Return to Transcripts main page


Don McGahn Gave 30 Hours of Testimony to the Mueller Probe; White House Defends Decision to Revoke John Brennan's Security Clearance; Aired 2-3p ET

Aired August 19, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] ZAKARIA: Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.



RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: We have a good sense, obviously, of what Mr. McGahn testified. McGahn was a strong witness for the president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he's going to be a very, very valuable witness. If you're an investigator, you're a prosecutor, you want somebody who's been in the room when the key discussions happened, and that's Don McGahn.

WHITFIELD: The White House counsel spending hours as a witness in the Russia investigation. The president today fuming on Twitter, calling Mueller's probe McCarthyism.

Plus, clashing over security. Former CIA director John Brennan now considering legal action after his clearance is revoked.

JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, I think this is yet another example of his egregious abuse of power and authority. If my clearances and my reputation as I'm being pulled through the mud now, if that's the price we're going to pay to prevent Donald Trump from doing this against other people, to me it's a small price to pay.

JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It was my view at the time that he and others in the Obama administration were politicizing intelligence. I think that's a very dangerous thing to do. He couldn't be in the position he's in of criticizing President Trump and his so-called collusion with Russia unless he did use classified information.



WHITFIELD: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Sunday, I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

All right. You might call it team damage control. An effort today by the president and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to manage any potential fallout following a "New York Times" report about White House attorney Don McGahn being interviewed in the Mueller investigation. The report detailing the White House counsel has cooperated extensively in the special counsel investigation, providing as much as 30 hours of testimony in the last nine months.

Giuliani saying this morning McGahn was encouraged to interview and the White House knows exactly what was said.


GIULIANI: The president encouraged him to testify, is happy that he did, is quite secure that there's nothing in the testimony that will hurt the president. And John Dowd told you that when he said he was a strong witness for the president.


WHITFIELD: All right. The president meantime is lashing out, comparing the probe to McCarthyism, tweeting today, "The failing 'New York Times' wrote a fake piece today implying that because White House counsel Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the special counsel he must be a John Dean type rat. But I allowed him and all others to testify. I didn't have to. I have nothing to hide."

CNN's Ryan Nobles joining me now from Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, where the president has been spending the weekend at his country club there.

So, Ryan, what more on this?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, there's no doubt that the president and the White House are attempting to present this new information about Don McGahn's significant period of time that he spent with the special counsel as good news for the president, describing it as a transparent move on their part because they've got nothing to hide.

And remember, it was the president's criminal lawyers, those lawyers that are personally representing him during the special counsel investigation who suggested that Don McGahn sit with the special counsel and even told him to waive attorney-client privilege, which is an important part of this conversation because it allowed McGahn to speak freely about any number of topics that the special counsel might be interested in.

And despite all that news and the volume of time that Don McGahn spent with the special counsel, the president's legal team continues to insist that is good news for the president. Listen to what Rudy Giuliani had to say this morning.


GIULIANI: We have a good sense, obviously, of what Mr. McGahn testified to. I can figure it out --

CHUCK TODD, HOST, "MEET THE PRESS": How do you say that good sense? Have you debriefed him?

GIULIANI: No, no. But Mr. Dowd has a good sense of it. He talked to them at the time.

TODD: So you don't know what Mr. McGahn -- you don't know 100 percent of what he testified to?

GIULIANI: I think that through John Dowd, we have a pretty good sense of it. And John Dowd yesterday said -- I'll use his words rather than mine -- that McGahn was a strong witness for the president. So I don't need to know much more about that.


NOBLES: But here's what the president and his legal team have not discussed. And that's the point that was made in the "New York Times" that when Don McGahn discovered that the president's legal team wanted him to testify in front of the special counsel, that they were concerned that he was perhaps being set up, that this was perhaps an opportunity to make him the fall guy if the special counsel did find some sort of obstruction of justice charge.

And, you know, yesterday the McGahn legal team spent a lot of time trying to make it clear that McGahn's goal was not to go into this interview and incriminate the president, but McGahn's attorney William Burke said in a statement to me that the goal of Don McGahn was to tell everything that he knew fulsomely and honestly.

And Fred, we can't state clearly enough that Don McGahn knows a lot. He's been around the president for more than a year and a half and has been there for some of these very crucial pieces of information that the special counsel would be interested in. And at this point, we have no idea what he told Robert Mueller -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Ryan Nobles, thank you so much.

So Giuliani also discussed the infamous Trump Tower meeting today, saying that meeting was of no consequence and could not possibly result in charges against the president.


GIULIANI: If someone said, I have information about your opponent, you would take that meeting. If it happens to be --

TODD: From the Russian government?

GIULIANI: She didn't represent the Russian government. She's a private citizen. I don't even know if they knew she was a Russian at the time. All they had was her name.

TODD: They knew she was Russian. I think they knew she was Russian, but OK.

GIULIANI: Well, they knew it when they met with her, not when they set up the meeting. You told me -- you asked me, you know, did they show an intention to do anything with Russians, well, all they knew is that a woman with a Russian name wanted to meet with them. They didn't know she was a representative of the Russian government. And indeed she is not a representative of the Russian government.


WHITFIELD: OK. We know and just about everybody by now knows that that isn't true. We have the e-mail exchange, in fact, with Donald Trump Jr. that proves otherwise. Rob Goldstone writing to Trump Junior on June 3rd, 2016, saying, "The crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father this morning, and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father. This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump."

Donald Trump Jr. then responding this way, saying, "If it's what you say, I love it, especially later in the summer."

All right. Let me bring in now Walter Shaub, he is a CNN contributor and former director of the Office of Government Ethics. Good to see you.

And Ross Garber is a CNN legal analyst. Good to see you as well.


WHITFIELD: OK. So let's talk about the first thing as a result of "The New York Times" reporting, you know, White House counsel Don McGahn giving 30 hours of testimony. So the White House is not refuting that McGahn did give this testimony, but it is fighting back against any potential negative inference from it.

So, Walter, you first. Is there a way to detect what is it the White House is most worried about here?

WALTER SHAUB, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think what they're most worried about is the fact that Don McGahn, as White House counsel, has been privy to just about everything that's gone on in the White House. He has an extraordinary amount of information to share. And him talking freely to Robert Mueller's team is really quite a font of information for them. That's going to be very useful as they analyze the facts.

Now in terms of whether he said things that helped the president or harmed the president's cause, it's impossible to know, and I think we should be careful about speculating about that. We only have McGahn's team's account for what happened. Even to the extent that Rudy Giuliani referenced John Dowd, Dowd only has it from McGahn. So we only have one side of the conversation's account for how things went.

I don't think McGahn went in there to help the president, I also don't -- hurt the president, but I also don't think he went in to help him. I do believe that he's savvy enough to know what a mistake it would be to lie to prosecutors, and I figure he probably went in there to simply articulate the facts as he understood them and perhaps make sure that key facts that would clear him from any suspicion were included in the conversation.

WHITFIELD: And Ross, it's your view that, you know, Rudy Giuliani was out, you know, in the talk shows this morning. Is he just trying to look cool about it, look like they're not at all worried by saying, you know, he thinks he knows and believes that McGahn was a strong witness for the president? I mean, will they ever really know in detail from Don McGahn what he said? I mean, he's a witness. He can't very well go back and say this is everything that I said, can he?

GARBER: The way it works is it's very, very likely that McGahn's lawyer reported back to the president's lawyer under a joint defense agreement and sort of shared the nature of what he said. Maybe not chapter and verse. Maybe not in incredible detail. They probably gave him a sense of it.

And I think -- I think Walter is right. I think -- I mean, think about how extraordinary it is that the president's lawyer, the White House counsel, spent 30 hours with prosecutors and agents. And that was over several sessions. So debriefed prosecutors and agents, then went back to the White House, you know, went back to work, and then went back and was debriefed again, and then went back and was debriefed again.

[14:10:03] In essence, he was almost like -- in some ways a government operative inside the White House, kind of feeding information back to the prosecution. But I think the other things that the president's lawyers are probably concerned about is they keep thinking this thing is coming to an end. If they -- and I think the theory early on was if they just cooperated, if they just turned over all these documents, provided all this incredible access to people, this investigation would end in sort of a timely way.

And at this point, I think the concern is that it's continuing to drag on. It may not be over before the end of the summer. And, you know, then as you know, we get into that sensitive period before the midterm elections. When it's unlikely anything is going to happen by way of a report.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And Walter, it seems like there are two different messages coming from the White House or at least, you know, Trump circles. You've got, you know, Rudy Giuliani saying, you know, we consent to this. We knew this was going to happen. Don McGahn by the White House encouragement went and interviewed. But then you've got the president in his tweets who are now saying, wait a minute, you know, questioning even the motivation behind, you know, Don McGahn, even tweeting former Nixon attorney John Dean is a rat.

I mean, is that his way of even saying, you know, like firing a warning shot to Don McGahn, you know, that you, too, are a dirty rat if you -- you know, testified against me or revealed anything that is incriminating?

SHAUB: Well, I think Trump has made very clear to people that anyone who opposes him or speaks out against him is a potential target. Well, you know, we talked about the security clearances in the opening that he just took away from people for speaking out against him. He's turned on just about everybody who's left the White House.

Don McGahn can't count on any loyalty from the president, which again is all the more reason that Don McGahn knows he should tell the truth in detail when he's talking to Mueller's team. The president speaking out of two sides of his mouth, though, when he tries to claim they've been so cooperative with the Mueller investigation. It's true that they chose not to fight what would have been probably a losing battle in the courts over executive privilege, but at the same time, Trump has done nothing but attack the prosecutors, attack the FBI, attack Mueller and the Department of Justice's leadership.

This period in history is not going to go down as one in which the president of the United States cooperated with a legal investigation.

WHITFIELD: The president keeps saying, I've got nothing to hide. But then the more he tweets out, it makes it appear as though he's got a lot to hide. The president has been going after the Mueller investigation directly, but he did it again saying, "Study the late Joseph McCarthy because we are now in period with Mueller and his gang that make Joseph McCarthy look like a baby. Rigged witch hunt." He's not sounding like he is cool about it or he's got nothing to worry.

So, Ross, you know, he went -- the president again, you know, he has been going after to the Mueller investigation directly but he did again saying, "Study the late Joseph McCarthy because we are now in period with Mueller and his gang that make Joseph McCarthy look like a baby. Rigged witch hunt."

He's not sounding like he is cool about it or he's got nothing to worry.

GARBER: So here's what's going on, though. When the president tweets and when Rudy Giuliani gets on TV, they are talking directly to the Trump supporters. They're not talking to sort of the rest of America. They're talking directly to the supporters. And so I think --

WHITFIELD: How does that potentially backfire, though? Or does it?

GARBER: Yes. Well, you sort of have to interpret what they're saying. And I think the -- you know, the series of tweets over the past couple of days, in a way, were saying a couple of things. One is, look, we haven't cooperated extraordinarily with this investigation, and there's some credit to be given there. I mean, the notion of allowing your White House counsel very early in an investigation to come in and debrief investigators, that is extraordinary. And turning over documents and allowing the White House staff to be interviewed, that is a lot of cooperation.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Any prosecutor would want -- would revel in that, would want that.

GARBER: For sure. And it is rare.


GARBER: And so I think part of it is that the president's expressing some frustration that we did all this, we cooperated, and still this thing is not over. And that's a concern.

WHITFIELD: All right. Ross Garber, Walter Shaub, stick around. We've got more to talk about.

Still ahead, former CIA director John Brennan says he'll keep speaking out even after having his security clearance revoked because he believes Trump is letting down millions of Americans.


BRENNAN: I have seen the lights blinking red in terms of what Mr. Trump has done and is doing, and it's bringing this country down on the global stage, and he's fueling and feeding divisiveness within our country.


WHITFIELD: Brennan now suggesting he may sue to keep the president from revoking the clearances of others.


[14:18:49] WHITFIELD: Here's the name calling. Loud mouth partisan political hack. That's how President Trump is describing former CIA director John Brennan this weekend. And now the White House has a new defense for its decision to strip his security clearance.

Brennan's access was revoked last week after the White House said he used highly sensitive information to make a series of outrageous -- I'm quoting now, outrageous allegations. Today national security adviser John Bolton attempted to clarify that statement.


BOLTON: In terms of what he said since he left, I think a number of people have commented that he couldn't be in the position he's in of criticizing President Trump and his so-called collusion with Russia unless he did use classified information. But I don't know the specifics. What I do know is when he was director of the CIA, I was very troubled by his conduct, by statements he made in public, and by what I thought was his politicization of the intelligence community.


WHITFIELD: But Bolton did say he wasn't sure if Brennan used classified information to make those statements. Meanwhile, Brennan is again defending his right to criticize the president and accuses Trump of sending a warning shot to the rest of the intelligence community.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) [14:20:06] BRENNAN: I think it was a clear signal to others who still have their security clearances, both in the government as well as outside, that if you cross him, if you speak out against him, he is going to use whatever tools he might have at his disposal to punish you. And so I think this is yet another example of his egregious use of power and authority.


WHITFIELD: All right. I'm joined again by Ross Garber and Walter Shaub, as well as former CIA intelligence officer David Priess.

All right. Good to see you all.

All right, so, Ross, given what we know, so is this an abuse of power for the president to revoke security clearance when the president also said that Brennan was in part responsible for the probe that the president doesn't like?

GARBER: Yes, so as a general matter, it is up to the administration to decide who gets security clearances and who doesn't and how long they last. I used to have a security clearance. I don't anymore because I didn't need one.

The problem here is if the motivation for revoking the security clearance was political, if it was to send a message to others to not speak out, that is potentially, you know, very, very troubling and problematic. And --

WHITFIELD: But where's the if part on that? I mean, hasn't the president and White House already said that those powers will be revoked if you are critical of the president?

GARBER: Yes, I think what they said with respect to this security clearance, though, was that he was behaving erratically and in a troubling way and may not be worthy of a security clearance. But yes, the messaging from the White House has been quite troubling.

WHITFIELD: So, David, we saw dozens of CIA officials and former senior intelligence officials speak out against the president's decision. Could they be taking a large risk by being critical of this move of revoking security clearance and also inviting the president to, you know, put me on the list?

DAVID PRIESS, FORMER CIA INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: Well, it's possible because I am on that list. I signed that second letter that came out Friday night because of my concern over the politicization of security clearances, an unprecedented act that has happened.

Two points to follow up on that. One, all of us who signed that letter signed it because whether we agree with what John Brennan said or the way in which he said it, we agree that what he said was protected political speech. John Bolton is being disingenuous if he says that no one could have said the things John Brennan said unless they were using classified information. Does he not pay attention to Twitter, to Facebook, to broadcast media?

Because hundreds, thousands of people are saying the same things. John Brennan is not saying anything based on classified information.

Secondly, there was such an outpouring of support and concern after the directors and deputy directors of the CIA sent their letter of support on Thursday night, and then 60 of us on Friday signed on to an additional letter.

The tidal wave of people coming in saying, I can't believe I didn't get to this, I can't believe I missed a deadline. Can we please speak out, too? So there is a third letter in the works that will be coming out soon that will be an impressive array of people across the entire national security community, of former officials who are decrying this action.

WHITFIELD: And what do you want to come from that letter? I mean, besides being in the company of your colleagues where you're saying in solidarity we all feel the same way, but then, you know, if you look at the consequence of the result of that letter, what's on your wish list?


WHITFIELD: Besides letting the president, you know, have a piece of your mind?

PRIESS: Yes, these are people both in the letter we signed Friday night and in the forthcoming letter, many of these people are people who have never publicly spoken about anything having to do with national policy before. These are people who never thought they would never have to. The message is, this is unprecedented, this is a step that goes too far, and even people who have not publicly identified in this way before feel the need to do so as American citizens.

And that's the thing to remember. John Brennan, whether you agree with what he says or the way in which he say it, he's an American citizen now who was an intelligence officer. But we are all former officials who have the same free speech rights as every other American. That's what we're talking about here.

If it also serves to dissuade the president from going after currently serving officers like Bruce Ohr at the Justice Department or currently serving intelligence officers, all the better.

WHITFIELD: And Walter, "The Washington Post" is reporting that the White House has already drafted documents, you know, to revoke more security clearances against former officials, you know, critical of him or playing a role in this Russia investigation. So how concerning is that? I mean, what does that mean to you besides the president expressing himself?

SHAUB: You know, the thing that has concerned me the most is exactly what the other two have talked about is that this is chilling, individuals who still have clearances and unlike Brennan may need them. [14:25:05] But the thing that this tells me is that there's another

reason, too. By having signed these and held on to them until an opportune moment, it really sends a message that they're just using it to distract from other unfavorable news. You'll notice the timing --

WHITFIELD: So just like the back pocket. I got it in my back pocket just in case.

SHAUB: That's right. Yes. And they sort of did that with the Brennan one. Just as the heat from the Omarosa tape was reaching its fever pitch, they suddenly released a revocation that initially at least was dated late July. And it looks like they may have sat on it until they needed it.

WHITFIELD: Yes. It's kind of weird. Why wouldn't they have fixed that?

SHAUB: Yes. Yes.

WHITFIELD: For the sake of appearances?

SHAUB: Very strange. The other strange thing about what Bolton said is him claiming that for Brennan to have criticized the White House for possible collusion with Russia he must have used classified information, that would suggest that there is classified information showing that they colluded with Russia. I don't know that that's the case, but it just goes to show how far the White House is stretching to find some national security related reason for doing it.

WHITFIELD: Ross, looks like you were about to say something to punctuate that.

GARBER: Yes. The only thing I was going to say is, you know, it's one thing for the president and the White House to push norms and to challenge conventions. All of that is good. I think it is incumbent upon them in those kinds of situations to explain what they're doing and why.

And look, you know, security clearances are there for the benefit of the government, for the benefit of the American people. An official needs to have one to help the government, to help the American people, great, they should have them. If not, they shouldn't. But it really is a -- you know, there's a messaging issue here at a minimum.

PRIESS: Fred, let me follow up on that.


PRIESS: He's exactly right. No one has a security clearance among these former officials because they nominate themselves for it and give it to themselves. There has to be a government office that says there is a need for them to have that security clearance. And I hope we end up having a debate some day about whether there are too many security clearances and whether former officials at a certain level should retain them or not. That's a legitimate conversation. That is not this conversation. This conversation is about the use of

a national security institution that is above politics to stifle political speech. That's what we're focused on.

WHITFIELD: All right. David Priess, Walter Shaub, Ross Garber, thanks to all of you. I really appreciate.

PRIESS: Thanks, Fred.

GARBER: Thanks.

PRIESS: Sure thing.

WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, Catholics around the U.S. attending Sunday mass, and for the first time since that explosive report detailing such horrifying allegations of sexual abuse by priests in Pennsylvania. The bishop there saying the scandal does not represent the Catholic Church of today.

How local parishioners are responding to that, next.


[14:32:15] FREDERICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome back.

Catholics in Pennsylvania are attending Sunday mass for the first time today, still grappling with that explosive report this week detailing decades of sexual abuse of children by priests and the cover-ups by bishops.


ELLEN AHMAD, CATHOLIC PARISHIONER: I'm horrified. It's gut- wrenching. It's so sad. As a Catholic, I'm ashamed. I'm so sorry. And to the victims, my heartfelt sorrow and my prayers and, you know, just I hope they can get over this.

I just want -- I just want all the priests to address this. I want to hear this every Sunday. I want the bishop to speak up. I don't know what else.

You know, these poor people, what they've gone through all these years, and for it to be -- for them not to be able to talk about it, for them to be encouraged to keep it secret, it's just so awful.

I can separate that. My faith has nothing to do with this. It's my relationship with Jesus and with God, and I can separate that.


WHITFIELD: All right. Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik apologize again today to the victims saying he has no plans to step down and is insisting the church of today is not the church in the grand jury report.


BISHOP DAVID ZUBIK, ROMAN CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF PITTSBURGH: I can honestly say that we have followed every single step that we needed to follow to be responsible in our response to the victims.

First of all, we've listened to them carefully. Second of all, we've removed priests from ministry. Third of all, we have, in fact, turned it over to the district attorneys of the appropriate counties. Fourth of all, we have engaged the independent review board to assess and take a look at the allegations and whether or not a person would be suitable for ministry again. And we have, in fact, informed the people in our parishes about those allegations.


WHITFIELD: All right. Joining me right now to discuss this is John Gehring, who is the Catholic program director of Faith in Public Life.

Good to see you. The Pittsburgh bishop denies a cover-up and says the church has been properly addressing this problem for the past ten years. Do you agree?

JOHN GEHRING, CATHOLIC PROGRAM DIRECTOR, FAITH IN PUBLIC LIFE: Well, i mean, with all due respect, that's a form of denial. It's clear over and over again that the church has not done enough to address this crisis.

I mean, you can't read the details of this horrifying Pennsylvania grand jury report without coming to the conclusion. This is systematic and institutional evil that's been allowed to flourish. And so no one in the church has done enough and Catholics have to speak out.

WHITFIELD: And besides speaking out, you know, there are a group of theologians and lay people who are actually calling for the resignation, you know, of not only the Pennsylvania bishops, but a mass resignation of all U.S. bishops as a show of repentance, you know, to let the healing begin.

[14:35:10] Do you see that as a potential solution or a step toward moving forward?

GEHRING: Well, certainly it would be a powerful symbolic step. I think we need to get to the structural problem, which the church has shown time and time again that it cannot police itself.

And so I think we need more independent outside investigations. We need more lay Catholics who are not part of the clergy tables of decision, making sure that there's accountability and transparency. So that would be a powerful symbolic move, but I think we need to get to a structural reality change.

WHITFIELD: So as a Catholic, how are you coping with this latest round of abuse allegations? You heard from the one parishioner who says, you know, she feels shame, you know. And at the same time, you know, she has -- she remains, you know, with her faith. What has this done to you? This latest report.

GEHRING: Yes, no. Sure. No, I mean, this is a period of anguish and anger and a sense of disbelief, honestly, they were still here. I mean, personally, I'm going to stick with the church. I'm going to fight for the church that I love and I believe in.

And, you know, like Cardinal O'Malley of Boston said, like, the clock is ticking. There has to be a sense of urgency around this. I really think the church is at a breaking point. This might be our last best hope to address this crisis. And, again, this is deeply institutionalized evil. And that doesn't get solved by statements of concern. That gets solved by real action.

WHITFIELD: You said, you know, it's a breaking point, you know. But then who is it really up to? If, you know, in one moment, you said, you know, the church cannot investigate itself, you know. There has to be another extension that has to step in on this. But, I mean, we've seen that in some jurisdictions, you know, where local authorities, police then, you know, make a move and then you have charges, but I mean this is sizable when you're talking about in this report 300 priests in Pennsylvania alone.

GEHRING: Right. I mean, the scale and the scope of this is just horrifying. And, again, you know, statements of concern and sort of reform around the edges. I mean, this needs to be deep-seated structural change. And what that looks like, you know, there's not an easy answer for that. And we're going to have to work through that.

But if we don't get to the root of these problems, this is going to continue. And I think you're going to see more and more Catholics walk away. I mean, Catholics have lost patience. There's been a -- the trust has been broken, and it needs to be rebuilt.

WHITFIELD: John Gehring, thanks so much for your time and perspective.

GEHRING: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: A Michigan lawmaker apologizing after using racial slurs to discourage voters from backing her opponent. That opponent, Stephanie Chang, joining me next.


[14:42:22] WHITFIELD: A Michigan legislator is apologizing for using racial slurs against her Asian-American opponent for State Senate. According to "The Detroit Metro Times," state representative Bettie Cook Scott, seen on the left, used slurs, and I apologize for even repeating them.

"Ching Chang and Ching Chong," when referring to her opponent state representative Stephanie Change during a recent democratic primary. Witnesses told the paper that during the August 7th elections, Scott also referred to a campaign volunteer as an immigrant and said these immigrants from China are coming over and taking our community from us.

Scott released a statement via her attorney, reading in part, "I deeply regret the comments I made that have proven hurtful to so many. Those are words I never should have said. I humbly apologize to Representative Chang, her husband, Mr. Gray, and to the broader Asian- American community for those disparaging remarks. In this divisive age, we find ourselves in, this is still in the statement, I should not contribute further to that divisiveness."

All right. So now, what?

Joining me, Michigan State Representative Stephanie Chang.

Good to see you, representative.

So what are your thoughts now that there is also an apology coming from Bettie Cook Scott?

STEPHANIE CHANG, MICHIGAN STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Well, first, thanks so much for having me. Obviously myself and many others were really disappointed to hear the remarks from Representative Scott on election day last Tuesday.

But now that there has been the beginning of an apology through her attorney, she and I, along with some other members of the Asian- American community that I've invited, we will be meeting next -- this coming Thursday to talk.

And, you know, I'm really looking forward to that conversation. I hope that it's a productive one. I think that many people were hurt by what she said. And so I'm hopeful that we can have a conversation where she really learns about the impact of her words and why the Asian-American community, the immigrant community, why residents in her own district are so deeply offended and why we really need to do better.

She's an elected official. As a public servant, we really need to respect every single person in our communities. And so I'm hopeful that this conversation can be one where we all learn something and where hopefully we can come away with a better understanding of the respect that we need to show every person.

WHITFIELD: And we invited State Representative Bettie Cook Scott to appear with us. We did not get, you know, a thumbs up on joining us today.

[14:45:00] But that you all will be meeting and that there will be discussions that -- that potentially, I guess, will give you some -- I guess some real hope or some -- a real objective in your conversation.

How do you approach this conversation? What's, you know -- what's on your wish list of accomplishments from that conversation?

CHANG: Sure. Well, so I want to point out a couple things. First, the call for an apology actually started with an Asian-American civic engagement group, Asian Pacific Islander American Vote Michigan, which then actually got, by this point, actually over 30 organizations to sign on.

And so I'm trying to really remind folks that this whole situation is really not about me. It really is about the words that Representative Scott used and the impact on the broader community, because she used those words throughout the day, and many people heard them. And they have had a ripple effect. So --

WHITFIELD: Right. It wasn't just once, but apparently it was, you know, often over many hours, in fact.

CHANG: Yes, yes. And so I think what's really important in a conversation like this on Thursday is to use it as an opportunity to make sure that the Asian-American community and other allies who have really stood by our side on this to actually really educate Representative Scott about what contributions the Asian-American community and immigrants have made to this country, to really hit home the point that we need to do better, that public officials and elected representatives need to hold themselves to a high standard of professional conduct and also to respect every single person in our state that she serves.

So I'm hopeful that the conversation can be one where she really listens to what exactly the impact of her words were. And I hope that we can come away from that meeting, you know, with a sign it of progress.

You know, I'm grateful that there was the start of an apology through her attorney on social media, but I think the most important thing is to actually make sure that we're growing from this situation.

WHITFIELD: All right. Representative Stephanie Chang, thanks so much for your time. Appreciate it. And all the best on the upcoming meetings.

CHANG: Thanks so much.

WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, a sold-out show of the Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees turns tragic in Oklahoma.

More than a dozen fans are injured when a nasty storm moved in packing winds of up to 80 miles an hour.


[14:52:05] WHITFIELD: All right. Some pretty terrifying moments at a Backstreet Boys concert in Oklahoma when a large metal awning fell. There was bad weather that had just moved in. Several people were injured. And one eyewitness says a handful of people left in ambulances. The sold-out concert featured both the Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees.

The opening of the Indy film "Billionaire Boys Club" likely wasn't what actor Kevin Spacey might have hoped it would be.


KEVIN SPACEY, ACTOR: It kind of all over the place, though.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Diverting investments to pay expenses.

SPACEY: Oh, you're new.

I'm from Wall Street. Do you think people really get rich playing by the rules?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where's the money?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was never any money. We ran at a fake account.


WHITFIELD: The movie took in only $126. That's it. $126 on opening day. It's playing in only ten cities. But for comparison, "Baby Driver," which Spacey was in last year, grossed about $20 million opening weekend.

Just for reminders, Spacey was kicked off his hit Netflix show "House of Cards" after being accused of sexual assault and harassment late last year.

All right, this morning, the sounds of song and prayer rang through the church that the late Aretha Franklin attended growing up.




WHITFIELD: The queen of soul began her career singing gospel at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit. Her dad's church. That's where her father was the pastor.

Well, today at that church, Reverend Jesse Jackson, a close friend of the singer, paid tribute to her life and talent. He opened his remarks by calling Franklin the, quote, "Queen of soul with a crown full of jewels." Jewels from singing and jewels from serving.

Aretha franklin will be laid to rest in Detroit August 31st.

Still so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM. But, first, here's this week's "Staying Well."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In laughter yoga, we come together in a group, and we generate laughter as a form of exercise. We make eye contact with other people and engage in playful exercises.

Very good. Very good. Yehey!

It's called laughter yoga because of the diaphragmatic breathing that takes place. When we laugh, it's a full inhalation and a full exhalation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Laughing is good exercise. You feel it from the bottom of your diaphragm up. It really lifted my spirits in ways that I had not anticipated.

[14:55:00] SOPHIE SCOTT, NEUROSCIENTIST, UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON: It feels good to laugh because you get a change in the uptake of the naturally circulating endorphins and those are the body's painkillers. You actually get a measurable increase in your ability to tolerate pain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Laughing yoga definitely helps me to manage stress better. I'm more open to solutions coming to me because I'm in this relaxed space.

SCOTT: For a longer time scale, you get a decrease in cortisol and cortisol is a stress hormone. When you laugh, you feel better. You are more relaxed and you become less stressed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Breath in, stretch up.

I do think laughter is the best medicine. Science shows us it is. And I've experienced it in my own life.



WHITFIELD: Hello, everyone. Thanks again for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredericka Whitfield.

Another day, another war of words between the White House and John Brennan. Today a full frontal assault from the Trump administration blasting the former CIA director.