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Mugabe Ouster Anticipated; Alabama Newspaper Endorses Roy Moore's Opponent. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired November 19, 2017 - 02:00   ET

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


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CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The fall of Robert Mugabe. His political party meets on Sunday for a vote of no confidence against Zimbabwe's autocratic president, just a day after historic anti-Mugabe rally in the capital.

And protests also in front of the Libyan embassy in Paris after CNN reporting uncovers slave auctions in Libya.

Hi, everybody, thank you for joining us. I'm Cyril Vanier in Atlanta. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

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VANIER: In Zimbabwe, the fate of president Robert Mugabe could be decided in the coming hours. A senior source says ruling party members will meet soon to discuss a no confidence vote in his leadership. This comes after he was put under house Wednesday in an apparent military coup.

Mr. Mugabe has been in power for nearly 40 years and many now want both him and his wife, Grace, ousted from government. Thousands of people rallied in the capital, Harare, Saturday, to demand that they step down. CNN's Farai Sevenzo was there and he files this report.

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FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is not supposed to happen here. This is supposed to be Robert Mugabe's capital, Harare. But Zimbabweans woke up to a new reality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a celebration (INAUDIBLE)!

SEVENZO (voice-over): They finally had a chance to tell the president what they really think. And we, as journalists, were freely allowed to record it, which was never allowed in Mugabe's Zimbabwe.

"Mugabe out."

"Gucci Grace, stop it."

And "Thou art fallen." And, remember, in the past, these are thoughts a Zimbabwean would

never have dared to say, let alone put it on paper.

(INAUDIBLE) is a great day (INAUDIBLE) jubilation. They all say that November the 18th is independence day. Everywhere, they're coming from all over the place. (INAUDIBLE). SEVENZO (voice-over): Insulting the president's name would normally

land you in jail. These guys don't care. It feels like the nation, as it once was, has finally emerged from the darkness, the young, the old, the black, the white, all Zimbabweans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we all came out together and decided to have a chance so we could use our voices.

SEVENZO: Are you usually this political?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to. How could we not be? It's our Zimbabwe. It is our chance. We must speak after seven years of silence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They need all their liberties back. They are freedom everything, which has been stolen by one person, one family, one dynasty. And they're saying enough is enough.

SEVENZO: What this feels like is that a massive 37-year buildup of pressure has suddenly been released and erupted like a volcano. The joyous scenes you see here are people being able to express themselves for the first time in a very, very long time.

SEVENZO (voice-over): Barbara says she's finally giving her father a voice. She tells us he was beaten up in 2008 by Mugabe's loyalists.

Zimbabweans hope this is a new beginning for them and they also quietly pray that today's savior, the army, does not become tomorrow's Mugabe. The president once said only the people could end his rule. The people now wonder if the old man heard their message -- Farai Sevenzo, CNN, Harare, Zimbabwe.

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VANIER: We'll have more from Farai in the coming hours.

Protesters shouting no to slavery filled the streets outside the Libyan embassy in Paris on Saturday. The demonstration came just days after CNN's exclusive reporting of African migrants being sold into slavery in Libya.

The protesters are demanding the Libyan government investigate, which it has said it will do. Riot police used teargas to stop the marchers as they approached the Champs-Elysees. Fueling this protest is CNN's investigative reporting on recent slave auctions at multiple locations across Libya. CNN's Nima Elbagir and her team pursued this story as part of our Freedom Project.

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NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): $700? $800?

The numbers roll in. These men are sold for 1,200 Libya pounds, $400.

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VANIER: The head of African Union has now condemned the barbaric practice. Alpha Conde releasing this statement, "On behalf of the African Union, I express my outrage at the despicable trade of migrants currently taking place in Libya and strongly condemn this practice of another age."

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The recent sexual misconduct allegations in U.S. politics are putting the White House in a peculiar predicament. President Trump didn't hesitate to weigh in when accusations came out against Democratic senator Al Franken. Yet he has not directly commented on the more serious accusations against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore.

Moore has long been known for fervent Christian views and his support among evangelicals. But now some religious leaders in Alabama say he is unfit for office and that he has cynically used Christianity for his own goals. But Moore is not backing down; far from it, saying the accusations are politically motivated ahead of his Senate bid. Here is CNN's Nick Valencia.

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NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It has been a difficult week and a half for Roy Moore and his campaign in the face of these sexual assault allegations. However, the Republican Senate candidate has remained defiant, as have his most ardent supporters. It was just yesterday that his wife, Kayla Moore, was joined by about

30 or 40 women, who say that they personally know Roy Moore and that the allegations leveled against him don't speak to the character of the man they know.

It was just days before that that faith leaders here in Alabama gathered to testify to the character of Moore, saying that his character is being assassinated and that he's being framed by the GOP establishment.

They went so far as to allege that "The Washington Post" paid the women to come forward. "The Washington Post" denies those allegations, as do the women, saying that they waited nearly 40 years to tell their stories because they felt, at the time of these alleged incidents, no one would have believed them.

It was today that faith leaders convened in Birmingham to echo the sentiments of his accusers, saying that Roy Moore is dangerous to the state of Alabama for his policies and his principles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is unlikely that any of Roy Moore's accuser can definitely prove that he sexually assaulted them 30 years ago, a point the defiant former judge knows well. But even -- and this is critical, particularly for the media to hear

and where we have to stand as Christian ministers -- even before these allegations made national headlines, it was clear that Moore's policy agenda endangered the children of Alabama.

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VALENCIA: Moore's biggest supporter has been his wife, Kayla. As she spoke at the press conference yesterday, she said she and her husband are in a political fight, a battle, she said, that will not end with her husband withdrawing from the race. This special election is set to take place on December 12th -- Nick Valencia, CNN, Gadsden, Alabama.

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VANIER: Joining me now is CNN senior political analyst and senior editor at "The Atlantic," Ron Brownstein.

Ron, why did Donald Trump feel compelled to weigh in on this issue?

It was sure to reignite concerns and questions over the allegations that were leveled against him by women.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. And the fact that he was willing to do this nonetheless really reinforces my belief that he views it as a conscious strategy to incite a virtually endless succession of culturally, racially tinged or personal fights.

And that essentially that he view as a big part of his job, a way that he stirs up his base, is by taking aim at a virtually unending succession of targets. Meanwhile you have, in the executive agencies and the Congress, the advancing of a very hardline agenda on taxes, on spinning the tax bill that's moving forward.

While I think the president very consciously by now -- and, as you say, the fact that he was willing to do it on something that was so unlikely for him to weigh in, I think he used it as a conscious strategy, trying to keep the public focused on this almost reality- show style of rotating feuds.

VANIER: White House adviser Kellyanne Conway says that the reason that Mr. Trump commented on accusations against the Democrat, Al Franken, but not accusations again the Republican Roy Moore is simply to do with timing, because he had been on his Asia trip and by the time he came back, the big story that was breaking was Al Franken.

Do you buy that?

BROWNSTEIN: No, and I mean that does not pass even the really laugh test. He had many opportunities in Asia and here. He has seen the same evidence as everyone else on Roy Moore.

Of course with Roy Moore, he is saying we should leave it to the voters and on Al Franken he is condemning im. But again, I think the point here is that this has to be seen in the context of if we did a tally, so how many would we be up to? 150? 175 inappropriate or strange kinds of feuds on Twitter?

I mean, Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin and assorted Democrats and Little Marco. It just never ends and I think it's never going to end because I think he views it -- you know, we see it as a distraction. I think he sees it as a useful misdirection and a way to keep the public focused on this and, in particular --

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BROWNSTEIN: -- the media focused on this, as I say, reality-show style succession of feuds while the agenda grinds on with less attention than it might otherwise receive.

VANIER: Ron, on the face of it, accusations of sexual misconduct against anyone are not a political debate. It has to do with morals, it has to do with the law, it has to do with what is acceptable in society.

Yet, in this country, in the U.S., it's not that simple.

BROWNSTEIN: Not at all. And in fact, I think the Roy Moore episode is really going to be, I think, a landmark in the evolution of our politics in a more tribal direction. What the governor of Alabama said was very striking the other day.

She said, I have no reason to disbelieve these accusations but I'm going to vote for him anyway because I want a Republican vote to confirm future Supreme Court justices in the Senate.

In essence, the name on the back of the jersey, the individual candidate matters increasingly less in our politics than the color on the front of the jersey, which team you are on.

VANIER: I think we need to point out also especially to our international audience that the outcome of this Senate race in Alabama could have an effect on national politics if it ends up affecting the balance of power in the Senate.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, right. So the Republicans have a 52 to 48 majority in the Senate. So even if a Democrat wins, and I'm sure the Democrats would feel they have a better chance of winning if it was Tuesday than several more weeks from Tuesday, because the opportunity for the partisanship to seep back in.

But even if the Democrats win, the Republicans will still have a 51-49 majority. That will (INAUDIBLE) essentially no margin for error on votes. And two Republicans now will -- if, in fact, the Democrat wins -- will be able to sink their agenda. And that's one of the reasons why they rushing on tax reform because they are not sure they can keep their defections below two on their tax bill.

And if, in fact, they are not finished before December 12th, when this election is held, that could be (INAUDIBLE). But more importantly, in 2018, they could face obviously a greater risk. Democrats don't have that many opportunities to win Republican-held states. There are really only two and a half -- Arizona, Nevada and maybe Tennessee -- that might be at risk.

But if it's a 51-49 Senate and you win Arizona and Nevada and don't lose any of your own, that's enough for the Democrats to take the majority.

VANIER: Absolutely. And that's why what's happening in Alabama is colliding with national politics as well. Ron Brownstein, thank you very much for your time. We always appreciate it.

BROWNSTEIN: Good to be here.

VANIER: All right. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. "MARKETPLACE AFRICA" is next. Then we'll get you the headline in 15 minutes.