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Mogadishu Bombing Kill At Least 230 People; Powerful Storm Heads Toward Ireland; Tension Growing In Iraq; U.S. And South Korea Conduct Joint Naval Drills; Austria Moves Toward The Far-Right; Harvey Weinstein Scandal Grows

Aired October 16, 2017 - 01:00   ET


[01:00:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of questions surrounding who's responsible for two explosions that rocked a popular area in the heart of Somalia's capital. And Ireland's about to encounter rare force-hurricane strength wind. Plus, Iraqi military forces are approaching the Kurdish-controlled city, Kirkuk. We have more on what the prime minister is saying about why the military is moving in. Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church, and this is CNN NEWSROOM.

Somalia's capital has endured decades of violence, but officials say, Saturday's terror attacks in Mogadishu are the deadliest the country has seen in years. The twin truck bombings left at least 230 people dead and hundreds more wounded. No one has claimed responsibility. CNN's Farai Sevenzo has the latest now on what happened, and a warning: some of these images are graphic.


FARAI SEVENZO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A massive truck bomb went open the heart of Mogadishu's downtown, K-5 Junction on Saturday, shortly after 3:00 p.m. Somali security forces say they had been tracking the vehicle when it exploded, killing more than 200 people as they went about the weekend. Ten minutes later, a second truck bomb exploded. But it was the force of the first blast that had the deadliest effect. People on buses, pedestrians, and many others at a nearby mall were killed. Buildings within the scope of the blast were completely destroyed, including the Safari Hotel, and the concern now is for the missing and whether the frantic rescue efforts will reach them on time.

In the aftermath of the explosion, flames continue to burn as Mogadishu residents witness this latest devastation to their troubled city. The attack was the hallmark of suicide bombers, which have been regular occurrences here since the Islamic insurgency began in Somalia a decade ago. As the day set on a tragic Saturday, it became apparent that this was the worst bomb blast to hit the Somali capital in scale and loss of life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened yesterday was incredible. I've never seen such a thing before, and the death toll is uncountable. Corpses were burned and no one could recognize them.

SEVENZO: A new government led by President Mohamed Abdullahi Parmajo since elections back in February say they've been taking the fight to terrorism with the help of African Union troops and U.S. Drone Strikes. The Somali president called for three days of national mourning as Somalis rush to hospitals to donate blood for the injured. Mogadishu's hospitals are now full of critically injured people, many who have lost limbs and others who are badly burned. Terrorism in this East African country is far from over. Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, still firmly on the frontline. Farai Sevenzo, CNN.


CHURCH: We want to turn now to Iraq, and two allies in the war against ISIS may be headed to a conflict of their own. Iraqi troops have neared the city of Kirkuk in a growing standoff with the Kurds. Tensions have mounted since a Kurdish independence vote last month. Iraq's prime minister says he wants his forces to impose security in the city. He tweeted that he reiterates the priority of the Iraqi forces to protect the people of Kirkuk and calls on citizens to cooperate with them. The Kurds have reinforced Kirkuk with their own troops and say they are ready to repel any attack. A Kurdish official says, he hopes it won't come to that.


NECHIRVAN BARZANI, KURDISH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We are ready to start a dialogue with Baghdad to solve problems between us, and we reject the use of weapons. According to the Iraqi constitution, weapons cannot be used a means to solve internal problems. We hope that weapons would not be used in any areas including in Kirkuk.


CHURCH: For more, our Military Analyst, Lt. Col. Rick Francona, joins me now from Port Orford in Oregon. Always great to talk with you, Colonel. So, we see here that Iraq's Prime Minister Abadi has given orders to his forces to impose security in the northern city of Kirkuk, though, they're not yet in that city. And then, we hear the Kurds are preparing to repel any attack. What's your reading of what's happening here militarily, do you think?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes. This is a really dangerous situation. And when a body says he's trying to impose security, what he says -- what he means is he's trying to impose control. Kirkuk has always been a tinderbox, it's always been a source of friction between the Kurds and the Iraqi Arabs. The Kurds believe this to be a Kurdish City. Over half the residents are Kurdish, that true. But it's not in the area that's been designated part of the Kurdish Autonomous Region.

[01:05:23] In 2014 when ISIS was making its sweep across Northern Iraq, the Kurds moved into Kirkuk to protect it and defend it. Now, they're there, they don't want to give it back. They believe it should be part of the autonomous region. And that was fine, as long as the Iraqis needed the Kurds to do some of the fightings for them. They were instrumental in the retaking of many parts of Northern Iraq but that's over. The ISIS is almost defeated in Iraq. The Kurds are no longer than necessary to Iraqi's military efforts, so

the Iraqis want to reimpose control over the areas they believe to be part of the federal area. So, that's what we're seeing. And we're seeing the Kurds resist that. Now, talking about the use of weapons, nobody wants it to come to that. I know the Americans are also talking to both sides, you know, trying to ratchet this down. We don't need a confrontation between two Iraqi forces.

CHURCH: Yes, you mentioned that. And the Iraq's Kurdish Regional Prime Minister says he rejects the use of weapons and he points out that Iraq's constitution states the weapons can't be used as a means to solve internal problems like this. So, what impact will that have on the outcome here, do you think? And what will be the ramifications if weapons are used?

FRANCONA: You know, well, if weapons are used, then this creates a conflagration in Northern Iraq that we don't need. You know, there's a long history of confrontations between the Kurds and the Iraqi government, but that was the Sunni government of Saddam Hussein. The Shia don't have that same desire to fight the Kurds; they were both repressed under Saddam Hussein. So, they have a common ground there. I think that Abadi and Barzani are going to -- that's the, you know, Kurdish president, they're going to sit down and come up with some way where they can come up with a compromise they can both live with.

But in the end, and I hate to say this, but in the end, Kirkuk is not part of the Kurdish Autonomous Region. And I think the Kurds are probably going to be fighting a losing battle here. They really can't stand up to the Iraqi army. They don't have the force to do it. And like I said, no one, not the Americans, the Kurds, nor the Iraqis want to see another war in Northern Iraq.

CHURCH: Understandably. And of course, Iraq's Kurdish regional prime minister is also calling for dialogue with Baghdad. How likely is it that that will happen? Have they gone beyond that? And of course, is this a distraction? Because they are supposed to be fighting together against ISIS.

FRANCONA: Well, you know, the fight against ISIS, ISIS is all but defeated. The Iraqis are quite capable of removing what's left of ISIS up in the Euphrates Valley on their own; they really don't need the Kurds. Barzani's call for dialogue indicates that they really don't want to fight and they know they can't fight. The Kurds are very pragmatic people. They know they've lived under the thumb of Baghdad for decades, they know what the Iraqis are capable of. They do not want to get into a shooting war that they can't win; they're smart enough to know that. So, Barzani, who is a pretty skilled negotiator -- I've dealt with him in the past. And he'll probably come up with something that they can live with.

CHURCH: Rick Francona, we always appreciate your analysis and your perspective on these matters. Thanks so much. And still, in the subject of ISIS, we turn from Iraq to neighboring Syria. And ISIS appears close to losing all of its de facto capital, Raqqa. The U.S.- back Syrian Democratic forces say, 90 percent of the city has been freed. There are reportedly only a few hundred ISIS militants left in the city. This, after a deal was reached to let some of the terrorists leave with their families. The U.S.-led coalition says it will try to protect civilians as the fighting rages on.

Well, the U.S. secretary of state maintains diplomacy. It is President Donald Trump's preferred method to address the North Korea threat. Rex Tillerson told CNN, the president is not seeking to go to war and his statements have been an effort to motivate action.


REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I think he does want to be clear with Kim Jong-un, and that regime in North Korea, that he has military preparations ready to go and he has those military options on the table, and we have spent substantial time actually perfecting those. But be clear, the president has also made clear to me that he wants this solved diplomatically, he's not seeking to go to war. He has made it clear to me to continue my diplomatic efforts, which we are. And we will continue -- as I told, those diplomatic efforts will continue until the first bomb drops.


CHURCH: And amid the heightened tensions, Washington and Seoul are conducting ten days of naval drills in waters east and west of the South Korea. Alexandra Field is in Seoul; she joins us now live with the very latest. So, Alexandra, as we discussed last hour, North Korea does view these joint exercises as a rehearsal for war and the drills usually lifted a response from North Korea. So, how is Pyongyang expected to react this time around?

[01:10:15] ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they see the drills often as a provocation and they usually respond to provocations with yet another provocation. In this case, what we're seeing, even in advance of the drills was some strong rhetoric from North Korea. Of course, we're used to seeing that. These drills have kicked off today; it's ten days of exercises between both the U.S. and South Korea. These involve some 40 different naval vessels. There's a U.S. carrier strike group there. There are guided missile destroyers there. North Korea sees these as "high-intensity drills."

Even before the drills started, Rosemary, they revived the threat that they first leveled against the U.S. earlier this summer, when they said that they have the capability to send four missiles into the waters around the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam. It's one of the most severe threats that North Korea leveled against the U.S. It's something that we have heard from them repeatedly. Once again, you've got state news in North Korea pointing the finger at the U.S., saying that they have raised the level of tension on the Peninsula that they have given rise to the escalated situation here, that they are the ones squarely to blame.

And they point that finger very directly at U.S. President Donald Trump. They say that he has pushed the region to the brink of war. Again, this is the kind of rhetoric that we are used to hearing from North Korea; it's something that they repeat quite often. But it is the presence of these drills that do infuriate them. Again, the position of Pyongyang, the position of the regime is that these drills represent a preparation for invasion. The U.S. and South Korea say that these drills are particularly essential given the heightened tension in the region as a means of preparing to respond to further provocation from North Korea. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Alexandra, as we just heard, U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, did say on Sunday: the diplomatic efforts with North Korea would continue until the first bomb drops. But President Trump has previously said that diplomacy was a waste of time. So, what is being made of this discrepancy in Seoul?

FIELD: Right. We talk about the discrepancy a lot. It can seem dizzying because you have the president who's often sending out these very cryptic messages, saying that only one thing will work and suggest that perhaps that is not diplomacy. You did have the secretary of state right here on CNN trying to clarify that message saying it is the goal of the administration to reach a diplomatic solution, but that it's important to continue to show Pyongyang that these military options are available.

Look, if there's anyone who does not want to see any kind of military option used, we can't see enough that it is Seoul, that it is South Korea. They're the ones who are most directly in the line of danger should North Korea retaliate to any kind of provocation or any perceived provocation from the U.S. And we've said for months now, it's the fear of a miscalculation that raises the most concern here in South Korea.

What we do know from the South Korean side is that they continue to reaffirm the strength of the alliance. They continue to participate in these shared training exercises with the U.S. military, they believe that that's the strongest message that they can send to North Korea in order to counter further provocations. Not just these naval drills, but, of course, it was just about a week ago, Rosemary, when the U.S. sent those B-1 Big Bombers over the peninsula, and they also participated in various exercises with both the South Korean and the Japanese military at that time.

So, look, the position of South Korea has always been to push for a diplomatic solution. At the same, you've got a president who came to office back in May, advocating for more dialogue with North Korea, that was a new approach from the new administration. A marked departure from the conservative administration that proceeded him. But this is a president who's also assessing the reality of the situation here on the ground, which is that tensions are high, and his focus now, really, has been in raising his country's defenses to protect against provocations and the threats that posed by that rapidly developing missile and nuclear program in North Korea. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Yes. And those rising tensions have the international community very concerned along with those mixed messages from the United States. Alexandra Field, joining us there with the live report from Seoul in South Korea where it is nearly 2:15 in the afternoon. Many thanks, as always. Well, Ireland doesn't get storms like this very often. Ophelia is

moving towards the country with hurricane-force winds and rain. And our Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us now with more on this. We spoke about this, actually, just last hour; just how unusual this is and is Ireland preparing for this?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You know, so, the evacuations have been placed in the coastal communities. We know, certainly, power outages are going to be expected with the storm of this magnitude. And Rosemary, it's incredible how weather repeats itself because as you look back the last this occurred, it was 30 years ago today.

We had a -- another tropical system comes through. So, yes, pretty incredible. That was the great storm of 1987. It happened on the 16th of October in 1987. It actually made landfall in Cornwall, Britain with 190-kilometer per hour winds. If this was a hurricane it would be a Category 3 equivalent. So, it kind of talks about the significance of the storm. But again, when you begin to work into cooler waters, you lose that tropical characteristic. So, it can't officially be called a hurricane.

[01:15:02] And you notice, 15 million trees came down, some 22 lives were lost associated with the storm system. That's why there's some concern, especially along the coastal communities. There's the center of the storm, sits there, it was 140-kilometres-per-hour winds. That would be the equivalent to a Category 1 as it approaches places such as Western and Southwestern Ireland. And we think somewhere around the Carey, Cork, Cornwall, and (INAUDIBLE), this region, certainly, going to get impacts with this -- direct impacts, potentially, as early as this afternoon.

And we do have a high impact threat right across much of Ireland with Belfast coming in, with a medium threat. That, of course, on a scale of one to three, putting it in a two for Belfast when it comes to power outage potential, and certainly some delays into this afternoon. There is the center of the storm as we go into the afternoon hours; notice how quickly it moves up into the U.K., into the early morning hours of Tuesday.

Certainly, ferry services across the North Sea could be impacted by a storm of this magnitude, and when you have winds of 150 to 170 kilometers-per-hour at times, that certainly will cause major disruptions for travel -- both on the roadways and also if you're traveling by plane as well. Notice how mild it is: it's up to 22 in London -- well above the average for this time of year.

And if you think it's been busy, it absolutely has. In fact, going on 15 named storms for the season -- that is just above average, Rosemary, in the last 50 days. And last few days, six major hurricanes have formed. It's pretty incredible around here of activity. And now, it's including Western Europe as well.

CHURCH: Unbelievable. Thank you so much. And you've been covering all of them. Many thanks, Pedram. Appreciate it. Well, more women are speaking out against Harvey Weinstein. The

latest sexual abuse allegations against the disgraced movie mogul still to come. Plus:


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're totally impressed, seriously. I mean, we have known that polls have shown that we're going to win this election. But we weren't yet 100 percent sure that he was going to win that high.


CHURCH: An anti-immigrant politician is said to become Austria's next chancellor; he may even form a far-right coalition government. We will have the report from Vienna, that is next.


KATE RILEY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Kate Riley with your CNN WORLD SPORT headlines. On Sunday in China, the Swiss Meister, Roger Federer made it five victories on the bounce against Mallorcan, Rafa Nadal. To continue a sequence that started almost two years ago now here in Shanghai, it was all pretty straightforward for Roger. He went on to win his straight set. In fact, Federer was (INAUDIBLE), comfortably winning at 6-4, 6-3. Nadal, who was wearing a tape just below his right knee here, was recording five-matches winning streak against the 19-time slam on three occasions. Now, the quest has done it against Rafa for the very first time.

Maria Sharapova secured her first title since May 2015 when she won the Italian Open. The Russian who was the tournament wild card was too good for the fellow Russia team, Aryna Sabalenka, on Sunday. And it was her first title since the drug ban, but she had to dig deep. She came from behind to win both sets. She managed to beat Sabalenka in the straight set; it was quite a fight. She was 4-1 down, and then 5-1. Behind in the second, but rallied to win 7-5, 7-6. This was particularly sweet for Sharapova.

[01:20:31] And all eyes were on the (INAUDIBLE), and A.C. Milan went head to head on Sunday into it tried first. The A.C. Milan with level, with the total score in the final moment Inter. Awarded the penalty with the last kick of the match, it was Mauro Icardi, who buries for the win. 3-2 for his hat-trick, the final score. That's a look at all your sports headlines. I'm Kate Riley.

CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Austria is the latest European country to move to the far-right. Sebastian Kurtz is set to become Austria's next chancellor, following Sunday's election. He gave his center-right party a substantial anti-immigrant agenda; he's expected to form Austria's first far-right governing coalition in more than a decade. Our Atika Shubert has more now from Vienna.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you can see here, this has been a tremendous result for Sebastian Kurz and the People's Party. He is now on track to become chancellor here, and he will become the youngest world leader at the of 31.

SEBASTIAN KURZ, CHANCELLOR OF AUSTRIA (through translator): Today is not a day of triumph against others. Toda is our chance to make real changes for this country. Today we have a strong mandate for changing this country, and I thank you for making this possible.


SHUBERT: Now, this is exactly the results that supporters had hoped for. For them, Kurz isn't just a young fresh face, he represents real change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're totally impressed, seriously. I mean, we have known that the polls have shown that we're going to win this election, but we weren't 100 percent sure that he was going to win that high, and we're so happy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Someone told us we should address our education system first, then we should deal with the issue of refugees. And on this, we should change our ways to follow what Mr. Kurz has already done.

SHUBERT: "It's great for the people's party and it's good for the young," this man told us. "The future belongs to the young." Well, we are outside the victory party now. Inside, they are celebrating but the story is not over. The People's Party did not win an outright majority, that means they need to build a coalition.

And the most likely partner at this point is the anti-immigration, anti-Islam Freedom Party. This is a party that is so extreme; the last time they were part of a governing coalition in 2000, the E.U. slapped temporary diplomatic sanctions on Austria. Now, that's not likely to happen this time around, but it means if that coalition does come to be, the country will be taking a hard turn to the right. Atika Shubert, CNN, Vienna.


CHURCH: And earlier, I spoke with Dominic Thomas, he is the Chair of the Department of French and Francophone Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. And I asked him why far-right ideologies are making progress in Austria and across Europe?


DOMINIC THOMAS, CHAIR, FRENCH AND FRANCOPHONE STUDIES UCLA: What we have here is Sebastian Kurz, serving as Foreign Minister for the past four years, just recent, and took over the party, and was able to galvanize the electorate by essentially repackaging the way in which he presented himself. Now, of course, as we're starting to see the voter demographics and so on, it's a bit of the same-old. But he was able to understand that the question of the refugee crisis of immigration and what we may call, not so much populism, but that nativism. The sort of taking care of one's own, taking care of the "real

Europeans," and setting up this binary between the insiders and the outsider, particularly around the question of Islam -- proved to be highly successful here. And if he does enter a coalition with the Freedom Party, the two of them manage essentially on a similar platform to gain about 60 percent of Austria's vote, which really does mark quite a sizeable move towards far-right politics.


CHURCH: The Catalan president is on a deadline -- he has about three hours to clarify whether he is declaring Catalonia independent from Spain. The central government is threatening to suspend the bridge in autonomy if his answer is not clear or if he calls for independence. Now, last week, you would recall, Carles Puidgemont delayed a full and immediate independence declaration, and instead called for talks with Madrid. He had this message on Sunday.


[01:25:07] CARLES PUIGDEMONT, PRESIDENT OF CATALONIA: On behalf of the government and myself, I want to reiterate our commitment to peace, civility, serenity, and also firmness and democracy as the inspiration for the decisions we have to make.


CHURCH: All right. We turn now to another big story we have been watching very closely. More women are coming forward with sexual abuse allegations against one of Hollywood's most powerful Producers, Harvey Weinstein. British Actress Lysette Anthony is one of the newest accusers saying Weinstein raped her in the late 1980s. And she's not the only one in the U.K. to speak out against the disgraced producer in recent days. Another unnamed woman has gone to the police to say Weinstein attacked her as well. Our Brian Stelter has the very latest.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Police in London, confirming they are looking into the second set of allegations against Harvey Weinstein. This coming, two days after the actress Lysette Anthony came forward and said she was assaulted by Weinstein in the 1980s. The way she described it was rape. She spoke with a British newspaper over the weekend, detailing the allegations. So, police in London are looking into Weinstein, and so are police here in New York City.

We know that police here are looking back at past allegations against Weinstein, including a 2004 rape allegation, looking into the possibility of corroborating evidence and possible charges in the future. This comes ten days after The New York Times, and then The New Yorker both published investigations into Weinstein's wrongdoing. His camp has strenuously denied the rape allegations, but he has admitted to other improper behavior. In a statement back ten days ago, he asked for forgiveness, saying he had caused pain in people's lives. We haven't heard anything new from Weinstein over the weekend, though.

Now, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences expelled him from the Academy on Saturday, revoking a lifetime membership in an unprecedented decision. And that's not the only organization shunning Weinstein right now. There are at least two other groups in Hollywood also planning meetings, also planning ways to make a statement against Weinstein. This scandal has been profoundly embarrassing not just for the Weinstein Company, but Hollywood writ large. So, that's why we are seeing these public denunciations.

Meanwhile, there are questions about whether the company can survive or not? Right now, the Weinstein Company has is -- the movie and T.V. studio, it's in a sort of corporate limbo with talk about a possible sale, but also attempts to move forward and keep its projects on the air and in the theatres. That's going to be very hard to do, however. This has been a stain on the company's reputation, and, of course, personally for Harvey Weinstein -- an incredible fall from grace. But what's most important here are the accusers; the dozens of women who say that Weinstein assaulted them or harassed them.

We continue to see new stories published on a daily basis, new women feeling the courage to come forward and speak out about what happened in the past. Back to you.


[01:28:01] CHURCH: Thanks to you, Brian. We'll take a short break here. But still to come, all eyes on President Trump on how he plans to handle the Iran nuclear deal. We will look at what other world leaders would like to see him do. We're back in a moment.


[01:31:43] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everyone. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Rosemary Church. Want to check the headlines for you this hour.

At least 276 people have been killed in twin truck bombings in Mogadishu. The explosions happen within minutes of each other on Saturday. No one has claimed responsibility. Mogadishu has endured violent attacks for years. Terrorists tied to al Qaeda have carried out past bombings in the city.

British Prime Minister Theresa May will be in Brussels on Monday to meet with the European Union's chief Brexit negotiator. The meeting comes after EU official said last week the latest negotiations with deadlocked over money.

Austrian politics moving toward the far right again. Sebastian Kurtz is set to become the country's next chancellor. Kurtz campaigned on anti-immigration promises. He's expected to form Austria's first far- right governing coalition in more than a decade.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the U.S. is trying to stay in the Iran nuclear deal, though it needs serious revisions. Now this comes after Present Donald Trump threatened to pull the U.S. out of the agreement on Friday. He says Iran is violating the terms and mistreating the U.S.

As world leaders watched how the U.S. handles the Iran deal they are responding largely with the same plea, don't take diplomacy or the had-fought structure of the deal off the table. French President Emmanuel Macron is urging the U.S. to keep the lines of communication open.


PRES. EMMANUEL MACRON, FRANCE (through translator): If he wants to toughen up with Iran that is what he declared on Friday. I told him that it was, in my opinion, a bad way of doing things because we have to look at Korea. We broke off talks with Korea. What is the outcome? We are waking up some years later with a Korea that is about to have a nuclear weapon.


CHURCH: But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose country has long face threats from Iran, is praising President Trump's hardlined rhetoric.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: The president was very courageous in saying I'm not going to kick this can down the road. I'm not going to say, well, it's going to be on somebody else's watch. We can't allow this rogue regime 30 times the size of North Korea's economy to have a nuclear arsenal. It's a very brave decision and I think it's the right decision for the world.


CHURCH: And even during a weekend spent at the golf course, Iran was high on President Trump's agenda as his top advisers spend time addressing the issue.

Our Ryan Nobles has more.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It was the job of several key members of the Trump administration to spend their Sunday pitching the president's plan when it comes to Iran, and among them Secretary of State Tillerson who suggested that despite the president's strong rhetoric when it comes to the Iran agreement that the ultimate goal of the administration is to toughen the agreement up but keep it in place.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Not long ago your counterpart at the Pentagon, Secretary Mattis, was asked if he thought staying in the agreement was in the best interest of the United States, not a question about whether or not he wanted to improve upon the deal or add a secondary deal as you just discussed, but whether or not the U.S. should stay in it or leave. And he said staying in it was his course.

It sounds like you agree with that as well that you would not want Congress to immediately impose sanctions that would end this deal?

[01:35:03] REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I do agree with that. And I think the president does as well, that's why he took the decision he took that look, let's see if we cannot address the flaws in the agreement by staying within the agreement, working with the other signatories, working with our European friends and allies within the agreement.


NOBLES: In that lengthy interview with CNN's Jake Tapper on "STATE OF THE UNION" Tillerson also refused to say whether or not he called the president a moron, despite being asked about it several times by Tapper.

Now this comes as the president attempts to repair his relationship with members of the Republican Senate. He spent both Saturday and Sunday on the golf course with two key Republican senators. On Saturday it was South Carolina's Lindsey Graham and on Sunday it was Rand Paul of Kentucky, both of them important players when it comes to passing big-ticket items like tax reform and health care, but there's no player more important than the Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and on Monday the president will welcome him to the White House for an in-depth conversation on their legislative goals.

This after the present held a phone call with McConnell over the weekend.

Ryan Nobles, CNN, at the White House.


CHURCH: Joining me now is CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer. He's also the author of "The Fierce Urgency of Now" and is an historian and professor at Princeton University.

Always great to have you on the show. Thanks for being here.


CHURCH: So let's start by listening to an interview that CNN's Jake Tapper did with the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and then we'll talk about it.


TAPPER: Is it true? Did you call him a moron?

TILLERSON: Jake, as I indicated earlier, I was asked about that. I'm not going to deal with that kind of petty stuff. I mean, this is a town that seems to relish gossip, rumor, innuendo and they feed on it. They feed on one another in a very destructive way. I don't work that way. I don't deal that way. And I'm just not going

to dignify the question. I call the president Mr. President. He and I have a very, very open, frank and candid relationship. I see him often. Speak to him nearly every day. I'm in the Oval Office a number of hours every week.

TAPPER: Either you didn't say it, in which case there are a whole bunch of administration officials telling the press and telling the president that you did and that's a serious problem. Or, you did say it and, look, you're a serious guy. For you to say something like suggests a real frustration with the commander-in-chief.

So when you don't answer the question, it makes people think that you probably did say it. But either way, whatever happened, it is serious. So can you please clear it up?

TILLERSON: As I said, Jake, I'm not playing. These are the games of Washington. These are the destructive games of this town. They're not helpful to anyone. And so my position on it is I'm not playing. I'm not playing.


CHURCH: Julian, Rex Tillerson says he's not playing but he still didn't answer the question. And for most of us that means he did call the president a moron. What's your reading of his answer?

ZELIZER: Right. The easy answer would have been to say no, I didn't say that. And he won't say that so it seems relatively clear from reporting and from his answer that he probably said that or something like it. And it's relevant. It's more than Washington games because this gets to a bigger issue surrounding the Trump presidency and that has to do with his competence, with his knowledge, with his understanding of the kinds of issues including North Korea with which he is engaged.

And I think that's why people are fascinated with this statement rather than just simply being gossip and scandal.

CHURCH: And Julian, just a few days ago we saw the White House Chief of Staff John Kelly come out and address the media and try to put to bed any suggestion that he might be heading out the door. What did you make of that?

ZELIZER: Well, we've seen that from him and from Tillerson. My guess is he was merged into the spotlight by President Trump because of the stories that are circulating. We right now have many stories coming out from different sources saying that there are people from John Kelly, the chief of staff, to Secretary of Defense Mattis who are actively trying to in some ways contain the president and to prevent him from making big mistakes because of his erratic nature.

And so I think Kelly on the one hand is going out, asked by the president probably to be loyal, but on the other hand he's trying to figure out the best way to handle this responsibility that he faces and right now he still wants to tell the press I'm here, I'm doing this job, but there's a lot of indication this is a tough one for him.

CHURCH: And a few days ago, of course, we know Senator Bob Corker talked about Defense Secretary Mattis and Rex Tillerson and John Kelly being part of that group of secretaries and advisers who were keeping America from chaos.

[01:40:06] And there's some suggestions that those three gentlemen particularly are staying put because they want to make sure America stay safe. Is that what you're hearing?

ZELIZER: Yes. Rather than loyalty to the president, it's loyalty to the country and there is a sense I think from some people in the administration, them and others, that part of what they now are responsible for is trying to salvage the presidency. Not for the president but for the country. And when Senator Corker warns of chaos and he warns of what's going on in the White House and says, there's no good cop-bad cop, it's just almost randomness and disarray that's going on issues like North Korea.

I think there are people probably trying to do their best to protect the president from himself and to protect the country, but I'm not sure that will work if everything we're hearing is true.

CHURCH: All right. Julian Zelizer, thank you so much for joining us. We always appreciate getting your perspective on these matters.

ZELIZER: Thanks for having me.

CHURCH: All right. We'll take a short break here. But coming of Puerto Rico in crisis. People so desperate they're drinking water from a hazardous waste site. We will have that when we come back.


CHURCH: Calmer winds in Northern California are helping firefights battled dozens of wildfires there. They broke out last week killing at least 40 people. Some residents who were forced to leave are now being allowed to return and they are learning they have lost everything.

Well, crews are starting to get these fires under control, that is the good news. CNN's Dan Simon has the latest now from Kenwood, California.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For the first time in a week, firefighters are now striking an optimistic tone about these fires. That's because the winds have died down and with that the containment numbers have gone up.

[01:45:04] That said, there still are some trouble spots. Take a look behind me. That's the Oakmont Fire. You can see the smoke billowing. There's some flame there on the mountain but firefighters not too concerned because the fires are not burning towards any populated communities. We've seen those, some airplanes making some drops just to make sure

things don't get out of control.

Saturday night it was a difficult night for the community of Sonoma, which is south of here. We did see some structures burn. There were some evacuations. But Sunday a whole different story because the winds have died down. The area no longer under a red flag warning and with that we've seen a number of fires, including the Tubbs Fire, which was most destructive fire in the community of Santa Rosa.

The containment number 60 percent or more. So firefighters now think they're beginning to turn a corner.

Dan Simon, CNN, Kenwood, California.


CHURCH: And we turn to Puerto Rico now. Thousands of people are struggling there for basic necessities nearly a month off Hurricane Maria. Devastated the U.S. Commonwealth. 85 percent of the island still has no power and more than 30 percent of people don't have clean drinking water. The situation is so desperate some are drinking from contaminated wells.

CNN's Ed Lavandera has more.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nearly a month after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, there are still some serious questions about just where some Puerto Ricans are getting their water from. One area in particular is of intense concern here. It's an area around a town called Dorado, just west of the capital of San Juan.

There is an area there that has been labeled as a Superfund site. For those of you not familiar with what that term means, it's created by the Environmental and Protection Agency and it basically describes an area that is highly contaminated with toxic materials in the ground.

There are a number of water wells on that Superfund site and there are reports and we've seen it ourselves of people getting water from those wells. Now one of the wells that has been used has been officially cleared by government officials here in Puerto Rico, and they have been actually dish -- passing that water out to people who have standing in the long lines to come and get that water.

They say that the water has passed all of its testing. Some of the other wells, it's not exactly clear. A team from the Environmental Protection Agency went around this weekend testing some of those wells and it could most of the week to get the results back.

And it is believed that in this water that there could be high levels of toxic materials from industrial waste that is in those waters that could be a cause serious health problems for people. EPA officials say it would require long-term exposure to that water.

But we were with one of those EPA officials and this is what he had to say about the testing that they're doing.


GARY LIPTON, EPA INCIDENT COMMANDER, PUERTO RICO OPERATIONS: There is the urgency. It's a concern. And it's a concern both in public health and perception, but we understand that people are hurting right now. We understand there's a lot of thirsty people out there and they're accessing whatever water we can -- whatever water they can and we're trying to ascertain if it is pose any hazards or not.


LAVANDERA: Some independent experts that we have spoken with here over the last few days, getting them to examine the EPA documents about this of Superfund sites. It is disturbing that water wells were being used for drinking water. Some people have been exposed to that drinking water and have used it for drinking water.

And what is more fascinating that many people as we've gone around to some of these wells many of the people who live in this area had no idea that this area had been designated as a Superfund site and they had no idea they were tapping into possibly contaminated water.

So the work on determining exactly what is coming out of those water wells will continue to be done this week.


CHURCH: Very scary moments aboard a flight from Australia to Bali. Passengers thought the end had come. What happened? We'll explain when we come back.



[01:52:47] CHURCH: Passengers on a flight from Australia to Indonesia got quite a scare. On its way to Bali Sunday the AirAsia flight suddenly plunged thousands of feet.

For more here's Kristian Gaupset from Australia's Seven Network.


KRISTIAN GAUPSET, REPORTER, SEVEN NETWORK: Yes closed locked in a tight embrace. This is the moment passengers on an AirAsia flight from Perth thought the end had come. The aircraft had just lost cabin pressure, began plummeting from 32,000 to 10,000. Terrified, passengers looked to the crew for direction but they were just as scared.

CLARE ASKEW, PASSENGER: Our panic was escalated because of the behavior of staff who were screaming, looked tearful and shocked. Now I get it. But we look to them for reassurance and we didn't get any. We were more worried because of how panicked they were.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I sent a message to my son. Good-bye.

GAUPSET: QZ535 took off from Perth yesterday afternoon bound for Bali. An hour into the flight just southeast of Jolson it lost cabin pressure and dropped two thirds of its altitude.

With 145 terrified passengers on board it turned back and return safely to Perth. In a statement AirAsia said, "The safety of our guests is our utmost priority. AirAsia Indonesia apologizes for any inconvenience caused."

It's not the first time the airlines staff have been criticized for their handling of an emergency. In June a pilot asked passengers to pray following an engine malfunction. That flight was also forced to return to Perth where investigators have spent the night trying to get to the bottom of yet another major malfunction.

Kristian Gaupset, Seven News.


CHURCH: Absolutely terrifying.

All right. Well, "Saturday Night Live" is poking fun at Present Trump's feud with the NFL last week. He upped the ante saying he ordered Vice President Mike Pence to walk out of the stadium when NFL players knelt during the national anthem. Well, now the sketch comedy show figures the duel could take on some new culture wars.


[01:55:01] ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: Well, Mike, I need you to check the cups, OK. Do they say "Happy Holidays" or do they say "Merry Christmas"?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, it's October. They wouldn't have Christmas themed cups yet.

BALDWIN: They would if they respect America. Mike, the cups, which they know that Christmas all year and they would show me as Santa Claus giving all the children coal because coal is the future of this country. Check the cups, Mike.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The cups say "pumpkin spice is back," sir.

BALDWIN: Get out of there right now, Mike Pence. In the car that said (INAUDIBLE).


CHURCH: They're enjoying themselves there.

And that wraps up this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Rosemary Church. Stay tuned after the break for more world news with Natalie Allen and Cyril Vanier.