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Attorney General Jeff Sessions Will Testify Before The Senate Intelligence Committee On Tuesday; Donald Trump Saying That He's Willing To Testify About Tapes; Comey Admits He Arranged The Leak Of His Own Memos In Hopes It Would Force Appointment Of A Special Counsel In Russia Probe; Mixed Reactions To Comey's Testimony; Rapper Ice Cube And Others Take Bill Maher To Task For Using A Racial Slur On His Show; Taliban Is Claiming Responsibility For Shooting Afghanistan. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 10, 2017 - 18:00   ET


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You are live in the "CNN Newsroom." I'm Boris Sanchez in for Ana Cabrera. Thank you so much for joining us.

This just in to CNN, Attorney General Jeff Sessions will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday. Now, he was already scheduled to appear before congress that day but in front a different house and senate panel.

Either way, he is expected to be grilled on his role in the firing of former FBI Director James Comey as well as his meetings with Russian officials during the Presidential campaign.

Meantime, for President Trump the countdown is on. House investigators are giving him two weeks to hand over any memos or audio recordings of his conversations with fired FBI Director James Comey and, yesterday, the president said that, if necessary, he's willing to give sworn testimony.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So he said those things under oath. Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of these events?



SANCHEZ: The next few days may be absolutely pivotal. The Senate Judiciary Committee could receive copies of Comey's memos as early as Monday.

I want to bring in White House correspondent Athena Jones. She's in Branchburg, New Jersey, not far from where the President is spending the weekend.

Athena, let's talk about Jeff Sessions now set to testify before the Senate Intel Committee instead of two smaller budget panels. What does this change? ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Boris. Well, this is

significant. Of course, there are a lot of questions that senate investigators have for the attorney general on the heels of the testimony by the fired FBI director.

We can expect him to face tougher questioning about Comey's firing and other issues than he would in talking about the budget. We know -- I should mention here that it's not clear yet at this point whether that hearing is going to be open or close.

We don't know if we're going to be able to watch Sessions being -- answering questions and being grilled by the members of that committee but remember that during the former FBI director's testimony on Thursday he talked about sessions several times.

He talked about -- he questioned why the attorney general played a role in his firing. Comey, of course, believed that he was fired because of his handling of the Russia investigation. Sessions, of course, recused himself from the Russia investigation. So that's one thing that Comey brought up.

Comey also talked about how Sessions was one of the folks, along with Jared Kushner, who lingered in the oval office at the end of a group meeting, after the President asked everyone to clear the room and just Comey to stay behind.

That was when the President asked Comey to let this Flynn matter go, that -- the investigation into his now former national security adviser, so he could be questioned about that. He also could -- he also -- Comey later told Sessions that he didn't want to be alone with the President, and that this situation should be avoided.

So, there are a lot of areas that they're going to have questions for Sessions. Boris?

SANCHEZ: All right. Athena Jones, reporting from New Jersey where the president is spending the weekend. Thank you, Athena.

Donald Trump saying that he's willing to testify and he's teased that he'll reveal more about possible tapes soon but tactics like this aren't really new for the president. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You say that you've sent investigators there, have your investigators been able to unearth anything more that has given your argument credence?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will let you know that at a future date.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'll let you know that at a future date. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You sent investigators to Hawaii, and you said,

quote, "They cannot believe what they're finding." What have they found?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We got to see what happens, George.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What have they found?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's none of your business right now. We're going to see what happens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have they found anything?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to see what happens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What have you come up with your investigators?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I don't want to say that now but it's going to be very interesting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I decide to run for office, I'll produce my tax returns, absolutely.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Maybe, I'm going to do the tax returns when Obama does his birth certificate.

Maybe, when we find out the true story on Hillary's e-mails.

Wiretap covers a lot of different things. I think you're going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next few weeks.


SANCHEZ: Joining me now, CNN Global Affairs Analyst Kimberly Dozier and deputy managing editor of "The Weekly Standard" Kelly Jane Torrance.

Kim, let's start with you. I don't know if you're a betting lady but if you were, does the president testify under oath?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, he said he would and I can't see Robert Mueller turning that opportunity down but what I'm watching, the widening, sort of, chaos from this event is that it is crashing through both his domestic policy and his foreign policy and this continuing controversy is probably going to limit how much he can get done this year immediately, maybe into the second year of his presidency and beyond.

I've been speaking to foreign diplomats who already thought they were unsure as to whether they could count on some of his assurances or of those around him and now watching this, they think that this White House is basically going to be spending three quarters of its time dealing with this investigation. SANCHEZ: Well, Kelly Jane, that's an interesting point that Kimberly

brings up because on Fox News after Comey's testimony, Donald Trump, Jr. said, "The cloud is gone. We could now finally focus on the agenda."

We're close to the end of infrastructure week and nobody's really talking about infrastructure, how much does this Russia probe and now potentially an obstruction of justice probe hinder the president's ability to get anything done?

KELLY JANE TORRANCE, DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR, THE WEEKEND STANDARD: Yes. This is the most exciting infrastructure week I have ever seen. Isn't it for you, Boris?


TORRANCE: Yes -- no, I mean, nobody -- of course, you know, Trump went to Cincinnati. He had people here come to Washington to talk about infrastructure and nobody's talking about that and nobody cares and, really, it's -- that was one of the few issues on which you could've seen bipartisan support.

You know, democrats were very interested in increasing spending on infrastructure as they are with generally increasing spending but they don't want to work with him and one reason we're not talking about it is because of the Comey thing and the other reason is that, Trump, because of scandals like this Comey thing and the Russian investigation, he is just toxic and democrats don't want to do anything that might hand him something that he can call a win.

SANCHEZ: Kelly Jane, staying with you, the president in his defense said that he was vindicated by some of Comey's testimony, arguing that he's not under investigation for collusion but then he also says that Comey lied, questioning his credibility. How can both of those things be true?

TORRANCE: That's the number one question I've had myself, Boris, Trump's statement. If he's a liar, then how did he vindicate you, which is it? Is he a liar or was he telling the truth and you're vindicated?

You know, I think the other most interesting thing that came out of Trump's lawyer's statement is that Trump admits that he did mention General Flynn in his meeting with Comey.

Now, he says he didn't say to -- he didn't tell Comey I hope you can let it go but he said, you know, General Flynn's a good guy, you know, he's having some tough times right now. I mean, why would President Trump bring up General Flynn in a private meeting with the FBI director, right?

Even if he did not say the words, "I hope you can let this go," I think just mentioning him in that private meeting is enough. I think Comey certainly would've got the message just from that that Trump is trying to send a message about General Flynn. So, you know, was he vindicated? It's hard to see that. There's

certainly no smoking gun as they say of obstruction of justice but even Trump is admitting he mentioned General Flynn in that private meeting and that to me is enough to sort of seriously question the judgment of this president.

SANCHEZ: Well, Kim, one of the things that's been most fought over in is this whole Comey testimony is the fact that the meeting was private. Some republicans coming to the president's defense saying that maybe he doesn't know any better when he ask the attorney general, his son-in-law, the vice president to leave the room to have that conversation with James Comey.

Senator Susan Collins had an interesting take on why he did that. I want you to listen to this.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: The first interaction that the President had with Mr. Comey in early January at Trump Towers, it was the FBI director who cleared the room so that he could have a one-on- one discussion with the President about that salacious dossier and I wonder if perhaps that made the President think that whenever there's a sensitive conversation to be had with the FBI director, that it should be one-on-one.


SANCHEZ: Kimberly, do you think that James Comey kind of set a tone that President Trump was following when they first had that meeting?

DOZIER: I have to say, Senator Collins has a fair point. Perhaps he thought that was the way these things are done. I also got to go cover the president on Thursday while the rest of America was watching the Comey hearings or so it felt here in Washington, D.C.

There was an evangelical event that he spoke at and everyone in that room was with him. He made some quip where he obliquely mentioned the mainstream media and there were boos in support of him around the room.

They don't believe Comey. They don't care what was said and my worry is that this is just going to drive a wedge. You know, as an American, I would like to see the two sides start talking again and instead this hearing is just going to divide each side further. You got your opinions on who's the white hat and who's the black hat and never the twain shall meet.

SANCHEZ: An interesting point to mention though is that the president did go after Hillary Clinton and the Clinton's in general in a very harsh way because of Bill Clinton's private meeting with then Attorney General Loretta Lynch on that tarmac.

We have to leave it there but we thank you, ladies, Kim Dozier and Kelly Jane Torrance for joining us this afternoon. We have break --

TORRANCE: Thanks, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Thank you. We have breaking details of a phone conversation between the top diplomats from Russia and the United States that happened earlier today.

The American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke today with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and according to an official Russian statement, Lavrov's message to Tillerson was clear, the United States needs to stop bombing pro-Assad military forces in Syria.

I want you to look at part of that statement, quote, "Sergey Lavrov strongly disagreed with the U.S. strikes against pro-government forces, calling for specific measures to prevent similar incidents in the future."

Now, this request from the Russians comes after at least three air strikes by the United States against pro-Syrian forces. We have plenty of news to get to tonight, coming up, how the President's tweeted threat about tapes of James Comey set off a chain of events that led to this moment.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: The President surely knows whether he taped me and if he did, my feelings aren't hurt, release the entire -- release all the tapes. I'm good with it.


SANCHEZ: "Lordie, I hope there are tapes," said James Comey. And later more than more than 19 million people tuned in to watch his testimony with wildly different views as to who came out on top.

We'll take a look at how both sides are declaring victory. You're live in a "CNN Newsroom."


SANCHEZ: It was one of the most astonishing revelations that came from James Comey's testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee this week. The fired FBI director admitting that he arranged the leak of his own memos in hopes that it would force the appointment of a special counsel in the Russia probe and, as we saw, he got his wish.

CNN's Brian Todd reports.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): James Comey revealed his skills as an inside Washington operator with an extraordinary talent for protecting his flanks. The fired FBI director testified that he arranged the back-channel disclosure to the public of his one-on-one conversations with President Trump about the investigation into Michael Flynn.

On Thursday, May 11th two days after Comey was fired, "The New York Times" published an account of Comey's January dinner with President Trump and whether the topic of loyalty came up. The next day, the President tweeted, quote, "James Comey better hope that there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press."

Comey testified the threatening tweet prompted him to take action.

COMEY: I woke up in the middle of the night on Monday night because it didn't dawn on me originally that there might be corroboration for our conversation, there might be a tape and my judgment was I needed to get that out into the public square and so I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter.

TODD (voice-over): In a remarkable admission, Comey revealed he did it to impact the investigation he was no longer in charge of.

COMEY: I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.

TODD (voice-over): The fired FBI director seemingly engineering a special counsel investigation into whether the White House obstructed justice.

MICHAEL ZELDIN, FORMER SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: I've never seen that from anyone in the government or who has been fired from the government. It is an extraordinary measure which I think reflects Jim Comey's lack of trust of the President and the justice department apparatus to do the right thing.

TODD (voice-over): And, it's part of a road map James Comey has laid out in this case, leaving a trail of documents and witnesses for investigators.

First, he wrote memos to himself to detail his private conversations with the president.

COMEY: I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting and so I thought it really important to document.

TODD (voice-over): And, important to provide details. His written testimony describing his January dinner with the president saying they were, quote, "Seated at a small oval table in the center of the green room, two navy stewards waited on us."

In another description of a February oval office meeting, Comey details exactly who sat in a semicircle of chairs and says, quote, "As the participants started to leave the oval office, the attorney general lingered by my chair but the President thanked him and said he wanted to speak only with me."

MICHAEL ALLEN, FORMER MAJORITY STAFF DIRECTOR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think he provides a road map to others on here are other people who may be able corroborate certain instances from my narrative and here are other people that you might want to talk to.

TODD: The White House quickly brushed back on Comey's accounts. Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders declaring the president is, quote, "Not a liar," and Mr. Trump's outside counsel Marc Kasowitz refuting Comey's account that the President demanded loyalty in one meeting.

Kasowitz also said Comey's leaking of his memos of meetings with the president were unauthorized disclosures of privileged conversations. Brian todd, CNN, Washington.

SANCHEZ: Brian, thank you, joining me now, CNN national security analyst and former assistant secretary at the department of homeland security, Juliette Kayyem.

Juliette, we thank you for taking some time out of your weekend to chat with us. There's no deep throat mystery, in this case. In other words we know who the source is. Comey came right out and said I did it. I leaked the memos to get a special counsel appointed. Some of Comey's supporters, some people have sympathized and looked up to him have said that that was inappropriate. I'm interested in hearing your reaction to that. Did you think it was inappropriate or potentially illegal?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: No, definitely not illegal and so the term "leak" which sort of sounds nefarious and, you know, like, it has criminal activity certainly doesn't apply here.

This was not classified information and even if one could argue that Trump had an expectation of some sort of privacy or that this was -- that this conversation was government property, Trump -- the President Trump, essentially, opened the door when he tweeted out about these conversations.

So the illegality part I think is just -- is more political than legal. I do -- I think everyone's willing to admit it's unusual -- not so much that Comey took copious notes. I think that was probably appropriate but that he sent it to a friend to release to a reporter.

I think what we have to understand to explain that sort of unique behavior is the extent to which Director Comey felt that no one, at least, in the White House and, certainly, through the attorney general chain of command could be trusted because by that stage, I think he had serious questions about Jeff Sessions and I think he also had concerns about whether the president would lie about those conversations but nothing illegal about this.

I think -- I don't think anyone thinks that a case would be brought or could be brought and even if it was, Donald Trump allegedly -- you know, sort of, opened the door for it already.

SANCHEZ: Yes. Well, and Trump's attorneys have already said they're going to be filing a complaint against James Comey. I also want to get your reaction to some of the most emotional parts of the testimony, right at the beginning when James Comey talked directly to his former FBI colleagues. I want our viewers to watch this.


COMEY: The administration then chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI, by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader.

Those were lies, plain and simple and I am so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them and I'm so sorry that the American people were told them. I worked every day at the FBI to help make that great organization better.


SANCHEZ: He went on to say that it was the honor of his life to lead the FBI. You really felt what he was saying there. Now you and I actually spoke extensively at the beginning of the transition shortly after the election about how there might be a rift between the intelligence community and Donald Trump based on certain things that he said about a lot of agencies becoming politicized. This is another example of that. Is the trust between the White House and the FBI right now just gone?

KAYYEM: I think it is not gone. I think that there are significant challenges which could harm us all. In other words, the FBI is doing a lot more than the Trump/Russia investigation and so the first step is getting a new FBI director in, so, there's been a nomination and getting someone in who is going to be considered legitimate by the FBI agents but so long as Donald Trump sort of abused the Russia/Trump investigation as him against the FBI, there will remain a rift and the way I tend to look at it is this really isn't a he said-he said thing, although, the reporters are sort of saying that, you know, Comey versus Trump.

There are so many pieces to this investigation at this stage both about the Russia aspect of it but, of course, also about obstruction of justice that it's really no longer one word against another word and I think the FBI will continue with their investigations about terrorism and corruption. They will also continue with their investigations obviously about the Russia case but it's not a great place to be right now for America's safety and security, let alone governance.

SANCHEZ: On top of all of that we're focusing so much on this testimony and perhaps the most powerful moment of all of it was when James Comey mentioned that we were attacked by Russia and it's not anybody's focus right now. Juliette Kayyem, we thank you, again, for your perspective.

KAYYEM: Thank you. I call that the dog that didn't bark. It was a good point that we're not talking about the big issue.

SANCHEZ: Yes, thank you again.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Coming up, Trump supporters say it is over while critics say not even close. A look at how both sides are somehow claiming victory after James Comey's bombshell testimony. You're live in the "CNN Newsroom."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SANCHEZ: Depending on who you ask, James Comey's testimony before congress this week was either really bad for the president or really good. CNN's Brian Stelter has been following the wildly different media reactions that could make you wonder whether we were all even watching the same hearing.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a hearing seen in the eye of the beholder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A huge victory for Donald Trump today and a massive defeat for the democrats and, of course, the propaganda media.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, this is going to end bad.

STELTER (voice-over): And, on the right, some conservatives are declaring victory and saying it's already over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Jim Comey's credibility is at about zero right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, that this has all past, he can go back to doing what he promised he was going to do. There's no clouds, there's nothing getting in his way. They can't be obstructionist.

STELTER (voice-over): Trump's son says the clouds have parted but if you change the channel, it is stormier than ever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, today was, really, was as it was predicted to be, the worst day of the Trump presidency.

STELTER (voice-over): It's like hearing about a different hearing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Imagine right now, at this moment, the seething rage that you know the president is living with.

STELTER (voice-over): This battle of ideas is not going away. It's a choose-your-own news situation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, let's see, where are we now? A month of shrieking hype, millions of words of ink, hundreds of hours of the shrillest television ever produced add up to pretty much nothing.

STELTER (voice-over): There's a split between the pro-Trump media and mainstream media. Fox opinion hosts are hoping for the best, while veterans of D.C. scandals know there's much more to come.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is a big task. I think we now have about five to 10 percent --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Five to 10 percent?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of the answers to the questions we need.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're sort of in the middle -- beginning of the middle of this process, certainly, not at the end of this process.

STELTER: Contradicting Trump's son, experts are saying this is far from over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My general rule is when things look pretty bad, from what we know, it's usually worse. This is extremely serious.

STELTER: Try telling that to Trump backers like Corey Lewandowski, who claim leaks are the real story.

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, ONE AMERICA NEWS NETWORK: What we've seen from Jim Comey is his goal is to manipulate the media, manipulate the press. He is part of the deep -- he's everything that's wrong in Washington.

STELTER: On Twitter, the President confirms that he's watching, thanking Fox's conservative themed morning show for its great reporting and blasting what he calls false statements and lies from Comey. The two men can't agree on the facts. And in a polarized media world, neither can the country.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A fascinating piece. Brian Stelter joins me now. Brian, these different takes, kind of hilarious because we don't watch the same thing.

STELTER: The same thing.

SANCHEZ: It's a Rorschach Test for where you stand on this president, isn't it?

STELTER: Yes, absolutely. We know that about 20 million people watched at home on television on Thursday, not hearing the spin, but the actual words out of Comey's mouth. Well, we know other people watched at offices, or at bars or online via streaming. We don't know the full number, but we do know this hearing was seen by a wide spot of the country.

What happened afterwards -- the spin afterwards is where the divide exists, and it is a dramatic divide, almost kind of the Grand Canyon when it comes to politics, where it is a massive gap, depending on whether you are apt to believe Trump or they're apt to believe Comey.

You look at the headlines from conservative media outlets. They're declaring victory on narrow terms. They're saying because Comey said Trump was not personally under investigation in the winter or the spring, that means Trump was vindicated, that means this was all a bogus side show and that we can move on. Here, Donald Trump's son say that to Hannity in that segment.

On the other hand, you've got Trump critics declaring victory in broad terms, saying it's obvious there's a lot of problems here and we're just getting started in these investigations. Honestly, I think the only winner on Thursday might have been Vladimir Putin. It might have been Russia, because we are continuing to argue about what happened in the last fall and about what Trump is or isn't doing about it.

Meanwhile, Comey is up there on Capitol Hill saying Russia attacked the United States and will be back, and we've heard relatively little about that piece of the story.

SANCHEZ: Right. We need to do something about this, and really, nothing is being done because the focus is here. Let me ask you this, watching that testimony, do you think it moved the needle for anybody? Did it change anybody's mind? Because it seems like both sides, as you said, there's a Grand Canyon where people are just entrenched in their perspectives. What do you think?

STELTER: I haven't seen anyone's mind changed. I haven't read any columns, any newspaper accounts, any opinion pieces from anybody saying their minds have been changed. I was talking to John Berman, our colleague, about this last night. He said he talked to a lot of people that night. All of them watched the hearing. None of them could say they have changed their views on this issue.

It is something that's going to be with us for months, if not years, to come, given Mueller's investigation, given all that is still going on at Washington. But when you hear Trump's loyalists saying it's over, we've won. We've been vindicated. Again, they're declaring that on a very, sort of, narrow definition of victory.

I mean, they're trying to create a narrative going forward, that this has been settled. This is a settled issue, when in fact, there are still many investigations unfolding.

SANCHEZ: Definitely. Now, we have to talk about Donald Trump's Twitter use, because it came out that part of the reason James Comey leaked these memos is because of a very specific tweet from the President, threatening -- there it is. James Comey better hope that there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.

Clearly, the President may have shot himself in the foot here.

STELTER: If you believe Comey, that's absolutely right, that Trump's Twitter account is a destabilizing force for his presidency. So far though, he doesn't seem to believe that. He's (INAUDIBLE)

SANCHEZ: Well, he keeps contradicting the message from his own people, whether, you know -- the focus on infrastructure week. And they loaded his schedule the day of Comey's testimony so that he wouldn't live tweet. It seems that everybody but he is aware that it's not a good thing for him sometimes.

STELTER: Indeed. Trump is a reality T.V. showman, but this is more of a drama right now. Are there tapes? Are there not tapes? This is straight-up daytime soap opera stuff.

SANCHEZ: All right. Brian Stelter, thank you again for the time. Very much appreciate it.

STELTER: Thank you. SANCHEZ: Moving forward, don't forget to watch Brian on his show "Reliability Sources" airing tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. right here on CNN. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


SANCHEZ: Some breaking news now. The Taliban is claiming responsibility for a shooting in Afghanistan that killed three U.S. soldiers and left another wounded. It happened during a joint U.S.- Afghan military operation against ISIS in the eastern part of that country. CNN National Correspondent Dianne Gallagher joins me now from Washington.

Diane, what more have you learned about this attack?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So Boris, the shooter is believed to have been a member of the Afghan military, carrying what is often known as a green-on-blue attack. It's essentially when someone in the Afghan security forces turns on a U.S. or NATO soldier.

That is what an official is telling CNN. The Pentagon hasn't really released too many details about the shooting itself, except to confirm that in Eastern Afghanistan, three U.S. soldiers were killed and one was injured. Now, that injured soldier has been evacuated. The Pentagon is still working on notifying the families of these soldiers.

Now, in a statement obtained by CNN, the spokesman for the Afghan Taliban is claiming responsibility, saying that one of its infiltrators in the Afghan forces was killed after he opened fire on U.S. troops in the Nangarhar Province. The group says that it killed four Americans and injured others. Those numbers, of course, do not match with what the Pentagon is reporting.

Vice President Mike Pence opened his remarks in Wisconsin today by talking about this attack.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On my way here, I was informed that U.S. service members were killed and wounded in an attack in Afghanistan. The President and I have been briefed. The details of this attack will be forthcoming. When heroes fall, Americans grieve, and our thoughts and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of these American heroes.


GALLAGHER: Now Boris, if this area sounds familiar to you, the Achin District in Nangarhar has been particularly deadly. The U.S. is fighting ISIS there. Three Americans were killed there in April.

SANCHEZ: Dianne Gallagher reporting from Washington, thank you. Coming up, rapper Ice Cube and others take Bill Maher to task for using a racial slur on his show.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ICE CUBE, RAPPER: Sometimes you sound like a redneck trucker.


ICE CUBE: Yes, you do. Yes, you do.

MAHER: That I got to -- no, I don't. That, I got to push back on.

ICE CUBE: All right. It's my opinion.



SANCHEZ: Comedian Bill Maher put himself in the hot seat on his own show after using a racial slur on live television. Maher used the N- word on "Real Time with Bill Maher" last week. Now, full discretion, his show airs on HBO, which is owned by Time Warner, the parent company of CNN. Last night, Maher apologized on his show, saying, quote, "I did a bad thing." Then he invited his guests to weigh in.

I want you to hear what Ice Cube had to say, a very visceral response. Listen.


ICE CUBE: You know, it's a word that has been used against us. It's like a knife, man. And you can use it as a weapon or you can use it as a tool. It's been used as a weapon again us by white people. And we're not going to let that happen again by nobody. When I hear my homies say it, it don't feel like venom. When I hear a white person say it, it feels like that knife stabbing me, even if they don't mean it. But I think this is a teachable moment, not just to you, but to the people that's watching right now. You know what I'm saying? Dude, I'm not --

MAHER: I think the people watching right now are saying that point has been made.

ICE CUBE: Not by me.



SANCHEZ: You just saw that exchange there. CNN political commentator Symone Sanders was sitting on the panel last night and she joins me now. Symone, you made clear to Bill Maher that you agreed with Ice Cube and I want to play back a part of your response.


SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We know you apologized, but in the context, you were -- you essentially, by referring to yourself as a House anything, you tended to whitewash who was really enslaved in the House, you know. As a white President in America, you would have been the master, the slave owner, not someone enslaved in the House. And it was mostly black women who were enslaved in the House, who were raped, who were beaten daily day in and day out. They endured physical and mental abuse.

And so for a lot of people in America, that was like a slap in the face to black America, particularly to black women.


SANCHEZ: And Symone, how important was it for you to give Bill Maher your two cents and make it a teachable moment?

SANDERS: I thought it was really important for me personally and I'm grateful that the show also thought it was important and gave myself and others space and time to give our remarks.

I think that we are living in really polarizing times, and we still have yet to grapple with the issue of race in America. And because of that, whenever the subject comes up, it can be very, very tense. And I know Bill Maher understood he was wrong last week, when he used the racial slur. He -- again, he apologized right -- he apologized after the show last week, and again on that stage last night, but it was more than just the word.

People in America, especially black people, are dealing with, you know, fighting, battling down the white supremacy and systemic racism. And I thought it was really, really important that we put some context on there, that we brought black women into the conversation, because sometimes, we can get left out. So I was glad I was on that stage tonight -- last night to offer that perspective.

SANCHEZ: Now, he seemed very uncomfortable during portions of that conversation. Did you get a chance to chat with him about the way that he felt about the whole night off-air?

SANDERS: Well, so we took some photos after the show, and of course, we did a post-overtime show for the internet. And look, Bill was happy everybody came on. He thanked us all for coming. He thanked us for our perspectives. And I believe he heard us. I mean, if someone was sitting there, telling me that -- you know, kind of reading me rights over something that I said, I too might be a little tense.

But I am glad we were able to have the conversation and I hope my -- not only my words, but Ice Cube's words and Dr. Dyson's words really stuck with Bill Maher, and he takes this into, you know, account the next time. He is an ally in this fight. You know, Bill Maher's been on the front lines for a lot of things, but even when you're on the front lines, sometimes you have to tap your brothers and sisters in the struggle and let them know when they've crossed the line. And that's what we did last night.

SANCHEZ: Now Symone, I have to ask you this. For Bill Maher, it was a teachable moment. There are other comedians out there, not African- Americans, Michael Richards comes to mind, Louis C.K., Ricky Gervais, who have said that word and the consequences have been kind of all over the map. From your estimation, is there a double standard as to who can say that word, even in or out of the context of comedy? SANDERS: Let me be clear. I do not think the N-word has a place in jokes, in comedy. I do not think white people in America should be using the N-word, and frankly, I don't think black people should be using it either.

I think we need to -- people have said this -- bury the N-word across the board. And so I really don't think there's a pass for the N-word. There is -- the word has been used since the 18th century to be derogatory towards African-American people in this country. And if you understand that, you understand why the word has no place in our political discourse, in our comedic discourse. It has no place anywhere.

SANCHEZ: So what would your approach to someone like Ice Cube be, then? He sees it as more of a term of endearment when it's shared with other African-Americans, but yet he makes records that are marketed to a mass audience and that may desensitize some people that aren't close to communities of color and make them think it's OK to say that.

SANDERS: Well, it's -- again, I think Ice Cube drove the point home yesterday, that it is not OK. So if anyone thought he was giving anybody a pass, I think he definitely set the record straight on that.

Look, I think there is a conversation to be had in the African- American community, and I know there's a debate about, you know, about the N-word, and that is, I think, a separate conversation. But if you're asking me that if the N-word has a place in our, like, mainstream discourse, my answer is absolutely no.

SANCHEZ: So important to hear these perspectives and to have what often becomes an uncomfortable conversation. Symone Sanders, we thank you so much for your time on this weekend.

SANDERS: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Coming up, "States of Change." Bill Weir's journey around the U.S., getting insight on what voters think about today's divided political climate.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I voted for Trump.



WEIR: And you still --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I was proud about it. And yes, I still feel its change. I didn't want a puppet. I didn't want Hillary and the same old everything. I wanted someone to come in and rattle the cage.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SANCHEZ: CNN's Bill Weir is on a whole new adventure, inspired by his childhood, moving around the country. He's delving into his own and America's past to examine a nation now deeply divided in the Age of Trump. Here's a sneak peek at the CNN special "States of Change."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought he was a fool 10 years ago and I still think he's a fool, but his policies, I tend to agree with.

WEIR: Really? Did you vote for him?


WEIR: Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I voted for Trump.

WEIR: You did?


WEIR: And do you still feel --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I was proud about it. And yes, I still feel its change. I didn't want a puppet. I didn't want Hillary and the same old everything. I wanted someone to come in and rattle the cage.

WEIR (voice-over): Mary is a former classmate, now an accountant. So she understands the economy of the place, where retirees and their Social Security checks make up half of the wealth, tourism and agriculture. The rest.

MARY: People weren't spending money.

WEIR: Yes.

MARY: They weren't getting loans at banks. And that stopped everything. All the building came to a halt almost. But now, it's coming back.


SANCHEZ: Bill Weir is nice enough to join us now. The theme of the special is common ground in the age of Trump.

WEIR: Right, right, right.

SANCHEZ: Is there common ground in the age of Trump?

WEIR: More than you might suspect.

SANCHEZ: Really?

WEIR: Yes. It's -- I mean, really, it is -- we now have all of human wisdom and access to everyone on the planet, but we use these devices to reinforce our own preconceived notions.

SANCHEZ: Absolutely.

WEIR: Again, arguments with strangers and look at pictures of cats, you know.

But if you actually sit down with people, look them in the eye, you try to understand the context where that might (INAUDIBLE) that was a little town called Wautoma, Wisconsin, where I spent a lot of my youth, moved around all over the country.

But when I was a kid, Reagan won there, but also, Bill Clinton won there, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, and I thought these are salt-of- the-earth cheese-heads (ph). They would never cotton to a brash billionaire like Donald Trump. But it was more about what the democrats stood for in this last election and how they felt completely ignored by a party that sort of took them for granted.

And demographic shifts in a town like that, it's now a third Hispanic, the kids in my old high school, because of migrant workers who came and moved in. And they are members of the community, so the immigration thing, they seem to ignore while they focus on the economic promises that Trump was making. So I was just looking for a way to turn strangers back into neighbors.

SANCHEZ: Right. And many of them were your neighbors.

WEIR: Yes.

SANCHEZ: I mean, this is a very personal journey for you. Tell me about that.

WEIR: Well, it -- so my mom was a really zealous born-again Christian. And she announced at breakfast one morning -- she had a dream from God and we were supposed to move to the Bible belt. So I went to 17 schools in six states.

And doing the Wunderlist, I watched this election from overseas. And I saw on my Facebook feed, half of them triumphant, half of them deeply despondent. And I felt like maybe I could go out in the same sort of Wunderlist style and explain Americans to each other, you know.

Culturally, we live in really distinct nations on this continent. We think of ourselves as one nation. And that's why America's such a grand experiment. The idea that all different creeds and cultures and religions and earning statuses could become the way of the people. And if we -- it's something, you know, we harken and we bemoan for a kinder, simpler time when we all sung Kumbaya.


WEIR: Never happened.


WEIR: We can't get along because we've never gotten along. I mean, this is a 241-year-old argument about what liberty and justice means.


WEIR: And I think if we take a step back and sort of asked each other, where are you from? With a little more wonder and a little less fear and suspicion --

SANCHEZ: A little more empathy.

WEIR: -- we can remember why we're all in this together, you know?

SANCHEZ: Bill Weir, it looks like an excellent special. We hope you will tune in. The search for common ground in the Age of Trump. Join Bill Weir and a panel of political experts and activists for a frank discussion on "States of Change" tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

SANCHEZ: You are live in the "CNN Newsroom." We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Boris Sanchez in New York for Ana Cabrera. And this is breaking news on CNN. A claim of responsibility for the deaths of three American soldiers in Afghanistan. It's being described as an insider attack, one where an Afghan serviceman turned his gun on U.S. forces. We go straight to Washington.