Return to Transcripts main page


Former First Lady Barbara Bush Is In Failing Health At The Age Of 92; President Trump Unleashing On His Former FBI Director; The Judge Wants To See Michael Cohen In Court On Monday; Trump Is Reportedly Considering Firing Rosenstein To Limit The Scope Of That Investigation; Aired 4-5p ET

Aired April 15, 2018 - 16:00   ET



[16:00:42] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: To our viewers in the United States and around the world, hello. And thanks so much for joining us on this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitefield in Washington D.C.

And this just in to CNN, we are learning that former first lady Barbara Bush is in failing health and she will no longer seek medical treatment. That's according to a statement from her family.

CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel is with me now to talk about Barbara Bush and the family.

You have come to know them intimately very well. And you know, our hearts are going to the Bush family because she is just an incredible woman who represents and signifies so much strength, you know, on so many occasions. But right now she is with her family. And this too is of her choosing, right, to be in Houston surrounded by her family.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Correct. So she is 92 years old. And while a lot of people know that former President Bush, her husband, has been suffering from Parkinson's. They have seen him in the wheel chair. I think very few people realize she is actually been in very frail health for about the last year. She is suffering from COPD and from congestive heart failure. She has been in and out of the hospital multiple times most recently. She went in on Good Friday. But she is very private. And she is very bossy. And she does not like when people talk about her, she says it's not about me. So she has tried to keep it very low profile.

WHITFIELD: She is calling the shots.

GANGEL: She is. You know, in her family, they call her the enforcer. And there is a reason they call her the enforcer. But this is a sad time, she is failing. I understand that they wanted maybe to put her back in the hospital and she said, no.


GANGEL: This is it. She wants to be at home. She is being kept comfortable. Three of her adult children Dora, Marvin and Neil are there with her. Her two sons who have been in political office, former President George W. Bush, former Florida governor Jeb Bush have been visiting this week and have been in and out and of course her husband.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And her place in our consciousness, her place in history is really unique. She is the wife of a former President. She is the mother of a former President and she has always kind of exuded that she is boss.

GANGEL: Right. She -- don't mess with Barbara Bush. Look. She raised these children, but she was also an incredible political ally and help to her husband. You know, we remember her for those signature pearls and that silver hair, the silver fox, but there's a reason her son George W. Bush used to say I have my daddy's eyes but my mama's mouth. She is very sharp. She is a lot of fun. And, you know, you can't forget all the work she has done since she has been in the White House. Literacy has been her cause for all of these years. She and her husband have raised, get ready, more than $1 billion for charity.


GANGEL: Since they left the White House. And she's done it for literacy.

WHITFIELD: Incredible.

WHITFIELD: I also want to talk about her relationship. They have been married for, you know, 73 years.

WHITFIELD: A lifetime.

GANGEL: So this is, I'm told, obviously a challenging time for him. He is very, very sad about it. But he wrote in his book all the best that they are two people, but they are one. And I think that says everything about their relationship.

WHITFIELD: I think they have always exuded love. And I know people are thinking about the love they have for each other, and the love they have had for country and exhibited that in their public service. And now to know that it is Barbara Bush's choosing to be surrounded by love in their home in Houston on this very tender time.

GANGEL: Right.

WHITFIELD: Jamie, thank you very much. We will check again. We appreciate it.

GANGEL: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: And of course our hearts and prayers are going out to the Bush family.

Meantime, there are other headlines we are going to talk about right now. President Trump unleashing on his former FBI director. He is waging a rhetorical war against James Comey on twitter ahead of Comey's highly publicized book tour which essentially start tonight with a television interview. The President even suggested Comey lied under oath and should be in jail.


[16:05:22] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the President asking the justice department to investigate James Comey?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm not aware of a specific ask of the justice department, but I do think if they feel there was any wrong doing, they should certainly look into that just as they do on a number of other topics.


WHITFIELD: All of this as the President's personal lawyer prepares for a court appearance tomorrow. Michael Cohen is trying to stop investigators are using things that they confiscated during raids of his office and his hotel last week. And of course, in that courtroom tomorrow, we understand will also be the adult film star Stormy Daniels, and her attorney who will be front and center in that courtroom.

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

So Boris, the President also seems like he is trying to get ahead of the Comey interview, airing tonight.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fred, the President unloading a barrage of attacks on the former FBI director, using his preferred method, via twitter. The president suggesting at one point to that James Comey should go to jail. Also seeming to focus on one portion of Comey's book and his interview in which he talks his mindset in the days before the 2016 election, specifically his decision to announce that the FBI had reopened their investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails, the President tweeting about this, something that has drawn a lot of scrutiny.

He writes in part quote "that Comey was making decisions based on the fact that he thought she was going to win and he wanted a job. Slime ball."

Now, there are number of reason this tweet is factually questionable. I do want to play some sound for you first from Sarah Sanders in which she defends essentially what the President is saying here. Here is Sarah Sanders on one of the Sunday morning talk shows.


SANDERS: Look. It's been very clear that James Comey is a self- admitted leaker. He lied to Congress. He's been inconsistent --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did he lie to Congress about?

SANDERS: Look, he said that he opened the Hillary Clinton investigation on its merits, now we are finding out certainly that it had something to do with the political landscape. I find it outrageously unbelievable, that Jim Comey, the man that takes these copious notes and recollects every details of every conversation that he had, can't remember why he would have specifically open an investigation into a presidential candidate particularly somebody he thought would become the president.


SANCHEZ: Now, to be clear, the FBI and Comey have maintained that the reason that this investigation was reopened was that back in October of 2016, there were previously undisclosed emails that were discovered by the FBI that were sent by Hillary Clinton, which at that time director Comey felt needed to be known by the members of Congress and the American public. It's something that Hillary Clinton has said hurt her chances of winning the presidency. So it is unusual that the White House, that the President would use to say that Comey was trying to curry favor with Clinton at that point for, in the President's word, a job, a job which he already, by the way. Beyond all of that, though, it is certainly misreading, we can say, of what Comey has actually said. In his words, he said couldn't remember if Hillary Clinton's poll numbers at that point consciously played a role in his decision to announced that the FBI was reopening investigation. Not that he couldn't remember why the FBI reopened that investigation as Sara Sanders and the President suggested, Fred.

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

So there's the Comey is interview tonight that's getting the President's attention. And also his personal attorney in the courtroom that will be getting the President's attention. The President's attorney, Michael Cohen, is locked in a lawsuit with adult film star Stormy Daniels. Her attorney says the evidence collected in last week's raids at the attorney's office and home and hotel room could spell big trouble for Cohen.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' LAWYER: I strongly believe that within the next 90 days, we are going to see an unsealing of an indictment against Mr. Cohen for a host of very serious offenses. And I believe, Jake, that it's going to be a significant domino that's going to fall in connection with this.


WHITFIELD: All right. Here now with more, CNN political correspondent Sara Murray.

So Sara, what does the judge want to see from Cohen?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, look. We have seen Cohen in his words pushing at the prosecutors' ability to review the evidence they collected in these raids. They were in court on Friday making their argument saying they would violate attorney-client privilege. And the judge basically said, OK, well, who are your clients? And Cohen's attorneys weren't not able to answer that question. They are supposed to provide a list of client to the judge. And the judge also wants to see Michael Cohen in court on Monday.

Now, where that gets more awkward, of course, is that Stormy Daniels is apparently going to be there as well. Now we know his attorney has a little more flare for getting some publicity around of her appearances. But he insist this is not to provoke Michael Cohen. Here's what he said.


[16:10:26] AVENATTI: It's intended to send the message that this was a very, very serious matter for her. And she wants to make sure the American people know that she is behind effort to bring to light as much information and documents as possible. She also wants to ensure that she is heard and that she is represented at the hearing. It has nothing to do with getting in his head at all.


MURRAY: So we will see if we get some awkwardness or some fireworks in that hearing tomorrow, but also just if we get more information on the case against Michael Cohen, who of course is under investigation now.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thank you so much, Sara. Appreciate that.

All right. Joining me right now, CNN political commentators Catherine Rampell and Alice Stewart. Good to see you both.

All right, so - Hi. So Catherine, you first. Stormy Daniels, Michael Cohen in the same courtroom. Stormy Daniels' attorney says this is not a stair down. This is not something of intimidation. But what would be the legal purposes that she would be in the courtroom at this time?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look. I'm not an attorney. I don't know if there is some particular legal interest that she has in being in that courtroom. It's hard to imagine there being any main objective here, other than to get in Michael Cohen's head. I mean, obviously, beyond the raid that the FBI conducted on Friday, there is this separate legal entanglement that Michael Cohen is facing as a result of the Stormy Daniels case. So presumably, the angle is there. It's not related to the FBI raid.

WHITFIELD: All right. So Alice, just listen to the allegations made by Stormy Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti this morning on CNN.


AVENATTI: Michael Cohen was videotaped and photographed sitting with a number of men on the Upper East Side, I believe it was. And we believe that a number of those actually had ties, Russian ties, as crazy as that sounds. So this story just gets more strange and more stunning by the day. You couldn't even make this up if you wanted to.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: All right. So Alice, no confirmation on that. But, you know, the approach that Michael Avenatti is taking here is, you know, he really is trying to direct the whole narrative and try to paint the picture that Cohen, you know, seems like a shady character this on the eve of him going into court.

How might Robert Mueller, you know, leading the Russia probe be taking particular notice of all this?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Clearly, that was a poster example of never let them see you sweat. And Michael Cohen was trying to appear though he was unfazed by the legal proceedings that were going on just down the street from him.

And what the way Mueller will look at all this, he will look focus specifically, not on the Stormy Daniels being in court. He is going to look specifically at some of the allegations and charges that Cohen could be facing that Avenatti mentioned this morning -- mail fraud, bank fraud, and in most importantly that I'm concerned with and what Americans where concerned are campaign finance violations. It is easy and we get so wrap up in talking about the porn stars and the playmate or what happened in the hotel room in Russia, when the real focus here should be on whether or not Michael Cohen violated campaign finance rules to pay off these women who are alleging to have had an affair with the President. That's the only concern I'm concerned with and Americans should be. And the truth is, we need to get to the bottom of this. Get out of the way of trying to get in the way of this legal proceeding and let's just get to the answers that Mueller is trying to find.

WHITFIELD: All right. So that's tomorrow, Michael Cohen, in federal court.

Now let's shift gears, James Comey, former FBI director, releasing his book and tonight the big first television interview on tape.

So Catherine, listen to what former New Jersey governor Chris Christie had to say about James Comey.


CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: When I worked for Jim, if I had said to him 11 days before an election that I was going to release information that could potentially affect the election and one of the things that influenced me was polling, he would have fired me. He would fire me on the spot. And it is really disconcerting to me, as a guy who worked with him and for him and have defended him on this air and other places over the years to see this interview and what he was saying. It is exactly what they teach you not to do.


WHITFIELD: So Catherine, you know, trying to undermine the reputation and the credibility of James Comey and here his book is really about, you know, trying to uphold his reputation and character. RAMPELL: I think there are two things to separate here. One is did

James Comey make a mistake in announcing that they were reopening this investigation so close to the election? Yes, probably he did, right. There is a reason why there is this norm in place not to make these kinds of announcements so close to an election because it could influence the election.

But there's a separate issue here which is that the administration and its allies are trying to paint Comey, because of that decision, when in fact, the reason why he was fired had nothing to do with the fact that he made this mistake when he announced that they were reopening the Hillary Clinton investigation. The reason why he was fired, of course, was because he would not let the Russia investigation go. Trump went on national TV and said as much. But the Trump administration is trying to make bigger deal of it and trying to find these other kinds of excuses. You know, they are supposedly protecting Hillary Clinton's honor here because they want to taint Comey. And by extension, they want to taint basically everyone else who is involved in federal law enforcement including Mueller, including McCabe, including Rosenstein. So this is a conspiracy or is an effort rather I should say to try to discredit the entire FBI law enforcement operations because of a mistake that Comey mode that is completely unrelated to why he was fired.

[16:11:08] WHITFIELD: OK. So then, Alice, based on that argument, does that mean, you know, President Trump's arguments via tweet, et cetera, really do fall flat, because, you know, the reason why he was fired was because of that Russia thing, the President said so.

STEWART: Look. I think the way the President has responded with the tweets calling him a slime ball and a leaker and a liar, I don't think that's the appropriate response.

But with regard to Comey, he has come out and trying to defend a lot of his actions and the reason he was fired and things that happened while he was in office. He has responded to the President and others today by tweet saying that this is a book about ethical leadership. And in his mind, maybe it is. He is looking at the toxic consequences for lying, the request for loyalty above the truth and also the President's undermining of the FBI.

That's all well and good. But in my view the way he includes stories about the size of the President's hands and the suntan that he has, and the goggles around his eyes, that really diminishes any kind of point that he is trying to make. And whether or not -- if he is trying to a plea his case and make a case for himself as to why he was fired, a lot of that that might be substantive gets lost in the way he goes about towing it. So in my view, we are going to get caught up. And a lot of things that really are not important and any substance argument he wanted to make will be lost.

WHITFIELD: All right. We will leave it right there.

Alice Stewart, Catherine Rampell, thank you so much ladies. Appreciate it.

RAMPELL: Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And tonight has special coverage reacting Comey's first sit down interview. Join Pam Brown and Jim Sciutto, 11:00 eastern right here on CNN.

Next, growing concern over an irate President Trump and the potential that he might fire the lead investigators in the Russia probe. Could that create a constitutional crisis?

We will discuss that next.


[16:22:11] WHITFIELD: Many members of President Trump's own party are now warning him against firing deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller to oversee an investigation into Russia's meddling of the U.S. election. Trump is reportedly considering firing Rosenstein to limit the scope of that investigation. Well today, Republicans are speaking up.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I don't think he should be fired. I think he should be left to do his job. And I don't think there really (INAUDIBLE). I have spoken - we have had plenty of conversations about this. It's not in the President's interest to do that. We have a rule of law system. No one is above that rule of law system. I don't think he is going to be fired. I don't think he should be fire. And I think - I just leave with that.

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), TEXAS: I don't know what Mueller was supposed to do other than what he did. When a prosecutor comes in contact with information or evidence of a crime, what are you supposed to do, other than to refer it to the appropriate jurisdiction? As for Rod Rosenstein, I don't see a basis for firing him amidst his handling of this probe. Now, he is the one who drafted that original (INAUDIBLE) for Mueller. So if you think it's too broad, you have to direct your criticism towards Rosenstein and not to Mueller. If you are upset with Rosenstein because he stall-walking document production to Congress, take that up (INAUDIBLE). But how this is Mueller's fault, just defies logic to me.


WHITFIELD: So what would firing Rosenstein mean for the President?

Joining me right now, CNN analyst and congressional analyst Page Pate.

Page, good to see you. So, if Rosenstein were to be fired, this might allow for an opening to fire special counsel Mueller, but isn't that only if another deputy attorney general is confirmed?

PAGE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that's correct, Fredricka. I mean there's a process that's in place if the President wanted to remove Rod Rosenstein from his position as deputy attorney general. The solicitor general would take over at that point and be in charge of the investigation. Or the President could pick someone to hold the office of deputy attorney general for a temporary basis. And it is likely that that is the way he would preceded if he wanted to remove Mueller. Put his own guy in that position, and then have that guy, Trump up some cause or some reason to remove Mueller and then close the investigation.

WHITFIELD: And there would have to be some kind of protection -- something that demonstrates there's cause to do so.

PATE: Well, that's up to the President, really. I mean, the regulations do require that there be some cause before you remove the special counsel. But who interprets those regulations? Those are department of justice regulations. So unless, it is challenge in curt, it would really be up to the justice department what that good cause might be.

WHITFIELD: OK. A bipartisan bill is in the senate right now aimed of protecting the special counsel's investigation. But listen to what Senator Susan Collins said about that legislation.


[16:25:02] SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: It would not hurt if we pass legislation to second a message to the White House, that we want the investigation to continue. But the fact is, that the President's never going to sign that legislation. And there are some legitimate constitutional concerns about it. But having the discussion in Congress have sent a very strong message that we don't want Robert Mueller's investigation hampered in in way.


WHITFIELD: Interesting. So what would be the options for Congress? What kind of role could Congress play if they already know that collectively they know that the President won't sign off on protection?

PATE: Now a lot, Fredricka. I mean, we used to have an independent counsel law. That's what led to Ken Starr and the Whitewater investigation. But that law expired. And so, there is no independent counsel law on the books right now. Congress is talking about something like that to protect Bob Mueller and the special counsel's investigation.

But without that law, the President doesn't sign it, all you have is the informal pressure of Republican members of Congress who say look, if you remove Mueller, and it turns out you have done something wrong, we will move forward with impeachment. So I don't see that President is trying to directly remove Mueller. But I do see him trying to remove Rosenstein based on what he said.

WHITFIELD: All right. Page Pate, thank you so much.

PATE: Thank you. Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Next, CNN introduces you to people impacted by the years' long civil war in Syria. A refugee camp of women and children who survived that deadly chemical attack. This CNN exclusive straight ahead.


[16:30:01] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Former First Lady Barbara Bush, the wife of former President H.W. Bush is in, quote, failing health, and will not seek further medical treatment.

An information from the statement from the office of the former President issued a short time ago, at 92-years-old, Mrs. Bush has been hospitalized multiple times in the last year. She's suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and congestive heart failure.

The statement as Mrs. Bush will focus on comfort care at home, adding it will not surprise those who know her that Barbara Bush has been a rock in the face of her failing health, worrying not for herself, thanks to her abiding faith, but for others. She is surrounded by a family she adores, and appreciates the many kind messages, and especially the prayers she is receiving.

All right turning now to the details on the crisis in Syria, and the weekend air strikes, French President Emanuel Macron says he has convinced President Trump to keep U.S. troops in Syria.

Macron also said in an interview on French T.V. that he talked Trump into keeping Friday's air strikes focused on chemical weapons capabilities, and stressed France, and its allies are not declaring war on Syria.

CNN's Arwa Damon has been following the developments, and she is joining me now from turkey, not far from the border with Syria. So, Arwa, the Assad regime is assessing the damage from this weekend's strikes, and you've also encounter some of the human toll?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, we have, and it will probably come as a relieve to some that the U.S. will be keeping its military presence in Syria, given that should they prematurely withdraw that it could create a void that would lead to more violence.

But that being said, it's important to know that despite these U.S., U.K., and French strikes on these various chemical sites, that does not mean an end to the violence to a population that has already suffered just so, so much.


DAMON: And there's definitely something that stinks. These backpacks belonged Malaz (ph) and Maza (ph) 7-year-old twins from Douma. They're a little shy, hesitant.

Their mother tells us they remember everything vividly. They were hiding in a basement when the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma took place. They could barely breathe. She felt herself go limp. She crawled her way up, dragging her daughters. But then, the other strikes began. "We were between two deaths", she remembers, "either from the chemical

strikes or the others on the rooftop." The smoke is still quite strong, there are the things that they weren't able to wash yet.

And that's the toy that her daughter hid away to try to keep her safe, and she would tell the toy, you know, you might -- you might suffocate, but at least you'll be safe from the bombing. That's how -- that's how the kids' minds work. Yesterday, they were digging a tunnel for ants, so that the ants wouldn't suffocate just in case something happened.

In another tent (Inaudible) a scar running across his abdomen, his uncle who doesn't want to be identified was among the worst affected in the family in the chemical strike. He said his blood sample was taken the day before.

This new camp is inhabited with those who survived the siege of Douma, it's relentless months long bombing that drove families under ground, so that something as simple of feeling the sun on their skin was a luxury.

[16:35:00] (Inaudible) and her family thought there was a lull in the bombing, and went outside when she says three airstrikes slammed right next to them. The next thing she remembers is being in the hospital.

She had just gotten out of surgery in the hospital when the wounded from the chemical strikes she says began coming in. The scene was so horrific, she says she forgot her own pain. What she doesn't know, what no one has the heart to tell her is that her husband is dead. Her son just 2-years-old is too young to remember his father.

The limited U.S., French, U.K. strikes may have sent a message to Syrian regimes about chemical weapons, but not about the rest of its arsenal. For those who have endured the unimaginable, it's little more than a move on a gruesome step forward.

The 68-year-old Fadzi (ph) arrived here four days ago from Douma. She has buried too many relatives to count, including her son, and two grand children. There is nothing left for them, and even of they could go home, there is nothing left. She says her country has caused her too much pain.

And remembering the long lost days when her family was around her, when they were all alive, when feeling safe wasn't a luxury, it's all just too much.


DAMON: And Friday, even in that camp, people still feel so profoundly afraid, and vulnerable, and they keep asking us, who is going to protect them.

WHITFIELD: Very powerful. All right, Arwa Damon, thanks for bringing their images, and their stories, their experiences to us. All right, next, a Democratic lawmaker in this country weighs in on the Trump administration's threat of more sanctions against Russia over Syria. [16:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley says Washington is preparing new sanctions on Russia over Moscow's support on Syria.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: So you will see that Russian sanctions will be coming down, Secretary Mnuchin will be announcing those on Monday if he hasn't already, and they will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons used.


WHITFIELD: Joining me right now is Representative Sheila Jackson Lee. She's a democrat from Texas, and a member of the House Judiciary Committee. Good to see you.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: Thank you. It's good to be with you this afternoon.

WHITFIELD: Are you encouraged that the White House appears to be following up on the strikes with more potential sanctions?

LEE: Well, Fredricka, if I might, let me wish best wishes to Mrs. Barbara Bush, a Texan, and beloved here, and we wish her the very best, and we express our best wishes, and concern for her family.

But as we move toward the question of what the President is or is not doing, I think you have hit the nail on the head as to whether or not the President, or his administration has any plan.

Certainly, we understand the heinous and vile act of Assad, of gassing his own people, of gassing any people, and it was necessary to respond to that, cruel and inhumane.

But the question for the President and the individuals that he has around him, and they're not many, he doesn't have a plan, he's friends with Putin, and then he's not, is what is the strategy, and what will the sanctions do, what will their purpose be?

Will they be ongoing, will there be other sanctions? I think what Congress is saying is that really, we need to be engaged in an authorization to use military force, and a strategy needs to be developed.

As to what you intend to get out of the attacks on Syria, on the sanctions that you say that you're placing, and what role is Russia going to play?

Is Russia going to denounce it's propping up of Assad, and begin to work with the larger community against the vile, and violence that he has used against his own people? The war against ISIS is so far claimed by the President of the United States that we have been victorious.

I never jump to conclusions as a member of the Homeland Security Committee as well, and dealing with crime, and terrorism on the subcommittee on judicial, but what I will say is, that the American people have to understand the plan.

They have to understand how long these sanctions will be, and whether there will be addition sanctions. But we really have to understand how the President will deal with Putin.

Putin is a major proper upper of Assad, and the Syrian very devastating government. I want to know what he's going to do about that, and what he's going to about the next level of bombing that may come about.

WHITFIELD: Well, a couple of follow-ups on that -- a couple of things because the Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley says the U.S. is locked and loaded if there is indeed another chemical attack.

[16:45:09] Then the U.S. is poised to perhaps, you know, conduct another strike, is it your point of view, that if there is indeed a strategy from the White House, that it needs to convey that strategy, and in what manner do you believe it should be conveying that strategy to Congress?

LEE: Well, thank you very much. First of all, the founding fathers declared in Article I, that the Congress, the legislature was first, executive was second, and judiciary was third. We represent the American in a broad way.

First of all, I expect the leadership and call upon the leadership on Speaker Ryan to have a briefing to the members of Congress as soon as we return to Congress, which I assume will be tomorrow.

And secondarily, yes, I think there is enough time for the administration to present its strategy. What is its strategy? Obviously, conventional weapons are also killing innocent Syrians.

What is his long-term goal -- since he declares victory on ISIS, what is his long-term goal -- values and goals as related to how Assad treats his people, so yes, I believe that we can't go any further without a discussion with the United States Congress, a debate on the floor of the house, regarding a new authorization to use military force inside Syria.

We are as concerned as anyone about the vile acts of Assad. We have been concerned about families, children, and just plain people in Syria.

We want them to be free, we want them to have democracy, but there has to be a plan that Congress can approve or disapprove as we go forward dealing with Syria to not get us into a long-term protracted conflict that there is no end to it.

WHITFIELD: Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, thank you so much for joining us from Houston today. LEE: Thank you for having me.

WHITFIELD: Still so much more straight ahead in the Newsroom, but first, I want to highlight this week's CNN hero. Amanda Boxtel, an athlete, dancer, avid skier, but all of that changed in a blink of an eye.


AMANDA BOXTEL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BRIDGING BIONICS FOUNDATION: Twenty-six years ago, I went out skiing, and I remembered I somersaulted, and I landed on my back, and I knew in that instant that I was paralyzed.

But I was determined to show that I wasn't going to give up so easily. I was inspired to create a program that could gift mobility to anyone who has a neurological impairment.


WHITFIELD: Wow, for Amanda's full story, or to nominate your CNN hero, head to


WHITFIELD: Hi. Welcome back. The husband of a top White House official appears to be undermining the Trump administration's effort to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

And as CNN Senior Washington Correspondent Joe Johns tells us, it's not the first time George Conway has taken a swipe at his wife's boss, the President.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: We find that Mr. Comey has a revisionist view of history, and seems like a disgruntled ex- employee, after all he was fired.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Kellyanne Conway, one of President Trump's most vocal defenders, attacking James Comey's credibility.

CONWAY: I mean, he is selling books. We also know he has difficult times completely telling the truth under oath.

JOHNS: But her husband George Conway making it clear he thinks for himself, retweeting an article, blasting GOP attempts to discredit the book.

Conway a staunch Republican has repeatedly criticized the President on Twitter, and often directly contradicts him, and his wife of over 15 years.

One of Conway's most eye-popping tweets appears to defend Robert Mueller's investigation after the FBI raided the office of Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen, the raid reportedly enraged Trump.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a disgraceful situation. It's a total witch hunt.

JOHNS: Conway tweeted a link to the Justice Department's rules on how to conduct a proper search of an attorney's office. He called the report that Trump's lawyer discussed pardons for the top aids in the Russia's Special Counsel investigation flabbergasting.

TRUMP: I don't want to talk about pardon for Michael Flynn. We will see what happens. Let's see.

JOHNS: But in the past few weeks, Conway has begun deleting some retweets that have become particularly critical of the Trump administration, including that hinted, Cohen's payment to porn star Stormy Daniels violated campaign finance laws.

And this one from CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins where he agrees that Trump's flip-flopping is absurd, and refers to the currently unfilled position of White House communications director. His wife Kellyanne is reportedly being considered for that job.

Last year, George Conway was under consideration for a Justice Department position before withdrawing his name. In a statement he made it clear he is still in his wife's and Trump's corner.

Kellyanne and I continue to support the President and his administration. What makes George Conway most interesting is that he's not only Kellyanne Conway's husband, he's also a top shelf lawyer, and litigator.

And his tweets tend to weigh in on legal matters seemingly as a voice of authority. George Conway did not respond to CNN's request for comment on the story.

[16:55:00] Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


WHITFIELD: All a very serious matter, but Saturday Night Live had a little fun last night.


ROBERT DE NIRO, ACTOR: Looking for something, Mr. Cohen?

BEN STILLER, ACTOR: Robert Mueller?

DE NIRO: Why don't you have a seat, Mr. Cohen. Here, put these on. Have you ever used a lie detector before?

STILLER: I feel like I have.

DE NIRO: Great. Did you make a payment of $130,000 to Stormy Daniels?


DE NIRO: And did President Trump know about it?



WHITFIELD: All right, De Niro and Ben Stiller quite the pair there on SNL. We've got more straight ahead in the Newsroom. I'm Fredrick Whitfield, thanks for being with me this Sunday. Ana Cabrera is up next.