Return to Transcripts main page


President Trump Criticizes for Revoking Security Clearance of John Brennan and Possibly Others; President Trump Criticizes Twitter for Treatment of Conservatives; Interview with Comedian who Toured with Aretha Franklin; Report Indicates White House Counsel Cooperated with Mueller Probe; University of Maryland Football Player Dies During Practice. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired August 18, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: We've got so much more straight ahead in the Newsroom, and it all starts right now.

Hello again, everyone, and thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We continue this hour with fresh attacks today by President Trump against the nation's former CIA director, John Brennan, tweeting this morning, "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 to our country."

This week, the president revoked John Brennan's security clearance. The move prompting more than 70 now intelligence officials, including top former CIA directors, to come together with a statement, warning the president that the country will be weakened if there is a political litmus test applied before seasoned experts are allowed to share their views. Brennan unloaded on the president again last night.


JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: 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 has 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 Ryan Nobles is in New Jersey where the president is staying and tweeting this weekend. So, Ryan, what more can you tell us?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, it seems pretty clear that despite the criticism that the president has received by this decision to revoke the security clearance of John Brennan and then threatened to revoke the security clearances of other former intelligence officials, that he's not backing down in any way. He's defending the move, continues to do so on Twitter. And he's actually getting a bit of cover from some Republicans on Capitol Hill who view this as the president's ultimate right, and if he wants to do this, it's certainly within his power.

But that's not stopping many of these other former intelligence officials from rushing to defend John Brennan in this case and arguing that the president is making a mistake, and he's making a mistake on a number of levels because they believe not only is he essentially taking away this wealth of knowledge that comes from someone like Brennan and if it extends to other people, but he's also creating an environment where they feel that others will feel uncomfortable to be objective in their viewpoints as it relates to some of these big issues that are happening around the world.

Let me read you part of the statement that these intelligence officials, these former intelligence officials, put out, more than 70 of them. They said, quote, "All of us believe it is critical to protect classified information from unauthorized disclosure, but we believe equally strongly that former government officials have the right to express their unclassified views on what they see as critical national security issues without fear of being punished for doing so. The country will be weakened if there's a political litmus test applied before seasoned experts are allowed to share their views."

So they're making the case that the president is actually hurting his own national security interests by limiting their views, even if they disagree with him on some of these big issues, because, in part, it is their job to provide that information from an objective viewpoint.

Fred, even with that criticism, though, it's pretty clear that the president isn't changing his mind when it comes to this, and he continues to say that there could be more security clearances revoked in the future, so that's something we'll keep an eye on.

WHITFIELD: Ryan Nobles, thank you so much, in New Jersey.

Joining me right now, former ambassador to NATO, Nic Burns. Ambassador Burns, good to see you. What was your reaction to the president revoking Brennan's security clearance?

NIC BURNS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: It was entirely unwarranted. You can't imagine any president going back to Richard Nixon, even imagining this was a possibility. We have a free society. People have rights to speak up, especially distinguished former officials like John Brennan, the former CIA director. For the president to try and intimidate officials and then to read in the "Washington Post" this morning that they're just about to take away the security clearances of seven or eight other officials, and they'll do that periodically over the next few months, it seems anti- democratic. It seems very authoritarian.

It seems to also be targeted on people who have criticized the president for his inactivity, his inaction at responding to the Russia hack of our elections, the whole Russia investigation being carried out by Mr. Mueller, and that seems to be interference with justice. WHITFIELD: So, the president's response to the criticism of his, you

know, removing of clearance, he says, I'm not silencing anybody. If anything, I've given, now, John Brennan a bigger voice, more freedom to speak. What do you think about that?

BURNS: That's not the point. That's not the point. The point is intimidation. The point is intimidation of any other official in the government of discounting what the president's saying or perhaps even giving contrary advice to the president.

[14:05:05] If you take a revered figure like John Brennan or Susan Rice, she's supposedly on this list, or Jim Clapper, he's also supposedly on this list of officials whose security clearance might be taken away, I think the real objective might be to silence people within the U.S. government, in civil service, and I was a career civil servant. Obviously, we have an obligation to serve the commander in chief, but we have an obligation to speak truthfully and to disagree privately behind the scenes when that's necessary. It doesn't look like this president can countenance any contrary view. And that is deeply disturbing and that's a very unwise way to lead.

WHITFIELD: So with something like 70, now, intel officials, many former CIA directors, signing on to this agreement, saying, hey, if you're going to revoke clearances, revoke ours, too. But what about those who are actively working at CIA, FBI, et cetera? Is it your concern that this will -- this threat that the president and the White House has will effectively intimidate and just might change the way in which they do their jobs. They may be -- some officials might be more reticent about how they file reports, what they say as it pertains to investigations, because they're afraid that their clearances will be pulled, because the president is effectively doing that.

BURNS: I think that is the larger concern here. Nobody argues with the fact that the president is commander in chief, leads the government. He has the right to take away people's security clearances, but in the past we've only done that and the president has only done that or cabinet agencies have done that when someone has violated the rules by which you get a security clearance, or if you've proven that you're incapable of maintaining confidentiality. That's not the case with John Brennan. Here you have the president going after a sitting official of the Justice Department. And if you take away the security clearance of a sitting official, you prevent that person from doing their job. You effectively put them out of a job. That's intimidation. That's an abuse of the power that the Congress, by law, has given to the president.

WHITFIELD: You wrote on Twitter that we are witnessing, I'm quoting now, witnessing the rise of an authoritarian presidency. You spoke of that already, but then, I wonder, in your view, what can or will stop the president from the method in which he is carrying on this practice of threatening security clearances being pulled?

BURNS: It's hard to escape the conclusion that he is an authoritarian figure and that he's trying to govern in an authoritarian way when he has so little regard for the rule of law, when he's done so much, publicly, on Twitter, to try to interfere with this pursuit of an investigation by Robert Mueller. That was the point that I have made and that many others have made. And it's a very, very dangerous moment when the president seems to be so intent in interfering with justice.

There are consequences for that, and I think that the people who can stand up to him and have to are not just individual citizens like myself but members of Congress, particularly of the Republican Party. They're the ones who have the ethical obligation to stand up and to criticize the president, to council him privately to cease and desist from these efforts to interfere with the rule of law.

WHITFIELD: Ambassador Nicholas Burns, thanks so much.

BURNS: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Still ahead, protecting free speech or silencing political views, more on that. Social media, now, platforms are under fire for removing some pages but not others. Now President Trump weighing in on that controversy.

And later, her voice rings eternal. Aretha Franklin being remembered by the many, many lives that she touched directly. We'll talk with one person who had the great privilege to go on tour with the queen of soul, coming up.


[14:13:33] WHITFIELD: Twitter is caught in the middle of a free speech controversy. Just this morning, President Trump accused social media platforms of suppressing Republican and conservative voices, tweeting this, "They are closing down the opinions of many people on the right while at the same time doing nothing to others. Too many voices are being destroyed, some good, some bad, and that cannot be allowed to happen." Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sat down with CNN's Brian Stelter to set the record straight.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The president called you out for shadow banning. What is the truth around that idea?

JACK DORSEY, CEO TWITTER: So, I think a lot of the statements behind the statement or the question behind the question is, look, shadow banning is a very widely defined term. There's not one single definition. So the definite that we found that seems to resonate with the most people is not amplifying particular messages, or if someone puts out a tweet, hiding that tweet from everyone without that person who tweeted it knowing about it.

But the real question behind the question is, are we doing something according to political ideology or viewpoints. And we are not, period. We do not look at content with regards to political viewpoint or ideology. We look at behavior. And we use that behavior as a signal to add to relevance.

[14:15:03] We need to constantly show that we are not adding our own bias, which I fully admit is left -- is more left-leaning. And I think it's important to articulate our bias and to share it with people so that people understand us, but we need to remove all bias from how we act and our policies and our enforcement.

STELTER: People have these assumptions that you're out to get them or something.

DORSEY: Which is why transparency matters so much, which is why being open about our own personal views and what we think about what's happening is important. And I'll fully admit that I haven't done enough of that. I haven't done enough of, like, articulating my own personal objectives with this service and my own personal objectives in the world. And I think people see a faceless corporation that has -- they don't assume that humans are in it, or that they're genuine or authentic. They just assume based on what the output is. And that's on us, it's on me.


WHITFIELD: All right, joining me right now, Republican strategist Evan Siegfried and Democratic strategist Michael Starr Hopkins. Good to see you both. Do you, Michael, believe Twitter's CEO, that the social media platform is politically blind?

MICHAEL STARR HOPKINS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Listen, I think that Twitter absolutely has a soft spot when it comes to some of the groups that it allows to disseminate messages. Look at Alex Jones and the ability that he was given for a long time to go after the families in Connecticut and to use his platform to really just disseminate conspiracy theories, and no person being a bigger disseminator than President Trump. So I think that Twitter absolutely has a soft spot.

WHITFIELD: So then, Evan, the president tweeted this, quoting him now, speaking loudly and clearly for the Trump administration, we won't let that happen, meaning he sees it as a censorship.

EVAN SIEGFRIED, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You mean to tell me that the president of the United States is saying that a private company should allow people to do something on it when it comes to social media, but when it comes to NFL protests, that should be banned? OK. That one's new. But I think that there's a bigger problem.

WHITFIELD: Or if you're a member of the intelligence community and you have security clearance.

SIEGFRIED: Yes. It all fits into Trump's message. But there is a big problem with conservatives and Silicon Valley as a whole. There's been this perceived bias from conservatives that Silicon Valley holds towards us. It started in 2015 when the alt-right started going after Jewish Republicans who oppose President Trump. I myself received numerous death threats and anti-Semitic memes, et cetera.

But when I complained to Twitter and filed a report saying, hey, I got this death threat, why don't you suspend this account, I would never get a response, and if I did, they said it wasn't a violation of their terms of service. It took when they got P.R., such as when I wrote a column in the "Washington Post," my saying this is happening and Twitter doesn't do anything for Twitter to take action.

Twitter and conservatives have not gotten along, and Twitter has fed this. And I think Jack Dorsey has shown no leadership and is a feckless CEO who needs to actually bridge the gap between conservatives and Twitter. Should Alex Jones be suspended? Absolutely. Twitter is a way he can get his vital revenue, which he sorely needs, because at the time of Trump's aluminum tariffs, he's paying a heck of a lot more for his tinfoil hats. But I think that Twitter needs to explain to conservatives and try and bridge the gap that has developed between the two sides.

WHITFIELD: So now, Michael, also the issue is going is to be discretion. You're now counting on the discretion of any number of these companies, social media platforms, to determine what's out of line, who crossed the line, who should be penalized, who should be silenced, who should be restricted. How do you manage that?

STARR: With all due respect to Evan, this kind of victimization that Republicans seem to be claiming when it comes to Twitter, on one hand, they say let the free market decide, but on the other hand they complain that people who are saying racist, misogynistic, inappropriate things --

SIEGFRIED: I should point out that when liberals got death threats, they were dealt with immediately, whereas conservatives, they weren't.

STARR: I get death threats all the time. Come on. You and I both know appearing on television, we get them all the time. Sometimes they get banned, sometimes they don't. But for the overall theme --

SIEGFRIED: I was told it's not a violation of terms of service.

STARR: Let me finish. Look at people like Candace Owens who have made entire careers spewing nonsense on Twitter. It's become a platform for the lowest common denominator conversations. And so I think that we're getting what our culture is rampant with right now, and it's nonsense. And so I think what we need to do is raise the level of conversation, not blame private companies like Twitter for the conversation being so poor.

[14:20:00] WHITFIELD: So Evan, is this just the beginning where these social media platforms are realizing that their responsibility is quite sizable, and perhaps they didn't anticipate it, didn't know that this was going to be a territory that they would face?

SIEGFRIED: Well, let's face it. These social media platforms are responding in the case of Alex Jones to tremendous public pressure. What Alex Jones puts forth is disgusting, vile, and horrific. And I think it's good, as they are able to say, hey, maybe we don't want this on our platform.

But we've seen also some conservatives that are supposed constitutionalists like Ted Cruz beclown themselves saying this is a First Amendment and free speech right and that it's an issue. No, it's not. It's a private corporation determining who can use and not use their service, and they can determine it willy-nilly for whatever reason they so desire. And I think that conservatives have jumped out over the -- they've literally jumped the shark on this. But at the same time, we do have to have terms of service enforced equally.

What Michael and I were talking about earlier, which is how Twitter responds to death threats and anti-Semitic memes, they didn't respond to conservatives who were being attacked. But if a liberal friend of mine was getting attacked in the same way, Twitter would respond immediately, and it pushes this perceived bias among conservatives that we feel that Silicon Valley doesn't respect us, doesn't believe in us, and treats us like second class citizens.


STARR: I think that Twitter, across the board, definitely has to hold people more accountable for the things that they say. But with that said, I mean, the biggest Republican troll online is the president. And so I think before Republicans can look for anybody to be held accountable, they should hold the president accountable, because whether it's attacking Omarosa, whether it's attacking Megyn Kelly, whether it's attacking minorities, African-American football players, he's run the gamut of people that he's offended. And so when we're talking about holding people responsible, we should start with the president before we talk about anybody else.

SIEGFRIED: That's a what-aboutism. I think while the president has been condemned by many Republicans, unfortunately none of them are in Congress. I think that we need to actually start talking about how we can solve these problems and getting the corporations to be responsible for the content and the way they treat their users.

WHITFIELD: All right.

STARR: But we can start that conversation with the president. He should be a role model. He should be the person --

SIEGFRIED: Are you calling for the suspension of the president from Twitter?

STARR: Yes, I absolutely think he should be suspended from Twitter, but it's not going to happen. You and I both know that.

SIEGFRIED: No, of course it won't happen.

WHITFIELD: All right, we'll leave it there for now. Michael Starr Hopkins, Evan, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.

All right, see the rest of Brian Stelter's interview with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tomorrow morning, 11:00 eastern, right here on CNN.

And we'll be right back.




[14:27:14] WHITFIELD: None of us can get enough of Aretha Franklin and looking at all those beautiful old archival video, hearing her music. Boy, singing all the stuff that we know and we've all grown up listening to, this iconic soul singer will be laid to rest now. We've got the official date, August 31st, at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit. That's the same church where, you recall, she sang at Rosa Parks' funeral back in 2005, and that funeral spanning hours that day from that church.

Joining me right now, comedian Jonathan Slocumb. He actually had the incredible honor and pleasure of touring with Aretha Franklin. You, a comedian, she, a musical artist. Tell me about what it was to tour, how you would collaborate your talents, and what incredible memories you had. And I love this selfie. Apparently she really loved selfies too. But take me back to some of that touring with her. What was that like?

JONATHAN SLOCUMB, COMEDIAN WHO TOURED WITH ARETHA FRANKLIN: First of all, shout out to you and Don Lemon and Roland Martin. That's the reason why I love the news is because of you three, first of all.

WHITFIELD: Oh, well, thank you so much.

SLOCUMB: Listen, Fredricka, it's an honor to be here. But this whole thing happened between me and Aretha. I was doing the Trumpet Awards there in Atlanta, shout out to Xernona Clayton.

WHITFIELD: She's amazing.

SLOCUMB: She's amazing. She was being honored. So I was doing what they used to call or what I would call warm-ups. I was doing the audience hosting. And the entire night, up and down. Well, Aretha Franklin was cracking up laughing the whole night. So at the end of my work, I always say I'm available to work. Little did I know, the next day, Aretha Franklin called me on my cell phone.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh.

SLOCUMB: She was like, Jonathan, this is Aretha. And I was like, who is this?

WHITFIELD: No, really, who is this.

SLOCUMB: No, really, who is this? No, it's Aretha. She said, you were great last night. You want to go on the road? I was like, yes. And my first date, Fredricka, was with her at Radio City Music Hall the weekend of Whitney Houston's funeral.


SLOCUMB: And so I toured with her from 2012 through, like, about maybe 2014, until the last time here in L.A., I think, it was 2014.

WHITFIELD: Oh my goodness. But you know what, so, to me, just her taking the initiative and making that phone call really speaks volumes about her being in the driver's seat of everything. We listen and watch all this archival video of her, how it would be her own impression on a song when it was written for her on someone else. But then that is in step, that phone call, that's in step with her approach, seemingly, to music. She's taking it upon herself, and she saw, in you, the talent that she wanted to be accompanied with.

[14:30:00] SLOCUMB: Yes, and she told me that she loved my appearance. I'm an old school guy so I wear suits and ties and all that. And the good thing about her is that at every concert, it was so amazing how she didn't have someone to come out to pay us. We sat outside of her dressing room after every show, lined up, she paid everybody personally, so that she could give her personal thank you or there was a problem, she'll say that too. But she was just -- she was full of life. And she was hilarious. She would do a stand-up comedy routine at every show.


SLOCUMB: Like about five or ten minutes of straight comedy. She's hilarious.

WHITFIELD: That's so great. I am so sad that I never saw a full show.


WHITFIELD: No, but I only embraced the moment that I did see her do the National Anthem at the U.S. Open final one year and then was at the inauguration of President Obama and had a chance to witness that personally right there, watching her. So it was something else. But I think as all of us are listening to her music in a different way, because hearing sent m sentiments from you, people who knew her personally to speak to her real spirit, I suddenly feel like I'm hearing "Daydreaming" differently. I'm listening to "Chain, Chain, Chain, Chain of Fools" differently now.

SLOCUMB: She represents a lot of what I like to do in my performances. She shows the balance of what a Christian person is. Because in her show, there was jazz, there was R&B, and there was a strong gospel segment. So she knew how to merge all those music forms together and you get a full show. She did not hold back on -- she didn't have a few instruments. She had a full-scale orchestra. She came out every show in gowns and fur coats. It was a show, so people got what they paid for. You get your money's worth with Aretha Franklin, and she's going to be missed not only because of her iconic status but because of her performance and the way that she did shows. It was amazing.

WHITFIELD: Yes, it was amazing. I have one other cool memory of her. I was -- I heard she was in the hotel that I was in, only I only heard this after seeing all these garments, these hangers going by of all these clothes. I was like wow, this must be an incredible show, a cast. Come to find out it was her wardrobe and this was the day after the Kennedy Center honors in which she performed. And I waited and waited forever in the lobby to see Aretha Franklin come down, and I never got a chance to see her, but I sure did see all her wardrobe that preceded here, so, yes, an incredible show she would always put on.

SLOCUMB: You know what else, Fredricka? As much as she loved her couture gowns and all that, one of Aretha Franklin's favorite places where she would go and take a walk, Walmart.

WHITFIELD: Oh, I love it.

SLOCUMB: Aretha Franklin loved Walmart.


SLOCUMB: She just -- it's so many memories. Just from eating in the dressing room, and she would always make sure that the air- conditioning was off because she didn't like air.

WHITFIELD: Oh, wow. OK. Hey, that's something that she and I have in common. I love that.

SLOCUMB: Is that right?

WHITFIELD: Yes. Jonathan Slocumb, what a pleasure. Thank you so much for helping us all to get to know her a little bit more, even if we never got a chance to know her as well as you.

SLOCUMB: Thank you. Keep it locked on YouTube. It's a lot of footage of her.

WHITFIELD: Oh, I know. I'm just -- I'm lapping it all up. I cannot turn off the satellite radio station that is playing her continuously and has committed to do so until at least next Thursday, so I'm pulling all the stuff out again.

SLOCUMB: Last thing, Fredricka. I want to tell the people, because we were doing the concerts. The people did not remember how to spell respect. It's r-e-s-p-e-c-t. They would go r-e messing me c-e. They never got it right.


WHITFIELD: No, I think we all got it right. Thank you for that reminder, Jonathan. I appreciate it. You're the best. Appreciate it.

SLOCUMB: Take care, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.


[14:38:46] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. We're following breaking news on the Russia investigation. "The New York Times" is out with a new report that says the White House counsel has cooperated extensively with the Mueller obstruction inquiry. The article details the extent of cooperation by the White House counsel, saying, quote, "In at least three voluntary interviews with investigators that totaled 30 hours over the past nine months, Mr. Don McGahn described the president's furor toward the Russia investigation and the way in which he urged Mr. McGahn to respond to it. He provided the investigators examining whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice a clear view of the president's most intimate moments with his lawyer." That pulled from the "New York Times" article.

Joining me right now, Ross Garber, a CNN legal analyst. Ross, thanks for being with me. So, what's your view on this level of cooperation by the White House counsel and the Mueller team?

ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, it really is extraordinary. I think what probably happened is that the president's lawyers saw what happened during the Clinton administration where White House counsel had not cooperated with the grand jury investigations.

[14:40:06] And after two court rulings, counsel was forced to cooperate. And as you know, normally, the relationship between a client and a lawyer is a confidential one, so the lawyer doesn't go and cooperate with investigators, doesn't divulge things. In these two court cases, though, the court said that the White House lawyer is essentially a lawyer for the presidency and a public servant, and that that duty trumps that duty of confidentiality. And so in those cases, the lawyer, the White House counsel, had to cooperate with investigators.

So, I think what probably happened was the president's lawyers sized that up and they decided early on that it was better to not resist cooperation and to -- and to cooperate from the start. Now, I was honestly puzzled by that decision, because notwithstanding those two court decisions, there's a later court decision that actually questioned those others and the Supreme Court still hasn't ruled on it. So to give up those privileges so early, I was, frankly, surprised, and I -- it appears it may come back to hurt the president and perhaps the presidency.

WHITFIELD: So, Don McGahn, the White House counsel, cooperated on this. He also has the reference point of the bill Clinton administration and the Whitewater investigation, et cetera, so, he has that familiarity. However, is it your view that President Trump was aware of this level of transparency or this commitment of cooperation with the Mueller team to this extent that would equate to some 30 hours of Don McGahn talking to the Mueller team?

GARBER: So, we don't know. On the one hand, I would be shocked if the president weren't. If a lawyer for the White House would go in and voluntarily waive these privileges and divulge confidential information without the president knowing about it, I'd be shocked about that. On the other hand, I expressed concern as I saw this playing out even that I'm not sure the president would have understood the implications, the potential ramifications of it fully, or he might have had pause about allowing his White House counsel to do this.

WHITFIELD: So, the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, tweeted a few moments ago, still unclear whether it's direct response to this "New York Times" reporting or if it's just timing, saying, "Time for Mueller investigation to file report. We will release ours. Don't interfere with election like Comey. The president had nothing to do with Russians. He didn't obstruct an investigation, 1.4 million documents and 32 witnesses, no privilege raised."

How do you see Trump's personal attorney and the White House counsel being in step with one another or conflicting one another as it pertains to this investigation in that sentiment?

GARBER: So I think it's actually consistent. I think what's happening is Rudy Giuliani is saying, hey, look, we could have invoked the attorney-client privilege. We could have invoked the executive privilege. We didn't. There's been extraordinary cooperation from the White House. There's been -- including the waiver of these privileges.

And I think what Rudy Giuliani is saying is, in light of that, there's been no impediment to actually getting at the truth. It's now time to, at least with respect to the obstruction piece, to finish up that part of it and move on. I think that's what his point is. And I think that's consistent with what I think earlier counsel's strategy was, was if they didn't raise any privileges, if they just cooperated fully, if they allowed everybody to be interviewed, it would end quickly.

WHITFIELD: And quickly, do you see this in any way impacting the Mueller investigation at this interesting element is now public.

GARBER: I think it's probably just part of a consistent effort by the president's lawyers to try to get Mueller to, at least with respect to obstruction, end probably before the end of the summer, before the first week of September, so that they don't head into the midterms with this unknown piece hanging over them.

WHITFIELD: And I guess this transparency is one thing, but the detail that Don McGahn may be sharing with the Mueller team, does that also make him a potential witness?

GARBER: No, no.

WHITFIELD: Is this strictly lawyer to lawyer talk?

GARBER: No, no, no. Let's be clear. He is a witness. He went in and he sat with prosecutors and the agents, and he provided information. The White House counsel is a witness, and probably a very important one.

[14:45:10] WHITFIELD: Fascinating. Ross Garber, thank you so much.

We'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: The Maryland Board of Regents has seized control of two investigations into its flagship university after the death of 19- year-old football player Jordan McNair. Earlier this week, University President Wallace Loh admitted the school did not do enough to protect the teenager.


[14:50:03] WALLACE LOH, PRESIDENT UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: The university accepts legal and moral responsibility for the mistakes that our training staff made on that fateful workout day of May 29th.


WHITFIELD: But a new report by "The Washington Post" claims Loh nixed a plan one year ago that may have protected Jordan McNair. CNN's sports analyst and "USA Today" columnist Christine Brennan joining me right now. Good to see you, Christine. This is just so heartbreaking, especially hearing, at least from the "Washington Post" reporting, that there was a plan that may have protected. What would that plan -- how could that plan have protected Jordan McNair?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Fredricka, this story is incredibly troubling, and I'm so glad we're focusing on Jordan McNair, 19 years old, because we can get into the football aspect and fans get involved and whatever. But this is about a young man who obviously died under the care of the Maryland football team, coaches and trainers.

And this is what the president of the university, Wallace Loh, decided not to do, what he went ahead and turned down this particular request by the old athletic director, the former athletic director, would have set up an independent medical system for the athletes at the University of Maryland. So, you wouldn't have had the training staff and the coaches involved with the reporting of the trainers up to the athletic department staff. It would have gone to the medical side of the University of Maryland and their campus, their medical school in Baltimore county. So that would have been the plan.

And what does that do? And lots of other schools are doing this around the country. It makes it independent. It says, hey, if an athlete is sick or hurt, then you don't have the coach involved with making the decision. You have the trainers independently being able to say that something is wrong and it gives them more freedom to take care of the athletes properly. And this is what Wallace Loh turned down and denied, and I think obviously it puts now -- puts him in the spotlight in a way that he hadn't been before.

WHITFIELD: And then Christine, one can't help but wonder, in this day and age, when there is so much precedent, there are so many other cases, whether it involved NFL players or high school or middle school age young athletes whose lives were endangered or cut short because of heat, not adequately hydrating, all kinds of things that so many athletic programs have learned of today. So when you hear of a story like this, you can't help but wonder, how is it something like this could be happening, knowing what we know now and the potential dangers that would face any of these young athletes?

BRENNAN: This is a national crisis. Football, college football, of course, and high school football, little kids football, pro football, this is our national pastime, Fredricka. And the thought that we are still losing young people on the field of play or in drills and practice, it's -- we should be screaming from the highest mountain about how awful this is.

Now, why is it happening? I think we've got a culture in football, especially at the college level, where these coaches are king. They make more than the university president. They make more than the athletic director. They can do what they want. They increasingly become insulated. They close their practices more and more. The media is not involved. You don't have any outside group looking in.

I'm not saying that journalists being present on that practice field on May 29th would have saved Jordan McNair, but you would have seen if the ESPN reporting is accurate, and it's wonderful reporting by ESPN, this fear and intimidation, this culture of D.J. Durkin is what's alleged, someone, if they were looking at this practice from the outside, might have noticed that. And I think that's what's happening, this insular nature of our college football programs.

WHITFIELD: It's so heartbreaking. Look, I have an eight-grader who's playing football. This morning when I was dropping him off at his scrimmage, I was thinking of this Jordan McNair, and I was saying to my son, listen, if you're uncomfortable, if you're hot, if you're dehydrated, you've got to say something. And you have to be strong to be able to really argue with those coaches. The coaches out there are not going to like that, but it's a frightening thing. And these young kids, they've got to be heard, they've got to be heard.

BRENNAN: Absolutely. And you're right. And how do you speak up? And that's the problem if you're not having it be a two-way street with the coach and the young athletes.

WHITFIELD: You talk about that intimidation. Oh, Christine Brennan, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

BRENNAN: Thank you, Fredricka.

All right, the new millennium brought new music and new ways to listen. In a new episode of "The 2000s" we take a look at this shifting musical landscape and how it changed, how a generation discovered artists.


[14:55:00] STEPHEN WITT, AUTHOR, "HOW MUSIC GOT FREE": By the mid- 2000s, music labels realized that YouTube, Myspace, and file sharing software was the way people were discovering new music. So what do you do? You get all of the people that you've heard online together in one act and you charge $130 to see it. And this proved to be a very successful model.


WITT: The one that really set it off was Bonnaroo and then Coachella.


WHITFIELD: "The 2000s, I Want My MP3" airs tomorrow night, 9:00 eastern right here on CNN.

Thanks so much for being with me today. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The news continues with Ana Cabrera right after this.