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CNN NEWSROOM

President Trump Has Yet to Publicly Comment on Steve King's Endorsement of White Nationalism; Turkey Scolds Trump for Tweet; Los Angeles Teachers, Without Contract Since July 2017, Now On Strike; Gretchen Carlson's New Documentary to Air Tonight on Lifetime. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired January 14, 2019 - 10:30   ET

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


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: -- Jeff Bezos a little bit, with some -- with some schadenfreude, perhaps. He was tweeting about a whole lot of stuff this weekend --

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- but no comment from the president of the United States on a sitting Republican congressman endorsing white nationalism. I mean, as a Republican, how does that make you feel?

HEYE: Well, look, it's a terrible situation. And one of the things that we know -- look at Charlottesville -- is when Donald Trump wades into these waters, it is not a force of good.

And so if Trump has not weighed in here, you know, I would say, Jim, I think that's a positive step in a defining-things-very-badly sense because Trump weighs in in a bad direction, it takes us into a further -- worse direction where that becomes the focus.

Let's focus on what Kevin McCarthy is going to say to Steve King today, and what action House Republicans can take against Steve King, which would be a good step forward not just for House Republicans, but the party in general.

SCIUTTO: I just -- I just wonder, though. I mean, because we've seen this before. Isn't this a president who chooses not to comment on this because he doesn't want to upset a base?

HEYE: Sure.

SCIUTTO: Because, I mean, he comments on -- you and I both know, he comments on pretty much everything, and doesn't hold back.

HEYE: Sure. Of course he does. And if he were able to weigh in here in a -- in a positive way, you know, I would -- and I think a lot of people would -- be very supportive of that.

He's clearly not willing to do that, or to anger his base at all. So what I'm focused on -- and most folks on the Hill that I've talked to are focused on, on this Steve King situation, is, what are House Republicans going to do --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HEYE: -- what are the substantive steps that they can take? What have they learned from the past, where they've tried to remove Republican members from committees and had that blow up in their face, to be able to move forward and make sure that this is not just dealing with Steve King, but sending the signal to the party as a whole --

SCIUTTO: Right.

HEYE: -- that this is unacceptable.

SCIUTTO: And that's a fair point. Credit where credit is due. Because let's clearly separate the president's reaction to Kevin McCarthy there, unequivocally, you know, promising consequences. You saw Joni Ernst, fellow member of the Iowa delegation, unequivocally denouncing these remarks. It's been, you know, fairly across the board.

What would you consider a substantive penalty from the Republican Party? Is it just removing committee assignments? Should they run a candidate against him in 2020? But that's still a long time away.

HEYE: It is a long time away. And one of the things that we've seen, not just with Senator Ernst, but a lot of folks on the ground in Iowa, have distanced themselves from Steve King. Will support somebody in a primary. There's somebody who's already announced that they're running.

What the House can do, substantively, is -- is a different measure. What the House can do, starting with Republicans, is hold him back from committee assignments. And the Constitution Subcommittee, which Steve King shared in the last conference, now would be ranking member, is something that's very important to him. So it's not just a cosmetic change. That would be kind of hitting him where he lives.

Then there's the issue of censuring Steve King, which would require the full House, also something a lot of Republicans would like to see. And more and more Republicans and conservatives are calling for.

Expulsion seems to be a bridge too far at this point, but there are two very substantive things that they can do. They can remove his committee assignments and his subcommittee ranking position. They can censure him.

And then there's the National Republican Congressional Committee, which typically does not weigh in primaries --

SCIUTTO: Right.

HEYE: -- but they can sure send a message to Steve King that they won't be supporting him. Because incumbent retention is its own department at the NRCC and if they don't want to retain Steve King because there are other --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HEYE: -- Republicans who can come in, that would be a good step forward --

SCIUTTO: Well --

HEYE: -- as well.

SCIUTTO: -- that's a long time off. I just want to ask you before we go. As a Republican, are you concerned here that there are members of the party, that this kind of message resonates with?

Because you had the president retweeting this weekend. You know, Pat Buchanan talking about militarizing the border, talking about how immigrants somehow dilute the blood of white America. I mean, this is not Steven King in isolation here.

HEYE: Yes. Look, you know, Jim, my first job was -- in politics was in 1990, working for Jesse Helms. And those politics should be dead. And we see little vestiges of them here and there in the Republican Party that need to be stamped out.

And the problem is, one, the president gives it credibility. But also --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HEYE: -- as a Steve King pops up, or if we look at past Senate races, like a Todd Akin or Richard Murdoch, it casts all Republicans who are trying to do the right thing in a bad light.

SCIUTTO: Right.

HEYE: So when we pass something like, say, criminal justice reform, which was signed into law last month, Republicans aren't able to get the credit that they deserve on it. And obviously --

SCIUTTO: Right.

HEYE: -- Democrats worked on it as well. Because parts of our party always hold us back. These are not just appalling comments, but appalling attitudes. And the Republican Party cannot move forward -- not just with minority voters, but also we talk so much about white suburban women, white mothers. They don't like this either. And we're sending a message to the broader public, not just minorities --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HEYE: -- though that's obviously important, that if we don't stamp this out, then it's somehow acceptable.

SCIUTTO: Well, listen, Doug, I thank you for taking the hard questions and thank you for being so --

HEYE: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: -- so clear there.

Still ahead, as the U.S. prepares to withdraw its troops, the president is threatening to devastate Turkey's economy if they attack the Kurds who fought alongside Americans in Syria. We're going to be live in Syria next.

[10:35:02]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Welcome back. Turkey is pushing back this morning on a threat from the president of the United States, and scolding him over using Twitter to issue a threat against a NATO ally.

TEXT: Donald J. Trump: Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining ISIS territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions. Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms. Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds. Create 20 mile safe zone....

HARLOW: Sparking all of this? The president said over the weekend that the U.S. would, quote, "Devastate Turkey economically if they took action against Kurdish fighters in Syria."

Well this morning, Turkey's foreign minister is shooting back, saying, quote, "You cannot get anywhere by threatening Turkey economically."

[10:40:02] Joining me now from Syria is CNN's chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward.

Look, the Kurds have been a huge ally of the United States in Syria. They are viewed much differently by Turkey. But this is an important NATO alliance, the U.S. and Turkey. And this is a war of words now, between the two, that's very significant.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is very significant, Poppy. And it's significant for a number of reasons. The U.S. is now trying to walk a tightrope basically, between the interests of their Kurdish allies on the ground here in northern Syria.

Important for our viewers to remember, these have been the most steadfast allies (ph) of (ph) the U.S. (ph). Have died in the thousand. Roughly 8,000 Kurds have been killed in the battle against ISIS.

And they want to see real guarantees for their security in the future, once the U.S. leaves. Their big concern is, of course, Turkey. Turkey views the Syrian Kurds as an existential terrorist threat, and they want to believe that the U.S. is going to do everything that it can to protect them from the potential massacre which they believe would be imminent if the U.S. left from Turkey.

On the other hand of course, the U.S. has to balance its relationship with Turkey. It's a major power. It's a major player in the region. It's also a member of NATO. It cannot afford to alienate President Erdogan and that country in its quest to appease the Kurds. So really, the U.S., as I said, is -- is trying to walk a very, very

fine line here, and it's not going to be easy for them to pull it off. We saw that tweet, President Trump saying, "We will destroy you economically if you try to," you know, "do anything to hurt the Kurds."

Kurdish people here are very happy to hear that, but they want to hear more information about what other guarantees the U.S. is willing to put on the table to ensure that they will be protected after the U.S. troops leave -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes. Absolutely.

Clarissa Ward, live for us in northern Syria.

Thank you very, very much.

Happening now, teachers and staff in the nation's second-largest school district are on strike. This is happening right now in Los Angeles. We'll take you there live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:46:40] SCIUTTO: We've heard about the shutdown here. But happening right now, 32,000 teachers are protesting outside their classrooms in the nation's second-largest school district, demanding higher wages.

In moments, students are set to arrive at those schools across Los Angeles, as their teachers stage this strike. Our Stephanie Elam is there now.

Stephanie, you've been talking to these teachers. What's bringing them into the streets today?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well for one thing, Jim, the teachers have been working without a contract since July 2017. They've been negotiating with the school district. And that has fallen apart, as of Friday.

So now as promised, despite the weather here in Los Angeles, teachers are out here protesting, along with people who are supporting them.

I'm joined right now by Andrea Cohen. She's been teaching at this high school, John Marshall High School, for 24 years.

It's not just the pay raise that you're -- the teachers are looking for. What else is so important to teachers?

ANDREA COHEN, HISTORY TEACHER ON STRIKE, JOHN MARSHALL HIGH SCHOOL: Yes. It's absolutely not the pay raise. It's about class size reduction. In other words, "Hire more teachers, Austin Beutner."

We want to have fully staffed schools. That means librarians, nurses, psychiatric, social workers and their interns. We have -- we have 46, 45, 50 students in a class, in academic classes. It's unacceptable. So the pay raise, of course we want a pay raise. But the main issues

are class size reduction, and to end the privatization of public schools with unregulated charter growth.

ELAM: And -- and when you look at the fact that -- when people look at this from the outside and they see it, is there any more room for bargaining now that we've gotten past Friday, where we were? Or is -- or do you need your demands met at -- where they are?

COHEN: I think at this point, Beutner and the rest of his cronies need to answer our demands. Because the partial method -- or the partial answers that he was giving, are --

(CROSSTALK)

COHEN: --- they're not acceptable.

ELAM: So -- I'm sorry to wrap you up there, but I have to get back to Jim.

But so as you can see here, this is why they feel so strongly about that. Just to clarify, Austin Beutner is the superintendent of LAUSD and that's where a lot of the focus of the frustration is right now, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Tens of thousands of students affected. Stephanie Elam, thanks very much.

Well, President Trump took another stab at the question, "Have you ever worked with Russia?" We're going to have much more on his answer. That's just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:53:24] HARLOW: All right. It has been more than a year since the #MeToo movement. Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson remains a major voice in this conversation around sexual harassment.

Of course, you'll remember she made the brave decision to share her own story of sexual harassment and then sued Fox News chairman Roger Ailes. She is now traveling across the country, sharing these untold stories of harassment and abuse.

It is all part of her new Lifetime special, "Gretchen Carlson: Breaking the Silence," and the first of three documentaries. She speaks exclusively to women detailing their abuse they say happened while they were working at McDonald's. Look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GRETCHEN CARLSON, FORMER NEWS ANCHOR, FOX NEWS (voice-over): She told me that the moment her male colleague locked the restroom door, she knew she was in grave danger.

TANYA HARRELL, EMPLOYEE, MCDONALD'S: I was like, "Can you let me out?" He was like, "No." And so that's when he started pulling his pants down, and exposed himself. And then he really was aggressive with me.

And then he was choking me, trying to pull my pants down. And all I was doing was just telling him, "Stop. This is uncomfortable. This is not right." And I was crying and I was shaking more than anything in the world. And I just couldn't believe that this was really happening to me at this moment.

And as he continued to try to sexually assault me, the manager is calling his name. She was knocking on the door. And so I don't know if he stopped because I was crying, or just because she knocked on the door."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARLOW: CNN reached out to McDonald's for comment. We have not heard back. We will let you know if we do.

Gretchen Carlson is with me now. She's also the chair of the board of "Miss America."

Thank you for being here.

CARLSON: Thanks for having me, Poppy..

[10:54:59] HARLOW: So I watched this in its entirety last night, and wow. I mean, you say at the open, there are stories that are so outrageous you can't believe it.

But you did this because you were particularly bothered by the everywoman, right? I mean, here you were, a powerful Fox News anchor. You had resources, attorneys, et cetera. These are stories about people without those resources.

CARLSON: Exactly. And this really gnawed at me after my story broke, two and a half years ago, is, how do I help the single mom, working two jobs, like at McDonald's, who's trying to make ends meet and literally can't afford to come forward?

So I wanted to honor these women, so many of whom had reached out to me after my story, by the thousands.

HARLOW: Yes.

CARLSON: We feature six. But for every one of these women, there are a thousand more out there.

So, you know, for example, you just showed Tanya (ph).

HARLOW: Right.

CARLSON: She works at a McDonald's in New Orleans. She alleges not only sexual harassment, but as you heard her document, she also alleges an attempted rape that happened to her in the bathroom at McDonald's.

And the best part about this documentary, over the two hours tonight, is that we also go and try and get answers for (ph) these women.

HARLOW: And some of those -- look, the fire chief sat down with you. Some -- you do --

CARLSON: Yes.

HARLOW: -- get some answers here. One stat that you bring up that I was stunned by, 40 percent, you say, of fast food workers -- there's a statistic that -- that 40 percent of fast food workers have said that they have been harassed.

And you talk about companies with zero tolerance policies. But what does that really mean in reality for these women?

CARLSON: Well, it's really a cover-your-ass facade for many, many companies, to say "zero tolerance." How many times have we heard that since the #MeToo movement over the last year or so?

So really, what we need companies to do is -- I hope what they'll do after they see this doc -- is become more introspective and ask themselves, "Are we really being the best corporate citizen that we can be for --

HARLOW: Right.

CARLSON: -- "our employees, to make our environment safe?"

HARLOW: Well, look, we haven't heard back from McDonald's. What did they say to you?

CARLSON: They gave us a statement and they said that they have a zero tolerance policy, and they also believe that each of their stories are franchisees, so that it may be up to each individual store to provide training, et cetera.

But the interesting thing is, when there's a lettuce outbreak at a fast food chain, for example --

HARLOW: Right.

CARLSON: -- the parent company comes in and mandates what each local store should do.

HARLOW: Legislation. You have been pushing and working with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, this Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act. And that would mean that basically, when people, you know, arbitrate this out, it's not in silence. They're not banned from talking publicly after a settlement, about what happened to them.

Where does that stand? Do you have enough bipartisan support to get it passed? And do you have any indication from the White House, would the president sign it?

CARLSON: Great question. So we introduced it in bipartisan fashion because --

HARLOW: Right.

CARLSON: -- I knew that it would not get accomplished unless it was bipartisan -- in December of '17. There was so much chaos going on on the Hill that it never made it to hearings --

HARLOW: Yes.

CARLSON: -- we're going to reintroduce, now that we have a new Congress.

HARLOW: OK.

CARLSON: Again, in bipartisan fashion. And my hope is that the White House will go along with this.

HARLOW: Have they indicated anything to you?

CARLSON: I -- we have not -- no discussions with the White House. But here's the thing, it's a simple bill. It's only three pages long.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: It gives women and men a choice. Do they want to go to secret arbitration? Or do they want to have the ability to have an open-court process?

HARLOW: So what about you, Gretchen? Because when you were on this show with us about a year ago, I asked you about running for office. And you said, "Who knows." But you said people have asked you to run for Senate but that wasn't the right time. Has your thinking evolved on that?

CARLSON: I never say no to any potential opportunity. My life has worked in mysterious ways. You know -- you and I both grew up in Minnesota. I was supposed to be a violinist. Then I was going to be a lawyer. Then I ended up in journalism. It's not like you wake up one day and say, "Hey, I hope I'm one of the poster child for sexual harassment" either.

So who knows where this journey brings me. But tonight, I'm focusing on the everywoman whose story has never been told.

HARLOW: Maybe public office one day?

CARLSON: Maybe.

HARLOW: Maybe. Before you go, you also have a big job. You're the chair of the "Miss America" -- you're chair of the board of "Miss America," sort of a classic American institution.

There was a lawsuit filed, as you know, last month, against you. It accuses you and the CEO of illegally taking over as chairman, making changes without board approval. This is the first time you're on since then. What's your response to those allegations?

CARLSON: Yes, most of the board actions were unanimous, by the way. This is a meritless lawsuit. Unfortunately, this is taking on individuals who are volunteers in the capacity of trying to continue a P.R. smear campaign. It's an abuse of the court system. It will be found meritless.

HARLOW: We'll follow that. And as we go, one year since #MeToo. How far have we come? How much farther do we have to go?

CARLSON: You know, I wake up every day, optimistic because this is what I've dedicated a lot of my life to right now. And I think we've made great strides.

Cultural change does not happen overnight. And if you look at where we were two and a half years ago when I filed my suit, and the way I was trashed and the way that now, women are actually believed when they come forward, and you see almost immediate consequences.

The next step after people watch this doc tonight is for companies to take that bold move and say, "We're going to do more than we have to. More than our words, our actions are going to show that we are in support of women and --

HARLOW: To protect people?

CARLSON: -- "being (ph) safe." Yes.

HARLOW: Gretchen Carlson, thank you. We'll look forward to seeing it tonight.

[11:00:00] CARLSON: Thank you so much for having me, Poppy.

HARLOW: I appreciate it. And thanks for fighting for so many people on this front.

Again, you can watch it tonight. Two-hour doc, "Breaking the Silence," Lifetime, tonight, 8:00 p.m. Eastern.