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Government Shutdown; No Stepping Back from Syria Offensive; Rohingya Fears Ethnic Cleansing, Again; Rohingya Refugees In Bangladesh Skeptical About Repatriation Deal To Send Them Back To Myanmar; Official Sanchez Mkhitaryan Swap Teams; Former Soccer Star Sworn In As President. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired January 23, 2018 - 02:00   ET


[02:00:00] 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. (INAUDIBLE) then what this now means for a deal on immigration?

Plus, Turkey expanding a military (INAUDIBLE) in northern Syria as concerns grow about another humanitarian crisis.

And Rohingya repatriation, but most would rather stay in squalid refugee camps than return to Myanmar, a place where the government has been accused of ethnic cleansing.

Hello, welcome to our viewers all over the world. I am John Vause. It is great to have you with us. "Newsroom L.A." starts now.

The U.S. government will be opened for business on Tuesday after the House 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 in the first place.

Democrats are demanding protection for the hundreds of thousands of so-called "dreamers," children brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents.


SEN. 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 real pathway to get a bill on the floor and through the Senate.

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

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: Earlier, the U.S. president tweeted this. Big win for Republicans as Democrats cave on shutdown. Now I want a big win to everyone including Republicans, Democrats, and DACA -- that's reference to the "dreamers" -- 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, talk radio host and political columnist and Trump supporter John Phillips, and CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for The Atlantic Ron Brownstein.

OK, John, first to you, let's pick out with that statement that Mitch McConnell made on the floor of the Senate. Given his track record in recent years, isn't it just a bit (INAUDIBLE)?


JOHN PHILLIPS, TALK RADIO HOST, POLITICAL COLUMNIST, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Well, I think we can call this the Chick-Fill-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 plays his handy cards perfectly here. The deal that he offered Democrats on Friday was the exact same deal that the Democrats took today. You should take Chuck Schumer and put him in a Chevrolet Corvair because that guy (INAUDIBLE).

VAUSE: Why didn't he take that deal, the spending bill, why he didn't take it on Friday?

PHILLIPS: The Democrats were the ones who 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. 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 is Congressional Black Caucus chairman, Cedric Richmond. He blames Schumer for making the whole debate about immigration. According to one Democrat in the meeting on Monday, he said about Senate Democrats, they're getting their butts kicked.

Here's a statement from OFA, the political obviously to Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Let's be clear. The stopgap measure is not a solution. It's merely a band-aid for self-inflicted wound that remains untreated.

And from the liberal group, CREDO Action, it's official. Chuck Schumer is the worst negotiator in Washington, even worse 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 LOS ANGELES CITY COUNCILWOMAN: I don't think anyone won in this last three days. Not the Republicans, not the Democrats --

VAUSE: You lost more, rather, then.

GREUEL: I think the biggest loser was Trump --

VAUSE: Right.

GREUEL: -- because, you know, here was Trump who was 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 that just, you know, a week and a half ago.


GREUEL: 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 instead of sitting in the White House

[02:05:00] listening to the demonstrators outside. And I think the point is that this is an issue that is very important to all of Americans. You look at the numbers, 80 percent believe that we should adapt DACA, you know, to be able to do that. The reason we are even in the C.R., continue resolution, is because the Republicans hadn't done their job.


VAUSE: More Americans believe it (INAUDIBLE). Ron, just to that point with the president, what does it say that this deal is made because they locked him in a room somewhere and didn't have him involved?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, 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 is odd to hear this kind of sputtering and disappointment from Democrats, because if anybody should understand that a government shutdown is to indiscriminate a weapon to really be effective, it should be Democrats who watch Republicans flail and fail at trying to move Bill Clinton in 1994, 1995 and Barack Obama in 2013 with government shutdowns, like cover each of them.

And once again, you know, there's just too much collateral damage for this to an effective political weapon. 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 will protect the DACA recipients. But, twice before, 2006 and 2013, bipartisan coalitions in the 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 a majority oppose. You tell me, Jeff (ph), you know, what are the odds to that? Or if Donald Trump ultimately gives them cover to do it.

VAUSE: OK, so then that raises the question, which president will turn up for negotiations on immigration? Will it be this guy?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We're working on a plan for DACA. People want to see that happen. You have 800,000 young people brought here.

There should be a bipartisan bill. There should a bill of love. Truly, it should be a bill of love and we can do that.

The "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?


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 "dreamers?" 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 deal. Right now, when you are making legislation, it's the art of the possible. And if he is going to get any kind of democratic votes or he is 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's 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 involved. On the one hand, Democrats 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 said they were 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 not going to happen in return for legal status for 800,000 young people.

VAUSE: John mentioned sweetness 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 accused them of being complicit of murder over the commercial (INAUDIBLE)?

GREUEL: You know, 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 say consistent, as as you said, which president is he? The Tuesday president or the Thursday president?

VAUSE: Right, yes.

[02:10:00] 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, the gang of 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. 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's going in this direction and we got to get something because immigrants and DACA from the public's perspective is something very important to be adopted.

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


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just so 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 part of that process. I couldn't speak to that.


VAUSE: OK (INAUDIBLE) million miles away from this ad, whether the president approve it or not, whether he was part of it.

GREUEL: He's in it.


VAUSE: Just for the record, here we go.


TRUMP: I am Donald Trump and I approve this message.


VAUSE: In case you guys missed it. John, apart from that, there was actually no proof that immigrants raise crime rates in the United States. This ad 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 re-election, it's in a bunch of red states. It is 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 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: On the flip side of that, and John is right, I mean, the Democrats are defending 10 senate seats in states 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 shared immigrants.

Twenty-six of the 30 states Donald Trump won come from the states with the fewest share of immigrants. Eight-five percent of the House Republicans are in districts with fewer immigrants in the national average. The Republican Party is the party of the parts of America that are largely untouched by demographic and immigration change.

On the other hand, they still have some outposts in these urban/suburban areas 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. 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 flip side 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: Clearly Donald Trump's playing to his base with this commerciald and a bunch of other stuff. But, you know, it doesn't come without a cost. And what we've been seeing in some of those polls, especially among women voters. Last April, support for the president among white women was at 47 percent, that is according the ABC News Washington Post.

Now stands at 37 percent. And among college-educated white women, 40 percent approval in April, now down to just down to 27 percent. Wendy, disapproval certainly was sort of big turnout for the women's march again on the anniversary of the weekend. But how do Democrats turn that disapproval and that notch into votes?

GREUEL: I think that's what you saw on a lot of the marches that happened this last weekend. It wasn't just about being there to complain about something, but it was a lot about voter registration, about where we are going to focus 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 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 seven seats and many of those Republicans have now left.

VAUSE: Retired.

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

VAUSE: Very quickly, Ron, the numbers, the polling among women, also the polling college-educated whites and blue-collar whites that supported Trump, are those numbers getting to a terminal point? BROWNSTEIN: No. I think there are two pieces that Democrats clearly see moving in their direction. One is that they're getting better turnout in this off-year elections among minorities and young people than usually get in 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 special elections. But the third piece isn't there yet, which is that in the polling and in Alabama and Virginia and other elections in 2017, they have not seen the breakthroughs in blue collar

[02:15:00] 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 is very little margin for error and they have not yet shown that rural and blue-collar core of Donald Trump is willing to break away. We talked about the women.

Two-thirds of white women without a college degree voted Republican in Virginia, almost three-quarters did in Alabama. Even as the white- collar women are moving away from them, the Democrats haven't yet shown they can extend that all the way across the income ladder.

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

PHILLIPS: Yes, exactly. It's very fluid to say the least.

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

The U.S. urging restraint as Turkish war planes and troops target Syrian Kurdish fighters. But Ankara is lashing out at Washington, vowing there will be no standing back in this military offensive. Details in a moment.


VAUSE: In Syria, Shelling has killed nine people, wounded 21 others, in a Damascus neighborhood. According to state-run news there, rebels fired the mortar shells into the capital from Eastern Ghouta. Rebel (ph) groups control the eastern part of Ghouta, which has been (INAUDIBLE) by Syrian government forces for more than four years.

Both the U.S. and U.N. Security Council urging Turkey to exercise restraint as it steps up a military offensive in northern Syria. There have been no demands for Turkey to end the assault on Syrian Kurdish forces in the Afrin area.

Turkey says the U.S.-backed Kurdish militias are terrorists (INAUDIBLE) highly critical of the U.S. for supplying the group with weapons during the fight with ISIS. (INAUDIBLE) military says one soldier has already been killed. The Kurdish-led Syrian forces are warning the Turks heading into (INAUDIBLE). even so, Turkey's deputy prime minister says there is no stepping back.

(START VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE (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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Turkish state had failed in its open war against our nation in the name of its different organizations. Now, it's time to take off the mask and start the war under the official identity of the Turkish army. It started the attack on Afrin, which will be a quagmire from which the Turkish army will only exit after suffering great losses.


VAUSE: CNN security analyst Gail Tzemach Lemmon is with us, so to CNN military analyst, retired Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona. Thank you both for being here.

Gail, as in all things which are Syria, this is complicated, but Turkey's military offensive is essentially creating a safe zone along the borders, essentially pushing these Kurdish forces back by about 20 miles. These are the same Kurdish forces which are armed by the United States,

[02:20:00] a crucial role in defeating ISIS. It seems the Americans have to make some big decisions here. Essentially will they continue to support the Kurdish fighters in Syria? Will they back away and give in to what Turkey is essentially demanding?

GAIL TZEMACH LEMMON, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Three words have characterized the entire Syria conflict for the United States and then what?


LEMMON: 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 (INAUDIBLE) was President Obama's directive, right? Use of local forces on the ground.

The most effective force in the view of the United States military to route ISIS from Raqqa and beyond, the YPG, which then became the Syrian Democratic force, the SDF. And all along the tension with Kirk Turkey was building and we have now seen it come to a crescendo.

VAUSE: I guess everyone knew this day is going to come. Colonel Francona, what hope does the U.S. actually have of maintaining any kind of stability in Syria without the Kurdish militias? You know, the other option is without Turkey?

RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: The answer, none. You know, the SDF, these Kurdish forces are the key to any American presence, any American influence in northeastern Syrian, any presence at all in northern Syria. But it goes much further than that. Remember the glue that held all this together was ISIS. ISIS is virtually gone now. So now all of these groups are figuring out, what are we going to do? And then what? So the Russians are looking at it. The Syrians, the Turks, the Americans, the Kurds. What happens now? And of course, 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 United States over Northern Syria? Is the United States willing to take on a NATO ally for the Kurds? You know, there is a lot of calculations that have to be done as we go into the future. And as Gail said, and then what?

VAUSE: Yes. Gail, last week, the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, announced the U.S. would be supporting this new 30,000 strong force led by the Kurds who would be the northern and eastern part of Syria. Was that the excuse that Turkey has essentially been waiting for?

LEMMON: There is one set of analysts who say, listen, Turkey was looking for this because of its domestic situation, election is coming up. But Turkey has made no secret. This same fighting force that 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 oppose conflict in Northern Syria.

The question is, what happens if Turkey goes farther? And I don't think U.S. policymakers want to answer that question. They really hope not to to have to answer it. They are working to backtrack on -- 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: Rick, this offensive has been driven out of concern that the Kurds in Syria could actually end up supporting the Kurdish workers party, the PKK in Turkey, it's considered the terrorist group by the Turkish government. The U.S. and the E.U. for the most part considered PKK a terrorist group. Is that justified?

FRANCONA: Of course. I mean, I know the American position is the YPG is different from PKK. But 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 is not reason for the Turks to be concerned. But I don't think there's excuse for the Turks to get in there and march, as they've said, all the way from (INAUDIBLE), all the way to the Iraqi border, that's just not going to fly. But there's so many equities involved here.

VAUSE: In your opinion, why is Erdogan so involved in here? 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: Well, Erdogan has his own domestic problems inside Turkey. So he has got to bolster his own (INAUDIBLE) with his people. And he can do that by taking the hard line in Northern Syria. I 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. They don't make a distinction between YPG and PKK.

The Turks can do pretty much what they want in Northern Syria and they have the backing of the Turkish people so it is very, every difficult for the United States to intervene in the NATO allies kind of internal affairs.

VAUSE: Gail, very quickly, almost out of time. This is early days for this offensive. But are these beginnings of another humanitarian crisis?

[02:25:00] LEMMON: I think all of Syria is a humanitarian crisis.


LEMMON: 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 children fall from balconies, under barrel bombs, has watched now children who are trying to escape Northern Syria die in the winter. So I don't think that this is the next humanitarian crisis, but I don't think it is helpful to a country that has already endured so much.

VAUSE: OK, Gail, good to have you with us. We appreciate it. Also, Colonel Francona, good to speak with you as well.

FRANCONA: Thank you.

VAUSE: And still to come here, Rohingya refugees refusing to be sent back to Myanmar, terrified they could once again be at the mercy of a military accused of ethnic cleansing.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching "CNN Newsroom" live from Los Angeles." I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour.

The three-day U.S. government shutdown is over. Donald Trump has signed a bill to fund the government only until February 8th. Democrats agreed to that deal after the top senate Republican promised his intention to take up the immigration debate, which prompted the shutdown. President Trump says the Democrats caved, tweeting in part, see you at the negotiating table.

Turkey says it won't step back from its ongoing military offensive against U.S.-backed Kurdish militia in Northern Syria, even though the U.S. and the U.N. are urging restraint. Kurdish troops ended the Kurdish- held Afrin area on Sunday, one day after (INAUDIBLE) Kurdish militia targets.

Hundreds of Haitians are sending a message to the U.S. president, marching in (INAUDIBLE) to protest the vulgar term he reportedly used to Haiti and some other African countries. Protesters, at least some of them, threw stones, but they were blocked from passing the American Embassy.

Many Rohingya refugees fear they will again face ethnic cleansing if they're sent back to Myanmar. After fleeing rape, torture and murder, more than 650,000 Rohingya are living in squalid conditions in camps in Bangladesh. Both countries are working on the logistics of repatriation. For now, there has been no movement of any refugee. Actors are warning it may be too soon and too dangerous to send Rohingya back. Details from Clarissa Ward.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): They are fleeing for their lives. After an arduous 10-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,

[02:30:00] but then they destroyed my house so there was no place for me to stay.

Mohammed left with 43 others from his village, more than half of them women and children. Now, they are being told to return to the place that nearly killed them. As official betting 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 of 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, REPRESENTATIVE, 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.

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 will be happy to die here because 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: Well, Matthew Smith is co-founder 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 whether there's been somehow 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, CO-FOUNDER, FORTIFY RIGHTS: Well, we're hearing -- we're hearing something similar from Bangladesh officials. Essentially it appears as though they're -- they were unable to get refugees on the Bangladesh side of the border to participate 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. 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 -- 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's been a bit vague about it. But as far as we can tell, refugees are not ling up to go back to a country that they just fled from in recent weeks and months. You know, it wasn't -- it wasn't that long ago that the Myanmar army was running down diligence, committing massacres, mass rape, it was 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 so this repatriation your organization released a video, it features the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Here's a short clip.



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 -- in the -- 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 months ago.

[02:35:09] And so, from one perspective it appears 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 have not moved at all on the Myanmar side.

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



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? (INAUDIBLE) doesn't happen again.

SMITH: Right. It's a good point, John. And, you know, there had -- 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. fact-finders access to northern Rakhine, there are some aid groups but they have very limited access. So, there is a -- there is a tremendous fear that we haven't seen the worst of the violence and the killings.

VAUSE: Yes. And clearly, so many don't just 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: Well, the world economic forum started without the U.S. President but when he finally does arrive in Davos, the IMF have some good news for him. The details in just a moment.


VAUSE: In just a few days, U.S. President Donald Trump will arrive in Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum, they rub elbows with the world's financial and political elite. But will he rub the wrong way? Mr. Trump's America First agenda is far from the global economic view many of these leaders live by. And in fact, the theme of the forum is, strengthening cooperation in a fractured world. In his defense, Mr. Trump could point to new projections from the IMF which show U.S tax cuts will spur global growth. CNN's International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson is in Davos. He joins us now live. So Nic, we'll get to the IMF and economic growth in a moment. Here's a headline from Politico a few weeks ago.

[02:40:05] Coming soon to Davos, a Trump stink bomb. And so he goes on to quote White House Advisor saying Davos will be the perfect place for Trump unleash on especially gassy stink bomb he said and ideas he deploys like free trade. Back on the stuff. All the stuff that the global elites love. Is that still the expectation?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: I think the expectation here is to wait and watch. Certainly, Trump's reputation does go ahead of him. They were able to watch him if you like last year some of the summits in Asia where he delivered his own message of what he thinks United States trade with the rest of the world should look like. That it should be fair and balanced. And that was against the nature of every other -- almost every other speaker at that particular conference. So, it will be no surprise to anyone here that if he shows that he sticks to his own message. And yes, it would be in the terms of what Politico is saying, certainly potential to ruffle feathers here. But there's going to be a lot said before he arrived. Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister gets the keynotes speech this morning, Justin Trudeau will be speaking, Erna Solberg, the Norwegian Prime Minister, also speaking today, Cate Blanchett will be talking about refugees.

The great and the good will be here. Angela Merkel, the British Prime Minister Theresa May will be here as well, Emmanuel Macron, the French President will all be here. Perhaps Trump will get a chance to meet some of them. But they will all get a chance to put their message of what they see the future should look like. The shared future that helps to sort of build a better world and a more -- a more sharing and caring world if you will. And that does seem to be, you know, in contrast to some of the things that Donald Trump has said, at least in the minds of the leaders here. By the time he gets his big speech on Friday, traditionally a lot of the key players would have left the Davos Summit already. But I think at this forum perhaps it will be different and they will hang around to hear what he has to say and judge them for themselves how stinky or otherwise, yes.

VAUSE: Yes. Very (INAUDIBLE) we're almost out of time. But, you know, Donald Trump does have a pretty good comeback to any criticism. He employs to the IMF prediction for global economic growth, he can point to stock markets around the of world which are booming, you know, both of which, you know, you could make a pretty good argument that is a Trump tax cut which, you know, responsible for all means or way.

ROBERTSON: Yes. Christine Lagarde from the IMF made that point as well. But, you know, I think economic analysts are saying, well, three-quarters of the -- sort of countries around the world are seeing an improvement in their GDP though that, you know, there is this broad-based economic growth. They're predicting it for 2018-2019 and Davos often does, you know, people come here together and kind of look at what's happened over the past year or couple of years and try to come up with answers for the immediate future. But I think the economic analysts are also saying, you know, we don't know where -- we don't know where the global economy is going after 2019.

Now, OK, that would leave us to 2020 which is pretty much when President Trump would be considering or not running for re-election or when he would be if you will running for re-election should he desire. So, you know, it's a long game for the global economy as everyone knows is a long game. So, while he may be able to take some kodus here from the IMF, the real analysts will be looking and saying, OK, let's see where we are in a few years.

VAUSE: A long game for a leader who's currently or often thought of it as day trader. Nic, good to see you. Thank you. Nic Robertson there from Davos. And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause. Stay with us. "WORLD SPORT" is up next and you are watching CNN.


[02:45:16] PATRICK SNELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL SPORTS ANCHOR: Hi there, thanks for joining us. Welcome to CNN WORLD SPORT, today. I want to get started at the Australian Open in Melbourne, where the first male player into the semifinals is not defending champion. Roger Federer, is not a world number one, either, Rafe Nadal. It's the young Englishman Kyle Edmund, the player ranked 49th in the world and one who's yet to even reach an ATP tour final, never mind if he win a title on Tuesday.

He faced the world No. 3, Grigor Dimitrov and showed maturity beyond this year to record a memorable four-set victory to reach his first ever Grand Slam semi, since. It's been quite the journey for Edmond to act this year's event his clearly not shorten confidence, either. Earlier in the week, after beating the Italian, Andreas Seppi, he said he had to believe he was in with a chance of actually winning the whole thing.

A super performance from the Yorkshire man, with 4-6 winners, and after two previous career losses to Dimitrov, is now a first-ever win against the Bulgarian. What a story, time is very much on his side too. The Johannesburg-born Edmond has only just turned 23 years of age. This is a world ranking currently, its 49th. That's going to improve drastically after this tournament.

Sad to say, he's far exceeded expectations here already, his previous best finish at a slam was reaching the fourth round at the 2016 U.S. Open in New York City. Now, becomes just the sixth British man to reach the semifinals of an open era Grand Slam. An outstanding achievement for him who's he going to meet in the semis? Well, we can tell you.

Either, the four mention world No. 1 Rafa, all the Croatian, Marin Cilic, those to meet in later on Tuesday. Down on the Elsewhere in quarterfinal action, another fairy tale run singing America's tennis (INAUDIBLE), facing 21-year-old rising star from South Korea, Hyeon Chung, next and the winner of that will face a certain Roger Federer, in the semis if the defending champ can see off the challenger Thomas (INAUDIBLE). The fed should be feeling pretty confident about that one, he's on their last eight encounters.

While on the women side of things, the eye-catching former Elize Mertens continues. Mertens becoming the first Belgian player now to reach a Grand Slam semi since Kirsten Flipkens, the 2013 Wimbledon in England.

She had quite to shock install as well, for the fourth seated Ukrainian player, Elina Svitolina on Tuesday. The 22-year-old, Merten wasn't hanging around, they to getting the job done in convincing fashion winning at 4-0 in just over 70 minutes out on Rod Laver Arena. She successfully defended her title in Hobart recently. And with this victory, she's now on ten matches on the trot. Mertens will next face either second-seeded dame Caroline Wozniacki or Carla Suarez Navarro will meet later on.

We mentioned that huge breakthrough victory for British tennis star Kyle Edmund, but the same cannot be said for his favorite football team, Liverpool. On Monday night, Jurgen Klopp's team taking their astounding recent premier league form to the bottom of the table Swansea. And this, remember, just a week on from the Reds' superb 4-3 victory over runaway leaders Manchester City.

Liverpool were unbeaten in their last 18 matches but they fell behind shortly before the halftime break when the Swans took the lead to their defender Alfie Mawson who scramble the ball home. He (INAUDIBLE) were frustrated throughout but they must be regretting Roberto Firmino's wonderful opportunity to leveled deep into (INAUDIBLE) stand, the Brazilian denied by the woodwork with the rest of the goal gaping 1-0 Swansea, it would end.

Nobody saw that coming, especially after the way Liverpool played against Pep Guardiola's team recently. By the way, it's the Reds' first defeat in 15 now in the premier. Their first loss in (INAUDIBLE), October of last year, credit Swansea though they're still bottom of the table. But this famous victory will give the Swans a huge confidence boost.

Meantime, Manchester United's latest new signing, the Chilean footballer Alexi Sanchez, could make his debut for the Red Devils on Friday. When Jose Mourinho's men travel to face fourth tier (INAUDIBLE) town in the F.A. Cup. So, I wonder, is the South American poised to hit the right note from day one?

Oh, the old glory, glory man united. To have a club unveiling Sanchez in a glimpse social media presentation on Monday after beating (INAUDIBLE) City to the punch to snap up the now former Arsenal man, a player. Mourinho describes as one of the best-attacking players in world football, a Chilean international who scored 60 times for the gunners in the Premier League, will wear the iconic number 7 shirt, a United shirt previously worn by legends like Best, Robson, Contino, Beckham, and Ronaldo. He's put pen to paper on a 4-1/2 year deal, adding he feels he's joining the biggest club in the world.

Now, this is one of those rare swap deals we're seeing here between United and Arsenal. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, going the other way. There are many saying, it's a dream come true to play for the North London Club.

And we turning the spotlight on next month's Olympics in South Korean, next with one on one with America's snowboarding teen who could well be poised to become an overnight Winter Games sensation in Pyeongchang.


[02:52:40] SNELL: Welcome back here, this is CNN WORLD SPORT. From international football star, to head of State, George Weah, now officially sworn in as Liberia's new President. This following the country's first democratic transfer of power in more than 70 years.

Now, during a star-studded career, Weah would have successful spells with Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain, and Italian giants, Milan. As well the coming tip was world player of the year back in 1995. The 51- year-old, Weah, is taking over from Africa's first female President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

We're edging ever closer to next month's Winter Olympics in South Korea. The Olympic is, of course, a time when new stars are born, and times it can almost be an instant transition into overnight superstardom, as well.

One such candidate for just that, the young American snowboarder Chloe Kim. And how about this, she just 17 years of age and for some at least. She's in with a real chance of a gold medal in Pyeongchang. In fact, many felt she was good enough to medal four years ago in Sochi, but was too young to compete. She's been reflecting on just that and plenty more besides with our Don Riddell.


CHLOE KIM, SNOWBOARDER, UNITED STATES SKI TEAM: Now that I look back at it, I think, you know -- I'm kind of glad I was an old enough to go. I think that was just -- that's too much stress for a 13-year- old. So, I'm actually really happy that I wasn't able to go but I was still lucky to be able to go through the whole qualification process when I was13. And when I couldn't go, and so, I think that really help me this year kind of knowing had of time what it was going to be like, what the pressure was going to be like. So, I think that was very comforting, for me.

DON RIDDELL, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: And we'll you're certainly ready to go now. This of course, now does mean that the narrative lines up perfectly with your family story because your first Olympics will be in your parents' homeland, Korea. What does that mean to you, home?

KIM: Ah, I think it's very special. I feel like this unique opportunity to represent both Korea and the States. But, I think my families just so excited, my (INAUDIBLE), my grandma's in Korea, I have two aunts and three cousins in Korea, as well. So, I think it will be really exciting for them to come watch me compete at the Olympics. I think it will be a very memorable moment for all of us.

RIDDELL: Yes, for sure. And of course, you were actually in Korea last year where I think you were mob by the fans. I know that you identify very much as an American but which fans do you think get the most excited about you?

[02:55:14] KIM: I definitely have a lot of Korean-American fans which is amazing. But, you know, I love -- I love all my fans, I love meeting them. But, it's just -- I'm so happy to have all the support from everyone all around the world. And I'm forever thankful for all of them.

RIDDELL: I'd love to know how you're dealing with it, given that you are still just 17 years old. You're already very well known, of course, in your community. You're very popular on social media, but exposure of the Olympics could take your fame and fortune to a whole other level. How are you preparing for that?

KIM: Am, I actually not thinking about it too much. I actually have X-games this week, so, I'm a little more focused on that. But, I think for -- when it comes to the Olympics, I'm just excited to experience it and I'm curious to see how I'm going to handle the pressure and the stress. But, I actually haven't thought about that. So, you have just given me something to think about, thank you.

RIDDELL: Yes, it's all going to happen very, very quickly for you. Finally, Chloe, I get the sense with snowboarders sometimes that it's less about the win and more about the art form and the performance. I don't know if that's true, what do you think? What motivates you?

KIM: I think the close thing about snowboarding is that everyone has their own unique style. You know, two people could do the same trick but make it look completely different. And I think that's of -- you know, beautiful about snowboarding. You know, I could even just watch to my friends ride down without doing any tricks and I'll know exactly who they are because of the way they ride, the way their hand is -- you know. Or the way they're bending they're knees, I don't know. But, it's just so unique and I think that's really cool about it because it doesn't look the same. Everyone has their own special thing that they do and I think it's really beautiful.


SNELL: Still just 17 years of age. Do join us for later Tuesday edition of WORLD SPORT. Thanks so much for watching, stay with CNN.