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First Charges Filed in Mueller Investigation; Catalonia Government Dismissed after Declaring Independence; Kenya Election; Niger Investigation; North Korea Tensions; Sexual Harassment Scandals; U.S. Navy Rescues Women after Months at Sea. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired October 28, 2017 - 04:00   ET

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


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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): It's 4:00 am on the U.S. East Coast. We begin with breaking news out of Washington, D.C., and a major step forward in the special counsel's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. I'm George Howell.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And I'm Natalie Allen. Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. Let's get straight to our breaking news, first reported on this network.

Sources tell CNN the first charges have been filed in Robert Mueller's investigation.

HOWELL: Important points here, though. At this point, we don't know the nature of those charges, we don't know exactly who could be charged but we get the latest now from CNN's Evan Perez.

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EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: A federal grand jury in Washington approved the first charges in the investigation led by Robert Mueller. We're told by sources that the charges are still sealed under orders from a federal judge. And plans are being made for anyone charged to be taken into custody as soon as Monday.

It's unclear what the charges are and, at this point, it's not clear whether those under indictment have even been notified. A spokesman for the special counsel's office declined to comment.

Mueller was appointed in May to lead the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections and, under the regulations governing the special counsel investigations, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who has the oversight of the Russia investigation, would have been made aware of any charges before they were taken before the grand jury.

On Friday, top lawyers who are helping to lead the Mueller probe, including veteran prosecutor Andrew Weisman (ph), were seen entering the courtroom at the D.C. federal court, where the grand jury meets to hear testimony in the Russia investigation.

After more than a year of investigation first began by the FBI, this is a big moment all involved have been waiting for -- Evan Perez, CNN, Washington.

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ALLEN: For more on this I'm joined by Areva Martin, Areva is an attorney and a CNN legal analyst.

Thank you for joining us, Areva.

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Thanks, Natalie.

ALLEN: Here we go. First charges in the Mueller investigation. So it will be unsealed next week.

Does that necessarily mean someone will officially be charged?

MARTIN: From what we've been told, someone will be charged. We don't know if the special counsel has worked out some kind of arrangement with that person's counsel. Perhaps they have been notified and they're negotiating whether that person will turn themselves in on Monday or Tuesday.

It could be a raid; that happens possibly, where there is law enforcement that goes to this individual's home or individuals. We don't know if it's one or more people and there's some kind of arrest made.

But we're told that by Monday or Tuesday someone is likely to be in custody, someone will either come forward and turn themselves in or be arrested by law enforcement. At that point, we should know more about what the actual charges are that are contained in that indictment.

ALLEN: So many people have been investigated. This has been going on for months. We don't know if this particular indictment will, in fact, shed light, do we, on the Russian involvement in the election?

MARTIN: It's too early to tell. There's been lots of speculation who has been indicted and what the indictment is. Our best estimate is this is probably the low-hanging fruit. This indictment is coming pretty early on in the Mueller investigation.

It's not likely at this early stage that this is one of the indictments that's related to the complex relationship between Russia and the Trump administration. Speculation is that this may be a banking transaction or a failure to register as a foreign lobbyist, something easy to prove, something where the investigation doesn't have to be as expansive as the collusion allegations that we know that are out there, that are being investigated by the special counsel.

So not clear and also some speculation this may be someone that Mueller wants to use to flip, to put pressure on, to then give him someone higher up on the food chain.

ALLEN: That's something that's not unusual to happen, right?

MARTIN: Happens all the time in these kinds of investigations, particularly where there are numerous potential targets of an investigation, that they use an indictment against someone, let's call, at the bottom of the rung of the ladder and they use that indictment to pressure that person to come forward with information that helps them get to the person at the top.

In this case, at the top of this entire investigation is President Donald Trump.

ALLEN: I want to ask you, is there any credence given to a grand jury indictment?

Some say that a grand jury will indict anything.

Is that fair?

MARTIN: Yes, oftentimes, you know, the statement is made that you can get a ham sandwich or --

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MARTIN: -- a sandwich indicted. Clearly the standard is not as rigorous as that of beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the standard which is --

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MARTIN: -- required if a person is tried in a court of law.

But we know special counsel Mueller, his integrity, his experience -- I don't think an investigation that is as sensitive and as important as this is going to be presented to a grand jury unless there's substantial evidence to support the claims that are being presented.

So I don't think this is going to be something that was done without a lot of thought, without a lot of strategy. And unless this investigative team, this really experienced team of lawyers, believe that they can successfully, you know, find this person can be prosecuted and they can get a guilty verdict at a trial.

ALLEN: Last question, James Comey, the former FBI director, he came before cameras and held news conferences when he needed.

What about Robert Mueller?

How do you expect he'll handle this next week?

MARTIN: What we know about Robert Mueller is that he's the ultimate professional. He's not been grandstanding. He's not held any press conferences. He's been playing his cards pretty close to the vest. I think he'll continue to do so. This is the beginning of this investigation. And this is the

beginning of indictments. This is not the end. So I don't expect Mueller to do anything differently than what he has done to date, which is to continue to be extremely professional, to investigate this with the utmost integrity and to continue to move forward with the investigation.

And as I said, I think this is one or perhaps a couple of beginning indictments. And if the investigation is as broad as it appears to be, there may be more indictments coming as this investigation continues.

ALLEN: All right. Attorney and legal analyst, Areva Martin, thank you for your comments.

MARTIN: Thanks, Natalie.

HOWELL: News of the indictment comes as the White House seeks to shift the focus from the Mueller investigation to the Democrats.

ALLEN: The familiar target: Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump claims Clinton colluded with Russia over an uranium deal and paid for the so- called Russian dossier on then candidate Trump.

For more on that, here's Jim Acosta.

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JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The White House is pointing to what it believes to be evidence of Russian collusion but not with President Trump.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think we are seeing now that, if there was any collusion with Russia, it was between the DNC and the Clintons and certainly not our campaign.

ACOSTA: Apparently latching onto reports of the rising cost of special counsel Bob Mueller's investigation, the president insisted on Twitter that "There was no collusion between Russia and Trump." The collusion, the president insisted, was with Hillary Clinton.

That charge comes just days after it was revealed the Clinton campaign and the Democrats helped fund research that led to the so-called Russian dossier of opposition research aimed at then-candidate Trump. But up until this point, the White House has yet to offer any evidence of Clinton collusion with the Russians.

(on camera): How about evidence of collusion of Hillary -- Sarah, no, the president made a charge that Hillary Clinton...

SANDERS: I think I've -- I think I've addressed that pretty thoroughly. Mike, go ahead.

ACOSTA: So you're saying that...

SANDERS: I'm saying that I'm calling on your colleague. ACOSTA: OK, well, you didn't really address that question.

(voice-over): The White House accusations also follow Republican calls for an investigation into the sale of the Uranium One mining company to the Russians during the Obama administration. One top West Wing official says President Trump pressed for a gag order to be lifted on an informant in the probe so the truth can come out.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO DONALD TRUMP: He believes, as many others do, frankly, that the FBI informant should be free to say what he knows.

ACOSTA: Before the 2016 campaign, conservatives were pushing the Uranium One story as evidence of Clinton corruption, but proof of the former secretary of state's involvement never came.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Do you have any evidence that she actually intervened in this issue?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we don't have direct evidence, but it warrants further investigation, because again, George, this is part of a broader pattern.

ACOSTA: Democrats are questioning why the president personally intervened in the Uranium One probe, suspecting he is simply trying to distract from his own Russia questions.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (R), CALIFORNIA: Now the question is, is this being done in good faith? And it's very hard to reach the conclusion that this is done in good faith, that we have now suddenly, six or seven years after the fact, decided we've got to do another investigation of Hillary Clinton to try to prove that Hillary Clinton interfered in this decision to grant this uranium sale.

ACOSTA: Just days ago, again without offering any evidence, the president said the Uranium One sale amounted to another Watergate.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the uranium sale to Russia and the way it was done, so underhanded with tremendous amounts of money being passed, I actually think that's Watergate, modern age.

ACOSTA: For the president, it's a return to a familiar tactic employed throughout the campaign. When accused of wrongdoing, point the finger at your opponent.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It is -- it's just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country.

TRUMP: Because you'd be in jail.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Secretary Clinton...

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ACOSTA (voice-over): -- Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.

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HOWELL: Let's get some context on all of this now with Steven Erlanger. Steven is the chief diplomatic correspondent for "The New York Times," live via Skype for us in Brussels.

Always good to have you on the show here, Steven. This week, we've seen the White House move the goal post to Hillary Clinton with questions about uranium one, to questions about the dossier.

But given the fact that we now know charges have been filed, does that move the focus back to the central question of the Russia investigation itself and possible collusion?

STEVEN ERLANGER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, it's bound to. Robert Mueller is obviously operating in a secret way, which he should do. But given the trouble Congress investigating committees are having, I think, you know, you should wait and see what Mueller comes up with. It's a very complicated story, first of all. And it is undermining Trump's story with the rest of the country.

But he is, as Jim Acosta said, finding ways to try to turn the focus of Russia to Hillary Clinton. It doesn't feel like moving the goal post. It feels like running around the track over and over and over again. And without some exercise but without a lot of purpose right now.

What is troubling a little bit is using Russia as almost a football, to use the same analogy, in a deeply partisan American political game. We're heading into Russophobia. We tend to overestimate the skill and tactics of Vladimir Putin, the stability of his country.

And, you know, I do worry a little bit that all of this concentration on Russia's clear meddling in the election, though no one is convinced it made any difference to the outcome, is putting our relationship with Russia almost in a dangerous place, when we need their help on North Korea, on Syria, on other matters.

HOWELL: So we've seen the president, to that point, refer to the Russia probe as costly. We've seen him call it unnecessary, consider it unfruitful.

Are these attempts to muddy the water politically?

And, if so, though, now that action is being taken, do you expect a new attempt to discredit Mueller in this investigation?

ERLANGER: Well, this is a very good question. What Trump is trying to do is to say everything is fake news, that it's not real. But of course it is real. Something's real. And it's up to Mueller to try to find that.

Now he has come very close to trying to fire Jeff Sessions so he could get someone who would fire Mueller because the appointment of Robert Mueller enrages President Trump and he blames it on Jeff Sessions. So the idea of this former FBI head, kind of plunging away, is

complicating life for the White House.

Now I don't know with whether he's going to come up with anything that touches President Trump himself or his family. But certainly the indictment that you report does indicate an effort by Mueller to show that he is also making progress. These things have symbolic value, too.

HOWELL: This is a story that is, of course, first here on CNN. Our reporter has gone to great lengths to get this information but it is important to point this out. We don't know who might be charged. We don't know the nature of these charges.

But, again, if this does come close somehow to Trump world, how do you expect the administration to respond here?

Can we expect a series of distractions from this topic at hand?

ERLANGER: What's fascinating is to see the way the White House is leaping on the correct information that a lawyer and law firm, working for the Democratic National Committee, did fund Christopher Steele, who is a former British agent, who did the famous Russian dossier.

Now the company, Fusion, was originally hired by a right-wing Republican. But after Trump was cleared to get the nomination, that person stopped funding it. And the investigation was then funded by this lawyer, who claims he didn't tell anyone at Democratic National Committee what he was doing.

But, you know, opposition research is not illegal. Everybody does it. And that Christopher Steele dossier was taken seriously enough that the FBI has been looking into it. Now some of it is very salacious. But other things point to an early Russian interest in --

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ERLANGER: -- Donald Trump as a businessman, possibly for money laundering. One often things what Robert Mueller is really looking -- and here I'm just speculating -- is a period of time when the Trump Organization was having money troubles and Russians were looking to launder money abroad.

It's very easy to buy apartments. That's completely speculative but I'm sure that is one avenue of investigation. And we've also found out, you know, this is not new news terribly but that the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, who had that famous meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and others during the campaign, where she was offering harmful material to Clinton, did have strong connections to the Russian prosecutor general.

So this gets very mysterious. It's fascinating. It may not lead to anything, as you yourself said, but Robert Mueller does seem to be pressing ahead. And if he does have a first indictment, this will make the White House very nervous. HOWELL: That's the thing, you know, there are a lot of nuances here, a lot of details, a lot that we don't know. But what we do know at this point, per our reporting, we do know that charges are coming forward. We'll find out how this plays out next week. Steven Erlanger, thank you for your time.

ERLANGER: Thanks, George.

ALLEN: A major push for Catalonia's push for independence. The Spanish government pushes back hard. We'll go live to Madrid for the very latest coming up here.

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HOWELL: Welcome back.

Spain's prosecutor general is preparing rebellion charges against the Catalan president and his government. Many Catalans are waking up to an uncertain future this morning. But there were big celebrations on the streets Friday, when the wealthy Spanish region declared independence. Lawmakers there called Catalonia a sovereign state.

ALLEN: But the central government in Madrid immediately imposed direct rule. It also dissolved Catalonia's parliament, fired its president and called new elections for December. Prime minister Mariano Rajoy blamed separatist leaders for the crisis. CNN's Erin McLaughlin joins us now from Barcelona.

Another day dawns there and people will be finding out what are the latest steps that have been taken against their movement -- Erin.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, there's so much confusion and uncertainty here this morning in Catalonia. I want to point out to some of the morning headlines, highlighting the extreme viewpoints at play here.

This is a Catalan paper seen as pro independence. As you can see here, the headline, "The republic proclaimed," with an image of Catalonian president Carles Puigdemont in parliament yesterday.

The local mayor is below, cheering him on. And then at the bottom half of paper, it says, "The government dismissed," with an image of Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy in the senate yesterday, passing those emergency measures.

And then there's the pro-Spain paper, seen as very conservative viewpoint, ABC, which essentially says, "Spain beheads the coup," with an image of the Spanish prime minister there and some of his political support.

So this really sort of illustrates two kind of parallel realities at play at the moment.

And joining me to talk more about that, professor of history, Stephen Jacobson (sic).

STEPHEN JACOBS, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY: Good morning.

MCLAUGHLIN: Good morning.

What do you make of all of this?

JACOBS: It's confusion, as you say. And it's a continuation of certain political theater that's going to continue for a long period of time, at least until December 21st, when the elections have been held. And until then and what happens until then is anybody's guess.

MCLAUGHLIN: We're here outside the Catalan central government headquarters. We're not sure if the Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, is inside the building or not at this point.

What do you see as his next move?

JACOBS: In terms of his physical self, he has to determine whether he's going to leave this building if the media is inside or whether he will ask the Spanish state come in and physically remove him because he has been dismissed from his job as president of the (INAUDIBLE) so he can't stay there.

So we'll see what his strategy is, if he wants to create headlines by having himself physically removed or if the Spanish state stays out and waits for him. But that's what he has to do physically; his long- term strategy is obviously a lot more complicated than that.

MCLAUGHLIN: And let's talk about that long-term strategy. We had yesterday this declaration of independence so to speak, in parliament.

What comes next for that?

JACOBS: It's a declaration of independence, not so to speak. It's a firm declaration of independence, which was voted on by a number of deputies who not ironically but suspiciously don't represent 50 percent of the electorate. They represent around 47-48 percent of the electorate.

And there was one of them, according to best estimates, that did vote no. So they right now, in Catalonia, have made a declaration of independence with deputies that represent less than 50 percent of the electorate. They do have a majority because of the electoral law.

And that's why the ABC newspaper, as you saw, has described the declaration as a coup because it doesn't have a technical majority support. So, at that point, it leaves things in a very unstable situation.

MCLAUGHLIN: And what does that mean for him going forward keeping that in mind?

JACOBS: He's going to have trouble getting any support internationally until he can claim 50-60 percent of the Catalans are behind him. Right now, he doesn't have that. So the strategy coming in for the next couple months will to be to create further tension, to escalate tension, to create a lot of anti-Rajoy feeling, anti- government feeling, in hopes to gain further independence, which is gathering momentum.

MCLAUGHLIN: And Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, he's on a tightrope.

What is his next move?

How does he proceed, do you think?

JACOBS: His next move was made last night, when he called elections for December 21st, which surprised many people. That was the earlier he could call them under Spanish law.

The day before, on Thursday, Puigdemont almost called them for December 20th. So by calling them on December 21st --

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JACOBS: -- Rajoy is giving a sign of we will call a soft intervention, as opposed to a hard intervention. The idea is the Spanish government can get in and out as soon as possible and hopefully return to normality. That's what he is claiming to be to do.

Obviously, the strategy of the (INAUDIBLE) Puigdemont at that point will be to perhaps foment civil disobedience, peaceful civil disobedience, as they've said, to try to keep Catalan news headlines, to attempt to gain international support and to hope that the Spanish government makes a mistake, like they made on the 1st of October, when civil guards were filmed on the international news, committing violent acts against voters, many of whom were elderly or even children.

MCLAUGHLIN: Stephen Jacobs, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Natalie and George, back to you.

ALLEN: All right. Erin McLaughlin, we'll be watching developments on another day with confusion, as you say, we can understand that. Thanks, Erin.

Outnumbered and outgunned. We're learning new details about the U.S. and Nigerien troops who were caught in a deadly ambush. We'll have that story for you, coming up.

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WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "President Trump knows nothing about the Korean nation," he says. "Now he's asking us to give up our nuclear weapons. Ask anyone on the street and they'll say he's a lunatic."

HOWELL (voice-over): And ahead of President Trump's trip to the East Asian countries, you'll see reaction from the streets of Pyongyang.

CNN live from Atlanta, Georgia, this hour, simulcast on both CNN USA here in the U.S. and CNN International worldwide. Stay with us.

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HOWELL: Welcome back to viewers 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.

ALLEN: And I'm Natalie Allen.

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ALLEN: The headlines this hour:

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HOWELL: Let's go live now to CNN's David McKenzie. David live following this story.

David, what more can you tell us about the ambush?

What are you learning?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, George, the ambush happened some weeks ago but only details coming out now, those dramatic details that you described, that this U.S.-led, well, in fact, Green Beret-led contingent of U.S. soldiers, together with Nigerien soldiers, when they came under attack by what seems to be a far superior force in terms of numbers, they split and one group of those U.S. soldiers with some Nigerien soldiers got split up and couldn't, in fact, communicate directly with their counterparts.

Now several of the U.S. soldiers, according to the Pentagon officials, moved out of their vehicle to try and flank the ISIS-linked militants in that firefight. But of course we know how this all ended up: four U.S. Soldiers dead, a number of them wounded and Nigerien counterparts dead in what is still an open investigation into exactly what happened and why these American soldiers went into this danger zone with what appears to be light support -- George.

HOWELL: David, also, what can you tell us about the different terror groups operating in the region?

It's known to be a dangerous part of the world.

MCKENZIE: Well, that's right. Our viewers maybe didn't have this front and center in their minds, this part of West Africa, as a potential terror threat.

But terror groups have been operating in this region for quite some time and they have been shifting their allegiances. This group is -- that conducted this ambush is expected to be linked to ISIS.

But intelligence sources I am speaking to in the region say that those affiliations are probably quite loose. And we're not talking necessarily about a large group with command and control from some centralized headquarters but rather a group that operates in this fluid border region of Niger and Mali, trying to gain supporters and influence, as well as dealing with regional, you know, cultural and political issues.

This is not a central Al Qaeda kind of group like maybe we have been familiar with in the years past. So the U.S. soldiers are here in region, say the U.S. officials, to really stamp out that threat before it becomes a larger threat to here in the region and in the U.S. -- George.

HOWELL: David McKenzie, following the story in Niger, David, thank you for the reporting. We'll stay in touch with you.

ALLEN: And to the point that David just made, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has a stark warning, that the conflicts in Africa could be a breeding group for extremists.

HOWELL: Nikki Haley's comments come during her three-nation tour of Africa. She's visiting less than a month after the attack in Niger that killed four American soldiers. CNN's global affairs correspondent Elise Labott spoke with the ambassador during a stop in Kinshasa, Congo.

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NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Yes, it's so important that everybody not just talk about the Middle East and how we have to be careful of the Middle East. You see the actions that the administration has taken in the Middle East is all because we want to deal with the situation there so we don't have to deal with it in the United States.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nikki Haley on her toughest diplomatic mission to date, going head to head with African strongmen in Congo.

HALEY: I know what a politician is like and I know what they're capable of and --

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HALEY: -- I know they're capable of and what they're not capable of. And so, when they start to talk about what they don't control, I remind them they do.

LABOTT: And warning the violation and humanitarian misery they're causing in their countries could produce the next terrorist haven to launch attacks against the U.S. after the ambush in Niger that killed four American soldiers. In Syria, a new U.N. report found President Assad repeatedly used chemical weapons, sarin and mustard gas, against his people.

HALEY: That is the most unconscionable act a dictator can do.

LABOTT (on camera): When is the U.S. going to step up? They say that it's time for him to go. And make sure he goes.

HALEY: The United States has been very clear. There is no future for Syria with Assad.

LABOTT: When does the future start by getting rid of Assad?

HALEY: Well, first of all, you've got Russia holding their hand. So, it's not as easy as saying we're going to go and we're going to take Assad out. You've got Russia holding their hand, basically allowing this to happen. You've got Iran supporting the situation.

LABOTT (voice-over): Haley says now that the U.S. has destroyed ISIS and Syria, the U.S. has its eye on Assad.

HALEY: We're not done. This is still playing out. This is all still happening.

LABOTT: So you see U.S. actions that could effectively push Assad out.

HALEY: I think you can, it's not that we are going to push Assad out, but we're not going to let chemical weapons happen. We're not going to get Iran take over. We're not going to allow any of those things to happen. Those are all strategically planned on how we can go forward, but the overall message in that is, we are not going to stand by a cruel dictator that uses chemical weapons on his own people.

LABOTT: With Congress debating the future of Iran's nuclear deal, Haley wants the U.N. to act against Iran's ballistic missile program that can deliver a nuke.

HALEY: If we'll sanction North Korea for that, why are you allowing Iran to get a pass? We've seen that. We know what happens. We've played this game before. We're not going to do it again.

LABOTT: President Trump considered Haley to be his secretary of state before sending her to the U.N. Now with rumors Rex Tillerson is considering an early exit, Haley once again says she's happy where she is, away from the drama of Washington.

(on camera): What if the president came to you and said, you know what, Nikki, you said no once. I need you to serve.

HALEY: The president is not going to come to me and say that.

LABOTT: Maybe. What if he does?

HALEY: We have a secretary of state. And -- LABOTT: What if he comes to you? What if Secretary Tillerson says,

I've had enough, I've done what I need to do and the president says, Nikki, I need you.

HALEY: I've made it very clear that I'm happy in New York.

LABOTT: You wouldn't take it?

HALEY: I would not take it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Ambassador Haley with our Elise Labott there in Africa.

Next week at this time, Donald Trump will be on a trip that includes stops in Japan, Vietnam and China; it will also include South Korea. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis is already there. He visited the demilitarized zone on Friday and just wrapped a series of meetings with South Korean officials.

HOWELL: There, Mattis reiterated that the United States stands side by side with South Korea. And he had a very blunt message for Pyongyang.

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GEN. JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The use of nuclear weapons by the North will be met with a massive military response, effective and overwhelming. Due to North Korea's aggressive and destabilizing actions, we have taken defensive steps as an alliance, steps such as deploying the highly effective THAAD anti-missile system to the ROK.

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HOWELL: Mattis there stressed that the United States -- that Washington wants to use diplomacy to resolve the tensions with North Korea.

With nuclear tensions on the Korean Peninsula as high as they've been in decades, North Korea has a message for Mr. Trump ahead of his trip to the region.

ALLEN: CNN's Will Ripley is in North Korea's capital.

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RIPLEY (voice-over): As Asia prepares for President Trump's landmark visit, North Korea has been uncharacteristically quiet. No missile launches in a month and a half. No nuclear test, at least not yet; only North Korea's promise to send a clear message after Trump's menacing speech at the U.N. last month when he threatened to totally destroy North Korea.

At the time North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un vowed to tame the U.S. president with fire. (INAUDIBLE) is chief engineer of a baby food factory, trying to maintain production levels despite U.N. sanctions over North Korea's nuclear program. But he says the nukes are here to stay.

"President Trump knows nothing about the Korean nation," he says. "Now he is asking us to give up our nuclear weapons. Ask anyone on the street and they will say he is a lunatic."

His words echo North Korean propaganda. Anti-Trump posters are all over Pyongyang. U.S. and North Korean officials say diplomacy has broken down as the rhetoric has revved up. Pushing two nuclear powers further down a dangerous path. Both sides not ruling out talks altogether, but their positions couldn't be farther apart.

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RIPLEY (voice-over): On a visit Friday to the demilitarized zone dividing north and South Korea, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said America's goal is not war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

RIPLEY: But for a nuclear free Korean peninsula. With Pyongyang closer than ever to achieving what it considers a nuclear balance of power with the U.S., giving up nukes is a nonstarter.

But, you know, there are a lot of people around the world who think that by accumulating nuclear weapons your country is putting itself at risk of total destruction.

PAK SON OK, PYONGYANG RESIDENT: (Speaking foreign language).

RIPLEY: "They have the wrong information," says Pak Son OK, "tell them to come to my country and see for themselves."

Do you have hope that someday your leader Kim Jong-Un could meet the U.S. president Donald Trump?

PAK SON OK: (Speaking foreign language).

RIPLEY: "No, not at all," she says, "that meeting cannot happen. It will not happen because our marshal promised to deal with that deranged lunatic with fire."

Ominous words slowly simmering ever since as Trump's visit to the region looms, many wonder if the situation is about to boil over -- Will Ripley, CNN, Pyongyang, North Korea.

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HOWELL: Will Ripley, thank you for the reporting.

Still ahead, Rose McGowan is one of the women accusing Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. A rousing speech at the Women's Convention was about him and she didn't even mention his name.

ALLEN: We'll have more about that in a moment. Plus, a former U.S. president now facing allegations of inappropriate touching. How George Bush Sr. is responding.

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ALLEN: Actress Rose McGowan is speaking out for the first time since she accused movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of rape. She addressed the crowd at a women's conference in Detroit.

HOWELL: McGowan didn't mention Weinstein by name but her comments were searing.

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ROSE MCGOWAN, ACTOR: I came to be a voice for all of us, who have been told we're nothing, for all of us who have been --

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MCGOWAN: -- looked down on, for all of us who have been grabbed by the mother (INAUDIBLE).

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MCGOWAN: No more. Name it. Shame it. Call it out. Join me. Join all of us as we amplify each other's voices and we do what is right for us and for our sisters and this planet, Mother Earth.

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HOWELL: Weinstein is denying any allegations of nonconsensual sex.

George H.W. Bush, the former U.S. president, is apologizing at least for -- after at least three women accused him of touching them inappropriately.

ALLEN: They all share similar stories that the former U.S. president patted their rears during photo ops. CNN's Athena Jones has our story.

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ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President George H.W. Bush, facing allegations from at least three women, who say he touched them inappropriately.

The accusers, one of whom asked to remain anonymous, sharing remarkably similar stories about the president touching them during photo-ops. Actress Jordana Grolnick met Bush last year at a theater in Maine.

JORDANA GROLNICK, ACTRESS: There was a photo op, an intermission, he came backstage to take a picture. I was with a group of girls and he was in a wheelchair. He was just hanging around in the group.

He said, "Do you know who my favorite magician is?"

And we said, "No, who?"

And he said, "David Cop-a-Feel."

And at that moment, I felt him grab my behind.

JONES: In a now deleted post on Instagram, actress Heather Lind from AMC series, "TURN: Washington's Spies", wrote that Bush touched her inappropriately a few years ago as they were posing for this photograph.

And while Lind did not get into the specifics of the incident, she referred to it as a sexual assault. He didn't shake my hand. He touched me from behind his wheelchair with his wife Barbara Bush by his side and told me a dirty joke. And then all the while all being photographed, touched me again.

A third woman who wished to remain anonymous told CNN she met Bush at a VIP event in Houston in 2015. She said he squeezed her behind a couple of times. It was unmistakable. It was not just a pat. It was a serious squeeze.

Spokesman Jim McGrath acknowledged the incident, referring CNN to a statement released Wednesday that cited the president's age and physical limitations.

To try to put people at ease, the president routinely tells the same joke. And on occasion, he has patted women's rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner. Some have seen it as innocent, others clearly view it as inappropriate. To anyone he has offended, President Bush apologizes most sincerely.

McGrath confirmed he was referring to the David Copperfield joke mentioned by all three women when he wrote the statement.

Reaction to the story has been mixed with some coming to the president's defense, including NBC's Andrea Mitchell who tweeted: Mrs. Bush was at his side, he is in a wheelchair with Parkinson's syndrome. Really? Someone should be ashamed and it isn't 41.

Dr. Daniel Amen, a neuroscientist and brain imaging expert who does not treat Bush said illness like his can lead to unusual behavior. Amen said it is noteworthy the alleged incidents occurred late in his life.

DR. DANIEL AMEN, NEUROSCIENTIST AND BRAIN IMAGING EXPERT: It can also affect the front part of your brain, things like judgment, forethought, impulse control and people who have never acted badly or inappropriately their whole life, all of a sudden they start to do things that are out of character.

JONES: Jordana Grolnick thinks that's an excuse.

(on camera): Do you think his age and his medical condition excuses and explains his action?

GROLNICK: No, I don't think it excuses it and I don't think it explains it. In order for us to have progress, then for women to reach the true equality that we deserve to have, I think we need to stop making excuses and letting that be, you know, OK.

JONES (voice-over): Athena Jones, CNN, New York.

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ALLEN: A lot of women, very courageous to tell their stories, at least that's true.

HOWELL: Indeed.

ALLEN: We're going to turn to the weather. Cuba and Florida once again under a tropical threat. Ivan Cabrera joins us right after the break with the latest.

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HOWELL: Parts of Florida are still recovering from Hurricane Irma and now, here it is, another tropical storm is about to have an impact there as well.

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ALLEN: OK. They set out on an adventure and what an adventure it wasn't. Two women and their dogs were rescued Wednesday by a U.S. Navy ship. They had been lost at sea since the month of May.

HOWELL: Wow.

ALLEN: They left Hawaii bound for Tahiti but were found about 1,400 kilometers or 870 miles from Japan.

HOWELL: That is just remarkable. Bad weather had damaged their boat's engine, then the mast and, so far out in the Pacific, no one heard their distress calls. The women described it, it was like being adrift for so long, they described what that was like.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was very depressing and it was very hopeless but it's the only thing you can do. So you do what you can with what you have. You have no other choice. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's different sunrises and sunsets every day. You're alive, you're fed, you have water, the boys are happy and there's love.

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HOWELL: The women and their dogs survived with the food they packed and a water purifier. Amazing.

ALLEN: Love the ending of that story.

HOWELL: The news continues right after the break.