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Chris Watts Charged with Killing Pregnant Wife & 2 Daughters; Aretha Franklin's Unique Role in the Civil Rights Movement; All-Asian Cast in "Crazy Rich Asians" Taking Hollywood by Storm. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 18, 2018 - 17:00   ET


ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: -- sharing detailed accounts about episodes at the core of the investigation into whether President Trump obstructed justice, including some that investigators would not have learned otherwise.

Now, the paper reports McGahn submitted to at least three voluntary interviews totaling 30 hours. The first interview was last November. Describing the president's furor towards the Russia investigation and providing a clear view of the president's most intimate moments with his lawyer.

CNN's Ryan Nobles is following the story from New Jersey where the president is spending the weekend at his Bedminster Golf Resort. Ryan, lawyers are rarely so open with investigators. What kind of things would McGahn be touching on?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's no doubt, Ana, that there are few people inside the Trump White House that have as intimate knowledge of what the president has done over the past year and a half as it relates to the Russia investigation than the White House counsel, Don McGahn.

And, according to this "New York Times" report, you know, we've known for some time, that Don McGahn had sat down with the special counsel's office. But we didn't know to the depths of which these interviews took place. Some 30 hours of conversations between McGahn and the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and his legal team.

And what's interesting about this "Times" report is that they say that it was actually Trump's criminal lawyers who initially suggested that McGahn cooperate with the special counsel. But that it was McGahn's personal lawyer who thought that there was a chance that -- perhaps, that he would be -- that McGahn was being set up by the Trump team to be the fall guy, if they did determine that there was some level of obstruction of justice taking place.

But to your point, Ana, about what Don McGahn may know. There are many things that he has intimate knowledge of. For instance, he was there in -- did tell the president that he would resign, if the president attempted to fire Robert Mueller.

We also know that he was warned, by Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, that if the president attempted to fire the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, that Jeff Sessions would step down. And then, of course, there is his role with the firing of James Comey. He was there for the deliberation surrounding that, so he knows exactly what the president's thinking was during that time frame.

Now, at this point, the White House has been very coy about a response to this report in specificity. But the chief spokesperson for the legal team, Rudy Giuliani, did tweet around the same time that the article came out.

And this is what Rudy Giuliani said. He said, quote, "It's time for the Mueller investigation to file a report. We will release ours. Don't interfere with elections like Comey. The president had nothing to do with Russia. He didn't obstruct an investigation; 1.4 million documents and 32 witnesses. No privilege raised."

And in terms of the tone of this article as well, Ana, I should point out that I had a conversation earlier today with someone who has direct knowledge of the legal strategy for Don McGahn. Keep in mind, he has his own private lawyer that's advising him, and this person tells me that they would not agree with the insinuation that Don provided incriminating information about Trump. He just told the truth which is what he had to do -- Ana.

CABRERA: Over the course of 30 hours and three separate interviews. Ryan Nobles, thank you very much.

Joining us now, CNN National Security Analyst and former senior adviser to President Obama's national security adviser, Samantha Vinograd; and CNN Political Analyst and "New York Times" politics editor, Patrick Healy. Patrick, incredible reporting by your paper. Should the president be worried now?

PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, it's strange. I mean, he has questioned Don McGahn's loyalty over this time, sort of wondering basically who is on board with him, who is willing to, you know, fight to the -- kind of, the bitter end to defend his integrity.

Don McGahn, as White House counsel, is not someone who was given to the, sort of, absolute statements the way Rudy Giuliani and President Trump insist on, on innocence, on witch-hunt and all this, sort of, you know, powerful language.

But the thing that is unusual is that President Trump, unlike other presidents, has seen -- whether it's his White House counsel or his attorney general, these people are almost, sort of, like his personal lawyers. People who are going to defend him to the max.

And what Mike Schmidt and Maggie Haberman are reporting here, in part, is that it seems like, you know, Don McGahn is going into these interviews with Robert Mueller and is, sounds like, basically, a cooperative person who's eyes and ears. He's sharing a lot of the information that he has.

And from President Trump's point of view, that's not what he likes. He likes people who are going to come out swinging, who are going to defend him or even want to say things that, you know, sometimes strain credulity. CABRERA: Which begs the question as to why would the president not

fight having Don McGahn go in there and be so open?

HEALY: Right. I mean, I think that was the -- the initial strategy was President Trump had nothing to hide. He wanted full cooperation because he thought -- I think he was hearing from his folks that the way to wrap this up quickly was to cooperate as fully as possible.

Now, Don McGahn is a smart guy. He knew that he was going in there, not to carry water the way Rudy Giuliani keeps doing. But going in there and representing what he knows and doesn't know. And Donald Trump can't control that. He doesn't know what's been said.

[17:05:11] CABRERA: And, Sam, you've worked for a different president, obviously. Are you surprised by what we're seeing with the number of people who have left this office or I guess McGahn is still there. But the people who've been part of this administration, and I think about Omarosa as well, who are or seemingly, kind of, flipping or aren't so loyal to this president.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, what I'm thinking when I read that story is, gosh, this is really going to do wonders for President Trump's paranoia, isn't it?

You know, the world now knows that White House counsel, who, as you say, is not the president's personal lawyer, he's there to perform a variety of other functions. He is now going and meeting with the FBI, and that's probably going to make President Trump even more upset, in light of the insider threat that came to light a few days ago with the Omarosa tapes.

But Don McGahn, at the White House, has a variety of functions to fulfill. He's there to advise the president on credible legal issues, like, for example, I hate to say it, whether the president should use his executive authority to arbitrarily revoke security clearances. These are the sort of things you'd want the White House counsel to be weighing in on.

And so, this is going to weigh on Don McGahn's time. It's going to take time away from performing these other functions. You have to wonder if the president going to trust him as much and listen to him as much?

CABRERA: And you brought up the security clearances. The president is tweeting about that today. And so, I want to turn to what he is saying. In his tweet this morning, he says, 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 nothing less than a loud mouth, a partisan political hack who cannot be trusted with the secrets to our country.

Patrick, your reaction.

HEALY: You know, it seems like the president has a -- it looks like he's, sort of, compiled his enemies list, in a way. I mean, he's, sort of, looking at these 10 people and thinking about revoking their security clearances, basically because these people exercise their first amendment rights or some of them.

And John Brennan, from everything that we know, served the country with distinction as CIA director. He has a great amount of knowledge about how the country works. Probably much greater than certain people in the Trump White House, in terms of national security and the way that secrets are kept and not just tweeted out and leaked, you know, left and right.

And it looks like the president has, sort of, decided -- and this is something that concerns a lot of Washington Republicans. Has decided to basically target these individuals. Decide that they are enemies of his, because they are not parroting some kind of party line, you know, about his own popularity. About what a great, you know, leader he is. And be willing to actually, sort of, revoke security clearances which the president can do. I mean, there is not a statute against --

CABRERA: He has the power.

VINOGRAD: He does.

CABRERA: So, the question is, should he use it? The power.

HEALY: Right. It's -- you know, it's surprising and, for a lot of people in Washington, really disconcerting.

CABRERA: And there is question, though, Sam, of why does somebody who leaves the government still need a security clearance?

VINOGRAD: And that's a valid question. But President Trump likes to pretend that we're reinventing the wheel on all of this stuff. He did it with the FBI and he's doing it with the CIA.

We have oversight of the Central Intelligence Agency. We have oversight of security clearance processes. There's even an executive order, 12968, that lays out, in painstaking detail, what a secure clearance violation looks like and who should have a need for access to classified information.

So, if there's an issue with what John Brennan does -- did as the CIA director, I think the oversight committees would have seen it. And if there's an issue with a security clearance and former officials having access, let the president revise the executive order.

And let's attack it in an organized fashion rather than this arbitrary drip-drip of someone going to lose a clearance now. Someone might in a few weeks. It's not conducive to the function of the intelligence community.

CABRERA: We know that there nine others that the president has threatened to revoke their security clearances. In fact, one of them still works for the government. The others are former. He has hinted at his political motivation. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's no silence. If anything, I'm giving them the bigger voice. Many people don't even know who he is and now he has the bigger voice. And that's OK with me, because I like taking on voices like that.


CABRERA: Patrick, is this about silencing his critics or not?

HEALY: Well, I mean, I think when you basically threaten the -- you know, the security clearance, when you threaten -- when you say that people are, sort of, either -- you know, enemies or people who are -- can't be trusted with government secrets, I mean, it's -- you're making basically a direct threat to their integrity, to their honesty, to -- also to their livelihood, in terms of their ability to, sort of, go out and hold other jobs in the future.

I mean, the president holds a lot of power. And if people are found to be disclosing classified secrets and they have a security clearance, it's very understandable why a president or administration would revoke that clearance.

[17:10:06] That's not what we're seeing from John Brennan. John Brennan has decided to exercise his first amendment rights, speak from things he knows a great deal about, in terms of the way national security is handled in the country and give his opinion.

And, normally, presidents -- look, presidents normally think of the country as leadership and that they -- their role as being leaders and they can take criticism. And part of it is hearing all sides and not seeing every person who is a critic as someone who needs to be shut down and silenced and that's a --

CABRERA: The president said that he's now giving John Brennan a greater platform by even pointing him out. Sam, do you agree with that? And if you would quick answer.

VINOGRAD: Sure. I worked with John Brennan for four years. I don't think he needs the president lambasting him on Twitter to feel like he has a voice. He's not going to stop using it. He used it the state room with President Obama when he disagreed, appropriately. And he's using it now against President Trump. That's a ridiculous thing for President Trump to say. It's a P.R. stunt.

CABRERA: Sam Vinograd, Patrick Healy, thank you both.

Deliberations resume Monday in the trial of former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. Coming up, does the jury's question to the judge provide any hints about the verdict as the president himself weighs in?

Plus, new details in the murders of a pregnant Colorado wife and her two daughters. What court documents are now revealing about the victims, as father who pleaded for their return faces accusations he killed all of them.


[17:15:18] CABRERA: Paul Manafort's fate and Robert Mueller's future both on the line in a northern Virginia courtroom. The jury will begin a third day of deliberations on Monday, weighing 18 charges of bank and tax fraud that could send more often than not for the rest of his life. Here's the president talking his former campaign chairman as he took off for his weekend in New Jersey.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't talk about that now. I don't talk about that. I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad. When you look at what's going on, 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've done to Paul Manafort.


CABRERA: Joining us now, former prosecutor and criminal defense attorney, Randy Zelin. Randy, great to have you with us. The jury is not sequestered, so they're at home this weekend. They could be listening to the president's comments, the very fact that he's commenting against the prosecution in a federal criminal case like this, what do you make of that?

RANDY ZELIN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, let's start legally. Legally, the judge has instructed the jury, as judges do in every jury trial, that they are not to watch the media. They are not to read the newspapers. Should someone say something to them about the trial, they are immediately to cut it off. Whether or not that happens in real life, we can only guess.

But here's the thing. What it means to me is as follows. What it means is that for every trial going forward, if I'm the government, if I'm a prosecutor, I'm going to say to the judge, please ask those potential jurors whether or not they would be affected in their ability to be fair and impartial if they found out that the president of the United States was weighing in on this trial.

If I were the government, I were the prosecutor, I would want the potential jurors to be questioned as to whether or not they can be fair and impartial to the government since the president of the United States has previously weighed in and basically said that the Department of Justice and the prosecutors are incompetent right up to the top.

And if I'm the defense attorney, from this point forward, I'm going to get up and look at the jurors in my opening statement and say, ladies and gentlemen, how can you trust this prosecution? Our own president doesn't trust the prosecution.

CABRERO: And, in fact, Manafort's attorneys have praised the president's comments. The jury has come back with a few questions to the judge. Since they began their deliberations, we know they asked the judge to redefine reasonable doubt. Also asking what is a shelf company? Do those questions give you any indication which way they're leaning?

ZELIN: I've been doing this for 30 years. I've given up reading tea leaves. In the old days you would say, oh, the longer are jury is out, better for the defense. Now, we've seen trials where the jury's been out a week, longer, they come back with a conviction.

It used to be, if the jurors come in and their heads are down and they're not looking at the defendant, that probably means a conviction.


ZELIN: But you don't know. But, look, the reality is reasonable doubt. It is not simply a doubt based upon reason. There is a far better definition of reasonable doubt. Because it's not easy. It's kind of, like, out there.

What does it mean? What it means is that any time you have to make a very important decision in your life, like whether or not to have surgery. If the doctor says, you need surgery, Randy. And I say, you know what, doc? Let's schedule it. I don't have reasonable doubt. But if I say to the doctor, you know what? I think I need another opinion, I need more information, that means I have reasonable doubt.

So, the fact that the jurors are asking about the definition of reasonable doubt, that doesn't necessarily mean that they're planning on convicting. A shelf company, whether they're asking about a shelf company which is a company basically that's put up on a shelf.

So, this way, if I want to go into business, rather than telling the bank that I had a brand-new business, I'd buy a shelf company, because it's been sitting there dormant. But I can say to the bank, you know what? This company has been in business for 10 years.

CABRERA: Ah, gotcha. And I love that you put this in layman's terms for us. I also wonder, though, with these questions get to the heart of the fact that this is a complicated case. These are financial crimes. If I'm not a financial expert or a legal expert, it might take me a while to go through all of the charges and all the documents and all the evidence to make sure I'm dotting those Is and crossing those Ts.

ZELIN: Here's the thing. Tax cases are paper cases, so they're really not terribly complicated. It seems daunting because of the amount of paper and the numbers and the complexity of the numbers.

But, ultimately, where we talk about Rick Gates being the focal point of this case, this really is a paper case. And it's really about, did you disclose it? Did you know you were supposed to disclose it? And if you didn't disclose it, you broke the law.

So, let's not spend too much time talking about destroying Rick Gates' credibility unless you want to believe that Mr. Manafort was actually victimized by Mr. Gates. And it was actually Mr. Gates that did all these terrible things, and Mr. Manafort didn't know anything about it. That's going to be, I think, a tough sell to the jury since Gates may have been the quarterback, but Mr. Manafort was Jerry Jones. He was the owner.

CABRERA: Thank you so much for coming in. Good to have you.

ZELIN: Thank you.

CABRERA: Well, they were the picture-perfect family, a doting wife, two little girls, a third child on the way, a baby boy, until a shocking crime. The mystery surrounding a husband now accused of murdering his entire family.


[17:20:22] CABRERA: New court documents filed in the case of a Colorado man supported of killing his pregnant wife and their two young daughters suggest the children may have been strangled. Shanann Watts and her daughters, Bella age four and celeste age three, were reported missing on Monday. They were found dead Thursday.

A defense motion obtained by a local CNN affiliate revealed the two little girls were placed inside an oil storage tank while their mother was found nearby. The father, Chris Watts, is now under arrest for the killings, just days after making an emotional public plea to help find his family. CNN's Randi Kaye reports.


SHANANN WATTS: Guess what, girls? Mommy has a baby in her belly.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A moment of joy that's turned to pain and mystery. That was Shanann Watts telling her two daughters that she was pregnant again. Four-year-old Bella and three- year-old Celeste were thrilled.

SHANANN WATTS: I love you, girls.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to give the baby a hug.

SHANANN WATTS: Do you want to give the baby a hug?

There's also video of her sharing the news with her husband of nearly six years, Chris Watts.

CHRIS WATTS: That's awesome. I guess -- I guess when you want to, it happens.

KAYE: But not long after that video was taken, something terrible happened. On Monday of this week, Shanann and her daughters went missing. Then came Tuesday and Shanann's husband, Chris, began a series of public pleas for their safe return.

CHRIS WATTS: Just come back. If somebody has her, just please bring her back. I need to see everybody. I need to see everybody again. This house is not complete without anybody here. I just want them back. I just -- I just want them to come back. And if they're not safe right now, that's what's -- that's what's tearing me apart.

Authorities searched the home and canvassed the neighborhood. Two days later, a grisly discovery.

JOHN CAMPER, DIRECTOR, COLORADO BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: We've been able to recover a body that we're quite certain that is Shanann Watts' body.

KAYE: Authorities say the woman's body was recovered on the property of a petroleum and natural gas exploration company where Chris Watts used to work. The bodies of two children were found nearby.

Then, another bizarre turn. The desperate husband and father who had pleaded for his family's safe return, was now suddenly the prime suspect in their disappearance.

IAN ALBERT, SERGEANT, FREDERICK POLICE DEPARTMENT: In the late hours of Wednesday evening, the husband, Chris Watts, was taken into custody and was transported to the Wall County Jail.

KAYE: He has yet to be officially charged, but police say Chris Watts faces three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of tampering with a human body.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like, no, he wouldn't do anything. And then, I seen his interview, and I was, like, oh, my god, like, something's not right.

KAYE: On Facebook, with emotions running high, Shanann's brother directly accused Chris Watts. This piece of blank, may he rot in hell. He killed my pregnant sister and my two nieces.

Police have not suggested a motive. Before his arrest, Watts told reporters that he and his wife had exchanged words.

CHRIS WATTS: It wasn't, like, an argument. We had an emotional conversation. But I'll leave it at that.

KAYE: Still, on Shanann's Facebook page, a portrait of a happy family.

SHANANN WATTS: I got a friend request from Chris on Facebook. And I was, like, what the heck, I'm not going to meet him. Accept. Well, one thing led to another and eight years later, we have two kids. We live in Colorado and he's the best thing that has ever happened to me.

KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


CABRERO: Joining us to discuss, host of HLN's "Crime and Justice" Ashleigh Banfield and criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson. Good to have both of you with us.

Ashleigh, what do we know about the charges? ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, HLN ANCHOR, CRIME AND JUSTICE: So, it's

interesting how they're worded. And, of course, these safety needs, the latest they can file them is Monday. And there will be an appearance at that time as well.

But first-degree murder. And the wording is interesting. For one count, it's after deliberation. But for the other two counts, it's position of trust which would be obvious if one were an adult and the other were the two children in a position of trust.

[17:30:04] And then, the other three counts are tampering with evidence. But they're tampering with a deceased human body which would lend very much credibility to the fact that they were found in oil, at least two of them.


Joey, we don't know exactly how they were killed. Investigators aren't confirming, but we are learning strangulation may have been part of this crime. What does that tell you?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Ana, good to be with you, good to be on with Ashleigh as well. Let's talk about the human component of this. It's certainly unfathomable. I covered this with Ashleigh on her show last week. You look at a family that was seemingly happy and in love and everything's wonderful and he's speaking to the issue that is his deceased wife. He's the best thing that has ever happened to me. And then he allegedly kills all of them, and two of them are found in an oil well, his daughters. So it just shocks the conscious or imagination as to why someone would do this. From a human factor it's so compelling and difficult to talk about, now through the legal side, while there's no motive yet that's been announced, you have to wonder what was going on. What we do understand or believe we know is that there was certainly financial issues involved with the family. There was a bankruptcy filing, my understanding is, in 2015, all indications that they got over that. There's also information that collectively they made $90,000. So who knows. Maybe the essence of the whole financial difficulties got the better of him. And then you see him on the stoop talking about I just want them back, it's just so ripping. But at the end of the day, there's allegedly a confession he made as well. I think this is going to be a very compelling and difficult case to defend. But you have to wonder what was going on through his desperate and contorted mind -- his state of mind will be evaluated - to drive him to something so final and so sinister and just so devastating.

CABRERA: When you think about potentially strangling his own children, it wasn't a gun. It just speaks to it being so personal. That's what gets me.

BANFIELD: I'm not so sure. I'm going to jump in here. I'm not so sure, though. The only reason anyone is suggesting strangulation might be a possibility here is because of a defense motion that was dismissed. The defense hired a DNA expert, and the DNA expert for the defense said, hey, by the way, make sure that you get DNA from the next of my children and from the neck of my wife and her finger nails because, you know, maybe there's DNA that oil for four days wouldn't wipe away.

Joey, you're the attorney, but I see this as a potential strategy for a defense because if you excluded the fact that you could not find DNA on the neck or fingers, you could say we don't know the cause of death, and a murder charge becomes more difficult.

CABRERA: What do you think, Joey?

JACKSON: In real life, I'm a defense attorney. I used to be a prosecutor. So let me put that hat on now. Who cares, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, whether it was a strangulation, he hit their head or something else. The fact remains that they are dead and they are dead at his hands. The fact also remains, presuming his confession is admissible, that he admitted to doing this. After admitting to doing this, an affront, he looked at everyone in the media and talked about how he wanted them back. The compelling issue here is that they're dead. I, ladies and gentlemen, don't have to prove motive at all. It is not an element of the charge. The only element is intent to kill, he told you he did it and their bodies were found. I don't want anyone to get lost on whether it was strangulation or anything else, that's irrelevant. The fact that they're no longer here --


BANFIELD: I tell you, I agree with you. I agree with you, except for the fact that this is a death-penalty state. So when the chips are down, you fight with everything you have. If he only led them to the bodies, he could say, she was away on a trip and then I found out about this affair, and then he showed up and this mystery man killed them. and I was so scared that they would think it was me, I disposed of the bodies but I didn't kill them. There's all sorts of arguments they could put forward.


BANFIELD: By the way, we have no idea what he told them. It's just a report at this time. The police aren't even confirming there was a confession. But he will fight tooth and nail for every single one of these charges because that's three death penalty charges, and maybe a fourth, although that is really slim in Colorado with regard to that unborn child --


CABRERA: I'm glad you mentioned that we have not confirmed that there was any kind of confession. We really don't know exactly what he is saying.

But, Ashleigh, he was staying with some other people, and are they providing any hint as to what a possible motive could be.

[17:35:00] BANFIELD: Yes, the affairs. Apparently, took him in need while the family is missing and now they're devastated that they were party to all of us. And they said to local affiliates on camera, A, that he had mentioned something about selling the house on Monday. There's also some reporting that suggests there's been a recent civil action against him by a homeowners' association. The financial issues may have reared their ugly heads again. But they also said there's a possibility there may have been infidelity. They don't have concrete evidence, but Shanann said it's possible he was having an affair. She didn't think he had game enough to have an affair, but at least that topic broached the zeitgeist. So who knows what motivation could cause anybody to do this if he did? Even the worst of the worst, when an affair comes into it, it's very hard to look at your own 3 and 4- year-old children and kill them over an affair.


CABRERA: Joey, you think those videos we've been playing will come out as part of the defense strategy to show how happy this family seemingly was?

JACKSON: I think, absolutely. Look, as a defense attorney, you use what you have.

To Ashleigh's point regarding a confession, if there's one, there will be motions made to express that so it doesn't see the light of day. How was it taken? Was it a custodial interrogation? Was he read his rights? You have the hard evidence that's there. And by all indications, they were a happy family. But I'm sure there will be other issues that come to light that may establish he did this for some motivation.

I should briefly tell you, the death penalty has only been applied once in 40 years in Colorado. You might remember the Aurora shooter, he didn't get the death penalty. It may be implemented here, but it may not actually be voted upon and applied if he's found guilty.


CABRERA: Joey and Ashleigh, got to leave it there.



CABRERA: OK, real quick.

BANFIELD: Something in the fact pattern that's important here. That place where they were found, the oil tanks, not a well, this is not the kind of place you would find a body in a well. It's likely a tank. They're monitored at this company. All of them are monitored. So there may be actual forensic information that will help them on that site with regard to how and when those children and that woman were disposed of.

JACKSON: Absolutely.

CABRERA: Ashleigh Banfield and Joey Jackson, thank you for joining us.

JACKSON: Thank you. CABRERA: She was a titan of music, the undisputed queen of soul. But

singing wasn't her only legacy. As funeral arrangements are made for Aretha Franklin, we'll look at her unique role in the civil rights movement.






[17:42:23] (SINGING)


CABRERA: A funeral for the queen of soul, Aretha Franklin, is now set for August 31st in Detroit. The singer died Thursday of pancreatic cancer at the age of 76.

Former President Barack Obama paying tribute to Franklin saying, quote, "In her voice we could feel our history, all of it, and in every shade, our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect."

CNN's Polo Sandoval looks at what made Franklin both a music and civil rights icon.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At birth, the odds were stacked against Aretha Franklin. She was born into poverty in the Jim Crow south of 1942.

Daughter of a Baptist minister, Franklin started singing in her church choir.


SANDOVAL: As a teen, Franklin joined Dr. Martin Luther King on the road, at times, offering her voice to help carry the civil rights movement.

ARETHA FRANLIN, SINGER: I was behind Dr. King when I was a very young girl.

SANDOVAL: Franklin later sang at Dr. King's funeral in 1968.


SANDOVAL: A year before this soul-stirring performance, Franklin inspired millions by demanding respect.


SANDOVAL: The song became more than Franklin's biggest hit. It was a rallying cry in the feminist movement and civil rights campaign.

In her 1998 autobiography, Franklin wrote, "'Respect' spoke to anyone who felt overlooked or unappreciated.


SANDOVAL: The queen of soul remained an active voice in the fight gets an inequality. A 1970 "Jet" magazine article reported Franklin's offer to post bail for Angela Davis, a black political activist. Back then, Franklin reportedly told the publication, "Black people will be free."

FRANKLIN: When I first started out --

SANDOVAL: In 1983, Franklin made history becoming the first woman to be inducted into the Rock "N" Roll Hall of Fame. Eight days later, Franklin's voice served as the sound track for the inauguration of the America's first black president.


SANDOVAL: Following her death, the NAACP described Franklin as, "An iconic symbol of black pride whose music touched so many hearts and souls."

FRANKLIN: It's the love of my craft.

SANDOVAL: The queen of soul was modest about her compliments. Her awards and honors stand as a testament for her use of lyrics to give the voiceless a voice.


SANDOVAL: Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.


[17:45:17] CABRERA: What a woman.

Let's talk about the movie taking Hollywood by storm. The director of "Crazy Rich Asians" joins us on why the film's all-Asian cast is such a pivotal moment for the big screen.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Ever since I remember, my family has been my whole life.



[17:49:57] UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: We've been dating for over a year now, and I think it's time for people to meet my girlfriend.

What about taking an adventure?




CABRERA: Girl meets boy, they fall in love. Then comes the time for her to meet his colorful and, yes, crazy rich family. It may sound like any old romantic comedy, except this movie is making history. It is the first time in a quarter century, 25 years, that a Hollywood film has featured an all-Asian cast.

I recently spoke with the movie's director, Jon M. Chu, to talk about this historic big-screen moment.


CABRERA: What has the response been like for you?

JON M. CHU, MOVIE DIRECTOR: It has been overwhelming, this last couple weeks, something I totally didn't expect to feel, people pouring out of the theaters with emotion, sending me letters, pictures of their own stories, of being Asian in America and all around the world. It's been really touching.

CABRERA: Your film is being celebrated as the first all-Asian cast since "The Joy Luck Club." That was 25 years ago.

CHU: Crazy.

CABRERA: What took Hollywood so long?

CHU: I don't know the answer to that. I think it's about time this happened. Probably should have happened many, many years ago. All I know is there was this great story of an Asian-American girl going to Asia for the first time in this that I really related to, growing up in the bay area in San Francisco, and then going to Taiwan for the first time. I always thought that story was just my own story. To know that so many people share in that experience, and not just Asians, all ethnicities and all walks of life is great to hear.

CABRERA: What challenges were there in casting the film?

CHU: The system isn't built for a lot of the Asian actors, all types and shapes and sizes and genders, because the roles aren't there. So we really had to build our own infrastructure and cast. We had casting directors from all around the world, all continents. We even took YouTube videos to see who's out there. We saw some really, really, again, touching, emotional things of people who didn't get to go into acting, but are great actors. For this particular movie, we only could fill so many spots. But there's a lot more out there. That's what I have hope for the future. There's a lot of great actors who need more stories so they can shine. CABRERA: You talk about your experience growing up in California, in the bay area. You were born to a Chinese father, a Taiwanese mother. Were you able to bring your own experiences into this film?

CHU: Absolutely. I grew up in a Chinese restaurant. My parents' restaurant is in Los Alto. It has been around 50 years next year. Going to school, I was always nervous. I smelled like Chinese food, my parents would pack me dumplings. Your friend at school would make fun of you, so I dump those before I got to school. I never touched upon my cultural identity crisis in my work. I was always very scared. It wasn't until a couple years ago with reading so much online, White Washed Out, Oscars So White, I realized, why am I not doing more. I'm in Hollywood, making movies. So this has been a touchstone for me and my parents -- there's music in the movie. I shared with them, and they got so excited, they used to dance to this stuff in China and do the Jitterbug, they told me. So it all helped me find my own cultural identity.

CABRERA: Do you think it fairly portrays your culture and your people in that way? There are some critics who say it's not Asian enough.

CHU: It's unfortunate we're in a situation where one movie is expected to represent all Asians. I actually think it's a symptom of the issue of representation of Asians, that we all thing it has to be one thing. There's so many layers, so many people from all continents, all places that represent Asian people. This is one little slice, one story, with a very specific set of circumstances. I had to connect myself with the Rachel Chu story, the Asian American going to Asia for the first time, through that perspective, to take the audience with me through this journey. Hopefully, it cracks a door so more stories can be told, better stories can be told, all different perspectives from all around the world. I hope that this movie starts the movement. It's isn't the end of the movement.

CABRERA: What do you hope people ultimately get out of this movie?

CHU: I hope some kid out there who watches it and sees himself on the big screen, some people who look like him and their family, and they're funny, beautiful, fierce, heroes, and villains, and they know that they have all the possibilities in the world to be whoever they want. And they should own their own identity, their dual cross- identities, not matter where you're from, whether you're Asian or not. I hope that's what it does. It's what it does for me when I see this amazing cast be all those things. I know it changed me.

CABRERA: Jon Chu, you are doing it, you are living proof.

Thank you for joining us.

CHU: Thank you.

CABRERA: Thank you for sharing your story.

CHU: I appreciate it.

(END VIDEOTAPE) [17:55:06] CABRERA: Let's switch gears. The state of Oklahoma has the highest incarceration rate of women in the United States. It's held that record for more than 25 years. That's where we meet this week's "CNN Hero," high school English teacher, Ellen Stackable. She goes inside prisons to give some of them women a voice.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I came here when I was 20. have a 30-year sentence. After I hit the yard and I got a taste of what prison was, it shocked me that I was here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a lot of feelings in prison and you don't get to feel them. You're not a person and your feelings aren't validate.

ELLEN STACKABLE, TEACHER & CNN HERO: Many of the women that have been incarcerated are 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.


CABRERA: To learn more, just go to

We'll be right back.