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WikiLeaks: How CIA Hacks Phones, TV Screens; Conservatives Slam Health Plan as "Obamacare Lite"; China Calls for a THAAD "Cease-and- Desist" Order; Freedom Day; Turkish Prime Minister Says Cooperation Needed in Syria; Carson Refers to Slaves as Immigrants. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired March 8, 2017 - 00:00   ET



[00:00:11] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour --

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Can the CIA use your phone, computer and even your TV to listen to your conversations -- a potentially devastating new claim by WikiLeaks.

VAUSE: Agreement at last in Washington -- many Republicans and Democrats opposed to the plan backed by President Trump to replace Obamacare.

SESAY: China calls for a cease-and-desist order for deployment of a missile defense system, saying the Korean Peninsula and the U.S. are on track for a head-on collision.

VAUSE: Hello everybody. Great to have you with us. A lot to get to this hour. I'm John Vause.

SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

We begin this hour with a disturbing report of Big Brother gone rogue. WikiLeaks says the CIA is able to spy on people any time, anywhere through their cell phones, tablets, computers, and smart TVs.

VAUSE: It also claims the spy agency's high-tech hacking tools have been stolen, could be in the hands of criminals and spies around the world. The CIA won't say if the alleged internal documents published by WikiLeaks are authentic.

Let's bring in the former director of the National Cyber Security Center Rod Beckstrom. He's joining us now from Santa Cruz, California. Rod -- thanks for being with us.

Is the bigger headline here the CIA's ability to hack your phone and your television and your computer, or the fact there appears to be a major security breach at the agency?

ROD BECKSTROM, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL CYBER SECURITY CENTER: Well, the first thing is as experts know, anything electronic can be hacked. And anything connected to a network is extremely vulnerable. And everything is being connected to networks. So no surprise there that these devices can be hacked.

I think the surprise for, you know, many people is to see this kind of alleged treasure trove of information of exploits being spilled out of the CIA. And that's big news and potentially very deleterious and unfortunate for American national security.

SESAY: Rod -- another question on the minds of many is whether this kind of activity as laid out in this WikiLeaks papers, whether they seized the CIA's mandate.

BECKSTROM: Well, you know, that's a good question. So the CIA's job is to gather overseas intelligence for the United States national security interests and to monitor as appropriate foreign parties in the United States of America, particularly foreign agents and diplomats, et cetera. And that is the proper role of the CIA. And if these tools are being used for that purpose, then it's entirely appropriate and it's necessary for them to fulfill their mission.

Now historically, the CIA has, of course, focused on what we called Humint or human intelligence which means agents talking to sources of information and gathering data, pulling it together. In this case this is really a lot of digital exploits or what we would call signals intelligence, which is more typically the NSA role.

VAUSE: Rod, we're also reading in the WikiLeaks file that, you know, the CIA uses this malware which essentially covers its tracks, makes its hacks look like they could have been done by other foreign entities, in particular Russia. That has a lot of political connotations with it.

BECKSTROM: Sure. And, you know, the reality is that's modus operandi for all intelligence organization worldwide, that they seek to gather information, cover their tracks and use arts of deception. That's part of what we would call counterintelligence activities.

So I don't think there is any great surprise there. And, you know, that's part of the trade craft every major nation state uses in their digital intelligence operations.

SESAY: Rod, the very fact that there are vulnerabilities in iPhones and other devices of the like, really begs the question of tech companies' roles in all of this, does it not?

BECKSTROM: Well, it may or may not, Isha. You know, the reality is that companies don't have to cooperate to have their hardware hacked. And in many cases, it's because whoever the hackers are, whether they're working for the government or they're private parties that were hired by the government have found their own ways to break into the technology.

You're right, Isha, in pointing to a theory that it could also have been done by employees within the company, putting in a back door or putting in tools and hooks for government, other government parties to leverage and use. But I would bet in most cases that this is done simply by hacker experts that know how to break into devices.

VAUSE: Rod Beckstrom -- thanks for being with us. We appreciate your insights.

SESAY: Thank you -- Rod.


SESAY: All right.

Well, we're joined now by political analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson, pollster Justin Wallin, and senior political writer for "La Opinion" Pilar Marrero.

[00:05:03] VAUSE: Ok. Thank you all for being with us.

Ok. During the election campaign, no one loved WikiLeaks more than candidate Donald Trump. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This just came out. WikiLeaks -- I love WikiLeaks. Did you see where on WikiLeaks it was announced that they were paying protesters to be violent? $1,500.

Did you see another one? Another one came in today. This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove. Boy, I love reading those WikiLeaks.


VAUSE: Ok. We get the idea. Justin, President Trump said he loved WikiLeaks even more now -- essentially the timing of this is incredible, has also given him another stick to beat the intelligence community with -- right?

JUSTIN WALLIN, POLLSTER: Yes. I think one of the biggest takeaways of this is that there is a massive war between the President of the United States and the intelligence community, which in many ways is unprecedented, at least in recent history.

So, yes, he definitely has an opportunity. And I doubt based on his personality or what we know of it that he will hold back from that opportunity to really beat up the intelligence agencies because it is a massive leak. And there is very serious repercussions for these sorts of things.

It's a serious issue. And the intelligence community does have to take -- does have to take responsibility for it.

SESAY: Pilar -- to bring you in here. I mean this investigation into the Russian interference in this election is gaining apace. It's intensifying. And here we are now with a WikiLeaks dump.

I mean someone looking at the timing of all of this and asking questions saying is this potentially a "get out of jail" card for Russia? How do you see it?

PILAR MARRERO, "LA OPINION": I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you very well. What was the question again? SESAY: All right. Apologies for that. I'm asking you what you make

of the timing of this WikiLeaks dump, coming as the intensification of the investigation into Russia's meddling in the election happens.

MARRERO: Well, it is interesting. It's pretty obvious that the political world has been rocked by the Russia possible ties with the campaign of Donald Trump. But at the same time it has been distracted by all these other issues that the President is bringing up, you know, the supposed tapping by President Obama, et cetera, et cetera, everything that we already know about.

But, you know, this brings the attention back to the role that WikiLeaks had during the campaign and potential, you know, coalition or cooperation with the Russians and the President of the United States, which is what bothers and worries a lot of people and that the Republicans in Congress are resisting to investigate.

But I think the public, I think it's something that the public wants to know. I don't know if the President will be so enamored with WikiLeaks in this case or in future cases if WikiLeaks decides to leak something else that they may have about the President.

It's been suggested that they may have information about his campaign that is compromised or about himself when he went to Russia that is compromising. So, you know, it's almost like a soap opera that keeps developing.

SESAY: That it is.

VAUSE: The former defense secretary, the former director of the CIA Leon Panetta, he said earlier on CNN that the President seems more worried about political leaks than WikiLeaks.


LEON PANETTA, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Yes. We've seen President Trump is very concerned about leaks that indicate what's going on in the White House or what's going on within his administration. What WikiLeaks is doing and continues to do is to leak the most sensitive information about how our intelligence operations conduct their business.

So I would think that if the President is truly concerned about leaks, he would not support WikiLeaks nor would he support any other kind of intelligence leaks that damage our country.


VAUSE: Earl, to you, is Secretary Panetta right?

EARL OFARI HUTCHINSON, POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. You know, I think what he is saying is you can't have it both ways. On the one hand Trump is saying -- President Trump is saying look, we're going after leaks, we're going after leaks, we're going after leaks. It's damaging us. It's damaging us in our administration. Too many things are going out, there is no accountability. On the other hand, we just saw then-candidate Trump, not President Trump, roundly praising WikiLeaks when the shoe was on the other foot.

So you know, it's really a question of do you support what WikiLeaks is doing when it's advantageous to you but at the same time are you critical of it when it's not advantageous to you? That's the problem and that's the dilemma that President Trump has.

And by the way, it's not going to go away. WikiLeaks has been around for a while. They've been leaking a lot of information -- very sensitive, very classified; some questionable, some debatable.

[00:09:59] But nonetheless it's grabbing the headlines. It's grabbing media attention and obviously it's grabbed the attention of President Trump. So we're going to have to see how it plays out in terms of when leaks come out that damage him, will he be praising WikiLeaks then?

SESAY: And Justin I want to pick up on something you brought up -- you talked about the schism between the President and the intelligence agencies. Big picture question -- I mean this dump by WikiLeaks really does add to this notion of mistrust, that you can't trust intelligence agencies. I mean, where does this go? I mean what is the potential fallout here?

WALLIN: Right. I think right now the problem is massive there in the intelligence community. This isn't a WikiLeaks problem. This is an intelligence problem. This is an own your own home kind of problem.

We have people who are vested with the trust of keeping secrets that basically keep all of us safe. There are many, many bad folks out there with naughty intentions towards us and would like nothing better than to see large swaths of our population dead or at least put to the side. That's a serious business. And the amount of things that are just floating around there that reveal really remarkably sophisticated information, it's terrifying actually.

VAUSE: Let's go to the wiretap allegation from the President. Because it seems even some of Mr. Trump's most ardent supporters in Congress are now sort of trying to back away from the President.


REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: The President is a neophyte to politics. He has been doing this a little over a year. And I think a lot of the things that he says, you guys sometimes take literally. Sometimes he doesn't have 27 lawyers and staff looking at what he does, which is I think at times refreshing and at times can also lead us to have to be sitting at a press conference like this answering questions that you guys are asking.


VAUSE: Earl -- that was Devin Nunes, the man in the House of Representatives who's in charge with the House intelligence investigation into the wiretapping. He is actually suggesting we shouldn't take the President seriously. We shouldn't treat his words seriously or literally.

HUTCHINSON: Surprising too, you know. That's what you hear from Democrats all the time. I mean they pound away. Anything that comes out of the President Trump's mouth, we have to discount because it's partisan politics.

However, on the other hand, sometimes partisan politics can be true. So we don't really know. I think really, at the end of the day, it is true that intelligence-intelligence is need. Intelligence is very important. And intelligence is vital to our country's security. But it's got to be responsible intelligence backed up with some real facts and support and verifiable.

I think at this point in time, they really have really a conundrum in Congress. Do we investigate? How do we investigate? And who do we investigate? And what committees do we assign this to? I have to tell you, they really got the tiger by the tail here.

SESAY: A lot to get to.

Let's shift on to Obamacare. President Trump thinks people will be very happy with the long-awaited Republican plan to replace Obamacare. But as soon as the bill was revealed Tuesday, critics were all over it.

Conservative Republicans dismiss it as Obamacare lite saying it doesn't go far enough in cutting the current plan. And we still don't know some of the crucial details about it, including how many people would lose coverage and how much would it cost. President Trump says he is behind it.


TRUMP: I'm proud to support the replacement plan released by the House of Representatives and encouraged by members of both parties. I think really that we're going to have something that is going to be much more understood and much more popular than people can even imagine.


VAUSE: Pilar, to you. Republicans have been very good at repeal and voted to repeal Obamacare 60 times. Why aren't they ready with an acceptable replacement?

MARRERO: Well, we're going to find out. I think the President many times offered that he would repeal and present, or they would repeal and present a plan that was much better, that would cover -- I remember the President saying something like -- would cover more people, better plans for cheaper money. It's almost like it was a magic wand that they were going to use.

And now they're finding out that it's not so easy. That health care, as the President put it a few days ago, it's really complicated. And they find themselves in the same situation almost in a way that the Democrats found themselves back when Obama administration started. They had the Congress; they had the majorities in both Houses of Congress. They had the President, and it was still hard to pass a health care law.

In this case, I think the key for most people is going to be am I going to lose my coverage? How much is it going to cost me? What's going to be the result of this replacement? And so far we don't know because they have put forth a replacement on a fast track in Congress without the analysis of the Congressional Budget Office. So we don't know what this plan is going to do. But activists are telling us that the analysis shows there is a lot of people who are going to lose coverage.

[00:15:01] SESAY: Very quickly, I want to get to the notion of the cost of all of this. Many people asking that question.

Republican Jason Chaffetz suggesting that, you know, when it comes to the issue of cost, maybe some Americans could go without some of their luxuries. Take a listen.


REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Well, we're getting rid of the individual mandate. We're getting rid of those things that people said that they don't want. And you know what? Americans have choices. And they've got to make a choice. So maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love, they want to go spend hundreds of dollars. Well, maybe they should invest in their own health care. They've got to make those decisions themselves.


SESAY: Well, Mr. Chaffetz taking some heat for that.

HUTCHINSON: Well, here is the problem that Republicans have. Any time you talk about repeal and replace, you've got 21 to 22 million Americans that signed up under Obamacare. Not all of them are in California -- Democrats, liberals. Not all of them in New York -- liberals, Democrats. Many of them are very conservative. Many of them are working people. Many of them are in rural areas, blue collar workers. Many of them are constituents of Republicans.

That's why it's taking so long because they're feeling the pressure. How do we get rid of Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, which is more accurate to say? At the same time without jeopardizing our base because a lot of them support that and are dependent upon that. That's the real problem. It's a political issue.

VAUSE: We'll leave it there at this point. We're out of time.

But Earl, Justin and Pilar -- thank you so much for being with us. Most appreciated.

Ok. Time for a quick break.

When we come back, the U.N. Security Council condemning North Korea after a missile launch while China lashing out at South Korea over the deployment of an anti-missile defense system.

SESAY: And later this hour, history lessons with Dr. Ben Carson -- a closer look at the former presidential candidate's should we say unique view of world events.


SESAY: Hello, everyone. The U.N. Security Council has issued a strong rebuke of North Korea's missile launches. In a statement Tuesday it called the country's action a grave violation of several of its resolutions. The council is scheduled to meet Wednesday morning to discuss the matter.

VAUSE: Meanwhile, China is demanding the U.S. and South Korea stop the deployment of the THAAD missile defense system. At a news conference a few hours ago, China's foreign ministry said it undermines the country's security.

SESAY: Let's bring in our correspondents now. Matt Rivers is in Beijing and Paula Hancocks joins us from Seoul. Welcome to you both.

Matt, let's start with you.

China deeply unhappy with moves to deploy the THAAD missile defense system. And it would seem they're expressing that displeasure with more than just words.

[00:20:01] MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right and they've been expressing that displeasure through actions, according to the South Korean government, for months and months now ever since THAAD was first announced last year. And the actions really take the form of economic pressure that China can place in all kinds of different industries on South Korea.

Now China denies everything that I'm about to tell you, but the South Koreans say that the Chinese have done things like ban tour operators here in China from taking tour groups to Seoul, obviously tourism a big deal for the Seoul economy, the South Korean economy.

China has also banned the import of certain South Korean cosmetics products. Those are huge here. Chinese women really use those cosmetic products quite a bit. So banning those products really definitely has a dent on South Korean businesses.

And so things like that have really affected the South Korean economy and China is flexing its economic muscles. It's the second largest economy in the world and it's basically telling South Korea, hey, if you're going to play ball with the Americans and continue to deploy this THAAD system as you've started doing so far, there will be consequences.

SESAY: Yes. The U.S. and South Korea have made it clear that this is going to happen -- Matt. We know that the Chinese foreign ministry talking about the cease-and-desist action. How far is China willing to go to resist this from happening, from the completion of this deployment? RIVERS: Well, in the end, they can't really stop it from happening if

the South Koreans and the Americans are really determined to do this. But the big question here is what you brought up. How far are the Chinese willing to go specifically with the South Koreans and their relationship with the South Koreans?

I spoke with a South Korean diplomat in Beijing this week who said that his country is now preparing for more broad, more diverse economic retaliation. Could China even go so far as to cut off diplomatic ties with South Korea?

That obviously is an extreme example, but it could happen down the road if this continues because this THAAD issue as we heard the foreign minister say a little bit earlier today is the biggest current sticking point between China and South Korea. They are really upset about this.

And so you can definitely expect that there will be further economic retaliation. But how far they're willing to go in terms of cutting off diplomatic ties -- that remains to be seen.

SESAY: Yes. A great deal happening in the region, and Paula Hancocks -- to you. I want to talk to you about the fallout from North Korea's latest missile test. We know that there is a Security Council meeting scheduled for Wednesday. What are the expectations for that gathering?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Isha -- we've already had that statement as you mentioned earlier from the U.N. Security Council condemning -- strongly condemning these four ballistic missiles that were fired by North Korea on Monday, landing in waters just off the coast of Japan.

And of course, they defy international sanctions, these U.N. resolutions that have been passed say that North Korea is not allowed to use this ballistic missile technology. But once again, has so -- once again was condemned.

It's difficult to see how much more the U.N. Security Council can do when they meet on Wednesday morning. In the past, what we have seen is strong condemnation for ballistic missiles. What we have seen when it comes to either nuclear tests or satellite launches, which most of the world sees as a cover-up for a long-range missile test. Then there is talk about sanctions.

So just four ballistic missile tests, it's unlikely we'll hear too much about sanctions, potentially strengthening sanctions, but not really expected to see anything new -- Isha.

SESAY: As always, in these situations when North Korea makes such moves, the focus turns to China and whether China will, if you will, increase pressure on North Korea to bring about a change in behavior.

What is the rhetoric around China right now in light of these latest tests and the expectation of China's actions? HANCOCKS: Well, certainly I think China within the U.N. Security

Council is the one to be watching at this point, if they are in the mood at this point, as Matt says that they are, that they're not necessarily wanting to be cooperating with the United States, cooperating with South Korea because the first elements of thought have just now arrived in this country.

It adds an extra complication when you're talking about what to do about North Korea. So it's unlikely that there will be something they will have to vote on that China could potentially veto.

But certainly there are just extra elements with THAAD that China will be concerned about. They're not happy. Will they be in a mood to actually coordinate and cooperate when it comes to North Korea? It's something that obviously the South Koreans and the U.S. will be watching very closely.

SESAY: Yes. As we all will be. Matt Rivers joining us there from Beijing, Paula Hancocks there from Seoul, South Korea -- our thanks to you both. Thank you.

[00:25:12] VAUSE: CNN is teaming up with young people around the world for a unique student-led day of action against modern-day slavery with the launch of "My Freedom Day" on March 14th.

SESAY: Driving "My Freedom Day" is a simple question. What does freedom mean to you? Here is what some students had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What freedom means to me is everything. I mean standing up for those whose voice and chance at real life has been taken away. It also means fighting for justice and coming together in complete unity to do so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the freedom and the power to think what you want in this society.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Freedom means to me the ability to live according to you and not encountering any dangers along the way.


SESAY: Send us your answer by text, photo or video across social media using #myfreedomday.

VAUSE: Still to come here -- surrender or die. Iraq's prime minister sends a strong message to ISIS after his forces make some big gains in western Mosul.

SESAY: And Turkey hosts a rare meeting with the top military leaders from the U.S. and Russia -- how they're hoping to push all terror groups out of Syria.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay.

The headlines this hour:

WikiLeaks claims the CIA is using high-tech hacking tools that can spy on anyone's cell phones, computers, and even smart TVs. And it says those techniques have been stolen, potentially in the hands of criminals and foreign spies. The CIA won't comment on whether the documents published by WikiLeaks are authentic.

[00:30:11] VAUSE: The U.N. Security Council takes on North Korea's ballistic missile launches in a closed session Wednesday. The meeting comes after it condemned Pyongyang for violating resolutions. The council says North Korea's actions increase the risk of a regional arms race.

SESAY: An endangered white rhino named Vince is dead after poachers broke into an animal preserve near Paris. They cut off one of his horns with a chainsaw, partially sawed the other horn and shot the animal. Rhino horns are worth tens of thousands of dollars on the black market.

VAUSE: Turkey has hosted a rare high level meeting with military leaders from the United States and Russia. It's aimed to defeating ISIS and other terror groups in Syria.

SESAY: Turkey prime minister says the countries must coordinate so they don't interfere in each other's operations and to avoid friendly fire incidents.

VAUSE: For more on this, CNN's military analyst Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona joins us now.

Colonel, good to speak with you.

How do you see this meeting of the military chiefs from Russia and the United States? Is this the start of the United States working alongside Russia a lot more closely to try and defeat ISIS in Syria?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN'S MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, it has that potential. I think this is a positive step. For the first time, we actually have the primary sponsors of the combatant groups in Syria sitting down and actually discussing how we're going to go after ISIS. And that's been the goal all along is how do we fight ISIS.

But over the last several months, what is happening is although these three groups are fighting ISIS, they spend a lot of time fighting each other, which is counterproductive to the overall mission.

So for the first time, we've got the Turks, the Americans and the Russians. And these are the three major sponsors. The Russians are supporting of course the Syrian government. The Turks are supporting the free Syrian army, the rebels. And of course the United States is supporting this Kurdish-Arab group called the Syrian Democratic Front.

And I think it's a good thing that they're all getting everybody back focused on ISIS.

This does represent a shift in U.S. position, though, because whereas in the past we wanted to fight ISIS, yes, but we also wanted the removal of the Bashar al-Assad regime. If we're going to be talking to the Russians, that's probably going to go by the wayside.

VAUSE: All of this is moving towards an offensive to take Raqqah away from ISIS, its self-declared capital there in Syria. As mentioned, one of the issues is the involvement of the Kurdish fighters, and according to Turkey's prime minister, it is a big issue that needs to be dealt with.

Listen to this.


BINALI YILDIRIM, TURKISH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We have told our interlocutors in the fight against Daesh, one cannot cooperate with groups which have an agenda that is against Syria's unity and integrity. Therefore it is unfortunate that some of our allies have chosen terrorist organizations as partners such as YPG and PYD, which share PKK's nature.


VAUSE: So how will this play out especially during the fact that the Kurds are probably the best most effective fighters in Syria against ISIS. And as you say, they are the ones backed by the United States.

FRANCONA: Well, here's the situation on the ground. It has changed radically in the last two weeks because the Turkish-led free Syrian army has been cut off from their front lines with ISIS. They're no longer confronting ISIS. They have been cut off by the Syrian regime and the Kurds so that the Turks have really been marginalized. And now they're really pushing back.

So what we have are the Kurdish groups that are sponsored by the United States are only within about five to six miles of Raqqah, whereas the Turks who really want to lead this assault are over 100 miles away. John, it would take them months to fight their way through to get to Raqqah.

So I think the United States is looking at this as a time and distance factor. We've got the Kurds right there. They're capable with American support of taking Raqqah. Let's liberate Raqqah now rather than let these people just fester for months under the tyranny of ISIS.

VAUSE: Is that something that will be worked out at this meeting that they had in Turkey, essentially which group will go in, which group will in fact liberate Raqqah?

FRANCONA: Well, I think so. And it's going to be very important. And the Turks are adamant. They want some role in this. They've come up with a bunch of ideas. One of them was how about the United States opening up a corridor through Kurdish territory. I think that's a non-starter.

The Turks are desperate to be involved in this and they've been very effectively marginalized by the Russians and the United States. So I think we're trying to come up with some way where we can assuage the Turks, yet let the Kurds retake Raqqah. They're in the best position to do it. But they don't have the firepower. They're going to need a lot of U.S. support. And that's what you're seeing. You're seeing a lot more American armor. We've got army rangers going in.

The 75th Ranger Regiment has deployed unit there. And in a remarkable display, you see these striker vehicles rolling down the road, flying the American flag. We've not seen that before.

[00:35:00] VAUSE: Right. And if the U.S. president and the Pentagon is to be believed, it seems it could be a greater involvement of U.S. troops in the weeks ahead.

Colonel, thank you. Thanks for being with us. We appreciate it.

FRANCONA: My pleasure, John.

SESAY: All right. Time for a quick break now.

The U.S. housing secretary makes another comparison to slavery and the social media backlash explodes. A little Ben Carson's history of controversial and let's face it puzzling remarks just ahead.


VAUSE: Now to a segment we like to call Ben Carson says the darnedest things.

SESAY: The Housing secretary and former Republican presidential candidate has sent social media into meltdown once again with his own unique perspective on how slaves ended up here in the United States.


BEN CARSON, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT SECRETARY: This is what America is about. A land of dreams and opportunity. There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less but they too had a dream.


VAUSE: We don't know if he was sleepwalking, but the department spokesman for Housing and Urban Development called the outrage over the remark single interpretation of what Carson said. The former U.S. surgeon has a unique perspective on history.

SESAY: Yes, he does. For more on history lessons with Ben Carson, Segun Oduolowu joining us now here to deconstruct it all.

VAUSE: OK, Segun, is an entertainment journalist at "Access Hollywood Live." OK. So slavery. It's just a story of dreaming big dreams and working hard and you too can make it. Harry Jacobs, a famous writer who, you know, spent early years as domestic help for a loving doctor.

SEGUN ODUOLOWU, ENTERTAINMENT JOURNALIST: Yes. I mean, if you leave it to him, Harriet Tubman ran one heck of a travel agency. But he is the worst kind of, I was going to put it out, he is the worst kind of black person, because this is like that house field kind of mentality. And you cannot call slaves immigrants, because they weren't fleeing oppression. There was no potato famine in Africa. They didn't come across on Ellis Island to, quote, "by glee". They didn't land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on them.

And he's sleepwalking on that stage. I don't know if he is inebriated or whatever, but someone should have fact checked that speech. Someone -- I mean, he read -- you do realize that he read this over and over again. This was going on in his mind. And then to offer this ridiculous apology on Facebook. If you can get up there and hold a microphone in front of an audience, an audience that applauded by the way that nonsensical statements, but if you can do that, then you stand up and you apologize. You don't issue some mealy-mouthed Facebook message saying oh, well, I didn't mean it this way. Same guy that said Obamacare is the worst thing to happen to America since slavery.




ODUOLOWU: We can unpack it all.

SESAY: I was going to say before your head explodes, let's play another clip of Dr. Carson talking about slavery, shall we?


CARSON: Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way because, because it is making all of us subservient.


[00:40:00] SESAY: Before your head explodes, because I see your mouth just frozen out there. Before that, who is he trying to connect with when he makes these statements?

ODUOLOWU: I don't know. See, that's the scary part because there are people applauding. Like I thought he was at a Klan rally because he said it and then they started applauding.

Like in his America, does he really think that the America he is talking about that where slavery is just this thing that just happened, that they're going to allow -- that they would allow him to be a surgeon? Does he think that he is going to go to Bannon's (ph), you know, Christmas dinner. Like if he does, he'll be serving, OK? Let's just get that straight.

Like what's he doing except, you know, sending black people back 500 years.

VAUSE: As a black man, Dr. Carson, for many black men growing up was a hero. He was held up as this great neurosurgeon. When he does this, does it make it even worse?

ODUOLOWU: It makes it worse because I never see Jewish people as holocaust deniers. There are horrible people out there who deny the holocaust, but they're never Jewish people. I've never seen a black person do this. A black man. Someone as you said that we used to champion as a neurosurgeon. It shows that you can be book smart, but completely tone deaf to what is going on. And the scariest thing --


SESAY: Is this a question of tone deaf, though? I mean, it's just wrong. I mean, tone deaf is.

ODUOLOWU: But it's more than wrong because as being in charge of Housing and Urban Development, in charge of section 8 housing and regentrification, that affects black and brown people. So you put a man in charge who basically hates his own race and can say this repeatedly.

VAUSE: Yes. Hold that. OK, it's not just U.S. history. Dr. Carson has history perspectives on ancient Egypt and how the universe began.

Listen to this.

ODUOLOWU: Oh, this is great.


CARSON: My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids in order to store grain.

We can predict 70 years away when a comet is coming. Now that type of organization to just come out of an explosion? I mean, you want to talk about fairy tales, that is amazing.


VAUSE: So when it comes to Egypt and the pyramids, at least he didn't say they were built by aliens.

ODUOLOWU: Well, has he been to Egypt? They're solid. Grain silo? Maybe like they were built to -- come on. Come on.


VAUSE: So, well, he said -- he actually made a comment on that and said I don't care if you show me all this evidence. I still believe that it was built by Joseph to store grain. So even presented with evidence that he was wrong, he would still wasn't changing his point of view.

ODUOLOWU: The pyramids that were carbon dated about 500 years before Joseph was even supposed to have been in the Bible. Like I said, we've already got that he is the worst. But people need to understand that as he says these things and people applaud him, it feels like it's feeding this balloon of hot air. And I'm just waiting for it to pop, because it needs to pop.

SESAY: So what's your message to him quickly?

ODUOLOWU: Oh, great. Well, if I ever got to meet him in person and I didn't approach him with the anger in my heart that I feel now, I would be like -- I would love to say what Samuel Jackson said.


SESAY: No, don't do that.

ODUOLOWU: But I would say, I mean, come on, brother, are you serious? Are you serious?

VAUSE: Right.

ODUOLOWU: Because I mean, do you see the America that you are trying to create? Or that the America who is writing your speeches because they will have you in your scrubs, on their lawn as a jockey. That will be your job. Not neurosurgeon. Maybe, maybe master will let you work on the horses and the cows the way you're speaking because you are setting black people back -- I said 500 years? Let's take it a thousand years.

SESAY: You went there.

ODUOLOWU: I got to go there. I got to go -- we have to go there. He is the worst.

VAUSE: OK. Segun --

SESAY: Well, Segun --

ODUOLOWU: Can we do another segment like where we put him and I in like --

VAUSE: We love a cage match.



ODUOLOWU: Go viral, CNN international, because if you like Ben Carson, shame on you as a human being.

SESAY: OK. We are going to leave now.

ODUOLOWU: Slaves as immigrants.

SESAY: We're going. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles, I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause. "World Sport" is up next. And we'll be back with another hour of news from all around the world. You're watching CNN.