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Attorney General Jeff Sessions is going to testify at the Senate Intel Committee as it is the right place to address the alleged Russia ties investigation. Politicians now on both sides of the aisle are asking for the so-called tape evidence from the White House if there's any. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired June 11, 2017 - 14:00   ET



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is getting ready to be in the hot seat this week testifying Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee.


WHITFIELD: Sessions will likely face tough questions over his alleged contacts with the Russian ambassador. The big question now, will that testimony be public or private?

CNN has learned the attorney general's testimony will likely be in a closed session but the committee will make the final determination. The move comes as the White House continues to deal with the fallout from James Comey's testimony on Thursday.

Just this morning, the president launching another attack on the former FBI director tweeting this, I believe that James Comey leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible. Totally illegal. Very cowardly. This from the president.


WHITFIELD: Well, this as politicians on both sides push the White House to release any tapes it may have of the president's conversations with Comey by June 23rd. Another question that remains, who is telling the truth --


WHITFIELD: -- the fired FBI director or the president of the United States? This morning on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and Republican Senator Susan Collins both say they take Comey's word over President Trump. listen.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIF.: At this point, I believe the FBI director. I know him the best. I've observed him the longest. I know he has his own band of integrity. Disagreed with him on the e- mails. Let him know that monosyllabically. But in this kind of thing, he's not going to lie. SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I found former Director Comey's

testimony to be candid, to be thorough and he testified under oath. So I believe that the information that he gave our committee is what he believed happened; it doesn't eliminate the possibility that there was a misinterpretation.


WHITFIELD: CNN's White House Correspondent Athena Jones joining me now from New Jersey where the president is spending his weekend. Athena, President Trump has suggested that his conversation with Comey was taped. And today, the course is getting louder for Trump to release the tapes if they do exist.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is. That's right, Fred. This question of whether there are tapes or some other sort of audio recording, perhaps on a cell phone or really any record from the White House of these conversations between the president and the former FBI director, the question of whether they exist is the question of the year.

The president said Friday that we learned the answer in a short period of time. And one of his lawyers, Jay Sekulow, who is on his legal team said today on ABC that answer could come in a matter of days. Watch.


JAY SEKULOW, LAWYER: The president say he's going to address the issue of the tapes, whether the tapes exist or not, next week. That's the decision that the president will make in consultation with his chief lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, and that the president said he will address it next week.


JONES: So, there you have, a lawyer on the president's legal team setting a deadline of next week. Hopefully, this is what happens. What's important to note here is that it's been nearly a month since the president posted that tweet suggesting that tapes. He put them in parentheses, may exist of his conversations with Comey. And yet in all this time despite repeated questions, no one from the White House has able to say definitively if they exist or not.

This is something that is frustrated not just journalist but also members of congress, senators' Dianne Feinstein and Susan Collins talked about about that also this morning on "STATE OF THE UNION", watch.


FEINSTEIN: If there are tape, please, and that the president's equivocal on this, bring those tapes forward.

COLLINS: This is an issue that the president should've cleared up in his press conference. He should give a straight yes or no to the question of whether or not the tapes exist. And he should voluntarily turn them over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If he doesn't, and a subpoena would be necessary to find this out, you support that?

COLLINS: I would be fine with issuing a subpoena.


JONES: Now, Senator Collins went on to say that a subpoena would most likely come from the special counsel Bob Mueller, but it could come from a congressional committee. Bottom line here is, hopefully, Sekulow he's right, we will get an answer. But one more interesting thing that president said on Friday was that we journalists would all be disappointed when we learn the answer of whether there are tapes.

Again, unclear exactly what he meant there, Fred.

WHITFIELD: OK. Still the big question mark. All right, appreciate it. Athena Jones there traveling with the president at New Jersey.

All right. Let's talk more about all of this. I'm joined now by Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst and senior (00:05:00) editor for the Atlantic, Matthew Whitaker, executive director of The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust and CNN contributor,Norman Eisen, former White House ethics lawyer and former U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic. Good to see all of you.

All right. So Ron, you first. The president has not given a straight yes or no about these tapes and these conversations with Comey. Is he making this entire process harder for himself by most recently saying you will soon see and you may be disappointed?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Look, the whole thing has been kind of absurd from the beginning, given that the original tweet threatening the existence of tapes is somewhat what set in motion all of the activities from Director Comey and the revelation of his contemporaneous memos.

Look, I think we've got clarity on two big points here. One, is that, while there is division in the legal community, there are a number of legal experts, former prosecutors, former Watergate prosecutors, who believe that what former Director Comey has testified already provides the basis to at least begin an obstruction of justice investigation of the president, without concluding where that might lead.

And on the other hand, the other thing, we equally learned over the past several days is that that is not an interpretation that almost any, if not any member, Republican member of congress will except and they will not forward. And thus, the entire ball game has shifted I think into the court of the special counsel Bob Mueller.

WHITFIELD: Right. Many of the legal community have called it everything from a building block to being a part of a mosaic.

So Matthew, Comey talked about what he felt were inappropriate interactions with the president during those phone calls or even a face-to-face meeting. And this morning, former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara also said, for him, it's like deja vu just listening to Comey's testimony and that opening statement that many read the day before.

He said that he experienced something very similar, that the president called him a couple of times when he was president-elect. And then when he called him as president, that's when Preet Bharara said he felt really uncomfortable and refused to return the phone call. Listen in his entirety what he had to say.


PREET BHARARA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: So they're very unusual phone calls. And when I've been reading the stories about how the president has been contacting Jim Comey overtime, felt little bit like deja vu. So the call came in, I got a message. We deliberated over it. Thought it was inappropriate to return the call. And 22 hours later, I was asked to resign along with 45 other people.


WHITFIELD: All right. So that was the point that now after inauguration, he got that call and he said it's inappropriate for him to return it. So these calls with Bharara, the deja vu, you have meetings with Comey. Defender (ph) say the president just didn't know these things were inappropriate. And even Bharara says, you know, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense because he thought it was inappropriate and campaigned on Loretta Lynch and former President Clinton meetings so he is not buying that. Are you?

MATTHEW WHITAKER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE FOUNDATION FOR ACCOUNTABILITY AND CIVIC TRUST: Well, you know, I watched Preet this morning. And what I saw was somebody that is of politics. All of these folks serve at the pleasure of the president. That's the way we have the executive branch set up. And anybody right now, and I think Ron makes a really good point, anybody right now and any former prosecutors like myself that sit here and say that a case has been made based on one witness's testimony, I think is being very reckless and there's a lot to be known.

But fundamentally, this is a case of using legal terms in the court of politics. And so like you said, this is more going to play out in congress than it is in any kind of investigation or court of law. And so we need to be very careful that, you know, the jury is the American people at this point in time and its not going to ultimately be --

WHITFIELD: Sure. But on the issue of whether the president just didn't know any better and that he's on a learning curve, I mean, your response to that?

WHITAKER: Yes. I saw Paul Ryan say that as well. And I think that there is some unsophistication on this president, especially early in his term. I know that some have used his own political statements during the campaign to suggest otherwise. But this is also a president that didn't know Preet Bharara, his interesting last name to pronounce, nor did he know Jim Comey much.

And this is a person that has dealt in a business with personal relationships and I'm certain that he probably wanted to know whether these are people he wanted to continue on with in his administration or that he would appoint their successors.

WHITFIELD: And Bharara said that he felt that those initial phone calls when he reflected on it that President-elect Trump was trying to cultivate a relationship. But then once he called as the president, the red flag went up for Bharara that it was inappropriate.

So Mr. Ambassador, we saw that tweet from the president this morning, he's back to it calling Comey cowardly. Senator Lindsey Graham weighed in on the president's statements (00:10:00) just this morning. Listen to this.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), S.C.: Here's what's so frustrating for Republicans like me. You may be the first president in history to go down because you can't stop inappropriately talking about an investigation that if you just were quiet would clear you.


WHITFIELD: All right. So two things on that, your response, to what Graham had to say and is it threatening for the president to now call what could be a chief witness cowardly?

NORMAN EISEN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: Fred, thanks for having me. I agree with Senator Graham that the president has, through his tweets, and otherwise, brought a world of trouble upon himself and he's added a second profoundly dangerous charge to Bob Mueller's investigation.

We already have the question of whether or not the president or those around him colluded in that Russian attack on our democracy. Now the president has created an obstruction of justice investigation. And then, I do have to agree. I think that I do agree with former U.S. Attorney Bharara that the Comey was credible. This is a pattern.

I don't think there's any sense to saying that Trump is unsophisticated or didn't know what he was doing. Sessions and Kushner are both tried to linger behind in that meeting, Fred, and Trump ushered them out. They knew it was wrong. He knew it was wrong. That's evidence of intent. He's very sophisticated. He knew exactly what he was doing in making that conversation --

WHITFIELD: Sorry to interrupt you, Sessions is likely to be asked about that this week and he testifies which is if you were the AG, if you felt it was appropriate because of the hesitation to stick around and that you didn't, wasn't it your job as the AG to tell the president it's inappropriate that I leave right now and why didn't you do that? Won't that be one of the questions?

EISEN: Yes. And Sessions has been bullied by the president. Sessions was supposed to be recused from this investigation yet he ended up helping fire Comey. So this is another example of the AG not standing up for the law but unfortunately serving the man, not the constitution.

WHITFIELD: So Ron, how potentially problematic as you look at, you know, just days away from testimony for Jeff Sessions to answer to all of these things?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, as Norm said there are two braided investigations that are each going to produce revelations on a steady basis. You have the underlying question of collusion and whether there was collusion and cooperation during the campaign. And now you have the separate but connected question of whether, once in office, there was obstruction of justice.

And I think, both of those are going to produce a steady stream of revelations that are undoubtedly going to be headaches for the White House. I would amend one thing that Matthew said. I think the legal and the political processes are now inextricably intertwined.

Because as I said the congressional Republicans have signaled as clearly as they can they are not going to move forward beyond general investigation of this. They are not going to take this as cause for any kind of discussion of impeachment or even, you know, kind of serious inquiry to whether the president broke the law. The only thing that I think that can change that on the horizon will be judgments by the special counsel when he ultimately produces his report.

Whether or not he chooses to challenge the Justice Department internal guidance from 1973 and 2000, you can't indict a sitting president. Whether or not he does that, ultimately, I think he will be presenting his evidence to the congress. And while Republicans have kind of hoped to push this off their plate, the likelihood is that it will be back in their plate and possibly right before the 2018 elections.

WHITFIELD: Wow. Well, let's talk a little bit more about that. We're going to take a short break for now. Everyone stay with us. Thank you so much. So last week it was James Comey and now just two days away, Jeff Sessions; it's his turn to testify. What more can we expect to hear or not, next.

And check out Washington right now where thousands have taken to the streets to march for unity and equality for the LGBT community. And it's not just D.C., these marches of solidarity are unfolding nationwide and cities including Los Angeles, New York and Boston. Stay with us.


WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is planning to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday saying, "In light of reports regarding Mr. Comey's recent testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, it is important that I have an opportunity to address these matters in the appropriate forum." Justice officials say it will likely be a closed hearing. But

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden just sent a letter to the chairman of the committee requesting that it be open. CNN's Washington correspondent Ryan Nobles joining me now. So Ryan, what else do you know about this senator, Senator Wyden's request?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's important, Fred, because he sits on the intelligence committee, he is a Democrat. But you can tell by Wyden's response that members of the intelligence committee are thrown off a bit by this decision by Attorney General Sessions to not testify in front of the senate subcommittee on appropriations and instead ask to testify in front of the intelligence committee.

And he was going to have to testify no matter what but now it appears, he's attempting to have some control over who will be asking the questions. Now he was in a position where he had to appear in front of senators to answer questions about the justice department's budget but with that subcommittee of the senate appropriations committee.

But when Democrats reveal that they were going to ask questions about the Russia investigation and the firing of James Comey in that hearing, Sessions made the move to change things up. So instead, his deputy AG is going to go to the appropriations committee hearing and Sessions has offered his testimony up to the intel committee.

He sent a letter to the committee leaders, you read a bit of it there, Fred, informing them that he's available to testify on Tuesday. And he believes the intelligence committee is the better venue for that testimony.

The justice department officials have said their expectation (00:20:00) is that the hearing will take place behind closed doors but some of the senators are involved are hoping that it takes place in open session. And while they welcome his testimony to the intelligence committee, both Republicans and Democrats believe he should testify in front of the judiciary committee as well. Take a listen.


FEINSTEIN: Don't know whether it will happen, don't know whether it's going to be public. And I believe that the judiciary committee has the oversight responsibility for the justice department. And therefore, it is very fitting for the attorney general to appear there.

GRAHAM: But the attorney general's office has become a political office, that's bad for us all. So I want to get to the bottom of that.


NOBLES: Now, at this point, the Senate Intelligence Committee has not formally announced plans for the hearing or whether it will be open or closed session but that decision will be the committee's, it will not be the attorney general's to make. And among the issues that Sessions may need to confront, the CNN report that investigators are looking in to a possible third undisclosed meeting that Sessions may have had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

The justice department has repeatedly said that that meeting never happened. But Fred, Sessions himself has yet to answer a direct question on that topic. And if he appears before the committee, he'd be to answer that question under oath.

WHITFIELD: All right. Ryan Noble in Washington, thanks so much. Let's talk about all of this now. My panel is back with me: Ron Brownstein, Matthew Whitaker and Ambassador Norman Eisen.

All right. So Ron, let me begin with you. If it's true that, you know, that little bomb that Comey dropped that there was a third undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador and Jeff Sessions, what are the implications if indeed Sessions testifies, oh, yes, about that meeting, let me tell you a little bit more about it.

BROWNSTEIN: I'm trying to remember. I don't think Comey specifically said a third meeting. I think he said there were other reasons why he thought they were going to -- he would have to recuse.

But look, yes, I think if there is a third meeting, it kind of fits into a broader pattern of meetings with Russian officials from former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn from Jared Kushner from Jeff Sessions already, at least once, that had been undisclosed and were only disclosed subsequently after initial affirmations to the contrary.

So if there is another meeting that he did not disclose to the judiciary committee, you already have figures like Pat Leahy and Al Franken who are raising serious questions. I do think you will hear a growing chorus of Democrats demanding his resignation if there is another meeting. Whether that goes anywhere is something else.

But again, it's just a reminder that on both fronts, both the underlying collusion question from the campaign and the possible obstruction question from after the election that there is an assembly line of revelations that has likely to continue coming.

Real quick, the odd point is, this is not necessarily derailing the agenda. In fact, to some extent, it is cloaking the agenda as, for example, Republicans and the Senate move toward resuscitating the idea of repealing the Affordable Care Act, it's getting very little attention amid all of these.

WHITFIELD: Right. In fact, we were talking to someone yesterday, Mr. Norquest (ph) who talked about the number of items that actually are getting accomplished but under this cloak, so to speak, of the cloud that continues to form over the White House and we will delve into that a bit later.

So for now, though, Senator Chuck Schumer was interviewed earlier today saying that he has several questions that he wants the attorney general to answer, listen.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), N.Y.: There is some questions about sessions that have to be asked. First, did he interfere with the Russian investigation before he recused himself? Second, what safeguards are there now so that he doesn't interfere? Third, it says he was involved in the firing of Comey and the president said Comey was fired because of Russia. How does that fit in with his recusal? It doesn't seem to stand up well to me. And fourth, he's been involved in the selection of the new FBI director. Did he talk about the Russian investigation with them?


WHITFIELD: All right. So, Mr. Ambassador, will this testimony potentially resolve that issue or that question that Schumer has about whether Sessions is using his office as attorney general for political purposes?

EISEN: It will advance the ball if Attorney General Sessions is examined. It should be done like the Comey testimony, Fred. If there's going to be a closed door session, that should be after a public session. Say what you can in public; this is too important to hide. And the senate shouldn't rollover for Sessions.

There's a fifth point that leader Schumer left out. And that is Sessions has already testified under oath. He omitted Russia meetings. He had to correct his testimony. If it turns out that there's another meeting that was left out, that he didn't correct the record as towards, I think you're not just going to see Democrats who start applying public pressure for him to resign, (00:25:00) I think some Republicans are going to say this is too much. And I think he's at real risk of perjury investigation by the special counsel who has the authority to do it because it's Russia related if that third undisclosed meeting exists.

WHITFIELD: And how would that potentially unfold in your view, ambassador? Because we know that Sessions had already offered to the president once upon a time that he was willing to resign. The president really dismissed that and said, no, you're staying on. And apparently, even the president doesn't take kindly to the fact that he recused himself from all Russia's investigation.

EISEN: Well, the revelations about the meetings that he failed to answer to the senate when he was questioned previously and then him having to update it triggered the recusal. That came right before the recusal.

I think President Trump as annoyed as he is reported to be of Sessions is going to be horrified at the thought that the acting attorney general is going to be Rod Rosenstein who appointed the special counsel and who has a chip on his shoulder now because they wrongly lied about Rosenstein being the precipitator for the firing of Comey, mixing him in, he was reportedly very angry about that.

So that's not a happy situation for the president. But the pressure is going to get mighty hot if this third meeting actually happened and Sessions didn't disclose it.

WHITFIELD: Right. And again, quickly, nobody can forget also, at issue here is the discussion allegedly with James Comey and the president. And president, according to Comey's testimony, asking him I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, meaning Michael Flynn, to letting Flynn go.

And President Trump has had his version of events, although everyone still wants to hear in quite in detail how they square with Comey's testimony. But it was Donald Trump, Jr., who took to the air waves and had this explanation about what did or didn't or could've potentially have happened, listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- did say under oath that you told him to let the Flynn -- you said you hoped the Flynn investigation you could like --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So he lied about that?

TRUMP: Well, I didn't say that. I mean, I will tell you, I didn't say that.

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

TRUMP: One hundred percent.



DONALD TRUMP, JR., PRESIDENTIAL SON/BUSINESSMAN: When he tells you to do something, guess what, there's no ambiguity in it. There's no, hey, I'm hoping, you and I are friends. Hey, I hope this happens but you got to do your job. That's what he told Comey.


WHITFIELD: OK. So Matthew, what does that mean?


WHITAKER: Well, what it means is, first of all, let's look at the constitution, which is where I always start when we talk about American political system and that is, that the president, if he really wanted to, he could have done like George Herbert Walker Bush did and pardon Caspar Weinberger before he ever went to trial. And so if he really was that interested in --

WHITFIELD: Well, we don't have to talk about any hypotheticals or comparisons, we're talking about whether this meeting transpired the way it did, one person's account over the next. And now the son is saying this is how my dad operates. And this is likely what he said, actually, defending the notion that Comey spelled out.

WHITAKER: Well, it's going to be very interesting. And I thought Schumer should mention that Jeff Sessions was in the room before he was allegedly kicked out. And I think his testimony this next week is going to be, give Jim Comey more credibility or less credibility.

Because, listen, as a trial lawyer and someone that evaluates witnesses, at this point in time, Jim Comey has given his testimony and we haven't heard the rest of the story yet. And so Jeff Sessions is going to provide I think some very interesting color and detail to sort of what happened and also be able to answer the question how did you feel about the director of the FBI not reporting through the channels in the department of justice this meeting and what was said.

WHITFIELD: OK. Except we did hear Comey say that he did report it to the AG and asked the AG, it shouldn't happen again that I am with the president alone and that he didn't get the support.

So we will hear Jeff Sessions version of events because I assure you, it's going to be asked on Capitol Hill this week. Gentlemen, thanks so much, Ron Brownstein, Matthew Whitaker and Norman Eisen, good to see you.

WHITAKER: Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said there is no change to the invitation extended to President Trump. But the president state visit later this year could still be in jeopardy, we will explain that after this.



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: A U.K. official said today there is, quote, "no change" to the invitation for President Donald Trump to visit Great Britain later on this year.

That was in response to a report in "The Guardian" newspaper that Trump had called Prime Minister Theresa May telling her that he didn't want to visit until there was more support from the British public.

Right now, May is scrambling to put together a coalition to form a conservative government after losing her majority in last week's snap election.

International diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, joins me now from Belfast, Northern Ireland. So Nic, the official word is that there has been no change in the invitation, but could the Trump visit still be in some jeopardy anyway and then can you also tell us whether Theresa May's coalition is holding together?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Sure. Well, 10 Downing Street, Theresa May's office is also saying they're not going to comment on private phone conversations and that invitation from the queen still stands. But it's been a contentious issue from the get go, from Theresa May's visit with President Donald Trump earlier this year. She was criticized in the British media for the hand holding and the travel ban, 1.8 million people in Britain signed a petition saying that President Trump shouldn't or the queen shouldn't have to meet President Trump.

Then as we've got into the election cycle here leader of the opposition who is supported by "The Guardian" newspaper indirectly, but that's how most people (inaudible). He has used a security issue saying that Britain is not going to have its security dictated or left in the hands of a Trump White House.

[14:35:09]So President Trump has become an election issue then there was a climate change agreement. Prime Minister Theresa May criticized for not being stronger in her criticism of President Trump pulling the United States backing out of the Paris climate change agreement.

And then of course, last week with the attack in London President Trump's Twitter comment about the mayor of London, that went down very badly. That also reflected badly on Theresa May. So Jeremy Corbyn today, the leader of the opposition has tweeted if President Trump isn't coming, that's a good thing because of these issues I've just mentioned here.

So that is something that is -- you know, if President Trump does come, undoubtedly there would be protests in the places that he was visiting. People in Britain, some of them feel very strongly about him.

Right now as far as the -- as far as Theresa May forming a stable government, the leader of the opposition has been saying that he thinks there will be elections within another year. Jeremy Corbyn, this is what he said.


JEREMY CORBYN, LEADER OF THE U.K. LABOUR PARTY: I think it's quite possible there will be an election later this year or early next year and that might be a good thing because we cannot go on with a period of great instability. We have a program. We have support. We are ready to fight another election campaign soon because we want to be able to serve the people of this country.


ROBERTSON: But, of course, Theresa May is trying to use the ten politicians here and the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland to form support for her government. She sent one of her senior officials over here to try to broker that agreement Saturday. That didn't work out.

Talks are going on this week, but that kind of deal with the delicate nature and the peace process here in Northern Ireland to strike a deal with a party that is seen as very pro-British when there is very pro- Irish parties here in Northern Ireland. The politics are very divided. It is a very contentious issue for Theresa May with a lot of pitfalls. Many pitfalls to make that agreement with the DUP and it's not there yet -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Wow, very complex situation. Nic Robertson, thanks so much for bringing that to us from Belfast.

Back in this country, 18 Penn State fraternity brothers are due in court tomorrow facing a slew of charges including involuntary manslaughter related to the death of a 19-year-old student pledge. That is next.



WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Eighteen Penn State frat brothers are accused in the hazing death of a pledge will face a judge tomorrow. Timothy Piazza, 19 years old, died after a hazing ritual on his first night of pledging Beta Phi Fraternity.

Piazza and other pledges were forced to binge drink dangerous amounts of alcohol when he fell down a 15-foot flight of stairs and then fell several times more. Police weren't called until the next morning.

Our Sara Ganim joins me now. So Sara, what is likely to happen when these 18 men appear in court facing this allegation?

SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, the most significant thing that could happen tomorrow at the hearing is the prosecutors could show the surveillance tapes from inside that fraternity, the 12 hours in which Tim Piazza struggled and declined from when he turned ashen and unresponsive until they called the police.

I spoke to Tim Piazza's parents last month about the details on that surveillance tape which are now in that grand jury indictment. They talked about the last hours of their son's life and why they believe what happened to him was criminal. Take a listen.


JAMES PIAZZA, FATHER OF TIMOTHY PIAZZA: They killed him. They fed him lethal doses of alcohol 1and they killed him and they treated him like road kill, like a rag doll. They slapped him around. They threw water on him. One kid punched his area that it was clearly visible.

EVELYN PIAZZA, MOTHER OF TIMOTHY PIAZZA: They said the spleen was shattered.

JAMES PIAZZA: It was chilling. As a parent, it was chilling. In my mind, it was murder. They let him suffer for 12 hours. They let him die a very slow death. It's not any way anybody should ever be treated.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GANIM: Now tomorrow's hearing is a hearing for a judge to determine if these 18 different members of this fraternity, Beta Phi, plus the fraternity itself can move forward to trial on these charges. Most of the attorneys in this case have remained tight lipped about this.

But a couple of them have spoken out. One of them telling me that he plans to fight the charges. That he believes that gathering the pitch forks, this is a, quote, and "taking aim at these young men is extremely disappointing."

He went on to say, quote, "The government assumes that these young men, many of whom were intoxicated themselves, should have been able to differentiate symptoms of extreme intoxication from symptoms of a life threatening head injury. That is an impossible burden to place on them" -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Wow. All right. Horrific allegations. Horrific situation for so many involved. Sara Ganim, thank you so much. We'll be right back.



WHITFIELD: Today CNN kicks off a week long special series called "Champions for Change." A dozen CNN and HLN anchors including me headed out to spend time working alongside people whose causes are close to our hearts. These are truly special individuals.

We want you to meet them. Our champions for change learning about the challenges they face every day and see firsthand the real differences that they are making in the lives of others.

I feel very fortunate. While spending my school age years in Montgomery County, Maryland, I benefited from fantastic public schools with remarkable athletic programs helping me and a number of my former sports teammates.

You're seeing one of them I'm walking with right there, Elise Thomas. We became together self-assured, self-confident, and aspirational, all while having fun.


WHITFIELD: I think we all became very strong-willed people.


WHITFIELD: We're already strong-willed, but even stronger as a result of doing sports together.

KOUADIO: Yes. I agree. It was a situation where, you know, we just -- we just wanted to participate. It didn't matter who was better, who wasn't better.

WHITFIELD: Right. KOUADIO: We pretty much supported one another because we were a team.


KOUADIO: We are more of a family.


WHITFIELD: And family forever. I know today not every American public school kid has the same kind of access to a variety of Sports.

[14:50:06]And the amazing building blocks that come with athletics, which is why I want you to meet some extraordinary people, who are inspiring girls to reach their athletic and personal potential through a national nonprofit group called girls on the run and I caught up with a D.C. chapter.


WHITFIELD (voice-over): There's something about lacing up, gearing up, the start line, and how for so many girls sports launches dreams. So it's thrilling to see these young ladies in "Girls on the Run D.C." get a head start.

(on camera): Kennedy and Mia, how are you guys feeling?


WHITFIELD: How does that run make you feel?


WHITFIELD: Confident.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And afterwards a little tired, but it makes me feel like I know I can do it.


(voice-over): And that's exactly what I recall. From my school days on the track and field, basketball and gymnastics teams.

(on camera): I think I learned how to swim before I learned how to walk. We played tennis. We got lessons right away. We were running. We were walking. We were playing soccer. We were doing everything. I think sports helped me with a sense of belonging, that I can fit anywhere, anyplace.

(voice-over): To this day, I compete in triathlons or play sports for the thrill of it. All of it a driving force. Just ask graduates of my alma mater in Maryland.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sports allowed you to have a dream for yourself and be able to envision yourself doing something and attaining it. Then when you do attain it, you're like I can do anything. WHITFIELD (on camera): Now you're in dental school and you think in large part being a track athlete helped to have that kind of aspiration?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, for sure. You learn there's no limit to all the things that you can accomplish.

WHITFIELD: Athletics made me a stronger girl and I didn't even know it. I want all girls to feel this same way. I want all girls to feel like there's nothing that I can't do.

(voice-over): The girls on the run athletes show that with each step.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. This feels good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some people say that sports are only for boys, but they're for girls too.

WHITFIELD: Lucero, Tatiana, Kennedy, Zia, Ania, Andrea and Rihanna, ages 8 through 11 running it out and talking it through.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've talked a lot about the way we think about ourselves. What we're going to do is we're going to take a look at a couple pictures. Is this a healthy message for girls?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does it make you feel good about yourself?


WHITFIELD: And has it also helped you look at yourself differently when you look in the mirror?


WHITFIELD: What do you think? You care for yourself more?

ALL: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even though you're not beautiful on the outside, you're still beautiful on the inside.

WHITFIELD: And you're beautiful on the outside and you're beautiful on the inside. Awesome!

(voice-over): For ten weeks on the way to their first 5k race, they run together and build friendships.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "Girls on the Run D.C." is committed to serving any girl and all girls in all eight wards of Washington, D.C. So any girl that wants to be part of this program we're committed to providing the access and removing the barriers.

They're gaining confidence and character that they're going to be able to take out into their life as they move on and these girls are the next generation of our future leaders.

WHITFIELD: Hey, mom, she's doing great.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It does build teamwork. They're not judging one another. They're more or less encouraging one another. Feel like that's a good thing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had lots of kids. I just love coming and running with them. When they first start to run and it's really hard because they don't have the endurance at the beginning, sometimes we hold their hands and run with them. When they finish, they see that oh, I really did do that. I just did that.

WHITFIELD: After two and a half months training, "Girls on the Run" 5k here in the nation's capital. How are we feeling?

ALL: Good.

WHITFIELD: Feeling strong?

ALL: Yes.

WHITFIELD: Who runs the world?

ALL: Girls.

WHITFIELD: All right. Let's go.

Arms up. Did you have a favorite part of the race? The end. These young girls are now equipped with the power of saying yes to certain opportunities and no to certain obstacles. I am so impressed by these little girls. To hear them pat each other on the back or just whisper some words while running by, you can do it. That's so great. They inspired me. And I love that.


WHITFIELD: Great girls. Great project. Profiles in our "Champions for Change" series resumes tomorrow bright and early with Alisyn Camerota beginning at 8:00 a.m. and then check out all the champions for change at our website at and we'll be right back.