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Former President Barack Obama to Campaign for Democratic Congressional Candidates in California; Tropical Storm Threatens U.S. East Coast; Report Indicates U.S. Officials Met with Venezuelan Military Members Regarding Possible Coup against Nicolas Maduro; Group Helps Potential Voters Obtain I.D.s in Texas; Former Trump Campaign Adviser George Papadopoulos Gives Interview. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired September 8, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Diane Warren, appreciate your time. Thank you so much.


WHITFIELD: And of course, everybody, you've got to watch "RBG" tomorrow night, 8:00 eastern right here on CNN.

Hello again, everyone, and thank you so much for being with me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We start with a campaign trail showdown. At any moment now former president Barack Obama will take to the stage at a campaign rally in Anaheim, California. Obama and President Trump going head to head to win votes for their parties ahead of the midterms. Obama in particular unleashing jabs at the Trump White House after months of silence, saying yesterday Trump is, quote, a symptom, not the cause." CNN's Dan Merica is there in Anaheim. So what is the expectation, kind of a truncated version of what we saw and heard from Obama yesterday?

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: It's filling up, Fred. You can see behind me people are at the podium speaking mostly about health care at this point. President Obama will speak from that podium shortly, and basically will give the distilled version of the speech he gave yesterday, which really was a direct condemnation of President Donald Trump, something that President Obama has avoided doing for much of Trump's first year and a half in office. He had hued to tradition and avoided attacking his successor, something that other presidents have done, but he argued yesterday that this is not a normal time. That means so it is incumbent on all of us including himself to stand up. And that means it's incumbent on all of us, including himself, to stand up. And that's what he told about 1,300 students yesterday in Illinois. Take a listen to what he said directly about the Trump administration.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: It shouldn't be Democratic or Republican to say we don't target certain groups of people based on what they look like or how they pray. We are Americans. We're supposed to stand up to bullies.


OBAMA: Not follow them. We're supposed to stand up to discrimination. And we're sure as heck supposed to stand unclearly and unequivocally to Nazi sympathizers.


MERICA: So President Obama will campaign here for seven House candidates up and down California. These are the frontline candidates, if you will, the most likely chances Democrats will have to flip districts from red to blue. Seven candidates in districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016 but in which are represented by a Republican in Congress.

I just want to read to you. I just got this from an Obama aide, and they said that he's going to talk about the high stakes. He's going to talk about the need to retake back the House, and how it is incumbent on Democrats to get out and vote because it is important for them to provide a check on President Trump when they get out and vote and when they flip the House blue.

You can see behind me the podium says "Take it back." That is in reference to the House of Representatives. And Democrats here are hopeful that Obama can invigorate the Democrats in this room to get out and vote for seven candidates up and down the state in November. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right, Dan Merica, thank you so much. They are fired up and they're raring to go. And of course, when President Obama makes his way into that room there in Anaheim we'll go there live.

Meantime, to the White House and the hunt inside the Trump administration. A source telling CNN President Trump is obsessed with finding the writer of that anonymous op-ed column who claims to be part of the resistance inside the administration. Trump is now calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate. And a source tells CNN aides believe they are closing in on exposing the writer. CNN's Ryan Nobles joins us live from the White House. So what can you tell us about how they are narrowing the scope?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We don't have a lot of insight, Fred, as to exactly how this investigation into who wrote this op-ed is actually taking place, but there have been several White House aides that say they feel as though they are zeroing in on the person responsible. And it is something that the president himself has made a pretty high priority, he would like to get this person out of his administration because he is concerned about this person still being in meetings, still participating in their governance, and it's someone he obviously didn't trust anymore.

Now, we're told they believe they have it down to a few individuals. Now, we don't exactly know who those individuals are, but one of the president's top advisers, Kellyanne Conway, who herself has said that she did not write the op-ed, did offer our Christiane Amanpour some clues as to who they think it may be. Take a listen.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you think that person is inside the White House?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Most of us don't think that. The president just today said he believes it is somebody in national security.

But what I do believe is that who has said that ought to come forward and say it, or ought to resign because the loyalty is not to the president only, or at all. It's loyalty to the presidency. It's loyalty to the constitution.


[14:05:02] NOBLES: So those are two pretty big clues that Kellyanne Conway gave Christiane in terms of who the White House thinks it could be, someone that doesn't actually work in the White House and is part of the national security apparatus. That obviously could be thousands of people within the administration.

And we should point out there is no evidence that the Trump administration really has any idea who this person could be. We do know that some 25 different administration officials have come out and put statements where they have declaratively said that they are not the authors of this op-ed. And we know the president is amping up the pressure, particularly as it comes to the Justice Department. He has told Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he believe that the Justice Department should investigate this and investigate the "New York Times." the "New York Times" responded in a statement saying, quote, "We're confident that the Department of Justice understands that the First Amendment protects all American citizens and that it would not participate in such a blatant abuse of government power." The Department of Justice itself not commenting on the president's request that they investigate this problem. This is obviously something that is not going away anytime soon, Fred, and it's something that's clearly bothering the president and the people around him. Fred?

WHITFIELD: Indeed. Ryan Nobles, thanks so much, at the White House.

So as we await this speech by President Obama in Anaheim, California, let's talk about the return to the campaign trail. With me is Doug Brinkley, a CNN presidential historian, Salena Zito is a CNN contributor, Michael Blake is the vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, and Tharon Johnson is the former south regional director for the 2012 Obama campaign. Good to see all of you.

And just want to let everybody know that if you end up hearing another voice out of Anaheim, we'll be going to President Obama, so I may have to cut away from all of you. But Doug, let me begin with you, because let's talk about how unusual, unprecedented it is for a former president to publicly criticize a sitting president, but was this strictly an issue of criticism, or was this kind of more of a set the record straight and a challenge to personal responsibility that we saw from former President Barack Obama?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Barack Obama is trying mightily not to invoke the name Donald Trump. They haven't spoken. They haven't had a meeting since Trump assumed the presidency. But alas, it is a strange season right now. We have got the midterms looming. And Barack Obama is still is a great motivator for the Democrats on the campaign trail. I'm teaching right now at Rice University, and some of these students were born at the time of 9/11, meaning all they know is Barack Obama as president.

And one of the big things Obama wants to do is bring out young voters and remind them of a different kind of presidency, go on the college campuses like he did in Urbana yesterday, and now he is in Orange County which is seen as ripe pickings for bringing some of those so- called suburban Republicans to the Democratic side.

And then Michelle Obama has a memoir coming out in November, Barack Obama's book out next year. And his center in Chicago, it will largely be based, the nonprofit part, on bringing out the vote, getting people engaged in democracy. So it's his coming out. We've been waiting when Barack Obama would do this, and it happened in Illinois yesterday.

WHITFIELD: And so, Michael, as the vice chair of the DNC, talk to us about the importance of the former president, because sometimes there is real reticence with a former president to be on the campaign trail because the party wants to be able to say we're looking at fresh, new. Why is that different?

MICHAEL BLAKE, VICE CHAIR, DNC: The exciting part, Fred, is making sure that we are conveying that, yes, the speech happened yesterday, but President Obama has been very clear, we need to have a new generation of leadership that is emerging. When you think about you have a primary happening next week in New York and the opportunity for first African-American woman to become A.G., or you think about what happened in Florida with Andrew Gillum. You see Keisha Lance Bottoms in Atlanta. It is about how do you amplify the new voices to be a part of this process. And that can than by having President Obama out on the trail to mobilize people and say we have 23 seats we need flipped to get the House back, 17 seats we need to flip to get nine changes in the state hours. More than 50 percent of the legislators that will be elected this year that can make sure they are redrawing the lines. So his energy will be able to mobilize people over the next 59 days, and that's why we created to say let's take this energy, let's motivate and do what he said yesterday, make sure to go out and vote in November.

WHITFIELD: And speaking of energy, the two couldn't be any more different, Salena, former President Obama and Trump. And Trump responded while he was stumping for Republicans in North Dakota about Obama's criticism of him. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And he said what did you think of President Obama's speech? And I said I'm sorry, I watched it, but I fell asleep.


[14:10:05] TRUMP: I found he's very good, very good for sleeping.


TRUMP: I think he was trying to take some credit, he was trying to take credit for this incredible thing that is happening to our country.


WHITFIELD: So Salena, he is trying to use a little humor, but do also you think he is blistering because Obama did try to set the record straight of you inherited a lot of good things that you've been able to claim, but let me just let you know, this is what the last eight years were like, particularly when I inherited an economy that was really bad.

SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Here is what I think is so interesting about the two of them. So Barack Obama, even though when he was president he lost a significant amount of seats in both midterms, he always remained personally popular. It's just that his policies weren't always popular, and those impacts were felt down ballot.

President Trump has the opposite sort of impact. He is not personally popular. Even the people that voted for him will be honest and say to you, look, I wish he wouldn't do this or I wish he wouldn't do that. But what remains popular are his policies among these voters. And so I think that clash going forward between now and the midterm Election Day are really going to be a test in particular of those sort of nine percent of the Trump voters who voted for President Obama twice but then went and voted for Donald Trump. How are they persuaded? Are they persuaded by President Obama that they really liked, or are they more persuaded by how it has impacted their wallets? To me that is what I'm looking at, and I think that is the clash that is the most interesting.

WHITFIELD: So Tharon, with the two on the campaign trail, there's going to be an incredible clash of style and substance, because they are going to be trying to make the same arguments but backing it up very differently.

THARON JOHNSON, FORMER SOUTH REGIONAL DIRECTOR, OBAMA 2012: One of the things that was so interesting is that President Obama showed us how a president really is supposed to convey a message to the American people. I was so happy just to really hear his passion and energy. And a lot of people are questioning what took him so long to come out. And he specifically said he wanted to spend some time with former first lady Michelle Obama and his children. He has a daughter now who is college age who is in university. So now I think he no longer wants to sit on the sidelines, and he really wants to come out because he can motivate every sector of the Democratic Party. And also, Fred, he can motivate a lot of forward thinking independent and moderate voters in this country. And so I'm very happy to see President Obama back on the trail, and I

think that he can really crystallize a narrative that Democrats can be proud of as they go into these midterm elections.

WHITFIELD: And Doug, was this also an opportunity for the president -- for President Obama, to end up really kind of laying out the work that he did as it pertained to the economy, to health care? I mean his agenda, it was almost as if he wanted to I guess recrystallize his legacy.

BRINKLEY: Great point, exactly. He wants to remind people of the great recession, that we were in a financial ruin, that there was a panic going on and it was his administration that got us out of the ditch, got the economy up and running that Donald Trump is the great inheritor of the good economy.

And then also he went and killed Usama bin Laden. That was the manhunt that Barack Obama is known for. The big hunt going on in Donald Trump right now is looking for anonymous, somebody who wrote an op-ed piece within the administration. So I think that Obama can come up -- has such accomplishment. He is a two-termer. We're not sure if Donald Trump is surviving one term. And he has about a 95 percent approval rating, Obama, in the African-American community, and so he may hit some of those pockets, trying to bring out the vote.

And as I suggested, college kids like Barack Obama a lot. Joe Biden is pretty popular. There are a lot of people who want Biden to run. Joe Biden said he is going to decide in January.

WHITFIELD: And he will be out there campaigning too for others.

BRINKLEY: He's going to be campaigning, too, yes. So it turns out Obama, Biden still have a lot of juice in them, and they are really leading the charge for the Democrats right now.

WHITFIELD: And then, Salena, the bottom line is will Trump be campaigning and excite more than just his base, will he be getting the attention of those outside of his base?

[14:15:00] ZITO: Right. That is really important. I think we tend to forget that former President Obama and Joe Biden are incredible campaigners, right. But neither of them were able to stave off losing midterms in both 2010 and 2014. And so I think President Trump's challenge is to be able to bring out those independents, Republicans and Democrats, who either sat on the sidelines or voted for him reluctantly to get them to have as much energy as Democrats have to regain the House and/or put a dent in the down ballot seats that they have lost in the past nine years.

WHITFIELD: And then Michael, are Obama and Biden the most prominent Democratic voices who can really stump for support?

BLAKE: Obviously they are critical. Tharon and I had the honor of working for both of them, and we understand the magnitude of their leadership. But it is not just about them. President Obama is also talking about the new leadership. When you think about Kim Foxx in Chicago and Kurt Summers in Chicago or Kristine Reeves out in the state of Washington, or Vi Lyles in Charlotte, you have a new energy that is emerging all across this country.

And when we think about the importance of this moment, it can't just be us talking about what happened in the previous midterms. It's also about what is happening now and the Democratic turnout and the momentum that's happening across this country. When you have turnout that goes to 1978 levels in Florida, when you have Democrats flipping seats, more than 44 around the country state legislatively, we understand we have to move forward.

And at the end of the day, Fred, the reason why this will be different is we will be very clear. Democrats are fighting to make sure you keep your health care, Republicans are trying to take it away. Democrats are fighting for good paying jobs and wages, Republicans are fighting for the top one percent. People have a very clear decision going into the midterm elections. We're seeing that since Trump has been elected and that is why we are very confident in the fall.

WHITFIELD: All right, we'll leave it there. Michael Blake, Doug Brinkley, Salena Zito, Tharon Johnson, thanks to all of you, appreciate it.

Again, we await former President Obama there in Anaheim.

Still ahead, the new state of emergency as the east coast eyes a tropical storm gathering strength as it heads toward the Carolinas. Forecasters saying it could be a major hurricane by the time it arrives.


[14:21:24] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Live pictures out of Anaheim, California. Taking back the House, that would be the mission statement from former president Barack Obama when he takes to the stage there. He is stumping on behalf of seven Democrats who are seeking House seats. We'll take you there live as it happens.

Meantime, tropical storm Florence is on the verge of becoming a hurricane threatening all of the east coast. Moments ago, South Carolina's governor declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm, warning residents to get ready. Here is what he just told reporters.


GOV. HENRY MCMASTER, SOUTH CAROLINA: They issued an executive order pursuant to all this, declared a state of emergency in South Carolina. This is not an evacuation, this is not an order to do anything other than to declare that a state of emergency does exist because of the potential of this hurricane coming here. And we are preparing for the worst and of course hoping for the best.


WHITFIELD: CNN meteorologist Ivan Cabrera is in the CNN Weather Center with the very latest. Ivan? IVAN CABRERA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, Fredricka, good to see you. And a good call there from the governor, I tell you, because despite the fact that this is a tropical storm, right, we have in the forecast is becoming quite a powerful hurricane. Where is tropical storm Florence, the latest advisory, 65-mile-an-hour winds? Well, it's still 1,500 miles away from the mainland U.S. You see Bermuda and of course the east coast.

Here is the problem. Tropical storm will continue to move to the west. As it does so, it is going to encounter some very favorable conditions for intensification. Warm water temperatures and very low wind shear, two of the ingredients that we need for explosive intensification. In fact, this is the track, I want to pause it a little bit so you can see here what happens.

This is Sunday morning. We now have a category one hurricane, but look what happens in just 24 hours, it goes from a cat one to cat three, and we're not stopping there. As it continues turning to the west, look at that. By Wednesday morning, a category four hurricane. And then there is on Thursday, only a few hundred miles away from the east coast. I think at this point we are running out and probably have run out of time for this to curve out.

So this is the cone of uncertainty, about 450 miles wide. So if you are watching this from north Florida really all the way into North Carolina, this is going to be your storm it looks like right now. These spaghetti models that we talk about, you don't see too much spaghetti here, right. They have great consensus.

This is still not good enough for us. We have to really pinpoint where this is going to make landfall. The problem is it's still too early. Two of the models that you are familiar with, the American and the European, look at the difference here. There is the European making landfall in Charleston on Thursday evening, and still offshore with the American model off the Carolina coast. So we have a ways to go before we can fine tune that. But at this point here, again, this is the area of concern here. We're talking about the potential of an either category three or category four hurricane that has not happened in decades across the east coast. We'll keep you posted throughout the day, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my goodness. All right, fingers crossed. Ivan Cabrera, thank you so much.

Meantime, we are standing by to hear from former president Barack Obama momentarily out of Anaheim, California. He is stumping for Congressional candidates in that state. His appearance comes just one day after he delivered a stinging rebuke of President Trump and mentioning his name. So what might we hear a today? We'll bring you those comments live.

Plus, a surprising revelation that U.S. officials met with Venezuelan military officers who were planning to overthrow their president.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [14:29:22] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Live pictures as we continue to watch out of Anaheim, California. Momentarily President Barack Obama, former president, expected to take to the stage there. He is stumping for seven Congressional Democratic candidates, hoping to turn those seats from red to blue. We'll bring you Obama's comments when it happens.

Meantime CNN is learning that the Trump administration held secret meetings with rebel Venezuelan military officers to discuss plans to overthrow the country's president Nicolas Maduro, that's according to current and former U.S. officials. The meetings took place several times over the last year, but Washington ultimately decided against supporting a coup.

[14:30:03] Joining me right now is CNN national security analyst Samantha Vinograd. She's also a former adviser to the national security adviser. Good to see you, Sam. So rebel military officials from Venezuela were apparently the ones who initiated the contact. What is the first thing that U.S. national security officials would do when approached like that?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: The first thing that they would do in my experience, Fred, would be to identify the problem that we're trying to solve for. We're all very fixated on this word "coup" and the outreach that the administration did, but we have to take a step back and think about this like if we were in the Situation Room. We would try to assess what would these military officials bring us, why would we go speak with them?

And the issue at hand is that Nicolas Maduro is a dictator at this point who is presiding over a gross humanitarian catastrophe. Millions of Venezuelans are fleeing, the economy is in shambles. And is one of the tools in the tool kit supporting regime change through a coup, that is certainly something that the administration would look at. They'd see if these were viable interlocutors. But in my experience, at least under President Obama, we ruled out supporting coups as one of the tools that we would actually implement.

WHITFIELD: So the "New York Times" is reporting that there was some suspicion that the initial contact might be a setup to make the us look like it was plotting against Maduro. How serious a concern would that be?

VINOGRAD: It's always a concern. We know he that Nicolas Maduro has spread these conspiracy theories as recently as a drone attack a few weeks ago that people living in Miami supported by the United States were trying to get him out of power.

And the truth is, Fred, there are a lot of leaders that we would like to see leave power. Nicolas Maduro, the Iranian regime which has taken part and is currently waging at least an overt campaign against. And previously, as you know, members of the administration have called for a regime change in places like North Korea. So if anybody reached out from Venezuela, said that they were trying to help us in a goal of getting somebody else in, you'd really have to do sharp intelligence analysis about who they were, who they were working for, and how viable they were.

WHITFIELD: But what about the risk that the U.S. would have in unilaterally trying to lot or be part of any kind of overthrowing of another government? It is very different if there were a coalition type of effort, right?

VINOGRAD: Exactly. And we got out of the business of regime change, at least when I was there, for several reasons. You look at the history of Latin America and U.S. support for coups in places like Brazil or Chile or Cuba, and it is a slippery slope. As much as you want to get someone out of power and think that you may be instilling someone who at that moment is more attractive and more amenable to the policy issues that you work on, you can't control them. And so we look at a country like Brazil where the presidential candidate actually was just stabbed a few days ago, but after we supported a coup there, there was torture instituted by the military regime that, again, we couldn't control.

And that's why when there is a coup in Turkey, you heard President Obama say he didn't support it, he supported the democratically elected government. Coups are a very, very slippery slope.

WHITFIELD: And Venezuela has its attributes as being strategically important. What might they be?

VINOGRAD: Well, Venezuela, it is interesting, has the largest oil reserves in the world and has been a net oil exporter for some time. Their production is way down because of mismanagement and other production technological declines. But Venezuela has been deteriorating for a long time, first under Chavez and now under Maduro. It has become a humanitarian disaster. And there's a real question about what the president is willing to do to address issues that he, President Trump, cares about.

There are mass migrant flows coming out of Venezuela that will impact and are impacting immigration flows in South America and potentially Central America and up through the United States. So there's a lot of highway between, for example, putting more sanctions on Venezuela's oil sector and supporting something like regime change. But those are exactly the conversations you have in the Situation Room when you look at all these different tools.

WHITFIELD: Samantha Vinograd, thanks so much.


WHITFIELD: Still ahead, nearly two years after President Trump's inauguration, a government photographer is admitting he intentionally edited a picture to make the crowd look bigger than it was. Who asked him to do it, next.


WHITFIELD: A surprising revelation surrounding President Trump's inauguration. New documents show a government photographer cropped photos taken at the event to make the crowd appear larger. Those changes coming after several calls from the White House, the day after the inauguration former press secretary Sean Spicer was visibly angry over images in the media showing President Trump's crowd was much smaller than Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration turnout.


SEAN SPICER, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY: Photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way in one particular tweet to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall. This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.


WHITFIELD: Joining me now with more on this, CNN correspondent Polo Sandoval. So what do we know about the cropped pictures, the before, the after, in between?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, let me try to explain why this is in the news cycle again. "The Guardian" reported on some documents that it received in response to a Freedom of Information request it had filed a while back here. Those documents were prepared by the U.S. inspector general revealed that President Trump and other White House officials had reached out to the head, the then head of the National Park Service requesting more of the pictures of that inauguration event that took place in January of 2017.

[14:40:12] That eventually trickled down to other staffers at the Park Service. And according to one official who was cited in that report, that they were under the impression that the White House perhaps wanted some of these photographs cropped. So that is what they did. So it seems that there was an assumption there. However, that official does point out and does acknowledge that at no point did they receive a directive from President Trump or the White House to crop those pictures so as to focus more on the crowds.

Also something that we're still trying to find out that the article doesn't really go into here is if those photographs that were reportedly cropped were the ones that were released publicly. So that is also something very important to keep an eye out for. And also, CNN has reached out to the White House for a response. We're still waiting to hear back from them, Fred.

So as we wait for that, it's just important to keep in mind this is just adding more of a behind the scenes of what likely played out only a day into the Trump administration back in January of 2017. They were trying to obviously prove a point that we all know was simply not true.

WHITFIELD: The images and the story that won't go away. All right, Polo Sandoval, thank you so much.

Registering to vote, presenting an I.D. when you are ready to cast a ballot might sound simple, but it can be more complicated than you think. Details on the problem and the solutions next.


[14:46:00] WHITFIELD: Happening very soon, former president Barack Obama stumping for seven congressional candidates in California. He will be taking to the stage there in Anaheim momentarily. We'll take you there live. The objective, to take back the House.

Meantime, several states have restrictive laws in place requiring identification to vote. Proponents say the laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud. In practice the laws can prevent eligible Americans from exercising their right to vote. Getting together the documents required to get an I.D. can take time and money that some people just simply don't have. Here is help for people who fear the cost will prevent them from casting a vote. Here is Victor Blackwell.


BLACKWELL: Michelle Coto is an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Houston. What's her major? She doesn't have an answer. But she does have an enthusiastic answer to another question.

Are you looking forward to voting?


BLACKWELL: This will be your first time.

COTO: Yes.

BLACKWELL: But Michelle is one of more than one of 600,000 Texans who are otherwise eligible to vote but do not have a state required I.D.

COTO: You should be able to identify yourself whenever you're voting so they make sure there's no fraud. But then again, some people don't have resources to get one.

BLACKWELL: Texas will enforce its new voter I.D. law the first time this November, and as Election Day nears, voter rights groups are scrambling to get I.D.s into the hands of eligible voters, many of whom cannot afford the process.

CHRISTINA SANDERS, SPREAD THE VOTE TEXAS: It is challenging to be poor and want to vote right now in Texas.

BLACKWELL: Christina Sanders is the Texas state director for Spread the Vote.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Make sure you're heard.

BLACKWELL: It's a nonpartisan, nonprofit volunteer based group working in Tennessee, Virginia, Texas, Georgia, and Florida, five states with voter id laws and with marquise midterm races.

SANDERS: Texas has one of the strictest laws, and it's very challenging to get identification or a driver's license in this state.

BLACKWELL: A 2013 law that required voters to present one of a handful of accepted state or federal I.D.s was blocked during the 2016 election. A federal court determined it disenfranchised minorities and poor voters. The state reworked it to allow a voter without necessary I.D. to sign a declaration confirming his or her identity. But a federal judge blocked that too before an appeals court decided the adjusted law would be enforced this November.

SANDERS: On average it costs $40 to get an I.D., which includes getting necessary birth certificates or any type of proof of residency.

BLACKWELL: But for some, the challenge is not primarily financial. David Robinson lives just outside Austin. His out of state id expired in 2009. To get a Texas I.D., he says he was told he needed to track down his California birth certificate.

DAVID ROBINSON, TEXAS VOTER: It would require going to a notary public to certify I was who I was, which put me in the odd position of needing a photo I.D. to get a photo I.D. I could probably sign the affidavit saying I couldn't get the I.D., but then if somebody decided in their mind there was some way I would go get it, not only would my vote be invalidated, but I would be in some legal jeopardy.

BLACKWELL: According to the document, the reasonableness of your impediment cannot be questioned, which means the state wouldn't challenge his claim. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says the revised voter I.D. law removes any burden on voters who cannot obtain a photo I.D. But Sanders predicts the changes and controversy will scare off some eligible voters.

SANDERS: Every time that there are new laws, and a lot of changes and a lot of confusion, that always deters people from voting.

BLACKWELL: Michelle has more work to do to get her I.D. But after months of help from spread the vote volunteers, David will have his state I.D. in time to vote in person in November.

[14:50:03] ROBINSON: It is going to feel incredible. The best way to put it is I feel like I'm a real person again.

BLACKWELL: Victor Blackwell, CNN, Houston.


WHITFIELD: All right, and more legal trouble for the president and his attorney general after the first Trump campaign aide convicted in the Russia probe breaks his silence for the first time. What he is saying about Trump and Sessions.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The one consistent thing in our lives that has given a purpose is painting.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Marcus Thomas did not plan on being a painter. But at age 26, the avid outdoorsman hit a tree while skiing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The right people were in place to save my life, resuscitate me three times on the way to the hospital.

GUPTA: Marcus was paralyzed from the neck down. While adjusting to his new life, a gift from future wife Ann helped Marcus picture what could be possible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I bought him the water colors. He started painting. And that was it. I mean, he was hooked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd never painted, not even doodled. And it gave me that little bit of purpose. So I have one brush, and I just make calendars, and there's someone to squeeze the paint up for me.

GUPTA: The passion turned into a profession.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we just started doing the art shows, and as time progressed, we just started doing more and more shows, and now it is just what we do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I realized that I could live outdoors through my painting. The freedom of thought is much the same as the freedom of flight.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


WHITFIELD: Incredible.

Convicted Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos is speaking for the first time exclusively to CNN's Jake Tapper. Papadopoulos maintains he does not remember telling anyone on the Trump campaign that he was told the Russians had Hillary Clinton's e-mails, but he also left open the possibility that it happened.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: There are going to be people out there that think there's no way George Papadopoulos didn't tell anyone on the campaign. Did you tell anyone on the campaign?

GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS: As far as I remember I absolutely did not.

TAPPER: You didn't tell Corey Lewandowski?

PAPADOPOULOS: As far as I remember I absolutely did not share this information with anyone on the campaign.

TAPPER: Not Sam Clovis?


TAPPER: Dearborn, Mashburn?


TAPPER: Walid Phares, none of them?

PAPADOPOULOS: I might have, but I have no recollection of doing so. I can't guarantee it. All I can say is my memory is telling me that I never shared it with anyone on the campaign.


WHITFIELD: Papadopoulos also contradicted sworn testimony by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The former Trump campaign adviser claims that Sessions and then candidate Trump both supported his idea of setting up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Listen.


TAPPER: When did you first meet Donald Trump?

PAPADOPOULOS: March 31st at the national security meeting.

TAPPER: There is a photo of you at the table. Candidate Trump was there, Senator Jeff Sessions is there. What was discussed at that meeting in terms of Russia, in terms of meeting with Putin?

PAPADOPOULOS: As far as I remember, it was I who brought up anything regarding Russia. I was under the impression that an individual I had met in Rome, the so-called professor, was able to provide high level connections in Russia that would result in some sort of summit or meeting, mostly for a photo-op.

So I sat down and I looked the candidate Trump -- I looked at candidate Trump directly in his eyes and said I can do this for you if it is in your interests and it's in the campaign's interests. And the collective energy in the room, of course there were some dissenters, but the collective energy in the room seemed to be interested.

TAPPER: The collective energy. Was Donald Trump interested?

PAPADOPOULOS: The candidate, he gave me sort of a nod. He wasn't committed either way. But I took it as he was thinking.

TAPPER: Senator Jeff Sessions was there, too, at the table?


TAPPER: What was his response?

PAPADOPOULOS: My recollection was that the senator was actually enthusiastic about a meeting between the candidate and President Putin.

TAPPER: So you say that then senator, now attorney general Sessions was enthusiastic about the idea of candidate Trump meeting Putin, but he has said the exact opposite. He says -- he testified before Congress saying that he, quote, pushed back when you raised the possibility of the meeting with Russia. That is not true, you're saying?

PAPADOPOULOS: I don't remember that.

TAPPER: You don't remember him pushing back?


TAPPER: You remember him saying this is a good idea.

PAPADOPOULOS: I remember him being enthusiastic about a potential meeting between the candidate and President Putin after I raised the question.


WHITFIELD: Sessions released a statement through his lawyer, saying this, quote, "Attorney General Sessions has publicly testified under oath about his recollection of this meeting and he stands by his testimony."

And of course, you can see Jake Tapper's entire exclusive interview tonight in a CNN special report, "The Mysterious Case of George Papadopoulos." That is tonight, 8:00 eastern right here on CNN.

Thanks so much for being with me this Saturday. I'll see you again tomorrow. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The news continues right now with Erica Hill.