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White House Meeting Dismissed As Stunt; Poll: 44 Percent Approval Rating for Trump; Trump to Renegotiate NAFTA with Mexico, Canada; Turkish President Rounds Up Thousands, Suspends Security Forces Member; FOX News Sued by Current, Former Employees for Racial Discrimination; Death of Hare Another United Airlines P.R. Disaster. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired April 27, 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] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Vause, reporting from CNN's World Headquarters in Atlanta. Ahead this hour, the entire U.S. Senate loaded on the buses for a rare White House briefing, but lawmakers say they didn't learn anything about North Korea which could not be read in a newspaper.

SESAY: Plus, more than 1000 people are detained by Turkey's government - the biggest round-up since the country's president was given sweeping new power.

VAUSE: And later, bad hair day. The death of a unique giant bunny rabbit, the latest P.R. crisis facing United Airlines. The Trump administration appears to be falling back to a familiar approach to deal with the nuclear threat from North Korea: tighter sanctions and diplomacy. On Wednesday, almost the entire U.S. Senate was bussed to the White House for a briefing on North Korea, but as they left any Democrats, even some Republicans said, the whole thing seemed to be just for show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're inside, what was the revelation?

CHRIS MURPHY, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM CONNECTICUT: No revelations. You know, I think the White House wanted to convey to the Congress that they're serious about North Korea.

BOB CASEY JR., UNITED STATED SENATOR FROM PENNSYLVANIA: It was, it was an OK briefing.

RAJU: What do you mean it was an OK brief? You didn't really learn much?

CASEY: I - it was, it was OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: Meanwhile, Pyongyang is making new threats to wipe out the U.S. and its forces in South Korea in a pre-emptive strike. CNN's Will Ripley is in the North Korea, in capital.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Still no official reaction inside North Korea to that White House meeting of U.S. Senators, also no response to reports from the White House that they're considering placing this country back on their list of state sponsors of terrorism. You remember North Korea was on the list for 20 years beginning in 1988 after bombing of a Korean airliner, and ending in 2008 when they agreed to begin dismantling their young beyond nuclear facility which we now know is very much backed up and running. I also spoke with the North Korean government official, it's very rare that we get this kind of access. He's one this country's top human rights officials, but he was authorized to speak on a variety of topics including the escalating military situation.

The North Korea army, staging what it describes as its largest ever military drill. North Korea's Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un, is seen ordering a barrage of artillery fire: 300 long-range, self-propelled guns, submarines, bombers, masses of soldiers, all of it a direct warning to the U.S. And President Trump says, the North Korean government official given rare authorization to speak to CNN. "This exercise is a direct response to acts of aggression by the United States," says Sak Tol-wan. A dramatic show of force, shown triumphantly on state T.V., far less provocative than what many had been bracing for: North Korea's sixth nuclear test.

A test, the Trump administration warns would have grave consequences. U.S. intelligence believes the nuclear test is no longer imminent, something North Korea won't confirm. Suk says the timing has nothing to do with mounting international pressure. "The nuclear test is an important part of our continued efforts to strengthen our nuclear forces," he says. So, are you saying that North Korea will conduct another nuclear test? "As long as America continues its hostile acts of aggression, we will never stop nuclear and missile tests," I asked about the three Americans currently being held in North Korea: Tony Kim, Otto Warmbier, and Kim Dong-chol. Suk, cannot provide specifics on their cases but says they're living under the same conditions as other North Korean prisoners even though they've kept in separate facilities.

A recent U.N. Human Rights report accuses North Korea of arbitrary detention, torture, even executions, claiming people are thrown in prison camps without due process. A lot of defectors have claimed inhumane treatment of North Korean prisoners. "I strongly deny any statements made my defectors," he says. "Those people are criminals who ran away, they're paid to lie, and encouraged by the U.S. and their followers." These are accounts from hundreds of defectors, and North Korea refused to cooperate with the U.N. investigation. If your country has nothing to hide, why not let inspectors in to see for themselves? "The U.N. wants to politicize the human rights issue, use it to interfere with our internal affairs," he says. "Their reports are nothing but fiction." Here, he says, human rights mean defending this socialist society and

its Supreme Leader at any cost, even if it could trigger a nuclear war. When you look at military drills like the one that happened in South Korea shortly after the North Korean drill, this is exactly why North Korea says they are pushing forward to develop the nuclear program. They see the United States and South Korea working together, trying to send a message that the South Korean forces are backed by the full firepower of the U.S. And if you compare the weaponry, the capacity, obviously, the U.S. really has North Korea out-gunned. They feel the faster that they can develop a workable Intercontinental Ballistic Missile with a nuclear warhead capable of reaching the mainland U.S., that kind of nuclear weapon would be their ace-in-the- hole to prevent what they feel is an imminent invasion by U.S. lead forces. Will Ripley, CNN, Pyongyang, North Korea.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[01:05:53] VAUSE: Joining me now from San Francisco, Philip Yun, Executive Director and COO of the Ploughshares Fund. He is also a former Adviser on North Korea to U.S. President Bill Clinton. Philip, good to see you. Many Senators left that White House briefing asking what was the point. Here's Democrat Tammy Duckworth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAMMY DUCKWORTH, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM ILLINOIS: I seriously felt like I could have gotten all that information by reading a newspaper. I did not see any new information coming out of that briefing at all, it felt more like a dog and pony show to me than anything else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: That one side, could that briefing actually make matters worse by giving the impression that there's now some kind of imminent crisis?

PHILIP YUN, PLOUGHSHARES FUND CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Yes, I think that was the concern. You can look at this from the substance, there was some expectation that there was going to be some game-changing classified information given; that wasn't the case. This clearly seems to have been related to the 100 days and was a public affairs stunt to some degree. But what you're thinking about is how the North Koreans are receiving this. And I think the message is that this is something that the Trump administration wanted to say to North Korea. This is not business as usual, and there was some concern that they may be able to convey that we're doing something a little bit different.

Now, out of this particular meeting, that Senators said there was no discussion, neither unilateral actions. So, I'm trying to figure out what really is the point on this. If we reversed this kind of situation, and the North Koreans had a special meeting, there'd be all kinds of speculation as to what they were planning. So, this again, adds to the uncertainty, it adds to the unpredictability in what is a very high tension situation which if we have a miscalculation could end up very badly.

VAUSE: Yes. Comes at a time when everyone's saying the U.S. should take, you know, some of the heat out of it, tone it down a bit. We heard from the head of the U.S. Pacific Command on Wednesday, he had a dire warning while testifying to Congress. Let's listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRY HARRIS JR., UNITED STATES PACIFIC COMMAND COMMANDER IN CHIEF: The only nation to have tested nuclear devices in this century, North Korea has vigorously pursued an aggressive weapons test schedule with more than 60 ballistic missile events in which are nearest. With every test, Kim Jong-un moves closer to his stated goal of a pre- emptive nuclear strike capability against American cities.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: That line there about a preemptive nuclear strike against American cities, the only reference I could find to that was in an official newspaper North Korea's working party. This is what he said, "In the case of our super mighty preemptive strike being launched, it will completely and immediately wipe out not only U.S. imperialist invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas, but the U.S. mainland and reduce them to ashes." So, beyond that statement in the - you know, state run newspaper, is there any other evidence to back up the admiral's claim here?

YUN: I don't know what quote you're referring to, but you know, most of the time that I've heard those kinds of statement, that kind of bluster, and I've been in meetings with the North Koreans who's said that it's all been conditional. It's all been if we have a hostile policy if we do that. I mean, one of the things I'm surprised about is that, yes, maybe the North Koreans are working towards having that capability, but you know, deterrence on the Korean Peninsula is alive and well. The North Koreans know that if they attack South Korea or the United States preemptively, they would cease to exist. So, I'm a firm believer in that. I'm sure that the Pacific Command also is a firm believer in that. That's something that we do have and I take solace in as well.

VAUSE: North Korea, you know, as you said, it's been a long-running concern for decades now. Sudden though, it seems that it's now an immediate threat. Specifically, one has changed - as you say, there's always been this theory that the regime's number one goal is survival.

YUN: Yes. So, that's what - you know, some of this is somewhat manufactured. Every year the North Koreans ramp things up and they create a provocation, but what is different here is that they've had two nuclear tests in the past year. We have a new President who's taking a new approach. We have Kim Jong-un, who's unpredictable, aggressive, and likes to push back; and Donald Trump is very much the same way. So, what I'm feeling more than anything else, is the notion that we have this general upward escalation. And there is a fear that because of miscalculation, we could erupt into an accidental war. So, this is what I think I'm hearing in terms of what people are concerned about, is this whole notion of North Korea, eventually, getting long- range, an ICBM that could hit the United States. But that's not going to happen for a while.

VAUSE: You know, Secretary of Homeland Security, John kelly, he said the minute the North Koreans get a nuclear-armed missile capable of reaching the U.S., it would be a grave risk, in his words. But you know - and yet the United States survived the cold war in the range of a thousand soviet nuclear missiles. Strategic patience worked then, I know Kim Jong-un is unpredictable, but the other Kremlin back in those days was unpredictable as well. So, you know, what's the difference here?

YUN: So, again, we had China, in that similar circumstances. If you remember in the 19, early 1960's there was a similar concern about, about Red China and what they could do. They were unpredictable. (INAUDIBLE), millions of people had died. So, there are these notions here, yes, I mean, again, I go back to the notion that deterrence is alive and well. And the North Koreans know that, if again if they decided to attack us, they would cease to exist. So, we have to have some confidence in that and maintain that. And I think that is one of the things that we should be thinking about is this notion of strong deterrence and containment, and that is one possibility. But, again, what will happen is that unless we figure out what we can be doing now and do something, North Korea will eventually have a small nuclear arsenal that is capable of hitting the United States. And that is a risk to us, that's very real, and that's something that I'm concerned about. And I hope that we can figure out a way to prevent that from happening.

VAUSE: Yes. I guess we're going to have to wrap up here, Philip. I guess it's a question of the timelines. When you do it, and that determines the action that you take. Phillip, good to speak with you. Thanks so much.

YUN: Thank you.

SESAY: Quick break here. And the British Prime Minister held her last question time before the snap election in June, who showed a fiery confrontation in parliament, next.

VAUSE: And almost 100 days of the Trump presidency, has it been that long? We'll compare his campaign promises with everything that he's accomplished.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(WORLD SPORTS)

[01:16:16] SESAY: Hello, everyone. British Prime Minister Theresa May is making a bold argument before June snap election. Vote for me, Brexit will go smoothly; vote for the opposition, it will be chaos.

VAUSE: She squared off with the opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn, at her final question time before the upcoming vote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: In something over six weeks, we will be back at these dispatch boxes again. And the only question is where will we be standing? Who will be Prime Minister of this great country? And the choice is clear, and the choice is clear. Every vote for him is a vote for a chaotic Brexit. Every vote for me is a vote to strengthen our hand in negotiating the best deal for Britain.

JEREMY CORBYN, LABOR PARTY LEADER: Strong leadership is about standing up for the many, not the few. But when it comes to Prime Minister and the conservatives, they only look after the richest, not the rest. They are strong against the weak, and weak against the strong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Ms. May is well ahead in the latest polls, which is one of the reasons many suspects she actually called this early election. The numbers show about twice as many people planning to vote for a conservative party than for labor.

SESAY: All right. Let's talk U.S. politics then. The first 100 days in office is a traditional time to evaluate how a U.S. President is doing. And Donald Trump marks the occasion on Saturday. But now, a new CNN/ORC poll shows most Americans are giving him a thumbs' down. He got a 44 percent approval rating, the lowest of any President at this point. Nearly six in ten people disapprove of his handling of key issues such as health care and immigration. And 61 percent say world leaders don't have much respect for him. Tom Foreman looks at what Mr. Trump pledged and what he's done.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN BROADCAST JOURNALIST: Almost 100 days of trauma colliding political reality started with a staggering loss.

DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: On my first day, I'm going to ask congress to send me a bill to immediately repeal and replace. Repeal and replace. Repeal and replace that horror show called Obamacare.

FOREMAN: That pledge brought sure fire applause on the campaign, but calamity in office. The President's party, even with control of congress, found itself bitterly divided. Some saying his plan went too far, some not far enough. And his first attempt at major legislation was yanked without a vote.

PAUL RYAN, UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES SPEAKER: I will not sugarcoat this, this is a disappointing day for us.

FOREMAN: Despite continued talk about a pledge to build a border wall and have Mexico pay for it-

TRUMP: The wall gets built, 100 percent.

FOREMAN: There is no concrete progress on that, either. True, this President has signed more legislation than any of the previous five Presidents in the same period, much of it erasing Obama-era regulations. But none of it produced the broad, public impact typical of major law. For that, he's turned to executive actions, signing more than any other President in the first 100 days since Harry Truman. Quickly wiping out the trade deal known as the Transpacific Partnership.

TRUMP: We just officially terminated TPP.

FOREMAN: But his most incendiary idea: banning travel from several majority Muslim nations has stalled in the court over the administration's protest.

REX TILLERSON, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: Protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States is a vital measure for strengthening our National Security.

[01:20:04] FOREMAN: The legal branch of government is where President Trump has scored by far his biggest victory.

TRUMP: We have to replace Judge Scalia with a conservative great judge.

NEIL GORSUCH, UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT ASSOCIATE JUSTICE: I, Neil M. Gorsuch-

FOREMAN: Despite overwhelming democratic opposition, Neil Gorsuch was approved and seated on the Supreme Court.

TRUMP: And I got it done in the first 100 days. That's even nice.

FOREMAN: Even as the courts overall challenged other Trump initiatives, including his attempt to cut funding from so-called "sanctuary cities" for not helping enforce immigration laws. Meanwhile, on the foreign front, the President reversed on his campaign promise not to intervene in Syria, taking fast action following a Syrian gas attack. Unleashing a barrage of missiles and the mother of all bombs in Afghanistan. Raising tensions not merely in the Middle East, but also its far-flung allies and adversaries including North Korea. His meetings with foreign leaders came with the backdrop of a fiscal plan to substantially boost U.S. military spending while cutting budgets for many other agents.

TRUMP: You know, I tweeted today @realdonaldtrump, by tweet. Don't worry, I'll give it up after I'm President. We won't tweet any-

FOREMAN: And of course, there were tweets. Unproven claims of voter fraud, unproven accusations of President Obama wiretapping Trump tower, and a relentless stream of attacks on the media what President Trump calls, "fake news," especially over the march of stories about possible Russian ties to his circle. This President has undeniably pushed forward at a breakneck pace, and perhaps many of his promises will yet come to pass. Faced with a string of protests and a plummeting approval rating, his first 100 days, as he himself as hinted, have been more complicated than expected. Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESAY: Well, joining me now here in L.A.; Political Commentator and Talk Radio Host, Mo'Kelly. Mo, good to have you here once again.

MO'KELLY, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND TALK RADIO HOST: Thank you.

SESAY: So - OK. The headlines, 44 percent of Americans disapproved of - only 44 percent approved, 54 percent disapproved of Donald Trump's performance. Two management questions also asked in this poll that I want to add to the picture, that 55 percent of Americans feel Trump is not paying enough attention to the nation's top problems, and 51 percent say he's not working hard enough. Let's start with that top number, the 55 percent, that say he's not paying enough attention. What does say to you? What does that point to?

MO'KELLY: It speaks to a reality of a President who is spread very thin. He's fighting for health care change, he's fighting for tax reform, he's dealing with Syria, he's dealing with North Korea, he's tweeting, he's engaging in personal fights with the latest judge who struck down one of his executive orders in regard to sanctuary cities. So, it seems that he has spread very thin. He's not focused on any one or two items. And to a reasonable person, that is concerning.

SESAY: 51 percent say, he's not working hard enough. Is this the effect of all the tweets, the trips to Mar-a-Lago all the time, is that what's creating this impression?

MO'KELLY: I would say yes, and yes, and yes. I mean, we see him golfing. We know that he's at Mar-a-Lago every other week, sometimes each week. And so, we have to wonder if he's not doing that time traveling, he could be better - that will be better served if he was in the White House or at least presenting the picture that he's focused on the business at hand, as opposed to trying to get to a place where he's physically more comfortable and arguably less secure.

SESAY: What I'm interested is that all of that being said, the low approval rating, 55 percent are saying he's not paying enough attention. 51 percent are saying he's not working hard enough. Yet, 54 percent say things in the country are going well. And that number is actually up from February where instead at 46 percent. How do you square that?

MO'KELLY: I think it's just a misinterpretation of activity. For some people, activity equates to accomplishment. And sometimes when someone is frenetic, it can be misinterpreted as getting things done. And we know that the President hasn't pushed through any legislation, but he has signed executive orders, he has been ambitious, but he has not been accomplished.

SESAY: He hasn't. He hasn't fulfilled any of the campaign pledges. He hasn't passed any significant legislation. So, what are they pointing to when they say things are going well?

MO'KELLY: Let's not forget that he was elected in part because they wanted someone who's going to fight the establishment. And any fight that he engages in, at least for his base, is appreciated because, in effect, it's perceived that he's fighting for them. He's fighting against those Washington elites that he campaigned against and so forth. It may not bring in actual result, but the appearances are favorable for him than those who voted for him.

[01:25:01] SESAY: There was another one that also caught my eye, that only 37 percent of Americans believe he's honest and trustworthy. That number, again, hasn't improved since pre-election time. Again, at what point does this start to become a problem or is it already a problem having these kinds of poll numbers?

MO'KELLY: Well, his base has not left him. I'm quite sure if you surveyed his base, close to 100 percent would still support him. If only because they're giving him the benefit of the doubt of someone who's trying. He got some Neil Gorsuch. He's trying to repeal and replace Obamacare. He's trying to reform the tax code. He's trying to do a lot of the things that he said he was going to do. For many people, the promises were outlandish and impossible to deliver upon. But for his base, it's good enough that he's trying. Now, it won't be good enough, maybe a year from now, if he's still trying and unable to broke all those deals that he said he was so spectacular at making. But at least in the short term, we're only three months plus in, so he still has time to change perceptions.

SESAY: Well, you talked about the tax plan, so let's talk about that. The President announced a tax plan on Wednesday, and this is how Speaker Ryan and a number of his top republican colleagues described it in a statement. Let's put that up. "The principles outlined by the Trump administration today will serve as critical guideposts for congress and the administration as we work together to overhaul the American tax system and ensure middle-class families and job creators are better positioned for the 21st-century economy." What I find really striking about what was proposed with how thin it was on details, it was a skeletal outline of a plan. And you have to wonder, given everything that went down with health care, how they have learned a lesson of needing to put out more detail before you take a run at these things.

MO'KELLY: There's also the blueprint of the Bush tax cuts. I mean, we really did see what happened. We know that the Bush tax cuts, even though they may have been well-intentioned and done to spur the economy, they also ballooned the deficit, they also pushed us that much closer to the great recession. And I'm sorry, but trickle-down economics have not been proven to work. And even though this is a skeletal outline of what Donald Trump would like to do, we know that there's more history than there is proof that what he's proposing will actually be effective.

SESAY: Yes. This notion that it will pay for itself by stimulating the economy and generate growth and then that's it will-

MO'KELLY: In years.

SESAY: In years. The New York Time, they've said, this was more - this was a less plan, more wish list. Let's talk about what happened at the White House on Wednesday. The bussing in of 100 Senators for this secure briefing on North Korea. Take a listen to how one senator described what played out there at the White House, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, from Oregon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF MERKLEY, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM OREGON: He came out from behind the curtain, he introduced the panel, he says he has a very good team. I'm sure they're developing a very good plan, some comments like that and he said thank you for coming, and then he disappeared.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, why do you think he had all of you come to the White House for this?

MERKLEY: Complete optics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: Complete optics. Complete optics tied to the 100th day in office. Was that what this was about? About seeming busy?

MO'KELLY: No, I don't think those types are for a 100 day. I think optics, I think is a wrong word. I think it's theatrics. It's a presentation as far as the grandiose nature of his ego and also how he wants things to be. The whole visual of 100 Senators being brought at his beck and call, coming to the White House when something that could have been done on Capitol Hill, in Senate chambers. When they have the skiffs, speaks to how it wants to be presented, but not necessarily 100 days. I don't know what he got out of this other than more ratings.

SESAY: And finally, it was a busy Wednesday for this White House. Also, also on Wednesday, NAFTA back in the news, because the President has recently - as a couple of days ago, is talking about how bad NAFTA is for the United States. Let's remind our viewers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: NAFTA has been a disaster. We have these provisions where you have to wait long periods of time. NAFTA's been very, very bad for our country. It's been very, very bad for our companies and for our workers. And we're going to make some very big changes or we are going to get rid of NAFTA for once and for all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: All right. You heard the ominous warning there.

MO'KELLY: Yes, it's a disaster. NAFTA's a disaster. Obamacare is a disaster. The Iran deal is a disaster.

SESAY: But they're all still here.

MO'KELLY: Thank you very much.

SESAY: Because this is what we heard on Wednesday that the President has agreed not to terminate NAFTA after all, not at this time at least. Is this something that's going to cause a problem for him with anyone in his base? MO'KELLY: It's going to cause a problem, but not necessarily in the

near term. If you talk about his poll numbers, they are very steady but they're still below where they need to be.

[01:30:00] This only means that he's running out of time before it will affect his poll numbers. All this change of direction do not help him, but it may be prolonging the inevitable.

SESAY: His reversal on NAFTA, I do wonder about the message it sends to foreign adversaries. Not just NADTA but the reversals on everything, what that says to other foreign leaders that are standing in opposition to the United States when they see the president changing his mind and not following through on promises he made.

KELLY: He's changed his mind and made a 180-degree turn in just about everything. China as far as being a currency manipulator, obviously, NAFTA, obviously, the Iran deal. So it's almost like it makes you think we should only take him at his word if it's really important. Anything he said during the campaign, we should ignore all together.

SESAY: And 61 percent of Americans say world leaders don't have much respect for Trump.

KELLY: I think that says it all.

(LAUGHTER)

There's nothing we can say about that.

SESAY: You threw in the towel there. You're like, OK, OK.

Mo Kelly, thank you.

KELLY: Thank you.

SESAY: John?

VAUSE: With that, we'll take short break. Still to come, Turkey wrapping up a crackdown on those suspected of links to an exiled cleric accused of plotting a failed coup last year. Could this be the start of President Erdogan flexing his new executive powers?

SESAY: Plus, more legal woes for FOX News as the network gets hit with claims of racial bias. The details ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:35:00] SESAY: Hello, everyone. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause, in Atlanta.

We'll check the headlines this hour.

(HEADLINES) VAUSE: Turkey has detained more than a thousand people in dozens of raids across the country. It's the largest roundup of opponents since Turkey's president gained new powers in a recent referendum. 900 members of the security forces have been suspended. All with alleged ties with a U.S.-based cleric accused or orchestrating last year's failed coup attempt.

Lisa Daftari joins me now with more. She's a Middle East expert and editor-in-chief on the Foreign Desk.

Lisa, good to see you.

After Erdogan had that referendum win, which handed him sweeping presidential power, there was speculation he could one of two ways, ease up on the crackdown, build a national consensus or there would be a purge, because he felt emboldened. Now we know which way he decided to go.

LISA DAFTARI, MIDDLE EAST EXPERT & EDITOR-IN-CHEIF, FOREIGN DESK: You're right. I interviewed last night a man who was on the Turkish police force for 20 years. Now he's living in Washington, D.C. He said what we're seeing is what we should have expected from a dictator who has no confidence. Meaning he did win the referendum by 51 percent, but he also knows that 49 percent of the country is against him. And the aftermath of that referendum, he's doing everything he can to grab power inside the country by detaining more individuals who he believes are not in line with his policies and going hard after the Kurds, which have long been his main enemy. He has not backed down at all. Right now, we see him almost racing the clock to push forward.

VAUSE: The air strike Turkey carried out on Kurdish fighters inside Syria and Iraq, allies of the United States, and the U.S. was incensed by this, because it wasn't coordinated with them, and Erdogan did it anyway.

DEFTARI: The U.S. is extremely upset about this. On the one hand, we're trying to rally the Kurds. They are the number one ally in the fight against ISIS. And the Turks, who will also a very strategic ally in fighting ISIS. Geographically speaking, they're involved in the fight against ISIS, but they're also carrying out their main priority, taking out the Kurds. So the U.S. was put in a very difficult dance here. We want to keep Turkey as this friend of sorts, and ally of sorts, because, strategically, they are helping us in many ways. But at the same time, we're backing the Kurds. And they didn't give us the heads-up in that regard. So I think Erdogan is scheduled to come to the White House on May 16th. We're going to have a very interesting meeting between Erdogan and President Trump where a lot of awkward conversations will probably be had.

VAUSE: We shouldn't forget that Donald Trump congratulated Erdogan on that referendum win.

Looking at what's happening in Turkey right now, ever since the coup, the government has targeted Gulenists, those accused of supporting the exiled cleric, Fethullah Gulen. Now the crackdown. If you look at what's happened in the last 24 hours, it's extended to others who might just be in opposition to the government.

DAFTARI: Right. That's why there are so many who believe that Erdogan may have staged this coup. And we can understand where that translation of this would come about, because this has been a clean sweep. He's used this coup as a justification to take out anybody who doesn't agree with him. We're talking teachers, judges, policemen, members of the military. And hundreds of thousands of people have been put out of jobs. And thousands of others detained and put behind bars. For what? For not agreeing with his rules, laws, what have you. But it's very obvious. This plan to become this de facto authoritarian, this dictator of sorts, has been long in the making. I think the referendum -- the coup first was a wakeup call to Erdogan that there are enemies within, and to push forward this referendum to make ironclad. What Erdogan realized is, look, I'm not going to be courting the E.U., they European countries any longer, so I might as well really consolidate power at home, take a page from the "Putin dictator handbook," and at least really make this his power at home ironclad so he cannot be taken down.

[01:39:48] VAUSE: Just for context here, Erdogan accuses Gulen, the cleric living in exile in the U.S., of plotting this coup. Gulen denies it. But Gulen was very close to Erdogan. They were allies at one point.

DAFTARI: Right, which is why there are friends of Gulen within Erdogan's circle, and that's what he has fear of. But right now, Gulen is sitting pretty in a suburb of Pennsylvania. It's more of a justification. He's a 76-year-old cleric. And Erdogan has provided the White House with tons of what he calls evidence, showing that Gulen was a participant in orchestrating the coup. The White House thinks differently. The European countries think differently. They don't think Gulen had any involvement. Right now, we have Turkey just blaming everyone for harboring this guy, the U.S. harboring this guy, and everyone for backing this guy. And in the meantime, he's taking out anyone he believes is not in line with us.

VAUSE: Lisa, we'll leave it there. We're out of time. But clearly, one of the indications this is not done yet is that Turkey is building a whole lot of new prisons because they're running out of space. So it would indicate the crackdown is not done.

Lisa, good to speak with you. Thank you so much.

DAFTARI: You, too. Thank you.

VAUSE: With that, we'll take a short break. When we come back, FOX News back in the headlines, this time over claims of racial discrimination. We'll hear the accusations from former and current employees in just a moment.

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SESAY: Hello, everyone. FOX News is facing more legal problems one week after Bill O'Reilly left the network amid harassment complaints. More than a dozen current and former employees have filed a class- action lawsuit against the company, claiming they were passed over for promotions, humiliated, and paid less than white co-workers. In a separate complaint filed this week, a former FOX News employee claims she was forced to quit in 2013 after her complaints about racial discrimination were ignored. FOX News denies these claims.

Joining me now in Los Angeles, civil rights and criminal defense attorney, Brian Claypool.

Brian, always good to see you.

[01:45:07] BRIAN CLAYPOOL, CIVIL RIGHTS & CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Nice seeing you, Isha.

SESAY: You have looked through these allegations. Let me ask you, off the bat, how strong is the plaintiff's case here?

CLAYPOOL: Let's hold off on the firing squad for FOX News. Let's put away the noose and the lethal injection.

SESAY: OK. Not quite yet.

CLAYPOOL: Not just yet. Proving racial discrimination and harassment is a daunting task. I've had cases like this. The devil is in the details in these cases. These employees have to prove a couple of things. They've got to prove that the racial discrimination and harassment actually happened. You need credible evidence to prove that. For example, eyewitnesses. You need e-mails. You might need text messages if you have those, some kind of audio recording to prove that. Otherwise, it's the employee's word versus the employer's word. I always advise my clients, if you're going to report something to the Human Resources Department, take a witness. Then they have to prove that they reported this to Human Resources and that Human Resources didn't do a legitimate investigation.

SESAY: Now we have Kelly Wright getting involved. Kelly Wright was an anchor/correspondent on FOX News. Talk to me about having someone of his stature strengthens the case. Does it do anything to change the calculus of this case, having someone of his name recognition involved?

CLAYPOOL: That's a good point. I think it helps, because a lot of the other employees work in the Accounting Department, work in administrative jobs as opposed to being news anchors. So I think that helps on one hand. But on the other hand, he wasn't let go. He wasn't -- I don't think he's arguing that he was passed up for promotion.

(CROSSTALK)

SESAY: He said he was insulted.

CLAYPOOL: He said that Bill O'Reilly didn't have him on his show. He was insulted by Bill O'Reilly.

(CROSSTALK)

CLAYPOOL: Right. But then you get into another issue that you have to prove. You have another element that you have to prove in this case. Then you have to prove damages. How have these employees have been damaged? Normally, Isha, in wrongful termination cases, employment cases, an employee is fired. Most of these employees have not been fired. They are still working at FOX News. They're still garnering a salary.

SESAY: I want to put up a statement that was made by some of the attorneys that represented some of the plaintiffs here, by Douglas H. Wigdahl (ph) and Gina Christianson (ph), the plaintiffs' lawyers. They say, "When it comes to racial discrimination, 21st Century FOX has been operation as if it should be called 18th Century FOX. We sincerely hope the filing of this race class action wakes 21st Century FOX from its slumbers and it inspires the company to take a conciliatory and appropriate approach to remedy its wrongs."

I mean, the point that they're making that there is a bad culture here, that is at odds where we are today, that is reminisce sent of the sexual harassment allegations. Does the mood music play into this?

CLAYPOOL: It does. And it's too premature for these lawyers to be making those comments, Isha. We don't have the evidence yet. It's a quantum leap for somebody to allege pervasive racial discrimination and harassment versus proving that in a court of law.

And here's another thing. Judith Slater was the comptroller at FOX News. She's --

(CROSSTALK)

SESAY: She's named in the filing, yeah.

CLAYPOOL: She's the target. They're saying, we reported her to Human Resources. But does that prove that this is a cultural problem at FOX News?

# Let me pick up on that. Judith Slater, who was named in one of these complaints, and has been fired by FOX News. Does that become a mitigating factor? FOX News said we took care of it, we fired her. Can you use that in court?

CLAYPOOL: You have a second career after this as being a lawyer.

(LAUGHTER)

Fantastic question. That's a double-edged sword. If I'm representing the FOX employees, I'm going to argue, well, you fired Judith Slater, so that proves that she was engaging in severe and pervasive racial discrimination and harassment. But the flip side is, if I'm representing FOX News, I'm going to argue, hey, you came and reported this discrimination and this nefarious conduct by Ms. Slater and we went out and we did an investigation of her and we fired her, therefore, we didn't ratify her conduct. So it's going to be dicey.

SESAY: It's going to be dicey. Like you say, hold fire on this one.

CLAYPOOL: Yeah.

SESAY: We'll see how it plays out.

CLAYPOOL: Yeah, let's not call the funeral home yet for FOX News.

SESAY: OK, Brian Claypool, a pleasure. Thank you.

CLAYPOOL: Thank you for having me, Isha.

[01:49:53] SESAY: All right, quick break here. United Airlines just can't catch a break. The latest P.R. disaster could have animal rights activists on the case.

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SESAY: John, what can I say? United Airlines, another P.R. disaster on its hands. The mysterious death of a four-legged passenger.

VAUSE: Yeah, this is sad. He was the hare hoping to get to Chicago's O'Hare Airport. Never got there.

Isa Soares has all the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ISA SOARES, CNN CORERSPONDENT: United Airlines are having a bad hare day. This time, it's an unusual and furry passenger. Take a look at this photo. This is Simon, a 10-month-old, 90-centimeter-long rabbit, who was being transported from London's Heathrow Airport. But when he arrived at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, they discovered he was dead. The owner and breeder tells CNN that Simon had a full checkup before he was transported and put on that plane. She said he was strong and fit as a fiddle.

United Airlines has been quick to respond following criticism and uproar on social media over Simon's death, which is now making front- page news in the U.K. In a statement to CNN, United says, "We were saddened to hear this news. The safety and well-being of all the animals that travel with us is of the utmost importance to United Airlines and our pet-safe team. We have been in contact with the customer and have offered assistant. We are reviewing this matter."

This is, of course, another P.R. disaster for United, who just three weeks ago, if you remember, was criticized after one of their passengers was forcibly removed from an overbooked flight with a broken nose and loss of two front teeth.

What makes matters worst is Simon was a promising rabbit. At 129 centimeters long, his father, Darius, holds the Guinness world record of being the biggest rabbit.

There's no word yet on the cause of death. United say they are investigating.

Isa Soares, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[01:55:46] VAUSE: That's a big rabbit.

SESAY: That's what I was saying. No more case of Simon says.

So now after all the bad press, United has just announced changes to their customer service. Among them, seated passengers won't have to give up their seats unless safety or security is at risk.

VAUSE: And a new customers' solution team will allow passengers to reach their final destination using nearly airports. Other airlines will ground transportation. And customers who volunteer their seats could get a little more money, maybe up to $10,000. No word yet on what the rabbit relation team is planning to do.

SESAY: They're really having a bad time, United.

VAUSE: Well, you know, clearly, something has gone wrong.

SESAY: Very wrong.

But you've got it right, because you've been watching CNN NEWSROOM from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause, in Atlanta.

Stay with us. A lot more news right after this.

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