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Zimbabwe Political Crisis; Sexual Harassment Scandals; Russia Investigation; Libya Investigating Slave Auctions After CNN Report; Saad Hariri Arrives in Paris For Talks With French President; Avocado Rat Becomes Internet Sensation. Aired 0-0:30a ET

Aired November 18, 2017 - 00:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Zimbabwe's ruling party says president Robert Mugabe should step down but report say the longtime leader is resisting plans to oust him.

Lib launches an investigation after CNN's exclusive report of people being sold as slaves at auction.

And the White House brushes off any similarities between the sexual misconduct allegations against senator Franken and President Trump himself.

Hello, everybody. Thank you for very much for joining us. Re in Atlanta.

In Zimbabwe, the ruling party of president Robert Mugabe is calling on him to resign. That's according to state media. The party also wants the president's wife, Grace Mugabe, to step down from her leadership posts.

It seems Mr. Mugabe's efforts to put his wife in power led to the current political crisis, which began with Wednesday's apparent military coup. Reportedly Mugabe is still resisting calls to resign, however. He's been under house arrest.

But he did make this public appearance Friday at a university graduation. A source tells CNN that the military gave Mr. Mugabe a deadline of Friday to reach a deal. Now people across the country are waiting to see what happens next. CNN's Farai Sevenzo spoke to people outside the capital, Harare, about the crisis.


FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The streets of the capital, Harare, may be gridlocked by a military dragnet. But on the rural outskirts, though, it is calm and free of soldiers.

These villages have for decades been the bulk of Robert Mugabe's support base and now, with his dramatic fall from power, all but signed off by his army, the people who so often voted for him are watching and speaking quietly about the nation's drama.

SEVENZO: Even in rural areas like this, you get the sense that the news of the apparent coup has reached them all and, in general, people have come to accept it. And now they are waiting to see what the generals will decide for the future of Zimbabwe.

SEVENZO (voice-over): We meet Makunde, who served as a signatory for this village's branch of Zanu-PF, Zimbabwe's ruling party. The fate of his long-serving president and his politically ambitious wife is on Makunde's mind.

SEVENZO: What about Ms. Mugabe, what do you think of her?


SEVENZO: She's too young.


SEVENZO: She didn't even to go to the war, you're saying?


SEVENZO: So, is this the feeling among Zanu-PF supporters --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. They want someone who is --

SEVENZO: With experience, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- with the experience.

SEVENZO (voice-over): It is a slow and unhurried life here, but they, more than the city folk, are feeling the pain of an imploding economy and the lack of prospects for their children.

We met Andrew (ph), who says he stopped supporting the ruling party a long time ago and last voted for them in 1980. He says Zimbabweans have suffered for too long.

ANDREW (PH): I support the army for what they did and they must keep on putting that (INAUDIBLE). But (INAUDIBLE). We love him. Whatever they want to negotiate with him but he must leave.

If he doesn't leave, that means we might suffer more than what he has suffered.

SEVENZO (voice-over): It is the young, though, like Petro Zanobic (ph), who feel no loyalty to Robert Mugabe. They were not even born when he came into power.

SEVENZO: Petro (ph), if the president goes, are you going to miss him?



SEVENZO (voice-over): Nobert (ph) says they are too afraid to talk politics, but they are curious about what comes next.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are listening.

SEVENZO: You're listening --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- about what he says. We wait for the result what the -- comes from (INAUDIBLE).

SEVENZO: Well, do you think that the army did a good thing?




SEVENZO (voice-over): And it's not just the future for the young. Shadrach (ph) has lived in this village all his life. He's in his 80s and has seen the best and worst of an independent Zimbabwe. He says there's nothing to do now but wait and see what the future brings -- Farai Sevenzo, CNN, Romesha (ph), Zimbabwe.


VANIER: Let's try and get a better understanding now of what exactly is going on in Zimbabwe. Joining me is CNN correspondent Robyn Kriel. She is a Zimbabwean herself. She has worked and reported across Africa for years.

Has the Mugabe era in Zimbabwe already ended?

ROBYN KRIEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Great question and millions of Zimbabweans are outside of the country right now, monitoring social media, monitoring any media really, to try and get a sense of what's going on. And the answer is, I don't know.

This wouldn't be the first time that Mugabe has surprised everyone, so everyone is taking it --


KRIEL: -- slowly, listening to what the military is saying. But it certainly looks like the Mugabe era could be coming to an end. And being a Zimbabwean, watching tanks roll through my home country, President Mugabe is the only president I have ever known. Was amazing.

So the last few days have been utterly amazing. President Mugabe, we just don't know where he's going. It certainly looks like these are his last few hours, if not days.

VANIER: If there's one thing he does very well, it's stay in power. He's been in power since the early '80s.

So does he have any support left?

Is there any chance that he can make a political comeback here?

KRIEL: It certainly didn't look like it, watching the state broadcast earlier this evening. ZBC, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, you were hearing from all sides of his ruling party, who has backed him until the very last moment.

They were now calling for his resignation, calling for his wife to be fired and saying a lot of things that we've just never heard anyone in the ruling party ever dare to say about president Robert Mugabe.

So the question, is who -- what next for the country?

You know, who's waiting in the wings?

Everyone has a pretty good idea that it might just be Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe's fired vice president.

VANIER: We'll get to that in a second but the military seems to be backing that push, obviously to remove Mugabe. They support a peaceful and orderly march against him to be taking place on Saturday.

Is that frequent?

Has that ever happened, for the military to come out and say we support this?

KRIEL: No. And the military has the guns. The police also have the guns but the police have allowed -- have said that they allowed this march to take place. So it's a march by the war veterans. That's always been a very traditionally pro-Mugabe movement.

Even within Zanu-PF, they're always been extremely pro-Mugabe. Now they're calling for change. Not calling for a change in government, not calling for a change in ruling party but a change in leadership.

VANIER: What could change look like in Zimbabwe, if, indeed, the sidelining of Robert Mugabe is confirmed and done over the next few days?

You mentioned the vice president.

Could the country look different under him?

And just a note, Grace Mugabe, the wife of Robert Mugabe, she'd of course, been making moves to come to power. She appears to have been sidelined as well.

KRIEL: She was definitely jockeying to be the next president. That's what everyone believes. And that's where really the friction occurred. It doesn't seem -- it seems she overplayed her hand. It doesn't seem like she had the support, the struggle (ph) credentials like Mugabe or an Emmerson Mnangagwa or other figures in government. She was not part of the liberation struggle. She's much younger.

What would change look like?

What would this new government look like?

I don't think anyone, judging from what I can see in the people, being a Zimbabwean myself, who I'm speaking to, I don't think anyone cares as long as it's peaceful and as long as it's economically prosperous.

Zimbabwe's economy is yet in the toilet, yet again. We're under hyperinflation yet again. Almost unheard of for a country to be under hyperinflation so soon after we just came out of hyperinflation.

However, now these lines have been crossed.

So does that mean that there's potentially room for the opposition movement to come in and make democratic changes, make it more democratic?

I don't know. But I think everyone is hoping for it to be as peaceful as possible and to allow the money to flow. That's what we desperately need.

VANIER: Our Robyn Kriel, great to have you and your experience with us here in Atlanta at this time. Thank you very much.

KRIEL: Thank you.

VANIER: And one more word on Zimbabwe that's also related to the United States. U.S. president Donald Trump is suspending his administration's decision to allow big game hunters to bring elephant parts into the U.S. from Zimbabwe and neighboring Zambia.

Mr. Trump tweeted that he wants to review the, quote, "conservation facts." The argument for removing the restrictions was that it would help finance conservation efforts in African countries because hunters would then pay for the right to hunt and kill animals.

Activists respond that the ban was created and is still needed because the elephant population in Africa was vanishing at an alarming rate.

To U.S. politics here. The White House says there is simply no comparison between sexual misconduct accusations against Democratic senator Al Franken and similar allegations leveled at U.S. President Donald Trump during his campaign last year.

Mr. Trump took Franken to task after the senator publicly apologized for inappropriate behavior more than a decade ago. A reminder: at least 13 women came forward last year to accuse Donald Trump of sexual impropriety. But when asked about this, the White House brushed it off. We get the details from CNN's Sara Murray.


SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President's Trump reaction to sexual assault allegations and his own history of alleged misconduct with women under new scrutiny today. The president ignoring questions about the allegations against Alabama Senate hopeful Republican Roy Moore for days, but --


MURRAY (voice-over): -- quickly firing off a tweet attacking Democratic Senator Al Franken for a photo in which he appears to touch a woman while she's sleeping.

"The Al Frankenstein picture is really bad. Speaks 1,000 words. Where do his hands go in pictures two, three, four, five and six while she sleeps?"

Franken has apologized for his actions and welcomed an investigation, while Moore maintains he's innocent.

ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: "The Washington Post" has brought some scurrilous false charges, not charges, allegations, which I have emphatically denied time and time again.

MURRAY: But Trump's decision to weigh in on Franken immediately drawing comparisons to the president's past behavior. During the presidential campaign, a 2005 "Access Hollywood" tape came to light, showing Trump boasting about groping women.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, I'm automatically attracted to beautiful -- I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. I just kiss. I don't even wait. (LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

BILLY BUSH, "ACCESS HOLLYWOOD": Whatever you want.

DONALD TRUMP: Grab them by the (EXPLETIVE DELETED). You can do anything.


MURRAY: Trump apologized after the tape was made public.

TRUMP: Anyone who knows me knows these words don't reflect who I am. I said it. I was wrong and I apologize.

MURRAY: But, afterwards, more than a dozen women came forward and accused Trump of sexual misconduct or assault.

TRUMP: The stories are total fiction. They're 100 percent made up.

MURRAY: Taking aim at their looks.

TRUMP: She would not be my first choice.

MURRAY: And threatening lawsuits that he never actually filed.

TRUMP: All of these liars will be sued after the election.

MURRAY: Today, the White House dismissed any similarities between Franken's misconduct and allegations against the president.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think in one case, specifically, Senator Franken has admitted wrongdoing and the president hasn't. I think that's a very clear distinction.

MURRAY: When it comes to Moore, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wouldn't say whether Trump believes the women making allegations against him and said Moore's fate ultimately lies with Alabama's governor and the voters.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: The president certainly finds the allegations extremely troubling, as I stated yesterday. And he feels like it's up to the governor and the state -- the people in the state of Alabama to make a determination on whether or not they delay that election or whether or not they support and vote for Roy Moore.


MURRAY: Now, the White House has said President Trump believes Roy Moore should step aside if the allegations against him are true, but it's pretty clear Trump does not want to intervene in this election.

Now the White House said that President Trump does believe Roy Moore should step aside if the allegations against him are true. But it's clear the president doesn't want to intervene in this race. As for the Alabama governor, she says she has no plans to delay the election and she does plan to vote for Roy Moore -- Sara Murray, CNN, the White House.


VANIER: OK. Let's dig a little deeper. Political analyst Michael Genovese is with us now. He's president of the Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University.

Michael, good to have you with us. Wicket an own goal (ph) for President Trump to even address this ongoing conversation about sexual misconduct, whether we're talking about Moore or whether we're talking about Franken, I mean it was certain to revive the stories about allegations against him?

MICHAEL GENOVESE, LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it wasn't wise, but the president can't help himself. He has no self-control where these things are concerned and he has to tweet out things that he should be silent about because the president wants to have it both ways.

He wants to be able to criticize Democrats while saying that Moore needs to have more time, let the people decide. We have to see if there's proof. And the same is true with Donald Trump. When you raise these things, your past history comes into play and Donald Trump can't afford to have that happen too often.

VANIER: The White House obviously was asked about this. We saw that with Sara Murray's reporting. The answer was essentially the American people knew of these allegations come Election Day and they still elected him president. So essentially the implication is that they're at peace with this.

Do you feel that that has indeed been baked into people's assessment of President Trump, so there's nothing for him to bring it up again?

GENOVESE: I think that's part of it. I think that's an important thing to remember. We knew who Donald Trump was before we voted for him. But these are the things that define us. These are the things that tell us who we are as a people.

When you take these kinds of issues and turn them into tribal conflict, Democrats versus Republicans, when Democrats do it, it's wrong; when Republicans do it, it's OK and vice versa.

When you start confusing principle with party, you're starting to lose your soul. That's where we are in America. We're so partisan that we'll forgive, if we're Republicans, Donald Trump and Roy Moore and condemn Franken and others, Bill Clinton.

But Democrats do the same thing in reverse. So we really need to come to grips with this and say this notion of male dominance and predatory behavior is just plain wrong. It was wrong 50 years ago. It's wrong today. Fifty years ago, women felt they were victims and they had little choice. Today women have more choices.

They're coming out and saying that these are the things that happened.


GENOVESE: I'm accusing you of this. X, Y and Z happened. So it's a very different world today than it was 50 years ago.

VANIER: I wonder if it's not even a very different world today than it was a year ago. The national conversation, certainly in the U.S. in a very different place today as compared to a year ago. There seems to be societal change, a lot more immediate condemnation of powerful men who are accused of assaulting or accused of sexual misconduct against women.

Do you think that might actually force sort of a new assessment of the allegations against Mr. Trump?

GENOVESE: I think you're right, Cyril. I think, even a year ago to today, there's been a big change. A lot of it has to do with Hollywood revelations. And it forces us to come to grips with something we really probably, as a society, would rather not face, which is we have a president who is an admitted sexual predator.

And we have number of males in positions of power who think they have privilege and they have entitlement. And that notion that position gives you power and entitlement over others is probably as ancient as the thousands of years of political power.

But it's healthy thing for us to confront that and to dismiss it and say it's wrong.

VANIER: Michael Genovese, joining us from Los Angeles. We appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

GENOVESE: Thank you, Cyril.

VANIER: A new report in "The Atlantic" and a letter from the Senate Judiciary Committee says that, during last year's presidential campaign, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner received an email from Donald Trump Jr. about his correspondence with WikiLeaks. And he then forwarded that email on to someone else within the Trump campaign.

Now that's significant because it appears to directly contradict Kushner's testimony from July, when he said that he wasn't aware of any contact by WikiLeaks with anyone on the campaign. His lawyer downplayed this report.

Russia vetoed a U.N. resolution on Friday which would have extended the mandate of an independent probe into Syria's use of chemical weapons. It's the third time in a month that Russia has used its veto power at the Security Council to derail the investigations. Moscow claims that the probes would be biased against Syria.

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley simply answered this.

"Russia saw fit to waste our time. The investigators' mandate has now run out."

And CNN gets results. After an exclusive report about slave auctions in Libya, what the government in Tripoli is promising -- when we come back.




VANIER: An exclusive CNN report into shocking modern-day slave auctions in Libya has prompted the government there to act. Our crew witnessed a dozen men being sold like commodities outside the capital, Tripoli.

Now Libyan authorities have launched a formal investigation to convict those responsible and return the victims safely to their homes.


VANIER: Here's some of the reporting from CNN international correspondent Nima Elbagir.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We're ushered into one of two auctions happening on the same night. Crouched at the back of the yard, a flood light obscuring much by the scene. One by one, men are forced out as the bidding begins, $400, $500, $550, $600, $650, $700. Very quickly, it is over.


VANIER: And the International Organization for Migration is welcoming this investigation but warns that smuggling networks are actually becoming stronger and more organized.

And here's another reminder of the dangers that vulnerable migrants often face. A mass funeral in southern Italy for mostly nameless victims of a disaster in the Mediterranean. CNN contributor Barbie Nadeau has the story.


BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twenty six coffins, a mass casualty funeral, these victims are the latest in ongoing disaster that has seen thousands die in the Mediterranean Sea over the last several years. There is little known about these victims. They are all women likely from Nigeria and Niger.

Two were pregnant. One was wearing a T-shirt with the words "I'm super happy."

All were between 14 and 20 years of age. Their bodies brought to shore November 5th after their boat capsized off Southern Italy. Sixty-four survived. About 100 are missing.

NADEAU: These represent just some of the 26 victims of this disaster. Inside each of these coffins is a photo of the victim and information, like whether or not they had tattoos, their dental scans, anything that might be able to identify them one day.

In the meantime, those who have not been identified are known only by this ticket on the front of their coffin. This one, simply number four.

NADEAU (voice-over): Most of the young women fit the classic profile of those being trafficked to Italy for sex. Corrado Lembo, the prosecutor in charge of finding out who is responsible for the deaths of these young women, tells us they're working on the investigation with diligence and compassion.

He wants to clarify, not over-dramatize the reality of the phenomenon of sex trafficking, so he can shine a light on its complexity and, hopefully, help stop it.

Refugees and area students laid flowers on each casket at the end of the ceremony.

Representatives from both the Catholic and Muslim communities blessed each coffin. Monsignor Antonio De Luca told those who had gathered that these young women had died on their search for freedom. Instead, he said, they found death -- Barbie Nadeau, CNN, Salerno, Italy.


VANIER: Former Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri says he's leaving Saudi Arabia despite rumors to the country. Earlier this month Hariri abruptly resigned from his position as prime minister while he was in Riyadh.

That sparked speculation that he was being held by Saudi Arabia against his will. On Friday, he tweeted this, "To say that I am held up in Saudi and not allowed to leave the country is a lie. I am on the way to the airport."

He also called out Sigmar Gabriel, the German foreign minister, who made the original allegations. Hariri is reportedly heading to France for talks with the president, Emmanuel Macron.

Up next on CNN NEWSROOM, just when you thought you were done with the Internet, the Internet is never done with you.

Remember the viral pizza rat?

Apparently New York City vermin have found a new delicacy. Stay with us.





VANIER: Welcome back.

So you might not know this but the humble avocado is seen as a sacred object here in the U.S., a national culinary obsession. That's just barely a exaggeration. It's not only humans that are becoming enamored with the squishy green fruit. Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It may not be as picky as some humans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A little mushy but not too mushy.

MOOS (voice-over): It may not have perfect prep skills.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Spread it evenly.

MOOS (voice-over): But Avocado Rat is a rodent foodie. Documentary maker Jessica Edwards used her iPhone to shoot this video in a Brooklyn subway station.

JESSICA EDWARDS, DOCUMENTARIAN: Thirteen seconds of rat dragging an avocado, you know. MOOS (voice-over): "Off to find some artisanal seven-grain bread to spread this avo on," gushed BuzzFeed. It was proclaimed a hipster. That other famous rodent is so yesterday.

JIMMY KIMMEL, ABC HOST: Pizza Rat has become such a big celebrity.

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: The Internet blew up over this video of a rat carrying a whole slice of pizza.

MOOS (voice-over): Sure, Pizza Rat spawned its own Halloween costume and even a remote controlled replica designed to prank New Yorkers. But Avocado Rat has something Pizza Rat lacked.


MOOS (voice-over): Trendy taste.

EDWARDS: Who doesn't love avocado toast?

MOOS: I see online that people are arguing that it's a lime, not an avocado.

MOOS (voice-over): Skeptics posted, "Looks like a lime." "That is 100 percent a wedge of lime."

EDWARDS: I promise to everyone out there it is absolutely an avocado.

MOOS (voice-over): The video ends with Avocado Rat disappearing. For a second, you think he's abandoned his prize. But then, poof.

EDWARDS: He wasn't letting go of that thing for nothing.

MOOS (voice-over): The rat may not be down there, neatly cubing his avocado or applying it to toast. But it pushed it into its mouth. This rat is the undisputed avocado toast of the town -- Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


VANIER: And with that, we thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. I'll be back with the headlines in just a moment. Don't go anywhere.