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Liberation Of Mosul From ISIS "Imminent"; Battle In Mosul Remains "A Difficult Fight"; Iraqi Troops Retake Iconic Mosul Mosque ISIS; President Disparages Female Anchor's Appearance; Lawmakers Denounce President's Controversial Tweets. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired June 30, 2017 - 01:00   ET


[01:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for being with us. Ahead this hour, closer than ever; coalition forces say the full liberation of Mosul from ISIS is imminent.

VAUSE: Backlash against the U.S. President after his war with the media gets uglier and personal on Twitter.

NEWTON: Plus, saving Africa's elephants one at a time; an exclusive report on the conservation effort to relocate entire herd to safety.

VAUSE: Hello, everybody! I'm John Vause.

NEWTON: And I'm Paula Newton. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now. Coalition forces believe that just a couple of hundred of ISIS fighters are still in Mosul, Iraq. And they're saying that they're concentrated in a dwindling area; smaller area now spanning just a couple of city blocks.

VAUSE: There's every reason to believe the ISIS militants who are left are prepared to fight to the death. Nick Paton Walsh is in Mosul reporting from the frontlines.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Morning here come only with dust and ruin. This was the day Iraqi's Special Forces were meant to take back the symbolic al-Nuri Mosque of Mosul's old city. Today their leaders declared victory, while they are still bitterly fighting. Just literally, to the side of the mosque, is where ISIS has been. The aim was to encircle the sacred monument ISIS themselves destroyed.

Yes. They've lost so many to ISIS. They move carefully against the enemy even with high-tech help they rarely see.

When an ISIS fighter is spotted, the artillery reins down throughout the day. (INAUDIBLE 02:55) this fight to be over in the afternoon. News report cited Iraq the officials elsewhere are saying the mosque could be retaken. The bizarre scene, given how lethally, painstakingly they were advancing. Huge political states here for Iraq, yet this fight is spearheaded by a few dozen men. Two bulldozers, and burrow, a drone hence have been shot down.

Fighters have been relatively quiet during the day, but it seems drone put up in the sky to work on more about the defensive position sent to coming around towards us here. More gunfire exchanges and as they grind slowly towards the edge of the mosque, more Iraqi officials announced they have retaken it. But that's just politics and here is the ghastly reality. Civilians held as a human shield by ISIS, risking death to flee for its certainty.

They're held back here, as possible suicide bombers, but the adamant becomes too much. There is nothing really to say when help is behind you and just dust before. "We've been a shield in the rubble," he says, the injured piggyback touts. The fear is so strong; it led this woman to walk out with pins in her leg to get her family out. The mortar landed on their home, is the only word little Tuca can say.

"There'd be no liquids to taste. My little ones would in hunger. We didn't see anybody, no ISIS, only the military." This day, perhaps prematurely, Iraq declared ISIS vanquished, yet their three years of likely consumed of a curse and the ruins from which she fled and then which ISIS lie, will take more than declarations of victory to rebuild. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Mosul, Iraq.


[01:05:05] VAUSE: Well, for more we're joined now by Retired U.S. Army General, Mark MacCarley. General, good to see you. It took ISIS just a few days to capture Mosul. What does it say that the military offensive by the Iraqi coalition to retake it has now stretched for almost nine months?

GEN. MARK MACCARLEY, MAJOR GENERAL (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Yes, certainly. That nine months showed a tremendous loss of life, commitment of Iraqi resources and as I said, Abadi -- Prime Minister Abadi can call this a celebratory moment; his forces have captured about 90 percent of Mosul but there's a lot of hard fighting. I don't -- it doesn't really matter to me if we're dealing with one square kilometer as has been reported for the remaining ISIS personnel. That one square mile is replete with IEDs, with car bombs, with suicide bombers, with tunnels and ambushes. So, the fight is not over.

VAUSE: Yes. As you mentioned, you know, liberating Mosul has come at a pretty steep price. What happens to this city once those remaining ISIS fighters are cleared out? Because the post-game here is just as important, maybe even more important than the military offensive.

MACCARLEY: Certainly, almost reflexes, the same challenge we had in 2003 when U.S. Army Force and Marines entered Baghdad because that's just the beginning of the challenge. Because the second part is the stabilization, the restoration, the reconstruction, and everything else that's associated with re-establishing the Iraqi Center Government as the controlling government for Mosul. And that is, quite frankly, the much more difficult challenge that Abadi will face. And of course, the attempt, hopefully, with a real commitment of solidifying the relationships with the Sunnis and the Shiites, and that will come as well at a great price and a huge commitment at times.

VAUSE: Yes. Other Iraqi cities which are being liberated from ISIS, they continue to struggle. There was a study from WestPoint, it says, "A year on since Fallujah was retaken from ISIS, residents there are still facing an array of challenges, from destroyed buildings to live Islamic State munitions buried in the rubble to the continuing threat of Islamic State attacks." Clearly, this question on security for these liberated cities is crucial. When will the Iraqi government -- will they ever be in a position to be able to provide the security?

MACCARLEY: That's the million-dollar question. You're going to see an infusion of an Iraqi soldier in the Mosul. Then the next question is: which one of those soldiers will remain? Because, again, you have that sectarian challenge between the Shiites the Sunnis, you've got Kurds who have ably assisted in the recapture of Mosul and how to put that all together to get the civilian population? 800,000 of which have been displaced, are in refugee camps; bring them back, then determine and isolate those who are ISIS sympathizers.

Evict those sympathizers from the parts of Mosul where they remain, to have some quantum of justice. This is just going to be hard. Plus the huge monetary cost, and whether the Iraqi government has that type of monetary resources open to question to restore such simple things: as basic electrical power, water, market stores, everything that's necessary for the reasonable restoration of life in Mosul. As we knew Mosul before ISIS entered in 14 -- 2014.

VAUSE: It's quite a challenge ahead. General, thanks for being with us. We appreciate it.

NEWTON: You know, Donald Trump had a lot on his plate this week: health care, North Korea, the travel ban, the G-20 Summit. I even mentioned that the White House declared an energy week. But apparently, none of was on his mind on Thursday.

VAUSE: He was put on fire with some critical words from two morning anchors on cable television, and so he went to tweet up. And tweeted this: "I heard poorly rated 'MORNING JOE' speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. crazy Mika, along with psycho Joe came to Mar-a-Lago three nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!"

NEWTON: OK. The White House dismissed the vulgar language as "fighting fire with fire," but even some Republicans were shaking their heads in frustration.


REP. LYNN JENKINS (R), KANSAS: To refer to a female's face, as someone that's involved in politics, is just not appropriate.

SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: It's malignly frustrating, because this is beneath the dignity of the President of the United States, or at least it should be, and it's a distraction. And it really, ultimately starts to undermine the President's ability to get its agenda done.

[01:10:03] SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: We're clearly sending a very strong message to the President that these kinds of tweets, which attack individuals have got to stop.

REP. PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Obviously, I don't see that as a comment I think -- look, what we're trying to do around here is improve the tone, the civility of the debate and this obviously doesn't help do that.


NEWTON: You bet it doesn't help. Joining us now: our CNN Political Commentators, Democratic Strategist, Dave Jacobson; and Republican Consultant, John Thomas. John, to you, some people have speculated that today, in fact, this could've even been a ploy, that he doesn't really want to talk about the strategy. He just wants us to be hysterical, he wants the Democrats to be hysterical and he just decided to have a little bit of fun. But it was calculated that he does not want to talk about things like health care, which right now, everyone's going back home on a recess and it probably won't get done. What do you think? Is that far-fetched?

JOHN THOMAS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: I think that's giving him too much credit. I think this is just trumping Trump. I mean, this is a guy who grew up in the tabloid wars of New York, and it's one thing he knows that somebody punches at him, he's going to punch back 10 times harder. I don't think we should be surprised by it. I think if you're just looking at it, is this helping or hurting Trump and his ability to get drive his message, to get his agenda passed? No, it's not. It's not effective communication.

VAUSE: He can say that again. At the White House briefing, on Thursday, there were troll questions and all about the President's tweets, there are nine questions about the policy issue. So, Dave is this a distraction or there's something much bigger about the presidency.

DAVE JACOBSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think it's another indication and further evidence of the fact that the President, obviously, is trigger happy and I think he is ultimately addicted to Twitter. I don't know how else to describe it, the guys won't stop and I don't know what is going to get him soft. You got the Speaker of the House coming out, calling it totally inappropriate. Lindsey Graham, of course, a Senator from South Carolina called it beneath the presidency.

You know, I've got to plug the Republicans for the rapid response on this, but I think it's really -- not only is this disheartening to see the President do this, but it's really diminishing his ability to get anything substantive done as President. And I think it's really going to really, you know, slow down his momentum or any momentum that he has on anything in Congress.

NEWTON: Dave, just to come back on you. (INAUDIBLE 12:18) who cares? Sound inferior signifying nothing. He was elected after we even had the access on how he would do. Who cares what he tweets? In a strange way, it seems that people like the spectacle.

JACOBSON: I mean, I think the 35 percent of Americans who support the President would perhaps endorse the idea of this. But the question is -- the last time he had a big raise, he raised $10 million for his re- election campaign. We know that the 26 election was one of the most toxic than we've ever seen in American history. A lot of people described it as the lesser of two evils. And so the question is like: come 2020, if the President really wants to get re-elected, can that 35 percent coalition propel him to re-election. I don't think he can.

THOMAS: I think you make a good point. I today's reality show era, this is a point in time where the Democratic Party is hiring consultants to figure out that cussing more attracts younger voters, all right. It's widely reported. It's a -- why the Democratic Party Chair, asked the entire delegation. OK. It's a raise our middle fingers and say, "F" the President.

VAUSE: And again, not the President's doing it. But, OK, you know, we talked about the controversy and distracting message. A Fox News poll, before this latest tweet scandal, found 71 percent thought the President's tweets were hurting his agenda; only 17 percent thought they were helpful. So, gets back to the question, the President like the polls, he beats polls, he may see that poll and maybe that will be a motivation, John, to stop in tweeting because at this point, he has sort of enabled us around. And at the White House, we have Melania, his wife coming out and saying out this sound bullying, say no this is fine. Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, the White House Spokesperson saying, you know, he's got to hit back. There are people around him saying, it's OK.

THOMAS: I think he's going to look at though, the larger picture of not just this poll about his tweets, but he's going to look at -- is my base still with me? You know, to Trump, anytime he can pick on the media, it's a win for him. So, while the way he picked on her, I don't think even Trump's base appreciates; the war on the media, they do appreciate.

JACOBSON: Well, I think the other question here, though, in terms of this specific tweet is the implication with his supporters. Like, if they're endorsing this idea and this conversation, and this kind of rhetoric and the attacks on women, what kind of implications does that have for the country and for women? I have a 1-year-old, like, what does that mean for my daughter growing up in today's society?

NEWTON: But today is just again to come back, that's what we said before and after the election. We are here today; he is the President of the United States. I mean, I fail to understand, really, how any of this is going to make a difference. I think sometimes you just --

JACOBSON: Well, I think it's a question of like, what you see in terms of tangible action. It's actually happening in Washington. We haven't seen any monumental transformation or legislation, but it's actually been shepherd into the House and the Senate and signed by President Trump. [01:15:10] THOMAS: It's the same thing about Russia. I mean, we test

it all the time and it's not, it's not effective communication to tear down Republican candidates because there's no there, there yet. to tear down Republican candidates because there's no there, there yet.

[01:15:18] VAUSE: OK, very quickly you mentioned getting legislation through this was meant to be a good day on Thursday was going to be a good day for Donald Trump. He got the immigration, you know, the tougher laws in immigration through the lower house a crackdown saying though cities and crack down immigrations who returned to the U.S. after getting deported and at here legally. And so also there is travel ban which part of it in place, this is what we need to know though because there's been some changes to who is exempted and who is. He came out and said that, you know, signed can prove a relationship to someone in the United States who is a parent, spouse, or fiancee which was included as a late ad children, son in law, and daughter in law, sister or brother then that fine you can come in, you know, even if you are from all of these six majority Muslims countries. But not exempt if you have a relationship with the grandparents, or grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, a whole bunch of people where.

So and again, John, you know, this was substandard policy if you like it or you don't like but it's still a policy moving the needle changing the narrative which is what should have happen today but Donald Trump stepped on rake.

THOMAS: He absolutely do, I mean have I would advocate, first of all I don't advocate picking these fights just as a communication tool it's not effective it's completely distracting. And I guarantee you my friends in the communication department the White House are pulling their hair out right not going one step forward two steps back.


NEWTON: They're going to have no hair.


NEWTON: He'll taste for that I'll get him back.

VAUSE: Discuss over weekend.

NEWTON: Next on NEWSROOM L.A., South Korea's President is in Washington for a face to face summit with Mr. Trump both leaders agree North Korea needs to reign in but has some very views on how to do it.

VAUSE: Also the U.S. making other of to target North Korea's money, we'll explain why Washington is going after a Chinese bank.


VAUSE: South Korea's President has held his first meeting with Donald Trump with the threat from North Korea topping the agenda. The two leaders have different ideas on how to respond to Pyongyang nuclear weapons and missile program; they may also differ on which country should actually take the lead in how to deal with the North. CNN's Paula Hancocks is live Seoul with more on this, so Paula the South Korean President actually seems quite optimistic that they can be a resolution to North Korea's nuclear and missile program. Now that Donald Trump is in the White House.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well that's right, were having some information given to us from the South Korean side, we're being told that the discussion between President Moon and President Trump was an honest and earnest conversation. They also admit that there was they say a rather tense atmosphere at the beginning but then as the conversation progress it became rather more friendly.

We also have that for one senior agent that the Presidential office saying that previous U.S. Presidents have talked about North Korea being the most important issue but haven't taken any real action adding that we agree with the President Trump's view that diplomacy must be based on strong power.

So certainly the message we're hearing from the South Korean side is the men agreed on what they wanted to do, we know that they have the same goal denuclearization that of North Korea but as you say they do have some very different views on how to get there but certainly the South Korean side is trying to push the message that there was agreement, that there could be potential hurt for these two countries and two men to work very well together in the future, John.

[01:21:04] VAUSE: And after the meeting President Trump tweeted, "Just finished a very good meeting with the President of South Korea, many subjects discussed including North Korea and new trade deals". So Paula, what would a new trade deal look like?

HANCOCKS: I have absolutely no idea, this is exactly what --

VAUSE: Paula Hancocks live in Seoul.

HANCOCKS: Everyone is here, everyone re-tweeted that, with question marks. The fact is there is a trade deal between the U.S. and South Korea it's called the free trade agreement Donald Trump has said in the past he doesn't like that FTA he doesn't think it's beneficial to the United States and he wants to renegotiate it. But then just after the first meeting to tweet there's a new trade deal, there are many questions is to what that will look like certainly the fact Koreans side does not want it to be renegotiated, you have President Moon just a day ago announcing that there's going to be some $12.5 billion invested into the United States over the next five years by Korean companies. Obviously hoping to try and head off some kind of renegotiation but we simply don't know what that new trade deal looks like.

VAUSE: Another head scratcher of a tweaks around the U.S. President, thanks Paula, Paula Hancocks live from Seoul.

NEWTON: Now, China is making it clearer to the United States closer ties to Taiwan will only undermined their relation and that's after Washington agreed with huge arms deal with Taipei which Taiwanese officials are calling fundamental to maintaining.

VAUSE: This is what we know so far cost $1.4 billion the U.S. tells CNN it will include advance missiles and torpedo's, the deal will also provide technical support from early warning radar system but U.S. officials say this doesn't change their stand on the one child policy.

NEWTON: The U.S. Treasury Department is a taking a firm stand against entities in China for their alleged support of North Korea. Now on Thursday the U.S. announced it is severing ties with China's Bank of Dandong for allegedly enabling illicit North Korean financial activity. Treasury Department also slapped sanctions on two Chinese individuals and one Chinese company saying nobody is off limits when it comes to aiding North Korea. Joining me now is Anthony he is a Senior Dellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and I thank you for joining us, you know, this is not exactly that this took people by surprise but what is different in this move is the fact that the sanctions are against Chinese entities, do you see this as a incremental move or as a game changer?

ANTHONY RUGGIERO, SENIOR FELLOW FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: Well I think it's definitely a game changer over the last 10 years the United States has told China that's it's going to hack against its banks, companies and individuals that are helping North Korea's sanction of Asian and today the Trump administration move against them. I think the Chinese assumed that the Trump administration would not do it; I mean the previous two Presidents did not do it against China and especially the bank the action against the bank is very significant.

NEWTON: And in terms of characterizing this bank in any world it could have, how significant will it be some people have argued that look these are incremental moves and it really won't have an impact on North Korea what so ever.

RUGGIERO: Well the thing is that the Trump administration said that a Chinese bank is a money launderer for North Korea that is not something that we've done before even of Iran sanctions there was a designation against the Chinese bank but there was not a decision that it was money launderer. The other thing that's clear here too that is important to point out is that U.S. banks are responsible for whether Chinese banks are using American accounts for North Korea. So I suspect that American bank are going to start calling up the big Chinese banks and say, you now our problem on their hands, how are you fixing this?

NEWTON: Yes, and that will be an interesting pressure point especially there are Chinese businesses as you say, you know, went out of his way to say, look, we are no way targeting China but if you look at the back story here is that true?

[01:25:15] RUGGIERO: I mean there's only a Chinese entity that, you know, entities and individuals in this action it's directed in China and it should be directed in China. I mean China is the one who is heading North Korea's sanctions evasions it's not North - I mean North Korea certainly a responsible here but these are Chinese individuals, these are not innocent people, I mean last September we learned that there was Chinese company and four Chinese individuals that we're taking a 20 percent profit on their transaction.

So they are not doing this for goodness of their heart they're interested in helping North Korean at sanctions evasions, North Korea has a human right abuser and the one who wants to get a nuclear weapon that reach the United States and the Chinese just put their hands off and shrug their shoulders. So this is definitely a direct to the Chinese.

NEWTON: Yes, and more to your point, the U.N. released a report in February was from the panel of experts and I went through it months ago and I was actually shocked at how much evidence the U.N. has put on the table for everyone to see about what was going on there. But Anthony having said that will it make any difference, you know, when I went back to that U.N. panel of experts they told me, we'll we just put the facts on the table it's up to the security council in the U.N. to ask for a response from China, China did not respond to any of those allegations.

RUGGIERO: Right, I mean the U.N. at this point is probably a loss cost, I mean the Chinese will now allow deal when I think you're exactly right. The U.N. panel has said that none North Korean entities and individuals are the ones aiding sanctions evasion but the U.N. is just stocking a mode of just designating and sanctioning North Koreans, but the thing is that the Chinese have to be worried about U.S. sanctions because they want to access to the U.S. dollar. And I think you're right this is one stop the Trump administration is likely going to have to move to the next level which is going to be medium size Chinese bank if the Chinese decide not to act.

NEWTON: That's interesting Anthony and last words here on this, how much of an impact do you really expected to have or will it be so incremental but it still won't be as effective as it should be?

RUGGIERO: Well I think, I mean that's the question on whether this regime is ready to give up its nuclear weapons for ram. But I think there's a chance that this action could snowball in a positive way and get Chinese banks acting against North Korea before the Chinese leadership is ready to do that.

NEWTON: Yes, and we shall see in the coming months and I'm sure that the Treasury Department has other moves in their back pocket, that their waiting use if they get the green light. Anthony thanks so much really appreciate it.

RUGGIERO: Thank you.

VAUSE: Well a top Democrat in the U.S. Senate confirms President Trump is being investigated for possible obstruction of justice, details next here on NEWSROOM L.A..

NEWTON: Plus, we'll see what's behind Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's tiff with the White House.


[01:30:25] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for staying with us, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.


The headlines this hour.


VAUSE: And new developments into the Russian involvement in last year's U.S. elections. Sources tell CNN the House Intel Committee plans to interview Susan Rice, former President Obama's national security adviser.

NEWTON: Meantime, the Senate Intel Committee it wants to know if there were ties between Trump officials and Russia.

Our Pamela Brown has more.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The investigation into Russian election meddling is ramping up as congressional committees expand their scrutiny.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is analyzing financial data from the Treasury Department to determine any potential financial ties between Trump associates and Russia.

SEN. RICHARD BURR, (R-NC), CHAIRMAN, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It's one of the areas that we've now received two batches of information from Treasury. We may make more requests. We're just starting that review.

BROWN: The committee chairman, Senator Richard Burr, tells CNN he feels confident the committee will eventually be given access to the memos James Comey wrote after his meetings with President Trump. And he claims that their investigation is quite a bit ahead of the special counsel criminal probe led by Robert Mueller.

BURR: We've been in an active investigation for about four and a half months. We're making tremendous progress. We've interviewed well over -- we've had over 40 interviews. And we continue very privately to make progress.

BROWN: Meanwhile, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee told CNN today, lawmakers on her committee are examining potential obstruction of justice surrounding the president's firing of Comey.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: This is meant to be an investigation that's within our jurisdiction, having to do with possible obfuscation of justice or obstruction of justice, and looking at Comey's memos and what he said and whether events were truthfully related to the public. I think that's very important.

BROWN: She is also asking the president's son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, about his security clearance form. After he initially failed to disclose multiple meetings with Russian officials and other foreign contacts.

FEINSTEIN: What was the reason that the security form was not addressed correctly. And I'm not going to say what reasons are. We want to know what his reason is for making that error. Because it's a substantial error.

BROWN: Top Republicans on the same committee, Chairman Chuck Grassley and Senator Lindsey Graham, also want to know if any Trump associates were under surveillance by the FBI as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election. In a letter to the deputy attorney general and the acting director of the FBI, they asked the bureau to hand over all, quote, "proposed FISA applications that the FBI and Justice Department submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court," as well as the court's responses to those applications.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I want to know, was there ever a warrant issued against anybody in the Trump world. Was there probable cause found by a judge that would allow a warrant to be issued? And if that person was surveilled, did anything come of it?

BROWN (voice-over): Meanwhile, sources tell CNN that Dan Levin, the former chief of staff to special counsel, Robert Mueller, who is currently investigating possible collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia, is in talks to join President Trump's legal team.

Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.


[01:35:08] VAUSE: U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is apparently becoming increasingly frustrated at the White House, to say the least.

NEWTON: America's top diplomat may or may not want to make peace with the White House after a tense meeting with top aides of the president.

Our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, has more from the State Department.


ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, Rex Tillerson's frustration with the White House out in the open. The secretary of state coming to blows with President Trump's aides over the process of filling dozens of key vacancies at the State Department.


LABOTT: In a meeting, first reported by "Politico," Tillerson made clear to Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Johnny DeStefano, the head of presidential personnel, and Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior advisor, he wants to pick his own staff. White House aides described the discussion as intense and

uncomfortable, blaming Tillerson for the gridlock.

A Tillerson aide told CNN, quote, "The secretary is working on a process of evaluating people on merit. He wants to put forward the best candidate for the job. The desire for political patronage does not overcome a lack of confidence."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have this tradition in Washington of, let's just bring in our tribe, and our tribe will run things. First of all, almost none of these guys have a tribe. Tillerson certainly doesn't have a State Department tribe. So he, in a sense, is building his tribe. And like a lot of really good professionals, I think there's an effort to, let's make sure that we get the right people in here.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You really have had a tremendous life, heading up one of the great companies of the world and doing it magnificently.

LABOTT: The president hired the former ExxonMobil CEO for his global deal-making skills. But America's top diplomat doesn't enjoy the same autonomy. Case in point, while Tillerson tries to mediate a dispute between Qatar and other gulf countries, President Trump has openly sided with Saudi Arabia.

TRUMP: The nation of Qatar, unfortunately, has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level.

LABOTT: Trump has also taken much of Mideast peace process, including the peace process, off Tillerson plate, giving it to Kushner instead.

TRUMP: If you can't produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can.


LABOTT: And as Tillerson seeks to re-organize his State Department, the White House has forced him to make major cuts, slashing a whopping 30 percent in his budget, shocking lawmakers who called the proposal a waste of time.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), ARIZONA: My reaction is, it's probably dead on arrival.

LABOTT: Former Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken, now a CNN global affairs analyst, said the end result is a weakened State Department unable to shape and execute foreign policy.

TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: If you look at two things, one, the budget, and show me the money, and I'll tell you what your priorities are. Clearly, the State Department is not their priority. Second, personnel. You've got to have the people to run the place. In the absence of both, the State Department plays a diminished role.

LABOTT (on camera): Administration officials say President Trump's loyalty test is also slowing down the nominations process across the government. The president is ruling out many candidates who criticized him during the campaign.

Tillerson aides say confirmation of a deputy, John Sullivan, has sped up nominations at the State Department. And that is a result of the White House meeting. Everyone's, concerns are out in the open, and they expect the process to run smoother.

Elise Labott, CNN, Washington.


VAUSE: Rex Tillerson made it pretty clear, in one of his first interviews as secretary of state, he said he was less than thrilled with the job. Telling the independent "Journal Review" in March, I didn't want this job. I didn't seek this job. My wife told me I'm supposed to do this. And when he told his wife, the president offered him secretary of state, she said, I told you, God's not through with you.

In just a few months on the job, and Tillerson has been derided as the least influential secretary of state in modern memory, who is continually being undermined by the White House.

CNN political commentator, Jen Psaki, is a former spokesperson at the State Department. She joins us now from Washington.

Jen, good to see you.


VAUSE: The general feeling out there is that Tillerson only has himself to blame for all this. He knew what he was getting into when he signed up to work with Donald Trump.

PSAKI: There's an element of truth to that. The commander-in-chief is your boss when you're the secretary of state. And you are signing on to represent their viewpoints around the world. So it wasn't a secret what he was getting into. It has been reported that he had asked President Trump to be able to name his own staff and Trump had said no, and they were having a back and forth about that. And that has been playing out over the last few weeks.

NEWTON: That very question, why so many senior positions remain open, came up at the White House briefing on Thursday. Is it an issue of simply recruiting the right people for the right job? Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders pushed back and she blamed Democrats. Listen to this.


[01:40:05] SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Due to the historic obstruction, it's taking much longer than normal to get a lot of those nominees through. And frankly, a lot of the people that are part of that process, one of the number-one reasons we've had people take a step back, is because that process is so lengthy.


VAUSE: Is there any truth in that? Can Democrats share some of the blame for this?

PSAKI: Well, it's hard to confirm someone or have a hearing if there's no one who has been nominated. There are key positions in the State Department, across the government, that are not filled. Some that really stick out to me are the assistant secretary positions that are responsible for regional bureaus in the State Department. Those are the individuals who are high-level diplomats, often people with 20 years, 30 years of experience, who are representing the United States to regions of the world. They have not nominated individuals for the vast majority of those positions.

So, no, it's hard to confirm positions when nobody has been put forward. I know that's an easy tactic to lean into. But clearly there's an issue with finding the right people, nominating them, and getting that process going. And it's very slow right now.

VAUSE: And there's a whole lot of other positions further down, which don't need any kind of approval, right?

PSAKI: That's true.

VAUSE: It's just finding the person and putting them in there.


VAUSE: OK. Max Bergman worked at the State Department for a number of years. He has a blistering piece in "Politico," accusing Tillerson of deliberately gutting the place, gutting the entire State Department. This is part of what he wrote: "What we now know is that the building is being run by a tiny clique of ideologues who know nothing about the department but have insulated themselves from the people who do. Tillerson and his isolated and inexperienced cadres are going about re-organizing the department based on little more than gut feeling. They're going about it with vigor."

Have you heard anything similar to that from people who are still there at the State Department? And if it's true, what's the end result here for American diplomacy and soft power?

PSAKI: Yes, I have, to give you a quick and simple answer. The common phrase I hear or complaint I hear from people who still work at the State Department is, they're bored, and they have no idea what they should be doing. That shouldn't be the case at the State Department of the United States of America. I've also heard that people seem undermined. When I went to work at the State Department, I learned quite a bit from career employees, foreign service officials, who had been in the government or had been working as public servants for 10, 20, 30 years, serving all around the world. And there doesn't seem it be a respect for that at this point.

One last piece that I think is very concerning for the future is there's no A-100 class this year. What that means is there's no class of new diplomats being brought in, who are young, in their 20s, maybe early 30s, applying to be in the foreign service. That means they're cutting off the pipeline for years to come. That happened once for 18 months back in the '90s. It took several years to recover. And it means the State Department could be behind in staffing and people at senior levels 25 years from now.

VAUSE: So this has long-term ramifications, not just for the next couple of years?

PSAKI: It certainly could.


PSAKI: It certainly could. And that, I think, is a piece that's very concerning.

VAUSE: Jen, thanks. Good to speak with you. Thanks for the insight.

PSAKI: Good to speak with you as well.

NEWTON: Sobering on so many levels.

VAUSE: Yes. There's a theory out there that clearly the State Department is in the firing line for Donald Trump. They don't see its value. A lot of lawmakers are pushing back, a lot of Republicans are pushing back, saying the State Department is crucial. But we'll see who wins.

NEWTON: Buckle up.

California high schoolers learn to spot and fight human trafficking. Just ahead, why students are the ones teaching the classes.


[01:46:20] VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. Now to CNN's "Freedom Project" and the battle to end modern-day slavery.

NEWTON: Human trafficking is not unique to big cities. We've shown you that many times here on CNN. The problem affects rural communities as well.

CNN's Lynda Kinkade reports on one town determined to do something about it.


LYNDA KINKADE, CNN CORRESPODNENT (voice-over): As the morning sun peeks from the clouds, at Eureka High School in northern California --


KINKADE: -- Senior Sophie Allen starts the lesson.

SOPHIE ALLEN, STUDENT: I'm going to read a statement and you're going to say if it's true or false. KINKADE: While it might seem unusual for a student to be teaching,

the subject of this particular class lesson is even more extraordinary.

ALLEN: There are more slaves present in the world right now than any time in history.

KINKADE: In February 2017, lawmakers in the state of California voted to require public schools teach students in grades seven through 12 about human trafficking. According to the bill's sponsors, California has the highest number of reported human trafficking cases in the United States, and 75 percent involve sex trafficking.

ALLEN: Very few people are actually physically kidnapped, right? Most of them are manipulated or given false promises by a trafficker and then find themselves in a situation where they can't leave.

KINKADE: Eureka is the first public high school in California to incorporate the Prevention Project. The anti-trafficking curriculum focuses on empowering students to take action, raising awareness through projects they come up with themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: I didn't know it happened here. I thought it was in other countries. I didn't know it was here, where I lived.

KINKADE: Principal Jennifer Johnson says this class also allows students to speak openly with their peers about issues like self- esteem and manipulation.

JENNIFER JOHNSON PRINCIPAL, EUREKA HIGHS SCHOOL: Students aren't feeling comfortable talking to an adult, to have a student be in that role as a lead is phenomenal. And to have the freshmen take on the seriousness of the project and really understand that.

KINKADE: Beginning in 2017, a separate anti-trafficking curriculum created by the group Protect, will be taught in 35 rural California counties and San Diego, with the goal of reaching more than 300,000 school students and teachers.

Humboldt County supervisor, Rex Boing, said it's a small step for small communities to begin protecting their own.

REX BOING, HUMBOLDT COUNTY SUPERVISOR: We educate the educators, besides educating the children, so they can see the signs of people that may be being trafficked.

KINKADE: When it comes to human trafficking, no community is immune. And everyone can benefit a lot just by learning a little.

Lynda Kinkade, CNN.


NEWTON: You can find out more about ending modern-day slavery. Log on to our Web page, And you can see all our latest reporting and find out how you can help. [01:49:29] VAUSE: Endangered elephants are on the move in Africa.

Drugged, lifted by cranes, and getting a new home. We'll tell you why, next on NEWSROOM L.A.


NEWTON: He was armed with only a baton but confronted three attackers with knives head on.

VAUSE: He's the London police officer who was widely praised for his bravery during the terror attacks earlier this month.

But now, as Phil Black reports, we know a lot more about his heroic actions that night.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After Police Officer Wayne Marks was injured fighting three men with knives on London Bridge, he released a statement, saying he was just doing his job. We now know how extraordinary that job was. Marks has recovered enough to describe the moment he realized something wasn't right on June 3rd. He heard screaming, saw a woman running and a man falling down. As he noticed a man with a knife, Marks said he reached for his baton. And this is what happened next.


OFC. WAYNE MARKS, LONDON METROPOLITICAN POLICE: I took a deep breath and I charged him. I charged at him and I swang as hard as I could. I was planning to take his head off in one go, just put him down straight away. He looks and he sees me coming at the last second, and he managed to get a hand up. Then while I'm fighting the first one, I get a massive whack to the right side of my head. It felt like a metal bar at first. Only afterwards, I realized it was a knife.


BLACK: Marks said that blow to his head instantly shut down his vision in his right eye. It just went dark. And he then found himself fighting off all three attackers. With his head bleeding, he also suffered a long, deep stab wound to his left hip. He said a finger was sliced in two.

As he realized he was badly hurt, he said he swung his baton wildly at all three, thinking repeatedly, don't go down. The fight became a stand-off, and just as Marks thought the men were about to rush him, he says they ran away. Just minutes later, those men were shot dead by armed police officers, and Wayne Marks lost consciousness.

The police officer said his only goal that night was to keep people alive, and he often thinks about the eight people who didn't survive.

Phil Black, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE) NEWTON: Now to a bold and high-risk idea in conservation. Elephant populations have been decimated all around Africa.

VAUSE: A group in Malawi is hoping to revive the herds by re-locating hundreds of elephants, all at the same time.

And CNN's David McKenzie was given exclusive access to the operation.





MCKENZIE: Capture teams at the ready.

This is conversation on its conservation on its absolute largest scale, translocation.


MCKENZIE: Not just a single elephant, entire herds darting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to take the group right from the oldest matriarch down to the smallest baby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here she comes. Hold on.

MCKENZIE: For the continent's most iconic species, the stakes couldn't be higher.

UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: Look here on the left, a large herd of elephants. This is how they should be. They're in their natural habitat.

MCKENZIE: Tens of thousands lost each year.

(on camera): There are maybe 20 elephants in a herd over there. They've been so successful in this park in protecting the elephants, that there's too many here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Humans and elephants are competing for space. Humans are poaching elephants for the ivory. The idealistic view of Africa as this vast, open landscape where animals can move freely from point A to point B, that doesn't exist anymore.

[01:55:07] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll take it straight down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can now link effectively managed protected areas across Africa, moving elephants from areas where management has been successful, into areas where elephants have been depleted. And what we're doing here now demonstrates that scale is not a limitation.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): But the operation isn't without risk. (SHOUTING)

MCKENZIE: An adolescent stops breathing.

Every time an elephant goes down, its massive weight becomes a danger to itself.

This is just one of 500 elephants they hope to move. But with the very survival of the species at stake, each one is precious.

(on camera): You were doing everything you can to try and revive that animal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We tried to resuscitate the animal for 10 or 15 minutes. After 10 or 15 minutes, it was just too late.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): They're pioneering new methods to lessen the danger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're trying to keep the stress on the animals as low as possible. Wake them up as quickly as possible. It reduces the time, reduces the risk.

MCKENZIE: The epic journey north starts the same day too. It will be repeated several times over the next six weeks for each new herd.

What do you see over there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's an elephant in there. We brought in six elephants in here last night.

MCKENZIE: There used to be 1,500 elephants. Poachers slaughtered all but 70. But as the gate opens for the new arrivals, Sam Kamato (ph) is confident.

(on camera): Is the future bright for elephants in Malawi?

SAM KAMATO (ph), TEAM MOVING ELEPHANTS: The future looks bright. These animals have traveled a long distance and finally they are going out into, sort of, freedom. There's hope now we can save the species.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): His team has secured the park for this very moment, its rebirth.

David McKenzie, CNN, Malawi.


VAUSE: That's a great story by David and it's a great program. What a tragedy it's come to that.

NEWTON: And all over the continent. I mean, really.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Paula Newton.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause.

Stay with us. A lot more news after a very short break.


[02:00:09] NEWTON: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles.

VAUSE: Ahead this hour --