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North Korean Diplomat Calls Out U.S. at U.N.; Omarosa: "Trump Is Racial But He's Not a Racist"; Tillerson: Freedom of Press Key to Myanmar Democracy. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired December 15, 2017 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And he goes on to say there's much to do in the months and years to come. "The progress made on the child tax credit would not have been possible without the support of Senator Mike Lee, Senator Tim Scott and Ivanka Trump." No firm word from Senator Rubio, but you be the judge as to whether that still sounds like a no or not. More on that coming up at the top of the hour.

But now, let's talk about North Korea. We are following a remarkable moment at the United Nations. The U.S. and North Korea at the same table talking about this nuclear threat posed by Pyongyang. North Korea's ambassador was there addressing the U.N. Security Council for the first time in a decade after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, quote, "All options remain on the table", end quote, for dealing with Kim Jong-Un's regime. Take a listen.


REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: As I said earlier this week, a sustained cessation of North Korea's threatening behavior must occur before talks can begin. North Korea must earn its way back to the table. The pressure campaign must and will continue until denuclearization is achieved. We will, in the meantime, keep our channels of communication open.


BALDWIN: Elise Labott is with me, CNN global affairs correspondent, and David Tafuri, former Obama campaign foreign policy advisor.

Welcome to both of you.

And, Elise, fast forward, we heard the secretary of state speaking answering just a couple of questions and said there were no daylight between him and the White House. And this is coming in after both White House and State Department had issued statements correcting Tillerson's Tuesday declaration that the U.S. was ready for talks without pre-condition. So what did you think of what he said today? Was that walking a fine line?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I think he's walking a fine line. Look, he's softening remarks from earlier in the week. I don't think he meant to lay out new policy. I think the goal of denuclearizing North Korea is a shared goal among the administration. But I think what you have playing out is different views of how to get there. And Secretary Tillerson firmly believes you should bring North Korea to the table. Maybe not at first for these formal denuclearizing talks where North Korea committing to giving up nuclear program is end goal, but can they get together and speak about the possibility of talks. Can they get together about talking about detained Americans? And I think he was caught a little off-guard when he said this about no preconditions. And everyone took it to see that he was kind of trying to make some new policy. I think that there's -- we see playing out the White House ha has firmer view how to get to this goal. And Secretary Tillerson is secretary of state, he does want to bring North Korea to the table. He was looking at the audience that he had before him later in the week, China, the North Korea, and he wanted to open the door a little bit. But I think today after the North Korean foreign minister spoke, which was very significant. He may have not have addressed the council, North Korean ambassador, excuse me, may not have addressed the council in 12 years, I think it's unprecedented for any Korean official, North Korean official to address a U.S. secretary of state in the U.N. Security Council. So I think even the fact that the North Koreans came today is seen as significant move. You might have heard a lot of fiery rhetoric, but beneath that just them sitting there and talking to one another is meaningful, I think.

BALDWIN: Meaningful for North Korea.

But I want to get back to Tillerson. In the "Washington Post," they had piece on Tillerson. I'll read this piece of it: "Another White House aide said largely deemed the Exxon chief executive as irrelevant."

Is he irrelevant?

DAVID TAFURI, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN FOREIGN POLICY ADVISOR: That's really harsh. You know, Secretary Tillerson is really trying to put this together now. So he says earlier in the week we should have talks and not be preconditioned. Now you just heard in the clip you played that he said North Korea has to work its way back to the table. Those things are directly opposite and in contradiction. You have to imagine he got a scolding from the White House in between. So what we have is mixed messages coming from the U.S. That's really problematic.

BALDWIN: Again. Again.

TAFURI: Yes, again. Because, you are right, back in October, Secretary Tillerson when coming back from China, he said he was ready to talk to North Korea and President Trump said he was wasting his time. Mixed messages twice. North Korea is following this and can exploit this. What the secretary-general said is, look, you can use my offices for discussion, I want to host a discussion, but let's not have miscommunication, because miscommunication can lead to miscalculation, which is very dangerous in this high-stakes situation.

BALDWIN: It is a high stakes situation.

Elise, the last time we talked on TV, all this reporting, when will he leave, and is the White House trying to force him out, leaks or sources in the media. And again, back to the question of relevance. Is he relevant? This is so important on a global, geopolitical scale yet who is listening to him?

[14:35:18] LABOTT: Differing views. This administration is not on the same page on many things, including North Korea. You see that playing out. I think you see opponents of Secretary Tillerson willing to go out and further this narrative that he's irrelevant. And, look, the more they talk about him being irrelevant, the more he becomes irrelevant. I think, you know, when you speak to diplomats, and foreign ministers, they notice what's going on, and they dismiss it to a Washington "Game of Thrones." I think that's what's going on, you have different factions in fighting. Look, I think Secretary Tillerson has different views. He's been clear with the president on that. I think what you don't see is the coming out by President Trump, A, you don't see him stopping the aides from bickering, but you also don't see President Trump coming out and tweeting about Secretary Tillerson, and kind of pushing him to resign in a way that you saw him doing that about Attorney General Sessions.

You know, will Secretary Tillerson end up staying through the administration? I would say no. But I think the reports of early demise, he's getting a pink slip for Christmas might be a little premature.


LABOTT: I understand he's planning some things. And he's hanging on. He has a job to do and he's won't be distracted by the noise.

BALDWIN: I'm still back on Washington "Game of Thrones."

Elise Labott, that's one way to put it.

David, I saw you sort of nodding, maybe.

David Tafuri, thank you. Nice to have you on.

TAFURI: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Elise, thank you.

Ahead here, her exit making plenty of waves in Washington. But it's Omarosa diversity or lack thereof, and the White House that is really sparking the debate. What she is saying about racially charged exchanges that she witnessed in the West Wing, coming up.


[14:41:40] BALDWIN: Breaking news here. We showed you the tweets just a couple of minutes ago from Republican Senator Marco Rubio. We can now report he's a yes according to a source close to the Senator. We have been reporting that he was holding out his yes vote, angling for the child tax credit. Now it appears the Republican Florida Senator got what he wanted. Remember that tax deal goes public at 5:30 today eastern. Then the vote is expected for early next week. More on that at the top of the hour.

Meanwhile, ousted White House adviser, Omarosa Manigault Newman, is blasting the Trump administration as racially charged for lack of diversity. But the former "Apprentice" star stopped short of calling the president an all-out racist. Here is what Omarosa told ABC's nightline.


OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF PUBLIC LIASON: There was lack of diversity that I will acknowledge. And at times, it was very lonely because the majority of them were white men who had their own agendas.

Donald Trump is racial, but he is not a racist. The things that he says, the types of pushback that he gives, involve people of color, and so these are racial exchanges.

Yes, I'll acknowledge many of the exchanges, particularly in the last six months, have been racially charged. Do we then stop and label him as a racist? No.


BALDWIN: Here with me, Leah Wright Rigueur, assistant professor of policy, at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, the author of the "Loneliness of the Black Republican."

Leah, so nice to have you on. Welcome.


BALDWIN: I just want your reaction to all things Omarosa, you know, the events transpired this week. And also when he says he's racial but not a racist. Your thoughts on that?

WRIGHT RIGUEUR: You've given me a lot to think about, Brooke. But as a start, is anyone surprised, one that this happened or it ended like this in sort of a big spectacular over the top display? I mean, that's been Omarosa's signature from the very start. Also been Donald Trump's signature from the very start. People tried to warn her, given his policies that he supported and has tried to enact or has enacted. And so the idea that, you know, that Omarosa and her relationship with Trump would be enough to sustain them through the four years, and that she would be actually be able to be effective in this kind of White House just is an impossibility. Just wasn't going to happen. So I don't think we should be surprised at all that it happened. I think maybe we should be a little -- raise a couple of eyebrows over Omarosa is not able to admit it.

BALDWIN: Admit what?

WRIGHT RIGUEUR: Well, admit the fact that this is, you know, this is at the hands of her boss. At the end of the day she is still displaying that same amount of loyalty to Donald Trump even though he has thrown her under the bus. Even though he has -- whether she resigned or fired, but he put her in a situation that knowingly that where she was forced to deal with kind of racialized racist, bigoted incidents, and policies on a day-to-day basis. So, you know, the idea that diversity, all of a sudden, we would be shocked that there's no diversity or lack of diversity in the Trump administration is something that shouldn't be shocking at all.

[14:45:21] BALDWIN: Speaking of that, Leah, I know you saw this. I took note of this. But people who don't pay closer attention, this is Sarah Huckabee Sanders earlier this week at the podium.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: With Omarosa leaving, how many senior staffers here at the White House are African-American?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, we have a really diverse team at the White House. We always want to continue to grow the diversity here. We'll continue to do that and continue to work hard.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you have a number of African-Americans?

SANDERS: I don't have a number in front of me, specifically African- American, but I can say, again, we have a diverse team at the White House, certainly a very diverse team in the press office. And something we strive for every day is to add and grow to be more diverse and more representative of the country at large.


BALDWIN: I think she eventually maybe, at some point, name checked Ben Carson. But did you hear any names? I mean, the fact that the latest peer research toll has Trump's rating 7 percent for blacks. Where is diversity?

WRIGHT RIGUEUR: There's absolutely no racial diversity in the White House. And shockingly, surprisingly, when Steve Bannon acknowledges that the White House has a racial diversity problem, which he did in front of a group of black entrepreneurs, you know that there might be a racial problem. They virtually have almost no one at the senior level. They have Ben Carson. I'm surprised Sarah Huckabee Sanders didn't mention Jerome Adams, the surgeon general. But for most people, there's nothing, there's no way of measuring racial diversity in the White House. Because there's no diversity. And that should be one of the stories we are talking about. Diversity has traditionally been a bipartisan thing, serious commitment to a real racial diversity. Trump administration has been out front that they have no interest in diversifying their cabinet. This is the whitest cabinet we have seen in the last 50 years, also the most male cabinet we have seen in the last 50 years. So I think the idea that White House is committed to diversity is nonsensical.

BALDWIN: Your book, the "Loneliness of the Black Republican."

Leah Wright Rigueur, thank you for your voice, and perhaps with all these voices, things will change. We'll be watching.



BALDWIN: Thank you so much.

Coming up next here, we have to talk about the violent clashes along the West Bank in West Gaza, leaving four people dead as outrage is growing over President Trump's controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. We'll take you there, next.


[14:51:36] BALDWIN: At least four Palestinians are dead and hundreds injured in flash points in the West Bank in Gaza. Protesters took to the streets after Friday prayers, pelting officers with rocks. Troops responding with bullets and water canyons. This outrage ignited by President Trump's controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and plans to move the U.S. embassy there.

To Myanmar now where terrible estimates are emerging about the sheer numbers of Rohingya Muslims killed in ongoing violence. Doctors Without Borders saying over 6000 Rohingya refugees were killed in the first month after violence erupted back in August.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson addressed the crisis a short while ago at the United Nations, and this to say about the freedom of press in Myanmar.


TILLERSON: The free press is vital to Myanmar's transition in becoming a viable democracy. And we want Myanmar's democracy to succeed. We know it's a process they need to work through. This particular crisis is a real test of whether they will be able to affect a successful journey to democracy.


BALDWIN: Actress and goodwill ambassador for the United Nations, Kristin Davis spoke about her recent trip to Bangladesh.


KRISTIN DAVIS, ACTRESS & GOODWILL AMBASSADOR FOR THE UNITED NATIONS: The horrors are manifest. So many different horrors. Many had to walk 21 days without any food or shelter carrying their children on their backs. People were robbed along the way trying to get to Bangladesh even after everything they have been through in Myanmar. They had been -- the mothers mostly talked about the kind of almost, I don't know how to put it, but the intense fear that they had been living with for months in Myanmar where they didn't want to send their children to the market, they were afraid they would be kidnapped. Raids in the middle of the night so didn't want to turn on the light because they didn't want anyone to know they were home. So hadn't gotten a solid night sleep in months fearing for their children. So for them, there was a mixture of a deep level of shock from what they had been through, but at the same time a relief to be able to be in a safe place in Bangladesh, inside this camp, being able to get a good night sleep and knowing that their children inside this camp were safe and that the people were welcoming them. And they didn't have to live in fear every moment for their children and themselves. So there was both things, really.

BALDWIN: Do you get the sense, being here in America versus being there and seeing how it's such an issue, you wish Americans would pay more attention to this particular crisis? So here the floor is yours. What is your message? How can people here help?

DAVIS: Well, my message is that our world is connected. We are one. We can't ignore things that are happening on the other side of the earth. Because the people who are in this vulnerable position of having to flee their homes are without a friend, they are alone, they have nothing. They have no food or shelter or money. They have nowhere to live. Their children are at the mercy of who takes care of them. So it is in hour best interest and America's best interest to help these people. I also feel from a moral perspective it is the human generous thing to do. You would never turn your back on a neighbor. And in reality, we are all neighbors. So it's a situation where you can't even believe how little they have. It's something that we take for granted, just having running water, just having something over our heads at night, anything, even a tarp, just a simple tarp, they are so thankful for, that you can't even believe the joy that comes on their face when they get the kit that you and HCR gives them to be able toll create a home for themselves within this camp. And the building and resource fullness and kind of spirit of the people, I think when you do see the sad images, it's hard to take in, and you might feel like there's no hope. But when you are there, you are filled with hope. The children find a way to play. They make kites from little tatters of plastic bags. They find ways to make a little card and roll down the Hill. They are laughing. I mean, it's both really deeply saddening to see what they've been through, and at the same time incredibly inspiring to see what people are capable of. So I think that for the future of the world, for the future of our country, as well as all the countries around the world, we need to help them. We need to help those children grow up and change the world.


[14:56:14] BALDWIN: Kristin Davis, thank you so much.

Coming up next, the final version now set as Republicans put a bow on their tax plan. The question now, do they have the votes. What we have just learned about Senator Marco Rubio's decision.