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CNN NEWSROOM

Wild Day in the Trump White House; Rebels Reach a Deal with Syrian Government; Escape Eastern Ghouta; Death of Unarmed Man Holding Phone Sparks Outrage; U.S. Senate Votes on Spending Bill; Deleting Facebook May Be Harder Than You Think; Italy's First Black Senator. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired March 23, 2018 - 00:00   ET

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


[00:00:03] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour --

Another wild day in the Trump White House -- two senior advisers quit while the stock markets tank amid fears of a looming trade war.

Plus Syrian rebels try to get a deal to escape one of their last held enclaves on the outskirts of the capital setting the stage for the war's next major confrontation.

And life without Facebook -- many are considering it. Meet the man who's done it and life, he says, is sweet.

Hello, everybody. Thanks for joining us. I'm John Vause. Three hours of NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

And we begin with late word from the White House. President Trump is suspending those controversial steel and aluminum tariffs on members of the Europe Union and six other countries including Canada and Mexico. The President will decide whether to continue those exemptions based on future y discussions.

But a new round of tariffs will be hitting China in what looks to be the start of an all-out trade war. Beijing has just announced $3 billion in tariffs on U.S. imports including pork, fruit, nuts, wine and steel pipes.

Not only that, President Trump slapped China with $50 billion in new tariffs which he says are retaliation for the theft of intellectual property and he says more trade restrictions are on the way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People are doing things for this country that should have been done for many, many years. We've had this abuse by many other countries and groups of countries that were put together in order to take advantage of the United States. And we don't want that to happen. We're not going to let that happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: And with that announcement stocks were sent tumbling down nearly 3 percent. The Dow was off 724 points, its fifth largest point drop ever. A similar situation in Asia -- markets in Japan, China, Australia -- all, way down in negative territory.

CNN's Andrew Stevens is live in Beijing for us right now.

So now, Andrew we're at the tit-for-tat stage. I guess the initial response that we're hearing from Beijing, it's being considered relatively measured but we have to note this is just the start. It could quickly escalate.

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. We've got to remember the Beijing response that $3 billion worth of tariffs on about 128 U.S. goods. We don't know what they are yet. There's still a 15-day period before the Chinese will actually name what those goods are.

But that's in retaliation, John, to the steel and aluminum tariffs the U.S. has slapped on which actually come into effect today. Now, as we know China is not a big direct steel importer or exporter to the U.S., neither is it a big exporter of aluminum. So this $3 billion worth of Chinese tariffs relate to the measures Donald Trump had already taken.

So it's not reflecting the $50 billion which is a much, much bigger step. And what we've heard so far from China on that is much more forceful. They say they don't want a trade war. But they're not going to be pushed away. They're not going to back down from one effectively. They'll take whatever measures they need.

That's where we're at the moment and that is why the markets have responded the way they have across the world -- John. Because you have this big, big step taken by the Trump administration. $50 billion is a significant amount of tariffs and the Chinese saying that they're not going to back down.

So this is what the real fear is does it keep on escalating from here?

VAUSE: Yes. Thank you -- Andrew.

We're just keeping a close eye on those stocks because the markets are way down. The big question is will that selloff continue into Europe and then come back to Wall Street for another day of selloff?

Andrew -- we appreciate that. Andrew Stevens, live for us there in Beijing. >

Joining me now -- talk radio host Mo Kelly and Republican congressional candidate Shawn Nelson. So Shawn -- welcome. Good to have you with us for the first time.

If there is one issue that is near and dear to the President's heart it is the issue of trade. He believes he's doing this for the people who voted for him.

Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It's probably one of the reasons I was elected, maybe one of the main reasons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: But Mo -- the reality is if there is a trade war, especially a trade war with China, many of those people who voted for Donald Trump, they're the ones who are going to be hurt the most with the higher prices.

MO KELLY, TALK RADIO HOST: You're trying to make sense out of what I would call nonsense. And although the President wants to support free trade he does not support simulating an environment which breeds confidence in this trade proposal.

I mean when the Dow went down 700 points you can't separate that from what is also happening within in his own administration. So if we can't have confidence in the President it's hard to have confidence in any proposals that he might have.

VAUSE: Yes. We'll get to all the chaos with the national security advisor in a moment.

But Shawn -- on the other side of this equation there's now this possibility that China will hit, you know, for instance U.S. pork with a 25 percent tariffs. You know, out of the top pork-producing states ten of them in the U.S., eight of them went for Trump in 2016 -- some just by a whisker.

[00:05:07] We know that Republicans are facing a very tough midterm battle coming up in November for Congress. So if these -- if there is this 25 percent tariff on, you know, pork and these other products this isn't going to help much is it?

SHAWN NELSON, REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: It's probably not going to help much but I think there's a practical reality that the people that voted for Donald Trump understood that he believed in fair trade and fair trade had to include fair on both sides. Otherwise, you know, you're not dealing fair and square.

And inevitably at some point, we all know who the President is, I think this is all about negotiation and leverage. And I think what you'll see -- time and time again we see that perhaps his approach is a little different than we'd expect most people to take. But more often than not he comes out with people saying yes, it turned out he won yet again.

VAUSE: Ok. Well, I guess maybe a trade war won't be as bad as the looming real war now that H.R. McMaster the national security advisor is on his way out and John Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations is on his way in. He's also Fox News commentator.

Listen to John Bolton on Fox News last year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: The only diplomatic option left is to end the regime in North Korea by effectively having the South take it over. I think you've got to argue to China --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's not really diplomatic as far as they're concerned.

BOLTON: Yes. Well, that's their problem, not ours.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Ok. Mo does it give you much confidence that according to our reporting John Bolton promised the President that he wouldn't start any wars?

KELLY: It doesn't -- it doesn't breed confidence and this will be the third national security adviser in 14 months. We do not have a secretary of state. We don't have an ambassador to South Korea.

All these things fit together when you're trying to bridge a gap between our nation and a country which we do not have diplomatic relations. This is very concerning to me.

VAUSE: And also here's part of CNN's Kaitlan Collins reporting surrounding the exit of McMaster.

"After he quickly leaked that President Trump had been directly instructed by his national security adviser not to congratulate the Russian President Vladimir Putin on his recent election victory, the source said Trump was furious. Asking White House aides and allies if they thought it was a McMaster person who had leaked it to the press."

Shawn -- we're also learning from our Jeff Zeleny who saw that the President essentially accelerated McMaster's exit from the White House it seems almost in retaliation for -- if McMaster didn't leak it, it seems he's getting the blame for it.

NELSON: Well, I wouldn't have any idea who may or may not have leaked something but I think what you're seeing with the President is I think consistent with Donald Trump. He expects loyalty. And wouldn't we all?

And if the issue is who leaked something, look, we all know that President Obama congratulated Putin. So despite all of the sort of, you know, feigned offense the reality is that is not uncommon. Whether or not his advisers suggested he not do it the President has been known to perhaps once in a while not listen to his advisers and again that's the man we're familiar with.

But loyalty in the closest quarters of the White House should be expected and disloyalty should be dealt with.

VAUSE: The thing is though Obama congratulated Putin at a time --

KELLY: You're talking about content. VAUSE: Yes -- at a time when there was an attempt to improving relations and the Russians hadn't just meddled in the election.

KELLY: They hadn't meddled in the election. They conceivably did not assassinate someone on the soil of our chief ally in Great Britain. The context matters.

Yes, President Obama did congratulate but it wasn't right after these events. And we've already been told by Congress that Russia will try to meddle and influence our elections again.

VAUSE: H.R. McMaster can now go play golf with Rex Tillerson, the former secretary of state. He made his final appearance to say good- bye to his staff on Thursday. Here is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REX TILLERSON, OUTGOING U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: This can be a very mean-spirited town.

But you don't have to choose to participate in that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Shawn -- notably there was no mention at all of Donald Trump in his farewell remarks by Rex Tillerson. On the upside at least he did not refer to the President as an f-ing moron publicly.

You know, this is a man who has not had a good relationship with Donald Trump.

NELSON: Yes. But he has been a dignified servant. I mean as I --

(CROSSTALK)

NELSON: Well, in my opinion he was a dignified. And you know, as I recall when he entered of course he was the subject of disdain and you know he's not qualified, et cetera. But of course then at his departure the very people that criticized him now want to jump to his defense.

Listen he's a fine man and he served this country with distinction. And he's now moving on.

VAUSE: Although Mo -- there are some who say that you know, Tillerson was in fact, you know, one of the worst if not the worst secretaries of state in the history of the U.S.

[00:10:07] KELLY: I would say he kept the status quo with the exception of the lack of staffing in the State Department. And I think if anything he took his marching orders from the President.

And I want to go back to something that you said. In terms of loyalty that's just fine. But this president has a habit, an uncomfortable habit for me, of trying to humiliate people on the way out the door. And it's hard to ask for loyalty if they know that there's a distinct possibility they will be humiliated on the other side.

VAUSE: And Tillerson, as we all know, you know, he ran Exxon. He was (INAUDIBLE) of the company and he, you know, he was constantly being undermined by the President. He was put in a really tough position.

And just for the record. Turnover now of senior staff at the White House just in 14 months it's more than for the first two years of the previous four administrations. So Shawn -- everyone agrees change is good. Clearing the decks is good. But when does too much change end up being just simply chaos?

NELSON: I don't know the answer to that because these people don't work for me. I can tell you that you have a substantial backlog that's not accidental just of presidential appointments. So, you know, why don't we fill the appointments that have been requested?

And when it comes to the inner circle, you know, Donald Trump we all knew was, you know, high stakes business. And I think there was an expectation that it was going to be different than business as usual. And we sort of have seen exactly what I think every reasonable person expected.

VAUSE: There hasn't been an administration in a hundred years that has lost this many cabinet member in its first 12-14 months. I mean doesn't that indicate to you that something is not operating as it should?

NELSON: Well, something certainly indicates to me that it's operating differently. And whether you agree with it or not I think it would be reasonable to say that the people that voted for Donald Trump wanted different leadership. That was absolutely on the menu.

KELLY: My concern is the instability shown within the administration has untold consequences for our economy and our society. We see it in the stock market which happened today and we also have the raise of the interest rates. I wonder if this instability is going to play out in unforeseen ways which will negatively impact all of us.

VAUSE: Yes. The law of untold consequences can be brutal.

It seems right now, it's better to write down the names of people who work at the White House in pencil rather than in ink because we also have word that the lead attorney on the Russia investigation John Dowd, he has quit.

Listen to the former White House strategist Steve Bannon, the man who was also fired by Donald Trump, on what all of this could mean.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: John Dowd is a good man and I think that's why essentially more aggressive attorneys got brought in that are now, you know, -- I think President Trump's going to war. I think it's very obvious he's going to go to war on this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: So Shawn -- you're going to war with a special counsel. Is that a good idea at this point? Is that the only option for Trump right now.

NELSON: I don't know if it's the only option but I think --

VAUSE: Is it the best option, I guess?

NELSON: Again, reasonable people I think would at least generally agree that the special prosecutor was brought in to link the Trump political campaign to Russian collusion. And I think people are getting fatigued and really seeing that that's not what the special investigator is spending his time on. And it's not evidenced in the results that he's producing.

VAUSE: Well they've indicted 13 Russians.

NELSON: Thirteen Russians but --

VAUSE: And six others from the Trump campaign on various other issues, but yes.

NELSON: Again, I happen to be one of these people that believe that I think probably the Russians have been meddling in campaigns since the beginning of the Cold War.

VAUSE: Right.

NELSON: So Facebook is new but meddling isn't.

VAUSE: Right.

NELSON: Whether the Russians were up to no good is an entirely different proposition than whether they were complicit and involved with knowing operatives in the Trump campaign.

VAUSE: You mean like the Trump Tower meeting in June of last year?

NELSON: Well, I mean like Donna Brazile leaking, you know --

VAUSE: Right.

NELSON: -- sort of, you know, questions beforehand.

VAUSE: I don't think that was Russian though.

NELSON: No but I mean if you're trying to throw a campaign and there's collusion you find those nuggets and you realize wow that's extraordinary. You actually did that.

There's been a lot of innuendo and accusation; I just like to know what exactly are we going to prove here? And who are we going to say did it?

VAUSE: I guess we'll find out. KELLY: Well, maybe but let's not forget, we go back in history with

Kenneth Starr and what he started with Whitewater -- that supposedly was about a real estate deal. Then all of a sudden we got to Vince Foster and Paula Jones and out of that they subpoenaed Monica Lewinsky. And then we have the impeachment of Bill Clinton with relations with Monica Lewinsky.

I think Bob Mueller will reveal his evidence at the appointed time.

VAUSE: Yes.

Let's just finish up on Karen McDougal. She's the former Playboy model who alleges she had an affair with Donald Trump. She's suing so that she can tell her story. It's being bought by the "National Enquirer". This happened before Donald Trump was president, obviously.

McDougal down for an exclusive interview with Anderson Cooper. Listen to what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Would you have come forward publicly if Stormy Daniels hadn't come forward? Do you think that made an impact on you?

[00:14:59] KAREN MCDOUGAL, TRUMP ACCUSER: I definitely think it made a little bit of an impact on me. I get to more -- it takes a little bit of the fear away.

However I probably would have just because as I'm learning about this contract and the people involved and the way I was treated and all the behind the scenes things that I wasn't aware about and all the work I'm not getting which I contracted form, yes I probably would have come forward.

If you didn't get what you were told in a contract work was wouldn't you say something? Of course.

COOPER: Do you have any regrets about the relationship that you say you had with him?

MCDOUGAL: Back then?

COOPER: Yes.

MCDOUGAL: The only regret I have about the relationship that I had with Donald was the fact that he was married. If he weren't married I wouldn't have any regrets because he treated me very kind. He was very respectful. As I told you it was a good relationship while it happened.

Now had I known at the time there were supposedly all these other women, no I wouldn't have been in the relationship. But I didn't know that at the time. So no, no regrets except the fact that he was married. COOPER: If Melania Trump is watching this, what would you want her to

know?

MCDOUGAL: A tough one.

COOPER: Or say to her.

MCDOUGAL: Yes what can you say? Except I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I wouldn't want it done to me. I'm sorry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: And Shawn -- just very quickly, you know, Melania Trump is the one person I think who has been forgotten and what she is going through right now in all of this reporting -- Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal -- you know, all the rest of it.

NELSON: Well, she's not being forgotten by the press and it seems like it's a pretty pointed effort to make sure that she gets every opportunity possible to live it in vivid detail.

I mean I'm not sure what the entire point of all this is from 12 years ago other than to suggest Donald Trump wasn't faithful to his wife. But you know I have a sneaking suspicion that very few voters that went to the poll that sort of had that -- the last issue they were trying to resolve walking into the booth during the election.

She's sorry for his wife. You know she had a great -- in her mind a great experience with Donald Trump other than the fact he was married. I don't know -- I don't know what that says about her necessarily but you know it's not a tit for tat issue but what about all the women that had a very miserable experience with Mr. Clinton our President and I just -- I don't really get what's with all the sensationalism. We've lived through this under far worse circumstances.

VAUSE: Ok.

KELLY: Just very quickly that reckless behavior displayed by Donald Trump, be it ten years ago, is the reason why we have to worry about kompromat and to worry about someone who's susceptible to being exploited and blackmailed.

VAUSE: Ok. And with that we shall finish up. Welcome -- great to have you with us -- Shawn. It was a pleasure having you. Thank you for joining us. That was great.

NELSON: Thank you.

VAUSE: Mo -- as always, fantastic.

KELLY: Thank you.

VAUSE: Thank you -- sir.

Ok. Next up here on NEWSROOM L.A., fighting appears to be over for one of the main rebel groups in Eastern Ghouta after a deal reached with the Syrian regime. But more on that in a moment.

Also ahead a police shooting sparking a protest here in California. What we're learning about the death of Stephon Clark -- just ahead.

[00:18:26] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: The Syrian regime is tightening its grip on the rebel-held stronghold of eastern Ghouta. After weeks of relentless bombing, one of the main rebel groups has reached an agreement with the government to evacuate its fighters and families from part of the city. It's unclear where they will go but previous evacuees have headed north to rebel-held Idlib.

Joining us now, CNN's military analyst Colonel Rick Francona, who once served as a U.S. military attache in Syria and he knows the country well. So Colonel -- thank you for being with us.

This deal seems to have paved the way for Assad's biggest victory there since Aleppo, allowing the regime to regain control of its suburb or at least what's left of it. So what's the strategic advantage now for Assad?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, you're right. This is going to be a big victory for him because it's going to clear out that entire area to the east of Damascus. This has been a thorn in his side for years.

Although that area has been under siege it has still caused him a lot of problems. So this agreement paves the way for all of that area.

There's going to be a series of agreements. This is the first one. There will be others. And pretty soon, the Syrian government will reassert control over the whole area. There's a few other pockets down south that he needs to clear up but now then all eyes are going to turn north to this province that you mentioned -- Idlib.

That's where they've dumped all of these rebel fighters. And that's where the big battle is going to come. And it just seems like the Russians brokered this and part of it was to put them all up in Idlib. And they've got them all in once place and the final battle is going to be a blood bath in Idlib.

VAUSE: It sounds like they're setting Idlib up as a kill zone.

FRANCONA: That's exactly right. We'll call it a target-rich environment. But just about everybody in there now is either one of these jihadi groups or it's one of the Syrian -- the Free Syrian Army rebel groups. All of them are there, just about everybody there.

Of course, the problem is they're intermingled with, you know, over a million civilians and there are going to be horrendous civilian casualties because the Russians and the Syrians will are going to treat Idlib just like they treated Aleppo, just like they treated east Ghouta. They're going to bomb it mercilessly from the air and then push the pressure up from the ground. The problem will be -- I don't see much agreements coming after this because where are they going to go? Idlib will be the last stand.

VAUSE: So there's no potential that this is leading to some kind of partition of Syria, which is one of the plans out there that, you know, maybe you put the rebels in one spot and you Assad controls the rest.

FRANCONA: You know I've seen that. And there maybe a de facto; I don't think there'll ever be, you know, an actual legal break-up of the country. But I think there's going to be enclaves.

And of course, we're supporting some sort of a Kurdish enclave now and that brings us into direct confrontation with our NATO allies and the Turks. So all that's going to have to be and the people that are going to make the decision, of course, are not the Syrians.

This is going to be brokered by the Syrian -- I'm sorry by the Russians, the Iranians, the Turks and possibly the United States. But so far the Russians, Turks and Iranians have been very successful at marginalizing our influence in what happens in Syria in the future.

BAIER: And every time there's been one of those deals without involving the regime or the Syrian opposition groups. They just don't seem to last.

Colonel Francona -- good to see you. Thank you -- sir.

FRANCONA: Ok -- John.

VAUSE: Outrage is growing here in California over Sunday's police shooting, or killing rather of Stephon Clark. It sparked protests like this one outside the Sacramento Kings pro-basketball game on Thursday.

Sacramento police say they thought Clark had a gun but no weapon was found at the scene, only a cell phone.

CNN's Dan Simon has details and a warning this report contains video some people will find disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The encounter lasts less than minute.

After a brief chase, Sacramento police fired 20 shots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shots fired. Shots fired.

SIMON: And as the smoke clears they explain --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something in his hands. It looked out a gun from our perspective.

SIMON: Ahead in their spotlight, an unarmed 22-year-old black man lay dead in his grandmother's backyard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can't go over and get you help unless we know you don't have your weapon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a very tragic event for the family and for officers

SIMON: They say they feared for their lives but no weapons were found at the scene, just a cell phone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right there. Right there, was my grandson dead with the iPhone.

[00:24:59] SIMON: It does not appear the pursuing officers ever identified themselves as police before opening fire. Now the family of Stephon Clark, a father of two says they are murderers.

SIMON: Are you angry with the police?

STEVANTE CLARK, BROTHER OF STEPHON CLARK: I'm pissed. I'm livid. I'm --

SIMON: You said you wanted his name to be remembered the same way that people remember --

CLARK: Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown.

SIMON: Sacramento police arrived in the neighborhood Sunday after 9:00 p.m. responding to calls of someone breaking car windows.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Says, guy down street is breaking windows of cars.

SMINON: Police say they found at least three vehicles damaged. They believed Clark was the culprit.

According to the sheriff's department, its helicopter crew observed a person breaking windows and taking up a toolbar. Aerial video shows someone police say is Clark topping fences and running from police.

CLARK: The police want to try and slander him. Say he was this and that. He wasn't a gun guy, you know.

POLICE: 57- he's down, no movement.

SIMON: Moments after the gunfire Clark lay silent and the officers reload their guns, still fearful it seems of being attacked. Minutes later they approach to administer aid.

Where does the family go from here?

CLARK: We're afraid. We're afraid. It's not the first and it won't be the last. That's what -- I think that's what hurts the most.

SIMON: Now Clark did have a previous criminal record that included charges of domestic abuse and robbery. But obviously that had no bearing on the events that night. Meantime the two Sacramento police officers are on paid administrative leave. One of them is also African-American.

Dan Simon, CNN -- Sacramento.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Want to head to the U.S. capitol right now. Of course, the U.S. Senate is voting on a very big spending bill -- $1.3 trillion which could avert a government shutdown. The 2,300-page bill has already been passed by the House of Representatives.

It is unclear whether there are in fact the numbers in the Senate. If it does not go through, that will pave the way for the third government shutdown this year. But in this $1.3 trillion spending measure is increased funding for the military, increased funding for domestic spending. And it should, if it goes through, keep the government open until September.

We'll keep an eye on that. And as soon as the leader of the House, or the Senate rather, Mitch McConnell actually speaks we'll bring those remarks to you.

Ok. Still to come here -- breaking up is hard to do especially when you've been together for just oh so long. But are you really ready, despite everything that has happened, all the controversy, to split with Facebook? We'll talk about that just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:30:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

VAUSE (voice-over): Welcome back, everybody, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour.

(HEADLINES)

VAUSE: For Facebook and its 2 billion users, it's now a matter of trust.

Can the social media behemoth be trusted with all that personal information?

Will it be safe and not misused like it was by Cambridge Analytica?

But once trust is gone, it's a long, hard road to win it back and many are not willing to make that journey -- like Cher.

On Twitter, she announced, "Today I did something very hard for me. Facebook has helped me with the charity. There are amazing people who worked (INAUDIBLE) special friend."

But she went on to say, "Today I deleted my Facebook account."

Many like Cher either have or are considering unfriending Facebook for good, which means a life with no poking, no liking, no wall posts, no birthday reminders, no pointless time wasters like what type of car would you be or what stupid Facebook quiz are you.

No more cat videos or embarrassing friends who overshare. But going cold turkey on Facebook can be like a junkie trying to get clean. The algorithms and programming were created to be addictive and many are hooked on the buzz of that short-term dopamine hit.

Douglas Rushkoff is a author, lecturer and media theorist. He joins us now from Westchester, New York.

Douglas, good to see you.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF, AUTHOR, LECTURER AND MEDIA THEORIST: Hey, good to be with you.

VAUSE: You have been Facebook clean now for five years. Just a warning here, heads up, we're about to show your old Facebook page.

And there it is, just with a simple apology for content not being available right now. Only a hope that maybe one day you will actually go back.

So first up, how difficult was that breakup initially?

And what has life been like without Facebook for all these years?

RUSHKOFF: Well, I mean, for me the thing that was difficult about it was I chose to leave Facebook right before a big book of mine was coming out. So my publicists were outraged that I would lose this terrific promotional opportunity.

But, you know, as kind of a minor public figure, I felt it was irresponsible of me to accept likes and follows from people who were making themselves vulnerable by liking me because I understood that kind of the marketing push and the surveillance machinery of Facebook would come through me to anybody that liked me.

So it seemed to be an unethical thing for me to do. In terms of leaving, my God, it was like a weight was lifted from my shoulders. I mean, the people that I'd been trying to get away from, like friends from second grade, who I had been trying to leave behind for 40 years, now were finally left behind and not, you know, showing up all of a sudden, as if they're my friends today.

And I wasn't getting, you know, marketed about a future that Mark Zuckerberg knew I was going to go live but I hadn't yet decided to do. So it felt like I kind of got my autonomy back.

VAUSE: But was there a final straw for you?

Was there something, a realization, an epiphany moment?

RUSHKOFF: For me, it was back in 2012. They came up with something they called sponsored stories. So what would happen is, you know, if they saw that you did something or liked something, they would then put out an ad with you in it.

They would turn one of your posts into an ad for a product that you may not have wanted to endorse. And that was when I was thinking, oh, my gosh, they're really -- they've crossed over. They've stepped over the line now.

VAUSE: OK. You wrote a op-ed for cnn.com, I think it was on Thursday. And this one line really stood out for me.

"Every minute on Facebook is a minute you could choose to spend with another person, forging psychologically healthy relationships instead of submitting to a company that is actively trying to undermine them."

Are you saying Facebook is knowingly and actively harming real world relationships?

And if that's the case, how are they doing it?

RUSHKOFF: Well, I mean, they have to. Because, I mean, the way that Facebook's marketers reach you, the way that they get you --

[00:35:00]

RUSHKOFF: -- to do stuff, to click on things, to look at things, to read an article, is by really detouring around your frontal lobe, the part of you that thinks and feels, and getting right back here to the brain stem to what's called the amygdala, that reptile brain.

It's the reptile brain that responds to, you know, fire, breast, death, sex, race -- different race than me. That's the part that gets activated in a space like Facebook. It's not the part that makes you think and feel. That's slow. That's not as urgent as the fight or flight response that you can get keeping people down in that impulsive place.

But that impulsive place isn't really good for you. That's when all your stress hormones like cortisol are released. When you're in the real world with real people, making eye contact, you start to breathe together, this other hormone called oxytocin comes out, you bond with people, you're trying to be social and reasonable.

That doesn't help Facebook. That doesn't help the marketers on Facebook who are trying to get you to just click and point and shove and respond in that much more kind of lower, addicted way.

VAUSE: It's incredible to think there is actually a chemical reaction in the brain to all of this.

RUSHKOFF: Well, and they know about it, is the thing. You look at the research, you look at the people who are designing the interface on Facebook are reading books about slot machine addiction to see how do we design an interface that's as addictive as a Las Vegas slot machine by using the very same principles.

VAUSE: I guess what you're saying is essentially this is about reclaiming your life. RUSHKOFF: Yes. I mean, and all of our lives, reclaiming our society,

reclaiming democratic process. I mean, what we know about democracy is you need an informed -- you need an informed electorate that's acting with some intelligence.

You don't want a knee-jerk, crazy mob picking presidents and senators. You don't want your kid valuing him or herself online based on how many people have clicked on a picture of him or her.

Because who's going to get the most clicks, the most likes on a picture?

Somebody who's doing something reasonable or someone who's doing something kind of crazy?

When you look at all of the data and you find out that, well, teen social media use is directly correlated with teen suicide, you have to think, well, there's a public health issue here that people are not really talking about.

And they're not because the business models of these companies is really to extract as much data as they can from us, anyway they can. And it really puts them between a rock and a hard place. If they want to be less abusive, less abstractive, then they're going to make less money the way that they know how to right now.

VAUSE: Well, Douglas, congratulations on curing your Facebook addiction that we all seem to have. But you've actually managed to separate yourself.

RUSHKOFF: It's easy. It's easy. It really is. You get more time, more friends, more love. It's a better life out here, I promise.

VAUSE: Thanks a lot. OK. Thank you so much for sharing your story, appreciate it.

RUSHKOFF: Take care.

VAUSE: And that's good advice. Next here on NEWSROOM L.A., Toni Iwobi is an Italian (INAUDIBLE) Italy's first black senator chose to be a member of a controversial political group. That's coming up.

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VAUSE: Breaking news this hour, the U.S. Senate has adopted a huge spending bill, a $1.3 trillion spending bill and that will avert another government shutdown. Apparently the bill passed 65-32. There were some negotiations with a few senators who objected to a number of issues, notably the increase to the national debt. That brings the debt up to $21 trillion. There is increased spending in this bill for the military, for domestic programs as well. It only had passed the lower house but there had been a lot of controversy over this bill. It's 2,300 pages long. Some members of Congress members complained that they didn't get a chance to read it because it was dropped on them just 24 hours ago.

They didn't really know what was in it but it looks as if it's passed. And that will now mean that there will not be a government shutdown, which many had feared, would have been the third one this year.

And it now means that the government will be funded until September.

OK, well, we'll go to Italy now, where this year's official opening of parliament will be like no other. For the first time, a black senator will take a seat in the upper house. Toni Iwobi, a Nigerian immigrant, was elected as a member of the country's far right anti- immigrant League Party earlier this month.

Delia Gallagher has his story.

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DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Toni Iwobi's adopted hometown of Spirano in Northern Italy is proud of their famous son. He's just been elected Italy's first black senator.

An immigrant from Nigeria, Toni married a local and his first job here 40 years ago was sweeping out horse stables. Now the owner of an I.T. company, he visits with his former boss among the thoroughbreds before leaving for a new arena, the Roman senate.

TONI IWOBI, ITALIAN SENATOR: (Speaking Italian). I'm black, I'm proud.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): The irony is that the political party he represents, Italy's right-wing League Party, has campaigned to close the country's door to immigrants, their campaign slogan this year, "Stop the Invasion. Italians First."

It's a sentiment which has gained popularity in Italy. In the latest elections the League's support grew to nearly 18 percent of the national vote, making them Italy's third largest party.

Iwobi insists that his party is not racist, that they are against illegal immigrants and for what he calls quality immigration of people who want to work hard like he did and who wait for a visa rather than risking their lives at sea.

"Why do they have to go to another country," he says, "through a tunnel of death?

"There are embassies, consulates, visa offices."

Iwobi says he likes the League for their fiscal policies and Italy's flagging economy needs to be helped first. "What does Italy have to offer these poor immigrants," he says, "if it

can't even guarantee jobs for its own children?"

Iwobi wrote his party guidelines for immigration to stop immigrants from leaving their native countries by encouraging development there, welcome only political refugees and block arrivals of immigrants by sea, a policy which has support in Spirano but might not bring much hope to the thousands of immigrants who arrive on Italy's shores, hoping for the same opportunities Tony Iwobi has enjoyed -- Delia Gallagher, CNN, Spirano, Italy.

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VAUSE: Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause, "WORLD SPORT" is next.