Return to Transcripts main page
WORLD RIGHT NOW WITH HALA GORANI
Donald Trump Escalates War on Media; U.K. House of Lords Debates Brexit Bill for Second Day; Escaping Slavery in Hong Kong; Thoughts on Trump in Pyongyang; Trump Condemns Recent Wave Of Anti-Semitism; Clinton Calls On Trump To Denounce Attacks; Revised U.S. Travel Ban Expected This Week; Le Pen, Macron Tout Foreign Policy Credentials; Riots Erupt Overnight In Swedish Capital; Trump Deploys Team To Soothe Anxious Allies; One-On-One With NATO Secretary General. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired February 21, 2017 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Hala Gorani. We are live from CNN London. Thanks for being with us on this Tuesday.
This is THE WORLD RIGHT NOW.
Donald Trump says the threats against America's Jewish community are, quote, "horrible and painful," unquote, and that have to stop. The U.S.
president directly condemned the rise in anti-Semitic incidents across the country for the first time today.
He's been under pressure for weeks to do just that and to speak out after a series of bomb threats against Jewish centers. Mr. Trump made the remark
after touring an African-American History Museum in Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This was a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred
in all of it is very ugly forms. The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a
very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: A very different tone, a very different message from the one we have heard over the last few weeks. One prominent Jewish center in New
York, though, says Mr. Trump's comments are too little too late. The Ann Frank Center for Mutual Respect says, quote, "The president's sudden
acknowledgment is a Band-Aid on the cancer of anti-Semitism that has infected his own administration," unquote.
Let bring in Michael Smerconish, host of "SMERCONISH" here on CNN. What is behind this? Because he's been under pressure to do this. He was even
asked by a Jewish reporter at a news conference last, you know, to condemn these attacks and basically told him sit down, sit down. But now we're
hearing something very different from Donald Trump. What's going on?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hala, I think you make a really good point that the optics of what transpired at last Thursday's
press conference when he was asked by a reporter who is Jewish about anti- Semitism and the abrupt manner with which the president treated that questioner even though the questioner later came to his defense.
It did not bode well for the president. It looked bad. People were upset about it. Ivanka Trump issued a statement of her own seemed to say all the
right things. A New York congressman said well done, but what about your father?
And so today was the day that he stood firm and said what he said about anti-Semitism. Some will say that was too little too late. As you've just
referenced, but I think that it was a president who was more on firm ground frankly than we have seen him thus far in his presidency. A couple of
things seemed to be going well for him.
GORANI: Yes, but I do wonder he's never cared in the past about negative brats or people criticizing him, or at least he says he does not care.
What was different about this one?
SMERCONISH: Maybe the fact that those numbers that are almost uniform some different than others about his standing with the American people in the
month now that he has been in office or at a really unprecedented low point. You know, traditionally there is a honeymoon period that we afford
a new commander-in-chief. Well, there has been no honeymoon for President Donald Trump.
GORANI: Now by the way, Hillary Clinton, who -- and correct me if I'm wrong, I think this might be the first or second time she's tweeted
directly about Donald Trump. This is what she said, "JCC threats, cemetery desecration and online attacks are so troubling and they need to be
stopped. Everyone must speak out, starting with @potus." What's behind this? Why did she pick this topic to communicate on?
SMERCONISH: She must think that these circumstances are so extraordinary that there have been this this uptick. This documentable rise in anti-
Semitism that he needs to speak out and do more about it.
I mean, we have a tradition as you well know in this country of presidents leaving office and not commenting on their successors. So far, Barack
Obama has pretty much honor that with regard to President Reagan.
And likewise I think that is the former secretary of state, she felt honor bound to keep her powder dry or remain silent, but as you point out, not in
[15:05:11]GORANI: Now Donald Trump spends a lot of time attacking the mainstream media even called us the enemy of the American people, which was
for someone who usually reports from countries in the Middle East where that sentiment is echoed from their leader there, and is carried through
sometimes in quite -- with quite terrible consequences.
It was something that I think raised a lot of eyebrows, but that said he is granting interviews to that very same mainstream media he says is the
enemy. This is what he told me MSNBC about a new executive action on travel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: We have to have a safe country. We have to let people come in that are going to love the country. This is about love. This
building is about love and we have to have people come in that are going to love the country, not people that are going to harm the country. And I
think a lot of people agree with me on that.
So we'll have various things coming out over a period of time, and you'll see them as they come out, and we'll let you know exactly what they are.
But we have to let people come in that are going to be positive for our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: And Michael, once again, now obviously the content of the Executive Order is not going to be good news for anyone opposing these
types of measures, but his tone is different.
SMERCONISH: Well, Hala, to our friends around the globe, what is as significant about the tone is the platform. He was giving that interview
to MSNBC, which is an American cable station that has, I would say a decidedly left of center perspective.
And so availing himself to MSNBC questioning and seeking to say something new about this immigration ban, I think is duly significant. I expect that
when we finally get a look at the new ban it would make exception for green cards.
I am particularly interested to see how will he treat the 17,000 foreigners, who are educated in the United States annually 12,000 plus of
whom come from Iran because that was another large category of individuals, who were really caught unaware both academics and students. And I think
that that necessitates a fix.
GORANI: They're a huge community. Lastly, I mean, we know how people around the world feel about these travel bans. People mainly in their
majority I can say were pretty appalled by it. What about Americans? What do they think of the idea of restricting entry to the United States from
citizens of these seven countries even those who might have been granted visas already?
SMERCONISH: Well, unfortunately, I think that many of those who are supportive of the idea, frankly don't completely comprehend the vetting
process that is already in place for the residents of those seven nations, who wish to come to the United States.
And so I guess I am saying to you a little editorializing here for me that there is great misunderstanding about wherein really lie the problems. His
base continues to stand with him in large measure, but overwhelmingly Americans generally are disapproving of the way in which this was rolled
GORANI: Michael Smerconish, always a pleasure, thanks very much for joining us this evening.
SMERCONISH: Thank you.
GORANI: Here in Europe, eyes are turning to a series of elections that could have similar populist tones that we saw with Donald Trump. In
France, voters go to the polls in April and two of the top contenders, Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, whom you see behind me. He was on a
visit to London today. They are abroad touting their foreign policy credentials. Melissa Bell has the latest on how those two trips went.
MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With just nine weeks to go until polling day, the two front runners in France's presidential
election were abroad today trying to establish their credentials as world leaders.
In Beirut, a visit by the woman leading France's presidential polls, Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader set off a small protest and a large
Prior to meeting with Lebanese religious leader, the grand mufti, the spokesman says Le Pen was told that she would have to wear a headscarf, she
refused to do so.
The spokesman called it inappropriate behavior. As she stormed out of Lebanon City Authority, the (inaudible), she said she not been asked to
cover herself on an earlier trip to Cairo when she met the (inaudible) mosque's imam.
MARINE LE PEN, FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): Grand mufti aides could have just told me, Madame, the conditions in (inaudible)
is the veil. I had indicated earlier that I wouldn't wear it. The aides of the grand mufti were free at that point to tell me that this meeting
BELL: A diplomatic incident that has been described by her critics back in France's blatant electioneering in a country where the headscarf has been a
central issue for more than a decade. Marine Le Pen has opposed to public religious symbols.
Less controversial with Emmanuel Macron's visit to Downing Street after his meeting with the British prime minister, the centrist candidate whose now
only second to Marine Le Pen answered those critics who point out that he has yet to say precisely what he actually stands for.
[15:10:14]UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you agree the momentum is currently with her?
EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sure. But it would come into coming weeks, I will disclose my program next week in France and I
will explain how my program is a program to make friends (inaudible) environment with innovation, with training program, with helping middle
classes to succeed.
BELL: After leaving Downing Street, Emmanuel Macron spoke to London's substantial French electorate. Voters from both left and right that he
hopes will be seduced by his centrism. But his critics point out that until his program is announced, he is in danger of giving up ground to a
woman who is very clear about what she stands for.
GORANI: And we'll get to Melissa Bell in Paris in just a moment, but I met with Emmanuel Macron alongside other journalists. It was a meet and greet.
No cameras allowed although all of it was on the record. It was very interesting to hear kind of his approach to what he thinks he can bring to
He doesn't believe his age, only 39 years old, is an issue at all. He is a firm believer in the European Union, which in a way a bit of
counterprogramming because sort of the populist fever sweeping many countries in the US and across Europe would have you think that as a
political strategy being firmly pro-Europe might not be the best way to go.
But he says he is so convinced that this is the right political model that in fact it guards French sovereignty as opposed to threatens it, but this
is what he's going to go for.
Melissa Bell is in Paris. So Melissa, as I was telling our viewers. I found it very interesting what he said about Europe. This is really his
major -- you know, his major campaign platform. Obviously, there are other things, but he is unabashedly pro-European, and he thinks that's his
BELL: Unabashedly pro-European, and of course now, as the polls put him just behind Marine Le Pen, he is the main challenger, and as the main
challenger to a woman who intends to hold a referendum on withdrawing France from the European Union.
He is, of course, talking a great deal about that position in particular because here in France, there are simply isn't the source of the Euro
skepticism, although, it has been on the right historically that you saw in the United Kingdom before the Brexit vote.
So purely he's trying to put that at the center of things, and yet, the rest of his platform does remain fairly sketchy, Hala, and we're going to
have until the 2nd of March to find out more about it.
Now that vagueness, the sort of centrist vagueness, was something of an asset as long as he was in third position. Now that he's that main
challenger to Marine Le Pen, he's been coming under greater scrutiny and his campaign has been hitting a few controversial issues, a few road blocks
over the course of the last week.
And he's through tapering off now in the polls. It looks as though Francois Fillon, the Republican candidate, might be coming back in those
polls in a way that could allow him if it continues to present himself as the one to take on Marine Le Pen.
GORANI: All right, Melissa Bell, thanks very much. We'll continue to follow this. And by the way, if our viewers are wondering why they are
seeing Emmanuel Macron on stage there, sort of speaking and counting -- sort of counting down topics on a list of talking points.
This is a live event happening in London right now, but you should know 300,000 French citizens live in the U.K. and many of those people will vote
in the French election. He's trying to appeal to them. He is also trying to say to them, look, hopefully, we'll create more employment opportunities
for you and friends.
But as Melissa said, still unclear what the proposals will be. We'll have to wait a few days. Speaking of France, the specter of terrorism has been
a big part of the election campaign. There have been a number of high- profile attacks and earlier, three men were arrested today on suspicion of either wanting to either join the fighting in Syria or planning a terrorist
attack in France. A demining operation carried out at one of the suspects homes. According to prosecutors took place today in (inaudible) in France.
To Sweden now, riots broke out overnight in Stockholm, Sweden, just days after the American President Trump wrongly implied refugees had carried out
a terrorist attack there. Now the unrest erupted in the northern suburbs in a mainly immigrant neighborhood. Riders torched cars and vandalized
shops and threw rocks at police.
President Trump's comments grew out of a report he saw on Fox news about immigrants in Sweden and he later suggested that large-scale immigration in
Sweden was clearly not working.
Now Sweden has taken in more asylum seekers per capita than any other European country in 2015, but research shows that the influx of refugees is
not linked to an increase in crime.
Ivan Watson is in Stockholm. First, Ivan, let's talk a little bit about these riots because those who would like to say that Donald Trump's
comments refer to a real problem in Sweden are pointing at these riots and say, we told you immigrants cause violence look at what is going on. Tell
us what really happened in Sweden yesterday.
[15:15:09]IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the riots Monday night in (inaudible) kind of help answer the
question that Donald raised, what happened, what did happened in Sweden last night.
So what we saw there and what police say happened is that police went into this suburb of Stockholm to try to arrest somebody who was wanted and that
triggered clashes with several dozen people, who hurled stones or bottles at the police.
At least 10 cars were torched. One police officer suffered a bruise in the arm when hit by some of hurled projectile and it was an unsettled
situation. There were some shop windows smashed.
We went there today, a day later after having been warned by a right-wing political party leader, lawmaker not to go there for fear of danger. I was
surprised however to see that there were almost no signs of the disturbances of the violence of the night before.
Presumably all the cars had been towed away. There were some smashed shop windows, many of them had been repaired already, and there were families
moving around normally there. We were able to operate with a very large television camera without anybody bothering us.
I counted perhaps around 15 police officers there and again families with small children there. Police say they are keeping an eye on that
neighborhood to see if there would be a repeat of the violence again tonight.
A police spokesman here says that that is a largely immigrant neighborhood and that it is a place with high unemployment and lower levels of education
and income, and that periodically disturbances, riots, torched cars that does take place there.
As disturbances like these take place in other parts of Sweden as well where there are activities of organized criminal gangs particularly
involved in the drug trade -- Hala.
GORANI: All right, Ivan Watson, thanks very much in Stockholm, Sweden, with the very latest on what did happened last night in Sweden.
Still to come this evening, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence tried to reassure anxious NATO allies Monday. So did his message hit home? I asked
the NATO secretary general, Jen Stoltenberg. Our conversation is next.
And British lords are debating a bill on Brexit for a second day and there were lots of strong words. We'll have more in a few minutes.
GORANI: It's been a whirlwind week for American diplomacy, Donald Trump deployed senior members of his team on a single global mission reassurance.
Vice President Mike Pence met with E.U. and NATO officials, and said that Americans intends to stand with its allies.
[15:20:01]The defense secretary, James Mattis, visited Baghdad. He pledged that the U.S. was not looking to steal Iraq's oil. Rex Tillerson made his
international debut as secretary of State at the G20 Summit in Germany.
Mike Pence arguably had the week's toughest job, calming nerves among NATO allies. Alliance members have been on edge since Donald Trump suggested
that member nations need to pay their way or else.
Earlier I spoke with the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. First, I asked him what he spoke to Donald Trump about in two separate phone calls
about the U.S.' commitment to NATO.
JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: President Trump told me in my two phone calls with him that he is personally strongly committed to NATO,
to the transatlantic bond and he sees the importance of a strong NATO for Europe but also for the United States.
And he also assured me that the United States will continue to increase its military presence all around in Europe showing this commitment not only
words but also in deeds.
But then at the same time, he is strongly underlined the importance of that old NATO allies implement what we agreed when it comes to increase the
defense spending and (inaudible) sharing.
I told him that I agree with him. We need a fair (inaudible) sharing in NATO, but I also told him that we have turned a corner that we have started
to increase and that we are moving in the right direction with increased defense spending across Europe and Canada.
GORANI: And this is in complete contradiction to things he said in the past about NATO. Why did you choose to believe him this time?
STOLTENBERG: He is the president of the United States and his statement is clearly to me, but he also stated cleared to all the NATO leaders, and that
is the same message I am getting from Secretary Mattis, Secretary Tillerson, and also from the vice president yesterday here in Brussels.
And it's supported by actions on the ground in Europe with more military presence of the United States in Europe. So I'm confident that the United
States will remain committed to the transatlantic bond.
And this is, of course, good for Europe, but it's also good for the United States because we have to remember that the only time NATO has invoked our
Article 5, our collective defense clause was often attack on the United States, 9/11/2001.
And hundreds of thousands of European soldiers have served in Afghanistan in the military operations that was in response to a military attack
although it (inaudible) United States so it just illustrates that strong NATO is good for Europe but also may be good for the United States.
GORANI: We spoke today with one of the leading French election candidates in the presidential election, Emmanuel Macron. He said in his website was
he believes the victim of 4,000 four separate cyber-attack by (inaudible) coming they believe from Russia. How much of a threat do you think Russian
expansionism be it Ukraine, Crimea or cyber-attacks is a threat to an alliance like NATO?
STOLTENBERG: We have seen several reports about attempts of Russia to try to interfere in the democratic process in NATO allied countries. With this
information, propaganda, but also with cyber-attacks and we are now working with all the allies to strengthen their cyber defenses.
We share best practices. We have developed a rapid reactions, teams that can be deployed to NATO allies to help them defend their cyber networks.
We are also sharing facts to counter the propaganda from Russia.
GORANI: Do you think the ceasefire will hold in Eastern Ukraine this time?
STOLTENBERG: The reports we have received so far is that the ceasefire is mainly holding, but it is a fragile ceasefire and we have seen many times
before that the ceasefire is not respected, and of course, we resist that we can see that again this time.
The key is that we have to see the withdrawal of heavy weapons and to make sure that that happens, we need to have full, safe and unhindered access
over the international observers.
So what NATO is calling on is that the international observers get full access to the area to make sure that the ceasefire is fully respected.
GORANI: There was one particular issue that had people concerned after the annexation of Crimea, after the increase in war games with a border of some
Baltic countries that some separatist travel documents now are being recognized by Russia, you know, in order to facilitate travel between
Eastern Ukraine by ethnic Russians into Russia. And though, somehow they are already treating that part of Ukraine as part of Russia de facto in
some ways. Does this concern you?
STOLTENBERG: Absolutely, because it is undermining the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
[15:25:04]Because when Russia starts to recognize travel documents issued by an illegal separatist forces in Eastern Ukraine, it's violating the
sovereignty of Ukraine and undermining to efforts to implement the Minsk agreements.
So we call on Russia to use all its influence over the separatists to make sure that they respect the ceasefire and will implement the Minks
GORANI: Jens Stoltenberg there speaking to us from Brussels, NATO headquarters, with the latest on his reaction to American assurances.
They're still committed to the alliance.
Now U.S. troops are backing Iraqi forces in the operation to retake Western Mosul. So far, they've cleared ISIS fighters from a key village
overlooking the airport.
Take a look at this video, it shows a tunnel abandoned by ISIS near that village. Iraqi federal police says it was outfitted with beds, water
tanks, and styrofoam coolers. Some 750,000 civilians are trapped between Iraqi forces and ISIS fighters in that particular battle.
Still to come, a closer look at Donald Trump's war on the media. Could this constant bashing and belittling have a chilling effect on freedom of
the press? We'll talk with the president of the White House Correspondents Association next.
GORANI: Donald Trump says the threats against America's Jewish community are horrible and painful and have to stop. The American president directly
condemned the rise in anti-Semitic incidents across the country. Today, he has been under pressure to speak out after a series of bomb threats against
A French presidential candidate, Emmanuel Macron, is in London. Earlier, he met the British Prime Minister Theresa May and he spoke to the sizable
(inaudible) in the city. French voters go to the polls for the first round of the election in April.
An Israeli soldier has been sentenced to 18 months in a military prison for shooting and killing a Palestinian stabbing attack suspect who was on the
ground wounded. Elor Azaria (ph) was convicted of manslaughter last month.
Malaysian authorities still haven't announced the official cause of death for Kim Jong-Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader, Kim
Jong-un. South Korea believed that Kim was poisoned before he died on February 13th. But the mystery over the North Korean's death is still
swirling. Saima Mohsin has the latest from Kuala Lumpur.
SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The cause of death for Kim Jong-Nam is still unknown. That's according to Malaysia's director general of health
who held a press conference at the morgue where the body is being kept and undergoing an autopsy right now.
[15:30:10] Now, they're still waiting for tests results to come back, and they have eliminated the possibility of a heart attack, which a lot of
speculation in local media as to whether that could have been an alternative cause of death.
Of course, South Korea, very soon on in this murder investigation, alleging that their intelligence committee had discovered that this was murder with
poison. Malaysia's saying they're still trying to establish what the toxicology in the body shows.
The Director-General of Health also is saying that no next of kin has come forward yet. Now, that's important because Malaysia says it will not
release the body until a member of the next of kin comes forward to identify or offer a DNA sample. Now, that, of course, will prove
incredibly difficult because Kim Jong-nam has been living in exile, in effect, and his family members could potentially be in hiding now that we
believe he has been assassinated.
Let's also remember, though, that in a dramatic press conference outside the North Korean embassy here in Kuala Lumpur, the ambassador for North
Korea in Malaysia said that they identify this man as Kim Chol as on the important he was carrying at the time.
Saima Mohsin, CNN, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
GORANI: All right. Saima Mohsin, thanks very much.
It's the media's fault. We've heard that time and time again from Donald Trump as he tries to explain away various controversies. But the U.S.
President recently escalated his war on the free press to new heights.
Our Senior Media Correspondent Brian Stelter has that story for us.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Many of our greatest presidents fought with the media and called them out often times on their
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): But not like this. Trump tweeted on Friday, "The fake news media is not my enemy. It
is the enemy of the American people."
Historians said the closest thing to Trump's tweet could be heard on this secret tape of Richard Nixon.
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The press is the enemy. The press is the enemy. The press is the enemy.
STELTER (voice-over): Nixon said this privately while reporters probed his misconduct. Forty-five years later, reporters are chasing leads about
Trump, and he hates what he's reading.
TRUMP: Do you think that one media back there, that one network, will show this crowd? Not one.
STELTER (voice-over): Of course, the networks did show the adoring crowds and the protesters too. Trump's aides are defending his media attacks.
REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: You'd get about 10 percent cover. The next 20 hours is all about Russian spies, how no one gets along
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: But you don't get to tell us what to do, Reince.
PRIEBUS: -- how nothing's happening. Give me a break.
WALLACE: You don't get to tell us what do any more than Barack Obama did. Barack Obama whined about Fox News all the time, but I got to say, he never
said that we were an enemy of the people.
STELTER (voice-over): Some Republican leaders are joining Democrats in raising alarms about Trump's vitriol.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: If you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and, many times, adversarial press. And
without it, I'm afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That's how dictators get started.
STELTER (voice-over): Others are hitting the breaks, saying Trump is just talking, not actually clamping down on the press.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I haven't seen any legislation coming forward that wants to limit the press. I see President Trump expressing
STELTER (voice-over): But media freedom groups are disturbed, saying Trump's barbs have a chilling effect.
TRUMP: I will never, ever let them get away with it.
STELTER (voice-over): Brian Stelter, CNN, New York.
GORANI: We're joined now by someone all too familiar with the challenges of covering the new U.S. President. Jeff Mason is the White House
correspondent for Reuters News Agency. He's also president of the White House Correspondents Association.
Jeff, thanks for being with us. We spoke with you just a few days after the inauguration. We're more than a month in now. Talk to us about what
it's like covering President Trump.
JEFF MASON, PRESIDENT, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS ASSOCIATION: Well, you are right. We are more than a month in, and it's certainly a much
different White House than it was more than a month ago. But that would have been true regardless of who had won. A new president also is always
going to bring in some new traditions and have new questions how it deals with the press.
So far, I mean, you saw some of the challenges listed in Brian's package just now. Obviously, the tone set by the President has been a challenge,
but the access issues actually here at the White House for White House reporters have actually been pretty mild.
We've had a lot of access and opportunities to ask questions of the President. We've had what we call pool sprays, which is when the pool of
reporters who cover the President, they get to go into the Oval Office pretty regularly. So on that sense, we've actually done pretty well.
GORANI: But in the first few weeks, I remember reporters complaining they weren't getting access to Sean Spicer. And also "New York Times"
complained that many of their e-mails went unanswered. Has that been an ongoing issue?
[15:35:10] MASON: That is an ongoing issue, yes. Getting timely answers from the press representatives of the White House has been a challenge for
people, but, you know what, a lot of them are still figuring out their new roles. I think that's part of it. I think they've also struggled,
honestly, with the sheer influx of demand from reporters, like myself, and news organizations that cover the White House.
But it is an important thing for member of the White House Correspondents Association and the press at large that they get their questions answered.
No questions about that.
GORANI: But, Jeff, it's not every day the President of the United States calls reporters the enemy of the American people. This is the type of
thing we expect to hear in the Middle East or in regimes, you know, that have not a great democratic sort of track record. I mean, did this send a
chill in the White House press corp when you heard that?
MASON: Well, it's not the type of tone that I would choose to set, but it's up to the President to decide what kind of tone he wants and to use
the language that he wants. You know, I've said repeatedly, we don't influence the language --
GORANI: It's not innocuous language, though. I mean, this is pretty serious, or actually it is --
MASON: I agree.
GORANI: I mean, this is also another question. Are reporters thinking this is just bluster, this is just the way he is? He's being provocative.
There's not really going to be a crackdown.
MASON: Well, here's the thing. I think, on one level, it really doesn't matter what we think because what our job is, is simply to continue doing
MASON: As I was starting to say, I don't agree with that tone. I don't agree with the suggestion that the White House is at war with the press. I
certainly don't agree or condone the suggestion that the media is the enemy of the American people. That is not language that I would use and not
language that I think is correct.
But what I do think is correct is that the media has to do its job, and that's what we're doing, regardless of the type of rhetoric that is coming
from the President or his staff.
GORANI: And there were questions about -- and I know this is down the line, but the very fancy, sort of celebrity-studded event at the White
House Correspondents Dinner. "Vanity Fair" pulled out some fancy pre- party, et cetera, et cetera.
Is that going ahead? And if so, how will it be different from Barack Obama administration years when so many celebrities flocked to be associated with
MASON: Well, absolutely, it's going ahead. And the White House Correspondents Association, which is the group that I'm the president of
right now, is the group that plans that dinner, and we look forward to having it.
I don't have any raw details for you on how it will be different. The dinner changes a little bit every single year. And certainly, it would
have changed regardless of who had won the election because it is a new president. But we look forward to having it.
The dinner is an opportunity to showcase the importance of the First Amendment and also to highlight scholarship winners and the good work of
our members. And that's what we're going to do on April 29th.
GORANI: All right. Jeff Mason, thanks very much, the president of the White House Correspondents Association. We appreciate you joining us from
the White House today in Washington.
MASON: My pleasure.
GORANI: Check out our Facebook page, facebook.com/halagoranicnn. We'll post some of the show content on that page today.
Last night, I was at the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, telling you how the House of Lords was debating the bill on Brexit. They are still
debating it, by the way. It'd Day 2. That's because a record 191 members are lined up to speak.
And as you can imagine, the rhetoric has been fiery. He's what one Labour peer had to say about the leave side and the Prime Minister Theresa May.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARON SPENCER LIVERMORE, LABOUR HOUSE OF LORDS MEMBER: -- distorted as to be unrecognizable. Yet in this bill, we're being asked to support an
unelected Prime Minister, with no mandate of her own, pursuing a policy opposite to that in the manifesto on which her party was elected.
And she seeks to negotiate the hardest possible interpretation of Brexit, for which there is no majority in the country and which will be devastating
to the lives of millions of those leave protests on whom the outcome depend it. And yet the government now has the nerve to lecture us about
respecting the will of the people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: It comes after the former Prime Minister Tony Blair made an intervention, saying, last week, the voter should be able to, quote,
"change their mind on Brexit." Let's bring in John Rentoul. He's written a biography on Tony Blair and he's a chief political commentator at "The
Thanks for being with us.
JOHN RENTOUL, CHIEF POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, THE INDEPENDENT: Hi.
GORANI: I mean, I don't know if I was surprised. I found interesting the fact that what Tony Blair had to say about Brexit and the choice he thought
Britain still potentially had. It was really front-page news here in the U.K. He hasn't been prime minister for years. Why is that?
RENTOUL: Ten years.
GORANI: You're right.
RENTOUL: And the entire Westminster press corp was down there to listen to him speak. And you're right, it's big news. Every time he pops up, it's
big news. Partly, it was because last week was a quiet week.
RENTOUL: Because parliament was in recess, so journalists didn't have anything else to report.
[15:39:57] But the point about Tony Blair is that he can make that case, and it's quite a difficult case, given that there has been a referendum
which decided to come out. It's quite a difficult case to say, we should keep the option open, of trying to reverse that referendum.
GORANI: All right. But is it even feasible? I mean, is that even a possibility? We're a few weeks away from triggering Article 50 in this
RENTOUL: I think it's extremely unlikely, but it was, as you say, very interesting to hear Tony Blair make that case because he's a very
articulate and passionate advocate. And he said, you know, it was the sovereign decision of the British people to come out. But if they change
their mind, then it's their sovereign right to reach a different conclusion.
GORANI: And this isn't --
RENTOUL: He wants to work towards that happening.
GORANI: When he speaks on the Middle East, I have to say he doesn't get that much attention.
GORANI: And when he speaks on Brexit, he makes front-page news. William Hague, by the way, said this about Tony Blair's intervention on Brexit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARON WILLIAM HAGUE, FORMER FOREIGN SECRETARY OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: I have enormous respect for him, more than many on his own party.
HAGUE: Particularly, the roundly defeated me in the 2001 general election. But if nine months after that, I had asked people to rise up against the
result, Mr. Blair would not have been very amused that I was doing so. He would have told me to listen to the voters and to abide by the results.
And the same advice can be given to him in these circumstances.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: The former Foreign Secretary there. Well, he has a point, I mean. But why is Tony Blair coming out, do you think, and speaking about Brexit
and wanting to get this type of attention now?
RENTOUL: Oh, I think it is purely because he cares passionately about Europe. I mean, I think one of the things he has decided as a tenure Prime
Minister is that he understands Britain's fundamental strategic interest. You know, he thinks it's wrong and it's stupid to leave our most important
trading partner. He wants to make that case.
And what is very striking about this is how many people in the Labour Party, who elected Jeremy Corbyn in a reaction against everything Tony
Blair stands for, are wondering if they, you know, shouldn't perhaps think again because everything that Tony Blair says is what they want to hear
Jeremy Corbyn say.
GORANI: Well, so is Tony Blair thinking of potentially re-entering public life or taking on a political role somehow?
RENTOUL: I'm sure he would love --
GORANI: Or is he done?
RENTOUL: I'm sure he would love to be begged to do that.
RENTOUL: But he is a politician, and he's not stupid. He realizes that his time finished 10 years ago. And the only people who are obsessed with
him are actually the sort of Jeremy Corbyn supporters who want the Labour Party to be different from his time. But there are also the other people
who are interested in what he has to say, and those are the passionate pro- Europeans who won't accept the result of the referendum and want to fight it.
GORANI: But what I found interesting is, on the day that Tony Blair said these things, I spoke to the letters editor of "The Guardian" who said he'd
voted to leave. And he said, but when I voted to leave, I didn't think it meant we would really leave the E.U. which was interesting.
RENTOUL: Well --
GORANI: But I've heard that from many people, that this was protest vote, that this was just a way to renegotiate a better deal for the U.K. Is
there a sizeable, I mean, sort of chunk of the population that voted to leave that might now think, I don't know what I'm going to get and I didn't
want a hard Brexit and now I might regret my choice? Or no?
RENTOUL: I'm afraid that is a remainer fantasy --
RENTOUL: -- that Tony Blair is very keen to encourage, but the opinion polls don't show it. I mean, you know, I was a reluctant remainer myself
and I --
RENTOUL: You know, I understand people's upset about that.
GORANI: So the polls show what?
RENTOUL: Well, they show that the people haven't changed their mind at all. That if --
GORANI: Even though they don't know what they're going to get, which I find interesting. They don't know what they're going to get -- a hard
Brexit, a soft Brexit, stay in the customs union, not stay in the customs union.
RENTOUL: But they don't care.
GORANI: Keep passporting rights for banks, not keep them.
RENTOUL: They don't care. That's not what it was about. That was --
GORANI: So what do they care about?
RENTOUL: The referendum was actually about far more than that. It was about a sense of national identity. It's about a sense of being able to
control who comes in and out of your country and about national sovereignty. It wasn't fundamentally about economics.
I mean, obviously, people say they don't want to be poorer, but they won't necessarily be much poorer. They might be poorer than they would otherwise
be, but they're not going to be poorer than they are now. And I think that's where Tony Blair misunderstands the mystery of public opinion.
GORANI: One last question. I spoke today -- there was a meet and greet with Emmanuel Macron, the French presidential candidate, at Westminster
today. And I think this is a very unusual approach to campaigning in the current environment. He's so fundamentally pro-European --
GORANI: -- that he has actually said, this is my strength. I'm not like David Cameron and the others where I'm a yes, but European. I'm really
going to throw myself into this idea full throttle. Is that the issue, do you think, with Britain? Is that, even those who wanted to stay really
didn't want to stay that much?
RENTOUL: Yes, I think Britain has always had a completely different relationship with Europe.
GORANI: With the E.U., yes.
RENTOUL: I mean, you cannot imagine a politician the sorts of things that Macron said today. And that's --
[15:45:01] GORANI: He has European flags at his rally.
RENTOUL: Well, that's right.
RENTOUL: I mean, if you tried that in British politics, you wouldn't last five minutes. I mean, Tony Blair was a passionate pro-European and did
what he -- you know, he wanted to join the Euro. He wanted to be president of Europe. But the British people would never have allowed him to do that,
and he always had to restrain himself as he tried to make the case for Europe. He always had to try and acknowledge the fact that British
attitudes are very different.
GORANI: All right. John Rentoul, thanks very much. We really appreciate your time on the program this evening.
A lot more ahead. Beyond Hong Kong's soaring skyline lurks some terrible stories of human slavery. We'll share one man's tale and we'll tell you
why the city isn't necessarily doing enough to fight the problem.
We have a report from Hong Kong coming up. Stay with us.
GORANI: Hong Kong is a city of gleaming towers, a booming financial industry, and massive wealth. But for some, it's also a place of suffering
and slavery. Here is CNN's Alexandra Field.
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what most of the world pictures when they think of this city. It isn't his Hong Kong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It felt like being in a prison, but I couldn't free myself because I wasn't allowed to.
PATRICIA HO, HUMAN RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Trafficking is a very hidden issue.
FIELD (voice-over): He didn't exactly fall through the cracks in a system. Human rights attorney Patricia Ho argues, here, there is no system.
FIELD (on camera): It sounds strange when you say that.
HO: It is so shocking.
FIELD (voice-over): Hong Kong has no specific laws criminalizing forced labor or human trafficking.
HO: Even Pakistan, the Philippines, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, they all have human trafficking and forced labor laws.
FIELD (voice-over): She and this Pakistani man are fighting to change that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): My boss has treated me worse than an animal. It was physical torture, mental torture. I would work 24 hours
FIELD (voice-over): We aren't showing his face because he lives in fear of retaliation. He told a Hong Kong court he was brought here from his
province, Punjab, by another Pakistani family with the promise of work, and that they kept his paperwork and didn't pay him.
He spent four years in this busy Hong Kong neighborhood, forced to live, eat, work, and sleep in a cell phone store where, he says, he was sometimes
beaten and abused. Then his boss sent him to Pakistan to stop him, he thinks, from going after his money. He snuck back in by boat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Even after I came back to Hong Kong, all I was asking for was my wages. I went to several government
departments, but no one would listen.
FIELD (voice-over): The judge concluded his claims were overlooked by the police, the Immigration Department, and the Labor Department, while he says
he faced threats to his own life and his family.
HO: And throughout all of these, nobody have asked him or considered the fact that perhaps he's actually a victim of trafficking.
[15:50:04] FIELD (voice-over): The 150-page High Court decision in his case is the first ruling that could change that.
"He was left floundering in a system, in which concern for victims of human trafficking or forced labor is mainly a rhetorical maneuver," the judge
rights. "This was clearly the fault of the system because of the lack of any effective framework or set of measures to address human trafficking or
FIELD (on camera): The Hong Kong government argues it doesn't need dedicated anti-trafficking legislation because it says those offenses are
already covered under other laws. But they say they are working to combat the problem with various improvements.
FIELD (voice-over): New programs established within the last year include a pilot program in the police force and the Immigration Department to
identify victims, along with enhanced screening for victims and improved cooperation between departments, ensuring victims know their rights.
Ho hopes the ruling will force the government to reconsider and write a law criminalizing trafficking.
HO: When you look around the world, New York, London, they all acknowledge that they have serious trafficking problems. And that's when they start
taking steps to tackle it.
FIELD (voice-over): Steps this man risked everything to fight for.
Alexandra Field, CNN, Hong Kong.
GORANI: Well, CNN is teaming up with young people around the globe for a day of action against this type of slavery. "#MyFreedomDay" is March 14th,
so it's coming up.
Driving the day is the simple question, what does freedom mean to you? Send us an answer via text or video on social media using the
Still to come, an exclusive report from Pyongyang, inside North Korea, and what people there know and think about, what else, Donald Trump.
GORANI: Whether it's Paris or Timbuktu, almost wherever you go in the world, people know all about Donald Trump. Except, maybe, North Korea.
There is no free press there. North Koreans know he is the new man in the White House but not much else.
Well, CNN's Will Ripley has unprecedented access inside Pyongyang and asked people. And he brought us in this exclusive report from Pyongyang.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Time off is precious in North Korea. Work and school is usually six days a week.
Sports are a popular past time, even in the freezing cold.
Regular North Koreans don't have internet. They can't make international calls. State media is their only small window to the outside world.
"We know President Trump by name," says this researcher. "We also know of former President Obama, but we really don't care who's in power. We only
care if they stop their hostile policy towards my country."
"Hostile policy," two words repeated by nearly everyone we meet. They're in the newspapers they read and on the handful of channels they watch.
"I think it would be a good idea for President Trump to meet with my Supreme Leader," says this computer engineer. "But he'd have to be willing
to put an end to America's hostile policy."
For the most part, North Koreans are friendly, even when they learn I'm an American. Unlike other countries I visit, they don't share personal
opinions about President Trump.
RIPLEY (on camera): Even though media and the outside world focuses a lot on what President Trump tweets and what he says, here in North Korea, the
state media actually reports very little about his daily activities.
[15:55:05] People know his name. They know he's been elected. But they stay, they really don't focus on what he is doing. They focus on their
RIPLEY (voice-over): The message they receive is tightly controlled and so are we. We're only allowed to show you the good side of life in Pyongyang,
like this free eye hospital, North Korea says, was built in just seven months, despite U.S.-led sanctions.
We don't see the rampant poverty and food insecurity described by the United Nations and others. We see a hospital shop, selling expensive
designer frames, and we hear a strikingly similar message when it comes to the United States.
RIPLEY (on camera): Does it matter to you who is the U.S. President?
"It doesn't matter at all," says this housewife.
"We don't care who the U.S. President is," says this work team leader. "We have the leadership of martial Kim Jong-un."
RIPLEY (voice-over): Even North Korea's children spend hours each week learning about their Supreme Leader on the playground, constant reminders
this is a militarized nation.
Children are taught they must be ready to fight, that they're under the imminent threat of invasion by the U.S. and its President. For decades, a
simple effective message has helped keep order and control by keeping out the rest of the world.
Will Ripley, CNN, Pyongyang, North Korea.
GORANI: And she's been a star attraction at Washington's National Zoo, but now Bao Bao is saying goodbye. The 3-year-old panda is hearing to China as
part of a long-standing agreement between China and the U.S. And though Bao Bao is leaving, the National Zoo still features her brother, Bei Bei,
aged one, and her panda parents, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian.
This has been THE WORLD RIGHT NOW. Thanks for watching.
I'm Hala Gorani. I'll see you same time, same place tomorrow. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is up next on CNN.