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Senator John Mccain Will Be Missing Next Week's Vote On Republican Tax Vote; President Trump Talked To Russian President Vladimir Putin For The Second Time In The Past Three Days; Russia Investigation In This Country Coming Under Attack From Lawyers Representing The Trump Presidential Transition And Several GOP Members. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired December 17, 2017 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: -- filled in as a guest editor on BBC radio. And (INAUDIBLE) says it will also be releasing its own podcast.

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

Hello again, everyone. And thank you so much for being with me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

This breaking news just in to CNN. We are learning that Senator John McCain will be missing next week's vote on Republican tax vote.

Senior political correspondent Dana Bash joining me now on the phone.

So Dana, what more can you tell us?


Well, sources are telling Jeff Zeleny and myself that John McCain left the Washington, D.C. area this morning to go back in his home state of Arizona. And that does mean that he is planning to miss the tax vote next week and other votes for the rest of the year. I'm told by one source close to senator McCain that the plan is for him to be in Arizona through the end of 2017.

So - look. There are couple of things here. First and foremost the senator's health. He has been in the hospital for several days since early last week. And it was the issue was that he got sick from the treatment, from the aggressive cancer treatment that he has been going through, several rounds of chemotherapy and it just took a toll on his body. So that's why he was in the hospital. The good news is that he was well enough to get on a plane and go to Arizona. And that's according to one of the sources that I spoke with.

The hope is that he can get there and rest and recuperate. And again, the recuperation at this point his doctors have been telling him is from the treatment for the brain cancer that he has which has been incredibly aggressive. He has done a handful of chemo treatments since the end of July when he was first diagnosed. Then Fred, on just the pure political point here, the tax vote

certainly was razor thin. It wasn't really clear if it was going to be able to pass or not until the end of the week when senator Bob Corker of Tennessee announced that he would vote yes. And that allowed for the Republican leadership to feel confident and comfortable that they had the votes to pass this tax bill even without senator McCain.

So the fact that senator McCain is missing the tax vote doesn't make a difference for the end game here. It doesn't change the outcome for the tax bill because they were already counting on him not being there inside the Republican leadership, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Dana Bash, thank you so much.

So of course, all of our prayers going out to Senator John McCain as he returns to Arizona missing this GOP tax reform bill vote this week.

And tweeting coming from his daughter Megan McCain saying thank you to everyone for their kind words. My father is doing well and we are all looking forward to spending Christmas together in Arizona. If you are feeling charitable this Christmas she gives head for the cure or NBTS tweets to help find a cure for brain cancer is what I would recommend.

So this passionate words coming from Megan McCain, Dana. And of course, everyone is hoping for the best from John McCain -- for John McCain. We know just a few days ago the President of the United States also reaching out to Cindy McCain offering well wishes. Do we know anything more about how he is feeling as he makes his journey back to Arizona?

BASH: Well, we don't know specifics, Fred. But we do know that he was really not well in the middle of last week towards the end of last week. Again, from the treatment, it takes a toll on anybody's body particularly, you know, even if you are a young person and healthy. And he is an 81-year-old healthy person until he got the cancer diagnosis. So that really made him feel unwell to the point where actually he obviously had to be in the hospital. The fact that the doctors felt he was well enough to get on a plane is a good sign.

Now, he is somebody who doesn't always follow doctors' orders. But in this case because he was in the hospital, he was in (INAUDIBLE) and he was under their care, he, from what I understand he wouldn't have gotten on a plane had he not felt well enough to do so. So that is a good sign. And the hope is that once they get to the point where they don't have to be -- if they get to the point where they don't have to be as aggressive with the treatment then his body will recover.

The thing that I have heard from lots of senator McCain's friends is that because of the way that he is he was determined to keep working. He didn't miss any votes until last week. He showed up every day despite feeling, you know, pretty bad as one does if you have multiple rounds of chemotherapy. And so the fact that he kind of has the forced relaxation a lot of his friends are breathing a sigh of relief that he can go home to his beloved Arizona and hopefully recuperate. [16:05:42] WHITFIELD: Yes. And Dana, you know, of course, his health

is a greatest in fortunes, here John McCain. But you know, on this tax reform vote, had it not been clear whether he was on board with it and is there ever a case under circumstances like this in which, you know, someone is able to vote in abstentia (ph)?

BASH: Well, Senator McCain voted yes for the first tax vote when this bill was originally in the Senate. And the feeling among people who I talk to who are close to him was that if they needed him, if they needed him to vote regardless of his health he likely would have been there to do so. The fact that they don't gives him an out that he doesn't have to vote on it.

But it's not an easy thing and it wasn't a sure bet that senator McCain was going to vote on this tax bill. He voted against the Bush tax cuts in 2001 because he was worried about what it would do with the deficit. And at the end of the day, he was proven right because the deficit was sky high for lots of reasons. For one of them, you know, even some Republicans will admit was because of the tax cuts. So he wasn't a sure bet in general but because he voted yes on the first rounds before the bill with the conference at the House, the understanding was that if he were able to vote that he - and they needed his vote to get this over the hump to get his victory then they would have been able to rely on him. But at this point, you know, it's moot because he is on his way home, and if he is not already there in Arizona. And the Republican leadership feels that they have (INAUDIBLE).

WHITFIELD: All right.

And Dana, presidential historian Tim Naftali is also joining us now.

And so, you know, Tim, Senator John McCain is a proven lion. I mean, he is a fighter in so many ways. And it goes even before, you know, being a prisoner of war for so many years in Vietnam and of course his rise in politics. There have been so many crossroads for John McCain.

So in your view everyone is saying their prayers for him as he makes his way back to Arizona. But is there a way in which to kind of (INAUDIBLE), you know, put whether his health and how his health kind of impacts the psyche of all those members of Congress, his fellow senators, members of Congress on the hill at this time particularly when this was to be a potentially pivotal week?

TIMOTHY NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, Fred, I would hope that his fragile health would impact the psyche of all Americans in the sense that if you look at senator McCain's career, he is a man of principle. He is a man who has represented the very best ideals in our country. And we are living in a period right now when we don't see a lot of political courage.

And so I don't know how his health -- I can imagine on a personal level of course his health will affect his colleagues from either side of the aisle. But I believe as he struggles and we want him to succeed, as he struggles we should keep in mind that he represents us at our very best. And we have been through a period of time when we haven't seen us at our very best. And so I think the best way we can wish him better health is to admire how he makes us better as a people.

WHITFIELD: He is admired by so many. All right, Tim Naftali, thank you so much. Of course, we are wishing

the McCain family the best as they journey to Arizona spending the Christmas holidays together.

All right. Thank you so much Tim and Dana.

All right. We are also following other breaking news. And today, we have learned that President Trump talked to Russian President Vladimir Putin for the second time in the past three days. The latest call happening earlier today when Putin offered thanks for U.S. intelligence which he says helped prevent an ISIS-inspired attack on St. Petersburg, Russia. Well, this coming as the President's own intel agency say Russia meddled in the U.S. election. And the President's attorneys saying the Russia probe will end soon.

For more on all of this let's bring in CNN's Nic Robertson in Moscow.

So Nic, what is being said there about this phone call between Putin and Trump and, you know, the tone of that call and what it says about the ongoing relations?

[16:10:27] NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, the tone apparently seems to say that the relations between the two men in the intelligence agencies is something that is picking up and getting better. I mean, what we have heard from President Putin for the Russian side is that they initiated the call to President Trump that this was to thank him for the CIA's assistance with a Russian intelligence services.

I mean, the plot that was plotted here would have been potentially big, potentially significant in the sense of some St. Petersburg around a major cathedral there, (INAUDIBLE) cathedral, which is close to a very big shopping mall, is close to a major subway station, is close to a big international hotel. The area is popular with Russia Russians, popular with tourists. And that attack was believed to have been taking place on Saturday.

Now, the Russians, because of the information, were able to arrest seven people, pick up explosives, pick up automatic weapons, ammunition and literature, extremist literature is the way the Russians are describing, it from this terror cell. And this terror cell was being directed from outside of Russia by ISIS leaders.

So what you have here is the Russians expressing gratitude. But at the same time a common language here that they are speaking. And that is that according to the White House both Presidents have agreed that this shows how positively the relationship can develop if the two countries cooperate. And President Trump said according to the White House that he was very happy that the U.S. intelligence services have been able to help save Russian lives. So the narrative between these two men on this issue seems to be very close and very tight. WHITFIELD: And is anyone remarking on how perhaps strange this might

be that Russia's President Vladimir Putin believed it embraces U.S. intelligence. But the President of the United States has been very vocal about not trusting U.S. intelligence.

ROBERTSON: You know, here is the other thing that President Putin said. He said to President Trump, this is according to the news services here in Russia that if the United States was in a similar position Russia intelligence services would unstintingly immediately unconditionally provide intelligence to the United States if they thought there was a terror attack about to happen.

So no, they are - no one here is sort of saying, hey, this just seems a little odd in the context and everything. But I think if you look at it in a Russian context, President Putin is going for Presidential election in March. It favors him at this stage to have, you know, what seems to be a positive relationship with President Trump for this all to be in the good atmosphere.

He is expected to win. That is undoubted. But to have this nagging situation between a criticisms coming from the United States, the Russia attack, that drives on President Putin. And this relationship developing this way is a positive thing for President Putin as well as he runs up towards these elections in three months-time.

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

All right. Meanwhile, the Russia investigation in this country coming under attack from lawyers representing the Trump Presidential transition and several GOP members. This after the special counsel obtained thousands of emails from the transition team. Trump transition lawyers claim the emails were obtained illegally.

A representative for Robert Mueller fighting back saying quote "we have secured either the account owner's consent or appropriate criminal process," end quote. All of this as some Republicans in the conservative media casting doubt on the credibility of the Mueller investigation and Democrats questioning the motives behind these attacks on Mueller.


SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: I think Republicans should end their concerted effort to undermine the credibility of the Mueller investigation. The question is what are they afraid of? What is the White House afraid of? Let's let them finish the job and get the facts.


WHITFIELD: All right. This all coming on what could be a critical week in the Russia investigation. Mueller is preparing to meet with President Trump's private attorneys about Russia interference in the 2016 election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: I think there is nothing there. It should be over quickly and people want to focus on other things.


WHITFIELD: All right. Well, earlier I spoke with democratic congressman Ted Lieu to get his reaction to special counsel Mueller obtaining those Trump transition emails. And he believes the law is on Mueller's side.


REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: I'm a former government lawyer. I'm also a former prosecutor. These were government email addresses. Courts have not found a right of privacy to government emails. Those are the property of the government and the taxpayer. In addition, media reports show that the GSA gave notice to the transition team officials that their government devices and government emails may also be monitored. So this claim is completely ridiculous and shows how desperate the Trump transition team lawyers are.


[16:15:24] WHITFIELD: All right. So for more on this looming legal battle let's bring in CNN's Boris Sanchez at the White House.

Boris, you are also talking to transition team members. What do they have to say?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, for the head of the Trump transition team is making the case that Robert Mueller obtained the emails unlawfully. Really, what we have here is a dispute over who owns these emails. On one hand you have general services administration which provided email support and logistics for the transition team making the case that these emails are public record as one GSA spokesperson told buzz feed news earlier today.

We should note that these emails between the Trump transition team were using a dot-gov domain. So the GSA feels that they have legal standing in providing these documents to Robert Mueller. Despite that, Ken Nahigian, the executive director of the Trump transition team is refuting that idea all together. He says that during the transition there was an understanding between the Trump team and GSA that though the GSA was providing the domains and the servers to allow these email contacts, the emails themselves were still owned by the Trump transition team. They were their property. Meaning that ultimately they had discretion over who they could and could not be shared with.

And Nahigian actually went further to try to put some distance between the transition team and the White House saying that he doesn't really have an official relationship with the White House.

He told me quote "I don't talk to the White House."

He is of course responding to claims from Democrats that are saying that this is part of a ploy to get rid of the special counsel and to fire Robert Mueller. He told me that essentially the reason that this letter was sent by the Trump transition team to several committees on Congress to reveal that Robert Mueller had obtained these emails was in order to protect integrity of future transitions. He went step further and told me that right now the transition team was exploring different options to try to figure out how to respond to these revelations. We may hear of an official response from them before the end of today, Fred.

WHITFIELD: OK. And that's because the President soon to be on his way back to the White House from Camp David?

SANCHEZ: Well, Fred, again, the transition team is trying to stress the separation between them and the White House. So in reality, what we are hearing from the transition team is that the President in no way would weigh in on how the Mueller investigation obtained these emails. As a matter of fact, I reached out to the White House for comment and they declined to weigh in on this.

But clearly, it ultimately comes down to a question of who you believe. If you believe Republicans who suggest that because of this news that Robert Mueller obtained the emails this way and because of these text messages that were revealed to have been exchanged between some a former top FBI official that were on the special counsel that were critical of the President and somehow the special investigation is tainted, you can also take the route that many Democrats are taking like Adam Schiff and Jackie Speier who made the case that these revelations are part of some kind of ploy by the White House to fire Robert Mueller.

Overall, it makes for a very interesting week because we understand that as early as before the end of the week the White House legal team is set to meet with Robert Mueller. So all eyes and ears will be pressed against that meeting trying to glean any information that we can from that, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Operative word. Interesting. Interesting week ahead.

All right. Boris Sanchez, thank you so much from the White House.

All right. So what do these new developments mean for the overall Russia investigation? My panel will be weighing in next. Let's see if they use the word "interesting."


[16:23:17] WHITFIELD: All right. As express concerns grow about special counsel Bob Mueller, a little more than an hour ago, this tweet from former attorney general Eric Holder saying absolute red line. The firing of Bob Mueller or crippling the special counsel's office if removed or meaningfully tampered with, there must be mass popular peaceful support of both. The American people must be seen and heard. They will ultimately be determinative.

Let's discuss this and other developments with my panel right now. Back with me Tim Naftali, a CNN historian and former director of the Nixon Presidential museum. I am also joined by Richard Painter, a former White House ethics lawyer and Page Pate, a CNN legal analyst. Good to see all of you.

All right. So Richard, let me begin with you. Eric Holder saying if Mueller were to be fired it would be an absolute red line. Would that be a potentially dangerous political and legal line for the President to cross if this were the case?

RICHARD PAINTER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER UNDER GEORGE W. BUSH: I think it would create a constitutional crisis in this country. There is some talk about the President trying to fire Robert Mueller at the end of the week. But I will tell you that has before Christmas, we are going to have to have the House and Senate judiciary committees meeting on Christmas Eve, Christmas all the way through New Year's. And I think President Trump is going to have to be removed very, very quickly.

We cannot tolerate that in this country. We have an independent special prosecutor and it happens to be a Republican, appointed by Republican deputy attorney general who was also appointed himself by President Trump. We cannot have the President remove the special prosecutor and all these arguments about Mueller getting these emails somehow there is something wrong with make absolutely --.


[16:25:07] WHITFIELD: The transition team said it was illegal.

PAINTER: Well, they are just wrong. They are flat out wrong. These are emails were sent on a government server and they belong to the United States government (INAUDIBLE). And Robert Mueller can have them. We have a Congress that spent millions of dollars going through Hillary Clinton's emails. That's my taxpayer money. And they can do that for years and yet they are arguing that somehow Robert Mueller can't take a look at emails from the Trump transition team. They are already on a GSA server. That argument makes absolutely no sense. And what he is investigating is collaboration with the Russians. This is critically important to our national security. Robert Mueller stays in place or Donald Trump is going to have to go. It's that simple.

WHITFIELD: All right. So two things, then, Page, on the issue of Mueller being removed. It would seem that the White House would have learned the lesson from the removal of Comey in the midst of investigations. So that would be a really big problem. You know, there are lots of rumors floating around.

And then second that, the emails, you know. Richard says it's not illegal and that it's not private property as the transition team alleges. But you do see a problem in which it may have been obtained.

PAGE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I'm a little critical of how the special counsel handled getting those emails. I think Richard is right. I think the GSA, the government owns those emails. I don't think there is an expectation of privacy. I don't think --. WHITFIELD: Although, the transition team says that there was an


PATE: Well, that is why I'm concern. Again, that doesn't give the transition team a legal argument that those emails should not have been produced. But what it does do is it creates this perception that the special counsel's office is going to ride rough shot over whatever rules and protocols exists just to get what they want.

There is no reason in my mind, and again, I don't know the inner workings to these special counsel's investigation, but why couldn't they have just gone to the transition team and said look, we know these emails exist. GSA has them. They are going to be destroyed. We are going to go and get them. If you have a legal objection make it now. Let's take it --.

WHITFIELD: The lawyers might give that courtesy but investigators might say we like the element of surprise. We are going to go retrieve what we think is pertinent to the investigation.

PATE: But there was no chance that these emails are going anywhere. They were preserved. If anyone tried to destroy and that would be a separate crime of obstruction of justice. I just think with this investigation, it is so dramatically different from any other investigation. You have to do it better than just by the book. You do not want to create the argument that we are now hearing that the special counsel's office is not objective or not credible.

WHITFIELD: But Tim, then the other argument is if the White House feels so confident, transition team, campaign, you know, whichever as it relates to Trump and Russia, if they feel so confident that there is nothing there then why work so hard to undermine the special counsel investigation? Doesn't that only now make the appearance of there is something to hide, you know, gleanie (ph) the brighter?

NAFTALI: Well, Fred, I mean, that has been the question all along. Why has the President in the period when he was President-elect, why has he worked so hard to undermine people and institutions that have been worried about Russian intervention in the election? Why doesn't he back off and let the process work its way?

He didn't have to have a special prosecutor. That didn't have to happen, but he fired Comey. There are a lot of things that occurred in this investigation. There are product of President Trump's overreaching. And that's been very troubling. So it is very hard to explain unless they are trying to - unless he is trying to hide something.

I wanted to raise one quick point about transition materials. I leave it to the lawyers to decide whether there was permission granted or not. But I do know that transition materials are considered private property. Whether that changes when you begin to use government structures and government server I wouldn't know. But I do know that under our system, transition materials are considered the property of the President. Now, I suspect Mueller -- I know he would know that. So I suspect they proceeded in a way that was legal. But I just wanted people to understand that it's not new. That transition materials considered private.

WHITFIELD: OK. Well, Richard - can you wave on that because if you have already in transition been afforded to national security, there have been swearing ins, et cetera, how is it you can argue that that is private material when you are now talking about national security at stake?

PATE: Well, Fred, because they own the email servers and they own the email addresses doesn't mean they own the content of those conversations. Like I have a Gmail account, OK. All of that goes through Gmail servers. And if they get a request from the government they may produce that, but I still may have an expectation of privacy from a fourth amendment standpoint in what I'm saying in those emails.

This is why since there is somewhat of a gray area there, I think the special counsel should have given the transition team the opportunity to raise that objection, have it decided by a court so we wouldn't be having this discussion.

[16:30:02] WHITFIELD: And then, you know, Richard, if we talk about, you know, Bob Mueller. There are rumors that if he were to be removed, how is that not tend amount to the Saturday night massacre Nixon, you know, years? I mean, is that what this would have the appearances of?

RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: Yes, it certainly would. And I would say, I think what people are upset about with the e-mails is that Rob Mueller went and interviewed the whole White House staff or all bunch of people over there who weren't thinking about whatever they may have sent in these e-mails and now they know he has got the e-mails. So, if they lied to Robert Mueller they are in deep trouble.

If he had giving them the heads up then they might have said something different in those interviews. That's what people may be upset about. If we see the special counsel get fired it's going to be like the Saturday night massacre. But I got to say, the Watergate thing is really (INAUDIBLE) compared with this. That was a break-in, a spying on the Democrats. Same stuff, but President Mixon didn't use the KGB to do the job.

He didn't collaborate with a foreign power. We have somebody who is collaborating with the Russians at some point along the line. We know that. We got to find out who and we got to find out the collaboration was illegal. Our national security is at stake here.

WHITFIELD: And democracy.

PAINTER: If Robert Mueller gets fired, President Trump is out the door. That's the only option.

WHITFIELD: Yes, and democracy argue many. And so, you know Tim, the issue of documents whether it's the transition team saying wait a minute, this is private material -- when Bob Mueller's team said to the White House, to the campaign that we are now collecting, retrieving, going after all documents, why would anyone not think that these e-mails during the transition would not be part of documents?

TIM NAFTALI, CNN HISTORIAN: Well listen, I don't know what the arrangement is. In the digital world there are certain perhaps new regulations and new documents that have to be signed when a transition team begins to use U.S. servers. I don't know how that works. But let me make one point very clear here. There are two issues. One is the survival of Mr. Mueller as the head of the investigation and two, is the integrity of the investigation. If Mr. Mueller should be fired for whatever reason and I share with Richard the sense that that would be a constitutional crisis, the question is what happens to the investigation?

Now, there is no reason under our law that the president would have the right to shut down the investigation. During the Watergate period, there were a couple of days when there was a real fear that Richard Nixon not only wanted to get rid of Archibald Cox, but shutdown the entire investigation. So we should be watching two things right now. One is the strength of Mr. Mueller's position and two, the integrity of the investigation.

WHITFIELD: All right. To really quick Page or Richard, if you were to remove the head of the investigation does that mean the investigation goes away?

PATE: Not necessarily. I mean, there needs to be another special counsel appointed by Rosenstein to go ahead and continue the investigation.

WHITFIELD: OK, and quickly Richard.

PAINTER: I would say so. There have to be another special counsel. Congress would investigate and I believe the New York attorney general may have a lot of knowledge about what's going on with this investigation. So, this thing is going to continue.

WHITFIELD: OK. Thanks to all of you. Appreciate it. Tim Naftali, Richard Painter, Page Pate. Appreciate it.

All right, coming up, a ground stop at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport, the world's busiest, all because of a power outage. The problems now mounting as airlines cancel flights. We'll talk to one of the people sitting on the tarmac, next.


WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Breaking news out of Atlanta. We're hearing power is partially back on at America's busiest airport after a massive power outage. A ground stop is in place and there are no international flights arriving at the Atlanta airport. CNN has also learned one of the terminals has been evacuated and Southwest Airlines has cancelled all operations at Atlanta's airport.

CNN producer Betsy Klein is on a Delta plane at the airport there. So Betsy, what's happening? How long have you been sitting on the tarmac as we look at a wide view of an awful lot of planes at a standstill on the tarmac? BETSY KLEIN, CNN PRODUCER (via telephone): That's right. So I was on

a flight from Washington. We landed at about 2:15. So we've been on this plane for almost two and a half hours. The pilot comes on the loud speaker with occasional updates mostly to say that there is still not an update at all, to say that no one's really talking to them, saying when the power might be restored. You can see in the video I just sent into CNN.

They are resuming beverage service passing out snacks, but they actually just paused the beverage service momentarily because there is a medical emergency on a plane behind us. I'm on -- there's between 80 and 100 planes that are sitting on the tarmac just waiting because there's no power we can't get into the gate and no flights could get out. We are one of these 80 to 100 planes, but we were one of the last planes to land so we're all the way at the end of the line.

WHITFIELD: Oh my goodness. So, people really have to be very patient. I mean, you know, two and a half hours on a plane on the tarmac. So what are you hearing from passengers? I mean it's great that the pilot was trying to give you some information there but how are people holding up in all of these.

KLEIN: I mean, everyone seems to be pretty calm, pretty understanding and (INAUDIBLE) spirits, but the pilot just came on the speaker a little while ago and said that some of these planes that are further up in line are going to

[16:40:00] start to be taken to open gates and unloaded on staircases. So we think there is an end in sight for us, but he said it could be at least, at the very least, an hour and now we are going to the back of the line anyway because of medical emergency so who knows. So far, you know, we've our in flight entertainment. Everyone is sitting pretty quiet. People have gotten up and moved around a little bit, but we don't know how long we're going to be here.

WHITFIELD: Oh my goodness. Well, I hope you will all have packed your patience. We're looking at your video now that you took inside the plane where everyone is sitting and waiting. We see the flight attendants there trying to, you know, serve the passengers there, but oh my gosh, I'm feeling for you. Two and a half hours sitting is a long time and not knowing how much longer it might be.

And of course we're hoping the best for the medical emergency in the plane behind you. All right, Betsy Klein, we're going to let you go for now. We'll check back with you. Thank you so much.

All right, so much more straight ahead in the "Newsroom" but first, this time of year, well it's all about giving back. The 11th Annual CNN Heroes all star tribute salutes 10 people who put others first all year long. The star-studded gala airs live tonight, 8:00 eastern time. Here now is a preview.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are every day heroes. They inspire and change lives every day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want to make sure that they make better choices when it comes to violence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you lose your child the love doesn't go away. It has to find a place. So lucky I found a place to put that love.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are truly what it means to be a hero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is people helping people the best way we know how.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When they see me they always feel happy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just give them a chance. They can do anything you ask them to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight, CNN presents a very special live event.


KELLY RIPA, HOST: And I'm Kelly Ripa.

COOPER: Join us live for CNN Heroes, an all star tribute.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: CNN Heroes, an all star tribute live tonight at 8:00 p.m. on CNN.



WHITFIELD: All right, in just a few hours the 11th Annual CNN Heroes All Star Tribute gets started and we'll be saluting 10 people who put others first all year long. The star-studded gala airs live coming up at 8:00 p.m. eastern time and guess what, our Polo Sandoval is already there on the red carpet to (INAUDIBLE) show us how everybody else is getting ready for the show to begin. So what's happening?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'll tell you some of the preps here, Fred. The red carpet already rolled out. The stage I got to see a little while ago. It's beautiful. It is set. There is definitely a great vibe here in New York City here at the American Natural History Museum as we prepare to not only welcome but to honor these incredible human beings.

These are the top 10 heroes for 2017. And out of those you have voted, the people around the world have voted to award that one hero of the year. This is the night that we begin to really get to know the stories of some of these individuals. So, a tremendous line I'm sure. It is star-studded but the main objective here is to honor these incredible people from not just from around the country but around the world.

People who are making that positive difference and the little tiny pockets that perhaps may go unnoticed globally. I had a chance to speak to just one of the top 10 heroes a little while ago telling me that their organization that helps some of these young adults that are fighting cancer to really -- this organization has only grown after becoming one of these top 10 heroes. So, it's going to be interesting to hear some of the stories, meeting some of the people, Fred. A very big night lined up here on CNN. We know that many people will be watching tonight at 8:00 p.m.

WHITFIELD: Yes. So inspirational and, you know, have that hanky because it's also incredibly emotional, too. Such passion filling the room, and you looking very handsome and dapper. Polo Sandoval on the red carpet there.

SANDOVAL: Thanks Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks so much. And be sure to tune in just three hours from now for the CNN Heroes tribute special, 8:00 p.m. eastern right here on CNN. We'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: You're fired. It's that phrase and the flick of the wrist with it. You're fired. That made businessman Donald Trump a national sensation and guess what, he hasn't stopped using all of that in the White House. That's this week's "State of the Cartoonion."





TAPPER (voice-over): I suppose in retrospect we should have all known that the man known for a specific signature phrase --

TRUMP (voide-over): You're fired.

TAPPER (voice-over): Would go through White House and administration personnel as (INAUDIBLE) Congress goes through sexual harassment settlement funds. Not just the firing of James Comey of course, which is its own special constitutional case.

TRUMP (voice-over): You're fired.

TAPPER (voice-over): But the long, long list -- National Security Adviser Mike Flynn --

TRUMP (voice-over): You're fired.

TAPPER (voice-over): And Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

TRUMP (voice-over): Fired! TAPPER (voice-over): And Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

TRUMP (voice-over): You're fired.

TAPPER (voice-over): And the HHS Secretary Tom Price.

TRUMP (voice-over): You're fired.

TAPPER (voice-over): And Communications Director Anthony Scarramuci.

TRUMP (voice-over): You're fired.

TAPPER (voice-over): And senior strategist Steve Bannon.

TRUMP (voice-over): You're Fired.

TAPPER (voice-over): And whatever it was exactly that Sebastian Gorka did.

TRUMP (voice-over): You're fired.

TAPPER (voice-over): The list goes on and on and on.

TRUMP (voice-over): You're fired!

TAPPER (voice-over): Hey, I'm not even listing anyone anymore, Mr. President.

TRUMP (voice-over): You're fired.

TAPPER (voice-over): OK, this is just weird.

Trump (voice-over): You're fired! Get out of here.

TAPPER (voice-over): OF course the president might want to think twice before going after Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Firing him might create even more of a constitutional crisis than the firing of Comey potentially might ultimately cause.

TRUMP (voice-over): You --

TAPPER (voice-over): Yes, you might want to

[16:55:00] think twice about that one sir.


WHITFIELD: All right. Always funny and educational. All right, thanks so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield and the next hour of the "Newsroom" starts right after this.


ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You are on the "CNN Newsroom." I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thank you for being here. Some breaking news, the president just moments ago landing at joint base Andrews after his time at Camp David, and he was immediately greeted with questions of the Russia investigation and what he plans to do regarding Special Counsel Mueller

[17:00:00] Listen.