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Justin Trudeau Apologized for his Racist Actions; Iran Gave Their Harshest Warning to U.S. and Saudi; President Trump Denies a Whistleblower's Accusations; Rugby World Cup Kicks Off in Japan. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired September 20, 2019 - 03:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologizes again after even more images show him in racist blackface make up.

In a CNN exclusive interview Iran's foreign minister says a U.S. or Saudi military strike on his country would result in all-out war.

And later, New Zealand's seeks their third straight tile as Japan host the Rugby World Cup. For the time the event is kicking off in Asia.

Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from around the world. I'm Natalie Allen. This is CNN Newsroom.

Thank you again for joining us.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is offering fresh apologies after a third apologies after a third incident surfaced of him wearing racist make up. And he says he cannot recall if there are more.

Mr. Trudeau first apologized on Wednesday after CNN affiliate Time posted this photo of him wearing brown face in 2001 at a school party.

The latest scandal is shaking up his image as a champion for social justice as he fights for political future in a tight re-election campaign.

Our Paula Newton is in Canada.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At issue now is more than one picture or video of Justin Trudeau in dark face, brownface, as the prime minister said himself it was racist makeup.

So there is the incident that was first uncovered which was him as a teacher at 29 years old in a Latin costume, presumably, and then a picture of him in high school impersonating Harry Belafonte and then another very disturbing video that shows him really being joking around and it's clear that he is in blackface. The prime minister offered several apologies but also disturbing is the fact that he said he didn't know if there were incidents. Take a listen.


JUSTIN TRUDEAU, PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA: I want to begin with people who live with the kind of discrimination that, far too many, people do because of the color of their skin, or their history, or their origins, or their religion face on a regular basis, and I didn't see that from the layers of privilege that I have. And for that, I am deeply sorry.


NEWTON: Now he spoke of privilege there. That privilege included being the son of a Canadian prime minister as well. And community leaders want Canadians who go to the polls on October 21st to try not to count this is winning and losing in politics and what it all means as a campaign, but to really see it that the systemic racism that people go through each and every day.

And they're hoping that out of this terrible incident that at least Canadians and others will realize that that systemic racism exists and isn't going anywhere for the time being.

Paula Newton, CNN, New York.

ALLEN: Let's more about this with Laura Mae Lindo. She is a member of the New Democratic Party in Ontario's provincial legislature, and she joins us from Kitchener, Ontario.

Laura Mae, thanks so much for talking with us.


ALLEN: Well, this is quite an issue for the prime minister. He said he takes responsibility. We've heard his explanations. He should haven't done it. He didn't think it was racist at that time. What do you think about his explanation?

LINDO: Sadly, I think they were asking the wrong questions and he has an opportunity to actually move the discussion to where the focus should be. And he does not seem ready or able at this point to move it there. So, a lot of the apologies and discussions from Mr. Trudeau have focused on Mr. Trudeau.

He's embarrassed that's why he didn't tell anybody. He's -- he didn't let any -- typically, if you know that something has come up in the past that could pose in the future you would tell your communications team so they can prep. Too embarrass to do that.

But the reality is that the focused should be on the folks that are impacted, the communities that trusted in the prime minister to be there for him, and especially the time where he had professed to be the person that we could trust. ALLEN: Let's talk about that. Yes, he has cultivated an image of someone who is there, as someone who is inclusive, he has accepted in Syrian refugees when other countries have not. He has been an advocate to fight racism.


So, many are questioning is he authentic? Was this something -- do you accept that of him saying well, this was in the past and it's not right today, or do you think he is a true fighter against racism?

LINDO: It's difficult to know exactly where he stands because of the nature of how this entire story has sort of unfolded. But what we do know for sure is that there is a very clear somewhat traumatic, I would have to say, impact on communities that trusted him.

And knowing that, my job, especially as a sitting member of provincial parliament is to be there for those folks. You know, during an election you might be caught up in your party platform.

But once elected, you're working for all of the people. You're serving, in my case, the entire province, the folks in my particular writing at Kitchener center. And in his case with the, you know, sitting at the helm of the nation, he is serving everybody.

And so, if the focus is on diversity, and diversity being our strength, the focus when we do make a mistake should be on what is now happening and how our folks feeling included in this piece. And what I'm hearing on the ground is that they're not.

ALLEN: You are in a national election.


ALLEN: And he is running for re-election.

LINDO: That's right.

ALLEN: What is the feeling there about how this is going to affect him and his future and his campaign.

LINDO: Well, it's interesting a lot of people have said that for one of the first times in Canadian history, racist on the agenda during a federal election, which is interesting. When I think about watching elections in the U.S. race is often on that agenda.

In Canada, there's always this assumption that racism doesn't happen here. And so, we don't have to talk about this and an election isn't a time to talk about it.

But right now, again, if I can try and remain as optimistic as possible for the sake of my sanity, it's important to know that there is a possibility of us actually talking about what racism looks like in the Canadian system.

So, not so much to think about whether or not the prime minister is authentic in his apology, but more importantly, is he going to do the hard work? Is he going to make sure that there is an employment equity strategy for the nation that actually has chief behind it so that we don't see racism in employment?

Is there going to be a national strategy around housing for racialized folks? Are we going to address the over representation of black, brown, and indigenous people in our -- that are incarcerated across the nation even if we're a small part of the population?

ALLEN: Right. So, you're saying --


LINDO: Those are federal issues.

ALLEN: -- let's address these issues and see how he handles it during this tumultuous time for him as a person, no doubt and as prime minister.

We appreciate your insights and feelings to this. Laura Mae Lindo, thanks so much.

LINDO: Thank you.

ALLEN: Now to a CNN exclusive. The harshest warning yet from Iran.

Foreign minister Javad Zarif is vowing all-out war if the U.S. or Saudi Arabia launches a military strike on his country. The U.S. blames Iran for Saturday's air strikes on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. The attack wiped out half the country's oil production.

Iran denies any involvement. Houthi rebels in Yemen claim responsibility.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh spoke exclusively with Iran's foreign minister. Here it is.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What would be the consequence of an America or Saudi military strike on Iran now?


WALSH: You make it very serious thing on this, sir?

ZARIF: Well, I make you a very serious statement about defending our country. I'm making you very serious statement that we don't want war, we don't want to engage in a military confrontation. We believe that a military confrontation base on deception is awful. It will have a lot of casualties. But we won't blink to defend our territory.

WALSH: Put yourself in Saudi Arabia's shoes, if there was an attack on Iranian sovereign territory with cruise missiles launch from Saudi Arabia, what would Iran's response be? ZARIF: Well, they're making that up. Why do they want to make that up that it was from Iranian territory? The Yemenis have announced responsibility for that. They have provided information about that. They have answered all the Saudi disinformation campaign about the fact that they launched this attack against Saudi Arabia in self- defense.


Now they want to pin the blame on Iran in order to achieve something. And that is why I'm saying this is agitation for war. Because it's based on lies. It's based on deception. But you lie in deceit, it serves your interest. It doesn't even serve their interest.

WALSH: There is weakness though to Iran's denial about involvement in all of this and that is really the Houthi Yemeni rebels who you say and who say themselves were behind this.

This is Iraq tag group of rebels who've been under siege for years, they struggle to get medicines, they struggle to get food. That indeed is part of your case why the war must stop.

How is the world expected to believe that they were unable to magic up drones and cruise missiles of this technology that flew across hundreds of miles of Saudi Arabia through tens of billions of dollars of air defenses without any external assistance and took out 19 targets? That's a big ask people to believe.

ZARIF: Well, you see if you want to make your calculations based on this, Saudi Arabia should have been able to win this war against this group of besieged people exactly when they thought they would four weeks after they started the war.

But these four and a half years they have not been able to bring the Yemenis to their knees.

WALSH: But then that is a different argument to resisting and invading army on the ground, it's different to getting technology out of nowhere it seems, and managing to evade state-of-the-art tens of billions of dollars American-assisted air defenses. That's a different argument.

ZARIF: Well, I mean, then you should go and find the problem with the state-of-the-art American air defense, not with Houthis. I mean, you believe that the United States is omnipotent and the United State military equipment are flawless and that is why a bunch of people with no access to anything cannot defeat that.

But I can tell you, I mean, it's going to be news for you and it's going to continue to be news for you that people can do a lot of things when they are desperate, when they see their kids killed, when they see their kids maimed, when they see their wives bombarded. Their houses, their hospitals, their schools destroyed. That gives you a lot of creativity, a lot of tenacity to go and search for yourself.

This is exactly how we did it. How do you think we built all of this, huh? How do you think we built the missile system that brought down a U.S. drone?

WALSH: You are very sure that the Houthis did this. But there is one major inconsistency --


ZARIF: I'm very sure that Iran didn't do it.

WALSH: Understood. Do you also, sir, consistently you believe the Houthis did this?

ZARIF: No, no, no. I believe -- I believe the Houthis made a statement that they did it.

WALSH: So, you're not sure they did it?

ZARIF: I cannot have any confidence that they did it --

WALSH: Right.

ZARIF: -- because we just had their statement. I know that we didn't do it. I know that the Houthis have made the statement that --


WALSH: They're showing you no proof.

ZARIF: -- did they -- I had. That they did issued some -- release some documents last night which I haven't been able to examine for myself, and I'm not an expert to examine them anyway, to show that they were able to increase the range of the drones and the missiles by jet engines in them. But I'm not an expert so I cannot say.

WALSH: But if it's you in a position to the Saudi Arabian government to some degree, and that you're saying someone did this based on a hunch and you would say the same something about their accusations.

ZARIF: No, I'm not -- I'm not accusing anybody.


ZARIF: You can have a lot of accusations flying around based on who may benefit from this. Iran doesn't have anything to benefit from this. Iran wants security in the region. Iran wants stability in the region. Iran does not want war. Iran wants and end to all wars.

WALSH: Would you call on the Houthis to release evidence that they did do this to clear this misunderstanding?

ZARIF: Well, I think they did release the evidence, but it's not up to us to ask the Houthis. I think the Houthis know what they did and they know what they need to do. They release some evidence last night and I think it is important for the Saudi government to understand what they're trying to achieve.

Do they want to fight Iran until the last American soldier? Is that their aim? Because if that is the aim, they can be assured that this won't be the case.


ZARIF: Because Iran will defend itself.


ALLEN: Zarif also says Iran will not hold negotiations with the United States as long as those economic sanctions remain in place.


Well, it is climate Friday. Thousands of protests and rallies are going around the world. They are demanding action on climate change. We'll tell you about it and show it to you.

Plus, we have an update on that controversial whistleblower's complaint against the Trump administration. New reporting on what country was involved.


ALLEN: Well, from one end of the earth to another young people are walking out of schools and workplaces for the sake of the planet. They are demanding action on the global climate crisis.

Organizers want to tell politicians that business as usual is no longer an option, saying the climate crisis won't wait, neither will we.

Well, the last count there are close to 5,000 events planned in some 140 countries, more are planned for next Friday as well. And we'll be showing you these events and hearing from the people taking to the streets as these events occur on this Friday.

Well, we are learning that a whistleblower's complaint to a U.S. intelligence community watchdog deals at least in part with Ukraine. That according to the New York Times and the Washington Post. Well now the story has taken a number of twists and turns, over the past few days.

First, a source tells CNN the whistleblower was concerned about communications between President Trump and a foreign leader. Now an official briefed on the matter says the whistleblower didn't even have direct knowledge of the communications.

Congress wants the details, but the White House and Justice Department are stonewalling.

Here's CNN's Jim Acosta with more about it.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president is digging in his heels as the White House is blocking the release of a whistleblower complaint to Congress. Apparently about a conversation Mr. Trump had with a foreign leader that raised red flags with an administration official. President Trump insist there's nothing to see here, tweeting, "Virtually anytime I speak on the phone to a foreign leader, I understand that there may be many people listening from various U.S. agencies, not to mention those from the other country. Knowing all of this, is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader while on such a potentially heavily populated call. I would only do what is right anyway and only do good for the USA."

Even though the president says he didn't do anything wrong the administration is refusing to hand the complaint over to Congress, frustrating Democrats.


SEN. GARY PETERS (D-MI): You need to have people who can come forward, their story can be heard. They need to be protected. And if you're dealing with something of urgent concern that needs to come to Congress.


ACOSTA: At a briefing with House lawmakers, the intelligence community's Inspector General who indicated the whistleblower is male, (Inaudible) disagreed with the administration's decision to withhold the information, citing a Justice Department opinion that the complaint falls outside the jurisdiction of the director of national intelligence and siding privileges asserted by the White House.

Democrats are worried that if the matter ends up in court the complaint will never be made public.



SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): They may feel that he, way we delay we fight this out in the courts for a year, we can fight it out beyond the election in November of next year.


ACOSTA: The Democratic accusations of a cover up comes as the president is weighing whether to retaliate against Iran over an alleged strike on a Saudi Arabian oil facility. Iran's foreign minister told CNN his country will wage war if the U.S. decides to take military action.


ZARIF: We believe that a military confrontation based on deception is awful. It will have a lot of casualties, but we won't blink to defend our territory.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ACOSTA: After describing the attack in Saudi Arabia as an act of war, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stressed he is trying to find a diplomatic solution.


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I was here in the act of diplomacy while the foreign minister of Iran is threatening all-out war into fighting the last American. We are here to build a coalition aimed at achieving peace and a peaceful resolution. And that's what my missions at. That's what President Trump certainly wants me to work to achieve.


ACOSTA: The president is engaged in stonewalling on another front filing a lawsuit to block prosecutors in New York from obtaining his tax returns.

As for the whistleblower complaint that's being kept Congress, a senior administration official tells CNN as these links from these calls have anger Mr. Trump top officials in the West Wing have begun to limit the number of people listening in on the conversation so as to tighten the circle of people in the know and what the president is discussing with foreign leaders on these calls.

That means there may be only a small number of people who are familiar with the details in that whistleblower complaint.

Jim Acosta CNN, the White House.

ALLEN: Japan is all set to host its first ever Rugby World Cup. Next, we'll take you live to Tokyo with the look at the favorites and the best cities (Ph).


ALLEN: Well, we are just a few hours away from the first match at the 2019 World Cup. And CNN's world sport anchor Alex Thomas is live this hour in Tokyo where I would imagine the excitement is building. Set the same for us there. Hi, Alex.

ALEX THOMAS, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: Hi, Natalie. First, some rugby union is taken its World Cup which started back in 1987 to Asia. And getting it away from those traditional rugby powerhouses in Europe, the U.K., France and Australia, New Zealand and South Africa who hosted it before.

Here it is a pioneering tournament in Asia. And I think we can show you video of some of the red and white shirts, Japanese fans turning out to see the host nation there seeing Japan take on Russia in the opening game.

Door is opening up more than five hours ahead of kickoff and already hundreds are here to get in first and somber the atmosphere, many telling us admitting really, they didn't know much about rugby football cozy up in the occasion and are really welcoming, happy to welcome the world here to their shores.

If we show you a graphic outlining Japan's history of his tournaments. There were one of only two tier two nations to have played in every single one getting their first win in the 1991 event but then getting thrashed by a record margin against New Zealand in 1995, conceding 145 points, not winning any other game until 2015.

The last tournament four years ago in England when they won three pool games. They didn't qualify for the quarterfinals. The first team to win that many in the group stage and not get through to the next round.


One of those wins though crucially came against two-time former world champions South Africa. It shows how far Japanese rugby is come. If they get through the pool stage this time it will really bring this tournament to life.

And from what we've seen here on the ground in Tokyo this week it's a really promising start what's going to be a groundbreaking Rugby World Cup.

Rain or shine Japan sees plenty of international visitors especially here at Tokyo's renowned Shibuya Crossing. But the Rugby World Cup will be the biggest global sporting event on the shores since the FIFA World Cup 17 years ago.

Every continent on the planet will be represented as 20 nations bid for glory with 48 matches in 44 days across 12 cities.

Fears that the Rugby World Cup maybe overshadowed by next year's Tokyo Olympics appeared to have been misplaced. Teams have been enthusiastically greeted, millions of tickets have been sold and more than half a million overseas spectators are expected too.

This is the first Asian Rugby World Cup, so a successful tournament is crucial to growing the sports across the region not just here in Japan where rugby is trying to gain ground on more popular sports like baseball, sumo, and soccer.

The ninth Rugby World Cup kicks off here at the Tokyo Stadium, and just over six weeks later we'll have a champion. Only four countries have lifted the Webb Ellis trophy before with New Zealand's famous All Blacks going for a third successive victory.

And here we are back at that Tokyo Stadium on the opening day of the tournament just over three hours away from kickoff. We are going to see an opening ceremony before that of course. And as a few clouds has come over what's been a beautifully bright blue sky all day, it be a bit of ashamed if we get a shower here during that opening ceremony.

I'm sure it won't dampen spirits though, the enthusiasm and passion of Japanese sports fans no matter what the game is legendary and that's the x-factor that Rugby World Cup organizer will be hoping, Natalie, really brings this tournament to life. ALLEN: All right. Wonderful. Rain or shine I think they're going to

have a good time. All right. Alex, thanks so much. We look forward to your reporting on it.

And thank you for joining us. I'm Natalie Allen. African Voices Changemakers is coming next. And I'll be right back with our top stories.