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Trump Lawyer Says Porn Star Violated Agreement, Owes $20 Million; Trump Accuses FBI, DOJ, State Department of Lies, Leaks, Corruption; McCabe Document Conversations with Trump in Memos; Trump Attorney Calls for End of Mueller Probe; Outraged Brennan Sends Message to Trump; Trump Accuses FBI, State Department, DOJ of Lies, Leaks, Corruption; Engineer Warned of Cracks in Pedestrian Bridge Days Before Collapse; Trump Lawyer Says Porn Star Violated Agreement, Owes $20 Million. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired March 17, 2018 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right, hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me on this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We've got breaking news on the controversial firing of former FBI director, deputy director, I should say, Andrew McCabe. CNN has learned Andrew McCabe also documented his conversations with the president of the United States in memos. The former FBI deputy director was dismissed just 26 hours before he planned to retire with full benefits after serving 20 years at the FBI.

According to sources, McCabe was accused of misleading internal investigators about his role in directing other FBI officials to speak to the "Wall Street Journal" about his involvement in a public corruption investigation into the Clinton Foundation. He denies the allegations and he's firing back. In a blistering response, McCabe is calling the dismissal an attack on the FBI and his credibility and claims its part of the president's ongoing war against the FBI and the special counsel's Russia investigation.

Let's bring in now CNN justice correspondent, Laura Jarrett.

So, Laura, where should you begin?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I think we should start with the memos. It's a pretty important development here, Fred. We reported yesterday that Andrew McCabe had a series of conversations with the president back in May when he served as acting director of the FBI, where the president berated him, heckled him repeatedly about his wife's failed state Senate campaign back in 2015, even going as far as calling her a loser, repeatedly calling it a mistake.

We've now learned McCabe has documented at least some of his conversations with the president in a series of memos. We don't know exactly what he said in those memos. We don't know what period of time they span. But they're certainly significant. As we all remember, James Comey's memos have become an important part of the Mueller investigation. There's litigation over publicizing them. You can imagine McCabe, now the number-two in command, also has memos, is significant.

But McCabe is also not holding back in his firing, breaking his silence with CNN on his interactions with the president, breaking his silence in a public statement, last night, a blistering one, saying, in part, that he was heckled for years and that he was singled out and treated this way "because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey."

Now, obviously, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has a very different explanation of why McCabe had to be terminated immediately. CNN had reported earlier this week that the FBI had recommended his firing based on results from the inspector general, who found that he misled investigators about his role in directing two other FBI officials, talking about an ongoing investigation into the Clinton family foundation back in 2016. For the first time, Sessions confirmed some of those findings late Friday night, saying, in part, "Those internal reports concluded that Mr. McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor, including under oath, on multiple occasions."

McCabe tells CNN he did absolutely nothing wrong, and if there were any discrepancies, he proactively reached back to investigators to clear things up. But clearly, Fred, those efforts did not work. He's now out of a job with a significant portion of his early retirement and possibly medical benefits now gone -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: Also incredible was that lacking of candor, that from the Attorney General Sessions, who on many occasions said, "I don't recall" while testifying.

JARRETT: That's true.

WHITFIELD: Interesting.

All right, Laura Jarrett --


WHITFIELD: Yes. Thank you so much. I

In the wake of McCabe's firing, President Trump's attorney is now calling for an end to the Russia investigation. John Dowd, a personal attorney to Mr. Trump, says he is praying that Rod Rosenstein follows what he said is a courageous example set by Jeff Sessions and ends the Mueller probe.

We should add that Dowd says he is speaking for himself, not for the president. There were two different statements, and in the second statement, offering that clarity, speaking for himself.

CNN's Boris Sanchez is at the White House for us.

So, Boris, elaborate.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Fred. Yes, the president's personal attorney suggesting that he's praying that Robert Mueller be fired. He initially made that statement to "The Daily Beast," saying that he was speaking on behalf of the president, as the president's attorney, and then he shortly after walked that back in his statement to CNN, saying this was of his own accord.

I'm going to show you the statement he made to CNN's Gloria Borger. He writes, quote, "I was speaking for myself, not the president. I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged collusion Russia investigation manufactured by McCabe's boss, James Comey, based upon a fraudulent and corrupt dossier. Just end it on the merits in light of recent revelations."

[13:05:16] Now, a source close to the president tells CNN that Dowd was not authorized to make that statement, that the president didn't authorize that. You get the sense from speaking to people close to the president in his inner circle that they are annoyed that John Dowd went in this direction. It contradicts so much of what we heard from the White House and the legal team about the special counsel investigation. They've said many times that they're 100 percent complying with Robert Mueller. It contradicts what we heard from the president, saying he would not fire Robert Mueller, that he was looking forward to sitting down with the special counsel and letting the investigation come to the conclusion that the Trump campaign did not collude with the Russians in the 2016 election.

Now, we've heard murmurs about Robert Mueller being fired before. So much so that there is actually bipartisan legislation that had previously been drafted, different versions of it, that would give Robert Mueller some form of job protection, some sort of job security. This week, Congress is expected to vote on a major spending bill. We'll see if there's a major push, Fred, to include some language that might protect Robert Mueller in light of all these murmurs.

WHITFIELD: Boris Sanchez, at the White House, thank you so much for that.

While the president's attorney is praising McCabe's firing as brilliant, one former CIA director is outraged. John Brennan taking aim at the president on Twitter, saying this, and it's a message to the president: "When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America. America will triumph over you."

All right, joining me right now, John Thomas, CNN political commentator, Julian Zelizer, a CNN political analyst and Princeton historian and professor, and Robert Zimmerman, Democratic strategist.

Good to see you all, gentlemen.


WHITFIELD: Julian, you first. McCabe claims to have memos that documents his talks with President

Trump, sounding very familiar to Comey. We don't know the specifics, but the former FBI deputy director shows no signs of backing down from the White House. So could his ouster ultimately backfire on the president, even though this is -- these are the actions of the attorney general, but is it also by the extent of the president?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. This could be a little like the firing of James Comey, which Steven Bannon called a great political mistake in American history. And you can hear, from the words of the intelligence officials, from McCabe to Brennan, they're angry. And if there are memos about his behavior leading up to this, my guess is you might see them or read about them and that could be extraordinarily damaging to the obstruction case that Mueller is looking into. These are strong, strong words coming out in the last 24 hours.

WHITFIELD: John, do you see this, particularly with the statement coming from Trump's personal attorney, that the stage is being set for the potential firing of a Robert Mueller?

JOHN THOMAS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm not sure if he's going to fire him, but I certainly think that this sentiment that the attorney echoed is felt by many of us, that the investigation has gone on too long, the scope has gone too broad. So, look, I think the thing about McCabe's firing here is we're going -- Brennan is jumping to conclusions. He hasn't seen the inspector general's report that Jeff Sessions, apparently, says that McCabe lied. We're also seeing that McCabe's bias is being exposed today. The biggest thing for me is James Comey is probably having a bad day. Because if McCabe -- McCabe inferred that he did not act alone in these illegal leaks. And if James Comey authorized these leaks, he has said on several occasions under oath that he never authorized any kinds of leaks.

WHITFIELD: The word "leaks," OK, some are using the words leak. McCabe saying, you know, talking to, making statements to, so they may be two different things. You know, we don't know because we haven't seen the inspector general's report.

But if I could just recall from that, you know, John Dowd's statement, he says, speaking for myself, not the president: "I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe's boss, James Comey, based on fraudulent and corrupt dossier."

So, John, to your point, when you say, well, I don't know about, you know, firing of Mueller, but, you know, end to the investigation, but when he makes reference to Sessions and the firing of McCabe, you know, and saying follow the brilliant and courageous example of, isn't that essentially saying potentially firing Mueller?


(CROSSTALK) THOMAS: Well -- go ahead. I'm sorry. Is that for me?

WHITFIELD: Go ahead, John.

WHITFIELD: Because you said you don't see --

THOMAS: Yes. Yes.

WHITFIELD: -- the parallel so --


THOMAS: Yes, Fred, I think -- no, I think he's echoing the sentiment, like I said, many of us feel this investigation was cooked up and false and -- on its premise, and it would end, but I don't think it means he's going to be fired. It's just echoing a sentiment that he needs to conclude rapidly.


Robert, you do see a direct correlation?

ZIMMERMAN: I think from the very beginning, the strategy of President Trump and his administration has been designed to either shut down the investigation, to interfere with the progress of the investigation, and create as many obstacles to getting the full story out as much as possible. Let's also remember, historically, that Bob Mueller's appointed a special counsel because President Trump's own deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, put him in that position. In fact, Bob Mueller's record as a war hero, a man who served Republicans and Democrats alike, and his leadership in the FBI's been

praised by Republicans, conservatives, as well as by Democrats. I think the bigger point here, quite frankly, I now know why President Trump's lawyer's resorting to prayer. That is simply because if you -- now that Andrew McCabe has documented information about his meetings with the president, and James Comey has documented his meetings with President Trump as well, the point is this investigation goes forward and proceeds. The more and more evidence is being put on the table, that clearly this president has tried to interrupt this, to interfere with it, and clearly does not want the full story told about his campaign and perhaps his own involvement with Russia.

WHITFIELD: Julian, even prior to this firing of McCabe, the White House was asked about the chaos, you know that all of these -- whether it's the secretary of state, you know, Rex Tillerson, you know, suddenly out. All of this taking place in a week, you know, this past week. So what is the message, really, being sent by this White House? I mean, is there a scramble to get rid of people, to change the story? How do you interpret this?

ZELIZER: I think the president is sending a message to everyone around him that he's willing to let go of people who are not loyal and who speak in a slightly different voice than his. This is a president who is most comfortable hearing his own ideas and not hearing opponents. And I think the, you know, dismissal of Tillerson, potentially McMaster, we'll see, and many of the other shuffles that have happened indicate the president is trying to clamp down on who is around him. And I think that's very transparent. And, in some ways, it's the same message with McCabe. He is sending a message to the investigators, he will fight back, and he will not sit by as this continues.

WHITFIELD: And then, John, what does it say that it appears as though the president is actually enjoying this? You know, reportedly he had been enjoying all the attention from the staff changes, the reports of staff changes, this week, the firings, et cetera. And that the president actually tweeted out that he seems happy about how the firing transpired, in saying, you know, this is essentially a celebration.

THOMAS: Well, he should be happy about McCabe going. I mean, he's been complaining about McCabe pretty much and his bias from the get- go. To see the attorney general took it seriously enough to fire him, I think that is reason to celebrate. I think a lot of Americans are celebrating cleansing these crooked officials in the FBI.

In relation to the changing of Tillerson or what not, any president would expect loyalty out of folks in their cabinet. It seems as though the president's happy to be moving on to the next chapter of somebody who can be effective --


ZIMMERMAN: John, can I just point out, before you start denouncing someone like McCabe, who served our country on the front lines for 20 years as a crooked official, before you start demeaning --

THOMAS: He is.

ZIMMERMAN: -- and dismissing these individuals who are dedicated public servants to our national security --

THOMAS: He lied!

ZIMMERMAN: -- I think you have an obligation to at least see the reports and see the facts first.

I'd also like to point out, while President Trump is doing an end-zone dance over this latest diversionary tactic of having McCabe fired, his own department, his own FBI, his own Homeland Security Department pointed out just this week that Russia's increasing their activities to disrupt our country, including targeting energy companies and their computer technology.


ZIMMERMAN: Excuse me --


WHITFIELD: Hold up, John. ZIMMERMAN: This administration has not spent one dollar of the $120

million they appropriated in the State Department to combat Russia. The president refused to endorse sanctions Congress put in place against Russia. They took this week, by most accounts, which target five organizations and 19 individuals are at best merely token.


[13:15:08] ZIMMERMAN: This is a serious issue for our nation.

WHITFIELD: John, you're saying is doesn't look personal. You're talking about, you know, really on the eve of full retirement benefits for a public servant of more than 21 years. And this firing would come now a few months after he also resigned from the position. It looks more personal, does it not?

THOMAS: Well, from what I understand, he essentially was forced to resign. And it always ground me that this guy was getting full taxpayer benefit pension. And especially if we find out -- and we will with the inspector general's report -- if the Attorney General Sessions knew that Andrew McCabe lied to the FBI and was, in fact, a leaker and had a bias, and other things, do I think that he is entitled to full pension benefits? Absolutely, not. To think, anyway, Fred, that he's going to be hurting financially, I guarantee he already had a commentator deal lined up with one of the major networks and a book deal.


THOMAS: He's going to be fine financially.


THOMAS: But, criminally, I think he has to worry.

ZELIZER: This goes beyond the --


ZELIZER: This goes beyond --

WHITFIELD: Julian, I do want to hear your comments, but the president did just tweet, coincidentally, as we were talking about all this, and saying this, "As the House Intelligence Committee has concluded, there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. As many are now finding out, however, there was tremendous leaking, lying and corruption at the highest levels of the FBI, Justice and State, #draintheswamp.

So, Julian, he's also making reference to, earlier in the week, the House Intelligence Committee saying there will be no more interviews because, you know, the conclusion by many is there was no collusion. What is your thought?

ZELIZER: Look, the Republicans shut this down. This wasn't the full committee. That's the point. This has turned into a very partisan process. The Republicans are often working with the president to discredit the entire investigation. That's why the McCabe firing is problematic, not just for McCabe, but for the message the president is sending about law enforcement, intelligence, and how investigation should take place. But that tweet just shows the preferences of the president and a very partisan view of how this all happened. It doesn't reflect the reality.

WHITFIELD: All right. We're going to leave it right there, gentleman. Thank you very much


WHITFIELD: -- John Thomas, Julian Zelizer and Robert Zimmerman.

ZIMMERMAN: Thank you.

THOMAS: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Good to see you all.

Still ahead, new details about that deadly bridge collapse, pedestrian bridge collapse in Miami. The lead engineer tried to warn state officials about a potential problem just two days before the collapse. More on that next.


[13:21:52] WHITFIELD: All right, today we're getting new information about the fatal bridge collapse in Miami. The lead engineer on the bridge project tried to tell state officials about cracks two days before the tragedy. He left a voice mail on a DOT employee's office line.


DENNEY PATE, LEAD ENGINEER, FIGG (voice-over): I was calling to share with you some information about the FIU pedestrian bridge and some cracking that's been observed on the north end of the span, the pylon end of that span we moved this weekend. So we've taken a look at it and, obviously, some repairs or whatever will have to be done. But from a safety perspective, we don't see that there's any issue there.


WHITFIELD: Oh, gosh. No one heard that message until yesterday.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung is in Miami.

Kaylee, earlier, we received an update from officials on this investigation and where it's going. How does that voice mail even contribute?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, the priority here has been on respectfully removing the remains of bodies trapped beneath that bridge. We're told the operation is currently under way to extract two vehicles that were deeply buried in the rubble. Two more vehicles are believed to also still be beneath that rubble.

This news coming after this morning, seeing the first real activity of two vehicles being escorted from the scene here.

We got an update from Miami-Dade police director, Juan Perez, as to that process. Take a listen.


JUAN PEREZ, DIRECTOR, MIAMI-DADE POLICE DEPARTMENT: Earlier this morning, finally, our crews that were assisting us in this process were successful, after hours and hours of incredible work that they've been doing, were successful in removing two vehicles from under that rubbish. What I can tell you right now, we discovered three bodies within those two vehicles.


HARTUNG: So let's do the math. We had been told at least six were dead as a result of this bridge collapse. We knew of one who died at the hospital on Thursday. We're now learning of three others who were in those vehicles escorted from the scene this morning. With those four vehicles still beneath the rubble, that means at least two bodies are inside.

The "Miami Herald" is reporting one of those victims, FIU student, Alexa Durand (ph), she's believed to be the driver of the Jeep, one of the vehicles we saw taken from the scene this morning. But otherwise, Fred, we're told when cars are taken from here, they're taken directly to the medical examiner's office. And that is who will be able to confirm the identities of these victims -- Fred?

[13:24:32] WHITFIELD: Terribly sad.

Kaylee Hartung, thanks so much.

Coming up, President Trump's attorneys claim Stormy Daniels could owe some $20 million. We're talking about her alleged affair. How Daniels' team is responding and what a move to federal court could mean, next.


WHITFIELD: All right, the Stormy Daniels saga taking a new legal turn. Attorneys for President Trump and his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, are seeking to move the porn star's lawsuit to federal court. They are also accusing Daniels of violating her nondisclosure agreement and they claim she could owe them $20 million. Stormy says she had an affair with Trump in 2006, and filed a lawsuit arguing her nondisclosure agreement was not valid since it wasn't signed by Trump himself.

Here to discuss, Avery Friedman, a civil rights lawyer and law professor, joining us from Los Angeles today. And joining us from Miami today, defense attorney, Richard Herman.

Good to see you both.



WHITFIELD: Avery, this is getting more and more confusing all the time.


[13:30:06] WHITFIELD: So, this is a legal move taking this matter to federal court for an affair that the president says never happened. But wants to now take this to federal court to sue her for $20 million, a million dollars each time she has spoken publicly about the affair that never happened because of the nondisclosure agreement, which says you shouldn't be talking about the affair that never happened.

HERMAN: Right. That's a long question actually. Yes.

WHITFIELD: Why? I'm just throwing it all out there. As if it never happened, then why do you have all this stuff now taking it to the federal level to bring even more attention? Why?

FRIEDMAN: Well, actually, I like it in federal court because this has been a case where, among other things, they have secret temporary protective orders and use arbitration provisions. The fact is, I love the idea it's going to be aired out.

On the other hand, what's terribly sad is that we're involved with a matter of the most sorted nature, involving the most important person in the free world, if not the world. That is, if it never happened, then why sign the agreement in the first place? What's the fear?

And then on top of that, you have the attorney --


WHITFIELD: Except he did it. Isn't that the allegation?


WHITFIELD: He didn't sign the agreement. Even though it says like "and/or." So your attorney or D.D., which is, you know, the president of the United States apparently.

HERMAN: D.D., David Dennison. Right.

WHITFIELD: If he didn't sign it, because it says "and/or," doesn't that make it still valid, that his attorney did? That's another question.


WHITFIELD: I'll let you finish about the whole, you know, why federal court, but go ahead.

FRIEDMAN: The bottom line, yes, he didn't sign it. Mr. Cohen is saying well, look, this is a deal I put together. It's my money. There was no need for the David Dennison, who's the pseudonym for the president, to sign it in the first place.

But ultimately, they're very interesting issues. The whole thing is going to be aired out. I think everybody loses. The purpose of a contract is to control behavior. When you have dishonorable people doing dishonorable things, the whole thing comes out in the wash. Frankly, unlike these other forums, I love the idea it's in a federal courtroom so we can hear the truth. And that's what's going to happen here.


Richard, is that what's going to happen? Or is it the point to have it in the federal court so perhaps it will be an issue resolved quietly?


WHITFIELD: Go ahead. You've got a lot to respond to.

HERMAN: Fred, as you stated --


HERMAN: Yes, it's the height of absurdity. The whole thing is absurd. We know he had the relationship with her. We know that. We know he directed his attorneys to shut her up right on the verge of the election when that tape came out.


FRIEDMAN: When the TMZ tape came out.

HERMAN: Right after that TMZ tape came out. So he wanted to protect this. He didn't want it to come out. He felt he had exposure with this as well as that playmate, Karen McDougall. He didn't want this information to come out. So he paid, he authorized $130,000 payment. Fred, that's really what the problem is here for the president.


HERMAN: It's a campaign finance law violation.

Now, he could just stand up tomorrow and own it. He could say, yes, I was with stormy, I was with the other one, with ten others, and nothing would happen because it's him. He gets away with this incredibly.

WHITFIELD: There's nothing wrong with, you know --


HERMAN: Right --

WHITFIELD: -- illegal about an affair --


HERMAN: But, you know, the one issue on federal court here, they moved to transfer it to federal court on diversity grounds, which means Trump is not a resident of the state of California. I think he is a resident of the state of California.


WHITFIELD: He does have properties there.


FRIEDMAN: How is he a resident of California?

HERMAN: He has a home there.

WHITFIELD: Then you have to declare residency in the one place you vote, but you can still have homes in a lot of places. But that doesn't mean that he --


HERMAN: Right, Fred. Fred, you're so right. Domicile, residency are two different things. There's allegations that she went to his residence in California. So this transfer to federal court may not happen. Whether it does, or it doesn't, the issue really boils down to is he suing for $20 million for --


WHITFIELD: Yes, $1 million for each time --


WHITFIELD: -- she apparently spoke publicly about it.


FRIEDMAN: Right. It's in the contract.

HERMAN: But if -- if he should -- if you find some corrupted judge that would validate this agreement and let him get --


HERMAN: -- damages of $20 million, in the end, she could just take a page out of the "Art of the Deal" and do like he's done so many times --

FRIEDMAN: And filed bankruptcy.

HERMAN: -- and that would be under there. It's absurd. She told four people about her relationship with him. Every one of

those people know about it. You'll see them on the news soon spilling their guts about it. He's done. He should get up, own it, move on to other things.


FRIEDMAN: That will never happen, Fredricka.


FRIEDMAN: It can't happen. The fact is, the president of the United States.

HERMAN: So what.

FRIEDMAN: It never happened. No, no. Right now, he is stuck.


FRIEDMAN: If a federal court keeps it or if it goes back to the superior court in California, one way or the other --


[13:35:04] WHITFIELD: What do you mean, he's stuck? What do you mean?

FRIEDMAN: He's stuck.

HERMAN: He's not stuck.

FRIEDMAN: Ultimately, he is subject to discovery. There's a Supreme Court ruling that says --


FRIEDMAN: -- he's going to have to testify. So there's no way out.

WHITFIELD: A deposition or something.

FRIEDMAN: Exactly right.

WHITFIELD: Interesting.

HERMAN: Fred, it doesn't matter. Fifty percent of polled Republicans say even if he had a relationship with stormy, it's not immoral. On such an absurd level --


WHITFIELD: There's no law.

HERMAN: -- that it doesn't matter. There's no law this embodies. It's an agreement. Whether it's enforceable or not is an issue before the court. But the rule issue here, Fred, it's a campaign finance law violation.

WHITFIELD: Campaign --


HERMAN: That paints that Trump knows about it. That's the point.

FRIEDMAN: We'll see.

HERMAN: If he knew about it, you got a John Edwards situation again, and he's got exposure there.

FRIEDMAN: We'll see.

HERMAN: That's the main problem with this.

WHITFIELD: We shall see.

FRIEDMAN: You bet.

WHITFIELD: Thank you so much. Happy St. Paddy's Day to you gentlemen.


WHITFIELD: I can say you have brought that festive energy. Appreciate it. Avery Friedman, Richard Herman, appreciate it.


WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.


[13:41:21] WHITFIELD: All right, some breaking news now. President Trump tweeting about the Russia investigation, saying, quoting now, "As the House Intelligence Committee has concluded, there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. As many are now finding out, however, there was tremendous leaking, lying and corruption at the highest levels of the FBI, Justice and State."

I want to bring in Aaron David Miller, a CNN global affairs analyst, and was a State Department adviser to both Democratic and Republican presidents.

Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: Let's begin with this tweet. And particularly, he's talking about the FBI, justice and state. What was your reaction to what he's talking about?

MILLER: That's curious. The president has talked about no collusion. This is kind of a wash, rinse, and repeat cycle. In part, he may be referring to charges against McCabe, his own personal accusations. The State Department piece is unclear to me. And hopefully, it's not

an ominous sign for soon-to-be when he's confirmed secretary of state, Mike Pompeo or --

WHITFIELD: Or, you know, perhaps a justification for the firing of a Rex Tillerson.

MILLER: Yes, you know, Fred, after watching this very sad soap opera, having worked for half a dozen secretaries of state -- I mean, this is the shortest-tenured secretary of state in the modern period. The only one to be fired, fired, frankly, in a very cruel and humiliating way. Stock at the State Department couldn't be much lower. Perhaps Pompeo's relationship with the president would be better. I'm not sure. The railroads are going to run on time.

The real question is, will Trump empower his secretary of state on the most-significant piece of diplomacy and opportunity that's coming up in about six weeks, and that is the punitive summit between KJ-Un, Kim Jong-Un, and the president.

WHITFIELD: Because there were reportedly lots of frustrations for Rex Tillerson, who, you know, reportedly felt like many times his hands were tied. And even, you know, upon his firing, I read he actually had tears in his eyes when talking to people about his, now, departure. With CIA Chief Mike Pompeo being, you know, selected by the president or nominated, now having to be confirmed, are there any indicators of whether the president would prefer Pompeo because there would be a feeling that they would be more in step in terms of how to approach diplomacy, the role of that job, and as you mentioned, you know, this -- it's a potential better setup to this planned meeting with Kim Jong-Un of North Korea?

MILLER: I think that's right. I think the three "P"s have sort of coincided. First of all, the persona. Clearly, Pompeo gets along with the president, knows how to deal with him. Whether or not that involves being too acquiescent and too much of an enabler is another matter. We'll find that out.

Secondly, on the politics point, the second "P," I think Pompeo's much more in step with where the president is coming from.

And finally, on policy. And policy, again, referring to the most significant foreign policy opportunity that has come along in the last year. Look, North Korea and this fraud is going to be extremely difficult, offers this president a bus ride potentially into the history books. It's going to be a very difficult process to manage, but this is, for the first time in years, a genuine opportunity for serious diplomacy and managing perhaps one of the most dangerous escalatory situations in the international system today.

[13:45:05] WHITFIELD: And Tillerson would want to take some credit for having laid the groundwork to a degree, because he was trying to pursue diplomacy, even though the president publicly admonished him for that. And there are several unfilled positions at the State Department, including ambassador positions, South Korea being one of them. So how might that, you know, impair this potential meeting? MILLER: Well, you're going to need a team, right. And Pompeo's

clearly going to lead it, unless they can identify a special envoy that has real expertise in North Korea. You're going to need people who know what they don't know. People who know and then know what they don't know and are in a hurry to find out. You need experts on North Korea, politics and culture. You need somebody who knows the history of the negotiating record. And you'll need somebody who actually knows how to negotiate. There are unfilled positions. We don't have an ambassador in Seoul, which is a serious problem.

That's the other question. This is good news for Mike Pompeo. The real question, is it good news for the State Department? Will those positions be filled? Will the chill put on joining the foreign service somehow be ameliorated so you get the kind of people you need to invest in over the years in order to produce effective diplomats and do effective diplomacy? I'm not entirely clear about that. I don't think Donald Trump's view of the State Department or the importance of diplomacy has changed with Tillerson's passing.

WHITFIELD: All right, we'll leave it there.

Aaron David Miller, always good to see you. Thanks so much.

MILLER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.


[13:51:09] WHITFIELD: All right. Checking the top stories right now. Police say a missing Pennsylvania teen boarded a plane to Mexico with a 45-year-old man she with willingly ran away with. Sixteen- year-old Amy Yu was reported missing by her mother after she did not come home from school March 5th. The investigators found out that she never got on the bus to school, and that Kevin Easterly bought two one-way tickets to Cancun and the two left the country that day. An arrest warrant was issued for Easterly for interfering with the custody of a child. Police in Mexico have issued an Amber Alert for Amy Yu, and they're working with Pennsylvania law enforcement for her safe return.

And two women could be facing hate crime charges for allegedly stealing from a mosque and documenting the whole thing on Facebook Live. Tahnee Gonzales and Elizabeth Dauenhaur broke into the Tempe, Arizona, mosque Thursday in an attempt to expose, quoting now, "the illegal invasion of Muslims," end quote. With their three young children in tow and Facebook friends witnessing the 24-minute tirade. The two women are seen on the camera stealing pamphlets from the mosque and encouraging their dog to urinate on the property. They are both charged with third-degree burglary, but Tempe police say that hate crimes are being considered.

It is nearly six months now after Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico, and it appears people are still dying from the storm's wake. CNN has identified at least five deaths from -- in 2018 believed to be related to Hurricane Maria and its aftermath. The official death toll remains at 64, though government statistics suggest it could be much higher. Meanwhile, at least 150,000 customers across the island still don't have power. FEMA says it is doing everything possible to make sure basic services are restored.

Still so much straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

But first, take one-part hockey and one-part downhill skiing and mix in the 50-mile-an-hour speed, and get an extreme sport called Downhill Ice Cross. Nearly two decades after its creation, Downhill Ice Cross has gone international. And you might see it one day at the Olympics.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Downhill Ice Cross, the fastest sport on skates.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a blur at times to be honest, because you are going super-fast. Sometimes you don't know what you did when you get the bottom of the track.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going down a hill straight bombing it. In order to be good, you have to flirt with the line of whether you are going to bomb or make it to the finish line.


GUPTA: Yet, it was all created on a whim.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The story goes that a couple of guys had some bar in the Alps somewhere and they came out and the streets were frozen with ice. They were sliding down, bumping each other, and one said, what if we froze these streets and put hockey players on it.

GUPTA: An extreme sport was born. And nearly two decades later, it has grown into a world-class series of races called Red Bull Crashed Ice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First, it was just a fun thing. Now it is a sport that guys are training year-round on it and a 10-stop world tour.

GUPTA: The season begins in St. Paul, Minnesota. The rules are simple. Four skaters fly down a manmade track hitting speeds up to 50 miles per hour.


GUPTA: First to the bottom wins.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first jump, you have to clear about 35 feet to hit the landing.

We have a crazy S-turn coming around, which will be chaos, and the guys are going to be crashing there, running into each other, and lots of lane changes and passing. It's going to be tons of action. It is getting to be fun.

GUPTA: Two-time champion, Cameron Naas, a Minnesota native, fell short of winning in his own backyard.


GUPTA: Amanda Trunzo finished on top, ending the season as the first American women's world champion.

ANNOUNCER: It is going to Amanda Trunzo.

ANNOUNCER: Trunzo does it.

ANNOUNCER: She does it. And look at who is happy.

ANNOUNCER: She is fired up!

[13:55:14] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are inches from thousands of people on the track beside you. It adds a level of experience that you can't match.

We are developing association federations in order to get us into the Olympics. In my opinion, it will probably be the most-watched thing at year-one we could see at that stage.




ANNOUNCER: This is the CNN breaking news.

[14:00:07] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. Thanks so much for being with me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We're following breaking news. Just moments ago, President Trump unloaded on --