Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Warns Of "Major Conflict" With North Korea; U.S. Relying On Beijing To Rein In North Korean Leader; Pentagon Opens Probe Of Flynn's Russia Payments; 51 Percent In Poll: Trump "Not Working Hard Enough"; CWhite House Looks to China to Change N. Korea's Course; What's Chance 25 Years after L.A. Riots; Trump Impersonator Contest Draws Lots of Laughs. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired April 28, 2017 - 01:00   ET


[01:00:00] ISHA SESAY, CNN NEWSROOM ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, a new warning from Donald Trump. The U.S. President said the country could have a major conflict with North Korea. Plus, United Airlines strikes a deal with the passenger who was dragged off one of its flight and that's not the only public relations move the airline is making. And later, big league laughs, the competition to find the world's most tremendous Trump impersonator. Hello, and thank you for joining us. I'm Isha Sesay. This is NEWSROOM L.A.

U.S. President Donald Trump says he prefers diplomacy to reign in North Korea, but he bluntly warns a possible hostility if Pyongyang doesn't change its stand on nuclear weapons. Here's what he told Reuters news agency just some hours ago.


DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Well, there's a - there's a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely.


SESAY: Well, our Paula Hancocks is standing by for us in Seoul, South Korea; while David McKenzie joins us from Beijing. And Paula, to you first. While President Trump is, once again, sounding the alarm over North Korea in this Royce's interview, he also leaves the window open for diplomacy. Put the significance on the President's comments in some context for us, and does Pyongyang show any sign of being interested in talks at this time?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Isha, it's interesting that we're hearing this from President Trump at this point, because just a matter of weeks ago, when the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was here in South Korea. He said, that the time for talks is not now. We heard something very similar from the Vice President when he was in Seoul as well. So, this is certainly a development, the fact that the President is now bringing up the chance of negotiations.

And what we saw from North Korea through diplomats, through article pieces and their state-run media after Donald Trump was elected President was that they were hoping for a new relationship with the United States. And they'd also not carried out any missile tests or nuclear tests for a few months, so certainly there was the sense at that point that Pyongyang wanted to reach out to Washington, wanted to be negotiating. But of course, a lot has happened since then. We have had more launches of missiles. We've got the U.S. South Korea military drills going on until the end of this month so it's hard to tell whether that is still applicable. Isha.

SESAY: Thanks, Paul. To David, next. David, in the same interview, President Trump lavishing praise on China's President Xi saying this, "I believe he's trying very hard. He certainly doesn't want to see turmoil and death. He doesn't want to see it. He's a good man, he's a very good man and I got to know him very well. With that being said, he loves China and he loves the people of China. I know he would be able to do something. Perhaps it's possible that he can't." President Trump lavishing this praise President Xi with regard to China's efforts with North Korea. How is this going to go over in Beijing? Could it be viewed as an attempt to flatter China into reigning in Pyongyang?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think - I mean, perhaps some people might view it that way, Isha. You know, it's worth pointing out how extraordinary it is for U.S. President to speak in this way about his Chinese counterpart. I certainly haven't seen that and can't recollect any recent previous U.S. President speaking in such glowing terms about a big rival President in Xi Jinping. But certainly, President Trump has repeatedly said that he has this close relationship with Xi Jinping in the times that they have met, and he has spoken in a way - the half of Xi Jinping at least pointing out the political difficulties that the Chinese President might have in reigning in North Korea.

That being said, you have seen a shift, I think in the way that the Chinese might look at the nuclear problem of North Korea by really enforcing existing sanctions, and repeatedly hinting in state media and elsewhere that should there be another provocation from North Korea that they might stand by increased or tightening sanctions. So yes, unusual flattery in a way of the President Xi Jinping but certainly proves again that President Trump sees China as the key to solving this issue.

SESAY: And David, as you reference China's apparent willingness to impose further sanctions on North Korea in the event of another test, take a listen to what Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Thursday when he made the same point in an interview.


[01:05:11] REX TILLERSON, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: We know that China is in communications with the regime in Pyongyang. They confirmed to us that they had requested the regime conduct no further nuclear test. And in fact, we were told by the Chinese that they informed the regime that if they did conduct further nuclear tests, China would be taking sanctions actions on their own.


SESAY: David, whenever we talk about China and its efforts to - attempts to reign in North Korea, it always comes down to how far is China prepared to go to bring about a change in Pyongyang's behavior?

MCKENZIE: Well, that's right. And I think in decades' past, China might not have been as willing but it does appear to be a calculation that is shifted in China. And I'm basing this post on state media kind of commentaries in the last few days, and foreign policy experts here in China that have close ties to the government. There is a sense that they are fed up with North Korea and its continued provocations and the - you know, frankly, the fact that North Korea is ignoring China's public and private please as well and continuing to develop nuclear weapons.

China does not want a North Korea with effective nuclear arsenal, certainly, and that is reflected in everything they say. But there is this difference in the way they view the problem. They might be more incremental in the way they wish to tighten sanctions while the U.S. is sort of hinting they want the tax turned off in the trade completely. It will be very interesting to see what happens in the U.N. Security Council later on Friday, to see if China really signs up or suggests that they'll want stronger sanctions. They might be looking to see another provocation from North Korea before they take that step.

SESAY: Indeed. Paula, the final word to you. Also, worth noting, those interviews what President Trump had to say about THAAD and that's the U.S. missile system being deployed to South Korea. Take a listen.


TRUMP: You know, I informed South Korea that it would be appropriate if they paid. Nobody's going to do that. Why are we paying a billion dollars - it's a billion-dollar system. It's phenomenal. It's the most incredible equipment you've ever seen. Shoots missiles right out of the sky and it protects them. And I want to protect them, we're going to protect them. But they should pay for that, and they understand that.


SESAY: Paula, I'd imagine that such comments were met with some amount of panic there in Seoul.

HANCOCKS: Absolutely. President Trump says they understand that. I don't think they do. I mean, the Defense Ministry here in South Korea came out with a statement fairly quickly within just a couple of hours saying, "there has been no change in our basic system that the South Korean government provides the site and infrastructure for THAAD. The U.S. shoulders the cost of its deployment operation and maintenance." It was the United States that was pushing for THAAD to be in South Korea. Almost half of the population of South Korea in a recent Gallup Korea poll doesn't even want THAAD. 51 percent are saying they approve of it, but then 41 are saying that they disapprove of it. So, certainly, this is - this will come as a surprise to many in South Korea. Isha.

SESAY: Paula Hancocks there in Seoul, South Korea; and David McKenzie in Beijing, China. My thanks to you both. Well, joining me now here in L.A. Democratic Strategist, Robin Swanson; and CNN Political Commentator and Trump Supporter, John Phillips. To start with, John, you just heard Paula Hancock in Seoul say, you know, just days ago, we heard the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson say there would be no talks with North Korea. And then, we get to Thursday and we hear President Trump in the Reuters interview say, you know, diplomacy - you know, this is the way to go, diplomacy. Begs the question: does this administration have a credible diplomatic strategy? Do they have a strategy when it comes to North Korea?

JOHN PHILLIPS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND TRUMP SUPPORTER: Well, you can talk to North Korea through China, who's the player in the region. Right now, what you have is, you have a madman with more bombs than Chuck Norris and he has the potential to hit Hawaii, San Francisco, Seattle. That's a serious problem for us. So, China is the country we have to lean on because if there's anything that China doesn't want in that region, it's instability. And having Kim with all these bombs shooting them off right and left, is something that could theoretically provide a very unstable situation. All the negotiations, all the talks that we're going to have with China are now going to be in the context of what's going on with the Trump administration in these first few months. That includes him bombing ISIS, that includes what he did with Assad in Syria. They know that he's a tough customer, and this isn't going to be paralysis by analysis if North Korea acts irrationally.

SESAY: Robin, do you see the same way? Because there are those who say, well, it actually points to a lack of a coherent structure. There are those who say that this administration and the comments that they have made just inflame the situation.

[01:10:06] ROBIN SWANSON, Democratic Strategist: That's right. And I think, you know, South Korea will pay for that anti-missile system when Mexico pays for the wall. It's not going to happen. And I think this goes back to the question - and unfortunately, this didn't resonate during the campaign but to Donald Trump's temperament. And you know, Hillary Clinton said again and again, do you want this man to - who is so thin skinned and can be provoked by tweet to have access to the nuclear codes? Well, he does now and it's a little frightening and especially when he amps up the language, and when he amps up the rhetoric, and it really is for show and this isn't for a show anymore. Those words do matter, and world leaders do hear them.

SESAY: You're talking about for show. John, on Wednesday, the White House bussed 100 Senators to the White House with this briefing on North Korea which the number who spoke out said, "it was nothing more than a photo op. It was just a dog and pony show." Again, it comes back to whether it is all about smoke and mirrors and optics, and this White House hasn't really got down to the hard business of coming up with a coherent strategy.

PHILLIPS: Well, right now, I think he's got an audience of two. He's talking to China, and he's talking to North Korea through China. SESAY: But it's all about China. Is that the right road to be going

down putting all their eggs, if you want, in China's basket?

PHILLIPS: Well, China is the one that has influence over North Korea. North Korea doesn't exist without China. So, if you send a master negotiator into the Chinese and you can put pressure on them to lean on North Korea to get in line, I think that's the best way of it. Everything we've doing up until now hasn't been working. Kim has been causing mischief in that region now for years. And before him, his father was doing it. So, I think it's time we take a different course.

SESAY: Robin.

SWANSON: Well, I just think there's no depth to this policy. I think he is - he flies off the handle, he shoots from the hip. And I don't think it is a well thought out policy. I think he genuinely thinks oh, I could be friends with this guy. I don't think it's about this sort of nuanced policy that's been, you know, reflected over, you know, years and years of experience.

SESAY: Some buy for me, both of you, because when we talk about Michael Flynn and the trouble he's in, you can add - you can take a look at what he's going through. You can add the Pentagon to the list of the government agencies investigating former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn. The Defense Department is looking into foreign payments to him even though he was warned against it in 2014.

Meanwhile, the White House is trying to distance itself from Flynn. Blaming the Obama administration for approving his security clearance. Flynn was forced to resign from the Trump administration in February. Back to you guys here in the studio with me. Take a look into what Elijah Cummings, the Ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee had to say about White House's attempts to distance themselves or - just wait, you have nothing to do with this? Take a listen.


ELIJAH CUMMINGS, UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN FROM MARYLAND: I honestly do not understand why the White House is covering up for Michael Flynn. I don't get it - after the President fired him for lying.


SESAY: Robin, do you want to take a stab at why the White House is doing this?

SWANSON: Because it goes so much deeper. Clearly, you know, that's where the ties begin. I think this is the tip of the iceberg. They definitely have something to hide. Otherwise, they would put it all out there for the world to see. I mean, this goes beyond Michael Flynn, this goes to Donald Trump's relationship, it goes to Carter Page. This goes to five or six members of his administration who are also key campaign staffers who are having ongoing conversations with Russia throughout the campaign and perhaps making promises. And I think that is going to be the gift that keeps on giving because it's not going away.

SESAY: John.

PHILLIPS: Michael Flynn had two jobs in the Obama administration. He was our number two man in Afghanistan under (INAUDIBLE) and he ran DIA. He had one job with Donald Trump in the administration, he was fired, and he was fired when he wasn't truthful to the Vice President. And I might add also, that the money he's accused of taking from the Russians is from Russia television which is the same group that pays Larry King, and Ed Schultz, and Tom Hartmann.

SESAY: Larry King is not in-arm services. He does not have these rules hanging over him.

PHILLIPS: We're talking about the same outfit. We're talking about Russia television. And I don't think Larry King is a stooge of the Kremlin.

SESAY: I'm not going down that rabbit hole. But let me say this to you, are you seriously absolving to the Trump administration of its responsibilities to vet Michael Flynn before giving him the position of the NSA?

PHILLIPS: I'm saying that sometimes things slipped through cracks, it certainly did for the Obama administration twice with the same guy.

SESAY: What wrong about Obama administration talking about you-

SWANSON: No, stop looking backward-

SESAY: Go ahead, Robin.

SWANSON: And stop blaming. And honestly, take some responsibility. This is an important position and not only that, we're still investigating the Russian ties and what they did to our election. So, this is stuff that matters. You can't push it under the rug because it impacted the most important office in the land.

SESAY: Go ahead.

[01:15:01] PHILLIPS: Is being the number two guy in Afghanistan, not an important position?

SESAY: That is a rabbit hole. We are going to that rabbit hole. In fact, we are going to stay well away from that but we are going to talk about how President Trump feels about his old life. Let's take a listen to that because he also brought this up in the Reuters interview.


TRUMP: Well, I loved my previous life. I loved my previous life. I had so many this going. I actually - this is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier. I thought it was more of a - I'm a details oriented person, I think you would say that. But I do miss my old life. This - I like to work so that's not a problem, but this is actually more work.


SESAY: Robin, as soon as he said it's hard there's a rude awakening. It's hard. It's complicated.

SWANSON: I have another news flash for him. He may be almost 100 days in, but he has 1364 days left in this job. Yes, feel the - we're doing the countdown, but he's going to have to step up. He's going to have to study. He's going to - this job doesn't go away. It just - I mean, it's comical and sad that he - that that is his commentary on being President of the United States. You know, American people put their hopes and their dreams in him. He's made a lot of promises that he hasn't delivered on.

SESAY: And to that point, John, before you weigh in because I know you're chomping up a bit. I want to put up these graphics on the screen because 55 percent of Americans according to a CNN/ORC polls say the President is not paying enough attention to the nations' most important problem. They also say 51 percent that is, he's not working hard enough. So, he may think he has a lot of work to do but Americans want a little bit more, John.

PHILLIPS: Well, being a billionaire in Manhattan is really fun, and sitting in a room negotiating with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer is torture. So, I understand where he's coming from. That poll might be true but there was also The Washington Post poll that just came out recently that said he'd still beat Hillary Clinton, this time, by a much wider margin that what happened in November.

SWANSON: I will tell you, he is not working hard enough because, you know, 18 of those first 100 days - you know where was?

SESAY: Tell us.

SWANSON: The golf course.

SESAY: And there, we're going to leave it. Robin Swanson and John Phillips, always a pleasure. Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Thank you.

SESAY: Thank you. Thank you. Time for a quick break here. Next, on NEWSROOM L.A., United Airlines has settled with the passenger dragged off a flight. We'll see if the deal can restore its reputation. Plus, a new warning from Homeland Security: flying with your laptop or tablet is about to get even tougher.


[01:20:01] SESAY: Welcome back, everyone. The state of Arkansas just executed its fourth prisoner by lethal injection in the past seven days. Kenneth Williams was put to death in the last hour. The U.S. Supreme Court denied Williams' request for a stay of execution. Arkansas has been trying to carry out a series of executions before of its lethal injection drugs expires. The state's attempt to execute these men has created a host of legal battles and a lot of controversies. Some critics call the move cruel and unusual punishment.

Now, United Airlines has reached an agreement with a passenger violently dragged off a flight earlier this month. We do not know how much Dr. David Dao will receive in the settlement, but the airline is trying to move on from the public relations disaster. Here's our own Rene Marsh with more.


RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: But when this passenger was violently dragged off of a flight earlier this month. It gave United Airlines a P.R. black eye and a punch in the gut. Well, now, that passenger, David Dao's attorneys, they've been able to negotiate a settlement. But as a condition of the settlement, the amount he received remains confidential. Dao's attorney said, "Dr. Dao has become the unintended champion for the adoption of changes which will certainly help improve the lives of literally, millions." The settlement comes on the same day that United Airlines announced several changes it would make to improve customer service.

After an internal review of the incident, some of the changes the airline will make includes limiting the use of law enforcement, increased the denied boarding compensation up to $10,000, and book flight crews at least 60 minutes before departure. They also say, though reduced overbooking, but it is safe to say, going back to that settlement, that it is in the millions. The airlines simply wanted this to go away. They did not want this to drag on in court, and they likely paid him a lot of money to make it go away. But members of congress are still looking into this incident as well. So, the book isn't totally closed for United. Rene Marsh, CNN, Washington.


SESAY: All right. Well, let's dig into all of this. The CNN Safety Analyst, David Soucie, he's also a former FAA Safety Inspector and he joins us now live from Denver, Colorado via Skype. David, always good to have you on the program. So, United, settling with Dr. Dao, but how far will this go towards repairing their reputation after all that happened?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN AVIATION SAFETY ANALYST: I'll tell you, there's a long way to go to repair the reputation for something like this in an airline. I did receive an e-mail this evening from Oscar Munos, and so did many of their customers, talking about what they're going to do, how they're going to change things, but it's just - it's promises until they actually see what happens here. What they've said is that they're going to go up to - rather than the $800 limit they had, now they're going to go up to $10,000 limit on the re-accommodating of passengers. But it's really interesting, what he did say, and that is that he feels that they've lost track of the customer value. They've lost track of the respect to the customer. That they have, have placed the requirements, and their regulations and processes took higher priority than their customers. And he said that he promises to reverse that. So, we'll just have to see if that's true or not. SESAY: Yes. And to be fair to United, they're not the only one that

has been this kind of shift over the years where airlines have become so powerful, they - all the power's been in their hands. And you know, a customer are consumers being treated with something you could say "approaching contempt." The question is, will this change across the industry as a whole? Is United going to lead the way?

SOUCIE: Well, there's an over-reliance, not only in customer handling but in safety itself. An over-reliance on the checklist, as saying, this is the way we do it. There are no anomalies, there's no way to change things, there's no way to have common sense in a way that we do things. And this has gone over, and over, and over in this fearful and more secure environment. People are worried about security. They're worried about things so what happens is the customer service personnel starts relying on this checklist. They say, we have to do this, we can't do that. It takes the personal responsibilities out of it so that they can just go down the checklist. And I think that's what happened here, is there were policies and procedures. They said I'm sorry, this the way it is, you've got to live with it, we're bigger than you or more important than you, this is the way it has to happen. And so, the people get lost, they lose any kind of respect for what's going on for the customer. And I think that that has to change.

SESAY: Yes. David, let's also look at another issue right now, the airline industry. Look at the American ban of electronics on flights from ten African and Middle Eastern airports. The Head of the Department of Homeland Security is warning that those restrictions could expand everywhere. Here's how he's justifying that, take a listen.


[01:25:06] JOHN KELLY, UNITED STATES HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: The threat is real. And this thing could expand - and I'm looking at it three, four, five, six times a day. It is the thing that keeps me awake at night.


SESAY: So, David, John Kelly there pointing to possible security threats for increasing the restrictions. When you hear that, when you hear that this, this ban on electronics could be expanded, what goes through your mind?

SOUCIE: Well, it needs to be done cautiously. Again, we go back to this checklist thing of saying it's a threat. We know it's a threat. There's a lot of threats. There's a lot of hazards. There's a lot of risks that we take. But a measured threat, a measured risk is what's important to do here. If you just simply say it's unsafe or there's some chance, a remote chance that something might happen, and you react to that, you're at risk again of coming back to this thought that the checklist says, hey, there's risk here so we can't do it.

You're going to get back to the place where - the only safe place to be is not flying, not driving your cars, not walking outside. Yes, that would be much safer, but at some point, you have to assess the risk and certainly, he's the right person to do that. So, I'm not taking it lightly that he said this is a real threat. It really is. But I'm just cautious, I want to make sure that we're not just overreacting for the sake of the process, and overlooking the fact that every passenger understands that there is a risk with taking a flight. There always has been. There always will be, but at what point do you start saying it's no longer worth it? It's too much risk for me.

SESAY: That's some very important perspective there from our own David Soucie. Joining us there from Denver, Colorado. David, I appreciate it. Thank you.

SOUCIE: Thank you.

[01:26:48] SESAY: Time for a quick break now. Next, on NEWSROOM L.A., stores in Pyongyang are stocked mostly with Chinese goods. Will Beijing use that as leverage to rein in the North Korea regime?


[01:30:28] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

The headlines this hour.


SESAY: Well, the U.S. House will vote next week on new sanctions against North Korea. The Trump administration is also hoping China can persuade Pyongyang to change course. China has leverage because the North Korean economy is heavily dependent on Chinese goods.

More now from CNN's Will Ripley, the only U.S. television correspondent in North Korea.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): North Korea says it values one thing above all else, self-reliance. A concept they call ju chang (ph). Driving around the capital, it's clear this independent nation is not entirely self-reliant. Many everyday items are imported, from cars on the streets, electronics in the stores, even food in the supermarkets. These shelves are surprisingly full of imports, especially from one particular country.

(on camera): It's interesting. A lot of the canned food items you see here come from China. It shows there's a lot of trade happening between the two countries, despite heighten international sanctions.

(voice-over): North Korea claims to locally produce most of the products they sell, and the government says domestic production is increasing.

China is North Korea's neighbor and most important ally, a powerful patron that pumps billions of dollars into this still largely impoverished economy.

We're not allowed to see life outside the show-piece capitol. Inside, people say life is getting better.

"Under Kim Jong-Un, our living standards are improving," says this doctor.

North Koran economists say China still accounts for at least 70 percent of their trade. And not just consumer items. A Chinese oil pipeline literally helps this country's engine running.

President Trump is urging China to use its economic leverage to punish Pyongyang for provocative behavior. North Korean officials say China's action won't affect their weapons development.

"Whatever new sanctions we're likely to face, whatever trade restrictions, we're not afraid," says Sok Chul Wan (ph).

Everyday North Koreans also insist they'll be just fine with or without China.

"We don't worry much," says this housewife, "because we have a strong military. We can overcome anything."

Despite five nuclear tests in the last decade, Beijing has been reluctant to get too tough on Pyongyang. North Korean serves as a buffer between China and South Korea, where 28,000 U.S. troops a based. China also worries, a destabilized Koran peninsula could trigger a refugee crisis at its border.

China has taken some steps to sanction North Korea, temporarily suspending coal imports, a major source of revenue for the regime. But in the first quarter of this year, trade is still up nearly 40 percent. The true test will come if Pyongyang keeps its promise to launch more missiles and conduct more nuclear tests. North Korea says they will remain self-reliant no matter how China and the world responds.

Will Ripley, CNN, Pyongyang.


[01:34:30] SESAY: It has been 25 years since the Rodney King riots took L.A. to the breaking point. We'll look back on what's changed and what hasn't.


SESAY: This weekend marks 25 years since the infamous riots here in Los Angeles. The city turned to chaos when four white L.A.P.D. officers were acquitted after beating a black man on the side of the road.

Here's the back story of the Rodney King riot.

And I want to let you know that this report contains disturbing images.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who had the camera? Where was the camera? Oh, my god. They caught this on camera.

UNIDENTIFEID MALE: It was one of the most-disturbing things that we'd seen on video.

UNIDENTIFEID MALE: The videotape beating of Rodney King left many Los Angeles residents outraged.

UNIDENTIFEID MALE: It was like the first time we had actually seen it, so it was shocking, but at the same time, it was wonderful, because now we Americans, we African Americans, we had evidence of our claims of, you know, injustice and mistreatment.

UNIDENTIFEID MALE: The idea of watching that video originally, give me your reaction to when you saw the Rodney King video, give me what you felt initially.

UNIDENTIFEID MALE: I was waiting for someone to stop it, and the fact that nobody came and no one was able to stop it. The fact of the Rodney King video in itself, ignited a culture of wanting to get involved.


UNIDENTIFEID MALE: I don't think you'd be exaggerating to say this was the first viral video recorded by an individual on amateur equipment? Here's was have this video of an event that had just happened, and now today, cell phone videos of horrible events are things we see nearly every day. Back then, this was a whole new ballgame.

UNIDENTIFEID MALE: There was no way that these officers could not be held responsible for their action. There's no way they could be acquitted. Now we would certainly see justice being done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Rodney King video laid the ground work for activism because it showed that this was a level of brutally that no one had ever seen. It also showcased that you really didn't have choice to not get involved. I think the Rodney King video was so pivotal in terms of black activism.

UNIDENTIFEID MALE: What happened to Rodney King without that video would probably have never even made the news. With that video, that Rodney King beating became a huge story.

[01:40:05] UNIDENTIFIED JUROR: We the jury find the defendants no guilty --

UNIDENTIFEID MALE: When the officers were acquitted, it literally said that you could beat a black man in the street, the world could see it, and yet it made no difference. So it was more than a betrayal. The message that's sent, what had said to me was, is that I was worthless.

UNIDENTIFEID MALE: Appeals this evening for calm in Los Angeles.

UNIDENTIFEID MALE: Is it getting better?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's hard for me to get to say it's getting better.

Mothers are telling their kids to avoid the police at all costs. To be honest, there isn't anything out there that says this is going to stop.


SESAY: Retired LAPD Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey is with me.

Cheryl, it's is always good to see you.


SESAY: 25 years ago, these L.A. riots, take me back to that moment for you and your memories being part of the police department here in Los Angeles.

DORSEY: We know these things go on, so this video validated those things that we know occur that everybody tries to pretend like this is an abomination and this is not what happens. And I'm not saying it happens day in and day out but it happens with some frequency. So now you can no longer deny that. But what hasn't changed and what continues to happen is that police departments, LAPD and others, continue to minimize and mitigate that bad behavior by officers, and there's no accountability, there's no consequence for that kind of behavior.

SESAY: Just before we went live, I asked you when the video came out of the beating of Rodney King. What was it like being on the inside of LAPD, being part of the force, and having this out in the world.

DORSEY: Well, people that look like me were angry and we wanted something to be done substantively to those four officers who were involved in that outrageous and over-the-top excessive use of force. We knew this to be a violation of LAPD police and procedure, and we were expecting something substantive would come of it. What happened, ultimately, is that the police chief minimized and tried to explain away that bad behavior. And there was one person who I like to talk about that many people don't know his story, and that's Sergeant Fred Nichols, because he was a black man, a black sergeant on Los Angeles Police Department, department spokesperson and expert on use of force, and he testified truthfully.

SESAY: This is him.

DORSEY: That's Sergeant Nickols. And he testified truthfully that that force was excessive and the LAPD did what LAPD does, which is they protected that organism, they did a Pontius Pilot on him, turned their back on him. And because Fred Nichols bled blue, he was taken aback by that. And he ultimately committed suicide.

SESAY: It's incredibly sad.

This is one of deadliest riots in American history. I want to put up a graphic on our screen, because according to Loyola Marymount University, nearly six out of 10 Angelenos think another riot is likely in the next five years, increasing for the first time after two decades of steady decline. Why do you think that is?

DORSEY: I think because people are frustrated and because, again, there's no accountability, there's no change. We see police departments being more than too willing to just throw buckets of monies at families who are victims of deadly force and excessive force rather than deal with the root cause, rather than deal with -- we've got some problem officers, and they're in the minority, but let's call it what it is. Let's get them off the force. Let's train our officers so that they're adequately equipped to deal with people who don't cooperate, because that's inherent to police work, people who run from you, because that, too, is inherent to police work. You don't get to kill somebody because they won't come here. That's not how we're taught.

SESAY: Do you see any change on the part of the police to be willing to do the hard work, to root out the bad actors who change the culture, to improve relations with -- with the black community?

DORSEY: I hear a lot of lip service, and I hear word, but when it comes to action, for me, it's something very different. We have examples of that nationwide. We have examples of it here locally with the family of Ezell Ford (ph), a young mentally ill man who was shot and killed by LAPD. The police commission said the shooting was out of policy. Police Chief Charlie Beck can get his head around that shooting, he sees no problem with it. So unless and until you're willing to admit that there's a problem, then there's really nothing to fix.

SESAY: I mean, let's put this all in contact. In the last year, Ferguson, Baltimore and Chicago have all been flashpoints for national debate about police brutality and racial injustice. Does it seem as if we're right back to where we were 25 years ago? Does it feel like any progress has been made?

DORSEY: I would say no. But you'd have to ask the families, the victims. You'd have to ask the families of Sam Dubois (ph) and Sandra Bland and Terrence Crutcher (ph) and Charles Kinsey (ph), who, thankfully, wasn't killed but was shot by a police officer because he said, "I don't know why." And so, you know, when you have those kinds of numbers, those kind of recurrences, has anything changed? I think not.

[11:45:24] SESAY: Cheryl Dorsey, we appreciate the very, very honest perspective on the situation from 25 years ago and where we stand today.

DORSEY: Thank you.

SESAY: Thank you.

DORSEY: Appreciate it.

SESAY: I appreciate you.

Stay with us. More news after this.


SESAY: So a lot of comedians have tried to impersonate Donald Trump but who is the funniest?

CNN's Jeanne Moos tries to help us find out.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gentlemen and ladies, start your impersonators. 11 Trump imitators competed at the Los Angeles Comedy Club's The Laugh Factory.

UNIDENTIFIED COMEDIAN: I want to assure everyone here, I have no Russian ties. They're all made in China.

MOOS: Riffing on the president's words.

UNIDENTIFIED COMEDIAN: The media has been so unfair, believe me.

MOOS: Aping his gestures, clapping, pointing, pouting, even breathing like him.

UNIDENTIFIED COMEDIAN: But I mean, you know --

MOOS: Among the judges --

DARRELL HAMMOND, COMEDIAN: Ay, yay, yah, look at this.


MOOS: -- former "SNL" star, Darrell Hammond.

HAMMOND: Love thy neighbor as thyself, and like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.


MOOS: Hammond noted that instead of laughing, President Trump does --

HAMMOND: The sort of reverse meow laugh.

MOOS: Most of the jokes were in the groaner category.

UNIDENTIFIED COMEDIAN: I was very reluctant to drop the bomb on Syria. After all, she's been such a tremendous help on my iPhone.


MOOS: It's the delivery that counts.

UNIDENTIFIED COMEDIAN: I love signing, tweeting and saluting. No one salutes better than me, nobody.

MOOS: The impersonators tend to break Trump down into body parts.

UNIDENTIFIED COMEDIAN: And a lot of it is the squint and the lexicons, those are the two big things. Yeah, he does a weird kind of side-eye thing, like. But you can see him lexiconing. You know, it's tremendous, fantastic, incredible or it's a total disaster, lightweight, loser.

MOOS: John Di Domenico is no loser. He won with his jokes about replacing Obamacare.

JOHN DI DOMENICO, ACTOR & COMEDIAN: And it is going Trump first aid kits.


MOOS: One impersonator not in the contest was Anthony Atonomic (ph).

ANTHONY ATONOMIC (ph), COMEDIAN: And the bring in the arms. This is the kid, the arms.


MOOS: His fake Trump now hosts an entire show on Comedy Central.

For impersonators, it's not the wig, it's what's under it.

[01:50:03] UNIDENTIFIED COMEDIAN: I like the way he stops and digs. Like he's going to come out with something, you know? And then, all of a sudden, he says, terrific.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN --




MOOS: -- New York.


SESAY: Joining me now to share the secret of a great Trump impersonation are two very funny men. Actor comedian and host of The Laugh Factory impersonator competition, Darrell Hammond, alongside actor and comedian, John Di Domenico.

Gentlemen, welcome.

DOMENICO: Thank you.

SESAY: Darrell --


SESAY: The Laugh Factory, based here in L.A., decided the world really needed a Trump impersonation there?


HAMMOND: The whole thing was to thank the president for the many laughs that his comedians are receiving on stage at Laugh Factory. And we came up with an idea of what if it was an international- flavored competition? So you would have people from Iran and other countries doing Trump.


HAMMOND: It was actually pretty funny.

SESAY: And they came from all over the place?

HAMMOND: Yeah, we

DOMENICO: We had people from the Philippines, Korea, Iran, or Iraq, from England, New Zealand. You know, I'm from the U.S., a tremendous country, by the way. I love New Yorkers and west coast people.

SESAY: And, John, you say you actually won this thing?

DOMENICO: I won. I'm winning all the time. That's what I do.

HAMMOND: He won on "The View," too.

DOMENICO: I won on "The View," too. He's my good luck charm. I won twice.

SESAY: You won twice. So tell me, how does one stand out from the pack when there are a bunch of Trump impersonators in the room?

DOMENICO: You're asking me?

SESAY: Yeah.

DOMENICO: I didn't do nothing.


I guess I was better because I - you know. You know, for me I'm very lucky. I have a very long runway. I've been doing Trump since 2004. This last 18 months, I've been doing him almost every day in some voiceovers and commercials, so it's been pretty much nonstop. So it's really helped me redefine him -- because early on, back in "The Apprentice" days, Trump was of, listen, blue team, both did great. But the new Trump during the elections cycle was much more physical and he was kind of all over the place. I'm sure you saw the stump speeches used. Big and brash and everything was -- all of a sudden, he's doing things he never did before. SESAY: So your winning act that you performed at the competition,

would you want to share a little bit of it?

DOMENICO: You know, I kind of have a structure that I use for all of my -- I'm usually doing 35 minutes and I'm usually using it. So the basic thing is, take some real stuff, so right from the beginning they know - now this audience, Secret Service told me there's 5,000 people here, but CNN is going to say it's only 100 people in a tiny comedy club. They're trying to set that up. Get those things. And then get the things he's working on right now. Like, with Obamacare, I said, you what know, we're going to repeal and replace Obamacare with something terrific, terrific. Starting tomorrow, Trump first aid kits are going out to everyone.

SESAY: Everyone.

DOMENICO: They have everything you need, sutures, scalpels. You can operate on you children. It'll be great. You'll learn things.

HAMMOND: Don't you have an impression?

SESAY: I do not.


SESAY: I don't. But I'll ask you this.


SESAY: As someone who has done Trump as well on "SNL" why is he so much fun to impersonate?

HAMMOND: Because there's no one like him, yeah, that's a good place to start. I mean, if you walk around all day and say -- and your inner dialog comes out of your mouth like fat check, bad dress, look at that hair, the stuff you would --


DI DOMENICO: Could be arrested for.

HAMMOND: You're going to make a lot of friends and a lot of evenings. You'll be the most interesting guy in town. Trump really has a thing about being himself and he's gone far with it.

SESAY: Well, he is a gift from the comedy gods. Comedy Central, the network is now putting on their own Trump show.

I want to play a little clip of it from earlier. This is a guy who is going to be doing Trump, appearing on "The Daily Show."


UNIDENTIFIED COMEDIAN: This guy, I'm really the bet guy. I'm really the nicest. I'm on top of big league in an angel food cake, but this is a show, Travis. This isn't just a show, this is fake news. Fake news.

TRAVIS NOAH, HOST, THE DAILY SHOW: Yeah, but that's the point. We're a comedy show, Mr. President.

UNIDENTIFIED COMEDIAN: You see that, folks. Do you see this? He admitted it. I broke him like Mitt Romney. I broke him like a dog.



SESAY: What do you think? How do you think it's going to do?

HAMMOND: I don't know. I think he's a funny guy. I mean, just because you're funny doesn't mean your show is going to be good. But I think he's a very funny man.

[01:5506] SESAY: How great is the appetite? I know that you guys have done --

HAMMOND: I don't think that starts getting larger.

SESAY: You don't?

HAMMOND: Try to calculate of what percentage of human beings on this earth have -- don't know who Donald Trump is.

SESAY: You can run and run and one with this, basically.

HAMMOND: Yeah. This gets bigger.

SESAY: Gentlemen, thank you so much.

And congratulations.

DI DOMENICO: Thank you. I appreciate that.


SESAY: A very funny man, indeed.

Well, "The Simpsons" are also poking a little fun at President Trump to help mark his first 100 days in office. Take a look.




UNIDENTIFIED CARTOON CHARACTER: 100 days in office. So many accomplishments, lowered my gulf handicap. My Twitter following increased by 700. And finally, we can shoot hibernating bears. My boys will love that.

UNIDENTIFIED CARTOON CHARACTER: Sir, here's a new bill you must read immediately. It lowers taxes for only Republicans.

UNIDENTIFIED CARTOON CHARACTER: Can't FOX News read it and I'll watch what they say?



SESAY: Comedians are in seventh heaven.

You are watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay. I'll be back with more news right after this.