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FBI Gravely Concerned about Nunes Memo, Likely to Be Released; Yemen's Unending War; Climate of Fear Grips Kabul; Complex Array of Factions at Odds in North & South; Larry Nassar Faces More Victims in Third Sentencing; Formula One Saying Goodbye to "Grid Girls; Airlines Crackling Down on Emotional Support Animals. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired February 1, 2018 - 01:00   ET




ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Ahead this hour, Donald Trump promises to release that controversial memo on the FBI, despite warnings it's misleading and inaccurate. But it seems the president may not have even read it.

SESAY (voice-over): Shifting alliance in Yemen's complex civil war will have them making a political solution even more difficult to attain.

VAUSE (voice-over): And Formula One leaves the Grid Girls behind. A moment of empowerment for women or political correctness gone mad?

SESAY (voice-over): Hello and thank you for joining us. I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE (voice-over): I'm John Vause. This is NEWSROOM L.A.


VAUSE: We begin with new developments in the escalating war between Donald Trump and the FBI. A senior congressional Democrat has accused Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, of changing a controversial memo before it was sent to the White House for approval.

SESAY: The document alleges the FBI abused its surveillance powers but the bureau and Democrats are pushing back. CNN's Jessica Schneider has all the details.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, in a stunning move, President Trump's handpicked FBI director, Christopher Wray, openly clashing with the White House, warning, "Do not release the memo."

The FBI issuing this stark statement, "Despite concerns from some Justice Department officials about publicly opposing the White House, the FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo. We have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy."

Chief of staff John Kelly implied this morning the decision to release has been made.

JOHN F. KELLY, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: It will released here pretty quick, I think, and there, the whole world can see it. This president, again, it's so unique, Brian (ph), that he wants everything out so the American people can make up their own minds. And if there's people to be held accountable, then so be it.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The comments come after a hot mike moment between South Carolina congressman Jeff Duncan and the president, post State of the Union.

REP. JEFF DUNCAN: Let's release the memo.

TRUMP: Oh, yes, don't worry, 100 percent.


TRUMP: Can you imagine?

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): But press secretary Sarah Sanders seemed to walk back the president's 100 percent promise.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We've said all along from day one that we want full transparency in this process. We haven't hidden that.

But at the same time, we're still going to complete the legal and national security review that has to take place before putting something out publicly.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Is there any chance that the president does not release the memo?

SANDERS: I think there's always a chance.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The president's apparent promise came after days of discussions. Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein and FBI director Christopher Wray urged chief of staff John Kelly to delay Monday's House vote on releasing the memo.

And when the committee voted anyway, officials from DOJ and FBI went to the White House Tuesday to make a renewed effort to explain certain inaccuracies contained in the memo.

The 3.5-page memo, spearheaded by House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes, was approved by the committee for public release along party lines and couriered to the White House on Monday night, kicking off a five-day window for the president to review the memo and decide whether or not to release it.

Sources say the memo alleges that the FBI did not disclose to the judge who signed off on a secret surveillance warrant for former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page that the dossier that the FBI relied on in part was partially paid for by Democrats.

The imminent release of the memo has sparked concern within the intelligence community that sources and methods could be compromised, according to multiple sources.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CALIF.), MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The president says, hey, 100 percent I'm doing it. I haven't even read it, we haven't even vetted it but I can tell you 100 percent I'm going to do it.

Now the sad reality of this is, this doesn't surprise anyone about this president because no one has any doubt that the priority here is not our national security. It's not the country. It's not the interest of justice. It just the naked, personal interest of the president.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.


VAUSE: Joining us now, Jessica Levinson, professor of law and governance at Loyola Law School and Peter Matthews, professor of political science at Cypress College.

Good to have you guys back.

Peter, if the president decides to release the memo, how much harm is there potentially to U.S. law enforcement in the long term for what would essentially be at best short-term political gain?

PETER MATTHEWS, CYPRESS COLLEGE: It would be tremendous harm because of the importance of the information that could compromise a lot of sources and methods of gathering information.

And it goes against the whole idea that the government should be working in a smooth way with checks and balances and separation of powers and all this. And the actions of Trump and his team --


MATTHEWS: -- of Nunes -- and I'm going -- flying completely against any kind of democratic theory of that of being a republic.

VAUSE: And people believe the FBI is corrupt or biased, they're less likely to give up information, to be whistleblowers, to cooperate with --


MATTHEWS: It's also very dangerous because you're lowering the legitimacy. And when you lose legitimacy, the government or an agency of the government is completely in a bad situation because people don't pay attention to it. They don't allow it to make decisions and trust its judgment as they should, especially for law enforcement.

VAUSE: OK. Here is Mike Quigley, he's a House Democrat. He's on the Intelligence Committee. This is his assessment of the Republican memo.


REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D): They wanted transparency on a one-sided basis and they did it with an extraordinarily flimsy memo and I think the FBI was accurate in discussing the quality of that memo.

I was a little more harsh as a former professor. I described it as a book report by a junior in high school, at 1 o'clock at night, written at 1 o'clock at night with two Red Bulls under their belt and they haven't read the book. As far as I know, only Mr. Gowdy on their side has read the underlying materials.


VAUSE: Suggesting, given that there is this allegation out there, that Nunes didn't actually consult the source material in putting this all together, that assessment has some merit, right?

JESSICA LEVINSON, LOYOLA LAW SCHOOL: Yes. And I would also say we may be insulting every high school junior who's amped up on caffeine.


LEVINSON: And it's exactly what you're saying, that we're talking about the undermining not just of the FBI and not just of the Department of Justice but we're talking about the undermining of the fabric of our society and the structure of our government.

And this isn't just isolated to, well, you know, look at these FBI agents who were texting that they don't like Trump or Representative Nunes potentially working with President Trump and therefore kind of eroding this line between the legislative and executive branch, but this started with comments about so-called judges, because of where federal judges were from or what their background was.

And so we're seeing a concerted effort to undermine all other aspects and agencies of our government and to consolidate power with the executive.

VAUSE: I think you can take it even further back. I think you can take this back, you know, a few decades ago with Republicans, you know, not believing the media unless it was FOX News.

And from there it went on to this war with the media and if you look at polling now, Republicans don't believe in science or scientists. They think there's a bias there. And then they went after the universities. And now they are turning on the FBI, law enforcement and, in some cases, the intelligence community. LEVINSON: This to me is actually one of the most things that's most

troubling when my students say, how do I respond to someone when I have facts in front of me?

"And I say, well, it's in the" -- and they list a news source which I think is absolutely trustworthy or I actually have gone to the source material and I've looked at the statistics and there is climate change and it is caused by humans or there is real problems with criminal justice reform or kind of pick your area that you care about.

VAUSE: Sure.

LEVINSON: And I do not know how to get through to people who are just reading from an entirely different script, which is not true. And we aren't kind of -- I mean, this is an extreme example but it's almost as if trying to convince people, no, gravity exists and you drop the ball and they say, you know what? I think it was a square.


MATTHEWS: The common language, a common discourse has been lost and it's very important for any kind of democratic society to be able to function.

VAUSE: With that in mind, Jack Goldsmith (ph), he was an assistant attorney general in the George W. Bush administration. Over the weekend on Twitter he posted this.

"The growing and dizzying array of threats by Trump and threats by officials to resign in response to Trump's threats suggests that is not a stable situation.

"How could it be?

"When Trump finally gets tired of being ignored and follows through on something stupid, the executive branch meltdown will severe, to his enormous detriment and hopefully not the country."

Peter, you know, do you share that opinion that, you know, this is we're leading up to some kind of impending doom?

MATTHEWS: It's boiling gradually. But when it gets to that boiling point, the lid comes off. And this could very well happen sooner than we expect, especially given all the intricacies of the policy problems such as North Korea and the judgment that have to be made there to be more diplomatic.

None of that is there in this kind of setting and this type of personality.

VAUSE: There's pressure and there's so much going on domestically with investigations and scandals and controversies every day. It does beg the question, how do you make a rational decision about North Korea or is the president able to do that?

MATTHEWS: Seems to be very difficult for him to do, for us to trust that he could do that. And we have people like the psychiatrist out of -- in the East Coast, one of the universities at Yale, I believe it was, who has actually done research and is advocating that there should be some kind of an evaluation of the president's mental state.

She's not accusing him of being off mentally, just saying that there's a dangerousness that's being brought about by this kind of configuration of forces --


MATTHEWS: -- and that therefore we have to have an investigation and have an actual medical exam.

VAUSE: Yes, well --

MATTHEWS: That's another situation.

VAUSE: -- that ship has sailed.

MATTHEWS: This is a very -- we've never been in this situation before in this country.


VAUSE: And we've never been in a situation before where the law and order party, the Republicans, have essentially been at war with the FBI and the international community as well as law enforcement.

And so, Jessica, by creating this doubt and undermining the FBI and Robert Mueller, even if there is an outcome to this investigation which finds evidence against the president, is the goal here essentially to ensure that there's a significant percentage of Americans who just don't believe it?

LEVINSON: I think that's exactly right and I think that we've seen this from the very beginning, even before there was a Mueller investigation. Let's remember there's a reason that we had to appoint a special counsel in the first place to look at these allegations.

And the thing that has actually from worried me from the night of November 8th on is what happens, if we as a nation, stop respecting the rule of law?

And in this case it means what happened if we -- if the special says you know what. I think that there are tribal crimes here and maybe it's not for President Trump because there are legal questions as to whether you can indict a sitting president but they're with respect to people very close to him.

And the nation just decides we're no longer going to respect that. We're no longer going to respect the findings of a grand jury or, for instance, judicial opinions. At that point, we really have just completely torn apart.

And I think that's exactly what there's been a concerted effort to do, for now more than a year, which is to say, really, you really believe in judges?

You really want to trust that FBI agent?

Again, these are people who are sworn to serve our country, not to serve a president and that's what President Trump fundamentally misunderstands.

VAUSE: Because again we have another example of a loyalty oath, this time it was the deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein and he was called to the White House last month and Trump asked him if you were on my team. This is a president that seems not to realize that those types of questions, who you voted for, will you be loyal to me, swearing a loyalty oath, just incredibly inappropriate.

Rosenstein replied, of course, we're all loyal to your team, Mr. President, but he just doesn't understand how inappropriate those questions are?

LEVINSON: Or he absolutely understands and it's absolutely no problem for him, which is -- my guess is that there's no way that, as President of the United States, he doesn't have someone surrounding him that explains, here's why it's inappropriate to ask for someone's allegiance. Here's why it's inappropriate for ask for someone's voting record, which we have a number of issues surrounding -- we actually still have a secret ballot in this country.

So as a superior to say to someone, how did you vote, we have a whole host of problems around that.


VAUSE: -- when you're the most senior person in the country.

So Peter, on Tuesday, there was a lunch with the president and the reporters and network anchors. The House Speaker, Republican Paul Ryan was there and he was talking about the FBI memo.

This is what he said.

"Let it all out. Get it all out there. Cleanse the organization. I think we should disclose all this stuff. It's the best disinfectant."

There was a time when Republicans like Ryan would keep their distance from the president and, you know, some of his more dubious claims and try and put some distance between themselves.

But clearly that's changed, and what, it's because they are getting tax cuts through the House? Because they have a repeal of ObamaCare, they are willing to jump aboard the Trump train as long as they get this part of their agenda done?

MATTHEWS: I'm afraid to quote an old scriptural phrase but they have sold their soul for a mess of pottage. But far more than that, they're giving up our country's democratic fabric. And Paul Ryan and others should be very serious about going back to where this country came from and where the principles will lie because when they say things like let's just overlook this because Trump is giving us the tax cuts, that's something that's very devastating for the future of the country.

VAUSE: Finally, "The New York Times" is reporting that Robert Mueller is taking a close look at that Trump Tower meeting in 2016. This is the one between Don Jr., Paul Manafort and there was (INAUDIBLE) lawyer, a whole bunch of Russians turned up. Anyway, this is part of "The Times'" reporting.

"What is already clear is that Mr. Trump's aides and family members tried over 48 hours to manage one of the most consequential crises of the young administration. The situation quickly degenerated into something of a circular firing squad.

"They protected their own interests, shifted blame and potentially left themselves and the president legally vulnerable."

This was when the president was on Air Force One at the time and came up with multiple explanations as to what was going on: first it was about family adoptions. Then it was opposition research. One person who may be vulnerable in all this is Hope Hicks. Because "The Times" is reporting that Mark Rello (ph), who is a spokesperson for the Trump legal team until he resigned, has been called for an interview with Robert Mueller.

And he is expected to say that Hicks gave every indication that she was willing to destroy evidence, if you like. Those emails from Donald Jr., they would not be allowed to get out, is what she said.


VAUSE: Her lawyer has denied that she ever said that. As this sort of investigation continues to move into Trump's inner circle like this, we now see the president, you know, going on the attack more and more and more, releasing the memo despite its inaccuracy and the fact that it could be totally misleading.

MATTHEWS: It's unfortunately predictable. In fact, Hope Hicks goes back a long time with the president. She was with him at his Trump Organization. Personal relationships, that aside almost all the time, even in the White House. So there's something there to really take notice. If she had said that, that's really big trouble for the whole situation and we're in dangerous waters right now.

VAUSE: And Hope Hicks, very quickly, Jessica, she's very close to the president. He sees her as a daughter and in some ways has explained, you know, why he's so eager to put this memo out there as a distraction, if nothing else.

LEVINSON: I think that that's been a pattern we've seen so often from the Trump administration, is this kind of shock and awe with respect to -- I know you're looking over here but if you can look at this shiny object over here and if you can suck up all the oxygen in the room by talking about the deep hypocrisy of the Nunes memo, then you won't be focusing on -- and there are so many other things to focus on.

But I would say that Hope Hicks' statement, as far as I see it, is at best kind of ambiguous and I think Robert Mueller will be very circumspect about actually bringing obstruction of justice charges because it's very difficult to prove.

VAUSE: There's a lot of evidence that we've seen over the obstruction of justice but the bar is very high.

LEVINSON: There's a lot of evidence that we've seen of Trump trying to tell people let's slow down this investigation. That's very different from can you get to a point where a jury would say, yes, you hit all the prongs of the statute.

VAUSE: OK. Well, the investigation is long. I guess we'll find out. Jessica and Peter, thanks so much.

SESAY: You can say that again.

VAUSE: It's not done yet.


Now the battle lines are always shifting. Coming up, understanding the many groups fighting for power in Yemen.

VAUSE: And he has already been sentenced to 175 years in jail for sexual abuse. But Larry Nassar is back in court for his third sentencing hearing.




SESAY: Well, the deadly battles between separatists and government forces in Southern Yemen appear to be letting up for now but it's hard to say where things will go from here.

VAUSE: The battlefield in Yemen has become a complex web of moving alliances and power plays by external powers. Nic Robertson has details now on the shifting battle lines.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Yemen's civil war pits the internationally recognized government of President Hadi and the Saudi-led coalition backing it against Iranian- backed Houthi rebels.

The Houthis control the capital, Sanaa, while Hadi's government has established itself in Yemen's second city, Aden, in the south. Although the president himself lives in Saudi Arabia.

Yemen has become a proxy war between the Saudi coalition and Iran. Hadi's government comprises many --


ROBERTSON (voice-over): -- different factions, including the powerful Isla Party or Muslim Brotherhood and southern separatists. The separatists themselves are divided into two main groups but are unified and are wanting an independent southern state.

The north and south of Yemen were only unified in 1990 and in the past four decades the north and south have fought three civil wars. Southern separatists or Hirakis, as they're known, accuse Hadi's prime minister of being corrupt and have attempted to overthrow him in recent days.

Further complicating the civil war, Hadi's government is also fighting Al Qaeda and ISIS with U.S. and coalition support. Layered into all of this, a tribal interest and powerful regional governors and political parties plumped up and made more powerful by support from Saudi and the UAE.

However, as the UAE and Saudi Arabia appear despite their denials to disagree on some key issues, for example, the influence in a future government of the Muslim Brotherhood favored by Saudi Arabia, getting a political deal everyone, government, separatists and all coalition partners can sign up to is proving elusive -- Nic Robertson, CNN, Abu Dhabi.


SESAY: Well, for more on all of this we're joined by Barbara Walter. She's a professor at the University of California San Diego.

Barbara, good to see you as always. In recent days we've seen southern separatists who were once fighting side by side with government troops, seemingly overnight become enemies.

What do the shifting alliances in this conflict tell us about the state of play?

BARBARA WALTER, UC SAN DIEGO: Well, it tells us a few things. The first thing is that is that the separatists want to distance themselves from Hadi and his government and that's not surprising at all.

Hadi's government is unpopular with most Yemenis, becoming increasing more unpopular over time as they're implicated in a lot of the humanitarian disasters and the bombings that are occurring. It's corrupt, it's not particularly effective as a fighting force (INAUDIBLE) the war.

So one way to look at what the separatists are doing is they are basically being quite rational. No one (INAUDIBLE).

SESAY: Barbara, sadly, we're having some audio problems. Your sound is breaking up. So we're going to see if we can clean that up and get you back. We'll hit pause and work on that. So, Barbara, stand by, hopefully we can talk again soon. Thanks for that.

VAUSE: Meantime, we'll head to Afghanistan, a country which is still reeling from a string of terror attacks in the past few weeks terrorists have stormed a luxury hotel and attack an office at Save the Children and blown up an ambulance on a crowded street and also has killed soldiers at a military base.

SESAY: In all, at least 140 people were killed, most of those in the capital, Kabul, which is now a city living in fear, as our own Nick Paton Walsh reports.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The still in the air of Kabul's normally hectic rush hour speaks of the panic gripping a city that was once a safe haven and now feels like the front line.

"Do you have papers," they ask, eerily targeting vehicles with vehicle with government plates, flashing police lights torn out.

The focus on government vehicles or vehicles trying to look like they're part of the police or military clearly a nervousness they might be being used to bring insurgents into the capital.

This one seemed suspicious yet turns out to be a regional governor's security.

Who can you trust in the oncoming blizzard?

Barriers restrict the height of trucks and so darkly, the amount of explosive they could. And here where an ambulance car bomb killed over a hundred, thread and debris litter the streets still.

The ambulance suicide car bomb, pretty sophisticated. It came through this checkpoint saying they had an appointment in the hospital where they parked for 20 to 30 minutes and then came out again with bomb on board detonating just down the street in a devastating blast. It blew out windows meant to keep the sick warm.

Even now ambulances aren't allowed to drive into the compound; the sick are hand-carried in. Hospitals are struggling across the capital from a week of savagery. But also too is the nation's confidence.

Actor Massoud Hashmi (ph) was the war hero face of --


WALSH (voice-over): -- anti-insurgency movies telling Afghans not to flee their homeland as refugees but stay, build and fight. In the recent attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul he watched as two friends were shot in front of him and he was then shot. And he still has a bullet inside of him.

MASSOUD HASHMI, AFGHAN ACTOR: We all kept silence in a corner. I was bleeding, horribly bleeding. It's very hard to see your death is coming to you and step away from you. So after three hours the Afghan Special Force entered the salon (ph). I introduced myself, everybody know me and the soldier also know me that's OK come out. We took 14 people with myself and saved their lives.

WALSH: Yet his conscience means he must change his message.

But now you're telling people that they should leave?

HASHMI: Most people want to leave (ph), but you're encouraging people to stay in Afghanistan I'm not saying that again because I feel guilty. If I do that -- you know I'm a famous person if I say something people will accept.

Most of the people ask me on the street, you say stay in Afghanistan what should we do?

There's no hope people know. I'm not feeling secure inside my house.

Now Kabul is changed into a war zone.

WALSH: And the hot violent summer months are still far away -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Kabul.


VAUSE: Next here on NEWSROOM L.A., more young women are coming forward as convicted sexual abuser Larry Nassar is back in court.




VAUSE: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour:



SESAY: We want to go back now to Barbara Walter, she is a Professor at the University of California, San Diego and joins us now by phone. So Barbara, as we see this shifting alliances there in Yemen, we're also seeing a shift -- or I should say a separation in those powers that formed the Saudi-led coalition. What we have now is the UAE basically effectively on a separate side as they line up behind the separatists while Saudi Arabia is a longtime supporter of President Hadi. What are the original implications of such an overt splintering?

BARBARA WALTER, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES (via telephone: Well there's a number of regional implications. One of the things that it suggests that's very interesting is that people are distancing themselves from the Hadi government. That's not surprising, he and his government are unpopular, they're

becoming more unpopular over time, they're corrupt, they're not particularly effective as a fighting force. I think what this is suggesting is that nobody thinks that they could win this war and they don't want to be backing a losing side. So you're starting to see people take sides and they're taking sides was -- they perceive to be the winner and that's not going to be the Saudi back forces.

SESAY: What's interesting about that statement that people are choosing sides and who they perceive or believe will be the winner is that the battle lines, the balance of power in this conflict is largely unchanged in months. I mean, effectively as (INAUDIBLE) people are picking winners. I mean, that being said, why is Saudi Arabia still engaged in this fight?

WALTER: Yes. So there is this interesting dynamic where it appears as if there is a military stalemate. This suggests that the sides are evenly matched and at present, you could say that they are.

But if you look to the future and then Houthis for sure are looking into the future. One of the things that you see is that time is on their side. And time is on their side because the Saudi Regime cannot continue to be engaged in a war that it cannot win indefinitely and it can't continue to do that because the longer it's involved in the war, the more costly it is to the Saudi Regime both economically and politically.

And ultimately, the saying that al-Assad cares about the most is political stability at home and the longevity of their regime back home. And getting involved in a quagmire in Yemen is probably the most direct way that they could hurt themselves at home and they're just not going to do that indefinitely.

SESAY: But Barbara at the same time bear in mind this is also seen as a proxy war with Iran, Saudi Arabia's longtime regional nemesis if you will. There's also -- the flipside of that that Saudi Arabia in their desire to contain Iran isn't something they will just bale out of Yemen no matter how much it's costing them which some people estimated millions and millions of dollars a day. So what would it take for Saudi Arabia to feel comfortable enough to pull out of Yemen?

WALTER: That's a really good question. I think the Saudi Arabian meeting should have pulled out months and months ago. They've been in their way too long and I think the only thing that's sustaining them is U.S. support. I think what would convince them to finally lead is if United States finally pull the plug.

SESAY: Simple as that. Barbara Walter, we always appreciate it. Thank you for the great insight. It's always illuminating, thank you for the conversation.

WALTER: It's my pleasure.

VAUSE: Well convicted sexual abuse, Larry Nassar is back in court this court for yet another sentencing. The former team doctor for USA Gymnastics will also trace more young women he assaulted while under his caregiving them medical treatment. Here's CNN's Jean Casarez for details.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Larry Nassar's sentencing hearing is now underway. Tomorrow, court will be dark but on Friday, it will resume and young woman after young woman is stepping up to the podium to tell their stories, give their victim impact statements.

And the reason we are here in Charlotte, Michigan, Eaton County which is about 35 minutes outside of Lansing is because Twistars Gymnastics Facility is located here. It is known as where the young athletes practiced their craft of gymnastics, many have gone on to Olympic medals and Larry Nassar was the doctor that service Twistars. Listen to some of the victims in their own words.


REBECCA BOEWING, NASSAR VICTIM: I encourage anyone who feels uncomfortable with something to speak up, to talk, to keep talking until someone takes action because we all know talk is cheap.


It's time to make a change, we are that change, all of us together.

ERIN BLAYER, NASSAR VICTIM: I survived the hospital, the MRIs, the X- rays, all the other tests, the physical therapy and the countless numbers of doctors and now I have survived you. Not as a doctor which was the right you should have lost over 20 years ago but as a molester.


CASAREZ: On Wednesday, Michigan State University Board of Trustees voted unanimously to have former Michigan Governor, John Engler preside as the interim president of the university while a national search is ongoing.

Although there is controversy by students wondering why they couldn't have been part of the decision making process. Angler said he will preside as the interim president as if his own daughters were attending the university.

And USA Gymnastics officially has said that their board will step down as asked for by the U.S. Olympic Committee. They also say they will comply with an independent investigation asked for and conducted on behalf of the USOC. Jean Casarez, CNN Eaton County, Michigan.

SESAY: This is far from over.

VAUSE: How about three hearings?

SESAY: Yes. Yes, absolutely. We're going to take a very quick break. Next, on NEWSROOM LA, the grid girls are gone, why the Formula One ended a decades-long traditions and why some women are not so supportive.


SESAY: So it turns out Facebook users are spending less time on the social media site, five percent less in fact in the past quarter according to COO Mark Zuckerberg. He says that decline came after Facebook decided to show fewer viral videos, but the company doesn't seem to mind ad revenue is still strong.

And Zuckerberg says he wants people's time on Facebook to be time well spent without some upsetting content. Quoting him here, "A focus in 2018 is making sure Facebook isn't just fun but also good for people's well-being and for society."

VAUSE: Elon Musk, the hot rod driving, rocket-launching billionaire behind Tesla and SpaceX, all pretty impressive stuff, he's got a hot new product, very hot on the market.

SESAY: It's raising eyebrows or --

VAUSE: Betting them off.

SESAY: Indeed. The product, a $500 flamethrower, yes.

VAUSE: So the person who has everything, like Samuel Burke.


SAMUEL BURKE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A flamethrower? Really? That's the latest product on the market from Elon Musk's, The Boring Company known for launching cheaper rockets, Tesla electric cars, and the Hyperloop.

Musk is using his billions to reinvent travel but flamethrowers? It's no joke. Elon Musk tweeted a video of himself trying out the flamethrower that's selling for a pre-order price of $500. He's been tweeting sales updates for days with thousands sold. Musk's boring company is also offering a fire extinguisher for $30.00 a pot. In a tweet, Musk joked that the flamethrower will be useful during the zombie apocalypse noting, "Works well against horrors of the undead or your money back."



BURKE: The flamethrower (INAUDIBLE) is far too dangerous. It sends flames about 10 feet and in case you're wondering if it's legal, there's no U.S. federal law but state laws do vary. You currently need a permit in California.

But California Assemblyman, Miguel Santiago isn't amused. He says he's going to file legislation to block it.

SANTIAGO: We've now seen some of the worst fires in California's history. So handing out flame torchers for $500 is a real bad idea and bad public policy. BURKE: The flamethrower is the latest in the number of sci projects

coming from Musk's Boring Company which was started in 2016 to build a tunnel to reduce traffic congestion. Last year, Boring sold 50,000 hats at $20.00 a piece. In response to his critics, Elon Musk tweeted this image of the 1940 American group, the Ink Spots, and their hit song, "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire."


BURKE: Samuel Burke, CNN.


VAUSE: grid girls have been a fixture of Formula One racing for decades, responsible for holding umbrellas or boards displaying the names of drivers as they line up at the starting grid. But F1 has announced an end to scantily clad women standing in front of revving cars.

According to a statement on their website, "We feel this custom does not resonate with our brand values and clearly is at odds with modern- day societal norms." OK. They said, "They don't believe the practice is appropriate or relevant to Formula One and its fans, old or new, across the world."

It's also barely been a week since the U.K.'s Professional Darts Corporation announced an end to walk on girls escorting male players to the stage. More of the decision by Formula One has been welcomed by some like the Women's Sports Trust which tweeted, "Thank you Formula One for deciding to stop using grid girls. Another sport making a clear choice about what they want to stand for." There has also been anger, a little bit of outrage, many saying this is political correctness gone mad like Grid Girl and Model, Rebecca Cooper she tweeted, "Ridiculous that women who say they are fighting for women's rights saying what other should and shouldn't do stopping us from doing a job we love and are proud to do, PC going mad."

So did feminists put the grid girls out of work? Is it now pressure on other sports, could this mean the end of ring girls at boxing, podium girls at the Tour de France maybe even no more cheerleaders at the NFL. Desiree Nathanson is a former NBA dancer and official trainer for the Atlanta Hawks Cheerleader, she joins us now from Atlanta. Good to see you Desiree, thank you for coming in.


VAUSE: OK. So among those who playing the loudest here are the grid girls themselves. They say they're being forced out of a job by feminists or (INAUDIBLE) but if you look at the statement that Formula One put out, it seems that this is essentially a business decision, it just doesn't fit with their business modeling (INAUDIBLE), they say the world is changed.

NATHANSON: I would like a better reason from them. I agree with Rebecca Cooper, what she was saying, these women who are the ring girls, the grid girls, cheerleaders for the NFL, dancers for the NBA, all of those people audition for these spots.

We go out there wanting to be part of it, we know what the outfits are, we know what the job is and honestly, all of those girls are -- look at that, they're gorgeous girls and I wouldn't watch that race but because she's on there, I might tune in just to see it because they're in these cute little outfits. And they want to be wearing them, it's -- yes.

VAUSE: No. I was just going to say -- well I'm just going to pick up on that point, I guess the issues for the Formula One and for a lot of people here is that it's what the grid girls represent and for that matter the podium girls, the tour de France girls, you have the ring girls, the boxing girls, why do they call them girls, they're women?

These are young women and the argument is they use these props or male accessories, dressed in revealing clothing with the sponsors logo all over it, it's considered by a lot of people to be degrading and objectifying and Formula One, I guess, the Professional Darts of the U.K. want to move on from that.

NATHANSON: But do we also -- because I was former dancer for the NBA and I auditioned knowing what the outfits were. So I feel like us choosing to do that is our right us women or -- since they're calling them girls. But we should have that right to be able to choose to do that.

And like you said, they've taken away these jobs from all of the grid girls because they're promotional models. I mean, every company hires promotional models to meet their product look good and the women know what they're getting in to, they want to be there, a lot of people like to perform, they like to be in public and like to be seen, so I don't see the problem with having them.


VAUSE: I guess the argument is, you -- if you wanted to be a can-can dancer but there's more market anymore for can-can dancers and you can't get a job because not necessarily because don't approve of can- can dancers, who's responsible for that? I mean, essentially, again, it's kind of a business decision and I'm wondering if you see this now, maybe ultimately moving to other sports as well and then to cheerleaders at the NFL, dancers at the NBA.

NATHANSON: That will be a shame. It will be a huge shame if they went to the NBA and the NFL and took away the cheerleaders. I mean, they're a huge part of the game. They're marketing, they reach out to the fans like the players can't go up to the stands and talk to people, the cheerleaders and the dancers do that.

And they interact with the crowd and they're a part of the organization and a part of the feeling of being at the event. And this is a fun hobby, it's also a job, they do get paid a little. But it's a fun hobby and for people who like to perform and like to be out there interacting the fans, what else are you going to do? It's not fun to just go and sit in the stands for some of us, we want to be on the court or on the field. VAUSE: I'm glad you mentioned the issue of pay because the UFC, ultimate fighting championship, they're considering a reality TV show for octagon girls. A production company is casting for models, and we have this from their website, "Models selected will film a nonunion presentation for the TV series for a rate of $500."

Whether that's per show or per season, I'm hoping that's per show, I'm not too sure, either way, it's not a lot of money, it's not a big payday and this sort of gets back to the issue of exploitation because this is one of the biggest problems here for cheerleaders in the NFL, for grid girls is that they do not get paid a lot of money here and they -- the NFL cheerleaders have made some progress but that progress is sounding like it may other sports.

NATHANSON: Yes. The problem with that is there are so many people who want to perform, that it's easy to find people to replace the people who want higher pay. So that's where that problem comes. With the reality show though, $500, that better be per hour maybe.

VAUSE: It sounds pretty cheap.


VAUSE: OK. Desiree, good to speak with you. Thanks so much, we appreciate your point of view.

NATHANSON: Thank you for having me, John.

VAUSE: OK. When we come back, flying in the U.S. these days sometimes feels like a zoo especially now with emotional support animals, from peacocks to pigs, but one airline is cracking down.


VAUSE: And also here we have Beamer, for the most part, your typically (INAUDIBLE) terrier, handmade basically (INAUDIBLE) to keep him warm. Beamer is also an officially certified emotional support animal, which means that when he flies, he flies with his owner in the main cabin because U.S. law allows free travel for, "Any animal that is trained to assist a person with a disability or that provides emotional support."

But what about an emotional support peacock? Well, this guy's name is Dexter and this past Saturday at New York Airport, United clipped his wings, so to speak. On its Instagram account, there was this, "Spent six hours trying to get to my flight to LA, get on my flight to LA after I followed all required protocol. Tomorrow my human friends are going to drive me cross country."


Well, it's a road trip for Dexter, no such problems for, well at least in the past, Daniel the Duck or an emotional support turkey or a few years ago there was an emotional support pig which Wall Street forced off the plane to doing what pigs do in the aisles. While the airlines have been pushing to tighter regulations with all this, Delta has already announced new guidelines and here's why, "Customers have attempted to fly with comfort turkeys, gliding possums, (INAUDIBLE) gliders, snakes, spiders, and more."

Delta says it has seen an 84 percent increase in unpleasant, unsanitary, or dangerous incidents with animals on plane since 2016. Hugo Martin, is a Business and Travel Writer for "Los Angeles Times" and he's with us now. We get rid of Beamer because you've kind of freaked out a little bit. OK. I guess, the point here is that in the U.S., there isn't much of a legal difference between an emotional support animal which could be anything from a peacock to a pig. And a service animal like a guide dog, right, and that's kind of where this all the waters have been made.

HUGO MARTIN, BUSINESS & TRAVEL WRITER, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES: Right. Airlines are very flexible when it comes to -- excuse me, bringing animals on the plane. If you bring a letter from a therapist or a psychiatrist saying, "You need an emotional support animal with you." That, for the most part, has been all you needed. And for service animal, say you're disabled or blind, just a letter from a doctor saying the same thing, you need to fly with this animal.

VAUSE: But I've been online, you can get those medical certificates like that like three hours and it cost $90.00, right?

MARTIN: Right. And that's caused this problem is that people are bringing all kinds of animals. As you listed, possums and turkeys and whatnot because if you get the letter and you get your animal on the plane, it flies for free and it seems a lot of people are taking advantage of this loophole.

VAUSE: And anything can be your emotional support budgy, or whatever, but it seems there are moves right now to crackdown at least 19 states with fraudulent emotional support animals because it is a racket at the moment with the sounds of things.

MARTIN: Yes. And Delta, as you mentioned, is really cracking down. Some of the other airlines, United is also looking into putting some more restrictions on this because they've all recognized that people are taking this too far. I mean, Delta says that they have something like 700 emotional support animals on their planes per day.

VAUSE: I (INAUDIBLE) you picked that up because Delta as part of this has released a revised list of animals which are not allowed including hedgehogs, parrots, and this cracks me up, anything with tusks or horns. I mean, this -- people will literally take anything on to a plane, I mean, it's a zoo up there. And this isn't just the airlines, a complaining passengers, a complaining -- and cabin crew, the flight attendants are complaining about this as well.

MARTIN: Yes, yes. The flight attendants union I spoke to when I wrote about this, they said they're tired of having to deal with this as well. I mean, they go to deal with unruly passengers and animals? I mean --

VAUSE: And so there's passengers who all are like a lot like animals. OK. So where does this now go to from here? How do you differentiate between ultimately those who really do need some kind of support animal because there may be something, post-traumatic stress or whatever, and those who just basically want to free flight of the dog?

MARTIN: Well, I guess -- I mean, Delta is requiring some additional paperwork but you have to have a letter from a doctor saying you need to fly with this animal. You have to have a letter from a vet saying that this animal is healthy and it has his or her shots.

And you also need a letter from the passenger, him or herself saying this animal can fly without attacking another passenger.

VAUSE: Very quickly, the only other time I've been on a plane with an animal in the cabin was in Afghanistan flying these hummingbirds into the country because that was the trade and that was it. Does any other country allow animals like this on to the main cabin?

MARTIN: I don't know what their restrictions are but I think that they're probably running into the same problems that we are. I mean, once it gets out of control.

VAUSE: Yes. I guess what's really unique to this country, they're also widespread here because love their dogs and their cats and their pigs and their peacocks.

MARTIN: Yes. I've even heard people trying to take ponies on planes.

VAUSE: It's getting out of control. Hugo, thanks. Good to see you.

MARTIN: All right.

SESAY: Oh dear, dear, where will it end? Well, we finally know what was in the blue Tiffany gift box Melania Trump handed then first lady Michelle Obama on inauguration day. Remember that scene? CNN (INAUDIBLE) revisits their awkward exchange.


JENNIE MURRAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is literally the gift that keeps on giving, the one Melania Trump handed to Michelle Obama last January.



MURRAY: After her husband first left her in the car --

DEGENERES: He just walks up the steps without his wife. Just leaves his wife behind, he just walks up there.

MURRAY: The mystery gift led Twitter to collectively ask the question Brad Pitt once agonized over in the movie, "Seven"


BRAD PITT, ACTOR: What's in the box? What's in the box?

MURRAY: Well at least the Tiffany's box didn't contain a decapitated head like in the movie, guess is about what Melania gave Michelle range from the Apprentice season one DVD box set to her husband's tax returns but thanks to Ellen, we now know the truth.

DEGENERES: What was in there?

OBAMA: It was a lovely frame.

DEGENERES: What was -- a frame?

OBAMA: It was a frame.

MURRAY: Perhaps something like this $950 one in sterling silver? But it was the awkward handoff that made the exchange funny since there was no protocol for gift giving.

OBAMA: Never before do you get this gifts so I'm sort of like, "OK, what am I supposed to do with this gift?" And then my husband say that --

MURRAY: President Obama took it inside. This year, instead of gift giving, Melania was (INAUDIBLE) at the State of the Union go (INAUDIBLE) applause for her husband came under scrutiny.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, JIMMY KIMMELL LIVE: But if there was any question about the first lady's enthusiasm for her husband, she puts those rumors to rest tonight.

MURRAY: Melania repeatedly clapped with only slightly more conviction than Bernie Sanders but at least no one joked like last year that she was sending out an SOS in a Tiffany's box. Jenni Murray, CNN New York.


SESAY: Are you clapping for yourself?


SESAY: All right. It's almost 11:00 p.m. right here in Los Angeles, 2:00 a.m. in the White House. Someone's Twitter account has been eerily quiet all day, where on earth is Donald Trump?

VAUSE: Hope he hasn't broken his thumbs because the Twitter-in-chief has not sent out a single tweet since Tuesday night, that was before his State of the Union speech. The last time, the president went an entire day without tweeting. October 6th last year, 117 days ago.

SESAY: The world is ending.

VAUSE: That -- is he OK?

SESAY: I don't know. But tomorrow is going to be interesting.


SESAY: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I 'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause. Please join us on Twitter @cnnnewsroomla.

SESAY: We'll be there. We'll be there. We use it every day.

VAUSE: (INAUDIBLE) for the show. Isha will be back right after this.

SESAY: Where are you going?


VAUSE: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles ahead us now.