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Trump White House; North Korea Tensions; Japan Decides; Raqqa Liberation; Battle Against ISIS; O'Reilly Working his Way Back to Television; Namibia Violates U.N. Sanctions; A Lot of Eyebrows Raised of Mugabe's Appointment by WHO; Catalan Fights for Its Independence. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired October 23, 2017 - 03:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[03:00:00] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. president heads to Capitol Hill this week to talk up tax reform, but he'll be looking for help from a few senators he has been attacking pretty aggressively.

Plus, his third term all but official, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gambles on a snap election, and he wins big.

And Raqqa in ruins. A Russian official says the Syrian city was erased by the U.S.-led bombing.

Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, we want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell. "CNN Newsroom" starts right now.

Three a.m. on the U.S. east coast, and it is a big week ahead for the U.S. president. He is set to have lunch with top senate Republicans on Tuesday. The main topic at hand, tax reform. The meeting willing be a prime opportunity for President Trump to push his plan.

He is even hoping to get the approved legislation on his desk by late next month, but there could be some awkward moments, even perhaps tense moments at that gathering. President Trump will come face the face with some of the lawmakers he has attacked during his time in office, people like john McCain, Bob Corker, and Jeff Flake.

The president looking to mend fences on one hand, while in the other hand, continuing his Twitter attacks. Continuing a spat with a Democratic congresswoman, and now she is fighting back on Twitter. CNN's Boris Sanchez has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On Sunday, the president continued his feud with Congresswoman Frederica Wilson of South Florida, saying that she is the gift that keeps on giving and saying that because of her, voters would vote Republican.

This comes after the representative was on a Sunday morning talk show, comparing the situation in Niger to Benghazi, saying that it was Donald Trump's Benghazi. This fighting between the representative and the president not likely to go away any time soon as Congresswoman Wilson has now demanded an apology from White House Chief of Staff John Kelly after he compared her to an empty barrel.

We've yet to receive any comment from the White House over the recent remarks going back and forth between the president and the representative. However, the president did make some more remarks on that on Fox News over the weekend. Here he is talking about his combative style and how he feels that defending himself from any kind of criticism helps to get things done. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIA BARTIMORO, SUNDAY MORNING FUTURES HOST, FOX NEWS: Even your supporters say, you know, he's got fantastic policies, we want to see this through, but the bickering and the feuding actually gets in the way. So obviously the feuding with Senator Corker, I think there is a personal thing going on between you and Senator McCain, do you worry that this bickering and feuding gets in the way of your agenda?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No. Sometimes it helps, to be honest with you. So we'll see what happens in the end. But I think sometimes it helps. Sometimes it gets people to do what they're supposed to be doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: During that interview, the president also discussed something that the White House is fully focused on this week, which is tax reform. President trump penning an op-ed in the USA Today in which he said that it was time to re-ignite the middle class miracle, and pushing for not only a tax reform but tax cuts that benefit the middle class.

On Sunday, the president also held a phone call with members of the house Republican Party in which House Speaker Paul Ryan said that he wanted to get the senate's budget passed before the end of the week, this according to a Republican source that was briefed on the call.

He said that President Trump and Vice President Pence were both on the call. The president saying that this is something he wanted to get done immediately, telling the Republican members of the house that they were on the verge of doing something very, very historic.

The president also heads to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to meet with Republican senators to discuss tax reform, many of whom he has contentious relationships with, open feuds, if you will, including senators John McCain, Bob Corker and Jeff Flake. You can bet that their interactions will be closely watched on Tuesday.

Boris Sanchez, CNN, at the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Boris, thank you.

President Trump needs the help of top Republican Mitch McConnell to get a tax reform bill through the senate. And it looks like he has it. While the president has scolded the senate majority leader in the past for failing to repeal and replace Obamacare, McConnell is shrugging all of that off, and he is insisting that he and Mr. Trump share a common agenda.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: I don't think President Trump has been given nearly enough credit by the way for the other things that he is doing to get the country growing again. That is changing the people on these boards and commissions that have such a pervasive impact on growth in this country.

[03:05:00] But we're going to score a big legislative accomplishment here on tax reform in the very near future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Let's break all this down now with our two guests, Ben Ferguson and Ellis Henican. Ben, a featured speaker at the 2004 Republican National Convention and host of daily and weekly radio show here in the United States and a CNN political contributor. Ellis Henican, a Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper columnist and a TV news pundit, also the author of numerous books.

Gentlemen, it's good to have you both with us to talk about this. Let's talk the issue of tax reform. A very important issue. It was a big campaign promise of the president. Ellis, starting with you here, how difficult do you think it will be for Republicans to push this through along with this president for a legislative win?

ELLIS HENICAN, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's make or break. They certainly have a tremendous incentive to try and get this done. They're all in the desired page. That's not a problem. But then you get down to the details of mad tax reform, mighty complicated. When you take something away from one pile to give it to another, you end up making both angry. So, it's going to be a tough fight, but they do have an incentive to make it work.

HOWELL: Ben, do you agree?

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I do. Look, I think that this is going to be a tough battle any time you're doing something to change the tax code. But I also think there is very much an appetite for it in this country.

The question is, can politicians actually be bipartisan and have a real conversation about this, and actually look at getting things done for the American people? If you look at the polls, the average American says that they do think there needs to be some refining of the tax code.

Everybody almost agrees there needs to be a simplification of the tax code. And so lower taxes adding on that as well and helping with small business owners with some of the tax breaks that they would receive. This should be something that should be able to get done in congress. Again, you're talking about congress. And most Americans also say that they suck at their jobs. So, who knows if they can actually pull it off or not.

HOWELL: So, the president will need members of his own party obviously to push this through. Many of the people though that he has publicly attacked, people like Senator Mitch McConnell, who was asked whether those attacks could hurt President Trump's efforts on this. Let's listen here. We can talk about it on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've been on the receiving end of several of those attacks. Do they help you get legislation through the senate, sir?

MCCONNELL: Look, I'm not particularly concerned about all of this. What we're interested in is achieving an agenda for the American people. And the president's agenda and our agenda are one and the same. We're thrilled to have somebody in the White House who supports what this house and senate republican majority has been wanting to have an opportunity to do for a long time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: So, Ben, the president has said these attacks are actually useful in getting things done. How? And do you agree with that?

FERGUSON: Look, I think when President Trump was playing nice with congress, he wasn't getting anything out of them for the first several months. So I don't think that a tweet is going to disrupt legislation.

If it does, then the question is the senator and the congressman that is making it personal and not doing what's in the best interest of the constituents, are they going to be held accountable by their constituents?

I think it's always I guess you'd say more helpful to have a consensus. But the reality is when Donald Trump played nice, how many things did he get accomplished with congress? Congress has got to get their act together. It doesn't matter if it's Republicans or Democrats.

Congress is a dysfunctional body right now. It's got to be fixed. And I don't think the president tweeting about them or being blunt about certain members of congress is hurting him at all because when he was BFF with them, they weren't getting anything done for him anyway.

HOWELL: Ben, you say when President Trump played nice, I'm trying to remember exactly that same style.

FERGUSON: In February.

HOWELL: Ellis, I've got to ask you, OK, so Ben points it out. These personal attacks --

HENICAN: I'm scratching my head.

HOWELL: Will it undermine the president's ability to get things done?

HENICAN: Well, yes, of course. Listen, if I want to achieve something, insulting you is by and large not a really good way to get it going. But there is one other thing in place.

The question is, and I think this applies to the congress as well as the president, can they restrain their impulses under this label of tax reform to really just give a whole bunch of goodies to the people at the top of the economic ladder?

If we were really talking about helping middle class people, there is going to be democratic support for that. But if under that label what you're really trying to do is just cut the taxes of the super rich and leave the middle class where they are, boy, you're going get a lot of opposition. Every step of the way.

HOWELL: President Trump attacked the congresswoman, Frederica Wilson, before a funeral. Many people have been following this. Here is the tweet from President Trump, branding her as wacky Wilson, essentially saying that she is the gift that keeps on giving. Then she responded saying that Niger is his Benghazi. Ellis, first to you. Will this stick?

[03:10:00] HENICAN: Well, listen, I think this particular feud is going to pass. I mean, she is not a crucial national figure. I think one of the fall outs that may well be permanent here is that the president really has lost his four-star character witness, right? Because part of the collateral here it is really did undermine the credibility of General Kelly, the White House chief of staff. And that could really be lasting damage here.

HOWELL: Ben, your thoughts here?

FERGUSON: I got to disagree with that. Look, you got a congresswoman here who took the worst news in a worst moment of a widow's life and turned it into politics by saying she wanted to, quote, cuss out the president. Then also said a day later, I'm now a household name. It tells you a lot about her and her character. I think the president had a right and duty to respond.

I think General Kelly also had a right and duty to respond. Ultimately, I hope this goes away very quickly. Because it shouldn't be about this congresswoman. It should it be about -- or the president. It should be about the four soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

I hate that this congresswoman decided to call the press and to say, I want to cuss the president out, because no one is going to remember this soldier and what he did for this country. They're going to remember the controversy around a phone call that took place.

It also is sad that you had another four-star family that felt obligated to share a private conversation they had with the president to let the American people know how compassionate he was when he called them to talk about their loved one being killed in action.

None of this should have happened. A Gold Star family should never be put in a position where they have to share that private conversation with the world to defend a man that called them. The congresswoman should never use someone dying on the battlefield for political gain. I really just hope this all goes away quickly, and we get back to the point where we honor the soldiers.

HOWELL: I think that point is very important. Pointing out the fact here. Four U.S. soldiers died. That is the big topic at hand, and there are certainly many questions to look into beyond that. Ben Ferguson, Ellis Henican, we appreciate you both. Thank you for your time.

Still ahead here on "Newsroom," in Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has all but officially secured his third term in office. Later, what he had to say in a call with the U.S. president Donald Trump.

Plus, ISIS is defeated in Raqqa, Syria. The residents there can't return home. Why that city will be so tough to rebuild, as "Newsroom" pushes on.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VINCE CELLINI, CNN SPORT ANCHOR: I'm Vince Cellini with your CNN World Sport headlines. Lewis Hamilton may be well on his way to clinching a fourth Formula One world championship but it's not quite over yet.

[03:15:00] The bird (ph) did claim a ninth win of the season and fifth in his last sixth race at the U.S. Grand Prix. But his rival Ferrari Sebastian Vettel finished second meaning there is a mathematical chance of Hamilton being caught (INAUDIBLE) small one. Hamilton holds a 66-point lead with three races to go.

To football, in a day when defense across the English Premier League seemed to take a vacation, Liverpool provided little resistance at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur. As usual, Harry Kane, front and center in front of 80,000 fans, largest ever in league attendance. Kane needed only four minutes to get on the board. He added another seven minutes into the second half, a 4-1 romp the final Spurs fourth straight win.

2017, marking something of a career renaissance for Venus Williams. She appeared in two grand slam finals and qualified for the end of season WTA Finals for the first time since '09. It was not a happy return. However, Venus (INAUDIBLE) in her opening match by Karolina Pliskova. The check player rarely stray from the baseline dominated in straight sets, winning 6-2, 6-2. It was over in just under an hour and a quarter.

And that is a look at your sports headlines. I'm Vince Cellini.

HOWELL: The U.S. secretary of defense is in Asia, discussing the growing tensions with North Korea. James Mattis kicked off his week- long trip in the Philippines. That's where he is meeting with his counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Speaking with reporters earlier, Mattis emphasized diplomacy as a way to deescalate the crisis. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES MATTIS, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We will be talking about how we reinforce the diplomatic efforts to resolve this campaign to try to return a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, and also how we're going to maintain peace by keeping our military alert while our diplomats, Japanese, South Korea and U.S., work with all the nations to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Mattis's trip comes just a few weeks before his boss makes his first trip to Asia. As the U.S. president prepares for that trip, he discussed North Korea and its nuclear program in an interview with Fox News on Sunday. Mr. Trump praised China for stepping up, and boasted that the U.S. is prepared for anything.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They have been helping us. They're closing off their banking systems to North Korea. They have cut the oil way down. Look, 93 percent of the things going into North Korea comes through China. China is big stuff. I believe he's got -- he's got the power to do something very significant with respect to North Korea. We'll see what happens. Now, with that being said, we're prepared for anything. We are so prepared like you wouldn't believe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Another nation keeping an eye on North Korea is Japan. That nation's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is declaring a resounding victory in Sunday's snap general election. On Sunday night, he spoke on the phone with the U.S. president. The two reaffirmed their commitment to put pressure on North Korea.

Let's go live to Tokyo. Journalist Kaori Enjoji is on the story. Let's start with the prime minister's speech to the voters who reelected him. What were some of the key points of his message?

KAORI ENJOJI, JOURNALIST: George, the key points from the prime minister were that the Japanese electorate voted for continuity. This prime minister has been in office this time around since 2012, so that's nearly five years. And if he is voted in again as the head of the party, he could be in office. He could be prime minister until the year 2021, and that's nine years in total.

And that hasn't happened in the post war period. And he was saying today at the news conference that that kind of continuity is what's needed in order to address some of the key issues that Japan faces, primarily North Korea, the aging population, the economy, the rising debt level. So, I think that is the message he wanted to bring home after this very, very big win in the elections on Sunday.

HOWELL: Continuity with the economy. Also continuity presumably with North Korea. As we mentioned, the prime minister spoke by phone with the U.S. president specifically on the issue of North Korea and the nuclear program. What more can you tell us about the nature of that call?

ENJOJI: Well, this was a 30-minute telephone call. And Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Donald Trump have had a number of telephone conversations in recent months, particularly because of the North Korean situation.

And he said that they discussed the North Korean issue, and that they had agreed that they would take ample time at their meeting in November, on November 5th, when Donald Trump comes to Japan and the Asian region to discuss North Korea

[03:20:00] and to reaffirm their commitment in trying to deal with this rising threat as the country continues to launch missiles, some of them over Japan, and threatens the entire region.

And I think that kind of a telephone call is also an effort by the prime minister to show that he has been able to engage the U.S. President Donald Trump and to be a sympathetic ear at a time when some of the other global leaders have had difficulty doing so since the start of this year.

HOWELL: Kaori, I've heard you describe this as a game changer in your reporting before for the prime minister. Explain exactly what that means politically. How does he come out of this effectively with more power to make changes?

ENJOJI: I think he is definitely emboldened by the two-third majority that he has with the coalition. This will be the last chance the prime minister has in trying to amend the constitution. This is a pacifist constitution that has been in place throughout the entire post war period.

And he has made no secret that he wants to give a bigger role to the armed force, the military here, to give them a bigger role, not only in the region, but globally, and really legitimize their presence. And a two-third majority, that's what he needs in both houses of the diet (ph).

He also needs to call a national referendum as well. So, that's a little bit of another story and a longer story. But I think he is definitely emboldened to try and push through with this dream that he has had and to make it the hallmark of his tenure.

HOWELL: Journalist Kaori Enjoji in Tokyo, thanks.

Russia is slamming the U.S.-led bombing of Raqqa, Syria, saying it left the Syrian city erased. State media report a defense ministry spokeswoman compared Raqqa's fate to that of Dresden in World War II.

That German city was the target of heavy allied bombing in the effort to defeat the Nazis. Raqqa was the de facto ISIS capital which U.S.- backed forces declared liberated just days ago. CNN's Arwa Damon reports its recovery could be long and it could be very difficult.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The destruction of Raqqa is so vast and devastating. It's heartbreaking. And it's going the take at least three to four months before civilians can even begin to go back and try to take stock of what it is that they have actually physically lost because that is how long it's going to take to clear the city of various explosives and mines.

The civilian population now by and large languishing in overcrowded refugee camps. And among them, very little celebration at the liberation of their city because of the price they had to pay for it. Everybody who we spoke to knows someone who has died, whether it's a relative, a loved one or a friend.

And when it comes to the actual physical reconstruction of Raqqa, where is the civilian counsel even going to begin? If we take Kobani, that saw a similar scale of destruction to Raqqa, well, only 50 percent of it has actually approximately been rebuilt. And the international donations that were pledged, they never materialized.

People had to build their homes, if they could afford it, out of their savings. And additionally, just because ISIS has physically lost the territory of its caliphate, as we keep hearing time and time again, that does not mean that ISIS as an ideology, as an entity capable of carrying out attacks and drawing in even more recruits is necessarily over.

What we heard from a man from Bahrain who has been detained by the Kurdish forces is that ISIS already has a plan in place. He says they have the finances. They have the means. They have the capability to morph and reemerge again.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Kobani, Syria.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Arwa, thanks for the report. ISIS remains a threat. And both the U.S. and Russian-backed troops share the battlefield in Deir ez- Zor. For more, CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This may be where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is hiding but probably wishes he wasn't. Russian and Syrian regime has tried to pound ISIS's remnants in the city of Deir ez-Zor but they aren't alone in the skies or the ground here.

Banking hard and keeping out of the Russians' way are U.S. jets, assisting these U.V.-backed Kurdish fighters to take the nearby countryside from ISIS just the day before. ISIS, collapsing and leaving in their wake an almost cold war standoff.

(on camera): ISIS may be holding out in a pocket of a town of Deir ez- Zor, behind me, over there surrounded by the Syrian regime. But they've been kicked out too of this area by American-backed Kurdish SDF forces. Now they've advanced to to this river here which puts them literally meters away from the Syrian regime who are backed by Russian air power.

[03:25:00] We're told, in fact, these Kurdish-American-backed forces have held face-to-face meetings with Russian military officials to be sure they don't clash around here. Now in the end game against ISIS, Moscow and Washington's forces literally meters away from each other.

(voice-over): The Kurds are so relaxed with their new neighbors that fishing is this afternoon's task, with hand grenades. Five years in, and Syria is ground to dust. And this is what they're still fighting over. It's unclear who is left inside Deir ez-Zor. But those who fled, estimated recently at 10,000 a day, dot the skyline.

They try to filter them, but last week a suicide bomber struck. And yesterday, they found 30 ISIS fighters. They're followed around by the horror of what they fled, but also by suspicion. The simple question. Are the last to flee the most loyal to ISIS or just the least fortunate?

We saw everything in my village, she says. Air strikes, children and elderly dying, my relative just last week. The children couldn't stop crying from fear. I could only stand there. What could I do? I don't know if our home is still standing or even who is bombing us.

Yusuf (ph) is 10 and doesn't have any superhero powers here. Just dust and bad dreams. When I would hear the shelling, he says, I would hide in the ground. The hardest part about living in the desert is we're not at home. The stream is endless, like the bombing they flee and this war. Which keeps finding new chapters and adversaries around them. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, near Deir ez-Zor, Syria.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Nick, thank you for the report. Still ahead, Spain is defending its plan to suspend Catalonia's semi autonomy. Next, why some Catalan residents say direct rule from Madrid could be good for their fur. "Newsroom" is live from Atlanta, Georgia this hour, simulcast on both CNN USA and CNN International this hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[03:30:00] HOWELL: Welcome back to viewers here in the United States and all around the world. You're watching CNN Newsroom.

It is good to have you with us. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.

The U.S. President Donald Trump goes to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, looking for support for his tax reform plan. But there could be some awkward moments. Those senators that he'll face, the people he has criticized harshly in the past, people like John McCain, Bob Corker and Jeff Flake. He'll need their support.

The U.S. secretary of defense is meeting with his Japanese counterpart in the Philippines. James Mattis is on a week-long trip to the region to talk with leaders of the Association of Southeast nations. They're expected to discuss North Korea and the nuclear crisis.

The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is thanking voters for giving him a resounding victory in Sunday's snap election. He spoke during a press conference just a short time ago.

Earlier Sunday, U.S. President Donald Trump congratulated him in a phone call.

Now to Spain's political crisis, both sides, Madrid and Barcelona are denying carrying out a coup d'etat. Catalan leaders are rejecting any direct rule from Madrid. They say the region won the right to be independent through an unofficial referendum.

Madrid wants to suspend Catalonia's autonomy until new elections are held. And now in a new interview with the BBC, the Spanish foreign minister is defending the government's plan. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALFONSO DASTIS, SPANISH FOREIGN MINISTER: We are going to establish the authorities who are going to rule, you know, the day to day affairs of Catalonia. According to as I said from to the Catalan laws and norms. I hope everyone will disregard whatever instructions they will be planning to give because they will not have the legal authority to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: In the meantime, not everyone in Catalonia oppose direct rule from Madrid.

CNN's Erin McLaughlin met some people in the region who think remaining part of Spain will they think that's the best option.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Nestled between the foothills of the Catalan mountains and a motorway north of Barcelona, Badia del Valles, a working class Catalan town and a stronghold for Spain. Residents here are adamant they don't want independence.

At a local church, prayers that things stay the way they are, and Catalonia remains a part of Spain. Some here say with the Spanish prime minister's new emergency measures to sack the Catalan government and call elections within six months, their prayers have been answered.

(FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): they're not going to take our autonomy. They'll just take those who are not capable away. And in six months, they'll fix things, the sooner the better.

MCLAUGHLIN: For many here enemy number one Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, chief architect for the push for independence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I would ask him to think it through, because we were fine.

MCLAUGHLIN: Badia del Valles was founded in 1975, a few months before the fascist dictator General Francisco Franco died. Spain developed it as a special project, meant to be home to the area's migrant workforce. People moved here hoping for a better life. Now many fear it could all fall apart.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The most important thing for me is security, a good economy, to live like we did before. Now everything is falling apart.

MCLAUGHLIN: But not everyone here feels this way. Even in the most pro-Spain town of Catalonia, there are those who say they feel Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has crossed the line.

Marcos Real owns a cafe off the main square. He is outraged at the way Rajoy is handling things. After the crackdown on the October 1 referendum, he closed his business to protest the violence. He tells me Catalans were humiliated.

How do you feel about Prime Minister Rajoy moving to take direct control of Catalonia?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): If I can, I'll vote. And if they don't allow me to vote, I'll do it by force as they did it on October 1. This is a democratic system. And what President Rajoy is doing is skipping the law. So this is a fascist state as it was 35 years ago.

[03:55:04] MCLAUGHLIN: So much emotion in this tiny town. Residents worry they have a lot to lose.

Erin McLaughlin, CNN, Badia del Valles.

HOWELL: Erin, thank you.

There are new allegations against former Fox Anchor Bill O'Reilly. A former colleague threatened to sue him for sexual misconduct. So he reportedly paid her a whopping $32 million. The New York Times detailed the allegations in this expose. O'Reilly settled new harassment claim, then Fox renewed his contract. O'Reilly calls the report smears and lies.

The former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson summed up the entire situation as, quote, "horrifying and outrageous."

My colleague Brian Stelter has this report.

BRIAN STELTER, SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Hey there, yes. This is a story about money and power involving Bill O'Reilly and a long- time legal analyst at Fox News named Lis Wiehl. She was a regular on O'Reilly's program, the O'Reilly Factor, until the end of last year.

And that's where the story gets really complicated. So in January of this year, Lis Wiehl went to O'Reilly and threatened a sexual harassment lawsuit. O'Reilly settled out of court. He agreed to pay her $32 million. A few weeks later, Fox News renewed his contract for an incredible $25 million a year.

Now the next part of this story, you've probably already heard about. It's when Bill O'Reilly was fired by Fox News in the midst of a sexual harassment scandal. This happened in April after the New York Times reported on other secret settlements that O'Reilly had reached with accusers.

There was an advertiser boycott. And by the end of April, O'Reilly was out of a job. But now he has been mounting a comeback. He has been trying to find another TV channel that will hire him. And that's why the new New York Times story landed with such a thud.

According to the New York Times, Lis Wiehl was alleging harassment and a nonconsensual sexual relationship with O'Reilly. We don't know what she says exactly happened because she is now sworn to secrecy. But the New York Times obtained details of the settlement and published them over the weekend.

Now O'Reilly says he has never mistreated anyone. He says this is bogus, and he is vowing to respond on Monday. But the New York Times story was a shock to the TV world. I spoke with former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson who of course sued Roger Ailes last year. She received a $20 million settlement herself. She told me she was shocked to read this new New York Times story about O'Reilly. She also was disturbed that Fox brought him back on the air last month with Sean Hannity. Here's what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRETCHEN CARLSON, FORMER ANCHOR, FOX NEWS: Brian, I think it's horrifying and outrageous that any company after dismissing somebody for allegations such as that would not only resign a contract, but allow that person to come back on the air.

It's outrageous, and it's one of the reasons that I wanted to make sure I chronicled so many other women's stories in my book. Because now we are on a movement. We are on a movement to speak up and be heard. And there is no turning back for women in the workplace. Why should women have the American dream taken away from them? We work just as hard as anyone else. And it's time that it stops.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Gretchen Carlson says she is really inspired by all the women that have come forward against Harvey Weinstein. And as a result of the Weinstein scandal, they're coming forward against other men who have harassed them in the workplace.

But this Bill O'Reilly story is a reminder of the power of ratings, the power of million contracts. Fox renewed O'Reilly's contract and wanted him to stay on the air until it was impossible for him to remain. The idea that he had this $32 million settlement was just the cost, the price of doing business for Fox News. Now it's been exposed by the sunlight, and it's embarrassed both Fox and O'Reilly.

But it's created this educational moment how about money and power work in relationship to sexual harassment charges.

Brian Stelter, CNN, New York.

HOWELL: All right, Brian, thank you.

Still ahead, Zimbabwe's controversial President Robert Mugabe, he was a controversial choice for a goodwill ambassador appointment. What the World Health Organization is saying now.

Plus, how African statues are funding North Korea's nuclear program. We look into it as Newsroom returns.

[03:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN Newsroom. I'm George Howell.

North Korea's covert operations across Africa helped that cash- strapped country defend its nuclear program. But now Namibia is under fire from the U.S. for bypassing U.N. sanctions.

CNN's David McKenzie went to a North Korean construction headquarters just outside the Namibian capital.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MCKENZIE, INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: A quick drive away from its picturesque downtown, behind this high-walled warehouse, Namibia's sleepy capital holds a secret. When did the North Koreans leave?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe let me say maybe two weeks or three weeks.

MCKENZIE: Two week ago they left?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

MCKENZIE: And who was operating there? The North Koreans?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

MCKENZIE: Just weeks ago say eyewitnesses, North Koreans living and working in this sprawling compound, in clear violation of U.N. sanctions. They grew their own food, moved in and out with trucks. Then they vanished.

But the building's title deed shows it's a headquarters of North Korean state company Mansudae. As sanctions have squeezed, the North Korean regime searched globally for foreign cash to fund its illicit nuclear and missile program.

And across Africa, they found willing partner and historic allies. In Namibia's capital alone, the national museum and statue of founding president Heroes' Acre commemorating an independence even the recently finished presidential palace, all built by the North Korean state in their trademark totalitarian style. But the contracts aren't just artistic. Outside the capital, it's just

scrub land. You'd never know what you are looking for, inside this Namibian military base. The U.N. investigator says there is a North Korean munitions factory. A violation of sanctions in place for nearly a decade, and a sensitive topic for a major recipient of American aid.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NETUMBO NANDI-NDAITWAH, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER OF Namibia: Starting last year, we have started sending them out.

MCKENZIE: The deputy prime minister says their relationship is now over, and that they have given regular reports to the U.N. investigation team.

NANDI-NDAITWAH: The activities that has been taking place in Namibia in which the Koreans have been involved could not really be considered to be generating such a heavy amount of money to foil the nuclear development in North Korea.

[03:45:09] MCKENZIE: But the lead U.N. investigator disagrees. He says they haven't received those reports for more than a year.

CNN's multiple attempts to reach Mansudae and North Korean authorities were unsuccessful. Is this money insignificant for North Korea?

HUGH GRIFFITHS, COORDINATOR, UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL PANEL OF EXPERTS: This money is highly significant. We're looking at least 14 African member states where Mansudae alone was running quite large construction operations, building everything from ammunition factories to presidential palaces to apartment blocks.

MCKENZIE: The panel is investigating scores of African countries for their contracts with North Korea's Mansudae and its military. Has Namibia been cleared by the U.N. panel?

GRIFFITHS: No. It's not been cleared by the U.N. panel. It's not enough to say you've been exonerated by the U.N. for North Korean sanctions violations. Because that's not true. The panel deals with hard facts, with evidence. And this is what we've been asking from the Namibia for many months now.

MCKENZIE: In Namibia, the pressure seems to be having an effect. The North Korean building site of the new defense ministry has ground to a halt. For now, its dealings with North Korea have become a thorny issue.

David McKenzie, CNN, Windhoek, Namibia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Interesting report. David, thank you so much.

The World Health Organization is rescinding a controversial appointment after days of international outrage. Last week, the WHO named the leader of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador. The west accuses Mugabe of human rights abuses as well as the destruction of his country's economy.

CNN's correspondent Farai Zevenzo tracking developments live in Nairobi, Kenya this hour. The reaction to this appointment was swift around the world. I even read that the prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau thought that this was a bad April fool's joke. It's October.

A lot of reaction to this.

FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, George. It was one of those left field jokes from the Canadian head saying that it seemed like an April fool's joke. And you're right. The condemnation, the chorus of disapproval has been completely all around world.

Now you must remember Robert Mugabe at 93 is no friend of the west and he would consider himself quite proud of that fact. But the fact that the World Health Organization through Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus appointed him a goodwill ambassador, they thought that it would cause no shockwaves.

But as you say, the reaction was swift and completely true to the mark. They say this man is guilty of human rights resources. They say that -- I beg your pardon, of human rights abuses. They say that he doesn't even get treated in Zimbabwe.

But I think the WHO's line is here is an elder statesman widely respected in Africa, albeit not widely respected in the west. They want him to have some influence on his peers especially in terms of non-communicable diseases like cancer and sickle cell and all kinds of blood diseases that Africa really suffers from.

And as you say, the reaction was like that in the west. But Zimbabwes themselves were saying hang on a second. Our president is 93 years old. What is he going to do in this role? Whatever you might decide to do, whether he is running for election, he essentially in the departure lounge at that age of 93.

Then they said he also gets treated in Singapore. His family gets treated in Singapore. His ministers fly to South Africa. The Zimbabwean health ministry has been decimated. You cannot give this role to such a man. And apparently Dr. Tedros they listened to those complaints and he rescinded that goodwill ambassadorial role which had been offered to President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, George.

HOWELL: So, a 180 on that WHO appointment. Farai Zevenzo, live in Nairobi, Kenya. Farai, thank you for the reporting.

The former U.N. General -- Secretary General, rather, Ban Ki-moon will attend his first event with the elders later Monday. That's a group of political leaders who tackle the world's most pressing issues. He'll join another former secretary general Kofi Annan, among others in London's Trafalgar Square for a candle-lit walk to the Nelson Mandela statue in parliament square.

The eastern part of the United States is in for some storms and much cooler weather. The cold front, that is ahead. Stay with us. [03:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

IVAN CABRERA, METEOROLOGIST, CNN: I'm CNN meteorologist Ivan Cabrera checking in with your weather here across the United States.

If you're going to be traveling, big cold front across the eastern part of the states. In fact, this feature has been bringing severe weather and even tornadoes. Reported tornadoes yesterday across the plains and into the southeast.

What's happening here is we're dividing two season when we have fairly warm temperatures and on the back side of that front a significant plummet of the temperatures the next couple of days as cold air begins to pull in from north to south.

The area of good pressure still headed on to the north and east of Canada. Cloudy, rainy, starts all the way here across the New England and through the i-95 corridor. This rain will get out of the way and it will make cold way for the cold air that will be pushing or rather quickly here as temperatures begins to fodder.

The thunderstorms in Atlanta big help there. It may find delays early on with the heavy rainfall and wind, and then back behind it will begin to cool off pretty quiet in San Francisco down towards southern California. High temperatures we'll see at low 20s once again for Monday, and there's the dip as temperatures that come back into the mid and upper teens.

In fact, there are the high temperatures into the evening that will drop more so through the (Inaudible). Across Central America partly with afternoon thunderstorms in the 20s.

HOWELL: The start of the week for the U.S. East Coast. And in the forecast, heavy rain and strong winds happening right now in many places. Our meteorologist Ivan Cabrera tracking it all. Ivan?

CABRERA: Yes, a big front coming through, George. And good morning. At this point we're looking at heavy rain already. It's broken out. In fact, it's raining all weekend from Oklahoma towards Arkansas. But at this point, the rain shield has moved through Tennessee and down towards the Panhandle.

All of this will continue pushing east. There will be two areas here of concern. Potential for severe weather today in areas across the Carolinas. You see this band moving through. That could contain some really heavy rain. Gusty winds.

In fact, severe one potential here, damaging winds. Upwards of 50, 60 miles an hour. And some of those thunderstorms right along the leading edge of that will be a squall line eventually. It could put down some isolated tornadoes. The storm system has had a history of doing that.

And then the secondary concern will be the rain. The front actually clears the southeast pretty quickly. So the cold air will move in. But this is going to be a long go here from the Carolinas all the way up into New England, New York will be seeing several inches of accumulation.

A lot of areas that could be coming down pretty hard and heavy at times, even with the potential for flooding. So the mild air will say goodbye to that by mid-week. And then the really cold air kind of plunges in here and goes all the way down.

In fact, even Florida will drop back into the 50s. And that's something for this time of year. Just lets you know how cold it will be up into the Midwest where temperature there's will drop big-time here. So there is your front. It will continue moving east. We'll keep you posted on the severe weather.

But I want to show you the seven-day forecast for some areas here, specifically in Atlanta, where I mentioned the front will actually move through. It will actually clear out and begin to cool off big- time here. So this is probably going to be the coldest air mass we've seen so far this season.

[03:55:05] For New York it will be delayed. The cold air does eventually move in. The problem is we're going to have a couple days a very heavy feel. In fact, I don't see things clearing out until Wednesday.

By Thursday we'll be back into some sunshine, and by then we'll tap into the colder air with dropping temperatures heading into next weekend. So it's the time of year the seasons kind of fight each other. And when you have that you get big rain and a big drop in temperature. That's what we have for you late this week, George.

HOWELL: Changing weather, it's happening. Ivan, thank you so much. And thank you for being with us here on CNN Newsroom. I'm George Howell at the CNN center in Atlanta.

For our viewers in the United States, Early Start is next. For our other viewers around the world, the news continues with my colleague Max Foster, next hour.

Thank you for watching the Cable News Network CNN, the world's news leader.