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President Donald Trump Has Mentioned Recordings That He May Have Of Conversations He Had With James Comey; Gabby Giffords Has Become Be The First Living Woman Since Martha Washington To See Her Name On A Naval Vessel; British Prime Minister Theresa May Faces An Uncertain Path Forward; Gulf Nations To Set Up A Blockade On Qatar Friday; Comedian Bill Maher Put Himself In The Hot Seat On His Own Show After Using A Racial Slur On Live TV; Exclusive Interview With Secretary Of Transportation Elaine Chao; Aired 7-8p ET

Aired June 10, 2017 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:00] BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Welcome. I'm Boris Sanchez in for Ana Cabrera.

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 will go straight to Washington and CNN correspondent Diane Gallagher now.

Diane, what happened in Afghanistan and who is taking responsibility for this?

DIANE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So Boris, this happened in the action district in Nangarhar province in east Afghanistan. It appears to be what is known there as a green-on-blue attack. Basically, when a member of the Afghan security forces turns on either a U.S. or NATO soldier.

The Afghan Taliban is taking responsibility. CNN has obtained this afternoon a statement from the group saying that one of its infiltrators in the Afghan forces was killed after he opened fire on U.S. troops in Nangarhar province. Now, the group said that it killed four Americans and injured others. Those numbers, of course, do not match with what the Pentagon is reporting today. Three dead, one injured. That injured soldier has been evacuated.

Vice President Mike Pence opened his remarks in Wisconsin today by talking ability the 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 prayers are with the families of these American heroes.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GALLAGHER: Now, this district has been particularly deadly for Americans this year. This is where U.S. and Afghan troops have been carrying outs a month-long offensive against ISIS (INAUDIBLE). That's the terror group's local affiliate there. In late April, two service members were killed. Another one was wounded during the joint raid. And earlier that month, an army special forces soldier was killed fighting ISIS. The Pentagon still working on notifying next of kin for the soldiers who were killed today, Boris.

SANCHEZ: All right. Diane Gallagher, thank you.

And for the Trump White House, the next few days could be absolutely pivotal. CNN has learned that attorney general Jeff Sessions will testify before the Senate intelligence committee on Tuesday. He has already scheduled to appear before Congress that day but in front of different House and senate Panels. Sessions 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 a Presidential campaign.

Meantime, House investigators are giving President Trump two weeks to hand over any memos or audio recordings of his conversations with Comey.

Let's talk it over with White House correspondent Athena Jones in Branchburg, New Jersey, not far from where the President is spending the weekend.

Athena, let's start with Sessions. Now he is set to testify before the Senate intelligence committee instead of the two smaller budget panels. So what does this change exactly?

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Boris. Well, it means that the Senate investigators certainly were going to be interested in speaking with the attorney general. Now, they are able to do so sooner than they expected to. And he is going to face some tough questions on his involvement in Comey's firing and related matters.

And you will remember on Thursday during the hours-long testimony by the former FBI director, he brought up Sessions several times, making some key statements. He questioned Sessions role in his firing given that Sessions had recused himself from the Russia investigation. And Comey believed he was fired because -- in part, because of his handling of the Russia investigation.

He also talked about how Sessions was one of the people, along with Jared Kushner, the President's son-in-law who lingered in the oval office after the President everyone to clear the room so he can talk one-on-one with then FBI director Comey. Sessions lingered and then left. That, of course, is the conversation when Comey says the President asked him to let the matter -- the investigation of his national security advisor at the time, Michael Flynn, go.

He also told Sessions later on, Comey says, that he told Sessions that he should not allow Comey and Trump - and President Trump to be alone together. This is something that should be avoided. And he talked about having that aware of information that would lead inevitably, he said, to Sessions' recusal from the Russia investigation.

Here is that exchange from Thursday that Comey had with Oregon Democratic senator Ron Wyden talking about why Comey didn't discuss the President's actions, which clearly disturbed him, with the attorney general. Watch what he had to say.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: We also were aware of facts that I can't discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic. And so we were -- we were convinced -- in fact I think we had already heard that the career people were recommending that he recuse himself, that he was not going to be in contact with Russia-related matters much longer and that turned out to be the case.


JONES: And that turned out to be the case. We know now that from my colleague Manu Raju that during that closed session that Comey had with the senate intelligence panel, he talked about a possible third meeting that Sessions may have had with the Russian ambassador. That is what he was talking about when he said he didn't want to discuss it in open session.

Now, the department of justice has denied that third meeting, but we can expect that this is among the many questions Sessions will be asked on Tuesday -- Boris?

[19:05:21] SANCHEZ: Athena Jones reporting from New Jersey where the President is spending the weekend. Thank you.

Let's bring in our panel of experts. Joining me is Michael D'Antonio, he is the author of the Trump biography, "the truth about Trump." Also with us, CNN law enforcement contributor Steve Moore, he is also a retired supervisory special agent of the FBI. And former principal associate deputy attorney general Matthew Axelrod.

Michael D'Antonio, to you first. You follow the President very closely for that biography. You know him better than most. Perhaps the most scathing part of James Comey's testimony last week was when he said that part of the reason he logged those memos was because of the nature of the person, referring to Donald Trump. The President has mentioned recordings that he may have of conversations he had with James Comey. Seeing Comey's testimony, hearing that Trump may have recorded those conversations, does that fit into the nature of the Donald Trump that you know?


SANCHEZ: We are going to have to stop you there, Mike. We are having some audio difficulties. We will get back to you once that's fixed.

Let's go to Stephen Moore though. Steve, there wasn't just one but nine private meetings both in person

and over the phone between President Trump and James Comey. So once Comey realized that the President was going to be crossing a line, he felt, why didn't he tell Trump that his actions were inappropriate.



MOORE: OK. The reason is because you don't just jump out of the bushes an point a gun at him and say you're under arrest. As we have seen, Jeffrey Toobin, the CNN legal analyst and Alan Dershowitz are on both sides of this issue as to whether it is a crime. So, what is he going to do? Is he going to sit there in the White House oval office, stunned and decide right then and there whether this goes to grand jury and he gets a true bill?

So I think what happens here is he goes back, and this is the way the FBI operates. You go back to the office. All you have to do is report it to the FBI at that point, begin your evaluation of whether a crime has occurred and begin there. But you don't -- it's not the FBI modus operandi to immediately arrest unless there's a violent crime.

SANCHEZ: Matthew, as Steve mentioned, some very different viewpoints on James Comey's behavior and whether or not the President actually cried to obstruct justice. What do you think?

MATTHEW AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: What I think it's important to remember here is that it's a bed rock principle of the rule of law that there be a -- that law enforcement be free to do its work free from political interference. It's essential that law enforcement do its work based on the facts and on the law. That's why traditionally through administrations of both parties there's been a strict separation between the department of justice which has as the FBI and the White House when it comes to criminal investigations. According to former director Comey's testimony, the President breached that law in the conversations he had with him. And that is deeply concerning and troubling.

SANCHEZ: Matthew, stay with you, perhaps one of the biggest losers in the Comey testimony was attorney general Jeff Sessions. He is now having to go before the Senate intelligence committee on Tuesday. What's the one question from your perspective that he needs to answer?

AXELROD: Well, you know, he was supposed to appear before the appropriations committees on Tuesday. Now he is going through before the Senate intelligence committee. So it is sort of pick your poison. But he decided he ought to go in front of the Senate intel since that is where the Comey hearing was and answer whatever question they have.

I think as you mentioned at the top of the hour, he is going to get asked questions about two things in particular. I think one of the things he will get asked is why he didn't stay behind when -- in the meeting in the oval and subsequently when director Comey asked him to be a sort of bulwark between the FBI and White House, you know, why he didn't do that if he did that or didn't do that. And I think he will also be asked questions about why he participated in the decision and the recommendation to the President to fire the director when he was recused from the matters having to do with thing 2016 political campaign. So those are two questions I imagine he will be asked.

SANCHEZ: Steve, what are you looking to hear from the attorney general?

[19:10:00] MOORE: I want to know what the President told him before and after that meeting. If I - I was in the FBI 25 years. If somebody -- if my boss took one of my agents out of the room and said I need to talk to him privately and then bring him back, I'm going to ask everybody involved what went on in that meeting. And I think Sessions probably has some idea what that conversation was about. If not, he is going to lose trust in his boss for manipulating people who report to him.

SANCHEZ: Now, Steve, you may be a little bit biased in this next question, but I still want to --

MOORE: I hope so.

SANCHEZ: -- get your perspective on it. If the President goes forward with his promise to testify before Congress, to take an oath and get questioned about his interactions with James Comey, who do you think the people of America will believe, the director of the FBI or the president of the United States?

MOORE: Well, I hope my bias is towards the truth and not necessarily to any agency. I believe that -- first of all, half the people are just going to follow along party lines. Certain people are going to choose the President. Certain people are going to choose Comey just because its their narrative.

Of the people who are independent and open to be swayed, I think what happens here is you have to test past statements and you have to look at the fact that Comey actually made an contemporaneous record of what was said in that meeting right down to verbiage used.

I have had cases where a he said-he said came down to whether I actually recorded my notes and statements contemporaneously and that carried the day. So again, this is - we are not looking necessarily at a crime -- federal crime, but we certainly are looking at who to believe and whether that was an appropriate action by the President if it occurred.

SANCHEZ: I want to get to Michael D'Antonio. We lost him because of audio issues earlier but he is back. Same question again, Michael. The nature of the person. Does James Comey's testimony fit in with what you know about Donald Trump?

D'ANTONIO: It did precisely. I mean, I don't know anyone who goes to a meeting with Donald Trump expecting to get something that is normal and straight. So you go in assuming there will be something unusual said. When I dealt with him I always had a witness with me. We both brought tape recorders and we both took notes because, you know, it's a belt and suspenders situation with President Trump. He is erratic and he will say almost anything and he does try to almost co-op whoever enters his office. So in my case, I was given the distinct impression that it would go well for me if I wrote a certain kind of bar. And that he meant, well, for me, financially. So one has to be very careful when dealing with him.

SANCHEZ: I also have so ask you about what he said at the press conference yesterday in the Rose Garden with the President of Romania, kind of teasing the audience as to whether or not there were actual recordings of his conversations with James Comey. You know the man well. Is he the kind of person that records conversations that way?

D'ANTONIO: Yes, he is. In many circumstances, I think we all in New York media assume that we are being recorded when we dealt with him. And actually there were times when recordings arose of reporters who interviewed him and he even posed as different people and when those who knew him well were played these audio recordings, they said, oh, well, that's not John Miller. That's actually Donald Trump posing as John Miller.

So there is a real hazardous area that you enter when you enter into communications with this person. And I think Comey's instincts are better than a reporter's. He is the head of the FBI or he was at that time. He has got a lifetime in law enforcement. His instincts are good.

SANCHEZ: Matthew, to you. If there was a recording that exonerated the President, don't you think we would have heard it by now?

AXELROD: Look. I'm not going to speculate on how or why the President made the remark he did about Mr. Comey ought to hope there are no tapes or, you know, when he would choose to reveal them.

I mean, respectfully, I think the issue of the tapes is sort of a side show that's being created by the President to I think likely distract attention from what we -- at least according to former director Comey's testimony, what we know to be the facts. I mean, I -- at the moment according to Mr. Trump's lawyer, there is a he said-he said. But Mr. Comey has said his piece under oath to the Senate intelligence committee. It will be interesting to see if Mr. Trump stays true to his work to be the same at some point down the road to in other words to testify under oath about these matters.

[19:15:09] SANCHEZ: Right. Michael, to you, the President again teasing this about recordings yesterday at the Rose Garden. Is this a strategy to distract? Is he just still the great showman that he was in the 1980s and 1990s? What's going on?

D'ANTONIO: Well, he is a great showman, you know. We don't know now whether he really believes, for example, that President Obama wiretapped him. That was something he threw out as a distraction a few months ago. And he also promised long ago to release his taxes. That hasn't happened.

He will say almost anything to distract and divert attention. And he has plans these events many times in order to get the press off of a certain topic. So I doubt that there is a recording. I think that the way that he spoke about it, I think he suggested that Comey better hope there's not a tape. Then when he said, we will wait and very soon you will get an answer but, you know, that's sort of like your father saying very soon I'm going to take you to a ballgame. You might have to pester him throughout the season to get to the stadium. So this just sounds to me like showmanship. It's what you would expect from the host of reality TV show, but it's not what you'd expect from the President of the United States.

SANCHEZ: Michael D'Antonio, Steve Moore, Matthew Axelrod, we thank you all for joining us on this Saturday evening. Thank you.

A quick programing note, Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein and Republican senator Susan Collins, both members of the intelligence committee that was question Jeff Sessions on Tuesday will be guests on state of the morning tomorrow. That is at 9:00 a.m. You don't want to miss that.

Ahead live in this hours in a CNN NEWSROOM, a touching tribute former congresswoman Gabby Giffords has become be the first living woman since Martha Washington to see her name on a naval vessel. Hear her emotional remarks to the ship's new crew.

Plus, vice President Pence set to speak any moment in Washington at the Faith and Freedom Coalition gala. These are live pictures. Is he going to weigh in on the Russia investigation or Comey's testimony? We will take you there live.


[19:21:33] SANCHEZ: The British prime minister bet the farm and lost her house. Her house majority, anyway. Now Theresa May faces an uncertain path forward. May has gamble on a snap election backfired. The result being that her party lost seats in parliament, forcing her to form a minority government. All of this happening as Brexit negotiations are set to begin in only nine days.

CNN international correspondent Phil Black is in London with more on the fallout from this election.

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is another sign, showing very clearly how Theresa May has been weakened and isolated as a result of her terrible election performance. She has lost her two closest allies, two most trusted advisors, her co-chiefs of staff Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill.

It is not actually surprise. There have long been rumblings within the conservative party that this pair were responsible for creating a culture here in Downing Street that was secretive controlling (INAUDIBLE), being the enforcers and also protesters of the prime minister, making it difficult for her to hear dissenting views or wider opinions across the party. But it seems like she had no choice that a lot of the anger for the election results has focused on their influence.

According to British media reports, the prime minister was warned but to sack them or she would face a leadership challenge within the party. And so she (INAUDIBLE). He two most trusted allies in order to hang on to the job, for now at least. There remains a lot of anger in the conservative party but crucially, no one is really talking about Theresa May standing down. There's no significant call from any senior figures for her to go. It seems to be an understanding that now is not the time because this country, in just over a week is due to begin formal negotiations to exit the European Union. The Brexit process is about to begin.

So the priority for Theresa May and for the conservative party is forming a government and building a working majority within the parliament. To try and get that majority, Theresa May has dispatched representatives to Northern Ireland to meet with the democratic unionist party. This is a party that is known for being very socially conservative on issues like abortion, gay marriage. But its main purpose is ensuring that Northern Ireland resists all efforts to break away from the United Kingdom.

Now, if Theresa May can form an alliance with the party and ensure that its ten members of parliament back the conservative party at key moments, then that would give her the working majority she needs to run the country.

Phil Black, CNN, London.

SANCHEZ: Phil Black in London, thank you.

President Donald Trump claimed credit for and endorsed the decision of Gulf nations to set up a blockade on Qatar Friday calling it a funder of terrorism at a very high level. But just a short time earlier, Trump's secretary of state Rex Tillerson had called for lifting that blockade saying it was hurting the effort to the fight ISIS.


REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The blockade is also impairing U.S. and other international business activities in the region and has created a hardship on the people of Qatar and the people whose lively hoods defend on the commerce with Qatar. The blockade is hindering U.S. military actions in the region and the campaign against ISIS.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The time had come to call on Qatar to end its funding. They have to end that funding. And its extremist ideology in terms of funding. I want to call in all of the -- call on all of the nations to stop immediately supporting terrorism.


[19:25:11] SANCHEZ: The Saudi Arabian led blockade began about a week ago, cutting off Qatar's land borders and access to neighboring airspace. That's threatened Qatar's trade relationships and the air routes of Qatar air ways.

For some lighter news now. Former U.S. representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona how as a very distinct honor. Today at a commissioning ceremony in Galveston, Texas, she became the third living woman in U.S. history to have a U.S. warship named after her. Giffords survived an assassination attempt back in 2011 which led to her resignation from Congress. Among those paying tribute to her, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and former second Lady Jill Biden. Giffords in turn paid tribute to the men and women who serve the U.S. military.


GABRIELLE GIFFORDS, FORMER UNITES STATES REPRESENTATIVE: I'm so happy to be here with you today. This is a credible honor. The USS Gabrielle Giffords is strong and tough, just like her crew. I thought of you in my darkest days, the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines of the United States of America. We ask so much of you despite danger, you say yes. You make me proud. You make America proud. I will never forget this day or the crew of the USS Gabrielle Giffords. Fair winds and following seas. Thank you very much.


SANCHEZ: The U.S. Gabrielle Giffords is an independent was class little combat ship of the United States Navy who was christened back in June of 2015.

Now, it may be unclear whether President Trump has any tapes of his conversations with James Comey. But plenty of other presidents have had in open mic. Coming up, a look at the history of White House recordings.

You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[19:31:33] SANCHEZ: The House intelligence committee is asking the White House to turn over any records, including possible tapes having to do with President Trump's meetings with now fired FBI director James Comey. When asked about whether or not those tapes even exist, the President gave a cryptic answer, only promising more information in the very knew future. There is a history of White House recordings that goes back decades.

Our Brian Todd brings us that story.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): White House taping systems have throughout the decades been known to exist, quietly recording the color and at times the most explosive points of the executive branch. From President John F. Kennedy, captured here, discussing the Cuban missile crisis --.


TODD: To President Lyndon B. Johnson ordering pants.

LYNDON B. JOHNSON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Is your father the one that makes the clothes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir. We are all together.

JOHNSON: You all made me some real light weight slacks.

TODD: But the most infamous and damning iteration of any White House taping system was during the presidency of Richard M. Nixon.

RICHARD M. NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, no, no, no. I would rather use a nuclear bomb.

TODD: Nixon began secretly taping conversations and telephone calls in multiple locations of the White House in 1971, including the oval office.

NIXON: We are up against an enemy, a conspiracy. They are using any means.

TODD: Time and time again, the President's words were clear.

NIXON: I want the Brookings safe cleaned out, and have it cleaned out in a way that makes somebody else look bad.

TODD: The President was acting like he had absolute power.

NIXON: That sound to be fun. Cover him around the clock even place he goes. (INAUDIBLE).

TODD: Even the President's own family was taped.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have Julie for you, sir.


TODD: But it was among Nixon's recordings one night in 1972, one week after the Watergate break-in that prove to be smoking gun.

NIXON: Good. Good deal! Play it tough. That's the way they played it and that's the way we are going to play it.

TODD: Nixon did everything he could to fend off the investigation.

NIXON: People have got to know whether or not their President's a crook. Well, I'm not a crook.

TODD: But the taping system became public when deputy assistant to the President Alexander Butterfield confirmed its existence before the senate Watergate commend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Butterfield, are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the oval office of the President?


TODD: The tapes ultimately led to Nixon's resignation to avoid impeachment.

NIXON: America needs a full-time President.

TODD: When asked by ABC's Barbara Walters in 1980 why he didn't destroy the tapes, Nixon had this to say.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you sorry you didn't burn the tapes?

NIXON: Yes, I think so. Because they were private conversations subjects to misinterpretation as we have all seen.

TODD: Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


SANCHEZ: Brian, thank you.

Coming up, grab your ice cube and others take Bill Maher to task for using a racial slur on his show.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes you sound like a red neck trucker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I don't. That, I got to push back on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. It's my opinion.


[19:38:57] SANCHEZ: Comedian Bill Maher put himself in the hot seat on his own show after using a racial slur on live TV. Maher used the n-word on "real-time with Bill Maher" last week. Now to be clear, his show airs on HBO which is owned by Time-Warner, a parent company of CNN.

Last night Maher apologized on his show saying quote "I did a bad thing." He then invited his guests to weigh in. Listen to actor and rapper Ice-Cube's emotional response.


ICE-CUBE, ACTOR/RAPPER: You know, it's a word that's 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 being used against a weapon against us by white people. And we are not going to let that happen again by nobody. When I hear my home say it, it don't feel like venom. When I hear a white person say it, it feel 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?


[19:40:05] ICE-CUBE: Bill, I'm not -- BILL MAHER, COMEDIAN: The people watching right now are saying that

point has been made.

ICE-CUBE: Not by me.



SANCHEZ: You saw CNN political commentator Symone Sanders sitting on the panel last hour. She was nice enough to join us in the last hour and she made it clear to Maher that she agree with Ice-Cube. Watch.


SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We know you apologized, but in the context you were - you essentially by referring to yourself as house anything, you tend to white wash who was really enslaved in the house, you know. As a white person in America, you would have been the master, the slave owner. Not someone as slave in the house. And it was mostly black women who were slaves 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: Symone, how important was it for you to give Bill Maher your two cents and make this a teachable moment?

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

I think we are living in 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. Again, her 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 fighting -- battling down with -- white supremacy and systemic racism. I thought it was really, really important that we put context on there, that we brought black women in the conversation because sometimes we can get left out. So I was glad I was on the stage 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 for coming. He thanked us for our perspectives. And I believe he heard us. I mean, if someone was sitting there telling me that it kind of

reading me my rights over something I said, I, too, might have been a little tense. But I'm glad we were able to have the conversation. And I hope not only my words but Ice-Cube's words and Dr. Dyson's words really stuck with Bill Maher. And he takes this as, you know, account the next time.

He has an ally in this fight. You know, Bill Maher has been on the front lines for a whole lot of things. But even when you are on the front lines sometimes you have to attack your brothers and sisters in the struggle and let them know they crossed the line. And that's what we be last night.

SANCHEZ: I also want to - 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, Luis CK, (INAUDIBLE) 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.


SANCHEZ: Senior media correspond and the most of "RELIABLE SOURCES" Brain Stelter is back with us now.

Brian, Maher kind of switched up yesterday. He didn't interview his panel as much as he took questions from them. How effective do you think it was as an apology?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: It probably forced more calls for him to be suspended or show to be canceled because he was airing this out rather forth rightly on his own program for the better part of an hour. But he did seem uncomfortable at times which is maybe a reality for a white comedian who he said was just acting in the moment, just reacting to something that guest said last week. He had apologized the next day.

But really, it was important, I think, to talk about this on his program, to hear a variety of guests discussing it, including Symone. And then at the end of the hour his former Republican congressman guest (INAUDIBLE) said at some point people have to accept apologies if they are made in good faith and move on from this. So that was sorts of the closing note of the segment. I think Maher appreciated. That he was having one of his guest say we should accept the apology and move on.

But no doubt, this is very troubling controversy for Bill Maher. It speaks to the world of comedy and more importantly to race relations. Bill Maher was deeply uncomfortable at some of the conversations he was hearing on his own show.

SANCHEZ: If you think -- or do you think that if he had been perhaps a conservative commentator he would still have a show?

[19:45:01] STELTER: Well, he is not suspended. You know, he continues on his program. He is certainly a -- we should be clear. He is an anti-Trump liberal.


STELTER: And Symone was saying he is an ally in many ways, you know, in terms of the progressive movement in the country. I think if anybody said what Maher said in the context, meaning almost randomly -- he was reacting to a guest who says come to Nebraska --

SANCHEZ: He made an obscure remark.

STELTER: That's what causes Maher to say the n-word. Now, I'm not going to try to cycle and analyze more, but this was something he said this happened in the moment, something that happened very suddenly. He said quote "the comic mind goes to a weird place some times. It doesn't matter that it wasn't said in malice. That's why I apologized." And I do, again, but he is essentially saying comediennes are weird people. Comedians, they are going for laughs sometimes at any expense and he went too far in trying to get a laugh. Now, why he thought it might be funny is a separate matter. And my point is the context is crucial. He wasn't scripting this. It wasn't something he was doing, he says, intentionally.

STELTER: Marc Lamont Hill was on earlier today. He made the distinction between somebody like Bill Maher and somebody like Michael Richards who is going after somebody in the crowd. Michael Richards has not record after that incident.


SANCHEZ: Do you think Bill Maher can move forward from this in a way he keeps his presence?

STELTER: Yes. His fans love him. You could hear that on the program. The cheering from his audience. At some point, almost you could hear people saying we forgive you. We are on your side. So yes, I don't think Maher is in any long term trouble. He is intentionally provocative, controversial on purpose. But it brings up this issue of how do comedians sort of perform.

SANCHEZ: Stretch the envelope.

STELTER: Where their minds go. And you know, this wasn't related to Trump. We had the Kathdy Griffin thing recently as well, which he was bringing up. Another case of a comedian, you know, widespread agreement that she went too far. There are I think useful conversations to be had, especially in the social media age about what's acceptable. And I agree with Symone and Ice-Cube that this was a teachable moment, not just for Bill Maher but for his viewers.

SANCHEZ: Absolutely. Brian Selter, thank you again. We can catch more of Brian tomorrow on his show "RELIABLE SOURCE" 11:00 a.m. right here on CNN. Coming up, for secretary of transportation Elaine Chao, the road from

immigrant to a member of Trump's cabinet was one of many twists and turns, but one constant, the man she calls her quote "low-maintenance husband." Here is a hint, it is senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have to say this part. This is really important. You've got to leave this in. I kale him my low maintenance husband. He does his own laundry and he cooks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He does his own laundry?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He does mine, too, sometimes.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. He is realty good. The like of him, you know, is very easy that way. He's very encouraging.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's actually a very good cook.


SANCHEZ: Who knew that Mitch McConnell is a great cook? Next, meet the latest bad ass woman of Washington.

You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[19:52:08] SANCHEZ: When President Trump appeared publicly to promote his trillion dollar infrastructure plan, she was the person who introduced him.


ELAINE CHAO (R), TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: As you can see we have a very special guest here today, the President of the United States, Donald Trump.


SANCHEZ: But for secretary of transportation Elaine Chao, it was a long way from immigrant to becoming a member of President Trump's cabinet. That's one of the reasons Chao made Dana Bash's list of the bad ass women of Washington.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So you went to Mt. Holyoke, a women's college.

CHAO: Because we thought that was the best place for a young girl to be. Little did I know then there would be weekend dating situations.

BASH: How did that go?

CHAO: I never dated in my whole entire life. I never went to senior prom. Never went to my junior prom.

BASH: That makes me sad.

CHAO: That's OK. I'm not - nobody asked. No. I didn't understand the significance of it. I didn't understand so many things.

CHAO: After college, it was Harvard business school for what she thought would be a career in banking until she got a White House fellowship in 1983 during the Reagan administration.

CHAO: As I'm doing research trying to help contribute to the writing of his speech when I was a White House fellow, like the bell went off, hey, I believe in all this stuff. I'm actually a Republican.

BASH: Chao steadily climbed the GOP ranks with an appointment to the maritime commission, then deputy transportation secretary and Peace Corps director. Later she ran the united way. It was around that time she met her husband, senator Mitch McConnell, who is now the Senate majority leader.

You are one hatch of sort of the ultimate power couple in Washington.

CHAO: There are so many power couples.

BASH: There are. There are actually. It's different than it used to be.

CHAO: I have to say this part because this is really important. You have to leave this in. I call him my low maintenance husband. He does his own laundry and he cooks.

BASH: He really does his own laundry?

CHAO: He does mine, too, sometimes.

BASH: Really?

CHAO: Yes. He is really good. The life with him is very easy that way, and he is very encouraging.

BASH: Is he a good cook?

CHAO: He is actually a very good cook.

BASH: She scoffs at a story she once read claiming she keeps files of her husband's donors and supporters, but not why you think.

CHAO: There was an article that said I took notes on people. I didn't take notes. It was all up here. I have an incredible memory. It's just one of, you know, life's blessings. If I met you 24 years ago, I can remember the place, the time, the circumstances.

BASH: That's a great asset in politics.

CHAO: It's proven to be pretty helpful.

BASH: Her mother passed away, but her father still works and is still her biggest cheerleader. There when she was sworn in as transportation secretary.

[19:55:01] CHAO: This is January 31st, 2017, at 5:30. I told you (INAUDIBLE). He is 90 years old and he is very hopeful, very optimistic. He has a great attitude. So this is a photo of part of my family because not all of them were able to come a large number of the family came. So it was a lot of fun.

BASH: You are so family oriented and you never had kids.

CHAO: No, I never did.

BASH: Is that a regret?

CHAO: Well, on some days it is. I try not to have too many regrets. But I will say to young women, you know, in my generation we were taught that we can have it all. It doesn't work like that. So I try to counsel young women regardless as to whether they want it or not there are tradeoffs and sacrifices in life.

BASH: Did you know that you were making a tradeoff?

CHAO: I didn't.


SANCHEZ: A fascinating woman and a fascinating series.

Coming up, breaking news in Washington. The attorney general, Jeff Sessions, plans to testify before the Senate intelligence committee next week. We will break this down next.