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Trump Threatens, Shutdown Drags On; Michael Cohen to Testify Publicly before Congress; Journalists Jailed in Myanmar Appealing Sentence; Trump: "Probably" Declare National Emergency To Build Border Wall If Democrats Refuse; Top U.S. Diplomat: "No Contradiction" on Syria Policy; May Talks Brexit With Japanese Prime Minister. Aired 12m-1a ET
Aired January 11, 2018 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Donald Trump travels to the southern border and he makes his case for a wall with Mexico. The White House prepares the groundwork for a possible emergency order to pay for it.
Erased from existence: Lady Gaga removed "Do What You Want " from streaming services, a song which features R. Kelly. The hip-hop performer is being widely denounced as an explosive documentary detailing sexual allegations against him.
And Andy Murray makes an emotional announcement that his career is coming to an end. The Australian Open may be his last tournament.
Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. Great to have you with us. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.
VAUSE: 800,000 U.S. government workers are ending their third week without pay and there's little hope things will get better. Some actually received paychecks on Thursday. Must be hard to swallow, zero dollars, zero cents. By this time tomorrow, the partial shutdown will be the longest in U.S. history.
Congressional Democrats have tried to fund the government the old- fashioned way by passing appropriations bills in the House but those bills will not pass the Senate and, if they did, the president would use his veto power and would not sign them unless there's money allocated for his border wall.
So now the White House is laying the groundwork for the president to declare a federal emergency to fund his wall and make good on a key campaign promise which he now says he never made, at least part of it.
On Thursday, he made his case for a desperate need for increased border security by traveling to one of the safest towns in Texas. And CNN's Jim Acosta was there. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: With an end to the government shutdown nowhere in site, President Trump took his quest for a wall down to the Texas border where he claimed the nation is under attack.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we had a barrier of any kind, a powerful barrier, whether it's steel or concrete, we would stop that cold. We're certainly under attack by criminal gangs, by criminals themselves, by the human traffickers and by drugs of all kinds. Much of it comes through the southern border.
ACOSTA: But during a roundtable discussion with law enforcement officials, Mr. Trump was told some border crossers have been digging tunnels under areas where walls are already in place.
MELISSA LUCIO, U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION: Here -- this is just a couple of miles from here from where we've been (ph). This is the tunnel. This is the second tunnel that we've been living (ph) -- we have located. This is an area that we actually have walls.
ACOSTA: The president is also trying to rewrite history, clarifying what he meant during the campaign.
TRUMP: I will build a great, great wall on the southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Who is going to pay for the wall?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mexico.
TRUMP: Who is going to pay for the wall?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mexico.
TRUMP: When I say Mexico is going to pay for the wall, that's what I mean. Mexico is paying for the wall. And I didn't mean please write me a check. I mean very simply they're paying for it in the trade deal.
ACOSTA: But that's not true. Before the election, his campaign released various proposals to force Mexico to fund the wall, stating, it's an easy decision for Mexico, make a one-time payment of 5 to $10 billion.
As he was leaving for the border, the president revealed that White House lawyers have told him he could declare a state of emergency to have the military build his wall, an action that would likely be challenged in the courts. TRUMP: I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency. The lawyers have so advised me. I am not prepared to do that yet. But if I have to, I will. I have no doubt about it. I will.
ACOSTA: The president is trying to have it both ways, insisting the situation at the border is an emergency, while also claiming it's a crisis that started before he came into office. TRUMP: It began a long time. Ask President Obama. Obama used to call it a crisis at the border, too. I think he said it in 2014. Look, look, you can play cute.
ACOSTA: Part of the reason for the president's frustration is that he can't seem to convince Democrats to agree to a wall. But reflecting on his meeting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the president argued he wasn't losing his cool.
TRUMP: I very calmly said if you are not going to give us strong borders, bye-bye and I left. I didn't rant. I didn't rave like you reported. Like -- I mean some of the newspapers -- and Schumer always has a standard line. He had a temper tantrum. I don't have temper tantrums. I really don't.
ACOSTA: Still, he said he would rather deal with China than with the Democrats.
TRUMP: I find China, frankly, in many ways to be far more honorable than Crying Chuck and Nancy. I really do. I think that China is actually much easier to deal with than the opposition party.
ACOSTA: Even though it is the president who once said he would be proud to own the shutdown, he is now offering his own take on Harry Truman's famous catchphrase the buck stops here.
TRUMP: The buck stops with everybody. They could solve this problem in literally 15 minutes.
ACOSTA: Oddly, the president chose one of the most secure communities in the country to make his pitch for the border wall, where we're standing here in McAllen, Texas, is consistently ranked one of the safest cities in America -- Jim Acosta, CNN, McAllen, Texas.
VAUSE: David Gergen is CNN's senior political analyst. He was also adviser to presidents Nixon, Ford, Clinton and Reagan and he is with us from Massachusetts.
David, if the president really is moving toward declaring a national emergency, what's the chance it would actually survive any legal challenge?
But listening to his tone, watching his demeanor and all the shifting explanations about just what the threat really is, whatever is happening at the border would seem to be one of the most non-urgent emergencies these country has ever seen.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm afraid that's right. It's very puzzling to many Americans and increasingly frustrating because we have so many people now that work for the government. Civil servants that have been forced to lay off and they're not getting their checks. And this has become a very, very contentious issue here in the United
States. The president essentially is trying to fulfill a campaign pledge he made repeatedly and made a big difference in his campaign that he would build a wall and Mexico would pay for it and he's trying to redeem that right now.
And he is running a lot of opposition. The Congress does not want -- certainly does not want to pay for the wall but many in Congress don't want the wall and they don't think there's a legitimate crisis here.
But the president got himself in a corner. He painted himself into a corner and he's now squirming, trying to find a way out and it appears that declaring a national emergency is the favored option for the White House. As controversial as that's going to be. It does appear we're on the verge of him making that declaration.
VAUSE: Well the president and his supporters are trying to make the case by essentially blaming the Democrats. Here's a tweet from the Republican senator, Lindsey Graham.
"Speaker Pelosi's refusal to negotiate on wall/barrier funding, even if the government were to be reopened, virtually ends the congressional path to fund wall barrier. Time for president Donald Trump to use emergency powers to build wall/barrier."
"Politico" is reporting that efforts by Republican lawmakers to jumpstart negotiations are also going nowhere.
They write, "The president rejected their idea to allow congressional committees to sort out his border wall request while the government reopened. Deeming the idea likely to leave him with nothing to show for the shutdown, he told Senate Republicans he believes he is winning the fight and will not sign any stopgap bills at this point."
Clearly the president wants something to show for all of this.
So for the good of the country, should the Democrats try to find a way of throwing Donald Trump a lifeline and give him a way out?
Because clearly he can't find one.
GERGEN: If there's a reasonable option they can agree upon, the Democrats should do that. I always thought each side should appoint three negotiators and let them sit in a room and try to get an agreement within a week. And if each side showed some flexibility, that would be possible.
But the truth is, John and on this, I don't want to sound partisan on this but the truth is, there would be a deal to be cut and the Republicans like this deal, Republicans in Congress like the deal and that is in exchange for a wall, the Mexican kids and Latin kids that came here as children, who now have stayed here and gone to school and often be in the military, they're threatened with deportation.
They're called the DREAMers. And if the president granted protection to the DREAMers then should the Democrats give him money? I think that's a legitimate trade off. But the president himself and his team, in as recent as the last 24 hours, said that's not a deal we're going to accept. You have to give us the money to get the government reopen.
So Democrats feel, look, we have already been willing to make some compromises. It's you guys who are holding us hostage. Now on the Republican side, I want to make it clear, there is an argument that the Republicans have, that in the past, when President Obama, as a Democrat, asked for money for a fence --
GERGEN: -- they, the Democrats, ponied up on that and they covered it. But this wall has become so odious and such a symbol of racism and it has acquired a symbolic quality in our hemisphere, that the United States, for the first time in my memory, is basically saying no, no, no, we don't want people of color here.
If you're white, you're welcome. But that's not what this wall is -- I think it's acquired an importance in people's minds to go well beyond the wall itself as a construction.
VAUSE: If that "Politico" reporter is correct and the president believes he is winning this, is that the result of the -- of Donald Trump listening to just FOX News and Rush Limbaughs and Ann Coulters on conservative radio?
And that's a real problem because, that group of people, while they do represent a certain number of Americans, it's a long way from the majority in this country. It's a long way from the center.
GERGEN: You're so right. If you look at the various polls, by about 2-1. Americans oppose this whole idea of paying for this wall, don't want to go down this path. It's an unpopular idea. The president is not winning that fight.
But I must tell you, I think if he does declare a national emergency and then starts using money that's been appropriated by Congress for one purpose and unilaterally takes that money and spends it on something else, we're going to have a real fight in this country over who runs and who governs.
The Constitution says Congress appropriates the money and then the president spends it as Congress appropriates it. If he just treats that money as a piggy bank that he can raid, unilaterally, as president, those are the arguments that go all the way back to King George in America.
VAUSE: David, thank you, and I think you'll be back with us next hour. We'll take a close look at the president backtracking bigly on one of his major campaign promises, that is that Mexico actually paid for the wall. He's now saying he never said they would directly pay for the wall, there would be no check written by Mexico except for the fact that he did say that. We'll get into that. For now, thank you.
GERGEN: Thank you.
VAUSE: So if President Trump does declare an emergency which appears more likely, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would be among the first to be mobilized. They already started assessing various wall prototypes in San Diego in California.
And now during an interview on FOX News, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says the Corps is being directed to find available funds. A U.S. official says about $14 billion could be found for the wall but much of that would likely be taken from disaster relief, earmarked for rebuilding in places like Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
That official says construction could begin within 45 days around El Paso in Texas once an emergency has been declared.
The border between Mexico and the United States is already part wall. It's part fence as well in places.
But is there a need for a giant concrete barrier stretching from sea to shining sea?
Here's CNN's Cyril Vanier.
CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: And here is the southern border, all 3,130 kilometers of it from the Pacific Ocean all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Now, the red line, look at that. The red line shows the portions of the border here and the dots here, the portions of the border that already have some kind of barrier, a fence or a wall. That's about a thousand kilometers presently. That is a third of the border. It literally by the way starts in the Pacific Ocean. This side here is California.
The other side of this fence is Tijuana, Mexico. Now, the border has many legal ports of entry. Let's remember that. Here's one of the biggest, San Ysidro. Migrants have the right to come here and claim asylum and be process by the U.S. government. So there's nothing wrong with this picture. This is what Donald Trump says he's worried about, migrants entering undetected as sometimes they get through the barrier. Usually, though they choose a stretch of border where there is nothing resulting in scenes like this one.
So how many people are we actually talking about? Well, in 2018, almost 400,000 people undocumented migrants who were apprehended crossing the border. Let's put that number in context. Relative to the past half century 400,000, that's a low number. Look at peak. We're talking in the mid-80s and around the year 2000, more than 1.6 million apprehensions annually. In fact, to get a level as low as what we have now in the 300,000 to 400,000 range, you have to go all the way back to the early 70s, so that puts it in perspective for you.
Now, there are stretches of the border where a wall is not needed. The blue line here is the Rio Grande --
VANIER: -- and Donald Trump himself agrees that there's no point in wasting money in places such as this where nature essentially has done his work for him. However, he wants a hard border everywhere else. In order to achieve that, the government has built prototypes, concrete, steel, see through, not see through. Here's a not see through one at the bottom. Eight different versions ready to be built.
That right there is one of Donald Trump's biggest campaign promises. However, it will only become reality if the president somehow finds those elusive billions of dollars of funding to actually build it. Back to you.
VAUSE: Cyril, thank you.
President Trump's former personal lawyer and bag man, Michael Cohen, will make an appearance on Capitol Hill before he heads to prison. Cohen has been called to testify before the House Oversight Committee in February. After that he'll be serving his three years in jail.
Democrats want to know more about his work with Donald Trump as well as details on his cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller has cleared Cohen's testimony after pleading guilty in August to multiple charges, including campaign finance crimes, Cohen began cooperating with Mueller's team.
Those financial crimes involve payments to silence women during Donald Trump's 2016 presidential run. Cohen says he looks forward to giving a full and credible account of all the events that transpired.
America's most senior diplomat is trying to reassure allies that the U.S. is still a partner in the Middle East, despite President Trump's sudden decision to with draw U.S. troops from Syria. But in a foreign policy speech in Cairo, Mike Pompeo mostly ripped into political enemies, like Iran and former U.S. president Barack Obama. CNN's Ben Wedeman has details.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The United States is a force for good, the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared at the American University of Cairo Thursday. He then went on to bash America, rather its policies under the administration of President Barack Obama who came to Cairo 10 years ago to the extend was seen at the time as an olive branch to the Muslim world after eight years of George W. Bush, an American-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He said that the United States will continue the fight against ISIS along with its allies until that fight was completed. He said that the United States and its allies had been able to take back 99 percent of the territory that ISIS once controlled. He said as far as the U.S. withdrawal from Syria goes, where the U.S. has about 2,000 troops, that that does not change the American's fundamental mission in the region. Now, he spent almost as much time talking about the Trump administration's attempt to contain Iran and its allies in the region and said that with ever greater sanctions and international cooperation, they -- he expected that Iran would be pushed back. He also stressed the importance of long-term alliances and putting an end to old term rivalries, as he put it, referring to the century old Arab-Israeli conflict. He didn't, however, mention how this would actually be done.
Missing from -- largely missing from his speech was any mention of human rights, this in a region where hundreds of millions of people live under authoritarian regimes, many of them close allies of the United States. I am Ben Wedeman, CNN, reporting from Cairo.
VAUSE: The man that broke the eight decades-long British drought at Wimbledon looks set to call it a day. A tearful Andy Murray told reporters at the Australian Open that his final event could be Wimbledon in July, the major tournament he won in 2013 and again in 2016.
The former world number one also admitted he could give it up as early as this month, depending on a hip injury. We'll have complete coverage of his announcement ahead in "WORLD SPORT."
Still to come, jail for journalism, seven years in prison for reporting the truth. But Myanmar's high court could, however unlikely, move to set them free. Details in a moment.
VAUSE: They've been known as guardians of the truth but right now they're sitting in a jail in Myanmar. That might change, though, in the coming hours. Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo exposed a massacre that happened in the brutal military crackdown targeting Rohingya Muslims in 2017.
Their reporting lead to jail time for seven members of the military but also landed them in jail after a conviction of violating state secrets. The high court is scheduled to rule on their appeal next hour. CNN's Matt Rivers joins us for more on this.
Matt, it's on the docket for the next hour.
But what are the chances here that these two reporters will see justice?
Or is this, essentially, just a bit of theater, if you like, that really will end with these guys staying in jail? MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think generally speaking, you know, speaking to journalists in Myanmar this morning, speaking to their families, there is unfortunately a pervasive sense of pessimism that this is going to end in justice after what is widely considered to be a sham trial that put these two journalists in prison.
We're seeing the ruling on an appeal hearing. What could happen is, one, the judge could choose to adjourn this verdict readout, the appeal readout to another day.
Two, the judge could deny the appeal, in which case we know that the lawyers would then appeal to a higher court and make the process continue.
Or the third and I think probably the least likely option would be that the judge would actually grant their appeal and the two journalists could be free from prison this afternoon.
Unfortunately, though, I don't think that's going to happen, given from everything that we're hearing from what's going on in Myanmar right now. The people on the ground that we've been speaking to, which generally speaking, everyone we're talking to in Myanmar would call it a shame.
I think a lot of the public in Myanmar supports their conviction and what the government is doing but I think the international community would look at this, including the British foreign minister, calls the two men innocent.
So what we're seeing here is what the international community would largely call an outrage of justice.
VAUSE: So assuming these two reporters stay in prison, that's doesn't mean that's the only recourse of trying to get them out actually by the international community, putting pressure on Myanmar's government, because all other legal options within Myanmar have been exhausted, right?
RIVERS: Well, they can -- if the judge denies their appeal, there's one more level up that they could go and have another appeal hearing but it would likely end the exact same way. So I think the only real course of action here would be a pardon by the government of Myanmar and its de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner --
RIVERS: -- who has also been extremely criticized for backing the conviction of the two journalists and also for not speaking up against the massacre of Rohingya Muslims over the last 18 months or so.
That would be the only way really they could get out of this would be a pardon but so far, we have seen no signs that the government is willing to take that step to get these journalists out of prison.
VAUSE: Real quickly, the official state secrets act that's being used to charge these two reporters has been in place since the colonial times. That in itself is kind of a farce.
RIVERS: Yes, what happened is these two men say they were set up by the police. They were handed a document from two police officers that they had never met with before and then minutes later they were taken into custody and charged with holding onto official documents.
They say that's evidence of a set up, not to mention the fact that there was another police officer that testified that he heard police officers talking about setting up these two journalists.
So there's a litany of evidence that would suggest that these two men are in fact innocent and yet you're right, it's a colonial-era law from Myanmar that is hardly ever used, called the state secrets act and it's just being conveniently used, I think, what critics would say, in this instance to set up these two journalists for the fact that they exposed a massacre in Myanmar that the government didn't want out there and made the government look bad.
VAUSE: Incredible thing how this country has gone from when Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house detention after 17 years and there's this hope that this would be the shining light of democracy and human rights in Asia to now basically being one of the worst offenders when it comes to human rights and the freedom of the press and rights of religion minorities like the Rohingya and like Buddhists, that we're now seeing another crackdown on the way.
It's just all part of the backdrop here, a country which seems to have disappointed the world. Matt, thank you. We'll catch up with you next hour.
Just days to go before a crucial vote in Parliament on Theresa May's Brexit plan.
Japan's prime minister is weighing in. He has one wish. That's next.
And it started with angry calls for President Macron to resign. Now France's Yellow Vests become more than street protesters. They could become a political force. Details in a moment.
VAUSE: Welcome back. An update of our top stories this hour.
VAUSE: U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is trying to win last minute support for her Brexit deal. During a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, on Thursday, she told reporters the U.K. could strike good trade deals with countries like Japan, if the Brexit deal goes through.
Mr. Abe says he fully supports her withdrawal deal, and does not want to see a disorderly Brexit. Parliament is set to vote on the agreement next Tuesday. It's widely expected to be defeated. And if it is, opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn heads the party, a general election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEREMY CORBYN, LEADER OF THE BRITISH LABOUR PARTY: If the government cannot pass its most important legislation, then there must be a general election at the earliest opportunity. A government that cannot get its business through the House of Commons, is no government at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: The deadline for the U.K. leaving the European Union is at the end of March, and it's still not clear what will actually happen next, if Mrs. May's deal is actually voted down in parliament, on Tuesday.
Yellow Vest protestors are preparing to take to the streets of France, again, this Saturday. And now, the French government is organizing a national debate to try and address their concerns. But as CNN's Melissa Bell reports, the demonstrators seemed determined to make their movement a permanent feature of French politics.
MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: Macron resign, the rallying cry hasn't changed, but since their first timid gathering in early November, the Yellow Vests themselves, have, taking over the Champs Elysees with their physical revolt, after the French government announced a hike in the fuel tax, which it cancelled in early December.
EDOUARD PHILIPPE, PRIME MINISTER OF FRANCE (through translator): The tensions have led us to decide that no tax is worth endangering civil peace.
BELL: But two days after that decision, the Yellow Vests were back, 136,000 of them, across the country, no longer calling for lower taxes but now, for greater spending power. And beyond the Saturday gatherings, the daily protests, the toll booths, and roundabouts, continued all over the country. By mid -December, again, the government conceded.
EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): Financial help to those least well-off was announced, measures that seemed to take the wind out of the sails of the Yellow Vest Movement.
By December 29th, only 12,000 people were on the streets of France, but by their first gathering of the New Year, the gloves were off. With a former boxer, caught on camera, beating up a policeman at a protest in Paris, and the policeman (INAUDIBLE) caught on camera, facing off with protestors, with both incidents now being investigated by the police.
Also last Saturday, the numbers out on the streets were back up to 50,000. So, what do the Yellow Vests want now?
THIERRY PAUL VALETTE, SPOKESMAN, YELLOW VEST (through translator): What we want is not complicated. It's that citizens be listened to, that all the citizens be able to act with the political process. With referendums when laws are made, when important decisions are taken. That's what the citizens want.
BELL: But will the citizens get that? The French government is organizing a national debate, but are changes to the political system itself, actually on the cards?
JEAN-BAPTISTE LEMOYNE, FRENCH JUNIOR MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (through translator): There are people who put on their yellow vests for the right reasons. For reasons linked to their everyday lives. But there are others who fear neither the extreme left, nor the extreme right, and who want to topple the institutions. And naturally, with them, we will be firm.
BELL: For their part, the Yellow Vests say that they're here to stay, with another protest planned for Saturday, and some of them preparing to stand in European elections. The Yellow Vests believe that they're set to become a permanent feature of French political life.
Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.
VAUSE: Well, it's been talked about for years, but now, a documentary is bringing new attention to some old accusations of serious sexual abuse by singer, R. Kelly, and many in the industry have started to speak out.
[00:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
R. KELLY, SINGER: Baby, I don't want to hurt nobody. But there is something that I must confess -- somebody make some mother (BLEEP) noise. Hey, you all mother (BLEEP) don't know. It's my mother (BLEEP) birthday, and I don't give a (BLEEP) what's going on tonight. Happy birthday.
VAUSE: R. Kelly there, celebrating his 52nd birthday at a club in Chicago. He says he has nothing to worry about despite a new documentary series which has renewed attention on shocking allegations against the singer, detailing two decades of alleged sexual abuse of women and young girls. Kelly has consistently denied any wrongdoing, but celebrities are now speaking out.
And that includes Lady Gaga, who says she's a sexual assault victim, and her 2013 song Do What You Want To my Body, featured vocals by Kelly, who'd been tried and acquitted on top of other charges a few years before. Now, Gaga is apologizing.
On Twitter she says, she supports Kelly's accusers 1,000 percent. Plans to remove the song from streaming services and won't work with Kelly, again. VAUSE: Joining me now from Los Angeles, Bob Lefsetz, Host of Lefsetz Live on SiriusXM and Author of the Lefsetz Letter, which has read by everyone who is anyone, in the music industry, Bob, it's been awhile. Good to see you.
BOB LEFSETZ, MUSIC WRITER, THE LEFSETZ LETTER: Great to be here, John.
VAUSE: OK. True to her word, Gaga, in her tweet, about 24 hours ago, said she would pull Do What You Want from all the platforms, including iTunes, and she has. So, just as a reminder, this song was very controversial when it was released in 2013. Here's Lady Gaga and R. Kelly performing it on SNL. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LADY GAGA, SINGER: Do what you want.
R. KELLY: Early morning, longer nights, Tom Ford, private flights, crazy schedule, fast life. I wouldn't trade it in because it's our life. So let's slow it down. I could be the drink in your cup.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: In a statement, she apologizes for poor judgment and not speaking out sooner. She said it was partly because she hadn't processed her own trauma of being -- of being sexually assaulted. But, Bob, you know, 10 years ago, if an artist wanted to erase a song from history like this, it just wasn't possible, but it is now, with everything digital. And this seems to be a significant stand which Lady Gaga is taking by doing this.
LEFSETZ: Yes. John, you know, I can't believe it took Lady Gaga, this long, to ultimately stand up. There've been allegations against R. Kelly for 25 years, but she decided to take this gig anyway.
VAUSE: But, I mean, essentially, what has happened though, is that we've had this documentary which came out, you know, on Showtime, had started making a lot of waves. In fact, let's just take a quick look at part of the documentary which -- you know, what it does -- it doesn't actually break any new ground, but it brings a lot of these allegations, a lot of these accusations, together. Take a look. Here's part of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Robert is the devil.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: R. Kelly is at the top of the charts, but he may be in for a fall. He was arrested today on 21 counts of child pornography.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kelly is accused of videotaping himself, having sex with an underage girl.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Taking advantage of minors will not be tolerated. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jurors found him not guilty on all charges.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Robert has said all along, he would be cleared of these terrible charges.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shame on you.
CROWD: Shame on you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shame on you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: And just a correction, it's Lifetime, not Showtime. But this seems to be the catalyst. One point I would make though, is that Lady Gaga was asked to be interviewed for the documentary and she declined. So, to your point, it has taken her awhile to speak out, do you think it's too late? Has she waited too long?
LEFSETZ: You know, this is just like Harvey Weinstein. It was a well-known secret, so to speak, that he was abusing underage children, that he was keeping people captive, and because he was not convicted, everyone ultimately said, well it's OK to work with him.
[00:40:12] His record label, epic records, they were all warned. Lady Gaga was aware of this, yet she worked with this anyway. I mean, it's great that everybody is coming to the party now, but where were they for the last 25 years? And it's very interesting because Spotify, of course, a year ago said, we're going to remove R. Kelly from playlists, OK?
That he would still be on the service, but they would not hype him. Yet, the person who used to be Lady Gaga's manager, Troy Carter, he was head of music at Spotify, and he said this is a terrible thing. The industry said it's a terrible thing. This is an industry where anything goes, but suddenly, it does not.
VAUSE: Yes. R. Kelly's lawyer issued a statement after this move by Lady Gaga, saying his client has committed no crime. He said those speaking out now, only want their 15 minutes of fame, and specifically of Lady Gaga, he said Mr. Kelly appreciates that she recognized his immense talent and collaborated with him to help her career, but finds it regrettable that she is now exploiting this controversy to try and help her in an effort to win an Oscar.
Now, Lady Gaga has a good shot at an Academy Award for her, you know, her role on A Star Is Born, but that's a pretty low comment, even coming from a lawyer, representing R. Kelly.
LEFSETZ: Listen, a lawyer can say anything. I've gotten lawyer letters myself, ironically, on the Me Too issue, where they tell you not to write about it, et cetera. They're just trying to intimidate you, but in today's news world, where there are so many messages, ultimately, R. Kelly's defense has been buried by all the action, the number of the Lifetime Special. Everyone is talking about that. They expect him to deny, especially in the country where, you know, the president lies. The fact that Trump did, R. Kelly denies it. He has been convicted in the Court of Public Opinion, and if you look at all the Me Too cases, this is even beyond Me Too.
We look at all the Me Too cases, none of them come to trial. Just yesterday, Ashley Judd got her case dismissed. But, the interesting thing, whether he will be done, because the music will continue to be on streaming services, yes, Lady Gaga is removing her track. That doesn't mean someone won't post it on YouTube.
But the ultimate question is, what penalty will R. Kelly pay? Will this finally be the end of his career? I think -- don't forget people have been boycotting his concerts for years, women have been organizing. There's been some of this guy, Jim DeRogatis, who works for the Chicago Reader. He has done story after story. Nothing has stopped R. Kelly.
The other thing, let's not leave out, it's because these people are African-American. If R. Kelly was white and the victims were white, or even worse, if R. Kelly was African-American, this guy would've been wiped from music, years ago. But it's black people, people don't care. It's almost like, you know, when people are killed by Muslims in foreign countries, it doesn't make any difference. People of America don't care.
VAUSE: It's interesting that you raised that because R&B singer, Tank, have addressed that in a post on Instagram. He's one of the, you know, a number of performers speaking out against Kelly. This is what he wrote, in part, we've invested so much of ourselves into this man that it's hard for us to let go.
I no longer have that issue. I wholeheartedly apologize for not coming to this realization sooner. I cannot separate the music from the monster. My three black daughters won't let me. What hurts even more are the facilitators around him, his team, his record company, the promoters, the radio stations.
And Bob, you know, those facilitators for now, at least, they're still there, they're not going anywhere, and they're saying nothing.
LEFSETZ: You know, certain people are saying nothing but this Lifetime show, it's the right time, it's on television, this will put a huge dent in his career. I anticipate there will be further lawsuits by women who've been abused or women who've been held captive.
You know, this is kind of like, you know, a mafia don, or something. They eventually get them, no one is left unscathed. No one ultimately gets out alive. You know, especially on the 20th anniversary of the sopranos. It's like, OK, this guy is now finally going to be caught.
There are so many women involved that there could be enough cases that will put this guy in jail and that will be -- and I anticipate that's what's going to happen. VAUSE: Yes. We're out of time, Bob. And I, you know, I think that's the general opinion that, you know, his time is up. Should note, though, that, you know, the number of streams of his undemand music, actually soared during this documentary, up 100 percent during the finale. So, obviously, there's still demand out there. And still (INAUDIBLE)
LEFSETZ: Yes. Wait, wait, wait, but this is just like when somebody dies, people -- now, you don't have to go and buy it. You can just listen on a streaming service. This is like slowing down to see the wreck on the highway.
VAUSE: OK. Bob, we're out of time, but good to see you. Cheers.
LEFSETZ: Absolutely great, John.
VAUSE: Thank you. And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Stay with us. "WORLD SPORT" is next.
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