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Pope Francis Arrives in Myanmar; Trump Administration Sued over Consumer Watchdog Pick; Indonesia Warns of Possible Major Eruption; Islamist Leader Calls of Pakistan Protests. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired November 25, 2017 - 02:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Pope Francis has just arrived in Myanmar and everyone will be listening for if and how he talks about the Rohingya Muslims.

In Bali, officials warn of an imminent and big volcanic eruption. Yet tens of thousands of residents still need to evacuate.

And U.S. President Trump returns from his holiday to a list of heavy agenda items and a brand-new lawsuit.

Hello and welcome to our viewers here in the United States and, of course, all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church and this is CNN NEWSROOM.


CHURCH: Pope Francis has just arrived in Myanmar for the first ever papal visit to that country. And we're looking at these live pictures now of people lining the streets to greet him when he makes his way through the city there. Now during his visit, he will discuss the growing humanitarian crisis with the de facto leader there, Aung San Suu Kyi.

More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled across Myanmar's border to Bangladesh to escape violence in Rakhine State. And the situation in Myanmar is so delicate, the pope has actually been warned not to even use the term "Rohingya." His advisers are concerned it could cause a diplomatic incident.

CNN Vatican correspondent Delia Gallagher is traveling with the pope. She joins us now on the phone.

And, Delia, this is the thing, isn't it?

So the papal visit to Myanmar, of course, has brought all global attention to the situation and the plight of the Rohingya people. The big question now is how likely is it that the pope will actually use the word "Rohingya?"

And will he appease the military and the government there in Myanmar? DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Rosemary. As you said, it's a bit complicated for the pope. He's coming into a situation, where all eyes are on what's happening in Myanmar.

He has already used the word "Rohingya" from the Vatican. I think it is clear to people here that he is in support of rights for minority groups in the country.

At the same time, he is coming as a guest of this country. He has met with Aung San Suu Kyi several times already. He has a relationship with her and probably wants to try to support a kind of burgeoning democracy that is trying to form in this country. So we shouldn't expect him to come with a heavy hand and lecture.

These are Buddhist leaders here. This is a predominantly Buddhist country. And he will be meeting with the supreme council of the Buddhists. They are very influential here.

He will also be meeting with the head of Myanmar's military. That's going to be a crucial meeting because it is said that the power here in the hands of the military, not necessarily Aung San Suu Kyi.

So a last-minute (INAUDIBLE) for the pope's agenda is a Thursday meeting with the senior general of Myanmar's military. And that will be an important face-to-face between the pope and the general -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Indeed. And, Delia, there are so many restrictions for the pope visiting Myanmar. But he is a man and we know that he pushes boundaries.

How far might he push those boundaries on this papal visit?

GALLAGHER: Rosemary, I wouldn't expect it. I think that he is a very savvy diplomat, if you want. He -- yes, he is the pope but he has been in a lot of situations where you have opposition and you've got two people sitting down at the table, trying to work things out.

He is not coming and representing anybody's special interests. He is coming as a neutral third party. And I expect for his language and his whole attitude to be one of openness to both sides, certainly to this host country as well, but not step back from his responsibility clearly to speak out on behalf of those who are persecuted, not just in the Rohingya situation; there is a situation of Christian persecution as well here. There are a number of religious and ethnic conflicts going on.

As well, Rosemary, these are two of the poorest countries in Asia. They're two of the countries most vulnerable to climate change. There are a couple of other issues that are around this trip that we'll be hearing from the pope as well, I'm sure.

CHURCH: All right. CNN's Delia Gallagher, traveling with the pope there on his visit to Myanmar, the first papal visit to that country. Many thanks to you, Delia.


CHURCH: Well, Kate Vigneswaran is with me now from Bangkok in Thailand. She is the legal director at Fortify Rights.

Thank you so much for joining us. Given the de facto leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been reluctant important to talk about the plight of the Rohingya people, why do you think she invited Pope Francis to the country and how big a gamble this could be for her?

KATE VIGNESWARAN, LEGAL DIRECTOR, FORTIFY RIGHTS: First, thank you so much for manage me. It's an interesting question. I think she has a standing relationship with the pope. She met with him back in May this year when she was visiting Europe.

And so I think her reaching out to him was (INAUDIBLE) of a standing relationship in which obviously developed some sort of trust. I think Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as the Myanmar government and military, have been very critical of international scrutiny. And as your prior guest was saying, the pope represents more of an impartial third party in this situation.

So I think it's an opportunity for her to mix with the outside world with the international community but do so in a way that might be a more -- in a less critical environment.

That being said, the pope has been a champion for human rights for religious groups and minorities. So he has been taking a strong stand on human rights violations against all groups.

And so this presents an opportunity for him to speak out on behalf of those groups, not only the Rohingya but other ethnic and religious minority groups that have been subject to human rights violations.

CHURCH: So in all, how significant is this first papal visit to Myanmar?

And how might it change the way the world views what's happening to the Rohingya people?

What all might he achieve on this visit, since he is going to be very diplomatic and very careful about the words he uses?

VIGNESWARAN: I think it's going to be quite significant. I think he is one of the first international figures that's had access to Myanmar since the Rakhine conflict broke out again in August of this year. And as I said, he is there at a time when the government and the military have been highly critical of international scrutiny.

So I think he -- his visit alone is going to draw a lot of national attention to the situation. He also has political, moral and spiritual authority across religions. And his voice has been really strong and carries weight.

And I think there is going to be a lot of groups watching with interest what he has to say. I think he also is in a unique position to push other governments to take stronger action, based on what he finds while he's there.

CHURCH: And as we mentioned, the pope will meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, who invited him.

What will he likely say to her?

And why it is that a woman, revered for her peaceful protest against the military dictatorship of Myanmar, seems unable to speak for Rohingya people or have any understanding at all for what the military is doing to those people?

VIGNESWARAN: Yes, look, I think, just to answer your second question first, I think Aung San Suu Kyi, when she was under house arrest, was in a position where she could be highly critical and voice her criticism of the military, the human rights violations that they had perpetrated against a range of different communities in Myanmar.

I think now that she has been elected into power, she is a politician and she's fulfilling that role. She also acts under a constitutional structure, which gives her little control in terms of making real progress for legislative reform (INAUDIBLE) through parliament.

I think also, in Myanmar, we've seen decades of rhetoric about the Rohingya particularly and about who they are. They're called Bengali interlopers. They're now being labeled as terrorists.

And that has had an influence on her constituency and what they believe. And I think she is bound to that constituency. I think, in terms of the pope and what he might say, I think he needs essentially (INAUDIBLE) to be diplomatic. (INAUDIBLE).

I do hope he takes a strong stance, though. I think we get to see really what he is going to do. We have seen him make some comments over the last few days (INAUDIBLE), talking about how he was there to confirm the Catholics who were coming to meet him in Yangon. But, yes, we do hope he takes a stronger stance.

CHURCH: All right. We'll be watching throughout the world what the pope says on this matter. Kate Vigneswaran, thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it.

We're also tracking some major news out of Washington. A lawsuit seeks to halt --


CHURCH: -- U.S. president Donald Trump's choice to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That is a government watchdog group that oversees Wall Street. On Friday Mr. Trump named Mick Mulvaney to lead it. And that's controversial for several reasons.

Mulvaney already leads the Office of Management and Budget and has been highly critical of the watchdog agency.

Also, the outgoing CFPB director, Richard Cordray, already named a successors. His pick was Leandra English and she is behind the lawsuit trying to block Mulvaney's appointment. The White House is defending its choice. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said this about the lawsuit.

"The law is clear. Director Mulvaney is the acting director of the CFPB now that the CFPB's own general counsel, who was hired under Richard Cordray, has notified the bureau's leadership that she agrees with the administration's and Department of Justice's reading of the law.

"There should be no question that Director Mulvaney is the active director."

A lot to take in, I know. So for analysis of all this, let's go to Troy Slaten in Los Angeles. He's a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor.

So what is likely to happen with this lawsuit?

Who will end up leading the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

And what does the law say about that?

TROY SLATEN, ATTORNEY: Well, Rosemary, I think that the law is pretty clear on this although, if the law was completely black and white, lawyers like me wouldn't have a job.

So the Trump administration is no stranger to lawsuits seeking to enjoin executive action. And here that's exactly what happened.

The successor to Richard Cordray has filed a lawsuit, actually asking a court to make her director of the CFPB. Now normally when there is a vacancy, according to the Executive Vacancies Act, what happens is the president is able to pick someone until the Senate can get around to confirming whoever it is that the president appoints.

But here, under the Dodd-Frank law that was formed in the wake of the 2008 global financial meltdown, the drafters of this law specifically made it so, that way, that the deputy director would become the acting director in the event of a vacancy. And that's what happened here.

CHURCH: Interesting.

So how does a situation like this happen?

And where the director of the bureau appoints his own successor and then the U.S. president tries to override that and appoint his own pick and both sides saying they're right on this. You're saying the law will ultimately decide that Leandra English is supposed to be leading the bureau.

According to the law, right?

SLATEN: Well, yes and no. So the law says that the deputy director becomes acting director. But there is no argument that the president has plenary authority to appoint the director of this agency. However, what's not clear is whether or not the president has the

authority under the Vacancies Act to appoint somebody to lead the agency until the Senate confirms a permanent director.

So what the court is going to have to decide here is whether or not the law, specifically Dodd-Frank, allows the president to appoint his own successor during the vacancy, that period until the Senate can act in a confirmation hearing, or whether the director, Cordray here, gets to pick his own successor.

CHURCH: Another lawsuit, another wait-and-see situation. We will just see what happens in the coming hours and days. Troy Slaten, many thanks to you for your legal analysis. Appreciate it.

SLATEN: Thanks for having me, Rosemary.

CHURCH: U.S. Senator al Franken says he is embarrassed and ashamed of the allegations he touched women inappropriately. But he says he has no plans to resign. In a round of interviews the Democrat admitted he let a lot of people down and now he hopes to regain their trust.


SEN. AL FRANKEN (D-MINN.), MEMBER, HEALTH, EDUCATION, LABOR AND PENSIONS COMMITTEE: I think this will take some time. But I think that with a -- I'm taking responsibility. I've apologized to women who have felt disrespected and to everyone I have let down.

I'm cooperating fully with the Ethics Committee. And I am trying to handle this in a way and to -- that adds to an important conversation and be a better public servant and a better man.


CHURCH: And another Democrat facing sexual harassment allegations is stepping down from his top post on the House Judiciary Committee. John Conyers denies harassing staff members. But he says serving on the committee while under an ethics investigation would be a distraction.


CHURCH: Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi refused to criticize Conyers but insisted zero tolerance means consequences.

And next here on CNN NEWSROOM, mass evacuations, grounded flights and stranded travelers in Bali, as authorities warn a dangerous volcano could erupt at any time. We're back in just a moment.




(MUSIC PLAYING) CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone.

Well, Indonesia says a major eruption from Mt. Agung in Bali could come at any moment. Authorities issued their highest alert after volcanoes spewed ash and flame several times over the weekend. They're urging residents within a 10-kilometer radius to leave the area.

About 25,000 people have already been evacuated. Starting early Monday, Bali's main airport is shut down for 24 hours, leaving thousands of passengers stranded.



CHURCH: I want to go now to Mumtaza Tjatra. She is a reporter with CNN Indonesia.

Thank you so much for joining us.

So, Mumtaza, what more are you learning about this volcano and why have so many people refused to evacuate the area, given the dangers?

MUMTAZA TJATRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the recent data that I have received, Rosemary, basically there are over 25,000 people that have fled their homes, especially those who live within disaster-prone areas of 7.5-kilometer radius from the crater.

And the head of the command post who was dealing with this disaster basically have confirmed that everyone who lived within 7.5-kilometer radius have left the area toward temporary shelters just outside the 10-kilometer total exclusion zone.

However, the people who live within the 7.5-kilometer radius to 10- kilometer radius, basically they're yet to leave their areas because there are certain things they're worried about.

First things first, about the cattle, the Balinese are basically farmers and they're cattle workers. Basically they're thinking about whatever that they have left they need to leave behind, those are the things that they're worried about.

And also, they're worried about the vehicles because not all of them have cars to go away from the disaster-prone areas to the safe zone.

So basically, those are the things that make people very reluctant to leave at this moment. But the government, including the search and rescue team, the policemen, the military, army staff, they are currently going all out to help the people to leave the area immediately as the eruption becomes imminent.

And they're hoping that over 50,000 people who live within the 10- kilometer radius zone will leave at this moment -- Rose.

CHURCH: All right. Mumtaza Tjatra, thank you so much for bringing us up to date on the situation in Bali. I appreciate that.

Well, Egyptians are still mourning after Friday's brutal terror attack. Funerals like this one are being held for the more than 300 people killed at a Sufi mosque in the Sinai. Who was behind the attack is still unclear at this point but authorities say at least one of the attackers carried an ISIS flag.

Here is what an imam at the mosque says happened.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I began the sermons Friday. And after two or three minutes, I heard the sound of an explosion or two outside the mosque. I saw everyone running out of the door and the windows. Some people were hiding behind the stand.

I found myself lying on the floor. And above me, there were two or three people, bleeding. They fired a lot on everyone who was still alive in the mosque.


CHURCH: And we are also tracking developing news out of Pakistan. The Islamist leader, whose group clashed violently with Pakistani security forces, has called off a weeks-long protest.

Now this comes after news that Pakistan's law minister has resigned. The protesters accused him of blasphemy and were blocking a key Islamabad road.

CNN's Sophia Saifi is in Islamabad and joins us now with the latest.

So, Sophia, the protesters have gotten what they wanted, the resignation of this law minister.

Is this the end of the matter?


SOPHIA SAIFI, CNN PRODUCER: Well, it appears so. The leader of the movement that was causing these protests (INAUDIBLE) had a press conference earlier today. And he said within 12 hours by, this evening, they're going to start clearing off the interchange that protesters had blocked between the capital and its twin city of Rawalpindi.

Now the law minister has resigned. But the protesters also had an entirely new list of demands, which included the government paying for all the damage that had occurred at the (INAUDIBLE) interchange where this protest took place, where the clashes took place.

They also want all of the protesters who have been arrested to be released. And, by the look of things, it appears that the government has actually acceded to all of their requests at the moment -- Rosemary.


CHURCH: How unusual is that, to see the government bow to a request like this and to force the resignation of one of its ministers?

And what is behind these accusations of blasphemy?

SAIFI: Well, it is a very unusual situation. There is a lot of commentary on the ground here that this is showing the government and even democracy as very fragile at the moment in Pakistan.

The protest actually began in early -- it goes back to early October, when there were attempts -- when the electoral laws were being changed there are going to be general elections in Pakistan at mid-2018.

According to the protesters, an oath that is made by lawmakers regarding the finality of the Prophet Muhammad as the last prophet of God, according to the protesters, there was an attempt to change that (INAUDIBLE).

The government initially said there was no such attempts and it said it was a clerical area. It ended up with (INAUDIBLE), the (INAUDIBLE), becoming a scapegoat and them asking for his resignation.

Now all Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad is the last prophet of God. But the fact when blasphemy comes into the argument in Pakistan, it's a very sensitive issue. Very senior politicians have lost their lives when these topics have been, you know, touched.

So it was just something that everyone was treading on eggshells on when it came to this. So at the moment it appears that the protests across the country are now wrapping up. But the state of the government and its mandate of the state is looking a bit shaky at the moment.

CHURCH: All right. We'll watch what happens there. Sophia Saifi bringing us that live report from Islamabad, many thanks.

President Trump has made his feelings known on the controversial Senate race in Alabama. But ultimately it's the voters who decide.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who are you voting for?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know who you're going to vote for, Roy Moore or Doug Jones?



CHURCH: We will look at the impact of the president's support of Roy Moore. That's still to come. Please stay with us.