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Russia on Flynn Plea: The Case is "Sack of Smoke"; Trump: I Had to Fire Flynn Because He Lied to the VP and the FBI; Reich: Economic Imbalances Tearing Country Apart; Routine Calls Leads to Life Changing Event for Officer; Foundation Improves the Lives of Amputees. Aired 12n-1p ET

Aired December 2, 2017 - 12:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, again, everyone. Thank you so for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

All right. We begin this hour with the aftermath from a turbulent day of highs and lows for the president. Today, Mr. Trump is breaking his silence about the stunning guilty plea by his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

Now admits he lied to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador. This morning the president brushed off any suggestion that Flynn's cooperation with the special counsel could lead to problems for him or his inner circle.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: No, I'm not, and what has been shown is no collusion, no collusion. There's been absolutely -- there's been absolutely no collusion.


WHITFIELD: At the same time, the president is touting an important victory for his legislative agenda after Republican senators narrowly passed a major tax overhaul overnight.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tax cuts and jobs act as amended is passed.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: This is a great day for the country. It's been 31 years since we've been comprehensive tax reform. We have an opportunity now to make America more competitive.


WHITFIELD: All right, no Democrat voted for the bill and every Republican voted yes except for one, Bob Corker. Democrats complaining that Republicans did not give them enough time to read the rewritten version of this sweeping legislation.


SENATOR JON TESTER (D), MONTANA: This is your government at work. Here's the bill as it's written. Here's the modifications that are in it. I can read one word. It's called add this language. Can you tell me what that word is? If you can, you've got better eyes than me. This is unbelievable.


WHITFIELD: The president, though, is hailing the Senate passage of the tax bill as a major victory. Right now, he's actually in New York where he is soon to be attending a fundraiser. That's where we also find our Boris Sanchez. Boris, we heard from the president earlier who said no collusion. He doesn't seem worried at all.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He does not, Fred. According to sources at the White House, there is no reason to worry for the president, though, other sources are telling us that this is a consistent issue. That there is worry that this is going to overshadow some of the president's achievements.

And let's admit that passing this major legislative hurdle that is tax reform is an achievement for this White House. It's something that the administration had been working on for months. President Trump himself touring the country, touting the benefits of tax reform.

He had also made several calls to lawmakers even during the Thanksgiving holiday from Mar-a-Lago. He went up to Capitol Hill several times to speak to lawmakers one on one and push them on this, keenly aware of the political implications of a failure to reform taxes.

As we heard from several Republican lawmakers including Lindsey Graham during the lead out to this vote, not passing tax reform would have devastating consequences for Republicans in next year's midterm elections.

The president alluding to how now this passage may hurt Democrats next year during a speech to Republican supporters here at a lunch in New York. Here's more of what the president said.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: Last night, out of 52 Republican senators, 51 voted and we ended up doing it and we didn't need our great vice president to break the tie, Mike, we didn't need Mike, we didn't need anything.

We voted. The Democrats left before the vote was even -- somebody said started. Somebody said before it was over. I don't even care, but we got no Democrat helping. I think that's going to cost them very big in the election because basically they voted against tax cuts. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Fred, the president has two more events here in New York scheduled for later today before he heads back to Washington. Those are closed to the press though. We may have an opportunity to ask him about the news that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has not only pled guilty but is apparently working with the special counsel later today when he returns to the White House.

We should note, though, on the subject of working with Democrats, government funding dries up by December 8th. And as you know, Fred, earlier this week, the president was scheduled to meet not only with the Republican leadership in Congress but also with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. That did not happen.

But there is still expected to be some kind of negotiation between the two parties before December 8th when government funding dries up to try to get some kind of agreement on not only a spending bill but also on raising the debt ceiling.

[12:05:09] And other negotiating chips that are potentially at stake including a solution to the issue of dreamers, funding for child health insurance programs, et cetera.

So, despite the president's sort of attack here on Democrats, he will have to sit down across the table with them soon and negotiate before the government potentially shuts down -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Boris, still a lot at stake. Thank you so much in New York.

All right, let's discuss some of these developments now with our panel. Joining me to discuss this is Josh Rogin, a CNN political analyst and a columnist for "The Washington Post," Asha Rangappa is a CNN legal and national security analyst and a former FBI special agent, and Karoun Demirjian is a political analyst and a correspondent for "The Washington Post." Good to see you all.

All right. So, Josh, let me begin with you. You know, President Trump says he's not worried about Flynn's guilty plea and his cooperation with the Special Counsel Mueller because there was no collusion, says the president. Is it that simple?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Of course, it's not that simple and while we don't know if there was any collusion between the Trump team and the Russians during the campaign, we have new confidence now that we'll get to the bottom of it.

Because if Mike Flynn is cooperating, that means he must tell everything he knows, and if he doesn't know then there's a good chance he'll have enough information on the people above him who do know.

So, you know, if I were the president and his senior aides, I would be concerned. But I think there's also a greater issue here. I'm standing here right now in lovely Simi Valley, California, at the Reagan Presidential Library, where hundreds of defense military congressional and diplomatic officials are here to discuss how the United States should contend with the rising Russia.

And what Mike Flynn already admitted to working with the Russian government against the sitting U.S. administration on diplomatic issues, that's already bad enough. It hasn't been lost on the people assembled here that the Trump administration's policy towards Russia runs counter to what many people in both parties inside the government, inside the intelligence community believe we should be doing. Aside from the collusion, that's a whole another issue that will continue to go forward.

WHITFIELD: And so Asha, you know, what's your take on the possible impact of Flynn's guilty plea and reportedly, you know, Flynn getting directives from now Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, that coming from sources familiar with the matter, telling CNN, and we now know, that Kushner, you know, also talked to the Mueller team.

So is it your feeling that the Mueller team talked to them maybe simultaneous to, you know, Flynn getting his plea deal and the team is now looking for consistencies, inconsistencies and that could lead potentially to the next shoe to drop or something.

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Sure, so we know that between the charge that Mike Flynn pleaded guilty to and before him George Papadopoulos, Mueller is not afraid to charge people with lying to the FBI, and he clearly has a lot of information in his possession that anyone who made false statements at this point should be very worried.

But even more than that, the statement of facts that Flynn pleaded guilty to, as you mentioned, and Josh mentioned shows that there were coordinated knowing and covert attempts and even direction for Flynn from top senior transition officials to be in contact with Russia and to report back.

So that's not a smoking gun for collusion but in criminal terms, collusion is conspiracy, it's an agreement to commit a crime. What you're starting to see take shape is at least a knowing agreement among at least a few people and that directly contradicts what the White House has been saying so far.

WHITFIELD: Right, and, you know, and to that point, I mean, the whole directive issue, we just saw a tweet from the president today talking about the secretary of state and saying essentially, you know, I call the shots.

And there is a feeling that even during the campaign nothing is going to happen unless then-Candidate Donald Trump, now president, have the same kind of conversations were taking place after inauguration that he would have to know about it.

So, Mueller is trying to find out, you know, what kind of directive may have come from a Donald Trump. Ultimately, that is what investigators are trying to determine, right, Asha?

RANGAPPA: That's right.

WHITFIELD: Does this help get closer to that?

RANGAPPA: That's right, one of the hardest things to prove in any crime is knowledge that somebody knew what was going on. If you would think back to Reagan and Iran/Contra, he didn't recall, and nobody could really prove that he knew what was going on.

Flynn was at the top levels of this administration and before that in the campaign. He knows who knew what when. Once he can tell Mueller who had knowledge of his activities and were doing their own activities with full knowledge, Mueller has host of potential avenues available to him.

[12:10:13] And in particular if the president knew what Flynn was up to, quite apart from collusion this really solidifies the obstruction of justice case against the president. Because the day after Flynn was fired, the president went to Comey, FBI Director Comey, and asked him to drop the investigation on Flynn.

He later fired Comey himself. So, there are a number of problems here for the administration, potentially for the president, and I would -- if I were their lawyers, I would be advising them that they may need to prepare for the worse.

WHITFIELD: Wow. All right, lots of potential problems. Karoun, the president by way of his attorney, Ty Cobb, saying, you know, Michael Flynn was just with us for about 25 days and, you know, he is a holdover from the Obama administration, but then when you just listen to how president or Candidate Trump and then President Trump, you know, praised Flynn, it really says something about how tight that relationship may have been. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Where is General Flynn? He's around here, incredible guy.

How about General Flynn. We love General Flynn, right? Mike Flynn.

I want to thank General Flynn for being here. Great guy. Great man.

General Flynn, who is here some place. I love General Flynn.

Michael Flynn is a wonderful man.


WHITFIELD: So Karoun, you know, the association is pretty tight.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it's also remarkable that the Trump legal team is kind of repeating the same play as they've tried to use for others, which is to say, oh, they weren't that big of a player.

WHITFIELD: The coffee boy, the volunteer.

DEMIRJIAN: -- which you saw with the Papadopoulos plea, when that one came out, right. Flynn, it doesn't really pass the smell test to say the same thing. As you just played, there's so many pieces of tape with the president speaking about Flynn in very, very high tones. You know that they were close. You know Flynn was a close supporter, very influential adviser as well.

WHITFIELD: Couldn't that make Flynn feel wait a minute, are you kidding me? I'm going to shed a little bit more light on this.

DEMIRJIAN: If he has more light to shed, true. It's a question if he -- certainly he is going to be talking to lawyers and he's going to be in the thick of this now as he discloses what he can, connects the dots that he knows how to connect.

The question is, those dots that he connects, those people then are going to have other dots to connect potentially going up to the oval office itself. So yes, Flynn's role in the story of Trump's rise to the White House has been well established for a long time.

To turn around and try to say, oh, he wasn't that big of a player because he wasn't around that long in the national security adviser role is not -- I think it's going to be a difficult line to sell both to the public and definitely to the legal entities involved in, now, trying to press this further and see where it goes.

WHITFIELD: Yes, and so josh that burning question remains. You've got a guilty plea, but why did he lie in the first place? Why did he lie to the FBI? He knows how the game is played. He's not new to this whole rodeo of the inner workings of the intelligence community, of Washington. He is a general, you know, who serve proudly, and he would take such great risk to lie to the FBI. A big why on that.

ROGIN: Yes, we can't know why General Flynn decided to lie to the FBI. We know that it was a horrible mistake that he'll be paying for, for the rest of his life. What it suggests is that there's more he doesn't want -- he didn't want to tell the FBI. That telling the truth about these interactions would lead to. Let's remember --

WHITFIELD: And he has to now.

ROGIN: -- the whole plan wasn't just the foreign policy adviser for President Trump, he was directly involved in all of the transition team and early administration outreach to foreign countries. He was in charge of it.

What else was going on between the U.S. and Russia? This could just be the tip of the iceberg in those interactions. It doesn't mean it speaks to the collusion regarding hacking of the U.S. presidential election.

But let's remember, the Trump team had a broad idea here that they were going to reinvent U.S./Russia relations in a fundamental way. Now, that hasn't panned out. That's what general Flynn was working on, and to me that's as big of a part of the story as anything else.

WHITFIELD: Right, and of course, if he doesn't share everything that six months in jail, it could get much bigger. The son who hasn't been charged could potentially see some charges because as far as we know, right, Asha, that's kind of part of the plea deal, you know, give a little something, get a lot and you still have to give up.

RANGAPPA: Mueller left a lot of --

ROGIN: Let's remember --

RANGAPPA: Go ahead.

WHITFIELD: Go, Asha, real quick.


WHITFIELD: Sorry about that. I'm doing a terrible job traffic copping here. OK, Asha, you first, then Josh.

[12:10:10] RANGAPPA: Yes. So, I just want to point out that Mueller left a lot of potential charges off the table. These include charges that could relate to the Foreign Agent Registration Act. There were allegations that Flynn had been involved in a kidnapping plot which could potentially, you know, if he had evidence of that could lead to 20 years in prison. He has the option to potentially bring other charges if Flynn doesn't cooperate fully.


RANGAPPA: And, and he's also prepared for a pardon because some of those charges could be brought under state law.

WHITFIELD: We're going to talk about that some more. Josh, real quick, we have to go after you.

ROGIN: And General Flynn wasn't just lying about this, he misrepresented his activity on a host of different issues. His work for the company, a lot of the projects he was representing.

Let's also remember that there are now a series top Trump administration official, who have misled about interactions with Russia, including the president's son, the president's son-in-law, the attorney general and right on down. What's the cover-up? I think that's the $64,000 question everybody wants to know.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thank you so much, Josh Rogin, Asha Rangappa, and Karoun Demirjian, thanks to all of you. Appreciate it.

All right. Coming up next, more on the massive tax changes Republicans are planning. What impact it may have ultimately on the economy and America's middle class. That's next.



WHITFIELD: All right. Republican senators approved a sweeping tax overhaul in the early hours of the morning with a 59-41 vote that went mostly along party lines. Earlier the president touted the victory while heading to New York.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: It was a fantastic evening last night. We passed the largest tax cuts in the history of our country and many other things along with it. Tremendous tax reform, but it was the biggest package in terms of tax cuts ever passed in our country.


WHITFIELD: All right, biggest tax cuts in history. Critics say this plan is going to add $1 trillion to the deficit, but Republicans say it will ultimately pay for itself by growing the economy. Is that right?

Let's ask Rana Foroohar, CNN global economic analyst and associate editor for "The Financial Times." Good to see you, Rana. So, is this bill going to benefit everybody?

RANA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST: I have to say no and it's really a disappointment. I mean, the biggest beneficiary in this bill is rich corporations. Rich corporations have more cash on the balance sheet than ever before.

The Republican argument is if you cut taxes on these corporations, they're going to take a lot of money they have sitting in offshore bank accounts, bring it back and invest in the U.S., but there's just not a lot of proof in the last 20 years that that has happened.

We did tax cuts in 2001, in 2003, after the financial crisis, and they did not create that kind of real growth that ends up paying for itself. Meanwhile, you are going to get a bigger deficit. That's something people on both sides of the political spectrum are talking about.

In fact, the congressional watchdog, the Joint Committee on Taxation, came in at the 11th hour, which is one of the reasons that passing this bill in the Senate took so long, and said look, we're not buying these very optimistic growth projections that the Republicans are putting forward and we think that this bill is going to create a bigger deficit.

WHITFIELD: So, you say that the big corporations or the wealthy really do benefit the most from this --


WHITFIELD: So then who would take the biggest hit?

FOROOHAR: Well, pretty much everybody else. You know, if you look at the real underlying dynamics, we often lose sight of this longer-term picture in talking about these moment by moment decisions.

But real wage dynamics in the U.S., we haven't seen any growth in 20 years, right. The average American has not seen in real terms more money in their pocket in 20 years. Wage growth despite all the efforts post-financial crisis has still been really, really anemic.

That's because we have real hard work to do. We need to reform our educational system. We need an infrastructure investment. You know, we need to raise productivity. These are tough things. They're not sound bites. They're not easy to do. They're not easy for politicians to talk about, but it's what needed.

WHITFIELD: All right, Rana Foroohar, thank you so much. Good to see you.

FOROOHAR: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Tomorrow on CNN, Jake Tapper sits down exclusively with Republican Senator Tim Scott on why he voted yes on this massive tax overhaul. That's tomorrow, 9 a.m. Eastern on "STATE OF THE UNION." We'll be right back.



WHITFIELD: All right. We're continuing to follow the latest developments in the special counsel investigation after former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty yesterday.

Trump, in fact, just tweeting in the last few minutes saying this, "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide."

Right, so, let's get back to kind of the time line of how we even got to this point in terms of Flynn's contacts with Russia. December 22nd, 2016, according to court documents, General Flynn asks Russia Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to postpone that Security Council vote.

December 29th, President Obama announces new sanctions against Russia. Flynn asked Kislyak not to retaliate. December 30th, Russian President Vladimir Putin says he won't retaliate against U.S. sanctions.

January 20th, 2017, President Donald Trump inaugurated. January 24th, Flynn lies to FBI investigators about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. January 26th, then Acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned the Trump White House that Flynn was lying about calls with Kislyak.

January 30th, President Trump fires Yates after she refuses to defend his initial travel ban. February 13th, Flynn resigns after misleading Vice President pence about his calls with Kislyak.

And now Flynn's bombshell guilty plea would seem to have thrown the White House into turmoil, but this morning, the president said he's not worried. No collusion he said while leaving the White House on his way to New York. And then now we've got the latest tweet from the president, simply saying he had to fire Michael Flynn. But CNN has learned that Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, directed Flynn weeks before the inauguration to contact the Russian ambassador about a U.N. Security Council vote on Israeli settlements. That's according to sources familiar with the matter.

So still unanswered, what was Michael Flynn trying to hide? Why did he lie to the FBI? And who, if anyone, may have directed Michael Flynn?

So, Russian official, they too are weighing in now on Flynn's guilty plea. They are, once again, downplaying Mueller's Russia investigation, saying the Flynn case is all "hype". CNN's Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance joining us live now from Moscow.

So what, if anything else, is Moscow saying?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you're right, Fredricka, they're adopting the same line that they've adopted throughout this crisis in the relationship between the United States and Russia over the allegations of collusion and meddling in the U.S. presidential election of last year.

Russian officials saying, look, you know, this is all smoke and mirrors. Actually, "a sack of smoke" is the latest colorful phrase used by one Russian lawmaker to describe the latest revelations emerging from Washington, and another senator saying that this is, you know, Flynn is being made a scapegoat. It's another attack, a political attack essentially on the president of the United States Donald Trump.

What we haven't heard from at the moment is any kind of reaction or comments from the Kremlin, of course, of Vladimir Putin or from the Russian foreign ministry for that matter. They seem to be taking this weekend to sort of sit back and watch how these events unfold in the United States and try and sort of formulate their response presumably for Monday morning. But it is an extremely sort of difficult position that they found themselves in.

Now the man at the center from the Russian point of view, the center of these allegations of collusion, Sergey Kislyak, extremely difficult character to track down. But earlier this year in the summer, in fact, here in Russia he's left his post in Washington as the Russian ambassador, but I did manage to track him down and to ask him some of those key questions about what the relationship was that he had with Trump transition team members. Take a listen.


CHANCE: Hi Mr. Ambassador, a quick question. Did you discuss lifting sanctions with any members of the Trump team when you were in United States?

SERGEY KISLYAK, RUSSIAN AMBASSADO TO THE U.S.: With your respect I am here to talk the Russian people (ph).

CHANCE: I understand that. You say you've got no secrets --

KISLYAK: I have said everything I wanted prior to this.

CHANCE: Did you discuss opening secret channels with the Kremlin with Jared Kushner for instance?

KISLYAK: I've said many times that we do not discuss the substance of our discussions with our American interlocutors out of respect to our partners.


CHANCE: Right. Well, earlier, Fredricka, Ambassador Kislyak told state television that he did not discuss American sanctions, U.S. sanctions with any of his American counterparts. We now know from the Flynn confession that that is not the case. And so, you know, these lies are slowly untangling, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Matthew chance, thank you so much, in Moscow.

All right. Let's talk about all that we know thus far. With me right now, CNN Contributor Jill Dougherty and CNN Legal Analyst Page Pate.

All right, so Page, to you first, the president commented this morning as he was about to head to New York for a few appearances and said "no collusion", you know, and now he has tweeted. And let's pull that tweet up one more time. Really saying, you know, it had to happen this way, I had to fire Michael Flynn because he wasn't honest with the vice president. He wasn't honest with the FBI. But at the same time, the Mueller team is examining how anyone in that circle reacts to these guilty pleas.


WHITFIELD: Why would Trump's attorneys be happy that even the president would tweet something like that, that he might find innocuous. But again, it kind of injects his point of view at the time of, you know, when the lying took place and even afterwards. How can this --

PATE: Right --

WHITFIELD: -- be used against him potentially?

PAGE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's difficult to say. But I'm certain his lawyers are not happy about him tweeting about an on-going criminal investigation. I mean that's the first thing you want to do as a defense lawyer is make sure your client -- even if he's not a target right now of the investigation, stay quiet, watch what happens, let it play out and then decide how you're going to respond. So, I don't think that was legal advice that led to the tweets.

But what is really interesting --

WHITFIELD: It even puts a marker, a dateline marker in there talking about well, you know, well it happened in the transition.

PATE: Right, right. Now, perhaps he's trying to be strategic with that because, number one, he's saying this happened back then and it was perfectly lawful. And he's also now starting to call Flynn a liar. He's going to go ahead and take the position that, hey, if this guy does say something about me and my team, he's not credible, you can't believe him.

But what this tweet really raises is the question of why did he lie? If he didn't do anything unlawful, if there was nothing or unlawful, if there was nothing to hide why did he lie to the FBI and put himself in this jeopardy? It doesn't make sense.

[12:35:11] WHITFIELD: Right. And that's the burning question.

So then, Jill, you know two prominent politicians are calling Flynn, you know, a "scapegoat" and said that, you know, these developments and talking in Russia, you know, really "a sack of smoke", meaning this plea deal. But at the same time, is it somewhat at all worrisome, given that Michael Flynn was at a table once upon a time, you know, with Vladimir Putin so there is some established relationship and interest between Flynn and Russia.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, actually, on that point, the Russians would deny that. In fact, I was just checking an account online by Margarita Simonyan. She is the head of (INAUDIBLE) in television and she specifically talked about that time that Flynn was at the table, at the tenth anniversary of RTV in Moscow right next to President Putin. And she said, "Let me tell you about that. He was at the table. There was so much noise from all those videos that were playing. Nobody could hear what anybody else was saying. It was basically no conversation." And then she said, "And President Putin didn't even know who Flynn was."

This, again, you know, it's back in December of 2015. I, Margarita Simonyan said, "I told President Putin he needs to be the head of military intelligence." And President Putin said "Military intelligence, seriously?"

So this is, you know, it boggles my mind to think that President Putin would sit at a table with somebody he had no idea about. It just doesn't match the Vladimir Putin that I know have from a reporting. He always knows as much as he can about the other person. But I think, you know, in a larger sense, Russians don't, right now, want to get into details of this. Especially, let's say, the legal ramifications. It's a can of worms for them. And it's just a complicated story sometimes even for Americans to tell.

So, it's better for them at least in a P.R. way, stand back, don't engage, and just dismiss it as this sack of smoke risk. You know, somebody else -- another pseudonym and which is a Russian media outlet was saying, you know, the envies (ph) or opponents of President Trump may be dancing in the streets but it's premature because there's no collusion proven.

WHITFIELD: All right. So Russia trying to distance itself, you know, from this investigation in any outcome. And the White House, too, is trying to distance itself, Page, from Michael Flynn. Even though we've got that tweet from President Trump earlier today saying, you know, I had to do it, a had the lines. Sound of like, you know, Page out of his "Apprentice", you know, show, I had to do it.

But now, you know, he's attorney has said "Well, wait a minute, Michael Flynn he was only, you know, yes, on the job for 25 days. He's a holdover from the, you know, the Obama administration." But that can't, I guess, remove this administration from the responsibility of the actions of a Michael Flynn, right?

PATE: Absolutely not. I mean, to me, that signals that the White House is concerned about something that Flynn may have said or maybe about to say in his ongoing cooperation.

WHITFIELD: And that makes it worse or --

PATE: It could.

WHITFIELD: -- even more curious that why are you now trying to say, after all those glowing remarks --

PATE: Right.

WHITFIELD: -- over at least a year and a half, you know, he's my guy, now he's not really my guy?

PATE: Well, they think they may be cross examining him at a trial as a government witness, or at least trying to shed some doubt on his testimony and ongoing cooperation with the government. That suggests to me that he has something to tell. I mean, we've already heard from his lawyer before this plea deal that he has a story to tell. He's just waiting to --

WHITFIELD: And he said that.

PATE: Absolutely he did, trying to get immunity. He didn't get immunity but he did get a favorable plea deal. So, looks like somebody's going to hear that story. And whether or not it leads further into the White House, that remains to be seen.

WHITFIELD: All right, Page and Jill, thanks to both of you, appreciate it. We'll be right back.


[12:43:29] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Since leaving his post as labor secretary for President Clinton back in 1997, Robert Reich has been arguing that the economic system in America is broken. And he now has a new Netflix documentary called "Saving Capitalism".


ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: There's a huge amount of anger and frustration, so many people desperately wanting to be heard. And nobody is listening. It's up to us to change the rules. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right. I spoke to Reich and asked what message he wants to send to Americans who say they have been left behind.


REICH: Well, there are two big, big political forces in America right now and they're not Democrats versus Republicans. They're really anti-establishment Republicans, mostly authoritarian Republicans or Trump Republicans, and there are anti-establishment Democrats.

Mostly who voted for Bernie Sanders, I'm not clear who they will be supporting in the future. But as the anti-establishment forces America that are enraged and continued to be enraged against how the game is rigged against them. And that are the most powerful and energetic forces of American politics.

Where they come together? The overlap has to do with getting big money out of politics, ending crony capitalism, and making the system essentially work for everybody.

WHITFIELD: And many are enraged because many agree with your argument, right, that the wealth is going to the top, and that the current economic system that once helped America is now failing many Americans. So, what is your proposal to fix all of that?

[12:45:12] REICH: Well, we can't even begin to talk about fixing anything whether we're talking about poverty or the environment or even productivity. We can't begin to fix it unless we get our democracy back from big corporations, Wall Street and very wealthy individuals.

Right now there's no countervailing power. People who are studying democracy very carefully right now are concluding that the average American has absolutely no impact on public policy decisions.

There are basic, you know, the old countervailing power that used to be labor unions or public interest groups or relative to the power of corporations and Wall Street and wealthy individuals right now, nobody else has any power. And this is true particularly in the Republican Party. But it's also true in the Democratic Party. It's true with regard to Congress overall

There are differences, of course, between the two parties. I don't want to kind of get into a false equivalency, but the big, big issue here is, again, getting the big money out of politics so that we all have a voice, so that we can begin to talk about what we need to do as a country.

WHITFIELD: Very sobering outlook, Professor Robert Reich, thank you so much.

REICH: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE) [12:50:50] WHITFIELD: All right. Now it's an incredible story of selflessness. A police officer's encounter with a heroin addicted woman affected him so much that he was compelled to help in an extraordinary way. Here's CNN's Ed Lavandera explaining in this beyond the call of duty.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Heroin and crystal meth controlled Crystal Champ's life.


LAVANDERA: The strangling grip of addiction has left her homeless on the streets of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

CHAMP: I did give up, you know, I just decided that this is going to be my life.

LAVANDERA: Living in a tent in the brush along side a highway.

CHAMP: I know how bad it is, you know, I'm the first one to know how bad my situation is. And --

LAVANDERA: For Crystal, the thought of a guardian angel walking into her life was unimaginable. But that's what happened when Albuquerque Police Officer Ryan Holets found Crystal and her companion, Tom, shooting up heroin behind a convenient store in September.

RYAN HOLETS, ALBURQUERQUE POLICE DEPARTMENT: It looks like you guys are getting ready to shoot up for here.

LAVANDERA: Ryan Holets, a father of four, wasn't ready for what he noticed next.

HOLETS: Are you pregnant?

Yes. It's not every day that I see a sight like that. And it just -- it just made me really sad.

How far along are you?

CHAMP: Probably eight months.

HOLETS: Oh, my gosh.

CHAMP: And he goes and you're pregnant?

HOLETS: Why are you going to do that stuff? It's going to ruin your baby. You're going to kill your baby.

LAVANDERA: His words brought Crystal to tears.

CHAMP: How dare you judge me. You have no idea how hard this is. You have no idea. I know what a horrible person I am and what a horrible situation I'm in. LAVANDERA: In that instant, the moment changed.

HOLETS: His entire being changed. He just became a human being instead of a police officer, you know.

LAVANDERA: A crazy overwhelming idea crept into Ryan's mind.

HOLETS: Realizing that she was desperately wanting someone to adopt her baby, I just felt god telling me to tell her that you will do it because you can. You can. And so --

LAVANDERA: Three weeks later, Crystal Champ gave birth and Ryan Holets and his wife agreed to adopt the baby they named "Hope".

HOLETS: I've gotten tired of seeing so many situations where I want to help but can't. And in that moment, I realized that I had a chance to help.

LAVANDERA: Hope suffered through withdrawals during weeks of medical treatment, but she's gaining weight now and doing well.

CHAMP: Her father and me love her, you know, very, very much. We did not give her up because we didn't want her.

LAVANDERA: But Crystal remains an addict and admits she's in no place to care for a baby.

CHAMP: I just wanted her to be safe and secure and, you know, be in a family and be loved and have a chance, you know?

HOLETS: I am so thankful and blessed and humbled that we are allowed to have Hope in our family.

LAVANDERA (on camera): When you think about like what it took for all the stars to align for you two to connect in the back of that convenience store parking lot.

HOLETS: No coincidence.

LAVANDERA: It's just crazy, right?

HOLETS: It's like providence. We'll be there for her. And whatever struggles that she has we'll be there. And we'll work through it. That's what makes me happy that we'll be there for her.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): For Officer Ryan Holets, it's proof that even in the darkest moments, you never know when love and hope will reveal itself. Ed Lavandera, CNN, Albuquerque, New Mexico.


WHITFIELD: Wow. He said that's what makes him happy and that's what makes him a hero. That's extraordinary. So much more straight ahead in the "NEWSROOM", but first, our voting is under way for the CNN hero of the year. And here's one of this year's top ten heroes.


[12:55:06] MONA PATEL, AMPUTEE: There are so much more than just a body part. We can either lay down and let our circumstance overtake us or we can stand up and take charge.

Age 17, I was struck by a drunk driver. I vowed that once I got back on my feet I would start a support group. 30 to 60 amputees get together once a month and share stories of strength and resilience.

Doctor's case managers call me to provide individual support and then also we will provide prosthetic limbs to those that have no access to any other options and resources.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I met Miss Mona the day before my surgery.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you stand and put pressure (INAUDIBLE), do you feel that? OK. That's great.

UNIDENTFIED FEMALE: She was telling me what I'm going to be a better (ph) do when I'm done and like how she climbs mountains with one leg. She is like a super hero.

PATEL: She is walking.

We are stronger than any circumstance that comes our way, truly.


WHITFIELD: Vote for Mona or any of your favorite top ten heroes now at