: Straight ahead, H.R. McMaster says North Korea's leader should not be sleeping easy at night with the whole world against him. This as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson prepares to be in the same room as his North Korean counterpart. Reaction when the NEWSROOM continues. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


WHITFIELD: All right. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster sending a strong message to North Korea ahead of an Asian Security Summit that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his North Korean counterpart will be attending. Here's McMaster earlier today.


GENERAL H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The president's been very clear about it and said he's not going to tolerate North Korea being able to threaten the United States. What we have to do is everything we can to pressure this regime, to pressure Kim Jong-Un and those around him, such that they conclude it is in their interest to denuclearize.


WHITFIELD: All right. Let's talk about all of this now with CNN's global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, and CNN military and diplomatic analyst, Retired Admiral John Kirby, a former spokesman for the U.S. State Department and a former Pentagon press secretary. Good to see both of you.

All right. So, Elise, let me begin with you. So, what's the reaction now to what McMaster had to say?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, I think he's trying to set up Secretary Tillerson's arrival in Manila and he just arrived a short time ago with a very strong message about the U.S. resolve of dealing with North Korea.

I think what's interesting, though, Fred, is that Secretary Tillerson, there are these mixed messages coming from the administration, while you hear General McMaster, Ambassador Nikki Kaley, other people talking with a very strong message, about, you know, a military bend.

Secretary Tillerson has said in recent days that he's looking to talk to North Korea if the conditions are right. So, I think, you know, when the U.S. comes with a strong message that it has that military option, that's possibly when they think diplomacy can start.

WHITFIELD: So, Admiral Kirby, sorry, I have so many generals on my mind today, General McMaster also said that Kim Jong-Un should not be sleeping easy at night with, quote, "the whole world against him."

But, is there any incentive for North Korea to change? Hasn't it always been the case that the whole world is against it?

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RETIRED), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Right. I don't see any great incentive right now for them to want to sit down at the negotiating table. Elise is right. I think there are mixed messages coming out of this administration. And that Secretary Tillerson really is trying to orient this more towards diplomatic solutions. Right now, the North is racing towards this capability. They continue to advance their programs and there's very little incentive for them to talk.

Also, Fred, it's important for us -- and I think diplomatic solutions are the right way and we should look to talk, but we should do it under conditions that are favorable to some kind of success, and right now, those conditions just don't exist.

WHITFIELD: And then, Elise, what should be the expectations at this Asian Summit in the Philippines with Tillerson? I mean, might there be some bilateral between he and North Korea has its deputy foreign minister apparently going to be there, Russia may also have a foreign minister there as well, might this be an opportunity for Tillerson to have direct talks with parties of both those countries?

LABOTT: Well, when it comes to North Korea, I don't see that happening. Originally, it was supposed to be the foreign minister and then there was a lot of talk about how the U.S. and its partners want to really isolate North Korea at this Asean forum.

This is a forum that's dealing with collective security in the region, dealing with all these things about working cooperatively and the U.S. has said in recent days that North Korea doesn't really fit that bill.

So, sometimes North Korea takes part in some of these meetings at the forum and try to isolate them there and that's part of the strategy right now. I mean, the hope is that if they can continue to isolate the North Koreans that eventually they'll want to talk.

We'll have to see if that bears any fruit in the future. I think he'll be certainly meeting with the Chinese foreign minister and he will have a meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov. Of course, North Korea will be on that agenda, but so will some of the other issues between the U.S. and Russia.

WHITFIELD: And so John, more isolationism or might it be a potential breakthrough if Tillerson already said we would be open to, you know, talks to some degree with North Korea. Could this be an opportunity, a possible breakthrough moment for something like that to happen?

KIRBY: No, I don't think so, Fred. I don't think that this is the forum and this is the chance or the moment for establishing some sort of direct link with Pyongyang. This forum isn't really designed for that.

[12:25:06] Again, I don't think the timing is right strategically. They are still racing towards a program that we need to continue to try to convince it's in their interest not to pursue and sitting down to negotiate you right now the United States, the west doesn't have great leverage or opportunity to do that right now.

I don't see that this forum will provide that chance. That said, it does give him as Elise says, lots of opportunities to talk to other, more like-minded nations and nations that we can work with bilaterally or multilaterally to try to continue to put pressure on the North.

For instance, he will have a chance to talk to our South Korean counterparts as well as Japanese counterparts. There's great momentum now in trilateral cooperation between the United States, Japan and South Korea militarily, economically and diplomatically to continue to bring pressure to bear on Pyongyang.

WHITFIELD: All right. Admiral John Kirby, Elise Labott, thanks so much to both of you. Appreciate it.

All right. On the campaign trail, presidential candidate, Donald Trump, made this promise.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I promise you, I will not be taking very long vacations, if I take them at all.


WHITFIELD: Long, it's relative. He just kicked off a 17-day working vacation. Is this hypocritical? We'll discuss.


[12:30:33] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN NEWSROOM ANCHOR: All right. Welcome back. Right now, President Trump is at his New Jersey golf course for the start of his 17-day vacation. That is golf club there. And apparently he's meeting with a number of people. Many members of his staff will be there as well.

So Trump aides say it is a working trip prompted in part by the need for some extensive repair work at the White House. But either way, Mr. Trump may have been ready to get away from Washington after a week of turmoil and leaks. CNN's Tom Foreman takes a look back.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The White House clearly wanted American dream week to underscore all the things that it feels is doing for the economy. They wanted to point out how they were cutting red tape and regulation for businesses out there, how they were working on better trade deals, how they were supporting small businesses, how they hoped to rewrite the tax code and ultimately that they hope that this would produce millions of jobs for regular people.

But look at what happened. Once again, they were derailed by their own problems. Monday, all the news was about how the new Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci was fired after ten tumultuous days.

Tuesday, the news was dominated by the fact that Donald Trump Sr., the president, had helped his son Donald Trump, Jr. craft a statement about the meeting with the Russians at the Trump tower. The White House previously said that hadn't happened.

Wednesday, the White House rolled out on its new immigration plan and immediately comes under attack, but many people saying that's very much not in the spirit of the American dream.

On Thursday, the news about how the president had those phone calls. The transcripts released with the president of Mexico and of Australia. And, of course, going into the weekend, the news was about how the special Counsel Robert Mueller was now looking at the president's finances and issuing subpoenas for a grand jury. None of the things the president wanted to focus on the American dream week. And this sort of thing has happened before.

Since early June, the White House has tried all sorts of themes here and time and again they've been derailed. Infrastructure week over here, they rolled that one out. Same week James Comey, the former FBI director was in Congress testifying how the president had fired him.

Energy week, that's when the president tweeted about those MSNBC hosts. And that story took over the headlines. And over here on Made in America week, the Trump family business has immediately came under fire because they outsource work and they get supplies from other countries over there.

So, the bottom line is the president and the White House have tried over and over to say let's talk about something else, let's set the agenda, and their own actions and problems have derailed it over and over again.

WHITFIELD: All right. Tom Foreman, thank you so much. Our panel of political experts Jack and Michael -- oh, we had little brotherly love last time, get it, Philadelphia. Let's see if there's more love straight ahead.


[12:37:23] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. As the special counsel's investigation widens into connections between Trump campaign officials and Russia, President Trump has vacated the White House and he's now on a 17-day working vacation at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Today marks the 45th day, the president has visited one of his golf clubs. Let's bring back our political panel and see how fiery they are this time. Jack Kingston is a former Republican Representative from Georgia and a former senior adviser to the Trump campaign, and Michael Nutter is a former Democratic mayor of Philadelphia.

All right. So, Michael, we'll begin with you. So, the timing of President Trump's visit to this New Jersey golf club for the 17-day vacation, or his trips to his golf properties, 45 times now since he took office. Is this sending a message that he's just not that comfortable in the White House or is it something else?

MICHAEL NUTTER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it's sending a couple messages. One, it's always all Trump all the time. So, this is about his companies, his brand. He's enhancing the value of his properties by these numerous visits which is really about the future and I guess about his family. But he's literally increasing the values of his properties while being president of the United States, which is just inappropriate in and of it self.

Second, he's probably a little worn out. He's been kind of getting smacked around for the last couple weeks. This has not been an easy six months and not exactly the youngest guy around.

So, you know, the working vacation, I get that. People should take vacations. You know, he can play golf, he can play badminton. He can play Tiddlywinks with manhole covers if he wants to. As long as the people's business is getting done, that's what's most important. But that White House in addition to a new air conditioning system, that White House is on fire and he's trying to escape a bunch of that heat that's going on over there right now.

FREDRICKA: So Jack, you know, do the American people, you know, care whether he is at the White House or perhaps spending more time at, you know, Camp David. Or does it send some sort of message that he prefers to be at a golf -- at a Trump golf property?

JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I think as long as he has economic reports like the one that just came out of jobs, 1.3 million jobs have been created since he's been president, unemployment is down to the lowest level in 16 years, border crossings are down by 70%. American enthusiasm in the economy is at an all-time high. The Dow Jones has busted through the ceiling. As long as that's happening, they're going to be content with what the president is doing.

I want to say this to Michael though because, you know, as a Democrat you probably should be happy that he's out of town. Maybe less would get done.

[12:40:14] NUTTER: I don't think you guys are happier.

KINGSTON: But I do -- I want to say this. I was at the White House in the West Wing the other day and that place was a beehive. People are working, people are very enthusiastic about the mission. But I would also want to ask, if his brand is so bad, why does he enhanced the property values every time he visits, which I don't think he really does. I think he is just somebody who knows that when you're president, you just move to the White House. You change the venue. You really can't escape. You don't know -- you make big decisions when you're on vacation. It's just a different venue.

WHITFIELD: So, perhaps to being examined because it was just last year when then Candidate Trump had this to say about his predecessor, now predecessor taking vacations while at the White House. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATE: I promise you, I will not be taking very long vacations, if I take them at all. There's no time for vacation. We're not going to be big on vacations.

If you're at the White House and you have so much work to do, why do you fly -- why do you leave so much? Why, you know, you think you would want to work, work, work, straighten it out, get it done, fix it up, make it great, and then when you finish you can be proud.


WHITFIELD: Oh, boy. OK. So, why do you leave so much? I mean those were his words, Jack, but Michael, you first.

NUTTER: Sure. I mean, this time and time again, Fredricka, shows the president is, you know, at best is a hypocrite and at worse is just a pathological liar. He will say anything, do anything, and act like those things were never said or done. Again, I don't care that he takes vacations. It's just hypocritical for what he said and for what he promised the base, whatever that is, what he was going to be doing or not.

Elected officials should be able to take vacations. But he is quite unusual in how many he takes, his travel budget will exceed the entire eight years of President Obama's time probably now in this first year. So, and he only pretty much goes to his own properties.

The people who are patrons of those properties or owners, I guess, or representers, whatever goes on at those properties the value of the property is being enhanced because the president of the United States spends so much time there. It's not a coincidence that the Mar-a-Lago fees --

WHITFIELD: Memberships.

NUTTER: -- doubled right after he became president of the United States of America. He knows what he's doing. He's making money off of the presidency.

KINGSTON: But Michael, I going to say, he's a billionaire several times over. He's not going to try to make a cheap bucket and --

NUTTER: But he likes more money.

KINGSTON: And telling them a pathological liar was President Obama when he said you can keep your own doctor, your own health care, your premiums would be cut by $2500. Was he a pathological liar or was he speaking in political hyperbole? I don't think he's going to be --

NUTTER: That was the plan and that was the purpose trying to get through the legislative process.

KINGSTON: It was total lie. It was a total lie to get to the legislative process he lied.

NUTTER: Why can't you guys ever stay on the topic?

KINGSTON: Fred, wait a minute.

NUTTER: Stay on topic. Donald Trump is the topic.

WHITFIELD: But with all, there were many tweets as well to kind of underscore what the president was -- well, what the now president then candidate was talking about saying, "You know, President Obama is about to embark on a 17-day vacation in his native Hawaii. You know, putting secret service away from families on Christmas. Aloha, don't take vacations. What's the point if you're not enjoying work you're in the wrong job, and why is Barack Obama always campaigning or on vacation?"

KINGSTON: You know, Fred, I'm going to give that point to Michael on that. I'm not going to argue. But let me point on that but he's not a pathological liar. Let me say this though.

NUTTER: You don't know that.

KINGSTON: In 1940 on a ten-day fishing trip, Franklin Roosevelt worked out Lend Lease. In 1981, President Reagan fired the air traffic controllers and many times entertained Margaret Thatcher, another heads of state went on vacation in California at Warm Springs, Georgia, near where I live in Savannah. Franklin Roosevelt made huge decisions down there allegedly on vacation. He actually created what was called the "Little White House".

So, presidents change venue. They do not go on vacation.

WHITFIELD: Right. I mean they are working 24/7. We know that job. I mean it really -- it never lets up. All right.

KINGSTON: I'll bet you, Michael did it when he was mayor.

WHITFIELD: And I bet you it was that way when you were mayor, Michael.

KINGSTON: Absolutely.

NUTTER: I don't own a golf course. But this is not about -- this is not about whether they're working or not.

KINGSTON: I'm not a rich Democrat --

WHITFIELD: We'll keep it right there. And you guys continue to work on those comments too right when we go to break because we've got to take a short break for now. We've got much more in the "Newsroom" right after this.

But first, here's this week's start small, think big, with a look at a Memphis business making old jeans new again.


[12:45:12] KERRY PEEPLES, OWNER, THIGH HIGH JEANS: What makes us different from your typical blue jean company is that we are recycling denim. They're either even donated from the community recycling campaign or you donate your own pair of jeans from your closet to be custom remade.

Hi, I'm Kerry Peeples.


PEEPLES: And we are Thigh High Jeans.

We are taking jeans that already exist and we are embellishing them. We're adding recycled fabrics to them.

SMITHWICK: Check that out.

PEEPLES: And we're also embroidering a positive clothe down the thigh.

SMITHWICK: And your clothes is going to be something that responds to your personality.

PEEPLES: We'll have the order form where you have told us a bit about yourself. When the customer gets the jeans, it's almost like opening a fortune cookie.

SMITHWICK: In addition to being an on-line store, we have this trailer and we can do festivals, home shows or so much fun. We have grown into several other products. Really just about anything that is denim.

PEEPLES: When you buy a pair of jeans, you're able to choose between a local, national or global non-profit.

SMITHWICK: We donate 50% of our profit.

PEEPLES: So, it's a feel good blue jean purpose.

SMITHWICK: And everybody loves denim.



[12:50:47] WHITFIELD: All right. Tonight's episode of "Declassified" has the story of a global man hunt for the terrorist behind the hijacking of the Egypt Air Flight 648. Here's a clip.


ROBERT CLIFFORD, FORMER ASSISTAN SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, FBI: Even within the FBI, the terrorism section was kind of a small group within the criminal investigative division. It had nothing to do with intelligence, nothing to do with security.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At CIA, in the early days of the Reagan administration, there was a position called the National Intelligence Officer for counterterrorism. One man, but he was not in a position to get any intelligence from anybody but where the next attack is going to occur. It was all on the defensive side.

CLIFFORD: Terrorism was going virtually unchecked.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On those days, there was never a heads-up. Now, we have the national security agency out vacuuming the sky and they're able to tell you that, gee, we think something is happening. In 1985, this came, this was a bolt out of the sky, literally.


WHITFIELD: OK. That really was a remarkable time. So Robert Clifford who you saw in the clip is actually joining us right now. Robert, you were on the FBI team which brought the hijacker to the U.S. for prosecution. So what was your initial reaction to this lone surviving hijacker, Omar Rezaq being released from that Maltese Prison?

CLIFFORD: Well, we had to get Rezaq. We're not given much advanced notice whatsoever when he was release. And so we had already developed some contingency plans. I'd formed up a team of specialists deployed anywhere in the world to capture him. And when we received information that he had been released, we immediately deployed and set up to capture him in Lagos, Nigeria.

WHITFIELD: So then what were the challenges that you faced when making the case that after Rezaq's release that he should be tried in the U.S.?

CLIFFORD: The fact that he had already been tried for hijacking in Malta left only one statute for us to prosecute, and that was air piracy. And adding to the difficulties of the case was the fact that this attack took place eight years prior in a country thousands of miles away. And this case had to be prosecuted as if the attack took place in Los Angeles or New York, very, very complex.

WHITFIELD: How do you suppose it may have shaped, you know, air traffic laws today, the reach of investigations, the reach of the FBI today?

CLIFFORD: It had a profound effect. This was the first time that the United States had gone abroad to capture a terrorist and bring him back to stand trial in United States for an act that had occurred outside the U.S. And this sent a very clear message that if terrorists attack or kidnap Americans overseas, the FBI has a jurisdiction to pursue them and bring them back to justice in the U.S.

WHITFIELD: And what are you hoping people learn from this series because, you know, the mission of the FBI is clandestine in so many ways? I mean, there is the, you know, the veil of secrecy for all the right reasons. But this kind of series is revealing a lot. What do you want people to learn?

CLIFFORD: It certainly is. And I think it's important for the American public to see that we are committed to the rule of law, we're committed to the pursuit of justice. And that often times this will entail dealing with many, many different legal systems, many, many different cultures. But all must be understood, all must be respected, and together mount an effective counterterrorism posture.

WHITFIELD: Robert Clifford, thanks so much for being with us. And we look forward to seeing the rest of "Declassified: Untold Stories of American Spies" airing tonight 9:00 eastern right here on CNN.


[12:59:20] WHITFIELD: All right. Now for a look at this week's CNN Hero, at the age of 14 she was homeless and survived sexual abuse. Decades later she is living a full life dedicated to helping at-risk youth in Israel. Meet Mariuma Ben Yosef.


MARIUMA BEN YOSEF, CNN HERO: To be homeless in a young age, it's very lonely. When you don't have your family, you will always have this black hole. I know exactly what they're going through. I want children to breathe. I want them to feel alive. I want them to feel secure, I want them to feel that they can be hugged and they will not be in danger. We can sit in a different way and win life.


WHITFIELD: For more on this "Hero" or to nominate someone you think should be a 2017 CNN Hero, visit our website The next hour of the "Newsroom" starts right now.