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GOP Top Donor Accused of Sexual Misconduct; Clinton Blocked Firing of Adviser Accused of Harassment; Michigan AG Launches Investigation Surrounding Olympic Sexual Abuse Scandal; Judge Bars Turpins From Contacting Children For 3 Years. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired January 27, 2018 - 12:00   ET



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: -- me, I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Democrats are launching new efforts to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller from the White House. The move follows the bombshell reports from several news outlets including CNN that President Trump tried to fire Mueller last June.

While the president is calling the stories fake news, some lawmakers are taking the threats to the special counsel very seriously. Senate Democrats are now pushing legislation to prevent any official from undermining the Russia investigation and protect Mueller from being fired by the president.

Let's go now to CNN White House correspondent, Boris Sanchez at the White House. So, Boris, Democrats, you know, are very concerned. How far are they willing to go to try to protect Mueller?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Very far apparently, Fred. Democrats now revisiting these two bills that were originally introduced in August, designed to not only protect Robert Mueller, but potentially other special counsels in the future.

Both of these bills make it so that only the attorney, a non-recused attorney general, could fire the special counsel. So, theoretically, if they were to pass, Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from the Russia investigation, wouldn't be able to fire the special counsel.

The biggest difference between the two bills is that one of them requires the attorney general would have to get approval from a three- judge panel before firing the special counsel. The other makes it so that if fired, the special counsel could then dispute the firing before a three-judge panel as well.

There was a big push for this kind of legislation going into last year because of all the rumors swirling that there was a plan to oust of Robert Mueller. That died down after assurances from the president and others in the administration that there was no such plan in place.

In light of that "New York Times" reporting that CNN has confirmed, Democrats are now saying that this should be a priority. Here's Senator Mark Warner making that case.


SENATOR MARK WARNER (D-VA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE VICE CHAIRMAN: I think if the president had gone through with this or tries to go through with it on a going forward basis, we're into unchartered territory and the real question of fundamentals of our democracy. Are we still going to be a country where rule of law prevails and that no one, even the president, is above the law?

My hope will become next week that Congress will take up bipartisan legislation that was around last year that would protect the special prosecutor from these kinds of arbitrary actions.


SANCHEZ: Now, some Republicans, including the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, have said they're open to this kind of legislation, but Democrats realistically face an uphill battle here.

Just last fall, Mitch McConnell said that this wasn't something that was a priority, and that was during the push to get this kind of legislation passed. Beyond all of that, you have to imagine that a lot of Republicans aren't inclined to try to squeeze this type of legislation into the ongoing budget debate with a government shutdown potentially looming in just over a week -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Boris Sanchez at the White House, thanks so much.

All right, with President Trump back at home in Washington now, he's facing new questions about the Russia investigation and we're learning that he's zeroing in on another target potentially, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Sources tell CNN that President Trump is fuming over the Russia probe and in recent weeks has been venting about Rosenstein who oversees Mueller and the special investigation.

CNN's Kara Scannell is one of the people who broke that story. So, Cara, what more are you hearing from your sources?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, Fred, we know that the backdrop of the Russian investigation is really frustrating President Trump. In recent weeks, we're told by four sources that the president has been venting and fuming and really upset with Rob Rosenstein.

Now Rosenstein was put in place when Attorney General Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself from the investigation and we are told that at times the frustration even boils over to Trump saying that he wants Rosenstein removed from the investigation. Two sources have told us that.

Others say that that is more of just bluster and really an example of Trump's frustration. The White House has given us a statement from Special Counsel Ty Cobb. And Ty Cobb has said that, "We do not find it to be a coincidence that there's an onslaught of false stories circulating what appears to be a coordinated effort to distract and deflect from new revelations about already reported bias and corruption.

We continue to cooperate with the special counsel and out of respect for that process will not weigh in further." Now, all this comes as we're expecting the president's legal team and Mueller to come to some sort of decision about whether the president will testify before Mueller.

Whether he will agree to some arrangements to answer questions, or if there's going to be a bit more of a showdown. We could wait to see if Mueller decides he's going to subpoena for testimony before a grand jury.

WHITFIELD: All right. Kara Scannell, keep us posted. Thank you so much.

[12:05:03] All right. Republicans are being urged to return money given by their own Republican donor. The "Wall Street Journal" detailing decades of sexual misconduct allegations against Steve Wynn, a Vegas casino magnate, who also happens to be the finance chair of the Republican National Committee.

The "Journal" is reporting allegations from women who worked at Wynn's casinos and now Democrats are insisting that the Republicans return Wynn's cash. Wynn is calling the allegations, quoting now, "preposterous."

CNN's Miguel Marquez is live for us in Las Vegas. Miguel, what more can you tell us?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, these two have been friends and competitors for years. I mean, the Wynn Hotel is just here. The Trump Hotel is just there. Just a few blocks apart here in Vegas.

But these new allegations of sexual misconduct against Mr. Wynn and obviously the president has denied any sexual misconduct allegations again. Those new allegations are casting their relationship in a new light.


MARQUEZ (voice-over): Preposterous says Steve Wynn, the Vegas Hotel and Casino billionaire to charges that he ever assaulted any woman. The blistering statement from Wynn himself after a bombshell "Wall Street Journal" report that a manicurist in 2005 was forced to lie on a massage table naked and then have sex with Wynn against her will.

The "Journal" also reporting Wynn paid the manicurist $7.5 million in a settlement. Wynn in his statement said, "The instigation of these accusations is the continued work of my ex-wife, Elaine Wynn, with whom I am involved in a terrible and nasty lawsuit in which she is seeking a revised divorce settlement."

Elaine Wynn's attorney told "The Journal" that's just not true. Wynn, the latest high profile, wealthy, and politically connected man accused of sexual misconduct. The Vegas impresario, a competitor and friend of President Trump who has denied allegations of sexual misconduct, their Vegas hotels just a few blocks from each other, Wynn cohosted a fundraiser for the president just last week in Mar-a-Lago.

STEVE WYNN, CASINO MOGUL: And then all of a sudden once again in American history an unlikely person became president perhaps the most unlikely of all since Abe Lincoln, Donald John Trump became the 45th president of the United States in the chagrin to the hysterical chagrin of the other side. He was their worst nightmare.

MARQUEZ: "The Wall Street Journal" says it spoke to more than 150 employees and dozens reported a pattern of sexual abuse by Wynn. Wynn in his statement said, "We find ourselves in a world where people can make allegations regardless of the truth and a person is left with a choice of weathering insulting publicity or engaging in multi-year lawsuits. It is deplorable for anyone to find themselves in this situation."

The allegations now reverberating in politics where despite a history of supporting both parties --

WYNN: I'm friendly with Don and Hillary, and I'm a friend with Donald Trump's. I haven't given a dime to either one of them and haven't decided on who I'm going to vote for.

MARQUEZ: Wynn is now closely tied to President Trump as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee. Democrats are demanding the RNC return any campaign contributions from Wynn much the way Republicans did with Harvey Weinstein.

Allegations against Wynn are now being used to put pressure on the Republican Party. The Democratic National Committee saying, "The RNC have helped fund the campaign of an alleged child molester, blindly supported the GOP's attacks on women's health, and supported a president who has been accused of sexual misconduct by over a dozen women.

And now they remain silent amid sexual assault allegations involving Steve Wynn, one of their party's most senior officials."


MARQUEZ: Now, to give you another sense of just how close these two men are, Steve Wynn has been to the Trump White House multiple times. And just last week, President Trump was supposed to be in Mar-a-Lago for a fundraiser, Victory Fund RNC fundraiser down there. He couldn't make it because of the shutdown.

The co-host, you guessed it, Steve Wynn, sort of made the speech for the president down there. The president sent a video down, mentioning Steve Wynn in that video as well. So, they are very close. Coincidentally, today is also Steve Wynn's 76th birthday, back to you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Miguel Marquez, thank you so much, in Las Vegas, appreciate it.

All right. Let's discuss these allegations, accusations against Steve Wynn and the big developments involving the special counsel and the Russia investigation with my next guest, Congressman John Garamendi is a Democratic representative from California, also a member of the House Armed Services Committee. Good to see you again.

[12:10:05] All right, so before we get to the Steve Wynn accusations, let me ask you about your reaction to reports President Trump tried to fire a Special Counsel Robert Mueller last June and the only thing that apparently stopped him from doing so was the White House Counsel Don McGahn who said he would quit.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I'm not surprised. There has been a little bit of smoke, a little bit of talk over last several months that this was going on. Now we have the facts and that's why we really have to protect Mueller.

And also, I'm very, very discouraged and very upset by my Republican colleagues, both in the House and the Senate who seemed to be doing everything they possibly can to discredit not only Mueller but the FBI and all of the intelligence agencies.

And the question we have to ask ourselves is what do they know? What is it do they fear, that they want to somehow put this entire investigation aside? Bottom line, it has to go forward. The rule of law in this nation is absolutely essential.

And whoever Republicans or otherwise the president that are trying to derail this investigation, they ought to stop because it's extraordinarily damaging to this nation now and into the future.

WHITFIELD: So, now as a result, you and your fellow Democrats are, you know, attempting to revive legislation, to protect Mueller and his team --


WHITFIELD: You'll need the support of some Republicans, won't you, in order to make this work? Do you believe that at some point Republicans will be on board to help cement a -- the passage of a bill that will protect the special counsel?

GARAMENDI: Well, first of all, why in the world do we have to protect the special counsel? The reason is the president is attacking the investigation, the counsel, the FBI, going after the -- now Rosenstein, the deputy at the Justice Department. All of this is going on.

So, yes, we do have to protect the special counsel. As I just said, many of the Republicans in the House and the Senate are also in this party attack to discredit. We need to make sure that the rule of law is in place, that the investigation goes forward. Let it play itself out. Whatever may come of it. OK, let's just find out.

But right now, this entire attack by the president, by the White House, and by Republicans in Congress really must stop. Therefore, yes, we do need legislation. Bottom line, the Republicans control the Congress and they control the White House. And, therefore, it's going to be difficult, but we've got to make it clear that the rule of law is fundamental in this nation.

WHITFIELD: Is it your feeling that the president's attempt to remove Bob Mueller is evidence of obstruction of justice?

GARAMENDI: It's looking like that, isn't it? It's looking like that. You go back through all of it. Comey gets fired, an attempt just a couple of months -- well, one month into the Mueller period as a special counsel. Major attempt by the president to fire Mueller.

Only stopped because the White House counsel said no, I won't do it, and if you force me to do it I'm going to resign. So, that didn't happen, but nonetheless, there was obviously a very significant push by the president to do that.

And then they shifted gears and there's some evidence, not evidence, there's clear evidence that the White House then shifted into a different mode, which was to discredit the entire operation.

They undertook what is now seven months effort to lead to the discrediting of the entire investigation. Not only the intelligence community, but also the FBI and Mueller himself. So that's been under way, and joining in moments of the Republican, members of Congress and the Senate.

It is very, very disturbing because it is a direct attack on what is fundamental in our nation and that is there is no one, myself, president, anybody, who is above the law.

WHITFIELD: Let me ask you now about these new sexual misconduct allegations against Las Vegas casino mogul, you know, Steve Wynn who also is the RNC finance chairman. Should he step down? Should the RNC be returning any donated money from him?

GARAMENDI: Well, obviously, what happens in Vegas is not staying in Vegas. This is a major, a major new development, and we'll see how it plays out. As it does play out, if it proves that there is more than just an unhappy divorcee, then we'll see.

There's going to be a lot of money returned. That certainly happened with the Weinstein situation. If this plays itself out, we're, what, less than one day into this whole thing.

As it plays itself out, I think we'll find there's going to be a lot of questions raised about who's received money from Steve Wynn. We're not there yet, but we're headed down a path.

[12:15:13] And so, I suppose all the -- anybody who goes to Vegas, be aware that it may not stay in Vegas.

WHITFIELD: All right, Congressman John Garamendi, thanks for your time. Appreciate it. Good to see you.

All right, coming up, lawmakers on Capitol Hill turning their eyes to the sexual abuse scandal involving Olympic Dr. Larry Nassar who they're pressuring for answers. Plus, stuck and held captive in filthy conditions for years. Grim new details about the Turpin children and how they were treated by their own parents.


WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. Sources say when President Trump said he wanted Special Counsel Robert Mueller fired last summer, one person stood in his way. White House Lawyer Don McGahn apparently threatened to quit if the president went through with his threat.

[12:20:08] CNN's Tom Foreman looks at the man suddenly thrust into the spotlight.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some are hailing White House Counsel Don McGahn as a hero in the wake of the report he stood up to President Trump and beat down an attempt to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the man leading the investigation Trump finds so infuriating.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Russia is fake news. This is fake news put out by the media.

FOREMAN: Others, however, are not so sure. The former director of the Office of Government Ethics tweeting, "I bet McGahn's objection was not that firing Mueller was wrong but that it was dangerous. Also, this is not the first leak to paint McGahn in a good light at Trump's expense. If I were Trump, I'd wonder about McGahn." But if the president has doubts about his top legal gun, they're not showing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a reason why President Trump asked me to be his lawyer.

FOREMAN: A longtime lawyer for Republican interests and a Trump ally for several years, McGahn has been by his side throughout the Russia probe, at times to the consternation of investigators. When the Department of Justice first raised red flags that Security Adviser Michael Flynn was lying to White House officials about his Russia contacts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of the questions that Mr. McGahn asked me was essentially why does it matter to DOJ if one White House official lies to another White House official.

FOREMAN: When the president fired FBI Director James Comey, McGahn reportedly pushed Trump to make sure he cited concerns about Comey's competent, backed up by other government officials.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: He's a showboat. He's a grandstander.

FOREMAN: An attempt perhaps to make it appear the dismissal was not purely about the FBI's Russia probe, which Comey led.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: The Russians interfered in our election.

FOREMAN: And when the president wanted Attorney General Jeff Sessions to hold the reins of the Russia investigation and not recuse himself --

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Which frankly I think is very unfair to the president.

FOREMAN: Whom did he reportedly send to change Session's mind? He failed, but "The New York Times" says, again, it was Don McGahn.


FOREMAN: Important to note in all of this, McGahn and several members of his legal team have reportedly been questioned as part of the Russia probe. Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

WHITFIELD: All right, I want to bring in Sam Vinograd now, a CNN national security analyst and a former national security adviser, and Shawn Turner, a CNN national security analyst and former director of communications for National Intelligence. Good to see you both.

All right, Shawn, let me begin with you. The president and his staff saying over and over that he never had any intention of firing Robert Mueller. Now that we know that apparently is not true, what does it tell you about the ill pact of the Mueller investigation inside the White House? Are people now inside the White House worried about whether there are appearances that they lied or were they in the dark?

SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Fred, I think first of all this is another in a series of events that haven't -- serious questions about why the investigation does not want this investigation to go forward.

I talked to a couple people in the White House who have suggested that inside the White House there's a great amount of turmoil over how exactly this came to be and how they look as a result of the way that's playing out in the news media.

One of the things I think is really key here, the president continues to say there was no collusion, there was no obstruction of justice. There's an investigation to look into that. I think the president deserves the right to have that investigation play out.

But, you know, there is a fact regarding the Russia investigation. That the president knows, and he's failed to address at this point. It raises a lot of questions as to how we got here. And that is the fact that the intelligence community determined conclusively that Russia interfered in our election in a way that we never have seen before and the president still hasn't come out and held Russia accountable.

So, I think everything we're seeing today with regard to efforts that appear to want to stop this investigation all kind of caused people in the national security space to wonder, what is it that Vladimir Putin, that Russia has over this president that kind of keeps him in check? And it's a real issue for those of us in the national security space because we don't know what that is, and we won't know until this investigation plays.

WHITFIELD: Earlier today, Republican Congressman Charlie Dent echoed that very curiosity. Listen.


REPRESENTATIVE CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: If the president, as he has stated, that he has done nothing wrong, I don't understand why he seems to want to interfere with this, with this process. I thought it was a mistake to fire Director Comey, at least the way it was done, was terrible.


WHITFIELD: So, Sam, how is it that the president doesn't see that, you know, constantly trying to undermine law enforcement, you know, the special counsel only makes the questions more glaring as to what -- what is there to hide?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Fred, that's a great question. I think the other question that I asked myself is why would the president want to make Russia's job that much easier.

[12:25:11] You know, all these threads are like the gift that never stops giving for Vladimir Putin. As Shawn pointed out, the intelligence community has assessed that Russia is trying to undermine confidence in our democracy.

The rule of law is a core pillar of that democracy. We've seen a pattern of the president and his administration consistently attack the FBI and the Department of Justice who have seen that coming out of Congress as well.

Take a step back and ask why are we helping Putin accomplish his mission of making the United States weaker. And I also think that the more time that we are all spending talking about these stories, talking about abuses of the administration, we're spending less time talking about whether we're in anyway prepared for 2018.

Congress has focused on its investigations. The administration is batting down stories daily about potential abuses of power. I haven't heard anything about what DHS is doing to protect election infrastructure.

How the intelligence community, for example, is working with digital platforms to identify disinformation and misinformation. We've seen other countries start to do this and we're really falling short.

WHITFIELD: And then, you know, Sam, in the whole political arena in terms of the whole PR battle over, you know, how important it is to continue to probe Russia, is it the case that many Democrats feel like that they are losing that battle? VINOGRAD: I think that they do. I think there's a very salient point that is getting lost or two points I should say because we're so focused on these tactical developments every day. The first is Russia is launching an ongoing attack on our country and we are not responding.

That is a strategic threat to U.S. democracy. The other point that's worth noting is there's serious doubts about whether the investigations under way on Capitol Hill are going to result in a credible report.

There's still so many unanswered questions that House Democrats believe and that I agree with. We haven't gotten answers to. Everything from Trump Tower to various financial ties. And so, I think that we may see a rush to public a report from various Congressional committees.

And I don't know that we have really any competence that there's going to be enough content there. Witnesses have been called. Documents have been viewed for that to be a credible report. That's a U.S. national security issue. It's not a partisan issue.

WHITFIELD: So, Shawn, what are your concerns about the credibility of the investigations on the Hill, versus how the president has tried to undermine law enforcement by constantly criticizing, whether it be Bob Mueller's investigation, Rob Rosenstein's role in all this, and how effect that campaign the president has launched against undermining the credibility of those entities?

TURNER: My concerns exist on two levels. First, if you think about what it means here within the United States with regard to these institutions and our trust in these institutions, particularly the intelligence community and the FBI.

Historically, we've looked at those institutions and we've kind of held them above the political fray because we know that it's in their best interest, in it's our best interest for them to stay out of the political fray and to make sure that that investigations that they do.

And the intelligence that they provide is all provided in a way that lays out the facts that says here's what we know, here's the way we see it, and then lets the political establishment decide what to do with that information.

When you attack those institutions, when you pull those institutions into the political fray, you know, Americans have to determine how they feel about national security issues. They're doing that in an environment where they don't really know what the information is, is pure.

In terms of what it means outside the United States, there's a great amount of uncertainty around the world right now with regard to America's role as a global leader. I think as we live in this constant state of questions about integrity and questions about honesty, concerns over contradictory statements that are coming out of the administration and the White House, our global partners, they look at this and they have real concerns with this.

WHITFIELD: We'll leave it right there. Shawn Turner, thank you so much. Sam Vinograd, thank you. Appreciate it.

All right. Coming up, the GOP under pressure to return one of the party's top donor's money. Details on the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against Las Vegas mogul, Steve Wynn.


[12:34:14] WHITFIELD: All right, the GOP is under pressure to respond to serious allegations against one of the party's biggest donors. The Wall Street Journal report that dozens have come forward and accused Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn of sexual misconduct. Wynn is the current finance chair for the Republican National Committee. And now, the Wynn Resorts board of directors is launching an investigation.

Meanwhile, Democrats are facing their own sexual harassment scandal. Reports have surfaced that Burns Strider, a senior adviser for Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, repeatedly sexually harassed a young subordinate. Sources tell CNN Clinton decided not to fire Strider. Instead, the young woman was reportedly moved to a different department.

Clinton responded yesterday tweeting in part she was, quote, dismayed when it occurred but heartened the young woman came forward, end quote.

[12:35:08] Joining me right now, Democratic Strategist Emily Tish Sussman and CNN Political Commentator Steve Cortes who worked as a campaign adviser for President Trump. Good to see you both.

All right, so Emily, you first, is this response from Clinton enough? That Strider was not fired but his title was changed and his pay was docked?

EMILY TISH SUSSMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It is deeply unfortunate. And to be honest, it's like a regular, you know, as a person, not as a Democratic strategist, I wish he was. From what I understand from the woman who was involved, it is wonderful that she came forward. From what I understand, she actually was satisfied with the outcome.

I probably wouldn't have been to be totally honest with you. But it is 10 years -- you know, we are talking about 10 years ago, so these two cases really aren't apples to apples. The environment was different. We expect much more from our leaders now and we expect to hold them accountable.

WHITFIELD: And so Steve, just last week, the president, you know, was praising Steve Wynn at a fund-raiser in Florida. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Steve Wynn, I want to thank you, I want to thank your whole group, the money raised. You're really special people. Thank you very much. We'll see you the next time.


WHITFIELD: And Steve, we understand the president has not responded, you know, since the allegations against his friend Steve Wynn have surfaced. Should the president?

STEVE CORTES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think he should yet because I don't think we know enough yet about the case. The allegations are deeply troubling. And if they're true, then clearly Steve Wynn needs to leave the RNC and I think the contributions should be returned.

However, he's vigorously fighting against them. And I think just as we absolutely have to listen to the accusers when they come forward, we also have to give the accused a chance to defend themselves.

So I would counsel -- I don't know Steve Wynn but I would tell him if it's not true --

WHITFIELD: Well, he said it was preposterous --

CORTES: -- then he should sue, he should --

WHITFIELD: I mean, thinking -- just given the climate right now particularly of, you know, allegations of this level and people coming out and a real advocacy to listen to the accusers as well as those accused. We have heard from Steve Wynn saying it's preposterous.

But in this climate, this is not a time in which the president of the United States should address it, particularly this is a good friend and someone who's part of the finance, you know, wing of the RNC.

CORTES: Again, I think it should be addressed at some point. I think it's too early right now. And I would say to Steve Wynn, if he didn't do this, if it's a lie, then he needs to sue. I think he should sue the Wall Street Journal, he should sue the accusers.

The best way to get to the bottom of this is put people under oath. When you have this kind of situation where none of us really know what happened.

But again, if it's true, it's reprehensible, it's totally out of line. We cannot -- the workplace has to be a secure safe place for everybody. And if he did this in his companies, then he has to suffer a lot of consequence, at least economic consequence, if not, perhaps even criminal ones, given that the severity of the allegations against him.

But again too, he also deserves a chance to defend himself, and so far he's vigorously denied them. I frankly don't know, I don't think any of us really know but let's get to the bottom of it.

WHITFIELD: Emily? Should the president address it?

SUSSMAN: (INAUDIBLE) is that, harassers certainly do not harass along partisan lines, right. It's a matter of power. And it certainly seems in the Steve Wynn situation it was actually a matter of power, looking for subordinates, for employees.

But the awkward thing is the response along partisan lines. Republicans were thrilled a couple of months ago, talking about how Harvey Weinstein had Democratic ties. But they really can't get beyond that talking point because then you have to --

CORTES: But Emily, here's --


CORTES: (INAUDIBLE) there's a key distinction, is that Weinstein has acknowledged his misdeeds.

SUSSMAN: And if you talk about they should go under oath. The president should go under oath. Right, like it's very awkward to try to hold because there's like 10 different standards. And like the worst possible standard is for the president like he never have to acknowledge it. The response has become very flippant.

WHITFIELD: All right, we're going to leave it right there.

CORTES: But it is not an (INAUDIBLE) comparison because Weinstein acknowledged his misdeeds. And so -- and had to pay I think pretty severe cost so far and perhaps more to come. So far at least we don't know -- certainly, according to Steve Wynn, he's anything but acknowledge his misdeeds, he's fighting vigorously back against this.

So they're not comparable situations, Weinstein and Wynn. Now let's see, again -- we need to get to the truth --

WHITFIELD: All right, we're going to leave it right there. Steve Cortes, Emily Tish Sussman, thanks so much. We'll leave right there for now. We'll have you back another time. And we'll be back in a moment.


[12:43:42] WHITFIELD: All right, Just moments ago, the Michigan attorney general announced that he has opened an investigation into who knew, what, and when surrounding the Olympic sexual abuse scandal involving Dr. Larry Nassar.

Our Jean Casarez was at that press conference. Jean what was said?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was an important press conference because it was now said officially on the record that there is an investigation of Michigan State University by the attorney general's office. They said that they have been investigating for a while but did not want to come out publicly saying this until all of the victim impact statements and the survivors had had their day in court, and there will be another sentencing this week. But they felt the time was right, that they needed to say it at this point.

They said that this investigation will be independent, thorough, transparent and prompt. And although they did not specifically say that this was a criminal investigation, what was said is that they will look to see what the facts are and where the facts take them.

The head of this investigation is Bill Forsyth. He is termed an independent special prosecutor. He is a life long prosecutor, 42 years he was the prosecutor in Kent, Michigan. He will lead this investigation.

They say it will take time. They want to talk with everyone. They will talk with all of the victims.

[12:45:04] The very first thing they're going to do is ask for -- and if there is a report from an independent investigation done at Michigan State University in the last several years. They say that will be very interesting.

And as for the Michigan State Board of Trustees calling for their office to have an independent investigation, listen to what Michigan's attorney general said about that.


BILL SCHUETTE, MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL: Let me also add this. I don't need advice from the board of trustees at MSU about how to conduct an investigation. Frankly, they should be the last ones to be providing advice, given their conduct throughout this entire episode. Their conduct throughout this entire episode speaks for itself.


CASAREZ: As the independence special prosecutor who will lead this investigation said, I've been doing this for a long time, and I have never seen anything like this. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right, Jean Casarez, thank you so much.

Straight ahead, held captive, and living in filth.


NELLIE BALDWIN, BOUGHT TURPINS' TEXAS HOME: It had feces on the walls in the living room and in the kitchen. The cabinets were so dirty.


WHITFIELD: The unbelievable conditions that faced the Turpin children who were held captive by their parents.


[12:51:00] WHITFIELD: All right, bit by bit, authorities are piecing together the chilling details of what's being described as a real-life house of horrors. David and Louise Turpin are accused of torturing 12 of their 13 children for years. And now investigators are reportedly getting a firsthand account of the shocking abuse from the victims themselves. A prosecutor tells the Associated Press the Turpin children are beginning to open up and provide valuable information on the case. We're also learning new details about the Turpins from a woman who purchased the family's previous home. CNN's Stephanie Elam has that.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nellie Baldwin bought the property where the Turpins were living in Texas before they moved to California. She bought the property in 2011. And when she describes what the house looked like inside, it's almost unbelievable. Take a listen.


BALDWIN: It had feces on the walls in the living room. And in the kitchen, the cabinets were so dirty. We scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed on cabinets, you know, and all of it trying to get it clean enough for us. But the real estate company had already cleaned it good enough to put it on the market, you know.

So when we got it, it had already been cleaned considerably.


ELAM: Baldwin says when she took possession of the home, it was so filthy inside, they would pour bleach throughout the home, come back the next day and have to pour more bleach. She said the house was so unlivable, the Turpin family was actually living in a trailer on the property instead of inside the home.

As for the Turpin parents, they were back in court this week. A judge telling them that they are to have no contact with their children unless it is through their lawyer and for that case not with any key witnesses that may come up.

WHITFIELD: All right, amazing there, Stephanie Elam, thank you so much.

All right, joining me to talk more about all of this, CNN law enforcement contributor and retired supervisory special agent with the FBI Steve Moore. Good to see you.

OK. So now that some of these children are beginning to open up, what are some of the first discovery these investigators want to make?

STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTRIBUTOR: Well, they're going to want to know just the basics so that they can -- so they can start building a case. This is going to be so huge and such over a long -- such a long period of time that they're going to have to start with a foundation and build up, and they're going to have trouble even cataloging all the different abuses that they find.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my goodness. Because you're talking about 12 out of the 13 children. And then of course you have to be very sensitive to these kids who have been victimized in so many different levels.

So, you know, everything from reported beating, choking, starvation, imprisonment. All of these are things that reportedly many of these kids have endured. So how do investigators go about that, you know, probing, getting this kind of hard information but at the same time being very sensitive?

MOORE: This is the real trick to the whole thing because they're really in bad shape emotionally. I mean, nobody doubts that. So, say, you want to talk to them, what you would love to have is a child psychologist or an adult psychologist, depending who you're dealing with in the room. But then the defense can say that somebody put them up to this, that they were manipulated psychologically.

So it's going to take some of the most deft and compassionate interviewing that you've ever seen. And at the same time, they're going to have to be very strong in asking for specific facts, and then the kids probably aren't going to remember dates. I mean, I doubt these kids had access to calendars to know when this happened.

WHITFIELD: And then the judge has barred the parents, you know, from having any contact with the children, and while we're talking about -- I mean, just profound abuse here.

[12:55:00] What about the anxiety that even some of these kids may have that they are separated, they cannot have contact with their parents, even though their parents are, you know, accused of these, you know, horrible abuses.

MOORE: No, and I understand your question completely. I mean, there's something in the mind of a child that still wants their parents. That's somehow -- you know, and they get into this Stockholm Syndrome where anybody who hasn't killed me is my friend right now.

So you're going to have to deal with the fact that they're feeling -- they might even be feeling captive now. And at the same time, they'll be wanting to connect with their parents. It's -- you know, how they said they're just beginning to open up? This is going to be a years long process.

WHITFIELD: Unimaginable. It is so heartbreaking. All right. Steve Moore, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

MOORE: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: We've got so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM right after this.