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Amtrak Train Collided With A Freight Train Overnight And Derailed In South Carolina; Many Democrats And Some Republicans Are Disputing The Claim That The Memo Vindicates The President; House Speaker Paul Ryan Is Facing A Wave Of Criticism Over A Tweet He Sent And Then Deleted; Israel Is Once Again Increasing Pressure On African Asylum Seekers To Leave The Country. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired February 4, 2018 - 14:00   ET


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: This week the Chinese ambassador to the African union called the allegations preposterous and a spokeswoman also dismissed it.

Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.

[14:00:28] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We begin with this breaking news out of South Carolina where an Amtrak train collided with a freight train overnight and derailed. At this hour, we are learning a number of injuries now tops more than 100. We are also learning the identities of the two people killed on board. Moments ago the county coroner became emotional as she talked about delivering the news to the families.


MARGARET FISHER, LEXINGTON COUNTY CORONER: Any time you have anything that happens like that, you would expect more fatalities, but God bless us, we only had the two. And not that they were in any way diminished, because my goodness, they are very, very hard, very hard. We wish we didn't have any fatalities. This is very, very hard. You know, the families are -- they're very upset.


WHITFIELD: President Trump tweeting his condolences earlier saying, my thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims involved.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung joins me now live from the scene.

So Kaylee, what are we learning about of the two killed on board in addition to the investigation as a whole?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, the county coroner there did confirm the identities of the two men killed in this crash, both Amtrak employees. One, the engineer of the train, Michael Campa, a 54-year-old man from Savannah, Georgia, as well as the train's conductor, Michael Sella, 36-year-old man from Orange Park, Florida. And now the NTSB is leading this investigation. And we are just

learning from our Rene Marsh, she spoke with the source who has direct contact with this investigation. That source telling her investigators are focusing on the signal systems along the railway and whether they were working properly.

Earlier today, we heard from South Carolina's governor Henry McMaster who gave us more insight into what could have gone wrong.


GOV. HENRY MCMASTER (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It appears to me that the CSX was on the track that it was supposed to be on and that appears to be a loading track or a switch track. Amtrak was on the wrong -- they weren't supposed to be meeting right then by the bridge, clearly. And it may be a time factor, but that's what it appears to me. But I defer to those who are experts in that and do have the correct information. But it appears that Amtrak was on the wrong track.


HARTUNG: When the governor refers to CSX, he is talking about the freight train that Amtrak passenger train plowed into. That freight train no one on board. CSX, also, the corporation that owns and controls the stretch of the railway where this accident occurred. That means they are responsible for maintaining the tracks and the signal systems, so you know they will be a critical component of this investigation.

We have reached out to CSX and Amtrak for comment on the governor's remarks that a train could have been on the wrong tracks. But we have not yet heard back on that.

The focus here just outside of Columbia for so many is on the passengers who survived this crash, 116 of whom had been taken to local hospitals. We know of one in serious condition - I'm sorry, on in critical condition, two in serious condition. Otherwise a lot of bumps and bruises and whiplash for those on board that passenger train. Many of them have been taken to an area that's been set up at a middle school across the street here, a reception center, where the red cross is on-site to give them a warm blanket. Somewhere to be to figure out how to get to their final destination and also process the chaos they were a part of in the early morning hours today, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Kaylee Hartung, thank you so much.

All right, on politics now. Tomorrow Democrats on the House intel committee will push for a vote to release their rebuttal to a controversial GOP memo that alleges FBI surveillance abuses. President Trump, who is spending the day at his Florida golf course, sent out a tweet this weekend claiming the memo vindicated him in the Russia probe.

The memo alleges the FBI and the justice department abused their surveillance authority to target a Trump campaign adviser. The Democrats claimed the document is incomplete and partisan. The President disagrees tweeting this. Great jobs numbers and finally after many years, rising wages and nobody even talks about them. Only Russia, Russia, Russia, despite the fact that after a year of looking there is no collusion.

But many Democrats and some Republicans are disputing the claim that the memo vindicates the President. Democrats are warning of dire consequences if the President uses the memo as an excuse to fire the leader of the Russia investigation.


[14:05:12] SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: But to say that that is the end of the investigation, that this is all that Donald Trump needs to fire Rosenstein or fire Bob Mueller, I will just tell you. This could precipitate a constitutional crisis. If House Republicans believe they have set the stage for this President to end this investigation, they are basically saying that in America one man is above the law. And that's not a fact. We have got to make sure that we explore all the possibilities and all the evidence.


WHITFIELD: CNN's Boris Sanchez is live for us in West Palm Beach near the President's Mar-a-Lago estate.

So Boris, you know, what are other Republicans - Republican as a whole are saying about how this memo impacts the Russia probe.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Fred. Yes, some Republicans are out right contradicting the President. You mentioned his Russia, Russia, Russia tweet last night. That wasn't the only tweet he sent out about the memo. At one point he actually cited a "Wall Street Journal" editorial that says in part there are political actors within the FBI that are anti-Trump. You also had Donald Trump Jr. on FOX News last night speaking about the memo saying that he feels that its release is sweet revenge for his family.

Today, there were several Republican lawmakers on the Sunday morning talk shows. Here's three of them. Listen to what they had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The memo had no impact on the Russia probe.

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Not to me it doesn't. I was pretty impactful on the drafting of it. There is a Russia investigation without a dossier. So to the extent the memo deals with the dossier and the FISA process, the dossier has nothing to do with the meeting in Trump tower. The dossier has nothing to do with an email sent by Cambridge Analytica. The dossier really has nothing to do with George Papadopoulos' meeting in Great Britain. It also has nothing to do with an obstruction of justice. So there is going to be a Russia probe even without a dossier.

REP. CHRIS STEWART (R), UTAH: I think it would be a mistake for anyone to suggest that the special counsel shouldn't complete his work. I support his work. I want him to finish it. I hope he finishes it as quickly as possible. This memo has frankly nothing at all to do with the special counsel.

REP. WIL HURD (R), TEXAS: I don't believe this is an attack on Bob Mueller. I don't believe this is an attack on the men and women in the FBI. I have served shoulder to shoulder with them and they are hard-working folks that keep us safe.


SANCHEZ: Now, you could tell those lawmakers drawing a line far short of where the President is. We should also point out that some of the strongest language we just heard was from South Carolina representative Trey Gowdy. And that is significant, because according to Devin Nunes himself, Trey Gowdy is the only Republican on the House intelligence committee that has seen the underlying intelligence that based information that lead a judge to issue in those FISA warrants to begin with. So if anyone knows the validity of not only the FISA warrants but also Devin Nunes' memo, and its implications for the FBI, it's Trey Gowdy.

He also mentioned, Fred, that tomorrow we may see the House intelligence committee vote to release the so-called Schiff memo. That is the Democrats' response to Devin Nunes' memo.

We have asked a White House presentative what the inclination would be if the President could potentially approves its release as he did for the Nunes' memo. We are told by Raj Shah, deputy press secretary, he believes that the President would be inclined to see its release even though it may present no real political benefit to the President at this point, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Boris Sanchez, thank you so much.

All right. Let's get more on the Republican perspective on this memo and where the investigation goes from here. With me now to discuss, this is congressman Robert Pittenger, Republican from North Carolina and a member of the House financial services committee.

Good to see you, congressman.


WHITFIELD: All right. So the President says this memo vindicates him. Do you agree with the President or do you agree with Trey Gowdy who says that he is hopeful that the investigation continues and that any dossier highlighted in the memo really has nothing to do with the Russia investigation?

PITTENGER: Well, I do think the investigation will continue, and it will - we will get a final word on that. I think the underlying thought of the President seems to me to be the precious nature of the malicious intent of the political operatives that were committed to Hillary Clinton and taking down Mr. Trump. So I think that is where his scorn may lie and how they have sought to politicize this process. But I think the concern, frankly, from the Democrats is that the

narrative is going to change. The focus for the last year has been on Russia and him and collusion, and there's been no evidence of that. Even senator Feinstein said that. So now the tables could turn, because you have some real communication that has linked their commitment and their interest to try to take down this President.

You know, there have been great protest out of the Democrats about this release. It does remind me of queen Gertrude in Shakespeare's "Hamlet" may think that he protests too much. And I think --.

[14:10:17] WHITFIELD: Sorry to interrupt. Go ahead.

PITTENGER: Well, we need to look at the facts and for everything coming out in the open. I went and see the post-movie this weekend with my wife. There was great tribute paid to Katherine Graham for her tenacity and perseverance to making sure that the public heard the truth. And I think that why not the all the truth come out now.

WHITFIELD: All right. Tomorrow --.


WHITFIELD: So then Democrats tomorrow will be voting on the release of its memo. How do you believe this might complete the picture or perhaps make it more complicated?

PITTENGER: I'm all for the release of the minority report. I do think it's the prudent thing to do. I also would like to see the application that was made to the FISA court and the underlying statements that they had. I think that's warranted. Anything that we could do to get to the facts of the truth is --

WHITFIELD: Would you have an opportunity to see the application in its entirety?

PITTENGER: I would like to.

WHITFIELD: But would you --

PITTENGER: I would think that would be --

WHITFIELD: You would like to, but does it mean the chances are probable that you could?

PITTENGER: No. I think we are going to push for that. We pushed for the release of this memo. We got that. I think this is warranted. You know, the truth hurts sometimes. As Jack Nicholson said, the truth, you can't handle the truth. And that the truth is what we need to find out. And I think there is a lot of evidence right now pointing to the duplicitous nature of the political operatives supporting Hillary Clinton.

WHITFIELD: Do believe the investigation, the Mueller investigation, should continue, uninterrupted or do you have any strong feelings about whether the potential removal of a deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein would interrupt those matters?

PITTENGER: No. I think the investigation should continue. I think it will be consummated here soon. I hope it will be. By this time it seems to me if they had found any connection with the President that that would have come forth already. So it appears to me that they should be winding down the next month or so.

WHITFIELD: OK. Let me transition now to this week's deadline to avoid another government shutdown. Do you expect a deal by this Thursday, February 8th?

PITTENGER: I don't know if we are going to get to the deal yet. I don't think there's time to construct a deal. That's going to take a lot of give and take and discussion and that can't happen in just a couple days.

WHITFIELD: And you are talking on the spending bill in order to keep the government going or do you mean on DACA?

PITTENGER: Yes. I think we will come to terms on the spending bill. I think clear minds will prevail. Certainly, I have very strong feelings about accountable government, about overspending, but also I have full commitment to supporting our military, and that needs to be done.

WHITFIELD: So you were about to say you really don't believe, then, that there will be any real construction or advancement on DACA in this spending bill, that that deadline may not be met?

PITTENGER: Well, if it is, it would be very limited in scope. I think the full interest of the President, what he has offered and what is in discussion right now, we are allowed a lot of thoughtful dialogue in our House as well as the Senate in how we should respond.

WHITFIELD: What do you want to see in a potential revision of DACA or any sort of modifications made or hope being sent to young people who were brought to this country of no fault of their own and are hoping for a pathway to citizenship? Do you see that happening?

PITTENGER: Well, Fred, I understand that question. I think it's sort of like playing baseball. You go to first base and second base and third base and home. You know, the DACA folks, and I appreciate them, I have met with them. They have come down the hallways in the offices. I have spent a lot of time talking to them and I'm familiar with their plight. And I understand their concern.

But you know, people want to come to America because we are a country who has law. We operate under the rule of law. They have come from countries where there is oftentimes not the rule of law, where you don't have property rights. They don't have freedoms of conscience. And so, I understand why they do want to be here. They should respect the fact that we are a country of laws. To that end, I think the President's commitment to secure our border and build a wall is truly warranted. I work a lot on national security issues related to terrorism, and that wall is important. It's still open, it's porous. We have not just illegal immigrants that come across, but those who have our bad interests in mind and would be terrorists.

WHITFIELD: But it sounds like you are sending a message that perhaps they should not feel any more hopeful that perhaps there may be a measure that will grant some sort of pathway to citizenship for a lot of these people.

[14:15:08] PITTENGER: Well, what I have said to them, Fred, is join the course, join the rest of us in doing what needs to be done for the best interests of this country, to preserve this country, to continue to be the country of why you want to be here. And chain migration is a part. We have already seen evidence as a result of chain migration in the lottery and terrorist attacks that have occurred. We know that in Boston and New York. So let's address the core issues. And then once we've done that, I think we can have a reasonable conversation with the American people about what to do with the entire gamut of the illegal immigration problem.

WHITFIELD: And I say these people because some are very young and then some are actually in their 30s about now, so they might not necessarily call themselves young people, but simply people.

All right. Congressman Robert Pittenger, appreciate it. Thank you so much.

PITTENGER: Good being with you, Fred. Happy Sunday.

WHITFIELD: All right. Up nest, the view from the other side of the aisle. Democratic senator Dick Durbin weighing in. This as CNN learns that House intel committee may vote tomorrow to release the Democrats' memo. Stay with us.


[14:20:21] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.

As early as tomorrow, Democrats on the House intelligence committee are expected to push for a vote to release their memo which refutes allegations of FBI's surveillance abuses. If approved, the matter will be sent to the President's desk and he would have five days to object to the release. This comes as the President suggests that he has been cleared of any wrongdoing in the Russia investigation after the Republican memo became public earlier in the week.

This morning's CNN's Jake Tapper spoke with the number two Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin of Illinois. And he also is a member of the Judiciary Committee.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DURBIN: The fact that the Republicans in the House refuse to allow a minority report, the Democratic response to their memo, is an indication that they are just bound and determined to continue to find ways to absolve this President from any responsibility.

I agree completely with John McCain. It was John McCain who said try to undermine the FBI and the department of justice is really not in the best interests of America, and frankly, it's doing Putin's work. We ought to be trying to focus on an investigation at a professional level by Bob Mueller and not trying to find a way to obstruct justice or to absolve this President from any responsibility he has.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, STATE OF THE UNION: I want you to take a listen to what the House intelligence committee chairman Devin Nunes said about the allegations laid out in the memo of FISA abuse. Take a listen.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think the American people understand that the FBI should not go to secret courts using information that was paid for by the Democrats to open up investigations and get warrants on people of the other political party. That's the type of stuff that happens in banana republics.

TAPPER: Now it seems as though the judge was told that the information from the Steele dossier was funded by a political source, but it was not specifically referred to as having been paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. Do you think that's problematic?

DURBIN: What Nunes conveniently ignores is this investigation was underway long before the involvement of the Steele dossier. And, in fact, the court was advised that there was a political source to it. The judge, in issuing a FISA warrant, has to weigh whether or not there is something in the background here that should disqualify the issuance of a warrant, and he decided repeatedly that it did not.

The Nunes memo, if they allowed the Democratic response to come out, would be discredited itself. The information -- the facts tell a totally different story.

TAPPER: So, senator, just to play devil's advocate here, one could really look at this objectively and say, look, I get what you are saying about the Nunes memo, but the Democratic Party isn't exactly bathed in glory here.

"Mother Jones" magazine broke the story of the dossier's existence in October 2016. The intelligence chief has felt the need to brief the incoming and outgoing Presidents of the existence of the dossier in January of 2017. And the fact is the public didn't find out that the Hillary Clinton campaign and DNC paid for the dossier until a little over three months in October 2017.

This dossier was used for this FISA warrant, a surveillance warrant of a Trump official, and the Clinton campaign and the DNC didn't disclose that. Isn't that problematic?

DURBIN: I can tell you that that is one piece of evidence. Its credibility has to be judged by law enforcement officials first, ultimately by a judge and perhaps by a jury. But to say that that's the end of the investigation, that this is all that Donald Trump needs to fire Rosenstein or to fire Bob Mueller, I will just tell you, this could precipitate a constitutional crisis.

If the House Republicans believe they have set the stage for this President to end this investigation, they are basically saying that in America, one man is above the law. And that's not a fact. We have got to make sure we explore all the possibilities and all the evidence.

TAPPER: I want to get to that, and I understand your larger point. But would you grant the point that the DNC and the Clinton campaign should have disclosed much earlier than they did to the public that they actually funded this dossier?

DURBIN: Of course, you know as well, Jake, that the actual political motivation and beginning of this was on the Republican side. It was then switched over where there was Democratic funding. It really goes to the credibility, but that is an issue that the judge in issuing the FISA warrant takes into consideration, and ultimately some other tryer of fact will as well. But to say now that we can say as the President said it is all over. Stop all investigation. I'm above the law. And I shouldn't be investigated further. That is an extreme position and it is inconsistent with the fundamental rules of law in this country.

[14:25:08] TAPPER: Well, I think important fact, the opposition research project was funded by Republicans, but the Steele dossier per see was fund by Democrats, but this appears to be a dry well so I'm going to move on.

Before the memo was released, Democrats were sounding the alarm that putting it out could compromise security sources and methods. Listen to Adam Schiff last week.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think we have crossed the deeply regrettable line in committee where for the first time in the ten years or so that I have been on this committee, there was a vote to politicize the classification process of intelligence and potential compromise sources and methods.

TAPPER: Do you see any evidence of sources and methods compromised in the memo?

DURBIN: I tell you, I can't answer that without being on the inside and understanding the sources. It was the FBI itself, not Adam Schiff, whom I respect very much, but the FBI itself that said the release of this memo would be reckless. That was their word, reckless. And yet the House Republicans were bound and determined to do this in order to stop this investigation of the President and those around him.

TAPPER: I want to ask you about the fact that the President, as you alluded to, it seems pretty clear from the response of Trump and his allies to the memo that it could, if not likely, will be used as pretext for the President to fire deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein or special counsel Bob Mueller. What will you do if he carries out either one of those actions?

DURBIN: Listen, this would be an extreme event and one that I say with some caution could create a constitutional crisis in this country. The question at that moment is whether or not the majority Republicans in the House and the Senate will stand up for the rule of law in the constitution in the President takes that extreme position. Trey Gowdy, who is retiring from the House Republican, a conservative

from South Carolina, said he saw nothing in this memo that undermined the investigation and he still had confidence in Bob Mueller. I hope people like Mr. Gowdy will continue to make those statements and stand behind the rule of law. If the President takes this extreme action, this precipitated action, I'm afraid that it could lead to a constitutional crisis we do not need in America.

TAPPER: Can you be specific about what Democrats might do?

DURBIN: Well, I can't. I don't want to predict that. I think that's too hypothetical. But we understand what the constitution says we must do. And that's hold everyone in the United States, including the President of the United States, accountable if they have violated the law. No one, including the President, is above the law.


WHITFIELD: All right. Up next, House speaker Paul Ryan is eviscerated on twitter for seeming out of touch after singling out a school secretaries $1.50 a week pay increase, thanks to tax reform. We talk with her after the break.


[14:32:27] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.

House speaker Paul Ryan is facing a wave of criticism over a tweet he sent and then deleted. The House speaker retweeted an AP, "Associated Press," article saying quote "a secretary at a public high school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania said she was pleasantly surprised her pay went up $1.50 a week. She said that will more than cover her annual Costco membership."

Well, Ryan seemed to be promoting the benefits of the GOP tax bill passed in December. But critics say it shows that he is out of touch.

Here to give us her thoughts, the subject of that article, that tweet, et cetera, the woman who was quoted by Ryan, Julia Ketchum.

Julia, good to see you.


WHITFIELD: So you willingly did this interview with the "Associated Press," right, about your pay increase, and then the House speaker picked it up. How surprised were you when you heard that he then tweeted about your $1.50 a week increase?

KETCHUM: You can imagine I was very, very surprised. And it was a little a amusing to me. More than a little amusing.

WHITFIELD: What do you mean?

KETCHUM: Well, I'm just a normal gal. I shouldn't be in the center of attention from the speaker of the House.

WHITFIELD: So it's clear, or it seems clear, that he in the tweet was kind of touting this is, you know, a great example of the benefits that will come from this tax reform. You know, $1.50 per week. You and a number of people were interviewed. I understand that you saw this article. There were, you know, some people who were, you know, boasting of hundreds of dollars of an increase, and yours happened to be picked up. What were your thoughts about the information you gave the "Associated Press?" Were you celebrating the $1.50? Were you just simply telling him this is what it is and everyone else can judge from there, or what?

KETCHUM: That's exactly what it was. I responded to Sarah Sales' twitter poll. Did you see a change? Yes or No. And I said yes. And I answered four or five simple questions and I answered them honestly. And when she asked what would I do with the extra money, that's the only thing I could think of, was it would cover my Costco membership fees for the year. And I answered honestly and I really didn't expect it to go where it went.

[14:35:05] WHITFIELD: And so it's gone a lot of places. It was tweeted by the House speaker. And then it was taken down because, you know, there were a lot of folks on twitter who were criticizing his sentiment, saying that he is out of touch. In fact, even, you know, Nancy Pelosi even tweeted out this, saying, crumbs. He is literally, you know, bragging about six quarters while giving away the store to the wealthiest and corporations.

What do you think about that sentiment, whether it be from Pelosi or other critics who say that, you know, that tweet exemplifies that he's out of touch? Do you have any strong thoughts about that?

KETCHUM: Well, I can't speak to that. I just know -- I fully understood it's my money and the withholdings had changed. I meant nothing political by it, by saying anything. And you will never did I intend that something I say, you know, maybe get turned around and made political. Because if my friends and family that know me know that's really not how I operate. I never would intend to make anybody look silly.

So having it be a political issue does make me a little uncomfortable because that wasn't the intention. I just go on about my day. It was not that big of an increase but I did notice it, so I just answered the twitter poll and away it went.

WHITFIELD: All right. And so now that you have been the subject of, and you did, you know, answer, you know, the poll, how are you hoping that the information that you shared might be instructive this point forward?

KETCHUM: Well, I know that I'm going to look at my withholdings. I do fall in the middle class. And it is prudent to look at your withholdings and make sure you are in line with, you know, how much you are having held out of your paychecks. And hopefully whatever comes out of this, people are more aware of how they set their withholdings in their paychecks. Because I know that it's made that difference for me. When I get a chance, I'm going to look.

WHITFIELD: OK. And perhaps a lot of folks have now learned by way of you the power of one. This is sometimes, you know, one person's sentiment can help elicit all kinds of conversations, no matter which way it goes.

KETCHUM: Tomorrow at Hempfield high school will be very interesting.

WHITFIELD: Right. You are going to have to answer a lot of questions to a lot of students and fellow staff members. Good luck on handling it all. Something tells me you will be just fine.

All right. Julia Ketchum, thank you so much for your time and your humor in all of this, too.

KETCHUM: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: All right. There's so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

But first, even if you're not a star athlete, there are some simple exercises that you can do to make everyday tasks a little easier.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As age has creeped up on me, I noticed little things. Going up the stairs, I'm a little out of breath. Go hiking with my family and I'm the last one in line. I'm much more calling up to the kids, can you bring this downstairs. Or if I'm sitting down, can you grab that glass of water for me. I'm not looking to be a bodybuilder. So I just want everyday functional ability.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Functional fitness is where you are training for everyday movement. We don't think how a squat will translate into in everyday world. We squat every time we sit down, getting into a car, getting off the couch or when we are traveling in an airport, or putting things into the overhead compartments. That's a shoulder breath.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can totally feel it to stomach. They had me do ertain exercises and asked, how does that feel? Where are you feeling that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exercise shouldn't be about getting injured. So if we find a client has an injury, we will refer them out to a physical therapist or an occupational therapist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After about two months, I noticed the aches and pains going away. I have lost some weight. I feel healthier. I feel like my muscles are stronger and they support me better. And I want to be out there with the kids having the fun versus sitting in the chair and watching everyone else have those moments.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [14:43:58] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.

Israel is once again increasing pressure on African asylum seekers to leave the country. Today authorities began handing out letters to illegal immigrants telling them they have 60 days to voluntarily leave the country before deportations there begin. It is part of a growing crackdown on nearly 40,000 African migrants in that country.

Israel has rejected 14,000 asylum requests over the last decade while accepting only 33, according to the government, saying most are just job seekers. Tens of thousands of requests have not been answered. All of this as a group of Israeli law experts sent a letter to that country's attorney general saying Israel's deportation policy violates international norms.

CNN's Oren Lieberman takes us into the very public battle for Israel's streets.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The map of Johnny Goitom's journey is drawn in scars. The marks when he left Eritrea, the beatings in Sinai, the wounds when he crossed over into Israel, where he's lived since 2009.

[14:45:10] JOHNNY GOITOM, ERITREAN ASYLUM SEEKER (through translator): I feel like I belong here because this is where I am. I placed my foot here. I am here.

LIEBERMANN: Goitom has built a life here. But his family, like thousands of others here, face deportation. He speaks to me in fluent Hebrew.

GOITOM (through translator): They don't want refugees here. They tell you, you aren't a refugee. You just came from work. They just don't believe you.

LIEBERMANN: Israel has vowed to remove some 38,000 illegal immigrants within months offering to pay them to leave. Most are from Eritrea and Sudan, two of the biggest sources of refuges in the world.

Fleeing war and poverty, they traveled north through Egypt, turning east to pass through Sinai. More than a thousand cross the border into Israel each month until the Israeli army sealed the route with a fence in 2013.

The immigration authority here says it has received more than 50,000 asylum requests in the last decade. Some 3,600 from Eritrea have been rejected, just eight have been accepted. Less than one percent among the lowest rates in the western world.

Israel calls them infiltrators.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We are not acting against refugees. We are acting against illegal migrants who come here not as refugees but for work needs. Israel will continue to offer asylum for genuine refugees and will remove illegal migrants from its midst.

LIEBERMANN: South Tel Aviv is ground zero for this plight. Sheffi Paz, a grassroots activist is on the front line.

We stroll around her neighborhood at night, the polished shine of the tech hub glimmers in the distance. She says this no longer feels like Israel and wants to see the recent arrivals return to their countries, the vast majority of the countries the U.S. labels human rights violators.

SHEFFI PAZ, TEL AVIV ACTIVIST: My parents all looked for survival. It is my conclusion from the holocaust. In order to have to give a home for the world, but that they need to fight for my country.

LIEBERMANN: Others draw a different lesson from the holocaust. Reut Michaeli works to help Africans apply for asylum. Her parents entered British mandate Palestine in 1941 illegally. She says a nation built by Jewish refugees cannot turn away others.

REUT MICHAELI, HOTLINE FOR MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES: Israel was one of the initiators of the refugee convention. And the fact that Israel will deport people to third country without taking even a little, little this of responsibility is not moral, not to mention that it's against our Jewish values as a refugee nation.

LIEBERMANN: And nearby (INAUDIBLE) park, I meet the Awat Asheber from Eritrea. This is where Israel first brought many of those plea Eritrea and Sudan. Even after ten years in Israel, Awat's goal has never changed.

AWAT ASHEBER, ERITREAN ASYLUM SEEKER (through translator): Tomorrow, the next day, it doesn't matter when. The day our country has peace, we will go back. That's what we are waiting for, but no one is going to bring us peace.

LIEBERMANN: As Israel has pressured these families to leave, peace has been hard to find here, the promised land. It just wasn't promised to them.

Oren Liebermann, CNN, Tel Aviv.



[14:53:19] WHITFIELD: All right. The countdown is on. It is game day in the National Football League kickoff in super bowl 52, just hours away now. The Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots are set to battle it out for the championship inside a dome where outside it's bitter cold, Minneapolis.

CNN's Coy Wire is all covered up because what is it, single digits or feels like below?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Single digits. It's one. But wind chill has it at negative 11 right now. It just smashed a record for the coldest super bowl ever.

I put this napkin, put water on it, threw it outside. In less than five minutes, became like glass. Look at that. It's unbelievably cold out here.

Listen to this, though. For the first time ever, the NFL is allowing a remote check in about 11 miles away from all Americans. So fans can get scanned there. The shuttled to the game where they won't have to stand outside in long lines in this coldest. That's also an added security measure, Fred. Not as many large crowd gathering outside U.S. stadium.

Super bowl 52 rated at level one national security threat. That is the highest level possible. The FBI, local police leading the effort. Hundreds of National Guard troops on the ground, bomb-sniffing dogs. There are border patrol agents in black hawk helicopters circling around enforcing a 32-mile radius. No fly zone around the stadium.

But inside the stadium, the Eagles, they hope to soar their city their first ever super bowl title. Yesterday, fans making the way down here to Minneapolis. They were hoping the same. Listen to this.


CROWD: Fly, eagles, fly on the road to victory. Fly, eagles fly count down one, two, one, two, three.


[14:55:07] COY: This is only Philadelphia's third super bowl appearance and they have not won any of them. The Patriots, on the other hand, going for an NFL record time sixth super bowl title. They are led by Tom Brady who last night became the oldest player, Fred, at 40 years old too receive the league's MVP award. It was his third over the course of his career.

WHITFIELD: Lots of excitement.

Coy, we know you are diehard because you are not even wearing gloves, OK? You are not even feeling that cold.

COY: Now that you have pointed that out, my mom is going to text me and she is going to be very upset. She has already yelled at me once this week, Fred. But yes, I have my gloves here. And they are battery powered and they are heated.

WHITFIELD: OK. Well, there you go. I remember doing that army-Navy game, you said, you know, especially as a former NFL player, you and fellow footballers revel in the cold, so why am I not surprised that you are out there in Minneapolis without a glove on.

COY: Makes you feel alive, Fred. Just like you brighten everyone's day.

WHITFIELD: Aren't you sweet? All right. Well, have fun out there in Minneapolis. I appreciate it. We got so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM and it all starts

right after this.