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Retaking Raqqa; Trump White House; Chinese Communist Party Convention; ISIS Defeated In Raqqa, Capital Of So-Called Caliphate; Trump Takes Credit For Raqqa's Fall; U.S. Calls For Calm Between Iraqi & Kurdish Forces; Tillerson: U.S. Does Not Recognize Kurdish Independence; Iraqi Govt. Forces Seize Control Of Kirkuk From Kurds; Iraq PM: Priority To Fight ISIS And Liberate Iraqi Land; Clinton Slams Trump's Stance In North Korea; North Korea Marks Of Nuclear War At Any Moment; Cavaliers Stand Lock Arms During National Anthem; NFL Owners Discuss Response At Two Day Meeting; Kaepernick Attorney: Player Should Demand Colin Be Hired; U.S. Judge Blocks Latest Version Of Travel Ban; Trump Administration Ordered Turnover DACA Documents; U.S. Citizens Facing A Humanitarian Crisis; Former Hip-hop Star Delivers Water Filters To Puerto Rico. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired October 18, 2017 - 02:00   ET




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

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Raqqa falls. ISIS no longer in control of the self-proclaimed capital in Syria. What it means for the ability of troops to attack and kill.

VAUSE (voice-over): The comforter in chief: Donald Trump reportedly calls the grieving widow of a U.S. soldier killed in action in Niger, telling her, quote, "He knew what he signed up for."

SESAY (voice-over): And from hip-hop pioneer to water boy, Richard "Crazy Legs" Colon's efforts to help Puerto Rico rebuild after Hurricane Maria.

Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE (voice-over): I'm John Vause. This is the third hour of NEWSROOM L.A.


VAUSE: After years of repression and brutality, the city of Raqqa is no longer under ISIS control. And the capital of the terror group's self-proclaimed caliphate is no more.

SESAY: The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces say they've retaken the city and major military operations are over. They're looking for any sleeper cells and explosives ISIS may have left behind. VAUSE: Let's get more now from CNN's Arwa Damon in Northern Iraq.

So what's the latest on the clearing operation in Raqqa?

Do you know how much longer that will take?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: At this stage it is still ongoing bearing in mind ISIS has historically in the past has improvised explosive devices in just about every building, street and alleyway that they possibly could.

That is of course one of the big threats the Syrian Democratic Forces do face. Of course that's potentially one of the biggest threats to the civilian population if and when they are able to go back into Raqqa as well as the concern that is understandable when you look at the sheer scale of devastation of the city of Raqqa, that some isolated small elements of ISIS fighters might be hiding out amongst the rubble.

So at this stage very much focused on trying to fully clear the entire city and only then do the SDF say they will declare Raqqa fully liberated.

And while that is ongoing at this stage we also have the battle lines shifting toward Deir ez-Zor, which is the most intense battles, with aid organizations warning from that particular area, around 10,000 people a day are fleeing the fighting there -- John.

VAUSE: The images coming out of Raqqa and the scale of the destruction, you know, you cannot describe it. It's unbelievable.

Has anyone talked about a plan about how this place is going to be rebuilt and who's going to pay for it?

DAMON: That is the exact question, the critical question at this stage because when you look at Mosul versus Raqqa, mostly you have an Iraqi government that at the very least can step in with certain things like basic services, trying to get that up and running.

There's at least some sort of a structure in place; whether or not it's going to be successful, that remains to be seen. When it comes to Syria, it's not as if the SDF is just going to liberate Raqqa and then hand it over to the Syrian regime at this stage.

But, yes, who is actually going to pay for these basic services, pay for the massive cleanup, pay for all of the reconstruction. You look at pictures and there's not a single building. There's not a single home that is inhabitable. And the population of Raqqa are living in these refugee camps inside Syria that are quite literally bursting at the seams.

There is a sort of civilian council in existence outside of the city, of course, that is meant to move in and begin these efforts to try to restore a basic semblance, not necessarily of normalcy but at least to get things on the right track. But without the finances -- and we don't at this stage know who, what

or how this is even going to be financed -- will that even begin to be accomplished?

And how much longer can the population of Raqqa continue to survive inside these refugee camps?


IT's one problem can eventually compound another and is especially critical ensuring that these displaced refugee populations don't suffer even more, that they don't feel even further abandoned than they've already felt in the past.

VAUSE: Normalcy anywhere in Syria seems nothing more than a distant dream. Arwa, thank you.

Here with us now, Middle East expert, Lisa Daftari (ph). She's editor in chief of the foreign desk.

Also with us, CNN's military analyst, retired Lt. Col. Rick Francona.

And Colonel, first, to you, this is a stunning fall for ISIS, considering what three years, three months ago, some 18 days, they planted this flat. They declared God's kingdom on Earth. They placed all their chips on creating a caliphate as proof of some kind of divine mandate.

Does that fairy tale now fall now alongside Raqqa?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes. As Arwa said, we have to be careful to not call this the defeat of ISIS. This is the defeat of ISIS in Raqqa. This is the end of their territorial ambitions; it's the end of their territorial claims.

But the group goes on. And the battle is not over in Syria. The battle is shifting to the southeast. We're going to fight the major battle, the end battle, if you will, the last battle will be the battle of the Euphrates Valley. And we've got ISIS fighters coming over from Iraq into the valley in Syria.

We've got these people that were allowed to escape. Remember, there was a deal that allowed many of the ISIS fighters to leave the city and now they are in Deir ez-Zor. So the battle is shaping up there.

But no doubt, this is a major victory. The removes their capital. It takes away a lot of the cachet that they had an organization so, yes, this is a big deal.

VAUSE: And Lisa, as Colonel Francona said, ISIS will live on. It will probably hold other pieces of territory as well. But that territory will not be in Iraq. It won't be in Syria. It won't be where Islamic scripture talks about the apocalypse, the end of times. It won't be special as Raqqa and Mosul right?

LISA DAFTARI, MIDDLE EAST EXPERT: Well, it may be in Raqqa and it may be in Syria and Iraq. I think what we've seen is cities fall and cities rise back up. And I think that's the most important question tonight.

As we learn about this news it was the vulnerability in Syria and in Iraq but more so in Syria that gave rise to ISIS. It was the vulnerability of the people not wanting Bashar al-Assad in power and creating that power vacuum that led to the rise of ISIS.

So what will be the future of Syria?

Will it lead to other groups rising and lead to ISIS coming back?

They're not calling this a victory quite yet. It's about 90 percent back in the hands or out of the hands of ISIS. But still, what will happen now? Are they going to retreat and plan something on a larger scale?

And more importantly, are they going to double down and put all their energy toward their online efforts to have local recruits in Europe and other places in the world to launch their attacks there?

VAUSE: And, Colonel Francona, this is an important point about having the caliphate especially having it in Syria and Iraq, it was a selling point to attract foreign fighters. Now they've lost all those territories (INAUDIBLE) which they once held, obviously they have nowhere to go now for training.

But what about those foreign fighters who are still afar?

Obviously it's a much harder sell to inspire them to go on and carry out attacks, isn't it?

FRANCONA: It's interesting. We've seen over the last few months because you know ISIS can see the writing on the wall, pardon my Babylonian reference there. But they know that they're going to lose this territorial impart that they had in Iraq and Syria.

So they've already changed their messaging. They've primarily started this in Iraq. We see a lot more digital outreach among ISIS and surprisingly to many of us observers how it resonates among the Sunni population because ISIS is telling them, you're dealing with a Shia dominated and Iranian influenced organization in Baghdad that is disenfranchised. So we're seeing them try to change the messaging there.

In Syria, as Lisa said, you know, they're down but they're not out. So this is not over. But ISIS is smart enough. They've been very adept at their messaging over the years. They know what resonates and that's how they're going to change their message. So I think we will see more inspired memberships of ISIS, not so much foreign fighters coming to the caliphate.

VAUSE: OK. Well, here's what Hassan Hassan (ph), author of ISIS inside the (INAUDIBLE) told "The New Yorker," "Only a fool would call this a victory. (INAUDIBLE) the expulsion of ISIS fighters from a wasteland. It's not a victory not only because of the destruction, it's also not a victory because there's -- (INAUDIBLE) -- because there's a shameless lack of political traction, (INAUDIBLE) military tract that's the Achilles heel of Operation Inherent Resolve. They don't have a political vision about what will happen after ISIS."

So, Lisa, you touched on this. There (INAUDIBLE) is a plan but is there a workable plan that is actually going to hold up?

DAFTARI: Right. And I think that's what everyone has been kicking down the road now that all of this is being cleared up. ISIS was this kind of security blanket of sorts that people were hiding behind. Whoever involved in Syria was there for ISIS to (INAUDIBLE) Turkey is there to fight the Kurds. They said they were there to fight ISIS.

Iran there is to prop up Bashar al-Assad. They said they were there to fight ISIS. Two groups of the jihadi influence, et cetera. And you look at all of these different -- and now that ISIS would potentially be cleared away, it's a huge elephant in the room is to say what's going to happen in the future of Syria?

And will this -- I mean instead of patting ourselves on the back, yes, Raqqa lost their main stage. They can no longer behead a young boy for smoking a cigarette in the main circle of town to have people watch these gruesome things.

But having these recruits come from all around the world to the caliphate, to Syria and Iraq, that's died down a long time ago. Slowed down a while back. But I think because they saw they couldn't get people to come. So I think that they've already redirected their message to the online recruitment, to going -- you know, you don't need a whole bomb. You can use your car to ram into people. You can use a kitchen knife et cetera.

So I think that ISIS is always one step ahead. And I think that's what need to remember here, to say it's the vulnerability on the ground. And for the U.S., the allied forces, the question is to say, do we want to see the back table for the future of Syria and Iraq?

And what stake do we have and do we want to be involved on a humanitarian level, on a political level and what do we want to see for the future of the two countries?

VAUSE: Colonel Francona, I want to finish up with a claim made by the U.S. president essentially that the success in this fight against ISIS is the result of essentially his presidency. Here's what he said.


TRUMP: I totally changed rules of engagement. I totally changed our military. I totally changed the attitudes of the military and they have done a fantastic job. ISIS is now giving up. They're giving up. They're raising their hands. They're walking off. Nobody's ever seen that before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why didn't that happen before?

TRUMP: Because you didn't have Trump as your president. I mean, it was -- it was a big difference. I mean, there's a big, big difference if you look at the military now.



VAUSE: Colonel Francona, is that a fair claim to make?

Did Donald Trump bring new tactics that (INAUDIBLE) that were the game-changer?

FRANCONA: There's a lot of bluster there. But the bottom line is actually true. He did loosen the rules of engagement. It did change the tactics. I talked to Air Force pilots who were involved in this. They said they able to react to emerging targets faster.

They were able to put ordnance on targets faster and more ordnance.

So, yes, the claim is true but there's a lot of bluster there.

VAUSE: Very quickly, did they come (INAUDIBLE) casualties though, those changes?


FRANCONA: Well, you could make that argument. But there were very strict rules in place. And those didn't change. And they instituted additional rules allowing the Kurds on the ground to determine when ordnance was being expended anywhere near them. So they were trying to address that problem.

They knew that when they lessened the amount of air sorties, the Kurds came to them and said you got to keep this up. We know that there are casualties but we need the firepower. Because as you know, the Kurds are a light force. They didn't have a lot of armor or a lot of artillery. They were relying on air power to replace that.

VAUSE: Colonel Francona, thank you.

Lisa Daftari, we appreciate you both being with us. It is a big story on a big day. Thank you.

SESAY: Let's turn our attention now to those four U.S. soldiers recently killed in Niger. Twelve days went by before President Trump said anything publicly about the fallen. When he did so on Monday, his comments triggered a storm of controversy.

On Tuesday, the president finally spoke to grieving family members. And now we're learning from Democratic congresswoman Fredricka Wilson what President Trump said to the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson. Take a listen.


REP. FREDRICKA WILSON (D): Well, basically he said, well, I guess knew what he signed up for. But I guess it still hurts. There's no reason for the president to be so insensitive not only to the family of this soldier but the impervious rhetoric is disrespectful to the family of every soldier that has paid the ultimate price for our freedom.


SESAY: Joining us now here in L.A. are political commentators and radio host Will Kelly and California Republican national committee man Shawn Steel.

Welcome to you both.

Shawn, let me start with you.

What is your reaction to the words as described by Fredricka Wilson, that the president said to this grieving widow?

SHAWN STEEL, REPUBLICAN: This is a second-hand information from a clearly partisan and angry Democrat. However, David (sic) Johnson is a hero. He fought for the service of the United States and for free people in Africa. Part of the world we don't even see American servicemen actually sacrificing and hurting themselves and getting killed.

And it shows the world fighting terrorism. Trump did the appropriate thing by calling the widow.


SESAY: And if he said what she said?

STEEL: And you know what, it's rough. It's kind of a rough handling to a woman who's pregnant and I have great regard for that. But Trump is very sensitive and he's gone to every single major disaster in America personally without any hesitation. And he talks to the fallen. He talks to every single Gold Star member. If he's not the most smooth person in the world, it doesn't mean his heart's in the wrong place.


STEEL: And I don't like these Democrat cheap shots. It doesn't become them.

SESAY: Mo Kelly, let me ask you to respond.


SESAY: What do you say to that?

What Shawn is saying is that if he said it, it was rough but for Fredricka Wilson to come out and say it is her kind of taking a political swipe at the president.

KELLY: Well, it's unfortunate that all this has been use as a political football. But we know from history that this president's not sympathetic and is not empathetic. Yes, he may have gone to Puerto Rico but how do you respond to Puerto


He may have gone to Houston and other places but he looks at everything through the lens of blame and credit. He wants to get the credit for speaking to Gold Star families. He doesn't want to get the blame if something goes wrong.

Donald Trump is not very good at showing empathy for people who have lost, who people may be grieving. Yes, he may have made the call. But at the same time, it's 12 days later. It's not a matter of whether David Johnson is a hero. He's already a hero. The question is whether the president handled it accordingly and appropriately.

SESAY: And what about that point, Shawn?

It took the president 12 days before he public made a statement about it. This is a president who ran on the platform of the military.

STEEL: Yes, I don't think there's a timeline in talking to a grieving widow. In fact, I think the bodies actually came today if I'm not mistaken.

SESAY: I guess there's a time when it's more appropriate than others as well.

STEEL: I think it was -- I'm not going to argue about the timing. But talk about the empathy. One of the reasons Trump got elected, he showed a great deal more empathy to the poor working class in America than the Democrats have in 20 years.

SESAY: We're not talking about that.



STEEL: We're talking about empathy. We're talking about communication with people. And he's successful. Now again, anytime there's little inkling of maybe a possibility that there's something off toward, it becomes a cheap political football.

But Trump did the right thing by calling the widow and he was --

SESAY: Let me just be clear so we have it for the record.

Are you saying that if the president did indeed say this -- forget Fredricka -- take Fredricka Wilson out of this.

But if he did indeed say he knew what he signed up for, that people should not feel upset --


SESAY: Is that what you're saying? STEEL: No, not at all because we didn't hear the whole five-minute conversation. That's a snatchette. I think there's probably a lot more that was said, hello, I'm Donald Trump, I'm calling you, I respect the service of this --


SESAY: -- in what context are those words --

STEEL: I think he was trying to have a human to human conversation and partisans are trying to make it something that it's not. And I think it's vicious and unfair. And most of all it's cheap. It's embarrassing.

KELLY: We can talk about partisanship and we can't talk about cheap tricks and everything when it's the president himself who wanted to invoke previous presidents, such as President Obama, and making an issue about whether previous presidents had actually even called out to these families.

So it was made political before this moment prior to the call.

SESAY: Let me just read the White House statement, just so that we have the words on record. CNN reached out for a comment. And this is what we got back.

And the White House official telling us, "The president's conversations with the families of American heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice are private."

The question is will this go away just because they said that?

But I still want to move on and ask one more question on this issue before we talk Raqqa.

Shawn, as you made the point, Sgt. La David Johnson's remains arrived back in the U.S. on Tuesday. He was part of that group of Green Berets who lost their lives in Niger back in early October.

And La David Johnson's body was discovered 48 hours after -- in a remote area of Niger. He had separated from the rest of the fallen. There are questions about what happened. His wife is -- his widow is about to have their third baby. I want you to take a listen to what Fredricka Wilson had to say because the family has questions. Take a listen.


WILSON: It was a solemn sight because they were still upset about the fact that this cannot be an open casket. They were upset because they don't know why he was separated from the rest of the soldiers. This could turn out to be another Benghazi.


SESAY: Shawn Steel, I have to give our viewers some background. Of course, as Fredricka Wilson mentioned Benghazi, she's of course referencing that September 11th, 2012, attack in Benghazi, Libya, that led to the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and a number of other U.S. nationals, which dogged the Obama administration.

Will this dog the Trump administration?

STEEL: I hope not. It's fascinating to hear a partisan Democrat use the word Benghazi to cast aspersions against Trump because Benghazi was a horrible and a defining moment in Hillary Clinton's service as secretary of state and Obama certainly suffered with that.

No, in any case, when you lose an American soldier or just any American you need a good thorough investigation. We'll have to trust the military to do the right job in the nature of the political forces aren't in the way. But I would rather have a member of the family, I'd rather have the widow herself talking about this, not some Democrat hack. This woman's embarrassing.

SESAY: Mo Kelly?

KELLY: Well, I don't think this is more about politics. This is still about people. Unfortunately, four soldiers lost their lives doing the work of America around the world. I don't expect as an American citizen to be told everything that we're doing in regard to our special forces. They're doing work which is probably top secret and classified in many areas.

What I am concerned about is how we as Americans will respond to it and then look at the deaths of these young men. It bothers me if only because we're seeming more concerned about the things that are unimportant as opposed to the things which are important.

But that started with the president when he wanted to say well, I've always called the family of the fallen as opposed to previous presidents. This is only being discussed because of President Trump.

SESAY: Very quickly Shawn Steel, because we're out of time. The president's comments In the Rose Garden, to reference what Mo Kelly said, he basically jabbed at his predecessors for how they have treated the families of the fallen.

Leon Panetta, former Defense secretary, said those comments demean the presidency.

STEEL: I don't know what the scoreboard is, how many times that Obama actually called Gold Star family members or not. I'm not even that interested. I do know that Obama went to Bethesda Hospital regularly to see wounded soldiers. I have because my son-in-law is a physician in the Navy. He actually saw Obama do that, not a lot of publicity.

So I think Obama's heart was in the right place. And I don't think you need to make jabs like that.

But on the other hand, when the president does the right thing and he's actually reaching out and talking to somebody, you know, to attack him for what he said that, you don't even know what he said, that's something else --


SESAY: -- was in the room. She did -- she was listening in on the phone call, just so we're clear.

So just so we're clear --

STEEL: So she heard one-half of the conversation.

SESAY: She was listening -- it was on -- she was with the widow. It was on speakerphone. She heard. Just so we're clear on the fact.


STEEL: Well, I guess the widow didn't waste any time in calling the local Democratic congressman.

SESAY: Fredricka Wilson was present.

STEEL: Yes. All right. Fair enough.

SESAY: We're going to leave it there.

Gentlemen, I thank you as always.

KELLY: Thank you.

SESAY: Thank you.

VAUSE: OK. Time for a break. Political history is being made right now in China as President Xi Jinping prepares to solidify his grip over the country. We'll look at what that could mean for China and the rest of the world.





VAUSE: China appears to be on the very of a huge political shakeup. A few hours ago, the 19th congress of the Communist Party convened in Beijing, a twice-a-decade meeting which usually announces national policy and goals for the next five years.

SESAY: But this is really all about Xi Jinping. He now stands unchallenged as he prepares a second five-year term as president, emerging as one of the country's most powerful leaders in decades.

VAUSE: Matt Rivers joins us now live from Beijing.

Matt, we have heard from President Xi delivering the work report. But as we look forward to the end of this week, how will we know if Xi Jinping has emerged from this congress as this leader, rivaling the authority and the power of the likes of Mao and Deng?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think there's a couple of different ways that that could happen. And to be fair, we're expecting that to happen. I think most China watchers are really expected Xi Jinping to cement his status as one of China's most influential leaders of all of time.

There's a couple different ways that we can look to see how much power he has. The first would be the new members of the standing committee, part of the ruling politburo here. Basically the standing committee seven to nine members, who decide government policy for this entire country.

And if you look at the new members of the politburo or the standing committee which will be announced at the end of this week and you see a bunch of Xi Jinping allies on there, that certainly shows you the power he has.

The other way this can happen is if Xi Jinping's policies are actually written into the Chinese Communist Party's constitution. If Xi Jinping thoughts are actually written into the constitution, only two other leaders, Mao and Deng, his successor, have had their names actually written into the constitution.

So if you see Xi Jinping's name written in there, that will show you an incredible level of power that he has moving forward. That, I think, is the ultimate goal. Over the last five years, you've seen Xi Jinping really consolidate his power, pushing this nationalist agenda here in China, bringing China's military up, bringing -- trying to do some economic reforms, really cement China on a global stage in terms of their power projected internationally.

So that's what you're probably going to see at the end of this week, is the culmination of five years of Xi Jinping really trying to cement his power as a historical leader here in China.

VAUSE: And Matt, you know, when we think back to five years ago, he came in as a compromised candidate, leading a part which was filled with infighting and dealing with corruption. And in that five-year period, he has managed to turn it around in a stunning way.

Matt, thank you, Matt Rivers there, live in Beijing.

SESAY: Time for a quick break now. "STATE OF AMERICA" with Kate Bolduan is next for our viewers in Asia.

VAUSE: And for everyone else, new threats from North Korea (INAUDIBLE) warns of a nuclear war with the United States could break out at any moment.

SESAY: Plus ISIS loses control over its de facto capital in Syria. But some of the fighters may still be hidden there.

VAUSE: And the U.S. walking a fine line between two allies with Iraqi government troops now in control of Kirkuk but moving beyond that, taking more Kurdish cities. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[02:30:16] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM Live from Los Angeles, I'm John Vause.

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour...

VAUSE: ISIS has lost its self-declared capital in Syria. The U.S.- backed Syrian democratic forces say they've retaken the City of Raqqa from the terror group and major military operations are over. They're now clearing the city of ISIS sleeper cells and mines.

SESAY: President Trump is taking credit for the city's liberation in a radio interview (INAUDIBLE) he says, these changes to the U.S. military rules of engagement made all the difference.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (through radio): ISIS is now giving up -- they're giving up, they're raising their hands, they're walking off. Nobody's ever seen that before and that's good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why didn't that happen before?

TRUMP: Because you didn't have Trump as your President --


SESAY: Mr. Trump has shifted some decision making power from the White House to the Pentagon and overseas commanders.

VAUSE: The U.S. is calling to calm between Iraqi and Kurdish forces after Iraqi troops seized Kirkuk from the terrorist on Monday. It is an awkward situation for U.S. which backs both sides in the war against ISIS.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Iraq's Prime Minister, Washington supports a unified Iraq and does not recognize the recent Kurdish referendum for independence. CNN's Fred Pleitgen joins us now with the very latest on the situation involving Kirkuk, he is in Tehran. Fred, Baghdad's military offensive is moving way beyond taking Kirkuk from Kurdish control. Right now, on the surface at least, it seems being an attempt to re-write the political map in Iraq.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the temporary political map. Because we have to keep in mind, a lot of the areas that the Kurds have been taking since 2014, especially in their fight against ISIS, were obviously areas that they didn't hold before that time in which were part of Iraqi government territory. But you're absolutely right, John, this certainly does seem to be a very quickly moving offensive going on by the Iraqi security forces. Also, in conjunction, of course, with some of those Iranian-backed Shiite militia. One of the things that the Iraqi government has said, is they believe that a lot of their operations -- their current operations of gaining that territory back seemed to be all but over. They've moved as you said, not only into Kirkuk, the surrounding oil fields, some military bases there, but also into Diyala Province which is much closer to Baghdad and Nineveh Province, which is also actually the province that Mosul is in. And of course, very important town that was held by ISIS until not too long ago.

So, it really seems to be almost a sweeping operation by the Iraqi security force, they don't appear to be seeing much in the way of resistance by the Kurdish forces, even though, there are some Kurdish leaders will call what's currently going on, quote, a declaration of war and have vowed to fight back. At this point in time, it doesn't seem to be something that we are seeing as this all is going on.

The Iraqi's and some Kurdish leaders as well are saying that they want a call for calm. They obviously don't want this to escalate into a larger armed conflict between the Kurds, the Iraqi security forces, and those Shiite militias, because, of course, we know that could not only distract from the fight against ISIS that is still going on. And of course, could be very ugly for Iraq as well, John.

VAUSE: Well, this Iraqi military offensive comes just a few weeks after the Kurds held that referendum which overwhelmingly approved independence. It would seem that move to hold that referendum has backfired on the Kurdish government in their bill?

PLEITGEN: He was -- there are certainly people who would say that. I mean, if you listen to Massoud Barzani, the President of a -- of the Kurdish Regional Government. He says that it was not a miscalculation. He stands by that referendum. He says everything that's going on right now is essentially an offensive against the Kurds. But certainly, if you look at the greater picture, there really wasn't ever very much momentum in the international community for this referendum.

As you've mentioned, the U.S. says, it was never in favor of the referendum. The Iranian's who, of course, are very powerful in Iraq as well, said, they were very much against the referendum, they, themselves have quite a rest of Kurdish population on the border as well. The Turks, of course, very much against it and the Iraqis themselves. So, pretty much all the neighboring countries to that Kurdish region were against this referendum as was the United States, which is by far the biggest backer of the Kurds.

And then you, of course, also still have -- John, and look, I think this is very important, the divisions within the Kurds, as well. And that's something that really seems to have played a major role in the past couple of days. As there were some very powerful Kurdish factions who have moved away from the Kurdish Regional Government. They have sided with the Iraqi government, with the Iranians, as well. And essentially, the Regional Government says, abandon some of the positions around Kirkuk, allowing the Iraqi army to move in.

So, they doesn't seem to have been much in the way of Kurdish unity for this, even though, of course, the referendum results were sweeping for independence. And then, at the same time, the international community, by no means behind this, of course, wanting to preserve the territorial integrity of the State of Iraq, John.

[02:34:57] VAUSE: Quite often an American problem turns out to be an Iranian opportunity. Fred, thank you. Fred Pleitgen there, live for us in Tehran.

Well, the former U.S. Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton is criticizing President Trump again. She told business leaders in a meeting in Seoul that U.S. allies are expressing concern about how the Trump administration is handling the crisis with North Korea. And she says Trump's escalating rhetoric towards Pyongyang isn't helping.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER U.S. DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The insults they're being traded on Twitter, I think, have benefited North Korea. I don't think they've benefited the United States.


CLINTON: I think that they have benefited a regime that is thrilled to get the kind of personal attention from the leader of our country. I think that's a grave error, because it makes any kind of negotiation more difficult. Assuming we can get everyone harnessed, pulling in the same direction for what I'm advocating.


VAUSE: And Secretary Clinton says, it would be dangerous, those threats Donald Trump had been making about the U.S. pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal.

SESAY: Well, a high-level North Korean diplomat is making new threats about Kim Jong-un's nuclear ambitions. Brian Todd has details on the heated rhetoric.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is the ultimate threat issued on the floor of the United Nations and designed to strike fear into hearts of Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A nuclear war may break out any moment.

TODD: That ominous warning from one of Kim Jong-un's top diplomats, Monday. Comes he says because the U.S. is, quote, insulting the dignity of North Korea. Preparing war plans to take out Kim.

TODD: Why issue that threat at this particular moment?

KELLY MAGSAMEN, VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL SECURITY AND INTERNATIONAL POLICY: And part of this is their classic bluster but it's also brinksmanship on their part. And Kim Jong-un is notorious for brinksmanship -- TODD: A U.S. intelligence official tells CNN, North Korea is

escalating its rhetoric because Kim wants nuclear weapons to ensure the survival of his regime. And because he wants some kind of security arrangement with the U.S. One of the CIA's top analysts on North Korea, recently suggested that while Kim may sound unhinged, he's also strategic in his thinking.

YONG SUK LEE, DEPUTY ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, CIA'S KOREA MISSION CENTER: Kim Jong-un is a rational actor. I think his long-term goal is very clear to come to some kind of a big power agreement with the United States and remove U.S. forces from the Peninsula.

TODD: More than 28,000 U.S. troops are now stationed in South Korea. And Kim's regime often tells its people, the Americans are constantly threatening them. But neither side appears willing to back down. Just last month, President Trump told the U.N. that if North Korea attacks the U.S. or its allies --

TRUMP: We will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.

TODD: On Monday, North Korea's man at the U.N. appeared to counter that promise. Saying the entire U.S. mainland is within North Korea's firing range. The same day, another North Korean official told CNN, his country would not negotiate with the U.S. until it has a long- range missile capable of reaching the east coast of the U.S., a longtime goal of the regime.

Missile experts are divided on whether that too is idle talk or a real possibility. Some believe the North Koreans may have that capability now. But others say they need to tweak their current missiles which some believe already could hit the West Coast.

MICHAEL ELLEMAN, SENIOR FELLOW FOR MISSILE DEFENSE, INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES: They would have several options. One is to use the engine that's on this particular missile but pair it with another one. So, that it produces twice the thrust or forcing action to lift it into space. And then place a larger second stage on there, which allow it to carry one or two warheads to any place on the continental United States.

TODD: Experts say the North Koreans also have to test whether a nuclear-tipped missile can survive reentry into the earth's atmosphere. And have to successfully test the missiles guidance system for accuracy. That they might still be at least a couple of years away from having a missile fully capable of striking the East Coast.


TODD: When the North Koreans get that capability, experts say, it will be a game changer. It will force the U.S. to improve its missile interceptors which analysts say, only worked about half the time they're tested. And the U.S. will have to start testing its missile interceptors a lot more often than it is right now. Brian Todd, CNN Washington. VAUSE: We'll take a short break. When we come back, strike three for the Trump administration's travel ban, we'll take a look at the legal reasons behind this latest impact.


[02:41:36] SESAY: Well, a sign of unity from U.S. pro-basketball Cleveland Cavaliers, ahead of their season opener against the Boston Celtics. Players stood during the U.S. National Anthem, their arms locked together. This, as National Football League owners hold a two- day meeting on how to respond to players kneeling and locking arms. The African-American writer and then four African-American rise in an opposition of statements from President Trump. Their meeting was met by protests on the street. An NFL spokesman says, the meetings will likely not result in a policy change.

VAUSE: Now, all these protests began with Colin Kaepernick demonstrating alone last year. Now, Kaepernick is not on any NFL roster which the quarterback says is because of his politics, not his talent. He's filed a grievance against the league, alleging owners colluded to keep him out of a job. His lawyer says meetings like Tuesdays are not what they're looking for.


MARK GERAGOS, LAWYER OF KAEPERNICK: I would call on the players to say stop using us as window dressing for this, and having these meetings where they don't do anything. I think the players should demand that Colin gets a fair shake on the field. Don't talk to me about this, that, or the other thing which, like I say, looks like nothing more than a dog and pony show.

You know, have somebody stand up and do the right thing. I can give you five different examples of teams that should have been able to, or should have signed him, because clearly, Colin is -- if not, one of the 20 top guys walking the earth who could play quarterback. He certainly is in the 30 and there's nobody who will tell you he's not in the top 65.


VAUSE: Notably, though, Colin Kaepernick was not invited to the meeting between owners and players.

Well, a U.S. Judge has blocked the latest version of President Trump's travel ban one day before it would have taken effect.

SESAY: Now, the White House insists the ban will keep Americans safe from terrorism, but it would not have stopped the so-called U.S. Project. A terror plot where three suspects were planning a massive attack on New York. One was an American living in Pakistan, one was from Canada, and the other from the Philippines. None of those countries fall under President Trump's travel ban.

VAUSE: A CNN analysis found that 91 percent of people arrested for ISIS-related offences since 2014 were either American citizens or from non-travel ban countries. Jessica Schneider has more now on the travel ban ruling as well as reaction from the White House.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The latest travel ban that was supposed to take effect, Wednesday, it is on hold at least for now. Hawaii federal court judge Derrick Watson, who also ruled against the second travel ban has issued another ruling, halting this latest version that was released by the Trump administration at the end of September.

Now, Judge Watson called it detrimental and discriminatory, saying, it's no different than the previous two versions. Well, civil liberties groups are calling this a victory for the rule of law. But the Trump administration calls the ruling, quote, dangerously flawed. And said that undercuts the President's efforts to keep Americans safe. And the Department of Justice is now planning a quick appeal of the ruling. Now, the administration also argues that it went through a long process of reviewing the travel vetting procedures of every country around the world. And it ended by restricting travel from eight countries in this latest version. Those countries are Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, as well as North Korea, and Venezuela.

[02:45:00] And many people believe the last two countries were added to the list to refute the idea that this was a Muslim ban. Now, this latest ruling does not affect North Korea or Venezuela. So, the question is, what happens now? Well, the Supreme Court had already delayed hearings on the second travel ban, but it likely with more appeals on the way with this latest version, the nation's highest court will eventually hear arguments on this ban as well. It's a ban, of course, that has now been put on hold at least for now. Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.

SESAY: Well, a federal judge in California wants the Trump administration to turnover any documents related to its decision to rescind DACA, the Differed -- the Deferred, rather, Action for Childhood Arrivals. The Obama-era measured it deferred the deportation of thousands of so-called Dreamers, people who were brought to the U.S. as children.

The court ruling is only a partial victory for groups challenging the move. The judge said that administration have to hand over documents only if staff members gave advice to the acting Secretary of Homeland Security. There are currently several lawsuits against the lifting of DACA protections.

Well, it's been nearly a month since Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico and about a third of the island's residents don't have access to clean, running water.

VAUSE: But our next guest is hoping to do something about that, "Crazy Legs" Richard Colon has gone from break dancer to water guy. His story, next.


SESAY: You're looking at thousands of Muslim Rohingyas escaping a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar. Around half of -- half a million of them have fled in two months, taking a dangerous journey to Bangladesh. They're now facing a major humanitarian emergency. Amnesty International says there's evidence Myanmar is committing crimes against humanity. Aid agencies are demanding the Myanmar government, give them full access to Rohingya villages. The U.N. fears Myanmar could be carrying out ethnic cleansing.

VAUSE: Well, Puerto Rico is enduring a painful and slow recovery, and it is having a deep impact on those who live on the island like U.S. citizens like Sammy Rolon, he's 18 years old, he has cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

SESAY: He needs surgery, but his family lost everything when Hurricane Maria hit almost a month ago. They now live in a school turned into a clinic. Volunteers are trying to help, but really, they just don't have much to offer. This woman sits on a bed soaked with rainwater, isolated in the mountains. And she's saying, basically, I can't do it anymore. Ed Lavandera has more on the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As local legend has it, the town of Villalba was the first city in Puerto Rico to get electrical light more than a hundred years ago. But now, people wonder if this might be one of the last places to get the lights turned back on.

I understand what they're struggling with. Mayor Luis Javier Hernandez tells us to jump into his police Humvee for a ride. We drive deep through the mountain valley.

These things are improving so slowly that like the hurricane just struck here yesterday.

Villalba is a city that sits high in the mountains of central Puerto Rico, it's home to about 27,000 people. The nightmare and the logistical nightmare that Hurricane Maria left behind is everywhere. It took three weeks just to clear some of the major roads.

[02:49:59] There is no electricity anywhere in the city. The mayor says it's taken weeks for state and federal officials to understand how desperate the situation is here. He's asked federal authorities for industrial generators, they haven't come. He struggled to get helicopters to evacuate three people who needed kidney dialysis and oxygen. They, along with one other person died.

He says that evacuation helicopters didn't arrive in time to get the people out of here to save their lives, and they ended up dying.

Local crews deliver meals and water to 1500 families, but that's still not enough. And he's not convinced all the relief supplies are reaching the residents here.

The mayor says that he's worried that -- and he's heard that there is food and water that has been sent for this town, Villalba, and he believes it's just sitting in San Juan and not making its way here.

The mayor says major help has only started to arrive in the last two days. FEMA officials are processing disaster claims, and he's getting some logistical help from the military.

Is it too slow? Yes, he says, "It's too slow because the line between life and death is very small, very thin hear.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, San Juan, Puerto Rico.


VAUSE: Well, for many around the world, Crazy Legs and the Rock Steady Crew are best known from the early days of hip-hop and the mainstreaming of break dancing. Here's an 80s flashback to the movie Beat Street.



VAUSE: Well, that was Richard Colon, aka "Crazy Legs", considered the most famous B-boy of them all. These days in Puerto Rico, though, he's the "water guy." From the past few weeks, Colon has been working with Waves For Water, a non-profit group distributing water purifying kits to some remote parts of the island and with the help of a few hip-hop friends, he's also started Rock Steady For Life, a fundraiser to try and provide just the basics which so many still do not have almost a month since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico.

And Richard Colon "Crazy Legs" joins us now from New York. So, welcome. Glad you're with us.


VAUSE: You've just been down -- you've just been down to Puerto Rico and, you know, it's still pretty grim, right?

COLON: It's pretty devastating down there. There's a lot of desperation, there are a lot of people who are really fending for themselves because they feel that they can no longer rely on FEMA or the federal government to really do what's necessary in an -- in an immediate and long-term manner. So, it's pretty grim down there right now.

VAUSE: So, explain your particular project here. This all -- how did this all start? You went back to the storm and you seemed to realize pretty quickly in, what, just a few days, that a shortage of clean water was actually the real problem here. Because all these weeks later, now we're hearing that the island, because of this shortage of water, could be facing a second disaster.

COLON: Yes. Well, the thing is that Waves For Water was already on the ground. They rode out the storm which was a beautiful thing. They knew -- they anticipated first that this was something that was going to happen. And an immediate response was going to be needed.

So, when I was in Holland, I actually reached out to Red Bull and I was literally crying in my hotel room and I told them -- I just sent them an e-mail and saying, hey, you are the most powerful people I know and the people that can actually help me help my people. Can you please help me? And they connect me with Waves For Water which they already had a relation - a relationship with, and I was taught how to use the filtration system, I learned how to teach people how to use them, and then we got them distributed into the communities so that we affected about 15,000 people.

VAUSE: Wow. And, you know, these water-purifying kits, they're pretty simple to use. But importantly, they go beyond just delivering a truck load of water. It's the teach a man to fish theory, right?

COLON: Yes. Yes. And not only that, you can go towards a river or a ravine and just literally take the water out of there and run it through this system, and now you have clean water. So, if people aren't getting to with supplies and you need water and you have access to a river, you can concert that water into drinkable water without drinking chemicals.

VAUSE: So, the Puerto Ricans says they can help themselves, they don't have to sit back and wait for everybody to do all the work for them, which is I think what the U.S. President said a few weeks ago.

COLON: Well, in a -- the Puerto Rican people, my people have been doing everything they needed to do with the very little supplies that they are entitled to because of how they pay into the government. So, the thing is that for someone to say that we are lazy people is just ridiculous, because when I went down there, the only people working towards cleaning the streets and rebuilding their homes were the people of Puerto Rico.

[02:55:03] VAUSE: It's incredible, the gap which is there, which is being filled by these private individuals like you and like a whole bunch of other people who are just stepping up. You know, Texas and Florida, they're affected by hurricanes, they never experienced lack of clean water like what's happening in Puerto Rico right now. Do you think many on the mainland just don't comprehend the scale and the scope of what is needed by Puerto Ricans right now?

COLON: Well, you deal with the situation that is affected by the infrastructure of Puerto Rico not being sufficient enough to withstand any kind of storm. You have a lot of the lines which are up above ground. And those lines need to be removed because they're antiquated and things need to go underground so we can get right back up and going if this ever happens again. So, I don't think people understand that we're dealing with a system that is kind of broken, because you have so much debt and the government isn't willing to relieve the Island of Puerto Rico of that debt.

VAUSE: Yes. This whole recovery effort has become so politicized. That must be incredibly frustrating for people who just want clean water, something to eat, and God forbid, turn on an electric light sometimes.

COLON: Well, the thing is, we are working on a mission right now. Now that you bring up lights, we worked out a deal with -- we partnered with Empowered. And I'm going down there on the 25th of October with 3,000 solar lights to get into the deaf community as well as -- as well as (INAUDIBLE) areas and the west side of Puerto Rico. So, you know, I'm really concerned about my people and the community that I live in down there. My friends and family who have property there. So, we're trying to do all that we can to try to make a difference with the fundraiser that we have, Rock Steady For Life which is a if anyone wants to support. But we're doing the best we can with very little.

VAUSE: It sounds like you're doing a lot with a little -- and on you for that so thank you.

COLON: Thank you.

VAUSE: Good to speak with you, Richard, thank you.

COLON: Thank you very much.

SESAY: (INAUDIBLE) good work.

VAUSE: Yes, there's a lot of people, too. And they're all the stories and we hope to tell them more over the coming weeks and months because this is going to go on and on.

SESAY: Yes. Sadly so. You've been watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles, I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause. News continues with Rosemary Church after a short break. You're watching CNN.


ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Celebrations in Raqqa after ISIS is defeated in the Syrian City but --