Return to Transcripts main page


North Korea Threat; Hong Kong 20th Anniversary; Russia Investigation; Top Catholic Official Charged with Sex Offenses; Helicopter Attack Targets Venezuela's Supreme Court; Trump's War on News Media Heats Up. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired June 29, 2017 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Ahead this hour, tough talk from the Trump administration over North Korea, a key Defense official says all options, including the military ones, are on the table.

VAUSE (voice-over): Plus one of the most senior members of the Catholic Church and a top adviser to Pope Francis is charged over multiple allegations of sexual assault.

NEWTON (voice-over): And also ahead, protests and arrests just ahead of the Chinese president Xi Jinping's visit, first official visit to Hong Kong.

VAUSE (voice-over): Hello, everybody. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause.

NEWTON (voice-over): And I'm Paula Newton. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.


NEWTON: U.S. national security adviser is delivering a stark warning on North Korea. H.R McMaster says the threat of a nuclear test or missile attack from Pyongyang is much more immediate now.

VAUSE: The U.S. had pinned its hopes on China to rein in North Korea. But that strategy doesn't seem to be working. Details now from Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: President Trump now saying that North Korea might have to be dealt with rapidly. That's his words. And now we know why he may be saying that.

Two Defense officials say that in fact military options have recently been updated for President Trump because of the growing concern that North Korea could conduct a ballistic missile test or an underground nuclear test that would give it a significant damage in moving forward with its ability to develop a weapon that could attack the United States.

The national security advisor, Gen. H.R. McMaster, laying all of this out in public remarks.


LT. GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: The threat is much more immediate now. And so it's clear that we can't repeat the same approach, failed approach of the past. The president has directed us to not to do that and to prepare a range of options, including a military option, which nobody wants to take.

There's a recognition that there has to be more pressure on the regime and I think what you'll see you in coming days and weeks are efforts to do that.


STARR: What has put new urgency behind all of this, a Defense official tells me, is North Korea has increased its ability to potentially surprise the United States, that its missile launch preparations, its nuclear test launch preparations are well hidden, well disguised and the U.S. may have very little advance warning when one of these tests is taking place.

It's adding to the concern the U.S. hopes that diplomacy works, that China's pressure on North Korea will lead to a diplomatic solution to all of this.

But those military options remain out there -- Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.



VAUSE: Joining me now from Seoul, John Delury is an assistant professor at Yonsei University.

John, thank you for being with us. It used to be the world was always guessing about North Korea's intentions. So it seems to almost mixed messages coming from the Trump administration.

That seems to be a bigger challenge right now. First we have diplomacy, then China then Trump wants to meet with Kim Jong-un; maybe he doesn't. And now military options.

JOHN DELURY, YONSEI UNIVERSITY: Yes, that's right. I mean it's been difficult to determine the signal from the noise in terms of what the administration wants to do with North Korea and I think they're still feeling their way. I don't think they've figured out, you know, how to approach it. I think one of the key pieces as always here is you have to be in some level of dialogue with the North Koreans diplomatically to know where they are and where there's room or not.

So it's good that there has been, because of the tragic case of Otto Warmbier, there have been at least some preliminary contacts between the United States and the North Korean government.

But, you know, you can't create these strategies in a vacuum if they're serious about diplomacy and negotiation as one part of this. Then, you know, that has to start with actually sitting down with the North Koreans.

VAUSE: Just looking at this military options, which are now being looked at in a serious way, when you hear that, what do you think?

What is the range of military options which is possible when it comes to North Korea?

DELURY: You know, there -- it's really not an option in the sense that people talk about it because, you know, you hear people discuss preemptive strikes or surgical strikes. North Korea is way too far along in terms of developing these capabilities, both having a nuclear weapons arsenal of -- we don't know how much over but most estimates are in -- above 20 weapons, which, of course, you know, they don't leave lying out there for an American military strike.


DELURY: And then, you know, as you know from the relentless pace of their missile testing, they have a -- they have a well-developed missile program that can deliver those weapons to various targets.

So you don't have this option militarily of removing the problem and you compound that with the fact that, once you strike North Korea, they're going to strike back, you know.

And they've got a long list of civilian populations, dense populations here in Seoul, other targets in the region, major transportation nodes -- these are major economic, you know, circuits that they can hit relatively easily.

So they can do massive -- as Secretary Mattis said, you know, you can -- you can trigger something tragic on an unbelievable scale, which was his term. And you know, at that point basically the United States has to -- has to step down because I don't think the United States, certainly South Korea is not interested in a full-scale war on Korean Peninsula --


DELURY: so it's quite bleak when you talk about these military options.

VAUSE: And just putting it out there, just saying it's now being under serious consideration, how does that raise the threat level here?

What will be the response from North Korea?

DELURY: I don't think it's so new the Trump administration has done this before. If you remember, just in April, we were all talking about military options; of course, militaries themselves are constantly refreshing their planning, including offensive strikes (INAUDIBLE).

It's being sort of played up and this could be -- we could be entering a new cycle here, where, after a lull, the Trump administration goes back to this threat of military action.

I think that one positive, if you want to say, is it gives the whole issue urgency and that's something that the national security advisor, McMaster, was also trying to say, that we can continue with so-called strategic patience. This is not a problem that's going to solve itself.

And the kind of quick fix to get people to focus is to say, look, if we don't do something we're going to go to war. But as he also said, no one wants to go to war and it's not in our interest to go to war.

So in some ways I think this is frankly a bit contrived, to get people to focus on the problem, the Chinese, the American public but, ultimately, if you want to talk about real solutions, they involve diplomacy and negotiation. They do not involve military strikes.

VAUSE: Very quickly, some have likened the situation with North Korea to a slow-moving Cuban missile crisis. Once that was over, President Kennedy said there was one central lesson from the standoff with the Soviet Union. Listen to this.


JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Above all, by defending our own vital interest, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war.

To adopt that kind of cost in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy or of a collective death wish for the world.


VAUSE: He said it 54 years ago but is there a lesson there for President Trump?

DELURY: Well, there's a lesson in that (INAUDIBLE) to be sure. It is good to hear John F. Kennedy's words and, you know, we hear this analogy, it -- in some sense it makes no sense; the whole point of the Cuban missile crisis is it was this compacted, intense thing; whereas we have the exact opposite problem with North Korea.

This is a prolonged issue; it's been 20 years, 30 years in the making. We need to think about solutions that deal with it in a 20-year timeframe. It's not something that, as the president said, can be solved rapidly.

We, unfortunately, are going to have to make a lot of compromises and chip away at it in a gradual process.

VAUSE: John, good to speak with you, John Delury there in Seoul. We appreciate your insights and your expertise. Thank you.

DELURY: You bet.



VAUSE: For more now on North Korean issues confronting the White House, we're joined here in Los Angeles by Democratic strategist Matthew Littman and, in San Diego, talk radio host Gina Loudon.

Good to see you both.

This may come as a surprise to you but now it seems that the issue of North Korea, some Democrats are questioning the president's ability to cope with the situation. Listen to this.


REP. JIM HIMES (D), MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, I don't know why today is so important. North Korea is a very, very serious threat but I got to tell you it makes me nervous when you hear rhetoric beginning to be ratcheted up.

And the person who was hearing that rhetoric is not necessarily stable and calm. So this is -- I'm not quite sure what the White House's game here is. But I hope they know what they're doing.


VAUSE: So, Matt, first up to you. If you don't have a lot of faith in the commander in chief right now, do you at least have faith in those around him, McMaster, the Defense Secretary?

And is --


VAUSE: -- that enough in a situation like this?

MATTHEW LITTMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, the president is supposed to be the commander in chief so, no, it's not enough. We need to have confidence in the president and the problem is that they're ratcheting up the language not just with North Korea but with Syria as well.

And also the fact that Russia did a cyber attack on the United States on our electoral process and there will really do nothing about that. So we keep ramping up with North Korea and Syria but no one really

seems to know what the endgame is here. There's no great policy behind all of this. And I think that's what's making a lot of people nervous, that the president himself has no real policy when it comes to North Korea and Syria.

That's a problem right now.

VAUSE: So, Gina, what's the policy here?

GINA LOUDON, TALK RADIO HOST: The policy here is that this president knows how to lead, contrary to our last administration, who stepped behind and nobody can ever count on really what he said.

This president is a known leader and he's a proven leader. He's kept his campaign promises. He's been bold. He's been decisive. He's very clearheaded contrary to what detractors might say. And he doesn't go out there and brag about what he's going to do.

He's very unclear about it and that should be the policy of a responsible administration, to leave everything on the table so that the decisions are then his and that of those around him, who are the experts and who have the intelligence, by the way, that we don't have.

LITTMAN: Well, John, let me just -- I'm sorry; the president is supposed to be --


LITTMAN: -- the president is supposed to be an expert on this, not just the military folks. But the president is supposed to be an expert, too. And to say that he is not to tell anybody what the policies, well, that's not working out.

Syria still has chemical weapons. North Korea's still belligerent. We don't know what the administration's policy is. Everybody would like to hear it. It's not just the United States but the world that needs to hear what the president's policy is.

The problem is that there is none at this point.

NEWTON: But Matthew, doesn't it strengthen his hand by just saying that there are military options out there?

I mean taking what a lot of scholars have said, no, there are no good military options on the table. But Matthew, come on. At a certain point in time, North Korea may listen to a Trump administration, where it did not heed any warnings from the Obama administration.

LITTMAN: Well, the -- there's no reason to suggest that what you're saying is true because North Korea keeps ratcheting this up and has not slowed down at all. They've gone in the opposite direction. They've been speeding things up and the administration -- no one is really looking for a military strike by the United States or North Korea. This won't solve all the problems then North Korea can go and attack Seoul. There is no great solution here. But I do agree that North Korea is about the biggest threat that the United States -- that we find in the United States right now. We need to have some clarity.

But is there any clarity?

I mean, you tell me. I don't see any.

VAUSE: We'd like you to hold there for just one moment because very quickly we're going to Hong Kong, where China's president, Xi Jinping, is arriving in Hong Kong right now. He's just got off his plane. This is the first time Xi Jinping has visited Hong Kong as president. He'll be there for three days. And of course, security particularly tight and mixed sentiments for a lot of people in Hong Kong because he's set to mark the 20 years since the territory was handed over from Britain back to China.

NEWTON: And of course nearly three years now since that Umbrella protest really went up against that whole system of one country, two systems and he has not been on the ground there, as you said, this is his first time.

And there have been some arrests and some protests ahead. But authorities are wondering exactly how this very well choreographed visit will go.

VAUSE: And $82 million trip, this is costing Hong Kong apparently. And Ivan Watson is standing by live.

So, Ivan, there does seem to be this mixed feelings.

Many people in Hong Kong are wondering what have we got to celebrate right now?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I've been doing my own informal survey of Hong Kongers, asking, hey, is this going to be a big holiday for his, this 20-year anniversary?

And I'm universally met by either shrugs of shoulders, if not disdain from just everyday Hong Kongers. I think the impression I'm getting is that this feels far more like a government holiday rather than one for the people of this city, who have an unusual sense of identity when it comes to their city and the rest of China.

And I think we have a graph that we can show you, that shows a recent poll that indicates some of the challenges that Xi Jinping faces in Beijing, where only about 3 percent of people age 18-29 surveyed in Hong Kong identify themselves as Chinese down from 41 percent in the same number in 2008.

And that's part of where this challenge comes from, where a lot of Hong Kongers --


WATSON: -- simply don't identify very strongly with Beijing -- John.

VAUSE: Ivan, I thought -- I may not have this quite right, but I thought there was a joke going around; they now refer to the handover as the hangover.


WATSON: Yes, and again, that gets back to the sense where people don't feel strongly identified or linked with Mainland China, that Hong Kongers don't feel like they -- they speak a different language and their colonial history separates them from the rest of Chinese on Mainland China.

Some of this is political and there very determined activists who are going to try to find anyway possible to show their dissent to the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, on this historic visit. And of course they'll be held back by thousands and thousands of police, who are deployed for this three-day visit.

And some of them calling for things like universal suffrage, the right to have one person, one vote, for the legislative council here in Hong Kong, something that is not in place, only about 50 percent of seats are directly elected.

But overall, there's more of a sense of frustration, I'd say, at some of the economic difficulties in this city. For example, look at some of these numbers. Real estate in this city, the average flat apartment, the real estate prices are about $1,200 U.S. a foot. That means in some cases you could get an apartment about the size of a parking space that can go for about $0.5 million U.S. That's part of the ambivalence of young Hong Kongers, who cannot look forward to the possibility of getting a job and getting their own home in this city.

That's part of what's driving disaffection, 20 years after Britain gave up Hong Kong and handed it over to Beijing and Mainland China -- Paula and John.

NEWTON: OK, Ivan, thanks so much. We will continue to watch Xi Jinping, as you saw him with remarks there, had quite a broad smile on his face, I thought --


VAUSE: -- because he hasn't seen the protesters. There's no one in sight. (INAUDIBLE) away and they won't be out on the streets until --


NEWTON: -- apparently, as you said, very well choreographed for a reason. We'll continue to keep a very close eye on that.

VAUSE: OK. Let's go back to our politics right now because Matt Littman and Gina Loudon are with us, staying with us.

So thank you for that, guys.


Matt, you mentioned the whole Russia investigation.

And, Gina, to you, administration sources are telling us that many within the Trump administration are very frustrated because they cannot convince the president to take the threat posed by Russia and continues to be posed by Russia as serious.

So why, Gina, won't the president do anything and why won't he take this seriously about Russian hacking?

LOUDON: Well, it isn't this president that didn't take all foreign hackers seriously. It was our last president that apparently knew about this and for political reasons didn't choose to address it.

On the contrary, though, don't forget, John, that I believe it was just this week or last week this president assembled even some of his own political enemies within the tech industry to address the hacking problems.

That proves that this president is not only committed to meeting this problem head-on of any sort of foreign interference in any of our elections, which, by the way, have never resulted any vote changes, as you know, but it proves also that he's even willing to work out who may not have been allies in the past.

So this is a sort of diplomacy as well out of this president. And I think it's very encouraging to those of us who want to know that we are free from foreign hackers of any sort in any of our sort of systems.

NEWTON: We want to go now to former U.S. ambassador to NATO, John (sic) Burns, he made some startling remarks in from the Senate committee. What was really interesting too is that he pulled no punches for either president, former president or current. Take a listen.


NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: It is his duty, President Trump's, to be skeptical of Russia. It's his duty to investigate and defend our country against cyber offensive because Russia is our most dangerous adversary in the world today.

And if he continues to refuse to act, it's a dereliction of the basic duty to defend the country and Russia's going to do this again.


NEWTON: Matthew, this is the point here, Russia is going to do this again and many people have been saying that they want to see that they're not happy with President Obama, as he was as he has said prior in that testimony but also as we've been hearing that even people within the Trump administration are saying he needs to take this seriously and he needs to do more.

What is going to move the needle there in terms of actually getting people to make sure that the next tack won't be more insidious?

LITTMAN: Yes, it's very strange. Also remember when Trump came in, he said that within 90 days he'd have this big cyber security plan. That was by April. And it never happened.

But also --


LITTMAN: -- there's the fact that Trump won't admit that Russia did all the stuff that they did with our electoral process last year, while everybody else is talking about it. Trump, for some reason, won't admit it.

And he wants less sanctions on Russia, not more. So in terms of convincing Trump, you can convince Trump what to do, to be strong against Russia. It's just not going to happen because he takes it as an ego thing, that you're telling him that the won the election and that election was tainted.

So he won't do that with Russia for that reason. Now the rest of us, everybody else in the country knows that Russia not only attacked the united states but it's tried this in France and other places around the world.

It's only going to get worse. I think the frustration in the administration with Congress, with Trump on this is really starting to boil over now. And I think that we're going to see more of that in the coming days.

Congress is really furious that the administration wants less sanctions on Russia while I think Congress voted 98-2 for tougher sanctions.

VAUSE: OK, let's just finish up here very quickly because just when you thought the Republican draft plan to health care was dead, the president says, not so fast.


TRUMP: Health care is working along very well. We're going to have a big surprise with a great health care package. So now they're happy.



TRUMP: -- great, great surprise. It's going to be great. Thank you very much.


VAUSE: (INAUDIBLE) surprise? Universal health care for everybody?

LOUDON: I kind of doubt that, John. You know, it's a shame that some out there are distracted with something that the American people, according to the new Harvard poll, don't even think is a safe thing to be talking about and that is the whole Russia conspiracy theory; 73 percent of Americans polled in that new survey -- I believe it came out yesterday, the Harvard Harris (ph) poll, said that they think it's damaging and distracting (ph) from other issues like health and other things that this administration is dedicated to.

But not only that, to me it's sad that the Democrats have demonstrated that they're going to continue to be solely obstructionist to this administration and the agenda that the American people elected this administration to pursue.

You know, if the Democrats were to come to the table for example, the president would be having meetings with them about what elements perhaps of this bill that they would like to include.

But instead --


NEWTON: -- we can tell from your expression --

LITTMAN: Listen, this is a crazy answer. I'm sorry, Gina, but the Republicans did this behind closed doors with just Republicans. Trump hasn't made a call to a Democrat to ask them to support this. This is the way the Republicans chose to do it.

And when --

LOUDON: That's not true. That's not true --


LITTMAN: -- when you say that Trump was elected to do this, just remember that this is favored by about 17 percent of the American people. The Republican and Trump health care plan has no support in the United States so far.

So to say that this is what he's elected to do --

LOUDON: -- poll --

LITTMAN: -- nobody wants it. Every single poll -- Google, use the thing called Google --


LITTMAN: -- poll numbers.


LOUDON: -- election last week in Georgia that was supposed to be a litmus test, remember, Matthew?

And I think the American people have been speaking clearly in those special elections. VAUSE: Gina gets the last word. OK. We'll make this last word.


NEWTON: That was the word. I think that was the word, yes.

VAUSE: OK. We shall leave it there.

Matt and Gina, thanks so much.

LITTMAN: Thank you.


VAUSE: And we will take a short break. Still to come here on NEWSROOM L.A., Venezuela's president says a helicopter attack was an attempted coup. But others believe it may have all been staged by the government.

NEWTON: Plus a top Catholic cardinal, one of the pope's key advisers, is facing the allegations of sexual assault. More on that -- up next.




VAUSE: One of the leading figures in the Catholic Church has been charged by police in Victoria, Australia, with what they call historic sex offenses.

NEWTON: People say there are multiple charges against Cardinal George Pell from Australia, as Pell says though that he of course strenuously denies the allegations. Our Anna Coren has more from Hong Kong.

Anna, what's so interesting about this case is that even though police there in Australia came out and announced this, it's still confusing as to what exactly the allegations against him are.

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Paula, but I think it will be some time before we learn of them. He's due to appear in Melbourne magistrates' court on July 18th.

His representative in Melbourne has been informed of that by Victorian police, when those charges were laid. So as far as what this means for the Catholic Church, we know that it is going to send shockwaves throughout the Vatican and the Catholic Church will why that it has been dogged by these claims of sexual abuse, obviously this is a just priest. This is a cardinal. This is man who is considered, depending on who you talk to, as the second, third most important person in the Vatican.

He is Secretariat of the Economy; that means he's in charge of the Vatican's finances. So this is somebody very high up within the Vatican under the pope, who has been charged with, as you say, historical sexual assault offenses.

Now the Victoria police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton held a news conference this morning announcing those charges against Cardinal Pell. He said that said Pell will not be held -- will not be dealt with any differently than any other defendant.

Now as I say, for years, obviously the church has been dogged by these allegations but certainly so has George Pell, not just in relation to covering up sexual abuse by other priests that he was in charge of, but also of committing sexual abuse himself.

There was a royal commission held in Australia last year into the church's mishandling of sexual abuse. Now Cardinal Pell, he testified in Rome in a hotel room. H was asked to come back to Australia. His doctor said that he was too ill to do that and there was certainly a feeling that he was out of touch with what was going on and that he lacked empathy for what the survivors were going through.

And I just want to give you one example of this. He was asked by the commission if there was common knowledge, if there was common knowledge that a certain priest, who had sexually abused many, many children, whether he was aware of that.

He said, "It's a sad story and it wasn't of much interest to me."

So really it certainly sent shockwaves and upset many, many people, obviously the survivors of that sexual abuse. But as we say, Paula, this is going to be playing out; we are expected to hear from the Vatican within the next couple of hours and we'll certainly bring that to you live.

NEWTON: Yes, and I know what you're saying from Australia, you could really hear the outrage when people began to learn the scope of the complicity there. And again, this will be an ongoing story that we keep on top of. Anna Coren, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

VAUSE: Still to come here, an attempted coup or was it just a spectacular stunt?

A Royal Police pilot is missing after a mysterious helicopter attack in Venezuela. Some though skeptical about how the whole incident went down.


[00:31:40] PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: You are watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Thanks for joining us. I'm Paula Newton.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Vause. We'll check the headlines this hour.

U.S. President Donald Trump will have some updated military options at his disposal if North Korea carries out another missile nuclear test. The national security adviser H.R. McMaster says the threat from Pyongyang is more immediate than ever. NEWTON: One of the leading figures in the Catholic Church has been charge with historic sex offences in his home country of Australia. Cardinal George Pell is a top adviser to Pope Francis and the Vatican's top financial adviser as well. Pell strongly denies the allegations thus will return to Australia for his first court appearance.

VAUSE: China's President Xi Jinping has arrived in Hong Kong to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the city's handover to China.

On Saturday, he will swear in a new chief executive Carrie Lam. Police launched a crackdown on demonstrators ahead of Mr. Xi's first visit as president. About 2,000 pro-democracy protestors were arrested late Wednesday.

Now the man behind an attack which Venezuela's president calls an attempted coup is apparently on the run and they haven't found him yet. Authorities found the police helicopter they say was stolen and use to attack the Supreme Court with grenades and gunfire, Tuesday.

CNN's Rafael Romo joins us now from Atlanta with more details.

I mean, isn't it convenient that the person who seems to have perpetrated this is an action star. He's actually a movie star. We have that bazaar video.

I mean, Rafael, at this point in time, what more do we know about motive, about how all of this happened.

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Yes, it's a very good question, and there are indeed many questions about what that helicopter incident really was Paula.

Was it truly an attack on the government of President Nicolas Maduro, or an attempt to really distract the tension from the country's social and political crisis?

Hours before the incident, the president said in a national and televised event that his supporters were ready to take up arms if his government was threatened. "And what couldn't be done with votes, we would do it with weapons." That's what the president said.

There are many moving pieces, Paula, as you know right now in Venezuela.

Maduro is trying to create that constituent assembly that would replace the current legislative body, the only branch of government controlled by the opposition. And just a few hours ago, the Supreme Court gave the green light to an inquiry against Lisa Ortega, Venezuela's attorney general.

Now it appears, her prosecuting powers will be vested upon a government loyalist who currently serves as the nation's ombudsman.

Why is she being targeted, you may ask. Wednesday, she said that by cracking down on protestors, trying civilians and military courts and conducting raids without warrants, the government of President Nicholas Maduro is in effect, listen to this, carrying out what she described as state terrorism.

And there's more. National Assembly President Julio Borges, a main opposition leader, told CNN he was attacked by the very same security forces that are supposed to protect them as pro-government militias surrounded the parliament building in Caracas.

There's been more than 70 deaths in nearly three months of anti- government protest throughout the country. A very, very sad situation, indeed.


[00:35:00] NEWTON: Yes. And it's important to know, Rafael, as you just did, that throughout all of these bazaar happenings, people still have to drop everything they are doing just to find a little morsel of food for their families or get any kind of medical care.

I mean, Rafael, in terms of on the Venezuelan streets at this point, what is expected because everyone now is wondering whether or not this is the beginning of a more strident military crackdown and perhaps all out martial law.

ROMO: Yes, you made a very good point, Paula. And the reality is that if we were to use or to describe the feeling on the streets in Venezuela, it's desperation.

People don't really pay that close attention to politics but the reality -- you've been there, I've been there, we have seen the shelves at the stores, they are empty.

People standing in line for hours and hours just for the opportunity to get really basic food products. Many neighborhood said they used to thrive on their charisma when President Chavez took power are not very desperate. They are hungry. They are not getting electricity. Water is nowhere to be found. And so it's a very delicate situation. And one thing that caught my attention was the moment when yesterday, the president made a very direct threat saying that he is willing to use weapons against the opposition.

Was he just talking or is he serious when he says that? That's the question now, Paula.

NEWTON: Yes, and it is a terrifying prospect to many in Venezuela right now.

Rafael Romo, I appreciate you keeping on it for us. Thank you so much.

I cannot even describe to you that when you are seeing thousands of people in the streets in Caracas and a lot of other cities where it's more difficult to get to for the media, John, those people are starving.

When I say they are starving, they stop what they are doing to protest to go find anything.


NEWTON: A piece of bread, a vegetable. It doesn't matter what it is. So to see the force of those protests through all of this is extraordinary. And we all wonder what is going to happen next.

VAUSE: What's the turning point for Venezuela?

OK. We'll take a break.

The battle lines had been drawn for a while. Now the U.S. president is waging war with the news media, taking it to a whole new level. We'll talk about the impact of that fight could have.


NEWTON: After months of legal right and key parts of the Trump administration's revised travel ban will now take effect in less than 24 hours. A U.S. official says the guidelines for travelers from the six affected countries have already been sent to overseas.

VAUSE: They say applicants must remain in a relationship with their parents, spouse, child or sibling in the U.S. If you can't sufficiently establish such a relationship, you are ban for 90 days if you are traveling from Libya, Syria, Iran, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan.

NEWTON: And now President Trump's attacks on the news media are reaching fever pitch. Again, this week, we've got news to that.

[00:40:00] After "The New York Times" reported Mr. Trump as disengaged from the Senate healthcare efforts, and "The Washington Post" called him out on a fake "Time" magazine --

VAUSE: Well, the president --

NEWTON: He let it fly.

VAUSE: And then he went to Twitter.

"First, the failing "New York Times" writes false story after false story about me. They don't even call to verify the facts of the story. A fake news joke."

Then "The AmazonWashingtonPost, sometimes referred to as the guardian of Amazon not paying internet taxes (which they should) is fake news!"

Joining us Ted Johnson, senior editor of "Variety."

OK, you know, without saying too precious here, you are from the media, but clearly the president is quite undermining the press, the reporters who cover him and to do that he doesn't need any facts, he doesn't need any evidence, he just needs, you know, the bully pulpit which is pretty good when you are the president. And you go to Twitter account with 30 million followers. TED JOHNSON, SENIOR EDITOR, VARIETY: Well, here's what's disturbing, I guess, about it is, you know, every administration complains about the media. They complain about the way the news has covered. They complain about stories that are ignored by the media. They are taking it a step further. And Donald Trump is taking it a step further.

For example, you know, his attack on the Washington Post wasn't just an attack on their reporting. It was an attack on Amazon.

Now it was false. Amazon does not own the "Washington Post." Jeff Bezos is the founder of Amazon owns the "Washington Post."

VAUSE: This is the confusion, just so enough confusion.

JOHNSON: Yes. But what I guess is a little disturbing is he is raising this prospect of Amazon not paying Internet taxes. During the campaign, he said Amazon has an anti-trust problem. So this raises an issue.

You know, is he going to use the power of the federal government to try to crackdown on Amazon, because he is unhappy with a story that runs in the "Washington Post."

VAUSE: You know, it seems the president and, you know, his close staff are very confuse about difference between a correction, a retraction and fake news.

Fake news would be, well, I don't know, putting your photograph on the cover of "Time" magazine when you would never actually on the front of "Time" magazine as the "Washington Post" found out.

So is this again, this is just sowing enough confusion and using, you know, journalist and news organizations doing the right credible thing to keep them over the head.

JOHNSON: Yes. And, you know, and what we've seen in the past couple of days are news organizations where they found faulty reporting and they have issue -- they have taken corrective measures. But what the administration has done, has said, well, that essentially undermines the credibility of all of the news media.

They are kind of hitting the entire news business over the head with a sledge hammer whenever they seen a story that they disagree with and particularly a story that uses unnamed sources.

VAUSE: Right. And they have been using unnamed sources all the time and how unnamed sources and many articles as well.

All of this, though, would mean well with Donald Trump's fate. I was listening to the conservative Mac Daddy of them all. Rush Limbaugh on Wednesday, he was giddy with delight. Listen to this.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: In Trump, we have someone who is fearless, who is consistent in not just pointing out and critiquing the media. He fights back against the media and as such has taken them totally off guard.

There's no other Republican White House that would ever deal with this like this. This is earth-shattering, it's precedent setting. But Trump didn't start this. The media started this. The media made this bed. Trump is just the first guy to call them out on what they do and not back down from it.


VAUSE: Yes. And if you listen to Rush long enough, we understand Trump is their guy. They've been waiting for this moment for a very long time.

JOHNSON: Yes, and Trump is not the first politician to have this war against the media. He's not the first president to have this war against the media. But it's -- I think it's the type of rhetoric that we're seeing, really is trying to undermine the legitimacy of news organizations.

For example, the whole Russian collusion investigation. Very much, you know, you can hear fake news, fake news, fake news. They've been about this over and over again when it comes to that investigation when in fact, you know, a special council is investigating; congressional committees are investigating. It may turn to be nothing, but to label it as fake news when we don't even know exactly how this story is going to unfold is a little disingenuous.

VAUSE: Absolutely. Ted, good to see you. Thanks for being here.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

VAUSE: OK. Well, you've been watching NEWSROOM L.A. I'm John Vause.

NEWTON: And I'm Paula Newton. "World Sport" starts right after a quick break.