Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Fires Secretary Of State, CIA Chief To Replace Him; Russian Nikolai Glushkov Found Dead In London; Moscow: "Will Not" Respond To U.K. Ultimatum. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired March 13, 2018 - 16:00   ET



HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Live from CNN London. I'm Hala Gorani. Tonight, we are following two huge stories and

another dramatic departure at the White House. This time, it's America's top diplomat, the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, fired by Donald Trump

with a tweet.

And more stunning developments here in Britain as the poisoning of a former spy strains relations with Russia. I speak to the Russian ambassador to


And we start with another day, another shake-up in the White House, Donald Trump has fired his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. It was an abrupt end

to what can only be described as a rocky relationship.

After learning late last week that he would be replaced at some point, Tillerson found out this morning he was officially sacked on Twitter. With

Tillerson out, the president is asking CIA Director Mike Pompeo to switch seats and take over at the State Department. He talked about his reasons

for making the change. Listen to Trump.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Rex and I have been talking about this for a long time. We got along actually quite well

but we disagreed on things. When you look at the Iran deal, I thought it was terrible. He thought it was OK. I wanted to either break it or do

something, he felt a little differently. So, we were not really thinking the same. With Mike Pompeo, we have a very similar thought process. I

think it's going to go very well.


GORANI: Rex Tillerson just spoke to the media. At times the outgoing secretary of state sounded close to tears.


REX TILLERSON, OUTGOING U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I received call from the president of the United States a little afternoon time from Air Force One

and I've also spoken to White House Chief of staff Kelly to ensure we have clarity as to the days ahead. What is most important is to ensure an

orderly and smooth transition at a time this country continues to face significant policy and national security challenges.


GORANI: Rex Tillerson's ouster is the fifth high-profile departure from Trump's administration in the last two weeks alone.

Let's get more, senior diplomatic correspondent, Michelle Kosinski joins us from the State Department and our chief White House correspondent, Jim

Acosta is live from San Diego, California, where the president has landed and is viewing prototypes for the border wall he hopes to have built.

Jim, what did we see and hear from the president? Did he bring up the Tillerson firing at all?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Not as of yet although the day is young. He just spent the last few minutes tearing into the

California Governor Jerry Brown saying that he has not done an effective job in controlling the border or keeping taxes low here in California.

So the president hasn't gone after Rex Tillerson the road here just yet, but as you heard, as he was leaving the White House earlier this morning,

he basically conceded what everybody already knows across Washington, he doesn't see eye to eye with Rex Tillerson on much of anything.

And from what we are hearing from our sources that this was something that was in the works over t weekend. According to one White House official I

spoke with the chief of staff, I should say, John Kelly, informed Rex Tillerson that he was out on Friday and then made that clear once again on


So, Rex Tillerson had some knowledge that this was coming this morning when the word finally came down, but I talked to a source close to the White

House, Hala, who said, listen, the president wants to have his team in place, the team that he wants in place when he has some of these high

stakes talks with North Korea.

After all, the president has accepted an invitation to be with Kim Jong-un and there is a feeling inside the White House and the president, I think,

spoke to this that Rex Tillerson simply just was not on the same page with him when it comes to dealing with North Korea.

Of course, you know, we've seen this play out for months when it was reported late last year that Rex Tillerson had referred to the president as

a moron and the president challenged Rex Tillerson to an I.Q. test and so on.

This gives the president a chance to have a fresh start with the CIA Director Mike Pompeo taking over as secretary of state. But obviously,

this is another sign of the turmoil that constantly churns inside the Trump administration with one high-profile departure after another.

And quite frankly, when you talk to people inside the White House, they're pretty weary from all of it -- Hala.

GORANI: Right. I mean, but it is. That was going to be my question. I mean, this is not normal, right, in the United States for an administration

to have this amount of turnover especially very high-level officials like secretary of states and advisers within the White House itself?

ACOSTA: That's right. I mean, you know, keep in mind, Barack Obama selected Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state. Now, that was

something that, you know, surprised a lot of people because there were fierce rivals during the 2008 campaign.

[16:05:08] But as we saw during the early years of the Obama administration while they had policy disagreements and one of them was obviously Syria,

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton became very close. They became almost like partners in running the Obama administration's foreign policies


That was -- I mean, you had the exact opposite in the partnership between President Trump and Rex Tillerson, and it was seen that the president was

undermining the secretary of state almost every chance that he had, and I'm sure Michelle can speak to that obviously.

But when you have the president of the United States undermining and undercutting the secretary of state, for example, on North Korea.

Remember, it was last year when the president said don't worry about engaging in diplomatic talks with the North Korean officials, Rex

Tillerson, it's just not going to work, and of course, the president decided ultimately that that was the right course to take.

GORANI: Jim Acosta, our chief White House correspondent traveling with the president in California, thanks very much.

I want to go to Michelle Kosinski at the State Department. Were you at that briefing? Rex Tillerson seemed really emotional and he seemed close

to tears at one point.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, just on a human level, aside from all of the politics and problems over several

months that went on here. This was just difficult to watch. I mean, you could hear the words coming out and you had to look up from your note

taking to see -- you know, has the secretary of state burst into tears is what it sounded like?

And you could see him trembling. You could hear his voice wavering throughout. It was clearly difficult for him through most of this to get

it out without becoming more emotional. You could hear that emotion in his voice and it got less so towards the end as he was reading this very

carefully prepared and lengthy statement where he mentioned virtually everybody at the State Department and the administration except for the

president did not offer thanks.

You know, some are interpreting some of what he said as possibly veiled digs about the need for leadership to, quote, "actually get some things

done," about respect and integrity when it seems like this is one more time when the secretary of state was not treated with a lot of respect by the


I think it was stunning first of all to see a U.S secretary of state, somebody who only recently headed up Exxon, deliver this emotional speech

after just being suddenly fired. That's one part of it, but also how this was handled.

GORANI: Over Twitter, by the way, which adds another dimension to this whole thing.

KOSINSKI: This is all very disputed. I mean, it came out suddenly. You hear this statement from the State Department that was information coming

from Tillerson himself according to one of his top aides saying that he did get a call from the White House chief of staff on Friday, but it was not

definitive that he had been fired.

It was more along the lines of something is happening. There is a change coming. This is serious this time. There could be a tweet, you should

head back, but only this morning via the president's tweet finding out for sure that he had been fired.

That top aide who delivered that information was then fired. Now we're hearing that others within Tillerson's very tight inner circle are also on

their way out, which is to be expected. So, the differences in stories, I mean, it is all very striking. Go ahead --

GORANI: I was just going to say it all boils down to rather an unconventional dismissal, but I want to ask you one policy question here

because the president was very clear. He said Rex Tillerson and I are not on the same page when it comes to certain issues specifically the Iran.

That Mike Pompeo and I are much more on the same page when it comes to that. Mike Pompeo is very much an Iran hawk. Should we now assume that

the president along with his new secretary of state, if he's confirmed, will work to kill the Iran nuclear deal?

KOSINSKI: I don't think we can assume any of that, and we know members of Congress and high-ranking members of Congress feel very strongly about

making changes sure and going along with the White House's idea that we need to be tough on Iran's other activities, but still staying in the deal

for stability's sake.

So, we'll see about that. I think the timing of this right after the president made the decision to meet directly with Kim Jong-un of North

Korea, I think that seems to be more key in this. Even though, the president, as he described what happened very calmly and good naturedly and

saying some nice things about Tillerson -- you know, even though he mentioned Iran in that, you also have to look at the North Korea timing.

And it's come out of the White House from some sources that he wanted to have, you know, his solid team in place and keep in mind that hours before

the president made that also stunning North Korea decision, Tillerson was talking like something like that was not even a possibility, and at best

would be a long way off.

[16:10:06] So, you could see the huge gap between them even on that very day and then the next day is when Tillerson gets this call from the White

House, saying, something is up.

GORANI: Yes. Well, Michelle Kosinski at the State Department, thanks very much there. We will continue to follow this story and get back to you in

the next few hours. Thank you.

Now to a new unexplained death of another Russian exile here in Britain. This man, Nikolai Glushkov, seen here, has died in his London home. He was

68 years old. His lawyer confirmed his death. Glushkov knew other Russians who died in Britain under suspicious circumstances.

Meantime, Russia is refusing to respond to an ultimatum from the British prime minister. Theresa May, you'll remember she said this in parliament,

she said she wanted answers by midnight local time. I looked at the clock that's a little less than four hours away.

She said she wanted answers about the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter on U.K. soil last week. Russia has denied vehemently any

involvement and its embassy here in the U.K. says it's not saying anything until Russia has its own samples of the nerve agent.

This is a message that was sent as well through the Russian ambassador to the E.U., who I interviewed, and you'll be hearing from him after the

break. But let's get more details on the death of Nikolai Glushkov and the latest on the investigation into the poisoning of Sergei Skripal.

Nick Paton Walsh is here in the studio with us in London and standing by in Moscow is our Fred Pleitgen. Nick, I want to start with you. So, first of

all, another Russian tied in some way to opponents of the Kremlin and who knew the other Russians who died in suspicious circumstances found dead

today. What do we know?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: At this point we know that the counterterrorism police have taken control of the

investigation partly because of the people that Nikolai Glushkov actually knew, Boris Berizofski (ph), former Russian oligarch, king maker in the

'90s, lived in exile here in the U.K.

He was not a spy. He did not die and what people currently consider to be suspicious circumstances, but he also knew (inaudible) Litvinenko, former

Russian spy in 2006 killed by radioactive substance. That has put the current climate's antenna up and they have forensic tents outside the

house. Our producers there are saying that much of the area --

GORANI: At the house of Glushkov? Glushkov? Forensic tents meaning they're looking for potentially --

WALSH: They're looking for evidence to see what's happening (inaudible). They also say while they are leading an investigation, there is no current

link established to Salisbury. So, there's perhaps an abundance of caution here, perhaps frankly it's a sign of the troubling times that the U.K.

lives in.

GORANI: Why counterterrorism agencies here involved?

WALSH: Because if you're dealing with perhaps a poison, no suggestion of that here. You want to take the sharpest part of your tool box in to try

and workout what may have been here, but as I say, there's no suggestion at this point of foul play or what the cause of death may have been. A man

who by the neighbor's admission didn't mind a drink or two, living after a potentially interesting lifestyle in Russia as well.

GORANI: All right. Well, hopefully, we'll get more information shedding light on what happened. But Fred Pleitgen in Moscow, we've interviewed

Russian officials here in Europe and I'm sure you're hearing that same message. Essentially, they are not responding to Theresa May's request,

are they?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You're absolutely right. They say they are not going to respond. It was really

interesting today to see the Russians really ramping up the message. Earlier today, there was a press conference with Russian Foreign Minister

Serge Lavrov where you could see that he was pretty angry that he was getting questions about this topic.

He first of all said the Russians have nothing to do with it and then he said what you said before, he said the Russians want is they want the U.K.

to send over samples of this toxin. They say they have the right to receive those samples under the OPCW Treaty, which, of course, the

organization on the prevention of chemical weapons.

That's something that is allowed to happen since they were implicated in all of this, that they would be able to test those samples. Let's listen

to a quick sound bite from Sergey Lavrov from that press conference.


SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): We issued a note requesting an access to the substance in order for our experts to

analyze it in accordance with the convention, and in the same note, we requested access to all of the facts associated with the investigation,

taken into consideration that Yulia Skripal is a Russian citizen.

In response to this absolutely lawful and logical request that are underlined by the convention, we received an unclear response, which can be

summarized that these are lawful requests were denied.


PLEITGEN: Now the Russians are even taking this one step further, Hala. They've also now summoned the British ambassador here in Moscow and said

that all of this could harm relations between Russia and the U.K. if those indeed could get any worse than they already are.

And just a couple of minutes ago, the spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry was in a very prominent tv show here in Moscow saying that the Brits had no

right to issue a 24-hour ultimatum to Moscow -- Hala.

GORANI: All right. Fred Pleitgen, thanks very much in Moscow. I have one last question for you, Nick, here in the studio. What happens then because

they're going to blow past this ultimatum at midnight local time, what retaliation can they expect from Britain?

[16:15:10] WALSH: So, we'll find that out tomorrow. There will be a Security Council meeting, parliamentary questions to be asked of Theresa

May, the British prime minister. She has promised a substantial response. She has heard from Donald Trump that they will more or less take

(inaudible) events and expect some kind of retribution against Russia.

We've heard positive signs of solidarity from the E.U., France and Germany, fairing levels of blame, they are willing to a portion at this point

towards Russia. The key question is, what can Theresa May actually find that will bite and also allow various allies to be onboard with pretty much

a cohesive program. That's how Russia may feel the heat.

GORANI: All right. Nick Paton Walsh, thanks very much. Much to discuss, we are joined now by Thomas Pickering, the former U.S. ambassador to

Russia, live with us in Washington. Ambassador, first of all, what do you make of the Russian response to the Britain's ultimatum. What did you make

of it?

THOMAS PICKERING, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: I think this is clearly a case of hard ball and the Russians aren't accepting any blame.

This is the way they act when they are under these kinds of circumstances and this kind of pressure.

We've seen press release indicating that the nerve agent maybe something called (inaudible), which is known to have been developed by the Russians

in the past and maybe put it this way, a proprietary nerve element of theirs, but we don't know.

Asking for the sample and the data is not untoward in these circumstances. They have a right, obviously to defend themselves in this set of

arrangements, but the more important thing is what's Theresa May going to do? That's extremely interesting.

One can speculate for everything from sanctions to sending the Russian ambassador packing, if that were to happen, I suppose the British

ambassador in Moscow would receive the same treatment.

We saw a little bit of that when Litvinenko problem came to light and polonium was used to poison him and that was something the Russians had

some control over and so we went tough a period of down relations for a year, year and a half, two years.

GORANI: It was never enough, if indeed, it is traced back to Russia. This particular nerve agent and this chemical poison, and then really nothing

that has no measure that has been taken thus far has really had an impact.

PICKERING: I don't think so and she's really facing a very difficult problem because it was at the same time dealing with the Russians who are

going to remain in total denial of any responsibility for anything like this as long as they possibly can means in fact that we are getting into a

big stalemate, and where she able to bring the French and the Germans along with her, I suspect she'd have to temper her reaction a little bit to get

it pluralized by them. That would be a hard problem to make the Russians kind of admit something that at the moment they feel they have a strong

defense against.

GORANI: And you bring up the E.U. reaction, I found it interesting. They expressed solidarity, obviously, through their foreign ministries in

statements, but you didn't sense that there was this kind of, you know, passionate, unified, coming to the aid of Theresa May in a time of need

from Macron or Merkel. Did you -- I wonder why you think that is?

PICKERING: Well, I think at the moment they don't know precisely unless the British have briefed them secretly, precisely what has gone on here and

no foreign leader will want to abandon their relationship in the E.U., but none of them will want to hang out so far that if, in fact, the data turns

out not to support the finding, they're caught out.

And so, the British are in a difficult position here, how much can they level with the French, Germans and the others? How much do they want to?

How much do ty want to use this as a way to prevent this from happening in the future, which is a major effort they can undertake now?

They can't do much with the dead man from Litvinenko. Glushkov, we don't know, the gentleman who is sick in the hospital obviously that they would

like to help cure, but do they want to have this to go on and on and on?

Is this kind of Russian-style assassination attempt going to be the pathway for the future? Of course, not. They'll want to do everything they can to

stop that.

GORANI: Quick, last one on Rex Tillerson, who was abruptly fired today.


GORANI: Actually, he mentioned Russia in his departure speech to reporters. He said also that he believed clearly that the attack on Sergei

Skripal and his daughter came from Russia. How do you think this firing will be seen in Moscow?

PICKERING: I think in Moscow it will be seen as once again, partly an idiosyncrasy of Trump. Partly, I think, reasonably welcome. Mike Pompeo

has not been -- put it this way, a softie on the Russians and neither was Tillerson, but on the other hand, the president is now trumpeting the

meeting of the minds certainly over Korea and Iran especially.

And is Pompeo, in fact, going to be someone who will, in fact assure his getting along with Trump by buying into the Trump policy on Russia or will

he risk down the road becoming a Tillerson by in fact saying what he knows and what he certainly has learned as director of the Central Intelligence

Agency, which can't be basically the Trump line that Putin is really misunderstood and totally sweetness in light and someone that we could get

along to regardless of bad things that he might be accused of doing.

So, there is a problem that will be very interesting to see how it resolves. It's too early, I think, for anybody to predict that.

GORANI: All right. I'll be following it, that's for sure. Ambassador Pickering, thanks so much for being on the show with us this evening.

Still to come tonight, this --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would on the other hand warn my compatriots, Russian citizens and British citizens of Russian origin that Britain may not

actually be such a safe place as they may have thought.


GORANI: That is the warning from Moscow's ambassador to Europe in the wake of two high-profile Russian deaths in the U.K. My interview with Vladimir

Chisof is next.


GORANI: I want to take you back to our coverage of the poisoning of that former Russian spy in the U.K. We've heard from the Russian Embassy in

London that Russia will not be responding to Theresa May's ultimatum.

I spoke to the Russian ambassador to the E.U., Vladimir Chizhov. I asked him if Russia was going to provide any information at all regarding the

attack in Salisbury.


VLADIMIR CHIZHOV, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE E.U.: The British government, unfortunately, has failed to provide Russia with detailed evidence and

sample of the substance suspected as being at the heart of this case as provided for by the legally binding provisions of the international

convention on prohibition of chemical weapons.

GORANI: But if Russia is asking for a sample, it means that at least on some level you're acknowledging that it's possible that it originated in

Russia if you are asking for a sample.

CHIZHOV: Well, we are asking for a sample in order to launch an investigation by our own experts. I don't know what the substance is that

have been certain names which were new to me personally, of course, but even if it's a substance developed 40 years ago in the Soviet Union, well,

a lot of things happened since then.

[16:25:10] The Soviet Union is no longer a single country and it has sort of become 15 independent countries and some of which are today members of

NATO and the European Union.

GORANI: But if Russia -- I get that, but if Russia is asking for a sample and you're saying this is potentially something a substance that was

developed during the Soviet era. It's the Novacek group of nerve agents, potentially that means Russia could have lost control of some of this

stockpile. This is a possibility, right?

CHIZHOV: No, it's not because Russia has destroyed all its stockpiles of all chemical weapons, of all nerve agents under the auspices of the

organization for prohibition of chemical weapons under international supervision. That has been completed last year. The only country

signatory to that convention that has not yet done so is unfortunately, the United States of America.

GORANI: Well, and you're not -- I presume you're not pointing fingers at the U.S.A. at this stage, right?

CHIZHOV: Unlike British officials, I am not pointing fingers at anyone.

GORANI: But why would the prime minister -- why would the prime minister in parliament say she believes it is highly likely that it originated in

Russia. Rex Tillerson, the recently dismissed secretary of state in America said it certainly originated in Russia. Donald Trump himself said

it sounds to me like it would be Russia. Why would they all be saying this if they didn't have a firm belief that it was the case?

CHIZHOV: Well, you're not hinting, Hala, that Rex Tillerson was sacked for saying that?

GORANI: I'm not. I'm just telling you what he said.

CHIZHOV: You know, yes. The references to highly likely, to possibility. These are all allegations based on suspicions fueled by emotions and that's

how I would describe the situation so far.

GORANI: The home secretary here, Amber Rudd, has ordered an official inquiry into alleged Russian involvement and up to 14 deaths in Britain.

Yesterday, Nikolai Glushkov, a friend of the late Boris Borozovski found dead in London. I mean, would you say to Britons and people watching

around the world that this is all coincidence, that all these Kremlin critics found dead on British soil that this all happened coincidentally?

CHIZHOV: I would on the other hand, warn my compatriots that Russian citizens and British citizens of Russian origin that Britain may not

actually be such a safe place as they may have thought. Where is the result of investigation of the Borozovski case? It is nowhere to be seen.

Even the Litvinenko case --

GORANI: Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with radioactive material in Central London. There was an inquiry that clearly pointed to Russia as

being behind this. So, there has been inquiries that were involved -- pointing the finger --

CHIZHOV: There was an inquiry which was proclaimed -- the inquiry was proclaimed to be public, but the moment Russia offered its cooperation it

was made secret and we do not know what ensued afterwards and the verdict by the court was delivered in close quarters without any publicity, without

any media participation or whoever --

GORANI: I guess people would listen to what you're saying and say here are Kremlin critics and they're all turning up dead. Some of their deaths are

unexplained, some are explained. Sergei Skripal and his daughter are in a hospital. Nikolai Glushkov was found dead in his London apartment. It's

not coincidence. They are clearly the political enemies of the current government in Russia. What would you say to the people who say to you,

there's a pattern here?

CHIZHOV: And the current leadership of Russia has nothing better do than to wipe them out a week before the presidential election. Do you think

that's logical?

GORANI: Britons are terrified because this nerve agent was used in a -- in a town of 40,000 people. It could have potentially killed dozens more, and

they're worried that this is some sort of political point scoring that's directed at critics of the Russian government. What would you, as the

Russian ambassador tell them? Britons who are concerned?

CHIZHOV: Well, I'll tell them that they have all my sympathy for the dire situation, this little town of Salisbury found itself in, and those who

actually suffered from that poisonous --


[16:30:00] VLADIMIR CHIZHOV, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: I'll tell them that they have all my sympathy for the dire situation, this

little town of Salisbury found itself and those who actually suffered from that poisonous substance, I wish them the earliest possible recovery,

including Skripal and his daughter. But I will tell them that the Russian authorities, the Russian government does not employ such means of dealing

with its opponents. I can assure you of that.

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: That was Ambassador Chizhov, the Russian ambassador to the European Union today speaking to us on the


Still to come tonight, more on the American secretary of state's dramatic ouster.

And later, the world is about to mark My Freedom Day as we here at CNN work to end modern-day slavery. We'll be right back.


GORANI: Well, it was -- relationship, I should say that was tensed at the best of times. Donald Trump announced today he's sacking his secretary of

state Rex Tillerson even the way it was announced on Twitter, seemed to sum up the dysfunction between the two men.

Jeff Zeleny has more.


JEFF ZELENEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The bad blood between President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson finally reaching a

boiling point, Tuesday as the commander in chief fired his top diplomat in yet another staff shakeup at the White House.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We got along actually quite well, but we disagreed on things.

ZELENY: That hardly does justice to the rollercoaster relationship between Trump and Tillerson that repeatedly spilled into public view over the last

14 months.

TRUMP: When you look at the Iran deal, I think it's terrible. I guess he thought it was OK. I wanted to either break it or do something, and he

felt a little bit differently. So we were not really thinking the same.

ZELENY: The president announced his decision to the world on Twitter, and didn't speak directly to Tillerson until more than three hours later.

REX TILLERSON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I received a call today from the president of the United States a little afternoon time from Air Force One,

and I've also spoken to White House Chief of Staff Kelly to ensure we have clarity as to the days ahead.

ZELENY: The move caught the secretary off-guard which was clear as he briefly spoke from the state department. He took no questions and didn't

thank President Trump.

TILLERSON: What is most important is to ensure an orderly and smooth transition during a time that the country continues to face significant

policy and national security challenges.

[16:35:57] ZELENY: The former ExxonMobil CEO once praised by Trump as a world-class player, had only arrived in the U.S. at 4:00 a.m., called back

early from a trip to Africa. CNN has learned White House Chief of Staff John Kelly did call Tillerson last Friday to tell him the president planned

to replace him, but didn't say when. The president tapped CIA director, Mike Pompeo for the post praising him for being perfectly in sync no policy

and personality.

TRUMP: We're always on the same wavelength. The relationship has been very good and that's what I need as secretary of state.

ZELENY: The president suggested today more changes are coming.

TRUMP: I'm really at a point where we're getting very close to having the cabinet and other things that I want.

ZELENY: To lead the CIA, the president nominated Gina Haspel, currently deputy director of the spy agency. Lawmakers say her role in the CIA's

controversial torture program 15 years ago will be explored at her confirmation hearings.

And another shakeup today, Johnny McEntee an aide at the president's side throughout the campaign also fired. The Department of Homeland Security is

investigating him for financial crimes and has learned unrelated to the president, but it was quickly announced McEntee was appointed senior

advisor to the Trump 2020 re-election campaign.


GORANI: Jeff Zeleny reporting there.

Joining me now to talk about this latest departure from the Trump White House is CNN political commentator Jen Psaki. She was the White House

communications director and state department spokeswoman during the Obama administration.

So when you heard how this all went down that we believe that Rex Tillerson was told that this was going to happen, but not when and it was a big

surprise when he saw it on social media. What went through your mind when you saw that?


and when there is one departure, that is big news, that is distracting. That is something that can take your big vote off track. And in this case,

you know, I don't think anyone here can recall a secretary of state who has ever been fired. Certainly not via Twitter. It is disrespectful to him

whether or not he liked the job he was doing and certainly sends a chill through the department.

GORANI: And what does this do to America's foreign policy? We're seen around the world. You're on CNN International and this opens up so many

questions about the Iran nuclear deal and about North Korea, about Russia. How will this change things in that regard?

PSAKI: Well, those questions are being asked here as well, Hala, and the big reason is that while Tillerson was ineffective at his job because he

wasn't seen as speaking on behalf of President Trump, he was much more aligned with the majority of the foreign policy community and the United

States much more aligned with mainstream views whether it was on Iran in keeping the deal or staying climate -- the climate change agreement. He

just was lacking power whereas Pompeo is somebody who has been much more pro-military action just like Trump as it relates to Iran, North Korea and

that's something that is alarming to many people here and part of the reason he will likely face a tough confirmation fight.

GORANI: Rex Tillerson also pointed the finger at Russia following the attack, the chemical attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in

Salisbury, England and this also was a departure from what we heard from the White House.

PSAKI: That's right. And when Rex Tillerson came in, one of the big criticisms in the United States was that he would be too pro-Russia and too

friendly to Russia and he's actually turned out to be one of the bigger critics that's all relative in this particular administration and there's

no doubt that that left a bad taste in Donald Trump's mouth, and is one of the reasons as he said today, perhaps they didn't have the chemistry he was

looking for on the job.

GORANI: And how will Mike Pompeo change things then? Because the state department, by many accounts, morale is quite low, its direction lost,

there are many big diplomatic posts that are still left -- that are still unfilled.

PSAKI: Well, you know, on one hand, Mike Pompeo could be a more traditional manager of the state department in the sense that because he

has been in government, because he's run an agency, he probably has a better understanding of the role that career officials play in terms of the

success of the person leading the department.

However, I think there is widespread concern within the department and across, you know, the government here about his alignment with Trump on

some of his more troubling positions and, his kind of rush to military action and that's something that is not aligned with the theme of diplomacy

which is why many people serve in the state department and the foreign service and the civil service.

GORANI: All right. Thanks so much, Jen Psaki for that, and we'll see how that unfolds if indeed Mike Pompeo is confirmed. Thank you.

The Palestinian authority prime minister, Rami Hamdallah has survived an assassination attempt in Northern Gaza, according to the official

Palestinian news agency. A bomb detonated near his convoy, Tuesday, moments after going to a border crossing from Israel. This is what's left

of one of the vehicles.

[16:40:12] He was heading to a new water treatment facility in Gaza City. At least one SUV was damaged, no one was injured. Hamdallah says the

bombing would not deter him from visiting Gaza. The Palestinian presidency held Hamas, the de facto power in Gaza responsible despite that fact there

was a reconciliation between the two. Hamas is denying the accusation.

Still to come to come tonight. It's a city like so many other small cities here in the UK, Salisbury, shaken by the poisoning of a former Russian spy.

How that community is faring. We'll be right back.


GORANI: Let's return now to the English city of Salisbury. As we've been telling you, it was the scene of the poisoning attack on the former Russian

spy and his daughter. More than a week after that, the town is still coming to grips with what happened and whether the poison is still a threat

to their community. There's been quite a lot of fear there.

Phil Black is in Salisbury for us.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Through a misty morning on the Salisbury plain, the ancient monoliths of Stonehenge, standing hopingly defying age

and understanding. Nearby, the spire of Salisbury medieval cathedrals soars above the horizon long before you reach the city outskirts.

Centuries of faith, ambition and conflict have marked this land in powerful ways. The history of this place stretches back how many centuries?

LORNA MATTHEWS-KEEL, SALISBURY RESIDENT: Eight. 800 years. We know exactly when it started.

BLACK: Lorna Matthews-Keel guides visitors through the past she knows Salisbury's story has swung dramatically in the last week.

MATTHEWS-KEEL: I think we're aware that a profound thing has happened, but I also think that we are aware that history is in the making all the time.

BLACK: Salisbury's new world famous landmarks are notable for being exceptionally ordinary, an Italian restaurant, a riverside park, a park

bench hidden from view by police who are trying to work out how a former Russian spy and his daughter came to collapse here struck down by a nerve

agent first developed by the Soviet Union.

Many of Salisbury's residents have lived through interesting times. Some of the ladies in this over 70s fitness class have known world war. They've

all experienced decades of profound social change. And throughout their lives, Salisbury has remained a refuge from the world's violent excesses

until now.

When you think of Salisbury, what do you think of?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Peace, quiet, the cathedral, of course.

BLACK: No Russian spies?


BLACK: Chemical weapons?


BLACK: Women like Ellen Wigs (ph) aren't easily shocked.

ELLEN WIGS, SALISBURY RESIDENT: I am 92 years old so I have, you know --

BLACK: You've seen a few things.

WIGS: Seen a few things.

BLACK: But nothing quite like this here before?

WIGS: Not quite like this. No.

[16:45:14] BLACK: How do you think the town is now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) a very sturdy law. So, o.

BLACK: The Salisbury people are used to living alongside the military. There's a number of defense facilities only a short drive from town,

including the Porton Down science lab where the nerve agent was studied and identified. But in recent days, they've been watching soldiers in a very

different context. On their own streets, dressed in full hazmat kit dealing with potential nerve agent contamination.

But the local market, a few minutes' walk from where Sergei and Yulia Skripal collapsed business is a little slower than normal. But everyone we

meet talks about their determination to stay unfazed and carry on. Preferably with a little bit humor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I won't need any meat for months.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So nerve agent-free.

BLACK: Phil Black, CNN, Salisbury, England.


GORANI: Well, they kept their sense of humor, that's for sure.

Now, the EU is expressing support for Great Britain with its foreign affairs minister, Federica Mogherini, calling the poisoning on British

soil, shocking. But how far the EU might be willing to go to punish Russia is still quite unclear.

Vygaudas Usackas is a former EU ambassador to Russia and now he's the director of the KTU Institute of Europe. He is in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Let me ask you first about how the EU has responded? We've heard pretty standard issue statements from the French foreign ministry, from the German

foreign ministry, but we haven't seen these leaders come out and passionately, vociferously support Theresa May. Do you it that way?


of sympathy and solidarity with the British government. Of course one has to admit that with great months -- and that was the easy developments right

now of a divorce. Of course that has a sentiment, implications for that.

However, at the same time, I think it's extremely important that European nations and the current EU and the future closes partners on this continent

remain united in responding, resisting and confounding Russia's legal behavior.

GORANI: How is that going to work tangibly? What should the EU do?

USACKAS: Well, I mean, it takes two to tango. So it's very important that London also addresses EU, approaches Brussels not only through with

respect. NATO, the headquarters but also calls all the necessitation that was EU was able to meet ambassador which are still functioning and I think

they would appreciate and would respond with the strongest sense support of solidarity. How can we unite as a united front respond to this legal


GORANI: But as you say, it's tricky because we're going through Brexit negotiations now, the UK has voted to leave the EU and those who support

Brexit say they want to distance themselves, you know, to regain their unquote, "independence" from the EU and to then have to ask for help or get

closer or ask for support, diplomatically in the aftermath of this gas attack. It's an awkward position to be in, isn't it?

USACKAS: Well, it is. But the leadership skills it takes a vision and it takes a courage to overcome those interior relationship stages we are

witnessing now in doing the Brexit negotiations. And Britain may leave European Union, but it will not leave European continent, will remain

closest allies with NATO relationship but also as a part of community shared values and I think this is utmost important that we ask together and

respond together.

GORANI: Let me ask you think, but what would you do? The EU is a unified entity? There are so many, first of all, there's a lot of Russian money

and western European economies. There's Russian gas supplies a huge portion of the European market. You can't just, you know, make rushed

decisions. You can't knee-jerk, react or it will really hurt European economies. So also these countries are in difficult spot.

[16:50:53] USACKAS: Well, we are in a difficult spot, but we have to make priority decisions. When it takes to defend the lives of the citizens of

people who live on our territory, we have to stay united, as in response to the Crimea's illegal annexation and I would expect and I would urge

European leaders to follow troops and to extend the hands of support to British and to join, if British will apply new sanctions in a unified

manner through the consultation process with London is a deal to stay united in response --

GORANI: Just last question, can I ask you, what kind of sanctions your targeted sanctions against individuals which that has been tried, right?

The one thing that hasn't been done is sector-wide sanction. This is really a much, much more aggressive option. It seems as though this is one

of the avenues that if you want to send a message that's what you need to do.

USACKAS: I think -- no, the statutes is not a goal by itself. It's about responding or preventing further escalation of the sedation of the criminal

act. In our response, Ukraine, the sector sanctions like a financial sanction. But I think it's important to have the facts that have gone

through and then to have united response, British and European Union together.

GORANI: All right. We'll see if that pans out. Vygaudas Usackas, the former EU ambassador to Russia. Thank you.

USACKAS: Thank you.

GORANI: In less than 90 minutes, CNN's "MY FREEDOM PROJECT" -- My Freedom Day begins, as we partner with students around the world to fight modern-

day slavery. We're asking people what freedom means to them and we've already had a big response. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me, freedom means the ability to how others perceive human society and to govern your own actions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Being able to travel around the world and do whatever I want and decide things about my future. Human trafficking victims can't.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Freedom to me means when you can live your childhood as a child and make decisions for yourself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To be able to believe in whatever you want without fear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Being able to do as you choose for whatever reason.


GORANI: Well, those are just a few of the young people around the world partnering with us at CNN for a day of action against slavery. It begins

in a little more than an hour. You can tell the world what freedom means to you with the #myfreedomday.

Human trafficking and slavery remain global problems and awareness is obviously a key to ending them. As we approach My Freedom Day. Rafael

Romo shows us how a play in Mexico City is trying to inform and empower audiences.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): The play has been well received by audiences across Mexico but the producer's goal goes

well beyond getting standing ovations.

ANDRES NAIME, THEATER PRODUCER, FROM HEAVEN TO HELL: The audience realizes that anybody can be a victim of human trafficking. And it's shocking. And

it brings you out of your comfort zone.

ROMO: The play is called "From Heaven to Hell." It makes the point in a not so subtle way that human trafficking and slavery are still happening

today around the world.

NAIME: Everybody can help to bring out the victims out of that situation. That's our main focus.

ROMO: For one of the performers, getting on stage is not just about playing a role. Karla de la Cuesta says she was one of several young

singers and actresses held captive and assaulted by an abusive talent manager.

[16:55:05] KARLA DE LA CUESTA, ACTRESS (through translator): It reminds me of the story I lived. Even though I was never exploited for the purposes

of prostitution, which is what the play, "From Heaven to Hell" it talks about. But I endured five different forms of human trafficking punishable

by Mexican law and, therefore, I know very well the traffickers' modus operandi.

ROMO: Audiences hear the stories of girls who have been tricked into prostitution and a life of sexual exploitation. The real victims that

inspired the play sometimes appear side by side with the actresses at the end of the show.

ROMO: The idea originated several years ago when the play's producer says he had a conversation with the author of a book on human trafficking. It

took them a couple years to come up with the most effective and relatable way to take the book's message to the stage.

Audiences seem to be getting the message.

MELINDA FAMUGIA, SPECTATOR: It can happen to anybody and that we shouldn't judge so easily. People that are in this type of situation because, well,

they were tricked.

ROMO: Actress Karenina Ivankovich, one of the actresses in the play, says every time she goes on stage, she thinks of those still held in bondage and

the ones who will no longer be able to escape.

KARENINA IVANKOVICH, ACTRESS (through translator): There are many people who are still trapped and some others who lost their lives. And it's very

important that we don't forget about them and that we honor their memory knowing what's happening. We need to be courageous and raise our voices so

that girls don't keep on getting kidnapped.

ROMO: The show ends with an angel that saves one of the victims. Cast members say their hope is that anybody in the audience can be that next

angel who saves a victim from human trafficking and slavery.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Mexico City.


GORANI: And thanks for watching this evening. I'm Hala Gorani. A special edition of "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is coming up next from Hartsfield Jackson

international airport in Atlanta. It is the busiest airport in the world and sometimes used as a hub for some of the trafficking and Richard will

have a special coverage for you after a quick break. Stay with CNN. We'll be right back.