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North Korean Nuclear Crisis; North and South Korea Resume Talks; Immigration Impasse could Force Government Shutdown; Steve Bannon Subpoenaed in Russia Probe; California House of Horror; Bangladesh and Myanmar Agree on Rohingya Repatriation Plan. Aired 12- 1a ET

Aired January 17, 2018 - 00:00   ET


[00:00:11] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour.

Tenuous stage and ominous outlook from the U.S. Secretary of State urging Pyongyang to talk options and to do so now.

Thirteen brothers and sisters imprisoned in their home and tortured by their parents. What police are saying about the horrific conditions they found and how the children are doing?

It's been months in the making, now repatriation plans of Myanmar's Rohingya have been finalized but there are lots of concerns about this deal.

Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Isha Sesay.

NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

After a day-long meeting on the North Korean nuclear threat, foreign ministers from 20 countries are ready to consider unilateral sanctions. The measures would go beyond U.N. Security Council resolutions. The details are still not clear.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did say it's time to talk to the North but Pyongyang has to indicate it's willing.


REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The sustained cessation of North Korea's threatening behavior is necessary -- is a necessary indicator of whether the regime is truly ready to pursue a peaceful, diplomatic resolution to the security threat that it has created.

Our nations must remain united on sustaining pressure until North Korea takes concrete steps toward and ultimately reaches denuclearization.


SESAY: Meantime, the third round of talks between the North and South yielded an agreement to return four bodies of North Korean nationals found off the south eastern coast. The two sides have been meeting to work out the logistics of North Korea attending the upcoming Olympic Games.

Well, Ivan Watson joins us now from Seoul with the very latest.

Ivan -- to stick with these North-South talks, what do we know about the details of what's been agreed upon so far?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is round three of face to face talks; the first in years that have been conducted over the course of the last week. They're ostensibly for discussing the logistics of how to get North Korean delegations to the upcoming Winter Olympics here in South Korea.

But as we've already seen from this morning's round of negotiations, the talks have become a framework for resolving other issues like, as you just mentioned, the return of these four North Korean bodies. They were found on January 7th, in an overturned drifting wooden fishing boat from North Korea that washed up on South Korea's eastern coast.

And according to the agreement and the details reached by the South Koreans the bodies will be returned across the demilitarized zone on Thursday morning through this Panmunjom compound where the talks are taking place right now.

And this underscores a bigger and very strange phenomenon in the region. This is that these North Korean fishing boats sometimes called "ghost ships" just keep washing up in countries in the region often with bodies on board.

We have confirmed that another boat that washed up in Japan was found on Monday by Japanese authorities with eight bodies on board. And I reported at the end of December that the Japanese have found close to a hundred of these wooden fishing boats over the course of the last year alone -- all from North Korea accompanied by dozens of dead fishermen -- Isha.

SESAY: Yes, it is a strange turn of event whenever these ships are found.

Turning to the question of the upcoming Olympic Games -- I know there's been some talk of a joint team being hosted by the North and South and an orchestra also taking part at the event itself.

I guess my question is how much of a boon is it for North Korea to be part of the game? How much of a propaganda boon is it for Kim Jong- Un? And is there a political cost for the South Korean President Moon Jae-In as he goes this extra mile to get North Korea to be part of these proceedings and, you know, wider talks?

WATSON: It's a good question. You know North Korea on January 1st basically signaled that it was willing to discuss attending the Winter Olympics which the South Koreans have wanted for some time. And now they're being rushed through with the support of the international community, the support of the International Olympic Committee, as well. They have two athletes, figure skaters, who have missed their application deadline by months to participate in the games. And it looks likely that they will be approved in the end to attend.

[00:05:07] So is this a case of the government South Korean President Moon Jae-In kind of giving in or something like that? Well, as one analyst explained the South Koreans are very concerned that North Korea could spoil the games potentially with a missile launch or even a nuclear test.

The fact that the North Koreans are participating, it makes it far less likely that they would take a provocative action like that. So if that's the cost that the South Koreans have to pay to get there, it's not a terrible cost.

That said the Japanese foreign minister at talks in Vancouver that just wrapped up about North Korea warned everybody not to be naive and not to be taken in by what the minister described North Korea's quote, "charm offensive" -- Isha.

SESAY: A long way to go yet in this saga.

Ivan Watson joining us there from Seoul. Ivan -- always appreciate it. Thank you.

Well, Donald Trump's former chief strategist is facing two subpoenas in the Russia investigation. Steve Bannon after 10 hours with the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday refusing to answer questions about the time between the election and the inauguration. The top Democrat on the panel says the White House put a gag order on Bannon.

Also multiple sources saying that Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed Bannon to testify before a grand jury.

Well, President Trump could be marking his first anniversary in office with a government shutdown. Democrats say they probably won't vote for a spending bill without protecting dreamers, the hundreds of thousands of people who've been living in the U.S. for years brought to the country illegally as children.

And the President's vulgar comments on immigration are only making those negotiations all the more difficult.

CNN's Jim Acosta reports.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Trump tried again to clean up his comments on immigrants coming from what he referred to as shithole countries. Visibly annoyed, the President snapped at the press when we asked about his remarks that he'd like to see more people entering the U.S. from places like Norway?

Did you say that you wanted more people come in from Norway? Is that true, Mr. President?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want them to come in from everywhere, everywhere. Thank you very much -- everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you -- Jim. Thank you.

ACOSTA: Just Caucasian or white countries -- sir? Or do you want people to come in from other parts of the world whether people of color?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jim -- thank you.

ACOSTA: In another sign the White House has grown weary of the questions two aides to the President stood right in front of the press and shouted at another event with the President of Kazakhstan.


ACOSTA: The President is insisting he's no racist and that he did nothing wrong. Even though Senator Dick Durbin, who heard Mr. Trump refer to African countries as shitholes at a White House meeting totally misrepresented what was said.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This has turned into a S show. And we need to get back to being a great country.

ACOSTA: But Durbin's Republican colleague Lindsey Graham who was also at the meeting is all but confirming the president made the remark.

GRAHAM: I'm not going to talk about the meeting. And I know what I heard and I know what I said.

ACOSTA: Graham appeared to be speaking through the media directly to the President urging him to behave more like he did in a separate immigration meeting in front of the cameras last week when he appeared open to a bipartisan deal.

TRUMP: This should be a bipartisan bill. This should be a bill of love.

ACOSTA: Graham blamed the President's apparent new hard line stance on White House advisers including his chief of staff.

GRAHAM: I will say, I don't think the President was well-served by his staff. I think the President that we saw Tuesday -- that that Donald Trump exists and somehow by 12:00 on Thursday something happened and I don't think he was well-served by his staff but he's responsible for the way he conducts himself and so am I. You can't blame that on the staff but I do believe the staff was --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would that be General Kelly --

GRAHAM: -- pretty much missed the mark here. I think General Kelly's a fine man but he's also part of the staff.

ACOSTA: The latest White House melodrama is unfolding just days before a possible government shutdown. Democrats want a spending deal that would protect young undocumented dreamers from deportation. The White House is demanding that no strings be attached to the spending bill.

In exchange for protecting the dreamers, Mr. Trump is insisting that Congress give him billions of dollars to build a wall on the border, tweeting, "We must have security at our very dangerous southern border. And we must have a great wall to help protect us.".

But the President's racially-charged comments have poisoned talks with Democrats even as the White House offered up a new reason why Mr. Trump is no bigot.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look I think that is an outrageous claim. And frankly I think if the critics of the President were who he said he was, why did NBC give him a show for a decade on TV?

ACOSTA: The White House also responded to questions about the President's fitness for office, presenting the results from Mr. Trump's recent physical exam which included an assessment of his neurological health.

DR. RONNY JACKSON, WHITE HOUSE PHYSICIAN: His overall health is excellent. Are there a few things he could do to make himself a little healthier with the diet and exercise? Absolutely. He's tracking that and I'm tracking that and we're working on that but overall he has very, very good health.

[00:10:06] ACOSTA: As for the President's recent physical exam, Dr. Ronny Jackson told reporters the President asked specifically for a test of his cognitive abilities. The doctor said the President passed that test but he also emphasized to reporters that is not the same as a psychological exam.

Jim Acosta, CNN -- the White House.


SESAY: All right. A lot to break down.

Joining me now CNN political commentator, Democratic strategist Dave Jacobson, Republican strategist Charles Moran, and professor of law and governance at Loyola Law School Jessica Levinson. Welcome to you all. Good to see you.

Jessica -- I want to start with you. So there you have it. Steve Bannon on Capitol Hill on Tuesday and the only thing that's very clear from his appearance is that he wasn't prepared to say very much at all.

Take a listen to Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: He refused to answer a broad range of questions concerning any meeting, conversation or discussion that took place either during the transition or while he was with the White House. And a significant set of conversations that may have taken place even after he left the White House.

So we served him with a subpoena during the hearing to convert it from voluntary appearance to a mandatory one. His counsel then went back to the White House and came back to us. It was essentially the same gag rule from the White House which is they've been instructed not to answer anything during those time periods.


SESAY: Ok. So Jessica -- Adam Schiff asserting there that there is a gag order imposed on Steve Bannon. Let us be clear for audience. Is there anything wrong or unethical in the White House effectively telling Bannon not to cooperate and answer questions?

JESSICA LEVINSON, PROFESSOR OF LAW AND GOVERNANCE, LOYOLA LAW SCHOOL: Well, yes if Steve Bannon is under subpoena and then he's required to answer to the extent that he can. And unless he can validly assert a privilege then he's in contempt of congress if he doesn't produce either evidence in the form of testimony or documents.

And so one of the things that looks like they're potentially asserting is this idea of executive privilege. So let's unpack that for a minute. Executive privilege is actually a fuzzy umbrella term that's not found in the constitution but it kind of -- it includes oral (ph) privileges but that falls within two buckets which means we don't want to tell you because it's within the issue of national security and we don't want to tell you because the President's deliberative processes should be private and there's an overriding public interest in keeping his deliberative process private.

Now it's not clear to me that Steve Bannon's conversations fall into either one of those buckets. But let's also talk about the fact that this is with respect to the chief executive, not the president-elect.

SESAY: -- in the transition period. (INAUDIBLE) predates the transition period, is that correct?

LEVINSON: So I think the potential assertion of the privilege is from the election to the inauguration and then from the inauguration onward. There is, as far as I know, no understanding in the courts that the executive privilege would extend to conversations that happened during the transition.

SESAY: Ok. So we have that clear that it's fuzzy. They're on shaky ground at best.

Dave -- what do you make of Steve Bannon's refusal to answer any questions? Even when he was slapped with a subpoena while they're on Capitol Hill? DAVE JACOBSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'll tell what really struck me today. There were several reports that came out that said this was unprecedented, that one of the most polarizing committees in all of Congress, one of which that's so critically vital to this Russia investigation but which has been dysfunctional, this actually united both the GOP and Democrats.

And I think that's promising. I think that's a good move. And I think they're going to continue to sort of try to compel Steve Bannon to answer some tough questions.

But what also was really fascinating today was a "New York Times" story that came out that said Bob Mueller is going to pursue questioning -- there's a grand jury --

SESAY: He's going to be subpoenaed.

JACOBSON: Of course. And Steve Bannon is going to have to grapple with whether or not he goes before the grand jury or potentially cut a deal with Mueller's and go on a more soft setting and answer investigator questions at Mueller's office.

But that -- either way you look at it, that is going to be a bad day for Steve Bannon but also for the Trump administration.

SESAY: And Charles -- I want to bring you in here. I mean to that point, either way you slice it and dice it Steve Bannon, who was once part of the President's inner circle is now, you know, in the spot light. And it really does -- at least with regard to the Mueller probe, it really does push back on this assertion from the White House that this probe is about to wrap up.

CHARLES MORAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, you know, part of the story that came out from Michael Wolff's book was about a meeting that allegedly happened about various figures that were brought into Trump Tower. And all of these things happened well before Steve Bannon even showed up on the campaign.

[00:14:53] So again, there's so much muddying of the waters here about what happens that Steve Bannon saw. What did he not see, what did he know about, what did he not know about -- and there can't be this conflagration of all of these things won't it (ph) if it looks like maybe it happened or he knew about one thing that he was there for to see it.

He wasn't. He wasn't there when the meetings happened. He was not an employee of the campaign. He was not in the inner circle when some of these allegations of these meetings took place.

The point of this committee is to get to the bottom of potential Russian interference in our election. And what they're specifically looking at what Michael Wolff has asserted in this book, which has not been proven true, are things that Steve Bannon was never even on. He was not even employed when these things were happening which was months away.


SESAY: Jessica -- and I think that's a very valid point. But Jessica -- if you could respond to that because I have some analysis that says in the case of Mueller, it's not a question of saying whether he was there and witnessed it but it's how you could draw a contrast with what other people who were there could testify or have said in the questioning.

LEVINSON: Yes. So let's be clear. Steve Bannon does not have to have been in the room for every potential meeting or have to have knowledge of every potential meeting that might be useful for the Robert Mueller investigation.

And so we're looking at more than just this issue of was there a conspiracy between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. And there's a number of things that Steve Bannon as an absolutely, uncontroverted member of the inner circle to be useful for.

We're looking at issues of obstruction of justice. Steve Bannon was in the White House during the firing of James Comey.

We're looking at a variety of election -- potential election law violations --

SESAY: Michael Flynn and all of that --

LEVINSON: We're looking at false statements, c.e.g. (ph) Michael Flynn. And so the idea that because he wasn't in the room or wasn't part of certain meetings is really legally irrelevant to what Robert Mueller is looking at.

SESAY: Ok. Charles -- quickly.

MORAN: But all things that have nothing with the Russian investigation which have nothing to do with the investigation of this congressional panel which is how we started this conversation to begin with. This is a witch hunt and it's going down a rabbit hole that is needless and it is spiraling out of control.

SESAY: It is a dual track situation where the Mueller investigation alongside what is happening on Capitol Hill. So yes, we just started at Capitol Hill but the Mueller investigation is very much part of this conversation.

I want to turn my attention to the President's vulgar remarks last week about countries in Africa and, of course, Haiti. You all heard the President in that Jim Acosta piece striking a decidedly different tone, saying we now want people from everywhere in the world.

Dave -- what gives? Are in cleanup mode?

JACOBSON: I don't think we are. There are several reports that came out after the "shithole" comment came out that Donald Trump was bragging to his friends and his allies and his supporters throughout the course of the weekend. And let's not forget the White House did initially like deny that he made the comment the day after. SESAY: Correct.

JACOBSON: Right. I think the fact of the matter is, Donald Trump is a liar. We know that. The "Washington Post" has now upped their story to now 2,000 times that either Donald Trump or his cronies have lied publicly to the American people.

So I think Donald Trump is just trying to tamp down the flames. The fact of the matter is Donald Trump is a racist. Donald Trump started his campaign saying that Mexicans were drug dealers and rapists. He called Judge Curiel biased because of his Mexican heritage.

He went out and skewered a gold star family. He's come out and said horrifying things about women. There is extraordinary amount of evidence out there that Donald Trump is a racist.

So I don't buy this argument.

SESAY: Charles -- to bring you in. I mean according to Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary if Donald Trump was a racist, NBC wouldn't have given him a show and made him a host for the past decade. I think that's how she put it.

MORAN: Well, I'll use another example she didn't use. NAACP gave awards, the same people I saw, Jesse Jackson up there running his mouth. Al Sharpton several years ago, they were on the same stage handing him award for, you know, advancing the issues of the African- American community in New York and across the country.

So this issue of ok, you flip a switch, are you a racist or are you not. He has a demonstrated history of working with disadvantaged communities throughout this nation to promote equality and opportunity.

SESAY: He also has a demonstrated track record of saying racist things.

Jessica -- to bring you in here. Very quickly before -- we wrap this conversation. I want you to take a listen to the attorney general who has also been weighing in on, I guess, the President's sentiments on immigration. Take a listen.


JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: What good does it do to bring in somebody who's illiterate in their own country, has no skills and is going to struggle in our country and not be successful. That is not what a good nation should do. And we need to get away from it.


SESAY: Why bring illiterate, unskilled immigrants? Which I guess, again it's closer to what President Trump said last week about Africans coming from shithole countries. I guess those of us who come here were illiterate and have nothing to add to the economy.

What do you make of what the AG said?

LEVINSON: Well, let's remember that Jeff Sessions was a Senator who was nominated to be a district court judge and his nomination was ultimately foiled because there were let's say generously, potentially racist remarks that he made that were problematic.

[00:20:02] I think that this idea that we are degrading people because they come from certain countries and that they are -- they are not only made to sound illiterate and problematic and that we don't want them in our country but this idea that we're categorizing people by what they look like and where they come from and that they are less than I think is deeply troubling and goes directly against what we are as a nation.

Unfortunately it also is now absolutely presidential. And it is something that we can look to the head of the Department of Justice to say yes, these are two people who are espousing these views that I think are deeply problematic.

SESAY: I want to thank all of you for the honest conversation. We always appreciate it.

Dave, Charles, Jessica -- thank you. We appreciate it.

MORAN: Thanks.

SESAY: All right.

Let's take a quick break shall we.

Coming up -- new details about the children police say were trapped in a home against their will and the encounter that stood out to a neighbor, next.


SESAY: Hello everyone.

The California couple accused of holding their 13 children captive will stand before a judge at a court hearing Thursday. David and Louise Turpin are charged with torture and child endangerment. Authorities say the siblings' condition indicates that they were subjected to abuse for a prolonged period of time.

They are all now getting medical treatment. Six of the 13 children are under 18 but police say they all look like youngsters.

A neighbor described a very odd encounter with them during Christmas about two years ago.


KIMBERLY MULLIGAN, NEIGHBOR OF TURPIN FAMILY: We said hey you know we wanted to say that your decorations look really good. And so the were -- they just froze. They were scared to death. You could tell they were terrified. I thought they were 14, 12 and 11. The way they reacted and the way it just seemed like they were into that child way of "I'm invisible, you can't see me". They just were not there.


SESAY: Just terrible.

Judy Ho and Bobby Chacon join me now. Judy is a clinical and forensic psychologist and Bobby is a retired special FBI agent. Welcome to you both.

Bobby -- I want to start with you. This is truly awful. The children were found in a shocking state and the conditions in the house were described as horrific.

Talk to me about the process of building a picture of what happened in this home.

BOBBY CHACON, FORMER FBI AGENT: Right. So this is how -- it's going to require a series of interviews with the children. They're the victims and really the only witnesses that we have.

So you have the two parents who are the suspected criminals in this case and now you've got 13 witness victims. And so really it's going to -- these interviews are not going to be easy to conduct. You know, there's a lot of emotion involved. It's got to be conducted by experts who have expertise in interviewing children under these circumstances.

[00:25:04] And so it may take a series of interviews to actually sort out what was happening, you know. Then the prosecutors and the investigators are going to have to sort all that out and figure out what criminal violations we actually have here. The obvious ones are kidnapping and child abuse.

But you have to get the evidence to support that. That's going to have to come from those children.

SESAY: Judy -- to bring you in. How difficult is that going to be? Because you heard that neighbor say when she said something completely innocuous and pleasant, the children froze.


SESAY: How do you begin to unpack this?

HO: And because of the prolonged abuse that they probably suffered, they were not exposed to other people outside of the family to socialize, to have conversation and that's probably why they acted so strangely.

I'm also concerned for the cognitive development of these children because if they had been malnourished for all of this time it's very likely that a lot of their executive function centers didn't develop and that's why they couldn't make good complex decisions. And this why it's so wonderful that this 17-year-old somehow got the wherewithal to actually break out and have the skill to do that. But I'm really concerned about how these interviews are going to go. How much they can even recall because their learning and memory are probably impaired as well.

SESAY: Yes. Bobby -- I'm going to come into the question that we always ask in these moments. How did neighbors, how did family members not suspect, not know something allegedly -- I mean there's no allegations of -- the kids were found in a terrible condition. Who did it? You know, you can pass that. But that something terrible was happening in the house.

CHACON: I mean the biggest thing is isolation. So they kept them out of the public eye. They were home-schooled. They didn't go out socially. So nobody had contact with these children.

So that's -- that was the biggest thing that they did. They isolated these children. Some -- these children, some of them have -- had never had a conversation with anyone outside that house. You know, you have this 29-year-old daughter may have never talked to another adult in her life.

Some of these children may not know bad things were happening to them because they don't know those things are bad.

SESAY: But they're shown watching videos. These children were seen with their parents renewing their vows. These children -- they were obviously --

CHACON: They line them up, if you see some of those videos they were always lined up --

HO: Right.

SESAY: Absolutely.

CHACON: -- very regimented, very controlled -- even when they were in public, they were under control of the those parents, mainly the father.

HO: And the key is the control here.


HO: The fact that they really kept it under such scrutiny and there are reports that they were basically not allowed to go outside the house unless it was dark and only a few at a time.

And I think to Bobby's point, some of these children because they don't know any better this is their normal. And they were potentially probably even told by their parents that they were doing this to protect them.

SESAY: Right. HO: I mean we don't know what kind of messages these parents are sending. And so of course, my biggest concern now is the psychological development of these children and what's going to happen to them because this type of abuse is much more likely was because it's so prolonged, lead to much bigger issues as they get older.

SESAY: What kind of issues.

HO: Things like dealing with social development, having relationships with other people and having those relationship be pro-social. We know that from research 30 percent of people who have been abused themselves will repeat that cycle of abuse.

SESAY: Sure.

HO: And whether or not they're going to be able to even hold a job or understand that people can at a basic level still be trusted. All of things have to be sorted out. They need to get professional care as soon as possible.

SESAY: I want you both to weigh in on this issue. To me it was just incredibly striking so I really want your expert view -- that when the police got to the home, the mother was puzzled that they were there.

And even as they went through the home where, according to authorities, they found some of the children shackled --

HO: Right.

SESAY: -- she was still kind of puzzled.

HO: And this is where I believe that there might be a piece where either of the parents or maybe both was carrying on some type of a delusional thought process, maybe a paranoia where they actually felt what they were doing was in the good interest of the children.

And that's why the mom was so surprised because in -- somehow in her mind she's had it twisted that this is actually you take care as a parent?

CHACON: I'm sure that's the case. I'm sure that the mother did not think they were doing anything wrong. As warped as that sounds I think the mother at least probably thought that she wasn't doing anything wrong and she was doing what was best for her children.

SESAY: Let me ask you this -- again back to the question of who knew what, when, if anyone did. If someone did know, if it is proven that other people knew that these children were being abused, are we looking at potential extension of prosecution of those individuals?

CHACON: Oh, sure. I mean -- the only one I've seen is the grandmother speaking and she says they were the perfect family. So I don't know that there's going to be many other people that were involved with exposure to these children.

I think the success that they've had, if you want to call it success in carrying this out for so long has been the isolation, has been keeping them from other people.

[00:30:01] SESAY: And I can't let you go without asking a question that I know our viewers have at home. How did child welfare, how did -- I mean this is where it (INAUDIBLE) -- Miss Ho. How is it that other authorities, other officials didn't have contact?

CHACON: California law does not require private schools to be inspected.

SESAY: Right.

HO: And that is really scary because they're not really subject to --


HO: -- the laws or in the policies. But I think the other part of it is it's probably hard for people who have witnessed some weirdness, some secrecy to say I'm going to step forward and actually report them for a welfare check.

But I just think this is a good lesson for all of us, that, hey, the worst thing that can happen to you is feel a little embarrassed but, hey, you can really be saving lives. And we know that one in every single day about five children in America die of child abuse and maltreatment and so if there's any potential in preventing that, maybe people can just be a little bit more --


HO: -- and go ahead and report it and see what happens.

SESAY: Yes, cross that line. If it's going to save lines, cross the line.

CHACON: Right.

SESAY: Great conversation, thank you.

CHACON: thank you.

HO: Thank you.

SESAY: All right. We're going to hit pause here. Coming up, hundreds of thousands Rohingya fled a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar. But soon they may be going home. The details are next.




SESAY: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay, the headlines this hour:

(HEADLINES) SESAY: Myanmar and Bangladesh have hammered out a timeline for

repatriating hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslim; 650,000 Rohingya fled a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar, seeking refuge in Bangladesh. Many are now at one of the world's biggest refugee camps in Cox's Bazaar. Both countries released details of the plan Tuesday.

Let's break that down for you. It calls for the return of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar within the next two years. Bangladesh will set up five transit camps. The Rohingya will go from the transit camps to resection centers in Myanmar. This plan applies only to Rohingya who fled Myanmar after October 2016. The U.N. estimates 200,000 Rohingya were already in Bangladesh before that date. Repatriation process is set to start --


SESAY: -- next Tuesday. Kevin Allen is with the U.N. Refugee Agency. He's the head of emergency operations for the Rohingya refugee crisis at Cox's Bazaar in Bangladesh and he joins us now.

Kevin, thank you so much for being with us. Let me start right off the bat by getting your thoughts on this deal.

Do you have concerns?

What do you make of the way it's being formulated?

KEVIN ALLEN, UNRA: Well, Isha, I think there's a few things that I would emphasize at the outset. And the first thing is that the voice of the refugees need to be central to any decision on returns.

The second thing that I would emphasize is any return needs to occur in conditions that are safe, that are voluntary and ultimately that are sustainable.

Now, Isha, when we've spoken with the refugees here in Bangladesh, these 655,000 refugees who crossed the border since 25 August, they have essentially, except for three preconditions from their perspective, to return.

The first is that the government of Myanmar needs to address the issue of citizenship and legal status. The second is that they need to be able to return in conditions of safety. It's got to be a safe place to go back to.

And the third is there need to be reconstruction efforts to ensure that you're able to enjoy their basic rights when they do go back home. Now typically UNHCR, when we engage these types of scenarios, would enter into an agreement between the government of Myanmar, the government of Bangladesh and UNHCR to ensure that, number one, we give voice to the refugees and, number two, that we ensure that any returns occur in line with international standards.

What does that mean? That they're voluntary, that they're safe, that they're sustainable. Now in the current context, the two governments have opted to enter into a bilateral agreement. This agreement was initially signed in November.

Now UNHCR, the U.N. Refugee Agency has contemplated in that agreement but we have not been party to the discussions that have occurred to date, including discussions in Myanmar on the 15th of January. So UNHCR is keen to engage with both governments, the government of Myanmar, the government of Bangladesh to ensure that there's a framework that ensures any returns incur -- occur in line with international standards.

SESAY: The obvious question is why UNHCR was not brought in right at the outset of the construction of this deal and furthermore, as you talk about the three conditions that are necessary for a successful repatriation of these refugees, is the mean at this set, do you see any signs of the government there in Myanmar trying to rebuild and to patch the mistrust that exists between the Rohingya and the authorities?

ALLEN: Well, there are a couple of things that I would note. The first is if you understand the spirit but also the text of the agreement between the two governments, not only is UNHCR contemplated but international standards, return that's voluntary, that's safe, sustainable are contemplated.

So the key at this stage is that we are able to continue our dialogue to be part of the discussion between the two states so that we can achieve a framework that is in line with international standards and that critically gives voice to the refugees.

This is a complex situation. We are encouraged that the two states are engaging in dialogue, in a conversation. We would like to part of that conversation. So on the one hand, we can ensure that international standards are met, that returns are voluntary, that they're safe.

But on the other hand to ensure that the voice of the refugees are heard. Now, I mention that the refugees essentially said their three preconditions from their perspective to return, the first is that the citizenship issue and legal status is resolved; the second, that they can go back home in a condition that's safe.

And the third, that they're able to go back home in an environment where there's been reconstruction efforts, where they can enjoy their basic rights and services. Now it's interesting to note that these three requirements of the refugees are very much in line with the recommendations of a commission that was led by the former secretary general, Kofi Annan, the (INAUDIBLE) report which has been endorsed by the government of Myanmar.

So I think it is incumbent as UNHCR but also the international community to encourage the government of Myanmar to implement those recommendations as quickly as possible so that the conditions for return are there because ultimately UNHCR's hope, the hope of most refugees around the globe is that one day they're able to go back home.

We all want to be at home. But that can only occur if it's voluntary, and it occurs in conditions of safety and dignity.

SESAY: Yes, without a doubt. That is what is most needed here. Kevin Allen, head of UNHCR's emergency operations, we thank you for joining us and giving us the important context. Thank you so much.


ALLEN: Thank you, Isha.

SESAY: Still to come, a moment of pure joy in Puerto Rico, nearly four months after Hurricane Maria. The lights at a school, finally, finally snap back on. The students' reaction, well, that is priceless. We're going to show all of it to you.

Plus Pope Francis is apologizing for the sexual abuse of children by priests in Chile. But activists say his apology is not enough.




SESAY: After protests and threats, Pope Francis is apologizing to victims of sexual abuse by priests in Chile. The pope told crowds he is ashamed for the irreparable damage caused to children. The Vatican says Francis met with some victims in private.

But activists want the childhood to expand its investigation into sexual abuse. Protesters and police clashed in Santiago as the pope was on his way to say mass. Pope Francis could face more anger when he visits Peru later in the week.

After 112 days with no electricity, the lights are finally back on at a school in Puerto Rico. And that moment for the staff and students was one of pure happiness.


SESAY (voice-over): You see those children there, they are jumping for joy. Still, almost four months after Hurricane Maria, the government estimates about 40 percent of customers in Puerto Rico are still waiting for their power to be switched back on.

But those are great scenes from that one school.

Finally this hour a big fireball has people buzzing in the northern U.S. It lit up the sky Tuesday night in parts of Michigan and beyond and shook houses with a powerful boom. Right afterwards, police phone lines and Twitter lit up. Some figured it might be aliens or a UFO but most likely, authorities say, this was just a meteor burning up in the atmosphere.

I think it would be way cooler if it was a UFO or aliens, personally.

You've been watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay. Stay tuned now for "WORLD SPORT." You're watching CNN.