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Speculation on Why British Royal Staff Called to Meeting; French Presidential Candidates Traded Jabs in Sunday's Debate; Trump: Peace Between Israelis, Palestinians Not as Hard as People Think; Trump to Meet with Australian Prime Minister; Comey Defends Decision to Inform Congress of Re-Opening Clinton E-mail Probe Before Election; Russia Denies Newest U.S. Allegation of Election Interference; N. Korean Defector's Family Says S. Korea Using Him for Propaganda; Anger over Venezuelan President's Plan to Rewrite Constitution; Is Mark Zuckerberg Planning to Enter Politics; Calls for CBS to Fire Stephen Colbert After Raunchy Trump Joke. Aired 2-3a ET
Aired May 4, 2017 - 02:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[02:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles.
ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Ahead this hour --
VAUSE: Hello, everybody. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause.
SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay.
NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.
VAUSE: We'll get to all the stories in the moment but, first, the British royal staff has been summoned to a meeting in London.
SESAY: It's not clear why the meeting was called.
VAUSE: Let's go to Max Foster, live outside Buckingham Palace, for more on this.
So, Max, what do we know about this meeting? Why exactly was it called? What details do we have at this point?
MAX FOSTER, CNN LONDON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the lord chamberlain meetings are called a couple of times a year. We know one's being held today. We know that because there's been huge speculation when news was leaked, but I'm told these events do happen every couple of years. We're not expecting any major announcements, for example, about the queen or Prince Philip. Prince Philip was out yesterday at the cricket, the queen was meeting the prime minister, and they've got a service down the road at St. James Palace later today. We expect that to continue as usual.
So there's some concern about some sort of announcement. There might be an announcement today, but we really have no idea what it is. When the palace doesn't step in and give a clear definition about these things, then speculation does bubble up on social media. But we're here, braced, waiting to see.
VAUSE: And you're the man for it. This reminds me when they were heading to Sandringham and the trip was delayed and there was speculation. But the queen and Prince Philip have been seen out and about. There's been no real change to their daily schedules and duties, right?
FOSTER: No, indeed. And Prince Philip and queen are really well, and they both are really well as far as we know.
In terms of the other sorts of issues, we know Buckingham Palace is being refurbished. There are a series of events coming up. We know there's the general election, the state opening of parliament will be a different time this year. So there are lots of things for the palace to consider right now and they do have repercussions. So if there's something that involves the whole royal household, it's not usual for them to hold a meeting. It's just unusual that this is the most senior member of the household and it does appear that the general staff don't actually know why they're called. So it's a vacuum of information, which is never good.
VAUSE: And it happened in the middle of the night, which adds to the drama a little bit as well.
But, Max, we know that you are on the story. As soon as you get details, bring them to us.
Max, thank you.
SESAY: France's presidential candidates traded jabs in a combative debate before the country's final election Sunday. Far-right leader, Marine Le Pen, slammed centrist Emmanuel Macron for being weak on terrorism. Macron accused her party of promoting fear, lies, and hatred.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translation): I am talking about the party of the far-right, the one that you lead, the party that spreads lies on social media, which encourages hatred, molest journalists, who generously dispense brutality everywhere.
MARINE LE PEN, FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translation: We have never molested anyone.
MACRON (through translation): You did on several occasions. At meetings, you have threatened and beaten people. And I have experienced that. That is the truth, Ms. Le Pen. It's your party, the party of the far-right, which has no resemblance to our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: The candidates also differed on relations with Russia and the United States. Emmanuel Macron said he was willing to work with both countries. Le Pen was more hesitant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LE PEN (through translation): I think we need to keep our distance from both Russia and U.S. No reason to wage cold war against Russia. We have every interest to engage diplomatic, commercial, and strategic relations, because it's a major power and Russia hasn't shown any hostility towards France.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: CNN's Jim Bittermann joins me now from Paris.
Jim, this election just days away. What stood out for you from this debate, and did it sway any undecided voters?
JIM BITTERMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is the crucial question, and I don't think so. I understand from the polling, a snap poll was taken right after the debate, and about 63 percent of the French believe that Mr. Macron was more convincing. That's about the score he had in the polling leading up to the debate. So it doesn't seem to have made much difference.
One of the things the commentators are talking about, this was not up to the level of a presidential debate, with too much name-calling, too much wandering around the issues, a lot of arguing and very nasty comments back and forth as the gloves came off. One commentator said he thought it was the worst presidential debate ever.
[02:05:18] SESAY: Oh, dear. Jim, we've heard a lot about why people want to vote for Marine Le Pen. But what is motivating Macron supporters, seeing how he's polling so far ahead of her right now?
BITTERMANN: Well, I was going to find out that exact question. We decided to go out on a carpool confab.
BITTERMANN: So time to hit the road again in our Renault. We're going to be out on a hunt this time around for voters for the centrist candidate in the presidential elections, Emmanuel Macron.
(voice-over): And they're not hard to find.
(on camera): We found four for a carpool confab, a retired schoolteacher, an international business consultant, a philosophy professor, and a municipal police officer.
(voice-over): But Macron was the first choice of only one of the four.
Guy said he's been with him from the start.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): I like the way he sees things. His optimism. His main concern is not where we come from, but where we are going, what we can do together. BITTERMANN: Michelle had hopes for an extremely left candidate, but
when he was eliminated in the first round of voting, she decided to "avoid the worst," meaning extreme right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen. So she will reluctantly vote Macron.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): I hope he won't forget that many people voted for him by default.
BITTERMANN: And she worries his economic reforms will go too far.
Olivier is concerned about that, too, but will also vote for Macron.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): When I saw Le Pen was on the second rung, I decided to vote for Macron.
BITTERMANN: That's what Jean Francois will vote for, too, even if he's skeptical about how Macron will handle security and a terrorism problem.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): I think he's been soft on some of the issues, Islamic radicalism and things like that. That's what bothers me.
BITTERMANN: But Guy, the police officer, disagrees.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): What Macron has said so far, goes in the direction of a strengthened security, stronger police, so he can ensure the safety of the French.
BITTERMANN: Guy believes Macron's youth is a positive thing, as does Jean Francois and the others.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): We have a lot of old war horses in France, you know that. So it's time --
BITTERMANN (on camera): Time for them to retire?
(voice-over): And all agree it would be a disaster it would Le Pen would be elected.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): I would be panic stricken, for sure. If Le Pen is elected, I'll leave the country.
BITTERMANN: So while less than a quarter of French voters favored Emmanuel Macron in the first round of the French elections, he could win more than half the French votes on Sunday simply because people will vote against his opponent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): It's said on the first round, you choose, and on the second round, you eliminate.
BITTERMANN: So, John and Isha, many voters will be motivated by negative reasons rather than positive ones.
And by the way, just so you know, my colleague, Melissa Bell, is on the hunt for Le Pen voters this very morning -- John and Isha?
SESAY: We look forward to seeing what she turns up and the countdown to the voting on Sunday.
Jim Bittermann, joining us from Paris. Jim, always appreciate it. Thank you.
VAUSE: Well, it has been a diplomatic graveyard for U.S. presidents, both Republicans and Democrats, trying to bring peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. But now, President Donald Trump says, in his words, we'll get the job done. He met with the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House on Wednesday.
SESAY: Mr. Trump says if it's going to happen, both sides must be willing to work together.
CNN's Elise Labott has more from Washington.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a great honor to have the president with us.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump warmly welcomed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the White House, vowing to do, quote, "whatever is necessary" to help broker a Mideast peace deal.
TRUMP: I've always heard that perhaps the toughest deal to make is the deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Let's see if we can prove them wrong, OK?
LABOTT: Trump promising economic development for the Palestinians and hailing cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces. But called on Abbas and his government to renounce terrorism.
TRUMP: There can be no lasting peace unless the Palestinian leaders speak in a unified voice against incitement to violate and violence and hate. There's such hatred. But hopefully, there won't be such hatred for very long.
[02:10:09] LABOTT: Abbas pitched himself to Trump as a partner, and praised the president as a master deal-maker whose leadership offered a historical opportunity for peace.
MAHMOUD ABBAS, PRESIDENT, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY: Mr. President, with you, we have hope.
LABOTT: Trump campaigned as a pro-Israel candidate who promised to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
TRUMP: We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem. LABOTT: And standing next to Benjamin Netanyahu in February, broke
with decades of U.S. policy, backing away from the two-state solution that would give the Palestinians a state.
TRUMP: I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I'm very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one.
LABOTT: Trump has since shied away from those controversial pledges and, over lunch with Abbas, predicted the deal, which has eluded presidents for decades, was within his grasp.
TRUMP: It's something that I think is, frankly, maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years. But we need two willing parties. We believe Israel is willing. We believe you're willing.
LABOTT (on camera): U.S. officials say the president is planning a trip later this month to meet with Benjamin Netanyahu, and expected again to meet with President Abbas. Although Palestinians are hopeful about such a visit, his new envoy to Washington told CNN, if Trump were to make an announcement on moving the embassy during that trip, it could jeopardize the momentum he has already made with his peace overtures.
Elise Labott, CNN, Washington
VAUSE: Just hours from now, U.S. President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will sit down for their first face-to-face meeting. It's a chance to reset their relationship after a contentious phone call in late January, shortly after Mr. Trump was sworn into office. Since then, tensions have escalated on the Korean peninsula. North Korea has been more belligerent in its rhetoric and aggressive in its missile testing. And just days ago, Pyongyang threatened Australia with a nuclear attack. It's worth noting, the meeting between Mr. Turnbull and Mr. Trump will not be in Washington, but in New York.
Let's go to Sydney, and we'll talk more about this with Tom Switzer, a columnist with the "Sydney Morning Herald."
Tom, good to see you.
TOM SWITZER, COLUMNIST, SYDNEY MORNING HERALD: Hey, John.
VAUSE: First, this U.S. alliance is crucial, it's a cornerstone of the country's defense policy. Turnbull wants to reaffirm that relationship, but what does the U.S. want?
SWITZER: Well, if the United States is serious about keeping in check a rising China and also keeping in check a belligerent North Korea, it's important to re-affirm U.S. Treaty allies. And there are five in the Asian-Pacific, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, and Australia, which was formed in the early 1950s. So this meeting among other things will re-affirm that U.S./Australia relationship. It's bipartisan support in Australia, even though President Trump shocked everyone by winning the White House last year.
VAUSE: With that in mind, one opposition lawmaker from the Labour Party is calling on the prime minister to "talk truth to crazy," in his words. And former Australian ambassador to the U.S, John McCarthy, he urged Turnbull, wrote this in an op-ed: "You don't run after bullies. They smell obsequiousness. At wort, they bully again. At best they respond with benevolent condescension. They have you where they want you. And for a country that claims to pride itself on independence, that isn't the place for Australia to be."
Given that, what do you expect from the tone of this meeting?
SWITZER: Well, opinion varies. On the one hand, both John McCarthy and Feeney, the Labour member of parliament, are right that we're dealing with a very erratic, impulsive, unpredictable president, who among other things is incapable of understatement, to put it mildly and politely. He shoots from the hip. And that's a potentially deadly combination in any foreign policy crisis. So I understand their concerns.
On the other hand, you have to remember, both those gentlemen, whom I have great respect for, they were supporting Australia doing freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea, and would have angered our largest trade partner, China. "The New York Times" revealed that the Trump administration has no interest in doing freedom of navigation patrols through the South China Sea. So Trump is more cautious and prudent than many politicians in the Labour Party in Australia.
It's a very complicated issue. I think Trump and Turnbull, there are tensions there, as you alluded to, as a result of that phone call conversation a couple of months ago. But all things considered, they'll re-affirm the nature of the alliance and that's a good thing for both nations' interests.
[02:15:09] VAUSE: On a personal level, how does Turnbull actually deal with the history between these two men? Does he just go straight after Trump? Do you think he makes light of it? What are the preparations before he gets to New York?
SWITZER: I think the prevailing wisdom is that Donald Trump badly performed during that phone call conversation, he hung up on the prime minister. He said it was the worst phone call conversation was day. And that was because the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, was pushing this refugee deal that his government and the Obama administration had signed. A deal where a thousand refugees that are stationed on Mannis Island would go to the United States. Donald Trump did not like that deal, because a majority of those refugees came from majority Muslim countries, most notably, Iraq and Iran. So the consensus since that phone call conversation is that Malcolm Turnbull was pushing this issue in a get-acquainted call with the president rather than letting underlings deal with the issue, and then he boasted to the press in the immediate aftermath of the phone call that it was a done deal, even though he knew full well that the president thought it was a bad deal. Donald Trump doesn't suffer fools gladly. They're largely than life figures, multimillionaires, and they tend to clash, but I suspect for the purposes of photo-ops tomorrow, they'll be on their best behavior.
VAUSE: Should note, one's a billionaire and one's a millionaire.
SWITZER: That's right.
VAUSE: It's part of Turnbull's mission to remind Donald Trump of the close history between Australia and the United States.
SWITZER: And tomorrow morning, or later Thursday, they'll be commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea, when the United States came to the aid of Australia to shield Australia from Japanese attacks. So it's a special milestone in the history of a very important relationship.
VAUSE: OK, Tom, we'll leave it there. Thanks so much. It will be an interesting meeting to watch.
SWITZER: Thanks, John.
VAUSE: Like to be a fly on the wall. Anyway, we'll find out in the coming hours.
SESAY: It will be very interesting.
VAUSE: Malcolm Turnbull is my height, and Donald Trump is about eight feet tall. There's already an inverse relationship balance there.
SESAY: Quick break here. FBI Director James Comey defends his investigation of Hillary Clinton's e-mails and explains why he didn't talk about the Trump campaign's contact with Russia. That's next on NEWSROOM L.A.
[02:19:55] SESAY: Hello, everyone. FBI Director James Comey is defending his decision to tell Congress he was re-opening the investigation of Hillary Clinton's e-mails just days before last year's presidential election.
VAUSE: But Comey also had to explain why he kept quiet about the probe into the Trump campaign contacts with Russia.
CNN's justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, has details now from Washington.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, FBI director James Comey in the hot seat before the Senate Judiciary Committee telling lawmakers he has no regrets about his letter to Congress announcing during the election that the Hillary Clinton e- mail probe was re-opened --
TRUMP: So help me, God.
BROWN: -- even if it affected the outcome.
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: Look, this was terrible. It makes me mildly nauseous to think we might have had some impact on the election, but honestly, it wouldn't change the decision. Everybody who disagrees with me has to come back to October 28th with me and stare at this and tell me what you would do would this. Would you speak, or would you conceal? And I could be wrong, but we honestly made a decision between those two choices that, even in hindsight, and this has been one of the world's most painful experiences, I would make the same decision. I would not conceal that on October 28th from the Congress.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D), CALIFORNIA: Was there any conflict among your staff, people saying do it, people saying don't do it, as has been reported?
COMEY: No. It was a great debate. I have a fabulous staff at all levels. And one of my junior lawyers said, should you consider that what you're about to do may help elect Donald Trump president? And I said, thank you for raising that, not for a moment. Because down that path lies the death of the FBI as an independent institution in America. I can't consider for a second whose political fortunes will be affected in what way. We have to ask ourselves, what is the right thing to do, and then do that thing.
BROWN: And Comey made the stunning admission that he lacked confidence in the Justice Department's leadership after then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch met with Bill Clinton on the tarmac, which paved the way for his unprecedented press conference last July announcing he wasn't recommending charges.
COMEY: The department leadership could not credibly complete the investigation and decline prosecution without grievous damage to the American people's confidence in the justice system. That was a hard call for me to make, to call the attorney general that morning and say, I'm about to do a press conference and I'm not going to tell you what I'm going to say. I said to her, I hope someday, you'll understand. But, look, I wasn't loving this. I knew it was going to be a disaster for me personally, but I thought, this is the best way to protect these institutions that we care so much about.
BROWN: Democrats fired back, asking him why he didn't also publicly acknowledge the ongoing probe into Russia's connection with campaign associates before the election.
SEN. CHRIS COONS, (D), CONNECTICUT: Had there been public notice that there was renewed investigation into both campaigns, I think the impact would have been different. Would you agree?
COMEY: No. I thought a lot about this, and my judgment was, counterintelligence -- we have to separate two things. I thought it was very important to call out what the Russians were trying to do with our election. I offered in August myself to be a voice for that in a public piece, calling it out. The Obama administration didn't take it advantage of that in August. They did it in October. But I thought that was very important to call out.
VAUSE: Our thanks to Pamela Brown for that report.
SESAY: Comey says Russia's interference doesn't end after the 2016 election. He says Russia is still active in U.S. politics and the lesson they learned last year was meddling works.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: What kind of threat do you believe Russia represents to our Democratic process, given what you know about Russia's behavior of late?
COMEY: Well, certainly, in my view, the greatest threat of any nation on earth, given their intention and their capability --
GRAHAM: Have they done this in other countries, where they tampered with the vote?
COMEY: My understanding is they have attempted it in other countries.
GRAHAM: And there's no reason they won't attempt it if we don't stop them over time?
COMEY: I think that's fair.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Let's head live to Moscow now to CNN's Diana Magnay.
So, Diana, another day, another allegation of Russian hacking an election. Presumably, leading to another eye roll and a yawn, and denial from the Kremlin.
DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And the same response. There hasn't been anything specific to Comey's testimony yet, but there's a briefing from the foreign ministry spokesperson in the top of the hour. I imagine she will be asked or give comment on this. But the comment will be what we've heard before, which is a denial of any kind of interference in foreign countries' elections. And we heard it very clearly from President Putin himself two days ago when he met with the German chancellor to a question about whether Russia was interfering in the German federal election coming up in September. And his response was, we do not interfere in other people's elections, we do not appreciate any kind of interference in our own affairs. And he described these U.S. allegations as rumors around a domestic political struggle -- John?
[02:25:02] VAUSE: We're also hearing from the FBI director that Vladimir Putin apparently preferred Donald Trump during the election, not just because Putin hated Hillary Clinton, but also because Trump was a businessman. It was thought he was more likely to do deals. And this seems far less sinister than any dossier which may have compromising evidence.
MAGNAY: Yes, it doesn't mean that that dossier doesn't exist, though. I suppose if you view the Kremlin as a kleptocracy where officials are out for personal enrichment and deal-making, this kind of analysis dovetails well with that view. But by extension, what we heard over and over again in that hearing was it wasn't just the U.S. political system that Russia was supposed to be interfering with. It was other Western political systems. And the allegation is that Russia is out to undermine the liberal international order and interfere where it can. And in that context, President Trump, who is a businessman, would be a much better candidate for Russia than a far more seasoned politician, who has a very real understanding of what Russia is and how it behaves, which would be a Clinton candidacy. So in that context, you can see why a Trump candidate would be favorable to the Kremlin -- John?
VAUSE: OK, Diana. Thank you, Diana Magnay, in early morning from Moscow. We appreciate it. Thank you.
SESAY: Time for a quick break here. "State of America" with Kate Bolduan is coming up next for our viewers in Asia.
VAUSE: For everyone else, a rare message from the relative of North Korean defectors left behind. An exclusive report from Pyongyang in just a moment.
You're watching CNN.
[02:30:12] SESAY: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Vause.
Let's check the headlines this hour.
SESAY: Now, when the North Korean deputy ambassador to the U.K. defected last August, it was an embarrassment to Pyongyang. He was the most senior diplomat to defect in nearly 20 years.
VAUSE: His family says the South is using him for propaganda.
The North Korean government took our Will Ripley to speak with the diplomat's family, and other relatives of defectors. He has this exclusive report.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Everything in Pyongyang, from the almost hourly music to the stories in state media, to the omnipresent portraits of the late leaders, all of it to remind North Koreans, just how lucky they are to live in what the government calls a socialist oasis. Which is why it's considered the ultimate act of betrayal when someone tries to leave.
Thae Yong Ho wasn't just someone. He was the most senior North Korean diplomat to defect in almost 20 years. The number-two in the North Korean embassy in London before defecting to South Korea with his wife and two sons last August.
He has humiliated his homeland, giving a series of interviews, blasting the socialist system, and its Supreme Court leader.
"I spent 50 years of my life on the wrong side, and now I have to deny my past," he told CNN in January.
The North Korean government takes us to meet the brother and sister he left behind. This is their first ever interview, which they say is being done voluntarily.
(on camera): In South Korea, Thae said he did this to break the slavery chain.
(voice-over): "100 percent evil propaganda," his sister says.
Thae also said he feared his family may be forced to speak against him or face prison camps, banishment from Pyongyang or worse.
"Not one person has been punished in my family", she says.
His brother says, "If I don't wash this sin away by myself, my sons and further generations will have to pay for this."
We made Thae aware of the interview but didn't get a response.
Another embarrassing case for North Korea, what South Korea calls the mass defection of a group of restaurant workers. North Korea calls it a mass abduction, saying more than a dozen restaurant workers were all tricked.
We were also taken to meet some of their families.
(on camera) Some people may watch this and think that your government is forcing you to talk to us.
(voice-over): "Look at this stark reality," she says. "We parents have lost our child, all of a sudden, our precious daughter. If something that bad happens to you personally, would you sit idle?"
In past defector stories, we've had to interview these people in hotels. Now, we're being taken to their homes.
At both homes we visited, the young waitress's dresses and portraits were prominently displayed. None have spoken to the media in South Korea. Their families in the North have been told by their government that
their loves ones are being held hostage, some near death, and they must do everything they can to fight for their return.
But the vast majority of defectors will never return. Going to South Korea means cutting ties forever with family, friends, and North Korean society.
RIPLEY: A society that says it can't imagine why anyone would want to leave.
Will Ripley, CNN, Pyongyang, North Korea.
[02:35:04] VAUSE: Anti-government protesters in Venezuela have again clashed with police, leaving a teenage demonstrator dead. 32 people have been killed over the past month. Not all of the deaths have been linked to the unrest.
Demonstrators are furious over President Nicolas Maduro's plan to re- write the constitution.
SESAY: They say he wants to avoid an election, which he could easily lose, given the state of the country under his watch, but Maduro says he's trying to fix things and help people.
Maduro took the first steps towards sweeping changes, forming a political body with the power to fundamentally change the country.
VAUSE: There's still no real idea what he may do next here.
But Shasta Darlington explains where the situation stands right now.
NICOLAS MADURO, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced the formation of a new constituent national assembly. But what exactly does that mean for the country? So far, the details are scarce. We know that 500 people will make up the new assembly, up to half will be elected, and the others will be appointed to represent various social groups. And we know that the assembly will have the power to make significant government changes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): That assembly, as original constituent power will have powers that are above the constitution and will eventually be able to re-write the constitution and transform the state, as well as remove the president, the national assembly and the Supreme Court. DARLINGTON: The government claims the move is a solution to the
country's paralyzing economic and social crises.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): A constituent assembly is constitutional and is the ideal mechanism to resolve the great contradictions in the heart of society.
DARLINGTON: And though it may seem brazen, the creation of the constituent assembly is legal under Venezuela's current constitution. Articles 347 and 348 state that the people of Venezuela, including its president, "have a right to call a national constituent assembly for the purpose of transforming the state, creating a new legal system, and writing a new constitution."
In fact, the current constitution was written after the late president, Hugo Chavez, called for a similar national constituent assembly in 1999.
DARLINGTON: But despite the fact that it's not unprecedented, it is highly contested. Critics claim that it was a ploy by President Maduro to extend his reach and to avoid or delay next year's presidential election.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): What has happened today, and I say without exaggerating or trying to be dramatic, is the greatest coup in the history of Venezuela. It's Nicolas Maduro dissolving democracy and our republic.
DARLINGTON: Under the constitution, they would have the power to negate the current national assembly, fill seats and supreme court appointments with pro-government supporters, as well as re-write the constitution entirely if it wanted to.
It's possible the new constituent assembly will make changes that benefit all Venezuelans and not just Maduro's government, but that remains to be seen.
Shasta Darlington, CNN.
SESAY: Still to come, he's the CEO of Facebook -- for now. But is it possible Mark Zuckerberg is eyeing a future role in politics?
[02:41:48] SESAY: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is bulking up his staff. He plans to hire 3,000 more people to help keep violent videos off the social media site. There have been several recent incidents where people posted videos of murders and suicide on Facebook that stayed up for hours before being removed. Facebook will now make it easier for its team to flag inappropriate videos and contact authorities if needed.
VAUSE: Apparently, though, Mark Zuckerberg has been out of the office recently, touring the U.S. on a meet-and-greet of middle America.
As Claire Sebastian reports, this could be, at least according to some, a start of a move into politics for Zuckerberg.
CLAIRE SEBASTIAN, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Any politician would be proud of these optics. In the last 10 days, Mark Zuckerberg visited a Ford plant in Michigan, dropped into dinner with this Ohio family of Trump supporters --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did give him crystal wine glasses.
MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: I'm here with my friend, Pete Buttigieg.
SEBASTIAN: -- and hosted a live car chat with the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
PETE BUTTIGIEG, MAYOR, SOUITH BEND, INDIANA: This a city that when I was growing up was really struggling.
SEBASTIAN: Zuckerberg said it was part of a challenge to visit all 50 states. Others have speculated he's test-driving a new career.
STEVEN AVERY (ph), AUTHOR: It is strikingly similar to what a politician might do on a listening tour.
SEBASTIAN: Steven Avery (ph) is writing a book and has met Mark Zuckerberg several times. He said it probably isn't what it looks like.
AVERY (ph): If you're a billionaire running, arguably, the most powerful company in the world, you think you're on a mission that's good for the world, really, what would you have to gain by being in a position that even Donald Trump finds difficult?
SEBASTIAN: And as Donald Trump marked his 100th day in office, Mark Zuckerberg was in Dayton, Ohio, meeting those affected by the opioid crisis.
Laurie Arian (ph) was sitting next to him.
LAURIE ARIAN (ph), DAYTON RESIDENT: I think he just got really emotional and touched by what he was hearing, and really just got up and walked around for a little bit and then came back and sat down and then he was fine.
SEBASTIAN: A day earlier, a Muslim student also sat next to Mark Zuckerberg in Dearborn, Michigan.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My friend had to run to a final exam. Once he found out, he was like, stop everything, I'll call you later, and literally called her later, asked her how her final went, and they finished their conversation.
ZUCKERBERG: Last month, I wrote a letter on building community. I have it here.
SEBASTIAN: If Zuckerberg were to serve in government, an ambition he has denied, it would trigger a conflict of interest. In a filing last year, Facebook said, if he left the company, he would lose his majority control, except if he was leaving to serve in government.
Still, for the 32-year-old, that decision may be some way down the road.
Claire Sebastian, CNN Money, New York.
SESAY: I don't see it happening, do you?
VAUSE: He's just bored. Getting out and about.
SESAY: How can he be bored? He's got a baby. That's enough to do.
VAUSE: The staff. If you're a billionaire, that's what the staff take care of.
VAUSE: Didn't you read the book? Gosh. OK
[02:45:02] SESAY: Let's take a break, shall we? #firecolbert is all over Twitter. We'll talk about the joke that has critics demanding an apology and calling for a boycott.
VAUSE: A boycott?
SESAY: Yep, a boycott. That's the call.
SESAY: Well, #firecolbert has been trending on Twitter after the late-show host, Stephen Colbert, mocked Donald Trump with this joke.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, THE LATE SHOW: Sir, you attract more skinheads than free Rogaine.
You have more people marching against you than cancer.
(LAUGHTER) You talk lightning a sign language gorilla who got hit in the head. In fact, the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin's (EXPLETIVE DELETED) holster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Critics called the comments crude and homophobic. They say it crossed the line. Colbert responded on his show on Wednesday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLBERT: If you saw my monologue on Monday, you know that I was a little upset with Donald Trump for insulting a friend of mine. So at the end of that monologue, I had a few choice insults for the president in return. I don't regret that.
COLBERT: I believe he can take care of himself. I have jokes. He has the launch codes.
So it's a fair fight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[02:50:10] SESAY: And joining me now to sift through all the fire is comedian, Frank DeCaro.
FRANK DECARO, COMEDIAN, WRITER & RADIO SHOW HOST: Thank you.
SESAY: First, you know Stephen Colbert. You worked with him on "The Daily Show." You know what he said on Monday that set people ablaze. He came out on Wednesday and, while he didn't apologize for the remarks, he said this, he said, "He might have used different words in describing what the president's mouth is good for in relation to Vladimir Putin."
Do you think he should be expressing regret or apologizing for what he said in that Monday night monologue?
DECARO: I can't imagine why he would apologize for what he said. The words were shocking, definitely. But they weren't -- they didn't do anything really bad. The idea that they're homophobic to me is mind- boggling. I can't imagine how people would take it as homophobic.
SESAY: And you know him?
DECARO: I've known him for 20 years, there's no straight man more comfortable around gay people than Stephen Colbert. I wonder if it's not playing into the hands of the right-wing by getting upset with someone who is such a staunch ally of the gay community and civil rights and human rights in general.
SESAY: As you make the point about the uproar, there are some pretty riled up people out there after what he said on Monday. Couple of the tweets. One viewer tweeted this, Colbert went over the top last night, in reference to Monday, CBS should at least suspend him for what he said. CBS should apologize, over the top. What about the point that he made the comments in relation to the president? Was that disrespectful and going too far?
DECARO: I don't think in our current society, after some of the words the president has used himself, and been quoted on, and we've heard the words that he's used, I think the gloves are off now. And I don't think anyone needs to apologize. I do think we should all have a sense of decorum would be nice, but I don't think one needs to sugar coat anything now. And I don't -- I mean, what were the -- what words would he have changed? Wiener quiver? I mean, you can come up with other things, but it doesn't make sense to get upset about that.
SESAY: But the words about the president, and how those are offensive to some, is again something on Twitter. This person says, "Where were you all when Trump was insulting, women, gays, African Americans, et cetera? Now you're upset?"
It's the sense that there's a double standard about who free speech applies to and when.
DECARO: Yeah, I think that we have to always look at who is the person that is doing the most harm. And I think we also sometimes in our society now in terms of political correctness, we take the notion of intent out of it. And if someone is on your side, I give them a lot of leeway in terms of what they can say. And you know, if you really have someone's back, you ought to be able to use all of the language, I think. And I'm not kidding. I just want a T-shirt with those two words on it. I think it would be hilarious.
SESAY: I think the opposition splits into two camps. There are those who are upset that he said it in relation to the president, and people in the gay and lesbian community who feel like it's homophobic. So there are two camps taking offense.
SESAY: But for Stephen Colbert, do you see him backing off these kinds of jokes? Bearing in mind his show has done so well recently, since he started targeting the president.
DECARO: I can say I hope not. Because I think any time you laugh in the face of danger, you're doing something pretty brave. I think that's what he's really doing. I think when you make a joke at the president's expense, given all that's going on, that many of us are opposed to, I think that if you can make sport of that or make light of that, it's a good thing. I think of all the years ago when Mel Brooks talked about, you know, that if he could make Hitler funny, he could do something. I think if you look at all the horrible things that are going on now, if you can get people to laugh in that cathartic kind of laugh that Stephen Colbert is able to do, you're really doing a service to all of us out there, all of us who feel downtrodden, who feel that the tide, that people are trying to turn, saying that it's all turned against us. Well, it's not, and we're only going to get louder.
The thing I give the president credit for, he's brought us together in a wave of opposition that I didn't think we would ever do. He's politicized so many of us who were running around worrying about the next pair of expensive shoes we were going to buy, and now we're like, I'll pick up the shoes, but I've got to go to the rally. So in some ways -- believe me, that's making lemonade out of lemons. But, still, I feel, if someone's on your side, let them say what they want to say. As long as they've got your back.
[02:55:28] SESAY: You say it's all about the intent?
DECARO: Yes, everything's about the intent.
SESAY: Frank DeCaro, such a pleasure. Thank you.
DECARO: It was a pleasure. Thank you for having me.
SESAY: You're welcome.
I wonder if the controversy will keep going.
VAUSE: I don't know. I just wonder if a conservative had said what Stephen Colbert had said, what the reaction would be. And you've got to look at what people mean as opposed to what they say. Little bit of hypocrisy.
You're watching CNN live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.
VAUSE: I'm John Vause.
Please stay with us. Rosemary Church will be back after the break with all the news from around the world.
[03:00:09] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: FBI Director James Comey says he feels mildly nauseous thinking --