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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Sparks Outrage Retweeting Anti-Muslim Videos; Pyongyang Edges Closer to Nuclear War; Matt Lauer Fired from NBC; Libya Slave Trade. Aired 12mn-1a ET

Aired November 30, 2017 - 00:00   ET

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


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JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour:

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): President Trump retweets ultra- nationalist anti-Muslim videos and after strong condemnation, instead of apologizing, he blasts British prime minister Theresa May.

VAUSE (voice-over): And Donald Trump back to name calling, referring to Kim Jong-un as "rocket man" and "a sick puppy" a day after North Korea test-fires an ICBM capable of reaching Washington.

SESAY (voice-over): Plus NBC's sunrise anchor and his much darker side, Matt Lauer fired for sexual misconduct.

VAUSE (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers from all around the world. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause.

SESAY (voice-over): And I'm Isha Sesay. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

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VAUSE: The tweeter in chief is at it again, this time Donald Trump did not need 280 characters to cause outrage around the world. A retweet was enough, three retweets to be precise, of inflammatory anti-Muslim videos posted by a far right British group.

SESAY: The condemnation has been strong and swift. A spokesperson for British prime minister Theresa May says President Trump was wrong to show the videos.

Oh, but the president wasn't done. Later Wednesday he tweeted some unsolicited advice to the prime minister, quote, "Don't focus on me, focus on the destructive radical Islamic terrorism that's taking place within the United Kingdom. We're doing just fine."

Once again the White House is having to defend President Trump's actions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think his goal is to promote strong borders and strong national security.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But is it important to verify these videos before he tweets them?

SANDERS: Look, I think it's important to talk about national security and national security threats.

Whether it's a real video, the threat is real and that is what the president is talking about. That's what the president is focused on, is dealing with those real threats. And those are real, no matter how you look at it.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- fake video?

SANDERS: Look, I'm not taking about the nature of the video. I think you're focusing on the wrong thing. The threat is real and that's what the president is talking about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Joining us now, CNN political commentators, Democratic strategist Dave Jacobson and Republican consultant John Thomas.

John, tell me, do you see anything wrong in what Sarah Sanders said in her defense of the president?

JOHN THOMAS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: First of all, it's her job to defend the president, no matter what.

(CROSSTALK)

VAUSE: -- spokesperson for the White House.

JOHN THOMAS: Yes, but defend the -- that's what spokespeople do, they defend the administration.

VAUSE: But she's employed by the government.

JOHN THOMAS: That's true but --

(CROSSTALK)

VAUSE: We could go on.

JOHN THOMAS: But regardless, look, it was a mistake, there's no question about it.

VAUSE: Well, the tweets or all the defense or both?

JOHN THOMAS: Well, I don't fault her so much for the defense because you're just trying to make lemonade out of lemons in this situation. The retweet shouldn't have been done. But I have to say, look, I've been guilty not of posting, retweeting far right radical stuff but retweeting fake accounts sometimes. Look, the president --

VAUSE: You're not the president.

JOHN THOMAS: -- that's true. The president should have been more cautious and this is the thing that pains me about the president's social media strategy, is it's not a -- vetted through you know multiple offices, the communications department. He just retweets something. He shouldn't have done it and now he's backed himself into a corner.

VAUSE: Dave, let's help John out here because the problem with what Sarah Sanders said, this is an administration which has railed against fake news. Even when a report is not fake news.

So now we have Sarah Sanders saying, it's OK these videos are fake because it's to prove a point which is real. So I guess now what little credibility this White House ever had, it seems she's taken a great big gallon of gasoline, poured it over the credibility and lit it on fire.

DAVE JACOBSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's yet another firestorm that the Trump administration has caused. It's a self-inflicted wound. And I think it's further evidence of the fact that the White House, whether it's Donald Trump or his administration or officials like Sarah Huckabee Sanders, pushing out false or misleading information. It's why "The Washington Post" has consolidated many of these lies -- it's about 1,600-plus -- that the president and his folks have pursued since the president's been inaugurated. It's unprecedented.

VAUSE: I think the 1,500 is just Trump. It averages at 4.8 a day.

So, John, if the White House is OK using fake evidence to prove this point, the threat to the country, what else are they making up?

You know, because it seems what Sarah Sanders is arguing here is that the end justifies the means.

JOHN THOMAS: It was a screw-up, through and through. But the fact is he doesn't -- he doesn't need this video to make the case that radical Islamic terrorism is a serious threat and he's right to Theresa May. They have their own --

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JOHN THOMAS: -- problems over there, not to mention our economy's doing better than theirs, like we're doing better than them on pretty much everything. She should focus on her own house instead our --

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VAUSE: -- of why the president should be lecturing the British prime minister. JACOBSON: I don't even think that's the issue. I don't think that this was a mistake. I think he did this on purpose. I think the president was going into this GOP vote today in the Senate, when it came to the tax bill, and it was a deflection opportunity, a head fake almost for the media to change the narrative because, perhaps the White House thought they weren't going to pass this first step in the Senate, number one.

Number two, on the heels of North Korea's launch yesterday with their intercontinental missile, I think the president looks weak when it comes to foreign policy and perhaps this was an opportunity for him to look like the tough guy.

VAUSE: Well, maybe he liked the videos. Maybe that's all --

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JACOBSON: -- sure, that's option number three potentially.

VAUSE: Even by this administration's standards, the crazy has been off charts this week. According to a number of reports the president is again questioning if Barack Obama was born in the United States. He's questioning now the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape, where he was recorded, saying crude remarks about women and where he grabs them. Same comments which he apologized for at the time.

"The Washington Post" reports this, "Trump has asked others whether they think the voice sounds like him, suggesting that it does not and he has wondered aloud whether perhaps the tape was doctored or edited in an unfair way to villainize him.

"A second person who has discussed the tape with Trump recalled, 'He says, "It's really not me. I don't talk like that."'"

OK. Well, take it from the people at "Access Hollywood."

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let us make this perfectly clear, the tape is very real. Remember, his excuse at the time was "locker room" talk. He said every one of those words.

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VAUSE: John, big picture here, what's going on with the president?

He seems a little unhinged.

JOHN THOMAS: All this stuff is unnamed sources so it's hard for me to comment on the validity of these. But I can see him making these remarks, you know, off, you know, in a backroom. But until I see it in his Twitter feed or in a statement, it's hard for me to respond.

But remember, John, there is at a time when, you know, Republicans, if Roy Moore in Alabama wins, the Republican establishment says he's immediately going to be booted; meanwhile the leader of the Democratic Party is calling all of their predators icons. There really is something staggering going on here.

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VAUSE: Absolutely. OK.

But, again on Wednesday, we heard the president returning to this braying about the last 10 months in office.

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DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will tell you this in a non-braggadocious (sic) way --

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: -- there has never been a 10-month president that has accomplished what we have accomplished, that I can tell you. That I can tell you.

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VAUSE: Robert Mueller (INAUDIBLE) it may in fact been a 10-month long presidency. I guess we'll find out. But, Dave, unless the president is actually talking about tweets and golf, has there been a president who has done less than Donald Trump?

JACOBSON: I don't think so. I mean, he's been an epic failure. And, look, this is just -- this is 1,601 when you go to that "Washington Post" list of the Trump lies. This guy is a pathological liar. I don't think we've ever seen, in the modern day, anybody so unsuccessful as president.

But this is Donald Trump. This is an egotistical maniac who thinks he's the best at everything, so I'm not surprised that he's going out there and creating this facade.

VAUSE: John, don't tell me it's his marketing, that he's selling what he's doing.

JOHN THOMAS: Well, no, I think the president's looking less -- he doesn't have legislation to brag about but he does have consumer confidence being up high, unemployment low, the economy's GDP growth keeps exceeding.

If we get these tax cuts, which I think we will, some people on my side are saying we may hit 4 percent GDP growth. That's something to brag about.

VAUSE: Yes. But the argument you could make is that all Donald Trump, you know, since he took office --

JOHN THOMAS: Yes.

VAUSE: -- Barack Obama gets no credit for the economy, nothing at all? JOHN THOMAS: He gets some credit but I don't -- I mean, it's taken off like a rocket ship since he's taken over. Plus he's appointed a great judge to the Supreme Court. I think he's appointed more judges during his time than Barack Obama or any president. There are some things to brag about.

VAUSE: OK, quickly, let's get back to the tweet to the British prime minister, the one the president fired off a couple of hours ago. Initially he linked it to @Theresa_May. Theresa May Scribner is probably wondering what she did wrong and the British prime minister is @May_Theresa.

Dave, first of all, in Twitter fight club, you have got to get the right name.

(CROSSTALK)

JACOBSON: You would think from the Twitter expert that Donald Trump wouldn't screw something like this up. But I think this is really indicative of the fact that Donald Trump just doesn't know how to, you know, build relationships with allies anywhere around the world.

We've got a special relationship with the U.K. and the fact that Orrin Hatch, a Republican United States senator has to go out and essentially apologize for Donald Trump's behavior is just mind boggling.

VAUSE: Hasn't been a real dispute since, what, President --

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VAUSE: -- Cleveland and Prime Minister (INAUDIBLE) --

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VAUSE: Dave and John, good see to see you both.

SESAY: Well, the British group that first posted the videos Mr. Trump retweeted is rabidly anti-Muslim. Its deputy leader has even been convicted of religious harassment and the man who murdered the British MP reportedly yelled the slogan, "Britain first," though it has been said there is no connection between that man and the group itself.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports from London, where the president's action has left many stunned.

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NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a presidency where extraordinary and baffling is redefined weekly, it still rang an ugly bell. President Trump retweeting violent videos from tweets intended to inspire anti-Muslim hatred, posted by a far right British political group.

All three were originally posted by Jayda Franson, chief deputy leader of Britain First, a fringe political party, who has been convicted of religiously aggravated harassment. Her group often protests the building of mosques in a country barely 5 percent of which is Muslim.

She complains of frequent run-ins with the police and films them avidly.

WALSH: What's been most remarkable is this isn't really a group people have heard of much. They're the obscure angry fringe of nationalism here. About 80 percent of Britons, according to one poll, think Donald Trump's bad for America, yet even his detractors have been stunned that he would choose to promote and give oxygen to radical views like this.

WALSH (voice-over): Remarkably, the British prime minister's spokesman said the retweeting was, quote, "wrong," and that Britain First seeks to divide communities through their use of hateful narratives which peddle lies and stoke tensions.

One lawmaker suggested President Trump should cancel his delayed visit here. Most poignantly the widower of murdered lawmaker Jo Cox condemned the president's retweets for spreading hatred.

His wife's disturbed killer reportedly shouted "Britain first," as he stabbed the mother of two.

BRENDAN COX, WIDOWER OF JO COX: I think when you see hatred in any form, when you've been the victim of that hatred and that hatred has changed every element of your life, it's horrific.

But when you see that hatred being espoused by somebody who is the president of the U.K.'s closest ally, it feels surreal, frankly. It feels like something that shouldn't happen. It feels like there should be some mechanism to stop those things from happening. It feels like there should be some accountability.

But I think that we know enough now about this president, that this is how he operates. It's not a mistake, it's a strategy.

WALSH (voice-over): A casual flick of the smartphone in the early hours with outsized and real facing on the other side of the world, leaving nobody the wiser -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.

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SESAY: Well with me now, European affairs commentator Dominic Thomas and Omar Noureldin, the vice president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Gentlemen, welcome to you both.

Omar, if I could start with you. The president's retweeting of these anti-Muslim videos is being held up by some as proof of his anti- Muslim stance, as prove of Islamophobia.

What's your read of what happened?

OMAR NOURELDIN, MUSLIM PUBLIC AFFAIRS COUNCIL: Well, I think what's different today is that, in previous policies and statements that the president made, there was always some sort of pretext for the reason, whether it's national security or immigration or our Christian ideals as a nation.

Here there was no pretext. There was a retweet of anti-Muslim propaganda that was put out there by a virulent anti-Muslim group in the U.K. So here, there's no pretext. This is really the president's genuinely held beliefs, for the world to see without any couching.

SESAY: To those who say maybe he didn't know what the group was about, does that matter to you?

NOURELDIN: I don't think -- when you're the President of the United States, you're held to a higher standard and to say that he didn't know what the group was about or what these videos was about, the guy -- the guy knows what he's doing.

And this is part of a deliberate tactic against Muslims, against immigrants, against African Americans, against the LGBT community. What the president is trying to do is sow fear, fearmonger and create divisions in the country.

SESAY: Dominic, to bring you in, the group behind this, these images, the far right, you know, Britain First bunch, if you will, they spout a kind of religious nationalism.

Where does that come from?

What is it borne out of?

DOMINIC THOMAS, CHAIR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF FRENCH & FRANCOPHONE STUDIES, UCLA, CALIFORNIA: Well, the group itself is an outgrowth of the BNP, the British National Party, a far right extremist nationalist party, you could argue a nativist party, in the language of today.

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DOMINIC THOMAS: But essentially its goals are to harass Muslims, to spread false news about the ways in which Britain is moving toward sharia law and so on and, as they themselves claim, to restore Christianity to the United Kingdom.

So it's this construct of a kind of unbroken tradition, a religious tradition linked to whiteness, linked to national identity that unfortunately has a history but has also gained currency in recent years.

SESAY: The irony, I find, in having a religious nationalism of returning it to Christian ideals, bear in mind the U.K. is fiercely secular. So the complete contrast to the U.S., religion doesn't really hold that much currency in that country.

DOMINIC THOMAS: Right. But its proved to be in this videos, proved to be highly divisive tools. I think what's interesting about them is that, first of all, when one retweets, one endorses. That's an issue. Secondly, when one retweets, one retweets things that one has found some kind of satisfaction, provocation and so on. And the big question would be, what is it about those particular videos, these sort of horrendous representations, propagandist representations of Muslims that appeals to Donald Trump's perception of Muslims?

And this is not the first time that this has happened. This cannot be construed as an innocent retweet.

This to be inscribed in a much longer history of Islamophobic statements, racist statements and so on, some of which also took place in the context of the U.K. where he found and took upon himself to insult the mayor of London, who happens to be a Muslim and an ethnic minority.

SESAY: I want to bring Omar back in, because the reaction in the U.K. was swift. Politicians from across the aisle of all stripes were swift and they condemned the president's actions, including obviously the prime minister's office as we know and the foreign secretary Boris Johnson. Let's put up his tweet.

He said, "Britain First is a divisive, hateful group, whose views are not in line in our values. The U.K. has a proud history as an open, tolerant society and hate speech has no place here."

As we've made the point, the president doubled down, tweeting back at Theresa May. Just to remind our viewers, this is what he said.

"Theresa May, don't focus on me, focus on the destructive radical Islamic terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine."

Omar, what is the end game here?

So, I mean, OK, he's framing Islam as this encroaching threat, this danger supposedly to wipe out Western civilization.

What is his end game, other than separating communities?

Where does it go?

Where does it end up?

NOURELDIN: Before I get to that, I just want to say it's a sad day when you have both the British prime minister, who's head of the Conservative Party, and the opposition leader, head of the Labour Party, both equally condemning the President of the United States while he's being praised by a former Ku Klux Klan leader. That's a sad day for America.

But to answer your question, the end game is to wage an ideological war between the West and Islam. This is something that Stephen Bannon, when he was part of the Trump administration, said plainly. He said it before he was part of the administration, he said it afterwards.

And the idea is that they want to frame this as a kind of existential threat to the United States, to what they believe the United States is, as a Christian nation because, when you look at the actual numbers, Muslims are less than 1 percent of the United States. There is no credible existential threat here.

SESAY: Dominic, what does this kind of attention to Britain First mean for this group and for these ideas in Europe, this kind of nationalism, this kind of retreating, if you will?

DOMINIC THOMAS: As we know -- and elections have reflected the ways in which so many of these views have been mainstreamed in the past year, whether it's the Dutch elections, the German elections, the French elections.

And so it's extraordinarily dangerous to engage in this kind of polemic, which is essentially the oxygen upon which these far right populist, extremist, nativist radical groups, whatever it is that we're going to call it, feed.

And Donald Trump's speech in Poland very much echoed what Omar just mentioned, the sort of civilizationalist (sic) conflict that is at stake. And it's extremely difficult then for Europe in general, that is trying to reaffirm its commitment to liberal democratic values, to come up against this leader who is, of course, an important Atlantic partner for Theresa May.

And to be focusing on these kinds of questions that reap sort of divisiveness in these societies.

SESAY: Omar, to give you the last word, you referenced David Duke, the former KKK leader --

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SESAY: -- I want to put up the tweet he posted after the president took his course of action, putting out these anti-Muslim images.

He says, "Trump retweets videos of crippled white kid in Europe being beaten by migrants and white people being thrown off a roof and then beaten to death. He's condemned for showing us what the fake news media won't. Thank God for Trump, that's why we love him."

Yes, well, the videos, we can go into and how, you know, we've done the research and they're not what they claim to be, at least it's not the full story, first of all, the issue of the crutches and in the Netherlands, that wasn't a migrant, he was born in the Netherlands and we don't know enough about the other two.

But be that as it may, let me just ask you this, Omar, what are the real world consequences, here in the United States, of the president's words, his actions?

NOURELDIN: Well, words matter. The president has hugely important symbolic power, the bully pulpit of the White House. And the FBI data that was released just a few weeks ago on hate crimes in 2016, the largest single increase percentage wise was hate crisis against Muslims, a 19 percent increase from 2015 to 2016. So words do have consequences. We saw Dianne Feinstein, ranking

member of Senate Judiciary, link this rhetoric to the hate crimes data. So it's no longer something that's just pie-in-the-sky type stuff.

SESAY: It's quite the day when, again, David Duke is praising you and this country's closest allies are shaking their heads in disbelief.

Dominic Thomas, Omar Noureldin, thank you so much for the conversation, an important one. Thank you.

NOURELDIN: Thank you.

VAUSE: A stark warning from the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. after North Korea's latest missile launch, Nikki Haley accused Pyongyang of bringing the world closer to war and if there is a war, she says, the regime will be utterly destroyed.

The U.N. Security Council strongly condemned the launch of the ICBM, while the U.S. president unexpectedly insulted the North Korean leader during a speech on tax reform.

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TRUMP: These massive tax cuts will be rocket fuel --

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TRUMP: -- little rocket man -- rocket fuel for the American economy.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: He a sick puppy.

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VAUSE: Live to Seoul and Paula Newton.

So Paula, I guess we now know he North Koreans were being honest when they boasted this was a new type of ICBM with some big advances in technology.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, if we look at the difference between the Hwasong 14 and the Hwasong 15, the still pictures just came out, John, and the policy wonks and the scientists are poring over them.

And it showed exactly what you just said, this is a big development in terms of the actual missile itself. It does seem like the warhead is much larger, perhaps being able to take a heavier payload but also advances in certainly the system, which brings it to the launch pad and also great advances in the actual engine itself.

It is quite crucial. And you know, it was so interesting, John, you'd find this funny in terms if you're going -- I was going through some of the websites that have been analyzing some of these pictures. And believe me, this is going on by the hour because they will get so much detail on what exactly the North is capable of.

But they just stopped forever a second all of these analyses and just said, that's one bleeping big missile. This has been a huge leap for North Korea.

VAUSE: Yes. That's one thing that lay people can understand, it's a big missile. OK, Paula, we appreciate the update. Thank you.

NEWTON: Yes.

SESAY: We're going to take a quick break.

The pope celebrates his final mass in Yangon before heading to Bangladesh to meet with refugees. A recap of his time in Myanmar -- next.

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SESAY: Hello, everyone.

Pope Francis is heading to Bangladesh in the coming hour after three days in Myanmar. A short time ago he celebrated mass with (INAUDIBLE) from around the country.

VAUSE: Reported, though, faced some criticism for what he did not say. No mention of the Rohingya by name and no mention of the humanitarian crisis they are facing. Many hoped he would denounce the military crackdown on the Rohingya. The government there refuses to even use the word "Rohingya."

But the pope was warned that if he did, the Muslim minority as well as the Christians in Myanmar would face a violent backlash.

SESAY: CNN Vatican correspondent Delia Gallagher joins us now. She's traveling with the pope in Myanmar.

Delia, great to have you with us. This was always going to be a high- risk trip for the pope. In the words of Reverend Thomas J. Reed (ph), he basically said the pope risked either compromising his moral authority or putting in danger the Catholics in that country.

So what's the view in how he did?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Sometimes, Isha, on these trips, it takes a while to actually see what the long-term effect of a pope visit can be. Certainly the expectation going in on the part of the Vatican wasn't for any kind of immediate solution.

It was a question of meeting face-to-face and opening up a dialogue with religious leaders, with political leaders and, indeed, on that front, Pope Francis did that. He met also with the head military leader of the country in a private meeting.

So certainly, from that perspective, I think the Vatican would say they've accomplished what they wanted to do, which is come here and try to encourage the people here in a path for peace.

Now on the point of whether the pope risked his moral authority by not mentioning the Rohingya crisis, the Vatican spokesman yesterday said to us that he rejected that criticism, that he said the pope will not -- his moral authority would not be diminished and he said further, let's see what he does in Bangladesh.

And of course in Bangladesh, where we'll be going in about an hour's time, the pope is due on Friday to meet with a group of Rohingya refugees -- Isha.

SESAY: All right, Delia Gallagher, traveling with the pope, who's currently in Myanmar about to make his way to Bangladesh, appreciate it, thank you.

VAUSE: The biggest name in Brexit television in the U.S. has been fired. NBC's Matt Lauer accused of sexual harassment on Monday, gone without a trace by Wednesday. But questions remain about what management there may have known long before now.

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VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody, NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour:

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VAUSE: New allegations of sexual misconduct by a top U.S. journalist Matt Lauer have been emerging just hours after NBC News abruptly fired him for, quote, "inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace."

SESAY: Lauer is the latest personality to be disgraced by a sexual scandal. He's making tens of millions of dollars a year and was one of the network's stars on his highly rated morning show before his dismissal on Wednesday. Our Brian Stelter has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Good morning, breaking news overnight. Matt Lauer has been terminated NBC News.

BRIAN STELTER, CNNMONEY SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Matt Lauer fired from NBC News for what the network calls "inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace."

New bombshell allegations breaking tonight. After a two-month investigation, three women telling "Variety" magazine they were harassed by Lauer. One says the veteran "Today" show anchor gave her a sex toy and detailed how he wanted to use it on her.

Another employee says he exposed himself in his office and reprimanded her for not engaging in a sexual act.

CNN has not independently confirmed "Variety's" reporting. The allegations came hours after Lauer's stunned co-host, Savannah Guthrie, delivered the news of his firing following a separate complaint.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: And we just learned this moments ago, just this morning, as I'm sure you can imagine, we are devastated. And we are still processing all of this.

STELTER (voice-over): The big question now is who knew what, when. "Variety" quoted staffers, who said they tried to alert executives about Lauer's behavior.

In response, NBC says, "We can say unequivocally that, prior to Monday night, current NBC News management was never made aware of any complaints about Matt Lauer's conduct."

On Monday night, a female NBC employee and her attorney met with NBC HR and detailed, quote, "egregious acts of sexual harassment and misconduct."

The network investigated and decided to fire him less than 24 hours later.

Guthrie, his cohost of the past five years, found out overnight.

GUTHRIE: I'm heartbroken for Matt. He's my dear, dear friend and my partner and he is being left by many, many people here. And I'm heartbroken for the brave colleague, who came forward to tell her story and any other women who have their own stories to tell.

STELTER (voice-over): That accuser is remaining anonymous, as are the women in the "Variety" magazine account.

NBC has known for weeks that these damaging stories were coming. In a staff memo, NBC News chief Andy Lack alluded to this, saying "We were also presented with reason to believe that this may not have been a isolated incident."

For now, NBC's handling of the Monday complaint against Lauer is getting praise from the accuser's attorney.

He writes, "Our impression at this point is that NBC acted quickly and responsibly. It is our hope that NBC will continue do what it can to repair the damage done to my client, their employee and any other women who may come forward."

Now the floodgates may just be opening, even as Lauer's former morning show family tries to move on.

AL ROKER, NBC NEWS HOST: We're still dealing with the news of a friend of 30 years and we're all trying to process it.

GUTHRIE: We are grappling with a dilemma that so many people have faced these past few weeks.

How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: And Brian is with us now from New York.

OK. Let's start with the floodgates, "The New York Times" is reporting in the last couple of hours that NBC has received more complaints relating to Lauer, including one from --

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VAUSE: -- a former employee, who said Mr. Lauer had summoned her to his office in 2001 and then had sex with her. She provided her account to "The New York Times" but declined to let her name be used. She told "The Times" that she felt helpless because she didn't want to lose her job and that she didn't report the encounter at the time because she felt ashamed.

This fits a pattern that we have heard time and time again.

But, Brian, right now it would seem the big question here is, how bad will this get for Lauer?

And how bad will it get for NBC?

STELTER: For NBC, there are many questions about who knew what when. And if employees had these awful encounters, these alleged incidents of harassment and assault and they didn't feel they could report it to HR, to their bosses, why not?

You know, this is some -- in some ways structural. There are cultural issues here, and it's not just at NBC. These questions have been raised at other media companies and other types of companies as well about whether these are workplaces where women and men, anyone who feels they've been harassed or assaulted or worse, are able to come forward.

VAUSE: The reporting by "Variety" has some incredible details of the allegations against him. There's one paragraph about his office, which was in a secluded space; he had a button under his desk that allowed him to lock his door from the inside without getting up. This afforded him the assurance of privacy.

It allowed him to welcome female employees and initiate inappropriate contact while knowing nobody could walk in on him.

If that is true, does it bring into question NBC denials that, you know, the management knew nothing -- you know, who installed that creepy lock?

Who assigned him that secluded office space?

STELTER: Yes, this could be innocent or it could be something more than that. The innocent explanation is that others at NBC also have this kind of locking mechanism. You might want it in your office as a security measure, for example.

The more disturbing version of this is that he would use this lock in order to have complete privacy when he was speaking with female employees. Certainly one of the allegations here about this 2001 incident involving sex in his office is that he used the button in order to lock the door, in order to ensure no one would walk in.

So there's more to come on this, I think, John. NBC is probably going to have to answer about this. But I do want to be clear, other executives at the network apparently have the same kind of locking mechanism, not just Lauer.

VAUSE: OK, good point. Two months ago Lauer grilled the former FOX News host, Bill O'Reilly. He was the one-time king of cable news. He was also fired for sexual harassment. Here's part of the interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT LAUER, FORMER NBC HOST: You were the guy that the ratings and the revenues were built on, you cried that on your shoulders for a lot of years.

So doesn't it seem safe to assume that the people at FOX News were given a piece of information or given some evidence that simply made it impossible for you to stay on at FOX News?

BILL O'REILLY, FORMER FOX NEWS HOST: That's a false assumption.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Knowing what we know now, oh, boy, the irony.

STELTER: You're absolutely right about that. O'Reilly has been trying to mount a comeback, he was viewing this interview with Lauer as part of a way to get back on TV and get a new job. It didn't go very well for O'Reilly.

But now you look at Lauer's questions and some of the exact same questions he was asking of O'Reilly need to be asked of him. I don't know if Lauer will ever give an interview and talk about this.

But certainly the power dynamics, the issues involving secrecy and privacy and questions about whether the company backed him up and helped protect him, all of that now applies to Lauer.

There's been this issue with a bunch of different companies, movie studios, newsrooms, about whether colleagues looked the other way, whether management didn't want to know what was going on. That was certainly an issue for O'Reilly. And it's now a question about Lauer as well.

VAUSE: What of the options here for replacing Lauer?

Do they go with like for like, knowing that formula works?

Or do they kind of make a bold statement, they decide to go with an all-women team on camera?

STELTER: That's certainly being talked about. It's one possibility. I think we might see Hoda Kotb, who is an all-purpose player, on the all different hours of the "Today" show have more of a role at 7:00 am, right next to Savannah Guthrie.

The show has a long-term challenge but also a short-term challenge of just what do in the coming days. This is really an unprecedented situation for morning TV in the United States.

We've got an open anchor job on CBS because Charlie Rose was fired last week. Now this open job on the "Today" show on NBC because Lauer was fired. I think that's an unprecedented situation.

And then the more important piece of this is that we're at this historic tipping point, where women do feel more empowered to come forward than they did 10 or 20 years ago.

And you see these female cohosts in this really awkward situation, where they're having to say, their friend, their colleague has been charged, has been accused of wrongdoing. They feel for that colleague. At the same time, they want to create a comfortable --

[00:40:00]

STELTER: -- environment for their colleagues, for women in more places, to feel they're able to come forward. We've seen Savannah Guthrie, Gayle King, Norah O'Donnell, all trying to walk this very difficult line. And this story isn't going away anytime soon.

VAUSE: It was a jaw-dropping moment, to say the least. Brian, as always, thank you so much.

STELTER: Thanks.

SESAY: So what else comes out?

VAUSE: Yes.

(INAUDIBLE), I guess.

SESAY: Yes.

Let's take a quick break. Our shocking report of human slave auctions in Libya provokes outrage and action. What one U.S. congresswoman is doing. That's next.

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SESAY: Hello, everyone.

A U.S. congresswoman is taking action after CNN's disturbing report of human slave action auctions in Libya.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One by one men are brought out as the bidding begins - 400, 500, 550, 600.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Well, Nima Elbagir's exclusive report has prompted Democrat Karen Bass of California to introduce a resolution into the U.S. House on Thursday, expected to condemn the slave trading, calling for the international community to take immediate and meaningful action.

SESAY: This after Libyan media tried to discredit CNN International's credibility by citing a tweet from President Donald Trump. CNN stands by the accuracy, fairness and objectivity of Nima's reporting.

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

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