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Outrage Over Passenger Dragged Off Flight; White House Not Ruling Out Further Action in Syria; Neil Gorsuch Sworn in As U.S. Supreme Court Justice; North Korea Holds Legislative Meeting Amid Nuclear Tensions; Growing Fears North Korea Will Speed Up Nuclear Program; North Korea Defiant After U.S. Warships Redeployment. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired April 11, 2017 - 01:00   ET


[01:00:00] ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT AND ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, questions about Trump's next move in Syria with the White House sending mixed signals. Plus, tough words from North Korea; ahead of the country's biggest holiday of the year. We'll bring you a report from inside Pyongyang. And yanked from his seat and dragged off an overbooked flight; U.S. government is now investigating the incredibly rough statement of the United Airlines passenger. Hello, and thank you for joining us. I'm Isha Sesay. This is NEWSROOM L.A.

The White House says it's not ruling out more military action in Syria. Press Secretary Sean Spicer suggested a barrel-bomb attack by Assad regime forces might cross a line, like last week's deadly chemical attack. Now, White House officials are walking back that comment as the administration sends mixed about Syria's future. CNN's Barbara Starr has the details.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: As Syrian jets resume operation at the air base the U.S. struck, the Pentagon says the strike resulted in damage or destruction to 20 percent of Syria's operational air force as well as damage and destruction to fuel and ammunition site and their defense capabilities and confusion about what happens next.


STARR: With the U.N. Ambassador saying one thing about the future of Syria's dictator telling CNN State of the Union:

HALEY: There's not any sort of option where a political solution's going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime.

STARR: Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, seeming to say another. As he heads to Russia, Tillerson emphasizing the Trump White House puts a top priority on fighting ISIS.

REX TILLERSON, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: We believe the Syrian people will all fully be able to decide the fate of Bashar al- Assad.

STARR: White House Spokesman, Sean Spicer, acknowledging both goals.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I can imagine a stable and peaceful Syria, where Bashar al-Assad is in power. I think we all recognize that that happens, and it can be a multi-pronged approach. We're ensuring that ISIS is contained in those de-escalations of - the proliferation of chemical weapons. At the same time, creating the environment for a change in leadership.

STARR: Tillerson, attending the G7 foreign ministers' meeting in Italy says the world cannot stand by and watch. State Department officials tell CNN, Tillerson's message in Moscow; Russia bears responsibility for Assad's actions. And there may be more leverage at the dossier of responsibility for the nerve agent attack takes shape. According to U.S. officials, Assad, either new about this specific attack or had given Commanders standing authority to use nerve agent. More chemical sites in Western Syria likely exists, and scientists are still alive - who know how to make the nerve agent. The U.S. also looking for direct evidence - Russian Commanders on the ground, knew about the planned attack.

The U.S. Intelligence Community now conducting a full investigation into how much Russia may have known about what was happening with the nerve agent attack. There're two things that they're already looking at: a Russian drone was flying over the hospital where so many victims fled to, to try and get treatment. And five hours later, an identified aircraft dropped a bomb on that hospital. Nobody can yet say if that was a Russian plane or a Syrian aircraft. Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


SESAY: Well, CNN's Paula Newton is standing by live in Moscow for us. Also, here in L.A., Robert English, Director of the University of Southern California's School of International Relations. Thanks to you both. We appreciate you sticking around. Robert let me start with you, the Atlantic has made a point that President Trump's Syria strike was symbolic and demonstrative but not decisive. Why is he wrong?

ROBERT ENGLISH, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS DIRECTOR: No, I think he's right. By striking at Syria, Trump has carved out room for maneuver and silence critics on this side, in Washington, but the strikes were careful not to take Russian lives. They were in fact, given advanced warning to make sure that didn't happen. And they were - you know, in truth rather limited.

They demonstrate resolve, they keep the other side guessing about how far he might go, but they don't commit us to what Trump has always said he wants to avoid, which is deep involvement in the Syrian civil war. So, you can see it actually, as a very clever move that gives him greater leverage and room for maneuver. At this juncture, this critical juncture, with talks in Russia about begin. [01:05:12] SESAY: Let's stick with you Robert for a second, you talk about it being "clever" but - and it's about projecting strength and sending a message. But if the administration - and its actors, and I'm taking about U.S. Ambassadors to the U.N., Nikki Haley; and the Secretary of State aren't on the same page, at least in public statement. Doesn't that undercut the administration's intentions or their goals here?

ENGLISH: You know, we've gotten used. For eight years, we had a presidency, and a president whose foreign policy moves were carefully calculated, clearly explained, rationale, and sort of linear. And we've - we're not used to an administration of some chaos with disagreement among its own prominent officials, but you only have to go back to George W. Bush or even more. Tellingly, Ronald Reagan, when you had open warfare between the Defense Secretary, Weinberger; Secretary of State, Schultz; different positions even from the U.N. Ambassador, Jeane Kirkpatrick, which a clever president can use to his advantage - leverage both with domestic as well as foreign adversaries.

SESAY: Let me go to Paula now. Paula, to pick up on what Robert is saying, he's making a point that these - if you don't want to go as far as calling them opposing views but certainly, these different views in the part of Tillerson and Haley served an advantage for the administration. How does Moscow view it, you know, talk of regime change on one hand; on the other hand, saying the Syrian people can, can sort out Assad themselves?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Moscow definitely views it as hard to read. And as to Robert's point, sometimes having a little bit of an unpredictability is a negotiating point at the table. It's unlikely that Russia really believed that Donald Trump, after everything he had said during the campaign, no matter how terrible those pictures of the chemical attacks were, I don't think they ever believed that the U.S. would get involved at this point.

And yet, here we are. Not only are they involved - you know, perhaps, they won't go any further, Isha, but the Kremlin's got to be thinking at this point in time. Really? How much can we trust this administration to actually do what it says in terms of, OK, they're saying that perhaps, our first priority is not removing Assad? Well, I wonder what might change the calculus. And it's important to know that, you know, the Kremlin watches the public opinion in the United States is as carefully as the White House does.

So, the point is, when Rex Tillerson comes here, everyone can see that Donald Trump's approval ratings up since the strike. The majority of Americans, the small majority of Americans thought, look, this was the moral thing to do, it was the right thing to do. They're looking at that and they're saying, this gives the United States some latitude, also they've got their allies behind them.

So, yes, I mean, I'm with Robert on this one. I think that that unpredictability beyond that linear trajectory that we were used to from the Obama administration can certainly be helpful. And remember Isha, I mean, Russia has basically had Syria to itself for the last 18 months in terms of being a power broker there on the ground and really cementing its influence within the Middle East.

SESAY: Paula, Secretary Tillerson, waiting up in Moscow that, to drive a wedge between Russia and Syria. You're both talking about leverage here that the United States now has in talks with Russia. But - I mean, in reality, how far can they really push them?

NEWTON: Yes. It's going to be interesting here. The push is going to be difficult, and I think - as you've heard from all of our correspondents who've been covering this for so many years, Isha, you know, what's the solution? It's been intractable for a long time. And the point is, here, when you - he wants to get rid of Assad, OK. What's to follow?

And I've from - for almost two decades now, I've been hearing from U.S. Defense officials, it is that vacuum of power. Those ungoverned spaces that create the conditions for terrorism and that then become a security threat to many, many different countries. They don't want that to happen but if Assad's not there, what is to replace is? And I also have to note that I made a mistake earlier, Rex Tillerson is coming - is waking up in Lucca, Italy today where he's with his G7 allies.

He will, in fact, be arriving in Moscow in about, I'd say about ten hours from now, and he will wake up in Moscow with a new morning and face the Kremlin. Also, one - one more thing, Isha, I want to point out, we have had a back and forth here. The Kremlin being very coy as to whether or not he's going to meet with Vladimir Putin. And as Robert will know, that is key for us to watch as to whether or not he gets that that appointment with Vladimir Putin.

SESAY: Yes. Not these, not in Moscow just yet. Appreciate the clarification. Robert to go to you, I mean, what are your expectations for this meeting that Secretary Tillerson will be having in Moscow? I mean, what - by what measurement will you judge it a successful meeting?

[01:10:00] ENGLISH: I guess it will be successful. There's not a complete collapse, right? It has to begin, Tillerson will be hearing some harsh criticism about U.S. acting unilaterally, inflaming a bad situation, and so forth. And also, you know, outrage over these victims? Well, how about these other victims, right? That we have to keep our eye on the bigger picture which is regime change in Iraq, regime change in Libya, both sort of unplanned without, without sufficient preparation for what came next, backfired.

Backfired badly on the Europeans, on the entire region, on Russia, and even on us. So, that, however, horrific what Assad has done - yes, we need to plan for a transition. The Russians have made clear they're not wedded to him for the long term, but they are wedded to some continuing influence of their own in the region and to a plan, a coordinated transition and not hasty regime change in response to emotions from Washington.

ISHA SESAY: All right. Paula Newton, Robert English, great to speak to you both. Really appreciate the great conversation. Thank you so much. Well, joining me now in Los Angeles Talk Radio Host, Mo'Kelly, in the studio here with me. Mo, good to have you with us.

MO'KELLY, TALK RADIO HOST: Good to see you, Isha.

SESAY: So, let me ask you this. We've heard from Robert English talking about this administration; the differing comments coming from the Haley and the Tillerson, it's all just organized chaos to serve a purpose of throwing people off their game so they don't know what the administration's going to do next. Do you buy that?

MO'KELLY: I don't buy it at all. It's only because, yes, let's not overstate the value of unpredictability. Donald Trump has been consistently unpredictable but to his own detriment. Even look at what happened during his campaign and also the first 80 days of this administration. His unpredictability has made it more difficult for him to succeed, he couldn't get through healthcare, he's going to have to redo his tax reform, proposals that we're hearing. He's in fighting as far as Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon. That is a part of that unpredictability and also chaos. So, I can't say that when I hear two different messages from Rex Tillerson and also Nikki Haley that that was part of the grand plan.

SESAY: Talk about messaging. I've got to mention what Sean Spicer said earlier on, he seems to lay out a kind of another line, another red line if you will, talking about parable saying, you know, if Assad goes ahead and uses those that we could be looking at, you know - that we would be looking at the administration responding. He said that then he had to kind of walk it back several hours later.

I want to read you a statement that we got from a White House official who basically tries to take that down a notch. Let's put it up on the screen. "Nothing has changed in our posture. The president retains the option to act in Syria against the Assad regime whenever it is in the national interest, as was determined following that government's use of chemical weapons against its own citizen. The president has repeatedly made clear, he will not be telegraphing his military responses."

Again, let me ask you the same question. If this is about telegraphing or at least sending a message strength to Bashar al-Assad and its allies. And you keep - you're walking things back and people are saying, things are contradicting each other. Aren't you undercutting your intended goal here?

MO'KELLY: I would say so. Now, what's the question was the intended audience the American people by this attack or was it, al-Assad? If it was al-Assad, then I have to ask a question. You did not disable, you did not deter al-Assad from, from engaging in future strikes, I would take him four or five hours to launch strikes from that same airbase. So, if the audience was the American people, OK, your approval numbers have risen. But at the same time, people are wondering what is the next step? Are we now in for a longer extended engagement-

SESAY: Are we? Do you think that?

MO'KELLY: I think we have to because when you start with military engagement you've then precluded yourself in going to the path of diplomacy because you've already say it, you started with strikes, where do you go from there? Because al-Assad has already responded with the strike of his own. So, diplomacy is then off the table. He's already said that he's not stepping down, so what emphasis is there for him to step down? Unless he's going to be removed.

SESAY: I've got to talk to you about, Neil Gorsuch, being sworn in. Now, just as Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, President Trump, the swearing in ceremonies, and the one we saw publicly in the rose garden. He's feeling pretty good about himself. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I've always heard that the most important thing that a president of the United States does is appoint people, hopefully great people like this appointment, to the United States Supreme Court. And I can say, it's an honor. And I got it done in the first 100 days. You think that's easy?


SESAY: You are known for your criticism of President Trump but you got to - you've got to hand it to him. This is a pretty big win for him.

MO'KELLY: No. I'm going to be honest, this is a homerun for President Trump. Presidents sign laws, the Supreme Court justices change the course of history. You had President Trump who chose someone who's preferred by the moderates and the far-right wing of this party. They call a less, he had a very strong week you cannot diminish this or mitigate this in any way. This was a home run for him, he embarrassed the Democrats, the Democrats had to try to filibuster, they move that out of the way, they went to nuclear options and now they won't have that the next time around. They want an even more extreme, if you will, justice to the right. This is a homerun for President Trump. If you did anything right, it was this.

[01:15:29] SESAY: So let me ask you this. Obviously, Republicans feeling -- not just the President, but the Republicans are feeling pretty good about themselves.

MO'KELLY: And they should.

SESAY: And I'm wondering why this buys him well good will on Capitol Hill.

MO'KELLY: Yes. Because he have bilateral support for the strike in Syria to tying this all together, and then you have those Republicans who are more moderate, possibly even their Freedom Caucus come together and supporting this well. He's going to have more support now than he did two weeks ago and people aren't talking about Russia, strangely enough.

SESAY: No they aren't. Mo'Kelly, we'll leave it there, always a pleasure my friend. Thank you.

MO'KELLY: Thank you.

SESAY: Thank you. All right, moving on, North Korea's leaders expected to attend the high-profile political gathering. The Legislative Assembly is mainly symbolic but could give us an idea of Kim Jong-un's agenda for the country. The regime is defined after the U.S. pre-deployed warships at the Korean Peninsula. That is not an unusual military move by the U.S. but it's a response to North Korea's recent nuclear threats. Well, despite nuclear tensions, the mood in the streets of Pyongyang is very different. CNN's Will Ripley is the only American T.V. Correspondent in the North Korean capital.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Facing mounting global pressure to stop testing nuclear weapons, many fear North Korean leader Kim Jong- un might accelerate his weapons program. And they are waiting for his next move. On Saturday, North Korea celebrates the day of the sun, their most important holiday of the year, honoring the birth of the nation's founding father, Kim ll-sung.

Five years ago, North Korea tried to launch a satellite, just two days before the day of the sun. The first attempt failed, followed by a successful launch later that year. Now, North Korea may be ready for another dramatic show of force. After a series of missile launches, U.S. and South Korean intelligence officials believe North Korea is ready to conduct a nuclear test at any time.

In response to recent provocations, the U.S. is rerouting the carrier strike group, Carl Vinson, to the Korean Peninsula. Just days after President Trump's surprise missile strike on Syria, some viewed the strike as a warning to North Korea. The U.S. is willing to respond with force if provoked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The situation is so tense with the break of war, says this Pyongyang resident. But if that happens, we'll all go to the front lines to fight the Americans.

RIPLEY: President Trump may be trying to put pressure on North Korea to stop developing nuclear weapons, but here in Pyongyang, that pressure seems to be having the opposite effect. One North Korean government official tells CNN, "The aggressive acts of war on the part of the United States are getting increasingly reckless. In response, we will continue to strengthen our self-defense capability". North Korea is working to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile that can deliver a nuclear warhead to the mainland U.S. Most analyst say they don't have one yet, but it's only a matter of time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We think we're very capable of defending ourselves, this Pyongyang resident says, because we have the strong leadership of Marshall Kim Jong-un.

RIPLEY: The mood inside North Korea is not tense but festive on their biggest holiday week of the year. Tens of thousands are visiting national landmarks; like the birth place of late President Kim ll- sung. For the first time, CNN cameras are allowed inside the museum of the Korean revolution; more than 120 rooms, chronicling all three generations of Kim family leadership. This rare inside looks at North Korean history, shows the entire nation is built around these three men.

I'm showing footage from 2011 when North Koreans learned of the unexpected death of the nation's second leader, Kim Jong-il. The footage brings our guide to tears. Now, their supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, is leading her and 25 million North Koreans, like his grandfather and father before him. He has absolute power over the lives of his people. Will Ripley, CNN, Pyongyang.

SESAY: Time for a quick break now. Still to come on NEWSROOM L.A., an urgent warning from Australian scientist; they say the world largest living structure is cooking. And the parent company of Fox News takes action after complaints about its top host. We'll hear from the attorney of one Bill O'Reilly accuser.


[01:22:03] KATE RILEY, CNN WORLD SPORTS ANCHOR: I'm Kate Riley with your CNN WORLD SPORTS Headlines. Crystal Palace has added Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger's words, by beating their London rival, three- nil. The (INAUDIBLE) are in real danger, missing out in the top four. Palace led through Andros Townsend, and double their lead in the second half, courtesy of Yohan Cabaye. They then sealed the win with a penalty. Arsenal did not manage a shot on target in the second half, as they lost four successive away games in the league for the very first time under Wenger.

We got some big news on Monday regarding the 2026 World Cup. It was historic because, for the first time ever, three counties have united in an effort to carry out the World Cup- United States, Mexico, and Canada. It should be the first tournament after the expansion from the 32 teams to 48, and the proposal would be the USA to host 60 matches with 10 games each in Canada and Mexico. The USA staged the 94th World Cup, while Mexico was the first nation to host the event twice in '70 and '86. Canada hosted the 2015 Women's World Cup. The decision on who will host will be made in 2020.

And he may well be on the high aces from competition, but Roger Federer is back in action in a charity exhibition match against the world number one, Andy Murray. The cost proceeds from the match to Africa will go toward Roger Federer Foundation.

And that's the look at all your Sports Headlines, I'm Kate Riley.


SESAY: The Fox News Channel is responding to the wave of sexual assault allegations that embroiled the network in scandal last week. And all eyes among their top-rated host, Bill O'Reilly. The American company of Fox News on Sunday, it plans on launching an investigation into multiple claims against him. This comes in the wake of a New York Time's report that O'Reilly paid over $13 million in harassment money to five women who accused him of sexual misconduct.

Wendy Walsh, a former Fox News contributor, went public about her experiences rejecting O'Reilly's sexual advances. She claims he promised her a lucrative network contract, but that also was withdrawn as she turned down his advances.

Well over the weekend, she called the network's corporate hotline with her attorney, Lisa Bloom, to make a complaint against O'Reilly.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And how did you become aware of our phone number?

WENDY WALSH, FORMER FOX CONTRIBUTOR: My attorney, Lisa Bloom, found the phone number in your Employee Ethics Handbook.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what state was this in?

WALSH: California.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Anybody that you - the person that you are wishing to report is first name Bill, B-I-L-L?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kindly spell his last name.




[01:25:08] SESAY: Lisa Bloom joins me now to discuss this move and hopes for O'Reilly's investigation. Lisa, always good to have you on the program.


SESAY: Let's talk about the decision to call the network's hotline. Talk to me about why you choose - chose to take this route and the timing of it all.

BLOOM: I'm a civil rights lawyer, I care about injustice. If there's a wrong, there has to be a remedy. Wendy's claims are from 4 years ago. They are now time-barred under the statute of limitation but I didn't want to give up. Fox News and Bill O'Reilly had made much of the fact that they have this hotline that supposedly no one had ever called so I thought, why not have her call the hotline. And so, you saw on the video we did that last week, she answered all of the questions and she phoned in her complaint about Bill O'Reilly. We then waited for a response, on Friday I got a call from some attorneys for Fox News, and this morning, Wendy sat down with me on the phone and four attorneys from Fox News and she did a two-hour long interview with them and was grilled and answered all of their questions.

SESAY: OK. After the call, the network put out the following statement; let's put it up on the screen for our viewers. "21st Century Fox investigates all complaints and we have asked the law firm Paul Weiss to continue assisting the company in these serious matters."

This was a statement they put out on Sunday. But Mark Fabiani, who's a spokesman for Mr. O'Reilly said the law firm was already retained by the company to look into all hotline calls and there was nothing special about the handling of this case. You say what to that?

BLOOM: Well, the law firm represents the company, Fox News, and its parent company. Let's be very clear about that. This is not an independent investigation, I do a lot of sexual harassment cases, I have for three decades. Many times, when a company is in a situation like this, they do bring in an outside investigative company to do an impartial investigation. Fox News has rejected that approach. In fact today, I'm at phone with the attorneys; I asked them to please consider that option. They said no, they're not going to do that. So, from Wendy, my client's perspective, she's really walking into the lion's den, having to answer questions by the attorney for the company, that's why I am there with her every step of the way to protect her rights.

SESAY: How much can you tell us about what happened on the phone with those attorneys today in terms of the tone of the questioning, the expansive nature of questioning, what can you share about that experience?

BLOOM: These are four attorneys on the other side from the law firm, Paul Weiss, which is a giant United States law firm. I think they have 950 attorneys. So, it's a large firm. They're asking questions of every detail of her allegations. Her story is essentially that she was a contributor on the network, she was a guest. She was hoping to get a paid job. Mr. O'Reilly, through his assistant, asked her to dinner. She went to dinner; they talked about her getting the paid contributor job. He said he would get her that job; he then asked her to go to her - to his hotel room, she said no. After that, he became very hostile and said she wasn't going to get the job. I mean, that's really her story. But they asked a lot of details, who she told what happened after -

SESAY: And Bill O'Reilly said to merit to all of these allegations that have been put out by women?

BLOOM: Yes. I suppose he said that. Actually, I haven't heard him specifically say that for Wendy but I suppose that's his position.

SESAY: OK now, I understand that you are working on a formal request to the New York State Division of Human Rights, to investigate, to basically launch its own investigation into what Wendy is saying. Is that to - suppose, you don't have faith in this investigation of Fox News has asked this law firm to undertake?

BLOOM: Well, I definitely don't have faith that their own lawyers are going to tell them to fire a guy who brings in hundreds of millions of dollars a year. That doesn't make any sense. And so again, going back to their can't be a wrong without a remedy, what else can we do? It occurred to me, there needs to be a government agency to come in and clean house in this company, where dozens and dozens of women over the years, including recently, is another lawsuit filed last week, are continuing to say, "We are sexually harassed; when we complain we are driven out, not only in Fox News, but at the television industry entirely."

So, I put together spreadsheets and I found the appropriate government agency, I believe, which is the New York State Division of Human Rights. They are charged by law to force the civil rights of everybody in New York, and that's where Fox News headquarters is located, and I think they can do it.

SESAY: You repeatedly said that Wendy Walsh is not looking to sue Bill O'Reilly.

BLOOM: Correct.

SESAY: This is about accountability.

BLOOM: That's right.

SESAY: What does that mean? What does accountability look like? Does that mean she wants an apology? Does that mean she is looking for him to be fired? What is she seeking?

BLOOM: Right. She's not seeking any money; she's been very clear about that. She's not litigious. What is she seeking? She's seeking a real investigation into what happened. If she were here, she would say, "I'm not going to solve whether he should be fired or not; that's for some independent review panel to make a determination." But me, Lisa Bloom, I'm going to say, of course, he should be fired. Given the allegations that have spanned since 2004, with six women? Two women allegedly have recordings of him doing sex act on the phone while they're on the other end of the phone. Wendy says she didn't get a job that she was qualified for that she was qualified for because she wouldn't go to his hotel room. The longer he's there, there's just more disrespect to women and our rights to equality and our careers.

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Lisa Bloom, thank you so much for coming in and bringing us up to speed on where things are. I hope you'll come back.

BLOOM: I sure will.


BLOOM: Thank you.

SESAY: Just ahead on NEWSROOM L.A., the world's largest infrastructure is in trouble. What scientists are saying about the Great Barrier Reef.


SESAY: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour --


[01:35:04] SESAY: Now, Australian scientists say the Great Barrier Reef is cooking and dying, and they blame climate change. The problem is bleaching, which happens when rising sea temperatures cause corals to expel algae turning the reefs white.

Lynda Kinkade has details.


LYNDA KINKADE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's one of the natural wonders of the world, but it is fast disappearing in front of our eyes. New aerial surveys reveal two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef is likely dead due to bleaching. That's some 1500 kilometers of coral reef, habitats for billions of tiny organisms.

Last year's bleaching was unprecedented. You can see it on the map. Mainly, in the north of the reef. That has not recovered. And the damage this year has spread further south.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I conducted some of the in-water surveys on the norther Great Barrier Reef last year and what we observed in our shallow survey sites were very few species where resistant to bleaching.

KINKADE: The bleaching is caused by a rising sea level temperature, a result of global warming. Unfortunately, there has been no recovery in two years. The Tropical Cyclone Debby, which generated wind gusts of up to 260 kilometers per our hit the region in late March, one of the most dangerous cyclones in years. A study is currently underway to determine the extent of the impact of that.

Not only is the Great Barrier Reef crucial to supporting marine biodiversity and the fishing industries, it's also a tourist draw card, contributing about $6 billion to the Australian economy every year.

(on camera): Scientists fear that the time left to act on climate change to save the world's largest living structure is now running out. And once gone, it will never come back.

Lynda Kincaid, CNN.


SESAY: Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us with more.

Pedram, it is sad when you look at the scale of the damage and how quickly it has taken place.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It really is. And just about four weeks is all it takes to actually to displace and begin to stress out coral with the water temperatures. We will talk about that momentarily.

Isha, a moment ago, you were talking about the algae that grows on the coral there. You see the coloration. Again, within just four weeks, or a 1 degree variation in the sea surface temperature, you can see them begin to get stressed out. As the algae begins to die off, you get this white coloration that takes place and that's the initial process that sets it in stage. Of course, we know our oceans are planning for warming for decades. In fact, their ability going back hundreds of years. Typically, less than a half a degree. You see that variation. The cooling trend we had from the 1880s to about the 1940s. The warming trend we experienced the recent decades. But that's small variation, about half a degree has now increased well over a degree or so, globally speaking, and that's what's really setting the pace for multiple bleaching events to take place. And again, just 1 degree difference in just four weeks could set the stage for triggering a mass wasting event, which we saw one in 1988. Another on in 2002. Another one in 2016. All of those, El Nino years, and now we are getting one in 2017.

Here's what it looked like as it was healthy in December 2014. Just a matter of a couple months, the dying phase, when you see the bleaching take place, a few months later, in early 2015. By the summer of 2015, we had another area, large-scale area there, we had significant die off of coral. And you go north of Kent (ph), almost 90 percent of the coral there has already died off. You come south of it, towards Townsville, towards McKay about 6, 7 percent has been impacted. So the concern is this is beginning to shift farther south. Your northern tier has already been severely impacted with the waters warming at a rapid rate. It's almost inevitable it will move in towards the southern tier as well. It impacts about 25 percent of -- all life in the ocean relies on coral around the world, so it's a very significant development -- Isha?

SESAY: Yeah, it really is. I know John Vause is crying at home as he watches this.

Appreciate it very much.

Pedram Javaheri, thank you very much.

JAVAHERI: Thank you.

SESAY: Quick break now. Now a United Airlines passenger is forcibly thrown off a plane as his fellow passengers look on in horror. What the airline is saying about the incident, next.


[01:40:18] SESAY: Shock and outrage have erupted over a disturbing incident Sunday on a United Airlines flight. A passenger was dragged off an overbooked plane after refusing to give up his seat. The video went viral, and now United is facing some serious backlash.

CNN aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh, has more.


RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION & GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: The pictures are hard to believe. This, because of an overbooked flight from Chicago to Louisville. It happened when the United Airlines passenger refused to give up his seat Sunday night.


MARSH: Passengers were horrified as they watched three Chicago police officers board the plane and yank the man from his seat. Police say the man hit his head on the arm rest. You can see the blood flowing from his mouth as he was pulled down the aisle.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god. Look at what you did to him.

MARSH: Witnesses say the flight crew was trying to free up seats for United Airlines personnel.

UNIDENTIFIED WITNESS: Once they dragged the guy off, subsequently, the United employees come on the plane. The other passengers were just berating the employees, saying things like, "You should be ashamed of yourself. You should be a nurse to work for this company."

MARCH: In a statement, United said the flight, quote, was overbooked. "Normally, when this occurs, passengers are asked to voluntarily give up their seats for compensation and the situation is resolved. However, this was not the case on Sunday night's flight and United was forced into an involuntary deboarding situation."

It's unclear what the offer actually was, but passenger rights advocate, Charlie Nioka (ph), says the airline should've offered the maximum.

CHARLIE NIOKA (ph), PASSENGER RIGHTS ADVOCATE: The maximum denied boarding, which the government requires you to pay, is $1350 in cash. They could have offered the maximum, and that would have taken care of the problem.


MARSH: The incident sparked outrage and plenty of tweets like this one, "United Airlines is pleased to announce new seating on all domestic flights, in addition to United first and economy-plus, we introduce fight club."

The backlash prompted the airline CEO to respond, tweeting, "I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened."

(on camera): Was the passenger wrong in any way for refusing to get off?

NIOKA (ph): I don't think he was wrong. I think -- my only way of saying that he's wrong is -- well, I've never seen this happen before. I've never ever seen a passenger rough up and dragged off a plane to put a flight attendant on. That's just idiocy.


[01:45:04] MARSH: Chicago Airport police admit the officer seen in the video, quote, "was not in accordance with standard operating procedure."

We should note, it is in the fine print that that an airline can make a passenger give up their seat if the flight is overbooked, but it's the way this man was removed that's really sparking all of the outraged.

As we mentioned, the Department of Transportation is reviewing this incident to make sure that the passengers rights were not violated in any way.

Rene Marsh, CNN, Washington.


SESAY: As Rene mentioned, the video of the incident went viral, and before long, the mems started to come. "Get off my plane." This even included a clip from Harrison Ford's famous line in "Air Force One."

Another tweet shows the scene from the comedy, "Airplane," where the passenger is roughed up by the flight crew.

And finally, "United announces a new head of customer service." That's a brutal villain on the walking stairs.

Lots and lots of memes.

Next on CNN NEWSROOM, Los Angeles say it has a vision to host the 2024 Olympics. And I've been talking to the head of the L.A. Bid Committee as the competition with rival, Paris, heats up. That interview, next.



[01:50:00] SESAY: They says sports bring people together around the world. On Monday, that was literally the case. Canada and Mexico and the U.S. launched a three-way bid to host the 2026 men's football World Cup. 60 of the matches would be held in the U.S. with 10 each in Canada and Mexico. The last time this happened was in 2002 when South Korea and Japan cohosted the World Cup.

Meanwhile, the bidding race for the 2024 Olympic Games is getting more competitive by the day. Representatives from the world's top contenders made a direct appeal to Olympic sport leaders in Denmark last week. Two cities, Paris and Los Angeles, are now in the final heat.

For more, we're joined now by Casey Wasserman. He's the chair of the L.A. 2024 Olympic Bid Committee and, perhaps, the most vocal advocate for L.A.'s bid. Welcome.

CASEY WASSERMAN, CHAIR, L.A. 2024 OLYMPIC BID COMMITTEE: Thank you. It's good to be here.

SESAY: Good to have you with us.

Then, there were two.


They have - let's face it, the cities have dropped out over the course of all of this. We have seen Hamburg drop off, Rome, and most recently Budapest. All of them pointing to cost, has been the reason that they have backed away from the bidding process.

Let me ask you this, how much of these optics of having these countries run as far as they can to get away from all of this, build this narrative that these are the games that no one else wanted?

WASSERMAN: Well, I can't speak for them but I can tell you we certainly want the games. One of the reasons we believe so much in LA's opportunity to host the games in 2024 is because we actually don't have to build anything. The big expensive projects that come with the games, the Olympic Village, and imagine building residences for 17,500 athletes in the middle of a big city anywhere in the world. It's complicated, it's expensive, and it's a unique challenge. And we have, fortunate to have the benefit of UCLA, which houses today more students, where we would house athletes in 2024. We have two Olympic- ready stadiums here with of the new NFL stadium and the Coliseum. And so we really have a luxury of riches here from facilities. And we have great confidence in our ability to do this in a really financially stable way.

SESAY: OK. Let me pick up on that. You talk about the fact that you won't have to build any new facilities. You said 2024, don't need to construct a single new permanent venue. But critics are making the point that, while that is true, it's only half the story, because you will have to retrofit some of these facilities, which will come with a hefty price tag. Are they wrong?

WASSERMAN: The only retrofit that's plan is the Coliseum and that's USC's master plan. They took over the master lease of the Coliseum and they are doing that irrespective of the Olympics. It's planned for and it starts now. It will be done 2019, so it has nothing to do with the 2024 games. And the rest, 100 percent of our capital expenses are in our Olympic budget. It's truly not the first. And normally, people take their operating budget for the Olympic games and then they have an off-balance-sheet Olympic capital expense budget, and so they can fuzz over where the cost lies. And we have one budget for the first time in Olympic bidding history and it includes 100 percent of our costs.

SESAY: But let me be clear, if there are overrun, you will still need to meet that, correct?

WASSERMAN: Of course. We're responsible for delivering the games, but our overruns --


SESAY: The games do typically overrun.

WASSERMAN: Well, when you don't have to build anything, you're not overrun.



SESAY: True.

WASSERMAN: USC's building, redoing the Coliseum. The Rams are building a $3 billion NFL stadium. UCLA's dorms exist. Universal is building International Broadcaster which we'll use for the games. All the expensive projects are being built irrespective of the game, so our budget is the most third-party validated Olympic budget in history, validated by both the state of California and the city of L.A. hired an independent auditor to audit our -- and both deemed it low risk.

SESAY: According to a number of experts, perhaps the biggest challenge, or least one of the most significant challenges to the L.A. bid is the U.S. president himself. I'm sure you have heard this. Professor Markowitz, from the University of Michigan, called President Trump a liability. We'll put this up for our viewers. A former L.A. city councilman, who is now at the UCLA School of Public affairs, is quoted as saying, "The election of Donald Trump and subsequent pronouncements on immigration have not helped L.A.'s bid. Anyone who thinks otherwise is living in La la Land."

How do you respond to that? Is the president a liability? Does he hurt L.A.'s chances of winning?

WASSERMAN: What's unique about the L.A. bid, in addition to not having to build anything, is we are, for the most part, not a political entity and immune from politics. So we're are a privately funded, privately managed entity that will deliver on the games. We obviously have a relationship with the city and the state and the federal government. And, look, we started this process in September of 2015, there was a different president back them, and we've had ongoing engagement with the federal government for the things that we need from them. And, look, we believe that sports, when not mixed with politics, is best. And we have every assurance from the federal government that any and every fan, athlete and member the press will be able to enjoy their team in the United States in 2024.

SESAY: Another slight kink in the plan, at least, that is manifesting is there is this reporting that the IOC, because of dwindling bids to host these games, because of the cost, is now looking at potentially awarding 2024 and 2028 together at the same time in September. So L.A. could find itself in a position where it may not win 2024 but it can be given 2028. Paris has already said, no game, we're not interested. What is L.A.'s position? [01:55:25] WASSERMAN: L.A.'s position is the same as it has been for two years now, which is we're bidding for the 2024 games. The IOC, rightly so, is thinking about their process going forward and that may or may not include rethinking the current process we're in but, as of now and as of last week in our latest meetings with them, that's their decision, their process to endure, and ours is to focus on winning the 2024 games for the United State.

SESAY: I'm going to push you there. And if they come back and they say --

WASSERMAN: It's a hypothetical. I think both cities would have to then readdress their program but I don't think either city is prepared to answer that question today because we're five months to go, and who knows?

SESAY: Casey Wasserman, wish you the best.

WASSERMAN: Thank you.

SESAY: Thank you.

We do, indeed.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

I'll be back with more news right after this.