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Trump and Putin Speak; Tillerson Accused of Violating Law; Sanctions on North Korea; Charles Rose Fired; Border Patrol Agent Killed. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired November 21, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Mugabe's 37 year reign there.

That's it for us now. "NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Here we go. Top of the hour. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.

Let's start with that phone call between the world's most watched power players, President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. And it's not just what they said, but it's when they're talking that's important. Keep in mind, one day ago, Putin had this friendly hugging it out with -- with the Syrian president, Bashar al Assad. This is the Syrian leader who has massacred tens of thousands of his own people. Assad and Putin presumably discussed the future of Syria with Assad, despite rebel efforts, still in control of his war-ravaged region.

So President Trump is talking to Putin today after he just hugged and shook hands with a man Trump has referred to as a butcher for using a chemical weapon in an attack that the United Nations says killed more than 80 people.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was very disappointing to see. It's disappointing no matter who does it. But when you get into the gases, especially that form, it's vicious and violent and everybody in this room saw it all too many times over the last three or four days, young children dying, babies dying, fathers holding children in their arms that were dead. Dead children. There can't be a worse sight. And it shouldn't about allowed. That's a butcher. That's a butcher.


BALDWIN: That's a butcher, he says.

To the White House we go. To my colleague, Abby Phillip.

What do you know about the call? What did they discuss?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's been a couple of hours since president Trump and Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone. They talked for just about an hour, the White House says, mostly about Syria, which is such a huge issue in this relationship between the U.S. and Russia, mostly because Vladimir Putin, as you saw in that photograph, is the most important and powerful ally of the Syrian regime, of Bashar al Assad.

This comes a day after Vladimir Putin says that he spoke to Assad about a political transition for the future of Syria. For perhaps bringing an end to that country's very long civil war. That's an issue that the White House is very much engaged in and interested in. And we've heard from President Trump for quite some time that he wants Russia to play a constructive role in that relationship.

Still not hearing much more beyond that from the White House. I think both sides of this conversation saying that they touched on Russia, they touched on other hot spots, like North Korea and other parts of the world where there are mutual interests.

Yesterday, on North Korea, the president put North Korea back on that state sponsors of terror list. And Russia is still a key player in that relationship as well. The White House hoping to kind of broker a better relationship with Vladimir Putin. It's too early, though, to see whether or not that is going to bear any fruits at this point, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Quickly, do we even know -- any mention of meddling in the election or not at all?

PHILLIP: According to the White House, from what we've heard from a White House official, no mention of Russia meddling. And it's unlikely that that would have come up again. They spoke about it when they last met face-to-face on the Asia trip in Vietnam. And that created such a huge controversy. I think it's very likely that the president stuck to the script here, focusing particularly on Syria.

BALDWIN: Abby, thank you, at the White House for us this afternoon.

For the analysis now we have Tom Countryman, who served as a senior official at the State Department until he was forced out by the Trump administration. So, Tom, nice to see you again. Welcome back.


BALDWIN: So, you know, we laid it out. Here you have President Trump on the phone with Putin the day that these photos come out of a pretty warm and cozy relationship with Assad. You heard Trump, you know, in the previous video referring to Assad as a butcher. We know that Putin interfered with America's election. The conflict points, Tom, are overwhelming.

COUNTRYMAN: That's absolutely correct. And, of course, any contact between President Trump and President Putin occurs under the cloud of the increasingly documented web of context that the Trump campaign had with Russian government officials and their surrogates.

But in the particular case of Syria, what this demonstrates, I think, this phone call, although I don't know the content any more than you do, but coming just a day after President Putin met with Assad, it shows that Russia takes the initiative, keeps the initiative, when it comes to Syria.

The man that President Trump has described correctly as a butcher is, at the same time, it seems the Trump administration is ready to accept him as the long-term leader of Syria, at a time when Russia is putting all of its backing behind Assad, even blocking any independent investigation of chemical weapons use.

[14:05:23] BALDWIN: So what is this -- this conversation about, you know, commitment to the political process and constitutional reform in Syria? You know, at first glance that seems maybe where all three could agree, but what do you really believe?

COUNTRYMAN: Well, it's certainly possible to have a discussion about constitutional reform in Syria. I think what makes it exceedingly difficult to get all parties in Syria behind it is the Russian instance that President Assad remain as president, seemingly forever, similar to what President Putin expects to be normal.

That's not acceptable to the other political groups in Syria. And if the United States doesn't make an effort to push Russia away from that position, away from that unblinking support of Mr. Assad, it's hard to see how there is a solution that actually ends the violence.

BALDWIN: Let me ask you, Tom, also just as a from employee of the State Department, the story there today, this dozen or so employees taking this unusual step of formally accusing the secretary of state of breaking this federal law which is designed to stop foreign countries from enlisting child soldiers. How significant is this?

COUNTRYMAN: Well, I'm not familiar enough with the law to be able to comment whether they're correct. It is clear and it has been clear previously that Secretary Tillerson did not accept the recommendation of many senior advisers, that he list those specific countries, Afghanistan, Myanmar, others, of being in violation of the law that prohibits foreign militaries from hiring soldiers under the age of 16. It is an appropriate use of the so-called dissent channel within the State Department --

BALDWIN: What is that? Explain that for me.

COUNTRYMAN: Yes, very briefly, the dissent channel is something that has existed in the State Department since the time of the Vietnam War. And it's meant to give a way for officials in the State Department to communicate privately, confidentially, to the secretary of state about their disagreement with any particular aspect of U.S. foreign policy. It is a channel that has served American interests well. However, I think it's unfortunate when those private messages, intended to stay confidential, come out in the press.

BALDWIN: Become public. Which is precisely what's happened with this accusal of the secretary of state.

COUNTRYMAN: Yes. BALDWIN: Tom, let me ask you just a little bit about this breaking

news into CNN. The U.S. issuing brand-new sanctions against North Korea, targeting trading and shipping companies. You know the story, just 24 hours ago, you know, the president designated the rogue nation as a terror sponsor. How do these two things change the game here? Or do they not?

COUNTRYMAN: Well, I support what is the administration's declared policy of maximum pressure in engagement with North Korea. We've seen maximum pressure. It's a good idea to put on additional sanctions that target shipping and trading firms connected with North Korea. I haven't seen the maximum engagement. Instead, I've seen the president undercut Secretary Tillerson's efforts at engagement.

The new designation, or re-designation of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism is a form of pressure, but it is, I think, based on the wrong premise. If you call every bit of news you don't like fake news, then it's easy to call everybody that you don't like a state sponsor of terrorism. But there's no new evidence or additional evidence that justifies that. And it simply conflates terrorism with anything that we don't like.

So I think it's not an appropriate use of the law and of the president's power. We have other means to keep up sanctions and other pressure on North Korea. What we need to do is to actually engage North Korea, to find a way to begin what will certainly be a very long and difficult dialogue.

BALDWIN: Your perspective. You know, I go back to Otto Warmbier's parents who sat with me not even a month ago and we were talking about the torture their son endured and they absolutely were calling for North Korea to be put back on this list. So they would applaud the president. But I appreciate your opinion.

[14:10:03] COUNTRYMAN: I understand.

BALDWIN: You have been at State for many, many years.

Tom Countryman, always a pleasure. Thank you so much.

COUNTRYMAN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: We do have some more breaking news. Swift action by both CBS News and PBS, one day after those sexual harassment allegations came to light against veteran journalist Charlie Rose. Both networks now terminating the relationship with Rose. We have more on that and the fallout today.

Also ahead, nearly 60,000 Haitians who left for the U.S. after that devastating earthquake in 2010 have been put on notice. Why they're being told their time here in America is almost up.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [14:15:05] BALDWIN: Breaking news here. A sexual harassment scandal has just cost a legendary TV journalist at least two of his jobs. CBS and PBS have fired Charlie Rose following damning allegations that he sexually harassed at least eight women. CBS sent this memo to staffers today announcing the termination and, in part, it reads, a short time ago we terminated Charlie Rose's employment with CBS News effectively immediately. This followed the revelation yesterday of extremely disturbing and intolerable behavior said to have revolved around this PBS program.

It hasn't even been an entire 24 hours since that "Washington Post" story broke. The accusations range from the '90s to as recently as 2011. They include Charlie Rose walking around naked, groping and lewd phone calls detailing his sexual fantasies.

CBS initially suspended Rose prompting his co-host to start their show this morning, right out of the gate, addressing those allegations. And these ladies made it clear they were not giving Charlie Rose a pass.


NORAH O'DONNELL, CO-HOST, "CBS THIS MORNING": Let me be very clear, there is no excuse for this alleged behavior. It is systematic and pervasive. Women cannot achieve equality in the workplace or in society until there is a reckoning.

GAYLE KING, CO-HOST, "CBS THIS MORNING": Really, I'm still reeling. I got an hour and 42 minutes of sleep last night. Both my son and my daughter called me. Oprah called me and said, are you OK? I am not OK.

I really applaud the women that speak up, despite the friendship. He doesn't get a pass because I can't stop thinking about the anguish of these women, what happened to their dignity, what happened to their bodies, what happened maybe to even their careers.


BALDWIN: So let me bring in one of the "Washington Post" reporters who broke this story wide open. She is Amy Brittain.

Amy, welcome.


BALDWIN: So, Charlie Rose has been fired not a day after you and Irin Carmon, you know, broke this story, ultimately ending the career of this veteran journalist. What have you been hearing? What's been going on behind the scene for the last 20 hours?

BRITTAIN: I mean it's been a whirlwind in the last 20 hours. You know, I can tell you that before the publication of our story, we gave Mr. Rose 24 hours advance notice of every single allegation that was going to be included in this story and offered him an attempt to respond to each and every one of those allegations. We did not receive a statement until yesterday afternoon. So, from that point on, I mean, the aftermath was immediate. First we

heard the reaction from PBS, you know, that they were suspending the distribution of the show. Then we heard from Bloomberg. And then, as of last night, it was a suspension by CBS. And like many others today, I was hearing the news at the same time as just about everyone else, that he had been fired by CBS.

BALDWIN: Amy, I want to get to part of his statement in a second. But first, just since you all posted the story yesterday afternoon, have you gotten other phone calls from other women?

BRITTAIN: I have. Unfortunately, I would say within an hour after the story was published, I already had e-mails in my inbox from women who said that they had similar disturbing encounters with him. We are going through those e-mails now and we are reaching out to the individuals who have reached out to us and we're going to be responding to them and we're going to be doing more reporting.

BALDWIN: Let me take everyone to part of Charlie Rose's statement where in part he said, I do not believe that all of these allegations are accurate. I always felt that I was pursuing shared feelings even though I now realize I was mistaken.

So it almost seems, Amy, is that he's openly saying that he thought some of these women were interested in him.

BRITTAIN: That seems to be the suggestion from his statement. I can tell you from numerous conversations with the women who are named in the piece and unnamed in the piece, that none of them viewed these in any way as consensual encounters. This conduct by him, the physical contact, the phone calls, the nudity, it was unwanted.

BALDWIN: Watching Gayle and Norah speak from the top of the show this morning where Charlie Rose was that important third piece, and it was almost like there was that empty seat, right? They had to acknowledge what had happened and how they felt from their heart and how conflicting but how upsetting, how just difficult this has been for them and for, of course, the women that you write about. What did you make of how they handled it?

BRITTAIN: Well, I woke up this morning actually and immediately turned on the TV. I had filmed the segment for them last night and I was just very eager to see how they were going to proceed with it. Obviously I know that for them it's very close to home. This is an individual who was employed by their network, who they sat next to every single morning. And I don't want to, you know, place a value judgment on what I personally thought of their statements.

[14:20:13] I will say that as a viewer, I was struck by the moment. It seemed to be a remarkable moment, especially when they encouraged other women to speak forward and to come forward, even if they were afraid.

BALDWIN: You know, Amy, in reading your piece and then reading it over again, my -- one of my biggest takeaways was, you know, once again, no matter this industry, we see this system of enabling. And it's this executive producer of Charlie Rose's that you all wrote about who, you know, for years admits she heard from these women, she shrugged these women off, she failed to do anything about it. I mean she helped him get away with this and victimize more people for decades. And she is a woman.

BRITTAIN: I can just tell you that what we learned from our reporting is that numerous women who worked for Charlie Rose initially felt reassured by the presence of Yvette Vega (ph), who was his longtime executive producer. They felt that she was an extremely, strong, powerful woman and they admired her. And that's why, to this day, many of these women feel deeply conflicted thoughts about her because they look back at their time and they viewed her initially as a role model and then, in the end, some of us told us -- some of them told us, excuse me, that they felt like that she did not do anything about the behavior and they felt like she was aware of it. Two women that we spoke to told us specifically that they reported the behavior to her and that nothing happened about it.

BALDWIN: Amy Brittain with "The Washington Post," let's keep in touch. Thank you so much.

BRITTAIN: Sure. Thank you for having me.

BALDWIN: You got it.

The president's message to nearly 60,000 Haitians here in the United States, get ready to leave. Why the administration says they are sending them back home seven years after that deadly earthquake.

And a mystery deepens today. What exactly happened to these two border patrol agents? The unanswered questions after one was killed and the other in serious condition at the hospital. Was this an ambush? Were these agents targeted?


[14:26:41] BALDWIN: Now to this tragic mystery at the border. An FBI news conference is expected to happen at the top of the hour. It might reveal some new details as to what happened to Rogelio Martinez, the border patrol agent, just 63 years of age, died Sunday after suffering what the FBI says were major traumatic head injuries. He and his partner were responding to some kind of activity when they were found Saturday night about 12 miles east of the town of Van Horn. The partner was the one who actually called in for help. And according to the president, the partner, whose name has not been released, was also severely wounded.


PRESET: We've lost a border patrol officer just yesterday and another one was brutally beaten and badly, badly hurt. Looks like he'll make it. But very, very badly hurt.


BALDWIN: In fact, several Texas officials refer to some kind of attack on these two agents. But the local sheriff told "The Dallas Morning News," quote, the injuries to Martinez, after talking to his doctors, were consistent with a fall. Very consistent with a fall.

Why is the other guy hurt? That's the unknown. What happened to him? Again, that's the local sheriff. As these investigators are searching for answers, one thing is certain, many are grieving for Rogelio Martinez, who reportedly has an 11-year-old son.


EMORY CRAWFORD, FRIEND OF SLAIN BORDER PATROL AGENT: The guy would give his -- the shirt off his back. All he wanted to do was just help people and help the world and try to make a difference. He was a living person. He was a living person. I just wish him the best. I hope he rests in peace. I love him.


BALDWIN: With me now, Brandon Judd, the president of National Border Patrol Council.

So, Brandon, thank you so much for being with me. And I'm sorry about what's happened here to these agents.

Can you -- what -- you tell me what you know about Martinez and how he was found, because it's my understanding you believe he and his partner were ambushed?

BRANDON JUDD, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL BORDER PATROL COUNCIL: I do. And the facts are consistent with an ambush. Agent Martinez was looking for what we call sign or footprints in the ground. When he came across some, he radioed in that he was going to get out of his vehicle and start what we call pushing the sign or following the footprints.

Now, this was at night and he would have had his flashlight out. He would have been looking for that sign and trying to follow that sign. And when you do that, you're at a disadvantage because those individuals that are hiding, they're going to a specific spot to be picked up by vehicles. They're hiding. They can see you coming. And what I think -- what the -- I think that what the facts will show is that as he approached them, they jumped out and ambushed him. And then they also ambushed his partner, because they would have also seen him coming as well.

BALDWIN: And when you say a sign, looking for footprints, just for people who don't know, it's my understanding this particular area is a known corridor for people with a lot of marijuana shoved in backpacks, right, trying to take it over the border. And so it's these agents who are on patrol, am I right?

JUDD: That is correct. This is a known drug smuggling corridor. And these are the things that we encounter on a daily basis. And these are the dangers that we face.

BALDWIN: So then what kind of condition -- can you -- what sort of details do you know about how Martinez was found, injuries and the like?

[14:30:08] JUDD: From the agents in the field, they said that it was a horrendous scene.