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AT THIS HOUR
Official: Additional Remains Found Of Sergeant La David Johnson; Trump And Putin Hold Phone Call On Syria; Reuters: Tillerson Accused Of Breaking Child Soldier Laws; Zimbabwe's Mugabe Resigns Presidency; Trump To Impose Sanctions On North Korea; Eight Women Accuse Charlie Rose Of Sexual Harassment; Report: Conyers Settled Complaint Involving Sex Misconduct. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired November 21, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: We begin with breaking news this hour. Good to be with you. I'm Brooke Baldwin sitting in for Kate again today.
Here's the news just in to CNN we have learned that additional remains have been discovered of Sergeant La David Johnson. The 25-year-old Green Beret who was one of those four U.S. soldiers killed last month in an ISIS ambush in Niger.
So, let's go straight to the Pentagon to our correspondent there, Barbara Starr with all of the details and there have been still so many questions surrounding what happened, especially to him, Barbara. So, what are your sources telling you?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Brooke. Perhaps the most important thing to say right off the top here is we do know that the Johnson family has been briefed by the U.S. military on this development. This would not be being reported if the family did not know about it.
It's such a sensitive matter. What we know now is additional remains of Sergeant La David Johnson were discovered in Niger at the site of where he -- his body was recovered when U.S. military and FBI investigators went to the area in early November.
They went there as part of the ongoing investigation to gather evidence to talk to people on the ground and see what they could learn about what had happened. We are told it was at that time they discovered remains which they are not publicly identifying what the remains are, brought them back, and it was an Armed Forces medical examiner that was able to say these were remains from Sergeant Johnson.
What we don't know publicly at least we don't know is, if those remains yet provide any clues, any information about how he died or what happened to his body during that 48-hour period before his body was discovered and returned to the United States. The condition of Sergeant Johnson's body has been an issue right from the beginning. In fact, it was his young widow who initially talked about that very issue. Let's go back and have a listen to what she had to say at the time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MYESHIA JOHNSON, SERGEANT LA DAVID JOHNSON'S WIDOW: Why couldn't I see my husband? Every time I asked to see my husband they wouldn't let me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did they tell you?
JOHNSON: They are telling me that he's in a severe wrap, like I wouldn't be able to see him. I need to see him so I will know that that is my husband. I don't know nothing. They won't show me a finger or a hand. I know my husband's body from head to toe and they won't let me see anything. I don't know what's in that box. It could be empty for all I know, but I need to -- I need to see my husband.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STARR: So what we know is at the time Mrs. Johnson was advised by the military not to view her husband's remains. In fact, the funeral was a closed casket. Hard to say at this point whether this new discovery will, in fact, shed more light on what happened to him -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: Barbara, thank you.
Also unfolding this morning, a phone call between President Trump and Russia's Vladimir Putin about the future of war-torn Syria. The Russian leader made the call after his surprise meeting with the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, a key Moscow ally, in the fight against ISIS. The U.S. and its allies in the coalition have opposed Assad's role in Syria's political future.
Let's talk about that and go straight to the White House to Abby Phillip, who is standing by there with the very latest. Do we have any sort of read out yet, Abby, from that call?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We don't yet, Brooke. A White House official confirmed that the call is now over. The first time President Putin and Trump are speaking since they met in Vietnam on the sidelines of APEC. The key here to this call is about the future of Syria.
The interesting thing about Vladimir Putin's meeting with Bashar al- Assad earlier this week was that what came out of it was talk of a political process, which is something that President Trumps has been talking about for many months now for the future of Syria.
That country has been war torn in a civil war that has left hundreds of thousands dead and Putin being such a key ally of Assad calling for a political process to move that country forward is something that would be keenly of interest to this Trump administration. There were some other issues on the side of their conversation in Vietnam, especially Russian meddling in the 2016 election, but we do believe that this call this morning is very much focused on the conditions on the ground in Syria and the future for that country and how to resolve that long conflict over there -- Brooke.
[11:05:04] BALDWIN: We'll see if there is any talk of North Korea either. Abby, thank you so much. We'll wait for some details from the White House on a read out of the call between Trump and Putin.
In the meantime, I have David Chalian joining me now, CNN political director, and senior diplomatic correspondent, Michelle Kosinski. David, this would be the first Putin/Trump discussion since the brief encounter as Abby mentioned in Vietnam earlier on in the month. How significant is the call?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, it's significant because of the work that Putin is looking to do with the U.S. vis-a-vis Syria, right? I mean, it is significant for that reason as Putin calls for sort of an end to the military phase there in rooting out terrorists and jump start to diplomatic talks about the steps forward and clearly the U.S. will have a role to play in that as well.
So, it's significant for that reason. Obviously, Brooke, any Putin/Trump interaction is fraught with this complete overlay of the Russian interference into the 2016 election and all the investigations that have grown from that.
So, any time these two leaders are in conversation, we are eager to find out did the election interference come up again or has Donald Trump washed his hands of trying to talk about that with Vladimir Putin?
BALDWIN: Michelle, let's go back also to the piece that Abby had also alluded to, how President Trump had been pushing for and now we know this is part of the conversation that happened earlier this week between Putin and Assad, they agreed that only a political solution can come from ending the fighting in Syria.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: I think all of this has a big we'll see attached to it, as always. I mean the question, whenever you're dealing with Russia, especially as regards to Syria, because for such a long time Russia has been supporting the Assad regime, it's always can the U.S. trust Russia.
Of course, the U.S. response is always, well, we're going to try to work together and find areas of cooperation. You know, it's always the same response. This, though, is the reason why, despite all of the problems with Russia, the U.S. tries to work with it because they want a solution in Syria.
I mean, what a big stepping stone that would be. That would be an important outcome if it is a positive outcome. So, you know, we'll see how this discussion goes. It's been difficult to trust Russia although, we did recently have a limited ceasefire there that has been mostly successful. And that has been at least seen by the U.S. as one sign that Russia is finally willing to work to bringing this to an end. If they do have influence over Assad and that is in question, maybe now is the time where it can come together and come to an end.
BALDWIN: Maybe and if. I hear you loud and clear on that. Let me turn a page in the conversation and get to another story today, Michelle, out of the State Department. These dozen or so employees have taken this unusual step of formally accusing the secretary of state of breaking this federal law involving child soldiers. Tell me about that.
KOSINSKI: Well, it's complicated. It's the way that the U.S. deals with certain countries and helps them militarily and other ways. The countries that are in question right now are Iraq, Afghanistan, and Burma. Does the U.S. put them on a list of countries that have a problem with enlisting child soldiers and are they doing something to try to stop that problem?
The U.S. believes that these three countries have made some progress, but there are people in the State Department that feel like Tillerson, Secretary of State Tillerson, has bypassed the normal process and kept them off the list which serves as a kind of warning and a reinforcement that U.S. cares about this problem.
The State Department according to this Reuters reporting has responded by saying, well, you know, there's progress there, the U.S. needs to work with these countries but these dozen or so employees, it's an internal channel, formally filing a complaint basically and said they don't like the way this is happening.
They feel that it violates not only the way the State Department normally does things but could violate the law.
BALDWIN: In 30 seconds, David Chalian, what is going on at the State Department?
CHALIAN: That's an excellent question. Here is what we know because the spokeswoman for the State Department told us so, there's an acknowledgement of some morale problem of career-long folks who have worked in the State Department who feel -- and Michele went through a slice of why that feeling exists.
But there are many, many examples of why some of the career folks at State feel that they have not been able to sort of maintain the U.S. position on the world stage in the way that they feel they've done in the past.
Tillerson sort of, you know, puts a damper on that and you heard him in the White House briefing room yesterday, clearly there at the request of the White House, to show that Tillerson and Trump are completely in sync.
[11:10:08] And that State still has a very front and center role in this administration.
BALDWIN: OK. David and Michelle, thank you, both.
Breaking news now from Africa, Zimbabwe's embattled leader under siege from even his own political allies, now just resigned minutes ago.
CNN's David McKenzie is live there with the very latest on Robert Mugabe. What happened?
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, what happened is the people just celebrating on the streets. Come with me. In parliament, they read a letter that Robert Mugabe, the leader of nearly 37 years, has been under pressure from the military, who has been under pressure from the people and everyone else in this country, has finally let go.
He let go willingly. And just look at the scenes over here, they're partying in the streets, Brooke. Three decades of under power of Robert Mugabe, the man that defines politics in this country, now after a week of tense times and military on the streets, Brooke, we are having the street party here in Zimbabwe.
The ruler for all of this time that's ruled this country with an iron fist, he is gone, and these are the scenes in Harare. Brooke, take a look.
BALDWIN: David, I wanted to sit on the picture for a second. We are still live. I mean, this is extraordinary. These people, can you tell me -- tell me what they are singing and where is Robert Mugabe's wife?
MCKENZIE: Robert Mugabe's wife is in detention, Brooke, and people out here would hold on forever because he is in detention too. There was going to be a lengthy proceeding of impeachment, again clearly buckled under the pressure, and these are the scenes because people know Zimbabwe has been under this (inaudible) of Robert Mugabe for all this time.
(Inaudible) of military coup. He is now -- (inaudible). These are the scenes.
BALDWIN: OK, we're going to have to pull away. I think we all understand here in the United States, David McKenzie in Harare, after 37 years of rule, these are the scenes on the streets. Robert Mugabe out. Look at that.
Back here, the Trump administration getting set to announce brand new sanctions on North Korea. It could happen any moment. This is after the big news about 24 hours ago when President Trump put the regime back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
North Korea state media today took shots at President Trump. Here's one quote for you. Quote, "A heinous criminal," referring to the president, "who should be sternly punished at the DPRK's court and at the court of justice and human conscience."
Now it's not clear if that was a direct response to the terror designation or not, but I have to great voices on this. Gordon Chang, columnist for "The Daily Beast" and author of "Nuclear Showdown, North Korea Takes On The World" and Sue Mi Terry, a former senior Korea analyst at the CIA and former White House official. Thank you for being on with me.
Gordon, turning to you, we've talked sanctions before, we know they're on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, what makes this time different?
GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN, NORTH KOREA TAKES ON THE WORLD": This time is different because President Trump, when he announced he was putting North Korea back on the list, also said that the Treasury Department today would announce big, important sanctions. We don't know what they are, but if it's Treasury, it means they're financial sanctions.
We know that North Korean banks have been sanctioned as far as we possibly can. I'm guessing that the -- we're going to see sanctions that are directed at third-country banks. For instance, Chinese banks, banks anywhere else, because they've been involved in money laundering for the North Koreans especially Chinese banks.
And this would be a monumental step forward if, for instance, they were going to be huge fines like the Obama administration imposed on European banks for supporting Iran or it could even be designations as money launderers basically cutting them off from the global financial system.
BALDWIN: Putting the squeeze on the third party specifically, like China or Africa, as we were talking before. Sue Mi, you know, you were on the National Security Council '08 to '09 and talking to people about this, just before then, when President Bush dropped them off the list in hopes of some sort of negotiations with North Korea. We see how that worked. What do you suggest now?
SUE MI TERRY, FORMER CIA NORTH KOREA ANALYST: Well, I think the Trump administration is doing the right thing. Relisting North Korea as a state sponsor of terror. There is plenty of legal justification to do so.
[11:15:03] Beyond, you know, murdering of Kim Jong-Un's half-brother (inaudible) using banned WMDs and assassination of defectors and critics and ties to terrorist groups and so on. It's additional way to pressure the Kim regime.
I think it's a way to show China that we need to keep up the pressure on the Kim regime because relisting North Korea, beyond symbolic and financial implications and we'll see what happens with this announcement coming out that there is going to more sanction entities.
As Gordon just said, I do think it's going to be more secondary sanctions against third parties and we'll see what kind of Chinese entities will be on that list.
BALDWIN: So, Gordon, lastly, you know, we saw the president in a tough speech to the National Assembly in Seoul when he was talking about come to the table and diplomacy and now we're talking more of a squeeze and this designation. Does that walk that back at all?
CHANG: Actually, I don't think so. Because the only way we're going to have negotiations that are fruitful with North Korea is when Kim Jong-un or the people around him realize they have no choice but to disarm. The way to do that is cut off the flow of money to North Korea. You do that, then they're going to be in a position where they will talk in good faith with the international community.
BALDWIN: OK. Gordon, thank you and Sue Mi, thank you as well.
New sexual harassment allegations rocking Capitol Hill and the media world today. Veteran news anchor, Charlie Rose, has been suspended after eight women reportedly accuse him of sexual harassment.
And now the longest serving member of Congress, reportedly settled a complaint involving sexual misconduct, those stunning details ahead here on CNN.
Also, the father of one of the jailed UCLA basketball players firing back after President Trump says he should have left them in a Chinese jail. Hear from him, stay right here. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
BALDWIN: Breaking news here on CNN, we are talking at the top of the show about this phone call between Russia's President Vladimir Putin and President Trump. We know they were specifically talking about the war-torn country of Syria. We know that call has just now wrapped up and we're waiting for details of some sort of read out of that call.
Again, topic supposed to be specifically Syria. We know that Putin had just recently met with their ally, the Syrian President Bashar Al- Assad, but details to be coming out in mere minutes on this phone call. Stay tuned for that.
Meantime, let's talk about CBS. CBS has suspended Charlie Rose, an anchor of its flagship morning program, over allegations of sexual harassment. The network moved shortly after "The Washington Post" published a story based on interviews with eight women who accused Rose of making unwanted sexual advances.
The women either worked for or wanted to work for the "Charlie Rose Show." The women he currently works with on "CBS This Morning" Gayle King and Norah O'Donnell addressed the situation at the tip-top of their show this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NORAH O'DONNELL, CO-HOST, "CBS THIS MORNING": Let me be very clear. There is no excuse for this alleged behavior. It is systemic and pervasive, and I've been doing a lot of listening and I'm going to continue to do that. This I know is true, women cannot achieve equality in the work place or in society until there is a reckoning and a taking of responsibility.
GAYLE KING, CO-HOST, "CBS THIS MORNING": I've enjoyed a friendship and a partnership with Charlie for the past five years. I've held him in such high regard and I'm really struggling because how do you -- what do you say when someone that you deeply care about has done something that is so horrible?
How do you wrap your brain around that? I'm really grappling with that. That said, Charlie does not get a pass here and he does not get a pass from anyone in this room.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: That was powerful from those women. Brian Stelter is with me, our senior media correspondent. And just reading that "Washington Post" piece, I mean, the thorough, thorough reporting, just walk through, if people aren't familiar walk through the accusations from these women?
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Stop me if you've heard this before. A powerful man using his position of power to harass young women. People around him looking the other way for years and then once the story comes out, even more women now coming forward.
We've seen this pattern with Harvey Weinstein, with NPR (inaudible), actors like Kevin Spacey and now talking about Charlie Rose, a television news icon, someone whose career has been revitalized thanks to the CBS morning show, but now he's been suspended from the show.
I think CBS will make a longer-term decision in the coming hours. I think it's impossible to see him back on the morning show. Now that we've heard the very ugly stories about groping, about alleged lewd behavior, lewd phone calls, sometimes walking around naked in front of his young staffers.
BALDWIN: How do you come back from that?
STELTER: Very strange behavior but certainly part of a pattern that sounds consistent with some of these other powerful men who now stand accused.
BALDWIN: What is he saying?
STELTER: He is apologizing profusely for putting these young women in these terrible situations. But he's also saying, he doesn't think every detail in "The Washington Post" story is accurate and saying he thought this was all shared feelings, meaning the women were interested in him and the relationships were consensual.
[11:25:01] Certainly, the women interviewed by the "Post" disagree and Brooke, there were at least four other news outlets working on similar stories. They were interviewing other women with other accounts. Unfortunately, this is another one of those cases where it starts with a leak and then becomes a flood.
BALDWIN: We've got to move to Capitol Hill but just, you know, extending thoughts to Norah and Gayle. Those are strong women and I know this is incredibly difficult for them as they knew him in a different and that, of course, everyone --
STELTER: Now we've seen this other side.
BALDWIN: Exactly. Brian, thank you very much.
There are also these new allegations of sexual harassment coming out of Capitol Hill today. This time against the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, Michigan Democrat John Conyers.
So, let's go to CNN congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty, with the details there from Washington. What are the allegations, Sunlen?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, these are serious allegations here and a report posted by "Buzzfeed," which I should say CNN has not been able to independently confirm yet, but according to documents that "Buzzfeed" obtained, former staffers of Congressman Conyers claimed that they were asked by the congressman for sexual favors, claims of inappropriate touching, caressing of their hands, rubbing of the backs and legs.
Also, they alleged that they were in charge of transporting at times other women who they believe that Conyers was having affairs with. Now Conyers' Office has not responded to CNN's request for comment on this story, but the congressman was reached this morning at his home in Detroit by the "Associated Press."
He answered the door at his home and he tells the AP that he hasn't settled any sexual harassment complaints with any staff members. Additionally, Brooke, he says he knows nothing about any claims of inappropriate touching and he only learned of this story just hours earlier. So clearly many more questions here -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: And then the other layer to this is, who knew about these settlements, right? I mean, I've seen quotes from the former House speaker saying wasn't aware and Leader Pelosi had no idea. Who knew?
SERFATY: That's right. That is the biggest question here as we dig deeper into this story. First and foremost we're hearing from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan calls this -- deeply troubling report and says it is clear that changes need to be made in the system.
And that is exactly what is troubling about the story beneath the surface is the fact that as "Buzzfeed" reports the settlement was reached with one of the woman in 2015 and she got paid $27,000, importantly, from the congressman's own office. That came out of the budget for his office.
And that's important because as we've been reporting in recent weeks the process on Capitol Hill right now is that complaints go through the Office of Compliance. If it reaches the point of a settlement, then if they're paid out from a fund set up from the U.S. Treasury.
So, the fact that now we're hearing the first case of a congressman paying directly from their office, it calls into question how much we fully know about how widespread this is on Capitol Hill -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: Keep digging on this. Sunlen Serfaty, thank you in Washington.
Meantime, LaVar Ball, the father of one of those jailed UCLA basketball players, he's now firing back after President Trump says he should have left them in a Chinese jail.
Plus, breaking news, history in Africa. Celebrations in the streets, look at these pictures, after long-time president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, announces he is resigning. Stay right here.