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Trump-appointed Ambassador to the UK Splits From Trump and Defends Embassy Move; Trump Expected to Temporarily Renew Iran Deal; Trump Said to Love Controversies Over "Shithole" Remark; New Exec on Fixing Uber; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired January 12, 2018 - 10:30   ET



[10:32:45] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Moments ago the president's own ambassador to the UK, the ambassador he appointed, spoke out against the rationale that the president gave this morning about canceling his upcoming trip to London.

Nick Paton Walsh is outside of the embassy in London to explain.

So what's he saying?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is quite extraordinary as you say to have the president's own ambassador try and provide clearer rationale to defend the decision taken by an earlier administration member.

The new embassy behind me here was in the process of moving it here from Central London, this is Battersea, not a bad neighborhood at all in London. That was taken by the Bush administration, executed by the Obama administration, yet we have the Ambassador Woody Johnson saying that this is, quote, "The most secure, high-tech and an environmentally friendly embassy the United States has ever built. The new embassy did not cost the U.S. taxpayer a cent, yet it is one of the most advanced embassies we have ever built."

Now I should point out what they're basically saying here is the Central London property that they sold to a Qatari Sovereign Wealth Fund, which is now turning it into a billion pound sterling luxury hotel property, $1.3 billion or so, that money and the sale of other U.S. government properties in London says the State Department provided enough funds to create the billion-dollar facility behind me here which is opening on Tuesday.

This information from Woody Johnson actually emerged in an op-ed that he wrote in the local newspaper here, "The London Evening Standard," today heralding the launch of the embassy on Tuesday. Quite extraordinary, in fact, that we have such a statement, but that is the response here from the tweet sent in the early hours of this morning, the justification on real estate grounds why Donald Trump preemptively canceled a visit here, a date which had never formally been announced -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Nick Paton Walsh for us outside the U.S. embassy in London, thank you for that development. It's pretty stunning.

All right. So let's bring in CNN military analyst, Colonel Cedric Leighton, to weigh in on this and all other things foreign affairs this morning. There's a lot on the table.

Talk about the impact of the comments the president made calling these African countries, in his words, shithole countries when you 6,000 American troops serving across the continent.

[10:35:01] COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Poppy, the impact could be devastating and, you know, we had a big issue with the four soldiers who lost their lives bravely working missions in Niger, that could be much, much worse because of situations like this and, you know, the president calling these countries shitholes, that is a very drastic situation for them because these countries take it personally.

Having worked with soldiers and airmen from countries like this, I know firsthand that what these people are trying to do is they're trying to make their countries better. They're also trying to improve their own personal lives and those of them who come over here, you know, are clearly ones that want to make sure that they're doing not only the right thing for themselves and their families, but also, for their new country.

And in the cases of those who emigrate here, they are most often ones who are really trying to do things that would make all Americans proud.

HARLOW: Turning to North Korea, which is another sort of stunning development in this interview that the president gave to the "Wall Street Journal" where he went through so much, but on North Korea he said, "I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un," and then he said when asked, well, have you spoken to him, he wouldn't say.

What do you make of that?

LEIGHTON: Well, it's very strange. I think that the conversation probably did not take place, but if it had, it would be truly extraordinary because a sitting U.S. president speaking to the leader of a country that we officially do not recognize, that is something that, you know, should be left to people who are working things in the background, you know, the Henry Kissingers of the world, in this case, the H.R. McMaster of the world.

You know, that's possible that there is a secret meeting somewhere and they go off and do a China-like opening to North Korea, but I think the bang for the buck would be completely different and it would not be worth the president's time to engage directly into talks with the North Korean leader at this juncture.

You know, at some point in the future maybe, but right now, we don't recognize the country, we're technically still at war with them, and we should be very careful that we don't concede too much to the North Koreans because this is a situation where they will take every advantage.

We're getting this calm before the storm right now before the Olympics and once the Olympics are over with, I am certain that things are going to be tense once again on the Korean peninsula and that's not because of us. It's because of the North Koreans.

HARLOW: On Iran, today is the day, every 120 days the president has to make a decision of whether or not to waive again the sanctions, the majority of the sanctions that the U.S. if re-imposed on Iran would break the nuclear agreement.

The president all reporting is will make that decision today officially to waive them once again, but this comes at the behest of a lot of his aides and those close to him saying look, you can't re- impose these, you can't re-impose these even though you don't like the nuclear agreement.

I should note that he is slapping some new sanctions on some officials in Iran's government for human rights abuses, corruption, et cetera, following the protests last week. What is the significance of this move once again waving the sanctions?

LEIGHTON: Well, if the sanctions are waived, Poppy, it basically shows that there is a degree of solidarity between the U.S. and the rest of the international community, and I think in this case it's very important to do that because if we want to contain Iran or if we want to support movements for greater freedom in Iran we have to do so not only very carefully but in concert with other countries.

The fact that President Trump spoke with French President Macron to discuss this issue is significant and I'm sure the French president was trying to convince President Trump to keep things kind of as they are. In other words, don't re-impose sanctions, make sure that Iran nuclear deal becomes a part of the movement going forward because it's really the only mechanism we have to keep Iran in check.

HARLOW: Colonel, thank you for weighing in on all of that. A lot to get to this morning. Have a good weekend.

LEIGHTON: You, too, Poppy.

HARLOW: Ahead for us, just one week and a few hours left to pass a new bill to fund the government and keep it open. That deadline, of course, next Friday. The president's stance on immigration, though, means it all just got a whole lot more complicated.

Where do negotiations go from here? More on that when we come back.


[10:43:40] HARLOW: All right. More reaction to the president's choice of words to describe African countries this morning. A source familiar with the president's thinking tells our Gloria Borger that all the controversy around this, well, the president, quote, "he loves it." That he has been told by a friend from outside the White House that this is a mistake, that it is alienating constituencies that he needs including businesses and the language has to stop, but Gloria is also told that the source explained that the president loves taking things to the edge and proving he won't fall off.

Our Sunlen Serfaty is on Capitol Hill with more.

And Sunlen, I'm getting some comments on Twitter, people saying look, even though Republican leadership hasn't said anything responding to this yet, it is important to note, and I should note once again, that Republican members of Congress are speaking out like Senator Tim Scott, and like Mia Love, the first Haitian-American elected to Congress who called it unacceptable, demanded an apology, but we still have not heard from Republican leadership, right?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right, Poppy. We haven't heard from leadership and that certainly is significant. We will see in the coming hours and days if they, indeed, do step up and say something about that. We heard from Senator Orrin Hatch last night, a top Republican who basically said I want to know more exactly what President Trump said.

But we are learning more from those senators and representatives in that meeting about what president -- what President Trump said.

[10:45:06] We have confirmation, this according to Jake Tapper, he spoke with Senator Flake and Flake says, look, this is essentially something that senators up here were talking about after the meeting, before "The Washington Post" broke that story, confirming according to one Republican senator in the room that yes, those statements were, indeed, made.

Senator Durbin, who was also in that meeting, confirming President Trump's statements, coming out with strong words this morning, calling those words hate-filled, vile and racist on the part of President Trump, and Durbin says that he spoke up in that meeting and he told President Trump look, do you know how painful this is to so many people, those words that you're using, and he said that Senator Graham in that Oval Office meeting also spoke up.

Here's what he had to say.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), MINORITY WHIP: My colleague, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, spoke up and made a direct comment on what the president said. I was very proud of him. It took courage for what he did. And I made my own comments in response to it, but for him to confront the president as he did, literally, sitting next to him, took extraordinary political courage and I respect him for it.


SERFATY: Now the big question going forward, Poppy, of course, is where do the negotiations over DACA, over the government shutdown go from here, given that this is a huge wrench thrown into already a very delicate talks? Durbin for his part says that he'll be pushing forward with a group of

six negotiation and trying to put something forward, but we know that was rejected outright from the White House last night. It seems that there will be some leadership, bipartisan negotiations going forward, but certainly this is throwing a wrench into those negotiations.

HARLOW: Yes. Of course. And the deadline looming for all of it.

Thank you, Sunlen, on the Hill. We appreciate the reporting.

So coming up next, can this woman save Uber's image? You know what Uber has gone through. You know the sexual harassment within the company, sexual assault by some of the drivers, the CEO ousted. This is the woman. And by the way, she's from Ghana.

Well, she says she owes it to the women of Uber to right the ship, next.


[10:51:40] HARLOW: Uber, you know the company, you probably use it, it has faced a laundry list of problems from sexual harassment within the company to sexual assault by some of the drivers. The CEO ousted.

Well, now they've brought in this woman, Bozoma Saint John, to help right the ship and she is very candid acknowledging yes, things need to change.

I sat down with her to ask how and what she's doing.


HARLOW: You have been named by a number of publications as the woman who can save Uber or they put a question mark, can this woman save Uber? Do you embrace that?



SAINT JOHN: I reject it. I reject it. I do. Because I don't think it's up to one person. You know, it's not up to me. I'm part of the solution for sure. I'm going to work to make sure that that is -- that I am part of the solution.

HARLOW: For people who aren't as aware, here are the issues that Uber was going through at the time and is still going through, you know, a number of them, sexual harassment within the company, customers alleging sexual assault by some drivers, former CEO founder Travis Kalanick is ousted. You've got this $20 million false advertising lawsuit settlement. The delete Uber campaign.


HARLOW: You knew all this.


HARLOW: You went in anyways?

SAINT JOHN: I felt it personally that I wanted to not just come and be visible as a woman of color in a chief seat in Silicon Valley, but also as a contributor to culture. You know, that if we need more people to sit at the table, to make sure that the procedures and processes and cultural norms and all those things are working for us, then we need to sit there.

HARLOW: What fundamentally went wrong that Uber got to the point where it was when they asked you to come on board? What was the crux of it?

SAINT JOHN: Yes. I think a lot of it was the focus on just building.


SAINT JOHN: You know, building at such a rate that there was no room to think about the building of the culture. The building of the platform was priority one. And I think it's actually a big lesson for all future tech because our world isn't going to go backwards. You know, these days, the days of building companies sort of slowly and surely, you know, sort of the growth.


SAINT JOHN: Kind of takes decades, the companies of the future are going to grow overnight like that.

HARLOW: Let's talk about the diversity numbers within Uber. 36 percent female. Almost 9 percent black. In leadership, 22 percent female, 2.3 percent black. Those numbers are better than some of your, you know, other tech firms in Silicon Valley.


HARLOW: I take it they're not where you want them to be?



HARLOW: Where should they be?

SAINT JOHN: They need to be much higher. At least try to get to, like the population numbers. Like could we at least do that?


SAINT JOHN: Yes, can we at least match it?

HARLOW: To match 13 percent African-American --

SAINT JOHN: Correct. Like at least match the population. And then let's try to do better than that. I personally feel like we can't let the women who are at Uber down, you know. They need support, too. I think for the issues and the challenges that have been brought upon them, why would we abandon them, you know. I feel that very -- I take it very personally, you know, that this is the time.

[10:55:02] This is the time to rally. That I just wish that more women would stand up and support the women at Uber.


HARLOW: It was a fascinating, sort of eye-opening interview for me. You can hear the full thing on my podcast "Boss Files" that drops this Monday morning. My thanks to Bozoma.

All right. We are minutes away from seeing and hearing President Trump. He is signing this proclamation marking Martin Luther, Dr. Martin Luther King Junior Day. What will he say in response to questions about his comments that have sent shockwaves frankly around the world. Stay with us.