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President Trump lashing out saying he should have left three UCLA players to spend years in a Chinese jail seemingly because he got his feelings hurt by one players' dad; Jared Kushner's lawyer firing back today at the Senate judiciary committee; Top Alabama newspaper comes out against the controversial Senate candidate Roy Moore; U.S. military is confronting a troubling question, why is North Korea being so quiet?; Aired 7:00-8:00p ET

Aired November 19, 2017 - 19:00   ET



[19:00:18] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in Washington. Thanks for being here with us on this Sunday.

Breaking news. President Trump lashing out saying he should have left three UCLA players to spend years in a Chinese jail seemingly because he got his feelings hurt by one players' dad.

Two tweets from the President on it today. He writes, now that the three basketball players are out of China and safe from years of jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo is unaccepting what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail.

And then later he writes, shoplifting is a very big deal in China as it should be, five to ten years in jail. But not to father LaVar. Should have gotten his son out during my next trip to China instead. China told them why they were released. Very ungrateful.

Now Ball is an outspoken and controversial figure in the sports world. He said this to ESPN when asked about Trump's role in freeing his son and his teammates quote "who? What was he over there for? Don't tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seemed like he helped me out."

I want to bring CNN Boris Sanchez.

Now Boris, throughout these whole ordeal with these UCLA players, Trump wanted to make sure everyone knew he personally intervened.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right, Ana. Shortly after it was confirmed that they would be released and we found out from the White House that it was President Trump who personally asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to release and returned these UCLA students to the United States.

The President tweeted out, wondering aloud, if these students would actually thank him for intervening on their behalf. They did say thank you. He tweeted back to them saying that they

should be weary of the many pitfalls in life. And we thought it was over until we got that statement from LaVar Ball on Friday to ESPN. We should point out the two tweets that you mentioned were hours apart. So now this is something that the President is clearly spent his Sunday thinking about and others are now also responding.

Representative Adam Shift tweeting this out today about the President writing quote "the President would have left American students in a foreign jail because their families didn't lavish sufficient praise on him. How can someone in such a big office be so small?"

We'll see if this feud like many others of the President's on twitter will continue moving forward, Ana.

CABRERA: Speaking of feuds, Boris, President just tweeted again taking a shot at another target.

SANCHEZ: That's right. This would be Arizona senator Jeff Flake that was caught on a hot mic moment earlier this week not realizing his microphone was on while talking about the President and controversial Senate candidate in Alabama Roy Moore. Watch what happened.


SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: If we become the party of Roy Moore and Donald Trump, we are even toast.


SANCHEZ: So Jeff Flake has been a very vocal critic of President Trump, a vocal critic of Roy Moore as have been many other Republicans. The President has now been criticized for several days for not giving a definitive answer on whether or not he believes some of Roy Moore's accusers.

Actually today, Ana, on one of the Sunday morning shows, Mick Mulvaney, the director of the OMB, said that the President doesn't know who to believe and that the people of Alabama should decide who they do believe.

The President tweeted about Jeff Flake as you said a few moments ago, Ana, saying that he was saying bad things about your favorite President and suggesting that Flake would vote no on tax cuts because his political career anyway is toast. To be clear, Jeff Flake hasn't exactly taken a position on these tax cuts just yet. So the President making some speculation there, Ana.

CABRERA: Also calling him Jeff Flakey instead of Flake.

Boris Sanchez at the White House tonight, thank you.

I want to bring in our panel now. CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for the "Atlantic" Ron Brownstein, CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley and CNN sports analyst and columnist for "USA Today" Christine Brennan. Everybody, thank you for being here. A lot to talk about with the

dynamics of this situation.

Ron, is the President suggesting with these tweets regarding the UCLA basketball players if you don't offer thanks and gratitude or you don't agree with him, he is not going to help you?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that is what he is suggesting today, you know. And look, I mean, there may be some deep psychological need that impels him to go on twitter and attack anyone who he sees as standing up to him or disrespecting him in any way. But I think we have reached the point where you have to say there is more to this than that where this is clearly a conscious political strategy.

I mean, this is so obviously inappropriate and trivial for the President of the United States to be tweeting about just as it was bizarre for him to be tweeting given his history about Al Franken that I think -- this is a moment where a kind of the game is kind of made too transparent I think. And that the President sees it as in his interest to precipitate an endless accession of this 24, 48, 72 hour twitter fights and then move on to the next one.

I mean, he does pay a price for that. I mean, you can look at polls. And the share of people who say he lacks temperament to be President. But I think he sees this as a way of both shifting the spotlight away from the agenda, this grinning through Congress and also signaling to his base that he is willing to fight any institution or individual who is standing up to him.

And so, you know, we are basically I think being pulled around by the tail because there will be something after this on Wednesday. I guarantee you.

[19:05:49] CABRERA: And yet, I read those comments from LaVar Ball that he made to ESPN and I thought, why would he say that?

Christine, a lot of people may not know LaVar Ball. But he, of course, is the father of this UCLA basketball player. But he is a controversial figure in his own right who has actually been parodied on SNL. I want our viewers to see this.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He would need help.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to tell you right now. He's better than Steph Curry to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put Steph Curry on UCLA's team right now and put my boy on Golden State and watch what happens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My three sons dominate the basketball plays.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just look at me. I am a giant, full head of hair.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You still think that Alonzo's going to win MVP?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is going to win the dunk contest. The three- point shooting contest. Every single kind of ball, jackpot. And he'll be named America's next top model.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But shoplifting in China?



CABRERA: I mean, LaVar Ball has said he could take on Michael Jordan and beat him. I mean, is Trump just giving Ball exactly what he wants more attention, Christine?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, SPORTS COLUMNIST, USA TODAY: Absolutely, Ana. This is the greatest thing that ever happened to LaVar Ball. And I would tell the President, what many of us in sports media has been trying to tell each other for the last few months, which is to ignore this guy.

LaVar Ball is -- picture the worst mom or dad on your kid's youth sport sideline, the worst screamer that you have ever met multiplied times ten, maybe multiplied times 100 and that's LaVar Ball. He is one of these guys that just can drive you crazy. He is gone on sexist rants and got a female referee removed from his youngest son basketball game this summer. He has had other sexist rants. He is, you know, he is really not a good guy. And there are a lot of people - I have been critical of him, a lot of people have been critical of this behavior.

But to think that now he has been able to troll the President of the United States, Ana, and drag the President into a twitter war or war of words with a guy who is, other than being ridiculous parent, basically harmless and this is the President of the United States. This is unbelievable that we are here. And that this is the kind of conversation we are having because even though that they probably deserve each other in many ways, the fact that it's the President, the weight of that office and just this goofy and ridiculous sports father, it is hard to believe we are mentioning both of them in the same sentence.

CABRERA: Forgive what the father said, after the President wondered aloud on twitter whether the UCLA basketball players would thank him. They did just that. In fact, here it is.


CODY RILEY, UCLA BASKETBALL PLAYER ARRESTED IN CHINA: To President Trump and the United States government, thank you for taking the time to intervene on our behalf. We really appreciate you helping us out. LIANGELO BALL, UCLA BASKETBALL PLAYER ARRESTED IN CHINA: I would also

like to thank President Trump and the United States government for the help that they provided as well.

JALEN HILL, UCLA BASKETBALL PLAYER ARRESTED IN CHINA: Thank you to the United States government and President Trump for your efforts to bring us home.


CABRERA: So Doug, the tweet first demanding the thanks. They do it. And now there's this spat with the player's dad for the lack of appreciation. What has the President actually accomplished for all of this?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: You know, Donald Trump though looks amazingly small for engaging in this. Obviously, Mr. Ball is a sensualist. He is looking for attention. They are to peas in a pod, President Trump and Mr. Ball, in that fact.

And you know, remember, Donald Trump on the campaign one African- American leader that was often out of sight is Don King and that kind of sensationalized approach to American popular culture.

But for the President to do this, he is casting Aspergens on these three young men now who did do the apology and there he is blaming the father for them when they took to the mic and humbled themselves after idiocy of their shoplifting.

So it's another example I think of Donald Trump just being a disappointment, credibly shrinking presidency just a little bit of red meat to his base. And there may be a racial tinge to all this, the fact that he wants to have a war with somebody like Mr. Ball. I think he can win that, Donald Trump, and it will appeal to his base.

[19:10:13] CABRERA: Ron, do you think that's the case?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, I do. Look, I agree. I think there is a racial element in this. But I don't think it's at the foreground. I really do think that, you know, we have been through this long enough that I feel sometimes like I'm watching an episode of curb your enthusiasm where there's going to be another argument in ten minutes. Because that is central to his conception of the presidency.

He has not shown that he can move public opinion on -- around their agenda. The healthcare bill faced greater than two to one opposition by the time it was finish. There's more than two to one opposition in the polling this week. The tax plan which is moving forward. But yet, it is moving forward. And we have trouble sustaining the focus on the debate about a bill that's going to add 1.5 trillion to the deficit and raise taxes on 40 percent of people --

CABRERA: And in fact, he needs some of those senators like Jeff Flake to get on board with his agenda and he is going after Jeff Flake tonight calling him Flakey. BROWNSTEIN: And yet, you know, I believe that congressional

Republicans have come to peace with this idea that it's almost a division of responsibility where his job is to stir up these cultural often racially tinged dispute that energize their base and also distract the media while they advance their agenda through Congress, that is, you know, an historically conservatively agenda. And that I think is what is holding the coalition together even though, as Douglas was saying, it has a clear price on his public standing. And you do have the significant majority of Americans saying he doesn't have the temperament, judgment, values that they want to see in a President.

Nonetheless, it is a kind of functioning apparatus at this point because the agenda is moving forward even as all these fireworks go off somewhere else.

CABRERA: Christine, I'm seeing some of the social media comments, saying, President Trump was right in some ways on this issue and LaVar Ball was wrong. Could this, in fact, have a negative impact on the future of his son's career because obviously UCLA was hoping that this whole scandal would die down?

BRENNAN: Well, and all three of the players right now including LaVar Ball's son, Ana, they are suspended indefinitely. And one would hope they will be suspended the entire year. And who knows that they will even come back to school. This is a very serious thing that did happen that now we are trivializing and talking about all the other parts of it.

You know, Doug mentioned the racial component here. And it takes me right back to late September and Donald Trump crash landing into the Colin Kaepernick story when he was down in Alabama and it was a political speech and he turns it into SOB line and, of course, then triggered for what, a good five, six, seven weeks this national conversation and this divisive conversation as teams were kneeling, players were kneeling, et cetera as that all came back up. That story was dead until Trump found a hand grenade in a 140 characters right back into it.

So one wonders if now, here he goes again from the sports perspective, he has taken over these conversations in a way we have never seen a President or any political leader, Ana, have anywhere near this kind of interest or time or inclination to even begin to devote any of their energy to something like this but here we are.

CABRERA: Doug, Ron mentioned the tax reform debate and that happening right now at the same time these tweets are coming out. It is also coming at a time when the President's son-in-law and his son are under increased scrutiny in the Russian probe. Coincidence?

BRINKLEY: No. I think the son-in-law and the son and the Russia probe, the next two days is going to get very frantic and hot. He is looking, President Trump, to change the conversation. He does like to own the weekends meaning that he wants people to talk about Trump not judge Roy Moore or anybody else.

CABRERA: I mean, there's never a slow news weekend around here. That's for sure.

BRINKLEY: Never. He loves doing this. We have been on, Ana, many times when he kind of suddenly blows up a Sunday just to be in the headlines again. But I have a feeling that the heat is getting on the Russia probe. That tomorrow, the big stories is going to start being his son and son-in-law and the fact that the tax plan is Donald Trump doesn't know how to sell it. He sold nothing to Congress this year. They have got an empty year. And he may be hedging. He might think that all Republican tax plan won't work and he doesn't want to be seen as having overly promoting it and coming up with a zero, hence he continues to be the Trump drum not the GOP tax plan drum.


CABRERA: We have got to run, Ron. I will let you have the last few seconds. Go ahead.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, real quick. Look. I think, you know, the Republicans may think this is a division of responsibility that is working. But if you look at the polling, the biggest kind of group of voters who have judged Donald Trump as temper mentally unfit for the White House are those white collar white voters. And you saw them move in big numbers in Virginia, New Jersey, Seattle, Philadelphia in the election earlier this month, allowing this to go on for the Republicans in Congress is not as cost-free as they believe even if they can advance their agenda.

[19:15:05] CABRERA: And when you talk about Trump supporters that makes me think of Roy Moore and what's happening there.

We are going to talk about that later this hour as well.

Ron Brownstein, Christine Brennan and Douglas Brinkley, thank you all for joining us for that discussion.

Coming up, some breaking news. The attorneys for the President's son- in-law speaking to CNN about the new questions surrounding Jared Kushner and documents not handed over in the Russia probe.

Stay with us.


[19:19:32] CABRERA: Jared Kushner's lawyer firing back today at the Senate judiciary committee for accusing the President's son-in-law of not disclosing key documents including information about WikiLeaks.

Attorney Abbe Lowell spoke to our Evan Perez.


ABBE LOWELL, JARED KUSHNER'S ATTORNEY: The committee investigations unfortunately are devolving into political gotcha games. If committees selectively leak parts of interviews or send me letters through the media or turn Jared Kushner's very clear email that there should be no contact with anybody in a foreign country into what they call a missing document, then they are undermining their own credibility. The issue of Russia interference in the 2016 election say serious one but these committee actions are not.


[19:20:17] SANCHEZ: Now that comment comes after senators, both the Republican and Democrat in the top of the Judiciary Committee claimed Kushner received an email about WikiLeaks and passed it on and a campaign official. And in his earlier statements he said he didn't recall any campaign contact with WikiLeaks.

He also didn't turn over the emails that shows this, I guess, transfer of the email from Don Jr. initially to other members of the Trump campaign.

Now joining me is CNN legal analyst Paul Callan.

And Paul, when you hear those comments from Kushner's attorney, do you agree that this is a gotcha game?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I was looking at a very angry lawyer there. Abbe Lowell looks very angry at the way his client is being treated because of this gotcha thing. And meaning, essentially, that they are just trying to set my client up. They are not really trying to get information.

And the basis of his anger as a lawyer is that he says, you know, we turned over all the information that the House committee asked us to turn over. And I then said to the Senate committee, I'm going to give you everything that we gave to the House committee. And the Senate committee then leaked and said they have given us incomplete information. Well, he is saying we didn't give him incomplete information. I gave them exactly what I told them I was giving them the same stuff the House got.

So from a technical standpoint, he is exactly correct. He gave the information that they asked for. But from a public relations standpoint, I think he has got a problem because these emails that were forwarded to Jared Kushner by Don Jr. made explicit reference to contacts that the campaign had had with Russians. And then Kushner -- and then Kushner forwarded on to other people. So it passed through his email system. And I think the public and the Congress has a right to expect that that would be turned over.

CABRERA: Now we know Kushner has done interviews with two of the committees, the intelligence committee in both the Senate and the House that are investigating the Russia ties to the election and any interference, but he hasn't interviewed as far as our knowledge with the special counsel's office yet. Does that surprise you?

CALLAN: No, it doesn't surprise me because Mueller has been very meticulous about interviewing all the peripheral figures, the people on the edges of the scandal if we can call it a scandal and then he moves in to the center the people who really have the information. You know, he is interviewing people in the White House now. So my bet is he is saving Jared Kushner for the end when he has got

all of his ducks in a row and he knows exactly what information Kushner should have had and he will see how much is going to get turned over.

But Mueller is going to be up against a really talented lawyer here. And Abbe Lowell, remember, this is the guy who just represented Senator Menendez and got a hung jury in that case. And one of the interesting things as a lawyer have to tell you is that the jury asked that his summation be read back to them. And that's a very -- that's quite a compliment to a lawyer when the jury asks for your summation rather than the evidence in the case. And really the hung jury was a win for him. So he is a formidable adversary for the Mueller investigation.

CABRERA: I want to ask you about Rob Goldstone because we know he is going to be talking with the special counsel and he is the middle man who is publicist. He set up that now infamous meeting with the Russia lawyer at Trump tower and all these people were there, Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, campaign chair Paul Manafort. While he is talking today, breaking his silent telling the Sunday times in the UK that the hardest part has been dealing with peoples' perception of who I am, peoples' perception of what went on and having to say nothing. Those things don't freak me out. What freaks me out is silence. There's nothing harder than saying nothing.

So Paul, it sounds like he is eager to talk. How do you interpret that?

CALLAN: He is eager to talk but this guy is comic relief as compared to Abbe Lowell. Because he is almost a clown in the way he runs -- how he makes public statements about his public relations operation. And I mean, what he essentially was referring to in those two statements is the fact that he is now saying, well, he was exaggerating to get Don Jr. to be interested in setting up the meeting with the Russian lawyer.

There are conflicts in his testimony because there are some emails and Facebook postings indicating that he called her a Russian government attorney and then later on he calls her a private citizen. And of course her connection to the Russian government would be a key, an important key to this entire investigation. So as foolish and crazy as he sounds he could be an important witness ultimately.

[19:25:05] CABRERA: All right. Paul Callan, we appreciate your legal expertise. Thank you for joining us.

CALLAN: OK. Always nice being with you, Ana.

CABRERA: Likewise. Great to have you on.

Coming up, more outrage. A top Alabama newspaper comes out against the controversial Senate candidate Roy Moore. The scathing op-ed taking aim now at his sex abuse scandal in Alabama.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [19:29:50] CABRERA: Judge Roy Moore, Republican nominee for Senate in Alabama. Today saw all the support from his state biggest media group disappear. These were the headlines on the most widely read newspapers in Alabama today.

Stand for decency, reject Roy Moore.

Below that, an endorsement for the Democratic nominee, Doug Jones.

Now the growing list of sexual misconduct accusations against Moore is what drove to support the Democrat. Very unusual move in the state that is deeply red. President Trump hasn't said a word about this Moore situation in several days. But a White House official is speaking for the President this weekend.


[19:30:31] MARC SHORT, WHITE HOUSE LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS DIRECTOR: The President has expressed his concern about this. As you noted, the President has not gone down to Alabama to campaign for Roy Moore since the primary concluded. We have serious concerns about the allegations that have been made. He is also concern that these allegations are 38 years old, Roy Moore has been in public service for decades and the accusations did not arise until a month before election. So we are concerned about several aspects of the story. We are very concerned about the allegations. But at this point as I have said, we think it's best for the people of Alabama to make the decision for them.


CABRERA: I want to go to CNN's Nick Valencia. He is in Gadsden, Alabama with the very latest -- Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, it has no doubt been a difficult week and a half for the Senate Republican candidate Roy Moore. But even still, his supporters are digging in and so is the candidate showing no signs of withdrawing. But this morning, more bad news for the Moore campaign. The largest newspaper in Alabama, the Birmingham News, sending out this editorial. This is what residents are waking up too here, this bold headline asking voters to reject Roy Moore.

This is what they are saying in part of their editorial. Do not make your voting decision based on who will effect in your hometown. There's only one candidate left in this race who has proven worthy of the task representing Alabama, he is Doug Jones.

The editorial goes on to say do not let this conversation be muddled. This election has become a referendum on whether we will accept this kind of behavior from our leaders.

But we have been talking to voters here all week long and all these allegations against him may not seem to matter much to his most ardent supporters. We have even spoke to some people who say even if these allegations of sexual assault are true against Roy Moore, they would much rather vote for the Republican over a Democrat -- Ana. CABRERA: Valencia in Gadsden, Alabama. Thank you.

And new tonight, an aid to Minnesota senator Al Franken said the Democrat has no intention of stepping down. There have been calls for his resignation after news anchor Leeann Tweeden came forward of accusing him of forcibly kissing her and groping her during a USO tour back in 2006. Now this was before Franken was in office, of course.

A spokesperson for Franken says he is doing a lot of reflecting while spending time with his family to thanksgiving holiday. And tonight, we are also learning Franken has been cut out of a PBS special that he taped in honor of comedian David Letterman.

Coming up, the general in-charge of the nation's nuclear arsenal talks Trump and what could happen if he ordered an illegal ranch.

Plus, mystery surrounding North Korea and why there hasn't been a missile test for more than two months. The big question, what is Kim Jong-un up to?


[19:37:33] CABRERA: Tonight, the U.S. military is confronting a troubling question, why is North Korea being so quiet? It has been over two months now since Kim Jong-un ordered any new missile or nuclear tests. And in that silence, lots of speculation about what the regime could be up to.

Here's Barbara Starr.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): North Korea hasn't conducted a missile test in over two months. The silence since the last test, September 14th, now an urgent puzzle for U.S. military intelligence. The U.S. special representative for North Korea policy says, he doesn't know what's going on inside the regime's effort to build weapons that could attack the U.S.

JOSEPH YU, U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR NORTH KOREA POLICY: I would hope that they would stop forever, you know, and -- but we have had no communications from them so I don't know whether to interpret it positive or not.

STARR: Some U.S. officials say the North Korean pause in weapons testing may be due to pressure from China. But defense secretary James Mattis possibly sending a new signal to Pyongyang that there is a way out of the crisis short of the demand for the complete denuclearization of North Korea that President Trump has called for.

Mattis telling reporters, so long as they stop testing, stop developing, they don't export the weapons, there would be opportunity for talk. After secretary of state Rex Tillerson in September suggested talks with North Korea, President Trump appeared to undermine him tweeting, I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful secretary of state that he is wasting our time trying to negotiate with little rocket man.

But inside the administration some are wondering if counter to the President, Mattis and Tillerson are knowingly playing the good cop role.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: They realize that the actual idea of denuclearizing the North Korean military is really far-fetched. It's not going to happen. North Korea is going to hold on to its nukes for as long as it possibly can and that they are not going to willingly give them up.

STARR: Kim still may have other dire plans. The U.S. government believes North Korea is using a malware called fall chill. Its cyber operatives may be hacking into financial institutions, stealing money to increase their cash flow for expensive weapons testing.

[19:40:07] LEIGHTON: The North Koreans may be using this pause to in essence mind some money out of different hacks that they do.

STARR: North Korea's next weapons steps could include working on a missile launching submarine. Commercial satellite imagery has revealed the latest efforts at their symposium yard complex.


CABRERA: That was Barbara Starr. Thanks to her.

In the meantime, the top U.S. nuclear commander says, he would refuse nuclear strike orders from President Trump if those orders were illegal. General John Hyten says his first obligation is to follow the law and not just the orders of the commander-in-chief.


GEN. JOHN HYTEN, COMMANDER, U.S. STRATEGIC COMMAND: I provide advice to the President. He'll tell me what to do and if it's illegal guess what's going to happen.


HYTEN: I'm going to say, Mr. President, that's illegal. And guess what he is going to do? He is going to say what would be legal? And we will come up with options that makes of capabilities to respond and whatever the situation is. I mean, that's the way it works. It's not that complicated.


CABRERA: Let's discuss with our own military expert and analyst retired lieutenant general Mark Hertling.

General, thank you for spending some of your weekend with us. What was your reaction when you heard those comments?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: When I heard just the snippet, Ana, I knew there was probably a lot more to it and there was. When you look at the context of General Hyten's speech to that conference in Halifax to a bunch of allies and U.S. officers out of strategic command, you realize it was a free flowing conversation in what he was talking about is the various aspects of planning and processing in the event of the potential of a nuclear war.

What he said is technically correct. And I have said this multiple times on CNN about other issues, when soldiers, commanders are given illegal orders they have an obligation not to obey them. It's part of our oath. We not only support and defend the constitution, but we obey the orders of the President and the orders appointed over us according to regulation and the uniform code of military justice.

So what the General Hyten was basically proclaiming everyone is calm down a little bit. Everyone, in fact, this comes on the tail of what was going on in Congress with a vote to hold on to some of the nuclear authorities and what he was basically saying is, trust us. We have the capability to go through processes. And we would not take an illegal or an immoral or unethical order from anyone in terms of launching nuclear weapons.

CABRERA: I mean, you bring up what happened in Congress this week which was really significant when you look at the fact that in the past four years there hasn't been a congressional hearing that really dives in to the authority of the President, the sole authority to launch these nuclear strikes.

I mean, is there any upside or advantage or disadvantage to removing that power from the President, saying it has to go through Congress to get a signoff?

HERTLING: Well, in my view it would be extremely disadvantageous. You know, those processes and systems were put in place for a reason. Now a lot of the things that are connected to the nuclear football were put in place after President Kennedy back in the '60s and the Cuban missile crisis said, hey, I have got to have the ability to react from wherever I am but he didn't say all by myself. What he said was, it was in case of dire emergency, I have to have this nuclear football that has the codes in case -- in case I have to react. But you still go through a process when you are talking about either a strike or a preemptive action against another country.

So yes, I think what's going on in Congress personally is much ado about nothing. They are driving some things up. And I think -- I know the processes are in place to make sure nothing illegal or immoral happens and that the defense of our country is foremost in the mind of everyone.

CABRERA: What do you make of the fact that we haven't seen a missile test or really any action on that front from North Korea in a couple months and I'm going to knock on wood as I say that? (INAUDIBLE)

HERTLING: And you and I have been on multiple times with weekend launches.

CABRERA: I know. I hope I didn't jinx it. HERTLING: Yes, you probably did. But here is what I say. I think

Barbara Starr's commentary and her report is right on the money. There are other things going on. And I think some of the things that you talked about in that clip were probably at the forefront, but there are maybe a few other things.

I think Kim Jong-un is possibly looking at expanding his capability so that means pairing launch systems, the missiles, with perhaps the weapon system. That would be the logical next step in launching a missile even if it was for a target in the middle of the ocean.

He has done about as much as he can without wasting more time and more energy and more resources just by launching another missile. So I think what he is trying to do is go to the next level. Some of the other things that were mentioned in the report could certainly be true as well but I think what you are saying is Kim Jong-un trying to bring this to the next level of capability.

[19:45:13] CABRERA: Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, good to see you. Thanks for being here.

HERTLING: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: I want to get to this breaking news right now out of southwest Texas. We are learning a border patrol agent is now dead after injuries he received while on patrol in the van horn area. This is near the Mexico border. The agent's partner was also injured in the incident but officials are not saying exactly what happened, only that the FBI is investigating. We will continue to work to get more details and past those along here in the NEWSROOM.

Still to come, late night in the age of Trump.

CNN's Brian Stelter sits down with some of the greatest names in comedy to see how they are world has been turned upside down by the current President.


[19:50:28] CABRERA: Ripped straight from the headlines, (INAUDIBLE), have made for TV movie for years now. In the age of Trump, it has become the bread and butter for late night comedy. This the focus of a CNN Special Report that premiers tomorrow night. And here's the preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to be a crazy one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every day there's something nuts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are not the Potus accident is, you are the blotus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait. How long does this wall have to be?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's the most mocked man in America. Monopolizing late night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is the problem with the media.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Monopolizing late night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard not to feel defended.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kim Jong-un, rocket man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kim Jong-un as rocket man.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Such a nasty little --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's like a mime producing raw material.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's blowing up scripts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Case of the news.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So much faster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Making and breaking careers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like a little kind of (INAUDIBLE).


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you say you're on a mission to take him down?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like to see him brought down to the ground. Preferably in handcuffs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're turning into a real (bleep).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has late night gone too far?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Disrespectful of the office of the presidency? I think so.


CABRERA: Let's bring in CNN senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES" Brian Stelter.

Brian, first of all, what a great assignment. What a fun assignment for you to explore this issue, to talk to these comedians. You know, we have become accustomed to having to blow up our script here at CNN because of something the President tweeted, I mean, is that the new normal for late night comics too?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's happened three times today here in CNN. It is definitely happens at these late night shows as well. That's one of the reasons why we wanted to take this moment one year since Election Day to look at how the late night shows have changed. Because I really think they have permanently changed due to President Trump. These shows in some cases are more partisan. They are more polarized. They are definitely more political. In fact, the only comedians who haven't gone in that kind of anti-Trump direction are the ones that have had ratings trouble lately.

But going to your point about rewriting the scripts in the last minute, that was the consistency in those all the interviews we did in recent months. That inside the writers rooms and inside the studios, comedians are having to rewrite jokes and come up with entirely new jokes right up until the air time because of this insane news cycle.

One of the best examples was the day that James Comey was fired from the FBI. It happened during the 5:00 p.m. hour on the east coast. And usually, these shows are taping at 5:00, 6:00, 7:00 p.m., until all the late night staffs had to go back to the drawing board coming out like that.

CABRERA: You know, we talked to Jeff Frost yesterday. And he talked about activist comedy. And when you talk about (INAUDIBLE) involve in comedy, I mean, is that the goal of what they are trying to accomplish through these skits?

STELTER: I think someone like Chelsea Handler or Seth Myers might describe it that way, activist comedy. They are trying to get folks to open their eyes and see what is going on. And admittedly doing that from a liberal perspective in most of these cases.

We also heard the phrase investigative comedy thrown around recently. You know, John Oliver for example, using video clips, using mash-ups, trying to show a kind of journalistic investigation, but clearly from a point of view often times a very Trump skeptical point of view or an outright anti-Trump point of view.

So we have seen a lot of that. Some it works better than others, you know. Chelsea Handler, for example, is leaving her nightly show on Netflix, first it was nightly, then it was weekly, now she is leaving the show entirely. She just want to spend more time actually being an activist.

CABRERA: How interesting. And yet, some of their skit have often well-received. The President as we know does not like Alec Baldwin's impersonation of him on SNL. I mean, how huge is the impact of all of this taking on the President, do you think?

STELTER: I think a lot of these comedians deep down inside were the biggest preachers to the choir. And certainly Baldwin expressed that concern in interviews, you know. He is proud of the caricature that he is putting on SNL. Honestly I think SNL is kind of empty on the weeks he is not there. He wasn't on last night. And you could tell the show was missing something when Baldwin playing Trump is not on.

But deep down inside, some of these comics wonder are they changing anybody's mind? And I'm not so sure they are anymore.

CABRERA: Brian Stelter, thank you as always for joining us this weekend. Can't wait to e soot special coming up tomorrow night. It's a Special Report late night in the age of Trump. It's at 9:00 eastern Monday here on CNN.

Much more ahead in the NEWSROOM. We'll be right back.


[19:59:39] CABRERA: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in Washington.

We begin on this Sunday with a twitter feud that's escalating yet again tonight. A feud that is striking because it involves the leader of the free world and the issue of imprisoned Americans overseas.

The President tweeting again, slamming LaVar Ball whose son plays for UCLA and Trump apparently not feeling thanked enough for the assist he gave to get his son out of the Chinese jail after he and two teammates were accused of shoplifting.