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Sgt. La David Johnson Laid to Rest; Niger Ambush; Bannon Delivers Blistering Attack on George W. Bush. Aired 11a-12n ET

Aired October 21, 2017 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:52] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning again -- everyone. It's 11:00 on the East Coast. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Honoring the ultimate sacrifice while fighting the war on terror, Sergeant La David Johnson is being laid to rest at this hour in his hometown of Cooper City, Florida. Live pictures outside the Christ Rock Church right now.

Flags across the state are flying at half-staff today as a sign of respect. The 25-year-old was killed during an ambush attack in Niger.

The incident has prompted a deluge of questions over the past week. A formal investigation is under way after early reports Johnson's body was found nearly a mile from the three other U.S. troops who were killed. Many civilians are now asking why were these troops in Niger in the first place?

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham issuing this stark prediction.


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The war is headed to Africa. It's beginning to morph. As we suppress the enemy in the Mideast, they are going to move. They are not going to quit.


WHITFIELD: But perhaps the most regrettable headline that followed Johnson's tragic death -- the politicization of his widow's grief, which continue today when President Trump continued his attacks on the Florida congresswoman who mentored Johnson tweeting just hours before the funeral. The President tweeting this, "I hope the fake news media keeps talking about wacky Congresswoman Wilson in that she as a representative is killing the Democrat Party."

Then following it up with a tweet about JFK, writing "Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing as president the long-blocked and classified JFK files to be reopened."

We'll have more on all of the day's angles. But first let's get the latest details on the Niger ambush investigation.

CNN senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski joining us now. So Michelle, is the Pentagon any closer to nailing down a timeline and figuring out what exactly went wrong?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Well, there aren't many details coming out, even now, even since these questions have been raised by people like Senator John McCain, the chairman of the senate armed services committee, wanting more information.

The Defense Secretary himself we're told by CNN sources that privately he's dismayed by the lack of information, especially when you consider it's been two weeks and publicly at least it can't even be said the circumstances of the ambush by these ISIS fighters.

I mean were the soldiers were attacked in their vehicles, or were they out of their vehicles? That can't even be said definitively at this point. It is a complex investigation, though.

I mean we know that it's been ongoing. We know that the FBI is now involved. We know that their people are on the ground going over evidence. We know that Africa Command is in charge, so are U.S. intelligence agencies -- all branches of the military. So there's plenty of resources there now trying to sort this all out.

There was some "L.A. Times" reporting, too, that the U.S. ambassador to Niger may have been pushing back on the military's wanting additional support there. But the State Department today denies that any support was kept away from the military.

Here's a statement that they released. "The embassy and U.S. AfriCom continuously engage to address security threats to all U.S. government personnel and operations. Its close cooperation ensures activities are coordinated, effective and sustainable.

The President directs that disagreements, which are rare, are quickly referred to the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State for immediate resolution."

So they are not saying that that ambassador was not pushing back on allowing or supporting additional troops or equipment or whatever they needed in there. They are just saying that nothing was denied to these troops.

[11:04:55] A few more details that are coming out, you know, they are scant, but things like the French planes that were trying to assist these U.S. troops, they didn't drop bombs only because they didn't want to further put the soldiers on the ground at risk -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Michelle Kosinski -- thanks so much.

All right. Let's talk more about the investigation in the war on terror now growing into Africa. Joining me now is Representative Marc Veasey. He is a Democratic congressman from Texas.

Congressman -- thanks so much for being with me.

So, as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, do you believe that you're getting information that you need to know in terms of how to piece together, better piece together, what happened in Niger? REP. MARC VEASEY (D), TEXAS: No, we're not getting all the details

that we need right now. And I will tell you that when we get back, of course, the House has been on congressional recess. The Senate was in last week, but we were not. We were back here in our districts.

And when we get back, we need to have information and debriefed from the Pentagon on exactly what happened. At this point we have not. There were no briefings at all before we left to go on recess the week before last and we need answers.

We need to find out why a routine mission in Niger turned deadly and why Sergeant La David Johnson was, you know, found 48 hours later a mile away from where the initial skirmish happened.

All those answers are very important. Most important so these families can finally have some answers and ultimately have some closure to this.

WHITFIELD: And, Congressman, do you share the same concerns as Senator Lindsey Graham, who is talking about the war on terror in a much larger way heading to Africa or more infiltrating Africa?

VEASEY: I'm very concerned. I've been raising concerns about the continent of Africa on the House Armed Services Committee for a while now. And when you think about what's happening in Syria with ISIS being, you know, pushed out of there, ISIS being pushed out of Iraq, militants trying to flee Yemen -- the most logical place for them to go is to the continent, including the Horn of Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.

And one of the problems with the continent as we have found out with Niger is that you have large ungoverned spaces. This particular area where these troops were ambushed was in a part of Niger that's close to Mali. And my guess is that because of that the government probably pays very little attention and the militants probably have more sway with the locals there than the actual government of Niger.

But again, those are the types of things that we need to find out, which is why we need the generals in the Pentagon to come to Capitol Hill and brief members of the House Armed Services Committee. and for that matter this has become such a big issue, I'm sure that the entire congress is going to want to be briefed at this point.

WHITFIELD: So there's been a lot of expressed concern particularly the Horn of Africa, you know, the porousness of Somalia. We've seen, you know, much more activity in Kenya. And that has been the case for a while.

But to what extent would members of Congress know about the various missions as to why so many U.S. Military personnel would be continually sprinkled across the continent of Africa and what those missions would be?

VEASEY: Absolutely, and that's going to be something that everyone is going to want to have answers to. When you go back to 2013 we only had about 100 troops that were stationed or on a mission there in Niger. And now it's estimated that it's closer to 800. Some reports say that it's even closer to a thousand.

Why that mission has increased, I think, is important. And I also think that the President has to do a better job of being able to articulate exactly why we're starting to see an increased presence on the continent.

WHITFIELD: But I guess my question, is it customary the U.S. Congress would know to the extent that that kind of increase in military presence would happen? Or is that strictly a D.O.D. and White House conversation?

VEASEY: For this sort of large increase, there should be definitely more congressional oversight. We need to know more about the scope of this mission, how long is this mission going to be, how much is it going to cost, and exactly what our armed services needs to be able to complete these missions successfully and not have what happened in Niger be repeated again.

WHITFIELD: Congressman Marc Veasey -- thanks so much for your time. Appreciate it.

VEASEY: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, up next, a blistering attack on former President George W. Bush coming from right within his own party.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: There has not been a more destructive presidency than George Bush's.


WHITFIELD: We'll go inside the war brewing in the GOP. Stay with us.


WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.

Despite his very public firing this summer, Steve Bannon is fiercely defending President Trump's ideals to the Republican establishment. Bannon delivering a blistering attack on former President George W. Bush after Bush made headlines this week for a speech in which he rejected Trump-era nationalism.


BANNON: President Bush to me embarrassed himself. Speechwriter wrote a highfalutin speech. It's clear he didn't understand anything he was talking about. He equates the industrial revolution, the agriculture revolution, globalization. He has no earthly idea whether he's coming or going -- just like it was when he was president of the United States.

I want to apologize up front to any of the Bush folks outside, in this audience, ok? Because there has not been a more destructive presidency than George Bush's.

[11:15:01] The rise of China started with the Clintons and Bush. When they had this great theory that you let them into the World Trade Organization and give them most favored nations that they are going to become a liberal democracy as they get bigger, ok, and they're going to become more free market capitalists.

This is not a small mistake. This is a strategic mistake of incalculable problems.


WHITFIELD: CNN's Boris Sanchez joining me live now from the White House. Boris -- was Bannon, you know, outwardly promoting President Trump or did this seem more about promoting his far right agenda? What's the White House response on all of this.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: So far we have not gotten a response from the White House on those comments -- Fred. To be fair, this is something that Steve Bannon has done before, going after establishment Republicans, naming them like Mitch McConnell last week and others.

But this was certainly on a different level. He's attacking a former president and viciously, as you heard, questioning his intelligence, questioning whether or not he even knew what he was talking about when President Bush gave a speech on Thursday in which he assailed economic nationalism, trade protectionism, and said that the political discourse in this country had downgraded to what he called a conspiracy theory.

So, Steve Bannon in a lot of ways is doing what he vowed to do when he left the White House and attacking anyone who challenged the President or his agenda.

As you know, Fred, Bannon is currently recruiting candidates and fundraising for Republican challengers to establishment Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections. It's certainly no surprise to hear him criticize a Republican politician in this way, but to this degree, especially a former president, is certainly not something we've heard before.

WHITFIELD: And then, Boris, the President at one of his golf clubs, what's on the agenda for him?

SANCHEZ: Yes, it is the 83rd day the President is spending at a property that bears his name. There are no public events on the schedule today, but he certainly is tweeting, as he often does early in the morning on weekends.

He tweeted about the stock market. He tweeted about representative Frederica Wilson which he became embroiled in a controversy earlier this week.

He also curiously tweeted about JFK. Look at this, he writes, quote "Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing as president the long blocked and classified JFK files to be opened."

A bit of context here, the President is facing an October 26th deadline that was mandated by Congress back in 1992 to determine whether or not these long classified CIA and FBI files, whether or not they would be released.

Of course, the President no stranger to conspiracy theories about the 35th president. You'll remember on the campaign trail he sort of alluded to the idea that Ted Cruz's father had something to do with the assassination of JFK -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Boris Sanchez -- thank you so much.

All right. Let's talk more about so much on the plate right now to CNN political analysts with me, Julian Zelizer, a historian and professor at Princeton University. And Patrick Healy is "New York Times" deputy culture editor. Good to see you both.



WHITFIELD: So Julian -- you first, these scathing words from Steve Bannon. So who best represents the GOP as it stands now? Is it the former chief strategist Steve Bannon, or the former President, George W. Bush?

ZELIZER: Well, I think given that Donald Trump is in the White House, President Trump is the face of the Republican Party right now. And you can't claim to not be part of the establishment when you're in the Oval Office.

So I think in many ways Bannon, President Trump, they are the new face, and they continue in many ways attacks that have been going on since the primaries that the old Republican Party, the party of Bush, needs to be replaced.

And I think that other part of the party is fighting back, but let's remember who's in the White House.

WHITFIELD: So, Patrick, how do you gauge the reception of Steve Bannon's words within the GOP, whether it be, you know, the establishment or a new GOP or whatever you want to call it since there are so many, you know, divisions as of yet.

I mean, you did hear some reaction, maybe some nervous laughter, some cheering from the audience, but what's a way in which to gauge how potentially influential or meaningful Steve Bannon's words are?

HEALY: Yes, I mean, you heard scattered applause, you know, some scattered laughter in that room in California yesterday. And I've been at plenty of political conferences in the last few years, Fred, where you'll hear sort of, you know, part of the room engaging with Steve Bannon or someone who represents his views, but a lot of people are very uncomfortable. A lot of Republicans believe that the strength of their party had to do with loyalty, with what they saw as ideological and almost generational coherence within the party, that they weren't driven (ph) by the identity politics that they saw on the Democratic side, that they felt that there was unity.

[11:20:08] And now what you're seeing and what we've seen certainly with the election of President Trump, is a real splintering in that party, where Steve Bannon represents one very specific wing, you know, it's the wing of the party that has no problem making fun of a former Republican president, and that who may care a lot about the JFK files coming out, that these are issues that kind of animate that wing of the party.

But for a lot of Republicans, they look at this party, yes, they have power in Washington, but they look at the party that Bannon and even President Trump is leading right now, and they don't recognize it. They don't recognize oftentimes an agenda that isn't focused on, you know, on tax reform, on entitlement reform that a lot of Republicans can get around.

WHITFIELD: And then, Julian, you know, on timing on all of this, I mean Steve Bannon last night, California GOP, and then tonight hurricane relief concert -- all five living presidents will be in attendance. No word on yet exactly how Trump might be sending, you know, a message or statement and what way he'll be, you know, part of this, you know.

If the past week is any indication, there may be some dissenting messages, you know, about how this president is handling crises, how these former presidents are coming together to answer to national crises. I mean, what do you make of all of this and the timing?

ZELIZER: Yes. Look, part of this is about the party and part of it's about the presidency. So part of why you hear Republicans such as former president Bush speaking is they are very concerned with the timing of 2018.

Meaning they are thinking about the midterms. they are thinking about what are the electoral consequences of this kind of activity by the President, these kinds of statements on the GOP.

But the other is about the presidency. And it was striking to see two presidents, Obama and Bush, speak on the same day. And I do think there is a genuine fear or sense of concern about what Donald Trump will do to the presidency in the way he handles things, such as Puerto Rico or the condolence call.

And they are trying to almost offer an alternative path to governance, and you're seeing that today with hurricane relief. While he golfs, they try to raise money and support for the relief effort.

WHITFIELD: And Julian, you know, you wrote in, you have some powerful messaging when you're talking about, you know, the symbolism of presidency and I'm paraphrasing now said that Richard Nixon, you know, taught the Baby Boomers. You know, you should never trust a president.

Trump is erasing any expectation that presidents should aim to heal. And you're exemplifying that in part with how the White House has handled the deaths of four green berets.

So in the meantime, General Kelly, you know, and this misremembering -- however you want to put it, of congresswoman Wilson's handling of the naming of the FBI building/ -- you know, whether it was the funding of.

So, Patrick, I mean damage has been done. Not just to the credibility of the White House over a nine-month period, but to what extent is there damage of the chief of staff's reputation, John Kelly, by not getting the facts right, particularly during that press conference?

HEALY: Right. I mean, I think for a lot of Democrats there was sort of real discomfort around this issue. I mean you had General Kelly getting up and talking, you know, very passionately and sincerely about his son, about what it's like to lose a child in combat, about what it's like to serve the country in uniform.

But then you had this pivot to a very sort of political attack that going after sort of demonizing the congresswoman from Florida and getting the facts wrong. And it's unusual -- Fred.

I mean -- frankly, we're used to President Trump getting the facts wrong. Even sometimes sort of fabricating, you know, the information. But General Kelly was sort of seen as the adult in the room, someone who would not go to the podium. We were sort of under the impression and, you know, be going down these kind of partisan attack lines.

And, you know, I think it did raise some questions about, ok, is this now -- is, you know, General Kelly, as the chief of staff, is he sort of so invested in defending the President at all costs that he's even willing to demonize this congresswoman and get some of the facts clearly wrong?

[11:25:00] And then when called out on those facts, you know, not be willing to sort of acknowledge either misspeaking or, you know, sort of blurring it.

WHITFIELD: Right, and that brings me to the moment in the White House press room when a reporter was asking can, you know, General Kelly come out and clarify things. And this was the press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think he's addressed that pretty thoroughly yesterday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was wrong yesterday in talking about getting the money. The money was --

(CROSSTALK) SANDERS: If you want to go after General Kelly, that's up to you. But I think if you want to get into a debate with a four-star marine general, I think that that's something highly inappropriate.


WHITFIELD: And then, of course, Sanders has since, you know, come out with a statement saying, of course, everyone can be questioned. But after witnessing General Kelly's heartfelt and somber account, we should all be able to agree that impugning his credibility on how best to honor fallen heroes is not appropriate.

So, Julian, you know, really it's her initial no one should be questioning certain people, including a general, not even you, White House press corps. And that sends a very strong message that made so many very uncomfortable about the role in which, you know, when you become a public servant, you have to answer to the American people.

ZELIZER: Absolutely. The press has an obligation to ask these questions, and if he is standing there as the chief of staff speaking on behalf of the President about this issue, it's fair to ask every question possible, and certainly the tough questions need to be asked.

He is in a different role right now, and in the past few days he has become part not just of an explanation about what the President said, but now turning it into an attack on the congresswoman and saying things that are not correct.

So every reporter in the room should be finding out what happened and why this is being said. This has been politicized, but it's been politicized, in my mind, by the administration and chief of staff Kelly is part of that process.

WHITFIELD: And, Patrick, do you believe an apology is needed or if it is even forthcoming?

HEALY: I'm not sure. I mean apologies, as President Trump has said, he rarely apologizes for things. He feels like that can be sort of caving in on political points.

But Fred, this is a really important moment, you know. Sarah Huckabee Sanders has done in general, I think, a good job as press secretary -- a lot of reporters would say. And sources that I talk to still in Republican circles, and Democratic circles feel that she generally has represented President Trump's views no matter what you think of them fairly well, but this was a real problem.

I mean, she came out and she basically said, you know, it's highly inappropriate to get into a debate with a four-star general. And the White House is so invested in this image of John Kelly as this sort of four-star general, as President Trump likes to say, he's strong, he's a general. This sense that they are in command. And, frankly, above questioning.

And then Sarah's response that this would somehow be impugning his reputation to simply ask questions and to challenge veracity, you know, is just trying to sort of cow the media and others into silence. God forbid we question what a general says. It's just -- it's, you know, it's bad pool.

WHITFIELD: Patrick Healy, Julian Zelizer -- we'll leave it there. Thanks so much.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

HEALY: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: All right. Straight ahead, the last ISIS stronghold in Syria falling to U.S.-backed militias. What will it take to restore the devastated city of Raqqa?



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome back. U.S.- backed militias have declared a total liberation of the Syrian city of Raqqah from ISIS fighters. The city held by ISIS since 2014 was considered the de facto capital of the terror group. Now in the aftermath, some of the families of suspected ISIS fighters are being kept under armed guard in refugee camps.

Senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon, is in Northern Syria. So, Arwa, what more can you tell us about the camps and these conditions for some of the new residents?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are being kept well away from the other residents in the camp, under armed guard, as you were just mentioning. These are the last families to have fled Raqqah, and some of them are suspected of being the families of ISIS fighters, and that's why they are being kept away from everybody else.

They are also having their tents searched on a regular basis, and any sharp objects have been taken away from them, as well. We spoke to one woman, resident of this camp. She and her family have a horrific story of trying to flee ISIS time and time again, being forced back at gunpoint, deeper and deeper into Raqqah.

She said that they had nothing to do with ISIS whatsoever, but she was talking about how unnerving it was for her and her family to be held alongside others, other women who they knew were, according to her, the wives of ISIS fighters.

In fact, there's been some arguments that have broken out even within the camp itself between her and some of these wives of these suspected ISIS fighters. The conditions at the camp are fairly grim. This is a camp that has mushroomed over the course of the last few months, literally bursting at the seams.

The tents are actually outside the main perimeter of the camp, because so many people have been fleeing the fighting, not just in Raqqah, but right now the fighting that has taken place in (inaudible). [11:35:02] And the reality, Fredricka, is that these families are not going to be able to go back home to Raqqah any time soon. It's going to take at least three to four months to clear the city of explosives, of mines.

And then you've, of course, have the reality of what is there for these families to return to? We spent the last two days in Raqqah and did not see a single building that had not been destroyed by the fighting.

WHITFIELD: All right, and who is going to be able to rebuild it and how?

DAMON: And that, of course, is the key question here. At a ceremony on Friday, the Syrian Democratic Forces, that is the U.S.-backed coalitions force on the ground that has been pushing through and pushing ISIS out of Raqqah, they handed over control of the city.

They'll still be maintaining security, but they handed over control of the city to the Raqqah Civilian Council. They are going to have to figure out how to even start the reconstruction effort and, then, of course, there's a big issue of who is going to pay for it. There have been pledges, but nothing yet has materialized.

WHITFIELD: All right, Arwa Damon in Northern Syria, thanks so much.

All right. As the last ISIS stronghold falls, ISIS Leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi remains in hiding. Still clinging to the terror group's ideology. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has more on the search for the elusive leader.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): First Mosul in Iraq, now Raqqah in Syria. The caliphate is crumbling, but where is its self-declared leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi?

The truth is, little is known about his whereabouts. American special forces continue to hunt him down, but even as the battle to take Raqqah advanced, the coalition said last month they simply don't know where Baghdadi is and are unsure if he's in Syria or Iraq.

Just one week after that assessment came this audio recording Baghdadi reportedly breaking his silence for the first time in 11 months. In it he mocks the U.S., calls on jihadis to defeat the Syrian regime and insists that ISIS remains, despite its territorial losses.

In the past, U.S. officials have said Baghdadi may be hiding somewhere in the Euphrates River Valley area and over the summer, the U.S. tried to take several shots at Baghdadi, according to U.S. officials who spoke to CNN, believing they had a chance to kill the leader in an air strike.

But they have never definitively been able to confirm he's dead. Those attempts came after Russia claimed the ISIS leader may have been killed in one of its air strikes at the end of May, but America does not believe those claims are true.

The last and only time the world actually saw the man with the $25 million bounty on his head was three years ago delivering a sermon at Al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul, the sermon that set the mark for ISIS's vision and ideology.

Even now as jihadists have lost control of another city, their self- declared capital, Raqqah, and the fate of the man who built the caliphate remains a mystery, he remains the only symbol ISIS really have left.

Diminished, now he's the caliph without a caliphate, but still even hidden away, possibly able to inspire the sick and still spreading idea the virus that is now ISIS. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Northern Syria.


WHITFIELD: And now in this country 40-plus women are coming forward accusing Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein, of sexual assault and he could be facing jail time for an alleged rape that happened 20 years ago. We'll discuss next.



WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. As disgraced Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein, completes a week-long stint in sex rehabilitation, he's facing multiple sexual assault investigations spanning the country and globe.

Police in Los Angeles, New York, and London are all looking into multiple claims of Weinstein's unwanted sexual advances on women going back decades. This all happening as the number of women coming out against the producer grows to more than 40.

I want to bring in CNN's senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter, to discuss all of this. So, Brian, tell me more about these investigations launched against Weinstein. Could he be facing potential jail time?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: He is in increasing legal jeopardy because you have these three simultaneous probes in three different cities, and in Los Angeles, we know that investigators have spoken with one woman who's making claims from 2013, just a few years ago. That may aid police in the efforts to corroborate her account.

As you said, more than 40 women, Fred, making a variety of accusations against Weinstein, some alleging harassment, assault, and there are several allegations or rape, and those rape allegations are what police are really focused on right now.

WHITFIELD: And then fellow Hollywood producer, Quentin Tarantino is actually admitting that he knew about Weinstein's unwanted sexual advance on women for years. Weinstein just threw him an engagement party in fact last month. So, you know, does this seem to corroborate what other big names in Hollywood are saying?

STELTER: Yes, this is an example of Hollywood A-listers admitting that they had some awareness of what was going on. That we can put on screen part of what Quentin Tarantino said to "The New York Times."

He gave an interview where he acknowledged that he could have done more. He said "I knew enough to do more than I did. There was more to it than just the normal rumors, normal gossip in Hollywood. It wasn't second hand."

Tarantino is saying he knew enough specifically, quote, "I knew he did a couple of these things." So, he's talking about incidents going back to the '90s. Tarantino, of course, his career was helped enormously by Harvey Weinstein and Tarantino is now expressing regret about not taking action back at the time.

He's not the only one saying that, though. You know, there's different people had different levels of knowledge, whether they are Hollywood agents or executives or people at the Weinstein Company.

We've heard from some staffers who said we knew he was an abusive boss, but we didn't know he could be committing criminal acts. Other staffers, however, did seem to know more.

[11:45:10] WHITFIELD: It almost speaks to, I guess, a feeling of intimidation that many had, and that he was almost a gatekeeper, you know, so you keep it silent. So, Actress Lupita Nuango wrote an op-ed in the "New York Times" this week that gained a lot of traction. What more can you tell us about what compelled her to come forward?

STELTER: This is one of the most searing accounts that we've heard yet. I'm not accounting Lupita in this 40, the number that we know is officially been compiled of women who described harassment or assault, but certainly when we put up on screen part of her "New York Times" op-ed, this is what she's describing is harassment.

She says that Weinstein asked her for a massage. She said, "I didn't quite know how to process the massage incident. I reasoned that it has been inappropriate and uncalled for." But she tried to rationalize it. Look at this, Fred.

She said, "I was not overtly sexual, so the incident made me uncomfortable, but I was able to explain it and justify it to myself, essentially, as part of the job, as a young Hollywood actress trying to establish herself in the industry.

She thought she had to go and meet with Harvey Weinstein and make him happy and do what he was suggesting, so this massage incident is one of the examples she describes in the "New York Times" op-ed. Really haunting descriptions from so many Hollywood actresses at this point.

WHITFIELD: All right, Brian Stelter, thanks so much.

STELTER: Thanks. WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.



WHITFIELD: As North Korea reiterates its threats against the United States, Pyongyang is now saying the country won't give up its nuclear arsenal under any circumstance. While that statement is nothing new, the ramped-up rhetoric is raising concerns. Here now is CNN's Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kim Jong-un appears to be so confident in North Korea's nuclear weapons program that one of his diplomats is brashly declaring he's never giving those weapons up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: DPRK's nuclear weapons non-negotiable unless the U.S. is prepared to coexist with the nuclear DPRK.

TODD: The ramped-up rhetoric comes just a few hours after the president's national security adviser said this about his boss' position.

H.R. MCMASTER, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: He is not going to accept this regime threatening the United States with a nuclear weapon. He won't accept it.

TODD: Former Ambassador Joe DeTrani is one of few American diplomats to ever negotiate with North Korea. He says despite the war of words, conflict is not inevitable.

JOSEPH DETRANI, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY TO NORTH KOREA: If North Korea's major issue is security concerns, and their major issue is the so-called hostile policy we have towards North Korea, we're prepared to talk about their security concerns. But we are not walking away from insisting that they eventually will have to give up their nuclear weapons.

TODD: But the U.S. is now concerned about another weapon in Kim's arsenal, cyber warfare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have a very robust capability. It is cheap.

TODD: Kim Jong-un is believed to have an army of more than 6,000 hackers, most of them from North Korea's top intelligence agency. Believed to have cyber heisted $81 million from the Central Bank of Bangladesh last year.

Analysts say most of the money they steal pays for Kim's weapons programs. The concern now is that North Korea could expand its list of targets from money to American missiles.

JAMES LEWIS, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: If there's missile defenses or command and control or military operations that are vulnerable, they will be able to get in and they will look to disrupt them, cause confusion, turn things off.

TODD (on camera): But America is counterattacking in cyber space. Current and former U.S. military officials have said the U.S. has a program to disrupt North Korean missiles with cyberattacks. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


WHITFIELD: We've got so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM. Stay with us.



WHITFIELD: Hello, again, everyone, and thank you so much for being with me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We begin this hour with the final goodbyes for a soldier who sacrificed his life in the war against ISIS. Sergeant La David Johnson is being laid to rest in his hometown. You're looking at live pictures of the church in Coopers City, Florida. Flags across the state are flying at half-staff today as a sign of respect.

The 25-year-old was killed during an ambush attack in Niger in Africa. The incident has prompted a deluge of questions over the past week. A formal investigation is under way after early reports that Johnson's body was found nearly a mile from the three other U.S. troops who were killed.

Many civilians in this country now asking, why were these troops in Niger in the first place. Senator Lindsey Graham issuing this stark prediction.


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The war is headed to Africa. It's beginning to morph. As we suppress the enemy in the Mideast, they're going to move. They're not going to quit.


WHITFIELD: But perhaps the most regrettable headline that followed Johnson's tragic death, the politicization of his widow's grief, which President Trump continue today insulting the Florida congresswoman who mentored Johnson.