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Report: WH Briefing Gets Contentious Over Trump Media Attacks; NYC Bombing Suspect Pledged Allegiance To ISIS; Teen Denied Life Changing Surgery Says Screw You To Aetna. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired December 11, 2017 - 15:30   ET



[15:30:00] SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: A pretty big difference between making honest mistakes and purposefully misleading the American people, something that happens regularly. You can't say -- I'm not done -- you cannot say ---

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something that was completely fake, Sarah.

SANDERS: you cannot say --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he admitted it.

SANDERS: that it is an honest mistake when you're purposely putting out information that you know to be false. Or when you're taking information that has not been validated that has not been offered any credibility in that has been continually denied by a number of people including people with direct knowledge of an instance. This is something that -- I am speaking about the number of reports that are taken place over the last couple weeks. I am simply stating that there should be a certain level of responsibility in that process.

Brian, I called on Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This is not the line of questioning that I was going down, but can you cite a specific story that you say is intentionally false that was intentionally put out there to mislead the American people?

SANDERS: Sure. The ABC report by Brian Ross. I think that was pretty misleading to the American people, and I think that it's very telling that that individual had to be suspended because of that reporting. I think that shows that the network took it seriously and recognized that it was a problem. Jim?

ACOSTA: If I may, I was going to ask a question about something else.

SANDERS: You used it on something else. Jim? We're going to keep moving, guys.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: So, clearly, the White House is on the defense, right, and when they start punching and fake news, but as we are having a conversation before about how reporters are human beings and make mistakes and honest mistakes and it's never, ever intentional and Dan, just wondering as a former White House communications director, what you made of that?

DAN PFEIFFER, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, look, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is a ridiculous individual and every part of that was ridiculous and it was designed for an audience of one, Donald Trump. I assume she believes of the 48 hours of television he watches every day, one hour is her briefing. What is dangerous about this is it is the White House press secretary which is always a partisan position, she has turned it into propaganda and trying to nullify the idea of objective truth.

The reason they're going after CNN is not just because of the mistakes CNN made or the mistake that Dave Weigel of the "Washington Post" made the other day, it is to try to convince their supporters and others in the country to not believe the other stories that CNN does about Mueller, about the women who Trump sexually assaulted. I think that is a very dangerous thing for democracy and so far out of bounds of the norms of what Republican or Democratic White Houses have done in the past.

BALDWIN: One of the reporters in the room, Brian Karem, we talked to him after the fact, he argued that the White House apparently, Andre, that the White House doesn't hold the president to the same standard considering his history of falsehoods.

ANDRE BAUER, FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR (R): Well, number one, I think everybody including Al Franken deserves due process. Number two, she asked to give an example and she gave a very truthful example of what's happened. I know I --

BALDWIN: It wasn't intentional.

BAUER: Well, maybe it wasn't, but there are intentional times. I've had news stations say something about me that they knew had absolutely no truth, but they knew it was damaging and they put it out there anyway without any facts to back it up and that was dangerous. I understand their frustration whether it was Republican or Democrat from any news organization, whatever level it is at, print media or whatever to make an accusation that they can't back up or know that it may not be true that's dangerous for the American public to be susceptible to. So, everybody should have repercussions if the no they're throwing out stuff that doesn't have truth to it.

BALDWIN: It's angering as a member of the media to watch. We want to do good work each and every day and occasionally mistakes were made. I just was sit here and argue I know a lot of wonderful people in this profession and we make honest mistakes. It is not intentional, and it is a double standard with this White House. Go ahead.

BAUER: I was going to say, I've made mistakes and people have corrected me and I came back and said hey, look, and I made an honest mistake.

BALDWIN: Totally. BAUER: Sometimes it happens. I thought she was a senator and someone

corrected me, and it does happen sometimes, but when someone does it to get a specific outcome when they know it's not true, I can understand the frustration of that.

BALDWIN: OK. Andre, Dan, thank you. Thank you both.

BAUER: Thank you.

BALDWIN: CNN, by the way, will have special live coverage of the U.S. senate race in Alabama until those final results are in. Please don't miss it. It starts tomorrow tonight at 5:00 Eastern here on CNN.

Next, some of these women who have accused president Trump of sexual harassment and assault are now coming forward and calling for officially for a congressional investigation. Now three senators have explicitly asked for the president to resign. Hear from them coming up.


BALDWIN: Breaking news now on the suspect who is alive and talking of this attempted Port Authority bomb today. Let's bring in national correspondent Brynn Gingras who has more on this 27-year-old former taxi driver. Brynn, what have you learned?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We've learned a lot, Brooke, from those conversations with the investigators in the hospital room, the fact that we learned that he made this bomb it appears a week ago in his apartment. It's possible he was making this at his work, as well.

[15:40:00] He actually did some electrical work with his brother in this area of the Port Authority and not long ago, so it may give some reasoning as to why he possibly picked this area as a target.

But one thing I really want to tell you, Brooke, that we have also learned that's new is that as you've shown your viewers that video inside the Port Authority the moment this bomb went off, and I had a chance to take a look at the video from a source and it's pretty incredible. No one was injured severely and that's because when you look at the video to the right of Akayed Ullah as he passes through that passageway, the bomb goes off to his right and not a single person was walking next to him at that time.

So, it is remarkable, as busy as it was this morning that no one was severely injured, and I want to let you know that we confirmed through a source that there were nails also or screws, rather, also found at the scene here at the Port Authority, Brooke.

BALDWIN: How totally frightening for those people this morning. Brynn Gingras, great sourcing and thank you very much for your reporting on that. Let's move along to the three women who have very publicly accused President Trump of sexual misconduct. They are calling on Congress to investigate this. At least 15 women have come forward with a wide range of accusations against the president. 13 of them say Trump attacked them directly. The other two say they witnessed behavior that made them feel uncomfortable and although many of these accusers broke their silence during the 2016 presidential campaign they are now re-emerging with this message.


JESSICA LEEDS, ACCUSES TRUMP OF GROPING HER ON A PLANE: I am hoping that -- that this will come forward, and produce enough pressure on Congress to address it more than for their own members, but to address it for the president.

RACHEL CROOKS, ACCUSES TRUMP OF SEXUAL MISCONDUCT, 2005: I want to believe as Americans we can put aside our political inclinations and admit that some things in fact do transcend politics, that we will hold Mr. Trump to the same standard as Harvey Weinstein, and the other men who were held accountable for their reprehensible behavior. Therefore, I asked the Congress put aside their party affiliations and investigate Mr. Trump's history of sexual misconduct.

BALDWIN: Three senators are also calling for the president to resign, they are Democrats, Kristen Gillibrand, Cory Booker and Jeff Merkley. Today Sarah Sanders though standing at the podium reaffirming the official White House stance on these women. Listen.


SANDERS: The president has addressed these accusations directly, and denied all of these allegations, and this took place long before he was elected to be president, and the people of this country had a decisive election, supported president Trump and we feel that these allegations have been answered through that process.


BALDWIN: Maeve Reston is with us now, our CNN national political reporter and so the news piece of this is the fact that now you have senator Gillibrand, the latest to join this now growing list of Democrats calling for the president to resign, not just because Kristen Gillibrand says he should. I'll go with the fact that the president is not going to, but why is this still significant moving forward?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: I think that this is, you know, a very different political moment in many ways than where we were in 2016 when these women first emerged, and when we first heard the tape with Billy Bush that President Trump has questioned apparently in recent times. But you know, you have to wonder whether if we were in this moment, that we're in now with so many women coming forward about sexual harassment, would the election have been different?

I mean, we know that certainly that that tape hurt President Trump or hurt then-candidate Trump among women, but he still won. Sarah Sanders is exactly right about that, and this is significant because I think that the Trump administration is dealing with so many different problems right now, and you are seeing Democratic senators come forward and start going kind of a step further. You know, they've stayed away from the impeachment word earlier on, but now on this issue they're calling on him to resign, those three senator.

And that is significant because it will affect the 2020 race. It brings in the question of who controls the house in 2018 because if Democrats take control we could be looking at a very different scenario on Capitol Hill and with the White House. And it's just a cultural moment and it will be really interesting to see how Donald Trump responds to these women in this moment.

BALDWIN: 100 percent agree, and what's really significant because we know the White House line on this and we heard Sarah Sanders again, the president is denying these claims. She is essentially saying he won. This has been dealt with. Let's all move along, please. The fact that you have Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in the president's cabinet saying in a sense, no, they need to be heard, that's a big deal. Here she was.


[15:45:00] NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Women who accuse anyone should be heard. They should be heard, and they should be dealt with, and I think we heard from them prior to the election, and I think any woman who has felt violated or mistreated in any way, they have every right to speak up.


BALDWIN: What did you think when you saw her say that?

RESTON: So that was a fascinating interview, and I think she is one of the most interesting people to watch right now.

BALDWIN: Totally agree.

RESTON: Because more than any other person who has closely associated themselves with Trump, Nikki Haley has done a fantastic job of just walking the line, so she doesn't get him publicly angry, but going far enough that she's preserving her own reputation and trying to set herself apart from the White House in places where she doesn't agree.

If you parse her words very carefully, she didn't come out and say, you know, I believe these women. I believe Trump's accusers, but she said women should be heard. Basically, that they should be vetted, and they should feel good about coming forward. So, if you have women around the country who are watching that, they could look at that and say, OK, she's working for Trump, but maybe she's on my side and yet she didn't go far enough to end up with a rebuke from Trump because we all believe that she is going to run for president at some point. That's absolutely clear. She's been, you know, considered for secretary of state in the past and her positioning has just been very smart all of the way through this administration.

BALDWIN: She is a woman to watch. Maeve Reston, great analysis. Good to see you. Coming up next on CNN, an insurance company denies a potentially life-

changing brain surgery for this teenage girl with epilepsy. We'll hear her response, and why the company says it is only looking out for her best interest.


BALDWIN: Blunt message for the nation's third largest health insurance provider that is denying her request for brain surgery. Cara Pressman was just nine years old when she started having seizures and she's suffered from them ever since. Now 15, her insurance provider Aetna has said no to this minimally invasive procedure that could really change her life. Cara said she burst into tears when she heard the decision.

With me now, senior writer for CNN Health. Wayne Drash, list done extensive reporting on the story. So, Wayne Drash as your friend and I know you, your son has epilepsy. This is something you are intimately familiar with as a father. It takes on a special meaning, I know the story. Tell me about Cara and how she's doing and how this could really change her life if she had this.

WAYNE DRASH, CNN HEALTH, SENIOR WRITER: Well, Brooke, as you mentioned, Cara's message to Aetna was a pretty blunt one and it was screw you.


DRASH: She was approved for a minimally invasive surgery. It's called the laser abrasion surgery in which basically a small hole is drilled in the skull where the seizure activity is coming from in her brain. The heat kills that and ideally you become seizure free as a result. Versus the alternative, which is essentially having a saw cut open your skull, having the top of your head removed and a chunk of your brain taken out. Which is what very few people want to do willingly.

Because it's such a horrible situation to be put in and the thought of going through a surgery like that is devastating.

BALDWIN: I know the story got all kinds of traction on And all kinds of people have reached out, before we get into that though, what is Aetna's response been?

DRASH: Well, Aetna so far maintained that they are denying her for this-of the laser surgery in her denial letter to Cara, they called it, quote, experimental and it was that term, experimental, that has really upset the medical community because it is an approved surgery. There have been thousands of patients that have been treated with it. And as one neurosurgeon told me, we don't do fishing expeditions in the brain. And the epilepsy foundation came back pretty forcibly, basically saying Aetna should approve the surgery because it's a -- it as more trauma to the families involved here.

BALDWIN: Well, hopefully between you and the power of and your writing and Cara's story, someone will help. Please keep us posted on Cara and her family. Because I know the very end of your piece, their parents were talking about draining their retirement to have this done for her. Wayne, thank you so much for sharing her story. Keep us posted.

DRASH: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Well, how about this one? 12 diet cokes a day. That is how much the president reportedly drinks every day at the White House. What would 12 diet cokes do for your health? We're going to talk about that next.


BALDWIN: A couple of minutes left here. How about this, what does a day in the life of president Trump look like? On one level, "The New York Times" giving us insight, including his daily regimen of watching up to eight hours of TV and drinking as many as 12 diet cokes.

[16:00:00] So, Dr. Samantha Nazareth joins me now. She is a board- certified gastroenterologist and, so we have got just to show everyone. It's one thing to say 12 diet cokes, 12 diet cokes, right? If we're someday saying according to "The New York Times" that he drinks this many, what does this do to the brain and the body every day?

DR. SAMANTHA NAZARETH, BOARD CERTIFIED GASTROENTEROLOGIST: Right. So, Brooke, you want to be healthy, right?

BALDWIN: I'd like to be, yes.

NAZARETH: I want to be as well. Everybody is trying to be healthy. So, for the average soda drinker, this is the healthier choice, right, because --

BALDWIN: Just one.

NAZARETH: Just one. Well, in moderation, right? Because if you're choosing between regular soda or diet soda, this has less calories or no calories. There are some that are less or zero.

BALDWIN: What does 12 do to you?

NAZARETH: 12, what happens with 12 is that this essentially replaces what other liquids will provide to your body. So, your body, as you know, is mainly water.


NAZARETH: The good majority of your body is water. Your body needs water to survive to do everything, to speak, to be on TV, everything. By you drinking this, it's essentially replacing that area in your body --

BALDWIN: It's dehydrating. NAZARETH: Not necessarily dehydrating but replacing a liquid which

can take which is is water. You should be drinking water, not this.

BALDWIN: Is this doing anything super crazy harmful or does it just mean I'm not getting enough water? Does it do anything to your bladder, your kidneys?

NAZARETH: Not necessarily. The behaviors associated with drinking diet soda. People think that if I drink diet soda, can I have that piece of cake now? Can I be able to do all of these other things that, well, if I had regular soda, maybe I have to stay away from all of these sweets and everything else that may not be so healthy.

BALDWIN: Maybe you're allowing yourself two scoops of ice cream and big macs.

NAZARETH: Exactly. Because I drank the diet soda. That's what I worry about. You can't look at the body as it's just this, right? You need to think of the body in its entirety. What are you drinking, what are you eating, how much are you sleeping, how much stress are you getting every day? This all affects the body. It's not just 12 cans.

BALDWIN: He doesn't drink anything other than diet soda. Dr. Nazareth thank you so much. Just curious what diet sodas do for you. And there you have it.

"The Lead" with Jake Tapper starts now.