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Advertisers Flee "O'Reilly Factor"; Trump: Apparent Gas Attack "Changed View" On Assad; U.S. Wants China To Rein In North Korea's Leader; North Korea Is Expected To Top The Two-Day Talks; Trump Defends O'Reilly Amid Harassment; Trump: Susan Rice May Have Broken Law; More Sponsors Pull Out of Bill O'Reilly Show; Shia Labeouf: A "Man Down". Aired 1-2a ET
Aired April 6, 2017 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[01:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN NEWSROOM ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, the U.S. President Donald Trump says the chemical attack in Syria, gassing women and children, cost a lot of lives. One of Donald Trump's biggest diplomatic test so far, as he prepares to meet China's Xi Jinping just hours from now. Also, the sexual harassment scandal surrounding Fox News host, Bill O'Reilly, is driving more advertisers from his show, but he still has friends in the highest of places. Hello everybody, great to have you with us. We're now into the second hour of NEWSROOM L.A. I'm John Vause.
U.S. President, Donald Trump, says a chemical gas attack in Syria which left dozens of dead including women and children, has changed his views on the country and its dictator Bashar al-Assad. But the U.S. President did not say what action he would take if any. But the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, called on Russia to exercise its influence over Syria. But the Security Council's emergency meeting did not even result in a vote, with Russia steadfast in its defense of the Assad regime. Muhammad Lila joins us now live from Istanbul. So, Muhammad, I guess we're still trying to piece together exactly what happened during this gas attack, this chemical attack. Still trying to work out exactly what nerve agent may have been used.
MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, exactly, John. You know, part of the challenge in determining exactly what happened on the ground is that there aren't international investigators or monitors who are present on the ground. So, all of the information that we have from the ground comes from activists' groups who of course have a vested interest in this conflict. And of course, beyond the activist groups, we also have the Syrian government and Russia, which have their own version of events. And a lot of that, a lot of that back and forth came out at the U.N. Security Council meeting yesterday. In fact, just have a listen to what Russia's Ambassador to the U.N. had to say about their version of the story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR SARLONKOV, RUSSIA DEPUTY AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: Let's look at the origin of this problem. The turning point in the use of toxic chemicals in Syria and then following that: Weaponized chemical agents. That turning point was the establishment by the previous U.S. administration of the so-called "Red lines." Crossing those red lines was supposed to lead to military intervention in the Syrian conflict. That decision served as a starting point for the future provocations by terrorists and extremist structures with the use of chemical weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LILA: Interesting. So, when you see that and when you hear that statement, John, you see he's in one stroke, able to blame not only the rebels but also the previous Obama administration for setting up those red lines in the first place that we all remember the Obama administration actually didn't enforce. So, there you have the Russian version of the story. And mind you, on the ground, it does conflict their version of the story anyways with some of the information and images and pictures that we've all seen.
VAUSE: What are the specifics here in how the Russian version actually doesn't match up with what, you know, the eyewitnesses have said and what investigators have been able to work out so far?
LILA: Well, CNN has spoken to an eyewitness who saw the attack take place. In fact, one of them was a young 13-year-old boy. He saw the air strike take place. He ran to the area because he saw it. He noticed that the air strike was near his grandfather's home. When he arrived, he found his grandfather slouched over and not breathing. The next thing that that young 13-year-old boy remembers was waking up at a hospital in Turkey. That account is very similar to other accounts of people on the ground. They say they saw the air strike. They say it wasn't in an area where there was any sort of storage depot. And that as soon as the air strike happened, people began getting sick: Vomiting, losing controls of their bladder, for example, almost immediately.
Now the Russia version of the story is that, yes, there was an airstrike but the airstrike struck some sort of weapons depot. And that according to them, terrorist groups on the ground were manufacturing some sort of chemical weapons inside that depot. And as a result of that airstrike, that chemical weapon was released into the air. Now, that explanation actually doesn't jive with what a lot of experts have said because if there was an airstrike on a chemical weapons depot, presumably, that airstrike would have destroyed the chemical weapons stockpile that was in there and not allowed that chemical weapon to be released into the air. So, a lot of details here just don't match.
VAUSE: OK. Muhammad, thank you. Muhammad Lila, live in Istanbul. Dozens of people who survived the chemical attack are now being treated across the border from Syria, in Turkey. And a warning here: This report from Ben Wedeman contains some images which are disturbing.
[01:04:52] BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was the latest in a long series of horrors, that is the war in Syria. Early Tuesday morning the town in Khan Sheikhun was rocked by explosions. And suddenly, there was pandemonium. Hundreds, including many children struggling for breath, foaming at the mouth. What exactly happened Tuesday morning, isn't clear. The result, however, is. For the lucky who survived like 55-year-old, IshaTilawi, now in a Turkish hospital, the memories return. There was an airstrike, she says. I saw yellow and blue. We felt dizzy and fainted. Ahmed Abderahim still has trouble breathing for reconciling Tuesday's events.
AHMED ABDERAHIM, CHEMICAL ATTACK IN SYRIA SURVIVOR (through translator): I don't know what happened to my children, he says.
WEDEMAN: Turkish teams in full chemical suits are deployed in no man's land to wash down those coming to Turkey for treatment, while a Turkish mobile lab for nuclear biological and chemical weapons detection heads across the border. 13-year-old, Massan Yusuf, Isha's grandson is back on his feet in the hospital. But the trauma has seared his soul.
MASSAN YUSUF, CHEMICAL ATTACK SURVIVOR: I saw the explosion in front of my grandfather's house, he recalled. I ran to their house barefoot. I saw my grandfather sitting like this, suffocated. Then I became dizzy. How many of his relatives were killed? 19, he responds.
WEDEMAN: The Syrian civil war is now into its seventh year. It's left hundreds of thousands of people dead. This was not the first chemical attack and it probably won't be the last. All these years, diplomats and politicians have talked and talked, but people continue to die. I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, on the Turkish-Syrian border.
VAUSE: Well, for more, CNN Contributor and Global Fellow with the Woodrow Wilson Center, Jill Dougherty, is with us; also, CNN Military Analyst, Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona; and Journalist Lucy DerTavitian, also with us here in Los Angeles. So, we've heard from Donald Trump, he continues to blame the former President Barack Obama for the crisis in Syria. He said this led to the chemical attack. But he also added this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I now have responsibility. And I will have that responsibility, and carry it very proudly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Lucy, to you, was it - President Trump responsible for this conflict in Syria the moment he was sworn into office?
LUCY DERTAVITIAN, JOURNALIST COVERING THE MIDDLE EAST: Absolutely, absolutely he was. But, it seems that now he's taking upon himself to - we don't know what Trump's going to do. And as we have mentioned earlier in the 9:00 hour, that it seems like there's mixed messages coming from the Trump administration as well because Nikki Haley made it very clear that if unilateral advances are needed that that's what would happen. But at the same time, Secretary of State Tillerson wasn't as clear in his messages to what the Trump administration's going to do in Syria, in response to the chemical attacks.
VAUSE: Well, as you said, many within the Trump administration - they are taking a much harder line on Assad, and also Syria, that also includes Nikki Haley who gave a very emotional speech at an emergency session of the Security Council.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: Yesterday morning, we awoke to pictures, to children, foaming at the mouth, suffering convulsions, being carried in the arms of desperate parents. We saw rows of lifeless bodies, some still in diapers, some with visible scars of a chemical weapon attack. Look at those pictures.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: And then she made that warning that the U.S. could take its own action if the U.N. fails to do something about this. So, Jill, it does seem as if, you know, the scene is now set for a showdown with Moscow.
[01:09:25] JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It does. But, you know, if you listen to the President and he is the boss, he's not saying that. And that's where it gets a little bit more complicated. And then he did not mention Russia at all. He didn't mention President Putin. And really, President Trump did not get into what he would do. I mean, he's saying, we must do something or at least intimating that. But he's not very specific. He did say that he's changed his mind about Assad.
Now, is that the way he looked at Assad, let's say going back three years ago when Assad did carry out a chemical weapons attack. Or, is it the more recent incarnation where he was looking at Assad as a figure, maybe reprehensible, but still the person who's in office and political reality dictates that you just have to accept that. Or, what does it mean to change your mind? I think that's something we should understand better. It doesn't seem to, at this point, be to the point where he's saying, Assad should go, as President Obama in the beginning did, and then kind of - that of course changed a little bit later.
But he's not saying anything about Assad. And then you have Nikki Haley, who's taken it another step forward by saying, Russia has to use its influence. It's part of this problem and actually, maybe, partially responsible if it doesn't put pressure on Assad to do something. So, you have - I mean, right there, you can see probably four different approaches to this, and that's where - why it's very unclear and contradictory.
VAUSE: And Colonel Francona, it does almost seem as if it's deliberately vague. There is this assumption that there will be some kind of military action in Syria by the United States and that, of course, leads to the fear of a conflict with Russian forces. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, and I think he's being
vague on purpose. But I don't think they've actually decided what they want to do. There's a lot of calculations that have to go into whatever, whatever they decide to do. You know, and Jill just laid out all of the problems, you know, with the Russians. But, you know, since September of 2015, the Russians are in Syria.
They're in there in a - with a pretty sizeable force presence, a lot of capable weaponry. We have to figure; do we really want to get into a possible shooting match with the Russia over this incident? Or - is there some way the Russia can bring to pressure to bear on the Syrians? So, we haven't to figure out what we're, what we're going to do, but I think public opinion, world opinion now is getting so strong that the President feels he has to do something.
And if I read the President correctly, I think he's probably reassessing if Bashar al-Assad Assad can stay. That seemed to be his, his going in position. We will defeat ISIS, and then we'll look for the diplomatic solution with the parties that remain in Syria. That may change. At some point, he may decide that Assad has to go, then we see how we make that happen.
VAUSE: Yes, it does seem that there is a shift away from just focusing on trying to defeat ISIS, and now taking, you know, a harder line towards Assad. This is something many U.S. lawmakers have been pushing for including Senator Marco Rubio. This is what he said on Wednesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARCO RUBIO, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM FLORIDA: As long as Bashar al-Assad is in Syria, there will be radical elements in Syria. Not just fighting to get rid of him, but fighting ultimately to spread that ideology to other places. That's why it's in our National Security interest. That's why it should matter to all Americans as well. This is important for us as a people because it goes to the core of who we are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Lucy, does it now seem there is a realization within the administration in Washington that ISIS didn't happen in a vacuum?
DERTAVITIAN: Well, I thought it was already clear that ISIS didn't happen in the vacuum and as a result of the Iraq war. Absolutely. ISIS didn't happen in a vacuum. And right now, what Marco Rubio said is a little bit misleading because that ideology is not Assad's ideology, and I think that's very clear. He's made that very clear. He's fighting the ideology himself. But it's not just ISIS. We have to remember that it's not just ISIS on the ground now, there's many, many other extremist's organizations within Syria as well on the ground.
VAUSE: Yes. Colonel Francona, to that point though, I think what Marco Rubio is saying is, as long as Assad is there, this is the man who created the conditions for the creation, you know, ISIS. So, as long as he is there, there'll still be the resentment, there'll still be the violence, and there will still be these rebel groups which, you know, which essentially will want - will want Assad out of power.
FRANCONA: Well, the creation of ISIS is a whole big - we can lay blame at, you know, on several fronts there. But as long as Assad remains in power, of course, these conditions are going to continue to exist. I think, at one point, the United States was willing to overlook that to try and just focus on ISIS, and then figure out how we solve the problem of Syria. Iraq, I think we can fix.
Syria is just a big problem we're trying to kick that down the road. And I take what, you know, Senator Rubio is saying. But you know, I understand where he wants to go with this, but it's not what you want to get, it's how you get it. Everybody seems to gloss over that part. Working with the International Community to get rid of Bashar al-Assad is going to be very difficult because there are, there are key players who would rather he stay in power.
[01:14:46] VAUSE: Jill, finally to you, there're a lot of questions being asked, how Assad actually got this innovation the first place? In 2013, the Russians backed an agreement with the United States to eliminate Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons. A former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFall, he tweeted out this: "Did Russia deceive International Community in allowing ally Assad to keep some chemical weapons? Hope Tillerson," as in Secretary of State Tillerson, "Asks Putin next week." You know, the deal was implemented by the U.N., but it was driven by Russia. Did they have responsibility here?
[01:15:19] DOUGHERTY: Well, I think they definitely do. Part of it was hammering it out. But I don't know. I mean, Michael McCall was an ambassador, perhaps he knows more than he's saying there. But that would be quite damning if the Russians had allowed Assad to keep some, you know, secret chemical weapons on the side. But I think, you know, a lot of these details are very -- they're specific, that overall right now, President Trump has an issue because even if he wants his idea of being, let's say, of working with Russia in Syria, was pretty simple. We ought to work with Russia in order to get rid of terrorism. And then Assad was kind of, well, he's a figure and there he is, and he's in power, and maybe we just have to come to terms with that.
But now you have Assad allegedly, let's say, carrying out this attack. It makes it far more complicated for Donald Trump to follow through on this idea, you know, of working with Russia against terrorism. And just remember, a couple days ago we had the attack in St. Petersburg where it looked as if President Putin could make that case. Hey, join us, we've been attacked. We should fight terrorism together. And now we have that - let's say, apple cart completely upset by what's happening in Syria. So, this is getting very complicated for Trump.
VAUSE: It was already complicated, to begin with, but absolutely right, Jill. Thank you so much. Jill Dougherty there, also Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, and journalist, Lucy DerTavitian. Thank you all for being with us, thank you. We'll take a short break. When we come back, China's President is
just hours away now from his first summit with the U.S. President. We'll take a closer look at some of the big issues facing these two world leaders. Also, just one person in the U.K. bought a ticket to the opening weekend of Shia LaBaeouf film, "Man Down". Good news, the box office is looking up. All that still to come.
KATE RILEY, CNN WORLD SPORTS ANCHOR: I'm Kate Riley with your CNN WORLD SPORTS Headlines. History was made on Wednesday at Augusta National, but not for the right reasons. For the first time ever, the partridge competition, the traditional warm up to the Master's since 1960 was canceled. The plug was pulled mid round due to severe weather. A storm moved through Augusta official's suspended play just one hour into the competition shutting down the course for the day.
The race for the Premier League title was very much on after leaders Chelsea lost to Crystal Palace of the weekend. But the blues at home to match the Manchester City not only was this one the most anticipated but also most important games of the campaign so far on Wednesday. And in the end, Chelsea would edge the Manchester City 2-1 and have had led the way scoring both of the blues goals. Chelsea still top of the Premier League table. They lead Tottenham by seven points.
And fair to say, it's been a tough last couple of weeks for Barcelona's superstar, Lionel Messi. A four-match international ban for verbally abusing a match official. A one game domestic suspension as well, which kept him out against Granada. And on Wednesday, Messi return to the Barcelona lineup as they host the fourth place, Sevilla. And in Messi's return, he was magical. He led the way scoring two goals as Barcelona blasted Sevilla 3-0 on the night. And that's a look at all your Sports Headlines, I'm Kate Riley.
[01:21:16] VAUSE: Chinese President, Xi Jinping, arrives in the U.S. on Thursday for his first face-to-face meeting with President Trump. The two leaders will not be in Washington but rather, at Mr. Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. North Korea, which fired off another ballistic missile on Wednesday, is expected to top their two-day agenda, but trade deficits and China's territorial claim in the South China Sea also complicated issues for both men.
Mr. Trump routinely trashed China during his campaign. Last week, he predicted the summit would that be very difficult. For more, Paula Hancocks is in Seoul South Korea. Also, Matt Rivers live in Beijing. Matt, first to you, at the end of the two days here, how will China judge if this meeting was a success?
MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Xi Jinping, the President of China really needs to walk a fine line here. On the one hand, he wants to show the hard-liners in his country that aren't happy with Trump's rhetoric about China. That look, he can stand up to Donald Trump and that he is on equal footing and can handle the challenge of a very mercurial U.S. President. But on the other hand, he can't really afford to have the economic relationship with the United States really falter. China's economy is slowing down and it relies on exports to the United States to make sure that the economy, as it slows down, is going to have a soft landing rather than a crash. And so he really needs to walk that fine line ahead of domestic political considerations.
Later on this year, there is going to be a Congress here in China where President Xi is looking to secure support from his side of the equation here for the next five years. And so he really kind of wants to get out of this meeting, I think, largely unscathed. He wants to go in, get the photo op, look like every bit the leader that he tries to be and then get out. One Chinese official also, it will be very interesting, told us that the both sides are in fact negotiating for perhaps a joint press availability that is certainly not set in stone. But a Chinese official says it is being discussed. That of course, would be a very interesting photo op, especially if an American journalist gets to pose a question to the Chinese President.
VAUSE: One President loves a news conference, the other not so much. Paula, the threat from North Korea is also a big issue. We've heard, you know, Donald Trump demanding more from China to reign in Pyongyang. Beijing often says it has limited influence over the North. So what are the options here for Xi Jinping, what can Xi Jinping offer up at the summit?
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly John, what Donald Trump wants to see is a bigger commitment from China consistently saying they shouldn't - could do more. I think from Xi Jinping's point of view, he really wants to be able to try and counter the expectation from the United States. And not just the United States, also other countries as well, criticizing China for not doing enough to push for North Korea to temper its nuclear missile program. Of course, the expert view is, China could do more, but, in fact, why would they? China does not want North Korea to collapse. They don't want to have millions of refugees flooding across the border into China. They don't want to have a very U.S. friendly size Korea or Korea on their doorstep. So from China's point of view, there is not a huge amount of incentive to push North Korea more, and of course, there are many other issues that the U.S. and China disagree on. So, it will be tricky for the U.S. President to ask for help with North Korea if they're not willing to give somewhere else. John?
VAUSE: Paula, thank you. Paula Hancocks in Seoul. Matt Rivers also live in Beijing. We'll catch up next hour. For more on this, this meeting in Mar-a-Lago, Melissa Chan, a journalist for the Global Reporting Center, is here in Los Angeles. Melissa, OK, so, we have Xi Jinping coming into this meeting. He's just essentially consolidated his hold on power. He's very; you know he's got this great position of strength right now politically in China. It's kind of the opposite, though, for Donald Trump. He's struggling to get his agenda through; his poll ratings hit 35 percent. Do you -- do Chinese officials look at the situation currently here with Donald Trump struggling to get his health care bill through, for instance, and realize that maybe they have the upper hand here? [01:25:16] MELISSA CHAN, CHINA FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHIEF: The Chinese have certainly been following the politics in the United States very closely ever since President Trump's inauguration. And they have seen, as I mentioned earlier, that President Trump has said that he would build a wall and make Mexico pay for it. And of course, he is not making Mexico pay for it. He's making American taxpayers pay for it. He had the health care bill that he really wanted to pass and it turned out not to pass. Maybe in the future, but for now it is considered a failure. So, the Chinese are taking note of this. They are also taking note of the fact that President Trump, even though he regards himself as a strong negotiator, has certainly shown -- there is some evidence that, for example, that health care bill, he didn't necessarily read a lot of that material. And so, he's going into this meeting not having done his homework on the South China Sea, necessarily, or on North Korea, the minutiae and the detail, where see how President Xi Jinping has spent his entire life in politics. His father was a member of the party, a very senior member of the party, and he survived political purges. This is a survivor who is very, very savvy.
VAUSE: You mentioned the South China Sea is complicated. If you look at the White House briefing ahead of this meeting, it's not on the table. At least, it is one of the issues which won't be discussed. Also the One-China Policy, it seems that, you know, if Donald Trump sticks to that, I don't know if he will because he's very unpredictable, but if he does stick to that, it could be pretty boring.
CHAN: And perhaps that would be the most successful outcome. The most uneventful meeting might be the best. So early into the Trump administration when his staff on China and Asia is very, very thin, he has a, one, very, very a good China expert at the National Security Council, but beyond that not much in terms of expertise. I would say in about a year's time, the Trump Administration might have a more mature strategy on China, but not right now. So, perhaps we should temper down expectations.
VAUSE: Well you know, the U.S. Administration made clear that they want China to do a lot more when it comes to North Korea. This is what Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HALEY: China has to cooperate. This is now down to do we want to continue to see these ballistic missile attacks from North Korea or does China want to do something about it. And this is all about the fact that they need to have action. And we're going to continue to put pressure on China to have action. That will be shown in multiple ways. At some point, we need to see definitive actions by China condemning North Korea and not just calling them out for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: You know, China has to act, according to Nikki Haley, doesn't have to act when it comes to North Korea and what pressure could the U.S. apply to China? CHAN: It doesn't have to act. In fact, if you look at the past eight years, China has not really put a lot of pressure on North Korea. So, it can maintain that position and of course, President Trump has said, well, then we might go unilateral and deal with North Korea on our own. But in terms of the U.S. options, what can the United States do on its own? They've certainly started amusing out loud about pre- emptive strikes. That sounds great and tough, but we forget the fact that Seoul has 10 million people and it's just an hour away from the DNC. That's very dangerous and you know South Korea is an ally.
VAUSE: For Donald Trump though, there is a lot of pressure for him to keep his campaign promises especially when he came to China things like the currency manipulator, and also slapping a 45 percent tariff on Chinese import. Listen to what the Senate Democrat leader, Chuck Schumer had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK SCHUMER, UNITED STATES SENATE DEMOCRAT: This is a real test for the President. Be strong. Be strong. Don't let China continue to take advantage of us, and don't do what you've done throughout your first 80 days of the Presidency. Break every promise that you've made to American workers in your campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: You know it's interesting that Schumer is a long-time critic of China. But you know, I guess his point here is that for Donald Trump, all his campaign promises, they seem to have gone by the by.
CHAN: Yes. Although I'm very confused by what Schumer said too because, in some ways, it's political. He wants Trump to be strong. Does he mean slapping those 45 percent tariffs? I'm not entirely sure what he means.
VAUSE: Very quickly. Should we give a close eye in how the families interact here?
CHAN: I think, usually I would say no. But in this case so early on into the administration, when they don't have a clear China policy, perhaps that is something that will come out of it.
VAUSE: OK, Melissa, good to see you. Thank you. Short break when we come back, why President Trump is defending Fox News host, Bill O'Reilly amid alleged sexual harassments.
[01:33:14] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause with the headlines.
VAUSE: Just months after Mr. Trump put his strategist on the National Security Council, Steve Bannon has been kicked off. The president removed him from the Principals Committee and brought back the director of national intelligence and the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman. National security advisor H.R. McMaster, leads the council. In a statement, Bannon explained his removal as an effort to fix what former national security advisor, Susan Rice, had broken: "Susan Rice operationalized the NSC during the last administration so I was put on the NSC to ensure it was de-operationalized. General McMaster has NSC back to its proper function."
Steve Bannon isn't the only one taking aim at Susan Rice. Donald Trump says she may have broken the law.
CNN's Manu Raju has details.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump now leveling a stunning new accusation, that former President Obama's national security advisor may have broken the law. This, after Susan Rice has faced allegations that she tried to learn the names of Trump associates speaking with foreign officials under surveillance, which is not illegal.
When asked if he thought Rice broke the law, Trump told "The New York Times," "Do I think? Yes, I think." He added, "It's such an important story for our country and the world. It is one of the big stories of our time."
Rice defended herself yesterday.
[01:35:25] SUSAN RICE, FORMER NATIONAL SECUIRTY ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: The allegation is that somehow Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes. That's absolutely false.
RAJU: It's unclear which law the president thinks Rice broke. And he offered no new evidence.
A Rice spokesperson says she's not going to dignify the president's ludicrous charge with a comment.
On Capitol Hill the House Intelligence Committee plans to invite Rice to testify as part of its widening probe into Russia and the Trump campaign.
(on camera): What do you think about the president saying that, she may have broken the law?
UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: Well, hopefully, he has some evidence and facts to back that up.
RAJU (voice-over): Democrats say Rice did nothing wrong. And they accuse the GOP of slandering Rice to distract from revelations of Trump campaign contacts with the Russians accused of meddling in the elections.
UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: We're watching a movie in 3-D, deception, distraction, this is part of a grander strategy of distraction. Don't look over here where we're trying to investigate Russian interference and the potential coordination examine collusion of Trump operatives.
RAJU: And today, more squabbling on the House committee as Democrats accuse Republican chairman, Devin Nunes, of preventing a public hearing from going forward, namely to hear the testimony from Sally Yates, a former top Obama justice official, who had warned the Trump administration that former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, may have been vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians.
UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: I think there is a great deal of resistance.
RAJU: A Republican source tells CNN that Republicans are working on an agreement to schedule Yates' testimony. But declined to say if it would be in a public session. Other Republicans on the committee refused to comment today.
(on camera): They're saying you're resisting signing having her testify publicly.
REP. DEVIN NUNES, (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We're not going to talk about anything to do with this investigation.
RAJU: Why not?
NUNES: The investigation is ongoing.
RAJU: And another wrinkle in the House Intelligence Committee investigation as the White House is now resisting giving that information that Devin Nunes saw last month that he said showed incidental collection of some Trump team communications with foreign officials. The White House now saying it is not going to give that information to the full committee. At least that is according to Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, in an outreach for comment. They are not denying that saying the information is going to go to the so-called Gang of Eight, those are the top leaders on Capitol Hill who get that highly classified intelligence information. So, it sounds like that information will not get to the full committee and lead to more questions about why the White House is choosing not to release more broadly the information that now Donald Trump says shows that Susan Rice committed a crime.
Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.
VAUSE: U.S. Secret Service agent has been suspended after meeting a prostitute at a hotel. Multiple law enforcement sources say the agent was on the vice-president's detail, but he was off duty at the time of the alleged incident. He was arrested and charged with solicitation. Maryland police were called after the hotel manager became suspicious, saw activity in one of the rooms.
We move now to the sexual harassment allegation surrounding FOX News host, Bill O'Reilly. More advertisers are pulling sponsorship of "The O'Reilly Factor. Still, the right-wing commentator has President Trump in his corner.
CNN's Brynn Gingras reports.
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As FOX News heavy weight, Bill O'Reilly, fights sexual harassment claims, Donald Trump is in his corner. The president telling "The New York Times" "O'Reilly is a good person." And, quote, "He shouldn't have settled. He should have taken it all the way. I don't think Bill did anything wrong."
Five women who accused O'Reilly of sexual harassment received pay outs of $13 million according to the "The New York Times." The cable show host denied the allegations. Even still, more than 30 big-name brands are pulling their ad dollars from his top-rated program "The O'Reilly Factor."
The president's comments about the FOX anchor may seem like deja vu as he also defended the network's former boss, Roger Ailes, when he was sued for sexual harassment last year. Back then, Trump also characterized Ailes as a good person. And he questioned the motives of his accusers.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can tell you that some of the women that are complaining, I know how much he's helped them, and even recently, and when they write books that are fairly recently released and they say wonderful things about him, and now all of a sudden, they're saying these horrible things about him.
Mike Tyson has been --
GINGRAS: Trump was criticized for seemingly blaming the victim decades ago.
GINGRAS: After fighter Mike Tyson was convicted of raining an 18- year-old beauty pageant contestant.
[01:40:08] TRUMP: It's my opinion, that to a large extent, Mike Tyson was railroaded in this case. You have a young woman who was seen dancing for the beauty contest, dancing with a big smile on her face, looked happy as could be.
GINGRAS: The president's recent remarks about O'Reilly come days after declaring April National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, a crime he's been accused of by many women. Many went public during the campaign last year. That, after the notorious audio leak of Trump bragging on a bus in 2005.
TRUMP (voice-over): And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever you want.
TRUMP: Grab them by the (EXPLETIVE DELETED). GINGRAS: Trump brushed that off as, quote, "locker room banter," and later released this video on his Facebook page saying he's a changed man.
TRUMP (on camera): Anyone who knows me knows these words don't reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.
GINGRAS: Brynn Gingras, CNN, New York.
VAUSE: Myanmar's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is disputing a U.N. report is disputed which is ethnic cleansing of the country's Muslims and she talked to the BBC.
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AUNG SAN SUU KYI, MYANMAR STATE LEADER: I don't think there is ethnic cleansing going on. I think ethnic cleansing is too strong an expression to use for what's happening.
SUU KYI: Further, I think there's a lot of hostility there. And as I pointed out just now, is Muslims killing Muslims as well if you're saying they're collaborating with authorities. It's not just a matter of ethnic cleansing as you put it.
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VAUSE: Aung San Suu Kyi is famous for crusading for human rights and she's coming under increasing international pressure over the treatment of the minority in her country. They are denied citizenship and considered illegal immigrants of Bangladesh.
Next on NEWSROOM L.A., he once worked with Spielberg, but now Shia Labeouf is starting in a film that made less than $30 in the U.K. We'll explain.
[01:45:07] VAUSE: OK, it's time to come clean. You can own up to it. Who is that lone Shia Labeouf fan out there all alone in the U.K.? You're the one. You went to the Real Cinema in England. You bought a ticket. Yes, you know who you are. Here's a reminder.
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SHIA LABEOUF, ACTOR: I can't take that back.
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VAUSE: The film is about a Marine returning from Afghanistan. To be fair, it only opened at one cinema.
One lonely Shia Labeouf fan, hopefully, it was worth the pound 70 cents.
For more on this, Sandro Monetti, managing editor of "Entity" magazine.
Good to see you. Welcome back.
OK, the good news, Shia Labeouf. "Man Down" has tripled since the opening weekend. That means they've now sold three tickets.
SANDRO MONETTI, MANAGING EDITOR, ENTITY MAGAZINE: A 200 percent increase, John.
VAUSE: Things are getting well. Opening day $8.99, now, $26 U.S. It was such a big news story. Check out the headline from variety, "Shia Labeouf, 'Man Down' sells additional two tickets."
Is the film really that bad?
MONETTI: We're about to find out. This is a moment of movie history. It needs to sell one more ticket.
MONETTI: Because the current world record holder is "ZYX Road" starring Catherine Hiegl (ph) with takings of $30. That's $30. This is currently about like $26 or something in American money.
MONETTI: So, if you're out there and you want to save this movie.
VAUSE: Want to save Shia Labeouf.
MONETTI: Clearly, the one person who has seen it hasn't come forward. He's probably wearing a bag on his head like the performance piece.
VAUSE: Who are these tH.R.ee people who actually went to see this? Or is it the same person who has gone three times?
MONETTI: I wouldn't be surprised if they were the movie distributors. There is actually a method to this madness. Let's examine this movie. It has one promotional poster on the London underground. But it's playing in Burly (ph), 250 miles away.
MONETTI: When you want to get more money for a movie on video on demand, VOD, you have to promote it in prestige places like underground, you have to show it has a theatrical release even if in one movie theater. That way you can charge more video on demand.
VAUSE: It's a bit of a bait and switch.
MONETTI: Yes. This is a bit of a come down. Go back to the days of the "Transformers, Revenge of the Fallen," they made more than $400 million worldwide. The entire franchise took in more than a billion dollars worldwide.
VAUSE: It was almost exactly 10 years ago that Shia Labeouf starred in the first "Transformers" film, opening weekend. That took $70 million. As opposed to the 26 now. So in terms of showbiz careers --
MONETTI: Talking cars. It has been a bit of an odd time for Shia Labeouf. He was arrested in New Jersey, had a scuffle in Queens, New York. Live streaming an anti-Trump protest. It got a bit messy. Charges were dropped. In 2014, the Berlin Film Festival. You mentioned he turned up with a bag over his head. It said, I am not famous any more.
VAUSE: There it is. He liked it so much he did it the following year, 2015.
MONETTI: Yeah, and he also did a performance art piece in Los Angeles. I actually saw it. There he was, he sat in a room. He went up and Shia, I presume it was him. He wouldn't take the bag off.
VAUSE: Could have been a Shia standard.
MONETTI: He has been a great actor, but he's made some terrible choices professionally. "Man Down" was never going to work in terms of -- it's not a commercial film. But he sees himself as an artist, he's made some artistic choices. At some point, you have to make a decision between commerce and art if you want to extend your career. Yeah, he might want to get back to the cars.
VAUSE: You talked about him being a quite successful actor. He has a reputation, did have being dedicated slightly looney tunes. A movie in 2014, was it the "Fury?" Cut his face, it was a war movie for the role. He cut his face and had a tooth pulled. When you get to the point in your career where you're making headlines for all the crazy stuff away from the screen, and the other big headlines is record-low box-office returns, is it time to rethink that career strategy?
MONETTI: It really is. Whoever is managing his career has got to get hold of him because the positive is he has got a lot of talent. He's obviously dedicated actor. This is a pretty low point but it's not necessarily the end. There are always second acts in the lives of movie stars.
VAUSE: We still want to find out who the lone Shia Labeouf --
MONETTI: Take that bag off your head.
VAUSE: Maybe he's wearing a bag right now.
MONETTI: Maybe it was Shia.
VAUSE: Mystery solves.
Sandro, thanks so much.
[01:50:04] VAUSE: And we'll take another short break here. But when we come back, we'll have a lot more news right here on CNN.
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[01:50:] VAUSE: That didn't last long. Pepsi apologized for the controversial ad that got backlash on social media. Critics accused the company of using the Black Lives Matters movement and social justice to sell a sweet, sugary drink. In a statement, Pepsi said, it was trying to project a global message of peace, unity and understanding, but missed the mark.
Men all over the world men are holding hands to fight homophobia. Reports of a gang attack on a gay couple in the Netherlands started the trend. The couple say they were set on for holding hands.
After keeping his sexuality secret for decades, U.S. singing legend, Barry Manilow, is now speaking publicly about being gay.
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[01:55:08] VAUSE: In an article for "People" magazine, Manilow said he kept it a secret all those years because he was afraid he would disappoint his fans. It was exposed when he married his long-time manager in 2014. Now that the news has been out for several years, Manilow says he's thrilled and he's also grateful for the support from his fans.
You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause. Stay with us. Back at the top of the hour with a lot more news.
[02:00:06] VAUSE: This is CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles.
Ahead this hour --