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Warnings: Trump Adviser Flynn Was Blackmail Risk; Freed Chibok Girls Await Family Reunions; South Korea Choosing Successor To Ousted President Park; Macron Faces Challenges After Election Victory; Canada Sees Worst Flooding In 50 Years; Taking The Risk To Flee Mosul; Iraqi Forces Battle for Mosul Entering Final Stage; 82 Kidnapped Chibok Schoolgirls Head Home; FOX Accuser Wars Against Sky Takeover. Aired 1- 2a ET
Aired May 9, 2017 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[01:00:00] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.
Ahead this hour, Election Day in South Korea, voters tried to move beyond the corruption scandal that forced their last President out of office.
Plus, strong testimony from the former U.S. Acting Attorney General, she says Donald Trump's former National Security Advisor was a risk for Russian blackmail and she warned the White House about it.
And later, dozens of Nigerian schoolgirls are finally free. Years after being kidnapped by Boko Haram, but they have yet to be reunited with their families. Hello and thank you for joining us.
I'm Isha Sesay, this is NEWSROOM L.A.
South Koreans are choosing their new President and the result could lead the country toward a more moderate approach to the North Korean nuclear crisis. Analyst says those as on the opposite of ousted President Park Geun-hye, who's on trial for corruption. She took a hardline approach on North Korea. But frontrunner, Moon Jae-in, is promising to change that, he favors engagement and dialog with Pyongyang.
Well, our own Paula Hancocks is live in Seoul, South Korea. And Paula, we got to ask you. With that as the backdrop with the ousting Park Geun-hye, what's the mood like there in South Korea as voters cast their ballots?
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far, the tune now is being really impressive, Isha, which just shows how important this election is, to many South Koreans. According to the Election Commission, we're almost at 60 percent now of the electorate having voted. And we still got about another six hours of voting to go. So you can see, people voting here in Seoul. They're taking this very seriously. There's a sense that they would like to draw a line really under what has happened over the last few months.
This massive corruption scandal, as you mentioned, this former President who's impeached, imprisoned, on trial at this point, on corruption charges. And then also, you have had this power vacuum when it comes at a heightened sense of tensions with North Korea. You've got a new U.S. President as well, but there's been no South Korean counterpart to make a deal with, so it's been a very difficult few month for South Koreans and there's definitely a sense that things will turn around after this election.
SESAY: And does the issue of corruption and the alleged actions of Park Geun-hye, do those supersede the tensions from North Korea when it comes to the priority issue on the minds of voters?
HANCOCKS: Outside of South Korea there is a general assumption that North Korea has to be the number one voting issue for South Koreans and it's not. It's definitely up there. It's definitely one of the concerns. A recent poll from (INAUDIBLE) had it as number three at the National Security. But the fact is, North Korea has been a concern for South Koreans for decades. It is a constant, but also a distant threat to the public here. The most important thing according to this (INAUDIBLE) poll was corruption. Was having a candidate who was clean, having a candidate who was going to make reforms when it came to close ties between business and government. And then the second most important thing was economy and jobs. Isha.
SESAY: And the front-runner in this race today -- it has been, of course, Moon Jae-in. He is a liberal in stark contrast to Park Geun- hye, who is a conservative. I mean, what would he mean for the country? I mean, there's been a talk of him shaking things up and reviewing the relationship with the United States.
HANCOCKS: Well, Moon Jae-in has promised reform, so certainly he has benefitted from what has happened to Park Geun-hye. He was present at many of the rallies that were in the center of downtown Seoul that was calling for her ouster. So, he has a lot of support because he's not her. Because he publicly fought against her, but also he has a very different policy when it comes to North Korea. As you say, Park Geun- hye was a hardline approach to Pyongyang.
Moon Jae-in is pro-engagement, he's pro-dialog, he is also saying that he believes South Korea should be at the center of trying to deal with North Korea, that the United States and China must consult with South Korea. So, a stronger point of view from that sense as well. And clearly, that's what many voters wanted at this point. It has to be said though; there are an awful lot of people as well who are worried about Moon Jae-in's approach. Those who believe what happened to Park Geun-hye was a travesty of justice and they fear that they may move too close towards North Korea now and they believe that didn't work in the past, Isha.
[01:05:11] SESAY: Paula Hancocks, joining us there from Seoul, South Korea. Paula, we appreciate the live reporting. Thanks so much.
And now, to the U.S. and a bombshell hearing on Capitol Hill. Former Acting U.S. Attorney General, Sally Yates, speaking out publicly for the first time about President Trump's five National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, and what she warned the White House about him.
More now from CNN's Jim Sciutto.
SALLY YATES, FORMER ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: The National Security Advisor, essentially, could be blackmailed by the Russians.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: In a hearing sharply divided along partisan lines -- former Acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, sharply contradicted the White House version of events regarding fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Yates told senators that she gave the White House a forceful and detailed warning that Flynn lied when he denied discussing U.S. sanctions with the Russian Ambassador.
We walked with the White House Counsel who also has an associate there with him through General Flynn's underlying conduct. The contents of which, I obviously cannot go through with you today because it's classified, but we took them through a fair amount of detail of the underlying conduct, what General Flynn had done, and then we walked through the various press accounts and how it had been falsely reported. We also told the White House Council that General Flynn had been interviewed by the FBI.
ANNOUNCER: Michael Flynn.
SCIUTTO: In February, the day after his firing by the President, Sean Spicer claimed, Yates had only given a much less substantive heads up about Flynn comments.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The Acting Attorney General informed the White House Counsel that they wanted to give "a head's up" to us on some comments that may have seemed in conflict with what the -- he had sent the Vice President.
SCIUTTO: But Yates said, it was much more than just a head's up. She spoke with the White House three separate times warning that the President's closest advisor on National Security was in danger of being blackmailed by Russia.
YATES: We felt like it was critical that we get this information to the White House, because in part, because the Vice President was unknowingly making false statements to the public, and because we believed that General Flynn was compromised with respect to the Russians.
SCIUTTO: The hearing was intended to focus on Russian interference on the U.S. Election. On the key question of whether Trump advisors colluded with Russia in that interference, the former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, said he has not seen evidence as he said in the past.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Is that still accurate?
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: It is.
SCIUTTO: Yates, however, was less definitive. GRAHAM: Ms. Yates, do you have any evidence -- are you aware of any
evidence that would suggest that in the 2016 campaign, anybody in the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government or intelligence services in an improper fashion?
YATES: Senator, my answer to that question would require me to reveal classified information, and so I can't answer that.
SCIUTTO: Overall, the hearing was a tail of two hearings. Many Democratic Senators, focused mostly on Flynn. Many Republicans, focused on leaks.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Have either of you ever been an anonymous source in a news report about matters relating to Mr. Trump's associates or the Russian attempt to meddle in the election?
YATES: Absolutely, not.
SCIUTTO: And unmasking.
GRAHAM: Do we know who unmasked the conversation between the Russia Ambassador and General Flynn? Was there unmasking in this situation?
CLAPPER: I don't know.
GRAHAM: Do you, Ms. Yates?
YATES: I can't speak to this specific situation.
SCIUTTO: Now, with all those different topics raised, you might forget that the subject to the hearing was Russian interference in the U.S. election. And on that point, former Director Clapper, former Acting Attorney General Yates, and the Democrats and Republicans in the room were united. Russia interfered in the election. Attacked, they said, both Democratic and Republican targets, and that they expect Russia to do the same again against both parties. Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.
SESAY: Well, here with me now: Democratic Strategist, Matthew Littman; and CNN Political Commentator, John Phillips; round two, gentlemen. Matt, even before Sally Yates was in the hot seat, the President was piling on the pressure. Take a look at this tweet that he put out before the hearing began. "Ask Sally Yates under oath, if she knows how classified info got into newspapers soon after she explained it to White House Counsel." Our own John King said this tweet was tantamount to witness intimidation. How do you see it?
MATTHEW LITTMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, Donald Trump has a history of doing this type of stuff. And I think we're at the point now where Donald Trump's tweets are being less and less read. And in some ways within his own administration being taken a little bit less seriously. Sally Yates got up there today, spoke beautifully. I think that she's a person of extreme credibility, and Donald Trump keeps these stories alive -- you know, if Donald Trump wanted to end this whole Russia thing, he can get out and have a press conference and talk about what happened with all the people that work for him and Russia. He chooses not to do that, it goes on and on. There's a reason why Donald Trump's popularity stays around 40 percent. Part of this is the drip, drip, drip of the Russia thing which shows no signs of ending.
[01:10:12] SESAY: John.
JOHN PHILLIPS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, the more I look at this; the more I think this is even more of a conspiracy theory than I initially thought. His tweet happens to be correct. There was an illegal leak of classified information that came out that was intended to damage him. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that Clapper or Yates did it, but somebody did who was trying to harm the White House and trying to harm President Trump.
She's a political appointee. Everyone acts like, "oh, this woman is a prosecutor," and you know, "that no politics went into anything that she did or said today." No, I'm sorry; she's an appointee of the Obama administration. If John Ash Croft gave President Obama recommendations on where to go for Chinese food, he wouldn't listen to a word that he had to say. So, why would the Trump administration listen to a word that this woman has to say?
SESAY: When you say that when you make the point that you know, that there was a leak, and you kind of referenced what the President said, it kind of just again, it goes back to what we saw in that hearing today. There seemed to be almost like a tail of two hearings here. Republicans were focusing on leaks and leakers, and this hearing was about Russian interference.
LITTMAN: Right. So, on the John Ash Croft Chinese food thing-
SESAY: I am going to let that one go.
LITTMAN: Yes. So, if somebody was coming to you and saying that the person who's going to work as your top National Security person may be influenced by the Russians, you probably want to look into that. So, Barack Obama, apparently, had warned Donald Trump not to hire Michael Flynn. The current Attorney General had warned Donald Trump that Michael Flynn might be influenced by the Russians, and they chose for whatever reasons to ignore it. It says a lot about how dysfunctional this White House is. That they're going to let the top National Security person stay on, who may be influenced by the Russians.
SESAY: And for that to emerge at a hearing, and for them to focus on leaks and leakers, what about the 18 days, John? What about the 18 days it took for them to get rid of Michael Flynn, and then when that did take place, say it was because he misled the Vice President, not making it about the Russia angle?
PHILLIPS: I consider that a prompt firing. I mean, if someone's fired-
SESAY: 18 days is not prompt, John.
PHILLIPS: With a month.
SESAY: In which world is 18-days, a prompt firing?
PHILLIPS: Over the course of a four-year term, if someone's fired within a month, that to me is a prompt firing. And again, I wouldn't fire him just based on what Yates had to say; I would fire him based on information that the White House confirmed. And once the White House confirmed that he was dishonest with the Vice President, he was 86'd out the door.
LITTMAN: Let me say this. This is crazy. If you'd find out that the head of National Security may be influenced by the Russians you could do a lot of things. You could say, you know what, take a few days off and we'll talk to you in a few days; we're going to investigate this. The truth is, they didn't get rid of him until it came out in the Washington Post, they would have kept him on forever.
PHILLIPS: Maybe, might be, possibly. Where's the proof? We have Senator Joe Manchin who said that there is no proof of collusion. We had Clapper who said that again today. At some point, the Democrats have to show their hands.
LITTMAN: He lied on his forms. He did not say that he was getting paid by the Russians. He lied on his forms. He lied to Mike Pence. That's the beef. If you're unsure where the beef is, that's it right there. Why did he lie about it?
PHILLIPS: That's not collusion.
SESAY: But then it all brings up the question, John. I mean, isn't it a fair question to say what about the President's judgment here? The fact that he was told this stuff, not only was he told it, but then let's put up the graphic. Sally Yates spoke to the White House Counsel on January 26th and 27th, and then Michael Flynn was in the oval office privy to call where the Russian President Putin which was on the 28th, and the call with the Saudi King on the 29th. I mean, people are saying, what is this White House about, what do you say to them?
PHILLIPS: Well, let's look at the President's judgment. He didn't hire this guy from Home Depot. This guy was a guy who was our number two guy in Afghanistan, in the Obama administration. He was the guy that ran DIA in the Obama administration. He was a Democrat who butted heads with President Obama, and endorsed Donald Trump and campaigned for him and gave a speech at the convention. So, Donald Trump didn't do anything in that regard with Flynn, that the Obama administration had already twice before.
LITTMAN: The Obama administration had already fired Michael Flynn. And Michael Flynn lied not just to the Vice President, but he lied when he talked his relationship with Russia. There's no question about it. You don't have to make Michael Flynn the head of National Security, he chose to do so -- there are other much more qualified people. The question is, what does it say about Donald Trump that he keeps a guy like this in such a high-level position in the administration? That's the problem.
SESAY: And I mean again, John, doesn't it come down to a question of vetting? I mean, was there any vetting done? That becomes a natural question here.
PHILLIPS: Well, again, he's been vetted twice before.
SESAY: Not to be the National Security Advisor.
LITTMAN: It's a totally different.
SESAY: A totally different.
PHILLIPS: OK. If you're the number two guy in Afghanistan, in a country you're at war with, that is one of the top positions in the military, that's one of the top National Security positions in the country.
SESAY: So, you don't get vetted to become the National Security Adviser?
PHILLIPS: Not if you get that proof.
[01:15:03] LITTMAN: No, no, no. But they didn't try. It would have been easy. The problem is that this administration is amateur-hour basically, and Donald Trump is willing to leave a guy in here who may be under the influence of the Russians, why? Because the guy tells Donald Trump how great he is all the time. I mean the guy has been catering to Donald Trump for a long time. Donald Trump loves these military guys. He campaigns for Donald Trump. Donald Trump says that's fine with me even if you're under influence by Russians you could be --
PHILLIPS: Who dropped the ball in the Obama administration when they vetted him?
LITTMAN: It's a different vetting process for somebody who's the National Security Adviser. It is a different process so it's not the same thing.
SESAY: At the end of the hearing the President put out a flurry of tweets. I think we have a graphic we can share that with our viewers. A flurry of tweets as you see there and basically the gist here was that this was all old news. This was a charade. This is a waste of time. We didn't learn anything new here. Math?
LITTMAN: Well the people the American people are not responding to Donald Trump's tweets now as they did during the campaign. Every study shows that they read his tweets less. People within the administration don't want Donald Trump to tweet but I'll tell you the most dangerous place in the world is probably between Donald Trump and that Twitter account. You cannot keep his finger away from that Twitter.
PHILLIPS: God I hope no one never gets taken away from it. Our lives will be so much worse. SESAY: You got last words, John.
PHILLIPS: He's right the Democrats are obsessed with Russia. The American people are not. We've had three elections since the Presidential election. We had the runoff in Louisiana. We have the special in Kansas and we have the special in Georgia. The Republicans are going to go three for three.
LITTMAN: OK. Wait.
SESAY: You guys could go on forever. I mean I know this will continue. Come back Mathew Littman, John Phillips. Thank you. Thank you.
Next, on NEWSROOM L.A. Emmanuel Macron has his work cut out for him after he takes France's highest office. A look at one of his biggest hurdles just ahead. And the final push into Mosul ahead. What Iraqi forces are facing in their battle against ISIS. Stay with us.
[01:20: 49] SESAY: Three people in Canada are missing in what officials say is the worst flooding in 50 years. (INAUDIBLE) State of Emergency and authorities are urging people to comply with evacuation orders. 1,500 troops have been deployed in response to the crisis.
Well, Emmanuel Macron made his first formal appearance hours after winning France's Presidential election. He attended a ceremony marking victory in Europe during World War II with outgoing leader Francois Hollande in Paris. One of the first challenges Macron faces, after he pick power, is securing the majority parliamentary election next month. He'll need it to implement his plans. He may have to form a coalition government because his party is so young.
Let's bring in Dominic Thomas now from Paris. He chairs the department of French and Francophone Studies at UCLA, Dominic good to see you once again. Listen to German Chancellor Angela Merkel summing up Emmanuel Macron's win.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): I was delighted about the spectacular electoral success of Emmanuel Macron and I congratulated him personally yesterday by telephone. Emmanuel Macron carries the hopes of millions of French people and also of many people in Germany and the whole of Europe. He ran a courageous pro- European campaign and stands for openness to the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP) SESAY: So Dominic in the face of that rising tide of populism that has been sweeping parts of Europe, what message does the election of Emmanuel Macron send to the world?
DOMINIC THOMAS, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LOS ANGELES CHAIRMAN OF DEPARTMENT OF RENCH AND FRANCOPHONE STUDIES: Well, the message to the world is, you know, especially when it comes to the question of Europe, it really is you know an absolutely remarkable moment. So much of the focus on this election was on the question of Brexit and of Trump's nationalism and protectionism and how this is potentially going to help a populist character and candidate like Marine Le Pen and at the end of the day not only was that view of the world defeated but Emmanuel Macron was elected with a substantial and proportion of the vote on Sunday and when he went to deliver his victory speech at the Louvre he walked up to the podium with the oath to joy they deserve to joy, the national the anthem of the European Union was playing in the background and this was really a very important moment. It was really the kind of anti-Brexit moment. It was France electing to support somebody who is open, respectful of diversity and so on, not concerned with the issues of border control and protectionism and it was an important moment for Europe and for the European Union.
SESAY: But this election did nonetheless expose bitter divisions within France. It exposed a society that is polarized. I mean how does Emmanuel Macron go about uniting a nation in this state especially when such a significant portions of the electorate didn't even bother to cast a vote?
THOMAS: Right I mean it was actually remarkable that you know he won with over 20 million but over 16 million people either abstained or delivered a blank ballot. There were tremendous divisions going into this election and many of the parties and revealed that with the support of the far left and the far right. The first step is, of course, is to provide a list of the 577 people that will run for En Marche the movement has now changed into a political party and he has renamed it Republique En Marche. The forward with the Republic. Let's not forget that the right that was led by (INAUDIBLE) going to it accordly Republique and so I think this is a symbolic gesture and by the En Marche movement that these are precisely the kinds of sort of -- the followers that he wants to try to attract to his party. The Prime Minister will soon be appointed and the Prime Minister will appoint of course the cabinet and this will provide a strong indication as to how in five weeks time Emmanuel Macron wants to go into those parliamentary elections.
SESAY: But even with him winning, even with him possibly winning a parliamentary election in the June in this June vote, I mean what does the future look like for Emmanuel Macron as he tries to as you put into place his very ambitious agenda, I mean revising labor laws, revising tax the tax system, cutting social -- cutting government spending? I mean, how does he go about doing all of that? Can he do that when so many other leaders before him have failed?
[01:25:14] THOMAS: Right. It's actually right it has been the conversation for at least the last 15 years. Of course, the best way to address the insecurity and so on in French society is to address the question of unemployment. This is really what drives support for the far right and Marine Le Pen that proves so divisive and society. The narrative of an establishment and leads at odds with those who have been left behind for globalization persist. He needs to turn that narrative around and as he goes into the legislators, either he wins in which case he has no problem legislating and governing or he is going to have to create coalitions and so on. The irony of all this, of course, is that in 2002, the rules and regulations changed so that the parliamentary elections would only elect people for five years would be linked to a five-year Presidential term and they did this to avoid cohabitations and coalitions. So we'll have to see how this works out. But obviously the stronger the support he gets out of that will determine the path forward and hopefully political parties will be working with him so that France can succeed and not cut off their noses to spite their face so that Macron can fail in this endeavor. So it's a very important moment in French history.
SESAY: Well Marine Le Pen his rival has already made clear that she's a leader of largest opposition blob she's talked about, you know, some reform to the national front, moving on and then for the next I guess the next political battle, has the national front been normalized through this -- this election and where does it go from here?
THOMAS: Yes, well I mean, there are two ways of looking at the performance of the Front National. when you consider the fact in the last two years France has been, you know dealing with terror attacks, when you consider the question of Brexit and the Trump election and how this was potentially going to help Marine Le Pen and you look at the divisiveness on both the right and the left where these traditional parties did not make it through to the second round and the European migrants crisis one would have thought that these conditions and circumstance were ideal to propel Marine Le Pen not just in the second round but to make it even more competitive in the runoff stages and that didn't happen. The other side of the narrative, of course, is that she scored over 10 million votes but her political party is deeply impregnated in the landscape of French society and not just municipalities and localities these days but in the major urban centers that the Front National is here and it's here to stay, and in many ways this is the argument that she's making that she's a viable political party who is able to participate in all of the debates that took place and has been normalized on the French political landscape and the future of the Front National will depend on the success Macron in dealing with the question of unemployment and impact of globalization on France. This is the number one challenge he faces.
SESAY: Well Dominic Thomas always a pleasure speaking to you and getting your insights into the situations there in France and this remarkable race. Dominic Thomas joining us there from Paris, thank you.
Going to pause for a quick break and desperate civilians are taking their chances to escape Mosul after months of fighting between Iraqi forces and ISIS.
[01:31:52] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.
The headlines this hour.
SESAY: Well, seven months after it began, Iraqi forces say the battle to retake Mosul is entering its final phase. The fight against ISIS is taking place in tighter quarters and thousands of civilians are caught in the middle.
Ben Wedeman talked to some who managed to escape.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Barely able to see through the blinding dust, west Mosul residents trudged to safety. Thousands have fled in the past days.
"We've escaped from death," says this man.
This three-month-old was carried out by her uncle. Miserable is how he describes life many the city under siege now for months.
"God save us from that rotten gang," he tells me, referring to ISIS.
With little food or medicine left, hundreds of thousands remain trapped in the city.
WEDEMAN: Iraqi forces have established what they call safe passages for fleeing civilians.
WEDEMAN: Safe, however, may not be the best way to describe them.
WEDEMAN: On the hill above, soldiers fire rockets over the civilians' heads into the city.
WEDEMAN: And this is what has become of Mosul.
An ISIS car bomb goes up in flames at the edge of the neighborhood.
WEDEMAN: Iraqi forces launched this latest operation last Thursday morning from the north and the northwest.
WEDEMAN: "Be careful," this major warns his troops. "Watch out for booby traps."
The lone black banner of the extremists flutters in the hot wind.
WEDEMAN: The bombardment is unrelenting.
(on camera): This is a final push in the battle for Mosul, a battle that began in the middle of October last year. At the time, Iraqi officials said it would be over by the end of 2016. Now it's well into its seventh month.
[01:35:18] WEDEMAN (voice-over): In a nearby operations room, Iraqi officers and American advisors directed drone over the city. Unlike in the past, the Americans on the ground, like Lieutenant Colonel Jim Browning, can now direct air strikes without waiting for approval from senior officers in the rear.
LT. COL. JIM BROWNING, U.S. ARMY: All it requires is me to be able to see it, with my partner. And once we are able to kind of communicate and say, yes, that is emphatically enemy, we are under threat, let's deliver a strike and let's deliver it quick.
WEDEMAN: Iraqi leaders are hoping to regain full control of Mosul by the start of the month of Ramadan in late May. But the lieutenant general of the Iraqi's army's Ninth Armored Division, which is leading the fight, is more cautious.
"Timetables and conventional warfare are possible," he says, "but this is guerrilla warfare with a well-trained enemy using snipers, booby traps and car bombs."
WEDEMAN: And as always, civilians are caught in the middle struggling to survive, struggling to escape.
Ben Wedeman, CNN, Mosul.
SESAY: Such hardship.
Time for a quick break. And it's the hashtag that had the world demanding Bring Back Our Girls and, soon, dozens of Nigerian kidnapped schoolgirls will finally be heading home. We'll speak to one of the organizers of that campaign next.
SESAY: Well dozens of Nigerian families are awaiting a reunion more than three years in the making. 82 of the missing Chibok school girls were released Saturday from Boko Haram. They're believed to be from the group of 276 girls kidnapped from their school in 2014, which launched a global social media campaign #bringbackourgirls. The Nigerian government negotiated the release and say talks continue for the more than 100 girls still in captivity.
Joining me now from the Nigerian capitol is Bring Back Our Girls activist and organizer, R. Evon Idahosa
Evon, thank you so much for being with us.
I know that you've been working this past three years with three families whose girls were taken. Tell us about the moment they learned that 82 girls had been released.
[01:40:18] R. EVON IDAHOSA, ACTIVIST, BRING BACK OUR GIRLS: You know, it was one of these sorts of things where it was a lot of ambivalence because they were so hopeful that you know, so thankful first of all that any additional girls were going to be coming home. But there was obviously a part of them that was hopeful that their daughters would be included on that list and so you know, it was interesting and you know, to watch these families sort of swing from one extreme of emotion to the other, and just, you know, with the anticipation of getting this list to be put out there by the Nigerian government.
SESAY: And the list was put out. It has been put out now. Let me ask you whether missing daughters, their loved ones, were they freed in this group of 82?
IDAHOSA: The three families will have their daughter returning home. The other two unfortunately continue to wait.
SESAY: Oh, dear. I can't even begin to imagine just the crushing blow for those two families of not having their daughter released as part of this group. How are they doing?
IDAHOSA: You know, it's horrifying. I spoke to one of them last night, and you know, he -- he's -- you know, he had a stroke and his wife developed high blood pressure after their daughter was kidnapped and you know, they're -- what he said to me is he said they're recovering and I could understand exactly what he meant by that because just the day before they had been so excited about the possibility and then to be let down once again, it -- I can imagine that that must be overwhelming.
SESAY: Yeah. My understanding is that the families haven't been reunited with their girls yet. Do we know why that's the case, why they haven't been able to see their daughters who have been away from them for more than three years?
IDAHOSA: You know, I think that's a question that we're all asking. From what I understand though, and from what the Nigerian government did on prior occasions they normally waited about 48 hours before they r reunited their families and so what we believe is happening is that they're getting debriefed, they're getting immediate medical care for many of them that may have needed it and also getting some sort of psycho social support but the hope is that within the next 24 hours there will be a call to the parents whose daughters have returned to have them reunite with them.
SESAY: And as you talk about what -- what assistance medical and psych social the girls will be getting, do we know what condition -- I mean, we're looking at the pictures and obviously I also met the 21 who were released last October and they were painfully thin after everything they'd been through. What -- what sense are we getting about the condition of these girls, this 82?
IDAHOSA: You know, just from the pictures that we've seen as well, they seem to be in the same sort of condition, really traumatized, extremely malnourished looking, looking very afraid and fragile and so that seems to be the same condition that these girls are in so the hope is that they're receiving immediate medical care so that they can at least deal with the initial shock of what has happened to them and the -- and the anticipation and hope that comes with being reunited with their families.
SESAY: Bring Back Our Girls never gave up on these -- on these schoolgirls and as I've tweeted long after the world turned that situation away from these missing girls Bring Back Our Girls continued to raise the call. What now for the movement? There are still over 100 girls still being held. Where does the movement go in terms of its actions in terms of ensuring that the pressure stays on and negotiations continue?
IDAHOSA: You know, the hashtag that we've been using is hope endures and that's because we are here, we're in it for the long haul. We made promises to these families and it's difficult when you look in these family's faces to not do to do as much as you can. I'm a mother, these are mothers and it's hard to say, you know, we're just going to do this temporarily and see what happens so we're absolutely 100 percent committed to finding the rest of the girls. 113 exactly and that's a whole -- a whole bunch of additional lives and histories that need to be written. And so our plan is to continue to put pressure on the Nigerian government. Even though we're grateful for the efforts that have been made but there's still a long way to go and we're in it for the long haul.
[01:45:14] SESAY: The girls being released is testament to the persistence and perseverance of Bring Back Our Girls and as much a testament getting out there every day and shouting Bring Back Our Girls.
Evon Idahosa, thank you for joining us. We appreciate it. We are all hoping and praying for the return of the remaining 113 girls.
IDAHOSA: Thank you for having us, Isha.
SESAY: Thank you.
We're going to take a quick break. More after this. Stay with us.
SESAY: Hello, everyone. 21st Century FOX wants to take over the British pay-TV group Sky, but the deal is facing strong opposition from TV personality, Wendy Walsh. She says she was sexually harassed at FOX News and the company does a poor job of handling reports of misconduct. Walsh and her attorney, Lisa Bloom, went to London Monday to warn British regulators about their concerns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LISA BLOOM, VICTIMS RIGHTS ATTORNEY: I believe that a company that so openly flouts the laws and our values should not be rewarded with a multibillion dollar deal that will enable to bring its culture of sexual and racial harassment and retaliation to the U.K.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[01:50:15] SESAY: Joining me now to dig a little deeper, senior reporter for media and politics, our own Dylan Byers.
Dylan, always good to see you.
It might strike some people as odd that they were over speaking to the British regulatory body reviewing the efforts to take ownership of Sky. Do we know how this came about?
DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR MEDIA & POLITICS REPORTER: Well, the meeting came about because if you are Off Com, the Office of Communications, what you are trying to figure out is whether or not the Murdochs are fit and proper to take ownership of the Sky Broadcasting Company. They want a full comprehensive picture of what the management are. All of the complaints against FOX News are to that review. And so you have the lawyer, you have Wendy Walsh, one of Bill O'Reilly's accusers. And you also had a lawyer from a firm representing over 20 women who have complained of either sexual harassment or racial discrimination at the FOX News Network. Off Com wants to take all of this into consideration before they deliver their findings about 21st Century FOX and its work place culture next month.
SESAY: For the Murdochs, this might just feel like 2010 all over again when the phone hacking revelation surrounding one of its London tabloids scuttled efforts to buy it back then. Lisa Bloom is tying what happened in that phone hacking situation, she's tying it to this last episode. Are the two equitable?
BYERS: Well, they're equitable up to a point. What the question here is, what did the Murdochs know and when did they know it. And regardless of that question, if phone hacking can exist at the very same company where alleged sexual harassment and racial discrimination is -- takes place for so long -- because, remember, the accusations against both Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly go back for a very long time. The first settlements paid out to one of the accusers as far back as 2004. So there is a question here whether the Murdochs knew what was going on or not. Are you fit and proper to run that company if such behavior is taking place? If you can have phone hacking and news of the world at the U.K. at the very same time you have sexual harassment and racial discrimination going on at FOX News in New York.
SESAY: And that being said, given what we know of the standard to be met for that to be I guess if you want bestowed upon you that you are improper, knowing that could the testimony of Wendy Walsh and Lisa Bloom could it sink this effort to take full ownership of Sky?
BYERS: Not on its own. Certainly, they're limited. I think if anything what Off Com is hoping to get from them is a fuller picture of what their grievances are, a fuller picture of how they see things but, by no means, do I think they're going to be the tipping point here, the deciding factor. That will really come from what they can review of the Murdochs directly, what they know about e-mails, what they know about whatever correspondents' decisions that were made. Certainly, one of the key things is how the Murdochs handled the settlements that were paid to some of these accusers. Did they inform the board, were shareholders made aware or did they try to hide these payments under something else? It has less to do actually with how much was paid out or exactly what the grievances are. It has a will the more to do with how they handled those finances and how they led or perhaps misled their shareholders.
SESAY: And to that point, there's a federal investigation here in the United States that's looking into that element of things and that probe is widening, correct?
BYERS: That's absolutely correct. It is widening. They've already subpoenaed former FOX News executives. They've brought in the U.S. Postal Service, which is also investigating the case. And this is something by the way, that has no due date, whereas, the Off Com investigation needs to be turned in next month. This is something that could go on for several months and that is going to be a question of how much time they need to take, how many people they need to talk to. But again, if you're the Murdochs here, you've got to feel like the walls are closing in on you and from both sides of the Atlantic, the Off Com review in the U.K., the federal investigation here in New York. It is pressure and it must feel like 2010 all over again with the fear they might not get Sky and, perhaps, the ramifications could be even worse.
SESAY: Final question, why is the Sky deal so important? They tried in 2010. They've come back to it. What does it mean to Rupert Murdoch?
[01:55:08] BYERS: Well, it's a business obsession and also a personal obsession, and it's become as much one for Rupert Murdoch as much for his sons. They really see this as the most sort of coveted asset that they can bring into their portfolio. So you know, while critics of the organization are sitting here thinking about what the Murdochs might lose as a result of these investigations, they're very much facing forward in terms of what they can acquire and what they can build. Being, you know, being from the U.K. and Australia and sort of having that global perspective, they view Sky as a network they can turn into a global media 24-hour news and media competitor to rival other global media. And that's really the ambition here and they're certainly hoping that nothing like the Off Com review are going to get in their way. SESAY: Dylan, glad you could come on and put it all in context for
Dylan Byers, appreciate it. Thank you.
BYERS: Thank you.
SESAY: And you're watching NEWSROOM L.A. I'm Isha Sesay. More news right after this.
[02:00:12] SESAY: This is CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles.
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