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Pressure North Korea; Abe's Bloc Posed To Win Two-Thirds Super Majority; Spain Defends Plan To Dissolve Catalonia Government; Some Catalonia Residents Oppose Push For Independence; Italy Regions Vote For Greater Autonomy; Pollution Killing At Alarming Rates; Russian Official: Raqqa Erased By U.S.-Led Bombing; Mattis To Discuss North Korea With Asian Leaders; Namibia Under Fire For Aiding North Korea; Top Lawmaker Urges Trump To Go After Russia; CNN: Russians Created Fake Black Advocacy Group Online; Zimbabwe Leader Removed As WHO Goodwill Ambassador; U.N.: 600,000 Rohingyas Have Crossed Into Bangladesh; Justin Timerlake To Perform Super Bowl Halftime Show; Cuba Unveils Cold War-Era Spy Museum; U.S.: 24 Americans Sickened In Cuba Sonic Attacks; Trump Calls On Republicans Lawmakers. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired October 23, 2017 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[01:00:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: A week of opportunity ahead for the U.S. president who says he's on the verge of doing something, in his words, very historic with Congress. And a decisive win anticipated for Japan's prime minister in a snap election; for first task, he's already focusing on, North Korea. Plus, the leading global killer may not be what you think. We dive into new medical findings later this hour. Hello, everyone and thanks for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church in Atlanta. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.
U.S. President Donald Trump has a big week ahead. On Tuesday, he comes face-to-face with Senate Republicans including some he's been fiercely critical of to push his tax reform plan. He's also gearing up for a major trip to Asia as tensions with North Korea continue to flare. But in the meantime, his ongoing feud with the Democratic Congresswoman is heating up. The two are trading insults on where else? Twitter. More now from CNN's Boris Sanchez.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On Sunday the president continued his feud with Congressman Frederica Wilson of South Florida saying that she is the gift that keeps on giving, and saying that because of her, voters would Republican. This comes after the representative was on a Sunday morning talk show comparing this situation in Niger to Benghazi, saying that it was Donald Trump's Benghazi. This fighting between the representative and the president not likely to go away anytime soon as Congresswoman Wilson is now demanding an apology from White House Chief of Staff John Kelly after he compared her to an empty barrel.
We have yet to receive any comment from the White House over the recent remarks going back and forth between the president and the representative. However, the president did make some more remarks on that on Fox News over the weekend. Here he is talking about his combative style, and how he feels that defending himself from any kind of criticism helps to get things done. Listen.
MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX NEWS CHANNEL ANCHOR: Even your supporters say, you know, he's got fantastic policies, we want to see this through, but the bickering and the feuding actually get in the way. So, obviously, the feuding with Senator Corker, I think there's a personal thing going on between you and Senator McCain. Do you worry that this bickering and feuding gets in the way of your agenda?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, and sometimes it helps, to be honest with you. So, we'll see what happens in the end. But I think, actually, sometimes it helps, sometimes it gets people to do what they're supposed to be doing.
SANCHEZ: During that interview, the president also discussed something that the White House is fully focused on this week which is tax reform. President Trump penning an op-ed in the "USA Today," in which he said that it was time to reignite the middle-class miracle in pushing forward not only tax reform but tax cuts that benefit the middle-class. On Sunday, the president also held a phone call with members of the House Republican Party, in which House Speaker Paul Ryan said that he wanted to get the Senate's budget passed before the end of the week, this according to a Republican source that was briefed on the call. He said that President Trump and Vice President Pence were both on the call.
The president, saying that this is something he wanted to get done immediately. Telling the Republican members of the House that they were on the verge of doing something very, very historic. The president also heads to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to meet with Republican Senators to discuss tax reform, many of whom he has contentious relationships with, open feuds, if you will, including Senators John McCain, Bob Corker, and Jeff Flake. So, you can bet that their interactions will be closely watched on Tuesday. Boris Sanchez, CNN, at the White House.
CHURCH: And Top Republican Senator Mitch McConnel is shrugging off past attacks on him by President Trump. The Senate majority leader tells CNN, he and the president have a common agenda.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've been on the receiving end of several of those attacks, do they help you get legislation through the Senate, sir?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Look, I'm not particularly concerned about all of this. What we are interested in is achieving an agenda for the American people. And the president's agenda and our agenda are one and the same. We're thrilled to have somebody in the White House who supports what this House and Senate, the Republican majority has been wanting to have an opportunity to do for a long time.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CHURCH: We see battles against ISIS nearing an end in Syria and Iraq. The U.S. secretary of state says it's time for an Iranian-backed militias to disband in Iraq. Rex Tillerson spoke at a joint meeting of the leaders of Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Washington has expressed concern Iran could take advantage of gains against ISIS to expand its own influence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[01:05:06] REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Certainly, Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against Daesh and ISIS is coming to a close, those militias need to go home. Any foreign fighters in Iraq need to go home and allow the Iraqi people to regain control of the areas that had been overtaken by ISIS and Daesh that are now been liberated, allow the Iraqi people to rebuild their lives with the help of their neighbors.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Rebuilding after ISIS is also a major concern in Raqqa, Syria; much of the city is ruin and Russian military says the U.S. is to blame. A Defense Ministry spokesman said Sunday, U.S.-led bombing had erased the city. State media say he compared Raqqa to the World War II bombing of Western Germany and criticized civilian casualties in the Syrian city.
Well, those Russian officials are compared at U.S. operations in Raqqa to Moscow's campaign near the Syria city of Deir Ez-Zor. He said, it took Russian and Syrian force less time to free the former ISIS stronghold but it doesn't appear the area is completely liberated; ISIS remains a threat and both U.S. and Russian-backed troops share the battlefield. For more, here's our Nick Paton Walsh.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This may be where ISIS Leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is hiding but probably wishes he wasn't. The Russian and Syrian regime is trying to pound ISIS's remnants in the city of Deir Ez-Zor, but they aren't alone in the skies or in the ground here. And the key part in keeping out of the Russian's way, are U.S. jets, assisting these U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters to take the nearby countryside from ISIS just the day before. ISIS is collapsing and leaving in their wake, an almost cold war standoff.
Well, ISIS may be holding out in the pocket town of Deir Ez-Zor behind me over there, surrounded by the Syrian regime, but they've been kicked out too of this area by American-backed Kurdish STF forces. Now, they've advanced to this river here which puts them literally meters away from the Syria regime who were backed a Russian air power. We're told, in fact, these Kurdish American-backed forces have held face-to-face meetings with Russian military officials to be sure they don't clash around here. Now, the end game against ISIS, Moscow and Washington's force, literally meters away from each other.
The Kurds are so relaxed with their new neighbors that fishing is this afternoon's task, with hand grenades. Five years in and Syria is ground to dust, and this is what they're still fighting over. It's unclear who is left inside Deir Ez-Zor, but those who fled estimated recently a 10,000 a day docked the skyline. They're trying to filter them, but last week, a suicide bomber struck, and yesterday they found 30 ISIS fighters. That followed the round by the horror of what they fled, but also by suspicion. The simple question: are the last to flee the most loyal to ISIS or just the least fortunate?
"We saw everything in my village," she says. "Airstrikes, children, and elderly dying. My relative, just last week. The children couldn't stop crying from fear, I can only stand there, what can I do? I don't know if our home is still standing or even who are bombing us." Eustas, 10, and doesn't have any superhero powers here, just dust and bad dreams. "When I heard the shelling," he says, "I hide in the ground." The hardest part about living in the desert is it's not a home." The stream is endless like the bombing they have to flee and this war. This keeps finding new chapters and adversaries around them. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, near Deir Ez-Zor, Syria.
CHURCH: Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, is declaring a resounding victory in Sunday's snap general election. Exit poll show voters have sent him into his third term with a clear majority and gave his party hundreds of seats in parliament -- looking at live pictures there. Calling the snap election was a risky move for Mr. Abe, but one that appears to have paid off. He leaped forward in the race with his tough stance on the North Korean crisis. So, let's get straight to Tokyo now, and Journalist Kaori Enjoji joins me live. So, Kaori, U.S. President Donald Trump has already called Mr. Abe, what do we know about what was said between those two men?
[01:10:02] KAORI ENJOJI, JOURNALIST: Well, Rosemary, the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, is addressing the nation formally as we speak in a televise news conference, following this landslide victory for him and his party, which makes him possibly the longest-serving prime minister that Japan has ever seen. He's just started this news conference, but did he mention at the top that his telephone call to U.S. President Donald Trump, saying that the two discussed that they would cooperate strongly on diplomacy, particularly on the issue of North Korea. And that this would be on the agenda, top of the agenda, when the U.S. president visits Japan on November 5th, excuse me. And that the two leaders will take "ample time" to discuss the situation surrounding North Korea.
The Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, during this news conference, has seen very sober, very stoic in his facial expressions, almost belying the resounding victory -- the two-thirds overwhelming supermajority that his party and coalition partner won in this national election. I think that goes to show that he knew he was coming from a point of weakness a couple of months ago, his approval rating was at a record low, but he has rebounded from this in this national poll.
He cites two areas that he calls our national crises for Japan right now. One of them, of course, is North Korea, with the country launching missile month after month; some of them flying over Japan -- a nuclear test in the month of September -- and threats to sink Japan. The other -- the second priority that the prime minister cites is the low birthrate. As you know, this is a very rapidly aging society, and it poses a number questions, and it has posted a number of questions for the Japanese government over many, many years.
On that note, the prime minister said during this press conference that he will ask his staff to compile a new stimulus package by the end of the year. Because, although we're seeing today a continuation of the equity market rally; the stock market is trading at a two- decade high. We have not seen Japan reach its two percent inflation target, and that has been a very elusive goal in nearly five years that the prime minister has been in office. So, he will be advising his staff to come up with a new package by the end of the year. But in the initial minutes, clearly, North Korea, dominating the agenda not only in this election, but this has really been a game changer for Japan.
Bagging the two-thirds majority is critical because this means that he can push forward with his long-held dream of changing the Constitution. The Japanese defense force, he wants to give them more legitimacy, and possibly a bigger role and more forceful role in the region. But this has been a thorny task because of the Constitution that was put in place in the post-war period, and any signs of a buildup and military buildup in Japan tends to stoke the ire of countries like South Korea and China -- these are critical partners in the negotiations to try and diffuse the tensions in North Korea. Rosemary.
CHURCH: It is certainly a historic win, and we'll be watching what happens with North Korea and all of the other issues really, front and center for Mr. Abe. Kaori Enjoji, thank you so much for that live report. We appreciate it. We'll take a short break here. But still to come, pollution is taking an alarming toll around the world; what experts say should be done about it. We're back in a moment.
[01:15:06] VINCE CELLINI, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Vince Cellini with your CNN WORLD SPORT headlines. Luis Hamilton maybe well on his way to clinching the fourth Formula One world championship, but it's not quite over yet. The Brit did claim a ninth win of the season, and fifth of his last six races of the U.S. Grand Prix. But his rival Ferrari Sebastian Vettel finished second, meaning there is a mathematical chance of Hamilton being caught albeit a small one. Hamilton holds a 66-point lead with three races to go.
To football on a day when defense across the English Premier League, seemed to take a vacation. Liverpool provided little resistance at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur. As usual, Harry Kane brought in the center. In front of 80,000 fans -- largest ever in a league of Kane -- he needed only four minutes to get on the board, he added another seven minutes into the second half. A 4-1 wrap, the final spurs' fourth straight.
2017, marking something of a career renaissance for Venus Williams. She appeared in two grand slam finals and qualified for the end of season WTA finals for the first time since '09. It was not a happy return, however. Venus thrashed in her opening match by Karolina Pliskova. The Czech player rarely strayed from the baseline, dominated in straight sets, winning 6-2, 6-2. It was over in just under an hour and quarter. And that is a look at your sports headlines. I'm Vince Cellini.
CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, Spain is defending its plan to dissolve the regional Catalonia government, saying it is not a coup d'etat. Madrid wants to suspend the region's autonomy and rule directly until new elections are held. Catalan leaders are rejecting any direct rule from Madrid. But our Erin McLaughlin met some people in the region who think remaining part of Spain is the best option.
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Nestled between the foothills of the Catalan mountains and a motorway north of Barcelona, Badia del Valles -- a working-class Catalan town and the stronghold for Spain. Residents here are adamant, they don't want independence. At a local church, prayers that things stay the way they are and Catalonia remains a part of Spain. Some here say, with the Spanish prime minister's new emergency measures to sack the Catalan government and call elections within six months, they're prayers have been answered.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): They're not going to take our autonomy from us. They will take those who are not capable. And in six months, they'll fix things. The sooner, the better.
MCLAUGHLIN: For many here, enemy number one: Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, chief architect of the push for independence.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We'll ask him to think it through because we are fine.
MCLAUGHLIN: Badia del Valles was founded in 1975, a few months before the Fascist Dictator, Gen. Francisco Franco, died. Spain developed it as a social project meant to be home to the areas migrant workforce. People moved here hoping for a better life. Now, many fear it could all fall apart.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The most important thing for me is security, a good economy, to live like we did before. Now, everything is falling apart.
MCLAUGHLIN: But not everyone here feels this way. Even in the most pro-Spain town of Catalonia, there are those who say they feel that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has crossed the line. Marcos Real owns a cafe off the main square. He's outraged by the way Rajoy is handling things. After the crackdown on October 1st referendum, he closed his business to protest the violence. He tells me, Catalans were humiliated. How do you feel about Prime Minister Rajoy move in to take direct control of Catalonia?
MARCOS REAL, CATALONIAN CAFE OWNER (through translator): If I can, I'll vote. And if they don't allow me to vote, I'll do it by force as they did it on October 1st. This is a Democratic system, and what President Rajoy is doing is skipping the law. So, this is a fascist state as it was 35 years ago.
[01:20:16] MCLAUGHLIN: So much emotion in this tiny town. Residents worry it has a lot to lose. Erin McLaughlin, CNN, Badia del Valles.
CHURCH: And Catalonia is not the only region in Europe demanding more autonomy, voters in two wealthy Italian regions want to have more control especially over how they tax (INAUDIBLE). The regions that voted include the cities of Milan and Venice. And unlike Catalonia, the Italian regions did not vote on independence and their referendums were done within the constitution. The results are not binding but could help local leaders negotiate with the central government.
There is a killer on the loose and it's one that threatens every single person on the planet. A new study says pollution is killing people at alarming rates, and that in 2015, 9 million people died prematurely because of it. That's more dangerous than smoking. Three times higher than all of those who from AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria that year, and 15 times more than those who die from wars and murder in that same period. The study also says, that most of the pollution-related deaths occur in lower or middle-income countries. India has the highest death toll, followed by China, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. And researchers say, most of the pollution can be eliminated if countries regulate their air, water, and chemical usage. Richard Fuller, President of Pure Earth joins me now from New York to talk more about this. Good to talk with you, Richard.
RICHARD FULLER, PRESIDENT, PURE EARTH: Delightful to be here.
CHURCH: So, how concerned should we all be about these results, particularly those people living in China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and elsewhere?
FULLER: It's an extraordinary result to find out that one of the largest causes of death in the world is in fact pollution. And we really ought to be concerned about this not just because of the immediate health impacts for those around but because of children and future for children as we look forward.
CHURCH: And when you consider that most of the pollution can be eliminated, that's according to this report, if countries simply regulate their air, water, and chemical usage, that seems a pretty easy solution. So, why hasn't that happened? Why haven't countries, like China, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, particularly, take these steps.
FULLER: Well, they are beginning to slow. And I think the evidence that this can solve is quite clear because if you look in the developed world, these problems are not there to nearly the same extent that they are in the low and middle-income countries. So, it's certainly something that can be dealt with. I think when we're out talking with ministers of health and ministers of environment in the low and middle-income countries, they're often shocked to find out just the size of the impact. And they're often also under an assumption that pollution is one of those necessary evils that you have to do in order to grow. And in fact, when you research that particular issue, you'll find that that's not really the case and that bringing growth is quite capable of being undertaken in a way that protects the health of the local population, and brings you strong economic result throughout the society.
CHURCH: So, is enough pressure being applied by developed nations on these countries to say, hey, you need to do something about this.
FULLER: Well, that's also an interesting problem. It hasn't been on the radar of any of the large development agencies. So, the big bilateral agencies, folks like USAID, or the U.K., or the Europeans, they've not made this a priority in their development agendas, and neither have the very large philanthropic organization like the Gates Foundation and so forth. They're beginning to -- and we're beginning to see attention from the World Bank, the UNEP (United Nations Environment Organization), will make pollution its focus this year. But these are the first steps, and this is something that unfortunately we've forgotten about.
CHURCH: Yes. And, of course, we're talking about nine million people, apparently, dying prematurely as a result of pollution -- that was in 2015. We don't know what the number would be now in 2017. That is the shocking number, surely shocking enough to inspire leaders to move faster on this. Do you think they grasp how many people are affected by pollution?
FULLER: I think one of the other results here that will help them in this process is looking at the direction of these numbers. And with respect to modern types of pollutions -- those associated with chemicals, with urban air in cities, those numbers are getting worse, and death numbers are, in fact, increasing over time. We have seen some good results with respect to sanitation, and that's been on the agenda for a couple of decades, and some success with the MDGs -- and those numbers have reduced. So, we know that with attention, these issues can be addressed and we can find good solutions.
[01:25:41] CHURCH: Well, let's hope some of these leaders do a step and do something about this because those numbers are just horrifying. Richard Fuller, many thanks to you for joining us and explaining some of this to us, we do appreciate it.
FULLER: Great pleasure.
CHURCH: Coming up, North Korea finds help from an unexpected partner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When do the North Koreans leave?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe, let me say, maybe two weeks or three weeks.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CHURCH: But now, this African country could be in trouble for helping
the hermit kingdom fund its nuclear program. We'll have that in a moment.
CHURCH: Hello and welcome back, everyone. This is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Rosemary Church. Time to check the headlines for you this hour. In Japan, all signed and exit polls from Sunday's election went to an overwhelming win for current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. And there are predictions that his party will game a super majority in parliament. He spoke to reporters earlier and said, the vote is a mandate for him to pursue his tough stance on North Korea.
[01:30:01] The Russian defense ministry says, U.S. bombing has erased the Syrian city of Raqqa. A ministry spokesman compared it to the allied bombing of Germany in the second world war. State media report he also criticized civilian casualties and said Russian and Syrian troops freed the City of Deir ez-Zor in less time.
The U.S. Secretary of Defense is also traveling. He's in the Philippines to kick off his week-long trip to Asia. James Mattis will meet with his counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. They're expected to discuss the growing tensions with North Koria.
Well, speaking with reporters, the emphasized diplomacy is a way to de-escalate the North Korea crisis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. JAMES MATTIS, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We'll be talking about how we reinforce diplomatic efforts to resolve this campaign, to try to return a semi-pariah Korean Peninsula. And also, how we're going to maintain peace by keeping our militaries work while our diplomats, Japanese, South Korean, and U.S., work with all the nations to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Mattis's trip comes just a few weeks before Donald Trump's first visit to Asia. And as the U.S. President prepares for that, he discussed North Korea and its nuclear program in an interview with Fox News on Sunday. Mr. Trump praised China for stepping up and boasted that the U.S. is prepared for anything.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They have been helping us. They're closing off their banking systems to North Korea. They have cut the oil way down. Look, 93 percent of the things going into North Korea come through China. China is big stuff. I believe he's got -- he's got the power to do something very significant with respect to North Korea. We'll see what happens.
Now, with that being said, we're prepared for anything. We are so prepared like you wouldn't believe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Well, North Korea's covert operations across Africa to help fund its nuclear program and not helping the U.S., Namibia is under fire from the U.S. of bypassing U.N. sanctions and helping Pyongyang. David McKenzie went to a North Korean construction headquarters just outside the Namibian capital.
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A quick drive away from its picturesque downtown, behind this high-walled warehouse, Namibia's sleepy capital holds a secret.
When did the North Koreans leave?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe left let me say maybe two weeks or three weeks.
MCKENZIE: Two weeks ago, they left?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
MCKENZIE: And who was operating there, the North Koreans?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
MCKENZIE: Just weeks ago, the eyewitnesses, North Koreans living and working in this sprawling compound in clear violation of U.N. sanctions. They grew their own food, move in and out with trucks, then they vanished. But the building's title deed still shows it's a headquarters of North Korean State company, Mansudae.
As sanctions have squeezed, the North Korean regime searched globally for foreign cash to fund its elicit nuclear and missile program. And across Africa, they found willing partners and historic allies. In Namibia's capital alone, the national museum and statue of founding President (INAUDIBLE) commemorating independence even the recently finished Presidential Palace, all built by the North Korean state in their trademark totalitarian style. But the contracts aren't just artistic.
Outside the capital, it's just scrubland, you'd never know what you were looking for. Inside this Nimibian military base, U.N. investigators say that there's a North Korean ammunitions factory.
A violation of sanctions in place for nearly a decade and a sensitive topic for a major recipient of American aid.
NETUMBO NANDI-NDAITWAH, NAMIBIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Starting last year, we have start sending them out.
MCKENZIE: The Deputy Prime Minister says their relationship is now over. That they have given regular reports to the U.N. investigation team. NANDI-NDAITWAH: The activities that has been taking place in Namibia in which the Koreans have been involved could not really be considered to be generating such a heavy amount of money to fuel the nuclear development in North Korea.
MCKENZIE: But the lead U.N. investigator disagrees. He says they haven't received those reports for more than a year. CNN's multiple attempts to reach Mansudae and North Korean authorities were unsuccessful.
Is this money insignificant for North Korea?
HUGH GRIFFITHS, COORDINATOR, U.N. PANEL OF EXPERTS: This money is highly significant. We're looking at at least 14 African member states where Mansudae alone was running quite large construction operations, building everything from ammunition factories to Presidential palaces to apartment blocks.
[01:35:00] MCKENZIE: The panel is investigating scores of African countries for their contracts with North Korea's Mansudae and its military.
Has Namibia been cleared by the U.N. panel?
GRIFFITHS: No, it's not being cleared by the U.N. panel. It's not enough to say you've been exonerated by the U.N. for North Korean sanctions violations because that's not true. The panel deals with hard facts with evidence, and this is what we've been asking for Namibia for many months now.
MCKENZIE: In Namibia, the pressure seems to be having an effect. The North Korean building site of the new Defense Ministry has ground to a halt for now. Its deals with North Korea have become a thorny issue. David McKenzie, CNN, Windhoek, Namibia.
CHURCH: A senior U.S. lawmaker is urging President Trump to go after Russia for the threat it poses to U.S. elections. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told NBC's "Meet the Press" that action was needed on Moscow because it was, quote, coming after us. He added, the White House had a blind spot on Russia, and he couldn't figure out why.
Well, meanwhile, CNN has learned of yet another Russian-connected effort to exploit racial divisions in the U.S., this one with a highly unusual twist. It turns out, these operatives posed as an African- American advocacy group and hired unwitting black Americans to further their cause. CNN's Senior Investigative Correspondent Drew Griffin reports.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: In January of this year, well, after the Presidential election, New York martial arts instructor Omowale Adewale says he was contacted by a group called "Black Fist", saying it would pay him to hold free self-defense classes for members of the black community.
Did you ever think this was weird?
OMOWALE ADEWALE, SELF-DEFENSE TRAINING INSTRUCTOR: Yes. A lot of times I thought it was -- I thought it was weird.
GRIFFIN: Weird, but the money was good. $320 a month paid direct through PayPal and Google Wallet to teach just four classes, and Black Fist would promote it. What was also weird, no one from Black Fist ever showed up to meet him. His only communication was in text and faraway-sounding phone calls from this man named Taylor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Hello (INAUDIBLE) this is Taylor. I wanted to confirm the self-defense lessons that we've talked about last time.
GRIFFIN: The digital trail suggests the contact on the phone was part of a Russian propaganda arm seeking to stoke racial tensions and disrupt the U.S. political system. CNN has confirmed the social media accounts connected to Black Fist are among the pages Facebook identified as coming from Russians according to source familiar with the matter. Links to those accounts appear on the Black Fist Web site and Black Fist which portrayed itself as an activist group seeking to empower Black Americans was likely developed inside the Russian troll factory in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
They convinced you.
ADEWALE: Very easily. Very, very easily. Some of the things were, you know, sketchy, but at the end of the day, it's still fitness, we're just -- we're just -- it was just training. We're just training people.
GRIFFIN: Look at what Black Fist said about its self-defense classes, they are by black, for black, and let them know that black power matters. Adewale's contact also wanted these videos and photos of blacks learning self defense. Adewale wasn't the only one, personal trainers and classes promoted in other cities, Los Angeles, Lansing, Michigan, according to Eventbrite and other pages, where classes were being publicized, there were dozens.
In Tampa, Florida, amateur boxer Chuck "Jetton" Jefferson says Black Fist found him through Instagram, offered to pay him $100 a class like Adewale through PayPal. He confirms it was the same voice on the other end of the phone call, the same demand for videos to prove classes took place. And though the entire setup sounded odd, he's having a hard time understanding why Russians were behind it.
CHUCK JEFFERSON, AMATEUR BOXER AND TRAINER: So, I mean, when you have somebody that's going to pay you to do something you love, I mean, it's hard to see it like a -- like a negative thing. It's hard to see it in that light. But I mean, like I said, it was weird, it was different.
GRIFFIN: The Russian magazine RBC first identified Black Fist as well as dozens of other Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts designed to look and act like real Americans. The propaganda troll factory operating out of this building in Saint Petersburg employs hundreds of people running fake Facebook accounts, Twitter accounts, Instagram and Tumblr accounts, designed to look and act like real Americans, spewing out messages aimed at sowing discord among the American electorate.
[01:40:04] ANDREY ZAKHAROV, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST, RBK: Before, I think it was a part of that -- or their attempt to create a wide range of societies which look like real ones to establish all of this and to support all of these tensions.
GRIFFIN: According to journalist Andrey Zakharov, at its height, the troll factory had a reach of more than 70 million per week.
CHURCH: Drew Griffin with that report. Coming up, Robert Mugabe was a controversial choice for Goodwill Ambassador Appointment. What the World Health Organization is saying now. And by the hundreds of thousands, they're fleeing their homes to an uncertain future. Ahead, the expanding Rohingya humanitarian crises. We're back to that in just a moment.
CHURCH: The World Health Organization appointment that was called a bad joke and an insult has been rescinded. The WHO had named Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe as a Goodwill Ambassador last week. As Farai Sevenzo reports, days of harsh criticism followed.
FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's barely 48 hours after the World Health Organization's WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, awarded Mr. Mugabe this award of being a Goodwill Ambassador for one of the most massive organizations of the world, the World Health Organization that looks after the planet's health. They have rescinded that decision. They're saying that they have listened to the voices of concerned. And, of course, just as soon as that appointment was made, there was a backlash, a chorus of disapproval from all around the world. Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, called it a bad April's joke here in October. And, of course, the Zimbabwean opposition called it an insult. They are pointing to a fact that this is a 93-year-old man who himself, personally goes for treatment, not in his own country, not using his own health services but those of Singapore.
[01:45:05] They're point to the fact that their doctors aren't (INAUDIBLE) that the hospitals are not well equipped, that the country's economy has concerned so much that if you are sick in Zimbabwe, it's a real big problem for you. Now, this decision has been made. Dr. Tedros as he consulted with the Zimbabwean government and it seems that, for now, Mr. Mugabe in his 93rd year will not be a WHO Goodwill Ambassador. Farai Sevenzo, CNN, Nairobi.
CHURCH: A new U.N. report is highlighting the scope of Myanmar's humanitarian crisis. More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Northern Rakhine State and crossed into Bangladesh since late August. U.N. says that Myanmar Army's response to militant attacks amount to ethnic cleansing. And as Robyn Curnow reports, the refugees can't be sure of safety in Bangladesh either.
ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Outcast and desperate, nearly 340,000 Rohingya children living on the Bangladesh border are struggling to survive according to a new UNICEF report.
SIMON INGRAM, SENIOR COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER, UNICEF: The health situation of many of the children even as they arrive is pretty desperate. They arrive hungry, they arrive thin, many of them are clearly malnourished.
CURNOW: Around 10,000 people cross the border into Bangladesh just this week. More than 5,000 of them are children. And in the camps, almost 60 percent of the refugees are children, too. Those newly arrived and those already in the camps have faced incredible loss. They fled alone or lost their families on route.
INGRAM: These children just feels so abandoned, so completely remote, and without a means of finding support or help. And in a sense, it's no surprise that they must truly see this place as a hell on earth.
CURNOW: The Rohingya is a Muslim minority for Myanmar and are considered by the U.N. to be some of the world's most persecuted people. In August, Rohingya militants attacked and killed several government border guards. Since then, there's been an overwhelming and violent response. The U.S. said this week, the military leadership should be held accountable. The Myanmar government blames the violence on terrorists. The crisis continues though, even for those who've made it safely across the border because there are more dangers like violence and human trafficking.
INGRAM: There is the risk of people who individuals who will get into the camps, who will be on the lookout for opportunities to exploit vulnerable children.
CURNOW: The first priority of aid work, it is protecting children from disease and exploitation. But educating them and trying to rebuild broken families will continue to be a challenge as more and more refugees arrive in overcrowded camps. At last count, over half a million people have fled. Robyn Curnow, CNN.
CHURCH: We'll take a short break here. But coming up, intrigue and espionage, Havana pays homage to the spies who kept the CIA on their toes for decades.
[01:50:34] IVAN CABRERA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I'm CNN Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera checking in now with your WEATHER WATCH here across the United States. If you're going to be traveling, big cold front across the eastern part of (INAUDIBLE) this feature has been bringing severe weather and even tornadoes, reported tornadoes yesterday across the plains and into the southeast. What's happening here is we're dividing two seasons. We have very warm temperatures to the east and on the back side of that front, a significant plummet of temperatures the next couple days as cold air begins to pull in from north to south.
The area of low pressure is still headed onto the north and east, so kind of cloudy and rainy starts at the (INAUDIBLE) across side New England and through the 95 corridor. This rain will get out of the way and then make way for the cold air that will be pushing in rather quickly here as temperatures begin to fall. There are the thunderstorms in Atlanta. Big hub there, may find some delays early on with the heavy rainfall and wind.
And then back behind it will begin to cool off, pretty quick in San Francisco down towards Southern California, high temperatures. We'll see low 20s once again for Monday, then there's the dip, as temperatures come back in the mid and upper teams. And in fact, these are the high temperatures into the evening will drop even more so through the afternoons. Across Central America, partly cloudy with afternoon thunderstorms in the 20s.
CHURCH: Yes, it's true, Justin Timberlake is headed back to the Super Bowl Half Time show. The Grammy Award-Winning singer has been announced as the events headliner. It'll be his third time to play the event. He performed with his boy band, NSYNC, back in 2001. But most people probably remember his 2004 appearance with Janet Jackson. That is when a costume reveal went wrong and exposed Jackson's breasts. Super Bowl 52 is set for February 4th. Some of Jackson's supporters have reacted, asking if she will also get another chance at a Half Time performance.
Well, sabotage, espionage and intrigue, Cuba has opened an entire museum to Cold War-era spies to remember its long-running intelligence battles with the United States. But as it opens, the U.S. is investigating some modern intrigue. The mysterious sonic attacks against its diplomatic personnel in Cuba. Patrick Oppmann shows us more.
PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Welcome to Cuba's museum of state security. Dedicated to the shadow intelligence service to protect Cuban interests at home and abroad, the museum opened in August. On nearly every wall are interactive touchscreen panels, a first for Cuba. And exhibits like this one on the number of assassination plots against former Cuban President Fidel Castro, 637 by Cuban officials count. Not surprisingly, the U.S. government, in particular, the CIA plays the role of "el malo" or the bad guy.
According to Cuba, the CIA has waged a clandestine war against the Cuban revolution for decades. Declassified U.S. documents have confirmed several plots. Cuban first Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel who was next in line to succeed Raul Castro was among the first to visit when the museum opened.
"Sometimes it's inexplicable," he told Cuban state media that, "a country so big, so powerful has dedicated so much time, resources, evil, and perversity to destroying the revolutionary process. Crosses on a wall signify each Cuban killed in attacks. There is a room where people can relive the gruesome aftermath of what the Cuban say was the CIA bombing in 1960 of a ship turned weapon from Eastern Europe. Blood-stained shirts of revolutionaries who fell decades ago were saved and are now on display.
(INAUDIBLE) that shows the Cuban government's version of some of the bloodiest events of the Cold War, espionage, sabotage, assassinations. Cuba says that it wants to have a better relationship with the United States, but at the same time, we'll never forget this history.
But lately, U.S.-Cuban relations have been strained by mysterious attacks on U.S. diplomats serving in Cuba. U.S. officials say the attacks left the diplomats with hearing damage and concussion-like symptoms that may have involved sonic weapons. While the culprits have not been identified, President Donald Trump says Cuba bear some blame.
[01:55:12] TRUMP: I think Cuba --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know who's responsible?
TRUMP: I do believe Cuba is responsible. I do believe that. And it's a very unusual attack as you know but I do believe Cuba's responsible.
OPPMANN: Cuba denies any role in the attacks but part of the reason U.S. officials feel, the Cubans must have some involvement is that the same intelligence service celebrated in this museum knows so much about what goes on in Cuba. A history that specializes in intelligence matters says Cuban spies are good but not that good.
"They've neutralized plots but it's not that they're omnipresent," he says. "The plots are diverse and constant."
Cuba says the sonic attacks may be an effort to damage the country's reputation. Just the latest in a decades long campaign against the communist from Ireland so don't be surprised if the sonic attacks earn their own place in this museum dedicated to Cuba's long history of intrigue. Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Havana.
CHURCH: And thanks for your company this hour, I'm Rosemary Church. More world news with George Howell after this short break. Stay with us.