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Trump Keeps Feud Going with UCLA Player's Father; Former VP Mnangagwa Arrives in Harare; Russia Investigation; U.S. Secretary Of State Rex Tillerson States Ethnic Cleansing Is Occurring In Myanmar; From the Pope's Garden. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired November 23, 2017 - 00:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:00:11] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.

Ahead this hour --

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Unpresidential tweets. Donald Trump lowering the bar as he resumes his feud with the father of a college basketball player.

VAUSE: The "Crocodile" returns -- Zimbabwe's fired vice president back in Harare promising jobs in a new democracy post Mugabe.

SESAY: And ethnic cleansing -- the U.S. Secretary of State changes his opinion of the Rohingya crisis.

VAUSE: Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm John Vause.

SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

VAUSE: The counterpuncher in chief is at it again. U.S. President Donald Trump is firing up his feud with the father of a university basketball player. LaVar Ball is the father of one of one the three players arrested in China but later released on shoplifting charges.

SESAY: While on Thanksgiving holiday at his Florida Estate Mr. Trump sent out this pre-dawn tweet. "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. Just think -- LaVar. You could have spent the next five to ten years doing Thanksgiving with your son in China but no NBA contract to support you. But remember, LaVar, shoplifting is not a little thing. It is a really big deal especially in China. Ungrateful fool."

VAUSE: It was in all caps, by the way. All this seemingly sparked because LaVar Ball has downplayed the President's role in securing his son's release.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LAVAR BALL, FATHER OF LIANGELO BALL: If he said he helped, that's good for his mind. I mean but why do you even got to say it. If you helped you shouldn't have to say anything. If you helped you shouldn't have to be -- if I helped somebody I don't walk around saying you know, I helped you now.

I would say thank you if he would have put him on his plane and took him home. If I was going to thank somebody I'd probably thank President Xi.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Well, for more on this now joining us here is Democratic strategist Caroline Heldman and Republican strategist Chris Faulkner. And Chris -- welcome. First time, good to have you.

CHRIS FAULKNER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Thank you.

VAUSE: We'll start with you Chris because it has not gone unnoticed that recently when the President has lashed out at professional athletes, they've all been black. Is this a deliberate strategy or is it instinctive? Or, could it be both? Because it seems unlikely that it's neither.

FAULKNER: I think it's fair to say that only the President knows why the President tweets anything.

VAUSE: Right.

FAULKNER: Whether you're someone who works for him or someone who works against him, the President clearly is on his own agenda about his train of thought and what he chooses to tweet and when he chooses to tweet it.

I don't know if there's any racial correlation but LaVar Ball should say thank you now. He should absolutely say thank you to the President because this is a gift. For a man who's as self-promotional as LaVar Ball is, having the President of the United States mention you in his Twitter feed, it's pretty impressive.

VAUSE: Well, his sales for his brand have increased but should the President be punching down with a man who's, you know, a well-known loud mouth who's probably the most hyperactive helicopter parent in the country?

FAULKNER: Should the President be engaging with an overactive (ph) sports parent?

VAUSE: Yes.

FAULKNER: No. Objectionally (ph), of course, no. But you can say that of a number of things about what the President chooses to tweet or not to tweet. No, of course, not.

VAUSE: Caroline?

CAROLINE HELDMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I would say that he's using this to bring up the Kaepernick taking a knee --

VAUSE: Yes.

He went on to tweet about the NFL after this -- yes.

HELDMAN: Right. So it seems very clear that he's throwing a little red meat to -- he did this during the campaign. He used rationally charged rhetoric. It got him to the White House. The head of the birther movement, after eight years of a black president. We know that racial resentment played a role, a driving role in this election.

And so he is essentially throwing some red meat to his supporters who harbor racial resentment and I think he's doing this with a dog whistle politics of going after black athletes.

VAUSE: And in particular, the language used in this tweet. It seemed a lot louder than a dog whistle.

HELDMAN: Well, certainly. I mean he didn't bring up race explicitly but he was engaging in Mr. Ball at about the same pitch that Mr. Ball likes to engage others. And I couldn't agree with Chris more that he is making a lot of money off of this. It reminds me of Stephen Colbert who baited the President into saying something negative about him which then, of course, his rating shot through the roof.

VAUSE: Right. OK. Well, here's the Warriors coach Steve Kerr. You'll notice that he is white and he's very critical of the President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE KERR, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS COACH: This is another reason why I think I almost, and our team, have a tough time with the President because instead of unifying and trying to calm the storm, he's creating it over and over again. We see it with his tweets every day.

[00:05:01] So that was you know, he used the words "sons of bitches" to talk about NFL players who have made it clear they're protesting racial inequality and police brutality. Those are "sons of bitches" -- really?

You're the President of the United States. You're going to call them sons of bitches?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Chris -- you know, Kerr has been critical of Donald Trump before. Not a tweet, not a word, nothing. If this is a man who, you know, if he's hitting his back, that's the reason -- why, you know, hasn't he gone after Kerr? I mean the only thing that seems different here is that the guy's white.

FAULKNER: I mean to be fair, if the President counter-punched every single person that punched him, he would take up all characters on every tweet all day. ,

VAUSE: Well, it seems like he almost does. He doesn't let one slide, especially when it's someone high-profile.

FAULKNER: There certainly are some high profile fights that the President will go after. There's no doubt about that. Keeping in mind there are plenty of people whether it be white, black or otherwise who are dissatisfied with the President.

At the same time you have (INAUDIBLE) that this President actually did better with voters of color than previous Republican candidates for president. And there is plenty of arguments to be made that the President is being racially divisive. But at the same time, if anyone is surprised they really should check themselves in, because this is who he is, this who he's been for years.

I mean there is no surprise here.

There's, you know, great analogy to be made about looking at obviously Hillary Clinton and looking at President Trump. You know, we kind of knew what we were going to get with both and people chose.

VAUSE: Yes. There was no pivot. There was no pivot. There never was a pivot. It was a (INAUDIBLE).

OK. After the tweet about LaVar Ball, the President went to revive the controversy with the protest of NFL players. He then tweeted about how great the economy was. And then he went off and played golf.

And yet here's a tweet from CNBC Christina Wilke. "As a journalist," she says, "this is borderline offensive". And then she said, "White House makes pool reporter issue a correction to say the President will not have a low-key day and has a full schedule of meetings and phone calls." 9:26 a.m., the President goes golfing.

So Caroline -- there just always seemed to be this constant thread of, you know, deception or not quite honest or he's not quite -- you know, you want to say it's a lie but if they do say -- they do bring out these sort of lies or mistruths about the little things, what does it say about the big stuff?

HELDMAN: Oh, I couldn't agree more. Politifact did a count of lies and found that -- and I have no issue calling them lies. I wish the media would do more of that because that is what they are. When something is not true it is a lie.

94 percent of the time something that Donald Trump said in a public setting, a claim that he made, was not entirely true. Yes, I mean, this is not -- this is not a surprise. He has a very loose relationship with the truth.

VAUSE: And the staff does, as well.

HELDMAN: And his staff -- well, I think they're between a rock and a hard place. You either want to work in the White House and have this prestigious position and he is giving them to people who otherwise probably wouldn't get them, who haven't had as much experience, aren't Washington insiders. But at the end of the day, yes, they end up having to lie for the President because he himself is not particularly honest.

VAUSE: OK. Usually at Thanksgiving, a president volunteers at a food pantry. President Obama did that for many Thanksgivings over the years.

On Wednesday, the Vice President Mike Pence actually went to Walter Reed. He met with (INAUDIBLE).

Chris -- will we see Donald Trump follow that tradition heading off to a food pantry and handing out meals? What does it say if he doesn't do that?

FAULKNER: Well, if he doesn't do that, again, consistency with his brand and who he is. If we're going to criticize the President for not being consistent with the truth or having a loose relationship with it, then let's skip the photo-op --

VAUSE: Right.

FAULKNER: Let's skip the turkey. Let's skip the motorcade that's going to involve over 200 government employees to go to a food pantry for the photo-op.

VAUSE: You don't think the symbolism is important to see?

FAULKNER: No, I don't.

VAUSE: OK. Caroline.

HELDMAN: Well, he's going to what he's dubbed the winter white house, right. And by the end of this vacation this will be his 30th day there. He's cost taxpayers $16 million. So it's beyond not actually doing something symbolically important on this holiday. He is costing us a lot of money and he will likely be doing what he does best which is playing golf.

VAUSE: OK. The President is also dealing with the fallout from his tacit endorsement after the fact candidate Roy Moore in Alabama. He's, you know, the judge who is accused amongst other things of child molestation.

Here's the front page of Wednesday's "New York Daily News", the paper which hates Donald Trump. The headline: "I'm with Perv".

Now let's go to the "New York Post", notably the same headline -- almost the same, pretty much. This is a paper which bends over backwards to try and please the administration.

Chris is this the start of the blowback to Donald Trump endorsing Roy Moore? Are we going to see a lot more of this sort of stuff?

FAULKNER: I think any endorsement or perception of endorsement of Roy Moore is really useless. Luther Strange was also endorsed by the President, ok. The President went to Alabama, went on stage and endorsed Luther Strange and actively campaigned. He didn't give a side comment to the press as he was boarding a helicopter. He actively campaigned for Luther Strange. It didn't make a difference.

[00:10:02] The voters of Alabama are going to choose whichever candidate they obviously -- they would like to go for. The candidate we really should be talking about is Doug Jones and how a fantastic job he's doing of just letting it burn, standing aside and allow things to play out.

Whether or not President Trump actively endorses or tacitly endorses Roy Moore I think is going to be immaterial to the final outcome.

VAUSE: OK. Very quickly. We're almost out of time. We'll finish with the latest sex scandal from Congress. It's been relatively tame. Congressman Joe Barton, a naked selfie with essentially a mature woman who he was dating.

It was tame until we had this reporting from the "Washington Post". A representative of Joe Barton apologized Wednesday for a lewd photo of him that circulated on the Internet told a woman to whom he sent sexually explicit photos, videos and messages that he would report her to the Capitol Police if she exposed his behavior, according to a recording reviewed by the "Washington Post".

Caroline -- that seems to take this to a whole new level.

HELDMAN: It does. I am actually really critical of the photos circulating. I think it's, you know, it's something that was sent consensually at the time. It was two adults. To have it, you know, widely broadcast I think is -- it reminds of revenge porn, I agree.

But this threat also is very problematic, right? We have all of these powerful men. It's coming out that this behavior is pretty normal in the workplace. And to have someone in a position of power explicitly be threatening is really problematic.

VAUSE: And Chris what does this say about our standards right now where this scandal -- I don't know if you've seen the selfie but it is pretty disgusting.

FAULKNER: Thank God -- no.

VAUSE: You won't unsee it.

(CROSSTALK)

VAUSE: This is the tame sexual scandal in 2017.

FAULKNER: Bad judgement, absolutely. Illegal -- no. I'm not familiar with the details of what he said to the Capitol Police or didn't say but I would ask ourselves, if we're going to be objective.

If this were a female member of Congress and she consensually sent nude photos to someone and that person threatened to release those, the Capitol Police, is who members of Congress turn to for law enforcement. They're the body of folks who investigate and protect them. So I don't know if it was a threat or if it was just inappropriate reaction.

VAUSE: Right.

FAULKNER: And again, I think that we are going -- this is going to continue to be the norm as our society evolves in the modern culture with the kind of things that are shared and things that we do. Again, bad judgment, yes absolutely. Illegal, no. ,

VAUSE: OK. Don't put anything on the Internet you would not want your mother to see. Golden rule.

Chris -- welcome. Great to have you with us. Caroline -- thank you as always.

SESAY: All right.

Turning now to Africa, Zimbabwe's former vice president is back home and close to becoming the country's first new leader in almost four decades.

Emmerson Mnangagwa will be sworn in as interim president on Friday. He replaces 93-year-old dictator Robert Mugabe who resigned after the military took over last week. Mnangagwa will serve as president until elections next year when voters will decide if he'll remain in power.

CNN's David McKenzie has more now from Harare.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: We're right inside Zanu-PF headquarters where Emmerson Mnangagwa, the man who is set to lead Zimbabwe after this apparent coup had come back to the country after being in hiding for 16 days, he said.

You know, they're still celebrating because this man, despite the fact that he's been more than three decades at the right hand side of Robert Mugabe who was ruling the country and brought down the economy, they think he might be the man of the future.

He talked about unity. He talked about all Zimbabweans being equal and he said he wants to bring in jobs, jobs, jobs.

EMMERSON MNANGAGWA, INTERIM PRESIDENT OF ZIMBABWE: No one is more important than the army (ph). We love Zimbabwe. We want to grow our economy. We want to (INAUDIBLE) our economy (ph). We want -- jobs.

MCKENZIE: He'll be inaugurated on Friday and he'll give his formal speech there.

David McKenzie, CNN -- Harare, Zimbabwe.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESAY: Well, Joylene Malenga is a teacher and social activist. She joins us via Skype from Harare. Joylene -- welcome. Good to have you with us.

So we were just listening to Emmerson Mnangagwa there and we hear the rousing rhetoric talking peace, talking jobs, talking about building the economy as he spoke to those crowds at the Zanu-PF headquarters on Wednesday.

What he didn't mention were elections which is slated for next year. What did you make of that?

JOYLENE MALENGA, SOCIAL ACTIVIST: You know, I reckon at this stage perhaps just talking about what we really want to hear over the next few months.

[00:14:57] We do want to hear about peace, we don't want to hear about jobs. We do want to know that our money is safe. We can access our money and, you know, real currency and not our payless (ph) bond notes.

And I'm sure elections will be coming down the line hopefully.

SESAY: OK. It's interesting you said you're sure elections will be coming down the line hopefully. So I'm going to push you on that. How confident are you, bearing in mind you stuck a hopefully in there?

MALENGA: You know what? We need the elections to go ahead. We're all hoping for the elections to come. We are a very hopeful nation. So no, I'm quite certain that we are right to hope that elections will be coming. They have to come.

We need the elections to come around. Otherwise they're sort of creating the same system that they just proclaimed that they're releasing us from if the elections don't happen.

SESAY: Yes.

You mentioned system -- I want to pick up on that. Under President Mugabe, power was centralized. Basically it all came down to him. He held all the levers of government and he pushed all the buttons.

The question now is whether his successor will do things differently, whether he'll govern inclusively. Have there been any signs up to this point to tell us which way it's going to go?

MALENGA: At this stage, it doesn't look like it because what -- one thing that we do keep hearing is that this is an internal party reshuffle -- restructuring. So it sounds like the Zanu-PF is gearing themselves up for the next -- well, you know, few years in power.

So no, at this stage we haven't quite heard what's going to happen with the opposition and the opposition isn't really speaking louder than the Zanu-PF and it was in a sense a Mnangagwa supporter at the moment.

SESAY: I have noticed that. I have noticed that. I have been keeping an ear out for Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition MDC -- Movement for Democratic Change -- for other opposition figures to be out front and vocal.

As you made the point, they've been on the quieter end of the spectrum. What's going on there? And what is their role in the weeks and months to come or at least in your view, what should that role be?

MALENGA: Well, at this stage, I think the -- they've got the ear of the people. You know? We've got access at the moment to our media devices. We can hear them should they speak, it seems. You know?

But they're not out there. We don't know where they are. We don't know if they're interested. They seemed over the last few months -- certainly they seemed to have been rather lethargic and certainly disorganized and not being able to come together to become a unified body, to speak out against Zanu-PF, you know.

So Robert had to be taken off from within the party and the opposition just seems to -- seemed to be sitting on the sideline.

You know, there are often suggestions of alliances be made but then not much seems to be coming out of them and then they seem to fall apart. So not very sure where they are at the moment.

SESAY: Yes. Yes. I think that's a sentiment that's shared by many. Not quite clear on what MDC's next steps are going to be.

I know that you're going to be looking at this new chapter; everyone in Zimbabwe will be. Everyone around the world will be watching with you. How do you intend to measure success under the leadership of Emmerson Mnangagwa?

MALENGA: I think at the moment, the few most obviously comes, you know, along the lines of our freedoms. Are we able to speak out still? Are we going to be heard if we speak out? Or are there going to be measures of, you know, just that vocal repression coming back in.

So just how much freedom do we have to speak out and to possibly participate in the changes that we need? And I think from personal -- from our personal lives, you know, just like I said it's just some simple matters like is my money safe? Can I walk into a shop and buy a few groceries? Are they going to cost me an arm and a leg? Or are we going back to reasonable prices?

Can we start planning for futures, you know? Are we -- is it sensible to talk about, oh, you know a five-year plan. Over the next five years of my life I want to have a (INAUDIBLE) A, B, C, D. Are we going to be able to go back to, you know, thinking like that? As opposed to a daily survival, you know?

[00:20:01] So yes. So we're going to be measuring it from that point just for the short term -- yes.

SESAY: Sure.

Well, Zimbabweans deserve a fresh start. And they deserve all of the freedoms in the world after everything you've been through for the last 37 years.

MALENGA: Thank you.

SESAY: Joylene Malenga -- it's such a pleasure to speak to you to get your perspective on the way things look for you there in Harare. Thank you so much.

MALENGA: Thank you very much for having me.

VAUSE: Hey, Joylene. I spoke to her last night.

SESAY: I know. I know. Yes, you did.

VAUSE: She's my favorite person right now. She's the happiest person I know.

SESAY: It was great to speak to her.

VAUSE: Some happiness.

SESAY: And you know, you heard her say. The way they'll measure success is with the small things.

VAUSE: Yes.

SESAY: Can they go into a store and buy groceries?

VAUSE: Small things but huge --

SESAY: After everything they've been through.

VAUSE: Taken for granted by so many.

OK. Coming up, one man seems to be at the center of a lot of questions in the Russia investigation. So, just how well should Jared Kushner be sleeping at night?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Amid all the revelations about the special counsel's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, there is one person who just keeps appearing at key moments over the past 18 months. And that would be White House adviser and presidential son- in-law Jared Kushner.

In June last year, he was at that meeting in Trump Tower with Kremlin- linked lawyer and other Russians. He met with the Russian ambassador. He met with the CEO of a Russian bank under U.S. sanctions. He allegedly had contact with WikiLeaks which U.S. intelligence believes was working closely, hand in glove, with the Kremlin. And lawmakers want to know more about the e-mails he forwarded about a Russian backdoor overture and dinner invitation.

And now investigators are asking even more questions about Kushner's contacts with other foreign leaders and also his role in the President's decision to fire FBI director, James Comey. And according to one report, shortly after Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates were indicted, Kushner asked a friend, do you think they'll get the President?

CNN contributor and former ethics czar with the Obama administration Norm Eisen with us now from Washington. Hi -- Norm.

NORMAN EISEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Hi -- John. Thanks for having me back.

VAUSE: Always good. OK

It feels there's a constant drip, drip, drip of revelations about Kushner and Russia. Instead of asking if they'll get the President, maybe he should be asking do you think they'll get me. Because right now it seems he's had more contact with more Russians that we know of, than anyone else from Trump world. We should note he continues to work in the White House and he continues to have security clearance.

[00:24:49] EISNER: John -- if I were Jared Kushner I would be resting very uneasy as this drip, drip, drip occurs. Some call it the Chinese water torture. In his case, it's the Russian water torture.

His fingerprints are all over every problem -- the contacts with Russia, the President's possible obstruction, his talking to the President about the obstruction. And the big issue he did not disclose many of these contacts on his forms. You know, they say in Washington it's not the crime, it's the cover-up.

I think he's got major liability here.

VAUSE: OK. The "Wall Street Journal" is reporting that investigators have questioned others about Kushner's involvement in a U.N. resolution last December condemning Israel over settlement construction. Donald Trump had won the election but he hadn't been sworn in.

The Obama administration decided to use its veto -- or not use its veto rather -- abstained. It was a rare thing. It was controversial at the time.

But moving forward, why would that be of interest right now to the special counsel?

EISEN: It's the issue of failing to disclose foreign contacts. In order to get a security clearance I had to fill one out. Everybody has to fill one out. The FBI forms that -- SF 86 -- that list your security information. One of the questions is, all foreign contacts.

And to me it looks like special counsel Mueller is probing, establishing the foreign contacts that were not disclosed maybe still haven't been disclosed.

Then there's this second issue. We have a law on the books. Private individuals cannot conduct foreign policy. It's called the Logan Act. It's very rarely been used in American history. But the special counsel may consider it his duty to examine that law, it is the law of the land.

So those are some of the reasons.

VAUSE: OK. On the obstruction of justice side of the investigation and the firing of FBI director Comey, the "Journal" reports this.

Mr. Mueller's prosecutors have asked witnesses detailed questions about Mr. Kushner's views of Mr. Comey and whether Mr. Kushner was in favor of firing him or had staked out a position.

Kushner's lawyers say that he supported the President's decision once it had been made but played no meaningful role up until that point. What are the implications of the questions coming from the special counsel's office?

EISEN: Well, the media reports to the contrary that Kushner was pushing for the firing of Comey. That he recommended it. And if that's true, then Kushner has a liability for obstruction of justice which is when you try to interfere with an investigation for corrupt or improper purpose for example, to protect yourself and for conspiracy with the President if they agreed on a course of obstruction of justice.

The President is facing serious exposure here. And I think Mr. Kushner is as well.

VAUSE: OK. You mentioned this repeated issue of non-disclosure by Jared Kushner. It's not just on that security application form. It's also on documents which had been requested by congressional investigators.

Every time there seems to be this excuse of, well, I forgot. I didn't remember. That seems to be the legal equivalent of a dog ate my homework. How often can someone use that excuse.

EISEN: Well, it's not an unlimited get out of jail free card -- John. OK. You forgive it the first time, maybe the second time.

But here we're talking about a pattern of dozens of non-disclosed episodes and events to multiple different authorities. After a while you start to wonder whether Mr. Kushner doesn't really have something to hide.

And remember, they don't have to get him for the Russian collusion. They don't have to get him for the obstruction. They can come after him for filing of false reports. So he's looking at problems coming from every direction.

VAUSE: This may explain some of those reports that the President really wants Jared and Ivanka to move back to New York and out of the White House. I guess we'll see what happens.

Happy Thanksgiving. Good to see you.

EISEN: Happy thanksgiving -- John. Enjoy the holiday.

VAUSE: Thank you.

Well, the U.S. Secretary of State has labeled Myanmar's military crackdown on Rohingya Muslims as ethnic cleansing. Just ahead -- the reasons why Rex Tillerson is now taking a much harder line.

[00:29:40] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:31:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

VAUSE (voice-over): Welcome back, everyone. Thank you for staying with us. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

SESAY (voice-over): And I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour.

(HEADLINES)

SESAY: Now the U.S. secretary of state is taking a stronger stance on the Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar.

VAUSE: Rex Tillerson says, quote, "After a careful and thorough analysis of available facts, it is clear that the situation in northern Rakhine State constitutes ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya. Those responsible for these atrocities must be held accountable."

It goes on, "The United States continues to support a credible independent investigation to further determine all facts on the ground to aid in these processes of accountability."

SESAY: More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled violence in Myanmar since August. The government denies attacking the Rohingya, saying it's fighting terrorists. The refugees are telling harrowing tales of murder, rape and arson.

Omar Waraich joins me now from London. He's the deputy South Asia director at Amnesty International.

Amal, thank you for being with us. As you well know, the U.N. described what's happening in Rakhine State as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing, all the way back in September. The U.S. didn't get to that position until this week.

Is it a case better late than never?

OMAR WARAICH, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: I think so. We don't know why Secretary of state Tillerson took this long but we do know that it was definitely a political decision. There's no new evidence that's come to light in the intervening weeks.

The evidence was very much brutally apparent over recent weeks. And he was just in Myanmar, where he had the chance to make this statement there, but preferred to hold on. But at the very least, he's come through and confirmed what Amnesty

International and other groups have been saying for a long time, that this is a campaign of ethnic cleansing, which on legal --

[00:35:00]

WARAICH: -- terms amounts to crimes against humanity.

SESAY: Yes. What will this statement, designation if you will, on the part of the U.S., what does it mean for the ongoing atrocities playing out in Rakhine State?

What impact, if any, will it have?

WARAICH: It represents a late but necessity hardening of a response from the international community. Until now, we have seen a number of states equivocate about the atrocities that took place in northern Rakhine State.

But now we're looking at the U.S. actually taking a firm line and raising the prospect of targeted sanctions when it comes to the military leadership of battement (ph) or who are responsible for these crimes. There have been fears expressed where a number of people, that they can't go that far, that it may derail the transition in Myanmar.

Some have taken a different view, saying, well, you cannot build democracy on the bones of the Rohingya.

As far as we're concerned, it is very necessary to hold the people accountable for this and for the Rohingya to be able to return to their homes safely and with dignity.

SESAY: I want to pick up on that fact because on that point you made, you wrote an editorial, an op-ed recently, that was published in "The Washington Post" and you talked about your visit to Bangladesh and speaking to Rohingya refugees there and hearing people say they want to go back, want to go back to their homes.

Does this statement by the U.S., does that move us a step closer to that becoming a reality?

WARAICH: Well, what they said more specifically was they want to go back but not before peace returns. They used the word "shanti" in their own language. Now for peace to return a number of steps have to be taken and Secretary Tillerson's statement does help us towards that way.

But there are other actors who've been impeding that progress. So, for example, there are horrific conditions. And still there in northern Rahkine State there's a system that is entrenched of discrimination, segregation, that needs to be uprooted.

If the military is not held accountable, what's stopping them from carrying out these abuses again?

Are we going to reward ethnic cleansing?

Is the world going to let this pass?

I mean, just when we've had this very symbolic and very important verdict when it came to the war in the former Yugoslavia, are we going to allow military leaders to get away with mass atrocities?

So a number of things would need to change before the Rohingya can feel safe and be able to go back, not least because the villages right now have been reduced to ashes and they need to be rebuilt.

SESAY: Omar, to that point, as you talk about accountability, an investigation is going to be necessary. The secretary of state called for a credible, independent investigation. He did not call for an international investigation, which some have taken issue with and are disappointed by.

Where do you stand on the issue and steps to get a full picture of what happened in Rakhine State?

WARAICH: Well, what we have seen is that there have been several attempts to try and get access to northern Rakhine State, not just for investigators but also humanitarian actors and what we have seen is the Myanmar authorities repeatedly block those efforts.

We believe it's very necessary for there to be an international investigation because only then can it be a credible investigation. So for example, a U.N. fact-finding mission needs to be allowed to go there. Our simple point is if the Tatmadaw, if the Myanmar authorities have nothing to hide, why don't they let the investigators in?

Once an investigation takes place, only then can we account for the brutal crimes that ensued three months ago and ever since then. And it's only when those crimes are accounted for can we begin to see the glimmers of justice.

SESAY: Yes. And justice is absolutely essential to ensure the words "never again" mean something. Omar Waraich, we appreciate it. Thank you so much for joining us from London. Omar Waraich with Amnesty International, thank you.

VAUSE: And still to come, a visit to a land of milk and honey with a rare look at the papal farm, where the food is grown for God's emissary on Earth.

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VAUSE: Right from (INAUDIBLE) on pasteurized milk, creamy mozzarella, should I go on -- (CROSSTALK)

VAUSE: -- all from a farm just outside for Rome, all there for just one man: Pope Francis.

SESAY: It's not generally seen by the public and it is rarely filmed. Our own Delia Gallagher reports.

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DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's harvest time at the pope's farm. Yes, the pope has a farm. In the hills outside of Rome. Where a basket of fresh produce is prepared for his kitchen every morning and sent down to the Vatican. It includes a few of Francis' favorite things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): He likes cauliflower and broccoli.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Cheese, yogurt and milk made daily from 30 cows raised at Castel Gandolfo, formerly the summer residence for popes. Alessandro Reale is the head farmer. He shows us the garden where vegetable seeds from the White House gifted to the pope by President Obama in 2014 are planted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The seeds under the earth now. We hope in the springtime, with the help of God, to be able to pick the cucumbers, carrots and zucchini from the Obamas.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): The 62-acre property has 1,000 olive trees, more than half of them date back to the year 1200. And the farm produces a small number of bottles of olive oil each year for the pope and officials who live in the Vatican.

Rigorously cold pressed, using granite stone, to make sure the oil being extracted does not warm up and ruin the flavor.

A staple of the Italian table, the head of the farm is proud of its high quality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Italian).

GALLAGHER (voice-over): There are chickens, too, who feed on the remnants of communion wafers made by cloistered nuns who live on the property. With only seven workers, the farm is a family affair, says Alessandro Reale, a family with the holy father at its table -- Delia Gallagher, CNN, Rome.

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SESAY: Rarely seen.

VAUSE: Yes. I mean, apparently Pope Francis doesn't spend much time there, unlike other popes used to. He's too busy.

SESAY: Yes. VAUSE: A busy pope.

SESAY: He is a busy pope.

VAUSE: But eats well.

SESAY: You're not going to begrudge him that, are you?

VAUSE: No, I like Pope Francis.

SESAY: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause. Stay tuned. "WORLD SPORT" is up next. You're watching CNN.