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Big Development in Controversial N.C. Transgender Bathroom Law; Russian Ambassador Shot in Turkey; Michelle Obama Speaks Out to Oprah. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired December 19, 2016 - 11:30   ET



[11:29:59] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Some news just in. A big, big development out of North Carolina involving the controversial law over transgender people in bathrooms.

Let's go live to Nick Valencia.

Nick, what's going on?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, this was a surprise move this morning by the Charlotte city council which voted unanimously to rescind their non-discrimination ordinance, which added protected rights to the LGBT community, among them the ability for the transgender community to choose the bathroom of their choice, not what was corresponding to their gender identity on their birth certificate, I should say. This is the first step by state Democrats that will lead to a full repeal of House Bill 2. And we expect a special session to be called tomorrow.

The governor-elect, Roy Cooper, releasing a statement a short time ago saying, "Senate Leader Phil Burger and House Speaker Tim Moore assured me that as a result of Charlotte's vote, a special session will be called for Tuesday to repeal House Bill 2 in full."

The outgoing governor, Pat McCrory, also releasing a statement, in part, that read, "This sudden reversal with little notice after the gubernatorial election sadly proves this entire issue originated by the political left was all about politics and winning the governor's race at the expense of Charlotte and our entire state. As promised, Governor McCrory will call a special session."

I mentioned, John, that this came as a complete shock to many, including those in the transgender community. The fight was over their right, so to speak.

Candace Cox, one of the leading transgender activists, I just got off the phone with her, and she said this came as a complete shock but a welcome one, because she said, "I believe we are headed in the right direction."

Sources on the ground tell us that some in the GOP were desperate to get this law repealed, House Bill 2, because it's cost the state millions and millions of dollars, tens of millions of dollars. Many entertainers have also pulled out from performing there because of House Bill 2.

We should also mention the NCAA, which hosts some games, some championship games there in Charlotte and in the state, they decide what they are going to do with their venue for the next six years in March. So many people there telling us the GOP leadership desperate to get House Bill 2 repealed before that happens.

We will keep an eye on this, John, and try to get you more details as they develop. That's the big breaking news this morning.

BERMAN: Nick Valencia, thanks so much.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: We have more breaking news, this out of Turkey. Word of an attack on the Russian ambassador to Turkey. Pretty horrifying pictures here. This apparently happened at an art exhibition in the capital of Ankara. Details next.


[11:36:00] BERMAN: All right. We have breaking news in to CNN. I do want to warn you, the pictures we are about to show are very, very disturbing.

We are getting word of an attack on the Russian ambassador to Turkey. Andrey Karlov was shot while at an art exhibition in the capital of Ankara. Again, this happened in Ankara. I believe we have pictures.

If we do have pictures of this scene, can we put them up so viewers can see?

There's a map showing you where Ankara is. Ankara, of course, the capital of Turkey right now.

We are getting this word the Russian ambassador was shot in the capital. He's been taken to the hospital.

Why does this matter? We do not know who is responsible for this attack. What we do know is both Turkey and Russia are now intimately involved with the war raging in Syria. In fact, on different sides right now of that war raging in Syria. Russia, of course, supporting the Assad regime in that country. Turkey has been supportive of the rebels, although Turkey has different interests as well with some of the Kurdish fighters that have been fighting the Syrian regime.

We did get pictures just a short time ago from CNN Turk of the attack on the Russian ambassador to this country right now.

Do we have Muhammad Lila?

CNN's Muhammad Lila is on the border between Turkey and Syria.

Muhammad, what can you tell us about the attack?

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPODNENT: Well, we understand the ambassador was speaking at an art gallery when a gunman or several gunmen burst in. We understand he has been shot. We don't know the latest in terms of what condition he is in. All of this is coming from reports from state media.

Of course, now that the Russian Ambassador Andrey Karlov has been shot, this is a major crisis. We know there have been a number of terrorist attacks in Turkey. In fact, just in the last few weeks, there have been several big ones. Of course, none of them have targeted foreign dignitaries, let alone, someone of such a high status at the ambassador level. This is a very big turning point.

It's unclear how Russia or Turkey will respond. We are awaiting an official claim of responsibility for who was behind this very deadly brazen attack.

BERMAN: There has been a great deal of tension between Turkey and Russia over the last 12 months over the war in Syria, right, with planes being shot at, apologies being made. And of course, there are Kurdish separatists who have staged some of the terrorist attacks inside Turkey. If they, in fact, now are targeting Russian officials, and we don't know that they are, this would be a serious development.

LILA: Well, of course. There are so many question marks in this. The thing to remember is --


BERMAN: All right. We appear to have lost Muhammad Lila. He's on the Syria/Turkish border.

Again, you are looking at pictures coming in from CNN Turk of this attack on the Russian ambassador to Turkey. He has been shot at an art exhibition. We need some answers as to who is responsible for this. It is an incredibly, incredibly tense location in this war with a lot at stake. We will find out details and get back to you. Stay with us.


[11:42:19] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: Our breaking news comes out of the Turkish capital, Ankara. You are looking at live pictures from that city where the Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, was just shot. He was shot, apparently, while attending an art exhibition. We believe at this point he has been rushed to the hospital. We do not have any information about his condition.

Why is this important? Turkey and Russia right now both intimately involved in the war in Syria right now, in fact, on different sides of that war though they have been negotiating for this ceasefire in Syria for some time. But there have been a number of tensions between these two countries over the last year or so.

Again, live pictures from Ankara where the Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, just shot and taken to the hospital. Muhammad Lila joins us live from the Turkish/Syria border. Also with

us is Clarissa Ward in Moscow.

I want to go first to Muhammad right now to give us the latest information on what exactly is going on inside Turkey.

LILA: Well, John, we understand that the Russian ambassador, Andrey Karlov, may have been giving a speech when he was shot. We don't know how many gunmen were involved. And of course, we don't yet have a formal claim of responsibility. We know there have been a number of terror attacks inside Turkey just in the last few weeks, major terrorist attacks, in fact, but none of them have targeted a foreign dignitary, let alone, someone as high as an ambassador.

We were talking earlier about this. There have been some tensions in the past between Turkey and Russia, but just in the last few weeks, we have seen a lot of those tensions die down. President Erdogan of Turkey made a very public visit to visit Vladimir Putin and we know the two have been speaking on the phone several times, at least seven or eight times just in the last few weeks, hammering out this evacuation and temporary ceasefire deal in Syria.

So, this comes at a very crucial time not just for Turkey but also with everything that's happening next door in Syria with the official sort of fall of Aleppo and what happens to the militant groups, where do they go after that. So, there are a lot of questions now about how Turkey is going to respond.

And of course, the big question in all of this, the big wild card is how is Russia going to respond.

BERMAN: A lot of that will depend on who was behind this attack, if that information is ever known.

Clarissa Ward joins us from Moscow.

Clarissa, November of 2015, Turkey shot down a Russian plane on the Turkish Syria border. It was an SU-24 fighter jet. There have been tensions over the last several years, not to mention going back decades between Turkey and Russia. But as Muhammad said, of late, the two nations had been negotiating on these ceasefire attempts in Aleppo.

[11:45:14] CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, it's extraordinary how much the relationship between Turkey and Russia has improved since the shooting down of that plane, which was possibly an all-time low. We have seen Russia and Turkey cooperating really quite closely, and I should say much to the chagrin of many rebel forces in Syria, who have started to feel like perhaps Turkey was selling them out as part of this rapprochement with Russia.

As Muhammad mentioned, Russia and Turkey working very closely together trying to broker this Aleppo evacuation deal. There's a big summit here in Moscow tomorrow that Russia and Iran and also Turkey are taking part in as part of ongoing efforts to bring about an end to the Syrian civil war. Turkey's foreign minister is expected to attend that. Certainly, the relationship had made some dramatic strides just in the last six months, really, particularly I would say since the failed coup attempt against Erdogan earlier this summer.

We are getting a little bit more information about Andrey Karlov, the ambassador who was shot. We know that his career began in 1976 as a diplomat. He served as the Russian ambassador, or then the Soviet Union ambassador to North Korea. He later also served as the ambassador to South Korea. He speaks Korean. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he studied at one of the most well-known diplomacy institutes here in Moscow. And he was attending an exhibition called "Russia in the Eyes of Turks."

Of course, the real key here, John, will be to try to find out who was responsible for this shooting. Was it a Turk, was it a Syrian, was it possibly a member of a militant group such as ISIS? Only once we have a better sense of who was responsible for it and exactly what the motivation was for it, whether it, indeed, is related to what's happening at the moment in Syria, will we then get a better sense of how Russia is likely to respond -- John?

BERMAN: That's the key here. We should say that there have been ISIS-linked attacks inside Turkey over the last year. There have also been attacks linked to Kurdish separatists in Turkey over the last several years. We just don't know at this point who is behind the attack. That is something we are going to keep our eye on throughout the day.

Muhammad Lila, while we have you with us, can you give us briefly a quick update on what's happening on the ground inside Aleppo with the attempts to evacuate some of the civilians there?

LILA: Well, this attack comes at such an interesting time because, today, the evacuations went on uninterrupted. Over the weekend, there were some problems and it was on again and off again. There were no evacuations over the weekend. But today, was actually that first bright glimmer of hope after a dark period. The evacuations went on uninterrupted. Turkish officials just today announced that 20,000 people had been evacuated from the eastern part of Aleppo. These are people who had been under siege for several months. They were running short on food and water and many of them need medical treatment. In fact, it was so dire that the U.N. announced 47 orphans had been rescued from eastern Aleppo. They were in an orphanage. A number of them needed medical care and they are now getting that medical care.

By all accounts, today was, even according to people on the ground, a success because it was laying the foundation to get these people in these besieged areas out, and possibly laying the foundation for some sort of tenuous or perhaps even fragile limited ceasefire. Certainly, a foundation you could build on moving forward.

But now that the Russian ambassador has been shot, and we just got word that he's in critical condition, being treated in hospital, the question becomes now not just what happens in Turkey but how does this affect everything that's playing out in Syria. Because if it was one of these groups, for example, ISIS that has a presence in Syria or one of the al Qaeda groups that has a presence in Syria, the question becomes not just what happens in Turkey but the connection and the domino effect that takes place in the whole region, starting in Turkey, obviously, but then obviously moving on to Syria.

BERMAN: Let's just bring you up to speed. You are looking at live pictures from Ankara, the capital of Turkey, where the Russian ambassador, Andrey Karlov, was shot multiple times. Muhammad Lila just told us he's in critical condition. He has been taken to the hospital, the ambassador has. We will update you on his condition when we get it.

As Muhammed and Clarissa Ward were telling you, this comes at a critical time in that part of the world. Both Russia and Turkey intimately involved with trying to figure out what's going on in Aleppo and forge a ceasefire there. It is tenuous at best. This could only make things more complicated. We will update you on the latest information as it comes in.

[11:50:00] We'll be right back.


BERMAN: All right. First Lady Michelle Obama making news. This all part of what is being billed as her final White House interview. This with Oprah Winfrey. It's going to appear on CBS. And she talked this time about the fact she was labeled, as she put it, and Oprah put it, as "an angry black woman" dating back to the 2008-2007 election period. Listen to what she said.


OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: When you were labeled that angry black woman, was that one of the things that knocked you back a bit?

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: One of those things you sort of think, dang, you don't even know me. You know? Just sort of feel like, wow, where'd that come from.


OBAMA: You know? That's the first blow back. You think, that is so not me. But then you sort of think, well, this isn't about me. This is about -- the person or the people who write it. You know?


OBAMA: That's what Maya always used to say.

It's so much about that, and then you start thinking, oh, wow. We're so afraid of each other. You know? Color -- wealth -- these things that don't matter still play too much of a role in how we see one another.


OBAMA: And it's sad. Because the -- the thing that least defines us as people is the color of our skin. It's the -- it's the size of our bank account. None of that matters. You know this.

WINFREY: Yes, of course.

OBAMA: You know, it's our values. It's, you know -- it's how we live our lives, and you can't -- you can't tell that from somebody's race. Somebody's religion. You know? People have to act it out. They have to live those lives, and so that was the blow back, and then I thought, ok, well let me live my life out loud so that people can then see and then judge for themselves. And that's what I want young people to do. Just live your life. You know?

WINFREY: Out loud.

OBAMA: Live it out loud.


[11:55:18] BERMAN: All right. Joining us now, CNN political analyst, Abby Phillip.

Abby, thanks for being with us.

It's interesting, eight years is a long time in office. I think the Michelle Obama, a lot of people see now, and have seen publicly on the campaign trail over the last six months, very different than how she was in a way introduced to the country in 2007-2008. And this is a reminder that it wasn't easy for her to really enter that public arena.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. She was very much reluctant inhabitant of the White House. A reluctant candidate's wife. She has been very public about her view of politics as being a little too cynical and bitter and she was on the receiving end of so much of that for a long time, and her description of sort of living out loud is really a reflective of what's happened, that evolution over time for her over the last eight years. I mean, she has kept her own sort of separate life separate from her husband's office. Goes to soul cycle classes with girlfriends. On vacation by herself and with her children and does this despite of critics.

And I've seen her on the campaign trail with Hillary Clinton in the final weeks and months of the campaign was the force that she brought with her to the stump. She didn't withdraw, because she actually wanted to be involved for a change in this presidential cycle. And she didn't do it in a sort of meek or quiet way. She did it in a very forceful way, and that sort of defined those folks who called her an angry block woman in the early days of the campaign.

BERMAN: If you forget that phrase, "angry black woman," maybe people remember the image from "The New Yorker," where Michelle Obama on the cover essentially dressed up as a terrorist, the images of the way discussed in some circles. And it was an image that she worked hard, I think to break over the years. And then just Friday, the president in his news conference attacks, over the years, including her garden. He joked about people criticize my wife for trying to grow nutritious food in the White House lawn. It goes to show how split and partisan this country has become.

PHILLIP: Right. That that point, so much of the criticism I believe the first lady and president felt was unwarranted. That "New Yorkers' cover you mentioned, where she was sort of satirized as an afro- wearing militant, she was giving her husband a fist jab, which is probably the movie innocuous thing one could have done at that time, but it labeled a fist jab. That is a microcosm of the criticism directed at her. Most dispassionate observers look at it and agree that giving someone a fist jab does not make you a terrorist, and that's an unfair criticism of her that she had to endure. There are many other examples of that.

BERMAN: Michelle Obama speaking out with Oprah Winfrey.

Abby Phillip, thanks so much for being with us.

PHILLIP: Thank you.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: All right. We do have breaking news out of Turkey right now. The Russian ambassador to Turkey is believed to be seriously wounded. He was shot several times, we believe, in the capital of Ankara. Andrey Karlov is his name. He was rushed to the hospital. He is being treated. No word on his exact condition.

Want to go straight away to CNN's Muhammad Lila on the Turkish/Syrian border.

Muhammad, what can you tell us about this incident?

LILA: John, he was attending an event organized by the Russian embassy at an art gallery. The name of the event called "Russia, From Stalingrad to Comchuka (ph)." Maybe there to deliver a speech.

The latest information we have from state media, state news agency, is the gunman is this case has been reported, in their words, he has been neutralized. Don't know if that means still alive or shot dead. We do know, just moments ago, the ambassador was in critical condition, rushed to hospital in one of the best hospitals in the city.

Of course, many of the questions that we don't know right now is, this gunman, we understand he fired several shots, not just at the ambassador but other shots in the air, but we don't know the motivation behind this. And critically, John, we don't know a claim of responsibility yet. That is so important, because Russia, in this country and, in fact, in this entire region has no shortage of enemies. You have to look next door, at all of the various groups fighting in Syria that have a gripe with Russia because of Russia's staunch support for Syria's President Assad. So, the question is, who is --