Return to Transcripts main page


New Report Details Sexual Misconduct Allegations against Steve Wynn; White House Proposes Framework for Immigration Reform; Larry Nassar Sentenced to Life in Prison; Police Conclude Billionaire Couple in Canada Murdered; Steve Wynn Agrees to Step Down as Republican National Committee Finance Chairman. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired January 27, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Is the president or the White House responding to these new efforts to protect from being fired by the president?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not yet, Fred. We have reached out to ask them how they feel about Democrats pushing for these bills to be including in budget talks as some Democrats have indicated that they may do, but no response yet from the White House.

These bills were originally introduced in August. There are two separate bills both of cosponsored by Republicans, so there is some Republican support for this kind of legislation during the past summer and the fall when there were assurances from the White House and from the administration that there was no plan in place to fire Robert Mueller, the push for these bills subsided. But in light of that recent "New York Times" reporting that CNN has confirmed that the president told his legal counsel to have Robert Mueller fired, you now have a renewed push by the Democrats, Chuck Schumer putting out the statement saying that this is the most important thing that Congress can do right now. Here is Senator Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, making that case.


SEN. MARK WARNER, (D) RANKNING MEMBER, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think if the president had gone through with this or tries to go through with it on a going forward basis, we are in unchartered territory. We're into the real question of the fundamentals a of our democracy. Are we still going to be a country where rule of law are pervades, and that no one, even the president, is above the law? My hope that come next week that the Congressman would take up bipartisan legislation that was around last year that would protect the special prosecutor from these arbitrary actions.


SANCHEZ: I did speak with a Republican operative today close to the leadership in Congress who told me that the chances of these bills being taken up are not very high. They told me specifically that it could create a rift within the Republican party because you have some like Lindsey Graham and Thom Tillis who are cosponsoring these bills, others like Senator Chuck Grassley who said that he is open to looking at this kind of legislation, and you have others like Mitch McConnell when these bills were introduced back in August when there were rumors swirling that president was planning to fire Mueller who said it is simply not a priority for the Senate.

Again, Democrats are looking to bring this up during budget negotiations. Unclear if Republicans will play ball considering there could be a second government shutdown looming on February 8th, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Boris Sanchez, thanks so much.

President Trump is facing new questions about the Russia investigation, and we are learning that he zeroing in reportedly on a particular target, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein. Sources tell CNN that President Trump is fuming over the Russia probe and has been venting about Rosenstein who oversees Mueller and the Special Counsel investigation, one source adding that Trump has come to view Rosenstein as one in the same as Mueller. CNN's Kara Scannell is one of the people who broke that story, so Kara, what more are you hearing?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. So we are hearing from four sources the President Trump has really directed the ire that he has toward this investigation to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. And two of our sources tell us that in recent weeks the president has really been fuming and venting about Rosenstein and at times has said he wanted him removed or even fired.

He has also according to one source compared that Rosenstein is one in the same as Mueller, and by that he means a government official who is out to get the president. Other sources say that this is bluster and that the president is airing his frustrations, but one thing that we do know that is clear is that this Russian investigation is weighing on the presidency. "The New York Times" reported this week and CNN confirmed that the president wanted to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, and that he didn't because the White House counsel Don McGahn stayed in the way.

The White House has given us a statement from its special counsel Ty Cobb, and that reads in part that we do not find it to be a coincidence that there is an onslaught of false stories are circulating in what appears to be a coordinated effort to distract and reflect 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, Fred, next week we have former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon meeting with the Special Counsel. He is expected to be asked about two topics, the firing of FBI director James Comey and the firing of national security adviser Michael Flynn. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right, Kara Scannell, thank you.

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 preposterous. CNN's Miguel Marquez has the latest.



MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 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 win 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'm involved in a terrible and nasty lawsuit in which she is seek 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 co-hosted a fundraiser for the president just last week in Mar-a- Lago.

STEVE WYNN, HOTEL AND CASINO OWNER: 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 to 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 the choice of weathering insulting publicity or engaging in multiyear 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 Bill and Hillary and I'm a friend of Donald Trump's. I haven't given a dime to either one of them, and I haven't decided 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, 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: And to give you another sense of just how close these two men are, Steve Wynn has been to the Trump White House multiple time, and just last week, President Trump was supposed to be in Mar-a-Lago for a fundraiser, Victory Fund RNC fundraiser down there. He could not 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 Steve Wynn's 76th birthday. Back to you.

WHITFIELD: Miguel Marquez, thank you so much.

Live pictures right now to the nation's capital, and this is where many people are gathering and calling themselves protesters marching against the travel ban and President Trump, and they're gathering there right outside of the Trump hotel in the old post office building on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The president, by the way, is just down the street at the other Pennsylvania Avenue address at the White House today after returning yesterday from Davos, Switzerland. Monday marks a big day for the president when the administration is expected to roll out its immigration framework. Right now there are hundreds of people in the streets there of the nation's capital and they are gathering in front of the hotel and making their way across other streets in the city and on to the mall. We will keep you posted on the activity there.

Also, still ahead, fallout from the sex abuse scandal surrounding the disgraced U.S. gymnastics doctor is far from over. Now a House and Senate committee is demanding answers from the Olympic Committee. Details next.


[14:13:30] WHITFIELD: The shocking death of a billionaire pharmaceutical magnate and his wife in an upscale neighborhood was originally thought to be a murder-suicide. But their family and friends said that didn't make any sense, and now police have come to a stunning new conclusion as Paula Newton explains.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After six weeks of exhaustive investigation, Toronto police left the home of Barry and Honey Sherman admitting they still have no suspects, no motive, but one chilling conclusion -- the billionaire couple was murdered. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have sufficient evidence to describe this as a

double homicide examination, and that both Honey and Barry Sherman were in fact targeted.

NEWTON: Targeted for murder by one or more people determined to see them die in their own home in a gruesome fashion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Honey and Barry Sherman were found deceased in the lower level pool area, hanging by belts from a poolside railing in a semi seated position.

NEWTON: There were no signs of forced entry, and police say they are still talking to neighbors, witnesses, family members, business associates, anyone who knew anything about the Sherman's lives or even their last hours.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People are in shock and crying.

NEWTON: This murder mystery has shaken many not just in this affluent Toronto neighbor, but throughout Canada. Barry and Honey Sherman were high profile billionaires. Barry, the pioneering generic drug tycoon always eager to take on big pharma, and his wife Honey, patron of several charities, together they gave away tens of millions to several causes.

[14:15:00] All the more incredible that they were targeted and left to die in such a horrific way. The Shermans' children have launched an independent investigation of their own and in a statement to media said their preliminary findings are consistent with that of police.

NEWTON: The Shermans had close ties to prime ministers both past and present. Their murder has shaken the political establishment with many wondering who could have wanted to see them dead and why.

Paula Newton, CNN, Ottawa.


WHITFIELD: You are watching the CNN Newsroom. And we'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: Olympic team doctor Larry Nassar will likely be spending the rest of his life behind bars for sexually abusing athletes, but the investigation into who knew what about what Nassar did and when is just getting started.

[14:20:00] A short time ago, the Michigan attorney general announced that he has opened an investigation to find out that information. Our Jean Casarez was at that press conference.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Fred, the attorney general started out this morning saying what the heck is happening here right at Michigan State University, but turned extremely serious very fast. It was the first formal announcement that there is an investigation within the attorney general's office as to Michigan State University. They would not say it was a criminal investigation. They said the facts of the evidence will lead them where it should take them, but the head of this investigation is not from within the attorney general's office but is a lifelong career prosecutor Bill Forsyth. Special independent prosecutor will be his title going forward with this investigation. They say that the investigation is priority one.

Also, they addressed the Michigan State University board of trustees that earlier in the week had actually called for an independent investigation from the attorney general's office. Listen to his response back to them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me also add this. I don't need advice from the board of trustees at a 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: They did not take questions at the end of this press conference, that is usually the situation. They said they just had too much work to do. But Bill Forsyth, the special independent prosecutor, did end his comments with this, a pivotal question, how was Larry Nassar able to do so much to these young women for over 20 years? Fred?

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

And this is breaking news we are following right now. Steve Wynn stepping down as finance chairman for the RNC, this move coming after the "Wall Street Journal" reported decades of sexual misconduct allegations against the billionaire casino mogul. Senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny is joining me right now on the phone. So Jeff, what more are you learning about this?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, we are being told by two Republican officials that Steve Wynn has agreed to step down as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee. Of course given the news overnight in the last less than 24 hour and pending investigation by his company, I am told by two Republican officials that Steve Wynn voluntarily agreed to remove his position from the Republican National Committee finance chair.

Of course this is a symbolic position, but it is also very key in fundraising. And interestingly, he was at Mar-a-Lago, the president's weekend retreat, just last weekend during that big fundraiser the president was not able to attend when he was in Washington for the government shutdown. So Steve Wynn, a one-time rival of the president became a friend of the president. The president asked him directly to be the finance chairman of the RNC, but now we are told by two Republican officials that he will be stepping down from that post amid all of the questions in the investigation about his conduct at the Wynn resorts. Fredricka? WHITFIELD: So Jeff, he is stepping down, however earlier he said the

allegations were preposterous. So is he still sticking with his, you know, denial of any involvement in those allegations?

ZELENY: Sure. I think stepping down, at least these Republican officials are saying to avoid a distraction here, because of course this is something that will be ongoing. He did say it was a situation with his ex-wife and that was something that brought this to light here, but it is clear that this is a moment, this is a moment in time where the politicians of both parties, or both parties would like to move swiftly on this. So clearly the sense of this hanging over the Republican National Committee was something that the party did not want. So I am told by two official today that he has agreed and will be stepping down as finance chair.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much. And we'll be right back.


[14:28:40] WHITFIELD: An army veteran recipient and Purple Heart recipient has his eye on the gold in the upcoming Paralympics. Here's this week's "Turning Points."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My favorite thing about playing is making people feel good. It's incredible because I always think back to Katrina. I was about seven or eight years old, and suddenly my parents turn on the news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the winds coming from this direction into New Orleans breeched that levee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they said we have to evacuate. I cried so much. I couldn't bear being in another school, not knowing if my home was going to still be there when I got back. Definitely traumatic, anxious, sad. We were evacuated for at least a couple of months. My parents went back first. We just wanted to make sure our house was there. We had to wait until the power was back on.

One of the people that we evacuated with was Sam Williams, a trombone player from New Orleans. I gravitated towards him, I wanted to be like him. When I got back I kept asking my parents, I want to play the trombone. My grandfather came and gave me his high school trumpet and then immediately I was able to the play.

Currently, I am studying at Berkeley College of Music. I have been able to travel to Japan and Cuba, played at the Grammy's and Carnegie Hall. I think music can turn a tragedy into something that's beautiful because it can touch so many people, and I think everyone can relate to it.


WHITFIELD: All right, that is going to do it for me this afternoon. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.