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Protests against Spain's Decision to Dismiss Catalan Government; Pentagon Investigating Sgt. La David Johnson's Death; Obama, Bush Warn U.S. Being Torn Apart Politically; Donald Trump versus the Truth; FOX Renewed O'Reilly's Contract Soon after Settlement; Kurds Protest, Dispute over Kirkuk; Trump's Renoir a Fake. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired October 22, 2017 - 05:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[05:00:00]

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The five former U.S. presidents all coming together to raise money for hurricane relief and also sending a message of unity. Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world, I'm George Howell, CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

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HOWELL: 5:00 am here on the U.S. East Coast, around the world, good day to you.

The political crisis in Spain has reached a decisive point with the central government moving to take direct control over a region inside Spain that's had a long established independence movement.

The move triggered sharp reaction across Catalonia, this the scene in Barcelona, Spain, with that region's economic future now on the line, nearly half a million people came together, protesting the central government on Saturday.

The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, wants to dissolve the Catalan regional government and to hold new elections. The prime minister says he's trying to protect Spain's economy.

Catalonia's president, though, called this an attack on democracy after a contested referendum that favored independence. The last time Catalonia's powers were taken away, Spain was under a brutal dictatorship.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARLES PUIGDEMONT, CATALONIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): What the Catalans decided in elections, the Spanish government has canceled. So the Spanish government with the socialists (INAUDIBLE) has started the worst attack on institutions and people of Catalonia since Franco's decree.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: As we saw, there have been big protests on the streets of Barcelona, that's where Erin McLaughlin is today following this story.

Erin, the Spanish government has made its move.

Politically what does the Catalan government do next?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, George, in that address last night, Catalan president Carles Puigdemont says he has plans to call a special parliamentary session; what is going to happen at that session is unclear at this point.

What is clear, though, he made very clear in that address last night. He is going to defend Catalan institutions. So it would seem that all options are on the table. He could call for a snap election to try and slow the Article 155 process down. He could also make a move towards formally declaring independence.

We just don't know; we also don't have a timing for this session just yet. But it has to happen really before senate meets on Friday, where the senate in Spain is expected to approve the prime minister Mariano Rajoy's extraordinary measures.

Suddenly you have this situation, in which one side potentially is moving further towards independence, the other side moving towards exerting emergency rule over this area; where all of this goes at this point, George, is pretty much anyone's guess.

HOWELL: Erin, at this point, how are people reacting there to the fact that, for at least now, the government is moving to pull the plug on Catalonia's autonomous rule?

MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, well, I was out among some of the protesters yesterday, they had this massive protest in the heart of Barcelona, people there, many of them, had voted in referendum which is really at the center of all of this.

They were telling me they just wanted to have their voices heard, they feel that Madrid is not listening and some of the protesters are telling me they're scared about what could happen next. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are going to refuse in a particular way but we are going to (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are scared and like nervous all the time.

MCLAUGHLIN: So you're scared, you're nervous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes, of course, of course, know nothing -- when you see helicopters kill, I've been here all my life and with what's happening now, they're going to shoot or what?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now we need to express all this in the streets and we're going to be here upstairs (ph) and free.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) tried so many times to talk with them but they don't want to talk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCLAUGHLIN: As that protester pointed out there, there is no dialogue right now between Catalonia and Madrid.

Something that the Catalan government has pushed for, that the people of Catalonia want, they want a dialogue, they want a third party mediator, Rajoy ruling that out.

And in his press conference yesterday, a journalist asking him, is there anything that the Catalan government can do to stop the 155 process?

He said the only thing that could stop it is the Spanish senate. But the senate is expected to approve his extraordinary measures on Friday.

HOWELL: So we just have to watch to see how this plays out politically. Erin McLaughlin live for us in Barcelona, Spain, thank you. [05:05:00]

HOWELL: Let's delve deeper into this now with our European affairs commentator, Dominic Thomas in Los Angeles with us this hour.

Dominic, a pleasure to have you with us. Let's talk about the political risk the central government faces by moving to exert direct rule over Catalonia.

Could this indeed backfire on the prime minister?

DOMINIC THOMAS, CHAIR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF FRENCH & FRANCOPHONE STUDIES, UCLA, CALIFORNIA: I think the prime minister has completely misread and miscalculated the situation here. Not only has he triggered Article 155 but he's also been working behind the scenes to enlist --

[04:05:00]

THOMAS: -- cross-party support so that when he goes to the senate he will essentially be able to put this into action. The king of Spain, which is quite remarkable, because this is after all a constitutional monarchy. And yet for the second time Hussain has spoken out, the king has spoken out on this particular issue.

And he has the support of the European Union. This, I believe, have given the separatists exactly what they want. In other words, it is the narrative that Madrid is overreaching in the region and these latest decisions come on the heels of, as we saw, the police violence that repressed people going to the polls, political leaders that are still being held in prison, the police chief in Catalonia has been threatened and essentially now Rajoy is going to put the region into receivership.

HOWELL: Let's talk about Article 155. It never has been utilized before.

What exactly does direct rule look like?

What immediate impact might it have on people's everyday lives?

THOMAS: The extraordinary thing that you mentioned, it has never has been done. It is a complex document, somewhat vague in many ways, but as far as Rajoy is concerned, there is no ambiguity in the document.

It essentially gives the central government of Madrid the powers to go into the region and take control of it, essentially to put it into receivership, to oversee the operations. In conjunction with that he's also talked about removing the current leadership, which is being democratically elected, one should not forget, and then allow a ministry in Madrid to come in and control the region, day to day actions, economic oversight and so on.

So it essentially takes away their total capacity to be able to function autonomously. And this is galvanizing the local population, even those that were not in support of the referendum, find this profoundly undemocratic and disturbing.

HOWELL: When it comes to economics, let's follow the money trail here.

What are the economic consequences for Catalonia?

Will the portion of Catalonia's tax revenue that would regularly support local government now go to the national government in Madrid?

THOMAS: No, not at this stage because they're not going to take away the funding, they're going to oversee the management of the region. The economic aspect is already significant because many businesses, banks and so on, are relocating to elsewhere in Spain because they are afraid that independence will one day go through, which would give that Catalonia was no longer part of the European Union.

And also Rajoy, when he came to power, a few years ago, Spain was in a terrible economic situation; it managed to lift itself out of the recession, this is an incredibly important region. It is destabilizing to the region. But also for the national economy.

I think this is something that Rajoy is underestimating, let alone the destabilizing aspects for the European Union in a broader context.

HOWELL: This has never been done before and if history is a guide, the last time Catalonia was under direct rule was under a dictatorship. And Catalonia's president has pointed to that act as context and has pushed for independence.

Given the government's latest move here, what would you surmise his next move might be and does he have any recourse?

THOMAS: He doesn't really have any recourse, except to sort of preempt the government and call regional elections himself. That would slow down the process, something that is part of Article 155, if the region goes for early elections and it will calm things down.

What he's really pushing for here by appealing to the international community is for some kind of broad mediation, an opportunity to sit down with Madrid and talk this out.

And I think this is Rajoy's responsibility. He's the prime minister, the leader, he's taking Spain down a very, very dangerous road here, a road that in fact is starting to look like European Union is going to have deal with this and it will pale in comparison to some of the issues it is dealing with Brexit.

But this is Rajoy's responsibility as prime minister to not drive his country into this appalling political crisis.

HOWELL: We'll have to see what happens next. Dominic Thomas, thank you so much for your time.

THOMAS: Thank you.

HOWELL: Scenes of sadness in the U.S. state of Florida for the family of a U.S. soldier who was killed in combat overseas.

[05:10:00]

HOWELL: It's heartbreaking. This is the burial ceremony and is the final resting place for Army Sergeant La David Johnson. Just 25 years old, he was killed earlier this month when his unit was ambushed by ISIS in Niger.

Three other American soldiers were also killed in that firefight. Two of them were members of the Army's Special Forces, the Green Berets.

U.S. Congresswoman Frederica Wilson also attended that service. She knew Johnson and his family personally and was the one who told reporters what President Trump said in his condolence call to the family, that Sergeant Johnson knew what he signed up for.

Wilson said those words had offended the family and Johnson's mother later confirmed that. But the White House spent the last week alternating between denying that the words were ever said and impassioned defenses of those words.

And the near constant attacks on Wilson continued Saturday on Twitter, the president tweeting the congresswoman was wacky just hours before the funeral. He did not mention Johnson himself; he did not mention the ambush that killed him.

Let's break all this down with James Davis. James is the dean of economics and political science at the University of St. Galen in Munich, Germany.

James, it's good to have you with perspective on all of this. On the day of the funeral, the president had two options, to offer condolence to the soldier's family, to remain silent.

But rather President Trump chose a third option, to go to Twitter, to tweet about this congresswoman, calling her wacky, before a funeral. President Trump actually gave some insight into how he uses Twitter in an interview with FOX Business. Let's listen. We can talk about this in a moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I doubt I would be here, if it weren't for social media to be honest with you. I have a tremendous platform. When somebody says something about me, I'm able to go, bing, bing, bing and take care of it. The other way I would never be able to get the word out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: The president going bing, bing, bing on Twitter today or yesterday tweeting before this funeral. He decided to put this out the day before the funeral.

The question here, who is the president's audience when he goes to Twitter with this, certainly not the victims' families.

Who is he talking to with these?

JAMES DAVIS, UNIVERSITY OF ST. GALEN: I think the president is, again, trying to rally his base. He's stuck at 37 percent in the polls and needs to keep that base motivated, needs to keep that base behind him.

He's certainly not talking to a broader section of the American population, who is grieving with the family of La David Johnson, Sergeant Johnson, who is thankful to him for his offer of his life, thankful to his family and grieving with his widow.

That's not the audience that this president is talking to; rather, he's again throwing red meat to his base. And I guess he thinks that's essential at this point because he's certainly not expanding the base through his policies or through the approach to governing that he's chosen to take.

HOWELL: President Trump certainly taking a very different position, different than his predecessors in that he doesn't seem to seek their counsel, as we have seen the presidents before him.

In fact, just this week, we saw former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama on stage, expressing their concerns about the direction the United States is headed, concerns that are at odds with President Trump.

Do those voices of experience matter for a president who has now been on the job for some 10 months?

DAVIS: This president is convinced he knows how to govern, he knows how to conduct business deals better than anybody else, probably better than anybody else who has ever walked the face of the Earth. That's his shtick, that's his approach to leadership, if you want to call it that. This isn't surprising in any sense. The question is, is the fact that

former president George W. Bush has come out and very forcefully spoken against Trumpism, his approach to politics, approach to governance, is the fact that the former president with, again, without naming names, President Obama, comes out and criticizes the approach to governance that divides rather than unifies the country, that seeks to put a stake between us rather than a bridge between us, that -- does that discourse, does that activism of the former presidents start to change the relationship of the president and the Congress?

Does it provide some cover for those in Congress who may be also sharing the concerns but so far have been unwilling or unable to speak out against it?

That's the open question. I think --

[05:15:00]

DAVIS: -- the fact that a Republican president has come out so forcefully on the heels of the very important speech of Senator McCain, does create a space for honorable members of the Republican Party, who are concerned about the divisiveness of the first months of the Trump presidency to say, Mr. President, let's take a different tack here, let's change the nature of the discussion.

HOWELL: James Davis, with context and perspective, live for us, James, thank you for your time today.

We mentioned former presidents; all five living former U.S. presidents were together in the U.S. State of Texas Saturday for a rare joint appearance. Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter, they all came together to attend the benefit concert for hurricane victims in the states of Texas, Florida and throughout the Caribbean.

As of Saturday night, organizers say they raised at least $31 million. In brief remarks, the former leaders praised Americans for coming together.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As heartbreaking as the tragedies that took place here in Texas and in Florida and Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands have been, what we have also seen is the spirit of America at its best, when ordinary people step up and do extraordinary things.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The heart of America without regard to race or religion or political party is greater than our problems.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I too am here to urge you to give to this fine fund and I want to thank all of the volunteers. But I am here for another reason. I speak for the folks right here when I say we really admire and love George H.W. Bush.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: The current president, Donald Trump, did not attend the concert but did appear in a video message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: As we begin to rebuild, some of America's finest public servants are spearheading the one America appeal. Through this effort, all five living former presidents are playing a tremendous role in helping our fellow citizens recover. To presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Melania and I want to express our deep gratitude for your assistance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Voting is under way in Japan right now. And there is a lot on the line for the prime minister of that nation, Shinzo Abe. The record he could break with a win in the polls.

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[05:20:00]

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HOWELL: Just about two hours left for voters in Japan to cast their ballots. The rain-drenched country is holding a snap general election. It is expected to secure Shinzo Abe's position as Japan's longest serving post-war prime minister.

Mr. Abe called for the vote in September; he hopes to get a strong mandate to keep taking tough stances on North Korea, which sent ballistic missiles flying over Japan in recent months.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHINZO ABE, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Now together with the international community, we have to put the highest possible pressure on North Korea. We will create a society where everyone can have a dream, a society where people young and old can feel safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Let's cross over live to our Tokyo journalist, Kaori Enjoji, is there live.

Kaori, this could indeed be a game changer for Mr. Abe.

KAORI ENJOJI, JOURNALIST: It could be. And I think with early polls showing that it could be a big victory for the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, I think it might, in the end, turn up to redefine his legacy, not only as the longest serving prime minister in the post-war period but in fact what he does with the Japanese constitution, which has been the pacifist one throughout the post-war period.

But he has made it clear he wants to change that. Some polling stations here in Japan are closing early because of the very powerful typhoon that is approaching. But a lot of people took advantage of the early voting system to come out in record numbers.

And I think that highlights the high level of interest there is among the Japanese public here. And probably the biggest reason for that is the threat for North Korea.

If you have months after months of launches of missiles from North Korea, some of them flying over Japan; you have threats from North Korea to sink Japan. And the prime minister Shinzo Abe has tried to portray himself and his coalition government as the steady pair of hands on deck that can deal with this threat.

And I think if he does win big, if he does win a super majority, which is two-thirds of the seat, he is bound to try and push forward with a reinterpretation of the constitution to give the Japanese military a greater role.

This has been a controversial one but that one that is gaining a little bit more momentum, as the threat from North Korea has intensified in 2017. And I think that in itself will be a big test for the prime minister. But should he win big, it should be a big reassurance for the U.S., especially ahead of the visit by U.S. president, Donald Trump.

HOWELL: Kaori, talk to us about the weather situation there.

Generally is there a concern that weather could impact the voter turnout?

ENJOJI: There is. I think the latest numbers for this afternoon show that the turnout is a little bit lower than it has today than in the previous election for the lower house, the house of representatives.

And that that might impact the swing vote, those not yet decided until the last minute who to vote for, that could affect the -- how the opposition fares and the opposition has been pretty much imploding ahead of the election.

So that would translate to a bigger win for the LDP. And as I say, because of the torrential rains in some of the western parts of the country already as this big typhoon approaches the mainland, some polling stations have decided to close early ahead of the official close.

It's supposed to be in two hours or just under two hours' time. So in the end, it might affect the swing vote, which could play in favor for the prime minister, Shinzo Abe.

Kaori Enjoji, live for us in Tokyo, thank you for the reporting. (WEATHER REPORT)

[05:25:00]

HOWELL: President Trump may have -- has had many fights, has picked many fights, political fights in his career, that is. But his longest running feud started well before he came to Washington. A brief history of Donald Trump versus the truth -- ahead.

Plus, new details on yet another sexual harassment claim against former FOX News host Bill O'Reilly. How much he reportedly paid in a confidential settlement.

CNN is live from Atlanta, Georgia, this hour, simulcast from CNN USA and CNN International worldwide this hour. Stay with us.

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[05:30:00]

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HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Good to have you with us. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.

(HEADLINES)

HOWELL: It is a matter of fact that the U.S. president, Donald Trump, struggles with the truth but it is worth asking where that tendency comes from. Our Gloria Borger looks into that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: In his decades of public life, President Trump has never had any trouble getting himself into the spotlight. But once there, sticking to the facts is a different story.

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BORGER (voice-over): From crowd sizes on day one --

TRUMP: We had a massive field of people, you saw them. Packed. It went all the way back to the Washington Monument.

BORGER (voice-over): -- to his party just this week --

TRUMP: The Republican Party is very, very unified.

BORGER (voice-over): -- but Trump's unique take on accuracy goes back decades to the building and selling of Trump Tower where Barbara Res managed the construction.

BARBARA RES, FORMER EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: He planted that Princess Di was looking for an apartment in Trump Tower.

BORGER (on camera): And that didn't happen?

RES: No.

BORGER: Oh.

RES: But it made the papers.

BORGER: Sure. So veracity wasn't a part of it, it was just getting the buzz out there --

RES: Yes.

BORGER: -- about Trump?

Did you guys laugh at it or --

RES: Yes because there was nothing so terrible about it. I mean, you know, it was kind of like puffing. You know, it was like exaggerating.

TONY SCHWARTZ, CO-AUTHOR, "TRUMP: THE ART OF THE DEAL": It seems sometimes like that's not the case.

BORGER (voice-over): Tony Schwartz, co-author of Trump's "The Art of the Deal" even invented a name for Trump's strategy.

SCHWARTZ: I came up with this phrase 'truthful hyperbole,' which is, you know -- I called it an innocent form of exaggeration. Now I can call it something that I actually sold for $2 million, I can say $10 million and that becomes truthful hyperbole.

The problem is that there is no such thing as truth hyperbole. The truth is the truth. Hyperbole is a lie. They don't go together.

BORGER: In 1990, truthful hyperbole was on full display when disaster struck at Trump's Taj Mahal in Atlantic City.

ALAN LAPIDUS, ARCHITECT, TRUMP PLAZA HOTEL AND CASINO: When the Casino Control Commission went down there on opening day to check out that all the things had been done, many things hadn't been done and they shut down a third of the slots.

BORGER: Slots that were critical to the casino's success.

LAPIDUS: The slots are the primary revenue producer of the casino. To shut down a third on opening day was both humiliating and financially disastrous. And it was only done because he doesn't have an organization in depth.

BORGER: That wasn't the story Trump told. JACK O'DONNELL, FORMER PRESIDENT, TRUMP PLAZA HOTEL AND CASINO: Something could go bad like the opening of the Taj and he would say it's because we had so much business here that this happened, not that the systems broke down, not that we didn't know what we were doing. We had so much business it broke down. Truly he would just lie about everything.

BORGER: And he did.

LARRY KING, CNN HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": What about the slot machine thing where they were down for a while?

TRUMP: The slots were so hot nobody's -- again, nobody's seen people play that hard and that fast. Every slot --

KING: So it blew out the slots literally?

TRUMP: They blew apart. We had machines that were --

KING: Was it like too much -- like a fuse?

TRUMP: They were virtually on fire.

KING: Was it --

TRUMP: It was like a fuse or like a fire.

O'DONNELL: Donald is so wrapped up in hyperbole that it's almost constant lies, you know, whether it's the littlest things where, you know, if he had -- if he had 2,000 people at an event, you know, he would say there were 5,000 people at an event.

BORGER: And he got away with it.

SCHWARTZ: There's no belief system. If it will work, I will say it. If it stops working, I'll say it's opposite and I will not feel any --

[05:35:00]

SCHWARTZ: -- compunction about saying it's opposite because I don't believe anything in the first place.

Seeing it from his perspective doesn't make a distinction between what's true and what's false. He -- his only distinction is what will work and what will not work.

BORGER: And what happens when he's challenged with facts?

What does he do?

SCHWARTZ: He has a genius, you know, perverse genius for turning any situation into something that is evidence of his brilliance, even if it is not true.

BORGER: Truthful or not, it is a habit that has gotten him all the way to the White House -- Gloria Borger, CNN, Washington. (END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Gloria, thank you.

New details about another sexual harassment settlement involving Bill O'Reilly. The former FOX News host reportedly paid $32 million to a long-time network analyst and all of this happened just a month before the company renewed his $25 million a year contract.

O'Reilly spokesman responded to the claims by saying that the information was provided by anonymous sources and is false and defamatory. Brian Stelter looks into it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: $32 million. It is a staggering sum of money. The amount of money that Bill O'Reilly paid to a long-time legal analyst on FOX News, Lis Wiehl, when Wiehl came forward with allegations of sexual harassment and other misconduct.

Now, Wiehl agreed to the $32 million payout and she disavowed the claims that she made against O'Reilly. All this happened privately back in January, but the timeline here is remarkable because just a couple of weeks after the settlement, the $32 million settlement, FOX News went ahead and renewed Bill O'Reilly's contract. He was making about $25 million a year at FOX, but he didn't last very long at the network.

As I'm sure you recall, back in April, "The New York Times" reported on other settlements by O'Reilly to other women accusing him of harassment. Now, those settlements were smaller sums of money, but the revelations about them caused advertisers to flee from his show and caused FOX News to cancel the show.

All of that happening a few weeks back in April, but now, in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and a conversation all across the United States about sexual harassment in work places, "The New York Times" has published this new story about this $32 million settlement.

And that price tag is really astonishing to a lot of people. You know, Harvey Weinstein reportedly paid accusers $50,000 or $100,000. Bill O'Reilly had paid small sums of money to other accusers. But the idea that he was willing to pay $32 million to a single accuser is really shocking and causing a lot of people to wonder why FOX News was willing to renew his contract at all.

Now, here's what FOX says. It says it didn't know exactly how much money was given over. According to the company, when the company renewed Bill O'Reilly's contract in February, it knew that a sexual harassment lawsuit had been threatened against him by Lis Wiehl, but was informed by Mr. O'Reilly that he had settled the matter personally on financial terms that he and Ms. Wiehl had agreed were confidential and not disclosed to the company. So that's the official word from Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century FOX.

Two big questions moving forward for FOX. Number one, will this affect the ongoing U.S. federal investigation into FOX News?

Remember, the Department of Justice has already been looking into how settlement payments were paid to accusers of Roger Ailes, the former FOX News boss who was also caught up in his own harassment scandal last year. Ailes passed away a number of months ago, but the ongoing federal investigation is looking into FOX's conduct in the matter. So that's one issue for the Murdochs.

The other big issue is involving the Sky deal, this ongoing attempt to buy up the rest of the British satellite network, Sky. It has had a hard time -- the Murdochs have had a hard time getting the deal through because of scandals back in the United States. And it would seem that this latest revelation about Bill O'Reilly will only complicate matters even more for the Sky deal -- Brian Stelter, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Thank you.

And "The New York Times" is responding to Bill O'Reilly's spokesman, Mark Fabiani (ph), who said the newspaper maliciously smeared the former FOX News host. A spokeswoman for the newspaper says, quote, "Mr. Fabiani addresses everything but what the story actually says, this article, like our previous reporting on the subject, is accurate and deeply reported and we welcome and challenge to the facts. The affidavit he claims our story ignored is quoted in our article twice."

Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, Kurds protest the United States in Iraqi Kurdistan. Why they're so angry with their ally against ISIS. Stay with us.

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[05:40:00]

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HOWELL: The Syrian city of Raqqa is liberated from ISIS and the U.S. president says the U.S. will soon begin a new phase in the country. He said Saturday that Washington will pursue peace and support local security forces and he added, quote, "We have made a long side our coalition partners more progress against these evil terrorists in the past several months than in the past several years," end quote.

Earlier in the week, Mr. Trump also appeared to take credit for the Raqqa operation, told a radio host, ISIS wasn't on the run before he was president. And that he totally changed the military rules of engagement.

His comments come as many Raqqa residents seek to rebuild that city, you see the city there left in ruins, after many years there, three years of ISIS control.

Iraqi Kurds are protesting in Irbil after Iraq seized control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk earlier this week. The demonstrators are angry at the U.S. for taking a neutral stand on the dispute, despite the fact that they worked with the Kurds.

Our senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, is in Irbil following the story.

Ben, many people there making their feelings very clear about the current U.S. president.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, indeed, George. Really this normally is traditionally very friendly territory for the United States. I was here in Irbil the day Baghdad fell back in April 2003 to the U.S.-led coalition and there were people waving American flags on the street, praising president George W. Bush. Late --

[05:45:00]

WEDEMAN: -- last year we did a story about a fighter, who named his son Trump. So this is normally on sort of -- before last week, essentially, this was an area of the Middle East where Americans were welcomed and were appreciated by many of the people.

However, within the last week with the fall of Kirkuk to the government in Baghdad and the United States standing on the sideline in this conflict, the love affair between the United States and Kurdistan has gone cold.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Noisy demonstrations from the Western diplomatic mission is run of the mill in the Middle East. But in the Kurdish Iraqi capital of Irbil, it is a first.

WEDEMAN: In the almost 15 years I've been covering events in Iraqi Kurdistan, this is a first for me, an anti-American demonstrations. It is not necessarily an expression of anger as much as it is disappointment that the Kurds have been let down by a country they thought was their friend.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Kurdish forces played a critical role in the war against ISIS. But since the Kurds voted for independence from Iraq last month and since the central government's takeover of the disputed oil-rich province of Kirkuk last Monday, suddenly, the Kurds are once again alone.

Facing a combination of Iraqi government forces, armed and trained by the United States, and the Iranian-backed popular mobilization units, the irony is not lost here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why we have been attacked by the American weapons and the hands of Shia militia, supported by (INAUDIBLE)? WEDEMAN (voice-over): The American consulate was never in danger, well protected as it was by Kurdish riot police. The protest was peaceful. But the words were heated. Especially when talk turned to U.S. President Donald Trump who, during the campaign, pledged his support for the Kurds but now the U.S. stands neutral in the clash between Baghdad and Irbil.

"Trump lied to the Kurdish people," says Baja Kassim (ph), an engineer, "America lied to the Kurdish people."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had hopes in Trump. But now we don't know what happened.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): What happened was realpolitik; the government in Baghdad and every country in the Middle East opposed the vote for Kurdish independence. Noisy though it was, the protest may be falling on deaf ears.

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WEDEMAN: And, of course, there are other demonstrations going on here. Yesterday, there was one outside the U.N., one outside the Iranian consulate, where they tore down the flag. And this afternoon we are expecting another demonstration outside the Russian consulate -- George.

HOWELL: Is there a way out of this?

WEDEMAN: There is a possibility. Baghdad has expressed a desire to open a dialogue with the Kurdish regional government and the Kurdish regional government has expressed a similar desire.

And the United States has said that it would like to play a role as intermediary between the two. But there are more than those players involved. The Iranians, who played a role indirectly in the Iraqi government takeover of Kirkuk, may have other ideas and they have a lot of influence on the government in Baghdad.

So I think the will is there; it is the question of the way to resolve this conflict. And that's anybody's guess.

HOWELL: All right, Ben Wedeman, thank you so much, live for us in Irbil, Iraq.

Still ahead, the U.S. president likes to call things that he doesn't like fake. But now art critics are using that word against something that he owns right back there. Why an art institute is calling President Trump's Renoir a knockoff.

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HOWELL: President Donald Trump says he plans to allow the release of the last secret files on the assassination of former president John F. Kennedy in 1963. Experts and historians do not expect any evidence to contradict the official narrative that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.

But the documents could also reveal details about a trip to Mexico City that Oswald took only weeks before that assassination.

It is possible that President Trump could keep some of the documents classified for national security reasons.

President Trump likes calling things that he doesn't like fake. But this time, art critics are using that word against something that he owns, a famous painting that he claims is an original. CNN's Jeanne Moos has this report.

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JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Forget about...

TRUMP: Fake news.

MOOS (voice-over): -- we're talking about fake art.

Is that really a Renoir in the president's Trump Tower apartment?

Visible in the background as Melania did an interview.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What a noation (ph) What does he get mad about?

What does he like?

MELANIA TRUMP, WIFE OF PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: Stupidity.

MOOS (voice-over): Back when Tim O'Brien was writing his book, "Trump Nation: The Art of being The Donald," the Renoir was hanging in Trump's plane.

TIM O'BRIEN, BIOGRAPHER: And I asked him about the painting and Donald said, that's an original Renoir. And I said, no, it's not, Donald. And he said, that's the original. That's an original Renoir.

I said, Donald, it's not. I grew up in Chicago. That Renoir is called "Two Sisters on a Terrace" and it's hanging on a wall at the Art Institute of Chicago.

MOOS (voice-over): The Art Institute confirms it's been there since it was donated by this art collector in 1933. The Institute told the "Chicago Tribune," "We are satisfied that our version is real."

Now the president's Renoir is being referenced in quotes, called a fake in various languages, the butt of jokes.

"His is signed by -- [05:55:00]

MOOS (voice-over): -- Wrenwahr, so it's all good."

MOOS: Next thing you know, the painting was popping up all over.

"Hey, I have one, too. Got mine at the gift shop in Art Institute of Chicago."

Before the election, "Two Sisters on a Terrace" hovered over a "60 Minutes" interview.

TRUMP: He's entitled to make a mistake every once in a while.

Theorized one poster, "Without a doubt, Trump bought a forgery but the master huckster can never admit he was swindled."

Biographer Tim O'Brien had a different take.

O'BRIEN: He believes his own lies.

MOOS (voice-over): Remember the bogus magazine discovered on the walls of Trump golf clubs?

Someone tweeted about the painting.

"Was it hanging next to his fake "Time" magazine cover?"

It is now. Somebody's been framed -- Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

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HOWELL: Jeanne, thank you.

Some good news in Texas, the Houston Astros booked their tickets to the World Series on Saturday night. In the decisive 4-0 shutout against the New York Yankees, the Astros had their backs up against the wall.

Earlier this week, down 3-2, headed back to Houston but they swept both games at home and will now head to L.A. to take on the Dodgers.

The World Series starts Tuesday. Certainly great news for folks there in Texas after everything they went through with the hurricane.

Thanks for being with us here on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. For our viewers in the United States, "NEW DAY" is next. For our viewers around the world, Erin Burnett "OUTFRONT" is ahead. Thank you for watching CNN, the world's news leader.