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Trump Steps Up Twitter Feuds with UCLA Players' Dad, NFL; Fellow Dems: Conyers Should Quit or Leave Judiciary Post. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired November 22, 2017 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: Happening now, tweet and sour. President Trump in a sour mood on Twitter, stepping up his feud with the NFL and calling the father of a UCLA basketball player an ungrateful fool for not voicing gratitude for getting the players released from China. Is the president more interested in getting thanks than Thanksgiving?
[17:00:28] Navy crash. A Navy transport plane goes down in the ocean near Okinawa. Eight of the 11 on board have been rescued, but three still missing. What went wrong?
Further fallout. Democratic colleagues calling for Congressman John Conyers to step aside from a key post amid sexual harassment allegations. And new details on why President Trump threw his support behind accused sex abuser Roy Moore, ignoring allegations from women who say the GOP Senate candidate preyed on them as teenagers.
And run for his life. A North Korean soldier's desperate run for safety in South Korea is caught on video; and he's pursued, shot and wounded by other North Koreans during his escape.
Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Jim Sciutto. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Well, President Trump was up very early today at his Florida resort, his fingers flying as he fired off a series of predawn tweets. The president slamming the NFL for a proposal to keep players in the locker room during the national anthem, saying that would be, quote, "almost as bad as kneeling."
And the president slammed LaVar Ball, the father of one of the UCLA players who were detained for shoplifting in China, calling him a, quote, "ungrateful fool" for not thanking him, Trump, for gaining their release.
Only later did the president tweet a call for prayers for all involved in the search-and-rescue operation for military personnel in a Navy plane crash near Okinawa. Eight on board rescues but three still missing.
The tweets may serve to distract from the president's stunning support of Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama, who multiple women accuse of sexually abusing or assaulting them as teenagers. While top Republicans have called on Moore to quit the race, President Trump says that Moore's denials are good enough for him, adding that he doesn't want to see a liberal in that Senate seat.
GOP sources say the recent flood of sexual harassment allegations, now including Democratic lawmakers, gave the president cover to openly side with Moore.
And we have dramatic new video of the desperate dash to freedom by a North Korean soldier shot and wounded by other North Koreans as he struggles to cross to the South Korean side of the demarcation line.
I'll speak with Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan. And our correspondents, specialists and guests standing by with full coverage.
We begin, though, with President Trump, looking to get thanks on this Thanksgiving eve. CNN senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny is in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Jeff, the president venting from the very early hours this morning on Twitter.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jim, indeed. The president setting the tone for the day, even before the sun came up here in Florida. Reviving some of those old classic fights on social media.
Perhaps it was an attempt to change the subject over his embrace of Roy Moore that still rippled through the Republican Party today. But on this eve of Thanksgiving, his gratefulness came with a side of grievance.
ZELENY (voice-over): President Trump back at Mar-a-Lago for the first time since April. His Thanksgiving break opening another season at his private club in Palm Beach, even though he went to great lengths to suggest he's not on vacation. "We'll be having meetings and working the phones from the winter White House in Florida," the president tweeted, just after sunrise.
But as Republicans measured fallout from his embrace of controversial Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, the president hit the links today, following an early-morning burst of tweets starting at 5:25 a.m. He added new fuel to the fight with LaVar Ball, the father of one of the UCLA basketball players jailed in China after allegedly stealing sunglasses. Ball blasted Trump earlier this week to CNN's Chris Cuomo.
LAVAR BALL, FATHER OF LIANGELO BALL: Tell Donald Trump to have a great Thanksgiving.
ZELENY: The president still fuming over not receiving more thanks for securing their release. "It wasn't the White House. It wasn't the State Department. It wasn't father LaVar's so-called people on the ground in China that got his son out of a long-term prison sentence. IT WAS ME. Too bad. LaVar is just a poor man's version of Don King, but without the hair." Don King supported President Trump in 2016.
The president went on to call Ball an ungrateful fool. In a season of thankfulness, it was a blistering response to Ball's refusal to say the words "thank you" to President Trump.
[17:05:02] BALL: If I was going to thank somebody, I would probably -- I'd probably thank President Xi.
ZELENY: The president didn't stop there, also reviving his beef with the NFL: "The NFL is now thinking about a new idea, keeping teams in the locker room during the national anthem next season. That's almost as bad as kneeling."
The tweet storm didn't stop until the president arrived at Trump international golf course.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I'll be talking.
ZELENY: The messages may have been an attempt to change the subject from his remarks Tuesday at the White House.
TRUMP: Let me just tell you, Roy Moore denies it. That's all I can say. He denies it. And, by the way, he totally denies it.
ZELENY: Even as a majority of Americans say Moore shouldn't serve.
Tonight, a new Quinnipiac poll shows 60 percent of American voters say if Moore is elected, the Senate should vote to expel him. 28 percent do not. But in Alabama, Moore's campaign touted the move, sending a copy of Mr. Trump's kind words to supporters.
Florida congressman Francis Rooney told CNN's Jim Sciutto he was among the Republicans who would not be following the president's lead and backing Moore.
REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R), FLORIDA: Well, it's up to the president to decide what he wants to do, but if -- I would have rather just seen no support for Roy Moore myself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
ZELENY: Several Republican congressmen also echoing the same comments and not following the president's lead, but silence from Senate Republican leaders like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who only a week ago said Roy Moore was not fit to serve in the Senate. Silence also from the leaders of the Senate Republican Senatorial Committee, who are in charge of the key midterm elections next year.
But we are getting late word tonight, Jim, that the Republican National Committee and the Republican National senatorial Committee are not reversing course despite the president's comments, and they are still pulling their money from the Alabama campaign. They are not restoring that funding. We'll see if that changes.
We'll also see if the president returns to Alabama in these final two weeks of that campaign there. One thing the president has not been tweeting about today, though, Jim, is Roy Moore -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: Well, one thing is certain: Moore is going to stay in that race. Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much in Florida.
Some fellow Democrats now urging veteran Congressman John Conyers to either resign or step aside as ranking member on the Judiciary Committee. This as the House Ethics Committee looks into allegations of sexual harassment.
Let's turn now to CNN congressional correspondent Sunlen Serfaty.
What are you hearing? What's the latest on the Hill?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, Congressman Conyers is facing some new pressure tonight, and it's coming from members of his own party. Just in the last few moments, Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, a Democrat, becoming the first to call for his resignation. She says tonight in a statement, quote, "Representative John Conyers should resign. I've reviewed the allegations against him, and they're as credible as they are repulsive. Whether it happened 40 years ago or last week, settlement or no settlement, Democrat or Republican, harassment is harassment. Assault is assault. We all know credible allegations when we hear them, and the same is true of hypocrisy."
Now add to that, we also heard today from Congressman Meeks, another fellow Democrat calling for Conyers to give up his post on the Judiciary Committee. Here's what he had to say earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: I really think that probably the appropriate thing right now is he should step down as the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mmm-hmm.
MEEKS: And be subject to this ethics investigation. So it can be determined whether or not there is a practice or pattern, and then appropriate considerations should be made at that time as soon the Ethics Committee finishes its review.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SERFATY: Meantime, an editorial in "The Detroit Free Press" also calling for him to resign now, not waiting for the results of the ethics investigation. They say, quote, "John Conyers Jr. must go after 53 years in Congress, after a stellar career of fighting for equality, after contributing so much to southeast Michigan and the nation, it's a tragic end to his public career, but it's the appropriate consequence for the stunning subterfuge his office has indulged here and a needed warning to other members of Congress that this can never be tolerated."
And in that editorial, they specifically mention the payment that he has admitted to making to the accuser, which came out of the budget of his own office. That's outside the way it's typically paid out, out of the treasury. They say they believe it was intended to bury the scandal -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: Sunlen, also tonight, a Republican congressman, Joe Barton, he's apologizing over a lewd photograph. What can you tell us?
SERFATY: That's right, he is. And this stems from an anonymous tweet which showed a nude photo that the user claimed online was of Congressman Barton.
Now the congressman is apologizing tonight. He says in a statement, quote, "While separated from my second wife prior to the divorce, I had sexual relationships with other mature adult women. Each was consensual. Those relationships have ended. I am not sorry -- excuse me -- I am sorry I did not use better judgement during those days. I'm sorry that I let my constituents down."
[17:10:10] And just to emphasize here, there were no allegations of sexual harassment here, at this point. But certainly, it is an embarrassing photo for a sitting member of Congress -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: Sunlen Serfaty, thanks very much.
Joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan. She recently revealed here on CNN her own past experience with sexual harassment.
Thank you, Congresswoman Dingell, for joining us today. You heard the news there. Kathleen Rice, a Democratic colleague of yours in the House, now calling for Conyers to step down, to resign from Congress as a whole. Do you share her feeling?
REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D), MICHIGAN: You know, this is what -- this kind of behavior is absolutely despicable. So what is alleged is deeply disturbing, deeply bothersome and we are finally moving to a point where some businesses are having zero tolerance. We're not there yet for the tip waitress or the factory floor worker or the lawyer.
But we also have to make sure that we -- people still remain innocent until proven guilty. This is at the Ethics Committee. They need to do it quick. This needs to not be one of these extended, prolonged investigations. If the facts are proven to be true, then the House is going to have to take appropriate action.
SCIUTTO: In this case, though, he agreed to a payment for this -- which presumes some substance to these allegations already. What does the Ethics Committee have to investigate?
DINGELL: He is denying the -- clearly, the evidence would appear that there was a ghost (ph) employee. But I don't know that. I don't know the facts. We've seen other -- what I'm deeply disturbed about is this climate of we've seen other allegations that have quickly been proven not be be true, as well, bots last Friday. So I do think we've got to remember due process for everybody.
But I am just, you know, I was one of the first people to call for an Ethics Committee investigation yesterday, because I am just -- I find it very, very, very deeply disturbing.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this question, and this is difficult, because you have -- and you've heard some of your colleagues say that public servants need to be held to the highest standard when it comes to sexual...
SCIUTTO: ... whether it's sexual assault or harassment or unwanted advances, et cetera. A question for you. There are a range of behaviors here, right? Is it your view that expulsion from the House or the Senate or from a state office should be the response, regardless of the charge?
DINGELL: This is -- first of all, sexual assault is never OK. To me that's grounds for -- but it's never been there before. I mean, how many -- you know, it's not just the Congress -- you know, none of us knew about these secret funds until it was revealed at the House administration's committee. And taxpayer money should never be used for someone's irresponsible, immoral behavior. Let me make that clear.
But it's also been happening in corporations, and corporations have been making these kinds of confidential agreements, doing confidentiality clauses inside of them and getting taxpayer deductions for these kinds of things, too. I think we've got to begin to shine the light and we're starting a conversation.
Sexual assault, violence, I think we're awakening people's consciousness. So I gave a couple of stories. But women -- I'm not old, but I say I'm seasoned. Women who were the only women when I first started in the situation that I was in had a lot of stories. And the culture, thankfully, is changing. Hopefully, this is causing real conversations.
We can't just change this conversation as women. It has to be men and women. And they've got to think about the jokes they're making at the water cooler. They've got to think about the innuendos that they're doing. And we also -- I mean, there is just -- there are just -- I have so many emotional feelings and so many real feelings.
SCIUTTO: And I know that you experienced this yourself. You spoke about it on our air. Let me ask you about Congressman Conyers, because you served in the House together, the same party, from the same state. You know him well. Do you believe his accusers here?
DINGELL: I think that there's evidence that deeply disturbs me. I want a fair hearing. I want it to be very quick. And if these things are proven to be true, we need to act. SCIUTTO: There's a danger here in that, when you look in the private
sector, the reaction -- the consequences for a man in the private sector accused of this kind of behavior have been very swift. Charlie Rose.
SCIUTTO: Inappropriate. But faster than -- than in public service in general.
DINGELL: I think that they acknowledged it. The ones that have quickly gone have acknowledged it and have apologized. He's denying it.
SCIUTTO: But also, the companies didn't hesitate in these cases.
DINGELL: No, the companies did not hesitate, but there's a difference between -- we don't elect -- I don't elect John Conyers. I don't elect Roy Moore, so we -- but we do have an ability to expel somebody from the Senate if you're elected to the Senate or to the House. We have to get the facts.
I do really want to say that I'm worried about this climate right now, and I'm hearing -- we need to be responsible, but we need to have zero tolerance. So how do we do that?
SCIUTTO: Responsible meaning some allowance for due process, some allowance to respond to accusers...
DINGELL: Some allowance for due process. And I've heard -- there was -- I'm not even going to repeat the name, but another reporter acknowledged that a bot had sent out a name and he -- and it was at FOX acknowledged that they investigated it, and it was not true. It was a member of the Senate. So I'm not even going to repeat the name, because I'm not going to be part of the irresponsible...
SCIUTTO: Meaning false accusations?
DINGELL: False accusations. That's what I am also concerned about, that in this environment it's -- it's moving fast.
The other thing that I really, really do -- it's easy -- it's not easy, but if you're in Hollywood, if you're in the media, if you're a member of Congress, we are lucky. We are luckier than 99 percent of the women in this country.
DINGELL: You have means of recourse, where many people wouldn't have the chance and the voice know, I was kind of hoping that have means of recourse, which many people wouldn't have the chance or the voice to respond.
I was hoping as this real conversation happened that it was changing. The millennials were never going to experience what -- some of the stories that I had. But I was stunned. When I went home on Friday. I hadn't planned and -- I was going to stand up for the tip waitress and the factory worker. But I'm not good at lying. And when someone pushes me, I tell the truth.
SCIUTTO: Understood. And you've shown that. Congresswoman, please stay there. We have more time, and we have new information coming in. Please stay with us. We'll be right back after this short break.
[17:20:45] SCIUTTO: Our top story, the president of the United States goes on a predawn Twitter rant, stepping up his feud with the father of a UCLA basketball player and the NFL, as well.
We're back with Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan.
I want to reference back to one of these predawn tweets this morning targeting LaVar Ball, the father of one of the three UCLA basketball players. The essence of it, one, the president claiming victory here. "IT WAS ME," in all caps there, that got him out. And then calling LaVar Ball a poor man's version of Don King and then later an ungrateful fool. Are you shocked by those comments?
DINGELL: I'm not shocked, because it's President Trump Twittering. But I wish he had better things to do. This is ridiculous. We've got so many serious problems facing this country. I would like to see him focus on some of the more serious problems, and I don't have a lot to say about the person who's attacking the president either.
SCIUTTO: There is a commonality to the president's targets often, with -- and you'll hear this from African-American commentators and others, but the president uses phrases here, "ungrateful fool," "a poor man's version of Don King," talking about the father of a UCLA basketball player. Do you see a racist undertone?
DINGELL: There are times that you wonder. But it isn't just towards -- I've heard his language that is not inclusive or respectful of women, but, I mean, I'm a woman. So I hear it when I'm a woman.
I think the president tends to not be as respectful as I would like to see him be, or, quite frankly, that the president of the United States should be to all Americans.
SCIUTTO: We've -- you have and others have been aggressively, understandably so, calling out sexual harassment by sitting politicians. Should you be doing the same with the president's -- what appear to be racist messages here? Dog whistles or bullhorns, depending on how you see it.
DINGELL: I think a lot of Democrats have been calling out the -- I'm actually married to the Twittering king who has been doing a lot of Twittering on some of the behavior. People aren't listening sometimes when people are responding to it. I think we all -- you know what I ask for for this Thanksgiving? We all take a deep breath and are civil.
DINGELL: That this country has been divided by fear and hatred in this last year, and we focus far more on what divides us than unites us. And at times, I think the president himself is guilty of that.
This Thanksgiving, I want everybody to come together.
DINGELL: Talk politics but take a deep breath and don't say the first thing that's salt in a wound but talk about what you agree on. And I would say that to the president, too.
SCIUTTO: I'm going to join you in that. It's not much to ask, is it?
Debbie Dingell, thanks so much for taking the time and a happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.
DINGELL: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: Coming up, stunning new video of a North Korean soldier's desperate run for safety as he is pursued, shot and wounded by other North Koreans during his escape, daring escape to South Korea.
You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
[17:28:26] SCIUTTO: President Trump is in Florida for Thanksgiving, but he isn't taking a holiday from Twitter. Today's tweets include a personal attack on the father of one of the UCLA basketball players arrested for allegedly shoplifting in China and freed after the president intervened.
The president of the United States called LaVar Ball, the father, quote, "an ungrateful fool."
Let's bring in our political specialists. Listen, we can overlook at the president's tweets, but this was a pretty remarkable tweet. And I just want to put it up on the screen there. Calling LaVar Ball a poor man's version of Don King, "an ungrateful fool," exclamation point. Looks like there's some dog whistling going on there, Ryan. Wouldn't you agree?
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What does that mean, a poor man's version of Don King? Just randomly comparing him to another African- American celebrity and, bizarrely, one of the few African-American surrogates that Trump had.
SCIUTTO: Supported him.
LIZZA: So I man, I don't even -- I don't even know how to analyze it. I don't know exactly what he's saying, but there's been a lot of commentary from a lot of people who, like you said, dog whistle. There's obvious racist overtones here. He constantly tweets at and attacks African-American, people of color from Twitter. He has some issue with people of color who call him out. It's just -- it is a pattern.
I know I've said this in the past and people said, "Oh, well, he calls everyone out. It's not a -- you know, it's not a race thing."
I think it's a race thing.
SCIUTTO: We talked about that yesterday. There are prominent athletes who have been very critical of President Trump. Greg Popovich, for instance, Steve Kerr. They, at least so far, haven't gotten this kind of treatment, Jackie.
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And therein lies the pattern. And you see this over and over and over again.
I read that and it's almost like he was -- he said it to someone and someone's like, "Oh, that's funny," and he's like, "Yes." But it also was very early in the morning. So...
LIZZA: Who would he be talking to?
KUCINICH: Who would he be talking to? But, yes, it just -- we've seen this president punch down many, many, many times. And I say punch down because you're the president of the United States, you are -- there is in theory a little bit of dignity that goes with that office. And when you see this, this does -- this does diminish the position that he holds when he's going after someone who's basically a stage dad who's promoting his kids.
SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, Lauren, you spend a lot of time on the Hill. Listen, you've heard in private from Democrats and Republicans for months now and even going back to before the election, discomfort with the president's Twitter style and some of his public comments.
Do you sense on the Hill, particularly among Republicans, that -- I don't know -- that the latest ones are beyond the pale in some way? Or do they just kind of say -- throw their hands up in the air and say that's the way he is?
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think Republicans aren't even saying this in private anymore. They're very public about their concerns with the president's tweeting. When you talk to anyone in Republican leadership they tell you, "Man, I really wish the president would stop tweeting."
And I don't think that these comments are going to make them, you know, reach out in any way that they haven't tried already. I mean, the president tweets about national security issues. He tweets about policy that he may or not be super familiar with when they're in the middle of trying to craft deals on health care policy or tax policy. So I don't see Republicans weighing in now, saying this is totally unacceptable, but obviously, you know, there are some racial issues here with the way that the president is talking about this family.
SCIUTTO: Of course, the other big story is the wave of sexual harassment claims against Democrats and Republicans, people inside business and politics, et cetera. And it seems, Ryan, that there's a real struggle underway here between parties, within parties about how to respond to each next claim. We just had Debbie Dingell on, you know, who -- a victim herself of
sexual harassment, takes this very seriously, no question. Very emotional, heartfelt words about it, but she raised the point that you also have to have concerns about due process, about the potential for false accusations. This is -- it's a real struggle. And God knows it's not going to end, right?
LIZZA: Yes. And I think the Democrats especially -- well, both parties, but the Democrats, with the accusations against Al Franken and Conyers, are struggling. What is the proper immediate response when the -- when allegations first come out, right?
And obviously, the underlying facts matter; and in both cases, with Conyers and Franken, there were calls from some people on the left and from some politicians for both of them to resign, but the sort of institutional response from most Democrats was there's a process set up to deal with this. With Franken, it goes to the Ethics Committee, which I think some people thought that's not enough. You could just get buried on the Ethics Committee. It hasn't been very active in recent years. Other people said, well, you know, the Conyers thing is far -- is far worse.
So I see a party really struggling to figure out what the proper process should be for these things. And as we were talking about earlier today in another show, the process in Congress is broken.
KUCINICH: It is. Well, it's created to protect the congressmen, to protect the people in office and had the staffers have very little or no power on -- to get justice for themselves if they feel like they've been wronged.
It's a closed process. It's very secretive. And so maybe the good thing that could come out of this is that whole process is going to be revamped. We can hope so. Because we all now hardworking staffers on the Hill that don't deserve to be -- to have this sort of wall if something happens to them.
SCIUTTO: We were researching the process today, and it struck me that a nondisclosure...
SCIUTTO: ... was a requirement of settlement. That you can't talk about it. Which is interesting.
I suppose, Lauren, the other thing is when you compare the way -- the speed with which the private sector has dealt with this, if you look at PBS and CBS with, say, Charlie Rose or Mark Halperin and "The Hill," I mean, dramatically different.
SCIUTTO: You saw Charlie Rose in the span of 24 hours, right, lose multiple jobs, and that's not the way it's moving through -- through the public sector. FOX: We also have to take a step back and remember that until a few
weeks ago, there were no names on Capitol Hill. You know, CNN had an amazing story that sort of chronicled how much of an issue sexual harassment was on the Hill but still had a hard time finding women who were comfortable coming on the record and talking about this.
And I think that, you know, we have some names named now, but a lot of the victims still want to stay private. They don't want to disclose who they are, because they're concerned about the repercussions on Capitol Hill. This is the most powerful government in the world and a very powerful part of that government. A lot of women are nervous about coming forward.
SCIUTTO: Well, that's the thing, you know, when you -- it's all -- regardless of the support you get, right? You know -- and again, Congresswoman Dingell spoke about herself, her own experience. It's a difficult thing. There are consequences regardless when you come out.
[17:35:09] That's why it struck me when you hear a President Trump or a Roy Moore say that these accusers are making this up, right? There's not a lot to be gained, right? There's not a lot of enjoyment at all, right, to be a woman who makes this -- who makes such an accusation public?
KUCINICH: Which is one of the reasons people don't come forward. Which is one of the criticisms you hear from Republicans and more from defenders of Roy Moore, is that it took 40 years. Look at the timing.
KUCINICH: Well, there really isn't a time limit. It's -- one of the women said she didn't come forward because her -- because of her kids. There are so many layers of that -- emotionally to get through, practically and emotionally. You can't fault these people for keeping it a secret. Because now, look, they're forever tied with Roy Moore. And that's exactly what they didn't want to happen when they didn't ask for the treatment that he allegedly foisted upon them.
SCIUTTO: And the president's own daughter said last week she believes Roy Moore's accusers. Right?
LIZZA: The Democratic opponent is now using that quote in a television ad.
SCIUTTO: Absolutely. Powerful ad. Thanks very much, panel. Great to have you on.
Coming up, the latest on the search for three Americans still missing after a U.S. Navy plane similar to this one crashes in the Pacific.
Also, harrowing new video of a North Korean soldier's desperate dash to freedom. We'll have more after this.
[17:41:02] SCIUTTO: Tonight, we are following the continuing search for three missing members of the U.S. military. They were aboard a transport plane similar to this one that went down near Okinawa in the Pacific. Eight of the 11 have been rescued. Those three still missing. With us now, CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr and former
Pentagon press secretary and retired Admiral John Kirby.
Barbara, I know you've been looking into this all day. Give us the latest on this accident, how it happened and what we know about the ongoing rescue ops.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The Navy says it's still investigating. There is some speculation out in the region that the plane suffered some sort of engine failure.
What we do know is they were able to recover, to rescue eight people quite quickly and take them on board the carrier Ronald Reagan, where they were said to be in good condition, rescued by helicopters. So clearly within reach of rescue forces.
Still, of course, the search goes on. They were not able to rescue or recover three who were on board on board the plane, and the work goes on to try and find them and rescue or recover them. Those families, of course, facing an agonizing Thanksgiving holiday, waiting for word about what has happened to their loved ones, Jim.
SCIUTTO: No question.
The tempo of operations in the Pacific is particularly high now. You have additional aircraft resources. You have additional flights, much of this centered around activity in North Korea. With an accident like this, the other shipping accidents, is there a concern that those ops have gotten to such a pace that accidents like this are more likely?
STARR: Well, there's, you know, there's been -- this is an aircraft accident. I think what is so concerning to the Navy right now, not just this but the ship accidents that they've had. The USS John McCain, the USS Fitzgerald, each of them in the last couple of months having collisions with commercial shipping out in that region. Seventeen Navy sailors losing their lives in those two collisions, a total of five incidents at sea for this 7th Fleet this year.
That is not acceptable in the eyes of the U.S. Navy. And we know that the chief of naval operations is trying to get a handle on all of this, make sure they aren't cutting corners on training and readiness, but yet are still able to go out there and face North Korea if it were to come to that, Jim.
SCIUTTO: John, this is a reminder, in the Pacific at least, that this is -- this is peace time, right? I mean, you're not at war. You definitely have a threat in North Korea, but peacetime operations can be very dangerous.
JOHN KIRBY, CNN DIPLOMATIC AND MILITARY ANALYST: Well, yes, look, naval aviation in general is an inherently dangerous thing to do. Military operations are inherently dangerous. That's why we train so hard. That's why we put such an emphasis on safety.
And I would remind you this particular aircraft, the C-2 Greyhound, has an extraordinarily good safety record. Only three crashes since 1980.
KIRBY: And none of them involve fatalities. And hopefully, this one won't either. So I mean, there's a real premium put on safe naval flight operations every time we go to sea, but, yes, there's obviously -- there's obviously risk involved.
SCIUTTO: Barbara, the other story I know you've been covering, the attack in Niger. New reporting that the military discovered additional remains of La David Johnson. How did this happen?
STARR: Well, another just terribly difficult situation for another American military family. Investigators, military and FBI investigators went to the scene of the attack in Niger, trying to conduct an investigation, gather all the evidence they could about what might have happened here.
And when they went to the place where La David Johnson -- Sergeant La David Johnson's body was found, recovered, they found additional remains. They've been identified by an armed forces medical examiner. We are told they are bone fragments belonging to Sergeant Johnson.
His family, his widow was briefed on all of this, we're told, this week. That this has happened. What we don't know -- the medical examiner might but we don't -- what these bone fragments may tell them about how la David Johnson was killed and where his body was for 48 hours until somebody could find it, Jim.
SCIUTTO: It's still one of those burning, unanswered questions from there.
Barbara and John Kirby, thanks very much.
And coming up, newly released video of a North Korean soldier's harrowing ordeal as he tries to escape across the border to freedom.
[17:50:23] SCIUTTO: North Korea is denouncing President Trump's decision to place it back on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. A spokesman for Kim Jong-un's government calls the U.S. move, quote, a serious provocation and violent infringement upon our dignified country.
Also, tonight, we have harrowing new video of a North Korean soldier's desperate attempt to escape to freedom as his one-time comrades chase and shoot him.
CNN's Brian Todd is here.
Listen, this man, somehow, Brian, made it to South Korea with four or five bullets in his body.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. Now, we're told that he has regained consciousness after more than a week. This video of his escape, just released, is jarring for its depiction of just how close this young man came to being fatally shot just moments into his flight.
TODD (voice-over): The man behind the wheel of this jeep is desperate. He's a 24-year-old North Korean soldier, speeding toward the military demarcation line between the two Koreas, about to make a desperate dash across the border.
Other North Korean troops are alerted when he drives past their command post. They stream out.
MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), FORMER SENIOR INTELLIGENCE OFFICER IN SOUTH KOREA, UNITED STATES ARMY: Now, at this point, what has happened is, these folks are now on the radio, and they're calling ahead to the Joint Security Area, the northern part of Panmunjom, where the North Koreans are. And he is saying, we've got a runner.
TODD (voice-over): The video of this dramatic defection on November 13th, just released by the U.S.-led United Nation's command. In the closed-circuit footage, the defector drives the jeep into a ditch, gets out, and makes a run for it.
Immediately, other North Korean soldiers converge just a few feet behind him and opened fire, releasing an estimated 40 rounds.
TODD (on camera): How do they not kill him right at that moment?
MARKS: Right. These guys are moving. This individual is moving. So you have two, one guy who is engaging and who is moving, an individual -- two guys who are moving are engaging. And then one individual, the target, is moving. And you also have this adrenaline rush on both sides.
TODD (voice-over): The adrenaline evident seconds later from another camera angle. The defecting soldier, presumably hit already, multiple times, is still sprinting full speed toward the South Korean side.
MARKS: He knows if he does not keep going, there's a very high chance that these guys will come rushing across and drag him back. So this guy, right now, is totally dialed in, doesn't feel the shots. He's losing blood. He knows he's slowing down a little bit, but he's got to get to freedom.
TODD (voice-over): In those frantic seconds, another North Korean soldier sprints after the defector. The pursuer crosses the demarcation line, a violation of armistice. He doubles back.
MARKS: He's not thinking about the violation of the treaty. He know realizes, I'm a target.
TODD (voice-over): The defector has been hit at least five times, but he's alive, laying by a retaining wall.
In this heat signature video, two brave South Korean soldiers are seen crawling to him, one seemingly raises a weapon to cover them. They drag him further toward their side, taking a significant risk.
MARKS: They can be seen by the North, both visually and through fire. The North Koreans, if they chose to, could engage this location with fire.
TODD (voice-over): How did this not turn into a bloody shootout with multiple casualties? Experts say both sides are trained to de- escalate in these situations. So why did North Korean troops fire on their own comrade?
DR. BALBINA HWANG, VISITING PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: The North Koreans are trained to keep each other from defecting across the line as well, so they're going to shoot each other. And this is actually what keeps the regime intact.
TODD: The defector's surgeon says the young man had lost more than half the blood in his body by the time he got to the hospital, but that he later regained consciousness.
The surgeon says the defector has suffered psychological stress and is despondent because of his gunshot wounds. But at the same time, he is listening to a lot of Korean pop music, watching movies. And the doctor says the defector likes to watch the T.V. show, "CSI." Jim?
SCIUTTO: That's an incredible story. Brian, I know you have new information tonight on how North Korean soldiers who defected are handled by U.S. and South Korean intelligence?
TODD: That's right, Jim. Tony Schaeffer, a retired U.S. military intelligence officer, has interrogated North Korean soldiers who have defected. He told us that in custody, they have to keep these North Korean soldiers on a strict minute-by-minute schedule just to prevent them from going insane.
He says they have to keep them -- watch them 24/7, keep them on suicide watch, because they're so disoriented and despondent over having been brainwashed for so long. Schaeffer says it takes about six months to detox a defected North Korean soldier.
SCIUTTO: Brian Todd, thanks very much.
Coming up, President Trump goes off on Twitter, stepping up his feud with the NFL and calling the father of a UCLA basketball player, quote, an ungrateful fool for not voicing gratitude for getting the players released by China. Is the President more interested in getting thanks than Thanksgiving?
[17:55:13] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
SCIUTTO: Happening now, tweet revenge. President Trump unleashes an online storm with a new attack on the NFL and assailing the father of the UCLA basketball player released by China.
[18:00:07] Will the President get the gratitude that he is demanding?