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Pelosi Pledges Limits; Deal on Sexual Harassment Legislation; Pompeo and Mattis Brief House; Families Devastated by War in Yemen; Two Canadians Detained in China. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired December 13, 2018 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And all eyes are on how House Republicans plan to move forward. What isn't moving forward for Democrats, the $5 billion that the president wants for his border wall. We are expecting to hear from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in the coming hour.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: This after Pelosi struck a deal with her Democratic critics, who didn't want her to be speaker again, that limits her term in leadership.

Joe Johns joins us, senior Washington correspondent.

This is interesting because all of the Democratic leadership didn't want this deal and it limits their, you know, time in power as well.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Sure. You know, it's interesting, too. The Republicans, in fact, on Capitol Hill have typically been the people who have really been punching term limits here. It goes all the way back to the Newt Gingrich years.

Nonetheless, you've got a situation now where some Democrats, newly incoming, are saying, we want term limits, too, on the leadership. And it's clear that they are balking. I read this morning that Steny Hoyer, who is in the congressional Democratic leadership, had nothing to say except Pelosi made that deal. So they're stinging just a little bit with the idea that there will be limits, you know, two years, four years for some of these people who were in power the last time Democrats controlled the Congress, Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes. Steny Hoyer couldn't have been more clear, right, about not agreeing with this. But we'll see if it actually makes it through, but she has at least agreed on it.

Before you go, a deal has been reached on sexual harassment legislation. This is about payouts that lawmakers and their offices have made previously using taxpayer money for their misdeeds or their staffers misdeeds. This can -- this can no longer happen. Walk us through what this means.

JOHNS: Right. Well, it was an outrage to a lot of people for a long time, but it really came to light, I think, during the Me Too movement, this idea that on Capitol Hill there was something called the Congressional Accountability Act that goes back to the Newt Gingrich days again. And this act essentially allowed members of Congress to really put the wraps on transparency when it came to harassment complaints against them. Sometimes just basically force people to give up.

One of the biggest things that was a problem in it was 30 day, 30 day, 30 day scheme where you had to wait 30 days for counseling, then you got mediation. Then you had something called a cooling off period. And if you can imagine what would be going through the mind of a person who knew they had a case on sexual harassment and had to sit there and watch the clock tick. So they're removing that. And there is a lot of hope right now that over on the Senate side they will be able to pass this thing rather quickly, the House as well. This is after long negotiation here on Capitol Hill.


SCIUTTO: You might say finally.

HARLOW: Totally. But now these have to become public, which is also important. The settlements have to be public so everyone can see what has happened.

SCIUTTO: Joe Johns, thanks very much.

Another thing we're following on The Hill, senators are going where the Trump administration is not. Defying the president ,defying the Senate majority leader. They are set to take a major step condemning Saudi Arabia for its role, not only in the war in Yemen, but the brutal murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.


[09:37:23] SCIUTTO: Right now Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis are briefing the House of Representatives on Saudi Arabia and it's war in Yemen.

HARLOW: At the same time, the Senate is doing something very important this morning, meeting to discuss a bill that would restrict U.S. military involvement in Yemen and U.S. support of Saudi Arabia. It is expected to pass overwhelmingly, a reflection of the anger that is brewing and really boiling over at this part -- at this point from members of both parties over the Trump administration's handling of the current relations with Saudi Arabia.

With us now our global affairs correspondent Elise Labott.

This -- it cannot be overstated how important this is, a check, you know, equal branches of government here using their power to say no.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, guys. I mean, look, this briefing by Secretary Pompeo and Mattis on The Hill today is very similar to the briefing that they had a week or so ago with the senate, which is essentially trying to convince the Congress that the U.S. involvement in Saudi Arabia in the war in Yemen is actually saving lives because it's helping keep the Yemen situation with Saudi Arabia, the coalition, in check. But we see these horrible pictures, you know, of the war in Yemen, a

large part of the population is starving right now. You see these horrible images. And essentially the administration is saying that they need to stay involved. That's what you're going to hear from secretary Pompeo and Mattis today. But the senate is also considering a number of measures.

SCIUTTO: And to be clear, this is not just about the war in Yemen. This is about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. And you have the Senate here, even Republican members, denying both the president and the senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, to move forward on a whole host of measures.

LABOTT: Oh, absolutely, Jim. I mean there is any number of measures, from putting sanctions on the crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, that, you know, the intelligence community and a large part of bipartisan members of Congress think that he was involved, that he could have ordered the murder of Jamal. And so it's not really about that. It's a larger frustration with this young crown prince, his adventuresome in the region, but I don't think also you can really underestimate U.S. dissatisfaction with the war on Yemen and how the Saudis in particular are executing it. I think even before this horrible murder of Jamal, there were -- was a lot of concerns. The Senate has taken up measures before. I think now there is a wider concern about Saudi Arabia that will be reflected, anything from sanctions, to just a censure, which you heard Senator Mitch McConnell trying to inspire his colleagues to just give a censure, not necessarily hamper the administration on sanctions.

[09:40:18] SCIUTTO: This may be a rare case where his Senate Republicans don't listen to the majority leader.


SCIUTTO: Elise Labott, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Yes, thank you.

SCIUTTO: Also on the Yemen topic, the U.N. Security -- secretary- general, rather, says a pair of Yemen rivaling have agreed to a cease fire in a strategic port town. Leaders from both sides shook hands after agreeing to a prisoner swap and more negotiations.

HARLOW: Even as talks progress, though, this war rages on in Yemen, leaving entire families, communities injured or dead.

Our Nima Elbagir has been covering this from the beginning. And it is hard to imagine how horrific it is unless you see the devastation for yourself. So we are going to show that to you through Nima's reporting. But we want to warn you, these images are very graphic and they are hard to watch.


ON SCREEN TEXT: December 8th, 5:00 p.m. Hodeidah, Yemen. Three homes destroyed in artillery strikes. NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): An ambulance screeches up to one of the few remaining hospitals in Hodeidah. What we're about to show you is incredibly difficult to watch.

In the jumble of bodies, a boy in yellow searching for his mother. She's dead. Little bodies are carried in, draped in blood soaked cloths. Everywhere shock and blood an death.

This man searching for his wife. He finds, instead, the body of his three-year-old sister, (INAUDIBLE). It's too much to take in. My wife, he asks? In surgery. The baby is fine. A glimmer of hope that all too quickly lost. My mother, she's dead.

Even as the peace talks continue in Sweden between Yemen's ruling parties, the U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition and Iran back Houthi rebels so too (ph) (INAUDIBLE) the violence on the ground.

This footage was sent to CNN by the Houthi rebel backed Ansurallah Media. Eye witnesses tell CNN the members of this family were killed during an artillery strike on the coalition air cover. A charge the coalition denies, saying the Houthis continue to target civilians in Hodeidah.

This is just a glimpse into what it's like almost every night in this besieged city. In spite of U.S. government promises in October to deliver a cease fire within 30 days, that month has long since passed. Much of what was filmed here is so graphic, we're not going to show it in full.

Outside, two lifeless bodies side by side, waiting for loved ones to claim them.

This man lists a litany of loss, his daughter and her son. His other daughter and her husband. It's too much.

Inside the boy in yellow finally finds his sister. As he comforts her, other children are carried out. There's just no more room at this hospital.

Outside, his grandmother begins to whale and he attempts to comfort her. It's all too much.

Nima Elbagir, CNN, London.


HARLOW: Our thanks to Nima for that incredible reporting. We know it is hard for you to see, but it's so important. And we will continue to bring this to you on this program. That is our commitment to you. Nima, thank you.

A coalition spokesperson denied responsibility for that attack, telling CNN, and let me quote here, we have no knowledge of this and it is widely recognized that the Houthi militia is continuing to target civilians with all types of weapons in the Hodeidah province and in its cities. Also, one of Saudi Arabia's biggest critics over Jamal Khashoggi's murder has been Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. But it turns out that Turkey is one of the world's -- is now the world's worst jailer when it comes to imprisoning journalists. This is according to a new report out this morning that shows at least 251 journalists are in prisoned around the world. At least 68 of them detained in Turkey, all on anti-state charges. The spike is jailed journalists is not a temporary trend. This report finds that China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have all imprisoned more journalists this year than last.

[09:44:58] SCIUTTO: The U.S. is caught in the middle of a growing diplomatic feud. An important one. Two Canadian men in custody and under investigation now in China. Their arrests appear to be acts of retaliation by China.


SCIUTTO: This morning, China has detained a second Canadian citizen there, threatening to escalate an already growing diplomatic dispute that also involves the U.S. Beijing now confirming that both Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are under investigation, China claims, for activities endangering China's national security. Does that sound familiar? Their arrests are seen as an act of retaliation after Canada detained an executive of the Chinese tech giant Huawei earlier this month under similar charges.

[09:50:07] Paula Newton is following this story from Ottawa.

I mean this is really remarkable here because you have China, it appears, using these arrests and these detainees in effect as bargaining chips, retaliation, perhaps, for the Chinese executive detained in Canada.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And any China watchers right now are saying that's exactly what's happening. You know, Jim, as ration and pulse -- as impulsive as this might be for the Chinese to do, at the same time it is very clearly sending a message to Canada that they do not appreciate them being involved in that extradition of that Huawei executive.

Let me tell you about these two gentlemen first.

You know, we have Michael Spavor. This is someone who is very well- known to people around the world, but specifically in China and North Korea. You know, Jim, he helped organize that visit of Dennis Rodman to North Korea in 2014. He's appeared on Chinese TV. Certainly he's lived in China without incident for years.

And then we have Michael Kovrig. He is a former Canadian diplomat. And I say Jim that while he doesn't have diplomatic immunity, you know, he's still on the books for the Canadian global affairs here. Also significant, a person who had been appeared on -- who appeared on Chinese TV.

What's significant here, Jim, and I know you know this from your experience in China, is that they now are being investigated for harming Chinese national interests. And that means that due process will be very difficult and it means they could be detained indefinitely.

What's even more extraordinary here, though, Jim, is the president, President Trump's, intervention in this, you know, saying in a Reuters interview two days ago that, look, yes, perhaps I'll intervene in the CEO extradition. She's being held and now on bail in Vancouver. That just opened this way open for the Chinese to say, yes, this is politically motivated.


NEWTON: Jim, a strong message to allies here, not just to Canada, if you get caught in that crossfire between the U.S. and China trade war, you need to take cover because you will get hurt.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I mean that presidential comment seemed to confirm the way China looks at this, right, that the executive branch controls the judiciary. It tells its judges what to do, and therefore, that's -- you know, they're doing it, so the U.S. must be doing it. It's significant.

Paula Newton, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Very significant.

In the midst of this trade war between China and the U.S., U.S. businesses, we know, are feeling the impact of it all. The tariffs imposed by the Trump administration are hurting small businesses.

On this week's "Boss Files" podcast, I sit down with Kendra Scott. She is the founder of her (INAUDIBLE) now billion dollar American company that she started with just $500 out of her Texas home 16 years ago. She sources her stones from all over the world, including China. And she told me she is waiting with bated breath to see what comes next in the trade war.


HARLOW: You obviously have to have a particularly keen eye on what's going on, on global trade right now --


HARLOW: And tariffs and the Trump administration's -- you know, we have USMCA, a new NAFTA deal, but also a trade war brewing with China. What has that meant for your business and I'm interested in what your message would be to the administration as an American success story business on what you need on trade?

SCOTT: You know, I think it's important to look at the holistic picture, right? If you're looking at it in just one dimension of, OK, we're going to tax this so we, you know, it doesn't -- you have to look at how this is really going to affect a business long term and how it's going to affect the consumer.

HARLOW: Are you feeling it, the tariffs?

SCOTT: We're feeling a little bit of it. Yes, we are. And, you know, I'm hoping that it is going to be managed and leveled because we are thoughtful about -- you know, we're employing obviously 2,000 people in the United States. Those families depend on our brand to have success. And success means that we are competing with the world. We're globally competing. So when we're hit with these strong tariffs, can we still be competitive? That's my concern.

HARLOW: Have you thought about the impact that the increased cost you're bearing because of tariffs may have on hiring?

SCOTT: You know, at this point, fortunately, it's not going to affect that yet.


SCOTT: But we're -- you know, we're -- all of us, you know, we don't know what each day is going to hold. And it's a little bit of being on bated breath to see what the next thing, what the next announcement might be.

HARLOW: Right.

SCOTT: And I'm hopeful that isn't the case and that we can still continue to grow our company at the level that we've been growing, you know, for the last several years.


HARLOW: That's a question, will this trade war have a deep impact on hiring, on jobs and when does it end? You can hear the full interview there on the podcast "Boss Files."

A quick break. We'll be right back.


[09:58:53] HARLOW: Republican lawmakers in North Carolina trying to pass a law that would require new primaries if a new election is necessary in the scandal-plagued race for the state's ninth congressional district. This comes amid allegations of election fraud. A senior Republican in North Carolina tells CNN they believe that odds don't look good for Republican Mark Harris if a new election is called. He originally appeared to narrowly beat the Democrat, Dan McCready, but then came allegations of hundreds of absentee ballots that may have been withheld. Rerunning the primary would allow Republicans to replace Harris possibly with a different candidate. Harris, of course, continues to deny any wrongdoing. It's unclear if the Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, would sign the bill calling for a new primary.

SCIUTTO: A new report suggests that police were slow to respond to the Parkland shooting in Florida that left 17 people dead this February. According to a state commission investigation, seven officers who heard the gunshots stayed outside the building for minutes, too long, as the killing went on.

[09:59:52] The report also accuses the school resource officer of putting his own personal safety over his duty to protect students and staff. The commission says that unlocked gates and a malfunctioning P.A. system contributed to the tragedy. Significant findings there.