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U.S. Ready To Restart Denuclearization Talks with North Korea; Brett Kavanaugh Assault Allegation Examined; Aussie Athletes Spark Uproar By Wearing Black Face; Australia's Alarming Strawberry Needle Case. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired September 20, 2018 - 00:00   ET

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


[00:00:00]

JOHN VAUSE, CNN HOST: Joining CNN "Newsroom," live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, selling the same horse twice, a pretty confused Pyongyang of making old promises and failing to make any real constituents (ph) of denuclearization.

Plus, will she or won't she, republicans set a deadline for Brett Kavanaugh's accuser to decide if she would testify against the Supreme Court nominee. And why does this keep happening? Three Australian football players in blackface, and they claim they had no idea it was racist. Hello and thanks for joining us. I'm John Vause, and this is "Newsroom L.A."

Americas top diplomat says the U.S. is really to restart negotiations with North Korea and will aim to end Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program by 2021. Mike Pompeo's comments come at Kim (ph) and promise to end his nuclear and missile program, but only after the U.S. takes corresponding measures.

It's that big "if," which has many people skeptical. CNN's Paula Hancocks joins us live from Seoul. There's more on this. So Paula, we're now into day three of this summit there in Pyongyang. Twenty- four hours ago, there was a flurry of announcements. What can we expect today?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, today, it's more of a sightseeing trip for President Moon and for Kim Jong-un. At this point, we understand they are on the top of Mount Paektu, which is sort of a historical and sacred mountain, a historical homeland for the Korean people, so a very important day for the two of them.

But when it comes to their reaction to what they actually announced yesterday, we have had a very positive reaction, from the U.S., from the President Trump, and also from the U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.

One interesting point, though, for Mr. Trump and for Mr. Pompeo. They both pointed out that North Korea had agreed to nuclear inspectors going into the country. Now clearly that was not was announced on - on Wednesday by President Moon and Kim Jong-un. So there's a little bit of disparity in what North Korea is willing to give and in what the U.S. thinks that it is going to give. Now clearly, that has been happening a lot over recent months, but one interesting thing that's happened since the last time I spoke to you, John, is that, President Moon Jae-in went to a mass games in Pyongyang on Wednesday night. He spoke in front of 150,000 North Koreans, with Kim Jong-un sitting at his side, and spoke about denuclearization.

He spoke about how he wanted the land of Korea to be a land without nuclear weapons. And 150,000 North Koreans cheered that sentiment. So that is an incredible departure, really, from where we were just a very time ago. So simply from the Korean perspective, North and South, they believe that this summit has been successful. So does the U.S., although, once again, there is disparity in those details. John.

VAUSE: Yes, some have said you can drive a Mack truck through this declaration as well, just like the last one which came out of the Singapore summit. Paula, thank you, we appreciate it.

Joining me now, Philip Yun, executive director of the Ploughshares Fund here. Phil's a former advisor on North Korea to President Bill Clinton. OK, Philip, you know, the - sort of the common criticism here is that, essentially, Pyongyang didn't really move the needle a whole lot when it came to denuclearization.

You know, the Koreans are selling the same horse twice. They promised to scrap the same missile testing site, the same nuclear plant, back in June, after the Singapore summit. But the point, which I think is being lost here, is that, at least the needle is moving. You know, before this, the U.S. and North Korea weren't even talking. At least they're back at the table.

PHILIP YUN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AND COO, PLOUGHSHARES FUND: Yes, we're in a much situation when we're - than a year ago. Remember, we were actually talking about a preemptive strike by the United States, tensions are really high. Those are way, way down right now.

You know, if there's going to be success, this is the road we're going to have to take, and these are the checkpoints that we're going to have to cross. We don't know what's going to happen in the future, but you know, from the summit here, there are two things.

One, because of some of the agreements, there's a less chance miscalculation because of some agreements related to the two militaries on both sides of a very militarized border. So that creates less of a chance of a mistake or a miscalculation. And the - and the second thing this, essentially, we have the United States and - and - and North Korea actually now agreeing to talk.

Remember, this was all stalled, and we've - are now having the start of a process. So I think this is - this is positive. It's not everything, and it's not a breakthrough, by any way, but it is progress. And I think you're absolutely right. This is something that we've got to monitor, but there are definite holes (ph).

VAUSE: You know, kicking off (ph) of your point about the de- escalation of tension along, you know, the border here. You know, the analysts over at 38 North (inaudible) argue the significance of the agreement there is actually being overlooked at some point. Here's part of their analysis.

[00:05:00]

They write this, "A bomb out of the blue, North Korean nuclear attack on the United States, which would be suicidal for the Kim dynasty and his country, has always been a fantastical scenario. The most likely trigger for any large-scale conventional conflict between North Korea and U.S. Republic of Korea forces has always been a local incident or accident that escalates out of control."

So in other words, the measures will actually have a very real impact and will also act as confidence building measures between North and South.

YUN: No - absolutely. I mean starting November 1, there's a no-fly zone by the border. There's not supposed to be any military drills near the border. And these command outposts that were there, heavily armed, are now supposedly going to be destroyed or taken back.

You also have in the West Sea, which was the sit of many actual firefights between North and South, which could escalate into something that no one wants - there's - there's work related to that.

So this is significant in that way. Again, I agree. My concern, all along, has been - as the rhetoric goes up, miscalculation increases, and by having these kinds of confidence building measures, the chances of that happening have decreased. So that's good news.

VAUSE: And this is where we get to the split between Seoul and Washington, because these sort of de-escalation measures, when it comes to the conventional military threat, they can more forward while, at the same time - you know, I'm assuming that the North Koreans can continue building his nuclear stockpile, which he appears to be doing, according to U.S. intelligence.

YUN: Yes, I mean - well, that's something that we've always known. They just give it a freeze, to testing, which is good news because they didn't have one before. The next thing is getting a freeze on plutonium production and highly enriched uranium production which is the stuff that actually makes a nuclear weapon work. That's the - that's the next step here, and so, you know, there's still work that we have to do related to that.

VAUSE: It also seems what we have here is, you know, North and South have known shown this ability for these sites (ph) to get together, on their own, to negotiate, to reach agreements and to improve relations - all of this, without the United States, which means that, you know, U.S. priorities, I guess, take a backseat.

You know - and Pompeo praised the outcome here in Pyongyang, but how bad, ultimately, could this be for Washington?

YUN: Well, you see, that's the one downside or concern that I have about the outcome of this summit. I mean it is very clear that President Moon of South Korea has an agenda that he wants to push this through and move as quickly as he can, before something stops him.

Part of that has to do with his domestic politics, and that's why he decided to this rapprochement (ph) with North Korea early on in its term. But I also think that these economic and cultural exchanges that are going on are kind of a train that has left and may take a momentum on their own, which is going to limit Washington's freedom of action and therefore, may cause a little bit of concern or friction between Washington D.C. and - and Seoul. And so, both Moon and Donald Trump are going to be meeting next week, I guess, in New York, part of the U.N. So this is what's going to be discussed, but that is a concern for sure.

VAUSE: Yes, that'll be an interesting meeting for President Moon's negotiating skills, fresh off his meeting with Kim Jong-un. Philip, thank you.

YUN: Thank you.

VAUSE: OK. As we said, Donald Trump believes all of this is very positive, and on Wednesday, he talked of his relationship with Kim Jong-un.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Remember this, prior to my coming into office, a lot of people thought we were going - it was inevitable, we were going to war in North Korea. And now we're - the relationships, I have to tell you, at least on a personal basis, they're very good. It's very much calmed down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: (Inaudible) Mo'Kelly and California Republican Committeeman, Shawn Steel, both with us now here in Los Angeles. Good to see you, guys.

MO'KELLY, HOST, THE MO'KELLY SHOW: Good to see you.

SHAWN STEEL, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEEMAN: Good to see you.

VAUSE: OK. So you know, I was on-air about 24 hours ago, news was breaking from Pyongyang, and President Trump, as he often does, he hit the Twitter machine. This is what he posted, "Kim Jong-un has agreed to allow nuclear inspections" - no he hasn't - "subject to final negotiations and apparently dismantled a test site and launch pad in the presence of international experts" - no he hasn't.

In the meantime, there'll be no rocket or nuclear testing. Again, putting aside the fact that the declaration makes no mention of international inspections at all, I want to get you a piece from the Wall Street Journal, which writes, "Sorry, the testing moratorium is useful, but it is not progress towards denuclearization.

There is a still a chance that Kim will agree to give up his weapons program, if the U.S. can hold onto enough of its leverage. Wednesday summit suggests the South Koreans want to shower Kim with carrots (ph). Put away the sticks. North Korea's past behavior has shown that it is unlikely to succeed."

[00:10:00]

You know, Mo, apart form the dangers of tweeting without knowing all the details, you know, this is a deal, which is a good deal -

MO'KELLY: Right.

VAUSE: - for the South Korean.

MO'KELLY: Absolutely.

VAUSE: - and certainly for the U.S. (ph).

MO'KELLY: Yes, and not only that. The president is determined to declare victory before the game has even started. It's nice that - that, I would say, Kim Jong-un is open to more things than ever before, but he hasn't promised anything. He had - there are no deliverables, there's no agreement in place.

And South Korea may enter into an agreement which is not to our liking, to your point, and at the same time, how are we supposed to, then, join the agreement afterward?

VAUSE: Yes. Shawn, you know, this - this is a president who, you know, has made this sort of a cornerstone of his first term in office. He wants to, I guess, take this to the midterm elections and say, you know, he's the guy who brought piece to the Korean Peninsula. But at this stage, the U.S. could be left out of this all together.

STEEL: Well, keep in mind that, under Obama, nothing happened, useful, with North Korea, or Bush or Clinton or any other president.

(CROSSTALK)

Well, no, actually, Bill Clinton got taken to the cleaners.

(CROSSTALK)

You still can't sit down after that deal. No, Trump has actually done something that - that surprised a lot of people. He had a meeting that a lot of people criticized, and there does seem to be some objective changes.

I'm the most skeptical person, probably within five miles of the seat (ph), about anything good coming out of North Korea, but I have to admit, the fact that they're meeting with the South Korean president, that they're talking about taking away nuclear weapons in front of 150,000 of Kim Jong-un's hardcore supporters, that the discussion's going on (ph).

And let's talk about the objective (ph). I was in Japan when the North Koreans were shooting missiles over Japan. Those kind of things haven't taken place. There hasn't been any tests. And keep another thing in mind, the United -

VAUSE: You know, that's (ph) what I've read from the Wall Street Journal, the conservative Wall Street Journal.

STEEL: Well - but the - but the United States hasn't taken down any of the sanctions, and they're still hurting and they're squeezing North Korea.

MO'KELLY: Well, North Korea hasn't stopped any of the - the - the plutonium mining. They haven't stopped any of the missile -

STEEL: I know you're so unhappy that you don't want to say anything good about Trump. But the fact is, so far, he's winning on this. And your - your team did nothing for eight years.

(CROSSTALK)

MO'KELLY: What is my team (ph)?

VAUSE: How - where is the success here for the president, when it comes to the potential nuclear threat from the North Koreans?

MO'KELLY: That hasn't changed.

STEEL: Well, actually, what's changed is the attitude of the tone and having war games prepared to take over (ph) Pyongyang. I'm still in favor of having good war games prepared to take over Pyongyang, but the temperature has cooled quite a bit.

But you're right, and I actually agree with Mo, let's see a lot more action taking place. In the meanwhile, don't take off the pressure at all.

VAUSE: OK. Let's move on, because there's a lot of other news to get to. The Senate republicans have now set a deadline, next Friday, for Christine Ford, to decide whether or not to testify before the Judiciary Committee on Monday.

She's the woman who's accused the Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, of sexual assault three decades ago. The U.S. president chanting (ph) a lot of empathy here for the person, which he believes is truly the victim.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They've already postponed a major hearing, and really, they're hurting somebody's life very badly. And it's very unfair, I think, too. As you know, Justice Kavanaugh has been treated very, very tough, and his family - I think it's a very unfair thing, what's going on. So we'll see.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MO'KELLY: It's very unfair, but yet, not to the person that he's indicating the unfairness is being pointed towards. I mean this - there's a political calculation here, and there's a legal aspect to this.

Politically, this is a job interview, OK. Now if people want to confirm, the Senate Judiciary Committee wants to confirm Brett - Brett Kavanaugh, they can still do that. It's not incumbent upon Dr. Ford to testify, one way or the other. I support whether she testifies or does not testify, because this is about her life, not his political desires.

VAUSE: And Shawn, to point to the president. You know, there is a pattern here, of a rush to defend men who have been accused of some kind of, you know, sexually inappropriate behavior. And it seems, every time, there is no regard for the other side.

And I get it, like, there is - there is pain, and there is anguish on both sides of these sort of situations, so there's always defense on the president of one side and not the other (ph).

STEEL: Surprisingly, you're right. Bill Clinton certainly got to rush to judge (ph). Ted Kennedy - Wiener (ph), recently, Keith Ellison, who steal your DNC trip (ph) -

MO'KELLY: I'm not even a member of the DNC.

STEEL: You're not a democrat. I apologize. And I really - anybody that I accuse of being a democrat, I do apologize when they're really not. Keith Ellison's still the co-chairman, and the record (ph) just came up. Nothing from the left, nothing from me, too. The point is that there's -

MO'KELLY: You want to put in Al Franken?

STEEL: - one person is - and Al Franken -

VAUSE: (Inaudible).

STEEL: - the very one who actually was defended by Debbie Katz, who was also the same lawyer for Christine Ford.

(CROSSTALK)

VAUSE: - it's just irrelevant.

[00:15:00]

STEEL: No, no. No, it's completely relevant because what you have is a sinister plan that was put together by Dianne Feinstein -

(CROSSTALK)

Let me finish this, Mo. You can take it, you can take it - to inflict as much damage, after 30 hours of hearings, not letting anybody in the administration, the Senate or her colleagues know about it -- not a chairman (ph) (inaudible). She sat in the operation for 10 weeks, Diane Feinstein --

VAUSE: Out of respect for the person --

STEEL: And then suddenly after the hearings are over this woman who is a social justice warrior herself, who has an activist agenda herself --

VAUSE: But you don't think she should be believed? You believe that she is --

STEEL: She's a liar. She is a complete --

VAUSE: How do you know that?

STEEL: Hold up, well actually would you like some facts? Number one, she never mentioned it to anybody.

MO'KELLY: She hasn't testified (ph).

(CROSSTALK)

STEEL: Until 2012, and then she was --

(CROSSTALK)

STEEL: Then she was assaulted by four people, by four men. Well then she said, that wasn't by four men, it was actually Kavanaugh and she changes -- my psychologist had it wrong. She has -- she's refusing to appear in front of the American public, she's the one -- when you make an accusation (ph), if I accused you of a serious crime --

VAUSE: OK.

STEEL: I'm not the one that has to be protected -- you're the one that gets

VAUSE: So (inaudible).

MO'KELLY: You (ph) are not required to testify publically, this could be a private proceeding.

STEEL: And the accused always has the right to face his accuser.

VAUSE: OK, OK let's --

STEEL: That's called American common law.

VAUSE: Because this is (inaudible) the attorney says, that they basically want an FBI investigation in to these allegations before she'll testify. The result is there is no way (ph)

STEEL: Isn't that silly?

VAUSE: Back in 1991 --

MO'KELLY: No they did it with Anita Hill --

VAUSE: Exactly, back in 1991.

STEEL: You have it backwards! You have it backwards!

(CROSSTALK) STEEL: Anita Hill is one of the most disgraceful people in the last 15 years. (ph)

VAUSE: Back in 1991, Anita Hill claimed sexual harassment by Clarence Thomas during his nomination process -- listen to what the republicans said back then.

STEEL: The circumstances are different.

VAUSE: Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

SEN. ORRIN HATCH, R-UT: Chairman Bunn and the ranking member Thurman, when they heard about this the first time they immediately ordered to set the FBI investigation which was a very right thing to do, it's the perfect thing to do.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY, R-IA: Now, when the chairman of the Judiciary Committee and when the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee learned of these allogations the FBI was immediately ordered to conduct an investigation. That investigation was completed before the Senate Judiciary Committee voted --

(END VIDEOCLIP)

VAUSE: So Shawn, what's the difference between now?

STEEL: Let me help you out. Anita Hill came out quickly, and early in the game it wasn't a bit last minute surprise and the hearings had just started and at that time -- that's when the background checks were taking place, it was perfectly appropriate.

Instead, the democrats this time waited for three months, hired a lawyer that is part of the resistance group and then kept the news silent -- and then of course we're worried about Ford's protection and her privacy.

She goes to the Washington Post and has a full interview, she writes two letters. They sit on it, 30 hours of hearings when you could have asked any question at all and then one hour with Diane Feinstein -- private hour with Kavanaugh and then the hearing's over to clear it over (ph), then it comes out because it's a hail Mary --

(CROSSTALK)

MO'KELLY: Were you in the room? Were you in the room? That night, were you in the room of the alleged assault?

STEEL: Listen, I guarantee you --

MO'KELLY: It's yes or no.

STEEL: It didn't happen and I wasn't there.

MO'KELLY: OK, so you weren't there -- so there's no way you attend (ph) to the voracity --

STEEL: But that's the silliest thing -- you're trying to have me prove it negative (ph)

MO'KELLY: You just called her a liar.

STEEL: And you know you can't do that that's (inaudible).

MO'KELLY: How can you call her a liar, how can you call her a liar? She hasn't even testified.

STEEL: She is a bold-faced liar, and she has an agenda the people that are running her life right now --

MO'KELLY: I'm glad we're recording this.

STEEL: Are trying to absolutely attack our democracy and they're doing damage in the meanwhile.

VAUSE: (Inaudible).

STEEL: I have good news, can I share with you?

VAUSE: No, because we ran out of time, no. Peace out.

MO'KELLY: He's not completely wrong in the sense -- he's completely wrong in the sense -- he's completely wrong if only because she, Dr. Ford has not told her story be it politically or in a safe environment (ph) --

STEEL: She has an opportunity!

MO'KELLY: She has an opportunity --

STEEL: But she's not going to do it because she's a liar.

MO'KELLY: She has not told it yet, so therefore you cannot call her a liar because you can't even --

STEEL: She already told the Washington Post, she's a liar.

MO'KELLY: Analyze her story against the facts, she hasn't told her story.

VAUSE: Yet.

STEEL: We have 46 women that have said Kavanaugh --

VAUSE: If you want to find out the truth why not have an FBI investigation, the president could order it --

STEEL: What are they going to find out? They don't want to do it

(CROSSTALK)

STEEL: What are they going to find out? And the FBI said they can't do it because it's not in their jurisdiction.

(CROSSTALK)

VAUSE: The investigation of the FBI --

MO'KELLY: Unless the president orders it.

VAUSE: Yeah, exactly. Thank you, timeout. Next hour, come back. Thank you.

STEEL: Wait a minute, I'm actually not done (ph).

VAUSE: Appreciate it. Yes we are.

STEEL: No, we've got so much more to do.

VAUSE: Thank you Shawn and Mo.

STEEL: (Inaudible).

VAUSE: Well Donald Trump promised he would be the greatest jobs president ever. He also said he would take on China. But now that trade war with China might actually be costing the U.S. a lot of jobs. Jack Ma, the founder and chairman of Chinese armine retailer Alibaba says the pledge he made last year to create a million jobs in the United States -- that won't happen. And it won't happen because of Donald Trump's trade war with China.

[00:20:00]

CNN's Sherisse Pham joins us now from Hong Kong. So Sherisse, why now? Why is Jack Ma walking back that promise? (ph)

PHAM: Well I think that, John, it is really because of the U.S.-China trade war. It is ratcheting up to brand new heights and much more heated rhetoric. And look, Jack Ma talked to Chinese media earlier this week.

He was telling Shinwa (ph), "look, this promise was made on the basis of friendly China-U.S. relations, but the current situation has destroyed that." This promise, he said, "can't be completed" or can't be fulfilled, he was speaking in Chinese there -- should also note that an Alibaba spokesperson confirmed to us that those remarks are accurate. And look, this is not the first time that Jack Ma has criticized the U.S.-China trade war.

He said there are no winners in a trade war, and he said just earlier this week that Alibaba, his $400 billion tech company that he founded has been hurt by this trade war.

The timing of the remark is interesting through because it came just a day after the U.S. announced another round of tariffs on an additional $200 billion of Chinese goods. China responding very quickly and kind slapping (ph) tariffs on $60 billion worth of Chinese goods and it was the first time that China could not go dollar for dollar with the U.S. so we're really at the -- sort of the top of the heated rhetoric here and the heated back and forth between the U.S. and China.

And John as you, you lived in Beijing, you know Jack Ma -- he's very charismatic and he makes huge promises, and the timing to walk back this pledge was really good because analysts I talked to at the time when he made the pledge said it was pretty unlikely that Jack Ma was ever going to be able to create a million American jobs.

VAUSE: Oh, so I guess the U.S. president gave him a get out of jail card free, or whatever you want to call it. At least on that point.

PHAM: Exactly.

VAUSE: Sherisse, thanks appreciate you being life.

PHAM: Thank you.

VAUSE: Next up here on News Room L.A. despite (ph) protest, despite a few penalties the rape crisis in India continues to get worse, we'll be live in New Delhi. Also ahead, more than 100 Australians have found strawberries in needles now (ph), the Prime Minister there says whoever did it should be slapped with 15 years in jail. The very latest when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:25:00]

VAUSE: Well, to India now and the horrific rape of a little girl, 7 years old. It's just the latest outrage in a string of sexual assaults and new laws have done little to stem these violent attacks. CNN's Anna Coren standing by live in New Delhi. So Anna, what's the latest on the condition of this little girl, and what is known about this 21 year old whose been arrested?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well John, as you can imagine the details are very limited -- what we are getting out of police. What I can tell you is that we are standing outside the hospital where the 7 year old girl is recovering.

Now we got some good news this morning, she is in a stable condition. When we spoke to police last night she was critical, fighting for her life -- now she is stable. Now, she suffered extensive internal injuries after she was attacked, raped and a water pipe inserted inside her -- 7 years old, John. It just doesn't make any sense and this is just one of so many attacks that we have reported on, and those are the ones that we have reported on.

These attacks are happening on a weekly basis here in India and activists are saying what is going on in this country? Now another point that we found out was that this man, this 21 year old man who has been arrested by police over the attack, he was known to the family he was a neighbor. He allegedly took her to a park on Monday night, and that is where the assault took place.

And as it is here in India, so many of those perpetrators of sexual violence are known to the victims -- and that is why when we talk about the law that the government has brought in to try and calm that -- this problem is the real problem here in India -- it's just not making too much of an impact because these victims know their attackers so they don't want them to face the death penalty.

The government just last month, they finally passed legislation and made law this death penalty, that if you are convicted of raping a child under the age of 12 you will be convicted and sentenced to death. But because of that, activists feel that less victims are going to actually report the rape charges (ph).

VAUSE: Anna, thank you. Yeah, there was that case back in 2012 which really focused attention but a lot more needs to be done obviously. Anna Coren live for us in New Delhi.

Going to take a small break here on Newsroom L.A. when we come back, three football players in Australia dress up in black face. And once again here's the question, do Australians actually know what racism is?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:30:00] VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause, with the headlines this hour.

U.S. Secretary of State says the U.S. is ready to restart negotiations with North Korea, with a goal of ending Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program by 2021. This is after the leaders of North and South Korea agreed to work towards denuclearization at a peace summit in Pyongyang.

Christine Blasey Ford has until Friday morning to decide whether or not to speak to a U.S. Senate committee, her accusations, against Brett Kavanaugh. Ford has accused the Supreme Court nominee of sexually assaulting her when they were in high school. Kavanaugh denies the accusation. Ford is calling for an FBI investigation before she testifies.

The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, is in Austria, meeting with other European leaders, but the warm handshakes (INAUDIBLE) cold reality. European council president warns time is running out on the Brexit deal. More hard decisions need to be made.

It was all just a bit of a laugh at the local footy club, three Australian football players in black face. There's a party to celebrate the end of the season. Two dressed up as African-American tennis stars, Venus and Serena Williams, the third went as a Sudanese player, with the Sydney Swans, called Aliir.

The three actually played for the Penguin Football Club in Tasmania. The team says the players have apologized, saying, they never intended to be racist.

Michael Mansell is an activist with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Center, he joins us now from Launceston, in Tasmania. You know, I want to read you what was essentially the statement put out by the club on behalf of these players, saying that there was never this intention. In fact, what they said is that they just wanted to dress as one of their sporting idols.

Goes on to say, their actions were never intended to be racist in any way. Those concerned have been reprimanded and will be given support to make sure they understand that their behavior was racist and hurtful and that it will not happen again.

I'm just wondering, does anyone actually believe that they were dressing up as their idols?

MICHAEL MANSELL, ABORIGINAL ACTIVIST, TASMANIAN ABORIGINAL CENTER: I don't think so, John. These three white lads could have dressed up as any of their sports idols. But it is endemic in Australia and overseas white communities that when people want to do liberally make fun of black people, they disguise themselves as those people, with that imitation.

And the whole point of it is to make fun of the black people that they're imitating. And these guys are dressing themselves up in a manner that gets a great laugh among their other white mates, regardless of the impact on black people.

Now, what aboriginal player would want to go to that Football Club in that environment? What black immigrant coming into Australia would want to associate with these people? And I think these fellows, who the club, the players and the league officials are trying to dismiss and -- almost condone their behavior by saying it was a prank gone wrong.

I don't think they understand that racism is racism. And if you imitate black people in this manner, especially given that it was only a week ago, that there was a real fury in Australia, about the racist cartoon about Serena Williams. These guys knew exactly what they were doing.

VAUSE: You know, just getting to the point of origins here of black face, because it's very much up in the consciousness, you know, in the U.S. I guess the argument is made sometimes, not so much in Australia. I mean, I grew up in Australia, my grandmother would watch the Black and White Minstrel Show.

You know, in the U.S., it was always white actors with grease paint on their face, playing the roles of slaves or plantation workers.

And here's just more about from the website, Vox, explain why it's so offensive. To be clear, these weren't flattering representations at all. Taking place against the backdrop of a society that systematically mistreated and dehumanized black people, they were mocking portrayals that reinforced the idea that African-Americans were inferior in every way.

OK. So, that's the history in the U.S., is it similar in Australia? Can they make the argument, it's not as culturally relevant there, or is it -- because it's just equally as offensive? MANSELL: I think that the Australian political culture, particularly since 1996 when a very conservative federal government came into power, joined by a very racist and prominent Queensland senator, Pauline Hanson, whose comments about Aboriginal people, about migrants, legitimized racism.

What their effectively saying was there's nothing wrong with thinking your racist attitudes towards people who are different.

[00:35:17] And this behavior about these three footballers would be absolutely denounced in the United Kingdom and the United States. But not a single prime minister in Australia has come out and condemned this behavior.

The premier of Tasmania has not uttered a word. In other words, the white premiers and the white political leaders of Australia, say absolutely nothing wrong with it. But if you -- if they were asked directly to be -- to insure that they're being politically correct, they would say it's wrong.

But unless they are pressured, unlike the United States and United Kingdom, they would just let it go by and let aboriginal people, black immigrants to Australia just suffered the consequences of these people.

VAUSE: Mike, I can hear it now. I can hear what people are saying in places like Queensland and in Western Australia and (INAUDIBLE) white Australia, I'm talking about here, have a laugh. They're just having a joke here, you're too sensitive. You know, we're just speaking our mind. No harm was meant by this. People in white Australia will be saying like that.

MANSELL: Let these same people, not just dress up on one Saturday night among their white mates and have a laugh among themselves about what they look like dressed up as black people. Let them keep those black faces and all that black paint on them and mix in white society every day, and then let's see if they believe it was just a joke.

Let them walk into a white hotel, dressed up in this black paint and just see how long it is before someone hits them in the face or calls them some racist name. Let them walk around the street and just see how long it takes before the racism is vented against them.

So, then, they would see why this racist behavior, this imitation of black people in a caricature way, is so offensive and so -- and brings about the reality of racism for aboriginal people and black migrants.

VAUSE: You know, you mentioned the cartoon in the news-related paper, it was the Melbourne (INAUDIBLE) with Serena Williams. And, you know, it was denounced around the world as actually -- you know, as being racist.

You know, the newspaper defended it. So, I'm just wondering, you know, to this point, do Australians lack the ability to understand what racism actually is? MANSELL: I think there's a different culture in Australia that exists in -- by comparison the United States and United Kingdom, because you've got a large group of black people who have not only access to the media, but also they have voting power and they have access to political power.

So, they can react and insure that the policies or actions that offend them, are taking into account in American political or social culture. Here in Australia, aboriginal people are ony three percent of the population.

If something offends us, we are told that we're too sensitive. If it happened in America, of course, you've got a large body of black people who would say, well, we think what's happening in Australia is offensive and we think it's offensive here in America. And we can do something about it.

Australia can't ignore its -- the racist nature of its society. It had to pass anti-discrimination legislation from 1975 onwards, federally, and then put it in the states. Even then, an aboriginal was dying in custody every fortnight in Australia until they held a royal commission into aboriginal deaths in custody in 1990. And suddenly, the death rate stopped.

So, it does indicate that when things are as bad as they are, governments can react. But it is not -- it's not filtering through to the cultural beliefs of the ordinary whites.

VAUSE: Mike, we have to leave it there because we're out of time. Your last point was the best point. And I thank you for being with us and really appreciate speaking with you. Thank you, sir.

VAUSE: Thanks again, John.

VAUSE: We'll take a short break. Next up here on NEWSROOM L.A., needles and stories described by police as prank, the Australian prime minister says, it's not a joke.

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[00:40:00] VAUSE: Australian police say they now have an admission from a juvenile that needles found in strawberries that were put there as a prank. And they say this person wants to be dealt with as part of the youth cautioning system. They believe whoever is responsible for more than 100 cases, is actually still on the loose. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout has details.

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KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Strawberries tainted by a tiny hidden threat. Shoppers in Australia frightened over 100 cases now of needles discovered in pieces of fruit across the country. It began last week in Queensland, with strawberries, sabotaged.

Now, prices for farmers as prices plummet. At least one grower forced to dump all of the new season's crops. Desperate measures are being taken to build consumer confidence. This farm scans fruit with X-ray machines and metal detectors.

STUART SMITH, ACTING ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER: In the last two days, we a young person admitted to a prank including putting needles in strawberries. And he will be dealt with under the youth cautioning system.

STOUT: Nobody knows who else could be putting needles in fruit or why. Police have set a $70,000 U.S. dollar reward for clues.

SCOTT MORRISON, PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA: It's not funny. You're putting the livelihoods of hardworking Australians at risk and you're scaring children, and you're a coward, and you're a grub.

STOUT: Australia's new prime minister said drought relief for farmers was his priority when he took the job last month. And now, Scott Morrison wants 15 years in jail for anyone found guilty of tampering with the multimillion dollar fruit industry.

MORRISON: What you get 15 years for are things like possessing child pornography and financing terrorism. That's how seriously I take this. And that's how seriously our government takes it.

STOUT: The latest fright, isolated cases of pins found in bananas and apples as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're just fruit (INAUDIBLE) picking. My daughter normally just grabs and just bites through the apples.

STOUT: The government says fake posts on social media spread fears further.

PETER DUTTON, HOME AFFAIRS MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA: People might think that they're funny, people might think that somehow, you know, this is an image to be shared, but all it does is distract away from the main poising efforts.

STOUT: As farmers fear for their livelihood, pleads for the public to chop before chewing.

JEANNETTE YOUNG, CHIEF HEALTH OFFICER, QUEENSLAND: We really stress that people should cut all strawberries before they consume them.

STOUT: Shoppers torn between the food safety scare and the urge to support farmers of the country already suffering through a record drought. Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.

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VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause. "WORLD SPORT" starts after the break.

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