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Casino Mogul Resigns as Republican Finance Chair; Kabul Bombing Comes a Week after Hotel Attack; Police Raid Kremlin Critic's Office; Michigan Special Prosecutor Investigates MSU; Some State Department Employees Say They Face Retribution; Paris on Flood Alert as Seine Rises; Teen is Youngest to Row Atlantic Solo; Grammys #NotSoWhite This Year. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired January 28, 2018 - 04:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Calling it quits: a Las Vegas casino mogul accused of sexual misconduct is stepping down from the Republican National Committee.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Explosives, hidden inside an ambulance. We look at the horrific massacre in Kabul.

HOWELL (voice-over): And one young man's determination to make history. Rowing solo across the Atlantic for a good cause. Wow.

ALLEN (voice-over): And, he's just 19 years old.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. We are live in Atlanta, I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL (voice-over): And I'm George Howell from CNN World Headquarters, NEWSROOM starts right now.


HOWELL: It's 4:00 am on the U.S. East Coast.

He's a casino mogul in Las Vegas, Nevada, a political ally of the U.S. president but now Steve Wynn is out as the main fundraiser for the Republican National Committee.

Faced with multiple sexual misconduct allegations, Wynn resigned as finance chair. Dozens of his employees told "The Wall Street Journal" about a pattern of misconduct going back decades.

ALLEN: Wynn denies all of the allegations. He is a business rival turned friend to Donald Trump. And it was the president who first tapped him for his post at the Republican National Committee. Boris Sanchez has more for us from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: On background, a White House official tells CNN that President Trump supported the resignation of Steve Wynn from the Republican National Committee.

There was some question as to how the White House would approach this situation, considering some inconsistencies in the past when responding to sexual assault allegations.

You'll recall, in just the past two months, the White House simultaneously demanded the resignation of former Senator Al Franken while backing Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, two men that were both accused of sexual misconduct.

President Trump is actually supposed to see Steve Wynn last weekend at a fundraiser in Mar-a-lago. The president couldn't attend the fundraiser because of the government shutdown.

But Wynn took the stage and gave a speech in which he defended the president and his agenda. Here's some more of what Steve Wynn said Saturday night at Mar-a-lago.


STEVE WYNN, WYNN RESORTS: And then all of a sudden, once again in American history, an unlikely person became president, perhaps the most unlikely of all since Abe Lincoln. Donald John Trump became 45th President of the United States, to the chagrin, to the hysterical chagrin, of the other side. He was their worst nightmare.


SANCHEZ: Though in 2016, President Trump called Steve Wynn "a great friend," the two men have historically had some rocky moments. They were competing hotel and casino tycoons who've known each other for 34 years.

Ultimately, with President Trump handpicking Wynn to be the finance chairman for the RNC and now, on Saturday, again, a White House official telling CNN that the president backs his resignation, in part, to limit any kind of political damage that could hit the RNC or the White House -- Boris Sanchez, CNN, at the White House.


ALLEN: Joining me now to talk more on this, Peter Matthews. He is a professor of political science at Cypress College.

Peter, thanks for joining us.

PETER MATTHEWS, CYPRESS COLLEGE: Good to be here, thank you.

ALLEN: Let's begin with yet another sexual harassment scandal this country is hearing about. It involves accusations against Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn. He has stepped down as finance manager of the Republican National Committee, a position handpicked by President Trump for him. What are the ramifications of what could be another sex scandal, this

the first CEO of a public company accused?

MATTHEWS: The ramifications are huge, because, you know, here's a powerful man, once again, taking advantage of women that worked for him or his company. And he was the head of the fundraising. I think personally donated $100,000 to candidates. And some of those candidates are having to give the money back.

So it throws a lot of disarray in the picture, not to mention the fact that the women themselves were widely suffering and it's more an example of powerful men taking advantage of many women who worked with or for them.

So it's not good at all for the Republican National Committee or for the women especially and for Steve Wynn either or for Trump himself.

ALLEN: Of course he categorically denies all of the accusations. There is an investigation going on with his company into what allegedly happened.

So you see this, in some way, impacting the Republican National Committee?

MATTHEWS: Absolutely. Also the election's coming up, this November 2018, and that's -- those elections are very important because it's a chance that the Democrats have to capture the House and Senate back.

And this is going to be a negative force on the Republican candidates, because, again, it's their party. It's their head of their RNC and they've taken money from him and he raised money for them. So there's some taint there.


MATTHEWS: I'm not saying it's 100 percent effect on them but it's not going to help them in any way. It could have an impact on some races, especially close races.

ALLEN: The president, though, is set to deliver his State of the Union speech this week. Let's talk about that. The economy is good. The tax cuts well received by many in corporate America. Some corporations handing down pay raises now to employees. He's got some good stuff that he'll likely tout.

What else, though, does this president have to brag about or what achievement can he rally behind in this very important speech?

MATTHEWS: Well, he's going to brag about the tax cuts, of course, but also he's going to brag about having repealed ObamaCare as an individual mandate and a few other things, like the Supreme Court justice appointment that he got for Neil Gorsuch.

But he's also going to ask for infrastructure spending and to have immigration reform in a very conservative, right-wing manner, which is going to be very troubling for a lot of people. And infrastructure spending, he's asking for $1 trillion; whereas the American Society of Civil Engineers said it will take at least $3 trillion to bring the American infrastructure back up to par.

Our roads, our bridges, our sewer systems, our airports are all in disarray in many cases and decrepit so we have to see whether Trump's recommendation is even enough. He's going to be asking for those kinds of things for sure. And immigration, again, going back to immigration, it's going to be a problem because he's asking to stop family unification, as he calls it, chain immigration, which means keeping families together as opposed to just having high-tech people come into America, which he wants. It's going to be a complete radical change and departure from our recent immigration policy of having people unite with their families and have a strong base here of society built in America through immigration.

ALLEN: Of course, he gives his speech under the cloud of the Russia investigation. That goes on amid reports that he tried to fire Mr. Mueller back this summer. As that hangs over his head, a lot rides then on this speech. We saw him stick to the speech at Davos and get a good response.

Do you expect he'll do the same, coming up here?

MATTHEWS: That is very difficult to predict because you know Mr. Trump. If he sticks to teleprompter he's generally OK as far as the form goes. But he doesn't just stick to the teleprompter. He likes to go off script.

And in Davos he was on script for sure. But this time you've got 48 million people watching, Natalie. That is a huge audience and what happens once the speech is over?

Even if he sticks to the script, will he stick to script after the speech is over, the next week or two, when the focus should be on the items in the speech as opposed to some 240-word character tweet?

He could tweet something that will throw people completely off from what he said in the State of the Union address. So that's something we have to watch and see what happens in the next couple of weeks.

ALLEN: We thank you for joining us, Peter Matthews. Thanks, Peter.

MATTHEWS: My pleasure, thank you.

ALLEN: And that State of the Union address will happen Tuesday. You can see it right here on CNN, coverage begins at 8:00 pm Tuesday in New York. That's 9:00 am Wednesday morning in Hong Kong.

HOWELL: In Afghanistan, the government has declared Sunday a national day of mourning after a vicious bombing that took place in Kabul. The attack happened a little more than 24 hours ago. Authorities say that a driver was able to get through a checkpoint and detonate explosives packed into an ambulance. At least 95 people were killed and almost 200 others wounded.

ALLEN: A spokesman for the Taliban claims the group is responsible. U.S. President Donald Trump calls the bombing "despicable." He also said it has renewed the resolve of the U.S. and its Afghan partners.

HOWELL: Let's get the very latest on this attack from journalist Bilal Sarwary, joining this hour from the Afghan capital.

Thank you so much for your time today, Bilal. First, let's talk about the nature of how this happened, an ambulance with explosives packed in it gets past a checkpoint in order to carry out such a destructive attack.

What more do we know about the security situation, how this vehicle was able to get past an inspection?

BILAL SARWARY, JOURNALIST: Well, Afghan counterterrorism officials are saying that's exactly what they want to find out. But what is clear, the attacker was in an ambulance, he had said he had a patient when he was stopped at the second checkpoint. That's when he detonated his explosives.

A day after that attack, today, Kabul is a city with a broken heart and with a broken soul. I was able to go out in the city. I really didn't see the same hustle and bustle, the traffic jams, the life, although Kabul is quite chaotic as a city.

So obviously, Afghanistan continues to lose not only with lives but also there are economic losses. And people are actually quite scared to come out and just do their daily day-to-day business.

At this stage, sources within the health ministry are saying that a number of those people wounded --


SARWARY: -- some of them are in critical conditions. We know some of the victims have lost their body parts, like arms and legs and some family members are even still trying to find out what happened to their loved ones.

And there's a lot of criticism that why the Afghan government still does not have a hotline, given the fact that these attacks are happening now, unfortunately, on a more regular basis.

I spoke to the family of 29-year-old Jafar (ph), a young man who had finished school and he wanted to take admission in university. So he's among those killed. Obviously, there are a lot of heartbreaks.

And Afghanistan just continues to really have these heartbreaks which are becoming, unfortunately, the new normal and this is a city of at least 7 million people. So people are actually really asking for some sense of responsibility and security from the government.

HOWELL: Bilal, this attack happening on Chicken Street, near an area that's known for shopping, people coming together, government buildings there. But let's put this into context, because, just a week ago, Bilal, we saw another attack at the Intercontinental Hotel there.

Is there a sense among people that the Taliban is picking up the pace here?

And what are people saying about that?

SARWARY: Well, we've definitely seen a very clear shift in strategy, both on the part of Taliban and the Islamic State in terms of moving the fighting from the provinces and rural areas into the cities.

We have to remember, the American military, other international forces, Afghan special forces, are really going after mid- and high- level Taliban as well as Islamic State leadership.

So they've lost their commanders and fighters. And I think they want to strike inside cities to create a climate of fear but to also really send a message that we can actually hit you in some of the most secure locations.

Where the attack took place, this used to be the old interior ministry and it's not very far from the Swedish embassy, from the European Union, from the Indonesian embassy and from the country's high peace council.

I think what the people of Afghanistan are demanding is that officials responsible for the security of Kabul be held responsible, that this culture of impunity must end. And remember, this is almost becoming like a disease, these security and intelligence breaches, which really also respects international diplomats and aid workers from doing their work effectively because now they are forced to work from behind glass walls.

And this attack also comes after the big truck bomb that Afghanistan's capital had in 2017. So we already see the impact of that truck bomb attack, whether it's investors not wanting to invest or international aid organizations that really cannot operate in a safe environment.

HOWELL: Well, you touched on this but I want to push further. I mean, in the sense that we've seen the Taliban carry out many attacks, we've seen them reclaim some security that had been previously lost. The U.S. president singled out neighboring Pakistan for not doing enough to crack down on the group and its reach into Afghanistan.

The question that I pose to you, is there a sense among people there, among officials there, that enough is being done on either side of the border, quite frankly, to make an impact on this group?

SARWARY: Well, we have seen this tit-for-tat for almost last 17 years, you know. What the Americans and Afghan officials really want Pakistan is to go after Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani Network, the Pakistan-based militant network.

Sirajuddin Haqqani is the deputy head of operations for the Taliban. So there's clearly that expectation that Pakistan needs to really move against those militant groups and leadership. And there are also accusations that there's institutional support for groups like the Haqqani Network.

But let's also not forget, the Afghan government is struggling after a disputed election in 2014.

And what we have seen is a lot of criticism directed at the government, saying, you know, why are the police chiefs not able to do their job?

Why are you not bringing, President Hamid (ph), the right people into these jobs?

So you know, Afghanistan has its own issues, no doubt. But I think what you, you know, constantly hear in public these days, even the U.S. president made it very clear, that Pakistan really needs to move against the leadership of the Taliban as well as the Haqqani Network.

And Sirajuddin Haqqani's group have really carried out some of the most deadliest attacks here in Kabul and elsewhere, especially against American forces. But you also have the issue of corruption and political instability.

You have Afghan leaders, you know, fighting in public, most of the times like children, and they hardly come across as leaders of --


SARWARY: -- a country that's at war.

So I think you hear a lot of, you know, grievances and there's a lot of frustration on the part of ordinary people.

But most importantly, you know, as someone told me yesterday, everywhere else, you know, death is by chance. These days in Kabul, you know, you have to really be lucky to be alive. And I think that sentiment, you know, is very well rooted among the citizens of Kabul, who are quite worried about the state of security.

HOWELL: People concerned, wanting more to be done about this. Journalist Bilal Sarwary, thank you so much for your time and the reporting today and we'll stay in touch with you.

ALLEN: It is shaping up to be a tense day in Russia. Thousands expected to protest the coming election, despite the government telling them to stay home. We'll take you live to Moscow for the very latest in just a moment.

HOWELL: Plus a reckoning in the U.S. State of Michigan. Investigators there dig into the university that employed and enabled sexual abuser Larry Nassar for nearly two decades. Stay with us.





ALLEN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. [04:20:00]

ALLEN: As anti-corruption protesters get ready to take to the streets of Moscow, the man behind the demonstration gets a visit from Russian police.

HOWELL: Officers raided the offices of Alexei Navalny, a prominent critic of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, this video from inside the office. Navalny tells CNN that he called for the protest and election boycott not only because he was barred from running but what he calls rampant corruption in the Putin regime.

ALLEN: In an exclusive interview with our Matthew Chance in Moscow, he talks about why he believes he was barred from running for president.


ALEXEI NAVALNY, RUSSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER (through translator): He is scared of all real competition. We see in these elections that he only allowed those to run who do not even resist, do not even do any campaigning.

When they saw that we are actually fighting for people's votes, they got scared. The famous Putin's ratings, all these 86 percent, 70 percent, all of that the sociologists and political analysts love to talk about, they exist in only one scenario: when Putin places the candidates he controls.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But that issue of polling numbers, I think, is important, because, as you say, Vladimir Putin is polling more than 80 percent popularity in this country, if you believe the opinion polls. But you're polling just 2 percent.

How much of a political threat does your movement really pose to this Kremlin juggernaut?

NAVALNY (through translator): Look, I stood for election just once in my life. In 2012, I participated in the Moscow mayor elections. And everyone was showing the polls when I had 2 percent. And without money or any media support, I got almost 30 percent.

Same thing goes for the presidential elections. Putin doesn't have an 80 percent rating. He has an 80 percent rating when compared to other candidates whom he has let run.


HOWELL: Let's get the latest live from the Russian capital. Our senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, following the story on both Navalny and these protests.

Fred, just the other day we heard from Navalny, that exclusive interview with Matthew Chance, Navalny essentially saying that he knows the risks, that he will not be silenced and now there is, almost predictably it seems, the news of this raid.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the news of this raid. You're absolutely right, that is something that many people were thinking, was going to happen.

And it happened around I would say 9:30, maybe 9:00 am earlier this morning that we got the word that the offices had been raided, that police officers went into those offices, apparently saying that there might have been a bomb threat coming from those offices.

Some Navalny staff were detained in those raids that took place. And only a couple of minutes ago, George, Alexei Navalny himself was actually interviewed by his staff on his YouTube channel.

One of the thing Navalny supporters are trying to do is stream a lot of the protests taking place here around the country because a lot of Russian state media simply isn't mentioning it or even covering it.

And there Alexei Navalny said the place he's in is also currently surrounded by police and that he can't get out, which would make it very difficult for him to actually attend the largest, what people believe will be one of the largest of these rallies that are set to take place nationwide here in Russia, which would be right here in Moscow.

So that will make it very difficult. And it really appears as though the authorities once again clamping down on Alexei Navalny -- George.

HOWELL: Let's talk about the protest, Fred, because with regard to how widespread the turnout is expected to be, which cities, you know, are predicted to see more people on the streets, is this as widespread across the nation as, you know, has been claimed?

PLEITGEN: Look, it usually is widespread around the nation. We've seen protests like this in the past that have gone and, you know, 80 to 100 cities here around Russia, which that, in itself, is quite a feat, considering how big Russia is with 11 time zones, obviously by far the largest country in the world.

Each of those protests in and among themselves, most often not many people show up there, sometimes just a couple of dozen. Sometimes it's a couple of hundred. The biggest protests usually are in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

And that's really where we're also going to look and see how the turnout is going to be this time.

You know, is Navalny's movement losing steam?

Is it maintaining it?

One of the things that we always need to mention, though, George, with a turnout today and why it's so interesting, is that, of course, Navalny's message does resonate with a certain part of the Russian population. But even among the opposition in this country, there are people who

criticize Navalny, who say, look, you shouldn't be calling for a boycott to the election. People should still go to the election.

And obviously some of the other opposition candidates that are running believe that that is quite unfair. So it's going to be very, very interesting from many perspectives to see what the turnout is going to be today.

HOWELL: All right, our senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, following the story live in Moscow, thank you. We know you and your teams will be out to see how big these protests will be. Thank you so much.

ALLEN: Well, now to the growing fallout over the sexual --


ALLEN: -- assault of young gymnasts and women in the United States. Officials in Michigan opening up about an investigation into Larry Nassar and Michigan State University. The investigation has been going on since last year.

HOWELL: Nasser was the school's sports doctor for nearly two decades. During that time, he sexually abused dozens of young women. A special prosecutor is now looking into how the university failed to take action. Jean Casarez has details for us.


JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is now official: Michigan State University is being investigated by the attorney general's office here in Michigan. Bill Schuette, attorney general for the state, said that he didn't want to make it public until all of the young women had come forward with their victim impact statements.

But so much had happened in the last week, he believed that it was appropriate. He would not say whether it was an actual criminal investigation but they are bringing someone in from the outside.

His name is Bill Forsyth, a former prosecutor for 42 years. His title in this investigation: independent special prosecutor. Also he said that this was priority one for this investigation.

And he also had some words for the Michigan State University board of trustees, that last week issued a statement, saying, we think the attorney general's office should investigate our university.

Here's what he replied back to them.


BILL SCHUETTE, MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL: I don't need advice from the board of trustees at MSU about how to conduct an investigation. Frankly, they should be the last ones to be providing advice, given their conduct throughout this entire episode. Their conduct throughout this entire episode speaks for itself.


CASAREZ: The special prosecutor said that they will be looking for facts, which can possibly lead to potential evidence. And the big question in his mind is that how could Larry Nassar have been able to sexually assault girls associated with Michigan State University for over two decades? Jean Casarez, East Lansing, Michigan, CNN.


ALLEN: Troubles brewing at the U.S. State Department. High-level workers say they're reduced to doing menial tasks. Why the government put them there. We'll explore that coming up here.

HOWELL: Plus the River Seine overflows. How the floods are affecting the famous city's landmarks in Paris.


ALLEN: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. We're live in Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following this hour.


ALLEN: Now to a CNN exclusive. Some employees at the U.S. State Department say they're being punished for their previous work with the Obama administration.

HOWELL: Many are in jobs the Trump administration wants to shut down. Now some employees say they have hired attorneys. Elise Labott has more.


ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Top Democratic lawmakers are now calling on the State Department's watchdog to take what they call an immediate review of personnel practices there, after a growing number of employees told CNN they are being politically targeted and put in career purgatory for their work under the last administration.

Representatives Eliot Engel and Elijah Cummings, ranking members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter to the State Department's inspector general Friday, citing CNN's report on the issue.

Now several officials tell CNN they have retained attorneys after repeatedly trying unsuccessfully to raise concerns about being assigned to Freedom of Information Act requests. The congressman letter cites, quote, "credible allegations that the State Department has required high level career civil servants with distinguished records serving administrations of both parties to move to performing tasks outside their area of substantive expertise."

"At the very least," the congressmen charge, "this is a waste of taxpayer dollars. At worst it may constitute impermissible abuse and retaliation."

Now secretary of state Rex Tillerson has made clearing a backlog of FOIA requests a priority. He's reassigned staff throughout the building to help as part of what he calls a FOIA surge.

Now many of those assigned include senior employees who used to be detailed to other agencies or offices created by President Obama as policy priorities, which the Trump administration does not support.

Now the State Department denies political retribution is involved. Spokeswoman Heather Nauert says it's an all-hands-on-deck effort.

In a statement to CNN Nauert says, quote, "It may not be a glamorous job but it's an important one. People are asked to serve there because there's a need. It is without regard to politics."

And many of these employees are saying, we're happy to help but they want to be given substantive work on these issues, like handling classified information or dealing with foreign governments named in the documents.

They want to know why they are being asked to do the most menial of the tasks. They ask how could they be negotiating with foreign governments or advising the national security adviser, even the president on national security matters a few months ago; now they're being asked to do data entry and Google searches alongside interns and civil service employees 10 grades below them.

Now several officials concede this may not be entirely about politics. They say it could also be ad hoc and what they call simple mismanagement. But it all contributes to a widespread morale problem at the State Department that lawmakers are demanding be looked at.


HOWELL: All right, Elise Labott there reporting. Thank you.

The overflowing Seine River in Paris has engulfed roads and walkways after days of heavy rain and the water level, it's still rising.

ALLEN: Rivers should peak in the coming hours at nearly 6 meters or about 20 feet. Our Jim Bittermann has more on how this is impacting Paris.


JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: "Stabilize" is the word everybody's using this morning, because the situation is headed toward stabilization, the river levels are still rising and there was some rain overnight. But the Seine here in Paris is expected to peak sometime during the day today or overnight tonight, at about a little less than the levels of the flood of 2016. But there are big differences between this flood and that flood and one is that December was a very rainy month and the month of January, according to some people, was the second wettest in almost the century.

And because that, because of that, the reservoir is around Paris, which can have a buffering effect on the floodwaters, in fact, are now full. And if there`s any further rain, it has no place else to go but here.

But now, as a precaution, officials in Paris have evacuated some the low-lying apartments, basement apartments and especially on the west side of Paris and they have taken works of art out of some of the museums, out of the basements of some museums. They have as well closed down a gallery in the Louvre here behind me.

In terms of damages, there`s no way to estimate it exactly right now.

But officials are saying, a former security official for Paris, for example, said that he expected it to be in the hundreds of millions of euros, especially when one considers that the river traffic is a major transport hub for Paris, the river traffic has been cut off now for days as well as they won`t be able to determine exactly the extent of damage because they have to wait until the flood waters go down.

That could be weeks and it can do a proper inspection of the underground railroads, the footings of the bridges and other things that are presently submerged -- Jim Bittermann, CNN, Paris.


HOWELL: All right, Jim, thank you.

Let's get the very latest on the situation in Paris.


ALLEN: Just ahead here, why is this young man holding flares on his boat?

HOWELL: Well, it's because he's celebrating just setting a world record. You'll hear him tell his extraordinary story. Wow.

ALLEN: Coming up next.





ALLEN: Well, despite what doubters may say, climate change is a real phenomenon and it is rapidly changing the face of the Earth. 2017 was the third warmest year on record. The six hottest years have all been since 2010.

HOWELL: Some of the most dramatic evidence can be found in Antarctica. That's where sea ice is vanishing at an alarming rate. Scientists say about 400,000 square kilometers disappeared just last year alone.

That's 154,000 square miles; 10.6 million square kilometers or 4 million square miles of sea ice remain in Antarctica. That's a little more than 4 million square miles. It's the lowest amount of sea ice ever recorded there.

ALLEN: Well, there's another world record to talk about. This is a good one. It involves 19-year-old Oliver Crane, who took a year off before college to row across the Atlantic Ocean by himself. He left the Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa in mid-December without any support team.

Along the way he capsized three times; 44 grueling days later, Crane finally landed in the Caribbean island of Antigua. He arrived there just a few short hours ago, after midnight. The feat officially makes him the youngest person to ever row solo across the Atlantic. I spoke with him soon after he set foot on solid ground.


ALLEN: Oliver Crane joins us now.

Congratulations, you just rowed across the Atlantic Ocean by yourself and set a world record.

How are you feeling right now?

OLIVER CRANE, YOUNGEST PERSON TO ROW SOLO ACROSS THE ATLANTIC OCEAN: It's hard to describe. I feel amazing, sort of really overwhelmed, just being surrounded by people and on land. I can barely walk.

ALLEN: I can imagine. We've got video of you coming in. I think you're using your flares to celebrate --


ALLEN: -- as you came in there.

How long were you at sea, Oliver?

How many miles did you row?

And how long did this take?

CRANE: So I was at sea for 44 days. And I think I rowed about 2,700 miles.

ALLEN: My goodness.

What was the hardest part about it?

You certainly were physically capable and trained for this.

Was it the physical aspects or the mental?

CRANE: Definitely the mental. Just, you know, being out there, by myself, it was really hard, you know, to keep a smile on my face, especially when things got tough.

Like after I capsized for the third time, I had a really rough time with it, just getting back on the oars and rowing again was really hard, knowing that, you know, it could happen at any point and I was just completely by myself.

ALLEN: That had to be kind of scary, I would think.

What about -- tell people about -- where did you sleep?

What did you eat?

CRANE: So I slept in a small cabin on my boat, a watertight cabin, in case I capsized. And I ate freeze-dried food. So not much of it, because I had trouble, you know, just eating out there in the environment and, you know, my body went through a really tough sort of transition.

ALLEN: What was your motivation to do this?

I know that you've rowed for many years and that you've mentioned your mother, who is an ultra-endurance athlete, was part of your inspiration.

CRANE: Yes. You know, my parents sort of always inspired me to test my limits and push my body and mind to the breaking point. But I also, you know, wanted to have a positive impact on the world in some way, which is why, as a part of this row, I've been raising awareness and money for ocean conservation.

ALLEN: And how was the experience being out there on the ocean?

When you weren't having to work so hard or weren't dealing with the challenges, did you have some moments to yourself, thinking, this is just a beautiful thing where you were and what you were experiencing?

CRANE: Yes, definitely. I had some of the happiest moments in my life out there. One of my favorite Christmases of all time, you know, just lying out under the stars or seeing the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises and knowing that, you know, all those moments were just mine to keep forever and you know, completely, you know, everlasting memories.

ALLEN: Was it wanting to set the world record?

Wanting just to, you know, as you said, push yourself to the limits here?

What was the most important thing for you in this challenge? CRANE: The most important thing was actually just keeping a smile on my face, you know, and being able to laugh at myself. I made it my goal not to reach Antigua, you know, not to get the record but just, no matter what happened, I was going to always be able to laugh at myself, no matter, you know, what mistakes I made or, you know, if bad stuff happened.

I was just always going to be positive. And I'm, you know, happy that I accomplished that.

ALLEN: What advice would you give to people that want to try to do something like this?

CRANE: Don't think about it. Just go out and do it. You know, don't hesitate, don't listen to anyone who says you can't or it isn't possible. Just go out and start. You know, you just got to start and you'll get there.

ALLEN: What's next for you?

I know that you have already summitted Kilimanjaro and now this.

Pray tell, are you thinking of doing something else or are you focusing on college?

CRANE: Right now, I'm just thinking about having a decent meal.

ALLEN: A hot meal.

CRANE: We'll see. You know, I don't ever want to stop trying new things and challenging myself. So I'm sure there will be something coming.

ALLEN: All right. Well, you can just enjoy this moment, think about that later. You're in the record books, Oliver Crane, congratulations on an amazing accomplishment. And enjoy that nice, hot meal.

CRANE: Thank you so much.


ALLEN: I was sitting here, asking him all these questions, like he's exhausted. He really just got off the boat after 44 days. So hats off to him.

HOWELL: Love that message. "Don't think about it, just go out and do it." Love it.

Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, the #MeToo movement will share the stage at the Grammy Awards ceremony on Sunday night.

ALLEN: Mega star --


ALLEN: -- Jay Z shares his thoughts about that with our own Van Jones, coming up here, in a preview of the Grammys.





ALLEN: If the nominations for this year's best album Grammy award are any indication, we could be looking at a sea change toward diversity in the music industry. For the first time since 1999, there are no white male solo artists nominated for Best Album.

HOWELL: Hip-hop is dominating the field. Rappers Jay Z and Kendrick Lamar locked up eight of the seven nods respectively. For fans and artists, that's a welcome change after years of criticism that women and minorities have been snubbed. Now the industry experts there, they say that the tide is turning.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Generally speaking hip-hop and maybe black music in general has really had its finger on the pulse of sort of like American temperament for the last few years.

And I think that one of the reasons why the Grammys are going to be so -- like why Album of the Year and these awards are going to be so talked about this year is because a lot of people are looking for the Grammys to kind of make up for the mistakes, so to speak, of the last year --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- in terms of the way that artists like Beyonce and Kendrick have been overlooked. So there's a sense that maybe this year some of those wrongs will be righted.


HOWELL: And the Grammy awards will be presented Sunday night in New York City. A lot of people will be watching.

Members of the music industry are planning to wear white roses to support the #MeToo movement as well.

ALLEN: Jay Z is bringing the full force of his fame to advocate for women's rights. He spoke with Van Jones on the first episode of CNN's new Van Jones show and described how critical the fight has become for women.


VAN JONES, CNN HOST: In this #MeToo moment, in this #TimesUp moment, does that give you hope for your daughters?

How do you make sense of this new rise of women's voices?

SHAWN "JAY Z" CARTER, RAPPER: It has to happen. This movement and everything that's going on and this, what we're finding out, it's like everything else. It's like racism, like everything -- it existed the whole time.

And we just -- it's almost like we normalized it. The normalization of the things we have to do to survive, like for women to go to work, knowing that this sort of abuse was happening every day. It's happening every day because you can look.

And logically you'll say, why would you stay there?

What's the alternative?

What's the alternative?

You have to survive in America. And in order to survive, you have to normalize it. So this has been going on. So for it to get uncovered and the world to correct itself, this is what has to happen.


ALLEN: Jay Z, #MeToo is personal for him, as you know, he and Beyonce have three children, a boy and two little girls.

HOWELL: That's right.

ALLEN: That's our first hour. But stay with us. CNN NEWSROOM continues, I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. More news right after the break.