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Roy Moore Supporters Don't Appear To Be Swayed In Large Numbers Of Accusations; Senate Investigators Are Now Demanding From Jared Kushner After They Say He Failed To Turnover Certain Russia-Related Documents; Migrants Crossing The Mediterranean From West Africa Have Brought With Them Stories Of Horror, Beatings, Kidnapping, Even Enslavement; First Mass Exoneration In The History Ever One County In Chicago; President Trump Is Now Putting His Controversial Decision About American Hunters And Trophies Of Endangered Elephants On Hold. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired November 18, 2017 - 16:00   ET



[16:00:22] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. Great to have you with us. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

In Alabama batch today with just a few weeks to go until voters there pick a U.S. senator, eight women now say the Republican nominee either harassed them, touched them or inappropriately pursued them. Inappropriate because at the time some of these women were teenagers.

Judge Roy Moore, one of two candidates for U.S. Senate in Alabama, promising to stay in the race despite the growing list of accusers. Most recently, a woman who says Moore grabbed him and put his hands on her body without her consent in 1991.

Now, people in Alabama who support Roy Moore don't appear to be swayed in large numbers at least by these accusations. They blame the media and establishment Republicans for spreading lies.

Let's go to the White House now and correspondent Boris Sanchez.

Boris, President Trump called out a sitting Democratic senator by name after a sexual harassment charges came out about him, Al Franken, but he has handled this Roy Moore question differently, even ignoring reporters' questions on it, not wanting to say anything. How do White House insiders explain the silence?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, a Republican source to the White House told CNN earlier this week that the President was apprehensive about getting involved in a conversation regarding the in-sexual - inappropriate sexual contact accusations levied against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, in part, because of his own allegations and controversies in the past.

The President specifically did not want to get dragged into a conversation about his own accusers. It's important though to go over the time line here because the accusations against Roy Moore came out more than a week ago. The White House -- the President was actually on that 12 day trip to Asia and there was an initial statement that was put out saying that if these allegations were true, then Roy Moore should drop out of the race.

At one point during a question and answer session with reporters on air force one, the President said that he hadn't had enough time to devote to this controversy. That was days ago. Since then more and more women have come out making these allegations against Roy Moore. And Sarah Sanders twice now at the podium in the White House has tried to answer whether or not the President believes these women, but there hasn't been a definitive answer from the White House. Instead, she said that the President believes that these allegations are troubling and that voters in Alabama should decide who they believe.

Ultimately, the White House is making the case that they have said enough about the allegations against Roy Moore. Here is some of what Sarah Sanders said yesterday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some critics have said that was critical to tweet about Al Franken and not weighed in on Roy Moore.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He has weighed on Roy Moore. He did it while he was on a foreign trip in Asia. I did it repeatedly yesterday. In fact, I took about 15 questions on that topic and only on one Al Franken. So to suggest that this White House, and specifically that this President hasn't weighed this is just inaccurate and wrong. He weighed in. He said if the allegations are true, he should step aside. He also weighed in when he supported the RNC's decision to withdraw resources from the state of Alabama. Just simply inaccurate statement to make about the President.


SANCHEZ: So Ana, the White House has weighed in, but they haven't given a definitive yes or no answer as to whether or not the President believes these women. You did point out previously that the President tweeted about the accusation against Al Franken. Sarah Sanders was asked about that. She was asked specifically what the difference was between the accusation against the senator and the accusations more than a dozen against President Trump. She said quote "senator Franken has admitted wrongdoing, the President has not" - Ana.

CABRERA: But still his response to provide Moore stands in stark contrast to other Republican leaders like Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell who say they believe the women.

Boris Sanchez, thank you for that report.

So President Trump believes that the people of Alabama and their top elected officials should be the ones who decide the political fate of Judge Roy Moore. The state's Republican governor told reporters Friday that despite the growing list of accusers, Moore is a Republican and that is what is most important. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. KAY IVEY (R), ALABAMA: I certainly have no reason to disbelieve any of them. I do believe that the nominee of the party is the one I will vote for. I believe in the Republican Party and what we stand for. And most important we need to have a Republican in the United States Senate to vote on the things like Supreme Court justices, other appointments that the Senate has to confirm and make major decisions.


[16:05:05] CABRERA: I want to get columnist John Archibald in here. He is there in Alabama. He knows the people. He knows the voters.

John, the governor we just heard, she says Roy Moore gets her vote even though she has no reason to disbelieve these accusers. Is that a commonly held sentiment there in Alabama that he is the Republican so he gets the Republican vote automatically?

JOHN ARCHIBALD, COLUMNIST, AL.COM: Well, among people it is, but it is really an astonishing statement that has shocked a lot of people to hear the head of the state of Alabama say she doesn't doubt these women, yet she will vote for him anyway. I mean how many does it take to change that? What do you have to do to be disqualified to be a senator in Alabama?

CABRERA: Especially as a woman herself.

ARCHIBALD: Especially as a woman herself. And I think she doesn't quite understand the political fallout of that based on what I have heard so far. There are an awful lot of people who are upset by that. And certainly not Roy Moore's hardcore base of supporters which have obviously frightened a lot of Alabama politicians. But I think that it has long term consequences that she may not have anticipated.

CABRERA: Really? What would be the bigger surprise come Election Day, that Roy Moore wins despite these allegations or he loses in state as solid red as Alabama?

ARCHIBALD: I can't believe I'm going to say this to you, but I think at this moment the bigger surprise to me would be now if he wins. He will have a lot of support, but a lot of the people who have come in from out of state to support him have actually turned off a lot of people and mobilized the large number of people in Alabama who don't really like Roy Moore.

Roy Moore certainly has a real base of support. But he has mobilized a base I think that has not voted in a while. And it is going to be really interesting to see if that changes everything.

CABRERA: And of course we look at the polling. FOX News has this new poll out showing the challenger, the Democrat, Doug Jones is actually leading by eight points. Based on what I'm hearing you say, maybe that does reflect the temperature of voters on the ground there.

ARCHIBALD: Yes. And I'm reluctant to get behind any poll that has come out. They have been all over the place coming along. And I don't really trust any of them. But I can tell you that my feedback on this in the last few days has been overwhelmingly in opposition Roy Moore despite real efforts that he and his supporters are putting in to discrediting a lot of these efforts and to discredit media reports and many things. I think the tide is kind of turned.

CABRERA: And yet, a senior advisor to Roy Moore said the campaign has raised about $500,000 in just the past two-and-a-half days from their online fundraising campaign. So how do you explain that?

ARCHIBALD: Well, you spin it the way he has been defending these claims entirely by blaming everything on liberal media, the GOP establishment in Washington, the Democrats. Every key buzz word that you can use to diminish those claims and to take the eye off of the accusations themselves. He will say that Doug Jones is just Nancy Pelosi in a suit. And it will resonate.

CABRERA: What impact does President Trump's response have on this election, do you think?

ARCHIBALD: You know, I don't think it has much. I mean, we can look at the primary in which Trump was heavily in favor of Luther Strange, Roy Moore's opponent. And although Alabama is strongly Trump and Alabama Republicans are strong -- more strongly Trump than anyone else in the country, they simply didn't listen because they thought that they knew what Trump needed more than Trump did. And they thought that was Roy Moore. And everyone under estimates how much Alabama Republicans despise Mitch McConnell. And I think he is tied up in this, too.

CABRERA: Also interesting the dynamics.

John Archibald, thanks for the insight.

ARCHIBALD: Thanks for having me, Ana.

CABRERA: Coming up, we will tell you what Senate investigators are now demanding from Jared Kushner after they say he failed to turnover certain Russia-related documents.

And inside the dark world of slave trade in Libya. We will tell you the stories of migrants being kidnapped, beaten and then auctioned off for as little as $400. Their stories and how the Libyan government is responding to our exclusive reporting next.


[16:14:00] CABRERA: To the Russia investigation now and new questions surrounding one of the closest individuals to the President personally and inside the west wing, the President's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.

A source now tells CNN Kushner told investigators in Congress, he did not recall any contact with WikiLeaks during the campaign. But now senators on the Judiciary Committee say Kushner did receive an email about WikiLeaks. And he in fact, forwarded it on to a campaign official. They know this because they got those documents through other people that they have been in contact with.

And as CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown shows us, this is far from the first time Kushner has left investigators wondering what else is there.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A new request from lawmakers for more of Jared Kushner's personal communications about Russia and WikiLeaks. Just the latest example of how Kushner, the President's son-in-law and senior adviser, is involved in most of the key moments of interest to investigators as they seek answers on Russia meddling and any collusion with the Trump campaign.

[16:15:03] JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT: I have been fully transparent in providing all requested information.

BROWN: Kushner's role is being looked at across many areas of the special counsel and congressional investigations including revelations just this week, he forwarded an email about Donald Trump Jr.'s communications with WikiLeaks to then campaign aide hope hicks. He also played a role in the firing of former FBI director James Comey by supporting the decision.

And CNN has learned investigators are asking witnesses about Kushner's involvement in the firing that is now part of the obstruction of justice probe. He spearheaded the campaign's data analytics operation which is now under scrutiny by investigators looking at whether the Russians had any help with targeting fake news during the election. CNN reported Russian trolls at times targeted specific states on Facebook including Michigan and Wisconsin, two states Trump narrowly won. The campaign denies working with the Russians.

During the height of the Presidential campaign, Kushner along with Don Junior and then campaign Chairman Paul Manafort took a meeting in Trump tower with a Russian lawyer that Don Jr. was told had a dirt on Clinton, a meeting he failed to disclose several times on his security clearance from. Kushner said the meeting turned out to be so significant that he accidentally left it off his form. Kushner's apparent lack much transparency has drawn the ire of Democrats.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: He is definitely apparently omitting documents and that is the reason that I have long advocated subpoenas for all of the documents. That's the only way we will know whether he is producing on, he certainly is, doing himself no favor by upholding some apparently. And I think he ought to be subpoenaed to appear before the committee in open under oath at a hearing.

BROWN: Kushner also held a secret meeting at Trump tower with Russian ambassadors Sergey Kislyak and Michael Flynn during the transition where they discussed using the Russian embassy secure communications to discuss Syria policy during the transition. Kushner denied it was meant as a secret back channel.

And another meeting that is drawing scrutiny is the one he had with the Russian government banker Sergey Gorkov during the transition. In his testimony to Congress, he denied they discussed business matters. But the bank released a statement saying business was the purpose of Gorkov's trip. And Kushner did not initially disclose a personal email account he used for official business when he was interviewed in September by the Senate intelligence committee. Kushner's lawyer says his client is voluntarily providing documents to Mueller's team and congressional investigators and has been cooperative throughout the process.

Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.


CABRERA: Let's discuss the latest developments in the Russia investigation.

Joining us now, CNN political and national security analyst David Sanger, former chief White House ethics lawyer for the Bush 43 administration Richard Painter and with me in New York CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer.

Gentlemen, this is seemingly becoming a pattern with Jared Kushner. Pam just listed all of these meetings he failed to disclose, several times on his security clearance form including that meeting with the Russian lawyer. There is also now this email chain on WikiLeaks. A so-called Russian back door overture, communications with Michael Flynn.

So Richard, if Kushner wasn't the President's son-in-law, would he still have a security clearance?

RICHARD PAINTER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER UNDER GEORGE W. BUSH: I don't know because this White House is willing to handout security clearance to just about anybody. I mean, think of General Flynn who was a foreign agent during his time as head of the national Security Council.

This is a situation where just about everybody on this team including Jared Kushner and the attorney general has a lot of amnesia about anything having to do with the Russians and also WikiLeaks. So either he wasn't being candid with the committee there or he just forgot what was in his email. But we have just seen so many repeated instances in which high ranking officials in the administration have just forgotten about anything having to do with Russia while they were busy colluding with the Russians. And that is just so abundantly obvious. And the President continues to say this is fake news. That there was no collusion and there is just no credibility to any of that.

CABRERA: But yet, let me stop you there for a second, Richard, because I heard you use that word collusion which of course perks up all the ears. What evidence have you seen of actual collusion at this point?

PAINTER: What was going on in the Trump tower last summer, I mean, when they all met with the Russian agents to get the dirt on Hillary and the Russians wanted to talk about the adoptions? I mean, come on. We know that is about the sanctions build. They want the sanctions bill lifted in return for the dirt on Hillary. We know that was a quick focus (ph). So that is just one instance of collusion. And others have been disclosed since then. Whether it was a legal collusion or not, that is up and Bob Mueller needs to determine. But the notion is no collusion. It is a joke.

[16:20:02] CABRERA: So the legal element there is obviously the key in terms of the investigation.

Julian, the other piece of this here is each time investigators are forced to go back to Kushner, again this is a person who is inside the White House.

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. This is a case where you can call it amnesia, you can call it forgetting, you can call it the opposite of transparent. Each time as we request for information, we don't get all the information. And Mueller has too keep going back to this top official, a family member, and we have these surprises. So credibility is everything when it comes to an investigation like this and gradually that has eroded. And so both the congressional committees as well as Mueller just don't have a lot of confidence that the information before them is all there is. And we keep learning there is more.

CABRERA: And we keep hearing of news to CNN. New requests for more documents, more testimony. I want you all to listen to former Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, this is on Russian TV recently. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): If it is not too much trouble, can you please list who you have met or spoke to the phone just so we know who is going to be in prison next or at least will be summoned for questioning? Flynn, Sessions, who else?

SERGEY KISLYAK, FORMER RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S. (through translator): This is a real problem. There are two problems here. First, I would never do that. Second, the list would be so long I won't be able to name them even in 20 minutes.


CABRERA: That caught my ear, David. He said he needed more than 20 minutes to list all his contacts with the campaign. This is also a man who let's remember was in the oval office, a meeting that was only disclosed because a photo came out. What will investigators think of this?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, there are two ways to look at it. First, he is the Russian ambassador to the United States. His job is to go meet Americans. And it's the job of the Americans who he is meeting to go deal with him. Obviously, there are a lot of U.S. issues going on, but when you -- U.S. and Russia issues going on. But when there is a campaign under way, you have to be extraordinary careful about efforts to influence. And that is why what we've seen happen in the past few days with these to put it generously overly narrow responses to the requests from the committees, is in some ways much more self-destructive for the Trump White House than it needs to be.

When you read the Kushner email that he forwarded that came in from a request for what was called the backdoor contact and the dinner, his response is the right response. Let's not do this. It was a response of caution. He said at one point frequently people want to set these things up so that they can go back and indicate how important they are back at home. Well, that is exactly right.

So it baffles me a little bit why the White House -- I can understand why having said there were no contacts they would not want to reveal much going on here. But if they have emails that indicate that they actually deflected Russian contacts, you Would think that would be the first things that they would push out to the committees and maybe send Sarah Sanders to the podium to say here is this email in which a member of our campaign, in this case the President's son-in-law, is actually turning down a dinner.

CABRERA: So Richard, I guess that is a good question because the fact that perhaps some of these documents that the Senate Judiciary Committee is saying are missing might actually look good on Kushner, how do you explain them not providing them? And could it be that they just slipped through the cracks or that the judiciary members didn't specify enough their request?

PAINTER: I don't want to speculate as to why they aren't being completely truthful in their response to document requests and to questions. All we see, it's a repeated pattern and this is just one more instance in which we are not getting this full picture. And I don't know why it is other than that this administration wants to continue to deny any involvement with the Russians.

There clearly was interact with the Russians. And some invitations they turned down and some in the Trump tower they accepted. But they aren't being straight with us. They aren't getting all the information out. It's been almost a year here. It's over a year since the election. And the American people are entitled to answers and we're entitled to leaders who are straight with us. And that's not what is going on.

And once again I don't appreciate the attorney general just turning into a big joke in front of a bunch of conservative lawyers and everybody is laughing. The American people are not laughing. We are tired of this and we want answers and we want the investigation concluded.

[16:25:01] CABRERA: As some of our viewers might not know exactly what you were referring to, but there was a moment yesterday where the attorney general did make a joke saying is there anybody from Russia in this room, is Kislyak anywhere around. And a lot of people laughed.

Guys, got to leave it there. This investigation obviously creating more questions for us to discuss. So we will have you all back. Richard Painter, Julian Zelizer and David Sanger, thank you so much

for your time.

Coming up, we will take you inside the dark world of the slave trade, migrants sharing stories of horror, beatings, kidnappings, even enslavement for more than a year. We will tell you their stories next live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[16:30:03] CABRERA: A CNN exclusive report on modern day slavery has now prompted a government investigation. For years migrants crossing the Mediterranean from West Africa have brought with them stories of horror, beatings, kidnapping, even enslavement.

For the last year, CNN has been working to bring these stories to light. A CNN team that includes a correspondent Nima Elbagir, producer (INAUDIBLE) and photojournalist Alex Plot (ph) were able to travel to Libya to witness the very inhumanity for themselves. And here is their story.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A man addressing an unseen crowd. Big strong boys for farm work, he says - 400, 700, 700, 800. The numbers roll in. These men are sold for 1200 Libyan pounds, $400 a piece.

You are watching an auction of human beings. Another man claiming to be a buyer off camera someone asks, what happened to the ones from Niger? Sold off he has told.

CNN was sent this footage by a contact. After months of working, we were able to verify the authenticity of what you see here. We decided to travel to Libya to try and see for ourselves.

We are now in Tripoli. And we are starting to get a little bit more of a sense of how this all works. Our contacts are telling us that there are one to two of these auctions every month and that there is one happening in the next few hours. So we are going to head out of town and see if we can get some sort of access to it.

For the safety of our contacts, we have agreed not to divulge the location of this auction, but the town we are driving to isn't the only -- night falls. We travel through non-discrete about the neighborhoods pretending to look for a missing person. Eventually we stop outside a house like any on other. Adjust our secret cameras and wait.

Finally, it is time to move. We were ushered into one of two auctions happened on the same night. Crouch at the back of the yard. A flood light obscuring much of the scene. One by one men are brought out as the bidding begins - 400, 500, 550, 600, 650, 700. Very quickly it's over. We ask if we can speak to the men, the auctioneer, seen here refuses.

We ask again if we can speak to them, if we can help them. No, he says. The auction is over with. And we are asked to leave.

That was over very quickly. We walked in and as soon as we walked in, the men started covering their faces. But they clearly wanted to finish what they were doing. And they kept bringing out what they kept referring to in Arabic as the merchandise. All in all, they admit that had there were 12 Nigerien's that were sold in front of us. And -- I honestly don't know what to say. That was probably one of the most unbelievable things I have ever seen.

These men are migrants with dreams of being smuggled to Europe by sea. They come in thousands from Niger, Mali, Nigeria, Ghana. It's hard to believe that these are the lucky ones rescued from warehouses likes one in which we witnessed the auction. They are sold if those warehouses become overcrowded on or if they run out of money to pay their smugglers.

Of these rescued men, so many say they were held against their will. It doesn't take us long to find victory.

[16:35:11] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No food, no water, nothing.

ELBAGIR: Victory was a slave. We know that some people are being sold.


ELBAGIR: Some people are being sold. Is this something you heard about? Can you tell us about that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure. I was sold.

ELBAGIR: What happened?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was sold. You see the mark they are beating with the electric. (INAUDIBLE). Most of them lot their lives here. I was there. The person (INAUDIBLE).

ELBAGIR: Other migrants now start to come forward with their stories.


ELBAGIR: Anas Alazabi is the supervisor here. With no international support, it's his job to look after the captured migrants until they can be deported. He says every day brings fresh heartbreak.

ANAS ALAZABI, ANTI-ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION AGENCY: I am suffering for them. I am suffering for them. What they have seen here daily believe me, it makes me really pain for them. They come and every story is a special case. There was abusing them. They stole their money.

ELBAGIR: Have you heard about people being auctioned off, about migrants being sold? ALAZABI: Honestly, we hear the rumors but there is nothing that is

obvious. We don't have evidence.

ELBAGIR: But we now do. CNN has delivered this evidence to the Libyan authorities who have promised to launch an investigation so that scenes like there are returned to the past.

Nima Elbagir, CNN, Libya.


CABRERA: As a result of that report of Nima and her team's reporting, Libyan authorities tell CNN they have opened a formal investigation into this issue. And in addition to alerting Libyan authorities about what CNN uncovered, we also passed our evidence on to the office of the prosecutor at the international criminal court.

Thousands of Zimbabweans filled the streets of the nation's capital. They are demanding President Robert Mugabe step down, but the 93-year- old strong man who has ruled the country for nearly four decades is refusing to step aside. The mass protests come just days after the military placed Mugabe under house arrest. They detained some of the key allies. Mugabe's ruling political party is now saying it will meet on Sunday for a vote of no confidence. We will keep you posted on any follow up on that.

Coming up, it is being called the first mass exoneration in the history ever one county in Chicago. Fifteen convictions officially thrown out because of a corrupted former police officer. Details straight ahead.


[16:042:45] CABRERA: A Chicago judge has exonerated 15 men after years spent behind bars after apparently being set up by the same corrupted cop. And their releases may be just the beginning as investigators comb through all of the cases brought by the former officer and his colleagues.

CNN's Ryan Young talked with three of the newly freed men.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It may be a first in Chicago, 15 men exonerated of their crimes on the same day. Their felony drug convictions tossed four years after a corrupt officer's investigations were first called in to question.

MARK ROTERT, COOK COUNTY CONVICTION INTEGRITY UNIT: This cases we concluded that unfortunately the police were not being truthful. And we couldn't have confidence in the integrity of their reports and their testimony. And so in good conscious, we could not see these convictions stand.

YOUNG: Leonard Gibson says officer Ronald Watts framed him and took years away from his life. LEONARD GIBSON, WRONGLY CONVICTED: I went to jail and did two years,

24 months for Watts. Came back home, he put another case on me.

YOUNG: In 2013, Watts then a Chicago police sergeant was sentenced to 22 months in prison after pleading guilty to theft of government funds. An FBI led investigation showed Watts and another officer stole money from a federal drug informant. The conviction has led to review of hundreds of cases. Gibson like many other men whose cases were exonerated says Watts planted evidence on him.

GIBSON: If you're not paying Watts, you are going to jail.

YOUNG: CNN was unable to reach Watts for comment.

JOSHUA TEPLER, EXONERATION PROJECTION: It is the prime example of the phrases that we hear, the thin blue line, the code of silence, never - I have been doing this work for close to 15 years. There is no case, no situation that I have ever seen that comes close to exemplifying the code of silence than this one.

YOUNG: Ben and Clarissa Baker has spent ten years apart as Ben sat in prison.

BEN BAKER, WRONGLY CONVICTED: It's torture like because you think in your head every day like how did this happen?

YOUNG: Both faced drug charges connected to the rogue officer. At the time, no one would hear their cries of innocence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one would listen.


[16:45:01] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would they tell you?

C. BAKER: There's nothing we can do. You need to call your elder man. Did that. Wrote the elder man. Talked to the FBI.

YOUNG: Help arrived in 2015 when lawyers with the exoneration project took over their case and helped overturn his conviction.

B. BAKER: Now I finally really feel vindicated.

YOUNG: The Chicago police department tells CNN seven more officers have been placed on administrative duty while the internal affairs unit looked into other cases connected to Sergeant Ronald Watts' team.

Ryan Young, CNN, Chicago.


CABRERA: Thanks, Ryan.

Coming up after the White House said it would reverse a ban on the import of elephant trophies from some African countries, the President later weighed in saying he is now putting it on hold for further review. So what that does mean for conservation efforts? We will discuss next.


[16:50:24] CABRERA: President Trump says he is now putting his controversial decision about American hunters and trophies of endangered elephants on hold. The whole thing is about of a mystery. And here is what we know. Days ago President Trump said that he would live the Obama-era ban on importing ivory trophies of elephants killed in Zimbabwe and Zambia into the U.S. Now, just yesterday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders explained this rationale. Watch.


SANDERS: This is actually due to a review that started back in 2014 under the previous administration done by career officials at the fish and wildlife service. This review established that both Zambia and is Zimbabwe had met new strict international conservation standards that allowed Americans to reassume hunting in those countries. A ban on importing elephant ivory from all country remains in place. But again, all this was based on a study that was conducted that started back to the previous administration and done by career officials.


CABRERA: Well, then hours later the President changed his tune tweeting quote "put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts under study for years. Will update soon with secretary Zinke. Thank you."

Just t to confuse things a little more, the President tweet came on the same day that a notice allowing elephant trophies from Zimbabwe into the U.S. appeared in the federal register.

So let's talk this over with Rob Branford. He is the executive director of the David Sheldrick wildlife trust which rescues and treat elephants.

Rob, thank you for being with us. What do you make of all of this?

ROB BRANDFORD, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DAVID SHELDRICK WILDLIFE TRUST: Ana, thank you for having us on. It is a bit of a debacle. The situation as we read it is that obviously Trump is holding that decision at the moment to lift the ban which is fantastic news. But there is a slight concern that he has said holding it with a view to review it.

As far as we are concerned in the conservation world, any lifting of that ban would be devastating for elephants. Conservation is governments including the U.S. which has been a leading force in tacking the conservation of the species. Have put a lot of man hours, a millions of dollars into the protection of this species. We have been tacking ivory poaching is slightly different hunting. But it's all about saving lines. We need the species. And the species have been declines. We are still losing elephants. We lost about 30 percent in the last ten years of African elephants. So now is not the time to even consider hunting as an option. CABRERA: What impact does poaching have besides just reducing the

number of elephants?

BRANDFORD: You are talking about a highly intelligent species. So this is an animal that lives in (INAUDIBLE). So poach are indiscriminate. Poachers will go and they will just look for elephants with ivory and they would kill those elephants. It doesn't matter if they are mothers. We have a shelter at wildlife trust and rescued many orphaned elephants whose mothers have been killed, shot by poachers. And baby without the mom will die. It is like human child that needs its mother 24/7 and we provide that. So if you take these out, you are damaging the entire (INAUDIBLE) genetic makeup of that species and their entire social briefing and that has lasting effects. Well, and the effects, we don't even know yet. But it is of course that poaching has been happening now. And the last thing that we can possibly do is try and justify killing animals as a way to conserve them. You don't kill an animal to conserve a species. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

CABRERA: And you also say there is a correction to terrorism in some way. Explain that.

BRANDFORD: There has been a lot of talk and there has been research done that some of the funds generated from ivory poaching and again I stress ivory poaching is different to legal hunting. Some of the funds from ivory poaching have gone to recognized terrorist organizations and that I believe is what (INAUDIBLE), the from the House, the Republican in fact from the House said on a day when Trump reversed the decision, Royce actually said now is the wrong time to be doing this. And he himself cited this issue with funds from the ivory trade going into terrorism and therefore it being a question of national can security for the U.S.

CABRERA: Again, poaching different than hunting, that's legal.


CABRERA: But let me ask you about this, because this is an issue that has at least a personal connection to the Trump family. His sons Eric and Donald Jr., they were photographed with some big game trophies in 2012 after a Zimbabwe hunting trip. Now Trump speaks openly about his family's history of hunting. What do you think is behind his indecision on this ban? Do you think that there is a personal part of it?

BRANDFORD: You know, I see here in the UK and we obviously hear all the different rumors coming out of the U.S. at the moment, interesting political times for all of you. The reality is the National Rifle Association and big hunting lobbies have a big influence in government there. I don't think anyone can dispute that. And it would I'm sure be great if this was lifted and rich Americans can go to African countries and kill an elephant and bring it back for whatever reason that they find a need to do that. That could have played a part.

I think what I would like to think is that the reverse (INAUDIBLE) at the moment is public pressure. There is huge outrage. And this announcement was made by U.S. fish and wildlife that they would be lifting the import ban. There was a massive public sway and support for elephants. Ellen DeGeneres was kind of leading (INAUDIBLE) and many other high profile individuals that came out and said this cannot happen. We cannot do this.

America, as I said, have led the way in protecting the species. It is really being one of the leading lives. And this is such a backward step and so disappointing to see from the U.S. a decision that would actually be totally about killing elephants and for sport. And no benefit and don't ever fall to the conservation argument they try to fix. The funds generated by the killing of elephants. Do not go to help communities on the ground. It is (INAUDIBLE) whereas what we need to do is find a way to (INAUDIBLE) and to kind of push forward wildlife tourism. That is where the money is to be made. That will help local people on the ground. And that is what will save this species. And this species is critical to all of us. Our kind of humanity is measured in how we treat the species.

CABRERA: Rob Brandford, you so much for your time and for enlightening us. We appreciate it.

BRANDFORD: Thank you.

We'll be right back.