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Florida Senator Stands By Claim; Taliban Intensifies Attacks In Afghanistan; Remembering Aretha Franklin; Husband in Custody for Family's Death, Not Charged Yet; Grand Jury Report: Hundreds of Priests Were Abusers in Pennsylvania. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired August 18, 2018 - 12:00   ET



UNIDENFIEID FEMALE: I'm very happy about that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're almost there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we're doing good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, weeks away from her due date, Rachel is hoping for the same miracle as Michaela.



GUPTA: What's it like to look at Brantly?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's amazing. It's amazing.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Thanks so much, Dr. Gupta. And all the best to them.

We've got so much more straight ahead in the Newsroom and it all starts right now.

All right, hello again, everyone, and thank you for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We begin with fresh attacks today by President Trump against the nation's former CIA director, John Brennan, tweeting this, 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 loud-mouth partisan political hack who cannot be trusted with the secrets to our country.

This week, the president revoked John Brennan's security clearance. The move prompted more than 70 intelligence officials, including top former CIA directors, to come together with a statement, warning the president the country will be weakened if there is a political litmus test applied before seasoned experts are allowed to share their views. Brennan, himself, fired back at the president, calling him drunk on power.


JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER DIRECTOR, CIA: He's drunk on power. He really is. And I think he's 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.


WHITFIELD: And Trump may not be stopping with Brennan. He's ordered the White House to draft more clearance cancellations of current and former officials. All of whom have been publicly critical of the president or tied to the Russia investigation in some way.

CNN's Sarah Westwood is in New Jersey where the president is staying this weekend. Sarah, what's happening there?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Fred, President Trump's still going after the former CIA director whose security clearance he revoked earlier this week in what critics have described as an act of retaliation for John Brennan's criticism of the White House. Trump slamming Brennan's record as CIA director in a tweet this morning, doubling down on his decision to target Brennan.

And while Brennan's tenure as CIA director is not without its controversies, dozens of former intelligence officials are now banding together to defend Brennan, arguing Trump potentially has set a dangerous precedent by using politics to decide who gets to keep their security clearances. Sixty ex-CIA officials wrote in a statement, all of us believe it is critical to protect classified information.

But we believe equally strongly that former government officials have the right to express their unclassified views on what they see is critical national security issues without fear of being punished for doing so. The country will be weakened if there is a political litmus test applied before seasoned experts are allowed to share their views.

Now, the White House has so far produced no evidence to support its claim that Brennan lost his clearance because he abused it. Meanwhile, Trump is weighing whether to strip security clearances from nine additional people, all of whom are either linked to the Russia investigation or who have come out against Trump publicly.

"The Washington Post" is reporting that Trump has already drawn up the paperwork to do so, but aides are planning to execute only when the timing is ideal for the White House. Perhaps to distract from future negative headlines.

So, we have to wait until the next busy news day, Fred, to find out whether those nine people get to keep their security clearances.

WHITFIELD: All right, we'll see. Sarah Westwood, thank you so much. So, as the president attacks those in the intelligence community, calling people fools who focus on the Russia investigation, Florida Senator Bill Nelson says he stands by his claim that Russia hacked into his state's voting systems.


SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: It is unfortunate that some Florida officials have made this into a partisan political issue. Senator Rubio and I reached out to the Florida elections officials in each of the counties to warn them what the Russians are continuing from being in Florida in 2016.


WHITFIELD: Nelson, a Democrat, declared that Russia has, quote, "already penetrated some of Florida's voter registration systems." But the Florida secretary of state wants to know more, as Homeland Security and FBI officials say there is no evidence to support Bill Nelson's claims.

CNN's Manu Raju spoke with Senator Nelson, as you saw right there on tape, this week. Manu with us now. So -- on the phone.

[12:05:01] So, what is Senator Nelson basing his claims on? Why is he willing to go public with that kind of information?

MANU RAJU, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, he says he's basing it off information that he got from the Senate Intelligence Committee led by two senators, Republican Richard Burr, the Democrat Mark Warner. And he says that the concerns that they raised were enough for him to send a letter with Rubio, the Republican senator in Florida, in July, warning states about the potential of Russian interference in the Florida elections.

But his statement that he made last week went much further than what that letter said. That what he told local reporters last week was that they penetrated -- already penetrated the Florida voting system and the Russians have free rein to move around.

Now, the letter that he told me that he was basing this off of did not go nearly that far. Just that it is a potential of Russian interference in 2016 and to urge the states to take additional action to safeguard against a possibility that this may happen.

But, nevertheless, I pushed Bill Nelson multiple times that he stood by it. He said, of course. I said, did you reveal any classified information that we should not know about? He said, no. And he said -- and he pushed back against the Department of Homeland Security which threw cold water on his statement, saying, well, they may not actually know what the Florida -- local Florida officials know. But the local Florida officials are asking Bill Nelson for more information.

So, it led to a lot of confusion over the last week, and I don't think we have many more clear answers of day 10 of this controversy -- Fred. WHITFIELD: Did you get a sense whether Bill Nelson wants, you know,

local Florida officials to back him up on that claim or if he feels as though he's been privy to information and that his word, you know, making these declarative statements, is trustworthy enough?

RAJU: Well, he wants the local Florida officials to consult with the Homeland Security Department and the FBI, the federal agency, to make sure they are preventing against this interference that he says is already occurring. The problem is that the Homeland Security Department has already said that they don't believe that they've detected any of the activity that Nelson has suggested.

Now, the FBI also just has not commented or not gone nearly as far as Bill Nelson. Now, when I asked him about all this, he said, well, talk to Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the committee. And I did talk to him. And he declined to comment also, referring instead back to a letter he sent last week, in the wake of all this controversy.

And he told the local officials, talk to DHS, talk to the FBI and make sure you guys are secure. So, he didn't confirm or dispute what Nelson said. Again, leading to a lot of questions about what exactly he was talking.

WHITFIELD: Nelson is up for re-election in November. running against, you know, Republican Governor Rick Scott. That the Florida secretary, you know, of state is noncooperative, in terms of not wanting to, you know, support Nelson's claims.

You know, Rick Scott certainly is not, you know, backing these same claims. Is this all part of a campaign strategy on either side or both?

RAJU: They, undoubtedly, the Republicans, have used this controversy to try to paint Bill Nelson as someone who is not in the loop. Who's saying things that are not backed by fact. And this has become a huge issue in this campaign.

And also, Rick Scott has demanded Nelson provide evidence to back up his claim. But Nelson has tried to take the high ground of sorts, saying, look, they -- you shouldn't be playing politics with something so serious. This is something the federal agencies have warned states to take precaution over.

But no question about it, the fact that Nelson is one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the country. The fate -- the fate of his re- election could determine whether or not the Senate stays in Republican control. He's a -- Rick Scott is a close ally of the president. The president's administration runs the Department of Homeland Security.

Undoubtedly, there's some politics at play here, which also makes it much harder for the public to get a real sense of what's going on, given the stakes that are at play in his own re-election -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, thank you so much, Manu Raju, for joining us. I appreciate it. RAJU: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, let's discuss a little bit of this and also a lot of the allegations, you know, about Russia hacking the election system, not just Florida, and beyond. And the president's controversial decision to revoke security clearances.

With me now is Steve Hall, CNN Security Analyst, and a retired CIA chief of operations in Russia. So, Steve, we've -- we know that, nationwide, there is a concern that Russia may have, in some way, tampered or continues to look into vulnerabilities of election systems, you know, across the country.

[12:10:05] But now with Bill Nelson's allegation that Florida has, indeed, been targeted, and that there isn't any corroboration coming from, you know, the state authorities, what does this tell you about why Bill Nelson would say this, feeling confidently about this, but then not getting any support on a state-wide level?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Fred, this is one of these, you know, really complicated mixtures of politics. Part of it due to simply the way our system in the United States is set up, in terms of the states being the ones primarily in charge of running elections and doing vote counts and things like that.

Coupled with, of course, the Russia angle of this. It is absolutely no surprise that there continues to emerge information or indications that the Russians are continuing to try to penetrate our voting system as they did back in 2016.

That, of course, immediately is politicized, here in the United States, due to President Trump's sensitivities and insecurities with regard to Russia writ large. So, you know, what the classified information is out there, of course I don't know.

But it's not at all surprising, in terms of looking at what the Russians have done analytically in the past that they would try to do this again. It's a hard thing to try to nail down and completely protect and make sure that our voting system is secure, in this day and age, where we're using the Internet and electronics to conduct a lot of that activity.

WHITFIELD: So, Homeland Security is not corroborating what Bill Nelson has said. But do you have any, I guess, real logic as to why Homeland Security would not want to corroborate, even if Homeland Security knew the information was there? I mean, why would they publicly say, yes, indeed, this is the case?

HALL: You know, again, it's difficult to tell because of the -- sort of the conflagration that we've got and the political sensitivity. It certainly shouldn't be that way.

I mean, the way that the intelligence community and the U.S. government is set up is, really, anybody who comes up with information, intelligence or evidence, that said this kind of tampering might be going on, you know, it needs to get out there to the -- to the people who it affects, the consumers in this case at the state level in Florida.

So, no, it's a little unclear right now as to why that's going on.

WHITFIELD: All right, now, let's talk about the president revoking security, you know, clearance for former CIA director John Brennan. And then, threatening that there is a growing list. Those who remain -- you know, who have been publicly critical of the president or, in the president's view, has been involved in, you know, the investigation of Russia's interference with U.S. democracy.

What are your concerns about what is happening here publicly on display for the world to see?

HALL: Well, what concerns me most right now, Fred, frankly, is apparently the president -- President Trump's view of making America great again is making America like Venezuela or other countries where autocrats are in charge. And anybody who criticizes those autocrats, you know, are immediately subject to, you know, penalties.

In this particular case, don't be confused about this, nor should viewers. This is not about security clearances. This is about the president using levers of power that he has to try to silence critics.

So, yesterday, we had an amazing, I think, expansion of beyond senior people, you know, like former directors and so forth, to, you know -- this letter of 60 former CIA officers who have said, boy, this is -- this is really serious stuff.

Even more concerning to me, and I think having even perhaps greater impact, is the number of former senior military officers, which is now going. Guys like McRaven who was the intellectual author of the -- of the operation that took down Osama Bin Laden. You've got guys like Petraeus, even Mark Hertling who -- you know, who also works for this network.

And if these are military people who have done the hard thing, gone to difficult places, risked their lives, sent, you know, America's sons and daughters home in caskets, who gave the ultimate -- the ultimate sacrifice. When those guys stand up and say, look, this is -- this is going against the essence of what is America, the ability to stand up and politically criticize people, that's a very serious thing.

So, this is -- this is a spreading concern throughout the president's and this country's national apparatus. And not just intelligence, but also military as well now.

WHITFIELD: And you heard the president's response yesterday where he says, you know, he's not silencing anybody. If anything, he gave John Brennan an even bigger voice. The words of the president by removing the security clearance.

All right, Steve Hall, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

HALL: Sure, my pleasure.

WHITFIELD: All right, still ahead, she was, and forever will be, the queen of soul. Now, many are remembering the life and legacy of Aretha Franklin as memorial plans take shape.

But, first, new attacks in Afghanistan disrupting long-fought efforts for stability in a war-torn country. What does this uptick in violence mean, as the U.S. tries to put an end to its longest war?



WHITFIELD: A troubling new turn in America's longest war. The Taliban has launched a series of new attacks across Afghanistan in the past week, threatening to deliver a significant setback in negotiations to end the 17-year conflict. One of the militant's main targets, the strategic Eastern city of Ghazni. Afghan forces have been able to push the Taliban out, after a five-day siege that left as many as 150 civilians dead.

And during his flight overseas this week, defense secretary James Mattis gave this assessment of the militant's strategy.


JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: There's been talk about another -- some kind of cease-fire coming from the Afghan president, President Ghani. And this is what we've seen before, in insurgencies, when there's going to be a negotiate and there's a cease fire to try to up the ante. This enemy does it by murdering innocent people.


[12:20:05] WHITFIELD: And you'll remember, President Trump unveiled what he called a dramatically new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan a year ago. It called for military, diplomatic and economic solutions to reach a political settlement in Afghanistan, one that might include elements of the Taliban.

Here's what White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said when asked if the president's strategy is working.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're committed to finding a political solution to end the conflict in Afghanistan. We're exploring all avenues for dialogue in close coordination with the Afghan government. And we're going to continue to do that.


WHITFIELD: All right, joining me now to discuss, CNN Military Analyst Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona and CNN Global Affairs Analyst and "Daily Beast" contributor, Kimberly Dozier. Good to see you both.

All right, so, Colonel, you first. Is the president's strategy in Afghanistan working?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (ret), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It doesn't seem to me that it is. Just as we saw last week. We've seen the Taliban demonstrate, again, their ability to move forces quickly, get them to an area marshal enough to actually threaten an outpost of the -- of the Afghan army. The way they pushed these people around in Ghazni was quite telling, and it took American intervention to put it back.

The Taliban has had trouble in the past taking ground and holding it and they still seem to have that. But I think the secretary is exactly right. What they're trying to do is get in -- get themselves into a position of negotiating from strength, so they can extract more concessions from the Afghan government. And I don't -- it looks like it might be working.

WHITFIELD: Kimberly, the president, you know, isn't excluding the Taliban from a political settlement. But does that seem like a viable option given this?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, every military official you speak to says the only way out of this, ultimately, is a political solution, not a military solution. And they understand that the Taliban has to look strong enough to its own members so that those members believe that they are going to gain something out of negotiations.

Otherwise, as has happened in the past, a lot of those members simply migrate over to ISIS where they can sometimes get the same or higher pay. And they get the feeling that they are part of something opposing the western forces that are on the ground in Afghanistan. That is the backdrop against which U.S. officials have reportedly tried to foster a new round of talks.

In the meantime, what they're dealing with, what U.S. military officials are dealing with, is a president who is impatient with this process and would like to bring troops home. But he has backed a new strategy where there is no time limit on the fight.

So, from the U.S. military's perspective, the tough thing for them is going to be with the troops they currently have on the ground, somehow helping an Afghan army, that is besieged and has trouble replacing the troops that are lost with new recruits, to maintain some sort of security and stability.

WHITFIELD: And then, Colonel, do you see the Taliban as part of the solution here? And that, you know, patience, coupled with that, is going to be a smart strategy?

FRANCONA: You know, I think the reality dictates that they're going to have to be part of the strategy. They're not going away. And Kim's right, a lot of them are migrating over to ISIS, because they believe ISIS actually represents that anti-western force that they once were.

But if you're going to reconcile the entire country, they're going to have to be part of it. And I think we've come to that realization. And, you know, the president is impatient. He wants -- he wants this over with. But his new strategy doesn't lend itself to that. It's actually ratcheting down the levels of violence, hoping to come to this national reconciliation.

So, I don't see this happening any time soon. And the Taliban, as I said before, I really think they're on the winning strategy here. They know what they're doing and they're taking full advantage of it.

WHITFIELD: And then, Kimberly, you know, in Kabul, fairly recently, there were two attacks. ISIS claiming responsibility. Now, talk to me about on the scale of threats, ISIS, Taliban are they working together? Are these, you know -- you know, opposing, you know, sides that are threatening the country, as a whole, and its vulnerabilities?

DOZIER: Well, the way it's been explained to me, they are competing factions who occasionally will have some sort of cooperation on the ground like, say, trading arms. But, for the most part, they're opposing each other.

One of the main problems, though, is, right now, they are focused on U.S., NATO, foreign troops on the ground, and that is giving them a reason to continue fighting. That's one of the things that has fueled the contractor, Erik Prince's, argument with the president, that he should be able -- you should allow hill to take over with just 6,000 contractors, get those troops out of the way.

[12:20:20] What that ignores is, right now, a lot of the NATO forces that are on the ground are there because U.S. troops are providing them security. And a lot of the Afghan troops keep fighting because they have the -- that NATO structure and background helping them out. So, if you pull out that backbone and replace it with contractors, the question is, who will stay in uniform fighting the Taliban?

One of the other issues is, every Afghan official I've spoken to has said no way to the Erik Prince plan.

WHITFIELD: And then, Colonel, you know, when you rank threats here, is it ISIS or is it the Taliban that are the greatest threats to some stability in this country?

FRANCONA: Well, right now, it's the Taliban but it's going to shift to ISIS. And if the Taliban actually makes some sort of reconciliation deal with the Afghan government, you know, then ISIS moves to the forefront. So, they present different levels of threats at different times.

But I just want to pick up on what Kimberly said. This Erik Prince idea is just a nonstarter. It is just a bad idea in every aspect.

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks to both of you. Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, Kimberly Dozier, good to see you both, appreciate it.

DOZIER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, coming up, her voice and her legacy will live on forever. And we're talking, of course, about the queen of soul, Aretha Franklin. We'll speak to one of her many musical collaborators, a legend in his own right, Peabo Bryson. Up next.



[12:31:02] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All the way. I mean, you're looking at the Queen of Soul right there, Aretha Franklin singing and playing. This is like personal home video. And this happened just earlier this year.

Her granddaughter posted that video Thursday on Twitter. And CNN has learned the late legendary singer will be laid to rest now August 31st in Detroit. In a 4,000-seat church there in Detroit.

Joining me right now, two-time Grammy award winning artist Peabo Bryson. What a great honor to see you.


WHITFIELD: Oh my goodness. And to reflect on your friendship with Aretha Franklin that spans so many years.

BRYSON: You don't -- no one ever really becomes friends with Aretha, you just kind of land in her universe.

WHITFIELD: Oh my gosh.

BRYSON: And it's -- and you like it so much that you -- and it's so exotic and extraordinary that you want to stay. And it's -- we're talking about what it's like to actually stand in front of the Queen of Soul and actually have to sing.

WHITFIELD: Oh my goodness.

BRYSON: It's a moment. It takes a great deal of courage.

WHITFIELD: What is that like because, you know, I was struck by a video that I only got to see recently, you know, since her passing of Smokey Robinson sitting alongside her. Now, she's playing the piano. And they're about to do his song, but it's she who takes the lead.

In fact, let's look at that video right now and then I'd love to hear you speak on what Smokey must have been feeling too.

BRYSON: That was the moment for him. Well, watch what she does. She makes him feel so comfortable.


ARETHA FRANKLIN: But in the game, I lost you. What a price to pay. I'm crying.


WHITFIELD: Oh my gosh, he's probably feeling like we are. It's like, I just want to hear more, I want more. But here it is, his song. She takes the lead and -- I mean, he's talked about -- he's known her since she was four, you know, he understood her talent, but to be in her presence --

BRYSON: In that moment --

WHITFIELD: -- what was it?

BRYSON: In that moment, he was a fan. He was -- I watched the way she made him feel more comfortable. She nudged him. And was playful with him so he would relax because she could feel he was a little bit taken aback. And he's known her forever.

But she's like that when you're near her. I think one of the greatest things about Aretha Franklin was what you saw just there, her graciousness. She was always gracious. Always -- never made you feel like you were something that she was not. She was something that you were not, you know, she was -- her sense of equanimity is probably reflected in her civil rights work. I mean, as humanitarian and all that.

So as great as her body of work was and as great an experience it is to actually sing with the Queen of Soul, she was an even finer person.

WHITFIELD: Oh, that's beautiful. I think she exuded that. I mean, you know her personally of course. And, you know, you were known, you know, (INAUDIBLE) for your, you know, solo artistry but also in your duets with Regina Belle, you know, Celine Dion, Roberta Flack. But to do a duet with an Aretha Franklin, I mean, that has to be another level or, you know, describe for me.

BRYSON: Well, that she wanted to be among that number.


[12:35:01] BRYSON: Or that takes you aback, first of all. But I think she wanted to define that number because everything -- every single thing that she did define -- was redefined because she did it. And her singing with me, we defined what duets mean to me. It redefined everything.

Her greatest love was the music itself. You got to have to understand that. And the greatest joy she got out of the music was to share it, to fellowship with it. Music fellowship was everything for her.

WHITFIELD: I heard someone describe, you know, she is not an artist who sings at you --


WHITFIELD: -- but she was singing and performing to you. And probably that's why someone -- so many of us felt like her music spoke to our own lives. Because she felt her music.

BRYSON: She feels the music in a way -- she was very well aware of her gift always, and that it was a gift. She never lost sight that it was a gift. Everything musical was a gift to her.

And her gift to share. That's the thing. Music fellowship again over and over and over again. That's the thing she loved the most. Because you have to understand, when you're an icon like Aretha Franklin was singular in that regard and you regarded nobody else is like you. And you're aware that nobody else is like you. It's a lonely existence.

WHITFIELD: So what about that loneliness? Did that explain the parties? Everyone talks about these amazing parties that she would give. Was that how she would kind of combat or make sure that she didn't feel lonely?

BRYSON: You have to understand that every great female vocalist was a part of her circle. They -- it was her court. They were a part of her court. And they knew that she was the queen and they were part of the court. They understood that very perfectly but --

WHITFIELD: So what do you mean by the loneliness then?

BRYSON: The loneliness part is, it's in almost every piece of music she's ever done. There's something that's -- you just want to be loved. Being admired is one thing, being loved is something totally different. It requires a bit more.

That's why I took my friendship with her so seriously. And I think the thing that I will miss the most but also a thing that will help me carry through this difficult time for me emotionally is that she loved me. And when Aretha Franklin loves you, that's a very, very special and unique thing and I knew that. She -- I would think about the every little nuance of love that she showed me and every nuance of respect.

WHITFIELD: So then people have exuded, have expressed love for her. Whether you knew her or not in these last few days. Now we know her funeral will be August 31st. What do you believe that display of love for a Aretha Franklin is going to be like?

BRYSON: I think that she finally gets what she wanted all her life and that is to be loved out loud. And now we're loving her out loud but she was the same Aretha yesterday, the day before yesterday, last year, the year before that. I just think the best thing that we can do is not commit the travesty of forgetting. I think that we should probably endeavor to allow our national treasures to receive their flowers while they can still smell them. And I think if I would lobby for anything, it would be that nobody ever forgets that she is, was and will always be the Queen of Soul.

WHITFIELD: And I think we will never forget as we continue to play her music.


WHITFIELD: We'll be thinking of her always.

BRYSON: Always.

WHITFIELD: Thank you so much, Peabo Bryson, appreciate it.

BRYSON: Oh no, thank you for having me.

WHITFIELD: And of course, our condolences to the family, to all of you who are so close to her. That we all together are celebrating this amazing icon.

BRYSON: And I think that if we can continue that, long after the 31st, that will be the best thing that we can possibly do for her.

WHITFIELD: We will. We'll be thinking of her very differently and listening to the music, more a tuned as a result of her passing.

BRYSON: Exactly, because we know her better.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Thank you so much, Peabo Bryson.

BRYSON: My pleasure.

WHITFIELD: And we'll be right back.


[12:44:20] WHITFIELD: All right, new details about the murders of a pregnant mother and her two young daughters. Court documents say the bodies of the four and three-year-old were found in an oil well. And that some of the victims may have been strangled. Their father, Chris Watts has been arrested but not formerly charged in the death of his wife, Shanann and the two daughters.

Those who knew the family are expressing shock and anger. Shannan's brother posted on Facebook, writing in part, "I just want 30 seconds alone with that heartless psychopath. May Satan have mercy on his soul. My blood is boiling and the pain and anger and sadness I have in my heart."

[12:45:01] CNN's Kaylee Hartung is following the investigation for us. So Kaylee, what are investigators saying right now?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, a judge has sealed the arrest affidavit and other court documents so authorities have been able to share very little details with us to this point. But with the help of a court filing last night from Chris Watts' defense team, we are learning that it suggested that a possible cause of death for at least two of the victims could be strangulation. That's because in this filing, the defense is requesting that the court allow DNA samples to be taken from those two little girls, from their neck and from their hands.

They're also asking for a DNA sample from the mother's hands as well as underneath her fingernails. The defense didn't make it clear what they want to do with these samples. And it's unclear if the judge will allow that or if that was a part of the autopsy that's already been completed. Though that autopsy has been completed, Fred, authorities still not yet sharing with us the cause of death for these three victims.

WHITFIELD: And, you know, seeing the sentiments of Shannan's brother and hearing from the neighbors all week long, people talked about how close, how loving this family is. So now, how perplexing is it for so many to try to figure out what was the motive here if indeed, this allegation is true?

HARTUNG: Yes. Why, the biggest question here, Fred. And neighbors have told me that's the question they're asking themselves, thinking back on their interactions with this family. Listen to one couple, family friends, the Thayers, who recall their reactions to things as they've unfolded.


NICHOLAS THAYER, FRIEND OF CHRIS WATTS: I mean, we were hoping for the best. We feel stupid.

AMANDA THAYER, FRIEND OF CHRIS WATT: He just didn't seem like the type of guy to injure a fly. Let alone his entire family.

N. THAYER: I just don't know how anybody could do that. There's no reason.


HARTUNG: Now, Chris Watts expected in court on Tuesday, Fred, and that's when prosecutors could share with us their inclination as to a possible motive.

WHITFIELD: Kaylee Hartung, thank you so much.

We'll be right back.


[12:51:45] WHITFIELD: The Pennsylvania attorney general says there have already been more than 150 calls and e-mails to its clergy sexual abuse hotline since it was set up on Thursday. That follows a grand jury report that. Here's CNN's Rosa Flores.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The word God makes me think of him and I just --

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The voices of victims still demanding justice. While the bombshell grand jury report revealed more than 1,000 children were victimized by more than 300 predator priests. And the bishops who hid their crimes over 70 years. The statute of limitations for prosecution has run out for all but two priests.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The grand jury has issued its report of findings.

FLORES (voice-over): Pennsylvania bishops have released statements expressing their sadness for the victims. But that is not enough for Terry McKiernan.

TERRY MCKIERNAN, FOUNDER, BISHOPACCOUNTABILITY.ORG: It's a lot of sadness in these file cabinets.

FLORES (voice-over): The founder of, an organization that has tracked thousands of accused priests. A database that's about to grow significantly. Take the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The investigation revealed that it sheltered 99 predator priests. More than double the amount previously known to McKiernan.

From 1998 to 2006, that diocese was led by then Bishop Donald Wuerl, now a high-profile cardinal in Washington, D.C.

MCKIERNAN: Wuerl's legacy in Pittsburgh is a lot more complicated than we thought. He was beforehand thought of as one of the good guys.

FLORES (voice-over): The grand jury report credits Wuerl for standing up to the Vatican in some cases of abuse but also suggests he guided at least one accused priest back into service. Cardinal Wuerl defended himself by saying his diocese, quote, worked to meet or exceed the requirements of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the reporting requirements of Pennsylvania law. But those are laws that critics say the Catholic Church is working overtime to influence in its favor.

Take Bishop Ronald Gainer from Harrisburg. He is one of the bishops who issued a statement expressing sorrow for the victims of his diocese. Gainer is the head of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference. A group that aggressively lobbies against reforming the statute of limitations.

MCKIERNAN: The Catholic Conference has been tenacious in opposing this and of course they have allies in the Pennsylvania legislature.

FLORES (voice-over): The group released a statement saying it was devastated and outraged by the revelations. And that the time to discuss legislation will come later.

Pennsylvania's attorney general also pointing a finger at the church in a letter to Pope Francis last month. Saying he believed that two unnamed Catholic Church leaders tried to, quote, silence the victims and avoid accountability. He says Pope Francis, the one man with the power to hold everyone involved accountable, has not yet responded.

MCKIERNAN: Transparency and accountability are the only thing that's going to save this church.

FLORES (voice-over): Rosa Flores, CNN, Miami.


WHITFIELD: So much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM after this short break. But first, here's this week's "Start Small, Think Big."


[12:55:06] PHI NGUYEN, OWNER, THE WAFFLE BUS: I wanted to do something in Houston that has never been done here before. So everybody loves chicken waffles. Why not put it in sandwich form?

Hi, I am Phi Nguyen and this is the Waffle Bus.

The Waffle Bus is a food truck that serves waffle sandwiches such as like smoked salmon, creme brulee, s'mores waffles. Our (INAUDIBLE) is definitely chicken and waffles.

And we even do I think kind of a frieder (ph) which is (INAUDIBLE) of fry and a slider. We use waffle fries as a substitute for a bun.

Baking is like chemistry. Every little degree you put in there makes a big difference. The waffle itself is my own recipe. It took months and months to make it. Hundreds of recipes.

Chicken frieder.

I love to see the satisfaction of people's faces when they come by. You make something and they think it's that great.

Chicken frieder, no spicy mayo.

I've always want to be an entrepreneur (INAUDIBLE) promotion. I started small business selling things I found on the internet. Sometimes things don't pan out but you learn from your failures to do something successful. And so Waffle Bus turned out to be the one.