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Trump's Feud Over Condolence Call; White House Facing Questions OVer Ambush In Niger; Decision Day In Catalonia; Attorney General Spars With Senators Over Russia Contacts; California Lawmakers Speak Out On Harassment; Spain's Prime Minister Stands Firm On Catalonia Deadline; Madrid's Deadline Loons For Catalonia's Separatists; ISIS Child Slaves Reunited With Their Families. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired October 19, 2017 - 01:00   ET


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

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Ahead this hour, the commander in chief versus the war widow. Donald Trump says, he's condolence call was very nice and claimed -- he says, claims that it was insensitive are a total fabrication.

SESAY: Plus, decision day for Catalonia; the region has just hours to say whether it has declared independence from Spain.

VAUSE: And later, the child slaves of ISIS brought and sold to kill for the terror group.

SESAY: Hello, and thank you for joining us. I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause. This is NEWSROOM L.A. Well, the U.S. president is under fire from critics who say he is politicizing the deaths of four soldiers killed in an ambush in Niger earlier this month.

SESAY: It took 12 days for the president to even mention the casualties. And ever since he did, it's been one misstep after another. CNN's Jeff Zeleny has our report.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump thrown out in a firestorm over his condolence call to the grieving widow of an American soldier killed in Niger.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Didn't say what that congresswoman said. Didn't say it at all. Today at the White House, the president spoke about his call Tuesday to Isha Johnson, she's the pregnant wife of Sergeant La David Johnson, who mourned the loss when his flag-draped casket arrived home in Florida. The soldier's mother and Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who both listened to the call, told CNN the president disrespect Sgt. Johnson by saying, "he knew what he signed up for." The president denied using those words saying Twitter that, "Wilson totally fabricated what I said to the wife of the soldier who died in action, and I have proof. Sad." He did not provide proof as the controversy escalated between the

commander in chief and the family of a fallen soldier.

TRUMP: I did not say what she said. I had a very nice conversation with the woman, with the wife, who has sounded like a lovely woman. Did not say what the congresswoman said and most people aren't too surprised to hear that.


TRUMP: Let her make her statement again and then you'll find out.

ZELENY: Wilson, A Florida Democrat, stood by her account. The soldier's mother also telling CNN, the congresswoman's recollection was very accurate. When asked if she was shocked by the president's words, the congresswoman said this.

REP. FREDERICA WILSON (D), FLORIDA: But we're all stunned. So insensitive. So insensitive. Mr. Trump is crazy.

ZELENY: The extraordinary feud did little to shed light on what actually led to the ambush that killed Johnson and three other American soldiers in West Africa. For the president, it's the deadliest combat incident involving U.S. troops since taking office. Asked earlier why he didn't address the attack for nearly two weeks, the president falsely claimed his predecessors did not contact the families fallen troops.

TRUMP: If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls.

ZELENY: He was another (INAUDIBLE) against his credibility as he tries to bridge new life into his stalled legislative agenda. Today the president abruptly reverse course on health care. After signaling his support Tuesday for a bipartisan deal over Obamacare subsidies --

TRUMP: For a period of one year, two years, we will have a very good solution, but we're going to have a great solution ultimately for health care.

ZELENY: He all but withdrew his support for the agreement.

TRUMP: We're going to see the bipartisan and Lamar Alexander's working on it very hard for (INAUDIBLE). And if something can happen, that's fine, but I won't anything to enrich to insurance companies. Because right now, the insurance companies are being enriched.

ZELENY: Now the underlying issue at the center of this extraordinary back and forth is that attack in Niger two weeks ago. Senator John McCain, the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee said that he has not got all the information he needs about what led to that attack that killed four American soldiers. Asked directly if the Trump administration is being forthcoming, he said no. Jeff Zeleny, CNN, The White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VAUSE: Well, for more, we're joined now by Democratic Strategist, Caroline Heldman, and Republican Strategist, Charles Moran. Thank you, guys, for being with us. OK. So, this is out of the question, you know, he said/she said. So, this is how the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders describes the conversation between the president and Mrs. Johnson.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president's call, as accounted by multiple people in the room believe that the president was completely respectful, very sympathetic, and expressed our condolences to himself and the rest of the country, and thanked the family for their service, commended them for having an American hero in their family, and I don't know how you could take it any other way.


[01:05:02] VAUSE: Well, Congresswoman Wilson seems to have a very different than on what happened. Here she is.


WILSON: This man is a sick man. He's cold-hearted, and he feels no pity or sympathy for anyone. This is a grieving widow. A grieving widow who is six months pregnant. This is a young woman. She's only 24 years old; she weighs maybe 110 pounds, and she has two other kids -- 2-years-old and 6-years-old. And when she actually hung up the phone, she looked at me and said, "he didn't even know his name." That is the worst part.


VAUSE: Congresswoman Wilson also says that you know, the woman was shaking and, you know, was sort left numb by all of this. So, Caroline, l guess, at the end of the day, who do you believe? Who has the motive or the reason here, I guess, to lie?

CAROLINE HELDMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think Donald Trump has proven himself to be both not very empathetic and also not very honest, right? So, we have a Gold Star mother who is backing up claims of this congresswoman. So, I have no doubt that they wouldn't make such an awful story up. Donald Trump is somebody who, you know, first went to Texas after Harvey and talks about crowd size, and then went to Puerto Rico and threw out paper towels to desperate people. So, this is not a man who is big on empathy. And so, I believe that he is perfectly capable of botching a call like this.

SESAY: And Charles, in your view, is it appropriate for the president of the United States to be involved in a back and forth with a Gold Star widow and her loved ones.

CHARLES MORAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think, primarily, the direction of the whole conversation should be around --

SESAY: Is it appropriate?

MORAN: The president does not like to be criticized and attacked. And the Gold Star wife, I think, you know, had her comments --

SESAY: I asked you.

MORAN: Broadcasted by the Congresswoman.

SESAY: Not what I asked you.

MORAN: Congresswoman Wilson, I think, was the one who really picked this fight. And some of the words that are being bantered around her are not what the Gold Star wife is saying, but what the congresswoman has said.

SESAY: He's the president of the United States. by extension he's engaged in a back and forth with a Gold Star widow, is it appropriate?

MORAN: The direction, and Sarah Sanders just said it, is that the president is making the call and he is frustrated that people are calling to question his dedication to the Gold Star wife that he was calling amongst many of the calls that he makes to other people who are -- you know, who lost their lives in the line of duty.

SESAY: We'll just put it down that you've dodged it.

SESAY: Well, he's frustrated now. Well, he's going to get, you know, even more frustrated, because now, everyone's looking into these other interactions between the president and the families, including the story which was in Wednesday's Washington Post about the president promising to give $25,000 to Chris Baldridge after his son Dylan was killed in Afghanistan -- that was last week.

Here's some of the reporting, "In his call with Trump, Baldridge, a construction worker, express frustration with the military's survivor benefit program because his ex-wife was listed as their son's beneficiary, she was expected to receive the Pentagon's $100,000 death gratuity even though," in his words, "'I can barely rub two nickels together,' he told Trump. The president's response shocked him. He said, 'I'm going to write a check out of my personal account for $25,000,' 'and I was just floored,' Baldridge said. 'I could not believe he was saying that and I wish I had it recorded because the man did say this.' He said, 'No other president has ever done something like this,' but he said, 'I'm going to do it.'" Which sounds very Trumpian to many people. And you know, the good news is, the presidential did make good on that promise today after the story was in the newspaper, Charles, and that's not exactly a good look.

MORAN: Well, the president's generosity and charity have maybe not been well chronicled but it is -- at the end of the day, the president has made a lot of private charitable contributions that he's not taken any kind responsibility or even not gotten a lot of credit for.

VAUSE: Like?

MORAN: Well, at the end of -- he really has. You know, writing, you know, checks to those with Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation back in the '90s when it wasn't popular. When he's sent his plane to pick, you know, kids when he -- he's written those checks. As a private citizen without the kind of fan care. He has a much longer track record of fulfilling those types of contributions and private obligations. I don't know the background and the circumstances on this one -- he fulfilled it. He didn't dodge it. He didn't argue it to that point. He fulfilled his commitment, and he has a history fulfilling private communities.

VAUSE: Is it just a coincidence, the story we hear today, and the check went out today?

MORAN: And you know what? I'm glad that it did because that means that he fulfilled his commitment. If he made the commitment and it takes, you know, who knows where the, you know, request ended up going but it happens.

SESAY: You're right. You're right. Who knows, absolutely.

MORAN: But it got done. And this is one contribution in a string of successful contributions that he has given to private citizens out of empathy of hearing their stories.

SESAY: And Caroline, what's your takeaway from this episode?

HELDMAN: Well, my takeaway is that I'm glad that that gentleman got the $25,000, but why is the president of the United States randomly offering these sorts of deals to people that he meets? Is that the president -- I mean, amateur hour, right? If you're offering that to this father, why aren't you offering it to other father who also can't count rug to not do this -- nickels together, thank you. It doesn't -- it just -- it speaks to the fact that he doesn't really know what he's doing, and he's constantly making mistakes.

And I think this is another mistake and I think he actually has a track record of promising things, and then not delivering. I think if you look at the Harvey relief, that should be your perfect example -- just the amount of time that it's taken to even get started on making that donation. And the only reason he's doing it it's because it's in the press.

[01:10:44] MORAN: And part of the problem, and I think you recognize this, that we've got a dysfunctional bureaucracy here that's not acting fast enough. President Trump may be right, but he's not rich enough to solve all of the problems that the federal governments and the inefficiencies that exist. But veterans claim that is not being paid, the inadequacy, and the health care system.

He doesn't have enough money to be able to pay for all of those things, but he has been charged with helping clean up the spending, increased the responsiveness and the accountability of the federal. And I'm hoping that these types of situations, where maybe there is a little public support that it pushes him to fulfill a commitment like this, is also going to push Congress to execute an agenda that's going to help, you know, ensure that these situations don't exist when the survivor benefit should be paid. VAUSE: OK. Well, let's move on to the NFL because the president continues to go after the league, who're not changing the rules to essentially force players to stand during the national anthem. The president says, taking a knee, the protester for social justice for African-Americans disrespects the flag the military Commissioner Roger Goodell talked about that the league was actually taking to address some of the reasons why the players are protesting in the first place.


ROGER GOODELL, COMMISSIONER OF THE NFL: We're not afraid of the tough conversations. That's what we're having with our players, that's what we had yesterday to make sure we understand one another and understand where they are coming from. And I think out of those discussions, they understand that the owners in the NFL really do care about their issues, and what we can do to make the communities better.


VAUSE: Caroline, what sort of twilight zone are we living in when the NFL is sounding more reasonable, sensible, and fair than the elected president of the United States?

HELDMAN: Indeed. I think it's fascinating that a man, self- proclaimed businessman, talks about impinging upon the rights of a private corporation, and also impinging upon the rights of freedom of speech, right? He is just throwing red meat. He is making this an issue of racial division. We saw him do it during the campaign. We're seeing him do it in office. I mean, he had no issue giving cover to the neo-Nazis who emerged in Charlottesville, right?

Talked about, you know, there are good people on both sides and defended their right to march, and hasn't spoken out about Richard Spencer who is going to be marching in Florida to the tune of probably millions of dollars because we've declared a state of emergency, and there are expenses attached to the security there. But he doesn't want people to respectfully take a knee. Somehow, he has an issue with that expression of freedom of speech. The hypocrisy here is so sick, you could cut it with a knife.

SESAY: I guess, Charles, my question to you is why hasn't the president used this moment with these African-American players who are taking a knew because of the difficult or fought the incendiary, if you will, the relationship between minorities, people of color, and the police. Why didn't he say to this moment, to say, you know what, this is the moment for us to have a conversation about a bigger issue in this country? This is a moment for us to explore, you know, your reasons and your -- you know, what he would say your justifications for kneeling. Why hasn't that happened? Why has he just taken it and run with it as part of a kind of wedge issue, part of the culture$, wars?

MORAN: Well, I think, you know, the president is going to set his own priorities on what he thinks the best venue to discuss.

SESAY: Well, he's not interested in having an issue to point, even have a conversation.

MORAN: The NFL is a private entity and a private organization. And to my knowledge, Caroline, the president has not threatened the NFL with any kind of retaliation. It's a private entity --

HELDMAN: Nobody has made that claim. But he's definitely chastised them and threatened a boycott which would affect the bottom line.

MORAN: And he is one person who can make --

HELDMAN: He's the president --

MORAN: And he has opinion on --

HELDMAN: -- of the United States.

MORAN: Just like everybody else in America. And the conversation that he has won.

HELDMAN: Let's make false equivalent between the --

MORAN: He's used the bully pulpit

HELDMAN: -- the opinions of the president and anyone else.

MORAN: He has an opinion as most people in this country do. It's a private organization. They can -- and the NFL has made their choice and -- on how they're going to conduct things also as a private organization. And you know, viewers can decide to tune or they can decide to tune out, just as equally.

VAUSE: Well, something he should've tuned into earlier today was the Attorney General Jeff Beauregard Sessions III, making an appearance too -- in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee which is investigating Russia's links to the Trump campaign during last year's election. Al Franken, the Senator, it was must-see T.V.


SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: First it was "I did not have communications with Russians, " which was not true. Then it was, "I never met with any Russians discuss any political campaign," which may or may not be true. Now, it's "I did not discuss interference in the campaign."

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, let me just say this without hesitation that conducted no improper discussions with Russians at any time, regarding our campaign or any other item facing this country.


[01:15:45] VAUSE: Charles, over the last six, seven months one thing that's become very clear is that Jeff Sessions' memory is worse than the stones as he's been throwing into the jail for the last few years. MORAN: One of -- you know, first and foremost, those ethics clearances and the questionnaires they ask are very detailed, and they should be followed, you know, there's not a lot of leeway on have you had a conversation or have you not had a conversation? That said, you know, the Democrats, especially the United States Senator, just continue trying to justify the massive loss. If Hillary Clinton then blaming the Russians and any kind of Russia interference, I guess, we're boiled down to $100,000 spent on Facebook ads. That's what threw evidently the election --

HELDMAN: Well, if nothing happened, Charles, then why are so many people in the administration lying about their contact with the Russians? I mean, I'm sorry, there's just an awful lot of smoke here. If nothing happened, why so much dishonesty? Why is our attorney general -- why did he perjure himself during his Senate confirmation?

MORAN: There's absolutely no reason for anybody to be dishonest when you're submitting those documents

HELDMAN: Indeed.

MORAN: But once again, the continued infatuation by Democrats on trying to explain their loss in the 2016 election cycle across the board, when they should've picked up the Senate, they should've -- you know, Hillary Clinton is supposed to win, you know. And again, we're coming back to Facebook ads and impropriety there.

VAUSE: I think it's all conspiracy theory -- work in Washington, because they're all being hired as --

SESAY: You can play --

VAUSE: Charles and Caroline, good to see you.

SESAY: Thank you.

HELDMAN: Thank you.

MORAN: Thank you.

SESAY: Quick break here. Spain's prime minister is standing firm. Catalan leaders have just a few more hours to clarify whether the region has declared independence or not, we'll find out what could happen next.

VAUSE: Plus, the groundswell of outrage over sexual harassment has moved from Hollywood to California's capital, where a bipartisan group of women has said enough.


VAUSE: Catalan leaders are coming out to a deadline from Madrid less than three hours from now to officially if the region has declared independence from Spain. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says Spain will move to dissolve the Catalan administration and order new election if the region's leaders push for independence in the coming hours. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[01:20:02] MARIANO RAJOY, PRIME MINISTER OF SPAIN (through translator): The only thing I'm asking Mr. Puigdemont is that he acts with sanity, that he acts with balance, and that he puts the interests of all citizens first, of all Spaniards and all Catalans. This is simple and it is not difficult to answer the question: have you declared Catalonia's independence or not? Because if we understand that he has declared the independence of Catalonia, the government is obliged to respond.


SESAY: Well, our European Affairs Commentator, Dominic Thomas, joins us now. Dominic, good to have you with us once again. You know, he says has he or hasn't he. Well, the deadline was Monday and that's moved to Thursday, and Carles Puigdemont did not say he hadn't. I think we can infer that he's leaning towards, you know, say he's going to step away.

DOMINIC THOMAS, EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: He's stuck. He wants to declare independence, he realizes there are consequences for doing that, but he knew that all along. He's under tremendous pressure from the Separatist to go ahead and do that. And so, one thinks the ball is in his call, but I actually think, really, the ball is in Prime Minister Rajoy's call. He is the leader. He is facing a constitutional crisis here -- the types of which Spain has not experienced for the past 40 years. And to simply let the clock run out to keep making these extensions and so on, it's not helping the situation. And we already saw when he sent in the police and so on to block the referendum votes, that things disintegrated into violence, and that's a big concern that we have.

SESAY: The expectation is that if Carles Puigdemont does, you know, stand his ground and say Catalonia's going to declare independence that Mariano Rajoy will trigger Article 155 of the Constitution and basically take over the powers Catalonia. How much support does Rajoy have for such a move within Spain at large?

THOMAS: Well, he's under enormous pressure to do this, and to demonstrate Spanish unity. And so, his own political future in many ways is attached to this, and to this opposition. But having said that, the risk, of course, is that we've already seen what happened with the referendum. To spark taking over the region, well, on the on hand, galvanize support for the Separatist even with, you know, people that might not automatically be in support of the broader cause.

The risk of violence will bring additional attention to Spain. And Rajoy, really, in some ways, it shines away from exercising real courageous leadership, which is to broaden the discussion about Catalonia to Spain in general. And to perhaps have a discussion about what it means to be part of regions, and yet belong to a whole. It is the bigger the E.U. question as well; people living in the region have genuine grievances. One needs to listen to those. One needs to think about what it means to have specific minority languages living in a national culture and so on. And Rajoy as Prime Minister has a responsibility to do that --

encouraging, for example, a new regional election could be important. But that's, of course, very threatening to the Separatist who deep down know that they probably don't have support for a fall out referendum that was run a legal context.

SESAY: But you talk about showing leadership and having a difficult conversation. The fact that two individuals, I guess, we can call them two leaders who were part of organizing the referendum, have now been held, and basically that bail while they're being investigated for sedition. I mean, that seems to send a message, right? That you know, they want no more of this stuff; directly countering your thinking of we should be having a conversation.

THOMAS: Right. And first of all, blocking the referendum sent a very strong message. And Rajoy should've have watched, you know, the videos that came out of that, and the way in which international pressure is there and trying to make him sort of do something about it too. And obviously, the sort of maintaining in detention people that are seen as independence has already galvanized people from other political parties who found this to be absolutely disturbing and disquieting that Spain is engaging in this kind of behavior today.

SESAY: Will this be seen? Whatever happens in the hours to come -- I mean, you said less than 3-1/2 hours before we get that decision, will this be seen as a failure on the part of European Union leaders?

THOMAS: Yes. Because I think they're hypocritical. They tend to pick and choose what they consider to be domestic affairs. So, they've been very involved in, for example, talking about the fate E.U. nationals in the United Kingdom with the Brexit deal, which is an internal British matter if they were to withdraw, and yet they have in shied away from getting involved in the Catalonia question. We saw with the outcome of the Austrian election, and the move to the right and the far-right. We saw the outcome of the German election, so there's -- I think the European Union has not yet figured out how it wants to position itself when it comes to these micro-claims that are being made within counties.

SESAY: Dominic, it's always fascinating to speak to you. Thank you so much for this.

THOMAS: Thank you.

[01:25:07] VAUSE: Well, ISIS and its Caliphate are fading into the past. The terror group's brutality may haunt its youngest victims for the rest of their lives. After the break, saving the child slaves of ISIS.

SESAY: Plus, the U.S. secretary of state with some strong words for Myanmar, where he lays the blame for growing humanitarian crisis just ahead.


VAUSE: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour: Spain's prime minister says he won't extend Thursday's deadline for Catalan leaders to clarify whether they had officially declared independence. Mariano Rajoy said, if the Catalan president pushes for independence in the coming hours, Spain would move to dissolve the Catalan administration and order new election.

VAUSE: Russian reality T.V. star, Ksenia Sobchak, has announced she's running for president because he believes Vladimir Putin has been in power for far too long. Putin is expected to seek a fourth term which opinion polls suggest he would easily win.

SESAY: The fighters who pushed ISIS out of Raqqa are now going after the terror group's last two strongholds in Syria. A spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces says they are speeding up efforts to defeat ISIS in Dier Ez-Zor. Meantime, there is force that is also working to clear Raqqa of any ISIS fighters and explosive that may have been left behind.

VAUSE: Well, as ISIS is driven out from Iraq and Syria, it leaves behind a legacy of devastation, brutality, and victims and is scarred like the many children sold as slaves.

SESAY: One by one, some of these lost children are being found and returned to their families -- an emotional reunion. CNN's Nima Elbagir has our exclusive report.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the moment Abdullah Nishrem has been waiting months for. The moment he finally gets to meet Marwan. Abdullah was responsible for helping smuggle Marwan to safety. Marwan is 11-year-old. Three years ago, when he was just eight, he said he was abducted by ISIS and forced to serve as a slave on that frontline. Since then, he's been sold on 11 times. From Sinjar to Aleppo, then from Aleppo to Dubka, to Raqqa, (INAUDIBLE), he casually comes off towns and territories reciting the equal bravado -- his slave duties.

[01:29:58] ISIS, he says, trained him to use an RPG, a Dushka machinegun, a pistol. "I blew things up twice," he tells me with pride. He shows us how to throw a grenade. The trick he says is to count to three first. He shows us his wounds, a slashed elbow, a twice broken leg. His eyes, though, a window into the trauma he's seen.

As we arrived at the refugee camp that now houses his Marwan can't quite believe his eyes. His sister, brothers, then grandma. Marwan's father is still missing. The joy today of Marwan's return, a reminder for his grandmother of her loss. A loss, she says, never leaves her, never leaves any of them.

Just in this camp alone, more than a dozen rescued by this network of smugglers, traffickers, Good Samaritans, and some more dubious characters. It may not be orthodox but those we speak do say, does that really matter if it gets the job done?

ABDULLAH SHREM, SMUGGLER (through translator): Our family was captured by ISIS. I first didn't know much about this but it became a duty for us to go in and rescue these people. We don't see that the peoples of the world were standing up for the Yazidis, so we had to do it ourselves.

ELBAGIR: In the day since ISIS began selling women and children, a secondary market has now sprung up. And young Yazidi boys, he says, can go for as much as $1,000.

SHREM (through translator): They don't think we are human beings. They think our children are slaves for them.

ELBAGIR: Hussein Al Qadi works at the Kurdish Prime Minister-funded office for kidnap and rescue.

HUSSEIN AL QADI, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF KIDNAP AND RESCUE: We started our work in October 2014 after ISIS took over Sinjar. Around 3,200 Yazidis remained captive.

ELBAGIR: We are heading in now -- Mr. Hussein is taking us to the house of a 4-year-old boy who was kidnapped and sold by ISIS. It's just around the corner here. In a makeshift house with mattresses against the wall, 4-year-old Lazam greets us. His father, Kazim Abdali, is still waiting and hoping for the return of his wife and two other missing children. Lazam was rescued four days ago. He sits quietly before agreeing to show us where he plays. It takes a little while to find the sparse rocky field he used to play football. He waits, but no one turns up.

Lazam can't speak the local language. He was a toddler when he and his mother were abducted. Our producer manages to ascertain that Lazam grew up speaking Turkish, the language spoken by his then- owners. Lazam doesn't want to talk about his missing mother or the scars on his forehead. Lazam like Marwan also changed hands a number of times, and so he was returned to his father, he didn't even know his own name. He told us his owners called him, "boy."

AL QADI: As long as I am alive, I'll be trying to save Yazidi captives.

ELBAGIR: Across Iraq and Syria, the fight against ISIS may be waning but the fight to rebuild the lives and families they shattered continues. Nima Elbagir, CNN (INAUDIBLE) camp, Northern Iraq.


ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: The legacy of ISIS will --

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. It's awful. And who buys kids and keeps them? Anyway, back in a moment.

SESAY: Yes. Quick break here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [01:35:56] VAUSE: With just two words, it seems actress Alyssa Milano

sparked a powerful rallying cry heard around the world when over the weekend, she tweed, "If you've been sexually harassed or assaulted write, 'me too' as a reply to this tweet." Milano didn't take credit. The idea she said came from a friend at a similar Me Too campaign was created 10 years, but her tweet in the wake of graphic accounts of sexual assault by movie producer Harvey Weinstein, and also revelations that so many in Hollywood have been willing to look the other way to remain silent, effectively giving tacit approval for the most powerful to exploit the most vulnerable.

As of Wednesday for the record, more than 40 women now accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct and using the #MeToo, millions of stories have been shared, exposing the disturbing scope and sheer magnitude of sexual assault and harassment around the world. Former U.S. Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney revealed on Wednesday, she too is a victim using her verified Twitter account under #MeToo, she alleged former team doctor, Larry Nassar, reportedly molested her starting from when she was just 13 years old.

Here's part of what she wrote, "For me, the scariest night of my life happened when l was 15 years old. I fought all day and night with the team to get to Tokyo. He'd given me a sleeping pill for the flight and the next thing I know I was all alone with him in his hotel room getting a treatment. I thought I was going to die that night." Nassar was arrested last November on charges of criminal sexual misconduct. His lawyers did not respond to our calls about Maroney's allegations. That groundswell of speaking out of publicly saying Me Too has spread from Hollywood to California's capital. More than 140 women of bipartisan group including lawmakers and lobbyists have called out what they described as pervasive sexual misconduct by powerful men.

In a letter to the Los Angeles Times, they wrote, "Men have groped and touched us without our consent. Made inappropriate comments about our bodies and our abilities. Why didn't we speak out? Sometimes out of fear, sometimes out of shame. Often these men hold our professional states in their hands." Cristina Garcia is a democrat, an elected member of the state house. Her signature is also on that letter. And Cristina is with us from Sacramento. Thank you so much for being with us and telling us all about this letter. And Cristina, I'd like to start with your experience. You signed that letter. So, what have you gone through over the years?

CRISTINA GARCIA, MEMBER, CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLY: Two weeks after I got elected, I had a lobbyist grab my butt and after I yelled at him and I told the Senator who was with me, he told me to be quiet and not say anything about it because he had a lot of power, and you know, it was best for my career that I didn't say anything. After that, I've had men who have held me a little bit too long, who have talked to me about my body or my dress when I'm trying to talk to them about my legislation. You know, and a number of other incidents over the five years that I've been in the legislature.

VAUSE: And clearly --

GARCIA: I've also seen them be inappropriate with other women.

VAUSE: Well, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt. I was going to ask you that. Because clearly, by the number of people who's willing to sign this letter, your experience is not unique.

GARCIA: No, far from unique. And I think there are a lot of women who haven't signed the letter or haven't shared their Me Too. And it's fine, they don't have to share it out there who are also victims and are not ready to share that trauma with anyone yet.

VAUSE: You're -- from what it sounds like, the culture and atmosphere with state politics there in Sacramento, it sounds incredibly similar to the movie industry here in Los Angeles, powerful men essentially holding the careers and fate of women hostage in return for staying silent about sexual harassment.

[01:40:02] GARCIA: I think what it is, is that you have a real imbalance of power and the balance is concentrated in one gender. And when you see that, I think you see the abuse. And I think it's proportional, the more imbalanced that power is, the more that abuse that you see. And I think we can look at the numbers in state legislature is less than 25 percent are female, you know, less than 25 percent of the capital chief of staffs are female and we could look out at some other spaces and woman aren't empowered. And so, I think this is about power, this is about humiliation, this is about testing the boundaries and see how much you could get away with that power. And what we're seeing here with the Senators, enough, you know, we want this to end. We're speaking up, but we're also asking those people in power to stand with us be the change agents that we need.

VAUSE: You know, what is surprising, California is meant to be this progressive state and you're leading the nation and the world, and then it was like environment, immigration, but on this issue, there seem to be a real disconnect. So, how do you explain that?

GARCIA: Again, it goes back to how many women are empowered and less than 25 percent of the legislature are women and are we -- and you know, a lot of us aren't holding powerful positions. And so, it's just, I think, a dynamic that we live in a man's world and you start to think that this is normal or this is a price of doing business in this area. And you're afraid to say anything because when you do, you are told you're crazy, people don't want to work with you, they say you're overreacting, and so, you just end up keeping quiet a lot of times, but it's a trauma that you carry, and it's something we should never have to put up with, and I always keep saying for those of you have -- who have seen this, speak up, you have power to help stop it. And the burden cannot be all on the victims.

VAUSE: OK. So, they should know the consequences for speaking out, right? So, when we look at what's happening at the moment is what some people describe as this watershed moment. Is this the moment when everything changes, or this is just online outrage, it will last for a few more days, maybe a week when we hear a few more stories, and then slowly, as things often do, they just sort of all quietly -- everything just returns to sort of how it was, no one really bothers about making any more changes in, you know, moving forward? GARCIA: Well, I think the question is if people want to continue to be complicit or do you want to create an environment that we could be proud of. For the victims, you know, there's a single way we carry that burden, that trauma all of our lives. And so, I think, again, we're going to keep speaking up, we're setting it up as a capital community. We've come together and we often times talk about this amongst ourselves, but we're now inviting the rest of the community to be part of the solution. And I want to be -- I want to be -- I want to be positive. I've gotten calls from some of my colleague, saying, you know, I don't know how to fix this, but I want to work with you. And so, we're going to take advantage of that and we're going to have a conversation and figure out solutions to this, but ultimately, the real change happens when women are empowered, when we're on those board rooms, when we're leading organizations and we have parity in the legislature and we're the chief of staffs. And so I think that that's the bigger part of getting rid of this culture, not just in the capital but everywhere we see this. It's not unique to the capital or to Hollywood. We see it in lots of other places where the men have a disproportion amount of power.

VAUSE: Equal numbers in the boardroom, in the state legislature, in the Hollywood Studios, and you know, of course, you know, equal pay would also go along way as well. Cristina, thanks so much. Great to have you with us. Really appreciate it.

GARCIA: Thank you.

SESAY: Well, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the world can no longer ignore the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar. Thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been killed or driven out by Burmese security forces in what the United Nations called apparent ethnic cleansing. A recent U.N. report says the violence has pushed nearly 20,000 Rohingya Muslims a day across the border into Bangladesh. This is what Mr. Tillerson has to say about who's to blame.


REX TILLERSON, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: We really held the military leadership accountable for what's happening with Rohingya area. If these reports are true, someone is going to be held account for that. And it's up to the military leadership of Burma to decide what direction do they want to play in the future.


SESAY: Well, Tirana Hassan is the Crisis Response Director for Amnesty International. She joins me now from Geneva, Switzerland. Tirana, good to see you once again. Amnesty International released a report on Wednesday, "My World is Finished" Rohingya targeted in crimes against humanity in Myanmar. Tirana, tell me, how did the findings on this latest report change our understanding of what has been happening to the Rohingyas since August.

TIRANA HASSAN, CRISIS RESPONSE DIRECTOR, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Well, this is Amnesty International's most detailed analysis yet of the crises in Rakhine State which has pushed approximately 580,000 Rohingya now across the border into Bangladesh. And what we found in our latest research after speaking to 120 Rohingya refugees, victims, witnesses, is that it's not -- and this is ethnic cleansing, there is absolutely no doubt of that.

[01:45:03] But what we have now documents is that there are 11 acts listed in The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. When committed in these sort of circumstances rise to the level of crimes against humanity and consistently in the interviews that we had done with witnesses, with survivors, six of those is continuing to be coming up, rape, sexual violence, assault, persecution, forced displacement, and even, you know, the denial of basic services like food. I mean, access to food is now one of the push factors which is in tens of thousands of Rohingyas fleeing across the border in most recent days.

SESAY: Tirana, as you just made clear, there's no doubt from your organization's point of view that this is ethnic cleansing based on the research you've done and the people you've spoken to. Now, I want you to take a listen to this, though, this is Jyoti Sanghera, an official in the U.N.'s office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. I want you to take a listen to what this U.N. official had to say.


JYOTI SANGHERA, HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, UNITED NATIONS: At the moment, it has been described as what seems like a textbook example of ethnic cleansing by the High Commissioner. It could meet the boundaries but we haven't yet made that legal determination.


SESAY: Tirana, you hear that and you think what? The U.N. is saying they still haven't made the determination as to whether it meets the legal standings of ethnic cleansing?

HASSAN: We must definitely do believe that this is ethnic cleansing. What we have documented is a widespread systematic attack that is being, you know, affecting and targeting the Rohingya population as a whole. As we know that there were attacks by a Rohingya insurgent group, the government then in response to that has claimed that they're clearing up clearance operations but what it is, is essentially just collective punishment against the Rohingya population which is in wide scale burning. And the type of burning that we believe was actually -- has actually been done not only to punish the Rohingya population but to drive them permanently out of the area.

And what is specifically and very important about the research that we most recently released is that consistently, in some of the worse attacks that we saw, the witnesses have been able to identify the insignia on the actual security forces uniforms. And we have been able to identify the army's western command, the (INAUDIBLE) like infantry division and border guard police has been consistent actors in some of the worst abuses that we have documented. And we're talking about killings, we're talking about rape, we're talking about, you know, the mass burning of civilian villagers. And in line with what Secretary Tillerson's statements most recently

about the military leadership being responsible, this is very much in line with what Amnesty International also believes. There must be justice and accountability. And the accountability of the Myanmar security services who have been involved in these attacks. A lot of focus has been on (INAUDIBLE) but we do know that Min Aung Hlaing is the Commander-in-Chief, and he has the responsibility to reel these troops in.

SESAY: Tirana, I have to ask you about the more than half a million who have crossed over into Bangladesh and are living in existing squalid conditions just hard to even fathom, how much international support is the government of Bangladesh receiving to help with this enormous undertaking?

HASSAN: You know, squalid is a really actual word to describe their conditions in the camp. You know, their -- there are half of the Rohingya population, actually, over half of the Rohingya population has now left Rakhine State in Myanmar and fled across the border into Bangladesh. The humanitarian response, regardless of the massive efforts that have been is severely under-resourced, but on top of that, dealing with any sort of mass population movement of this scale, in this timeframe is incredibly difficult. The humanitarian effort is stretched to capacity, and we know for a fact that there are many without the basic -- the basic access to services that they need, not enough food, only the most basic shelter, and it really is a recipe for disaster. So, the international community does have sort of stepped it up and commit to this humanitarian response. But we would amiss to talk about the humanitarian situation only in Bangladesh, because we have to remember that in Rakhine State itselt, the humanitarian efforts and humanitarian relief has actually been cut off from North Rakhine State since August 25th.

[01:50:07] So, we're talking about, you know, hundreds of thousands of people who would have absolutely no access to services that they survived not including just access to food. And our research is being on that border and people had been coming in and literally falling to the ground, faint, because they haven't had access to food. And they are starving.

SESAY: I know we have seen some horrific pictures in recent days coming out of Rakhine State. Stuff that just you can't unsee once you do see the scenes. You have to think where is the world? Where is the world? Where is the accountability? Tirana Hassan, thank you. Thank you for joining us to talk about this. And we'll keep the conversation going.

HASSAN: Thanks for having me.

VAUSE: Well, a month since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, and after the break, we follow Bill Weir deep into the heart of the island. Find out why help has been so slow to arrive.


SESAY: The security guard who shot outside the Las Vegas gunman's hotel room is telling his story for the first time on the Ellen Degeneres Show. Jesus Campos described patrolling the hotel halls when he was sent to the 32nd floor. At first, he thought he heard drilling sounds.


JESUS CAMPOS, SECURITY GUARD, MANDALAY BAY HOTEL: As I was walking down, I heard a rapid fire and at first I took cover, I felt the burning sensation, I went to go lift my leg up and I saw the blood, that's when I called it in on my radio that shots have been fired.


VAUSE: Well, Campos hid in the hallway. He warned a hotel engineer and a woman coming from another room to take cover. The gunman killed 58 people, wounded nearly 500, and the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

SESAY: All right now, 3 million Americans don't have power and a million don't have clean running water in Puerto Rico.

VAUSE: Our Bill Weir traveled by air into Puerto Rican mountains to find the people try to help the forgotten Americans who are living with a growing humanitarian crisis.


BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As dawn brings Maria's one-month anniversary, we head out of San Juan by air. And low to the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Terrain, terrain, pull up, pull up.

WEIR: All the better to see mudslides, broken bridges, shattered homes. We passed Arecibo, one of the biggest radio telescopes in the world, but we are looking for intelligent signs of life in the western mountains where people have been waiting for help for weeks. We land, and inside the Mayaguez Airport, a group of bighearted military veterans has turned baggage claim into a bunk house and operations center.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we're like 30,000 meals, 35 meals. And I don't know (INAUDIBLE) and that's just with the small trucks we've had and by hook or by crook getting supplies.

WEIR: They came down on their own dime and shake their heads in frustration with FEMA. If it were up to them, they'd bring in the National Guard, 15,000 at a time on two week rotations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought you had to pay these guys anyway to sit at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin (INAUDIBLE) two weeks in.

WEIR: Right. Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're wasting your money.

WEIR: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All these stuff about bringing contractors and security contractors to ride shotgun on the trucks, I'll get you 5,000 military vets that would go -- we're all down here for free.

[01:55:01] WEIR: We head into the hills in search of answers but soon get a taste of the logistical headaches here. Maria obliterated this stretch of highway. And with little hope for road crews, the neighbors are building their own bridge.

Do you feel like Americans in moments like this? Do you feel taken care of as citizens?

"We're not people that say, 'The government must help us.'," Santiago says, "We're all part of humanity, every person does the best they can."

And what kind of help are getting from the outside? Have you seen FEMA or --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We see FEMA. We see a group that came from (INAUDIBLE) America. They purify the water.

WEIR: And these -- are these the veterans? The guys -- former soldiers?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that's right. Yes, that's right.

WEIR: Yes, we met them at the airport.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes, they were -- they were beautiful people.

WEIR: Thanks to Juni and his mini-monster truck, we get passed yet another mudslide and soon tracked down with FEMA's top men on this island.

When you use national guardsmen in two week rotations to come in? Are you begging your bosses for more men?


WEIR: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because we have 4500 National Guards men coming in.

WEIR: But just as a point of comparison, two weeks after the Haiti quake, the U.S. had 22,000 troops on the ground in a foreign country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know how much more we can bring. We are actually impacting the economy of Puerto Rico. I keep on flooding the place with food and water, when is their local neighbors are going to open their supermarkets?

WEIR: Isn't it -- isn't it true that FEMA had a presence in New Orleans for like seven years, right? People were living in FEMA trailers for years. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were in New Orleans just two years ago and we left 5,000 mobile homes there. And we were there for seven, eight months, responding there, and we're flooded with Harvey, and we in Puerto Rico and now we are in Virgin Islands also for as long as it takes.

WEIR: For as long as it takes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For as long as it takes.

WEIR: Despite what the President says?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what, we don't follow -- I don't see the T.V., so, I don't -- I don't even pay attention to that. I pay attention to the nation that I have in my heart which is fixed in Puerto Rico.

WEIR: In just a few hours, we've been out shooting an amazing development here at this abandoned airport. The air national guard out of Tennessee and Kentucky has arrived and are militarizing this airport. They told me off camera, they got 500 guys, more are coming, that they've been sitting back home for two weeks chomping at the bit to calm but there are so many layers of bureaucratic red tape, they just couldn't pull the trigger. But the good news is, they are here now. They've got supplies and they're going to start pushing them in the mountains as soon as they possibly can.


VAUSE: Our Bill Weir there giving us a great report with some really good insights of what's been going on in Puerto Rico.

SESAY: Done some great work.

VAUSE: He will continue to report with us.

SESAY: You're watching NEWSROOM L.A. I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause. More news after this.