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U.S. Government to Reopen After Three-Day Shutdown; Turkey Vows It Won't Step Back From its Offensive; Crisis in Myanmar; Political and Financial Leaders Gather in Switzerland for World Economic Forum. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired January 23, 2018 - 00:00   ET


[00:00:12] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.

Ahead this hour:

The U.S. government shutdown has been shut down at least for now. Who won, who lost and what this now means for a deal on immigration.

Plus Turkey expands its military offensive into northern Syria as concerns grow about another humanitarian crisis.

And Rohingya repatriation -- is what I should say but most would rather stay in squalid refugee camps than return to Myanmar where the government has been accused of ethnic cleansing.

Hello -- everybody. Welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm John Vause. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

Well, the U.S. government will be open for business on Tuesday after the ouHouse and Senate approved a short term spending deal to keep the lights on until February 8th. The Senate's top Republican Mitch McConnell secured Democrat support after promising his intention to take up the immigration issue which led to the shutdown.

Democrats are demanding protection for hundreds of thousands of so- called dreamers that were brought here to the United States illegally by their parents.


SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: While this procedure will not satisfy everyone on both sides it's a way forward. I'm confident that we can get the 60 votes in the Senate for a DACA bill. And now there is a real pathway to get a bill on the floor and through the Senate.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I hope we can remember some lessons from this regrettable incident. Brinksmanship and hostage-taking do not work, they make bipartisan progress harder, not easier to achieve.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: And moments ago, the President tweeted this. "Big win for Republicans as Democrats cave on shutdown. Now I want a big win for everyone including Republicans Democrats and DACA but especially for our great military and border security. Should be able to get there. See you at the negotiating table."

Ok. Joining me now former L.A. City councilwoman Wendy Greuel; we also have talk radio host and political columnist and Trump supporter John Phillips and CNN's senior political analyst and senior editor for "The Atlantic" Ron Brownstein.

Ok. John -- first to you. Let's pick up where that statement that Mitch McConnell made on the floor of the Senate. Given his track record in recent years isn't that just a bit rich?

JOHN PHILLIPS, TALK RADIO HOST: Well, I think we can call this the Chick-Fil-A government shutdown because the government was shut down on Sunday and then back open for business at the beginning of the week.

VAUSE: Right.

PHILLIPS: I think that Mitch McConnell played his hand of cards perfectly here. The deal that he offered Democrats on Friday was the exact same deal that the Democrats took today. We should take Chuck Schumer and put him in a Chevrolet Corvette because that guy rolled.

VAUSE: Well, why did the President take that deal if it was the same deal? Why didn't he take it on Friday?

PHILLIPS: Well, the Democrats were the ones that shut it down. I mean why shut the government down for three days if you're going to turn around and take what was offered to you on Friday -- makes no sense.

VAUSE: Ok. Well, you only have to ask Democrats who caved on this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressman -- your reaction to your Democratic Senate colleagues passing forward with this vote earlier today? So what was your reaction?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they caved. They blinked.


VAUSE: Ok. And then there's the Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond (ph). He blamed Schumer for making the whole debate about immigration according to one Democrat in the meeting on Monday. He said about Senate Democrats -- they are getting their butts kicked.

Here's the statement from OFA, the political offshoot of Barack Obama's presidential campaign. "Let's be clear, this awful adventure is not a solution. It's merely a band-aid for a self-inflicted wound that remains untreated." And from the liberal progression group Freedom Action, "It's official. Chuck Schumer is the worst negotiator in Washington, even worst than Trump.

So Wendy -- did Senate Democrats here overplay their hands? Or did they just simply have a lot more to lose than the Republicans?

WENDY GREUEL, FORMER L.A. CITY COUNCILWOMAN: Well look, I don't think anyone won in this last three days. Not the Republicans, not the Democrat --

VAUSE: Well, you won more -- you lost more, rather, then.

GREUEL: Yes. Well, I think the biggest loser was Trump.

VAUSE: Right.

GREUEL: Because you know, here was Trump who's supposed to be the great negotiator, here was Trump who was supposed to be able to get the deal done, who wanted a bill of love, just you know, a week and a half ago. And had to sit on his hands this weekend in the White House where he wanted to be in Mar-a-Lago. You know, that's where he wanted to be instead of sitting in the White House listening to the demonstrators outside.

And I think that the point is that this is an issue that is very important to all of Americans. And you look at the numbers -- 80 percent believe that we should adopt DACA, you know, to be able to do that. And the reason we were even in the CR, this continuing resolution was because the Republicans hadn't done their job.


[00:05:00] VAUSE: -- say this but more Americans believe it wasn't worth shutting the government over.

But Ron -- just to that point with the President, what does it say that this deal was made because they locked him in a room somewhere and didn't have him involved?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well look, I mean he has been an erratic at best participant in any kind of negotiation with Capitol Hill. But ultimately he will probably be needed to resolve this.

I mean the first point is it's odd to hear this kind of sputtering and disappointment from Democrats because if anybody should understand that a government shutdown is too indiscriminate a weapon to really be effective, it should be Democrats who watched Republicans flail and fail at trying to move Bill Clinton in 1994-'95 and Barack Obama in 2013 with government shutdowns. I covered each of them.

And once again, you know, there's just too much collateral damage for this to be an effective political weapon. And we are reminded of that. Again, I think the President is ultimately going to be needed because we have been on this ride before in another way. What Chuck Schumer said is probably right. I mean there is a pathway to 60 votes in the Senate for something that would protect the DACA recipients. But twice before, 2006 and 2013, bipartisan coalitions in Senate passed immigration reform with over 60 votes and then House Republicans refused to even take it up even though there were probably 218 votes in the chamber at the time.

We are probably back in that situation where there are probably 218 votes in the House to resolve DACA but there may not be a majority of Republicans. And the only way you get over that hill is if Paul Ryan is willing to bring up a bill that majority of folks, you tell me, you know, what are the odds of that? Or if Donald Trump ultimately gives them cover to do it.

VAUSE: Ok. So then that raises the questions which President will turn up the negotiations on immigration? Will it be this guy?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're working on a plan for DACA -- people want to see that happen. You have 800,000 young people brought here, no fault of their own.

This should be a bipartisan bill. It should be a bill of love. Truly -- it should be a bill of love. And we can do it.

Dreamers are terrific. We love the dreamers. We love everybody.


VAUSE: So will it be the guy who loves everybody or will it be this other guy who turns up?


TRUMP: I will immediately terminate President Obama's illegal executive order on immigration -- immediately.

What about our children? Why can't our children that are in the country -- why can't they be the dreamer? Nobody ever talks about that.

We're always talking about dreamers for other people. I want the children that are growing up in the United States to be dreamers also.


VAUSE: John?

PHILLIPS: Well, he wrote "The Art of the Deal". Right now when you're making legislation, it's the art of the possible. And if he's going to get any kind of Democratic votes or he's going to get Republican votes that may not necessarily see eye to eye with him on immigration you have to throw in some kind of sweetener.

And look, I'm as big of a hawk as you can possibly get on immigration. But if you give me the wall, if you give me an end to chain migration, if you get rid of sanctuary cities and sanctuary states and all the rest that comes with border security I'm willing to give you DACA in exchange for it. I think that a good deal for the country and I think that's a very good deal for Donald Trump.


BROWNSTEIN: When Mitch McConnell was talking about hostage taking it's important to understand there are multiple layers of hostage taking out there because you had Democrats that are in essence holding the budget hostage to DACA.

On the other hand now you have Republicans holding DACA hostage not only to border security which is the first thing you mentioned but also to reducing legal immigration which is a big escalation and change in this fight.

Historically Republicans say they're opposed to undocumented immigration, not to legal immigration. Now they are looking for major change. Two-thirds of all legal immigrants come in through family reunification or chain migration.

If you're talking about ending chain migration, you're talking about cutting immigration by something like two-thirds. And that is a -- that is not going to happen in return for legal status for 800,000 young people.

VAUSE: Ok. Well John -- mentioned sweeteners for the Democrats. And so hours after the shutdown began, the President released a campaign ad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump is right. Build the wall, deport criminals, stop illegal immigration now. Democrats who stand in our way will be complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants.


VAUSE: Wendy -- how are Democrats going to be able to negotiate with a President who accuses them of being complicit of murder with a commercial. How is (INAUDIBLE)?

GREUEL: You know, and sometimes I think the President I'm not sure if he even remembers that he did that, you know. He is one of those that does not stay consistent as you said. Which President is the Tuesday President or the Thursday President, they say?


GREUEL: But I think the important part that happened this weekend for all of the good and bad and the ugly was that senators from both parties, that you know, gang 25 or more came together and said we're going to take back control of our Senate and get back to the days where we're actually debating good public policy and coming forward. [00:09:58] And hopefully that will drive the Senate to a place where the President is going to have to go to the House Republicans and say the Senate is going in this direction and we've got to get something because immigrants and DACA, from the public's perspective is something very important to be adopted.

VAUSE: You know, the White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders was specifically asked about that campaign ad during Monday's briefing.


MAJOR GARRETT, CBS CORRESPONDENT: This is what we understand. Is there no interaction and was there no interaction between the president and the campaign committee in the creation of that ad? Did he approve it?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That's something I wouldn't be a part of that process -- Major. I couldn't speak to that.


VAUSE: OK. Everyone is running a million miles away from this ad -- if the President approved it at all, whether he was part of it.

GREUEL: He did.

VAUSE: Just for the record. Here we go.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm Donald Trump and I approve this message.


VAUSE: Just in case you missed it. So John -- apart from the fact that there's actually no proof that immigrants raise crime rates in the United States, this ad is for many, does it confirm the worst of what they believe about Donald Trump?

PHILLIPS: He should be going after Democrats aggressively on immigration. If you look at the map of where vulnerable Democrats are running for reelection it's in a bunch of red states, it's people like Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, Claire McCaskill in Missouri. Democrats are defending seats in Ohio, Florida, other states.

And this is an issue where those constituents spoke loudly and clearly in both the primary, Republican primary and the general election where they want the borders policed. They want the border secured. And if Democrats aren't going to vote for border security and border protection then he should absolutely be hitting them on that subject.

BROWNSTEIN: And the flip side of that -- and John's right. I mean the Democrats have to defend 10 Senate seats in states that Donald Trump won, almost all of which are preponderantly older white states with very few immigrants.

Forty-two of the 51 Republican senators come from one of the 30 states with the fewest share of immigrants. Twenty-six of the 30 states Donald Trump won come from the states with the fewer share of immigrants. Eighty-five percent of the House Republicans are in districts with fewer immigrants than the national average.

The Republican Party is the Party of the parts of America that are largely untouched by a demographic and immigration change

On the other hand, they still have some outposts in these urban- suburban areas and that are diverse, that are more white collar, that are more attached to the international economy and that's where they're facing the big risk.

I mean we may come out of this election with the trench between Democratic-leaning metro-diverse, information-age America and older, whiter kind of resource extraction non-diverse America that's represented by Republicans even deeper.

I mean that may be the clearest outcome as a further sorting because the flipside of what you're talking about is Arizona, Nevada, the suburbs of Orange County, the suburbs of northern Virginia, places that are diverse that Republicans are still holding on may get tougher as they go down this road.

VAUSE: Right.

Clearly Donald Trump is playing to his base with this commercial and all this other stuff. But you know, it doesn't come without a cost. And what we've been seeing in the latest poles especially among women voters. Last April, support for the President among white women was at 47 percent. That's according to ABC News/Washington Post. It now stands at 37 percent. And among college educated white women 40 percent approval in April now is just down to 27 percent.

So Wendy -- disapproval certainly, we saw the big turnout for the women's march again on the anniversary over the weekend. But how do Democrats turn that disapproval and that march into votes.

GREUEL: Well, I think that's what you saw in a lot of the marches that happened in this last weekend. It wasn't just about being there to complain about something but it was -- a lot of that voter registration. It's about where are we going to focus in and make sure that we get our voters out in the next elections. And that was a big change even from last year.

So I think that the focus and attention of the Democrats is going to be in targeting specific districts like in the state of California where now there are, you know, seven seats are up for grabs and many of those Republicans have now left.

VAUSE: They retired from the U.S. Senate (ph).

GREUEL: They retired. So I think we have a chance in those areas and particularly what happened in Pennsylvania today that we're going to see that number of House seats we need to pick up is going to be better than we thought.

VAUSE: Very quickly. Ron -- if you look at those numbers, for polling among women, also for polling among, you know, college- educated whites and blue collar whites that supported Trump. You know, are those numbers getting to a terminal point?

BROWNSTEIN: No. I mean I think there are two pieces that Democrats clearly see moving in their direction. One is that they're getting turnout in these off-year elections among minorities and young people than they usually get in an off year.

The second is the one you mentioned -- white collar whites, especially women but not exclusively, also men have been moving toward them both in the polling and in the special elections.

But the third piece isn't there yet which is that in polling and in the Alabama and Virginia and other elections in 2017 they have not seen the breakthroughs in blue collar and non urban districts. And what that means is if you have to win back the House solely in white collar suburbs; yes, you can do it but it very little margin for error. And they have not yet shown that that rural and blue collar core of Donald Trump is willing to break away.

[00L14:56] You know, we talked the women, two-thirds of white women without a college degree voted Republican in Virginia. Almost three- quarters did in Alabama. So even as the white collar women are moving away from them, the Democrat's haven't yet shown they can extend that all way across the income ladder.

VAUSE: Out of time -- John, quickly.

PHILLIPS: On the generic ballot the Republicans improved five points this last week.


PHILLIPS: Exactly. It's very fluid to say the least.

VAUSE: Wendy, John and Ron -- good to see you. Thank you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

VAUSE: Ok. Well, the U.S. has been urging restraint as Turkish war planes and troops target Syrian Kurdish fighters but Ankara has lashed out at Washington vowing there will be no stepping back in Syria.

Details in just a moment.


VAUSE: Well in Syria, shelling has killed nine people, wounded 21 others in a Damascus neighborhood. Syrian state-run news says rebels fired the mortar shells in to the capital from eastern Ghouta. Various rebel groups control the eastern part Ghouta which has been under siege by Syrian government troops for more than four years.

Meanwhile the U.S. and the U.N. Security Council are urging restraint as Turkey intensifies its incursion into northern Syria. But no one has actually told the Turks to stop the offensive. Its war planes and troops are targeting Syrian Kurdish fighters in the Afrin region. Turkey's president calls the U.S. backed Kurdish YPG militant terrorists. Along with his deputy prime minister, the president lashed out at the United States for helping arm them originally to battle ISIS.

The Turkish military says one of its soldiers has been killed in this newest frontline in Syria's civil war. The YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces says Ankara is trapping itself now in a quagmire but Turkey says there will be no stepping back.


BEKIR BOZDAG, TURKISH DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Operation: Olive Branch will continue until all the terrorist organizations and terrorists are cleared from the area. After clearing the region from the terrorist organizations and terrorists, the operation will successfully reach its targets.

KINO GABRIEL, SPOKESMAN SYRIAN DEMOCRATIC FORCES (through translator): Turkish state has failed in its open war against our nation in the name of its different organizations. Now, it's time to take off the masks and start the war under the official identity of the Turkish army. It started the attack on a frame which will be a quagmire from which the Turkish army will only exit after suffering great losses.


Well, CNN security analyst Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is with us. So too CNN military analyst retired Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona. Thanks to you both for being here.

You know, Gayle -- as in all things with Syria this is complicated but Turkey's military offensive is essentially all about creating a safe zone along the border essentially pushing these Kurdish forces back by about 20 miles. These are the same Kurdish forces which were armed by the United States. It played a crucial role in defeating ISIS.

It seems the Americans have to make some big decisions here essentially. You know, will they continue to support the Kurdish fighters in Syria or will they, you know, back away and, you know, give in to what Turkey is essentially demanding?

[00:20:00] GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: So three words have characterized the entire Syria conflict for the United States. And then what?


LEMMON: Right. And this is an overnight crisis that is three years in the making. And so what you see now is the U.S. decision to really by, with and through was President Obama's directive -- right. Use local forces on the ground. The most effective force in the view of the United States military to route ISIS from Raqqa and beyond was the YPG which then became the Syria Democratic Forces, the SDF.

And all along this tension with Turkey was building and we've now seen it come to a crescendo.

VAUSE: I guess everyone knew that this day was going to come.

Colonel Francona, what hope does the U.S. actually have of maintaining any kind of stability in Syria without the Kurdish militia or, you know, the other option here is without Turkey?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Ok. The answer -- none. You know, the SDF, these Kurdish forces are the key to any American presence, any American influence in northeastern Syria, any presence at all in northern Syria.

But it goes much further than that. You remember that, you know, the glue that held all this together was ISIS. ISIS is virtually gone now. So now all of these disparate groups are figuring out what are we going to do and as Gayle sees it exactly -- and then what.

So the Russians are looking at this. The Syrians, the Turks, the Americans, the Kurds. What happens now? And of course, you know, we know what the Kurds want. They want some sort of autonomous area, much akin to what their cousins have over in Iraq.

It's not going to happen. The Syrians don't want it. The Turks have proven they don't want it. And they've intervened to get in there.

Now, the question is, are they willing to get into a showdown with the United States, you know, over northern Syria? Is the United States willing to take on a NATO ally for the Kurds? So you know, there's a lot of calculations that have to be done as we go into the future.

And you know, as Gayle said, and then what?

VAUSE: Yes. And Gayle -- last week the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson when asked if the U.S. will be supporting this new 30,000 strong force led by the Kurds in the northern eastern part of Syria. Was that the excuse that Turkey had essentially been waiting for, for this?

LEMMON: So there -- as one set of analysts said listen, Turkey was looking for this because of its domestic situation, right. An election is coming up.

But Turkey has made no secret, right. The same fighting force that the American, including the Special Operations community have a huge fondness for is the same force that Turkey has said since 2014 are terrorists.

And so you have a very different view of the same set of forces. And the real question is this border security force, you know, you could make the argument that this really is necessary, right, as you try to bring stability to a post-conflict northern Syria. The question is what happens if Turkey goes farther? And I don't think U.S. policy makers want to answer that question. And they hope --

VAUSE: Because they don't have an answer --

LEMMON: Right. And also they really hope not to have to answer it. They're working to backtrack but on, you know, -- backtrack is probably the wrong word but to smooth over -- the situation. And it's very challenging. There aren't words that Turkey is willing to hear.

VAUSE: You know, so far the smoothing over process isn't working.


VAUSE: You know, Rick -- Ankara has made it clear this offensive is being driven out of concern that the Kurds in Syria could actually end up supporting the Kurdish Workers' Party, the PKK in Turkey is considered a terrorist group by the Turkish government. The U.S. and the E.U. for the most part consider PKK a terrorist group. Is that justified?

FRANCONA: Well, of course. I mean I know the American position is the YPG is different than the PKK. But you know, over the years we've seen the support between the two. So I think it's very disingenuous for the United States to say there's not reason for the Turks to be concerned.

But I don't think there's an excuse reason for the Turks to get in there and march as they've said all the way from Manbij, all they way to the Iraqi border. That's just not going to fly. But you know, there are so many equities involved here.

VAUSE: In your opinion, why is Erdogan so involved here? Because you know, we've heard from the U.S., we've heard from the U.N. He basically said forget it, I'm not going back. This is going on.

FRANCONA: Yes. Well, Erdogan has his own domestic problems inside of Turkey. So he's got to bolster his own creds with his people and he can do that by taking the hard line in northern Syria.

And I'll tell you, I talked to a lot of Turks. This resonates with them. Surprisingly a lot of people support what he's doing because when you say Kurds they immediately think PKK, they immediately think terrorists and they don't make a distinction between the YPG and the PKK.

So, you know, the Turks can do pretty much what they want in northern Syria and they have the backing of the Turkish people. So it's very, very difficult for the United States to intervene in a NATO ally's kind of internal affairs.

VAUSE: Gayle -- very quickly, almost out of time. This is early days with this offensive. But are we staring down the, you know, the beginnings of another humanitarian crisis?

LEMMON: I think all Syria is a humanitarian crisis right.

VAUSE: Yes. I mean there are parts of the country that haven't been affected by war but there are very few. You're talking about a humanitarian crisis that has watched, you know, children fall from balconies under barrel bombs. It has watched now children who are trying to escape northern Syria die in the winter (ph).

[00:25:05] So I don't think that this is the next humanitarian crisis but I don't think it's helpful to a country that has already endured so much.

VAUSE: OK. Gayle -- good to have you with us. We appreciate it. Also Colonel Francona -- good to speak with you as well. Thank you.

Well, still to come here, the Rohingya refugees fear they will face the same ethnic cleansing which forced them to leave Myanmar. Officials now want to send them back but some Rohingya say they would rather die in squalid camps in Bangladesh.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.

I'm John Vause. We'll check the headlines his hour.

The three-day U.S. government shutdown is over. Donald Trump signed a bill to fund the government until February 8th. Democrats agreed to that after a top Senate Republican promised his intention to take up the immigration debate which prompted the shutdown in the first place.

President Trump says the Democrats caved, tweeting this. "See you at the negotiating table."

Turkey says it will not be stepping back from an ongoing military offensive against U.S.-backed Kurdish militia in northern Syria even though both the United States and the U.N. are urging restraint.

Turkish troops entered the Kurdish-held Afrin area on Sunday one day after Turkish war planes targeted Kurdish forces.

Hundreds of Haitians are sending a message to the U.S. President marching in Port-au-Prince to protest the vulgar term he reportedly used for Haiti and some African countries. Some protesters threw stones. They were blocked however from passing the U.S. embassy.

Well, many Rohingya refugees fear they will again face ethnic cleansing if they're sent back to Myanmar. More than 650,000 Rohingya have escaped rape, torture and murder, fleeing to Bangladesh to live in squalid camps.

The repatriation process is officially under way but no refugees have physically been returned as of now. Activists are warning it may be too soon, it may be too dangerous to send the Rohingya back.

Details now from Clarissa Ward.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're fleeing for their lives. After an arduous ten day journey these Rohingya refugees have made it to safety in Bangladesh. Dazed and exhausted but safe for now from the horrors they escaped in Myanmar.

"My son was killed by the Myanmar army," this man says, "and still I stayed there but then they destroyed my house so there was no place for me to stay."

[00:29:54] Mohammed left with 43 others from his village, more than half of them women and children. Now they're being told to return to the place that nearly killed them as official vetting in the repatriation process begins.

But the grim reality is that the crisis in Myanmar is far from over. "Girls were unable to sleep there at night. They would stay awake in fear of the military," this woman says. "They used to harm us, harass us, hurt us, there was sorrow and tears everywhere."

The families will join some 650,000 other Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, who have fled Myanmar since late August, when an attack by Rohingya militants on security forces sparked a brutal crackdown by the army with widespread reports of rape, murder and villages burned to the ground.

Now as the prospect of a return to danger looms, protests are taking place in the refugee camps. Many say they will only return home with guarantees of their security. And aid agencies say that is still far from certain.

KEVIN ALLEN, UNHCR: Any decision to return has to be voluntary. It has to occur in conditions of safety and dignity and it has to be sustainable. To ensure that this happens, there is a lot of work that needs to occur.

WARD (voice-over): A key concern: that returnees will be sent to internment camps inside Myanmar with no timeline on when they can return to their villages.

"If the government of Bangladesh threatens to kill us by cutting our throats, we will not go even then," this woman says.

"I would be happy to die here cause it's a Muslim country," this man says. "In there, they tortured us to death."

The prospect of an easier death, now the only comfort for a people who have come to expect nothing from this world -- Clarissa Ward, CNN.


VAUSE (voice-over): Matthew Smith is cofounder of the human rights organization, Fortify Rights. He's with us now from Bangkok.

Matthew, thank you for being with us. There's some question at the moment of whether there's been some kind of delay in this repatriation process. A Bangladeshi official has told CNN that's not the case but he said there's still a lot of work to be done.

So what are you hearing right now?

MATTHEW SMITH, FORTIFY RIGHTS: Well, we're hearing something similar from Bangladesh officials. Essentially, it appears as though they were unable to get refugees on the Bangladesh side of the border to participant in this process at this stage.

And there may be some other logistical issues that they're working through. Our concern right now is that they're postponing it for the wrong reason. There are a lot of human rights concerns on both sides of the border, particularly in Myanmar, that make this plan a problem.

And, unfortunately, they're not postponing it for the right reasons.

VAUSE: What are the reasons that it is being postponed for?

SMITH: Well, what we're hearing, John, is that there are logistical issues; the government has been a bit vague about it. But as far as we can tell, refugees are not lining up to go back to a country that they just fled from in recent weeks and months.

You know, it wasn't that long ago that the Myanmar army was burning down villages, committing massacres, (INAUDIBLE) just a few months ago. So the idea that it's sensible right now to send Rohingya back into a situation that hasn't changed much at all is farcical at best.

VAUSE: OK. In advance of this repatriation, your organization released a video. It pictures the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Here's a short clip.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).


VAUSE: Clearly no one, it seems, wants to leave Bangladesh right now to head back to Myanmar.

So what's the reason for the timing here?

Why is it starting now?

SMITH: Well, in our view, Myanmar authorities are essentially capitalizing on Bangladesh's desire to rid itself of a very large refugee population. And what Myanmar has effectively done in the last several weeks is they've managed to get the international community to focus on this issue of repatriation and, in doing so, they've diverted attention away from the heinous crimes that the Myanmar army committed just weeks and --


SMITH: -- months ago.

And so from one perspective, it would appear as though Myanmar wants the world to believe they're doing the right thing without actually making any fundamental changes on the ground. The rights for Rohingya (INAUDIBLE) not at all on the Myanmar side.

VAUSE: Here's what one woman says is waiting for her back in Myanmar.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).


VAUSE: There are no NGOs, there are no monitoring groups on the ground in Rakhine State. Journalists are pretty much banned from the region by the Myanmar government.

So once the Rohingya return, who's there to monitor the situation?

Who's there to ensure that stuff like this doesn't happen again?

SMITH: Right. That's a good point, John. And there have -- Rohingya communities, over the last year, have really done amazing work to do what they can to document the human rights violations at great personal risk.

Their security right now, the security of average Rohingya civilians, is certainly under threat. The fact that state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi is denying still to this day, denying U.N. factfinders access to Northern Rakhine. There are some aid groups but they had very limited access.

So there is a tremendous fear that we haven't seen the worst of the violence and the killings.

VAUSE: Yes. And clearly so many people just don't want to leave. And it boggles the mind as to why this is happening. But, Matthew, good to see you. Thank you.

SMITH: Thanks very much, John.

VAUSE: A short break. When we come back, Davos, the snow is falling in this quaint little mountain town in Switzerland. But it's all about to heat up. And we'll tell you why in just a minute.




VAUSE: Legendary singer-songwriter Neil Diamond says he's retiring from touring after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. But he says he'll continue to write, record and work on new projects and will turn 77 on Wednesday.

His biggest hits include "Sweet Caroline," "Song Sung Blue" and "Cracklin' Rosie."


VAUSE: The World Economic Forum in Davos is getting off to a frigid start; about 180 centimeters of snow have blanketed the town in the Swiss Alps, where thousands of the richest, most powerful people are gathering this week. The elite crows will get to rub elbows with the --


VAUSE: -- anti-global elite crowd president, Donald Trump. He'll be there later in the week, now that the shutdown has been resolved.

The keynote speech at Tuesday's forum will come from the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. He says he'll be talking of India as a destination for global manufacturing as well as innovation.

CNN's John Defterios has come to the World Economic Forum many, many times. He's now live from Davos.

So, John, the government shutdown has all been resolved, President Trump is heading off to Davos.

So will the America first president, will he calm and soothe those global elites there?

Or is he expected to continue to fray nerves?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Well, we were pretty shocked last year, John, as you know, during the inauguration. It was playing here in the evening in Davos and (INAUDIBLE), oh, my goodness, this America first, stop the carnage narrative that was playing out shocked everyone.

But Donald Trump doesn't take the stage for another four days but let's just say, John, his presence is already being felt. This could be a very divided World Economic Forum between the globalists -- and this is, as you suggested in your lead-in there, a haven for the globalists and the populists, the one streak of populism coming from Donald Trump. There's already a tinge of what's going to happen, the tone he's going to take.

He slapped tariffs overnight on China for solar panels. The Chinese are furious about it. So later today, beyond Prime Minister Modi of India, we have Prime Minister Justin Trudeau taking the stage as well. He has to come forward and suggest we are free traders. But he is fighting to keep NAFTA alive, that North American Free Trade Agreement.

It doesn't look promising because of the position of the White House. He will be followed the next day by Emmanuel Macron. Remember, John, he was suggesting let's put the world first, not America first. So France trying to take the lead on climate change, something the Trump White House had pulled out of, trying to keep free trade alive.

And behind him or covering his back is Angela Merkel, who will be there on Wednesday as well, the German chancellor.

So this could be a huge challenge not only for globalization and free trade going forward, also for the World Economic Forum.

Can they adapt to this idea of bringing Donald Trump inside the tent to have a dialogue, to see if they can find a common ground?

It's not a simple task. But I think the forum is taking a bet here that perhaps Donald Trump will be very different than his inaugural speech and the first year in the White House. We have to wait and see. But he is setting the tone, no doubt about it.

VAUSE: The always unpredictable U.S. president. There was a lot of back and forth about whether or not he would actually get to meet with the British prime minister, Theresa May. And now it appears that they will.

Why was that such an issue?

DEFTERIOS: Oh, it's a huge issue because of -- I think because of the Brexit vote and you know the consternations about the setup, how the meeting would take shape in the U.K. Theresa May trying to straddle the line here.

Do we continue with the Brexit?

Is it a soft Brexit?

You don't want a very hardline populist dividing Britain again. And I think, John, if we take a step back, the U.K., the U.S., the European Union, Asia led by China, of course, have to say, growth is not bad. It's nearly the best we've had in a decade, John, just under 4 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund.

But to go back to this idea of globalization, there was a report suggesting that 82 percent of the growth that we saw in the last year went to the upper 1 percent. And this is not falling on deaf ears here at the World Economic Forum. They need to address the next wave of globalization or globalization 2.0.

VAUSE: There in Davos it's the 1 percent of the 1 percent, I guess. John, have fun, I guess; enjoy. We'll talk to you during the week. We appreciate it.

DEFTERIOS: Yes, take care.

VAUSE: And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles, I'm John Vause, please stay with us for "WORLD SPORT" with Patrick Snell. You're watching CNN.