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Vote on Massive Tax Reform Bill Expected Tuesday; Omarosa Questions Diversity in White House; Trump Attorneys to Meet with Special Council & Rob Goldstone to Testify in Congress; WaPo: CDC Told to Eliminate Words by Trump Administration; Trump Judicial Nominee Struggles with Basic Legal Questions; Kentucky Voters Still Betting on Trump. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired December 16, 2017 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: In a matter of days, the massive tax reform is expected to be voted on in Congress and heading to the president's approval, his signature. Perhaps that early Christmas gift that the president had been promising for.

Here are some of the key details of this new plan. Despite a pledge to reduce the number of personal income tax brackets, this bill keeps all seven. Taxes will be lower for many in those brackets. The biggest cut is being saved for corporations where the tax rate drops to 21 percent from its current 35 percent. And individuals will also be able to deduct up to $10,000 in state and local taxes. And the exemption for the estate tax would be doubled.

Moments ago, the president explaining why he thinks this bill will be good, particularly for the middle class.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This will be great for jobs. It will be fantastic for the middle-income people and for jobs. It will also benefit lots of other things. I mean, we're looking to -- if you look at the whole thing, everybody's going to benefit. But I think the greatest benefit is going to be for jobs and for the middle class, middle income.


WHITFIELD: All right, CNN's Boris Sanchez joining us from the White House.

The president sounding really confident going into this week as he heads off to Camp David. But, you know, he's not quite doing a victory lap just yet.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fred. He's still kind of selling this bill as you just heard him do before he departs for Camp David. Right now, the White House is cautiously optimistic that barring any kind of procedural snafu this will be their first major legislative victory, the passing of the first major tax reform bill in more than 30 years. They're confident, in part, because we've seen some Republican

Senators that were previously in the no column switching over to yes, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio who drew a red line on Thursday saying that he would not support this bill unless there was an increase in the child tax credit. Yesterday, it seems there was an agreement to increase the child tax credit. And so he shared a congratulatory phone call with the president, pledging his support. Also this is something a bit personal for the president considering his daughter, Ivanka, has worked for months to push for an increase in the child tax credit.

Another Senator, Bob Corker, was a no, because of his concern over what the tax bill could do to the nation's deficit. He's clearly gotten over those concern because he also shared a congratulatory phone call with the president, pledging his support for the bill.

Even other Senators who were previously on the fence or undecide or made statements they were unlikely to vote for this bill, like Senator Susan Collins and Mike Lee.

The big question comes down to attendance. You have two Republican Senators with health issues this week that made it unclear whether or not they would be able to vote. Thad Cochran had an outpatient procedure on Monday. His office says he will be on hand for this vote when it takes place either late Tuesday or Wednesday as it's looking like right now. And then of course, Senator John McCain, who's being treated for brain cancer here in Washington, D.C., at Walter Reed Medical Center. His office has said he will be there for a vote. But sources are telling CNN that his health is very frail. We should note that President Trump called Walter Reed yesterday and spoke with Cindy McCain, the Senator's wife, to offer best wishes and to check in. Before heading to Camp David, the president was asked about John McCain's health by reporters, but he did not give any indication as to how the Senator was doing -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right, Boris Sanchez, thanks so much from the White House.

Of course, there are some sticking points, and there have been along the way for this tax bill. Senator Marco Rubio threatening to vote against it at the last minute. But then, the late edition now, of a $2,000 child tax credit, changes his vote from a yes to a no. Republican Senators wanted a repeal of the individual mandate in Obama to be included, something that wasn't in the House version. The Senate won out and the final version eliminates that mandate.

I want to bring in our political panel. Julian Zelizer, a CNN political analyst and historian at Princeton University. And Karoun Demirjian, a CNN political analyst and a reporter for "The Washington Post."

Good to see you both.


WHITFIELD: Julian, you first. The president expected to potentially do a real victory lap. This would be his first, you know, legislative accomplishment. But given that this bill is so unpopular, the president is unpopular, Congress is unpopular, it's not necessarily reform, say some, but, instead, a new plan. How big of a victory might this be for the president?

ZELIZER: It's good news/bad news. The good news for him is accomplishing something on the legislative front is significant and he will be able to point to this, as other Republicans will be, as a change in domestic policy and a tax cut that a lot of the business community will be excited about. The bad news is this is the second most unpopular piece of legislation in about 30 years. So the Republicans will really have to sell why this is necessary. And they'll be after effects that Republicans will have to contend with, including taxes going up for many people in northeastern, and the states and in California where there are many Republicans who will face an angry electorate.

[13:05:20] WHITFIELD: So, Karoun, if they have to sell, you know, that this is something the Americans really need, really sell it, when is there time to do that? Will that even happen?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That is their -- what they have to do in the next several months. Look, this is a win for the GOP to have said look, we can actually get our act together and pass a comprehensive, after a whole year in which they managed to not meet the mark they set for themselves. It's good for the GOP members in the Congress that are running again, it that a lot of this stuff does not kick in until the next tax cycle, which people will not start to feel until they're doing their taxes at the end of 2018 a few months after the election is. When it starts to matter is when people start to do their actual budgeting of whether they made out better or worse. And we know some of these provisions for lower and middle-class folks are expiring earlier than others. This will all start to kind of be a moment of reckoning before we get to the 2020 cycle. So there may be -- there may be individuals who are able to sell this as promises still of what you will be able to see that will be better. The bottom line -- the actual tax bracket is. But the bottom line for people where they live when you are kind of balancing out both, OK, what is your raw tax bracket, but what is also the added burden that you don't necessarily have that health care mandate anymore with these subsidies, that's going to take longer for people to feel where they live and their actual budgeting at home. Can you get through one election cycle or more? Probably, it starts to become difficult after the next November.

WHITFIELD: Julian, a legislative win, does it potentially change the game at all for this president?

ZELIZER: I don't think it changes the game because President Trump will still be President Trump and my guess is the Twitter feed will be filled with controversy in the coming weeks and the more controversial issues that he is involved in will not stop. And so all of that will undercut the bill and the problems we've discussed will also be problems that the GOP needs to deal with, rather than a piece of legislation they can just boast about. None of that goes away. That said, having a victory undercuts some of his opponents who say

that he can't achieve anything and that the Republican Party is in total disrepair. So that's -- that's good for the administration. But I think all those other problems remain. It's not a turning point that transforms President Trump.

WHITFIELD: All right. Let's talk about a little shake-up taking place in the White House among staff. I'm talking about the departure of Omarosa Manigault Newman from the White House this week and all the publicity it received. She now very publicly kind of questioning the diversity of the White House.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked about diversity following this departure and even, you know, the question is about that, too, and here's what Sanders had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: With Omarosa leaving, how many senior staffers here at the White House are African-American?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have a really diverse team across the board at the White House. We always want to continue to grow the diversity here. We're going to continue to do that and continue to work hard.


HUCKABEE SANDERS: I don't have a number directly in front of me, specifically not African-American. But I can say, again, we have a very diverse team at the White House. Certainly, very diverse team in the press office. And something that we strive for every day is to add and grow to be more diverse and more representative of the country at large.


WHITFIELD: So, Karoun, you first.

She didn't really answer the question, because she was asked specifically about the number of, you know, African-Americans who are considered senior staffers and she talked broadly about diversity. So will there be greater pressure, particularly after this departure, for the White House to be able to specifically address that question?

DEMIRJIAN: Sure, there's going to be greater pressure. The question is, how do they respond to that pressure? There's always pressure on the White House to have a staff that seems more representative of the demographics of the country than necessarily there is. This particular White House has a lot of white men in it, especially when you're looking at the cabinet and the inner circle, the president's advisors. Yes, the president's daughter is there, too. But you don't see a ton of racial diversity. There's a few minorities in the cabinet-level position. But not people that are front and center in the biggest positions, the biggest jobs and the ones that are kind of on camera every day and making headlines. (CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: I guess I wonder if this White House hasn't felt like it had to acquiesce to the question of, you know, is the staff at all representative of the demographics of the nation with this departure. Does this now press the White House to say we have to be more transparent about the representation or lack thereof?

[13:10:10] DEMIRJIAN: It may increase the pressure but again, there's all kinds of pressure to this White House that they choose to respond to. Does this mean they're going to turn around in the next month and find, you know, promote African-American people to be taking over, you know, jobs that are within the president's inner circle? That's not the way they've operated thus far. I can't predict what they may do to respond to the pressure. Certainly, this is now in public as criticism. The president does not always respond to public criticism, so it's an open question.


ZELIZER: Yes, this is a president who has taken on affirmative action, who has often mocked the idea of diversity. So I doubt whether that pressure will really get to him or get to his inner circle. And at the same time, I could almost imagine him using this as one of those cases where he's under attack from the "politically correct," quote/unquote, crowd and acts in a defiant fashion. So it's often hard to prediction how he'll respond to these kinds of issues.

WHITFIELD: There's that today "Washington Post" story that's talking about whether people in a meeting at the CDC were told even among the words no longer to use in written documents "diversity", but we don't have any official word from the White House whether there's a directive and whether that meeting really took place. Even though "The Washington Post" standing by its reporting and the sources that were at that meeting.

All right, thanks to both of you, Julian Zelizer and Karoun Demirjian. Appreciate it.


WHITFIELD: Happy Hanukkah, happy holidays.

ZELIZER: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: Still ahead, President Trump's lawyers are set to meet with Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the coming days. So what could this mean for the Russia investigation?


[13:15:52] WHITFIELD: The Russia investigation could be headed for a few pivotal moments next week. Sources say a key meeting is set to take place between President Trump's private lawyers and the special counsel where the president's team is hoping to learn the investigation is nearing its end. This comes as music publicist, Rob Goldstone, who set up the meeting

between Donald Trump Jr and a Russian lawyer, is set to testify in Congress at any moment now, any day now.

Let's bring in CNN's Nic Robertson, who is in Moscow for us.

Nic, what role is this publicist playing in the investigation? When is he likely to testify to?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, we got an idea of it when he talked to a journalist from a British newspaper about a month or so ago. He said he wants to clear up his involvement in all of this. He says he is just an innocent party. That he was asked by one of the music -- you know, a singer based in Russia, who he represents, to set him up with a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. And this is what he went ahead and did. But obviously, for the investigators, they're going to want to know about what he meant by some of the things he said and the e-mail when he set this up, that he would be bringing a Russian government prosecutor with him, Natalia Valevskaya. Now, she has come out on television here in the past 24 hours and really raised her own questions and doubts about Rob Goldstone and the veracity of what he might say and what he might claim. So it does seem to be an effort, in Russian media at least, to undermine whatever he tells the investigators.

But key to the investigators will be to find out when he said in that e-mail that he would be able to hook up Trump Jr with people who could give him information, Russian government information, that could be detrimental to Hillary Clinton, they're going to want to know and understand more about it.

And the other avenue that they may want to explore with Rob Goldstone as well, Goldstone has said that he was in Moscow in 2013 with Donald Trump when he was here for a Miss Universe Pageant at that time so there will be perhaps elements of now President Trump, Donald Trump's at the time, visit to Moscow then that they may want to talk about. Because, of course, there's been that document, the dossier, that was produced by Fusion -- by Fusion GPS, contributed by former MI6 Analyst Christopher Steele, that perhaps pertain to activities and events during that visit in 2013. So Goldstone may be able to provide information that could offer clarity on those issues as well. That's what investigators are likely to want to probe and find out more. But specifically, what he meant when he said Russian officials haven't had information that could damage Hillary Clinton.

WHITFIELD: All right, Nic Robertson, in Moscow, thanks so much.

All right, still ahead, the CDC reportedly given a list of words prohibited from use in any official documents by the Trump administration. Among them, "fetus, transgender and diversity." What might this say about the legacy of the Trump administration?


[13:23:37] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Officials at the country's top public health agency can no longer use the word "science-based" when preparing next year's budget. "The Washington Post" reports the Trump administration gave the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, a list of seven prohibited words and phrases, including "vulnerable, entitlement, diversity, transgender, fetus, evidence-based and science-based."

The Health and Human Services spokesperson disputes that "Washington Post" report, saying, quote, "The assertion that HHS has banned words is a complete mischaracterization of discussions regarding the budget formulation process. HHS also strongly encourages the use of outcome and evidence data in program evaluations and budget decisions."

A longtime CDC analyst told "The Post" the reaction in the room was mostly, "Are you serious?"

Joining us now, via skype from Washington, is Lena Sun, national health reporter for "The Washington Post."

Lena, I should say, hi. Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: This is pretty extraordinary reading this. A lot of your information, you and another reporter, your information is based on people who were in the room who are anonymous, they're not revealing themselves because they were not speaking in an official capacity, right? So based on these sources, did anyone in the room at the time of this meeting or announcement ask what is the basis of these bans and why?

[13:25:11] SUN: So you have to understand the federal budget process. We're in that now. Federal agencies are working on coming up with the documents to say, here's what we do with the money that the federal government gives us, and they describe those programs. And that's where we are now. And this is the context for which those words were told to these budget analysts that they weren't supposed to use them. Because some drafts had included these words and they were being kicked back and they were flagged as, you know, needing correction. In the case of three of those words, was in writing that they were kicked back. And when the senior person that's a career civil servant had this meeting with the budget analyst, she said, and there are other words, and then she listed the words, and then they were not supposed to use them.


WHITFIELD: Was there any challenge in the room as to why?

SUN: No. You have to understand, these people are budget -- their job is to write up the budget and if you put in these words -


SUN: Well, if you put them in at your level, they're going to get taken out later on. So save yourself some time and don't put them in because they're just going to get kicked back and delay the process.

WHITFIELD: I guess there's a feeling, too, if they publicly dissent, I mean, in the room, then their jobs are in jeopardy?

SUN: Well, the job is to write the budget. The CDC is part of HHS. HHS is part of the federal government. This is what they've been told they do. They would -- this is what they got to do to keep their jobs.

WHITFIELD: Right, right. And so in your -- in your "Washington Post" reporting, you say that people -- your sources allege that, you know, this list of the seven words and phrases that was delivered by -- or at least this meeting was, you know, led by Alison Kelly, a senior leader in the agency's office, financial offices?

SUN: She is the deputy director of the Office of Appropriations, which is part of the Office of Financial Resources, which is a lot of, you know, technical terms to mean that that's the part of the agency that comes up with the budget that gets the information from other parts of the agency, writes it up, sends it up the chain. She's doing her job. It's not her decision to say, oh, we're not going to be able --


WHITFIELD: Do we know where the directive came from?

SUN: We don't. We don't know where it came from. But if you understand the budget process, the Office of Management and Budget is the ultimate arbiter of what goes in the budget. The budget document reflects what the president's priorities and values are. And I would imagine they would be uniform across the government. So you notice one of the words that was forbidden, or people were told not to use, is the word "entitlement." CDC is not an agency that has any of the entitlement programs. That suggests to me that this is something broader within HHS.

WHITFIELD: All right, it's a fascinating read.

Lena Sun, thank you so much. Happy Hanukkah, happy holidays. Thanks for being with us this weekend.

SUN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, still ahead, one of President Trump's judicial nominees gets grilled during his confirmation hearing. We'll bring you that very awkward moment, next.


[13:32:58] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. Seven years after former NBA player, Lorenzen Wright, was found murdered in a field in Memphis, Tennessee, a new twist in the case. His ex-wife, Sherra Wright-Robinson, has been arrested and charged in connection with the basketball star's death, along with a second suspect, a man identified as Billy Ray Turner. He was arraigned earlier this week and is being held at the Shelby County jail in Memphis.

The district attorney there spoke about the charges earlier today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMY WEIRICH, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, SHELBY COUNTY, TENNESSEE: There are bits and pieces to this case that have been solved. But the defendants that have been indicted this week, Tuesday, the Shelby County grand jury returned indictments against Sherra Wright and Billy Turner for conspiracy to kill Lorenzen Wright and first-degree murder of Lorenzen Wright. They are presumed innocent until proven guilty.


WHITFIELD: When police were asked about the relationship between the two suspects, police said, quote, "It's safe to say they knew each other."

President Trump's efforts to remake the federal courts are off to a rather quick start, with the Senate confirming 12 appeals court judges in the president's first year, a modern record. But some of Trump's nominees have come under fire for their extreme lack of experience or even basic legal knowledge. The latest example, Matthew Petersen, a commissioner on the Federal Elections Commission.

CNN justice reporter, Laura Jarrett, has the story.


LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Fred, this cringe-worthy exchange between Republican Senator John Kennedy and President Trump's nominee for a powerful seat on the federal bench in D.C. is raising questions about the qualifications of the people President Trump is appointing.

In this case, Matthew Petersen admits he hasn't tried a case, has no basic grasp on basic legal motions filed routinely in federal court, and really no familiarity with the legal standards he'll be tasked with applying if confirmed. Take a listen.


SEN. JOHN NEELY KENNEDY, (R), LOUISIANA: Have you ever tried a jury trial?




KENNEDY: Criminal?




KENNEDY: State or federal court?

PETERSEN: I have not.

KENNEDY: Do you know what a motion in limine is?

PETERSEN: I probably would not be able to give you a good definition.

KENNEDY: Do you know what the Younger Abstention Doctrine is?

PETERSEN: I've heard of it, but, I, again.

KENNEDY: How about the Pullman Abstention Doctrine?


KENNEDY: You'll all see that a lot in federal court. OK.


[13:35:28] JARRETT: This exchange right on the heels of news earlier this week that the White House is also withdrawing the nomination of Brett Tally, who was unanimously rated not qualified by the American Bar Association, as well as the nomination of Jeff Mateer, who was up for a seat on the federal trial court in Texas, but our "KFile" team found comments where he disparaged transgender children -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: Laura Jarrett, thank you so much.

Let's bring in our legal guys. Avery Friedman, a civil rights attorney, and Richard Friedman, a criminal defense attorney.

Good to see you both.



WHITFIELD: Happy Hanukkah, happy holidays.


HERMAN: You, too.

WHITFIELD: Thank you.

You first, Avery.

This gentleman nominated for a lifetime appointment. The questions that Mr. Kennedy was asking about his knowledge or experience of, you know, different various types of trial, you know, attorney work or even awareness of motions. Is that typical that an attorney or -- would have had all of that experience before being considered for this kind of bench?

FRIEDMAN: Yes! I mean, the amazing thing about this is not that he didn't know anything, the idea that you appear before a Judiciary Committee -- and I've done it -- and believe me, you prepare, because you've got like 10 people firing questions at the same time. What it seems like is I don't think Matthew Petersen is a lunkhead, Fredricka. I think he wasn't prepared. I think he knows nothing about federal court. And it's the best example. And give credit to Senator Kennedy, from Louisiana, who is a Trump supporter who supported his other judicial nominations, but he said, you know what, we are a check and balance against the executive branch and, you know what, within five minutes, there was nothing left of Matthew Petersen. He may be good for an administrative post somewhere, but in a federal courthouse, Fredricka, huh-uh, wrong guy.

WHITFIELD: It was a humiliating moment.


WHITFIELD: You don't have to be from the field of law to just kind of feel for Petersen at that moment.


So, Richard, you know, the American Bar Association rated Petersen as qualified, but, you know, he clearly failed to answer basic questions. So qualified based on what then? Why would, you know, the ABA say that?

HERMAN: He's not qualified, Fred, and I don't believe the ABA said that.

FRIEDMAN: Yes, they did.

HERMAN: This is so disturbing. This is so disturbing, Fred, on so many levels. You know, the United States district court judge, these are some of the best and brightest of the judges in the history of the United States jurisprudence system. They really are. They're appointments for life. They don't answer politically. They don't have to run for office. You walk into a federal court, these are very serious cases, Fred. That's where I make a living. People are facing 20, 30 years in prison. The civil lawsuits are usually $100,000 and above. It's very, very serious. And to think the credulity of this individual to think he had the ability to be a federal court judge, it's like Sarah Palin, who couldn't count to 10, thought she could be the vice president of the United States.


WHITFIELD: Except he didn't nominate himself.


WHITFIELD: Somebody said, hey, I got this great potential opportunity, you want to be able to step up and say yes.


WHITFIELD: But then he's also being underserved perhaps by others who said, we do think you're qualified, it doesn't matter that you haven't, you know, argued in civil, you know, or bench or criminal cases.


FRIEDMAN: Don McGahn, the White House counsel, is who. That's the answer.

HERMAN: No, he never -- Fred, he never did a trial! He never did a small claims court trial.


WHITFIELD: Even we heard Senator Kennedy say, no depositions, I mean, independently --


HERMAN: Not one deposition did he handle on his own, Fred. Come on, he didn't know a motion in limine. A first-year law student, a paralegal, it's on every bar exam.


HERMAN: How do you not know that? It's an abomination. Fred --


WHITFIELD: You haven't used that word in a while. I like that.


WHITFIELD: Avery, the White House though is contending, and they even put out a statement, saying Petersen is qualified. The president's opponents are the ones who keep trying to distract. Senator John Kennedy, you know, the Republican there, you know, was the lawmaker who was grilling Petersen. This is what he said when he was a guest on CNN just last night.


KENNEDY: You can't just walk into a federal courthouse for the very first time and say, here I am, I think I want to be a judge. It just doesn't work that way.


[13:40:00] WHITFIELD: So Avery, I guess everyone is relieved that, no, it doesn't work that way. It shouldn't be so easy. You actually have to be up for the task.

FRIEDMAN: Well, that's right. Beyond the fact that clearly the nominee hadn't been prepared, this isn't lunk-headedness, this is stupidity. I think it's unbridled arrogance coming out of the White House counsel. Don McGahn was one of the -- well, the most instrumental person in setting this nominee up. That poor sucker. You walked into the Judiciary Committee and a Republican Senator ate the guy alive. If anything, the blame -- and let me tell you something, in the history of federal court, in the history of our federal legal system -- it is not exclusively Republican. Democrats have done the same thing. When you put in a candidate like that, by and large, you're going to see exactly what happened yesterday. And you know what, it proves that the system works. The legislative branch checked the executive branch and, yesterday, arrogance lost, and competence won.

WHITFIELD: You can't help but be humiliated for Matthew Petersen, too.


WHITFIELD: Either he wasn't prepped, or somehow no one knew that these are the kinds of questions you would be asked or needed to be prepared for in order to, you know, sit on the bench to have such an incredibly important job for life.


HERMAN: Fred, these were not esoteric questions they were asking him. A motion in limine is a motion made before trial to preclude evidence. It's a basic motion. It's one and one is two. If you're a lawyer, you know this, Fred. He didn't know that!

FRIEDMAN: And that's why he wasn't going to get confirmed.


HERMAN: It's not preparation --


WHITFIELD: Maybe he thought he would not and people around him thought it was going to happen.


WHITFIELD: All right. Well, Richard --

HERMAN: Clearly, he was not -- he missed law school the day they taught law. This guy --


FRIEDMAN: Ah, this guy --


HERMAN: This is a disgrace. This just shows utter incompetence by the administration to appoint someone like this to the federal bench. It's a disgrace. Even the Republicans are losing their minds over this.

(CROSSTALK) WHITFIELD: I'm no attorney, but just watching it, it was more than cringe worthy. It was painful.


HERMAN: Exactly right.

WHITFIELD: -- feel for everybody involved here.

Richard Herman, Avery Friedman, good to see you both.

HERMAN: Thanks, Fred.

Congratulations on your nomination, 49th NAACP Image Awards.

WHITFIELD: Thank you.

HERMAN: You deserve it, Fred, congratulations.

FRIEDMAN: Absolutely.

WHITFIELD: Thank you so much. I feel really honored. Thank you so much.


WHITFIELD: Thanks to you, Avery and Richard. Appreciate it. Always helping us all shine.

Have a great holiday, see you next time.

FRIEDMAN: You, too, yes.

HERMAN: Take care.

WHITFIELD: All right, we'll be right back.


[13:47:14] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back.

Nearly a year ago, we take you to Beattyville, Kentucky. More than 80 percent of people voted for President Trump with high hopes he could bring change. But more than half the people in Beattyville live below the poverty line, and a majority of the people in that county are on Medicaid. So we asked if they still think the president can help bring meaningful change for them.

Here now is CNN's Poppy Harlow.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back to Beattyville, Kentucky. President Trump won 81 percent of the vote in this county. When we came here right after the inauguration, there was a lot of hope. People were betting that President Trump could turn things around for them here, bring back jobs and prosperity.

LEIGHANDRA SHOUSE, BEATTYVILLE, KENTUCKY TRUMP VOTER: The day of the election, everybody was excited. Fresh meat in the White House.

HARLOW: So we've come back a year later to find out if the president has lived up to their hopes.

Are you getting that change you voted for yet?

LEIGHANDRA SHOUSE: I am seeing attempt at change. I'm still hopeful. I don't think any of the problems that we have is going to be quick fixes.

HARLOW (voice-over): Harold and Leighandra Shouse live in Beattyville, Kentucky, with their three daughters. Leighandra's an artist. Harold is a mason. He drives two hours each way to and from work because the best paying job he could find around here only paid $11 an hour. It's steady work but he's making less than he was a year ago.

They invited us to this family meal, nearly a year after we first met them following the election.

LEIGHANDRA SHOUSE: We were the ones that kind of fell in the crack.

HARLOW (on camera): Can Donald Trump help you?



LEIGHANDRA SHOUSE: He don't have insurance. I don't have insurance.

HARLOW (voice-over): Now she's still hopeful but still without health insurance.

(on camera): Did you try to sign up for Obamacare this year?

LEIGHANDRA SHOUSE: Yes, I checked, and it was like $600.

HARLOW: Obamacare's too expensive for you.


HARLOW: But you guys make too much money to qualify for Medicaid.

LEIGHANDRA SHOUSE: Uh-huh, stuck in the middle.

HARLOW: And you got pretty sick recently.


HARLOW: Did you avoid going to the doctor, checking it out for a while because you didn't have health insurance?

LEIGHANDRA SHOUSE: Absolutely. I've lost like 60 pounds in the last six months.

HARLOW: If nothing changes on health care, by 2020, does he get your vote again?

LEIGHANDRA SHOUSE: There would be a really, really good possibility because I see Congress standing in the way more than him.

SARA SHOUSE, DAUGHTER OF LEIGHANDRA & HAROLD SHOUSE: I've worked six shifts this week so I'm pretty tired. It's paycheck to paycheck every time.

HARLOW (voice-over): Their 22-year-old daughter, Sara, makes them immensely proud.

(on camera): Your hope for them?

[13:49:58] LEIGHTANDRA SHOUSE: That they can find happiness without having to just break their --

HARLOW (voice-over): She and their two other daughters are a big reason why they voted for President Trump. They want their children to be able to find good work.

SARA SHOUSE: I have a degree in public health and a degree in human services.

HARLOW (on camera): You tried to get jobs in the town with your degree.


HARLOW: What happened?

SARA SHOUSE: Everything was like $8 or $9 an hour.

HARLOW: But you have thousands in student loan debt.


HARLOW: So the system isn't working for you.


HARLOW (voice-over): Sara didn't vote, she says. No time because she was working three jobs. She has been hoping for change, largely for her parents.

(on camera): Here you are watching your mom go through this, not knowing what's wrong. And she doesn't have the healthcare she needs.

SARA SHOUSE: It breaks my heart. I could cry talking about it. My mom is the best person. She would give anything to anybody. And she can't get the help she needs. It's not her fault.

HARLOW: And you can't help?

SARA SHOUSE: I can't do anything to help her.

HARLOW: You don't make enough to pay for that?


HARLOW (voice-over): Beattyville is a community that's struggling. According to the data, more than half the people live below the poverty line and a majority of the county are on Medicaid.

(on camera): Beattyville has been home for you since you were born?

LARRY PHILLIPS, BEATTYVILLE, KENTUCKY TRUMP VOTER: Home sweet home. If you want to get back to nature, Beattyville is where you want to come.

HARLOW: Larry Phillips is trying to tap into that building cabins for tourists.

PHILLIPS: We have the best geological rock finding area pretty much in the world.

HARLOW: His auto shop is struggling.

PHILLIPS: It's been a steady decline. You've lost some oil. We had a lot of coal mining.

HARLOW (on camera): Is that part of why you voted for President Trump?

PHILLIP: Yes. That was a lot.

HARLOW (voice-over): This coal facility, people kept telling us, reopened after the election. It's nowhere near big enough to turn this economy around.

(on camera): How has the president done one year in?

PHILLIPS: He has done, or tried to do more of his promises than any other president.

HARLOW: He's tried. But has he succeeded?

PHILLIPS: No. He's not been able. I mean, it's been one stumbling stone.

HARLOW: Who do you blame for getting into his way?

PHILLIPS: A lot of politicians. The way I see it, he is a normal person like myself. Not a politician. He don't talk like a politician.

HARLOW: He's a billionaire from New York City.

PHILLIPS: He's a billionaire from New York City. He's not a politician.

HARLOW: He is. He's the president.

PHILLIPS: He's the president, but --


HARLOW: He's a politician.

PHILLIPS: You know good and well, he don't act like one.

HARLOW: What will it take for President Trump to win your vote again in 2020?

PHILLIPS: All he's got to do is run again, honey, he's done got it.

HARLOW: That's it?

PHILLIPS: That's it.

HARLOW (voice-over): But that's not it for this David Kumer (ph). After voting for President Obama twice, he cast his ballot for President Trump.

DAVID KUMER (ph), BEATTYVILLE, KENTUCKY TRUMP VOTER: He's not the man I thought he was. He's not. He just -- he's overbearing. And he's not getting nothing done.

HARLOW (on camera): He says he's accomplished more than any president.

KUMER (ph): He has not. He talks a good talk, but can he walk the walk? He said he'd put everybody back to work.

HARLOW (voice-over): Jobs with a living wage. That's what Kumer (ph) says would lift Beattyville up, not government assistance.

For now, he relies on its father's V.A. benefits to get by as he takes care of his aging mother.

KUMER (ph): I'm not -- if I went to find work I'd have to leave here.

HARLOW (on camera): If you look at the population that could be working but not what would you say it is?

KUMER (ph): At least 30 percent, 35 percent.

HARLOW: That's scary.

KUMER (ph): It is. It's that way all over these towns.

HARLOW (voice-over): Something else ripping at the foundation of so many communities, including this one, the drug epidemic.

CAMERON BROWN, BEATTYVILLE, KENTUCKY RESIDENT: The drug epidemic in our county leads back to jobs, because if there were jobs people, wouldn't feel forced to do bad things such as drugs.

HARLOW: This 18-year-old Cameron Brown knows all too well.

BROWN: Last summer, a bunch of drug-related murders. It bothered me real bad, so I wrote a song about it.


BROWN: There's plenty of people just sitting at the house right now praying for a job. It's killing them. They want to work and provide for the families but don't have the means.


HARLOW: Kentucky's crackdown on the opioid crisis has landed more people behind bars. It was announced a big employer will reopen.

(on camera): It's the private prison right down here. So, yes, it means more jobs here. But it's because of the heartbreaking impact that drugs are having here and across the country.

Does President Trump get credit for the prison reopening?



[13:55:05] HARLOW: The prospects for future generations of Beattyville right now, what are they?

CHUCK CAUDILL (ph), BEATTYVILLE, KENTUCKY TRUMP VOTER: They're grim. They're grim because right now, we're clinging to the past. The only way we're going to fix eastern Kentucky is get entrepreneurship, is create jobs by people creating businesses.

HARLOW: Some are.

CAUDILLE (ph): Some are.

TARA NEWMAN, BEATTYVILLE, KENTUCKY RESIDENT: It's time that our community is seen in a more positive light. I think that's what my generation and the current leaders of Beattyville have decided to do.

JESSICA MINDE (ph), BEATTYVILLE, KENTUCKY RESIDENT: We want to have a community that our children don't have to graduate and leave. They want them to see that you can live here and be happy and successful.

HARLOW: Did you think about leaving?

SARA SHOUSE: I have, but I love this town. This is more than just where I grew up. This town is my family.

LEIGHTANDRA SHOUSE: We have to learn to support each other. We can't wait for somebody to pull us out of a hole.

HARLOW: Eight-one percent of the people here voted for President Trump. What has he brought to Beattyville?

PHILLIPS: Well, he brought hope. Without hope, you have nothing.

BROWN: People have been optimistic because they wanted Trump to win. They actually put in an effort. Once they seen he won, they took the initiative and done something.

We're poverty stricken, but happiness is rich here. If you're happy, you're rich.