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Two Former U.S. Intelligence Chiefs Are Firing Back At President Trump's Controversial Remarks On Russia's Election Meddling; Roy Moore Sexual Abuse Allegations; Joe Biden Not Considering Presidential Candidacy; First Baptist Church To Re-Open; A 7.3 Earthquake In Iraq; Investigation Underway For Killed U.S. Soldier In Niger; $100 Million Payout from Penn State; Jake Tapper's State of the Cartoonion. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired November 12, 2017 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Rodrigo Duterte whose bloody war on drugs has led to thousands of killings and international condemnation. Trump's diplomatic skills also not in the spotlight as the world waits to hear how or if he addresses human rights' concerns after praising Duterte's leadership in the past. But these meetings are being overshadowed by the President's latest comments where he not only attacked Kim Jong-un but also former U.S. intelligence officials and refused to say definitively if he thinks Russia interfered in the 2016 election.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election. As to whether I believe it or not I'm with our agencies especially as currently constituted with their leadership. I believe in our Intel agencies, our intelligence agencies. I have worked with them very strongly. There weren't 17 as was previously reported. But we were actually four. But they were saying there were 17. There are actually four. But as currently led by fine people I believe very much in our intelligence agencies.


WHITFIELD: Let's get to CNN's Kaitlan Collins in Manila.

So Kaitlan, President Trump trying to clear up the confusion. Has it made it more confusing?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Almost. He did not directly state yes I believe that Russia meddled in our election when he was asked to directly do so today. Instead we kind of saw him straddle this line between saying he sided with those U.S. agency agencies and almost trying to down play the meddling at all saying that you can only ask Russia so many times that they meddled in the election.

But he had to make those clarifying remarks today because of comments he made on a flight on air force one to Vietnam when the President was speaking with reporters. And he said he believed Vladimir Putin was being genuine when he said Russia did not interfere in the election.

That raised a lot of eyebrows because people were believed the President was saying that he believed Russia did not meddle in the election. And today instead he had to say that he simply felt Putin was being sincere.

But those comments drew swift criticism from lawmakers on Capitol Hill including Senator John McCain who put out a statement condemning his remarks saying there is nothing America first about taking the word of a KGB colonel over that of the American intelligence community. Vladimir Putin does not have America's interest at heart. And to believe otherwise is not only naive but also places our national security at risk.

Now, McCain wasn't the only lawmaker to weigh in on this. Senator Dick Durbin did as well. And here is what he had to say.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Incredible to me. We have a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. We permits to Facebook ad that have phony committee. It was blasting Hillary Clinton and it was paid for with rubles from Russia. What is the President waiting to see before he acknowledges what our intelligence agencies and what most people acknowledge there was a definite attempt by Russia to influence this election.


COLLINS: So Fred, these questions about whether or not the President truly believes that Russia did interfere in the election have followed him all the way here to Asia where he is at his last stop of this trip here in Manila. He is expected to meet with President Duterte today. That very contentious profanity ridden leader who often says comments that are very controversial.

Now, though the Obama administration had a pretty frosty relationship with him, we have seen the President have a warm report. Many are wondering if he is going to bring up human rights when he meets up with him face-to-face today, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Kaitlan Collins, keep us posted on that.

Meantime, two former U.S. intelligence chiefs are firing back at President Trump's controversial remarks on Russia's election meddling on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION with Jake Tapper," former CIA director John Brennan and James Clapper, the former national intelligence director responding to the President's earlier comment that he believes Vladimir Putin's election meddling denials. They also weighed in on Trump calling Brennan, Clapper and former FBI director James Comey political acts.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: He said couldn't believe what he believes. And you know, I side with our intelligence agencies but it was vague. Why do you think he does that?

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: I don't know why the ambiguity about this because the threat posed by Russia has done is manifest and obvious and has been for a long time.

Putin is committed to undermining our system, our democracy and our whole process. And to try to paint it in any other way is I think astounding and in fact poses a peril of this country.

TAPER: What threat? What peril does it pose to the country?

CLAPPER: Well for one, as we have seen in the evidence that's come out since the publication of our intelligence community assessment on this January further reinforces the depth and magnitude and scope and the aggressiveness of the Russian interference to include the very astute use of social media.

Apart from that something we don't think about too much is the fact that the Russians are embarked on a very aggressive modernization of their strategic nuclear forces to include a very capable and scary counter space program. They only have one adversary in mind when they do this.

And by the way, the Russians are in abject violation of the (INAUDIBLE), intermediate nuclear forces treaty. So the Russians do not harbor good intentions towards the United States. And there shouldn't be illusions or any ambiguity about that. And our President fosters that ambiguity.

[16:05:52] TAPPER: The President also called both you and FBI director Comey political hacks. All three of you worked in senior levels in the Obama administration although you also worked during the Bush administration. How do you respond to the charge?

JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, first of all, he was referring to us as political hacks because he was trying to delegitimize the intelligence community assessment has done.

Jim Clapper, Jim Comey, and John Brennan did not write that assessment. It was written by professional intelligence officers and law enforcement officers of this great country. Secondly, I feel very honored to be associated with Jim clapper and Jim Comey in the same category. And considering the source of the criticism, I consider that criticism a badge of honor.

And third, I found it particularly reprehensible that on Veterans Day that Donald Trump would attack and impugn the integrity and character of Jim Clapper who served in uniform for 35 years who respond to the call of this country to go to Vietnam, flew in over 70 combat support missions over Vietnam. And like Senator McCain, really did put his life at risk because of this country's national security. And to impugn the character of somebody like Jim Clapper on Veterans Day who has dedicated so much of his life to this country, I just find that outrageous and something that I think Mr. Trump should be ashamed of. But it doesn't seem as though, you know, anything he does he feel very ashamed to. TAPPER: What is the effect of these attacks not on you two or Jim

Comey but on other people in the FBI, in the CIA, and the NSA people who are still there who worked under you and they are still there working to try to make the country safer?

CLAPPER: First, I have to reciprocate what an honor it has been to serve with the likes of John Brennan and Jim Comey who are dedicated public servants and serve this country long and well in integrity.

I think it cannot have a positive impact on the moral or the workforce of the intelligence committee. But I do believe in my heart that the men and women of the intelligence community will continue to convey truth to power even if the power ignores the truth.


WHITFIELD: All right. Let's discuss this now with our panel. CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott, CNN senior international correspondent Frederik Pleitgen and Julian Zelizer, a CNN political analyst and historian and professor at Princeton University.

OK. Good to see you guys.

All right. So Elise, let me begin with you. You know, we heard some rather, you know, harsh hurt (ph) words coming from two former U.S. Intel chiefs about the President. How might this latest division now impact the relationship the President has with the current Intel community?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, I mean, the relationship between the President and the Intel community has been strained on this issue for so long. And you know, you really can't separate the advice that the President is getting on Russia from the advice that they are getting on North Korea or ISIS or anything else when the President sends a message that he doesn't have confidence in his intelligence community who is briefing him every day on those threats.

I agree completely with director Clapper and director Brennan that not only can this not have a good effect on the moral but it definitely, you know, makes employees think about the advice that they are giving to the President and whether it is going to be listened to. Of course, these people will continue to speak truth to power. But whether the President is going to listen to their advice I think is a real important question that this intelligence community is asking itself.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And Fred, you are in Moscow. And earlier you told me that people in Moscow are happy to hear. We are happy to hear Trump's belief of, you know, Putin's denials of election meddling. But then the President has attempted to clear that up. Is there now a different reaction to that out of Moscow?

FREDERIK PLEIGTEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there certainly isn't, Fredricka. And in fact, I was just watching Russian state television just a couple of minutes ago. They were still praising President Trump for the meetings that he had, that he had the informal meeting that he had with Vladimir Putin there at the APEC summit in Vietnam. And it was really interesting to see that. Of course, we did hear President Trump (INAUDIBLE) to some of those remarks that he made saying he does trust the intelligence community above Vladimir Putin. But that is really something that is falling on deaf ears here in Moscow. There is barely any mention of that here in state media.

Instead, the big thing at the Russians are focusing on is they want to move forward from all of this. The Russians are saying - well, after putting that out there in pretty much all the statements, all of the public things that they are posting out here is that the Americans or at least President Trump wants to move on from this meddling scandal. And that is certainly something where they for the first time in a very long time seem to see end roads.

Because for the Russians, pretty much everything is about trying to get rid of a lot of sanctions that were levied against Russia. You know, for a very long time with Trump under fire in the United States they really weren't seeing a chance of that happening. I think that has kind of changed after this APEC summit where now they are seeing there might be some sort of end rods and there might be a chance perhaps in the future to get rid of those sanctions.

Not sure they fully understand how much of the American public of American politics is against some of which President Trump is doing. But it certainly is a new development that we are seeing here in Moscow and a new posture that we are seeing here in Moscow as well - Fredricka.

[16:11:25] WHITFIELD: So Julian, you wrote an article on saying when President Trump absolved Putin, he shot himself in the foot. Do you know how you suppose that clarification helps correct or fix things or perhaps worsen things?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think it fixes things. I mean, this obviously comes after many statements like this about the Russian intervention. He often raises questions about whether it is true. He has challenged the intelligence community before. None of this is new. So I think having the statement at the end which tried to clarify what he wanted to say and argue that he does believe his intelligence won't wipe any of this away this becomes the story when it really didn't need to be. And this back and forth, this actually taints effort that the President actually wants to undertake to construct a new kind of conversation with Russia.

But let's not forget the evidence is Russia hasn't stopped. And so that's part of the problem of not acknowledging what happened. It's not just about the past. It's about 2018 and 2020 making sure it doesn't happen again.

WHITFIELD: And Elise, you know, the CIA director came out with the statement, you know, underscoring the importance and the believability of the intelligence community while the President was abroad. Was that like a signal, you know, to the President or perhaps even was that the impetus as to why the President felt like he had to make that clarification this weekend?

LABOTT: Well, I think also he saw the statement that came out from CIA director Pompeo saying that he agreed with the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia did. So you didn't want - I'm sure he didn't want to see this kind of open dispute with his own CIA director.

And I think Julian said it (INAUDIBLE). This is still happening. And it's not just happening in the United States. It's happening in Europe. You have seen Russian attempts at interference and elections not just in France but in other European countries. And these countries are very concerned about President Trump's lack of acknowledgment that Russia is doing this not just to the United States and around the world. And then if you take that broader it is about the President's, you know, confidence in his intelligence community not just on the Russian issue but on other issues.

If he is going to say I don't trust my intelligence community on Russia what about when he goes to the international community and says my intelligence community tells me the following on North Korea. So he is not only kind of dissing his intelligence community on this Russia issue but it is putting a very bad taste in the mouth of his allies when he says that he is not trusting his whole intelligence community on the briefings he is getting every day. That is the message it sends. And it's very disconcerting to allies not just on this issue the last couple of days but throughout his whole term. That's what diplomats say privately.

WHITFIELD: Senator Bernie Sanders was asked today about, you know, Trump's explanation. And this is what Sanders had to say.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: You want to make friendships. You want to have good relationships. But at the same time as we have a president attacking the media every day as fake news, encouraging Republican governors around the country to suppress the vote, playing the race card in the sense of trying to divide us up by the color of our skin, by the country that we came from while he is doing all of these things he has wonderful things to say about Mr. Putin.

The idea that he reports back to us that Mr. Putin said that Russia did not have anything to do in terms of interfering with our elections, he believes them. While he does not believe the intelligence agencies of the United States of America is beyond absurd.


[16:15:23] WHITFIELD: All right. So Julian, what about this psychology or strategy, you know, that Trump doesn't want to insult Putin because he wants a good relationship?

ZELIZER: But he won't be able to have a good relationship until he acknowledges what happened and what Russia continues to undertake. Even when Ronald Reagan entered into negotiations with Gorbachev in the 1980s, he was still rhetorically very tough about what the Soviet Union did wrong from human rights violations to the danger of their nuclear arsenal. That's not what the president is doing.

And this is not a subtle president. That's what senator Sanders is saying. When he has an opinion he says it. So by not saying it, by being ambiguous he actually is undermining the ability to construct a new relationship. He will need support here in the U.S. And he will need clear eyes about the person he is dealing with and the country he is dealing with so it is a more realistic effort to build a relationship. They won't be friends. But we need to start by acknowledging the reality.

WHITFIELD: And Fred, what is the feeling or hope of this, you know, quote/unquote good relationship between U.S. and Russia where Putin and Trump?

PLEITGEN: Well, I certainly think that with the APEC summit there in Denman (ph) that it has received somewhat have boo (ph). But I think, you know, to the Russians a lot of this is about interest politics. Well, look at all these and they will say look, what's my interest in certain places and what's your interest in certain places?

I don't think the Russians are necessarily expecting that there is going to be better relations overnight. I mean, they look at a place like Syria, for instance, where there is cooperation or at least getting out of each other's way. I guess you could call it going on between the U.S. and Russia. And I think there are other issues like, for instance, Ukraine and especially Crimea crisis where the Russians are pretty clear that they don't think that there is going to be any sort of common ground.

But again, for the Russians, the main thing is, is there a possibility in their minds that the sanctions against them are going to go away? That is what is crippling the country. That's what have been tough on the country. And I think in that respect they do feel as though there might be a breath of fresh air in that especially after some of the meetings that President Trump has had with President Putin, some of those informal meetings. And that is what you really -- the vibe that you are getting here in Moscow.

There appears to be new confidence from the Russians in this administration. I can't stress enough that a couple of weeks ago the Russians really appeared to be down on this administration after you had, you know, what some people call the bromance between Vladimir Putin and President Trump in the first couple of weeks or months of the administration. They really seem to be down on the Trump administration. That seems to have changed since the meeting. The Russians seem to believe that there might be a road into getting rid of those sanctions. We will wait and see if that happens. Certainly, uphill battle. One of the things that the Russians don't seem to acknowledge is the political head wind that the president faces in what he seems to be trying to endeavor, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Fred Pleitgen, Elise Labott and Julian Zelizer, thank you so much. We are going to leave it right there. All right. Coming up, the Republican Alabama candidate for U.S.

Senate (INAUDIBLE) denying an allegation of sexual misconduct with just four weeks into the election. Will voters stick by him? We will discuss next.


[16:22:43] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.

Exactly one month from today, Alabama voters will head to the polls to cast their ballots for U.S. Senate. All eyes are on Roy Moore, the Republican candidate in that race. Moore still denying allegation of sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old girl when he was in his 30s.

Earlier today I spoke with Don Dailey, the host of Capital Journal on Alabama public television and asked him about Roy Moore's backers and what voters there think.


DON DAILEY, HOST, ALABAMA'S TV'S CAPITOL JOURNAL: Roy Moore has a very fervent loyal base of support here in Alabama who have stood by him through thick and thin. And of course, through several controversies that he has weathered here in Alabama over the years. And they are thinking at least among the ones that we have spoken to is that this latest allegation is part of a larger effort to destroy his credibility in the lead up to the U.S. Senate election here next month.

The base is loyal and seems fired up in large part at least according to those we talked to about wanting to continue to help him get elected next month and step up their efforts.

WHITFIELD: So you talk to a lot of Alabama political players. You are talking to, you know, ordinary folks, voters, as well. Is it their feeling that this is coming, you know, from Washington but not necessarily Democrats but from Republicans, leaders of the GOP who are trying to smear Roy Moore's campaign and reputation?

DAILEY: I have heard that more than once from several people who support Roy Moore. I think Judge Moore himself has said in recent days wondered allow if this wasn't just the work of Democrats if maybe it had to do with establishment Republicans in Washington who might be afraid that he might not be a party line tower, so to speak. It might be a maverick for their concern. I think there is that concern out there.

But at the same time the way this is playing out nationally is not necessarily the way it is playing out locally here in Alabama. I think a lot of people here in Alabama at least gauging by the ones we have spoken with are awaiting and seeing, so to speak, believe that all the facts are not in. Either they don't believe the allegations or they are so unsure that they want more information before they make a firm decision on whether or not they are going to support Roy Moore moving forward.


[16:25:04] WHITFIELD: CNN's Martin Savidge is also in Alabama.

And what are you hearing?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, you are no shortage for conversation when it comes to this subject Roy Moore and the allegations being made against him. It sent a shock wave not just through this community, his hometown, but through the state and most especially through his campaign which up to this point was doing fairly well and looked like he was well on his way to becoming the next senator of Alabama. There are different polls that test that. But his supporters definitely felt that.

I talked to a number of church goers because it is many of the conservative Christian base that had been supporting Roy Moore. This gentleman who I had spoke to is a friend but not of the same party. It's complicated. Listen.


JACK FLOYD, ALABAMA RESIDENT: Roy Moore is my friend. I'm a Democrat and I'm not going to vote for him because I'm a Democrat, but I have known him a long, long time. The thing that bothers me about those charges is that he has been in public life running for many offices and as many times as this happened no one has ever said anything until now. And I didn't think it comes from any place except Washington. It comes from Washington. It comes from the Republican Party.


SAVIDGE: He, too, seems to say the same thing that the gentleman you interviewed suggested that there is a belief that it may be a political conspiracy but not the obvious, the Democrats. But Republicans who are mainstream Republicans that really have a beef with Roy Moore.

I had a conversation with a woman who is a very close friend of Leigh Corfman. This is the woman who said at 14 she was molested by Roy Moore. She has known this woman for 20 plus years. She knows that Leigh Corfman is telling the absolute truth. As for why now because there has been an up-swell in the nation. You may remember the me too campaign that came after the Harvey Weinstein allegations. She felt this was the time to come forward about what happened to her. It continues to haunt her to this politically motivated her friends say -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Martin Savidge, thanks so much.

All right. Let's discuss with my panel. CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen and Republican strategist Rich Galen.

All right. Good to see you both.


WHITFIELD: All right. Rich, you see Kellyanne Conway spoke about the allegation this morning. Take a listen.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: The President said he should step aside if the allegations are true.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. If. If. So where is the if from?

CONWAY: (INAUDIBLE). I want to brought in this conversation. It would be a very dangerous precedent for any of us, for any person in this country to just be cast aside as guilty because of press reports. This is a democracy with a constitutional system that allows us to have a process. So if we are not in trial here I only know what I read. And what I read is very disturbing. And what I read offends me greatly as a woman, as a mother of three young girls.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Understood. But you are -- what you are saying essentially is maybe those four women are lying? Four women --

CONWAY: I didn't say that.


WHITFIELD: So Rich, how problematic is this as a whole for the GOP right now?

GALEN: Well, I mean, after last Tuesday I can't imagine other than an asteroid falling on the heads of the Republican leadership, I can't think of anything worse this week that could possibly happen. Well, maybe the President calling the head of North Korea a little fat short guy. But I mean, other than that let's just say.

But I mean, Kellyanne, that was typically kellyanne, you know, answering the question by not answering the question.

I tweeted today that if I had one vote left in my life and Roy Moore were the only person left on the ballot I still wouldn't vote for him and I voted for Republicans for 50 years. So I don't understand where this thing goes.

However, Hilary, the constitution article and section five does give the Senate and the House the right to decide who shall be a member of their body no matter what came before. I'm not a Senate guy. I'm the House guy. In the House, the motion is I ask the gentleman to stand aside. I'm not sure what the motion is in the Senate. But there is probably a similar motion that can be used to bring it to a vote in the Senate.

WHITFIELD: That apparently is was I the grammar. So if he were to win, Roy Moore were to win, do you believe that it would be wise for the Senate to exercise its options and see that he is not fit for office? I mean, we are going way, way ahead of, you know, December 12th but since you did kind of bring it up and you know in the realm of the House, if the Senate were to exercise something like that?


ROSEN: I think you take this issue and step way back. And it is a little bit what Martin said which is there is a wave in this country of women saying no more. We are not going to keep our secrets. We are not going to keep your secrets, they are saying to men across this country.

[16:30:06] And you know, what we have seen is in the private sector companies taking responsibility. If Roy Moore or frankly maybe for that matter, Donald Trump, had a board of directors they would be out of a job.

And I think that really what women are looking for is to be believed. The thing that is different now, it has nothing to do with when this election is, the thing that is different now is that the media has come up essentially with a new standard which is really important for women which is to say if you have corroboration from the time that this happened -- in other words, if you told someone at the time that this happened.

If there is a pattern of this behavior, if there are other people who have experienced similar behavior who don't all know each other, then the onus has to be on the guy to say that this didn't happen. And so I think these comments about we're going to have to see if this is proven to be true, there is no court of law here. There is no -- the statute of limitations is way over.


ROSEN: These women are not looking for anything from Roy Moore except to be honored with their own truth. And so I think that unless politicians are willing to stand up the same way that people in the private sector have, the way other men have acknowledged and say you know what, I did wrong here, then they are not serving their people. They are not serving their truth and they are not serving the country and this cultural shift cannot stop at politics' door.

WHITFIELD: Except right now at least in this case with Roy Moore coming out this Veterans Day weekend and digging in his heels and certainly leaving most to believe that he is not compelled to step away. He says this was 40 years ago and why now. And then you heard from one gentleman there, Martin Savage talked too who says he actually thinks that the Republicans perhaps in Washington that may be behind this. I mean, the voters will decide --

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, the voters will decide.

WHITFIELD: -- you know, on December 12, and if the voters decide to send him to the senate then what?

GALEN: Well, let me go to the -- this is the establishment Republicans in Washington theory. Greg Jones, the Democrat in the race is not a Richard B. Russell Democrat. He is not a standard all-time southern Democrat who is really a Republican in Democrats clothing. He is not Bernie Sanders. He is a pretty down the line Democrat.

So for the Republicans in Congress to invent this whole thing out of whole cloth to get a vote that will probably be pretty safe for Chuck Schumer just doesn't make sense to me. So that argument is just nonsense.

ROSEN: I think also, you know, honestly, the truth is if this were a Democratic candidate I would have the very same opinion here. I don't think that we can let this be about a political argument. And that's what Roy Moore is doing. And I think that everybody needs to reject that.

This was something uncovered by a nonpartisan "Washington Post" Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter, very credible. She didn't have an axe to grind. She didn't even go to Alabama for this story. It came up because they started asking around about Roy Moore's history and multiple people raised this and pointed them to these women.

So, this has been around for a long time. I think the idea that this is politically motivated needs to be rejected by both parties.

WHITFIELD: We shall see what happens in the next four and a half weeks or so. Meantime, let me change the topic just for a second looking way far ahead about former Vice President Joe Biden is right now on a tour, you know, promoting his book "Promise Me Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose" and he actually spoke with Oprah and of course she asked him about 2020, a run. Listen.


OPRAH WINFREY, HOST: Has there been a thought or consideration for 2020?

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, not yet. And I say that not yet because look, I'm a great respecter of fate. I don't plan on running. I don't know what things are going to be two years from now. You just don't know. So I promise you, I'm not doing anything to organize running but I'm going to go out there and continue to do what I have done since I have been 26 years old.


WHITFIELD: All right, did he leave the door open? To both of you, Hilary first.

ROSEN: Isn't there a law against lying in Oprah? I think that Joe Biden has thought plenty about running for president. I encourage him to do so. He would be a great candidate. He has a great heart.

GALEN: I encourage him to do it, too, because he is the worst candidate in American history.

ROSEN: I don't think that they've, you know,

[16:35:00] he doesn't have an organization. I think he is telling the truth about all of that. But look, he is what the Democratic Party stands for. He is for the working people. We have got to focus our message on the working people on what we are going to do to lift wages, to increase the opportunity here. You know, Joe Biden is a great spokesperson for that.

WHITFIELD: So Rich, you just said, you know, he'd be a great candidate but do you think the door was left open?

GALEN: Oh yes, sure. He has been doing this since he was 29 years old. He knows how to do it. But he is a terrible candidate for president, but he is great copy. He just says stuff that comes out of his mouth makes everybody stand up and cheer and race to their computers to make sure they can tweet it quickly.

ROSEN: Isn't that how you get elected president now?

GALEN: Unfortunately, I think you are right.

WHITFIELD: All right, we'll leave it there. Good to see you both. Rich Galen, Hilary Rosen, thank you. We'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: All right, in one hour we will get our first-hand look inside a Texas church where 26 people were killed just one week ago today. The First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs is opening its doors so the community can begin the healing process after that horrific massacre. Over the past week volunteers have come together to transform the crime scene into a beautiful memorial that celebrates the lives lost. CNN's Kaylee Hartung joins us now live from Sutherland Springs, Texas so, tell us about what's happened there.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Fred, the news that the doors of First Baptist Church would be open today as a memorial to the victims and that next Sunday, First Baptist would hold their Sunday worship service in their sanctuary, that news today was met with cheers and applause at a Sunday morning worship service that was held in a tent at a baseball field not far from here.

Pastor Frank Pomeroy explained the reasoning to say that he wants everyone who walks through the doors of that church to know that the men, women and children who lost their lives inside lived their life for God. He doesn't want those lives lost in vain. He said Satan attacked this building but the fact that is standing here as a memorial to those victims is proof that God is alive, as that congregation will gather there every Sunday moving forward.

And Fred, we learned more about the community that this church is for those who attended as Frank Pomeroy said, on Thanksgiving. Families who attend that church don't have a meal at their home. They have a meal at the church together. He reminded everybody this Thanksgiving that would be the case, with football on television, people coming together as friends and family that they are.

WHITFIELD: All right, Kauylee Hartung, thank you so much for bringing that to us. Still so much more straight ahead in the "Newsroom" but first, voting is now underway for the CNN hero of the year. Here is one of this year's top 10 heroes.


ANDREW MANZI, CNN HERO: It's an amazing feeling when you can look at another individual out in the water that you don't know tons about but you know that person has been through some stuff.


MANZI: I listed in 2003, a few weeks before our invasion of Iraq. People got blown up. People got shot. No matter what happened the day before you have to wake up the next day and do your job. I came home, felt like I had no control over myself and I was afraid of myself. And then I started surfing. I started meeting veterans in the water and teaching them how to surf.

Let's do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have PTSD but PTSD doesn't have me. I'm trying to learn how to redefine and be OK with looking back. Just being lifted up on that wave is like finding peace.

MANZI: I'm full of joy when I know that their hearts are a little bit lighter and they can enjoy this beautiful life.


WHITFIELD: All right, vote for any of your favorite top 10 heroes now at


WHITFIELD: Hi, welcome back and updates to breaking news. At least six people are dead and dozens injured after a major 7.3 earthquake struck close to the Iraq/Iran border. The epicenter was near the city of Halabja, Iraq. The quake was felt across much of that country and several other countries, as well. The Iraqi government is advising people to stay away from buildings. We will bring you updates as soon as we get them.

All right, today, a joint U.S./Africa command and Niger military investigation team travelled to the village of Tongo Tongo, Niger in order to gain a clearer understanding of the ambush which led to the death of four U.S. soldiers on October 4th. They are looking at the attack site and surrounding area.

Meantime, U.S. officials are investigating local eyewitness reports that one of the U.S. soldiers killed, Sergeant La David Johnson was found with his hands tied, that's according to a defense official though the U.S. military is not confirming those accounts. La David Johnson's body was found nearly a mile away from the scene of the ambush. The Jerry Sandusky sex scandal isn't over at Penn State and the price

the school is paying out in settlement has now topped $100 million. The university is now disclosing it recently paid another $16 million to people with abuse claims against the former assistant football coach. It's not clear how many people share this latest settlement but Penn previously settled with 33 others who claimed Sandusky molested them as children.

Still ahead, President Trump has said multiple times who he thinks should be under investigation. It's a subject of this week's "State Of The Cartoonion," next.


WHITFIELD: On this week's "State Of the Cartoonion," CNN's Jake Tapper looks at President Trump's penchant for federal investigations, at least when it concerns the DNC hack, Hillary Clinton and various conspiracy theorist.


JAKE TAPPER, HOST, CNN STATER OF THE CARTOONION (voice-over): It shouldn't come as a surprise that President Trump recently dispatched his CIA chief to meet with a conspiracy theorist when it comes to what happened with the DNC hacks and whether the Russians were involved. He has never shied away from tackling the toughest conspiracy theories.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): But he wasn't born in this country which is a real possibility, then he has pulled one of the great cons in the history of politics.

TAPPER (voice-over): Getting to the bottom of the crazy conspiracy theory about where Obama was born took five long years.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter like did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?

TAPPER (voice-over): And now that he's president, Mr. Trump no longer has to do all the hunting and fact finding on his own. He has now a full cabinet at his disposal.

TRUMP (voice-over): There are over 2 million criminal aliens in this country.

TAPPER (voice-over): Aliens? HUD Secretary Ben Carson is the man for the job.

BEN CARSON, SECRETARY OF HOUSIND AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT: When you look at the way the pyramids are made, you know, there are alien beings that came down.

TAPPER (voice-over): Speaking of national mysteries --

[16:55:00] TRUMP (voice-over): I see Elvis back there. Elvis, this is the last chance we get.

TAPPER (voice-over): Could Rick Perry say no to that one?

RICK PERRY, SECRETARY OF ENERGY: I hate to be conspiratorial.

TAPPER (voice-over): With his golf course in Scotland, President Trump himself might be the best person to investigate the Loch Ness monster.

TRUMP (voice-over): The bad news is that this is some big monster. You don't want to be in that path.

TAPPER (voice-over): Of course there is one area the president is not so interested in examining further, the actual facts of foreign interference in the 2016 election.

TRUMP (voice-over): I call it the Russian hoax. One of the great hoaxes.


WHITFIELD: All right, thank you so much for being with us this afternoon. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The next hour of the "CNN Newsroom" continues right after this.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to the "CNN Newsroom." I'm Boris Sanchez in for Ana Cabrera. It is just about 5:00 p.m. in New York. We thank you so much for joining us.

[05:00:00] And we start with something you will only see on CNN. Two men who were once responsible for the security of the United States today is saying that President Donald Trump's, naivete, ignorance or fear might be putting the U.S. in danger.