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Charlie Rose Suspended Over Sex Harassment Allegations; Report: Rep. Conyers Settled Complaint Involving Sex Misconduct; WH: Trump To Speak With Putin; U.S. To Slap North Korea With New Sanctions; Administration Ends Protected Status For Haitians. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired November 21, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:05] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.


This morning, Charlie Rose is suspended from CBS, PBS and Bloomberg after at least eight women say the veteran newsman made unwanted sexual advances toward them. Among the accusations groping, lewd phone calls and allegations that Rose walked around naked in front of them.

BERMAN: So this morning was the first chance his "CBS This morning" co-hosts had a chance to respond to the reports. It was emotional, it was difficult, it was remarkable.


NORAH O'DONNELL, CHARLIE ROSE'S CO-HOST: I also want to say this, that this is a moment that demands a frank and honest assessment about where we stand and more generally the safety of women.

Let me be very clear there's no excuse for this alleged behavior. It is systematic and pervasive and I have been doing a lot of listening and I'm going to continue to do that.

This I know is true. Women cannot achieve equality in the workplace or in society until there is a reckoning and a taking of responsibility.

I am really proud to work at CBS News. There are so many incredible people here, especially on this show. All of you here.

This will be investigated. This has to end. This behavior is wrong, period.

GAYLE KING, CHARLIE ROSE'S CO-HOST: I certainly echo that. And I have to say, Norah, I really am still reeling. I got an hour and 42 minutes of sleep last night, both my son and my daughter called me, Oprah called me and said, are you OK, I'm not OK.

After reading that article in the "Post," it was deeply disturbing, troubling and painful for me to read. That's why I think we have to make this matter to women. The women that have spoken up, the women who have not spoken up because they're afraid. I'm hoping that now they will take the step to speak out, too. That this becomes a moment of truth.

You know, I have enjoyed a friendship and partnership with Charlie for the past five years. I have held him in such high regard and I am really struggling because how do you -- what do you say when someone that you deeply care about has done something that is so horrible? How do you wrap your brain around that? I am really grappling with that.

That said, Charlie does not get a pass here. He doesn't get a pass from anyone in this room. We are all deeply affected. We are all rocked by this.


BERMAN: All right. Joining us now, CNN's chief media correspondent, host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter.

That was something to see. These two journalists working through this process. You heard Gayle King say Charlie Rose doesn't get a pass on this. That might be the understatement of the century.

Does Charlie Rose -- any chance he has a job at CBS after this?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: I don't see him coming back to "CBS This Morning" or "60 Minutes." As of now he's only suspended while CBS reviews this matter. But I would expect later this week we'll hear something more permanent. It's just impossible to imagine him back at that table. It's also very hard to imagine him returning to his nightly talk show, his iconic talk show where he's interviewed newsmakers for decades.

He has a lot of explaining to do. Certainly Charlie Rose has a lot of questions to answer, but in the wake of this "Washington Post" story, even more women have come forward speaking to other news outlets with other allegations. In some way it's reminiscent of what we've seen in Hollywood and in Washington and elsewhere. Once a first news story comes out then there's a flood of other allegations that follows.

HARLOW: "The New York Times" has spoken to additional women.


HARLOW: This insider, and there are more. I was speaking to someone about this last night and they said to me, how could this go on for so long? How could this continue to happen? And I said, well, if you're a new, you know, parent, for example, you've got little kids at home, you're thinking about this job and all the opportunities that lies ahead and how you're going to pay for them, you think, do I speak up against this man in such a position of power?

I mean, that is at the core, isn't it? Of this being able to go on for so long while he worked at three different networks.

STELTER: Power is the word we keep coming back to, right? Seven weeks ago when the Harvey Weinstein stories came out, we started thinking about this domino effect in other industries. It was called the Weinstein effect. I try not to call it that anymore because it shouldn't be about Weinstein.


STELTER: What's more important are the brave women that has spoken out.


STELTER: But this really is, as our colleague Alisyn Camerota says, it's a tipping point in America. And it's also a tipping point in other countries for a reckoning about these power dynamics.


STELTER: And about why people who maybe were starting on their jobs, starting on their careers feel they can't report inappropriate behavior.

BERMAN: Well, in one case they did report inappropriate behavior.

HARLOW: Right.

BERMAN: There was -- this behavior reported.

HARLOW: Which was reported.

BERMAN: Right. I mean, what happened there?

STELTER: According to "The Post," a woman came forward to the show's EP and soon thereafter this woman lost her job. Now we've heard from the executive producer of Charlie Rose's show, Yvette Vega, she says she's deeply sorry that this went on for so long. According to CBS there were no reports of improper behavior at his time at CBS. That was as of yesterday. We will see if anyone comes forward now in the wake of this story.

[09:05:08] The common themes here, whether it's Harvey Weinstein, whether it's Roy Moore, and all these different cases there are people that looked the other way for too long and there were women who were afraid to come forward for a long time. But it's incredible how quickly that's changing now.

HARLOW: I will just say that his executive producer, this woman who has been sort of by his side working with him hand in hand for years did, you know, seem apologetic in her statement yesterday for not doing --

STELTER: She was actually sobbing on the phone with the "Washington Post."

HARLOW: For not doing more.

STELTER: Yes. Absolutely. And the "Post" reporters who have been pursuing this, who have been investigating Charlie Rose, they say they have other accounts now they are also trying to corroborate. What we've seen here is this pattern, and Charlie Rose is not going to be the last prominent man to be identified as a sexual harasser.

BERMAN: All right. Brian, thanks so much.

We have other news to report on this. New this morning, accusation of sexual misconduct against a sitting Democratic congressman and a settlement payoff to keep it quiet.

HARLOW: We're talking about John Conyers, the longest serving member of the House of Representatives who settled a wrongful dismissal complaint two years ago after a former employee says she was fired because she would not, quote, "succumb to his sexual advances." That is according to the documents obtained by BuzzFeed.

Our Sunlen Serfaty is following this story for us. And let's just begin with what is alleged here to have happened.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. And CNN I should say first and foreman has not independently confirmed these allegations, but according to BuzzFeed who has obtained a series of documents related to this 2015 complaint case and settlement reach afterwards, they have four affidavits signed by former staff members from John Conyers' office alleging some pretty egregious things. Advances to female staff, requests for sexual favors, contacting and transporting other women that they believed Conyers was having alleged affairs with, caressing their hands sexually, robbing their legs and back in public. So some pretty egregious charges coming from this complaint that again BuzzFeed did obtain.

We have of course reached out to John Conyers's office, also Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's office to see what she has to say about that. We have not heard that from either. But it can't be understated, John and Poppy, how senior of a member John Conyers is in Congress, the most senior member, longest serving congressman so this certainly will send additional shockwaves that are already going on around Capitol Hill.

BERMAN: Yes, the ranking member in the House Judiciary Committee among other things.

So, Sunlen, this payout, how did it work exactly?

SERFATY: Yes, this is one of the most eyebrow-raising parts of this specific allegation, the fact that, as BuzzFeed reports, the payment came out of Congressman Conyers' office for the settlement. Now that is notable because typically, as we've been reporting for weeks, this process on Capitol Hill the settlements win and if they are reached, that money comes out of a fund set up by the U.S. Treasury.

Now that's directed by the Office of Complaints. So the fact here that that money was coming straight from Conyers' office raises many more questions at the process on Capitol Hill, the fact that he could pay this money directly from the budget within his office, and not have to report it from the settlement fund coming out of the Treasury. That just calls into question how little we know about these sexual harassment cases, how many settlements are being paid out, the numbers that they are being paid out, so it opens up many more questions that we're asking today -- John and Poppy.

BERMAN: All right. Sunlen Serfaty for us in Washington, thanks so much.

Let's discuss this. We're joined now by editor-in-chief of "The Hill," Bob Cusack, CNN political analyst and "TIME" correspondent Molly Ball, and White House reporter for Bloomberg News, Toluse Olorunnipa. I hope I said that correctly. I'm sorry for that.

Molly, let me start with you on this. You know, John Conyers isn't just any congressman. I mean, John Conyers is the dean of the House. He is the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, the one- time chair of that committee. He is a big fish in the House and these are serious allegations against him.

MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, well, and I think, you know, it was said earlier that women were afraid to come forward. And what I see again and again in these cases, is that women were not afraid to come forward. Women did come forward, women did complain, and then these powerful men were surrounded by enablers and they were surrounded by systems that were set up to protect them and to keep these women from getting any kind of justice or any kind of public action against these men, and that's what enabled them to go on.

And in the BuzzFeed article it alleges years and years of this behavior in a sort of open secret in the office of Representative Conyers, it was known that he was like this, but again he was surrounded by people whose job it was to protect him.

And I think we see that whether it's in Congress, whether it's in Hollywood, whether it's in the media, these powerful men are insulated by their power and that is what we are finally seeing a crack in with all of these revelations.

HARLOW: Bob, to Molly's point, you know, people around him, protecting him, but also the system protecting these harassers, right?


[09:10:10] HARLOW: Because the Office of Compliance right now, as the rule were, as it works on Capitol Hill, these settlements, when they happen, we know there have been $17 million of payouts since the '90s, some of those were sexual harassment, it's not made public what happened unless the journalists can get a hold of these documents like BuzzFeed did. The name of the perpetrator is not made public.

It's a very difficult and cumbersome process for victims to come forward, whistleblowers to come forward. Now there is legislation put forward by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand as well as others to change that, but how is it that that could have persisted for so long?

BOB CUSACK, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE HILL: Those are great questions. I mean, I think the process has to be significantly changed and I think Congress will act and it's taken all these allegations to put the spotlight on it. I mean, it's clearly skewed against the accuser. It helps members of Congress

And remember, you know, I would watch Nancy Pelosi, I think she's going to act on this whether it's getting Conyers to step aside or call for some type of ethics panel investigation. Remember, Conyers would be chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over impeachment. I mean, this can't -- this can't stand.

BERMAN: You know, Toluse, there's a lot going on right now obviously. We are all watching the Alabama Senate race right now, and Roy Moore of course accused of sexually molesting a 14-year-old, which is in and of itself its own thing down there. When we get one accusation after another about sexual misconduct, does that muddy the water at all for him? Does this give him some kind of cover to keep in the race down there?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: I think it sort of -- it leads to the situation where it's sort of a fox on all their houses. Congress knows that they have a problem on their hands. They've been dealing with the Roy Moore situation, they've been dealing with the Al Franken situation, now they have John Conyers. It does appear that this is a major problem and leaders in Congress know this is a problem that they need to address.

But if you look at the pace in which they are addressing this sexual harassment issue and you compare it to the tax bill which is going like a freight train through Congress, you can sort of make a clear distinction between what's the priority right now. Leaders in Congress are going to have that reckoning that Norah O'Donnell talked about, where they're going to make a decision about how strict they want to be and how much of a movement they want to make about combating sexual harassment.

And if Roy Moore happens to win down in Alabama later this year next month, that will only sort of drive that point home even harder that Congress needs to step up and take action, otherwise they're going to lose a lot of the credibility that they have to lead on issues like sexual harassment.

HARLOW: Molly, there are things that are above politics and this is clearly one of them. However the president has not chosen to treat it that way by the way he went after Senator Al Franken and not -- still will not answer questions about Roy Moore. Now we'll see if he weighs in on the accusations against Representative John Conyers. But at what point -- or does the American public, even though supporters of the president say you have to speak up here about what is right and what is wrong.

BALL: I mean, I think that ship has already sailed. I think we know about Trump, that he's incapable of seeing any potential flaws in people that he feels are supportive of him or on his side or himself, and he is abundantly capable of calling out what he sees as the deficiencies of people he feels are opposed to him. You know, this all -- this has been going on for a long time. It's basically his MO, and I think all of the cries of, you know, he's not being consistent, he's being hypocritical, I think we have seen many times in recent years that he just isn't interested in that criticism.

He doesn't really take it to heart. He sort of bats it away. So I wouldn't be surprised if he continues to point to one side and not the other. But I do have to say, you know, to your point about whether this muddies the waters, Roy Moore has been saying that this is a Democratic conspiracy against him, right? That the establishment has essentially fabricated this elaborate series of accusations to make him look bad.

This is, as you said, not a partisan phenomenon. Not a political phenomenon. There are people being accused of this on both sides of the aisle and I think that makes it harder for Roy Moore to credibly say he's being targeted because of his partisanship, because he's a Republican.

BERMAN: You know, Toluse, does John Conyers survive this? Does Al Franken survive this? Is there a way of knowing who survives this and who doesn't?

OLORUNNIPA: I think that's going to require very difficult conversations and the types of conversations that we haven't yet been able to have in the public square about sort of what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behavior. And there are different gradations of what can be tolerated. Obviously all of the allegations that have been described are incredibly disturbing and almost everyone across the aisle has been able to say that.

But is it grounds for removal from office if you pose for a picture with a woman and you touch her on her backside, is that something that meets the bar for removal of office? That's a very difficult conversation that a number of members of Congress are going to have to have.

As we see more and more of these allegations come forward, they are going to have to set the bar and it could lead to sort of a snowball affect where a number of members of Congress are guilty of the same types of things.

I think what John Conyers, it's going to be very difficult for him, even though, he is the longest serving member of Congress to survive this. I don't think there will be very many Democrats coming to his defense if all of these allegations happen to be true.

Just because they are such an abuse of power and even the woman who came forward end up being fired from her job, which is sort of the height of an abuse of power. So, I think it would be much more difficult for John Conyers to survive this and Al Franken.

But all of this behavior is pretty disturbing, and all of these congressmen appear to be in for a reckoning and for some type of punishment, even if it's not removal from office.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Maybe, but Bob, it's not really a moment of reckoning in Congress if there are no consequences. Harvey Weinstein faced consequences in the business world, and Charlie Rose, we will see what happens. But is it really this moment if nothing happens in Congress?

BOB CUSACK, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "THE HILL": No. Congress has to -- they can't exempt themselves. As you mentioned, other industries, big figures across media, and entertainment, they are going to pay a price. That's why Congress has to pay a price.

I do agree, there are different gradations here where some of these allegations are extremely unsettling, and others are also unsettling, but there are different gradations, and that's the line that the Ethics Committees, which usually are toothless. They don't do much.

They protect members. Nobody likes to serve on these ethics committees because then they are going after their own colleagues. This is different. I think they have to be forceful and not toothless.

HARLOW: Thank you all very much. Bob, Molly, Toluse, we appreciate it.

President Putin making a call to President Trump this morning. They are set to discuss Syria, but will election meddling come up between the two leaders?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, you are sued. The Justice Department wants to block the AT&T and Time Warner merger, but is something bigger going on here.

And Whitefish Energy pulls the plug on efforts to restore power to Puerto Rico. The company's CEO tells CNN that it's owed millions.



BERMAN: New this morning, holding on line one a call with major global implications. Very shortly, President Trump is expected to speak with the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin. You will remember the last time they spoke, Putin told the president that Russia did not meddle in the U.S. election and the president chose not to push back because Putin really seemed to believe what he was saying.

HARLOW: He did so said the president. It's unclear whether election meddling will be a topic of the conversation when the two leaders share a phone call today. It is expected to largely focus on Syria.

Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad, just told Putin that huge successes have been achieved, his words, in Syria's civil war with Russia's help.

Soon we will hear how the Treasury Department will punish North Korea further now that President Trump has listed North Korea back as a state sponsor of terror. A new set of sanctions is expected to be announced soon. No telling exactly what they will be.

BERMAN: Yes. Overnight, North Korea state media blasted away at President Trump. CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Barbara, what are the North Koreans saying now?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, there was first a visual signal, John and Poppy, the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un was touring a vehicle factory, perhaps trying to send a signal to the world that there may be sanctions, but that he still has industrial capacity in his country, if you will.

And of course, the sanctions are going to be aimed at trying to curb outside countries, outside people helping him with any financing, any capability for that sort of thing. The North Korean state media had very blunt words for the United States and the president of the United States.

Let me just read to you the statement that they issued, saying, quote, "The hideous crazies committed by the lunatic president of the U.S. are a blatant challenge to the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK, a wanton violation of its sovereignty and a vicious insult of the genuine life of the Korean people."

The kind of language we have come to expect from Kim Jong-un's regime, and as long as it's nasty language, perhaps not all that troubling. But with the new sanctions, the question will be, will Kim respond with new provocations.

That's what everyone will be watching for. Will there be additional weapons testing? Will there be additional test launches of their ballistic missiles?

HARLOW: North Korea, Barbara Starr, has been off the list for nine years since President Bush took it off the state sponsor of terror list for 2008. Can we talk about effectively what will change and how much power there is to move North Korea's hand by putting them back on this list?

STARR: Well, I think that's really the critical question. You know, yesterday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, when he came on the White House podium, was pretty candid that the sanctions against North Korea already are very significant.

[09:25:09] And that this might not move that ball forward so much. What is left to sanction? You can sanction additional persons that do business with North Korea, and you could sanction Chinese banks, that is North Korea's gateway into international financial markets and transactions.

The president mentioning the death of the American student, Oto Warmbier, the assassination of Kim Jong-un's half-brother as reasons for putting them back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism or (inaudible) factors, but how much you could really achieve still remains to be seen.

Because the real question is any of this really going to work as deterrents. Will additional sanctions provide additional deterrents to Kim Jong-un on his weapons program? How will he react all of it?

He has fuel shortages in the country. He already has tough problems with food and other industrial supplies. Will these sanctions have enough impact that suddenly things would become so dire, more dire in North Korea, that he would react by saying I will give up my weapons programs? I think there's a lot of doubt on that.

HARLOW: It would take a lot if history proves itself for him to do anything of the sort. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you.

Joining us now Senator Ben Cardin, Democrat of Maryland. He is the ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee. Senator, it's nice to have you here.

Let's begin on North Korea. The president placing North Korea back on the state sponsor terrorism list. Something President Obama chose not to do. Is it the right move and should President Obama has done this?

SENATOR BEN CARDIN (D-MD), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Poppy, first it's good to be with you. I think a lot depends on the conversations that took place between President Trump and President Xi of China. The way to change the equation in North Korea is to get China to work with us on sanctions.

China can change the equation in North Korea. Quite frankly, we've imposed very strict sanctions against North Korea. Congress has authorized additional sanctions. I am not sure this designation will mean very much from the point of view of the effects of additional sanctions, unless we have the support of China.

HARLOW: To be clear, though, you don't think President Obama should have done it?

CARDIN: President Trump, no, I think clearly North Korea is a sponsor of terrorism. I don't think the designation is something that would change much, but it fits the characterization of supporting terrorism.

BERMAN: Senator Cardin, you called Russia's meddling in 2016 election an act of war. The president is expected to speak to Russian Leader Vladimir Putin very shortly. First off, do you think this phone call should even take place?

CARDIN: Well, I think we have to have communications between the president of Russia and the United States, so that's fine. I don't mind the conversation. I think the president has to be very -- President Trump has to be very clear that Russia meddled in our elections. They are going to pay a heavy price for doing that.

They need to change their behavior as it relates to attacks on our country and we need to know about that. So, I hope it's a very candid discussion. My guess is this conversation will deal more with Syria than it will deal with the U.S. meddling.

HARLOW: Overnight, the White House has made the decision to remove next summer some 60,000 Haitians from this country that were here under temporary protected status. In terms of your constituents, Maryland has the sixth highest number of residents with temporary protective status in the country, a lot of them from El Salvador. I assume you disagree with the White House's move given the legislation you put forth, but this is temporary. The first word is temporary protected status. What do you think this morning?

CARDIN: Well, the president, whether they are Haitian or from El Salvador, he's doing the same thing for the DREAMers, the DACA registrants where he says will extend it through March. So, we now have a time limit on many people who have been here for a long period of time, who have brothers and sisters who are U.S. citizens.

They really don't know their native country any longer, and these are people who have been fully integrated into America, whether they are Haitians or DREAMers, the president is putting uncertainty in their lives that is unnecessary.

I hope Congress takes advantage of the opportunity and pay a comprehensive immigration reform or at least immigration reform that protects those that are the DREAMers and those that are here on temporarily status.

BERMAN: If you look at some of the actions the president and the White House have taken or tried to take for the last 306 days, whether it's the travel ban, sanctuary cities, and you know, getting the Nicaraguans try to remove -- revoking their temporary protected status and now the Haitians, do you think the administration is trying to change the face of America?

CARDIN: Absolutely. I think the --