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John Brennan Criticizes President Trump in Wake of Security Clearance Being Revoked; Jury Deliberation Continues in Paul Manafort Trial; Colorado Man Faces Possible Charges for Murdering Wife and Daughters; Former White House Aide Omarosa Manigault Newman Claims to have Heard Tape of President Trump Using Racial Slur; ICE Reportedly Arrest Man Driving His Wife to Hospital to Give Birth. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired August 18, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:00] VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: All right, lots more to tell you about.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, next hour of Newsroom starts now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Security clearances are very important to me, very, very important.
JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: He is drunk on power. He really is. I think he is abusing the powers of that office. I think right now this country is in a crisis.
TRUMP: There's no silence. If anything, I'm giving him a bigger voice. Many people don't even know who he is, and now he has a bigger voice, and that's OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Hour five together. Good morning. I'm Victor Blackwell.
PAUL: And I'm Christi Paul. Always glad to have you with us here.
Moments ago, President Trump with a fresh attack on John Brennan, this as the feud over his decision to revoke the former CIA director's security clearance seems to be escalating this morning. The president, in part, calling Brennan a loudmouth and, quote, political hack. Here is what Brennan said last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: He is drunk on power. He really is. And I think he is abusing the powers of that office. I think right now this country is in a crisis in terms of what Mr. Trump has done and is liable to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Brennan comment came after the president said yesterday that he would strip the DOJ officials' security clearance soon. Well, 60 former CIA officials now are criticizing the president's decision. We begin with CNN's Sarah Westwood who is in New Jersey where the president is staying this weekend. Get us up to speed, Sarah.
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Victor, President Trump is continuing to attack the former CIA director whose security clearance he revoked this week in what appeared to be retaliation for John Brennan's criticism of the White House. President Trump has active on Twitter this morning, tweeting just moments ago about Brennan. "Has anyone looked at the mistakes that John Brennan made while serving as CIA director? He will go down as easily the worst in history. And since getting out he has become nothing less than a loudmouth partisan political hack who cannot be trusted with the secrets of our country."
Brennan's tenure as CIA director was certainly not without its controversies. Then there were times when Republicans and Democrats alike criticized Brennan and even questioned his credibility. But dozens of former intelligence officials are now defending Brennan, arguing that President Trump's move marks a dangerous precedent of stripping a former official of his security clearance over political commentary the president doesn't like.
The White House has so far provided no evidence to back up its claim that Brennan lost his clearance because he abused it, as Trump is linking his decision to the Russia investigation.
Meanwhile, President Trump is considering removing the security clearances of at least nine other officials, all of whom are related in various ways to the Russia investigation. "The Washington Post" is reporting that Trump has already drawn up the papers to remove those security clearances and is waiting for the ideal moment to execute, perhaps when the news of revoking the security clearances could help distract from otherwise negative headlines.
Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, is threatening to take action if Trump follows through with this plan, tweeting yesterday, "I will be introducing an amendment next week to block the president from punishing and intimidating his critics by arbitrarily revoking security clearances. Stay tuned." Names on that list of nine people who could potentially see their security clearances revoked include former director of national intelligence James Clapper, former FBI director James Comey, people who have criticized the president but perhaps will have to wait for the next busy news day to see whether their security clearances will get revoked, Victor and Christi.
BLACKWELL: Yes, we'll see. Sarah Westwood, thank you so much.
PAUL: Earlier I spoke to our global affairs analyst Kim Dozier. She told us there's a process normally, a protocol for revoking security clearances, but President Trump doesn't seem to be following it.
KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: There's actually normally a procedure that you go through. If you are a government employee and you are having your security clearance reviewed because of some sort of either allegation that you have mishandled classified information or perhaps you have misbehaved in your private life, you have had a drunk driving accident. Then you are first notified of this review, and you are able to fight it and appeal it and you can even go to court.
The way the president has done this, it seems there hasn't been any sort of procedure followed beyond his word from on high. So national security lawyers I've spoken to are split. Some say he is safe under his Article Two powers of the constitution. Others say he has opened himself to a court case in which Brennan and others if they are also stripped of their clearances could see him for overreach. This possibly is a kind of case that could go all the way to the Supreme Court where they would have to decide, has he exercised Article Two powers in a way that has violated John Brennan's rights under the First Amendment to express himself.
[10:05:15] There's also a question, what does this mean for people who are serving right now who have clearances, who are in federal government? Does this mean they have to watch what they say on their Facebook page, on Twitter? Is it a political loyalty test that applies to everyone in government?
BLACKWELL: And of course our thanks to Kimberly Dozier there.
The Paul Manafort jury will return on Monday after it ended a second straight day of deliberations without a verdict.
PAUL: The verdict is going to be the big first courtroom test for Special Counsel Robert Mueller. And President Trump did not hesitate to weigh in. The former Trump campaign chairman is charged with tax evasion, bank fraud, and hiding foreign bank accounts. Here's CNN's Kara Scannell.
KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: The jury in the Paul Manafort trial deliberated for 15 hours over two days, but most of the activity was outside of the courtroom Friday when President Donald Trump was asked if he would pardon Paul Manafort. He offered words of support for his former campaign chairman.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad. When you look at what's going on there, I think it's a very sad day for our country. He worked for me for a very short period of time. But you know what, he happens to be a very good person. And I think it's very sad what they have done to Paul Manafort.
SCANNELL: Manafort's attorney Kevin Downing spoke to reporters after the court ended for the day, thanking the president for his support.
KEVIN DOWNING, PAUL MANAFORT'S ATTORNEY: We're very happy to hear from the president and that he is supporting Mr. Manafort. SCANNELL: Downing also said the length of the deliberations was in
his favor. The jury reconvenes Monday where they will deliberate for the third straight day deciding Manafort's fate in this high stakes case where if convicted Manafort faces at least a decade in prison.
Kara Scannell, CNN, Alexandria, Virginia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: This week, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders hedged on whether the president ever used the n-word, saying that she could not guarantee there is no recording of the president using the word. So this morning I sat down with a Republican state senator from Georgia, Michael Williams, former candidate for Georgia governor, first Georgia elected official to endorse Donald Trump for president. And I asked him his thoughts on the president's alleged use of the word. Watch this.
MICHAEL WILLIAMS, (R) GEORGIA STATE SENATE: I always have a problem with the use of it. I don't have a problem with Donald Trump having used it in the past as my president. I would always say, using the n- word is wrong and is bad and should never be accepted in our society. But just because he might have done it years ago not as our president doesn't mean we need to continue to berate him because he used it. And also, let's go back in time. How old is Donald Trump, 70-years- old?
BLACKWELL: He's 72.
WILLIAMS: He's 72. Sixth, 50 years ago, we were not in a society we are in now where people freely used that word.
BLACKWELL: We are not talking about a 16-year-old Donald Trump using the n-word. We are talking about a 55, 60, 65-year-old Donald Trump using the word.
WILLIAMS: Do you know how old he is when he uses it?
BLACKWELL: I don't know how old he is. But my question is, why does it matter to you.
WILLIAMS: You can't say if he's 16 or he's 60. You don't know.
BLACKWELL: This is not what I expected with this conversation to go, Senator so I do want to go to military. But the idea that I have a state official sitting across from me saying right now that I'm OK with my president having used it because it happened before he was in office. Tell me if I'm getting this wrong.
WILLIAMS: To be clear, personally, it is always wrong. It is always wrong to use that word.
BLACKWELL: But? WILLIAMS: As the president today, he has not used that word. As the
president today, he's not done that. To hold somebody accountable for something he did years ago as our president today, I think it sets a bad precedent.
PAUL: That's it.
BLACKWELL: All right. That's state senator Michael Williams.
PAUL: We have breaking news to tell you about. Kofi Annan, former U.N. secretary-general and Nobel Peace Prize winner has died. He was 80-years-old. A diplomat from Ghana, he served in the U.N.'s top post from 1997 to 2006. He worked tirelessly for human rights. The current secretary-general released this statement, quote, "Kofi Annan was a guiding force for good. It is with profound sadness that I learned of his passing. In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations. His legacy will remain a true inspiration for all of us."
His family in turn said that Annan passed away peacefully after a short illness. His wife and three children were by his side during his final days.
BLACKWELL: Some new disturbing details we are getting now of a Colorado -- the deaths of a Colorado woman and her two daughters.
[10:10:00] PAUL: What authorities are saying now about how those girls may have died.
BLACKWELL: New details this morning about the deaths of a pregnant woman and her daughters in Colorado. Listen to one of these little girls here singing about her father.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My daddy is a hero, he helps me grow up strong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: Her dad, Chris Watts, is the prime suspect and accused of killing his wife Shanann, and daughters, four-years-old Bella and three-years-old Celeste. Watts hasn't been charged, but prosecutors are expected to file charges in the next few days.
BLACKWELL: Kaylee Hartung joins us now from Frederick, Colorado. Kaylee, what are we learning from these new court documents?
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christi and Victor, there have been new court documents filed last night by Chris Watts' defense team.
[10:15:00] And they seem to point to the suggestion of strangulation the cause of death for some of these three victims at least. They are asking that the court allow the defense team or the medical examiner to take DNA samples, specifically from the neck and the hands of the little girls. They also want DNA collected from the mother, Shanann. They would like that DNA taken from under her fingernails and from her hands.
The defense team doesn't say why they want these samples taken, and it's unclear if the court will allow it, but they have cited a DNA expert in these filings. That DNA expert saying he has a lot of experience taking samples from dead bodies and getting good results after strangulation. That's where that word is coming from, inside those court documents.
The autopsies at this point have been completed. But the cause of death has not been shared by authorities. Court proceedings otherwise, and all court documentation has been sealed. We're expecting Chris watts in court Tuesday. He is formally charged on Monday, and that's when we could get more answers to many of the questions that we're still asking here. All of this new information and the tragedy on the whole is so difficult for this community and authorities to process.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN CAMPER, DIRECTOR, COLORADO BUREAU OF INVESTIGATIONS: This is absolutely the worst possible outcome that any of us could imagine. And I think our hearts are broken for the town of Frederick as much as anybody's.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARTUNG: That the director of the Colorado bureau of investigation, one of the many agencies involved in this investigation. And he speaks to a sentiment of this community, of Frederick, Colorado, a small community that came together last night to mourn the loss of Shanann, her daughters Bella and Celeste, but also to show their support for one another in this incredibly difficult time. This street last night was filled with those mourners, this vigil behind me growing all the way up the steps to the Watts home. And last night, Victor and Christi, Shanann's parents were able to join this gathering by facetime.
PAUL: OK, I have to ask, are we hearing any indication about a possible motive here, because this is something people -- we just can't wrap our heads around this.
HARTUNG: It's the question why. It's the question everyone is asking, whether it be us or the members of this community. I spoke with one woman last night who said she had to have that tough conversation with her 10-year-old son, because she didn't want him to feel afraid in their neighborhood.
And when you go back to the question of why, what could have possibly motivated Chris Watts to take this action, authorities are not pointing to any answers there. Like I mentioned, the court documents up to this point have been sealed, all of the prosecution's documentation sealed, and he has not yet been formally charged. But when he goes to court on Tuesday, as we expect him to do after he
is formally charged Monday, there is a chance that those affidavits could be unsealed and we will learn more. But until then, that's the question, why.
BLACKWELL: It certainly is. Kaylee Hartung for us there in Frederick, Colorado. Thank you.
PAUL: We have some new information for you regarding Aretha Franklin, the queen of soul's funeral. It's going to be held August 31st at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit. Public viewings are going to be held August 28th and 29th at the Charles Wright Museum of African-American History, which is also in Detroit.
BLACKWELL: And you saw it, maybe you sent out a message. The fans flooding social media with tributes to Aretha Franklin, including a statement from former President Obama. Here is part of it. "For more than six decades since, every time she sang we were graced with a glimpse of the divine. Through her compositions and unmatched musicianship, Aretha helped define the American experience." Aretha Franklin died Thursday from advanced pancreatic cancer. She was 76- years-old.
PAUL: ICE agents arrested a man on his way to the hospital. He was with his wife who was going to give birth to their son. So she had to drive herself the rest of the way.
BLACKWELL: Plus, a man flies a plane into his own home with his wife and son inside.
PAUL: We are edging toward the 10:30 hour here, 10:23 right now. Always so glad to have you with us. I'm Christi Paul.
BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you.
President Trump says he's received tremendous response for revoking former CIA director John Brennan's security clearance, and he expects that he will revoke more. Tremendous response, based on the condemnation from 12 former intelligence heads, the embarrassment expressed by the admiral who oversaw the raid that killed Usama bin Laden, now more CIA officials, former officials are speaking out, and the rejection and also some support from members of Congress. Yes, tremendous response.
What is not really clear here is the White House's story on why he did it. Listen to the conflicting justifications from the press secretary, Sarah Sanders, and her boss, the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Any benefits that senior officials might glean from consultations with Mr. Brennan are now outweighed by the risk posed by his erratic conduct and behavior.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, I say it, I say it again, that whole situation is a rigged witch hunt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Yes, I can understand if it really doesn't make sense. And this is not new. It's not even the first time this has happened this week.
[10:25:00] After former staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman said that she heard a recording of the president using the n-word multiple times, the president tweeted there are no tapes, I don't have that word in my vocabulary. The very next day Sanders said she could not guarantee there is no tape. And they say Omarosa is not credible here.
And you can understand why Sanders created daylight between herself and the president. She's given full-throated endorsements of his claims in the past that have not turned out to be true. According to "The Washington Post" fact checker blog, the president has made 4,229 false or misleading claims while in office. On average, that's more than seven a day. And 4,229, that's really tough to visualize. Good thing we have a strong visual. The gumballs are back.
Now, if you are seeing this for the first time, there's one here for every one of those misleading claims and false statements. We're now up to eight jars. Day 575.
Joining me now, CNN political commentator and former special assistant to president George W. Bush, Scott Jennings, and Democratic strategist and former executive director of the New York State Democratic Party, Basil Smikle. Welcome to both of you. So Scott, let me start with you, and the concern of credibility. I want you to watch what we have put together here of some of the, let's say, conflicting statements within the administration over the last year and a half plus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Isn't it true the president had already decided to fire James Comey and he asked the Justice Department to put together the rational for that firing?
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No.
MIKE PENCE, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: President Trump made the right decision at the right time, to accept the recommendation --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He didn't have anything to do with the statement that Don Junior put out that was being worked on with his team?
JAY SEKULOW, TRUMP LAWYER: I wasn't involved in the statement drafting at all, nor was the president.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: The president weighed in as a father. He did not dictate the statement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president did dictate a short but accurate response in "The New York Times" article on behalf of his son.
JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The congresswoman stood up, and in the long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there in all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building. She sat down.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was not even in Congress in 2009 when the money for the building was secured, so that's a lie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To summarize the allegations against Rob Porter are serious and deeply troubling. They were investigated as part of the background check as this process is meant for such allegations. It's not completed and Rob Porter has since resigned.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The FBI submitted a partial report on the investigation in question in March, and then a completed background investigation in late July.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were asked about whether the president knew about this payment his longtime lawyer made to, facilitated rather, Stormy Daniels.
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There was no knowledge of any payments from the president.
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: It will through a law firm, and the president repaid it.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Oh, I didn't know. He did?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Scott, with that record, in what position is the administration to call Omarosa not credible?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Omarosa should not be referred to by this administration. The president frequently punches down at his critics. He should not be engaging with staff. I think it elevates her and gives her oxygen for her claims. But obviously, she wrote a book and decided to bring backup for all the things she said. Now that they know that, my advice would be to just stop referring to it and ignore it, and don't give her any more room to run that she has created for herself and that the president, unfortunately, has given her.
BLACKWELL: Basil, what would be your advice to Democrats who are, I guess, using some of what we are learning -- the claims from Omarosa to go after the president? Is this someone they should hitch their wagon to?
BASIL SMIKLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It's interesting. When I started in politics 20-some odd years ago, one of the first lesson I learned was if you see a boulder rolling down the hill, don't get in its way. I don't know if the actual claims or the recordings are going to be woven into any Democratic talking points because the truth is I think most Democrats and most people who look askew at this administration pretty much believe all of the allegations even before Omarosa started to talk about them publicly.
The interesting debate right now is whether or not to go back to a sort of a Dave Chappelle skit like, is Omarosa going to be brought back to the black delegation? I don't know. Is she going to be embraced by African-Americans who had previously sort of not really accepted her? I think all of those are questions left to be discussed. But right now, I think what the Democrats need to do is focus on bringing diversity to the table and to the races which you've seen in the last few weeks, and continue. to talk about issues. All of these other things speak for themselves.
[10:30:10] BLACKWELL: We see that Steve Bannon is trying to get back into the president's good graces as he was banished after what was published in "Fire and Fury." So who knows, maybe Omarosa will be back at some point even after this book. But that's down the road. Scott is shaking his head, no.
JENNINGS: There's no education in the second kick of a mule or a third kick or however many kicks this would be for Omarosa. They need to cut ties with Omarosa and call it a day. It sounded like Lara Trump and Eric Trump made it pretty clear they are no fans of Omarosa anymore. So hopefully she's been excommunicated.
BLACKWELL: Let's move on to something else. Let's talk about security clearances here, Scott. And "The Washington Post" is reporting that the president's staff has prepared for him the documents to revoke more security clearances as soon as he is ready to do that. And they are waiting for, as they write, the optimum time to release those to distract from news stories that are not flattering.
To me, that undermines the reason or the argument for revoking the security clearance. If you think these people are not worthy of having this information, if you wait a week, wait a month, don't you then become complicit in endangering the United States?
JENNINGS: I don't think it endangers the United States to take away clearance from John Brennan.
BLACKWELL: That's not the question is. The question is, if they say having the security clearance, that they don't deserve it, that they are not deserving of the privilege, to hold it until it makes sense for them and from a P.R. standpoint, that undermines the point of taking it from them, does it not?
JENNINGS: Yes, that's what I was going to say. I think that it's fine to take away clearances from people who don't need them. But I think if you go out and say we're doing it purely for P.R. reasons, then you have blown up the stated reason, which is that John Brennan wasn't using his clearance, doesn't need his clearance, and certainly is not being muzzled by this. He had an op-ed published in the "New York Times" and was on TV last night.
So I think there are good reasons to review the security clearances of people who have left government. And some people clearly don't need them and shouldn't retain them. But if you are doing this for purely public relations reasons and you are going to roll them out when you think it's best for you, then that absolutely undermines the whole issue here.
So I actually supported the president on Brennan. I think some of the people on his list don't need their clearances. I think I would leave alone some of the people on his list that are currently still serving in government. But I certainly would be doing this for the right reasons and not just for P.R. purposes.
BLACKWELL: Basil, the president this morning is tweeting about censorship and voices being allowed to be part of the public conversation. It's interesting that -- I would say ironic, if not coincidental that that conversation is being started by the president on this weekend when we're having this conversation about security clearances. What's your take on -- does this come to the line of an attempt to censor these voices?
SMIKLE: In my opinion, I think it does, Because of the history, because the president, going back to his campaign, routinely disparaged the generals, if you remember, and the intelligence community. So he seems to have had a disdain for a lot of the individuals already.
Not to mention the fact that he frequently disparages, whether you want to talk about athletes, whether it's LeBron, whether it's NFL players, for exerting their rights to free speech and to protest. So just because you can do a thing doesn't mean you should do a thing. There clearly is a process in place to remove or revoke clearances. There are millions of these things that actually get given out. So the fact that he is making a specific case and going and talking about this specific case seems rather vindictive to me.
And the biggest concern that I have is as he is doing this, how much institutional memory do we lose in the intelligence community? Because I imagine these people are being called to ask their opinion about matters that are occurring around the world that would normally keep the U.S. safe. So the question is, when you do this, do you lose some of that security and some of that defense against our enemies?
BLACKWELL: We just had --
JENNINGS: I seriously doubt we're calling Brennan or Comey or Clapper for their --
BLACKWELL: That's exactly what I was going to say.
JENNINGS: This administration is not calling these guys. They're not muzzled. And their memory is not wiped out. These people, you could argue what the president has done is amplified their voice. John Brennan now is going to be much more valuable.
BLACKWELL: That's the argument from the president. Scott, we have to wrap it there. I apologize, we've got to wrap it there. We have more to get in before the top of the hour. But that's exactly what we heard from a former colonel, a retired colonel, who said this administration is not going to call on Brennan. Basil Smikle, Scott Jennings, thank you both.
[10:35:00] PAUL: There's a new baby boy this morning who does not have his dad with him. ICE agents hauled that father away as the family was headed to the hospital where the mother was scheduled for a C-section. The mother doesn't know what to do. Chris Holmstrom from CNN affiliate KCAL, KCBS has more.
CHRIS HOLMSTROM, REPORTER: Maria Del Carmen Venegas holding back the tears. She says she's doing bad at this moment, and that's when you most need your husband. The mother of five just gave birth two days ago. The same day her husband, Joel Arrona, was detained by ICE agents. It was Wednesday afternoon. Venegas was on the way to the hospital with her husband. She was heading there for a pre-planned C- section. Surveillance video shows them at the gas station when two cars surround her vehicle. She says they were ICE agents.
She says she asked for her I.D. so she got her I.D. and gave it to them. And then they asked about her husband's I.D. She says she doesn't have his, but we live pretty close and we can get it if you need it. She says that's when agents had him step out of the vehicle to check for weapons. When he got out, they put him into custody. You could see Venegas was hysterical and had no idea what was going on.
She says her husband has no criminal history and that police have never stopped him. He has never had a ticket. Venegas was forced to drive herself to the hospital. Shortly after, she gave birth to her baby boy. While he is physically OK, this mother is living a nightmare. She says, my husband needs to be here. He had to wait for his son for so long, and someone just took him away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: The family, by the way, is working on getting an attorney, we understand. ICE so far has not commented on the ins death.
So there's a pilot in Utah who crashed a plane into his own home just hours after he was arrested for allegedly assaulting his wife. His wife was inside that house at the time, along with her son. They were able to get out safely, but look at this. The husband, Duane Youd, did not survive. He was a professional pilot for a construction company and apparently had full access to the plane. So he took off from a small airport where there are no air traffic -- or no air towers or traffic control monitoring who takes off or who lands. So the NTSB of course is investigating.
BLACKWELL: Omarosa's tapes, Brennan's security clearance, it has been a wild week in Washington. But according to CNN analyst Samantha Vinograd, it's Vladimir Putin who is causing the chaos. Today he is meeting with Germany's Angela Merkel, and the big question is he going to take the dog again? Sam will explain, next.
[10:41:57] PAUL: I know your head is probably spinning, as it often is during the week. Is it not? It's hard to keep track of the Russia news each week with Twitter storms and insider threats at the White House and other breaking news.
The fact remains Vladimir Putin is still actively engaged in attacking the U.S., among others, while he pursues his personal agenda around the world. So we want to give you a Russia reset, a quick look at what to expect from Putin's playbook this week. And to bring it to us, CNN national security analyst Sam Vinograd. Sam, always good to see you. Let's start here with the Russia news and how you think Russia is viewing all of the chaos in the White House we have seen this week thus far.
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Thanks, Christi. Putin's playbook often includes enflaming any crisis in the U.S. because it makes us look disorganized and, frankly, a lot less credible. There's this never-ending story of Omarosa tapes and security clearance violations and this decision to revoke John Brennan's clearance, for example. So we should assume that Putin's digital army is in overdrive, amplifying these crises right now.
We know that the Brennan decision helps Putin's mission of sewing divisions in the U.S. because there's been such partisan divide. Democrats are overwhelmingly condemning the decision while Republicans, as we have discussed, are staying silent or even supportive of it.
We also know from the intelligence community that the Russians have been trying to undermine the U.S.-led liberal democratic order. Putin wants to make us look weak. And this Brennan decision is clearly an assault on freedom of speech and so clearly a presidential abuse of power that that helps Putin out as well.
PAUL: There are people who say that the president is acting, however, within his -- within protocol, the parameters with which he can act. But with Putin engaging digitally to increase perceptions of the chaos in the U.S., it makes you wonder, what's he doing globally?
VINOGRAD: I've lost track of how many tweets the president has issued this morning. And while President Trump tweets, Putin meets. He stopped by a wedding of his friend, this far right Austrian foreign minister this morning. And he is in Germany right now seeing Angela Merkel. Putin and Merkel have had some really tough meetings in the back. Back in 2007, he happened to bring his pet Labrador into a meeting and pretended not to know that Merkel is deathly afraid of dogs. It was such an intimidation campaign.
This weekend, though, I think he's going to play nice with Merkel. He knows that Trump and Merkel have a series of differences. And remember, Trump said that Germany is captive to Russia because of the energy relationship. So Putin is going to try to exploit any daylight between Berlin and D.C. because he wants more of our friends in Russia's camp, and he wants to move ahead with this specific energy deal, it's called the Nord Stream Two pipeline, which he knows that Trump is against.
We know he is also continuing his charm offensive with our supposed friend and NATO ally Turkish President Erdogan. We're in a standoff with Turkey right now over American pastor Brunson.
[10:45:01] So Putin is going to try to exploit that widening rift between the United States and Turkey. And he is going to really elevate areas of shared interest with our friends like trade policy and Iran.
PAUL: So President Trump's Turkish tweets continue here. You say it's clear Putin and Erdogan have one thing in common.
VINOGRAD: Yes. They have a shared future under U.S. sanctions. And more U.S. sanctions are going into effect against Russia this week. We determined that Russia used chemical weapons in the United Kingdom. And so by statute, we're imposing more sanctions against certain U.S. exports to Russia. In this case, so-called dual use technologies. Those are going to kick in this week.
We know that Putin is a reciprocal guy. We kick out his diplomats. He kicks out his diplomats. We list media outlets as foreign agents or require to do so. He does the same to ours. So we should assume that something is cooking in Moscow. And when our sanctions go into effect this week, Putin is probably going to be looking at a proportionate response.
But it is worth noting, the Russian economy is under real pressure. Growth is forecast at only about 1.8 percent next year. So Putin is not going to cut off his nose to spite his face when he retaliates against us. He will look at doing something that responds to us in a reciprocal fashion but that doesn't really harm Russian firms any further.
PAUL: Samantha Vinograd, we so appreciate you being here and appreciate your thoughts there. Thank you.
BLACKWELL: New Orleans Saints player Benjamin Watson has a mission. He wants to touch the lives of as many people as he can. Next, a look at how he has done that right next door and around the world in this week's Difference Makers.
[10:51:51] BLACKWELL: New Orleans Saints player Benjamin Watson has played in four different cities.
PAUL: And he has a profound impact on each of them. Coy Wire has more in this week's Difference Makers.
COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: This Difference Makers is brought to you by ford, going further so you can. Benjamin Watson has played in four different cities and he's left every place a little bit better than when he arrived. I even played against him in my NFL career. I'm probably on his highlight reel. He has a big impact on the field and an even bigger impact in the lives of others. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
BENJAMIN WATSON, NFL PLAYER: It's not about you. It's about others. It's about how you fit into this story and what you can do for other people. There are things bigger than simply your journey and what you are going through. So I believe that I should be someone who stands for the vulnerable, stands in the gap for them, defends them. I should advocate for people that are in need. I believe all those things because I believe in the dignity of all humanity.
For some guys, it's education for children, or providing opportunities for children maybe they didn't have when they were kids. For others, it's going overseas like we have and going to see victims of sex trafficking and abuse, and help people erect justice systems to protect them. Or going into your own neighborhoods, going next door. You don't have to go overseas. You go next door. People are hurting in so many ways. It might be emotionally, it might be physically, it might be financially. People are hurting. What are we going to do? How are we going to help?
WIRE: Benjamin Watson is the type of person you look to, and even other NFL players say I want to be more like that guy. His list of philanthropic accomplishments reads like a phone book. He left a big impression on my life. I hope he a bit of an impression on yours as well.
PAUL: Coy Wire, thank you so much.
BLACKWELL: A little girl in Chicago is hoping her version of the in my feelings challenge catches the attention of her favorite rapper Drake.
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MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS HOST:
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PAUL: Sophia Sanchez there doing her own Kiki dance. She has a heart condition, and she's not allowed to leave the hospital until she gets a new one. Today, by the way, is her birthday.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My birthday is this weekend, this Saturday. Your concert is this Saturday. And I love your music. And I was hoping that you could come and cheer me up for my birthday or any time this week.
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PAUL: Sophia's mom says her favorite Drake song is "God's Plan" because she thinks God has a plan for her, too. Yes, he does. Happy birthday. BLACKWELL: The state of Oklahoma has had the highest incarceration
rate of women in the United States for more than 25 years. This week's CNN Hero is giving some of the women a voice and a power to heal themselves. Meet high school English teacher Ellen Stackable.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I came here when I was 20. I have a 30-year sentence. After I hit the yard and I kind of got a taste of what prison was, it shocked me that I was here.
[10:55:05] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a lot of feelings in prison. You don't get to feel them. You are not a person and your feelings are not valid.
ELLEN STACKABLE, CNN HERO: Many of the women that are incarcerated have been victims of some kind of abuse. We provide a safe place for them to overcome trauma and pain. So it is so much more than just writing. It becomes a therapeutic way for healing to occur.
BLACKWELL: CNN was able to get extraordinary access for this story. So to hear from these incredible voices, go to CNNHeroes.com.
PAUL: And thank you so much for spending your morning with us. We hope you make great memories today.
BLACKWELL: Next hour of CNN's Newsroom with our colleague Fredricka Whitfield is up next.