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Al Franken Breaks His Silence After Sexual Misconduct Accusations; John Conyers Steps Down from Judiciary Committee; Trump Tweets Support for Roy Moore; Desperate Rohingya Muslims Risk Lives to Flee Myanmar; Aired 8-9p ET

Aired November 26, 2017 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:00] SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: She didn't have any ability to consent. She had every right to feel violated by that photo. I have apologized to her and I was very grateful that she accepted my apology.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: A second woman now says Franken grabbed her butt during a photo op in 2010 while he was in office. But the Minnesota Democrat says he did not remember that particular photo, saying it's one of thousands he's taken with people over the years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: I'm -- you know, I'm someone who, you know, hugs people. And I -- you know, and I've learned from these stories that some of -- in some of these encounters, I've crossed the line for some women.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: CNN's Ryan Young joins us now from Minneapolis.

Ryan, tell us what else Franken is saying about these allegations going forward and how he plans to take responsibility.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, really, Ana, the words that stick out to us is embarrassed and ashamed. Those were the senator's words himself. And of course as his interview sort of slip out, people are starting to hear them. Everyone waiting of course for that 10:30 interview that will happen on TV here in the Minnesota area. But then you have that 18-minute interview that was done with Public Radio Station.

And of course there have been some ripples from that because people have had some reaction. Hearing his words, of course. Hear parts of this interview because he was really frank when he was talking about some of his emotions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: Look, Cathy, if you had said to me two weeks ago that -- that a woman was going to say that I had made her uncomfortable and disrespected her in one of these ways, I would have said no. This has been a shock to me. And so, you know, I -- I don't know. I can't say. I mean, you know, obviously, I've, you know, felt that that women I've taken these photos with, that some women have said that I crossed the line. And that -- for that I'm very sorry, and any -- any number is -- is too many.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YOUNG: Ana, he really could have talked to anyone for these conversations, this interview. Of course a lot of people want to hear from the senator all across this country, especially with all these allegations that have happened in so many different cases. When he was asked about the fact of whether or not any other woman would be coming forward, he says, , if you had asked him two weeks ago he would never have thought any other woman would have stepped forward the first time. So he's not sure about that. But listen to what he said about having to work to gain people's trust back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: I'm just going to do my job and I'm going to go forward. This has been 10 days since this came out. I'm going to go forward. I'm going to take responsibility. I'm going to be held accountable. And I'm going to try to be productive in the way I speak about this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

YOUNG: I also think it's important to note that the interviews did not happen here. He's in D.C., plans to report in the morning. So it will be interesting to see what the fallout will be and how people will digest this, especially in the Minnesota area with his words coming out and how the rest of the people in Congress will deal with this over the next few days -- Ana.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: And so he returns to work now less than 24 hours. What does the future look like, the near future regarding what he's facing as he heads back to Capitol Hill?

YOUNG: Well, he talks about the idea of facing the allegations and ethics investigation so they will have to move forward with that and then of course we'll see what happens next but it doesn't sound like he will be stepping down. At least from what we heard in this interview.

CABRERA: Are people giving him the benefit of the doubt in his hometown?

YOUNG: Well, it's just been a few bits and pieces of people walking by having their own opinion about it. They felt like the interview -- the 18-minute interview was pretty strong. Of course a lot of people reading the "Star Tribune" online when that interview first hit several hours ago, reacting to that, the fact that he said he was embarrassed and ashamed. I think that's what people wanted to hear.

Of course there'll be more reaction I'm sure tomorrow morning when we see that first sit-down interview, when he sits in front of the camera, you get to see his eyes for himself, hear the voice and get those emotions and kind of react to that. You know how that goes -- Ana.

CABRERA: Ryan Young in Minneapolis. Thank you.

Let's turn to Congressman John Conyers who announced today he is stepping down from his important role on the House Judiciary Committee as he faces an ethics investigation into alleged sexual harassment and workplace abuse.

[20:05:06] Correspondent Sara Ganim is here with me in New York.

Sara, what are we hearing from Conyers?

SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's denying these allegations and he is framing them as a political attack, citing the fact that the original BuzzFeed story that broke all of this less than a week ago contains documents that he says were initially obtained by a right wing blogger.

Here's the statement that he released today. He says, "I deny these allegations, many of which were raised by documents reportedly paid for by a partisan alt-right blogger. I very much look forward to vindicating myself and my family before the House Committee on Ethics. I have come to believe that my presence as ranking member on the committee would not serve these efforts while the Ethics Committee investigation is pending."

Of course he's talking about his high ranking position on the House Judiciary Committee -- Ana.

CABRERA: So he's stepping down from that position. He's not leaving Congress. Meantime some eyebrows were raised over a couple of competing statements almost from Nancy Pelosi today regarding Conyers.

GANIM: Right. You could definitely say that. There's been some criticism of how she handled this, right? Before he announced that he's stepping down she made a statement where she's essentially held back on the criticism. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: We are strengthened by due process. Just because someone is accused, and was it one accusation? Is it two? I think there has to be -- John Conyers is an icon in our country. He's done a great deal to protect -- violence against women act, right-wing is now quoting me as praising him for his work on that. And he did great work on that. But the fact is as John reviews his case which he knows, which I don't, I believe he will --

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Why don't you --

PELOSI: I believe that he will --

TODD: Well, how is it that you don't --

PELOSI: Excuse me. May I finish my sentence?

TODD: Sure. Sure.

PELOSI: That he will do the right thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GANIM: Now she says there do the right thing. I believe that he will do the right thing. Well, since then we have learned from my colleague, MJ Lee, that Nancy Pelosi and members of the Congressional Black Caucus were working behind the scenes to give him a graceful way of stepping down from the Judiciary Committee. They were laying the groundwork for that. After that became public, and we learned that he was stepping down, she issued a statement saying this.

"Zero tolerance means consequences. I have asked for an ethics investigation and as that investigation continues, Congressman Conyers has agreed to step aside as ranking member. As a woman and a mother of four daughters, I particularly take any accusation of sexual harassment very seriously. We're at a watershed moment on this issue and no matter how great an individual's legacy, it is not a license for harassment. I commend the brave women coming forward."

CABRERA: All right. Lots more where this goes. Thank you.

GANIM: Lots more to be expected.

CABRERA: Sara Ganim, we appreciate it.

President Trump meantime is back in Washington tonight as all of this unfolds. He landed a short time ago after spending Thanksgiving at his private resort in Florida. There you see him and his family getting off the plane, Air Force One. This is at Joint Base Andrews. He didn't talk to reporters, though, but as you know he does like to share via Twitter.

CNN's Boris Sanchez is in Washington following the president.

And, Boris, walk us through what the president has said today about all this.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Ana. Today the president has not weighed in on the controversy surrounding Senator Al Franken and Representative John Conyers. He has, however, weighed in on the heated Senate race in Alabama, targeting Roy Moore's opponent, Doug Jones.

As you know, over the past several weeks, the White House has had a full shift, initially echoing what other Republicans were saying about Roy Moore that if the allegations against him are true, then he should step down. Since then we've seen more and more Republicans say that for the good of the party and for the good of the country, Roy Moore should drop out of that race, as you heard from Senators Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham today.

The president has gone in a very different direction, not fully endorsing him, not using the E word but stopping just shy of that by attacking Roy Moore's opponent and then when asked about the allegations of sexual misconduct by Roy Moore, saying that Moore denies them, and leaving the door open to potentially going to Alabama and campaigning on his behalf.

Here are the president's tweets from earlier this Sunday. He writes, quote, ""The last thing that we need in Alabama and the U.S. Senate is a Schumer/Pelosi puppet who is weak on crime. Weak on the border, bad for our military and our great vets, bad for our Second Amendment and wants to raise taxes to the sky. Jones would be a disaster. I endorsed Luther Strange in the Alabama primary. He shot way up in the polls but it wasn't enough. Can't let Schumer/Pelosi win this race. Liberal Jones would be bad."

Important to point out there, the president's mention of taxes, it is a huge week for tax reform so it's kind of interesting to see the president so far from his own party when it comes to the question of Roy Moore and his Senate candidacy -- Ana.

[20:10:09] CABRERA: And the president will be heading to Capitol Hill this week. But he hasn't been tweeting necessarily about the agenda today. Who is he going to be meeting with? What's his plan?

SANCHEZ: Right. Well, on Tuesday, the president is set to meet with Republican senators at Capitol Hill. It's actually his third time going there in a little over a month and they're set to discuss tax reform, as you know. The Senate could vote on tax reform as early as Thursday. But then there's another really big meeting later on on Tuesday where the president is meeting with leaders from both parties, House Speaker Paul Ryan, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell as well as Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

And this meeting is a pretty big deal because as you know in September, when there was a very similar meeting like this one to discuss financing the government and the budget and the debt ceiling, the president essentially sided with Democrats in deciding to punt until December. So now the government will run out of funding on December 8th and they'll need an agreement by that time, not just on funding the government as I said before on the debt ceiling.

And there's all these other things on the table, potentially a DACA solution. A ton of different things to negotiate. We'll see what comes out of there. Again as you'll recall last time, Ana, the president drew a lot of kudos by working with Democrats. We'll see if the air remains bipartisan this time around as you saw earlier. He tweeted about Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi in a less than positive way.

CABRERA: He did indeed.

Boris Sanchez, in Washington, thanks.

Now the support for Senate candidate Roy Moore, there was a big irony for my next guest. Nicholas Kristof says red state conservatives in general do a worst job practicing the morals they preach compared to liberals. We'll talk about this when we come back live on CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:16:06] CABRERA: President Trump today voicing fresh support for fellow Republican Roy Moore who has been dogged by sexual assault and abuse allegations made by numerous women. President tweeting attacks on Moore's opponent, Doug Jones. Quote, "Liberal Jones would be bad, a disaster. He wants to raise taxes to the sky."

Is the president suggesting Deep South conservatives, fond of family values, should simply overlook the Moore scandal?

Let's talk it over with Nicolas Kristof, an opinion columnist for the "New York Times."

Nicholas, we really appreciate your time tonight. You write, "To some degree, liberals practice the values that conservatives preach." You go on to write, "Liberals and conservatives alike don't want teens pregnant at 16 and we almost all seek committed marriages that last. It's worth noting that Bible-thumping blowhard like Roy Moore don't help achieve those values while investments in education and family planning do."

So my question to you is, are Democrats in office doing a better job than Republicans at promoting family values?

NICHOLAS KRISTOF, OPINION COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: You know, I guess my bottom line is this, less about thundering about values and talking about values and more about policies that put in place the kind of platform that enables people to live out their values. And so the reason that so many conservative states, so many red states have higher levels of teen births, higher levels of divorce, higher levels of prostitution, adultery is not because this stems inevitably from conservative values in any case, it's really because you have lower investments in education in those states and less investment in social services.

And so if you don't invest in family planning programs in your state then you're going to result in more teen pregnancies. And so I think that the measure we should seek from policymakers is maybe to do a little less pontificating about values and a little more, A, living those values themselves and holding their own party accountable to those standards, and B, try to put in place a set of policies that make it more likely that all of us can adhere to the things we believe in, which, you know, is helping people end up in committed relationships that make us all happy and leave us to be -- to live fulfilling lives.

CABRERA: Evangelical Christians are supporting Moore, and you cite this in your article as hypocrisy. But liberals, while foaming at the mouth about Moore, they're not necessarily speaking out as adamantly against Al Franken and John Conyers. Do you see an equivalency there?

KRISTOF: So -- you know, I think everybody is engaging in some political tabulations. And, you know, I do think that Al Franken's issues in particular or allegations are somewhat less grave. In the case of John Conyers, we don't really know exactly what they are. But I think it's deeply troubling that government money, that taxpayer money may have been spent, $30,000, on a settlement, confidential settlement to end some charges. And I would hope that Conyers would release that staff member from that agreement.

But, you know, basically, I think it's problematic when each side is saying, look, your molester is worse than my molester. And that's kind of what it's coming down to, that everybody is making these political calculations and saying that the other guys are worse.

CABRERA: Let's hear what Senator Tim Scott, a Republican, had to say about Moore and the test that this really has created for the party and for the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[20:20:07] SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It is pretty clear to me that the best thing that Roy Moore can do for the country is to move on. The reality of it is that the allegations are so very strong and credible, and the denial has been weak. Gotten a little stronger, but it is still fairly weak. So in my opinion and in the opinion of many Republicans and conservatives in the Senate, it is time for us to turn the page because it is not about partisan politics. It's not about electing Republicans versus Democrats. This is about the character of our country. I want to be on the side of right when history writes the story.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Nicholas, do you think that's how Republicans in Alabama feel? Do they share those same feelings we've just heard articulated?

KRISTOF: So I think that Alabama Republicans are genuinely troubled by the charges against Roy Moore. And I think there's also a sense of embarrassment at the way Alabama time after time has kind of -- becomes the butt of jokes, but I think there are also a lot of Alabama Republicans who care deeply about judges and about abortion issues, and are weighing those issues against each other.

And, you know, that calculus is something that happens on the Democratic side as well as on the Republican side. But I would also say that, you know, I hope that voters everywhere are going to think about these sort of fundamental issues of right and wrong and also remember that in the case of Roy Moore, he really raised issues of damage to the Republican Party nationwide. I think that Republicans remember that they had two Senate candidates, Todd Aiken and Richard Murdoch, whose comments about legitimate rape or what seemed to be God's sanctioned birth as a result of rape, really, really made the entire Republican Party seem to be delusional about issues of sexual violence in ways that hurt candidates across the country.

And so I think that part of the concern about Roy Moore in Washington is a recollection of the damage that Todd Aiken and Richard Murdoch did.

CABRERA: All right. Nicholas Kristof, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

KRISTOF: Good to be with you.

CABRERA: Tomorrow is the deadline for President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner. He is supposed to turn over documents related to the Russia investigation. What might investigators learn from that and what about speculation that Michael Flynn might be helping the special counsel? We'll dive into all of that ahead here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:27:09] CABRERA: Jared Kushner has until tomorrow to turn over documents to the Senate Judiciary Committee. You'll recall that committee says Kushner left out some key e-mails about Russia and WikiLeaks when he handed over initial campaign records.

Well, the deadline comes as Kushner and other White House officials face the possibility that Michael Flynn, the president's former National Security adviser, might be working with special counsel investigators. A source tells CNN that Flynn's attorneys have now stopped sharing information with other defense attorneys involved in the probe, including the president's lawyers.

Legal experts say this could mean that Flynn has agreed to cooperate, maybe make a deal of some sort.

Let's bring in our panel with us, senior editor for the "Daily Beast," Ben Collins, former FBI special agent and senior lecturer at Yale University, Asha Rangappa. And senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon.

So, Asha, I'm really interested to get your insight on this because you have both legal and intelligence experience and expertise. So what do you make of this news that Michael Flynn has stopped sharing information?

ASHA RANGAPPA, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Right, so when defense counsel are sharing information with each other, they're doing it so that they can all stay on the same page. They're making sure that each person, and that each of these lawyers who's representing a different client, they know what everybody else is saying, what they're doing, how they're interacting with the prosecution.

So when you stop sharing information it's basically saying I have a conflict of interest because I may be going my own way, so I think it is a big signal that he is either cooperating or at least trying to negotiate some cooperation with Mueller.

CABRERA: What would Flynn have to offer in order to get some kind of deal?

RANGAPPA: Well, Mueller clearly believes that Flynn has a lot to offer because prosecutors do not make deals unless they think they can get something in return. And Flynn was a very high person, albeit for a very short time, he's National Security adviser, so what Mueller thinks that Flynn can give him will allow him to go after someone higher. And that's what you do. When you flip someone you're always going up the chain. You're never going to put someone to go down the chain.

And there's only a few people higher than Flynn. So this means that things are heating up and getting much closer to the inner circle of the White House.

RANGAPPA: Right. Because you're talking about the president and potential family members as well.

Gayle, when we talk about Flynn and any possible illegal activity he may have been involved with, a lot of it involves Turkey. How does that have anything to do with Russia?

GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, it's fascinating. Right? I mean, I think Turkey in some ways is in the same position as Russia, which is that they thought that what they would get what they wanted when the Trump administration came in. Very little has actually happened to fulfill that wish.

[20:30:02] I mean, on the Turkey front, you know, Michael Flynn was certainly -- there's a lot of discussion about what the conversations were about Trump and Turkey and policy. But the U.S. is still backing Syrian Kurds who Turkey sees as terrorists, and the U.S. really has done very little to help with the extradition of cleric Fethullah Gulen which Turkey also wants to see --

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: Hold -- just hold your thoughts for a second, though, because you'll recall that just this week, there was a little bit of a development when the president met with Turkish leaders and basically said we're going to stop backing those Syrian Kurds.

LEMMON: And that is fascinating because, you know, I have actually talked to, you know, U.S. folks who are involved in that policy and they say actually nothing has changed in U.S. policy in backing Syria's Kurds and actually what that discussion was, which was really the Turkish view of that conversation, if you look at the sourcing. There is not a sense right now at this moment that U.S. policy on Syria, when it comes to Syrian Kurds has actually shifted.

CABRERA: OK. So, Ben, I want to play for you what Trump's original campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, had to say about this development involving Flynn.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

I don't think this goes anywhere other than to Michael Flynn and potentially his son. But what we've seen is that people who haven't followed the rules, people like Paul Manafort, you know, Rick Gates, Mike Flynn, if they have done something wrong they should be held accountable. But that's where it ends because there is no culpability or liability to the president because he didn't collude, cooperate or coordinate with Russia in any way, shape or form.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CABRERA: So it sounds like Lewandowski is saying if Flynn had anything wrong or illegal going on, whatever he was involved it ends with him.

BEN COLLINS, SENIOR NEWS EDITOR, THE DAILY BEAST: That's a might large buff to throw somebody under a net.

CABRERA: Yes.

COLLINS: I think that's -- that would be tricky. This guy was the National Security adviser to the president of the United States at the start of this administration. That's what he was. That's what he was doing. He was pushing for these sanctions with Russia at the very beginning of it, and then he met with Sergey Kislyak, the guy -- the Russian ambassador to the United States. Undisclosed meeting and that's why he had to leave, was because he allegedly lied about it --

CABRERA: He had a conversation --

COLLINS: He had a conversation.

CABRERA: -- where he said they didn't talk about Russian sanctions.

COLLINS: Right.

CABRERA: When in reality we learned they did.

COLLINS: Exactly. And, you know, we see tomorrow, with Jared Kushner, right? Where he has these undisclosed WikiLeaks e-mails that we don't know about. And they were the -- they were the, you know, these would be incriminating potentially. We don't know that for a fact now but these -- you know, these are e-mails involving WikiLeaks. So these are all -- you know, if you put the pieces of the puzzle together here, which we haven't yet, but there's a guy who are out there right now whose job is to do exactly that.

CABRERA: Robert Mueller.

COLLINS: Exactly. If you put the pieces of puzzle together here, you're going to start to see something that at least kind of surrounds the campaign. If it gets to the middle of the campaign, then we have President Trump.

CABRERA: There are all of these denials, Asha. There -- we know this deadline for Jared Kushner to turn over some e-mails about Russia and WikiLeaks which Ben just mentioned, and there seems to be a lot of Russia-related meetings and contacts that he himself has failed to disclose like the Trump Tower meeting or the time he tried to set up a secret back channel to the Kremlin, the meeting with the Russian banker. He's had to update his security clearance forms as you'll recall numerous times because of all this. Does that concern you?

RANGAPPA: It concerns me. I mean, even if you took it at complete face value, Ana, it means that he's completely incompetent. But I think that this is a person who went to NYU Law School. He ought to know that when you need to turn over e-mails, when you need to fill out a background investigation form, you need to be completely forthcoming, and repeatedly, he has not.

I mean, just take the e-mails, Ana. The committee has asked for any e-mails that might be relevant to Russia, to the individuals that they are interested in. Some of these e-mails, the WikiLeaks e-mails that Ben just mentioned, the Trump Tower meeting, these subject lines said Russia-Clinton, private and confidential. Russia backdoor channel invitation.

You can just do a simple search and come up with those e-mails. So the fact that he's not being forthcoming to me is incredibly problematic. And it's surprising to me that he's still waiting for a security clearance.

CABRERA: Gayle, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has said President Trump has a blind spot when it comes to Russia, do you agree?

LEMMON: I mean, I think we will see a lot of what comes out. What is (INAUDIBLE) to me is that, you know, on Russia there have been real splits between the U.S. and Russia just in the last week, right? I mean, you had the Russian Foreign minister really coming out against the U.S. decision to put North Korea on the state sponsors of terror list and you also see Russia really opposing a number of U.S. foreign policy decisions including on Syria at the U.N. last week where there was a real direct confrontation between the United States and Russia on whether to continue chemical weapons investigations.

So I think there is a real mismatch in some ways between how we see the Trump-Russia relationship and what the actual policy gaps are between the two countries.

CABRERA: And meantime, Ben, we have Russia making this move to say media that operates outside of Russia within their borders are now foreign agents.

[20:35:04] COLLINS: Right. This is -- this is just, you know, countermeasures for what we've -- the United States obviously listens to Sputnik and RT, you know, these state-run media outlets, as the same thing in our country. So it makes sense. The problem is not the RTs and Sputniks of the world with this sort of thing. It's this covert troll farm thing that happened.

CABRERA: Right.

COLLINS: Last year where, you know, it seemed like the shared psychosis was going on on social media, where, you know, Hillary Clinton was running some sort of pedophile operation out of a pizza shop and things like that. And all of that was coming, most of it, was coming from WikiLeaks and this Russian troll farm, this amplified Russian troll farm.

The real worry is, did the campaign have anything to do with this, they had to do -- anything to do with the dissemination of this stuff or even maybe sort of getting that dirt into Donald Trump's teleprompter at some point. And it may have happened and that's what we've got to find out.

CABRERA: Ben Collins, Asha Rangappa, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, thank you all. We appreciate it.

Coming up, dramatic images of dueling volcanoes on two separate continents. One of them forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes. Amazing pictures. We'll talk about exactly what this means coming up next live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:40:35] CABRERA: Not one, not two, but three volcano eruptions within the past 24 hours on the Indonesian island of Bali forcing tens of thousands into shelter and causing local officials there to advise residents to evacuate.

Mount Agung is dormant volcano, was at least, for more than 50 years but it roared back to life, spewing a volcanic ash cloud more than four and a half miles into the air. Several airlines have now diverted or canceled flights to this popular vacation spot.

Meantime, half way across the world, another volcano has also blown its lid on Friday. This volcano is some 40 miles southeast of Mexico City. Erupted a total of three times as well, spreading ash across nearby villages. The last eruption here was in 2000 and displaced some 50,000 people.

Now Pope Francis is about to begin what could be the most difficult trip of his papacy. He is in route to Myanmar, right now a country accused of launching an ethnic cleansing campaign against its Rohingya minority. He is the first pope to visit Myanmar where government troops in primarily Buddhist country are denying systemic targeting of the Muslim Rohingya. Hundreds of thousands have fled to neighboring Bangladesh just since August, crowding the refugee camps. They're homeless and they're desperate.

In an exclusive CNN interview, our Clarissa Ward spoke to many who are risking everything to escape.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At first light, you can see them dotted along the coastal road, homeless, stateless, huddled in the cool dawn. They are known as the most persecuted minority in the world.

The distance they have come is not far, but the journey is long. For many, it begins on this river. That's Myanmar on the other side. Every day, hundreds of Rohingya Muslims try to cross it to safety.

(On camera): So we can see now coming towards the shore, one, two, three, four, five, six different rafts, all of them have at least 20 to 30 people on them.

(Voice-over): Crudely made of plastic and bamboo, and laden with whatever belongings could be salvaged. They're not welcome on this shore. The Coast Guard waves them further on. So we wade out to talk to them.

(On camera): How are you? How many hours have you been on the boat? Since early in the morning? Do you know how to swim?

(Voice-over): No one does. Yet the raft is full of children.

"Of course, we are worried. Look, she has two babies," this woman tells us. "The kids were practically slipping off the raft."

The U.N. says that scores of Rohingya have died making this crossing, but that hasn't stopped them from trying. We can't follow them any further. So they drift on down the river unsure of what awaits them. Their best hope is that they end up in one of these camps that aid workers have called a massive slum in the jungle.

Bangladesh is struggling to cope. Another 200,000 refugees are expected in the coming weeks. For the Rohingya, life here is a constant battle. Dignity is hard to come by. These are refugees with no refuge.

As dusk approaches, we happen upon a group who made it to shore. They tell us they crossed at 2:00 a.m. to use the cover of night.

(On camera): Where will you go from here?

(Voice-over): "We will go wherever they will take us," she says. "But whatever happens, we won't go back."

Dependent on the mercy of a world that has so far shown them none.

[20:45:03] Clarissa Ward, CNN, on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: Incredible. From overseas to back here in the U.S. now, it's a big week in Washington, tax reform is front and center as Congress returns to Capitol Hill. Don't miss CNN debate night, Tuesday nights at 9:00 here on CNN. The fight over tax reform. Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, and Maria Cantwell, Tim Scott, they will debate how this new plan could affect you and how much you should pay in taxes every year.

That's Tuesday night at 9:00 Eastern only on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:50:01] CABRERA: Tonight on the season finale of "PARTS UNKNOWN," Anthony Bourdain takes us to southern Italy where he encounters ancient traditions and modern Hollywood movie makers. I sat down with him recently for a preview and here's our conversation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: So you went to what people would call the heel of the boot.

ANTHONY BOURDAIN, HOST, PARTS UNKNOWN: Yes.

CABRERA: In southern Italy, again, you have these crossings of cultures, of religions, of traditions across the Mediterranean. BOURDAIN: Yes.

CABRERA: When you went, how did that traditional ancient sense collide with modern-day living?

BOURDAIN: Well, the Basilicata, for instance, people were living in caves into the 1950s. In caves that existed since biblical times. Malaria was common. It was the shame of Italy. Now, of course, people are building fancy homes in those same caves and restoring some of those old traditions. It's become like so many beautiful places, it has gone from poverty and need to sort of a playground for the rich who would like to live in a place that looks cute and authentic and rustic. But with really good plumbing.

It's a very complicated place. Just the differences between Puglia and Basilicata, they're right next to each other but many languages and dialects are spoken. Some of them quite ancient. Some, you know, pre-Christian pagan rituals are still practiced and we highlight one of them.

CABRERA: Is that the dance that has to do with the spider?

BOURDAIN: Yes. The taranta. And it's got its own -- as so many parts of Italy, people -- Italy is an expression of an idea, it's not really a country. I mean, it's no coincidence that so many -- you go to so many small towns in Italy, and there's a wall around them because they were at war with their neighbors and there wasn't a unified Italy until fairly recently. Didn't really see that in -- in the south there, where they were also invaded frequently by neighbors, by the Boars, by the Greeks, the Normans.

So there's that mentality as well. You know, a country that's -- or a region that's used to be invaded by foreigners all the time has a special way of doing things instinctively. So it was very difficult show to shoot. Figuring out the difference between the reality and what we were told was the reality, who's in charge.

Incredibly beautiful. I mean, stark, beautiful, great food. Fantastic traditional music. And we threw everything we had at it. We like to spoil ourselves by blowing out the budget. Getting a lot of high-end film equipment. We shot this on Panavision equipment like a movie crew. You know, huge.

CABRERA: Were you upping the ante because you were meeting with this renowned filmmaker while you were there as well, Francis Coppola?

BOURDAIN: Yes, we managed to sit down with Francis Coppola who moved back to the home -- the father side of his family where it's just family, where people who worked in the field. They were essentially peasants. And Francis went back and bought the manor house of the fascist leader of the town in a bit of sort of -- I wouldn't say vengeance, but historical correction.

You know, the descendants of the poor boy and the servant goes back and buys the master's home. He converted it to a very nice hotel and a great restaurant. And we sat down and ate a lot of great food, drank a lot of great wine and talked about movies.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: "ANTHONY BOURDAIN PARTS UNKNOWN" in southern Italy starts in just a few moments right here on CNN. Stay with us. We got a great story coming up next that will make you feel good.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:58:21]CABRERA: This is an amazing story now about a stranded woman and the unlikely hero who came to her aid, when Kate McClure ran out of gas recently on the interstate near Philadelphia, Johnny Bobbitt, a homeless military vet came to her aid. Now this morning on ABC's "Good Morning America," McClure recounted the story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATE MCCLURE, STRANDED MOTORIST HELPED BY HOMELESS VET: He walked up and he said, get back in the car, lock the doors, you know, I'll be back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: What happened next is so heartwarming. Bobbitt, a North Carolina native, spent $20 of his own dollars earned by panhandling apparently and he bought McClure enough gas to get on her way. Touched by his good deed, McClure and her boyfriend started a GoFundme for Bobbitt and their donations grew from merely $1800 to more than $300,000.

Bobbitt now says he plans to pay it forward while taking care of himself at the same time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNNY BOBBITT, U.S. MARINE VETERAN: I want to give a lot of it away.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Will you get a house?

BOBBITT: Yes. I'm definitely going to get a place to live. There won't be no brand new car, either.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: No?

BOBBITT: No, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Used car?

BOBBITT: Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Maybe a truck?

BOBBITT: Absolutely a truck.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Such a perfect story, right, to kick off the holiday season of giving. And a great happy ending to our show tonight.

Thank you for being with me. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. We always appreciate your company. "ANTHONY BOURDAIN PARTS UNKNOWN" starts right now. Have a great week.