Return to Transcripts main page


Brexit Talks Made it to First Phase of Negotiations; Firefighters Working Non-Stop to Contain California Wildfires; Trump's Israel Declaration Spark Violence; More Lawmakers' Misconduct Revealed to Public. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired December 8, 2017 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe we have now the breakthrough to leave.


GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: After days of intense negotiations from deadlock to breakthrough, the U.K. and the European Commission have an agreement.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Demonstrations across the Middle East and beyond after the U.S. president's controversial declaration on Jerusalem. And there are calls for more protest today.

HOWELL: High winds and tough terrain the challenges facing the firefighters as they battle to contain the massive wildfires in Southern California. Wow.

ALLEN: Thank you for joining us. I'm Natalie Allen. This is CNN Newsroom.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. From CNN world headquarters, News starts right now.

ALLEN: Our top story. A breakthrough on Brexit just this past hour that was announced the European Commission says sufficient progress has been made to move on to round two of talks.

HOWELL: All right. The next phase will be challenging. The negotiations ahead to discuss trade and security. The British Prime Minister Theresa May flew to Brussels just a short time ago to announce to deal with the European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

ALLEN: Mrs. May scrambled all week after an earlier deal was derailed because of issues surrounding the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. But Mrs. May says they have reached a compromise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: In Northern Ireland, we'll guarantee there will be no hard border. And we will uphold the Belfast agreement. And in doing so, we will continue to preserve the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom.

We have taken this week, time this week to strengthen and clarify this part of the agreement following discussions with unionists in Northern Ireland and across the U.K.


ALLEN: Let's dig deep into this. CNN producer Bianca Nobilo joins us now live from 10 Downing Street in London. Bianca, can you feel a sense of relief there in number 10 Downing Street over this breakthrough?

BIANCA NOBILO, PRODUCER, CNN: I can. I spoke to a Downing Street spokesperson a few moments ago, and there is a sense of relief. And that relief will extend to the U.K., Ireland, the E.U., and of course businesses who have a bit more confidence now going forward.

This announcement came after talks were derailed earlier in the week on Monday over the issue of Northern Ireland. And last night into the early hours, there was flurry of meeting in Westminster in Whitehall, which is just behind me where I'm standing.

And those were the last part of the negotiations before the prime minister felt like she had done enough to be able to travel back to Brussels early this morning have that private meeting with Jean-Claude Juncker, the E.U. commission president, and then make that statement. That sufficient progress had been made and now they can move into phase two of the negotiations.

ALLEN: Well, Theresa May certainly has her challenges with her own government. This is to some degree strengthen her?

NOBILO: To some degree at the moment. We need to wait because as you mentioned this has just happed. We need to wait to see what the reaction is going to from her party, but certainly from her cabinet who you would expect to support her.

There's been a strong response. The chancellor has said he's delighted by the deal, and her health secretary has also said he thought it was a great feat and that it was a good achievement for the prime minister.

What she does need to watch out for are the Brexiteers within her own party. Those are the M.P's that are pushing for a harder Brexit. And there's some indication today because of a form of continued jurisdiction for the European court of justice that they might resist that.

However, Downing Street is assuring me that that continued ECJ oversight will be voluntary, it will be temporary and narrowly defined. So that should help appease them but we'll be keeping an eye on that reaction from the British media and from t British politicians this morning, Natalie.

ALLEN: All right. Bianca Nobilo there from 10 Downing Street. Thank you. For more now, here's George.

HOWELL: All right. As we said a big sticking point stalling negotiations was the issue regarding the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Let's go now live to Diana Magnay following the story for us live in Belfast this hour. Diana, it's good to have you with us. The Democratic Unionist Party made it very clear they would not be on board with any deal that led to a hard border. The prime minister making it very clear there will be no hard border. So what is the reaction?

DIANA MAGNAY, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, the DUP were very clear that a, they didn't want a hard border, because of course, trade between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is very important for both parties.

[03:05:03] And that they wanted to make sure that there was no compromise of the economic constitutional integrity of the U.K., of Great Britain, and Northern Ireland. They were very fearful that maintaining north-south cooperation might compromise east-west cooperation, if you will.

And clearly what Theresa Maya has managed to do through this whole week of painstaking negotiations, and overnight phone calls between the DUP and herself is to get some kind wording in this 15-page special report that placates them and allows us to move on to the next phase, sufficient progress made. Those very magic words.

But it's clear that the DUP isn't entirely happy. They've issued a statement this morning saying, OK, we're OK with the progress that has been made, that the U.K.'s constitutional integrity will be respected, that there will no hard border.

But we did caution the prime minister against -- about moving on with this, having listened to the concern of some of her right wing Brexiteers, but that it was imperative that the prime minister did move forward.

I mean, clearly the DUP didn't want to be holding up her talks any longer. But they said, you know, we will watch what a final deal looks like and we will vote accordingly at the end of the day. So, I mean, there is a significant degree of caution when you read between the lines of the DUP's statement.

But of course, the DUP is a very, very small player, they're propping up Theresa May's minority government. They have their moment in the spotlight this week. And I think they've realized that they cannot scuffle this whole deal. And that's why they have agreed that things can go ahead now. George?

HOWELL: All right. Diana, and of course, to our viewers we want to let them know that we are monitoring for a statement of some sort of, possibly appearance given this announcement of course from the prime minister of the Republic of Ireland. We'll bring that to you as we get that.

Diana Magnay, thank you for the reporting there in Belfast. We'll stay in touch with you.

ALLEN: Well, joining us now on the line to talk more about this development is Roland Vogt, assistant professor of European studies at the University of Hong Kong. Mr. Vote, thank you for talking with us. Help us break this down. They cleared a hurdle. This was in the first phase, what is the significance here?

ROLAND VOGT, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF EUROPEAN STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG: I think it's a very welcome breakthrough that will ease the next few months, the negotiations will come over the next months, because as your previous guests have already said, part of figuring out the exact nature of the trade arrangement between the U.K. and the E.U. and also between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is actually incumbent on trade deal that needs to be signed first.

So we need to move into that kind of negotiations. And I think this is a very positive step forward. I think we also need to see from the point of the European Union, it is not in their interest not to move forward. Ultimately, they want to come as closely as possible as a win-win situation and not having a deal to the United Kingdom will be bad for both sides.

So I think that kind of compromise formula since have been found now at least it enables the pathway to open, to actually flesh out a deal that addresses how exactly the Irish border will be managed and what kind of arrangement will be put in place to make sure that the trade continues to flow not only on Ireland but also between the U.K. and the E.U.

ALLEN: Well, as you say yes, it's important to come up with a compromise situations where they can some to a compromise. They've got much work ahead of them and trade will be a big one security.

What do you think about the next stage and what will be hurdles there?

VOGT: Well, first and foremost, one of the precious from that have been taken from Theresa May which was coming from the city of London and of course, the business sector in the U.K. that have been really pushing her to come up with some sort of compromised arrangement now that would enable a traditional arrangement to be negotiated with the E.U.

This is now something much more likely. They've been pressing Theresa May very hardly on this. On security the situation is slightly different. The U.K. plays a very important role in the European security architecture, and the E.U. is very -- all the E.U. 27 member states are very keen for Britain to participate in any future European security arrangement.

So, I think we will see more leeway on security. On trade I think we will see a bit of stiffening of the E.U. position because they've notice that basically Britain or at least Prime Minister May has basically agreed to all the E.U. demands. So I think on the trade issues we will see that Brussels will play hardball.

[03:10:00] ALLEN: And what about the Brexiteers, will they play hardball moving forward, what is she up against with that situation?

VOGT: Well, for them that's a very difficult situation. Because so fa, in United Kingdom ordinary Britt have not felt anything from Brexit. There's nothing has really happened. Nothing has really changed in their day-to-day lives.

But I think just looking forward, I think people will have to be told some very uncomfortable truths. Brexit will cost money. Brexit will have economic downsides. Brexit will make the situation in Ireland more complex. Brexit will also trigger some full of constitutional challenge, if not a crisis inside the United Kingdom.

Earlier, one of your earlier guests spoke about what Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales and even the city of London have now voiced concerns about what kind of arrangement they make. And this will all have to be addressed in the future. That will make the position of Brexiteers more difficult, because they will have to answer now how they are going to solve these problems.

You know, it's nice to say that well, even one day withdraw. But now these issues are really becoming apparent and need a tangible solution.

ALLEN: We thank you for your expertise and thank you for your comment well invoke for us. Thank you, Roland.

Another story we're following, security personnel keeping a wary eye on the Middle East and the possibility that after Friday prayers could come violent Friday protests.

HOWELL: Right. It comes after the U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Palestinian factions are calling for three days of rage in response to that announcement.

It was already a violent day on Thursday. Israeli security forces used water cannons, they used tear gas and rubber bullets to quell the protests.

ALLEN: Dozens of people were injured in the West Bank and Gaza where protesters burned tires, as well as U.S. and Israeli flags. The leader of Hamas called for a new Intifada saying the peace process was quote, "buried forever."

And he called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to boycott the Trump administration. Other protests erupted across the region, including in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.

HOWELL: Let's go live now to CNN's Nic Robertson outside the Damascus gate entrance to Jerusalem's old city. Nic, it's good to have you with us this hour. Of course, Hamas has called for mass protests. The big question now,

though, what will happen come noon there your time, the noon prayers? What's the mood on the streets as far as you've seen?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, there has been concern that the Friday prayers here could provide a flash point for a confrontation between Palestinians and the Israeli police.

So far it seems that hasn't happen. The protests that were here at this gate yesterday were nonviolent. There was a crowd maybe just a little more than 100 or so of people that was pushing and shoving with the police, but it didn't come to anything last night. The police spokesman told me they were evaluating the situation today to see what their security presence would be.

They do have additional security around the old city of Jerusalem. However, they're not putting an age restriction or any restrictions on people wanting to attend Friday prayers here. If they had done that that would have been -- it would have been seen as a potential for rising tensions, and therefore a potential for a clash erupting out of that.

So at the moment, we have tourists coming in and out. The market stores inside the old city there, as I was walking around before they were shuttered yesterday. Today they're open. It feels relatively calm. There is a small police presence that we can see but people are able to come and go towards the mosque as they please.

So at the moment, the indications here at least are that the situation is calm. One community activist, Palestinian community activist from the old city here did say that he was expecting some protest after the prayers.

HOWELL: OK. So, Nic, you say a small security presence. You say things seem pretty calm as of now. Good to know that. Of course, we'll see how that plays out in the coming hours.

I want to ask you this, as far as the broader context of this, Nic. So the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson he said recently the United States is still committed to the peace process and to the possibility of a two-state solution, still viable. But that statement on the face of it, how do Palestinian leaders see that? Do they believe that to be the case, and what about Israelis that you've spoken to, leaders?

ROBERTSON: Well, President Trump also said that, you know, that he was open to a two-state solution if what suits both sides here. You know, what the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after -- when he spoke after President Trump, he said that nothing changes on the ground here that all faiths would have access to their places of worship here.

[03:14:57] So, the message from both the Israelis and from the White House and from the State Department was of course, it was Secretary Tillerson, is that the possibility of peace talks along the two-state solution exist. However, we have very strong condemnation coming from senior Palestinian negotiators, people like Saeb Erekat who've been in negotiations for decades to try and achieve peace there who said that President Trump made the worst decision of his life, that this completely shut down the possibility of negotiations for a two-state solution.

People have criticized Palestinian authority President Mahmoud Abbas for not being strong enough in his condemnation of President Trump. There is a feeling that the mood on the streets here will dictate to the politicians what their latitude to move is.

So in a way, you really have to wait for the next few days to see what happens to know if Israeli sticks to get back to that. But some people I was talking here too yesterday protesters here to show not only their anger at President Trump but their disappointment with their own leadership which telling me they think, you know, 25 years since the Oslo peace accords, the idea of a two-state solution, they feel that's been gone.

They feel that they need a new and different leadership to give new and different ideas. So, you know, the idea of peace talks isn't gone. And at the moment, you know, from the U.S. side, if not from the Palestinian side and the Israeli side that two-state solutions still remain an option.

HOWELL: All right. Our international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, live for us in Jerusalem. Nic, thanks for the reporting. We'll stay in touch with you.

ALLEN: Firefighters in California are working around the clock to contain the destructive wildfires. Still to come here, we'll show you why dry conditions and fierce wind are creating such a dangerous situation.


ALLEN: The pictures are just incredible.

HOWELL: Powerful.

ALLEN: Yes. Imagine being there. We're following -- continue to follow the breaking news in Southern California where more than 190,000 residents, 190,000 are now under mandatory evacuation orders, as half a dozen wildfires blaze over more than 57,000 hectares. The number of buildings destroyed is around 500.

There's thousands of firefighters who work around the clock to try to control that.

HOWELL: Look at this. I mean, you see how intense these fires are. Officials says the dry conditions there the fierce winds those are exacerbating the situation. The largest fire located in Ventura County is now more than twice the size of Washington, D.C.

Our Paul Vercammen is in La Conchita with more on these raging fires. [03:19:57] PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Long night after long night after long night in Ventura County that's where the Thomas fires started. It is a monster, 115,000 acres burned. That's equivalent of the size of Orlando and Seattle combined.

And they reveal the devastating numbers, about 439 houses destroyed, another 85 damaged. There are some 2500 firefighters on the lines here and they come from as far away from Oregon as you can see the crews behind me.

They have been able to hold, I'm in La Conchita right now, the line on the northwest flank of this fire. We saw them using hand crews, bulldozers and some very, very skilled set backfires to make a pretty big break between, basically between Ventura County line and the Santa Barbara County line near the city of Carpinteria.

They are all just crossing their fingers tonight because with so many nights this week the firefighters and others would think that perhaps those devil winds those Santa Ana had died down. But they would whip up again and cause all sorts of other misery. Reporting from La Conchita, I'm Paul Vercammen. Now back to you.

ALLEN: Yes, we'll continue to have more on the fires and how they're doing trying to shut them down there later in this hour.

Well, U.S. lawmakers appeared to have staved off a government shutdown. The House and Senate voted for a short term spending bill on Thursday. It will keep the U.S. government running for another two weeks, but they still need a long term bill.

HOWELL: President Donald Trump met with top lawmakers to try and make that happen. Democrats say they are willing to make a deal, but they do have demands. Major sticking point is the future of DACA, the program that gives temporary protection to undocumented migrants who arrived in the United States as children.

Here in the United States, the U.S. Senator Al Franken says that he is stepping down. Several women have accused the democrat of sexual misconduct, and lawmakers from his own party called on him to resign.

He denies some of the accusations but it's hard to deny pictures like the image that you here. It appears to show him reaching there you see Leeann Tweeden. She alleges that Franken forcibly and kissed and groped her in 2006.

Here is what Franken said Thursday about some of the accusations.


SEN. AL FRANKEN, (D), MINNESOTA: Over the last few weeks a number of women have come forward to talk about how they felt my actions had affected them. I was shocked. I was upset.

Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others I remember very differently.


ALLEN: And late Thursday, U.S. House republican Trent Franks announced he is resigning as the House ethics committee investigates the Arizona congressman for alleged sexual harassment.

In a statement, Franks says he will leave Congress January 31st and also said he has never physically intimidated, coerced, or had any sexual contact with any of his staff.

Let's bring Caitlin Huey-Burns to talk about all that's happening on Capitol Hill right now. She's a national political reporter for Real Clear Politics. Caitlin, thanks for being with us.


ALLEN: So let's start with Mr. Franken. Dozens of democratic senators spoke out to tell the senator he should go, and with that they are losing one of their own in the Senate. But you have said democrats face more reward than risk in pushing Mr. Franken. Now explain how that helps.

HUEY-BURNS: Right. Democrats were facing this issue of special election in Alabama of course coming up next week, where the republican Roy Moore is facing harassment and assault allegations. And a lot of republicans were saying well, democrats have an issue, too.

And so democrats moved to push Franken out last week or earlier this week, I should say, John Conyers and other democrat under fire for allegations of sexual assault, as well. He announced his resignation. With Franken today, democrats are making clear that they are setting a bar here.

They are trying to put the spotlight back on republicans and saying look, we cleared our house of these issues so far. What are you going to do about the issues on your side of the aisle?

Now, a lot of people don't want to make this a political issue. But because this is Congress, because this is happening in campaigns, this has become a big issue on Capitol Hill. And members of Congress have been under fire for lagging in their response to sexual assault claims, especially compared to those in other industries, which have seen pretty swift action when it comes to holding those accountable.

ALLEN: And there's another. The House ethics committee announced Thursday it's investigating republican Congressman Blake Farenthold. There are allegations he sexually harassed members of his staff.

[03:25:04] Do you think his colleagues will call him out and pressure yet another to resign?

HUEY-BURNS: Well, it will be very interesting to see whether this pressure ramps up. You only have at this point two republican women who are calling for his resignation and no others at this point.

I do think however, that the way in which this has all progressed this week, I think you will start to see more members come out and pressure him to resign.

What's interesting about his case is that he made the settlement with a former staffer using taxpayer funds. That raises a lot of alarm bells naturally. Republicans had defended him by saying that the Office of Congressional Ethics had already looked into this claim and found nothing of it.

However, I don't think that answer is going to sit well with other members of Congress, especially now that you've had two resignations this week so far.

ALLEN: Right. And those taxpayer funded payoffs have been investigated for sure and are being investigated.


ALLEN: Well, we heard from Senator Bernie Sanders a little earlier, the former presidential candidate, he says, the president, Mr. Trump is part of the problem. Here he is.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (D), VERMONT: You have a president, who on tape, a tape that everybody in America has seen, acknowledge basically, that he was assaulting women, and well over a dozen women have made that complaint. And what happens to him? He says no. That's OK. I think that's an issue we have to deal with.


ALLEN: Yes, but no one was really dealing with that issue, are they?

HUEY-BURNS: Right. And the White House was asked about this today. Spokeswomen Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying that look, there was an election. These allegations were out there during the election. Donald Trump won that election, of course.

I do think it's notable, though, that we've seen a real shift in public opinion just over the past two months or so, this all really started with the Harvey Weinstein story and has really shown across industries, across this country that this is a pervasive issue this issue of sexual assault and harassment.

Congress is now having to deal with it, and a lot of people are raising questions of course about the accountability aspect when it comes to politicians.

Now republicans are saying on Capitol Hill that look, they can only look after their members at this point. I think you're going see a lot of democrats now start to talk again about the president who faces, of course multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault.

Again, with Franken's departure, I think democrats are trying to claim what moral high ground here. You'll hear a lot more from them, but you know, it remains to be seen what could come of it. We did have the election and it's not clear that there is really anything more that people can do at this point.

I think what complicates this issue, in which is also bothering a lot of folks on both sides of the aisle, quite frankly, is that the RNC and the president endorsed Roy Moore, who of course is facing those serious sexual harassment allegations. And so, there are a lot of questions about how the political world is handling this issue that many Americans are seeing across different industries.

ALLEN: Politics is a strange beast for sure. So you have people already in Congress resigning and then at the same time Alabama may elect one--


ALLEN: -- if these allegations will get to him.

We thank you so much for your thoughts and your reporting, Caitlin Huey-Burns. Thanks, Caitlin.

HUEY-BURNS: Thank you so much.

ALLEN: It's a busy news hour. We have much more ahead for you right after this.



[03:31:13] ALLEN: Welcome back. Just a little over an hour ago, it was announced a major breakthrough in the Brexit talks.

HOWELL: That is right after negotiations appeared to be at a standstill earlier in the week, the European condition now say that sufficient progress has been made. The next phase of discussing trade and security are set to begin soon.

ALLEN: British Prime Minister Theresa May hurried to Brussels early Friday to meet with the European commissioner. About 90 minutes ago, she announce that earlier sticking points over a number of issues, including the border between Northern Ireland and the republic of Ireland, had been worked out. And she said the rights of European citizens in the U.K. will be guaranteed.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: They will guarantee the rights of more than 3 million E.U. citizens living in the U.K. And a million U.K. citizens living in the E.U. E.U citizens living in the U.K. will have their rights enshrined in U.K. law and enforced by British courts.


ALLEN: All the main players are reacting to this morning's announcement in Brussels, the U.K.'s Brexit secretary said the agreement is a big step forward. Scotland's first minister Nicholas was pleased that the negotiations were moving to phase two. But warn the devil is in the detail and thing now get really tough.

HOWELL: Britain's finance minister Phillip tweeted that the agreement paves the way for further progress on talks, about the future of U.K.- E.U. relationship. The President of the European parliament welcome the announcement saying it was good news for citizens. Let's get some context now on this Brexit deal. Steven Erlanger joins us now by phone in Berlin. It good to have you with us. Steven also the New York Times chief diplomatic correspondent.

Steven first of all just how significant is that this deal happened? How much pressure was the British Prime Minister under to meet the deadline to make this happen and to pull so many different parties together?

STEVEN ERLANGER, NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Well, it had to happen because time is really running short. This is only the initial stage of an incredibly complicated negotiation that my guess will go on for many years. She was under great pressure to get it done, because the E.U. is being very strict about moving to the next stage. And without the next stage, nothing would get done. Britain leaves at the end of March 2019, and the deal must be ratified by all countries. That is going to take seven or eight months all by itself. Her problem was that her government after a terrible election, is dependent for its survival on a small Northern Ireland Party.

And that Party was insistent that there be no division in the future between the rest of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland no matter what the contingency. So the problem was for Theresa May to find some form of words that would promise an open border or certain and no hard border between Northern Ireland that is part of the United Kingdom and republic of Ireland, which remains part of the European Union, so somehow they have to figure out how to have a border without having a border. A set of words that would commit Britain to doing that in the future.

HOWELL: All right. So an agreement, a deal has been reached. We don't have a great deal of details, Steven, into what that deal looks like. The discussions move on to trade and security, and people do start to understand some of the details of what Brexit will mean for their lives, what impact will that have on people as they watch this process and start to understand what this is what it means for me?

[03:35:07] ERLANGER: Well, it's a very messy process, someone called it un-baking a cake, which is very difficult, because the cake was baked 44 years ago and it has gotten quite stiff and solid since. It is going to be difficult. This really is just an initial way to move forward. This settles the principles and the divorce bill, how much Britain should pay in the future until it leaves and what it's committed to pay for it later, it pretty much settles the issue of t rights in the future of E.U. citizens living in Britain and British citizens living in the rest of the European Union. That is least four million people. So that is important. And it makes promise to the people of Ireland and Northern Ireland that they will not be a hard border. There will be some kind of arrangements for customs, which the E.U would need, but they would not resurrect the old hard border that was taken away after the Good Friday agreement of 1998.

HOWELL: Steven Erlanger, describing this as a -- comparing it to baking a cake, Natalie.

ALLEN: Un-baking a cake.

HOWELL: Steven we appreciate the description there. We'll stay in touch with you to see how this cake turns out. Un-bake.

ALLEN: That really helps you understand the challenges. Well the Middle East is breaking for more violence after Friday's prayers.

HOWELL: Violence, the smell of burning tires, the sting of tear gas, the sounds of chance and ambulances on the streets. All common place in the region on Thursday as it comes to grips with the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Dozens of people have been injured in protests there so far. The U.S. and Israeli flags were burned in mid-calls a three days of rage. In Pakistan, one of the groups taking part that had been damage in the country and declared a terrorist organization by the United States.

ALLEN: Palestinian President Abbas met with Jordan King Abdullah saying the U.S. move hurts the entire region and gives a green light to extremists. Abbas says he is heartened by other countries condemning the U.S. actions.


MAHMOUD ABBAS, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRESIDENT (TRANSLATOR): The international, public opinion is very important. Definitely the actions that take place all over the world, including the Arab world, Palestine, and Jordan, are very important. This is our messages to Trump at what he did is a crime and cannot be accepted at all.


HOWELL: Jordan is one of the United States closest allies in the region.

ALLEN: But in the wake of President Trump announcement in the U.S embassy there suspend public service, warns citizens of possible violence and advised U.S. citizens to keep a low profile.

HOWELL: Our Jomanah Karadsheh has file a report on the story from Amman, Jordan.


JOMANAH KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is one of several protests taking place capital protesters gathered outside the U.S. embassy, where we have seen a really heavy security presence. Jordanian Security foes not allowing protesters to get too close to the embassy. People are infuriated by President Trump announcement. Take a listen to what some of this protesters told us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He has given legitimacy to what is going to be the biggest terrorist movement that this region will ever witness. He has legitimized this movement, because of his narcissist urges, and this is not acceptable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Palestine is occupied land. We are not against Jews. We are against Israel and terrorist as an occupation state. And refuges must be back to their homeland. The Americans now by supporting (inaudible).

KARADSHEH: Jordanian officials were warning President Trump about making this announcement, it is scenes like this they were concerned about. More than half the population of this country of Palestinians but it's not just Palestinian who are angry. It is also Jordanians in this country. We have not seen these kind of anti-American sentiments in a very long time and more protests are expected on Friday following Friday prayers. Jomanah Karadsheh CNN, Amman.


ALLEN: Just to show you how one decision by the U.S. president, what that can do.


[03:40:07] ALLEN: The President may want a New Jerusalem embassy, but it is not clear that they have enough staff to fill existing diplomatic post.

HOWELL: Almost one year into his presidency, dozens of key state department's jobs are still empty. CNN Becky Anderson reports that has many diplomats concerned.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR: Reports of a souring relationship between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson maybe grabbing headlines.

Will the President loses confidence in someone they will no longer serve in the capacity that they're in. But it's what's happening away from the spotlight that has any sounding the alarm about far greater and long term consequences.

The Trump administration, there are at least 45 high level vacancies at the state department. And it is just not a number of vacancies, it's the importance of the positions that are raising fears of a declining U.S. leadership role in international diplomacy. Despite rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the U.S. currently has no top diplomat in the post for ambassador to South Korea. There are ambassador vacancies in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, and Kuwait. Despite those nations slaying key roles in regional stability.

The President's response.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me tell you, that one that matters me I'm the oy one that matters. ANDERSON: But now in the wake in the president's decision to

recognize Jerusalem as the Israel capital, those positions will be even more important. Should this region be explode in violence?

While President Trump say may not seem worried, plenty of others are. Former Secretary of State Madeiline Albright weighed in the issue of state department vacancies. In a stating editorial saying if the U.S. Military were facing a recruitment and retention crisis of this magnitude, few would hesitate to call it a national security emergency. Adding that, well it saddens me to criticize one of my successors. I have to speak out, because the stakes are so high. And she is not alone in her alarm. U.S. senators John McCain and Shaheen, expressed their concern it is a bipartisan letter to the Secretary of State about the waning level of commitment to the diplomatic service, saying in part questionable management practices of the department of state, the attitudes of some in the administration on the value of diplomacy declining them all, recruitment and retention, the lack of experience and leadership and reports of American diplomacy becoming less effective lead us to conclude that America's diplomatic power is being weaken internally, as complex, global crises are grown externally.

The moral inside the agency is pleased to be so low. That even the state department spokesman was force to address it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sure, there is a morale issue in this. That is why we say, you know folks hang in there. We have a lot of work to be done. Please don't give up.

ANDERSON: With all the focus on whether or not Secretary Tillerson will keep his job, and the growing international divide between the U.S. and its allies, it remains an open question just how long those staffers to hang in there, waiting for open jobs to be filled. Becky Anderson CNN, Jerusalem.


ALLEN: Next here on CNN newsroom, the U.N. is working to stop human trafficking in Libya by bringing migrants back home. We'll have a report.




ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: -- depend on the corporal issue who operate here. It is a corrupt system of middlemen who control the access to work, because land owners go to them when they need cheap laborers. The governor tell the migrant workers don't have to live in this shanty town which she says are already criminal activity as well. Instead they can seek official shelter provided by the regional government, but speaking to many people here, they tell me that is a dream. There isn't much space for the more rare and critically, they want to be living next to the land. The migrants working these government owned fields have escaped

exploitation. They have contracts and get a fair wage. The get assistance from getting out. A migrant advocacy group. The President of the organization explains the criminal network operating across of many Italy's farms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (TRANSLATOR): The caporale intermediary between the land owner and the worker, when they need workers to pick tomatoes, they go to discuss it with the land owners, and then talk to the workers. I will help you make money, but you have to accept four euros per box. So the caporale gets one euro per box. It doesn't stop there, because the caporale tales you to work and force to pay five euros per day to go and return to work. Those who live in the ghetto are slaves. They aren't workers, they are slaves, because they're exploited from head to toe.

SOARES: There was a limited amount that can earned here. They miss out on regular work manage by the caporale who largely control access to the regions many of the private farms. A (Inaudible) tell me, this is a massive structure that needs to be dismantled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (TRANSLATOR): The farms here have had a real weakness. They are afraid they won't find the workers if they don't ask the caporale. They are afraid of potential intimidation and threats by the caporale and here the state should do its part.

SOARES: Are they being challenged? Are they being fined in any way?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (TRANSLATOR): There's a very strict law against caporale that was passed in Italy. The firms that don't follow the law risk having their land confiscated. It is something that has never happen before.

SOARES: The caporale would not exist without the farmers who use their services. With 70 percent of the exports going to the European Union, these are facts that may be hard to digest. Isa Soares, CNN Italy.


[03:50:05] HOWELL: Of course, you can find out about the CNN freedom project on our website. Learn more about modern day slavery and the efforts to combat that problem. It is all at

Up next, an update on the scorching wildfires in southern California. More than 56,000 hectares burned so far. Ahead. How wind conditions are affecting the efforts to try to fight these fires.


ALLEN: Six massive wildfires are raging across southern California this hour. They force more than 190,000 people from their homes, and destroyed hundreds of home and other buildings since Monday. Officials say the dry conditions and winds are making the situation worse. HOWELL: Currently, the Thomas fire in largest in region. That fire

is so far, it has burn more than 57,000 hectares. So now the big question, is there any relief in sight? Let's bring in our meteorologist Derek Van Dam to talk about that. Derek, these fires look so intense and the wind is a big exacerbated to this. What is the situation?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN'S METEOROLOGIST: Believe it or not, Natalie and George the Santa Ana winds never reached their full predicted capacity yesterday. We are expecting wind gusts in excess of 120 kilometers per hour. Here is the wind gust we found some of the highest on Thursday and there was a real distinct reason why this didn't happen. The area of high pressure responsible for winds in Southern California kept the strongest winds at the ridge top level. So the top parts of the mountainous terrain. It never really have mixed down to the valleys and floors below. You can see the wind gusts there next to calm at the moment. Doesn't mean it's not difficult for firefighters to battle these blazes, because they're dealing with a different type of a problem here. That is the topography, the steep angles there.

Any time you double or add a ten degree angle to the slope of a hill, you double the speed of the fire as it travels uphill. It is quite amazing and that is what is leading to this rapid spread of the Thomas fire for instance, the one in Ventura County that is already burned to over 115,000 acres. We will get a low in the Sta. Ana winds for the next 24 hours, but they'll pick up once again through the course of the weekend easily gusting over 50 to 60 kilometers per hour. Here's the six major fires that are burning out of control across Southern California. The new lilac fire outside of San Diego, and the Thomas fire that you mentioned, this is incredible.

A satellite image taken from 12 kilometers from above us, actually picturing that smoke that is traveling 1,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean that is roughly the distance from New York to Miami. That is just incredible once you think about it. Now you can also think about how this hampers the air quality index in southern California as well. We actually have the worse levels of pollution than Beijing. That is typically something we talk about this time of the year. Beijing burns a lot of coal during the course of the winter to keep their houses warm. The air quality index forecast for Southern California, very unhealthy and great for sensitive groups like Asthmatic, elderly and young. The critical fire danger continues into the weekend. George, Natalie?

[03:55:02] ALLEN: Unreal. All right. Thank you Derek. Californians who see the flames that they are driving try to stay away from them.

HOWELL: That is right. Jeanne Moos has the story of one man who got out from the car and risked his life for a rabbit.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Instead of pulling a rabbit out of a hat, he pulled one out of a California wildfire. It happened on highway 1, when this unidentified man got out of his car to try and rescue a panic rabbit. The man seem to panic, franticly gesturing as he watched the bunny heading into the flames, begging it to come to him. Finally getting down on his knees and reaching for the wild rabbit, at last managing to scoop it up. The accolades on social media starting breeding like rabbits. And just like that, my faith in humanity is restored read a typical tweet. From 0.2 seconds read another some tweeted on behalf of their pets. Our bunny and kitty approve of this young man. Naysayer, wild animals do not need to be save from fires. Saying the man could have been injured, as well come to his rescue. But most paid tribute. Bunnies need heroes too, they have one in this man. Adding to the halo around this guy is the fact that he declined the photographer's request for an on camera interview. As one poster put it, and he didn't want to be on camera in L.A.? Obviously this is Jesus himself in shorts and a hoodie. Take it from Jefferson Alplane.

But he didn't fall, he just walked away from the flames holding the bunny, destination unknown. Leaving this video of a rabbit saved from a wildfire to spread like one. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


HOWELL: I mean, he just got in there and did what it felt he needed to do.

ALLEN: That is our hour for CNN newsroom. Thank you for watching. After a quick break, more news at Max Foster in London. See you later.

HOWELL: Have a great day.