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Consumer Agency Now Has Two Acting Leaders, Who's In Charge?; Flynn's Lawyers Stop Sharing Info With Trump's Lawyers; Navy Identifies Three Sailors Killed In Plane Crash; The Senate Tax Reform Bill Only Serves to Hurt the Middle Class; Ethics Committee Must Conduct Thorough Investigation into Allegations against Rep. John Conyers; Doug Jones Seeks to Swing Alabama Voters Democrat; Few Questions Answered in the Mysterious Death of Border Patrol Agent Rogelio Martinez; Vote for CNN Hero of the Year Stan Hayes; Deadliest Terror Attack in Egypt's History Most Likely Carried Out by ISIS Affiliate Sinai Province. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired November 25, 2017 - 12:00   ET



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: -- interim chief of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after its director stepped down, but that set up a political and legal clash because the outgoing director chose someone else, his chief of staff or deputy.

In a tweet, Senator Elizabeth Warren who helped create the consumer agency said this, "The Dodd-Frank Act is clear, if there is a CFPB director vacancy, the deputy director becomes acting director. Donald Trump cannot override that," she says.

The White House is now defending the move, calling it routine and arguing they have the law on their side.

Let's get the very latest now with CNN's Boris Sanchez in Washington. So, Boris, what more is the White House saying about this?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Fred. Good afternoon. Yes. White House officials are essentially saying that the president can do this, that it's legally up to the president to make this decision. They cited the Vacancies Act of 1998 which gives the president broad powers to make these kinds of appointments.

That now is being disputed by people like Senator Elizabeth Warren, who was one of the architects of Dodd-Frank, which, in part, created the CFPB, and there's a statute within the structure of the agency, which essentially says that if the director is unavailable or unavailable to act on the agency's behalf, then the deputy director steps in.

That's what it appears that Richard Cordray was doing by naming Leandra English deputy director before his resignation. That's the legal dispute. Aside from all of that, there's also a controversy because of who the president appointed.

The director of the OMB, Mick Mulvaney, has been a very vocal critic of this agency. Here's just a taste of what he said previously.


REPRESENTATIVE MICK MULVANEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It's a wonderful example of how a bureaucracy will function if it has no accountability to anybody. It turns up being a joke, and that's what the CFPB really has in a sick, sad kind of way. You've got an institution that has tremendous authority over what you all do for a living, over your businesses, over your members.


SANCHEZ: Now, in our call with reporters earlier today, White House officials said that they are hoping that this doesn't wind up a legal fight, but that they are prepared if it goes in that direction.

Further, they said that the president had yet to decide on a permanent replacement for director of the CFPB, but we should expect one in the coming weeks. It's still a possibility that Mick Mulvaney remains in that position as the permanent appointment -- Fred.

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

President Trump is also causing some confusion over a tweet claiming he turned down "Time" magazine's offer to be person of the year. The president tweeted, "Time magazine called to say that I was probably going to be named man, person, of the year, but like last year I would have to agree to an interview and a major photo shoot. I said probably is no go, and took a pass, thanks anyway."

"Time" magazine responded. The president is incorrect about how we choose person of the year. "Time" does not comment on our choice until our publication which is December 6th.

President Trump was named "Time's" person of the year last year in 2016 following his victory over Hillary Clinton. We won't know this year's winner for another 11 days now.

All right. Joining me now, CNN political commentators, Hilary Rosen and Paris Dennard. Hilary, let me begin with you. We are going to talk about the "Time" magazine debacle and confusion.

But first, let's talk about the other thing that's very confusing that has resulted to this now showdown over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. So why is the president picking a potential fight that he just might lose with Congress and the courts over this kind of naming of a new director?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And let's be clear, Fred, this consumer protection bureau is much more important to the American people than whether or not the president gets on another photo cover.

And for this reason, because it is the one federal agency, we'll step back for a minute, that has authority to say to the banks, you can't charge usury fees for credit cards. That has power over debt collectors. That has pushed back on fraudulent student loans. Like, this is the agency that protects consumers. It was created eight years ago. It is an important agency. It is extremely popular with the American people and it has helped enormous amount of people. The people trying to kill it are the big banks and the debt collection agencies.

So, that tells you sort of everything you need to know. And the fact that the Trump administration is going to get in bed with the big banks to try and kill this agency that protects people against malfeasance from the banks is really unfortunate.

What I think we will have though is a court fight because the -- you know, we have conflicting laws.

[12:05:01] Does the president have the right under the Vacancy Act to appoint a director or should the statute creating the agency in and of itself be the dominant thing, and that will go to court, but it is a court fight worth having for the American people.

WHITFIELD: So Paris, why would the president want to have this court battle or battle with Congress? You know, the director, outgoing director, Richard Cordray, wrote in a letter to his staff saying "Accordingly, upon my departure, Leandra English will become the acting director pursuant to Section 1011 of the Dodd/Frank Act.

In considering how to ensure an orderly succession for this independent agency, I determined it would be best to avoid leaving this key position open only in an acting capacity."

So, if, you know, Dodd/Frank spells it out, this is what would happen, the deputy would become, you know, the acting director, why would the president, you know, direct his OMB to be the director? Why would that appointment be made knowing that it could now be a battle in Congress and in the courts? How is this advantageous for the White House?

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's advantageous for the American people because what we have to understand is why while Hilary might be correct in saying that this is an important agency to the American people, what we've seen in the past is when you have bureaucrats in government who are allowed to make decisions, regulatory decisions, that can have adverse impact on the American people.

You look at what happened with the IRS and with Lois Lerner in particular targeted conservative groups, challenging their tax status. You look at what happened under the Obama administration at the Department of Education when it came to --

WHITFIELD: But this is supposed to be an independent advocacy, consumer advocacy agency --

ROSEN: Name one time --

WHITFIELD: -- what do you mean?

ROSEN: Name one time that this agency protected consumers in the wrong way, name one time, Paris.

DENNARD: What I'm saying is the president --

ROSEN: Because that's what its job is, to protect consumers so name a time when it didn't.

DENNARD: What I'm saying is the president has the right to appoint somebody in an office --

ROSEN: No, you're saying it's a problem agency. Name one time it was a problem for consumers.

DENNARD: Actually, Hilary, I never said that, what I'm saying is the importance of the president putting in a person whom he understands, who he trusts, who has a background and understanding and is politically aligned with the agenda of this administration in terms of doing what is right for the American people. We have seen in the past is the point I was making --

WHITFIELD: But if there's a framework in place on how an outgoing director and an incoming is --

DENNARD: That's not quite right --

WHITFIELD: -- it seems like you're making a different argument though so --

DENNARD: If you look at the framework that was put in place, if this is such an important thing to outgoing director, he would have had a deputy director. As I understand it, this woman was the chief of staff.

He made the chief of staff in a deal right before he left the deputy director to make her the acting director. So, there's an issue with the acting director. He would have done this and had a deputy director in place all along.


WHITFIELD: In his letter --

ROSEN: That's not the administration's --

WHITFIELD: -- in consultation over the past few days, I have also come to recognize appointing the current chief of staff to the deputy director position would minimize operational disruption and provide for a smooth transition given her operational expertise.

ROSEN: It's clear also that the administration would have opposed the deputy or the chief of staff, even if there was a deputy in place. What they want is Mick Mulvaney to come in because he has consistently sided with the banks against the consumer agency.

WHITFIELD: And he's also been very critical of this agency when he was a member of Congress --

DENNARD: And there's nothing wrong with that --

WHITFIELD: -- calling it a joke and a --

DENNARD: -- at the end of the day, elections have consequences and so many of those consequences, that the president gets to put in the people who have the agenda that he has.

WHITFIELD: So then, Paris, is this a precursor to potentially getting rid of this independent agency, since Mulvaney has already been on record saying he doesn't like it?

DENNARD: That's a rush to judgment. What we can see is that this administration's been about reformation and reforming things and making things better, especially better for the American people.

So, to somehow imply that having Mick Mulvaney in an acting status is going to dismantle and get rid of this is just totally a rush to judgment. The president's going to find someone to put in place who's going to do right to make sure that the government is working for the people and not against the people which we have seen in the past.

WHITFIELD: So, Hilary, is it a rush to judgment, is it unfair to presume that because he has already been on record, Mulvaney already been on record as saying this agency is a joke, that he would step in as acting -- and he would not uphold, you know, the principles of this agency?

ROSEN: This is the issue. The issue is who you define as the people. Are the people -- the big banks, who have, you know, taken advantage of the poor and underbanked, who, you know, debt collectors who have taken advantage of people in trouble, or are you on the side of the working guy?

[12:10:08] You know, trying to make a living here and trying to recognize that the people who have the least credit have the most problems, who have the biggest issues, and the fewest people fighting for them are those that this agency helps.

It depends on who's side you're on. I think as we've seen at other times with this administration, that this administration is going to be on the side of the moneyed and not of the people, and that is --

DENNARD: That's just not true, this administration's laser focused on helping the middle class. That's what this tax cut is about, taking this corporate rate down and having a bill, a law that is going to improve the lives of the middle class, so to say that is just wrong.

WHITFIELD: So quickly, it's Thanksgiving weekend. Let's talk about that "Time" magazine really quick. So, the president says he's turning down, you know, the consideration. "Time" magazine says that's not how this works. We wouldn't inform you if you were in consideration. Paris, how strange is this?

DENNARD: What's strange is that "Time" magazine did not actually deny that he called him or that actually occurred. They just said that's not the process. I think what happened is President Trump called their bluff and said if you're not going to make me person of the year, which they should, when you look at the type of year he's had in terms of what he's doing for the American people, for those forgotten people, he should be our person of the year. But it doesn't matter. The American people know he's doing work for them. He's my person of the year.


ROSEN: Well, I think the fact that the president is so consistently worried about being thanked at a time when what we should be doing during this holiday season is thanking others, showing humility, showing leadership. I mean, he's just -- everything he's been doing lately is exactly the opposite of what I teach my children.

So, it is just silly and, you know, with respect to "Time" magazine, they have, you know, 10 people they do interviews with. I think the problem with the president is he hasn't sat down with a legitimate reporter since last May.

And so, he didn't want to have a legitimate interview, a real reporter talking to him. That's what this is about. He was heading that off at the pass.

WHITFIELD: All right, we'll leave it right there. Guess what, I am thankful for your candor, both of you this holiday weekend.

DENNARD: Thank you, Fred.

ROSEN: Thanks to you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Hilary, Paris, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

All right, straight ahead, cutting off communication, does it mean Michael Flynn has a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller? We'll talk live with a former federal prosecutor who worked with Mueller.

Plus, Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore fires back against his accusers and his Democratic opponent.



WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. The White House still dealing with developments in the Russia investigation. Sources tell CNN former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's lawyers are cutting off communications with President Trump's legal team. It comes just weeks after CNN reported that Flynn was increasingly concerned about the potential legal exposure of his son in the investigation.

I want to bring in Michael Zeldin. He is a former special assistant to Robert Mueller and a former federal prosecutor. Good to see you. How do you read into this? Is this Mueller's team getting out a little bit of information to perhaps really jolt the White House or is this indeed the case an indicator that Flynn's team may be working on something, trying to cut some sort of deal with Mueller's team?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, so the way coordination works among parties in an investigation like this is if they have mutual interests that is an alignment of their legal interests, they cooperate with one another. They operate under attorney/client privilege among the group of people.

When one person's interests become unaligned order dis-aligned with that group, they notify the group to say no longer can I cooperate with you, no longer can privilege protect our communications. I'm going on my own. And they tell the group for the protection of the group and for their own protection.

So, what we have here I think is that Flynn has told the group no longer can I cooperate with you. I'm striking out on my own to try to pick myself, most probably his son, and Mueller's going to ask Flynn for either cooperation or both.

And Flynn has a lot of information that he has that's relevant to Mueller, particularly potential collusion, communications with Wikileaks and Russians, and also notably whether or not the president told him, Flynn whether he, the president told Comey about the Flynn investigation and his desire to have Comey back off the investigation. So, obstruction and collusion are areas that Flynn may know something about that's relevant.

WHITFIELD: So President Trump's lawyer, Jay Sekulow, said, quoting now, "No one should draw the conclusion this means anything about General Flynn cooperating against the president."

But as you read into this, cooperating, might it be, because the Mueller team would see that potentially this could lead to a bigger fish, or information leading to a bigger name?

ZELDIN: Right. So Sekulow may be right in respect of it may not be cooperation against the president, but he's wrong in respect of cooperation generally because it has to be some form of cooperation. Even if the only objective here is enter a plea agreement, that is cooperation, because otherwise you go to jury trial and contest the charges.

As to the bigger fish, it seems to me at least with respect to obstruction, Mueller has in Flynn a witness who can potentially tell him what are the nature of the communications between the president and Comey as it relates to Flynn.

[12:20:01] With respect to Wikileaks and Russia communications, we just don't know yet what Flynn knows about that. Remember, Flynn said at the very outset of this thing, I have a story to tell. If you immunize me, I'll tell it. So we'll find out perhaps soon whether or not he actually has a story to tell and if he does about whom and with respect to what.

WHITFIELD: All right, perhaps we'll all soon find out, Michael Zeldin, thank you so much. All right, Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a new law forcing foreign media outlets there to be listed as foreign agents and disclose their funding sources. This follows allegations that Russia meddled in last year's presidential election by using Russian internet trolls to influence American voters. It also comes after the U.S. Justice Department demanded that Russian broadcaster RT America register its U.S. affiliate as a foreign agent.

All right, straight ahead, an update on that U.S. Navy plane crash that killed three sailors this week. What we're learning about those men next.



WHITFIELD: Hello, again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We're following breaking news. The U.S. Navy has identified the three sailors killed when their plane crashed off the coast of Japan Wednesday. This comes after the military notified the families that the extensive search and rescue efforts ended.

CNN's Polo Sandoval joining me live now with more details on this -- Polo.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, as you mentioned, the U.S. Navy has been holding off on releasing the identities of these three brave men after they called off the search there in the waters of the Western Pacific.

However, today, we now have the names and faces of these three brave men. They include Lieutenant Steven Combs, Airman Matthew Chialastri and Airman Apprentice Bryan Grosso. The three men presumed dead now by the Navy.

They were among 11 crew and passengers aboard a Navy transport plane that crashed as it approached an air carrier on Wednesday. Eight of the occupants aboard that C-2A Greyhound aircraft were rescued.

Vice Admiral Phil Sawyer, the commander of the U.S.'s 7th Fleet, releasing a statement to the families about the tragic loss of these three individuals. It reads as follows.

Quote, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of these sailors. Their service and sacrifice will be lifting in 7th Fleet and we will continue to stand the watch for them as they did bravely for all of us."

Again, eight of the occupants of that aircraft were rescued by both U.S. and Japanese officials as they searched nearly 1,000 square nautical miles just after that crash, Fred. The Japanese defense minister said that engine trouble possibly may be to blame for the tragedy, though the investigation, Fred, is still ongoing at this hour.

WHITFIELD: So sad. All right, Polo Sandoval, thank you.

Republicans are hoping to push through their tax reform bill in a matter of weeks. It gives big cuts to corporations and the wealthy, but Democrats say the middle class will wind up paying more. One Democratic lawmaker join us live to talk taxes next.


[12:31:57] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: All right, well, welcome back.

President Trump will head to Capitol Hill on Tuesday. The topic at the weekly lunch with Senate Republicans? Tax reform. While lawmakers in the House passed a seemingly drama-free bill, some wonder if senators will be able to do the same thing.

GOP lawmakers are hoping to fulfill Trump's promise of a Christmas gift to Americans, but can they pull it off?

There are some key differences in the two bills.

For instance, the Senate bill, like the current tax code, would keep seven income tax brackets, while the House bill only has four. The Senate plan would include a full repeal of state and local taxes, as opposed to the House's partial repeal; and the House tax plan immediately cuts corporate taxes, while the Senate plan delays the cuts by a year.

I want to bring in Democratic Congressman John Garamendi of California. He is on the House Armed Services Committee, and the Former Lieutenant Governor of California.

Good to see you. Happy Thanksgiving --

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIF.: Good evening.

WHITFIELD: -- weekend.

GARAMENDI: And to you.

WHITFIELD: All right (LAUGHTER). So first, your initial thoughts.

Do you think that the Senate will pass the tax reform bill as early as next week?

GARAMENDI: I hope not. It's a very, very, very bad bill in the Senate -- actually worse than the House bill because of the repeal of the individual mandate, which will remove some $300 billion of subsidies for people that want to buy health insurance across the nation, raise the average premiums across the nation some 10 percent, and, in my district -- parts of my district, may be a 25 percent increase in the premiums -- health insurance premiums.

And the tax policy in both bills is very, very loaded to the super wealthy. Corporations and the top one percent, 10 percent get 50 percent of the benefits. And for the middle class, particularly in states like California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, you're looking at a significant tax increase with the elimination of the state and local tax deductions.

WHITFIELD: Well, that being said, then, why is it that is the marquee item of the Senate bill? That it would be repealing that individual mandate, thus, fulfilling the promise of President Trump that Obamacare would be repealed, replaced, and this is one way of going at that.

GARAMENDI: Well, making a promise that actually hurts Americans is really not a good thing to do.

Yes, Trump did promise the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and the House Democrat -- Republicans -- the House Republicans have been doing it some 60, 65 times in legislation that passed the House over the last six years.

That's not good public policy -- to keep a promise that actually hurts Americans is not a good thing to do. But apparently, that's what the Republicans want to do is to keep a promise that actually harms Americans -- physically harms them -- denies them health insurance, denies them the benefits.

And you go to the tax policy, you know, actually, most of the majority of middle Americans will see a


tax increase in the days ahead. Eliminating the medical deduction? Let me tell you what that means.

A fellow came up to me, one of my constituents, and says, "Are they really going to do that?" And I said, "Apparently, they want to."

And he says, "Let me tell you what it means to my mother. She is in a nursing home. She has an annuity. She's able to make that annuity pay for her nursing home care because of the medical tax deduction. Eliminate that, and she's going to be on Medicaid.


GARAMENDI: She won't be able to take care of herself; she'll become a burden to the government" Well (ph), this is really dumb policy that the Republicans are pushing forward.

Student interest deduction. We want students to get an education, but now, you're going to eliminate the deduction of the interest on their student loans? Come on. And teachers -- $250 per classroom supplies, taking that away. You know, just how bad is it, so that you can make a big deal for the wealthy? I don't think so.

And eliminating the estate tax, as the House did --


GARAMENDI: -- what does that mean for President Trump and his family? He claims he has $10 billion of dollars of net worth. What does it mean for his children? $4 billion tax reduction for the Trump children. This is lousy policy.

WHITFIELD: Yes. All right, well, we'll see what happens as early as next week.

Also, overshadowing so many discussions about policy --


WHITFIELD: -- so many allegations of sexual assault, misconduct.

Your colleague -- one of your colleagues, John Conyers --


WHITFIELD: -- now in the spotlight, you know, for accusations of also paying a settlement of taxpayer money in a case that involved a -- someone who worked in his office, and your colleague, Congresswoman Kathleen Rice of New York, you know, wants now asking Conyers to resign from Congress.

This is what she had to say.


REP. KATHLEEN RICE (D), N.Y.: Because enough is enough. At this point, what I am voicing publicly is what every single private citizen is saying across America. Why are the rules for politicians in Washington different than they are for everyone else?


WHITFIELD: So what's your feeling on that? Is it time for him to step down, or is -- an ethics investigation, does that suffice? And do people deserve answers about payment, settlement, and whether he should pay back that taxpayer money used as settlement?

GARAMENDI: Well, first of all, the accusations have to be assumed to be credible.

When a woman -- in this case, and in the case of Roy Moore down in Alabama, wherever these accusations come from, we must assume that the women's accusations are credible. And a thorough investigation is absolutely essential for any sitting member of Congress and the Senate.

The Ethics Committee must immediately -- beginning Tuesday, when we return -- take up this issue. In fact, my understanding is that Mr. Conyers welcomes that ethics investigation.

WHITFIELD: Yes, yes, he said that.

GARAMENDI: It has to be thoroughly transparent. It has to be quick -- put all of it on the table, and let's hear what you have to say. If there's credibility in it, then the appropriate action may very well be a resignation.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves here without all of the facts on the table, and we must start with the assumption that the accusations are credible.

And we need to go beyond that. There is a piece of legislation that is moving, or House resolution, that requires harassment, sexual harassment, other kinds of harassment training for members, as well as for staff.

And final point from me is that the taxpayers should not be responsible for these settlements. It should be the person who has caused the problem to pay for any settlement, and (ph) not the --


GARAMENDI: -- taxpayers.

WHITFIELD: All right. Congressman John Garamendi, thank you so much. Happy Thanksgiving --

GARAMENDI: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: -- weekend.

All right, don't miss a CNN debate Tuesday night, 9 o'clock. The fight over tax reform -- Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, Maria Cantwell and Tim Scott fighting over the fate of reform, and how much you should pay in taxes every year. That's Tuesday night, 9:00 pm Eastern right here on CNN.

And Monday is the deadline to register to vote in Alabama, and the close race could see a Democrat flip a seat in a deep red state. Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore is fighting back against allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct in a new ad.

Kaylee Hartung has been following this race very closely. She joins me now.

So, Kaylee, Democrat Doug Jones, he's also out with a new ad.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, as Roy Moore's campaign has been in turmoil, Doug Jones has largely stayed out of the spotlight. He has kept his head down. He has wanted these accusations of sexual misconduct against Roy Moore to speak for themselves.

But now, his latest ad out, he jumps right into the fray. He names each of Moore's nine


accusers over photos of them as young girls -- the age when these alleged incidents occurred.

It's a clear sign that with less than three weeks to go to election day, Doug Jones is on the offensive. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HARTUNG: The name dominating national headlines for more than two weeks. We know Roy Moore is running for the U.S. Senate, and his campaign is in trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were girls when Roy Moore immorally pursued them. Now, they are women -- witnesses to us all of his disturbing conduct.

HARTUNG: But what about the other guy? The challenger to the man accused of being a sexual predator.

RICHARD DIXON, BIRMINGHAM CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST: What we're getting nationally is, "Oh, Alabamians would vote for a pedophile over a liberal Democrat." And --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this circumstance, yes.

DIXON: -- (LAUGHTER) OK. Well, like, you're just saying it flat out, then.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, absolutely.

DIXON: All right.

DOUGLAS JONES (D), ALABAMA U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: I feel like my record speaks for itself, and I don't (ph) (INAUDIBLE) --

HARTUNG: In the red state of Alabama, where Republicans have held every statewide office for the last 25 years, the blue label of Democrat is drowning out Doug Jones' name to some, even while his opponent is drowning in scandal.

JONES (voice-over): We're staying in our lane as best we can. Obviously, to some extents (ph), it -- it's a distraction.

HARTUNG: Born and raised in Alabama, the 63-year old first-time candidate is a longtime attorney -- a federal prosecutor who's best known for successfully putting domestic terrorist Eric Rudolph, and Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in 1963, behind bars.

JONES: I'll work across party lines to create jobs and get wages up. (INAUDIBLE)

HARTUNG: In the (ph) state that elected President Trump by 28 points, victory for Jones requires him swaying some Republicans on the issues. So he's trying to appeal to more Conservative voters, focusing on what he calls kitchen table issues -- jobs, the economy, health care. He says he would vote to raise the federal minimum wage, and he supports the Affordable Care Act.

But for many in Alabama, it comes down to one issue. Jones is pro- choice, believing it's an intensely personal choice, and supporting the state's current abortion laws.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn't vote for the baby-killer for hell nor high water. I don't believe in murdering children.

HARTUNG: Strong rhetoric like that can be heard on the Conservative talk airwaves.

But in print, a different statement -- the editorial boards of the state's top newspapers writing, "Stand For Decency, Reject Roy Moore." This front page above the fold editorial denouncing Moore, and endorsing Jones.

ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: I believe in the Second Amendment.


HARTUNG: Alabama voters are skeptical of outside influences on this race, but their choice on December 12th is crucial to the balance of power in Washington.

Kaylee Hartung, CNN, Atlanta, Georgia.


HARTUNG: Turnout a problem in special elections across the board. So, Fred, if Doug Jones is going to get this win, he needs African- Americans to turn out in record numbers, and those Republicans who are just too disgusted with Moore to vote for him, and obvious, in there, women.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Special elections are tough -- December 12th.


WHITFIELD: Right around the corner, really. Kaylee, thanks so much.

All right, a mystery in Texas -- two U.S. Border Patrol agents found badly injured. One of them died; the other says he doesn't remember what happened. The lab report from today's memorial service and an update on the investigation, next.


[12:47:43] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back.

Memorial services are being held today for Border Patrol Agent Rogelio Martinez, who died last week under mysterious circumstances. Federal officials are now investigating the incident that left Martinez dead and his partner injured, and authorities are offering up a $45,000 reward for information as to what may have happened.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other law enforcement officials are attending the service in El Paso today.

CNN Correspondent Scott McLean is also in El Paso outside the church. He's joining me now.

So, Scott, are authorities any closer to finding out exactly what happened?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, that's the part that must make this especially difficult for Agent Rogelio Martinez's family, and that's that, they don't have all of the answers -- hardly any answers at all as to why or what happened to their family member, Agent Martinez.

What we do know is that late Saturday night -- last Saturday night, Martinez was searching a culvert area along Interstate 10 about 30 miles from the Mexican border -- this was part of his regular duties. After that, though, it is unclear what happened.

We know that Martinez and another agent who showed up later both ended up being rushed to a nearby hospital with head injuries and broken bones as well. That second agent, he's been released from the hospital. He was released on Wednesday.

I spoke to his local union representative, Lee Smith, who met with him last night, Fredricka. And he told me that he doesn't remember anything from that incident. He says the last thing that he remembers is showing up to work. Beyond that, there is nothing.

And so, he hasn't been able to really fill in the blanks. We know that he is walking on his own with the help of a cane, he has visible stitches, and a bruise on the back of his head. And that union rep Lee Smith told me that even just sitting there seemed to be painful for this border agent.

And so, this investigation being led by the FBI doesn't have a whole heck of a lot to go on. These agents do not wear body cameras. They don't have --


MCLEAN: -- dash cameras on their patrol cars. It's not even clear whether there's a transcription of any radio call from either --


MCLEAN: -- of these officers. And with that second agent not knowing very much, Fredricka, things are -- there is not a whole lot to go on here.

[12:50:00] WHITFIELD: Yes, it's (ph) so sad. All right. Scott McLean, thank you so much.

Still so much more straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.

But first, voting is underway for the CNN Hero of the Year. Here's one of this year's Top 10 Heroes.


STAN HAYES, CO-FOUNDER OPERATION BBQ RELIEF, CNN HERO: I've been competing in barbecue for years. Besides being a nourishing meal, it's comfort food. After a disaster, it is extremely emotional. Everybody's lives are on

their front yard. So we decided we were going to get a bunch of the barbecue family together, and help.

HAYES (voice-over): Welcome. Thank you guys for coming out.

HAYES: Over the last six years, we've responded to tornadoes, floods, hurricanes. The core group are all pit masters or grill masters, but our volunteers come from everywhere.


HAYES: Our goal is always to be in an area within 24 to 48 hours after a disaster strikes.


HAYES: We put the word out through different groups, and that way, we know where the meals are going.

HAYES (voice-over): You guys need any meals?

HAYES: To know that you're a little part of picking their spirits up --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have no idea what a hot meal means to somebody who's lost everything they own

HAYES: -- can't help but bring a smile to your face.

It's amazing. Yesterday, you guys put out 43,350 meals. Thank you for --


HAYES: -- everybody who's here.

It is people helping people the best way we know how.


WHITFIELD: Wow, that's pretty extraordinary. Vote for Stan or any of your favorite Top 10 Heroes at CNNHEROES.COM.


[12:56:10] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back.

Authorities say the death toll in that horrifying massacre at an Egyptian mosque has climbed to 305, including 27 children. Investigators say more than two dozen attackers surrounded the mosque before setting off explosives, and then, gunning down people as they tried to run. At least one attacker was carrying an ISIS flag.

CNN's Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman is with me now from Cairo. So that one witness saw this flag. Does that mean ISIS has also

claimed responsibility?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, ISIS, Fredricka, has not yet claimed responsibility. But what were (ph) -- the account that was put out by Egypt's public prosecutor is quite chilling.

He said that five SUVs showed up outside the mosque --

WHITFIELD: Yes, OK (ph).

WEDEMAN: -- during Friday prayers there -- between 25 and 30 men in those SUVs, heavily armed with automatic weapons and explosives. They placed themselves at the entrance to the mosque, as well as at each of the 12 windows of the mosque, set off some sort of explosion, and then, opened fire, resulting in -- of course, in this death toll, the worst ever terrorist attack in Egyptian history -- 305 people dead.

Now, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has vowed to respond to the attack with brute force, and, of course, they've already launched airstrikes against what they say were the vehicles involved in the attack, and other targets in the area. But until now, this is really -- this appears to be just the beginning of this renewed campaign against the militants in the Sinai Peninsula.

It's important to keep in mind that since 2013, more than 1,000 Egyptian soldiers and policemen have been killed in this battle, and what we've seen is increasing sophistication by this ISIS affiliate known as Wilayat Sinai, or the Sinai Province.

We understand that, for instance, they are receiving weapons that are being smuggled all the way from Libya across Egypt to the Sinai Peninsula. We were also speaking with one expert today who suggested that perhaps they're receiving also training in Gaza.

So this is very much a multinational terrorist organization that, so far, despite the best efforts of the Egyptian government, it has not stopped with its mayhem and murder.


WHITFIELD: And so, Ben, is the Egyptian government saying that its counterattack on Egyptian soil really is just the beginning?

WEDEMAN: Well, it -- it's not the beginning in the sense that, this has been going on since very soon after the fall of the Mubarak regime. In fact, even before that, there were terrorist attacks in the Sinai.

Now, certainly the body language and emotion that we saw in this speech by the Egyptian president last night would indicate that they are certainly going to dramatically step up their efforts to crack down, destroy this ISIS affiliate in the Sinai. But until now, what we've seen is a lot of effort, but not much result by the Egyptian army and the police in the Sinai Peninsula. WHITFIELD: Yes.

WEDEMAN: Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: All right, Ben Wedeman, thank you so much.

We have so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM, and it all starts right now.

All right, hello, again, everyone, and thanks so much for being with me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

A big question looming over Washington today -- who's in charge of a top consumer watchdog agency? President Trump named White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney as interim chief of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.