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Trump Condemns Heinous Actions by Assad Regime; Trump and Xi to Hold Their First Meeting; Companies Pull Ads from Bill O'Reilly Show; First Lady Hosts Queen Rania in Washington; Aired 12-1a ET

Aired April 6, 2017 - 00:00   ET


[00:00:10] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, Donald Trump says the deadly chemical attack in Syria crossed many, many lines. Still it's not clear what he plans to do about it.

Plus, the unpredictable Trump, the disciplined Xi, two presidents polar opposites meeting face-to-face on Thursday.

And later, the most powerful man in the world offers his support for FOX News host Bill O'Reilly amid allegations of sexual harassment.

Hello, everybody. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

The U.S. and its allies are blaming Syrian president Bashar al-Assad for the deadly chemical attack in Idlib. The images are graphic and disturbing. At least 70 people are now confirmed dead, many are children. Witnesses described chemical bombs dropped from planes. Amnesty International says evidence points to an air launched chemical attack.

The U.S. president meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah called the strike heinous and an affront to humanity.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I will tell you it's already happened that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.


VAUSE: Joining us now on the line from Istanbul, CNN's Muhammad Lila.

So, Muhammad, what's the very latest now on the investigation? What more do we know about how this attack was carried out?

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Well, first of all, in terms of any formal investigation we know that there isn't any yet, simply because the Assad government hasn't given any indication that they're willing to allow independent international investigators on to the scene. But if we look at what eyewitness accounts on the ground have described, it's simply horrific. They describe seeing the airstrike. Yesterday CNN spoke with a number of victims who are being treated in

a hospital in Turkey. One of them described how he saw -- he was a 13-year-old boy and he saw the airstrike, saw that it had landed somewhere near his grandfather's home. He rushed there to see his grandfather slanged over in a chair. And shortly thereafter this 13- year-old boy collapsed.

Now the Russian version of events says that there was a Syrian airstrike and that it hit a weapons depot. But it doesn't match up with some of the information that's coming out on the ground, information that's being provided by a lot of opposition activists that point to a crater, for example, in the ground where they say that first airstrike hit. There is no indication in that image or those images of where that airstrike hit that there was any sort of ammunitions depot nearby.

So there are certainly some things in the Russian version that don't add up. And unfortunately, the only way to get to the bottom of this is if international investigators do somehow get access to that site.

VAUSE: OK. Muhammad, thank you. Muhammad Lila there on the line from Istanbul.

Well, for more now let's bring in CNN contributor and global fellow with the Woodrow Wilson Center, Jill Dougherty, also CNN military analyst Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona and journalist Lucy DerTavitian.

Thank you all for being with us.

During that news conference with the king of Jordan, the U.S. president, he was asked if he was planning a new policy toward Syria. He told reporters, you'll see.

So, Jill, is Donald Trump now finding out if there was a quick, easy solution here it would have been done by now?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Sure. Probably. And he is not really laying out precisely what he would do. He was extraordinarily critical for Donald Trump and saying that he -- about Assad and that he had a complete change in thinking about Assad. But in contrast to the people who are on his team, his U.N. representative Nikki Haley, also Mr. Tillerson has had some very critical, but especially Nikki Haley, very, very critical comments about Russia, and essentially saying that they are responsible for some of this because they are on the side of Assad.

So you have a disconnect still between what the president is saying and what his officials are saying. With no clear definition of how the actual policy might change.

VAUSE: And you mentioned Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. She closed her remark to the Security Council with this warning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: When the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of States that we are compelled to take our own action.


VAUSE: So, Colonel Francona, what are the military options here for the U.S., and what Russian response would you expect if the U.S. does take unilateral action?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, two easy questions, John, thank you. OK. So there is a whole range of options available. And the Pentagon planners have already laid these out, even during the Obama administration, if we were going the take action.

[00:05:05] The best way to do this would be probably to shut down a couple of Syrian airfields, the one that we know that they're launching these strikes from.

The big question is, no matter what military action we take, what is going to be the Russian response? Are the Russians going to sit there while we do this, or are they going to actively oppose it? Do we want to get into a shooting confrontation with the Russian forces that are in Syria over this? Is this a big enough deal?

You've seen how world public opinion is absolutely galvanized with this particular event. So I think that Mr. Trump is coming around to going back to the original policy of getting rid of Bashar al-Assad and defeating ISIS. So we'll see how that change maps out. But the wild card here, the big unknown is what of the Russian relationship.

You know, we were starting to get along with the Russians. We were cooperating in northern Syria. That will go by the wayside if we launch an attack on the Syrians.

VAUSE: Well, the Republicans today, John McCain, he's been a big critic not just of this White House policy on Syria, but also past administrations. Listen to this.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: You know, there is one thing worse than doing nothing. It's saying that you're going to do something and then not doing it. That's sent a signal everywhere in the world, not just in Syria. And the fact is that we knew it would happen again. So we've seen this movie before. And unless we act, we're going to see it again.


VAUSE: So, Lucy, there is now an expectation that the U.S. will take some kind of action in Syria, just not entirely clear what that would be. What would be the consequences if the U.S. does nothing?

LUCY DERTAVITIAN, JOURNALIST COVERING THE MIDDLE EAST: Well, I mean, the reason why we did nothing -- when Obama did nothing in 2013 partly was because we knew that the rebels themselves had access to weapons. The U.N. lead investigator had said that. And it came to be true. And that's still a possibility here as well.

Part of the reason why this is problematic is because the verdict is out before we've even had a chance to see the evidence and to have the evidence represented to us. So we know that Assad -- it's possible Assad is the one who did it because it's airstrikes. But at the same time today, the U.N. high representatives for disarmament said that we still don't have proof. We still don't know how the weapons were delivered. We have to wait in order to be sure that Assad is truly the culprit here.

Let's also remember that there is divide within the rebels as well. And we know the rebels have weapons, chemical weapons themselves.

VAUSE: Yes, look, they're sending out enough allegations going around as to who's done what in the past.

But, Colonel Francona, just to you, will there be a credibility problem for the United States if it just sits on its hands at this point?

FRANCONA: Yes, well, it -- after a certain period of time, we have to do something. But as Lucy said, you know, it would be helpful to have a lot of proof. I think there is a lot of intelligence information that we don't have access to. And I think that we're probably going to find out that it was the Syrian Air Force that did this. Once that's determined and once we admit that, I think that then the onus is on the United States to do something. And I think this time as opposed to last time, if we do nothing, we really will have a credibility problem. And I go back to the same thing. We have to figure out what that does to our relationship with the Russians.

VAUSE: Jill, there will also be consequences as well should the U.S. decide to act. How would a new hard line policy from the White House affect relations in the biggest sense with Moscow?

DOUGHERTY: Well, I think this acting is a big question. I mean, if you take action in Syria, military action, the Russians basically control a lot of Syria right now. So you run the risk of, you know, coming into conflict with Russian forces that are there. So it would have to be -- whatever the step would be, would have to be very carefully planned because you can start a war with Russia. At least in Syria.

And then also I think, you know, we're back to the same thing. We have similar rhetoric in a way about North Korea, you know, that they are taking actions. We have to do something. We'll tell you later what it is. So the president is setting himself up with kind of a high bar that something is going to happen. This isn't going to continue. But he won't say what it is. But overall, you would think that he would have to do something because otherwise it's empty words.

And President Trump is not one -- he has excoriated President Obama for empty words and weakness, et cetera. He is going to have to do something. Is it symbolic? Is it real? Is there a real policy there? Because right now it's a very confused, internally contradictory policy at best.

VAUSE: Yes. It seems to be a guessing game right now of exactly what the president might be thinking when it comes to Syria and Assad.

[00:10:03] But he did admit that this chemical attack has forced him to rethink his strategy towards the Syrian dictator.

DOUGHERTY: Well, true --


TRUMP: It crossed a lot of lines for me when you kill innocent children, innocent babies, babies, little babies with a chemical gas that is so lethal that people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many, many lines. Beyond a red line. Many, many lines.


VAUSE: So, Colonel Francona, would Assad be worried at this point? This would not be the response they were expecting from President Trump.

FRANCONA: Well, you know, I'm really confused as to why Assad would do this. There is no military reason for him to use chemical weapons. He is winning the war. He doesn't need to resort to these weapons. I don't know why he would want to inflict this kind of thing. But it sure looks like he did. I'm not sure he gauged this reaction properly. And I have to admit I was a little surprised too with the amount of public opinion. But there is so much press out there that shows the brutality of this attack.

So I'm -- I guess I understand why the president is reassessing his policy towards Syria. And I think we're going to see a change, although, as Jill says, he is not really telling us what he is going to do. Militarily, I don't have a problem with that. I think we in the past have been guilty of telegraphing our actions.

VAUSE: Lucy, do you have an explanation why there is so much outrage over this particular chemical attack? This is not the first time Assad has gassed his own people. He has been doing it for years. He did it recently last year with chlorine.

DERTAVITIAN: Right. But chlorine is much different. Right? Chlorine attacks just a few people because you need to be enclosed in order for chlorine to take full -- for it to kill people. So --


VAUSE: Yes. The casualty numbers were much lower last time, but still it was a chemical attack.

DERTAVITIAN: Much lower. It makes sense. I mean, you have nearly 100 dead. That they're saying. Of course people are outraged. But if I can go back to the fact that which was just spoken, which is why would Assad do this now? It really doesn't make sense. Just in Brussels they were discussing the fact of giving billions of dollars to rebuild Syria under Assad. So it's really -- the question is, why would he do it? I don't think it's just the fact that he wasn't using he's -- you know, he was -- he didn't think this out. That's not possible.

So there are a lot of questions I still think need to be answered. And the most important question that we need to answer is why would Assad do this now when it's clear that he is gaining great tractions. He just crushed al Qaeda in north of Hama. As we all know, he won in Aleppo. So there is really no reason. There is also no reason for him to use chemical weapons. He's got the airstrikes. He could have -- if the aim is to kill, even to kill innocent people, as horrific that is, he could have done that with regular airstrikes. So why use chemical weapons?

VAUSE: And Jill, with that in mind, clearly Moscow is standing behind Assad. But privately, would there be concerns coming from the Kremlin that this attack, you know, was carried out by the Syrian Air Force?

DOUGHERTY: Well, at this point they're saying no. There's that -- the theory that they proposed is the one that the Syrian Air Force did come in. But they hit those chemical weapons depots, and that exploded and that created this problem. So they're completely denying the idea that the Syrian Army actually attacked.

Now, again, we don't know until we get some type of, you know, proof either way. But the only theory that I have seen out there as to why Assad would do that is that he has been emboldened, people would say, those who profess this, would say that he has been emboldened by the comments previously from the Trump administration, which is essentially saying, you know, he should stay in office. It's just a political reality. He might as well stay in office. So the theory would go he felt a lot freer to do whatever he wanted to do. And he has done this before.

VAUSE: Colonel Francona, I'd like to get your thoughts on that. Because, yes, there were these public comments coming from senior officials within the Trump administration that the policy was now publicly stated that Assad or the Syrian people could determine their own fate, essentially leaving Assad in place. But that had been sort of the unspoken policy of the Obama administration for years.

FRANCONA: Well, but Trump was very adamant during the campaign and after he took office. And then we've heard it from other senior officials that removing Bashar al-Assad was no longer a priority for his administration. And I think -- I think Jill's right. This did embolden him. He said, OK, I've got one less problem to worry about. I'm going to remain in power. I basically won. I can do whatever I want. I'm not sure I would have jumped to chemical weapons. I think it's kind of ironic that it's OK to kill people with high explosives but not chemicals.


[00:15:04] It really kind of defies what we're -- you know, what we're talking about. In any case, these people -- these are civilian casualties, horrific numbers. It's just I think that the use of chemicals really, really resonates badly with a lot of people. And that's why we're seeing this public outcry, this outrage that we have not seen in the past.

VAUSE: OK. Well, panel, thank you all for being with us. Some good points and of course clearly a lot of unanswered questions still at this early stage. Thank you.

Well, next here on CNN NEWSROOM, China's president just hours away from his first summit with President Trump. We'll take a closer look at the big issues facing the two leaders.

Also, a shake-up at the U.S. National Security Council. Details on Steve Bannon's demotion. You don't often hear that. Just ahead.



VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in the U.S. on Thursday for his first summit with President Trump. The two leaders won't be meeting in Washington, but rather at Mr. Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The growing threat from North Korea and trade are expected to dominate these talks.

CNN's Matt Rivers joins us now live from Beijing.

[00:20:01] So, Matt, this is about as close as it gets to an election year in China. The Communist Party Leadership Congress will hold its meeting in the coming months. Xi Jinping would be looking to show the domestic audience that he can actually manage this relationship with the U.S., successfully manage it, also, you know, deal with a very unpredictable and often difficult President Donald Trump.

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right. I mean, Xi Jinping has some serious domestic political considerations to take into account. And how this meeting comes across domestically is something he is really concerned about. And so he has two goals here. One of course would be to just have no major crises happen for the rest of the year. That way he can focus on alliance building here politically ahead of this big transition of power later on. But then the other of course would be to make sure that the economic relationship between the United States and China remains strong because frankly, China's economy is slowing down.

And it can't really afford to have its exports to the United States really take a big hit if some protectionist trade barriers were put up on the U.S. side. And so what you have in President Xi Jinping is someone who needs to look tough. He needs to stand up to someone like President Trump who appease the hardliners here in China who don't like the fact that President Trump has been so critical of China throughout the campaign season leading up to now. But then on the other hand, he needs to make sure that he doesn't push it too far because China's economy is in kind of a delicate place right now. And it needs that relationship with the United States to continue. So he has to walk a very fine line here. Because as you said, he has some serious domestic political considerations that will be very much top of mind when he arrives in Florida.

VAUSE: Very quickly, the U.S. president, he made it clear he wants China to do more to rein in Pyongyang. Address more part of that. What exactly can Beijing do that it's not doing now when it comes to North Korea?

RIVERS: Well, it could go further in terms of cutting off food and energy aid. It could prevent North Korean labor from working in China, which is a source of hard currency for the regime. And it could stop North Korean businesses from using Chinese banks. But the question is, is China actually going to do all that of? And I think most experts will tell you they won't. Because they need the North Korean regime to exist as a buffer against the United States on the Korean Peninsula.

So how far China is willing to go is the real question. How far the Trump administration can push them is the question that everyone is asking. And we just don't know the answer yet.

VAUSE: Maybe we'll find out by Friday. Matt Rivers live in Beijing, thank you.

We'll stay with the story now. Melissa Chan, a journalist with the Global Reporting Center, joins us now.

Nice to see you. It's been quite a few years since our days in Beijing together.


VAUSE: It was interesting in that news conference with King Abdullah of Jordan, Donald Trump was asked specifically about North Korea. Listen to what he said.


TRUMP: That's another responsibility we have. And that's called the country of North Korea. We have a big problem. We have somebody that is not doing the right thing. And that's going to be my responsibility. But I'll tell you, that responsibility could have been made a lot easier if it was handled years ago.


VAUSE: Of course, I mean, that's the obvious, isn't it? But, you know, this has been a problem for the Obama administration, the George W. Bush administration, the Clinton administration. You know, it would have been nice if they all could have done with it. But it just shows that this is one of the most difficult problems in the world.

CHAN: And one of the things the Trump administration has said is that they are willing to consider going unilateral in terms of dealing with North Korea. In other words, not putting pressure on the Chinese if they are not willing to cooperate and work with the United States. That could mean something crazy. I mean, this is a very unpredictable administration. So it could mean a bilateral perhaps, President Trump if he is willing to sit down with Kim Jong-un, which would have been unheard of under President Obama or previous presidents. It's just an unsavory thing. But this is a guy who likes to cut deals.

VAUSE: Exactly. But there is always this perception that you don't reward bad behavior by giving, you know, diplomatic recognition to North Korea. Do you think that's something which could go away under this administration?

CHAN: I think it's a possibility. It has certainly been suggested by some experts who's seen that the status quo has certainly not helped him. You know, eight years ago the North Koreans could not put a nuclear warhead on a missile, and it looks like they can now. So things have not gotten better. Something needs to change and if the Chinese are not going to work with the Americans, it certainly is a possibility I'm sure they're talking about it if not actually going to follow through.

VAUSE: You know, if you look at these two leaders. They're so different on so many levels. You know, Xi is disciplined. He is scripted. Donald Trump is Donald Trump. He has actually solidified his hold on power. He's essentially at the same level of Mao Zedong when it comes to consolidating his power over the political structure. Trump is struggling with his domestic agenda. How does that play into this?

CHAN: Well, I think the Chinese are looking at the fact that President Trump has said he'll build a wall and make Mexico pay for it, but instead you look at the budget proposal and he is making American taxpayers pay for it. And then of course very recently, the health care reform and his promise to repeal and replace, and that hasn't happened. So if you really want to call Donald Trump on his bluff, I think that the Chinese can certainly consider that option. He can -- President Trump can say that he wants to negotiate and cut a deal. But the Chinese might not be willing to do that.

[00:25:02] I think this is so early in the administration, too. I mean, President Xi knows what he wants. He spent his entire life in government, in politics, thinking about Chinese interests. President Trump has not spent his entire life thinking about American interests.

VAUSE: Right. Well, you know, with your point there about, you know, Donald Trump keeping his promises during the election campaign, he took China bashing to a whole new level. The Chinese are used to it. But it was nothing like they saw during the 2016 campaign. Listen to Donald Trump here.


TRUMP: Because we can't continue to allow China to rape our country. And that's what they're doing. It's the greatest theft in the history of the world.

The greatest abuser in the history of this country. They can't imagine, they can't even believe that they can get away with what's happening. China is responsible for nearly half of our entire trade deficit. They break the rules in every way imaginable.


VAUSE: And to your earlier point, you know, if you look at everything that Trump has said when it comes to China, when he threatened the "One China" policy, when he had the phone call with Taiwan and he backed down on that, currency manipulation on day one, never happened because the U.S. Treasury Department said it's no longer a currency manipulator. You know, the 45 percent tariff on goods. The Chinese looking at this and saying, you know, his bark is worse than his bite.

CHAN: Quite possibly, and of course there has been the great investigative pieces looking into the Kushner family and their negotiations with shady and mysterious Chinese conglomerates, putting $400 million into their 666 Fifth Avenue property. So there are potential business conflicts of interest in terms of Trump's relatives and son-in-law. And that should play in to some of that. But there is consistency to what President Trump says with trade and his views on trade vis-a-vis China. In the 1980s it was Japan. And I do think that that is something very consistent with President Trump. And he does have hard-liners in his administration who feel the same way. Steve Bannon of course also his trade expert.

VAUSE: Though he recently demoted Steve Bannon.

CHAN: Yes. And his trade expert Peter Navarro many people perceive as having been sidelined.

VAUSE: Yes. He has a very hard line on China. But you think he's been sidelined in all of this?

CHAN: I think so for now. But you can never predict whether somebody is out of the doghouse.

VAUSE: Exactly. Yes. They go in, they come out. OK, Melissa, good to see you. Thanks so much.

OK. We'll take a short break. President Trump's chief strategist just got knocked down a peg or two. Steve Bannon loses his spot at the National Security Council. We'll go inside the shifting White House power structure in just a moment.

Also, why more and more companies are pulling their commercials from Bill O'Reilly's show on FOX News.


[00:31:08] VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour.

Experts and witnesses are disputing Russia's explanation for a deadly chemical attack in Syria. Moscow says a Syrian airstrike hit a chemical weapons workshop run by terrorists releasing the gas. At least 70 civilians have been killed. Amnesty International says evidence points to an air-launched chemical attack.

The U.S. President Donald Trump says the heinous actions by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated. He met with Jordan's King Abdullah on Wednesday. Mr. Trump says the attack crossed a lot of lines but he refused to say what action he might take.

China's leader arrives in the U.S. on Thursday for his first one-on- one meeting with President Trump. But it won't be in Washington. Instead, President Xi Jinping will stay at Mr. Trump's resort in Florida. The two leaders have a lot of issues to discuss, including the growing threat of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles from North Korea.

And the U.S. president making some changes at the White House. He just removed chief strategist Steve Bannon from his permanent seat at the National Security Council. The move reverses the president's own controversial decision to elevate Bannon to a role at the NSC. And there has been another big change, the director of the National Intelligence and the Joint Chiefs chairman will now be back at the table when the principal committee meets.

To FOX News now and a rapidly growing exodus of advertisers from "The O'Reilly Factor" amid a scandal involving the host, Bill O'Reilly. All of this comes after a "New York Times" report about settlements with five women who alleged sexual harassment or verbal abuse by O'Reilly. Even though 47 companies have now pulled their ads Bill O'Reilly still has not made any public comment about the scandal.

Well, with me now, CNN's senior reporter for media and politics, Dylan Byers.

Dylan, it is good to see you. So we've got this growing list of companies which are pulling out. It seems to be happening very, very quickly.

DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR REPORTER FOR MEDIA AND POLITICS: I feel bad for whoever has to write that headlines.

VAUSE: It keeps changing.

BYERS: The number keeps changing. I mean, literally, sometimes by the minute.

VAUSE: It is fluid. But it's also noticeable about these companies which are pulling out, as they are leaving they are issuing very strongly worded statements against O'Reilly. So in many ways, that would make it very difficult for them to actually, you know, go back and buy advertising.

BYERS: Right. If you say that you find the remarks or -- sorry, you find the charges disconcerting, if you say you find them troubling, if you say you don't want to be involved with that sort of -- in that climate or that environment of sexual harassment allegations, it's going to be very hard to see how those companies come back unless 21st Century FOX issues a more sort of transparent acknowledgment of what took place here, apology for what took place here, explanation of what took place here. Something more than what we've had which is -- was it Wednesday?


BYERS: We're talking four days of silence since their initial remarks when they stood behind Bill O'Reilly and when Bill O'Reilly himself said that he disputed the merits of the accusations.

VAUSE: Yes. He was victim of these lawsuits.

BYERS: Exactly.

VAUSE: These advertiser boycotts -- they've had mixed results in the past. I mean, 10 years ago, the radio show host, Don Imus, he made a racial slur on air and the advertisers pulled out and he was basically taken off the air after a week. But on the other hand, conservative talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, he survived back -- I think it was 2012. So how -- what determines who survives and who dies?

BYERS: Well, you know, there's a comedian who very recently and very controversially said that talent was more important than morals. There's a -- in this case, money may be more important than morals. I honestly believe, if there was so much smoke surrounding another anchor at FOX News --

VAUSE: They'd be gone.

BYERS: During the day they'd be gone. People have left cable television for -- you know, for controversies that --

VAUSE: For far less than this.

BYERS: Far less than this.


BYERS: That pale in comparison to this. The issue is, and you and I have discussed it before, he is the number one rated show on cable television.

[00:35:02] He brings in over $100 million in advertising revenue for 21st Century FOX. He is -- and by the way, more than that, he is the face of FOX News.

VAUSE: He also props up their schedule in terms of ratings. He gets fabulous numbers.

BYERS: Right.

VAUSE: And helps the shows on either side.

BYERS: Well, you and I both know because we work in this business, there is what's called the lead in.


BYERS: So if his show does well, that means Tucker Carlson's show is going to do well. It means Sean Hannity's show is going to do well.

VAUSE: OK, well, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month so naturally it is a good time for the president to come out and defend O'Reilly.

BYERS: Right.

VAUSE: Telling --

BYERS: And by the way, six days after the president himself declared April 2017.

VAUSE: OK. So this is what he told the "New York Times" about O'Reilly. "I think he's a person I know well. He's a good person. Personally, I think he shouldn't have settled because he should have taken it all the way. I don't think Bill did anything wrong."

OK, so what are the issues here for the president of the United States, the most powerful man in the world, expressing his own personal opinion about an ongoing civil case?

BYERS: An ongoing civil case which he does not know all of the facts.

VAUSE: Know a thing about. Well, anything.

BYERS: Anything. It's really troubling. Look, the issue, when Bill O'Reilly came out and defended Roger Ailes, before Roger Ailes left the company, the issue there was that, in a way, O'Reilly was sort of participating in silencing women who did have issues with sexual harassment in the FOX News workplace, women who did want to speak up and felt they couldn't because powerful men were telling them that they didn't have a case. That they shouldn't go after a good man like Roger Ailes, or in this case, a good man like Bill O'Reilly.

When it is the president of the United States saying that, you are not just sending a message to the women at FOX News, you are sending a message to women across the country. It is yet another example where the president of the United States does not understand his role as a spokesman and as a leader and as a sort of guiding figure at almost sort of moral and ethical level for the country that he leads.

VAUSE: You mentioned Donald Trump speaking out for Roger Ailes, the former FOX News founder, chairman, who was also let go under, you know, a cloud of sexual harassment. Listen to this. This is what O'Reilly actually said.


TRUMP: I can tell that you that some of the women that are complaining, I know how much he's helped them and even recently, and when they write their books that are fairly recently released, and they say wonderful things about him, and now all of a sudden, they're saying these horrible things about him.


VAUSE: I'm sorry. This is what Donald Trump said about Roger Ailes. You know, it's interesting the timing of those statements and then what happened next also seemed to be the kiss of death.

BYERS: Yes, it does seem like it. As one week later that Roger Ailes was ousted from the company. And you question, is the same thing going to happen with Bill O'Reilly? One might argue, and I've had this discussion with some sources at FOX News. One might argue it is harder to get rid of Bill O'Reilly than it is Roger Ailes. Ailes created FOX News. He was FOX News. He -- everything that happened on FOX News, he had a hand in.

Bill O'Reilly is the on-air talent. He is the one who's driving those ratings. FOX News, if you look at the ratings, has been able to do very well even after Ailes has left. Can it continue to do well if O'Reilly leaves? That's a big question.

VAUSE: Very quickly. It also seems to be a struggle between Rupert Murdoch and James and Lachlan Murdoch?

BYERS: Absolutely. Rupert Murdoch is very old fashioned. Sort of mad man hard guy. You know, the sons -- they also understand the cultural and political realities that we live and in the 21st Century.

VAUSE: Thank you, Dylan. Appreciate it.

BYERS: Thank you.

VAUSE: OK. A short break. When we come back Melania meets Rania. The U.S. first lady and the queen of Jordan delight children at a Washington school. More on that coming up.


[00:40:43] VAUSE: Queen Rania of Jordan is known for her work helping children and promoting better education. First Lady Melania Trump has been promoting women's empowerment. And together they toured a Washington school. This is the first time they met, but as Jeanne Moos reports, they look like old friends.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You'd be over excited, too, fidgeting, fixing your hair, bopping up and down, if you were about to present flowers to a first lady and a queen.

It was the Melania and Rania show. The first lady and the queen of Jordan visiting an all-girl charter school. They stopped by an art class and science class. The kids dissected owl pellets, AKA owl poop.

The former model and the queen who made it into "Vanity Fair's" best- dressed list Hall of Fame made an eye-catching pair. Posing with their husbands, strolling the White House colonnade, sitting in front- row seats for the joint press conference, with the king of Jordan perched on a box for added height.

TRUMP: We're both leaders on that. Believe me. Believe me. And believe me. MOOS: Believe me. These two even dress alike once in a while. We've

had Bradgelina. We've had Beniffer.

(On camera): So when Melania Trump meets Queen Rania, why not MelRania?

(Voice-over): The queen has been in the public eye for almost two decades.

QUEEN RANIA, JORDAN: People were very mesmerized by the whole queen thing.

MOOS: But she told Oprah how terrifying it was at first.

QUEEN RANIA: They look at me and they're listening to me, and I'm like, are these people for real? They're taking me seriously? I'm only a kid. But you grow into the role.

MOOS: Good advice from Melania, who's been taking her licks.

SETH MEYERS, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": The White House released First Lady Melania Trump's official portrait today, but since she's never at the White House, they had to get a little creative.

MOOS: The former model and the monarch seemed comfortable. The first lady even teased the queen.


QUEEN RANIA: No, I think it's my chair.

MOOS: Queen Rania opted to lower her throne. But when you're busy looking at owl pellets through safety goggles, even royalty doesn't leave you googly-eyed.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


VAUSE: You've been watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause. Stay with us. I'll be back at the top of the hour with all the day's top stories. But first, "WORLD SPORT" starts after a short break.