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Trump Controversy; National Enquirer; Catholic Church; Funeral for Slain Iowa College Student Tomorrow; Trump Seizes on Suspect's Status to Push Immigration Polices; Trump: Pompeo Won't Go to North Korea Right Now. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired August 25, 2018 - 12:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Hello, again everyone and thank you so much for joining me this Saturday. I am Fredricka Whitfield. All right. President Trump woke up at the White House fuming taking to his bully pulpit once again to vent about a weeks worth of controversy surrounding his presidency. The president lashing out in a flurry of tweets about the Russian investigation also taking aim at his Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

President Trump clearly frustrated after news that some of his most trusted allies are turning on him including former attorney Michael Cohen, Chief Financial Officer for the Trump organization, Alan Weisel Berg, National Enquirer publisher, David Packer, and publisher Ryan Howard. And, now, CNN has exclusive reporting on a former Trump doorman making accusations about the president's past including an alleged secret affair with a former housekeeper.

CNN's Ryan Nobles is at the White House. So, Ryan, another non- disclosure agreement coming to light. This one with some rather startling allegations.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fred. And the allegations in this particular story may not be as important as what it represents for the president and his legal situation going forward. They are pretty serious allegations that come from a former doorman that worked at the Trump World Tower. He goes by the name of Dino Sajudin.

And he struck a deal with AMI, which is of course the parent company of the National Enquirer Way back in 2015 where he would not reveal this information in exchange for $33,000 and a follow-up penalty of $1 million if he did reveal what he claimed to know. And that was that he believed that he knew of an affair that took place with president Trump outside of his marriage with housekeeper that resulted in a child.

Now, the National Enquirer never reported this information. Other news outlets have looked into these claims and have found them not to be credible. But the fact that he was part of this agreement is part of a group of agreements that the president had entered into with AMI.

Now, what's the big development here is that AMI has lifted this prohibition on him talking about it. And through his attorney he has now revealed what he knows about this situation. So, the question is are there other stories like this. Other stories that AMI has been holding onto at the behest of Donald Trump and the Trump organization as a way to prevent them from making the president look bad.

This could be part of what we are seeing with David Packer who is the AMI chief, who has struck a deal to be granted immunity for what he knew about the Michael Cohen investigation. And, Fred, it's part of a pattern of people who have been close associates of president Trump who have now turned on him in some form or fashion. We know the president isn't happy about this. He told Fox earlier this week that he believes that flipping, as he called it, and and cooperating with authorities should be almost illegal.

And it is also showing a pattern of - by the president of being very upset about the investigation and the way the Justice Department is handling it in a much larger fashion. Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Ryan Nobles at the White House. Thanks so much.

So, this feud between the president and the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, well, that is escalating. The President now responding to Sessions push back this week that the Department of Justice will not be influenced by politics. Well, Trump wrote this: Jeff sessions said he wouldn't allow politics to influence him only because he doesn't understand what is happening underneath his command position. Highly conflicted Bob Muller and his gang of 17 angry Dems are having a field day as real corruption goes untouched. No collusion.

CNN politics reporter Jeremy Hurd joining us right now. So, Jeremy, you know, this feud it is escalating. What does the future hold, you know? Is there a way to tell what the future holds for Sessions in all of this?

JEREMY HURD, CNN REPORTER: Yes, that's right, Fred. You know, the attacks we have heard from the President on his Attorney General those aren't new. But what is new this week is, sort of, how directly we heard Jeff Sessions push back against the president. You know, after the president said on Fox news earlier this week that the President - that Sessions had failed to take control the Justice Department the Attorney General issued a rare statement saying, that the, you know - the - his department would not be influenced by political considerations.

Of course, as we saw from these tweets that did little to stop the president's criticisms of the Attorney General. Now, the big other development here that needs to be watched is what happened on Capitol Hill. We have heard from Republicans in the past that they have warned the president do not fire your Attorney General. This week Lindsey Graham seemed to signal that after the midterms that that position would shift for Republicans.

WHITFIELD: And that confused so many. You know, so the President, you know, threatened once again this morning that he may, at some point, have to get involved with the FBI. We have heard this several times, you know, over the past few months. But this is what he said on his angry rant [12:05] to Fox news in April. PRESIDENT TRUMP: And you look at the corruption at the top of the FBI.

It's a disgrace. And our Justice Department, which I try to stay away from, but at some point I won't.

WHITFIELD: Then one month later he made a similar threat about the Justice Department saying, and I'm quoting now, at some point I will have no choice but to use the powers granted to the presidency and get involved. And then in June he wrote, I have tried to stay uninvolved with the Department of Justice and FBI, although I do not have legal - although I do not legally have to.

So, what's going on here? I mean, is there a way in which to read the tea leaves and - you know, in this kind of stream of consciousness from the President?

HURD: Yes, I think this is him saying - reserving the right to act. You know, he has said that he has the power as the head of the executive branch to intervene here. You know, with Sessions, with Rosenstein, with Muller. The issue, of course, is politically that could be a nightmare for the White House if he actually were to move to fire Muller. And, so far, we haven't seen any occasions he is taking active steps to do that.

But even Republicans have said that would be a move that could threaten his presidency. And I think, you know, this is something that as the whole investigation gets closer and closer to the President the Democrats are certainly watching to see if they do make any actual concrete moves in that direction.

WHITFIELD: All right. Jeremy Hurd, thanks so much. All right. President Trump's loyal inner circle, well, it's crumbling. We are learning about immunity deals for two other longtime Trump allies including his chief moneyman. CNN's Athena Jones breaks down the latest development.

ANTHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In what could be a new blow to President Trump sources tell CNN Trump organization moneyman, Allen Weisselberg granted immunity to operate with federal prosecutors investigating Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty this week to breaking campaign finance laws and implicated Trump in his plea deal.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Replacing George this week as my chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. And you think George is tough wait until you see Allen.

JONES: Weisselberg the company's chief financial officer seen here on an episode of the apprentice has worked for Trump for decades. As one former employee put it he knows were all of the proverbial financial bodies are buried. Every sale, every deal, anything and everything that has been done. And he personally gave Trump updates on these matters.

A source familiar tell CNN Weisselberg's interview with investigators took place weeks ago and focused on: And the hush money payments to two women claiming to have had affairs with Trump, which he denies. MALE: And I spoke to Allen about it when it comes time to the

financing.

JONES: Weisselberg figures prominently in the secret recording Cohen released last month of a conversation he had with Trump two months before the 2016 presidential election about payments to former playboy model Karen McDougall.

MALE: And I have spoken to Allen Weissleberg about how to set the whole thing up with funding.

JONES: Another person mentioned on that tape national inquired chief David Packer. A longtime friend of Trump's who also received an immunity deal for prosecutors. According to the Wall Street Journal Packer backed up details Cohen spelled out in his plea deal. Telling prosecutors Trump was aware of the deals at the time despite claiming to know nothing about them.

Making matters worse the New York Times reports the Manhattan District Attorney's Office is considering pursuing criminal charges against the Trump organization and two senior company executives in connection with Cohen's payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.

Trump's legal team declined to comment on though Weissleberg news but Trump made it clear what he thought about immunity deals during the campaign.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: And if you're not guilty of a crime what do you need immunity for?

JONES: Athena Jones, CNN, New York.

WHITFIELD: All right. Here with me now CNN political commentator and assistant editor at the Washington Post David Swerdlick and CNN legal analyst Ross Scarborough. All right. Good to see you both. All right. So, David, you first. You know, all of these people flipping talking, you know, to prosecutors. In your view what's the inference here?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good afternoon, Fred. So, yes, if you have the CFO of the Trump organization potentially corroborating information that the southern district of New York got from Michael Cohen, and you have David Packer head of AMI, friend of President Trump corroborating the - if in fact he can corroborate or has or will that the president knew about efforts that his newspaper, the National Enquirer, was taking on behalf of President Trump that says two things.

One, politically that the president was not consistent or maybe just outright lied about what he knew and when relative to Stormy Daniels and the other, Karen McDougall. The other thing that's potentially a legal problem for the president is this idea that he got a campaign- finance in-kind contribution. That is not proven yet, but it's much easier to make the case that assistants, [12:10] with his knowledge, in advance, from a newspaper is an in-kind contribution rather than something that came from Michael Cohen who worked for him. WHITFIELD: And, so, Ross, I guess if you are Donald Trump it's not

just troublesome but it's like the - you know, the volume of people. The number of people who are, you know, willing to corroborate, you know, with investigators, but it really is kind of the caliber of the people. Those who were closest to him. So, in your view when you look at this, outside looking in, we really don't know all of the content that they were able to, you know, share. How potentially damaging do you see this?

ROSS SCARBOROUGH, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, that's right, Fred. And I think, you know, this notion that it's about these, sort of, two campaign-finance issues I, sort of, think that's kind of the equivalent of the broken tail light. And now the cops are looking inside your trunk. Having access to the CFO of the organization, having access to a supporter, like Packer, you know, that gives prosecutors and agents a significant insight into how the president, you know, operating his business.

How the business, perhaps, continues to operate, the communications with the business, the flow of money, decision-making. And I were - if I were the President, if I were any of his chief executives I would be very concerned about this.

WHITFIELD: And then, you know, David, you know, this is obviously weighing heavy on the President. I mean, he's been tweeting, he's been going on lots of different directions, and if there has been a sentiment that he's been, you know, somewhat bulletproof - because there have been a lot of things that have been, you know, kind of, clouding the White House.

SWERDLICK: Sure.

WHITFIELD: Is this one of those things that could cause some real fracture within the Republican Party? There has been a lot of loyalty, you know, to the President. Republicans have been reticent about saying anything. Are we moving in a direction where, perhaps, you know, many are second guessing that as we get closer to midterms?

SWERDLICK: So, on the one hand, Fred, you have a lot of this controversy and scandal and potential criminal allegations coming right to the president's doorstep. You have, in this past week, the: Guilty plea, you have the Manafort conviction now you know that - well, as we just talked about Packer and Weisselberg have talked to prosecutors. This is closing in on the president in a sense.

On the other hand, politically we know the president is still above 40 percent in polling and that's where he was the day he took office. He has not lost a ton of his support among his base among Republican voters. And Republican members of Congress can see this. They can read polls. And they know this.

And, so, that's why I think you haven't seen that many Republicans come out this week and speak in more strong language about what's going on around the president, because they rely on those same voters to get elected. And they know that President Trump is the, sort of, centering force in the Republican Party right now for better or worse. WHITFEILD: But on the flip side to that, Ross, is how potentially

damage is it for many of those elected officials who are - you know, are leery of saying anything negative about the president or, you know, scorning what is being publicized. Especially, if we learn more that could be potentially incriminating for the president. What does that do to many of those who have been backing him?

SCARBOROUGH: Yes, and you hit on the key thing. It's once we learn more. At this point, you know, I think David's right. I think, you know, the President's support a solid. And, you know, he's done a tactically good job of showing that there is a cost for disloyalty.

So, I think if you are a Republican in Congress you are likely to continue to support him. And I think it's unlikely things are going to change dramatically before the midterms. We are sort of heading into that traditional blackout. That DOJ has undoing politically related cases before the midterms. I think a lot is going to depend on the midterms and what happens in the house.

SWERDLICK: Fred, can I make just one quick point?

WHITFIELD: Yes.

SWERDLICK: I agree with everything Ross said. I just want to add, though, that, you know, whether you are talking about the end of 2016 with Comey and Clinton, whether you are talking about the Muller investigation now, the 60 day period is a DOJ guideline.

SCARBOROUGH: Yes.

SWERDLICK: There is no law that says that the DOJ can't investigate 60 days before investigation. It's a memo that came from - I know sometimes it's referred to as the holder memo. It was also agreed to by other Attorney's General before him. It's just a guideline. .

WHITFEILD: All right.

SCARBOROUGH: And let's be clear.

WHITFIELD: Oh, go ahead.

SCARBOROUGH: Investigations are going to continue for sure during the 60 days.

WHITFIELD: Yes, there will be no backseat taken as it pertains to that.

SWERDLICK: Right.

WHITFIELD: All right. Ross Scarborough, David Swerdlick, thanks so much. Good to see you all.

SWERDLICK: Thanks, Fred.

SCARBOROUGH: Good to be here. WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead the Pope is speaking out about the

sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church. The Pontiff calling the abuses a failure. What steps can the church take to stop similar abuses in the future. [12:15]

Plus, a family's tragedy turns into a political talking point. How the murder of college student Molly Tibbetts is being used to push for stronger immigration laws. And the trip is off. President Trump, frustrated over what he calls a lack of progress on denuclearization, says Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will no longer travel to North Korea next week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Right now Pope Francis is on historic visit to Ireland. The Pope mobile is there. It's the first time a pope has visited the country in nearly four decades. He arrives as Catholics are reeling from the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. This morning Pope Francis addressed the painful issue speaking at the Dublin Castle. The Pope offered sympathy to the victims of abuse carried out by clergy and an apology <12:20> for the cover up by Catholic leaders.

POPE FRANCIS (through translator): The failure of the the (INAUDIBLE) authorities reaches to the (INAUDIBLE) priests and others to adequately address these appalling crimes have (INAUDIBLE) given rise to a rage and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community. I, myself, share those sentiments.

WHITFIELD: All right. Joining me right now to discuss this is Sr. Joan Chittister. She is a Catholic nun and the author of the gift of years. Sister, Thanks so much for being with me. You have been critical, you know, of the Pope's response to the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church recently. But today when the Pope said he offers apology and sympathy is that enough in your view?

SR. JOAN CHITTISTER: Not at all. It's a good beginning. It's a great beginning for a church that has refused to simply agree that the problem even existed. I have been writing about this along with Catholic writers everywhere since the year 2000 and 2002. This isn't new. Nor is the problem there.

It's one thing to accept the reality. We have finally done that. It's one thing to sympathize with the victims. I think that's been a relatively largely achieved. It's important to allow some kind of - and to create and to lead in some sort of genuine honest compensation for the effect on this. And it's really important to regret the whole situation. Regret is hard - hardly an adequate word for disgrace.

But it doesn't solve anything. We have been here before. We have to begin - the church has got to begin to ask the question what enables and sustains this possibility, this the toxicity, this kind of thinking. What kind of thinking? Well, the kind of thinking that the church - the church that we now call, since Vatican II the people of God, is still 1 percent of the Catholic population. And it is patriarchal male from beginning to end that sees the church as the preserve of clerics. We have to change our way of thinking about obedience.

WHITFIELD: OK. So, I'm hearing a few things. You talk about, you know, praising the acknowledgment. You know, really looking into, you know, the cause. How this, you know, kind of - if the environment or the fact that it's male-dominated, you know, contributes to this, but then I also hear from you almost like a but now what. Now what can the Catholic Church do as a whole. Is it to - not just to stop, but also to punish those who have been responsible for causing so much hurt and pain?

CHITTISTER: Well, I take that for granted. That is part of a legal system that we have resisted and denied for years. We have substituted Canon law with all the good that it does, but it's no substitute for civil law. It's no substitute for civil justice. It's no substitute for honesty. So, the - I'm saying that the reform is far deeper than any kind of structural system can provide or any kind of regret will promise.

WHITFEILD: How do you see that having women in the clergy - women in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church might change the environment, might make a colossal difference as it pertains to ending, you know, these - the rate of accusations of sex abuse within the church?

CHITTISTER: Well, for instance just, basically, I'd like to know how much of this would have been done in secret or wouldn't have been stopped immediately if half of the people in the bishops councils rooms over the years have been women. Would a mother has permitted this to go on in the name of the institution rather than for the sake of the child in the first place?

Secondly, you have to understand that this is simply an example of how easy it is to suppress questions in an institution that is run and operated and envisioned by 1 percent - less than 1 percent of the population. You can't even get the woman's question [12:25] on the table. You have to understand this isn't new. We've been here before.

WHITFIELD: Right.

CHITTISTER: We were here in the 16th century when Martin Luther wanted to ask the law (INAUDIBLE), which 400 years later we admitted should be - should have been followed. Should have been pursued then. So, it's a way of going about life. It's a way of defining the institution. It's a way of defining a priest. As if priesthood is - well, what the theologians call an ontological change of the human character. The (INAUDIBLE) itself changes the nature.

And when you teach that and you teach it long enough and people really believ no wonder parents themselves went into directories and said, father, we don't want - we don't want any of this to be (INAUDIBLE). We don't want to hurt the church. When, as a matter of fact, the church was hurting itself in the worst possible way.

WHITFIELD: We will leave it there for now. Sr. Joan Chittister, thank you so much. Appreciate it. All right. Still ahead. The family of Molly Tibbetts says they do

not want her death politicized. This after the President and Republican lawmakers have invoked her murder to call for stronger immigration laws. Will this become a dominant strategy for Republicans heading into the midterm elections?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:31:18] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Tomorrow, 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts will be laid to rest in her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa. Her body was found earlier this week, a month after she disappeared. The man charged with her abduction and murder was in the U.S. illegally. His undocumented status now a political rallying point for some Republicans. First and foremost, President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mollie Tibbetts, an incredible young woman is now permanently separated from her family.

WHITFIELD: Less than 24 hours after police discovered the body of missing Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts, Republicans, including President Trump highlighted her death to argue for stricter immigration laws.

TRUMP: We've had a huge impact but the law is just so bad.

WHITFIELD: Tibbetts' body was found Tuesday, August 21st, a month after she went missing during an evening jog. Twenty-year-old Cristhian Bahena Rivera, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico is behind bars, charged with her murder. Police say he confessed. He's being held on $5 million bail and faces life in prison without parole if convicted.

DANE LANG, YARRABEE FARMS CO-OWNER: All of us are saddened by the tragic death of Mollie and the realization that one of our co-workers was involved.

WHITFIELD: The night of Rivera's arrest at a political rally in West Virginia, Trump used Tibbetts' murder as an example of why voters need to hit the polls in November and elect more Republicans.

TRUMP: The immigration laws are such a disgrace. We're getting them changed but we have to get more Republicans. We have to get.

WHITFIELD: That same sentiment echoed the very next day by the president's press secretary.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Sadly, the individual believed to be responsible for the murder is an illegal immigrant, making this an unfortunate reminder of why we need to strengthen our immigration laws.

WHITFIELD: And Republicans on Capitol Hill.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: It seems this murder was preventable. Stricter border security measures including increased personnel, enhanced technology and modernized infrastructure could have prevented this man from crossing the border.

WHITFIELD: Throughout the ordeal, Tibbetts family has tried to stay focused on her memory.

JAKE TIBBETTS, MOLLIE TIBBETTS' BROTHER: We're going to miss her dearly. But to be honest what made her so special was she was just like anyone standing here. She loved Harry Potter.

WHITFIELD: Mollie's aunt, Billie Jo Calderwood, telling CNN she doesn't want Mollie's memory to get lost amongst the politics. Calderwood writing on Facebook, quote, please remember evil comes in every color.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: And joining me right now, CNN Senior Media Reporter Oliver Darcy, former politics editor for Business Insider. Good to see you, Oliver.

So, is this message, you know, that many Republicans are pushing resonating? Or is there pushback like from what we heard from, you know, one of Mollie's own family members, don't use her name in a politicized way?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: It's really actually quite striking that Republicans and conservatives are using her death to push political agenda. Particularly because after mash shootings and other events, you see Republicans say, you know, now is not the time to talk about politics. Let's offer thoughts and prayers but not politics. Let's not use someone's death to push policy.

And on this case, you see it right after the murder comes out and we find out that the immigration status of the alleged killer is undocumented. You see Fox News programs and hosts pushing immigration policy.

[12:35:00] You see the White House pushing immigration policy.

Meanwhile, her family is saying, hey, we don't want her death to get lost in politics --

WHITFIELD: But that hasn't ended it. And that's what's striking. That hasn't ended it even after the family has said. And I guess it's one thing with permission, you know, if it were being used, you know, in a politicized way, it comes with the permission of the family. But we're not seeing that sequence at all.

DARCY: No, we're not. But, you know, this is normal I think for particularly this president and this White House. You saw the president when he launched his campaign speech, right, he gave a speech that talked about people coming into this country and he characterized undocumented immigrants as bringing crime, bringing drugs. He says they're rapists, they're criminals and then some are good people. And so this is not surprising that they're seizing on this murder from someone who was here illegally but they're seizing on it to push this immigration policy. And look, it works among Trump's base. It really excites the base. And I think because of that unfortunately you're going to see him use this in the future and use murders like Kate Steinle and this recent one to advance his agenda on immigration.

WHITFIELD: Right. Well, we saw it with Kate Steinle back in 2015 so it really is kind of a continuation of a method in which the president, you know, has taken.

So, you know, a GOP Senate candidate in Arizona, you know, went a step further in politicizing, you know, Mollie Tibbetts' case, actually saying Arizona's two Republican senators and her political opponent were partially to blame for the tragedy. You know, Dr. Kelli Ward actually tweeting this on Tuesday. Let's put it up.

"The lack of leadership encouraged by open border senators like Jeff Flake, Senator John McCain and, you know, hashtag amnesty advocate Martha McSally contribute to these senseless deaths."

So, there's a lot there, particularly at a time now, days later, that was Tuesday but, you know, knowing John McCain's situation, you know, and his very, very tender time, as he fights a terminal, you know, brain cancer. I mean, does this just exemplify that, you know, there really are no off limits areas as long as you're campaigning?

DARCY: I think what Trump's really done to the Republican Party is he's really radicalized a wing of it. And you see that with Kelli Ward whose someone who's very far right, is very closely aligned for instance Breitbart which was chaired formerly by Steve Bannon. And you see them use this really heated rhetoric and things like immigration. They know this excites the base.

And so the rhetoric's out of control on it. That's really the bottom like. It's just really striking to see Republicans seize on someone's death, someone's murder, and push policies when, again, for so long, they were saying things like don't politicize deaths. That's not the time to talk about tragedy. And right now, after tragedy strikes and it happens to work on their favor, you see them doing it.

WHITFIELD: All right, good points. Oliver Darcy, thanks so much.

DARCY: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:42:33] WHITFIELD: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo no longer planning his fourth trip to North Korea. President Trump nixed plans for Pompeo's visit just one day after next week's trip was announced by Pompeo. Trump made the announcement via Twitter yesterday, saying this.

"I have asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not to go to North Korea at this time because I feel we are not making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

I want to bring in CNN National Security Analyst Sam Vinograd. So Sam, what a difference, you know, 24 hours makes. What could happen in the time between Pompeo's and Trump's announcements?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Fred, frankly I'm confused because on Monday the IAEA, which is the internationally recognized inspection agency for looking at things like denuclearization issued a really, really concerning report in which they expressed grave concern with the lack of progress on denuclearization and the ongoing construction of North Korean nuclear sites. So that happened earlier in the week. But Secretary Pompeo still announced the trip on Thursday, as you mentioned, and the president canceled it about 24 hours later.

What changed? North Korea's ongoing nuclear activity has been a constant. The only thing that changed was a breakdown or seeming breakdown in U.S.-China trade talks that occurred this week. They were at a relatively low level but they ended at the end of the week or toward the end of the week and the president mentioned this in his tweet. He blamed China for not being helpful on denuclearization.

So put the onus more on them than on Kim Jong-un who has refused to denuclearize and refused to keep his commitment to President Trump.

WHITFIELD: And then there was the, you know, the optics of, you know, does this announcement from the president undermine the work of the secretary of state, even though, you know, Sarah Sanders, the White House spokesperson, said that Trump sent out that tweet canceling this visit even while Pompeo was in the room so everybody knew about it? But publicly, does it send a strange message?

VINOGRAD: This is statesmanship at it worst to have the secretary of state go out in Thursday, announced a new envoy and then 24 hours later issue what really is, Fred, a tepid rain check on this trip. You know, the president left the door more than ajar on Secretary Pompeo going back.

[12:45:01] And even said that he looked forward to seeing Chairman Kim, his words, at a future date. So President Trump said that Kim Jong-un is not keeping his commitments, he's not denuclearizing, he's still looking forward to seeing him. And so you have to wonder why that is, if Kim Jong-un is still violating international law, and even if Secretary Pompeo was in the room, I can't imagine that President Trump needed any more evidence than what was in the IAEA report earlier in the week saying that they weren't denuclearizing to decide to cancel this trip.

WHITFIELD: And if it's not an embarrassment to Pompeo, might it ultimately be an embarrassment for Trump because he's the one who famously declared North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat, saying that a few weeks ago. And of course he was, you know, giving much praise after the meeting with Kim Jong-un. Is this now kind of an admission that, well, maybe it's going to take some time or maybe we're not seeing the progress that, you know, the president boasted? VINOGRAD: I think it's an embarrassment for Trump but more than anything it's a blow to global security and global stability because Kim Jong-un is proceeding with his nuclear program. But he's being embraced around the world. He is not considered really to be a rogue regime anymore. The proverbial Kim train left the station the minute that President Trump met with him in Singapore before Kim Jong-un had really done anything.

We have the president of South Korea giving televised addresses talking about the inter-Korean cooperation that's going to go on and $70 billion in economic growth that's going to benefit North Korea and South Korea without North Korea denuclearizing. There are plans for infrastructure linking the two Koreas to Russia and China that are going to bring economic benefits to Kim.

So at this point, people are preceding other leaders from South Korea, Japan, Russia, and China were lifting the pressure campaign, giving Kim economic and diplomatic relief, despite the fact that he has this nuclear program.

WHITFIELD: All right, Sam Vinograd, we'll leave it there. Thanks so much.

All right, still ahead, the wife of ailing Arizona Senator John McCain sending out a message this morning following the news that the senator will no longer continue his cancer treatments. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:51:44] WHITFIELD: A look at our top stories now. The wife of Senator John McCain tweeting this today. "The entire McCain family is overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from around the world." Her tweet coming just a day after the family announced the senator is halting treatment for brain cancer.

Landslides and thrashing winds are threatening the Hawaiian Islands today. Hurricane Lane was downgraded to a tropical storm but residents are being told to remain vigilant as catastrophic rainfall and debris remain risks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIRK CALDWELL, MAYOR OF HONOLULU: We're asking people to please, please heed the warnings and pay attention. With the rain that could fall. With the storm surge that could come. There could be coastal flooding and flooding in our valleys. And while we will take action wherever possible, we're going to be looking to take individual action.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: And the big island has already seen over 40 inches of rain in some areas.

The former head of the Centers for Disease Control is facing charges of forcibly touching a woman. Dr. Thomas Frieden is accused of grabbing the woman without her consent during a party at his home in October. He was arrested Friday and faces three criminal charges. Frieden has been released on his own recognizance.

And in a shocking turn, Elon Musk has given up on his plan to take Tesla private. The billionaire stunned investors earlier this month when he announced that he would remove the electric carmaker from the stock market. Musk said the sudden change in heart came from talking to Tesla shareholders and hearing their advice that he should keep the company public.

Still so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM. But first, here's this week's "Start Small, Think Big".

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NINIVE CALEGARI, CO-FOUNDER, 826 VALENCIA: I'm Mexican-American so it was really important to me to be able to work directly with the Latino community. And be in a neighborhood where all kids would benefit from undivided attention.

My name is Ninive Calegari, I'm the co-founder of 826 Valencia and welcome to the pirate store.

The pirate store was born in order to meet the zoning regulation. The original intention of 826 Valencia was to have a tutoring center where authors and professionals in the community could interact with young people. And when this specific space was found, it was in the perfect neighborhood, in the heart of San Francisco but it requires a store selling items.

The idea of having an open door out to the community where people could come in and enter this magical whimsical ridiculous place caught on. So we use that exact model when we opened all the other sites. For example, in New York, it's superheroes. And then Chicago is another example where there's a spy store and it's called the Wicker Park Secret Agent Supply.

And really what we're about is helping young people improve their writing skills. But first they feel welcome so that spirit of joyfulness I think is hard to pull off without an absolutely crazy store.

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[12:59:23] WHITFIELD: Hello again everyone, and thank you for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

All right, President Trump is using his bully pulpit to once again go on the attack. This morning, he's lashing out after a turbulent week that saw many of his top allies flip. Tweeting about everything from Jeff Sessions to the FBI's handling of the Clinton e-mails, to the U.S. relationship with Mexico. Trump specifically doubling down that he did not know about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between campaign officials and Russian lawyers. That meeting is at the crux of the Mueller investigation into possible campaign collusion.

Even the president's personal attorney is weighing in. Rudy Giuliani tweeting that if Mueller wants to prove he's nonpartisan, he should finish his report ahead of the midterm elections.

CNN White House Reporter Sarah Westwood joins me right now. So Sarah, the president --